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.
Meet Kristi Noem. Yesterday she distinguished herself as the only woman in Congress to vote against both the House and Senate versions of the Violence Against Women Act. While you ponder that, here’s a bit about her from Wikipedia:
Kristi Noem (born November 30, 1971) is the U.S. Representative for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district, serving since January 2011. She is a member of the Republican Party and has been elected to the Republican Leadership for the 112th Congress as one of its two freshman representatives. She previously represented the 6th District in the South Dakota House of Representatives for four years, serving as an Assistant Majority Leader during her final year. She is a farmer, rancher and small business owner by profession.
Many on her Facebook page (male and female–even some Republicans) are asking for an explanation, but I found no official statement on her page. Apparently this is not a cut and dried issue for her, as she has waffled on it before. According to a statement to press after the vote, she believes the VAWA will “muddy the waters with constitutionally questionable provisions that will likely only delay justice.”
Also, according to the Argus Leader, Noem has plans to…compensate? for voting against women by introducing new legislation in future:
Noem said she soon will introduce a bill to help victims of domestic abuse in Indian tribes. The measure will include a series of provisions, including improving coordination between U.S. and tribal law enforcement.
Yeah, sorry, but…no.
To see Ms. Noem among these white Republican men in this context is so bizarre to me. As one Facebook commenter said, “How could anyone with a uterus vote against VAWA?” But even more bizarre was seeing this from one female commenter:
And this, also from a woman:
I’m never surprised to see men bashing VAWA. To be clear, I’m never surprised to see men defending VAWA, either–it’s just that most VAWA opposition I’ve encountered comes directly from Men’s Rights Activists who claim that the Violence Against Women Act is a conspiracy by feminists to strip them of their parental rights and destroy the institution of the traditional American family. The rest has come from white, male politicians who honestly seem worried that they or one of their friends might find themselves subject to reservation justice, which when you think about it is pretty gross. But why else oppose protections for Native American women raped by men who are not members of the reservation they chose to perpetrate their crime (often repeatedly)?
But when I see women caught up in opposing their own rights and protections, I just feel sick. Who are these women, and how did someone convince them that VAWA was bad for them (or for anyone)? And more importantly, how do we counter this tendency?
A male commenter on MMAS recently said that women need to stand together and watch one another’s backs the way men do. I think he’s right in that women have been trained to see one another as competition for males and while some of us have risen above that and are embracing sisterhood, too many still don’t want to be seen as One of “Those” Girls. Men are competitive, too, but it’s just not the same, I think. When women buy into the cultural stereotypes that tell us that our sex is bitchy, naggy, and oh-so-crazy, but tolerable as long as we look cute and don’t make waves…well, what chance to we have? When women buy into conservative/MRA lies that tell them VAWA is a feminist plot or a way to complicate legal proceedings or persecute white men…how the hell do we counter that?
With the truth. Here’s some from the White House VAWA Fact Sheet:
VAWA has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women by:
- holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
- mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
- keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
- increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
- ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
- providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.
VAWA also provides services for victims of domestic violence and their families. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers 22,000 calls a month, and is the first call most victims make when they decide to seek help. And since VAWA passed in 1994, domestic violence is down nearly 70%. Programs VAWA created have resulted in greater awareness of what constitutes abuse, resulting in higher reporting rates, so more abuse victims are getting out and getting the help they need. Because of VAWA, more women understand that abuse is not “normal” and is never okay. And I’m sorry to report that making abuse a black-and-white issue is one of the things opponents of VAWA really dislike. Because some men believe they have the right to visit all manner of punishment on women so long as they don’t actually lay a hand on them, and they’d really rather we didn’t label their behavior as abusive. Well, sorry, dickheads. You lose.
As for women working against their own interests, all I can say is fight it wherever you find it, people. Women like Rep. Noem may be a lost cause (although I encourage you to let her know what you think), but too many are just asleep. And it’s time for a wake-up call.
Guest post by Derryl Murphy
The November 9/16, 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly has a commentary by Keith Staskiewicz titled “Worst Wives Club,” which purports to ask why TV fans have so much hate for the women in their favorite shows. Booing Lori Grimes at NY Comic Con, being happy that Rita on Dexter was killed (“good riddance” is the quote used), and more: examples trotted out also include Betty Draper on Mad Men, Skyler on Breaking Bad, even Carmela Soprano, because wanting your husband to maybe lay off the nasty shit and come home for dinner is apparently the height of bitchiness and you therefore must pay.
-Keith Staskiewicz, “Worst Wives Club” Entertainment Weekly (November 9/16, 2012)
I wrote a letter in response, which is a tad shorter than what you see here, but still covers the same points.
Keith Staskiewicz’s column in the November 9/16 issue really seemed to miss the mark. A quick glance at the web and the news shows how fanboys have treated Anita Sarkeesian after her Tropes vs Women Kickstarter and her comments on misogyny in video games (start here and then move on if you wish). You can also see how members of the atheist and scientific community treated Rebecca Watson after she spoke out against harassment – see her article on Slate for the low down on this and make sure you read the comments to remind yourself just how horrible males (I refuse to use the word men) can be. And of course we can’t ignore how women were viewed by a large segment of people running for office in the latest US election, and how many religions treat women. It seems that misogyny is an equal opportunity blight, and no matter what community one might belong to, there are plenty of reasons offered by other members of that community for us to bow our heads in shame. Is it a surprise that TV fans (male, of course) feel threatened by women who don’t behave exactly as they want? Perhaps it’s time EW looks at how fans of pop culture treat females who tread on their so-called territory. At the very least, I’d be curious to know what their mothers and sisters and maybe even sometimes–unlikely as it would seem to many that people like this would even have them –wives and daughters think about the language they use, the rape fantasies they seem to harbor, the anger that just won’t go away.
Derryl Murphy is the author of the novel Napier’s Bones (CZP) and the new collection Over the Darkened Landscape (Fairwood Press). He lives with his family on the frozen Canadian prairie, and is on Twitter as @derrylm.
Thanks to Derryl for letting me share this. I haven’t read the EW piece (it’s not online yet or I’d link it here), so if you have, chime in and let us know what you think. I think it’s so important that we speak out in whatever way moves us whenever we’re inspired to, and I sincerely hope EW gives some thought to Derryl’s suggestion. ~Rosie
Guest post by Amanda Rose Smith
“I’m not going to Smith College.”
That’s the first thing I said to my college counselor, when at 16 years old and a junior in highschool, I came shuffling into her office in my leather jacket and walmart-bought steel-toed boots. It’s safe to say that just about nobody would have ever called me a paragon of femininity or a “girly-girl,” but even so, the word “feminist” had always seemed a little bit like a dirty word to me. I felt that it implied victimhood, a need of special treatment, and was determined to prove to anyone who would pay attention that I didn’t need that. As such, I found the idea of an all female college completely repugnant. Still, despite my statement and the finality of decision-making that it implied, I did, in fact, end up going to Smith College. It was mostly a matter of financial aid, school reputation, and proximity to home. Also, they had a *great* program in what I wanted to do. It was a bit perplexing to me, but everyone kept saying how perfect it would be for me, and how much they knew I would love it. Despite the fact that I still had some misgivings, I went. Aside from that whole “no guys thing” as I called it, it made sense.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the school (although I sort of suspect anyone reading this kind of blog probably is) it is one of the few originally all female schools left that still only admits women. It is one of the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the entire country, male, female, or co-ed. It has graduated tons of famous women, including Julia Child, Gloria Steinem, Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, Tammy Baldwin…it is also the Mecca of feminism. Smith was where I learned about the different ways of spelling woman (womyn, for example) I learned the pronouns that you use for transgendered people and aaalll about “The Patriarchy.” While other girls were going to frat parties and joining sororities, I was eating vegan cutlet and discussing affirmative action. That’s not to say I was immediately converted. During freshman (sorry- I meant to say, “first year”) orientation, all the new girls in my dorm sat in a circle, taking turns telling the group what they hoped to accomplish at Smith. When they got to me, I smirked and said, “I’m just here to find a nice man.”
That’s pretty much how it went the entire time. As I had when I was younger, I struggled against the idea that I was somehow disabled because I happened to have been born with a vagina. In fact, in a bizarre kind of way, I sort of liked the idea of things being a little harder for me than they were for other people. I liked the challenge. I liked the idea of doing more with less, and so, whenever I heard other girls complaining about it being harder to “make it” in their areas of study, I would roll my eyes and think, “If they just worked a little harder, and shut up, everything would be fine.” I mean, if they really did do as good a job as their male counterparts, they’d HAVE to accept them, right? RIGHT?
I don’t mean to give the impression that I didn’t love being at Smith. I did. I really did. It was an amazing environment for learning and I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life there. The women I spent 4 years brushing my teeth next to in the morning are now lawyers, doctors, engineers, publishers, and then there’s me, the hybrid technologist/artist. We’re a pretty awesome bunch, if I do say so myself, especially having reached all that before the age of 30. ANYWAY.
So then I graduated, and moved to NYC to start my freelance career and to go to grad school. My degree at Smith had been in classical composition and now I was going for a masters in Music Technology. It was my entrance into this kind of work that introduced me to the fabled misogynist.
The first few times that it happened, I didn’t really think much of it…being passed over for internships which went to guys who were a lot less intelligent and experienced than myself, being talked down to by employers in a way that didn’t seem to happen to my male counterparts. There were times that I suspected what was going on, but after being so inundated at Smith by people talking about discrimination, and seemingly blaming EVERYTHING that went wrong in their lives on that dreaded Patriarchy, I REFUSED to be THAT girl. I would keep quiet. I would work harder.
The thing is, it only got worse. During my third internship as a sound designer at a post studio, I was leaving the studio late one night with one of the senior engineers. There were 11 interns, 10 young men and me. During the ride down in the elevator, the engineer was complaining about how us interns hadn’t done well enough in our duty of cleaning the studio every day. I shrugged. He continued, “Hey, you’re a girl. Why don’t you teach the rest of them?”
Now, I’ve always been loathe to let anyone accuse me of not being able to take a joke, even when it comes to things that a lot of other people wouldn’t find funny. So, I dutifully waited for him to crack a smile or say “Just kidding!” or something to that effect. Nothing. I stood there in shocked silence for a minute before saying, “Yeah…and then maybe I can make you a sandwich. How would that be?” If what he said had been a joke I didn’t get, he didn’t get mine either. After another moment of silence, the doors parted and I went off on my way.
After a few more incidents like this, I began to get angry. As a house engineer at a nightclub I had to watch bands give their mix directions to my male intern rather than to me, and have drink orders yelled at me by rowdy patrons assuming my having tits made me a waitress. Visiting male engineers wouldn’t let me lift gear because they assumed I would break like a delicate flower the first time I tried to lift with my legs. Male co-workers would stop talking when I came around the corner during their re-tellings of a previous night’s hot and heavy date. I found that attempting to create a comfortable space by telling MY stories of sexual conquest was mostly met with awkward foot shuffling. So much for being one of the guys.
I felt betrayed because being “one of the guys” was exactly what I wanted, and what I’d always figured I could have. Every time I sat at Smith and listened to these stories of sexism, there was a part of me, steeped in that environment of female power, that didn’t believe them. Somehow I had internalized this feeling that those women who told those stories, unless they were talking about “the olden days,” well, they were just being oversensitive. I didn’t believe that sexism was still real. I thought that feminism was all about special treatment, not about equality, because I had been under the impression that I already HAD equality.
So here I was, considering the things I had learned at Smith, years after graduating. I felt trapped. I didn’t know how to approach this problem. I didn’t want to be viewed as “THAT girl,” as I’d always thought of that stereotype, but now that I’d had some first-hand experience, I also felt that I couldn’t let certain things pass anymore. Whenever I hear people say that certain jokes are out of bounds, or talk about being “offended,” I usually want to retch. So. how do you talk frankly about something, and how do you address the fact that jokes sometimes ARE telling of a person’s actual prejudices without being that stick in the mud, lame “womyn” that no one wants to hang out with? I couldn’t stay in the Smith College world forever. I HATE vegan cutlet.
Navigating sexism today is hard, and I meet a lot of other women and girls who like I used to, react to it by way of refusing to admit that it exists. At first glance it appears to be a place of power, but in large part they are actually doing themselves a disservice. Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away, and can in some cases actually be interpreted as acceptance. Of course the new-wave pseudo-feminist technique of dwelling on it doesn’t really help either. Problems need to be acknowledged, and they need to be overcome, but there is a difference between working to change something and using it as an excuse. The two get mixed up a lot, and when the problem is as subtle as it often is these days, its easy for someone who doesn’t have to deal with it, like your male friends or coworkers, to assume that you’re making something out of nothing. The real challenge is trying to communicate, in an effective way, why these things aren’t, in fact, “nothing.”
I don’t yell at every person I hear make a joke that could be interpreted as sexist, I don’t automatically assume that I didn’t get a job because I’m a woman, and I don’t, ever, if I can avoid it at any cost, use the word, “Patriarchy.” Here’s what I do: I pick my battles. If you’re on someone about every little thing that they say, they’re never going to stop to consider anything that YOU say. Instead, try to just respond to something here and there, as innocuously as you can. Sometimes making a joke works too:
“Hey Amanda! What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothing! haha! You already told her twice!… OW! WHY DID YOU KICK ME?”
“That was me telling YOU once. Don’t tell that joke. If you still want to be able to walk home, don’t make me tell you twice!”
Thats how I’d like to deal with it, and would have (ahem…actually did…once) but this is probably a better way:
“Hey dude…that’s kind of a shitty joke. I know lots of girls who’ve been abused.”
“…I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just a joke”
“I know. And I get that, but I mean, what if someone here has been knocked around and you’re bringing that all up again? I’m just saying, its not a good idea.”
“Ok. I guess you’re right. Sorry.”
We’re all allowed to grow, right? There is of course a chance that he won’t react as favorably as all that, but if he does, rather than alienating someone by yelling at them, you may have actually caused them to think about what they’re saying, and that’s a great thing.
So, post Smith College, here’s basically what I think about trying to be a “feminist” out in the normal world: I’ve learned that denying that sexism exists isn’t the way to get over it, and distancing yourself from feminism as a way of being accepted by the people perpetrating it won’t help you in the long run. Just be tactful and honest, funny when possible, and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Amanda Rose Smith is a film composer and audio engineer. She lives in Brooklyn with a nifty man and two cats. Visit her at www.amandarosesmith.com.
I was so tense yesterday that I was unable to see into the future. Not in a psychic way (which would be really cool but also not), but in the way that we do all the time where we imagine what things will be like if this happens or that does. The future was like this dark spot in my vision because I couldn’t imagine what might happen to my country if things turned out the way I feared was all too possible, and I couldn’t quite dare to hope that everything would be ok.
But I did hope, because that was all I could do, and as day faded into evening I settled into a sort of faith that our president would carry the day. I felt almost cocky at times, but then I’d remember Toby Ziegler’s timeless warnings against tempting fate, and I’d take a deep breath and grit my teeth some more. At no time did I imagine what life would be like on the other side of the divide. The future was still a dark spot on the horizon.
When the final results broke, I didn’t dare to believe at first, and I went off verifying it everywhere I could as tears sprang up in my eyes. When the last domino fell, I collapsed into a heap of sobs, traumatized, my relief expressing itself in tears and snot all over my boyfriend’s shirt. And when the sobs subsided, the sighs took over. I must have sighed a hundred times as I let myself relax for the first time maybe all year.
That was way too close, people. In an alternate universe, Alternate Rosie woke up to President Romney this morning, and some poor Weimaraner found out he was getting strapped to the roof of a limousine for a trip to the White House. In that universe, Alternate Rosie is writing a blog post about how to combat the upcoming troop-surge in the War on Women. In this one, we showed Mourdock and Akin and Ryan and Romney the door, and with any luck we’ll see a return to some semblance of sanity among the GOP. In this universe, we won the most important election of my lifetime. And the relief I feel today is only exceeded by my optimism for the future.
We’ve still got plenty to do in this universe before people like me can stop ranting on the Internet about gender equality and rape culture and the patriarchy. But in this universe, the President of the US is a feminist. I pity Alternate Rosie, but I’m glad it’s her and not me.
Back to work.
This will be a rant. You have been warned.
When I saw this flag, I had one of those YES moments. It sums up so much using so little real estate, and yet, it reminds us that it represents the tip of the iceberg because it stands for a nation that still accepts sexism as normal. That is not to say we like it, or that we support extremist efforts to roll back women’s rights. But in a society that treats women as less in so many subtle ways, it’s difficult to avoid becoming a participant in the abuse.
Some well-meaning folks who believe they are feminist allies unfortunately aren’t self-aware enough to learn from criticism that tells them their behavior is part of the problem, so they perpetuate that behavior amongst their well-meaning, feminist-ally circles and make things worse. (Poster-child for Progressive Sexism: Bill Maher.) And even the best of us (and I’m far from that) find–when we’re honest–that we contribute now and then. In a climate like that, how much easier must it be for the true misogynists, the powerful men who fear powerful women, to propagate their ideologies?
It’s just a few wingnuts, some people say. Well, I call bullshit. When you’ve got Pat Robertson on national tv telling husbands to move to Saudi Arabia so they can beat their wives, when judges set rapists free and blame victims or claim that silence=consent, when advertising LITERALLY reduces women to their parts, when women can’t walk the streets and feel safe, when girls and women experience multiple assaults throughout their lifetimes and it’s not even uncommon…well, I just don’t see how anyone can deny that there is a deeper problem than a few extreme right-wing politicians and religious fanatics (not to be redundant).
What are we going to do about it? Here’s one suggestion:
And as long as we’re solving the country’s (and the world’s!) problems using only viral Internet images, here’s another:
This is one of those sammiches I feel like I have to make for all the people out there who either a) don’t understand what rape culture is or (especially) b) don’t believe rape culture exists. Let’s start with a mini-lesson from a post called Rape Culture 101 over at lifelovelauren:
As children we are told not to talk to strange men who offer us sweets. As teenagers, girls are told ‘you’re not going out looking like that’. As adults, women are told to keep their doors and windows locked, not to walk anywhere alone after dark, not to look at men ‘in the wrong way’, not to open the door to strange men, not to wear short skirts or low cut tops, not to give a guy their number, not to take public transport or a taxi alone, not to sleep with multiple people, not to drink too much, not to live alone, not to be weak, not to get raped. Because if we do any of these things, well, it was our fault wasn’t it? We led him on, we asked for it, we wanted to get raped. That’s rape culture.
I’ll add that “we” above refers to girls and that we as a society do relatively little (when compared to how much time we spend preparing girls not to get raped) to prepare boys not to rape. Something is terribly wrong with this equation.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen stories (related to the one I shared from Mandaray this week) that lit a fire of rage inside me which has smoldered and sparked and grown hotter with each passing day as more and more stories come to light. These are stories of institutionalized rape culture in the United States of America. Stories about how our system makes victims responsible for the crimes committed against them, but only if those crimes are sexual and the victims are women. As someone said recently of racism (which must be considered in any discussion of inequality), this is not something laws will change. WE have to change.
We have to change how we think about rape as it relates to how we think about women. Yes, I know, rape happens to men, too, but everyone agrees that’s a Bad Thing. Men who get raped are not generally subjected to criticisms of their wardrobe choices because no one believes that what a man wears has any bearing on whether he gets raped. Think about that for a moment. Why are women imagined to be responsible for how men react to their state of dress? Do we really think that all men are born rapists with no control over their actions? I know I’m not the first to ask this question. Hell, I’m probably not the first to ask this question today. But it must be asked because it is the very definition of a double standard and this is one that hurts us as a society possibly more than any other.
So, stories. Here’s one you’ve probably heard, because it happened a couple of weeks ago. A judge in Arizona (I know, shocking) let a cop go free after a jury convicted him of sexual assault. Read that sentence again–I’ll wait. Here’s what Judge Jaqueline Hatch had to say to the victim of the (no longer alleged) assault (via ThinkProgress):
Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.
“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.
Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.
“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”
Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.
The fact that this victim-blaming-shaming bullshit came from the mouth of a woman makes it seem all the more evil to me. Oh, and by the way? While officer Robb Gary Evans was fired due to his conviction, he is not required to register as a sex offender. Neat, huh?
Yeah, that story made me want to punch things. This next one makes me want to punch people.
Today the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned this man’s sexual assault conviction. No one questions that sex took place, but see, this man had sex with a woman who was physically and mentally disabled. She has cerebral palsy, and while this is not always or even usually the case with CP, she is severely mentally retarded. Sinking to a new low in victim-blaming, the court ruled that the victim was capable of communicating her lack of consent, so you know, consent was a given.
The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that [the] victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies:
When we consider this evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, and in a manner that is consistent with the state’s theory of guilt at trial,we, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.’
So, pay attention, ladies: If you don’t say “No,” whether it’s because you’ve got a sock stuffed in your mouth or you’re just paralyzed with fear, your lack of non-consent equals consent. Got it?
Remember the girl in Texas who was told she had to cheer for her rapist at sporting events? What about the one who was court-ordered to write a letter of apology to the man who raped her because the court didn’t convict? The eleven-year-old child who news commentators accused of dressing older than her age? Does no one remember The Accused?
When are we going to put our collective feet down in thunderous unison and say ENOUGH?
Sigh. That’s all I’ve got energy for today. Over to you, readers.
Guest post by Bridget McKenna
I solicited the following guest blog after Bridget chimed in on another post to let us know that as bad as things seem right now, things are still better than they were just a few decades ago. Bridget’s work has appeared in science fiction magazines, computer games, and even in bookstores. Find out more about her on her website. ~Rosie
Recently a commenter here at Rosie’s place remarked on the subject of women’s rights and recent attempts by conservative lawmakers to wage war on them. “It seems lately that we are worse off than we have been in 100 years!” she exclaimed. I know she didn’t mean that literally, but it did remind me that women younger than I (which is to say most of them!) haven’t lived through nearly 70 of the last 100 years and may not have an image of the world before the pill or before safe, legal abortion became a fact. With those two immense historical changes, women in developed countries and a growing number of developing ones began taking charge of how many children they would have and when they would have them or whether they would have them at all.
It’s my belief that women are–despite some recent heavy hitting from extremists on the right–NOT worse off than 100 years ago. Heck, I’m so old I can practically tell you that from experience! And the change that ignited a fire (again) under American women began with a book—The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. Other writers wrote other books about women’s experience in that century, but this is the one women read and responded to in numbers.
And the response was long overdue. In addition to the many largely forgotten social inequalities of the time, birth control before my daughter was born in 1964 was clumsy and inefficient. Unplanned pregnancies were more the norm than the exception. Pregnancies that occurred before marriage usually led to hasty and often unhappy unions, and abortion, while available, was a minefield. In those days, you had to know somebody who knew somebody, and that somebody might be a doctor putting his or her license to practice on the line, or it might be a nurse or medical student with access to instruments and a knowledge of proper sterilization procedures, or it might be a guy with “a dirty knife and a folding table.”* If infection resulted, as if sometimes did, a woman’s choices were death or the hospital, where medical professionals who even suspected an induced abortion were obligated to inform the police. If you didn’t go to jail, they might.
You see this picture? That’s the other choice women faced if they couldn’t find or couldn’t afford the alternative: to induce an abortion at home by inserting a foreign object into their uterus and hoping they wouldn’t end up in prison or dead from peritonitis.
A medical doctor had the power to order a clinical abortion in cases of rape or incest. Sometimes a family doctor would push the rape definition to keep a teenage girl from carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. Sometimes they would diagnose appendicitis, then remove a healthy appendix in order to induce an abortion. I’m certain that if you studied surgical records from before Roe v Wade, you’d find an entirely disproportionate number of girls undergoing that surgery. Oh, and lest I forget, when my mother was a young woman, giving a woman any form of birth control, or information about birth control was punishable by a prison term. You read that right: People went to jail for telling other people how to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In the 1950s, laws restricting the sale of contraceptives were on the books in thirty of forty-eight states. I could write an entire article about Margaret Sanger and Dr. John Rock and the whole Planned Parenthood thing, and maybe I will, but for now I’ll just leave you with those thoughts. Chew well.
Before 1963, only a very few women of my generation were brave enough to fight for equality and reproductive rights, or aware enough to know there was a problem with women’s role in 20th century society, even though their mothers had worked in aircraft factories and government facilities such as printing plants (my mother) and supported troops in foreign lands (my mother-in-law), and their grandmothers had marched for the right to vote.
Now just say that out loud to yourself once or twice. The right to vote. Until 1920, American women didn’t have it except in Wyoming and some other progressive western states. By the way, the entire world wasn’t stacked against women, even if it sounds that way. When the US Congress opposed Wyoming’s suffrage law and threatened to withhold statehood in 1890, Wyoming told them to go to hell; they’d stay out of the union another hundred years before they’d take away women’s vote. They got statehood.
In 1963–the year The Feminine Mystique was published just 49 years ago–most women believed (or more likely thought they ought to believe) that they actually were second-class citizens. I know this because I was one of them, and so was every woman I spent any time talking with–mostly other young wives and mothers. Then some of us read that darned book, or talked to other women who had read it and books like it, and we gave our status in society some more thought. We did it, it must be said, to a lot of resistance and condescension from the men in our lives, most of whom thought things were fine the way they were. A few of them understood that the prevailing system of gender inequality was hard on them, too, for other reasons. Most were afraid of what the changes might mean to them and their relationships and their homes and their society. Some were willing to concede we had a point on equal pay.
Women not only didn’t get even close to equal pay 49 years ago, many if not most people–particularly men and women of earlier generations–still thought women shouldn’t work after marriage, or at least not after the birth of their first child. This put a lot of extra social and physical stress on men, who would often take a second job in preference to their wife finding employment. In the eyes of their fathers and most of their peers, they had failed as men if their wives took jobs. It took some courage to grow away from that social burden, just as it took courage for their wives to assert their right to full humanhood in a world that accused them of failing as women if they left the house.
Women in the 60s–and in the 50s where they’d come to consciousness–were portrayed in the media as wives and mothers. They might do other things, but first and foremost they existed in relation to their husbands and children. It was popularly assumed that women who went to college did so to pursue a better class of husband; it was called “getting an MRS degree.” They were affectionately denigrated on popular TV shows, and made the butt of jokes for their silly ways much the way men are now. Their job was to have dinner ready, kids clean, and house spiffed up by the time their husbands got home. There were a lot of vodka bottles hidden in laundry baskets in those days, because until women read that darned book, they thought that if they felt they were made for more than this, THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM. Their doctors tut-tutted and wrote them prescriptions for tranquilizers.
There were always women who broke out of that mold—who had brilliant careers with or without marriage and family, and made names for themselves, and excelled, but during my formative years they were considered exceptional cases. The popular view was they had given something up—something intrinsic to being a “real woman.” Because a real woman was first and foremost a reflection of her man. And so if you didn’t have one of those, you’d better bend all your feminine wiles to getting one; a good provider who’d hopefully be a good husband or father. And if it befell you weren’t happy, some older female relative would be there to tell you “Well, at least he doesn’t hit you.” If, in fact, he did hit you, good luck. The police were very little help, and the church and families often counseled abuse victims to stay in the relationship in preference to being without one. Being in a marriage was more important to many people than being happy or fulfilled or even safe in one. Of course that was all about to change, big time. And a great deal of it was on account of that darned book, The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. Read it if you want to understand how American women went from being suffragettes and flappers and Rosie the Riveter to the mostly cowed creatures we were fifty years ago. It’s been called “the book that pulled the trigger on history” for a lot of good reasons.
Women asking for the equal rights in the workplace or for the right to choose when or if to have children is a huge and disruptive occurrence in any society, and it frightens some people the way civil rights and gay rights and a lot of other social changes frighten people, and for a lot of the same reasons.
I’ll be the first to say we need to stand up to keep the rights we have and to make life better for women in America. But trust me–I’ve been there and I’ve been here, and here is better.
*In the 1987 film Dirty Dancing (which takes place around 1963) Billy Kostecki, played by Neal Jones, tells Johnny (Patrick Swayze) what it was like to take their friend Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) to meet “a guy” someone knew who would terminate her pregnancy. Sound clip here. Penny develops a life-threatening infection from the procedure.
by Amy Sisson
Author’s Note: “Patriot Girls” is my response to news stories showing that statistically, our wars have a disproportionate impact on poor and uneducated young men, the ones for whom the military may be the only viable option. But what if our wars outpace enlistment? What if twenty or thirty years from now, even a draft doesn’t provide enough soldiers for whatever wars we may find ourselves in whether we want them or not?
Tuesday, May 16
IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE, but by this time tomorrow I’ll be a Patriot Girl. Ma tried to talk me out of it, and begged me to finish the school year at least, but I’ll be sixteen so there’s nothing she can do. I told her I have the right to do what’s right for my country. And besides, everyone who’s anyone is a Patriot Girl.
Me and Alicia are taking the bus to Austin to register tomorrow. You get free bus fare when you join up. Alicia turned sixteen a month and a half ago but waited for me so we could go together. It was really nice of her, especially since her sister Mary has already been a Patriot Girl for a year and a half. So I printed my birth certificate off the net and packed one small bag, which is all they let you bring. You don’t have to take much, because they give you clothes and everything else you need.
Friday, May 19
I’m a Patriot Girl! We took our vows the day before yesterday, but they’ve kept us so busy I didn’t have time to post until now. First they had an orientation assembly for the new recruits. They explained that our main duty is to support the Patriot Boys who are about to go off to War. These boys are already heroes because they give up everything to defend our freedom, and we need to let them know how much we appreciate it.
One girl, Callie, I think her name was, asked how many of the Boys will come back. She said she heard that most of them don’t last more than six weeks. But Sarge Grayson said that was just a rumor, and it didn’t matter anyway because a Patriot Boy is a hero no matter how long he survives. I thought Callie was dumb to ask that. Everyone knows that our Boys are smarter than the enemy, and they’re gonna come back when the War is over and we can all settle down.
Alicia’s sister Mary, her Boy’s been gone a year already, but he sent her a letter last week saying he’s safe and will be back in a few months. Right now she and little Ben live in one of the dorms for Wives on the other side of the campus, and she keeps busy helping out with the new Girls and taking care of the little ones.
They told us there’s a dance every Friday where we can meet the Boys. Me and Alicia are about to go get our dresses and then get our hair done. I hope I can find a green dress, but I heard that the newbies get the leftovers.
Saturday, May 20
So last night was our first dance! I was a little nervous, because I haven’t been around boys for ages, and I wasn’t sure what a real Patriot Boy would be like. But the dressers fixed us all up to look nice and even gave us perfume. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so pretty before. The dresser who helped me was a little bit older than us. She said I had beautiful red hair, and she even put a flower over my ear, and then she said I should just be myself and I would be fine. When we were all ready, the Sarge called us together and told us to have a good time, and then we got on the bus to the dance hall across campus.
Alicia was nervous too. I’m glad I had her for company! Some of the new Girls didn’t know anybody else when they got here so they’ve had to make friends fast, but I’m lucky because my best friend is here with me. I even got a green dress! At first when I tried it on it was a little too big, but they fixed it for me by the time we got dressed. Alicia got yellow. She looks good in yellow, but thank God I didn’t get that dress, because no Boy would ever look at me twice in that color.
When the Boys got there, I just about had a heart attack! They’re so good-looking! They all stand so straight and tall in their dark green uniforms, and they looked proud but a little nervous too. They stared at us like they’d never seen girls before, and I guess maybe they hadn’t for a while. Alicia grabbed my hand, and I could tell she was as excited as I was.
One of the officers introduced the band. Can you believe it? Our first Patriot Girl dance and we got Faith Rock!
Alicia and me were standing together by the punch bowl. These two Boys came over and told us their names were Nick and Jason. Nick asked Alicia to dance, and Jason said he’d like to dance but wanted to talk to me first. He said to call him Jase. He asked me where I was from and I told him I grew up in Galveston before we all had to evacuate, and now my Ma lives in Spring, on the north side of Houston.
Jase told me he’s from San Antonio. His father was a Hero who died when Jase was only five years old. Jase has an older brother who’s already overseas, and a little sister who’s nine who can’t wait to be a Patriot Girl. It sounds like he has a real patriotic family, which is more than I can say. After the War is over, he wants to be an aircraft mechanic. It was kind of hard to hear him over the music, but it was fun talking to him just the same.
I was glad when he was finally ready to dance, though. There were some Chaperones on the dance floor, older ladies in gray uniforms. They had minibooks, and I wondered if they were taking our pictures or something. One of them said something to Alicia and Nick, but it must not have been anything bad because Alicia still looked happy. She and Nick went back over to the sidelines and got some punch. I tried to keep my feet out from under Jase’s. He’s cute but maybe not the best dancer!
Then a Chaperone tapped Jase’s shoulder. “Having fun, kids?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” we said together.
“If you want to take a break after this dance, there are rest areas where you can get something to drink and sit down for a bit. Just through that door,” she said, pointing.
Jase looked at me and I nodded, so he took my hand and led me through a doorway at the end of the dance hall. My heart started beating faster. One of the male officers was standing just inside the door.
“Hi kids,” he said. “Names?”
“Jason Stewart and Margie Campbell,” Jase said.
“Right,” said the officer. “311 is free—fourth door on the right. There are refreshments in there, and it’s a little quieter so you can hear each other talk.”
We went in, and boy, they weren’t kidding! They had all kinds of drinks and snacks—lots better stuff than I get at home. There was a flatscreen in the wall showing music vids with the sound turned down low. Jase asked me if I wanted a drink and I said yes, so he got me a Coke out of the wall fridge. Then we sat on the couch, which was long and all comfy, like you could sink into it and disappear. Jase put his arm around my shoulder and played with a piece of my hair.
“You’re awfully pretty, Margie,” he said. I was happy but kind of embarrassed. We talked for a while and had more drinks, and then Jase was kissing me. I was worried at first that someone might come in, but Jase said he could lock the door from the inside. I don’t think I was ever so happy in my whole life. And no, I’m not going to tell you all the details!
Thursday June 1
I meant to write this weekend but I ended up going to a special picnic on Saturday to welcome another batch of new Girls. On Sunday afternoon I tried calling Ma but I couldn’t get a good connection, so I t-mailed her instead. I haven’t heard back from her yet.
Jase and I went to the dance again last Friday. That was the first time I’d seen him since the last dance, because he’s been tied up with training and the Girls have been busy with all kinds of med and psych tests. Nothing that hurt, just lots of hypos drawing blood and stuff. And all kinds of silly test questions, like what do these pictures remind you of, and what weighs more, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers. Anyone could get that one!
This time I had a kind of silvery dress for the dance, and one of the dressers helped me put my hair up. Jase said I looked beautiful. We even got the same room as last time to take a break from the dance, so Jase joked it was our room and I should think of 311 as our secret code number. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow night!
Sunday June 4
I was really happy yesterday, because Jase and I had a great time at the dance again, but then this morning I found out he’s shipping out. He sent me a t-mail and said he would miss me, but he’ll be back on furlough in a few months and he can’t wait to meet me in 311 again. He signed it Jason instead of Jase, and I laughed because I’d almost forgotten that’s his real name. But then I stopped laughing because I’m scared I’ll never see him again.
I ran to tell Alicia, and she just heard that Nick is going too. He and Jase are in the same unit, so it makes sense, but it’s such bad luck. I told Alicia that we could keep each other company at the next dance. I mean, I would maybe dance with another Boy since they need us to help them take their minds off the War, but I’m not doing anything else until Jase comes back.
That girl Callie bugs me. She said one of the Girls who’s being sent home for breaking curfew told her the Boys always say they’re coming back for furlough and then they never do.
“Well, duh, it’s a War and their schedules get changed sometimes,” Alicia said. “Anyway, Janice said her sister Linda’s Boy came back home to Oklahoma just a few weeks ago.” Callie said maybe but she didn’t look convinced. I don’t know what her problem is.
Saturday, June 17
No dance for me last night after all, and I didn’t get to go last week either. Alicia got to go both times, but last week Sarge told me they needed me to help organize some events for the Wives, and last night they wanted me to be here for another Orientation, to welcome some new Girls coming in from the west side of the state. I was kind of bummed. I’ve been down about Jase being gone and I was looking forward to the dance just to get out for a while. I’ve written to Jase every day, but I know I can’t expect many letters when he’s in the field.
Alicia said she had a good time last night, even though she still wishes Nick were here. She met someone named Brent who she said was nice. She says she didn’t do anything with him, but I’m not sure I believe her.
Monday, June 26
Today I found out why I’ve been getting called for more med tests than the other Girls. The Nurse told me this morning that I’m going to have a baby. I was so scared I started to cry. I thought they would send me home for sure, and my Ma would be so ashamed of me.
The nurse was sweet. “Don’t worry, Margie. Everything will be fine,” she told me.
“But I don’t know what I’ll do,” I cried. “I don’t know if my Ma will even take me back. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong!”
The nurse looked at me like she wanted to say something else, but she didn’t. I came back to the dorm, and before I even got a chance to tell Alicia, Sarge came with a letter from Jase. And can you believe it? He wants to marry me, and he doesn’t even know about the baby! He said he misses me so much, and he’ll be able to handle being out there in the field better if he knows he has a Wife waiting for him back home. I showed the letter to Sarge right away and she said she had to check some paperwork, but she was pretty sure we’d be allowed to get married. She said that the Head of the Patriot Girls is something called in loco parentis, like a legal guardian for the Girls under eighteen, so I won’t even need Ma’s permission to get married.
I wish Jase could get back for the wedding, but the timing just isn’t right. His letter said he got emergency orders to deploy to a new location, and he doesn’t want to wait to get married. But he said not to worry, because intelligence found out if they strike at this one spot right away, there’s a good chance the War could be over in a few months. That means Jase should be back before the baby comes. I can’t wait to write him about it.
Sarge says I’m special, because not many Girls get a proposal after only a couple of dances. I remember back when the recruiters talked to us in school, they told us the best thing a girl can do is get married and have children so we have real families in this country instead of mobs of people who only think about themselves. Even after I told her about the baby, she said she was real proud of me. She said that Jase’s proposal proves that God wants us to be together.
Alicia and Mary and all the girls from the dorm are coming to the wedding next week. I t-mailed my ma a little bit ago to see if she’ll come up for it. After the wedding I get to move into the Wives’ dorm. Mary said she’ll help me settle in. Poor Mary is being a really good sport, considering she just heard a few days ago that little Ben’s father isn’t coming back. She’s proud he’s a Hero, but I can tell she’s sad. She said her Sarge told her she’s still young and she can move back into the Girls’ dorm and go back to the dances if she wants. They can take care of little Ben in a special kids’ dorm to make it easier for her, and Mary can see him whenever she wants.
Tuesday, September 12
I haven’t written in ages because things have been kind of dull, but today I found out I’m having a boy for sure! I was hoping for a boy because I think that will make Jase happy.
The only other thing that’s happened recently is that Callie went AWOL. I heard a rumor that she’s pregnant, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.
Friday, February 2
The other Wives are throwing me a baby shower this Sunday. They’ve been teasing me, asking me if I’m sure it’s going to be a boy, and saying they’re going to bring pink baby clothes just in case. They said they don’t get enough chances to buy pink clothes because not that many of the Wives have had girls lately.
The bad news is that Jase probably isn’t going to be back before the baby comes in March. I wish he could be here. I get a letter every couple of weeks, but it’s hard not being able to see him.
I’m also kind of worried about Alicia. I don’t see her that often since she’s still in the Girls’ dorm, but I talked to her a few days ago and I can tell she’s kind of depressed. I think it’s because she keeps meeting these Boys and then they leave. Thank God I have Jase! I don’t want to be mean, but I wonder if there’s something about Alicia that keeps the Boys she meets from wanting to marry her.
Alicia’s going home to visit her mom for a few weeks. We were both going to go home for Christmas but there was a fuel shortage and they had to cancel all non-essential travel for a while. So she’s going for her Ma’s birthday instead. She told me that Sarge said the dorms are a little overcrowded right now so Alicia doesn’t have to come back right away, and they may need to postpone her re-enlistment a little while until they get the housing shortage figured out. I don’t know what Alicia’s going to do with herself back at home.
Thank God I don’t have to leave. I mean, it’s a little dull right now and I miss the dances, but once I have the baby I can at least go and help the Girls get ready and watch the dances from the sidelines. But I’m a Wife and I’m about to be a Mother, and that’s more important than anything else. And when the War is over Jase can get a job as an airplane mechanic and we can get a house and we can watch little Jase grow up. It shouldn’t be too much longer now.
“Patriot Girls” originally appeared in the End of an Aeon anthology now available from Fairwood Press.
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In our inaugural “Dear Rosie” article, we’re taking on the oh-so-controversial topic of gun control in the U.S. People keep saying that talking about gun control right now amounts to “politicizing” the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. I call BS. When something bad happens people talk about how they feel about it and the circumstances surrounding it, and about solving the societal problems that caused it, and the only time you’re going to hear that accusation is when the accused has said something the accuser doesn’t agree with politically. Guess what? Some things are political issues, and they’re also life issues, and we’re going to talk about them, and we’re not going to agree all the time. So, without further ado, here’s your first Dear Rosie:
Why are you “gun control” nuts trying to take away my guns? Don’t you know that the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees my right to bear arms? If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns! Guns don’t kill people–people kill people! What if we need to rise up against the government? If I had been at [insert horrific gun-related tragedy here] I would have used my gun to stop it! Also, I like to hunt. You probably want to take that away too, don’t you? Why do you hate FREEDOM??
Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner
It might surprise you to learn that, dirty tree-hugging hippy though I am, I don’t necessarily think guns should be illegal. I mean, first of all, we do have that 2nd amendment thing to contend with, and no matter now long we argue, we’re not going to agree on whether the founders wanted us to have AK-47s. Once when I was working on a mystery novel, I went to a gun range and fired a Walther PP just so I’d know what it felt like. It was fun! And when I was a kid, I went out in a field and fired a big gun that used this ammo and nearly knocked me on my ass. That was less fun. But I understand that shooting is a sport, and it’s part of the culture in some parts of the country, and that some people like to hunt for sport and even in order to feed their families. And guns are a huge part of U.S. history. I don’t believe it’s realistic to expect that guns will be outlawed in this country. I think this poster makes a pretty good case (excerpt below; full post at Reddit):
“You seem like a fair minded person. You don’t like guns. I don’t like alcohol. If you can tell me one argument for banning guns that does not apply equally to banning alcohol, I’ll throw all my guns in the river tonight. Otherwise, we’ll just have to both agree that it’s a matter of personal choice and let each other be.”
“Guns kill people.” Response: Alcohol kills more people.
“Yeah, but guns are used in crime.” Response: So is alcohol. Aside from the obvious drunk driving and addiction related crimes, what % of people who commit crime do you think drunk? Ask a cop how many domestic violence situations involve alcohol.
“But guns are used in terrible murders. Alcohol only causes accidents or health-related deaths.” Response: This is an even stronger argument for banning alcohol. If you banned guns, at least some of those murders would still get committed. If you banned alcohol, NONE of the alcohol related accidental deaths would happen. (i.e. the definition of an accident is that its unintended, unlike murder).
“They tried to ban booze and it didn’t work.” Response: Try to ban guns in the USA. You see what happens. No country with hundreds of millions of firearms in circulation and porous borders has ever successfully banned guns (or anything for that matter: see war on drugs.)
“But drinking is fun and a social activity.” Response: Let’s go shooting on Saturday. Empty a few mags from an AK-47 and then tell me it’s not fun.
You can dice words and split hairs all day long, but as far as I can tell, most of what he says is dead on. Personally, I don’t get why people need to own assault weapons, but if you buy that we might need to form a militia and kick-ass on the government, I guess we’ve got to be able to compete. Fine. Here’s my thing: I say “gun control,” Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner, and you hear “gun pried from my cold-dead fingers after I tried to shoot you for trying to take my gun but apparently you got off the first shot so I’m dead.” And I know a lot of very rich folks want to make sure people buy guns, and so they help make certain people feel like they’re going to need guns (and that their right to have them is under imminent threat). They watched their profits rise in response to 9/11 and they made damned sure in 2008 the message got out that gun rights would be history if Barack Obama became president. And in 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords, the cries filled the air: Hurry! Get your guns before the lefties change the laws! And now it’s election time again, and another mentally ill person with a stockpile of weapons has ripped a community apart, and guess what? Investors are already salivating.
So, what do I mean when I say “gun control”? I mean that guys like Loughner and Holmes who are clearly not competent to use guns responsibly should not be able to do this without raising a flag and inviting some scrutiny:
Suspected Aurora Shooter Amassed Huge Arsenal Online With No Background Checks
From Huffington Post:
“Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal — and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.”
We make laws to regulate other dangerous items and substances. Like alcohol. And cars! Which, while they’re not designed to kill people, do it all the time in the hands of irresponsible and unlucky people. So we make laws and we put the irresponsible ones in jail and we make ads about how people shouldn’t drive drunk, but heaven forbid we should say that maybe, possibly, a person ought to have a full background check to purchase a gun and that there ought to be systems in place that throw up red flags when any one person seems to be “amassing an arsenal” (because that’s not worrisome for any reason at all). I mean, shouldn’t the FBI spend some time, you know, observing that person to see whether they might be planning to murder a bunch of people with all those guns? You can’t even stock up on Sudafed anymore without a SWAT team showing up at your house, but guns are apparently not as dangerous as cold medicine. Come on, FPGO, I’m not saying that everyone who owns more than one gun is going to become a mass murderer, but at the point where you have to use the words “arsenal” or “stockpile” maybe we should just have a look, huh? Evaluate their mental state, perhaps? Just a thought. Oh, and while you’re fantasizing about what you would have done if you’d been in that audience carrying your legally concealed weapon, you might want to have a gander at this very intelligent article by a guy who knows more than most people about combat situations.
FPGO, if you take nothing else away from my response to your fictional letter, take this: “Gun control” doesn’t mean we want to take away your guns. Sure, some people are dead-set against them, but as I said, they’re fighting what is very likely a losing battle. Some of us, on the other hand, just want to know that there are laws and checks and balances to protect the public, and that includes better gun laws as well as taking a serious look the availability (or lack thereof) of mental health services. We should all be in favor of making the world a safer place.
I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums it up poignantly for me:
“Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun.”
Me too, Andy. Me too.