Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Women Veterans

Just yesterday I began writing an article in an attempt to shed some light for you, the reader, on the life of female veterans. Today I scrapped that article. I was struggling in my attempt to qualify and group us because we can’t be grouped. There is no such thing as a stereotypical female veteran, just as there is no such thing as a stereotypical person. We may hold idealized images of this group but those ideas are not universally applicable; that is to say, our stereotypes have no footing in reality (they rarely do in fact). My struggle to classify an unclassifiable group of women is justified; in my attempt to bring our small group to you I initially resorted to describing statistical analyses. There are hundreds, thousands, maybe even a million numbers available to describe women who serve. For instance, did you know that the military as a whole consists of 14.3% women? Some branches of the military contain as few as 4% female personnel (Source: http://explore.data.gov/Population/Personnel-Trends-by-Gender-Race/zqae-ad8k). The likelihood that a woman will be the sole member of her sex represented at a duty location is high, creating unique dynamics for women who serve and a unique situation when they return from service.

My article rambled on and on about numbers and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
military sexual trauma (MST), women’s health, and more. Eventually I was just spouting numbers, and that isn’t useful to anyone. It might be enlightening, but does it realistically bring the issue down to earth in a way that is easy to comprehend? Not unless you are statistician. Not only are these raw numbers not informative, but it paints women vets as helpless victims of abuse, as outcasts. This is not the case! Women veterans are empowered. They are beyond strong, they are a force in their own right.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is beginning to hear our collective voices after years of notoriously poor recognition of women’s health issues. The VA recently started a (belated) campaign called She Wore These to increase women’s health services at VA hospitals. You can read the PSA here http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2181 and watch the commercial here http://youtu.be/BOP5DCgjxPE. If you’re interested in getting involved with
the Women Veteran Outreach Action Team, contact the chairperson Angie Hartlove at angie.hartlove@gmail.com or the outreach coordinator Britni Mimms at bmimms@pdx.edu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The "Good" Victim

Recently, the now-former head of the International Monetary Fund has been in the headlines regarding the current sex scandal surrounding him. However, this incidence carries with it much more gravity than Schwarzenegger’s secret love-child. In the case of Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, he is facing charges of attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment after a housekeeper at the New York hotel he was staying at a few weeks ago went to the police, saying she had almost been forced to have sex with Strauss-Kahn and resisted his attempts, at which point he forced her to perform oral sex upon him. Now under house arrest after bail was made by his wife, Strauss-Kahn’s future as a major global player is under duress. Since his arrest he has resigned from his position as chief of the IMF and his candidacy for President of France is uncertain at best. Where once he had been a likely contender, this recent scandal has taken a hit on his public image.
All the while, the media has been poised to hear about the outcome of this case, and details as they emerge. For the most part, media coverage surrounding the impending trial, in accordance with journalistic integrity, has remained unbiased on the case. News has been coming out about the state of Strauss-Kahn, who had previously been on suicide watch, the women coming forward from his past with similar sexual harassment and assault stories, and the anonymous sources reporting that DNA evidence has been obtained in the case. And despite all of this, media outlets are still quick to point out that no judgment has been passed down as of yet, and due to the nature of the case being solely anecdotal, with the housekeeper saying that force was used and Strauss-Kahn’s camp saying anything that happened between the two was purely consensual.
However, some still like to speculate on the case, and give their two cent’s regarding their perceptions as to Strauss-Kahn’s innocence or guilt.
Ben Stein, celebrity figure and economist, published an article in The American Spectator offering his reasoning as to why Strauss-Kahn is probably innocent. He gives the slightest bit of leeway at the beginning in case it turns out the former IMF Chief is indeed guilty by saying at the very beginning, “…it’s possible indeed, maybe even likely that he is guilty as the prosecutors charge…” and then continues on for the duration of the essay to explain why we should not be so quick to believe the allegations against Strauss-Kahn. To summarize:

1. If Strauss-Kahn’s such a womanizer and so violent, why hasn’t he been charged before with any crimes?
2. People who commit crimes are criminals, and people who are experts in the economy are economists—these paths do not cross.
3. Strauss-Kahn is a short fat old man, and since he was unarmed there was no possible way he could force a woman into any sexual interaction.
4. He should not be considered a flight risk just because he was leaving on a flight when he was arrested, since the flight was booked months in advance.
5. Just because he has been arrested for a serious crime does not mean he should be treated like a criminal. Shouldn’t an important man be treated better?
6. Those some maids are good people, some maids steal and act like lunatics. How do we know which kind of person Strauss-Kahn’s accuser is?
7. There has yet to be a conviction, and without a conviction we cannot be certain he is a criminal –“Innocent until proven guilty”
8. Strauss-Kahn’s case is one of poor people being jealous of rich people.

Please read Stein’s article, and you will quickly see that my summary is not an exaggeration of his points.

Many have taken to the internet to point out the flaws inherent in the argument Stein makes, as well as similar talking points made by Strauss-Kahn’s friend and fellow Frenchman Bernard-Henri Levy .
James Urbaniak posted a list of results from a quick google search of economists accused of sexual assault and abuse in response to Stein’s question, “Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?”. The Gothamist makes a counter to Stein’s query, “If {Stein is] such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn’t he get charged until now?” with the story of Tristane Banon, a journalist who had to forcibly fend off sexual advances in 2002 and afterwards was pressured into not pursuing legal recourse. The Huffington Post points out not only the tautological, roundabout reasoning behind the statement “people who commit crimes tend to be criminals”, but focuses the core of their article to the idea of “good victim” and a “good victimizer”, and what it takes to be considered as such.
What could draw Stein and Levy to come to the defense of Strauss-Kahn, a notable lothario? No one denies that he has a history of illicit affairs. However, it seems that his rank and status grants him greater privileges than the rest of society, at least according to his defenders. He should be given the benefit of the doubt; he shouldn’t be barred from returning to his country; he shouldn’t be placed into jail like a man accused of a crime, despite the fact that he has been accused of a crime, and a serious one at that. As for the maid who stands as his accuser? Are we not to trust her, as Stein implies? She is a working-class member of society, and given Stein’s anecdotal evidence against maids, we are supposed to devalue her claims. Not only that, but Levy taunts Banon as well, saying that, “…this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television..” and as such does not deserve to be taken seriously either. Barring videotaped evidence or admission of guilt from Strauss-Kahn himself, these men seem set on making the automatic assumption that the women claiming to be victims are the ones not to be trusted.
This kind of behavior, this passing of judgment against women whom these men have never even bothered to speak to, simply reinforces an already existing sense within the community of sexual assault victims that it is not even worth your time to try and report sexual assault, especially against someone in a position of authority over you, because there with undoubtedly be people who question you and undermine your assertions. Regardless of the outcome of this case against Strauss-Kahn, whether he is proven innocent or found guilty, it is unsettling to see such examples of persons in positions of power, coming to the defense of their fellow power holders, while quickly denouncing the weak, those who need defending the most, in order to make their voices heard.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” – A Noble Message Lost in a Murky Campaign

A few days ago, I randomly happened to find a video on a social news site attributed to a campaign entitled “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” The video starred a one Mr. Isaiah Mustafa, the “I’m on a horse” guy of Old Spice commercial fame, up to similarly humorous antics that made him famous. In the video, a shirtless Isaiah comes striding purposefully through a parking lot, blindfolded, as a shlubbier man is seen fumbling around with the auto-locker on his keychain, aimlessly trying to find his car in a veritable sea of vehicles. Isaiah, on the other hand, succeeds in finding his own car whilst blindfolded, slides into the passenger seat, pulls down his blindfold as he mugs to the camera, and proceeds to back out of his parking spot whilst making a beeping noise.

Suddenly, text flashes on the screen as a deep, rugged voice says, “Real men have a sense of direction.” Then…”Real men don’t buy girls.”A screenshot of Isaiah’s mugging face is then digitally framed, and the camera pans to similarly poor digitally framed photos of other famous men in the entertainment business with a plaque under each photo that reads, “Real Man.” Pictures of Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and other men I don’t recognize “hang” on the walls of a CGI room as Eva Longoria appears to inform viewers that, “Pete Cashmore is a real man; are you?”. Finally, a cut to a screen that somehow relates to the campaign cause – amidst links to make your own “Real Man” video, identify yourself as a “real man” or someone who “prefers are a real man”, and the site demiandashton.org, a small banner line at the top reads, “Take a Stand Against Child Sex Slavery.”

Child sex slavery? That’s what the video was about? Who is Pete Cashmore? What does he even have to do with child sex slavery? Maybe I just wasn’t “getting it”. Across the room, my partner looked up from his gender studies textbook to see my bewildered face. After inquiring as to what the matter was, I asked him to come re-watch the video with me. Lo and behold, he didn’t get it either. I watched a practical play-by-play reaction of how I felt when I watched the video the first time around play out on his face. First, a smile. Then, a chuckle. Then… “What? Wait…what?” And now he had the same bewildered look on his face as I did.

In researching the website, I found this was an ad campaign sponsored by the Demi and Ashton Foundation, also known as “DNA”. Quips about their cleverly named foundation aside, their focus is to raise awareness of child sex slavery, and these two fading stars have rallied all their celebrity friends together in an effort to achieve their goals. Raising awareness of child sex slavery? I’m all for it, but given that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing, and the surprising lack of public awareness about the pervasiveness of trafficking cases in and around Portland, the more effort aimed at public awareness as the first step towards eradication of the problem is more than welcome. However, this viral video campaign leaves much to be desired, with misplaced humor overshadowing an important message that isn’t getting across to the viewer. Not only that, but as my partner pointed out, even the slogan is lacking. Unfortunately, many people who happen across the slogan, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” will not understand the message implicit in this vague statement.

But how many people will come across the message that DNA (ugh) is trying to send out? Apparently, this campaign has been up and active since September 2010, and yet only by random chance and extreme boredom I found out about it. Considering the budget that they must have to work with, one would think that they’d go on the media warpath trying to get their message heard. Much of their budgetary habits don’t seem to make sense, however. Consider how sharp the quality of the filming seems to be during the “funny” bits, but suddenly cuts to poor green screen capabilities and a low-budget look once the video actually gets to even vaguely talking about the cause at hand.

Every single video in the series follows a similar pattern. You can visit http://demiandashton.org/videos to see the celebrity videos included in this campaign. Another drawback to the campaign is finding the whole collection of videos is surprising difficult to do—Google results for “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls videos” only reveals social media sites reporting on the campaign, with a few videos embedded in the article, tops. This in itself is truly a shame, because if other websites are the most common way people are finding out about the “Real Men” campaign, they will be even less likely to find out information regarding the realities of child sex trafficking. Even though the end of the video includes a small mention of the official DNA website, clicking on the video directly links you to their Facebook page instead, which is bereft of the pertinent information included on the official site, such as survivor stories, facts and statistics, and media coverage of the issue. Going from the Facebook page to the official website just adds another link in the chain between the time when an individual first clicks “play” on a “Real Man” video to the time they actually learn a thing or two about the truth of child sex trafficking.

Please watch a video or two to come to your own conclusion about the usefulness behind this video campaign. But more than that, I would encourage you to look into the real story about child sex trafficking, and become aware of the fact that this is an issue that affects every community. One site that I find very intriguing is http://slaverymap.org/, which highlights the point that slavery is a real, local issue—one that could even permeate your own neighborhood. The information revealed behind each documented case of slavery, no matter how brief, adds the pathos and realism sorely lacking the “Real Men” videos. The break in a case that was revealed in SW Portland occurred when, “…a man who paid for sex took pity on the 13-year-old and let her use a cell phone to call home. That call led the girl to call 911, reaching Portland police.” This simple statement says what the “Real Men” video campaign never does – that child sex slavery is no laughing matter.

And more than anything, getting out there to fight against sex trafficking commits you to the kind of pledge DNA is hoping the public can commit to, a pledge to stand up to the forces behind slavery in an effort to see its end. The DNA website gives great tips to start in the fight, by flagging Internet content which promotes the act of sex trafficking and slavery. Because the Internet is such an immense source of propagation in this day and age, making the effort to flag inappropriate on Craigslist and Facebook, and reporting websites to www.cybertipline.com can make a world of difference. To get involved in the fight on a personal level, Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH) has a wealth of information about how to get involved locally on their website, . And word is floating around that a new PSU student group, Students Against Human Trafficking, is in the works. Be sure to keep an open ear for any news related to this blossoming opportunity.

Written by Lacey Moore

Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebrating Our Awesome TBTN Volunteers!

Last week Take Back the Night took place thanks to the devoted work of a number of WRC volunteers, particularly co-chairs Elena Maurer and Kari Anne McDonald. Both have been involved in the WRC for a number of years and were excited to increase their leadership responsibilities here. Elena began in spring of 2009 as a front desk volunteer and has also participated in The Vagina Monologues. Kari Anne, who now is our publicist, began her involvement in spring of 2008 after taking her first women’s studies class and discovering feminism. Planning this event is a culmination of their PSU experience, as they both plan to graduate within the year. Elena will graduate with a degree in Women’s Studies and Psychology while Kari Anne will with a degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies and has been accepted to the Master’s in Public Administration program here for the fall. When asked what their most memorable experiences here were, they both expressed a love for having become a immersed in the WRC community vis-à-vis planning this event.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Victim Blaming and Rape Myths in the Media

Finally, it is almost April! That means that it is the start of Sexual Assault Awareness month. I graduate at the end of this quarter and thought it was important to use my voice as a tool to raise awareness for a month that is so important. I recently came across an article on Jezebel.com, Media Blows It With Pathetic Gang Rape Coverage which discussed the New York Times reprehensible coverage of this story. The article ultimately blames the 11 year old victim in the case instead of the 18 men arrested in connection to the rape.

The first idea that I wanted to touch on is about how young girls are sexualized in our media. They are sexualized to be and act older than they are. Some quotes from the article from the New York Times included,
“she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s”
as if she was raped because of the way she looked. This is one of the many rape myths perpetrated by our mainstream media, it really irritates me. Young women are constantly receiving mixed messages from our media of how they should look and act. Younger women are targeted consumers to look older (like someone in their 20’s) so that they look more mature and hence more desirable. Older women are consumers who are targeted to look younger ( like someone in their 20’s) so that they look more desirable. This basically creates a dynamic that something is wrong with human beings if they are not in their 20’s. Having said that, when young women are raped they are constantly ridiculed and blamed by what they are wearing or look like. This is completely unrealistic with all of these mixed messages being portrayed in our media. We are supposed to look like we are “asking” for it, say the media, yet if we become the target of sexual assault and rape we were “asking” for it which is inappropriate and makes us a bad person.

The article goes on to talk about what will happen to the perpetrators life in the community because of all this, rather than clearly looking at the issue here. A young girl was raped, and the New York Times is doing everything in their power to create sympathy for the perpetrators that committed the crime. We are spending more time looking at the issue of what the 11 year old was wearing, who her friends are, what she does in her free time, how she presents herself in the world and where her parents where than considering the atrocious crime committed. We are looking at all of these details and making excuses for these boys so that their lives are not ruined. Too many times is this portrayed in the media that a woman was raped because she was a “slut”. This brings me to my next argument which is why women are called “sluts”. This word is associated with such negativity, this socially constructed word that means that a woman has sex with too many people. Since when can this word dictate who we are and what we, as women, want to do with our life? As women, are we allowed to do what we want? Aren’t we able to use our brains to make the decisions that support and reflect what our values and beliefs are?

This article is the epitome of victim blaming and goes to great lengths to make excuses as to why the men raped the 11 year old girl. It goes from blaming her for her looks, to blaming her mother. When is it time to understand that this is a little girl, who needs to be reassured that this is not her fault? When will sexual assault and rape cases stop victim blaming and instead provide informative resources and help to assure this girl that nothing she did was wrong. These boys committed a horrible crime and no matter whom you are rape is unacceptable and we should be focusing on the atrocity of the crime not the ruined future lives of the perpetrators.

Written By: Jenny Lange

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Most Rape Cases Are About Consent, Not DNA | Womens eNews

The backlog of untested rape kits causes continuous outcry among women's advocates. Wendy Murphy says this focuses on the wrong issue because most rape cases are about consent, not who did it.Most Rape Cases Are About Consent, Not DNA | Womens eNews

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Empowerment Project Video

Aria and Jo Vlog

Did You Really Just Say That?

A monologue by Laura Lines.

Originally, I wanted to talk about vibrators, and how they’ve impacted my life in a positive way,as true as that is, and as much as I’d like to go on about my pretty little toys, I’ve given it some thought,and got to thinking that there’s something more important I wish to talk about. Sure, masturbationmight get touched upon (And I SO intended the pun, I’m not gonna lie.) but there’s a few things thatneed to be said.

You see, I’ve known in my mind about the myths, urban legends, lies, deceptions, and fuckingstupidity some people believe about sex. I know that I don’t have to have sex with a guy just because heclaims his cock will explode. Hello! NEWSFLASH! It’s not going to explode. Use your hand. I’ve got aheadache.

Seriously! The drivel that comes out of some people’s mouths? I’m pretty sure that they believeit because somebody else told them, it’s what they grew up with, and they don’t bother to do theresearch for themselves!

During my teen years, I feel like I had a pretty comprehensive sex education. Learningthat “making love” doesn’t require doing it, stimulating one’s own genitals is perfectly acceptable, andthat there are at least a hundred ways to say “no” to sex were just a few things that stuck with me. Andyet, there are people who would argue that I’m wrong in believing things like that.
My ex-husband’s mother was a prime example of this. Before the wedding, she was talking tome about birth control, and I told her that we didn’t have to have sex after we were married. Herresponse? “You do too!” She went on to say that it was my job to please my husband blah blah blah. Ok,sex can be fun, but so can air hockey, roller-skating, watching movies, or climbing trees. This womanalso seemed to think masturbation was immoral. We never talked about it in depth, but I do rememberher opinion on the subject. Oh, and according to her, after marriage, my body belonged to my husband,and his to me. Whisky! Tango! Foxtrot! A marriage license is not an all-access pass to anybody’s body!And if there isn’t mutual consent, then it’s rape, and rape is a lot of things, but sexy isn’t one of them.

Later, I dated a guy who only wanted to fool around—nothing else. Never really listened to me,or my beliefs. Oh no. Let’s pressure me to fool around and then afterwards say “Now, wasn’t that nicerthan air hockey?” Um, no, actually, it wasn’t. And by the way? You’re a horrible kisser. K thanks.

This same guy pulled the “my dick is so hard I can’t get up, so you’ll have to fuck me” trick.Seriously? Did you break your hand, or something? Keep it down. I’m trying to sleep. It’s like 4 AM.

And here’s the best story of all! One guy I dated—during a trip we took together—bought
douche and slipped it in my suitcase. DOUCHE!?! Are you fucking kidding me!?! Do you even know whatthat does to a woman’s reproductive system? Try pelvic inflammatory disease. I’d never put that shit inmy vagina. It gets as clean as it needs to be in the shower. Don’t you dare tell me how to care for mygenitals. It’s my vagina, ya hear? I decide how to clean it, how to pleasure it, and who touches it. Don’t try to preach to me about the urban myths and lies out there. Don’t even deliver it to me.