friday the 13th, full moon, mercury retrograde

21 Jun

or, shifting blame

or, ignoring fault

or, how did we get here?

Image

it was friday the 13th and nothing went right

we tried to go to a garage sale and nothing was happening. it was more than a black hole or a shadow falling over a solitary ant on the sidewalk, but less than a block party or a waterslide. maybe equal to a waterslide off season, seen through a fence and tall spiky grass.

enough was happening to bike past with my lost face on, loop around and then finger wool flannels, buy a seashell-print swimsuit, pretend i was someone else. to spend seven dollars and start a game with a stranger’s baby until the stranger wheeled it away. but we couldn’t stretch our legs beyond a couple clothing racks in one person’s driveway. i was promised bbq. and so we went to happy hour.

 

 

i didn’t pay for drinks on friday

we went to mario’s and i got pizza. beer when i was bored of pizza, whiskey when i was bored of beer. there was a strongman competition on tv but i’ve seen men lifting heavy rocks before. with age comes expectation, recognition, fatigue. there’s a higher threshold before enthusiasm breaks like so many waves, rushing forth, toppling me into salt and foam.

 when i was a little girl i couldn’t stop laughing, sometimes

when we left we tried to look at art but nothing was happening. it was more than one glass of wine but less than two. the wind blew and we walked; time stopped and reversed. the earth contracted into a walnut shell vibrating with potential; we walked backwards, jerky like a film reel running on the wrong speed. a time lapse photo of a flower gave way to a time lapse photo of a germinating seed. and then nothing at all.

it was a full moon too. did i mention that already?

we swam through the wine of our memories. wondered what went wrong, maybe made a joke. we were slipping further and further from reality but still the world churned and suddenly it was 9 and i had a date.

i wanted my friend to stay but she left anyway.

 

and so i went to shorty’s and sat. sipped whiskey, didn’t pay for it, why? sat alone, drunk, dead phone. i thought, i don’t give a shit at all. i thought, whatever happens, happens. no phone, no friend, stood up, alone. 

and then a guy walked up to me wearing a fuck you hat. said, what do people usually say about your tattoo? i thought, will i have to fill in the blanks for you all night? but i think i just smiled. 

and after that 

 

 

i probably consented enthusiastically but not to the whiskey. i remember being confused by it all; it was limitless. it was the american economy during wartime. it was a chocolate fountain at your rival’s bat mitzvah. it was valentine’s day after a christmas bonus, for someone who loves, and saves.

 

is this a thing that’s happening? i asked and he said yes

i said let’s go

at the end it was me with blanks that need filling.

 

my friend said i saw you and i said what?

my friend said i saw you and i said oh

my friend said call the cops and i said no

my friend said it happens to everyone and i said i know but i still don’t like it

 

i was sad and then i wasn’t sad and then i was sad again

i was scared to leave my room and then i continued to have a job and go to it

i thought of patricia lockwood

i thought of everything that has happened in my life up to this point, and the future

to infinity and beyond

i thought of sarah silverman

it was bittersweet

On organizing a SlutWalk

12 Jun

So I’ve written a post detailing some of the problems I’ve been facing in organizing a SlutWalk, and my emotional reactions to these problems, but I’ve not much discussed the SlutWalk in the first place! Let me rectify that.

SlutWalks began in Toronto after a police officer made a public statement that women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be sexually assaulted. This statement is problematic because it sartorially and sexually polices women as a gender class, places the onus of responsibility on the victim rather than on the perpetrator of sexual violence, and presents the label of “slut” as something that is fixed, avoiding its true, variable nature. SlutWalks aim to protest rape and victim-blaming, question the meaning of the term “slut,” and– for some –re-appropriate it as a sexually empowered term.

Almost instantly, the mainstream media latched onto the SlutWalk idea, often publishing stories that focused on the sensationalism of the term “slut” and on the (young, white, conventionally attractive) scantily-clad women in attendance. From what I’ve heard about other SlutWalks from people who were actually there, there were many marchers who were not scantily clad, young, white, female or conventionally attractive. However, the MSM chose not to focus on these people.

For these reasons as well as the loaded nature of the term “slut” and some very real problems with previous SlutWalks, SlutWalks have received a lot of attention and criticism. I would like to address some of these criticisms right here.

Criticism: SlutWalks consist solely of white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis-gendered women. They do not address categories of oppression beyond gender. They are liberal feminist–concerned with individual freedoms and individual women having the ability to wear/say/do whatever they want. They are an example of “choice feminism” and are not concerned with macro-level systems of oppression and intersectionality.

I believe the whitewashing of SlutWalks was a result of the MSM coverage and not representative of the actual people in attendance. I am aware that the “slut” label affects different women differently and am interested in having (many) conversations about this. I am currently in the process of finding people who are interested and willing to have these conversations with me! Protesting for the individual “right” to be called a “slut” or to dress in a “slutty” way is liberal feminist, for sure. It is also a very small part of what SlutWalks are all about. Protesting against our victim-blaming rape culture (the main goal of SlutWalks Ithaca, at least) definitely addresses a macro-level system of oppression that negatively impacts all people.

Criticism: The “slut” label affects different women differently.

For sure. Another main point of SlutWalks is to point out the variable, and ultimately meaningless, definition of the term “slut.” “Slut” is in the eye of the beholder. However, an important point to remember is that many women of color and women of lower socioeconomic status are called sluts without ever even doing anything; they are inherently seen as “slutty.” Because of this, women of color and women of lower socioeconomic status might feel less comfortable or be less able to pick/choose/re-appropriate the label “slut” as the are never seen as not-sluts.

Criticism: “Slut” is too bad to re-appropriate. We can’t reclaim it because it was never ours. I guess this goes back to my liberal, choice feminism, but I say, if you don’t want to re-appropriate “slut,” cool, fine. Don’t tell other women what to do. Women don’t have a sexually empowered term for ourselves, do we? I definitely believe that re-appropriating a term takes away some–definitely not all-of its power.

I see “slut” in this great, punky way; these sexy riot grrls calling themselves sluts and laughing and scaring everyone away with their fierce, free sexuality. And I envision women being called sluts to try to cut them down, and they reply by just staring at the name-caller dead in the eye and saying, “So?” Or, “thank you.” If someone calls you a slut and you thank them, or laugh, or appear not to give a shit, they may think twice next time about using that term as an insult. (Is my liberalism showing? If you disagree with me on this count I would love love love to have a conversation with you. Preferably in real life, not on the Internet. But I’ll take what I can get.)

Criticism: SlutWalks ignore/silence the struggles of sex workers.

I feel this is maybe the main debate within feminist movement today. Is sex work inherently exploitative? Well, we operate within a capitalist society, so technically everything’s exploitative, right? The value of labor must always be higher than the wage given or else those who own the means of production won’t turn a profit. So, is sex work… more exploitative? People say you can’t make a free choice to do sex work in a patriarchal society. I definitely agree, but I would add that you can’t make a free choice about anything in a society. Isn’t that the whole point of society? Defining rights and wrongs and do’s and do-not’s? No choice is “free” once you’ve been socialized.

I definitely know that sex work has race and class implications. Women generally see pornography and prostitution as options when there are few others and money needs to be made. But it’s hard to say if this is because women don’t want to do sex work, or because sex work is stigmatized by our society.

Does the fact that some women are forced into prostitution or pornography negate the experiences of the women who have chosen this line of work? Is it possible to fight against the exploitation of women in the sex work industry while simultaneously supporting those who do it as an active choice? I’m trying to.

Yeah, the patriarchy supports the sexualization of women. Does it support them being loud and proud and empowered about it? Humans are sexual creatures, after all. The patriarchy also supports women cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, being quiet, being deferential to men, being heterosexual, being monogamous, being chaste, being virgins… the list goes on. I’m definitely against any of those things (or anything in general) being forced upon someone, but just because these actions have a patriarchal seal of approval doesn’t mean they have to be completely avoided, does it? (Here we are back at choice feminism again!)

So here are some of my thoughts and some of my arguments and a lot of my words. I would love to have a conversation. I would actually love to have many conversations. Talk to me.

Male sex abuse and female naiveté

10 Jun

This article made me cry a thousand tears. Writer Dan Rottenberg opens with a sexy picture of TV journalist Lara Logan (above) and a blurb saying that women who flaunt their sexy stuff are signaling men they want to get laid. Which is half fine. There have been times in my life when I’ve dressed in certain ways to attract the male gaze. And there have been many times in my life when I haven’t and have received attention anyway. Just because you think a woman is sexy, doesn’t mean she’s trying to be sexy, and definitely doesn’t mean she’s trying to be sexy for YOU. Maybe it’s hot outside. Maybe she’s just hot.

But if you want to give it a shot, be respectful. For example, you could say, “May I please have sex with you?” Or (and this may be a bit more effective), “Would you like to get a cup of coffee?” Then you can sip and chit and chat and maybe things will lead to nice, consensual sex. And if she says no? Say thanks anyway, or say nothing, but definitely, please, walk away.

With his opener, I could see that Rottenberg was about to perpetuate the idea that rape is a result of uncontrollable lust for sexy ladies, not the horrific act of violence and control that it truly is. But, like a fool, I read on. He went on to detail uncomfortable, nonconsensual sexual encounters, finishing with Logan’s gang-rape in Cairo. The heading immediately after this? Logan’s cleavage.

The sexy picture in question is, according to Rottenberg, a CBS publicity photo. Did he ever stop to think for a second that she most likely controlled nothing about that photo? Hair, make-up, clothes, air-brushing… we’re taking about network news, dammit. This ain’t no public access shit. So there’s victim blaming foil number one. And number two? (which is actually number one in importance) CLOTHES, APPEARANCE, BODIES, ATTRACTIVENESS, DESIRE… HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RAPE. THEY DO NOT CAUSE RAPE. RAPE IS A VIOLENT ACT OF DOMINATION AND CONTROL. RAPISTS CAUSE RAPE.

Rottenberg advocates “sensible precautions” for women, which look a little bit like don’t trust or be alone with any man ever:

Don’t trust your male friends. Don’t go to a man’s home at night unless you’re prepared to have sex with him. Don’t disrobe in front of a male masseur. If you take a job as a masseuse, don’t be shocked if your male customers think you’re a prostitute. And if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, don’t pose for pictures that emphasize your cleavage.

This is so insulting to all human beings. Women are not sex objects to be used by anyone in whom they arouse desire. Men are not mindless sex fiends forced to rape anything that gives them a boner.

We’re human beings. We’re smart. We have opposable thumbs. Why do some people, like Rottenberg here, insist that we have the sex drives and intellects of wild dogs?

Word Bird Quickie

9 Jun

What’s that? Mrs. and Miss are both sexist terms shortened from “mistress,” as in “a kept woman of a married man”? And Ms. is the only proper, respectful term to use when addressing a woman, regardless of her age or marital status? You don’t say, Dictionary.com.

Burnout

9 Jun

I need to take a SlutBreak.

Not even a month ago, I heard about SlutWalks for the first time and discovered that I (me! who is nothing more than a humble girl with a minor in women’s studies and no experience in activism) could organize a SlutWalk in liberal, hippie, Ithaca, NY. I made Facebook event and cause pages and was shocked to see how fast people clicked “attending.” I set up a Google alert (for “SlutWalk” AND “Slut Walk”) and read for hours every day. I learned a lot. I talked to the City of Ithaca, the Advocacy Center, Planned Parenthood, former feminist professors (and kind feminist professors I never took classes with). I received unsolicited emails from local strangers excited and ready to help–a former feminist activist! A graphic designer! A high school feminist club! I was ecstatic.

Then the criticisms started and the emails stopped. The Advocacy Center said they couldn’t give us their support (they gave good reasons–too few resources, too little time for planning, it’s hard to organize in Ithaca in the summer–but still, what a bummer), and Planned Parenthood follows their lead. All my eager helpers seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. I planned an Intersectionality Teach-In to discuss the intersections of race, class and gender with the “slut” label–the lack of this kind of dialoguing is a main criticism of SlutWalks in general. I even made dinner! Two people came.

And they said: Postpone the SlutWalk. Get support from the Advocacy Center. Wait for the students to come back. Do it in the fall, or the winter, or the spring. I wasn’t happy about this suggestion, and resisted it, but, although I loved the idea of a SlutWalk in July, at the end of the day, I want what is best for Ithaca. I acquiesced.

And now I’m sad. I’m writing this because I tried reading some new SlutWalk articles at Stella’s up in Collegetown and burst into tears (I’m also getting my period Sunday, which makes my emotions go a little haywire). It hurts me that I tried out feminist activism and the response from fellow feminists was criticism or silence. No non-feminists wrote on the SlutWalk Ithaca wall (with the exception of SlutWalk Tehran, who spam everybody, and some guy who said something about goats that I didn’t understand), but I got a lot of angry reactions from feminist women. I have heard some things that seem a little… misinformed from non-feminists (not on Facebook, in real life). They were along the lines of, “Go you! Yay skimpy clothes! Yay sluts!” I know, not exactly the point. But if the entire world were to come to celebrate lingerie and ended up hearing me talk about the importance of consent… I’m not complaining.

The angry responses from the feminist community–both local and international–have made me feel sad and disempowered. Yes, I know, I’m a 22-year-old middle-class heterosexual cis-gender able-bodied white chick with little-to-no life experience. Not all my ideas are winners. But SlutWalks aren’t about me. SlutWalks are about reinstating a feminist, punk, diy, fuck-you spirit in young(er) boys and girls around the world. They aim to teach people about rape, sexual assault and consent. They aim to unpack the term “slut,” examine its multiplicities–and for some, re-appropriate it. At the end of the day, the number one message of SlutWalk is don’t rape. Is the rhetoric so distracting that some feminists can’t–or won’t–get there?

Another main criticism is that SlutWalks are actually going along perfectly with the dominant culture. Apparently, it’s more socially acceptable to call yourself a “slut” than a “feminist”… raunch culture and pornification and all that. I’m a sex-positive feminist–if you disagree with me on this and you’re a feminist, I think I know your point of view and I’m sure you know mine. Maybe the dominant culture loves sluts, but it sure hates sluts who protest against a culture that routinely blames women for sexual assault by asking questions about skimpy clothes, flirtation, and alcohol.

And do you know what the dominant culture loves even more than a bunch of feminists marching around, calling themselves sluts, celebrating their sexuality, and calling for an end to rape and victim-blaming? In-fighting within feminist movement that stop any real action from taking place. As I mentioned, not one person that doesn’t identify as a feminist has said anything negative to me about SlutWalks. I have heard a lot of feminists say (or write) that the marches are ‘bad for all women.’ Know what’s really bad for women? Raping them. And then blaming them for it.

I hope I don’t sound too youthful or coarse or inexperienced. I’m just hurt to be (at least temporarily) rejected by the one community I was hoping would be on my side.

Sluts Like Us

12 May
Here's a pic of me lookin' prettay sluttay.

Here's a pic of me lookin' prettay sluttay.

I got into a pretty fierce (and unresolved) debate about my post on Easy A about appropriate and inappropriate expressions of sexuality (My view: Do what you want, as long as it’s consensual and doesn’t hurt others. Wear a condom, use a dental dam, get tested regularly. Or be abstinent, whatever.) But it got me thinking, what exactly is a slut?

The debate began because I wrote about the slut-shaming of Olive in Easy A. Olive was originally called a slut after (not really) losing her virginity. (Is that slutty? If so… your mom’s a slut!) And then she was called a slut for (not really) having sex with guys for money (that’s a little more traditionally slutty). So if the range of what it means to be a slut goes from not really losing your virginity to being a prostitute, then does slut really mean… woman?

Turns out I’m not the only one thinking about this. A cop in Toronto said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The result? SlutWalks. According to the BBC, people are marching to protest victim-blaming.

“It’s to bring awareness to the shame and degradation women still face for expressing their sexuality… essentially for behaving in a healthy and sexual way,” the 20-year-old [Boston organizer Siobhan Connors] told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.”

Jezebel added that the marchers are also protesting the (basically meaningless) slut construct:

Who’s a slut? We all are. Or none of us are. And who cares? It’s a stupid, meaningless concept anyway…

What determines sluttiness? Is it number of partners, or the number of sex acts, or the kind of sex, or whether you enjoy it, or what other people infer about your self-esteem based on what they assume about your sex life? It’s all of the above, or none of the above. Either way, you lose.

Since “slut” is currently meaningless, I propose a new definition: A liberated, confident, sexual woman. (Can a man also be a slut? As in, a liberated, confident, sexual man? You decide!) I’m a slut. And a feminist. And (I don’t know if fat but) kind of chubby. What other hated labels can I give myself? I’m… Jewish?

PS: There are sexualities I disapprove of, like pedophilia. Have you seen that new Huggies commercial? Creepy!

Do you have a minute for women’s rights?

11 May

This dialogue, from Overheard in New York, demonstrates a common opinion on equality that is actually fundamentally biased against women. Many people think of equality as women having everything that men have, recently the right to vote, equal-paying jobs (I wish) and sexual freedoms.

However, many feminists argue that the key to equality is all people getting everything they need. Some people need more and different things than the middle-class white male. Women need birth control options, including abortion, free or low-cost childcare*, and different kinds of health care. (I am not suggesting that it is only women’s job to take care of children. However, since in our society women take over child-rearing duties in a majority of cases, childcare facilities must exist in case the women want to work.)

In How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulic described how the communist party wasn’t able to take care of women’s needs. This failure was epitomized by the lack of menstrual products available. Men don’t need menstrual products, but if women don’t have access to them, the society is fundamentally unfair.

That is why feminists are dedicated to fighting all systems of oppression. If the most burdened person were freed of all oppressions, we will all be unshackled from societal injustice. Full accessibility and accommodation for people with disabilities guarantees that everyone can get where they want to go and get what they need while they’re there. Equal rights for the LGBT community protects societal respect and support for non-heterosexual love. Fat acceptance allows all people to make their own body and food choices and helps everyone to celebrate their outer beauty. By focusing on the most marginalized, feminists are striving for equality for all.