Women and Feminism

Don’t make your Crazy Boyfriend your Job.

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We all want to receive and give love.  It’s a universal human need.  As social creatures we seek out acceptance and affection.  Some of us will do nearly anything to get it.  I’ve held onto relationships far too long, overly romanticized partners, and dedicated far too much of my energy into my romantic endeavors. We will go against all common sense and logic and cling to completely hopeless situations.

I’m writing this from a woman’s perspective, women tend to fall into this pattern more than men.  We’re simply conditioned to view men as projects to fix, or as people to save. Our culture encourages women to put the needs of their partner ahead of their own.  We mistakenly view a relationship, as a more noble cause than our own happiness and well-being.  Some men will fall into these bad patterns too, but it seems more culturally acceptable when a women subjugates her own needs for the sake of a relationship.  I’ve been incredibly guilty of this in the past, but being on the wrong side of a bad marriage has given me tremendous perspective.  Recently, I turned to a friend and said simply:

If you were in college, your major would be your crazy boyfriend.  Just think what you could accomplish if you put all of this energy into yourself.

Although it briefly upset my friend when I said this, she eventually agreed with me.  She was spending all of her waking hours devoted to a totally lost cause.

It was the classic story of boy meets girl, only to have the boy blow up at the girl in a controlling rage.  Then the girl breaks it off, only to have the boy beg her back.  The same inane cycle became stuck on repeat ad nauseam.  She pretty much was breaking up with him, the minute they started dating.  Three then four months went by with no change.  Small details of possible infidelity, a ray of hope of changing behavior, maybe a brief vacation from the madness, but the chaos would return.  Another knockdown, drag-out fight complete with name calling, insults, slurs, and it would all start over again.

My friend stopped everything in her life.  She stopped working, because her boyfriend didn’t like her job.  He paid her bills and her rent and she became completely dependent on him.  He resented her for being so needy and she blamed him for putting her in a dependent situation.  She felt like she couldn’t completely break it off with him since was financially dependent.  It was a simply ridiculous situation. Becoming financially dependent on a partner completely throws off the entire power structure.  It literally makes it next to impossible for the dependent partner to leave.  Some partnerships work well in this dynamic but it’s generally a bad idea to give up everything for the sake of a man.

Some of use fall in love with an idea or a romanticized notion of another person and despite EVERY red flag blowing in the wind we refuse to see reality.  Sometimes what we think of as love is just a form of narcissism.  A person looks so good on paper, we think they should work out.  Or we like some superficial quality about them, and it gets us hooked.   They might have a great job, a wonderful apartment, or drop dead gorgeous but they are still completely wrong for us and we won’t let go.

As a person who has been there and back, I can tell you that if you aren’t living with a person, you’re not married and you don’t have kids, then absolutely nothing should keep you in a bad relationship.  Living on top of one another can create all sorts of problems and tensions, marriage puts an enormous pressure on a relationship, and children are like miniature nuclear weapons of chaos wrapped in high-octane emotions.  You probably won’t agree on how to handle every conflict or situation your kid present, and despite loving them with all your heart, those little ones will push you to your limits.  So, if you’re just dating and it’s taking all of your energy to simply function – BREAK UP NOW!  If you haven’t been together long, and you are working so hard at keeping it together you’re simply incompatible.   Of course relationships take work, and they aren’t always easy but they shouldn’t take over your life.

When I look back at the sacrifices I made for my doomed marriage I want to grab myself by both shoulders and shake some sense into my head.  No one is perfect and we’ve all made these mistakes, but after losing everything in a brutal divorce I will never go back there again.

We all want and deserve love in our lives, but that love should not come with such a great cost.  Ultimately we can only rely on ourselves and if another person is creating such havoc and grief, they aren’t worth it. No one should dictate what we do for a living, where we go, or how we spend our time.  No matter how beautiful they might be, or how much we want them as a partner, no one is worth giving up our own hopes and dreams.  Jettison a toxic partner and move forward, the perfect match could be waiting for you, and you won’t have to go through hell to have them in your life.

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A friend of mine was viciously attacked – Please help.

I don’t normally use my blog for things like this, but last night something horrific happened to a woman I know.  The police are still searching for her attacker and I’m sure there will be a criminal investigation and hopefully an arrest.  I don’t know the name of her attacker, and so far he hasn’t been apprehended.

This is what I know.  A man entered my friend’s apartment under the guise of looking at leak in her bathroom.  The man worked with the building’s owner and was not some random guy off the street.  For reasons still unknown this person beat my friend across the head with a hammer about 15-20 times.  She managed to escape and ended up with 60 stitches and a few staples in her scalp. She also broke a toe during the ordeal.

So many of us have been victims of random violence.  I’m sure a lot of my readers can relate to what happened to my friend, or have known someone who went through a similar experience.  Another friend set up a fund for her medical and other future expenses.  She’ll probably have to move since her home is not exactly safe for her anymore.  The police know the identity of the person who did this but so far they have not apprehended him.

Even if you aren’t a position to donate to a total stranger, please consider sending her a kind word or virtual hug.

Here is a link to her Give Forward campaign.  She is a highly skilled costumer in the New York burlesque scene and the name associated with the account is a nickname of sorts.

Much Love to all of my regular readers.  I hope you are all safe and out of harms way.  🙂

I will probably delete this post after a few days.  I would hate for any legal trouble to come from it for myself of my friend.  Hopefully justice will prevail and this violent criminal will be taken off the streets.

Street Harassment: Why “Cat Calls” Suck Big Hairy Balls

Hairy balls

Hairy balls (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I purposefully gave this article a ridiculously provocative title.  I don’t mean any offense, as some people really enjoy doing a lot of things with testicles.   I just wanted to use heated sexual language directed at men to make a point. Gentlemen, imagine hearing a phrase like that yelled at you all day long.

Some men resent women because they think we have it so much easier when it comes to dating.  In some ways we do.  For instance it’s a lot easier for the average women to get no strings attached sex. Of course, a few men have a lot of luck hooking up with multiple partners, but for the most part, women usually have no problem having casual sexual encounters.  The downside is that women are often the victims of forced sexual advances, sexual harassment, rape and sexual violence. For most of us, unwanted sexual attention comes at us all day long.  This is exactly why cat calling sucks big hairy balls.

Now because men and women do have different realities when it comes to street harassment, I don’t know an easy way to put this.  If you are male and are reading this please picture the LEAST sexually attractive person you could imagine coming on to you. If this real or imaginary human were to overtly make some type of advance, your skin would crawl.  The thought of having sex with this individual makes you want to vomit.  It would be so disgusting, you would never want to have sex again.  Really burn that face into your psyche. Now imagine if nearly every time you stepped out of your apartment or home, there they were…ready to make some graphic or illicit sexual remark directed at you.  They might follow you down the street, prevent you from walking, lean in close, physical touch or intimidate you.

That is what many women deal with, every day, all day long, all year round in nearly every conceivable situation.  Has it hit home yet?  Maybe? OK I’ll try to tell it from a woman’s perspective now.

When I’m walking down the street, I’m usually thinking of the next place I have to go, I’m not thinking I about any number of men:

  • Who I know nothing about
  • Who might be drunk, or flying high on drugs
  • Who might be much younger or older than me
  • Who could get violent at any moment or try to assault me
  • Who chances are I have no physical attraction to whatsoever

Believe it or not lovers of cat calls, street harassment is quite intimidating.  In fact, there have been several cases of rape, and even murder have begun with seemingly innocuous cat calling.  So no, I’m not overjoyed when some stranger treats me like a sexual object when I didn’t want the attention.

In my short 40 years on this planet, I’ve had to deal with the following scenarios of street harassment.

I have had men assume I was a prostitute – They would pull their cars over, open their doors and ask “how much?” – this happened several times when I was going to work at a coffee shop in college at 5AM.  I was always wearing khaki pants, a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt, tennis shoes and carrying a bag.  I usually also had a hat on, so I have no idea why this read as prostitute.

I been groped by strangers – I wish this wasn’t true but it’s happened at clubs, bars or on the subway. The physical touching wasn’t ambiguous. Men would grab my ass when I was a cocktail waitress – every time it happened a security guard threw them out of the club.

I been followed, threatened and stalked – You name the threat I’ve heard it.  From “I’m gonna cut your head off” or “I’m going to smash your brains in” and the usual “I want to fuck you so hard”

I have had total stranger grab me, or block my path – When this happens I totally blow up at the man, which usually leads to one of the “I’m going to smash your brains in” type of comments.  But honestly why should any stranger physically touch or grab someone they don’t know? No one has a right to touch another person or prevent them from walking down the street.

I had men expose themselves and masturbate towards me – This has happened more than once and both times on the subway in Chicago.  I learned after my first experience to completely ignore the man. The second time it happened I refuse to acknowledge anything was going on, and luckily this strategy worked and he got bored and stopped.  Again before this might sound HOT to any men reading picture the someone you who actually sexually repulses you doing this to you!  Not so fun now is it.

It happens every day, all times of the year, all day long, regardless of what I’m wearing, or how I look. Even mild interactions tend to wear me down.  Here is a typical one.

It was 5:30 a.m.  I was walking down the street dressed in a conservative skirt suit while hauling a rolling suitcase behind me.   A sanitation worker blocked my path on the sidewalk and physically prevented me from moving.  He said simply, “Hey baby.”

I don’t look up, and politely walked around him with my suitcase.  As I walked past him he shouts, “Bitch.”

Was I supposed to make myself late to work, and just start talking to guy who chose to say “Hey baby.”  Should I have smiled back only to invite even more attention?  Why can’t I just ignore it?    This type of attention is grating, annoying and seriously starts to make women angry at the men who do it.  We don’t view as complimentary.  It’s harassment plain and simple and sadly no joke.

If none of this has swayed your opinion and you are man who still thinks street harassment is welcome, picture your daughter, niece or a friend’s defenseless young child walking down the street…now imagine grown men making sexually lewd comments to her.  The first time I was sexually harassed and intimidated I was about five years old.  So it really does start when girls are extremely young.  Would you want your daughter, sister or mother to go through it?  Of course you wouldn’t.  So the next time you think of making a kissing noise at a random woman, or shouting at her about her ass, or blocking a female on the street, stop yourself.   Your tactic not only won’t work, but you are probably making that woman’s day that much worse.  If a woman thinks you are cute, she will probably find a reason to talk to you, but when you scream “Hey baby you look so good I want to fuck you”, you’ve just lost any chance that it will happen.

Burkas or Booze – Neither matters to a Rapist

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Slate.com Emily Yoffe makes the argument, The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting so Wasted.   She begins by pointing to three high-profile rape cases which involved alcohol but did not occur on a college campus.  Yet most of the research she cites are studies about sexual assault on college campuses. Then Yoffe warns of the potential perils of binge drinking including accidental death.  At times I couldn’t tell if she was advocating against binge drinking or rape.  Finally she used herself as an example, “I enjoy moderate drinking and have only been hung over three times in my life. I have never been so drunk that I browned out, blacked out, passed out, or puked from alcohol ingestion.” Well that’s great Yoffe, but you are a grown woman and in the three cases you cited in your opening paragraph, all of the victims were minors or extremely young women.

Of course no one is for underage girls drinking alcohol.  But who is more likely to make a mistake and accidentally consume too much, an adult woman with some life experience or a child?  Is it really the fault of a child for curiously getting into the liquor cabinet, or the 18-year-old boy who raped her when she had too much.  Women and girls are responsible for their own actions, but so are the boys and men who rape.  And why did Yoffe use examples of teenage rape victims, and then rail against college aged drinking binges?

Ironically in one of the high-profile cases Yoffe cites, the victim was so viciously blamed for her own assault her mother’s house was burned to the ground.  Why would anyone blame a teenaged victim? Perhaps because they are feeding into attitudes that somehow this girl deserved what happened to her. Unlike the “good girl” Yoffe, she couldn’t use restraint.

Articles like these are dangerous because ultimately they are feeding into the culture of victim blaming. Binge drinking is dangerous for both men and women, and women do metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than men.  Regardless women will still get raped. Women get raped in countries where alcohol is largely prohibited.  Women get raped while wearing full length burkas.  Women, children and men get raped for doing absolutely nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I would also agree with the author that we should arm young women about risky situations.  But as much as she claims we are Infantilizing women by ignoring risks such as binge drinking, she is Infantilizing men by not making them more responsible for a culture that not only obscures responsibility but blames victims.

In my youth, I had more than a few sexually intimidating and threatening situations where alcohol played no role whatsoever.  When a college professor made me feel that my grade and future education depended on me humoring his constant advances – I wasn’t exactly drunk.  When an older boy repeatedly forcibly fondled me in a friend’s pool – I was 12 years old and no alcohol.  When I got roofied in my freshmen year of college at a party and woke up on a loft bed with a naked man on top of me – was I being irresponsible when I had only sipped on a Diet Coke?  Luckily in the last scenario I managed to escape the assault without being raped, but only barely.

The common denominator in my own experiences were men who enjoyed dominating, intimidating and controlling women.  If we want to put an end to rape culture, we need to warn women of the dangers, but we also need to change our attitudes towards male sexuality.  Men are not wild beasts who cannot control themselves in sexually charged situations.  The men and boys who rape, make a conscious choice to view their victims as less than human.  Rapists attack anyone who is weaker or vulnerable including children and even other men.  In rare cases even women rape.  The source of sexual violence goes deeper than a 20-year-old at a college party who had one to many beer bongs.  Instead of focusing on the victims of the abuse, perhaps we should focus on why rape is so pervasive.  What causes a man to view a woman as prey?  Why is there so much confusion about constitutes consent?  Why is their one set of standards of behavior for men and another for women?  Why do we so often blame the victim?  What about our culture produces men who rape?  Until we face the harsh realities that feed the culture of rape: misogyny, male aggression, fear of female sexuality, and a firmly entrenched madonna whore complex, we are never going to solve the problem of rape.

To Reality Stars and Sandwich Ladies – Marriage Ain’t All That

French bread sandwich with fries.

French bread sandwich with fries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week has been rough for a divorced gal.  First there was the excerpts on Jezebel.com from “Love Italian Style” by Melissa Gorga of Real Housewives of New Jersey. In her marriage advice book, she gives tips such as:

Do whatever it takes to please your man

To be on the same level, everyone has to get off the high horse. I don’t care if the woman makes more money than the man, if he’s a janitor and she’s the president. After a fourteen-hour workday, if a man comes home and there’s no dinner on the table, and his wife is on the phone, watching TV, or on the computer ignoring him, he won’t feel respected.

Don’t poop in front of your husband

Girls don’t poop. Me, never have. Never will. It just doesn’t happen. Or, that’s what Joe thinks! We’ve been married for nine years, and he has never once seen or smelled my business. How have I pulled this off? I don’t do it when he’s around or awake. In an emergency, I have my ways of pooping so he won’t hear, smell, or see. It’s a challenge.

Marital rape is completely acceptable – From her husband Joe

Men, I know you think your woman isn’t the type who wants to be taken. But trust me, she is. Every girl wants to get her hair pulled once in a while. If your wife says “no,” turn her around, and rip her clothes off. She wants to be dominated.

And this from a man who won’t even change a diaper.

I don’t feed babies, or change the diapers. My father never wiped my ass, and I don’t wipe my babies’ either.

Really Joe you won’t change a diaper?  Even my super-macho, traditional, auto mechanic father changed the occasional diaper and that was in the seventies!

Then within 24 hours of the Gorga advice book, Gawker pointed out a piece in the NYPost about a woman who has a noble pursuit.  Her boyfriend promised to give her an engagement ring in return for 300 unique sandwiches.   A few of my friends quipped that she should turn him into a sandwich, if he doesn’t deliver on his promise.

I want to grab all of my divorced friends en masse and and stage an intervention for both of these women. Melissa Gorga has three children and appears completely financially dependent upon her husband.  I’ll give her a bit more leeway, although I do not envy her marriage in the slightest.  It sounds more like a nightmare than a fairytale.

However, I still see some hope for the sandwich lady.  Although she is living with her boyfriend, they aren’t married yet.  The national statistics for marriage are not that promising, with the divorce rate still hovering at 40-50%.  I want to ask her the following questions before she considers making one more delightful creation of bread, cheese and meat.

  • Do you own property? Unless you have a good prenup your property could be at jeopardy.
  • Do you have assets? – Assets you have before a marriage, can also be challenged in a divorce.  In most cases you should be OK, but anything is possible in a divorce.
  • Do you earn significantly more than your boyfriend? – You might end up paying spousal support and child support post-split, depending on the circumstances.
  • Is your income tied to your boyfriend’s income or employment? – Never assume you won’t lose your income post-divorce.
  • Do you have plans to have children?  How would you feel about splitting time with your kids in a shared custody agreement? Courts are imperfect and anything is possible with child custody.
  • Don’t plan on moving post-divorce, if you share custody of your kids – There are exceptions of course, but long-distance moves are tricky as your former husband could contest any move that involves his children.
  • Have you had a history of mental illness, problems with substance abuse or other self-destructive behavior?  – A divorce can bring it all back in spades.

Marriage isn’t a fairy tale and divorce is hell on earth.  Why any woman would view marriage as the ultimate goal in 2103 is mind-boggling.

Marriages fall apart for any number of reasons:

  • Infidelity
  • Financial disagreements
  • Fraud
  • Constant fighting
  • Growing apart
  • Abandonment
  • Untreated substance abuse or mental illness
  • Abuse – physical and emotional
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Neglect

Every future bride thinks, she will do everything it takes to keep her marriage together.  What every divorced person knows, some splits are extremely one-sided and a marriage can dissolve with little to no warning.  One spouse can decide to end a marriage, and there is very little the other spouse can do about it.

We all want happiness and love in our lives, but no one should force us to compromise ourselves for that contentment.  Making 300 sandwiches isn’t that horrible, and she’ll probably get some book deal out of it. But why won’t he propose without conditions?  Why would Melissa Gorga compromise even the simple act of using the bathroom?  Why is she OK with her husband forcing sex on her? Why is having that piece of paper so important to any modern woman?

I’m sick of seeing overly elaborate proposal videos with flash mobs, chorus girls and fireworks.  I’m tired of scrolling through ridiculously long engagement websites.  And as beautiful as your wedding was, there is no need to post all 3,000 of your photos on Facebook.  I love weddings and I’ll look through dozens of photos, just don’t give us the proofs!

Marriage is not the end all be all to happiness. Single women have just as much value as married gals, and a marriage is no panacea for all of life’s troubles.   My own life became far more complicated and difficult post-divorce, than it ever was before I said, “I Do.”

Put the panini maker down slowly, walk away from an abusive husband and learn to love yourself, before placing so much value on an antiquated institution.  You really don’t need “the ring” as much as you think you do.  If you don’t believe me, ask any of your many divorced friends and family members, they’ll tell you – marriage ain’t all that.

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Weinergate: Can We get Real about Slut Shaming?

Slut

Slut (Photo credit: artgoeshere)

I’ve written about this topic before as I am growing increasingly frustrated by the entire concept.   To quote FinallyFeminism101

Short answer: Slutshaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s “about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior” (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general an society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term “slut” itself is not used.

Personally I don’t agree that the term ‘slut’ is gender specific as I know plenty of men who also proudly call themselves sluts or slutty.  I do however think slut shaming is a real problem and that the media uses completely different criteria for the appropriateness of sexual behavior of men and women.  There is a very strong double standard that reinforces the notion that ‘good’ women don’t like sex, don’t have many sexual partners and don’t express themselves sexually.

Recently Think Progress tried to make the argument that the media was using the recent Anthony Weiner sex scandal as an excuse to slut shame the women involved.  Although I agree with them that they have a point, I don’t think Weiner’s sexting partner is best example.

The facts of the story as we know it is that AFTER Anthony Weiner publicly humiliated himself, resigned from congress and nearly destroyed his marriage he started yet another virtual relationship with Sydney Leathers, a 22-year-old from Indiana.  Leathers knew Weiner had a sexting problem, was a married man, and that his wife was expecting their first child.   Informed of all of this, she decided to have a virtual sexually explicit relationship with him.   According to her, Weiner promised her an apartment, political contacts and even a possible job.   After months of these exchanges she grew bored, realized any monetary gain was not forthcoming and ended the relationship.  When she discovered that Weiner was running for mayor she decided to share her story to show the world that he was not a changed man.

During her brief interview with Howard Stern, Leathers came across as flippant and completely uncaring towards Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin.  She seemed completely unrepentant of any pain or humiliation that she might have caused Abedin.   It takes two people to have an affair of course, and Weiner is more culpable for damaging his marriage than anyone.

I don’t see a victim in Ms. Leathers.  What I see instead is an opportunist who knew completely what she was doing and when she didn’t get her promised rewards of a condo or a job she figured she would cash in somehow and take revenge on her lying virtual lover.  If anything her actions have been quite regressive.  Women like her reinforce the stereotype of the shallow, heartless succubus exploiting men when they get the opportunity.

Is anything sacred anymore?  Have we completely thrown out the rule book?  Is it OK to have sex with any adult at any time and refuse to take any responsibility, regardless of the consequences?  Does marriage mean anything?  I can’t bend my morality to the point that all behavior no matter how selfish or hurtful towards others is simply written off.   If Leathers wants the notoriety for being the ‘other’ woman she has to accept the good with the bad.  Not everyone is going to champion a cheater.

Will Leathers appear in pornographic films, get her own reality show or column in the NY Post?  She didn’t accomplish anything, she merely had no  qualms about having an affair with a married man.  She also turned on him on a dime when she saw the opportunity.  Are these values that we want to promote?  Do I have to support every woman’s poor choices in life?  Both Weiner and Leathers made poor decisions and they should live with the consequences.   I’ll save my outrage for slut shaming when a person is actually being shamed inappropriately.   Such as the teacher who lost her job years after her porn past, or the 15-year-old who was harassed by a TSA worker, or when someone blames a rape victim for their own attack.   If we use the term ‘Slut shaming’ when it doesn’t apply we weaken the power of the label.

Women are not inherently victims.  We are human, and just as likely as men to make bad choices.   I seriously doubt any woman rushing to Leathers’ defense, would feel so strongly if they were in Abedin’s shoes.  It’s one thing to knowingly have an affair with a married man, it’s another entire to mock the wife on a national radio program after the fact.  Leathers will disappear into obscurity soon enough, and Weiner has destroyed his own political career.  The person shamed and humiliated is Huma Abedin.  Hopefully she will find the strength to realize she might be better off without a lying, cheating sex addict for a husband.

Rape Jokes: The Freedom of Expression goes both ways

English: A Sennheiser Microphone

English: A Sennheiser Microphone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are not a comedian, you may not have heard about a debate swirling like a tsunami of controversy all over the internet.  Is it ever OK to tell a rape joke?  Is it acceptable if the subject of the joke is the rape victim?

This whole thing started about a year ago at Laugh Factory during a set by Daniel Tosh.  A heckler responded to several rape jokes in a row by shouting at that stage, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.”

Tosh snapped back with, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got gang raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now?  Wouldn’t it be funny if a bunch of guys just raped her?.”

One thing every comedian should remember: nowadays most of the audience have some type of recording device in their hands and can share any joke or interaction with the world.  Comedy sets intended only for a small live audience can now go viral. This is not going to change anytime soon.  I am not a fan of things being taken out of context, or sets being uploaded to youtube without a comedian’s permission, but that is the world we live in.  In this case, Tosh’s interaction spread to the internet.  He eventually apologized saying his words were taken out of context.  Lindy West at Jezebel.com wrote the following article regarding the incident, How to Make a Rape Joke

To directly quote West:

In case this isn’t perfectly clear yet: You can say whatever you want.  You can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want.  You can say whatever you want.

In fact several times in her article she writes to the effect of, “You (comedians) can say whatever you want.”

West also goes on to show 4 clips of comedians telling rape jokes she thinks actually work – in each case the victim is not the subject of the joke.

Then this May, West wrote the another article about the topic, An Open Letter to White Male Comedians,

Jokes” about rape and gendered violence are treated like an inevitability instead of a choice; like they’re beyond questioning; like they’re somehow equally sacred alongside women’s actual humanity and physical sanctity. When women complain,however civilly, they’re met with condescension, dismissal, and the tacit (or, often, explicit) message that this is not yours, you are not welcome here. It’s fucked up, you guys. And I’m saying that as a friend with the best intentions.”
 
“Please. You are not being silenced. There is no “thought police.” Your freedom of speech is firmly intact. You are a member of the single most powerful political bloc on earth. Your voices and your perspectives saturate nearly all media. You are fine. We are just having a conversation about your art, and your art is what you care about the most, right? Right?”

Recently West participated in a live debate with comedian Jim Norton about the subject of rape in comedy.  Here is the link: Totally Biased: Extended Talk with Jim Norton and Lindy West

West said a lot of things in the debate but never once called for censorship.  The reaction on the internet was the following.

  • She received threatening emails and tweets
  • Many attacked her personally including her weight and appearance
  • Many comments were sexually threatening

Here is a link to West actually reading some of the threats out loud.

If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why am I getting so many Rape Threats?

It all seems like a circular argument.  If comedians want freedom of expression, they have to remember it’s not just a one way street.  Audience members can complain, heckle, boo, walk out, or blog about a joke they found offensive.  Everyone has a right to their opinion.  It is not if holding a microphone makes anyone immune to criticism.  Anyone who works as a stand-up comedian knows an audience will shout out whatever they want during anyone’s set.  The behavior is rude, but it has been around as long as stand-up has existed.  If anything our current navel-gazing lifestyle of Facebook, twitter and blogs has made things worse.

The men threatening West with rape and other sexual violence are actually giving her fuel for her side of the argument.  It is difficult to claim that rape jokes are not endorsing rape, and then turn around and use rape language to physically threaten and intimidate another person.  For all their cries of censorship they are basically trying to silence their critic through bullying tactics and degrading language.  Speech does have power – powerful rhetoric has swayed entire nations to do all sorts of wonderful and horrible things.  Many have paid the ultimate price for exercising their right to free speech and speaking out against those who might harm them.

Comedians are just like anyone else with an opinion.  Politicians face repercussions when they say something that offends people, as do actors, musicians, authors, pundits, and anyone else who voices their opinion publicly.  Instead of trying to ridicule and intimidate the random critic, a comedian should instead listen to their audience.  If night after night they are getting groans, hecklers and boos after a joke – instead of patting themselves on the back and telling themselves they are an edgy genius.  Perhaps they should reconsider the joke.  After all a white comedian can walk into a black comedy club and do nothing but a set of racially charged material but they run the risk of getting booed off the stage.  Women also have every right to respond in kind to a joke they think is not funny or inappropriate.

If we want true free speech we have to take it all forms.  A comedian can make rape jokes, and a blogger can write a critique of those jokes.  A disagreement should not result in intimidation or physical threats.  If a person has to resort to commenting on someone’s appearance, or threatening their physical safety – they don’t know how to make a point, and they don’t know how to debate.  West was never threatening any comedian with physical assault, or rape.  She wasn’t even calling for censorship.  Even West’s opponent in the debate, Jim Norton, has condemned the threats towards West as disgusting.  If white male comedians wanted to prove that they aren’t misogynistic and immature they just accomplished the opposite.  Since I work in comedy I know that these men are the exception, not the rule, but their treatment of West, is making the everyone in comedy look bad.

For instance in my article about Adam Carolla: Adam Carolla So Women Aren’t Funny?. I never once made a nasty comment about him personally, and I certainly didn’t wish for him any physical harm.  I simply disagreed with his point of view, and tried to make my best argument using specific examples.  I don’t know him, he is probably a lovely human being and I assume he is an excellent father.  The debate was about ideas, not about tearing him apart.

If a comedian is really confident in their material they shouldn’t care about a random blogger.  Comedians are always going to have critics.  The best way to deal with our critics is to prove them wrong by getting laughs on stage.  So grab those microphones and go for it.  If you have rape jokes in your set, then make those rape jokes!  Just don’t freak out if someone in your audience or a blogger dares to criticize you for it.  Freedom of speech goes both ways – get used to it!

Texas Justice: Open Season on Prostitutes

Mamba Pistol 9x19mm Parabellum automatic pistol

Mamba Pistol 9x19mm Parabellum automatic pistol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently in Texas life is cheap, especially if you are Craig’s List escort. If you haven’t read about it yet, here are the facts. Ezkiel Gilbert shot Lenora Ivie Frago.  Gilbert openly admits that he shot Frago because she wouldn’t have sex with him, and he wanted his $150 back.  The injury initially left her paralyzed but she died nine months later.  According to him she wandered around his apartment for 20 minutes and left to give the money to her driver, who ended up being her pimp/boyfriend.  Of course we don’t have her side of the story.  The link to the article is here.

Texas Jury Says It’s Cool to Kill Prostitutes For Not Having Sex with You

Here a few scenarios of what might have happened.

  • She could have arrived fully expecting to have sex with Gilbert – he brandished a gun – she got scared and tried to flee.
  • She might have intended on ripping him off of the $150 and the whole thing was a scam
  • She may never have agreed to sex with him in the first place, he misunderstood the situation, threatened her and she fled.
  • She could have agreed to sexual relations with him, but he wanted to engage in sexual acts – risky behavior – sex without a condom, anal sex, bondage, urination, defecation, blood, etc.
  • Maybe she agreed to oral sex, or fondling and he expected intercourse.
  • It may have been her protocol to give her boyfriend/pimp the money before engaging in any sexual activity with a client.

In any event she didn’t deserve to die for her actions.

He claimed he didn’t mean to kill her – yet he shot her in the neck.  He also claimed he was just trying to get back his property – $150 for an illegal act.

There is so much wrong with this case.  Was her only option to consent to being raped to avoid being killed?  Can a prostitute refuse a client she thinks is dangerous, violent or expecting more than what was mutually agreed upon?   Does that woman still have some basic rights of safety?  Because the act was illegal, the victim had no legal recourse if Gilbert threatened her, beat, raped or refused to pay.  Gilbert knew and understood that basic fact. Even if it was a legally binding contract with boundaries written out in detail she backed out of the deal – he shouldn’t have been able to act as judge, jury and executioner.   Sex is not like every other commodity.  It not as if she was selling a motorcycle, took his money, and drove off.  If she feared for her safety or her life, it is reasonable that she might bolt.

The Texas law allows people to use force not just in self-defense, but also to protect their property.  Because this case involved an illegal transaction – Texas has just set a precedent.  Drug dealers should not have to face charges if they murder anyone as long as the murder involved property.  The mafia could have a field day in Texas and avoid most murder charges.  And what is to stop any number of bogus claims of late night robberies to justify cold-blooded murder?

All that being said, what is not spoken here is that the woman’s life had little value in the eyes of the state.  I can’t imagine the same outcome over a disagreement between two men and a nonsexual crime.  Many women in the sex trade enter into it out of desperation – some are undocumented, drug-addicted, or victims of violence.   The sex industry couldn’t possibly exist if it wasn’t for the marketplace of men willing to pay for sex.  The state of Texas may not agree with the idea of prostitution but it isn’t going to go away any time soon.  No woman should die for refusing to have sex with a man, not even a sex worker.

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For Some: All Women are Fat

When my article “Dating After Divorce in a City of Sluts” exploded all over the internet I was strangely picked up by the humor website fark.com.  I have no idea who really reads fark.com but most of the comments seemed written with a 14-year-old male perspective.  I did have some supporters, but the majority of comments were along the lines of “Women aren’t funny” and “This chick is fat“. Someone had re-posted photos from my website.  The glaring evidence of my reckless obesity was this photo.

Schtupp12

My article had nothing to do with my physical appearance   So I am not sure why it was the main topic of discussion.  And when I look at this photo I think I look great, as do the women behind me.  I guess for some because my body is not up to the extreme standards of a photoshopped maxium model or the cartoonish proportions of a porn star I am basically huge.  Physical attractiveness and weight are subjective, but at 5’7″ and a BMI of 21 I am not by any reasonable standards fat or overweight.  A modeling agent would call me large, but they would also tell me the industry standard is a minimum of 5’10” and the highest paid models are extremely young – many in their teens.

When I shared my fark.com story with the women backstage at a burlesque show it unleashed an avalanche of similar tales.  It seemed every woman in the room, regardless of shape or size, had been hit with some completely non-related beauty related insult or remark.   The very thin women complained of getting snide remarks such as,

  • Eat a sandwich
  • You’re anorexic
  • You look sick

Women with plastic surgery have heard,

  • Your body is fake
  • You have a botox frozen face – even if they haven’t had botox
  • Your boobs are plastic

And for some any woman over the age of 35 is simply too old to even appear in public. Tabloids and the media just feed into this.  I am always floored when I see a photograph in a magazine of an actress in her mid-forties with an arrow pointed to a slight bulge in her lower abdomen with the question

  • Baby bump?

She is far less likely pregnant, then simply going through the physical changes of a typical 45-year-old woman.  And can we just accept that slightly dimpled skin is simply part of being female, especially when it doesn’t seem to correlate to a person’s weight, fitness level or even age.  Why does any sign of cellulite warrant panic, fear and terror when about 90% of women have some amount of it.

But regardless of any of this, when was the last time a man speaking to another man decided to unleash the nuclear option in an argument and blurt out a

  • You’re fat
  • You’re ugly
  • You’re old

I can’t think of a single time in my life I have seen that happen.  I have never seen a woman say anything like it to a man, unless the argument was somehow about his weight or age.  Some feel the lowest nastiest thing they could say to a woman is basically – you are not sexually attractive.  As if any of us will just crumble to a pile of low self-esteem dust when someone makes such a judgment call.

I have reached a point in my life where I just flat-out don’t care anymore.  I don’t give a flying f*ck if someone thinks I am fat, unattractive, if my ass is too big, and my breasts are too small.  I don’t care if they think I am too old, my skin is starting to sag on my face, or that I have wrinkles around my eyes when I smile.

I know I am not 25.  No one needs to point out to me the year of my birth.  Being older is not a weakness.  What my age has given me is the wisdom and knowledge to understand there will always be another younger more beautiful and attractive woman just around the corner.  Physical appearance is fleeting, and real perfection is impossible to obtain.  Our real value comes from our hearts and minds, which will live on long after we are at our physical sexual peak.  We either get old or we die, there is no way around it.  So I accept my age, and I don’t try to run or hide from it.

My favorite comeback was once uttered to a wardrobe coordinator on the set of a now cancelled television show.  When she kept making remarks about my weight I hit back with.

“Listen, I can see my ribs through my skin.  I don’t think I’m fat.”

Insults like these are just another way to try to disarm us and to dilute the real point.  We are women with opinions, sexual pride and we are more than the sum of our physical parts.  How dare a woman who is not a size 0 get onstage and take her clothes off in a burlesque show!  How dare a woman without perfect facial symmetry or glowing skin pick up a microphone and speak her mind!  How dare a woman in her late fifties write an article criticizing the status quo!  Shouldn’t we all be trapped in our homes existing on salads and lean proteins while working out three hours a day in the hopes that we will be the youngest, prettiest, thinnest woman in any room?  F*CK THAT!  The next time a man calls me fat, unattractive, or old I will simply turn to him and say.

Thank you sir may I have another!  What does that have to do with anything!

Sexual Harassment – Nothing to Brag About

sexharass

sexharass (Photo credit: iVoryTowerz)

The first time it happened I was shopping with my mother in a discount department store.  I felt a physical quality that was completely new to me.  It was a fear, almost primal in nature that filled me with an uneasiness and mild panic.  I was drifting in and out of the circular racks of clothing when I felt it before I heard their words,

Look at blondie.  Someone thinks she’s sexy.  Hey, little sexy girl.”

I was only five years old.  They continued,

“Do you want to come home with us pretty little lady?” as they laughed in a way that caused my spine to ache.

My mother, at first in shock that this was even happening, laid into them in a rare public display of anger.  Her voice strident with all the rage of an animal protecting her young,

“What is wrong with you?  She is a child?  You are disgusting! Get away from my daughter!”

Even with my mother’s objection they simply cackled in her face and walked away.  I wondered what I had done to cause them men to do that.  Was I walking strange?  Did I have a weird look on my face?  Was it something I was wearing?  I knew it wasn’t just the words.  What I felt that day was unseen and startling to me – it was predatory sexual energy.

That incident was the first of many.  Strangers have grabbed me on the street, I have been stalked, cyber-stalked, intimidated, threatened, insulted and fought off more than one would be attacker.  My childhood dentist would make blow job references.  One eye doctor was noticeably aroused in front of me, when I was only 13 years old.  Then there was our parish pastor who simply creeped me out.  A photo exists of me in my first communion dress standing next to him, the rigidness in my back, apparent from my body language.   I am not sure why he made me uncomfortable, I just knew his hand on my shoulder made me queasy.

In the workplace I didn’t fare much better.   It didn’t help that most of my jobs, meant to supplement my acting career, were rife with toxic work environments.  When I worked at a sandwich shop near the Chicago Board of trade my manager had the back room plastered with X-rated porn images.  He would comment on my body and more than once graze up against me.  Was it an accident?  Why did it seem to happen nearly every day?  I needed the job for the summer, I put up with it with the message in my brain. Just one more month, just one more month, just one more month.  I only had one more month until school started and I didn’t have time to quit and find a new job.  I had to pay my rent, so I put up with it.

Multiple food service jobs that I had over the years I dealt with: comments from co-workers, full on gropings and even uninvited kisses.  I would always blow up and chastise the men for their behavior but why did I have to constantly correct them after the fact?  Even in the corporate world it didn’t completely stop.  Once when discussing my tax returns a co-worker implied that my acting and modeling income was the same as working as a stripper or prostitute.  I threatened to go to Human Resources and report him, he immediately apologized.

Recently I shared a story about having to drop out of college and give up on a full ride scholarship due to overwhelming sexual harassment. A peer in a writing class commented that

“I was bragging”

because of this admission and another story about being hit on in a work related environment   He  put the two stories together and decided I was boasting about being sexually desirable.  I was just so floored that a man would view sexual harassment this way.

“I should be proud that “I still have got it!” was his second quote.

Well at the time of the first sexual harassment, in college, I was all of 18 years old.  I think most 18-year-old women have got plenty to attract most men.

When the words came out of his mouth I was just too dumbfounded to actually say much of anything.  Is this really how some men view sexual harassment?  Should women be open and gracious to all sexual advances no matter how unwanted or inappropriate?

Is it really so difficult to understand the concept that sometimes women just want to go to work, get and education or walk down the street without having to feel like the object of some man’s sexual fantasy?  Do these men understand that we don’t want to feel like we must “go along” with comments or actions to keep our jobs, get a good grade or be polite?

Would this same man view a story about rape, attempted rape or child molestation as boasting?  That somehow I was so physically attractive that a man just couldn’t help themselves and decided to force me into a sexual situation.  Harassment is simply a weaker form of sexual abuse.  Rape, molestation and sexual intimidation are all various shades of the same color.  Because that is what harassment is at its core – intimidation.  It is forcing a woman who has no power to speak out or do anything about the abuse to put up with it.  She may have thought she was getting an education, or working at a job, but a man with some power over her, has decided that it is more important that she is a sexual plaything.

As if being intimidated to the whim of an older man with power over my future was somehow something to envy.  It seemed like a classic case of projection.  Perhaps he had a fantasy of an older woman coming on to an 18-year-old version of himself.  What he failed to understand about female and male sexuality is profound.  Perhaps he resents the sexual inequality between the genders.   Woman can get sex easier than most men.  The downside is of course, that woman also have to deal with sexual violence far more often than men.  I wondered if this man had ever had a grade in college determined on whether he would or would not have sex with a teacher.  Would it be OK if the teacher harassing him was a gay man?  Had he ever been pushed up against a wall by a stranger and groped?  Had he ever had a man force himself on him sexually?

Was he implying that sexual harassment is not a real problem?  He even used the phrase

“I was making much to do about nothing.”

It was shocking really.  I walked away from a full ride scholarship because I didn’t want feel forced into a sexual relationship.  Would this man want his daughter to face the same dilemma in her career?  Would he want his mother, sister or girlfriend to put up with this kind of treatment at her workplace?

I baffles me that sexual harassment should even be talked about in this way.  I am more than whatever sexual desire a man wants to project upon me.  I am more than the sum of my body parts.  I am more than my physical appearance.  And when I finally become too old, when my glory days are over.  I won’t look back and miss the feeling that I first felt at such a young age with my mother – like a prey animal about to be devoured by a predator.  I am not bragging when I simply call to light a problem that nearly all women have had to deal at some point in their lives.  I am just sharing what it is like to be female – and our reality is not always so nice.