Remember to vote…

…but not just for political office.

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), is the largest and oldest rape crisis center in Massachusetts. They serve the metro-Boston area and they do absolutely amazing work. They provide a 24-hour hot line for callers in crisis to reach a trained, caring human being; they also provide advocates to go with survivors to the hospital, to court, talk to police, and so on. They provide outreach into the community, going to schools, events, speaking with law enforcement, etc, helping to educate about the reality of rape and sexual violence. RCCs make such a huge difference in both helping survivors and providing valuable education, and BARCC is exemplary.

The work that BARCC does in our community is very important and very real. They have only a minuscule paid stuff, with a large part of the work (including the hot line, advocates, and community outreach) being done by incredibly dedicated, hard-working volunteers. All of the volunteers go through a 40-hour training program, and they continue to be involved in further training and supervision throughout their time with the center. Running the center is not an inexpensive proposition, and how much they are able to do is directly impacted by how much money they have. The Classy Awards represent an opportunity for BARCC to win some more funding to help them further their mission.

Please go to the Classy Awards and vote for BARCC. They are up for the vote in several categories, so please make sure you check out the whole page and support them wherever they’re up (also support some of the other great Boston non-profits, of course!).

The voting is open through November 5th, so please share this with anyone you may know who would be willing to vote. This is such an important opportunity for BARCC and it will only take a few seconds to cast your vote. Thank you!


11/02/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Weekend In Nerd Paradise

Well, it’s been a while, but I’m finally up and posting again. I’ve been crazy sick for a while now, and today I was finally out of bed again. Hooray for that. Anyways, over Labor Day weekend, I went to Atlanta, GA, for my annual pilgrimage to the geek mecca that is Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is one of the largest conventions on the East Coast, and I’d argue that we have the most fun. There’s drinking, parties, concerts, incredible programming, and just a whole lot of ridiculous good times to be had.

I attended several amazing panels this year, and as much as I’d love to write a post on each one, I know that I won’t, so I’m going to try to fit my entire D*C rundown into one post. We’ll see how that goes.

Comics in Education: I attended a great panel on Friday in the Dragon*Con Academics track. This panel discussed the use of comics in the classroom. I was so excited about this panel, and while the panelists had a lot of good stuff to say, I was a little disappointed by how they seemed to focus exclusively on college-level classroom use. There was a great discussion about how students can best annotate pages of graphic novels, because that is a significant concern. Bringing images into a normally text-centric classroom definitely requires a different approach. However, in the case of many of us in the audience, we’re coming from the perspective of public high school classrooms, which means that students do not have their own copies of texts, and we cannot rationally ask them to obtain them. So, we have to consider how we can get our students to take effective notes and how much we can supplement with photocopies and handouts. Regardless, there was great discussion going on in the panel (which I regrettably had to leave early due to an obligation to be at a photoshoot), and I can’t wait to see what the track comes up with next year. I’m hoping to get some continued discussion going on through the internet between now and then.

Comics, Gender, and the Body: Another gem from the Dragon*Con Academics track. That has to be my new favorite track, and I’m really hoping to submit when they put forth the call for proposals for next year. Anyways, this panel was just phenomenal. One of the presenters discussed the gendering of superpowers, another discussed why the Invisible Woman is invisible. The discussion that followed was just amazing as well, and we ended up getting kicked out of the room so that the next panel could fill in. What a great panel experience! I’m hoping to look at some of this a little bit more in depth in my “Superwomen, vampires, and cyborgs” class this semester.

Battlestar Galactica: I went to one of the several BSG cast panels during the weekend. They were all amazing (I watched many of them when they were re-broadcast on the Con TV station), and the one I attended was just exceptional. There were brilliant questions about gender, politics, and religion, and the cast was intelligent and fun. One of the most interesting moments, though, was when someone brought up a moment in Season 4 when Chief kills Tori. Aaron Douglas, who plays Chief, commented on how everyone always flips out about that and he gets criticized for celebrating violence against women. First off, I don’t feel that’s accurate–the motivation behind the murder is revenge for Tori having killed his wife. The violent act was performed against a woman, but it wasn’t motivated by her being a woman; it was motivated by his desire to get revenge for his wife’s murder. It was irrelevant whether Tori was male or female. There were several instances of gendered violence, however, and those were almost always portrayed in a very negative light. I’m actually a huge fan of how Galactica portrays gender and gender relations. It’s far from perfect, but I also think that was part of the point; they make the point over and over throughout the series how flawed humanity is and how much we need to improve, and I often see evidence that issues of gender is one of those improvements they want us to look at. I’m hugely biased in all this, though, as I’m such as BSG fangirl and I hope to someday write a dissertation on the show. Anyways, after Aaron Douglas brought that up, Edward James Olmos, aka Admiral Adama, mentioned that any time we portray any violence on TV, we are in effect elevating and glamorizing/celebrating it, and that’s something we should always keep in mind. Brilliant. Such a fantastic panel!

Plus there was an adorable public proposal that was just too cute. 🙂

Anyways, this year’s Con was just huge.  There was also a college football game going on in Atlanta and tons of football fans decided to crash the D*C party. So this year there was an exceptionally high rate of women having problems with unwanted attentions, and some women even had to resort to physical retaliation to get men off of them. I myself had some experiences that really surprised me, as D*C is generally very much a safe space–we’re one big family of geeks and we’re good to each other. For the most part, the “problem people” were not wearing con badges.

So, the really cool thing that’s happening because of this is some grassroots activism. On assorted D*C related forums, people are talking about it. Someone printed up a ton of ribbons to attach to con badges that are brightly colored and say “back up!” so that next year, women can attach those to their badges to indicate to other people that if they’re having problems with inappropriate behavior, they can signal a back up badge person and they’ll come over to help. People have been writing (very polite, considerate) letters to Dragon*Con staff and the host hotels, and people have been writing back. There’s been a huge push of awareness, support within the community, and responsiveness on the part of the “powers that be.”

It’s really inspiring. I’m so happy to be part of a community that is so caring and active. This year’s Con was great, and I know next year’s will be even better. I can’t wait to wear my ribbon with pride and hopefully present at the Dragon*Con Academics track. Power to the geeky people!

Ed. Note: I’ll probably post a lot more about D*C in the coming weeks as I recover from being sick, so please accept my apologies for this poorly written post, but sometimes you just gotta go with what you’ve got!

09/14/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

The Foursquare Conundrum

So here’s the thing about the internet–it’s not a particularly private place. Everyone knows better than to put lots of personal information out and readily accessible, and websites using particularly sensitive information are heavily encrypted and put us to very rigorous password standards. This is basic security precautions, just as we lock our houses or cars when we leave them. There are assholes out there in the world who have no regard for decency. We take it as our responsibility to protect ourselves, insomuch as we are capable, from the malicious vagaries of modern life.

When do we move from wanting people to be responsible to crossing the line into victim blaming, though?

A recent post on Jezebel talks about the dangers of cyberstalking becoming real life stalking courtesy of Foursquare. The article mentions examples of real women being approached by people that they did not know because those people had figured out where they were via the internet.

So, first off, I dislike the Foursquare concept, so I’m biased here. My privacy is very important to me–I don’t even like informing close friends, family, or significant others what I’m up to all the time, no matter how innocent it is, because that’s just how I am. My Facebook and Twitter accounts are both locked to the fullest extent possible, and even then, I hesitate to share details. Unless you recognize me from my photo and are in Boston, there’s (I hope) no way to get much information about me off this blog. My obsession with maintaining my privacy and anonymity means that I find Foursquare to be several levels of repulsive. So, I’m biased.

A while back, there was a website called Please Rob Me, that did a real-time stream of updates of people who aren’t in their homes because they have checked in elsewhere on Foursquare. Of course, part of Foursquare is checking into your home, thus putting your address out there (I’m glad none of my friends use Foursquare, as I have heard of people “checking in” to friend’s houses, and thus throwing that address onto the web without the friend having a say in the matter). The website was intended to be tongue in cheek, while pointing out the danger inherent in broadcasting where your location is. However, even in this instance, the context was the danger of belongings, the potential for being robbed. I don’t think that “well, he/she put on Foursquare that the house was empty!” is a valid excuse in court for robbing a house.

And that’s the thing. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Just because you know that a house is empty and therefore ripe for the robbin’ doesn’t mean that you SHOULD rob it. It is not the victim’s fault that they occasionally leave their house. No one would suggest that someone whose house has been robbed should never leave the house because then it is their own fault if they are robbed.

However, when it comes to female bodily integrity, we always sing a different tune. What a woman wears means she’s “asking for it” (check out this great Scottish PSA on how skirts are not ever a request to be raped), if she’s walking alone at night it’s her own fault, if she accidentally drinks too much then she brought it on herself.

And now if her cyberstalker can find out where she is in the real world, it is her own fault if he shows up and starts harassing her (after all, that nice man was just being so good about taking care of the silly little girl and keeping her safe from her own childish stupidity!).

I am so violently against victim blaming. It’s one of the few things that can push me to seeing red and wanting to become literally violent. Do. Not. Blame. The. Victim.

But this Foursquare thing makes me uncomfortable. At what point is it common sense to cover your tracks, and at what point is it patronizing scare tactics? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But this is an instance where I lean toward erring on the side of caution. Women should not stop doing things in order to avoid assault, and they should not change how they dress or act or speak or anything. The responsibility is not on women to not be assaulted. The responsibility is on the would-be assaulter to not assault.

However, I fear the way Foursquare would be treated in court. I fear that it would be held up by a jury as a woman contributing to her own victimizing, even though in a sane world that shouldn’t be something someone would say. But the thing is, we don’t live in a sane world, and a lot of people really underestimate how easy it is to get information about them from the internet. When Blizzard’s RealID proposal was first making waves, it was over and over pointed out how dangerous putting people’s real information on the web could be. Blizzard had the best of intentions–make the game environment safer and with lower instances of harassment–but the reality is that the more people know about you, the more they can put together online. Check out this post about how one Blizzard user was able to demonstrate this in a very real and frightening way; lucky for the person he demonstrated on, he was benevolent.

A lot of people aren’t benevolent. A lot of people are malicious.

We are not responsible for the actions of others.

However, the world is full of fuckwads and we all know that. We know that they’re out there and on the internet and victimizing people–it happens often. There is a constant dialogue going on about how to protect your identity, your privacy, your reputation, etc. I don’t think that employers should look up the Facebook accounts of potential employees and judge them based on that, but they do. So we all do our best to keep our Facebook accounts work-safe, at least to the public eye. I don’t think that women should have to worry about men showing up at places that they’ve check into on Foursquare and demanding their attention, but they do. To what extent is this different?

I don’t know. I am so deeply against victim blaming, so the idea of saying that using Foursquare is bad and opens women up to all kinds of potential violence makes me uncomfortable, because it smacks of saying that if a woman is harassed or assaulted because of Foursquare that she is in some way responsible for that. I don’t stand by that at all. But I do stand by the fact that I think women–and, hell, everyone–should be wary of the danger of any kind of internet presence linked to your real self, but particularly one as direct as Foursquare.

Am I losing feminist cred for this? Please share your thoughts. I’m pretty divided about this whole fracas.

07/29/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

What we need more of…

…is BDSM.

Hear me out. There’s a fantastic post over at Yes Means Yes! about the safe call. A safe call, in essence, is a pre-scheduled check in with a friend that BDSMers arrange when they’re going to meet someone. While stereotype dictates that BDSMers are up for anything and there’s nothing they won’t do, it turns out they’re a normal bunch–they too have lines, and People With Less Than Honorable Intentions lurk amongst them. So, when you’re going into a situation where you are going to be agreeing to things that have the potential to be Not Okay, it’s important to look out for your safety.

Slight tangent: basically everyone is familiar with the concept of the safe word these days, another safety precaution put in place by the BDSM community. Since BDSM relies very heavily on trust, making sure that participants feel safe is essential. Therefore, the safe word.

And, tangentially, the safe call. You’re putting a lot of faith in a stranger or casual acquaintance when you agree to engage in BDSM play with them–however, is it any less scary to engage in casual sex with a stranger of acquaintance? Rape is rape whether you’re tied up or not. Rapists can hide out in any community–the trappings of BDSM are not required to get into a circumstance where a rapist can easily find a target.

However, BDSMers are used to putting in safety precautions, such as the safe word (also, have you ever seen actual BDSM gear? I’m not talking Cosmo-said-it’d-be-hot-to-tie-up-my-man-so-I-bound-his-wrists-with-his-tie, I’m talking the stuff that people buy specifically for this purpose. It’s all designed with safety and preventing harm in mind. There’s quick releases, there’s padding, there’s material with give and breathability, hell, there’s candles with wax that won’t actually burn your skin. Sex is a sport, so always use proper safety equipment!). The safe call is a natural offshoot of that. I’ve fielded safe calls for friends, and I think they’re great.

As is covered in the linked post, this isn’t about making a person responsible for not being raped. It’s about giving the rapist a more hostile environment. It’s empowering, because it means that we can go out and have our hookups, regardless of how vanilla or kinky they may be, and we can know that we’re looking after ourselves, our friends can know that we’re safe (because believe it or not, we friends worry about you friends when you’re out!), and we can both know that if something DOES go wrong, we’ve got someone to fall back on and we can try to get the rapist caught.

I don’t think a safe call will necessarily STOP a rape. I don’t think it should ever enter into a rape trial that by NOT making a safe call, a victim had become responsible. That’s not the case at all. I think of a safe call as using a condom or setting a designated driver–have your fun, but make sure you do it safely! That’s all.

And, to be honest, I think almost all relationships should have a safe word (as well as a “go” word or signal–one of my friends had a necklace that she would put on whenever she wanted to hint to her boyfriend that she wanted to get busy. I think there’s something really sexy about that. The spontaneous jumping-your-bones is fun, too, but sex can be so much more than that!). The thing with a safe word is that you’ve agreed that it is an absolute.

There was a debate on a women’s health forum recently where a girl was repeatedly flicking/smacking her boyfriend’s face. He kept saying “stop that” and “if you do that one more time…” and finally after her doing it about ten times, he smacked her back and she got really upset. There was a strong division in the response. Some people were ready to pull out the axes and go after his head. Others took his side–she was all “I was just teasing him!” while commenters (myself included) said “So what? He was telling you to stop and you didn’t. While responding with a smack is not the best response, it was a visceral reaction of frustration that you wouldn’t listen to him.” And she insisted that when he was saying no, it was joking.

Sometimes, you need to make it clear to your significant other how you feel. Even if it’s just that they’re doing something that they think is cutesy flirtation (and I personally don’t think that there’s anything cutesy and flirtatious about hitting someone you love, regardless of the gender), if you want your partner to stop, they need to know your serious. Hence, safe word. Is it weird to pull that out in random situations? Maybe at first. But isn’t it kind of weird to exclaim, “PLATYPUS!” during sex? Well, yeah. But that’s the point–it’s out of context. It grabs attention. You stop. You consider what’s going on. You ask your partner what’s going on, and the two of you solve the problem at hand.

Because we do teasing things, and our culture is full of situations that can get messed up in translation. Friends flirt, and sometimes that leaves partners feel uncomfortable. What we think is harmless teasing can actually hurt. What starts out as “oh god I’ve had such a long day let me rant for a second” can turn into too much yelling. What we think is sexy nails-down-the-back might actually be drawing blood that wasn’t supposed to be drawn. Regardless of the context, sometimes we need to have a “hold up!” button to push.

For some of my friends, that “hold up!” button comes in the form of calling me. The good news is that no one has ever needed it, but it makes me feel good to know it’s there, and I hope it makes them feel good too.

Anyways, because I like to end Fridays on a good note, here’s a couple other things:

God I wish Sassy still existed. I don’t care if I’m too old for it. Which reminds me, I should really get around to reinstating my subscription to Bitch.

Speaking of Sassy, check out Thurston Moore’s dating advice to teenage girls. Punk rock boys, you make the rockin’ world go round.

And finally, lest we forget what is TRULY dangerous in this world, here is a reminder: it’s farting. “Listen sweetie, if you can’t control your ass, we’re going to have to get a divorce.” Aahh, if I had a dollar for every time I said that…

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day! Get a comic book. Love it, squeeze it, call it George. And make sure you get your comics from one of them rockin’ locally owned places!

04/30/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Damn Those Cartoons!

This past weekend, I attended Anime Boston 2010. I helped out a friend with his booth in the dealer’s room, where I carded kids to keep them from browsing or purchasing any of his adult comic books (which accounts for about 75% of what he sells). Yes, that’s right, the man sells hentai. Lots of it. Of all different kinds.

At the same time, he’s one of the leading pro-feminist dudes in my life. He’s got a really good grasp on gender relations, respects women, and is comfortable with all spectrums of gender and sexuality (or at least he seems it). I rank him very high on my list of “dudes I feel really safe and comfortable around.” Having a basement full of Japanese porn hasn’t turned him into a skeevy woman-hating rapist.

Also, as you may recall, I’ve mentioned time and time again that I love porn. I really do. Either it’s really hot, or it’s really hilarious. Either way, it’s fun! Some of the porn I like surprises people. Hell, some of the things I like in the bedroom surprises people. Apparently, feminists have a very narrow spectrum of what we’re allowed to enjoy sexually, because everything else is degrading.

Well that’s just not true. Two consenting adults who respect each other are never actually degrading each other. Whatever gets you off isn’t degrading unless it is made to be degrading. That’s up to you and your partner (so pick your partners wisely). A partner who respects you can do all kinds of things to you without losing that respect or seeing it as degrading.

Likewise, a person who is well-adjusted and understands the difference between fantasy and reality can enjoy all kinds of crazy-ass porno without having to commit any of those acts in real life. You can fap to whatever you want without that controlling your brain.

Every time I hear that people jerking off to a specific kind of porn is going to lead to them running out and becoming blinded by lust and unable to control their urges and forcing women into participating in their creepy weird fantasies, I die a little inside. It’s the same thing as saying that men rape because they just can’t help themselves; they are dominated by their penises.

NO. NO, GODDAMMIT. Biological essentialism is bullshit, no matter what wrapping paper you put it in. Either men are violent rapists by nature, and all it takes is a girl in a mini-skirt or some porn to trigger it, or they aren’t. You can’t have it both ways. I stand firmly in my belief that men aren’t penis-drones; they can control their junk.

Besides, as people have pointed out many times, this is basically the same as the videogame violence issue. Let she who has never had fun playing GTA or God of War or Fallout cast the first stone. If those videogames don’t cause us to reenact them, why would any other?

What I’m getting at here is the whole RapeLay controversy. I’ll be honest–the concept does make me a little squeamish. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was dating a guy and I found out he played it. But censorship is censorship and I do not endorse the banning or censoring of media. The comments over at Jezebel are really great–there’s a lot of people having a lot of good discussion. Several times, the issue of violent videogames is brought up, as is the issue of policing sexuality.

A fantasy is just that: a fantasy. Some people play them out through safe relationships, some people watch porn, and others just think about them. But as long as they are not actively harming another person with their fantasy, then they shouldn’t have to justify it or deal with people putting laws and bans on it. People have rape fantasies. They also have fantasies about gay sex, oral sex, and plain old lights-out-under-the-covers-missionary. That’s all FINE. As long as we don’t start actively harming others because of our fantasies, we can fantasize about whatever we want. Orgasms are great! Go ahead and have ’em. (And people always bring in the “well, what about child porn?” And the answer is “that’s not okay, because that is actively harming the child.” Although it grosses me the hell out, I have nothing against illustrated kid stuff, because that’s just a way for people to get their fantasy on. Gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I’m sure some of my fantasies would give them the heebie-jeebies, so it’s all fair.)

I am hesitant to start calling for bans and policing of free speech, of media being what it wants to be, because it’s a slippery slope.

We don’t need to have sexual violence legislated out of our society (I mean, look how well laws have worked at stopping murder and drug use and people driving over the speed limit!). We need to change our society to one that doesn’t accept and condone sexual violence. It’s possible to have whatever fantasies you want and look at whatever porn you want without condoning sexual violence. We need to treat each other with respect on a day to day basis and always regard one another as human beings. This means we learn to disagree with others and to accept our differences.

04/07/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Ask Me No Secrets, I’ll Tell You No Lies

Tonight is “make dinner from whatever you can find in the pantry/freezer” here at Chateau van der Cake, so this post will be like that too. I’m piecing together this post in a similar way.

For starters, I don’t want to talk about the health care bill. It’s not perfect, so basically no one is happy with it. It tries too hard to make everyone happy, so it’s pretty damn mediocre. Never mind the fact that it still won’t provide abortion coverage. Superb. However, ultimately, I think the best commentary actually comes from 4chan, so have fun with that.

Also, I don’t want to talk about the judge in Ohio who is ordering adolescent girls to undergo a polygraph test as part of their rape trials. But, just like HCR, it’s going on. (It is not, however, a trending topic on Twitter or even showing up at all on my Facebook home page. Notable?) People who have had their houses broken into aren’t being told to take a polygraph. People who have had their identity stolen aren’t being told to take a polygraph. But teenaged girls who were brave enough to report their rapes are. Talk about victimizing the victim. Talk about validating the actions of the rapists and denying the girls their voices. Where does this shit come from?

I don’t want to talk about how we are hurling racist epithets in our nation’s capitol. Bodies remain war zones, whether they are the bodies of women, the bodies of non-whites… God help you if you are both a woman and non-white.

I don’t want to talk about any of this depressing stuff. I want to talk about something cheerful. But the fact of the matter is, this isn’t a really cheerful time. There’s a lot of bright sides to look at, I’m not denying that. But sometimes we have to accept that shit is ugly out there. Looking away and patting ourselves on the back on how far we’ve come won’t change that.

Sure, let’s be happy that HCR passed, but let’s not get complacent just because we were handed a cup of sour milk to go with our stale cookies. Sure, we’ve got milk and cookies, but it’s not exactly a party.

03/22/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Go Ahead And Rage!

I had a couple things in mind that I wanted to post about today, but I’ve been being really busy at work instead (crazy, right?). So instead of writing anything super exciting, I’m going to post up some links that I think are totally worth taking a look at:

  • The BARCC blog today has a great entry on rape. In summary: no one is ever asking for it, and there’s never any valid excuse. I’ve been a huge fan of BARCC for a long time, and the blog that they just recently launched has been pretty much non-stop awesome. (If you too are a fan of BARCC, consider sponsoring me in the 2010 Walk for Change!)
  • The Sexist has been compiling a list of songs that celebrate sexual violence. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t hard. Today, however, Nada Surf was added with an anti-rape song. As a long-time listener to Nada Surf (The Weight Is A Gift carried me through early college), I was pretty thrilled at this one. Check it out!
  • Pervocracy, one of my newest blog-crushes, does a special feature on a fear-mongering Cosmo article on rape. For real, people, can we get over the idea that women can somehow avoid being raped by following special steps? Not getting raped is not the same as solving for x. Believe it or not, the quadratic equation doesn’t work here. So please stop fostering fear and victim-blaming. Bonus: Holly is hilarious and brilliant, unlike anyone ever at Cosmo.
  • And although this is unrelated to today’s theme of rape, Sociological Images recently had a rather creepy article about the reception of an accidental pregnancy by men and women aged 18-29. Men are WAY MORE okay with a surprise bun in the oven than the ladies. Buddy that up with Jezebel‘s article on male issues with condom use (awww, poor widdle penis is too shy to use condoms that fit right!) and honestly, I’m about to ready to swear off sex. Way to make a stereotypical feminist of me, statistics. I hope you’re happy now.

Anyways, let’s end the day with another anti-rape song from The Sexist’s great collection:

03/10/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

How We Glamorize Abuse–Sci-fi Edition!

Don't think of it as choking, think of it as hugging her trachea.

I can often be found discussing all the things that are wrong with the Star Wars prequels (fuck you, George Lucas). Recently, however, the conversation steered more toward how cheated we were by Anakin not consciously turning to the Dark Side, but instead being tricked into it out of his love for Padme. (See this post for details; no need for me to rehash what someone else has already written, and far better than I could.)

What I find particularly irksome about all this is exactly how unhealthy the relationship between Anakin and Padme is from the get-go. There’s been plenty of uproar about the Bella/Edward fracas in Twilight (and I participate vigorously in said yelling), but it seems like the Anakin/Padme dynamic flew under the radar for most people. Is it because girls don’t like science fiction? I find that hard to buy. Is it because the writing is so awful that it isn’t even believable so how could it possibly be a threat? I’d find that plausible, were I not so actively engaged in the wide world of Star Wars fandom. I’ve seen the kind of vapid adoration that the Anakin/Padme relationship inspires.

So let me break it down to its simplest form: Anakin turns evil and kills children and nearly kills Padme because he just loves her so much.

Yeeeeaaaaah. About that. “It’s not that I’m a baby-killer, it’s just that I’m really in love.” Yes, because that will hold up in a court of law!

Unfortunately, the argument that he nearly strangled Padme because he loves her so much and was so overwhelmed with jealousy when he saw her with Obi-wan… Well, that one just might hold up in a court of law. DV perpetrators often speak of how they themselves aren’t angry individuals and they never wanted or meant to hurt their partner; the partner simply does something that forces their hand. The perpetrator just loves their partner soooo much that they can’t control their emotions and they end up lashing out when the partner makes them angry or jealous or any other number of emotions. The same argument is often made in regards to rape, that if the victim hadn’t done XYZ, then the rapist wouldn’t have felt compelled to rape.

Being partner violent, committing rape–both of these things require something very important. A perpetrator. And unless that perpetrator lacks agency and self-awareness, then the perpetrator–and only the perpetrator!–is the responsible party here.

Basically, I see writing violent actions off as “but I just couldn’t help myself–look at what he/she said to me! Look at how he/she was dressed! It’s a natural reaction!” as basically confessing that you are not a human being. You are incapable of controlling yourself–you are a menace to other people and yourself. When you need to pee, do you just drop trou in the middle of Stop & Shop and take a leak? When you’re hungry, do you just take a sandwich for someone else who just sat down to eat? When you’re tired, do you just curl and fall asleep wherever you are, even if it’s in the middle of Commonwealth Ave?

No, of course you don’t. Because you’re a human being and you know how to control yourself.

So why the fuck is “I just couldn’t help it” a valid excuse for partner violence and rape?

Anakin excuses his behavior because of love, and it is justified and written off by viewers as well. The relationship is toxic and destructive from the beginning, yet Padme’s coddling and forgiveness of Anakin is expected and justified because she is in love–it is never expected that she should draw a line or try to stop him. The 14-year-old queen of The Phantom Menace demonstrates backbone and resilience that is completely absent from the Padme of later films. Apparently, falling in love turns a woman into a spineless ditz. How Padme makes me yearn for Leia!

Basically, Padme was the cause of the fall of the Galactic Republic because she made her boyfriend jealous, so he turned evil. That’s some powerful lovin’, or something.

It’s easy to laugh about this because I’m analyzing Star Wars characters (and some of the shittier ones at that), but it really does translate into real life. People internalize this message. Men are taught that partner violence is okay because it’s a socially acceptable way for them to show emotion (say what now?!). Women are taught that partner violence is not just okay, it’s romantic. When I was younger, my girlfriends and I really saw it that way–a man must really, really love you if he loses his head like that over you. Luckily, we grew out of it (though many suffered en route to that place), but a lot of women don’t.

When the Chris Brown/Rihanna violence case hit the news in March/April of 2009, the outpouring of acceptance and validation of Brown’s actions from adolescent girls was astounding. There was talk of how he needed support because he was in such a vulnerable place. Oh yeah, ladies, I’m really feeling for him. Feeling my brass knuckles yearning for his face, more like.

Basically, we’ve normalized abuse and normalized the idea of abusive behavior being an indicator of love to a ridiculous level.  It spans our culture from Star Wars to pop music to young adult literature. This is pervasive. This is fucked up. Normalization is how we internalize all the negative programming we’re fed; maybe it seems unimportant how partner violence is portrayed in Star Wars, but I don’t think that’s the case at all when it’s these messages that are teaching what is and is not okay. Anakin is a tragic hero; we feel sympathy. We should feel anger and fear.

But how can you feel anger and fear toward someone who is just so in love?

Oh, bite me.

03/02/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Domestic Violence is a “pre-existing condition”

I am so angry. SO ANGRY. I can’t even come up with words to express how enraged I am.

According to LiveStrong, domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition and nine states allow healthcare companies to deny coverage over it.

There’s already an arsenal of reasons why women don’t report domestic violence or get the medical care they need when suffering from DV; adding to the equation the risk of being unable to get health insurance in the future is a very compelling reason why women may continue to keep quiet about violence.

I disagree completely with the idea that insurance companies should be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions; in general it’s a ridiculous concept. However, denying coverage based on having experienced domestic violence is even worse. DV victims are already undergoing severe emotional strains, so to deny health insurance (which they may need to cover their children, or potentially to actually escape their violent relationship) is only going to make the situation worse.

One of the worst parts about denying coverage to DV victims is that it suggests that they will be a continued expense. IE because they have been victimized before, it will probably happen again, and therefore they are high-risk to insure. That smacks of victim-blaming and saying that women are somehow responsible for DV. After all, if the DV incidents weren’t somehow related to the battered person, why would the insurance assume that the violence will continue?

I’m absolutely broiling with anger and sadness about this. I’m fairly certain I have a lot more to say, but I just can’t get my thoughts coherent right now.

Although, as a closing note, I’d like to make mention of the fact that because of my own bias, I did constantly refer to DV victims as women. First off, yes, men are victims of DV as well, and in many ways, they face at least as many hurdles as women do in getting help, due to the stigma on men seeming “weak,” especially compared to a female partner. However, female-on-male DV is only a tiny fraction of the DV problem. Also, homosexual couples often have high rates of DV, and that is certainly not to be overlooked. I wonder, though, how often their DV is actually recorded as such in medical records; do doctors file, say, a gay man who has been battered as being in a fight, or being a DV victim?

Domestic violence is an enormous problem and it stretches umbrella-esque over the lives of victims and into the lives of those around them. Something that may seem contained–such as being unable to get health insurance–is not just an isolated problem but rather a problem with far-reaching ripples of influence, and it is indicative of how many challenges and stigmas still permeate the DV issue.

On top of all that, I’d like to also note that pregnancy is considered a condition for which “most” insurance companies will turn down applicants.

I had so much more I wanted to write about today, too, but then this article showed up and kind of trumped all the less depressing stuff I wanted to write about. Thanks, world, for breaking my heart.

02/17/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

The internet: for porn, and now perving too!

Our civil liberties are being protected. They’re being protected real hard.

They’re so protected, in fact, that a guy can get a conviction for soliciting sex from an underage individual reversed. How? Why? Because he did it using Yahoo messenger, instead of handwriting.

Yes, let that sink in. Because he wrote his attempted solicitation on a computer, instead of in handwriting, it doesn’t count, because the current law only covers things written with a pen or pencil.

The good news is that he was busted by an undercover cop, so although he thought he was getting some sweet sweet lovin’ from a 13 year old girl, he actually wasn’t. So, at least it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, I guess?

The worst part is that after having taken an intro law class, I can see exactly how his lawyer worked the system to get him off the hook. What disgusts and enrages me is that the court chose to follow the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law (as there are also options to work the system in that way), and it disappoints me that the opposing lawyer couldn’t manage a better rebuttal.

The guy was trying to fuck a 13 year old girl. C’mon people, this is not rocket science–dude is guilty, whether he used Yahoo messenger, a #2 SAT-approved pencil, or goddamn smoke signals. I call serious bullshit on this ruling.

[Original article via UniversalHub]

02/05/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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