Monday, February 21, 2011

what is feminism?

Well, I would say, for starters - a good, basic article to read on what feminism is/is not, would be located here:

Aside from that, I'd say that feminism has a lot to do with the concepts of sensitivity, equality, and the openness to learn. There's a lot of systematic oppression that goes in our culture and unless we are the group being oppressed (sometimes even if we are the group being oppressed), we're not even necessarily aware of it. There's a lot of behavior in our culture that has become normalized that really ends up offending/limiting/marginalizing certain populations, and we have to learn to become sensitive, as feminists and individuals in general, to the possibility that we could be offending someone with even the smallest behavior. We need to increasingly challenge our biases and enhance our awareness by participating in what may be perceived as challenging, charged dialects around heterosexism, classism, sexism, racism, ableism, and etc. Essentially, feminism involves the capability to listen to, and attempt to absorb, the stories of the oppressed in an attempt to not only assist the oppressed and broaden our own deepened knowing, but also to help achieve equality, which is feminism's end goal.

I hope that makes sense?

Ask me anything

Something Unresolved

There is a voice in me lately that seems to continually beg the question, "Who are you to speak? What makes you important? What do you have to give the world? Why does the world need it?" It's been separating me from those around me here (at Goddard College) - those who who are apt to find the strength in themselves to pursue their study topics. And normally, I'd only post a blog entry if I had a resolution to it - something others could gain from my own struggle. But maybe something will be gained from the mere fact that I am expressing that I am, in fact, struggling - who knows? I am not perfect, and maybe that is the first of many candid confessions I need to make. I am struggling with the fact that I need to let a large part of myself go in order to let an even larger part of myself in, a part which I have yet to explore or understand. I'm grappling with the idea of self-progress, of determining "right"ness. I'm continually turning around to visit the perfectionist part of me with the new lens of mine that knows it's time to put the perfectionism away, to let the compassion in. I'm feeling splintered - torn in this rift of unknowing. I struggle with the dichotomies within myself, some of which are a result of personal trauma - while other are results of social trauma (oppression against women, for example). And I know I must recognize that whatever I'm feeling at any moment is okay to be feeling, to settle simply into that moment. It is surprisingly challenging, this idea of finding "home" in self.

[excerpt from a study plan preface, with my study plan still pending...]

If I were to summarize, I write,
I think I've struck all the poetry from my body,
a dull axe swaying
in the forests of being -

I jot down in my notebook: Where is home? I write on twitter, where is home for the sexual assault survivor, for the typical woman - where do we ground ourselves? what is our center? If everything were to come together to a right place, what would that place be? What would that place look like? Who would I be, as an illustration of my home? In relation to body, what does home feel like?

The questions linger, and I know they are the right ones. And I think that I must think like Rilke:

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

And I must ask myself what are the arguments that go on inside my house? What is the story, the dialogue it continually returns to? I must lay myself down before my house, open to the exposure and shame of “thawing out” and redeeming myself to myself, a moment in pride and a recital in self. Do I study the movement of my intentions? Or the intentions of my movement? How do I give voice to the body, and my voice a body in its own right? How do I make love a fence lining all the words in my speech? How do I grow unstuck from the patriarchal patterns I have inherited in my family? What dynamics come unspun by my one movement? My mind repeatedly confronts the question: “who am I and how am I to break this chain? If those before me were not strong enough to confront it, how will I be able to grapple with it? How long will it take?” One body with many voices, all screaming to be one fluid resource for healing.

Breathe in, breathe out, let go deeply. If you were to think of one word of what you’d need right now, what would it be –

COMPASSION: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

What are the voices we internalize as women? What are the voices we internalize as sexual assault survivors? What are the voices we internalize as incest survivors? What are the roles we adopt as family members? What are the voices of the traumatized? How do voices of this dysfunctional family manifest? What about the voices of mental illness? The voices of the progressive education? The voice that keeps struggling for its own definition, the voice that’s afraid, the voice that asks for more? The voice that wants redemption sung out loud?

PERFECTIONISM: a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.

There is a need to address the idea of wholeness versus brokenness, society’s notions of right and wrong –

How do we love ourselves in a society that demands perfection?
How do we love ourselves in a society that demands perfection for women?

: division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs.
division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.

How do we love ourselves as sexual assault survivors in a society that demands perfection for women – that deems we are already broken? How do we recover from the trauma of dealing with societal perceptions? What is freedom?

any code or set of principles containing different provisions for one group of people than for another, especially an unwritten code of sexual behavior permitting men more freedom than women. Compare single standard.

I have yet to find the answer(s).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

how does it feel to be starting grad school so soon? what are you doing specifically?

Honestly, it feels stressful, mainly. But I think this is my perfectionist talking - I had a lot of things I ideally wanted to accomplish and catch up with before grad school started. Realistically I also hadn't planned on starting grad school so soon, and lately, I'm even remembering the time I graduated high school thinking, laughably, that MAYBE I'd go to graduate school. Such surreal memories. Things changed and I can honestly say the economy had a large influence on my decision to go back to school - after reading so many Craigslist job ads and fending off monthly undergraduate loan payments, I decided it was the best decision for me to make. WHICH ISN'T TO SAY I won't enjoy and didn't enjoy selecting the program I'm going to attend in exactly ONE DAY. I firmly believe the program I selected was the right choice for me, and that it'll likely be beneficial for me on both a personal and a professional level - forcing me to grow in ways that standardized education ignored and frequently reinforced (see: lack of self-care and perfectionist habits). While I chose going back to grad school for “logical, responsible person” reasons, I chose the school I’m attending for the heart of it – and for the passion in me. If I didn’t find a suitable program for me, I likely would’ve continued floundering with undergrad loan payments every month. Which is to say – I’m also greatly looking forward to meeting like minds and I do have waves of excitement about the whole ordeal as well – they’re just currently bogged down by fear of having to change my habits and pondering if I’ll have enough time to execute everything I want to execute.

What I’m doing specifically is a really good question – particularly because I sent in, and got accepted with, a completely over-ambitious study plan that I’m almost certain will be completely modified even within the first residency I attend (tomorrow). I basically want to further my studies, which began in my undergraduate independent study, where I studied gendered sexualized language dynamics (the words we use to constrain or liberate a woman’s sexuality) and the impacts they have upon a woman’s mind and physiology, her actions. I also want to hone in on sexual assault survivors – and then bring more creative writing to it, as well as some bodywork and a bit more background on the basic physiology of trauma. Lots to do in such little time – I’m almost certain my grad program will fly by me in a very cumbersome, challenging sort of way.

Ask me anything

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Body as Home: A Creative Writing Prompt from an Incest Survivor

I was wandering around Nothampton, MA lately, trying to de-stress, thinking about bodies. I'm not sure if, at that point, "forcible rape" had been temporarily pushed into the HR-3 document, but I know I was definitely thinking of pro-choice arguments. I was thinking of generic trauma and recovery, the body's psychosomatic memories. How important, at the end of the day, all our bodies are - that we respect and encourage them to grow as part of our own wholeness. It's a concept I struggle with on a personal level, so maybe that's why I can't get the subject of "body" dislodged from my head yet. Bodies: it stuck, and continues to stick there as an undercurrent. Bodies - and so, (bodies), as I was walking around Northampton, (bodies) I stumbled across this quote: "we may leave a house, but never its memories, its voices," and thought to myself "BODIES! What if we were to view our bodies as houses? Homes for all our memories? If our bodies were homes, what would the story of their life be? How would our bodies be represented as homes? How would we treat our homes (bodies)? Are we treating our bodies as dearly as we are treating the concept of "home"?

And I took that big, whopping (redundant enthusiasm!) idea and I ran with it (notably my whole passage is tinted at and addressed towards my experiences as an incest survivor). So, down below, I'm going to show you what I came up with as "my house as body that can never leave its memories or voices," the natural trauma state.

BODIES! What if we were to view our bodies as houses? Homes for all our memories? If our bodies were homes, what would the story of their life be? How would our bodies be represented as homes? How would we treat our homes (bodies)? Are we treating our bodies as dear to us as we are treating the concept of "home"?
"we may leave a house, but never its memories, its voices" - Stoneheart and Company (Dianne Hanna)

I catch the precipice of my falling at every windowsill, my unspoken screams reverberating against the white walls of my youth, voice shrinking, cluttered, caught stammering beneath the taut barriers of my skin. The beams are cracked and bleeding, falling apart: these are the vessels of the house, the circulatory system, the things that help it stand. Everything overflows here: the grief doesn’t stop for any plumber (nor any contracted relationship trying to clear it out), no matter how genuine and honest. People come and go, and I remain – and my body remains – and we will be at odds with each other until I can see the floors again, when I stop getting splintered from trying to fix the beams of me: Splintering at the touch – is this what it feels like to continue to renovate a house for years with little to no progress? Useless, the voices hang around me: the criticism creaks up at me as I press against the floorboards – “stupid bitch,” it says – and it used to be louder. It fills up the corridors of my house like a great phantom. Like this, I am haunted, with my past on me no matter where I go, strangling the method of breathing... I feel the tremors in my body, the earthquake lying sporadically alive beneath the foundation of my house: every memory surfacing at its own capricious, haphazard leisure. The fires of my youth pop up and spill as if candles licking curtains, the anger unleashes itself over all the furniture, the places I might sit or rest: my body agitated with the persistent burning and dousing: the cooling and reigniting of self. Never dormant: the house continually echoes. There are animals resting in the crevices of all my thoughts, chewing away slowly, scurrying up the brave limits of my sanity. These voices I know are not my own: but they are inside me, they consume me. I am only a person with walls: walls, walls, walls meant to be knocked down and built up again – but I am so much thicker than walls, so easily plastered in the moment: phrases tacked upon me, feelings framed on my very surface. Age grows on me decadently, carving out my features, decaying the connections. I am regal in all the stories I have grown to tell, every limb slung tiredly over another: my body collapsing into bone. An artifact, a testament: I know the damages of my livelihood and the need for redemption, healing, renovation. I seek the carpenter who knows, by vicarious intuition, the thrum of my body’s honesty as vibrantly as I know my foundation.

So, although my experiences with my "body as home" were written from the perspective of an incest survivor, I know everyone has their own unique relationship with their bodies, and therefore, what they write could radically deviate from what I've written, and address topics such as weight, pain, disability, violence, society judgements, or even aging (see "Crossroads," a beautiful poem on this by Louise Gluck), ETC. And I encourage (mainly because I would love to read) everyone to give this prompt a try - and while you don't have to show anyone (and you can keep it as private and confidential as you want), I know I'd love to read some of your responses. Consider all this, please. In the meantime...

Thank you for treating your body as a home, tenderly and with consideration. Thank you for building up your body strong and unique, soft and considerate. Thank you for living in your body at this time in your life, thank you for considering other bodies. Thank your body for being a beacon of self, an extension of who you naturally are.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

you ever think you talking about rape all the time is triggering to other people? just saying.

I apologize that I may be triggering you - obviously that's not my intent. But, with all due respect, it's a subject I talk about a lot because I feel like it's an issue that should be addressed and discussed. And I make that very open on a lot of different internet venues I use. So, if you feel uncomfortable with that, I recommend you filter me out of whatever online system you use - whether it be blogspot, tumblr, or facebook, etc. We all have different capacities for what we can handle, and if you can't handle my discussion of rape, I would encourage you to take care of yourself and shy away from my various internet presences.

Ask me anything

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Commentary on HR3: the bare bone definitions for diehard republicans

"By now you've no doubt heard that one of the signature bills of the new Republican majority, H.R. 3 or "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act," seeks to make permanent bans on federal funding for almost all abortions by--among other things--limiting abortions for pregnancies caused by rape to those caused by "forcible rape."
Source: Time, The Non-Problem of False Rape Claims for Medicaid Abortions

So, bear with me: yes, I put off reading articles on HR3 for several days because even the sound of bill frightened and upset me. This will be bare bones, as much as possible, as I try not to get too worked up. I am going to choose facts and definitions here. And I hope they, alone, serve as a persuasive argument against the Republican standpoint that currently stands as the majority in the House of Representatives. First, I am going to discuss the definition of rape - via dictionary definition (two different ones actually). Next, I'm going to point out the exclusions that the Republicans want to place on abortion laws for rape victims, further restricting and shaming the female's body. Lastly, I'm going to give you the tried and true statistics.

Rape, under
1. an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
2. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

–verb (used with object)
6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.

And just in case some naysayers say isn't a reliable source, let's go with Merriam-Webster online, the third definition of rape as a noun:

Definition of RAPE

1: an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force
2: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape
3: an outrageous violation

While I tend to prefer's version, due to the fact the latter is a little sexist and uninformed, they both tend to serve the point. Rape is inherently, by definition, committed through force. And, if you go through sexual assault advocate training, you usually learn that it has little to do with actual emotion or "wanting someone" and more to do with power dynamics and assertion of hierarchy - but, we'll put that lesson aside for another day. Let's talk about what Republicans want to talk about.

Forcible rape

"The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.....

"Somebody needs to look closely at this," Levenson says. "This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn't want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law."
Source: Mother Jones: The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape

Let me repeat it again: forcible. rape. It's a bit redundant isn't it, like someone forgot what rape actually meant? Like they couldn't actually define what rape meant? Okay, I'm aware my bias is very clear here - but wasn't a dictionary available? I spent 5 minutes or less online, typed in the word rape, and the word "forcible" was very easily in view. In the definition.

So what exactly do they mean by forcible rape?

Even in going back through a handful of articles written about this ridiculous (and I do mean ridiculous, as well as simultaneously incredibly life-threatening) HR3 clause, I can't seem to find a definition. I can find lack of definition. I can find implications. Mother Jones asks of us, "do they mean we have to prove it by being beaten? drugging doesn't count?" Open Congress illuminates that the passing of HR-3 would definitely include the exclusion of Medicare abortion funding for cases of incest that occur for survivors 18 and over, and that statutory rape cases would be treated as if individuals under the age of 18 had all the same rights and responsibilities etc. and etc. as individuals over 18 (more power to the young people, but I'm definitely not leading the life I thought I'd be leading when I was 13-14). All in all, as one great article summarizes:

"Yesterday Debbie Wasserman-Shultz came out swinging against the latest GOP assault on women, calling the new requirement that only those who are the victims of "forcible" rape be entitled to government funded abortion, "violence against women" and she's right. This is a strong element of the abortion debate and it gets to the very essence of the anti-abortion argument, namely that pregnancy is God's punishment for female sexuality. (That's so twisted, it's hard to even wrap your mind around it.)"

Which is oddly enough, a connection I sort of mentioned in a prior post on this very blog. But moving along, now that we've established the difference between what the whole world construes as "rape" and what Republicans construe as "rape" (forcible rape?? SAME THING?!?!?)... let's talk about the statistics of rape, and the real damage this bill would be doing.

FACTS: statistics borrowed from RAINN and CCASA (Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault) Manual (namely being used since I had it in my recent training as a sexual assault advocate last year. The copy of the CCASA manual I have was last updated in 2002, RAINN's statistic dates vary. Bear with me. I will state the most current facts.

AN ESTIMATED 1 IN 4 AMERICAN WOMEN is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. - CCASA
61 PERCENT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18: approximately 1/3 under the age of 12, 1/3 between 12-17, and 1/3 ages 18 and above - CCASA
84 PERENT OF ALL SEXUAL ASSAULTS are committed by someone the victim knows.- CCASA
NEARLY 85 PERCENT OF RAPE VICTIMS DO NOT REPORT their rape to the police. Rape is the most underreported and violent crime in this country. - CCASA
Factoring in unreported rapes, ONLY 6% OF RAPISTS EVER SERVE A DAY IN JAIL. - RAINN

Victims of sexual assault are (RAINN):
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape
In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
Note: This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower/raise the actual number of pregnancies

So now that I've stated all those facts about rape, and I'm aware it was a handful of 'em, a part of me just wants to go: "Really, Republicans? SERIOUSLY?" If you know 4 women, one of them has been sexually assaulted. If you factor in the part that 85 percent of rape victims do not report their rape, chances are the actual amount of "one in ___" is higher than the data we've actually been able to receive from various governmental and otherwise funded sources. If you have a family, chances are you have at least 2-4 women in your family, AND I'M BETTING one of them has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime (which is a very expansive term) - not like I want one of them to be, the numbers just sort of indicate that this is a common predicament in our culture. A rape culture. One where rape victims aren't believed and have to prove to society that rape does in fact exist and that they, in fact, have endured it. And ahhh, yes, I think we've gotten to the point.

Rape Culture: a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.

I would like to point out the word "attitudes" here and almost wish that definition (the only one I could find) included "language," which I did a whole independent study on. The fact that we have to define rape, the fact that Republicans don't even know the definition of rape and have to be redundant and simultaneously create a hierarchy amongst rape victims by creating hidden implications for what rape is and isn't (as no one seriously seems to know what they're getting at and they won't tell us), and the fact that this whole damn thing is so controversial and taboo when it shouldn't be. Because if we didn't live in a rape culture, we wouldn't have to justify "I was raped, and can't handle taking this pregnancy to full term because it reminds me too much of my rapist and the situation that traumatized me." We wouldn't have to justify the choices of our bodies in general, but we especially wouldn't have to justify the ways we defend ourselves after a traumatizing, violent situation that most woman in this nation unfortunately endure.

I trust women, Republicans, why don't you?

Side fact: research varies that from 1 out of 6 to 1 out of 17 men are also victims of sexual assault (CCASA) and we (or at least I) would just like respect and safety for everyone.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and are searching for a great source for healing and reassurance, please don't consult the republicans, consult Pandy's, which will very gracefully walk you through all the terminology, encourage your own respect for your body, and give you the forums you need to discuss your trauma and learn from others.