On Louis CK, Rape Culture, & ALMOST “Getting It”

Its been awhile since I’ve blogged on here – life seems to keep getting in the way – but I feel compelled to put my two cents in on some recent drama. I expect most of my readers are already more than aware of the ridiculousness that got us here (click, in case you’re not) so I’m just going to jump right in…

The whole Daniel Tosh scandal honestly didn’t get me much at first because, well, look at the source… did I expect better from the man responsible for this segment, [Serious, serious, trigger warning if you click that link] making fun of an actual sexual assault caught on video? No, no I did not.

I did, however, expect better of Louis CK and of the feminist blogosphere as a whole. I’m willing to give Louis the benefit of the doubt and assume that he really didn’t realize what was going on when he tweeted Daniel Tosh, but I can’t give a pass on the rest of this.

 I am sick and tired of seeing this piece of his Daily Show interview quoted out of context:

“I think you should listen. If someone has the opposite opinion as mine, I want to hear it so I can add to mine. I don’t want to obliterate it with mine. That’s how I feel. Now, a lot of people don’t feel that way. For me, any joke about anything bad is great. That’s how I feel. Any joke about rape, the Holocaust, the Mets, whatever.

But now I’ve read some blogs about this whole thing that enlightened me to things I didn’t know. This one woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go in certain neighborhoods, they have to dress a certain way. And that’s part of me now that wasn’t before.”

This is a great statement – something that shows growth, and insight, and… oh… there’s more? How about we read the rest of the quote:

“…But now I’ve read some blogs about this whole thing that enlightened me to things I didn’t know. This one woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go in certain neighborhoods, they have to dress a certain way. And that’s part of me now that wasn’t before. And I can still enjoy a good rape joke so I have both now.

I’m not saying that Louis CK is a bad guy… but I have lost a decent amount of respect for him in all of this because he came so close, SO FREAKING CLOSE, to getting it… before losing it all in that last sentence. What Louis (and many many people weighing in on this) don’t seem to realize is that many people don’t have the privilege  of “having both now” and those people are the ones who are hurting right now.

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What White People Should Know About George Zimmerman & Themselves

I’ve been stopped by the police twice in my life.

The first time I was speeding on a residential road. I panicked, having never been pulled over before, and tried to swerve down a side-street (signaling like normal) because I thought maybe if I pretended I didn’t see him the cop would go after one of the other people around me, who were also speeding. My nerves made me act as sketchy as possible (pulling down the side street, GETTING OUT OF THE CAR when the cop was taking awhile to come talk to me… I made many mistakes) but at the end of the day my overt sketchiness didn’t even get me an extra ticket (for evading arrest, for threatening an officer by getting out of the car… nothing.) I wonder how much my pale white skin had to do with it?

The second time I was in the same town as before, and somehow I managed to lock myself out of my car (with my phone and EVERYTHING inside!) Before I could even think about how to handle the situation a police officer had pulled up to see if I needed help, since I looked “confused.” He had AAA on the scene within a half-hour to get me into my car and on my way. He even let me borrow his phone while I was waiting, to try and track down the friend I was meeting. I wonder, if I hadn’t been so white or so young-looking or so blatantly female… would he have still seen me as confused? If I was black, instead, would he have still seen me as a citizen-in-distress or would he have assumed that I was trying to break into the car? I suspect the latter.

Biases exist everywhere. As a young, white woman from a generally well-off community I have been taught, through experience and other people’s words, that the police were people I should trust for my whole life. Moreover, I have been taught that people, generally, will look at me and assume I am trustworthy without any effort on my part. Not everyone is so lucky.

I have posted this older video from What Would You Do before, but I think it bears repeating. In this video the police are called by a man looking to report that he has seen three black boys laying down in a car (sleeping, in fact) – and he thinks they are going to rob someone. How the hell did he jump to that conclusion? Do you think he would have assumed a young white girl like me, lying down in a car, was trying to rob someone? Probably not. This all happened in the same town that I got my speeding ticket. The same town that I locked myself out of my car. The same town that I, as a young white girl, have never been given a single reason to feel unsafe in. Some people aren’t as lucky.

Relevant portion of the clip starts at 4:40

When I heard about what happened to Trayvon Martin I was devastated, but not in the least bit surprised because George Zimmerman’s attitude is one that I know. Its one that is illustrated very clearly in this clip above, that took place right in my own neighborhood. It is an attitude that has been expressed to me by certain well-meaning liberal-leaning family members & friends who tell me that those “gut assumptions” (read: racism) we make about people can sometimes be prudent- because statistics show that it makes sense for someone to be more nervous around a person of color since “they commit more crimes.” This attitude is complete BS, of course, because judging individuals based on sweeping generalizations is reductionist and wrong. (Yes, even those based on statistics.)(We’re not going to get into how messed up talking about statistics are in this particular case, since we’d be here all day.) Statistics don’t mean much on a micro-level, where individual experience trumps the bigger picture, and since the mico-level is where we are interacting people on a daily basis it makes sense not to bring big-picture things like crime statistics into our interactions.

The sick sad thing is that George Zimmerman thought that he was doing good, protecting his neighborhood from some danger. It is so easy to vilify Zimmerman and hold him up as an example of extreme racism. An example of something us good liberal people would NEVER even fathom doing or thinking. So easy to extend that anger towards the police force, who are dragging their feet in investigating and trying their damndest to cut Zimmerman a break. Racist monsters, all of them. Racist, but not like us. That’s bullshit.

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Are Rape Jokes Ever Funny?

Like many of my friends, I am sick to death of being told that I have no sense of humor because I don’t find jokes about rape funny. I wanted to take a moment to clarify, once and for all, why jokes about rape are (generally) not funny. The best way to do that is by focusing, first, on the exception to the rule…

Click to watch The Daily Show: V-Jay Day

This clip from the Daily Show, that uses the word rape several times, is  incredibly funny (and thank goodness for that, because the source comments are so horrendous that I need Jon Stewart’s sarcasm to restore my faith in humanity just a bit.) This clip is funny because the butt of the joke is not the survivors of rape, it is the people who make light of rape and belittle survivors to make a political point.

Not funny? Jokes that make the SURVIVOR or the act itself, the punchline. For example…

The other day, through comments of a post on xoJane (a website that has published some POWERFUL posts about rape), I am directed to one of the editor’s twitter feeds. On her twitter is a rape joke that she tweeted the day before:

Here’s an article about the assault that this joke refers to. The woman in question was robbed, sexually assaulted, and then had her life and the lives of her loved ones threatened if she dared to report the crime. The LAST thing this woman needs, on top of everything else, is people joking about how she probably ENJOYED her rape. 

THIS joke is not funny. As someone who has spent countless hours supporting rape survivors I will never, ever be able to find a joke funny if the punchline is at the expense of the survivor of an assault.

Jon Stewart’s piece is funny because the punchline is making fun of the ridiculous individual who claimed that military women were being raped “too much” (as opposed to “just enough” rape?) In this context the idea of rape is seen as abhorrent, unacceptable, awful… as it ought to be.

In the instance of this tweet, however, the survivor of the rape is the joke.  This belittles the experiences of real survivors by telling them that their assault is funny and, therefore, their pain is invalid. This is what makes it so hard for people to feel empowered to report their rapes in our society. This is what empowers rapists to hurt people, secure in the knowledge that their crime will likely not be taken seriously at all. This is what makes me sick to my stomach.

So maybe I frown just a little more often than people who don’t care about rape jokes… I’d still rather frown than hurt another human being with my laughter.

An Open Letter to Congress

Dear Congress-people responsible for the ridiculously-named  Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act:

Have you heard about the 2006 study* on pre-term births that revealed racism as a very real risk-factor in early labor?

African-American women at every socioeconomic level have higher rates of preterm birth and infant mortality. Incredibly, these rates exceed those of white women who have not even finished high school and those of black women who emigrated to the U.S. from other countries. For example, infant mortality in white women with a college degree or higher is 4 per 1000, while for similarly educated African-American women, the rate is 12 per 1000 births. [Source]

If that is not compelling enough check out the transcript for Unnatural Causes: When the Bough Breaks, one part of an (awesome) documentary series about health disparity in America (that I was lucky enough to be introduced to at a recent YWCA Cultural Competency training!)

I agree – racism is a serious issue – but how about we deal with the racism faced by fully-gestated people first? There are a plethora of reasons why you should care about the racism that fully-gestated people face every day (basic human decency and a sense of justice, for starters) but if none of those reasons compel you, then do so for the fetuses that you care so very much about. Fetuses who are being born pre-term because their mothers bodies are so worn down by the constant stress of racism that they cannot carry their baby to full-term, despite making every effort to do so.

Or, you know, you can keep writing bills that exploit the very real problem of racism in an attempt to screw over women of color even more. Your choice.

- A concerned voter.

*Institute of Medicine Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes, Board on Health Sciences Policy, Behrman, R.E., and Butler, A.S. (eds.). (2006). Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention. Washington, DC, The National Academies Press.

My Secret to Keeping it Together: Dream Big, Act Small

So you’re sick of excuses, I’m sick of excuses, we’re all sick of excuses… but this semester (my last semester of undergrad, incidentally) is testing me in ways I had not anticipated. Between awesome, but intensive classes (LGBT Development, Women Writers, and Web design… yes please!) and all of the wonderful Women’s Center projects left to wrap up before I graduate… well, all know the story, but you’re here for a blog post… so lets go!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me: how do you manage to get everything done? Its a fair question. I don’t seem to have the ability or the desire that other people do when it comes to saying “no.” Nine times out of ten if someone presents an opportunity to me, I take it despite the fact that I know my plate is already pretty damn full. Given the fact that I have serious issues regulating anxiety in even the most tranquil of situations, this seems ridiculous. And yet, I tend to manage just fine.

Why is that? Because I know that if something is intimidating, I’m just not thinking small enough.

Take my last week of classes as an example; finishing two essays, 100+ pages of reading, designing two web pages and prepping for a big job interview in just five days seemed impossible to me when I first considered it. Then, I broke it down. For this particular situation it made the most sense to take an index card and break it into the number of days I had left. Once that was done I filled in all of the social commitments and distractions that I already knew about. Based on how much time was left in each day I set myself goals like: two hours working on website or read 50 pages of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan with a small box next to it to be checked off when I was done.

I taped this list in my mirror and constantly reminded myself to focus on just one day at a time.

Five days of fun and work later and I was done (and ready to be lazy for the weekend!)

My wonderful to-do list for the past week. (via Spongebob!)

This simple “trick” of breaking things down works for everything.

Getting from being a [fill in your undergraduate] major to being a [dream job] can seem intimidating as anything, unless you break it down. Figure out what classes you need to take, what graduate programs (if any) you need to get into, what entry level jobs you need to try, who you need to meet, and so on… just break down all of the steps between you and your goal and then focus, one step at a time.

Achieving [that huge project that you've been dreaming of for ages] can seem impossible, unless you break it down. Write out your idea, then figure out what you are missing that is keeping you from having achieved that idea. Break it down into small steps that go from where you are now to where you want to be. Its okay if some of the steps are missing when you start out, after all you may still need to do some research (a step!) to give yourself direction.

Getting through [those awful chores that you hate] can seem much less crummy if you break things down into smaller steps and give yourself plenty of little rewards each time you get one done!

I think you get the point.

The beauty of this trick is that it works for everyone because you can tailor it to fit your exact needs! (Different sized steps, lists on paper or computer, etc.)

Miscellaneous Tips

  1. You can go as small as you want, but I find that I feel best when I break things into day-sized steps. That way you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of each day!
  2. Scheduling in small breaks (a cup of tea, a trip to the movies, a chapter in a fun book, etc.) in between steps can help to keep you insane, especially if you are operating on a packed schedule for an extended period of time.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be flexible. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, is a popular saying for a reason. A well broken-down list of steps can be helpful to keep you moving towards your goals, but don’t ever be afraid to cross something out (or throw the whole thing out all together!) if life starts to lead you in a new direction.
  4. If you are easily prone to stress, consider blocking each day out on its own sheet of paper. This way you only have to look at today.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up! If you get overwhelmed and spend an hour or two absentmindedly scrolling through tumblr or watching Wife Swap when you should be working, its OKAY. Any time spend moping and feeling like a failure for being distracted is just MORE time wasted, so commend yourself for taking time for self-care and then get back to work!
  6. Recognize when something is good enough. Sure, you could spend another how making sure your essay is EXACTLY 8 pages… or you could get some sleep. If you’re anything like me, letting yourself stop when a project is done is half the battle but mastering this skill will make your life so much easier!

So after writing this I did a quick Google search and found out that I am not so original :P For the record, this post was not inspired by the book of the same name (I just found out it exists!) but I plan to find the time to check the book out now… I’ll report back! (A version of this post also aired on Persephone awhile back, but I’ve made some edits and added some tips before posting it here!)

Making My Triumphant Return to Blogging!

So it has been quite awhile since my last blog post. This past semester was awful. My classes were fine, work was fine, but the amount of drama that erupted in my personal life over the last few months left me incapable of focusing on anything beyond school, work, and starting my post-undergrad job hunt. I even pushed my GRE back to June because studying for my original November date just wasn’t an option.

I’ve resolved for 2012 to be better. Even though I still don’t love the idea of resolutions, I am making a small resolution-type-thing… in 2012 I refuse to get caught up in anything that will drag me down in the way that this last year did.  My anxiety issues (which I will talk about more in a future post) have hit their peak in 2011 (seriously, I’m calling it) & 2012 will be the year that I pull myself together and become the calm, collected, kickass person that I can be 24/7, instead of just when I am out in public and my reputation is on the line. Part of this resolution means writing here (and elsewhere on the web) a lot more again, because I miss blogging & everyone who I interact with on here!

While I was missing from Imagine Today a TON happened elsewhere. The two most exciting things are…

(1) I got an article posted on xoJane.com!

(2) I also got accepted to present at Momentum 2012 alongside Maria Falzone! Check it out, check it out! I added the conference icon to my sidebar (FINALLY) so if you’re interested at all check it out and consider attending. Last year’s conference, the first ever, was fabulous, it was new, exciting, and experimental yet the organizers obviously knew what they were doing… the workshops were well scheduled, presentations ran smoothly and were well times, plenty of delicious and refreshing snacks were constantly available. I normally really enjoy conferences, but Momentum is on another level entirely. Check out the liveblogs & recaps I wrote of last year’s conference…

Maria and I will be co-facilitating a presentation called Selling Safer Sex to College Students: Tips and Techniques of the Trade. Click the linked title to check out the description! Maria is ridiculously funny & we are both committed to facilitating a session with plenty of dialogue and engagement, so I can promise you this will be awesome. I know my biggest issue that week is going to be choosing between so many wonderful looking workshops.

So I am signing off for now, but I promise this time it won’t be for nearly three months (sorry!) I’ll be back with new content (and a renewed commitment to writing here) soon! In the meantime, do any of you have resolutions? How do you stay calm and focused when life seems to want you to lose your mind? I always love having conversations in the comments!