NOT MY FEMINISM

NOT MY FEMINISM

by Rose Madder

It’s shocking to believe that almost a full year has passed since America’s greatest threat to democracy took office. In that time, I have made and lost hundreds of friendships, took part in countless debates, and developed unbreakable bonds. But despite all the ideals many of us shared, there is one subject where we seem unable to agree. What does feminism mean to you?

The discussions began with the allegations made against Al Franken. Most of my closest friends shared my feelings, which came as a relief. My affinity for him began 2 decades ago, so learning that the supposed advocate for women was nothing more than another perpetrator of assault was a hard pill to swallow. Equally shocking were the personal attacks launched against his first accuser: She is a Republican. She is a plant by Roger Stone sent to torpedo Franken’s possible presidential aspirations. She was photographed groping Robin Williams. All of these were coupled with the implied or verbalized understanding that she was promiscuous and got what she deserved. I shed some friends during these discussions.

Now accusations have been made against Aziz Ansari. It all started again, except it’s much more personal this time around. The account given by his victim rings true to me, as I have experienced a similar assault. As I scanned my FB feed, I learned that many other women had also been through comparable encounters. I put all those forever raw nerves out there to share my own story, to explain why I identify so strongly with her. But the response from some people was disappointing, to say the least.

Feelings about what constitutes as sexual assault or harassment can vary immensely from one person the next. All of those opinions are valid, but not the same. I expressed the sentiment that if someone feels they were violated, they were. But instead of the support and love I was hoping for, my own words were tossed in my face scornfully. I was belittled and informed that regret over a sexual encounter isn’t rape. It was like rape victim Olympics, and apparently my experiences don’t qualify, even though they were emotionally devastating.

So I come back to the query of what feminism means to you. Does it mean we always support women, even if we greatly admire the men accused? Do feminists get to be the people to decide the hierarchy of what is real or imagined assault? Can you be a feminist if you victim blame or slut shame? We all have such different perceptions of feminism, so I can’t be the arbiter of it. I know that I don’t feel that anyone has the right to devalue another person’s feelings, even if we disagree. I hope to soon be in a world where questions of women’s sexual history will become irrelevant in regards to accusations of assault. Consent should be the one mantra we can all live by.

RECLAIMING OUR SPACE

RECLAIMING OUR SPACE

by Lexi Justice
I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely tired of men’s opinions and ideas being prioritized over women’s. This isn’t new, of course, but it is frustrating, especially in progressive politics, where people are theoretically more aware of power differentials and marginalization. Of course, the recent Women’s Convention and Bernie Sanders’ original place as a keynote speaker there has been on my mind and has brought up a number of personal experiences in which this has also been the case.

Inviting a man, specifically a man who has been as dismissive of women’s issues as Sanders, to speak at a Women’s Convention, seems on the surface a rather baffling choice. But upon further reflection, it’s not a huge surprise. We continuously allow men to be the arbiters of policy, make political decisions, and support them because they’ve had more experience. But they gain more experience by being louder, by talking over us, and by changing plans without consulting us.

Bernie Sanders is not the first man to tell women that their reproductive rights are not as important as other issues, that we must just sit back and wait until some other Important Problem is solved. This includes trans women as well- access to empathetic healthcare is critical to trans health. Women of color have been told throughout history that their rights come secondary to everyone else’s, even other women’s. In fact, other women are often the ones to tell women of color, trans women, and non-binary femmes that they are next on the list, just as soon as the smallest of first steps is accomplished.

It is important that we as women do not fall into the trap of defending men who do this, or of giving them space that women should be occupying. The response from the Women’s Convention organizers was to state that they tried to find someone else, that Sanders was a “champion” of women’s rights throughout his career. But what we’ve seen in the past couple of years has been Sanders’ continued insistence that we must first address economic issues before moving on to identity politics, a term he uses with clear disdain.

I saw a lot of arguments online about how Sanders is one of the most “popular” politicians among millennials, and that he would be a draw for the convention. But politics shouldn’t be a popularity contest, and women are smart enough to discern between what is popular and what is beneficial to them. But Sanders himself seems to treat politics as a popularity contest. He should never have accepted the invitation, and there were several ways he could have declined respectfully. Stating that he would prefer women’s voices be centered at their own convention would have been a good start. Instead, he waited until people were upset, then decided to go to Puerto Rico to…do his actual job as a Senator. Thankfully, a woman took his place.

The silver lining in all of this is that women have been using our voices more.

We’ve been speaking up more in solidarity, as a collective. We are slowly but surely affecting change. It starts with us continuing to carve out a place, to maintain our spaces when men attempt to intrude, to continue to use our voices against the men who would silence us. When it’s all of us together, we have a chance.

ENOUGH EXCUSES

ENOUGH EXCUSES

I was supposed to write a piece for She the People on rape culture, but I’ve found myself with a million things to say and no way to get it all out. For the past month, my entire Facebook newsfeed has demonstrated just how pervasive rape culture is, from Melania’s clothing, to #MeToo, to Roy Moore, to Al Franken. As a rape survivor, I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to even check my newsfeed anymore (seriously, Facebook, why did you get rid of the Groups app?!).

There was a time when I would have excused Al Franken or Bill Clinton (sorry, but I’m pretty sure I would have found Roy Moore’s actions repulsive and inexcusable at any time). There was a time when I believed Clarence Thomas over Anita Hill and William Kennedy Smith over Patricia Bowman. I get it. There is a pervasive undercurrent in our society that causes us to be skeptical or to push blame back onto the accuser. I can only speculate why or how it came to be, but I can tell you that its pull is just as strong now as ever.

One of the most common excuses I see for slut-shaming is this lousy analogy comparing rape with theft. The argument was that if you flashed a lot of money and fancy things and left your car or your house unlocked, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if you got robbed (the implication being that women who dress or act a “certain way” shouldn’t be surprised if they become the victim of rape or sexual assault). But there are multiple flaws in this analogy, which only further prove the point about rape culture. First, if your friend says he was robbed, what is your initial response? I can guarantee it wouldn’t be a question about his own behavior and home security. But when a woman says she has been raped or assaulted, the initial response is often a question of clothing or alcohol consumption. In the case of the robbery, do we tell the victim that he couldn’t possibly be the victim of a crime since he was “irresponsible”? Will his actions be on trial if the thief is arrested? Will a jury find the thief Not Guilty?

Ultimately, the personal responsibility argument needs to work both ways. Open any one of a thousand self-help books and the message is the same- we can only be responsible for our own words and actions. We can not control the people around us. And yet, as a society the message to women is that we are somehow responsible for men’s actions. It’s ingrained early, as seen in the questionable creation and enforcement of school dress codes (can’t have that bare shoulder distracting the boys, so you need to change your shirt). It continues through our lives and is reinforced every time we see explicit pictures of a woman used as evidence against her if she is the victim of harassment or assault. Why do we not put this kind of emphasis on the behavior of men? Why is it so difficult to hold a man accountable for his own actions?

I’m tired. I’m tired of living in a world where how a woman dresses or what she does for work is used to discredit her. I’m tired of living in a world where partisanship appears to cloud our judgment. I’m tired of feeling like our experiences can be brushed aside or invalidated if our truth is seen as an inconvenience.

The sad truth is that we live in a culture where I suspect almost all, if not all, men have done something that crossed a line at some point in their lives. Making excuses for those actions doesn’t help anyone. As a society, we need to start facing and owning up to it- that’s the only way we can ever hope to destroy this toxic undercurrent. This isn’t about an individual or a political party. This is about human decency.

SAVING FACE

SAVING FACE

Hello Darlings!

I’m around middle school students quite a bit lately and I’m reminded of that stage in life when we become hyper-aware of other people and often every choice we make is driven by how we perceive they will see us for it.  It’s a hell of a way to live. This is why so few people think of the middle school years with fondness. They are brutal because we give our power away to other people who have absolutely no business having it, no idea how to handle it and are completely obsessed with protecting their own fragile egos.

A few brave souls sail through this ordeal without it damaging their sense of self too badly,  but many people actually hold onto the scars they gained during that time and it makes them that much more apt to be safe and small in their future lives.

Oh, the amazing accomplishments we would all be capable of if we weren’t so bloody concerned with saving face.  Think about all the things you might have tried if you knew you couldn’t fail. Your life would probably be so much more colourful and exciting and joyful right now, right?  Have you created a safe little world for yourself and convinced yourself that you are perfectly content within it?  What makes you do that? Fear.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection. Fear of what others might think. Curiously enough we aren’t nearly as afraid of looking at ourselves in the mirror every day, knowing that we are living well beneath our potential as we are of the opinion of the unnamed “everyone” out there who we fear will judge us if we take a leap and fall.  And that is totally jacked up

I always tell my kids that other people are far too worried about themselves to worry about anyone else for more than a fleeting moment. Are you going to sell the riches of your infinite life potential which is truly only bound by what you can imagine, by your imagined opinion of what other’s opinions might be? People who barely give you a passing thought anyway? Doesn’t that sound juvenile and crazy?  That’s how most people function though.

Imagine going to a dear friend’s funeral and saying, “well he basically didn’t do one single remarkable thing with his life, but thank god nobody ever thought of him as crazy or ridiculous when he tried. That’s a huge comfort. I’m so glad we are going to lay this man to rest with him having lived a totally safe vanilla life, utterly under the radar. It’s so great that we are going to bury him with his untapped potential and his passions unexplored. Whew.”   When people come to my funeral I would absolutely rather they were laughing their asses off at all the crazy dreams and schemes I went after with all the energy of my heart and talents. I would rather they speak fondly of my spectacular failures in every possible area as I explored the edges of my world and capabilities than looking at each other wondering what could be said about me that might be remarkable or memorable in any way.

When I go on a training run 2 weeks before a ½ marathon I like to finish with a little gas in the tank. I don’t like to leave the training course completely and utterly spent. This gives me a psychological edge for the race. Knowing that I have achieved the distance with a little extra in me gives me the reassurance that on race day I have a cushion. I have extra to give on that day if conditions are bad or my body isn’t playing ball.  I don’t want to leave actual race feeling anything but completely exhausted though. I don’t want to leave wondering if I could have kicked it up a notch there at the end and improved my time by even a second. I want to be exhilarated by knowing that I left absolutely everything out there. And then my time can be anything. I can’t ask for more from my body than everything it had to give. If I have trained well and I run without ego and with grit and courage, I don’t care what time I get.  

Life should be that way. If you run your own race and you run it with courage and discipline and grit..then who the hell cares what the results are?   If you give it your all,  the results absolutely do not matter. What matters is that you used your life. You found out what you were capable of. You asked the universe for what you wanted, you took what it gave you, you expanded on it. You shared it. You developed your extraordinary talents and discovered ones you had no idea you had. You stretched, you grew. You experienced pain and fear and failure. You experienced a wide range of emotions. You left it all out there. You did not live for other people.  You did not live a tiny life with your entire goal that of being Saving Face but hating the one staring back at you in the mirror every morning and every evening.  You lived your life to see that face, bruised and bloodied, grey with fatigue, puffy from crying, incandescent with your joy, knowing that it had given it’s ALL that day and to be proud of it.

Go Slay Dahlings. Your face looks perfectly lovely.

#METOO

#METOO

by Rose Madder

Over the past 3 days, social media has been flooded with posts about rape culture in our society. Some women (and a few men) have been brave enough to share their personal experiences. Others have chosen to participate in “me too” to expose the prevalence of harassment and assault. I am inspired by the declarations intended to destigmatize traumatic events, but this social experiment has revealed a giant wound in the psyche of our society.

A few days ago, I was asked why people have become so sensitive and woke. What is the motivation for people who were mostly silent on political issues and matters of social justice to speak up now? In the simplest terms possible, these posts are the answer why. When a man who admitted sexually assaulting women got elected president because of a large voting block of women, there can be no truer reflection of the internalized misogyny many of us inflict upon ourselves. He has waged political and social warfare against many marginalized groups. Our silence breeds violence, and we must use our voices to speak out. He told us who he was during the election, but people supported his message or silently condoned it by ignoring it. The rights of rape and assault victims at colleges were stripped away only a month ago by the person who should have been protecting them. It was another blow to women from an administration headed by a predator in chief.

While I was in college, I experienced assault. By the time my naive teenage self realized what was going on, I was so frozen that I didn’t use my greatest asset, my voice, to verbalize my dissent. I lost part of myself that day, and it took almost 2 decades for my voice to rise above that place of shame and fear. I have blocked almost all details from my memory now as a form of self-protection, but as soon as I heard the “grab her” tape, they started to resurface like a wave of intractable nausea. Seeing the way he tried to intimidate his opponent by his greater size and speaking over her like her voice meant nothing brought it all together. This is not a matter of political differences. This is about humanity and personal integrity. If you support this man, I feel you are lacking those qualities, and I suggest looking internally for reflection.

The exposure of a Hollywood mogul’s decades of harassment and abuse of women was major news last week. I was distinctly unimpressed by some supposed liberal actors who weakly denounced him by saying they support women because of their children, significant others, or mothers. That type of thinking is part of the problem. People should not care about rape and abuse because of how it impacts them personally, they should have empathy because it’s the right thing to do. Daughters are not pawns to be played in sad attempts at justifying a now popular opinion against rape culture. I reserve my kudos for all the women who courageously spoke out despite rampant attempts to silence them.

I choose to believe that the events of the past year happened for a reason. However indirectly, he who shall not be named brought a powerful group of people together. This movement is way beyond any political candidate. For the first time in several decades, a large segment of the population is rejecting the president and political establishment. Change is on the horizon, I see a glimmer of it periodically. Messages that brought emotional distress also tightened the bonds of friendship. Me, too.