Outing assholes on the internet

A while back, a girl made a Facebook page accusing a guy at her school of being a rapist.

A longer while back, the website Girl Don’t Date Him was used not to post pictures of pink bras on large boobs or as a place to house articles (pink ones) about cheating men, but as a place where women could post stories, pictures, and full names of their terrible exes, as a sort of “we’re in it together, sisters” warning to other women.

Legitimate guerrilla warfare against injustice, or terrible idea for a million possible reasons? Well, my answer depends partially on whether or not the accusations are true. If a guy gets drunk and turns into a violent psychopath and sprains his girlfriend’s wrists and leaves her unable to walk for days and makes her fear for her life, I think he deserves to be called every goddamn name in the book, in public, with everyone imaginable given access to it and made to read it. I think he deserves to pay for his motherfucking terrible actions in all ways possible.

But if I don’t know the victim, and I therefore have no reason to believe that either person is lying or telling the truth, I might respond with something like, “Well, this is a very bad idea. It could hurt the victim in court [in the case of rape, domestic assault/abuse, etc.], it could cause hostility toward the accused, who hasn’t been convicted of a crime. And also, that’s probably illegal in some way or another, as well it should be, if you can imagine being the ‘asshole outed on the internet’ who is actually innocent. The very nature of such a thing harms the spirit of “innocent until proven guilty.”

But when I know the victim, that less vindictive, more rational, more practical side isn’t very loud. And then, I only wish I knew how to make a kickass website that everyone would read with pictures and links and addresses and phone numbers and directions to houses.

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Posted in Media, Violence | 13 Comments

Ali Carr-Chellman On Re-engaging Boys In Learning

I’ll admit at first I had a pretty evil thought about this video but after letting that pass I concluded that there is some good stuff going on here and a lot that I agree with. Damn shame it doesn’t get more attention.

So what do you think?

(Borrowed from Pelle Billing.)

Posted in Education, Gender | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

What I’m Reading

Warren discusses American exceptionalism on his blog, Auspicious Scuttlebutt:

There was a time when the Fourth of July was more than a Close-Out-Fire-Sale-Explosion-Spectacular, more than a $20 a head fireworks show, instead more of a family gathering, a picnic and some easily entertaining sparklers, flowers and a few bottle rockets.

Today every day is the Fourth of July. Monster Chevy Trucks with Huge American Flags festooned across the back window (presumably to obscure the well hung gun rack in the back); self-proclaimed “true Americans” participating in reality TV shows, shooting endangered wolves from helicopters and decrying the excesses of our Socialist government, who’s apparently demanding we don’t eat dessert anymore; Extreme politics is becoming extreme domestic terrorism in light of today’s shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

A well-timed and expertly-executed take-down if I’ve ever seen one, complete with the promise of more.

Innocent Smith discusses Robert Wyman’s lecture on the biology and history of abortion, and the circular nature of the debate itself.

Erin Matson on the tragedy of eating disorders, after the announcement of French model Isabelle Caro’s death from anorexia.

imnotme on red vs. white wine:

Next, and less importantly is that I find a certain affinity with red over white wine that is something akin to gender bias. I won’t lie, drinking white wine or blushes has always seemed more of a feminine choice to me, even though I know that is ridiculous.

All right, the whole post isn’t about gender bias and wine, but it’s an interesting thought, anyway. Gender-based stereotypes about types of wine people drink? Can’t we just have a fucking glass of wine without thinking about gender? It’s interesting because no, we really can’t, sometimes. And also, sometimes it’s fun.

I sometimes go on these stretches where I just look for the most delicious-looking food on the internet and drool over it for a while. I recently found a few, and today I even made one. It turned out all right. I used both cream of chicken and cream of broccoli instead of just one can cream of chicken (it only wanted 1 can for 4 chicken breasts– I used 3 chicken breasts and one can wasn’t anywhere near enough) so the flavor may have been a little different. Canned cream of broccoli is never very satisfying.

Sady Doyle candidly discusses some of her reservations on maintaining a public space that includes details of her personal life that have been historically proven to put their publishers in danger.

My former employer’s future isn’t looking too good anymore, what with ongoing lawsuits, regulators, caps on profits, and poor people getting a small measure of justice in banking. I can’t say I’m terribly sad about the news. I’ll probably write more in-depth about this later.

We should really all just quit Facebook, immediately.

In the world’s most (hopefully) obvious news ever, watching women cry doesn’t give men erections.

In a moment of glaring hypocrisy, Keith Olbermann calls for Palin & Co. to accept responsibility for their part in the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. He falt-out ignored, refused, nearly scrubbed his “tangential” part of perpetuating rape apologism and victim-blaming during all of #mooreandme. Didn’t mean to talk about this again, and hardly have an opinion on Olbermann, but this is just too overt and unchecked. You want transparency and accountability? That means you are subject to it, too! Why haven’t you repudiated your brush-off of the charges against Assange? Moore had the decency to go on television and show his support, even if he didn’t ultimately own up to what he did. Another way in which issues primarily affecting, or at least perceived to be only affecting, women are so often thrown under the bus, which means that they aren’t taken seriously as human issues, but just as extras, ad then, only when politically convenient.

Posted in Links, What I'm Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The unreality of politically-motivated crimes in the Millennial Generation

Click to enlarge image of Sarah Palin's ambiguous call to violence against Democrat members of CongressI was born in 1983, making me too young to remember (or have been alive for) any American political assassination or assassination attempts. Hell, I wasn’t even around when John Lennon was killed, and only barely remember Selena’s murder, and I couldn’t be bothered to care about Nirvana until a couple years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, because when grunge really started to become influential, I was still young enough that I was still listening primarily to whatever my mom played in the car, and hadn’t yet started to develop my own musical tastes.

So today, when I saw that a US Congressperson had been deliberately shot on my Twitter feed on my phone this morning, while half asleep, I thought, “oh my god, things are really getting out of control. This shit is scary. The Tea Partiers are inciting violence all over the country. I live a couple of blocks away from the very people who are responsible for Michele Bachmann’s continued employment, what if I look too ‘progressive’ in the checkout at Cub? It’s finally come down to it; people like me are going to be targeted as ‘the enemy’!”

Then I realized that that’s just a little melodramatic, and that in real life, even if people voted for Michele Bachmann, they’re more likely to be simply misguided rather than malicious, if one were to attach a judgment to their political ideologies, which I’m wont to do. They’ll probably still help you push your car out of a snow bank or let you go ahead of them in line when you only have a head of lettuce and they have a months’ worth of groceries in their cart. People aren’t that bad, usually. But sometimes, they really are.

I posted a link to (one of) the NPR story(ies) about the shooting on my Facebook page, noting, “This is becoming a scary place.” But it’s not, really. Becoming one, that is. If it’s scary, it’s been that way, and we’ve just had a three-decade or so long break from it. And of course, the years since the assassination attempt on Reagan haven’t been free from controversy related to (alleged) political assassinations, but for the most part, they’ve been free from events that shake our collective trust in our fellow citizens. Until today, I did not consider a politician to be terribly in danger when they walk around in public or hold speaking events or town hall meetings; I expect this of presidents and presidential candidates, and people in higher offices, but I didn’t think that a member of the House of Representatives would have to worry for their lives about simply being in public. It’s a terrible thing for the future of the accessibility of government, too, as others have noted.

And a lot of people are quick to blame violent Tea Party rhetoric for the motivation behind the shootings, and a lot of other people are quick to condemn those who are doing it because they’re supposedly politicizing a terrible, tragic event. In my opinion, which I think is pretty well in line with most people’s opinion at this point, the shooting was clearly politically motivated, regardless of the mental state of the suspect, and that makes it open to political analysis and debate. And the claims that Tea Party rhetoric is going too far is completely warranted, in my opinion. Even though Keith Olbermann is being the king of double-standards here*, he explains his views on the shooting, and his insistence that Palin & Co. take responsibility for the possibility that their violent rhetoric was a motivator in the shooting.

My generation, having not yet dealt with the collective blow that happens as a result of the assassination (or attempted assassination) of a political figure, can use this opportunity as a reminder that people can get fucking out of control, which is all the more reason to keep fighting (PEACEFULLY! NON-VIOLENTLY!) for civility and tolerance, as well as accountability, transparency, and access to information.

Tragedies like this don’t need to happen, and really, we all know that. None of us needs to be reminded of that. But we can help make sure that they don’t keep happening, by leading by example and not contributing to discussions that alienate and ostracize groups of people, people of certain religions, genders, biological sexes, skin colors, sexual orientations, or any other superficial difference. We can encourage our friends and family to stop perpetuating these damaging behaviors, too, and we can actively work toward a more peaceful future. Hopefully, those of us with differences can come together on the point that none of us wants bloodshed to be the way we resolve our differences; there must be a better way.

*more on that later.

Posted in News, Politics, Violence | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Bitch

A lot of words are collectively agreed to be off-limits to feminists, including “bitch,” “cunt,” “slut,” and a myriad of other words that are said to be female-specific with no male equivalent. If there is no male equivalent for an insult used primarily against women, then it is rightly argued to be sexist. It’s not often that we find or discuss words or labels that work in the opposite direction (i.e., a word that insults men but for which there is no female equivalent), although some people have been doing so recently. What I’d like to talk about specifically, though, is the term “bitch.”

Wikipedia defines “bitch” as follows:

The term “bitch” comes from the 1150 word bicche, which was developed from the Old English word bicce. It also may have been derived from the Old Norse word bikkja for “female dog.” The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term meaning “female dog” to around 1000 A.D.

As a derogatory term for women, it has been in use since the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Its earliest slang meaning mainly referred to sexual behavior, according to the English language historian Geoffrey Hughes: The early applications were to a promiscuous or sensual woman, a metaphorical extension of the behavior of a bitch in heat. Herein lies the original point of the powerful insult son of a bitch, found as biche sone ca. 1330 in Arthur and Merlin … while in a spirited exchange in the Chester Play (ca. 1400) a character demands: “Whom callest thou queine, skabde bitch?” (“Who are you calling a whore, you miserable bitch?”).

Modern usage of the term describes someone who is “belligerent, unreasonable, rudely intrusive or aggressive.” Of course, a man can easily be belligerent, unreasonable, rudely intrusive or aggressive, but when the term is applied to a man, it “is a derogatory term for a subordinate.”

So, let’s break this down. A female bitch is someone who acts in a traditionally masculine manner, and a male bitch is someone who acts in a traditionally feminine manner. While the history of the usage of the word clearly shows its female-specific and misogynist roots, it was later expanded as a way to apply to everyone who acted in a manner at odds with traditional gender roles.

Although I don’t use the word often (I usually only use it to jokingly decribe myself during PMS or in some other humorously self-deprecating way), I prefer the de-connotative usage, summarized (by me) to describe someone who is unnecessarily rude, hostile, or critical. But when I use it, I am much less likely to call a man a bitch for the same reason. I’m also not at all likely to call a man a “bitch” and mean it in the modern context of “subordinate.” In fact, I’m just wholly unlikely to ever call a man a bitch, for any reason. Why is that? I think it is because I don’t want anyone I’m talking to to misunderstand and think that I am calling a man a bitch to illustrate how I think he is acting in a traditionally feminine manner, because using a pejorative against someone for not adhering to traditional gender roles is pretty much against everything I stand for. For some reason, though, I assume people will understand that if I refer to a woman as a bitch, that I’m not calling her a canine in heat.

Another interesting phenomenon that I see happening (and that I use often, myself) is eliminating the female-specific insults from our collective vocabulary and replacing them with traditionally male insults, like “asshole,” or even the milder “jerk.” Since, in addition to not using gender-based insults, I also actively avoid genital-related insults like “pussy” or “dick,” I have been embracing “asshole” and “jerk” as general insults, as neither implies a gender and, although traditionally reserved for men, are perfectly descriptive of what I am trying to call out in the other person.

Something, though, makes me feel uncomfortable about taking a term reserved primarily for men and using it for women and men alike, and I’m not sure why. When describing a role that remains identical whether a male or female performs it that English has unnecessarily divided into genders, like actor and actress, for example, I try to default to the “male” word. So, I’m more likely to call Jennifer Connelly an actor rather than an actress, because I see no reason to differentiate. Who cares if Jennifer Connelly is male or female, when “actor” and “actress” mean exactly the same thing?

So, why eliminate “bitch” from my vocabulary? I’m not sure that I will. But in order to be consistent, it seems that I should. But… why not just call everyone who is acting like an asshole a “bitch,” instead? Whether they’re male or female? Maybe it seems easier to say “asshole” or other usually male-specific terms, because we all know that they mean the same thing whether applied to men or women, and even though “bitch” arguably means exactly the same thing as “asshole,” people are likely to be widely misunderstood about the intent of the insult when used against a man.

Again, though, there’s a certain level of discomfort in reverting to historically male-centric language that does not reconcile well with my preference for egalitarianism (with the exception of actor/actress, as can be seen in the Wikipedia link’s “terminology” section). I don’t like male-as-default language, at all, so treating words that originally conjured up an image of a man as if they are for all of us, while treating words that originally conjured up an image of a female as off-limits feels quite misogynist to me. Society already insults men by calling them women; it feels as though avoiding using traditionally feminine terms to describe men is perpetuating the widespread (if not subconscious) belief that the worst thing a man can do is be like a woman.

Do you use the word “bitch”? How do you feel about gender-specific insults or descriptors?

Posted in Gender, Language, Philosophy | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Douthat abortion fail

Aside from the other critiques around the blogosphere today of Ross Douthat’s head-bangingly frustrating column, I also found some glaring inconsistencies, and rather problematic themes he’s got going on. I appreciated his arguably (and rather surprisingly) compassionate response to the MTV special, but he goes on to discuss issues that are either wholly unrelated to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, or off-base in terms of quality of analysis. For example,

In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.

Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption, and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.

Leaving aside for now the point that it’s no woman’s responsibility to provide children for infertile couples, he’s forgetting that giving up a baby for adoption — after the birth mother spent at least 9 months gestating it, feeling it move, kick, bond with it, etc. — is no easy feat.

He’s also neglecting the reality that “acceptance of single parenting” is hardly a celebration of it. What else should we do to single parents? Abuse them? Deny their existence? Blame them for their situation? Also forgetting that many single parents — primarily women — who are blamed for not giving their children an ideal household are not doing so by their own choice. Their husbands can abandon the family, die, or even just leave the vast majority of involved parenting up to the other parent, without their say. Or vice versa. It’s not always about a casual decision to get married and have kids, or an equally as casual decision to not make that work out as planned.

Supporting single parents and maintaining his stance that a dual-parent household is ideal for raising and nurturing a child don’t have to be mutually exclusive. He has shown time and time again that he believes the best way to discourage behaviors that are contrary to the common idea (or his idea) of what is ideal, like two-parent households, preventing unplanned pregnancies, “traditional” marriage, and now abortion, is to alienate, criminalize, or just outright ignore the existence of the people who are engaging in, or directly affected by these issues. Clearly, the state, or society at large, acting in this manner in the past caused such joys as women dying of botched illegal abortions, forced pregnancy, poverty, marginalization… I can go on.

There is a reason why people continue to fight ideologues like Douthat. It’s not because we’re hostile to the ideals they set forth, but because we want to avoid the consequences of forcing such ideals on unwilling — or unable — participants.

(…Nearly the entirety of this blog post was originally a comment over at The Innocent Smith Journal. InnocentSmith has also responded to Jill and Amanda’s critiques here.)

Posted in Ethics, Feminism, Health, Media, Philosophy, Sexuality | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Can porn be feminist?

Since this is my first official post, I figured I may as well start off with an issue that people hold very strong opinions on: PORNOGRAPHY!

As a feminist, I find the current state of mainstream (and most non-mainstream) pornography to be abhorrent. Most feminists would agree on the same “problems”: women are objectified and often degraded, sex is not portrayed in a way that is conducive to women’s enjoyment, all scenes and actions are clearly designed for the benefit of straight men, these scenes/actions teach men how to be selfish- sometimes cruel- partners, porn perpetuates negative beauty/body standards, it is heteronormative and dismissive of all sorts of varieties/tastes/preferences in an individual’s sexuality, it is too fake. The list goes on and on and on.

OK, so porn, as we know it, right this minute, is pretty bad.

Here’s where I diverge from many other feminists: I don’t think it has to be bad.

I don’t think that pornography is inherently bad for women, or for anyone. Sure, it totally sucks now- but the same things can pretty much be said for all forms of media that involve visual representation of sex acts in particular or gender in general. Now, that’s no excuse to tolerate it, it’s just puts porn on the list of things that could use some revolutionizing, in my opinion. And, I would argue, that creating a space for “feminist” porn could even have a bigger value than say, feminist TV or mainstream movies.

And now, you radfem readers are probably pulling your hair out screaming “WHAAA???”

Give me a second, I’ll explain:

Why the importance? Sex is very intrinsic to nearly EVERYONE’S EVERYDAY LIVES. Yeah, you won’t die from lack of sex, certainly not lack of porn, sex is up there in the priorities like food and friends and housing for most people. And here’s the thing- people of all genders are empowered by having a healthy understanding of their sexuality(ies). This is something that I should hope, all feminists can agree on. So porn, as a concept, could be considered a tool that would help everyone learn how to embrace and enjoy sex.

What if porn attempted to teach us some different lessons?  Instead of learning that we should have breast implants and need to fake orgasms, we were actually learning the kind of awesome stuff “Our Bodies Ourselves” was putting out there…just in video form?

It stands to reason, that if pornographic material somehow magically became totally egalitarian/inclusive and started showing us real people having really good sex that they were actually enjoying themselves that then….wait for it…people would learn to be better, more honest lovers of others and themselves. And imagine what could happen if suddenly it presented diverse bodies, ethnicities, and ages WITHOUT the insulting characterizations we currently get (see: granny/fatty films)? Maybe, just maybe, we could shift societal beauty standards and help people of all shapes/types believe that they deserve to have sexual fulfillment as well! I know, call me crazy…

So, I guess I’m just asking a lot of dangerous questions here, but I’d love to hear some constructive suggestions and answers- and please- without any hate or judgment, K?

Posted in Feminism, Sex Industry, Sexuality | Tagged , , | 56 Comments