The Everyday Gray Areas of Harassment Toward Women

By Elle Stanger (January 29, 2020)

When I was a teen-adult, I worked in mall jobs for a couple years. One day, a twenty-something man talked at me for thirty minutes in an empty store while I set up the t-shirt displays: He followed me around explaining in GREAT DETAIL all of the tattoos he planned on getting, where and what and which scummy bro of his was gonna “hook him up”, he even told me his plans to file his teeth into fangs.

Literally thirty minutes. He didn’t buy anything.

Six months later and I’m working at a different location of that retail store, fifteen miles away. And the SAME dipshit comes in and starts reciting the exact same script of all his supposed tattoo plans and fangs, and it was at that point that I realized he didn’t recognize me.

Then I realized that he actually spends his time Doing That to women, all the time.

Things I learned:

-Some people need friends real bad
-Most employment jobs don’t give you tools for dealing with people like this
-Grey areas exist in terms of harassment
-It’s perfectly OK to ignore someone who is ranting their bullshit at you while you’re working
-I never care/enjoy hearing from someone about their tattoo/plans

I wonder if he’s out there, somewhere, STILL doing this.


Men Being Able to Express Vulnerability Will Help Erode Rape Culture

By Elle Stanger (October 9, 2019)

I’m a sex worker who recognizes that many of my man clients are afraid to express their discomfort or pain because it makes them seem less “manly”.

Before I begin touching someone of any gender presentation I always say,

“Let me know if something is uncomfortable or you need to adjust”, and cis men usually are the ones who scoff,

“You can’t hurt me”, which is untrue because I could very easily and accidentally hurt someone; like pinch your scrotal skin under my body if I shift a certain way on your lap. Or what if you have a fresh tattoo?

I have met so many men who would rather suffer pain silently (and do) than vocalize their needs for comfort and safety and security, because they’ve been raised to believe that expressing those needs makes them less valuable in a society that praises stoicism and aggression in men.

Quite often these same men will thank me after the touch interaction, for allowing them space to express their needs.

“I actually do have a bad knee” or “I kinda hate my ears being touched, honestly.”

I truly believe through experience that ending rape culture in this country is about allowing people to be vulnerable and communicate their needs, and that this is teachable and healing.


Black Women and Choice in Alabama

By Teka Lark (May 17, 2019)

My mother said when she was pregnant with me the doctor asked her if she wanted an abortion. My mother was married, a housewife, had no other children, and owned a home with my father, but still that was the first question that the doctor asked when she went to the doctor to confirm what she had already knew. She and my father planned it, as they were responsible and that’s what responsible Black people do, so they won’t bring the wrath of racism.

Because if you’re perfect, you’ll never, ever have to experience racism.

This opens up my relationship with birth.

I have always been pro-choice I still am, but as a Black woman my relationship with choice is a different one.

A Black woman in urban America has never had a problem getting an abortion — now birth control, information on safe sex, sex positive information, a job, those were hard to come by, but an abortion, that has always been pretty easy.

I know all about abortion, not because I had one, but because I had driven my friends to them. I had a car and my birthday was on January 1, so I ended of being the driver in many rock and roll and unlucky in love adventures.

I drove a friend to get three abortions. Why did she get three? I don’t know. I have always had a it’s none of my business kind of policy. That is why I am a good driver.

In the early 20th Century the US had a eugenics program. Beginning in 1909 and continuing for 70 years approximately 60,000 sterilizations took place.

Black children are five times more likely to be be incarcerated.

Black infants have the highest infant mortality rate.

Post antebellum America has never been a welcoming place for Black babies.

“I’m pregnant” said Pamela Harris, before she was murdered by the state.

Growing up the worst thing you could do was to become an irresponsible Black woman with children.

That was worse than murdering people, stealing, pretty much the only thing worse than a Black mother (married, unmarried, it doesn’t matter, the institutions don’t differentiate between the two) was a Black mother on crack.

I always think about crack when I drive through the middle of the country and see places where people can dispose of their “diabetic” needles, wouldn’t have been nice if the same courtesy had been granted to people who had “diabetes” in South Central, Brooklyn, and Chicago?

Black people have been murdered, hypersegregated, and terrorized in the South since the inception of this country.

The politicians who are now enacting draconian laws to restrict the rights of white women, because they’ve already done everything they can to the rest of us, have always been draconian.

Black people didn’t vote for Governor Ivey of Alabama, we would have never vote for such a foul person.

Black people don’t get the luxury of a wedge issue, even anti-choice Black people will vote pro-choice. We have to look at the bigger issue. We have to look at justice on a larger scale.

I have often talked about the evils of the South, many people have, and to people now, who act as if the evil of the South is something new, I really want to ask where the fuck have you been sister, where the fuck have you been?


Open Letter to the White Male Legislators in Alabama and Georgia

By Sonia Gutierrez (May 15, 2019)

Dear White Guy, You Don’t Own My Body

I had a miscarriage.

At the clinic, the doctor told me I had a blighted ovum and said she was sorry. According to her, I would have to go to the hospital for a procedure—if nature didn’t take its course. Well, I didn’t want that and trusted my body could miscarry on its own. I knew women’s bodies had miscarried for thousands of years, and I trusted their wisdom and the female anatomy’s ability to release its seed.

I called my cousin with a doctor in the family and asked her if I could miscarry on my own. She answered, “Yes.”

I visited my parents to tell them the news. In the backyard, my father standing next to the guava tree looked worried. When I told him about miscarrying on my own, my father said he would prefer that I go to the hospital. While my father talked to me, my mother walked hurriedly to her estafiete plant, took some leaves, and asked me to drink the tea with chocolate when I was ready. My mother’s knowledge didn’t surprise me—she had always been our medicine woman. But I knew women like my mother and myself, who knew their bodies and stood their ground, had been historically persecuted and branded as witches and evil.

Later that late afternoon at home in my garden I took a shovel and a pick and struck the Earth ”La Tierra” with all my might. My partner asked me, “What are you doing?” I answered, “I’m telling my body I am ready.”

Hours later, we had dinner at my sister’s, and I excused myself. When I looked down at the toilet, I saw what looked like a heart-shaped plumb. I shared with my sister the miscarriage had begun and not to worry—I would be fine.

We went home. I miscarried all night. I do recall drinking aspirin in case my miscarriage came with pain. It didn’t. It was a beautiful, heartbreaking process.

Days later, when I returned to the clinic, I was asked, “How did you do it?” or something like “Who did it?”

I answered, “I did.” She was impressed.

Fifteen years after, when states like Alabama and Georgia put the faith of women’s bodies in men’s hands, who do not know what it is like to live in a woman’s body, it worries me that a woman like me who remains rooted in indigenous knowledge after 500 years of colonization is told what her body can and cannot do.

Dear White Guy—ignorant is the man who thinks he can think for a woman and know her body more than she does.


Cersei is Far More Than a Raging Mother

By Theresa Hogue (May 14, 2019)

There are plenty of valid criticisms floating about regarding Game of Thrones’ brutal penultimate episode, many of which focus on the unexpected and frankly wild veering that many beloved characters do from the path the writers had previously put them on. Whether it’s Jaime’s sudden crash from his redemption arc with Brienne to Dany’s maniacal firestorm slaughter of innocents, there was a lot to take in, and a lot to be critical of.

For me, though, the most frustrating moments of the episode came when multiple male characters discussed the motivations of Queen Cersei, including both her brothers. Over and over, you heard male characters linking Cersei’s ambitions directly to her motherhood and current pregnancy, negating any other valid reason for her refusal to cede power.

Does Cersei identify as a wounded mother? Clearly. And have many of her most brutal actions been fueled by either protecting or revenging her children? Absolutely. But Cersei’s underlying drive for power is clearly motivated by being a capable, intelligent woman in a patriarchy that severely limits female ambition. She was less valued by her father than her twin brother, despite being a better strategist. She was strategically married by her father to a far less capable king and had to watch his failures as a leader. “I should wear the armor, and you the gown,” she tells King Robert Baratheon. She has been limited and thwarted by men her entire life.

While it is true that Cersei’s current pregnancy may lend urgency to her situation, she fights not because she’s a mother but because she has finally attained the position she felt she deserved and she damn well won’t relinquish it. It is true that Cersei’s position is not a feminist one, she is not fighting to stay in power to somehow advance the situation of women in Westeros, in fact many of her biggest and most loathed enemies have been other women attempting to grab or maintain power, and she’s ruthlessly cut them down (think Margery Tyrell, her treatment of Sansa, and her current disdain of Dany). However, she does fight against patriarchy for her own sake.

Salon did an analysis of Game of Thrones last year which showed that since 2013 there hasn’t been a single female writer, let alone director, on the show. So perhaps it’s not surprising when a major female character like Cersei is reduced simply to her role as a protective mother, rather than a complicated, dangerous and ruthless leader who has many reasons for protecting the throne she fought so violently for. In her final scene with her brother, the writers reinforce the episode’s emphasis on motherhood when they have her plead to Jaime, “I want our baby to live.” And of course she does, but her impending death is about so much more.

“Power is power,” Cersei says in a much earlier episode. Her whole life has been about shaking off the impediments of male power in order to attain what she knew, all along, she was capable of. That’s what she loses as the walls come down.

This is Why Women Stay Silent When They Are Uncomfortable

By Elle Stanger (January 23, 2019)

I asked a man to stop bothering the three women at the table across from him while they were trying to eat; he was asking about their work, clothing, and the final straw was when he asked if they wanted to date his friend or him,

They were giggling and trying to shut down the conversation but obviously didn’t want to be “rude”

So I leaned over and said “hey can you leave them alone, they didn’t come here to talk with you — they came here to eat”

and he told me I was probably a feminist

and I told him he’s acting like a misogynist

and then he called me a cunt and a bitch

and then I asked him if he puts his hands on women also or just acts entitled in public,

and he told me to shut my mouth

I asked him if he’s a rapist too

And said that I will remember his face

Then four other women from another table came over and said they would kick his ass if he kept calling me cunt

He did not finish his food and he left quickly,

Then the women at the original table thanked me for intervening, and all eight of us nodded and thanked each other for looking out for each other.

…and then we all stared at the door for the next 10 minutes in case he would reappear with a gun like some typical white angry male who was just rejected and embarrassed because he was acting predatory in the first place kinda shit.

Anyway, this is why women usually stay silent when they feel uncomfortable.

(No regrets)


Inclusion Isn’t a Free-for-all for Bigotry: Exclusionary Feminisms and the Alt-Right

By Rachel Wagner (January 15, 2019)

In one of my groups, there’s a discussion going on about whether or not it’s “exclusionary” to ban TERF and SWERF views (presumed “feminist” views that exclude trans-women and women who engage in sex work). Those “radical feminists” who wish to exclude trans women and sex workers from feminist spaces are upset that they’ve been told their exclusionary views aren’t welcome. And in response, they confuse the rejection of their exclusionary opinions with their being unwelcome as people. That is, they claim they aren’t welcome as human beings when in fact, it’s their exclusive views that aren’t welcome. Continue reading “Inclusion Isn’t a Free-for-all for Bigotry: Exclusionary Feminisms and the Alt-Right”

Surviving Misogynoir

By Teka Lark (January 8, 2019)

When I have events I never have music. I don’t like music.

I came of age in the 80s and 90s.

I came of age when music was getting pretty mean and I knew immediately that I did not like hiphop. I didn’t like hiphop, because it seemed to specifically be talking about how it hated me as a Black girl, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to have the words, but even as a kid I liked myself.

I wasn’t going to purchase and listen to music that seemed to specifically hate me, even if it had a good beat.

I don’t use hate flippantly.

“Tired of my face, Telling lies gettin’ n—s wives tied up and raped.” — Rick Ross

There is something that listening to soundtrack of Black women hate that turns even Black women against Black women. It’s propaganda with a producer.

The lyrics were not only violent towards Black women and sexually graphic, but also had to on top of all of that it had an undercurrent of respectability politics, like “we all raped this 12 year old, but if she had dressed like a lady and loved Jesus, well that wouldn’t have happened…”

Self righteous, objectifying, and mean.

I also came of age in the beginning of music videos, MTV was actively and openly racist, it wouldn’t play Black artists, so BET was started and initially I watched the R&B, until I noticed not just the songs, but the videos.

I noticed there was a lot of colorism, sizeism, and just women as objects, R&B had become like hiphop, but with singing. Art is supposed to be fantasy, so when you listen to music and watch videos you sort of fantasize that it’s you, and I didn’t want to be dancing in a music video in a g-string sitting on some evil child molesting uncle’s lap.

People say well all music is sexist.

Many Black women academics say that hiphop is from the larger culture which is sexist.

They are correct the US is sexist.

All art is sexist, but you know what, I’m not embracing an art form that has for the last 40 years specifically described people who look like me as a bitch, whore, gold digger, prostitute, and baby’s mama over and over and over and over again.

I’m not embracing an art form that views me as a hole for masturbation.

I’m not embracing an art form that ranks Black women by shade and hair texture, so that even Beyonce who is unrankable (and husband is Jay Z) gets ranked a B, because she isn’t biracial with wavy hair, because even light skin won’t exempt you from their wrath.

I’m not embracing an art form that would openly disrespect Beyonce, because she is a Black woman and you can get away with disrespecting a Black woman, even if the Black woman is Beyonce.

I’m not embracing an art form that claims it loves Rihanna, creepily stalks Rihanna (Drake) then collaborates with the man (Chris Brown) who tried to kill Rihanna.

You will not call me out my name in my own neighborhood and in my own home.

In the past I brought this up to people and I got a lot of push back as there were bigger fish to fry, you know, racism, because politically some of these men accidentally made some good points like NWA’s F*** the Police.

“Dr Dre has changed…”
Fuck Dr. Dre.

As a Black girl in a Black neighborhood, the racism I witnessed and experienced on a daily basis was on rotation on the radio and cable television —songs by R Kelly, Dr Dre, NWA, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dog and as I was from LA, I didn’t just hear the songs I knew friends who had personally experienced the brutality of these men and the culture that uplifted them and stomped on Black women and girls’ souls.

They were predators going after underage girls and bragging about not falling in love with them, but raping them. There are songs that explain in vivid detail these activities, no one was hiding anything.

“Mister, mister, before you make me go
I’m here to let you know your little girl is a ho
Nympho, nympho, boy is she bad
Get her all alone and out comes the kneepads
I know she is a minor and it is illegal
But the bitch is worse than Vanessa Del Rio
And if you decide to call rape” —Ice Cube, 1991

There has never been a misunderstanding.

For me there has never been a conflict in my head.

I have never been confused about R Kelly, Dr Dre, hip hop or rap. You don’t like me, then I don’t like you. There is no confusion or conflict for me.

When I brought this up in the Black community I was told that I was being unfair, because #NotALLUrban music and when I brought this up in predominantly white feminist circles I got a lot of, “This is complicated and bell hooks said it was OK…” bell hooks didn’t say this was OK, but whatever…

Sexism for some reason always becomes more complicated when it involves Black girls/femmes/women, because Black in the eyes of society makes you not a woman ala “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave,” and feminism is for (white) women, not Black girls.

I remember once I was at a women event, run by non Black women and to be inclusive they played hiphop, and though it wasn’t a hateful song it was by an artist who I knew was hateful.

I got sick of explaining why as a Black woman how hurtful it was (and is) that women who are not Black, but claim to be feminists, feel it’s completely OK to uplift a lifestyle that that hates me, for the sake of some fake diversity.

I also got sick of asking Black women who love hip hop, Dre, R Kelly etc…why they liked music that insulted them, degraded them, the people in the genre won’t even marry people who can’t pass the paper bag test, these men clearly think the average Black woman is disgusting and they say it over and over and over again. They rank you a D and they do it publicly. They call brown and dark Black women gold diggers for wanting to be treated nicely, they hate you, and the ones with “positive” lyrics collaborate and party with the ones that hate you, so why, why do you continually defend them? Why do you set yourself on fire to keep these men who wouldn’t even waste spit to help you, if you were actually on fire?

I stopped explaining this topic.

I was exhausted at having to explain this to Black men, Black women, POC, white people, just everyone.

I stopped asking, begging, appealing to reason as to why people feel the need to continue to play and support the hateful genre of music that hurts Black women.

Imagine going to an event with music and someone made a derogatory slur about you at least three times an hour, because that is what it is like for Black women, that is how prolific the hate is.

This is why I don’t have music at my events, because if Black women can’t freely dance, then no one is dancing.


No Race or Gender Justice Without Class Politics

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (December 18, 2018)

Race IS a deformation of class. As gender IS a deformation of class. So if you keep class politics, but don’t go after race politics, you’ve ignored all of the ways in which class politics comes in as race politics. If you go after gender and don’t go after class, you’ll have created two different sets of “women”: aspiring/potential CEOs and untouchables.

Racial and Gender justice is late stage, metastasized class injustice; but just addressing it as class politics is like addressing liver cancer and dealing with liver cancer, when you know full well that it has metastasized to the lung and pancreas.

This is all because you have to understand, class is largely a matter of where you fit and how you are treated in the political economy and production chain. How do Black people fit in the political economy and production chain? Well, we started out as chattel slaves, how do you think? So racial justice also means justice for people doing the work the United States made Black people to do. Same with gender justice.

Now this part is very important:
Whiteness is a class statement about being exempt from a certain kind of work, or being exempt from a certain kind of work under certain working conditions.

Whiteness is the expectation to be treated a certain kind of way in your activities. And these expectations are gendered.

So when you talk to Black people who don’t have a labor politics, it means that they don’t care if Black people are doing the kind of work, under the kind of conditions, that made Black people Black, ever get justice. Those Black people are simply want a set of Black people to be treated as if they were White. These are House Negroes.

When you talk to feminists who don’t think about working class women– and there are A LOT OF THEM– and they aren’t out there arguing for nannies to be unionized, that’s a problem.


The Era of Unbridled Cynicism: #Himtoo Movement Backlash

By Ana Castillo (October 15, 2018)

When catastrophic natural disasters devastate towns and islands & the president doesn’t bother to make an appearance with sincere condolences, instead chooses to attend campaign fund raisers and nationalist rallies, continues to mock minorities, the disabled and disenfranchised, routinely lies, dismisses abused women, and ignores the suffering of children, who practices nepotism, racism, misogyny, protects the wealthy and praises despots: and we tolerate it? We are a lost nation.

In this era, anyone who rises without any intention of acting upon (besides complaints on social media/forwarding fake chains and links, etc.) you must surely check your cynicism gauge. You may be lost, too.

ana castilo

The Club of Patriarchy Begins Early

By Alexander Reid Ross (October 1, 2018)

Rebecca Solnit’s courageous piece is empowering and exciting. What turning over the rock from under which Kavanaugh crawled did was expose the horrible abuse pretty much all women are subjected to in the US from a very young age. It’s societal and systemic oppression in which specific, discrete acts of sexual misconduct and assault play an important, though not necessarily central, role.

Sexual assaults become mechanisms of policing women’s bodies and independence, and the threat of sexual assault is always a force beneath the surface of everyday life.

Yet men are inculcated into the club of patriarchy at a young age and begin to practice mistreating women with the help and support of elders. One is free to make revealing comments about women in private (a la Trump’s “locker room talk”) but to not participate in such behavior is to bring attention to your own vulnerabilities.

We are taught, as men, to be insensitive and unintelligent while priding ourselves on our smarts by putting down women who are disallowed from presenting the truths of the moment. Growing up, I think I knew some young men who attempted to negotiate between being devalued as a person and treating women (and non-straight white males in general) with respect. I don’t know if I ever knew any men who fully repudiated patriarchy and misogyny, though.

However, reducing everything to “bad things we did when we were in high school (and younger)” isn’t enough. We need to continue to recognize how we fail women, as men, in our daily lives, and work to make things better. One of these is recognizing, with the outpouring of revisited trauma, that we need to attune ourselves to how liminal this stuff is and be prepared to talk about things like “triggers” without smirking with contempt for people who suffer.