SB5

Independence

Feminism, News, Personal, Politics

 

On Tuesday, June 25, I was in Texas.  I was in Texas because in six weeks I will move there for an MFA program, and I needed to find a place to live.

That MFA program is for another post.  I mention it here because a) it’s the truth and b) there was no reason I would have gone to Texas otherwise.  I grew up — and currently live — in New England; I’d never even been in the South before, if you discount the touristy parts of Florida.  But here I was with a three-year promise to write books and study literature and eat a metric ton of Mexican food in the meantime.

I spent the majority of Tuesday, June 25 driving around the town where I would live, getting lost, and getting a parking ticket.  By the time I arrived back at my host’s apartment in Austin, the filibuster Wendy Davis had begun 11 hours before had been shut down by male Republican senators; she remained standing, unable to eat, drink, lean on anything, or use the bathroom until the men decided whether her filibuster had stuck to the topics they deemed “germane.”  (Apparently women’s personal testimony regarding abortion was not.)

My host and I sat in her living room watching the livestream of the Senate special session, unfolding twenty minutes away.  We’d talked about going to the Capitol building ourselves, but by now the crowds had grown so massive that it seemed impossible we would be able to enter.  She was furious, as was I.  Of course, she had been following the SB5 story for some time; I am embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the bill at the time.  Watching men argue over the right of a woman to speak in public office, my general anger at the state of women’s rights in this country — “How can people NOT see that the patriarchy is real?!” — gave way to a realization that this bill would affect me personally.

Here I’d been thinking of myself as a Bostonian who happened to be in Texas, but in six weeks’ time I will also be a Texas woman.  The extreme restrictions that SB5 — now HB2, in its newest form — would impinge upon the livelihoods and  constitutional rights of women in Texas would impinge on me too.  A strange feeling, because I have always been privileged in that regard.  Never pregnant, never lived in a place that would prevent me from deciding among a full range of options if I were to get pregnant.  I have been lucky.  Even in Texas, I will be lucky; if HB2 passes, two of the five clinics that will remain open are within driving distance of my new town.  I will have a hell of a better chance getting safe, legal care than a woman who lives in West Texas.

The problem is that reproductive rights are called “rights” for a reason.  A woman’s ability to choose is not meant to be a privilege, available to some but not others.  And yet, so often, it is exactly that.  I call bullshit. Abortion is 14 times safer than the process of childbirth, and yet women are permitted to give birth at home in their bathtubs.   Out of the 42 reproductive clinics in the state of Texas, this bill would shut down all but five.  FIVE.  Five in a state that contains thirteen million women.

This is not a debate over women’s safety.  It is a debate over bodily autonomy, and whether women should be allowed to make their own choices.

I don’t know how much we can do to combat a system that believes people without uteri have the right to make decisions for those with uteri.  But to the extent we can — donating money to pro-choice organizations and activists like Senator Davis, protesting in real life and online, making ourselves seen — we must.  If not for ourselves, for others.  For those who can’t afford to drive to the places that give them options.  Independence isn’t something we earned when we became the United States of America; in a lot of places in this country, women still need it from those who would make decisions for them.  Tomorrow’s a work day.  The holiday’s over.  Let’s get started.

Link Round-up

Feminism, Lit, News, Politics

Everyday Feminism posted this useful guide to listening as a person of privilege and an ally to social justice stuggles. I thought it was a nice breakdown and I agree that to simply listen and learn is valuable and sometimes the most appropriate position one can take. I also found it refreshing that cis white male understood this so well and took the time to write about it.

At Autostraddle, Rose wrote about a recent author interview that, yet again, has sparked discussion of sexism in literature/publication. I find the comparison with the treatment of female writers to that of celebrities interesting. It almost seems as if the same essential double standard exists in everything from entertainment to politics.

Also at Autostraddle: trans* characters in Sci Fi novels and gender studies in high schools (I think this is so rad)!

Do you read The Militant Baker? If you’re interested in body image you probably should!

Did you do anything for Take Back the Night? My school had a really awesome rally!

This bookstore is really ridiculously gorgeous.

20 awesome literary tattoos. 

First Friday Link Round-up!

Feminism, Lit, Politics, T.R., Uncategorized

Greetings grrrls and welcome to the first ever Friday link round-up! This will be a regular feature where we share our interesting internet findings on literature, feminism, the intersection of those things, and also really important videos of cute animals and such.

We at Broad! believe that it’s important to discuss the tragedy in Steubenville, but we also realize that the constant commentary on the issue can be triggering or just plain exhausting for some people. If you are feeling this way, please, in the interest of self-care, don’t make yourself read the following articles.
That said, The America Prospect posted this interesting breakdown of rape culture, “toxic masculinity”, and where to go from here. Mia Mckenzie discussed the complex dynamics of the case at Black Girl Dangerous. At Autostraddle, Carmen Rios posted a very eloquent essay on Steubenville and rape culture; please take the time to sign her petition for the education of sports coaches on sexual assault issues.

Lit links: Flavorwire posted a list of female-focused  “outsider books” as well as one of ladies who should be writing for Harper’s.  Autostraddle ran a review of a new anthology about queer woman poetry collective Sister Spit (who are touring!) and interviewed editor Michelle Tea. The Rumpus reviewed Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of LeavesThat book is cray. Have you read it? We should talk about it.

Book art is a thing. Gorgeous!

This is a bit older, but Creative Nonfiction interviewed Cheryl Strayed and she is full of wisdom, as always. 

Poets read Craigslist posts. 

I am obsessed with mini pigs. 
Happy Friday!

Source

A Gentlelady’s Guide to Ending Slut Shaming

Feminism, Politics

We at Broad! have realized that many of our submitters are young adults in high school, which means that many of the people who read this blog are probably young adults who are dealing with this issue of “slut shaming”. Not that the conversation around shaming women should be limited to high school. Definitely not: I want to include everyone, men and women of all ages, in this conversation. N.B.: I use “woman” in this post to refer to any female-bodied or female-identified human who has gone through puberty, and therefore transitioned from girl to woman, however young. It’s science. 

As for me, I’m in my twenties, going on fifty, so I listen to NPR a lot, and on NPR recently I heard this segment by amazing  sixteen-year-old journalist Temitayo Fagbenle titled “Online ‘Shaming’ a New Level of Cyberbullying for Girls”. The piece made me think that being in high school is maybe a little harder for young women now than it was when I went there, because when I went to high school phones didn’t have cameras, so a guy couldn’t secretly videotape a woman having sex with him and then post that video on Facebook without the woman’s permission, and their peers couldn’t then comment on it and repost it all over the internet, effectively “slut shaming” the woman who didn’t even know she was being taped. So yeah. We didn’t have to deal with that, although people in my high school definitely knew how to participate in the timeless sexist tradition of shaming women for their sexual activity, clothes, and behavior. Adults participate in this too; clearly, since just last month internet celebrity Jenna Marbles posted her video “Things I Don’t Understand About Girls Part 2: Slut Edition”. The video reinforces so many sexist assumptions about women and sex that I’m not even going to link to the whole thing, but instead will show you parts of it through the response of Sex+ vlogger Laci Green, who debunks Marbles’ slut bashing myths. Note: both vloggers use crude language in this video. Not safe for work.

If you watched the video, hopefully you’re clear on what slut shaming means and why it’s dangerous, and if you didn’t, here are some takeaways:

  •  Slut shaming is based on a societal tradition of women “earning” respect and approval through “good” (i.e. monogamous) sexual behavior.
  •  Slut shaming is based on a double standard and is a punishment for women who exercise the same sexual freedom as men.
  • Slut shaming is not about “self respect”. It’s about controlling women’s choices.
  • Slut shaming leads to victim blaming in cases of sexual assault, and perpetuates rape culture.

We at Broad! do not condemn or shame women for the clothes or makeup they wear, the photos they post online, the number of sexual partners they have, or what they do with those sexual partners. Nor do we blame victims of assault or rape for what they were wearing, or where they went, or any drugs or alcohol they might have consumed, because the fault is always that of the person who chose to assault or rape the victim. Why do we not participate in slut shaming and victim blaming? Because we’re gentleladies, and gentleladies have manners, dear. And also because we are committed to working toward a future of gender equality, which includes a sex positive culture for women and their choices, and the end of the rape culture we have now.

But I didn’t say it was easy. Standing up for women is always hard in a society that rewards slut-bashing, victim-blaming, rape culture behavior and silences feminist speech. Standing up for yourself and others is especially hard if you’re in high school. Still, here are some things you can do to stop slut shaming.

1. Don’t participate in making mean comments on photos or videos of women who are being “slut shamed”. It’s pretty easy to avoid commenting or “liking” something that is meant to bully someone else, so one of the best things you can do is just not participate.

2. Redirect others who are participating in slut shaming by pointing out how hurtful it is for the person being shamed, and how their sexist comment or action plays into rape culture. Urge them to respect individual womens’ choices and resist judgmental thinking.

3. Drop shaming words from your vocabulary: slut, whore, skank, bitch, c—, etc., etc. If there isn’t a true male equivalent for a word like this (and there usually isn’t), then by using the word to describe someone else, you’re participating in a double standard that actively shames women for exercising the same freedoms as men. “Manwhore” just doesn’t have the same connotation as “slut”, and honestly, you’ll do just fine in life without using either of those words.

4. Get new nicknames for your female friends. I used to sit next to these two women in a college class who would greet each other with “What’s up, whore” and “hey, slut”. It was…endearing? And showed how much they loved each other? Seriously, I’m all for reclaiming words the way SlutWalk wants to reclaim the word slut and the LGBTQ community has reclaimed the word queer, but something tells me that wasn’t the point for these two. Unless you’re actively reclaiming a shaming word to give it a more positive connotation, maybe greet your female friends with words that don’t invoke such negative stereotypes.

5. Encourage male friends to respect women, and discourage their slut shaming comments or actions. In the NPR segment, Fagbenle interviewed a friend who said he received 2,000 Facebook friend requests after publicly posting an intimate photo of a young woman he knew. He felt good about participating in slut shaming because of all of the positive attention it got him. That kind of positive attention for men who do sexist things is part of what perpetuates rape culture. Men who discourage other men from slut shaming, and encourage them to respect women instead, will have an especially powerful influence on their peers.

6. Educate yourself and others about sexism, victim blaming, and rape culture. Here are some websites to start with: Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog; Women’s Media CenterRAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network); and Sexual Assault Center (counseling and education).

7. Participate in activist gatherings like SlutWalk and Take Back the Night. These can be empowering and help you build a community of people who respect women and women’s choices. You’ll be able to make your voice heard and work to end sexism, rape culture, and sexual violence.

8. Participate in the conversation right here, in the comments section! We’d love to hear about your experiences with these issues and listen to your opinion.

jeffrey-eugenides

The Male Privilege Plot: Jeffrey Eugenides Broke My Fragile Woman Heart

Essay, Lit, Politics

Jeffrey Eugenides is a wonderful writer.  I loved, and love, Middlesex.  But the recent interview he gave with Salon, specifically the bits about gender in the literary world, surprised and disappointed me.  It’s not his ignorance of the issue so much that bothers me; it’s his denial of it, the dismissive tone of his response, the unwillingness to engage in an analysis of his privilege beyond an offhand “You know, it’s possible.”  Yes, I know it’s possible.  VIDA knows it’s possible.  It’s more than possible.  How could the person who wrote Middlesex –– a novel about the permeability, and the cultural centralization of, sex and gender –– not believe in gender bias?

Eugenides argued that Zadie Smith is as well-respected and reviewed as Jonathan Franzen and the Great (White) Male Writers of his ilk.  I agree with him on that point… but that’s Zadie Smith.  One author.  Marie Curie discovered radium, but one wouldn’t look back on scientific history and claim that women were (or are) as respected or prominent in the field as male scientists.  I could list a handful more women writers held in high literary esteem (Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Alice Walker) but the list would run out far, far sooner than the list of male authors regarded in the same light.

There’s a difference between the work that Franzen produces and that which Jodi Picoult produces, he said.  I agree with him there, too.  Picoult produces beach reads; Franzen produces heavy tomes about”the way we live now” (as Time famously hailed Freedom).   Personally, I don’t enjoy either writer’s work, but there is a clear difference in their sentence, character, and plot construction.  Franzen wins reviews; Picoult wins the “average” consumer.  But Jodi Picoult, in the notorious tweet that launched Franzenfreude 2010, said nothing about Jodi Picoult.  Nor did she say anything about the type of book that Jodi Picoult writes (nor the audience that reads them: typically cast as middle-aged, middle-class, and female, invariably mothers, belonging to a book club full of other mothers).   Picoult was talking about the difference in general between the way men and women are received in the literary world. To misunderstand this as Picoult “bellyaching” about her own work’s designation of low culture versus Jonathan Franzen’s as high culture seems intentionally simplistic and irresponsible.  It shrinks and delegitimizes Picoult’s point by ignoring her point.

Men write about divorce and it’s hailed as The Way We Live Now.  Women write about divorce and it’s hailed as Women’s Fiction.  Because why would someone who isn’t a woman want to read about them?  “[I]t usually has nothing to do with their gender,” Eugenides said, “it’s just the marketplace.”  But that’s exactly my point.  The marketplace itself skews toward the historically most common reader demographic: white men.  Work by writers of color is often expected to concern itself with their race or ethnicity, and when it does, it’s often marginalized –– if not by way of bookstore organization (e.g. “African-American Literature”), by way of cover art (Sociological Images has a good breakdown on this regarding work by writers of Asian descent).  These stories are othered.  We want to highlight the work, the idea goes, but we don’t see it as normative and don’t anticipate the author to receive a widespread American audience.

There are always exceptions –– Jhumpa Lahiri, for one –– but in my experience as a consumer that seems to be the case.  We didn’t even read multicultural authors when I was in public school, now that I think about it.  We read Harper Lee to learn about racism in the American South and Pearl S. Buck to learn about China.  Of course, I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, only my own.

Women writers may not have a designated area of the bookstore, but their work is still discriminated against and marginalized in the way it is marketed.  (Let alone how often it is reviewed, or even published.)  Meg Wolitzer’s article in the New York Times, referenced by Eugenides in the interview, rings true and valid.  Perhaps he should read it again.

On the infamous Mr. Akin

Politics

It’s my opinion that the majority of (deliberate) bad things in the world occur for one of two reasons: either ignorance or basic lack of regard for other people.

I have a lot of feelings — disbelief, shock, fury — toward Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who on Sunday claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”  As well as toward the Republican Party itself, which, while publicly distancing itself from Akin as fast as possible, just approved the official party platform for the current election cycle to exclude any abortion exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother.

Preaching to the choir here, but again: someone’s body belongs only to that person.  When you decide against someone’s wishes what can go in or out of his/her/hir body, that is not okay.  That goes for women’s bodies, but also for men’s.  Or genderqueer bodies.  That goes for anyone that wore the “wrong thing” or drank or knew their rapist.  Anyone who got pregnant and didn’t want to be.

I wrote a longer, more well-thought-out post on this last night, but when I clicked the “Publish” button, WordPress promptly decided to malfunction and lose my post.  Apologies for poor WordPress handling and any lack of articulation here.  I have rape fatigue — as I imagine you do as well.

Bottom line: please, please do not vote for someone this year that delegitimizes or flatly dismisses the rights or experiences of others based on ignorance, particularly due to reasons of religion or personal morality.

Thank you.