‘work’

Call for Bloggers!

The Where is Your Line blog wants you!

Are you passionate about sex and sexuality, as well as sexual health and safety? Are you excited about reaching out to other people, creating a community and fostering a deeper understanding of sexual agency and consent? Are you up-to-date on the political, societal and cultural forces that impact these issues? Are you curious to explore the far-reaching connections of sex, gender, race and class as they shape our understanding of sexuality?

Do you know where your Line is?

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The Line Needs YOU: seeking MANAGING EDITOR for WIYL blog.

I’ve been working here at the Line for some time now, but I’ve really only recently been struck hard by the fact that, well, The Line Campaign is important. With every screening we do, and every person we touch, we open the floor to new voices, opinions and increments of effort towards winning the fight. And when I say ‘the fight’ I don’t just mean an end to violence against women, but ending preconceptions about sex, desire and relationships – because things just aren’t that simple. This is is a forum to complicate, a channel to different points of view.

A few weeks ago, I read about the Long Island murders, and it was written that someone said – ‘when a reporter asked, ‘What can sex workers do to prevent violence?’ I said, ‘Well, maybe people could not kill us.” I cried because she told a story about a feeling that I felt too. I realised then that I joined The Line as an intern last year not just because I wanted to share my story, but because I wanted to help others tell theirs. When Latoya Peterson in her interview talked about bringing feminism to different, other worlds, it rang true for me, but this certainly wasn’t the case for others. That kind of difference is what makes this place unique – Nancy’s commitment to storytelling rings true and has been the reason such a diversity of voices have an opportunity to contribute to better understanding how and why we should care about these issues – whether reproductive justice, street harassment or sexual assault. That’s what this blog is for, a space where each person’s words, however arranged, matter. It’s important that it continue.

I’ve learned so much and had so much fun as managing editor of the WIYL blog over the past couple of months! Unfortunately, as I move on to graduate school, and begin pursuing other projects in community building in the literary arts, I’ll have a limited amount of time – and have had to make the sad decision to leave my post here.

And so, we’re looking for our next managing editor – someone invested in listening to stories and making sure they get them out there for others to read! We’re looking for you to become a leader in this community, to rally passion, relate it to our message, and foster always, more conversation in social media.

Responsibilities will include:

- managing a team of bloggers and creating their schedule

- finding news stories and relevant events to suggest to bloggers for coverage

- working to ensure a steady flow of content, on schedule

- editing and copyediting posts before publication

- researching news sources and ensuring you stay on top of current events

- keeping everyone excited and ‘on message’

Qualifications:

- enthusiasm, patience and creativity

- familiarity with wordpress and social media (twitter, facebook, myspace, tumblr)

- an open mind to all kinds of stories, opinions and experiences

- ability to juggle multiple tasks under deadline

- ability to communicate clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing

- ability to work independently and with minimal supervision

- comfortable working on outreach to guest bloggers

- passionate, dedicated, and hoping to have fun

I can’t recommend working with our team enough, because stories are important, and I believe that if we keep telling them relentlessly, we’re sure to be heard.

If you’re interested, please contact Nancy and me at thelinemovie [at] gmail [dot] com, with ATTN: Trisha Low in the subject line. Provide us with a sense of your experience, your background, and why you want to help. No official requirements insisted upon apart from strong organisational ability and desire to stay current and keep delivering great content. This position provides a small stipend, but is rewarding and provides opportunities to work with activists, artists and youth. Managing editor can be located anywhere and work is estimated to be 5-7 hours a week.

Badass-Activist Friday presents: LORI ADELMAN of Feministing and International Women’s Health Coalition

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

Feminism is an wide-ranging movement, and we at WIYL feel it’s so important to include activists working to broaden our perspectives and work in negotiating the complexity of intersectional oppressions, making the voices of marginalised groups heard. For this mini-series, we’ll be focusing on men and women who critique the gender hierarchy across all boundaries – cultures, race, age and medium.

So without further ado…

Here’s Lori Adelman of Feministing and International Women’s Health Coalition !

lori

Lori Adelman is a writer, blogger, and advocate for global health and rights. She works as an Associate at the International Women’s Health Coalition, where she edits and writes for Akimbo, the IWHC blog, and helps develop and implement communications strategies to influence international policy and build local capacity in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She is also a regular contributor at Feministing.com and TheGrio.com. Prior to joining IWHC, Lori worked in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, where she lent support to a U.S. tour that raised awareness about the obstruction of access to legal abortion after rape in Mexico. You can find her on Twitter, handle @Lori_Adelman.


We’ve faced many challenges to our reproductive health over the past couple of weeks – and it’s hard to imagine a world wherein women’s rights to their own bodies aren’t challenged. Can you talk a little about your work with IWHC, particularly how you work to progress sexual and reproductive rights more globally? Why is this important?

I feel both consumed with rage about attacks on women’s health and autonomy (which have been getting lots of attention recently but are certainly not new), and ridiculously privileged to be able to work to counter them, in my day job as an advocate and also as a blogger and writer.

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) is this amazing organization that I discovered out of college. It works to promote and protect sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH), particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And it does so by employing a unique model of partnership with grassroots organizations who are doing this work all over the world at the local, regional, and international level. So it’s a “coalition” in every sense; a movement, really.

I feel so lucky to be part of this transnational, progressive, feminist organization that practices what it preaches. The work is so important and dear to my heart because of what you mentioned in your question- the opposition we face is strong, unrelenting, and highly organized, so we need to be even moreso. Everybody deserves to live a free, fulfilled, healthy life. I don’t think I would be able to feel that I myself was living a fully self-realized life, as a woman, as a person of color, unless I was working to help others achieve this ideal as their reality.

Cultural relativity is an issue that is difficult to deal with, particularly when trying help achieve rights for women internationally. Can you speak to how you feel about this issue, and if you have any qualms with the way advocacy operates – does it follow a westernised ideal?

This is a great question, and one I spend a lot of time thinking about.

I think it’s really easy for activist spaces to fall in line with and begin to mirror the structure of oppressive systems that exist in the rest of the world. That’s why it’s so important, as activists, as advocates, and as feminists, to work and speak with communities, not for or on behalf of them. IWHC supports local leaders so they can implement what they know works best. Our support helps partners to more effectively distribute and implement their own message, not some westernized version. And at Feministing, we’re constantly working to provide a platform for others to share their own stories, and to be heard. I’m not saying I have all the answers, or that I’ve found a secret way to engage with people that completely eliminates all traces of systematic coercion or discrimination of any kind. Because the history there goes back a long way. But I’m saying that I believe it’s crucial to derive strategy and demand meaningful participation from the communities and people whose health and lives are at stake, and I try my hardest to live and work by that.

Are your personal experiences and identity important to your activism? Can you speak a little more as to how or why?

Absolutely. In its earliest stages, as is the case for many people, my own feminism was very much tied to my local surroundings: my hometown, my friends, my high school.

I went to a big public school, where I was very alone in my feminist beliefs, save for a few close friends of mine. And I’ll never forget, in 9th grade, experiencing my high school’s version of “sex ed” which consisted of, among other things, being asked to consume a bag of Cheeto’s, then gulp up a glassful of water, swoosh it around in my mouth, and spit it back into the glass. As my classmates and I looked at the unappealing orange flecks that had been transferred to the water, we were matter-of-factly told that when you have sex, you are exchanging bodily fluids, and the more partners you have, the more flecks you pick up in your “glass of water”. Though I found myself reeling at the image along with my classmates, a part of me questioned the foundation of the exercise and wondered how such an abstract and shaming image could help give me the tools I needed to navigate my sex life safely and pleasurably.

Since high school, I’ve learned that although of course our experiences at the local level, in our own communities, are our own, they do not exist in a bubble. I am just one small part of an entire global movement of people mobilizing for change around issues related to health, rights, and justice.

Feministing is a wonderful online community where you get to make feminist issues more accessible to internet-savy feminists, particularly youth. Do you think blogging and social networking technology is particularly important to feminism right now, and why?

Feministing, and particularly the writing of Jessica, Vanessa, Courtney, Samhita, Perez, and Ann, had so much to do with my evolution as a writer and activist. So I’m totally honored to be able to write for the site on a regular basis now. And to answer your question, yes, absolutely: blogging and social networking technology is particularly important to feminism right now because of the role it plays in consciousness raising. There was a time when “the problem with no name”- the problem of injustice- was experienced uber-personally, almost shamefully, often alone and in secret or in small groups of women. Now it’s named, discussed publicly, and countered in some of the smartest, funniest, most interesting and most culturally relevant ways imaginable on a daily basis, for all to see. That doesn’t mean these issues are automatically solved, but it’s certainly an important step forward.

The feminist blogosphere can get, like much of the internet, antagonist and unnecessarily personal – the recent slew of feminist commentors criticising Jezebel.com’s editor-ship and the commodification of the ‘feminist’ demographic is interesting. How do you feel about this flip side of feminist blogging? How can we make sure we are participating as respectfully as we can?

I feel wary of this “flip side”. It is off-putting, insular, and counter-productive. I recently wrote a piece called “How to Respectfully Disagree with Naomi Wolf” because I was so upset over how she was being attacked over the whole Assange/Wikileaks fiasco, even though I thoroughly disagreed with her stance. As I mentioned in that piece, I think it can be easy to get carried away as a feminist blogger and get lost in expressing solely rage, indignance, and outrage. Certainly those feelings are valid, especially with some of the things that are going on in today’s world. But as bloggers like Sady Doyle have so eloquently exposed, those aren’t the only things that should drive our activism. Being a contrarian may invite controversy and generate traffic, but is that the ultimate goal? If we truly want to push the agenda forward, we have to hold each other to a higher standard.

How does your work at IWHC inform your work as a blogger? Are there areas where these are incompatible, or where one is at odds with the other?

I blog both for the IWHC blog Akimbo as well as Feministing, and I also write for TheGrio.com, a news site geared towards an African-American audience. They are all drastically different spaces! I love being able to be a part of all three, because blogging for an organization’s blog is completely different than blogging for a large media corporation, which is completely different than blogging as part of a non-hierarchical self-described group of independent activists. Each of these spaces has its place on the internet, and I’m lucky to work with people who support my involvement in each of these spaces.

We at WIYL believe that blogging is the best way to encourage young feminists to get interested in and inspired by activism – do you have any words of advice for them?

Be courageous with your story. I truly believe in the radical, subversive, powerful, and progressive nature of being honest and thoughtful about race, class, identity, and politics in public.

Badass-Activist Friday presents AIMEE THORNE-THOMSEN of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

It’s Friday, and we all know what that means! Interviews with your favorite badass feminists and activists. Whether social media queens and kings, creative artists, sex educators, or just kick-ass personalities, these people harness righteous anger, instigate movements and inspire culture change. We’re here to honor them and their work, but more importantly, to highlight how we can all get up, plug in, and Just Start Doing.

Feminism is an wide-ranging movement, and we at WIYL feel it’s so important to include activists working to broaden our perspectives and work in negotiating the complexity of intersectional oppressions, making the voices of marginalised groups heard. For this mini-series, we’ll be focusing on men and women who critique the gender hierarchy across all boundaries – cultures, race, age and medium.

So, without further ado…

Our first activist in this series is the admirable Aimee Thorne-Thomsen of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and previously of The Pro-Choice Public Education Project!

ARTT photo

Aimee Thorne-Thomsen brings her passion and extensive experience in coalition-building, leadership development and communications to the reproductive justice movement. Currently
she serves as the Interim Executive Director for the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, dedicated to supporting LGBTI organizations around the world working for racial, economic and social justice. Before that, Aimée was the Executive Director of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP), where her work focused on creating spaces for and elevating the voices of young women, transgender and gender non-confirming young people in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Under her leadership, PEP completed 2 ground-breaking research reports on young women of color on sexual and reproductive health and rights. She has spoken around the country these issues, their impact on young women, and women of color.

The Pro-Choice Public Education Project is dedicated to building an inclusive reproductive justice movement by raising the voices of young women, transgender, and gender non-conforming young people – something incredibly admirable and necessary if the movement is going to have longevity in the future. Can you talk about why you think there are certain groups of women whose voices are less audible, and if the feminist movement is doing enough to ensure they are heard?

I think ultimately it’s about power and oppression. Young women, especially young women of color and LBTQ folks, are often left out of discussions, organizing and movement work because they are seen as having little-to-no power. And that is based on oppression – racism, ageism, classism, homophobia, ableism, etc. I can’t speak for the feminist movement as a whole, because I think there are multiple feminist movements. That said, I don’t think any of the feminist movements that I am aware of do enough to lift the voices of young people, especially more marginalized communities of young people.

How has technology helped with your activism? Considering the use of technology is an economic privilege, to some extent, do you think the online activism that has been lauded as being far-reaching in fact necessary marginalises certain groups, particularly of youth?

Technology in its broadest sense, has indeed broadened the reach of reproductive justice ideas, the framework and therefore, the movement as a whole. There is a certain economic privilege in accessing technology, and yet certain technology (like cell phones) are ubiquitous. A lot of research has shown that cell phones is the main way that young people, especially people of color, access the internet.

Can you talk a little more about your experiences as a woman of colour and an activist? Was there a time where you felt your issues were being overlooked by the greater majority, and how your identity and personal experiences play into your activism?

My personal life and my multiple identities are the basis of all my activism. My earliest activist experiences sprung out of my experiences with multiple oppressions, especially around class, gender and race. As I’ve grown older, I am much more aware of my own privilege. I have tried to build bridges across to other movements where I can be an ally (such as immigrants’ rights and LGBTQ liberation) and link issues across movements

Reproductive justice seems to be one of the fights that we keep having to repeat, and I feel we have to constantly assert our right to ownership over our own bodies because politicians exploit this particular women’s issue as a tool to other ends. Can you tell us your views on the recent Planned Parenthood fiasco? How do you think we can keep moving ahead with reproductive justice despite the setbacks that keep appearing?

The fight for reproductive justice is ongoing, just as the struggle for human rights is ongoing. What I mean by that, is we should not believe that we will one day win this fight, and we’ll never have to go back and reinforce the achievement of these basic rights. Despite the tremendous strides of the Civil Rights Movement in the US, we still are working through the implementation of and protection of those rights. Reproductive health, rights and justice should be seen through a similar prism. The struggle for reproductive justice is not just about bodily autonomy; it’s also about our rights to create our families of our own choosing, our ability to express our gender(s) and sexuality freely and free from violence. For me, reproductive justice is ultimately about reclaiming power and transforming that power so that all women, men and children have the access to the resources they need to lead healthy lives.

In order to advance reproductive justice, we need people who are focused on short-term fights and a long-term vision. Our political opponents are well-funded and have a long-established infrastructure. We don’t have that. What we do have is our communities. Reproductive Justice comes out of the lived experiences of our families and our communities, and it is an affirming, positive vision for the future. We need secure the funding and develop the infrastructure in order to lift up the perspectives of our communities in terms of identifying the problems and the solutions.

As for Planned Parenthood, I am not surprised by the attacks on them. This has been coming for a long time. I am pleased, however, that so many people in different spheres have come out and affirmed the need for Planned Parenthood and the work they do. I stand with Planned Parenthood and am glad that so many others do too.

The Pro-Choice Public Education Project is one of the greatest resources for reproductive justice and includes legal information – do you think this is particularly important? Why?

Because of oppression and educational access (along with other factors), many young people don’t know that they do have rights. Many women, especially immigrant women, don’t know that abortion is legal in this country, for example. It’s important that we reach out and share this information who have not traditionally had access to it.

You work with a great variety of youth and activists from all perspectives – does this make it difficult to negotiate goals? How can we best locate common target areas and foster understanding?

I’ve never thought of it that way, to be honest. Our work at PEP was to locate the voices of young women, particularly young women of color, queer youth, and gender-non-conforming in the sexual and reproductive health and rights arenas. Sometimes that meant sharing multiple points of view around an issue, such as abortion. We wanted to enlarge the conversations around reproductive justice to not only include young people, but also to acknowledge them as experts and leaders in the work as well. That didn’t always lend itself to establishing simple, clear goals. In fact, sometimes our work was to make things messier and to not sacrifice the voices of some young people to advance the voices of others.

I’ve done most of my reproductive justice work in coalition. The most successful partnerships have been those where all the people impacted by the issues were included in the conversation. When it comes to youth and young people, it’s often older adults who are talking about young people, and more often than not, problematizing and stigmatizing their behavior. A better option is to have young people at the table, setting the agenda, leading the conversation and developing solutions to the problem. In other words, we need young people involved at every stage of the reproductive justice movement in multiple roles and speaking for themselves from their own experiences.

Identifying common goals and fostering understanding requires trust.
And trust requires clear, respectful communication and some sense of a mutual vision.

How do you think we, as young activists and students can best make a difference in terms of inclusivity and reproductive justice?

I am not sure what you mean by inclusivity. I’ve been in situations where I was included and still not heard or respected. So I don’t think in terms of inclusivity. My goal is transforming power and locating young people at the center of the struggle for reproductive justice. There are many avenues for young people to engage in this fight, and I think they should find the ones that resonate most for them. Whether its creating awareness through online media, campus and community events, tools or organizing for community resources, comprehensive sex education or a piece of legislation, we need the voices and skills of young people EVERYWHERE.

Everyone can do something. Talk to your friends and family about these issues. Volunteer at an organization like Choice USA, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum and others. Use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media platforms to educate yourself and others about the issues, AND add your perspective to the discussions so that young people’s voices are heard. Write to your representative about legislation (both good and bad). Vote. Start your own collective, network or organization. In other words, do whatever you need to do to make yourself heard!!!

women’s work // women’s hands.

bryce headshot

Hello, I’m Bryce and I’ve been dedicated to writing and feminism for longer than I can remember. I’ve most recently put those things together in writing for The Lady Finger and as a guest blogger at Gender Across Borders. I also work as an editor at a progressive economics blog and previously worked as a financial reporter, so I’m very interested in the way women’s issues intersect with the economy, the workplace, and the recession. I’m excited to join Where Is Your Line so that I can write about those themes and others that relate to gender and sexuality.

My line is crossed whenever sexism isn’t challenged, when women are pigeonholed, and when a woman feels disempowered because of her gender.

Strong New Voice, Seeking Others!

Hello everyone,  I am so happy to be introducing myself!  My name is Marisa and I am a new blogger for whereisyourline.org! I am a twenty-year-old political science and women, gender, sexuality studies major at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts.  At UMass, I volunteer as a rape crisis counselor/advocate at the Everywoman’s Center.  As a rape crisis counselor/advocate, I take calls on the hotline as well as provide legal and medical advocacy for survivors of sexual assault.  This has been an amazing experience and has truly changed my life.

I have been a dedicated feminist for as long as I can remember.  I believe my feminism came about when I began reading books by Tamora Pierce in the third grade.  Tamora Pierce writes fantasy novels for young adults that not only have strong female protagonists (whose professions are often knight or mage!) but also contain strong feminist social commentary.  After reading these wonderful books as a child and really starting to think about what it meant for me to be a girl, I heard the word “feminist” in the eighth grade.  Suddenly I had a name for the thoughts I was thinking and a whole new world was opened up to me.  I have known for a long time I wanted to make activism my life.  Through one of my passions (reading dorky novels) I was able to discover my new passion for feminism.

I love writing, and I am so excited to get started blogging here. I am always looking to hear from other feminists, so I’m looking forward to hearing from you all!

Talk the Talk: AAUW Happy Hours

The American Association for University Women (AAUW) is committed to all the things we love – equity for women through advocacy, philanthropy and research. To breaking economic barriers so women can get the education they deserve. Right now, they’ve formed a nationwide network of more than 100,000 members and donors that are committed to working to ensure that all women and girls have a fair chance. And most importantly, they believe in dialogue, the powers of peer-education and choice.

The AAUW wants to learn from you, about you – what you find important as women about the enter the professional world. Which issues – educational, social, economic, and political mean the most to you, and why? For me, dialogue among women is one of the best ways to grow as a feminist and an activist – to have to defend what means the most to you, or convince others of the fact, but most importantly to learn how to accept and understand the views of others. And if I know anything about the feminists in DC or NYC, the one common belief they all share is that it’s much better to have these conversations with a drink in hand, rather than at a debate. These are issues that affect our daily lives, so why not make the conversations about them an enjoyable part of our social lives, too?

So, as AAUW proposes – Tuesdays. ‘Not as manic as Mondays, or as relieving as hump day and certainly not as fun as Friday. Until Now’. The lovely women of the association will be running a once-a-monthly happy hour at local bars and restaurants that have either a female executive chef or entrepreneur or have previously demonstrated support for women’s issues. Furthermore, they will be raffling off items donated from local boutiques owned by women in order to spotlight women’s businesses. A multi- functional even if anything – sip discounted cocktails, meet the lovely ladies of the AAUW, bicker with feminist friends, and perhaps even buy something nice to help another girl out.

Your views are important – especially since issues of sexual assault and violence can make universities a high-risk zone, and relationships and communication have the half-lives of about a minute and keep evolving into more complex creatures. So do go! These happy hours start November 9th at Grand Central in Washington DC from 6pm to 8pm – ‘No panel, no power point, no pressure. Just cocktails and convos.’. If we were in DC, we’d be there in a second.

What can Craigslist do to end human trafficking?

This is not censorship.

This weekend, Craigslist blocked access to its “adult services” section in response to requests from 17 states attorneys general to shut down the adult ads and improve screening tactics elsewhere in the site.  The requests were due to concerns of illegal prostitution and unchecked human trafficking, especially trafficking of children into the sex trade.   In a dramatic flair, Craigslist covered the adult services link with a black “censored” bar.

A bastion of civil liberty?  Probably not.

Bad PR?  Oh, yes.

Craigslist has the right to publish adult ads under a federal law called the Communications Decency Act, but they don’t have the right to knowingly facilitate nonconsensual sex encounters with trafficked victims.  The small company has been pretty quiet about the issue since first modifying its policy on adult ads in 2009, and this “censorship” hoopla is likely to exacerbate a situation that could have easily been resolved with a simple press release detailing revised monitoring standards.  One contentious issue is how to prevent human traffickers from exploiting victims through adult ads on Craigslist and other online platforms for sex.

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Mad Men and Rape

Photo via AMC TV.

Confession: I have hopped aboard the A-line skirt and Gimlet bandwagon and am completely addicted to Mad Men. More specifically, though, Christina Hendricks, who plays fiery secretary Joan Holloway, is a solid source of intrigue. The curves! The sass! I find the way that character carries herself and flaunts her confidence sexy and enviable, and Hendricks is also the focus of one of the most resonating and powerful scenes in the show: the episode where Joan is raped.

In this episode, Joan’s fiance drops by the office after hours to visit her. Upon his suggestion, she reluctantly takes him on a tour of her boss’s office, where he begins to kiss her. Joan hesitates, playfully pushing him away, telling him that she doesn’t want to have sex. His advances become stronger (as does her resistance)- until he finally pushes her on the ground, violently hikes up her skirt, and renders Joan’s attempts to stop him into resigned passivity. She lies on her back, emptily staring into the middle distance.

At first I was upset, shocked, and frustrated that the writers completely dropped the rape subplot. But Joan’s silence, and her unwillingness to fault her fiance for his actions (they eventually wed), reflect the stories of thousands of survivors and tell a larger story about women and sexuality.

Christina Hendricks, in an interview for British GQ, described her favorite scene from Mad Men. She mentioned the scene in which Joan, while conducting a focus group for lipsticks, uses a two-way mirror to reveal just as much of her body to the onlooking men on the other side as she chooses. “She’s controlling the women – she has more knowledge than them – and she’s also manipulating the men at the same time,” Hendricks said. While Joan is hardly a feminist, she has a deliberateness to her sexuality. Though she is working within the misogynistic confines of the office, she still finds a way to be treated with respect by the men inside of it, conveying an unstoppable strength as she struts from desk to desk. She is also a proudly sexual being, comfortable with her body and okay with having flings with coworkers because she wants to. But when she doesn’t want to, as we see in the scene with her fiance, that power that she holds becomes her downfall. The look in her eyes as she is pinned to the office floor perfectly conveys that sense of betrayal.

Women today are still in Joan’s office. We are often told that our worth stems only from our bodies, our beauty,  and our willingness to be sexual objects. We often try to reach, against our better judgement, the ideals of our society- and they are thrown back in our faces when we are raped or sexually assaulted. Our outfits, demeanor, and looks are often used to justify our worst experiences.

Joan’s rape, and the context surrounding it, is no different from what we experience, and must fight against, today.

American University, Assault & Activism

500_AU EagleIt has been a long time since students at my college were organized, cooperative, and angry. But I go to American University, and our school paper, The Eagle, is infamous for publishing inflammatory and often antagonistic opinion pieces by a staff columnist- and last week, the columnist chose to write about sexual assault and date rape.

I’ve been working with Women’s Initiative, a campus group, and have regularly had to respond to pieces published by The Eagle and mobilize others to do so. At the beginning of September, the paper published the first of a regular series on sex and dating that told women at AU not to worry about drunk hookups: to think of situations where you couldn’t decipher where you were and what was happening as a growing experience, and not as assault. The column was chilling. In response I launched (con)sensual, a campaign based in artwork and social media that spreads knowledge of and encourages the practice of verbal consent in any and all sexual interactions. I’ve worked closely with THE LINE Campaign since last summer, and wanted to use my experience to begin an open dialogue on campus. I worked with campus organizers on getting the posters in residence halls and bathrooms and further mobilized and collaborated with other groups on speakers and events.

For this reason, words could not explain the frustration I felt when I discovered “Dealing with AU’s anti-sex brigade.” The article proposed a number of claims: that date rape was not a valid crime, that straight women deserved rape for going to parties, and that rape was an innate action and an unimportant issue. The Eagle was at it again! The author stated:

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!

I was horrified by the piece and its publication. I immediately worked on a letter for the editors, and submitted a rewrite of the entire piece that was focused on the importance of consent:

Let’s get this straight: any person who heads to a party and drinks five cups of the jungle juice is unable to provide consent. To justify manipulating someone who is inebriated, taking advantage of someone with physical threats, date-rape drugs, and coercion, and/or disregarding someone’s ability to enjoy or consent to sex is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s back and shooting it in the dark.

I drafted a petition and form letters for others to send to the editorial board. I met with a collective of activists on campus and organized a multitude of efforts to spread awareness of the article’s false and harmful claims. The petition went out later that week, and began gathering signatures. I spent the week in meetings, collaborating and spearheading efforts to work on messaging, make the activists on campus a more productive and cohesive unit, talking to the press, and even being featured on the CBS Early Show. I re-launched (con)sensual, and the new hostile environment that emerged from this article rendered a destructive welcome for the newest shipment of artwork.

We are still working, however, in the aftermath of the piece. We have used the incident to push for a full-time, professionally-staffed Women’s Resource Center, and for the university to hire a full-time sexual assault counselor. I pledged as the WI Rape Awareness & Eradication Dept. Director to stop telling women how to not get raped, and instead educate my campus about the inequalities that create violence and urge them to be a part of a progressive cultural shift to eradicate that violence.

The impact sexual harassment has on the lives of all people, and especially women, is impossible to ignore. Rape is one of the most underreported crimes, and sexual assault is likely to occur to over 25 percent of women on every college campus. Sexual assault happens every day, and every second. For The Eagle to hold up rape excuses and justifications as journalism is revolting. The overwhelming fear of shame most women feel after being sexually assaulted is real and painful, and the memories of their rapes should not be used as tools to combat an oppressive publication. The Eagle, for too long, sold rape controversy to its readers, using it as an impetus for readership and a method to grab the attention of students. They have since apologized- but this entire incident made me aware how fleeting the tenants of respect, consent, mutuality, and communication have become on my own campus.

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