Vance has more opportunities to change the rape conversation

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a guest post by Sam, who will return to the University of Chicago this fall as a sophomore. Thanks Sam!

Just as rape charges were dropped against Dominique Strauss-Kahn earlier this week, an off duty NYPD officer was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Upper Manhattan. The case is the third high profile rape incident to confront Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., following the Strauss-Kahn case and the trial of two police officers that were acquitted of charges that they raped a drunk East Village woman in her home.

Vance, who is just over a year and a half into his four-year term, has faced intense public scrutiny for failing to earn a conviction in both previous cases. While these criticisms and frustrations are understandable, energy spent criticizing Vance can be better used to draw attention to the thousands of rape victims in New York City and across the world who will never have the opportunity to face their attacker in a court of law.

While convicting a powerful man of rape would have made a strong statement that rape is wrong, a guilty verdict would not have made rape unacceptable. Even though we live under a system of justice that assumes innocence until proven guilty, it remains disturbing to see how much more credible a denial of rape is seen than an accusation. Public fascination with the backgrounds of victims reflects a culture that is more interested in seeing a drama play out in the courtroom than in having a responsible conversation about rape.

While both previous rape cases collapsed because of a lack of credible evidence, the newest accusation is the first case in which a witness other than the victim supports the rape accusation. Paul J. Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesperson, has acknowledged that the officer was drunk and that he used his licensed weapon to intimidate his victim. Vance must use this evidence to vigorously prosecute the officer, while activists must elevate a conversation about rape.

Just as Vance must use this moment to ensure that women across New York are safe, activists must ensure that the voices of the women brave enough to speak out against their attackers inspire other women to do the same. To do so would be to do true justice for all women.

Review: Hey, Shorty!

May 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Hey, Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence In Schools and On The Streets by Joanne N. Smith, Mandy Van Deven, and Meghan Huppuch of Girls for Gender Equity

~~~~~

As a guide, Hey, Shorty! gets its proportions just right. The book fluidly combines instruction and imagination, realistic activist advice and idealistic social justice zeal. Smith, Van Deven, and Huppuch, of the remarkable organization Girls for Gender Equity, are admirably and skillfully tackling the issue of gender-based violence against youth, particularly in public schools. This is a rampant problem, one is that far too often dismissed, and one that sits at the nexus of so many social justice concerns — self-efficacy, empowerment, education, health, poverty…

I loved the rhetoric of refusal that the book offers; here is a generation of women who are refusing retrograde gender norms and refusing to buy in to a system predicated on complacency, silence, and shame. And beyond all this refusal there’s an overwhelming sense of affirmation: so many girls have found a sense of belonging and purpose through projects like this one.

GGE will celebrate its tenth anniversary this September. The work of their staff and supporters is certainly impressive, but what most inspired me while reading this book were the voices of the young women who work with GGE through initiatives like Sisters in Strength. I’ll end with their thoughts:

“School is not just a place to gain knowledge but also a place where students can easily be affected by sexual harassment. What a disgrace. How can we progress in our schoolwork if we are impacted and distracted by sexual harassment?” — Cyndi, youth organizer

“I had just given birth to my daughter, who is now three years old, and Sisters in Strength gave me the courage to let everyone know that I stand for something, that I’m not just some statistic. I learned that I am a smart and beautiful young woman who doesn’t have to let having a child end my life. Life goes on and I am going on too. I am a fighter who will succeed and become a great member of society. I have a lot more confidence than I had before this experience.” — Jazmine, youth organizer

Women’s Glib is part of the Hey, Shorty! Virtual Book Tour. Check out this link to see other Tour stops and spaces that are supporting this project and find out how you are able to support it too!

Dear Producers and Casting Directors of major projects:

May 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Get. Your. Act. Together.

First Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games?

Then Bradley Cooper in a remake of The Crow?

And now speculation that Kate Hudson has signed on to another Linda Lovelace torture porn, i mean biopic featuring torture porn?

Oh, and let’s not forget Rosie Huntington-Whitley in the next Transformers celebration of boobies and explosions  shitshow.

And I still remember the fact that one of you cast a neurotypical woman in Temple Grandin and an able-bodied man on Glee. 

I graduate in November. Care to clean up your act and make the industry a little less fucked up when it comes to gender, race, and (dis)ability?

Otherwise, I’m going to be very, very pissed off. And it’s not a good idea to piss of a ginger feminist badass with too much student loan debt and no tolerance for this bullshit.

In Which Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are Awesome

March 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

by ELENA

What happens when Daniel Craig and Judi Dench collaborate to make a public service announcement about gender inequality, which includes Craig dressing in hosiery, heels, a dress, wig, and earrings?

Chilling awesomeness happens.

Then again, Craig was the butt of a shitstorm of jokes when he was announced as the New Bond, because he wasn’t “manly” enough for the role. Evidently, being short/having sensitive skin*/not driving a stick/not caring for guns meant that he was a “wuss”. It’s great to see an actor known for playing a traditionally hyper-masculine role spend his time and energy making a great point about sexism.

And Judi Dench needs to narrate everything. All the time.

Think You’ve Been Raped? Think Again!

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Genius:

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’VE BEEN RAPED: A handy checklist based on the federal government’s (FBI, UCMJ) — recently updated — definition of “forcible rape.”…

7. Were you on a date with this man?
-If the answer is yes, you should have expected this. And if he bought you dinner, you’re ungrateful.
-If the answer is no, please proceed.

8. Were you drinking prior to the incident?
-Yes? Maybe you actually DID want to have sex.
-No? Good girl, keep going.

Hilarious in that way that makes you want to sob. Seriously, go read the whole thing.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: I still do not find rape funny

February 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

This, apparently, sets me apart from the kind and misunderstood souls of Someecards. They are usually so funny! But you know what is not funny, at all? Oh right, this:

HILARIOUS!!! Because if there’s anything worse than traumatic sexual assault followed by bravely coming forward followed by being derided and discredited and ignored, it is watching a tacky football half-time show on a television that you turned on.

I was kind of willing to overlook Someecards’ previous Ben Roethlisberger cards (here and here) because I could at least fool myself into thinking that they were essentially making fun of Roethlisberger, not his alleged victims. But this? This I’m not willing to overlook.

I tweeted @someecards to voice my discomfort, and received this reply:

They have not responded to my second tweet. If you’re on Twitter, please tweet @someecards and let them know why this isn’t okay.

People seem to enjoy rape jokes because they think they’re “edgy.” In reality, there’s absolutely nothing edgy about rape; indeed, it happens all the time. It is a serious and disgusting crime that cannot be joked about in this callous way. This kind of humor is not only tasteless and hurtful, it’s also boring. Plenty of people make light of rape, Someecards: you’re nothing special.

On #mooreandme, Rachel Maddow, and the curse of “Being Grateful”

December 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by ELENA

Today, my Internet exploded.

It started with Keith Olbermann inexplicably responding to my tweets about the #mooreandme protest, and ended with Michael Moore’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, which is being filmed live this week at the 92nd Street Y.

The interview can be found here, and I shall paraphrase it as such:

Maddow introduced Moore by discussing when leaked information is inaccurate, and then discussed the specifics of the charges against Julian Assange, which she referred to as “date rape.” She then introduced Michael Moore, who mentioned several interesting things:

1. That he founded a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan.
2. That he believes that rape allegations should be taken seriously.
3. That he supports WikiLeaks because of how he was raised as a Christian.

No, really.

Now, I am not going to question Moore’s faith, but I wonder if he ever read John 8, in which Jesus saves a “sinning woman” from being stoned to death (the common punishment for any sex-related offense) by saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV). Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have encouraged people to throw (figurative) stones at Assange’s complainants by labeling their allegations as “a smear/hooey/a CIA conspiracy/etc.”

After briefly discussing sexual assault, Moore went on to talk about war crimes/Bradley Manning’s detention/etc. Neither Moore nor Maddow mentioned the #mooreandme movement on Twitter by name, and Michael Moore did not apologize for the comments he made on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow did not press Moore further on the comments he made, and Maddow has not mentioned the #mooreandme movement on her Twitter page (although it was mentioned on @Maddowblog).

I honestly hope Rachel Maddow didn’t think: “I don’t want to bring up this Moore and Me protest too specifically because I don’t want to piss off the live audience.” I honestly hope Michael Moore didn’t think: “Well, maybe if I say that I really, really, really don’t like rape, and I bring up that one time when I formed a rape crisis center, those feminists on Twitter will stop bothering me.”

There has been a lot of celebration on Twitter about the fact that a prominent filmmaker within the progressive movement did the truly shocking thing of briefly mentioning that sexual assault should be taken seriously. I am not “happy,” “excited,” or “grateful” that Moore said what he did on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. People who expect endless praise for the simple act of recognizing that rape allegations are not something to take lightly remind me of my 8-year-old self, who expected bottomless rewards for doing things like cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher.

I’m sure someone, somewhere out on the Internet (maybe Keith O. himself!) is thinking, “He said rape was bad! Isnt that what you wanted? Why can’t you [optional expletive] feminists be grateful about anything?”

Problem is, “Be Grateful” is a very dangerous phrase.

Workers are told “Why do you want to cause trouble by starting a union? You should be grateful that you even have a job.”

Women are still told “We gave you the vote — what more do you want? Why aren’t you grateful for everything we do for you?”

People whose race and ethnic background aren’t “Caucasian” are told “Look, racial equality comes slowly. You should be grateful for all of the achievements [insert minority racial/ethnic group here] have made already.”

Those who fight for rights of queer identified people are constantly told that progress on marriage equality/the implementation of the DADT appeal/adoption/rights and visibility for the transgender community are constantly told that “Progress comes slowly.”

When my mother was my age, her family were recipients of Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives. She couldn’t complain about eating dented cans of pimentos, or having to wear clothes that didn’t fit, or getting used or broken toys for Christmas because that would make her sound “ungrateful.” When she talks about those Christmases of cheap grace, she starts to cry.

“Be Grateful” frequently means “Don’t ask questions; it’s not your place to ask us why we discriminate against you, withold basic rights from you, or think you only deserve the dented cans of food to eat.” I frequently wonder if people say “Progress Comes Slowly” as a way for justify the harmful systems that do prevent positive change. If we think that progress happens slowly, then, more often than not, we will act slowly.

I will congratulate Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann when they simply apologize for their harmful and inaccurate comments, mention the many talented writers who powered #mooreandme, and pay more attention to how the rape culture harms everyone.

And Keith, if you want proof that feminists are fairly courteous, mature, and not a “reactionary” coven out to get you, I would be more than happy to appear on your show. All I ask in return is that my airfare and hotel costs are covered, and that you show up to your news desk with an open mind.

#Mooreandme

December 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Thanks, meme generator.

Laura and Me.

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

More than 20 years after his film Roger and Me, about Flint’s connections to General Motors, and how the city is affected by outsourcing, Michael Moore still has strong geological and emotional ties to the eastern side of the state of Michigan. He mentioned Flint in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, and was clearly passionate about shedding light on the disparity of wealth within Flint. Hell, his Twitter handle is @MMFlint. In his films and interviews, he frequently is seen wearing apparel with the logos of several Michigan colleges, including Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University. I wonder if Moore has visited Eastern Michigan University, or spoken at the school recently. If he did, he may have heard about what happened in 2006 to Eastern student Laura Dickinson.

Laura Dickinson, a student at EMU was raped and murdered in her dorm room in December 2006. EMU originally told her family that she died of natural causes, and it was only after a suspect was arrested that the school informed Dickinson’s family that her death was a homocide. EMU was fined for violating the Beverly Clery Act (which requires colleges and universities to report felonies that happen on campus), settled with the Dickinson family out of court, and the President, Vice President, and Public Safety Director were fired. Dickinson’s death, EMU’s cover-up, and the murder trial were on the news constantly, and brought the kind of publicity that a small town in West Michigan does not want. At the same time, the Dickinson family held several benefits, with proceeds going to causes that Laura supported. Friends and neighbors stepped in to help run the family coffee shop during the months after her death.

It was hard to hear TV and radio reports about Laura’s death, because I knew her family, spent numerous hours in their coffeeshop, and it was sad that instead of being in the news because State Grounds supported the community by letting musicians perform in the space, or raised money for important causes. They were on the news because their daughter had died, and the institution that should have been looking out for her safety failed to protect her, and decided to lie to her family.

When I hear the phrase “travesty of justice”, I think about how EMU treated the grieving Dickinson family. I don’t think about Assange turning himself in, being jailed for a short period of time, being released on bail, and spending his holiday in an English mansion. It isn’t so much Moore posting bail for Assange (it’s his money, he can waste it however he wants to) that pisses me off, it’s Moore’s going on “Countdown With Keith Shouts-A-Lot”, and claiming that his donation stems from a belief that Assange was “set up” and that his complainants are merely upset groupies/”honeypots”/CIA informants/otherwise hell bent on destroying WikiLeaks. This is a criminal case, and instead of trying Assange and his accusers in the Court of the Internet (which is highly susceptible to severe cases of trolling), we should let the courts do their job. And we should reserve judgement about the veracity of the accusations until all parties must testify under oath.

Moore and Olbermann have been silent about their fantastically insensitive comments. I understand that having to explain their justification behind saying that Assange’s work was more important than having to do something as pesky as answer for a crime he has been accused of (and spreading misinformation about Assange’s accusers)  must be hard. How about they meet with the Dickinson family, and ask them what it was like to not only have a daughter die after being assaulted, but to have a university lie to them about her death? If Moore doesn’t particularly care about the whole “sexual assault is bad” thing, it would at least provide another example of why cover-ups, and the spreading of lies, by any person or organization, can be devastating and hurtful.

And then maybe, just maybe, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann will realize why dismissing rape accusations comes off as hurtful, insensitive, pompous, and a slew of other unpleasant adjectives.  And then oh, I don’t know, donate at least a little bit of their fortunes to RAINN?

On #Mooreandme, Fucking Up, and Apologies

December 16, 2010 § 9 Comments

by MIRANDA

So. Let’s review.

1. Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been accused of raping two Swedish women on different occasions. These two women have an apparently awesome lawyer, Claes Borgström, who says things like: “[my clients] are victims of a crime, but they are looked upon as the perpetrators and that is very unfortunate.” Assange has a lawyer, Mark Stephens, who says things like: “The honeytrap has been sprung. Dark forces are at work. After what we’ve seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan.” Because of these accusations, Assange has been arrested and held in a London jail. But he has been released on bail and appears dedicated to avoiding fair and rigorous prosecution for these alleged rapes.

2. Keith Olbermann talks about Assange’s legal troubles on his show. Olbermann invites Michael Moore to comment on Assange’s legal troubles on his show, specifically why Moore chose to donate $20,000 to Assange’s bail. Moore tells us that he donated such a sum because he believes WikiLeaks’ works is essential for a “free and open society,” because supporting WikiLeaks is “an act of patriotism.” Oh, and because the rape allegations are “a lie and a smear,” “all a bunch of hooey.” Oh, and also: because the allegations of rape are actually allegations that “his condom broke during consensual sex, which is not a crime.” Not a crime, true. Also not the accusation. (But here’s the thing: respecting WikiLeaks as a mechanism for ensuring “a free and open society” does not prevent us from getting to the bottom of the accusations against Assange. We can admire the principles of an organization while still questioning the ethics of their frontman. Really. We are old enough to walk and chew gum, here.)

3. Sady Doyle calls this shit out. And by “this shit” I mean the utter audacity of a progressive leader like Michael Moore to dismiss so casually and callously the very legitimate claims of two women who may have been raped. She calls out “the unwillingness of men in positions of power to consider rape a crucial issue that must be taken seriously.” And she launches a powerful protest: #Mooreandme. For the last 24 hours, real progressives have been tweeting @MMFlint and @KeithOlbermann, calling out their rape apologist bullshit; demanding dialogue, an apology, and $20,000 to an anti-rape organization; saying:

We are the progressive community. We are the left wing. We are women and men, we are from every sector of this community, and we believe that every rape accusation must be taken seriously, regardless of the accused rapist’s connections, power, influence, status, fame, or politics. We believe that rape is a crucial and central issue which affects us all, women disproportionately, and we are sick of being told that you should “never, ever believe” us. We believe that accuser-shaming, accuser-harassment, victim-blaming, and the suppression of rape cases all serve one distinct purpose, which is: TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO RAPE US AND GET AWAY WITH IT.

And for the last 24 hours? Olbermann has blocked a bunch of people, and Moore hasn’t responded at all. That’s some courageous journalism right there.

So there you have my humble, incomplete recap. But what I really want to emphasize is this: Olbermann and Moore have a really incredible opportunity right in front of them, an opportunity begging to be taken. They have the opportunity to apologize. Because being a good progressive? Is all about fucking up.

If we’re ever to break the myth of the flawless progressive hero — a myth that is unproductive, a myth that breaks hearts — we need to start learning how to recover from mistakes. Because they happen; casual racism, sexism, rape apologism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ageism, classism… Those things happen because we were taught to make them happen. Now we need to teach ourselves to stop them. Sure, we need to expect more. But expecting more doesn’t mean expecting perfection, the first time, every time. Expecting more is about making mistakes, being called out, engaging and learning from them. We learned that shit in pre-school.

Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, we’re waiting, we’re literally begging you to apologize and to right your egregious wrongs. You can find me @mirandamammen, waiting with the rest of my crew. We’re waiting. But we can’t wait forever.

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