A Bitter Sweet Victory

This week, a Salvadoran woman was released from prison after serving 11 years of her 30 year murder charge. So, why am I mentioning that as any kind of victory at all, let alone a bitter sweet one? Was it self defense? Was she innocent of the charges? The facts are much more convoluted and depressing than that.

She was convicted of murder because she had a stillbirth, and the courts decided it was all her fault.

You are certainly aware that women’s rights vary enormously across the globe, whether it be in regard to protections against violence, representation in government, or the right to bodily autonomy. In El Salvador, the abuse of women is reflected in the most draconian anti-abortion laws that can be conceived by man.

Not only is it illegal to get an abortion at any time and for any reason, but you will also be charged with murder not only if you seek an abortion, but even if you do not seek get enough prenatal care and have a stillbirth. I usually do not speak in black and white terms, but I literally cannot conceive of any way that they can make their anti-abortion laws even more extreme.

Luckily in the case of Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, she was not forced to serve the entirety of her sentence. I am happy that she is now free, but I am also deeply depressed as to the details surrounding her release, hence my description of the case.


A woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated murder after having a stillbirth has been freed in El Salvador in a case highlighting the dire consequences of the Central American country’s total ban on abortion.


Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, 34, was released on Thursday after serving almost 11 years for a crime she has always vehemently denied. Her sentence was commuted by the supreme court on the grounds that there was insufficient scientific evidence to determine that she had intentionally caused the stillbirth, but her conviction was not overturned.


She was not released because the government of El Salvador has budged an inch from their horrific laws regarding women’s rights, but rather because they decided that she was convicted on insufficient evidence. Activists must and are still appealing these sentences on a case by case basis in order to try to counteract this gross violation of human rights.


Vásquez is the 16th woman to be freed as a result of appeals and campaigns by reproductive rights groups and lawyers working under hostile conditions perpetuated by the conservative media and powerful anti-abortion groups. A 17th woman, Mayra Figueroa, who was jailed for 30 years in 2003, will be freed next month.


This story is both happy and tragic. Happy for Teodora and her family, but tragic for all the women who still have to suffer under these brutal laws.


Teaching Boys About Consent

We have often heard women saying, when talking about victim blaming and “rape prevention” pamphlets, that you should be teaching men not to rape rather than teaching women what to wear. Of course, to men who do not have any inclination to rape anybody, that kind of statement can come off as condescending. The idea is that obviously men know that they’re not supposed to rape women, but the ones that do are not following the rules, duh, it’s not like they are going to suddenly say “ooohhh! I didn’t know it was against the law! Shit my bad!” and suddenly stop being a monster.

While I get that knee-jerk reaction, it is also unfortunately a very simplistic reaction to what seems to be a simplistic proposal, but what is actually an important concept which is not given enough merit. But hey, don’t take my word for it, see this case study in Nairobi.


The highlights: in this community, where they have begun an active educational campaign about consent, rape was reduced by 50%, and bystanders successfully intervened and stopped assaults 75% of the time.

That’s amazing! Even I am shocked at what a giant impact this had is such a short period of time.

Of course, when people say “teach boys not to rape” they don’t mean wagging their fingers at young boys, tell them not to sexually assault their female peers, and then going back to their morning newspaper. It is much bigger than that.

This campaign is about tackling the problem on multiple fronts. It is about teaching girls about having self confidence, and self worth, and that they have agency over their bodies and their lives. It is about teaching boys different perspectives, and making them think about sex and sexual assault from a healthier angle. It is about reaching equality and mutual respect.

In short, it is about changing culture for the better. And it can work wonders.

Snark With A Purpose

I loled a little when I saw this picture pop up on my feed. It’s so my kind of humor: snarky, uncomfortable, and bringing up an excellent point in a clever way.

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 5.03.39 PM

Update: The flyer reads:

  1. If someone is drunk, don’t rape them.
  2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone.
  3. Use the Buddy System! If it is difficult for you to stop yourself raping someone, as a trusted friend to accompany you at all times.
  4. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape someone, blow the whistle until someone comes to stop you.
  5. Don’t forget: honesty is the best policy. When asking someone out, don’t pretend that you are interested in them as a person. Tell them straight up that you expect to be raping them later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, they my take it as a sign that you don’t plan to rape them.

Rape culture directs women to police their clothing, beverages, behavior and sexuality at all times to avoid men. It portrays men as powerless to control their violent sexual urges. Rape culture demeans everyone, and everyone should speak out against rape culture.


When you start reading the beginning of the flyer, it is clearly uncomfortable. It is condescending and demeaning in language and tone, and that’s with the fact that it is clearly meant to be a parody. It makes you realize how condescending and demeaning, therefore, these nonsense “rape prevention” flyers are when they’re actually meant to be serious. Snark, and going over the top, are IMO excellent tools to quickly and directly call attention to an issue that many people overlook, and I think that this flyer does that nicely.

And now, we get to the serious aspect of this image, and into the topic of rape culture and victim blaming.

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Give That Guy Another Medal

More role-model worthy news coming out of the Olympics, this time in male tennis.


According to the Evening Standard, when BBC reporter John Inverdale praised Murray for being the first “person” to win two Olympic medals in tennis, Murray interjected with a gentle reminder that women are people too. 

“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals,” Inverdale said. “That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?”

“I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each,” he said.

Oh dear. Aaawkwaard. The reporter found a way to save a little face, given that Murray is in fact the only person to win two consecutive gold medals in tennis. Of course, that’s not what the reporter meant. Women’s athletics has always been largely ignored, and I love seeing male athletes calling that out.

If Laci Green Wrote Rom-Coms

They might no longer be my second least favorite movie category, after torture porn.



I completely forgot that Sixteen Candles had such a rapey interchange.

I remember Laci Green from way back when on youtube. I’m glad to see she’s still making videos!

A Blast From The Past

I didn’t need the audio on when this video autoplayed on my facebook feed to tell that it was Wannabe by the Spice Girls. That’s one hell of a blast from the past! But now, this song has been revived to publicize an international campaign.


If you think about it, the original song wasn’t very specific about what the Spice Girls really really wanted. After repeating over and over again “I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want” the best they could come up with to answer that questions is “a zigazig ah”. In this campaign, they get down to the deets.

#WhatIReallyReallyWant? Well,

  • Quality Education for Girls
  • End Child Marriage
  • Equal Pay for Equal Work
  • More Women in Leadership
  • Gender Equality

So that’s what “zigazig ah” meant all along. Who knew?

All kidding aside, I’m liking this movement.


That’s Not Real… Right?

By now, we’ve all heard about the Brock Turner rape case, or at least most of us have. We’ve heard of his very lenient sentence after he was literally caught in the middle of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. We’ve heard that his father flippantly referred to the rape as “20 minutes of action” which caused his son to lose his love for steak and chips.

Please disregard that noise you’re hearing right now. It’s just the world’s tiniest violin playing.

However, despite all of that, I don’t want to believe that this facebook page is real. It’s called Brock Turner Family Support, and this is the lovely caption it comes with.

Such complete disregard for human dignity as displayed by many of the commenters on this page is appalling. Do you have any idea how devastating an impact words can have on a person? Can you muster even an ounce of compassion for the anguish Brock and his family are going through? I seriously doubt most of you even have the capacity for empathy. How would you feel if it were your son having such horrible things said about him? You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Your words may sting, but no amount of vitriol can bring us down to your level. WE ARE ‪#‎BROCKSTRONG‬

Yes, we are aware how devastating words can be. Like, how someone could dismiss rape as “20 minutes of action”, for instance. That’s pretty devastating. So great, we agree! Oh, wait, that’s not what you were referring to, was it?

A quick look at the page, and I’ve never seen anything so victim-blamey in my life. So much so I’m putting it below the fold.

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When Women Ask: What Was She Wearing?

This post is about victim-blaming, rape and sexual assault. Take note of that if you want to read on.

It is getting more and more outdated and outrageous to follow a story of rape with the question “well, what was she wearing?” or, “well, what time was it when she was walking home alone?” The reasons behind why this is stupid and pointless victim-blaming has been revisited ad nauseum by writers far more talented than myself. The fact that rape is far more an act of violence than one of sexual desire is known. That men are not these sex-crazed werewolves that will lose their shit and violently assault a fellow human being simply because they see a little extra leg is obvious to anyone who stops and thinks about it for more than a couple of seconds.

However, one thing I noticed when living in Veneto was the predisposition for women to victim blame the second they heard of a rape happening in the area*. The many articles I read online on the subject all tended to make two general assumptions: that the people who engage in this kind of victim-blaming are

  1. Usually men, or at least people who have a strong patriarchal view of society, and
  2. Conveniently apply victim-blaming only to sexual assault, rather than trying to also find excuses as to why it was your fault that your car was stolen, your house was broken into or you got a bottle upside the head on Saturday night.

While I do appreciate that many of the people who victim-blame online and in the media do tend to fit into these categories, the women I would talk to who clung doggedly to this argument and wouldn’t accept a single point against it did not. That got me to thinking about their reasoning, and why they so desperately clung to the idea that the woman is always at fault.


*To be clear, I am not insinuating that the women of Veneto are more or less guilty of victim-blaming than anywhere else. I just happened, for the first time in my life, to work and interact with quite conservative people when I was there, and that is why I happened to encounter (and was shocked by) the prevalence of this argument there.

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Do You Remember Your First Time?

I came across this collection of stories from women who were asked what was the first time they felt discriminated against because of their gender. While I can definitely relate to most of the stories, I realized that I can’t actually remember the very first time I felt like that. I was a tomboy child, raised by a father who did not care about gender norms and a mother who was forced to accept my nature very early on. I am also half Roman and half New Yorker, which makes me a 100% grade A smart ass, resulting in raised eyebrows and biting retorts to anyone who blundered into gender-based discriminatory behavior in my presence, rather than an internalized brooding on my part, making me forget these encounters rather than feeling them change how I view the world.

There is one story, however, which I do want to comment on, as it touches on something that grates on me deeply.

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