Sexual assault is like a death. A death of who you would have been. Who you were before. It is a violation of the body and the mind, but most profoundly, the soul. Many of us survive by allowing that part of us, the innocent part, to die.

I died many years ago, that part of me. There were moments when I thought he would kill me. And in a way, he did. He killed the little girl who danced instead of walked. He killed the little girl who looked at the world in wonder. I could have held on to her and let her live, but I had to let her go.

This is how I survived what he did to me. I was three, maybe four. I can’t be sure because the details of mundane facts are secondary to the horrors I can’t escape. The date, the season, his last name- all facts that are blurred by the senses. By the fear that gripped my belly. By the smells and the sounds and the tastes. He was 18. Still a boy? Almost a man? Acting out youthful urges? Or a sick person who couldn’t see me as human?

I didn’t tell anyone. Not telling was crucial to my survival. If I’d told, if I’d been forced to tell, it would have killed the new me. The one who was trying to put a life together after her death. I don’t think I could have survived two deaths. So I buried it deep, refused to talk about it, pushed away the memories that would creep back with persistence. I buried her, but she was always there. The things that happened to her were the background noise in my life. I got so used to it that I was able to forget it was there. Until something reminded me. A smell. A sound. A name. A nightmare.

This is how I went through life for thirty six years. Ignoring her ghost. Shoving the memories away as soon as they crept into my conscious. I was determined to be fine.

This is what we do. We survive, we shed the ghost of who we were, who we could have been. We move on and move forward. And most of us never tell.

Shame. Guilt. Complicity. Fear. Knowing you won’t be believed. Knowing he won’t be punished or prosecuted or caught. Hearing the narrative your whole life, the victim blaming. The what was she wearing, how much did she drink, did she flirt, she shouldn’t have been there, why didn’t she tell sooner  that drips with a combination of ignorance and contempt. All of this is amplified for those of us who have died and survived. We hear them talking about us. 

But they don’t know the truth about us.

Our truth is not for men who haven’t walked our path to judge. Men and women who haven’t had to forge a new life after trauma are not equipped to say how or when or why we should speak. Our iron resolve is seen as suspicious, curious. Our mere existence after the fires we’ve walked through makes you question if a match was ever lit. You, the men and women who can’t know the truth, you see our strength and lives well lived and make the ridiculous assumption that rape is no big deal. That being dehumanized and violated is akin to bad sex.

We hear you scoff at and minimize terror. We see you sneer in disbelief when we stand upright and tell our stories. We hear you shame us. Fret over our abuser’s future and his good name. We hear you liken his loss of reputation or job or freedom to a kind of death. We hear you worry about his impending non-death, ignoring the fact that he’s already killed us.

We hear all of this and wonder why we would ever tell.

We hear of men getting a slap on the wrist for raping and choking and penetrating unconscious women. We hear young girls get blamed for their pastor or teacher or neighbor abusing them. We watch institutions get tax breaks while raping altar boys. We see men get promoted and elevated who take from women. We see young boys getting virtual high fives from the courts when their teacher abuses them, instead of the justice they deserve.

We are the forgotten girls and women and boys and men. Those you forsake and dismiss. The ones you try to discredit. The ones you accuse of lying -as if admitting you’ve died at the hands of sick, cruel men is something anyone would voluntarily claim.

Survivors don’t create false enemies. People who have endured battles don’t create fake wars. Those in power will claim the victim status to justify their grasping for more power. They will create enemies out of ghosts and narratives out of lies. They send young men off to fight battles they could never fight themselves. They pat our heads and say they are doing it all for us, then shove us over the cliff as soon as we turn our back. They are using you. And me. And anyone who isn’t in their club.

We are the women and men who say #MeToo. We are the ones who have risen from the ashes of a world that sees us as expendable. A world created by the men grasping at power. A world they enabled and perpetuated.

We are the girls and boys and women who will not allow you to use your patronizing protection of us to justify the abuse of others. You cry What about the women and children!  You fein concern for our safety in the Target bathroom, but scoff at the very real scars we show you. You use us to lock up and abuse black men. You drag them behind pick up trucks for whistling at us or hang them from trees for looking at us wrong. You screech from your saccharine coated throats about gangs and immigrants and protecting the women and children but elevate the wealthy white men who rape and beat us with impunity.

You tell us we’re overreacting when you have barely seen a glimpse of our fury. You pretend confusion or ignorance. #MeToo? What is this? Surely this can’t be so?  We see you. We see right through you. We see you use us as a shield for your bigotry and supremacy. All while ignoring the real threats. Men like you are the real threat. Men who abused us and raped us. Men who laughed or stood by or shrugged it off. Men who act confused and suspicious about the reality of this world that has existed since the beginning of time. We see you.

We watch you step over the bodies of the girls and women you claim to love while you climb your way to power. Your casual indifference and faux pity is noted.

So is your fear. You are threatened by us. Our #MeToo, our voices, they threaten your grip on power. They shake your hold on oppression. Without us you have no excuse to start wars and shut down progress and lock up innocent men and familes.

We are the sons and daughters of the hysterical women you locked up in asylums. We are the grandchildren of women who were raped by their masters and had their children sold to other men. We are the children of the women who burned their bras and fought for women’s rights. We are the sisters of the woman who marched in the Slut Walks. We are the descendants of the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis you refused to address.

We are the daughters of the women who were chased around desks at work. We are the sons and daughters of women who covered their bruises and dried their eyes before the school bus arrived.

We’re the men and women who have our own scars and our own stories and we’re done staying silent and in the shadows. We are the people who will fight til our last breath so that our daughters and sons never have to live with ghosts of their own.

We are all the forgotten ghosts you refuse to acknowledge. Grit and fury is in our DNA. 

We will not let their deaths be in vain, those whose lives were stolen by sick men. The ghosts we live with. We will avenge them, not with the blood of  men, but with the truth. We will scream their truth until you can’t forget our ghosts either. Until you can’t close your eyes without seeing the faces of the lives snuffed out by sick and depraved people. Until their stories are your background music too. You will see our ghosts, but more importantly, you will see who rose from their ashes. The survivors. We will speak our truths until your ears bleed from knowing and your brains are seared with our stories. Until you can no longer languish in cruel indifference. Until you can’t unsee the horrors your apathy has enabled.

There is no more peace for you, as long as you pretend not to see. No more allowance for apathy or ignorance when truth is staring you in your face.

No rest for abusers. No refuge for rape apologists and misogynists. No comfort for bigots who use our pain to justify their ends. No refuge for men and women who allow it to continue and minimize it.

We will not quietly go away. We will not feel shame. Or guilt. We will not be scared from standing and marching and fighting. We will speak our truths, their truths. We will speak it until we can speak no more.

The dead can’t talk, but we can.

 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 10.00.27 AM

My ghost, circa 1977

 

PicMonkey Image

Emotional labor is unseen. It’s the energy women spend managing other’s feelings and emotions, making people comfortable, or living up to society’s expectations… the barrage of expectations we feel from the time we’re told to be nice and polite while boys are told not to cry. It’s a thing. It’s also a weight carried by some femmes and some men, especially if they’re the main caregiver in the family.

But this is not about that kind of emotional labor.

When I read Cara Delevigne’s account of her harassment at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, I felt every word. When I heard the recording of Ambra Battilana Gutierrez pleading with Harvey Weinstein to let her leave, I felt it in my bones.

In the words these women bravely shared with us, I heard everything they felt. The fear. The confusion. The disbelief. The shame. All of those feelings are a cocktail women are forced to swallow- all while reacting, deflecting, minimizing, and smiling because maybe you misunderstood his intentions, and fighting or plotting escape.

Most of us have sipped this putrid cocktail. Many of us have had it forced down our throats more times than we can even remember. My first time? I was three years old. My “Harvey Weinstein” was a sick young man of 18 who likely had his own trauma story. My young brain went into survival mode and I lived with it like an ugly stain I chose not to look at.

What I experienced at three years old was traumatic. The things I experienced as a teen and a young woman weren’t traumatic. They were your average, run of the mill, everyday sexist things. Some small, some not so small. Awkward moments of being treated like an object but not understanding what was happening. Infuriating infractions against my autonomy. Most of them weren’t scary, but they were all tinged with fear. And they are nearly universal experiences that girls and women go through. Average. Run of the mill. Because that’s how insidious this problem is. We’re used to it. Except, we’re really not and we really never will be.

Grabbing our body. Cornering us in a room or office or hallway. Making suggestive comments. Scanning our bodies while grinning sadistically. The kisses forced on us while we push away and clench our lips, our teeth ready to bite. The demeaning remarks. Belittling our intellect or experience or our right to be in the room. Talking to us like we’re children when we had to grow up at the age of 3 or 8 or 16… the assumption that we don’t know things when our knowledge of things unspoken would make your blood run cold. And still having to coddle your knowledge because we need our job, or our kid needs to play on your team, or we need our car fixed, or insert any fucking reason because I’m tired.

All of this is emotional labor. It’s the adding up of little things and placing them on the spectrum of bullshit that women go through at the hands of sick or entitled or clueless men. It’s reliving our experiences when a friend confides hers. Or when a plot line in a movie goes there. It’s watching the debate and feeling our body grow hot because we know what it’s like to have a man try to intimidate you by standing too close. It’s watching Billy Bush play wingman and fuming because we’ve seen that bro code play out like a bad movie on repeat.

It’s getting threats online. And every woman you know who blogs or is involved in activism online also gets threats. It’s the fact that your friends have a detailed protocol they follow when harassment and threats become serious, and they’ll share it with you like it’s their grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe.

It’s remembering that back in 2014 you read about journalist Amanda Hess and her online stalker. About how she had to carry her case files with her when she travelled because his threats followed her to every town she visited and she needed to be able to alert local police and show them proof BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE HAD TO SHOW THEM PROOF. And three years later not a damn thing’s changed because Twitter and Facebook are cool with rape and death threats. It’s realizing that all of this means that women are expendable and even well known and respected journalists get shrugs of indifference. All of this makes us feel some kind of way… Tired. Angry. Frustrated. Fed up.

It’s the emotional labor of feeling all these things every single time we watch a man help himself to one of us. The sisterhood of We’ve Had Enough Of This Shit.

It’s the drip drip of everyday sexism that is more on time than the trains and more relentless than Harvey Weinstein in a bath robe.

There’s nothing more paradoxically mundane and infuriating than someone who thinks he’s clever saying and doing the same thing you’ve been hearing since you were 3 or 8 or 16.

And it’s the guilt. The guilt for being there. For laughing. For not leaving sooner. For not fighting hard enough. For not actually biting his lip even though we were this close. And the guilt we find ourselves accepting from the men who take from us. Don’t embarrass me. C’mon, I’ve been so nice to you. Guilt because we’re conditioned to carry emotional labor for others and our inclination to people please supersedes our safety for a few minutes, and then more guilt because we know it’s sick to feel guilty for hurting our abuser’s feelings.

It’s when badass women write about their harassment, their abuse, their rape. The healing and strength you get from reading it. And knowing that every time they write about it there’s a sub-reddit forming around their words to discredit and threaten them. That her unburdening and words of healing will likely just heap more abuse on her own plate.

It’s the exhaustion of not being believed. Of knowing that even the good guys may not believe our experiences until it’s corroborated by at least a dozen other women. Or until Hannibal Buress includes it in his stand up act.

It’s the time we have to spend assuring men that we know they’re not all like this. Again. And feeling equal parts sad and angry that it will take a whole chorus of us to explain it because one woman’s words have never been enough and in these moments his feelings are more important than the shit we’ve lived with and the shit we’re still reeling from. We have to press pause to explain that we know it’s not all men. We have to hold off on what we’re trying to say about abuse and assault and sexism -that’s pretty fucking important by the way- to massage a man’s feelings. Again.

It’s the fact that when the Weinsteins of the world are exposed, we still have to moderate our tone and keep our emotions in check or we’ll be labelled with the female malady of hysteria.

It’s the deafening silence of every man who doesn’t call out another guy for the rape joke, or the office banter about the new girl, or the locker room talk. Because every time you laughed or didn’t call him out or didn’t step in to intervene you became an enabler. Your silence makes you complicit. Do better.

It’s seeing that things don’t change. That these stories echo the stories of your mom getting chased around her desk in 1977. And she couldn’t quit her job because the fridge was already empty and it wasn’t pay day yet so she would survive on cigarettes and adrenaline so you and your sister could eat. It’s seeing that in 40 years the only thing that’s changed is HR has to pretend to care.

It’s the relentless onslaught of dudes who feel compelled to comment on each story of abuse and trauma in unhelpful ways. Who love to muse that women should have spoken up sooner, or women should have prevented it, or women shouldn’t be victims. Who can’t seem to understand that their job is to Listen. Stay silent. Or go after the predators. And with every chin scratch and psuedo-intellectual analysis they are kicking dirt in the face of every woman who has been dealing with this shit since they were 3 or 8 or 16.

Some of the things that happen to us are inconveniences. But because they are so tied up in the big things and sometimes they are hints of the traumas we’ve collected, they register. Because they all live on the same spectrum of abusive behavior they aren’t easily dismissed. What your bro sees as a joke, is our memory of what we’ve experienced or what our friends have whispered to us. Our lives and the onslaught of bullshit we put up with is your punchline. Even the small things take up time and energy. They make us pause and assess. They make us document or take screenshots or vent in private conversations with our girl friends so we can not snap at the next man that crosses our path because we’re tired.

I’m tired of laboring under all of this.

I’m tired of watching women go through it over and over again. I’m tired of the memories that flood my mind every time a story breaks and the visceral reaction when I see men dismiss women’s experiences. I’m tired of trudging through this virulent sludge on the regular, while men act shocked every time they see a woman with dirty shoes.

This is the emotional labor that sticks to me and buries itself into my psyche. The labor that feels like it’s siphoned off by men like Cosby and Ailes and OReilly and Weiner and  Weinstein and names you’ve never heard of because this isn’t just a sickness of the rich and famous. This is a sickness of a culture that sees women as commodities. That sees us as punchlines. As unreliable witnesses to our own experiences. It’s the emotional toll of watching men shake their heads but say nothing. It’s the emotional work we have to do to not be bitter or angry or hardened. It’s the multitude of ways we are co-opted  by the society that encourages it, enables it and even glorifies it.

Men, if you’ve been wondering why we’re in your face about it, why we have no more tolerance for dismissals and deflections, no more sympathy for your shock or surprise, why we won’t soothe your dismay or feed your ego when our bodies have been slandered, this is why.

Because we’re tired.

Signed,

The Sisterhood Of We’re Tired Of This Shit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-1465151990534-683bf7717c78

I’ve been screaming for most of my life. Ever since innocence was taken from me at a tender age. I’ve been screaming, but you haven’t heard me. This scream has been trapped behind a polite smile. This scream has been buried in the haze of blurry memories and life moving forward. It’s been lying in wait while I went about living what turned into a pretty happy life. But it’s always been there. I didn’t ask for this primal urge, it was gifted to me by a sick soul. Silently screaming for decades.

No more. I’ve written about my experience. I’ve purged and I’ve felt some release. I’ve spent years doing the work of healing and I’ve dealt with my demons. I’m good.

But sometimes? Sometimes I still want to scream out loud.

When I see rapists getting a paternal pat on the head from sympathetic judges, I want to scream.

When I see girls getting shamed for being victims, I want to scream.

When I see child molesters go free and live to abuse another day, I want to scream.

When I see a culture that still shames mothers for breast feeding because our breasts are for sexual gratification only, and not for feeding our babies, and how dare you use your body for anything other than a man’s satisfaction, I want to scream.

When I see young girls sent home from school because they are wearing leggings, or their skirts don’t meet the fingertip rule, or they are standing awkwardly while a teacher puts a ruler up to their thighs, or they squirm in the shirt that is tighter and more revealing than it was last week, or they get sent to the office to put on a sweater from the Lost and Found because their fucking shoulders are showing, I want to scream.

When I read comments on my own blog telling my own experiences in life aren’t real. When they say that I’m ridiculous for even speaking up about the everyday sexism that is an insidious undercurrent in our culture that leads to permissibility of rape by the community and the judiciary and the media, I want to scream.

When I see fierce friends open up their old wounds and write about their own rape and they have men respond with comments of “you look like the type of woman who deserves to be raped,” I want to scream.

When I have my 12 year old daughter come home from school telling me about the boy who sits next to her and jokes about raping classmates, and the boy in P.E. class who talks about the girls’ breasts while staring at them intently, and the boys in the hallways who make lewd comments. And she worries about what she wears and whether the boys will say something, or whether the administration will say something so she wears nothing but loose t shirts and long shorts, I want to scream.

When I realize that my son went through three years of Middle School with no complaints. Without ever feeling uncomfortable about his safety or his body, I want to scream for my daughter.

When I see women get torn apart in court for what they wore, or how much they drank, or how many times they had sex in the past, or how many people they had sex with… as if drinking or enjoying sex is an open invitation for rape. When I see rapists shrouded in entitlement and anger. Emboldened up by a lifetime of seeing women blamed for rape. And girls blamed for distracting in school, and women blamed for tempting with how they are dressed and blamed for not fighting back and blamed for politely resisting his advances and… and… blamed for just being there, I want to scream.

When I see people quibble over the statistics on rape… is it 1 in 4? You know, that study was flawed… When I have lost count of the women I personally know who’ve been raped and assaulted, and I can only count one that has reported it, and does it even matter because it sounds to me like arguing over the statistics is a convenient diversion from the harsh reality that rape happens way too fucking much, I want to scream.

When I hear women say they don’t need feminism while their sisters in the world are being raped and sexually assaulted, I want to scream.

When I see athletes and musicians get a pass on rape because, you know, they can run the ball real good or they have gold records and we get angry over trivial things instead of men raping women and girls, I want to scream.

When I hear “stop being a victim” because I wrote about sexism, and they equate speaking about it to being curled up in a corner in some strange warped fallacy that means they really just don’t want to think about hard things, I want to scream.

When I see, all around me, women getting judged by their looks. Held to a different standard. Walking the fine line between looking attractive because it’s what society expects of us, but not too attractive because then you’re begging to be raped… or women who don’t care and don’t dress or put on makeup according to society’s “standards” get blasted for not being attractive enough, I want to scream.

When I see a purity culture than shames women and heaps guilt and feelings of being “used” and “worthless” on victims of rape because there is a premium on virgin brides, and promotes phrases like “modest is hottest” without even seeing the sick irony in such a phrase, and treats female sexuality like a commodity instead of something that belongs solely to her, I want to scream.

When I see grown ass men -fathers and husbands- leering at young girls who are only a few years older than their own daughters, who are feeding the very monster they so desperately want to protect their own daughters from, not caring that the young girl is squirming under their gaze or that her own father is desperately hoping that other men will treat his daughter with respect and not as a sexual object to be drooled over, I want to scream.

When I hear -over and over again- that sexism “happens to men too.” I want to scream about the power structure in our patriarchal society and the oppressive blanket of sexism that women live under from the time they enter puberty until they are too old to be considered desirable anymore. And I want to scream about the fact that your one or two incidences of being objectified does not equal my lifetime of it so it’s about time for you to sit down and listen or write your own damn article.

When I hear “boys will be boys” as an excuse for doing something inappropriate, a phrase that tells girls that boys’ impulses matter more than their own safety and autonomy, and tells boys they lack self control, and sets our kids up for a lifetime of “acceptable” sexism and, we learn to just laugh it off or looking the other way or just going about our business because this is normal to us… normal because we heard “boys will be boys” used as a dismissal of bad behavior when we were little. I want to scream.

When I see harsher jail sentences for marijuana possession than for rape, I want to scream.

When I see the privilege of class and race come into play even when it comes to deciding how to arrest, charge, prosecute and sentence a man for rape, I want to scream.

When I realize that my daughters will have to be on guard when the stranger on the street speaks to them, when their boss flirts with them, when they walk alone at night, when they go out on a first date with a guy. That they will have to listen to the tormented pain of a friend who has been assaulted, that they will have to know the harsh reality of what rape culture has done to our society and what it’s doing to them, that they may feel the horror of being violated themselves. I WANT TO SCREAM.

When I hear people scoff at the words Rape Culture, ignoring the very things that are embedded into our society, woven into our criminal justice system, whispered into the ears of our young girls, laughed off as jokes, shouted at young women walking down the street, rubbed up against us in crowds, shoved down the throats of women who dare to speak up, paraded in front of you at The Grammys or during Sunday Night Football, and seared into the subconscious of every woman who never asked to be raped…

I want to scream.

Consider this my not so silent scream.

 

 

 

rape0-2

“Me and a gun
and a man
On my back
But I haven’t seen Barbados
So I must get out of this
Yes I wore a slinky red thing
Does that mean I should spread
For you, your friends your father, Mr. Ed”

-Tori Amos, Me and A Gun

My daughter had this funny thing she did when she was a baby. She would do something she knew was “wrong” (throwing her sippy cup to the ground, throwing a toy) and when we would respond with a firm “No, no,” she would cover her eyes. She thought, in her adorable baby brain, that if she covered her eyes and couldn’t see the spilled milk on the floor, then it didn’t exist. My husband and I would laugh every time she did this. We marveled at the simple naiveté of a small child. We thought it was precious.

But you know what’s not precious? When adults do it. When we do it. When society does it. When we do it about something more serious than spilling milk, it’s not cute at all.

I would like you to complete a short, simple mental exercise. Imagine 5 young women or young girls that you know. Picture each of them. Now, with that mental picture in your head, consider that one of those girls will be the victim of rape. Horrifying, right?

It’s horrifying and shameful and appalling…

It’s also reality.

This is a reality in our country. I know that this is not something any of us want to consider. Who wants to look at our young girls and imagine those kind of odds, that kind of future for them? But not thinking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sticking our head in the sand doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also dangerous.

Is this the way we are choosing to operate in our country? Apparently so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 women will be raped at some time in their lives. An estimated 80% of those rapes occur before the age of 25.

And we call ourselves a civilized society?

We are lying to ourselves. We’re covering our ears and our eyes and pretending like we don’t see what’s happening all around us.

The world in which we live is oozing rape culture like a festering wound.

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

-Marshall University Women’s Center

There’s no disputing the misogyny present in our music, our television, our movies, our advertisements.

bksevenincher

It’s the accepted degradation of half of our population. Sexualizing women, sexualizing girls. Even taking images of young girls in literature/movies and creating “sexy” halloween costumes. So, now we have women dressing up as “sexy children”???

Violence marketed towards boys/men. The vernacular that plays out on talk radio and from politicians. The demeaning of feminism (“feminazi”- ’nuff said.) Women portrayed as hypersexualized while men stand by and look on in their fancy suits…

I have no problem with women expressing their sexuality. I think we all should embrace that part of ourselves. We should own it, nurture it, love it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But I can’t help but notice the obvious disparities in our media. It is this incongruence that is troubling. And it’s just one small piece of a much larger rancid pie.

We have radio talk show hosts calling women sluts for wanting birth control pills. (Because, you know, women have sex in a vacuum. Men are not even in the equation.) We have politicians talking about ‘legitimate rape” and “forcible rape.” We have girls being raped while drunk at a party in front of a group of boys, boys recording the assault and posting it to social media to further the pain and humiliation of the victim. We have news outlets that do this:

10

We have “slut shaming.”

e0778d6adf06e0209deeb40460ca2cf2

This week a wealthy DuPont heir was sentenced to probation for raping his 3 year old daughter. The judge said he “wouldn’t fare well in prison”. Last year a 56 year old teacher was sentenced to 30 days for raping a 14 year old girl. The judge said that she was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control”. The girl committed suicide before the case even went to court. In 2013 an Alabama man was found guilty of rape and sentenced to counseling and probation. For raping his teen neighbor on three separate occasions. These are just a few examples. A quick Google search for short rape sentences turns up a stomach turning number of articles chronicling similar sentencing.

Rape culture exists is alive and well in our courts.

Obviously it’s not just video games and popular music and movies and tv shows that contribute to the rape culture that is permeating our society. We are absorbing this from every place.

We see it every time a politician makes dismissive comments regarding violence against women.

We see it every time there’s another slap on the wrist for rape.

We see it when every time a rape victim’s sobriety, purity and behavior is all called into question.

We see it every time a woman is shamed for being sexual, for embracing her sexuality.

We see it every time a girl is told to cover up at school becuase her legs/shoulders/cleavage are too distracting.

We see it every time a young boy lashes out at his female classmate and we utter the phrase, “boys will be boys.”

We see it every time bros are whining over being “friend-zoned.”

We see it every time a girl’s rape is passed around on social media for entertainment and ridicule.

These things matter.

These things seep into our subconscious. The reinforce an ancient narrative. One of control, of power, of objectification.

Rape culture. It’s not just feminist speak. It’s not just political correctness run amok. Look around you. It’s every where.

We need to recognize it. Get used to calling it out. Get used to talking about it.

We need to stop looking past it, pretending not to notice. We need to take our hands off of our eyes and stare it straight in the face. We need to understand that to ignore it is to ignore a sickness that affects us all. That to ignore it is to ignore the ripped psyche of every  girl or woman who is assaulted, raped or shamed. The longer we deny this exists, the more it will persist.

Ignoring it will only bring us more. More “Not Guilty” verdicts. More short sentences for rape. More victim shaming.

More rape.

America, this is your rape culture.

Untitled

Feminism… sigh….  Why has such an important word that signifies so many good and important things become so vilified? You would think that at this point in our country, in our culture, in society as a whole- that this discussion wouldn’t be necessary. But alas, it   is.

It seems like you can’t read the news, surf the net or get on Twitter without someone declaring their opposition to Feminism. I recently read a female blogger’s comments on a post where she stated that she could not sign on to be a “man-hating” feminist. That she would declare herself a “humanist” instead. I figuratively scratched my head and wondered, can’t you be both? Is there an either or? I am a feminist. I love men. Always have. Growing up I had a lot of guy friends. One of my best friends was a guy. I have been lucky enough to date really great guys. I married a man, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. I had a sensitive, caring, compassionate brother. I have a loving Stepfather. A beautiful son. I think most men are pretty great humans. I would not want to live in a world where men were demonized or demeaned or forsaken. And I am a Feminist. Yes, you can love men, appreciate men and be a feminist.

Guess what? You can also dress however you want. You can own your sexuality and celebrate it, flaunt it, embrace it. You can put on makeup and heels. You can enjoy being feminine. Or not. Either way, none of this precludes you from being a feminist.

You don’t have to spend every waking moment devoting yourself to feminist causes. You don’t have to tattoo it on your forehead. It can be a part of who you are and one facet of your world, it doesn’t have to dominate your life. And you can still be a feminist.

The cause of Feminism has changed and evolved over the decades. It was once a fight for the rights to own property and vote became the fight for fair wages (still an ongoing battle) and the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace. Thanks to the men and women who fought for these causes, we can rest easy on some of these issues. But that doesn’t mean that there is no need for feminism in 2014.

The fight now is about many things. It is easier to promote a cause when it is about a specific, tangible thing. When there is a victory on the far off horizon to be claimed. The goals today may be less quantifiable. My reasons for caring about it and talking about and trying to do something about it are varied.

The commonality of sexual assault and rape in our country and all around the world is appalling. The statistics are staggering. 17.7 million women in the United States have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. (Nat’l. Inst. of Justice and Ctr for Disease Control and Prevention).  One in four women attending college will be the victim of sexual assault or an attempt. This is not the behavior of a civilized world. What are the reasons behind this? What can we do to stop this epidemic? These are the things that I find to be critical issues in the feminist cause.

The fight for women’s rights around the world are important for feminists everywhere. We can’t insulate ourselves and only concern ourselves with what happens in our country. Our world is more intertwined and connected than ever before. I have received comments from women in Pakistan and India on my blog, comments about the limited rights and violence against women in their countries. We can no longer afford to be egocentric and stick our head in the sand when it comes to these issues affecting women and girls all over the world. Child brides are being married off to old men. Young girls are undergoing genital mutilation. Women are being raped as retaliation. There is a long sordid list of injustices happening around the world to women. Our world and these other countries will never be healthy until women are treated as equal.

There’s a thing called Feminist Friday in the blogging world. I first learned about it from a fellow blogger (thank you Gene’O) and since then have connected with other bloggers who care about these issues. Smart people. People with a social conscious and a desire to discuss these things. People who truly want to make things better. They have written some important pieces on this issue. You can read Alva’s Almanac about why Feminist Friday is important to her. Take a look at an important post by Diana at Part Time Monster about teaching our children to have empathy and see the struggles others go through. And check out Gene’O at The Sourcerer. I think it’s vital that men be a part of feminism. I think that men have a place in the discussion and the cause. I absolutely believe that you can be a man and be a feminist.

We will be having a Twitter conversation today about Feminism. About the meaning of the word and the perception of the word. If you would like to join us on Twitter or by commenting on this or any of the above linked posts, please do! On Twitter you can find us by #FeministFriday, or you can find me at @gkelly73.  Happy Feminist Friday everyone!

img_2475i-need-feminism-because-600x799feminism

“I will light the match this morning, so I won’t be alone.  Watch as she lies silent, for soon night will be gone…”

A young girl, too young, has her innocence stolen.  Intoxicated.  Raped.  Videotaped.  Dumped, barely conscious, on a cold doorstep.  Betrayed by boys she thought were her friends.  She reports it to the Sheriff of her small town. An investigation, confession, evidence, arrests.  The sheriff says they have a strong case.  Then, outrage.  Not at the alleged rapist and his accomplice.  But at the girl.  At her family.  Threats are issued, harassment ensues.  Her mother is fired from her job because of the negative attention of the case.  Unable to take the abuse from the community any longer, they move to another town.

“I will stand arms outstretched, pretend I’m fee to roam.  Oh I will make my way through one more day in hell.”

A young girl, too young, is dead.  Tormented by other girls, over a boy.  Relentlessly needled.  Belittled.  Broken.  Her family tries to help her.  They report it to the school.  They beg the school to intervene.  They eventually pull her out of the school.  Things seem to get better.  The girl smiles again.  Seems happy again.  She doesn’t mention the bullying any more.  But it hasn’t stopped.  It continues on-line.  She leaves for school one morning.  Walks to an abandoned cement plant.  Climbs a tower.  At the top of the three story structure, she makes the most important decision of her life.   She takes her final step.

“How much difference does it make?  How much difference does it make?”

A young girl, too young, is mocked.  Teased.  Ridiculed.  Called ugly.  Called a slut.  Shamed for her Croation accent.  The kids at school throw food at her.  A girl smacks her in the face with a water bottle.  Kids call late at night threatening her.  A boy pushes her down the stairs.  Eventually she is pushed too far.  The parents beg the school to help.  They decide to homeschool.  They try to protect her.  But the girl who loves to dance will not make it to her prom.  She writes a note.  She describes her torment and anguish.  She ties a rope to her bed.  Ties the other side around her neck.  Jumps from her two story bedroom window. She is later found by her brother, hanging outside the house.

I will hold the candle, ’til it burns up my arm.  Oh I’ll keep taking punches, until their will grows tired…”

A young girl, too young, leaves a party with some boys.  She’s been drinking.  She gets in a car with them.  They sexually assault her in the car.  They take pictures.  They send the pictures to their friends.  They undress her.  They carry her naked body by the wrists and ankles.  Inside a house, they continue to assault her.  Many of them.  One of them urinates on her unconscious body.  They take more pictures.  They take video.  They post them on line.  On  Facebook, on You Tube.  They brag and joke about it on Twitter. They ridicule her.  Their friends laugh, the pictures and videos get shared and passed along.  Two boys are arrested.  They are convicted.

Oh I will stare the sun down, until my eyes go blind.  Oh I won’t change direction and I won’t change my mind…”

Numbness.  Apathy.  Indifference.  Sometimes this is the reaction we have when faced with the continuing stream of disturbing, horrifying, gut wrenching stories like these.  We become desensitized.  What used to spark shock, horror, now is met with sad resignation.  Not again.  All these stories, all these incidences of kids doing these things to other kids, it’s wearing us down.  The heart and mind can only process so much.  So we turn off.  We let the white noise of every day life envelope us like a warm blanket.  We go on with our lives.

“I’ll swallow poison until I grow immune.  I will scream my lungs out ’til it fills this room.  How much difference….”

We should go on with our lives.  We have to.  But we should not become indifferent.  We can’t become de-sensitized.  We have to stay shocked.  Appalled.  Baffled.  We have to in order to ask questions.  We have to stay engaged.  It should make all the difference in the world.  It should piss us off.  How many of these girls are out there?  How many boys suffering similarly?   Too many.  Why do kids, these kids who act in hatred and violence, say and do these things?  What has them so emboldened?  So brazen?  So lacking in compassion?  So cold that they can laugh at a girl’s funeral.  So lacking in empathy that they can video tape a girl being raped.  These aren’t rhetorical questions.  These questions need to be contemplated, discussed, dissected until someone somewhere comes up with some answers that make sense.

Something has shifted.  Rapes occurred before.  Bullying and suicide existed.  But what is happening now is something beyond what was there before, as horrific as it was.  It is amplified.  It is worn like a badge of honor to be the perpetrator.  It is not vilified in the community.  It is broadcast across the fibers that connect all of us.  It is, in a sense, shouted from the rooftops.

I think of the pain these girls have been through.  They and countless others just like them.  A pain so deep it makes you want to take your life.  Despair so intense that you walk to an old cement plant, climb three stories and then decide to jump and end it all.  These girls feeling emotions and pain in the most intense way.  Yet the people who inflicted this on them laugh, mock, go about their lives.  And others chime in, add to the chorus in their head of unworthiness.  How can one feel so much and others seem to not feel at all?

It’s easy to blame technology.  It’s a convenient culprit.  And of course technology plays a role.  It enables certain behaviors, it can be a conduit for abuse.  But at the very core of these offenses are people.   Are kids.  That’s where we need to dig in, explore and try to figure some things out.  The motives aren’t that hard to flush out.  It’s not the how, the when, the where or the why.  It’s something else.  It’s the “what’s missing”.  What is lacking in another person, a kid, to inflict this kind of torment on another kid?  Is it lack of empathy?  Lack of attention?  Lack of power?  Lack of love?  Lack of discipline?  Lack of self worth?  It could be any of these.  It could be all of these.  But I think these things need to be figured out and dealt with before it escalates to the point of a child taking their own life or a child being raped.  I don’t have answers.  I don’t have solutions.  But I know we all have to wake up.  Participate.  Do something.

How much difference…. How much difference does it make?  How much difference does it make?”

-Pearl Jam,  Indifference