Monthly Archives: May 2012

Do You Understand Street Harassment Now?

I’m sorry for the short post, dear readers, but I am working hard on my Kickstarter project!  I found this quote recently and I feel that it really helps to illustrate to men how it feels to be harassed on the street.

You struck a nerve with this one, as I was just discussing this very thing a few weeks ago with a group of high-school freshmen in my English class. We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.

The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.

“But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”

The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked.

“So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”

Give me your thoughts, readers.  Does this sound correct to you?

Forget “I Hollaback”. I Call the Police.

As I was walking home yesterday afternoon from the Carnivale street fair, I witnessed street harassment. Four men were standing on the sidewalk, and one of these men approached a girl who had been in the parade earlier that day. She was still wearing her feathered, spangled, and slightly revealing costume.

I qualify that as “slightly revealing” because, quite frankly, a bathing suit in the same style would have been appropriate for a family get together at a pool. I also mention this, because “look what she was wearing” is often the defense for harassment and even for sexual assault and rape. Her costume was appropriate to the occasion, but even she had been walking down the street naked, attire is no excuse for harassment.

The man that approached her practically stood in front of her as he was asking her if she had a Facebook account. She ignored him, stepped around him, and kept walking. He grew angry, and started yelling at her that she was racist for not talking to him.

I also grew angry. Why on Earth should she be obligated to talk to him? She didn’t know him, and he was acting aggressively towards her. He clearly felt that by walking down the street, she somehow owed him some attention. Her outfit was not an invitation to talk to her.

While this is not the most aggressive example of street harassment that I’ve seen, and I’ve certainly been the focus of more aggressive street harassment, it still infuriates me. Women do not walk down the street in order to entertain whomever is watching. We do it to go to work, to get groceries, go to the bank, go to the gym, hang out with friends, go out to eat, watch a newly released movie, etc.

Street harassment has been a hot topic of late, and with movements like “I Hollaback”, women are trying to combat this problem with social pressures, and public advertising of the faces and locations of men who have harassed a woman on the street. But this isn’t enough.

So, what can we do? We can start causing even more of a ruckus, and force the local legislature and keepers of the peace to sit up and take notice of the fact that women are made to feel unsafe every day, while going about our normal lives. This won’t be an easy campaign. As discussed in Cynthia Grant Bowman’s article “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women”, published in Volume 106:517 of the Harvard Law Review, there should be a twofold campaign against street harassment, both in civil litigation and in municipal law.

For those of us who live in an urban environment, more often than not, there are cameras that can see us on the street. There are police officers that patrol the streets. If you are harassed on the street, look around for a camera, and call the police if you can find one. The camera footage is an impartial third party observer to the harassment. Then, accuse your harasser of an intentional infliction of emotional distress to the police officer and say that you want to press charges. Make sure the officer knows that the camera could see the harassment take place, and ask that they procure the footage. Show up to the court proceedings and tell the court how the harassment made you feel. Explain the fear of assault and rape that is inflicted when you are approached. Explain how you live with this fear every day of your life, and that it is the duty of the police and the government to protect you from this fear.

I will no longer “Hollaback”. I will start calling the police and pressing charges against unwanted sexual attention. It is time that we take a stand.

Song Review: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you have heard the song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. In case you haven’t yet heard the song, please listen to this cover version by Walk Off The Earth that I think is better than the original.

Once you’ve gotten over the wow factor of five people playing the same guitar simultaneously, take a second to think about the song. Did the lyrics disturb you a little? They certainly disturbed me. Here is my interpretation of the message of this song.

Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

In this verse, the male is reminiscing about a former relationship. It doesn’t sound like a happy one. When you have to tell yourself that this person is right for you, despite the fact that you don’t actually enjoy being around them, it definitely ISN’T love. I’ve also never heard anyone actually say “I’m so happy I could die” in a relationship, unless they were in the honeymoon stage of an abusive cycle.

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over

Dude, you sound depressed. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “We can still be friends” is generally a line that one partner tells another to soften the blow of the breakup. You probably will never actually go have a beer after work and discuss your current relationships. That isn’t how things work when a bad relationship ends.

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Aha! Now we know the real reason you wrote this song. You are angry and hurt that the line “We can still be friends” didn’t actually mean still being friends. It is normal and healthy to put some distance between yourself and a former lover when the relationship ends. Treating you like a stranger also screams that the relationship probably wasn’t a healthy one. Asking a friend to pick up your possessions is normal, and it sounds like she was probably avoiding seeing you. But the real indicator here is that she changed her phone number. Speaking from experience, that generally only happens when someone is scared of stalking, or is being harassed. Gotye, are you an abusive stalker?

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
Part of me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Here it is, straight from her. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are conditioned to believe that any argument, any fight, even your partner’s bad moods are somehow your fault. It is never because your partner has mental issues, it’s because YOU did something. You are also conditioned to listen closely to the words that your partner says, because you have to be on guard for any indication of an impending abusive episode, and though you try your best to defuse it, it never works. So she left him. He probably said something along the lines of “I’m better off without you, anyway!” In reality, she’s better off without him.

Could someone please explain to me how a song that is clearly about an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend has somehow become a hit single? And WHY nearly all of my female friends are so in love with this song?

Disney Princess Culture

Chances are, if you are a female living in the US, you grew up with the Disney Princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Ariel were a big part of my childhood. I still know all the songs in these movies by heart, and I occasionally daydream of a fairy godmother who would update my wardrobe at no cost to me.

These Are Not The Role Models You’re Looking For.

Now, looking back on these stories, I wonder what lessons they were intended to teach young girls. We learned about the evils of stepmothers. We learned about the importance of being beautiful. We learned how we just need to wait for the right man to come along and fight all of our battles for us.

We learned in adolescence and adulthood that all of these things are dead wrong. Stepmothers definitely aren’t all evil (mine is pretty awesome, actually, and a very loving person). Looks fade with time, but style, panache, drive, and personality are eternally attractive. Pretty much all of us learned that while men are good companions, being an eternal damsel in distress or relying entirely on a partner for emotional, mental and financial support is a recipe for disaster.

I’d like to dig a little deeper into the princess/prince dynamic. As women and girls, we are spoon fed the idea that being “swept off” our collective feet is the ideal we should be dreaming of and expecting from our potential partners: accept no substitutes. We are also taught that we should be reserving sex for that “special person”, and that we will know who they are because of how we feel when we are around him or her. We are taught that there is “the one” and that once we meet that elusive one person, they will compliment our strengths and weaknesses perfectly. Once the relationship with our “one” is announced to the world, there will be rainbows, singing birds, and maybe an elaborate musical number to celebrate our union. Or so we are taught to imagine.

Although romance and the initial excitement of a new relationship or crush is intoxicating, it is irresponsible and just plain stupid to start a relationship entirely on the strength of hormones. Sitting around and waiting for this mythical “one” to come around and sweep you off of your feet is stupid. It also puts undue pressure on a well-meaning potential mate. If they say or do one wrong thing, does that mean that they aren’t the right person for you? I mean, if they are supposed to compliment your personality perfectly, then clearly, they are supposed to be perfect to boot.

While Disney has done better in recent years with Mulan, Tiana, and Rapunzel, I’m still not satisfied. They are interesting and take matters into their own hands, but overall, they still fall all over themselves for their love interests.

LOVE her hair!

Try This One On For Size

I am eagerly awaiting Pixar’s take on the princess culture with the upcoming movie Brave. Finally, we are seeing a young woman who decides to adventure on her own, without needing a man to fight her battles for her. Pixar has already shown, through movies like The Incredibles, Up, and Wall-E, that they know how to depict healthy relationships and portray women who are perfectly capable of saving the day on their own. Merida, you’d better not disappoint me.

This probably should come with a trigger warning, but I honestly believe that all women have experienced at least one of these. Speak out against street harassment, whether you are male or female, young or old. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask the one being harassed, “Are you okay?” The diversion may be all that person needs to escape a potentially dangerous situation.

Wednesday Links

Today’s post is composed mostly of links.  Let me know what you think about the below news links!

At-Home HIV tests.

What, exactly, is “Gateway Sexual Activity”?

Republican Named “Bubba” (in Mississippi) Advocates At-Home Abortions with Coat Hangers.

The last one has me facepalming.

Fifty Shades of Red Flags


The Fifty Shades trilogy has been at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for 10 weeks now.  I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have suggested I review these books.  I’m on vacation in the Outer Banks, North Carolina right now, and I figured they’d be good for reading on the plane.  I started reading the first book at 3:30am, and knew that I probably wasn’t going to like them, as I had started cracking up laughing at the terrible writing by 3:45am.  Warning, those who have been in an abusive relationship may be triggered by the following post. Read the rest of this entry

Rock the Slut Vote

As I am sure my regular readers are aware, according to Rush Limbaugh, most of the women in America are sluts.

I have previously discussed my issue with the word slut in this post, but I am heartened by this movement.  Rock the Slut Vote.  Take a look at their checklist.  Do you qualify as a slut?  According to that checklist, I am a super slutty slut.  While I hate the word, and I hate the fact that it is used to denigrate women who make decisions about their own sexual health, I support this movement.  If you also qualify as a slut, then you should too.

This movement is not about taking back the world “slut” like the slutwalk movement.  This is about getting women to understand that right now, the Republican party is collectively waging a war on the reproductive rights and sexual health of women.   This is about getting women to go out and make their voices count.

You know that the Republican party has gone too far when a Republican Congressman has added his voice to the cry.  As the sole Republican at a recent Equal Rights Amendment rally, Representative Richard Hanna told the women in the crowd to vote and donate to his political opponents, the Democratic Party.

I think these are very precarious times for women, it seems. So many of your rights are under assault. I’ll tell you this: Contribute your money to people who speak out on your behalf, because the other side — my side — has a lot of it. And you need to send your own message. You need to remind people that you vote, you matter, and that they can’t succeed without your help. […]  If equality had been enshrined in the Constitution for these past 40 years, I wonder if we would still be hearing today from right-wing presidential contenders that women should not serve in combat, that women should think twice before they seek to work outside of the house, that women should not use birth control, and that women who do are called names that are not fit to repeat here. […]  This is a dogfight, it’s a fistfight, and you have all the cards. I can only tell you to get out there and use them. Tell the other women, the other 51 percent of the population, to kick in a few of their bucks. Make it matter, get out there, get on TV, advertise, talk about this. The fact that you want [the ERA] is evidence that you deserve it and you need it.

What a gorgeous statement.  If you identify as a Republican, or a Conservative, and you don’t feel that your personal beliefs regarding sexual health or equal rights are being represented by your congresspeople and senators, then make a donation to the other party.  Vote for the other party.  Tell your representatives how you feel about their statements in the media.

In other news, if someone buys me this, I will post a picture of myself wearing it as soon as I receive it.  Comment below if you wish to do so, and comment below if you have something to say about this movement.

Horrible Preacher Advocates “Beating the Gay” out of Children

And the congregation laughs.

If you want to listen to this hateful man, please feel free to go here.  He also says that he is giving a “special dispensation” to parents to beat the crap out of their children if the parents think the child is gay.

Are we still living in 2012?   Here’s a newsflash to Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina: BEATING YOUR CHILD IS WRONG.  Beating your child in some backwards attempt to “correct” their burgeoning sexuality is even more wrong, and you should be charged with inciting and advocating child abuse.

To say that I am horrified and outraged is an understatement.  Harris later published a half-assed apology, but the fact remains that he and his congregation are advocating and laughing at the idea of child abuse.  Just like the shock jock I wrote about last week, this man should be fired.  And he certainly shouldn’t be allowed around children.

What are your thoughts on the audio I posted, and his later apology?

Actions Have Consequences

Dominic Dieter, the morning show host I wrote about on Monday, apologized for his thoughtless and incredibly offensive comments.  While his apology seems heartfelt, and he genuinely seems to be contrite, no apology can erase the words he broadcast to Cleveland, and were repeated around the country.

Words can have far-reaching effects.  His words may have been the justification someone needed to actually commit the crime he suggested (attempting to “rape someone straight”).  If you’ve seen the movie Boys Don’t Cry, or if you have read anything about the rape gangs in South Africa, you know that corrective rape is something that actually happens.  His flippant comment was an incredibly dangerous one.

While I commend Dieter, and the station that he works for, in their efforts to atone for the blatantly hateful sentence Dieter uttered (they are running PSAs about parental rejection, and he has had undisclosed disciplinary action), the fact remains, you can’t take it back.  There are still sick individuals who will claim he was coerced into an apology, and use his words to continue justifying hate, violence, sexism, and homophobia.  Through Rush Limbaugh’s “prostitute” rant, we have already seen how the hateful words of one person can affect others, even after an apology.  His message and apology on Monday morning are just not enough to reconcile the damage of his words.

I would like to see Dieter do a fundraiser for the LGBT Community Center in Cleveland, with an offer to match every dollar, up to $5k, out of his own pocket. How about it?  Should we campaign for Dieter to put his money where his mouth is, and actually do some good with his popularity?

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