Category Archives: ethics

The Parenting Paradox (or The Myth Of Motherhood)

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Parenting, particularly mothering, as anyone who’s lived it or who is living it knows, is perhaps the most difficult job ever in the history of the world. It never ends. There are no days off,  not even sick days…The minute you become a parent your life pretty much ceases to be your own. Suddenly (and yes, it is suddenly because pregnancy does nothing to prepare you for the realities of raising a child) there is this sort-of-person, a small and helpless little creature that is completely dependent upon you for every single thing. It’s daunting, frustrating, exhausting, and, for some, joyous. However, for others the joy is harder to find; for some it never really comes and all they can muster is a sense of contentedness or a quiet resignation to accept responsibility for the choice they have made…

For those mothers out there who fall into the latter, the realization that we are not cut out to be mothers is a hard pill to swallow. It fills us with guilt, leaves us feeling like horrible people, riddles us with regret, and shames us into silence. Because in a society that, despite its many advances, still expects women to aspire to motherhood above all else, that still fights to control women’s bodies and treats sex as if its sole purpose is the propagation of the species, admitting that one does not want children is hard enough, but to admit that one should never have become a mother is even harder. For those of us who harbor these feelings, it is not that we do not love our children, it is not that we would not do everything necessary to raise them to the best of our abilities, it is merely a matter of fact that we are not cut out for motherhood.

As anyone who knows me well knows, I never wanted children. I never wanted to be married. I wanted to go to college, join the Peace Corp, travel the world, and dedicate my life to making the world a better place. I didn’t want to be tied down, trapped in a cage, withering away in the endless, daily drudgery that sucked the lives out of my own parents and murdered their dreams. However, as is often the case with life, shit happened and I found myself, at the age of twenty-one, unexpectedly pregnant. Like most people, I was a different person in many respects then than I am now, in my thirties. Back then my belief system was quite different from what it is today; back then I was relatively religious, I believed that life began at conception and as such abortion should only be sought in the most dire of circumstances, and so I believed that having a child was my only choice. I became a mother not because it was what I wanted but because I believed I had to become one.

And this is where the paradox of parenting, or rather the myth of motherhood begins: I neither fully embraced nor entirely lamented the situation; rather I accepted it with a sort resigned ambivalence. From the moment my child was born I have cared for him, loved him, and sacrificed for him; but not because I feel a deep and all consuming maternal drive to so, rather its because I have to; I owe him the best that I can give him. He didn’t ask to be brought into this crazy, fucked up world; I made that choice. I love him and take care of him because he is a human being, innocent of the complexities of life and as his mother I understand and accept my obligation to him. But often times that is exactly what motherhood feels like to me, an obligation; a sense of duty born not out of an innate maternal instinct, but rather out of a sense of ethical responsibility.

For years I have felt as if something was wrong with me for being unable to embrace motherhood with the same zeal or happiness with which so many other women seem to embrace it. I have felt guilty for not seeing motherhood as my greatest accomplishment or as even being a minor accomplishment because for me its just something I have to do for the sake of this person who I brought into the world. For years I have felt ashamed because motherhood never felt entirely right, because it felt almost foreign. Then I read this article and while I certainly don’t feel vindicated I do feel somewhat relieved to know that I’m not alone, that other women have found themselves trapped in the same parenting paradox in which they at one and the same time love their children but wish that they weren’t parents. Not every woman is meant for motherhood, and for this reason motherhood is a myth; a sacred story of the feminine ideal against which all women are judged but up to which not all women can, or for that matter want, to live.

Although I love him very much, he’s an awesome kid and I couldn’t ask for a better son, if given a chance to make the choice again I don’t know that I would have made the same decision. It’s not that I regret the decision or that I wish he was never born, because that’s not the case, raising my son has taught me things about myself that I may not have otherwise learned; it’s simply that I realize that I would have been just as happy, if not a little happier, had I chosen a different path. This is the real reason that I never had, and why I will never have, another child: because being a mother has taught me that motherhood is not for me. I know now, in ways that one can only ever understand in hindsight, why I never wanted children – I was just never hardwired for it. I’ll never overcome my ambivalency, but perhaps now that I know that I’m not alone I can at least stop feeling guilty and ashamed.

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Misogyny in America: It Really is Everywhere

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Following the recent mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, in which a misogynistic shit-weasel killed seven people and wounded thirteen others all because women refused to to have sex with him, the Twitter hastag #yesallwomen went viral. It not only blew up on Twitter, but soon found its way to Facebook and was being discussed everywhere, from CNN to the Huffington Post to Salon.com. While many people responded to the shooting, and to #yesallwomen, by rallying behind the victims and openly discussing the realities of everyday misogyny, many others have attempted to undermine the prevalence of misogyny in our culture by arguing that not all men hate women or that women in this country have made many strides or, in some rare but truly disturbing instances, to not only defend and applaud the women hating diatribe left behind by the shooter, Elliot Rodger, but laud him as an American hero.

As sick and twisted as it is that there are actually people who agree with the entitled, misogynistic ramblings of Rodger, it is nearly as disturbing that there are people who honestly believe that misogyny is not as serious an issue as the #yesallwomen campaign has attempted to demonstrate. I say that it is nearly as disturbing because it illustrates just how pervasive misogyny is in our society; it has become so engrained in the fabric of our culture that it goes virtually unnoticed by those who are not directly affected by it, and almost accepted, if not fully expected, by those who are. This is disheartening, to say the least, because as long as people willfully ignore or excuse everyday acts of misogyny, women will continue to be victims of it. Regardless of whether or not everyone wants to admit it, misogyny, as every woman likely knows, is very much alive and well in America and its time we take it seriously and take action toward ending it.

Misogyny, to be clear, is not merely the overtly and extremely violent hatred of women, as exemplified by Rodgers and his ass-chasing ilk. It is, by definition, the, “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” Misogyny, like any form of prejudice, can manifest itself in a variety of ways, many of which seem innocuous on the surface but are, to those who endure it, anything but. As the #yesallwomen campaign has so brilliantly highlighted, women experience misogyny everyday in a variety of ways. From cat-calling to the disgusting way in which we talk about women’s bodies to the numerous political attacks on women’s rights, from health care to wages, misogyny is all around us. 

1) Street Harassment aka “Cat-calling”: As a woman, I have endured this demeaning and extremely annoying act more times than I can count. So often, I’m sure, that if I had a dollar for every time that it has happened to me I’d probably be able to pay off my credit card and have enough left over to celebrate with a delicious steak dinner (to be fair, my credit card balance is only about $250). Most of the time it’s a simple honk and/or a quick, “Wooo! Baby!,” sometimes it’s a more explicit, “I’d like to hit that ass!,” and on a couple of occasions it’s been followed by a, “Fuck you bitch!,” when I’ve ignored the comments as I usually do. While, for the most part, it seems relatively harmless, especially to the sort of men who do it, for women it is insulting and belittling; and in some cases, deadly. To be yelled at by a man, or group of men, as we walk down the street or wait at a bus stop or are sitting in our cars at a traffic light signifies the dim and unsettling reality that, in the eyes of many men, a woman is little more than a thing that exists to entertain or bring pleasure. Yes, before any man bothers to say it, we know that not all men behave this way, but that’s not the goddamn point, a lot of you do; enough, in fact, that every woman at some point in her life will have some jackass harass her as she goes about her day. And how does that make us feel? As this brilliant project by Brooklyn based artist,Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, illustrates, it leaves us feeling humiliated, objectified, ashamed, scared, dehumanized, and powerless. It’s not a compliment, it’s a blatant declaration that you do not see us as human beings to be respected, but as walking, talking sex dolls. To deny a woman the right to freely move about in the world without being verbally harassed is to deny her her very humanity, that is misogyny. Period.

2) Physical/sexual harassment: Unlike cat-calling, I have luckily experienced this less frequently, but the fact that any woman has experienced it at all is just plain disgusting. There’s something deeply and profoundly fucked-up with the psyche of a man who finds it acceptable to grab a woman by the arm and try to force her to sit next him (yes, this happened to me and very recently), or to smack her ass as she walks by (yep, I’ve experienced this too), or to come up behind her as she’s dancing in a club with her friends and grind up to her so closely that she can actually feel his dick on her ass (sadly, I’ve endured this as well, and it’s one of many reasons that I hate going to clubs). Now while my personal experiences with this should be terrible enough, sadly they are relatively benign when compared to other forms of physical/sexual harassment that women have been made to endure. What this form of harassment ultimately succeeds in doing is to tell women is that our bodies are not our own, that we have no right to determine when, where, and how we will be spoken to or touched. Like cat-calling, but to an even larger and more harmful degree, it denies the humanity of women and it is explicitly misogynistic.

3) The Wage Gap: As mentioned above, misogyny is, in part, the “ingrained prejudice toward women.” A clear example of this is the wage gap between what white men earn and what women, of all colors, earn. Women in nearly every occupation, despite our level of education, earn less than men. On average, working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a white male. Surely there are some out there who may be wondering how the wage gap is indicative of misogyny, and the answer is simple: the wage gap signifies that the work of women is worth less than the work of men, which is the result of millennium of both the relegation of women to the domestic sphere and devaluing of women’s bodies. Throughout human history, with very rare exceptions, the primary worth of a woman has been the sum total of her marriageability and her ability to produce offspring; if she could not succeed at both, she was essentially worthless and a burden. Even in our seemingly more enlightened and evolved era a woman who does not reproduce, be it because of infertility or by choice (gasp! I know, some women actually choose to not have children! by gods the horror!), is treated, by both men and women, as if she’s breaking some sacred, universal law that will destroy all of human civilization if she doesn’t flood the world with an endless brood of babies. Now, for the modern woman, the decision to have children lands her in a rather precarious situation because one of the main arguments used to defend the wage gap is that, since women give birth and, assuming she can afford to do so, take time off from their careers/jobs to both nurture their new born children and care for ill children or family members they contribute less to industry in which they work. Ultimately, women are being monetarily punished for both our biological predisposition to child-bearing and the socially constructed expectation to both have them and nurture them. To insist that women must have children and that women must be the primary care-givers to those children and then turn around and punish them for doing that which society has, for forever, insisted they do is misogynistic. And this brings me to the next issue….

it is important to note, because agism,racism, and sexism both play a role in the wage gap, that when broken down by race the wage gap gets worse, with one exception, for women of the non-white persuasion: caucasian women, 78%; african-american women, 64%; native-american women, 60%; hispanic/latina women, 53%; with the one exception being asian-american women, at 87%. moreover, the wage gap expands with age.

4) The attack on Women’s health care: I have written extensively on the issue of women’s reproductive rights here on the blog, and in the two years since I first began focusing primarily on feminist issues the attack on women’s health care has yet to abate. In 2012 there were 916 laws introduced across this nation that attempted to limit not only women’s access to safe and legal abortions but to also limit our choices of and access to birth control. According to a 2013 report by The Guttmacher Institute, a total of 43 laws restricting women’s access to reproductive services were passed and enacted in 2012; each one of them putting the health and welfare of women in serious jeopardy. As if the attack on women’s health care from right-wingnuts wasn’t enough, this year women have had their rights to birth control challenged in court by conservative Christian corporations, which are attempting to deny female employees access to certain forms of contraception under the guise of wanting to protect the unborn. In addition, 2014 has seen the introduction and/or passing of some of the most detrimental laws to women’s reproductive health yet, for example: the Alabama state legislature passed four anti-abortion bills, one of which would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heart beat, which occurs at about six weeks gestation (never mind that if born this clump of very nearly undeveloped fetal cells would immediately die), making no exception for rape or incest because, as one Alabama law-maker, or in this case rights-denier, put it,  a life is “a life regardless of the painful, painful circumstances;” and South Dakota introduced a bill that would not only ban most abortions, but would put doctors who perform them in prison. The never-ending assault on women’s reproductive rights is entirely symptomatic of a culture built on and plagued by misogyny, as the premises for it’s entire argument boils down to the fact that the primary purpose for a woman’s existence is to conceive and bear children and that the potential life of a clump of developing cells is more valuable than the woman within which said clump will develop. Think about that for a while, I mean really chew on it and digest it: the health, welfare, and agency of a living, breathing person is of less concern and value than something that cannot survive outside of it’s host. Essentially what this boils down to, given the sort of people who are designing and promoting these abominable pieces of legislation, is that a woman is less important, less valuable, less worthy of protection than the seed implanted in her by a man. Anything that aims to deny women’s autonomy, to limit our free agency, to rob us of our dignity, or to strip us of the fullness of our humanity is an explicit and utter act of misogyny.

5) Demeaning women’s bodies: The idea that a woman’s worth is contingent almost entirely upon her looks is, sadly, very much a reality in our culture. It’s also something of which both men and women are guilty, but misogyny is a societal ill and as such it’s going to influence, to some degree, how both sexes view women. The demeaning of women’s bodies occurs in a number of ways from fat-shaming to criticizing women for going out in public without first putting on some make-up to agism. The idea that there is only a single female form worthy or respect and desire is, to put it bluntly, fucking stupid and it stems entirely from the misogynistic perception of women as vehicles of sexual satisfaction.

6) Slut-shaming: As one brilliant #yesallwomen tweet stated, “because the term ‘friendzone’ is attacking a woman’s right to say no and ‘whore’ is attacking their right to say yes.” Female sexual agency is, for many men, something to both loathe and fear; which for women means that we’re damned if we don’t and damned if we do. We here in America, like many other places where one would find vaginas lurking about, have a terribly antiquated opinion about female sexual activity and consent known as the “double standard.” You see, in much of the world, even right here in the land of free, men can pretty much stick their dicks in just about anything and anyone as often as they please with extremely little to absolutely zero negative reaction; in fact he’ll likely be lauded as stallion among men, a god of sex and conquest. However, when a woman dares to enjoy the same uninhibited sexual exploits she’s a wanton, dirty little slut. Every single word in the English language (‘Murican for those who despise foreigners) that negatively defines a sexually promiscuous person is not only used to describe a woman, it is in the very definition of the word itself: whore, slut, harlot, skank, floozy….the list, quite frankly, goes on. The very fact that there are so many words in the English language that we still use to this very day to demonize a sexually active woman not only indicates that our culture stems from a deep seeded root of misogyny, it’s still producing fruit.

7) Rape and Rape Culture: In case you’re living under a rock or are just willfully oblivious, we live in a rape culture. By that I mean that we live in society that teaches women to not get raped rather than one that teaches men to not rape. By that I mean that we live in a society that, when women say we’ve been raped or sexual assaulted, asks us what were we wearing, where were we going, what were we doing in the place where it happened, were we drinking, or did we give any indication of being at all interested in the man who violated us; despite the fact that a woman is more likely to raped by a man we know, who feels a sense of ownership over us, than by a stranger, but facts be damned because clearly the sheer act having a vagina means that we’re responsible for it being violated against our personal will. By that I mean that we live in a society in which 31 states grant paternal rights to rapists. By that I mean that we live a society in which one in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed raped, in which 9 out of 10 rape victims are women, and in which 97% of rapists go unpunished. Rape is not about sex it is, as this article accurately points out, about control; control over a woman’s body, and what we’re wearing or whether or not we’ve feigned even the slightest interest in our attacker has nothing to do with it. Those who rape or assault see a woman’s body as something to be claimed, a rapist does not see the victim as person but as an object over which to take ownership and do with as the rapist sees fit. Rape is about sexual domination, not sexual gratification. Not only do rape and misogyny go hand in hand, but so does the way in which our society talks about and treats rape victims. When society lays the blame for being raped or sexually assaulted at our feet, it is accusing we women of being vile temptresses and is essentially implying that, on some level, the rapist is the victim of the uncontrollable lust that we women evoke in the loins of men, which in turn legitimizes the objectification of women. Putting the blame for being raped at the feet of women is, beyond any rational doubt, misogynistic.

8) Domestic Violence: While both women and men can be victims of domestic violence, women are far more likely to not only be victims of physical abuse but to die as a result of it. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women have been victims of physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner, compared to 1 in 7 men, and, in 2010, 1,095 women were murdered by their domestic partners, compared to 241 men. According to the American Psychological Association, three or more women are murdered by their partners everyday and nearly half of all women (about 49.4%) have reported experiencing some form of physical violence from an intimate partner in her lifetime. According to the FBIs 2011 Supplementary Homicide Report, of the 1,601 women murdered in 2010, 1,509 of them were murdered by a men they knew, and most of them were murdered during the course of an argument. As with rape/sexual assault, physical abuse is about power and domination. Abusers abuse typically to exert control over their victims, abusers see their victims as property as opposed to a person. Given the fact that the majority of domestic violence victims are women, and that the majority of aggressors are men who have laid claim to said women, domestic violence is an act of misogyny. Men who beat women do so for a variety of reasons, but all of them boil down to one underlying social problem, men have been acculturated to believe that the women in their lives belong to them. One cannot view another person as property and still respect them as a person. Men who abuse women do not view us as fully human, they view us as things to be owned and controlled, and even something to fear and hate; which is, by very definition, an act of misogyny.

Sadly, for women, misogyny is all around us. While it is true that not all men are misogynists who disrespect or objectify women, and while it is true that not all men hate women and seek to own, control, marginalize, or abuse women; it is true that all women experience acts of misogyny. Every. Single. Day. That is the point to #yesallwomen. Every woman, everywhere, everyday is a victim of misogyny. So of those men who are not, by their own account, misogynists we ask you: Don’t ignore it, don’t dismiss it, don’t downplay it’s prevalence; rather, listen to us and take our experiences seriously, acknowledge and admit to the fact that misogyny is both endemic and systemic within our culture so that we can eradicate it together.

 

GOP: The Party of Patriarchy

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It’s said that an elephant never forgets, unless of course that “elephant” happens to be the GOP (on a side note, being the mascot for the GOP is an insult to elephants); in which case forgetfulness seems to be a prerequisite for becoming a Republican. I say this because what other reason, aside from a severe case of the brain farts, could the Republican controlled House of Representatives have possibly had for passing the 20-week Abortion Ban? Do they not remember the protests, the outcry, the backlash, and the fact that in last year’s election they failed to take the Senate and the Whitehouse, and they lost eight seats in the house? Have they already forgotten that their failures in the last election were in no small part caused by their archaic and misogynistic attitude toward women? Obviously so….I mean, they cannot possibly be so daft as to not learn from their failures and try to not repeat them…Oh wait, of course they can be. Who am I kidding? This is the GOP about which I am speaking, the party plagued by racists, sexists, classists, homophobes, climate-change deniers, anti-choicers, fear-mongerers, misogynisits, and all around dipshits. This is the party that endorsed ass-nuggets like Tod Akin and Twit Romney. Honestly, what is it going to take for them to get through their thick and ignorant skulls that they have got to stop attacking the rights of women? Perhaps if we just put it bluntly….

Dear Conservatives,
I do not recall inviting you into my uterus, so get the fuck out! Here’s a novel yet extraordinarily logical idea, if you don’t have a uterus then you don’t get a say. Period. You don’t see women running around trying to pass bills that will dictate when and how you can get an erection or jack yourselves off on the grounds that every time you ejaculate you’re killing potential fetuses, so where the fuck do you get off trying to control the bodies of women? How would you like your dicks policed?…Exactly!…Now take your patriarchal, misogynistic, fucknuttery and cram it up your piss-holes.

And So The War Rages On…

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Two weeks ago we celebrated (at least you did if you see women as fully equal and autonomous human beings with full ownership of their own respective bodies) the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I had hoped to have had this posted sooner, alas time was in short supply but here it is…

On January 22, 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled, 7-2, that one’s right to privacy under the the due process clause of the 14th Amendment protected a woman’s right to own her own body and to make decisions for herself concerning abortion. It was a momentous and profoundly important ruling in which women, who had for so long been denied the right of full autonomy under US law, were finally able to freely choose our own paths. It was supposed to mean the beginning of a new era, one in which women could finally be valued as fully human and protected as the citizens that we are, and not be merely relegated to the domestic sphere as prized heifers to bear and raise a brood of children to carry on a man’s last name. It was supposed to end the fight over our bodies and break the yoke of patriarchy and misogyny because finally we women were free to decide…

Sadly, it has not been as it was supposed to be. No. Here we are, forty years later and the fight to break the yoke and claim our autonomy still rages on as wanna-be-kings-of-the-world try at every turn to strip women of our hard won rights. In a number of states all across this nation measures are being taken to grant personhood to fetuses and thereby once again make the rights of the woman secondary. For example, the state legislature in North Dakota has introduced resolution 4009 to add an amendment to the state’s constitution that would grant the same rights to a potential person as is already guaranteed to a fully developed, already born, actual person. If passed, this amendment, known as the  “Human Life Amendment,” will effectively ban abortion, IVF, and most forms of birth control. And in Tennessee the legislature will introduce a resolution to the 2014 ballot that will, if passed, eliminate provisions in that state’s constitution that protect a woman’s right to privacy.

It is unfathomable to me how anyone who clearly views women, who happen to make up more than half of the nation’s population, as secondary to not only men but to a clump of cells that may or may not become a viable fetus that may or may not become a person can be allowed to make laws that will have such a profound and detrimental impact on the lives of said women. I honestly cannot, no matter how hard I try, wrap my mind around that fact that right now, in this day and age when humanity is capable of such fantastic feats as curing diseases that once decimated populations and as exploring the far reaches of space, women are still fighting against the misogyny and the patriarchy that has held us back for thousands of years. For crying-out-fucking-loud it’s the 21st-goddamned-century, people! Enough is enough! This is not the stone age and we no longer live in caves. Put down your damned clubs and come join us in the land of the civilized, where the already born take precedence over the yet to be. Let us concern ourselves more with caring for the children and adults who already exist by ensuring that they have access to essential elements they need to both live and thrive; such as food, shelter, health care, and quality education. Let us concern ourselves more with waging wars on poverty, disease, and illiteracy and end this ridiculous War on Women; it is senseless and it is cruel.

To these misogynists, these pricks who would strip us of our rights and relegate us to the domestic sphere forever chained by the bounds of chattelry, I say, STOP! You do not own me, seriously I am not a piece of property for you to do with as you please. You do not get to decide what happens within my body, to it, on it, or with it because it is mine. You do not get to tell me when, where, how, or if I become a mother, that is my choice because it is my life and it is my body, not yours. I reject the idea that the primary purpose of my, or that any of my fellow women, existence is to bear children. I am more than the sum total of my reproductive organs; I have a mind of my own and I have goals that I long to accomplish. I refuse to bend to the will of men who believe that I am not worthy of the same ownership over my body as they enjoy of theirs. I adamantly and vehemently deny anyone the power to dictate the course my life will take. And until they, the would-be-kings-of-the-world, understand and accept that we women are not their property, that we are not prize heifers to be branded and bred, and until they respect the fact that we are people, actual living and breathing people, who possess the inalienable right to choose what happens to our own bodies, then the war rages on…

To see where your state stands on Women’s Rights, click here.

I Need Feminism Because….

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Perhaps you have all seen the pictures floating around, “I need feminism because (fill in blank),” in which men and women alike hold up hand-written signs explaining why feminism is important to them. Or maybe you’ve seen the Facebook page, “Who Needs Feminism?” If not, check it out. This is great campaign designed to inspire open dialog about the need for and importance of feminism. I just discovered it myself a few days ago and I love it. Mostly because it pleases me to see how many people, both male and female,  understand that there is a real and urgent need for feminism; but also because it got me thinking about why I need it.

Honestly, I never really considered myself a feminist until I moved out on my own and had to start making my own way in the world. I was raised, for the most part, by my Dad. In my home, household duties were not relegated to only the women, my Dad did much of it (mostly because my mother was inebriated most of the time, but I digress). He did laundry, and dishes, and ran the vacuum cleaner. He helped with homework, tucked in we girls at night, and played nursemaid when we were ill. He played dolls with us and taught us to throw a football and a baseball. Most importantly, he never raised us to believe that there was anything we could not do. No matter what aspiration for a future career floated into my childish mind, and I had some really off-the-wall ones believe me, my Dad never once said to me, “Girls can’t do that.”

I didn’t grow up believing that being a girl had limits. I could throw a ball as well as most of the boys I knew, and I could out run most of them well into high school (it was my freakishly long legs). I was always at the top of my class; reading, writing, history, science, I excelled or did very well in nearly everything. On the rare occasions someone told me I couldn’t do something, my Dad was there to remind me that the only people who cannot do things are those who never try.

It wasn’t until I began to grow up that I noticed that the world was backward and twisted, and that there were certain things I couldn’t do; not because I lacked the capabilities or the intelligence to do them, but because society had drawn little lines in the sand around things that it did not want women to do. My first lesson in this came in high-school when my then boyfriend thought it would be fun to tell everyone he’d had sex with me. I was barely fourteen, I hadn’t even had my first real kiss yet and now, suddenly, I had supposedly had sex. Luckily I had a strong circle of friends and a Dad who was not above threatening the little prick, so the rumor never had a chance to spread, thus sparing me from the extreme slut-shaming with which so many other girls are forced to contend. That is not to say that I didn’t have to deny his story or defend myself against comments his own friends made, but my reputation was not irrevocably ruined by his lies. I was lucky, but this was my first lesson in the reality of the double-standard with which girls are forced to live; in which a guy is lauded as a stud and a girl is condemned as a slut where sex, real or imagined, is involved.

As I grew into adulthood and became aware of the world around me, as I went to college and learned more about women’s history, I learned newer lessons; lessons that were in many ways harder to bear than my earlier lesson. I became aware of the millions of  women all over the world who are still traded into marriage, most often as young girls, against their will. I learned that adultery is still punishable by maiming or death in many areas of the world and that women are far more likely to be the victims of such cruelty than men. I learned that girls and women all over the world are less likely to be educated, more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer from disease for lack of health care. I learned that women and girls are more likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused, raped, or murdered. I learned that for millions of women all over the world chattelry is the reality in which they live; being a woman in this world is as good being born a goat or cow.

I need feminism because women are not equal, not by a long shot and not even here in my own country. I need feminism because the world I thought I knew as a girl, the world that my Dad tried to build for me where everything and anything was possible, is not real. At the same time, though, I need feminism because I know that that world, the world of my girlhood, the world my Dad so deeply wanted for me, is possible.

When I was in sixth grade I participated in and won 7th place in a state-wide essay contest entitled, “An Influential Woman in My Life.” In the response letter, Governor Anne Richards told me that young ladies like me have the power to change the world. I still believe that. I will never stop believing that. And so, I need feminism…

Redefining Rape and Reinforcing Rape Culture

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Our culture is fucked up. Profoundly and irrevocably so. For reasons I cannot fathom (perhaps my mind isn’t closed enough or my heart not small enough) our culture has an unnerving and a disturbing habit of blaming and shaming victims of violent crimes, particularly of rape. As a woman and a mother this is unsettling to me on so many levels.

We live in culture that teaches our daughters to not get raped rather than our sons to not rape. We live in a culture that teaches women to fear being alone at night, to not wear certain styles of clothing for fear of attracting a rapist, to not drink at a party or flirt with a man because it might invite him to rape us. Never mind the facts. Never mind that nearly half of rape victims are children. Never mind that the majority of rapists are acquainted with the victim. Never mind that majority of rapes occur in or near the victims own home. Fuck all truth and logic because clearly the victim was begging for it….The mind reels.

We live in a culture that, instead of jumping to the defense of rape victims, shames them and degrades them and leaves them feeling abandoned and  doubly violated. The victim is asked all sorts of irrelevant questions: Why were you there? Why were you alone? What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Do you give him any indication that you wanted to have sex? All that these questions succeed in doing is placing the blame on the victim by implying that if the victim hadn’t been there or worn that or gone out unchaperoned or had a few drinks, then nothing untoward would have happened to her. Isn’t it enough that the victim has been violated, most likely by someone who is brandishing some kind of weapon? Hasn’t the victim suffered enough at the hands of the ass-wipe, scumbag, piss-poor excuse for a human being who violated their body? Must we really pile onto their pain with thinly veiled accusations that somehow, on some level, the victim asked for it?

Essentially, we live in a culture that is sending a message to our daughters, and by extension our sons, that by sheer virtue of being born a woman we must accept that someday someone might rape us and that we, as women, must bear the sole responsibility of preventing rape and to do all we can to not provoke it. Because, as this brilliant picture says, we must presume that all men are mindless sex-machines hardwired to bang anything that moves regardless of its willingness to engage.

Instead of treating rape victims like sluts, instead of teaching women to hide themselves under yards of fabric or to never leave the house, instead of presuming that men are incapable of controlling themselves, why not educate people from a young age to respect their bodies and the bodies of others? Why not teach children, in more advanced and detailed language as they age, about the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching? Why not teach, “DO NOT RAPE,” rather than, “DON’T GET RAPED?” Really, this is what we should be doing.

Instead there are people, many of them lawmakers, most of whom are males in the GOP, who want to redefine rape; supposedly in effort of preventing abortion, although I am inclined to think that it is more the result of a sick and twisted need to own and control the bodies of women. Regardless of their reasons for such callousness,  the use of such hurtful terms as “legitimate rape” and the utterance of such heartless statements as telling victims that they should either “relax and enjoy it” or “make the best of a bad situation,” is demented beyond measure.

To insist that there are two types of rape, “legitimate and “illegitimate” (read, “might have deserved it” and “definitely deserved it”), is to feed into the myth that some women ask to be raped. By claiming that, in the event of a so-called legitimate rape, a woman’s body will prevent pregnancy (never mind that this is categorically untrue) suggests that pregnancy is proof that the victim, on some level, actually enjoyed herself. The words and deeds of these “men” will ultimately only serve to perpetuate the lies about rape, to undermine the pain of the victim, and to reinforce our rape culture.

No one, neither male nor female, should stand for this blatant, cruel, and hateful disregard for the bodies and lives of rape victims. The true mark of a civilized society is how it treats the marginalized and abused; therefore, until  our society puts an end to our rape culture and stands against the lies that serve only to revictimize the victims, then we cannot reasonably consider ourselves to be civilized.

Through the Gates of Hell and Back Again

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I grew up in the 1980s and came of age in the 1990’s, in the midst of third-wave of feminism. The generations of women who had come before me had fought, with such bravery and determination, enduring prison and abuse, to win me the right to vote and to have access to family planning service, including access to safe and legal abortions should I need it. I took these things for granted. I mistakenly believed that society, at least the majority thereof, had progressed to such a point on human, civil, and women’s rights (all one in the same in my opinion) that no one would ever dare to drag us back through the gates of hell  and lock us behind them once more.

To my fore-mothers and fathers, who struggled and fought and suffered so that I could have a full say in my own life, I am sorry for my complacency. But I am awake now. I have heard the battle cry of the misogynists, from every corner of this nation, as they fight to rob me of my hard won autonomy.  I was foolish to believe that rights, once won, could not be so easily over-turned. As a student of history, I should know better. I am sorry. It will not happen again.

I admit, that over the course of the past two years, the ferocity and determination at which the GOP and the anti-choicers have come at women’s rights has left me a bit fatigued. It seems as if every time I turn around some half-wit, wanna-be-king of the world is saying something horrible. If it’s not Todd Akin saying that there are two kinds of rape (the “legitimate” kind and “you asked for it” kind) and only one of them can get you pregnant, or VP candidate Raul Ryan claiming that rape is just a “form of conception,” or Tom Smith insisting that getting pregnant from rape is akin to getting pregnant out of wedlock; then it’s the average anti-choicer calling abortion murder (and by extension women who have them and doctors who perform them, murderers) and telling women, as one person said to me just two days ago, “[choice] has nothing to do with what you do with your body. Its what you do to another body simply residing in yours.” To make matters even worse, as if the stupid and sexist things these people say aren’t bad enough, over the course of the past two years, the GOP has introduced 916 anti-choice bills all across the country and the official GOP platform for 2012 states that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including rape and incest.

The level of dipshittery being displayed is so mindbogglingly stupid, so sole-witheringly terrifying, it’s utterly and deeply depressing and tiresome. And I’m tired. I’m tired of arguing with people who refuse to see reason. I’m tired of arguing with people who honestly believe that they have a right to tell women when and how they can and should become mothers. I’m tired of trying to explain to these people that while they’re entitled to their personal opinions within the confines of their personal lives, they do not have the right to force anyone else to live by their personal paradigms. I’m tired of the hateful and cruel and evil (yes, evil) words and actions being hurled at women.

I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m frustrated. But I will not give in. I will not back down, there’s too much at stake. I will stand. I will crawl. I will drag myself across the fires of hell if I must and will not rest until the gates of hell have been broken down. Until the rights my forebearers fought so hard to secure are clad in titanium and set in stone, I will continue to fight back for as long as it takes. The point at which you feel you can fight no longer is the point at which you must fight harder. This is more than fight for rights, it’s a fight for survival.