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/

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.

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?

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.

Why We Should All Want to be Bad-Ass Superwomen (And Why We Don’t)

This week, I really want to put an emphasis on this concept of Straw Feminism. Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency defines the Straw feminist as “a trope that is  a deliberately created, exaggerated caricature of a feminist that is used to undermine and ridicule feminist movements.” Straw feminism is probably the main factor behind why many people associate feminism with crazy, radical, militant women, fighting against sexism and inequality that really doesn’t exist.

I know Straw Feminism works, because it worked on me. For a long time this was my exact opinion on Feminism. But the thing is, I grew up idolizing a lot of really awesome female characters from some really awesome shows. I mean, my friends and I were constantly playing some variation of Xena: Warrior –Moon-Princess-who-also-slays-vampires-while-wearing-a-yellow-Ball-gown-because-Bell-is-the-best-Disney*-princess-but-I’m-also-secretly-Spiderman (not Spider Girl because she was lame and why do the boys get all the cool superheroes?”) If I had all these great bad-ass women to look up to, where did this anti-feminism ideology come from?

*I was not immune to Disney, okay? I can’t help it. I didn’t know what Stockholm syndrome was when I was a kid.

Answer? Everywhere. There has been a strategic attack against feminism that continues to this day – and I know this may sound like an extreme thing to say – but when you start to think about it, you see it literally everywhere. If you don’t believe me, check out this villain from the Power-Puff Girls.

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Her name is Femme Fatal. The logo on her outfit is the “woman” symbol. Her gun matches. The beginning of the episode starts by showing us the happy and peaceful wherever they live, where everyone gets along and there is no such thing as gender inequality. Femme Fatal comes along and manages to convince the Powerpuff girls to see sexism where none exists. Then they start TERRORIZING the men of the town while screaming in the name of feminism. This is a kids show. Aimed at little girls. They are telling little girls that feminism makes you crazy.

I mentioned Anita Sarkeesian in my last blog, and she takes a really in depth look at this episode in her video on Straw Feminism. Her other examples are Phil and Lil’s mother from Rugrats, the group of Women’s studies majors and self-proclaimed feminists featured in Legally Blond, and, this one breaks my heart because I love her so, the 3rd season of Veronica Mars. I cannot emphasise enough how much I want to you watch this video. It will wrinkle your brain.

Since I watched that enlightening video, I’ve been playing a game I like to call “spot the Straw Feminist.” I was really just trying to be more aware of it, but the game became so easy I was really glad I didn’t make it a drinking game, because my liver really can’t handle that kind of abuse. So out of the group, I picked one that at first glance is a pretty trivial moment in a movie trailer, but actually really illustrates just how ingrained straw feminism is within pop culture, that not only do we not really notice, we laugh at it.

Let’s check out this trailer for Pitch Perfect. Click Here For the link

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Looks fun right? If you didn’t bother watching, let’s sum up. Boys Vs. Girls. Battle of the sexes. Classic, harmless, entertaining. The film is basically Glee for University aged kids too embarrassed to say they watch Glee*.  It’s so much fun in fact that they live in a world where needing a rape whistle on campus is a ridiculous over exaggeration of university life! HILARIOUS!

*me

Go back and watch just the first 10 seconds of the trailer. Kendrick’s character arrives to her first day of University and is greeted by an enthusiastic student rep, whose first action is to give Kendrick a rape whistle, informing her in a happy chirp “not to use it unless it’s really happening!”

Kendrick responds with a sarcastic eye roll, clearly dismissing the advice. Now, upon first glance this may seem a little trivial. It sets up Kendrick as an above it all character that doesn’t want to deal with the over enthusiastic people that tend to come with the whole university experience.

But it also accomplishes something else. (It touches on the same problems Anita brings up for Veronica Mars) The film is about an all-girls singing group versus an all-boys singing group. SO MUCH FUN! So in these first few seconds of the trailer, it creates a world were a young woman receiving a rape whistle is viewed as over enthusiastic, and therefor unnecessary (i.e. women on a university campus in the world of this movie don’t really need to worry about being raped), and it sets up a space where a group of women can get together to sing and to compete against a group of men, but it’s not feminism. Because the only inequality they face at this University is that maybe the boys are better at group dance numbers.

What exactly did this 10 second interaction manage to dismiss? The fact that Rape on University campuses is a real and serious problem. Between 2006 and 2008, Harvard University alone had 128 reported cases of rape. And those are just the ones reported. By laughing at the expense of this character trying to provide protection to fellow women on her campus, we dismiss the work of thousands of young women working on University campuses in real life to try to make them safer, by providing things like rape whistles, safe rides home, and on-campus security.

In addition, when the student rep says “don’t use it unless it’s actually happening,” it implies that women cry wolf about sexual assault. This is used a lot to discredit victims of sexual assault, and is really along the lines of “innocent until proven guilty” or I guess “totally fine until they can prove they were sexually assaulted.” The more prevalent this belief is, the more grief women who are victims of sexual assault have to go through if they actually come forward and report it. In the States is estimated that 54% of sexual assaults go unreported, in Canada, only as many as 6 in 100 are reported. This can be due to a lot of reasons, but a prominent one is that women feel too ashamed to come forward, and don’t want to have to publically deal with something so personal. If actual victims of sexual assault are that unwilling to admit it happened to them, what are the chances a woman would lie about it? In Canada, only 2-4% of reports are found to be false. It’s just so rare it’s insulting to imply otherwise.

I’m not saying to boycott Pitch Perfect. When it comes to sexism in films, this is pretty minor. I also don’t want everyone to start picking apart every minor detail of a film in a never ending search for sexism. But the fact that this was the very first line in the trailer? The dismissal of feminism is the very first thing they want the audience to know about this film. That is incredibly telling of anti-feminist attitudes so ingrained in mainstream popular culture. It’s amazing how we are just programmed to be dismissive of serious issues effecting women, like sexual assault and the concept or rape whistles. With little tiny jokes like that written into almost all media these days, it’s no wonder it’s hard to convince young women that we don’t have equality, and that Feminism is still something we need. So, be media aware. Think critically and shit. Pay attention, because little jabs like this do a whole lot of damage.

LINKS AND SOURCES

Sexual Assault on Canadian University Campuses

For more on American College safety Ranks

Sexual assault statistics

In Canada
In the USA

World Wide

5 Reasons you Dismiss Feminism (That are Total Bullshit)

I broke this week. A combination of things I’ve been reading online, seeing, and experiencing first hand have made me so angry that I can’t ignore that this is an issue anymore. I snapped. I broke. I can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to rant. I don’t want to preach. What I hope to accomplish with this, if you take the time to read it to the bitter end, is to make you think.  To make you realize that equality still is an issue, and that “feminist” isn’t a dirty word. We have been asked to accept so much as “just the way things are,” but I’m tired. I’m tired of tolerating it. I refuse to accept that I have to put up with sexist, dismissive attitudes because “hey, we have equality, what’s your problem?” Fuck. That. Shit.

5 reasons you Dismiss Feminism (That are total bull shit)

1)      Feminists hate men

This is a stereotype is founded on extremist statements made by radical Feminists, and is reinforced by the media and popular culture.  Every group has its radicals. The Socialists have Hitler, Christians have Westboro Baptist Church, people from New Jersey have Snooki, and Cults have a bad name thanks to Charles Manson. There are always going to be the bat-shit crazy people waiting in the wings to jump on whatever cause happens by. Don’t take the words of one crazy person and judge an entire group by them. That’s a hasty generalization. And that is an invalid argument form. P does not equal Q.

ALSO: This study has shown that women who identify as Feminists are more likely than their non-feminist counter parts to be in a satisfying heterosexual relationship.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071015102856.htm

2)      Feminists are hairy

Feminists have a reputation of being hairy legged, dirty, flannel wearing, who gives a damn kind of people. But these days I’m pretty sure I just described a hipster.

Feminist?

What I’m getting at is not shaving your pits is not a pre-requisite to being a feminist, and likewise, if you see a woman who hasn’t shaved her pits, that doesn’t mean she IS a feminist. Maybe she’s lazy. Or doesn’t believe in the beauty standard. Or forgot. You don’t know her life! On occasion I myself am a dirty hairy person because I tend to be a lazy asshole, not because I am making a political statement. Sometimes I just want to see how long my leg hair will grow. (answer – forever. My leg hair can grow forever.)

If you thought someone was making a political statement every time some unwanted hair made an appearance, we would have the biggest social upset since Firefly was canceled. A person’s choice to shave or not to shave is personal, and not indicative of an entire group of people.

Again, this stereotype can be attributed to negative representations of women in the media and pop culture. I smell a pattern.

3)      Feminists don’t have a sense of humor

Just because I don’t split my gut laughing every time someone tells me to “go make them a sammich” doesn’t mean I can’t laugh. I also plan to not laugh at rape, sexual assault, pedophiles, and that story you and your buddy have about going to strippers that one time.

Things I will laugh at: Farts, poop, baby panda’s sneezing, people falling down, burping, and literally almost anything else. But not LOL Cats. I hate LOL cats.

For more on feminists having a sense of humor, check out this list of “25 Republican-Approved Ways to Say ‘Vagina’ Without Offending Political Pussies” My favorite is “Hermetically sealed shame-basket” http://jezebel.com/5918587/25-republican+approved-ways-to-say-vagina-without-offending-political-pussies

Also, to sum up this argument see Nellie McKay singing “Mother of Pearl” (The first line is “Feminists don’t have a sense of humor) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU446HDtGv8

 

4)      All Feminists are Lesbians

This one is a biggie. It’s an issue within an issue within an issue. I don’t have time to go into it all in detail (hopefully in the future) but I’m going to start with an exchange I had recently, which is what pushed me over the edge and onto a blog.

A person I consider a friend and whom I have a lot of respect for opened my eyes to this issue. He is smart, educated, and a well meaning guy. After discussing some of my interests with him (which include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Amanda Palmer, Kate Nash, and playing video games) he said to me “Non tradition female roles, strong women, going against stereotype – it makes me wonder – what team do you play for?’

Oh my. Where to begin.

Before giving in completely to my rage at being asked such an obnoxious question stemming from a stereotypical generalization so inherent in our society, I managed to respond with “Being a feminist does not make one a lesbian. I admire strong women because I aim to be one.”

But it wasn’t the fact that he asked if I was a lesbian (albeit in a tacky, dated, and insensitive manner) that made me so upset – it was why he asked. Why does looking to up to strong, independent, female role models, automatically cause people to question your sexual orientation? What does your sexual orientation even have to DO with that? And why is it asked as if it’s a bad thing?

The only answer I can think of is that it minimizes potential issues and dismisses them. Why do we want to dismiss this? Because our society still believes in traditional gender roles, and if a woman acts outside of this then there must be something wrong with them. It’s a way to discredit feminists to the general public, and to discourage young women from wanting to become one.  And this leads to an EVEN BIGGER ISSUE: Why do we still think there is something wrong with lesbians, and why are they the most easily dismissible people in our society? Why does it matter that a Feminist may also be a lesbian?

“She says she’s a feminist? Well she must be a lesbian.” How does this make sense? And don’t pretend you haven’t thought this at some point in your life, we all have, because despite its immense lack of logic, it’s somehow become ingrained within our society. But think about it,

What is the thought process behind this argument? “Oh, well she’s a lesbian, of COURSE she doesn’t want women to be raped and murdered.” One simply has nothing to do with the other, and the other is not an insult. Why are lesbians (arguably) the most dismissed people in our society? Why is it that being a Lesbian suddenly voids someone’s opinion?

Gender equality is unequivocally tied to Gay Rights. Gay women are criticised for behaving or appearing more masculine, Gay men are criticised for behaving or appearing more feminine. And both are used as insults to anybody who wants to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes, because we are all seen as LESS THAN a man.

I look up to these strong women because I dream of living in a world one day where being a “strong, smart, independent woman” is not considered “going against the stereotype.”

*it should be noted that I discussed this issue with my friend who asked it – again, not a bad guy. HE JUST DIDN’T THINK ABOUT IT. He has now.

5)      The fight for Equality has been fought and won

 

Famous Feminist Gloria Steinem (Google her) recently said in an interview about the current state of Feminism that “it’s hard to be angry about something you haven’t experienced.” I know this to be true. I’ve asked a lot of my gal pals how they feel about equality, and they don’t feel like they’ve been discriminated against, and thus, what would they be fighting? Well, all of the reasons I’ve listed above might be a place to start.

Ladies, we’re lucky to live in Canada. We have it pretty good here. But it’s ignorant to assume the battle has been won. We make less money than men. Abortion is still on issue. Every time a man yells “Nice tits!” out of his car window, that’s not one asshole – that is a symptom of a cultural inequality we have been raised to accept as a social normative.

This “Straw Feminist” trope is the first thing people think of when they think “Feminist.” An angry, man hating, militant woman, fighting against something that doesn’t exist. If you’ve stuck with me this far, take another 10 minutes and watch Anita Sarkeesian’s vlog where she explains the Straw Feminist trope, why it exists, and just how prevalent it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnJxqRLg9x0

My point is: the fight is far from over. Anita Sarkeesian? When she started a kickstarter to fund a research project exploring female tropes and representations in video games, she was the target of a mass interest harassment campaign. She was threatened with violence, murder, and rape. SOMEONE THREATENED TO RAPE HER BECAUSE SHE THINKS SOME VIDEO GAMES MIGHT BE KIND OF SEXIST. To reiterate what she said in her response to this: this is not a trivial issue. You cannot brush off this kind of behavior because hey, the internet is the internet.

I’m not saying all us women should start burning our bras – I know some of you really really need them – I’m saying don’t accept what you’re told. Ask Questions. Don’t take what rights you do have for granted. Pay attention to the little jabs you brush off every day. Always ask “why?” Who benefits from you not standing up for yourself?

And to all my male friends? You can be feminists, too! Think about what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. So much of this inequality is perpetuated by simply not thinking about it.

 

Ignorance is not bliss – it’s just ignorance. A Feminist is someone who believes in equality. For everyone.

You can read more about Anita on her tumblr: http://www.feministfrequency.com/

For more info on Gloria Steinem –http://www.gloriasteinem.com/

“Let’s Watch a Girl get Beaten to Death” a great post by Director and Feminist Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy, Firefly):  http://whedonesque.com/comments/13271