We Need to Start Talking About Gun Violence as a Feminist Issue

•October 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Feminism spans a pretty wide range of issues; everyone knows the old staples (reproductive choice, equal pay, childcare, women in STEM, etc.) but the movement has been growing, in recent years, in an effort to recognize how other issues (including economic issues and racial issues, to name a few) can be examined from a feminist lens.

Today, I want to draw your attention to the issue of gun violence.

First, victims of gun violence are disproportionately disadvantaged groups in the United States, particularly racial minorities and women.  That’s a pretty broad statement, so I’ll break it down into a couple of different issues, the first being police violence.  Across the United States, African-Americans are disproportionately the victims of shootings by police officers.  Take a look at this graph generated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

As feminists have rushed to embrace the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to stand in solidarity with the African-American community, several issues have stood out.  First, people cannot fully achieve their potential if they grow up in communities surrounded by fear.  Racial justice has even been framed in terms of reproductive justice, based on the simple argument that people have the right to have children without fear that they will die as a result of societal imbalances of power.  Second, while the media has drawn significant attention towards the killings of individuals such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the deaths of women of color, and especially trans women of color, tend not to get nearly as much attention.  This is a problem, because women of color are also harmed by racialized violence in the United States, and deserve justice as much as any other victims.

The other major disparity I wanted to highlight, however, is this: mass shootings disproportionately impact women. While opponents of gun control have rushed to once again blame mental illness-~-as they do every time the offender is a lone white shooter-~-and therefore perpetuate the problematic stigmatization of mental illness in the United States, the actual offender has, once again, cited being rejected by women as a motivator of this violence.  A culture of toxic masculinity continues to fuel retaliatory violence, particularly violence towards women, as men who have been socialized to believe that they are entitled to women’s attention and/or affection, romantically, sexually, or otherwise, lash out at innocent individuals.  Given our glorification of violence as masculine and powerful, we shouldn’t be surprised that individuals who believe they are being denied what is rightfully theirs seek to regain their sense of power through the use of violence-~-and our unwillingness to address these issues has had tragic results.

Even mass shootings aside, when you look you can find case after case after case after case after case (you get the point, this happens a lot) of women being physically attacked and even killed after refusing men’s advances.  And that trend doesn’t even take into account gun violence within domestic violence relationships, which I’d be mentioning here even if it weren’t domestic violence awareness month.  The reality is that guns are a major problem in the context of domestic violence relationships, so much so that victims of domestic violence are  up to twenty times more likely to be killed by a violent or controlling intimate partner if the abuser has access to a gun.  According to one study, in 2010 approximately three women per day were killed by their intimate partners in the United States, and the majority of those homicides were committed using a gun.

When you look at these trends of gun violence towards women, they are each shocking, but an international study noted that among high-income countries, the United States was home to 32% of the female population, but accounted for 84% of female homicides.  Read that statistic again, then tell me that gun violence is not a feminist issue.

Earlier this year, female politicians in the United States latched onto these issues to try to revamp their efforts to bring into effect new gun control legislation.  Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell are pushing for legislation that would get guns out of the hands of abusers in the form of the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act; Klobuchar also re-introduced legislation this year that would provide similar measure to limit or eliminate access to guns for those convicted of stalking or dating abuse.  Current law prevents those convicted of domestic abuse from possessing firearms, but it doesn’t address individuals who were previously convicted of abusing current or former “dating” partners.  This legislation follows a trend that has been growing at the state level, with over 30 new laws addressing intimate partner violence and gun access having been passed since 2008.   It is worth noting that additional laws also prohibit individuals who have been the subjects of domestic violence-related protective orders from possessing a firearm.

(It is unsurprising, but nevertheless worth noting, that the NRA opposes the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act, claiming that it casts too wide a net to reduce access to guns).

Part of the problem is that domestic violence laws are defined by state, meaning that the relationships qualifying as “domestic abuse” are subject to state-provided definitions.  For many individuals subject to intimate partner violence, this may mean that if they were abused by a partner with whom they did not live or to whom they were not married, the current provisions may not apply to prevent the abuser from accessing a weapon; the proposed legislation aims to change that, to protect more individuals.

The reality is that as long as we continue to ignore how gun violence is used, not on sporadic occasions for self-defense, but in order to uphold systems of power and privilege, we will never be able to meaningfully address how gun violence is enacted in the United States.  (And while we are on the subject, an incredibly small number of mentally ill persons perpetrate gun violence, so we need to stop pinning this issue on mental illness and actually talk about what is going on).  The fact that so many individuals are killed, and are killed as those who want to exercise power of them strike out to maintain their own social position, is horrifying.  It is a tragedy that we all need to speak out against, and one for which we should demand a remedy.

It’s Time to Imagine a World Without Domestic Violence

•October 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Domestic violence has, I have no doubt, been around about as long as gender has.  It exists in every society, and impacts people of every racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic group, though admittedly at different rates.  One in three women around the world will experience some form of intimate partner violence in her lifetime, the statistics tell us.  That is terrifying. We should be outraged at the prevalence of this violence in the world around us.

But for some reason, too often, we are not.

Until the 1970’s, domestic violence was not even considered a crime in the United States.  It would be considered assault to beat up a stranger in an alleyway, but if it was your wife, it was somehow considered a ‘domestic issue’.  Those familiar with the history of the anti-violence movement may recall that initially, anti-violence efforts were not conducted through recognized institutions as they are today; they were simply the efforts of women helping other women, giving them shelter when they needed it, helping them plan ways out of dangerous and unstable marriages.  We have come a long way when it comes to helping survivors of domestic violence: the Violence Against Women Act helps to fund programs designed to provide much-needed services, including shelter, to survivors of domestic violence; legal agencies in many cities offer pro bono services to low-income survivors who need help navigating the legal system; the Affordable Care Act funds domestic violence screenings conducted by medical professionals to help catch the signs earlier.

I spend 40 hours a week working with survivors of domestic violence.  I know the ways that the system offers help, and the ways in which it makes that help sometimes difficult to access.  But I also know that so much of our work on domestic violence is focused on mitigating the effects of domestic violence, to helping people who have already been hurt.  It is my opinion that we do not spend enough time or energy or resources stopping domestic violence before it happens.  By the time an individual needs shelter, or confides in a doctor, or reaches out for legal advice, it is too late.  Much of the damage is already done.

Today, October 1st, marks the start of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the United States.  Throughout the month, feminist organizations and domestic violence-specific organizations alike will fight to bring attention to the rampant problems of intimate partner violence in the U.S.  That’s important work, and I’ll absolutely be a part of it this year.  We need to talk about how likely it is that an individual will experience abuse in the course of their lifetime; we need to publicize the resources available to intimate partner violence survivors who need help; we need to call attention to the various kinds of abuse that an individual can experience, because all the PSAs in the world that show black eyes and bruises cannot capture the full spectrum of tactics used by the perpetrators of intimate partner violence.  Those are conversations worth having, conversations we must start having.

They are conversations I wish we were starting to have earlier.

I believe it is time for us to start imagining a world without domestic violence.  The road to get there is difficult, and I cannot speak to what it might take for societies outside the United States to reduce or eliminate domestic violence; I won’t pretend to have that knowledge or authority.  But it is my belief that, if we were to even imagine an America without domestic violence, we would have to start talking about it very differently than we have been.

We would need realistic portrayals of what domestic violence looks like when it is shown in our popular media.  Not all domestic violence leaves black eyes; even other forms of physical violence (especially choking) are underrepresented in our current discussions about domestic abuse.  But far more than that, we are ignoring by and large the other problems that pervade the landscape of domestic violence: gaslighting, emotional abuse, financial control, sexual assault, sexual coercion, pregnancy coercion, and so many others that are used by abusers to gain and maintain control in relationships.  People are never going to recognize abuse for what it is if they only think that being hit counts (and before anyone says anything, there are absolutely individuals who don’t realize they are experiencing abusive behaviors because they have not been hit).

We would need to talk about healthy relationships in our schools, starting at a younger age.  I don’t just mean consent education, of which I have been a long-time proponent, but I mean a larger discussion of what a healthy relationship looks like.  We aren’t talking about the importance of respect, or what coercion looks like, or what the warning signs are of abusive behavior.  Adolescents in the United States are still listening to songs that frame masculinity (or even sometimes femininity) in terms of relationships and sexual behavior, some of which glorify emotional abuse or other unhealthy relationship behaviors, and too often they aren’t receiving a counter-argument from their peers, their teachers, their families, or the media, because no one wants to think about the need to have an explicit conversation about what respect actually looks like.  People believe that you can just “demand respect” but what, exactly, does that mean?

Our conversations are getting better; TV shows are slowly but surely moving towards talking about relationship issues and getting into problems like domestic violence.  Advocates and activists are pushing for consent education (and so are our politicians), but we need more.  More conversations, more books, more media, more laws, more education, and we need it all sooner.  And yes, we need more resources for survivors who are currently struggling with the effects of intimate partner violence.  We need more interventions for families with children who witness violence in the home.  We need more shelters that are able to take people outside of jurisdictional funding limitations.  We need greater access to trauma-informed rehabilitation programs in prisons.  As a society, we need to look for these opportunities to break the cycle, to change the conversation.  We need to look for these opportunities to work towards a future without domestic violence.

Now Is the Time to Stand with Planned Parenthood

•September 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I haven’t written about the Republican debates to date, and I won’t get fully into them now, but I will say this: all the candidates are for de-funding Planned Parenthood, or are so proud to have done so in their states, or to have shut down the government in an effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

And to all those candidates who are so proud to stand against Planned Parenthood, I say: shame on you.

Shame on you for prioritizing your ideology over the health and lives of poor and uninsured women and men in the United States.  Shame on you for depriving individuals who rely on Planned Parenthood for access to healthcare of their right to maintain their own health, simply because you do not like one of the activities in which the organization engages.  Shame on you for promoting a pro-birth agenda that fundamentally ignores the rights and needs of many of the children born into this country as soon as they are born, simply so you can claim you are pro-life. If you are against food stamps, if you do not want to pour more funding into WIC, if you do not support teachers as they try to help students break the cycle of poverty, if you for the public shaming of single mothers (many of whom may not have had a choice in becoming pregnant), if you do not support efforts to provide a living wage or inclusive health insurance for all Americans, then shame on you.

We see what you are doing.  You are not pushing an agenda to “protect life”; you are pushing an agenda to punish women.  We see what you are doing, and now is the time for those who support women (and in this I include trans women and trans men as well, because Planned Parenthood is often the only provider in many communities equipped to provide trans-sensitive healthcare), to stand with Planned Parenthood.

What does Planned Parenthood actually do? The largest portion of Planned Parenthood services actually center around testing for and treating sexually transmitted infections; the organization provides nearly 4.5 million STI tests and treatments annually, including approximately 700,000 HIV tests.  Their next-biggest area is contraception, as Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of contraceptive services; according to Planned Parenthood’s website, about 80% of the organization’s patients receive contraception through Planned Parenthood. This means prescriptions for birth control pills or even getting the actual pills through Planned Parenthood, but it also means getting IUDs or shots of Depo.  Perhaps more importantly, Planned Parenthood is one of the few organizations with domestic violence screenings built into their intakes, and has been celebrated by clients for their willingness to recognize domestic violence issues and help patients plan around potential safety concerns from their partners when evaluating contraceptive options.  On top of that, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates provide education and outreach programs that reach approximately 1.5 million Americans a year, and provide a large number of pap smears and cancer screenings as well.

Abortions account for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services.

Just to be clear, most of these services are being provided to individuals who otherwise could not afford them; as of 2012, the GAO estimated that about 79% of Planned Parenthood’s patients were at 150% of the federal poverty line or lower, or living on approximately $18000/year or less.  In many urban areas, these individuals are struggling to provide for themselves and often for children as well.

The controversy, of course, has to do with abortion, which Planned Parenthood claims accounts for about 3% of services provided, and which Politifact estimates is likely a service sought by approximately 12% of patients, many of whom may come to Planned Parenthood for more than one kind of service.  The biggest criticism is the broadest, the claim that abortion is murder; the legal standard for abortion is viability (that is to say, past viability abortion is generally only legal if necessary to save the life of the pregnant person). A second criticism is that Planned Parenthood gains a large portion of its clinic revenue from abortion services, but I would posit that this is probably because abortion services are disproportionately expensive as compared to services like birth control prescriptions, probably because administering an abortion requires more specialized knowledge than assessing contraceptive need and writing a script.  A third, and related criticism, which we have seen more recently, regards the sale of fetal tissue; never mind that the law does allow clinics to charge a fee to recoup the cost of harvesting the tissue, which would make this income but not revenue to the clinic, to some this has been seen as morally reprehensible (but again, this largely has to do with seeing the fetus as a person being bought and sold).

Look, no matter how you feel about Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, they still aren’t a reason to de-fund the organization, and I’ll tell you why. First off, abortion is still only a portion of the services that Planned Parenthood provides, and depriving individuals in need of access to all the other services they get through Planned Parenthood is, frankly, silly.  There are many communities in which Planned Parenthood operates where they are the only provider willing or able to work with uninsured persons, or able to do so on the scale necessary, and they are often one of the only providers able to provide judgement-free, culturally competent services to minorities, trans individuals, and LGBQ individuals. Second, many Planned Parenthood clinics do not provide abortion services at all, but since such a large portion of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from the government through Title X grants and Medicaid reimbursements, ALL Planned Parenthood clinics would be impacted if the current House efforts to de-fund were to be signed into law.

The government is the largest source of Planned Parenthood revenue, according to the group's classification.

Third, Planned Parenthood cannot use ANY of that federal funding to support its abortion services. Hyde Amendments have been attached to every federal bill allocating funding to Title X clinics, banning the use of federal funds for abortion services.  This means that all of the abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood are paid for through private insurance companies, through private donations, or out of pocket often with the help of local abortion funds.

Would de-funding Planned Parenthood through the federal government cripple the organization? Certainly, but that’s not something to be proud of, especially when there are so few alternative sources of these health services (and don’t let Jeb Bush fool you; crisis pregnancy centers aren’t healthcare centers, and they aren’t licensed to provide actual health services).  All that will happen is that communities which rely on Planned Parenthood will likely see spikes in unwanted pregnancies that parents cannot afford, and spikes in sexually transmitted infections when individuals cannot access the necessary testing and treatment.

The time to stand with Planned Parenthood is now. Here are a few ways to support Planned Parenthood in the current battle over reproductive healthcare:

  1. Donate.  It may seem obvious, but organizations like Planned Parenthood cannot function without funding from a variety of sources, including private donors.  Even small amounts can help make a difference!  You can donate to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (the part of Planned Parenthood that provides direct service) here, and to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (which handles their activism and political mobilization) here.
  2. Support abortion funds. They may not actually be Planned Parenthood, but the money they give their clients often goes to Planned Parenthood clinics. You can find your local abortion fund here.
  3. Sign the petition: tell your congressional representatives that you stand with Planned Parenthood; you can also call or write to your Senators directly to tell them to vote against the measures passed in the House.
  4. Volunteer. Local Planned Parenthood clinics often need volunteers to help with outreach and visibility, and those which provide abortions often need individuals to serve as clinic escorts.  You can get involved directly in your community by helping to fill some of those roles.
  5. Participate in the Pink-Out. Help provide further visibility for this issue by participating in Planned Parenthood’s Pink-Out day on Sept 29.
  6. Support candidates who will support Planned Parenthood. Even once we manage to beat back THIS bill, the reality is that Congress will keep attacking Planned Parenthood.  It will be harder if there are more individuals in Congress who support a pregnant person’s right to choose, and who are willing to stand with Planned Parenthood themselves.  You can find such candidates through organizations like EMILY’s List and the WISH List. These candidates need publicity, volunteers, donations, and of course, VOTES.
  7. Don’t forget to vote on Election Day!  This year, there will mostly be local elections in play (but don’t forget: a LOT of attacks on reproductive rights come at the state level, so keep these issues in mind when you are looking at state representatives and gubernatorial elections!!), but next year a third of the Senate, ALL of the House, and the Presidency will ALL be in play, so voting is key!  You can register to vote here.

As the student civics group I belonged to in high school used to say, democracy is not a spectator sport. If we sit back and hope that things will work out the way we want, we will inevitably be disappointed.  When I was uninsured, unemployed, and far from home, Planned Parenthood was there for me, and I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood.

Where do you stand?

Trigger Warnings: How We Are All Still Missing The Point

•August 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today I woke up to find my social media newsfeeds flooded with yet another article condemning trigger warnings as “coddling college students” and once again, was flummoxed by the way that the article talked about trigger warnings and triggers.

I have already articulated most of my thoughts on the value of trigger warnings in my previous writings on the subject, and have also acknowledged that there is absolutely a balance to be met with regards to how we implement the use of content warnings and trigger warnings in academic environments.  That said, as a trauma professional, I have come to realize that a large part of my problem with the discourse on trigger warnings is that they tend to ignore what triggers actually are, and how they impact people.

So, what does it mean to be triggered?

When people talk about trigger warnings, they often refer to the idea that people don’t want to grapple with ideas that make them “uncomfortable”, or that this is about “protecting people from ideas”.  Triggers aren’t just things that make you uncomfortable; we may use the term that way colloquially, but we probably shouldn’t, because triggers in the context of mental health are tied to post traumatic stress/PTSD, and are often things that cause an individual’s brain to believe it is once again in danger by causing them to either mentally re-live a traumatizing event, or re-live the feelings associated with a traumatizing event.

In other words, when a sexual assault survivor becomes triggered, they are not just squirming in their seat because they wish someone would change the subject; they are having flashbacks of what happened, or experiencing a return of the sense of powerlessness, fear, pain, or other feelings associated with their assault.  See the difference?

When people oppose trigger warnings on the grounds that we shouldn’t just shield people from things that make them uncomfortable, they have half a point.  We should be challenging people-~-especially college students-~-to step outside their comfort zone, challenge their beliefs and assumptions, and consider different angles.  We need to be able to have conversations in classrooms about things like intimate partner violence, extreme poverty, racial violence, etc.  Nothing is ever going to change if the leaders of tomorrow are never even asked to consider some of the most pressing issues we face today, and feminists and other proponents of trigger warnings aren’t arguing for an end to the discourse.

But if you’ve never been triggered, or never seen someone be triggered, it may be hard to realize what it is we are trying to prevent, or to allow people to prepare themselves for.  Triggers look different for everyone, and they range from things like shaking, nausea, headaches, and uncontrollable crying to things like flashbacks and dissociation. In the face of triggering subjects, an individual can prepare to ground themselves, and be mentally prepared to engage in an intellectual conversation about something which has had a strong impact on them or someone they care about.  Just to reiterate: these individuals are not just uncomfortable with the subject; they are being forced to revisit traumatizing events in their lives, and for the record, I do not think that giving them a head’s up as to what they are walking into is, in fact, “coddling” them.

All of that said, the other argument I regularly see about trigger warnings is that they won’t be implemented in the real world, and the real world won’t include “safe spaces”, so we shouldn’t make colleges safe spaces either, so people can learn “coping skills”.

I have several responses.

First, people can’t learn “coping skills” if they are struggling to manage their mental health constantly and are being forced to revisit their traumas unnecessarily without adequate resources.  And even if you think people should confront their traumas, there are settings that are far better suited to this than your philosophy or political science class-~-like, for example, therapy, where a trained counselor can actually address the real issues, provide emotional support, and teach someone how to develop grounding techniques and coping skills.  Just because you can force someone to have a conversation in a particular context doesn’t make that context the most constructive place for that conversation.

Second, college is not “the real world” and if college were supposed to just prepare you for “the real world”, colleges would require financial literacy classes and teach you how to write a cover letter and what business casual is.  The fact that I managed to earn my degree without once learning about credit ratings or budget management is indicative of the fact that college is meant to provide an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment that allows us to learn how to think critically, not just how to behave in an office environment.  And if that is the case, we should be teaching people to think critically about how trauma impacts people’s lives and how to talk about difficult subjects respectfully so that productive conversations can be had, and which can include individuals who have firsthand experience with these issues, instead of shutting them out because they’re too busy hyperventilating in a bathroom or feeling so ashamed of their survivorship because of how it’s discussed they feel unable to speak at all.

And yes, those are actual ways I and other survivors have had to respond to discussions of our traumas.

But finally, I cannot and will not accept the idea that society should just be allowed to marginalize and disregard survivors of trauma just because we have always permitted people to get away with doing so in the past.  I refuse to accept that I need to be okay with rape jokes because other people don’t want to take sexual assault seriously; I refuse to accept that I need to accept jokes about domestic violence just because people don’t want to take abusive relationships seriously.  I have never heard anyone say that combat veterans are too sensitive about their combat experiences or the impact those experiences might have had on them; that disdain is reserved for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, those who have lost people to suicide, those who have struggled with eating disorders, etc. We accept only the trauma linked to the most masculinized forms of violence, and write off the ways in which traumas which disproportionately impact women effect the ways in which individuals function within their everyday lives.

And I cannot and will not accept that just because it has always been this way, it will always be this way; I reject, on face, the idea that I need to accept a loss of my own humanity because people don’t want to learn to be more respectful.  Trigger warnings are not such a huge ask; respect for survivors of traumatic experiences should not be seen as an unreasonable request.  I would beg people, as they move to engage in these conversations, to learn more about what it is we are actually discussing-~-and to take this opportunity to do as they would ask survivors of trauma, and engage in some serious intellectual consideration of the other side of this argument.

If you still think this is about just not wanting to discuss certain topics, you are missing the point.

How to Be An Ally Without Being An A**hole (Guest Post)

•July 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This post was a guest submission by Corey Nyhus. Corey is a New York-based writer and activist focused on allyship, the power of rhetoric, and long-form poetry.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, by now you have no doubt noticed that there are, in addition to a whole bunch of straight people, a lot of people who fall under the LGBTQ banner in this world.  Because we’re humans and humans are supposedly social animals, we will all inevitably interact, regardless of gender identity or sexuality. And it is my hope that I can rattle some neurons in Straight People Brains, to keep them from mistreating a large portion of their species. I know, don’t all line up at once, but this is basically a quick rundown of how to “increase the peace,” fight hatred, and not yodel heterosexually over the voices of queer people who need and deserve to speak their minds.

1) When Straight People Straightsplain “Butwhataboutstraightpride?”…

Now I’m not always the most alert person, but the last time I checked, I didn’t have a chair and derogatory slurs hurled at me when I sat down to have a meal with my partner in New York City. That would be entirely because my partner would be female, and I am male, and together we would be what is accepted. Queer pride is about showing public solidarity for the millions we refuse to accept. It’s about select people wanting to be comfortable in their own skin because frankly, a lot of Straight People throughout the world would like to see them brutalized for reasons spawned only from ignorance and hatred.

I had a conversation with a kid at my day job the other day. He said “Well now we shouldn’t have gay pride. Because of the marriage. They’re the same as us now. Shouldn’t we get a straight pride parade?” “It’s more about activism and identity,” I told him, and he shrugged and fell silent. I don’t know if he cared, but unfortunately someone like that is only likely to have a portion of their opinion swayed if they hear it from a straight voice—a voice they respect. And they’ll need to hear it over and over again. And on a side note, you can technically jump down the rabbit hole of Straight Pride groups on Facebook and Tumblr. It just so happens that, for some strange coincidental reason, that rabbit hole is a unanimous den for hatred against “Gays,” “Erosion of Family Values” and “AIDS.”

2) Oy with the “Heterosexual Yodeling”

Like I said, by all means, when hate or ignorance is being spread around you, use the Straight Voice—it’s the voice that hateful people sadly value more. But because we straight folk tend to forget it a lot, gay people can still talk on their own. And they do talk. And frankly they should be allowed to talk more. And they don’t need to hear people like me preaching and feeling self-righteous about it. Humble thyself before the church-and-family-destroying megalith that is The Gay Agenda. Now, if you are an “ally”—the phrase always sounded a little too buzz-wordy for my tastes, but call it whatever you want—your use of Straight Voice only applies to conversation with other straight people.

So listen to the voices of your loved ones—and in queer circles beyond your loved ones. The opinions that leave you stunned and beyond words are likely the most correct. If you try to shoehorn your own anxieties into the conversation, you’re just being a heterosexual yodeler—yodeling, I thought, was how people in weird green overall pants communicated with each other in the Alps at first. So my initial intention for the metaphor was “straight people, shhhh.” But according to my cursory internet research, yodeling was eventually incorporated into somber American country and blues and soared shrilly over the instrumentation, though it lost popularity around the 50’s. It ceased to be a language of the downtrodden long ago. Don’t try to bring it back. Queers aren’t your backing blues scale and you aren’t the frontman.  This is America, it’s 2015, and you’re not selling cough drops, so stop. Offer insight only when it’s supportive. Use your voice to amplify, not to overwhelm.

3) Embrace the Weirdness of Abstract Compassion, and the Quest for Peace

How can we foster happiness and health if our civilization pushes back against it? I don’t know, but I think it can begin with us all understanding that our compassion alone has limitations. This one is for if you have zero personal stakes in LGBT issues—you have no loved ones who are queer, but you do care, and you educate yourself on the queer issues cycling through your newsfeed. I say to this straight person, you are, admittedly, in a weird spot. You feel compassion abstractly—you know hate crimes are vile, you know tormenting someone for their gender dysphoria is grossly immoral—you know the institutions are bad, but it all seems institutional alone, like it’s a metaphysical evil. You never have to clean up the blood. So you treat it with hashtags alone. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff can be great for showing symbolic support, but symbols just don’t hold weight after a little while, if nobody offers to physically clean up and push back. So for you, maybe write a stupid list to yourself, do some introspection, and get to know people out of your usual straight bubble. But don’t treat your friendship like charity-~-never forget that this struggle is very much a struggle to treat people like actual people.

And for the straight people with queer loved ones—family, friends, mentors—I assume that your love for them runs deep. You don’t want to see them hurt. You don’t want them to become a suicide statistic. Believe me, Straight Ally Reader, that love runs deep in me too. But our stakes will never be as high as the stakes of our queer loved ones. Their lives are immediately threatened by the deluge of hate. Our concern and anxiety about them is just runoff.

Celebrating 4 Years

•July 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hey there, Radical Readers!

This month The Radical Idea is celebrating its fourth birthday-~-that’s four long years of researching, writing, and posting about the things we all care about-~-and in honor of this occasion (which I admit I will probably find more momentous next year when we finally hit half a decade), I’ve decided to compile a list, not of the most viewed posts on The Radical Idea, but of some I just liked (or that other contributors on the blog have particularly liked).  And so, in no particular order, here they are:

1. On Doing Gender and Being Gendered: Or, How You’re Socially Constructed Too

2. Devaluing Women’s Work, Devaluing Women: A Feminist Perspective On Staying Home

I’m all for feminism fighting for women of color to have choices, but not for feminism to stand by and let women who do this important work be talked down to or treated like they are lesser members of society.  Who is to say that the woman watching your children is doing something less important than the teacher leading class or the lawyer defending a drug trafficker?  Who is to say that the woman cleaning your house isn’t providing you with a service just as valuable as the service provided by your accountant?

3. Like a Virgin: How Society Invented Virginity and Vilifies Sex

4. Trigger Warnings: Why I’m Offended You Think It’s About Being Offended

Imagine for a moment that someone was injured.  Maybe they have a sprained or twisted ankle.  And they were with a group that was considering going on a hike.  Would you force them to go on the hike, or would you ask them if they were up for it.  You’d ask, right?  You’d ask because they’re injured, but they know their own physical limitations, and maybe they can handle a hike on a twisted ankle, but maybe they need to sit this one out, and wait until they’ve healed, and then they can go back to hiking.

Trigger warnings are the conversation where you ask if everyone is ready to go on the hike, so someone can brace up or tell you they need to sit it out.

5. Staying, Surviving, and Defying the Good Victim Paradox: A Perspective on Domestic Violence

6. Fox News, Annie Get Your Gun, and a Glance at the Calendar

Because feminism doesn’t argue that women shouldn’t be feminine: it argues that femininity doesn’t have to be this pitiful secondary concept.  Femininity and strength aren’t mutually exclusive.  You can be beautiful and empathetic and caring and still be smart and ambitious and successful.  Feminism says that we got our idea of femininity all wrong, that we underestimated women and what they’re capable of for centuries.  Anyone who says that you can’t be feminine and a feminist is lying to you, or doesn’t understand feminism in the slightest.  Feminism says “yes we can” when the Patriarchy says “You can’t, now make me a sandwich”.

7. What Does Choice Really Mean?

8. Gay Marriage Has Nothing To Do With Love: Anti-Assimilation and a Radical Vision of Queer Revolution

Inclusion is not liberation. Assimilation is not liberation. Why is it that our goal is assimilation into the hetero-patriarchal institution of marriage? The marriage equality movement has attempts to depoliticize the inherently political nature of living as a queer individual into a discussion centered more often than not on whether or not it is “right” to be queer. We’ve wasted so much time arguing with people about the morality of our identities that we haven’t been able to take a step back and assess why and if we want to get married in the first place.

9.  On Feminism, Relationships, and How We Aren’t Fish

10. Why I’m Tired of Being Polite

We are being talked over by money, reputation, perceived social value.  We are being talked over when individuals like Bill Cosby and Charlie Sheen are permitted to have massively successful careers in spite of allegations and convictions which demonstrate that they are abusers.  We are being talked over when we celebrate and protect male student athletes at the expense of female student survivors.  We are being talked over when very real issues regarding consent education and the need for better response mechanisms at universities are overshadowed by schools desperately blaming institutions like Greek life.  We are being talked over when survivors are still being functionally put on trial because they need access to services, or simply want justice.

I’ve come a long way as a feminist and a blogger in the last four years; the posts I chose to highlight here (only some of which are mine) represent a range of issues I’ve had to learn to apply a feminist lens to, issues I wasn’t necessarily interested in before I started writing The Radical Idea.  I’ve learned so much, in these last four years, about intersectionality and what it means to look at the different sides of an issue, and it is an ongoing learning process for me, all the time.  I hope that all my readers remember that, wherever you are in your feminist journey, it is a journey.  There is no magical button that we press that suddenly erases every problematic thing society has taught us, and if you find yourself still mis-stepping, it is okay.  Every feminist I know has moments where they say something without realizing what the implications were, or say something they do not mean.  The important thing, as I have learned from writing this blog, is to learn from those moments.

To those of you who have stuck with me, whether it is over months or over years, thank you.  And for those of you who just casually read this blog, thank you as well.  Writing is great in and of itself, but it’s even better knowing you are out there reading.  Special thanks to Corey Nyhus and Matt Massaia, who have been guest writing for this blog; your thoughts and perspectives are extra appreciated-~-and if anyone ever wants to send a post my way, please do not hesitate to reach out and email me at radicalbutlogical@gmail.com.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,602 other followers