#metoo Read Up

Let me get out of the way that I’m one of those horrid feminists who not only works with men but who works to bring men into feminist movement. In addition to men of course being part of the problem, by act or omission, they also desperately need freeing from gender. We all do.

I’ve been wishing lately, in the midst of all of the articles and op-eds about sexual assault, that women all over the world might just publish the direct messages, chats, conversations in women’s groups, and transcripts of phone calls that have been happening for months now, the ones that start “shit this week has been triggering” and “okay the Ansari story is exactly it” and the like. But we won’t. We shouldn’t have to.

Because it’s all already out there, as Lindy West just pointed out in the NYT. So many things, so many. We have been talking amongst ourselves lately for months but we’ve also been talking about this amongst ourselves for decades (and before that, we were pointedly not discussing it but trying to keep other women away from those men, when we knew them). Women recommend these books to each other all the time and give them to each other as presents sometimes to say #metoo to teach other but also to say #yesallwomen but rarely do we give them to the men in our lives.

I suspect that most of my closest male friends have not read one book that’s explicitly feminist, and I’m what some might call a humorless feminist, so the men I’m close to are generally of the more enlightened variety. But even among them, I suspect there are very few who have read any of the books on that list or any other books by women and about women.

So guys, READ UP, would you? Almost any woman you know would be happy* to recommend one and most would even be happy to discuss it with you, but with one giant caveat:

You Can’t Be a Jerk About It.

Here’s How: (6 Easy Steps! A Listicle! Learn things about women while investing almost no time!)

  1. Read to understand, not to disagree. No looking for the holes in the arguments.
  2. Read it as if you were a woman. That is, try to imagine you were assigned one at birth and raised one or transitioned or whatever version of woman  you can imagine yourself being most easily.
  3. Try to remember that most of the is lit is written by white women and reflects all of the privilege and self-selection that implies.
  4. don’t think about your sister/wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter because your relationship with them is likely already stepped in a fuckton of male privilege you probably don’t recognize. That is, you already think of them as women, which is really the root of the whole damn problem.
  5. Tell a woman who might be willing to talk to you about it that you’re ignorant af but really want to understand how you could have grown up in a culture where you failed to notice that more than half the population is scared to say no, or hi, or to speak to men they don’t know or to men they do know except when they’re drunk or angry or men they thought they knew and trusted only to find out how wrong they were.
  6. Also, don’t discuss it. Highlight things that confuse or perplex you and ask her to explain them. Don’t talk. Listen. Quietly. Without objection.
  7. When you’re done, start over with a new book and maybe with a new woman (dependent on how likely you followed the previous 6 instructions).

This is how you learn things, guys, by learning things. Read books written by women in whatever genre you prefer: it’s all in there, in one form or another, in one book or another.

You might even find a new favorite writer. (Really. I actually like some male writers, no kidding, but only if I can relate to their lives.) (OK, that’s a joke. I like a lot of writers I have absolutely nothing in common with. That’s kind of the whole point of reading, to understand other people’s lives and so live in the world with compassion.)

Start now, please.

*Okay, I’m only kidding. Don’t ask a woman to volunteer for this bullshit. Find one who is willing to work with you and PAY HER to educate your ignorant ass.  

Brenda Tracy #settheexpectation

TW: sexual assault, violence

Brenda Tracy is an incredibly gifted, heartfelt speaker who talks to men about the gang rape she experienced. A local group, Voices of Men, invited her to do seven events in NE Wisconsin. My wife Rachel Crowl made this video of her visit.

A huge thanks to the students of MARS, a group I helped create, for organizing her evening at Lawrence. I am regularly happily astonished by how dedicated younger men are to stopping violence against women and wanting to be the kind of men who step into the kinds of men who take women for granted.

Pussy Bites Back, Indeed

so i feel like everything women have ever said about our lives is now unfolding in broad daylight and it’s a little weird to have been feminist this whole time & to watch the world learn of the button matt lauer had installed in his desk to lock the door from his seat, and to just say HEY THIS IS THE WORLD WE’VE BEEN LIVING IN THE WHOLE TIME. because i know men didn’t believe us.
 
honestly, some days i can’t believe it’s as bad as it is, & then i remember that it’s worse.
 
there is so much more than that fucking button. so much more. 
i am so glad these jerks are finally getting fired. FIRE THEM ALL, EVERY. SINGLE. GODDAMNED. ONE.
hey patriarchy? we’re coming for you. this is what happens when you elect a Head Pussy Grabber in Charge.

Matt Lauer’s Button

On learning that Matt Lauer had a button at his desk that allowed him to lock the door without getting up – which Anne Branigin at The Root just called “his little trapping button” – my friend Jill Barkley asked:

Who authorized the expense to have the button installed? Which men in power positions over Lauer knew about the button? Which men at equal levels of power as Lauer knew about the button? What did the guy who installed the button say out loud to his coworkers about it? What did the male members of the cleaning crew who saw the button say to their coworkers?

Basically, what I’m asking is: men who know about fucked up shit and don’t do anything to intervene, WHAT THE FUCK? I’d say pardon my language, but I’m not actually sorry.

For anyone who is shocked or surprised, I only want to say: maybe someone should have asked the contractor who put it in, or whatever asshole approved the work order, or, I DON’T KNOW, ANYONE WHO KNEW IT EXISTED AT ALL.

“These stories are true.”

I’ve been thinking all day about Louis CK’s statement not just because I like him but because he admitted that he thought asking first made it okay.

“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true.”

Because that is, effectively, what we teach men (& everyone else) about consent, isn’t it? Silence isn’t consent, drunk isn’t consent, but someone saying “yes, that’s okay” is sufficient.

He continued by explaining he did learn better (after it was too late).

But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

And now we’re getting somewhere, to something like Consent 2.0, when people with power – due to age, sex, popularity, or any other kind of privilege, real or metaphorical – actually think about whether or not the person they’re asking has a real, actual choice to say no.

If they don’t, it isn’t consent, and it’s not just a ‘predicament’, either. It’s sexual harassment or assault or both.

I predict there will be numerous students who come out about their former professors, all sorts of business folks who will come out about executives, and plenty of other people in situations who had to say yes when they didn’t want to who will now start talking about how real and how frequent this bullshit is.

Keep them coming, folks. This is disgusting behavior. These stories are true.

All the Genders #metoo

Feminist friends, sexual assault and harassment is not just a women’s issue. People of all genders are assaulted, harassed, and raped.

This includes: straight men, cis women, trans women, trans men, girls, boys, GNC people, genderqueer people, gay men, lesbians, butches, femmes, bois, queens, drag kings, fairies, androgynes, enbies, bigender people, people who are agender, asexual, bisexual, queer, transmasculine, masculine of center, genderfluid, third gender, two spirit, fa’fafine, kathoey, hjira, guevedoce, muxe, intersex, fems, ETC.

ALL OF THE GENDERS experience sexual assault and harassment. 

What is wrong is a patriarchy system of violence – rape culture – which permits or ignores when someone in a position of power feels entitled to another person’s body and sexuality.

Please, let’s not be stupid about this. Women do not own these issues. We may experience in them in greater numbers, but the shame for people who are male-identified and/or masculine is pretty goddamned significant and I’m sure we have no idea what those numbers are really.

I know women have significant trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and the rest because of this violence or the threat of it, but that doesn’t mean people of other genders don’t. They often expect to be heard and listened to and believed far less often than even we do, and that’s a problem.

Surviving sexual assault and harassment doesn’t have a gender. 

 

Birth Control Is Healthcare

With even birth control under attack, various people and organizations have been posting about all the other medically necessary reasons for birth control. I, for instance, have PCOS, which leads to all sorts of crap, including irregular periods, so they put me on birth control for 20 years. There are numerous other medical instances that aren’t pregnancy that birth control is prescribed for.

But: preventing pregnancy is a medical reason. It IS healthcare. Body autonomy is health-care.

Don’t cave to these fools. People have the right to prevent pregnancy, to plan pregnancy, and the entire nation benefits from our ability to do so.

And you have the right to have sex without getting pregnant and without getting someone else pregnant.

CisHet White Men Questionnaire

Application Allowing Cishet White Men to Live Among Us

In the light of yet another mass shooting by a cishet white man, it is apparent that, as a group, these individuals do not quite understand the basic laws of civilization. Therefore, this committee recommends only allowing them to live among us once they have filled out this questionnaire which will in turn be reviewed by a small committee consisting of 3-5 individuals preferably including (1) RBG or Elizabeth Warren, (2) a professional woman, (3) a radical queer/trans activist, (4) an ethnic studies prof, critical race theorist or BLM activist, and (5) a gender studies professor or long-time feminist activist. Much thanks to Jonathan Swift for his input.

  1. Do some women just regret having sex the day after, or are some just making up sexual assault allegations?
  2. Do you secretly wonder if gay men find you attractive? Are you able to acknowledge in public and around other men that any man makes you a little tingly? Do you respect and admire him for that?
  3. Do you actually believe you are smarter than a black man, a woman, or any queer person? Please provide reasons and evidence.
  4. Are you absolutely sure that you can bring a woman to orgasm? Like, are you really really sure? 100 million percent sure? Are there women in your life/past who will certify that you can?
  5. Have you ever used any of these phrases while involved in sexual activity: “It’s just so hard to tell when a woman has an orgasm” “Did you come yet?” “You’d be more attractive if you __________” “I really can’t use condoms” or “But I really only get off with a blowjob.”
  6. Have you ever noticed that you talk a lot in classes/meetings/political rallies? Are you aware of talking significantly less when only other men are present?
  7. Do you maintain personal hygiene, clothing, weight, hair style, and shoe selection based on being attractive to women or gay men? Do you often think “she’d be pretty if…”?
  8. Do you watch porn/fantasize about fat women, mature women, women with penises, women with short hair, muscular women but *somehow* managed to marry/partner with a conventionally pretty, feminine, petite woman with a tiny waist and long pretty hair whose only goal in life was to have children?
  9. Do you understand any jokes women tell?
  10. Do you feel left out when in a room full of women/black people/gay and lesbian people? Does it anger you to feel left out?
  11. Have you ever stopped a meeting to point out or repeat what a woman has just said and made sure to give her credit for the idea you’ve just re-shared?
  12. How often do you call any woman who was kind to you – your mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a sister, friend, whoever – just to thank her? Have you sent her a card on mother’s day or brought her chocolate just because? Have you ever calculated the unpaid labor that people around you do to make your day/life easier? Do you, in turn, try to make it easier on them?
  13. Have you ever gotten away with some high school prank that you know would have gotten a person of color in much more trouble? Have you ever done anything to acknowledge that incident?
  14. Are you aware that you have emotions other than anger? Do you ever have them in front of other people? Are you secretly pleased with yourself if people are a little scared of you?
  15. Have you ever threatened violence, raised your fist or hand to slap or punch a woman, or threw a nearby inanimate object in a woman’s general direction?
  16. Are you aware that most of your people do not know how to resolve conflict or frustration without committing acts of violence? What are you doing to help them?
  17. Do you understand that many people are nice to you precisely because they’re afraid of you? How does that feel?
  18. Have you ever truly felt that someone owed you sex because _________________.
  19. How many times a week does someone like you make a joke that makes fun of women, black people, trans people, gay people, different abled people or the mentally ill? Have you ever shut down the person telling that kind of joke or stopped being friends with them?
  20. Do you understand that guns kill people, and that it is not our god-given right to decide to kill them depending on your mood/financial situation/having been cheated on/had a woman turn you down or break your heart?
  21. Is depression for women?
  22. Can you dance, cook more than 2 meals, get a baby to sleep, change a diaper, or resolve a conflict between children?
  23. Can you get two of your own kind to STFU, sit down, and stop arguing?
  24. Do you think of your wife or girlfriend as “yours”? Your children? Do you take pride in how good they look or in how well they do in school while doing absolutely nothing to foster those achievements?
  25. Have you ever felt you deserve a job and are surprised or chagrined because there are women, black people, and gays who are “doing better” in life than you are? Are you confused by how that is even possible?
  26. Do you understand that black men generally comport themselves in a way to be less threatening? Has it ever occurred to you that there might be any situation, save one concerning a police officer when you’re drunk, where you need to be compliant or passive and otherwise agreeing with whatever someone else is saying to you?
  27. Do you understand that violence is not a way to resolve conflict, to express emotion, or to make a political statement?
  28. How often do you tell women to smile? Do you feel better when they oblige you?
  29. Have you ever tried to explain/justify racism to a person of color, try to give pointers on how to behave around police, or even thought “just don’t break the law” when a person of color is arrested for a minor offense?
  30. Are you super proud of your daughter when she steals a base? Are you as proud when your son wants to be Wonder Woman for Halloween? Are you even aware you should be?
  31. Do you think it’s a woman’s responsibility to dress in a way that makes you capable of controlling your penis/libido/anger?
  32. Can you recite any lyrics by Morrissey, Big Freedia, or any female lyricist? Are any of those lyrics words you would have tattooed on you or that you feel you live by? Are any of your favorite bands lead by women or gay men?
  33. Do you think of yourself as a “hothead” “hot under the collar” or as someone who just “needs to let off some steam” once in a while? Have you ever noticed that children or women around you look worried or concerned when you do so? Or that, if they are able, they leave the room/house/bar when you start to get upset?
  34. Do women simply stop talking altogether when you start yelling? Have you noticed a worried, faraway look on a woman’s face when you are angry? Have you ever noticed a woman moving toward people if you are having a personal quarrel with her in public? Have you ever seen another woman glance protectively toward your wife or girlfriend during an argument with you?
  35. Have you ever started to disagree with a woman by saying “Well, actually…”?
  36. Are you aware that trans women are women, that your desire for them is heterosexual, and that having been assigned male at birth is not some weird way to trap you into expressing same sex desire?
  37. Do any of your favorite movies or books pass the Bechdel Test? Are any written by women, feature a female narrator, or involve only a female heroine or protagonist? Likewise for any books or movies written by or about black people, Native Americans, books that are translated from another language or films with subtitles?
    1. Do you know what the Bechdel Test is?
  38. Does it upset you not be able to use the N-slur, the T-slur, or to be told, in general, that you shouldn’t use a word if it is not one used to describe/denigrate you?
  39. Are you endlessly “intellectually” curious about whether women or black people or whoever can actually do science, art, comedy, or any other pursuit? Do you seek out scientific validation of your own biases and validate them by calling these studies scientific?
  40. Finally, please write a short essay explaining briefly why most of the violence in the world, especially gun violence, is committed by you & your kind. Spelling and grammar count.

Women, Dammit, Listen

Can I just say, as a woman of a certain age, that I am sick to death of beautiful, smart, talented, creative young women felling shitty about themselves?

& That includes my own former self to boot.

But goddamn ladies, even broken you remake the world in astonishing ways.

What hurts my heart is that there are too many of you I’m thinking of and that my opinion can be dismissed because.

But I’m telling you I know the world, and your hot mess is the best thing in it.

You, Take Care

Hey, all. The news that’s coming down about what will probably happen tomorrow prompts me to write. Tomorrow may be a difficult day for many of us in the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s more likely that you’ve heard the new healthcare plan could define sexual assault, domestic violence, having had a c-section, and post-partum depression as pre existing conditions. Surprising to no one is that these pre existing conditions focus morbidly on women’s health. An insurance company could deny you coverage – not just a claim, COVERAGE.

What you may not have heard about is that that the “religious liberty” EO, which may or may not be like the draft we first saw in February, which will sanction discrimination against LGBTQ+ people if a person’s belief system warrants it, will be signed. (I can’t use his name.) I don’t really even know what that means but I do know it will be a dog whistle to all the haters out there. Keep yourselves safe. Keep track of each other. Know that you are loved and valuable and essential to the world.

Please don’t minimize what this means. Please don’t read sources that make your heart pound. Please do take some time out for yourself, play with pets, eat good food, listen to music, whatever it is you do to feel a little better and better loved and more centered in the world. BUT DEFINITELY CALL YOUR GODDAMN REPRESENTATIVES AND SAY NO.

 

Please call your representative bright and early tomorrow morning. (202) 224-3121, give the switchboard your zip code, and ask your representative to vote no on the AHCA and against the “Religious Freedom” EO.

Thursday will likely be a very hard day for LGBTQ+ people. Please don’t argue or minimize what this EO means. Please do tell us you love us. Please do call your reps and publicly state that you stand with LGBTQ people.

We are ready to fight, but we are also scared tonight. But we are, also, us = and as ever, full of fight and fear and love and steadfastness.  Love to each and every one of you.