8. Sex Ed... Sexual Violence Prevention... and Gender Justice

Believe women. Believe non-binary people. Believe survivors.

  1. When women say “no,” believe us that the answer is no.
  2. When women say “this isn’t good for me,” believe us that this isn’t good for us.
  3. When women say “hordes of powerful racist sexist abusive men are enacting a political agenda of mass genocide in pursuit of a white ethno-state,” believe us that, in fact, hordes of powerful racist sexist abusive men are enacting a political agenda of mass genocide in pursuit of a white ethno-state.
  4. When women say, “you aren’t listening to me,” believe us that you’re missing something.
  5. When women say, “he could just acknowledge it and apologize,” believe us that there is a reasonable possibility of apology in this situation even if you have never imagined anyone would ever apologize for perpetrating that harm.
  6. When Black women say, “White women perpetrate particular patterns of racism and racist harm that have to be stopped,” believe them that White women perpetrate particular patterns of racism and racist harm that have to be stopped. I am one of those White women, and I believe them, and I am working to stop that harmful behavior.
  7. When a trans woman of color says, “my life is being threatened and I can’t take it anymore and I need you to care about me and do something,” believe her that her life is being threatened and she can’t take it anymore and she needs you to care about her and do something. Figure out what you can do. I’ve been there before and I wish I had done more, and I’m working hard on being able to do more next time.
  8. When Black trans women say, “stop epidemic violence against us and center us in your anti-racist/ queer/ feminist organizing,” believe them that we need to stop the epidemic violence against Black trans women and center Black trans women in our anti-racist/ queer/ feminist organizing. I am one of those organizers, and I’ve seen how resources get taken away from Black trans women over and over and over again, and I’m not okay with it.
  9. When trans women say, “we are women,” believe them: trans women are women.
  10. When women who are activists say, “we are being targeted by state surveillance and unjust arrests,” believe us that we are being targeted by state surveillance and unjust arrests. And then join us in the activist work too, in spite of or maybe because of those risks.
  11. When women who are parents say, “we need housing and healthcare and childcare and public education and college scholarships and a living wage,” believe them that they and their families need all these things and more. Parents who aren’t women need them too. People who aren’t parents need them too. Just saying.
  12. When Black women say “pay Black women,” then pay Black women. And fund Black women’s organizing.
  13. When women say “I’m queer, and it’s complicated,” then believe us that we’re maybe not gay and maybe not bisexual and we are queer and it is complicated and that matters and then ask more questions if you want to learn more and then believe the answers to those questions, too.
  14. When women say, “that will hurt me,” believe us that it will hurt us, even if you do not understand how.
  15. I’m a White cisgender femme writing this, so if I said something wrong here, believe Women of Color and believe trans women and believe non-binary people over me. Please and thank you.

I could go on.

Oh, I could go on for so much longer.

What would you add?

Move your money – fund trans and queer women of color-led organizing:

Trans Women of Color Collective

Third Wave Fund

Sister Song

Astrea

The Network/ La Red

5. Connection/ Community, Charlottesville

To the fierce freedom fighters of Charlottesville: Thank you, I love you, and please take care of each other

The Rivanna River in Charlottesville

Here are some words I shared at a beautifully generous birthday/goodbye gathering that my dear friend G hosted during my last week in Cville. Thank you again to the people who were able to come to that gathering, and also to everyone who wasn’t there, I hope you know that these words are for you, too.

I never expected to fall in love with Charlottesville, and then I did.

I came to Charlottesville two years ago from Boston via New York City, very excited about my new goal of having no more than five friends. I wanted no more than five friends so I could actually see my friends multiple times a week. I couldn’t imagine a world in which I could have loads of friends and STILL actually see many of them multiple times a week.

I also came to Charlottesville with the plan to stay out of local organizing because I’d be here  for just a year or two. It was the inauguration scared me into action. Several times in January I almost packed a backpack to get on a bus back to New York City. Living alone in a small Southern city where I knew a few of my coworkers and no one else — I didn’t feel safe and I definitely didn’t feel effective in keeping anyone else safe. I thought, if something happens, or as things continue to escalate, I need to know people. I need to know the people who are ready to respond.

And then, of course, I found you. I’m deeply grateful to have found you, to have been with you as things happened and kept happening and kept escalating, and to get to know you and be a friend to you to the best of my ability.

N, thank you for bringing me here. D, D, L, G, B, L, J, A, and so many others – thank you for getting me through. Jalane, I love you, thank you for bringing your full self into my life. M and I, thank you for hanging out with me, and please remember that you have a team of people near and far ready to rally for whatever you need, and I am one of those people.

And, to all of you, thank you:

  • Thank you for being my friends.
  • Thank you for caring about me.
  • Thank you for letting me care about you.
  • Thank you for letting me fight with you.
  • Thank you for your labor and your leadership.

Now, I’m also going to ask you for some favors. Five requests, if you will.

  1. Please take care of each other: Check in on each other. Thank each other. Feed, nourish, and affirm each other. Hug each other, when you have consent.
  2. Please talk to each other: About your feelings, your needs, your plans, and your story.
  3. Please tell your story: Find agency in the process of framing what’s happening here in your own way. Tell the world as much as you can. Get trained to interview with reporters, or send your thoughts to the Solidarity Cville blog (just, you know, as two examples).
  4. Please ask for help when you need it: Even if that’s multiple times a day. Ask as specifically as you can. Ask as many people as you can. Ask someone to help you ask for help. Individually and collectively. For your personal life or for your community or something else. Please ask. It’s so important and it can be so hard.
  5. Please tell the people you love that you love them. I wish I’d done more of that here.

On that note, I have moved cities before, and I know how it can go. We grow apart as we are in touch less and less. I won’t get to see you every week, but I will still hold you in my heart as my friends. Please remember:

  • I love you and I believe in you.
  • I want to hear from you.
  • I want to know what’s going on, anything you want to tell me.
  • I want to be helpful to you — I want to hear your requests for help even if you don’t have the bandwidth to catch up, so please text me or ask for a phone call. I want to know what resources I can leverage from afar to be actually helpful to you, and I want to make time to talk to you.

As I wrap up, I am going to offer an apology. Or at least the beginning of it.

I’m sorry for the messed up things I did while here, and I’m sorry for embedding myself in this community and then walking away. I may not owe you this apology but in my corner of the Jewish world we have a valued practice of giving proactive apologies and I know I harmed people here with my words or actions or silence or inaction, and I’m sorry.

If you want a more specific apology from me at any point, please tell me. I’m here to listen to what you want me to know, and I’m here to acknowledge my errors and be accountable in ways that I can. I care about my impact on you and on this community. I care about you.

I leave you with gratitude for the blessings of friendship you’ve given me. May your friendships with each other and the ways in which you take care of each other become ever stronger.

Thank you, fierce freedom fighters of Charlottesville. I love you, and I am forever indebted to you.

 

6. Youth Development & Education, 8. Sex Ed... Sexual Violence Prevention... and Gender Justice

5 Ways Sexual Objectification in Mainstream Media can Impact Adolescent Viewers

This piece was originally posted on May 3, 2018 with the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Adolescents learn about themselves, their bodies, and how to be a person in the world in many ways — from each other, from their families and schools, and also from popular culture. While most of these sources of influence can be facilitated intentionally by parents and educators, what happens in popular media cannot be controlled. However, parents and educators and other people supporting the positive development of adolescents can take an active role in helping young people understand and navigate the impact of popular media. To contribute to that process, this blog post examines one aspect of sexism in popular media: sexual objectification.

Sexual objectification of women means treating women as sexual objects. Sexual objectification is when people are treated more like things (as in, physical objects) than as people who are complicated cognitive social emotional human beings. Focusing on parts of a body is one example of something that is sexually objectifying; another example is presenting bodies as interchangeable.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a 2007 report about the impacts of media that sexually objectify women and girls. This report lead to further research in communications, cognitive psychology, human sexuality development, and other interrelated disciplines. Dr. Monique Ward then authored a review of the empirical research on this topic published 1995-2015.

Ward reviewed empirical studies published from 1995 to 2015 that identify effects of exposure to sexually objectifying media, through experimental lab studies or through everyday life. In Ward’s review, she found that exposure to sexually objectifying media can contribute to:

  • Self objectification: When people perceive or treat themselves as sexual objects. (How do I look? What will others think when they see me? Do I measure up?)
  • Body dissatisfaction: Endorsement of a cultural body ideal dissonant with how people see themselves, that makes people unhappy about their own bodies (although idealized body standards may vary cross-culturally)
  • Sexist beliefs: Seeing women as less than human, seeing women as interchangeable, erasing women’s inner lives (e.g., thoughts and feelings), and having negative judgments of sexualized people.,
  • Tolerance of violence against women: Blaming women for their own sexual victimization. Expressing attitudes that support rape and sexual harassment and actually engaging in sexual or gender-based harassment.
  • Objectified sexual experiences: Boys exposed to sexually objectifying media are more likely to focus on the body size and shape of girls they want to date and are more anxious about their own appearance. Youth of all genders may be more self-conscious of their body while engaging in sexual activity.

How prevalent is sexual objectification? Ward reported that sexually objectifying portrayals have been found for:

Knowing these potential effects of sexual objectification in media can equip teenagers to better critique and resist the media they consume. Furthermore, teenagers need to be aware that watching a movie or following a television series is not a benign hobby — everything we do shapes our experience of ourselves and others. Sexual objectification is just one of the many ways the impact of sexist media could be considered. There are other forms of sexualization discussed in the APA report, as well as other aspects of sexual scripts, toxic gender norms, and rape culture to consider.

Young people can also use this information to advocate for change. They can choose to support the Hollywood actresses naming their own experiences of sexual assault behind the screens through #MeToo and saying #TimesUp on sexism in the entertainment industry, both on screen and off. They can advocate for educational opportunities to help buffer the effects of pervasive sexism and sexual objectification, such as ways to build media literacy skills and ways to access comprehensive sexual health education that can strengthen their development of embodied sexual agency. They can also choose to support shows with complex, agentic characters like the Black teenage girl scientist-heroes Meg and Shuri in A Wrinkle in Time and Black Panther, respectively. Youth themselves can make choices about what messages they are exposed to and how they respond to those messages.

Note: The literature on sexual objectification for the most part takes a binary approach to gender, assessing the impact of sexualized media on girls or boys, often within a heterosexual framework. More research is needed to understand the impact of sexual objectification in media for queer youth, trans youth, and youth with non-binary gender identities. Furthermore, a growing body of literature addresses intersections of gender and race, for example, in how feminine and masculine body ideals and physical desirability itself is strongly racialized within the context of American popular culture that idealizes Whiteness.

6. Youth Development & Education, 7. Research & Academia

How to Support the Adolescent Activists in your Life

UVA students standing in front of an image of Thomas Jefferson, holding a sign that reads "200 years of white supremacy."

This piece was originally posted on March 16, 2018 with the Society for Research on Adolescence.

We are watching them mobilize across the country: youth fighting for gun control; youth fighting for a Clean DREAM Act; youth fighting against police brutality and structural racism. Here are ways you can offer support to the adolescent activists in your life — and maybe also help a young person along the pathway to plugging into these social movements for change.

1. Provide Access to Knowledge — the kind they don’t (often) teach in schools

Stephen Russell, Anna Muraco, Aarti Subramaniam, and Carolyn Laub conducted focus groups with student leaders of high school Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) to talk about empowerment, and they asked participants what aspects of their GSA involvement helped them become empowered. The study found that youth talked about “having and using knowledge” as one key aspect of empowerment. Useful types of knowledge included information about their rights as students and how to advocate for their rights within the school system, and facts that they could use to dispel discriminatory homophobic beliefs. In addition, GSA leaders benefited from knowledge about different approaches to organizing and activism, and how to connect the work they were doing together to broader social movements that they are now a part of. (Side note: Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland student activists, is President of her school’s GSA.)

2. Foster Critical Consciousness — reflect and act, act and reflect

Knowledge is not always sufficient to motivate action and change. Paulo Freire’s theory of critical consciousnessidentified the dynamic relationship between reflection and action — we need to think critically about the world, take action within the world towards change, think critically about what we learn from those actions, and return to further action, iteratively. Matthew Diemer, Luke Rapa, Catalina Park, and Justin Perry used a survey study of predominantly Black and biracial high school youth to identify three components of critical consciousness:

  • Critical reflection on perceived inequality involves “critical analysis of socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and gendered constraints on educational and occupational opportunity.”
  • Critical reflection on egalitarianism means “endorsement of societal equality, or all groups of people treated as equals within society.”
  • Critical action entails “participation in social and political activities to change perceived inequalities.”

3. Help youth Organize! — build collective power

Youth don’t have to act alone! Critical action — and critical reflection, too — do not and perhaps should not have to be seen as isolated, individualistic processes. Ben Kirshner and Shawn Ginwright identify youth organizing as a powerful developmental context to promote thriving among youth of color, with regard to individual development, community development, and promoting social movements. They define youth organizing as “a form of civic engagement in which young people identify common interests, mobilize their peers, and work collectively to address quality-of-life and human rights issues in their schools and communities.” In other words, it’s about young people connecting with each other and collaborating to leverage power towards achieving the changes that they need for themselves and the people around them to thrive.

Providing youth access to knowledge, fostering critical consciousness, and helping youth organize are ways for adults to support youth activism whether as a parent, teacher, youth group leader, or simply through an informal connection with a certain young person. Youth are leading us towards necessary social change. We have the opportunity not only to applaud them, but also to equip them to become their most fierce and most effective selves.

8. Sex Ed... Sexual Violence Prevention... and Gender Justice

Tips for men confused/overwhelmed by #MeToo and #TimesUp

You have a role in this work. You have a responsibility to yourself and to people you care about. You are needed.

  1. Start journaling. Seriously, you’re going to need a resilience practice, and you’re going to need some space to get to know your own feelings. At least 10 minutes daily.
  2. Follow some feminists. Read what they write and share. Make sure it’s not a fake feminist, like a rape apologist or a TERF. Choose women of color. Wagatwe Wanjuki and Ijeoma Oluo and Lourdes Hunter and obviously Tarana Burke, for example.
  3. Tell women that you’re working on it. Not for cookies, but as an FYI. And I don’t mean women in general. I mean some specific women in your life whom you care about. Say to them, this is really impacting me, and I’m committed to learning more. I want you to know that I care about you and I care about doing better.
  4. Support survivors. Queer survivors, trans survivors, male survivors, women and anyone who has been targeted by sexual violence. If you are confident and humble in your ability to not be an asshole, you can possibly be helpful. Maybe you can make yourself available to listen. Maybe you can help with just some of the labor of life. Put some food in someone’s freezer.
  5. ORGANIZE. Connect with other men to build towards shared goals. I want white men especially to organize against white supremacist patriarchal violence. And. . . also I really don’t. I mean, I do. I’m just worried you’re going to mess it up. And you will. But maybe you have to. Please listen, when you do mess it up. And then try again. Please try again. Keep learning and keep trying.

I want you to be successful at this. I even want to help you be successful. All our lives depend on it.

1. Sex, Dating, & Relationships, 8. Sex Ed... Sexual Violence Prevention... and Gender Justice

Be Better to Me than Aziz was to Grace (A Script of What He Could Have Done)

I wrote a fan fiction spin-off of Grace’s story in Babe. I didn’t write it for Grace or for Aziz Ansari — I wrote it for all the people calling those events “normal,” and for all the people recalling their own stories, and for all the people who don’t know how he could have done any better. HE COULD HAVE DONE BETTER. And you can, too. Let’s just consider really specifically what “better” might have sounded like.

 

1.

G: Why, what nice countertops you have.

A: Want to hop up and take a seat?

G: (Laughs, slides up)

A: Mhmm, this is a good height for me to kiss you. Can I kiss you?

G: Mhmm… (they kiss)

A: How about these clothes, how about we…

G: Mhmm, not yet…

A: Ok.

 

2.

A: I’m going to grab a condom.

G: Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill.

A: Oh, ok. Can I keep kissing you? Or, do you want to get down from the countertop?

G: (Slides her feet back to the floor.)

 

3.

A: (Pulls her hand towards his penis.)

G: (Pulls her hand away.)

A: I want you to touch me. I want to feel your hands on me.

G: (Looks uncomfortable, shakes her head.)

A: Oh, not if you don’t want to. (Puts his fingers in her mouth.) Do you want me to touch you?

G: (Shakes her head again, laughs a little nervously.)

A: Ok! Ok, I hear you. Can I keep kissing you?

 

4.

G: (Stops moving her hand, moves away from him.)

A: Are you okay? What do you want, what would feel good?

 

5.

A: Where do you want me to fuck you?

G: Next time.

A: Oh, you mean not tonight?

G: Yeah.

A: I hope for another night then. What do you want to do tonight? A glass of water, a glass of wine, watch a movie, get an uber?

 

6.

G: I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.

A: Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun. I don’t want to force you, and I don’t want you to feel forced. What would help? Do you want me to get you an uber? Do you want to sit with me on the couch?

G: I’ll come sit with you.

A: Can I do something to help? Rub your shoulders, turn on the TV?

G: Yes, please!

 

7.

A: (After the episode of Seinfeld finishes.) Thanks for staying and cuddling. Can I kiss you again? Or shall I get you an uber?

G: An uber, thanks.

A: Just tell them your name is…

 

8. Sex Ed... Sexual Violence Prevention... and Gender Justice

18 Things for Men to Say in ’18 — at the Golden Globes, or Anywhere

Not one male Golden Globe winner used a moment on camera to mention #MeToo or #TimesUp or sexual assault or men’s violence against women. So I put together a little list of simple, practical sentences that could slide out of men’s mouths at the next award ceremony… or anytime this year, really.

  1. I trust women.
  2. I believe women.
  3. I stand with survivors.
  4. I will hold perpetrators accountable.
  5. To end sexual violence we must end toxic masculinity.
  6. To end sexual violence we must acknowledge, address, and end white male violence.
  7. I am here to help men have better emotional lives, better friendships, better access to both emotional support and accountability.
  8. I am here to change myself as part of changing our culture.
  9. I withdraw my support for the ideals of toxic masculinity.
  10. I withdraw my support from men who perpetrate sexual violence. I will not be complicit.
  11. I will stop working with toxic violent men.
  12. I will stop working with rapists and abusers.
  13. I will stop producing media that glorifies toxic violent men.
  14. I will stop producing media that glorifies rapists and abusers.
  15. I will support media produced by women and queer people of color, with my money and with my social power.
  16. I will support media that challenges white male dominance, with my money and with my social power.
  17. I will make mistakes and accept critique.
  18. I will work hard to make change. Change in my personal life, change in my work life. Change in ways I can’t possibly imagine. I’m here for it.
4. Body, Movement, & Dance

“What do you do for fun?” (Seeking pleasure, finding joy)

The top highlights of my winter vacation stemmed from opportunities to witness changes that are bringing joy to the lives of people I love. A new romance, a new apartment, a new school, a new baby…

Their lives are also complicated. They too have been deeply affected by the dumpster fire year of 2017. They too were breathing in and breathing out and figuring out how to keep fighting for our lives in 2018. They too were dealing with loss and grief and stress and fear and rage.

And they have joy. They have access to that spark. And I got to see it, which made me genuinely happy.

At dinner with family friends one night over the break, I was talking about my research on sexual violence prevention and my involvement in community organizing against white supremacist fascism in Charlottesville.

“What you do to put your mind on something that’s not so heavy?” … asked a 30-something physician who had just been describing the bicycle-built-for-two that she and her fiancé ride around their California home.

My dad laughed sarcastically. “Aha,” he exclaimed. “That is the question.”

My mom visited me in June, just a few weeks after the May 13 Nazi flash-mob torch-rally downtown. “But what do you do for pleasure?” she kept asking. Apparently I never provided a satisfactory response.

Pleasure. Fun. Joy.

It wasn’t until tea with an activist co-conspirator on one of my last days in Boston that I was truly convinced of it all. First, as another dear co-conspirator pointed out to me, it’s just different to hear it from folks who are also structuring their lives around activism. The rhetoric of self-care can be so easily coopted to justify complacency. And I do not intend complacency.

More so, I just didn’t know how my brain would hold up upon return to Charlottesville. As a psychology researcher, I know that emotions are real things that are really happening in the brain and body. And not only do I need to give my brain a break, but I also need to give my body ways to build positive associations with this place that has been so structured by racist terrorism. Offering myself some positive associations will not and should not undo the grief, the rage, the reality. It will however help me live my life, and it will also make me more grounded as a community activist.

So, what brings me joy? The ocean, my friends, and dancing.

We are relatively landlocked here in Central Virginia, and when I connect with friends I want to have space to hold the heaviness of what we are all living through together. So I’m going to find a dance class. Starting with once a week, more often if I need to. I want a class that happens regularly that I can put into my schedule and plan around. Something for fun – I don’t want to be practicing towards a performance or anything with pressure. I just want to move and experiment and not take myself so seriously (for an hour).

For my body, for my brain, for myself, for my work. With hope.

What do you do for fun? What will bring you pleasure this year, how will you find joy?

5. Connection/ Community

Hopes and Dreams for 2018

  1. Cry in public, as needed.
  2. Write blog posts: about what’s happening in my life, and what’s happening in my community.
  3. Befriend my own anger.
  4. Turn more to sadness instead of anger in relation to a person I love who loves me.
  5. Turn more to anger instead of civility in relation to person who intends harm.
  6. Spend time each day cultivating awareness of my own healing processes.
  7. Learn to feel loved while saying no and setting boundaries.
  8. Learn to feel loved while saying yes and accepting help.
  9. Struggle. Fight. Love. Care. Connect. Defend our communities and build the much much much better world we all deserve to live in.
  10. Set goals, navigate priorities, and select strategies.
  11. Keep my apartment clean enough that I invite friends over for tea.
  12. Accept that the stakes are high and morale is low and this Year will continue to ask more from us than we maybe knew we had in us and that means we need to nurture vulnerability and honesty and care and attention and belonging in ways that many of us, myself included, never knew we had in us either.
Here I am. I am alive and loved and still in the struggle. Thank you for being it with me.
9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy), Charlottesville

What you’re doing when you simply call it “Charlottesville”

Please don’t use “Charlottesville” as a stand-alone word to refer to the white supremacist terrorist attacks of August 11-12.

As in, “ever since Charlottesville,” or “when Charlottesville happened.”

1. You are using the name of an entire city as a euphemism when what you really mean is “THAT WEEKEND WE ALL WATCHED ACTUAL NAZIS ATTACK AND KILL PEOPLE.” Yeah. That weekend. Say what you mean. Say “the Nazi terrorist mob in Charlottesville” or “when Nazis attacked Charlottesville” or “the largest most violent white supremacist rally in a long time.”

2. When you refer to this terrorism simply by using the name of our city, you are telling yourself that it’s just about Charlottesville… but it’s not. It’s also about you. Most of the Nazis who attacked Charlottesville came from other cities, other states. Which ones live near you? Do you know? Do you know which Nazi groups are organizing in your city, in your state? Do you know which of your neighbors came here to attack my neighbors?

3. We’ve been fighting in Charlottesville on a regular basis since the first torch rally on May 13 and long before then too — there have been Nazis with guns and threats and direct confrontations and it still continues every week. When you say “Charlottesville” and really mean “August 11-12” what you are telling me is that you were paying attention when we were all up in the news coverage for a few days, and *you* had a strong reaction to that and got all up in your feelings (which you definitely should, yes, valid, terrifying, infuriating, yes, all those feelings) — AND THEN YOU MOVED ON AND WENT BACK TO NORMAL LIFE. What you’re telling me is that you stopped paying attention to the ongoing struggle in Charlottesville.

Don’t stop. Don’t stop paying attention. Pay attention to Charlottesville. Pay attention to your neighbors too. Even as you are paying attention to the US imperialist neglect of climate crisis damage in Puerto Rico and the St. Louis rebellion in response to police murders of Black people and the threat of a second major Nazi attack aiming for Charlotte, North Carolina. This is all interconnected. The fascist terror continues. The resistance continues, too. #Charlottesville continues.

Join us.