Tag Archives: feminism

I am Not a Slut (So I Didn’t Go to SlutWalk)

[Trigger Warning for Discussion of Rape, Rape Culture]

Or I am, who am I to argue? I have big breasts, long legs, and the occasional short skirt. Men twice my age whistle and blow kisses as they drive by.  The first time I was ever raped, I was 8. And then when I was 16–several times over. The day before it happened (again), my rapist told me that I was “such a slut,” and it took me a while to realize that this was abnormal, because slut is a thing that my parents, my teachers, and the girls I never seemed to get along with at school have all had the right to call me since the 6th grade.

It has very little to do with my personhood and a whole lot to do with victimization.

And, don’t get me wrong, I can’t possibly bring myself to give a shit about whether or not you consider yourself a slut. But I can tell you that I am no less of a survivor for wanting to keep my distance from such a term. Because slut is something that I internalized in a way that I could never internalize “stupid,” or “cunt,” or “dyke.” It didn’t mean anything to me, except that I was irredeemably available for sexual violence. “Slut,” to me, will always be a rape threat.

This doesn’t mean people will stop calling me that. I’ve learned pretty quickly that one of my litmus tests, now, has to be “will you invoke childhood trauma by calling me a slut? Does your love of shock value outweigh your distaste for making me feel unsafe? Are  you aware that words mean things?” Lots of people fail. Including Jaclyn Friedman.

And nobody is talking about it. Friedman addressed a group of survivors with “well hello you beautiful sluts!” but all of us who would have felt threatened already knew not to be there that day (fittingly, if I wanted to be called a slut, I could just hang around at home). It’s frustrating, and a little exclusionary. I mean, maybe if every Saturday a group of survivors got together and demanded an end to rape culture, I could be okay with SlutWalk. I wouldn’t go. But I would be okay with it. But the fact that I apparently have to “reclaim” a word that I’ve been fighting my whole life to escape if I want to be part of the one response to a dipshit rape apologist who is furthering oppression that I–and every rape survivor too triggered for SlutWalk–suffer from is inexcusable. Demanding that we call ourselves sluts or just shut the fuck up is what rape culture looks like.

Because I was too powerless when slut was first applied. It doesn’t refer to anything I’m proud of: it’s not my sexual orientation (dyke), my genitals (cunt), or my autism (stupid). It’s my vulnerability and status as a rapeable member of society. There is nothing to “take back,” for me. Keep it.

(ETA: This post has been getting a lot of hits, and in maybe an overly-cynical move, I would like to request that negative/dissenting comments be directed at this thread, because they won’t be approved here).

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“But I’m Otherwise In Compliance With Your Bigoted Cultural Norms!”

NB: “gay marriage” is a bit of a misnomer since not everyone getting “gay married” is, in fact, gay. And do marriages really even have sexual orientations? Suspect. However, that is the term most commonly used for legalizing marriage between two adults of the same legal sex.

It’s a sentiment that crops up a lot, especially in the gay marriage debate, but also in the is-it-okay-to-call-yourself-a-feminist debate (“but I shave my legs and have a boyfriend! Feminists aren’t all ugly, socially-awkward dykes you know!?!?”) and—apparently—the can-we-stop-pretending-that-all-sex-work-should-be-criminalized debate.

Pro-sexwork legalization poster

As in, “guys! This sex-worker is middle class pays her mortgage! She has heterosexual privilege children and a nuclear family! She is, very explicitely, “not so different,” after all! Maybe we should think about not throwing her in  jail, then?” Many, many sex workers are queer and trans*. Many of them are young; many were kicked out of their homes. Many are very, very poor. But you won’t find any of those people represented in the “Turn Off The Blue Light” campaign, because who gives a fuck about a transgender teenager who moved out of an abusive home? There are cis women with mortgages and husbands and athletic children and middle-class lives to lead!

The gamble is a cynical one: people would rather hear about the most privileged in a group, the people who would benefit the least from social change, than actually put up with stories about the least privileged sexworkers, for whom it’s this or starvation. But, we’re told, it works. And so POC shut up about how the anti-prop 8 advertisements were overwhelmingly white, and LBGT youth don’t speak up when referred to collectively as “gay,” and I guess it fits that people engaging in survival prostitution allow themselves to be spoken over by the reassuring intonation of presumably-straight, middle-class, cisgender white ladies who are “not too different” from the way every bigot in the West would like them to be.

After all, gay marriage should be legal, some representation is better than no representation, and consensual sex work should not be equated with criminal activity. So in that sense, I’m not ready to start shaking my fist at commercials that say (implicitly), “we’re two white, cisgender, monogamous, middle-class, college educated gay men, so please don’t devalue our relationship.” Because the rights of white, cisgender, monogamous, etc. gay men are important to me, and holding minorities specifically to a higher standard than the majority generally is bigoted. (Confidential to white queers who complain about “black people’s intolerance” as though it is more offensive to you than white people’s intolerance: STOP).

But a big part of the reason gay marriage should be legal is specific to the ways in which heteronormativity (which is already objectionable in and of itself) can coexist with bigotry against things like disability or poverty or immigrant status or some kind of “social deviance.” Because that coexistence tends to bring fears like “will my kids be taken away from their home and forced to stay with my abusive parents when I die?” or “will my wife be able to stay in this country?” and not just “will everyone please recognize that my marriage is valid?”

I think that similarly, questions like “how can I support myself now that my parents have kicked me out of the house?” and “will I be killed in jail for being trans* after I’m arrested for being a prostitute?” are being ignored in favor of “how can I put myself through college?”

And I’m loath to tell marginalized people that their narratives aren’t marginalizedenough for them to deserve space on a poster. I think that becoming a sex worker because you have kids and a mortgage is really fucking valid, and I wish more people could understand that.

But I would also like to see some recognition of the people who would most benefit from social change, not just the beneficiaries who are most “acceptable.”

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Rape Jokes are Boorish and Triggering, But Here’s Why I Hate Them:

Rape is an expression of the status quo. It embodies the violent, dehumanizing rape culture that endangers everyone but acts, specifically, as a tool of oppression. And, circularly enough, rape culture supports rape.

This puts rape-as-a-prevalent-cultural-phenomenon in a pretty fucking precarious position. Because combating rape culture prevents rape, which thereby cuts back on the support for rape culture, in turn preventing more rapes–all due to the circular construction of oppression.

Meanwhile, a joke/funny anecdote/comedic sketch, for the most part, can be boiled down to a basic, unsubstantiated sentiment.

  • I hate a dead mathematician named Kurt Godel.
  • Tumblr makes you like people you don’t know; facebook makes you hate people you’ve already met.
  • Women belong in the kitchen.
  • Kristen Wiig is really excited about working at target (TELL ME YOU’VE SEEN THOSE SKETCHES).

The sentiment is either funny because it’s “ridiculous,” or funny because it’s “true.”

So it stands to reason that when you make a joke that isn’t just “about rape” in general, but is coming from your personal acceptance of rape culture, you are implying —assuring yourself, even–that the premise of rape culture is true. Which makes you a rape-apologist and total douchebag.

And, moreover, jokes like that aren’t just a strident expression of rape culture; their practical purpose is to relieve everyone present of the responsibility to challenge rape culture. People are raped. Every day. As a systematic expression of hatred.

It’s funny cuz it’s true.

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Weezer and The Trivialized Plight of the Straight, White, Young, Abled, Cisgender, American, Male…Loser

[Please note: this entire post deals only with the “later” Weezer. I really don’t know how you would go about fitting “The Sweater Song” into this pattern or, moreover, why the fuck you would want to.]

I’m not saying you can’t be all of the things mentioned in this post’s title and still have a hard life. I know that most of my friends who fit the straight/white/man/middle-class/etc archetype (yup, all two of them) certainly have bigger issues than those of this music video’s protagonist. But why aren’t they being addressed? Is there a reason that popular bands like Weezer focus on overcoming middling social status  but not…college debt? A disproportionately low life expectancy? The lack of awareness around female-on-male abuse/rape? Those are big issues that no man–over-privileged or no–is immune to. So why the fuck does Weezer write song after song about mostly-male, mostly-White people who need only to grapple with the fact that they aren’t quite as far up the social hierarchy as they could be?

My theory is that a lot of Weezer’s music works on two levels: kyriarchally, it doesn’t overtly challenge much. Women are status symbols only, few people of color are featured,  and the adverse affects of systems like patriarchy (like defensive masculinity) are never challenged at the root. This aggressive conformity, somewhat unfortunately, is one of the reasons Weezer is so palatable to a mainstream audience.

However, most of Weezer’s songs do speak of some sort of resistance and strength. Less commercially successful songs like “The Good Life (2004)” are more progressive in terms of gender roles, age, and–to a certain extent–classism (in so far as the music video highlights the monotony of one young woman’s job as a pizza delivery girl). But characters like her are never allowed to overcome their adversity. Most of Weezer’s popular songs highlight some sort of struggle by which a maligned protagonist gains strength and, very often, learns to abandon his oppressors. Of course, that charade seems a whole fucking lot less impressive when (as is the case for “Perfect Situation,” shown at the start of this post) the “oppressor” is a female band member and the abandonment leads to fronting a popular band, which is a needlessly privileged position.

But I still think that “Perfect Situation” and other–admittedly pathetic and contrived–narratives of a barely-downtrodden hero who learns to reject the vapid-bitch-who-doesn’t-go-for-nice-guys-like-him can be inspiring to radically-minded people of all genders. Because, in the end, there are very few success stories wherein the leading character finds fulfillment by outright rejecting the system that previously made them so miserable. The conclusion made by the (grossly constructed, to this feminist’s mind) protagonist to ignore the catty girl musician and move the fuck on with his life is shockingly similar to my own decision to stop dressing solely to look good for other people, stop engaging in conversations I didn’t want to be part of, stop deferring to my less-qualified-but-more-male peers and just live my life. Hopefully, any encouragement to think outside of the game you will always lose (be it attracting a beautiful girl or, you know, some actual oppression) will push others to do the same.

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Reasons the “Feminists Fuck Better” Catch-Phrase Makes Me Queasy

1. It’s making a false equivalence. A lot of people explain “feminists fuck better” by saying that feminists practice good consent. Which, sure, is a prerequisite for being good in bed. But not every self-proclaimed feminist is as interested in consent as they should be, and not everyone who *is* committed to an equitable model of consent identifies as a feminist.

2. It’s irrelevant. WE DIDN’T BECOME FEMINISTS SO THAT YOUR EXPERIENCE OF FUCKING US WOULD BE MORE ENJOYABLE. Holy fucking shit.

3. It erases asexual feminists. And celibate feminists. And other feminists who have no interest in fucking or being evaluated on their sexual performance.

4. It’s…gross. Sex isn’t gross, but shaming non-feminists by declaring that they, by necessity, fuck “worse” is. And so is making bullshit justifications for your political beliefs.

Cross posted here

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“Maxie Allen” by Gwendolyn Brooks

Maxie Allen always taught her
Stipendiary little daughter
To thank her Lord and lucky star
For eye that let her see so far,
For throat enabling her to eat
Her Quaker Oats and Ceram-of-Wheat,
For tongue to tantrum for the penny,
For ear to hear the haven’t-any,
For arm to toss, for let to chance,
For heart to hanker for romance.

Sweet Annie tried to teach her mother
There was somewhat of something other.
And whether it was veils and God
And whistling ghosts to go unshod
Across the broad and bitter sod,
Or fleet love stopping at her foot
And giving her its never-root
To put into her pocket-book,
Or just a deep and human look,
She did not know; but tried to tell.

Her mother thought at her full well,
In inner voice not like a bell
(Which though not social has a ring
Akin to wrought bedevilling)
But like an oceanic thing:

What do you guess I am?
You’ve lots of jacks and strawberry jam.
And you don’t have to go to bed, I remark,
With two dill pickles in the dark,
Nor prop what hardly calls you honey
And gives you only a little money.

Without doubt, this is one of my favorite poems. I like, especially, how the nursery-school-like  rhyme scheme is aided by complex, nuanced words like “stipendiary.” The whole point, I think, is to show how simplicity is forced on childhood by adults like Maxie, who creates this very corporeal narrative for her daughter to follow. Meanwhile, the truth (or something?) that Annie’s searching for is much more advanced, though not unconcerned with specifics like “two dill pickles” as they relate to her position in life as a whole.

ETA: This poem is also very gendered, though I ignored it in my original comment. Specifically, Brooks juxtaposes overly-simplistic and saccharine references to Annie’s gender (“little daughter,” “sweet Annie”) against the complexity of her situation (“stipendiary,” “tried to teach her mother”). This method, much like the one discussed above, mocks the oversimplification of young females’ experiences. The title of the poem, “Maxie Allen,” is as intentional as that of the section it is found in, “The Childhood and the Girlhood.” Annie’s age and gender play huge parts in her experience (having her “heart to hanker for romance” explained so pedantically, for example). But it is also clear that this unsophisticated construction is not dependent on Annie’s capabilities but rather her mother’s–and by extension, her society’s–unassailable doctrine on how children should be raised.

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