#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.

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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.

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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.

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

As if I needed one more reason to follow Capt. Picard into the black.

Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Picard, has just given us yet another reason to love him:

I grew up in a home darkened by domestic violence – which I wrote about two years ago. My father was an angry and unhappy man who was not able to control his emotions, or his hands. I witnessed violence against my mother and felt powerless to stop it. When Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, asked me to become a patron, I accepted without hesitation. I accepted for my mother. As a child, there was little I could do to help her. But now I can give support and encouragement to women who live in the same sort of fear that she did.

….

Refuge – along with other women’s charities – is facing its toughest year to date. The gradual erosion of statutory funding has made Refuge even more reliant on voluntary income, but fundraising is an uphill battle. Domestic violence is still shrouded in myth, and too few people truly grasp its prevalence in this country. More money is given to the Donkey Sanctuary than to the UK’s two largest domestic violence charities.

It saddens me beyond description that women and children experiencing domestic violence today are being left to deal with fear and abuse on their own – just as my mother was, more than 60 years ago. The government says that its ambition is “nothing less than ending violence against women and girls”, but there is nothing ambitious about its relentless demolition of a sector that protects the most vulnerable members of our society.  (To show your support visit http://www.refuge.org.uk or www.justgiving.com/PatrickStewartforRefuge)

To read the entire piece at The Guardian, click here: “Domestic violence blighted my home. That’s why I support Refuge.”

(And yes, I am aware that in the title to this post, I mixed my geek references. Sue me).

Questions and answers: Misogyny and violence edition.

Live in Ohio? Please work to get this man recalled and/or arrested.

Please note update with helpful information for people living with abuse, below.

Q: Who said “She got a little upset. Girls do that,” when his wife called 911 after he got drunk and attacked her?

A: Ohio State Senator Kris Jordan.

Q: What is the State of Ohio doing about it?

A: Exactly nothing.

Prosecutor won’t file charges against senator

Sen. Jordan, a Republican from Powell, told deputies that he and his wife had argued over his not cleaning their condo. Cruiser dashboard camera recordings released yesterday detail the deputies’ conversations with the Jordans.

“She got a little upset,” Sen. Jordan told a deputy on the recording. “Girls do that.”

The 34-year-old senator went on to say the incident was “90 percent emotion.”

“I threw some things on the ground, but I didn’t hit her or anything,” he said. “So she’s all worked up about who knows.”

On the recording, Sen. Jordan tells deputies that he works at the Statehouse, “until she gets me thrown out of office,” he said. “Over (expletive) not cleaning the upstairs … and then me pushing some towels over and some other stuff over.”

His wife also was recorded speaking to a deputy outside the home.

She said there have been problems with her husband but she had called his parents when those happened. She said, however, that they were out of town that night.

She also was recorded as saying violent incidents with her husband began about two years ago, sometimes after he had been drinking. She said her husband had been drinking that night but not to excess.

“This is not new,” Mrs. Jordan, 31, said. “He’s done this numerous times, and I just got sick of it and I just had to call.”

Assistant Delaware City Prosecutor Joe Schmansky said, Melissa Jordan’s insistence on not pursuing charges was the most important factor in his decision not to file charges.

Here’s another salient piece of information:

She also told deputies there were 10 to 15 unloaded guns in the house.

How many times have we read this story? The story in which the woman complains, but as so many victims of abuse do, hesitates to press charges, so law enforcement does nothing — until one of the guns gets loaded, and the woman is killed.

I’ll be perfectly frank here: I am positively sickened by this story. By the abuse, by the misogyny, by the response of Delaware City’s Prosecutor. I know people who have lived with abuse, I know how it plays out, and I have watched, too often, as society steps back and says: “Not our problem.”

I’m sorry, State of Ohio, this is very much your fucking problem. Aside from the fact that it is a shared, collective good that our citizens (even the female ones!) not live in fear, Kris Jordan is a Senator, for God’s sake! I don’t know what should be done, what can be done — mandatory anger management classes? Senate censure? — but I know that someone has to do something.

Else the next call may very well be for an ambulance.

UPDATE: If you or someone you love is also living with an abuser, you can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1- 800−799−SAFE (7233), 24/7, 365 days a year. If you’re not sure if you’re in an abusive situation, or are not sure what to do next, here are some good resources: Get Help, Am I Being Abused?, Teen Dating Abuse and Information for Immigrants and Refugee Women.

h/t Mac McClelland at Mother Jones, Ohio politics blog Plunderbund, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

I’ll take any good news you got.

Super Heroine is Super. And also quite stern.

In the Sometimes-Good-News-Comes-in-Tiny-Increments-But-It’s-Still-Good-News-Department (aka: The Department of SGNCITIBISGN):

1) Judge blocks Kan. law stripping Planned Parenthood of fed. funding, says law unlikely to last

An incredulous federal judge on Monday rejected the state’s claim that a new Kansas statute that denied Planned Parenthood federal funding did not target the group, ruling that the law unconstitutionally intended to punish Planned Parenthood for advocating for abortion rights and would likely be overturned.

(My favorite word here is mos def “incredulous.”)

2) Insurers must cover birth control with no copays

Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores.

The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Also to be covered without copays are breast pumps for nursing mothers, an annual “well-woman” physical, screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence, and other services.

This one’s actually kinda bigger than a “tiny increment.” It’s actually fairly huge (if you’re insured. Which a lot of women aren’t. See how hard it is to decide if something is tiny or huge?)

3) New Law [in State of New York] Ensures Domestic Batterers Can’t Legally Buy Guns

“We have seen too often the tragic consequences of domestic violence. This new law provides further safeguards to keep firearms away from those with violent records,” [Gov.] Cuomo said.

“New York state must stand strong against domestic violence by protecting victims and making sure those convicted of such crimes cannot inflict further damage.”

4) Married lesbian couple rescues 40 kids during Norway shooting rampage

“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” says Dale to HS in an interview.

The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.

Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat.

Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.

They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.

Kickass lesbian heroes. ‘Nuff said.