Observed: Power Dynamics

This is apropos of nothing, except that Notorious, Ph.D. demanded requested that I actually write something.

I went to Commercial Coffee Venue today, and chose a comfy chair to occupy with my drink and my knitting, which was in a loose grouping of three such chairs, but was more removed from the other two. While I was enjoying that bit of free mindspace, a couple of people, a young man and a young woman, came into the room, looking for a place to park themselves. The young woman took the further comfy chair, and the young man balked at the selection, and then made an attempt to sit down anyway. What followed was done in a language I didn’t understand, but body language told it: he didn’t seem to have a strong preference (not having immediately taken one of the many open tables), but seemed to disagree with her choice. She acted apologetic, got up and went to a table he indicated several times during the quiet exchange.

I don’t know what their story is. I couldn’t have said what was actually going on, whether either one had reasons beyond simple preference (comfort, for instance) that informed their differing choices. All I can say is that he was not the least bit deferential, and she was almost entirely so. It was to me a pantomime of power dynamics, power which he wielded, and to which she yielded.

Street Harassment: Being “Nice”

WCP blogger Amanda Hess has a post up today detailing how responding in a polite fashion to more apparently benign forms of street harassment doesn’t deter but encourages it.

I experienced this type of outwardly friendly yet completely creepy behavior during the summer of 2008 when I still lived in Midwestern College Town. It was an absolutely beautiful day – not too hot, sun shining, light breeze – and I was walking down to the City Pool to enjoy myself. I was also visibly pregnant. It was a short and enjoyable walk; I had the option to drive, but no need.

As I was making my progress along a residential street, a middle aged man in a red pickup pulled up to me and offered me a ride. I don’t remember the precise exchange, but it boiled down to something like this:

He: [smiles] Can I give you a lift somewhere?
Me: [likewise friendly but wary] No thanks, I’m enjoying my walk.
He: [still smiling] Are you sure?
Me: [no longer smiling] I’m fine, thanks.

I sped up my pace a bit, made it more purposeful, and the man drove on. I changed my direction slightly, going first to a local coffee shop where I knew there would at least be people. I endlessly debated whether or not to report this incident to police, but my gut instinct was that they would just slough it off, as nothing identifiably bad had happened. I already had one dude thinking he knew better than me (as evidenced by the offer + “are you sure?”) – the last thing I needed was a (chances are) male cop added to the mix.

As I approached the coffee shop, the truck reappeared – he had apparently circled the block in order to continue following me.

It’s entirely possible that this man just thought he was being kind, practicing the sort of benevolent sexism present in all kinds of thinking about women: that we are to be protected, especially when pregnant, so far that if we’re out by ourselves, we can’t possibly be protected enough, so some dude had better hop to and assist, being all gentlemanly, etc. Trouble is, there’s no way for us to distinguish benevolent vs. malevolent intention until it’s too late.

It was abundantly clear that this man, while he may have had the best (if sexist) of intentions, was acting in a way that patently denied my agency and self-determination in favor of whatever random thought was in his head. That alone told me he was to be avoided at all costs.

But see? I was “nice”. I didn’t do all the things we’re told to do (be rude, put up a fight, shout for help) only after being conditioned to be polite or else. It didn’t “save” me, even though “nothing” happened. In fact, something did happen: that dude was demonstrating, yet again, that men’s desires trump women’s in every single case, no matter what mundane thing she has chosen to do. Even seemingly “innocent” encounters like this smack of patriarchial privilege, and serve to remind women of their designated place, which is certainly not making decisions for themselves to take a nice walk on a pretty day.

Quick Hit: Lucas and Co. are rapey bastards.

Apparently, Marion Ravenwood was supposed to be literally a child (somewhere between 10 and 15) when she and Indy “had an affair”.

Way to promote child rape, dudes. Makes me hate you, hate Indy, hate the whole franchise, even more than that travesty of a movie Crystal Skull did.

ETA: It also make the “romantic” ending in Crystal Skull absolutely squicky.

If you feel like combing through the whole script, it’s here.

And if you do comb through it, be sure to note the rampant racism too: the reference to “Third World sleazos” is particularly ripe.

Wherein the entitled dood gets in my craw

Naomi Klein explains the shock doctrine, and its relation to the current bailout brouhaha:

Now, in watching this clip, all I wanted to do was hear Naomi Klein’s point, but his Dishy Privileged Highness keeps frakking interrupting both her and the other guest, who was also not a White Dood.

If you can get over the arrogance of His Daily Dishiness admonishing Klein for interrupting him when he had just interrupted her, and continued to do so throughout the 8 minute segment, then by all means watch and listen.

I was part of something good.

I sent a rather nasty letter to Picasa, expressing my disappointment with them that this woman‘s post-breast-cancer-surgery pics were pulled yesterday, but I managed to find pornographic images still on the site.

Late yesterday, the pictures were restored. Apparently, the outpouring from friends and internet acquaintances and coverage in The Consumerist were enough to get Google to look at the photos more closely, or simply put them back up, complete with comments.

I am really very glad that I did something. It wasn’t much, but I was so angry that, yet again, images of women in scanty-if-existant clothing arching their backs or, in the case of the example photo I linked in my message, bound and gagged in a pose more like torture than anything else, that these were “acceptable” (they aren’t) and this woman’s scars weren’t.

For now, I’m keeping my Gmail account. For now. This was one instance, but it would be naive of me to think that it’s the only one there has been, or ever will be.


Declaration: I am a feminist.

I. Am. A. Feminist.

I am a radical feminist. I believe with all my being that all women are human beings, inherently worthy of all the rights and dignities that other human beings (men) enjoy.

I have been hesitant to ‘out’ myself to certain people I know; mostly conservative men, all of whom have no actual authority over me, some of whom are relatives, all of whom I consider to be friends. I have been afraid of losing their friendships and love because of my beliefs.

No more.

If I can remain friends with them, despite having serious objections to some of their beliefs, then they can remain my friends, if they don’t agree with me. If they can’t they were never friends to begin with. If they can’t love me and know I believe these things, they cannot really love me.

We women are asked, every day, to be silent about disagreeing with others so that we don’t upset them, so we don’t ‘rock the boat’, so we ‘aren’t a bother’.

No more.

Listen up: I am a radical feminist.

I don’t believe in limiting a woman’s control over her own body; I don’t believe any man has any right to exercise any control over a woman’s body, mind, speech or actions; I don’t believe any woman has any right to control other women either, whether of her own choosing or in the name of a man.

I believe anyone who attempts to control women’s bodies, minds, speech or actions are misogynist: including rape apologists, rape celebrants, Men’s Rights Activists, promoters or supporters of pornography, promoters or supporters of prostitution, people who seek to limit or obstruct women’s access to health care, contraception, safe and legal abortion, STD prevention, higher education, a living wage, food for her children, her choice of partner(s), her choice of clothing, her choice of sexuality and sexual expression, her bodily autonomy.

If any of these terms or concepts are confusing to you, or if you aren’t sure what I mean by any of them, you may read for yourself at any of the sources listed below. I will be happy to have a civil conversation with any of you about any of these things, where ‘civil conversation’ means you listen to what I have to say, and I listen to what you have to say, and we respond to each others’ concerns. Basically, all the caveats of this blog apply.

If you cannot understand, that is fine. If you will not try to understand, or will not read those things which I suggest that might help you understand, I will have neither sympathy nor time for you. If you cannot treat me like a human being, I will not stay around for the abuse.

Places to Learn:
Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog
Official Shrub dot com Blog (right hand menu)
Andrea Dworkin, I Want Twenty-Four-Hour Truce In Which There Is No Rape

Feminist Reader: Pseudoscience and Heteronormativity

It’s not usual that a quote from a (conservative/religious-biased) clinical psychologist [San Diego-based licensed clinical psychologist Trayce Hansen] makes me belly-laugh. Pam originally posted Hansen’s press release on The Blend which included the gut-busting line:

[S]ame-sex marriage will increase sexual confusion and sexual experimentation by implying all choices are equally acceptable and desirable.

After reading the three previous more depressing points, I needed the laugh, and I got one. What this person considers to be a danger, I perceive to be one of the larger goals of, if not feminism as a whole, at least this feminist.

Let’s work backwards, shall we?

implying all choices are equally acceptable and desirable.

Because telling people “you’re okay only if you’re heterosexual” is a good thing?

Oh, wait, I forgot: we have to support the natural order of things; women are nurturers, and men are leaders. The first point Hansen raises, on the ‘inherent’ ‘differences’ between “mother-love and father-love”, supports this separate-but-equal attitude. There has to be balance, Hansen notes, between the ‘unconditional-leaning’ love of a woman, and the ‘conditional-leaning’ love of a man.*

According to Hansen, it appears that there must be heterosexuality heterosexuality must be the enforced standard because there must be a woman and a man in each set of parents. Since there is something of a biological precendent for this, I can understand the confusion. Obviously, Hansen equates biological sex with the social construct, gender. Women are always ‘mothers’, men always ‘fathers’. “There must be balance between mother-love and father-love” hints at a typical sexist stereotype: women aren’t complete without men.

same-sex marriage will increase… sexual experimentation

This is possibly true; however, I don’t consider it to be the End Of The World ™ for people to experiment with their sexuality. That is in essence what happens anyway: people find out whether they enjoy PIV intercourse or other forms; what positions work for them and which ones don’t; whether they enjoy dominant or submissive or both or neither; whether they enjoy sex better with themselves, with a partner, with multiple partners, or not at all.

Of course, if someone were coming from an attitude of PIV-missionary-for-procreation-only*, all of these options could be terrifying. Choices tend to worry strict rule-followers.

same-sex marriage will increase sexual confusion

This is the kicker for me. As if being allowed to be who they are without shaming/denial from their parents will somehow add to a person’s confusion regarding their sexuality and sexual preferences. Being told “you have to like boys because you are a girl/have girl parts” or “you have to like girls because you are a boy/have boy parts” is a lot more likely to bewilder the unfortunate soul whose tastes lean contrary to those diametrical opposites, or, worse yet, if they’re concept of themself doesn’t match the artificial gender construct forced on them for no other reason than what their dangly bits look like.

Parents displaying an attitude of acceptance of any and all options regarding an individual’s sexuality, and, (OMGWTFBBQ!) considering them equal to each other would more likely foster a healthy attitude about sex and sexuality, and relatively little shame** in the child.

If I’d had such a supportive environment (including the one at large) I think I’d still be interested in boys***. That being said, I’m all for removing stigma from the lives and sexuality of all persons, no matter who they prefer or disprefer.

[Pam on Pandagon presents this gem of pseudoscience not alone, but with a rebuttal from another clinical psychologist — this time, not ‘science-free’.]

* Hansen uses the terms “mother” and “father” here, but it is clear this is a biological distinction, one that determines social role.

* I make no assumptions about the author at all. His/her position is, however, remarkably similar to more conservative religious types with whom I have been personally acquainted, whose idea of sex was generally “man-on-top-of-woman, man-having-all-the-fun, woman-gets-pregnant-and-is-happy-homemaker”.

** Getting to know a changing body is inherently embarrassing, at least in my experience, without someone else telling you you’re doing it wrong.