Browsing Tag

violence against women


nolite te bastardes carborundorum


I’ve been avoiding this. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to dwell on it, didn’t want to really acknowledge what had happened. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t heard about what happened at University of California Santa Barbara last week. If you haven’t, “Elliot Rodger didn’t have Autism, he had Anger” by Emily Willingham and “Stop Being Surprised, Damn It” by Donna Decker are good places to start, in my opinion.

I heard about the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Saturday night, and contributed a few tweets. I spent the rest of the holiday and most of this week avoiding the internet because those tweets were basically blood in the water. I couldn’t face all of the e-mails and comments that started pouring in– people attacking me, accusing me of horrible things, maligning my integrity, my honesty, belittling me, and harassing me for days. It’s only just now died down, but I’m still flinching when my phone tells me that someone tweeted at me or I’ve gotten an e-mail.

I tried to view these attacks as funny– after all, they really were just fulfilling Lewis’ Law. My point could not have been proven any better, really.

Except… that really doesn’t help.

It doesn’t help when I can still see Elliot Rodger’s face, can still hear his speech in my head, repeating on an endless loop, and it’s accompanied by the dozen other times I’ve heard that exact same speech (granted, without the “I’m going to kill all of you” part) shouted at me in restaurants, in my car, in a classroom, on a sidewalk, on dates. That speech has been directed at me, meant for me- and it’s been given to me as though I’d be sympathetic, as though I’d understand and be on his side.

That frightens me beyond words.

Because, up until now, I’ve been annoyed by ideas like the “Nice Guy” and the assumed existence of some “Friend Zone.” The notion that some men think that being a decent human being entitles them to sex with women has infuriated me at times. But, it never really scared me. Now, it does. It terrifies me. Because now I’m wondering– how many of the threats I’ve gotten have been idle? I’ve dismissed them, up until this point, because I’ve always assumed it’s just some guy being an asshole from the safety of his keyboard. But now . . . now I’m not so sure. That man who followed me around in his pickup truck for half an hour– if I hadn’t dialed the police and told him I was doing so, what would have happened? Would he have tried to hurt me? The men who followed me out of Wal-Mart and shouted things about my ass and watched me as I put my groceries into my trunk while my heart was trying to strangle me… if things had been just a little different, what would have happened? Would I be alive right now?

And what about a young man I grew up with that has delivered three different versions of Elliot Rodger’s screed to me over the years– who I’ve had to block multiple times because he keeps creating accounts to harass me? As far as I’m aware, he’s angry, and bitter, and people who know him describe him as “hurt” and still single and has “given up” on relationships. Will I wake up one day to a news story about him going on a rampage and shooting people, and then naming me in a 140-page manifesto as the woman to blame?

The world we live in is … it’s horrible. The thought of it has kept me in my bed, hiding under blankets and avoiding any form of reality for a week. I didn’t want to summon the strength to hit delete delete delete over and over and over again, while opening up each message and reading it and taking a screen shot and finding his IP address and blocking him from my blog and on twitter and from my e-mail and putting all of the information in a folder I keep on my desktop– and feeling as though if I don’t do these things I’ve failed in some way, when I shouldn’t have to be doing it at all and the fact that I do is what’s fucked up and not me not wanting to deal with it at all.

It all just gets so exhausting. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of that horrible lurch I get in my stomach when I read yet another headline about how a man has stabbed someone, or shot someone, because they didn’t get what they wanted from women. I’m tired of the blinding rage and fury that follows when I see comments that sympathize with a mass-murderer because yeah, rejection sucks, broI feel ya, dude.

I wanted to burn the internet down this week. Just burn it at all. Burn it with fire.

I wanted to sleep and never get out of bed and pretend that the only things in the world that exist are Klondike bars and Netflix.

I don’t want to talk about these things. I hate that every time I do, it feels like people come out of the woodwork for no other reason than to harass me and then eventually melt away. The endless barrage of “you’re a lying whore” and all the people on internet forums who are so filled with hatred that they rip me to shreds for no goddamn reason. I’ve stopped checking my stats hardly at all because I see the list of referrers and I know that the people who are coming here and reading my words aren’t here to understand, or to learn– they’re here to find ammunition to blast me with by taking everything I say out of context.

Then I read back over this post, and I realize that I’ve spent 900+ words whining about nothing. I get e-mails from anonymous assholes?  People talk about me on message boards? That’s nothing. It barely matters at all in a world when girls can be kidnapped for trying to get an education. When simply being white protects me from the harassment and dehumanization that women of color face on a daily basis. When I’m in a healthy, loving relationship with a man who would be devastated if he ever did something to hurt me.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded be a community who support what I do, who believe in what I write, who hear my despair and wrap their arms around me and whisper “illegitimi non carborundum” and give me the hope to keep going.

So, if there’s one thing I would want to say to all of you, it’s this: don’t let the bastards grind you down.

#YesAllWoman will make a difference. All of us can make a difference. The world is a horrible place, yes, but I still believe that it doesn’t have to be this way– that it won’t always be this way. It can change. We can do better.

We won’t let them win.


Dear Savoury, from a Christian feminist

pacific nw beach
[photography by Verdance]

This post, titled “Dear Feminists,” showed up in my Facebook newsfeed today, and curious, I read it, since it was from someone I respect. I’ve thought a lot about what she had to say this afternoon and almost decided to leave a comment on her blog, but my response would be a little unwieldy, so I decided to respond to her this way.


Dear Savoury,

You start your post by describing a feminist woman you saw on television whose story called for your sympathy after you found out what had happened to her– that her husband had abandoned her, betrayed her. That’s why your description of her as “hard-bitten” stood out to me, because it doesn’t align with the compassion you seem to be trying to express, and I’m wondering if you, perhaps, saw a “hard-bitten woman” because she identified as a feminist, and it’s a little hard to get around how our culture paints feminists as bitter hags.

You then propose this definition for feminism: “Feminism really at its core means, ‘I can defend myself.'”

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here; you’re young, and from what I’ve gathered of your family, I’m going to make a guess that you haven’t read books like bell hook’s Feminism is for Everybody or Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth or Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman or Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism; which, speaking of, if you have the time or the inclination, please read those books, or books like it. If fiction is more your speed, The Color Purple and Room with a View are also excellent.

However, this definition and the paragraphs that follow it indicate that you’re at least aware of how dangerous the world is for women, and because of the personal experiences I’ve had I can understand how you arrived at this definition.

What you go on to do, though, shows that you are– quite innocently– unaware of what feminism is, what feminism means, and why people decide to become feminists– and that men can be feminists, too.

I want to be honest with you, Savoury. One of the reasons why I am a feminist is that I’m an abuse and rape victim. When I finally started the excruciating process of finding healing, one of the things that helped was my feminist community. They supported me, loved me, and believed me when no one else would. It was a feminist who didn’t call me a liar when I told her I was raped. It was a feminist who counseled me for the first time. And now, as a feminist, I want to work to bring the kingdom of God to earth, to help bring an end to violence against all those who are oppressed, not just women. I am a feminist partly because I look around and see people suffering, hurting, bleeding, dying, and I want make it stop.

You said that you feel that, too.

However, I am not a feminist so I can punish the people who hurt me.

That is not what feminism is. That is not what feminists want. We are not out for revenge. We do not want to take an “eye for an eye,” and we’re not in it to perpetuate the violence against us. We want the world to be a less violent place, not just for oppressed people to become as equally violent as our history’s oppressors.

I am not a feminist because I don’t know any good men. I am married to the most wonderful man I’ve ever met, and my life has been filled with good, healthy, beautiful friendships with men. It would be impossible for me to name all the good men I’ve known. I’m not a feminist because I believe that all men are “bad”– in fact, I’m a feminist because of the exact opposite, because I believe in men.

I’m sure there is a feminist, somewhere, who paints all men as bad. I’m sure they exist, but they are so rare that I’ve never encountered one, and I’ve spent the past few years reading every feminist I could get my hands on, and building relationships in a wildly diverse feminist community. There are extremely radical and militant feminists like Andrea Dworkin who were accused of “painting all men as bad” primarily for the supposed argument she makes in Intercourse, an argument she denies trying to make.

Lastly, you tell feminists like me that we have a “Defender” and a “Protector”– essentially, you seem to be making the argument that I don’t need to be a feminist, because I have God.

I think that’s a beautiful thought, but I don’t think it aligns well with what believers are instructed to do by Jesus. To me, and to most of the other Christian feminists in my community, feminism is one of the ways that we “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Christians are not to sit around, doing nothing, trusting that “God will take care of it,” but to work with him in building the Kingdom on earth. I see feminism as my sacred God-given duty, my calling. Feminism is how I show love, how I am a beacon of light in a world filled with suffering and pain.

Also, God promised us many things, but he did not promise to protect us. My life is living proof of that; I trusted God to hold to a promise he had never made, and I was abused, assaulted, and raped. I could blame God for not protecting me, for not defending me– and honestly, sometimes, I do. But that’s not being honest about who God is and what he’s said that he’ll do for us. He says that we can trust who he is, that we can trust in his love for us, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to protect us.

In the end, Savoury, it is obvious that you meant well, and you seem to be a loving, caring, kind, and compassionate person. I appreciated the tone of your entire post, and how tender you were. That I disagree with you is not a reflection on who you are, or what you were trying to do. You are young, and intelligent, and I hope you’ll take what I’ve said here to heart.




standing up for women in public


I was at a birthday party for two of my friends. It had already been going on for a few hours– a riotous game of beer pong had been going downhill for a while, a few people were in the middle of a jam session, and then there was the usual scattered groups of people milling about the living room, the porch, the kitchen . . .

I was talking to a woman I’d just met, Lisa*, who was in another graduate program at my university. Without warning, someone I’d also never seen before stumbled into the middle of our conversation, obviously drunk.

“I’m Todd*! What’s your name?” He looked at both of us, but then fixated on Lisa.

“Lisa,” she said, and I gave my name.

“Lisa! Is that how you normally introduce yourself, or do you normally say ‘Hi, I’m Lisa, and I’m exactly the right height?'” As he said this, he made a sloppy hip-thrust and pointed at his crotch.

I stared at him, agape, then turned to Lisa, raising my eyebrows, silently asking if she wanted me to step in. She shook her head, giving me the smile that said “don’t worry, I got this.” She raised one eyebrow, staring him down for a long moment while I stared down into my white Russian and tried not to laugh. Eventually he merely shrank away, completely cowed. We laughed, and I offered my hand for a hi-five.

There’s probably something that you should know for this story to make any sense.

Lisa is a little person.

But, in this story, she was a little person and a woman, and that made her very existence fair game to Todd– nothing more than the butt of incredibly crass joke. Both Lisa and I had to navigate complicated territory in that moment when he opened his mouth; because we were both women, our options as to how we could respond were incredibly limited. The most socially acceptable option is to laugh awkwardly and then earnestly hope that he leaves you alone. Doing anything that strays from that– calling him on his ass-hattery, for one– is usually pretty frowned upon, and would quickly relegate any woman to the label of bitch.


I’ve been working on research for a while, including reading books like Transforming a Rape Culture and The Purity Myth

First, I highly recommend The Purity Myth— for everyone. Everyone.

Anyway, all of this research has been . . . illuminating and infuriating. Handsome joked today that “my default state is angry,” and right now, he’s right. A few weeks ago I spent two days–two days, I tell you— just watching Simon the Cat videos and eating cookies just because I couldn’t handle anything else. But there is . . . so much injustice.  So much.

But, books like The Purity Myth have done a lot to completely rip off any blinders I might have had about violence against women– how pervasive it is, how often it happens, and how people in power rarely seem to bother to notice. And yes, I’m angry. Every once in a while, though, I get hopeful– when I find something I can personally do, I latch on to it. I want to make a difference. I want to fight this darkness. I want to hope that this can change, that violence against women can end.

A moment like that came when I was watching a TEDx talk put on by Mentors in Violence Prevention about the bystander effect.” You should watch the video, but the essence of it was this: when you see violence happening, say something. It sounds so small, but it’s huge. In some social situations, it’s monumentally huge– insurmountably huge. Just speaking up and saying something sometimes mean that you’ll be punished severely by everyone you know.

Watching that video reminded me of the night I met Lisa– not even half an hour after Todd had cracked that horrible joke, he had accosted me again and started telling me how fuckable I was, that obviously he could just tell that I wanted him so badly. I insisted that no, I was most definitely not interested in him at all on any level, but he continued following me around and harassing me for the next hour. I was neck deep in his shit by then, so finally I snapped. I turned to face him, head on, looked him dead in the eye, and told him that he was being disgusting, that it was inappropriate what he had been doing for an hour, and that I was sick of it and if that he came anywhere near me again I’d knee him.

He did, finally, leave me alone, but seconds later one of my friends came up to me. “Why did you do that? Todd didn’t deserve that– I mean, I know he can be kind of an ass sometimes, but you were really bitchy just then.”

I was speechless. Part of me was angry– why weren’t they taking my side? Did they not notice that he’d been harassing me for over an hour? But the biggest part of me– the part of me that took over my mouth and apologized– was ashamed. Ashamed for speaking up for myself. Ashamed for not acquiescing. Ashamed for making a scene.

After I watched the TEDx talk, though, I decided– never again. If I hear sexism, I’m going to say something. If I hear something– no matter how “innocently” the people around me think it was meant– that encourages violence against women, I am not going to be quiet anymore.

I was talking about this epiphany with Handsome– and I specifically gave the example of something that a lot of people in our peer group are quite comfortable with saying: “I’ll make you my bitch” or “you’re my bitch” or “we just got raped” when what happened was they payed too much for tacos. I told him that if I heard someone in our peer group casually use a phrase that has violence against women at its heart, I’m going to say “That is sexist, it is not appropriate, and please don’t ever say something like that in front of me again.”

Handsome disagreed. “No, you shouldn’t do that. That would completely humiliate them. That’s totally not ok– that would be bitchy, Sam.”

I looked at him for a long, drawn-out moment, silent. Finally– “It’s only ‘humiliating’ because violence against women and sexism is normal and accepted behavior, Handsome.”

He stared back.

“Holy shit… you’re right.” He paused. “If we were in a room with black people, and some white dude started using the N-word, and a black person called him on it, we’d all be cheering and clapping.”


That’s why this it is so important to not let any of this slide anymore. We have to make sexism obsolete. We have to make violence against women be something of the ancient past. That can only start when one person at a time stops tolerating all the tiny, supposedly “insignificant” ways we commit violence against women every day.


laughing in spite of . . .

new girl

When New Girl started running trailers before the pilot episode in 2011, I thought it might be a show I could get into. However, when it started, I was in the middle of my first semester of grad school, so while I caught a few episodes, I didn’t stick with it. At the time, I was actually struggling with how Zooey Deschanel was being presented in the media– she was being painted as the ultimate quirky girl– there was a Lord of the Rings reference in the first episode, and the premise for Jess’ character was that she was unique, and zany, but, in the end, absolutely adorable and someone who everyone can’t just help but love because she’s just so darn cute.

As someone who is actually a gigantic nerd, and someone who is actually bombastic and someone who is actually quirky and zany and all of the above, I can attest to the unfortunate reality that I am not so adorable that everyone just thinks I’m the greatest.

At times, the fact that I have friends who do think I’m just the greatest feels like a small miracle. My life doesn’t look anything like Jess’ character. I have that energy level, that zest for life, and guess what? It sometimes annoys the crap out of people. And when that happens, I don’t wave my arms and decry their annoyance and say “I love weddings and I’m going to dance my face off!” until everyone who was annoyed starts slow-mo chicken dancing with me. Even if I do go slow-mo chicken dance, the annoyed people don’t join me. Usually, they make fun of me, and, in my experience, I become the butt of a lot of mean-spirited jokes and I have to deal with dismissive, mocking behavior from that point forward.

So, I didn’t stick with New Girl for very long.

But, me and Handsome decided to give it another go last night.

We watched the first five episodes or so (thank you Netflix), and the whole I’m-so-spunky-don’t-you-just-love-me part of Jess’ character didn’t bother me anywhere near as much. Hardly at all, actually. I attribute that to the past three years of growth and development I’ve survived. I learned to adapt, I learned how to recognize social situations and behave appropriately, I learned how to read people enough to know when my rambunctiousness would be enjoyed and when it wouldn’t– mostly. So, maybe Jess’ character goes through some of the same development, and I’m curious to see if that happens.

This time around, something else stood out to me:


If you’re not familiar with New Girl, that is Schmidt, who is an in-general “douche with a heart of gold.” He serves a similar purpose on this show that Barney does on How I Met your Mother— he’s so disgustingly chauvinistic, you love to hate him. He’s a pig, and all of the characters on the show know it, so they exact their revenge on him in various ways (like the fact that he’s the only roommate who ever puts money into the Douchebag Jar). He’s also blinded by his arrogance and narcissism, which just helps his roommates make fun of him.

However, one of the ways that the show’s writers have decided to make fun of Schmidt is through his work environment, where he is the only man. Everyone else that he works with is a woman, and they endlessly mock him for a variety of things, only a small part of which is deserved (in the pilot episode, they’re making fun of him for wearing a pink tie).

In some ways, Schmidt’s work situation can be viewed as social commentary on how ridiculous sexism is; the writers are making it clear that the women are not making fun of Schmidt himself (like his friends do), but only of his gender, which, we viewers are supposed to automatically understand is nonsensical.


I have a problem with this because reverse sexism is not a thing, in exactly the same way that reverse racism doesn’t exist. Neither of these exist because they are not possible in a white and male privileged culture. I’m not saying that women can’t objectify men, because they can and they do (which New Girl shows when Schmidt’s Santa costume leaves his chest completely bare). I’m also not saying that people of color can’t treat white people badly in a stereotypical and negative way. These things happen.

However, these behaviors are not racism and sexism.

These things are certainly rude, unprofessional, and some actions could even be labeled unethical. But, a woman objectifying a man is not sexism, because a woman, in male-privileged culture, does not have the power or the ability to limit the purpose of a man’s existence (either in his personal or professional life) to his physicality or sexuality; however, this is exactly what happens to women when men objectify them. They are contributing to and being a part of a culture where women exist to serve the needs of men. The reverse is untrue.

So, when I was watching New Girl last night, I had a hard time not throwing my remote control through  my television. It also just kept getting worse, complete with Schmidt making a rape joke.

But, I also laughed. Some parts of the show are genuinely funny. I thought Coach was hysterical (whyyyy did they replace him?), and the scene wear Jess goes on a rampage to get her stuff back from Spencer made me want to whoop and cheer.

So, I was torn.

Because, as a feminist, I’m aware of how the treatment of women in media contributes to the treatment of women in reality. When a popular television show makes a rape joke, it only reinforces the idea that rape jokes are ok, that rape, victimization, and violence against women itself can be funny.

But, as a feminist, I’m also aware of the fact that sexism is everywhere. Really, everywhere. It’s maddening how ubiquitous it is. I cannot read hardly any book, watch any show or movie, or listen to any song or conversation without encountering sexism in some form. And, trust me, it’s exhausting. Some days, I really wish I could go back to a more innocent time when I was completely blind and ignorant to how pernicious and omnipresent sexism is. I want to just be able to laugh at a show like New Girl without having to grit my teeth to get through the sexism and the rape jokes.

I’m slowly learning that there has to be some form of balance. I can’t constantly be reacting to every single example of sexism I see. Sometimes, just for the sake of my own sanity, I have to let it go, and I have to be able to do that without feeling guilty about it. I have to have priorities, or I’m going to completely burn myself out.

I have to be able to flinch, but then move on if it’s not something I can personally do anything about. Sexism at my church? You bet your Bunsen burner (sorry, old Adventures in Odyssey reference) I won’t quit going after that until it’s gone. But in the media I consume? Then . . . then, it’s not quite so clear. Sometimes, I will quite watching that show, or reading that book.

Sometimes, though, I’ll laugh in spite of it.