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Your recourse if you have been raped

My friend R. was raped many years ago. It was not a story with any gray areas. She was walking home from work when a large man grabbed her, beat and choked her, tied her up with duct tape, locked her up, and raped her dozens of times over the course of days. She eventually escaped and reported what happened as soon as she was able. The man was caught, convicted, and sent to prison.

She kept it a secret when it happened. She didn’t say anything until the day her story came up much later in the news, and she heard some women discussing  . . . her.

Not the rapist. Not the rape. They were discussing her — what she had been wearing, what her sexual history was, what she had been wearing, why she had been in that neighborhood, what she had been wearing, whether she had fought hard enough to get away, and why she hadn’t gone to the police sooner. Why had it happened in the first place? What should she have done differently? What had she been wearing?

And how do we know she’s even telling the truth?

I knew this woman. A gentle, generous, self-effacing human being, a lover of babies and kittens, honest to a fault. The women who wanted to talk about her skirt length didn’t know any this, because they didn’t know her. All they knew was that she had been raped.

And that in itself was a reason not to believe that she had been really raped. It must be her fault somehow. How do we know? Well, she says she was raped, and we know what kind of woman says a thing like that.

Bill Cosby’s attorney knows full well this is how people think, and he’s banking his entire defense argument on it.

Cosby is accused of drugging and sexually violating Andrea Constand. Constand is the only alleged victim in this case, but she is one of over sixty women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault. As the accusations have filtered in over the course of decades, literally every circumstance surrounding the accusation is used against the alleged victim.

Last time Cosby was in the news in 2014, I compiled a list of arguments I heard over and over again — arguments that made me wonder if there was anything a raped woman could say, any way she could respond, any action she could take, that would make people believe her, or even give her the benefit of the doubt.

Here’s what I learned:

  • If you tell the police you’ve been raped, it’s because you’re looking for attention. You should file a civil suit, instead.
  • If you file a civil suit, it’s because you’re looking for money, and are not telling the truth.
  • If you don’t file a civil suit, that shows you don’t have a case, and are not telling the truth.
  • If you tell someone right away, that shows suspicious presence of mind, and proves that you engineered the whole thing to embarrass the alleged perpetrator.
  • If you don’t tell anyone right away, that shows a suspicious lack of urgency, and proves that you are making up the story for no reason other than to embarrass the alleged perpetrator.
  • If you don’t file a civil suit, it shows that you don’t need the money and are just doing it for attention, because people love the kind of fabulous attention they get when they accuse someone of rape, especially if that person is popular or powerful.
  • If you do file a civil suit, it shows that you want the money so badly that you don’t mind getting all the horrible attention that no victim in her right mind would want to get, especially if the alleged perpetrator is popular or powerful.
  • If you’re the only one who accuses someone of rape, it shows that your story is unbelievable.
  • If lots of other people make similar accusations, that is suspiciously orchestrated, and shows that your story is unbelieveable.
  • If you were in the same room with the person who raped you, that shows that you are just as guilty as he is, because you’re in the same room with a rapist, and who would do that?
  • If the person you’re accusing of rape is rich, famous, or powerful, then that shows that you’re just looking for attention, and it never happened.
  • If the person you’re accusing of rape is rich, famous, and powerful, that shows that you should have known he is a rapist, and you wanted it to happen.
  • If you tell someone right away, they will assume you’re lying.
  • If you don’t tell anyone right away, they will assume you’re lying, because you didn’t tell anyone right away.

If you tell, that’s a count against you. If you don’t tell, that’s a count against you. If you speak alone, that’s a count against you. If you speak as one of a crowd, that’s a count against you. If you sue, that’s a count against you. If you don’t sue, that’s a count against you.

If you tell someone that you’ve been raped, it probably didn’t actually happen the way you said, and even if it did, it was your fault in some way, and you should have realized that it would happen, and there is no particular reason anyone should believe you, and if you think the rape itself was painful and humiliating, just wait till you see what you’ve got coming next, when you try to tell someone.

So why didn’t you tell someone sooner?

Clearly, because it didn’t happen. There can be no other explanation.

What I’ve learned is that if you’ve been raped, your only real recourse is not to have been raped. Because anything and everything you do from that moment forward is evidence against you. The deck is stacked against you as a victim because you are a victim. They very moment you even breathe the word “rape,” that’s evidence in the minds of many that no such thing happened, and anyway it was your fault.

Your only real recourse is not to have been raped.

***

Photo by dilettant:nikki via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A portion of this post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2014. 

Selfie culture, the male gaze, and other moral panics

Lots to unpack in this meme:

The thing about this is that sculptures like this in art history were for the male gaze. Photoshop a phone to it and suddenly she’s seen as vain and conceited. That’s why I’m 100% for selfie culture because apparently men can gawk at women but when we realize how beautiful we are we’re suddenly full of ourselves . . . .

“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting ‘Vanity,’ thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” — John Berger, Ways of Seeing

The second quote has a lot more on its mind than the first. I haven’t seen or read Berger’s Ways of Seeing, but this short excerpt raises a topic worth exploring. Women are depicted, and men and women are trained to see women, in a way that says that women’s bodies exist purely for consumption by others. If anything, the phenomenon has gotten worse since the 1970’s, when Berger recorded his series.

The first comment, though, about being “100% for selfie culture,” is deadly nonsense.

The first thought that occurred to me was: Anyone who’s set foot in a museum (or a European city) knows that manflesh is just as much on display as womenflesh, if not more; and all these nakeymen would look just as “vain and conceited” with a phone photoshopped into their marble hands. Thus the limits of education via Meme University.

I’ve already talked at length about the difference between naked and nude in art — a distinction which has flown blithely over the commenter’s head. But let’s put art history aside and look at the more basic idea of the gazer and the gazed-upon, and the question of what physical beauty is for.

I saw a comment on social media grousing about pop songs that praise a girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful. The commenter scoffed at men who apparently need their love interest to lack confidence or self-awareness, and she encouraged young girls to recognize, celebrate, and flaunt their own beauty, because they are valuable and attractive in themselves, and do not need to be affirmed by a male admirer to become worthy.

Which is true enough, as far as it goes. But, like the author of the first quote about selfie culture, she implies that there is something inherently wrong with enjoying someone else’s beauty — specifically, men enjoying women’s beauty; and she implies and that it’s inherently healthy or empowering to independently enjoy one’s own beauty and to ignore the effect that it has on men.

(I must warn you that this post will be entirely heteronormative. I am heterosexual and so is most of the world, so that’s how I write.)

Beauty is different from the other transcendentals. At least among humans, goodness and truth are objective (they can be categorized as either good or true, or as bad or false); and they exist whether anyone perceives them or not. Not so beauty — at least among humans. Is there such a thing as objective beauty? Can a face be beautiful if everyone in the world is blind? I don’t know. Let’s ask an easier question: Is it possible to enjoy one’s own beauty without considering or being aware of how it affects other people?

I don’t think so; and I don’t think that’s only so because we’ve all internalized the male gaze and have been trained for millennia only to claim our worth when we are being appreciated by someone who is comfortable with objectifying us.

Instead, I think we are made to be in relation to each other, and physical beauty is a normal and healthy way for us to share ourselves with each other.

Like every other normal and healthy human experience, beauty and the appreciation of beauty can be exploited and perverted. But it does not follow that we can cure this perversion by “being 100% for selfie culture.” Narcissism is not the remedy for exploitation. It simply misses the mark in a different way; and it drains us just as dry.

Listen here. You can go ahead and tell me what kind of bigot I am and what kind of misogynistic diseases I’ve welcomed into my soul. I’m just telling you what I have noticed in relationships that are full of love, respect, regard, and fruitfulness of every kind:

A good many heterosexual girls pass through what they may perceive to be a lesbian phase, because they see the female form as beautiful and desirable. As they get older and their sexuality matures, they usually find themselves more attracted to male bodies and male presences; but the appeal of the female body lingers. When things go well and relationships are healthy, this appeal a woman experiences manifests itself as a desire to show herself to a man she loves, so that both can delight in a woman’s beauty.

This isn’t a problem. It doesn’t need correcting. This is just beauty at work. Beauty is one of the things that makes life worth living. It is a healthy response to love, a normal expression of love. Beauty is there to be enjoyed.

Beauty — specifically, the beauty of a woman’s body — goes wrong when it becomes a tool used to control. Women are capable of using their beauty to manipulate men, and men are capable of using women’s beauty to manipulate women. And women, as the quotes in the meme suggest, very often allow their own beauty to manipulate themselves, and eventually they don’t know how to function unless they are in the midst of some kind of struggle for power, with their faces and bodies as weapons.

That’s a sickness. But again: Narcissism is not the cure for perversion or abuse; and self-celebration very quickly becomes narcissism. Self-marriage is not yet as prevalent as breathless lifestyle magazines would have us believe, but it does exist. And it makes perfect sense if your only encounter with, well, being encountered has been exploitative. If love has always felt like exploitation, why not contain the damage, exploit oneself, and call it empowering? People might give you presents . . .

The real truth is that selfie culture isn’t as self-contained as it imagines. The folks I know who take the most selfies, and who are noisiest about how confident and powerful and fierce they are, seem to need constant affirmation from everyone that no, they don’t need anyone. Selfies feed this hunger, rather than satisfying it.

As a culture, we do need healing from the hellish habit of using and consuming each other. But selfie culture heals nothing. Selfie culture — a sense of self that is based entirely on self-regard — simply grooms us to abuse ourselves. A bad lover will grow tired of your beauty as you age and fall apart. A good lover will deepen his love even as your physical appeal lessens, and he will find beauty that you can’t see yourself. But when you are your own lover, that well is doomed to run dry. Love replenishes itself. Narcissism ravishes.

In the ancient myth from which the clinical diagnosis draws its name, the extraordinarily beautiful Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection, and refuses to respond to the infatuated nymph Echo, who then languishes until nothing remains of her but her voice. In punishment for his coldheartedness, Narcissus is driven to suicide once he realizes that his own reflection can never love him in the way he loves it.

So, pretty much everyone is miserable and dies, because that is what happens when love and desire are turned entirely inward. It simply doesn’t work. That’s not what beauty is for. We can enjoy and appreciate our own beauty and still be willing and eager to share it with a beloved. But when we attempt to make beauty serve and delight only ourselves, it’s like building a machine where all the gears engage, but there is no outlet. Left to run, it will eventually burn itself out without ever having produced any action.

I’ve seen the face of someone who is delighted entirely with her own appeal; and I’ve seen the face of someone who’s delighted with someone she loves. There is beauty, and there is beauty. If it’s wrong for a man to be attracted to a woman who delights in her beloved, then turn out the lights and lock the door, because the human race is doomed.

Beauty, at its heart, is for others. Selfie culture, as a way of life, leads to death. You can judge for yourself whether death is better than allowing yourself to ever be subject to a male gaze.

 

A day without that one woman

would have looked like this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

 

and this:

and this:

And so on.

Because without her, we wouldn’t have Him.

No jokes, no anti-feminist message here. Just gratitude that that one particular women showed up on that one particular day. Mary, give me the strength to show up today. Jesus, do with my presence what you will.

Pro-Choice Feminists and Pro-Life Feminists should march together

Here’s a cheering thought about 2017: It’s gonna be a banner year for comedians.

It’s also shaping up to be a surprisingly good year for pro-lifers. Not because Trump has done anything whatsoever to help save babies or protect women. Maybe he’ll take the trouble to reinstate the largely symbolic Mexico City policy, maybe he won’t; but so far, his pro-life credentials are exactly zero, if you’re generous. [ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy. Credit where it’s due.]

But never mind him, because people who are actually pro-life aren’t waiting for him to remember there’s such a thing as us. Women in seven continents turned out for the Women’s March, to protest his election and to support causes dear to women — causes like education, healthcare, racial justice, protection and respect for the disabled, and, well, everything else. Women are interested in all kinds of things; and even progressive women have more on their mind than abortion abortion abortion. That’s the nice thing about a protest: You show up and say what you want to say (even if you can’t even talk yet).

Yeah, the protest was organized and funded by pro-choicers. Yeah, “abortion rights” became one of the planks of their platform, after a stink was raised in some quarters. But tons of pro-life women showed up anyway, because pro-life is a feminist cause ne plus ultra. As the giant banner said — the banner that led the march, because Students For Life decided to run right out in front — “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN.”

So there were pro-life feminists there. In some venues, they were attacked and screamed at; in some venues, they were greeted with respect and support, even from women who didn’t agree with them. These are the reports from the women I know who were actually there.

Even more heartening than this reception is what happened on Saturday Night Life. You can see the entire segment here, but here’s the money part:

Did you catch that?  The man just told his audience that pro-lifers are feminists, and that they absolutely belong in a pro-woman march, because a feminist is simply a reasonable person. He used the phrase “pro-life,” not “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion rights.”

Here’s the transcript of this segment:

It was an amazing show of support for feminism, but some feminist groups were asked not to march because of their pro-life views, which raises the question: “What makes a feminist a feminist?” It’s confusing. 

My mother raised seven kids by herself and she’s the strongest woman I know, so I asked her if she was a feminist, and she said, “Boy, God made Adam and EVE,” I was like, “That’s not what that means.”

A feminist is really just someone who believes in rights for women, and that’s easy to get behind. Until you get behind a feminist wearing a uterus hat and then you’re like, “There are levels to this.”

I just think it’s weird to have a special name for just being a reasonable person, because that’s all it is. Believing in equality just means you’re not a dick, and for me, that enough.

Folks, Donald Trump is a dick. Not because he claims to be anti-abortion, but because he treats women and children, and anyone else who seems vulnerable, like dirt to be trampled under his feet.

Shall I tell you what I want, as a feminist?

I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel that she has to have a sexual relationship she doesn’t want.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel pressured to act out the porn that’s shaped the desires of a generation.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to be mocked, pressured, or chided by her friends, her boyfriend, her doctor, or the culture at large for deciding not to have sex with someone.

I want every woman to know that, if she gets pregnant unintentionally, the father of the child will behave like an adult — not just ponying up a few hundred dollars and a ride to the abortion clinic to erase his mistake, but taking on real, shared, self-giving responsibility. I want women to know that the pregnancy is not just her problem.

I want rape victims to be treated with dignity and respect, not suspicion and blame and aggression from schools, from the legal system, and from their neighbors.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning stigma, shame, and horror.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman’s education must end.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman is doomed to poverty.

I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning the end of a career.

I want women carrying a disabled unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want women carrying a black unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want women carrying an unborn girl to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.

I want a world where it doesn’t even occur to people to consider abortion, because there are so many, many alternatives. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can work together to provide these alternatives. And that’s what we have in common.

If pro-choice feminists agree with even part of this, then you’re damn right we are sisters. You’re damn right we belong marching together.

Don’t underestimate the power of popular culture to change hearts and minds. It’s already becoming more acceptable to be pro-life. It’s already becoming more evident that there is more to us than “no, no, no.”  Today’s young adults are looking around at the cultural wasteland left behind after the sexual revolution, and they’re thinking, “Well, that didn’t work. What else can we try?”

Some of them are trying on pro-life feminism. I think it looks pretty good on them — and apparently, so does Saturday Night Live.

So, you folks who are stamping your feet and huffing and puffing over the scandal of pro-lifers turning up at a pro-choice march? You Catholics who are up in arms over pro-life women inflating the numbers of the march, and giving aid and comfort to our ideological enemies? Check it out:

Pro-life feminists who marched got Saturday Night Live to utter the phrase “pro-life,” and to call them reasonable people, to admit that they are feminists, too. Tell me how you were planning to achieve that by sitting at home in your MAGA hat, annotating your list of Catholics We Find Upsetting.

While you were busy taking incriminating screenshots of your neighbor to send to your priest, pro-lifers feminists were bringing their message home. And they’re changing the culture.

Keep marching, sisters.

Catholic pro-lifers at the Women’s March? Get used to it.

Were you surprised, even shocked, to see Catholics and other pro-lifers joining in at the Women’s March — the march that was funded and organized by pro-choicers, and which backed out of partnering with pro-life groups?

Numerous Catholics told me it was a scandal that they were there.

Well, get used to it. The pro-life establishment abandoned women and children when they threw in their lot with Trump. Get used to seeing pro-lifers strike out on their own, welcome or not.

When you in the Republican establishment helped Trump win, you told the world, “This is what a pro-life leader looks like like.” You told the world:

–A pro-lifer is a serial adulterer who proudly thinks with his penis.

–A pro-lifer responds to an unplanned pregnancy by saying, “Oh, great” and asking the mother what she’s going to “do about it.”

–A pro-lifer tells the world that a woman isn’t qualified to lead if we don’t enjoy looking at her face.

–A pro-lifer, when asked about his baby daughter, speculates on how big her tits will be some day.

–A pro-lifer mentions several times in several ways that, if he weren’t Ivanka’s father, he’d be dating her because of her gorgeous body.

–A pro-lifer will appoint ludicrously unqualified cabinet members whose only asset is their promises to cut funding for food and housing, programs which disproportionately support women and children.

–A pro-lifer is enthusiastic about torture, and is proud to turn his back on refugees.

–A pro-lifer thinks that life-saving vaccines cause autism, and is reportedly considering appointing a vaccine skeptic to investigate vaccine safety.

–A pro-lifer has promised repeatedly to repeal the law that has given millions of women (including me) basic healthcare for the first time.

–A pro-lifer appoints an education head who thinks that special needs kids don’t have a right to an education, and that the states should (like Texas did) be free to just stop making it possible for special needs kids to go to school.

–And of course a pro-lifer, as a newlywed, brags about kissing women without consent and then grabbing women by the pussy. And pro-lifers say that talking about “fucking” married “bitches” is “locker room banter” and can be excused as long as we also talk about ISIS.

You elected Trump and told the world that we had to vote for him, because he is pro-life. You even said that it was a mortal sin not to vote for him. And then you told women that they weren’t real Catholics because they marched against him.

Tell me again that women are shameful and disgraceful for telling the world that this man does not represent us. They’re the disgrace. Not him. Tell me again.

Tell me again that Catholic women who marched on Saturday aren’t real Catholics. Tell me again that they are the ones who should be cast out, because they are in the street at the same time as women with silly hats. Tell me that they are the scandal, and not the party who betrayed women and elected Trump.

Tell me again how the true disgrace is when young pro-lifers march in the streets with signs shouting “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN,” and the Huffington Post reports it, with numerous photos and ample quotes from pro-lifers. Also Slate, The Atlantic, and numerous other left-leaning websites.

Tell me what a scandal it is that “pro-life feminist” is now a thing.

God bless you, Destiny Herndon De La Rosa, Abby Johnson, Aimee Murphy, Students for Life, and all the strong, smart women who had the courage to face not only the abuse of pro-choicers but the abuse of your fellow Catholics. God bless you for telling the world that abortion hurts women, that pro-life is pro-women. God bless you for turning over your lives to the pro-life cause, when even other pro-lifers refused to help.

And God bless you for being physically there, for putting yourself right next to women who have been told all their lives that pro-lifers are rigid, angry, fanatical misogynists. God bless you for talking to them, showing them that we are human, showing them that there is another way of seeing the world.

You are the ones who are changing hearts; and that is how abortion is defeated. Not by signing bills, not by babbling catchphrases when it’s politically expedient and shrugging them off when it’s not. Not by yanking help away from the needy.

Abortion is defeated when pro-lifers have the courage to go where they are not invited. The election of Donald Trump made it very clear that respect for women is not important to the republican party. So be it. Pro-lifers who do respect women will go elsewhere.

The old categories do not hold. If Trump is the leader of the republican party, then the republican party is no longer the home for people who value family, who cherish children, who respect women. Pro-life American are now politically homeless; and so, like so many of the homeless, they took to the streets.

Expect to see more of this kind of thing. The old categories do not hold.
***

Image: Screenshot from Fox News interview with Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists

Bono, Glamour, and Posthumous TransBaptism: Welcome to the 1950s, 2.0

 

No posthumous messing around with my life by people who never met me, please. I am who I am, not who you think I wish I were.

It’s true when I’m talking about Mormons, who practice posthumous baptising of the dead, and it’s true when I’m talking about transactivists, who are now busily running around “baptizing” dead people into the church of trans.

Carrie-Anne Brownian outlines a few examples in her excellent article,  Transing the dead: The erasure of gender-defiant role models from history. Brownian says:

Women such as Joan of Arc, Mulan, Carson McCullers, Radclyffe Hall, Mountain Charley (Elsa Jane Forest Guerin), George Sand, and Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, to name but a few, are now being claimed as transmen.

Why? Because they took male names, dressed in men’s clothing, or did men’s jobs. And the only possibly explanation, say the revisionism activists, is that they actually were men, on the inside.

Or maybe there’s a simpler, less sociologically trendy explanation, one that doesn’t include exploiting dead women who can’t defend themselves. Brownian says:

For much of recorded human history, even into the twentieth century, women who wanted to serve in combat, travel or live alone, work in most professions, get published, compete in sports, or conduct research felt compelled to disguise themselves as men.  That didn’t make them transmen; it made them girls and women with no other options in a patriarchal, androcentric world.  No one would have, for example, published George Eliot, or taken her seriously as a writer, had she used her birth name of Mary Ann Evans, just as Kathrine Switzer had to sign up for the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer as recently as 1967 because women weren’t allowed to compete.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why more feminists aren’t up in arms over this insanely sexist revisionism. Isn’t it possible that some people are just strong and tough and good at fighting and writing and running and working hard . . . while being women? Weren’t we fighting for acceptance of that very idea? Is this where 21st century progressive thought has brought us: the idea that any women who isn’t filmy, frilly creampuff, with a baby in one arm and a perfume atomizer in the other, must actually be a man?

How is this feminist? How is this anything other than the worst kind of reductionism and objectification?  How is this good or even fair for women in any way? And why aren’t they ashamed of themselves for digging up the dead? Who does that?

Oh, how progressives love to point a quivering, defiantly un-manicured finger at conservatives for trying to put women in a box, for trying to mute and quash and erase them by confining them to rigid little gender roles. And they’re not wrong. I’ve had my say about this more than once.

But look what’s happening now. We say we want to embrace the in-betweeners, those men and women — somehow, it’s usually women — who don’t fit comfortably into narrow gender boxes. But as soon as we begin, we discover to our horror that it’s kind of hard work. It doesn’t make viral headlines to say things like, “There Are Some Traits Which Many Women Exhibit, And Other Traits That Many Men Exhibit, But There Is An Awful Lot Of Overlap Even Among People Who Are As Straight As Straight Can Be; So Maybe Gender Is About More Than What You Look Like Or How You Act; Maybe It Has To Do With Your Soul OH CRAP, THAT MEANS THERE IS A SOUL And That Means Maybe I Should Put My Wang Away.”

And women. Get. Erased. Again. I said “wang” because boy oh boy, it’s always men who benefit from the transing of non-frilly women. Guess who just got named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year? Bono. Bono, the man who is not a woman.

Okay, more accurately, he was awarded a “Man of the Year” award at the Women of the Year Awards. Now, I think Bono is actually a good guy with good intentions. And no, of course Glamour magazine doesn’t matter. It’s just another place for rich people to get dressed up and give each other prizes.

But if we’re really so worried about the example we’re providing for our children, let’s start with deciding not to tell them that we can’t even fumble through a bogus Woman of the Year ceremony without looking to a man for help. The Onion called it back in 2007 with Man Finally Put in Charge of Struggling Feminist Movement. Great. Great. Thanks a lot, progress. I hate to think what will happen after Bono dies. Maybe they’ll decide that he was actually a raccoon, and the world just wasn’t ready to handle it.

And what’s even more terrifying is when, rather than looking to straight men, we come full circle and decide, one more time, that being a woman is all about the shoes, the dress, the pleasing voice. The whole Caitlyn Jenner insanity was worth getting upset about — not because it marked some acceptance of sissified men, but because it showed how ready we are to say, “This is all a woman is.” We were so ready to just erase women, to tell them that anyone could be what they are, as long as there’s enough lipstick and collagen involved.

As Brownian says:

In the brave new world of the transactivists, everyone is a collection of rigid sexist stereotypes, and any deviation from this 1950s-style binary must really be the opposite sex.

Transactivist revisionism, she says, is making the 21st century “like the 1950s 2.0.”

Here’s an idea that came straight out of my lady brain, so you may need to brush some of the common sense off before you’re ready to handle it:

There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.”

Gender is confusing. Sex is confusing. Maleness and femaleness are mysterious, and they’re not getting less mysterious just because women can now vote and be doctors and stuff. Our roles are not always clear-cut. Sometimes you think you’ve gotten to the bottom of it, and then you discover an exception to your new rule. It doesn’t mean there aren’t rules; but it does mean they are mysterious, and mysteries are truths that keep on opening up and opening up, as long as you keep looking.

So if you don’t know what it all means, can you just . . . shut up? I know shutting up doesn’t help you sell magazines or makeup lines, and it won’t get you celebrity as a specialist or a theorist or a reality TV star, but at least it’s simple.

You don’t know what it means to be a woman? Just say so, and then go do something useful with your life, like digging ditches or baking bread. Or defying your Islamic persecutors even though it means giving birth in a Sudanese prison while under a death sentence. You could do that. A woman did that, without even being even kind of a man.

That’s hard, too. I don’t know if I could do it. But if you can’t bring yourself to stop making the lives of living women worse with your nonsensical, misogynist, transprogressive yapping, at very least you could leave the dead alone.

Image: MipsyRetro via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Even dems fed up with creepy, handsy Uncle Joe Biden

Joe Biden wants the presidency so bad, he can taste it. He makes little suckling sounds in his sleep, just thinking about the seal of office. There’s a well-polished statue of Justice on his desk, and Justice’s face is permanently molded into that frozen mask of polite endurance as she waits for another intimate encounter with handsy, handsy Uncle Joe, the creepiest VP that ever veeped.

It’s so hard to know what to do with Joe Biden. It’s not possible that we’ll actually elect him in 2016, is it? Is it? We did intentionally put this sub-competent, thin-skinned, narcissistic, death-dealing clown in office, twice, on purpose, so anything could happen.  But I feel like a weary country doesn’t need to deal with a commander in chief who got elected mainly for the free pass for a four-year game of grabass.

Again.

1024px-Bill_Clinton_closeup_at_dedication_of_WWII_memorial,_May_2004

At least I was more of a boob man. The “ear, hair, and upper arms” thing is just weird, Joe.

It is encouraging that left-leaning sites like TIME and Gawker are beginning to notice that it really, truly isn’t cool for Biden the perv to get away with macking on captive women — and old women, and young women, and very young women — like a portion of meat up for his inspection, to sniff and to snuzzle, stroke and tenderize.  As Gawker says,

[A]sk yourself this: if this were any other male politician, would we be so quick to add it to the meme pile? Try this: look at all of those photos and imagine, say, Paul Ryan’s face instead of Biden’s.

Yeah, he’s a gold mine for comedy, but how the HELL are we supposed to say with a straight face that women have choices, women aren’t property, women shouldn’t have to put up with being manhandled without their permission just because the manhandler is in a position of power — and then do nothing but smile and tee-hee over Biden? Because ladies, we all know this face, right?

stephanie carter joe biden

This is the “Ugh, ugh, ugh, my nerves are going to jump right out of my skin if he doesn’t move his hands soon, but I don’t want to make a scene, so I guess I’ll just deal until he decides he’s had enough.” What was Stephanie Carter supposed to do, jab him with her hatpin? The focus was meant to be on her husband, the cameras were rolling, and so she just. had. to deal.

We women know this look because we’ve all employed it while enduring unwanted touching from a boss, a teacher, our best friend’s dad, a priest, an interviewer, a social worker, a football star — anyone who assumes we will be flattered by his attention, and who knows that everyone will blame us, not him, if we turn it into a scene.

I have teenage daughters — three of them. They need to know this kind of thing is bullshit.

As  Karol Markowicz says in TIME:

The phrase “boys will be boys” has been used historically to excuse bad behavior by men with a shrug instead of with punishment. But in 2015, things should be different. We don’t allow bosses to rub their secretaries’ shoulders, smell their hair, or look them up and down and exclaim “holy mackerel!” all things Biden has done to daughters and wives of people with much less power than he has.

And here’s the really astonishing subhead to her essay:

The only reason Joe Biden gets away with getting handsy with women is because he has a (D) after his name.

Yuh think? People are still mocking cloddish old Mitt Romney for his infelicitous“binders full of women” line, but left wing feminists on the prowl for misogynist microagressions everywhere somehow just can’t muster anything more than a weak giggle when it comes to Biden.

Well, maybe that’s starting to change. It’s not supposed to matter what your politics are: Droit du seigneur isn’t supposed to be part of 21st-century America; and it’s nice to know that even if a good portion of America doesn’t recognize Obama/Biden policies as being anti-woman, at least they can tell when the joke’s over and it’s time for creepy Uncle Joe to keep his clammy hands to himself.

***

Yes, we still need feminism.

I used to wonder why any 21st-century woman would call herself a feminist.

Feminism has become something utterly toxic. Maybe the word once stood for something useful and good, but feminism today means abortion on demand and without apology; now it means contempt for virginity, contempt for children, contempt for motherhood. Why would any right-thinking woman even want to use that name, when it puts you in such dreadful company?

And anyway, why do we even need feminism anymore?  Aren’t we done?  There once was a real need for the movement. Long ago, women truly had to fight for basic freedoms. But now we can vote, now we can own property, now we have as much as a men do in the way our lives go. We can go to school where we want, work where we want, wear what we want, travel where we want — and if we want to stay home and raise babies, assisted by female doctors and respected by our enlightened husbands, then feminism has won that right for us, too. It’s a golden post-feminist age, if we play our cards right.

In the past, when someone questioned the need for feminism, I would think of my mother, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, the way they lived and how they struggled.  My mother tells me of how she was suffering through a difficult labor. The male doctor, irritated, responded by strapping her down and injecting her, without her consent, with a drug that left her pain intact, but made her unable to cry out. “She feels better now,” she heard the doctor say, and she couldn’t argue with him, because she couldn’t form words.

So that’s why we needed feminism. Because unless someone told them otherwise, there would always be men who treated women like vessels, like nuisances, like inferiors, like property — and women, because they are the vessels of life, needed to fight back against this treatment. They needed to demand justice.

But no more, right?  The women’s movement was necessary, but it’s done its work.  Thank you for your efforts, suffragettes. And now we can rest, because we are all set.

Well, think again. I’m 39 years old, and feeling it. I read the blogs and comments of younger women, and I know that they’re living in a different world. Now, when I wonder if there is still a need for feminism, I look to the future of women, not the past.

When I was in college, there were a few cads and perverts on campus. But there was no such thing as nonstop porn — violent porn, available for free, 24 hours a day, on tiny devices that could be carried in your pocket.  There was no such thing as generation of men who thought of themselves as decent guys, and who expected their girlfriends to act out that porn which is normal normal normal.  There was no such things as websites dedicated to teaching guys how to drug their dates into submission, or how to trick their reluctant girlfriends into getting an abortion. There was no such thing as mainstream retailers like Target ads featuring a girl whose entire vulva was Photoshopped away, to make her trendy thigh gap gappier. There was no such thing as feminist who vehemently defended sex-selective abortion. No such thing as women live-blogging their abortions, gleefully posting pictures of their bloody baby’s remains and calling it liberation. No such thing as women selling eggs to get through college — selling their bodies to make it through college. No such thing, at least, as these things happening and progressive people calling it . . . empowering.

This is why we need feminism. Because someone needs to fight back, to tell these people, men and women: STOP. This is not what women are for. This is now how it’s supposed to go. This is not how life gets carried on. This is no life, for women or for men.

And if you think these outrages only exist in the godless secular world, you are sheltered indeed. Men and women in some Catholic circles believe that marital rape is impossible, because the marriage debt means that women never have the right to say “no.” They believe that if men use porn, it’s the woman’s fault for not being compliant or submissive enough. I know a woman whose priest told her that it’s a mortal sin to refuse her husband sex even one time, for any reason.  I know women who’ve gotten an annulment after enduring years of rape and physical and emotional abuse, and the congregation shuns . . . the woman. And her children. Because marriage is sacred.

This is why we need feminism — yes, still. This is why we need it more than we needed it twenty years ago.  Yes, the movement went astray. Yes, some evil people call themselves feminists, and do dreadful things in the name of feminism. So what?  People do dreadful things in the name of democracy, and people do dreadful things in the name of beauty. People do dreadful things in the name of Christ our savior. That doesn’t mean we abandon the name. That means we rescue it, we rectify the misuse.

When I call myself a feminist, I don’t mean that I break out in a cold sweat when McDonald’s asks me if I want a boy toy or a girl toy in my kid’s happy meal. Some people use “feminism” to mean “being upset all the time” or “getting revenge on men” or “stamping out everything that makes women seem feminine.”  So what? I don’t use it that way. Neither did John Paul II.

Yes, we still need feminism. A lot has changed in the world, but there is much more that never will change. Women will always need men in a particular way — just as men will always need women in a particular way. Barbara Valencia said it well in a recent Facebook conversation:

Left to their own devices, human beings will always drift back into oppressing and abusing one another. The strong will dominate the weak, the weak will in turn manipulate the strong. It’s like a bad wheel on a stroller that will always send the thing veering off the sidewalk into traffic if an extra counter force is not applied in the opposite direction. Christianity is supposed to be that counter force, so is feminism. Indeed, the reason why JPII’s theology is so compelling is because it uses feminist ideas and “completes” them.

It’s not about men or women being more important than the other; it’s about learning how to work in harmony. Ever hear a choir practice? Constant tuning, constant correction.

Maybe sometime in the future, we will be able to retire the word “feminism.” Maybe there will no longer be any need to struggle against injustices that men (and women!) perpetrate against the feminine. But that time is not now. That time is not coming soon. We need feminism. Yes, still.

Tweaking Sleeping Beauty

Here’s an enlightening though spoilerific commentary on the new Disney princess movie, Frozen.  Gina Dalfonzo liked the movie well enough (not everyone did), but thought the denouement of Prince Hans was unnecessarily cynical and harsh. She says (REMEMBER, I SAID SPOLERS):

The naïve and lonely Anna has fallen in love with and become engaged to Hans in the course of just one day. As her other love interest, Kristoff, tells her, this is not exactly indicative of good judgment.

However, there is something uniquely horrifying about finding out that a person—even a fictional person—who’s won you over is, in fact, rotten to the core. And it’s that much more traumatizing when you’re six or seven years old. Children will, in their lifetimes, necessarily learn that not everyone who looks or seems trustworthy is trustworthy—but Frozen’s big twist is a needlessly upsetting way to teach that lesson.

I haven’t seen the movie, but this article caught my interest because it’s about something that niggles at me:  how to tell lovely, romantic stories to the kids, without giving them dangerously stupid ideas about love?

Disney is doing penance for decades of promoting the idea that a kiss between a strange man and a vacant, helpless young woman can signify true love — and that is a worthy effort.  Maybe once upon a time, it was okay to show a princess who liked being macked on by strangers in her sleep, because everyone knew it was just a story, la di dah.

But today?  Listen, I’m no “rape here, rape there, rapey-rapey everywhere” anti-princess zealot, but people today are so clueless, so utterly innocent of a basic understanding of virtue, that we have to be really careful.  We can’t assume that mom and dad are teaching kids what love and marriage are really about.  I recently read an article by a teacher after the Steubenville rape.  She said that her students had learned that you’re not supposed to have sex with someone who says “no.”  But a sleeping girl isn’t saying no.  To them, this was a dilemma.  How are they supposed to know if she consents or not, if she’s not even conscious?  No one had told them (probably out of fear of imposing outmoded standards of morality) why it was important to gain consent. Consent, to them, was just a secret password to gain sex, and in its absence, that had no idea what they were supposed to think.

Anyway, you read enough things like this, and you can’t quite bring yourself to tell your four-year-old that a stranger and a sleeping girl just enjoyed “true love’s kiss.”

PIC Sleeping Beauty figurine with prince under skirt

But I think it’s stupid to tell girls, “Prettiness is slavery!  Romance is for suckers!  Love will always let you down!  Don’t you dare put on a sparkly crown!”  So I tell my daughters stories about beauty and love and caroling birds and shimmering gowns — but I tweak them.  Here is how I adjusted Sleeping Beauty:

The bad fairy, the curse, the spinning wheel, the 100 year’s sleep, blah blah blah.

Here’s the part where I started to improvise:  the prince is wandering around in the woods because all the princesses in his territory are boring, and just want to talk about shoes and hair and parties.  He sees the castle overgrown with roses, with no sound but the humming of bees, and hacks his way through out of sheer curiosity.  When he makes his way through the sleeping castle, he finds the princess at its center, fast asleep, and she is lovely.

Worn out from all that hacking, he sits down, and before he knows it, he starts to talk.  He talks and talks and talks, about all the things that he’s interested in, but nobody in his kingdom wants to hear about.  He pours his heart out to her, because he know she’s not going to spill the beans, because she’s asleep.  Then he goes back outside and, unable to make himself go home quite yet, he camps in the courtyard.

The next morning, he comes back, and talks some more.  At first, he was just thrilled to talk to someone who didn’t laugh at him or interrupt.  But gradually, he begins to wish with all his heart that she could answer back.  Her face is so intersting, even in sleep, that he wants to know what she thinks.

That night, when he lies down in the courtyard again, he dreams that she is awake, and tells him everything on her mind — and it is marvelous.  The next day, he comes back again, and so on and so on.

After a few weeks of this, he shakes himself and decides he can’t pursue this fantasy any longer.  Back to real life; time to face the petty and puerile girls in his own kingdom, and settle for one of them so he can further the royal line. Facts are facts:  better a third-rate reality than a gorgeous fantasy.   So he goes back one last time to say goodbye to her.  He leans over to take one final look at her lovely face, and her breath smells so nice that he can’t help himself:  he plants a chaste little kiss on her rosy lips.

And she wakes up. And says, “Oh, were you going somewhere?  We were having such a nice conversation!”  Bafflement ensues, and gradually it turns out that, just as he has been dreaming of her, she has been dreaming of him.  His words found their way past the enchantment and into her subconscious mind, and, in her dream, she answered him back. They feel like they know each other, and they do — because they are so perfectly suited for each other that their dreams conversations were identical.

So then they get married.  The princess wears a shimmering wedding gown, and then they have eleven children.  The end.

Now, I realize this is more or less the naked fantasy of a 38-year-old woman:  True love is someone who will sit there and listen to me talk!  So sue me.  I still think it’s better than “And as soon as their eyes met, they knew they were in love, and got married the next day.”  Bah.  I fell in love like that once, and it took me two years to realize that the guy just found me convenient, and treated me like poo.  I like my version because there is a romantic dream that really does come true — but they have to work their way up to it.  It preserves the idea that the kiss is a magical turning point, but the fellow has to earn it, and she has to have some reason to return his affections.

So, to sum up, I don’t  shriek and turn blue at the very mention of the word “princess,” and I am so done with the edgy new takes on princess culture.

PIC Snow White kids house husband nightmare

I think little girls need to hear about silvery ballgowns and falling in love while birds sing overhead, especially when the world tells them that you can either be pretty like this:

PIC Monster high dolls

or accomplished like this:

PIC Nancy Pelosi face

but nothing in between.  But I can’t quite swallow the “strangers–>kiss–>happily ever after” line, either.

How do you handle it in your house?  Does the whole princess thing bother you?  Do you make it work somehow?  Or what?