July 21, 2010 § 4 Comments
Right now Lindsay Lohan’s incarceration is all over the news. While most media outlets are obsessed with how much time Lindsay will be serving, it’s super important to remember the staggering and disturbing statistics of women in prison.
The following statistics are quoted directly from Women’s Prison Association’s Quick Facts Women and Criminal Justice — 2009. For more information, visit their website.
- Over 200,000 women are in prison and jail in the United States, and more than one million women are under criminal justice supervision.
- Two-thirds of women in prison are there for non-violent offenses, many for drug-related crimes.
- Nearly two-thirds of women in prison are mothers.
- 93 out of every 100,000 white women were incarcerated at midyear 2008. During the same time period, 349 out of every 100,000 black women and 147 out of every 100,000 Hispanic women were incarcerated.
According to Amnesty International’s Women and Prison: Fact Sheet, women in prison often experience sexual assault and misconduct due to the extreme power imbalance between officers and inmates, including guards’ ability to withhold privileges. In addition, women in prison experience medical neglect, including shackling during pregnancy, as well as severe discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation. For more information about women in prison and other issues of women’s human rights, go to Amnesty’s site.
July 15, 2010 § 1 Comment
When 22-year-old Hossai was told to quit her job by the Taliban, she refused to be bullied. She was shot and killed…These stories are seldom heard, but it’s not because they are rare. The victims are often too terrified to report such attacks to the authorities, or have little hope that anything will be done if they do. They can expect little or no protection from their government, which seems more willing to provide patronage to senior insurgents who switch sides than assist women at grave risk. When high-profile women are assassinated, their cases are not given the priority they deserve and their killers are rarely brought to justice. While men who run afoul of the Taliban are also attacked — particularly in Kandahar, where the murder rate in recent months has reached unprecedented heights — the situation for women is worse.
July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments
Memory: It is a delicious Sunday afternoon. Sun glitters through the trees, splashes over benches and stains the ground. It is the fourth of July, and I have spent several hours on my own, reading the intoxicating prose of one of my favorite writers, Zadie Smith, in one of my favorite places in all of New York City: Fort Tryon Park. Shoes off, feet in the grass. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache. It’s time for the ideal reading break: an ice cream cone. I walk to the truck, pay for my chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. Perfect refreshing cool, perfect crunch. I stroll back into the park under a canopy of lush leaves. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache.
There are people in the background of my vision. One of them emerges slowly; I understand that he is moving toward me. He is an older man, probably in his early seventies, walking along. He stops in front of me, and I pause slightly.
He is going to say, “It is so gorgeous on this lawn.”
He is going to say, “It is so relaxing here!”
He is going to say, “It is so hot today, don’t you think?”
No, he is not. He is not going to say any of these things. His face is two feet from mine and he is saying, “It is so sexy watching you lick that cone.”
There is a voice in my head saying: You should have known this was coming. I am still walking and I say crisply, loudly, “THAT’S DISGUSTING” and he smiles and he turns and I walk and my mouth is dry. Sometimes the world is so awful it makes me ache.
Vision: I don’t walk on. I don’t say anything. I laugh shrilly and he looks startled and I mash my cold ice cream into his face, his beard, it covers him and I am calm. I’ve won.
Vision: I don’t walk on. I scream, “Leave me the fuck alone.” I shriek, “You’re a piece of shit.” I shout, “Fuck you, prick.” I’ve won.
Reality: I can’t win. Street harassment is so mind-bogglingly fucked up. It’s a cruel game that I’m playing against my will and I can’t fucking win it. That’s all I want: I want to win. I want to feel better than these jerks because I am. Even more than I hate harassment itself, I abhor the way I feel afterwards. At first I feel ashamed, embarassed even though I’ve done literally nothing wrong. Then I feel regretful, angry at myself for not reacting more harshly. I feel like a bad feminist, like I haven’t spoken up properly or stood up for myself in the “right” way. Next I feel guilty. I feel mean. I make excuses for the dipshit who’s put me in this situation — I tell myself maybe he’s a nice guy, maybe he didn’t mean it that way. And finally, always, I feel sick, physically nauseous.
All of this shit, all of this fills my mind. It takes up so much space, so much brainpower and it’s absolutely useless. Instead of being consumed by these victim-blaming thoughts, I want to feel safe and strong and sexy, sexy on my own terms.
Street harassment isn’t a compliment. It’s not “no big deal,” and it’s not isolated. It lies on the continuum of violence against women; it’s meant to keep women quiet, keep us inside, keep us from coming and going as we please. It can ruin your afternoon, your emotional safety, your confidence. It needs to be stopped.
HollaBack! is an awesome organization that works to fight street harassment on a global level. Check out their new website, and their PSA (transcript below the fold). I’m the one wearing the plaid jacket.
June 9, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Oh, Maureen Dowd. I never quite know how to approach her writing. Occasionally she’s very smart and irreverent in the best way, and at those times her accomplishments as a successful, mainstream female journalist make me proud. More often, though, I accidentally read something she’s written (seriously, I never seek out this stuff) and think: What? Also: Why?
Like this: “Even as he grows arugula in the White House vegetable garden, Barack Obama never again wants to be seen as the hoity-toity guy fretting over the price of arugula at Whole Foods. That is why the president ends up sending mixed signals on food.” …By talking about the nutritional importance of fruits and veggies, and then sometimes eating a hamburger. Or something. Seriously, what? (Sweet Machine had an excellent takedown, which included the delightfully LOL-worthy line, “Seriously, why does ANYBODY mistake MoDo for a feminist, ever? Is it because she is a woman with a job?”)
Or this: “Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct that he’s practically lactating.” What. Can. This POSSIBLY Mean.
But — in true Dowd fashion — I digress.
The point is she had a fairly great piece up yesterday about a truly disgusting group of young men at Landon, “an elite private grade school and high school for boys in [a] wealthy Washington suburb.”
Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an “opening day party,” complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.
…In The Washington Post, the sports columnist Sally Jenkins wrote about the swagger of young male athletes and the culture of silence that protects their thuggish locker-room behavior.
…Jean Erstling, Landon’s director of communications, said…that “Landon has an extensive ethics and character education program which includes as its key tenets respect and honesty. Civility toward women is definitely part of that education program.”
Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.
Wow! It is a surprising day when I concur with Maureen Dowd. But it has come! We are in agreement! On this one, at least.
Average people do not do terrible things of their own volition. I refuse to believe it! I am too much of an optimist. Because let me tell you something: If I believed, as our culture seems to, that men are rapacious beasts whose thirst for violence cannot be quelled, I would have given up on all of this so, so long ago. I would have given up on this blog, on daring to talk and write about sexual violence, on feminist organizing, on having the audacity to travel alone whenever and wherever I please. I would have given up on men, and I would have given up on my own freedom. But luckily, I haven’t. Because I believe that, in the majority of cases (though certainly not all), rape happens because of the intricate process of socialization that teaches boys that rape is okay, or at the very least, not a big deal. This process is part of the enormous and far-reaching tentacles of rape culture, the cultural meme that encourages and condones sexual violence against women.
Most men rape because of opportunity, because someone is vulnerable and because they’ve got an entire culture backing them up, because they haven’t been taught that it’s wrong, because they think — often correctly — that they can get away with it.
As Bernard Lefkowitz painstakingly documented in his book Our Guys, about the culture of a tight-knit New Jersey town that allowed the gang rape of a mentally retarded young woman — by her classmates and childhood friends – not only to happen, but also to be excused: “These Glen Ridge kids, they were pure gold, every mother’s dream, every father’s pride. They were not only Glen Ridge’s finest, but in their perfection they belonged to all of us.” These rapists were not anomalies. Far from it. Indeed, they were the perfect products of our misogynistic culture.
Sexual violence is not a stand-alone problem; it lies on a patriarchal continuum of all the tiny ways we wrong women, all the time, every day, at home, at work, on the street, in the doctor’s office, on the subway, in advertisements, in the classroom, in the courtroom, on the silver screen, all across the infinite internet. When the world treats women like shit, how can we expect our sons and brothers and classmates to learn that it’s not okay to treat women like shit?
May 19, 2010 § 1 Comment
Here are some values that I think are wonderful: Accountability. Respect. Honesty. Sex-positivity.
Here is a poster that I think is beautiful — literally gorgeous, literally having the power to bring tears to my eyes:
Here is an organization that is doing incredible work: Men Can Stop Rape.
Just, you know, FYI.
May 17, 2010 § 4 Comments
This is a real thing: a Facebook group that can be “liked” by users, entitled “That awkward silence during rape.” So that if someone you know finds rape hilarious, the statement “So-and-so likes that awkward silence during rape” will appear on your news feed.
REPORT THIS SHIT. Scroll to the bottom left corner of the page and REPORT THIS. TELL YOUR FRIENDS. REPORT THE FUCK OUT OF THIS ASTOUNDING BULLSHIT.
UPDATE: It looks like the original page has been dissolved. But I encourage you to report these similar groups: the awkward silence after the rape; It isn’t r.a.p.e…. It’s SURPRISE SEX. (:; to rape you. …The list goes on and on.
I am truly horrified.
May 7, 2010 § 2 Comments
February 10, 2010 § 3 Comments
It has come to my attention that there is a Facebook fan page entitled, “Killing your hooker so you don’t have to pay her.” The page boasts such updates as, “Ever stab your hooker with a blunt object to add insult to injury?” The page was created about a month ago.
And, as of today, it has 22,127 fans.
This is a deeply offensive, misogynistic, and outright violent page. Hypothetical violence is not funny, but real violence is even less amusing — and this violence is real. The murder of sex workers is frighteningly commonplace, and all too often is excused under some bullshit pretense that sex workers are expendable, are unhuman.
We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.
…We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.
We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.
Facebook pages like this one are surely a form of entertainment, of shits and giggles, for those involved. For the sex workers who are killed for no other reason than hatred, the amusement fades.
This “entertainment” is what happens when people hate women, hate sex workers, and see violence as a viable solution to their rage.
Please, please visit the “Killing your hooker so you don’t have to pay her” Facebook fan page and report it for its offensive content. (Scroll down and look in the lower left corner of your screen to find the link to report it.)
UPDATE: It looks like the page has been taken down… when you click my original link, it takes you to Facebook’s home page instead of the offensive fan page. Good work, crew.
December 26, 2009 § 2 Comments
Here’s a little gem that just popped up in my news feed, courtesy of a new application called Sex Jokes for iPhone:
An escaped convict, imprisoned for 1st degree murder, had spent 25 years of his life sentence in prison. While on the run, he broke into a house and tied up a young couple who had been sleeping in the bedroom. He tied the man to a chair on one side of the room and his wife on the bed. He got on the bed right over the woman, and it appeared he was kissing her neck. Suddenly he got up and left the room. As soon as possible the husband made his way across the room to his bride, his chair in tow, and whispered, “Honey, this guy hasn’t seen a woman in years. I saw him kissing on your neck and then he left in a hurry. Just cooperate and do anything he wants. If he wants to have sex with you, just go along with it and pretend you like it. Whatever you do don’t fight him or make him mad. Our lives depend on it! Be strong and I love you.” After spitting out the gag in her mouth, the half naked wife says: “Dear, I’m so relieved you feel that way. You’re right, he hasn’t seen a woman in years, but he wasn’t kissing my neck…He was whispering in my ear. He said he thinks you’re really cute and asked if we kept the Vaseline in the bathroom. Be strong and I love you, too.”
Who could have possibly thought that this “sex” (read: rape) joke was a good idea? Oh, that’s right, disgusting hatemongers.
November 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
Yeah, so. This is the Swiss chalet where Roman Polanski — an admitted, convicted, and escaped rapist — will be confined to house arrest after being released on bail.
From the LA Times:
A Swiss justice officials was quoted by AFP and Swiss news media as saying Polanski would be allowed to make unlimited phone calls and have full access to e-mail and the Internet. Although he cannot leave his house, he can invite friends over and throw parties at the tony chalet in the ski resort of Gstaad.
Hey Polanski, hope you can bear to stay inside your gorgeous, expensive house — while rape survivors and allies the world over gag at the apalling lack of justice your case has produced.