I hope people don’t actually base their decisions on WikiHow

26 02 2009

Why on earth did I ever start reading WikiHow?

This article just screams “Oh my GOSH is my friend a lesbian?!  I absolutely must know immediately because if she is a lesbian she will totally fall in love with me and that would be oh my gosh so AWKWARD and WEIRD!!!!”  Here’s “How to tell if your best friend is a lesbian,” according to the ever-so-knowledgeable WikiHow database:

Friendships between girls can become very close, and you see that reflected in the body language, eye contact, and verbal language. However, there is a thin line between close friends and lesbians. If you suspect that your best friend may be a lesbian, or just want to learn how to spot the difference, then this is the article for you.

Watch the body language. This is usually a definite giveaway. Does your friend brush against you or touch you very often? Does she often stand very close to you, and look at you a lot? Test this out when you’re together, and test this out when you see her with other girls.  Make sure you don’t make a mistake though. Sometimes she may just be looking at you because you’re wearing a new outfit, and brushing against someone is an action used with most, if not all good friends.

Okay, WikiHow has got people on the sleuthing path.  The Discovery Channel and WikiHow are teaming up to explore the land of the dangerous and mysterious species lesbian.  First, we have to analyze our “friend’s” every move.  Because apparently the author thinks that if your friend is a lesbian she is totally going to hit on you constantly and touch you when you don’t want to be touched.  And your friend looking at your new outfit and being lesbian are described as mutually exclusive.  Because obviously lesbians only look at other women out of lust, and only straight women like clothes and fashion.  DUH.

Think about the way she talks. Does she often hit on you or other girls jokingly? Is she flirtatious? Consider the way she is when talking to other girls – how close she is, her eye contact, and read her body language. Think about all of it carefully and see if anything is crossing the friendship line.  

Let’s delve deeper.  Does she TALK like a lesbian??!!  If she flirts with girls jokingly, she must be a lesbian…because she couldn’t possibly just be someone as ignorant and immature as the reader who actually is attempting to follow the steps in this article.  Jokingly making fun of lesbianism is something that lesbians do all the time?!  Well, WikiHow says so, so it must be true!  But wait, we can further pry into our friend’s personal business!  Brace yourself for step three!

Check for rainbows. Rainbows (a lot of the time with only six colors) are a gay/lesbian symbol. Many gay people wear a rainbow bracelet, anklet and/or necklace. Other places where people place “pride” rainbows are: on bumper stickers, on clothing, in/as tattoos, on backpacks, on laptops, etc. Keep your eyes peeled for them – but don’t jump to conclusions.

Well this is even more ridiculous.  Not only are we inspecting the person for rainbows, but we are counting colors.  And I guess if the species marker isn’t readily visible, well the tattoo might just be hidden underneath her short hair or baggy clothes, right?  The article of course doesn’t take into account that if your friend is wearing a rainbow, maybe they identify as any of the letters in LGBTQIA, maybe they are an ally, or maybe they just like rainbows.  But mostly it just isn’t your business anyway!!! 

Watch her reaction to people who are gay/lesbian. Does she seem absolutely disgusted about it or is she relaxed? Use your brains, though; sometimes she may be pretending to be disgusted with the idea in an effort to hide her true feelings. She may also be lesbian if she seems very uptight and nervous about the topic. Be sure to take into account what kind of a person she is. In addition, many straight people are unaffected by exposure to gays and lesbians, so be careful to factor this into your conclusion.

Ok, this is REALLY infuriating.  It basically implies that most straight people are completely uncomfortable and rude around LGBT people, and only a true lesbian would be comfortable around lesbians.  But even if the friend is totally ignorant and rude to LGBT people, the author implies that she could still be a lesbian and just be ashamed of her shameful nature.  The author should be ashamed of his/her shameful nature, if you ask me.

Be forthright and ask. If, after looking for these signs, you still aren’t sure, and even if you are 99 percent sure, you need to ask her. Be careful though, it may be a touchy subject if she is still confused or feels cornered by your question. If you do ask, make sure it is in a way that makes it clear that you’ll be supportive of her, whatever she answers.

Ugh, people who think they are being open to others but are really just annoying and rude piss me off to no end.  Why is it that everyone feels this overwhelming need to know everybody else’s sexual orientation?  Is it so we can box people into little neat stereotypes?  Why do so many people feel entitled to know everything about everyone?  It is so sad that people cannot get past their nosy curiosity and fear of LGBT people.  

To add insult to injury, there is a list of sources and citations at the bottom of the WikiHow page that lists some pretty legit LGBT positive websites.  The inclusion of the list kind of gives the feel of “this is where I got my info on their behavior patterns, because this is where they congregate.”  But none of the info in the article even remotely resembles something you might find on a queer-positive site!  There are some disclaimers near the bottom of the WikiHow post that remind people that not ALL lesbians act the same and not ALL lesbians are attracted to their friends just because they are girls.  So the author only thinks that most lesbians are the same.  That definitely does not reassure me as to the author’s accepting nature and high quality of advice.  If even the author admits that the approach is at least a little bit faulty, why on earth does the article exist at all?  Because unfortunately, in WikiHow as in everyday life, people will share their self-proclaimed expertise whether we like it or not.

Other gems from WikiHow include:

The list could go on and on, but I shouldn’t waste my time on any more of this ridiculousness.  I wonder how many walking talking human robots actually try to follow these steps on WikiHow, and how often they embarrass themselves with their insensitivity and closed-mindedness.  HRUMPH.


“Rape is cheaper than bullets”?

26 02 2009

Amnesty International has launched a new ad campaign in the London underground subway called Rape is cheaper than bullets: amnesty-ad1

These ads are appearing in subways to call attention to how rape is used as a weapon of war all over the world and will be up from now until March 11th right after International Women’s Day. They are meant to be provocative and make people think about the pervasiveness of sexual violence as a weapon of war in global conflicts.

However even if this campaign is well intentioned and meant to encourage more awareness and activism around sexual violence, what message is it really disseminating? What does it actually mean? Is the message that it’s cheaper to rape people than to buy bullets and shoot them instead?

Over at The Curvature Cara writes:

My first thought was: yes, rape is indeed cheaper than bullets. And I suppose that I had never thought of it that way before, or consciously realized that the incredibly low economic price of rape, combined with very high “results” in terms of effort to terrorize a people, would indeed make it desirable to the kind of people who are intent on destroying other human beings with limited funds.

But where, exactly, does that analysis get us? Because my first question after considering that was, and still is: so what, we should make bullets cheaper?

How exactly does this ad make people think critically about rape? The link between rape and war is not clearly made. It’s not explicit enough that Amnesty is trying to highlight the pervasive use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The link between rape and bullets on the other hand is certainly made, granted it’s in terms of economic cost and the implications are rather vague.

These ads can be potentially triggering for survivors which can be problematic. Also, they do not seem to assign the accountability on the perpetrators but just make a cost comparison between rape and bullets.

I wonder how effective these ads actually are – are they sparking conversations among people about sexual violence or are they leaving riders simply confused? Are there more efficient and clear marketing strategies and campaigns that Amnesty can use to help raise awareness about sexual violence, because it’s certainly an important cause but the way they approached it isn’t quite so accessible and poignant.

One of my favorite ad campaigns is This is not an invitation to rape me by Rape Crisis Scotland. The ads visually debunk popular myths about rape.


scotland-campaign Myth: a woman raped for wearing revealing clothing is at fault for “leading a man on” and “asking for it.”

Reality: clothing (or lack of) has nothing to do with it.




Myth: a woman raped after consenting to any level of sexual activity is at fault for “giving mixed signals.”

Reality: there is no such thing as blanket consent – agreeing to one level of sexual activity does not mean agreeing to all types of sexual activity.

The things third graders say about the Chris Brown/Rihanna case…

26 02 2009

So my friend sent me an article, Lessons from a fallen idol, which has more on the Chris Brown/Rihanna case and the distressing nature of some of the discussions that have been occurring among elementary school children. Before I even read the article in its entirety I couldn’t help but be frustrated and upset with the title of the article. “Lessons from a fallen idol?” This speaks to the media maltreatment of women: they love to elevate women and put them on pedestals and then just as quickly to bring them down and tear them to shreds. Also, it implies that because Rihanna was in an abusive relationship and injured, she is no longer worthy of being an idol. This adds to the negative stigma on domestic/relationship/sexual violence survivors and omits the perpetrators from the narrative. Perpetrators are able to get away with it because they tend to be invisible in the picture and thus all the attention gets focused on the survivors.

The article writes that a third grade teacher at the Neighborhood Charterhouse School in Dorcester has said that his eight year old students have been very opinionated regarding the Chris Brown/Rihanna case. Unfortunately they are schpealing out your typical misguided victim-blaming language and siding with Brown or coming up with excuses that justify his actions. Many children fail to grasp the severity of relationship/domestic violence (the article calls it “domestic dispute” – what a nice euphemism) and are echoing what they hear and see on television and at home.

“That was the first thing I started hearing – excuses,” said Shiggs-Quiroga, 28, who has been teaching for five years. “The same girl who brought it up had said to me . . . ‘If he did that to me, I would bail him out.’ I said, ‘Really?’ I was like, ‘Oh my God. How am I going to have this talk now?’ “

An eight year old girl essentially saying that she would return to her boyfriend and let him go if he abused her and got in trouble for it is problematic. It shows how deeply ingrained and pervasive victim-blaming attitudes are in our society and how children are indoctrinated so early on into our violent, sexist, misogynist, victim-blaming rape culture that sanctions violence against women and even broader gender based violence. Obviously third graders are very young and may have difficulty truly understanding domestic violence for what it really is, but there need to be conversations with young people that rectify misogynist language, attitudes and ideology that perpetuate the pervasive victim-blaming in society. These kids are echoing what they see and hear in the media and in their homes, and schools have a responsibility to educate students and correct harmful and false beliefs that reinforce and sustain oppressive structures in society.

Schools are a microcosm of society at large and tend to be often violent places. In addition to physical bullying and fist fights, educational settings can legitimize violence occurring in the world by failing to intervene and challenge and alter students’ perspectives that enforce various forms of violence in society: institutional/structural violence that excludes membership from certain individuals or groups as well as behavioral violence that manifest in escalating physical violence. Inaction is one of the greatest flaws in perpetuating injustice and oppression, and to connect this back to a previous post, Tufts’ failure to reform and improve its sexual assault policy to make it more accessible to and friendly to survivors is a form of structural violence. It creates an atmosphere that is hostile and unsympathetic to survivors and basically sends the message that sexual violence is clearly not their problem, or an important enough problem to be addressed.

But to go back to the article, the author writes:

Worth noting is that the same 8-year-old told her teacher that Brown had reason to hit Rihanna because she gave him an STD. That made Shiggs-Quiroga’s head spin.

The young girl said, “I heard she gave him – diabetes!”

Believing that Brown had the right to hit Rihanna because she gave him an STD is ignorant because no one deserves to be hit especially not by someone you love, someone close to you or someone you are intimate with. It also touches on a larger problem: the stigma around sex and the lack of comprehensive sex education that can result in unnecessary health problems that could’ve been unavoidable if people were more informed. Instead of punishing someone for giving you a disease one should be educated enough to make safe choices to prevent any infections or diseases.

Another important thing – an eight year old thinking that diabetes is an STD? This just clearly shows why we need to have comprehensive sex education so that people are aware, informed and prepared. In education, there is a false binary between issues around gender, sex and sexuality and “academic” material like math, English, science, history, etc. However issues around gender, sex and sexuality are so integral to identity and lifestyle issues/politics and are important aspects of child development/growth that never gets discussed because it’s pushed to the sidelines as irrelevant.

It’s never too early to start having conversations around healthy sexuality and healthy relationships so that children can make more responsible choices about sex and sexuality that are safe, healthy and informed. They should have the facts, information and “rules of the game” before it applies to them, before they become involved in romantic relationships. If we want to prevent violence it’s important to educate our children, like the Gandhi quote “If we want peace we have to begin with the children.”