Archive | October, 2011

Rape Culture and Sports

28 Oct

View from Venus column, October 18th, by Abby Finkelman. This is the column I am least satisfied with, because it really needed more examples, and numbers, and I simply didn’t have the space to give them. Still, I hope it provokes some thought. It is also, as always, available on the Chronicle website.

Sports and the Culture of Rape

If you want to harass, assault, or rape a woman, I suggest being an athlete. Not only will people be inclined to believe you when you deny it, they’ll help out by calling your accuser a slut, insisting that she must have wanted it, and possibly sending her death threats.You don’t have to be big time. Just a local star will do. Like the high school cheerleader in Texas who was kicked off the squad after refusing to cheer the name of the boy who raped her. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her lawsuit as “frivolous” and is requiring her to pay the school’s $45,000 in legal fees. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Lisa Olson won her suit against the NFL after she was harassed by New England Patriots players. But I’m guessing the $65,000 the team and players were fined was cold comfort to her after the award-winning sports journalist had to leave the Boston Herald and move to Sydney because of the death threats, slashed tires, and burglarized apartment. Yes: a woman was sexually harassed while doing her job, and when she told the public about it the response was to send her death threats.

That was in 1990. In 2010, Inés Sainz, a reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca was harassed in the locker room of the New York Jets. Sainz is, well, a very attractive woman. And she dresses, well, the way very attractive women are encouraged to dress. And so when NFL players ogled her and made lewd comments, she was blamed. Her looks and her clothing were the story. When I quickly Googled her, the first hit was Wikipedia. And the second was from, a piece titled “20 Most Distracting Sideline Reporters Ever,” featuring a slideshow of “some of the most distractingly hot sideline reporting ladies ever”.

I just wrote a paragraph about Kobe Bryant, and then deleted it, because I don’t want to get sued for libel. So I won’t comment on whether or not I think it’s likely that the woman who accused him of rape dropped her case because of the things people were saying about her in the press (that she was a gold digging famewhore, for instance), and because of the death threats she was receiving, and because she didn’t like having her character and mental health dragged through the mud on television (not that it matters if she has lots of sex or is bipolar). And since I’m not calling him a rapist, I won’t say that it’s rape culture that allows this to happen.

That’s an extra layer of problematic, there. Ranks close around these stars–the University of Washington football team in 2000 is a good example; they covered up numerous crimes by numerous athletes, including a violent rape, because, the head coach said said “[w]e don’t give up on a player because he makes one mistake”–and even accusing them of rape requires money, because they don’t just have fans willing to slash your tires. They have legal teams.

I don’t know what it is about sports that encourages the tropes of rape culture. It affects other sorts of celebrities (Roman Polanski comes to mind), but sports culture and rape culture are deeply linked. I suspect it’s a combination of the team effect, rabid fans, and a generally “macho” atmosphere, and lawsuits (if you can afford them) aren’t going to change any of that. What will is simple, really. The fans, the players, and the management just have to decide that women’s rights–human rights–are more important than winning.


Backlash, and sweeping it under the rug

28 Oct

If you’ve been reading The View from Venus for the past four weeks, you know that I wrote four columns about  rape culture this month. For the most part, the response to them has been positive. Except for this:

If you can’t read it, here’s the text:

To Abby Finkelman,
Grow up, gain an ADULT female perspective. If you choose to dress like a trollop, Drink like a trollop, surrounded by 20 year old testosterone, which ejaculates in two to four minutes of intercourse then you are the fool,
You are the very type of woman who becomes a mom who puts her daughter in beauty pageants, then wonders why your child is being stalked by a pedophile.
You are what you eat.
Rape is about power.
A dress up to your crotch, in a drinking environment, is about you on a power trip.
If you don’t want to give out your candy, then don’t put it on the porch (an analogy of course).
Your a victim if you choose to be.
Your behavior reflects who you are.
Be a woman, act like a woman and respect yourself as a woman.
          One Man’s Perspective

Not the nicest stuff anyone has ever said to me. And I’m baffled by the part about beauty pageants–I’m a feminist, pretty openly so, and feminists don’t usually do beauty pageants. But, whatever, I guess this guy doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about.

I’m partly amused, to be honest. The clear lack of understanding of what I wrote about is almost funny. But only “almost”, because this letter means that there is a man on the St. Rose campus who thinks that if a woman wears a short skirt to a party it’s okay to rape her. That’s pretty much what I’m getting from it. That there’s a man who, rather than saying, “Gosh, since men can wear what they want to parties and get wasted and not worry about being raped, women should be able to as well” says that a woman who does that is a fool. That frightens me.

It frightens me that this person is out there. It frightens me that I don’t know who he is. Evidentially, having an “ADULT” perspective doesn’t include signing your name. If he had, I would be happy to talk to him. Admittedly, I haven’t had a lot of space to make my points. Perhaps I wasn’t clear on something. But I don’t think he wants discourse. I think he wants to spew hate and misogyny and violence. I hope I’m wrong, and if he’s reading this, and wants to have actual dialogue, I hope he contacts me.

I’m not supposed to have this letter. Someone found it on the ground. It had, I’m told, “The St. Rose Chronicle, re: Abby Finkelman” on the back. It was given to a member of SEB, who took a picture of it on their phone and gave it to the executive editor of the Chronicle. The editor then disposed of it. I was not informed of its existence. I was not informed that someone was writing angry things about me, nor was I informed that someone on this campus thinks it’s okay to rape women in short skirts.

I found out about the letter because someone who had the picture sent it to someone else who showed me. When I asked the Chronicle about it, I was told that their policy is to not publish or share anonymous, slanderous letters. I’ve requested a copy of that policy, but have yet to see it. Regardless, I’m fairly certain that by beginning the letter “To Abby Finkelman”, the anonymous author intended for me to receive it. I assume he doesn’t know where I live (I hope he doesn’t, certainly), and thought that giving it to the Chronicle was the best way to get it to me. I doubt he’s familiar with their policies; I know that I would have presumed that a letter clearly addressing a person would be passed on to that person.

Aside from that, this letter is exactly what I’m talking about. My columns were largely abstract. This is concrete. This is someone at The College of St. Rose saying that if a woman wears a short skirt to a party, she’s asking for it. And this letter was swept under the rug. One person, the executive editor, decided that it wasn’t worth dealing with. No one else was informed about its existence, not the opinion editor, not the Chronicle advisor, and definitely not me. I don’t think that’s right. Yes, publishing slander isn’t okay. But this letter is what I’m writing about. This letter is my point. The author of this letter is a real person, right here, saying the things I’m saying. Pretending that this stuff is abstract, or only happening somewhere else, won’t lead to change.

I respect the Chronicle‘s decision not to print the letter, if not its decision to keep it from me. But I’m very glad that someone felt I deserved to know, because this blog is not a newspaper. We don’t have to follow set standards about printing anonymous slander. I’m putting this up here, I’m putting it on Facebook, I’m telling my friends that this is what’s out there. This is what’s on our campus. Whether you choose to fight it or you choose to hide it, it’s there.

What I said earlier, about hoping that the author contacts me for a discussion still stands. But I also hope that if the author won’t come forward, someone who knows him does. I hope that someone says, “No. This isn’t right. It isn’t right to say those things, and it isn’t right to hide when you do.” No one should be allowed to remain anonymous while telling women that when they’re assaulted and raped they are choosing to be victims. And if we don’t know who “One Man” is, he could be anyone. He could be your brother, your boyfriend, your friend. He could be standing next to you. He could be at the next party you go to, talking to you, thinking that you’re a “trollop” who deserves what you get.

Owning It

25 Oct

Here is this week’s The View From Venus column from October 25th, by e-board member Abby Finkelman. It can also be viewed on the St. Rose Chronicle website. The Chronicle can also be found in various locations, in print, around campus.

This is the last column in Abby’s series on rape culture. I’d like to congratulate her on the excellent job she did educating us on a huge topic in only four, 600 word columns! She opened many eyes, and I hope elucidation doesn’t stop there!

Owning It

This is my final View from Venus column about rape culture. I know many of you have enjoyed this series (well, “enjoyed” might not be the right word–appreciated, perhaps). I have gotten some really wonderful feedback; people have said how much they agree, what a problem this is, and how nice it is to see it acknowledged.

Others have said different things. I have been called a liar, and told that when women wear shorts skirts and drink, they are basically asking to be raped. Which is sort of…missing the whole point of the series, yeah? You know, the part where I point out that victim-blaming is a massive problem and that women have every right to wear what they want without worrying about getting raped, just as men do?

What I find telling, and disturbing, is not that people missed the point–I cannot be responsible for everyone’s reading comprehension–but that people took it so personally. That people, both publicly and anonymously, were so upset, so offended by what I said that they felt the need to say really nasty things to and about me.

A lot of people do not think about rape culture.  Even women do not always really solidify in their heads that this is what the world is like; we know things are uncomfortable, but it is not until someone says it that we go, “Oh. It isn’t just me.” There really is something going on. And it is wrong. And it is systemic. And there are other people who want to fight it. But it is not just women who say this. I can find lots of men who have also, upon being confronted with their male privilege and the culture it perpetuates, been horrified, and wanted to stop it.

Then, of course, there are the men who feel very differently. The men who feel attacked, who feel that they have to get defensive, and shift the blame. The men who feel that acknowledging that American culture is one in which (we are back to the beginning now, quoting Wikipedia!) “rape and sexual violence against women are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or tolerate sexual violence against women” is the same as saying that they personally condone, normalize, excuse, tolerate, or commit sexual violence against women.

And these men lash out. It is the women’s fault, those trollops. They should know better. I am generalizing (of course I am, I have 600 words!), and a bad person. The stats say rape is totally not a problem anymore. They would never do that. If there is a problem, it is somebody else’s. And me? The one with the chutzpah to write about it? Well, I cannot tell you what I am, because I do not respond to anonymous slander. (Apparently “being an adult” does not include signing your name.)

This response disturbs me. Not the personal attacks. What disturbs me is the persistent refusal by some men (I emphasize here that many men have been wonderful about these columns) to just say, Yes, there is a problem. The way that women are treated in this country is a problem, and I am part of the problem by association, and I am going to do everything I can to help stop it, because I care about my mother, my sister, my girlfriend, my girl friends, all women, none of whom deserve this treatment, and because I care about equality. Because I am a decent human being.

That’s all I am asking for here. I am asking for the men of this campus to recognize the problem, recognize their privilege, and be decent human beings. And I have faith that they–that you–can do it.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

11 Oct

Here is this week’s View from Venus column from October 11th, by e-board member Abby Finkelman. It can also be found on the St. Rose Chronicle website, or in print all around campus.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

  1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks
  2. When you see someone walking alone, leave them alone!
  3. If you stop to help someone with car problems, don’t assault them!
  4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
  5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
  6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry–don’t attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
  7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
  8. Always be honest with people! Don’t act like a caring friend to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
  9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with a sleeping person!
  10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “by accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it for you.
The above list, which can be found on Feminist Law Professors, may elicit a number of reactions. Amusement, anger, discomfort, defensiveness, understanding. The men reading this may find themselves confused. Let me explain. Women are given lists like this all the time. Parents, teachers, magazines, orientation sessions, there are endless lists telling us what we need to do to keep from being raped. This is fine, except for one thing:It is not our responsibility to keep from being raped. One of the most twisted outcomes of rape culture is telling women that it is our job to make sure we aren’t victimized–and, therefore, that if we are victimized, it’s our fault. This is absurd. I should be as free as any man to walk alone, to wear what I please, to get drunk at a party. The idea that it’s my responsibility to carry a whistle rather than someone else’s responsibility to not rape me is outlandish.

Worse, if I don’t carry the whistle, or I choose to get drunk, I get blamed for my rape. By my rapist, by society, by the authorities. I don’t have room here to detail all the women who are told by cops and judges that they shouldn’t have worn short skirts, but it happens daily. That’s rape culture. That’s a culture that blames a woman’s assault not on the man who assaulted her but on her clothes. You may have done it yourself. Said things like, “She shouldn’t have gone home with him if all she wanted to do was make out.” No, he should have accepted that when she said she didn’t want to do more than make out, he had to stop. Women fall prey to victim-blaming, even, heartbreakingly, blaming themselves; I have heard women make excuses and try to explain why it’s really their own fault that they were raped.

Victim-blaming is bad for everyone, turning women into self-loathing bad guys and letting men off the hook. Combating it should be one of the highest priorities of a culture that wants to be anti-rape. Until we can place the blame for rape where it belongs–with the rapist–we might as well write “ENABLER” across our chests. Well, maybe not the chest. Because if we draw attention to our chests, we’re just asking for it.

Depp Apologizes for “Poor Choice of Words”

10 Oct

When Depp wants to apologize for perpetuating the rape culture by engaging in rape apologia and using the language of sexual violence as his casual metaphor, then I’ll be ready to accept his apology.

via Shakesville: Depp Apologizes for “Poor Choice of Words”.

I’ll be posting rape culture-related things I see all month. Because I like this blog to be FUN and HAPPY.

Want to be taken seriously ladies? Wear make-up!

9 Oct

Participants in the study were asked to rate whether they felt women were competent, like-able, attractive and trustworthy. Turns out most people felt all these factors were true when looking at faces for a flash and felt most of them when studying the faces longer with the exception of one factor: at a longer glance women wearing make-up were not trustworthy.

via Want to be taken seriously ladies? Wear make-up!.

So basically, if you wear makeup you’re untrustworthy, but if you don’t wear makeup, well, we know how society feels about THAT.

SNL and the Double Bind for Women in Politics

9 Oct

The overly-effeminate portrayal of Palin reflects one side of the double-bind where many people judge feminine women as lacking the appropriate characteristics for leadership. On the other side of the double-bind, the unfeminine portrayal of Clinton illustrates how women who act powerful and confident are subject to character attacks. However, because leadership qualities are expected of men, male politicians are not subject to this critique when they act like leaders. For example, Poehler as Clinton describes her “road to the White House” as “I scratched, and I clawed,”—words with negative connotations which would never be used to describe competitive men with ambition.

via SNL and the Double Bind for Women in Politics.

Excellent piece looking at women in politics and the SNL sketches we all laughed at.

If you’re not familiar with the “double bind”, go read Marilyn Frye’s seminal essay “Oppression” RIGHT NOW.