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

Let’s Talk about that “Rape Thing.”

Let’s Talk about that “Rape Thing.”

An Open Letter to Any More Republicans or Tea Party Folks or Others who Want to speak on Rape:

Today, I went to pick up my husband from work. I do this. We share only one car, and since he leaves it for me to run errands, or whatever during my day, it seems like the right thing to do.  He gets in the car, and I give him the driver’s seat, allowing me time to return some text messages. As he starts our vehicle headed toward home, and he asked me the following question:

“So, I am sure you hear what John Koster said today.”

“Koster?”

“Ya, The the Tea Party dude from our lovely state.”

“Yes, so what did he say?”

“Well we have another republican spouting about rape and abortion ….”

At that point I went off. I’m sure this did not surprise my husband, but I had not heard about the news: Congressman Koster calling rape “that rape thing” and then following up this unfortunate turn of phrase with his declaration that women who get pregnant from rape do not deserve the right to an abortion.  As Laura Bassett from the the Huffington Post cited:

“Incest is so rare, I mean, it’s so rare,” he said. “But the rape thing– you know, I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption, and she doesn’t regret it.” He added, “On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime — how does that make it better? You know what I mean?” (Koster as cited by Bassett)

If I can borrow Tina Fay’s lovely rant about republican men spouting BS about rape:

“If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m gonna lose my mind. I watch these guys and I’m like: what is happening? Am I a secretary on Mad Men?”

Seriously, I’m done. I am done listening to people tell me how I should feel about being raped. I would like to wager a guess that none of these republicans with their expert reflections on sexually assault have ever been raped. I suspect they’ve never been held down, tied up, felt a knife stuck to their neck by another individual… I don’t have the words. Because I have been raped – and incest is not that rare. I know what it feels like.

But besides the fact that these men have not experienced rape, and so therefore can’t really speak to the experience of being rape, let me address their stance regarding how women who get pregnant from rape should be denied the right to abortion.

The man walks away. 

They never think of that…do they?  Indeed, why would the father, the rapist, stay around? Rape is an act of violence, an act of power domination over another human being. A rapist doesn’t care about the child, the offspring, the result. Where does this all leave the woman raped and pregnant?  I’ll tell you where – without any support, financial and/or emotional, and without any help either. Further, because many republicans and tea party folks feel that social programs are waste of money, these same politicians write off programs to help the woman raped and abandoned.  Why?  The claim of the “individual” and the need to be absolutely self-reliant in all things.  Indeed, don’t we all get what we deserve, even god endorsed rape … she brought it on herself somehow.

“What do you mean rapist father left you after you got pregnant from the rape?  What did YOU do wrong?”

My problem with these men is this: They NEVER speak to the consequences of what happens to these women and children.  It’s all well and good to sit on your high unmoving moral horse, but when it comes down to it, if you don’t bother to actually back up your high morals with a good old plan, what we can do to help and make things right, you’re just full of crap.

None of these politicians have a plan.  They get rid of social programs (oh now work houses and orphanages) to help those who have been harmed via circumstances that were out of their hands, and, in the same breath, condemn the person to live with the reality because?  Because they seem to believe in some form of predestination – Either “God intended it” or, somehow, “you made this happens, so deal with it.”

Come up with a plan. Decide what will happen to the child after the birth when there is nobody there to take care of it. Even if the mother is there, and she’s happy to of had her rape child, what if she can’t mentally and/or financially take care of the child because the rapist, Daddy dearest, took off after the rape.

Come up with a plan. That’s the problem, all these folks want to make grand claims about what is wrong and what is right, but they offer not proof, no backup to their claims.  If these guys were in my Comp class, they would all fail for a poorly composed argument.

We have to consider what happens not only to the victim, but the offspring. Our laws have devolved over time. In today’s world, we take little pains to even go after the rapist, let alone make the rapist responsible for the fact that he or she raped.  In my first book, The origins of the Magdalene Laundries, I discuss the ancient Brehon Laws of Ireland and how they actually legislated for cases of rape.  These laws covered all different kinds of sexual unions between men and women (sadly they were not enlightened enough to apply to same sex unions), the Brehons, Law Givers, including the crime of rape: Not only was the rapist held responsible and punished for the violence offered to the woman, including a breach of honor, he was responsible for all children born from the illicit union. Under these law, there was no such thing as an illegitimate child. All children were cared for by the community, and the rapist had to support the children born as well as pay restitution to the woman assaulted (108-109).

It’s mind-boggling isn’t it? In our society, we  spend a great deal of time letting the victim know that he or she is at fault: You got raped because of the way you dressed.  You got raped because of your belief system.  You got raped because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You got raped because you had a glass of wine.  you got rapped because you went to the wrong party.  You got raped because your “no” sounded more like a “yes” to me.

We spend so much time blaming the victim that we don’t remember to take equal time at really punishing and holding the perpetrator responsible.

So enough. I would like to educate these men spouting off about rape. Please, make an office appointment. Come have tea, or cup of coffee, or a beer even, I know this great sexiest pizza joint that rejects feminist poetry but serves the best pizza in town.  But, let’s talk. Let me explain to you the reality of being raped, and ethics, and consequences. Let me educate you – I be happy to do it. By the way, you need it.

Rebecca