Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wolf vs. Friedman

Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman: Feminists Debate the Sexual Allegations Against Julian Assange
(Note: You have to sit through 2 minutes of pledge drive before the 10 minute video begins...)



Shorter Naomi Wolf: It's not rape if you don't repeatedly say no, even if you're being threatened and held down.

Shorter Naomi Wolf: It's not rape if he starts putting his cock in you while you're asleep.*

It's much more apparent to me now why Friedman and Valenti named their book Yes Means Yes. If somebody like Wolf who has worked with survivors for so many years can get consent so wrong, I just don't know how we're going to shift cultural norms around rape. Perhaps if Wolf had spent less time during the interview expressing how offended she is, while providing a litany of experience, her "arguments" would be more clear to me...

*of course, if such a scenario is talked about ahead of time, and asked for with an enthusiastic "yes!", that's different.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Donate to RAINN

Sady Doyle is doing most of the work for us. Do your part and donate to RAINN now, and your donation is doubled by RAINN.

https://donate.rainn.org/

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is International Stop Violence Against Sex Worker Day. From the Sex Worker Outreach Program site:

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.


Please check out the site, participate as much as you can, and donate some cash to help SWOP continue to do this work.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good Men?

I was really interested when I first heard about The Good Men Project--and I haven't read the book, but a look at the site is discouraging in many ways: I'm disappointed in its overall tone--seems to be pretty based on a gender essentialist framework that isn't (to my mind) particularly helpful. Some examples, from just a cursory look:

Snowden Wright has a long-ish article describing what are (to my mind) the horrors of rushing a fraternity during college, and then ends his article with a stereotypically "no regrets" attitude, even about his own misogyny:

But the pain wouldn’t last. We had been different people back then. On our way home, I thought back on the person I was during those years, rude and crass and smug, without any sense of regret or shame. None. Call me an asshole, label me a misogynist, wish me an early death. Doesn’t matter. I will not apologize for having one hell of a good time. Because that’s the point of college: not only to figure out who you want to be as an adult, but also to spend four years being the person you don’t want to be.


Tom Matlock (the creator of The Good Men Project), in an interview, is the dictionary definition of a gender essentialist:
“I actually disagree with your POV here, Henry. I don’t think it’s about transcending gender at all. I think it’s about men being men. We are different. Just look at all the various statistics about what men are doing and how it differs from women, from education to incarceration to parenting. And what we as men like to do, what interests us, what inspires us. I would hate to think that our mission is a great leveling of the genders. I love women. Because they are so different. I quite honestly cannot tell you how or why my wife does or says or thinks what she does. But I love her for it.
(Because, y'know, women just think differently!)

Andrew Ladd has a slightly more nuanced take on things, but still ends up playing up the stereotypically "male" traits as positive, by noting that being a good man often means being a sissy:
So what to make of all this? Should we all go back to acting like Don Draper? The Man with No Name? Bogey? No. I stick by my own sissiness, and those iconic men of the past century are hardly perfect either. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that what we talk about today as being “good” masculinity often is sissiness, with all the word’s pejorative connotations, and not the purely positive thing we make it out to be.
As if being a sissy can't be a purely positive thing...

Also, the creator of The Good Men Project, Tom Matlock, explicitly distances it from feminism:
The way Boston-based founder Tom Matlack tells it, the website owes its existence, at least in part, to one very important feminist in his life – his mother. “My parents don’t like it when I call it this, but I basically grew up in a commune,” he says. “My mother had a strident form of feminism and it influenced me on a personal level – I found it scary.”

Although Mr. Matlack understandably won’t label his project “feminist” – its mandate includes topics too broad to be boiled down to any one political agenda – he admits there is a relationship. “I think it’s feminism on its head,” he says. “Women were trying to get out of the home. Men’s challenge is the opposite: how to be at home.”


To my mind, any work that men do toward shifting from the traditional male masculinity models to a greater breadth of what it can mean to be masculine is great, but starting from a Men-Mars/Women-Venus perspective is bound to eventually leave out a lot of potential for change.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Healthy Male Sexuality?


Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of Yes Means Yes, is writing a new book, and is doing a workshop related to the book, and she's asking for folks who want to participate to contact her:

When it comes to sex, should I always avoid the things that make me uncomfortable? How do I know if the person I’m flirting with is safe to date? Is hooking up always damaging? What do I say to a friend who’s making sexual choices I think might be bad for her? What if that friend is questioning my choices? How do I encourage others to be safe and sane about sex without teaching them shame?
...[b]ut before the book can reach the page, Jaclyn is looking for a dozen volunteers to be the very first people to ever read the book, engage with the exercises, discuss the process with each other and with Jaclyn, and help shape the finished book.


The books sounds fantastic. I contacted her just to verify that the book, and workshop, is about/for women- or female-identified folks, and she quickly responded that, yes, it is. No problem there: All books have to have some sort of scope, and a book about healthy female sexuality framed in the way she's framing it is a pretty wide scope already.

At the same time, male-identified folks need a book like this as well--many of the resources I find when I search "healthy male sexuality" revolve more around viagra than around complex male sexuality.

Please share any good resources all y'all know about!

I'll start. This book seems to have a gender analysis at the beginning (though it starts with a discussion of Viagra), touching on at least some of the intricacies of male sexuality: The New Male Sexuality

Monday, December 06, 2010

Tim Wise on Guilt and Responsibility

Great video on Sociological Images from Time Wise (transcript below, courtesy of SI):


The clip is great, as far as it goes. I would have loved for him to have linked responsibility to privilege more explicitly, however. For instance, regarding the analogy to environmental pollution, it’s the folks who have benefited most from past corporate policies who have the most responsibility to change things now, just as the folks who have benefited/are benefiting from gender and race injustice historically who have the most responsibility to make changes now. That doesn't mean we don't all have work to do, of course, but some of us should take more responsibility than others.

I'd also like to point out that guilt and responsibility aren't mutually exclusive, though it might be helpful to sometimes think of them as such--guilt that drives one to action is useful. Guilt that drives one to shame and inaction is selfish.


Transcript:
Transcript for those who need/want it:

Questioner (off-camera): Um, as a white male, should I feel guilty for the sins of my fathers. I affirm that they exist, but should I feel guilty for them?

Tim Wise: No. You should feel angry. And you should feel committed to doing something to address that legacy. It’s like, for instance, with pollution, right? We think about the issue of pollution. Now none of us in this room, to my knowledge, are individually responsible for having belched any toxic waste into the air, or injecting toxic waste into the soil, or done any of the things… we didn’t put lead paint into the housing, you know?

Individually we’re innocent of that. But someone did that stuff, and we’re living with the legacy of it right now, or in this case might be dying with the legacy of it, getting ill, right?.

So it isn’t about feeling guilty about what someone did, even if you were the direct heir of the chemical company that did the pollution, but it is about saying, all of us in the society have to take responsibility for what we find in front of us. There’s a big difference between guilt and responsibility.

Guilt is what you feel for what you’ve done. Responsibility is what you take because of the kind of person you are, right? And so if I see a set of social conditions that have been handed to you, and which not only did wrong by othrs but elevated me and give me advantage that I did not earn, it’s not about beating myself up, I’m not responsible for that having happened, I’m not to blame for it, so guilt is totally unproductive

But in order to live an ethical life, to live ethically and responsibly, I have to take some responsibility for the unearned advantage, which means working to change the society that bestows that advantage. It’s not guilt, but it is responsiblity. It’s no different than looking at the issue of pollution or if you became the CFO of the company, you wouldn’t be able to come in and say, “I intend to use the assets of this company, and I insend to put them to greater use, and I intend to use the revenue stream we’ve got going, but that whole debt side of the ledger? No, I’m not paying any of that because I wasn’t here when the other person ran all that debt up. You should’ve gotten them to pay it before you gave me the job. Now I’m here, and I’m innocent.” We would realize that made no sense.

So isn’t about innocence and it isn’t about guilt, it’s about responsibility, that’s something we all have to take. White folks have to take it, people of color have to take it, uh, men and women have to take… everybody has got to take it, because we’re living with… if we don’t do it, no one does it, and it doesnt’ get done. We’re the only hope we have.