So, you say you’re an ally (thoughtful meanderings)

Good Monday to you. This morning the New Yorker is reporting that the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh ordered on Friday is looking like a sham given the ridiculous limits the White House has placed upon it. The self I worked to rebuild all weekend is feeling like garbage again, and so I’m writing this post. Continue reading So, you say you’re an ally (thoughtful meanderings)

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New Normal?

I am trying to wrap my head around what has gone down today.

I did not watch all of the hearings. I was in class most of the time.

I am assuming that despite all of this, the GOP will fall in line and Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the supreme court.

That his abuse of women is a feature, not a bug, of him and many men like him.

That even if most Americans disagree, it doesn’t matter. But do most Americans disagree that misogyny is a problem? I don’t know.

I’m struggling with having spent my career advocating for women and teaching about working in and around systems to help women achieve change, and seeing so much of what’s happening now as a big fuck you to all of that.

I believe that this response–the visceral hatred, the rage of thwarted entitlement shown by Kavanaugh and his supporters like Grassley and Graham–is an angry tantrum by men who see their way of living (misogynist and racist capitalist ways of being) are threatened for realsy real. but I don’t know that we survive the tantrum enough as a political system to go back to fighting it.

I’ve seen so many women on social media talking about how tired they are. I am, too. I am exhausted to my marrow. The mere existence of this week’s events has left me drained of all energy, in part because it’s exhausting to feel invisible and irrelevant all the time.

I’m tired of having to be a warrior for obvious fucking shit.

Even if there’s a wave of democratic victories in November–women, too, in office in bigger numbers than in a long time–he’ll still be there, his sneering, contemptuous face a blight on the judicial system that, while flawed, has served the nation fairly well (barring exceptions) a long time.

My god I’m exhausted. I can turn it off and be someone else for a while–I can watch tv, dawdle the internet, grade papers–but it comes back, the realization that I am purely a sex and housekeeping object for a host of our population, and that they’d grind me up if they could, for fun, particularly if I threatened them.

I don’t know how we bounce back if, when, this man is confirmed.

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“Why didn’t she say anything when it happened?”

  1. She could not even process what happened to her at the time.
  2. She feared retaliation.
  3. She knew no one would believe her.
  4. There wasn’t a culture of reporting assault.
  5. She didn’t want to relive the memory.
  6. She knew no one would believe her.
  7. She wasn’t sure what happened even *was*assault, given the messages she’d heard over the years.
  8. She thought she must have done something to deserve it.
  9. She knew no one would believe her.
  10. The psychological after-effects were terrifying.
  11. She was just grateful it wasn’t worse.
  12. She knew no one would believe her.
  13. If she did, her reputation would be in tatters, not his.
  14. She’d absorbed the culture that said women were men’s property.
  15. She knew no one would believe her.
  16. She just wanted it to go away.
  17. She feared the agony of police, paperwork, and trauma without assurance anything would be done.
  18. She knew no one would believe her.

 

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On Rape: A Particular, Historical Dogwhistle

In 1905, America was 40 years post-slavery and Jim Crow–a system of unequal everything, from train seats to schools to jobs, and which was held in place by brutal violence–was well-ensconced. Lynching threatened African Americans for damn near everything they did, and Reconstruction–the period post-Civil War that initially held such promise for freed people–came under sharp fire by southern whites as a time of tyranny and lawlessness. That year, Thomas Dixon published The Clansman, a book that gave many white southerners exactly the image it wanted of itself: the South, it said, had been a romantic, chivalrous place destroyed by Reconstruction. Reconstruction, it continued, led to an epidemic of sexual violence by black men against white women, an epidemic the KKK fearlessly righted by lynching those men. The Clansman was a dogwhistle–though purely fiction, it justified racist brutality both in the past and going forward. Yesterday we heard that dogwhistle again as The Man in the High Office (what I’m calling our president now) doubled down on a campaign claim that immigrants coming to America from and through Mexico are rapists–implicitly, of white women, and needing to be stopped. Continue reading On Rape: A Particular, Historical Dogwhistle

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Everything’s Exhausting: Title IX

Everything's Exhausting: Title IX
It’s me.

Things have been happening so fast at the federal, state, and personal level that I haven’t had the wherewithal to process and post much in ages. Two special-needs kittens are exhausting, as it turns out, between vet visits and adjusting them to overnight sleeping (rather than locking them into a room of their own, they now have the run of the house overnight. This isn’t great for non-kittens). My job has been busy and parts of it have been kind of draining.  Politics here in our state are garbage (we need a budget to make up for decades of unfunded pensions which have left us a multi-billion-dollar hole, and the GOP and some Dems here suggested gutting the state’s public higher ed as a solution). And 45 et al are, well, their own form of draining and exhausting.

So. here we are.

Arguing that we don’t deserve to have health care gutted because the Kochs promised big bucks if the GOP does it–that lives are worth more than their money. Waiting for Mueller to begin publicizing indictments as our  president raids campaign funds for his own defense, which certainly suggests a lot of somethings. Plus natural disasters. Shit is wearisome.

So much goes on in an average week that it’s hard to remember that what happened last week still matters even as this week piles it on. Many people are quick on the draw, posting their thoughts as stuff happens rather than after digesting it, as a consequence of this pacing. I’ve debated on the pointlessness of writing on last week’s stuff, but since that stuff still matters, onward I forge.

Let’s talk about Title IX, which Betsy DeVos plans to dramatically alter following an announcement last week.

Title IX guarantees sex and gender parity in higher ed so long as the institution receives federal funds in some way. Initially developed to give women access to sports at co-ed schools. Women’s teams were few and far between at most universities, chronically unfunded and seen as irrelevant. Title IX has also become an important tool in addressing sexual misconduct on college campuses. This is a new phenomenon, developed after then-president Obama issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” arguing that parity in higher ed included access to educational spaces, and that having to attend class, for example, with one’s rapist meant that women (overwhelmingly it’s women who are assaulted) did not have parity of access.

Title IX developed protocols for university reporting of sexual misconduct on college campuses, stemming the tide and tradition of universities shielding such information from public or federal scrutiny. Many universities downplayed sexual misconduct–this includes everything from harassment to assault–and women faced all kinds of other harassment for reporting. So women rarely reported. Since the Title IX changes, university protocols to remove the allege assaulter from spaces (this can go as far as expulsion) has led more women to report assault, and schools like the University of Connecticut had to face a real reckoning when its rates of assault became public.

Reckoning is good.

Reckoning forces change. And it created spaces in which women who long hid the rapes and groping to speak out, which many women avoid because of the backlash she often faces–anything from social ostracization to public doxxing to the usual blame-the-victim garbage.

Well, Betsy DeVos wants to do away with all that.

Now on the surface what she suggests doesn’t sound entirely crazy, and some intelligent women are even defending her points. She argues that rule-by-letter isn’t good governance, that a systemic approach would be better. Ok. She argues that schools expelling alleged assaulters violates our innocent-until-proven guilty legal system. But here she’s missing several key points.

  1. School isn’t necessarily public space. Schools have their own rules and policies. Schools can and should be subject to federal and state laws, but what DeVos is referring to is our legal system. Should the alleged assaulter go straight to jail? No–that person is entitled to a trial like everyone else. But if schools feel that an alleged assaulter’s presence is violating Title IX’s argument for equal access, then they have the right to take what actions they choose.
  2. DeVos rooted her point of view in the claims of Men’s Rights Associations. These people are BATS (the We Hunted the Mammoth archive can fill you in). They see men, usually white men, as being on the losing end of our society, a society which has shriveled because of feminism. They regard women with hostility at best and brutal animosity at worst. They argue not just that expulsion and the like isn’t fair, but that women mostly fabricate allegations of assault–thus, assaulters are expelled for fraudulent reasons. DeVos herself has even said that some 90% of campus assault allegations are really just break-up and drunk sex, regretted.
WE KNOW THIS ISN’T TRUE.

The costs of claiming assault are often so high that, as noted above, women don’t often report it when it happens. Only a very tiny sliver (2-10%) of assault allegations have been proven to be falsehoods or unsubstantiated (though there’s no common definition of those terms used): to say otherwise is to perpetuate a myth. What we have, then, is a proposal to make assault less punishable by the colleges and universities themselves and compelling women to repeatedly cross paths with their assaulter until a legal trial–which can take years to even get started–concludes. Should this be shocking, given that the man who hired DeVos bragged about sexually assaulting women? Nope.

It feels like we have our eyes on more balls than we can handle right now (pun firmly intended). Exhausting though it is, we have to keep at it. We have to engage in a public discourse on all of this stuff–assault, health care, election veracity, saber rattling–so that we don’t come to normalize what isn’t normal. Treating women like gossipy, threatening demons used to be normal–it’s not anymore and we shouldn’t go back there. If we stop being appalled that 45 publicly calls foreign leaders “rocket man,” we’ve begun to allow the erosion of our basic system.

We deserve better than 45 and his horse-people of the government apocalypse.  I’m being dramatic, but the stuff that’s going down–lots of it in the name of making money, holding on to power, and erasing Obama’s legacy–is apocalyptic to a lot of people. Take time to breathe so you don’t wear out. We need you in this conversation.

We won’t go quietly back to what was.

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