On Editing and Censorship: Notes from Farenheit 451

In case you missed some of my ramblings, check this out on my new (and very, deplorably empty) blog:

On Editing and Censorship: Notes from Farenheit 451.

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18 Things Women Shouldn’t Have To Justify

This is true. There are some things we should be held accountable for (morality comes to mind, or anything that really hurts someone else). What we wear, how we look, what we eat, or our relationships aren’t anyone else’s business.

Thought Catalog

1. Putting themselves first. When Barbara Walters asked Michelle Obama if it were selfish that she openly makes herself her first priority she responded: “No, no, it’s practical…. a lot of times we just slip pretty low on our own priority list because we’re so busy caring for everyone else. And one of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.”

2. How little or much they’re eating, especially if it’s “unhealthy.” You can eat a big lunch without having to say “I haven’t eaten anything all day” or have some delicious ass nachos without saying “I totally deserve this, I was so good this week, I’ll start the diet again tomorrow.” More importantly, you shouldn’t have to always be interrogated with “that’s all you’re having?” or “you’re going to eat all that?!”

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What Do Dress Codes Say About Girls’ Bodies?

What Do Dress Codes Say About Girls’ Bodies?

I’m sorry but…I’m not sorry

Rape is never justified. It is never “okay.” It is never, ever deserved. I don’t care if I walk around naked in the middle of Times Square–I’m never “asking for it” unless I look someone straight in the eye and say “let’s have sex.”

Image

I feel as if a lot of people talk about this. This blog has probably been written a million times. In fact, I’ve written something like this before. Here’s the thing, though: It will keep being written until there is no need for it, until no human being can misunderstand the meaning of consensual sex enough to blame a rape victim.

A lot of people like to think that women use rape as a means of revenge, or as a pathway to money and their 15 minutes of fame. It saddens me that this belief has some basis in reality. I’m sure that somewhere some woman has done this. What sucks is that she not only besmirched the name of an innocent person, but also made it harder for millions of other rape victims to plead their case.

A lot of the problems with prosecuting and reporting instances of rape come from the ambiguity of the charge. There’s a lot of debate, political and philosophical, surrounding what it really means to rape someone. Trust me, I’ve had just a taste of it (about two weeks’ worth of discussion and essays in my “Sex, Society, and Ethics” class [one of my favs, btw]). All of these arguments focus on the word “consent” and the practical applications of it.

I just read an article (http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/a-letter-to-my-son-about-consent/) that argues that the only real consent it one that is blatantly, soberly, knowingly given. This means that in order for any sexual act to not be rape, both partners must ask “is it ok for me to do X [whatever touching or sexual action you want to do] to you?” and receive a clearly stated “Yes.”

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but where do you draw the line? Do you have to narrate everything that you’re doing to someone before you do it and get consent? “Honey, can I move on from touching your right breast and now touch your left?”  It could get a little ridiculous.

It’s a good idea, though. We’re always told “Never assume. It only makes and ASS out of You and Me” or, in this case, a rapist out of you and a rape victim out of me.

As you can see, though, that might not always be practical.

Let’s put that option for consent to the side now and consider some tricky situations. There’s the ever so popular “Morning Sex Situation” to consider. There’s a married couple. The husband has just woken up and feels like having sex. The wife is still asleep. They’ve had sex before, and have been married for years. The husband decides to have sex with his wife. His wife wakes up in the middle of the act, and doesn’t resist it. Is this rape?

The wife didn’t give consent. In fact, she was unconscious when entered. Yet we’re hesitant to call the husband a rapist. I mean, he’s her husband. BUT, granting the husband the “right” to do as he pleases with the wife (aka: when you say “I do” you’re consenting to whatever your husband wants to do for as long as you both shall live) isn’t something we want to agree with either. Maybe the part that clears him is that the wife didn’t resist. She didn’t exactly consent either, though. Okay, maybe she went along with it. Maybe she was tired and thought “Oh hey. Good morning to you too. Whatever, what the hell” (that’s about as coherent as I am in the morning). Maybe she decided resisting wasn’t worth the fight she’d end up having with him. Maybe it was better to just let him do his thing and then get on with her day. Maybe you can say she consented there. Maybe (you could also say her “consent” was coerced). You can’t say she consented when he first penetrated, though. So, did the husband rape his wife?

The coercion bit is interesting. There was one court case where a woman was attacked in an alley (if you REALLY care, I’ll dig out my notes on it and tell you when, where, and presided over by whom, but I’m not in the mood to dig up my notes now, so bear with me). Her assailant held her at gunpoint and told her to lead him to her home, and let him in. She could tell from the way she was being held that she would probably get raped. However, she was told that if she didn’t take him up to her apartment, she’d be shot. Her options were a) do as the man says (and most likely get robbed and raped), or b) refuse to do as he says and get killed. Did she consent?

The judge said she did.

I. KNOW. This was a couple of decades ago, but this argument is still used now and then. By doing what the man said, she “consented” to whatever he did to her. Therefore, you can’t charge the man with rape.

Here’s the thing, she didn’t consent. Consent cannot be coerced. It’s in the definition. Resigning yourself to your fate isn’t consent either. Why? Because consent is a choice. It is you willingly choosing to give up some of your rights. If you’re put in a position where your life is at stake, you can’t say you consented.

Yet some people say that’s a false dilemma. Maybe she could have resisted. Maybe the girl could have gone all Buffy Summers on his ass and freed herself.

Yeah. Uh huh. As much as I’d like to think that’s possible, it’s definitely not probable.

By resisting like that, the odds are she would have been choosing option B, thus forfeiting her right to life.

So, we’re back to square one. You can’t consent when coerced. Coercion can include a real threat to your life, or a threat to your livelihood (aka: you will be robbed, you will be fired, you will be forced to leave your home [the house, the city, the state, the country], etc.). I want to extend the definition of coercion to include a real threat to the life or livelihood of someone you greatly care about (husband, mother, brother, grandmother, best friend), even though that can get a little complicated.

The thing is, you shouldn’t have to trade anything very meaningful in order to avoid sexual intercourse.

That’s why the author of that letter said you had to explicitly consent to sexual intercourse. If it wasn’t coerced at all, then that “yes” puts you in the clear.

However, like I said, that’s a bit idealistic.

So, people want to say that other behaviors besides explicit consent count as consent. Such as not resisting. However, that has been proven to be a little wooly as well (like in the marriage case).

What about being “sexual?” So, wearing revealing clothing, standing in such a way as to broadcast your sexual identity, or even mentioning sex in conversation (jokes, discussions about the meaning of rape, etc.)? Are all Victoria’s Secret models consenting to have sex with anyone who sees them modeling the latest Angel’s line, just because they are “looking sexy?”

That would suck, because I look sexy all the time.

In all seriousness, though, do women (and men, though for the ease of this rant I will refer to women since only 8% of rape victims are men [not to imply that that isn’t still a significant amount of victims]) put themselves in situations where they tempt men to rape them? Can some of our actions be “asking for it?”

Let’s look back at the mugging case. She let her assailant into her apartment, knowing that she will probably be raped. We said she couldn’t have consented. She was coerced. However, the other side of the argument is that she allowed herself to get into that situation. She was in the dark alleyway, or walking close enough to be pulled in. She didn’t have an armored guard with her. She went into a private space alone with a possible rapist. Is she at all at fault?

In an ideal world, I’d say no. I should be able to walk down the most dangerous, poverty-stricken street in the world’s worst slum while wearing Barney Stinson’s diamond suite without having to worry about being robbed. I would be a major douche, but I wouldn’t have to worry about someone infringing upon my rights and robbing me.

We all know that’s not possible. The longer you wave the catnip toy in front of the cat the more likely it is that the cat will pounce.

What constitutes the metaphorical waving of the catnip toy, though?

Lots of people claim that a woman’s very existence is the tease. “She walked down this street,” “she talked to me,” “she accepted a drink,” “she wore a shirt that didn’t hide the fact that she had breasts,” etc.

Newsflash: MALE HUMANS–the fact that I have breasts and a vagina does not mean that they are yours for the taking.

Here’s the thing, if you say that subtle behaviors  such as-oh, I don’t know- existing count as teasing you/egging you on/waving of the catnip toy, and that because of this I deserve to be raped, then you’re claiming that you have no control over your actions.

If my walking down a street at night automatically makes me at fault for whatever might happen to me (in this case, rape), then there’s not something wrong with me, there’s something wrong with the world and the men in it.

I’ll admit: I try to avoid situations where bad things can happen. I don’t wear diamond suits in slums, I don’t walk down dangerous streets by myself at night, and I don’t leave my door unlocked when I go to bed. I know that I can’t rely on every human to have the same respect for basic moral principles as I do (or for them to not be in a situation where they need to break the law in order to survive [like Aladdin having to steal a loaf of bread]). However, when it comes to a crime such as rape, I take a different view.

Some rapists claim it is a compulsion they can’t control. I say it is an inability to recognize another member of your species and the rights they have. Any man who blatantly rapes a woman (so, in this case, I’m excluding the overly amorous husband situation) has some horrible inability to understand that a woman is still a human being with rights. There is never a situation where you HAVE to have sex with another human being. If you have to orgasm that badly, use your hand.

SO, while I won’t tempt fate, I also firmly believe that no behavior of mine besides spreading my legs and saying “come and get it” can be called “asking for it.” 

If men are honestly incapable of controlling their basic animal urges (aka: fighting the supposed compulsion), then I don’t know how they’ve been house-broken. If this is really the argument they want to use, then fine. We’ll agree. Let’s cage the beasts, strip them of their rights to vote and to operate machinery, and let them be the animals they claim to be. If you can’t stop yourself from having sex with anything that moves, then you can’t be trusted to do anything else. If you claim that the rest of your sex has the same problem, then the rest of your sex will be controlled as well.

Here’s the thing, though. All men aren’t like that. How do I know? I’ve lived among them. I know at least 5 guys that I could joke about sex with, accept a drink from, sit on a couch next to, and fall asleep in front of that would never, ever rape me

So, there’s not something wrong with all men, just some of them. I don’t know if they have something wrong with their brains, if they’re less developed, or if they somehow missed the memo that humans besides themselves have rights too, but I’m betting it’s the latter. These men have a sense of entitlement that includes other people. Other people are now just objects that they are allowed (and maybe in their minds, supposed) to use. I don’t know who to blame for this wrong idea. I do know it’s incorrect.

So, even though we haven’t worked out the subtleties of consent when it comes to rape, we have a general understanding of it. Enough to understand that if a woman wears provocative clothing, or even none at all, if she walks home alone at night, if she accepts a drink from someone, or if she even jokes about sex with someone, she still hasn’t given up her right to her body, and she still hasn’t consented to sexual intercourse. Thus, no matter what she’s done: whom she’s had sex with, how many people she’s been intimate with, or how little clothing she’s wearing, she hasn’t “asked for” anything- except the most basic form of respect.

Apparently, we’ll be asking for that for a long time.

 

The Problem with Partition

In one of my classes we’re studying the Partition of India and its aftereffects. It seems like a horrible fairytale. Watching the videos, hearing the stories, reading the articles and looking at the statistics–it’s surreal. My class and I couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t logical. Why did so many people want to kill each other?

There are many facets that make up the mosaic of India. Before Partition, Hindus lived next to Muslims, with Jews, Christians and Buddhists scattered about. Working together, living their own lives, they coincided. They worked towards the same goals, and yet worshiped different religions.

The British had control, and exploited most of India, yet for the most part, they coincided. When the time of Gandhi came, the Hindus and Muslims were able to agree on one thing, the British needed to “Quit India.”

What they couldn’t agree on was how their country should be run once the British left.

Some wanted to separate, tired of being a minority. Some were idealistic, and wanted everyone to unite under one Congress, allowing democracy to run freely. Some wanted guaranteed protection against the majority: a special electorate which would guarantee them a say in the government. Some wanted to completely change the system of governance. None were willing to negotiate. They saw their chance to seize control over their lives, and weren’t comfortable trusting their neighbor to look out for them.

The aftermath of Partition was more than horrifying. It was hellish. Neighbor turned on neighbor as thousands of people migrated across the newly formed border. The tension broke, and incredible numbers were killed.

I intellectually understand why this happened: people were scared and confused. They were tired. They suffered great hardships when they had to pack up their homes and move, hoping for their dream life. They were focused on their own troubles, and were unable to recognize that everyone was struggling to regain their balance. The one consistent tie between Hindus and Muslims, their need to coexist (their shared need to contribute to their economy and eventually free themselves from their oppressors) had been cut.

I don’t understand it emotionally. When I look at this, I don’t see two completely alien species migrating in close quarters. There was no dispute. People didn’t agree on how their government should operate, so they were leaving to go to a place they’d be happier. This reason doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to start fighting. I guess you could argue that they were scared, but why would they be scared of each other? They’d lived together for so long. What kept them from learning to trust one another? What caused this hatred?

I don’t understand hating someone enough to want to kill them.

I wonder what the reason was behind the first killing. What made that person snap and turn on someone in a fellow position. Was it grief? Was it revenge?

People say that revenge is a main motivator behind the killings. “An eye for an eye”–Hammurabi’s code. There’s a reason that isn’t used anymore. Gandhi said it perfectly “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” How does killing someone who killed someone you loved right the wrong that was originally done? It doesn’t bring them back. It only creates more pain and terror. When does it stop? Would you still say revenge was a good enough reason to kill someone if it was only the two of you left on the planet?

Maybe I don’t understand because I wasn’t born in the situation. I was born in a country where we all thought enough alike that minor differences, such as American party lines or different sects of a religion doesn’t justify hatred. I was blessed enough to be born in a country where I could speak my mind, and learn to listen to others when they speak theirs. I learned to “agree to disagree” from a very early age.

Yet, there are some disagreements that can’t be left alone. Hitler, for instance. He had to be stopped.  I firmly believe that what Hitler did was evil. He may have been disturbed, he might have truly believed what he was doing would benefit the world, and yet, he needed to be stop. Protagorean relativity is not valid, not when it comes to ethics.

I’m a firm believer that there are some things that are truly evil, no matter what you believe in. Killing in cold blood is usually the best example. Only, that example gets more and more difficult the more you analyze it. I have certain lines that can’t be crossed. Certain things I would not allow. For example, if I met someone who sacrificed animals for their religion, I’d do everything I could (within reason) to stop that. I’d call the police, I’d talk to them about it, and I’d physically stop them from doing that. I wouldn’t kill them, though. If someone believed they had to sacrifice a child in order to practice their religion, the same thing applies. I wouldn’t just kill them, however. Not unless my life was seriously in danger.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I understand fundamental ethical differences. However, I don’t understand killing people over them unless there’s no other option. I haven’t been confronted with people whose religions or ethical systems differ that extremely from mine often. I have had conversations with Muslims and with Hindus, as well as different sects of Christians and Jews. We don’t disagree about any of my basic ethical beliefs (at least those I talked to did not seem to).

I’ll admit that I haven’t read the different religious texts for both Hinduism and Islam. I don’t pretend to be well versed in any religion. I have a basic working understanding (read here: public high school education) of them, however. I don’t understand, from my understanding, why people feel the need to kill over it. Especially if you’ve lived by people who follow the other faith for so long. Especially when you are both going through a similar crisis.

The articles I have read and my discussions with my professor have lead me to believe that the majority of the people in India and Pakistan agree with me. Why fight? However, very powerful “fundamentalist” groups see things differently. They are apparently so starved for power that they are willing to provoke nuclear warfare (killing millions and millions of people, both in Pakistan and India) for the chance to seize control.

My first thought is that everyone in that group suffers from a mental illness. What cause is worth killing billions of people, especially those you theoretically want to control? How is this at all a rational train of thought? How is this at all ethical?

All of those people can’t be DSM certified bat-shit crazy, though. It sounds like it, but it is highly improbable that that is the case.

What is it, then? What is the point of all of this bloodshed? What is the point of the terror? The destruction? The hatred and the blind massacres?

Why?

No one in my class could understand it either.

If we can’t understand it, how can we even fight it?

If this is some sort of pandemic of a mental illness, then how can we cure it? How can someone from the outside, anyone, fix this problem? You can’t justify killing them all. You can’t pick them out from the innocents, most of the time. You can’t force them to get along. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You can try to unite them under a common goal again: economics. But that doesn’t address the root of the issue.

How do you even attempt to reason with an entire group of people when they won’t talk. I doubt any of the leaders from any of the groups fighting would be willing to sit down and discuss this over a cup of tea or coffee. What if there is no reasoning with them? What if they are so different from us that they literally think differently than we do about the value of life and basic ethical principles?

What can we do to help these people?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what I, or anyone, could possibly do but slap an economic bandage on the problem and hope it heals over. The problem is, that’s been tried before, and the wound just got infected.

I don’t know what to do.

Bullies

bullying

This may seem like a silly topic. Kids tease each other. Parents are too worried about this. Kids just need to toughen up and learn to deal with it, right?

Well, in some ways, that is true. We need to learn that the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that other people may disagree with our opinions and think we look or act strangely.  However, there is a fine line between teasing and bullying.

What makes a bully?  According to Merriam-Webster, a bully is “a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.”

I think the second part of that definition is the one that’s most important.  Let’s break it down.  The first important word in there is “habitually.” One shove does not a bully make. This is a constant behavior, one that the victim has to deal with daily.  The next word is “cruel.” At first, this may lead you to think that these bullying actions are intentional.  Usually, they are.  In after school specials they certainly are. However, you don’t have to mean to be cruel to actually do something cruel. For example, when I was younger, maybe 3 or 4, I was very curious. I loved nature. So, my mom would let me “help” her garden.  She had a beautiful garden in California, with tons of lady bugs and worms everywhere. I remember one time getting really interested in the earth worms, and playing with them. Well, I decided it would be fun to rip them in half and see if they’d grow back, because my dad had told me lizards could grow their tails back if they were ripped off. So, I watched to see which way they were moving, then tore off the lagging half and waited for them to grow back.  I did this to about 10 worms before I realized they weren’t suddenly duplicating, but were dying. This seems like a cruel act, doesn’t it? I just ripped the worms in half and left them to die slowly (now that I think about it in more detail, that was really awful. I practically severed their CNS and watched them spasm until they died).  BUT I didn’t mean to, did I? Of course not. I had no idea I was hurting them, and bawled my eyes out when my sister told me I killed them. That doesn’t change the fact that I caused the worms extreme pain and eventually killed them.  It was still cruel, despite my intent.

What’s my point, you ask? By this definition of bullying, you can bully someone without necessarily  meaning to.  Say you have a friend that got really nervous whenever you mentioned a rumor of her dating someone else.  You could see it caused her some distress, but you thought it was just mild embarassment, so you brought it up often when you saw her. That means, every time you saw her, you caused her distress.  Little did you know, you were cuasing her pain (psychological pain, of course).  You habitually caused someone pain (AKA: you committed a cruel act).  Sound familiar?

Let’s continue looking at this definition. The next important part of this definition is that it is done to others. You can’t bully yourself. That’s getting into a completely different issue. Finally, a bully is someone who torments someone weaker than themselves.  They pick on “the little guy.” That one person or those people who have no one else to defend them.  They might not have any friends, they might be outcasts, they might be small and weak, or maybe incapacitated in some way. Somehow, they are an easy target. That’s who a bully goes after, which is what makes this so deplorable.

It’s interesting to think about. I never thought I was bullied too horribly in my formative years. I was teased by the guys, and I did my fair share of crying, but I was never afraid to go to school. I never felt like there was no one I could turn to. I had my group of friends (though granted, when I was in elementary school, this group was small. However, the friends I had were true  friends), and I knew I could talk to someone in a position of authority about any problem if it was serious. I had a good relationship with the school. Also, if worse came to worse, I knew I could tell my family about it, and they’d help me.  Maybe that’s why I don’t feel I was traumatized when I was little by the teasing that did happen. I had a support group. I had people I could rely on. Also, I had a place I felt I fit in–the classroom. I was intelligent and was praised by my teachers. I loved the library and had a great relationship with my librarian. I wasn’t isolated.

This might be why teasing among friends isn’t bullying, as well. You’re all equals. You aren’t isolated or significantly weaker than one another. You don’t feel truly threatened by any of your friends, so a bit of teasing doesn’t affect you as much.

However, there are kids out there who aren’t in this situation. They aren’t as lucky as I was to have those one or two friends who would stand up for them. They don’t have a place they felt like they belong, and/or they don’t have a good relationship with their family where they feel protected.  This, sadly, isn’t as rare as we’d like to think it is.

Take a moment and think about whether you’ve ever seen someone be bullied or teased. Have you ever bullied or teased someone? Have you been bullied or teased yourself? Have you just heard about someone being bullied or teased before? It’s not so rare, is it?
1 in 3 middle school and high school students are bullied.  Sometimes, it’s not that obvious.  Guys tend to tease openly and quickly. They’ll make quick quips about something, or push someone around for a bit. Girls tend to bully long term. We ladies know how to hold a grudge and stay angry. Girls can make someone’s whole year a hell. This type of aggression, relational aggression, is more dangerous than physical aggression. It wears you down a lot faster, especially if it hinders a child’s ability to make friends. It can make their whole outlook on life and their worth change.

There is something you can do, though. One friend makes a difference. If you see someone being bullied, either subversively or obviously, say something about it. I know it’s scary. I know you feel overwhelmed, and I know you’re worried about what others will think about you if you do this. However, think about it. Do you really want to be accepted by someone who thinks being cruel to someone is ok? Do you really think their opinion of you is important? If you speak up, you might encourage other people to speak up too. Most likely, the other people around are thinking this is wrong too.
What if they bully you back? Remember what I said: even one friend makes a difference. You’ve just made a friend by standing up for someone. Stick together. If you have other friends, they’ll be on your side too. It’s amazing how having friends can increase your self confidence and make you feel stronger. You’ve just made yourself a harder target. Even if they try to bully you, it won’t affect you that much. It might still hurt, but you can recover. Meanwhile, that bully is making more and more enemies.  Eventually, they’ll be in a bad position, and you’ll be fine.

It’s important to talk about this now. Look around you and see how many people are being hurt by others. If you can make a difference in just one person’s life, you’ve done a lot.   icon Stop Bullying