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#YesAllWomen Blog Roundup…

yesallwomen_largeYou know, I’ve been pondering so many blog posts related to the #YesAllWomen hashtag  (Yes, all women experience feeling unsafe because of their gender, yes all women have experienced harassment, etc.) that has grown out of the Santa Barbara shootings and the discussion of cultural misogyny that has grown around it.  I keep searching Twitter and reading the tweets from thousands and thousands of people, men and women, and their links to articles and blog posts.  It’s been an obsession the last few days.  And every time I think I have something to say… I find a post that says it better, more cogently and more coherently than I could.

As I type this blog entry, I can look to my typing stand on my work desk and see a large stack of what we call “gold forms” at my office.  Gold forms are the forms we fill out whenever we receive a call or request for help from a sexual assault survivor.  Part of my job every month is to compile all the sad, disheartening, tragic, enraging statistics from these forms.  Some of these women and men I have met.  Some I have not.  But their stories are spelled out in brief and spartan handwriting on the double-sided pages.  Every month, the gold forms pour in.  Every. Single. Month.

And you know what?  While some survivors are men – and deserve the same support and and belief and resources that women do! – most are women.  Most… are always women.  And so for that reason, I also say:  #yesallwomen.  After that, my ability to speak gracefully on the topic degrades a bit in comparison to the bloggers below, and so I think what I will do here is try to link to a few of these posts and recommend strongly that you read them if you’ve not already.

There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young men and boys.  There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young girls and women.  There is something broken in our cultural dialogue around gender, gender roles, sex, sexual roles… there is something broken.  That something broken contributes to sexual assault… to domestic violence… and to the murders in Santa Barbara.*

*Please note that I am not saying it is the only contributing factor.  One article I read quite rightly points out that the Santa Barbara tragedy can focus as a looking glass, with our perspective on what “caused” it shifting as our own focus or bias shifts – one could implicate gun culture, male socialization, mental health, and numerous other factors and probably not be wrong in any of these cases and more.

Rather than focus this set of links on the mass killing itself, I would like to look instead at the very popular Twitter hashtag and responses to it, and what this all says about the current state-of-the-society.Funny-Not-all-men-are-like-that-meme-t-shirts-Hoodies

The first of the blog posts I’m linking to takes to task the common protest of “Not all men are like that!” that crops up whenever discussions turn to misogyny or street harassment or societal ways in which women are made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or simply bodies without minds and spirits inside them.  In fact, #NotAllMen has become a common hashtag used to contradict the #YesAllWomen hashtag.  While it is undeniably (thank goodness!) true that, indeed, “not all men are like that”… it can derail a very important and necessary conversation about how our culture expects men to behave that does and can contribute to violence.

This first post is written by a self-described white, cis-gender male.  He really gets to the heart of why “Not all men are like that!” is an unhelpful and distracting response to a very real issue.  I recommend it highly.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/05/27/not_all_men_how_discussing_women_s_issues_gets_derailed.html

Over the weekend, as the discussion across Twitter turned to these horrible events, a lot of men started tweeting this, saying “not all men are like that.” It’s not an unexpected response. However, it’s also not a helpful one.

This next blog post talks specifically about the idea of nerd-culture and misogyny, but really what it’s discussing is the way we raise boys (who, of course, become men) to feel that their role in life is expected to involve the pursuit and conquest of women sexually at the expense of seeing women as the protagonists of their own stories and their own lives, with the power and right to make their own decisions:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/27/your-princess-is-in-another-castle-misogyny-entitlement-and-nerds.html

I’ve heard and seen the stories that those of you who followed the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter have seen—women getting groped at cons, women getting vicious insults flung at them online, women getting stalked by creeps in college and told they should be “flattered.” I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.

yesallmenThis post by acclaimed science fiction writer John Scalzi on his blog goes into a sensitive and interesting dissection of the levels of discrimination in society and in the individual that pertains not only to sexism or misogyny, but racism, homophobia, etc.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/04/17/the-four-levels-of-discrimination-and-you-and-me-too/

I’ve been talking about sexism recentlymy own and others — and I have to say I’ve found it increasingly exasperating to see the massively defensive response of “not all men are sexist” that inevitably follows. One, because it’s wrong (more on that in a bit), and two, because the more I see it, the more it’s obvious that it’s a derail, as in, “Holy shit any discussion of sexism makes me uncomfortable so I want to make it clear I am not sexist so I’ll just demand recognition that not all men are sexist so I can be lumped in with those men who are not sexist and I can be okay with myself.”

Finally, because sometimes a picture (or a cartoon) can be worth a thousand words, especially when it can connect with some humor as well as a visual, I leave you with two cartoons by Robot Hugs:

 

Well, isn’t this interesting? (And disturbing)

So, I just did a big blog post about the Mallory Owens story, which has already had some twists and turns.  Now there is apparently a NEW twist–this one being that Mallory’s lawyer has just quit after Mallory made a statement saying that the EARLIER statement theoretically put out by her lawyer with her consent, and featured on GLAAD… isn’t really what happened or doesn’t really represent what Mallory wanted to say.

The story is just getting more convoluted–there were rumblings that the beating was not done “because of” Mallory’s orientation and dating of Ally Hawkins… but that it was because Travis, Ally’s brother, was angry that Ally and Mallory had done drugs and prostituted themselves/each other.

Um… wow.

In short, an already tragic, complex and horrible story is now tragic, complex, horrible and… confusing.  I wonder personally if Mallory is being threatened by the Hawkins family, or members of it, and is thus changing her story to fit what they want portrayed about the incident.  What about the previous time Mallory was assaulted by the brother, Travis?  Was that before or after allegedly learning of this drugs and prostitution element?  Who knows?  I certainly do not.  But I wonder.

However, I am leaving my earlier post up because I do believe that my observations about bystander intervention on the web are still quite valid and important.  By the same token, I certainly don’t want to unintentionally spread misinformation or unclear information in the blog.

Consider this post a disclaimer for the previous and perhaps a “to be continued…”

No matter what, nobody deserves to be beaten as this young woman was beaten.  That can still be safely said.

Thinking About Mallory – Bystander Intervention, the Internet, and How We Are All Connected

mallory-owens

Something I have been thinking about when it comes to this blog is—what IS Bystander Intervention, really?  Some of it is pretty obvious—stepping in to help a friend at a party when she is drunk and someone is clearly trying to take advantage of her.  That’s bystander intervention.  Hearing a friend of yours making sexist comments and telling him, “Dude, that’s not cool.”  That’s bystander intervention.

It can be a big thing or a small thing.  It can be done with words.  Or with actions…

…can it be done online?

Weirdly, even though I’m writing this blog, I hadn’t thought so much about ONLINE bystander intervention until I read a recent series of news stories.  This story got me thinking about a whole bunch of things, actually—bystander intervention was one thing.  But also how we can’t really limit ourselves to one social problem at a time.  Things are all intertwined—that woman who is homeless might be homeless because of domestic violence.  That man who has substance abuse issues might be trying to deal with the pain of childhood molestation.  Someone suffering racial discrimination is being impacted by a culture that also perpetuates other kinds of discrimination and suffering.  We are truly all connected in so many ways.

This leads me to the story of Mallory Owens.  There has been a lot on the news about this young woman, who went to the home of her girlfriend on Thanksgiving, where her girlfriend’s brother attacked and beat her so violently that she suffered brain bleeding and needed reconstructive surgery and two metal plates to restore her cheekbones.  The young man, Travis Hawkins Jr., was charged initially with Second Degree Assault and was bailed out almost immediately.

Mallory-Owens-beaten_0

There has been debate as to whether this attack was prompted by Mallory being an out lesbian—whether Travis attacked her due to her sexuality and dating of his sister.  At first, Mallory’s family said emphatically that the attack WAS due to Mallory’s sexuality.  It also came out that in a previous incident, Travis Jr. had attacked Mallory with a metal wrench and threatened to later “finish the job” he had started, and that Travis’ father several years prior had shot his own son in the stomach–and several years before THAT had discharged a firearm over the heads of his children in the bedroom.  Clearly, there is a history of domestic violence in the family.  And clearly, this was not the only time Travis Jr. had attacked Mallory.

Mallory’s family and friends rallied around and tried to raise awareness of the relatively minor charge of Second Degree Assault.  A Facebook Community called “Justice for Mallory Owens” was formed and now has over 15,000 Likes and over 23,000 people talking about posts made on the Community Page.

Later, there was some confusion when Mallory—upon being released from the hospital—went to the home of her girlfriend and the Travis family for a press conference in which she said that she did NOT claim the attack as a hate crime.  Then, not too many days later, she said that she had been tricked and intimidated into making the appearance at the Hawkins home, and maneuvered into a position where she had to make these statements.  She then released a written statement saying she had been attacked due to her sexual orientation and that she was in continuing fear for her life.

As you can tell by reading this—there are a LOT of issues going on here, ranging from domestic violence to hate crimes, gay-bashing, child abuse, and more.  But what is at the heart of it—the core of it—is that a 23 year old woman had gone to the home of her girlfriend to celebrate Thanksgiving, and was left beaten nearly to death, desperately injured, traumatized and terrified.  She faces high medical bills that her family is going to struggle to pay.  Her life will never, EVER be the same.

The hope of her and her family is that the charges will be upgraded to Attempted Murder.  The likelihood that this was a hate-motivated crime seems extremely high.  However, in Alabama, where the attack took place, there are no laws on the books that include attacks against gays and lesbians prompted by their sexual orientation as hate crimes.  For these reasons and so many more, the future is uncertain for Mallory.  She faces a long road of recovery ahead—physical, emotional, spiritual.

My heart breaks for her.

Now… what does this have to do with a bystander blog?

A lot.

For one thing, according to reports, the girlfriend’s family did not intervene in the beating.  They were passive bystanders.  Why?  Quite possibly out of fear.  If this family has suffered child abuse and domestic violence in the way it clearly has, fear could quite easily paralyzed them.  Right or wrong, they took no action.  But it got me thinking about what might have happened if someone had intervened.  Could they have done it safely?  If so… how?  These questions in and of themselves could make their own blog post.  Or several.

But I was talking about Bystander Intervention and the Internet.

The INTERNET response to this tragedy really opened my eyes.  Here, there are THOUSANDS of active bystanders—people responding to the Facebook Community.  People posting in forums.  People signing petitions urging the charges of 2nd Degree Assault to be upgraded.  People sending money to help with Mallory’s medical expenses.

Can you by an active bystander on the internet? YOU DARN WELL BET YOU CAN.  And being an active bystander here can make a difference just as profound as being one in other venues.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, we are ALL connected.  You don’t have to be a woman to care about women’s issues.  You don’t have to be an recovering addict to care about addiction issues or their connections to poverty and abuse.  You don’t have to be a survivor of violence to know that violence in our homes and relationships is destructive, wrong, and pervasive.

And you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to care about Mallory Owens.

If you feel moved to be an active internet bystander when it comes to this issue, here are some links:

For the Justice for Mallory Owens Facebook Community, use this link.

For the GLAAD fundraiser page to help pay for Mallory’s medical expenses, go here.

For the Change.org petition to upgrade the charges against Mallory’s assailant to Attempted Murder, use this link.

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