Friday, July 30, 2010

After Sexual Assault: The Marathon

A Guest Post from Casey

I have learned that I am a fantastic sprinter, not a marathon runner.  My instincts are spot-on, when I listen to them, and I am good at managing short-term crises.  It’s the longevity part that I find difficult to maintain.

I was unwittingly entered into what may be the longest marathon of my life when I was sexually assaulted on June 19, 2009 while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa.  Sadly, I am one of the hundreds of Volunteers over the years who have experienced sexual violence while serving in the Peace Corps.  And, along with many of the others, I went through a confusing maze of how to get proper support from Peace Corps following such a personal violation in unfamiliar terrain.

The man who assaulted me was someone I was supposed to have trusted.  He was the brother to my host mother and he was also dating the office manager at the NGO where Peace Corps had placed me.  My trust circle deteriorated as I realized that anyone who might help me held their first allegiance to this man.  He was their brother, uncle, boyfriend, friend and community member.  Why would anyone believe or protect me?  I was the foreigner with a time-limited stay in their community.

In the aftermath of my assault, I discovered that Peace Corps does not have any accessible policies to inform Volunteers of their rights as survivors. It was with a fervent determination that last fall, upon my return to the US, I began the First Response Action online campaign to advocate that Peace Corps better support Volunteers who have been raped, assaulted or otherwise violated during service.  Since that's an issue unto itself, you can read more about the First Response Action campaign here. 

Two months after I got back to the U.S., I got an apartment and started working.  Needing to provide for my own basic needs overtook my focus and my South African experiences fell down the priority list.  These changes signaled the switch from sprint to marathon.

No one asked about the assault anymore – that was months ago, right?  How could that bother me anymore?  But it did.  And not just the incident itself, but the ramifications of the event.  This man who violated me not only suspended part of my spirit, but changed the course of my immediate future.  Aspects of my personality changed.  I met strangers with bitterness – particularly right before I left South Africa.  I was suspect of nearly everyone.  My trust in the goodwill of strangers had been ripped away and I was left raw.  I focused on work, family and re-building my life in the U.S. and essentially ignored the rest.

It’s now been just more than a year since the assault and while I may be a better sprinter than marathon runner, I know I am in this recovery for the long haul. I began to create action steps towards ‘recovery’ that would help me get back – as close as possible – to the person I was before the assault.  The steps are developed as the need arises.

For example, earlier this month I began preparing for my first trip out of the country since I was assaulted last year.  I usually love flying, meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I believe everyone has fascinating stories to tell if you just start the conversation.  Although since the assault, I’ve closed myself off to new people in public.  As I write this I am halfway through my trip and I am proud to say that I met and chatted with interesting people – a young American actor living in Scotland, a woman from Barcelona who fell into a forbidden love in Southern India and the most kind-hearted man who helped me from the airport to downtown Vienna through three train transfers and who smiled sweetly the whole time.

While this was only one trip, it helped to restore some of the confidence that I lost following the assault.  I pushed myself to open up to people along my trip and I met amazing people with whom I had fantastic conversations and who showed me such kindness.  I’m proud to have taken another step in the right direction.  Heaven knows I still have many steps to go.

Casey works toward developing resources for survivors of sexual assault among Peace Corps volunteers. For more information on this work, please visit http://firstresponseaction.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

August Theme of the Month

We're happy to announce that the theme of the Month for August will be Masculinity. So far we have posts on masculinity coming from Tony and Jon, but we want lots of posts, with lots of different perspectives. If you'd like to contribute a post, please just contact one of the admins (Emily and Erica) or authors (Rachel and "Mickey"), and we'll be happy to get things rolling.

Some questions to keep in mind:


  1.  What does masculinity mean to you? Do you think of it positively? Negatively? Neutrally?
  2. If you identify as a man, how do you feel about being a man?
  3. If you don't identify as a man or a woman, or if you identify as one gender but feel like you have traits traditionally associated with another gender identity, how has that perspective impacted you?
  4. If you identify as a man, what would you like women to know about men?
  5. How does the media portray masculinity, and how are those portrayals positive and/or negative?
  6. How does sexuality play into your understanding of masculinity? 
  7. How does sexual orientation play into that understanding?
  8. What do you love or hate about being a man?
  9. What could everyone do to help men live happier, more fulfilling lives?

Some Interesting Links

I came across this discussion of relationship terms while looking up something else on dictionary.com. This discussion covers the basic but often misunderstood differences between polygamy, polygyny, and polyandry.

Also, here is an interesting little post that talks about the politics of female characters being chained up in many of the early Wonder Woman comic strips. Not knowing much of anything about comic strips, I'll leave it to more comic-strip-minded individuals to offer their two cents on this bit.

Then we have a discussion on the blue-eyed Jesus seen in much of Christendom, from Feminist Mormon Housewives. This post talks more particularly about how the Savior is depicted in LDS artwork, but the racial dynamics behind these white portrayals are complicated and problematic. It's particularly interesting to look at this issue from an LDS perspective, because according to LDS doctrine the prophet who restored (if you're not LDS you probably favor the term "founded") the Church, testified that he saw the Savior face-to-face. That fact then exponentially increases the importance of any comments he chooses to make about which painting he prefers.

One common explanation behind the blue eyes in the most common LDS depiction of the Savior is that his father, Heavenly Father, must look Caucasian. While there's no saying this theory isn't true... there's also no saying it is true. On a side note for anyone lost by what I just said - according to LDS doctrine, God the Father and his son Jesus Christ have separate, physical bodies. That means that theories about how God's DNA impacted the way Jesus Christ looked in his mortal life hold up a lot more than in religions that believe God has no body. Also, according to LDS doctrine a resurrected individual regains a perfected version of the body he or she had while alive. You can imagine how that doctrine complicates questions of what the Savior looks like now.

Next, here is an article I stumbled across through Carl the OMC's blog. The article is written in response to a man requesting advice on what to do when his wife gets upset with him for not doing anything without her asking him to. Carl takes issue with the author of the article rejecting the idea that women want men to read their minds, but as a woman who certainly shares the sentiment Carl is referring to, let me explain how I see it. When women say "Why can't you do X without me asking you to?" they're usually not talking about you doing X on a particular day and at a particular time. They're not even just talking about X. They're usually asking for you (and this can go for women communicating with other women, or for men who communicate this way) to in general think of their needs a little more naturally. Perhaps they go out of their way to do things for you all the time, and when you then want them to ask you each and every time... well, it's frustrating to them because they're in a paradigm in which you show respect by in general finding ways to help and serve a person.

So, the solution people who don't understand this perspective often offer: "Call me and ask me to do X ahead of time," doesn't solve the emotional issue the people making the original complaint are often getting at. It only solves the mechanics of X being done by someone else and by a particular time. I didn't understand this concept as a child. As an adult woman, however, I finally understand where my mother was coming from. She saw us not cleaning the house after school as a sign that we didn't care about and respect her. She loved us, so she made our lunches and cooked dinner more than anyone else in the house did. And she saw our unwillingness to reciprocate as us somehow withholding affection. So.... if you have someone in your life who wants you to do things without being asked, the solution may be to meet halfway, with you doing more of your own volition in general, and with them asking you to do particular things from time to time. Or in other words, the solution may be what the author of the original article suggested: think of a relationship in terms of one another's personal needs, rather than in abstractions about what "men are like" and "women are like."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Celebration of Feminism

Some days being a feminist leaves me feeling drained. The fight against chauvinism, sexism, and straight up complacency can take a lot out of a person. It can even make me feeling like hiding in the bottom pocket of my suitcase and sending myself across the world, to some remote location where there are no other human beings.

And that's where our new tradition comes in. Inspired by a tradition I saw on the blog Joe.My.God, the Celebration of Feminism is a new (and likely random) segment where all the feminists and feminist sympathizers get to stop pulling their hair, crying, and shouting at imaginary opponents, in imaginary conversations about gender.

Oh, and we get to stop throwing things at our television sets.

How do we do this? Well, we put aside all our frustrations with corrupt patriarchy (LDS readers, please note my use of that modifying adjective). We put aside the very real struggles we face every day as we try to transform the world into a better place, and we celebrate the strides that have been made lately.

What kind of stuff should we celebrate and how? Anything and everything that's progress for feminism. You can drop a link to a music video that makes you happy, you can tell a heart-warming anecdote about your family, friends, and/or romantic partner. You can even point out the teensy bit of silver lining in an otherwise damaging government policy or movie/show.

So, ready, set..... Celebrate!!!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Safety vs. Living: The Great Balancing Act

A Guest Post by Lisa




"You’re going by yourself?”

These were the first words out of my mother’s mouth when I told her that I was taking a six-week road trip to camp and hike in America’s National Parks – solo.  Her concern wasn’t a surprise, and I was frankly skeptical myself.  Who was I to take a solo hiking and camping road trip?  I was (and still am) a city girl.  I like the convenience of take-out and access to the nearest salon…and to my high-speed internet.  Nevertheless, it was time to live up to the independent-woman-with-a-sense-of-zany-adventure reputation I had so carefully cultivated.  I knew this was something I had to do – that is, if I could figure out how to accomplish it without getting myself killed. 

Because, of course, the second thing my mother -- and anyone else I told about my plans -- wanted to know was: "Isn't it dangerous?"

Yes.  Yes, it was dangerous.  I was twenty-seven years old, and female.  I am small in stature.  I tend to believe the best of people and am overly trusting.  Traveling solo will always be a little more dangerous for me than for, say, a male built like a linebacker, and traveling solo will always be a little more dangerous than traveling with companions.  If that weren't enough, I was planning to hike and camp alone, so that at any moment I could fall off a mountain (or be eaten by a mountain lion), and I planned to fall asleep at night with nothing more than a thin layer of nylon separating me from terrifying evil-doers.

Did that stop me?  Of course not.  To me, the safety calculation was a simple one: what is the ratio of the risks I faced in relation to the precautions I could take to limit my exposure to these risks?  This is because safety is always about balance.

This calculation is the same one we use every day of our lives.  When you walk across a busy intersection, is there danger that you will be hit by a car?  Yes, of course.  Can you limit your exposure to that danger, by paying attention to the lights and the traffic and not tripping in the middle of the street?  Yes, of course.  You wouldn't never cross a street just because you might get hit by a car.  And by the same token, you wouldn't cross a street with your eyes closed listening to your headphones and just hoping you timed it right. 

So as I prepared for my great adventure, I evaluated the risks:
  • Getting lost (on the road or the trail)
  • Car trouble
  • Car accident
  • Losing wallet/important documents
  • Getting robbed
  • Getting attacked (physically or sexually)
  • Injuring myself on the trail
  • Running into dangerous wildlife
As I looked over my list, I realized that I face many of these dangers in my hometown.  I can certainly get robbed (I was, a little over a year ago, in fact), attacked, have car trouble or get into a car accident, and lose my wallet right here in Boston.  The greater danger of it happening on the road, while alone, is that I would have to deal with it alone.  I then came up with the following list of precautions/things to do to minimize these risks:
  • Have lots of maps
  • Make sure cell phone is always charged and working
  • Get mechanic to look at car
  • Drive carefully
  • Make lists of numbers and photocopies of important things to keep one in the glove box and leave one with the parents in case I lose my wallet
  • Make lists of phone numbers in case I lose my phone
  • Don't get drunk
  • Pay attention to people around, try not to end up completely alone
  • Don't trust everyone so fast
  • Get a first aid kit
  • Learn about potential wildlife and how to handle it
  • Leave itinerary with lots of people and check in often
I could do all of that.  I did do all of that.  You know what?  I didn't have any trouble.  Yes, I blew out a tire in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico.  I dealt with that just fine.  Yes, there were a couple of times that I decided not to stay at a campsite that just didn't feel right to me.  Yes, I sometimes skipped a hike because it looked too devoid of others and I wasn't yet confident in my solo hiking ability.

The bottom line is that I didn't take any unnecessary risks.  I thought about the risks that were out there and did whatever was in my control to minimize my exposure.  I balanced.  And that's really all you can ever do, male or female, traveling solo or with companions.

I'm sure, despite all of this, my mom still worried.  That's what moms are for.


Lisa’s travel philosophy is to embrace spontaneity, experience everything, and regret nothing.  After spending six weeks driving around the U.S. by herself, Lisa realized that solo travel — charting her own course and making her own adventures — is thrilling and fulfilling, and she now seeks out solo travel opportunities to new and exciting places as often as her day job will allow.  Lisa writes about solo camping and hiking over at her own blog, Her Side of the Mountain.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

He's Just Not That Into Verbal Communication: Why Traditional Heterosexual Dating Turns Women into "The Communicators"

I wrote this post last year, but seeing as how our readership has expanded since then, I thought it would be fun to start reposting some of the older material.





We're all familiar with the stereotypes about how men and women approach communication: women always want to talk about the relationship, and men have the emotional maturity of a toddler. This supposed disconnect is an essential theme to family sit coms; the woman puts her hands on her hips and says "we need to talk," and the man whines and groans and does everything he can to distract her. (Has anyone seen "Everyone Loves Raymond"?). I don't know how accurate these stereotypes are, and I have no intention of making an argument about their accuracy or lack thereof. What I would like to discuss today is how traditional gender roles in heterosexual dating patterns contribute to this stereotype.

Not everyone follows traditional dating roles, and I say thank goodness for that! But even some very liberal and socially progressive individuals adhere strictly to the idea that a man should pursue a woman, and not the other way around. She can reciprocate the interest, the argument goes, but she shouldn't take over the chase because she deserves a man who's willing to chase her. My thoughts on mixing hunting metaphors with dating descriptions aside, this view is surprisingly prevalent in mainstream television, film, etc. (Just look at He's Just Not That Into You). But how do these prescriptive roles influence the way men and women communicate about their feelings, motivations, and intentions?

Here's how I see it: These roles make dating a more straightforward experience for men than for women. Under these rules, if a man is interested in a woman, he asks her out on a date. He instantly knows whether that first date will happen, because she tells him "yes" or "no" right away. If he is still interested after a first date, he asks her out again. And so on. There's always a chance the woman is accepting the dates without interest, or a chance that she'll accept a date only to cancel later, but in general a man can tell whether there will be another date because he's initiating the dates. In a storybook world this behavior would never be a problem. A man would ask a woman out, she would accept or not accept, and couples would figure out how they felt one date at a time, until that crucial moment when they would both reveal their love.

But what happens when a man doesn't initiate another date right away, and the woman isn't sure why? Whatever gender stereotypes tell us about female intuition, most people can't read minds, so this is a plausible scenario. It could be the man is busy, or that he feels broke at the moment (traditional dating dictates the man pay). It could be that he isn't sure whether he's interested and needs some time to sort things out. But then again maybe he's lost interest, and he simply won't call. This scenario could happen whether he said "I'll call you" or not.

To a man in this predicament, the situation is clear. If he's interested he'll ask her out again, even if it takes a week or two before he calls. But the woman must wait before she learns his intentions. I attend school in a conservative environment, and I frequently hear men complain about women who make up excuses to avoid dates instead of admitting they've lost interest. Yet how many of those same men let women know that they will not be calling for another date? I would guess almost none. It would probably feel rude and presumptuous. Besides, the man knows that he's lost interest and will not initiate another date, so he doesn't need that information communicated the way that the woman will if she's interested in him.

So, if a woman is confused about a man's intentions, or if she wants to change the pace at which they're dating, or if she isn't interested but a man keeps asking her out despite all the hints she drops, what are her options? She could try to initiate a date with him, but that would be straying from traditional dating patterns. Some women will do this, but many who adhere to traditional gender roles will not. So, short of exiting traditional roles, she has only a few options:

1. Drop hints/ play games and hope she can subtly get (or share) the information she needs

2. Accept her confusion / annoyance, and just grin and bear it

3. Initiate a serious discussion

When subtlety falls flat, and waiting in ignorance is too much to bear, we are left with the third option: verbal communication. Many people avoid direct communication simply because they want dating to feel casual and natural, and it can't feel that way if everything is vocalized in explicit detail. In traditional heterosexual dating, a man would have more reason to avoid it, though, because he already has the information he needs: If he likes the woman he'll ask her out again, and if not he won't. If he wants to go out more, he'll ask her out more, and if he wants to go out less often, he'll ask her out less often. But if a woman is placed in the position of only saying ,"yes," "no," or "how about later," she may in fact need to discuss the relationship in a way her traditional male counterpart doesn't understand, and that need would make her much more likely to risk the awkward elements a discussion may bring.

Personally, I think the behavior patterns you start when you're dating carry over into longterm relationships and marriages. If a man and woman do develop serious difficulties communicating while they're dating, then a couple rings, a cake, and some vows probably won't make that go away. So maybe we can all be a little more open, honest, and direct, regardless of what dating patterns we prefer.


An additional note a year-older Emily would like to add:

Sometimes men complain that when they ask women out on dates, the women say "I'm busy this weekend," instead of saying "I'm not interested." Carl the Open Minded Chauvinist often complains about this behavior, and I usually listen with sympathy. But awhile ago I stopped feeling sympathetic, and here's why:

I asked Carl the OMC how he thought a man should respond if he's not interested, but a woman says, "Let's do this again sometime," at the end of a date. Carl said that the man has no obligation to say "I am not interested," since doing so would be rude. I argued that when a woman says "I'm busy this weekend," rather than "I'm busy this weekend but let's do it next weekend," she is communicating disinterest at least as clearly as a man who simply stops asking a woman out, if not more clearly. And that to the woman it may feel just as rude to say "I'm not interested in you," as it would feel to the man at the end of the date. Both are invited to continue pursuing the other person romantically, and both find indirect ways of communicating their disinterest. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lone Female Traveler in the Côte d’Ivoire

Guest Post by Sarah

It was the end of a long day in the Côte d’Ivoire, and I was feeling the effects of two beers on an empty stomach. My food still hadn’t come several hours after I ordered it. When I tried to leave the restaurant, my co-workers gave me a look that said, “You crazy American woman, like hell we’re letting you take a taxi home alone.” One of their cell phones rang. It was a friend of our NGO inviting us to continue the party across town. “I’m really tired,” I insisted, and they dropped me off at our hotel. 

By all accounts, it was a dump: paper thin walls with mysterious stains, sheets that smelled like they hadn’t been washed since it opened. We were only there because Save the Children was having a conference in this ordinarily sleepy town and all the better hotels were taken up. Right as I’d entered the lobby, the power went out. I waited for a minute hoping for the reassuring hum of a generator, but no luck. I took a step, tripped, cursed, and felt my way to my room. I used my cell phone as a flashlight, shining it like Nancy Drew in my closets and under my bed, just in case. 

Then I sprayed myself with Off, pulled my hoody over my head, and tried to convince myself I was imagining the feeling of bugs crawling. I kept thinking I heard sounds on the poorly-locked balcony off my room. It occurred to me that everyone I knew in this country was off drinking at an unknown location. I couldn’t escape it: I was scared. So I called my mom. For once, the connection was good. “Hey,” I said, trying to make my voice sound casual. “You’ll never believe where I am…” I talked with her until I couldn’t justify the charges anymore and tried to fall asleep.

In the morning, I stumbled down into the hotel lobby to meet up with the rest of the team. I sat down on a couch to wait. “Excuse me,” said a soldier who had been smoking in a corner when I came in. Thinking he was trying to hit on me, I rolled my eyes and looked down. Then he picked up his AK-47 I somehow hadn’t noticed lying down on the floor next to me. Later that day, as we were setting up for the day of solidarity, three truck loads of UN peacekeeping forces rolled up. This turned out to be entirely unnecessary, and they spent the afternoon watching interactive theater (as seen in the image below).

This little anecdote is pretty typical of my experiences this summer. Making the decision to go to Côte d’Ivoire alone was stretching my comfort zone. Then the organization told me I’d be stationed in a rural town instead of embassy-accessible Abidjan. Then they told me I’d be travelling a bunch – to the Liberian border, into territory still under rebel control. I’d like to say I smiled at each piece of news and relished the thought of a fresh challenge. But that would be a lie. I’ve been scared a bunch this trip. I’ve stayed up late reading travel advisory warnings and worrying about every worst case scenario. Then I talked with a former (male) intern via Skype about my concerns and he laid it out for me: if I’m going to do this job, I can either drive myself crazy reading third hand sources online or I can trust the people I’m with.

 Although it hasn’t been easy, I’ve made the decision to trust my co-workers. And so far, so good. I’m starting to realize that my prior conceptions of what is safe and what is not safe are just fundamentally not suited for my current environment. For example: guns are so understated here, security personnel carry them openly. But there are probably more guns around me when I’m in major cities in the U.S. I’ve definitely heard more gun shots at home than I have here. 

Another thing I hadn’t anticipated was that my blatant not-from-around-here-ness would attract so much positive attention. This is the third post-conflict zone I’ve travelled through, and I’m becoming convinced that these are some of the most foreigner-friendly places to visit. It’s like people are so aware of the bad rep others have of their homes they’re anxious to go out of their way to make you feel at home. Whenever we drive by a UN encampment, I find myself wondering if the yards of barbed wire and heavily armed guards are necessary. I know that there was a horrible conflict here, I know there continues to be conflict here, but on a gut level, I find it impossible to reconcile with my experiences.

I’m not sure if I’ve been just lucky in my travels or if the world is really just not as bad as everyone seems to think it is. I do know that I am not a risk-averse person, and I have never felt seriously threatened during my travels (most of which have been in Africa). That being said, I do have some safety tips for women planning to travel solo to off-the-beaten-track-places:

  1. If someone hits on you, either ignore it or try to laugh it off. Especially if you are the only woman around, yelling really just makes things worse. Although some people might suggest wearing a faux-wedding ring and inventing a family, I’d recommend claiming to be a nun.
  2. Even if you’re planning to go anyways, read what the State Dept has to say about places on the travel advisory list. It’s good to have information from a variety of perspectives. If you’re scared – talk about it. Don’t feel like you’re being weak. Chances are giving voice to your fears will help to put them in perspective.  
  3. Trust what you are able to learn on the ground– what you learn firsthand is the most reliable.
  4. Always keep enough credit/power on your phone to call someone should you need to.
  5. Carry a flashlight and a Swiss Army knife. And toilet paper.
  6. If you’re in a place where you’re going to stick out, embrace it. Turn it into an easy ice breaker. I’ve gotten into a lot of great conversations about Obama in cabs throughout Africa.
  7. As much as you may value your independence, sometimes you have to compromise with your context. If it’s not safe to walk home alone, don’t.
  8. If you walk down the street looking hostile/scared, people will respond to that. A smile can go a long way.
  9. It’s usually better to be sober.
  10. Wear sensible shoes.
Sarah’s first trip out of the United States was to Sierra Leone in 2008. Much to her parent’s chagrin, her travels have continued to have a post-conflict theme, and she keeps looking for ways to get back to Africa. She is currently researching radio as a tool of peacebuilding in Côte d’Ivoire. For more about her travels visit Go Girl Magazine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Angelina Jolie and the Female Warrior


Tight leather pants, black leather corset top and surprisingly feminine army boots are just some of accessories needed to be a good female action star. This hyper-sexualized “my gun is sexy” stereotyping of the female action star is incredibly predictable, yet continues to rake in millions at the box office. However, perhaps we should ask the question, are these women true action heroes?

Recently Yahoo featured an article on its homepage about the new Angelina Jolie movie, Salt. The article made a brilliant point, Angelina Jolie is the first female to transcend the gender block on action films. Apparently her new movie, Salt was originally written for a man as the starring role, Tom Cruise no less. Yet, the script was rewritten for a female, the first time that has ever happened.
To check out the article yourself, click here. 

Now I don’t know how much of a female role model Angelina should be, we can all attest to the weirdness in her past, her marriage to Billy Bob Thorton and their matching bottles of blood hanging around their necks comes to mind. However, the fact that a woman has officially joined the ranks as crossing the gender of the action film, strikes me as an incredible move for the women’s movement. That women can be seen as powerful, dangerous, and basically kick-ass (pardon my language) makes me excited. I’d like to think of this as a landmark, just as Sigourney Weaver in the 1979 Alien was the first feature of a truly strong woman, surviving and taking care of business, now Jolie has crossed over into the lyrics of one of my favorite songs, “anything you can do, I can do better.”

Now all we need to work on is the idea that a woman must still be sexy as she blows up the car and Hollywood might actually move up a little in my estimation. For another interesting article on Jolie’s B-A-ness in Hollywood check out this article from the Huffington Post.

I’m also curious to know what you think about Angelina Jolie and other famous female action heroes (Sigourney Weaver, Kate Beckinsale, etc…) and their role in the women’s movement. Do they have a place in the women’s movement? Do they merely cater to male fantasies? Or do they produce good role models for girls?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Feminist Film Review: The Other Boleyn Girl (Misogynist Movie in Feminist Film Clothes)



So what is the purpose of this new-fangled FFR? Why, to keep Hollywood in check of course! And we're starting the FFR off with a huge MMA (Misogynist Movie Alert) on The Other Boleyn Girl. This film is a historical fiction that tells the story of two sisters who become mistresses of King Henry VIII. Since the film is openly fictional, its historical accuracy bears little importance to the FFR. I'm a lot more concerned by its social (in)accuracy and (ir)responsibility.

How to assess Boleyn Girl? It's hard to recall the last time a film disappointed me this much. After all, few films parade as feministic, only to back up the myth that women are all either angels or whores and that rape victims have it coming to them. I suppose I should have known what to anticipate when the description on the box said it was about two sisters who competed with each other and "vied" for the king's attention. Or when it started off with the women as little girls, their father discussing how one of them was kind, the other ambitious. Or when the sweet, kind one was blonde and the ambitious one brunette.

And yet I was still surprised when the brunette sister became the evil temptress, tricking the po' wittle king into betraying his country, his marriage, and his God, until he finally loses his mind and does the only thing he can: he rapes the undeserving temptress, demanding "Show me you were worth it!" What plotlines brought the po' wittle king to this act of necessary violence? And why was I surprised by the film's misogyny? Well, read on:

The whole twisted love triangle gets started when the girls' father decides to toss the unmarried Brunette, Anne (Natalie Portman), into the King's lap, in the hopes that the entire family will profit from being related to the king's mistress. When Anne's efforts fail to capture the King's attention, he falls instead for the guileless but married blonde, Mary (Scarlett Johansson). He summons her to court and, as her family explains, a summons is not a request. Mary begs not to be sent, but even her husband is powerless to resist the king's summons, and so they set off.

But does the film address how this summons is itself a form of rape? No, Mary goes to the King quietly (but with frightened looks when his back is turned), and she quickly falls in love with him. When the King later rapes Anne and Anne asks Mary how he treated her when he slept with her, Mary remarks that he was remarkably and surprisingly tender. I suppose the moral of the story is that a good woman is not raped but a manipulative woman is. Never mind the fact that rape is a way of seizing power more than an uncontrollable desire to sleep with someone and that the king used sex as a form of power over both sisters.

But to backtrack for a moment - before Anne actually catches the King's attention, we have a few moments where the film paints itself out as a friend of feminism. The girls' mother criticizes their father for whoring her daughters out for the pleasure of men, and the film at least attempts to make Anne sympathetic so that we can understand how she turned so gosh darn temptress-evil. Anne marries a man who is betrothed to another, and when her father and uncle banish her and keep the marriage secret so as not to ruin their political alliances, Anne goes to France. Before Anne leaves, her mother tells her that in France she will learn that the best way to control men is by allowing them to believe they are in charge. Ah ha - here the film is letting us know that it's concerned with women issues and with female power. Yay! What a relief to know that the director has heard of feminism!

Too bad he doesn't know what the word means.

So Anne comes back as a manipulative mincer of words, while Mary is still the soft-mannered and well-intentioned sister. In fact, Mary is even the mother of the King's son! She's giving him all she wants! She's so virtuous! Yay Mary - way to be an obedient woman who "wouldn't presume to interfere in affairs of state."

As the film progresses, the sisters' characters become even more contrasted. Mary does nothing wrong. She always looks refined and poised and puts her sister first, even at the risk of her own life. Anne, meanwhile, seduces the king simply to spite her sister, a motive the film bends over backwards to make clear to us by having Anne grin menacingly each time the king notices her. The King, meanwhile, maintains a moody and romantic aura throughout the whole film. He looks torn and guilty as he wrongly divorces his first queen, which he of course only does because Anne refuses to sleep with him until he does (apparently he was above rape before the divorce, but below it after the divorce). Bad Anne. Bad, bad, bad Anne.

The King's guilt just builds and builds as he watches the innocent queen strut away (the film practically paints a halo around her, just in case we haven't figured out she's one of the angel women). Finally, overcome by his guilt, he confronts Anne, who continues acting bad by refusing to sleep with him until they're married, and by maintaining that the virtuous ex-queen was the one who was truly at fault. Then, the film makes sure we witness Anne's degradation. We hear ripping, we see the king standing close behind her, we see the pained expression on her face, and we see the suddenly relieved look on his face as he finishes raping her, apparently releasing all the sexual tension that pushed him over the edge. But the film doesn't dwell on this crime and act of violence by exploring Anne's emotions immediately following it. Instead that look of pain on her face is soon contrasted at her coronation, where she smiles triumphantly. Yes, rape was simply the cost of her evil ambition and her temptress ways.

But don't worry - Anne gets worse. When she can't give the king a son, she falls off her mental rocker and eventually gets herself and her brother killed by talking him into sleeping with her so that she can give the King an heir. They don't actually sleep together, mind you, since her brother is gay, but the brother's jilted wife, angry that he won't sleep with her, turns them into the King when she sees them in bed together. Bad jilted wife! Bad!

The virtuous Mary swoops back into town and tries to save Anne (it's too late for the brother). She shares a tender moment with the King, who appears to regret ever turning against the nice sister in order to please the evil sister. Then we get to feel sad for Anne as she is executed in spite of the King's promise to Mary that Anne will live.  Good, we sympathize with her as we see how far her treachery and general stupidity have sunk her. But the film almost sympathizes more with the King, who remains inside during her execution, a dark and tormented expression on his face.

In fact, the film sympathizes so heavily with the king that when the film is winding down and the viewers are learning the fates of each character, recorded in subtitles, the film waits until we have some happy images in the background (Mary playing with her children and her sister's child) before it tells us about the King's concerns. How he changed the face of England forever when he broke away from the Catholic church and how he produced a strong female heir in Anne's daughter, Elizabeth. The film then ends with an image of Elizabeth playing as a child.

I suppose Queen Elizabeth is supposed to be the woman who triumphs over all of her ancestors? The one who overcomes the gender problems that led to the downfall of her parents, proving that the film really does believe in strong women?

 Too bad the film was too busy reinforcing sexist stereotypes to take the time to delve into the psychology driving each character. The director likely thought he was producing a feminist-friendly film when he painted the girls' conniving uncle to be evil and without any conscience, or when the most sympathetic male in the entire film was the gay brother. But even in the portrayal of the brother the film appeals to stereotype, making him effeminate and even spineless.

And in addition to all this, need I point out that the film entirely ignores any class issues that don't affect upper class families?

The Feminist Film review is a new column inspired by Emily and Erica's inability to simply watch a movie for entertainment, without analyzing all the gender relations within it. This inability may not be such a problem, mind you, seeing as how it's shared by other feminists of note such as bell hooks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time to Boycott Mel (from Emily)

Radaronline has finally come forward with some of the racist audio they keep talking about. In fact, it comes in part 1, part 2, and part 3! If you choose to listen to the audio, please be forewarned that it contains some pretty harsh language and some pretty hateful sentiments.

Please also note how Mel refuses to take responsibility for any of his own behavior. Everything he did he says is because of her - she made him do what he did, and she deserved  what he did. His wife leaving him was her fault, and he does not feel personally responsible for cheating on his wife. Refusing to take responsibility for one's own behavior is a key sign of abuse. Abusers frequently try to excuse their own behavior (if they admitted what they were doing they'd be racked with guilt, after all) by projecting their own bad choices back onto the very people they've hurt.

Am I assuming Mel is nothing but evil and Oksana is a saint in all this? No. Even victims and survivors of abuse make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. But whatever Oksana has or hasn't done, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Mel is an abusive person. Even without the evidence to suggest physical abuse, it's pretty clear he's verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abusive.  I, for one, will never allow my capitalist dollars to endorse another film with him in it, and I urge you to do the same.

And if this post makes me one of those bloggers Whoopi Goldberg is so upset about, so be it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Caught Between an Angel and a Prostitute



You know what I realized? For men, there is no word in the English language that carries the same connotation as “whore” does for women. And I’ve tried listing them out, I promise. People have suggested “man-whore”, but that’s still comparing a man to the conduct of a female prostitute (or check out “Madonna-whore"). There’s “bastard”, which carries too much sexual mystery to be truly insulting. And you come across few “Jackasses” who can’t get a girl (How about the IMPREGNATOR or FETUS FORMER as a male insult?) I guess it’s true that whores, by the very nature of the definition, do get some smack-happy action, but it is a degrading term. What’s even worse is if you’re not a whore, you’re a prude, and who wants to be that? So, either I’m the girl whose goods are community property or the miser who keeps my bounty to myself.

It’s a wall I’ve run into on a regular basis. How many first dates have I gone on that ended in a saliva swap session because my non-baggy clothes and laid-back nature tattoo the words “easy” on my forehead. How many times have I set up boundaries only to have the guy proclaim (perhaps in an attempt to sooth my straight-laced nature) that he too does not like physical intimacy? (Meanwhile, I’m tearing out my hair thinking, that’s not what I meant! I just want someone who values my mind!) I’m either a wanton sex goddess or a statue on a pedestal. Each time I try to break out of one box, I’m shoved into the other.

My solution? I could become A-sexual and reproduce like strawberries. That’s right, I get it on by pollinating and growing little babies in my hair. Men are completely cut out of the equation and I can just be me.


(http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01018/strawberry-melon_1018216i.jpg)

Maybe the problem lies in how we are taught to think. Night vs. day. Good vs. evil. Cool vs. lame. Slut vs. Saint. We have been wired to perceive in absolutes. Any one who doesn’t fit in is either dismissed or falsely understood. Maybe it lies in our brain, which enjoys reducing things to stereotypes in order to make our daily overload of external stimulation manageable. This allows us to respond to pre-determined triggers rather than waste time analyzing every judgment call that comes our way.

Undoubtedly, a part of the problem lies in men and women themselves. We female folk already know that women of ancient yore were reduced in society to nothing more than their bodies (you know, becoming property, following strict chastity codes, being stuck in the chains of fidelity while husbands cheated, etc). Now that we are liberated, the pendulum has swung the other way. Yes we have power, ladies, but how much of it lies in our bodies? How much do we allow ourselves to be reduced to objects, in our own eyes and others? And men, you little bastards you, I’m not deceived by the “we can’t help ourselves, we have needs” myth. Women are more than a place to park your car for the night. And my sex endures a lot to get a man (plastic surgery, dieting, tanning, talking like a valley girl, lowering our IQ, laughing at bad jokes…). Dumb, I know, but singing “I’m a Survivor” with a mouth full of chocolate only compensates for so much.

This is the part where I provide a magical solution that everyone can proscribe to so we can let angels be angels and whores be whores, allowing everybody else to just be themselves.

Ha.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Curse of Beauty

In lieu of a guest post, today's post highlights one of Nicholas D. Cristoff's videos on video.nytimes.com. In this video, The Curse of Beauty, Cristoff tells the story of a Cambodian girl who was nearly sold into sex slavery as a child. The video discusses the longterm effects of the drugs the trafficker used on the survivor, effects that have left her incapable of speech to this day. 

One of the most disturbing aspects of this story is that the trafficker is a woman. The trafficker allegedly sold her own sister into sex slavery. This story is a sad but accurate illustration of how women participate in or perpetuate many human rights violations against other women. In Kyrgyzstan, for instance, bride kidnapping is often encouraged by female relatives of the kidnapper. Often the kidnappee's female relatives perpetuate the practice by encouraging her to stay with her kidnapper rather than risk her reputation by leaving.

It's important to note, however, that female participation in harmful practices in no way overrides or negates male accountability. The same way that African participation in the slave trade did not excuse European slave traders, female sex traffickers wouldn't bother abducting and harming children if none of the men wanted to have sex with children. 

We'll be highlighting a few more of Cristoff's videos about sex trafficking and slavery in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep reading because we have some very insightful and informative guest posts coming up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Power of Baggy Tee-shirts

Most people who get to know me consider me somewhat of a prude. People outside my faith can't get over my refusal to wear tank tops or anything low cut, and people within my faith are flummoxed when I mention the time Carl the Open-minded Chauvinist told me I was dressing indecently. I'm still flummoxed by that one. And I've never considered the way I dress in terms of how it relates to power balances; it's just always been the way I dress.

Case in point, here is picture from my high school prom. Now can anyone tell me which of these dresses is not like the others? (And the nonexistent prize goes to anyone who can identify Erica in the photo!). (Not really - we don't want to acquire internet stalkers).

But let me tell you why I'm prudish. It's not so much about me or about respecting my body as it is about warding off leering stares from creepy men. The kind of  looks I get from grungy old men who hang out at grocery stores smoking and who stare at me a little too long. And it's about warding off catcalls. But I've usually found that it doesn't matter what I wear. If a carload of freshman boys is driving by, they'll still holler out the window, and if I'm wearing knee-length shorts some random guy will still shout, "Fi-ine!" as he bicycles by. No, that last one is not hypothetical.

And then, last week, I had an epiphany. I had been cleaning my apartment in a big, baggy t-shirt. The kind of t-shirt you get for free but which is several sizes too large because the men who ordered the t-shirts forgot that a Medium "Adult" size is really a Medium men's size, and that it therefore won't fit a woman who wears size small.

So, I was wearing this baggy, unflattering t-shirt. It was so long it could have been a dress, and it prevented anyone from glimpsing the shape of my torso or derrière. But for once I didn't change before going to the store. And you know that? I got no catcalls. I had no men leering at me. And I was shocked to realize that I hadn't even noticed how vulnerable I feel in my usual (modest) clothing. But this t-shirt was like a shield, and suddenly I understood how uncomfortable I had been, all this time. And despite the popular notion that women gain the most power when they embrace their own sexual objectification - I felt incredibly powerful.

At the same time, I wonder how much of my discomfort is justified. Do creepy men really leer at me, or do I simply interpret their behavior that way when I know I'm wearing clothing that shows I have a figure. Either way, I'm disturbed to realize that my femininity leaves me feeling uncomfortable. And I'm extra disturbed to realize that the very reason my femininity makes me so uncomfortable is because I live in a culture that so often considers femininity and sexuality to be one and the same.

And now I find myself wondering how appropriate the baggy t-shirt response is. While it might initially make me feel more comfortable, it turns all my clothing decisions into defensive moves. Plus, as a woman it's difficult to dress professionally while wearing unusually loose clothing. Even pant suits are designed to accentuate small waists and show off a few curves.

Monday, July 12, 2010

An Attitude of Safety (from Rachel)

The inspiration for this story came while I was standing at the gun counter at Cabella’s. However, this post isn’t about guns. Not at all. This post is about taking control and developing an attitude of empowerment towards our personal safety. So back to the Cabella’s counter; while I was standing there my attention wasn’t focused on anything. That is until a beautiful, soft-spoken woman came to stand behind me. Believe me, she stuck out. Blue peasant blouse, long white skirt with white sandals, the kind of woman who likes to scrapbook and play with her cat.

At she stepped up to speak with one of the gun specialists behind the counter I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Shyly, she inquired as to whether Cabella’s offered gun classes and what sort of gun a first-timer should buy. Obviously, the man behind the counter was a little confused by her question, what exactly did she need a gun for? At which point she explained that recently someone had broken into her house and assaulted her. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time she had been attacked, she matter of factly stated that she had been hurt before. She further told the man that she would like to own a handgun, know how to use it and obtain a concealed weapons permit so that people couldn’t hurt her anymore.

I was shocked and impressed by her actions. Here was a woman who had been hurt and who was asserting herself to say, “no, I won’t let you hurt me anymore.” She was stepping outside of her normal boundaries and taking control of what happened to her in the future. This is what my argument centers on, that sort of scared, timid feeling we sometimes have as women, and how we deal with it. I know that feeling, I’ve had it a dozen times. Times when I was scared because I felt like someone was following me as I walked home late at night, only to brush those thoughts away as paranoia, not wanting to seem rude if I crossed the street and walked on the other side, refusing to acknowledge potential danger and deal with it.

That is not to say that I believe the survivors of an attack to be at fault because they didn’t have a gun with them. On the contrary, if a woman (or anyone for that matter) is attacked they should never be made to feel like it was their fault. It is never their fault. However, I do think that we need to foster an attitude of control and self-assurance, taking control of our own safety. For example, how many of us go out and purchase a gun, asserting that we will learn how to properly use and care for it, attempting to become truly comfortable with a firearm? I know it makes me a little nervous to think of becoming that proficient with a gun, it is still a dangerous weapon and I don’t want to hurt anyone, despite my fear of someone breaking into my house at night. Or what about self-defense classes? Most colleges, universities, community centers and dojos offer basic self-defense classes for women, yet I know I’ve never taken one, probably because I think I would feel silly standing there, playing with the rape whistle they gave me and learning how to elbow an attacker in the ribs. How incredible of this woman to work outside of what she knew, to not worry about feeling silly or paranoid and do what she felt she needed to do to feel safe.

It’s like that movie, Miss Congeniality, the one with Sandra Bullock. There is that really great scene when Bullock’s character is talking to the innocent and bubbly blond woman Cheryl, who tells Bullock that she was once attacked. When Bullock wants to know why she never reported the man Cheryl merely shrugs her shoulders and states that it was no big deal, she knows that things like that happen all the time. Here is the part I love, Bullock makes her get off her chair right there in the bar and proceeds to give her a few lessons in self-defense, asserting that no woman should be without a means to defend herself.

However this portrayal of women is not always the norm. More often than not, women are painted as the victim in the media. There is an interesting book I once read entitled Spin Sisters, in it the author, Myrna Blyth, decried the constant influx of Lifetime and WE channel movies in which a woman is abused again and again by her drunk and brutish husband. While I understand that the awareness and knowledge of the victimization of women is a good thing I do believe it can be taken too far. In regards to these films Blythe made a valid point, when all that the media shows is women as the victim how can women become anything else (Blyth 61-65)? But I think that we as women are so much more than just a victim. Granted I am not denying that women are ever abused by their husbands, but I think that only showing women in a position of timidity and helplessness sends a negative message. One of, you can’t defend yourself; there is no way to escape from abuse, when in reality that assumption is false. There is a way to defend yourself and we shouldn’t feel paranoid or ashamed if we choose to arm ourselves (literally or figuratively) with the things we need to protect ourselves.

Granted not everyone should go out and purchase a pistol to cure this problem, perhaps even taking self-defense classes isn’t something you would like to introduce into your life. Maybe keeping yourself safe is as simple as learning how to change a tire so you’re not stranded by the side of the road in the middle of the night. Either way asserting ourselves as having the right to feel safe and protected when we go for a run in the early morning or even when we’re just sitting at home, is important. In essence, what we are saying is, “Here I am world, I am woman. Do not underestimate me.”

I believe in empowering people, in letting them live as a complete version of their self. Creating a space in which we feel safe is necessary to that goal, granted terrible things can still happen to people and it isn’t their fault for not being strong enough or fast enough to get out of the way, but I firmly believe that building up an inner strength and fortitude of mind that says “I can achieve the things I need and live a life that is comfortable” is one of our most basic rights, not just as women, but as human beings, a habit that we should actively develop.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Victims and Survivors (from Erica)

A few days ago, Emily raised some of the potential topics of discussion for the theme of "After the Attack." One of them, in particular, struck a chord with me- the distinction between "victim" and "survivor" and what that distinction means to individuals, social conceptions of life after violence, and to women as a whole.

This is a widely discussed theme in feminist academia, with everyone from bell hooks to Andrea Dworkin to Camille Paglia to Suzie Bright chiming in about what constitutes an attack (Paglia, for example, essentially argues that there's no such thing as rape- in the linked article, check around footnote 40) and what that means for those who were attacked. As part of the movement to stop domestic abuse, this is a topic we deal with on a daily basis. Since I know that one of our new writers is preparing an article about a similar topic, I'll discuss my own experiences with these terms as a starting point.

When I was working at a domestic abuse shelter in New Hampshire, we taught our new volunteers and advocates that "victim" and "survivor" were terms that existed as part of a continuum (see this website for an admittedly pop psychology example). People generally came to us feeling that they were victims, and as they healed from their experiences, they gradually transitioned into survivors. Of course, it was a flexible continuum- one day you might feel like a survivor, and the next more like a victim. The important aspect of the continuum wasn't the labeling itself. It was the conceptualization of healing as a process unique to the person experiencing it that mattered. The "victim" state meant feeling things like disempowered, worthless, beaten down, helpless, or simply done. The "survivor" state referred to a person's sense of strength, ability to cope, self-advocacy, and even simply normalcy.

In my current job- Installation Victim Advocate for the U.S. Army in southwestern Germany- these words have caused me more trouble than I would have expected. The job title itself sets up certain expectations about who needs or seeks my services. At the very least, it suggests that anyone who comes to see me should be comfortable with having the label attached to them. At the same time, simply changing the job title to Survivor Advocate, while in theory encouraging my clients to see themselves as overcoming the odds, falls into the same trap of excluding the clients who don't feel like survivors or who are having particular difficulty in getting the services they want.

Context, to me, is also very important. Clients dealing with sexual assault and domestic abuse always run up against unsympathetic systems- doctors who are inconsiderate about performing tests for STIs, judges who see self-defense as evidence of mutual combattancy- and one's ability to navigate these systems effectively can have a huge impact on how one is feeling that particular day. In the military context, as I'm learning, part of the reason for the label "victim" in my job title is that the unsympathetic systems are far more disempowering than civilian systems tend to be- leaving my clients feeling enraged and helpless as decisions are made for them. A client wanting to come back to the United States (called Early Return of Dependent, or ERD), for example, has to have the permission of the unit commander to do so, and the abuser is the one responsible for filing all the paperwork- which, naturally, s/he drags out as much as possible. Many of the decision-making moments that, in the civilian world, could provide people opportunities to perceive themselves as in control of their situations are unavailable in the military context. A client can request an ERD, or request to stay, but the final decision is made by someone who is under no obligation to listen to the client's wishes. Do my clients really have the opportunity to become survivors under these circumstances?

One final thought to wrap this up: I've spent most of this post talking about the continuum of victim- and survivorhood as though survivorhood is the ultimate goal. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that I believe very strongly in individual empowerment. But that's a worthwhile question to consider. Should survivorhood be the hope for everyone after an attack? Or is encouraging a journey to survivorhood a way of reducing a person's autonomy, by expecting that their story conclude in a certain way?

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's in a Name: Or, Should NAW be renamed?

As linguistic snobs and literary geeks, Erica and Emily believe in the power of the word. Why else would they constantly talk about language and rhetoric and critique the way that public figures and other writers express themselves?

And because Erica and Emily believe in the power of the word, we at Not Another Wave have entered into a debate about the very name of this blog. If you want me to put this debate in context, read on (oh, how I hope you'll read on). If you want to skip straight to the vote, just scroll to the bottom of this post.

Context:

What do waves have to do with our own brand of feminism? Well, as Erica discussed in the very first NAW post ever, scholars tend to talk about the history of feminism in waves. More specifically, they refer to two main waves: First Wave and Second Wave. American First Wave Feminism was characterized by suffragist movements. Organized feminism was still pretty conservative in those days, and the demands were just a start: they wanted the vote, and they couldn't afford to ask for much more. Plus, the majority of the suffragists were white women from upper class and upper middle class families. They did great work, but they weren't always in tune with the needs of women from other ethnicities and socioeceonomic backgrounds. In their desperate efforts to get the vote out to at least part of the female population, they were sometimes downright racist and hateful.

Now, I (Emily) am not good with historical dates, so please don't judge NAW if I get any historical details wrong, but as I understand it, that first wave got going during the Emancipation movement and continued up until WWI, after which women finally got the vote in the US. Even later than our English sisters, I must point out.

The brand of feminism most people are familiar with, though, is referred to as Second Wave Feminism. Second Wave Feminism had its hay day in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This movement was characterized by disillusionment, as women whose mothers and grandmothers had fought so hard for the vote suddenly realized that there was still no gender equality in the US. These women decided it wasn't ok for there to be more shelters in the US for animals than for women and children who had survived abused. They decided it wasn't ok for men to be paid more, on the dollar, for doing the same exact jobs as their female counter parts. They decided benevolent sexism was not justified in telling women not to "worry their pretty little heads," or in imprisoning women in the false dichotomy of whores and angels. And you know what else? They decided they were sick of being told that women were not supposed to enjoy sex, and that while women were supposed to be pure and innocent on their wedding nights and never have sex with anyone outside of wedlock, boys would be boys and men had needs, and men had every right to cheat as long as the cheating was discrete.

So these second wave feminists shook things up. They questioned the culture that had perpetuated myth after myth about women being inferior to men. They demanded true equality in marriage and refused to "obey" their husbands. They demanded that we revoke sexual double standards, and they set about teaching women that they had the right to determine how their bodies were used. They did not all support abortion rights, but many did. They were sick of seeing people shun women who gave birth outside of marriage, while the father got off scott free because, "hey, boys will be boys, and the girl should've told him no."

Like their first wave ancestors, second wave feminists did phenomenal work. Just consider how much more egalitarian marriage is today, compared to what it was in the fifties. How much easier it is for men to talk about their feelings or change diapers without receiving social censure, and how much more acceptable it is for a woman to develop a career of her own rather than dropping out of college the instant she meets a nice boy and gets married.

Unfortunately, the legacy of Second Wave feminism isn't all rainbows and lollipops. While Second Wavers did a whole lot of good, they made a lot of enemies in the process (such as the news media, a very unfortunate enemy to make), and they left just as many women feeling marginalized as the First Wavers did. In general these women weren't deliberately racist or classist. But they forgot that the issues faced by African American women in the Bronx were a heck of a lot different from those faced by women in the wealthy, educated elite. Thus movements like Womanism sprang up, to address the enormous gaps in the gender equality movement left by out-of-touch white feminists.

Then, something very unfortunate happened in the Feminist movement - somewhere between Second Wave feminism and whatever is coming next, people got this weird idea that sexism no longer existed in the US. That sexual harassment was a myth created by women who wanted to get good men fired for no good reason, and that women only got raped by evil men. I wonder sometimes if this backlash is a testament to the Second Wave's success. The Second Wavers worked really hard at convincing people that sexism was a human rights violation, and now people take the concept of sexism so seriously that they can't see it in anyone who is less than evil. Especially if those someones are themselves. Whatever the case, today there are many people who believe we have already attained equality and that there is nothing more worth fighting for through feminism.

So what happened to the feminist movement? Well, it got scattered. We ended up with feminists like Erica and Emily who are still religious and who specialize in preventing domestic abuse. We ended up with many women of color joining the Womanism movement. We ended up with feminists who focus on fighting for abortion rights, and feminists who argue that abortion is demeaning to women. And then we ended up with blogs like feministing.org, which is very exclusive about who is allowed into the feminist camp. (Hint: Mormons and Catholics are not welcome). Overall, we ended up with lots of different feminist camps, but with no "mainstream feminists" (no matter what those who oppose "mainstream feminism" would like us to believe about those mean mainstreamers whom they can never actually name).

Enter Erica and Emily. Desperate to form a community where people from all walks of life could discuss their views on gender, biological sex, and feminism, we started Not Another Wave. We called it Not Another Wave because we wanted so much more than another wave that would fizzle, alienate minorities, and then die. We wanted something that would last, and we wanted a community where conservatives like Carl The Open Minded Chauvinist could talk openly with Wiccans, transgender folk, and homosexual and bisexual individuals. Where a Catholic bisexual who has two degrees in Women's Studies and is engaged to a man would not be told she was selling out to heterosexuality. Where a Mormon feminist wouldn't be told she had betrayed all women by staying true to the faith she believes in.

But as much as we love the name "Not Another Wave," we're beginning to wonder if that name translates to our readers. The length of this one post alone reveals how much context it takes for a reader to appreciate the title. And while we love all the readers we've acquired thus far, we want even more readers. We want even more people to stick around and join the conversation. Because two feminists who grew up on the same street, in the same small town and who have similar internal mixes of feminism and religion, do not a diverse conversation make.

So we're putting the question of our name to you, our loyal readers. Do you think we should keep our name as it is, or do you think we should change it to something new? Something catchier and easier to access? The alternate names we've brainstormed so far include short and sweet names like "genderisms," and longer ones like "There's a Feminist in my Blog." So here's a short list for you to vote on. This won't be a deciding vote, per se, but we will factor your voices into whatever we decide:

Not Another Wave (that is, keeping the current name)

Genderisms

All The Feminists

There's a Feminist in my Blog

The Feminist Next Door


And let's leave the list at that for now. If you have other suggestions we'd love to hear those too. We can hold a new poll later on if we need to.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Theme of the Month: After The Attack

That's right. Here at Not Another Wave, we are back to doing a theme of the month. Inspired by the recent controversy over Mel Gibson's alleged abused and by the horrific assault that took place in Provo, Utah recently, Not Another Wave is welcoming posts that discuss the after effects of abuse and attacks.

We're specifically interested in discussing how to respond after violence has taken place and in debating the pro's and con's of the concepts of "Victimhood" versus "Survivorhood." We're also interested in discussing responsibility. How do we hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions, while also facing the responsibility of forgiving violence enough to move forward with our own lives?

We'll start off with a post from a brand new contributor, who will discuss the value of moving away from a feeling of helplessness by taking actions to protect oneself. Her post will be up in the next few days, and then we'll have posts from at least another few authors.

In the meantime, please, please, please, please contact Erica or Emily (via comment on this post, or via private email) if you have any questions or if you'd like to contribute a post.

Why Mel's Abusive Behavior is Particularly Chilling (from Emily)

Womanist Musings has joined the discussion about Mel with a post that is as perceptive as it is chilling. Despite the many individuals who currently intend to boycott all future Mel Gibson movies, history suggests it won't be long before Mel is once again forgiven. I'll let you read the Womanist Musings post for the full details, but let's just say there are a whole lot of openly misogynistic and racist stars out there, Sean Connery among them.

In fact, reading over this post left me feeling overwhelmed. Because while I want to boycott any star who abuses his partners, it would take a lot of work to keep track of them all. Maybe I should start carrying a list that details all the people whose movies I don't intend to see. Whenever a friend suggests turning on a movie, I'll pull out my list.

"Is Mel Gibson in it?" I'll ask.
"No."
"Sean Connery?"
"No."
"Charlie Sheen?"
"No."
"'Baby Wipes' Terrance Howard?"
"How should I know?"

And so it will go, on and on.

After all, someone needs to hold these scumbags responsible for their behavior.

Mel The - It Gets WORSE??? (from Emily)

Yup, if these tapes are legit, it really does get worse.

Caught on Tape! Mel Gibson Admits to Hitting Ex-Girlfriend

I don't even feel like talking about this one, so I'll let the article speak for itself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Provo River Trail Attacker In Custody?

Remember how angry Emily was over the excrement-disguised-as-a-human who beat and raped a young woman in Provo Utah?

Well, it sounds like the police have indeed caught him. Initially they weren't releasing any details about what evidence made them so certain it was him, but this article details some additional evidence. In addition to fitting the (somewhat vague) description the survivor of this attack was initially able to give, Shawn Leonard left an ankle bracelet at the scene of the crime. Also, it sounds like the survivor saw him a little longer than it initially sounded like she had and will be able to testify against him in court.

I'm guessing they've also verified DNA evidence against him.

So now I have two questions:

1. What poor sap will get stuck as his defense attorney?
2. How is the sentence for attempted murder different than the sentence for murder? And why? Does someone really deserve to be rewarded for not really killing someone they thought they'd killed?