A Review: AlcoholEdu and Sexual Assault

September 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

So! I am going to college very, very soon. In four days, actually. My school was one of many to assign the AlcoholEdu program to its incoming students. The website is a kind of alcohol orientation that combines videos, instant message chat, animations, and text to prepare you for a final exam. If you fail it, you have to complete the program again. The site describes itself as “an online alcohol prevention program used on more than 500 college and university campuses nationwide… designed to challenge students’ expectations about alcohol while enabling students to make healthy and safe decisions.”

AlcoholEdu has been the butt of many jokes among my peers. It’s true that its attempts to appear hip and relatable are nauseatingly earnest (really, an IM chat with your parents’ friend who is a doctor?) – though the creators seemed unconcerned with using actors who might be more relatable to students of color.

I expected the program to be rather tedious, and it definitely came through in that regard. What I didn’t expect was the site’s more-or-less-feminist, no-nonsense approach to sexual assault and its relationship to alcohol use. I was deeply gratified and relieved to discover this, because of, you know, the epidemic of assault on US college campuses.

The program started with lots of survey questions to assess our current knowledge. (My understanding is that one’s answers to the survey questions affected the presentation that followed; for example, if your survey responses indicated confusion about Blood Alcohol Content, the lesson that you were directed to would include more information about that topic. But, I’m not sure if this is entirely true. The program was not very transparent in terms of who was directed where.) The survey included questions like these:

When you drink, how likely do you think you are to: “be taken advantage of sexually”?
When you drink, how likely do you think you are to: “take advantage of someone sexually”?

And this:

Rate how much you agree, on a scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree):

  1. Women should take responsibility for avoiding sexual assault by drinking less alcohol
  2. It really isn’t fair to charge a man with sexual assault if he was drinking at the time and his actions were not premeditated
  3. A person who was sexually assaulted should never be blamed for what happened
  4. A person who forces himself sexually on another person should always be blamed for what happened
  5. Many cases of so-called “acquaintance rape” are nothing more than an unfortunate misunderstanding between two people
  6. Without exception a person who forces himself sexually on another person should face legal consequences
  7. It really isn’t fair to charge a man with sexual assault if the other person was drinking at the time and led him on

Then, later on in the program, I was directed to these explanations regarding the question: “How does alcohol affect a person’s ability to give sexual consent?”

Alcohol and Consent

Consent is what a person says or does to give agreement for sexual contact, including sexual intercourse, to occur.

Alcohol can create a lot of confusion when it comes to interpreting whether a person has actually given consent. Because alcohol affects judgment, decision-making, and the ability to communicate clearly, drinking can seriously affect someone’s ability to give clear consent. Alcohol can also make it difficult for the other person involved to understand whether their potential partner has given consent or is even capable of legally doing so.

Determining Consent

In order to be sure that consent has taken place, people should keep in mind the following four standards:

Both parties should be unimpaired by alcohol or drugs: Both individuals should be able to control their own thoughts and know what is going on around them.

Both parties should be able to act freely: Both individuals must be free to change their mind at any time, and a person’s silence should not be misinterpreted as consent.

Both parties should clearly communicate their permission: Both individuals should discuss their willingness to have sex well in advance of sexual activity.

Both parties should be honest about their desires: Both individuals should be 100% honest about their feelings, and they should not convince their partners to have sex by being dishonest about their feelings or intentions.

Source: Berkowitz, A. B., (2002). “Guidelines for Sex in Intimate Relationships.” Campus Safety & Student Development. 4 (3), 49-50

Let me just say it: Hooray. I’m so glad that this was included, though kind of depressed that I was so surprised.

Later, I was shown a video addressing how to “intervene” if you witness “inappropriate” behavior. At a party, two guys were trying to get a girl drunk so they could “get her back to [their] room.” I was pleased to notice that a fat actress was chosen to play the target of this behavior — this choice directly counters the ridiculous cultural meme that only conventionally attractive women are “rapeable.”

I was also shown a video about how to help a friend who tells me she has been assaulted. The narration encouraged me to “believe her right away,” to “let [her] make her own decisions about how to handle reporting the crime,” and to “encourage her to seek counseling.”

In both of these videos, the viewer (me) was cast as a woman, the friend of someone in trouble — ostensibly because I’d indicated that I’m female at the beginning of the course. I’d be interested to see what the men on the site were shown: which videos, which statistics. I’m not sure how I feel about male and female students being shown different content, although I did appreciate the footnote attached to the question about gender identity:

* We recognize and appreciate that not all individuals identify within these binary constructs. The purpose of this question (and similar questions that will appear throughout the course) is to calculate your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), which is based on physiological variables specific to your biological sex and not related to your gender identity.

Overall, I was pleased with the way AlcoholEdu addressed alcohol safety issues, particularly sexual assault. However, I’m sure that a lot of students forgot what they’d learned as soon as the exam was over. I sincerely hope that the lessons introduced online are continued during orientation, ideally with a real-life, interactive workshop. I hope this isn’t the last that my peers will hear about these important issues.

Check out Jamie’s take on the site, too.

Is this shit for real?

August 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

Via Gawker, I can’t believe this exists in 2010. Like, I know douches are still around, but are ads like this even a thing? Do we or do we not live in the twenty-first century?

Confidence at Work: How to Ask for a Raise

It should start with your usual routine and all the things you do to feel your best, including applying poison to your ladybits showering with Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash or periodically wiping your vulva with harsh chemicals throwing a packet of Summer’s Eve Feminine Cleansing Cloths into your bag for a quick freshness pick-me-up during the day.

Because when I’m in a tense situation with my boss or teacher, the biggest concern weighing on me is the smell of my vagina. Uh. Nope. Thanks to my friend Sarah for sending me the link. I LOLed at her commentary: “Did Don Draper write this?” I’d rather see Peggy’s copy.

This Lady, Right Here

August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Remember this epic fail of an article from back in April, in which Newsweek posited that young voters, women in particular, are “lukewarm” on pro-choice politics and think abortion rights “don’t need defending”?

Ugh. If you’d forgotten, I’m sorry to bring it up.

The article relies heavily on commentary from Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. To be fair, there are not many direct quotes from her, but there are monumentally disheartening paragraphs like this:

NARAL president Nancy Keenan had grown fearful about the future of her movement even before the health-care debate. Keenan considers herself part of the “postmenopausal militia,” a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who grew up in an era of backroom abortions and fought passionately for legalization. Today they still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women.

Ahem. Emphasis on the “they still run.” Young women, and particularly young women of color, are systematically kept out of the boardroom and away from leadership positions in non-profit and advocacy groups. Latifa Lyles’ campaign for president of NOW is a perfect example of this. Notes from the campaign in June 2009:

Both contenders [Latifa Lyles and Terry O'Neill] expect the election to be close, and both are promoting themselves as best able to bolster NOW’s membership.

“We are not the strongest grass-roots movement we can be — we both agree on that,” Lyles said. “The question is how we deal with that.”

Noting that she contrasts with NOW’s mostly white and over-40 membership, Lyles said she could help give NOW a new image of youth and diversity that would appeal to younger feminists and reinvigorate the broader movement.

“The profile of NOW is just as important as the work we do,” she said. “There are a lot of antiquated notions about what feminism is.”

Lyles, a 33-year-old black vice president of the organization, was edged out by 56-year-old white activist Terry O’Neill, despite an enthusiastic endorsement by NOW’s then-president Kim Gandy. Qualified, passionate, well-recommended… but not elected. Clearly it’s not for lack of interest that young women aren’t running the pro-choice show.

Back to Keenan and NARAL.

These leaders will retire in a decade or so. And what worries Keenan is that she just doesn’t see a passion among the post-Roe generation — at least, not among those on her side.

THIS SHIT IS OUTRAGEOUS. MY PRO-CHOICE GIRLS GOT PASSION RUNNING OUT THEIR EARS. For me, the cherry on top is that I have been volunteering at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the state affiliate of the national NARAL, for years.

I just don’t know what we have to do to be seen and heard. Online activism isn’t taken seriously, apparently — even though groups like NARAL certainly rely on blogs and social networking sites to get the word out. But it seems that the hundreds of hours of in-person volunteer work that this lady, right here has contributed — collecting petition signatures for the Reproductive Health Act, calling voters in support of pro-choice candidates, distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception, blah blah blah — aren’t taken seriously either.

Jessica Valenti was so fucking right on when she wrote of this debacle last summer:

Who do you think has been making your photocopies and volunteering and organizing for these big organizations all of these years?

The work of the mainstream pro-choice movement is built on younger women’s labor — unpaid and underpaid — who do the majority of the grunt work but who are rarely recognized. And I don’t know about you — but I’m sick of working so hard on behalf of a movement that continues to insist that we don’t exist.

Where would NARAL Pro-Choice America or NOW be without the work done by younger women?

Who would do their outreach? Who would volunteer? Who would take unpaid internships? Who would carry their action items on blogs and forward them by email, Facebook and Twitter? Who would Blog for Choice?

Seriously, what would happen if young women decided they had enough of being ignored and started simply decided to stop working for these organizations? Even if for a month young women boycotted the organizations that refuse to acknowledge their hard work — the movement would fall on its ass.

And there’s the rub — young women don’t want to forsake this movement. We don’t want to let it crumble to the side of the road, because control over our own bodies is infinitely more important than “postmenopausal militia” doubt about our commitment. Dropping out of the race is counterproductive. We’re still running, we’re still working damn fucking hard, no matter what any president says.

Check out all the other entries in the THIS IS WHAT A YOUNG FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE blog carnival over at Fair and Feminist.

Edited for clarity on August 27.

Men are from Earth, women are from Earth too

August 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

ADORE WITH UNBRIDLED PASSION: Headline that reads “Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics” followed by subheading that reads “Behavioural differences between the sexes are not hard-wired at birth but are the result of society’s expectations, say scientists.”

DESPISE WITH NAUSEATING DISGUST FOR REASONS THAT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS (DOES ANYONE REMEMBER EVERYTHING MEL GIBSON HAS EVER SAID, OR HAVE PEOPLE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THAT ALREADY, IT SEEMS SO, THIS PISSES ME OFF, THOSE PEOPLE SHOULD GOOGLE MEL GIBSON AND DO A WEE BIT OF READING): Photo still of Mel Gibson in a scene from What Women Want that was selected to accompany the article. Because Mel Gibson doing yoga is the best visual representation of researcher Cordelia Fine’s findings that “there are no major neurological differences between the sexes.” And also because now is the best time to publish random pictures of Mel Gibson.

Meta: In which the internet is sharp on both sides

August 15, 2010 § 3 Comments

by MIRANDA

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Zeilinger, founder and editor of The F-Bomb. We talked of the teenage girls; we drank of the caffeinated beverages. It was bliss, basically.

I was reminded again of how important human interaction is to my feminism. Because this business can be lonely! Thinking about sexual violence, for example, while immensely important and rewarding, is actually not the most relaxing activity. In a culture where acts of rape, assault, and harassment are still not taken seriously, talking about them can be isolating — especially on the internet. In our dark rooms with our hunched shoulders and our bright little boxes, we are plugged in but we are also deeply disconnected.

So here is where I explain the title of this post: The internet is a sword. Since I am feeling poetic, it is probably laden with rubies and polished within an inch of its life. And like most swords, it has two edges. One side? Is amazing. It lets me read the words of ridiculously smart people who I’ve never met, who live so far away. And it lets me write words back! And people read them! And validate my ramblings!

But the other side is darker. It leaves me tired and sad, alone with my bright box and no one to hug. The sense of power that allows me to write about a deeply upsetting experience is the same sense of power that allows a commenter to joke about raping me. It’s the same sense of power that creates nauseating “blogwars.” Full or partial anonymity can be delicious, but it can also be a poison.

I love me some Internet Feminism. But I don’t want my whole life to be online, and I don’t want to feel as though every waking moment must be devoted to Very Important Lady-Thinking. Because — this is a secret, but I am willing to share it with you — it is okay, really, to not think about feminism all the time.

Internet Feminism is a mighty sword, but it’s not the only weapon we’ve got. Sometimes coffee and conversation can be just as powerful.

Welcome, new contributors! (Part Two)

August 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Part One.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the works of Chad, Elena, and Katie E. as much as I have these past weeks. It’s time to introduce the other three new contributors. Here’s the second wave…

Sarah:

Hello! My name is Sarah Rosengarten, I was born and raised in New York City, and will be a freshman at Oberlin College in the fall. My personal heroes are Rachel Maddow, Kathleen Hanna, and Daria Morgendorffer. I love to knit, run, watch Ingmar Bergman movies, and defend The Communist Manifesto to the misinformed masses. I’m thrilled to join Women’s Glib and can’t wait to unleash my feminazi fury to the internet.

Kitti:

Hello! My name is Kitti Asztalos.

I am a 17-year-old, Hungarian student. I study at a bilingual (English-Hungarian) high school, I will be a 12th grader next semester (I am not a senior yet, I still have a 13th year. Long story short: the education system is different). I have been studying English since the tender age of 5, I have also started studying French 3 years ago because my form mistress made my class (it took me 2 years and 3 trips to France to help me get over my hatred of the language). My hobbies are (but not limited to) biking (on almost a religious level), playing and writing music, providing unrequited commentary on movies for my friends and pretty much anyone, creating ensembles that remind me of a movie character and socializing.

I am very interested in popular culture (especially American and European), Generation Y and obviously feminism. However, in Hungary feminism is not very wide-spread, in fact, most girls of my age do not know anything about it, nor are they interested in it.

If my opinions freak you out a bit, I apologize in advance but that’s sort of my intention. I would like you, dearest readers to consider different cultural factors. That’s what I’m bringing. Plus a little bit of sexy back.

Adi:

Hi, all!

My name’s Adi, and I’ve been interested in feminist blogging for the past few years. I became a self-identified feminist (as opposed to subscribing to the tenets but not calling myself one) a few years ago, and the feminist blogosphere provided the resources for me to learn and contribute.

Outside of being a feminist, I’m a huge nerd, and I like to read — I just graduated from college, where I procrastinated on all of my actual work in China Studies by taking classes in deconstructive critical theory and creative writing. I’ve always straddled a weird divide between two fairly gender-imbalanced fields: Literature and politics, where women do most of the legwork but get few of the awards, and technology, where no matter how many women there are, we’re still seen as an elusive endangered species. I thoroughly enjoy both, but feminism has let me put a name to a lot of the problems I’ve seen in them, and convinced me to try to make them better.

I’m hoping to write about feminist/female authors, theory, and the intersection between gender politics and technology policy (Why, for example, is network neutrality a feminist issue? What about Apple’s factory policies?) I’m always looking for open dialogue with people, so please let me know if you have a different perspective on something I’ve said.

Hooray! You can learn more about these fine, smart young people on our Current Contributors page.

You can never be too insecure.

August 8, 2010 § 7 Comments

by MIRANDA

Ick. Ack. EW.

I’ve seen this ad around New York City a few times this week, and it’s gross. (Copy for Pretzel Crisps ad reads: “You can never be too thin.”)

The beauty industry — which broadly includes fashion, makeup, skincare, exercise, dieting, and food products — is like a repulsive, amorphous, self-serving beast. Corporations teach women to hate ourselves so that we will buy their products to be improved, furiously stoking the fire of our self-loathing to fill their own pockets.

Here, Pretzel Crisps is using the meme that women shouldn’t eat or enjoy food…to sell food. It’s ridiculous, and it’s insulting on innumerable levels.

They are doing this to us, but we are complying. I often imagine what would happen if women stopped hating ourselves. If we all made a pact late one night, and the next morning, just refused to accept the ritual of femininity that we’ve all been brainwashed into performing. If I was never again tempted to pluck my eyebrows? Suck in my stomach? Mentally catalogue my meals? Spend even one second’s worth of brainpower thinking about panty lines? (Because what, really, is so scandalous about me wearing underwear??)

In some ways, nothing would happen. Contrary to the cultural narrative that stresses the divine importance of female “beauty,” the earth actually would not crumble if I quit this charade.

But in some ways, everything would change. We would finally appreciate our own inherent worth. Our confidence would shine, everlastingly radiant, bright enough to shatter the dark corners of isolation where we starve and hate ourselves. All I can do is try to remember that light, shine it on my insecurities and illuminate them for the false fears they are.

Roman Polanski: Still a rapist

July 27, 2010 § 4 Comments

by MIRANDA

Yep, still.

Another woman, Edith Vogelhut, has come forward with allegations that Roman Polanski raped her. (The video interview and transcribed quotes are worth a look, albeit with an enormous trigger warning. The acts described are, obviously, vile.) She says the rape occured in 1974, three years before the rape of Samantha Geimer, to which Polanski admitted responsibility and for which he was convicted. And for which, if you’ll recall, he spent approximately zero seconds in prison. Vogelhut is the third woman to come forward, after Geimer and Charlotte Lewis.

Anyone want to wager how many asshat “artists” have already taken it upon themselves to defend Polanski on the grounds that his films are totes awesome? Or take a gander at just how much “justice” will be served, this time around?

Fuck.

As I wrote recently (in a comment on C. L. Minou’s excellent response to the Swiss government’s refusal to extradite Polanski to the United States): This Polanski shit continues to BLOW MY FUCKING MIND, and also not, because I guess I should know by now that basically the whole world thinks rape is okay.

Today In Things That Are Alarming

July 21, 2010 § 5 Comments

by MIRANDA

Eighteen-year-old Filipina singer Charice Pempengco underwent a Botox procedure to prepare for her upcoming role on Fox’s Glee.

If you are like me, you are wondering: WHY?!?! The AP reports on some diverging perspectives:

Pempengco’s publicist Liz Rosenberg said the procedure was “absolutely not cosmetic,” but rather to treat pain in the muscles of her jaw.

The “celebrity cosmetic surgeon” (oops! There’s that word, cosmetic, which this is “absolutely not”…) Vicki Belo, who performed the procedure, said that it was intended to make Charice’s “naturally round face,” um, less round (and less natural?). “You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it’s a bit protruding… It’s like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face…we want to give you the apple cheek look because it’s cute, right?”

Charice herself says that the she got the procedure “to look fresh on camera.” Further, “all people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”

So, to review: the procedure is “not cosmetic,” but serves to make Charice look “cute” and “fresh,” a look which she has received “tremendous pressure” to embody.

Um. Do we know what cosmetic means? (“Serving to beautify the body… serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature… decorative rather than functional.” So, all of the above.)

Just for reference, here’s a photo of Charice before the procedure. (Not, of course, to imply that if she looked older or different, then a Botox procedure would be warranted, expected, or necessary — only to provide evidence that even someone who is praised for her beauty, and who has likely undergone a rigorous audition process based heavily on physical appearance, is simply never beautiful enough.)

Image: Charice Pempengco

In patriarchy, women are told that our lives will be gloriously happy if only we achieve physical, aesthetic perfection. What we’re not told is that such perfection is impossible. And the looming irony is that we’re inundated with messages that CONFIDENCE IS SEXY!, messages produced by a culture that makes it so damn difficult to be confident (and even demonizes women who are “too confident” by deriding them as sluts and bitches).

Let’s talk about me. Though I don’t wear makeup and I couldn’t be called busty, I benefit from almost every other kind of beauty privilege you can imagine. I’m white, I’m thin. I don’t use glasses, my hair isn’t too frizzy, I’m not acne-prone, I shave lots of places. But still! Still, even with all this privilege that lands me very, very close to my culture’s beauty ideal, and even with all the strength of my feminist backbone, still I have days and moments where I feel hideous and self-conscious and unworthy because I feel unbeautiful. It is staggering to imagine the hatred that women are expected to direct inward.

Charice’s case is not an anomaly. It’s indicative of the grossly disturbing prevalence of ever-unachievable beauty standards.

I Can Haz Short, Timely Messages From Women’s Glib?

July 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

Why, yes. Yes you can.

I have resisted creating a Twitter account, either for personal use or for Women’s Glib, for the sake of my mental health. But, readers, you are extremely lucky because Silvia eschews such resistance! She fearlessly plows ahead into the arena of tiny, cryptic updates full of symbols that I do not understand. (What is #??? And I don’t even want to talk about how many things I thought RT stood for that were not re-tweet.)

Never fear! Thanks to Silvia, we are now on the Twitter. Follow us here. And, if you haven’t already, you can like us on Facebook here.

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