#YesAllWomen – Women’s bodies as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power.

I ran a slightly different version of this post in March; in light of the weekend’s events, and the subsequent #YesAllWomen responses, I’ve decided to re-up it.

*******

I wrote the above headline as a tweet recently, just after reading about the recent stabbing death of a teenage Palestinian girl by her brother, “for allegedly shaming her family.”

Ever since writing those 72 characters, though, I can’t stop thinking about them. Because that’s it, that’s the whole story: Women’s bodies are used as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. All the time. Witness Friday’s shootings near UC Santa Barbara.

Honor killings are a particularly obvious example (the kind of example that allows Westerners to feel that we’re off the hook on these issues) because a family’s honor is defined by how chaste the men are able to keep their women. If the women stray (or are perceived to have strayed) from a very narrow definition of proper behavior, in certain cultures and circumstances the men are not only free to kill the women, they’re expected to.

But as we were reminded this weekend, women’s bodies are not just the delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power in Foreign Places that are Far Away. They’re used for making such statements all around the globe, every day, all day.

Rape. Sexual assault. Workplace harassment. Street harassment. Domestic violence. Outright murder. In each case, the attacker or harasser is making clear that his victim (and whoever else might be listening) knows who’s got power over whom. The victim’s body is a tool toward these ends.

Likewise the fight to legally prevent women from having access to the reproductive health care of our choice. When male politicians and cultural leaders declare that pregnant women are “hosts”, or that women who want access to birth control as part of their healthcare are uncontrolled sluts and/or prostitutes, or ask if women want access to abortions, why can’t men have access to rape? – they’re declaring their right to deny women physical autonomy.

When women don’t earn as much as men for the same work, and are only sporadically allowed access to the same work; when women cannot afford to better the physical conditions of their lives without the aid of a better-paid husband; when it continues to be culturally suspect if a man is supported by a woman, and culturally rewarded if a man earns enough money to “allow” his wife to not work — women’s physical productivity is a tool with which men assert or declare their power in the workplace, in society, and at home.

Polygamy; male “scoring” vs. female “sluttiness”; women as cooks but not as chefs; women as accessories but not as leads; women told to be pleasant to men who are rude; women told they’re not Real Geeks; pre-teens who can’t walk to school without hearing grown men talk about their bodies; girls and women told to shape and re-shape their bodies by an entertainment business dominated by men — all are direct examples or outgrowths of the same principle, a principle that frequently overlaps with others: Brown men may not be seen as having as much power as white men, nor poor men as much power as the rich, the cultural elite need to be protected from the unwashed, all of it in an endless cycle of social drama and jockeying for position. As is often true for oppressed populations, some women support this status quo, serving to perpetuate the very system that hurts them and their sisters — but their involvement doesn’t change the basic fact.

And that basic fact is this: At the end of the day, I cannot be sure that my body is mine. My daughter cannot be sure that her body is hers. Our bodies are free game to whatever man needs to tell the world that he is powerful. Our human right to physical autonomy is not a given.

Women’s bodies are delivery mechanisms for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. Every day. And as a recent study shows – it really is all women.

All damn day long.

Women’s bodies as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power.

I wrote the above headline as a tweet last week, just after reading about the recent stabbing death of a teenage Palestinian girl by her brother, “for allegedly shaming her family.”

Ever since writing those 72 characters, though, I can’t stop thinking about them. Because that’s it, that’s the whole story: Women’s bodies are used as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. All the time.

Honor killings are perhaps the most obvious case (the kind of case that allows Westerners to feel that we’re off the hook on these issues) because a family’s honor is defined by how chaste the men are able to keep their women. If the women stray (or are perceived to have strayed) from a very narrow definition of proper behavior, in certain cultures and circumstances the men are not only free to kill the women, they’re expected to.

But women’s bodies are not just the delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power in Foreign Places that are Far Away. They’re used for making such statements all around the globe, every day, all day.

Rape. Sexual assault. Workplace harassment. Street harassment. Domestic violence. In each case, the attacker or harasser is making clear that his victim (and whoever else might be listening) knows who’s got power over whom. The victim’s body is a tool toward these ends.

Likewise the fight to legally prevent women from having access to the reproductive health care of our choice. When male politicians and cultural leaders declare that pregnant women are “hosts”, or that women who want access to birth control as part of their healthcare are uncontrolled sluts and/or prostitutes, or ask if women want access to abortions, why can’t men have access to rape? — they’re declaring their right to deny women physical autonomy.

When women don’t earn as much as men for the same work, and are only sporadically allowed access to the same work; when women cannot afford to better the physical conditions of their lives without the aid of a better-paid husband; when it continues to be culturally suspect if a man is supported by a woman, and culturally rewarded if a man earns enough money to “allow” his wife to not work — women’s physical productivity is a tool with which men assert or declare their power in the workplace, in society, and at home.

Polygamy; male “scoring” vs. female “sluttiness”; women as cooks but not as chefs; women as accessories but not as leads; women told to be pleasant to men who are rude; women told they’re not Real Geeks; pre-teens who can’t walk to school without hearing grown men talk about their bodies; girls and women told to shape and re-shape their bodies by an entertainment business dominated by men — all are direct examples or outgrowths of the same principle, a principle that frequently overlaps with others: Brown men may not be seen as having as much power as white men, nor poor men as much power as the rich, the cultural elite need to be protected from the unwashed, all of it in an endless cycle of social drama and jockeying for position. As is often true for oppressed populations, some women support this status quo, serving to perpetuate the very system that hurts them and their sisters — but their involvement doesn’t change the basic fact.

And that basic fact is this: At the end of the day, I cannot be sure that my body is mine. My daughter cannot be sure that her body is hers. Our bodies are free game to whatever man needs to tell the world that he is powerful. Our human right to physical autonomy is not a given.

Women’s bodies are delivery mechanisms for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. Every day.

All damn day long.

Opening up about sexual assault in Israel.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel

assault is not a single-county, single-culture, single-anything issue, and just as the U.S. is struggling with revelations like that out of Steubenville and the number of sexual assaults in the military, so is Israel.

In Israel’s case, many revelations revolve around the famous and powerful: Former President Moshe Katsav is currently serving a seven-year prison term for raping, sexually abusing and harassing three women; ex-Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted of sexual harassment; influential media figure Emmanuel Rosen was recently accused by 10 female colleagues of obsessive harassment and date rape; Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nissim Yeshaya said in court two weeks ago—while discussing the case of a young woman who was gang-raped at 13—that “some girls enjoy being raped.” Meanwhile, indictments for sex crimes in Israel’s military doubled in 2012. Haaretz reports:

In recent months, indictments on charges of sexual abuse have been filed against soldiers, officers and civilians employed on IDF bases. A civilian physician working for the IDF was indicted on charges of rape and sexual assault, an airman in the IAF was convicted of rape and sodomy, and a company sergeant first class in the 931st Battalion of the IDF’s Nahal Brigade was convicted of the sexual assault of female soldiers who served under his command.

Much like in the U.S., one result of the headline-grabbing news has been a sudden outpouring of personal stories. Early last month +972’s Dahlia Scheindlin, better known for her public opinion analysis, wrote a deeply angry and ultimately deeply personal column about the utterly mundane and often paralyzing reality of sexual harassment in women’s lives. After discussing just how well-known Rosen is for his skirt-chasing ways, she wrote:

In fact, I don’t know where to start writing at all. Should I begin by giving a pithy description of the fascinating social media dynamics, the frenzied debates between the genders running on Facebook forums? Should I describe the defensiveness and anger of many men?

…Should it be the tales of trauma now being shared by an appalling number and range of women, an ever-spreading stain whose blackness and girth are still deepening and spreading?

…Or should I tell my own story?… No, I never complained to the workplace and I am ashamed I wasn’t able to prevent or redress those situations, instead of what I did: stew in my humiliation and the wreckage of my self-worth, built from the ground with my own sweat and blood. Confuse my rage at him with rage at myself, for not telling him to f*ck off, or even before that: for not projecting a personality so unfathomably wonderful that he could never countenance such disrespect in the first place.

Early this month, well-known literary critic and social commentator Ariana Melamed responded to Yeshaya’s comments in a column about her own rape at the hands of a family member at age 14. In searing detail, she told of being hugged, then forced to the muddy ground, then raped, then hearing the sound of her rapist’s satisfaction. “Slowly, slowly—God alone knows how—you gather your strength and go home, bleeding, on failing legs.”

Then this past Friday, journalist Sharon Shpurer (who has been among those covering the Rosen case) wrote in Haaretz:

It was when I was 11 and a half…. One of the teachers thrust his hands under my school shirt. He touched, he fondled, he stuck his tongue in and he kissed. A few minutes of resistance and it was over. Then it happened several more times. How many exactly? I don’t remember. The 24 years that have elapsed have already blurred the small details, the memories and the feelings.

…I didn’t do anything with this. I didn’t complain to the police and I didn’t tell anyone. Life went on and I kept it inside me. I was ashamed. Why was I ashamed? I don’t know. Maybe precisely because I didn’t complain and I didn’t talk. Maybe.

Shpurer writes about how hearing the stories from Rosen’s accusers, then other stories, and finally reading Melamed’s column, “gave me strength.”

Daylight is the best disinfectant and its role is not only to disinfect the soul but also to ensure that the topic does not fall off the agenda, and that young girls and boys will know they must not be ashamed and they must not keep silent.

…We need not necessarily involve the police or the courts, which will rummage in our psyches, our sexual habits and our degree of permissiveness…. What we do need now is just to spit it out, each of us her own story. To show, quite simply, that this is a nationwide plague.

During the time that I lived in Israel I spent several years as a counselor with theTel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, and so have found myself sadly unsurprised by all of this news. Israel is a country like any country, and as in any country, 50 percent of Israelis live with the knowledge that their bodily autonomy may be violated at any given moment. One in every three Israeli women is a survivor of sexual assault.

What is surprising to me, and heartening, is that so many Israelis are talking about it. Daylight is the best disinfectant, and the sooner that Israelis and all people come to understand that sexual assault is a human rights issue of monumental proportions, the sooner all of our societies can heal from the pain we have long expected all women to simply shoulder.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Breaking: Facebook promises action on gender-based hate speech.

facebook-like-iconHuh! Seven days after the launch of the #FBrape campaign, Facebook has responded in just about the best possible way. From the company’s statement:

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. 

…In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate…. We need to do better – and we will.

The statement then lists a series of concrete steps, “that we will begin rolling out immediately” — these include:

  • a review of Facebook community standards and an update to its hate speech guidelines
  • updated training for teams responsible for reviewing “hateful speech or harmful content”
  • increased accountability and transparency for creators of questionable content
  • establishing “more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s groups,” and other outside resources, such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group, legal experts, “and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.”
  • undertaking “research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on our collective objectives.”

This is all very, very good news indeed, and as someone who’s advocated around a lot of painful issues in the course of her life, I almost don’t know what to do with it. You mean – people can see reason? Within a reasonable amount of time? Really?

And it’s all thanks to the folks at the Everyday Sexism ProjectWomen Action and Media, and activist Soraya Chemaly – from their statement about the day’s events:

Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy.

…“It is because Facebook has committed to having policies to address these issues that we felt it was necessary to take these actions and press for that commitment to fully recognize how the real world safety gap experienced by women globally is dynamically related to our online lives,” explains Soraya Chemaly.

“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.” says Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

We are hopeful that this moment will mark an historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights in which Facebook is acknowledged as a leader in fostering safer, genuinely inclusive online communities, setting industry precedents for others to follow.We look forward to collaborating with these communities on actions both big and small until we live in a world that’s safe and just for women and girls, and for everyone.

Now, of course, Facebook still has to deliver on all these fine promises – but you know what? Rape culture and domestic violence apologists are EVERYwhere. What we don’t have everywhere are efforts to combat those things. Facebook is to be commended for this swift and solid response, and its willingness to be in dialogue with the very people who called it on the carpet. This is a very powerful, very hopeful thing.

And I have to say: I’ve been active around the issue of sexual assault since the mid-80s, and I have seen huge cultural shifts in just the past few years. Today’s outcome would have been completely inconceivable even just five years ago, I think. It’s utterly remarkable to me – in fact, I think I’m in a little bit of shock.

But it’s the good kind of shock! So thanks Facebook! And thank you very much to all the folks who read this blog and spread the word. We are a part of something that made real change for good. Give yourself a high-five for me, ok? : ) THANK YOU!

Why isn’t it hate speech if it’s about women?

Facebook-Unlike

PLEASE SEE VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE, HERE.

I am famously Not On Facebook (well, “famously” among you folks, anyway), but not being on Facebook doesn’t mean that I’m entirely unaware of the phenomenon. And it strikes me that, much like Twitter, there are probably nearly as many “Facebooks” as there are users, all the various different little cultures that have been created and propagated on that platform, most users largely unaware of most of the other cultures that exist right along beside them (kind of like, you know: in the Real World).

Which is why I’ll bet most Facebook users have no idea how much vile, violent anti-woman hate speech is posted there daily, under the guise of free speech and/or “humor.”

This week, Soraya Chemaly, Jaclyn Friedman and Laura Bates posted an open letter to Facebook on HuffPo that reads in part:

We are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site.

Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant.”

These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies. In addition, women’s political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains. It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.

For me, reading about it wasn’t enough to really jolt me — what jolted me was seeing pictures.

I won’t post any here, because they’re truly disturbing, but if you’d like to see what Chemaly, Friedman and Bates are talking about, you can click here, herehere, or here.

The first example is the one that shocked me into taking action, and after having a dispassionate exchange about Facebook ad policies with me, it was the second one that inspired my Twitter friend and J Street’s new-media associate, Ben Silverstein, to make this happen:

What these posts are, pure and simple, is hate speech. We don’t often call open misogyny hate speech, but that’s what it is. If it’s your idea of a joke to meme-ify a picture of a woman cringing in fear with the words “Women deserve equal rights… and lefts” (as can be seen here), then you are (to quote Facebook itself) “attacking a person based on… gender.” Indeed, you’re attacking half of humanity. That is hate speech.

If you want to help put a stop to this kind of willed blindness about the dehumanization of women, you can click here to learn more and do some pretty simple things: Send a tweet. Post to an FB page. Maybe write an email. That’s it. Five minutes, ten minutes. One minute.

But if Facebook and their advertisers are flooded with protest, if enough people with money to spend on ads are horrified enough, if FB is hassled enough – things can change. And that means we have to flood them with protest. We are the only ones who can.

One image – not horrifying, except for the idea behind it, and it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Please take action — this kind of thing is part and parcel of the culture in which one in every five women is raped in her lifetime, and one in every four is the victim of violence from an intimate partner.

When we laugh, or just ignore it — we say it’s ok. But it’s not ok. And we need to call it out.

violence against women

The power of silence vs. the power of talking.

If reading about rape will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

**************

shhThe fact that the world is talking about the horrible events in Steubenville is, to put it mildly, an unusual thing. Usually, sexual assault is wrapped in silence.

The silence of social niceties, the silence of discomfort, the silence of fear. Many survivors don’t talk because they’re ashamed, or because they were told they’d be killed if they do. Many don’t want the assault to take up any more of their time than it already has, and many are sure no one wants to listen. Many can’t yet find the words to tell the world what happened.

But it’s been my experience, as a rape crisis counselor and friend of survivors, male and female, that breaking that silence is one of the most powerful tools there is for dealing with the events survivors grapple with — whether it be the assault, or the assault’s aftermath.

Moreover, telling the truth — giving voice to the lived reality of millions upon millions of women and girls, men and boys — is one of the most powerful weapons there is for dealing with those who would deny the realities of rape.

To that end, I present today a guest post, a monologue written by a woman I know named Danielle.

Writing this piece was one of the ways that Danielle has found to grapple with what happened to her. She hasn’t yet performed the piece nor seen it performed, but she hasn’t ruled out the possibility. When I asked her if I could put it on my site, here’s what she said:

I went back and forth on whether to put it out there, because some part of me fears judgment for what happened. However, that is exactly the reason to do it. Women don’t speak up, aren’t honest, because of the fear of judgment. And, maybe it is time to add to the voices that say, “Not anymore.” What happened to me affected me in a major way, but I am not defined by it, nor do I continue to carry it with me like baggage. It happened. It changed me. But, it didn’t ruin me. And, if sharing it can help someone else, then yes, let’s do it.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do so in the comments or send me an email (contact information in the About page, to the right). I promise you, this space will be safe. There will be no trolling here.

Note: I first ran this post in the wake of Lara Logan’s rape in Tahrir Square. It seemed entirely appropriate to run it again this week.

*************************************************

This is written as a monologue to be delivered to an audience, part acting, part performance art (I wrote it in the style of a Chicago performance troupe the NeoFuturists). Everything in italics is stage direction.
———————-

(she walks slowly from upstage, in clothing slightly too big for her to give the effect of it almost falling off. a clear glass filled with bright pink liquid is in her hand. she is slightly unsteady, but not “drunk”…she may or may not sit down at the lip of the stage)

You made my second drink. (beat) I had a small buzz from the first…but yours tasted like rubbing alcohol. A quarter of the way through, my words began to slur. Halfway done, I couldn’t stand. (pause) “Drink up!” (stares into the glass, at the last bit of the drink…slams it back, then considers the empty glass for a moment–beat) Then I lost my sight.

You didn’t notice me trying to fade into the couch, to pass out with what dignity I could muster. When you pulled me toward you, I saw it in the distance, like when you see a tv on in someone’s home as you drive by. (beat) I pulled away. Did you notice? (pause) Your weight came down upon me as if it had always been there and I wondered if you realized that reciprocity had triumphed over reason. Your hands moving mine to you, my body a vessel for your desires, for I had none of my own. Blind, deaf, and dumb, just as a puppet should be. I followed you outside, stumbling, wondering what I could sacrifice in the name of Not Making A Scene. My clothing peeling off like shedding skin as I tried to keep it close, as if it could still protect me. But shed skin is dead skin and unchecked lust knows few bounds. Your weight pushing against me, supported by elbows abraded by fabric. I had the scars for a week. Did you hear my answer in the silence that followed your questions? Did you see me trying not to cry as you kissed my back, feigning tenderness? When you fell out, did you hear me whisper a quiet thank you, only to breathe it back in when you found your way again? Did you see the face in the window, interrupting us? No, that was only in my mind. I didn’t look you in the eye, but if I had, would you have noticed? My powers came back to me as it ended; however, too little, too late. Task completed, you bounded off with lip service, but not a second look. As you searched for scraps of food in the kitchen, I searched for scraps of myself.

You didn’t notice, did you?

Neither did I.

I don’t want to write about Steubenville.

If reading a discussion of rape culture will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

rape stop rape

***********

I don’t want to write about Steubenville.

I don’t want to write about Steubenville because unless you’re in the relatively small group of people who are directly affected by that particular case, Steubenville is not the problem.

It, and everything surrounding it — that is: not just the rapes, abuse, and humiliation the survivor underwent, but also the unwarranted support her rapists, abusers and their accomplices have received and continued to receive, the efforts to paint her as guilty of her own rape, the efforts to paint her abusers and their accomplices as not-that-bad-really, the entire ugly thing — all of it is a symptom. Not the problem, but a symptom.

Men and boys have always and forever gotten away with raping women and girls, and, it should be noted, men and boys as well. Whoever you rape, as long as your victim doesn’t enjoy significantly more social power than you do, you’re pretty much going to get away with it. We should not be in the least surprised that members of Steubenville’s football team thought they would get away with it, too.

In a society that continues to say that women who get drunk, wear attractive clothes, flirt with men, don’t flirt with men, leave their drink unattended, go out at night, stay home where that uncle can find them, etc and so on (and on and on) are are asking for it — in such a society, neither should we be surprised that these boys didn’t see anything wrong in assaulting a drunk girl.

In a culture that urges men to score, that everywhere suggests methods by which women can be influenced to give in to sexual pressure, that treats alcohol as a means to get into a woman’s pants, that laughs at rape, a culture in which rapists can and generally do think that rape is, in fact, a normal behavior — in such a culture, we shouldn’t be surprised that these boys used a girl as a portable sex toy and many of their friends thought it was hilarious.

Here’s what I want to write about: I want to write about the fact that I know — and if you think about it, you know it, too — that someone else was raped in Steubenville that very same night. And if not in Steubenville then right next door.

Someone was raped down the street from where you live that very same night. Someone was raped down the street last night. Someone is being raped right this minute. Possibly many someones. On average, someone is sexually assaulted in America every two minutes of every day.

Like in the Steubenville case, where the survivor left a party with one of her rapists “because she trusted him,” about two-thirds of all rapes are committed by people the survivor knows. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), 38% of rapists “are a friend or an acquaintance.” And 97% of rapists “will never spend a day in jail.”

Steubenville will have its writers. The people in that story — the rapists, the abusers, their accomplices, the parents who failed to raise their boys to respect the humanity and dignity of women, the parents working to help their daughter heal — all of them will get more coverage than any of them will ever want. America will know them and talk about them for the rest of their natural lives.

I want to write about the women and girls, the men and boys, the families and communities who have been shattered by rape — but no one knows their names.

The right not to be raped is a human right.

This past week saw up-and-coming political pundit and progressive activist Zerlina Maxwell talking about rape, her own status as a rape survivor, and the fact that women shouldn’t have to carry guns in order to not be raped — because boys and men should be taught not to rape in the first place. This is not a new topic for Zerlina (see her excellent “Stop Telling Women How Not to Get Raped”), and she’s not a stranger to backlash.

However, last week the discussion was on television, which gives it much greater kick, and any conversation about guns adds an entire new layer of intensity to the process, and pretty much immediately after she was off the air, Zerlina began to be inundated with rape threats, death threats, racist slurs, and often a combination of all three, across all the various social media platforms. (You can read more about how it’s played out by clicking here to read the reaction of Josh Marshall over at TPM). I’ve tried to be supportive of Zerlina as the week has unrolled, and I’ve tried to help spread the word that her experience is very, very far from unique.

Today I kind of summed of what I’ve been saying all week on Twitter, and I just want to be on the record as saying here what I said there:

Recreating humanity.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_a_baby_standing_in_front_of_a_mirror.jpgOk, here’s what occurred to me the other day: We’re a generation engaged in building an entirely new kind of human society. Possibly an entirely new kind of human.

Consider just a few 21st century facts, and then try to project them back 50 years: Openly gay and transgender people serving in our government and legislative branch as we fight for marriage equality. America’s last two Secretaries of State? Women, one of them black, one of them a serious contender for the White House. Black man in the current White House. Well-known and well-respected women publicly and often angrily expressing women’s right to bodily autonomy; well-known and well-respected men supporting them, publicly, and often angrily.

I know I frequently say some version of “Hey, look, things are so much better than they used to be,” but I’m not saying that here. I’m not comparing today to the day I was born. I’m comparing today to every single moment of human history. And we’re recreating ourselves.

Because every single one of the items mentioned above was effectively unimaginable once, and not at all long ago either. If we consider the entire expanse of human history, and then look at the changes wrought in Western society in the last four decades alone, it’s actually quite startling.

Each of the examples I’ve provided (and many, many others that are not reducible to a single sentence or sentence fragment) represents in turn the hopes and dreams and literal blood and tears of uncounted, uncountable people. People who died dreaming only of the vote. Or of a life lived without violence. Or of the freedom to make decisions based on internal truths, rather than external pressures. People who died never, ever imagining the world as it looks today.

What we’re doing today has never been done before. Sure, there was that thousand year stretch when dudes who were brown (roughly and metaphorically speaking) ruled the known world (starting with the dudes in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually leading to the dudes in Istanbul), and one would be hard-pressed not to notice that Asian dudes ruled the Asian Empires — but: a) DUDES, and b) in each of those cases, one had to be of the right clan/color/faith system/what-have-you to wield power or even personal autonomy. The kind of radical, universal equality that so many of us have begun to see as the default of human existence has literally never existed in human history.

And so my point is: That’s why it’s hard.

That’s why it all moves in fits and starts and we have fights about words and about who gets to say what about whom and every two steps forward serve as but a precursor to one step right the hell back. Because we have never, ever done this before. We are creating something New, and we don’t even, really, know how to imagine it yet.

I’m not saying that the battles have be won. They haven’t. They’ll never be won. Every time that something Gets Better, we’ll uncover something else we didn’t realize we had to do. There are questions that my grandchildren will face that I cannot even imagine in 2012.

And having said that: Wow. Think about it. Think about the fact that gay men and lesbians got married before God and family in Washington state this weekend, and then think about the entire rest of human history.

Holy cow.

Update: Speaking of which…. Just look at these pictures from Seattle’s City Hall.

Rape tolerance and actual facts.

Trigger warning: Please take care of yourself and be aware of your own limitations whenever you read anything about rape.

I had a bit of a thing the other night when I discovered this article: “Rape flier causes outrage; Arizona sex assault victim speaks out.”

The flier, posted in a men’s bathroom at Ohio’s Miami University, read in part: “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape: 1) Put drugs in the woman’s drink, therefore she wont remember you… 6) Sex with an unconscious body does count, so don’t back down if shes sleeping; 7) Practice makes perfect, the more you rape, the better you get at it….”

Seeing this in the very week in which we have been assailed (yet again) with a new rash of rape apologism was just too much. My blood started to pound, I was suddenly crying, and I was filled with a powerful sense of emotional nausea (if that makes sense), reactions that are all overcoming me again, even as I type.

Women live with this every day of our lives, it’s in our leader’s mouths, it’s in the jokes we hear, it’s in the very air we breathe — and then we’re told that rape is our fault. To put an aspirin between our knees. To prove that we didn’t like the rape. To bear the rapist’s child. And to drown in shame.

I’ve been feeling all day that I really should write about it all, but I just can’t. I’m too exhausted by it, too worn down, too emotionally nauseated. But luckily, someone with a slightly bigger soapbox has written a piece filled with both righteous fury, and reams and reams of data. I’m cutting and pasting some of it below, but really, please: Click through and read the whole thing: “50 Actual Facts About Rape,” by Soraya Chemaly.

And men of good will? Please, please share this with your friends, your brothers, your uncles, your father. Please.

Remember facts? Remember facts about rape? Because it turns out that a whole lot of people know less than nothing about the subject. Indeed what they think they know is a whole lot of something that is wrong and dangerous to our heath, safety and well-being.

… For months now we’ve been subjected to surreal revelation when it comes to what people think and understand about rape, god and women’s magical bodies. Here is some real, fact-checked information from a list originally published last week in RHRealityCheck…..

1. Low estimate of the number of women, according to the Department of Justice, raped every year: 300,000
2. High estimate of the number of women raped, according to the CDC: 1.3 million
3. Percentage of rapes not reported: 54 percent
4. A woman’s chance of being raped in the U.S.: 1 in 5
5. Chances that a raped woman conceives compared to one engaging in consensual sex: at least two times as likely
6. Number of women in the US impregnated against their will each year in the U.S. as a result of rape: 32,000
7. Number of states in which rapists can sue for custody and visitation: 31
8. Chances that a woman’s body “shuts that whole thing down”: 0 in 3.2 billion

Had enough? Me, too. And, believe me, this is the Cliff Notes version. Some people are offended by frank conversation about violence, especially sexualized violence. I’m offended by tolerance for these assaults, scientific denialism, entertainment at the expense of people’s safety and bodily integrity, and shame-infused legislation that hurts children and women and is based on the belief that all men are animals at heart.

Rape happens everywhere . All over the world rape acceptance, rape tolerance, rape denial and rape ignorance at best are used to restrict women’s reproductive rights and impede women’s equality. At worse, rape is used strategically and with violence and malevolence as a weapon in war and as a tool of active oppression. Keeping the reality of rape in the shadows has obviously done us a massive disservice and provided cover for rapists and their apologists. So, even though it’s not easy information to digest, it’s important. Maybe information is part of god’s divine plan.

…Akin, Mourdock, Ryan, et al are the distortions. If men like Mitt Romney really doesn’t agree with them then he should grow some ovaries, so to speak, and stop playing in the same political sand box….  All of this goes hand-in-hand with Facebook rape pages, Daniel Tosh rape jokesReddit rapist threadsmusic, videos, movies, ad infinitum. This recent political display of religiously convoluted rape “reasoning” in legislation is a national shame with deadly consequences for women here and abroad.

To read the rest of “50 Actual Facts About Rape,” please click here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,686 other followers