Rape IS a serious matter and needs to be treated as such

30 04 2009

I’ve blogged about this before, but Mikki Halpin has a great piece on Alternet about how the word “rape” is thrown around so much that it trivializes and belittles its severity.  Rape is used to describe any bad experience, from taking a hard test to performing poorly in an audition.  When 1 in 6 women is the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime and in America, a woman is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes,  rape is not a term to be taken lightly nor is it something to just throw around and laugh about.  As Halpin writes:

“The more we dilute this word, the more we play down the power of sexual violence,” says Angela Rose, founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, a group devoted to education and action surrounding rape. “It actually adds to the silence surrounding this issue because it diverts attention.”

…”People use the word ‘rape’ to hype an experience, such as Jon Stewart’s political critique of Jim Cramer’s financial predictions,” says Anderson. “The hype may grab attention, but it belittles rape.” This demoralizes victims, whose traumatic experience is now ranked along with a poor performance review or a hefty cell phone bill.

Rose agrees, saying, “The more we dilute this word, the more it will alienate and isolate the victims of sex crimes, who are often already additionally traumatized by sexualized reporting of rape in the media and a blame-the-victim attitude on the part of some members of law enforcement.”

Exactly.  Throwing around the word rape is certainly attention grabbing and will produce a response from people, but it can be very triggering for and insensitive to survivors.  Hapin finishes with:

A joke is not just a joke.

And rape means rape. When someone says, “I was raped,” there should not be multiple competing interpretations to the statement.

Once more: “The unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.”

This is not a word that should be 
diluted, diverted or disambiguated. It is a specific word to describe a specific, horrific act. 
Let’s keep it that way, while working to reduce the need to use it at all.

Yes, let’s use rape when we are talking about rape, not a difficult exam, a bad audition, a bad business deal, etc.  Rape is a serious matter and it needs to be treated as such.  Continuing along this thread, rape cases need to be treated seriously and rape kits need to be tested.  Rape kits, or evidence collection kits, are not fun.  They are a six hour long intrusive, uncomfortable full body exam.  No one gets a rape kit done just for giggles.  Yet,

Stunningly often, the rape kit isn’t tested at all because it’s not deemed a priority. If it is tested, this happens at such a lackadaisical pace that it may be a year or more before there are results (if expedited, results are technically possible in a week).

So while we have breakthrough DNA technologies to find culprits and exculpate innocent suspects, we aren’t using them properly — and those who work in this field believe the reason is an underlying doubt about the seriousness of some rape cases. In short, this isn’t justice; it’s indifference.

It is indifference.  And people need to get over the false idea that rape is just a women’s issue.  It’s not.  It’s something that affects the entire community.

BioWare issues apology

30 04 2009

I’d like to issue a big thank you to our commenter Eric, who provided me with a link to BioWare’s apology for censoring the use of LGBT words and any LGBT discussions on their Star Wars game forum!

For those of you who dislike clickin’ links, BioWare, a game manufacturer, recently began censoring threads with LGBT topics (ones that were simply discussing queer sexuality in the Star Wars fandom) in their Knights of the Old Republic forum.  When people opened threads complaining about the locked threads, those threads were also locked.   Additionally, the very words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” were censored out.  And Sean Dahlberg, the community manager, responded to complaints by stating very clearly that there was no queer sexuality in Star Wars, and so he would lock any of those topics.

Now, BioWare has issued an apology, given by Dahlberg:

I would like to personally apologize to “Elikal” and anyone I may have offended. My intention was not to demean anyone but simply to help promote a community that could discuss topics in a mature fashion. When I first built the word filter list, I added a variety of terms to the word filter that have been used numerous times in derogatory messaging. There were some words added to the filter that should not have been – we corrected this today.

I apologize for the confusion that this has created but I would like to be clear that there was never any intent to limit discussion. That said, I have overstepped my boundaries in my original statement and I sincerely apologize for doing so.

First and foremost, I’m very happy to see this apology, and also to see that the restrictions on discussion and language have been removed.  After all, as has been evident in our comments, as well as the comments all over the internet concerning what happened, there are plenty of queer Star Wars fans in addition to straight ones, and to say that queer sexuality has no place in a culturally significant fandom is to insult and discriminate against a large portion of the fan base (queer and straight alike).

Of course, this apology is flawed in many ways.  It is clear from the way in which threads were locked, and from Dahlberg’s initial statement, that the censorship was not to keep discussions mature, or to prevent people from using LGBT terms in a derogatory manner.  I’ve got experience with forums, and there are two general aspects of forum moderation that I’ve seen that completely negate this.  Firstly, moderators and administrators read threads before locking them; they don’t simply see a “bad” term in the thread name and lock it.  Secondly, censoring LGBT terms is in no way preventing (through language) the use of derogatory language.  While I do find it sometimes acceptable to censor, say, curse words (like shit and fuck), when dealing with forum members being idiots and jerks, it’s the responsibility of the moderators to dole out the appropriate punishment.

So, while I’m very, very grateful that Dahlberg has apologized, I’m frustrated with him for lying his ass off.  It’s clear, based on his first statement, that the censorship had to do with refusing to acknowledge the queer fanbase and disallowing any discussions about such sexuality.  Is it because these discussion weren’t “mature?”  Hell no.

I also find it just plain insulting that Dahlberg is insisting that everything he did came from good intentions.  Insisting that what he did was to promote mature discussion, that he never intended to limit discussion, and that he’s apologizing for “confusion” is simply dodging responsibility and minimizing what he actually did: bitch-slap queer people and allies.

I would prefer to have this obviously poor apology and a lift on the restrictions/censorship than have nothing.  I want to make that absolutely clear.  But this apology reveals that Dahlberg and probably his superiors do not understand exactly why the censorship was so unacceptable, and the ways in which they have seriously discriminated against the LGBT community.

As a way to express this sentiment, we should all go to the forums and start a half dozen topics about queer sexuality in the fandom.  Muahahahahaha!

YES! Another victory!

29 04 2009

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (also known as the Matthew Shepherd Act) was just passed, despite resistance from conservatives.  This is what the bill does:

Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that:
(1) constitutes a crime of violence under federal law or a felony under state, local, or Indian tribal law; and
(2) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

Directs the Attorney General to give priority for assistance to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one state and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary investigation or prosecution expenses. Authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to assist state, local, and Indian law enforcement agencies with such extraordinary expenses. Directs the Office of Justice Programs to:
(1) work closely with funded jurisdictions to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties are addressed; and
(2) award grants to state and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

Amends the federal criminal code to prohibit willfully causing bodily injury to any person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person. Amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to expand data collection and reporting requirements under such Act to include:
(1) crimes manifesting prejudice based on gender and gender identity; and
(2) hate crimes committed by and against juveniles. Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the exercise of constitutionally-protected free speech.

Obama’s been in office for 100 days now!

29 04 2009

Obama’s been in office for 100 days now and different critics have been weighing in on how he’s been doing.  Here are some highlights of his first 100 days:

– On January 23rd, Obama overturned the global gag rule, “which prevented US foreign aid recipients from counseling women about the availability of safe abortion services and from advocating for the liberalization of abortion laws.”

– On January 29th, Obama signed The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was also the first bill he signed into law.  The Act restores a woman’s ability to bring pay discrimination complaints up to 180 days after each discriminatory paycheck and to sue for pay discrimination.

– On February 4th, Obama  expanded government health insurance to provide critical support to low-income children and families and extending coverage to 11 million children.

– On March 6th, Obama appointed Melanne Verveer to fill the newly created position of the ambassador at large for global women’s issues.

– On March 11th, Obama established the White House Council on Women and Girls.

– On March 19th, Obama pledged to sign the UN Declaration to decriminalize homosexuality.

For more, check out the Huffington Post’s LGBT Report Card for Obama’s first 100 days, and RHReality Check’s evaluation.

Look at the future soldier!

29 04 2009

I saw these images of baby clothing on Sociological Images:



While these may appear as innocent, even cute,  it is important to read the subtext.  The military is a bastion of patriarchy and these clothes, designed for babies, bear witness to the fact that children are so immediately ushered and inducted into normalized violence (as well as an oppressive binary gender system) in which violence is acceptable and ubiquitous.  The first picture of the onesie with the baby (the future soldier) crawling is very infantiles the military and frames it in a very cutesy way.  It detracts attention away from the reality that soldiers face an immense amount of physical and emotional harm.

The second picture that says “future soldier in training” masculinizes the military and insinuates that being a soldier is a very respectable and masculine thing to be.  The image also reproduces the autonomous man ideal and the conception of the male citizen as a warrior-patriot.  Traditional accounts of autonomy have patriarchal undertones and equate autonomy with individualism, thus creating the paradigm of the autonomous man.  Think the rugged, lone, isolationist, self-serving Marlboro man.  Or the American cowboy.  The autonomous man is inherently masculinist and falls right in line with western culture’s obsession with “making the most of oneself”.

Continuing along this thread, the conception of the (male) citizen as a warrior-patriot is militarist because it suggests that aggression is necessary and it conjures an image of a strong, aggressive male fighter full of national pride and willing to put his life on the line for his country.  This image of the warrior-patriot is linked to traditional definitions of power as domination and control, having power over another.  Thus power is a means of coercion and creates hierarchies and justifies violence and subordination.

These shirts are disturbing and show how heavily institutionalized violence, violent masculinity and the military is in our society.  The autonomous man ideal and the image of the warrior-patriot help to reinforce and perpetuate violent masculinity as the norm.  From cultural icons like Rambo, Rocky, and James Bond – all strong, muscular men who are ruggedly individualist and invincible – to the action figures that boys play with and the video games that they play in which war and killing are mere games, it is evident that boys are socialized to be aggressors.

We live in a violent and militarist society in which violence is normalized, seemingly justified, and so ubiquitous that we don’t see it because we see it everywhere.  Many people have become desensitized to violence.  These shirts are disturbing because they suggest that babies and children are not just babies and children, but they are born and bred to fulfill their “patriotic duty” by serving in the military.

A truly touching story

29 04 2009

I just read a piece from the New York Times in which a trans-parent writes about her experience raising her sons.  It is a moving piece that really highlights the fact that it’s not family structure that’s most important, but rather the values that your family instills upon you and maintains.  The author, Jennifer Finley Boylan, writes:

But even though we had now crossed that wide, strange ocean of gender together, and come to rest at last, an unsettling question still haunted me, usually at night when I found myself awake in the wee hours: What kind of men would my boys become having been raised by a father who became a woman?

Because patriarchy dictates that families are comprised of a male head of the household (a father) and a nurturing female (a mother), alternative families may feel pressured to compensate for something.  Boylan then goes on to share an essay that her son had to write for school about an experience that changed him:

An experience that changed me is that my dad is transgender, and became my ‘Maddy.’ A person who is transgender has a lifelong sense of being born into the wrong body.

I was about 4 when Maddy began the ‘transition.’ I don’t really remember the experience well because it was over nine years ago. Once the transition had taken place, I was comfortable with it. But I was worried what my friends would think. I kept it secret for a little bit, but eventually they found out. They all accepted it a lot better than I thought they would.

Maddy is funny and wise. We go fishing and biking. We talk a lot, about anything that is on our minds. One night this spring, Maddy and I had a fancy dinner at a restaurant in Waterville. It was a special night. I wore a jacket and a tie. I had a steak. It made me feel like Maddy and I were really close. Maddy said that she thought I was growing up and that she was proud of me.

Sometimes it’s true that I wish I had a regular father, but only because I don’t remember what it was like to have a normal family. Sometimes it’s hard to have a family that is different. But most of the time I think I am the luckiest kid on earth. Even though my family is different, I can’t think of any way that life could be better.

I know people from lots of different kinds of families. Some families are divorced, so some of my friends only live with one parent at a time. Other families have someone who is mentally challenged in their family. But no matter how different they are, they are all people. My goal is that some day everybody will be treated with love.

The last two lines of this essay really resonate with me – “But no matter how different they are, they are all people.  My goal is that some day everybody will be treated with love.”

Fair Pay Day!

28 04 2009

Blog for Fair Pay 2009

We Gender Blenders support Fair Pay Day! Today (April 28th) marks the day in 2009 when the average woman’s wages finally catch up with those paid to the average man in 2008.

We’re joining other bloggers in showing our support for equal pay for women!

You can find out more about Equal Pay Day and the fair pay movement on NWLC’s Fair Pay Campaign site.

Go here to add your blog or twitter to the list of sites showing their support! Go Tweet/facebook/blog it!