thoughts on everyday sexism (oy vey)

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I usually don’t get too political on my blog (though those who know me know that I am VERY outspoken about my political beliefs IRL …probably too much so!), but given the current global political climate, and, in particular, the US’s current political events, I just have not been able to stop thinking about the intersection of feminism, patriarchy, and the way the world treats women and men daily.

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Let me preface this post by saying that, as a feminist and human rights advocate, I believe wholeheartedly in the establishment and promotion/protection of political, economic, personal, and social equality of all humans. I do not believe that the mistreatment of men by women is justified by the historical mistreatment of women by men, just as I don’t believe that POC should have the right to mistreat white people because white people have historically mistreated POC. I also think the patriarchal system we live in causes many humans to perpetuate this toxic behaviour; women have in many cases been just as detrimental to women’s equality as men have (whether intentionally or not), and many men, despite resenting the patriarchal system, are truly at a loss for how to change things.

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That being said, lately I have just felt SO F*CKING FED UP. (Pardon my French.) If you have access to the internet, which I am guessing you do since you are reading this blog, you’ll know that in the last week, a few women, most notably Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, have come forward accusing a potential Supreme Court judge of sexual assault during their high school years. If you’re older than 30, you’ll also likely remember a very similar situation that occured in 1991 when Dr. Anita Hill came forward with her own sexual harassment claims against then-Supreme Court candidate Clarence Thomas (who, by the way, was eventually sworn in to a LIFELONG appointment on the SC).

If you have not watched these hearings, I urge you to do so NOW. They are, in my opinion, pretty sickening to watch. Harassment accusations aside, the symbolism of a professional, highly-educated black woman being interrogated by a panel of old, white men is pretty striking. What’s worse is the condescending, belittling, and honestly just plain ignorant treatment of Dr. Hill by these men. They make her go over, again and again, the details of the harassment, nitpicking over semantics, cracking jokes, and claiming that the phrase ‘a woman’s large breasts’ is something that is said in the workplace ‘all the time’ (oh, really???).

The most striking part of her testimony, to me, is the following exchange between Dr. Hill and Senator Patrick Leahy:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): Do you have anything to gain by coming here? Has anybody promised you anything for coming forth with this story now?

Hill: I have nothing to gain. No one has promised me anything. I have nothing to gain here. This has been disruptive of my life and I have taken a number of personal risks. I have been threatened and I have not gained anything except knowing that I came forward and did what I felt that I had an obligation to do and that was to tell the truth.

Yeah, so…CAN WE PLEASE STOP THE MYTH THAT WOMEN OR MEN WHO COME FORWARD WITH ASSAULT CLAIMS ARE LYING TO PUSH SOME KIND OF AGENDA??? Let’s take a look at the facts for a sec…

According to Snopes,

‘a large 2014 study analyzed LAPD police data and estimated that “the rate of false [rape] reports among cases reported to the LAPD [in 2008] was 4.5 percent.” A 2017 study used FBI data from 2006 to 2010 to conclude that “approximately 5% of the allegations of rape were deemed false or baseless” during that time period. A 2016 meta-analysis of seven studies addressing the same question estimated that 5.2% of rape allegations were false.’

5%…That’s miniscule. And I don’t take false accusations lightly. My dad is a primary school teacher, and was once falsely accused by one of my sister’s middle school classmates of drinking alcohol and getting drunk during a sleepover my sister had hosted at our house. This was not only completely false (I can count on one hand the number of times my dad has been drunk in front of us, mostly because they were really funny), it was a rude wake-up call to the fact that bullies exist, and they can be young or old, female or male, justified or not, and very, very dangerous. Thankfully, she quickly admitted she was lying and order was restored, but had she continued with her false claim, my dad could have faced some very real consequences for something he did not do. But still, the occurrence of false accusations is low, and not the norm.

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What’s more is that sexual assaults are among the most underreported form of crime. The majority of rapes, attempted rapes, and other sexual assaults go unreported. In a 2016 survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, out of 100 sexual assault incidents, 77 went unreported, while only 23 did report the incident. SEVENTY-SEVEN. And these victims are not only women. The rate of reported sexual assault incidents by men is far lower than women (according to a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped), but experts say that the actual number is likely much higher, because incidents of sexual violence in men are severely underreported in the United States (Source).

Now for the next argument that I have actually heard come out of the mouths of real, live people: ‘Yeah, but it was in high school, more than 30 years ago! If it was so bad, she should have done something about it then. She’s obviously just trying to smear his good name…’

WELL, WELL, WELL. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases (surprise, surprise) after sexual violence. In fact,

94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape.
30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape.
33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide.
13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.
Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.
People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public. (Source)

As for the rest of their lives? Things for victims don’t get much better…According to the same survey, victims of sexual assault are…

3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
6 times more likely to use cocaine
10 times more likely to use other major drugs (Source)

Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. In fact,

38% of victims of sexual violence experience work or school problems, which can include significant problems with a boss, coworker, or peer.
37% experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.
84% of survivors who were victimized by an intimate partner experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.
79% of survivors who were victimized by a family member, close friend or acquaintance experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school.
67% of survivors who were victimized by a stranger experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school. (Source)

Is that enough to convince you that sexual assault victims have literally NOTHING to gain and EVERYTHING to lose when reporting incidents?

The horrors of sexual assault aside, this entire conversation about the credibility of victims, as well as the treatment of victims, is a sad reflection of the fact that our society still doesn’t value women as human people. When a man says he would never assault a woman because he has a mother, or sisters, or daughters, we’re supposed to smile at him in gratitude…but what about not raping women because raping ANYONE is just a really, really awful thing to do?? I don’t have children, but somehow, magically, I can restrain myself from beating up little kids that I see in a playground! Furthermore, every single one of us was created in and came out of a woman’s body, through a vagina or via C-section, so the idea that you need to have daughters or sisters in order to respect women as a whole is pure bullshit.

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When I hear men (and women) saying that they are now afraid of women, afraid to be in a room with women, for fear of being ‘witchunted’, I just want to say, ‘WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHATS’. Women have been scared of men since the beginning of time, so if it take a bit of fear to get men to start treating women like people, then so be it! How sad is it, not to mention telling, that it takes women practically ‘hunting’ (how ironic) men down to finally be taken seriously?

It is time to stop accepting our societal norms as ok. THEY ARE NOT OK. When I was bullied by boys in school, I was often told, dismissively, that it meant they liked me. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F*CK? How is that an excuse to be a trauma-inducing bully? In high school, I was told by classmates and society that essentially my duty as a woman was to either provide or deny sex to men…no mention of sex being a pleasurable, essential, natural human desire that I can partake in either alone or with any consenting partner of my choosing. Conversely, I also heard that men ‘need’ sex, and have zero autonomy over their bodily functions. Here’s the kind of messages I received, some subliminally and some said outright:

‘If a girl leads a guy on, the girl ‘owes’ him sex or else it is very physically painful for the guy.’
‘Boys will be boys’
‘They’re wired that way, they can’t help it’
‘You can get anything you want from guys if you use your body/sexuality right’
‘Ugly girls WISH they’d be raped’ (Yes, REALLY.)
‘The burden of a pretty girl is to accept roving eyes and catcalls. Consider yourself ‘lucky”
‘What did she expect, wearing that outfit?’
‘He’s from a different culture’
‘Boys need to masturbate, girls don’t, and it’s embarrassing/shameful if girls do it but normal for guys to do it.’
‘She’s such a slut. She only does it for the attention’
‘I didn’t really want to do it, but I didn’t feel like telling him to stop’
‘Girls can use their looks to get things, if they’re pretty’

Hopefully by now you get the idea. And let me remind you, I was in high school from 2004-2007, NOT 1954-1957! All I know for certain is that it’s time to change things. Enough is enough. People don’t ruin their lives, families, friendships, careers, etc. with false accusations. Men DO have control of their bodies, as do women. Victims are never to be blamed or shamed, EVER. Sexual assault, harassment, and abuse of any kind is LIFE RUINING. Being young is not an excuse, being drunk is not an excuse, THERE IS NO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSE.

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We’re all inundated by conflicting messages from our environments, and we’re bound to make mistakes now and again, but if your mistake resulted in someone getting hurt, it is your job, RIGHT NOW, to take responsibility for your actions and apologize to whomever you may have hurt.

Let’s stop tickling kids after they say, ‘STOP’. Let’s stop telling girls that boys who are mean to them like them. Let’s stop telling women that they owe men sex, and let’s stop telling men that women exist to please them sexually.

Let’s. Just. Stop.

Whew. Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get that off my chest.

Love to all,
xxlena

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