Taking Personal Responsibility Too Far

As sick as I am of the whole Miley-at-the-VMAs thing, it has prompted some good public discussion, most notably on the question of why the hyper-sexualization of young women is treated as though it has nothing to do with men. The web is awash in headlines like ‘Don’t grow up to be like Miley’ and ‘Dear Daughter: Let Miley Cyrus be a Lesson to You.’ (I’m not going to give them linkjuice, they’re easy to find if you’re so inclined.) There seem to be a lot of people who are genuinely unaware that a) her performance, like any on an awards show, was largely the work of network executives, record companies, managers, publicists, producers, and the costume designers and choreographers they hired, and b) she was performing with Robin Thicke, doing a song that was criticized before the VMAs for propagating rape culture by way of trivializing consent and objectifying women lyrically, visually, and quite intentionally. Yet somehow, for many, it’s ‘shame on Miley, the end.’

So why am I talking about it if I’m so sick of it? Because the same kind of tunnel vision just resulted in 48-year-old convicted rapist Stacey Rambold getting just 30 days in prison after judge Todd Baugh said his 14-year-old victim, Cherice Moralez – who later committed suicide – was “older than her chronological age”, was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist, and that what happened to her “wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.” The judge has since apologized, but the sentence stands. There’s a petition for Baugh’s resignation, and a lot of powerful reaction, like this piece explaining that statutory rape laws exist in part because while a 14-year-old can agree to sex, that’s not the same as informed consent.

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Rape Culture has a new Twitter follower

Ok, so it should not be news that Dr. Phil is woefully under-informed about gender issues, patriarchy, and the like. But boy did he step in it yesterday.

He (or more likely someone on his staff, to be fair) tweeted the following yesterday, ostensibly for the purpose of gathering feedback for an upcoming show:

Dr. Phil making Twitter friends with rape culture

Dr. Phil making Twitter friends with rape culture

Lots of people responded with outrage, and the tweet was quickly deleted. Since then, many have leapt to his defense, saying it was an innocent question, he was trying to start a dialogue, and was in no way participating in rape culture. So what was all the fuss about?

There are already several decent articles and lots of fantastic Twitter responses about why this tweet is problematic. Here’s what I see:

  • Specifying “if a girl is drunk…” rather than using ‘someone’ or ‘a person’ promotes stereotypes of young women as irresponsible  and young men as sexual opportunists, and excludes male/non-cis victims.
  • The yes-or-no question is posed as though the two answers are equally valid; a matter of opinion rather than a matter of ethics (and in many places, law.) The answer is NO.
  • The hashtag. The hashtag. Oh, the hashtag. As though the worst thing about a sexual encounter in which alcohol muddles consent is that someone might be accused of sexual assault, rather than the fact that someone might be assaulted.

What do you think?

Porn vs. Sex via Produce

I love today’s Vagina News, because it combines two of my favorite things – debunking of misinformation and A Muppet-esque creative sensibility.

As you may know, porn is really screwing up sex. As the internet has made porn increasingly accessible, and sex education has been stripped of all the… you know… education, kids are increasingly learning about sex from porn.

And that’s bad. Because porn has very little to do with actual sex. Most glaringly, most porn is made by and for men. Women in porn bear little physical or behavioral resemblance to actual women, and the point of the whole thing is the man’s orgasm. And that’s just the beginning. Take it away, veggies:

There IS female-friendly porn out there, you just have to work harder to find it. Like a lot of things.

Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies

It’s one of those days on which I don’t have a time to write a lengthy intro to this article, but if I did, it would have the word ‘intersectionality’ in it.

It’s called Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies, it’s on the wonderful GoodMenProject.com, and it talks about some of the very common and oft unacknowledged ways that misogyny manifests in platonic relationships between women and gay men. (Homophobia shows up in these relationships as well, that just isn’t the subject of this particular article.)

I do have time to write this… Someone/something can be sexist/misogynist and not be based in sexual attraction or fit our conventional picture of what sexism or misogyny look and feel like.

Great article. Please read, discuss, & share.

A Vagina News Request…

Hi cherished readers!

A friend just made me aware of Forbes’ annual roundup of ‘The 100 Best Websites for Women.’

If you’re willing, I would HUGELY appreciate your putting in a word for VaginaNewsNetwork.com in the comments. It’s a small, one-woman, unpaid operation borne out of the encouragement of friends and kindred spirits, and I’d love to see it reach a wider audience.

Thank you! Onward…

Facebook just did a great thing for women (and everyone else.)

That’s right. Facebook of the gender-based hate speech debacle. Facebook of the ‘we’ll just take ads off those pages’ non-solution.

They’ve created a privacy guide for survivors of intimate partner violence.

This is significant on a number of levels. Most fundamentally, it acknowledges our shared responsibility as a society for the continued epidemic of intimate partner violence. Beyond that, it acknowledges the role that social media plays a role in such violence, and it focuses on empowering victims through education, access to resources, and emphasis on community support, rather than engaging in victim blaming.

(The guide is well worth reading for everyone, whether or not you’re a victim of intimate partner violence, as most people aren’t fully aware of who has access to your social information or how to limit that access.)

Facebook’s announcement is here, the guide itself is here.

Bravo Facebook, and let’s hope this is one of many steps forward.

4 Women Worth 144,000 Words

Today’s Vagina News isn’t exactly news, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

These four sisters took a picture of themselves once a year, and here they all are in sequence. It’s hard to put my finger on what I love so much about this, but it’s some combination of the fact that they defy the convention of smiling for photos, that it looks like they all aged naturally, and that these pictures represent four women who stuck together for so many years.

May we all be so fortunate.