Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Morning Misogynist: MTV

The story of MTV Real World cast member Tonya Cooley's lawsuit and settlement with MTV and parent company Viacom has me reeling.

First of all--good for her for having the courage to speak up. What is most abhorrent about this is the role the network as a whole played in the sexual assault of this woman.

-The cameramen watched and both did nothing to stop it nor said anything to Tonya after it happened (as is noted in the story, she was passed out during the incident.)
-The producers also did not report the incident (I think it's safe to assume they saw the footage.)
-The network proceeded to victim blame, citing Cooley's behavior before the incident and her constant drinking which resulted in her passing out prior to the incident.

I'm not going to describe the incident. If you're interested in it, Jezebel has the details.

Oh, and there's that part where MTV went so far as to protect themselves from such lawsuits (were they anticipating rapes and sexual assaults? sounds like it...) by having participants sign waivers:

       "The main legal issue for Cooley was that she was suing for sexual harassment and 
       wrongful termination, but the extensive waiver she signed with the production company 
       not only says that cast members are not official employees, but that they might have to
       deal with "non-consensual physical contact, of which MTV is not responsible," which 
       means that they could get raped on camera and MTV wouldn't be at fault."

The Jezebel article also refers to a past incident where a Real World cast member was raped but the MTV lawyers stepped in and the case wasn't pursued.   I actually wouldn't be surprised if there were more incidents of rape or sexual assault than this that have occurred during the Real World series.  MTV should be ashamed of themselves and someone has got to hold them accountable for their sexist victim blaming. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are you outraged?

THIS story about a group of high school football players starting a "fantasy slut league" has me outraged.

There are SO many things wrong with this. No students are going to be disciplined because they couldn't find the names of people associated with the league. I find it hard to believe that they can't do a little investigating to find out who was participating. Also, the fact that the principal called the league a "bonding activity" is abhorrent.

So--the girls at this high school have been sexually exploited and shamed (don't get me started on the word 'slut') and the boys who used the girls as a way to get "points" face no repercussions whatsoever?!

We've got to talk about the commodification of women and girls. Little girls are asking their parents to buy them "sexy" clothes, the show Toddlers in Tiaras is a huge hit on cable TV, everywhere you turn there is an ad selling something (perfume, cars, jeans, etc.) but half the time you can hardly tell what the ad is about because it's focused on a partially nude woman, being used to tell the product (yes, i know that half-nude men are used to sell things too but the sexualization of men and boys is not nearly as pervasive as it is for women and girls.)

This issue is even more in our faces during Halloween when girls and women dress as "sexy" versions of nurses, zombies, cats, devils, etc. all for the gratification of men. A perfect example is from the movie Mean Girls:

Educating our children about the sexualization and commodification of girls isn't the sole responsibility of our schools and teachers (notice that the league came to light after a school rally to educate students on date rape, so kudos to the school on that) but the burden rests largely on the shoulders of us as parents to do everything we can to teach our children about such things.

HOWEVER--until the media and society at large recognize this issue, educating our kids will be a long, hard uphill battle.

Organizations doing great work on this issue include Advocates for Human Rights, Hardy Girls Healthy Women,  and True Child.  I encourage you to check them out.

What do you to to talk to your kids about sexualization?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Utopia?

Sometimes, when I get frustrated with the current state of politics in the U.S., (which is happening more often than not at this point) I daydream about living on a commune that would be a little feminist utopia. I've thought about this so much that I have my own guidelines for fellow commune dwellers and so I thought I would share that today because thinking about reality right now just seems....scary.

Sam's Earth-Loving-Atheist-Feministy Commune:

1) in order to reside in the commune you must agree with the following

    • religion is nothing more than a tool of the patriarchy to keep men in power and in complete control
    • women will never be equal unless we have full bodily autonomy and control over our reproductive capacities
    • animals are awesome...let's not eat them all the time. actually let's  limit our eating of animals to big celebrations, and let said animals be ones we raise ourselves, in open spaces that are free of any hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, etc.
    • wine and beer are fun when used in moderation and making wine and beer is even better
    • sharing is great
    • knowledge is fantastic and books are the key to the world
    • violence is never, under any circumstance, acceptable
    • it takes a village to raise a child
    • creative outlets like painting, sculpture, gardening, knitting, etc are critical to emotional and intellectual growth
    • daily physical activity is key to healthy living
    • no hateful words that marginalize and offend anyone based on race, sex, ethnicity, immigration status, ability, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, sexual orientation, or class will be tolerated
    • once a week there will be a big party and everyone will contribute at least one item whether it be entertainment, libations, food, decor, etc.
    • everyone will contribute to life on the commune in some way, with positions rotating. One month you could be raising chickens and the next day teaching art class.
2) the commune will be somewhere with rolling hills, green grass and warm weather. we will have lots of animals and a nice big garden

This is as far as my daydream has gotten me. And unfortunately it's just that--a daydream......

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Morning Misogynists

Just another instance to add to our disgusting rape culture. A student(s) put up fliers that outlined the "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" at Miami University in the men's bathrooms of a co-ed dorm hall. They haven't caught the assholes that did this (and probably won't) but I am glad that the students from the Miami U campus group Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault (WAVE) are taking a stand and demanding more action from university officials.  I hope they stand their ground and that officials take this case seriously.

Friday, October 5, 2012


15 days ago, I had my fourth laparascopic surgery to remove endometriosis in my pelvic area.  I don't have my post-op appointment until next week, so I really don't know all of the details of the surgery (where they found the endometrial tissue, how much, etc.)

But I do know this--I've reached my breaking point. Ten years of pain, surgeries, doctors, different oral contraceptives, medical menopause, and more pain. In my pre-op appointment, my surgeon said "do you want more children?" and I told him yes, I want one more but that I need to wait until my husband is out of law school, to which he replied "well, you might consider getting your childbearing over with so that we can take out your uterus and eliminate the disease and the pain."

After the appointment, I told my husband what the surgeon said.  He's not the first doctor to tell me to have a hysterectomy. But I played it down--I felt like this surgery would be different and that I'd have time, like maybe 3 years to just hang with H before getting knocked up again.

Today is a different story. The pain is insurmountable. It hurts to move, to walk, to sit, to breathe. I had to shut my office door so I could cry, and then I thought to myself "Fuck it, I can't wait a few years. Maybe the best thing to do is to get the hysterectomy. We can always adopt." 

So that's where I am today. There's a lot going on with my body that is yucky and I'd rather not divulge the details, but it's gotten me to this point of hopelessness. It'll be interesting to see what the doctor says next week at my follow-up appointment.  It'd be great if he had answers, but somehow I have a feeling that I'll leave with not much more than the option to do medical menopause again, get loaded on pain pills, have a kid asap and then do the hysterectomy, or just go ahead with the hysterectomy now.

It's days like this when I wish I was a dude and didn't have to put up with this shit.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brief Hiatus

sorry for the lack of posts, y'all! I had surgery last week and have been underwater with work, etc.

I'll be posting soon about how the surgery to remove endometriosis went as well as other fun post on atheist parenting and more!

thanks for your patience!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

That Group of Women Saved Me

**Trigger warning**

Ten years ago this month, I was raped.  Was it “legitimate”? I suppose for some people the jury is still out on that one, but recent events such as waiting for Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and of course Rep. Akin’s recent comments have influenced me to write my story.

I knew my rapist. We had been dating for almost two weeks.  He drugged me. I blacked out. I was physically unable to say NO or to protest.  I was in denial for months until I sat in a circle with other women and listened to them tell their stories of being attacked by a stranger or being raped by a boyfriend or acquaintance. I didn’t tell my story that night, but I did finally admit to myself and my three best friends that I had been raped.

Rape is not something that crosses most people’s minds each day, but it does mine as I am sure is the case for other victims of rape and sexual assault.

But I don’t want to talk about how horrifying my experience was. 

Instead, I want to talk about finding the strength to move on and move forward.

I want to talk about society’s perception of victims and rapists.

I want to talk about what consent really means.

The day after I was raped I was supposed to go to a big frat boy party thing with a friend—and my rapist was going to be there. Even though I hadn’t yet realized/admitted to myself that I had been raped, I knew what had happened the night before was wrong and I felt sick to my stomach just thinking about being in the same vicinity as him. My “friend” (we are no longer friends because she decided to keep hanging out with that group of guys and I, for obvious reasons did not) was so upset with me and tried everything she could to pressure me into going. It worked. I spent the next six hours getting wasted and avoiding my rapist at all costs.  And that’s how I spent the next month and a half—I drank. A lot.

That month and a half was hazy and the epitome of avoidance. I avoided my rapist and his frat brothers. I avoided thinking about that night. I avoided talking to my best friends about what had happened. It was easy for me to compartmentalize my experience and shove it deep into my subconscious.

Being raped drove me into despair but it also pushed me into activism. I often feel guilty that I hadn’t really considered social justice and political activism until I was raped, but I suppose everyone has to start somewhere. I no longer feel sadness, shame or despair. I am no longer a victim—I am a survivor and a warrior. I only have anger left. Anger that I channel into action to end violence against women.

Telling my story didn’t magically erase the pain and anguish I felt.  I had good days and bad days.  There were days when I felt strong and resilient—when I felt like I had my power back. Days when I felt like I could trust a man again. Days when I felt like I could possibly drink amongst strangers again.

But there were days—long stretches of time, really—when it was so easy to slip back into the comfort of denial. It’s much easier to see myself as a whole, happy and healthy person than to accept my reality—a young woman whose college experience is not defined by, but definitely influenced by an act of violence.

It's much easier to think we live in a world where women can choose when and with whom to have sex than to accept reality—a world where women look over their shoulders at night in fear of a stranger lurking behind them; a world where date rape drugs are passed around amongst men like party favors at a child’s birthday party; a world where sexual history determines a victim’s credibility in a court of law.

It was during those times that I leaned heavily on my friends and community. Out of all the women I know, about half of them have been raped or sexually assaulted and I didn’t have to go far to find someone to talk to who understood my roller coaster of emotions.

Activism has been unbelievably therapeutic for me, and it dawned on me that although I am open to telling my story to strangers on the street, I have never written about it.  Until now.

What image pops in your head when you think of rape? What does the woman (or man) look like? What does the rapist look like?

Close your eyes and visualize it.

Now, what does the woman do for a living? What was she wearing? What does the rapist do for a living? What was he wearing?

Open your eyes. Erase that visualization and let me tell you something: it doesn’t fucking matter. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if the victim is a stripper in a string bikini getting raped by a wealthy businessman. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if she knows him. Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if they had had consensual sex in the past. Rape is rape. And yet, a rape victim’s sexual history (along with what she was wearing, etc.) is often brought up in rape trials.

I am getting sick and tired of the “she was asking for it” mentality.

I’m also tired of the supposed “confusion” around consent

When are we going to educate our children about response-positive consent? I think what is most frightening about this Reddit article is the men who claim they didn’t know they were raping someone in the first place just because she was passed out from drinking too much.  In addition to talking honestly to folks about consent we need to dig deeper into why anyone would want to have “sex” with a more or less lifeless body as opposed to consensual sex with an enthusiastic partner. 

As the mother of a son, I often think about what I can do to teach him to look at the world through a feminist lens--to see women as true equals, to understand what consensual sex is, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and so on. How does a mother teach such lessons in a society that bombards everyone, even young children, with messages that equate violence with masculinity; that sexualizes little girls; where pornography is accessible with one click; where marriage is denied depending on the sex of the person you fall in love with; and where women are constantly objectified?

A big step forward would be integrating something like Men Can Stop Rape’s program geared toward teaching young men about respect and defining their own masculinity to end violence. 

Or maybe something like the Red Flag campaign that talks to teens about dating violence and healthy relationships. Also, a friend pointed out to me that in some states Planned Parenthood has great programs they do in high schools that address dating violence, healthy relationships and rape with teens (another reason to support Planned Parenthood!)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if programs like these were taught in EVERY middle school health class?! We need programs like these to become the national standard--not just something that exists in certain communities. Rape has no boundaries--it permeates through all communities and cultures. So too should programs that educate our teens and young people and empower them to make the right decisions about how they treat one another.

While we’re at it, we need to provide more resources that provide outlets for victims to report their assaults and seek medical and mental health treatment.  Given the circumstances under which I was raped, I didn’t immediately seek help but fortunately that group of women I sat with on that cool, spring night saved me and gave me hope. We were in that room together because we were all involved in the Vagina Monologues and all had a commitment to stopping violence against women.  I felt passionately about stopping violence against women…I just hadn’t realize that I was one of THOSE women—the women we were trying to help—until I stopped to listen to the voices surrounding me, breaking the silence.

There’s something about solidarity that breaks the barrier of silence and transcends guilt, shame and fear. I’ve found that just because of my activism in the women’s movement, women have come to me and shared their stories with me. I remember a classmate coming up to me at the end of our Spanish class (I had just made a pitch for folks to buy tickets to see the Vagina Monologues) and telling me she had been raped at a fraternity house. My stomach hit the ground—I felt so conflicted. Part of me wanted to embrace her and say “you aren’t alone! It happened to me, too!” while another voice inside me sobbed “Was it the same guy that raped me? What would have happened if I had reported him? How many women could I have helped just by calling the cops?”  I ended up listening to her story and telling her she wasn’t alone. And that’s all I said. I still regret it.

Over the years I have heard more stories than I could have ever imagined. Each story, each woman, has reinforced my conviction to end rape and rape culture.

My healing isn’t over. I still have good days and bad days and what keeps me going is the women I have met over the years who manage to keep living their lives.  And on the days where I teeter in the middle—where I could stumble into a bad day or resolve to have a good one—I think of things like a friend’s tattoo: Strongest in the Broken Places, and I try to rally and fight back.