No, writing about how rape is wrong is not a rant!

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I am linking to a powerful blog post by Lauren Nelson, “So You’re Tired of Hearing About ‘Rape Culture’?”

Read this post by Lauren.

We must talk about rape culture, even if it makes us uncomfortable.  Someone called my discussion of rape and sexism in Writing The Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophonies a rant.  It broke my heart to hear my book was a rant and to see that single star in the review.  But I realized that the politics in my book, my view on rape culture and victim blaming would strike some folks the wrong way.  That is the risk you take when you put yourself and your life out there for others to read and judge.

Then I realized, after some soul searching, my book was far from a pointless “rant,” rather it is a well supported war chant, with jokes thrown throughout for good measure, against rape culture, victim blaming, and misogynism.

At least most of Twitter get’s it right, read how the topic is trending now!

People today are complaining about the constant beat of rape culture literature, about how they are done hearing about it and “can you all just get off your soap boxes. please.” Rather, we are asked to just put up images of “grumpy cat” and other cute but weak memes for the sake of ignoring the truth, the critical reality of a culture that basically allows for victim blaming and rape.  The answer is NO. We should not stop talking about it until rape is considered unacceptable in all corners of the world, in all social structures.

I am a survivor of rape, of multiple rapes and I am sorry if you think I am ranting, but I am certainly NOT going to clam up.  We must all rise above and be better beings.  For those of us who just can’t bare to talk about this topic, who finds it a bore, a rant, and would rather ignore it, well … here is a nice image of grumpy cat for you, but by the look of this image, rape pisses Grumpy Cat off too 🙂

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And as my friend Amber always ends her rants: Good Day! 🙂

Birth Control and the Gates Foundation

Wikipedia Commons
In
my book, Writing the Diaphragm Blues,
I discuss the need for a male version of the birth control pill. I also discuss
how research and technology is available and ready to offer the world a male
version of birth control pill, but unfortunately the world is not all that
interested in it. How can we tell? 
Funding. Just as funding is available by the truckload for new “Viagra”
like medications, there are few trucks loaded and ready with finances to test
new methods of birth control for men. 
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the few organizations substantially
backing this effort. 
But
there is reluctance for this direction in birth control research. Indeed, many
men object to the idea of subjecting their body to hormonal forces that impact
their body negatively. Ironic enough, many of these same men do not seem to
worry about asking their female partners to subject their body to hormonal
drugs, but the line is drawn once the tables are turned. Yet I would argue that
it is not unreasonable to object to putting medications into your body that
would cause you some kind of harm. It is actually a very reasonable objection.
That is why research is now attempting to find a solution to the male birth
control conundrum, which does not include doses of hormones – but this research
is just in its infancy. Regardless, until a solution can be found, birth
control continues to be an issue that impacts women more directly, mostly
remaining a non-issue for men.
In
this past election cycle, the issue of birth control has shown its ugly little
head again (pun intended). It really should be a non-issue, and indeed it has
been a non-issue for centuries. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that the use
of birth control, and the need for birth control, is a rather new and modern debate.
The pill … yes, but birth control has existed for centuries, from the use of
natural herbs, to the intestines of animals that were used as a type of a
condom.  Why is birth control an issue now?  It
is an issue because people feel birth control is a form of population control
,
and a simple abortant.  It is also
an issue because it gives people the ability to control the social roles played
by the different genders in society. However, I have commented on the second
point a great deal in this blog, let me reflect a little on the first point.
As
Melinda Gates suggests below, the argument and the fear regarding the
widespread use of birth control is fear regarding purposeful population
control. This population point it’s not so much of a side issue as Melinda
Gates suggests in her discussion, but Gates is correct when she states that the
bottom line regarding birth control is this: people should have a right to
decide whether or not they are ready to bring a child into this world, and
whether they can care for that child. Birth control is indeed a personal,
egoist concept and “I,” and “my needs” are prominent in
this formula.  However, the utilitarian position, or the “we”
position is also dominate. So yes, population control is at issue as well. This
doesn’t mean I want or that I suggest we need to adopt a policy, such as is
seen in China, limiting how many children we bring into this world. 
However, there is something to be said about famine, a lack of resources, and
our inability to care for children that we bring into this world. It is simple irresponsible
to suggest through rhetoric or practice that humans have the right to bring
children into this world, but we don’t necessarily have to take responsibility
for caring for those children/people throughout their lives. The philosopher
Peter Singer brought up this discussion in ’72 with his well argued article “Famine, Affluence,
and Morality” in Philosophy and Public Affairs (1:1
). Although dated,
I cannot help but feel we should all revisit this discussion again.
Regardless,
I would agree that creating a general rule for the good of the majority is not
always a sound idea – frankly, it can be disastrous. Mandatory use of birth
control is as bad as an idea as is limited the amount of children a couple can
have in a society where the male child is valued over the female –
China has a mess on their hands because of this.
  Although I am a
utilitarian at heart, I’m also a pragmatist. I like to look at situations as
they, individually, occur and then weigh the consequences of potential
reactions to that situation before I act. It’s a process and I am a huge
supporter of focusing on the process rather than a particular, singular,
outcome. People and situations are unique, and they must be approached
uniquely. It is this approach toward birth control that is needed
globally.  
What
does this mean in the end?  It means that we must have open access to
birth control throughout the world. It also means that men must have more open
access to different forms of birth control as well, and they must be encouraged
to make it part of their personal regiment, just as women do. It also means we
must educate the world on the use of birth control, and the responsibility that
comes with the use of birth control. We must teach people about sex, the
consequences of sex, the consequences of sexual assault, and… yes… the
consequences of overpopulation. The problem is that most talking heads are
making this issue in either or issue rather than looking at the consequences,
the wide affecting consequences, of a world without birth control. Enough.

Melinda Gates TED talk on Birth Control.

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. 

The Ethics of Birth Control

Justice Should be Blind, Not Stupid
Erin Solaro over at the Seattle PI’s Civic Feminism blog wrote
a delightful post about the
Politics of Contraception
.  I
left a comment there, thanking her for her fantastic post and also posing this
question: 
Why are these people (those who want to take birth control away from
woman) only concerned with the moment, the act of potential procreation and not
the consequences resulting from that moment?
What worries me terribly is the simple fact that these men
(and they are almost all men) working to deny women access to birth control
never bother to look at the potential consequences of what happens when we deny women access to birth control (Yes women, men have historically been given clear access to birth control, but women denied).  All these politicians and pundits are concerned with is the act of potential procreation. This is the ethics of short-term egoism
that refuses to look at long-term consequences of this action: Birth control
denial.  This short-term ethic set is downright
irresponsible of lawmakers, and certainly an
example of why many citizens no longer trust of hold hope in their political
representatives
(consider this, recession is simply a result of short term
rationale of fast profit that had devastating consequences for the US and
globally as well). This is a huge problem not only with politics, but with our
society today: short-term satisfaction and, ironic enough, birth
control is not about short term satisfaction, no matter how much Rush Limbaugh
and others like him wish to frame the issue with such misguided rhetoric: give a woman birth control and she will screw anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Here are some long-term consequential considerations we must
consider before denying women birth control:
  • What happens to women that have been raped?
  • What happens to women who need birth control for general
    health reasons related to hormonal imbalances?
  • What happens to a market place devoid of cheap female labor (the more children a woman has, the more likely she will have to leave the market place)?
  • What happens to a home’s economics when it loses ½ of its income making members once she leaves the market places and becomes a homemaker. 
    • (I am not putting down the life of the homemaker. However, many homes need both adults
      working to survive. If we have no birth control, the average family could have
      up to 4-5 children, making it important for one parent to stay home to care for
      the children. If history has demonstrated anything, it will likely be the woman who stays home.  where will the money come in this world today to feed and care for a such a family well?)
  • What happens to all the unwanted children in this world? The
    “disposable” children abandoned, lost, and not cared for?
  • What happens to women’s rights generally and how society
    views women?
  • What happens when the death rate of women skyrocket as more
    births occur and as more women die during child birth?
  • What about over population in relation to famine and a frightfully
    shrinking natural resource pool in this earth?
These few consequential considerations are only the tip of
the iceberg regarding potential problems and dramatic socialist structural changes as a result of such a drastic act as
denying easy access to birth control. To make things more clear, let’s take a case study: Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.  As I wrote in my
comment on the PI:
Taken in an Irish Laundry: Location Unknown
In Ireland (and globally but Ireland becomes the case study
par excellence), hundreds of thousands of women were placed in Laundries and
forced to become nothing more than slave labor for the state and church of
Ireland. Major targets? Single mothers and any woman deemed amoral as compared
to her society’s spiritual temperament. These women had no choice, as law
regarding their bodies were clear: A woman’s body was not their own.  Their body was their fathers, their
brothers, their husband, the church or the state, but there was no true
anonymity. And the children, ripped from these Magdalene Laundresses? Either
they were shipped out of Ireland, adopted to foreign Catholic parents, or
placed in workhouses; horrific state run institutions of abuse (Read the Commission to Inquire into child abuse).
Birth control plays a huge role in this travesty, because
here was a society that denied birth control to women and, at the same time,
did not consider any of the consequences of this so called moral action.   We are headed there if we do not
stop this nonsense now.  Denying
women birth control is wide raging consequences, consequences that must be
addressed and seriously debated. Otherwise, we are simply caving to egoistic,
short sighted, and misguided proclamations that will harm all of our society,
not simply the women it’s trying to control.

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.

Chapter 6: Playing Heads or Tails with My Diaphragm

In 2008 I wrote a creative piece for Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion called: “Playing Heads or Tails with My Diaphragm: Drinking Lattés with Hélène Cixous.”  In this short essay, I get to imagine myself having a conversation with John McCain and Hélène Cixous about gender, politics, and identity.  I am reworking this essay to be included as a short piece in my memoir on sex and sexuality.  Here is a pieced together preview of some of the dialogue.  I call the McCain approach to sexuality “Viagra politicking.”  We have a lot of Viagra politicking in Washington as of late.

*****


“And so it still goes . . .” I sighed, while sipping my double-shot latté.

“What still goes?” said John McCain coming up behind me—grinning brightly, and sandwiching my hand between his.

“Politics as usual. Empty rhetoric. Careless sexism.”

“My, my dear girl!” Pat, pat, pat came his hand on mine. “It can’t be as bad as all that!”

“Can’t
it? You who champions Viagra over birth control,# stagnate, ‘calm’
courts over equal pay for women.# ‘My, my dear man,’ can you smell the
patronizing?”


“Don’t you mean patriotism!”

“Hum . . . Yes, presently they do smell the same.”

“So then,” he said grinning once again—his shark tooth smile reflecting the sun, “I can count on your vote?”

“I’ll
tell you what, let’s play heads or tails with my diaphragm and leave it
up to chance. Can you guess which side is heads . . . is tails?”

“Why the part that sticks up like a dome, that’s the head.”

“Ah yes, I figured you’d say as much, no more Viagra for you.”

“You know, you shouldn’t think of a corset as a jail, but as a thing of beauty,” said the
press-deemed maverick, while fruitlessly reaching for Hélène’s hands.

“John,” I said, “I did not invite you into my skin. I would have remembered addressing the invitation.”

“Shush.
Enough now” said McCain, who was backing away from Hélène’s Mona Lisa
smile. “You look lovely in the corset, enchanting. Let me lace up the
back for you.”

“Goddamn it! That’s too damn tight!”

“Just
a bit more. There, now turn towards me. Yes, that is what I like to
see. As Rousseau, that great defender of democracy liked to say, a woman
‘ought to make herself pleasing in [a man’s] eyes and not provoke him
to anger; her strength is in her charms, by their means she should
compel him to discover and use his strength.’”

 
“To please you? I didn’t even invite you.”

“But
you did, my dear. Or why would you have let me play with that diaphragm
of yours? I think it landed on heads.” John McCain smiled.

“Stop calling me ‘dear,’ I’m Lilith.”

“Would a rose by any other name . . .?”


“I’m
unlacing myself—I’m untangling myself from your words. I did’nt invite
you. I will not become you. Now give me back my diaphragm, I saw you
slip it into your pocket, next to your Viagra.”

Watch him run.  Can you see him? Limping forward, legs close together,
protecting himself from possible castration—run, sir, run to Freud …
comfort each other the best you can as time for both of you is linear
and short. I live in the circular realm; it goes around and around,
never to stop.

“Hélène, do you think he saw in me the Medusa?”

“You’re Lilith, and I’m Medusa.”

“A rose by any other name …”

R

Getting my First Period – Chapter 3

This is another short bit from my book, Writing the Diaphragm Blues.  In this chapter, I recount what happened to me when I got my period for the first time.  Do you remember what happened when you got your period? Did you family support you and help you along?  My family throw a party.
———-

From Chapter 3: “Diaphragm Blues.”

I’ll never forget when I got my period …. oh hell on earth! I say this with a combination of horror, delight, and just a little bit more horror thrown in for good measure. Why do I say horror? Simply because when you are a thirteen year-old girl, having your period for the first time, even if your prepared for it, is a horrible experience. To be honest, the first time I noticed hair under my arms, it was enough to send me to my bedroom for three months.

I really did not want to grow up, as I had no interest in becoming a woman. I enjoyed being a child, and I enjoyed being a tomboy even more, so these signs of womanhood were offensive and threatening. When I got my period for the first time, my Mother was overjoyed. She sent Lee-Dad to the market for menstrual pads, because she only used tampons and she didn’t think I would like to use a tampon on my first time. However, a family friend was present and she tried to teach me how to use a tampon in the bathroom. Oh my God. Let me just say that again … Oh my God! Talk about an epic failure, not only was it a tampon, but it was one of those tampons without an applicator. Again … hell for a thirteen year old.

My Dad soon came home from the store with the pads, beaming, announcing to the world, it seemed, that I was now a woman. Did he tell the guy at 7-Eleven? I am rather sure he did. I see the scene very clearly in my mind’s eye:

Dad: Good day sir, I would like to buy these menstrual pads.

Store Clerk: Why certainly good man. I’m assuming they’re not for you?

Both: (laugh)

Dad: No indeed not, but I hear they make good odor-eaters for your shoes.

Both: (the two men laugh again).

Dad: No, they’re for my daughter – she is a woman today.

Store Clerk: Well congratulations. I guess you’re going to be locking her up from now on, right? (Both men chuckle.)

Dad: Yep! The next stop is the local armoury. I’m buying her the best chastity belt money can buy!

Store Clerk: Good luck with that!

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R