Monthly Archives: June 2013

The “how-to guide for sexual assault” on Kickstarter

There are a lot of links in this post, but please take the time to open and read them all, because they are important. 

Kickstarter is a website where people can raise money for their creative projects, such as books and movies. Yesterday, one of the books on their website “Above the Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women” went viral after a blogger on Tumblr referred to it as “a book about how to sexually assault women.”

Thank you, awesome Tumblr blogger!

If you read the description and watch the video for “Above the Game,” it seems like an innocent book to help men meet, and interact with women. No wonder it received over $16,000 in funding…who doesn’t want help in the dating world? However, looks can be deceiving. The awesome Tumblr blogger (his name is Casey), did some research on the author’s Reddit page, and discovered what the book was really about: sexual assault. Not okay. Here is one of the quotes: “Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”

REALLY?

Mysteriously, the Reddit pages in question are “temporarily down.” Thankfully, our awesome Tumblr blogger, Casey, posted the link from his cache, which allows us to see what was posted before it was taken down. Click here, please.

Another awesome person started a petition on Do Something, for Kickstarter to pull this project. It received approximately 50,000 signatures! Unfortunately, disappointingly, and disturbingly, Kickstarter refused to stop it, and the book reached it’s funding goal.

The author of “Above the Game” attempts to defend his book in this article (it also contains a response from Kickstarter).

Sadly, as a result of the Tumblr blog post, Casey has been receiving some hate mail. Read his response to the hate mail, the successful funding of the project, and Kickstarter’s lack of responsibility here.

Hopefully, the people who helped fund this book were completely unaware of it’s hidden content. Hopefully, when they receive their copy, they will demand to have their money back. Hopefully, Kickstarter will pay closer attention, and not allow anything like this to happen again. Hopefully, awesome people will continue to speak up, raise awareness, and let the world know that sexual assault is not even remotely close to being okay. Reminder: sexual assault is a crime. Sexual assault has nothing to do with desire and attraction…it is an act of violence where sex is used as a weapon to have power and control over another human being. 

Thank you to everyone who had a role in attempting to stop this.

Because women are people.

This graphic went viral after being uploaded to Tumblr three days ago. It makes an excellent point.

Often times, when discussing violence against women (generally with men) statements are made such as “she’s someone’s sister, mother, daughter, wife,” or “it could happen to your sister, mother, daughter, wife.” These words are typically spoken with the underlying hope of “if we make it personal, maybe they will understand.”

To quote the original source: “Quick, messy graphic to explain a concept that seems obvious to me: We shouldn’t be helping women because they’re related to someone else. We shouldn’t be helping women because someone else cares about them. We should be helping women because they are people. We should be helping women for their own sake. Why is that a hard concept for people to grasp?”

Tips for supporting survivors

Here is a fantastic blog post from Feministe about what NOT to say when someone discloses a sexual assault to you. (At the bottom, we have added in a list of appropriate things you can say to a survivor you may be supporting):

 

“20 Things Never to Say to a Friend Who Confides in You That They’ve Been Sexually Assaulted”

This list is by no means exhaustive. Unfortunately, many people will know or do know someone who’s a survivor of a sexual assault or rape. If you find yourself in the position of confidant, please choose your words carefully. They can make the world of difference. (This list is heteronormative because it’s an account of personal experiences. However, sexual violence is by no means just male-on-female. People of all genders commit sexual violence against people of the same or a different gender.)

1. “Are you sure that happened?”

I know you’re shocked. But asking me if I’m sure if I was assaulted is a HUGE slap in the face. Yes, I know what happened to me. I remember every detail because it plays over and over in my head.

2. “Was he DRUNK?”

The emphasis on the “drunk” part comes off as though you believe there is no way this person could do something like this unless he were under the influence (which still doesn’t make his actions excusable). If you are friends with him, it will be even harder for you to imagine your friend committing an act of sexual violence. If you don’t believe the person is that “type” to do such a thing, don’t let me know you’re skeptical, because that weakens the trust and safety I feel confiding in you.

3. “Tell me EXACTLY what happened.”

I know you’re experiencing some denial that this has happened to someone you know. But you have to understand that it is extremely triggering for someone to recount every detail of a traumatic experience. And when you persist, it seems as though you’re looking for details to “validate” that this was in fact an assault, especially if you know who did this (see #2).

4. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

Regardless of how close we are, it’s not easy for someone who’s been through a traumatic experience to bare their soul right away. Just because I didn’t tell you immediately after it happened doesn’t mean I don’t trust you. It’s hard to put words to an incident that I wish had never happened in the first place.

5. “Are you okay now?”

No, I’m not. But, I know you want me to say “yes” so you can stop worrying about me and we can go back to the happy BFFs we were before. Eventually I just give up and say “yes” so you’ll stop asking so many times.

6. “Why are you still upset?”

I didn’t know there was an expiration date on pain, depression, confusion, and the myriad of other emotions I’m experiencing.

7. “How long will it take for you to get better?”

I don’t know how long it will take. Trust me, I’m doing everything I can.

8. “But you look fine.”

Just because I don’t walk around with my head down and an unkempt appearance, and I don’t communicate in grunts instead of English, doesn’t mean I’m not hurting inside. Sometimes, I don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes, I don’t have the energy to mentally take myself to that traumatic place.

9. “Just don’t think about it.”

Because that’s so easy, right? We all know what eventually happens to bottled-up emotions.

10. “You need to be strong.”

Telling me to just be strong is like telling me to lift myself up from my bootstraps.

11. “In X years you won’t really care about this.”

This isn’t some embarrassing fall in the middle of the dining hall. The recovery process is a long and rocky road, and I don’t need anyone, especially a close friend, brushing the incident off as “something that we’ll all laugh about in X years”.

12. “It could’ve been worse.”

Very true. That doesn’t make what happened to me any less severe. That doesn’t mean I’ll say, “Gee, you’re right. What am I even upset about?” The fact that it could’ve been worse doesn’t make me feel better in the slightest.

13. “You can always come to me whenever you need me.”

It’s okay to let me know that you don’t think you’re someone who can provide the support I need, because this is a delicate and traumatic situation to deal with. Suggesting I reach out to a counselor or other resources is perfectly okay. I promise I won’t be offended.

14. “I understand how you feel.”

Yes, you know how it feels to cry, to be hurt, scared, and confused. But unless you have been through a sexual assault or rape yourself, do not tell me you understand how I feel. You and I both know that you don’t, and you saying this makes me more angry than comforted. Being close to a survivor and being a survivor yourself are two completely separate things.

15. “This is about me, too.”

It is never, ever about you. Yes, you’re upset that something awful has happened to me. Yes, you may know the person who hurt me, and now you’re in this position to “choose” between us. Nonetheless, what you’re feeling as the friend of a survivor is no match for what a survivor feels.

16. “You could be fabricating this whole thing.”

Never do so much as to even insinuate that I am or could be lying. I promise you, I’m not faking the depression, the tears, and “I want to kill myself”’s that you see and hear.

17. “This isn’t fair to me to be in this position. I wish you never told me.”

Do you even hear yourself? I know it’s tough to be hit with cold, hard reality. But for you to tell me that it’s not fair for YOU to know what I’ve been through is selfishness and immaturity at its finest.

18. “Why didn’t you ______?”

Never, ever, EVER, ask me why I didn’t act differently. Survivors always blame themselves first for what happened, and the fact that you’re asking me why I didn’t do ____, which may have caused a different chain of events, strengthens the internal blame, guilt, and self-loathing that I’m struggling with.

19. “Does he know how this has affected you? Maybe he’d be sorry if he knew.”

Whether or not he would be “sorry” if he knew how upset I am after the incident, don’t ever try to paint said perpetrator in a sensitive, caring light. That doesn’t mean you need to bash him. But don’t try to reassure me that he’d be eternally remorseful if he knew how hurt I am.

20. “Girls always say ‘no’ because they’re scared. It’s happened before; they eventually give in… It would be beneficial to you to keep this between us.”

This last one doesn’t follow the trend, but was said to me by the guy himself. I didn’t know where to begin: the fact that you just looked me in the eyes and told me this after I found the courage to confront you about the incident afterwards? The fact that you (and countless others) believe it’s okay to force someone against their will to engage in sexual activities because you know they’re “just scared”? The fact that I wasn’t the first one you “strongly encouraged”? Or, the fact that you’re trying to save face by attempting to convince me that it would be beneficial to ME to not tell anyone what YOU did? Out of this entire list, this one had the most impact on me, and I know I’ll remember these words for the rest of my life. Because sexual violence has existed, still exists, and will continue to exist on this earth, please, PLEASE choose your words carefully if you ever find yourself in the position of confidant. When in doubt, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say”. And remember, no matter how upset, confused, frustrated you are, what you’re feeling is NOWHERE near how your friend is feeling. If you know someone who is a survivor of sexual assault or rape, do not hesitate to reach out to resources, either for your friend or for yourself. If you are a survivor of sexual assault or rape, please reach out. I know it’s hard. I know you may feel embarrassed to talk about it. But no matter how alone you feel, please know that you aren’t.

_____________________


Helpful Things You Can Say When Supporting a Sexual Assault Survivor: 

1. Begin by believing. Even if you experience some doubt, keep it to yourself. It is not your job to decide what is real and what isn’t. Hearing the words “I believe you” can be so empowering.
2. Listen actively… be present in the moment. Say things such as “I’m listening” and “take all the time you need,” but REALLY listen… don’t just say that.
3. Allow the individual to experience any emotions that may arise… it’s healthy. Saying the words “it’s okay, you’re allowed to feel what you need to feel” can be really helpful.
4. Offer to be a support person if you feel comfortable, for example: accompanying him/her to a rape crisis center for more information, and possible next steps. You can say something like, “I will help and support you in any way that I can if you would like me to,” but only if you truly mean it.
5. Let the person know that it was NOT their fault by actually saying “it was not your fault.” This is one of the most important things you can ever say. Regardless of clothing, alcohol consumption, physical location…no one deserves to raped, ever.

Maine (only) Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-871-7741
National Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)

 

These women have had “enough!”

Glamour Magazine featured some inspirational women who are saying “Attention Rapists: You Have Met Your Match.”

YEAH!

From left (top row): Panayiota Bertzikis, Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, Cassandra Fairbanks, (bottom row) Zerlina Maxwell, Casey Frazee, and Grace Brown A.K.A. seven of the incredible women telling rapists, “Enough.”

By now, you’re probably familiar with the chilling details of what happened last August 11 in Steubenville, Ohio: A 16-year-old girl, drunk and passed out, was raped twice over the course of a long evening, her body hauled from party to party by two of Steubenville High’s star football players. Dozens of teens witnessed the events. Not one intervened. Instead, they took photos and broadcast them to the world on Instagram and Twitter. “Whore status,” one tweeted. “Hahahahhaaha.”

Why do so many of us know all of this? Why has this particular sexual assault captured the nation’s attention, as opposed to the almost 600 others that happened that same day? Because someone—in fact, thousands of someones—finally said, “Enough.”

One of those someones was Cassandra Fairbanks, 28, a sound technician then living in Pittsburgh, who had just gotten involved with the controversial “hacktivist” group Anonymous. When another member sent a warning to the group alleging that the Steubenville case was being ignored by local authorities, Fairbanks started combing social media sites and digging up tweets and posts from the night of the incident. The research tore her heart out. “I read about this passed-out girl and someone peeing on her,” she says. “And the more I read, the madder I got. So we posted all that information.” As the case began to draw attention, Fairbanks drove to Ohio to help organize Occupy Steubenville protests; thousands of people attended, many wearing Anonymous’ trademark Guy Fawkes masks and carrying signs with messages like “Red rover, red rover, your rape crew is over.” Within weeks the trial began, and this March the boys were sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail on rape charges.

Meanwhile in Louisville, Kentucky, high schooler Savannah Dietrich, a self-described “quiet, smart girl,” was just getting over her own devastating Steubenville-like experience: Drunk at a party, she too had been sexually abused by two athletes—these, lacrosse players from a Catholic boys’ academy. Pleading guilty, they were referred to a sex offender treatment program and required to do 50 hours of volunteer work. But when Dietrich learned that if she spoke out about the case, she could get 180 days in jail, the disparity of the two punishments enraged her. So she sent a tweet that would change everything: “Will Frey and Austin Zehnder sexually assaulted me. There you go, lock me up. I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living hell.” Support flooded in from women around the country applauding Dietrich’s courage. “It was my God-given right to put those boys’ names out there,” Dietrich, now 18, tells Glamour. “You have to be brave enough to stand up for yourself. To be silenced and bullied by the court system, I was ready to go to jail to fight that.” (In the end, she didn’t have to; her contempt charges were dropped.)

Fairbanks and Dietrich don’t know each other, but they are part of a movement. At its most extreme end is Anonymous, whose “irreverent, insurgent, radical form of activism is really chang- ing the public consciousness around rape,” says Gabriella Coleman, Ph.D., an anthropology profes- sor of science and technology at McGill University in Montreal. And though some of that group’s members may use illegal tactics (like hacking into cell phone messages), their fed-up attitude reflects a mood that’s going mainstream. “It really feels like we’re nearing a tipping point,” marvels Linda Fairstein, legendary head of the sex crimes division of the Manhattan district attorney’s office from 1976 to 2002. “People are finally insisting that the way we’ve been dealing with this is simply not good enough. I’ve been waiting so many years for this to happen.” And it is happening—because of Fairbanks and Dietrich and women and men everywhere who are making noise and calling for change.

Rape jokes in comedy

Via Jezebel writer, Lindy West: “If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats?” [Click here to see the comments she has received, and  a video of her reading them *trigger warning*] 

Last Thursday, I went on FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and tried to explain rape culture in a few 15-second sound bytes (fun stuff—if you’ve never tried it, RUN-DON’T-WALK).

I was in a debate with comedy vet Jim Norton (who’s been thoughtful and fair throughout this whole thing, so don’t be mean to him), who essentially took the stance that comedy requires absolute freedom in order to function. Comedians joke about difficult issues because it’s a “release of tension” for people uncomfortable with those issues. It’s “catharsis.” No subject should ever be “off limits” and comedians shouldn’t be “silenced.” And anyway, language doesn’t affect culture, so how could rape jokes have an effect on actual rape? Rape is illegal! Everyone hates rape!

Well, that’s the fundamental disconnect between us. I believe that the way we speak about things and the type of media we consume profoundly influences how we think about the world.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe that previously non-raping audience members are going to take to the streets in a rape mob after hearing one rape joke. That’s an absurd and insulting mischaracterization. But I do believe that comedy’s current permissiveness around cavalier, cruel, victim-targeting rape jokes contributes to (that’s contributes—not causes) a culture of young men who don’t understand what it means to take this stuff seriously.

And how did they try and prove me wrong? How did they try to demonstrate that comedy, in general, doesn’t have issues with women? By threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped, and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me.

This isn’t just coming from anonymous trolls. Local comics — whom I know and work with — have told me to shut the fuck up. One hopes I’ll fall down a flight of stairs. (He later apologized—to my boyfriend, not me.)

The comments below and the video above (filmed and edited by Ahamefule J. Oluo) are only atiny fraction of what I’ve been wading through for the past four days. A suffocating deluge of violent misogyny is how American comedy fans react to a woman suggesting that comedy might have a misogyny problem.

If anyone’s still worried about comedians being “silenced”: This is what silencing looks like. Sorry, boys, but it’s not going to work.