The “Pro-Life” Movement: Dangerous, Selfish, Lazy

So…362 anti-abortion bills were proposed in 2011, and over 350 have been proposed so far for 2012.

Anybody else getting nervous?

You’ve probably noticed that Planned Parenthood, a sexual health services provider for millions of people living in the USA, has come under an extreme political attack. Major threats to defund the organization, straw-man sting operations, and multiple bombings of clinics are just a few recent events in this chaotic spiral.

Planned Parenthood provides a much needed service in the United States: birth control, family planning, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings, STI prevention, HIV/AIDS services, and various other vital reproductive health services that a healthy country desperately needs access to. So why all the violence?

Because 3% of Planned Parenthood’s funds go toward abortion for accidental pregnancies.

Extremist Christian groups, under the dishonest banner of “Pro-Life”, have thus made it their top priority to shut down the entire organization that is Planned Parenthood in order to stop the abortion care. The debate about this Planned Parenthood/abortion/pro life stuff typically revolves around how we should feel about abortion.

But I think invested time and resources in that debate is futile.

Humans will never have universal feelings about abortion. We just won’t – it’s a personal issue that examines how humans feel about their own existence. Tough stuff. The sooner we become okay with having different feelings about it, the sooner we can take a look at the practical side of things….that is, the scary amounts of terrorism surrounding access to abortion. I know the word “terrorism” sounds extreme and dramatic in itself, but if we’re going by dictionary definitions, this one fits the bill. There has been:

Continue reading

“I want Chris Brown to beat me up!!” – The Horrors of Abuse Culture

Court documents about Chris Brown’s violence against Rihanna were released last week. I’m going to warn you, this is really hard to read, and potentially triggering if you are an abuse survivor. If you can manage, I think the context is important. Full version here, but here are some pieces of it.

“Brown was driving a vehicle with Robyn F. as the front passenger on an unknown street in Los Angeles. Robyn F. picked up Brown’s cellular phone and observed a three-page text message from a woman who Brown had a previous sexual relationship with.

…When he could not force her to exit, he took his right hand and shoved her head against he passenger window of the vehicle, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion.

“Robyn F. turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand. He then drove away in the vehicle and continued to punch her in the face with his right hand while steering the vehicle with his left hand. The assault caused Robyn F.’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle.

“Brown looked at Robyn F. and stated, ‘I’m going to beat the sh– out of you when we get home! You wait and see!’

… After Robyn F. faked the call, Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’

…Brown continued to punch Robyn F. on her left arm and hand, causing her to suffer a contusion on her left triceps (sic) that was approximately two inches in diameter and numerous contusions on her left hand.

…“Brown did not know what she did with the key and began punching her in the face and arms. He then placed her in a head lock positioning the front of her throat between his bicep and forearm. Brown began applying pressure to Robyn F.’s left and right carotid arteries, causing her to be unable to breathe and she began to lose consciousness.

Let it be known that there are thousands upon thousands of cases like this. Having worked as an abuse crisis counselor for a few years, I’ve encountered hundreds myself. Rihanna is a celebrity, so this case is widely publicized, but it is a reality that every 9 seconds, a woman is assaulted or beaten in the US.

In the ensuing media shitfest of Chris Brown’s abuse, a lot of truly upsetting things have happened–all of which reflect abuse culture. Abuse culture is characterized by our society’s attitude of victim-blaming, lack of abuser accountability, permissiveness and general apathy to abuse, and resistance to acknowledging/addressing abuse in a realistic way.

(1) The first major wave was of people blaming Rihanna for getting beat up. Y’know, she had that mouth full of blood comin! There were many other forms of dismissing the abuse as well, including making light of it.

Continue reading

Slut Walk Controversy

Sup all?

I’ve been getting lots of email from folks asking for my take on the Slut Walks. I’m sure many of you have heard about these protests taking place all over the world this summer. If you haven’t, here’s the gist:

While giving a crime prevention forum a Toronto police officer proclaimed that, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In short, his comment explicitly implied that women are responsible for being raped because of the way they dress. AKA: victim blaming. AKA: slut shaming.

Let’s be clear here: no sexual harassment or rape victim is EVER responsible for the crime committed against them. Ever. Absolutely no exceptions. The blame lies with the rapist and the rapist alone. This fact is what spawned the global protests coined “Slut Walks” in which women take to the streets in any clothing they so choose to wear in order to reclaim the term “slut”.

The objectives of the Slut Walk protests are (from SlutWalk Portland):
“It’s a frightening world when one of the biggest insults you can use against a woman is her sexual freedom. SlutWalk aims to change that, as sexual freedom is absolutely a positive thing and should be treated as such. Together we are standing up as Portlanders and saying we’ve had enough of the slut shaming, enough of the victim blaming, and enough with the violence: against women, against children, against men, against people of color, against members of the LGBTQ community.

SlutWalk is equally about changing attitude around rape as it is about reclaiming slut as a positive force and embracing expressing sexuality.

How often do we hear “She was practically asking to be raped” or “Well, she shouldn’t have been dressed like that”? We aim to abolish rape culture and rape-excusing. No one ever, ever asked to be raped or assaulted. No one is ever “asking for it”, or “had it coming”.

Rape cannot be stopped by carrying your keys between your fingers or “remaining vigilant at all times”. Rape cannot be stopped by considering sex sinful or bad.

Rape can only be stopped if rapists stop raping.

The Controversy
The Slut Walks have been a divisive event amongst gender equality activists. Some say the term “slut” is better left to die than reclaimed as an empowering term. I have also read criticisms that it is just an excuse for women to bear all in public and has little to contribute in terms of the abolition of slut shaming and victim blaming. Obviously, proponents think otherwise: they assert that the term can be reclaimed for sexual empowerment and the walks will help to raise awareness about the fear and violence that globally surrounds female sexuality.

My Take
I am a strong supporter of the objectives behind the Slut Walks (obviously). Sexual violence is so astoundingly prevalent that it hurts to even think about its magnitude and effects. Let it be known: there needs to be more awareness and there needs to be change.

But something in my gut has a volatile reaction to the term slut and I personally have no desire to “reclaim” it. To be clear, I am not the type to dismiss language’s ability to be reclaimed. I, and plenty of others, have already reclaimed the word “cunt”.

What’s the difference for me between reclaiming “cunt” and reclaiming “slut”? Well, cunt refers to a body part. It was not always a shameful word, it has just become that way over time. Slut, however, does not have empowering roots in the respect of the female body and it’s amazing capacities. It has roots in sexism and misogyny. It is a quantification of what is “too much” in terms of a woman’s sexuality. The term slut explicitly implies that there are special limits for women and that, when crossed, she deserves to be degraded and put back in her place.

I see nothing to reclaim about this word. Even in reclaiming it, it still brings stigma to female sexuality. I will not call myself a slut and I do not find it empowering.

I think that a better course of action would be to help people understand that the term slut, in and of itself, is an oppressive tool. In my opinion, it would be better to assert that:

-There is nothing wrong with having lots of sex.
-The term slut is sexist and oppressive. Calling a woman a slut is sexist and oppressive.
-Women are not sluts. Men are not sluts.
-There is no “should” when it comes to consensual sex.
-Cultural shaming should not be focused on the woman/”slut” — this is victim blaming. Instead, blame those who perpetuate violence. Blame rapists.
-Let’s abandon the term “slut” and push to adopt an enlightened view of sexuality where someone’s private life and personal decisions are not stigmatized either way.

To close, just because I disagree with reclaiming “slut”, that is not to say that I don’t think the Slut Walks are harmful or pointless. I support the protests on the whole because I still think they are a good way to raise awareness around these issues. I also think that the people who are pointing fingers calling this “an excuse to bear all” are part of the problem, not the solution. The whole point is that we shouldn’t need an excuse to dress however we want. Best of luck to all those who are participating. Let’s hope you can enlighten a few.

Sorry if that was rambly. My 2 cents. What’s yours?

Who Gets Violent?

For a long time it was thought that violence is a result of low self esteem.

However, the research of Baumeister, Bushman, and Campbell offers another account. People who are violent typically have a high self esteem (that is not to say that having a high self esteem means you are violent). So, who of those with high self esteem gets violent?

Remember the tale of Narcissus? Narcissus, a Greek character, was a beautiful hunter who fell in love with his reflection in the stream. Fixated upon his image and unable to leave it, Narcissus died.

Let’s relate this back to violence. Currently, studies are showing that violence results from someone undermining a narcissist’s view of him/herself. The idea is that narcissists think so highly of themselves that the violence is way to restore that view in the face of an ego threat.

Now let’s relate this to relationships. For example, I challenge my partner’s view of himself as masculine and strong, so he punches me to prove that I am wrong, thus restoring his self image. We know that violence in relationships is extremely common. Physical violence in relationships more commonly affects women — indeed it is the leading cause of injury to women ages 15-44 in the United States. Conversely, when it comes to male populations, various forms of psychological abuse appear more prevalent. But take note, both types of abuse affect both populations.

This research suggests that the personality profile of abusers may include a high degree of narcissism. What then, does domestic violence have in common with gang violence or war?

An interdisciplinary literature review (Baumeister, Smart, and Boden, 1996) found that favorable self-regard is linked to violence in one sphere after another. Murderers, rapists, wife beaters, violent youth gangs, aggressive nations, and other categories of violent people are all marked by strongly held views of their own superiority. When large groups of people differ in self-esteem, the group with the higher self esteem is generally the more violent one.
-American Psychological Society: Does Violence Result From Low Self-Esteem or From Threatened Egotism?

I’ve been mulling over these ideas for the past couple of weeks. Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive picture of violence. For further inquiry on self-esteem and violence, check out the plethora of Baumeister’s research, the original article, or the readings below. I hope it gave you something to think about as it did for me. Thoughts? I’ll be reading.


Further Reading:
-Evil: Inside human violence and cruelty, Baumeister
-Stability and level of self-esteem as predictors of anger arousal and hostility, Grannemann
-Hate Crimes, Levin & McDevitt
-The roots of evil, Staub