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The Horror of Rape Culture: The “Sorrowful Sisterhood”

I began reading the NY Magazine article ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen yesterday afternoon.  I had to stop.  I want to read all these women’s stories, and I plan to, but it was too much all at once.

First of all, to Noreen Malone, the writer who gave these women a voice, thank you.  Almost 50 women have come forward to say that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted them.  Thirty five of them tell their stories in this article.  Their stories are blatantly similar and redundant.  They shine as a perfect example of a predatory rapist.

I have been on the job market since completing my doctorate in 2006 to no avail.  When I am fortunate enough to get an interview, I am often asked why I want to do something else.  I often tell them that doing sexual violence work is exhausting.  It is.  Hearing young women’s stories of sexual assault for the past 23 years can burn you out.  Like this article, the stories are always redundant.  There is nothing original or creative about alcohol facilitated sexual assault or using roofies to drug a woman.  It’s the same old misogynist story where the man runs the world and the women are silenced by oppression.

As someone who leans toward optimism, I am hopeful that this notion of “speaking out” about rape and sexual assault will begin to chip away at rape culture.  The old misogynist threat of “don’t tell anyone or . . .” seems to be slipping away, in some cases.  But until the power differential between women and men changes, this threat can still exist.  These women were afraid to lose their careers.  And many of my students are afraid to speak out and lose their circle of friends.

I want to believe young women, and now these brave women of the “sorrowful sisterhood” (Joan Tarshis) are starting to rip apart the seams that hold rape culture together.  We showed the film The Hunting Ground on campus this past spring.  The two “stars” of the film founded End Rape on Campus. There is also the student activist group Know Your IX , which has done radical and empowering work to raise awareness and provide resources for college undergraduates.

However, even The Hunting Ground can leave you despondent.  Jameis Winston, the number one NFL pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is featured in the movie as a young athlete protected by the Division One football culture that exists throughout our country.  That institution, which reinforces and supports rape culture, as spoofed in Amy Schumer’s Football Town Nightsis supported by not only rich donors but also the fans for whom college football is their sport of choice.  (Trust me, I went to grad school at The University of Alabama).

No matter how frustrating or sad confronting rape culture is, Noreen Malone has given voice to women who needed to speak their truths.  I hope this opportunity to speak their truth can bring these women some comfort and some peace.

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I’m BAAAAAACK!

I’ve been away.  Not away, per se, but away from writing.  I took a writing break.  A pause.  There is no reason except to say I needed a break.  Maybe it’s because I write about social justice and sometimes you just need to take care of yourself.  Maybe I was overwhelmed with all the killing of black men and women.  Maybe my work was calling my attention.  Maybe I needed to be present for my stepmother’s cancer journey.  I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I just couldn’t force myself to sit down and comment on the world.

I’m giving myself permission to take that break.  I wouldn’t have done that before going to an ACPA  (American College Personnel Association) Mid-Level Management institute a week ago.  It was there that I realized it was OK to take care of yourself.

So how do I make up for the last six blogs I haven’t written?  How do I comment on the strange that is our present moment in this world?  I can’t.  I can only try to look at the positive (one of my strengths, by the way) and hope that all this sadness is taking us to another level.  A recent poll stated that 60% of people were concerned about race relations in the U.S.  Three years ago, it was only 30%.  I think that is positive.  The more folks are concerned, the more they will, hopefully, begin to look inside themselves and uncover what their own biases and internal oppressions are.

I love this post by a colleague  The Perpetrator was Caught, but the Killer is Still at Large.  She says everything I think and feel and said years ago.  I wrote an op-ed in the local newspaper after the Jonesboro shooting in 1998.  17 years later, here we are.

Painful realities like this are the ones that call me to escape, to use my privilege and drive away, running to nature where you can feel protected from the hostility and hate in our world.  As much as I would like to do that, I know I am called, instead, to speak out against injustice and to educate others about it.

I was a witness and a participant last night at our First Year Orientation’s program by the Social Justice Institute.  It was moving and powerful.  I never expected that a group of almost 400 students could come together over their differences and similarities in a large group format like that.  The facilitator did an activity similar to the “Step Forward/Step Back” activity where he would read a slide and students would stand up if the slide resonated with them.  I was astounded by the numbers, students who spoke more than one language; students who grew up in homes with violence; students who knew someone who had attempted suicide; students who had attempted suicide.  That moment gave me pause.

What have we adults done to allow this world where so many young people are witnesses to violence and anguish?  I wanted to run through the crowd and hug everyone one of them and say “You are here now.  You are loved.”  But I can’t save any of them.  I can only continue to be a model and a guide.

How are you adding to the conversation to make this world a better place?

 

The Problem with Intersectionality

I should be going to bed.  I have spent the last 2 days  at the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Training because I was lucky enough to win a grant for my university to fund victim/survivor services, education and training.  Woo Hoo!

In the midst of heading to wintery Virginia (yes, it is freezing here!), Patricia Arquette, winning a best supporting actress award, has been attacked by liberals, feminists, and others, for her comments off stage.  On stage, she spoke passionately about how wage equality is an overdue piece of the inequality puzzle, even in richy-rich Hollywood where women are paid much less than men, and even more so, as always for women of color.  Then, as everyone has seen in the mass media, she goes on to say that it is “time for us” and that “people think we have equal rights; we don’t. Until we pass a constitutional amendment, we won’t have anything changed. It’s time for all women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

Before I comment on her quote and its backlash, it should be stated that I define myself as bisexual, white, female, middle class and feminist.  I am a survivor of sexual violence.    I serve on the Board of Directors of the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts whose mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.”  Ending racism is part of my life’s work.  And in everything I do in my job, I am constantly striving, more so than ever, to call out and end racism and transphobia.  (Doing this at a university is hard and somewhat impossible work, especially when the powers that be think that people of color should be the ones explaining what the problem is and then fixing it themselves). I  live in the messiness that is intersectionality.

I didn’t watch the Oscars.  For one, I am on the fence about boycotting that elitist white patriarchal shit.  Two, I didn’t see any of those movies because I don’t have time.  (If I am going to watch acting,  I am going to see it live and support my local theater’s).  Three, I threw my husband a surprise 50th birthday party ,the night before, and we were just plain old tired.  I mean, God! He’s 50! We’re too old to stay up that late.

However, when I read her off stage quote, I honestly read that she was asking men (gay men and men of color) to help women out.  Not just white women, but all women.  And yes, using the term gay “people” and “people” of color was a miss-speak.  That’s all it was, I believe.  And maybe I believe this because I have white privilege.  Can we just breathe for a minute and not tear into a woman the minute she tries to have a voice?

Forbes crunched the 2013 numbers and showed that among the kind of lavishly compensated thespians who fill seats at the Oscars, men make way, way, way, way more than women. The men on Forbes’ list of top-paid actors for that year made 2½ times as much money as the top-paid actresses. That means that Hollywood’s best-compensated actresses made just 40 cents for every dollar that the best-compensated men made. No wonder Meryl Streep and J-Lo are pissed(http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/02/23/gender_wage_gap_in_hollywood_it_s_very_very_wide.html)

I’m sad that a woman spoke up about inequity and because she did not address the intersectionality of the inequity in her comments, using the terms “gay people” and “people of color,” feminists and liberals are branding her with a scarlet F for her flub.  But I’m more disappointed  that liberals are attacking other liberals for their lack of intersectionality in everything they say or do is becoming popular right now.  Coalition building is all we have to fight the never ending attacks by the right against issues like trans* friendly policies and law, reproductive rights, and violence against women  (“in a world where every three years the death toll of women murdered by their partners or former partners tops 9/11 casualties,” Solnit Men Explain Things to Me, 23).

A feminist colleague of mine wrote”

I have been so angry about these attacks on her that I had a hard time sleeping last night. I actually had someone say that white women should not speak because the inequality we face isn’t as bad as other segments of the population and we don’t know real discrimination. In other words, smile and shut up because what you have to say doesn’t matter. Because that is healthy. If only we fought for equality with the same fervor we fight each other. Sigh.

This is the problem with intersectionality.  We can only speak to OUR personal truths.  We can be allies to other people and fight passionately for their rights.  This all connects back to the boycott of The Vagina Monologues by Mt. Holyoke because they are now a trans* friendly school  Eve was not writing a play about EVERY WOMAN’s experience.  She wrote a play based on a few interviews she had with a few women, about their vagina’s, over 16 years ago. And Arquette, by the way, has a trans* sister, so I’m quite certain she doesn’t believe that LGBT rights are all set.

Everyone needs to just fucking relax.  Fighting amongst ourselves about whether we have included EVERYONE in what we just said will not get us anywhere. Not to mention, the right just eats this shit up.  I am reminded of a quote I had for years over my desk.  “Don’t scratch a sister because the system will do it for you.”  Patricia Arquette certainly got scratched.

I’m Saturated

The older I get the less engaged I am with, or in pop culture.  I’m not sure if this is just a “thing” or if I am too busy or what.  I feel like it is just because there is only so much room in my brain and so many hours in the day to keep up.

I’m currently watching Season 7 of Dexter. I want to start Orange is the New Black.  I want to see Transparent, even though one of the producers said some transphobic crap about Bruce Jenner.  I could make a list of all the television series I want to binge watch, but I’m not a binge watchers.  (I’m not really good at sitting still for long periods of time.)  I want to find out how to watch the next season of VEEP without subscribing to HBO.  I had to watch back to back episodes of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder as I missed the first two episodes of the mid-season. I want to get rid of cable, but I was worried about missing my Daily Show.  Not anymore.  We watched his Tuesday night show on demand last night and I wept.  Yeah.  I admit it.  I love that man.

But I work with college students.  Every day.  They are so up on everything pop culture.  I feel mixed about how much I should know about their world and how little time I have to know it.  I want to do more yoga.

media diet

Music is another piece of that puzzle.  I flipped through some pictures of the artists at the Grammy’s the other night and there were many I did not know. Whenever I am in the car with a younger person, like Kendra, my 26-year-old staffer, I ask who the artist is singing the songs I know.

I have a list of books I want to read.  Three people have given me The Secret History of Wonder Woman.  I just finished two books on my trip to Denver, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and a book called The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion, who is a man.  That probably isn’t surprising to most folks, but I tend to read books by women in an attempt to make up for all the male writers I was required to read in high school and college.  Some have said that is a sexist position to take, but I feel as if I am just providing balance where my education did not.  And, I’m 46 and can read whatever I want.

Then there’s the movies.  I have an actor/director friend who I think might see every movie that comes out.  Seriously.  He overwhelms me with how many movies he sees.  He also doesn’t own a house, yet.  This movie machine may slow down once he has to fix an ice dam on his roof.  The last movie we rented was The Interview.  That was probably two to three weeks ago.  I have not seen any of the movies nominated for Oscars.

I love to go to theatre.  But carving out the time to do that on top of all the other media demands in my life is a challenge.  I have seen three live shows in 2015.  Two were plays and one was a musical performance.  Is that enough?  Is it too little?  Is it average?  I can only judge by my peers attendance, which varies, although I am by far, not the best theatre goer in the group.  Like my movie going friend, I have theatre friends who go see everything, which is a challenge in Rhode Island, where there is even a bit of over saturation in the theatre world.

I think it has become increasingly difficult in this media saturated culture to keep up with news, movies, television, music and social media.  And to do all this while exercising at least 30 minutes a day, drinking 8 glasses of water, getting 7-8 hours of sleep, and eating healthy is impossible.  Look at this excellent graphic of the media saturation during the Super Bowl.

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Saturate also means to destroy (a target) completely with bombs and missiles.  Maybe that is how I am feeling.

So what’s a gal to do?  The answer is not clear to me at all.  For now, I will go to work, come home, cook dinner and watch an episode of the last season of Parks & Recreation, because it’s Tuesday.

New Local Restaurant Reviews

Our friends know that we like to eat out.  Or we’re lazy.  My partner is an amazing cook, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do after a long day at work.  A lot of new restaurants have opened near us in the past year.  Here are some review-ish notes of local restaurants we have tried.

Simones in Warren, RI.  This place is owned by the man who use to own The Sunnyside which was a popular breakfast and lunch place on Water Street.  They bought a restaurant on Rt. 103 or Child Street that has been home to a number of not so good dinner places.  When we lived in Warren it was a dinner place with live entertainment on the weekends.  We have seen quite a few bands play there.  First, let me say it is good that they have parking since parking is such an issue in Warren.  However, they have not used the space in front of the building wisely, as it is wasted parking space, in my opinion, with large areas of mulch we had to walk through to get to the front. Poor curb appeal.  Hopefully they will do something with it in the spring.  Their menus change weekly, which is a nice touch.

We sat at the bar.  Immediately Jeff said to me that they need a low temp glasswasher as each time they opened the glasswasher, steam poured over and up the bar.  All the stemware was set behind the bar, glass side up, ready to be filled with dust.  These pieces need to be hanging.  We ordered a few different dishes to try.  The lobster ravioli had little lobster flavor.  It was very bland.  The cucumber martini was delicious but I had to ask for a second.  A good bartender will ask you if you want another drink before you do.  We ordered the bowl of marinated olives but the olive picks didn’t work very well, so we had to use our fingers.  They really could have used a second bartender that night.  The server who was carrying drinks near us needed some training as she was carrying her tray with two hands in front of her.  As someone who waited tables from 1988 to 1993, I wonder how you can even get a job as a server without knowing how to carry a food or drink tray. The Grand Marnier was a good pour at the end of our meal.

I went back with my sister-in-law for drinks and small plates a few weeks later.  The grilled lobster was horrible but the baked oysters were delicious.  Then we brought friends for brunch in December and everything was good, except my Eggs Benedict, which were overcooked.  The three times we have gone, there’s always been something not quite right about our meals, so I am hesitate to return.

In mid to late October, we attempted to get into Eli’s Kitchen, which everyone was raving about, but there is no place to hang out there if there is a wait, so we stumbled into Metacom Kitchen, where Tinker’s Nest was for years.  No parking for this place.  It was pouring out that night (remember October?) and we had to park way down Metacom Avenue to find a spot on the street.  The owners are, Richard & Sue Allaire.  Richard was recently a chef and part owner at Providence Coal Fired Pizza.  He was a also a chef at Tuckers in Newport.

The use of the space, in general, was our biggest issue with the place.  The art work is weird and too small for the space.  The layout of the dining room is wasted space.  They could easily put two more 4-tops in the middle.  And every time the door opens, you get a big gust of wind as there is no barrier/entryway.  Jeff was impressed by the flatware.  We tried the egg in a blanket and it was amazing.  Strangely, in this new day of mixology, there was no drink menu.  Jeff had the burger, as he always does when we try a new place.  And I had the salmon but highly disliked the strange mushroom side dish that came with it.  We weren’t blown away at all.  Not sure if we’ll go back.

Two weeks ago, Thursday, we tried The Aviary, which recently opened in Swansea on Rt. 6, next door to Tickles.  Tickles is a country store with a boutique approach.  They sell jewelry, clothing, Stonewall Kitchens, and knick knacks.  They are also famous for their Tea Room where they sell sandwiches and soups.  Their new restaurant, directly adjacent to Tickles has a beautiful interior design.  Two big rooms, one with a bar and the other with a fireplace are tastefully decorated and laid out.  A lot of money went into the design of this place.  Walking in, on a very cold January night, however, one wonders why the entrance is the furthest place from the parking lot.

We went with another couple and got their early so ordered drinks at the bar.  I had their specialty cocktail, the Whooping Crane, which is organic cucumber vodka with muddled basil and lemon, topped with lemonade and club soda.  Jeff had the Foul Game which was bourbon infused with apples and cinnamon sticks.  Mine was delicious.

For appetizers we tried the duck wings and the deviled eggs.  I wasn’t a fan of either.  The eggs were boring.  If you’re going to serve deviled eggs as an appetizer, they need to be jazzed up in an interesting way.  The best deviled eggs I have tried, since they’ve become a popular restaurant item, were at the Red Fez in Providence.  I ordered the Lobster Salad Roll.  It was good but I don’t think the lobster was very fresh.  Jeff had The Aviary burger, our friend’s had the Aviary grilled pizza and the Handmade Gnocci.  Everyone was pleased with their food and the service.  We will return.  The grilled pizza looked delicious and would be a great meal to have at the bar one night.  I would include the link to their restaurant, but they do not appear to have a website yet.  I had to find the menu on Facebook.

Last week we finally made it to Eli’s Kitchen. We were relieved to finally get into the place.  We sat at the communal table, rather than waiting for a 2 top.  We ordered the Shiraz.  The server let us taste both of the red wines on the menu and the Shiraz had more earth than the Cabernet Franc.  We tried their famous Sweet Chili Cauliflower.  It was outstanding.  For dinner I had the Seared Bomster Scallops, served over a ragout of braised pork and heirloom beans, fingerling potatoes, lemon relish and chervil.  The lemon relish topped each of the scallops.  It was outstanding.  I licked my plate clean.  Jeff tried the Eli’s Kitchen Burger, saying to me as he ordered, “I have to try out the burger to judge every new place.”  He said it was much better than the Aviary burger.  IMG_1592

So, there’s your brief tour of new restaurants in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island as you voyage through 2015.  I’d love to hear your critiques!

 

 

The Freedom to . . . Speak

Freedom-of-Speech-united-states-of-america-21760995-960-720

The Washington Post showed Charlie Hebdo’s cover of this week’s issue in their article discussing it.  The New Yorker didn’t. Nor did The New York Times.  (Although their online edition contains a link to Charlie Hebdo).  I read an article online about the new edition with the caricature of Mohammed crying, holding a sign that says “Je suis Charlie” and the words above him Tout Est Pardonne (All is forgiven).  I hesitated before posting the article on my facebook page.

Yesterday I saw a friend’s post that said “Why is no one posting the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo on Facebook? I believe The Times ran a front-page article, but neglected to print the image. We all get kind of quiet when it’s truly risky, myself included.” People are critical of The New York Times not posting it because print readers do not have the access to the links provided to online readers.

This is all very timely in connection to the hack of Sony Pictures in response to the release of The Interview.  There are literal violent attacks on free speech taking place in the world.

As a theatre artist and a writer, this is heavy shit.  And it should give anyone pause who writes, who tries to express themselves through art, pause.  These attacks are on artists.  The people who made The Interview are writers, directors, and actors.  The people who work at Charlie Hebdo are artists and writers.  If you are an artist or writer, you should be upset by this.  Very upset.  And you should be speaking out about what this means.

I have written things that people don’t like.  They tell me.  I tell them I appreciate their opinion.  And then we move on because it is my opinion.  I have also had people comment on my blog in hateful and misogynistic ways.  I delete them.  The difference to me is that we can disagree with each other without being hateful.  We can express our opinion without hate.  Once hate or violence enters the discussion or the debate, we’re not going to come to any understanding or respect for each other.

After 911, the citizens of this country did not come together for a Unity March against terrorism.  We became very afraid.  I honor the people of Paris and of France for coming together against violence, coming together against attacks on free speech.  For coming together.  Period.

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We are not a nation that tends to come together for much.  We tend to unravel, mistrust, and debate in nasty ways.  It saddens me.  The recent divide on the killing of black men is a perfect example.  I have seen more hate on facebook by defensive white people than I have ever seen.

The gray that is our world is unacceptable to so many people who want to live in the black and white.  Audre Lorde, a feminist writer and activist whose writing inspired so much of who I am and what I believe said “your silence will not protect you.”  She was right.  If we cannot speak and act and create, why live?

dhrimages

It’s 2015 and Agent Carter is Here!

agent carter

Many of my friends and colleagues understand my obsession with Wonder Woman.  I collect all things Wonder Woman and obsessively rant about the lack of female superheroes in today’s media.  In fact, I wrote a play for my doctoral dissertation about the lack of female superheros.  There has not been a Wonder Woman movie.  I know, one is coming, one is coming, but I’m not holding my breath.   Catwoman has had one movie about her, and secondary parts in other Batman movies, but rarely does a tv show or movie feature a strong woman superhero.

Last night I watched the season premiere of Agent Carter. It’s 1946, men are back from war, and Agent Peggy Carter is now being pushed aside as the male agents of the SSR fight crime.  The sexism is rampant in the mostly male cast, but that’s the point.  It’s campy and vampy like a superhero show should be.

H. Shaw Williams critiques the show for not being feminist on Screen Rant.  While I agree with much of what she says, I don’t agree that the show isn’t feminist.  When I look around at how women are represented throughout our media, I will take any positive and powerful expression I can find.  And Agent Carter is that.  She is strong, powerful and smart.  And while it is an “old” story of “I’m just as good as the men” or “treat me like the boys,” it’s still a good message.  And it’s 1946, we have to remember, and the world was much different then.

H. Shaw Williams seems young.  I don’t know her or her writing, but for young women who don’t have any experience watching strong women kick butt and take names, this is a show to watch.  I agree there should be more women on the show and better representation, but we have to start somewhere and I think Marvel might have a beginning here.

Does this give me hope for 2015?  It does.  While the 81% male House of Representatives spends all its time trying to strip away my reproductive rights and any hope I have for social security, I can at least look to Marvel and think, there is the tiniest bit of hope in this dark woman hating universe.agent-carter-7683

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