#MeToo, Madigan

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Timothy Mapes Harassment Scandal (LINK)

Does the #MeToo movement still matter?  Haven’t we talked about this enough?  Surely everyone knows and understands how unacceptable sexual harassment in the workplace is by now!

If you’re like many Americans, you’ve heard these questions.  Maybe you’ve even asked them yourselves!  Harvey Weinstein is facing charges for sexual harassment and assault.  Al Franken was forced to resign!  There’s only one, not two, US presidents facing allegations of sexual assault (Bye Kevin Spacey!).  Surely this means we’ve made progress!

Well, if you’re wondering if the #MeToo movement is still relevant, just look at the news coming out of Illinois.  Timothy Mapes, ex-chief of staff to IL political powerhouse Mike Madigan, is out of a job after a sexual harassment scandal and all he has left to his name is a $130,000 buy-out and a $134,000 lifetime pension.  Hard luck for him but you’ve got to pay the piper, friend-o. In fact, if the charges are proven in court (and when has a case of sexual harassment against a powerful politician ever failed?!), he could face a hefty $5,000 maximum fine. Talk about consequences!

No one could look at this case and think that they could get away with similar behavior.  It’s nice to know we are finally starting to hold these powerful abusers accountable.

Oh wait…

 

 

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

 

 

GET A YES

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CN:  First linked article contains graphic description of sexual misconduct and lack of consent.

As the #MeToo movement continues to grow, we have to reckon with the fact that many public figures we’ve admired will come under the radar.  For me, that reckoning came with the news that Aziz Ansari was being accused of sexual harassment and assault.

I’ve always admired Ansari as an outspoken feminist and activist.  He’s spoken frankly about the wage gap, the plight of people of color in America, and the importance of representation in the media.  Not only that, he plays Tom Haverford in Parks and Rec, an [almost always] upbeat and encouraging show about the power of friendship, public service, and strong women.

So when I first saw the news break on Twitter and first saw the article on Babe.net, I wanted to come up with excuses for Ansari.  I’m not proud of it, but I did.  I wanted to talk about the fact that this didn’t seem to rise to “Weinstein” or “Trump pussy grabbing” levels.  I wanted to do anything but face the humanity of an entertainer I enjoyed.

But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but notice how familiar the woman’s experience seemed. The date who seems less interested in getting to know you as a person than in getting to know how to get your clothes off.  The date who assumes he has a yes, because he hasn’t yet heard a no.  The struggle to gently and kindly indicate that you’re uninterested without flat out refusing (because we all know how poorly a straight NO can be taken).  The date willfully ignoring or being too uneducated in consent to understand your nonverbal (and eventual verbal) cues that you are NOT into the sexual encounter.  You going home in tears while your date assumes it was a [fairly] successful evening.

Who hasn’t experienced this?  I saw a tweet after the story was published that said:

“I saw someone tweet something like, ‘If what Aziz Ansari did was sexual assault, then every woman I know has been sexually assaulted’ and like yeah actually.”

This is the problem.  Not every woman has experienced a Harvey Weinsten, but almost every woman has experienced an Aziz Ansari.  A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message from our culture that consent is just the lack of a no.  A probably well-meaning guy who has gotten the message that no just means convince me.  A probably well-meaning guy who just doesn’t get it and who needs to sit down and listen to women and femmes for a while.

This is why we need to talk about this.  Not because we need to crucify Aziz Ansari.  Not because we need to dissect whether or not this story deserves to be a part of the #MeToo movement (but a hint…it does).  We need to talk about this because this type of sexual assault is common.  Sexual assault centered around men and mascs willingly ignoring consent or being so uneducated that they don’t truly understand it.

We need to be teaching everyone that consent is active, enthusiastic, and ongoing.  We need to teach that it is okay to talk with your sexual partners about boundaries, likes, and dislikes.  We need to create a consent culture in which it is expected that you will ask, that it is sexy, romantic, and just plain mandatory to get verbal consent. We need to be teaching that No Means No is not enough.  We need to be teaching that you must Get a Yes.

Its common decency and I’d like to be able to expect that from everyone.

If you’d like to read more hot takes on this story, I’d recommend checking out the following:

Grace, babe, me too.

Intersectionality

If you’ve experience something like this, or sexual abuse of any kind, there is help available.  Contact us at 815.756.5228.  We believe you and we are here for you.

Survivor 1

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4 years ago today, I was roofied by a bartender [at a bar]. I don’t think I’ve spoken publicly about it since regaining full consciousness a few days later, when I posted a Facebook status alerting my friends to be cautious in our relatively safe town.

I think a reason that I’ve been mum about it for years is because of the way I was treated and perceived in the aftermath: when I finally made it to the hospital the next morning, the doctor asked me 3 different times if I was SURE I didn’t just have “too much to drink”, told me he didn’t need to inspect the wound on my head because it “wasn’t anything serious”(it was), finally tested my blood and urine multiple hours later, and told me that he was “surprised” when my results came back positive. While talking with an old co-worker and friend from a Bible camp, he told me I should remove my Facebook status because it would give me a “bad image” to the campers I’d worked with. When I was finally talked into filing a police report, the officer asked if I really wanted to “waste my time”, and that he would try to “make time to look into it” and “get back to me” (I never heard from him again)

I can remember verbatim what was said to me, because each interaction left me feeling ashamed, burdensome, and like what happened was my fault. At the age of 23, I went out with my friends on the weekend and had one drink that I kept with me the entire time, but somehow this reflected poorly on me. A friend literally saved my life that night. A day later, I began slurring my speech and not being able to focus my eyesight. I learned that I had bruised my occipital lobes, damaged parts of my brain that control speech and memory, had gravel imbedded into my skull, and suffered a severe concussion. I was in speech therapy for over 6 months, went to OT everyday to correct my vision, and didn’t gain back my short term memory for over a year.

But the time to keep mum is not now. Our world is so broken that even “safe” places aren’t immune: a church, a school, a marathon, walking down the street in broad daylight, a movie theater, a friend’s apartment, a regular weekend at a regular gathering place to enjoy a gin and tonic with friends. Importantly, be SAFE. Be aware of your surroundings, where your drink is, drink responsibly, and ALWAYS have at least one friend with you who can pinpoint if something is not right, and get you help. But maybe even more importantly: DO NOT FEEL SHAME. Don’t feel guilt. Advocate; for yourself, and for others. Take action when needed, and don’t be afraid to seek help. And do not believe anyone who looks at you negatively because of the disgusting actions of someone else. You have had your privacy invaded, and you have been assaulted. Your trust has been broken and it’ll take a long time for you to not live in fear and be cautious of everyone. But you are not at fault, and you deserve access to the best, quickest treatment without any form of judgement. If you’d like to talk about this specific topic or assault in general, or need a safe space to process, please don’t be afraid to reach out, and I am always here. No woman or man should have to journey through that alone. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

A message from Safe Passage:  We are so grateful to each survivor who shares their stories and reminds us all that we are not alone, that we don’t need to be ashamed, and that we have the power to build a better and safer world each day.  If you have been the victim of domestic and sexual violence, help is available 24/7 at 815.756.5228.