The Founding Fathers


Dear Students: Rap and Revere Hamilton, But Remember to Sing A Jeffersonian Melody

jefferson

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Have you thought about America’s creed and what it means to you? Are you willing to fight for the creed to help make America great again.  America is made in the image of Hamilton’s image and it grew in that image. Jefferson, being a renaissance man, directed our new democracy down a path to greatness.  We are now at a tipping point and our democracy is hanging in limbo. Are we  strong enough to get on the path again; to get back on Jefferson’s path? Do we believe in equality, goodness and kindness? Are we willing to give up our comfort to stand with the marginalized people? Millions of us are. I hope many more will join us in taking the fear and suffering out of being an American.

Farewell, America


Farewell, America

No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently.

The sun sets behind the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it. As I surveyed the ruin of that country this gray Wednesday morning, I found weary consolation in W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939, which concludes:

 

“Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”
I hunt for that affirming flame.

This generally has been called the “hate election” because everyone professed to hate both candidates. It turned out to be the hate election because, and let’s not mince words, of the hatefulness of the electorate. In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.

We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist.

If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.

This country has survived a civil war, two world wars and a Great Depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more-or-less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.

The virus that kills democracy is extremism because extremism disables those codes. Republicans have disrespected the process for decades. They have regarded any Democratic president as illegitimate. They have proudly boasted of preventing popularly elected Democrats from effecting policy and have asserted that only Republicans have the right to determine the nation’s course. They have worked tirelessly to make sure that the government cannot govern and to redefine the purpose of government as prevention rather than effectuation. In short, they haven’t believed in democracy for a long time, and the media never called them out on it.

Democracy can’t cope with extremism. Only violence and time can defeat it. The first is unacceptable, the second takes too long. Though Trump is an extremist, I have a feeling that he will be a very popular president and one likely to be re-elected by a substantial margin, no matter what he does or fails to do. That’s because ever since the days of Ronald Reagan, rhetoric has obviated action, speechifying has superseded governing.

Trump was absolutely correct when he bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care. It was a dictator’s ugly vaunt, but one that recognized this election never was about policy or economics or the “right path/wrong path,” or even values. It was about venting. So long as Trump vented their grievances, his all-white supporters didn’t care about anything else. He is smart enough to know that won’t change in the presidency. In fact, it is only likely to intensify. White America, Trump’s America, just wants to hear its anger bellowed. This is one time when the Bully Pulpit will be literal.

The media can’t be let off the hook for enabling an authoritarian to get to the White House. Long before he considered a presidential run, he was a media creation — a regular in the gossip pages, a photo on magazine covers, the bankrupt (morally and otherwise) mogul who hired and fired on The Apprentice. When he ran, the media treated him not as a candidate, but as a celebrity, and so treated him differently from ordinary pols. The media gave him free publicity, trumpeted his shenanigans, blasted out his tweets, allowed him to phone in his interviews, fell into his traps and generally kowtowed until they suddenly discovered that this joke could actually become president.

Just as Trump has shredded our values, our nation and our democracy, he has shredded the media. In this, as in his politics, he is only the latest avatar of a process that began long before his candidacy. Just as the sainted Ronald Reagan created an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor that the Republicans would later exploit against Democrats, conservatives delegitimized mainstream journalism so they could fill the vacuum.

Retiring conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes complained that after years of bashing from the right wing, the mainstream media no longer could perform their function as reporters, observers, fact dispensers, and even truth tellers, and he said we needed them. Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality. They have done so, and in so doing effectively destroyed the very idea of objectivity. Trump can lie constantly only because white America has accepted an Orwellian sense of truth — the truth pulled inside out.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived. Like Nixon and Sarah Palin before him, Trump ran against the media, boomeranging off the public’s contempt for the press. He ran against what he regarded as media elitism and bias, and he ran on the idea that the press disdained working-class white America. Among the many now-widening divides in the country, this is a big one, the divide between the media and working-class whites, because it creates a Wild West of information — a media ecology in which nothing can be believed except what you already believe.

With the mainstream media so delegitimized — a delegitimization for which they bear a good deal of blame, not having had the courage to take on lies and expose false equivalencies — they have very little role to play going forward in our politics. I suspect most of them will surrender to Trumpism — if they were able to normalize Trump as a candidate, they will no doubt normalize him as president. Cable news may even welcome him as a continuous entertainment and ratings booster. And in any case, like Reagan, he is bulletproof. The media cannot touch him, even if they wanted to. Presumably, there will be some courageous guerillas in the mainstream press, a kind of Resistance, who will try to fact-check him. But there will be few of them, and they will be whistling in the wind. Trump, like all dictators, is his own truth.

What’s more, Trump already has promised to take his war on the press into courtrooms and the halls of Congress. He wants to loosen libel protections, and he has threatened Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon with an antitrust suit. Individual journalists have reason to fear him as well. He has already singled out NBC’s Katy Tur, perhaps the best of the television reporters, so that she needed the Secret Service to escort her from one of his rallies. Jewish journalists who have criticized Trump have been subjected to vicious anti-Semitism and intimidation from the white nationalist “alt-right.” For the press, this is likely to be the new normal in an America in which white supremacists, neo-Nazi militias, racists, sexists, homophobes and anti-Semites have been legitimized by a new president who “says what I’m thinking.” It will be open season.

This converts the media from reporters to targets, and they have little recourse. Still, if anyone points the way forward, it may be New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks is no paragon. He always had seemed to willfully neglect modern Republicanism’s incipient fascism (now no longer incipient), and he was an apologist for conservative self-enrichment and bigotry. But this campaign season, Brooks pretty much dispensed with politics. He seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that no good could possibly come of any of this and retreated into spirituality. What Brooks promoted were values of mutual respect, a bolder sense of civic engagement, an emphasis on community and neighborhood, and overall a belief in trickle-up decency rather than trickle-down economics. He is not hopeful, but he hasn’t lost all hope.

For those of us now languishing in despair, this may be a prescription for rejuvenation. We have lost the country, but by refocusing, we may have gained our own little patch of the world and, more granularly, our own family. For journalists, Brooks may show how political reporting, which, as I said, is likely to be irrelevant in the Trump age, might yield to a broader moral context in which one considers the effect that policy, strategy and governance have not only on our physical and economic well-being but also on our spiritual well-being. In a society that is likely to be fractious and odious, we need a national conversation on values. The media could help start it.

But the disempowered media may have one more role to fill: They must bear witness. Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.

We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.

 

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                                                           Me, in Washington D. C. for art exhibit circa 1980’s.

                                                                 I often went to Washington for art and protests.

 

 

I believe that Progressives and Liberals all had independent wakes for our country beginning the morning after the election. I remember my mind all a-swirl with thoughts about what had just happened to the country I loved so much. I flashed back to 1976 and my dad grilling in the backyard with his red, white and blue apron on, that said 1776-1976. Hot dogs and hamburgers were coming off of the grill. America was not a perfect country then but we let our voices, me and the rest of the young people, be heard and the government was beginning to listen about Vietnam and Civil Rights for black people. We were doing new things like reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It changed my life as it did the lives of millions of other women, young and old.

 

I helped to start a Domestic Violence shelter in Pennsylvania. It was a journey in faith, but it is still there and helping women and children. There are still women who are in violent relationships today; but more about that another day.

 

I became a feminist and devoted myself to helping women and children to lead better lives. It was important to me that they would be able to access the justice they needed and would not suffer because someone looked at them and decided they should have acted different or been different.

 

Over the years, I watched as racism raised its ugly head when a Mom had kids who were several different shades. That didn’t bother me. Once I fought Children’s Services when they tried to take the aforementioned children away from the Mother. I won and this good mother whose only “crime” was to have been beaten by a man kept her kids. They were beautiful and smart and sweet.

 

When I counseled for Rape Crisis, I often had to protect the victims from the misogyny of the police and even their fathers and brothers. It was no easy task but we educated people and they learned that the important thing was that the woman who was their baby girl or sister or wife had been hurt in a brutal way and we could stop it happening to other women.

 

We were able to stop back alley abortions and I lobbied in Harrisburg to convince legislators of the importance of keeping teen girls and young women out of the hands of questionable doctors who would perform these abortions for a lot of money with no guarantees that the woman would survive. Women were still having to cross state lines at that point.

 

I remember a 10 year old girl who came to an abortion clinic with her Mom. Counseling was required before all abortions and this case was no exception. The girl was seen by a  counselor first and then her Mother joined them. Her Father had molested her and gotten her pregnant with his child. He was in jail, which was where he belonged. This 10 year old had been through enough. It was cruel to ask her to now ask her to remain pregnant for the entire nine months and go through labor and delivery. She carried her Mickey Mouse doll into surgery and held a nurse’s hand. She came through very well and was up and around quickly. There are so many stories where abortion is a blessing and not a convenience.

 

I have friends everywhere. They don’t look like me. We don’t all have the same religious beliefs. We are from both genders. Some are musicians, some are retired business people, some are artists and activists like I am. We all look different although now that some of us are aging, we do have that similarity in our looks.

 

What I am trying to say is that the America I am grieving is lost. It is lost as if a conquering army came and destroyed it and all we can do is look around and shake our heads. Well, I have been shaking my head for over a month now and I have begun to strengthen my resolve. The election was a disaster. The History books will discuss how this all happened. Your great-grandchildren and mine will study it in school and will feel wise because they understand.

 

What Progressives and Liberals must do now, whether we understand or not, is to give ourselves a good shake. We need to tell ourselves that American life isn’t over. It is different now. It includes mega racism, misogyny, anti-Muslim feelings, anti-Semitism, a distaste for both the poor and for higher education, and blatant bigotry. We have to promise ourselves, our friends, the people we go to school with, the people in our churches and synagogues and mosques that we will stand with them. We will find a lot of hassle and bigotry at work, so prepare yourselves. The people who feel they were voiceless will now want to spew their hatred over everyone frequently and in the direction of the rest of us. Don’t take the bait. Try the rubber band on your wrist if necessary; snap it when you are angry or need to stop yourself from speaking. Live your lives in the caring, helpful ways you have always done. Read what will fill you up and prepare you for the future. Keep your spiritual life healthy and filled with positive energy. Remember we are all children of the Universe. We have a responsibility to be there for each other until the nightmare is over.

 

Namaste

Barbara

 

 

 

 

He Seemed so Nice


If you know anyone who is in this type of situation; or if a family member is, give them the 800 number for the Domestic Abuse Hotline:

DomesticViolenceHotline

He seemed super nice at first

It’s true. I’ve known more than one abusive man in my day. Some I knew intimately and some were only acquaintances. You know, just friends of friends. Some men still think it’s ok to maintain friendships with abusive men dontchaknow. At a certain point someone might accidentally let it slip that so-and-so, you know, that guy we party with, you know, maybe tormented or threatened or tried to strangle his girlfriend, and funny thing! I wouldn’t want to hang out with those dudes anymore. How awkward for everyone. “Meghan, Meghan – we don’t acknowledge those things.” “Hey! Buddy never abused me so who knows, right? His girlfriend is probably lying about that abuse.” If you don’t see it with your own eyes you should just assume it isn’t happening and go on with your life, yes? OH those ladies and their nutty stories.

But I digress. My friend Easily Riled wrote a post about the Bedford decision and some of the rhetoric coming from those who advocate for the decriminalization of pimps and johns. She pointed out that:

“The appeal judges decided that the Communicating law did not violate the Charter rights of prostituted people sex workers, and represented a reasonable limit on rights to expression.  Because as we know, it is difficult to tell–no matter how much time you have to “screen” some guy– when he’s going to go off on you. Women in prostitution have told us many stories about going with men they knew, regular ‘clients’, men the met and talked with for an hour or so in the bar, men referred to them by trusted friends– who, when alone with them, became violent. And, you know, women often MARRY men who turn out to be abusive– five minutes on a street corner isn’t going to make a difference–he always decides how to behave, she will never have  that control. In theory, then, the communicating law can be used against the men who buy sex.”

One of the more common arguments for the decriminalization of johns is that if buying sex in the street is completely legalized, prostituted women will have more time to asses a client before getting into a car or going to a room with him.

This argument has been refuted by many, including Janine Benedet, who acted as co-counsel for the Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution during the Bedford trial, who noted in a recent talk that the 27 year old man who murdered Nicole Parisien was seemingly, just a “regular” guy. Andrew Evans was a rugby player and former peer counselor. Benedet noted that he found Parisien through an ad on Craigslist and met her at an apartment of her choosing – an apartment that was being used as a brothel in Kitsilano.

Are these the “safe” indoor brothels people are advocating for? I imagine that Parisien thought this man was “safe”. Turns out he wasn’t. Turns out that being indoors, being able to suss out clientele first didn’t stop Evans from becoming violent when he couldn’t maintain an erection. Benedet added:

“This is a good example of the male sexual entitlement that is quite evident in prostitution. When she didn’t give him what he wanted he turned to violence and she was dead very, very quickly. There was no time for anybody to intervene. A good reminder that just putting things in a brothel or in a woman’s own apartment doesn’t stop this kind of violence.”

So Evans may be spending his life in jail but Parisien no longer has a life.

Devastatingly, these stories are not uncommon – there is something about men who buy sex who seem to think that the women they buy are disposable. Male entitlement is tied to prostitution. Men who buy sex think they are entitled. They believe that their pleasure is more important than women’s lives, women’s health, women’s well-being. Do you think that the man I saw the other day while waiting for the bus at Main and Cordova, who stopped his black SUV at the corner and dropped off a woman limping in platform shoes, steadying herself with a cane, cares about her life? Do you think he wants her life to get better? I doubt it. I doubt any man who buys sex wants the lives of prostituted women to get better. If their lives were better there would be no one left to give him blow jobs on his lunch break.

These are the men we are talking about decriminalizing. Not some imaginary “nice john.” What “nice man” wants women to remain so poor that they have no choice but to service him? What “nice man” kills a woman because he can’t maintain an erection? And what “nice man” thinks he deserves this – that he is owed, nay, is entitled to a blow job? Because he is a man. It is his right. Women are his right. Access to women, 24/7, is his right. That’s what we are talking about when we talk about decriminalizing pimps and johns.

I’ve known a number of abusive men in my lifetime. And you’d never know by looking at them. You probably wouldn’t even know it by talking to them for five or ten minutes (although you do begin to recognize certain traits in certain kinds of abusers – but the smart ones know how to hide it). Sometimes women don’t find out that their partners are abusive until they become pregnant. I can pretty much guarantee that if I had A) gone through with my pregnancy, and B) stayed with the man who impregnated me, the abuse would have escalated. Sometimes women only find out their partners are abusive once their partners get drunk. And hey, sometimes we even get clues early on but sometimes we don’t know they’re clues. Or maybe we’ll ignore the clue. Or maybe the abuser will manipulate us into thinking we are crazy or mess with our heads so that we no longer trust our own instincts. Or maybe we’ll leave. But the idea that women can somehow predict which men are abusive (whether it is verbal, emotional, or physical – and often all these forms of abuse work in congruence) and then avoid said abuse is bunko.

The abusive man is often quite a popular dude. He is often a pillar in his community. He is often charming and intelligent. I know tons of these guys. They are still invited to parties, to meetings, to community gatherings. The women they tormented are not, of course. Those women are not to be trusted. Those women must hide out or feel ashamed or are ostracized. Or they simply remain silent, never saying a thing. Women who name their abusers don’t always get support and, in fact, they often get the opposite of support. Often they are blamed or they are not believed.

So I’m not convinced that talking to a man through a car window, or over email, or even over the phone will tell a woman whether or not this man might become violent or whether he might call her names or whether he will degrade her. We do know that, whoever these men are, even if they aren’t physically violent, they believe that women exist on this earth in order to provide men with sexual pleasure. It is also clear that men who buy sex from prostituted women are often violent, are often abusive, and are often murderers. Sometimes they are “non-violent” misogynists. But not always. We also know that regardless of whether or not a woman has had the opportunity to chat with a man for five or ten minutes, she will at some point be alone in a car or in a hotel room or in an alley with him, and he may or may not have displayed his violent tendencies within the first five minutes of meeting.

What I’m addressing here is of course the idea that decriminalizing johns will make prostitution safer. Or rather, that it will make johns safer. Because that’s what were really talking about, right? Violent, sexist men? We aren’t really saying that women can somehow predict or avoid violence. We’re saying we need to stop violent men. We’re saying we need to stop normalizing sexist behaviour. We need to stop reinforcing the idea that men have the right to access female bodies 24/7.

In a past relationship I told a man that what he was doing constituted verbal and emotional abuse and that he had no right to treat me in that way – I told him I didn’t deserve to be treated in that way. And you know what he said to me? “It was your choice to stay”. And do you know what that means? Do you know what he meant when he said that? He was telling me it was my fault. He was telling me that there was nothing he could do to change and that since I had “chosen” to stay, I must either be ok or somehow deserve that abusive treatment. That since I chose to live in the same house as him and knew that his behaviour was abusive, it was ok for him to continue to treat me in that way because, in the end, it was my responsibility to stop that abuse from happening. Not his. Of course I did leave eventually but I’ll never forget the feeling of being blamed for my own abuse. Of making it about “my choice”.

This isn’t the only time this has happened. Another time I told some people about a man who was their friend who had been abusive to me throughout our relationship. I had already left him at this point. Do you know what they said to me? “Well, you chose to stay, didn’t you?”

OH choice. Magical, magical choice. If you “choose” to put yourself in a position to be abused, according to our f**ked up culture, it’s your fault. So if women do a bad job of  sussing out johns before getting into cars with them, and those johns turn out to be violent, who is to blame?

The answer is obvious, but based on some of the rhetoric coming from those who advocate only for a harm reduction model and from those who want johns to be decriminalized, you wouldn’t know it. There is NO reason to protect these men. There are many reasons to protect prostituted women. These women, most certainly, need to be decriminalized so that they can safely go to the cops if they need to. These women, most certainly, need other options. They need to not have to service misogynists or get into cars with them or go to brothels or hotel rooms with them in order to survive. But decriminalizing johns isn’t going to make those men any safer. It certainly isn’t going to convince them not to abuse women and it certainly isn’t going to convince them that they don’t have the god given right to a blow job at any given moment, so long as they can pay.

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A Woman Who’s Found Her Voice


Rima Karaki is a Lebanese TV host who isn’t afraid of a fight.

Things got heated Monday when Karaki was interviewing Hani Al-Seba’i about the phenomenon of Christians joining Islamic groups like ISIS. Al-Seba’i is a Sunni scholar who fled to London after he was sentenced in an Egyptian court to 15 years in prison for being a part of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The United Nations considers the group to be an affiliate of al Qaeda.

But despite Al-Seba’i’s extreme ties, Karaki didn’t back down when he disrespected her on AlJadeed TV after she politely tried to redirect his historical tangent. Instead of taking his guff, she cut off his microphone when she decided she’d had enough.

The video was shared by MEMRI, a Middle East media watchdog.

To give you some context, here is a comment Al-Siba’i made on Al Jazeera TV in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

“Let me tell you: I love Sheikh Osama bin Laden as a Muslim. I am not glorifying or extolling anything. I am simply telling it as it is – Sheikh Osama is loved by millions of Muslims. Sheikh Osama is a hymn in the hearts of the downtrodden – from Jakarta to the Hindu Kush Mountains, to the villages and rural areas of Egypt… Ask those downtrodden and poor people, and they will tell you that they are grieving for Sheikh Osama bin Laden.

Sheikh Osama bin Laden fought occupation forces. He never killed civilians, and he never said he did. On the contrary, he extended his hand in peace to Europe and the West, and they were the ones who rejected it.”

Karaki, for her part, is a strong female figure in a country where women’s rights are still commonly ignored. Human Rights Watch released a 114-page report in January called “Women’s Rights under Lebanese Personal Status Laws” that found that women were not considered equals, especially when it came to divorce.

“Not only are Lebanese citizens of various religions treated unequally under the law, but women are treated unfairly across the board, and their rights and security go unprotected. Passage of an optional civil marriage code, alongside badly needed reforms to existing personal status laws and religious courts, are long overdue.”
-Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director

It’s quite surprising that Karaki is not more of a household name. Before she made it in TV, she held a successful position at Lebanon’s central bank. In a recent interview with Fit’n Style magazine, she said her family considered her move to media “an irrational act.”

Her ethos seems to be one of power and strength, as demonstrated in the Al-Seba’i interview.

Some accuse me of being “disrespectful,” since I was the only one to omit my guests’ titles and address them with their first names no matter who they were; I see it as more respectful in fact because we don’t need all the poetry to introduce them.

Others say that I have no limits in my questions; I see this as an added value. Some say that I am not objective; I call it honesty.  For those who describe me as “Not being loyal to or not following any political group,” I see it as cleanness.

Karaki is setting an example not only for Lebanese women, but for everyone in the media who could use a refresher on practicing what they preach.

H/T Reddit | Screengrab viaMEMRITVVideos/YouTube | Remix by Jason Reed

An Artist and A Feminist


This Young Woman Walked Through Kabul Wearing Metal Armor To Protest Street Harassment

Artist-activist Kubra Khademi took to Kabul’s streets in a metal jacket in a defiant protest against sexual harassment.

Beyond “No means No”


Beyond ‘no means no’: the future of campus rape prevention is ‘yes means yes’

Originally posted at the Guardian.com  by Jessica Valenti

Survivors from California to New York say universities are failing students. But a once-in-a-generation moment might be upon us

 Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

Emma Sulkowicz is one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. And Columbia is one of 67 schools facing such accusations. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.

“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”

Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.

Apparently even an Ivy League school still doesn’t understand the old adage of “no means no”.

So Sulkowicz joined a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, and she will will hoist that mattress on her shoulders as part savvy activism, part performance art. “The administration can end the piece, by expelling him,” she says, “or he can, by leaving campus.”

Her performance may be singular, but the deep frustration voiced by Sulkowicz is being echoed by survivors across the United States. Despite increased efforts to curb campus assault and hold schools accountable – the FBI has changed its once-archaic definition of rape, a new White House task force wants answers, and schools likeHarvard and Dartmouth have promised new policies – the nation’s university administrators are still failing young people in their care. In the last year alone, 67 schools have had students file federal complaints accusing their own colleges of violating the Clery Act or Title IX.

With the start of school underway, however, the biggest paradigm shift on rape and sexual consent in decades may just now be emerging in California, where “yes means yes” – a model for reform that feminists like me have been pushing for years – could soon become law.

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously. The legislation, which is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by the end of this month (his office declined to comment), effectively requires the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” – or else withholds funding from the nation’s largest state school system.

The legislation additionally clarifies that affirmative consent means both parties must be awake, conscious and not incapacitated from alcohol or drugs – and that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship doesn’t imply consent. The California bill also, importantly, specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

It seems like a no-brainer to only have sex with conscious and enthusiastic partners, but detractors say the standard “micromanages” sexuality. The truth is that a “yes means yes” policy “helps to create a shared responsibility, instead of the responsibility falling on women to say ‘no’,” says Tracey Vitchers, chair of the board at Safer (Students Active for Ending Rape). Anti-violence activists are clearly excited about the bill, which – if all goes well – could be adopted by more states with large public university systems.

Sofie Karasek, a senior at the University of California at Berkeley and co-founder ofEnd Rape on Campus, also supports the new bill. Like Sulkowicz at Columbia,Karasek filed a federal complaint after she said Berkeley didn’t take sufficient action after she reported a sexual assault. As her first week back on campus was winding down on Friday, Karasek told me she thinks the California model has “created an important conversation about consent in the media and public, and I think with affirmative consent, more students will be talking about it as well.”

Indeed, a lot of students – male students, included – already are. Gray Williams, a senior at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says he likes the “yes means yes” standard. “It’s not that big of a deal, and I appreciate having an unambiguous ‘yes’ or ‘no’ instead of having to read her body language,” he told me. Roo George-Warren, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University, thinks some young men might be skeptical, but he insists part of the problem is that the “discourse around consent in day-to-day conversation is so unsophisticated.”

And this is what makes the legislation so important for colleges: mandating “yes means yes” in sexual assault policy puts the onus on colleges to give comprehensive consent education. If students are to abide by that standard, they need to know what it means.

So California could lead the way in redefining how we think about sexual consent. But as promising as this overdue measure may be, state legislatures and university administrators alike need to make sure they’re being as thorough as possible in this moment when real reform, for once, doesn’t seem impossible. The legislation doesn’t clearly specify whether affirmative consent means verbal or nonverbal communication. Do students need to say “yes”? Or is clear body language sufficient?

Should Gov Brown sign “yes means yes” into law, I agree with Slate writer Amanda Hess, who believes the standard going forward should itself be more sophisticated and include nonverbal cues – not just because they present a more realistic vision of how we experience sex, but because we need to talk about body language that can mean “no” as well:

If we can admit that enthusiastic consent is often communicated in body language or knowing looks, then we must also accept that the lack of consent doesn’t always manifest itself in a shouted ‘no’ or ‘stop,’ either. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the uninterested party to speak up during a sexual encounter.

At Berkeley, Karasek said she remained worried that such ambiguity could be used to further hurt survivors and that requiring verbal consent would make it easier to “avoid the ‘he said, she said’ that college administrators try to make rape cases out to be.”

emma sulkowicz photo portrait

An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted during college. Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped in her own bed. Photograph: Kristina Budelis for Guardian US Opinion

We’ve come a long way in the last four decades on sexual assault, but this necessary shift to “yes means yes” will not be an easy one. (Let’s also not forget that it was just four years ago when male students from Yale University were caught on tape chanting “No means yes, yes means anal.”)

The feminist movement of the 70s shined a light on “date rape” – the most common kind of sexual assault that once went ignored is now widely-understood to be a pervasive problem. Twenty-one years ago, marital rape was still legal in some states, but now legislation decries the idea that marriage equals constant consent. Today, politicians and activists alike increasingly recognize that everything we did before is simply not enough: despite these shifts in policy and public perception, rape is still far too common – approximately one out of every five women is sexually assaulted in college.

And that’s just what’s reported, according to the White House. That’s just in America. That’s just in college.

When I spoke to Sulkowicz about her unofficial senior project – she calls it Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight – the brave 21-year-old said something I think most people who care about the issue of violence against women can relate to. “It’s going to be an endurance piece,” she said. In some ways, battling rape always has been.

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I applaud this brave young woman, and throw my support behind “Yes means Yes”, in addition to “No means No”. 

 

I also want to point out that this not a solely American problem.  Rape is rising around the world.  There are those who would say that reported rapes are up, and they would be correct, but this should not be taken to mean that unreported rape is down.  No statistic has been provided to indicate this.
The bottom line is that as long as Women are treated as Second Class Citizens; as long as there is no Equality in fact of Law, or in action, or in religious dogma, women will be raped and men will not be held accountable.  As long as men are allowed to consider women to be property, they will continue to use women however they wish with conscience or consequence.  We cannot force men to have a conscience, but we can make a consequence for their wrong actions, and this cannot be a slap on the wrist, it must be a steep penalty that will have repercussions in their lives.

 

Feminism and Art


photo 1

Judy Chicago The Dinner Party 1979.
Mixed media 48’x42’X3′.
Triangular table on white tile floor.
Photograph by Donald Woodman (2010)
From Prebles’ Artforms , Tenth Edition
Patrick Frank
published by Prentice Hall

In the late 1960’s, many women artists began to speak out against the misogyny that always blocked them in their careers. It has always been difficult for women to be taken seriously. Our patriarchal society has always looked at what was produced by women as less than. For women artists it has been difficult to have their work shown in galleries, in artists’ groups. Galleries have been and continue to be more willing to accept the art made by men than by women. This has long been a problem for women artists and women in general. If a woman is entering a  jar of preserves or a pie in the county fair, fine. But real creation has been considered the product of men. Women in the 60’s were afraid to allow their art to reflect their problems producing artwork in the male dominated world.

In the early 70’s, feminist artists, in New York and California began to take action. They wanted the art world to be a more balanced world where their work wouldn’t languish in obscurity. Lucy Lippard, an art critic and feminist wrote, “The overwhelming fact remains that a woman’s experience in this society—social and biological—is simply not like that of a man. If art comes from the inside, as it must, then the art of men and women must be different, too.”

The work of some women artists is definitely influenced by their gender and their interests in feminist issues. The two groups worked differently. California feminists tended to work together in collaborations. They tended to make use of media that had  been used traditionally in “craft work” and with women: ceramics and textiles. The upper photograph, The Dinner Party, was a collaboration of many women and a few feminist men. Judy Chicago organized this work over a period of five years.

“A large triangular table contains place settings for thirty-nine women who made important contributions to world history. They run a wide gamut, from Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut to Georgia O’Keefe. The names of 999 additional women of achievement are inscribed on ceramic tiles below the tables. Each place setting includes a hand-embroidered fabric runner and a porcelain plate designed in honor of that woman. Some of the plates are painted with flat designs, others have modeled and painted relief motifs, many are explicitly sexual, embellished with flower-like female genitalia.” (Description from Prebles’ Artforms)

New York feminists were more pointed in their protests. Some of them formed the group Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), which picketed museums. In response to dealers who were reluctant to exhibiting female artists, they formed their own collaborative gallery, Artists in Residence (AIR). Nancy Spero, a leader in feminist circles on the East Coast participated in both groups. Her work used uncommon media such as paper scrolls, stencils and printing to document subjects such as the torture and abuse of women.

The bottom photograph is of a work by Nancy Spero. It is called the Rebirth of Venus. Venus is the ancient goddess of love. And in this art piece the goddess is split open to reveal a woman sprinter who runs directly towards the viewer. The contrast is strong, women as love object releases a woman who is strong and a achiever.

Women still have to fight for recognition in the art world. Women still have to fight for everything including equality. But women will never give up and go back to being subjected quietly by society. We will never be quiet again.

 
RebirthOfVenus
 
 
Nancy Spero Rebirth of Venus detail 1984
Handprinting on paper.  12″ x 62′
Photograph David Reynalds
From Prebles’ Artforms , Tenth Edition
Patrick Frank
Published by Prentice Hall

Gandhi had the Right Idea


New thoughts for 2013

New thoughts For Some People In 2013

Gandhi was a very spiritual man and he taught the concept of passive resistance. Historically, he showed the Indian people how to be free from injustice and oppression. They received their freedom from the United Kingdom without a big, serious, bloody war.

We, the women in the world, have a war to fight. The War Against Women. We need to win this war without bloodshed and violence. But we need to win it. For ourselves and our future generations of men and women.

What is the War on Women? It is the oft-held notion that women are second class citizens here in America, in India, in China, in Russian and every country on this planet. Are we? No. Why do so many men and some women think we are? Because we live in Patriachries, where men rule by means of a hierarchy. Women have been at the bottom of that pyramid for so long, some don’t understand that this is where they are. Some believe what they have been told over and over in life: that they don’t deserve anything better. Their life is to consist of housework, sex on demand and having as many babies as possible.

Education is an enemy to the Patriarchy, because the more the women who become literate learn, the more they want  for themselves and their children; and the more danger they are to the patriarchy. Women are divided into two categories: the trophy women, the beautiful and young women that men like to have on their arm to show their success and power; and the others, there to perform menial labor and have children.

Popular thinking says women can't take care of themselves and need a man.

Popular thinking says women can’t take care of themselves and need a man.

The War on Women includes the fact that we do not receive equal pay for equal work.  It includes the idea that we, as women, need to be taken care of; that we can’t make our own decisions. It’s the idea that we, as women, really can’t run a company; that is the job of  men who are better suited to leading.

The War on Women includes rape. All rape is” legitimate rape.”  There is no instance of rape which is the will of the Divine. Women are victims and not enticing sirens that men can’t possibly control themselves around. Rape is not an act of passion but of power and control. Gang rape is the worst kind of rape. Male after male entering a woman’s body and using a woman and then finishing with her so another can  take a turn.

I am writing this today in memory of the young woman who was gang raped on a bus in India. I have no idea who she was, what her voice sounded like, what made her smile, what made her happy, how much her friends and family loved her. What I do know is that she is my sister and yours also. Whether you are male or female, she was part of you. She was a Divine child of the Universe made of stardust, the same as  you and I. Now, she is gone. Six men remain on this planet, six men who brutally raped and used her. Beat and kicked her until the breath of life was forced to leave her body.

This year I am focusing on the needs and rights of women. Yes, I am aware that there are feminist men everywhere. So, I am writing for you also. But I am writing to the misogynist, battering, abusive, and cruel men. You do not have to act the way you are doing. You weren’t created to behave like this. You were not created to destroy lives, tear away young innocence or to beat the heart and soul of a woman to the point she wishes she would just die..

So, this year 2013 is the year of the woman. The year we look at every way men injure or kill women. We will look at why we feel fists and slaps and kicks. Why we aren’t making the same money that men are earning. In America, we will work for legal equality for women. We are the only American citizens who are not legally equal.

I hope you will stay with me on this journey. I will continue to talk about peace and spirituality and creativity also. My priorities are women and our spiritual journey. .

We Can All be a Light to Others and Work for Freedom for Women From Oppression.

We Can All be a Light to Others and Work for Freedom for Women From Oppression.

Headlines


I am writing today because of the news headlines. A specific headline that has me silently screaming with frustration, Here in American a member of our Congress gave an interview that legitimate rape does not result in pregnancy.
He further stated that the woman’s body would rid itself of the pregnancy. He commented that medical people had told him this information.

First of all, I must state that there is no such thing as legitimate rape. Absolutely none. If a man doesn’t understand the meaning of NO, it is rape and he is responsible for his actions. Without premeditation, poor Eve made a choice in the Garden of Eden to eat of the apple (or pomegranate) to gain knowledge. So it tasted good and she wandered over and offered Adam a bite. He could have said no, I won’t break the rule, forget it. What he chose was to reach out and take the apple and he took a bite. He was responsible for that choice. Eve was only responsible for her own choice.

Since this event in the garden, men have been blaming women for their bad choices. Scapegoating to avoid the responsibility and consequences of their decisions. So who gets blamed? The women.

She got raped because she had too much make-up on, or her skirt was too short, she had bedroom eyes, she gave a ‘come on ‘ smile. The list goes on ad nauseum.

Then there is the fact that rape has absolutely nothing to do with sex. It is an act not driven by desire, lust or passion. It is driven by the need for power and control. The man needs to show that woman how strong and in control he is.
This is why 86 year old women get raped. They didn’t drive this guy out of his mind with passion. But he did control her and used his power to do anything he wanted to her and her body.

Despite the thinking of many people, women can and do become pregnant as a result of rape. So in your mind, picture your mom, sister, cousin, grandmother being raped. Think about what that act of violence and control would do to their minds as well as their bodies.

This entire subject is indicative of the War on Women. It is a battle in the war. I call upon all who read my blog to talk to your friends and family about what is happening in our country to women. Inch by inch they are attempting to push us back into the submissive roles that we finally broke free of. Don’t give up your freedom or the freedom of women you know. Demand more from Congress than the unpardonable lack of bipartisan work to help the constituents who elected them.

A man who can make a statement, white, educated, misogynistic man, who has the temerity to call any rape legitimate is a self-righteous pig. Next they are going to be trying to tell us that if you aren’t legitimately raped the rapist does not have to go to court and hopefully jail.

This brings me back to our esteemed Congressman and his wisdom that he felt he needed to share with the world. Well, he did. Your answer to him should be to vote him out of office as quickly as possible. I bet that if a man were raped, which can happen, no one would be talking about it being legitimate or not.

So, a man of quality treats a woman as an equal partner. He does not belittle her, force her into having sex, slap her around, or make her feel stupid and invisible. There are many men of quality out in the world. So no woman ever needs settle for any other kind of man. We are strong, we are intelligent, we are logical and rational human beings. We can and must stand straight and with head held high, tell the misogynistic people, whether male or female, to get out of our lives and out of our bodies.

Here in America, our Presidential election is coming up. Register and get out there and vote. There is power in your vote. How you vote is private but voting is a responsibility for every citizen. When sexist people won’t listen, the way to make them hear you, is to vote them out of power. This is the only life you will have, don’t let them rob you of your rights.

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