In a few days, I will celebrate my 50th year on this planet. I haven’t done as much as I guess I hoped I would by now. I have, on the other hand, survived a lot. And that’s why it’s especially important to me to make a big deal out of this nice, round number. It reminds me that I’ve reached an age my depression and anxiety made me fear I’d never see. It is a way of giving myself some credit for making it through and not giving up—for continuing to strive for wellness and to reach for a place where I will once again feel satisfaction with the way I am using the days I have on the earth. I’m not there yet, but I know that I deserve that, so I’m celebrating the fact that I can celebrate myself. And not insignificantly, I’m celebrating the fact that two years after a major trauma, I am able to celebrate my birthday again. This time of year will likely carry some weight of grief for some years, but I am taking this day back.
My birthday wish is honestly too big for words to encompass. The only word that remotely comes close to the thing I would most like to see in this world is LOVE. I have no wish for romantic love in my life—another thing to celebrate, I suppose, since every year up until age 41, I wished for that on every star and birthday candle and dandelion seed and though it was trauma that brought me to this place, I can focus my wishes elsewhere. The love I’m talking about is a more universal thing: THE thing that so many prophets and philosophers and poets have been trying to tell us all along. The thing that is very likely our only hope.
Big, right? It feels unattainable, but I don’t think it is. I believe that if we keep this word in our minds like a mantra, then it can’t help but make bad situations better. So my wish is that everyone reading this remember that word when anger and frustration flares up, not as a reminder to love your enemies necessarily, just as a reminder of what’s inside you that needs expressing out into the world and of what’s important—really important.
This is not the post I set out to write. I came here (inspired by a friend—thanks Britni!) to tell you about a few people and organizations I care about and suggest that you consider them in your holiday giving. But I asked myself what I truly wished for and wanted to answer authentically, so here we are, as close as I could come to putting my wish in a word: LOVE. A big wish, but a small ask. Keep it in your mind and in your heart.
AND if you could show some love to these people and organizations, I would be grateful. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll thank you publicly. (Do let me know if you don’t want that!) Give whatever you can afford, though I do like the numbers $5 and $50, for some reason. And if you can’t give, please consider sharing this post.
Eric Garner’s family lost a father and a husband when a police officer used an illegal chokehold, killing Garner on video as he told officers again and again, “I can’t breathe.” The Garner family’s lives have been shattered. You can help ease the financial burden on the family by donating to this fundraiser (I have committed to $5 a month for 2015):
Johnetta and DeRay are Ferguson organizers, publishers of the Ferguson newsletter, and all-around badasses. You can help them stay fed and housed and support the work they do by donating to their PayPal account.
Brianna Wu is one of several women in the video games industry that has been targeted for relentless harassment by the scum that is GamerGate (all together now: “Actually, it’s about ethics in video games journalism!”). From her Patreon page:
I got into videogames to make video games – but right now the majority of my workweek is wasted on fending off BS from people harassing me.
Wu goes on to describe some of this harassment, which continues to be brutal. These people used her dead dog as a prop with which to torture her and her husband, Frank Wu. Brianna Wu is asking for help:
If you appreciate what I do, please chip in so I can hire some help with the Women in Tech advocacy I do. I need someone to help me with the medial parts of dealing with my attackers so I can focus on my work, making and shipping games.
*Trigger Warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault*
As some of you know, I’m pursuing closure in a thirty-year-old rape case. I have contacted a number of organizations that purport to help people like me, and Joyful Heart Foundation is the only one that reached out and offered to speak with me, hear my story, and provide knowledge and assistance as I navigate the legal system. I’m so grateful for that support.
“Joyful Heart began as a dream of helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of hope, possibility and joy in their lives. We have evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma, transforming the way people think about, talk about and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.”
Thanks for reading and helping me celebrate my 50th birthday.
In 1991, Anita Hill captured my country’s attention when she testified before congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor. I was in my late 20s at the time, and I remember how brave she seemed, but the power dynamics were frankly lost on me at that point. In fact, they were lost on a lot of people. Prior to Ms. Hill’s testimony, we weren’t even talking about sexual harassment in the workplace as a nation. Like so many societal ills, it was a silent current running through our culture, accepted as just “the way things are.” Anita Hill changed that.
Now, watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary ANITA, I look at the sea of white, male faces that confronted her (literally) as she testified, and I have a far better sense of just how much courage that must have taken as a woman and especially as a Woman of Color. She spoke a hard truth to the most powerful men in her country and made herself a target not only for politicians but for racists and comedians and anyone else with an axe to grind against a Black woman who dared talk about how powerful men treat women who are subordinate to them. She did so with a grace I know I couldn’t muster in similar circumstances, and I am in awe of her. I expect I’ll be even more in awe after seeing this film.
Watch the trailer:
Yeah, this looks really, really good.
I’ve worked on Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) campaigns before and hoped at one time to start a Seattle WAM! chapter. Life got in the way and I have had to take a step back from my activism until further notice, but I’m still kicking, and when Jaclyn Friedman asked me if I’d help WAM! get people out to a local ANITA screening I was happy to oblige. But I don’t want to stop there.
Initial screenings are taking place in March and April in select cities (see below). Based on ticket sales for those screenings, distributors for the film will decide how many cities will get the film and for how long. WAM! wants to get as many people as possible out to these screenings to ensure that the film gets wide distribution and in doing so, send a message to Hollywood that “woman-helmed films about women are a good investment.”
I think this is a worthy endeavor—don’t you? I’m hoping you’ll help me get the word out so these initial screenings are as successful as they can be. And BONUS: WAM! has arranged for discounted tickets (see links below)!
Just past the 22 year anniversary, Freida Mock revisits one of the most controversial watershed events of the past century, the Anita Hill – Clarence Thomas hearings, the weekend of shocking television that made Anita Hill a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.
Attend a Screening
Screenings are happening in the following cities (courtesy of WAM!—follow links for discounted tix!):
MARCH 21 – 23, 2014
- NEW YORK, NY – ANGELIKA FILM CENTER: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film Q&A with Anita Hill herself. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
- BERKELEY, CA – SHATTUCK CINEMAS 10: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film talkback hosted by Equal Rights Advocates. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
- LOS ANGELES, CA – LAEMMLE ROYAL THEATRE: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film happy hour and film chat with fellow WAM!mers. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
APRIL 4 – 6, 2014
- BOSTON, MA – KENDALL SQUARE CINEMAS: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film Q&A with Anita Hill herself. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
- WASHINGTON, DC – E-STREET CINEMAS: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film Q&A with director Freida Mock herself.. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
- SEATTLE, WA – SUNDANCE CINEMAS SEATTLE: On sale now at a special WAM! price, and featuring a post-film happy hour and film chat with fellow WAM!mers. Click here for tickets before they sell out!
- CHICAGO, IL – RIVER EAST 21: Email us ASAP to help make a Chicago WAM! screening happen
- ATLANTA, GA – REGAL TARA CINEMAS 4: Email us ASAP to help make an Atlanta WAM! screening happen
Help Make ANITA a Success!
Watch the trailer. Spread the word about this film, these screenings (and discounted tix!), and our goal to turn out as many movie-goers as we can. If you live in one of the above cities, attend a screening! Any screening! And if you live in one of the above cities and would like to help ensure the success of ANITA in your city, or if your city is not listed and you’d like to bring a screening to your area, email WAM! and let them know.
Let’s send that message to Hollywood so more films like this one get made and seen.
Guest Post by Fran Stewart
Fran surprised me with another wonderful post today in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Enjoy. ~Rosie (TDoR 2013)
My name’s Fran Stewart, and I’m a transgender woman. “Transgender” is an intensely personal term, and it means different things to everyone who uses it. To me, it means that I was born with a body that didn’t make sense to my mind, and now I live in a body that fits me much better into the world. You might well know a transgender person and not be aware it. We’ve learned over the years that it’s wiser to keep it to ourselves.
I am out. Though I want the world to treat me as the woman I am, to simply BE a woman, I tell my secret.
I am out because I’m a storyteller, and some of my best stories happened when I was (or thought I was) a boy. Heck, some of the real gems happened while I was transitioning! The words come easily to me.
I’m out because it’s funny! When you get your leg hair caught in an Epilady, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing is just more fun in a group.
I am out because I’m proud. Hiding my past makes me feel like I’m ashamed of it. I’m not. This is how I was born. If I’d been born in a taxi, would I be ashamed of it?
I am out because I pass for “normal,” what ever THAT’s supposed to be. When you’ve seen me on the street, you’ve seen the woman I am, not the man we all thought I was. I can tell you my secret and surprise you, and be safely able to fade back into anonymity.
I am out because I want to learn and teach. There’s more about the spectrum of gender than I can ever know, and I’ve seen more than most. I don’t like feeling ignorant, and It’s worth learning I was wrong to find what is more right. Every discussion, I get to teach and learn things.
I am out because every person I tell is one less person who might freak out when Uncle Lloyd says she’s actually Aunt Vanessa or when the new woman at work has a rather deep voice and a notable Adam’s Apple.
I am out because I still have support. I told my family—they still love me. I told my friends—they still surround me.
I am out because I have money. Unlike many transgender people, my secret never cost me my job, or my marriage, or my safety net. I had the rare insurance that covered most of my therapy and surgery.
I am out because I have a home. I’ve never been thrown out of an apartment, exiled to a back seat or an underpass.
I am out because I’m lucky—I have never been screamed at in a mall, spat on by a passerby, chased out of a bathroom. Instead, when I’ve revealed my secret I’ve had fantastic discussions and meaningful debates, even with complete strangers and clergymen.
I am out because I’m alive—nobody ever beat my skull in or buried me in a shallow grave. Nor did I drink myself to death to save the world the trouble.
I’m out because I am a minority’s minority’s minority: a lesbian, transgender woman, who is happy, strong, secure and loved. I tell my story to give hope to the many who are miserable, sick, afraid, and alone.
I am out because I’m angry. I’ve been to groups. I’ve heard all the stories I describe above, over and over. Your mothers and fathers, your children, your uncles and aunts, shamed, ostracized, brutalized, cast aside, expurgated from your history. Wonderful, kind people. Fine people, ground up even finer for want of the tiniest amount of love, the smallest benefit of a doubt, the least amount of patience.
I’m out because with all this good fortune, I feel the need to push my luck. Good things happen when I tell my story: looks of shock, laughter, hugs. More often now, the best thing: “Really? Huh.” And then a shrug as we move on to more important things. That’s the world as it should be. It costs me nothing to be an ambassador, to answer questions. To pay back all the patience and good grace that I received.
I’m out because I can see the future. The kids I meet are even less nervous about gender and its spectrum than I am. Crossplay and fluidity allow us to figure out exactly who we are. The games they play evolve too fast for terms to even keep up. The Internet is awash in children reinventing gender.
I’m out because although the world can be horribly cruel, I find that the best way I can make it better is to live like it could be otherwise. I tell my story for those who can’t, or don’t dare to, tell their own. I speak for the murdered, the suicides, the institutionalized, the browbeaten, the homeless, the sorrowing wounded I met at every support group, the fatherless, the friendless, the child-bereft, the shamed, the terrified. Because I am proof that it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
I am out, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we note the HUNDREDS of transgender people brutally and violently killed this year, because…because it’s so easy to make it better. To ask “Is it sir or ma’am, please?” To say “Why should I care what bits you were born with? You’re a woman!” To say “I don’t understand, but I love you and I’ll try.” To say “You look good today.” To say “What’s your damn problem? Leave her alone!” To say “Please tell me about it, when you’re ready.” To say “Let me teach you some basics.” To simply say “Around me, you don’t need to be afraid, or watch your words, or be on edge. Just be yourself, the best you know how.”
I’m out because so far it’s worked for me, and I’ve seen my good fortune spread. I hope that if you read this far, you will keep it going, and that one day November can become a month of thanks and family, unalloyed with sadness.
Also by Fran Stewart:
PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
This is one of those stories that warms my heart and makes me proud of the state I was born in (neither of which happens often enough these days). I missed the whole thing, and I couldn’t let that happen to you.
So, in case you missed it…
Yesterday, Richardson High School in Texas hosted an assembly (sponsored by the PTA) wherein a “motivational speaker” named Justin Lookadoo presented his philosophies (ostensibly on dating violence) to the student body.* For a little background regarding his expertise as a teen dating guru, here are some “cool rules” from Lookadoo’s website, “R U Dateable.” (If you need to go vomit now, I’ll wait.)
- Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.
- God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!
- Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.
- Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.
(If you didn’t vomit before, but need to now, feel free.)
Justin Lookadoo is the author of a book titled (not surprisingly) Dateable. Here’s a sample:
Don’t tease the animals. Have I mentioned that guys are visual? They get turned on by what they see. … So listen: please, PLEASE don’t tease us. To show us your hot little body and then tell us we can’t touch is being a tease. You can’t look that sexy and then tell us to be on our best behavior. Check yourself – if you’re advertising sex, you’re going to get propositions. … A guy will have a tendency to treat you like you are dressed. If you are dressed like a flesh buffet, don’t be surprised when he treats you like a piece of meat.
(Ok, one more vomit break. Ready, set, BLORF.)
How this guy gets speaking engagements at high schools is anyone’s guess. (Though it might have something to do with the fact that he claims to be a “Christian” motivational speaker, which carries a good deal of weight with some Texans. In fact, the school district’s initial response to criticism was to apologize for the “non-religious terminology” Lookadoo used to get his message across.) But though this can’t be his first rodeo, he was evidently unprepared for the reaction from students at RHS. The first hashtagged tweet came from Nate Beer, self-described “newsman.” (Beer writes for the school paper.)
The easiest way to tune this guy out is being on Twitter #Lookadouche
— (@NateBeer) November 13, 2013
What followed was a twitstorm of fairly epic proportions. Student reactions ranged from amused to enraged and back again. Here are just a few:
Like I don’t think he’s prepared for the questions when he’s done. He ain’t ready. #Lookadouche
— Es†iee.♡ (@InGodsArmy_) November 13, 2013
I feel sick to my stomach #Lookadouche
— (@NateBeer) November 13, 2013
So I’m a slut now?? #lookadouche
— Kendall Fletcher (@kendallleigh96) November 13, 2013
Hey gentlemen, since y’all are stronger go kick this guys ass for us. #lookadouche
— Kimberly Martinez (@kimper16) November 13, 2013
At this rate, our speaker on Friday will be Ritchie Incognito #Lookadouche
— (@NateBeer) November 13, 2013
Walking out, I refuse to listen to the enforcement of stereotypes and gender roles. #lookadouche
— Aisleen Menezes (@aisleenmenezes) November 13, 2013
I AM SATAN AND I HAVE A VAGINA #lookadouche
— Grayson Hill (@GraysonTheHill) November 13, 2013
Parents were livid. At least one apparently created a Twitter account just to get onboard:
Daughter pulled from class for a mandatory misogynistic rant. PTA sponsored, without my Consent. Consulting w/ my attorney now #lookadouche
— sasabr (@TonySasabr) November 14, 2013
And Lookadoo wasn’t ready for the after-show Q&A. From local station WFAA:
Students circled around the speaker and hurled questions about his philosophies.
“Why did you tell girls to get out of abusive relationships instead of telling guys not to be abusive in the first place?” one student asked.
“I’ve done about 4,000 programs. That’s never happened,” Lookadoo confessed.
#lookadouche became a trending topic. News and media outlets picked up the story and are still running with it. Nate Beer, newsman, had to take a Twitter break because he was overwhelmed by the response (not all of it positive, I’m sure). And of course Twitter-at-large took up the cry, which is how the story came to my attention today.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that for a moment, when I heard about the speaker’s message, I was worried for these students; afraid that they’d actually buy into this bullshit and internalize it. And perhaps some did. But one thing is certain: Justin Lookadoo, misogynist “motivational speaker,” did motivate RHS students. Just not the way he intended.
Go, Richardson High School. You give me hope.
- Here’s a petition asking the superintendent of George West ISD to cancel Lookadoo’s upcoming speaking event at GWH.
- Lookadoo has expressed confusion over the uproar, saying that his message at the assembly was not the same as the one in his “Dateable” rulebook. The Atlantic has excerpts from his speech at the assembly. I’ll let you be the judge.
- *I originally stated that he “presented his rules for how to be “dateable.” I have since learned that part of the agreement with the PTA was that he would not state these rules, but it appears that he managed to get the message across just the same.
- DallasNews has printed a letter from RHS Principal Charles Bruner, which apparently went home with students today.
- Texas High School Holds Assembly Featuring Misogynistic Christian Speaker, So Students Complain on Twitter (patheos.com)
- Richardson High Schoolers Learned Today That “Dateable Girls Know How to Shut Up” (blogs.dallasobserver.com)
- Motivational speaker offers controversial dating tips for teens (wfaa.com)
- Justin Lookadoo and maybe lookadouche? (RHS student Aisleen Menezes)
[Trigger Warning for Rape and Rape Threats]
To Whom it May Concern:
“You’re too ugly to be raped. I want to rape you just to shut you up.”
Look at what you just did.
Seriously. Stop, right now, and reread that.
You started by pretending that you believe rape is about sex and desire. That rape is something you do when you can’t control your hormones any longer and must bed someone immediately, with or without their consent. You want to continue to push the idea that rape is about sex and desire because it helps you keep control, and it helps you silence those who speak out.
But you immediately betrayed yourself.
Immediately, you demonstrated that you actually know that rape is about violence, that it’s about control, that it’s about power. You know it isn’t about sex or desire. You push that it’s about sex because that helps you continue to use it as a control mechanism. If I convince you that my machine gun is really just a fluffy bunny, you’ll stop trying to take it away from me, and I can continue to use it against you.
You aren’t stupid. Rather, you feign stupidity in the hopes that your opponents will believe you or finally shut up and submit to you. It won’t work, though. You’ve shown your hand. You’ve shown that you do understand rape, and you do know exactly what you’re doing.
You can’t hide behind your lies anymore.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
I’ve been at this blogger-activist thing less than a year, but I know I’ve said it more than once: I strongly believe we have to hold ourselves and our allies to the same standards we do our opponents. This means we can’t allow ourselves to place anyone on a pedestal where criticism can’t reach them, and we can’t sweep bad behavior under the proverbial rug. It means we don’t let one another off the hook when we slip up and contribute to the problems we’re all trying to fight.
It means no sacred cows.
It doesn’t mean we have to point fingers and assign blame—at least not in my personal best-case scenario. To me, it means we point out the problems we see with what someone said/did/wrote, and then we stand back and let the person respond, hopefully taking some time to consider and form a thoughtful rebuttal or explanation or mea culpa. I know this can work—I see it all the time. But people have to be willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, like “Did you mean to say X? Because that’s what I heard.” And then follow up with “Here are all the ways that’s problematic.” And that’s difficult to do. But I think there’s too much at stake not to at least try to do it more often.
Lately, I’ve had a number of encounters with people who are fairly hardcore about responding when a stranger or celebrity or faceless entity they care nothing about says or does something out of line, but seem very reluctant to call out people (or entities) they consider allies even if they behave really badly. And some of these folks can be extremely critical of those who do call out bad behavior from people (or entities) they deem “good.” For example, some critics point to a given target of my activist ire and a) tell me all the things to like about them and b) draw comparisons among the issues I could be focusing on and finding my choices lacking—particularly in the face of how awesome the target is if I could only see all the good they do. But the fact that a person or company or organization might be otherwise awesome is precisely why I have to speak out when they do something less-than-awesome. If I let someone off the hook for bad behavior because they also do good, I’m making a conscious decision to condone that bad behavior under certain very particular circumstances (i.e., ones that suit me in a given situation). There’s a word for someone who does that: hypocrite.
Sacred cows are everywhere, even in our social circles. Like that one guy people apologize for because he’s a “good guy” who goes to church or gives to charity or volunteers with underprivileged puppies or whatever even though he did something really awful to another member of your social circle (this probably sounds like I’m talking about someone specific, but it happens all the time—see Captain Awkward #322 & #323 and #393 for examples). Or that woman who really is a great person who helps people and does all kinds of good, and when she says or does something really awful, no one will call her on it because she probably didn’t mean it the way it sounded, or she was just having an off day, someone provoked her, or don’t pick on her because look at all the GOOD she does. When we let these people off the hook, we’re sending a message that they can behave as they wish without consequence. We’re sending a message to anyone these people have wronged that the wrongs they suffered don’t count. And that can be pretty harmful. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. (In fact, Sid wrote about it here.)
So what is at stake? Because we’re all tacitly condoning it, the behavior will very likely continue. Within the framework of activism, allies may decide to adopt the behavior and perpetuate the problem, while opponents will certainly make as much hay out of the offense as possible—especially since we’ve chosen to ignore it and laud the offender’s accomplishments instead. These are just some of the risks we take when we apply a double standard.
But the most important thing at stake here for me? My integrity.
When I do this thing I am describing—when I choose to apply my standards to only those unfortunate enough not to be among my sacred cows—I compromise my principles. And what value is there in anything I do or say if I don’t defend my principles with everything I’ve got?
The most high-profile sacred cow we liberals hold dear is President Obama. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy as hell that he became president and that he got reelected. But there are things he does that have me scratching my head and I have spoken out about them in the past (not here I don’t think, but on my previous blog for certain). I had a (very unrealistic) hope that we would get modern-day equivalent of a fireside chat out of this guy where he loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, parked his butt on the corner of his desk, and leveled with us on the day-to-day struggles of governing this country. I want to understand why we’re killing civilians with drones, why Gitmo can’t be closed (yes, I’ve read the reasons), and why the HELL he thinks fracking is a good idea. I wanted him to explain how he didn’t agree with some provisions of the NDAA but had to sign it into law anyway (for reasons I’ve also read). And that’s just for starters. The President of the United States is the very LAST person we should be letting off the hook.
Penny Arcade, PAX, and front-men Gabe and Tycho, are sacred cows in the games industry where I’ve mostly made my living for the past 25 years. When I asked friends recently whether PA had ever acknowledged what the real problem was with the way they handled what’s now known as the Dickwolves Debacle (i.e., did they ever apologize, or did everyone just sweep it under the rug and keep going to PAX?), I heard two things: 1) No, they haven’t done anything to illustrate an understanding of what they did wrong. 2) PAX is too important a networking opportunity for some folks to miss, especially given the current economic climate. I sympathize, but I think we have to demand better from people with as much pull in the industry–especially among youth–as Penny Arcade enjoys. But we don’t, and so Gabe goes along his merry way being a rape apologist (he recently decried the unfairness of Kickstarter’s decision to pull a game called “Tentacle Bento”–in which the player’s goal was to accost as many schoolgirls as possible as an alien tentacle monster) and all around ignorant ass, and steadfastly refuses to hear anyone who attempts to help him understand people whose experiences differ from his and correct his course to avoid causing harm in the future. He consistently trivializes issues people ask him to take seriously, poking fun at or even ridiculing critics (and thereby encouraging his followers to do the same). And anymore, Tycho just seems to pretend none of it is happening. PA continues to be a major influencer, with the industry flocking to PAX where a lot of people still think Dickwolves was a kick in the pants because PA never stood up and said “We were wrong–here’s what we learned.” They have explicitly chosen not to use their influence to help solve the problems they continue to help perpetuate. And frankly, too few in the industry have asked them to.
The rape joke that got Penny Arcade into trouble in the first place (but was ultimately minor compared to their handling of the fallout) fell into that oh-so-holy space just outside reality where people are supposedly allowed to say and do anything: comedy. I’ll let Lindy West speak to that (via Jezebel):
But it’s just a joke. Calm down.
Yeah, dude, but this shit isn’t magic. It’s not a game. It’s not like you get to declare the comedy stage “base” and the rest of the world “hot lava” (spewing from the vaginas of feminazi gargoyles, I’m sure) and everything you say on the stage exists in some sacred loophole that’s exempt from criticism and the expectation of hard work. Rape, domestic violence, brutalization, marginalization, the struggle to make yourself heard—all of this shit is REAL to a lot of people. They’re not cute little thought experiments for you to mess around with without pushback. You can lie to yourself all you want, but if you say something awful to somebody in the course of your regular day, it is exactly the same as if you say it on stage. If anything, its emotional impact is magnified.
And anyway, anyone who says “but it’s just a joke” has never had their life profoundly changed by a joke.
In the same article, Lindy has this to say about sacred cows:
But Louis CK!
Ugh, this part is so boring. Okay. Do you know what else Louis CK does? He changes. He evolves. He thinks. And when he fucks up, he gets criticized like crazy, and some of that criticism makes it into his brain—and, eventually, his act. Also, just because one of comedy’s sacred god-kings manages to be funny and smart when broaching certain sensitive topics doesn’t mean they can’t also be harmful. You know, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Etc. Just because Jeffrey Ross can (debatably) pull off a “haha, faggot” once in a while doesn’t mean that identical “haha, faggot”s aren’t actively moving gay kids to kill themselves all over the fucking country. It’s real, and it deserves critical thought, not kneejerk defensiveness.
Also, you’re not Louis CK. Maybe don’t invite the comparison.
It’s not easy to realize your behavior might be contributing to the very problems you claim to want to solve. But if you’re lucky enough to reach a certain level of self-awareness, you realize that you’d rather be right—really right—than be wrong and defend your wrong position like a stubborn jackass. I have been known to say you can be Jesus H. Christ and heal the sick all day long, but if you’re an asshole, I’m going to say, “Jesus! Don’t be an asshole!” But even I didn’t want to heap criticism on the president at election time in 2012. And that made me a hypocrite. A well-meaning hypocrite with what felt like good reasons for being so, but a hypocrite nonetheless.
So, this is my mea culpa for that and for how hard it is for me to call out my sacred cows when I think something they have said or done has caused harm. I can’t say it will never happen again. I’m not going on a witch hunt; believe it or not, I’m actually non-confrontational by nature. But I want to do better. I’d like to call on anyone reading to consider joining me in making a commitment to hold ourselves and each other to the highest possible standard so we all strive to do and be better. At the very least, we’ll give our opponents less ammunition. At best, we will raise the level of discourse, which is always worthwhile.
Either way, we’ll have our integrity.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Guest post by Ro
Note: Ro transitioned several years ago. However, she lived in an isolated setting and had no access to transportation. Late last year, she moved to a village and what follows is her incredible experience. (Originally published on Facebook.)
This is perhaps the most important post I have made on Facebook. Please read.
I am blessed with the best friends ever. What follows should stun you. In November, I moved to a very small village in Wales. When I got here, I didn’t know anyone. I would go down the pub and hang out. I wanted people to get to know me. For the most part, I would just sit there and nod and smile at people. However, I did meet two of the most amazing people I have ever known.I have known this couple for only two months now. Absolutely the nicest people I’ve met in Wales. They live very close to me. It’s one of those friendships where you feel like you’ve known them for years. They have known and supported my new gender identity since the first time I met them.The wife and and another female friend went with me to the pub when I first used the woman’s loo two weeks ago. They came as my support team. How cool is that?
I went back to the pub with the wife again last Thursday when I was told by the bartender that I couldn’t use the proper loo. Even though we had just met, my friend was outraged. She walked out of the pub with me and was so very concerned about how I was feeling. She knows me better than I know myself. I was sort of in shock and it took a few days to sort out my emotions. I posted about it here and got remarkable advice and support. Thank you!
She and her husband are boycotting the pub. How cool is that?
I met her, her husband and their 2 wonderful children at a different pub on Sunday. They told me they had been talking with their families and friends about what had happened. They made an offer that totally floored me.
They, their relatives and their friends have made an incredible offer: they want to go to the pub with me again. Not only are they going there to stand up for me, they are offering to go dressed in the clothing of their opposite gender.
Not only will the men dress as women and the women as men: they will go to the loo for the gender they present.
Let me repeat that: New friends, their family and friends (who I haven’t met) will not only support me in my legal right to use the appropriate loo, they will cross dress and use the appropriate loo. Most of them have never met me.
As soon as I was alone, I had a good type of cry. How do I deserve friends like this?
Again, I live in a sleepy little village where everyone knows everyone. A couple I only recently met, their friends and family (again, who I haven’t yet met) are willing to do this wonderful, amazing and brave thing.
I told them that I want to meet with the pub landlord first and discuss the issue. If he doesn’t agree to do the legal thing, I don’t know if I will take them up on their offer.
But, regardless, I stand taller and more confident that these amazing people are willing to stand with me.
I am blessed. I am amazed. I am lucky.
This is why we’re here people: to stand up for each other. I never thought I would meet such wonderful people.
I am grateful to them beyond words. And I am grateful to each of you who support me here on FB.
If others stand tall for me, I must stand tall as well.
Life has never been better. How cool is that?
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Today my friend Anne is on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism for the post I shared with you yesterday in which she bravely considered a future when her son might cross a line despite her best efforts. You see, Anne realizes that even though her little boy is two years old now and loves his mother more than anything, one day he will experience–as we all do–a need to go his own way and take his cues from sources that do not love him with all their hearts and want him to be and have the absolute best.
I have known Anne less than a year, but in that time (in addition to getting to know her personally and coming to call her a friend) I have read many of her posts on The Belle Jar and have been at turns moved to tears, anger, nostalgia, a strong sense of simpatico, and fits of giggles. Her ability to bring herself–her personal stories–to her constant struggle to contribute to the greater good means that her work (on TBJ and elsewhere) reaches more and more people every day. And that means that in addition to the thousands of people who need her stories and words–either because they weren’t quite awake and she splashed their faces or because, like me, they’re out here fighting the same fight and desperately need the solidarity and ideas and perspectives and common vocabulary to do what we do–there are those who will tear her down.
Some of these people just don’t get it. Others are on a crusade to expose the evils of feminism. As for the former, I can only hope that some seed has been planted and germinates even now in the depths of their brains. But the latter? Allow me to submit that they are the true measure of the impact Anne is making. I don’t envy her the negative attention, the stress, the bad feels that I know even now are making it hard for her to do the important work she’s doing. But I, for one, want to say that I’m counting on Anne to take what strength she can from all of us who love her, love what she does, love her stories and her strength and her courage, and remember that what all of this means is that she’s doing something right.
And I’ve known that all along. <3
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
UPDATE: COLORADO RIGHTS DIVISION RULES IN COY’S FAVOR! (See updates at bottom.)
This is Coy Mathis. She’s six years old and, until recently, attended first grade at a school in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District in Colorado. In December 2012 Coy’s school contacted her parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, and told them that Coy would no longer be allowed to use the girls’ restroom, as she has done since Kindergarten.
You see, Coy Mathis was assigned “male” at birth. But she has known since she was able to know things that she is a girl.
You’re probably imagining a horrific tale of parental complaints and classroom bullying, but none of that has happened. The school district has decided to preemptively address a problem that does not exist, but that they imagine might occur in the future.
From Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis:
They gave Coy three options for where to go to the bathroom; the boys’ room, the staff bathroom with adults, or the nurse’s bathroom which is used by sick children.
Coy is not sick, she is not an adult, and she is not a boy.
Coy is a girl. She wears girls’ clothes, is addressed by everyone at the school using female pronouns, and has been accepted by her classmates and teachers as a girl. But if the school separates her from all her classmates to use the bathroom, they are singling her out for mistreatment, and teaching her classmates that it’s okay to discriminate.
Coy’s parents have removed her from school and have brought suit against the school district. The attorney for the district, W. Kelly Dude, provided the following explanation (using male pronouns to describe Coy):
The school “took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older.” He went on to add, “However, I’m certain you can appreciate that as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.” (via Housing Works Advocate)
The fact that Coy first told her parents that something was wrong with her body when she was four–the fact that Coy’s doctors have diagnosed her with gender identity disorder and recommended that she live as, and be treated as, a girl–well, the facts of Coy’s life and identity apparently don’t count. But imaginary possible future student discomfort and parent complaints? These are IMPORTANT and we MUST ACT NOW. You know, just in case.
Here’s Coy’s mom Kathryn Mathis on how Coy described the feelings she was having:
“She just kept crying and said she was scared that she was going to grow up and have a beard and a hairy chest and everybody would know she was born a boy.”
Seriously? This is all my kid would ever have to say to me (and it should be all anyone needs to hear). And I would fight the whole world to protect her right to be who she is.
We can all join the Mathis family in fighting for Coy by signing their petition on Change.org.You can also contact the Fountain-Fort Carson School District and let them know what you think. Let’s make a world that loves, accepts, and celebrates Coy and kids like her for who they are.
I went looking for news on the case, and there isn’t much, but I wanted to include this from Coy’s mom, which goes a bit farther toward explaining the process they went to before deciding the right way to proceed. From Huffington Post:
“It was kind of a long process because she had been telling us for some time, and we thought, ‘Well maybe it’s a phase, maybe if we just confirm to her that she really is a boy?’ you know, try and encourage her toward boy things, then her phase would be over maybe,” Kathryn Mathis said. “So it really took a lot of learning, research on our part because she was consistently telling us the same thing, that she was a girl. So we read lots of books, we contacted lots of support groups. We contacted her pediatrician and a child psychologist and it was very lengthy. And eventually we were told that we needed to support her and how she was, and you know, how she really was.”
Jill Filipovic also writes about Coy in a recent article on the Guardian.
Watch a 17 minute Dateline video featuring Coy: Crossover Kids
CO. RIGHTS DIVISION RULES IN COY’S FAVOR!
From the New York Times (6/23/13):
In a sharply worded ruling, the division concluded that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District needlessly created a situation in which the student, Coy Mathis, would be subject to harassment when it barred her from the girls’ bathroom even though she clearly identified as female.
Telling Coy “that she must disregard her identity while performing one of the most essential human functions constitutes severe and pervasive treatment, and creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive,” Steven Chavez, the division director, wrote in the decision.
The dispute over whether Coy, 6, should be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom was seen by some as a critical test of how state antidiscrimination laws were applied to transgender students.
Read more at NYT.
I want to apologize–for so many things. For myself and for the culture we live in. Because we are failing you and girls like you and we have to do better.
I’ll start by apologizing for myself. I’m sorry for not knowing until now what to say about the way Seth MacFarlane and the Onion treated you on Oscar night. They singled you out for a laugh never thinking of what effect that might have on you. On a night when they should have been celebrating your achievements, they commodified you. They used you in a way that comedians and satirist use lots of people, except that children ought to be exempt. Especially on what is possibly the biggest night of their lives to date, when they’re sitting right there in the room listening attentively. And I was outraged, and I said so, but only in passing. I didn’t feel equipped to deal with the complexity of the racial side of this (if it can even be called a side–maybe it’s the whole thing). I felt as though it wasn’t my place. And I read what other people had to say and I asked questions and I learned. And now I know that my silence was perhaps interpreted by some as acceptance or at the very least, complacency, laziness, and lack of concern. I realize that if you or any young woman of color came to my blog, you would find that I’d dedicated exactly zero time and energy to saying (here, where I talk about things that matter to me) that they treated you badly, that they were wrong, that this is a symptom of so much of what is wrong with us as a society, and that it’s important to understand that race is a big part of the equation because of the way black girls and women have historically been treated–and exploited–in this country.
I’m sorry, Quvenzhané, that I didn’t write about this before now.
Now I want to apologize for the culture that allows this to happen, because I know I have been part of the problem and because I own that each of us (adults) is partly responsible for allowing it to be this way. We raise our girls to believe they are somehow less than boys, and our boys to think that the worst possible thing someone can say to them is that they’re behaving like (or running like, or throwing like, or crying like) a girl. We reward young men for the “conquest” of having sex, and shame young women for being “sluts.” We create and consume media that sets unattainable standards, reinforces harmful gender and racial stereotypes, and perpetuates rape culture. This culture we have created and continue to allow to thrive is what made Seth MacFarlane believe it was acceptable to use you for a laugh. It’s what made some fans claim that our outrage over that and the Onion’s ill-considered attempt at satire are because people like us “have no sense of humor.” It’s the reason hundreds of people retweeted the Onion’s tweet.
I’m sorry, Quvenzhané. I’m sorry we aren’t living in a post-sexist, post-racist society by 2013. I’m sorry they couldn’t just let you have your night in the spotlight and celebrate your talent and your achievements and the fact that you made history. I hope the night was wonderful and that none of this spoiled anything for you.
I learned to pronounce your name partly because I was so angry that people who make their living talking to and about celebrities on television did not take the time before meeting you to do so, but also because I wanted to know how to say it. Now I find myself saying it over and over again: Quvenzhané, Quvenzhané, Quvenzhané…because it sounds like a song. Those people who didn’t bother to learn your name really missed out–they could have done their jobs and had the joy of saying your lovely name out loud.
I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Update 1/12/15: It has been nearly two years and they are still mispronouncing her name.
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