Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Category

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Pussygate

October 8, 2016

This is an amazing day, watching the Republican Party descend into chaos. By the time I’m done writing this, Trump may have been forced out. WHY? Over this? And isn’t it deliciously ironic that the GOP might kick Trump off the ticket because he said things that aren’t politically correct?

Don’t get me wrong – when I heard Trump saying that he can get away with whatever he wants with women – kissing them uninvited, grabbing them by the pussy – because he’s a star, I wanted to vomit. I was disgusted by his sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. I was horrified that he obviously thought he was being hilarious when he was describing sexual assault. And I was saddened because, yeah. He’s not wrong. Our society absolutely lets celebrities get away with sexual assault (just ask Bill Cosby). The audio file repulsed me – but I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

The reaction from the press and from the Republican stalwarts that they are shocked – shocked! – that Donald Trump is a misogynist piece of shit is a bit too much to swallow. C’mon, people. Donald Trump has made it very clear that he sees women only as sex objects. He ranks us all from 1 to 10. He appeared in a Playboy video ogling twin playmates. He cruelly demeans women he finds unattractive. You’ve seen him in footage, leering at 19 year old pageant participants, or on his reality tv show, making lewd jokes at the expense of the female contestants. You’ve heard and seen him with Don Imus and Howard Stern, being crude and vile and entitled, describing the threat of STDs as his “personal Vietnam.” For goodness sake, we’ve all even seen the clips (multiple) of him saying that he would date Ivanka if he weren’t married, and he weren’t her father (in that order). You’ve seen the snippet where Robin Leach asked him how his daughter Tiffany – then ONE YEAR OLD – was like her mother, and he says that this baby has Marla’s legs. (“We don’t know whether or not she’s got ‘this part’ yet, but time will tell.”)

This is a man who sees women, ALL women – including his daughters, EVEN WHEN THEY WERE BABIES – as sexual objects. Of course he feels entitled to grab, kiss, and take women. That is how rape culture works. When you see women as objects, and not as actual people, it’s easy.

Yesterday, one after another, the party faithful expressed their disgust at this new, entirely predictable revelation. Today, the endorsements are being pulled, Pence is in hiding, and the party leaders are scrambling to force Trump out, even though it’s far too late to take him off the ballot. So back to the question at hand – why was this the tipping point? He has always been a pig; this is not news. But rats flee a sinking ship, and Trump is going to lose. If he had held his own in the debate, if he were polling even, they’d still be solidly supporting him, shrugging this off as old news, and just boys being boys. The reality that Trump is lewd and vile and lecherous, as well as racist, ignorant, and fascist, and Putin’s stooge, and quite likely mentally ill, was all somehow acceptable to the GOP. Republican leaders are abandoning Trump now because they finally realized he’s going to lose. And losing? That is unforgivable.

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The Ubiquitous Mr. Turner

June 9, 2016

TW: Rape, Assault

Brock Turner seems to be everywhere. Can’t go on Facebook, or turn on the news, without seeing Fucking Brock Turner everywhere. For the first time in our nation’s history, a woman is a major-party candidate for the presidency. My feminist heart should be soaring this week – but Brock Turner. Fucking Brock Turner…  Hillary Clinton winning the presidency would be a hugely significant, but I know that we’ll see a spike in vile and hateful misogyny – and I can’t take it, I can’t take it getting worse because already I live in a country with Brock Fucking Turner. Every online outlet has written eloquently this week about rape culture and white privilege, about the laughable sentence the judge justified by saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” We’ve dissected his father’s Study in Tone-Deaf Patriarchy. By the time we read his friend’s similar letter to the Court, we were too numb to think much of the fact that the friend claimed this wasn’t REALLY rape, that he was just drunk and his “emotions” took over. I resisted chiming in, because what else is there to say? But I find I can’t put this down. It’s not just a miscarriage of justice. It’s not just about Brock Turner and this woman. It’s not just about campus rape. It’s not just about white privilege and victim blaming and laying bare the biases that warp every aspect of our lives. It’s not just about a woman’s violation and devastation being nothing worth mentioning, not when her assailant is a Champion Swimmer. I can’t add anything to that story, but I still feel I have to say something. This case, particularly the victim’s raw testimony, shook floods of memories loose in me, and I feel overwhelmed, incoherent with rage that this is my world, my daughters’ world.

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I haven’t heard the term in a while, but growing up, beautiful starlets were often described – POSITIVELY! – as “sex objects.” Farrah Fawcett? Sex object. Daisy Duke? Sex object. Objectification is taking a living, breathing human being and reducing her to parts, to objects. And we are told it’s a compliment. Her body is an object to stare at, grab, fondle, jack off to. It’s not a person, with dignity and a self, it’s just another thing the Brock Turners of the world feel entitled to. In the words of a particularly gross guy I used to know:  “Women are just life support for pussy.” We experience that attitude hundreds, thousands of times during our lives. It scares us, degrades us, angers us, terrifies us – and we can’t do anything to stop it. It’s minimized, glossed over, just as the gross violation of this woman’s body was completely ignored by a judge who HEARD her testimony – who sat in a room as she detailed her physical and emotional devastation – and concluded “I think [Brock Turner] will not be a danger to others.” The guy was CONVICTED OF FELONY SEXUAL ASSAULT, for shoving his fingers inside this woman’s unwilling, unresponsive body, but he’s not, you know, DANGEROUS – he’s just a rapist. Brock Turner’s stupid punchable face is on half the posts on my newsfeed, and I’m incandescent with rage, and I have to finally let it out.

Let me be clear: I have never been raped, and that is a huge distinction. I am not saying anything I’ve experienced is comparable, because nothing is. But the internet is marinating in this story, and suddenly, I can remember every hand inside my top in a crowd (it’s happened many times), every feel copped on public transportation (because obviously my body exists for strangers to touch), every time a car would slow down alongside me when I was walking to campus so the driver could say something crude and threatening (Christ, in St. Louis that happened every day). I have never been raped. But I’ve met Brock Turner a thousand times – at parties, on dance floors, in job interviews. Boys who look at me and see an object, men who somehow feel entitled to my body. I’ve met him as the partner I reported to in one of my first jobs as an attorney, whose eyes never – EVER – left my chest when I had to talk to him. I’ve met Brock Turner as a businessman behind me on the rush hour train, suddenly running his hand under my skirt, between my legs, knowing I’d never know which guy did it. As the guy whose name I never even knew, who stopped me on WKU’s campus when I was 17 to show me a photo album – a big, 2-inch thick photo album – of me. Photograph after photograph after photograph he’d taken of me over the course of the previous year, while I was completely unaware. Usually shot from a great distance with a monster lens, apparently; many cropped so my boyfriend wasn’t in them. God, that terrified me, especially when he said I should be flattered… I’ve met Brock Turner as every guy who sees me dancing and decides he gets to grind his erection against my ass until I elbow him off me and fight through the crowd to get away. As the skeevy guy in my building who broke into my apartment at 2 a.m. – thank God my dog woke me up and got me out safely… I’ll spare you all the “minor” stuff – you know, decades of being slut-shamed for what I wore (we didn’t have a word for it back then), catcalls, being followed, the pervasive fear when walking down a street at night alone. I’ve aged out of most of the harassment (because Brock Turner likes them younger) and thank God for that. But the memories persist – feeling helpless, degraded, scared, furious, impotent. Being seen as an object that some men felt entitled to handle, or fondle, or grope. They felt entitled to ME. Not me as a person – me, the object. But each encounter was brief, I was *ultimately* safe, so it’s no big deal, right? These guys wouldn’t ever be a danger to anyone; what harm is there in copping a feel? And every time, rage and shock and feeling like poison was flowing through my veins – and no recourse. I knew what the answers would be even if there had been any authority to appeal to.

  • “That guy had his hand inside my dress!” – Yeah, but look at what you’re wearing,
  • “That guy just rubbed his erection all over my ass!” – Yeah, but with the way you were dancing…
  • “That senior partner won’t stop staring at my chest” – Oh, he does that to every woman in the office, it doesn’t mean anything! (That is the response I got, hand to god).
  • “That guy won’t be back here; he was convicted of burglary this morning.” – What?!? For that thing when he was in your apartment?!? He didn’t even touch you!! (This was my landlord’s response to the 2 a.m. break-in. Thank goodness the law was more responsive on this one.)
  • “That guy fondled me on the train!” – Which one? How do you know it was him? Did you see him do it? I thought you said he was behind you. Well, he stopped, anyway.
  • “That guy has apparently been stalking me for a year taking photographs!” Wow, he must really think you’re pretty. Take it as a compliment!

The sense was always that there was no damage done. But I know that these encounters warped the way I deal with the world, despite my best attempts to be a strong woman with a non-stick soul. I know that those feelings of helplessness and rage, that toxic brew inside me at being treated as less-than human, hurt me. I’ve healed, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t damaged. And now that ubiquitous face – whether it’s the bloodshot, slack-jawed mugshot or the beaming country club yearbook photo – has brought all that poison back into my bloodstream this week. Fucking Brock Turner.

I’m just one woman, and all of us have different experiences – but every woman experiences a degree of this. This is the world we live in. This is the world I’m raising daughters in. My beautiful, brilliant daughters will face Brock Turner again and again, as I have, and he’ll never see them in their complicated awesomeness. He’ll see them as their various parts, and feel entitled to grope and paw and leer and grind against them, to follow them, shout at them, scare them, laugh off their anger and shock and outrage. I know this, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Brock Turner is everywhere.

(But he doesn’t get his picture here. We’ve all seen him enough.)

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Of Crazy Bitches and Empty Vessels

January 21, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen: the  single most misogynistic statement of our time:*

You actually don’t need context to understand how appalling that is (though this is a great source if you want it). You don’t need to know that Betsy Andrea is the wife of one of Armstrong’s former teammates, or that she has maintained for years that she heard Armstrong tell a doctor that he used performance enhancing drugs, or that Armstrong retaliated by trying to destroy her credibility and end her husband’s career in cycling. You don’t need to know that she was labeled a bitter, vindictive psycho just because she wouldn’t lie for him. Even without knowing who the hell Lance Armstrong is, that is some pure-grain misogyny right there. It’s textbook:

  • Yeah, I did call her crazy – Sure, I admit that I suggested she was irrational, unhinged, emotional, not to be trusted. Yeah, I attacked her intelligence and her understanding of the world around her. So? Doesn’t every guy who has conflict with a woman call her out for being psycho? So what if I implied that nothing she says or feels is valid, because it comes from her disordered, fevered imagination? Chicks, man. They’re nuts.
  • Yes, I called her a bitch – Yeah, I said she was vindictive, cruel, mean, petty, and selfish. I suggested that she’s emotionally deficient, cold, despicable, a castrating shrew, a nag, a scold, an ice-queen. BITCHES, amiright?
  • But I never called her FAT – So it’s okay! I mean, I know I said she was insane, and a terrible human being, but it’s not like I said she isn’t conventionally attractive! That would be mean, I would never attack her like that! I’m a nice guy!
Betsy

Betsy Andrea is Not Impressed

Watching that clip, it’s obvious that smirking jerkface Lance Armstrong is being a complete douchebag here, and it would be easy to dismiss this simply as a terrible person being terrible. It goes beyond that, though – “crazy bitch” is far too common in our culture; it’s our favorite way of dismissing inconvenient women. It bears mentioning, too, because Betsy Andrea calmly and rationally asserted that Armstrong doped, for years. Even though it seems transparent now, for years the media happily bought into – and perpetuated – the slander that she was just some “crazy bitch.” (I’m sure it’s no consolation to her that if the media ever said she was fat, well, that didn’t come from Armstrong, who obviously thinks that’s the worst thing he could say about a person woman.)

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You know who was neither fat nor a crazy bitch? Lennay Kekua. This story has been everywhere; examined from countless angles. Jezebel and Feministing both did a great job pointing out the hypocrisy of the media being all over Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary death, while largely ignoring the very real suicide of a very real woman who was raped by a Notre Dame football player. Still, for all the coverage this scandal has generated, I haven’t seen any discussion of how sexist the whole construct of Lennay Kekua was in the first place.

The media bought this story unquestioningly – Lennay was held up as Manti Te’o’s inspiration, her death as a heartwarming reminder of the power of love. Lennay Kekua was beautiful. She was devoted. She was so in love with Manti that she didn’t need his comfort, his company, or his time – no, as she lay dying of cancer, all she wanted was for Manti to win football games. Apparently, no one found it odd that he was the love of her life, but she never asked him to be at her side.

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Photographs of women are so much less demanding than the real thing…

Fake Lennay fake died in September – months after the fake car wreck which led to the fake discovery of her fake cancer. Their inspirational love and her tragic death were the subject of countless news stories: on ESPN’s College GameDay, Fox Sports, and CBS, in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times… and yet the truth only came out last week, ten days after Manti’s football season ended. Te’o’s knowledge about the details of his girlfriend’s life was often murky, including her majors in school, occupation and extent of her injuries after an alleged April 28 car accident with a drunk driver.” Why didn’t that set off alarm bells with reporters? All this media around him, all these outlets repeating this heart-warming story, but even while she was “alive” no one needed to talk to her – and after her tragic (fake) death, it seems no news outlet  tried to get a fuller picture of this woman.

After all, who cared what she did for a living, or majored in in school? That was all beside the point. Lennay Kekua had been the perfect girlfriend: a beautiful empty vessel whose only concern was that her boyfriend succeed. She was as undemanding in death as she was in life, telling Manti to skip her funeral so that he wouldn’t miss any football games. She didn’t have messy emotional needs, or thorny contradictory ideas, or passionate competing dreams of her own… because Lennay Kekua didn’t exist. Conveniently, not existing made her the feminine ideal. After all, imaginary girlfriends are never fat, crazy bitches.

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*Excluding every single thing Rush Limbaugh has ever said about women, of course.

(I hope that this will be a resumption of regular blogging. Lord knows there’s been enough happening politically to keep me busy writing outraged entries daily, but my post-election crash ran into the holidays which ran into illness which went straight on through to a much busier new year. I think I’ve got it under control, at last.)