Kickstarter Apologizes

Kickstarter has apologized, explained their thinking, pledged to change some policies, and is donating $25k to RAINN.

The core of their defense-with-apology is that they’ve never acted quickly to remove a project so close to funding. But the question they don’t answer is what it would take to get them to do so. I suspect if the project was revealed to advocate violence against people of a particular religion, race, or sexual orientation, they would have taken it down; But we’ll never know.

As with Facebook, only time will tell whether this indicates substantive or superficial change. The larger point is that institutional sexism isn’t getting a cultural pass anymore, and if you get caught, you’re not getting out of it.

At the Movies, the Women are Gone

Also… GREAT piece about the total absence of women’s voices in the current slate of mainstream movies. 

It’s easy to feel powerless to change something like this, but here are a few things every one of us can do:

– Start applying The Bechdel Test to all of the entertainment you consume; Movies, television, books, video games, etc. Make it a regular part of how you think about entertainment.

– When you talk to friends and family about the latest movie/tv show you’ve seen, book you’ve read, game you’ve played, etc., include your observations of how women were represented and portrayed.

– When you hear about a movie/tv show/book/video game/etc. that was created/led by a woman, tells women’s stories, etc., support it.

(Right now, check and see if The East is playing anywhere near you. The writer/creator is a woman named Brit Marling, it features excellent female actors like Ellen Page and patricia Clarkson in leading roles, and gets a gold Bechdel star.) 

 

Vagina News Link Roundup #3 – Entertainment

As you may know, in addition to being your Vagina News host, I’m an actor. Since high school, my life choices have been dictated by my determination to do what I love for a living. I’ve been very fortunate and worked my proverbial ass off to get as far as I have. For many, television, film, and professional theater (if they’ve ever seen it) are frivolous distractions from real life. For me and millions of my colleagues, they’re our jobs, careers, and passions all in one. So for me, these pieces are about more than abstract cultural context, they’re about my daily life.

– I’ve been a fan of comedian Patton Oswalt for a long time. Last week, he posted this piece about how his views on rape jokes have changed. I like him even more now. (He talks about rape jokes in Part 3, but Parts 1 & 2 are very much worth reading.) 

– The matter of gender in advertising is more media than entertainment, but the two are so inextricably intertwined, it makes sense to include it here. Long story short, American Apparel billboards are all over LA, and they make it really difficult to resist slipping into road rage. Their exploitative crap doesn’t touch my body.

 – Last week, Laura Linney received an award from Women in Film. In her acceptance speech, she talked about her experience with gender inequality in the film industry, and gave voice to the experiences of millions of women in entertainment, myself included. 

– Finally, I want to plug the fantastic Geena Davis Institute in Gender in Media. She and they are a leading voice in research, education, and advocacy around identifying and changing the conditions of institutional sexism in media and entertainment, specifically content aimed at children. Check them out. 

 

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

In today’s Vagina News, Australia shows us what real leadership looks like on the subject of institutional sexism in the military (and everywhere else.)

Like the US, Australia is dealing with increasing reports of military sexual misconduct. Accusations center around distribution of sexually demeaning images and videos and a culture of disrespect toward female soldiers; Important issues, but nothing approaching the epidemic of military sexual assault within the US military.

But whereas the US military leadership has responded to the crisis with excuses and support for maintaining a policy that punishes victims and enables perpetrators, Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison is pulling no punches in making his position clear.

This level of integrity is what is missing from the US military leadership’s response to the epidemic of military sexual assault, and the vacuum created by its absence bears a significant portion of the blame.

Vagina News Link Roundup – The Science of Sexism

– Diana Greene Foster, a demographer and an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, has completed a study on what happens to women who are denied abortions. (Aside from a similar study in the 60s in Czechoslovakia, this is surprisingly unprecedented.) The article is long and detailed and excellent. Spoiler Falert – it doesn’t bode well for mother or child. 

– Another study (thanks Jason!) shows that 1 in 6 women who seek treatment at clinics specializing in bone fractures have been abused by intimate partners – and that’s a low estimate. “Neck and head injuries are the most common for women who have experienced domestic violence, he said. Also common are “bruising or broken jaws, teeth being knocked out, black eyes.”… By the time a woman receives broken bones, she’s at sharp risk of being killed by her partner. That’s why orthopedic surgeons need to get better at noticing the signs, he said.”

– To lighten things up a bit, 6 female scientists to tell you friends and family about. We don’t know about these women because institutional sexism prevented them from being recognized alongside their male peers. (Like, Nobel prizes being awarded to all the men around them, but not to the women… That kind of thing.) Let’s help right that wrong by learning and talking about them. 

 

Link Roundup – Get it Together, Government

I’ve got a TON of Vagina News saved up, so I’m going to put together related links with abbreviated commentary until we catch up.

To begin, GET IT TOGETHER, GOVERNMENT:

– Reset the ‘Days Without a GOP Rape Mention’ counter and tell Todd Akin to put his shiny shoes on, because Arizona House Representative Trent Franks apparently woke up from a coma today and said, “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” Deja vomit.

By way of response, let’s revisit ‘The Worst States for Pregnant Rape Victims.’ 

– Next time you see your gynecologist (or anyone else’s) give them a hug, because this week the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement castigating state governments for initiating an unprecedented number of bills aimed at restricting women’s reproductive rights. 

– And finally, the Air Force has put Major General Margaret Atwood (that’s a woman, for the record) in charge of the branch’s efforts to curb military sexual assault. Atwood is four steps higher in the chain of command than her predecessor, Lieut. Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, who was arrested last month for – say it with me – sexual assault. 

 

The Paradox of Secrecy

One of the reasons I’m strict about who can access this page is so we can talk about things like today’s Vagina News.

Yesterday, a reader and dear friend sent me a story about video and photos circulating online of US soldiers raping Iraqi women in the course of conducting military operations. I watched enough to know that it’s a) a really important story, and b) a HUGE risk for both triggering and exploitation. 

(Anyone interested can find it pretty easily. Please be warned, every article I found contained photos and video, much of it above the fold and on autoplay.)

I feel trapped. This is the kind of crime that breeds through secrecy and darkness and desperately needs the disinfectant of widespread public attention, especially in light of the larger conversation happening right now about rape culture in the military. 

BUT… There are significant risks in making this kind of material widely available, both in retraumatizing victims, and in fueling people and groups that would exploit it for sexual gratification and/or profit. 

So that’s my question for you. What do we do? How do we tell the truth about what’s happening and ensure these crimes are witnessed without adding to the trauma and exploitation they’ve already caused?