Nuance and Gray Areas

Politics, News & Notable, Sexual Violence

I appreciate this piece from Linda on The Feminist Wire. Especially this section where she rejects the rape/not rape binary to make room for complexity:

Dear President Obama,

I appreciate your statement that rape is rape. I really do. Your intent, I am sure, is to reject the idea that there might be legitimate rapes and illegitimate rapes. But, alas, there are complexities to rape, just as there are complexities to life. There are (sometimes) gradations, ambiguities, complications, and varied amounts and forms of culpability. My boyfriend was not a monster. I know what monsters are, having unfortunately been trapped and caught by one when I was nine. That sort of thing changes your sense of humanity, the world, your future, your life. But at 16, I was not attracted to monsters. Alas, I was attracted to assholes. My boyfriend at the time was an asshole. He might have initiated sex with me when I was awake, after all. He could have tried for a two-way encounter, an embrace, the physical correlate to a conversation between equals, but that is not what he desired, apparently. He wanted to have sex with a jellyfish. I have never understood the attraction of this.

But I would not actually call it a rape, straight up.

While I personally would not categorize perpetrators as assholes vs. monsters, I think it’s important for survivors of sexual assault to decide if their experience merits one label (rape) or another (something else).  And as she goes on to explain, this decision does not then make space to call some rapes legitimate and others illegitimate. It does make space to investigate the behavior of all parties, to understand intent, culpability, consent, or lack thereof.

So I am not suggesting we reintroduce the word “legitimate” in order to be able to characterize such complex forms of sexual violations.  That word adds nothing useful to our comprehension of coercion, manipulation, or the many forms that violation can take. But in order to begin to bring forward the experiences of sexual violence as victims experience them, we will need to allow for variable, even uncertain and ambiguous, formulations, and judgments that may not rise to the level of courtroom adjudication of guilt. If we want to listen to survivors, we will need to  prepare ourselves to hear about the gray areas.

Read the rest here.

It Counts (Trigger Warning) | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge, Politics, News & Notable, Sexual Violence

So this happened:

And aside from the fact the man sounds ignorant – he wants to enact laws about pregnancy when he doesn’t know how it works – he qualifies rape. If there is legitimate rape, it must follow there’s such a thing as illegitimate rape. And one wonders what that might be, exactly?

Akin has issued an apology video, trying to make amends for his word choice, yet one wonders if he still believes that some rapes are real, while others, are somehow fake? If only he could express the concept more artfully?

Jezebel documents and simultaneously mocks this dangerous discourse here. Tanehisi unpacks the power and privilege underlying the claims here.

Rape is rape. Full stop.

It becomes a stranger invading. It becomes a thief stealing. That is not intimacy any more. You have changed it. It is something else. It is something brutal and violent and mean…

This is from a much longer work-in-progress. In it, I recount a dysfunctional relationship, echoes of which still reverberate in my consciousness decades later. It’s appalling, really. The idea that such an assault is subject to scrutiny – not on whether it happened, but on whether it was legitimate. Whether it matters. Whether it counts.

It counts.

It counts even though it was not with a stranger. It counts even though the perpetrator was my boyfriend, whom I loved at the time. It counts even though I only show up in the “underreported” statistics because I never reported him. I was too busy trying to convince myself that my feelings were legitimate. That I mattered. That I counted.

And I do.

Today in Women…

Feminist Thought, Politics, News & Notable

Today, two articles about women captured my attention for a good portion of the day. I share them here with little commentary, as in both cases, the content speaks for itself.

The first piece is Ashley Judd’s blistering critique of patriarchy and women’s and men’s complicity in upholding it. In it, she thoughtfully problematizes the media’s portrayal of women. It is fierce and awesome and bookmarked in my Diigo account  for future reference.

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted. Continue reading.

As excited as I was to read Ashley’s piece, I was later reduced to tears – devastated to find out about legislated acts of violence against imprisoned women. I’ve been tuning in more to the politics of the prison industrial complex, and I’m the first to admit I have a lot to learn. Yet, the fact that women in 35 states are shackled while giving birth, was an appalling revelation. This article touts the good news that Florida (of all regressive places!) has put an end to this horrendous practice.

It’s unusual to hear of good news from the war on women coming out of Florida, but there is some. Last week Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill that establishes humane and uniform rules for the treatment of pregnant women who are incarcerated in any jail, prison or detention center in Florida. Continue reading.

I was encouraged to learn about the efforts of the Rebecca Project, and they are now on my list of organizations I’d like to support and/or partner with in some way. One of my goals this year is to write and publish an advocacy piece on a cause of personal import. I think I’m one step closer to at least finding the cause. Lest we forget, prisoners are people, too.