Greetings from the Amtrak! I’m on my way to Washington, DC for Women in Secularism 3. Both of my panels are tomorrow, so I’m getting there a day early and spending the evening running around the city by myself with my camera. I’m almost as excited for this as I am for the conference itself.
I haven’t done a link roundup in a while, so this will be torturously long. Sorry. :P
1. Speaking of DC, Thomas has an in-depth analysis of the ways in which the police often stonewall rape investigations, using an example that took place here. Please do read this piece before you implore rape survivors to go to the police.
The simple way to think about a problem like this is to say, “figure out who they are and lock them up.” I’d love that outcome. But it won’t happen in a vacuum. In the real world, today, there are a number of reasons that we can’t count on the criminal justice system to rid us of rapists. Some of those reasons are the same cultural stuff that operates on everyone. The same things that make civillians leap to the defense of their local repeat rapist, that make school administrators see them as deserving of a second chance instead of punishment, cause some police to fail to get them behind bars.
Saying, “go to the police” won’t change that. Instead, if we want survivors to be able to uniformly go to the police, we need to work to make the police an institution that survivors can count on; to do their jobs and not to retraumatize the survivor.
When you get to create a world completely from scratch, where you could rewrite the laws of gravity or the science behind genetics should you so choose, but your vision of all the people is still lily white? I really do find that worrisome. It bugs me that people are more easily able to imagine the existence of non-human intelligent beings, or interactions with a completely alien race, than that a protagonist might be anything other than white. It tells me that in the real world, we have a problem imagining the humanity of people of color. It tells me that as a culture we still see people of color as nothing more than bit players in the lives of white characters, if we even see them at all. Why is it that so many people find nothing problematic about the willful erasure of people of color from their visions of the future? Because there’s a real and almost tangible problem with race if audiences can suspend their disbelief enough to accept that a fictional character can burst in to flames, repeatedly, at will, and not die, but not enough to accept that the same character could be black.
3. Mitchell has a great take on the idea that you can’t trust anything online:
I don’t automatically trust bloggers because a group of people I’ve never met decided to give them a badge that says “reporter” on it. I don’t turn off my critical thinking because they’ve gotten to be some sort of “professional”. I have to judge them on the merits of their writing and history of thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness alone. Because they could be a dog, and I wouldn’t know.
4. Suey Park and Eunsong Kim at Model View Culture write about the much-maligned “hashtag activism”:
There is a common belief that activist trends magically and spontaneously happen in cyberspace and remain stuck in that medium. Although lacking a geographic home, Twitter communities are intentionally constructed through the labor of specific groups. We use Twitter to defy the limitations of time and space. We use Twitter to remember we are not alone — or crazy — but instead part of a collective struggle. The idea of ongoing decolonizing campaigns is antithetical to corporate logics and branding campaigns. Yet our stories get replaced and sold as marketable commodities for corporate consumption. They are sold as 15 minutes of entertainment rather than connected and ongoing efforts.
5. Libby Anne discusses teaching consent to small children:
What I find really fascinating about these two anecdotes is that they both deal with the consent of children not yet old enough to communicate verbally. In both stories, the older child must read the consent of the younger child through nonverbal cues. And even then, consent is not this ambiguous thing that is difficult to understand.
6. John McCarroll at Sherights analyzes the language of feminist messages targeted at men:
Common to all these messages is that men CAN rape, hurt, buy women, catcall or what-have-you, but they SHOULDN’T. Men, we are told, shouldn’t hurt women, not because of any intrinsic rights women may have, but because other men might do it to THEIR women, and that would be awful.
Male privilege is re-defined, but not negated, in a way that leaves masculinity unchallenged and still dominant. The wonderful, complex, and multi-faceted language of generations of queer, trans, intersectionalist and sex-positive feminism and human-rights dialogues is thrown aside completely in favor of a request that straight, cis-gendered men join the rest of the world at the big-kids table.
7. Ferrett takes down the myth that “nobody can make you feel bad without your permission”:
But when you say, “Well, nobody can make you feel bad without your permission!”, that sets up a world where you have no responsibility for your speech. Were you digging for weak spots, mocking to make a point? Oh, hey, well, you were trying your damndest to make them feel bad, but if it worked it’s their fault for not having sufficient defenses. It’s not 100% correlation, but when I see “Nobody can make you feel bad!” I usually find a taunting dillweed nearby, taking potshots from the brush and then claiming no responsibility.
8. At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen discusses the dark side of “positive thinking”:
What’s missing from these and many other self-help books? Social structure. The fact that we live in a broader society that has specific economic policies working for or against our getting rich, or a labor market that might help or inhibit having an awesome career never seems to encroach on the dream-like state that many of these books create for readers. While some spiritually oriented books encourage readers to critically examine our material desires, others regard consumption as a reward—one that maybe should be delayed but shouldn’t be denied.
9. Britni writes about refusing to call rape what it is:
When we don’t name rape as rape, we take power away from the act by watering down the words we use to describe it. “Rape” is an uncomfortable word that we don’t like to use and we don’t like to hear. But avoiding it takes power away from the actions we’re describing and makes it easier to minimize the impact of those actions. When someone calls rape “a very bad night,” it makes it easier to tell the victim to shake it off or that it wasn’t such a big deal. It makes it easier to let the perpetrator off the hook as maybe being “too aggressive.” It makes it easier to refer to what happened as the result of “a miscommunication” instead of calling it that ugly word– rape.
10. Melissa at Shakesville writes about the bootstraps myth and how it plays out in the lives of people who actually have to get through life without any help:
The people who claim to never have had any help from anyone are the same people who tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor.
[…]But people need help. Everyone needs help. And not everyone is fortunate enough to have the kind of help that is so reliable it’s possible to dismiss it out of hand as not even having been help at all.
This is what really having no help looks like. We don’t actually reward not having help in this country; we criminalize it.
11. Maddie at Autostraddle criticizes the suggestions RAINN (Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network) made for ending sexual assault on college campuses:
By dismissing rape culture and then, as RAINN’s recommendations do, evoking the criminal justice system as the only and most important solution to ending rape, RAINN both obscures the fact that sexual violence is pervasive throughout the criminal justice system, and cuts off the potential for alternatives, like transformative justice solutions. Devoting resources to developing transformative justice solutions is important, because they don’t require the engagement with the criminal justice system, which at the moment, is often the only option survivors have to make the immediate violence stop. The criminal justice system is unsafe for everybody within it, and is also much less likely to be useful or safe for people who are members of communities of color, queer and trans* communities, or any survivor who does not want to see their assailant behind bars, which is a reality for many people for a variety of reasons. Immediately deferring issues of sexual violence to law enforcement solutions does not end sexual violence; it limits options for survivors and can deter survivors from seeking support, in which cases the violence is more likely to continue.
12. Kat Hache´ talks about names and her experience as a trans woman:
There will always be the negators of the world out there to remind us that our past indeed happened, as if we could ever forget. Their reminders should not be given the weight of invalidation, however. If our society accepted the multitudes within us as trans individuals (to paraphrase Walt Whitman) in the same way that the complexity of cisgender individuals’ identities were accepted, it would cease to be an issue. For this reason I have come to accept my dead name as one of my multitudes. My past is one chapter of my beautiful story, but it is not the entirety of it.
I am a woman named Katharine who was once called a boy named Kevin. If you find that contradictory, very well.
I contain multitudes, and there are multitudes within my name.
13. s.e. smith writes about the practice of wearing fat suits to “simulate” being fat and find out what it’s like:
Nor does wearing a fat suit offer insight into what it’s like to live in a society where you are loathed and hated because of your body. People seeing someone in a fat suit can tell it’s a fat suit, it’s not like these garments are subtle. You might attract comments or laughs, but it’s nothing compared to actually living in a fat body. If you walk down the street in a fat suit eating a doughnut, what people see is a person walking down the street in a fat suit eating a doughnut. Nothing more, nothing less.
14. Cate takes down the tiresome “yeah well Twitter is public deal with it” canard:
By defaulting to “twitter is public I don’t need permission” when dealing with sensitive topics like this, you’re effectively saying “Don’t speak out! Don’t share your stories! Don’t share your pain! Because if you do I will be within my rights to exploit you, make money for myself and leave you to deal with the backlash.” It puts us in a situation where we are pressured into speaking out against rape culture and punished by threats and abuse if we do. There is no way to win.
The “twitter is public” excuse is reductive and lazy. As I said, “in the commons” is not the same as “public.” You wouldn’t eavesdrop on a “private” conversation on the train, and then use the information for your next scoop, while identifying the person involved. Sure you “heard” it, but that person wasn’t talking to you. And the women involved here were not talking to Buzzfeed. The lines between public and private online may be blurred but they’re not invisible. Private conversations can and do happen in public spaces. Twitter is one such space.
15. This is old news now, but Chris Hallquist wrote a great piece about people flipping out that Brendan Eich resigned from Mozilla due to his homophobia:
I also wonder why the people urging tolerance for Eich can’t be more tolerant of the decisions made by other people at Mozilla and OKCupid. Where’s the tolerance for people who don’t want to work for, or use the products of, a company with a homophobic CEO? Can it really be our solemn duty as members of a democratic society to never complain, or decide to take our business elsewhere, when we find out that someone supported an effort to take away important rights from ourselves or our friends?
16. Mitchell has a set of responses when people ask him (in relation to polyamory), “But don’t you get jealous?”
Yes, but it also means I get to unlearn one of the worst root causes of jealousy for me. For me, poly provides an opportunity to unlearn this culturally ingrained habit of thinking oppositionally. When I was monogamous, and someone I was interested in decided they wanted to go out with someone else, it was easy to feel like that was because I wasn’t good enough — that I wasn’t as attractive or interesting as that other person. Being poly, though, means that when someone decides they don’t want to date me, it isn’t because some other person is “better”. If they’re poly, it means that they could date me anyway, which means that I don’t have to think about my rejections in the frame of “I’m just not as good as that other person is.”. I get to practice thinking about them in the frame of “Something just didn’t work between this person and me.”.
17. Benjamin wrote this post that I can’t really encapsulate in a few words except that it’s about effective communication when you want to talk but don’t know how or what about. Anyway, I found it useful for dealing with my spirals of “I’m depressed and I have nothing of value to say to anyone so I will never talk to anyone ever again.”
18. Sparrow Rose Jones writes about identity labels, why they’re useful, and why remarks like “you don’t need labels!” are dismissive:
Labels help us to understand ourselves better. Yes, they are a sort of heuristic — a short-hand and reductionist way to identify things that doesn’t encapsulate the entirety of who and what a person is — but they are so useful. A woman who notices her stomach getting bigger and bigger is comforted by remembering that she is pregnant. Pregnant is a label. When I get frustrated that I have to slowly reason out people’s words and actions and cannot interpret them immediately and on-the-fly, it comforts me to remember that I am Autistic. Autistic is a label.
19. This Medium piece by Rachel Edidin is about Asperger’s Syndrome. So I’m not sure why I related to it so immensely. But I did.
People interest me. I care about some ferociously and passionately. I care about most in at least an abstract humanitarian sense.
But people also baffle and exhaust me, and I don’t trust most of them. They generalize and assume based on very limited data sets. They touch me. From behind. In crowds. They ignore the words I have so carefully arranged to say exactly what I want them to say and project their own insecurities and needs and prejudices. They treat me like an extension of them; they subsume who I am and what I say into whatever role they want or need me to fill and then punish me when I fail to follow a script I can’t see.
I wish I were better at being what people want me to be. I wish they’d tell me what that was.
I wish I knew what the rules were.
I wish there were rules.
Have you read or written anything interesting lately?
(If you’re attending WiS3, see ya at the con!)