Wednesday, July 28, 2010

City of Brotherly you shouldn't have been walking alone

There has been a lot of crime recently... like a lot, especially in the neighborhood I work in (and I'm sure plenty in other areas... this just happens to be the neighborhood I hear about all the time). From the totally horrendous Sabina Rose O'Donnell Case to another young girl who went missing and was found dead having been murdered by her boyfriend, to shootings and muggings, and to flash mob beatings. It's intense and it's scary and it's talked about a lot at the bar I work at... and I think it should be talked about. I think it's important to know what's going on in your community. The one thing that really gets to me, though, is the amount of victim blaming I hear. It makes me so angry I want to hit someone in the head and tell them they were asking for it. But I don't, because ultimately it wouldn't be their fault if I hit them because I could have resolved my anger in another way.

So let's talk about victim blaming, shall we? Victim blaming is when people hold the victim partially or fully responsible for the crime or accident committed against them. Written down like this makes it seem silly doesn't it? Like, who would do that?!? Who would blame someone for a crime committed against them? right? People do it all the time and it's gross.

It happens mostly to women, but I'm sure it happens to guys too. I've just only ever heard it when talking about women as victims of a crime. Women are constantly blamed for the crimes against them. Especially when it comes to rape and sexual assault... "she shouldn't have been wearing those heels/skirt," "she was drunk," "she shouldn't have gone to that party alone," insert a million other things people say. Then there are the women who are in abusive domestic situations: "Why didn't she just leave him." Sex workers "shouldn't be sex workers if they don't be raped or killed." THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT! This sort of rationalization trickles down. "She shouldn't have been in that neighborhood at night." (even though she might live in that neighborhood... just like lots of other people... but that's a whole other thing I think). Then there's when guys like to blame women for even being female. "Well, you're a girl,you shouldn't be out at night alone." Am I supposed to stay at home with my shades drawn? Should curfews be placed on women? Is that what you're suggesting? People are always saying things that victims shouldn't have done. But this needs to stop. IT IS NEVER THE VICTIMS FAULT. It doesn't matter what she was wearing. It doesn't matter where she was walking. No one is "asking" for a crime to be committed against them.

I wish I knew why people blame the victims. I don't know if they're just trying prove to themselves that it could never happen to them. "She shouldn't have been walking down that street alone at that hour (insert: I would never do that, so I will never be killed). I really don't know why people do it.. I'm sure someone does. I'm sure there have been books written about it.... but it blows my mind how easily people just say these phrases and don't see how they're blaming the victim. It's so ingrained into society that I've even found myself doing it to some extent. Which is totally fucked. When I found out about how Sabina was raped and murdered, I was terrified because the crime was so random and so violent. She did not know her attacker and that scared the shit out of me. However, I remember thinking when Piazza murders happened the year before "well she had like kilos of cocaine and millions of dollars (insert, I don't have kilos of cocaine and millions of dollars, so I'm safe). That's victim blaming too. She didn't "have it coming to her." She didn't "deserve what she got."

Victim blaming is incredibly harmful to everyone. It's so internalized in our society that 50% of women believe that rape is partially the fault of the victim. Wrap your brains around THAT article! I can't!

This being said, friends, try to travel in groups and take cabs. Be aware of your surroundings. Phone your friends and let them know that you got home o.k. "Safe" doesn't exist but there are things we can do to try to be "safer." And listen, if something does happen to you, it's not your fault and I'm never going to make you feel like it is... and I'll be damned if I let anyone else do that either.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MADE: Gender Me

So today I was at the gym and while I was pumpin along on the elliptical, I was watching some trashy t.v. You know, how you do when you're on the elliptical. Those 20 minutes are basically my access to the guilty pleasure that is reality t.v. and I love it. So, today, I watched MADE, which I have heard of but never seen which sounds odd, I know, because apparently it has been on for like 10 seasons. The basic premise of MADE (if you've also been living under a rock with me) is that they take a kid and change them.

"An ugly duckling transforms into a beautiful prom queen. An overweight couch potato becomes a model. A sci-fi nerd morphs into a hardcore rapper. See, dreams really do come true -- on MADE! That's right, MADE is about making dreams come true."

The one good thing about this show is that it's not your typical makeover show. These kids ask to do this. They're friends/family aren't doing some sort of embarrassing and degrading intervention. Which is like, the worst.

So I had the pleasure of catching season 9 episode 3: Model Deanna and it blew my mind! So much so, that since I only do like 20 minutes on the elliptical, I came home, found the episode on the internet, and finished watching it.

So, meet Deanna, "shes a rough and tumble tomboy that knows nothing about being a girl." Her friends all say, "when I first met her, I thought she was a boy." She's the only girl to play on the football team and she is in an all girl punk band (with her one sister, who also always gets mistaken as a boy). All of her friends just keep referring to her as "one of the guys." Unfortunately, Deanna wants to get "girly" so that the guy she likes will date her. BTW the guy was also quoted as saying "dating her would be like dating a boy." So in walks Stacy, her model trainer, that helps her prepare for the school fashion show....and what follows is a 40 minute lesson on how to be a girl.

This is what I learned. Wear make up. Fix your eyebrows. Tan. Cut and dye your hair. Wear dresses. Wear high heels. Head up, shoulders back. Sit up straight. Tilt your head, bat your eyelashes, and don't forget to "keep your girls up." Ask him questions and don't talk too much about yourself. These are things you want to do, obviously, because men will then find you more desirable. Now listen, this part really wasn't the most shocking. I mean, it's kind of old news, right? The message: girls just shut up and look pretty... for dudes. And duh, this is totally fucked up and damaging and oppressive and insert second wave rhetoric here.

However, what I found most mind blowing was how desperate everyone was to put Deanna into the appropriate gender box. I can go on and on about beauty standards and how she only received compliments when she was wearing makeup, but this is like totally deeper then that. What people couldn't handle was that she didn't meet societies expectations of what it means to be a girl. No one ever complimented her on how totally kick ass it was that she was on THE FOOTBALL TEAM(!!!) or was totally rocking with her friends in her 3 piece punk band. It was just like, STOP: you're a girl, now put this on. Deanna talked about how it totally sucks having to wake up a half an hour early to put on makeup. There was even a point where she ran around convincing herself saying "I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm a girl." At one point Deanna is talking to her older and very feminine sister about the boy she likes. Her sister asks her what he's like, and she says that he likes sports. Her sister replies with a duh, "he's a boy." The whole episode is basically like a gender and sexual identity PSA with all the "because you're a girl" and because "he's a boy" shit.

Now granted, she chose to be on the show and have someone turn her into a "girl." But why? Well, because the world has done a good job convincing her that no boys will like her until she gets "girly." Through the episode, her confidence does start to build, but that's only because people finally start to recognize her because she's acting like a girl. I bet if she were nurtured more in her "tomboyish" ways, her confidence would have built as well. Oh, and in case you were wondering, she won the fashion show and started dating a boy (not the original boy she liked, but a different one). Whew, thank god. It all worked out and the notion of gender and beauty standards gets preserved and reinforced. The revolution will have to wait another day.

I wish I could sit down with Deanna and tell her that she doesn't have to buy what they're selling. She can be whatever kind of girl she wants to be. She doesn't have to be a girl at all. She can be whatever she wants. She can date whomever she wants and there will be people who will find her attractive no matter how she presents or chooses to identify or whatever! This episode aired two years ago and I wish they did a follow up on her (and her one sister) so I can see if she's comfortable in her own skin yet. I hope she is. Is anyone ever? That's my dream. MADE, can you make that come true?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What he's buying when he buys you a drink

There's a regular at my bar, let's call him Bob for the sake of this post, and he is in his (I'm guessing)early 60's, he's white, and is totally loaded. When Bob sees a girl (usually in their early 20's) at the bar alone or even two girls at the bar together, he will buy them a round of drinks... and then, after waiting a few minutes, will get up and go sit next to them and strike up a conversation. I have watched him do this countless times. Now, Bob is relatively harmless, presumably non threatening, and, well, nice enough guy... so what's the problem?

Well, it's very simple really, Bob is a sexist creep. Let me explain. Last night, Bob came in and there were these two girls (early 20's, black) sitting at the end of the bar and he say's to me "I'd like to buy those girls their first pitcher (of margarita's)." So, of course, I do this, and then he says "I want to make friends with them so that my girlfriend will have friends that are like her when she moves here.. you know the same color." HOLY RACISM!!!!! [Back story: Bob has a 21 year old girlfriend who is of color and is moving here to be with him. More back story, she recently stole thousands and thousands of dollars from him but they've since resolved the issue.] Bob then gets up and plops himself next to these girls, totally interrupting them and strikes up a conversation. The girls, being polite, engaged with him for the next hour, before he left.

There are so many levels to fucked-up-ness to this, it's hard to know where to even start. Let me just scratch the surface. For starters, there is the fact that Bob believes that because these girls and his girlfriend are the same color that they're going to be bff's and have lots in common.... there is Bob's oversexualization of black women (which is evident to me just from talking to him, but probably not very evident in this post, sorry).... And then there is the fact that Bob sees women as property and has the money to buy it. I would like to focus on the later.

When dude at the bar buys you a drink... what is he buying? He is buying you. At a pretty low price... and in Bobs case last night, it was happy hour, so it was half the price. It's one thing to buy a drink for someone, wave, and hope they come and talk to you (news flash: they probably wont, but it's still a nice gesture)... it is entirely something else when you buy someone a drink and then go plop yourself down with them. It goes down to the basic sexist concept of women as property or to the idea that women were put on this Earth for mans entertainment. You might be thinking, well, if the woman doesn't want the mans attention she could just say thanks for the drink and ask him to leave. But, ya see, women have been socialized to smile and be gracious and that guy knows it. He knows that by buying her a drink, she will be obligated to talk to him, because he purchased her. He will purchase her again with another drink. He knows that she now has to perform for him. She has to smile, laugh at his jokes, be non confrontational, gracious, agreeable and appeasing all for the price of a cocktail. Not to mention the fact that the whole time she has to wonder, is this guy going to rape me? The whole time she has to gauge how much of a threat you are while feigning thanks for that stupid fucking beer you just bought her. She did not sign up for any of that when she went to the bar. This, my friends, is fucking intrusive, totally sexist, and totally creepy... especially when as a bartender, I watch you do it ALL the time. That makes you kind of a predator.

And while I'm on the subject dudes....other things that are creepy: Hitting on your bartender. She can't move! She's stuck behind that bar... stuck with you being a total creep. Not only that, she has to be nice to you! You pay her rent essentially and she has to (I repeat) smile, laugh at your jokes, be non confrontational, gracious, agreeable and appeasing. We had a bartender, that when she came into work, if she saw Bob sitting at one bar, she would work the other bar, because she didn't want to be subjected to him hitting on her all night and attempting to lore her in by talking about how much money he has. We get it Bob, you are old and need some young "arm candy" and you think women are property that you can purchase if the price is right.

But anyway, The moral of the story is: Stop being a total sexist creep. If you want to buy a woman a drink, that's totally cool! Just wave and hope that she approaches you. Or, I've got a novel idea! How about you ASK her! A little "excuse me, may I buy you a drink?" may be more effective. It also gives her a chance to say no. And don't forget to tip your bartender. duh.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fat Phobia

I just read an article called "Offensively Fat" on Jezebel and it got my little brain a thinking. Discrimination against obese people has been making a lot of news recently. I mean, like seriously. There was Kevin Smith being told he's too fat to fly, and that all fat people should have to buy two airline tickets or they too could be humiliated and kicked off an airplane. During the Oscars all I heard about was Gabourey Sidibe, not because of her role in "Precious" (which is on my netflix queue and I can't wait to see it), but because of her size! From designers wanting to out fit a "full sized" woman, to this little gem from howard stern:

to now diet companies offering her a year supply of diet pills in return for a testimonial about how it helped her loose those "unwanted pounds." That's assuming her pounds are unwanted! From what I understand, in an interview with New York Magazine she was quoted as saying this:

“I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I’m fine with it. And if my body changes, I’ll be fine with that."

And then of course, their is this woman who is trying to make the Guinness Book by becoming the fattest woman. To this I say, go ahead girl, achieve your dream! I mean, FUCK! I can't even turn on the news without seeing that segment where they video tape fat bellies walking down the street! And I think to myself, do those people even know they made the news? Did they sign a waiver saying "hey, its cool, you can totally use my body to inspire disgust in the tri-state area." And if I had a nickel for every time I've heard "She could be so pretty if she just lost a couple pounds," I probably wouldn't have to take out any loans to go to grad school.

Fat Phobia is fucking deep. It is so embedded into our society. They experience discrimination on so many levels. Don't believe me? Check out some info from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. "Thin" people feel morally better then "fat" people to the point where they think its totally acceptable to berate them and shame them. They think shaming them will OBVIOUSLY make them eat an apple and jump on the treadmill. They think they're doing a great humanitarian service! I just want to go ahead and say.. YOU'RE NOT! You're being a total d-bag! You're making a lot of assumptions about someone based on their size. You're assuming that they're obviously just lazy and disgusting slobs with a weakness for big macs. And that fatties gonna die, so you gotta save them! It's an epidemic! Listen, yes, it's true... poor nutrition and lack of exercise can lead to health problems... NO MATTER WHAT SIZE YOU ARE! We need to separate the idea that size = health.. because it just doesn't. It's no secret that I'm a recovered anorexic and bulimic. I was pretty "thin" and also, I was about to die. Not too healthy, huh?

The fact is, the diet industry wants us to be fat and hate ourselves. If we weren't, they wouldn't make millions of dollars off of us. Let's talk to someone about their "dieting" experience... it just doesn't work! Let's say they did manage to loose the weight, odds are against them that they will keep it off over the following 5 years. It's a money making industry that needs us to hate ourselves and its perpetuated by an unattainable standard of beauty that looms over our heads. You know who I find more harmful then Gabourey Sidibe loving herself, or Kevin Smith, or that woman who wants to weigh 1,000 pounds? Kate Moss and her "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" motto. I see super models and actors that are perpetuating unhealthy standards of beauty, are clearly anorexic, and are being consistently rewarded for it... and I think to myself "OMG EAT A SANDWICH!!!!!" But the truth is, they signed a contract not to eat a sandwich, and if they weigh more then 95 pounds, they will loose their jobs. And the cycle goes round and round.

You know what I want? I want everyone to love themselves, feel great in their bodies, honor their hunger, and be treated with respect. I'm probably asking too much.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On being called militant

There have been many different times in my life that I've been called militant. Last night was one of those times. It used to really offend me because of what it implies... because of the image your brain instantly conjures up of the man-hating fat ugly dyke. It makes me think of that drawing in "Chasing Amy." You remember the scene... it went like this:

Banky Edwards
: Alright, now see this? This is a four-way road, okay? And dead in the center is a crisp, new, hundred dollar bill. Now, at the end of each of these streets are four people, okay? You following?
Holden: Yeah.
Banky Edwards: Good. Over here, we have a male-affectionate, easy to get along with, non-political agenda lesbian. Down here, we have a man-hating, angry as fuck, agenda of rage, bitter dyke. Over here, we got Santa Claus, and up here the Easter Bunny. Which one is going to get to the hundred dollar bill first?
Holden: What is this supposed to prove?
Banky Edwards: No, I'm serious. This is a serious exercise. It's like an SAT question. Which one is going to get to the hundred dollar bill first? The male-friendly lesbian, the man-hating dyke, Santa Claus, or the Easter bunny?
Holden: The man-hating dyke.
Banky Edwards: Good. Why?
Holden: I don't know.
Banky Edwards: [shouting] Because the other three are figments of your fucking imagination! (taken from IMDB)

So, yeah... along time ago, I was sensitive to being called militant or a dyke or man-hating. Let's examine why, shall we?

Let us first look at the definition of militant. defines it as:
1.vigorously active and aggressive, esp. in support of a cause: militant reformers.
2.engaged in warfare; fighting.
3.a militant person.
4.a person engaged in warfare or combat.

1. belligerent, combative, contentious. See fanatic

You know whats funny? I don't think I've ever heard a guy called militant... not even one "engaged in warfare or combat." I've only ever heard women called militant. I've also only ever heard women called militant by men. Moreover, I've only ever heard women called militant by men when they are trying to speak their mind, or stand up for themselves, or exhibit any other form of mildly aggressive behavior that could be viewed as threatening to the delicate and fragile male ego. Why you ask? Well, because, from what I understand, the general consensus is that women are not allowed to have opinions.... or a voice... or take up too much space... When they do, what happens? They're called a bitch or a cunt. If they do this in opposition to men, they are called a dyke. They are called man-hating. They are called militant. There are so many names to call women when they exhibit any sort of masculine behavior. Men get praised for their opinions and their assertiveness. They get financially rewarded! They become C.E.O's of major corporations! Women are laughed at and assumed to be "on their period." They're just being "belligerent" or "combative." If a woman lives their life as a lesbian, they are doing an inherently anti-man act.... which men find terribly threatening. They believe, much like Banky, that the male friendly lesbian doesn't exist. In his drawings you can see that a lesbian can't be what our culture defines as feminine (hello femme invisibility). This is enforced over and over and over again through countless mediums. Therefore, if a woman exerts any "agressive" behavior or is a self proclaimed feminist, she's assumed to be a dyke. This is because society at large can't wrap their tiny little brains around women performing any act that can be viewed as anti-man so they must find ways to tear them down. Language and name calling is the first way and because each word has been reinforced with an ugly image, my feelings are supposed to be hurt. This is because I am supposed to want to be feminine. I'm supposed to want to be passive and submissive and quiet because then I'll be prettier.

So, I'm reclaiming militant. Damn right I'm militant. I'm strong and vocal. I have thoughts and opinions and I share them. I'm totally combative! Thanks for noticing! I'm also a bitch, a cunt, a dyke, and ya know what? Sometimes, I can be man-friendly and sometimes I can be man-hating. And if I don't say so myself, I'm still kinda pretty. What do you think about them apples?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Womens Day

So today is International Women's Day and it's celebrated all around the world... isn't that nice? A day when, according to the video I just watched, men go around and give women flowers to honor them, celebrate their contribution to society, and show them their sympathy for the fact that women don't have equal rights (social, economical, political) as men.

A FLOWER?!?!? Pardon me sir, but a flower just isn't enough... How about 364 more days. Thanks.

While I do appreciate this gesture (though I am yet to receive my flower), and can see how important this day is, it also makes me angry. Gender across borders is asking the world to blog, and this years topic is "Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all." This topic seems appropriate because that is exactly what comes to mind when I hear "International Women's Day." I am reminded that we will never be equal if we still have a day because that means we still need a day. Oh, hey... did anyone tell that guy over there.. you know, the one beating his wife, that today is international women's day? We may have come a long way since 1908, but we still have a long way to go. This is especially true when it comes to the "International" part of "International Women's Day." It reminds me of my own ignorance and privilege. I see the women's movement through my atheist white middle class American eyes and need to be reminded that my plight is not the plight of all women. While oppression binds us together, we are not neccesarilly struggling under the same hierarchies. After all, I don't think the women of Darfur are going to be able to blog today.

We need to unite together and continue to create radical change for all women (cis / trans) regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, ableness, weight, nationality, ethnicity, and religious background. If it effects women, it effects all women. Let's put an end to genital mutilation. Let's punish the rapist and not the victim. Let's end rape! Let's end domestic violence. Let's stop religious persecution. Lets end discrimination. LETS GET ACTIVE!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Strippers are people too.

So....right now, I'm bartending and saving my pennies to go to grad school in the fall, and as a bartender, I hear some pretty offensive shit, like all the time. Now, I'm not proud of it, but I have to let a lot of things slide because a) I work for tips and b) I would probably get fired if I open my mouth as much as I want to... but last night, I just couldn't help myself.

I was talking to three guys who were basically out looking to meet some ladies and the subject came up of going to a local strip club (Delilah's). Then one guy mentioned that he wouldn't want to go there because they take your phones at the front door. To this I replied, "Duh, so you can't take their pictures." Seems like common sense, no? This sent the guys into a tizzy of ignorant offensive sexist rhetoric. Their basic argument was that, they're strippers, and because they CHOSE to be strippers, they should have no rights? I know, I know... it blew my mind too. They went on and on about how since they're naked they've given up any rights to not be exploited, and that they deserve to be degraded. After all, if they didn't want to be treated that way, they could just not be strippers. This, of course, is my synopsis of their argument... they sounded slightly more like cavemen. So, I decided to check my tip at the door, and I schooled them.

At the core of this argument was the idea that these woman are naked for you, so you should be allowed to take pictures of them. But lets look at the facts, these are woman at work and what you're paying for is entertainment. They're dancing for you, not because you're such a stud cowboy, but because you are paying them. It's like going to the theatre really... you're paying for a performance for a couple of hours. There are laws that say you can't record a play while you're at the theatre, so why should you be allowed to record your adult entertainment? Oh right, because men (and other people too) think all women were put on this Earth as property for the sole purpose of being objectified! She deserves it, after all, look at what she's (not) wearing! And, lets, for a second think about the language behind "taking" a picture or "capturing" an image. Sounds sort of aggressive doesn't it? It implies that the image taker usurped ownership of the image with brute force. I sure don't think that guy at the strip club deserves to "own" a picture of the dancer.

Like I said, these are woman at work and they are just trying to make that money (isn't everyone?). Maybe they're a single parent just trying to pay their heating bill and buy diapers. Maybe they're trying to pull themselves out of generations of poverty. Maybe they didn't have access to an education. Maybe they are escaping a violent and abusive domestic situation. Maybe they ran away from home when they were 16. Maybe they're trying to put themselves through medical school. But the bottom line is, these woman deserve to work in a safe and respectful environment and do not deserve to be exploited, degraded, and demoralized... unless it's on their terms. That's what it really comes down to, I think.... allowing these women to dictate what is and what isn't ok. Working in a space where they can create and maintain safe boundaries. Hopefully these boundaries are dictated by them and not by management.... but that's probably a whole other blog in itself.

This brings me to the ever controversial question: Can stripping be a feminist act? If women are being objectified every second of every day anyway, why not take control of it and make a profit? If living as a female means living a life where your worth is based on predetermined beauty standards, why not reclaim your sexuality on your own terms. Or as a dancer are you hurting feminism by perpetuating harmful standards of beauty and enforcing the notion of women as property. What does it mean when your body is your work / art? I don't know if anyone can say it is or it isn't a feminist act. I think it's personal to each dancer. I guess you have to ask yourself: as an adult entertainer, do you feel empowered or disempowered? Could stripping be a feminist act for me? I think it would be. Actually, it was, the one and only time I performed at a women only amateur strip night. However, I was only able to do it because of the night itself . Would I be able to do it for men? Probably not... but it would certainly be a feminist act if I could! My body and gender presentation don't align with any of the mainstream strip clubs I've ever been to.

But the moral of this story is: strippers (and bartenders!) are people too. So please treat them with respect and tip them adequately for their services. Oh, and in case you were concerned, those guys tipped me really well despite the fact (or maybe because) I called them ignorant assholes.