Ban Bossy (Before it turns into a Bitch)

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I think the Ban Bossy campaign is great.

This is their mission statement“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”

I will admit I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it, because it seems like a rather innocuous, uncontroversial campaign to encourage young girls to be leaders. It’s not attacking anyone. It’s not blaming anyone in particular. It’s just drawing attention to the fact that girls are exposed to this kind of harmful language at an early age, and if we make a point to stop using it now, it’s an easy way to influence positive change.

But then I started to hear criticism. From women. Grown women. I agree that ideas should be discussed, especially campaigns targeted at young women in the name of feminism, but the arguments against this are pissing me off, and for me, have brought up the more serious issue of the kind of hateful language women and girls alike are trained to tolerate.

Margaret Talbot argues in her blog post on the NewYorker.com that “Banning is really only for words that solely degrade or demean, and even then you want to proceed with caution because you’re depleting the expressive richness of the language.” Now, frankly I feel like the argument is just taking the campaign a bit too literally. I don’t think anyone actually expects to erase the word from the English language. Also, I think she’s kind of boarding on problematic with the whole “depleting the expressive richness of language” argument. There are plenty of words we don’t use anymore  due to the fact that they served no other purpose than to express hate towards certain groups or individuals. BUT I DIGRESS. This argument is weak, Margaret. Weak.

Robyn Urback brings up multiple issues she has with the campaign in her article for the National Post. However, her arguments, to me, actually just emphasize a bigger issue. First, she starts off by quoting Karen McCrindle, who is the director of French and Linguistics at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Apparently, when McCrindle was a young tot and kids on the playground called her bossy “she was fine with that” because “That meant I was confident. I didn’t internalize the negative connotation at all.” WELL ISN’T THAT NICE FOR YOU, KAREN! ISN’T THAT NICE FOR US ALL! I didn’t realize that McCrindle spoke for all women and girls. Beyoncé really should have asked Karen before starting all this drama in the first place. Classic Beyoncé, forgetting to consult Karen. Micheline Maynard made a similar comment during a debate on Ban Bossy on the CBC Radio show Day 6To paraphrase, because I am too lazy to listen to the podcast and transcribe a direct quote, she said that when she gets called bossy, she takes it as a compliment, because she knows she’s doing a good job.

Again, good for you, Micheline. I’m glad that you, as a grown woman, are able to recognize that a co-worker calling you bossy is actually an indicator that you’re doing your job right. Know what other word that’s really a demeaning insult adult women are now able to recognize as meaning they know how to get shit done? Bitch.

Being called “bossy” isn’t a compliment. They aren’t calling you “the Boss.” They are calling you “boss-like,” and it is implied that you don’t really have the right to be acting like a boss. They don’t want you telling them what to do. It means they don’t respect you. “Bitch” is the PG13 version of “bossy.” It means the same thing, but at least whoever called you it knows enough to be somewhat intimidated by you.

This really gets to the real reason why I think banning “bossy” in elementary school is so important; because bossy hits puberty and turns into a bitch. “Bossy” is a word used against girls. “Bitch” is a word used against women.

If we teach young girls and boys that girls taking leadership roles is A-Okay, then maybe they’ll grow up and stop having a problem with women taking leadership roles as adults.

We shouldn’t be teaching girls to tolerate hateful and belittling language, and then translate it internally as an indicator that they’re on the right track. We should be teaching boys and girls NOT TO USE THAT LANGUAGE AT ALL. Why can’t we try to create a world where we just tell them they’re on the right track? And when Maynard says things like “I take it as a compliment,” this is a horrible indicator of the language we as grown women have learned to tolerate, to accept as indicators of a job well done. We simply can’t expect to be praised for showing the same work ethic and drive as our male colleagues. Isn’t that sad? Isn’t it tragic that Maynard has just accepted this? Karen McCrindle goes on to say that “I now have a young daughter who is almost seven. If people tell her she’s bossy, I’ll tell her that means she has leadership skills.” Isn’t that SAD? She’s not teaching her daughter to stand up for herself and tell those bullies to go to hell, she’s teaching her daughter to just accept verbal abuse as a compliment, because it would be unrealistic to expect an actual compliment.

Robyn Urback continues on in her piece to argue that the Ban Bossy campaign actually teaches young girls at an early age that women need protection. I would argue that it teaches girls to empower themselves. We’re socialized to think we’re less than men from such an early age, it hardly even registers. Not only are girls bossy, but “girl” is one of the biggest playground insults you can hurl at someone. “Don’t be a girl,” “you play like a girl,” “what are you, A GIRL?” Ban Bossy gives girls a voice. It empowers them to stand up for themselves. It’s telling them that “girl” is not an insult, and that they have just as much right as any boy to be in charge. Honestly, I wish this was around when I was in school.

Ban Bossy isn’t about protecting girls, it’s about teaching them that they don’t have to sit back and take sexist bullshit.

If you want to take the pledge and support the campaign, head over to http://banbossy.com/

Call It What It Is: The SMU Rape Chant

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The headline “Saint Mary’s Frosh Underage Sex Chant Sparks Review” is in and of itself problematic.

“Underage Sex” = statutory rape. It just does. That’s the definition. And that’s not even that part where they actually cheer for rape. Rape in general.

Let’s break down this masterpiece of (university level)prose, shall we? It reaches a level Robin Thick could never hope to capture.

“Y… is for your sister” The “Y” is probably the least offensive, proving that these university kids are extremely clever. Or maybe they’re just naming their victim. YOU CHOOSE!

“O… is for Oh so tight.” Tight vagina. Because preferably she would be a virgin?

“U… is for underage” Okay shut it down. Stop. Please. Just don’t. The implication of this is that you are looking for girls who are not able to legally consent to sex. This makes whatever you wish to do rape, and also pushes you towards that “pedofile” arena in case you were wondering.

“N… is for No Consent” So Rape. You mean rape. “No consent” is the DEFINITION of rape.

“G… is for grab that ass.” While you rape her. Grab that ass while you rape her.

To summarize, in case this breakdown was too difficult for you to follow, translated from ass-hole misogynist-potential rapist language, the chanters wish to rape underage girls. Preferably your sister.

They want to rape underage girls.

They want to rape underage girls.

They. Want. To. Rape. Underage. Girls.

THEY ARE HAPPILY CHANTING ABOUT RAPING UNDERAGE GIRLS, POSSIBLY YOUR SISTER.

I’m sorry to keep repeating myself, but I don’t know how to make this ANY MORE CLEAR. There is no defense to this! There is no excuse! This is condoning rape, and violence against women and GIRLS. Not only does this CONDONE rape. IT ENCOURAGES RAPE. IT CELEBRATES RAPE. AND I’M GOING TO CONTINUE SAYING RAPE BECAUSE THE MEDIA REFUSES TO!

Student Union President Jared Perry (who had the decency to step down from his position of Chair of Students Nova Scotia) was quoted by CBC: “These are great leaders,” said Perry. “This was simply a moment with a lack of judgment.”

Don’t try to tell me they didn’t know what they were saying. Take some goddamn responsibility for what comes out of your mouth.

Also, they DID know what they were saying. And it wasn’t only the men. In the CBC article on this story, they interviewed two women at the event.

“We thought it was funny,” said Siobhan Evans. ”We were all just excited … I don’t regret it.”

“It wasn’t a big deal to me. I’m not a feminist kind of person. It didn’t affect me personally,” said second-year psychology student Amanda Fougere.

These two gems come from two young women who should be ashamed of themselves. Because not only does participating in this disgusting parade of hate towards women and girls show a SHOCKING amount of ignorance, but it illustrates that they give no shits towards the well being of their fellow women on campus. Because it doesn’t affect them and they think it’s funny.

Ladies of SMU, next time you’re out at a bar, I don’t recommend asking Evans or Fourgere to watch your drink. They’re not on your side.

And to be clear, the sides here are not Men Vs. Women.

The sides are “people who are trying to convince you rape is okay” Vs. “people who know it’s not.”

You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMY9Tqxz-Ec

My Own Body Hair and other Feminist Dilemmas

Happy blogaverary! To… me?

This week (I started this 2 weeks ago woops)  marks one whole year of me being a loud obnoxious feminist. It’s been great. I’ve ranted! I’ve raved! I’ve grown out my arm pit hair! I’ve burned bras (literally!) But most important, I’ve learned.

That’s right. I’ve learned in italics. That means I’m not even shitting you.

I’ve learned that feminism isn’t just one thing! And it can mean different things to different people! And not all feminists even AGREE on everything! And that’s okay! And never start a sentence with a conjunction!

I’ve learned that I’m not right all of the time, and I don’t know everything. (this came as a shock to me as well.) I don’t even know my OWN opinion on a lot of thing, and sometimes I even CHANGE MY MIND. So that’s what this post is about. My top three feminist dilemmas, and how having them doesn’t make me a bad feminist (right? RIGHT?).

1.     My own body hair

During the whole No-Shave November deal, the internet was flooded with comments from dudes reminding us women that the No-Shave part need not apply to us. Because that would be gross. Well, as an angry feminist, it was MY JOB to say FUCK YOU, SIRS AND MADAMS OF THE INTERNET, LADY HAIR IS TOATS NORMAL  AND I WILL NOW STOP SHAVING FOREVER!…. as long as it’s winter anyway… and I’m not wearing short sleeves…. And nobody will see my legs… but I have to go to the gym so maybe I’ll just shave my legs but JUST MY LEGS! I still have my armpit hair so I’m still totally empowered.

I like feeling superior… but I also like feeling shiny.

You see, whilst aware of beauty standards and the fact that body hair is totally normal, I still care. For some reason. I have dark hair and I’m pale and it grows in thick and strong, so I guess I’m a little wee bit sensitive about it. I blame the media. I admire those ladies who give no shits about this issue and run free with the breeze tickling their luscious leg locks. I hope to get there one day. But until then, I might continue the bi-weekly process of pulling each and every hair out of my legs. Because society.

2.     How do I even feel about the word “slut?”

I know I wrote a long post about this, which I still stand by most of, but I’m still caught up on how I feel about the word itself. After discussing the matter with some proud sluts and friends, and friends who happen to be sluts, I began to ponder the question again. I think I actually really like the idea of trying to reclaim the word. There’s something really attractive about taking a word that’s been thrown in our faces for so long to shame us about sex and really owning it. It’s about not being ashamed of your own sexuality.

I want to proudly proclaim that I am, indeed, a slutty, slut, Slutty McSlutterson, from Slutsville Slutsulvainia. Population sluts. Where we all hang out and have slut parties and slut bake sales and “take your slut to work” day.

But I don’t know if I can. Even my most liberated friends still use the word with just a touch of self-deprecation. It’s like they are intellectually okay with whatever kind of life style they lead, but the word “slut” just sounds bad. It’s still the ignorant college kid go-to insult. It still has so many negative connotations that I don’t even know if it CAN be reclaimed. Maybe we don’t need a word for it at all.

And speaking of which…

3. Not calling yourself a feminist

This is something I’ve been struggling with. I get why women don’t want to claim the title. It sounds bad. It makes people think of you in a certain way, and nobody likes labels. Unless the label is “awesome, cool person! Be friends with them!”

Sometimes it IS hard to be a vocal feminist. There is this whole celebrity trend where women like Katy Perry and Beyonce say things like they “Believe in the strength of women but I’m not a Feminist.” Which is disappointing, considering how influential these women can be for a lot of girls and women, but is understandable I guess. It’s way easier to not be a Feminist. A lot of the reactions you get when you are vocal can range anywhere from irritating to infuriating. A lot of times there are raised eyebrows, weird joke comments like “You think she’s hot? Don’t let her hear that, she’ll think she’s being objectified!”, or awkward laughter and an abrupt change of subject. So I get it. And I also get it if you just don’t know what you’re talking about. I would never claim to be a sloth activist because I know nothing about sloths. Except for the fact that I find them terrifying (this isn’t even a joke. I think I’m the only person on the internet who finds their weird finger-toes creepy).

This came up when Jian Ghomeshi had Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams debate Nona Willis Aronowitz, author of Girldrive: Crisscrossing America, Redefining Feminism on if the feminist label really need apply anymore.

Aronowitz made an interesting argument in favor for “it doesn’t matter.” Just because young women aren’t using the WORD feminism, it doesn’t mean they don’t share all the same values and ideas, and aren’t equally passionate about them. The main problem here is lack of education: young people simply don’t know what feminism means. So should we really be chastising women who aren’t comfortable claiming the label? You can listen to the debate here http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/05/15/does-the-feminist-label-matter/

There is also this discussion that feminism today is a way more of a personal movement than a political movement. Young women are making the values and ideas of feminism part of their life by ignoring conventional rules about how we should dress or behave, and saying “fuck you” to anyone who tries to say anything different. Not to say we don’t have things we need to fight for politically – but I think a lot of women are – they just aren’t claiming the feminist label.

SO, what do you think? Feel free to hit the comments and let me know.

An Open Letter to Men Who Yell at Me From Your Car

Image from: A Christmas Story (this is what I look like when I go outside)

First of all, thank you, for I must assume that the honking was a misguided attempt to give me a compliment, and as I am a lady, I have been raised to graciously accept these complements with a shy smile.

However, since it is in the middle of winter, I must admit to some confusion. While in the spring and summer I sport lovely floral print dresses, in the winter I am forced to choose survival and warmth over flattering flowers. In fact, when I do sum up the courage to travel out of doors on my own, I seldom resemble a woman at all! My layers of coats, scarves, and hats actually make me more comparable to a Bison, or perhaps even a large moving boulder.

So, though I try hard not to question too many things since I am a lady, this has caused me to pause and ponder your possible motives for continuing your flamboyant accolades on my appearance, when I myself would be unable to identify the fact that I am a human female.

Is this a chivalrous attempt to comfort me in a time of need? Is the honk of your horn your way of saying “Don’t worry miss, I still know you’re in there! And I bet you are BEAUTIFUL!”

If so, I wish to express my gratitude. I was feeling quite self-conscious about being forced to choose warmth and the continuation of my life over my ability to express my femininity.

Or perhaps you are in a situation in which women are quite a rare occurrence? In your life, are women a majestic myth akin to a Unicorn that you have only ever seen pictures of? Were you so shocked to see what might be a woman out of the corner of your eye that your automatic response was to shout “GIRL!” for the benefit of those around you?

If this is the case, congratulations! I was a female! I hope seeing me was a thrill.

Or maybe you think I had forgotten my gender all together, and were only seeking to remind me. I know it is surprising to see a woman in so many unflattering layers. Why, you can hardly make out the shape of my bosom at all!

Thank you so much for your concern, and for reminding me of my place. Though the weather often reaches 30 below, I will attempt to be more visually pleasing next time you happen upon me during your travels down the road.

Whatever the reason, being a modern woman, I often forget that you seem to believe my main purpose in life is your enjoyment.  However you get that enjoyment, either by attempting to be a chivalrous gentlemen looking out for my needs, some lonely sole just surprised by my existence, or aggressively reminding me that I am, in fact, a woman, I must urge you to reconsider your behaviour.

Honking and yelling from your automobile is base, simple, rude, intimidating, and a form of sexual harassment.  I strongly believe that I and my fellow women should be free to walk down the road without being constantly reminded of our gender, without being objectified on such a base level, and without being sexualized simply for being out in public.

To my dear lady friends who urge me to hide my anger and accept the compliment, I implore you to reconsider the complexities of the social exchange that has just occurred. The fact that street harassment occurs even in the dead of winter illustrates that it seldom has anything to do with your personal looks – it only has to do with the fact that you are a woman.

So, in conclusion, though the act of yelling at me from your car may even in the best light be a misguided attempt at a compliment, it’s not.

Stop it.

Sincerely,

Tessa MacIntyre

If you want to help end street harassment, check out http://www.ihollaback.org/

Adventures In Sluttiness: Sluts, Slut Culture, and Slut Shaming

I wrote an entire essay breaking down my thoughts and opinions on sluts, slut shaming, and how I think young women should want dress.

Then I remembered a quote from Lena Dunham’s show on HBO, Girls, said by the character Jessa. She said “I don’t like women telling other women what to do, or how to do it, or when to do it.”

Damnit, Lena Dunham. Alright, so I have opinions. That doesn’t mean I’m right all the time, and who the hell am I to tell people how to dress? I can barely dress myself!  So, below I’ve tried to organize my thoughts the best I can, but since this is such a diverse and complex topic, I’d really love to hear what everyone else thinks about this down in the comments.

Let’s try to break this down. The word “slut” is a word I do not like. It’s not a word I think we as women should want to reclaim. It’s never been used as anything but an insult, to shame and embarrass women as a way to control their sexuality.

I also believe that the idea of “slut” being a “woman who is empowered” is too easily misinterpreted, especially by younger women, tweens, teenagers and college students. I think even if a woman calls herself a slut and claims “she owns it” the message is still a lot different than if she said “I’m a woman who enjoys sex.”

I also believe that women should to be able to dress provocatively and be explicitly sexual without being punished for it is incredibly important. Go Slut Walk. Yes. A woman should be able to walk down the street naked, and not have to assume she should expect to be raped.

I think if what you’re wearing makes you feel confident, and respected, and sexy, and projecting an image of yourself that you want to project, then you should wear whatever the hell you want. Wear a bikini to the bar. Dress like Cat Woman at comic-con. Wear a potato sack. If it makes you feel good about yourself, and is saying what you want to say, then yeah, I agree, that’s true empowerment. Understanding why you are dressing the way you are is an important part of that self-empowerment.

Yet, when we get into the idea of the “slut,” this is something different. From here on out, I will be addressing sluts and the idea of “slut culture” from the definition of the word as it is used most commonly: a woman who dresses provocatively and is sexually promiscuous.

I’m going to share a story from my not-so distant youth-ier youth, a story that I feel is probably a very common experience among young women.

I’ve always been a more conservative dresser (i.e “sexy” would not be a word I would use to describe my fashion sense.) Yet, in my first year of University when I would go out to the clubs or bars with my girl friends, I would look at the girls the boys wanted to dance with, and I looked at myself. Those girls, to use base language, looked like sluts. I looked like me. Apparently me wasn’t good enough.

Part of me wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel sexy. I wanted boys to want to dance with me and buy me drinks. So, next time we went out, I “went for it.” Tight jeans, low cut top, makeup galore. I pretty much followed “How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking” step by step. Looking at myself in the mirror, I knew I would finally fit in with the hot girls at the club.

When we got there, I felt pretty exposed. I felt like people could see ALL of the things. Yet, low and behold, there were so many different boys trying to grind their dick against my ass that I felt like the prettiest girl at the ball!

No. I didn’t feel pretty at all. I mostly felt gross. I may not have had to pay for any of my drinks, but when I thought about that I felt grosser. I was exchanging beer for being a dry humping post.

I don’t know what I expected. I suppose this was the type of attention I thought I wanted, and I guess it took getting it to realize that this kind of attention isn’t about you.  It’s purely how you look- and the look is saying “if you’re lucky I might sleep with you.”

Here are the facts: I didn’t dress like that to empower myself, or to project self-respect, or to “own my body.” I was dressing like that because I thought I had to if I wanted to fit in with this crowd and to get boys to notice me. Some girls will argue that they like this kind of attention, it makes them feel sexy and in control. Maybe for them it does, but not for me. I know for a fact I’m not the only young woman out there who feels this way.

I’m in a much different place than I was 4 years ago. I’ve grown up a lot, I’m more confident, and more comfortable with myself, so I’m not embarrassed to share this story. Nobody is immune to peer pressure, which is why I think it’s so important to talk about what expectations we put on young women, at an age where they are still trying to figure all this dumb life stuff out about themselves.

This is what I would describe as “slut culture.” Slut culture is almost universally subscribed to these days, so the question comes down to why this societal pressure exists in the first place.

The pressure to dress like a slut is prominent in every high school and university campus across North America. It’s relentless. Movies, TV shows, magazines.  Young women are told they aren’t worth anything if they don’t dress and act a certain way. Boys don’t want smart girls. They want sluts. And sluts are cool. If you don’t dress “sexy” then you’re probably a nerd or a prude, and don’t bother going to any of the parties because nobody wants you there. And there is no room for discussion on “what is sexy, exactly?” because there are very specific guidelines for what “hot” means.

This body image, peer pressure, wanting to be sexy thing isn’t new. But what is really freaking me out about this is that there is this really horrific pattern emerging of slut shaming, date rape, and humiliating and abusing these young women who fit into the slut category.

But… we wanted them to be sluts. And then we punish them for it.

This is so unbelievably fucked up I can’t even handle it.

This article introduced me to the concept of slut dropping, and also the terrible realization that while all young women are being told to dress sexy and be sexy, and to have sex, but we all also want to mock and humiliate them.

And before you argue that this isn’t true, remember Amanda Todd. She was pressured into showing her breasts on the internet when she was in 7th grade. Not her idea. She was told she should, so she did. She spent the rest of her young life paying for that one moment, because the man responsible for distributing the picture, and her peers that pressured her into it, felt the need to humiliate and punish her for it. This isn’t simple bullying. This is a direct result of a slut culture targeting young women at younger and younger ages, and the inevitable slut shaming that follows. In this case, the consequences were terribly tragic.

So, this is why I don’t like the word “slut”, and I don’t think we should be encouraging young women to BE sluts. Slut culture teaches young women to be objects, and teaches young men to treat them accordingly.

To reiterate, I’m not saying don’t dress sexy and express your sexuality if you are confident in yourself and how you want to present your image. To me, that is not describing a slut. That’s describing a strong, empowered woman. No matter how hard we try, the negative connotation of the word “slut” will always be evident, and it sends a mixed message to young people and how they should be expressing and experiencing their sexuality.

What do you think?

The “Friend Zone” Myth: By Guest Kraken Jerika Coleman

A post I recently saw on tumblr really inspired me to say something about the ‘friend zone’ trend, and how much it honestly pisses me off. The post read: “Slut is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say yes. Friend zone is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say no.” Reading that made me think. Because everybody is aware of the fact that women will be judged for having sex (she shouldn’t be judged, but she will be, and that’s a sad fact of society right now), but it’s not as often that we encounter the opposite: a woman who becomes a bad person because she won’t have sex. So, now, not only are women being punished by society for having sex with men that weren’t our friends, but we’re actually being punished for not having sex with men that are our friends. There are obviously very few, if any, ways for women to win in society when it comes to our sexual behavior and this friend zone thing is making it even worse. 

The friend zone has become a widespread internet meme. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it was essentially coined by many not-nice guys claiming to be nice guys, and who therefore believe that this entitles to them to sex with all their girl friends. There are six pages of definitions for it just on Urban Dictionary, most of which seem to be written by men who are just angry and bitter that they put time into a relationship without getting a sexual pay-off. Men collectively mourn their ‘fallen brothers’ who have ended up in the friend zone, and praise the ones who have managed to ‘escape.’  I’ve seen friend zone flowcharts with dozens of lines and layers trying to explain to men that they’re in the friend zone and how to get out of it, and holy shit I did not know that being friends was putting men through such a personal struggle. Guys got it real rough, y’all.

Search ‘friend zone’ on a website like 9GAG and you get a couple hundred results.  Some of them are relatively light-hearted, praising men like The Office’s Jim Halpert for being able to ‘overcome’ the friend zone and get a female friend to fall in love with him.  As if Pam was never a person to Jim, just an object to be achieved – as if any woman ever is just an object for a man to achieve, like a level in a video game. To men, we are all Princess Peach, and if you’re just good enough, and nice enough, we’ll let you come save us from Bowser, and you’ll win the game.

Some are much more violent, or angry in nature, like one I read that was written by someone claiming to a “Good Guy…or rather, a New Found Asshole.” He blasted his female friends for not wanting to have sex with him, a self-proclaimed great guy, and for instead choosing to sleep with men that he had deemed assholes. What makes this guy a great guy? Why, he’s always been nice to you! He’s listened to your problems, helped you out, and given you advice. What makes this other guy an asshole?  I’m assuming just the fact that he got to have sex with the girl.

Guess what: some of you may think its funny, but in reality, it’s actually sexist B.S. that further perpetrates our unfortunate rape culture. In 2012, that is literally the last thing that women need. For the love of God, are my female friends and I really going to have to go through the rest of our lives being treated like shit because we fail to meet male expectations? Really? In the 21st century, this sort of judging crap isn’t over with yet?  Because I am getting bored of it, and frankly, I want to have better things to do than worry about what people think of me.

The concept of the friend zone is depressing as hell, if you actually sit down to think about it, which hopefully you will after this. Judging by the concept of the friend zone, no man has ever actually wanted to be friends with a woman. Ever. Because friendship isn’t enough? The idea of a guy being friends with a girl is no longer a positive thing, it’s become a punishment. “Ugh,” men around the world seem to be collectively thinking, “this girl wants to talk to me, and wants to hang out, and joke, and share common interests.  What fresh hell is this and when the frig will it end?”

I just read a post on tumblr, ironically tagged ‘chivalry’ (leading me to believe that English classes are failing to teach people the actual definitions of words), written by a guy who claimed that the only reason a guy would stick around in a friendship is because he wants a romantic relationship, and eventually that guy will get tired and move on, ending the friendship. WHAT? NO! HOW? There are no actual friendships, there are only pre-sex relationships?  And the punishment for not having sex with a guy is that the relationship is over entirely? My friendship isn’t worth as much as my vagina? How is this okay? How is anybody (not just girls) okay with living in that kind of world?

Men are seemingly desperate not to be friends with women; I guess they’ll do anything to get out of it. So, shout-out to all my guy friends who I haven’t had sex with, so…all of you, sorry I’m so boring and clothed all the time, but thanks for sticking with me! I guess this has been really hard on you. Men just want to be friendly enough with a woman that she will eventually want to have sex with them. Judging by the rage that men feel when this fails to occur, men don’t just want to have sex with women, they feel as though they actually deserve it. The men who believe in the friend zone inherently believe that if they are just nice enough to a woman, that they should be rewarded with sex. That if they’re just a nice enough guy, that getting to have sex with a girl is their right.

That is what being in a rape culture means. In this day and age, very few people are going to come out and say, “yeah, rape is okay.” I honestly do believe that this is because most people actually know that rape is bad. I believe that given the opportunity, most people will not rape. The act of rape is not normalized within our culture as it is in others. But being in a rape culture means that men will still get enraged if they feel as though they’ve been denied a woman’s body; that a woman’s body can even be denied to begin with. Living in a rape culture means that men are brought up to believe that all they have to do is be a good friend, and they will be rewarded with sex. Almost every movie with a male hero ends with him getting the girl of his dreams – women are trophies for good behavior. Any woman who refuses to be this trophy is deemed a horrible person who needs to be attacked – most often verbally, but sometimes physically too.

That’s why men insult women. Some men probably are just prudish and backwards enough to think that having any sex at all makes a woman a whore (I have a male friend who was willing to label a mutual female friend of ours a slut simply because he’d heard rumours that she’d slept with TWO men). But I think that in the case of most men, it’s that they’re bitter and jealous. Most men are actually super-okay with women having lots of a sex, as long as all the sex they’re having is with them.  BECAUSE THEY EARNED IT, BY BEING A DECENT HUMAN BEING, DON’T YA KNOW.

Which is crap, because if you’re the type of guy who thinks just being a decent human being means that a girl has to have sex with you, you’re not a decent human being.  You never were. You’re just a tool. Odds are, she can tell. It’s probably why she doesn’t want to have sex with you to begin with. We’re not idiots. If you were actually a decent human being, you’d be okay with being rejected. That doesn’t mean you want to be rejected (nobody does), but it means that you recognize a woman has the right to reject you.  An actual ‘nice guy’ won’t go around insulting a girl because she ‘failed’ to fall in love with him.  We haven’t failed to fall in love with you, like it some goal that we all had that we just couldn’t achieve, we just don’t love you. An actual ‘nice guy’ would respect women, and respect our right to make our own romantic choices instead of complaining about them.

You know how I know the idea of the friend zone is sexist? Because there isn’t an equivalent for women. That isn’t to say that women don’t often have unrequited romantic feelings towards their male friends, because oh my god, do we ever. Should I show you my diaries all the way from middle school up until last week to prove my point? But girls don’t go in the friend zone. Because if a girl likes a guy who doesn’t like her back, she’s just labeled hopeless and needy. As far as I know, there is no large gathering of girls lamenting the fact that we were SO NICE and WHY AREN’T WE BEING REWARDED. A man isn’t judged for wanting to just be friends with a girl (lol guyz, she’s probably super ugly or something, its totes understandable – that was sarcasm, BTW). Society taught us that, if guy isn’t attracted to a girl, it’s the girl’s fault – we failed at making ourselves attractive or acceptable enough for him to like. And if a girl doesn’t like a guy, well, society says that it’s still her fault too, obviously. A man’s relationship choices are always valid, and never attacked, no matter what. Why are women attacked for wanting to just be friends with a guy, but very few people are sitting around saying, “uh, men, why do you want to just have sex with me, and not actually be friends?” (hint, because the rules mostly made by men, and they don’t want to be told how wrong they are). Men are allowed to choose their romantic partners without judgment, and women aren’t. That’s how I know the friend zone is sexist, and that’s how I know it’s wrong.

Nobody has any obligation to like anybody. Ever. Ever. There is literally nothing on this planet that somebody can do that automatically means someone else will have to like you. Stop, no, there is nothing, so whatever you’re thinking, the answer is no. You could always be there for me whenever I needed you, and that would be lovely, but that doesn’t mean I have to have sex with you. You could give me a billion dollars, and I’d frigging think you are the most awesome person ever, but I still have final say on what my vagina does and does not do, thank you very much. That just isn’t how attraction works. There is no one to blame when someone says that they’re not sexually attracted to you. So, stop blaming girls, and stop talking about the frigging friend zone like it actually exists. It doesn’t, it’s not legitimate, you’re actually not suffering, so get over it.  Start recognizing that you’re actually a little (or a lot) misogynistic, and then stop being misogynistic.

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You can find Jerika on twitter @dreamsofmarchesa

Horrific Crimes Against Women Happening Right Now, Everywhere- Part 1: Sex Trafficking

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I’m Canadian. I count myself lucky almost every day for being born in a country that allows me free speech, a democratic government, health care, and a (mostly) unbiased justice system. I know all of these things could be a lot better, but relative to places around the world, I have a lot to be thankful for.

It’s important for women in these parts of the world to continue fighting for equality, because if we’re not careful, many of the things women in the past have fought for and won for us will be taken away. This week, in fact, the Canadian Government voted on a motion to reopen the discussion on criminalizing abortion, despite Prime Minister Harper promising this would not happen in the last election.

BUT I DIGRESS: Another reason it’s important to stand up for our rights is because if we can’t stand up for ourselves, how can we stand up for the millions of women, girls, and children around the world who are treated worse than animals, things to be owned, sold and controlled, beaten, raped, and killed, every single day?

Now my original plan was to do a list similar to “5 Reasons you Dismiss Feminism,” but it quickly became apparent that the things I want to talk about are difficult to summarize, and each deserve a thorough discussion that would end up being too long for one blog post. Also, the issues I’m going to be talking about are pretty disturbing, so I’m thinking I’ll spread out the horrible so you don’t spend the rest of your day sinking into a deep depression because sometimes it seems like the world just sucks too much.

Yes, the world does suck. Especially if you made the poor decision to be born with a vagina. But I feel like having a real understanding of what happens to women around the world is crucial to understanding why feminism and the fight for equality is still so important.  Until I know that rape is no longer being used as a weapon of war, that women are no longer being stoned to death, or that sex trafficking is a thing of the past, I will never be able to say that women have achieved equality and that feminism, finally, is no longer necessary.

Horrific Crime #1: Sex trafficking

Sex trafficking is something everyone is aware of, at least peripherally. It’s discussed on the news; apparently the UN doesn’t like it. Someone somewhere is “cracking down” on it. I knew a little more about it than most after watching a documentary on the CBC called “Sex Slaves.” If you can find it, watch it. This documentary hit home with me because I finally realized that often times the girls being sold into the sex trade are my age or younger, and illustrated just how easily these women and girls are being lured into these traps.

How does it happen?

Imagine you’re a young woman from a poor family in Mexico, China, the Philippines, Moldova, the Ukraine, or fill in the blank. Your parents can’t work. There are no jobs to be found, and you have a bunch of younger siblings with mouths to feed. You come across an opportunity that looks legitimate: they will fly you somewhere else – Western Europe, Bosnia, Canada, America– and you can work as a Nanny, or janitor, or waitress, and you can send the money back to your family. After a year or so you can go back home to your family and be that much better off for it.

Sounds great. So you get on a plane with a few other girls. Once you get where you’re going, you’re driven to a brothel and given this information: you will be working as a prostitute, and you owe us money. It cost us a lot to get you here, so you need to work off your debt before you can even think about earning money. And don’t even think about running away, or arguing, or not working, because we will beat you until you give up, and if that doesn’t work, well we will just shoot you.

This is the reality for millions of women and girls around the world every. single. day.

This is just one way sex traffickers lure their victims. It is estimated that 800,000 people are trafficked worldwide every year. 79% of those victims are women or girls. That’s almost the entire population of San Francisco.

What really, really gets to me about this is that all these girls did wrong was be born somewhere were this could happen to them. That’s it. All they wanted to do was earn money to help their families. The only difference between me and these girls is that I happened to be born in Canada.

Who is paying for this?

It’s bad enough to know that this is happening, it’s worse when you realize who is creating the market for these trafficked women. What kind of vile, disgusting person would knowingly pay money to rape an often under-aged girl, who you know is here against her will?

If you get the chance, I recommend you watch the 2011 film The Whistleblower by Larysa Kondracki and starring Rachel Weisz. While you’re at it, read the memoir it’s based on “The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and one Woman’s Fight for Justice” by Kathy Bolkovac.  Just be prepared for being really, really angry, and maybe prepare those around you for rage-rants. You can watch the trailer here

This is a quick summary of Blokovac’s story.

Kathy Bolkovac was on a UN mission in Bosnia following the war. She was an American police officer and was working under a military contractor called Dyncorp, which the American Government hires to take care of international military and police obligations. Dyncorp was working with a 15 million dollar contract from the United States to supply troops to the UN Mission.

Bolkovac was in the human rights division of the mission, and specifically investigated cases involving crimes against women – cases generally looked over by local law enforcement officers. This lead Bolkovac to discover that local brothels were selling trafficked, under aged, women. From this Blokovac learned that among the clientele at these brothels were American soldiers from the UN Mission, sent to Bosnia to help restore order. They were also accepting bribes from the owner of the brothel to stop them from raiding the establishment. This was not a case of ignorance. The American soldiers paying to have sex with these girls were well aware that they were trafficking victims, and went out of their way to keep them like that.

When Bolkovac brought this to the attention higher up UN and Dyncorp officials, she was threatened with physical violence,  fired, sent home, and her reputation was attacked by many of her superior officers and UN officials. She brought her case to court and won, yet to this day she in unable to find employment within any international law enforcement agency. The men she had evidence against were given a slap on the wrist and sent home. Many of them have returned to the United States and back to their old jobs as cops, security people, or comfortable retirees

Dyncorp and the UN went out of their way to shut Bolkovac up and did nothing to stop these brothels from running, or to help the women being held there and forced into prostitution. This fact disturbed me almost more than anything else. It blows my mind that this is something that actually happened. In recent history. And oh yeah: The American Government continues to pay Dyncorp multi-million dollar contracts.

So, if you get as angry about this as I have, here are some links.

www.notforsalecampaign.org/

www.equalitynow.org/

www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fs-sv/tp/

www.amnesty.ca/

Let’s All Talk About Rape

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*Trigger Warning

So everyone is talking about rape. Legitimate rape, illegitimate rape, date rape, statutory rape, forcible rape, accidental rape, mistaken identity rape, it-wasn’t-me-officer-it-was-my-evil-twin rape, rape-y rape! ALL OF THE RAPES! My god! Here I was kind of under the impression that rape was rape, but we basically have a Chinese Food take-out menu of rape!

Let’s get something straight here. Obama pretty much summed it up when he said “rape is rape.” If a person commits a sexual act on a person who has not consented, guess what? RAPE! That simple. 

But why do people keep making up these different categories of rape? Because it makes it easier to dismiss rape victims, and in a lot of cases can turn the blame around onto them. Saying things like “legitimate rape” also implies that if a woman does get pregnant after she says she was raped, she was lying. It also implies that a lot of women lie about being raped. Or that victims that dress provocatively or take birth control pills or are in a relationship can’t technically be raped either, because they’re kind of asking for it.

I find it so very offensive that there is this wide spread belief that women are constantly lying about being raped. When was the last time you heard about someone lying about this? I can’t remember because even media reports of it are that rare. I’ve used this statistic before, but in Canada as few as 2% of reported rapes are falsified. And please don’t try to give me bullshit about how one woman lying about it gives us all a bad name. People are constantly on the lookout for that one story of a woman falsifying a rape claim, because for some reason discrediting rape victims has become a cultural pass time. Why? Why is this? Is it because on the very rare occasion that a man is found guilty of committing rape, he is permanently seen as a monster and his life is destroyed? Do we believe that his life shouldn’t be destroyed because he made one mistake? Because rapists don’t generally seem to care about ruining the lives of their victims. I really hope that’s not the case, but I honestly don’t understand this victim blaming culture we have surrounding rape.

Now, I think I’ve written the word “rape” enough times to last a while, and I think anyone who follows the news and uses earth logic have already spoken out about how ignorant, misinformed, and whatever other  adjectives you want to use to describe Todd Akin’s comments on the topic. So, though I don’t have anything new to say regarding Akin, I would like to use this as a warning sign, and as an example for anyone who wants to try to tell me that women have equality in this world.

It might be easy to try to dismiss Akin as one crazy-son-of-a-gun. Which he is. But he is not just “one.” He just happened to have a microphone. Despite being asked to step down, and the Republican Party no longer supporting his campaign, he might still win. Last I checked, he was still ahead in the polls. This means that millions people in Missouri agree with him, don’t really care, or live under a rock and haven’t read the news yet. Think about this. There are millions of people who honestly believe that women’s bodies have a way to “shut that whole thing down” and cling to the notion that “hey, we’ve never heard of anyone getting pregnant from rape,” in complete and utter disregard to mountains of evidence to the contrary. Now, the Republican Party and the Religious Right taking the “I’LL JUST PLUG MY EARS AND SING REAL LOUD TILL SCIENCE GOES AWAY!” approach to anything important isn’t new, but even though they have publically distanced themselves from Akin,  the Republican Party honestly don’t believe that women deserve the same rights as men. They used this opportunity to officially put forward their stance on abortion, and their intention to redefine was constitutes rape. Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan has sponsored every bill pertaining to the limitation of women’s rights he can get his hands on – including voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would help women earn equal pay. (This one isn’t even controversial. It’s just the basic “women are people too!” type deal.)

This all seems to come down to controlling women’s reproductive rights.  Viagra is covered by health insurance, but they’re fighting to have Birth Control Pills removed. They want to limit women’s access to birth control and abortion, yet they still want to make sure that men can still get a boner well into old age? They are even going as far to try to limit access to  contraceptive pills similar to the morning after pill, and to redefine when a fetus is considered a person in the eyes on the law (at the exact moment of conception) – thus making any form of abortion murder. So… men can (and should) have sex… but women… should not… unless they want a baby? Because having sex while being female makes you a slut, I guess. I don’t know who these men are planning to have sex with if they don’t want babies…

But I digress. This legitimate rape stance really makes the whole abortion thing a non-issue, because if a non-slut gets raped, it’s impossible for her to get pregnant! So that’s hardly an argument for abortion at all! And if a woman who SAYS she was raped does get pregnant, well she was full of shit, obviously! She keeps the baby! That’ll teach her! Because the only reason women should have sex (or have a romantic night of “Illegitimate rape” if you’re Todd Akin) is to have babies!

Seriously. What the fuck?

This shit storm that exploded over these last few days has made my head hurt. It’s discouraging, it’s disheartening, and it scares the hell out of me. I feel like one morning I’m going to wake up and read the headline “GOP Sponsor Bill to take away Women’s Right to Vote!”

I haven’t really said anything in this blog that hasn’t been said before, but I guess what I’m getting at is please, please, don’t tell me that we don’t need feminism, because I’ll probably lose my shit and go crazy-town-banana-pants on you, and I haven’t even started talking about what women put up with around the world.

Rocks. They put up with rocks. Like, they get stoned to death. Just a quick example.

 

*EDIT November 6, 2012, 9:22PM – Todd Akin was defeated, thank fuck. Let the “we have ways to shut that whole thing down” jokes commence.

“But Men Have Issues, Too!” Or, “Spot the Derailment Tactic!” with Mary B (Guest Feminist Kraken)

This week I am posting a blog by friend and fellow Feminist Kraken, Mary B. Mary actually wrote this hilarious, sarcastic, cutting, educated, and smart piece as a response to day long facebook argument I managed to get myself into over THIS article from Jezebel titled “What No One Else Will Tell You About Feminism.”

The thesis statement of this Jezebel tongue-in-cheek article is that “you’re either a Feminist, or you’re a bad person.” Maybe this declaration seems harsh, but since at its most basic level Feminism can be defined as “the radical belief that women are people,” it’s a statement I tend to agree with.

Now, I really didn’t intended to start anything by posting this – I just thought it was funny and smart. But then a facebook acquaintance, who shall henceforth be referred to as Burt, posted me a link to a video called “The Failure of Feminism” by youtube personality and insane person, The Amazing Atheist. Burt refused to call himself a feminist based on the arguments made in the video, which include statements such as “Feminism isn’t the same as Women’s Rights,” “Feminism is sexist,” “Patriarchy isn’t real,” “Male privilege isn’t real,” and “men have a lot of issues, too.”

So, I spent most of my day refusing to really discuss the matter with him, since after googleing the Amazing Atheist to really see if he had any kind of credentials to back up any of his statements, I found THIS RationalWIki on the guy. MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING!

The guy who made that video attempts to come off as some kind of sensible voice of reason, yet calls rape victims “vindictive bitches” for having the audacity to call themselves “victims” after experiencing something has horrific as rape. I sent this quote to Burt, and explained that I really didn’t want to discuss the opinions of a known woman hating crazy person, but was then accused of trying to derail the conversation by attacking the source and not the argument.

Rage Blackout. I couldn’t deal. It was too much for me. I had to walk away from my keyboard. Enter Mary to save the day with the fantastic reply I’ve posted below.

(Though I don’t recommend it, Mary pretty much takes out “The Failure of Feminism” point by point, so if you want to take a second to watch it for some extra context, it’s on the youtube.)

An Eloquent Response By Mary B

This is quite the collection of attacks on feminism right here in one place, isn’t it? Patriarchy isn’t real! Feminists are too fixated on women! And aren’t those whiny rape victims so annoying? Frame the whole thing in a stunning example of one of the most effective derailment tactics (which ironically – or hypocritically – Tessa is then accused of using when she tries to bring the discussion back to the point) and, oooh, it’s like Christmas to me! A really super rage inducing Christmas where the presents suck out my soul and pee on it!

‎*deep breath* Ah, where to begin? Not with the dismissal of rape victims, since you seem to understand that that is some monstrous ignorant bullshit right there, which is good since I don’t know how to argue with someone so out of touch with reality. But, Burt, surely you can understand why someone who genuinely believes that rape victims are “vindictive bitches” because they had the AUDACITY to call making it through each painful second of their lives with the horror of what happened to them “surviving” has given up every right to be a legitimate voice on women’s rights. This is a case where Tessa is completely valid in her dismissal of the source. That quote has EVERYTHING to do with the point being made. The point, by the way, is that feminism is an important thing we should all be invested in. Store that away. It’s going to get relevant later.

“Sexism is a big problem, but it’s far from a patriarchy.” I thought I should deal with this quickly before getting into the meat of my response, because, since you contradicted yourself in the remarkably small space of just one sentence, I don’t think you actually know what patriarchy is. Or possibly you also don’t know what sexism is. Sexism is the systemic oppression of a sex viewed as inferior (aka women), so if sexism is a big problem, then so is patriarchy. You can’t have one without the other.

Now let’s look at the examples of violations of men’s rights you brought up and ask some questions about them. Like, what is the core issue of each violation? Why are women more often awarded custody? Because women are natural caregivers,of course! Why is it easier for women to get away with crime? Because women are helpless and weak and can’t think for themselves and therefore could not have hurt anyone and/or were manipulated by a man into doing it and are practically victims themselves! Why is spousal abuse not taken seriously when a woman is abusing a man? Because a real manly man would be able to protect himself! (This is also a huge factor in why male rape victims are often dismissed and also plays a role in why many don’t report the assault in the first place.) These are all, of course, bullshit reasons. This is the negative effect of patriarchal binary standards of masculinity and femininity in full force. This is not me saying that these aren’t men’s issues; they are, and the party that is being hugely, grossly affected negatively here is the men. It’s a horrifying injustice, and it comes from an overarching gender inequality that affects EVERYONE. This is why the patriarchal belief of a superior gendered behavior (masculine > feminine) needs to be stopped, for everyone’s sake. This is why feminism and women’s rights are everyone’s fight.

You object to the word “feminism” and use instead “humanism,” so I’d like to take a second to deal with that. Humanism as a movement is a nice ideal, but it can’t exist while a hugely unequal gender binary permeates every corner of our current society. It can’t exist when the right to consciously and subconsciously be even considered human is still an issue for many, many people not just on the gender spectrum, but also the ethnic, differently abled, age, class, etc, spectrums. To insist on humanism is to lump all human rights issues together as one and dismiss the vastly different problems that each of these groups face. When we have achieved a society in which humanism can be a thing, we will no longer need it.

I know all men are not out to make things easier for men. However, there is an unfortunately vocal group that support what they misname “men’s rights” that is really the desire to maintain the current systemic and social privilege men have over women. With feminism, we want to be systemically and socially considered equal. With misandry, that equality (which would eliminate men’s privilege) is perceived as an imbalance in favour of women.

Now, I’ve made the supporters of misandry sound a bit like evil bigots out to get women, but in general it isn’t that simple. These people often do not believe they are sexist and therefore do not always act in an overtly sexist manner, and certainly do not do so on purpose. This belief that equality is actually favouring women is the result of warped worldview caused by privilege. See, the tricky thing about privilege is that it is completely invisible to those who have it unless someone or something draws their attention to it (and sometimes, even then, it remains invisible, though often willfully so). So when something threatens that privilege, it is not seen as equality but rather as a loss of rights.

But the important thing about all of this is that it is irrelevant to the discussion. That’s right, nearly everything I just said has nothing to do with what Tessa was arguing. Remember the point – the one I told you to store away – about how feminism should be something we’re all invested in? Yeah, we got a bit off topic, didn’t we? I mean, I made a valiant effort to tie what I was saying to that point when I talked about why the injustices men face are part of what feminism is trying to fix, but that was it. And that’s the real point of my response.

See, the important thing is that your first reaction to a post about the relevance of women’s rights / feminism to everyone was “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENNNNNN?!” I think it’s important to ask why that is. See, fact of the matter is, this post wasn’t talking about men. You want to talk about the unfair and damaging societal standards of masculinity men are held to? Fine. That is an important discussion I would enthusiastically participate in. You want to talk about the unfair treatment of men by the justice system? Great. You want to get the ball rolling on misandry? Go for it. The internet is a big place; there are plenty of places to discuss all that. It is not, however, the discussion happening here. Now is not the time, nor is this the place. You are frustrated with Tessa’s lack of a thorough rebuttal, but I’m going to applaud her for not engaging your attempt to derail the discussion. Bravo, Tessa.

The real lesson here? Don’t try to play “Spot the Derailment Tactic” with me. I’m really good at that game.

You can find Mary on twitter @CodeNameMreb and at her own blog “Mary Digresses”

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