Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stop from Perpetuating Rape Culture

Yesterday, Total Frat Move (TFM) decided to publish an article that comments on the slut shaming endured by activists in Plattsburgh, NY during their annual Take Back the Night. A local fraternity publicly harassed the survivors, victims, and allies. The author’s response was to reprimand these men for their “poor form,” which when you consider the men’s insensitivity, is a failed criticism.  Interestingly, the author also recommends possible posters for further protests against sexual assault, such as “You Blew it! We Won’t Put Out For You Anymore!” 

The author’s response to the fraternity’s blatant disrespect of women is completely within the character of the website and it’s online community. TFM is responsible for creating a viral platform for misogyny and rape culture under the guise of "fraternity satire.” An online community for privileged white men in college fraternities, these men enjoy congratulating each other on their social superiority while belittling women and anyone who doesn’t own several golf courses. TFM is particularly popular for their collection of one liners submitted by fraternity men on their interactions with college women: “The instant pass out after ejaculation,” “The dilemma between sitting next to a hot girl or a smart girl during your final,” and “Willing your slam to a new member once you graduate” (Willing refers to the practice of passing down a sentimental fraternity object to a younger member, and a slam is short for a “slam piece,” who is a young woman that he is having sex with).    

The author of this most recent example of online sexism fails to recognize the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses or the role that Greek organizations play in its continuation. He is writing for an audience that views survivors of sexual assault as sluts who were asking for what they got. He reinforces this mentality by refusing to describe the actions of the Plattsburgh fraternity for what they are: sexual harassment.   

My friend Elizabeth and I decided to confront the sexism in this article and remind TFM that women are not sluts, but humans who will no longer stand for ignorance on issues of sexual violence. Facebook became our battleground. Here’s what happened:  


TFM responds to Elizabeth’s anger caused by the author’s casual slut shaming, by arguing that they are a “satirical website” and it isn’t their responsibility to take a “moral stance,” especially because they provide “funny commentary” on the college experience. 

No TFM, sexual assault is not funny. 

One in four women will experience rape or attempted rape by the time they complete their college education. The first three months of freshman year are called the “Red Zone,” because young women are most likely to become victims of sexual violence during this time. One in twelve college men say that they forced a woman to have sex against their will. 

This website ignores the role that fraternities play in committing sexual assault. Nicholas Syrett’s recent study shows that fraternity men may perpetuate 70-80% of college gang rapes. In 2011, Yale suspended the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity for their public chant “No Means Yes, and Yes Means Anal!”  This is example is just one of the more public demonstrations of the horrible sexism that characterizes many of today’s fraternities. 

Recently, national news has begun to recognize the severity of sexual assault on college campuses. Survivors at Amherst College, Swarthmore College, the University of North Carolina, and others have decided to confront their administrations and demand action. Websites like TFM do not help college activists as they work to create safer campuses, more often than not they cripple causes and distance college men from being able to empathize and support Survivors. 

Our Facebook debate concluded with TFM deleting our comments and our demands for an apology. We were also blocked from further posting on the thread. We are asking the online community to help us pressure Total Frat into not only issuing an apology for their callous article, but to also publically acknowledge the role that their website’s misogynist culture plays in harming the efforts of college activists.  We demand that TFM educates their users on the prevalence of sexual assault. 

Once TFM deleted our comments, this is what the final thread looks like. And yes, we’re mad.


If you're mad too, please consider signing our petition!! 

-Michelle Carroll

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reflections from an F&M Survivor

In light of the recent guilty verdicts in the Steubenville rape case, this seems like a timely moment to print this piece. A friend who knew that I was a victim of an on-campus sexual assault approached me about writing this for the newsletter. I’ve had some reservations in the past about publicly discussing my case. But, ultimately, I’m writing this letter for all the women on campus who have been sexually assaulted. For me, the most heartbreaking part of this has been the number of women who shared their experiences with me. It happens all the time and yet we, as a community, refuse to recognize it. It’s not out of malice that we choose to not address this issue, but ignorance. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. We’ve all heard that statistic. If you’re like me, initially it’s very shocking, but after hearing it so many times, it begins to wash over you. It’s just another number. It’s just a statistic until it happens to you, or your friend, or someone you love very much.

Once inducted into this macabre society, people start to come out of the woodwork. I’ve had people call me a liar, a tramp and a life-ruiner. I’ve lost friends. I have people who whisper when they see me, or refuse to sit next to me at public functions. When newspapers write about sexual assaults, many people write editorials or snide Internet forum comments about the victims. For some reason, everyone seems to have an opinion about this situation, but no one has ever asks the victim how she feels. Never in any of the articles does someone pause and think, “Would this be something she wants discussed?”

Because I’ve been sexually assaulted and no one asked me my opinion of the event, I’m here to tell you that it’s none of your business.I’m not here to discuss the specifics of my case. I don’t want to give any more attention to the injustice that was done to me. Consequently, I’m choosing to write this anonymously because in the end, it doesn’t matter who it happened to. This could happen to anyone, your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, your best friend. It happens to men, and to the LGBT community as well. I wanted to write this piece because I wanted to let other survivors who have been sexually assaulted know that you are not alone.

This year has easily been the hardest of my life. The choices I made in the aftermath of the assault cost me. Telling the truth didn’t get me the result I wanted. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold people accountable for their actions. At the end of the day I can go to sleep knowing that I stood up for myself and said, “this is unacceptable.”

I can tell you that it’s so much easier to pretend it never happened. It’s so much less life-altering not to admit that something that has happened to you. Once you say, “I was sexually assaulted,” you can’t un-ring that bell. But there’s a different kind of pain that comes from trying to make something like that disappear, and I would argue that holding in that secret will destroy you. Of all the people who I have talked to, almost all of them have said that they wish they had taken some kind of steps against their attacker in the aftermath.

I don’t mean to presume that my choices are the best decision for everyone. I acted as I did to healthily move forward with my life. I had to write this because after months of silence, I know that this article will help someone.

To anyone who is sexually assaulted, I urge you to talk to someone. Going through this process alone is impossible. Living alone with the secret of sexual assault is impossible. I absolutely would not have been able to make it without the support, understanding and love of my friends and family. Healing from this experience takes time.

I will not let this episode define me. As far as I am concerned, this is a blip on the timeline of my life. I will get stronger. I will surround myself with people who I love, and who love me. I’m going to run. I’m going to read. I’m going to pray. I’m going to go hiking. I’m going to walk my dog. I’m going to continue living my life.

That being said, I still have nightmares about that night. Any sort of loud, sudden noise frightens me, and I haven’t been able to be with a guy since this incident. I’m scared of walking alone after dark. I’ve been told that with time this will ease, but that I’m going to have to live with some of this for the rest of my life.

As a community, what we allow will continue.

I will move forward. I have learned so much within the past six months from the strong women in my life and within this community. I would never wish sexual assault on anyone, but this experience has made me stronger. It has made me a fighter, and most importantly it has made me a survivor. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fatgirlslim: Right Here, Right Now

This post is for all the girls out there who would like to lose a few pounds.  This is for all of you who have tried the BeyoncĂ©-certified liquid diet or have considered the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, maple syrup—5-7 days straight.  Yum?  This is for everyone who has binged and purged; this is for anyone who has used laxatives to lose those last five pounds.  This is for any girl who has skipped that one last Christmas cookie; who has rejected a sandwich because “it just has too many carbs” (does anyone these days even know why we need carbohydrates to, you know, live?).  This is for the skinny girl who thinks she’s a fat girl and for all the girls who think it’s okay to label each other “fat” or “skinny.”  This is for the girls who have done none of these things.  This post is for you.

Women’s issues are everyone’s issues, but sometimes we forget how integrated they are in our everyday lives.  I was walking through Sephora with some girlfriends the other day, and attempted to pass by the Bliss section like I normally do: by looking straight ahead so I’m not tempted to drop hundreds of dollars on the totally “necessary” beauty products.  I’ll give them this, their marketing is superb.  They had a line of “Mint Romney” and “Orange Obama” lotion gifts with purchase over the election season that was genius!  

This time, I was startled by a line of products that I had never seen before.  They call it Fatgirlslim, which I guess is a take on the artist Fatboy Slim (well, at least I’d like to think so).  Being the self-proclaimed feminist I am I was taken aback by the title.  Who are you calling Fatgirl?  The disproportionate Barbie-like drawing on the cover of the package?  That fake-tanned Bliss princess?  Or are you calling me Fatgirl?  ‘Cause that Barbie figure sure as hell couldn’t stand to lose even half a pound without dropping below a healthy BMI.

Speaking of healthy, how good can these products be?  I saw Fatgirlslim soap, cream, spray, and some intimidating vibrating machine (and not the good kind).  All of these products supposedly give us women a six-pack (“Pick up a six pack,” says the box with the Barbie sketch), but last time I checked those came from Pilates and sets of crunches.  Are these products supposed to replace the diet and exercise which we have always been told will lead us to a healthy lifestyle?  Have we been deceived this entire time, told we had to actually take care of our bodies when all we need to do is drop fifty bucks on a vibrating tummy-tuck contraption? 

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass.

What do you think?  Am I completely overreacting to Bliss’ Fatgirlslim product line, or is this an issue that deserves attention?

- Sabrina Yudelson

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Should the LGBTQ Community Honor Katy Perry?

In early December, Katy Perry was honored by the Trevor Project, an organization that works to prevent LGBTQ suicides.  The Trevor Project gave KP the Trevor Hero Award for “inspiring LGBTQ youth to find their spark through her video 'Firework'” and “increasing visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ community.”

However, many in the LGBTQ community did not believe KP deserved such an award.  In her song “I Kissed A Girl,” she makes clear that she has a boyfriend (and therefore is straight, not gay or bisexual).  This song delegitimizes lesbians by portraying girls kissing girls as a “phase” that straight girls go through, rather than an expression of feelings between lesbian or bi women.  It furthers the idea that two girls kissing is only socially acceptable for straight girls who are “bi-curious” or hoping to get attention from men.  This song does not appear to “increase visibility and understanding of the LGBTQ community.”

Even more offensive is KP’s song “Ur So Gay.”  (Hint: Her inability to spell is not the offensive part.)  In this song, Katy Perry makes fun of an ex-boyfriend by calling him for being too feminine.  The lyrics include “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf/While jacking off listening to Mozart.”  Rather than using legitimate insults on her ex, KP resorts to the default insult of a middle-schooler: “You’re so gay.”  This song is childish and offensive, and certainly does not further the Trevor Project’s goal of reducing LGBTQ suicides.

Despite these two songs, Katy Perry did positively portray gayness in the music video of “Firework.”  A series of clips includes a boy at a party, who crosses the room to kiss another boy.  Based on the lyrics, we can assume that this boy is embracing his true self.  But is this short section in one video enough to negate the damage done by two of her previous songs?  Should Katy Perry be rewarded for doing some good?  Or is honoring her actually hurting the LGBTQ community, by ignoring and normalizing her use of negative, anti-gay stereotypes?

What are your thoughts?  Is Katy Perry a good role model for the LGBTQ community? What about for everyone else?  Post in the comments!
** You may publish anonymous comments as well. All comments are subject toreview and approval from The Alice Drum Women's Center. **

- Lauren Dever

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jenna Marbles’ New Video: Harmless Comedy or Disrespecting Women?

Jenna Marbles is a hilarious internet comedian who’s posted over 100 videos, including some classics such as “How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking.”  However, her newest video is called “Things I Don’t Understand about Girls Part 2: Slut Edition.” 

Jenna defines “sluts” as women who sleep with a lot of men, especially men they don’t know.  She says that sluts don’t respect themselves or their bodies.  While she does make some good points about safety (don’t get STIs) and preventing sexual assault (intervene if a girl looks drunk and confused), she’s pretty anti-slut.  To Jenna Marbles, sluts make bad choices.  Jenna claims monogamy is much more fulfilling and that women have more enjoyable sex with someone they have a relationship with.  This assumption bothered me…..something didn’t seem right, but what??  Then I discovered this video by sex educator Laci Green.

Laci Green argues that Jenna echoes beliefs that our culture has had for generations—that women shouldn’t be sexual.  While women have made some advances, they are in no way equal to men or free to make their own sexual decisions.  Laci says that Jenna is “slut-shaming,” aka disrespecting certain women society labels as “sluts.”  “Sluts” are just women who express their sexuality differently than society wants them to.  Laci thinkgs disrespecting sluts is disrespecting women, and their ability to choose who they want to have sex with.

So what do y’all think?  Is Jenna’s video good advice for women seeking happiness, or is she disrespecting women’s decision-making abilities?  Post in the comments!
** You may publish anonymous comments as well. All comments are subject to review and approval from The Alice Drum Women's Center. **

- Lauren Dever