Friday, June 21, 2013

How are women in the military being affected by all the news coverage of sexual assault?

I live in an area highly populated with military personnel and see a lot of them in my local coffee shop on a regular basis. With all the news on sexual assault in the military, I have started to wonder how all this attention is affecting all women in the military on a regular basis. Is it making it better? Are their male colleagues, those in lower ranks and leaders paying more attention to their own behaviors that could be or border on sexual harassment? Have the incidents of rape decreased because everyone is on high alert and have been told rape is wrong (sad that it has to be pointed out)?

Or have things gotten worse for them? Are they hearing snide comments from their peers about how all the attention is affecting/changing the military. Are they now being micro-managed more so than their male counterparts? What are they experiencing now? I don't have the answer, I'm just wondering if anyone is checking in with them. You know that saying that things get worse before they get better? Is it getting worse for women in this transition?

Being my mother's (who once got a whole train of folks she didn't know to sing "You Are My Sunshine") daughter, I have to make myself not go and strike up a conversation about this with women in uniform when I see them. My concern is that I would make them uncomfortable not just if they happen to be victims/survivors but if they are made to feel like they are speaking for all women in the military and maybe they want to distance themselves from the conversation for fear of retaliation. This must be a very tricky (to put it mildly) time to be a woman in the military and my heart goes out to them. Has their working environment become (more) hostile?

I've always tried to avoid qualifying a professional by their gender (like woman police officer, female judge, female soldier, etc...). I don't want to make them feel like they're an afterthought or an "other", like they're just visitors in a male-dominated field. It is their job and their gender should not matter. They're soldiers who protect our country just like all the other soldiers. They don't deserve to be harassed or assaulted (no one does).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't be talking about this issue in the news and drawing attention to it. If we don't talk about it then nothing will happen to change it. I just think there also needs to be attention on how women are being treated during this process. Also, I should point out that not all men in the military harass or assault women. I know some wonderful military men who I know would not (and even have not) stood for such violence.

As I said, I don't have the answers to my questions and I don't particularly want to bombard other coffee shop patrons with personal questions. Do you have any insights?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Red Flags in Relationships

This week I was participating in a professional development workshop focused on presentation skills. We had to give a 5 minute presentation and use at least one visual. When I found out about the assignment you know my mind was racing with ideas. This was a golden opportunity to talk about all my favorite feminist topics and open some eyes. 

I knew damn well this group of fine folks had never thought about how women are portrayed in the media or healthy masculinity. That's alright, if you've never learned about it, how are you supposed to know? I started writing down ideas in class the week before and was all like "this is going to blow their minds!". 

Then the unexpected thing happened. In the practice sessions one of my workshop-mates told a story about a woman who was basically stalking him and almost ran over him with her car because he refused her booty call. The class was laughing because they probably thought he was making it up, that it couldn't possibly have happened that way. If this had been a woman talking about a man doing these things, the room would have been dead silent.

Right then I realized this group (and most people for that matter) needed a little education on healthy vs. unhealthy relationship behaviors. So, I did my 5 minute presentation on red flags for unhealthy relationships and what constitutes healthy behaviors. Luckily I had given many presentations on this topic before so I was comfortable with the material and things went smoothly. 

Courtesy of

You could see it sinking in for most of them and I got a lot of head nods and "mmm hmm"'s. I gave them all a handout (meeting my visual requirement but also putting the info in their hands if needed for themselves or a friend). After I finished they all had to say something I did well and something I needed to work on (re: my presentation skills). Most of them said it was really enlightening and great info that we all could relate to. 

One guy said the subject was too dark. With respect, yes, it is a "dark" subject, but if we don't talk about it then it will continue and never get better. If we don't learn to recognize these behaviors how will we ever get out of abusive relationships or quit being the abuser (in the case of red flags that we don't realize are unhealthy, like jealousy)?

The guy who had told his story was in his room and responded when it was his turn to evaluate my presentation. He said it was great information that we could all use and that I needed to work on my "um"'s. So, even if he didn't say, "hey, thanks!" I at least know he got the info and hopefully it will help him. 

The majority of relationship abuse is committed by men against women, however, that doesn't mean women can't/don't exhibit these behaviors in their relationships too. This also can occur in same-sex couples. No matter who your partner is, this information is good for those being abused and those doing the abusing. It's more obvious if someone is physically abusing their partner. It's the more subtle red flags that people may tend to brush off with "gosh they must really love me to want me to spend all my time with them" type thoughts.

Courtesy of

Friday, June 14, 2013

"The Most Popular Guys On YouTube" Are Cavemen

Yesterday I got an email from Youtube with the subject line "10 million people know the most popular guys on YouTube. Do you?". Well, no, I don't. This tugged at my curiosity (which I know was the purpose of the email). I gotta know who the most popular guys are (and also what kind of masculinity they're selling). I was hopeful it would be something awesomely positive (hey, I'm an optimist) but I was sorely mistaken. They're all just a bunch of cavemen, literally. See for yourself...

"What Guys Are Really Thinking"

In the first scene, a group are buddies are egging on one of their friends to go get a woman's number who's doing yoga in the park. He tells her is that his friends put him up to it and he promises her that he's not a creep. Then they replay the scene where the guy turns in to a caveman to illustrate "what he's really thinking". He just wants "bam bam", he's definitely creepy and of course she's clueless.

Basically the message is that guys pretend to act nice, but all they really want is sex and they'll tell you what they think you want to hear to get it. Great, guys have been reduced (again) to pathological liars and sex addicts who are incapable of genuine emotion and healthy relationships. Oh, but I bet it's just a joke guys, right? Right. I know they're capable of more so this is disappointing.

They go on to show you how they're not really listening to us when we (obviously only) talk about going shopping (stereotype), losing weight (stereotype), and fashion (stereotype). They'd rather stare at our boobs than listen to what we have to say, because, as they're insinuating, anything we have to say couldn't possibly be interesting.

When the date is over and she says she "has to do homework" but she'll "see (him) around" the caveman inside of him throws a temper tantrum saying it was a "waste of time" because he didn't get "bam bam". So, here we are again with yet another example of a male stereotype that no matter what they do, the ultimate goal is sex.

On the flip side, they show the female characters turning into cavewomen who say "You no try hard for bam bam, you no get bam bam" sending the message that women really want guys to pursue them even if they say no (Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!):  FYI, "no" means "no" and "yes" means "yes", let's not get that confused. Too many guys have fallen for this myth that if they just keep harassing a girl long enough she'll cave in and give them sex. Just to clear that up, here are a few definitions everyone should learn: sexual harassmentsexual assault, rape. (BTW, plying someone with alcohol so you can have sex with them is rape.)

The "most popular guys on YouTube" couldn't help themselves but to wrap up their video with a few more stereotypes. "This girl want bam bam...and chocolate, and bubble baths, and shopping, and watch romantic movie with man-hunk Ryan Gosling". Hey guys, you've really got us pegged...he he, he he...NOT. I'm sure you don't all want to be categorized as a bunch of douchebag assholes so I'd appreciate it if you didn't stereotype us into a bunch of airhead shoe-crazy over-consumers. I do appreciate their acknowledgement that women like sex too. We can do without the stereotype that its something only guys want.

I'm sure the makers of this video probably thought they were just being funny, and maybe if we lived in a world where rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment wasn't a problem then, not even then would this be funny. What this "humor" and "boys will be boys" attitude really does is tell guys their just a bunch of sex-crazed idiots who are incapable of anything other than harassing women (so why even try to be anything but). There are lots of Good Men out there. Sure, there are guys whose main focus is when and where their next booty call is going to come from (mostly their the ones who've fallen for the stereotype) and there are guys who force themselves onto women (criminals). However, even though most rapists are guys, not all guys are rapists. Men are perfectly capable of having genuine human interactions/relationships that don't involve the pursuit of sex. These stereotypes are just holding those guys back from evolving with the rest of us.

To help our two sons avoid the pitfalls of this limiting/dangerous stereotype, my husband (an example of an awesomely good man) and I will teach them about healthy masculinity and how to identify and avoid those negative stereotypes of what it means to be a real man.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Even peaceful John Lennon sang about violence against women, but not in the way we'd hope.

Sitting in traffic on the way in to work recently, my husband and I randomly started talking about creepy lyrics in popular songs. He brought up "Run For Your Life" by The Beatles. I have to admit I've never heard the song. I know a LOT of Beatles songs but for some reason I missed that one. The lyrics are not only creepy but talk about straight up murdering a woman if she is caught cheating on him (in this case John Lennon who wrote the song). See for yourself:

The Beatles - Run For Your Life

Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or I won't know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end, little girl

Well you know that I'm a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can't spend my whole life
Trying just to make you toe the line

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end, little girl

Let this be a sermon
I mean everything I've said
Baby, I'm determined
And I'd rather see you dead

This was obviously written in a different time (1965) and the way in which we spoke about (or didn't speak about) violence against women was different. That doesn't make it right. Promoting or glorifying violence against women in any time, form or fashion is wrong. It is interesting to look back at this example (and I'm sure plenty others) from the perspective of where we are now in the movement for gender equality and ending violence against women and girls. The movement is by no means complete. There is still plenty to be done (just check out these stats and these too). However, now thanks to social media, we're able to call out sexism more publicly when we see it (Check out Hollaback's campaign to end street harassment) and get some positive results (Check out the #FBrape campaign that was a success). We at least have a more public avenue now for addressing this issue.

Like I said, there's still plenty to be done.  There's that whole Rick Ross thing where he got called out for his lyrics that bragged about drugging and having sex with an unconscious woman (that's rape dude). By the way, alcohol is the number one date rape drug and is used in about 90% of cases of rape, so "molly" is not the only thing "guys" (I refuse to refer to rapists as "men" because real men don't rape.) are using to assault women. So when women are told to keep an eye on their drink (you know, because it's our responsibility to not be raped instead of guys being taught "Yo, don't rape."), while that's good advice in some cases, we should also be educating (well everyone) on the effects of alcohol. These "guys" are twisting our desire to have a good time ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!" Hello?!) into an opportunity to exert their power and control over our bodies. That's right folks, rape is about power and control. Sex is just the weapon. Don't buy that bullshit that guys just can't control their sexual desires.

The discussion about violence against women in music often talks about rap or hip hop. While it's true that there are examples in this genre of women being referred to as "bitches and hoes", sexually objectified or threatened with violence, there are examples in pop music too. Have you heard the latest Train song? Basically they'd rather say their girlfriend died in some horrible way than admit that she broke up with them. See for yourself:

Train - 50 Ways to Say Goodbye

My heart is paralyzed
My head was oversized
I'll take the high road like I should
You said it's meant to be
That it's not you, it's me
You're leaving now for my own good

That's cool, but if my friends ask where you are I'm gonna say

She went down in an airplane
Fried getting suntanned
Fell in a cement mixer full of quicksand
Help me, help me, I'm no good at goodbyes!
She met a shark under water
Fell and no one caught her
I returned everything I ever bought her
Help me, help me, I'm all out of lies
And ways to say you died

She was caught in a mudslide
Eaten by a lion
Got run over by a crappy purple Scion
Help me, help me, I'm no good at goodbyes!
She dried up in the desert
Drowned in a hot tub
Danced to death at an east side night club
Help me, help me, I'm all out of lies
And ways to say you died

Why this didn't catch national attention I'm not sure, especially given that the video shows the different ways she supposedly died. They even show her head (they at least used a dummy) getting knocked off by a car and then kicked around at a soccer game. Hello?!

So, I suggest we have an open discussion about music lyrics past, present and future and what messages they're sending about men, women and violence. I'm raising two boys and I worry about the outside influences that say violence against women is cool and just something "guys" do (you know, "boys will be boys"...barf) being louder than their Momma's voice telling them to be good men (Check out The Good Men Project for inspiration). I know that means I'll have to be ever more and vigilant about addressing things when they come up. I can't hide or protect them from all the negative media that comes their way, but I can talk with them about what it means. We LOVE music in our house which so there will be lots of opportunities for discussion I'm sure.

Jackson, my oldest who just turned 4, is already used to me "explaining" things to him. Just yesterday I told him not to put his loud duck toy right up to my ear and play the quack quack sound. He got all huffy and puffy and ran to his room. On his way there I asked him if he wanted me to explain to him why I asked him not to do that. He came running back in the living room all excited saying "Yes, please explain why." I was soo happy to have him react this way. That was the first time I had seen my efforts to explain things to him actually work. And once I told him how ears worked he understood and was happy again. He even showed me how he could hold it further away and play the funny noise for Momma without hurting her ears. Score one for Momma!