Lately, I’ve found myself in a state of near-constant feelings of butting my head against a proverbial wall, smushed up against a glass ceiling. Not in my job or relationship, mind you, but just the endless stream of universal passive and active hatred directed at women. Everything feels really bleak sometimes. I feel like I’m watching some sort of absurdist play, and that I don’t get the punchline.
I want to focus on this utter nonsense this month. Don’t worry, I’ve got a store of links about masculinities, sexual minorities, and positive things saved up for you, but we need to talk about this.
So, remind me again why the virtue of my being born female* means my life is worth less that of a man? Look me in the goddamn eye and tell me I am less of a human being because I have a vagina.
Michigan State Rep Barred From Speaking After ‘Vagina’ Comments. NPR: The Two Way.
Speaking of vaginas, did you know that Rep. Lisa Brown said vagina in the Michigan State House and was silenced by Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas? (Watch Rep. Brown’s statement in the video on the link.) As if this were not bad enough, Rep. Barb Byrum was also not allowed to speak after she tried to “introduce an amendment to the abortion regulations bill banning men from getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man’s life.” Reps. Byrum and Brown, you are my heroes. Stick it to the man!
She defended her use of the word “vagina,” saying it is the “anatomically medically correct term.”
“If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it,” she said according to the Free Press.
“A Woman’s Worst Nightmare,” by Mary Dickson, PBS.org.
This piece is from 1996, and yet, it has not aged at all–embarrassingly so. Dickson writes about the fear of being assaulted with which women live and how men do now understand what this perceived and real constant threat feels like. (Perhaps that part has changed, though. My close male friends are pretty understanding, but these are men who have a good grasp on gender issues.) Think I’m joking? There’s a reason why my Taekwondo instructors sent me off to college with counter-assault lessons and a keychain that doubled as a weapon. There’s a reason why I get really nervous walking past groups of men on the street. There’s a reason why SafeRide on campuses exist.
A woman’s worst nightmare? That’s pretty easy. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”
“Today I had to leave class to cry,” Jamie Keiles, Teenagerie
The spiritual companion piece to Dickson’s, Keiles discusses the problems of “rape prevention” in American culture.
Choice quote: “We can’t end rape by dressing modestly or avoiding dark alleys or letting friends babysit our drinks when we go to the bathroom. The only way to abolish rape is for nobody to rape anyone else. It really isn’t a difficult concept.”
“Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can’t Have Anything Nice” by Helen Lewis, New Statesman
Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency started a Kickstarter to raise money for the Tropes vs Women in Video Games project. Her Youtube account was slammed with horrifyingly sexist comments and threats to her person; her Wikipedia page was changed to pornography. What sort of ridiculous world am I living in that a woman wanting to analyze media depictions of genders gets rape threats? You can literally check off EVERY box in Sexism in Games Bingo, with the added bonus of slurs against Jewish people and lesbians, too!
You can help stop this. Call this bullshit out where you see it. I don’t mean feed the YouTube trolls (never), but if your friends or coworkers make sexist comments, call them out on it. If you find a cause you love that supports gender equality, support it. Teach young people that sexual, physical, and emotional violence against anyone is unacceptable. Go to a Slut Walk or a Pride Parade. Write and get your voices out there. Our silence–our unwillingness to stick up for ourselves–is a killer. Don’t sit there wringing your hands and saying “That’s just how the world is!” STAND UP. FIGHT BACK.
*Cisgendered for me, but I want to be inclusive of all who identify as female, whether you are a target of this medical sexist legislature or not.