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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Misogyny of the Year: TIME Magazine


Today, TIME Magazine is expected to announce its "Person of the Year", a distinction pulled from a list of eight finalists chosen by the editors, which was released this week.

And of the eight finalists, only one woman made the cut: Taylor Swift. That's it.

TIME's reason?

Swift is "one of the world's top-selling pop artists, who shook up the music industry by pulling her music from streaming service Spotify, which she believes should compensate artists more."

Now, I have nothing against Taylor Swift. Her music makes millions happy, and she happens to have had quite a transformation this year on social issues, especially in her claiming of feminist values.

But Person of the Year? For pulling her music from Spotify? Are you fucking kidding me?

Meanwhile, Beyonce has not only sold more albums this year than Taylor Swift using an innovative business model but did so while being quite outspoken on feminist issues, on and off her new album. She has sparked ongoing discussions within the feminist community on white privilege, sexuality, and what it means to be a feminist.

I don't say this to cast Taylor Swift in a negative light (nor do I believe it does) but to illustrate how blatantly ridiculous TIME is when it comes to pop culture.

Because although TIME claims "Person of the Year" is about influence (or newsmakers) rather than popularity, we kinda all know that's bullshit.

TIME picked Taylor Swift because she's the "right" kind of popular, someone young who's edgy and fun enough to appeal to younger Americans without discomforting anyone over 65. Their citing Spotify serves as (very weak) support of her place on the list.

On the other hand, Beyonce, who has sold more albums and definitely has more influence, is seen as something generally threatening to older, white Americans: a young, successful black woman who is confident in her skin and expressing her sexuality.

But the average Millennial knows all this. We get it: TIME wants to sell as many copies as possible while pissing off as few people as possible. "Person of the Year" is simply the sensational heap of shit we all get to look forward to around this time of year.

So, why does this matter? Why should we care what TIME peddles out to older Americans?

Because although TIME has a habit of being ridiculous, that doesn't mean they don't wield an enormous amount of influence on how our society perceives itself. And the fact that TIME regularly excludes women, especially women of color, from these "markers of power and influence" is infuriating and exasperating.

TIME is not just a news magazine. Even when they're being stupid, they're shaping the national dialogue of our country.

So, when TIME essentially says that Taylor Swift--of Spotify merit--is the woman who made the greatest substantial impact in 2014 (and the only one worth noting), people listen to that. They accept it.

Because Beyonce isn't the only woman who should have made TIME's list of finalists.

What about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for leading a national fight in Congress on behalf of victims of sex crimes in the military?

Or Shonda Rhimes, who has three television shows in primetime with high ratings and cultural influence?

Or Anita Sarkeesian, creator of @FeministFrequency, who has received rape and death threats--and generated a national discussion--over her calling out of sexism in video games?

Or Emma Watson, whose speech at the U.N. on the role men in gender equality sparked debate and advocacy among millions around the world?

What about Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Dianne Feinstein or Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen or Malala Yousafzai?

Because 2014 saw no shortage of women influencing the world, and it was yet another year in which women arguably had just as much--if not more--influence as men in world events.

But you know who did make the list?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the guy who got outsmarted by TMZ after he literally worked to cover-up domestic violence among players in the league and then, seemed to be completely incompetent in the aftermath of the scandal.

THAT guy was named one of TIME's finalists because apparently, profound stupidity and unethical behavior are enough to get a highly visible man ranked among the most influential people in the world although it's not really clear who exactly he influenced since even NFL players have been openly critical of his leadership.

So, when TIME ignores all these influential women in favor of less influential men, it increases the disparity of how women are viewed in society because when they put something on the cover (and choose to ignore other subjects), people talk about it (or don't), regardless of its importance or accuracy.

And after TIME's apology-non-apology in response to last year's backlash over the same damn thing, I kinda expected them to do better this year, maybe be more nuanced and understanding of how they influence what people are thinking.

But 2014 hasn't seen much change. Earlier this year, TIME published an op-ed on how male/white/straight privilege doesn't exist by an unknown straight, white male undergrad student from Princeton.

Amid that backlash, more attention was drawn to TIME's blatant snub of Laverne Cox, a transgender actress and advocate who won the website's public poll for "Person of the Year" by a healthy margin, yet appeared nowhere on the long list of finalists among the editor's choices.

Who did appear on that list? Miley Cyrus, alongside two other women, former Sec. Kathleen Sebelius and Edith Windsor... out of a total of ten finalists.

Some will say, "Well, they put the Ferguson protestors on this year's list. Isn't that a big deal?"

No, a big deal would be putting Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, or Eric Garner on the list as the face of police brutality and the effect of white privilege. That would be addressing racism head-on in a way that is effective in discussion, even if uncomfortable for older, whiter readers.

TIME likes to talk a big game about "Person of the Year" representing the zeitgeist, being a "singularity" that best represents that year's events, which is why choosing individuals (or a small group of individuals) is more compelling to that end than selecting a demographic.

Which is why TIME's other finalists are specific names rather than events: for the entertainment value and singularity factor.

They knew they couldn't simply ignore Ferguson and police brutality, but they could frame it in the most palatable way possible to white Americans. Their announcement of the finalist doesn't have the words "racism" or "policy brutality" but only alludes to it by saying a white officer killed a black teenager.

But please, let's make sure we get the nitty-gritty on how Taylor Swift is changing the world by pulling her music from Spotify.

In fact, that should be TIME's "Person of the Year": white privilege. The cover will be a collage of incidents that all-too-painfully illustrate it.

That'll be a welcome respite from their usual "edginess", which hovers a few notches above the sight of Speaker John Boehner in a backwards baseball cap.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Open Letter on Ferguson and Racism

I realize tensions are high about Ferguson, but given the enormous evidence and inconsistencies--not to mention the history of police brutality against people of color--I have no room to negotiate on the grand jury's ridiculous decision not to proceed with a conviction.

This was not about declaring Darren Wilson's guilt; it was about simply asking that the issue be given a proper trial. The conduct of Ferguson and St. Louis County officials have not only failed the people of that area but the citizens of this country.

And to dismiss concerns of racial bias by pointing to the "conduct" of black protestors "rioting" while ignoring behavior that is just as negligent--if not worse--by white citizens after losing a sports game, let alone irrationally blasting the President with public antics, is embarrassing.

When I consider the events of this week, I am embarrassed to be an American. We're better than this. We're better than acting like children and claiming we "don't see color" when it seems that it's all we see, particularly those who benefit from white privilege, myself included.

I don't want white folks--or anyone--to feel guilty or that they are personally being blamed. I want them to feel empathy and compassion and to have the ability to step outside our own experience and consider, even if for just a moment, that there is significant foul play, not only in Ferguson but across the country, when it has been established again and again that people of color, and black males in particular, are profiled and targeted by law enforcement.

We cannot continue to call ourselves a just society that prides itself on that well-worn line of "all men are created equal" when the very agents tasked with preserving that edict seem to go out of their way to treat people of color as second class citizens.

And yet, I've read so many irresponsible and uninformed assertions on race and police brutality and the criminal justice system in this country that I would like to believe these are borne out of a lack of understanding more than a need to remove our complicity (primarily) as white people in this system.

So, for those who insist that Ferguson is not a blatant series of racist incidents, let me ask you: on what do you base your opinion? Let's talk about this because it's my firm belief that you're operating on very, very bad information, and it's hurting all of us.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Am Gender-Nonconforming

Sometimes, even when nothing has really changed, it helps to say the truth out loud:

Today is ‪#‎SpiritDay‬, when we encourage folks to be who they really are and stand up against bullying, especially against LGBTQ youth.

I have wrestled with my gender since I was a child. This has been further complicated by the sexual and physical abuse I suffered during childhood.

I don't know exactly what I am. I don't think I ever have. But out of respect for folks who are committed to their personal identification, I've refrained from being open about myself. I felt being honest about my gender while I couldn't change it would cheapen the struggles of those who are in the midst of that journey.

Additionally, cultural and financial constraints aren't things that disappear overnight. These, too, have discouraged me.

And frankly, I'm not in the kind of place where my mental health or responsibilities--work and school--allow me to further explore this issue with the resources it deserves. Someday, I hope to be there.

But I can at least say this, and it's a relief to finally say it after a lifetime of attempting to fit myself into a box that doesn't fit:

I am gender-nonconforming. I believe both masculinity and femininity have beautiful and powerful qualities, but I don't feel comfortable identifying as a man or woman, at least in the cultural expectations that I have always known exceeded what I'm willing to sacrifice.

But I'm no longer willing to make that sacrifice. At least silently. It has eaten at my soul for far too long.

I am simply me. I present as a man in public because I simply don't have the energy or emotional health to endure what others do. I find them courageous.

But it hurts. I feel a sharp pain when I'm placed in a strictly masculine context, not because masculinity isn't wonderful but because I know it's not who I really am.

This is the small step I'm willing to take at the moment, and it feels incredibly liberating.

I still have male privilege since I present as a man, but with time, perhaps years from now when I'm in a place that allows me to explore this further, I hope to be able to fully express who I really am.

In the meantime, I feel grateful for my friends and family and the support of those who have counseled me in the last few years as I began to seek answers.

I only ask for that continued support

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Response to the Insanity and Slander of #StopClymer

[CORRECTION: the Slate article mentioned in the original post was actually Salon. Thanks to Slate for graciously letting me know of the error. My apologies!]
If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve seen tweets or news stories about #StopClymer and are curious about what I have to say in response.

Back in late May, when #StopClymer started, I decided I would not respond. I felt that slander should not be dignified or validated with a response, which is also  why I declined to pursue legal action. I believed this was an enormous distraction, and I expected reasonable folks in the feminist community to see through it and dismiss it.
Unfortunately, that is not what has happened, and four months later, I have had at least one website decline to publish me for fear of backlash and people with whom I have professional relationships express hesitation in interacting with me. Many have called on me to simply respond and put it to rest, but I felt doing so would be a betrayal of my values, that validating the hateful words of others would empower them to continue doing so.

On Monday, Feministing posted an article that repeated the same slanderous accusations that have already been stated in poorly-researched pieces by The Daily Beast and Salon. None of these authors reached out to me for comment or asked for evidence of the claims they were endorsing. In fact, none of these authors appeared to do any research beyond copy/pasting the same sources.
If they had looked deeper into the rumors, they would have found them to be completely false.
Instead, the articles have made their rounds online, and many angry folks who have been unable to substantiate these claims have made it their mission to inform the world that I am an abusive, misogynistic, fake feminist ally who targets women online and marginalizes their voices.
In short, this has become an echo chamber in which lies are repeated in a vicious cycle devoid of intellectual honesty, and it would seem that many are happy to continue repeating the same lies without asking for evidence.

Accordingly, I’d like to set the record straight:
The only thing true of which I've been accused is writing the message in this article:
It was almost 18 months ago, and I apologized for it 18 months ago, and in the 18 months since, I have done nothing in this vein. It was stupid, inconsiderate, and completely contrary to my normal behavior.
And instead of denying it or refusing to cooperate with the author, I admitted to saying it, gave no excuses for the behavior, and posted the article online to support transparency.
To emphasize, this is literally the only thing I've done that should warrant reasonable criticism, and the vast majority of feminist writers and activists who have seen this accepted my apology and moved on.

But there remains factions of those who claim to be feminists that have made it their mission to destroy my reputation and because I refuse to validate their hatred or distract from the important issues of gender equality, I've refused to respond.
Here are the reasons they’ve given, none of which have a basis in reality:
MYTH #1: I profited from, and/or stole money through, feminist advocacy.

Of the claims made, this is the most easily disproved. I have made a grand total of $100 for two feminist articles I wrote for Mic News (formerly PolicyMic), $50 per piece. My entire revenue from Mic News was $200, $50 for each of the four paid pieces they bought. HuffPost—for whom I have written the majority of my pieces—does not pay its bloggers; every piece done for them was done for free.
I also received $400 through a fundraiser for the Equality for Women page to partially reimburse costs for advertising that exceeded several thousand dollars out of my own pocket.
Additionally, I’ve donated several more thousand to various feminist organizations and causes over the past few years.
I don’t want--nor do I need--a cookie for this. The point is that if this were a venture to exploit the feminist community for financial gain, the numbers would indicate I’ve dramatically failed OR these are simply issues I care about. I would imagine any reasonable person would have to go with the latter.
MYTH #2: I have sexually harassed women online.
As a survivor of childhood rape, I find it repugnant to think I'd harm someone else. Although there are studies that suggest some survivors are more likely to commit sex crimes themselves, I have never done so in any form. The two or three women whom I supposedly sexually harassed have never provided proof, despite being requested by many people. Since I would have had to sexually harass them online through some sort of messaging system, one would think they'd have proof. And yet, they don't. Because it didn't happen. Darlena Cuhna, who wrote the above article, wrote a companion piece a month later, in which she says she investigated these claims and found nothing:
What’s most infuriating about all this is that the myth of widespread false claims about rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment is a real problem that derails conversations on how to best combat rape culture. It’s one I’ve written about quite a bit. And yet, ironically, I have found myself to be the target of ridiculous claims by people who refuse to provide proof for very serious accusations.
When you perpetuate false claims like this, you become part of the problem. You make it harder for survivors to gain legitimacy in a world that all too easily dismisses even well-supported incidents of sexual abuse, and as a survivor that has been told I’m lying about my past trauma, I can tell you it’s quite damaging.
MYTH #3: I’ve otherwise “abused” women online.
Aside from the insane sexual allegations, some have asserted that I am a monster who abuses women online by “silencing” them. Again, when asked to provide evidence for these claims, all that can be produced are anecdotes of women who were banned from the Equality for Women page.

Let me be clear: I banned many people, women and men, from EFW, and I stand by that. Homophobia, transphobia, victim-blaming, and dismissive remarks on obstacles faced by women of color all resulted in immediate bans from the page. What infuriated many is that the vitriol they brought to other feminist forums on Facebook did not fly on the page I created. A safe forum should be a safe forum, and I cannot—and will not—tolerate these kind of remarks, regardless of gender. And yes, that included disparaging remarks about myself or other moderators. Respectful disagreement was welcome and encouraged; personal attacks and willful ignorance were not. Every moderator for EFW banned people on a regular basis for these infractions. We did so independently of each other.
“Freedom of speech” does not mean I—or anyone—is required to condone the level of invective in a space that has been created to provide safe and collaborative discussion. The idea that being a woman precludes someone from extending respect to others in a feminist forum is antithetical to the values feminism has attempted to express, among them that respecting others is not an option. If this were true, we would not see the widespread criticism and dismantling of women who identify as anti-feminist since it would mean their being women should mean anything they say is inherently correct in the eyes of feminism.
MYTH #4: I “abused” a woman of color online.
This stems from a conversation I had with a person--later reposted anonymously by that person on Tumbler--who claimed I was a “white supremacist” literally because I suggested all parties in an argument refrain from personally attacking each other. She called every person a “white supremacist” in the group who “failed” to openly support her opinion. Had I been smart, went she sent me her initial message—the same message she sent to several others in the group—I would have simply ignored it, but I did not. I felt I could discuss this with her in a way that we’d reach mutual understanding. I was wrong in assuming this. But even so, disagreeing with someone does not constitute “abuse”. I did not call her names or threaten her or make unfounded accusations, nor did I even initiate the conversation.
White privilege is a pervasive problem, and it must be confronted, but this does not mean a person’s race should mark them as “abusive” simply for offering a different opinion. Can it be construed as ill-informed or arrogant in some instances? Yes. Abusive? No.
I will not apologize for this interaction, and those who claim it warrants an apology would do well to reevaluate their intellectual honesty.
MYTH #5: Former moderators of EFW were abused.
This is also false, specifically the outrageous claim that "18 moderators" got together to bring down the page. In reality, one of the moderators told several other moderators she was sexually harassed after I distanced myself from her following months of consensual, enthusiastic flirting. I wish to god I was making this up because it would simply things greatly. Half the team simply didn't want to deal with the drama and left the page, which is understandable. Three of the moderators, including the one who made the accusation, worked to destroy the page overnight as I slept. As you'll read in the above article, one of them later apologized for what happened and for the hurt she caused me. I also have e-mails exchanged with her with similar statements. The rest of the moderators remained friends with me, including Bhaswati Chattopadhyay, who warmly and enthusiastically interacted with me for more than a year before suddenly seeing an opportunity to increase her own social media presence by joining Suey Park in blatantly slandering me. Those interested should observe Bhaswati’s Twitter account to get a sense of how her character and intellect operate: simply using snark to not really say much of anything beyond attacks on anyone in the progressive community who is white, male, straight, or cisgender. This is not done out of principle but to gain a following among people who have been hurt by sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, exploiting their pain to enhance her online influence.
MYTH #5: Various screenshots of supposed comments or messages.

I’ve seen several images of things I supposedly wrote floating around Twitter, things that would never enter my thought process, let alone leave my mouth. The care and attention that has gone into fabricating images of me would be impressive if they weren’t so hateful. I know who I am, and those who care about me know who I am, and I will not be held accountable for things I did not write or say. If you are the kind of person who is willing to accept these images as true, I would have to say that I’m not the least bit concerned about your perception because it is clear you value sensationalist slander more than seeking the truth.
Now that these issues have been addressed, the question remains: why would this hatred build up among so many people if it weren’t true? Here are my thoughts:

1. I am a very convenient target. The much-needed backlash against the incredibly abusive (in the accurate sense of the word) Hugo Schwyzer has bred widespread suspicion of any man in feminism, especially if they're straight, especially if they're white, especially if they're cisgender, and especially if they're Christian. I am not the person you'd most likely find at a feminist conference. Many women in the feminist community of all backgrounds are appreciative of this novelty while some find it incredibly offensive to see any straight, white, cisgender male in a feminist space. While I can understand suspicion, I will not be held accountable for the perceptions and assumptions of hateful people, regardless of their gender, race, or sexuality.
2. Suey Park. She's a controversial "feminist activist" who has been widely criticized for her intellectual dishonesty, pettiness, and outright hatred. After the #YesAllWomen hashtag in late May, I was included in several news articles for my tweets. This did not sit well with Suey Park, who proceeded to spread incredibly vicious rumors about me on Twitter, ranging from the above to the accusation that my being sexually abused makes me dangerous to women. More than anything, she has singlehandedly been behind this smear campaign. She started #StopClymer. When asked for proof, all she was able to post were screenshots from that first Darlena Cuhna article, ignoring both the rest of the first article and the second in its entirety. She was not--and is not--interested in what is ethical or moral; she's interested in generating controversy to increase her visibility. She's good at it. And she was hoping I'd respond in anger, which would validate the image she's attempted to craft of me. And I refused to give her the satisfaction. I ignored her and blocked her and her followers on Twitter who have incessantly tweeted at me with the same false rumors since May with the #StopClymer hashtag.
3. I shut down the EFW site, which led some to believe I was admitting guilt. Wrong. I did this as a temporary move because it's a lot of work, 30 hours a week on average to generate content and moderate. If you want to keep a Facebook page safe, you have to constantly monitor it to prevent it from being filled with hateful comments. I managed to do this for months while having a full-time job and being in school. Once Suey Park started her insane campaign, I could simply no longer juggle everything. And so, I decided to take a break. Once I get to a place where I have more time to focus on the page, I'll reactivate it. At the present time, it’s all I can do to keep up with my current schedule.
4. My silence. Somehow, even absent of further evidence, silence came to mean admission of my supposed guilt. The fact that I am speaking about this now is what makes me feel truly guilty because it is an abandonment of my belief that hateful, small people should never be given the time of day. Even though it means giving attention to people who gleefully went so far as to claim I wasn’t raped, constantly harassed myself and those who follow me on Twitter, and organized what can only be described as a witch hunt online.
If I hate myself for anything, it’s with having to finally acquiesce to the demands of people whose values represent the very worst of the feminist community, in which snarky takedowns of anyone and everyone have replaced discussions that actually create positive change in the world.
I am not leaving the feminist community. I will not stop writing. I will not stop advocating. And if certain people have a problem with this, it is one they will negotiate on their own time, not mine.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Who's afraid of Atima Omara?

Atima Omara, Candidate for Virginia House of Delegates

On June 27, Bob Brink, who has served the folks of Arlington in the Virginia House of Delegates for 17 years, announced his retirement after being offered a position in Gov. McAuliffe's administration.

Brink's retirement launched a crowded field for the Democratic primary being decided tomorrow on July 6th, among them Atima Omara, who has generated enormous support since she announced her candidacy, just this past Tuesday.

But not everyone is enthusiastic. Popular local Democratic blog Blue Virginia expressed thinly-veiled pettiness toward Omara based on rumors they heard:

"Atima Omara gets an "A-" for her answers, which are solid across the board. My main concerns about Omara have nothing to do with her answers to the questionnaire, but with people have been telling me over the past few days (I didn't know anything about Omara before this race and had absolutely no preconceived notions), such as that she's "not a hard worker" and that she has "no substance." Is any of that true? Got me, but I keep hearing it from Arlington Democrats who know her well, so I'm not sure what to believe at this point. Also, she ran into a buzzsaw of criticism yesterday after her campaign claimed an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which that organization quickly made clear they did NOT make. So, while she gets an "A-" for her answers to my questionnaire, there are many questions in my mind about her candidacy." 

Of course, to those of us in the DC metro area who know Omara--and there are many, she has a vast network--this is a strange, ridiculous assertion.

She doesn't work hard enough? No substance?

Last year, Omara became the first black woman elected President of the Young Democrats of America and only the fifth woman in its 81-year history.

She's a board member at Planned Parenthood Metro Washington, DC Abortion Fund, and Emerge Virginia. Previously, she served on the board of the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Arlington Country Commission on the Status of Women.

She's been an organizer on behalf of health care worker unions at SEIU, an advocate for the mentally-ill and disabled with the National Disability Rights Network, and worked passionately for women's advocacy through the Women's Campaign Fund and Doorways for Women and Families.

Her direct campaign experience is just as impressive: eight elections on the federal, state, and local levels and prior to that, a Special Assistant to then-Gov. Mark Warner.

And her extensive resume hasn't gone unnoticed: in the past year, she's been honored by the Women's Information Network with a "Young Women of Achievement Award in Leadership" and was named to Ebony Magazine's "Power 100" and Jet Magazine's "40 under 40".

Did I mention she's a child of African immigrants? Or that she graduated from the University of Virginia and subsequently earned an MPA from George Mason?

This doesn't strike me as someone who doesn't "work hard" or "lacks substance", and had Blue Virginia taken five minutes to Google her name, they would have found such rumors without merit.

This all makes me wonder what's intended here by Blue Virginia. For candidate Paul Holland, one of the "top scorers" in their rubric, they wrote simply: "gets an "A" for his answers, which are excellent across the board. Nice job -- Holland is definitely one of the top choices for Democrats going to the caucus Sunday to consider voting for, either #1 or #2!"

Despite the slander, Omara is apparently choosing to stay above the fray, campaigning hard in the final 36-hour stretch before the polls close and declining to validate ridiculous rumors.

But I am not above the fray, and I can confidently say this: had Omara been a white male with her dazzling resume, she would have been declared the frontrunner on the day she announced.

There would be no third-hand hearsay claiming she doesn't work hard or lacks substance. There would be no targeting of a woman widely praised for her advocacy on reproductive rights because her campaign mistakenly announced an endorsement from NARAL, even though she already has the enthusiastic backing of Planned Parenthood Metro Washington and Virginia NOW.

And given that Blue Virginia's assessment is already making the rounds, I find it horribly irresponsible for this blog--one that's supposedly progressive--to peddle lies about a candidate that's been heartily endorsed by Mayor of Alexandria Bill Euille, Arlington School Board Chair James Lander, and a large contigent of other local Democratic leaders.

But for any dedicated observer, it's clear to see this is the challenge of black women running for office, even in reliably progressive campaigns: an uphill battle to earn credibility and respect, often despite qualifications that put them head and shoulders above other candidates, as in Omara's case.

Voters will make their choice at Yorktown High School tomorrow, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Men Are 32x More Likely to Be Killed By Lightning than Falsely Accused of Rape


In a variety of ways, it's been said to me for as long as I can remember:

"Be careful about what girls you sleep with. They might accuse you of raping them."

"Did you hear about that chick accusing so-and-so of raping her? What a cunt."

"Don't stick your dick in crazy."

It starts early, and there is little-to-no counterpoint. You can draw a straight line between pulling girls' pigtails in grade school to assaulting or raping them in later years. By the time college rolls around, young men have been handed a societal philosophy of entitlement: women are there for your pleasure, regardless of her consent. Especially if she's "asking for it" i.e. clothes, flirting, drinking, walking alone at night (breathing?). Especially if you feel threatened by her on any level.

This way of thinking is so pervasive that women have been framed as "cold" or "bitches" if they even so much as fail to smile at men who express interest in them. Lonely men populate the online world lamenting how "women hate nice guys and only like assholes" and about "getting friendzoned" and why-oh-why won't this woman sleep with me, I am SUCH a nice guy.

We live in a culture that treats women like products to be bought and sold, and when those "objects" suddenly assert their right to human value, many (if not most) men feel threatened.

This is no more evident than in the false rape accusation hysteria. It is communicated to boys and men, time after time, that women will accuse them of rape at the drop of a hat. False rape accusations are pushed forward as a common and random act of craziness that any nice boy will find themselves in because those feminazis have made the world so damn hard for men.

Women who have the courage to come forward about their rapes are regularly shamed and ostracized, and the attacker is defended, even by women who refuse to believe that a "nice guy" would do such a thing.

Recently, Occidental College--who has been the legitimate focus of criticism by activists on campus sexual violence--created an online reporting system for victims of rape and sexual assault. MRAs, or "Men's Rights Activists (perhaps more accurately known as insecure, woman-hating assholes) led a campaign that flooded the online reporting system with over 400 false reports in the span of a week.

In the past week, "A Voice for Men" founder Paul Elam, ever empathetic and reasonable, is leading his own campaign to attack Karen Smith--the Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton--by having his followers "falsely accuse" her of rape.

Her crime? She had the audacity to lead a successful movement in Edmonton called "Don't Be That Guy" that resulted in a drop of rapes and sexual assaults in the area.

I have to admit that in my early adulthood, this was a concern in the back of my mind. I had managed to learn about enthusiastic consent, and I felt I was respectful toward women, but deep down, I was worried that I would become a target of false accusations.

But here's the thing: if you look at the statistics, "false rape" is something that should rarely--if ever--cross the mind of any man.

The FBI's last statement on "unfounded" rape accusations put them at 8 percent of all reports. And that's being generous because those defined as "unfounded" are labeled so for a variety of reasons: if the victim didn't fight back, if the attacker didn't use a weapon, if the victim did not sustain injuries, or if the victim had a prior relationship with their attacker.

NONE of those should ever be used to dismiss rape; they are not indicative of consent, let alone enthusiastic consent.

So, that 8 percent is a generous figure to false rape propagandists.

But now we go deeper. The Department of Justice annually compiles a report called the National Crime Victimization Survey and estimated in 2012 that a mere 28 percent of rapes are reported.

So, of all rapes, reported or unreported, we see that generous estimate of false rape accusations drop to 2.2 percent.

Think about that. If you hear of a woman who has reported a rape, and you suspect she's lying, there's, at the very best, an 8 percent chance you're right. At worst, even giving that FBI figure the benefit of the doubt despite its incredibly flawed system of disregarding consent, you have only a 2.2 percent chance of being correct.

Next time you're ready to throw out some bullshit assertion that a woman is lying about being raped, ask yourself if you're ready for those odds. Is it worth the speculation of ruining a victim's reputation based on no evidence because you couldn't do the necessary critical thinking?

But now, let's go deeper. Studies compiled by the Kinsey Institute estimate that 18-29 year-olds have some form of sexual activity with another person (or people) "an average of 112 times a year, 30-39 year-olds an average of 86 times per year, and 40-49 year-olds an average of 69 times per year."

Because false rape accusation hysteria is especially prevalent among young adults, let's apply these numbers to the 15-39 demographic, which engages in interpersonal sexual activity an average of 99 times a year (with the assumption this data can be extrapolated for 15-18 year-olds):

There are 103 million Americans in this age range. If the average number of annual interpersonal sex acts for each American is 99 and men ostensibly make up at least half of every instance of sexual intercourse, that comes out to 5.1 billion instances of some form of interpersonal sexual activity for 15-39 year-old men in the United States.

The FBI estimated there were 84,376 forcible rapes reported in 2012. If 8 percent of those rapes are false, that would come out to 6,750 cases in which the victim was lying about her or his assault.

Remember that even 6,750 is being generous because of the FBI's flimsy 1996 definition of "unfounded" rape accusations.

Even so, that would mean that the odds of any sexually-active male between the ages of 15 and 39 has a 750,000 to 1 chance of being falsely accused of rape.

Here's another way to look at it. The National Institute of Justice estimates that men have a 1 in 33 chance of being raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

In other words, men are 27,500x more likely to be raped than falsely accused of rape.

Did you read that? MRAs should be far more concerned with addressing rape culture itself as an issue, but that would leave little room to bash feminists, right?

Just for fun, here are other things more likely to happen to you than being falsely accused of rape, as provided by the National Safety Council:

- Death by lightning (1 in 84,079)
- Killed by a dog (1 in 120,864)
- Killed by fireworks (1 in 386,766)

You could be killed by lightning 9 times before being on par statistically with being falsely accused of rape.

But it's not all doom and gloom. You're also more likely to win $10,000 in the Powerball lottery (1 in 648,975.96)  before being falsely accused of rape.

Let me know how that works out for you.

And again, this is all based on that inflated 8 percent.

If we go with the more accurate 2.2 percent, we're looking at a 2.7 million to 1 chance of being falsely accused of rape.

In case you're wondering, that's approximately 32 deaths by lightning strike.

ALL of this is if we assume all risk of false rape accusations on straight men. If we were to add nuance on gender or sexuality, these odds would only increase.

And here's the kicker: because only 14.2% of reported rapes lead to a conviction, even those few who are falsely accused can rely on our justice system to have their back.

So, now that we've established false rape is wildly overblown and statistically unworthy of concern on the part of any given male, let's look at some stats that DO matter:

1 in 4 women will survive a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

95.2% of victims of rape are women (NCVS).

And yet, this entire statistical exercise does not include considering how male privilege shapes our view of women who come forward about their trauma.

Here's hoping these numbers will help them get the justice they deserve.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I'm an angry feminist? How are you NOT an angry feminist?


From time to time, someone will ask me why I get so angry and/or passionate about women's rights, or they attempt to glean insight on the ulterior motive they assume I *must* have if I'm a man who speaks forcefully on feminist issues.

It's as simple as this... I imagine a world in which everything is reversed: men have never served as president or vice president, they only make up 20% of the Senate, only 18% of the House, only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs, are barred from ordination in major religions that influence our politics, are objectified and commercialized like products, are 19x more likely to be raped or sexually-assaulted, are the victims of some form of sexual harassment on a daily basis, and are consistently and subconsciously informed that they exist as an extension of male entitlement.

I think of other things... like what if men had laws regulating their discharge of semen (potential human life)? Or if men were constantly told they were weaker and less intelligent? Or if men were culturally pressured to choose between being professionally successful and being a "good father"? Or told that they aren't good leaders? Or if they were targeted as "lying" or "slutty" if they came forward about being raped?

Or if every aspect of my sexuality was scrutinized because I lack the "right" parts?

And this only covers a fraction of what crosses my mind when I try to imagine what it would be like if the situation were reversed, if it were *my* rights and quality of life being directly and pervasively affected because of my gender.

You shouldn't be asking me why I'm angry; you should be asking yourself why you are NOT angry.