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Monthly Archives: September 2010

I was a victim-blaming little shit. Now I am not. Education is Great for that.

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This is a very special post about how I used to be a rape-victim blaming little shit, when I was in my late teens. Oh yes, I drank the kool-aid. I believed that victims were somehow culpable in their own assault (especially in cases of “date rape,” the most common kind) because, hey, crawling into bed with someone or talking sexually with them or dry humping them are totes consent!

Except not.

I learned by reading both print and in the feminist blogosphere. I learned by thinking really hard about sexual assault, what it is, what it isn’t, what it means, and how we as a global society fail massively in talking about it, preventing it, and pursuing justice for survivors.

I learned SO MUCH from Harriet J at http://www.fugitivus.net– go there. Seriously. Click through. Read.

All of which is to say- I believe that we can change victim blaming little shits. I get angry and depressed and bitter at the ways that misogyny, homphobia, transphobia and toxic masculinities combine to create a great huge clusterfuck of victim blaming hatred. But I am optimistic that hearts and minds can be changed with education. That people can learn to see the ways that rapists take advantage of our collective contempt for vulnerable people to systematically isolate their victims and assault them. Rapists will often rape several different victims. They do it again and again because our culture tells them that they can. That the survivor will not be believed, that the survivor will be too ashamed, or tired, or traumatized to seek justice from law enforcement and court officials who will not believe them, or worse, will simply not care.

They do it because no-one calls them out on the way they push boundaries, on they way they “cleverly” take advantage of people who cannot give meaningful, informed consent.

They do it because of the myths about sexuality and rape that our culture holds near and dear.

But I believe that we can change things, especially by educating the peer groups of those who are at risk to rape, than the groups of those who are more likely to be raped.

I believe it because I made the journey myself.

Some other resources:

http://www.mencanstoprape.org/

http://endthebacklog.org/

http://www.rainn.org/

At the end of this day– sing it Nina Simone.

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In Which Paprika Dies of Stupid

So I have this idea for a paper.

Oh really?

Yes, well, at least it’s the beginning of an idea.

What’s that?

Well, I was listening to that Toni Morrison interview, and in it she talks about there’s no one more vulnerable than a young black girl.

Uh-huh.

But I was thinking, you know, that nowadays it’s actually a privilege to be black.

Because like, our president is black, and we accept black people now.

And I think that people get all upset over things that happened, like, two hundred years ago, but you know, there’s nothing we can do about now, and I just don’t understand why we can’t just move past all that and really be colorblind.

I don’t know, it’s just an idea. But sometimes I look at my child and I wish he was black. Because then he would have so many more opportunities.

And Toni Morrison really tries to connect slavery with race, but I’m not sure I agree, because there’s been so much slavery through history.

*brain shatters*

So do you have a thesis for your paper yet?

*shards of brain fall to bottom of skull*

*Paprika dies*

“I’m working on a memoir . Do you know what a memoir  is?”

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Gosh golly gee no, asshat. I do not know what a memoir is. The University employs me to help people better their writing because I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing or anything about writing or literature!

And then there was the time I was complaining on facebook about a certain mansplainin’ rape apologizing racist loudmouthed asspanda. And a man then helpfully mansplained to me why I should just walk away serene in my evolved state and perform femininity better (read in a way that makes said man more comfortable/less scared).

Because, did you know, dames, we can just fucking opt out of the patriarchy by like, being better than it? Yeah, I’m better than existing in public. I will now be serene in my evolved state. Or deep in the outback. Or in Antarctica. Don’t the penguins have gender equality?

I think they do. That is the saddest part of this day. The fucking penguins have gender equality. My husband is out of town, the ankle that I messed up last week is still messed up, stupid douche-canoes feel free to float in, winkingly ask what they have to do to get help with their paper, sit down and inform me they might stink with hawt manliness because they like, just went running, and then ask my distinguished lady colleague if she knows what a fucking memoir is.

And the fucking penguins have already achieved the feminist dream.

Fucking Penguins.

Pepper Nagged Me to Blog, and I Caved

This is how Pepper and I look during class.

Everything today is pissing me off. My addiction to Rolos is pissing me off. The inconstancy of Pepper’s internet connection is pissing me off. The fact that my rage could be rightly attributed to PMS pisses me off even more. But you know what pisses me off the most? Staggeringly stupid, greasy-haired, anti-feminist mansplainers who give natural redheads a bad name.

That’s right—Pepper writes about important social issues; I bitch abut some douchecanoe from my women in lit class. This pretty much sums up our friendship.

Really though, the next time that raging ginger asspanda snickers while I’m talking, I just might snap. And I wouldn’t really feel too guilty about it either. Pepper warned me about him when we first learned he was in the class, but since my previous contact with him had been minimal (he once held a door open for me in a spectacularly douchey fashion, swinging it with a positively Hancockian flourish), I underestimated exactly how awful he would be. Now, though, I sit behind him in class, watching his back muscles twitch ragefully when his raised hand goes ignored, and wish that there were anybody else with things to say about Toni Morrison.

And it’s not just him. Here are some cramazing quotes straight out of that bastion of WTFery:

“Well, I think that like…[the black African working for a psychotic white dude in an absolutely terrible book we had to read] just like…knows his place. And he’s okay with it. You know? Like he just accepts it, and he’s happy.”

“This rape made him, you know, so violent. And willing to just, kick ass. It made him stronger.”

“The Africans in this book just seem, like…really violent. Like they just have so much anger and they can’t control their emotions.”

Yeah, well, speaking of people who can’t control their emotions…*keyboard splinters under furious pounding of fingers*

(I know—finger pounding sounds like a cheeky euphemism. It isn’t, but it probably should be. Trendsetters, that’s your next task.)

So Pepper and I sit there in class, exchanging looks of OH FOR THE LOVE OF THE RELIGIOUS FIGURE OF YOUR CHOICE WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE, and sometimes she’ll talk, and on rare occasions I’ll toss out a sentence (which is also our blogging technique), but mostly we just let the rage boil until it spills out into raised-voice conversations at Perkins that attract massive side-eye from senior citizens. Which is pretty fun, actually, and I highly recommend that everyone engage in this activity. One time we sat there pontificating about communism in vague but glowing terms—like so:

“You know what’s great? COMMUNISM.”

“Oh, I completely agree. Communism is awesome. I don’t understand why more people don’t embrace it.”

“The world would be so much better with a little Communism.”

“Woo, Commies!”

“I need to find me a Commie man.”

“You really do. Let’s go to Russia.”

It’s all very delightful, almost as delightful as talking about Satanism within earshot of Pepper’s obnoxious evangelical neighbors. Unfortunately, social mores dictate that we sit respectfully in class with our rage contained, so we do. But I’m pretty sure my fury-face shows through at times—for example, when a married, unemployed woman from a wealthy background claims that she’s “never felt oppressed. I LOVE being a woman!”

Well, thanks for the anecdata, but that doesn’t erase the experiences of, you know, every other woman in the world sharp enough to recognize that no matter how much she achieves, how smart she is, how put together and accomplished and intellectually gifted, there are always going to be men for whom she is nothing more than…whatever misogynists see when they encounter a ladybrain. Probably some kind of fuzzy koala peeking out above a field of daffodils. Which would be cute as hell (if a bit geographically confusing), but is not a stand-in for 51% of the population.

Women who refuse to identify as feminist annoy me, and while I could offer a thorough and well-reasoned explanation for this, I don’t really think I should have to. It should be a given by this point.

So I pretty much end every school day thinking, seriously, defiant stupidity is not going to get you through college, just quit already. (If you’re an el ed major it will, my mind shoots back. My mind is a snarky little bastard.) And so I stew in my feelings of superiority, eating candy and drinking copious amounts of tea, and then I fall asleep on my couch, and I wake up thinking, ugh. I have a hangover from the stupid.

If I’m lucky, maybe some greasy mansplaining asspanda will put me in my place.

And Who Hasn’t Been There?

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Day 32. Still sick. Paprika refuses stop drinking kerosene. She smells like a French laundry. She refuses to blog. Am growing increasingly desperate. Believe that the guy with the mustache may be plotting our demise. Experiencing hallucinations- tangerine sky. The man in the corner is watching, watching, watching…

Of feminism and fat acceptance

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Paprika has like, Legionnaire’s disease or something, and I am pretty sure I have the strep-throat-of-the-apocalypse so, we haven’t been bloggerific, the two of us. You know what? My husband, who smokes  I don’t even god damn know many a day is compeletly healthy. I personally credit his African childhood for this, but it could be his god damned burnished cheek o’ health smugness (it won’t isulate you forever, Mr. Lee Hales. There will come a time, and that time will be a head cold. I know that sentence makes no fucking sense shut up, tylenol.)

Anyway. I want to work out some thoughts about food, bodies, shame and policing as I write, so, warning cause this will most likely ramble.

Over at feministe, http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/09/06/shameful-behaviour/ went up, which I urge everyone to read because it’s awesome.

So I’ve been thinking, before that went up, and certainly after, about my own journey as feminist into wide open nod-alonging with the fat acceptance movement. I have a shit-load of thin white cis het middle class appearing educated talkin’ woman privilege. So, there is that. I have to acknowledge that privilege, because not acknowledging it is how things stay fucked up and miserable for people who aren’t me.

I also needed to make the slut shaming/ fat shaming analogy in my head. I was quite maliciously slut shamed as a young woman, and that slut shaming was a catalyst for my whole hearted rejection of the kyriarchy. I don’t want to do that to anyone else. Bodies, as I’ve said, are not ever public property.

But I have also thought about the roots of fat shaming in our culture, and I want to keep thinking about that, because  I need to mentally see the foundations to really tear down the tower, you know?

First of all, I abso-fucking-lutely believe that fat-shaming and body policing are feminist concerns, because these issues disproportionately affect women who cannot or choose not to conform. This is not to say that it doesn’t affect boys and men too, it does, but women’s bodies are still social objects in a way that mens aren’t so, yeah.

The roots of this stuff are intersecting, binding and touching on all your other favorite isms as they go. Racism, sexism, classism, religious thought, scientism, social darwinism… Oh the delightful list.

So lets go back to ye olden tymes, and racism, because you have the thin, moral white white woman, (preferably blonde, because the Victorians were terrified of any hint of miscegenation, or ladies breathing from the sternum, but I digress) contrasted to the “thick” lascivious non white woman. And that woman’s body has another awful connotation cast on it, because that woman’s body is considered open for rape, and this is part of our American cultural landscape, and should never be forgotten.  The thin white woman is pure, and Christian, she has the will power to escape and avoid sex, and food is sex sublimated and made visible in this awful labyrinth of history and femininity that we find ourselves lost in. The white woman with the 18 inch waist and the pinned up hair, well, she can also look down on the working class woman whose stays are loose, because she is heaving and lifting and walking and carrying and bending and grunting and gasping for breath all day, and when she walks home in her her short skirts, she may need to run a little because her body is also always threatened with rape. And these women, women of color, white women who are working class, they eat cheap starches and grains, they must eat what they can eat when they can eat because there is almost never enough.

This is magical thinking, this is the idea that if you just cinch your waist small enough, if you just play by the rules and do the patriarchy right, it will do your right in exchange. It doesn’t, of course, and no amount of self immolation on its altar will ever make it so.  This is also where we get the narrative that a womans true power ultimately always lies in her beauty, which is not really a fair exchange for respect. But thats another post.

And then there is the fascination with asceticism as a holy act, abstinence from the pleasures of life in pursuit of a higher knowledge. This is really the only explanation for the injuctions we see against gluttony, because seriously, in ye olden olden tymes, the people being converted to the newly minted Christian church  (prostitutes, beggars etc) probably didn’t have enough to be terribly concerned about over-eating. Maybe the church was worried that their farthing would be spent on wine.

But mostly, I think we really do have this odd cultural equation that associates starvation with holiness (maybe because starving can lead to hallucinations?) and food with sin.  If you have the moral fibre to be thin, it says, you are made of the right stuff, you are a good person, you are in control, you are closer to god, and your inner beauty is shining through.

I think this reveals a profound fear of being embodied, of the vulnerability of having a body that is subject to constant change, that is, on many levels, uncontrollable.

There is always the way that food is sex made visible, because it is so intimate, and so public all at the same time. Because it is communal and necessary.

And so, here we are. Food is still a moral issue, even though food has no moral component. It is starting be seen as backwards and gauche to slut-shame, even in the guise of “OMG HER HEALTH THOUGH!”

We have an upper class that can afford to work out 7 days a week, and eat the best possible foods, and have lipo, and binge on coke, and take adderall, and be very thin.

We have a lower class that is blocked access to the best foods, and told to grow a fucking garden, because WHO HAS TIME? Or chickens. But nobody is going to start reorganizing our whole stupid food system to make good food available because INDIVIDUAL CHOICES!

And beyond this, in the middle somewhere, we have people who could afford better food, and choose not to, and god damnit, here is your guilt parade you guys!

Except, of course, its not always about what food someone chooses to eat, sometimes its just the way that their body is, and wow is it not really any of my business. And sometimes it is about what they choose to eat, but it’s still none of my fucking business.

Life is a risk, and we all know how it ends. Some of the freaking out and shaming of fat people, sounds a whole lot like “stop reminding me that we all die by having a body! STOPSTOPSTOP LA LA LA LA LA I WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BAD SO I FEEL BETTER AAAAAAAH SWEET SCHADENFREUD!”

There is, I think, this idea that you can bargain with the universe by making sure you always, always appear outwardly healthy and appropriately fuckable, that it will say, I am valued, so don’t rape me, I will be missed if you dissappear me, I have access to money, I am important, and ohmygod I have this temple of a body so I will not die an unfortunate death.

And of course, it is often times just a nasty minded competitiveness. Because we aren’t allowed to do any fucking competitive thing without it being sexualized, as  women, we compete for fuckability, for virtuousness, to show our mental and physical strength, our moral fibre. And our self hatred shines right on through, because the game was rigged from the start. We could never win. So I, for one, am trying to win by not playing.

The solution to this shit is to stop concern trolling about the health of people whose bodies aren’t yours, and start working together to figure out how to correct the real gaping food inequities that the world faces.

What say you, readers?