Archive | April, 2013

Women in Silence: Human Trafficking in East Asia

11 Apr

by Jayme Amann 

Reposted from


Human trafficking, the trading or selling of human beings often for purposes of sexual slavery or forced labor, is one of the lowest documented crimes against women throughout the world.

A few weeks ago, with North Korea’s decision to void the 1953 armistice, international attention has shifted back to North Korea’s flagrant human rights abuses. 318 Partners, a U.S.-based nonprofit committed to helping trafficked women in China, estimates that 80 percent of North Korean refugees are women and girls that have become “commodities for purchase.” The most common marketplace for these women: China.

Due to China’s one child policy, adopted in 1979, the population has grown drastically unbalanced. Women are treated as second-class citizens in most of China. Chinese tradition favors males that will carry on the family name. In the past, parents would often drown daughters or leave them to die on the street. The result: a surplus of unmarried Chinese men seeking a wife.

This situation has provided the perfect opportunity for traffickers. Due to the abysmal conditions in North Korea, the promise of money and food is very tempting for many young women. “Recruiters” promise these women that there are job openings in China and they will only be gone for a few months and make more money in that time than in a full year working in North Korea. For an impoverished young woman with no job prospects, it can be an irresistible offer. Often it is not until the women are across the Chinese border that they realize the job is sex slavery.

However, most women never return home. These women are sold in a foreign country where they don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone. There is no rule of law for North Korean refugees living in China. If a woman alerts the police of abuse, she can expect worse treatment. Often women accept their life with a Chinese husband because although abusive, it is preferable to arrest, deportation, and imprisonment in a North Korean labor camp for illegally leaving the country.

As the gender imbalance gets larger in China, trafficking will only continue to expand. And in North Korea, as women become more aware of the realities facing them abroad, “recruiters” have turned to kidnapping and brute force to meet their quotas.

For more information on human rights violations in North Korea and China, please consult sources such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.

The Hard Questions

11 Apr

by Kat Kelley

No more than 2-8% of sexual assaults reported to the police are false. That means at least 92% of reports are true.

Kat Kelley here, a campus based Sexual Assault Peer Educator. Our programming is discussion based- we aim to meet participants where they are, and discuss the issues and nuances of interest to them. However, there are two issues that always come up- alcohol and “gray areas,” which students often struggle with, and which new peer educators often fear. However, to me, these aren’t “hard questions.” They are key questions. Students need to break down their own barriers and assumptions, and have a safe space to ask these questions, in order to fully support the movement. So this, is generally how the “hard” questions go:

Well what about false reporting? And then someone inevitably adds: “My brother’s friend goes to Ole Miss and he was accused of sexual assault, but he definitely didn’t rape her, but he had to drop out so they would’t expel him, and blah blah blah she ruined his life.”

Personally, I’m a little more worried about the one in four women and one in thirty three men who experience sexual assault, than the fraction of a percent of males who are falsely accused of rape, however… While I cannot speak on the case of your brother’s friend, and I’m sorry he experienced that, false reporting is rare. According to the Department of Justice, an estimated 2-8% of sexual assault reports are false. That means at least 92% are true. And, of cases not reported, but shared with the public, or within a friend group, fabrications are even lower. There is no incentive to false report- survivors are victim blamed and slut shamed (links), their stories are denied and invalidated. Survivors often feel re-victimized by the reporting process. The only benefits to reporting are justice, and holding perpetrators accountable. So while false reporting is already highly dis-incentivized, false stories are even more so.

There is no underground feminist business in false reporting. Women aren’t regretting hook ups or trying to get revenge. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had regrettable hook ups, but being embarrassed and pretending to be texting when I walk past my booty call in red square, is completely different from feeling afraid, traumatized, as though my control, my agency, my power was taken from me. Additionally, when people hear that a survivor “drops charges” they often understand that as “it was a false report.” Those are not the same. Survivors frequently drop charges because of low rates of prosecution, or because they don’t want to have to tell their story another 30 times to audiences interrogating them, regarding them with suspicion and accusation, forcing them to relive the trauma- only to invalidate their story, and tell them they don’t have a case because they had slept with their perpetrator in the past or because they were wearing tight jeans and must have been complicit in their removal.

Well what about alcohol? I feel like that is a total gray area, because if drunk sex is rape then well everyone on campus is a rapist, aren’t they? And what if both people are drunk, how can they rape each other?

Legally, someone cannot consent while drunk, however no one actually thinks that drunk sex is inherently rape. Such rigorous laws are merely giving legitimacy to survivors, they are not tools to entrap the innocent. For example, in the Steubenville trials, the defense attorneys attempted to prove that the victim had been coherent- she had been able to voice her desire to return to a different party, and had been standing at some points. This was an attempt to prove the innocence of the perpetrators. Fortunately, rigorous laws ensured that her ability to stand and speak, despite her incredible level of intoxication, did not undermine her case. Alcohol is used intentionally by perpetrators to facilitate sexual assault. Now, I’m not saying that anyone who has ever bought someone a drink is a potential perpetrator. Perpetrators understand our rape culture and the way we view sexual assault. Perpetrators know what they can get away with. And so they use our sexual assault myths against us. “Taking advantage” of someone (which I am of course not condoning) is using alcohol to facilitate consent- getting people to have “consensual” sex because they are drunk. Sexual assault involves intentionally using alcohol to weaken the defenses, or to discredit their target. It is the different from facilitating consent vs. facilitating sex regardless of consent. There seems to be a widespread fear of “accidental rape,” which further perpetuates the myth of false reporting. This is a complete misunderstanding of sexual assault. Sexual acts and sexual assault aren’t separated by a fine line or a gray area. Sexual assault isn’t a hook up gone wrong or a misunderstanding. It is an intentional crime, motivated by power. Sexual assault is not an innocent person forgetting to ask for consent, and somehow not realizing that the other person is terrified, uncomfortable, and not participating. Sexual assault is disregarding someone else’s desires, and using force, coercion, power, or fear to engage in sexual acts with them. Gray areas do not exist. Consensual is consent. Sexual assault is sexual assault. If consent exists in a “gray area,” it is inherently not consent.


If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Kat and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week.

No One is Ever Asking For It

10 Apr

by Trevor Tezel

No one is ever asking to be sexually assaulted regardless of their attire, behavior, previous sexual history, or alcohol consumption.

A few years ago, 18-year old Jennifer Moore had been out drinking in New York City, when she discovered that her car had been towed. After wandering the streets for some time, she was eventually approached by an unknown assailant and brutally raped and murdered. Soon thereafter, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly and conservative commentator Michelle Malkin were discussing this topic on their show. The latter made the point that “At some point these young women have to take responsibility for putting themselves in vulnerable positions.”

Malkin’s remarkably offensive comments were panned by the media and blogosphere, and the incident gave Fox News and Co. a black eye.  However, her comments touched on a greater undertone that pervades many discussions of sexual assault. After reading about a case of sexual assault, some may privately point out steps that could have been taken by the survivor to “prevent” the incident from occurring. What we must understand is that no one is ever asking to be sexually assaulted regardless of their attire, behavior, previous sexual history, or alcohol consumption.

The first step in changing the dialogue is to change the language we use when referring to sexual assault. Too often, we use “survivor-based” language instead of “perpetrator-based language.” By shifting toward the latter, we can effectively place the blame where it solely belongs: on the perpetrator. After making her offensive statement, Malkin went on to say “Obviously, you don’t want to blame the victim.” (Which, for the record, she totally did.) The use of the term “victim” here is part of this outdated language. A more appropriate term would be “survivor” in order to avoid the stigma and perceptions of victimization. Also, when looking at policies that address the issue of sexual assault we should opt for the term “sexual assault risk reduction” instead of “sexual assault prevention.” The latter once again puts the onus on the survivor and implies that this is an issue that can be stopped by the survivor. The only person that can prevent sexual assault is the perpetrator.

Once we have our vocabulary straight, we can begin changing the culture around sexual assault. We can’t accept an outdated expectation that our safety is at risk if we’re not wearing the most conservative clothing. Clothing is a lifestyle choice and, oftentimes, a means of self-expression. “Survivor-blamers” like Michelle Malkin need to think long and hard about the implications for the free speech and individual liberties that they preach so much about when they argue that women are “putting themselves in vulnerable positions.” Furthermore, if we at Georgetown promote or even allow this perception to persist, are we truly creating a safe atmosphere in which students can feel at ease?

Another common misconception on campus is that if alcohol has been consumed, the survivor is at fault. This is absolutely untrue. Georgetown’s sexual assault policy, while not perfect, has clear language that indicates that even if alcohol was being consumed, a lack of consent is still grounds for punishment. By knowing and understanding these key facts, we can fulfill two goals: (1) educate survivors about their rights under the Student Code of Conduct and (2) change the culture that believes that alcohol consumption invalidates claims to sexual assault.

Finally, we should be clear that previous sexual history, or what is perceived previous sexual history, has no bearing on the acceptability of sexual misconduct or assault. Consent is key here, and a lack of it puts the blame right at the feet of the perpetrator. Taking into account previous sexual history absolutely ignores the key issue – any sexual encounters between two individuals should not progress based on previous history, not even if the two individuals involved have a previous history. Circumstances dictate that each encounter is a new one and must treated as such.

The example used throughout this article was a massive media story, but what we need to understand is that we and how we discuss sexual assault is the contributor to rape culture. What is undermining survivors and the safety of our community is not a major blow up on Fox or CNN but rather a question: What was she wearing? Was he drinking? Or a comment: “prostitutes can’t be raped,” “but they were married.” If we understand the power of our impact and our conversations, then as a campus community, we can change the attitude towards sexual assault.

By engaging in dialogue, educating ourselves and our peers about university policy (particularly with regards to alcohol), and recognizing that a safe campus starts with an attitude that solely targets the perpetrators, we will be well on our way to creating a Georgetown that is vocal and proactive on this issue,

Not to mention, we can try shutting up people like Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin along the way.


If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Trevor and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “It Happens Here.

Blood, Battles, Beheadings, and…Feminism? Part 1

9 Apr

by Amy Wiggington 

It’s hard to imagine a show about gladiators and revenge being very feminist, but Spartacus is.  Generally, women are slaves or essentially enslaved to their husbands, but the show treats women and women’s issues with seriousness and gravity.

In the first and second seasons, the Roman women are shown conniving and intellectually strong.  Ilithyia and Lucretia use their cunning and their privilege to get what they want.  Generally, they know what they can get away with, and they make it happen.  While their husbands rely on their station and brute force, they are smart and imaginative enough to be powerful in their own subtle way.  However, they usually use this power to fight each other.
Naevia, a slave who eventually joins the rebellion, is a fully-fledged-out character, showing both feminine and fierce sides of herself.  While she first relies on her partner Crixius, by the middle of the third season, he is following her desires.  She is trained similarly to the male ex-slaves, and is seen as similar in station to them in Spartacus’s army.
Already a fierce warrior when introduced, Saxa quickly rises to becoming perhaps the highest-ranking woman in the rebellion.  She is also the character through which the audience gets to explore bisexuality, polyamory, and open relationships in a nonchalant way that makes all of it feel natural and normal, as it should (although male same-sex relationships are given much more focus).  While, she has a regular partner, she does not rely on him for military aid or sexual pleasure.  She is, in essence, a bamf.
One of the best parts of Spartacus in terms of showing women’s issues, is Stephen deKnight’s (the writer) portrayal of rape and survivors.  He gives multiple full plotlines to the issue to show that rape is about control and not sexual gratification, correcting a common misconception of media and society.  Then, instead of focusing on the rape or ending the storyline there, he shows the continued effect on the survivor as she (or he) works to process and deal with what has happened to her (or him).  I greatly appreciate deKnight’s willingness to deal with such a subject and giving it the seriousness and time needed as each of these plotlines developed throughout the seasons.
Spartacus easily passes the Bechdel test, and leaves me wanting more.  Unfortunately, we’ve only got one episode, dvds of previous seasons, and our fond memories left.
Even though I ship Nagron all the way, the women hold their own on this show.
P.S. If you were thinking from the title that this was going to be about Game of Thrones, wait until part 2 😉
#nagron #spartacus #goatsgoatsgoatsgoats #naevia #saxa #wotd #feminism #bechdel

All Rape is Real

9 Apr

by Audrey Denis

1 in 4 college-aged women and 1 in 33 men experience sexual assault. At Georgetown, our rates match the national average.

It’s Friday evening and a bunch of people on my freshmen floor are congregated in the common room after dinner, before going out, just chatting and catching up on the week.  Somehow the topic of sexual assault comes up, but more specifically the rape of a particular girl, although I can no longer remember if she was a Georgetown student. To be honest, I was involved in another conversation. I overheard one of the boys ask, “Yea, but was it real rape, or just like date rape or something?” and felt quickly sickened and disenchanted with my peers for a moment.

I return to this moment often when I think about the culture surrounding sexual assault. We may have scoffed at Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, but in our own community we hear people throwing around the concept of “real rape” all too often. We may like to think we are so much more sensitive, so much more aware, and twenty first century thinkers, but unfortunately, I’m not so convinced.

When we see the statistic 1 in 4 college-aged women and 1 in 33 college-aged men experience sexual assault, I wonder how many ask themselves “Yea, but was it real rape?” I’m afraid we all too comfortably do not internalize the unacceptable frequency of sexual assault because we cling to the crutch of disbelief. It wasn’t really rape.

We make survivors out to seem like petty, vindictive, spiteful girlfriends who report sexual assault to get back at their ex-boyfriends. Or, they are overreacting to some friendly well-intended conduct, hey that’s just college. Between alcohol and attire, we have come up with almost every excuse in the book to skirt responsibility; not just responsibility of the perpetrators, but the responsibility that we have to creating a safe community for all who live in it.

The truth is that the excuses we hind behind, the narratives of vindictive girlfriends and spiteful prudes, are anomalies if not just myths. We should never find ourselves asking, “Yea, but was it real rape?”

All rape is real. All sexual assault is serious. It doesn’t have to happen in a back alley at gunpoint perpetrated by a stranger for it to be rape. The fact that we comfort ourselves with the idea of date rape being less severe reflects an enormous deficiency in our culture. It shows a lack of respect for people’s bodies and choices. Just because you know someone, does not make you any more entitled to their body.

The statistic is much higher for women than it is for men. I believe it makes it harder for women to live in this community and speak about the reality of sexual assault. Not only are women threatened by the much higher likelihood that they will be sexually assaulted, but also by the unfortunate cultural circumstance that their experience will not be taken seriously.

Look around in the library, in class, in Leo’s, and think about the fact that statistically one in four of those women around you will probably be sexually assaulted before graduating college. Then tell them it’s not real.


If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Audrey and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “A Screening of The Invisible War.

Sexual Assault is a Hoya Issue

8 Apr

by Clara Gustafson

90% of sexual assaults that occur on college campus are perpetrated by an acquaintance. Sexual assault is a not a women’s issue, it’s a Hoya issue

Sexual assault is a challenging topic to engage on. Depending on what kinds of communities you spend most of your time with, sexual assault can have an even greater taboo associated with it. Only a few years ago Georgetown University and the undergraduate student body faced a community rape case. Our code of conduct changed because of it. A survivor’s experience and vocalness about the event helped to make our community more supportive…on paper. There are some things that we do well around sexual assault at Georgetown, such as survivor services and initiatives like “R U Ready?” However, there is not a single discussion or awareness effort that reaches everyone on our Hilltop.

While I am not a survivor, I know them. I am tired, frustrated and sad to say that I know many of them, because I have more than 33 male friends and more than 4 female friends. These national statistics that you hear all the time are real here too, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men will be survivors of a sexual assault. Georgetown is consistently at the national average, and we have not striven to be better than our peers in this way. We have not striven to frame sexual assault as an important issue that needs to be engaged on all levels. I am tired, frustrated and sad, because when I walk home at night I walk faster or cross the street if there are men (particularly tall or large men) walking behind me. Granted, sexual assaults committed by strangers are one of the many myths surrounding sexual assault. For example, in college only 10% of sexual assaults are committed by someone that the survivor does not know. However, the fact that I walk faster also indicates our community’s (and society’s) onus on me to somehow prevent the sexual assault. There is currently no pressure on the bystanders to intervene, especially in the party situation.

The other major bystander problem, in my opinion, is that survivors are the ones that have to talk about sexual assault. There are not enough voices out there from the 3 in 4 women and the 32 in 33 men whom aren’t survivors telling their story about how sexual assault affects their lives. Because sexual assault affects everyone, whether you acknowledge it or not. It affects how we interact with each other. It affects what I think I can wear out. It affects how I think I can look at other people, particularly men. I also walk around everyday getting catcalled and yelled at as I walk down the street- “be flattered.” No, sorry, that is not flattering. That is that person injecting themselves into my life, commenting on my being and clothes and poise without so much as a “Hi my name is…” It affects the ability of all of us to be the best men and women that we can be. In order to claim that sexual assault is not tolerated at Georgetown every first year that walks through those front gates must be held personally responsible for having a meaningful conversation with their peers (and some trained peer leaders) about how sexual assault affects our community.

We are what we decide and work hard to be. We have not yet decided to be a zero tolerance campus. We must hold each other to a higher standard to do that. There is much more that we can do to be a better community for each other.


If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Clara and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “How do we talk about sexual assault? A conversation with the editors of Feministing.”

Catholic Women Have Orgasms: Myth or Reality?

8 Apr

By Barnabus Brinkley

Just a short and shocking blurb to spice up your day!

I’ll give you the punch line: Yes, Catholic women orgasm (and I suspect certain Protestants do too, but I’ll leave that to them to announce). But here’s the even better part: Female saints orgasm. What?!? #celibacygonewrong #saintlysexlives #uncomfortable

Nah, man! None of those hashtags are right, even though I know you were thinking them.  I mentioned this in an earlier article, but the awesome thing about sex is that it’s one of the greatest physical pleasures we can experience here on earth. Therefore, experiencing an orgasm is almost as close to the divine as we can routinely get in the bodies we possess.

Let’s get real, I’m talking about one statue in particular: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.


As I heard someone describe it once (sorry for the lack of citation) this statue portrays St. Teresa of Avila in the middle of a “toe-curling orgasm.” Let’s take a look at that face again:


Yup. Seems pretty clear. Uncomfortable yet? Just to flesh it out, St. Teresa is having an experience of the divine where an angel is about to pierce her heart with a feeling of God’s exquisite love. In her words

“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.”

Physically, Bernini imagines this as an orgasm. Come on, didn’t you?

As a Catholic feminist, I struggle with this statue. On the one hand, what a way to represent women as sexual beings way back in the Renaissance! You know that Bernini had some idea of women’s desires in order to carve that face. You don’t just “accidently” carve that expression. Given that men still have trouble with this today, I have mad respect for Bernini that he had the skills to know what women’s pleasure looks like and the vagina to carve it (I was going to say balls, but vaginas are cooler).

On the other hand, the implication is perhaps slightly darker. What’s the only acceptable way for women to be sexual? Well, there isn’t one, unless you are having a religious vision. God forbid there be a man involved; it’s got to be an angel. Like, you can only get away with being sexual if you deny that it’s sexual and attribute it to God. I don’t know what I expected from the Renaissance, but still…Also, this statue wasn’t uncontroversial. The Church hasn’t always been the most open about sexuality, and many at the time thought that it was dirty and wrong to portray a saint experiencing an orgasm. It sullies the purity of virginity, and the Church likes to put a premium on virginity in a way that is distinctly unfeminist (because the only good women are the ones that are non-sexual beings except when men want them, right?)

Anyway, I just wanted to share some fun imagery with you! These things float around in my head and sometimes I like to double-check that I’m not crazy. And if I am crazy, then at least I’m not alone.

Why I Struggle to Support Your Red Equality Sign

5 Apr

by Erin Riordan

Last week, as the Supreme Court began hearing cases on Prop 8 and DOMA, Facebook turned red. 2.8 million more users than average changed their profile pictures last Tuesday, to HRC’s image of a red quality sign. I began to have mixed feelings that day about the sea of red (some of which I will explain next week, in another post), and after reading many of the articles discussing the HRC and the campaign for marriage equality I have concerns about the HRC and about the fight for marriage equality as a whole.

First I am concerned with the Human Rights Campaign itself, and it’s selective method of social justice. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest organization working for LGBT rights. Their mission statement reads, “HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.” However, despite their inclusion of the “T” in LGBT, the HRC has a very strained, adversarial relationship with the trans community. Many people in the trans community have long felt that the HRC has thrown trans rights under the bus in their fight for marriage equality, and in the functioning of the HRC as a whole.

The most prominent case is the HRC’s support in 2007 for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA) that didn’t include antidiscrimination protections for gender identity. Despite their promise three years earlier to not support any version of the ENDA that didn’t include gender identity protections, the HRC reneged on this promise when they grew concerned that they would not be able to pass the bill otherwise. In this instance, and in others, they chose to prioritize the rights of some members of the LBGTQ community over others. Many people feel this effectively sent the message to the trans community that their rights were less important than those of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals.

The view that the HRC does not care about trans issues or the trans community was further enforced last Tuesday, when a trans person holding a transgender pride flag stood near the rally’s podium and was then asked by an HRC staff person three separate times to move to a less visible spot. The HRC contends that the incident did not transpire this way, yet Bilerico blogger Jerame Davis’s account supports the trans individual’s, and indicates that the statement from the HRC was misleading and misrepresentative of what occurred.

Beyond these individual incidents, there is a distinct lack of transgender voices within the HRC. The HRC has 100+ staffers, but no trans staffers. An organization meant to fight for the advancement of transgender rights, along with the rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, does not have one employee who is actually a member of the trans community.

Others have brought up questions of economic and racial justice in the HRC’s work. People within the LGBTQ community argue that the HRC is not interested in the issues of poor LGBTQ individuals, and a Duke student wrote about the HRC’s problematic corporate affiliations. There is also evidence that the HRC has tried to quiet POC voices and organizations within the LGBTQ movement. These concerns matter, and they are worth listening to when talking about the HRC and it’s work.

A social justice movement, whatever it fights for, should not pick and choose which people and which voices and which issues matter most. By excluding the perspectives and priorities of trans people, people of color, and working class and poor people from the conversation, the HRC does itself a disservice, and does a disservice to the movement as a whole. It can be hard to adequately and equally represent all the voices that need to be at the table, and this is certainly an issue within feminism as well, but it is vitally important that these voices be heard and respected. When entire groups feel disconnected from a community, it is clear that something is wrong and that changes need to be made.

On a different, perhaps more strategic note, I am worried about all the focus that is being put on marriage equality by the LGBTQ community. I strongly support same-sex marriage, and believe that the legalization of same sex marriage will improve the lives of many people, and bring us closer to equality. However, I am concerned that other equally vital and important issues are being forgotten or abandoned in pursuit of this one goal. It is great that so many people support marriage equality, and that so many people feel safe and comfortable supporting this battle publically. But what about all the other issues that matter in the LGBTQ community?

The fight for LGBTQ rights needs to include addressing the issue of homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth. The fight needs to include combatting violence against LBGTQ individuals, and the right of gay men to donate blood. The fight for LGBTQ rights needs to include fighting for trans health rights, and legal protections against gender identity based discrimination. The fight needs to include fighting for queer undocumented immigrants.  The fight for LGBTQ rights needs to be informed by considerations of race, class, gender, and ability. The fight for marriage equality does not reflect these considerations, and I am concerned that after the fight for marriage equality is won, most of the general public and mainstream media will think the job is done and that they can walk away.

There are so many more important issues and battles that I do not have room to list here, and it is important that we value and consider each of them. I am concerned that there is not enough visibility around these issues, nor enough resources or energy dedicated to them. I am afraid that in the mainstream media the LGBTQ community has been painted as one that is only concerned with marriage equality. I am concerned that once the battle for marriage equality is won, there will not be enough momentum, political or otherwise, to seriously push forward any real change on other issues of the LGBTQ community.

There are many amazing groups doing great work organizing other elements of the LGBTQ community, and that are working to encompass everyone’s voices and issues. This radical and progressive LGBTQ movement needs a seat at the table, and needs to be heard when the conversation begins about where do we go from here.

The Love-Hate Relationship

4 Apr

by Anonymous

I’m writing this anonymously because for once I want someone to hear only my words and not the lips that speak them. This is the story of how I learned about the love hate relationship, my relationship with myself. I was an early bloomer. My body began to develop sooner than most girls. As a young girl I didn’t really understand this process. I had no idea that I would soon begin to fear my own body. I didn’t know that becoming like the women you see in magazines was more a curse than a blessing, and I didn’t know that no one would accept it. After all, when girls complain about feeling ugly everyone gathers around them and lifts them up. They tell them that beauty is more than skin deep, that traditional concepts of beauty are unrealistic and chauvinistic, that they’re designed to put women in a box, but when you talk about being afraid of being too pretty no one cares. In fact, they hate you for it. They tell you to quit complaining because you’re lucky, you have the body that everyone wants and you should count your blessings. What they don’t realize is that they’ve shoved you into that little box. You know, the one they just told the other girl was wrong, well they just put you in it and told you to like it. If you’re the picture of archetypal beauty, you’re taught to sit down, shut up, and appreciate what you have, but I don’t appreciate it. I don’t appreciate the leering men, the eyes that undress me with their glances, the catcalls and come ons that follow me wherever I go. More than that, I don’t appreciate the women that are supposed to understand me that are helping to push me down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by a group of girls and heard them whisper slut. How many times I’ve been walking down the street and had another girl pass me and yell whore. Girls who don’t know me, have never talked to me. Even worse, when I try to talk to someone about it I’m told that I’m conceited. I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking just that. You’re thinking that I’m full of myself and just complaining so I can get attention, but the truth is that getting attention is the problem. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve been afraid to leave my room because I wasn’t sure I had the strength to face the catcalls and leering gazes that are sure to greet me. In fact, I spent most of middle school in baggy clothes, wearing a big jacket to hide the body underneath. In a 100 degree weather my mother would ask me, “Aren’t you hot?” and I was would say no. I didn’t complain I just tried so hard to hide, to hide from the body I couldn’t control that kept turning into something I hated. I loved myself, but I hated the way I looked. I hated that even in my baggy jackets people still stared, men still hooted and hollered, and other girls still whispered slut. I just wanted so badly to disappear. I hated being the center of attention. I hated my body.

It has taken me awhile to be able to wear clothes that fit properly, that show off my curves and not be ashamed. It took me years to be able to be proud of my body, not because others lust after it, but because I love it. I had to begin to see myself as more than my appearance, as more than an object. The hardest part was that I had to do this alone because there aren’t any support groups for girls like me. Girls who hate their bodies that everyone else loves. No one takes you seriously when you look a certain way but claim to hate the way you look. I had to find a way to love my body because I knew I loved myself and I knew that to truly be happy I needed to love all of me.

Some days it’s still hard to leave my room. Some days I second guess an outfit because I’m afraid what attention it may draw. Some days, I still hate my body, but I learned to cover it. I became overly confident. I make jokes about how great this shirt makes my boobs look, or how great my curves are highlighted by that dress, so that maybe my girl friends won’t look at me with that hint of distain, maybe if I do what I’m told and appreciate what I have then everything will be okay. But, it’s not. I still struggle with being sexualized when all I want is to feel invisible. No matter what I do I still feel like an object and not a person. I constantly wonder if he’s talking to me because I seem like a nice person or because I’m some type of prized boar. When it comes to men I feel like a piece of meat. When men tell me how beautiful I am I always laugh because how can they know if I’m beautiful when they just met me? I could be a horrible person, but none of them care because I’m “beautiful.” Because of this I’ve never had a boyfriend, and any man who tries to tell me he loves me I run from because I never trust that their love is actually love and not just lust. I can never be sure that he wants me and not my body. When men look at me, I can see the lust in their eyes and it scares me. I’m afraid that no man will ever look deeper than skin deep and really love me, not the body of this girl but her soul.

Being sexualized has made me a very different person than that little girl was. Often I find myself saying things that sound so conceited and ridiculous that I can’t figure out why I say them. It’s like every shout-out and whisper has gotten under my skin, into my soul and poisoned me a little. I don’t want to be like this, but some days it’s hard to fight the stereotypes that follow me around. The stereotypes that say that pretty girls are spoiled, or stuck up, or charismatic, or confident. Sometimes I wonder if my personality was created by me or by everyone around me shaping me into the girl I’m “supposed”  to be instead of who I am. Most of the time when I look in the mirror I can’t figure out who is staring back. I can’t seem to see the beauty that others see. Mostly I see a stranger who looks nothing like me. Often, I stare at my reflection and wonder why it looks nothing like me.

Maybe I am just a spoiled girl looking for something to complain about. I don’t know. All I know is that I have never been brave enough to say these things, but here at Georgetown I’ve met some very strong women that I am proud to call my friends, and that have empowered me to speak out for women, for women who have no power to speak for themselves. So, I write this for those women. For women like me who are sexualized and told to like it. Who are judged on their looks and told to not complain about it. While other women are told that being valued on their looks is wrong, we are told that we deserve it. Why do I deserve it? I can’t help the way I look anymore than anyone else because if I could I wouldn’t look like this. If I had a choice, I would look like anyone, anyone but me.

I’m hoping that writing this will help, that saying what I could never say will make a difference, maybe not now but someday. If you’re reading this and you understand what I feel, then take heart because you can walk with your head held high. It will be hard but you have to remember that you are stronger than any label. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, maybe you have a friend who does. Try to be there for her because, trust me, all she wants is someone who will look at her with love instead of lust. Someone who will tell her she’s beautiful and mean every part of her, not just the outside. I write this because being sexualized is not a choice, because beauty is more than skin deep and that goes for everyone. I write this because women deserve to choose how they are seen based on who they are not what they look like. This is the story of how I learned about the love hate relationship.

One Catcall Too Many

2 Apr

by Emily Coccia 

Confession: sometimes I enjoy being catcalled. I know, I know, I shouldn’t. I’m an intelligent feminist who should know better than to feel complimented by these objectifying yells from across the street. But somehow, I can’t help but smile sometimes. Walking to work this summer, I couldn’t help but laugh when the paperboy whistled at me, or when the garbage men called me “beautiful,” or when the delivery guy implored, “Just one smile, it’ll make my day!” After all, it seemed like harmless fun. I knew exactly where I was; the sun was shining; other people knew to expect me at a certain place at a certain time, and they knew how to reach me if I wasn’t there. There never really seemed to be a cause for worry. Simply put, I felt safe. And if I felt safe, what was the harm in getting a little self-confidence booster on my walk to work? Is there really any danger in letting someone tell me my smile makes his day?

But somehow now, the situation has changed. When I’m walking down a street whose name I don’t know in a neighborhood I don’t understand, trying desperately not to look as hopelessly lost as I am, something is different. When I’m in a city for the first time in my life where everything blends together in one indistinguishable chain of unfamiliar buildings, something is different. When I’m communicating in a language which is not my native tongue and trying to function in a culture that is not my own, something is different. Now those whistles and pleas of, “Come on, beautiful, just a smile,” don’t seem so innocent. In fact, they’re pretty menacing. In Genoa, walking down a small side street that would be classified as an alley in the US—which I notice slightly too late is fairly deserted—the slightest movement terrifies me. I scurry silently along, praying that I won’t attract anyone’s attention, tensing as a man outside smoking mutters something. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I turn my head at every noise. Even on larger streets, listening to a truck driver yell, in what I recognize to be the informal imperative grammatical structure, “Smile at me! The least you can do for me is smile,” I don’t find it sweet, or remotely endearing. I find it threatening and demanding.

In this moment, I recognize the real problem with catcalls. It isn’t that the words themselves are necessarily threatening (though they can be); the problem lies in the suggestion behind them that lingers long after the sound has dissipated. The problem lies in the idea that someone, some man who probably towers over my small 5’4” frame, is always watching, always scrutinizing my every move. And while it may be fun and innocent for most, women carry the burden of fearing the day when they might encounter someone for whom it is more than just innocent teasing, someone who takes all this as more than just a game. We live in a state of constant hyperawareness about how we act and dress, of what we say and where we walk. And this perpetual discomfort and fear bubbling right below the surface of our consciousness, emerging when we leave our comfort zones—this is a problem. So while that delivery boy might not frighten me, by playing along with his game, I might just be perpetuating the cycle, encouraging more and more people to participate. And even though this is my comfort zone, I should think about the woman for whom the streets of Georgetown are as unfamiliar as the back alleys of Genoa, for whom this man’s begging for a smile might seem as scary as an Italian truck driver’s command. After all, I think that’s what feminism is about—about standing together in solidarity, about watching out for one another and recognizing that something that inspires fear, even in just one person, is still scaring one person too many.