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    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate

#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:

 

One Billion Rising – It’s not just one bystander getting involved…!

(Warning, the short film linked here has scenes of violence that can be triggering.)

One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime. One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity. One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

Join V-Day on
02.14.13
in a global strike to demand an end to violence.

This blog is called “Prevention, Power and Peace.”  I can think of few other people who have struggled so hard in the past few decades to bring the issues of violence against women to light – to spread prevention, power and peace – as Eve Ensler, who created the play “The Vagina Monologues” and founded V-Day.

This year, my agency–the Tri-Valley Haven–is putting on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”.  This isn’t a new thing for us.  We’ve put productions on for the past several years, nearly all to very full audiences.  I’m thinking about auditioning–I’ve been in a few productions already.  Being in the play or attending it are ways of being a helpful bystander, because it helps to give voice in a public space to people who have been raped and abused.  More practically, productions raise funds for our agency and many other agencies around the world involved in the work of ending domestic violence and sexual assault.  Also, it’s just an awesome play–by turns funny and heart-breakingly sad and always challenging.  I love some monologues and have an uneasy relationship with others.  It’s a powerful work, a flawed work, a work that sparks debate and anger and life-changes.  Not everybody loves it, but the fact remains that productions of it have done a HUGE amount to raise funds, awareness… and hope.

This year, Eve Ensler’s movement, V-Day, is based around the concept of One Billion Rising.  I urge you to view the film (with the caution that it COULD be triggering, so do not watch if that is a concern!) and to visit the One Billion Rising website.

Step up!  Don’t stand by!

 

 

The “Fantasy Slut League” …

Before I begin holding forth about how I feel about the discovery of a long-running “Fantasy Slut League” in a Bay Area (Piemonte) high school, I’d like first to throw this article out there to my (few, but hopefully growing!) list of readers!

It says that the league was created by varsity student athletes. Female students are “drafted” and male students earn points for “documented engagement in sexual activities” with female students.  What I find especially interesting–beyond the jaw-dropping activity itself–is the reactions of parents, students and others in the comments section of the Piemonte Patch.

Here is a link to the original article on the Piemonte Patch complete with extensive comments.

The comments range from outraged on behalf of the girls who are tallied up in the “Slut League”, often without their knowledge, to outrage on behalf of the boys who are just “bonding” with other varsity team members or playing a game.  Some students claim the activity is horrible.  Others claim that worse things happen all the time and this is no big deal.

An investigation by PHS staff revealed:

  • “General recognition that over the past 5-6 years such a league has existed in one form or another as part of “bonding” for some Varsity Teams during their seasons of sport.
  • “Many students (male and female) were aware of it and participated. Male and female students felt pressure to participate and/or lacked confidence to overtly stop it.
  • “Participation often involved pressure/manipulation by older students that included alcohol to impair judgment/control and social demands to be popular, feel included and attractive to upper classmen.
  • “A commitment from current Varsity Team members that there is none of the activity going on now (at least from this point forward).
  • “Fear that participation in the league could have in-school discipline consequences and affect future college acceptance.”

I will follow up this blog post next week in more detail, but I want to throw it out there to you all… is this an outrage?  No big deal that is being inflated into an outrage?  Is this sexual assault?  Harassment?  Kids having fun?  Appropriate?  Inappropriate?  How does this make you feel?

More later, folks!

An Awesome Bystander Moment – From Victim to Survivor… to Teacher

My Body Is Not Public SpaceSo, I was sitting here at my desk, dredging my brain for blog posts.  You’d think I’d be a natural blogger—I can blog for MYSELF like nobody’s business (years of me rambling on LiveJournal can attest to that).  But I find when I am blogging for an agency, I get the writing equivalent of tongue-tied (finger-twisted?).

I came up with and discarded a few approaches—how about that “binders full of women” comment from the debate last night?  Well, that’s not really about bystanders, is it?  I looked at news-feeds on women’s issues, I got myself some tea… I thought some more. What came into my head was a strong memory about an amazing woman.  So I decided to share the memory.

About a year and a bit ago, I was running a group at our domestic violence shelter.  The week before, I had done a class about awareness and assertiveness skills.  This week, I had just asked the group members whether something had happened to them between that group and this one that had given them a moment of inspiration or hope.  People who come to stay in a shelter are in hard and stressful times of their lives… sometimes hope is hard to come by.  I wondered what—if anything—any of the women would have to say.  I thought it might be awkward if there was just a sad and stolid silence.

Instead, all the women had amazing stories!

The first story is the one I want to share – this woman… we’ll call her Sarah (I don’t use real names) stuck her hand up in excitement and said, “I have something!  Let me go first!”  She said, “I was standing at a BART stop,” (Bay Area Rapid Transit—a sort of subway-like setup, for those out-of-area readers) “…and while I was waiting for the train, I watched this young girl.  She was maybe 20, looked shy.  And there was this older man who was making comments at her, talking about her legs.  You could tell she was really not liking it but she was too scared to say anything.”

Sarah was animated when telling her story, gesturing with her hands, really bringing the scene to life. You could just see the shy young woman and the man standing in her space, being too close, making her feel intimidated and uncomfortable.

Sarah added, “So at one point, the guy turns away to take a phone call on his cell.  I remember our class last week about assertiveness being ‘teaching someone else how you want to be treated.’  So I go over to the girl and I say, ‘Excuse me, but it looks like that guy is bothering you.  Is he?’  The girl nods and says yes…”

Sarah paused for effect, then said proudly, “So I told her, ‘You don’t have to put up with that!  If he bothers you again, you can look him in the eye and say, “When you talk like that to me, you are really bothering me.  I need you to stop or I will call BART security.”’

The whole class—and I—were really excited for her.  Sarah had been in a domestic violence relationship for years—she said the idea of standing up for herself had never been an option.  But here she was, helping a total stranger out by paying forward what she’d learned about assertiveness.  It would be pretty cool if the story stopped there, but it didn’t!  Because then Sarah said…

“The guy got off his cell-phone call and went right back to harassing the girl.  AND SHE TURNED TO HIM AND SAID, ‘I need you to stop harassing me or I’ll call security!’”

“WHAT HAPPENED?” we all asked in the group.

“He LEFT HER ALONE!” said Sarah… and she laughed in pride and amazement.  And we all broke into applause.  I will never forget her—her courage and her open heart.

Being a good bystander can be so many things.  ONE thing it can be is not only helpful and healing to the person who is being harassed… it can be empowering and healing for the bystander AS WELL.

Do YOU have any stories about a time you stood up for somebody else?

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