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!

Westboro’s Hate Monument

July 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

by CHAD

We’ve all heard of them: Westboro Baptist Church. We’ve heard their messages of hate and divisiveness, and most importantly we’ve heard their very loud statements of why gay people will go to hell. They’ve decided to pull out a new move to add to their collection of homophobic statements to the USA, and the world. Aside from their decision to protest Lady Gaga’s concert (and their direct statements that God hates Lady Gaga, a modern Gay Icon), they’ve also made the hateful decision to make a monument dedicated to the condemnation of Matthew Shepard, a Gay Icon unfortunately known for a gruesome hate crime.

I can’t even describe how disgusting that is to me. Westboro Baptist protests the funerals of straight soldiers (and I’m sure gay ones) simply on the basis that gay people aren’t being stoned to death. They now go to the extent of promoting the murder of a young man, simply on the basis that he was gay. Casper, the city in which the monument was to be placed, voted down the placement, and it led to a civil case that reached the Supreme Court, which decided that preventing the monument from being placed is not a violation of free speech.

Rape Culture Rears its Ugly Head (Again)

July 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

Trigger Warning.

Do you know what ruined my morning? What filled me with a blinding, seething rage? What made me really really sad?

This movie poster right here. The one for the I Spit On Your Grave remake.

Now I was almost tempted not to link to it or write this post so as not to give this piece of shit more publicity, but I couldn’t. Not only is this poster heinous, exploitative bullshit, but it also perfectly personifies the serious problem of rape culture in America.

I did some research and the film is about the brutal gang rape of a young woman, who manages to survive. She then goes on to exact revenge on all of her torturers. It was first released in 1978 to much controversy. It was originally entitled Day of the Woman and released under the guise of a female empowerment film, though apparently the way in which she “empowered” herself after the half-hour long, brutal, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination rape scene, was to track down her rapists, seduce them (excuses for the actress to be naked again), and then torture and kill them in gruesome ways.

The most empowering thing I’ve ever heard.

Let’s get this straight. Let’s lay it out one more time. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is not sex. Rape is not about sexuality or attraction. Rape is rape. Rape is about humiliating, degrading, and removing all power from the victim. I don’t care how you want to spin it, Cinetel Films in association with Anchor Bay Films or anyone else involved in the creation of and marketing of this film. This poster is about sex. This poster is about her ass and her bare back. So what if there’s encrusted blood and bruises covering her upper thighs and back from her TRAUMATIC RAPE? Look at that body!

This is reprehensible. This is sick. This goes beyond blurring the line between rape and sex–it smashes them together into one thing for your (the general public’s) enjoyment.

And the worst part of this whole thing? Countless people will see this poster and not blink an eye. Because these types of images are normal in our culture. Hell, they’re expected.

Update: Pajiba already has a brilliant takedown up. For more rage, click here.

So… this is disgusting

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.

What happens online matters. George Sodini showed us that much. Wrote Bob Herbert in the aftermath of Sodini’s shooting:

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.

US Evangelicals’ Role in Uganda’s Homophobic Bill

January 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Times has an important article on the involvement of three US evangelicals in Uganda’s latest homophobic legislation.

The men — “Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including ‘7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child'; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads ‘healing seminars'; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is ‘mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality'” — spoke at a conference in Uganda last March. Now some suggest that their involvement encouraged supporters of one of the most homophobic pieces legislation that has ever been proposed.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

The bill has received attention in the blogosphere for its horrifically homophobic human rights violations.

The article is informative, but the photos that accompany it are of trans Ugandans, and their captions discuss plans for transitioning. Obviously trans people — all people — suffer in a homophobic environment, but nowhere else does the article mention the bill’s ramifications for trans people. Do we need another reminder that trans and gay should not be conflated?

Facebook Continues to be Fucked Up

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.

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