11 July 2010

Linkspam for the ages: Miscellaneous feminism edition

Last linkspam!

First, a wonderful post from Fugitivus about what happens when you become a feminist and realize all your friends and acquaintances are sort of assholes. How does one deal with douchey friends, coworkers, etc. as a feminist?
For example, at my last job, my boss was sexist. He was sexist in a very chauvinistic sort of way – the kind of guy who makes the word “lady” sound like a blessed infirmity – and that was generally tolerable. It was tolerable because he didn’t make rape apologies, he didn’t actively bar women in the office from certain activities, and he didn’t bring it up every day. It was also tolerable because I was in a workplace that brooked little to no dissension, and I was at the target age for Doom Unemployment during a recession. I adjusted my expectations. I did not expect a workplace free of sexism. I did not expect to not be patted on the head, or treated as dumb sometimes. I did not expect fairness or an AfterSchool Special Moment. I did not expect that I had the strength or courage or conviction to make myself unemployed during a recession. I did not expect these things, and I stopped being a seething, boiling volcano of disappointment and rage every day. I found my current circumstances tolerable. Now I am in a new job. The culture here is very different. I can complain without retaliation. So I find myself saying things, to my higher-ups, like “I don’t think that’s fair; somebody could apply the same standard to you,” when one of them starts talking about what one celebrity wife or another deserves from her plainly abusive husband. I find keeping my mouth shut intolerable, because I expect to be given the freedom to open it. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to change my expectations to be able to tolerate some degree of abusiveness in my day-to-day life. But we don’t live in that perfect world – that’s why feminism exists as a concept, and why I identify as one – so in the meantime, I change my expectations when I need to survive.
A commenter pointed out that part of this post really resonates with my open letter to ForeverGeek:
This, to me, is comparable to people making personal decisions by “not choosing sides.” What is perceived to be a third option is, in effect, only one of the two options; it’s just masked in a way that feels ethically, morally, or vindictively better. If I have told you that one of your friends raped me, and you tell me you are not taking sides, you have taken a side. Your decision was to support me or not support me. There was no third option. “Not taking sides” is “I don’t support you,” dressed up like morality and the higher ground.
The moral of the post: look out for yourself. It's long, but worth it, though, so read it!

Next, AP Style Book fails big time.

This explains why most of the mainstream media still uses the term "illegal immigrant." I find the term offensive and disrespectful, as do most immigration activists. People are not illegal, actions are. The advocate community uses the term "undocumented immigrant" which the Stylebook clearly disagrees with.
The worst is that AP clearly thinks it's being sensitive by ruling out "an illegal." Ugh.

Then, Amanda Hess at The Sexist talks about the (sigh) case of Olivia Mann in the context of expecting women to be the gatekeepers of sex and sexism.
Sure, we want high-profile women to be allies to other women—and it stings extra hard when sexism is perpetuated through their public personas, instead of exclusively by dudes. But behind one Olivia Munn is a producer instructing Munn to “take it off reeeeeeally slow,” and a network president “standing on a speaker in the back, leaning over to get pictures,” and a team of photographers vying to catch an unauthorized glimpse of Munn’s nipple, and a male co-host who insists that he “violate [her] from behind” despite her protestations, and a whole audience full of fanboys screaming at Munn to put her mouth on something. Behind her is an entire industry making sure this happens.


Another expectation making girls’ lives hard? The equally sexist demand that women take full responsibility for these sexist expectations by always refusing to fulfill them. By faulting Munn for “flaunting it”—instead of taking a look at the demand side of the Hot Girl equation—we’re not only accusing Munn of being a bad feminist, but also a poor gatekeeper of sexism. An entertainment industry that’s built on arousing men by wearing women down until they acquiesce? That, we take for granted. Women, who have little power in this structure, are nevertheless expected to keep the industry’s libido under control—just as they’re expected to hold off sex, keep a sufficient amount of clothes on so as not to tempt men, and never “put themselves in situations” where sexual assailants may strike.
Finally, Ampersand at Alas, A Blog! talks about the sexiness of consent and its relevance to sex education:
Okay, now let’s imagine that Alas University offers two sex-ed classes for first-year students. Class “A” teaches how to have sex based on Cathy’s principle — checking for consent during sex kills the moment. Class “B” teaches based on Clarisse’s principle — checking for consent helps keep sex hot. Randomly assign 50% of students to class “A,” and 50% to class “B.” Check back in a year and survey the students and their sexual partners.

I’d bet a lot of money that the folks in class “B” — and their partners — wind up having hotter, better sex lives.

There’s a myth that communicating about sex ruins sex; and that by emphasizing consent, feminists are in effect opposed to hot sex. I don’t think either myth is true.
I love the example she gives in the post. Sexy sexy.

[TRIGGER WARNING: The comments include some content that may be triggering for survivors of rape or assault. Please proceed with caution.]


MCM said...

Ok, wait. Let's back up with the example cited in the blog you link to. "Red, yellow, green"? This only works in the BDSM context because there's legitimate confusion since the sub partner in the story is indicating pain/submission/torment/etc while actually enjoying the above.

Sure, the blog claims that it's applicable to "vanilla" sex, but really? Where's the support for that? BDSM requires some kind of extra-contextual communication about consent because what's going on revolves so much around the very idea of non-consent. In other words, dominance is not about a consent (obviously). It's an exciting game where one element (among many) is that we pretend the sub isn't consenting.

It's so much harder to do that in a "vanilla" sexual encounter exactly because you lack that whole "OK Let's play a game where I pretend to dominate you" context. That's why it "kills the mood" or however you want to describe it - we haven't explicitly established anything like the BDSM context.

Nor does "red/yellow/green" really solve the problem of "How do I ask if it's ok to do X before performing X and getting a reaction"? Suppose I ask "red/yellow/green" and my partner says "red"! I'VE ALREADY COMMITTED SEXUAL ASSAULT. Without negotiating everything in advance, there's no way to know if my partner is ok with something UNTIL I'VE DONE IT.

This is why "checking for consent" is bad, and why the cited example is inapplicable. To REALLY check for consent, you have to check BEFORE YOU ACT.

Courtney said...

I really find any argument that asking and giving consent in the middle of sex acts kills the mood entirely unsatisfactory. Yes, it's possible that your partner will give consent and then retract it in the middle, and that means you, for however short a time, committed sexual assault. But the solution to that is not to *just not ask.* The *possibility* that your partner might say "red" in the middle of "vanilla" sex does not, in any way, justify not asking.

And I fail to see how asking red/yellow/green in the middle of BDSM (the example was for acts the partner had already consented to in the beginning, as maybe vanilla heterosexual sex would begin with a female partner consenting to penetration) is any different than asking in the middle of vanilla sex.

Pandemic said...

I have to say, a part of this post really bothered me. Not in the moral sense, but in a strictly logical one.

"If I have told you that one of your friends raped me, and you tell me you are not taking sides, you have taken a side. Your decision was to support me or not support me. There was no third option."

This kind of reasoning is entirely specious, and actually presents the reader with a false dilemma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma). It's the kind of "With us or against us" mantra that Bush used to justify unilateral action in Iraq.

If I may present to you an analogy: I am at an Ice Cream shop, with many flavors. If asked how many choices there were, using this reasoning, someone would say "There are two choices, either vanilla, or not." The reasoning is entirely faulty. ANY situation can be boiled down to a binary choice, but it makes the entire thing meaningless.

I realize you didn't write this, but you posted it, so I'd like to hear your take on why this is a reasonable argument.

Courtney said...

*Sigh.* I absolutely think it's reasonable, Pandemic. You can't take these claims out of their cultural contexts. Sure, what the author says *sounds* the same as Bush, but it's not the same for the following reason: We live in a rape culture. Bush (and the "us" he was speaking about, the U.S. government) was speaking from a place of institutional power. Rape victims are not doing so, because the cards are always stacked against them, not just legally, but culturally.

When you remain "neutral" when a person tells you that your friend raped them, you are complicit. You are like the bystanders saying "I hope it isn't true." Because if you don't support the rape/assault victim, you *cannot* remain neutral, because our culture is not neutral about rape/assault. The default is to doubt and blame the victim, while trusting and forgiving the rapist/assailant. That's what the writer means when she says "Your decision was to support or not support me." This isn't a goddamned ice cream store. It's a moment where you only have a few choices: belief, disbelief, and doubt. And "not support me," she recognizes acutely as a rape survivor, is not a neutral position. It's to be complicit in rape culture, which is to be *against* her.

N.B.: The only reason I can write so dispassionately about this is because I haven't ever been raped. If I had, your comment would have been deleted. I can't even imagine the pain of someone trying to logically dismantle my argument that "neutral" people are complicit in rape culture without recognizing rape culture.

Pandemic said...

Well, that argument certainly makes more sense, and I can't really speak for the entire culture, but really to how I would handle the situation. Personally, I think a little bit of doubt should be applied to these sorts of situations. And not only these situations, but any situation where there is an accuser and an accused. I'm certainly willing to sympathize with someone who has been attacked, but I can't in good faith condemn a person (especially a friend) on a claim.

Our country's justice system was founded on the precept of 'Innocent until proven guilty' for a reason. Especially in the case where I know both people, I'm not just going to believe any accusation, I'm going to do my best to act reasonably and get facts before automatically believing the accuser. To do anything less invites the kind of situation we have now, where someone's otherwise good reputation can be completely destroyed by a single claim before the veracity of said claim is even examined.

Courtney said...

Okay, I'm going to ask you to stop commenting on this topic on this blog. I want this to be a safe space for my readers who have been raped or assaulted, and I already feel a little icky about this conversation as it is. Their comfort is important to me.

I think you must not be familiar with the concept of rape culture and how it functions, and that is informing your personal reactions, so I'd like to point you to a great 101 post at Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog. If you have any questions or concerns, *that* is a great space to air them, because the comment spaces are not intended to be safe spaces. So: What is rape culture?.

Also, from my personal collection of bookmarks, these would be some good reading as well: From Yes Means Yes!, Meet the Predators, which talks about how rape is not a one-time "confusion" or "mistake," but committed mostly by serial rapists who rely on a community that will support them and doubt their victims. And from Pandagon, How covering up for abuse is sadly common, which talks a bit more about rape culture.

An excerpt from Pandagon: "What I want from this whole sordid situation is for people to understand that what happened is so common as to be mundane, and to start thinking about what it would take to really address domestic violence. I suggest that we start by considering it truly awful to beat a woman. The dirty little secret of the Paterson situation is he reacted like many and I’d guess most people that know a man who beats his partner do---by backing up the man, and blaming the woman if she makes a fuss. It’s one of those many male privileges you hear so much about.

Do people back up abusers and pressure victims to shut up and behave because they love wife-beating? No. It works the same way as rape. They just define what their friend did as somehow not the behavior in question. Real wife-beating looks like X, they tell themselves, and this looked like Y."

Both Pandagon and Yes Means Yes! have their own comment policies, which I would familiarize yourself with before commenting in those spaces.

Pandemic said...

I understand. The last thing I'd like to do is to make anyone uncomfortable. Thank you very much for answering my questions in a civil manner, and not just dismissing me out of hand. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Courtney said...

No problem. I appreciate your sincerity, but do hope you keep in mind, when you comment on other feminist blogs, that my ability to not dismiss you out of hand is the result of my not being a rape survivor myself. My tolerance for ignorance about rape and rape culture are entirely the product of my personal experiences, and I can easily say that they would change if I was raped.

That said, I hope those links are productive for you!

Adrienne said...

Thank you Courtney. Thank you for... the serious attention to keeping this a safe space.