Women

This Week

This last week of May has been an incredibly depressing one. Last Saturday, May 23rd 2014, a man filled with hate against the women who supposedly scorned him shot and killed six people. He terrorized a college community not unlike my own. He left behind a manifesto detailing his rage against women and how he was going to “kill all the blonde sluts”.

Many news outlets are saying this young man was ‘incredibly mentally disturbed’. That may or may not be true. But the fact is that he might not have been as mentally ill as we’d like to believe. I understand that many people don’t want to accept that this sort of thing can be perpetrated by someone who is ‘normal’. Only someone who isn’t themselves would go out and shoot randomly into a crowd of students walking down the street.

The vehicle of the alleged shooter is pictured at one of the crime scenes after a series of drive-by shootings in the Isla Vista section of Santa Barbara

But the terrifying reality that no one wants to admit is that this young man believed, truly 100% believed, that his misery was due to the fact that women would not have sex with him. He believed that somehow women owed him, that they were responsible both for his misery and also for relieving it.

Many prominent writers and journalists have written about the shooting. There have been calls to reevaluate gun rights and mental health issues, those are all well and good. Those are things that most certainly need to be addressed in our society as mass shootings become more and more common. But there are other underlying factors that are being ignored.

Women were the target for this shooter. Yes, men were wounded and they died and the loss of any human life is a tragedy. I do not wish to discredit the lives of men but it is imperative that the public recognize that this man was out to hurt women specifically. And our society did nothing but urge him on.

The shooter was involved in groups known as Men’s Rights Activism (MRA) which is a group of people who, instead of focusing on real issues that affect men around the world, blames women and feminism for any perceived slight against the male gender. What the MRAs tend to forget and gloss over is that men have been the dominating gender for the entire course of history and it’s only been within the last few hundred years (in America at least) that women have had autonomy at all.

If only it were that simple...

If only it were that simple…

The worst part about the MRAs is that there are men’s issues that are very important to women, even feminists! (Shocking I know!) The way men are treated in custody hearings, the fact that male rape is severely underreported, the wording in laws that sometimes makes it impossible to charge a woman with rape against a man, prostate cancer rates are up, men are victims of domestic abuse as well as women, men suffer from eating disorders that aren’t reported, and so on. These issues are important and our society doesn’t want to talk about them. But neither do the MRAs, they’re too busy blaming feminists and women alike for their “woes” that they can’t get laid.

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

The one Urban Dictionary entry I agree with

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Wendig, blogged about the issue in a piece called “Not All Men But Still Way Too Many Men“. This piece is thoughtful and well written but many readers jumped down to the comments section and (assumedly ignoring the name of the author as well as the photos of him on the site) concluded the Chuck was in fact a woman. The comments on that article and his follow up “Burning the MRA playbook or #YesAllMRAs” were closed due to the fact that many MRAs decided it was a perfect place to intimidate Chuck (who again they believed to be a woman). There was name-calling, insults, and just general hate. These are not people who care about the equality of all humanity as they claim. They are bullies spewing hate across the Internet.

The most dangerous thing we can do is ignore these people. I’ve had many conversations with men whose knee jerk reaction to my explanation is “Well I’m not like that and the men I know aren’t like that. It’s just ignorant people being ignorant.”

NO.

These people are more widespread than you could ever imagine and some of the most prominent people in our society feel like way towards women. How else can you explain the fact that almost every female friend I know has been assaulted either sexually or verbally? How else do you explain men honking and yelling at me from cars while I walk to work in broad daylight? These things are connected and our society is building towards a breaking point. If you truly feel that you are not like this man then stand up and add your voice behind ours. We don’t need you to speak for us, we need you to speak with us.

Have a conversation with any woman in your life and ask her what it’s like to walk home alone at night. Listen and understand that her experience will mirror millions of other experiences all across the globe.

Understand that I hesitate to write this blog and leave the comments sections open for fear of harassment or rape threats.

Understand that I hesitate because I wonder what a future employer might think of my ‘radical’ views.

Understand that I have to consider that someone might be able to find me because of the information I have on this blog and hurt me.

The point of this post and others like it is to point out that a horrible tragedy happened. A young man felt women owed him something and when he didn’t get it he went out and murdered people. But more specifically he targeted women in his manifesto and videos. The conversation around this event must include the hatred this person held for women simply because none of them wanted to have sex with him just as it must discuss gun control and mental health awareness. There were signs that were missed by a wealth of professionals and this was a young man who had every resource available to him.

Women responded to this event by creating the #YesAllWomen hashtag as a way to vent their frustration with the violence we experience on a daily basis. I suggest anyone who reads this article goes and looks at the overwhelming amount of evidence that men (not all men but still TOO MANY MEN) do not see women as their equals or even as people in many cases. We are more than your girlfriends, your wives, your sisters, your daughters, your neighbors. We are people and our voices matter.

Outsider Looking In – Trigger Warnings and Art

This week one of my professors asked her students about trigger warnings (often referred to as TW or triggers).

TW

Was ist das?

We discussed what they are, how they affect people, and what place they might have in both an academic and artistic setting. Before this discussion started I read this blog post by Sarah Hollowell (@SarahHollowell on Twitter) about abusive relationships in YA fiction, specifically the Twilight series. She starts a great conversation about normalized violence and gender dynamics in 50 Shade of Grey as well.

These discussions got a lot of wheels turning in my head. This is a conversation that I am incredibly passionate about and I want to participate. But I find myself struggling to find the right way to do so.

When it comes to talking about these issues and so many others I am very much an outsider. I’ve never been assaulted but 1 in 5 women in the United States alone have and 1 in 79 men have as well (that number is estimated to be a lot higher because of under reporting). And those are just the people who have reported their assaults or have been able to articulate exactly what happened to them. When we start looking closer at the data we do have available it becomes stomach churning. Almost 50% of victims are assaulted before the age of 18. The CDC has a good compilation of these stats here if anyone needs some solid information on this issue.

Given these statistics it seems safe to assume that there are a vast number of people who I interact with on a daily basis who have experienced some sort of sexual assault.

So is there a way to help people who have gone through a traumatic experience, whether is be sexual assault, war, suicide attempts, etc. to avoid things that might trigger painful flashbacks?

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 4.33.22 PM

(Please be reminded, I’m talking about triggers that deal with sexual assault or war trauma. I don’t think trigger warnings are necessary for insects and bodily fluids in an academic setting. Maybe the internet where those conversations might be more common but not the classroom.)

Trigger warnings are defined as something (usually a brief sentence or two) this is used to warn people there will be content that might ‘trigger’ them. They can also be abbreviated as ‘TW’ as I did at the beginning of this post.

So what goes it mean when someone is ‘triggered’?

Usually it means they feel intense anxiety at the least and can have full blown flashbacks very much like war veterans with PTSD have.

However, people who have been through a sexual assault are not likely to recieve the same treatment as a verteran might. This has a lot to do with how victims of assault are percieved by our society (often referred to as rape culture, a whole other can of worms).

These experiences are different for everyone and things that are not necessarily related to the traumatic event can still be triggers: songs, movies, actions taken by other people, phrases, and so on.

While discussing this issue with my professor we spoke of it in an artistic context. Should artists be limited by triggers? Should they preface works with possible triggers with warnings? How do we determine what a trigger is since it can be so many different things?

First of all I have never and never will advocate for censorship.censorship

Censoring the material won’t change anything. It never has and it never will.

I do believe that there are some general things we can, as a community of artists and like-minded people, agree are upsetting to people who have been through these kinds of traumatic events. These might include scenes portraying rape, assault, molestation, etc. Very general things that can easily be given a warning and it doesn’t have to be in big bold letters.

My teacher brought up the fact that she had taught Towelhead by Alicia Erian.

towelhead

The book contained issues that might have been triggering for some people. A student pointed out that the synopsis of the book provided information about the sexual content of the book. It is subtle but most assuredly there when you are aware of what you’re looking for. For example here is part of the synopsis:

“Bewildered by extremes of parental scrutiny and neglect, Jasira begins to look elsewhere for affection. Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and high school has become a lonely place for a “towelhead.” When her father meets, and forbids her to see, her boyfriend, it becomes lonelier still. But there is always Mr. Vuoso — a neighboring army reservist whose son Jasira babysits. Mr. Vuoso, as Jasira discovers, has an extensive collection of Playboy magazines. And he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with Jasira’s body at all.

Those last three sentences quickly give the reader a sense of what might happen between Jasira and Mr. Vuso. For many people this is enough to allow them to decide whether or not they wish to continue to read the book. It isn’t obtrusive and it fits with the nature of books.

I also considered how this issue is handled in documentaries. A brief message will roll across the screen saying something to the effect of: “This film contains material that some viewers might find disturbing.” Again, by reading the synopsis of the film or by hearing/seeing this message a person can be prepared for what they might see and then make a choice about whether or not they want to continue.

Things begin to get murky when we talk about live readings, performances, viewings, etc.

This conversation began as my professor giving the example of a writer who gave a reading and was then approached by some of the audience members who tried to inform him about triggers and suggest that he should warn the audience.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 2.59.34 PM

His reaction was less than stellar. It doesn’t sound like these people who approached him were trying to be rude or say that they wanted him to not talk about these things. While I can see some of his point this type of very angry reaction is simply not productive.

Artists shouldn’t be limited in what they want to talk about. But I don’t think this is about limitations. It would take only a few words to warn your audience that the content might be disturbing and those who might find it upsetting can leave quietly or be prepared and know what to expect.

Again, I am an outsider looking in on this issue. I’ve never experienced the trauma that comes with being triggered so I can’t speak from that perspective. But I have, regrettably and unfortunately, caused someone very close to me to be triggered.

A few months ago I retweeted several tweets about rape culture and what that looks like in women’s daily lives. I felt that these were things that needed to be seen and deserved discussion. What I didn’t realize is that these tweets were very upsetting for someone close to me who has experienced stalking and assault. Later in the day they told me about the trigger and asked that in the future I would preface that type of material with a warning so they would be prepared to see it on their feed and then make the decision to scroll past if they needed to.

I was mortified. My attempt at a good action, spreading awareness about rape culture, had brought back memories of a horrible experience. Was I at fault for this? Did I do a bad thing?

There is a fine line to walk when you’re an outsider looking in at these issues. They are incredibly personal and a lot of them are difficult to talk about. Everyone deals with them differently.

Because of that experience I try my hardest to be aware of triggering material.

I know some people will say that trigger warnings are another way of ‘babying’ society and shielding people from the harsh truth of the world. I will give you an analogy I got from this Tumblr post:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 4.49.37 PM

A trigger is like an allergy. We have regulations all over the country on how to package food so that people don’t eat things that can hurt them. People with allergies can’t help this reaction and they can’t overcome it by sheer willpower. In some cases a trained health care professional might help the person introduce the allergen into their body so their body can learn how to deal with the stimulant but you can’t simply throw someone with a severe peanut allergy into a peanut factory and tell them to ‘just ignore it‘.

A trigger is a psychological, and sometimes physiological, event. Certain individuals will handle that event differently and some of them might be able to work on their reactions with the help of a counselor but in the meantime shouldn’t we help the often invisible individuals all around us who might struggle with this issue?

These issues are complicated and multi faceted. I don’t think I have all the answers and I don’t think Trigger Warnings are the perfect answer. But in the day and age of the Internet they help serve as a buffer for those who need it.

Please feel free to comment on this post and share it wherever a professor or teacher might see it. I want this to be a part of a conversation that includes everyone in the academic world. That can’t happen if the profs are in one corner and the students are in another only talking to each other. We have to work together to come to an understanding about this issue and many others.

 

A few interesting thoughts

Well it’s the first time I’ve posted on here in quite some time. Not having a computer really slows me down. Typing on a keyboard feels crazy weird.

Tonight in my capstone Women’s Gender Studies class we watched Iron Jawed Angels, which is a move about the suffragette movement in America in the early part of the 20th century. One thing that they discussed in the movie that really caught my attention was when the lead character, Alice Paul, talked about supporting the right for women to vote. It wasn’t about what women would do once they got the vote. Instead, it was about their right to voice their opinion in their government. Plain and simple.

Today, there is a lot of discussion about women’s rights in the medical field. Do women have the right to have an abortion? Can they have access to birth control? And so on and so on.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that all people, regardless of their sex, should be able to make informed decisions about their personal health. This means that all people should be able to access information most importantly and that no one should be able to deny that right.

There is no reason why the government, or anyone else for that matter, should need to stick their noses into anyone’s medical decisions. If we pay for it then we should be able to access it.

This country was built on the idea that a person should be free from persecution. Shouldn’t this include the freedom from being persecuted for seeking out certain medical procedures?

Another thought that has long been nagging at me is that the majority of these decisions about what people (mainly women) can and can’t do in regards to their medical decisions is based on Christian values. There is a huge argument that this country was founded on Christian values. I would like to point out that the founding father’s brand of Christianity would be unrecognizable today to any church-goer, but also that America was colonized in the hopes of escaping religious persecution. We have no national religion so why do our law makers insist on pressing Christian values in their laws? Especially those that should be private and are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality?

My personal beliefs and values are important to me. But more important to me is that each individual is afforded the freedoms that our country is supposedly so proud of.
 America is only proud of freedom when it falls in line with our preconceived values. We only support freedom of expression when we can agree with what is said. This is an undermining of the very principle of freedom.

This is not a radical notion. I do not support anarchy. But I also don’t support hypocrisy. If America is unwilling to embrace the ‘melting pot’ then where will it go? The world is changing all around us and it does no good to shut it out. Is it not better to hear all opinions, to learn all that we can about the world and the people in it and draw our own conclusions?

Consider being the minority. Consider your life if you were on the outskirts and your beliefs and/or values were insulted subtly every single day. Consider this and act accordingly to those around you. Learn all you can first, then begin to form your beliefs.

Men – Second Class Citizens?

So this happened…. Suzanne Venker has declared that there is a war on the White American Male. I can bullshit.

You can read the article here. The portion below is my response…

As a young woman reading this article I find it very disturbing. I have been raised by conservative and religious people my entire life. I am realizing that this is not the only way to live my life. Does this mean I hate traditional values? Of course not.

I will begin by stating that I am a feminist. To me this means that I believe in equal rights for EVERYONE. Not only women but EVERYONE. If at anytime you feel as though I am being unfair towards a group please feel free to point it out after you have referred back to this point.

The idea that the White American Male is under attack is ludicrous. A quick look at any American history book will show that it is white men who have been in control of this country from the beginning. How can you be oppressed by something you created?

I understand where this misconception came from. Women have come out of the woodwork lately to cry that they are being oppressed and they feel that things are not fair to them. I would agree. It is incredibly disheartening to know that I cannot go out into the work place and command the respect a male colleague with the same experience would simply because of my gender. However, this does not mean that women are suddenly trying to push men underneath them and rise up and put men into the place where women once were. That is the exact opposite of feminism.

Feminist stereotypes are that we are men hating, lesbians, who never shave, and can’t take a joke. I have been in a committed relationship for three years with a man who loves me very much. In our relationship I am the primary provider. Does this mean I lord this over him? Of course not. He would not do that to me if he was paying for the bills. Why? Because we compromise. We work together.  I shave regularly in case you were curious.

This is not to say that there are not those people out there. But they do not make up the whole. I want to live in a world where nothing matters but my skills. My gender, race, age, physical beauty, physical deformities etc. should not interfere with how I am looked at by other people. They simply do not matter. Do I rub the fact that I am able to have children in my partner’s face? No, it simply isn’t important to me. It isn’t who I am. Who I am is what I think and how I see the world. It has nothing to do with the outward appearance of my body.

Men are not being oppressed. You are simply seeing women act as men have for the last century. We are working hard to get a place in the world. Do not fear the minority but rather listen to the majority of women in your life, especially the young women, you will hear stories of every day sexism that will amaze you.

Do not harden your hearts to the things that happen around you. Be open to everyone’s opinion and they will be open to yours.