Tag Archives: women

processing thoughts on girls

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My sexuality goes through phases. Since acknowledging that I was bisexual about five years ago or so, I’ve noticed that I go through times when I feel more into women than men. That usually happens when I don’t feel as close emotionally to Chris, so I don’t explore it at all or look at it as anything more than just a passing thing. My interest is also always on a celebrity or other person who I don’t actually know, so there’s never any temptation to act on anything.

Lately though, the “gay phase” has lasted longer than usual. I’ve been confused by it. Chris and I have been very emotionally close lately, we’ve been through pretty intense counseling, worked very intentionally on communication, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in the romantic area of my life. What’s the deal?

Yesterday, as I was watching interviews with my latest celebrity obsession, I realized that none of my thoughts were sexual. I was honestly just daydreaming about hanging out, having tea with this person, being gal pals. Okay…so this really doesn’t have anything to do with being bisexual. This is something else.

Studies have shown women are “hard-wired” for friendship. When women become stressed, their instinct is to seek out other women because of biological factors like hormones and oxytocin. They don’t seek out men because men’s brains handle stress differently. Harvard Medical School even showed that women with a close group of female friends develop less physical impairments as they get older. Not having friends is bad for your health, and can have a similar effect on the body as smoking.

*None of this is to say that men don’t need friendships. The studies are also obviously pretty black-and-white in terms of gender, which gender is not, but I think the point is true: humans need friendships. I’m just especially interested in the girl-girl dynamic, because I’m cis, and that’s what I know and experience.*

None of this is surprising to me. When I was in counseling and struggling with my sexuality, one of my counselors suggested it was just because I didn’t have girl friends, so I had started seeing them like I did boys, as unfamiliar, and that triggered my brain to believe it was a sexual thing. I know that wasn’t what it was, but I’m sure it was part of it. I’ve always been more interested in girls than boys; most of my crushes have been girls. I’m sure some of it was sexual, and some of it was just wanting that close friendship.

I think that need for female energy and company has become especially strong because I’m pretty isolated here. I work from home. I’m building friendships from scratch. I have one close girl friend here, but one person can’t be everything, and I have a lot of close girl friends who are further away who I miss a lot. The last few attempts I’ve made to make more friends have not been successful. I think I’m discouraged. So I turn to interviews and TV and movies and music to hear female voices that I like, watch interesting women and imagine they’re talking to me. It sounds really pathetic when I write it out, but it hasn’t been a conscious thing, so there’s not much I can do about it.

Eh. This was a really personal post, and maybe no one else feels this way, but I wanted to put it out there, mostly to process. Thanks for reading.

The Saga of Elliot Rodger

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On May 23, a 22-year old California student killed six people and injured seven while rampaging through a college town. He has been identified as Elliot Rodger, the son of “Hunger Games” assistant director Peter Rodger. Elliot died at the scene of the crime from what looks like a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Police are calling this the work of a “madman,” but I object to the term. It’s clear that Elliot was disturbed, but calling someone insane too quickly dismisses the influence that society/family life might have had on his decisions. No one is just born a “madman.” As a child of the Internet age, Elliot has left us with a bizarre and distressing saga through message boards, Youtube videos, and book-length “manifesto” that details why a person would go on a killing rampage.

After reading excerpts from Elliot’s internet use (which includes racist rants such as expressing outrage over seeing a black man with four “hot, white girls,” and saying that “Asian men can’t get white women”), I was really interested in seeing what in his life might have spurned on this intense hatred. I began to read his manifesto.

The first impression I had of Elliot was his strange arrogance. He spends a good length of time on each of his years, even from when he was a baby to about four, years which most of us do not remember well. He recounts specific memories of being upset about when another child was given the first piece of cake at Elliot’s birthday, and brags about being a “world traveler” at such a young age. He is obsessed with how “innocent” he was as a child, how “happy.” The first trauma he recounts is when he was about seven, when his parents divorced. He also expresses how when his father remarried relatively quickly, he was impressed with his father’s ability to find another woman in such short a time.

The rest of Elliot’s earlier youth seems fairly normal, although he is clearly very privileged, though unaware of it. He spends a lot of time describing the various video games and vacations he is given, as well as the various houses his parents live in. In middle school, Elliot becomes obsessed with being popular and writes about all the tricks he learns to try and fit in, which includes bleaching his hair, taking up skateboarding and then hacky-sack. It seems that he was relatively successful, though he seems to underemphasis this. He talks about several friends and how he was welcomed into the “cooler groups,” but is fixated on how isolated he still feels. When puberty hits, things start to get weird.

Elliot sees other boys getting attention from girls and is filled with raging jealousy. He doesn’t understand why these girls pick “bastards” over him. The first year of high school was rough for Elliot; he describes being bullied, have rumors spread about him, and not having friends at his new school. His parents allow him to leave this school after freshman year. Around this time, Elliot becomes obsessed with the game World of Warcraft, where he feels more important, but still isolated by even his Internet friends. At 17, Elliot decides the only way to obtain “justice” for his loneliness is to take violent action.

I skipped ahead at this point, to college. Elliot moves into a frat dorm intent on losing his virginity. It does not happen. Elliot’s anger escalates. He describes an incident where, drunk, he observes frat brothers standing on a ledge with girls and partying loudly. Furious, Elliot charges at them, targeting the women, and attempts to push people off the 10-foot ledge. Elliot is then attacked, having his leg broken, and sunglasses and necklace stolen. The next day, Elliot lies to the police and says he was attacked for acting “cocky” and wants those responsible to be punished. Elliot seems aware that what he did would get him in trouble, but believes that he is still the  “true” victim. At this point, Elliot decides it’s time to bring about the “Day of Retribution.” He does not intend to come out of it alive.

Elliot is clearly an extreme narcissist. He is fixated on how “unfair” and “unjust” his life is, about how “evil” his peers are, when really what he is describing is not uncommon. Who hasn’t had sucky teenage years? Lots of kids are bullied, many much worse than Elliot, and they don’t go off on shooting sprees. So why did Elliot? He truly believes that what is happening to him is the worst thing any human could endure and that is justifies mass slaughter. That is not normal.

I don’t think society can be blamed for what happened, but it definitely played a part. Elliot is obsessed with sex and that somehow that is what gives him worth, so when he is not able to get a girlfriend and have sex, his world falls apart. Today’s culture is similarly focused. Men are expected to lose their virginity at a young age and engage in lots of sexual activity while in college. TV, movies, and music paints the ideal young American male as confident and athletic, with his pick of women. On the opposite side you have “losers,” who are socially inept, rejected by women, and therefore ripe for the mockery. If a young man does not lose his virginity at the ideal time, he is taught to live in fear of never becoming an adult.

Women are tools for this entry into manhood. From a young age, boy (and girls) are bombarded with images of female sexuality. Magazine covers, TV shows, commercials, Internet ads, billboards, movies..essentially every kind of media has bought fully into the lie that “sex sells.” And that’s not even counting porn, whose effect on people is something that psychologists, parents, and lawmakers alike fight over. Girls (especially “party girls” who are part of Greek life) are expected to be gentle with male egos and readily available for sex. Elliot being a virgin is because he was “deprived” of sex, it was something he was entitled to and when it didn’t happen, it was a great injustice. Elliot watches these “party girls” drink and flirt with other men and is filled with hatred at both, though he specifically says he hates the girls more.  Elliot sees another child getting a piece of cake, one that he sees as belonging to him, and he is furious. Elliot believes women are the root of evil and depraved beasts, an extreme version of blaming Eve for bringing evil into the world. 

Seeing no other options, Elliot sought to destroy that which he couldn’t have. It’s a bizarre, movie-like scenario and Elliot’s writing reads like a dark novel from an author who can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. There was something clearly wrong with Elliot. That, and the pressure of societal expectations of male and female roles, created a killer. God help us all. We need to learn from this and not just write Elliot off as another crazy kid with a gun. He is representative of something much more sinister and engrained in our society. He calls women “a plague,” but his hatred is a plague, and plagues spread.

 

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Spare Them: The Objectification of Women Through Violence

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Stop cutting women into pieces for a man’s tears. Stop hacking us apart to spur men into action. Stop choking us, stop beating us, stop slitting our throats in our sleep. Be interesting. Let the woman live. Give her her own strengths and weaknesses, and flaws and motivations, instead of a knife in the back.                                                        -http://johteague.tumblr.com

*Contains spoilers of the two seasons of “The Following” and “Hannibal,” and also descriptions of violence against women* 

I loved the first season of Kevin Bacon’s “The Following.” It was filmed like a movie, it had twists, and it had fantastic female characters. There was Claire, the ex-wife of a serial killer who was raising their son, who pretended to still love the cult leader Joe Carroll only to stab him (not fatally, unfortunately), and who stopped at nothing to keep her son safe. There was Emma, the devoted cult member who murdered her emotionally-abusive mother and maintained a calm exterior which hide a terrifyingly unpredictable nature. And my favorite, Debra Parker, the cult specialist working to stop Joe Carroll. Raised in a cult herself, she has deeply personal inside knowledge of how cults work, and plays alongside Kevin Bacon’s Ryan Hardy note-for-note.

Then it all went to hell.

First, there was the kidnapping of Ryan’s sister. We had never heard of her before. We were granted a brief flashback of her visiting Ryan in his darkest, booze-soaked days, but then it was back to her being strapped to a gurney in a warehouse by one of Joe’s sadistic followers. Ryan rushed in to save the day, nearly killing himself, and then his sister disappeared. She was literally a prop to provoke Ryan.

Then it got worse. In the final episode, Debra was kidnapped and buried alive with a cell phone. She called the FBI, triggering a frantic search. Ryan was beside himself. In her last moments, Debra urged him not to blame himself. When they found her, I was praying that she would be brought back to life. But no. She was definitely dead.

And then the last few seconds of the finale and season 2 opener. All is well, Joe is dead (yeah, right), and Ryan is at his apartment with Claire, who he has loved for years. They small talk, order Chinese, and Ryan turns on some tunes. Then, out of nowhere, comes one of the last followers, Meg. She stabs Ryan. Claire saunters out, making a comment about the food, and is literally stabbed from behind. She collapses and Ryan screams. Cut to black.

I read interviews with the actress and writer, hoping for a hint as to Claire’s fate. They said something about “Claire’s story being told.” Ok…that could mean a lot of things. She could recover, and go into witness protection with her son, and Ryan couldn’t see her anymore. Sad, but realistic. Or she could just die, leaving her son orphaned.

Guess what they went with?

Oh no! Poor Kevin Bacon! Now he has all the deaths of these women hanging over him! How sad! How complex his character is!

Then they decided to mess with Emma. In the second season, she is just plain obsessed with Joe. She has no other interests going on. When they run away to meet up with some old cult members, they discover that a new order has been established, and Joe is viewed with suspicion. During a ritual, Emma is chosen “randomly” to be the blood sacrifice. She screams for Joe, who is restrained, as the new cult leader slits both of her wrists and she begins to bleed out. She recovers, but the damage was done in my mind. Joe literally says, in outrage, that the cult choose Emma on purpose to mess with him. Now even the villain of the series is being made more “complex” through the pain and abuse of women. Awesome.

“Hannibal” is an incredibly well-written show. It features a cast of movie stars (Lawrence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy, and Denmark’s most popular actor, Mads Mikkkelsen, as Hannibal) and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’ve ever seen in television. It cast a woman as Freddie Lounds, a character played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the movie, and has a dynamic Asian-American actress as a mortician. The show is also extremely brutal.

In the first few episodes of the first season, the focus is on a killer who targets young women, eats some of their organs, and then mounts their bodies on antlers. Eesh. The camera seems to linger lovingly on these bodies, following to a T that old film adage of filming your murders like love scenes, and your love scenes like murders. When the murderer is revealed, the FBI show up at his door to find his wife bleeding out on the doorstep, and him inside with a knife to his daughter’s throat. Our twitchy hero, Hugh Dancy, manages to shoot him, but not before he severely injures the young woman. She goes to the hospital, where both Hugh Dancy and Mads become fascinated (obsessed?) with her as a kind of surrogate daughter. Yeah, it’s weird. When she comes to, Abigail attaches herself to Hannibal (bad choice), who seems to think he can create a kind of family with her, since she has a tendency for killing and being haunted by her father’s victims. Alas, it is not to be. I guess she figures out what Hannibal is (like #1 on the AFI’s list of villains) and so he “has” to kill and eat her, after embracing her and regretfully wishing he could have “protected” her. Hmm. Ok. Abigail was actually developing into a super interesting character with manipulation skills right on par with Hannibal, but I guess that wasn’t meant to be.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that goes on, like a flashback episode where Hugh Dancy’s boss is tormented by phone calls from a former student he thought was dead, who turns out to have been murdered by Hannibal. We watch her scouting around, Clarice Starling-style, only to discover some drawings by Hannibal in his office that prove he is a serial killer (cause Hannibal the mastermind just leaves these things out). She is surprised by Hannibal from behind because wearing only socks can fool even the most adept FBI agent. Hannibal makes her make a panicked phone call to her boss before he kills her, but he saves the recording, and later uses the message to mess with the FBI. Another woman as a prop. To give Lawrence Fishburne’s character more depth. Oh, also, his wife in the show is also dying of terminal cancer. So there’s that.

I’m super concerned for all the female characters. I’m pretty sure Freddie has to stick around, because the character appears much later in the canon, but that doesn’t mean she’s spared from horrible things happening to her. Gillian Anderson had a recurring role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist, and actually succeeded in outsmarting him and running away before he decided he had to off her, too. Her story might not be over though. WHO KNOWS??

It’s not like I want women to be treated like delicate flowers who shouldn’t be touched or hurt in any way. What I do want is women to be treated as their own persons, not as props to build up the characters of men. What happens to women most directly affects THEM, so let’s see their characters evolve from that. Or, heaven forbid, just spare their lives. A woman’s story doesn’t always have to end in death.

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2013’s Scarlet Letter

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Note: This post is focused on the rape of women by men and in no way is attempting to disregard male rape victims. My research has always been focused more on female victims because of the recent cases in the media and the prevalence worldwide of male rapists. Trigger warning on the images on rape culture at the bottom of the post.  

We live in a rape culture. It’s not a culture that blantantly says “Rape is good,” but it is a culture that is making it easier to excuse and even justify sexual assault. Torrington and Steubenville are stories of tragedy, where victims of rape and sexual molestation are harassed through social media by their own peers, and Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and Audrie Potts are only a few of the victims who have been driven to suicide by the bullying. These are cases where young women’s mistakes (getting drunk, hanging out with the wrong people) are used as justifications for what happened to them, where they “had it coming.” It’s a horrifying truth that being sexually attacked seems to give others a reason – or a right – to call you a “slut.” It’s the equivalent of being issued Hester’s scarlet letter in the classic book.

People blame the use of social media, where one photo or conversation can be spread all around the world in a matter of seconds, where an entire high school, an entire town, can know about an event only minutes or hours after the fact. However, social media is just a new tool for the evil that is occurring, it is exacerbating an old problem. Women who were perceived as being sexually impure have been shamed for centuries. Women who became pregnant from rape were denied the right to even say they had been raped, because it was believed both parties had to orgasm in order for a child to be conceived. It has always been up to the woman to prove the guilt of her rapist, not for a rapist to prove his innocence. To this day, some cases are thrown out or ruled in favor of an attacker because it was determined that the woman didn’t “struggle enough.”

I believe the problem is complicated, but two huge components are people’s lack of knowledge about what constitutes consent and a deep-seeded mistrust of women. Blurred lines about boundaries and consent start young. Girls are taught that when a boy bothers them or even hits them, it means they like them, or the boys’ actions are shrugged off as “boys will be boys.” I’ve seen a viral video of two young children, probably about four and five, where the boy pins the girl against a wall, trying to smooch her, and she repeatedly pushes him away. She even pushes him down once, but he wobbles to his feet and again attempts to move in. You can hear the adults behind the camera giggling and saying “Aww,” unaware of the disturbing nature of the scene they are capturing and how this young boy who will become a man is being taught no one will stop him when a girl obviously is not interested in his attention. From that point on, men are taught through entertainment and even some religious teaching that women are tricky, don’t mean what they say, and are vulnerable to persuasion. A joke on “Family Guy” illustrates this belief (thought I suspect it is attempting to show the problem, not promote the action) when an animated James Bond repeatedly pulls a woman close to him, saying that she wants to sleep with him while she replies, “No.” Finally, she says yes, and James Bond looks at the camera and says, “Sixty no’s and a yes, means yes.” Countless other shows and media outlets characterize women as indecisive and playing hard to get. Some even go so far as to show women manipulating men into sex and then accusing them of rape, leading people to believe that false rape accusations are much more common than they actually are. In a study done in the United Kingdom, about .6% of rape accusations were false. Statistics are similar in the United States.

Alcohol plays a large part in rape cases, and for women, it often de-legitimizes her story. It even incriminates her: “She was drunk, she wasn’t being responsible, what did she expect would happen? (As if rape is ever something anyone should expect) For men however, alcohol often excuses his actions: “He was drunk. He didn’t know what he was doing, he’s a good guy.” This double standard reverses the role of victim and attacker, opening a woman up to ridicule and a man to sympathy.

Another issue is the oversexualization of women, but not just in the sense of fashion magazines or movies. It’s the kind of sexualization that women aren’t in control of. Creepshots is a trend where men (I have yet to hear of a woman doing this) take photos of unsuspecting women, focusing on their cleavage, butts, and other areas the photographer finds sexually pleasing. They then upload the pics to sites like Tumblr and Reddit (the main page for creepshots has been banned) where others comment graphically about the images. I’ve interacted with a blogger who takes these pictures and his response to criticism is, “Free speech,” and “If they didn’t want me to look, they wouldn’t be dressed the way they were.” Oddly enough, many of the photos feature women dressed in simple jeans or workout clothes; apparently, no matter how a woman is dressed, she is inviting sexual comments. It’s like the judge who ruled in favor of a rapist during a case, who essentially said that if a woman is not actively saying “No,” her body, by just existing, is available for sex. It’s the same philosophy that allowed marital rape to not be thought possible, that when a woman says her vows, she is throwing away her ability to refuse any sexual advances by her husband. Thinking of a woman’s body as a passive unit separates a woman from her humanity and autonomy. People who take creepshots are not rapists (necessarily), but they are contributing to a culture that is training young men to see women’s bodies as objects and as something meant only for their eyes. “Why else would she dress like that?” There are many reasons, such as practicality, but the fact that a woman has to explain why her clothes are not meant to sexually arouse strangers or even to just gain attention is troubling.

There are too many people who don’t believe a rape culture exists. It’s 2013 and we still have people who believe a woman can’t become pregnant because of rape, that a husband can’t rape his wife, that women can’t rape men, and that a passed out teenager being violated is “ruining” her attackers’ lives by reporting their actions. People are dying because of rape culture. 54% of rapes go unreported because victims are terrified of being shamed. Young people need to receive knowledge about the facts and just how important respect of the bodies of others really is. With the speed of social media only accelerating, our society needs to catch up and make rape culture a thing of the past. 

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Stats:

http://www.policymic.com/articles/41583/crying-rape-on-innocent-men-doesn-t-happen-as-often-as-you-might-think

http://www.rainn.org/statistics

Images of Rape Culture: (may be triggering)

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