Tag Archives: equality

When Persistence is Rude

4 Apr

I heard a scuffle and realized there was a fight. Again. It’s almost as if a weekend night cannot pass by without some sort of absurd and unnecessary shake-up. The warm weather only makes it worse. That reality causes my life to be sort of at odds with itself. I’m a summer baby so I spend pretty much all my time either being appreciative of the heat or counting down the days until it returns. You’ll almost never hear me complain about being too hot. But when a spring or summer weekend rolls around, my love for the heat morphs into an acute sense of foreboding. Hot days lead to hot tempers. Mix those tempers with close quarters and lots of alcohol and you’ve got yourself a party.

It was about 1:30, maybe 2 in the morning. Apparently some guy tried to go into the bathroom with his girlfriend because he “didn’t want anyone seeing her in there.” I’m not entirely certain what that even means, to be honest. I don’t know whether he has some sort of disbelief in these things we call locks or he thinks people somehow develop laser vision when they get within two feet of a bathroom when his girlfriend is inside. Whatever the reason it turned into a whole big fiasco. (By the way, I am fully aware that he wanted to go into the bathroom with his girl for some sexy time, but I refuse to truly engage with that thought because the bathrooms at my bar, especially late on a warm weekend night, are straight out of a horror film. I have to pee in there on the regular and it has changed me. No joke.)

Upon hearing all the noise I obviously made the poor choice to walk out from behind the bar to go investigate. I did this under the guise of trying to usher those not involved in the fight to safety. You never know when an elbow, or a glass, might go flying. So I gathered intel while I let a few dudes out through a second exit. As I turned to go back behind the bar some guy grabbed my hand and got in my space. If you know me at all you know that I hardly like to be touched by people I love, let alone some asshole at the bar I work in. At first I thought he was going to say something about how I should stay behind the bar where it’s safe and not get too close to all the yelling, especially considering that just moments before the guy who was trying to join his girl in the bathroom violently grabbed her by the neck for “running her mouth.” (Have I mentioned recently how much I hate everything?) Dude probably would have been right but I still would have been miffed about some guy essentially scolding me for not staying behind the bar. But no. He didn’t say anything about my safety or the fight or share in my horror about the way a man so casually grabbed a woman by the neck in a public place, under the watch of cameras, without any pause or remorse whatsoever. Made me nervous about how he behaves in private. Instead, while holding onto my left hand, he whispered in my ear

Why you gotta be like that with me?

Anger shot through my entire body. Why was this person touching me? Why was he in my space? Why the fuck was he whispering in my ear? And where the fuck did he get the idea that he was at all entitled to my time or an explanation as to why I wouldn’t give him any of it? I’d love to say that this was the first time such a question had been hurled at me but that would be a lie. People regularly ask me why I am “like that,” whatever “that” means. From what I can gather, they think I am pretty but I don’t flirt with them. Because guess what, I don’t flirt. Not my jam. Not that there is anything wrong with being a flirty bartender, it totally works for some people. But I hate when people ask me for my phone number at work and I hate how some people get possessive over a girl who they think is interested, even if all that girl is interested in at that moment is an inflated tip. My dream is to be the efficient half of a bartending team. Making drinks and putting them over the bar quickly, the conversation limited to an economic transaction. Let my partner be the personality. I’ll be support staff. But I couldn’t respond with all that so instead I said,

Be like what? You come in here for beer. I sell it to you. That is my job.

He held my hand a little tighter. I shook it free.

I told you before I liked your vibes.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to be like

Oh! You like my vibes?! Well why didn’t you say so??? Please! Grab my hand again! Please! Whisper into my ear like a total fucking creep! Because now that I know you like my vibes I am totally down for whatever you’re down for. I hear they have some really clean bathrooms up in this joint. With locks that work, even.

But I didn’t say any of those things. Instead I turned and looked him in the face and said

Don’t you ever put your hand on me again.

My night continued. But then the next morning I got to thinking, once again, about entitlement. About how men feel entitled to touch women and how we as women are not even entitled to autonomy over our own physical presence. I cannot walk through a space, even a space I work in, with the assumption that I will not be touched in either a sexual or aggressive manner. And, when that happens – not if but when – there is virtually nothing I can do. Sure, I can make a smart remark, assuming I feel safe doing so, but there is nothing intimidating about me. I cannot, by sheer force of size or movement, make someone back off. I can shoot them down, but that does not necessarily result in a change of behavior. This is something like the 4th time this same guy has tried to, I don’t even know, get me to pay him more attention than pouring him a Smuttynose and taking his money. It’s as if he thinks persistence is key and let me tell you something, I find his persistence insulting. His persistence completely ignores a very important part of the equation: my interest, or lack thereof.

To me, when someone isn’t interested, they aren’t interested. Back the fuck off. Life isn’t like the movies where the guy likes the girl and she isn’t interested but by his sheer will to get what he wants, what he deserves, he is able to convince her to be his. He is able to, for lack of a better term, break her. This dude can tell me every single fucking day for the rest of time that he “likes my vibes” and I will still tell him to go take a walk in the ocean. Because the thing is, he isn’t listening to me because what I say, and what I feel, does not matter to him. In his journey to get what he wants, I am incidental. What I want is incidental. My feelings are incidental. What matters is him, what he wants. And he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with his persistence. Maybe he thinks I should be flattered. More than likely, he doesn’t think about how I should feel, or do feel, at all. That can be overcome. I can be broken.

Being female can be a real mind fuck.

 

Men are from Mars

15 Mar

Almost a month ago now I wrote a post called “I Thought We Were Friends.” It was something that had been knocking around in my head for quite some time. In publishing it I felt somewhat relieved but also, and perhaps more powerfully, exposed and anxious. I was afraid that some people who read it would, rightfully, feel implicated in my words. I was concerned about shedding light on something that I had been hiding for a very long time, something that I tried to act as though I was somehow above. Let me explain.

I am a feminist. I wear that badge proudly. And as a feminist, albeit one that understands her feminism more off of a general engagement with the world around her and the ever-important conversations with peers as opposed to a deep understanding of the theories of various feminist waves, I go through the world with a certain understanding of myself in it. That feeling is, in part, one of a want for safety and equality, with a deep understanding that I cannot, currently, expect either of those things. It is also a feeling, self-imposed perhaps, that I ought to be strong. That I should be beyond all of the trappings of being raised female in this culture. That I should somehow be a finished product, beyond it all. How absurd. But even in the knowledge that I expect miracles from myself, I cannot help but feel like something of a failure when I fall into old habits. Old habits that are examined and discussed ad nauseam but that I never feel entirely capable of kicking.

I remember back in high school and on into college, having conversations with girl friends about boys. I remember so many conversations, more than I could ever count, about guys being so persistent that we just went along with things. We went along with things because it seemed easier to say okay than to stand up for ourselves not because it would necessarily be horrible in the moment  – although we all know it could have been – but because maybe those boys, those boys that were pressuring us into things, even things as harmless as a kiss, might not like us anymore.

They might not like me.

And who am I kidding? I still have these conversations. Regularly. And what’s crazy about it is that no matter how many times I have these conversations, it still takes us a while to get to the inevitable part, the part where we went along with something we weren’t into. And it’s like, a lightbulb goes off every single time. That feeling of

Oh, shit, you too?!

And it’s surprising but it shouldn’t be. And it’s embarrassing but it shouldn’t be. The idea that all these years later we are still doing what we used to do as teenagers. The idea that we haven’t learned anything, gotten stronger, gotten to the point where it isn’t about what is easy in the moment, but what we can live with tomorrow and the next day and the next day. The belief that we should be immune to the social forces that swirl around us from birth. That we should, in our feminism and in our knowledge about power dynamics and the patriarchy and the support from our friends and (if we’re lucky) our families, be above it all is so overwhelming but can also be disempowering. Every failure feels so much more monumental because it’s like,

Fuck, I should have known better. I’ve been here before. I know how this goes.

It’s like a regression. I woke up a strong, self-reliant, intelligent woman and somehow, through the course of the day, became someone unwilling to rock the boat. I somehow became someone who went from speaking her mind to sparing someone else’s feelings at the expense of her own. And for what? So he can wake up with his ego in tact and I can beat myself up about an unwanted encounter, and my weakness in the moment, for months? Because, in all honesty, my anger and disappointment with myself goes on for months. But at least he still likes me, right? Give me a break.

I guess I am writing this because this experience is somewhat universal. I am not even close to the only one. And I am not saying that this is solely a female experience, either. Just that the forces that surround us daily mean that our experiences as women, as a “minority,” are tied into social and institutionalized forces, forces that keep us from separating ourselves as individuals, as people deserving of respect, from the learned feeling that we should accommodate others, especially males. That we should protect their feelings and their egos and then we should keep quiet because this is not a conversation we have out loud. Because we are taught, on the other end, that it is shameful. Don’t rock the boat, but don’t be a slut. If you find yourself there, you have no one to blame but yourself. You gave him the idea, you should go along with it. Don’t be a tease.

And what’s crazy is that a lot of times it isn’t his fault either. We are masterful at keeping quiet in the moment and licking our wounds alone. He might never even know. He might never even know that he read the moment wrong because we will never tell him. And for so many people if we were to say what we say to our friends, that we did it because it seemed easier and less awkward and less hurtful than saying no, he also would have wished it never happened. He also would feel some amount of shame. But we are selfish and we keep all the shame for ourselves.

I wrote this because, following my last post, I got two responses. One response was from women and one response was from men. Overwhelmingly, the women in my life were like

Holy shit yes! This! I have been there!

And the men, all well-intentioned people that I love, were like

I am worried about you. I don’t want you to become bitter. It’s because of the career you are in, the bar that you work at, the people you surround yourself with.

But it isn’t any of those things. It is because we – men and women – occupy such different worlds. So much more different than I knew previous to the publication of that post. My experience is not unique, not by a long shot. It is universal. But the fact that men overwhelmingly had no idea that it happened, that it was real, spoke volumes to me. That because I wrote it it became about me rather than about us was huge. I felt some sort of comfort in the fact that I am not alone. But the chasm is so overwhelmingly huge! Because the men I spoke with were people who I love and who were willing to have an open conversation, people who entered the conversation ready to listen and absorb. They weren’t trying to teach me, they were trying to learn. And people, not just men, but people in general, aren’t all like that. Which makes this even crazier. I can’t imagine what people unwilling to listen thought, how wide the gap is between us and them. Sometimes I feel like we have been quiet for so long that no one can hear us anymore. And I honestly don’t know how to begin to fix that.

I Thought We Were Friends

2 Feb

Sometime in the late spring, early summer of 2010 I rode the B63 bus down Atlantic Avenue from my bartending job towards home. I was drunk. I was drunk a lot that summer. I was heartbroken and in complete free fall. I sat staring out the window, tears silently streaming down my cheeks as they often did, wondering what I had done wrong, how I could fix it and when the pain – so emotionally present that it turned into physical hurt – would stop. I was pretty sure it never would, that the pain was my new normal. The bus stopped and a man, probably around my age, appeared in front of me. He smiled and gave me a hand-written note before he walked off the bus and into the night.

You’re beautiful when you cry. Call me.

The tears stopped. I held the note in my right hand between by thumb and fore finger and stared blankly out the window. I took it with me as I exited the bus and looked at it as I made my way home. At the first trashcan I found I spit violently on the small slip of paper – imagining it was the man’s face – crumpled it up and threw it into the garbage. Being mad at him and all the other strangers who seemed to smell my vulnerability that summer was so easy. It felt as though men – anonymous men, not the men I knew – were all dogs.

The pain eventually dulled. I fell in love again.

***

Going on two years ago my most recent relationship ended. We were together for almost four years. What do they say in all those articles about break-ups, that it takes half the length of the relationship to get over it? Maybe there is something to that because I am just now about back to normal and by normal I mean that the idea of being involved in the dating scene makes me want to scream. This guy at work last night asked me how I meet people to date and my honest response was that I don’t. I just don’t.

I could chalk it up to my work schedule. That being almost entirely unavailable on weekends makes it near impossible to meet someone. I could blame modern dating and the rise of internet dating sites. As someone who works in a social setting with already precarious power dynamics, the idea of some guy seeing me on the Internet and then walking into my bar and thinking he has some kind of leverage terrifies me. I could blame my most recent dating experiences and the assumption men seem to have that if a date is going halfway decently it’s their cue to try and come home with me. Good fucking luck. But the reality is that I blame my friends. Or, more accurately, people I thought were my friends. I blame the people that made me feel like my only value is in my body and what it can offer them.

Let me quote an article from Salon that finally gave me the strength to write this post, this post that I have been writing over and over again in my head but never wanted to actually put to paper, so to speak, for fear of hurting the feelings of people who never had any consideration for mine.

When the bad things that happen are normal, you become tough. It’s devastating how tough I am.

So, as a 30-year-old woman who has been through a range of horribly exploitative sexual and emotional experiences—you know, just like pretty much every woman you know—I really don’t want to know anymore if a stranger finds me attractive. Not right out of the gate. Hell no. There are so many more interesting things about me than my body… This is why I cherish my friendships with straight dudes who would never try to fuck me even if we are trashed, and is probably part of why I hang out with a lot of queer people. 

This is why I’ve gone home in tears after someone I respect says they think I’m smart and funny and interesting and they’d like to have a drink and rap about the world, and then just tries to fuck me after I patiently dodge their advances all night. Were they not even paying attention? … I am still, as a grown woman, trying not to mentally respond to that situation by thinking: “Well, that person just wanted to fuck you. Maybe you are not really that smart or interesting.” That precise feeling is one that I don’t really think straight dudes can fully relate to: You are invisible, but they still want to fuck you. They do not see you or hear you. They still might rape you. This is why somebody putting their eyes all over me or immediately telling me they like the way I look is no longer flattering. Because it makes me feel fucking invisible.

The woman who wrote this article is a bartender in her 30s, like me. And she, too, is fucking exhausted by how much she is sexualized at work. This past week, I have been given 2 phone numbers, been told by a customer that he has wet dreams about me, had a coworker hit on me by alluding to the version of 50 Shades of Grey that we could make together, and had to tell someone that my tits could not pour him his beer so if he would please look at my face when requesting service it would be appreciated. Sometimes I leave work feeling like a pair of boobs and a hole to fuck, with arms conveniently attached to provide liquid courage. The thing I make my money off of is the same one that empowers men to disempower me and managing that disempowerment, that power dynamic, is tricky. It is intertwined with my ability to earn a living. And it is exhausting.

When I leave work at 4am, I try to leave all of that behind me. I try to reenter a world where I am valued for more than my body and my ability to pour liquid into a cup. Of course, I want people to find me attractive but I want that to be attached to the fact that I am smart and funny and interesting. Those are the things I value about myself. So when I read this line — This is why I have gone home in tears after someone I respect says they think I’m smart and funny and interesting and they’d like to have a drink and rap about the world, and then just tries to fuck me after I patiently dodge their advances all night. Were they not even paying attention? — I was like, finally, someone else said it. Because I, too, have gone home in tears. I have spent the better part of the last two years thinking my taste in (male) friends sucks because one after another after another after another of my straight male friends have tried to fuck me. I barely have any left. To those who have been my friend all this time I value you more than I can really say.

Somewhat recently I met up with an old friend for a drink. We hadn’t hung out in awhile because life took us in different directions but I was happy to catch up. It took him about 2 hours to try and fuck me. I told him about my life, what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been thinking about. He told me how he always thought I was so hot. He thought he was flattering me. I have never felt so cheap, so misled, so socially inept. How did I not know? How did I ever think this drink was about us catching up as friends? How did I not see this coming? How stupid can a person be?

I, like the well-trained woman that I am, blamed myself. Over and over again.

My ex-boyfriends all knew that the best way into my pants was through loving my brain, not lusting after my body. But of course, they were listening. There was more in it for them. I was visible. Me. I was more than just  a conquest, or the fulfillment of a long curiosity. I was a human being with unique value. And I am done feeling as though I did something wrong to mislead people about what I was looking for. I have always been clear. So be my friend or don’t be. But if you’re just looking to fuck, move along. I’m not interested. Stop wasting my time. Stop making me feel like garbage. Because after all these years it takes me more and more time to rebuild myself after work. If you’re really my friend, you should be supporting me. So stop tearing me down.

Detroit and the International Conference on Men’s Rights

9 Jun

All comments of an abusive or hateful nature will not be approved for publication on this blog.  If you wish to engage in some friendly debate, feel free.  Also, you are welcome to email me at franklyrebekah@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

In this edition of “I Did This So You Don’t Have To,” I am currently sitting on the bus en route from D.C. back to Brooklyn with about 12 open tabs all having to do with the men’s rights movement (MRM).  I have gone down the rabbit hole.

Over the past few days, I have been watching from my home in Brooklyn, and my friend’s home in D.C., as some interesting things happened in Detroit, where my friend Emma lives.  For a little back story, a few weeks ago Paul Elam from A Voice for Men (AVfM), a men’s rights website, helped to organize the first ever International Conference on Men’s Issues which was to take place towards the end of June at the Hilton DoubleTree in Detroit.  A group of concerned feminist-citizens in Detroit, Emma included, created a petition and organized a peaceful protest and march to get the DoubleTree to cancel the conference.  They were successful in gaining recognition for their cause which is no small feat. In response, Paul Elam took to the internet to blame the “radical gender ideologues” who made it their mission to “silence (his) efforts to address issues affecting boys and men.”  He then created his own petition to call on the “city of Detroit to take note. Radical feminists have corrupted the idea of gender equity. They have transformed it into a Marxist agenda of oppressive control, including the silencing of all opposing views.”

Alright.  I agree that AVfM and its readers absolutely have the right to their own opinions and to express those opinions as they see fit, barring, or course, threats of violence and the like.  By extension, those holding opposing views, myself included, absolutely have the right to express our opinions (also barring threats of violence and the like), including, but not limited to, the right to put pressure on a business to disallow an openly misogynistic group from holding a conference in its facilities.  I think it is important to point out that throughout the organization of this protest, which was done on a public Facebook page, Emma and her co-organizers fostered conversations concerning how to offer a safe space — physically and emotionally — for any person participating in the protest who might find the rhetoric consistently used by AVfM triggering or intimidating in some way.  They discussed the possibility of a counter-protest and prepared all attendees accordingly.  What ended up happening was that a few representatives for AVfM showed up at the protest and, reportedly, followed at least one woman to her car and snapped a photograph of her license plate. A few others took photographs and video of the protest in, what it has been assumed, was an effort to identify and subsequently doxx the attendees.

Personally, I think doxxing is weak and totally fucked up and should only be used in very specific circumstances.  Also, it gives me the willies.  But doxxing is an approach that AVfM is no stranger to.  On May 31st, A Voice for Male Students, which is associated with AVfM, published a letter addressed to Emma that included a photograph of her, her personal email address, and information about her occupation in an overt attempt to put pressure on the Detroit Public School system to deem her a threat to the education of young boys and subsequently fire her.  To me, that reeks of intimidation and threat and, if the school system were to take seriously the phone calls and emails received at the urging of this letter it would, in my mind,  be considered the “silencing of all opposing views.”

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by all this.  Paul Elam, after all, once declared that October should be “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” and said

“I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.”

Because obviously the way to gain attention for the very real issue of domestic violence against men and boys is to urge those victims to act violently as opposed to, I don’t know, working with feminists to help destigmatize the problem and gain more public attention and funding to combat it.  Of course, Elam will say that this was all tongue in cheek.  He will say that he told people that he wasn’t serious.  But,

“Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. Every one should have the right to defend themselves. Hell, women are often excused from killing someone whom they allege has abused them. They can shoot them in their sleep and walk. Happens all the time. It’ll even get you a spot on Oprah, and cuntists across the cunt-o-sphere will be lionizing you.”

It isn’t worth the time behind bars, he alleges.  But, if you do decide to take him up on his advice then

“you are heroes to the cause of equality; true feminists. And you are the honorary Kings of Bash a Violent Bitch Month. You are living proof of just how hollow ‘don’t fuck with us,’ rings from the mouths of bullies and hypocrites.”

So I don’t know, guys.  Paul Elam has the right to his opinions.  But I would argue that we, as feminists, have an obligation to all people to stand up to this sort of hate-fueled rhetoric. So I am really proud to call Emma my friend and really amazed at the effects of the protest and petitions she and her fellow feminist activists put together.  It’s a small step but it’s a step nonetheless.

And let us remember, just as a small aside, that feminism, at its best, isn’t only about the rights of all women, but of all people.  So let’s use this as one more step towards attempting to make the movement as united and inclusive as possible.

This Week Sort of Felt Like the World was Ending

20 Apr

Important!  This piece is me working out some of my conflicting thoughts about what has transpired over the last week.  I hope in reading this, people understand that I feel relieved that the suspects have both been taken off the streets, although I do regret that one of them was killed.  I feel relieved, but I do not feel happy, or celebratory.  What they are accused of having done was undoubtedly horrific.  But I am worried that, once again, we as a society are going to miss a very crucial moment in political time to ask hard questions about why this has happened.  Please keep that in mind as you read.

This has been a really awful and confusing week and I feel, to put it simply, quite conflicted.  When those bombs went off in Boston on Monday I, along with everyone else, was totally shocked.  I had come home from a run to text messages from friends asking me if I knew and if I was alright – some people thought it possible that I was there.  I spent the next two hours in my sweaty running clothes glued to a live stream, hungering for any information at all that would give a clue of who could have done something so horrible, and why.  I know I was not alone.  This week has seen me scouring news sources, reading every single update about the explosion, the victims, the hunt for clues as to the identities of the perpetrators.  I knew that, in a busy shopping district dotted with high-end stores, there would undoubtedly be images captured on video, it was only a matter of time.  And then the time came.

To see the images of these men who were suspected to have out carried out this gruesome attack was mixed.  I was glad that some headway had been made, that there were suspects in mind but at the same time I was sad.  I knew that the attack had happened, I knew that nothing I could think or say could take us back to Monday morning, to a time when these men could have been thwarted or changed their minds.  But seeing them and knowing full well that if they were caught alive their lives would be ruined, along with the lives of so many that were ruined on Monday, made me think:  another two casualties.  Intellectually, I knew it was too late and they would face justice, as they should.  But as a human being, I couldn’t help but think about what it was that inspired them, and specifically, what flipped the younger brother who, by all accounts, had always seemed a good kid.  I felt sad that we, the inhabitants of the world, lost him to this evil.

Thursday was a particularly hard night for all of us, I think.  Information was coming out, but haltingly.  Barely anyone was covering the shooting at MIT.  No one was saying whether or not it was connected to the Monday bombing.  It really felt like, combined with the failure of the background check bill in the Senate and the plant explosion in Texas, the world was ending.  Nothing made any sense.  Everything, everywhere seemed completely out of control.  I waited with baited breath for the next thing to happen, for the next report to come out, for it to be in New York, or DC, for it to be something big.  Thankfully, the thing I was waiting for never happened, it never came.

And then Friday. I spent the day glancing at my Twitter feed, checking the New York Times website, looking up at CNN at work until the second brother, a 19-year-old kid, was found hiding in a boat in someones backyard.  The whole city had been shut down, militarized, and there he was, in a boat on the grass.  And now we’re safe.

But I wonder, are we really? When I wrote my thoughts about Boston on Tuesday, I wondered, among other things, about what sort of security implications the bombing would have for marathons, the spectators and the runners, going forward.  Now that one bother is dead and the other is in custody, now that the imminent threat is gone, I am more worried than ever before.  We have a moment right now where everyone is listening, both domestically and internationally.  We have a moment, right now, where we can have a really serious conversation about why this happened and I don’t just mean why the brothers decided to do what they did I mean why, in a bigger context, what sort of social, economic, political, racial, historical factors might have played a role.  President Obama, in his statement after the younger brother was captured, asked

“Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”

It’s a good question.  It’s a big question, and important one.  Probably bigger and more important than most people think at first.  What is it that makes people like the Tsarnaev brothers, like Major Nidal Malik Hasan of Ford Hood, like Najibullah Zazi who planned the failed 2009 attack on the New York City subway system go from seemingly normal, adjusted people to not? At some point we have to stop pointing the finger at them, at Islam, at whatever.  At some point we have to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Think about Sunil Tripathi, the missing Brown student, who was at first thought to be one of the bombers, largely thanks to Reddit.  And then think of Salah Eddine Barhoum who was questioned soon after the bombings.  I can’t imagine the kind of impact it must have on a young person’s life to have their face wrongly associated with such an awful event.  And the impact it has on other young people of color who see this unfolding before their eyes and realize that could have been them, they could have been accused.  I doubt it makes a lot of people feel terribly American.  I doubt it makes them happy or feel safe.

And then there’s this increased use of the suspension of Miranda rights, thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that has been supported by many of the same senators who voted no on the background check bill.

So as I said, I feel conflicted.  I want to know why these brothers did what they did, too.  I want to have some answers.  But I also want to have some harder conversations and I’m really afraid that, once again, we will miss the boat.

Because the Opinion of Fortune 500 Companies Matters More than Yours

1 Mar

Sometimes people make me really crazy.  Right now I am sitting in a coffee shop in The Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, reading my morning news and (theoretically) working on my thesis.  Really, I am gchatting with my friend and it just took me about a half an hour to read one article on the New York Times website.  The article I read, which I am now going to write about a little bit, is called “Refusing to Arrive Late on Same-Sex Marriage” and can be read here.

So first of all, I am a little put off by the title of this article.  The full title of the article, if my knowledge of common English sayings serves me correctly, which I am 100% certain that it does, is “Refusing to Arrive Late to the Same-Sex Marriage Party.”  In the idealistic and naive part of my brain this sounds great!  It’s like, yea! A party celebrating marriage-equality??  I wouldn’t want to be late to that either!  In fact, I would probably be EARLY because, in fact, I have been outside the venue waiting for this party for years now.  But the thing is, this is an article about businesses and so the “party” that this article is alluding to is not the happiness surrounding the fact that this country is finally en route to doing the right goddamn thing already, but instead that supporting gay marriage is a good business decision.  And that’s what kind of gets me about this whole thing.  It gets me that businesses and corporations, while legally they are treated like people just like the rest of us, which is a whole other issue that is all kinds of fucked up, are only doing the right thing because they will potentially reap financial benefit from doing so.  Not simply because treating all people equally is right.  Not simply because who are they, or anyone really, to tell people how they can and cannot celebrate their love and who they can and cannot include on their health insurance policy and who they can and cannot allow to have visitation rights and make end-of life decisions.  They are supporting it because now, in 2013, they don’t see it as a feasible business model to systematically discriminate against a whole group of people.  Because finally businesses have come around to realize that gay people aren’t only some small little proportion of the population who live on an island and have absolutely no impact on the economy whatsoever.  Gay people have money!  And that means that now, finally, they have power.  Or, better yet, that the power that they have had forever, because they are people, has finally been recognized because they have some green.  Businesses can say something now partially because they can’t afford not to.

I know that maybe I am being unfair.  I know that it is a good thing that companies like Goldman Sachs (who was ahead of the curve and whose chairman and chief executive Lloyd Blankfein participated in a commercial in support of same-sex marriage 5 whole years ago! Wow!), Estee Lauder, Abercrombie, Nike, Google, etc. are coming out in support.  That they are lending economic credibility to the movement, that they are making the legalization of same-sex marriage almost (thankfully) unavoidable.  But the movement was credible before.  It is 2013 for crying out loud and it is only recently that we are seriously addressing a disgusting, systematic form of discrimination.  It is only recently that people with money, people that control huge companies, feel brave enough to step up and speak their mind in support of their friends, family members, co-workers, customers.  What took so long and why does it take money to make it happen?  What is wrong with us?

And this other thing.  At the end of the article there is a quote by the Family Research Council which, obviously, filed a brief against gay marriage and blamed a “a corporate environment dictated by wealthy, pro-homosexual activists” for the business movement towards support of the issue.  The Council then went on to applaud Exxon-Mobile, which is the world’s largest company by market capitalization, for not taking a stance on the issue.  The Council said,

“We applaud Exxon Mobil for refusing to cede the moral high ground to the special interests of the left.”

Cede the moral high ground?  Treating people as your equal is ceding the moral high ground?! Special interests?  Seriously, how does someone wake up in the morning, with a brain that thinks these things and actually believes them to be right, look himself in the mirror and think,

“yea, I am an awesome person who deserves to be here and treated with respect.”

Cuz to that person I want to be like,

“No, dude, you’re just a bigoted asshole. Go suck a lemon.”

This spokesman for the Family Research Council thinks the business reasons behind supporting marriage equality are “trivial” and that the companies signing the briefs were “motivated by political correctness, pure and simple.”  You know what?  Maybe they were motivated by “political correctness” and if that is the case, then yea, that sucks.  They should be motivated by “correctness,” plain and simple.  They should be motivated by the fact that we all deserve all the same rights and opportunities, regardless of religion, color, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and everything else.

And one last thing and then I am done.  I am really sickened by the fact that people are willing to go on the record and say hateful things about other people and think that it is okay because there are a lot of people who agree with them.  That makes me sad.  It makes me sad for all of us that people go out into the world every day somehow believing that they are more entitled to being treated like a human being than somebody else.  I look forward to the day when marriage-equality is just the norm.  When we look back on that the way we look back on the women’s liberation movement and say, god, can you believe there was a time that marriage equality wasn’t a given?  I really do but until then, I am going to continue to be disappointed no, livid, that it is taking us this damn long.  And I am going to continue to be pissed off that, as with everything else, it takes a person, or corporation, with economic power speaking out to really get this done.  When will people just do things because it is the right thing, the only possible thing, rather than when it makes sense from an economic standpoint.

The Invisible War: it’s so much scarier than you think

24 Jan

*This post has been edited to reflect some very useful feedback.

Just as a warning:  I don’t know too much about military parlance so if I called something by the wrong name, I apologize, this sort of thing is slightly outside my area of expertise.  Also, I am not speaking critically about those who choose a career in the military or those who serve for a shorter period of time.  I am simply criticizing the lack of accountability within the military structure when it comes to issues of rape and sexual assault.  I thought women had it bad in this respect in the civilian world but man oh man was I wrong.  Read on if you feel so inclined.

I can think of at least a dozen times over the past few years when I’ve said, in conversation with someone about equal treatment for women, that if there is a draft women should be drafted along side men.  Would I want to be drafted?  Hell no.  Violence scares me.  Guns scare me.  Basic training scares me.  The way I know I would react to authorities yelling at me scares me.  All of that aside I always thought, honestly believed, that women fought for a really long time (in fact, we are still fighting) for equal treatment and that means we have to take the good with the bad.  Along with a desire for equal pay for equal work, we should be required to defend our country if need be.  We should be drafted.  So you would think that when I got a New York Times alert on my phone this afternoon that said “Pentagon Lifts Ban on Women Serving in Combat Roles” I would be happy.  Well, not happy, but relieved.  Well…placated.  Yea, I think placated.  But I wasn’t.  I was angry.

This past Tuesday my friend Dee and I went to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see “The Invisible War.”  The film was temporarily re-released in anticipation of the Oscars for which “The Invisible War” was nominated in the documentary category.  I had been really interested to see it which makes sense since, I recently discovered, I pretty much only read about sexual assault and urban farming. (Only a slight exaggeration.  I also read whatever happens to be in the New Yorker.)  Anyway, “The Invisible War” is an investigative documentary about the instances, and handling (or lack thereof), of rape and sexual assault in the US military.  Now I knew going into it that it wasn’t handled well (when is it, for crying out loud) but I was not prepared for what I saw.  Not even close.  Just to give you an idea, the movie was 1 hour and 37 minutes long and I probably cried for about 1 hour and 27 minutes of that.  It was, to put it lightly, horrifying.  Honestly, the movie was incredibly done but I just could not wait for it to be over.  I just sat there and watched the women and men they interviewed go back over the most painful experiences of their lives and I can tell you that watching them speak, I realized that I don’t think I actually know what pain is.  What injustice is.  I have never experienced pain or injustice even close to what the victims in this film did and do every day.  How they get out of bed in the morning after what they went through, after what they continue to go through, is an incredible feat.  And the thing is, that the fight they are fighting seems almost hopeless.

According to “The Invisible War,” since women were allowed to serve in the military, there have been at least 500,000 rapes and sexual assaults.  500,000.  And in the overwhelming majority of those cases, there has been no significant investigation, no conviction.  These men, these monsters, continue to serve in the military and in at least one case, receive an honor for service while their rape charge was being argued within the military justice system.  How?  How is that possible?  How is it possible that an act so vile is just ignored over and over again?  That the victim is dishonorably discharged, or discharged for medical reasons stemming from her attack, and the predator is allowed to continue to serve, continue to prey.  And then that predator is released into the civilian population and you’d better believe he continues to prey there.  These are the people that are supposed to protect.  How can we send them into other countries to fight, to represent the United States, when they are drugging and raping their fellow soldiers, when they are hitting a fellow soldier so hard across the face that she has to stay on a soft diet for years, when they are calling a fellow soldier “the walking mattress” because of the amount of times she has been raped.  Who are we that we let this continue to happen within an organization that should make us proud? Whose members we trust to behave in a respectful, or at the very least humane, manner?

So when I read that article this afternoon, I didn’t feel as though another level of equality had been reached, I felt sickened and afraid.  All I could think about when I read that headline was that the more units women can serve in in this current military system, the more women will be raped, their lives destroyed.  Rape in the military, according to the military, is something that happens.  It is something that needs to be prevented by forcing women to have buddies when walking through their own barracks at night so they don’t get attacked.  It is prevention aimed at women.  It is the women’s responsibility to make sure they don’t put themselves in a dangerous situation.  It’s not about the men being told that rape is wrong.  What are women supposed to do when a man, their superior, breaks into their room and rapes them on their own bed?  When they are told that if they speak out they will be killed?  When rape is considered “an occupational hazard” of joining the armed forces?  It makes me sick.

So now I have to change my tune.  You know what?  I do still think that, ideally, women should be drafted alongside men if a draft is required.  I think women should be welcome in every single unit in the armed forces.  But a lot of things have to change before that.  Rape in the military needs to be taken seriously by the military, by the government, by the country.  Rape cases need to be tried outside of the military so there is accountability and transparency.  Rapists need to be held accountable for their actions because if they continue to get away with it, what reason do they have to ever stop?  And rape victims need to be treated as such, as victims.  Whether they be male or female, they need justice to be served.  They need proper medical, emotional and psychological support and treatment.  They need to know it was not their fault.  So until women are treated as equal…no, fuck that.  Until women are treated as human beings by the military as a whole, I am not in support of women in combat roles.  I am not in support of women in any role at all.  And that’s not because I think women are incapable, quite the opposite.  Women are incredibly capable of doing just about anything men can do.  It’s because I think that the patriarchal system within which our military sits quite nicely is not fit to offer women what they need:  protection and respect.  If we put our life on the line for this country, then the least you can do is promise us that we will not be raped by those with whom we serve.  Or, if not that because some evil seeps into every organization, at least promise us that if we are raped, justice will be done.  Promise us we will get the support and protection we deserve.  Until then, you don’t deserve our loyalty.  You don’t deserve our bodies on the front lines.  You don’t deserve women.

(You all should see “The Invisible War.”  Bring tissues.  And maybe a punching bag.)