What is a Victim?

Today, we’re going to talk about the word “victim.” 

Not long ago, I posted about a woman who was murdered in Turkey, and a few commenters took issue with my referring to her as a “victim,” suggesting doing so based on her gender was a kind of sexism in itself. Which it absolutely would be, if that’s what I was doing, but it isn’t. A victim is a person who is injuriously acted upon by another person or force. It applies the same way whether you’re talking about a male or a female. Sarai Sierra is not a victim because she was female, she is a victim because someone murdered her. In the United States, women are much likelier than men to be victims of certain kinds of crime – sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking – but that does not affect the gender-neutrality of the word “victim.”

“Victim” gets misapplied sometimes. For example, I’ve seen people referring to the women named in Seth MacFarlane’s ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ Oscar song as victims, ostensibly because the reaction shots made it look like they had not consented to be included. But a closer look at those shots and an understanding of how those jokes make it to stage suggest they were in on the joke as consenting participants. And as is so often the case in matters of Vagina News, it all comes down to consent. (That doesn’t mean anyone has to change how they feel about the song, it just means it’s not an example of these women being victimized.)

Then we arrive at “victim-blaming”, which refers to holding a victim in some way responsible for the injurious action inflicted upon them. It manifests itself in large and small of ways, and results in a collective failure to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. For instance, the most common example of victim-blaming is saying ‘she was asking for it, look what she was wearing’ in the context of a sexual assault. But it is also victim-blaming when police change a victim’s statement to make a crime look like attempted burglary vs. attempted rape. Or when an institution fails to properly handle reports from victims, and then takes punitive action against those victims for trying to circumvent the broken system

Like many people, I’ve been following the story of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. He’s the runner who made history last year as the first amputee to compete in the Olympic games, and she was a model and anti-domestic violence activist. They were a couple. Just over a week ago, Steenkamp was in Pistorius’s bathroom with the door locked in the middle of the night, when Pistorius fired four shots through the door, killing her. He says he mistook her for an intruder, others say  there’s evidence of domestic violence and/or premeditation. As is often the case in domestic homicides, we may never know what really happened. But we know Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp, and that makes her a victim.

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No More Ms. Mean Body

Midnight Vagina Muse!!!

So, I’m not a religious person. I’ve never prayed with any regularity. My nighttime routine involves hygiene and entertainment. But I’m gonna add something, and I’m telling you in case you want to give it a whirl.

I’ve realized recently that I’ve said a lot of terrible things to/about my body over the years. On and on about how it’s too much this and not enough that and all the ways I wish it were different, almost completely ignoring the astonishingly consistent job it’s done of being there when I need it. For decades. Ridiculous. If someone treated someone I love that way for even a week, I’d kick them in the sternum. And here I’ve been, all this time, doing it to my very own body.

Today, it brought me to a meeting of fantastic women to discuss a business venture, did some expert reading and napping, took me on a lovely walk around the neighborhood, processed a wonderful dinner of Mexican food and drink with friends, sang like a champ in the car on the way home, and will now carry me to a restful sleep. That’s some great work. Who would badmouth someone who did that for them?

And it’s been doing that – pretty much whatever I ask it to do – for more than fourteen thousand days. FOURTEEN THOUSAND! I can’t think of any other thing in my life that has been doing its job that well for that long. So starting today, I’m going to thank my body every day for everything it does for me.

I invite you to join me. (And for good measure, so does Amy Poehler.) What has your body done for you lately?

We’re All Women Now

A little Vagina News Food for Thought to round out the week… 

I’ve felt for a while like the job market has unwittingly given the public a taste of life as an actor… One must always be at the tippy-top of one’s game, devote oneself wholly to preparing for each and every opportunity as though it were ‘the one’, ignore the fact that literally thousands of other people are in the running, and accept that the most likely outcome is that one’s efforts will be unceremoniously rejected if not completely ignored; And when one does get a job, one must be content to do it for the satisfaction of the work itself, because one certainly can’t expect fair compensation, job security, or an assurance of progress up the professional ladder as a result of a job well done.

(Believe it or not, that’s not an actor complaint. I signed up for all that, whether I knew it in the beginning or not. It’s just interesting that it now applies to job seekers in general.)

This article makes a similar point about the narrowing gap between what’s expected of men vs. women in the workforce. Men are increasingly finding themselves subject to the same kinds of demeaning demands and expectations women have endured for decades. (And no, no one is suggesting men have previously been shielded from professional pressures. It’s just an exploration of the ways in which the nature of those pressures has changed.)

Vagina News Hero – NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

It’s Good Vagina News Tuesday! Get this… A state law that’s pushing boundaries in the right direction!

As is the case in many states, New York state law is stricter than federal law when it comes to late term abortion. Federal law allows third trimester abortions if the health of the mother is in jeopardy; That’s in opposition to state law in New York (and plenty of other states) that only allows late term abortion if the LIFE of the mother is at risk. 

It seems like semantics, but it isn’t. ‘Life’ vs. ‘health’ means if a pregnancy carries any risk to the mother other than certain death – including cancer, paralysis, infertility, etc. – she cannot get a late term abortion. And even in states where the stricter state laws are not enforced (like New York,) doctors are unwilling to take the legal risks associated with performing late term abortions when a mother’s health is at risk.

So as part of his ‘Women’s Equality Act’ initiative (which also includes addressing things like equal pay, sex trafficking, and various kinds of gender-based discrimination and harassment,) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to LOOSEN late term abortion laws in New York. Not only does he plan to revise NY state law to be consistent with federal law, he also plans to allow licensed health care practitioners to perform abortions (rather than just physicians), and to take abortion out of sate penal code and regulate it through health care legislation.

Let me say that last part again. NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to make abortion a health care issue, rather than a legal issue. 

I am officially a BIG FAN of this guy.

Vagina News Goes Insane

I am super excited about today’s Vagina News.

My husband has a music blog called Weirdest Band in the World. (He’s a fantastic writer and a professional music geek, the stuff there is endlessly entertaining, and I’d think that even if we weren’t married.) He had a post about Insane Clown Posse in the works that he realized qualified as Vagina News, so he invited me to write a guest post. And here it is!

WARNING – The video is disturbing (and the music sucks.) You will probably really not like it. I think it’s horrific in sixty five different ways. The point of the post is to articulate some of those ways. So feel free to not watch the video, even if it means the post means a little less. Or watch it, judge freely, and know that a lot of people agree with you.

But click the link, because if it gets more hits than usual, he’ll ask me to do another one 😉

Vagina News Pot Luck

Today, Vagina News brings you two great stories of Vagina-Ignorance that you can share with abandon at a Superbowl party. 

First, a story sent by my friend Jodi about a woman in Brazil who tried to kill her husband by putting poison in her vagina and then asking him to perform oral sex on her. (Maybe this is the karmic balance for Brazilian women helping us drive crabs to extinction?) Ladies, your vagina is your friend. Don’t put mean things in there, it’ll hurt you more than it hurts anyone else. 

Second, a quote from a conservative talk show host who believes taking birth control results in oodles of dead babies embedding themselves into your uteran walls. (Ok, this is technically Uterus News, but I doubt he knows the difference, so I’m going with it.)

You’d think he’d be able to figure out on his own that that’s impossible. I mean, with all those dead babies in there, where would I find the room for all the Republicans?