Tag Archives: sexual assault

To The Accused: I Do Not Accept Your Apologies

17 Nov

These past few weeks have been overwhelming. Weeks? Months, maybe. It’s hard to keep track. It has to be months, though, because it all started with Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. It started with a flurry and it turned into a blizzard. I wonder if there will be an avalanche before it is all over, and if there is one who will be buried – the accused or the accusers. I wonder whether all the people coming forward are empowered by their sisters and brothers in trauma or whether they are afraid, like I am, that we have to seize this moment, right now, and run with it as far and as fast as we can before we lose it. Before it becomes about something else. Before this reckoning gets silenced and the conversations I have been hearing all around me start happening less and less; until eventually they become once again what they were – a bunch of us women talking in hushed tones, telling each other who to avoid, where not to go, and offering hugs and tears and sheer unbridled rage because that is all we have to give. We have, it seems, an unending well of that. Of rage and of support for each other.

I don’t know about all of you but what we are living through right now is hard. It physically hurts. I have felt like I’ve been punched in the gut, in the face. Like my heart has been ripped out of my chest again and again with every new allegation, every new story. There are just so many. And I knew there were, of course I knew. I’m not stupid. My girl friends, every single one of them, has experienced some sort of sexual abuse, sexual harassment. We’ve been touched, raped, followed, stalked, catcalled, sent unwanted photographs, masturbated in front of. Me and my group of friends are not unique, no. We are the norm. We are representative of just about every single woman who walks the face of this planet. We all have stories. We all have experiences. And now, once again, we are doing the work. We are coming forward, telling our stories, defending ourselves, explaining rape culture.

Every single time I have to say the same things I have been saying to the seemingly never ending parade of clueless men I feel defeated. It’s like an assembly line that just never seems to end. Honestly, I am heart broken and I am angry. So very, very angry. We all are. Sometimes I think if we could harness all the female rage built up over the centuries we could power every single electrical grid in the world with plenty of energy left over. That is how real this anger is, how deep it goes. And it isn’t just about men, it is about us too. We were raised by the patriarchy just the same as everyone else. So at the same time we were reading about equality and learning about women’s rights and paying lip service to how far we have come, we were being sexually abused and it was so damn normalized that we didn’t even know to call it what it was.


I came to political consciousness a few years before Monica Lewinsky was labeled a slut by the national media. It happened in 1998. I was 15 years old. I remember talking to my mom about it, not understanding why what the President did in his bedroom concerned us. I didn’t think someone’s extra-marital affair should overshadow the important things that were happening at the time like the assault of Abner Louima by the New York City Police Department or the fact that after 156 years of British Rule Hong Kong was turned over to China. I didn’t understand why we weren’t discussing our tragic and embarrassing response to the Rwandan Genocide or how scary The Unabomber was. But Monica Lewinsky’s experience was a huge deal for reasons that I could not understand because I was raised in a social climate that blames women, calls us gold diggers and power seekers. While out society lives and dies by the Church of Male Power, it refuses to acknowledge how that power is wielded as a weapon and how women are so often the victims. Bill Clinton had sexual contact with his 22-year-old intern and then he lied about it. He was impeached but not for his treatment of Lewinsky because that simply didn’t matter. He was impeached because he lied about it. And then, since we have been talking about apologies recently, he said something that I find to be so incredibly insulting, so incredibly dehumanizing to every single woman everywhere

I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

He did not have sexual relations “with that woman.” It makes me queasy to just type those words. That woman. I can hear his voice in my head saying those words. And to think, Lewinsky didn’t even want to come forward with what had happened. Yet she at 22 was dragged through the mud. Still to this day, 20 years later, “Monica Lewinsky dress” is one of the first items to come up when you google her. Bill Clinton was able to go on and finish his presidency, to continue to play an important in world politics. She will always be associated with that dress and its semen stain.


I guess the point I am trying to make is that we all grew up steeped in it. And some of us were victimized and, at the time, we didn’t even know it. And as we have gotten older we started to realize that the way men treat women, although it is normalized, is not normal. It is not right. And for as complicated as we make it, something that I believe we as a society do in order to justify its continuation, it actually isn’t that complicated. Sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and sexual assault is wrong. It has always been wrong. It is wrong whether it was at the hands of Roy Moore or Al Franken; Bill O’Reilly or Harvey Weinstein; Kevin Spacey or one of the presidents of the United States. They should all get the same treatment. They should all be taken down. They should have been taken down years ago. I have no sympathy for any of them. I don’t care what they thought the “social climate” was like when they did what they did. I don’t care how they justified it to themselves over all the years they tried to keep it quiet. Some of them, I’m sure, never thought it was wrong to begin with. They never thought about a day that for them was so normal but for the victim could have changed the course of her or his life. But that is not my problem. It is theirs. So I want them all to shut the hell up. It’s our turn.

Men Are the Fucking Worst

8 Nov

Sorry, guys. It’s true. Men are the fucking worst. White men, I am mostly talking to you. But before you all roll your eyes, shut the browser window and grumble about women and feminism, and #notallmen and whatever, please hear me out. I feel like you owe us that much. Or don’t. And just reinforce my theory that men are the fucking worst.

Here’s the thing. There are plenty of individual men who are not, on their own, the fucking worst. I am, in fact, dating one such person and in my opinion, which of course is biased, he is pretty great. So let’s not get all crazy here. There are lots of men who, when they are on their own, I like very much. It is men as a group that I have a problem with. And also some men that are part of that group and absolutely refuse to engage with their own privilege, their own behavior, and the ways in which those things negatively impact those around them. Those men are individually pretty shitty. As a white person, I can understand the frustration with being lumped in with a bunch of other people who just happen to share a characteristic with me and then being blamed for their bad behavior. Or for the bad behavior of the group as a whole in which I am a member. Did I choose to be part of the oppressive class? No. But I am. And much in the way that men are the fucking worst, white people are also the fucking worst. Seriously, we suck. I am Jewish and do you know who tried to kill all the Jews? White people. People who look like me actively tried to wipe people who also look like me off the face of the earth and for what reason? Some bullshit, that’s what. And I am still lumped in with white people even though if it was up to white people I wouldn’t even exist anymore. And even still I am like, well, you know what? I benefit from the way that I look and even though I might not have been around at the inception of racism, I benefit from the persistence of it whether I like it or not and whether I want to admit it or not. But what does not admitting it get me? Nothing except that it makes me even more of the fucking worst. It is my job to be better.

So in my mind the same thing applies to men. I get it. Men get mad that women blame them for all the bad treatment and shit like that. And women do, in fact, blame men for historical things that current men might not have even been alive for. I understand that is frustrating. But take a second and ask yourself, really ask yourself, do you receive benefits in your daily life solely from being male. Let me give you some direction here. The answer is YES, yes you fucking do. And that isn’t your fault, necessarily, but it does need to be acknowledged and challenged and much as white people shouldn’t task people of color with undoing racism and educating us about how our behavior negatively impacts their lived experience, women should not be tasked with constantly calling men out on their shit. And that is part of the reason why the #metoo movement pissed me off. Women were tasked with reliving their horror for the benefit of men. This has been going on for fucking ever, it is the year 2017 for crying out loud, and this is all just coming out now. And it doesn’t just take one woman to make it happen. It takes tens of thousands. Millions, even. And I still don’t see us really having large discussions about the systemic reasons why this is the case.

Part of me feels compelled to go into all those systemic things that I wish we were talking about. A lot of me wants to address the issue that, in this rare moment when women are actually being listened to, there are only some women, very few women, with a platform to speak and with a voice that people are willing to hear. Those women are mostly famous, mostly wealthy, and mostly white. And, in my personal opinion, they still aren’t really being heard. They are the most privileged among us and still they are being dismissed in many corners. They are being given this moment but I can already see the moment fading away. See people wondering why we are still talking about this. People getting frustrated. But just think about all the women that have had these experiences who are not speaking up because, for myriad reasons, they cannot. The voices coming from Hollywood might be expressing experiences that most of us have had, but they are not loud enough to drown out the silence of millions more. And they are not powerful enough to stop all of the sexual assaults and sexual mistreatment that has happened since these scandals hit the mainstream, and they cannot stop those which will happen going forward.

I don’t know how to even begin to fix that other than to tell men to listen to the women in your lives. Don’t mock us when we express fear that, to you, might seem unfounded. We have been trained to sense danger in even the most unexpected places. Don’t call us crazy when we tell you that the way you are talking to us is condescending. Don’t get into bed with us when we are too drunk to consent and then tell us our behavior was confusing or that it is our fault that you misunderstood or that we wanted it.  Don’t tell us our lived experiences are not valid. Don’t speak over us. And also, pay attention. Don’t make us do all the work. Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you. See what you, yes you, do on a daily basis that undermines women’s feelings of self worth. It is not your fault that you grew up in this system. We all did. But it is your job to work to be better and to challenge it.

So, men, I am telling you that as a group you are the fucking worst and I don’t really like you. As a group, you make my life worse, more difficult. As a group, you make me feel less valuable, less valued, less human. So as individuals, try to be better. And in an effort to help, because I am feeling charitable today, I am going to start doing something. I am going to take my power back. Because what I have come to realize is that I don’t care if you like me or not. Did you hear that, men? I, Rebekah Frank, do not care whether you like me or think I am the biggest bitch in the entire world. I spent a lot of time caring. A lot of time protecting your feelings where you didn’t protect mine. A lot of time dressing a certain way, acting a certain way and doing certain things I didn’t want to do to make you like me but I am done with all that. In fact, I am going to do you a favor. When I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m going to tell you. And I might not be nice about it. And I hope you are man enough to take a step back and realize that what I am addressing did not happen in a vacuum, it has the full power of history behind it. And that history might not be your fault, personally, but you benefit from it so it is up to you to fight against its persistence. Just try and be a little bit less the worst. It won’t be easy and you won’t always get it right, but we’ll all be better because of it.

It is up to every man, just like it is up to every white person, to be less of the worst. So let’s get to it, shall we?

And the Army Fails Another Victim of Sexual Violence

20 Mar

Seriously you guys, when are we going to get this right?  When are we going to figure out how to deal with sexual violence within the justice system, the military, colleges, our society?  Just now I was sitting at the computer, catching up on training videos for the upcoming Jesolo gymnastics meet when my phone made a little chirping noise.  I got all excited, thinking it was a text message or someone emailing me to offer me The Most Awesome Job Ever on the Face of the Planet but no.  It was neither of those things.  What it was was the following headline from The New York Times:

General Accused of Sexual Assault Receives Minor Punishment, No Jail.”

So here’s the deal.  Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair “pleaded guilty to charges that included mistreating his mistress, adultery and requesting explicit photographs from female Army officers” and instead of any sort of punishment he was ordered to pay $5,000 of his salary for the next four months.  That’s it.  He keeps his pension.  No jail time.  Just a measly $20,000.  What a bargain for assaulting someone.  Here is the meat of the article:

“The sentencing ends a two-year prosecution that highlighted sexual misconduct at even senior ranks of the military at a time when Congress was demanding that the Army crack down on the problem, but which came apart after military lawyers concluded that their chief witness may have lied at a hearing and the judge ruled that political considerations may have improperly influenced the case.”

In the words of my good friend Carrie: MUTHER FUCKING FUCK OF A FUCKING FUCK

So maybe some of you readers don’t think this is as big a deal as Carrie and I do.  Let’s just take a moment to learn a little bit more about this case, shall we?

According to a Los Angeles Times article published yesterday, General Sinclair “pleaded guilty Monday to mistreating the captain. He also pleaded guilty to twice misusing his government charge card to pursue the affair, disobeying an order not to contact his mistress, and making derogatory comments about other female officers.

“A week earlier, Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery; impeding an investigation by deleting sexually explicit emails to and from a civilian woman; possessing pornography in a war zone; conducting inappropriate relationships with two other female officers; and improperly asking a female lieutenant for a date.”

I like how the article sort of glosses over the situation with the army captain as simple “mistreatment” but we will talk about what that word means in a minute.  What is interesting to me here is that you have this guy, a general, a man of power, who uses this power to ask women out on dates.  That is bad enough in and of itself.  The real problem arises when you realize that he is operating within a system that not only has a very well-defined power structure, but also has a very clear and documented history of not taking cases of sexual misconduct and instances of sexual violence seriously in the least bit.  He asked women out on a date within an environment in which they understandably could have felt that turning the general down could result in unfavorable treatment and that if such a thing occurred, they would have absolutely no recourse because the army does not give a shit about sexual misconduct and intimidation and violence within its ranks.  It is institutionalized.  Given this reality, and the fact that the military is claiming to make moves towards addressing its embarrassing record on punishing actions of sexual misconduct, the fact that his asking women out is not seen as hugely problematic and possibly symptomatic of a larger issue is insane to me.

The original charges, the “mistreatment,” were actually charges of sexual assault and making death threats against a woman with whom he had a three year affair as well as her family.  Sexual assault. Death threats.  All dropped.  And this guy has the nerve to break down in tears in front of a judge, talking about how his family shouldn’t be denied his military benefits because of his adulterous affair.  What about her family and what they endured?  Okay, if that were actually the case I would feel for his family. An entire family shouldn’t be punished because this dude can’t seem to keep it in his pants.  But in the same tearful outburst, he also apologized to his accuser and to the two officer’s whom he pressured to send nude photos of themselves.  Again, a man in power within the context of the US military abuses an army captain and also uses his power to pressure his subordinates into sending him nude photographs of themselves and all he gets is a $20,000 fine?! Give me a fucking break.  I mean, I know that’s some money.  I wouldn’t mind having an extra twenty grand lying around right about now.  But what kind of a deterrent is that?  He is one of a very small number of generals to be court marshaled and, given the information we have about the depth of sexual misconduct within the armed forces, it seems unlikely that that small number accurately reflects the real number of generals who have misused their power to coerce subordinates to perform sexual acts.  It seems like the risk of getting caught are simply not high enough to stop anyone from misusing power for sexual gain if that is what they’re into.

What this is is another example of how we simply do not take sexual violence seriously in this country.  This man is a predator.  Easy as that.  And why shouldn’t he be one?  I mean, take the morals and the ethics out of the equation here.  The existence of a legal framework to try and punish those who commit crimes of a sexual nature against others would be a deterrent if that system actually fucking existed.  And I am not even talking about within the context of the army here.  I am talking about in the wider context of everything.  We simply do not think of sexual violence as being a scourge on our society.  We do not see sexual violence for what it is.  We blame those who are the victims and we, as a society, put up every single possible road block in order to keep people from getting justice for their abuse.  You need look no further than the thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits sitting in storage units across the country.  There is evidence of serial rapists who have gone unpunished because the kits containing evidence of their crime sit in storage units gathering dust.  To think that women and men who are raped and then go to the police to then have an invasive evidence-gathering procedure conducted in hopes that their assailant will be caught and they will have some justice went through all of that for nothing is absolutely sickening.  Thousands of victims.  Thousands of assailants who are told that their crime is not actually a crime, who are essentially, through state inaction, given permission to attack again.  Oh yea, and then there’s the statute of limitations which is up on so many of these kits.  Victims who have to live with their attack for the rest of their lives with no hope of any sort of punishment for their attackers.  What the fuck is that.

And then there are the college campuses.  Read the story of Sasha Menu Courey.  Time and time again we hear about colleges trying to handle sexual assault cases themselves, resulting in the revictimization of the victim and a slap on the wrist for the attacker, if that.  That is if we read about these cases at all.  Most of the time when we hear anything about them it is because the victim comes forward to try and hold their university accountable for improper handling of cases, inaction, or the fostering of an environment that does not address the issue of rape culture.  It is everywhere.

It is everywhere and I think it starts in casual conversation.  This shit is so ingrained in our culture it is amazing.  The number of times I have tried to stand up for myself in public or at my work when someone has made an inappropriate comment to me and I have been told to “relax” is unreal.  I should not have to ignore poor behavior because me calling someone out might hurt their feelings.  You know what?  You calling me baby, telling me to smile, and whispering “God bless you” in my ear as you walk by didn’t exactly make me feel good.  We should be able to stand up for ourselves.  We should not be made to feel as though we are overreacting.  We should not have to justify our anger and hurt and fear.  This case with the general is so upsetting because it is simply another example of people not being held accountable for sexual misconduct.  It is another example of women being second guessed and doubted and told that their bodies are not protected.  Not on the streets, not in college and not in the armed forces.  It is fucked up and it simply has to stop.  When are we going to treat sexual violence, threats, assault, misconduct with the seriousness that it deserves?

You Live Here, Why Not Travel There: The Case for Sustained Female Tourism to India

12 Jun

I traveled to India for the first time in December of 2003 with 21 other students and a few professors.  We spent about 8 weeks learning about sustainability, the economy, tourism, ecology, agriculture.  We spent a good amount of time in the homes of different families who welcomed us with open arms  (well, for the most part).  I returned just after I graduated college in the fall of 2005 with a good friend of mine, Abby, and spent about 4 months traversing the sub-continent.  It was an amazing trip, cut short mostly by the fact that I had run my travel fund dry.  I spent my entire trip in the company of others and the only close-call of a sexual nature came at the hands of a fellow traveler.  I went back for a third time in the summer of 2011 with two of my girlfriends from graduate school, one of whom is fluent in Hindi.  This led to some surprised faces and a pretty awesome night in which the operators of a government bus hand delivered us to our hotel so we wouldn’t have to face tracking down an auto rickshaw after midnight on our own.  I would go back in a heartbeat if I could find a companion and if time and finances allowed.

So I must say I am more than a little saddened by the recent reports that, due to highly publicized sexual assaults in India, tourism has dropped, and especially amongst females.  A June 10th article on the New York Times blog, India Ink entitled “India Scrambles to Reassure Tourists Shaken by Recent Attacks on Women,” discusses the issue.  The article, by Neha Thirani Bagri and Heather Timmons, explains that in the first three months of this year visits by females to India fell by 35%.  Thisfall-off has been linked by many to the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi this past December.  There have also been assaults and rapes reported by tourists over the last few months, including a 30-year-old woman who was gang-raped in a resort town in the north and a 39-year-old Swiss tourist who was raped by four men in Madhya Pradesh.  Listen, I get it, the prospect of being raped or sexually assaulted in a foreign country where you’re not familiar with the language, the customs, or the legal system and where you are far from home and your friends and family is terrifying.  But the thing is that, as a female, I live in almost constant, albeit dull, fear of being sexually assaulted and I think, when pressed, many women would agree.  In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a woman in your life who has been neither threatened with sexual violence nor had sexual violence committed against her.  For my part I have been groped and spit on in the street, been the victim of an attempted rape in my own home, and ran screaming from the house of someone I considered a friend, although not a close one, when my strong and loud repetition of the word “no” went unheard.  My stories are not unique.  And every single one of them happened here, in the United States.

That’s not even the point.  I am not here arguing that there are more rapes in the United States than elsewhere.  I don’t know that we could ever accurately know that given the poor reporting rates at the global level, a fact I have discussed elsewhere in this blog.  Clearly, I have spent more of my life here and so it would follow that most of the bad things that have happened to me also would have happened here.  What I am saying is that the articles covering the decrease in tourism have not done much to reverse this trend by encouraging a more nuanced discussion.  So, here’s my attempt.

As a commenter on an article I read said, India is a very big country, 1,269,219 square miles, with a lot of people living in it, over 1.2 billion according to the 2011 census.  There are places that are more safe and places that are less safe, much like here.  There are people who are likely to rape and people who are unlikely to rape, much like here.  In the Times article, the authors quoted a 24-year-old from San Francisco, Corinne Aparis, as saying “It scares me to think that there’s that type of deep hatred toward women — that just being a woman is enough of a target and reason for some men to inflict such violence on me.”  The thing is, she could be talking about anywhere.  This quote is taken as something specific to the Indian context but that could not be further from the truth.  For evidence of that fact just watch the movie Compliance, read about the Cleveland, Texas gang rape of an 11-year-old, talk to some of your female friends.

You know what is different about India?  The response.  I doubt we would have learned nearly as much about the horrific December Delhi rape if it weren’t for the response of Indians.  According to the Times article once again, “The public outrage over the December attack led to the passage of a new sexual offense law in March that imposes stronger penalties for violence against women and criminalizes actions like stalking and voyeurism.”  I personally do not remember a time in the United States when protesters lined the streets for a day, let alone weeks, in response to a rape and the subsequent handling of the case by authorities.  I do not remember a time in the United States when the national dialogue wasn’t seemingly dominated by the endless repetition of “boys will be boys,” “why was she out at that time wearing that outfit,” and “where was her mother?”  Let’s just think back to the recent events in Steubenville.  Just this past Thursday, on June 6th, Mother Jones printed an article that reported that where the two rapists in the Steubenville case got a 1-and-2-year prison sentence, one of the hackers who broke the case open is facing up to 10-years in jail for hacking-related crimes.  To me, that says a lot about this country’s priorities.

Listen, I am not saying that people’s feelings regarding safety when traveling are unjustified.  If you feel unsafe for any reason, that is your prerogative.  What I am saying is that let’s put this into a larger context.  This is not an India problem, this is an everywhere problem.  But I would go so far as to say that the Indian population at large, at least recently, has a much more proactive attitude towards securing safety from sexual violence for women and men, and towards ensuring the proper handling of sexual assault cases.  We should be so vociferous.  Rather than write India off as unsafe for women, we should follow in the population’s footsteps.  We should stand in support of sexual assault victims, try to get our justice system to do right by them, by us, and change our rape culture.

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.)

Roe v Wade is 40!

17 Jan

I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about how, sometimes, being a woman really sucks.  I wrote about it here, when I talked about street harassment.  And again here, when I discussed this recent tragedy in Delhi.  And then here and here and here, when I went on about how much certain politicians and real estate moguls are complete asshats.  And, for one last example, here in a discussion of a particularly off-putting experience I had while bartending one Friday night.  Honestly, those are only a choice few, feel free to go adventuring through the rest of my blog for a few more fun examples.  Being female in this world is like constant fodder for me and this blog.  In fact, my first ever post on this blog was inspired by the fact that I am in possession of breasts and a vagina.  Without those things, who knows whether this blog ever would have come into existence!  Along those lines, I would like more than anything to weigh in on this whole Manti Te’o disaster and how disgraceful it is, as was pointed out by Melinda Henneburger here and here, that Notre Dame and the entire country got so riled up over the death of a fake person while, 2 years ago, the death of a real girl, Lizzy Seeberg, went almost completely unnoticed.  The same university machine that has used its resources and soap box to paint Manti Te’o as a victim – which maybe he is (either that or he is unstable and still deserves support) – claimed that Lizzy Seeberg falsely accused a different football player of sexual assault, a player who never sat out a day of practice following her accusal and IN FACT was not interviewed until 5 days after her death which was 10 days after the assault allegedly* occurred.  But I’m not going to write about that today.  Today is different.  Today I am going to use this opportunity, the 4oth anniversary of Roe v Wade, to talk about why I think being a woman, and specifically a woman in America, is awesome.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have now been sitting here staring at my computer for about 5 minutes trying to figure out how to proceed.

Okay.  Here goes.

I love the fact that when I was in school, every sport had to either have a team specifically for men and one for women, or, if there was no women’s team available, women had to be allowed to play with the men, or vice versa.  Granted, there were no female football players or male field hockey players, but the option was there.  Also, our football team sucked and so our sports heroes, as much as we had any really, were the members of the women’s varsity soccer team.  They kicked ass.

I love the fact that I can vote, can drive a car, can live on my own, can walk around with my head held high, making eye contact willy-nilly (but not with people who look like maybe they are crazy and want to (a) attack me or (b) get me to sign some sheet supporting environmental rights and just give them my credit card number right there on 5th Avenue!  Yea right.  Whaddayou think I am, stupid?).

I love the fact that when I was little and swore off skirts and dresses my mom, and society at large, was totally cool with me wearing sweatshirts with “Mr. Egghead” on the front or bright yellow overalls.

I love the fact that, at least theoretically, I can hold any job that a man can hold and that, maybe eventually, I will be paid equally for equal work.  (Well, I guess that one falls a little flat, doesn’t it?)

I love the fact that in my classes from grade school on through graduate school, my opinions were respected and appreciated as much as my male classmates and that my insight, having been gained from my experiences as a woman, were never, at least not to my knowledge, dismissed as feminist ranting.

I love that I live in a country that allows someone like Hillary Rodham Clinton to be where she is today.  (So glad that health thing is okay now!)

I love that I live in a place where I am able to express my opinions while at my job, with my friends, or on this blog without feeling threatened or unsafe.

I love that, at least theoretically and for now, if I, or any woman I know, find myself pregnant at a time when, for whatever reason, I feel I cannot or do not want to carry that baby to terms, then I have options.

I’m sure I am missing some things here.  There are plenty of other reasons that it is great to be a woman and, forgetting some things means that I am taking a few things for granted which is both good and bad.  It’s always good to be aware of the ways in which we have it good, but sometimes its nice to have the luxury to assume a few things, to have that battle be unmistakably won.  I do hope though that, when it comes to historic wins like Title IX and women’s suffrage and Roe v Wade, that we never forget how far we’ve come and how hard we fought.  We’ve got a long way to go, people, but let’s not forget where we came from.  Happy anniversary, Roe v Wade.  Today I would like to renew my vow to fight for your continuance.

*Man, I hate that word and everything it represents.  Something about the word “allegedly” makes me feel like by saying it that I am not believing the victim, which I do, because the overwhelming majority of the time rape and sexual assault victims do not report rape or sexual assault unless it actually happened.  So, “allegedly” is out.  Never again to be used on this blog.  That’s a promise.