Will You Accept This Rant? January 20

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Welcome back to Will You Accept This Rant? for week 3 of this journey to find love (and a culture of healthy relationships in media!)

If you haven’t been following along yet, we’re working to examine and call out our culture of relationships that we see under a microscope in the petri dish that is Bachelor Nation.  Check out our weekly Facebook Live video (clink this link!) to hear all our thoughts and let us know what you’re thinking about this week! Don’t forget, you can always follow along with us on Twitter too! (@Safe_PassageDV)

What happened this week?

  • ChampagneGate resolves: Kelsey doesn’t even like champagne. So glad we spent two episodes on this.


(Couldn’t resist, sorry.)

  • Peter’s one-on-one date with Victoria P: line-dancing and vulnerable conversations.
  • Demi-Date: group date, pillow-fighting in lingerie. Ugh.
  • Group-date continued: Sydney v. Alayah
  • Pool party: not much pool, even less party.  Just the Alayah drama continues
  • Rose ceremony: Alexa, Sarah C, Jasmine, and Alayah go home. Maybe other people too, but honestly we can’t keep track yet.
  • Tune in next week:  Peter seems unsure about sending Alayah home. Maybe she’s back?!

There is a lot to unpack in this episode, but the biggest takeaways we had this week were:

  • Verbal abuse and bullying is serious.
  • Boys should be allowed to show their emotions.
  • Bi-women are unfairly sexualized in our society and it is harmful.
  • Girls need to stick together and fight the things that are really hurting us (the patriarchy) and not each other.

Kelsey started off this episode (yes, Champagne Gate gets one more mention) saying that unkind words aren’t bullying and we’re going to pull a lesson from Middle School Social Emotional Learning to say…sort of. You can be rude, you can be mean, and you can be a bully. Bully requires a use of unequal power over a period of time. That absolutely COULD BE what is going on.  More likely, Kelsey was really just being pretty mean. But just because it was only words does not mean that it isn’t bullying.  Too often verbal abuse is written off as “not that serious” because no one was physically injured but it is the verbal and mental abuse that can cause some of the deepest wounds for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We need to make sure we take words seriously.

We know two things about Peter FOR SURE this early in the season: he is a touchy-feely fellow and he’s in his feelings. And we’re so glad for the chance to see an emotionally in-tune guy on our TV screens every Monday night. People of all genders feel their feelings, but it really seems like women are the only ones given permission to show it. Guys and mascs, you don’t have to be John McClane 24/7.  Peter is demonstrating some deep compassion and empathy and real openness about his own emotions and we are here for it!

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Alright…

We’ve got to start with some statistics: 75% of bi women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes (LINK with stats).  Part of that is due to the way bi women are hypersexualized in our society and treated as existing solely for the viewing pleasure of straight men. The group date with Demi played right into that.  A pillow fight in lingerie sounds like something a freshman fratboy might have dreamed up and ABC execs threw that right to the only Bachelor Nation alum to have had a queer relationship on one of their shows.  Not a great look and plays right into the stereotypes about bi-folx that end up hurting us and excusing the abuse we experience. In a show that has highlighted the experience of SO FEW LGBTQIA+ folks, this was not a great way to show that they understand helpful representation.

And finally, if there was one thing that summed up this episode it was girls taking each other down instead of teaming up to take down the patriarchy.  Whether it was Kelsey v. Hannah Ann or Sydney v. Alayah or Victoria P v. Alayah or Mykenna v. her own anxiety, this was not a good night for girl power.  TPTB have gotten better at showing the supportive sisterhood of the house over the last few seasons.  We’ve seen strong friendships developing and girls supporting each other in this weird, messy journey to find Instagram sponsorships love. We’ve hardly seen that at all so far this season.  I’m sure that isn’t because those friendships aren’t forming, but because the editors don’t think that footage is as valuable as the drama. It is such a disservice to all the young women and girls (and everyone) watching out there to see girls being treated as competition and winners/losers, rather than supporters and lifelong partners. We need each other and we always will.  A romantic relationship isn’t enough to get you through life.  You need your friendships, your family (chosen, bio, or otherwise) and your community. I think the show is really missing out on a part of what was making it better when we miss out on that female empowerment and support.


She’s referring to feminism and equality.

Our dead rose of this week goes to the producers.  Y’all are messy and we wouldn’t have a TV show without you but please…you’re creating a season of drama for all the wrong reasons.

Our real rose (let’s end on a high note) goes to Victoria P for her vulnerability, openness, and strength. As an agency working each and every day with survivors of trauma, you all are some of the strongest, bravest, and most amazing people in this world. You should never have experienced the pain you did, but you are using that pain to build a brighter future and a safer world.  We’re honored to do the work we do alongside you. Victoria P, you are a survivor.

 

T[M]I

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I’ve never seen the word “hymen” posted so frequently on my Twitter timeline.

In case you missed the news, rapper T.I. recently mentioned in a podcast that he goes with his daughter to the gynecologist each year to check that her hymen is intact.

Yep.  You read that correctly. (LINK here, if you don’t believe me.)

It is hard to know where to start with this one because there are so many things wrong with this. I suppose the best place to start is a reminder that this isn’t just a T.I. problem.  “Virginity Tests” and purity culture are as old as the patriarchy. As long as people have had sexual agency, other people have been trying to police their sexuality. Virginity tests, chastity belts, purity balls (not to be confused with Truck Nutz), genital mutilation and just straight-up shame have all been used (and are still being used) to keep people from having the independence and information to practice safe, healthy sexuality.

So just to clear a few things up:

  • Hymens are irrelevant.  Some people have them, some people don’t.  Some hymens break when you have sex for the first time.  Some break long before that due to activity. Some don’t break at all. You can’t tell someone’s sexual history from the structure of their genitalia.
  • Virginity is a cultural construct. It is not a thing you can lose or give away. It is a cultural frame of reference and it doesn’t matter (or even exist) if you don’t want it to! Having sex or not having sex does not change who you are as a person.
  • Your sexual history does not change your value.  If you’ve had one partner, zero partners, ten partners, or 10,000 partners, you are just as valuable as anyone else. If you choose to be abstinent at any point in your life, that is just fine.  If you choose to be abstinent until you get married, more power to you.  You do you!  That choice, however, does not make you any more moral or any better than someone who is making a different choice.
  • Sex does not change who you are as a person, no matter what.  You are not chewed-up gum, unsticky tape, unwrapped candy, or any other horrible analogy.  You are a person who deserves respect.

Aside from the lack of science and the unwarranted policing of people’s bodies, hypervigilance around virginity sends the message that your body doesn’t belong to you.  It sends the message that your body belongs to your father until it belongs to your husband. Too many young girls have been brought up with this message and have been taught that they aren’t in charge of their own bodies and their own sexuality. This leads to a culture that expects and tolerates sexual abuse.

And penetration by a doctor with a medical instrument for any non-medical reason IS ASSAULT.  And let me tell you, there is no valid medical reason to “check for a hymen”, so virginity tests are also abuse.

We may not all be taking our daughters for yearly hymen checks or locking up a metal chastity belt, but we all live in a culture that defines a woman’s value by her lack of sexual partners and sexual agency. We all live in a culture that values [female] virginity over enthusiastic consent. We all live in a culture that that tolerates and excuses sexual abuse and assault. The question is, what will be do to change that culture?

The Mistakes Dress

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***Guest Post***

Like many people in college, my friends and I were young, broke, and sometimes stupid.  We made dumb decisions about how much to spend on sushi, how long that political econ homework actually take, and what kind of shoes are appropriate for walking around campus in a snowstorm.  For what it’s worth, Midwest sushi shouldn’t be a priority when you’re cash-strapped, political econ will take you days to complete and YEARS to understand, and boots would have been a better choice.

We also made dumb decisions about who was safe to drink with.  We made dumb decisions about what we should drink.  We made dumb decisions about how much we should drink.  In fact, we were so good at making these dumb decisions that my friends and I shared a cocktail dress we called “the mistakes dress”.  If one of us was wearing it that weekend, it was guaranteed she’d throw up in it, make out with a gross frat boy in it, or fall down the stairs in it.  It was guaranteed.  You could win millions betting on this dress.  And yes…despite it’s nickname, we still kept wearing it.  Was it really that cute?  I’m afraid to look back at pictures.

The thing is, despite our dumb decisions, despite the nights where I drank cups of god-knows-what at god-knows-whose houses, despite choosing to wear a dress we literally called THE MISTAKES DRESS, we still deserved to be safe.  We deserved every bit of the hangovers and embarrassment the next morning, but we never deserved sexual assault or harassment.  Being in a cute clubbing dress did not mean that we were looking to hook-up.  It did not mean that you had any right to touch us without asking.  Being in that dress did not mean that we were “asking for it.”  All it meant was that we had a dress with a silly name that we all liked to wear.

So often when women and femmes are sexually assaulted, the first question asked is “what were they wearing?” If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m here to tell you that this question doesn’t matter.  Whether you’re in your pajamas, workout clothes, a snowsuit, or the mistakes dress, you haven’t consented to anything.  My dress is not consent.  That is as true today as it was all those years ago in college.  Unless I’m verbally consenting, I’m not “asking for it.”

We need to be a culture that values and expects consent.  We need to respect everyone, even the young women in college who are just figuring things out.  Be the person who speaks out against this harmful rhetoric.  Be the person that speaks up for a friend in a vulnerable position.  Respect consent and expect others to do the same.

Bachelorette Background

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Our American obsession with reality TV says a lot about us as a culture.  Some people love reality TV.  Some people love to judge those people.  But with a reality TV star sitting in the Oval Office, we can’t deny the fact that this is a deeply ingrained part of our ethos.

I would argue, as [an embarrassed] reality-TV lover, that we can learn a lot about our selves and our society by looking at the plot lines, characters, and attitudes created by the producers of these TV shows.  In fact, if you want to learn about how Americans feel about gender, sex and sexuality, and relationships, you couldn’t find a better education than you’d get by watching a few episodes of the Bachelor or Bachelorette on ABC.

For those of you who are unfamiliar (have you been living under a rock or do you just have more exciting lives than me?), the Bachelor franchise on ABC is a series of reality shows about a chosen Bachelor or Bachelorette (cis-gendered, almost always white, heterosexual man or woman) who dates anywhere from 25-30 people, slowly eliminating these potential suitors until they arrive at week 10 and propose to their one true love in what is always “the most dramatic season finale yet.”

This show has given us some gems as far as Gender and Sexuality 101 material.  Bachelors sleep with multiple women and no one bats an eye.  Bachelorettes have sexual relationships with multiple contestants and you hear the usual: slut, whore, skank, easy.  Put 25 fitness trainers in a house together in a competitive environment and you quickly see how our society fails to promote deep emotional intelligence in our boys and men. Homophobia (“no homo”), toxic masculinity, racism, and problematic gender norms run rampant.

This season, however, the Bachelorette production team has outdone themselves.  A cast member, currently on the show though clearly not a final contender, was convicted of indecent assault just prior to the show airing. (LINK TO STORY). Had the producers done any sort of due diligence with their contestant background checks, they could not have failed to uncover two-year-old allegations of sexual assault and harassment.  In a #MeToo world where we’re finally discussing sexual harassment and assault, would producers really not be thinking of this?

It’s unfortunately likely that these charges were uncovered and dismissed as “allegations” that don’t need to be taken seriously or valued as a potential source of drama.  Even if they were unaware, that shows a willful ignorance to not be protecting the contestant from suitors with aggressive or violent histories.

Our reality TV reflects us.  It reflects our culture and it reflects our values. Whether we want to admit it or not, TV shows what we want to see and what we see in ourselves.  If these producers can ignore a convicted sexual aggressor, what are we tolerating or ignoring in our every day lives?  How do we go through our daily lives ignoring the abusers around us?  Who do we tolerate because “it happened so long ago” or “it really wasn’t that bad” or “she just couldn’t take a joke”?  Who escapes the consequences of their actions because their a beloved entertainer or a leader in the community? Who will go unpunished because the victims are not important enough to our society?

It’s just a TV show. I know that. But it’s also a reflection of us.  It is a mirror held up to our culture and we can’t turn away any longer.  #MeToo

 

 

Justice and Injustice

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Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Today, we share our favorite MLK quotes.  We hear people talk about his dream.  We feel good, remembering the feelgood moments of a powerful, inspirational leader.

Those parts of Dr. King matter.  We need to hear his powerful words of love and hope.  We need to hear that the “arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  We need to remember that dream of a world where every child is judged by their character, not their race.  We need the inspiration that through it all, Dr. King chose love, not hate.

But we also need to hear and to heed his powerful words of justice.  We need to remember that while he lived, he was often reviled and dismissed by white leaders and white communities.  He was considered dangerous and radical because he spoke truth into a world of racial injustice.  He is the man who reminds us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  He is the man who reminds us that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Dr. King was and remains a reminder that we must all choose a side, that remaining neutral is not an option.

Today, of all days, we must be honest about the history of the movement for female safety and empowerment that gave birth to shelters and crisis centers like Safe Passage.  Too much of our history was tied up in racism and classism as much as it was tied up in feminism.  Founding mothers often fought for the rights of white women at the expense of our sisters of color.  We fought for emancipation for white women, willing to sacrifice emancipation for people of color if it got white females the vote.  We made progress in diagnosing and treating critical women’s health issues, but have rarely admitted or made restitution for the fact that these medical breakthroughs were thanks to non-consensual medical experimentation on enslaved women of color.  We have fought for reproductive justice, ignoring the very recent history of sterilization programs for incarcerated women of color.  We speak out against domestic and sexual violence, but rarely stop to highlight the incredible dangers faced by transwomen, and particularly transwomen of color.  Our shelters, our boards, our coalitions are too often overwhelmingly staffed and led by white, cis-gendered women.

If we truly want to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, today is a day to be honest about both our successes and failures to live up to his dream.  We are proud of the work we do as crisis center employees.  We are proud of the work we do as activists.  We believe in the mission and vision to end domestic and sexual violence.  But we know we must do more to include and support people of color in our mission.  We know we must do more to acknowledge and overcome a history of racism in our movement.  We know we must do more to fight systemic racism alongside sexism, homophobia, transphobia and so much more.

Today, we remember and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have followed in his powerful footsteps to speak truth to power and hold allies accountable.  We dream of a better future without violence of any kind and we commit to holding our movement accountable to that dream.