He Hated Women – Why Misogyny Is A Real And Ever Present Danger

It’s been two weeks and I’ve been dragging my feet in addressing this topic because I knew it would be difficult but as more and more people share articles and blog posts, as I sift through myriad approaches and opinions, and after exhausting myself with research, discussion and debate, the time has come for me to breach the surface.  Today marks day four of my endeavor to complete this post as I have, several times, had to leave it and come back, indicating that writing it was much more difficult than I first thought.  So in my final attempt, I am writing this with one thing in mind: all the females in my life who I care so deeply about, who have impacted me in some way, and whose rights, lives and safety I will protect and fight for until the day I die.

On the evening of May 23, 2014, a 22-year-old college student by the name of Elliot Rodger went on a murderous rampage in Isla Vista, CA, killing six people and injuring thirteen more, before finally taking his own life.  In his wake, Rodger left a digital legacy spelling out every detail of his twisted, entitled life, most notably the 141-page autobiographical litany that seethes arrogance, insecurity, jealousy, and a slowly simmering rage.  His life has been painstakingly reverse-engineered by countless journalists and his bones have been picked clean by opinionated armchair vultures, eager to offer explanations as to why he did what he did.  Not one rock has gone unturned in this bizarre case of a young man who, for all intents and purposes, had so much yet whose only desire was the one thing he didn’t have; a fixation that turned into obsession, which then turned into violence in the worst sense imaginable.

In all the discussion, analysis, dialogue, and investigation that has gone into Rodger’s self-obsessed, shallow, and delusionally poisoned world, one striking fact rings the bell of his unsupported conceit and vanity loudest of all:

Elliot Rodger hated women.

According to the manifesto written by his own hand, Rodger’s hatred of women originated at age five, which is only the first in dozens of instances where he states this fact outright.  Seventeen years of hating women with a building vitriol and passion that fed not only on itself but on a culture that repeatedly underscores this notion.  HE HATED WOMEN.  

I want to pause for a moment to emphasize the weight carried by the word “hate”.  It’s used quite frequently in our culture.  Not by me, I actually never use it in conversation.  There is nothing or nobody toward whom I can honestly say that I feel hatred.  The concept of hatred is so vile and offensive to me that I cringe when people use the word or I see it in its written form, even when it’s being tossed flippantly in conversation.  Sure, there are ideas, items and even people I dislike very strongly.  But hatred conjures up such negativity, such a deep point-of-no-return feeling, I simply cannot go there.  It is the emotional equivalent of murder in my mind.

To me, knowing that Elliot Rodger hated women – all women – makes me nauseated when I consider it and turns my stomach even more that it started at such a young age.  We have a word for this in our vernacular – “misogyny”, the hatred, dislike, fear, or mistrust of women.  Misogyny extends further than its literal meaning to include the notion that women, in many cases and in many minds, are viewed as possessions; things to be had, won, overpowered, obtained.  This idea suggests that women are not people but mere items, trophies, an added bonus received when a man signs on for something he has worked hard to obtain.  It is this attitude by which misogyny does its most damaging, often lethal work.  And it is the misogyny that exists deep within our culture that has positioned itself at the center of the Elliot Rodger story.

For years prior to the Isla Vista tragedy, I have been analyzing, examining and discussing gender-based issues with both males and females.  As a student of gender studies, I was afforded an academic understanding of misogyny from a wide spectrum of approaches including sociological, economical, philosophical, psychological, literary, legislative, and political.  I have had the privilege of having my work published in my college’s feminist newspaper not long after the time Rodger began hating women.  I have worked in both male- and female-dominated fields.  In more recent years, social media has raised the platform from which people are able to speak, greatly widened the audience, and provided a certain lubrication in terms of bravery when speaking one’s mind (the anonymity of the internet has that effect on many people).  As a result of all of these factors, I can say one thing with absolute certainty:

Misogyny is a real and ever present danger to women everyday, everywhere, in almost all areas of our lives.

I call it a danger because of the many ways in which it shows its ugly face, peeking out into broad daylight, so ingrained in society that many people don’t even realize what it is while it’s happening, and some choose to believe it simply doesn’t exist.

  • Misogyny is the boss at my last job who – on more than one occasion – put his hand on my leg and let it linger there (as if it needed to be there in the first place) when nobody was looking, who constantly made remarks about how he is attracted to dark haired Leo women (I am a dark haired Leo woman).  The same boss who tried to kiss the only other female employee, also when he thought nobody was looking.
  • Misogyny is the doctor at the job before that who aggresively put his hands on me and when I reported it to the hospital manager (also a male), not only was he not spoken to but I was written up instead, which only gave the offending doctor permission to put his hands on me a second time, leading to my resignation.
  • Misogyny is the guy who needs to mansplain to a female despite her prior knowledge of whatever he is educating her about, even if he is aware of her expertise, because he simply cannot accept that she knows something.
  • Misogyny is the 60-something man who felt it was appropriate, or some kind of compliment, to make passes at my 13-year-old niece in the waiting room of the veterinarian’s office.
  • Misogyny is the male cashier or waiter who automatically hands the change or the receipt to the male guest under the assumption that he must be the one paying, even if it was the female who first plunked over the cash or the debit card bearing her name.
  • Misogyny is my male high school music teacher who identified me not by my ability to sing well but by the length of my legs and the comeliness of my pubescent body.
  • Misogyny is the man who – while a visitor at my job with a government contractor – took a picture of me with his phone because he thought I was pretty therefore I deserved to be photographed and then refused to delete it until the director of security (a male) threatened him, even after he had already been told to delete the image by another director who was a female.
  • Misogyny is the force that compels some female authors to write under male pseudonyms or initials (e.g. J.K. Rowling, E.L. James, Ellis, Acton, and Currer Bell aka the Bronte sisters) so as to not be unfairly judged.
  • Misogyny is the 94-year-old emergency room patient who fondled my visibly pregnant sister’s crotch earlier this week while she was trying to draw his blood.
  • Misogyny is the repeated theme of “getting the girl” that is force fed to us in entertainment media.  Getting the girl is the one thing at which Elliot Rodger failed miserably and that failure is what ultimately inspired the massacre he carried out.
  • Misogyny is this, and this, and dozens of others with hundreds of thousands of followers.

 

Those are just some of my own examples of misogyny and they don’t even scratch the surface of what I’ve witnessed or experienced in my life.  However, shortly after news broke about the Isla Vista murders, specifically about the acidic hatred toward women that lit the fire beneath them, something amazing happened.  Women worldwide began to speak out about their own experiences with misogyny.  On Twitter, the hashtag #YesAllWomen quickly gave rise to thousands of personal stories retelling incidents of harassment, mistreatment, abuse, violation, oppression, assault, humiliation, and other forms of misogyny at the hands of men.  Women came out in droves to make their voices heard and let it be known that while not every man is violent or a murderer, men who think and behave similar to Elliot Rodger are not as isolated as we pretend they are.  They just fly beneath the radar, undetected.

 

“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

People don’t like to be shown a mirror.  When the YesAllWomen trend took off, it was swiftly met with the insulting and absurdly useless #NotAllMen backlash.  Women are keenly aware that not all men are murderers and rapists.  If we believed such nonsense, there would be no male-female interaction whatsoever.  The point behind YesAllWomen is not to demonstrate that all men exhibit murderous, narcissistic tendencies.  It is to illustrate that all women have experienced or will experience some form of harassment or oppression by men at some point in their lives.  Yes, ALL women.  To imply that we do not already know that “not all men” are like Elliot Rodger undermines our intelligence as well as our point.  It proves these men are not listening to what we have to say and that they probably seldom do.  NotAllMen proves misogyny.

The males utilizing the NotAllMen logic rushed to defend themselves but in the process, failed to see exactly what it was they were defending.  A deranged, obsessed man murdered six people because women rejected him and he hated all of us for it.  His male victims were sacrificed as punishment for “getting” the women that Rodger wanted but didn’t “have” [Side note: do you see these words I’ve put in quotations and how easily they are used?  They are just a small part of our cultural vocabulary and collective mind.  Getting the girl, having the girl.  This is how deeply embedded these ideas are, that we don’t even have another way to describe a male-female courtship.  The guy displays his best attributes and either does or does not get the girl.  Look no further than any romantic comedy or sitcom to see it played out over and over again].  THOUSANDS more women are voicing their own experiences with men whose thinking aligns with Rodger’s, who have been in situations where they were told they owe a man something, women who have legitimately felt their safety or even their lives were threatened.

Yet the first reaction of these defensive men is to be more concerned with preserving their reputations by crying out “not ALL men!” than shutting up JUST. THIS. ONCE and listening to us.  They don’t consider that our safety and our lives are more important to us than the wounded egos of those who are offended by the notion that some bad men exist and of being associated with them.  We know they exist, read our stories for proof.  Actually LISTEN to us.  If you are one of the men who reads our words and your ego is so fragile that your first reaction is to defend its integrity rather than just respectfully hear us out, then you are the problem.  This is not about you or your reputation.  This is about the safety and concerns thereof regarding ALL the women in your life.  Yes, ALL women.

Could it be that these men are seeing a reflection of their own behavior in YesAllWomen?  That in reading these women’s experiences, they are being forced to look into a mirror and do not like what they see?  People do not like to be shown a mirror.  They don’t like having their imperfections, their bad habits, their shortcomings reflected back to them if they can’t get away.  A person’s behavior is the clearest way to visualize the content of their character.  Anyone can say whatever they want about who they are or what they think but their behavior is a clear reflection of whether or not they are speaking the truth.  And this is exactly why some people do not like being shown who they really are.  Because if their behavior does not match their words, the image reflecting back at them is a liar, a phony.  Nobody wants to face that, to see a liar reflected back at themselves.  No men want to hear that they are the Elliot Rodgers of the world.

Here is something even more frightening.  Women don’t want to see or hear that either.  When we interact with men, we have no way of discerning the good from the bad just from a conversation.  Men want us to just take their word for it that they are a good guy.  But many times, words and behaviors are in sharp contrast from one another.  Elliot Rodger wanted women to view him as the “supreme gentleman” he thought himself to be.  The NotAllMen men need to ask themselves, before rushing to be defensive, would they have wanted their daughters or sisters taking Elliot Rodger’s words at face value?  Would they have wanted their little girls to get in a car alone with that man who thought he was the “perfect guy”?  Because this is what most men expect from women, this is what men tell us, and they want us to believe that what they are saying is true.  We have no way of knowing who is telling the truth and who is not.

The goodness of men – from outward appearances – looks the same to us.  We have to decide for ourselves which side of the line men fall on.  The burden of discovery is on women.  The burden of proof is on men.   It is behavior that reveals to us if a man is an ally or a threat.  This is why we must be cautious, why we say “no” to the men with whom we feel uncomfortable, this is why we do not owe a damn thing to a man who wants us to take his word for it that he is one of the good ones.  PROVE IT.

I saw a tweet from a woman in reply to the NotAllMen trend who made a very creative metaphor regarding the position females are in when it comes to sorting the bad guys from the good.  It said somethig like “Imagine a bowl full of M&Ms.  10% of them are poisoned.  Go ahead, eat a handful.  #NotAllMen”  I thought that was brilliant because that’s exactly what it’s like.

Because we sometimes need to take our time deciding if a man is a genuinely nice guy or not, that does not mean we are a bitch, whore, man-hater, “Feminazi”, slut, prude, cunt, tease, gold-digger, bimbo, tramp, skank, nag, chickenhead, dyke, ball-buster, shrew, need to get laid or are suffering from PMS.  What we are doing is a basic survival tactic and we do not want to be chided for it.  Whereas men are getting to know us and deciding if we might be a good girlfriend/potential wife, we are doing the same thing with the added layer of deciding if a man is going to harm/kill us at some point.

Enough already.  Enough with the “men get hurt, too” and the “not ALL men” and the “I’ve known plenty of violent women” counterpoints.  A male who is secure with his masculinity and – most importantly – who is not guilty of anything will hear of a female being hurt and feel compassion, he will want to help.  He will not react with “I’ve been hurt, too, and my hurt is greater than or equal to your hurt” as an attempt to discredit or silence her. He will not seek to deconstruct her point by bringing up strawman arguments and he will not try to invalidate statistics by bringing up exceptions.  He will recognize that the most dominant demographic in our society is the male, specifically the heterosexual white male and he will understand that if he falls into that category, he is not guilty by association but he will help to solve the problem rather than stifling it by silencing the oppressed.  Oppressors CANNOT be oppressed by those they oppress.  To say otherwise is a logically fallacious argument.

In an aggregate gender-based sense, men are not the ones who have to worry about being in the position of being harmed or oppressed.  Men don’t ever have to worry about what they are wearing because it might be deemed too sexy even though society demands that women be sexy.  Men don’t have to worry about being aware of their surroundings while walking to their cars, having a plan and a back up plan in case they get grabbed or attacked.  Men don’t ever have to worry about being inappropriately touched in ways that make them uncomfortable at every single job they ever have.  Men don’t generally have to worry about having their bodies violated and then being blamed for it after it happens or accused of lying.  Men don’t have to worry about not being taken seriously when they speak for reasons based strictly on what set of genitals they have.  Men don’t have to deal with the frustration of not being taken seriously time and time again for years, across every platform, in every area.  Men don’t have to worry about being told to “calm down” or being accused of being “overly emotional” when they express the frustration and outrage over not having their voices heard.  Men do not have to worry that women view their bodies as playgrounds on which we can enact whatever fantasy we dream up, wherever and whenever we feel like it.

With certain exceptions regarding things like ethnicity, economics and sexuality, men in general DO NOT experience the type of systematic, culturally ingrained oppression that women do.  For men to cry that women are equally as guilty of this cultural crime is akin to white people denying the existence of or benefit from white privilege, even if they are not racist themselves.  It is insulting and intellectually dishonest to pretend that a structurally organized system of oppression is obsolete at best, or non-existent at worst.

Nobody is claiming that all men are like Elliot Rodger.  Anyone who paints the world with such a broad brush is an ignorant fool.  But using that logic also assumes the obvious and opposite fact: not all men are UNLIKE Elliot Rodger, either.  Elliot Rodger represents an issue that we often pretend doesn’t exist or that we are so accustomed to, we just accept it as normal.  He represents an issue that was in desprate need of discussion and his actions were the catalyst for an all-out cultural war.  However, the war should not be a Battle of the Sexes.  It is clear that all men are not like this man and that men do not want to be viewed as he was.  Women have made it clear what type of treatment we receive daily and that we have no way of knowing the good from the bad.  We cannot pretend these issues aren’t there, we cannot accept them as normal, and we cannot assume that either men or women are fine with the way we perceive and interact with each other.

If all of this this makes any one fact abundantly clear, it is that we all desperately need each other’s help in tackling and solving these issues.

 

 

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“We Speak English In This-“…oh wait…

I could write a list from here to Guam of my pet peeves; things that make me want to drive a Zamboni over the person committing the act.  We all have them.  Well, maybe some people don’t.  Some Zen practicing yogi with a resting heart rate of 42, for example.  But I am not that person.  I can admit this.

However, I would gleefully give up every single last one of my other pet peeves in a heartbeat if just this one crime could be erased from existence: the slaughtering of the English language.  It is hands down my TOP pet peeve, beating out everything else by a landslide.  The level to which this bothers me is so severe, I have recently had to work on not letting it affect me so much through meditation and breathing exercises.  The depressing truth is, most people cannot compose a simple sentence worth a crap.  Go ahead and call me names (picky, pendantic, stuck up, uptight, grammar Nazi, grammar police, etc…), I’ve heard all of them.  I don’t care.  I’m tired of it.  I am tired of not being able to read a damn thing without seeing some kind of horse shit somewhere.   I am tired of working for people who hold Masters degrees and having to rewrite all their correspondence prior to sending it out so they don’t embarrass themselves.

Website after website, post after post, tweet after tweet, email after email, even letters sent home from my niece’s school, it’s non-stop all day everyday.  So we just ignore it and pretend it’s okay?  We apply excuses such as “if the meaning is conveyed then the delivery doesn’t matter” and everyone is alright with it?  If we did math this way, would it fly?  2+2=6, is that fine?  I meant for it to say 4 but I didn’t feel like correcting it because I’m too lazy.  But you all knew what I meant, right?

You want to know WHY this pisses me off so much?  It’s because of the number of entitled Americans who sit on their entitlement thrones and scream their words of entitlement at others who dare to even try achieving what said entitled Americans were lucky enough to be born with: American citizenship.  They say things like “We speak English in this country!” and “Learn the damn language if you want to live here!”.  It INFURIATES me.  These same people almost always wouldn’t be able write a coherent sentence if they were captured by Somalian pirates and it were the one thing that would guarantee their safety.  The last time I had a go-around with one of them, I had to read, then re-read, then read a third time what he was writing to translate his rantings because it appeared as if he were typing with his feet.  I’m not making a joke about the foot-typing, that is what it looked like.  He is the exact type of person I’m talking about.  Those who don’t even have the faintest grasp on one language – their native language at that – yet are demanding, from their place of entitled privilege, that other people learn a second language, learn it fast, learn it well, and learn it now. (Don’t even get me started on how, in the United States of America, we speak English.  Or American English, a borrowed language that is basically the chef’s salad of languages yet again, people demand that others know it the instant their feet touch the soil here but native speakers can’t tell you what language we get the word “paparazzi” from as they flip through their US Weekly looking at pictures of a shopping Kardashian.)

Generally speaking though, even people who do not hold this opinion still cannot write to save their asses.  Maybe I’m a bitch for not just letting it go.  But language is how we communicate with each other so at what point do we put our foot down?  This: “R U NEwear close 2 me? G2g2 7s 4 cigs n noboDs home”  is NOT a sentence.

So to make myself feel better and because it clearly NEEDS to be explained, I’ve compiled a list of the 20 most common grammatical and spelling errors I see everyday that apparently people still struggle with (and how to fix them):

 

alphabet_ABC

 

1.  To vs. too – “to” is a direction or salutation (to the right, to whom it may concern), “too” is a synonym for also or it means excessively (me too, too much).  When you use both variations within the same paragraph interchageably, for the love of Noah Webster, go back and edit what you wrote.

2. Your vs. you’re – “your” means “it belongs to you” (your shirt), “you’re” means “you are” [side note: typically when an apostrophe is used, it means two words are being combined] (you’re going to learn proper English by the time you finish reading this).

3. There vs. their vs. they’re – “there” is a direction (let’s go over there), “their” means “it belongs to them” (it is their house), “they’re” [note the apostrophe] means “they are” (they’re having a baby who will grow up to learn how to write properly).

4.  It’s vs. its – “it’s” means “it is” (it’s a beautiful day), “its” is the possessive form of “it” (I want to go fishing at the town beach but I have to check its policy on licenses first.)

5.  Literally – literally DOES NOT mean “figuratively” as some people oddly believe.  Literally means “actually” or “in the literal definition or sense”.  So let’s (let us) walk through an example: If you are telling a funny story and you want to place emphasis on how funny you found it and you say “I laughed so hard, I literally peed in my pants”, then you are saying that you actually had to go home and change your pants because you urinated in them.  Save yourself the embarrassment and instead say that you “almost” peed in your pants.  Also, stop overusing “literally”.  Most people who misuse it also overuse it.  (I’m talking to you, Rachael Ray.)

6.  Could or couldn’t care less – you couldn’t.  COULD NOT.  If you could care less, there would be less caring you could do.  But you couldn’t because you are already at the lowest point of caring you could possibly achieve.  So you couldn’t care less.

7.  Irregardless.  Ughhhh please gag me.  This is a pretend word that somebody just made up one day when they were adding syllables to sound smarter and no.  It’s (it is) a fake word.  Sadly, it caught on but still no.  NO.  The word is REGARDLESS.  As in “without regard”.  The word “irregard” does not exist in English.  Or Klingon.  I checked with the High Council.  Are we good on this?

8.  Than vs. then – “than” is a comparative word, only to be used when showing how things are either similar or different (greater than, less than, other than, better than), “then” denotes either a time or succession (“I lived in the city back then“, “We went to the store, then we went on reddit and upvoted the best grammatical errors we could find”).

9.  Less vs. fewer – “less” is used when something is of a smaller quantity but it is not the actual quantity being measured, just the hypothetical quantity (a Chihuahua weighs less than a Labrador), “fewer” is used when there are units of measurement applied to the quantity in question (a 10 lb. Chihuahua weighs 50 lbs. fewer than a 60 lb. Labrador, the Express Lane is for 15 items or fewer).

10.  Definitely – this is a commonly misspelled word, usually misspelled as “definately”.  It has the word “finite” in it.  No “A”.  (But there are 3 As in bad grammar…)

11.  Nauseas vs. nauseated – “nauseas” is a descriptive term meaning “to cause nausea”, usually referring to a toxic gas or chemical.  It is commonly misused when people really mean “nauseated“, which means “to feel nausea”.  (Bad grammatical habits make me nauseated.)

12.  Affect vs. effect – essentially the same idea but different parts of speech.  “Affect” is a verb and means “to have an effect on” or “to make a change to” (Having stellar grammar has affected my life in many ways), whereas “effect” is a noun and means “a change that is the result of an action or other cause” (side effect of a medication, they put off moving so it wouldn’t have an effect on their son’s school Spelling Bee.)

13.  Me vs. I – let’s say you’re (you are) posting your honeymoon photos on Facebook.  You tag your husband in all of them and in the descriptions you type “Here is my hubby and I <3”.  This is so freakishly WRONG!  This is how to figure it out: take your husband out of the sentence.  Would you say “Here is I”?  No, you would not because you’d sound like an ass.  Technically, you already sound like an ass when you say “My hubby and I” to those who understand grammar but we get called mean names like “grammar Nazi” when we say something about it so instead, we develop a facial tic and chew the ends of our hair.  Now you know better.  Go fix your pictures.

14.  There are no such words as I’s or my’s.  People get tripped up with how to show possession when it involves themselves and another person.  Let’s use the honeymoon example again.  It is NOT correct to say “These are photos of my hubby and I’s honeymoon”.  Slap that shitty syntax right to the curb!  All you need to do is use the possessive form for each person you are referencing in your statement.  Like so: “These are photos of my hubby’s and my honeymoon”.  See?  Now you don’t sound like you should have your own reality show on TLC.

15.  Orientated.  Okay this one makes me want to be violent when I hear it so if you are in the habit of using this word, stay. away. from me.  This is another made up word (along with #7 on our list) that – again – happened when some grandiose individual appended the word “orient” with extra syllables in an attempt to sound more intelligent but failed.  The word is “oriented”.  Also, its cousin “disoriented” tends to get heinously butchered into the verbal equivalent of dollar store cat food and it turns into “disorientated”.  YUCK.  ORIENTED, DISORIENTED, DONE.

16.  Pluralizing.  There are a LOT of rules in the English language when it comes to pluralizing words and I won’t cover all of them because they are confusing and some aren’t even rules, they are just…what they are.  Let’s (let us) just talk about what NOT to do.  Pluralization DOES NOT include the use of an apostrophe.  We already covered in #2 that apostrophes are for combining words (also known as “contractions”).  Apostrophes can also be used for the possessive form of words (grandma’s house, lion’s mane, Gino’s Pizza).  However, an apostrophe is never, ever used to show the plural form of a word.  This is a common error particularly when it comes to proper nouns.  For example, a doormat or an engraving with a family name on it bearing the words “The Smith’s”.  The Smith’s…what?  House?  Front porch?  Leg lamp?  Terribly, awfully wrong.  NO apostrophe.  It is simply “The Smiths”.  Even more confusion occurs when a name ends with an “s”.  For instance, a family named Ross.  “The Rosses” does just fine.  Almost always, an “es” can be added to the end of an “s” name or word.  Joneses.  Adamses.  Willises.  No problem!

17.  Lose vs. loose – “lose” means “to be defeated” or “to misplace; to be unable to retain” (to lose a game, to lose your car keys) whereas, “loose” means “not fitting closely or tightly” (my clothes are too loose due to all this weight I’m losing).  Holy crap.

18.  Alot.  There is no word “alot”.  Remember it like this: there are no words alittle, askinny, afunny, ahumid, ashort, ahorny, afugly, acanoe.  As such, there is no alot.  Stick a space in there, yo.  A lot.

19.  Draw vs. drawer – this might surprise some people because I myself am often surprised at how many people DO NOT know what a “drawer” is.  To “draw” means “to sketch” (to draw a portrait) or “to bring forth, or open” (to draw blood, to draw the drapes).  A “drawer” is a sliding storage compartment usually located within a desk or a dresser.  You draw open the drawer of a desk to reveal your drawing materials!  Ta-dah!

20.  Punctuation.  It kind of feels like a kick in the neck that this needs to be said because this is 3rd grade but it does.  I wouldn’t be putting it here if it weren’t noticeably absent from a good deal of the written material I see everyday.  Punctuation either ends or separates a sentence, breaking it apart into smaller sections that are more easily read.  A period ( . ) ends a statement.  A question mark ( ? ) is used at the end of an inquiry.  An exclamation point ( ! ) is used at the end of a statement to show excitement or emphasis.  A comma ( , ) is generally used to separate the elements of a sentence (three items or more) and to connect or separate clauses.

 

There you have it.  No more excuses!  Now you can finally write those letters to the Queen that you’ve been hestitating to compose because you weren’t sure of your possessives.  You can even notify your calligrapher because your writing should be THAT good now!  And if you are one of those “Learn the language!” people, please send me all your correspondence so I can proofread it before you hit ‘Enter’.  Or don’t.  Maybe you deserve to look like an idiot.

 

What Was She Wearing?

When I started this blog, I didn’t intend for it to be used as a “Dear Diary” but there is something eating away at me that, the more I ignore it, the more persistent it becomes.  This may be a good opportunity to not only share my own experience but to speak about the cultural reasons that have prevented me from talking about it.  I casually slipped it into the previous post but there is nothing casual about it.  It needs to stand out, in stark text on its own:

I AM A RAPE SURVIVOR.

We all have ideas in our heads about what exactly rape is.  Some people conjure up images of a dark alley and a woman walking alone down an empty street at night and being grabbed.  Sometimes this is the case, but not usually.  Most often, rapes occur between parties who are familiar with one another, a concept known as “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”.  This happens in about 2/3 of reported assaults according to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Justice.  And 2/5 of rapes occur in the victim’s own home…just like mine did.

My rapist was my own boyfriend.  His repeated assaults occurred in the apartment we shared, in the place where we laid our heads down together at night; where I should have felt the safest and with the person who should have protected me.

I think it’s important to first clarify precisely what constitutes rape because our culture seems to blur the issue.  According to the FBI’s definition, rape is:

Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

This definition was modified in early 2013 to include the rapes of males by other males and by females, rapes with non-phallic body parts and with foreign objects, and rapes of orifices other than the vagina.  It also expanded upon notion of consent.  Consent is not a “gray area” issue, it is the presence of “yes”, not simply the absense of “no”.  As further defined by the FBI, physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.  Inability to consent includes the following: an individual who is under the age of 18 (or 16 in some states) or who is incapacitated due to mental or cognitive defecit/disability, physical disability, under the influence of drugs/alcohol, or who is being threatened/coerced into giving consent against his/her will.  There are some variations by state but these are the general guidelines regarding what constitutes rape and consent in legal terms in the United States.

Because we live in a culture that tends to be lenient with the definition of rape, and in some cases, excuses, glorifies and even rewards it, it has taken me 4 1/2 years to remember and then fully admit to myself or anyone else that this is what happened to me.   My ex-boyfriend was abusive, to say the very least.  I was isolated from my family and made a virtual prisoner in our apartment, verbally abused on a daily basis until that wasn’t enough and the physical abuse started, under so much stress that 70% of my hair fell out and my weight plummeted, screamed at and told I was crazy until I started literally going insane.  I would hallucinate things like the sound of men fighting, parades marching, or flocks of birds in the apartment or I’d see blood dripping down the walls or tarantulas crawling on the TV or huge, beastly-looking dogs in my bedroom.  When I tried to go to sleep at night, it was like a Rob Zombie film was playing in fast forward in my mind but when I opened my eyes to stop it, the terrifying images were all still there.

My doctor prescribed me the sleeping pill, Ambien, to help me escape the nightmare I was living.  And that’s when the rapes started happening.  One morning after he had left for work, I discovered a used condom in our bathroom garbage.  I panicked and spent the entire day in tears because I thought he was cheating on me.  When he arrived home later, I confronted him.  He told me we had had sex the night before, like it was no big deal.  I was speechless.  I remembered nothing.  Of course, seeing how he had me convinced that I was a crazy person, I figured that my memory was starting to fail me or something.  But I do remember having enough sense left to tell him that if I was taking a sleeping medication, it meant that I COULD NOT give consent so don’t have sex with me if I’m taking it.

He didn’t care.  I kept finding used condoms in the garbage with no memory of having sex.  I’d wake up in the mornings with bite marks on my neck, chest and shoulders, bruises all over my body, and inexplicable soreness that caused difficulty walking.  Once, I remember suddenly becoming lucid while he was on top of me and pushing him off, screaming because I thought I was being attacked.  Technically, I was.

I have no idea how many times he did this.  Because of the amnesia-like side effects of Ambien, coupled with the other horrendous things he did to me, I didn’t even remember these assaults until recently.  There have been bits and pieces of these memories that have come through over the past few years but I pushed them down, thinking maybe they weren’t real, and didn’t give them much thought.  Over the past few months, the gaps in my memory have filled in and now, I’m left with the reality that I am a rape victim, rape survivor, special victim, I don’t even know what to call it.

He will never spend a day in jail, just like 97% of rapists.  Why do most rapists go unpunished?  Well, in my case, he was very crafty about what he did, wasn’t he?  He took great measures to make sure I wouldn’t remember what he did and even if I did recall it, I was crazy anyway, right?  I can’t report anything he did now.  I have no dates, no physical evidence, no timeline.  Just a bunch of details that are falling into place almost 5 years after the fact.  So that’s the reason why my assaults will not be reported.

But we also live in a culture that likes to blame rape victims for their own assaults, that places the burden of the attack on them rather than on their rapist.  This is not done with any other crime but rape.  How often do we hear in response to a report that a woman was raped, “What was she wearing” or “Was she coming on to him” or “How many drinks did she have”?  None of these are an invitation to rape a person.  Even a drunk, naked body is not a flashing neon “rape me” sign.  The ONLY person responsible for rape is a rapist.

We don’t do this to victims of, say, a home invasion.  Watch how ridiculous: Mr. and Mrs. Brown’s home is broken into while they are out to dinner on Saturday night.  The burglar steals their Blu-Ray player, Sharp 52″ HDTV, a set of heirloom silverware, a 32G iPod, and Mrs. Brown’s grandmother’s engagement ring.  The police ask them what they thought they were doing having such nice things in their house.  Why they felt it was appropriate to leave their attractive home unattended and vulnerable to the whims of a criminal who “couldn’t help himself” when he saw all those nice, shiny, expensive items through the window.

See how ridiculous that is?  But this is done every single day to victims of sexual violence, particularly rape victims.  It makes victims feel that their rapists were right in whatever it is they said to them.  That they deserved it, that they are a whore, that nobody will believe them, that they made him/her do it or he couldn’t help himself.  And this leads to rampant underreporting.  So any statistics that you read regarding rape, know that they are not accurate.  They only account for the rapes that are reported.  The actual statistics are much higher than whatever we are reading.

In addition to our tendency to blame victims, we also like to shame them, particularly male rape victims.  Our society applies strict gender roles to people and men are “supposed to” be strong, able to fight, not fall victim to an attack.  To many people, it seems almost unbelievable that a man can be raped.  It seems downright impossible that a man can be raped by a woman.  Both of these scenarios are possible.  Not only do they happen, but it’s more common than we all realize.  With it seeming “impossible” that these can happen, men almost never report, or even reveal when they’ve been attacked.

In cases of female on male rape, a very common misconception, especially among victims, is that sustaining an erection during the attack must mean that he was aroused and therefore he wasn’t raped or that he wanted it to happen.  This is entirely false and is not evidence of consent or of a victim’s willful participation in or enjoyment of the attack.  It is simply the human body’s physiological response to stimuli, in the same way that our flesh reacts to cold by getting goose bumps or our pupils dilate when exposed to light. It is, however, a tactic used by female rapists to convince their victims that what they did was not rape.  This is false.

Our rape culture does not just apply to the way we blame and shame the victims.  It also pertains to the way we make excuses for the attackers, how in many cases they are glorified and rewarded, how their rights are more protected than the victims’, and the rapist comes out looking more the victim than the actual victim.

Take, for example, the case of Jameis Winston, star quarterback for Florida State University.  Ahh, how America loves football, especially its young, collegiate athletes who are so full of talent and promise of what they might bring to the NFL, giving us something to shout at on Sunday afternoons while we drink our beer and eat our wings from the comfort of the couch.  At age 20, Winston is a Manning Award and a Heisman Trophy winner and the pride and joy of FSU.  He is handsome, popular, and was named both AP Player of the Year and Sporting News Player of the Year in 2013.

Except that in December 2012, he reportedly raped a female FSU student in his off-campus apartment and what followed was one of the most pathetic “investigations” in the history of reported rapes.  His victim contacted Tallahassee police within an hour of the alleged attack but it took ELEVEN MONTHS before the case made it to the State Attorney.  The officer who took the victim’s statement failed to follow up on several glaringly obvious leads that even the common reader can see by looking at a copy of the report.  Cell phones that reportedly recorded the attack were never subpoenaed and by the time Officer Obvious bothered to investigate, they had – shock! – been erased.  All the surveillance videos from the bar where they had been drinking earlier that night had been destroyed deleted, too, by the time the police requested them months after the fact.  Tallahassee police claimed they suspended the investigation due to the victim’s uncooperative nature.  She has her phone records showing her regular, repeated calls to them following up on the investigation, all of them unreturned.  It goes on and on.

It must be pointed out also that amidst this virtual non-investigation, shortly after Mr. Winston was indentified as the suspect and it was subsequently announed that the State Attorney’s office lacked the balls evidence to prosecute, he went on to lead FSU to the state championship.  Because wouldn’t it be terrible if the school’s QB couldn’t play in the state championship game if he were suspended pending a rape investigation?  Yes, that would be a pity.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last that a college sports player has committed an act of sexual violence and either completely gotten away with it or received nothing more than a spank on his hiney.  And yes, that last sentence presumes that Mr. Winston did, in fact, rape his accuser.  His semen was in her underwear.  She was intoxicated enough that her memory was impaired, a fact to which she admitted but that also raises major consent issues.  Her account of the event only changed as more details came back into focus for her, but never as to what actually occurred that night.  And the incidence of women falsely reporting rapes to the police is as low as 2%.

Our culture unashamedly makes excuses for rapists who, in some other way, provide a valuable service to society.  When that service is the American pastime that cultivates multimillion dollar contracts, product endorsements, guaranteed TV ratings, and idol worship, the excuses become rewards. But what message does this send to both the rapist and the victim?  It tells them both – clearly and unapologetically – that as long as you are considered an asset to society, you are above the law, no matter how heinous your crime.  It tells victims that nobody is willing to protect them when something that is viewed as more valuable than they are is at stake.

This blogger has done an unbelievable amount of research in compiling an astonishing and jaw droppingly long list of the reported rape cases involving college football players.  The cases are so numerous, they had to be sorted by decade, starting with the 1970s. As is displayed by this pitiful list, Mr. Winston comes from long line of shameful men before him whose crimes were treated with a “boys will be boys” attitude by nearly everyone involved – their schools, their communities, and the criminal justice system.  Keep in mind as you scroll through the decades that this is only a list of college football players.  It does not account for any other collegiate or professional sports.

However, there is some progress being made in terms of how rape cases are approached.  This Slate.com article underscores some of the reasons for underreporting and of rape culture themes I mentoned earlier:

Surveyed about why they didn’t want to pursue a report, most victims said they worried that no one would believe them.  This is rape culture in action. It puts the burden of proving innocence on the victim,

But it also explores the fascinating neurobiology of a victim in the key moments after an attack, how the brain functions and the way it affects behavior and memory.  This is giving law enforcement new ways of conducting investigations that focus less on timelines and more on sensory-based recollection.  It also provides new explanations for the wide and often surprising variety of victims’ emotional responses while recounting details of their attacks.  Using this approach, there is less of a tendency to blame the victim or make the automatic assumption that s/he is lying based on atypcal behavior.  Where formerly, certain behaviors would destroy a victim’s credibility, now they are being re-examined and cases are even being reopened to look at these behaviors from a new and more panoramic angle.

To date, only modest efforts are being made around the country to train police departments in these new investigative techniques but it’s a start.  The real work is pushing our cultural attitudes to catch up with our justice system or better yet, surpass it.

Rape culture is a real thing.  It’s the force that prevented the Tallahassee police from investigating the report against Jameis Winston in December 2012 that was filed an hour after the incident occurred and instead, allowed him to go on to win the state championship for FSU.

Rape culture is what allows there to be thousands of other cases similar to Jameis Winston’s.

Rape culture is what compels people to ask a woman why she was wearing a tight dress and expecting not to be raped.  Everyone is within their human right to expect not to be raped at all times.  For any reason, for no reason.  Period.

Rape culture is what makes people falsely believe that a man can’t be raped, or that it can make him gay, or less of a man.  False, false, false.

Rape culture is what causes people to think that a “yes” cannot be revoked at any time.  It can.  “No” also means “stop”.

Rape culture is what causes people to think that “I thought s/he was 18” is a viable excuse for statutory rape.  Wrong.  The burden of knowledge is on all of us to know who we are having sex with.

Rape culture is what instills in people’s minds the ludicrous notion that victims are to blame for their own attacks.  They aren’t.  EVER.  This idea needs to be abolished from our collective mind.

Rape culture must be challenged at every opportunity.  Rapists should not be rewarded or excused for their actions.  The cultural definitions of rape and consent should not have elastic edges that allow their meanings to suit the situation or the person of interest.  They are what they are.  No more excuses.

My rapist will never see a day inside a jail cell.  But as a small effort to try to help other victims, I have started my own campaign through the largest sexual violence advocacy agency in the U.S., the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).  RAINN offers a wide variety of services to victims of sexual violence including a 24-hour hotline for those in crisis (1-800-656-HOPE), the most up-to-date Department of Justice statistics, volunteer opportunities, community education and outreach, counseling services, information on how to improve public policy, services for victims’ family members, etc..  Through their RAINNmaker program, volunteers can set up a web page for donations to directly benefit victims of sexual violence.  Every dollar makes an impact in helping a victim reclaim his or her life.  I named my campaign after a song from my favorite movie and because it is a symbol of how things always get better and more beautiful once the storm passes.  Here is the link:

Over the RAINNbow

If you or someone you know, are in crisis or have been the victim of sexual violence, RAINN’s anonymous hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) and online support are available 24 hours a day to offer guidance from trained advocates and to help find services in your area.  It doesn’t matter if your attack happened 5 minutes ago or 50 years ago.

The only way for us to make an impact on rape culture and on sexual violence is by having honest discussions which is why I needed to finally share what happened to me.  By not talking about it, the only person I was protecting was the man who did this.  But in being honest with myself and with others, a dialgue is opened.  One person talks, another person talks, then another.  Collectively, we can start to realize that this is far more common than we think it is, we can develop more rounded and accurate statistics, we can implement effective support networks for victims so that they never feel they are in a position of not being believed, we can get serious about who is really to blame here and then finally, we can get serious about doing something about it.

 

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Who Is This Chick?

I’m a whole lot of things, just like everyone else. The thing is, I can’t stand labels or the limitations they put in place. I swat them away as if playing a game of ping pong. I don’t want them anywhere near me. So the labels that I do use on myself are really just for descriptive purposes only and not necessarily for the set of rules or connotations that go along with them.

I am a woman who has achieved 34 years of earth age.  I say earth age because I swear one of these days, people from my home planet are going to come to take me back.  Yes, I realize how crazy that sounds.  I don’t care.  When you care about as many things as I do as deeply as I do, when you cry real, actual tears for things that happened generations ago and for things that will happen in generations to come if more people don’t start caring as much as you do, you begin to feel like a foreigner to this planet, an alien.  As if you cannot possibly be genetically linked to everyone else because if you were, wouldn’t they all care that much, too?  I don’t mean to be insulting to others by suggesting that nobody cares about anything.  Sometimes I just feel like I care too much about too many things and I’ve been told this on several occasions.  How does someone “care too much”?  How does someone make herself care less?  She doesn’t, but she can talk about the things she cares about in her blog.  First order of business, though, is who I am.

I live on a skinny splotch of sand that stretches eastward from New York City and juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, making what looks like a peace sign at the end.  Some people say the island is shaped like a fish but I like my peace sign metaphor better.  I grew up here as did my parents (same street and all!) which is the same story for many people who are from this area.  Everyone’s grandparents are from “the city” as we lovingly refer to it, which means “a borough” – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx (technically Staten Island, too but nobody moves from SI to LI).  It’s tyical American suburbia here but the difference in metro New York is that the veins of the outerlying areas are deeply influenced by the cultural steroid needle injected into the NYC artery itself.  In a trickled-outward sense, we are brought up with a rich exposure to the cultural diversity that overflows from the city. Plus, on LI you are never more than 10 minutes away from a beach, which has always been my favorite part of living here.  And apparently we have some sort of accent, too.

I was raised by two very young parents who came of age during the Vietnam counterculture of the 1960s and 70s.  My mother stayed at home to raise my sister and me until we were old enough to handle things on our own.  She instilled in us some very important philosophies on life: 1. There are only two kinds of people – good people and bad people and that nobody should be judged for reasons such as gender, skin color, religion, the person they love, or their appearance.  It is the content of someone’s heart and the way they treat others that determines their character; nothing else.  2.  To be kind to the earth as she is everyone’s Mother.  This means everything our Mother puts here – other humans, all animals (even tiny insects), trees and plants, the soil, the air, the water, and everything that fills all the gaps in between.  Nature was, and still is, highly respected and cared for in our household.  3.  Always trust your intuition, your instinct, because it will never fail you.  There will be times in life when your head is saying one thing and your heart is saying something else.  During those times, listen to what your instinct is saying; follow it and you won’t go wrong.  4.  She taught us the value of knowing how to curse.  Wow, is my mother good at cursing!  You have to witness it to experience the full impact and glory. That probably deserves its own post someday…

My father instilled in me the values of respect and hard work.  He taught me that there is great wisdom to be learned from your elders.  By observing him, I witnessed the way he interacted with his own father and how respectful he was, the way he listened to what my grandfather had to say, the way he always calls him “sir” and I learned that when respect is given, it is earned, that it is reciprocal.  Because my mother was a stay-at-home-mom for much of my childhood, my father worked while going to college – sometimes two jobs – to provide for his wife and daughters.  Often I’d go days without seeing him.  I recall being very young and going with him to his night job as a bank janitor just to spend time with him.  He’d let me empty out the garbage cans because they were light and I could lift them.  I was four years old.  From this, I learned that if you want something, you have to work for it and I learned a sense of responsibility and dedication to one’s family.  A work ethic.  My sister and I have never just been handed anything in our lives.  We were not brats, as some LI stereotypes suggest.  We have both paid for our own cars, homes, educations, necessities and luxuries.  As a family, we happily gift each other with things when we can because it delights us to do this but the idea was deeply instilled at an early age that if we want something, we had to get it on our own rather than ask someone else.  So we did.

I was further impressed upon by a family of almost entirely women.  Loud, strong, fabulous, independent women who are unafraid to speak their minds and command an audience.  Being surrounded by this ocean of positive female influence my whole life has made me view women as goddesses and feminine energy as extremely powerful.  My childhood was spent sitting on the floor gazing up at beautifully coiffed and impeccably dressed females who were all eager to regale one another with whatever thoughts were on their minds.  I was never given the impression that women should be in silence.  Not in this family!

In terms of the labels I spoke about earlier, sometimes they are just plain unavoidable so a few that apply to me after these 34 years of life experience are:

Aunt, soon-to-be-aunt again, coffee addict, writer, vegetarian, domestic violence/rape survivor, environmentalist, chronic migraine-sufferer, free-thinker, nature-worshipper, intellectual, feminist, singer/dancer, smoker (yeah, I know), perpetual question-asker, obsessive info-seeker, incessant knowledge-dropper, activist, animal lover, neo-hippie, humanist, spiritualist, lover, warrior, friend.

Yes, I realize some of these seem to contradict one another.  That’s why I don’t like labels.

The love of my life is a 20 lb. cockerpoo named Nikola (after this guy).

If you’re into the zodiac, I’m a Leo and a textbook example at that.  Incidentally, my favorite animal is the lion.

I’m a classic rock girl at heart but I feel no shame in admitting my love for Broadway musicals.

Although, I’m a total sap for nostalgia from my childhood of the 80s and 90s and look back on them fondly, I feel a strange connection to both the 1920s and the 1960s and I find them to be very similar in the way they brought swift cultural change to the world.  The identifications are so strong it’s as if I were there, or should have been at least.

I will never say no to a cup of coffee, a smoke, or watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

I will never say yes to a piece of meat (14 years and counting) or to being treated like one.

I glean inspiration from anything that tickles my fancy but that usually translates to uniquely memorable women who have changed the world immensely, who may or may not be somewhat odd looking, some of whom are jaw-droppingly talented, who have worked tirelessly for the betterment of humanity and the earth we share, and who nonetheless have made an impact that has earned them the title of “legend”.  Examples of such women are Liza Minnelli (who will undoubtedly get her own post), her mother Judy Garland, Cher (whose 1970s hair is the specific inspiration behind my own hip-length black ‘do), Bette Midler, Audrey Hepburn, Mariska Hargitay, Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Beckham, Ellen DeGeneres, Cyd Charisse (just…look), Marilyn Monroe, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Julie Andrews, Helen Keller, Janet Jackson, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

And there are plenty of men whom I find fascinating and inspiring, as well.  Polymaths, major contributors to humanity through their fields of discipline, and in some cases, nothing less than genius: Michael Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, William Shakespeare, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, Albert Einstein, the Dalai Lama, Bob Marley, Fred Astaire, Nelson Mandela, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Savion Glover, Nikola Tesla, Charles Dickens and Benjamin Franklin…and keep in mind that neither of these lists are close to being all-inclusive.

And of course RuPaul.  Because Ru teaches us that, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”.

I’m happiest when I’m trying to make the world a nicer place, which could mean anything from buying a bagel for a homeless dude to refreshing an old end table with a coat of paint to planting this year’s annuals with my mother to walking around my neighborhod and picking up garbage.  My life doesn’t mean anything if I’m living it selfishly so I try to do as much as I can to benefit someone or something else at all times.  Even if it just means smiling at someone.  It might be the only thing I have to give at the moment but I will give it.

Finally, my passion for life is beyond description.  This is why I am accused of caring too much.  This is why I have an obsession with Liza Minnelli that borders on pathological.  This is why I have grown my hair so long I literally sit on it.  This is why I procrastinate; because I’m not going to do something if I’m not ready to actually commit myself fully and do it correctly.  When I do something, I do it all the way.  I half-ass nothing.  When I feel my feelings, I really feel them.  I use italics a lot to emphasize the passion behind my words (when italics are unavaliable, I use ALL CAPS).  So where other people have one or two or even ten things that they care a whole lot about and that get them really worked up, I have infinite things that get me that way.  If it is something that I’m not yet familiar with, I learn about it so that I can decide how to feel about it.  I don’t allow myself to be the person who doesn’t know something, can’t contribute to a discussion, has no opinion on a topic, or isn’t willing to fight for a cause.  I am not that girl.  Everything is worth knowing about and feeling something toward.

Life is for living.  I want to experience and enjoy every moment of it.  If every moment can’t be enjoyable (and it can’t, let’s be honest), I at least want it to be worthwhile and memorable, for lessons to be learned, for feelings to be felt, and for others to benefit from my existence in some way.

 

 

The First One

It is madness inside my head.  My mother frequently asks me, “Does your brain EVER shut off?”.  The answer is no.  It does not.  My brain is constantly thinking, constantly pondering various scenarios and outcomes, constantly attempting to remember facts without having to look them up, constantly working out the math, constantly wondering what is going on across the globe where I can’t see what is happening.  Constantly.  This leads to all sorts of irritating and uncomfortable side effects like lying awake at night thinking about how Mendeleev got the idea for how to construct the periodic table or sobbing when I think about the real Trail of Tears rather than the diluted, euphemistic version taught in school textbooks.  It also results in my tendency to write mini-novels when I really just set out to type a quick comment on Facebook.  I can’t help it, I have so many thoughts running through my head, so many ideas.  It’s hard for me to keep them all in there even when I edit them down for content.

So I started a blog.  I needed an outlet to get this mess out in a cohesive (I hope) fashion and hopfully allow myself to finally get some sleep at night.  It took me about two weeks to come up with a name for it.  In the olden days, back when I was a fresh-mouthed teenager I would have wanted to name it “Lilith” but Sarah MacLaughlin ruined that for me.  Next on the list would have been “Jezebel” but that’s taken, too.  Okay fine, so the two most hated women in Judeo-Christian philosophy are already being exhalted somewhere in popular culture to make a feminist point.  So I decided to go straight into the book itself and select a passage that will help me make the point of why my blog needs to exist:

“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over man, but to be in silence.” (Timothy 2:11-13)

The tagline quickly followed.  It is from one of my favorite short stories, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which tells the story of a woman suffering from what can be assumed is post-partum depression, locked in the attic bedroom of a summer house by her husband who is a doctor.  Told in first-person clarity from the point-of-view of her own journal that she keeps in secret, the horrifying story plunges into the protagonist’s psyche as she is driven into insanity, becoming a prisoner of the house, of her husband, and of her own mind.

Why did I choose these two statements to speak for my blog?  Well, the tagline is self-explanatory: I MUST get my feelings out somehow.  The title is a comment on not only the historical gag order that has been placed on women but its continued practice.  In the eyes of the law, at least in the United States, women and men are equal.  However, cultural attitudes have not quite caught up with legislation in this sense and it is something I experience on a daily basis.

Whenever I engage in a discussion or debate, particularly on the topics of women’s issues, gender equality, violence against women, etc… I still find that an alarming number of men are made very uncomfortable by the idea of women who speak out against such things, who speak up for themselves, who speak on behalf of women, who speak…  I am “shushed” on a multiple-times-daily basis (it happened to me twice already today and it’s not even noon yet).  I’m literally told to stop talking, to be quiet, to drop the issue.  This all stems from the societal notion that women are to be subservient to men in all matters, that men are the superior gender, the decision-makers, the deep-thinkers, the bread-winners.

The passage I chose is just one of many and it came from only one book.  There are hundreds just like it, repeated over and over for milennia.  It is a deeply embedded fiber woven into our cultural fabric and we haven’t completely plucked it from its stubborn place yet.  I see it everyday.

I WILL NOT BE SILENCED.  I have thoughts and ideas.  I have deep, meaningful emotions.  I care about things.  I care about other people, including those I have yet to meet and those I will never encounter.  I care about the people who walked the earth generations before me and those who will be here long after I am gone.  I care about other species who have just as much claim to this earth and their own lives as any human does.

I CARE. I have things to say and I am going to say them…and I will not be silenced.