An Open Letter about Feminism to My Brothers

Dear Brother,

My Dad encouraged me to speak out.  He was a feminist!

My Dad encouraged me to speak out. He was a feminist!

I write to you today because I realize how uncomfortable you have been of lately. The Third Wave of Feminism (as it is being dubbed) is blooming (and praise be for it), and you are hearing women speak out about rape cultures, feminism, wage inequality, and the fact that the glass ceiling has not, no matter what PR spinners wish to say, broken. And because of social media, this third wave of feminism is loud, louder then even the first or second wave of feminism.  Women have a large medium to play with and they are using it.  But,  I see your discomfort on Facebook, on Twitter, and other social media outlets.  Many of you are feeling attacked and I am deeply sorry for this.

Please do not feel we are attacking you! We are NOT! We are attacking a system.  Many of our brothers stand with us and also reject a system that objectifies women, promoting the idea of the female as a means to an end. Many of our brothers object to a rape culture.  But what we have to say may make you uncomfortable.  When I talk about my rape, I am NOT blaming you, unless you were the one who did it and trust me, I would not be FB friends with you if that was the case!

Rather, it is important to understand something my dear brother: for decades we were asked to be silent about sexual abuse, assault and gender inequality.  And if we weren’t silent, we were threatened or attacked. Every woman in my immediate family, and yes we have all been sexually assaulted and raped, were threatened for speaking out one way or another: threatened by our attacker and by society at large. You see, this is something you don’t talk about in good company.

Nicolas Mollet, Rape, Events.

It’s like politics or religion, keep your mouth shut. That was the standard. If you did speak out, even your family could punish you for your transgression. Police force, school officials, and other authorities in our culture told us to be quiet.  And if we weren’t quiet we were more often than not, blamed for our attacks. Just like we are often blamed for encouraging an environment in which cat calls are generated: “you asked for it because you dressed like a slut.”

1920s competition

But the idea of dressing like a slut has been so subjective throughout time, and yet it still haunts us women: we exposed our ankles, we were sluts. We exposed a bit of shoulder, we were sluts. We allowed our breasts to be held up in a bra, we were sluts. We took our bra off, we were sluts. We exposed our legs in hot weather, we were sluts. We wear yoga pants, covering our bare legs, we are sluts. You see, this attitude, over time, has bubbled in the cauldron.  And the Cauldron is about ready to explode.

But should you feel threatened by this? No, my dear brother. Not unless you are contributing to the culture, you should not feel threatened by it.  But sadly many of you do. I know because I’ve had conversations with you over Facebook, on twitter, and face-to-face. I have been told that we need to get rid of the word “feminism” because it means that we hate men and are actively into male bashing. What we hate, dear brother, is a disgusting cultural norm that must be revised, but we don’t hate you. Why should we hate our counterpart?

Mabel Capper and Suffragettes with Petition

Feminism was never defined by feminists as male bashing; a matter of fact, feminism defined as a way for women to bash her fellow male counterpart was created by people, men and women alike, who wanted the status quo of gender relationships to be maintained. Why?  One reason was economics.  Consider the recession of the 1970s, and the fact that women coming into the employment market threatened men who were losing their jobs. You see, not unlike today, a corporation could hire part-time female workers for a lot less money than they were charging their male counterparts. Hell, they could hire a woman full time and still pay her less for doing the exact same job as her male counterpart. As men were laid-off from their jobs, a new market niche open, one for women, and many families were desperate for those women to go in and take those part-time jobs. But this should not be understood as male bashing feminism. It was survival.

I don’t want to give you a history lesson, but I do want to encourage you to go out and get a history lesson about feminism, my dear brother. The thing is this, people were feeling threatened, and a PR campaign was created in proclaimed that only lesbians, and male haters, were said to be feminist. The good woman, rejected feminism. This is the same bullshit that we are seeing today with the #IDon’tNeedFeminism and #WomenAgainstFeminism movement that is occurring in reaction to the third wave of feminism. Yes, history is repeating itself. And the sad thing is, most of these men and women who are part of this movement, don’t understand what feminism is. They also don’t understand that they are acting against their own self interest by rejecting feminism.

Gender Equality

So what does feminism mean? It means simply this: that men and women enjoy equal rights. These equal rights are to be understood as being enjoyed in the political realm, the economic round, the social realm, in short – in life. Equality. We ask for no more. We don’t want to rise above man, we don’t want to smash man, we don’t want to be better than men. We want equality and we want justice. Equality does not exist between the sexes presently, and it cannot exist if we continue to encourage and and nurture a culture norm that sees women as objects. That’s the truth.

My dear brothers, please do not feel threatened by the stories that you are hearing women share about their rapes and sexual assaults, about the economic inequality that they are suffering, or the fact that they feel ignored in this world. They are not blaming “you;” that is, unless you have done something to be blamed for. Rather, they are blaming a cultural norm that has gone wrong, and they are asking you, dear brother, to stand with them. I am asking you to stand with me!  I need you!  I need your voice and your conviction.  I need you to be willing to question your assumptions about gender relationships. I need you to speak out when you have been treated badly as well. But above all, I need you to stand with me. I am not asking you to sit in the sidelines. Fight with us and help us make a better world.

Mahalo,
R

Female Population – Globally

In my last post I made a snarky comment that we should treat women and invest in women as if women made up half the population. It amazes me how we are often willing to dismiss half the population because of their sex (not gender – too many people confuse these two terms).

Regardless, I was curious if I was right, did women make up half the population?  Less than half?  More than half?  So I went to the Worldbank.org’s website and looked up the stats.  You can find the website here: Population, female (% of total) | Data | Table.

Here is the general scoop.  One can argue that generally women do indeed make up half the population.

Take a moment to compare those nations were women make up slightly more or slightly less of the population.  In general, the numbers fluctuate between 48% Countries like Afganistan and China, to 53% in countries like Armenia and 52% in Aruba.  The US ratio is at 50.7%.

But generally, yes … women make up half of the population.  A fact we would do well not to forget.

Rebecca

Statement from the President on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act | The White House

WAVA - PassageStatement from the President on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act | The White House.

The Violence Against Women Act is one of those acts that should’ve been a no-brainer. This bill should have been passed immediately in order to protect women, no matter the woman’s background.  I am amazed and the amount of people who voted against it …. glad they were the minority. Thank goodness the VAWA finally passed the House of representatives. It breaks me heart to see how much we must fight for simple justice and equality.

Rebecca

Pro-Life Dry Cleaner Puts Anti-Abortion Message on Coat Hangers

Irony at it’s best.  A Pro-Life Dry Cleaner Puts Anti-Abortion Message on Coat Hangers. I guess these folks are terribly unaware of the realities and the relationship between wire hangers an abortion when abortion is made illegal.   Here is a great article from The Atlantic that spells it out:

Consider the Coat Hanger by Rebecca J. Rosen

A Rebuttal to Bill Flax: Women in Combat

Image: “Flickr – Israel Defense Forces – The Life of Female Field Intelligence Combat Soldiers. Image is released under a creative Commons License by the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit.

Hot off the press is Bill Flax’s op/ed piece for Forbes.com: “Memo to the ACLU: Don’t Put Women Into Combat,” published 11/29/2012 @ 2:28PM.  Flax offers a partisan argument regarding women in combat: he is against it. I use the word “partisan” simply because of Flax’s insistance of referring to the “left” and “liberal academics” as being the pushers in this equation, pushing for combat equal in the military.  Flax writes:

Try as the Left may to thwart reality, adult men and women remain different. It’s impossible to comprehend human interactions without recognizing this undeniable certainty. Nevertheless, the American Civil Liberties Union has launched legal action against the Department of Defense. The lawsuit seeks to pry open one of the last pursuits still exclusively masculine, serving in combat.

This phraseology leads me to believe that Mr. Flax is a conservative who sees this issue singularly, as a political concern rather than a topic above simple political wriggling: a civil rights issue. But I will get to that in a moment.  First, I would like to examine this author’s argument.

Flax argues that women are not cut out for combat, and to support his argument he points to how his children, girls and boys, act differently as they greet him when he gets home from work: girls kiss and hug, boys hit.  Further, he brings up a Marine’s Infantry Officers Course designed for women, which failed: “The Marine Corps has opened Infantry Officers Course for a pilot program to study how well women could perform in combat roles. The first two females, and only two entered, both quickly flopped; one on the first day, the other within a week. No female marines have yet opted for the next session.”

Next, to uphold his argument further, Flax explains how women are weak and generally lazy, not willing to pull their backs into training or, one assumes, when in combat:

Every Friday morning we’d bemusedly watch as the HQ elements went on their weekly PT run. The mostly male main body would scurry past and there would inevitably follow a long trail of women marines casually walking along behind. Maybe a paramour or two accompanying their leisurely strolls back to the barracks.

There are likely many women who can hack it physically, particularly in the short term. Over longer spans, however, few women have the endurance, the skeletal structure, the muscularity, to withstand the physical brutality of combat. We can lessen the requirements so more women qualify, but when bullets fly, truth will prove costly.

For the few woman that might be able to hack it, Flax offers brief but partial recognition: “The courageous young heroines who have endured combat missions deserve our recognition, nay our praise. But it’s essential that we limit their duties in theatre. It comes down to our nation’s very essence.”

I had many reactions to this particular article and most of them quite strong. I disagree with Mr. Flax quite rigorously, and for many reasons.  Part of my problem according to Flax, I am sure, would be my political standing. Of course, being one of those “Lefties” and “Liberals,” and being a woman, my first thought was: of the many women I know who experience combat, far too many have told me about being raped, and/or being sexually and verbally assaulted throughout the process by male comrades.* Of course, Mr. Flax anticipates this “liberal” concern when he writes:

At college, after serving in the Marine Corps infantry, it became apparent that all liberal academics cared about the military was whatever sexual harassment scandal then cycled through the news. One would think the armed forces were social engineering mechanisms. Nary any inkling that marines protect our country, their point is fighting and winning wars. Nope, to the Left, it’s all about opportunities for women to invade previously masculine fields.

I am sadden about how Flax dismisses the very real problem of sexual harassment in the military and, contrary to his argument, this is a form of socialization against female participation – hegemony at it’s worse. Silence is half the problem with sexual assault in this country and in the military.  According the our defense department, sexual assault and rape are real issues to be concerned with:

The military services received a total of 3,192 reports of sexual assault during fiscal
2011. Of the 3,192 reports of sexual assault, 2,439 were unrestricted reports and 753 were restricted reports. This represents a one percent increase since fiscal 2010, there were 3,158 reports of sexual assault, consisting of 2,410 unrestricted reports and  748 restricted reports. (See ” Fact Sheet on Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military,” linked to below).

One of the bigger questions that come to mind is this: how many people do not report being sexually assaulted? How many people do not report being physically or mentally assaulted? What does this mean to the numbers and statistics? Indeed, the number of actual sexual assaults is estimated well into the ninteen thousand, according to the DOD itself:

In FY2010, there were 3,158 total reports of sexual assault in the military. The DODestimates that this number only represents 13.5% of total assaults in 2010, making the total number of military rapes and sexual assaults in excess of 19,000 for FY 2010. (See the Service Women’s Action Network, linked to below).

It is inexcusable to simply dismiss this issues as a nonissue in this particular memo, and for the sake of all women, including Mr. Flax’s two little girls, I would urge the author to tread lightly and with some education on this particular topic.

Let me, however, move on to Mr. Flax’s next argument in his op/ed: his insistance that when we talk about women fighting in combat, this discussion is not about socialization or civil rights, but a practical issue regarding gender sensibility and physical, DNA reality: women can’t carry the equipment needed in war, woman can’t emotionally handle the stress of war, and so on and so forth.  We have heard these arguments over and over again, from Rousseau and his “separate but equal” rationale as to why women should be educated to please men, to sudo scientific arguments regarding how women have smaller brains and so could not handle the right to vote, to Flax’s tired and worn out argument regarding why the ACLU should stop pushing for equality in the military.  But make no mistake, all of this comes down to socialization and propaganda: tell a person long enough about how she or he can’t do something, and I guarantee you that person will convince their self of the same. Socialize a society to believe that a certain portion of their population are second class citizens, and you will get a society that happily steps on others.  History demonstrates this point nicely, from slavery, to segregation, to genocide and the like.

Besides being a socialization issue, this writer is incorrect when he states that offering women the right to fight for their country is “not a civil rights matter” … it certainly is about civil rights. It’s about equal opportunity for one to fight for their country without being harassed sexually, mentally, or physically.  How can it be otherwise?  Indeed, let’s consider World War II. In World War II the definition of “fighting for your country” was divided and defined differently for the genders.  Men picked up a gun and went overseas to fight and possibly die.  Women, most of them daughters, sisters, wives/homemakers, were told to redefine womanhood. All of a sudden women were told that they had the strength, nay a new found ability to do a man’s job.  In droves women left their kitchens and their homes, there safe jobs as librarians and teachers to “fight for their country” by building all the goods needed to fight in a modern war: bombs, aircrafts and the like.  They did the jobs that “no good woman” would have been caught doing before the war. Women doing men’s jobs? Women working for their country, their beliefs and ethics; that is, they were “real women” until the men came back, and these women were told that “real womanhood” was again redefined.  A “real woman” would walk away from “real men’s jobs” and go back to their homes, kitchens, and dresses.  Socialization? Civil rights? You bet your ass.

Mr. flax, I personally don’t want to go to war. I think war is a waste of humanity, it is a disease, a blight that affects us all. However, I do believe in the good fight. I also believe that we should all have the right to fight for our rights and ethics, even if it comes to defending ourselves with a gun when necessary.  Of course, I would rather fight with good arguments and words first. But sometimes we are violated, and we must defend ourselves. Women have a right to help that defense.

I have done my best to point out the flaws in these arguments, but I welcome my readers to read up on the issue, and make their own judgments.

 

*Please note, I know many male soldiers who would never, under and circumstance, promote sexual assault or rape – so I am not putting all male military persons in this category. Further, male solders are also assaulted and raped as well.  It is a all consuming problem.

Check out these other resources for women who fight:

O’Toole, Molly.  “Military Sexual Assault Epidemic Continues to Claim Victims As Defense Department Fails Females.”  Huffington Post.  6 Oct. 2012.  Web. 29 Nov. 2012. 

Speier, Jackie. “Why Rapists in Military Get Away with It.”  CNN.com. 21 June 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

NA. “Fact Sheet on Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assult in the Military for Fiscal 2011 April 13, 2012.” Defense.gov. 13 April 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

NA. “Top Ten Badass Female Warriors.” Listverse.com. 17 March 2008.  Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

NA. “Chronologic History of Female Warriors, Military Commanders and Duelists.” Female Single Combat Club. 2012. Web. 29 Nov 2012.

Taylor, Kate. “The Military’s ‘Invisible War:’ A Call To Action To Stop Sexual Assaults.” Forbes.com. 21 June 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Service Women’s Action network. “Pentagon Releases Latest Reports on Sexual Assault in the Military.” 30 March 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

An interesting article on how women warriors can be defined more broadly: Ufberg, Sharon. “Women Warriors: Not Your Everyday Desperate Housewives.” The Huffington Post. 17 June 2011.  Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

Gender Pay Inequality is Alive & Well Ladies

I got an e-mail today from the AAUW (American Association of University Women) regarding equal pay in the US. This email  reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a dear friend, someone who is about my age, regarding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Like many women I have met throughout my lifetime, my friend assumed that the ERA had passed years ago. Indeed, she was shocked and dismayed to learn that it had still not passed, this reasonable amendment that was first introduced to the public in 1923.
I have even spoke to some women who feel that passing the ERA is not all that pertinent in today’s society. The argument runs along these lines:

  •  Women can work the same jobs as men today.
  •  If a woman wants to have dildo, hell she can go out and buy one.
  • Women are really not discriminated against in our modern society.
  • Heck, I know some men who stay home with the kids, while the woman goes out and works!

But the truth is simple; there is no true quality between the sexes in the US. We may be closer, but closer is not destroying the so called “glass ceiling.” Women continue to be treated as second-class citizens (you are a slut if you use birth control is just one in a long string of examples I could bring to the table), and women’s rights as a full and equal citizen in the United States continues to be challenged. This can be seen through many facets of life, but especially through an economic lens.

The AAUA’s forum “The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap” presents compelling information regarding both race and gender pay gap inequality realities in the United States. Since we are a country that treasures profit, and equates success with one’s financial bottom line, the findings regarding pay inequality is staggering. It is important to note these pay gap statistics take into consideration job performance.  That is to say, the job comparison ratio assumes that both parties, male and female, perform the same job equally well. What was found was that women earn approximately 77% of what her male counterpart makes for performing the same job. If you happen to be a woman of color, such as a black woman (70% of a man’s paycheck) or a Hispanic woman (61% of a man’s pay check), you will struggle more seriously in our society, demonstrating that genderism and racism are alive and well and kicking our collective female asses.

Please take a moment to read this information regarding state-by-state wages, this is a chart that compares gender pay (Note: this is a PDF File, and the information was gathered by the US Census Bureau, 2010 American Community Survey Data). Here are some highlights regarding gender pay inequality, 2010 numbers:

  •  Gender equality in the realm of pay does not exist in any state in the United States.
  •  Washington, D.C. offers the best earnings ratio, with women earning 91% of a males’ paycheck for the same job (Men: $ 61,381 VS Women: $56, 127).
  •  I was personally surprised to find that the rather conservative state of Arizona (82%) does a better job with pay quality than the overall liberal state of Washington, which falls into the 77% category.
  •  Wyoming has the biggest problem with offering paid quality to the female gender, coming in at 64%. Wyoming was closely followed by Louisiana and Utah, both in the 60 percentile.

To add fuel to this fire, Bloomberg found that the best way for a woman to make equal or better money then her male counterpart was to open a shoe shinning business, since all other business in and around wall street paid women substantially less, and could justify this reality logically:

The six jobs with the largest gender gap in pay and at least 10,000 men and 10,000 women were in the Wall Street-heavy financial sector: insurance agents, managers, clerks, securities sales agents, personal advisers and other specialists. Advanced- degree professions proved no better predictors of equality. Female doctors made 63 cents for every $1 earned by male physicians and surgeons, the data show. Female chief executives earned 74 cents for every $1 made by male counterparts. 

Adrienne Rich

Image linked to from the Poetry Foundation: Adrienne Rich.

“The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming forces on this planet.” (Adrienne Rich, 1929 to 2012)

I have just received the news that Adrienne Rich has died, and my heart is broken. I took a few minutes to read a few articles about her life; I set down and remembered the first time I read her work; I got up and I lit a candle, and then I cried. My sadness is for me. I cannot think of a world without Adrienne Rich in it, without Adrienne Rich being there to help remind us about all about our follies when it comes to gender relationships, love, and ethical, kind interaction among us all. And although I am saddened today by her leaving us, I am also so grateful that she was here for the amount of time she was.

Truly, I cannot imagine a world that did not have Adrienne Rich in it. How much she gave us all. How much she potentially changed in our world with each word she wrote, each poem she compose, and each time she bared her soul for our benefit.

Just yesterday I was adding a quote from Adrienne Rich to a chapter in Writing the Diaphragm Blues regarding women’s rights and birth control. I sought out her book because I remembered there was an interesting passage regarding the death at the midwife, and the rise of the doctor in Western civilization.  She has been a go to resource of mine for much of my life. 

For me personally, Adrienne Rich encouraged my voice as a feminist. She encouraged me to go out and write about those things that most of us keep behind closed doors. She showed me how it was okay to be uncomfortable by my confessions, by my feelings, and with my anger. She encouraged me with her words and her actions, to share my own subjective experiences about being a woman, about sexuality in order to share and reach out to a larger imagined community. I shudder to think of a world without Adrienne Rich in it. But possibly, my hope is this: that she encouraged other women to follow in her footsteps, to expose their souls for the world’s benefit.