I Am Not Your Sword and Shield

A long-ago conversation has been haunting me somewhat of late. One of my friends had gotten into a rather heated argument with a woman who, although never having been through it, thought being raped was the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to a woman.

“No, it’s not!” I said, incredulous. “It’s horrible, yeah, but I can think of worse things. Being murdered, death of a child…”

And, since I’m a rape survivor, my friend thought I’d be a good counter-authority if she ever broached the topic again.

But here’s the thing I didn’t quite grasp in those days: I am one data point, not the World’s Authority. Yes, it’s true: while I think rape is one of the worst, but not the worst, crimes that can be committed against a woman (or any human of any sex or gender, not to mention any sentient creature), I’m just one survivor. I don’t speak for us all. Just because I can think of things that, to me, would be worse than rape doesn’t mean rape isn’t the absolute worst thing that might happen to someone else. It doesn’t mean those who think it is the worst are wrong or irrational for thinking so.

You cannot use me as a shield against their points. You can’t use me as your sword to strike them down.

I refuse to be used. Image courtesy Very Demotivational.

I refuse to be used. Image courtesy Very Demotivational.

Take it further. The man I had this conversation with would never question the fact that rape is devastating and traumatic. He wouldn’t demand anyone who’s been raped to just “get over it.” I was his shield only in the specific context of defending his position that there are at least a few things that could be done to a woman that are worse than rape, and this was in the context of an actual academic debate. But what if he’d used me to attack a victim who wasn’t able to recover from her rape? What if he was using the fact I’d survived my ordeal without professional psychological help to argue that all women should do the same?

He’s be wrong. Fractally wrong.

So that’s a thing I’d like understood: I’m one person. You can’t expect every other woman in the world to be like me. And you are not allowed to use me as your sword and shield against other women.

“Dana did/does/thinks X” is not a defense, it’s a data point.

I think that’s what really infuriates me when the people caught doing sexist or misogynistic things whip out their Token Female Friend. “This woman friend likes having her legs chewed without consent!” Wonderful – but that doesn’t change the fact that many women don’t. “My girlfriend calls other women crazy bitches all the time!” That’s true, but the fact she sees nothing wrong with an abelist and gendered slur doesn’t mean this is safe language for you to employ. “But I’ve heard you talk about how evil women are!” Yes, and I was wrong, and sexist, and have since realized I should stop being a horrible person. When will you?

Don’t try to use me as your defense against the indefensible, your weapon against my fellow women. You may use me as a data point for thoughtful consideration. That is all.

Cantina Quote o’ the Week: Dorothy Parker

 Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants.

-Dorothy Parker

I like spring, I do, but you have to admit this is an excellent description of spring. Birdsong is lovely – except outside your window when you’re trying to sleep. Plants are beautiful and new life bursting out all over is gorgeous – except it covers up the delicious geology. Yes, this quote works for geology. It really does.

Dorothy Parker was a fascinating person. I’ve heard of her vaguely for years – people are in awe of her wit (which was sharp as flaked obsidian, just as beautiful and cruel). She’s this great writer etc. But I’ve not read her, a sad state of affairs I’ll have to remedy soon.

There was evidence Dorothy was going to be a person to watch out for even in her early years, when she was a half-Jewish girl with a Protestant stepmother attending a Catholic school. She said she was kicked out because she persisted in her assertation that the Immaculate Conception was actually spontaneous combustion. She went on to a stellar career in writing. She wrote for Vanity Fair until her obsidian wit cut powerful people too deeply; she worked as an editorial assistant for Vogue; she wrote for The New Yorker from its beginning in 1925. She published poetry, wrote plays and screenplays, achieved success in Hollywood until her politics got her blacklisted. She fought for civil liberties and civil rights for unpopular people; founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, worked for left-wing relief organizations, wrote for New Masses magazine (which was probably partly responsible for her getting branded a Communist and ending up with a thick FBI file). She struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies, bad relationships and injustices, kept writing through it all. And even in death, she helped her causes, leaving her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. foundation, and through this to the NAACP.

And she left us glittering words, sharp and shining, that haven’t dulled a bit with time.

Attention Washington Peeps: Lawyer Recommendations Needed

Some of you may be aware that all is not happy families at my place of business. Now the family is broken, because they decided to fire my manager. Yes, the one who stood by his employees. Yes, the one who had just filed an ethics complaint. And yes, they did it for a reason that is very close to blatantly illegal, if not right over the line.

My manager is, shall we say, exploring options in pursuing legal remedies . He’d like your assistance in finding the right person for the job. Let me know if you’re an employment attorney licensed to practice in the state of Washington, and enjoy the challenge of taking on well-known multinational companies. If you’re not an attorney but have recommendations, we’re all ears. Send your info to dhunterauthor at yahoo.

Thank you for your help!

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The Art of Nature: Dandelion Blooms

We’ve got a love-hate relationship with dandelions, don’t we? If you’ve ever owned a lawn or been around a lawn-owner who gives a shit about grass, you’ve either personally attempted or seen someone attempt to eradicate the no-good very-bad terrible dandelions in it. The circular sprays of leaves seem like particularly wicked saw-blades. Grass-murderer! Lawn defiler! Diiiieeee!!!!

But when they bloom, they’re pretty. You may hate them, but you know they are. They’re beautiful. And who as a little kid in an area with dandelions hasn’t plucked up little sun-hued and sun-shaped blooms and run off with them? Who hasn’t wondered if they have anything to do with actual lions? Who hasn’t breathlessly waited for them to form those perfect spheres of white fluff that we could carefully pick and then blow on with all our might, trying to scatter the seeds with one blow and ensuring the lawn owner will spend next summer tearing their hair out over yet more dandelions?

Yes. It’s a complicated relationship.

Happily, I do not own a lawn, and furthermore find grass ridiculous, so I can enjoy dandelions without inner conflict. I was particularly delighted to find a set of them displaying several stages of bloom development during a supposed-to-be-winter-but-seemed-awfully-like-spring walk along North Creek.

Here we have the bud.

Dandelion bud.

Dandelion bud.

There are two, very tightly closed. Inside, the awesome unfolding of biology is preparing a bit of beauty for reasons of its own.

And at some point, it’s about ready to burst.

Dandelion bud beginning to open.

Dandelion bud beginning to open.

I like how it looks almost exhausted, the bits protecting the flower looking damp and worn out, having done the hard work of bringing a new flower to the brink of existence.

And then it begins to unfurl.

Opening dandelion, with some of the petals not completely unfurled.

Opening dandelion, with some of the petals not completely unfurled.

Watching them do this in time lapse is rather remarkable, especially watching it create the seed-head.

I’ll leave off with a little of my own art, ripped from context: rocking in a porch swing moved off the porch, at night, remembering a time before violent death tore ordinary life apart.

Quiet, then, just the creak of wooden joints as they rocked, young leaves rattling sometimes when the breeze gusted.  In the distance, louder vehicles on I90 sounded like wind themselves.  Bruised grass under the swing posts gave off a scent that had become inextricably entangled with gasoline fumes in her mind since the advent of landscapers with leaf blowers.  With baby powder, from all the time Kaitlyn had gone out to play in the freshly-mown grass while she and Stacey sat on the lawn watching her look for surviving dandelions, which hadn’t survived long when she found them, plucked them, came running back to her mother with a bit of botanical sunshine clutched in chubby little hands.

A good memory. And one, I imagine, that might change a person’s relationship with dandelions forever.

Dandelions on slope.

Dandelions on slope.

New at Rosetta Stones: Why We Mustn’t Shut Up About Geology

In case anyone ever asks you why you’re so obsessed with rocks, show them this. And don’t ever hold your tongue. We need to talk about geology.

Really, ultimately, it’s because of things like this:

Shake Map for Cascadia M 9.0 Earthquake Scenario. Image courtesy USGS.

Shake Map for Cascadia M 9.0 Earthquake Scenario. Image courtesy USGS.

Someday, possibly in our lifetimes, the Pacific Northwest will experience the full-rip nine. Every place has its dangerous geology. If people don’t understand it, if we don’t talk about it, no one will be prepared for events like this.

Also importantly, geology is cool.

Men and Work-Life Balance in STEM Careers

A recent article at Double X Science expressed a fundamental fed-upness with the way the media profiles women in science. The problem is the inordinate focus on things typically considered a woman’s work – “however do they balance all that lady stuff and a career?!” Gosh. Oh, and here’s a little bit about the science.

The author suggests a moratorium on mentioning the scientist’s sex, and just focusing on the science. Which is a good idea, as far as it goes – but we’re still living in a world where science is seen as a man’s profession. It’s important that young women who are considering entering STEM fields see that it’s possible to have a career, a spouse, children, and/or hobbies as well as a career, that they won’t have to become single, sexless workaholics to make it in STEM. So, perhaps, a para or so explaining this isn’t the 19th century anymore? A mention might be nice, but nothing excessive, and please talk about the science for the majority of the article.

And give male scientists the same treatment.

Man on bicycle balancing propane tank and watermelon on head = odd.

Seriously. Look at the comments at that post. A huge number of people want to hear from men on how they balance their family obligations and personal time with their careers. Women aren’t the sole caregivers now (right, guys? Right?), and men are starting to try the same juggling act. They need help, support, and encouragement, too. They need to see other men balancing on the tightwire while juggling their obligations.

This gives me the inspiration for a new series, one in which we highlight science men with families and/or complicated personal lives they’re trying to balance. Is that you? Fantastic! Let me know about you.* What are the challenges you face? What works? What doesn’t? What do you wish you could change? How can your STEM career be made more life-and-family-friendly?

The ultimate goal is to achieve actual equality for both women and men. No matter your sex or gender, no matter your situation, you should be able to have your family and career, too. There’s no reason why a STEM career should mean giving up the rest of your life.

 

*dhunterauthor at gmail, for those not already in the know. Or you can just leave a comment using an email address at which I can reach you. Either way works.

Bodacious Botany: Scarlett o’Hairy

One of the things about doing geology is that it gets you into the habit of staring at the ground. And when you do that, you notice things. Alas, here in the Puget lowland the things usually aren’t geological in nature. But they’re still pretty.

Bodacious Botany I

Bodacious Botany I

This cluster of botany was on a little mound, and couldn’t have shown off a nice selection of the local flora better if it had been planned. The brilliant red stuff caught my eye first, of course, and then I spent a moment admiring the progression from moss to scarlet plant to our lovely bittercress.

Bodacious Botany II

Bodacious Botany II

There’s some complicated chemistry going on in those red leaves. I’m very nearly sure that color is caused by anthocyanin, which is thought to act like sunscreen for baby and other vulnerable leaves. Yes. Even here, some plants slather themselves in sunscreen rather like people worried about skin cancer. I wonder if some of them might be doing it because they’re not locals, and hence evolved for more unfiltered sun than we get here.

Bodacious Botany III

Bodacious Botany III

I love the little hairs. Those are trichomes, and they’re relatively common, but not always obvious. Hairy plants always look a little strange to me, but there are good reasons for those hairs being there. Here, let Wikipedia tell you about some:

It is likely that in many cases, hairs interfere with the feeding of at least some small herbivores and, depending upon stiffness and irritability to the “palate”, large herbivores as well. Hairs on plants growing in areas subject to frost keep the frost away from the living surface cells. In windy locations, hairs break-up the flow of air across the plant surface, reducing evaporation. Dense coatings of hairs reflect solar radiation, protecting the more delicate tissues underneath in hot, dry, open habitats. And in locations where much of the available moisture comes from cloud drip, hairs appear to enhance this process.

So there you are. If you’re a plant, you’ve got lots of reasons to grow hair. And if I ever get a wild hair (ahaha), I’ll write about sentient, mobile plants that have developed obsessive rituals about their hair, including shaving it off for no apparent reason. Sound like any species we know?

Mystery Flora: A Happy Yellow Spray

Place barely goes to sleep for winter and now it’s up for spring. To be fair, it has been a mild winter even for Seattle, which has winters so milquetoast it panics when two snowflakes stick to the road. Nothing in the Puget Lowlands wastes any time. I found little seedlings happily growing in early January, and now the instant winter’s back is turned, here come the flowering trees.

These lovely, happy little yellow flowers were in full bloom by the beginning of March. There’s nothing quite so uplifting as walking through still mostly-dead vegetation, and suddenly coming upon this spray of yellow blooms reaching up to a brilliant blue sky.

Mystery Flower I

Mystery Flower I

Please tell me it’s not invasive. Please oh please. Just this once, let me have joy in something that’s not a horrible invasive species.

Mystery Flower II

Mystery Flower II

It is, isn’t it? I like it, it’s pretty, therefore invasive. Sigh. The last shred of hope I have is that it’s a little thickety for an ornamental tree. Not that that means anything.

Mystery Flower III

Mystery Flower III

I love this spot on North Creek. There’s a pond on one side, and commercial buildings on the other, but the buildings don’t bother you because the narrow trail is lined with all sorts of trees, and their branches dip and arch overhead, and you sort of feel like you’re in some sort of wild secret garden.

Mystery Flower IV

Mystery Flower IV

I spent what was probably an inordinate amount of time there, grinning like someone who’d just discovered the good shrooms, enjoying sunshine and blue skies and lovely little yellow flowers. In the Pacific Northwest, you seize the opportunity when it comes, because it’s gone in a flash.

Mystery Flower V

Mystery Flower V

Rather like these. I’ve not known many trees that flower for long, and I doubt these will still be in bloom when I get back. A lot like life, in that respect: enjoy it fully while it lasts, because it doesn’t ever last long enough. But while it does, there are these moments.

Mystery Flower VI

Mystery Flower VI

And they’re beautiful.

“Rape is not a recreational activity.” Steubenville Rape Verdict Roundup

A near-miracle has happened: two rapists have been convicted of sexual assault. Excuse me, found “delinquent” in a juvenile court. At their ages, had they stolen something more than an intoxicated girl’s bodily integrity, they would have likely been charged as adults – but hey, it’s just rape. Not like they stole a car or murdered somebody, amirite? And, hey, if they learn the appropriate sorry-won’t-do-it-again words, they may not even have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Pretty sweet, huh? That’s actually amazing, considering how few rapists ever get convicted at all.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

And you know what America’s future rapists are learning from this rare semi-functioning of the justice system? Don’t rape? Don’t make me laugh. No, what they’re learning is simple: don’t do your raping in front of dozens of witnesses, and don’t upload pictures and video of your raping to social media. That’s what the judge warned them about:

Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as “profane and ugly.” In sentencing the boys, he said rape was among the gravest of crimes and noted that they could have been tried as adults with far harsher punishments. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”

Folks, this is rape culture. The message isn’t, “Don’t rape. Full stop.” No, it’s more of, “Try not to, and if you can’t help yourself, don’t make it so inescapably obvious. Because rape is just awful (wink, wink), but being forced to punish popular people is ever so much worse.”

And calling out rape culture and its apologists? Horrible.

And victims reporting their rapes and seeking a conviction? Obviously the worst thing of all, worthy of death threats and additional threats of rape, because how dare victims think they deserve justice?

One of the reasons I’m proud to blog at Freethought Blogs is because the bloggers and readers here don’t tolerate this shit. And maybe, just maybe, if we fight back against rape culture over and over and over and over again, we can begin to change it. If we refuse to be silenced, maybe, just maybe, this rape culture will no longer be studiously ignored. If we speak out forcefully, loudly, repeatedly, maybe there won’t be another person who doesn’t know what rape is:

One of the three, when asked why he did not try to stop what was happening, testified that he did not realize it was rape. “It wasn’t violent,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what rape was.”

Following is a selection of links and comments from around FtB, with some from our allies. We’re not fighting this fight alone.

Butterflies and Wheels:

Steubenville: Richmond and Mays found guilty.

They didn’t realize?

If you don’t want to be treated like one…

Pharyngula:

Steubenville rapists found guilty.

Do you deny that rape culture exists?

I’m not usually a fan of dog-piling…

Brute Reason:

More About Justice and Less About Revenge: On Reading the Steubenville Coverage Too Early in the Goddamn Day. (If you only have time for one, make it this one. I mean it.)

Biodork:

Talking About Rape

Shakesville:

Steubenville Trial: Two Found Guilty.

An Observation.

The Raw Story:

CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists.

The top 5 rape apologist reactions to the Steubenville rape verdict.

 

Some comments from our community:

tigtog on ignoring “trolls”:

One doesn’t have to be consciously/deliberately pro-rape to be an actively harmful participant in rape culture. Most rape culture involves trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, not promoting the practice of it.

Many people feel that the rigorous calling out of toxic victim-blaming and rape apologetics is a hugely important process contributiong towards the goal of dismantling rape culture. When you tell them to stop doing it just because you think that this one particular person’s statements are less important than Some V.V. Important Thing Which Is Gained By Ignoring Him, then you trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, by framing the naming and shaming of rape apologia as less important than the satisfaction you gain by ignoring this guy.

I absolutely believe that you are not personally/deliberately pro-rape. Telling others to ignore somebody who clearly is pro-rape doesn’t help you look like an effective anti-rape ally though.

And:

If it wasn’t for folks on the internet highlighting their vileness relentlessly for years and years, there probably wouldn’t be a cadre of volunteers to act as a buffer zone between the mourners at funerals and the WBC pickets, and the WBC would be spouting their vileness without opposing voices.

Clear strong opposing voices are much more comforting to the targeted than a dignified silence which opposes nothing.

 

The Mellow Monkey on silence in the face of rape apologia:

You know, I’ve been surrounded by people who go uncomfortably silent or just try to ignore nasty rape apologia for years. That silence has been every bit as damaging and hurtful as anything nasty someone could say, because either they are silently supporting the bad stuff or they just don’t care to provide support and defense to victims.

So when you say “Don’t Feed the Trolls”, you’re not just suggesting that you should deny a troll attention (and people seem to think anybody who disagrees with them is a “troll” only seeking attention instead of a genuinely hateful asshat, of which there are millions on this planet). You’re also suggesting that you should deny all of the survivors support. You’re suggesting that you should ignore the pain people are being caused. You’re suggesting that because you are lucky enough to not be hurt by those words, it’s the fault of a rape survivor for being upset by them.

Fuck that. I will continue calling it out every chance I get. Will it change the mind of the one spouting it? Probably not. But it might change the minds of all those assholes who sit around quietly refusing to take a stance. And–most important of all–it will make other survivors feel a little less alone and marginalized.

And that last one is a fucking hell lot more important than “oh no, some troll got attention.” That last one saves lives.

 

Pteryxx on rape culture:

 

No rape culture, eh?

-

*warning for victim-blaming within the trial, specifically re testifying, and photos – Og, brace yourself*

The alleged victim is not expected to testify when the trial begins in Jefferson County juvenile court — before outside judge Tom Lipps took over for a recused judge with ties to the famed Steubenville High football teach, a West Virginia judge blocked a subpoena of the girl and two other witnesses called by the defense. But that hasn’t stopped Richmond’s attorney from using Jane Doe’s so-called “silence” against her: “The person who is the accuser here is silent just as she was that night, and that’s because there was consent,” Madison said.

There it is. Directly claiming the silence of an unconscious victim equals consent. And using that claim to shame her for not testifying up to that point.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/steubenville-trial-defense/62967/

More coverage of her testimony:

http://www.cleveland.com/steubenville-rape-case/index.ssf/2013/03/steubenville_rape_case_decisio.html

“Honestly, I was praying that everything I heard wasn’t true,” she testified. She didn’t want to be the center of drama, especially in a small town, everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere. “I thought everybody would blame me.”

And she was right.

On Aug. 14, after taking the teen to a medical center in her hometown of Weirton, her parents decided to go to police. She testified that she sat in the car.

“You never wanted to go to court on charges did you,” asked Marianne Hemmeter, a special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“No,” the girl said, who has the 28th witness to testify during the trial, which began Wednesday.

And while CNN and almost all the coverage focuses on the poor promising rapists:

In the most outwardly emotional moment of the testimony, Hemmeter showed the 16-year-old a photo of herself that she had not seen. In the photo, she is lying on the tan carpet of a basement floor, naked and on her stomach. Her arms are underneath her body.

The girl began to cry, as did some of her family members, many of whom were wearing teal ribbons and the color teal, which is identified with supporting survivors of sexual assault.

“Do you remember that photo?” Hemmeter asked.

“No,” the teen replied.

“How’s that make you feel?” Hemmeter said softly.

“Not good,” she answered.

Even more here:

http://www.cleveland.com/steubenville-rape-case/index.ssf/2013/03/steubenville_rape_case_teen_gi.html#incart_river

She also testified that she did not want to go to police. She said it was her parents’ idea. She sent a text to one defendant, 17, saying, “We know you didn’t rape me.”

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter asked her that when she sent the text, did she know that digital penetration was also rape. The girl said she didn’t know that. She also said she didn’t know she had been digitally penetrated.

Like most victims, like most people, she didn’t know what counted as rape. But she did know coming forward would make her a target, and would make her friends turn on her; because they already had, that very night.

Hemmeter read from three of the texts: “Reno (football coach Reno Saccoccia) just called my house and said I raped you,” one said.

Another said, “You know what happened, there’s no video, so nothing happened.”

The third said, “This is the most pointless thing I’m going to get in trouble for. I should be thanked for taking care of you.”

The girl testified that she was interested in him and left a party with him because she trusted him.

She trusted him, and he said “there’s no video, so nothing happened.” She trusted him, and her friends (now former friends) yelled at her and blamed her the next morning, before she even knew what had been done to her and before she even knew the word “rape” applied to it. Though judging by the video, her attackers knew perfectly well that’s what it was.

And that’s the story, her story, and basically all of our stories in one form or another, that’s being erased when all the sympathy’s given to her rapists. That’s rape culture in action.

There’s far more from excellent people. If you have time, read the threads on the FtB and allies posts linked above. Speak out. Change the culture. And let’s never forget what Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said as he promised to take this case further: “Rape is not a recreational activity.”