Friday, December 16, 2011

Rape Culture, Gun Culture

Let's discuss the original image.
Guns Don't Kill People. Dad's With Good Looking Daughters Do.
It's a play on the NRA slogan that guns don't kill people, people kill people.  In this particular example, it's very specific people threatening to kill people: the fathers of sexually available, "good looking" daughters. This quote makes some assumptions about the way the world works.
  1. It's right and  normal for a father to control a young woman's sexual agency, both on her behalf (as a threatening figure/excuse against being pressured into sex she doesn't want) and against her will (as a threatening figure who punishes her for dating/having sex).
  2. It's right and normal for an adult male to threaten to murder someone his child cares about.
  3. It's right and normal to consider a pubescent or post pubescent woman as under threat.
  4. It's right and normal to consider women's sexuality as a threatening thing.
  5. Young women run the constant risk of sexual assault/rape and need adult men to control their behavior/take charge of their romantic/sexual lives on their behalf.
  6. Fatherless women can't depend on anyone to protect them from sexual assault, as that's a father's job.
  7. Women who aren't conventionally attractive ("good looking") don't deserve to be protected from sexual assault.
  8. Women who aren't conventionally attractive ("good looking") can't be sexually assaulted because who'd want them/they want it anyway/they should be grateful for whatever attention they get.
This kind of quote says a lot about the way our dominant society views women, fathers, gender roles, and sexuality. The misplaced apostrophe is the ignorant cherry on the misogynist sundae.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Worth of a Woman

Let's discuss this!

1) If she's amazing she won't be easy. The term "easy" when applied to a woman generally refers to her sexual history. "Easy" women are women that have had sex. It's easy to have sex with them because they enjoy sex, or they are sex workers, or they are easily intimidated and unable to say no. "Easy" women are "sluts" and are generally considered by kyriarchal society to have less worth than non-easy or chaste women. But ultimately, no woman is ever chaste enough unless she lives in a convent surrounded by armed guards and wearing an iron chastity belt which has no key. The truth is that many amazing women have sex. Many amazing women have sex with one person, others have sex with many people. Amazing women have sex all the time. Amazing women also abstain from sex, either of their own volition or not. One's sexual experience has very little to do with how amazing one is, unless one is specifically talking about amazingness while having sex, where one might expect that someone experienced at having sex will have more amazing sex just as one who's been playing piano for a long time is more amazing at it than someone who started recently.

2) If she's easy, she won't be amazing. Again, a woman who has had sex, who is "easy," is described as having less value than a woman who is not "easy," one who has not had sex. THIS IS WHY MEN WHO RAPE WOMEN DO NOT GO TO JAIL, because women who have had sex are assigned less value than virgins. It's one of the classic "but I didn't really rape her" excuses. It couldn't have been rape, she's had sex before! It couldn't have been rape, she's had sex with ME before! A woman who has had sex has less value, less worth, then a woman who has not had sex! THIS IS BULLSHIT.

3) If she's worth it, you won't give up. I know, I know. I've seen those romantic comedies, too. The one where a dude engages in creepy stalker behavior and the woman sees through the error of her ways in rejecting him and they have a happy ever after. Look. When a woman says no, whether that's to dating or to having sex, she means no. Drop it. Pursuing a woman against her will is controlling, manipulative, and fucked up. Yes, despite every romantic movie you've ever seen that denies women agency and flat out says that stalking is the way to a woman's heart. If she's worth your respect, don't creep her out by forcing yourself into her life.

4) If you give up, you're not worthy. And this is the crux of the matter, isn't it? Pursuing a woman, for romance or for sex, ultimately isn't about what she wants. It's about the man proving that he's worth it, that he deserves her, that he's man enough. What the woman wants EXPLICITLY doesn't matter. The man will just wear her down over time, prove his worth, and ride off into the sunset.

This is rape culture in action. This stressing that a woman's worth is tied directly to her sexuality and experience is a way of demeaning and dismissing any woman that isn't "pure" enough, whether that's purity in action, thought, dress, behavior, or what. It's a way of controlling women, of controlling who they meet and what they wear and how they act and where they go (and when!) and who they have sex with and how often. Women who are sexually active are as worth while, as valuable, as women who are not sexually active. Women who have sex do not suddenly stop being human beings.

This is rape culture in action. This cavalier disregard for what a woman wants in preference to what the man wants is rape culture; moreover, the stress women are under to appear pure/chaste/inexperienced and thus to routinely say no when they might really want to say yes and then "allow" the man to "convince" them essentially paves the way for rape. This insistence that women who say yes are slutty sluts while women who say no are really saying maybe is harmful.

This is rape culture in action. At the root of it, this isn't about how amazing women are and how they're worth pursuing. This is about controlling women's behavior and determining their value, and telling men that they are only real women if they pursue an uninterested women and force them into a relationship. A man who "gives up," a man who respects a no, is "not worthy." Not worthy? A man who treats a woman with respect and consideration is "not worthy"? Not worthy of what, exactly?

This is rape culture and it's harmful. It's why rape convictions are so low. It's why serial rapists aren't punished, instead being turned loose so they can continue raping. It's why one million women are raped every year, some of them by guys who are unaware that they've raped a woman because "no" means "maybe, keep trying."

Women are not defined by their sexual history. All women have worth. All women have value. Women say no to sex, and to relationships, because they don't want to have that sex or be in those relationships. Pursuing them despite their objections is cruel.

Recent CDC statistics concerning rape

According to the CDC, more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.

1 Million Women are sacrificed on the altar of Kyriarchy every year.

Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.

More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance; for male victims, more than half (52.4%) reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.

Approximately 1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else during their lifetime; most men who were made to penetrate someone else reported that the perpetrator was either an intimate partner (44.8%) or an acquaintance (44.7%).

An estimated 13% of women and 6% of men have experienced sexual coercion in their lifetime (i.e., unwanted sexual penetration after being pressured in a nonphysical way); and 27.2% of women and 11.7% of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact.

Most female victims of completed rape (79.6%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25; 42.2% experienced their first completed rape before the age of 18 years.

More than one-quarter of male victims of completed rape (27.8%) experienced their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger.

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville discusses recent CDC statistics regarding rape and idly wonders
Imagine if the amount of effort put into "ending obesity" because of its alleged drain on the healthcare system were put into dismantling the rape culture.

Here's the CDC fact sheet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pinterest Bingo, part 1 of what will probably be many

Oh Pinterest, you are such a source of wonder and fucked-up-ness.

To wit:

Let's break this down a bit, shall we?

First off, PMS is a real thing in the world, that real people experience. Yes, women are real people. All people who have biologically female bodies are real people. RADICAL NOTION, I KNOW, but stay with me here.

Secondly, PMS relates to the changes in hormones female-bodied people experience as part of typical female-bodiedness. PMS doesn't make more things annoying: the pain, discomfort, and hormonal changes instead take away resources from dealing with other shit. If someone is angry at you for something while they're experiencing PMS, they're angry about it all of the rest of the time too, they just have less resources to put up with your shit at this time, so they're not going to play along and just swallow their discontent down.

Next, can we please get rid of the idea that emotions are horrible and weak and undesirable? We are humans. We have emotions. We're kind of supposed to. Propagating the idea that we should suppress them leads to a whoooole lot of really fucked up people, doing fucked up things. If we aren't allowed to have our own feelings and express them, no one else is allowed to have feelings either, and we're not allowed to have feelings for them. We're also not allowed to have empathy if we're not allowed to have emotions. And without empathy, you get to places where it's possible for someone to witness a rape and think "it's not my business to come forward", among many, many other things.

Plus, if we're not allowed to have emotions, that's an opportunity to recast anyone who does show emotion as weak and less-than. And it's often applied to women, but also to men. It's where we get the insults "sissy", "pussy", "crybaby", "oversensitive", etc. No one wants to be any of those things, right? Well, it's because the underlying assumption is that emotions are bad.

Also, can we please get away from from using bitch as a way to demean women who aren't doing what society tells them to, i.e. shut up and look pretty? Guess what kids. Complaining and calling attention to fucked-up-ness is part of getting the wrong things fixed. But while if women do it, it's bitching, but if men do it, it's seizing an opportunity for growth, and showing good analytical skills, and shit like that. Calling a woman who is pissed, who is not sitting demurely in the corner, who is calling you on your shit a bitch is just another way of rationalizing dismissing her concerns.

The joke also hinges not only on emotionalism and non-quiet women being bad, but on them OMG FINDING YOU. OH NOES, NOT AN UPSET WOMAN UP IN MY PIECE, NOOOOES. Seriously, the laugh is supposed to be that "ha ha that's funny because it's a little horrifying and scary to contemplate" laugh. You're supposed to laugh because it's what you don't want to happen, and OMG isn't it great those bitches DON'T have GPS? HAR HAR better not give her one for Christmas! Which, while being with someone who is upset, angry, crying, etc. may not be fun, per se, I really question the notion that it's so terrible that it should be avoided at all costs. I can certainly see where if you're not used to dealing with even your own emotions, it can be utterly terrifying, because you don't have the language and capacity to cope, but it's still not the worst possible thing in the world. And, is another example of how that lack of empathy and suppression of emotion can have a real impact.

So yeah, this is a huge post about one little picture. But this picture communicates some very specific messages. And pictures like these are part of how those messages propagate. This one is selling the message that women are bad, emotions are bad, and dealing with emotions is a terrible fate. Seriously, at least four sexist tropes in one picture. With the free space, that is totally bingo.