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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

So I went and read 50 Shades of Grey.

I had no intention of doing so, quite honestly. At all. I’m more of a YA, chick-lit, non-sexual-fantasy sort of reader. (SPOILER ALERT: if squeamish, stop reading.) But everyone was reading it, and then there was controversy over it and the way it was marketed to moms, and I’m not one to back down from poorly written popular fiction (hello, Twilight) NOR a fight that lets me unleash my inner feminist.

But.

Oh. Em. Gee.

One, these books make Twilight look like high literature. I mean, that’s impressive.

Two, I am a wimp, and the hot and steamy scenes I scanned/didn’t read because I was blushing. BY MYSELF. I mean, it’s totally fine, in a way. The books are marketed for adults and are about consenting adults and whatever works is none of my business closed doors we’re all grown ups but LA LA LA LA HAPPY PLACE.

(Am a prude.)

But the real problem is here, with Issue Number Three: these books romanticize violence against women. No, really. They do. I’m not talking about the In The Bedroom Naughty Stuff They Do For Fun. That’s something else all together. I’m talking about the She’s Afraid He Will Physically Punish Her For….fill in the blank. For wearing a sleeveless dress, for taking a call from a male friend, for getting drinks with her girlfriend, for not replying to his email, for….whatever, does it matter?

I know it’s fiction, and I know that it’s written by a mostly inexperienced writer. But there is a HUGE difference between what happens between consenting adults and what happens when one person in a relationship extends physical/emotional control over another person against her (or his!) wishes.

This does not make Christian mysterious, sexy, romantic, tortured, jealous, insecure, insert-placeholder-euphanism-here.

It makes him abusive.

Abusive is not hot. Is not sexy. Is not okay. And I hate that a work of popular fiction is making it seem okay and normal and something to desire and fantasize about.

I have no idea if this is the norm for this genre. I have honestly never read any erotic fiction before (see above: am prude).  I may not be the one to come to on analysis of erotic fiction. But gah – for the love of Pete. Stop making it normal for a man to hurt a woman against her wishes, OK? Can we at least agree to that?

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The Other F-Word*

I grew up with brothers. We held epic battles in the yard with Nerf Guns. I wore their clothes. Not just jeans and T-shirts, but their actual clothes. I’d sneak into my older brother’s room when he left for school and put on whatever I found. Dresses were stupid and Barbie’s were really only useful as hostages for GI Joe. I had girl friends, yes, and I did wear dresses to school (on occasion). But really, I wanted to be one of the boys. They were cool.

**

If we were in the car between the hours of 10AM and 2PM, we were listening to Rush Limbaugh. I thought he was funny. “Femi-nazi. Ha ha.” It was hysterical that one time he called a 13-year old Chelsea Clinton a dog. Because women who aren’t hot sex symbols (one of the few acceptable things to be if you’re not lucky enough to be born with a penis) are dogs. Ha ha.

**

I learned, by observing, I’m sure, that boys will be boys, but good girls say “no.” And if you don’t say no, you’ll get pregnant. In high school I still wasn’t convinced I wouldn’t get pregnant by making out while reclining (fully clothed) in the front seat of my boyfriend’s truck. And I wasn’t convinced I wasn’t damning myself to hell for allowing that to happen in the first place.

**

In church we were taught that the man is in charge, the woman is to submit. A good husband, a good father, listens and considers everyone’s opinions, but he makes the decision. And that’s the end. Submit. Obey. Do what you’re told.

**

I was a child the first time a man told me, by force, that my body was not my own. That I was an object to be used. That what I wanted, or didn’t want, didn’t matter. But maybe, I thought for a long time, maybe it was PARTIALLY my fault, because I can’t remember whether I said “no” or not. It took about 15 years and hundreds of therapy hours to realize what a lie that was. It’s a hard lie to completely disbelieve, though. I was an adult when it happened again, when I wasn’t given the chance to say “no.” Luckily, if that word applies here, I knew what it was and I could call it by name and know that it was never about me being good or bad.

**

I am not trying to paint a picture of my life, especially of my childhood, as terrible. I was a happy kid, really. I mean, yes, the abuse was shitty, but I was happy OTHER than that. I loved my family, they loved me. I played with my friends and my brothers. I loved being a tomboy. I wanted to go to church, to youth group, to choir. I liked being there.

But a lot of things go into shaping the view you have of yourself, and of the world. And it’s not all things that happen *to* you, it’s also what you chose, what you believe. So I think it’s easy to see, from these selected stories, why I felt, for the longest time, that being a girl was pretty much the crappiest thing to be. I dunno, maybe being gay, black, and a girl would have been worse. But, I was only born one of those things, so I can’t really compare.

Periods were gross and meant I couldn’t do all of the things I wanted to (no matter what the Kotex commercials claimed). Boys didn’t want to play with me, once the boy/girl distinction became more obvious. And when the REAL boy/girl stuff started happening, I wasn’t girl-y enough for them to like me the way I wanted. I fought with other girls for attention, for the right to fit in, and it never worked, for any of us. Girls who went out with boys were easy. Girls who didn’t go out with boys were losers. Being pretty was more important than anything, but there was never a “pretty enough” mark. Ever.

It never occurred to me that any of this wasn’t normal, wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I figured it was all just part of the way life was. I never, ever, really thought about woman’s rights. It was a silly idea. Psshh. Women have rights. We’re just the same as men, really, even if we don’t get paid the same. Even if we get called names when we have (or want) power. Or are not pretty enough. Or want to have sex with our partners. Or or or or or or.

I went on Gay Pride marches long before I ever considered myself….you know….a feminist (I can still hear it, “femi-nazi” – the idea that it’s ugly to want equality). That one was easy. I mean, they couldn’t even get married for Pete’s sake. Clearly they need support for their rights more than these attention seeking women.

But enough is enough is enough and I am so done with this. 

There is too much going on that is sending us backwards, that is taking away the rights that were so hard won. Mandatory invasive procedures, requiring “proof of rape,” asking women carry dead fetuses until their bodies naturally expel them, denying access to contraceptives (which, unlike viagra, provide many secondary medical benefits to women suffering from cysts, migraines, endometriosis, etc..), giving corporations the right to fire women who take contraceptives, and more and more and more and more and it never seems to end. They keep coming up with new and innovative ways to tell us what to do and when to do it.

It’d be so easy to get lazy and say this is just about abortion, or a political argument to further polarize Republicans and Democrats, but it’s so, so much more than that. At first it seemed funny to me, all of these ludicrous stories because, come on, you can’t be serious, right? But they were and are serious and it’s not funny. Yes, I’m angry, but I’m also hurt. These laws and bills and their creators are using their power and their words to hurt me, hurt us, and it’s not OK.

I have been unable, or unwilling, to say “no” before. But I’m both able and willing now. No. No, you cannot tell me what to do, what to think, what to feel. No, you cannot take away my right to speak up, to fight back, to feel, to choose. No, you cannot make me feel small, feel less, feel scared, feel dumb. No, you cannot make my choices for me, tell me what’s “best for me.”

None of us on this planet deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.

Myself included.

And if thinking so, let alone saying so, makes me a femi-nazi, them I’m going to wear the badge with pride. And I will march, with women (and men who love women) all over the country for our right to be heard. I deserve to stand up for myself just as I much as anyone else I stand up for.

** I was inspired to write my own Feminist Testimony by reading this one over at Girls Gone Child. Go read it. Now.

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A Break From The Norm

(Warning, hippy, liberal, touchy feely things discussed below. Enter at your own risk.)

Oh, you guys.

I had a rough weekend.

And not because of anything like a fussy baby or being too tired or the dog puked or whatever (all of which occurred at SOME point).

It started Thursday night, when I read this article on Huffington Post. I then read the original NY Times piece that they referenced, and then I read the comments on both. And then there was this column, too – related, but more focused on a broader sense of society.  Let me summarize: an eleven year old girl in Texas was gang raped by eighteen men, aged 14 to 27.  The NY Times ran a story on it. The journalist focused on such things as “how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?” and used a quote from a towns person stating: “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives”  or asking where the girl’s mother was. Details included how the girl dressed (too old) and the company she kept (older boys).

(I’m trying to keep my thoughts focused and organized, but it’s hard. I go all over the place in my mind, so please pardon me if my writing does the same.)

Now, no, it’s not the journalist who asked where the mother was, it’s not the journalist who expressed sadness over the “boys’” futures. But the journalist DID choose to include those quotes. He did choose NOT to research why this child went missing for hours without notice (one commenter says the girl’s mother was in the hospital at the time). He did chose to include the details of what an eleven year old girl wore, as if it’s relevant to being assaulted by EIGHTEEN MEN. He did not ask where the mothers of these “young men” were. He did not ask where the girl’s father was. He did not mention what this girl must live with for the rest of HER life.

I don’t even know where to start, you know? Well, how about here: if an eleven year old girl prances up to a 20+ year old man and says “let’s have sex,” the answer is no. And it is no without asking what she is wearing. It is no without people watching. It is just no because it is no. Nothing else matters, other than the fact that she is a child.

Or how about: what parent knows exactly where their eleven year old child is at all hours of every day? I know that, at 11, I was allowed to walk to friends’ houses. I was allowed to ride my bike to the mall. I was allowed to roller-skate in the park.  Children grow up and gain independence. But even still, the point is irrelevant. The question implies that the mother is to blame, for not being physically present. This is not true. The terrible men who committed this crime are to blame. That’s it.

As far as even mentioning how the girl dressed? There’s no excuse. The NYT should be ashamed. She could have been naked, and it STILL wouldn’t matter. And this, this is the part that really kills me. This little detail. This and the aside of hanging out with older boys. It’s the worst part of the entire article. It’s sneaky, it’s subtle, but it’s blame. It’s blame for the child. For the girl. It’s putting guilt on the victim, it’s implying she asked for it. She wanted it. She should have known better.

And that’s what sexual assault/abuse does, too. Aside from the physical trauma, sexual violence makes you feel ashamed. Guilty. Bad. It makes you feel that way as an adult. Even more so as a child, because you don’t have a firm grasp on the fact that what just happened was wrong. I speak from experience, in both cases. And the guilt and the self blame and the feeling that “if only I’d….” That’s the hardest part to beat. (Well, one of the hardest parts). To have a well reputed, well established, national publication confirm your worst fears….well, I *don’t* have experience with that. I can imagine that it doesn’t make the road to recovery any easier.

And then today there were two stories. The Iowa woman arrested on suspicion of considering an abortion, and the FL bill that would require a woman to get a vaginal ultrasound before considering a termination…well. Politics and feelings on abortion/choice aside, I have to ask: Why? Why are women so hated right now? What is going on? These things, these stories, they are popping up everywhere, everyday. And it isn’t about prolife/prochoice. It’s about controlling women, telling them what to do.

And it’s absolutely terrifying me.

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