Saturday, July 31, 2010

Children are people, too.

This post was prompted by a line in my post entitled "Toddlers are not grown women" in which I said:
I also believe that parents should play a role in helping their child make decisions and that they should view their child as a partner in this regard.
In the comment section of that post, Anonymous challenged my idea that children could or should ever be viewed as partners with their parents, suggesting that parents' roles in their children's lives should be that of "bosses" who make decisions for children because they are not capable of doing so on their own until adulthood (which I read to mean legal adulthood, suggested by this commenter in another comment that was not posted due to its tangential nature, to mean 18 years of age).

Anonymous said:
Raising kids by being their "friend" results in horrible, maladjusted kids with a lot of selfishness and problems.
First of all, nowhere in that post did I suggest that parents should act as their children's friends. I do not even suggest that children should be viewed as completely equal partners with their parents. All I meant to suggest was that children should be viewed as more than objects to be controlled by their parents. I'll expand on that idea here.

I'd like to clarify that I do not have any children. However, I have experienced a type of parenting that I would not want to replicate if I ever had the desire to raise children of my own. In the middle class, white American culture I grew up in, there is an overarching idea that children have little capacity for personhood. They are treated like objects or pets that should be, in essence, ruled over by parents who always know what was best for their children, without question. Children's opinions and desires do not matter because of their age. In effect, children are lesser people, if they can even be considered people at all.

I have a huge problem with conceptualizing children in the same manner as one might think of a pet. I do not believe this mindset is healthy for the parent or the child. It has the potential to create dependence in children that may make it difficult for them to take on "adult" responsibilities once they reach legal adulthood and it presents a way for parents to place on their children an unfair burden - the responsibility of making their parents feel useful. When the roles of parents and children change as children grow up, it cane be difficult on everyone.

I believe that this idea that children just are not capable of doing certain things is, largely, due to socialization. If parents treat children as if they are incapable of making any decisions at all (as opposed to only life-altering ones), children will not have to rise to the occasion and will fill their parents' low expectations. If parents expected more out of their children and viewed them as capable of doing more, I think a lot of people would be surprised by how much children are capable of.

I also want to stress my belief in parents' roles in helping oversee their children's decisions and helping them navigate the world while teaching and disciplining when necessary. However, allowing children appropriate amounts of control over aspects of their lives is important because no person, small or not, should be ruled by someone else who denies them the opporunity to exercise any amount of power over their lives.

This acknowledgement of a child's personhood throughout life (as opposed to waiting until a child reaches some arbitrary age) could easily create more independent children who are better equipped to handle "adult" situations and responsibilities without doubting themselves. Treating children as smaller people could also easily create within the minds of children reasonable expectations of respect. When they are not used to thinking of themselves of subjects under their parents' rule, it might be easier for them to fight for their rights and perhaps even those of others when they finally leave the nest.

Friday, July 30, 2010

IL doctor allegedly assaults several female patients, may not permanently lose license

**Trigger warning for sexual assault**

Terrible news from my home state:

A 17-year-old girl reported to Berwyn police in 2003 that her doctor, Ricardo Arze, had pulled off her clothes and sexually assaulted her in his exam room, state records show.

Two years later, another patient reported to Berwyn police that Arze had placed his hands on her breasts, breathed heavily on her neck and tried to touch her genitals, claiming it would help treat depression, according to a police report.

Not until 2007 -- after at least four women had filed complaints -- did police launch the investigation that led to Arze being charged with sexually assaulting patients and having his license suspended, records show.

By that time, the family physician had allegedly assaulted at least 21 women and girls at his Arze Doctors Center in Berwyn, according to criminal and civil complaints that outline attacks stretching at least to 2000.

...That police had received allegations against Arze as early as 2003 came as a shock to one of the women who reported being abused by him in 2007.

"I am disgusted," she said of law enforcement. "They should investigate why they didn't do anything. They were accomplices."

The women said they continue to suffer trauma from the incidents. They cannot see male doctors. One has recurring dreams about her alleged attack.

Arze, who is scheduled to be in court Aug. 16, won't lose his medical license for good even if convicted of all the sexual assault and battery of patient charges.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has interpreted the state Medical Practice Act to mean that it cannot permanently revoke a physician's license unless a doctor has been twice convicted of felonies involving controlled substances or public aid offenses.

A Tribune review uncovered 16 convicted sex offenders who have held Illinois medical licenses within the past 15 years. Not one had his license permanently revoked. One doctor convicted of sexually abusing a patient was never disciplined by the state in any way.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toddlers are not grown women

I was watching a clip from the Colbert Report when I first heard about Baby Gap's line of Mini Skinny jeans. Yes. Skinny jeans for toddlers.

Below left: A screen shot from the Gap website of a white female toddler (labeled: "hayden, 3") in what appears to be a denim jacket and fitted "Mini Skinny" jeans. Her hand is to her mouth.

Now, I believe that children are people and should be allowed, when able, to decide what they want to wear. I also believe that parents should play a role in helping their child make decisions and that they should view their child as a partner in this regard.

The reason I have a problem with skinny jeans for toddlers is that they're taking a fashion trend originally meant for grown women and making it into something to be owned by children. Skinny jeans are no more practical than other jeans for toddlers. This is a blatant rip off of grown women's clothing - and guess what toddlers are not? Grown women. And treating them as grown women by dressing them up in clothes that look like those worn by adults creates some potentially disturbing possibilities.

This ties back to the trend of sexualizing women at younger and younger ages. While these jeans are not sexual, they are meant to model toddlers after adult women. That is a problem.

Edited to include a caption for the screen shot I included. Also, check out Gap's "Boyfriend jeans" for toddlers (thanks to Anonymous in the comments for the heads up about that!).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Federal judge puts breaks on controversial parts of Arizona immigration law

This is good news, but lawyers for Gov. Brewer are expected to appeal and this may go the United States Supreme Court:
A federal judge on Friday, weighing in a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.

In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on a border state’s fierce debate over immigration, Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court here said that some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.

But Judge Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times.

Judge Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law.

“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she said.

“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” she wrote. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rape on College Campuses

In March, Jaclyn Friedman wrote a great piece for the Washington Post about how rape is handled on college campuses. I love what she doing with this piece, and think it is awesome that she is bringing more attention to an incredibly important issue. However, there are a few things about the article (such as her use of gendered language) that I think missed the mark a little.

First off, the awesome stuff Jaclyn said.

I love that Jaclyn brought attention to the fact that Title IX can be utilized to ensure not only equal athletic opportunities for women in educational settings, but to prohibit sex discrimination in general. This prohibition against sex discrimination in Title IX “specifically obligates schools to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and assault.” Too many young women do not realize the broad protections of Title IX gives them the right to call bullshit (legally and otherwise) when their school does not handle their sexual assault or harassment case appropriately. I also appreciate that Jaclyn, while bringing attention to how awesome Title IX is, acknowledges how hard it can be, emotionally and otherwise, to press charges against your institution for not treating your sexual harassment or assault case appropriately.

Also, Jaclyn brought up a really interesting statistic that I never knew before: Of the more than 400,000 rapes that will likely be committed on a U.S. college campus this year, “more than 90 percent …will be committed by repeat offenders who will rape, on average, six times during their academic careers.” As horrible as these numbers are, they are, in a weird way, encouraging. In Jaclyn’s words:

That rate of recidivism is actually a golden opportunity, if only schools and courts would take it. It means that all we need to do is get serious about punishing the tiny percentage of men who are committing the vast majority of assaults, and many, many fewer women will have to live through the trauma of sexual violation.

The overall message of Jaclyn’s article: that colleges and universities need to stop trying to make themselves look better by underreporting sexual assault crimes on their campus, is also a much-needed message. Jaclyn couples this message with advice to colleges to “eliminate the ‘miscommunication’ excuse that many rapists use by creating an on-campus standard that requires any party to a sexual interaction to make sure their partner is actively enthusiastic about what's happening -not just not objecting.” This was an overarching theme in the book Yes Means Yes that she and Jessica Valenti edited, and it is a point I don’t hear made often enough.

Okay- on to me nitpicking.

Throughout her article, Jaclyn refers to rapists as “he” and rape victims as “she.” I understand that it is more likely for a woman to be raped than a man and that women are most often raped by men. However, the persistent use of gendered language is why men are
even less likely than their female counterparts to report that they have been raped. Also, gendered language further marginalizes those who have been assaulted by a member of the same gender.

Jaclyn says the fact that “Bucknell University is considering abandoning mediation as a way of adjudicating sexual assault cases” is a “small glimmer of hope that change is coming.” Obviously, mediation can be a horribly traumatic experience for a survivor to endure and the idea of an institution forcing a survivor to sit in a room with her or his rapist is disgusting. However, the term “‘abandoning’” seems to imply that it would not be an option for any survivor, even if she or he requested it. I do not know under what circumstances a survivor would want mediation, but I don’t think a school should bar a survivor from using any method she or he thinks she or he needs to help heal. I am doubtful many survivors would choose mediation, but in the event they do they should be able to control how their case is concluded in any way they see fit.

Anyway, all in all, Jaclyn wrote a fantastic article I suggest you all take a look at. If you get a chance to read it, let me know your thoughts in comments.

White privilege is about more than money

I think my biggest problem with this op-ed written by Virginia Senator James "Jim" Webb (D) for the Wall Street Journal is in the title. "Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege".

In this op-ed, Webb tells how he believes that affirmative action for "people of color" as opposed to just African Americans, needs to end. He believes this because such policies go beyond the original intention of affirmative action - helping African Americans who suffered from the effects of slavery. More importantly, it leaves certain groups of whites at a disadvantage.

I will leave you all to discuss Webb's opinions about affirmative action if you please. What I want to discuss here is his use of the term "white privilege" in the title of his op-ed. Calling white privilege a myth is a rather controversial statement coming from a white writer, and more importantly to me, in his piece Webbs seems to misunderstand the idea of white privilege. White privilege is not a myth, but Webb's apparent misunderstanding of the concept had me distracted every time I read his piece.

Webb seems to believe that only those who are best off financially and educationally possess any form of privilege. Yes, wealthy people and those with higher education are privileged, but to argue that because whites no longer have almost exclusive access to wealth and education that there is no such thing as white privilege demonstrated a narrow and unproductive understanding of privilege.

The whole problem lies here: even in this world where, according to Webb, whites are being set back by policies meant to benefit people of color, if a person of color has a particular job, they may be questioned about their qualifications (did they get it only to meet some diversity quota?). This is evidence of white privilege. A white person would not have the same assumption made about them. It would be assumed that they hold their job on their own merits. I bet Webb would assume things like this. And Webb is white.

Go figure.

[Thanks to Tyler for the link.]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Woman doesn't consent, but jury finds consent anyway

**Trigger warning: Sexual assault**

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury decided against a woman who brought a lawsuit against the company responsible for a "Girls Gone Wild" video that she appeared in years ago without her knowledge. This woman claimed that she had not given consent to appear in the video.
A jury on Thursday rejected a young woman's claim that the producers of a "Girls Gone Wild" video damaged her reputation by showing her tank top being pulled down by another person in a Laclede's Landing bar.

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury deliberated 90 minutes before ruling against the woman, 26, on the third day of the trial. Lawyers on both sides argued the key issue was consent, with her side saying she absolutely refused to give it and the defense claiming she silently approved by taking part in the party.
The defense's argument about the woman's consent is absurd and makes the fact that this woman lost this lawsuit extremely troubling. It is classic victim-blaming to claim that because a woman made the decision to be in a certain situation that she also made the decision to be sexually assaulted by a franchise that clearly has some messed up ideas about consent (like it not being necessary at all, or is ok if it includes pressure). It's shocking to me that this held up in court.
But Patrick O'Brien, the jury foreman, told a reporter later that an 11-member majority decided that Doe had in effect consented by being in the bar and dancing for the photographer. In a trial such as this one, agreement by nine of 12 jurors is enough for a verdict.

"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," O'Brien said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."
And she knew she had not given any kind of acceptable consent to have her top pulled down or to appear in a video.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

America’s Obsession with Weight: Health Care System Edition

The way medical professionals talk to women about weight makes me so angry sometimes. The conversation never seems to be about nutrition or fitness when we talk about women- even in a doctor’s office. It is about weight loss, weight management, and weight control. My doctor never asks me if I exercise regularly or if I eat my 5 fruits and veggies a day- he just weighs me, like that reveals all there is to know about my overall fitness level.

This obsession with weight is not only a reductive way to look at overall health, but it can be dangerous. Eating disorders
are on the rise in the U.S., partly due to our culture’s obsession with weight. If you are a young person who is at risk for an eating disorder, the last thing you need is your physician reinforcing the attitude that weight is everything.

Of course, like with most bad things, women suffer from our health care system’s obsession with weight more acutely than men do. A
recent study revealed that doctors “recommend greater weight loss to female patients than to equivalently overweight male patients.” It is unclear why this is, but the study’s authors suggest “societal bias is one possibility.” I understand that doctors are just people, and that they internalize the same impossibly thin images of women that we all do. But, really, if doctors can’t be objective about what is a healthy weight for a woman, who can?

I am particularly upset about this tonight because of an experience I had in doctor’s office waiting to be tested for strep earlier today.

I had waited for four hours when a young-ish physician’s assistant called me in. He took my temp (I still had the fever I had that morning) and asked me to step on a scale.

He asked me how much I weigh as I stood on the scale and I gave him a rough estimate. As the numbers got larger he said, “Well, someone has been eating some barbeque.” As the numbers got even larger, he said “Well, someone has been eating a lot of barbeque.”

I let him know, in words only someone with strep who has been waiting four hours can, that he should shut up.

Later, the asshole came in again. As he was putting the cotton swab down my throat he remarked, “For someone so uptight, you don’t have much of a gag reflex.”

I reminded him that there are laws against sexual harassment, finally got someone else to help me, and later filed a complaint.

When he made the first comment about barbeque, I thought maybe he was just an asshole, not necessarily a sexist one. When he made the crack about my gag reflex, I knew he was sexist and suspected that might have been the reason he thought it was okay to insult my weight.

When I heard from the other room that his response after weighing an obese man was “Alright, step down, please,” my suspicions were confirmed.

So what have your experiences with medical professionals been? Have you ever experienced them making inappropriate comments about your weight or seen them treat women differently than men?

Come on; don’t leave me ranting here alone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Blogger (Me!)

Hello All!

This is Tory and I am a new blogger here at Female Impersonator. I have been reading this blog for awhile, so I am kinda geeking out right now.

So tell me about yourself, you say? Well, I am a full-time undergraduate student majoring in philosophy on the east coast. I have a passion for watching TV (Grey's Anatomy and Mad Men are my favorites right now), taking naps, and reading YA fiction I am too old for (Sarah Dessen is my favorite).

So how did you first become interested in feminism, you ask? Well, I have always been a feminist but I first started identifying myself as such after I saw Jessica Valenti on The Colbert Report. I bought her book Full Frontal Feminism and never looked back. I got to meet her a little over a year ago and I might have cried afterwards. And by "I might," I mean "I did."

I am interested in all things women's rights, but I am particularly interested in wage discrimination, trans issues (and LGBTQ rights generally), women in the military, and women in politics.

How do feel about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, you inquire? You ask the best questions. I think she is the epitome of awesomeness.

Looking forward to having some stellar feminist dialogue with you,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Women on the sidelines -- Troubling ideas about female coaches

Last summer I wrote a post about some of my mom's troubling ideas about how to be a good (read: tough) soccer player, said player must play "like a boy". Well, the same Challenger British Soccer camp, coordinated by my mom, that sparked that post was back in my hometown this past June, and my mom had more ideas about gender and soccer to share.

It's not often that my mom and I fundamentally disagree about something, but apparently when it comes to sports we don't quite see eye to eye.

This year my mom was discussing her contract with Challenger Sports, which she had recently renewed, and she mentioned that one of her only stipulations was that she did not want female coaches because she "doesn't like them". She was adamant about this and I asked her why. Her reasons broke down as follows:

1) Female coaches don't have the same commanding presence on the field as male coaches.
2) On a related note, children respond better to men than they do to women.

Overall, she believes that female coaches aren't as loud or forceful as male coaches and they will, therefore, not be able to coach as effectively.

Ok. The first thing that really bothered me about my mom saying this is that she has been coaching youth soccer for years. When I was in high school I used to help her coach young players in our home town. The idea that she truly believed that she and I, as women, could not be effective coaches due to our femaleness baffled me. In fact, I knew it could not be how she honestly felt because she has said on several ocassions that people have approached her indicating that she was considered one of the top coaches in our small town because of her experience as a soccer player and coach, which none of the other coaches possessed even a fraction of.

That recognition must have felt great for her, except that by her logic about what makes an effective coach, there is no reason that she should be a good coach. She is a woman, after all.

I asked my mom about her refusal to allow female coaches at the soccer camp. Had she seen any of the female coaches employed by Challenger do their job? No. Then how could she be so sure that these female coaches wouldn't be as good at doing the same job done by the male coaches? She just knew. Did she understand that all coaches employed by Challenger had to have the same minimum level of coaching training? Yes.

I tried to get her to understand that her intentional exclusion of women coaches was based entirely on her gendered assumptions about the capabilities of men and women. She assumes that female coaches will be quiet and perhaps even timid on the field and will not demand the attention of the children they are coaching. While those are atrributes that are generally perscribed to females in our society of the gender binary, it is unfair to use only those stereotypes of what women are when considering which coaches to bring to a camp in our town.

It makes little sense for a shy, quiet, timid woman to want to coach a sport, let alone get the training required for getting into a program like Challenger that requires going abroad to coach kids in another country. The women in these situations have to be good coaches, otherwise they wouldn't have their jobs.

My mom automatically codes certain attributes as either feminine or masculine and assumes that only women can possess the feminine traits and men the masculine. She doesn't always do this, but she defaults to this when she discusses things like sports and athletes. She gives little room for the variety of human behavior that accepts that men can sometimes be quiet and women can be forceful. That kind of narrow-mindedness means that the kids in my small community may never experience positive examples of female soccer coaches because for some of them, this soccer camp is their only experience with playing the sport. It's not fair, especially to young female players who are being denied a role model they can better identify with, considering that the possible female coaches that could be brought to town are being turned away for nothing more than the fact that they are women.

My mom seemed unmoved by my attempts to get her to see things from my point of view on this issue, so I decided not to pursue it further with her. But it's a topic that I feel is important and needs to be addressed. Hence this post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

18-year-old singer gets Botox to prepare for Glee debut

From time to time I come across random things on the internet that really kind of worry me. This is one of them.

Charice Pempengco, an 18-year-old Filipino singer who recently released her first album, prepared for her debut on the show Glee "by getting Botox and an anti-aging procedure".

Charice's publicist insisted that the Botox procedure was undergone for muscle pain and not for cosmetic purposes, but that seems to be thrown into question when the singer is quoted as saying (emphasis mine):

"All people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure," Charice said.
And the cosmetic surgeon who worked on Charice, Vicki Belo, said that the singer underwent a 30-minute procedure to make her round face more narrow. Belo also said (emphasis mine):

"You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it's a bit protruding," Belo said as she touched Charice's face. "It's like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face ... we want to give you the apple cheek look because it's cute, right?"
To me, that indicates that while perhaps there was some muscle pain that the singer was dealing with, that beauty was definitely also part of the equation.

Because in Hollywood you're never too young to start suffering for beauty's sake, right?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

You're a woman. Now make some babies!

This post was inspired by several posts over at Shakesville regarding the idea that women who choose to remain childless are selfish. I agree with the commentary at that blog, so I recommend you check it out.

The idea that deliberately childless women are selfish is a general theme when it comes to policing women in this society and smothering them with ideas of what other, more important people expect them to do with their lives as opposed to allowing them to make their own decisions without comment. When a woman, especially a married woman, chooses not to have children, it opens her up for all sorts of comments ranging from her being selfish to the idea that she must be very unhappy because she doesn't have kids.

And in
this piece about men who really really want to be daddies, the wishes of men are added to the mix of reasons why women should feel terrible if they do not reproduce as society (and perhaps their husband) expects them to. (Trigger warning on that link for descriptions of reproductive coercion)

According to this piece, there are a growing number of men who desperately desire to be fathers, but are hitting roadblocks because the women they are with would rather do things like pursue careers, or they just plain aren't interested in being mothers. The disturbing part of it all is that it shows that some men want to be fathers so badly that they will pressure their wives into trying to get pregnant.

Take Neil, whose wife Fiona was made a partner at a PR company and does not feel ready to be a mother. Neil said:

"I'm putting pressure on her to stop taking the Pill and to leave the situation to fate," he admits. "I know it's a decision we've got to make together, but I don't want to be an old dad. A baby would make my world complete."
There is a sad but interesting point here. Evolving gender roles and opportunities have allowed more and more women to progress in careers that they may not be willing to give up right away to start a family. They have also allowed men to express their desire for fatherhood more openly. While that may seem like progress, where women used to be forced to follow husbands pursuing careers, they are still facing opposition to living the lives they want from husbands who are willing to coerce them into having children to fulfill their own desires.

It's great and all that men are coming around to the idea of fatherhood and that they don't have to be alienated from their feelings when it comes to wanting children. But women should also be allowed to be true to themselves, whether or not their visions for their futures include children. They shouldn't be ridiculed or looked down upon for not fitting into other people's expectations. All in all, women still lose.

I guess this whole motherhood/children thing has been on my mind lately because of the unsettling trend among girls I went to high school with of getting pregnant and married before they turn 23.

I'm relatively young, but I have known for most of my life, with much certainty, that I will never be a mother. Children tire me. I have never been able to stomach babysitting for more than a few hours at a stretch. Holding babies makes me anxious, and I have several memories of being a child and family members practically forcing me to hold a baby, a new member of the family, because why shouldn't I want to hold a cute little baby? The thought of being responsible for a human being, emotionally, financially, what have you, terrifies me.

When I've expressed these feelings to various people, generally my family, it has been said that I will change my mind once I grow older. You know, right about the time that this society will start expecting me to pop out some babies and fulfill my womanly duty of self-imposed motherhood.

Not to mention my type 1 Diabetes and the difficulties of managing the disease with another human growing inside me and the potential complications that could arise from that. Not to mention the obvious idea that me parenting a child that I did not want to be a parent to is the ultimate form of unfairness. Not to mention that with those things taken into consideration, I might sound like a good person who has made the right choice when it comes to bearing children.

But that's not what people will see when they look at me in a few years and ask if I have children. Or if I want them. All they'll see is the word "Selfish" stamped across my forehead. Unfortunately, as long as women continue to be necessary for creating babies and as long as we live in a society that believes that arbitrary expectations are more important than the desires of individual women, it's a brand that many of us will not be able to escape.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Post: Thoughts on a Ruined Afternoon

Miranda Mammen is the founder of Women's Glib, a blog by and for young feminists. She graduated from high school in June and will be a freshman at Stanford University this fall.

Cross-posted at Women's Glib.

Memory: It is a delicious Sunday afternoon. Sun glitters through the trees, splashes over benches and stains the ground. It is the fourth of July, and I have spent several hours on my own, reading the intoxicating prose of one of my favorite writers,
Zadie Smith, in one of my favorite places in all of New York City: Fort Tryon Park. Shoes off, feet in the grass. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache. It's time for the ideal reading break: an ice cream cone. I walk to the truck, pay for my chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. Perfect refreshing cool, perfect crunch. I stroll back into the park under a canopy of lush leaves. Sometimes the world is so beautiful it makes me ache.

There are people in the background of my vision. One of them emerges slowly; I understand that he is moving toward me. He is an older man, probably in his early seventies, walking slowly. He stops in front of me, and I pause slightly.

He is going to say, "It is so gorgeous on this lawn."

He is going to say, "It is so relaxing here!"

He is going to say, "It is so hot today, don't you think?"

No, he is not. He is not going to say any of these things. His face is two feet from mine and he is saying, "It is so sexy watching you lick that cone."

There is a voice in my head saying: You should have known this was coming. I am still walking and I say crisply, loudly, "THAT'S DISGUSTING" and he smiles and he turns and I walk and my mouth is dry. Sometimes the world is so awful it makes me ache.

Vision: I don't walk on. I don't say anything. I laugh shrilly and he looks startled and I mash my cold ice cream into his face, his beard, it covers him and I am calm. I've won.

Vision: I don't walk on. I scream, "Leave me the fuck alone." I shriek, "You're a piece of shit." I shout, "Fuck you, prick." I've won.

Reality: I can't win. Street harassment is so mind-bogglingly fucked up. It's a cruel game that I'm playing against my will and I can't fucking win it. That's all I want: I want to win. I want to feel better than these jerks because I am. Even more than I hate harassment itself, I abhor the way I feel afterwards. At first I feel ashamed, embarassed even though I've done literally nothing wrong. Then I feel regretful, angry at myself for not reacting more harshly. I feel like a bad feminist, like I haven't spoken up properly or stood up for myself in the "right" way. Next I feel guilty. I feel mean. I make excuses for the dipshit who's put me in this situation -- I tell myself maybe he's a nice guy, maybe he didn't mean it that way. And finally, always, I feel sick, physically nauseous.

All of this shit, all of this fills my mind. It takes up so much space, so much brainpower and it's absolutely useless. Instead of being consumed by these victim-blaming thoughts, I want to feel safe and strong and sexy, sexy on my own terms.

Street harassment isn't a compliment. It's not "no big deal," and it's not isolated. It lies on the continuum of violence against women; it's meant to keep women quiet, keep us inside, keep us from coming and going
as we please. It can ruin your afternoon, your emotional safety, your confidence. It needs to be stopped.


HollaBack! is an awesome organization that works to fight street harassment on a global level. Check out their new website, and their PSA (transcript below). I'm the one wearing the plaid jacket.

It was 8am and I was on my way to work. And over my shoulder, I hear... And I wondered, what did I do to deserve this?

I was dropping my kids off at school. Then I felt him. Was it something I was wearing?

I was walking my dog. And then I felt him. Why is it always me? Why does this always happen to me?

And then I remembered: I'm not alone. I remembered I don't have to walk on anymore. I remembered I can HollaBack. I remembered I can HollaBack. Then I remembered: I can totally HollaBack.

If street harassment is okay, then groping is okay. And if groping is okay, then beating is okay. If beating is okay, then rape is okay. And violence against women simply isn't okay. We're ending violence against women one hollaback at a time. Join the movement by holla'ing back and donating at You can end street harassment, one hollaback at a time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Female Impersonator's looking for contributors!

Female Impersonator is looking for bloggers to write about current events/news/politics/whatever with a feminist/womanist/pro-feminist perspective.

Interested in a permanent or guest blogging spot? E-mail Amelia at: amelia[dot]impersonator[at]gmail[dot]com!