Fighting with the Sky

So my really exciting New Year’s Eve involved watching Easy A with a friend.  The movie was definitely entertaining and witty.  And surprisingly, I thought it did have some feminist undertones mixed in.  Warning: some spoilers.

The basic storyline of Easy A follows Olive, an invisible high school student, through her imaginary sexual exploits.  It all started when she lied to her friend about having sex with a guy that she had made up.  This rumor spread throughout the school and everyone was calling her a slut.  So in this, her closeted gay friend Brandon came up with the idea that they could fake have sex so that the other guys at school would stop picking on him.  That plan worked, but then all of the outcast guys wanted Olive’s help to make them cool by fake having sex with them.  All of the guys became cool but Olive became an outcast and labeled as a whore.  She started dressing, as she described, like a slut, because everyone already thought she was one.  But ultimately she realizes that what she has been doing is wrong and works to correct it.  In the end, we find out that the guy that she has a crush on really does like her and they end up happily ever after.  Don’t worry, some other stuff happens in there too :)

While there were some definite sexist and stereotypical things that happened in the movie (it is a high school, pop movie after all), I did appreciate that there were some feminist ideas that were spread throughout the movie.  The most prominent one was questioning why Olive became labeled as a “slut” and “whore” after one sexual encounter (and the subsequent ones) and all of the guys were seen as cool.  For example, Brandon and Olive fake have sex at a party so that everyone can witness it.  When they come out of the room, everyone is congratulating Brandon but they end up making fun of Olive.  I appreciated that the movie really highlighted this double standard.

The movie overall had a lot of great one-liners.  One of my favorites was (when Olive was in a bookstore): “Where is the Bible?” “Oh, that’s in bestsellers, next to Twilight.”  I also really liked Olive’s parents.  They were quirky and funny while being really supportive of their daughter.

I would recommend this movie if you like this genre of movie.  It definitely is one of those high school, light comedies.  But it does have some funny/witty parts as well as some undertones of feminism.  I wouldn’t call the movie overall feminist, but there were some of the undertones throughout.

It’s amazing that I keep reading Rick Riordan books for multiple reasons.  1) They are children’s books.  2) They are all the same!

I do end up reading a lot of young adult books because they are easy reads and most of the time entertaining.  I do like how Rick Riordan incorporates mythology into his story lines and I often find them informative.  I read his entire Percy Jackson series and then he had The Red Pyramid (which was about Egyptian mythology.  There was only one book in that series before he went back to Green/Roman mythology with The Lost Hero.

The Lost Hero is kind of a continuation of the Percy Jackson series.  It’s about a new group of demi-gods that come to Camp Half-Blood, face a new prophecy that threatens the safety of the gods and the world.  Jason, along with his friends Leo and Piper, have to set off to save Hera who has been kidnapped and Piper’s movie star father who has also been kidnapped.  They don’t know who their enemy is but they keep being told that it is the most dangerous enemy ever.  The only problem is: Jason has no memory, strange tattoos, and refers to all of the gods by their Roman names instead of their Greek names.  Oh, and Percy Jackson is missing so Annabeth has to go look for him (not that that really has much to do with the storyline, but they like to randomly remind the audience of it throughout the book).

In The Lost Hero, much like the Percy Jackson books, there are three demigods that are off to save the world.  Jason is the son of Zeus/Jupiter, Piper is the daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo is the son of Hephaestus.  Jason is the leader of the pack, even though he doesn’t have his memory, and often surprises himself with what he is capable of.  Leo can harness fire and build almost anything.  And Piper can convince people to do things that they don’t want to with charmspeak.

One thing that I liked about the Percy Jackson books was that Annabeth was actually a hero in her own right.  Yes, she followed Percy around, but she was often the brains of the operation and could hold her own in battle.  But in The Lost Hero, Piper is often in need of being rescued and her “power” is that of talking people into things.  How stereotypical is that?  The girl is the one that has the power of talking men into doing things.

All throughout the book, all of the characters are saying how important Piper is to the journey.  And yes, she does play an important role in the end.  But it bothered me that for most of the book, she needed rescuing or she was swooning over Jason.

In the Percy Jackson books, Annabeth was her own character.  But in The Lost Hero, Piper was usually only talked about in her relation to men, whether it be Jason or her movie star father.

The book was entertaining for what is was.  It’s a quick read and has some good information about Greek and Roman mythology.  It’s rather predictable, but I usually expect children’s books to be.

The treatment of sexual assault by universities makes me sick.  In 2006, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) refused to tell the family of a young woman who was raped and murdered by another student what actually happened to her.  They lead the family to believe that their daughter died of natural causes until they had finished their investigation 10 week later. And now Notre Dame refuses to prosecute one of their football players who was accused of sexually assaulting a student at their sister school, St. Mary’s College, who later killed herself because her charges weren’t taken seriously.  And I’ve heard numerous stories when the University finds the accused student responsible, the sanctions are weak and do nothing to prevent future assaults.  I can’t remember the last time that I heard about a university handling a sexual assault case well.

Sexual assault falls under Title IX requirements of universities to prevent sex discrimination.  Universities are supposed to make “effective” efforts when a sexual assault report is made.  But, this often doesn’t happen.

It often seems like universities are more concerned about the needs of the accused than taking sexual assault charges seriously.  Universities don’t want to deny the accused student their right to an education.  But if they are a rapist, they have no place on campus.

Unfortunately, universities do not see it that way.  Rape culture and rape myths are deeply ingrained into university procedures.  Because underage drinking happens a lot on college campuses, if a woman has been drinking they are not seen as the “perfect” victim and universities do not want to punish the accused student unless they committed sexual assault against the “perfect” victim where there is no doubt that the student KNEW that they were committing sexual assault.  But rapists are so manipulative of the system that they can often convince a court/university that they had no idea that the woman was not consensual even if they did.  And usually they did.  It’s pretty easy to tell if someone isn’t consensual.

Because young women know that their colleges do not take sexual assault charges seriously, less women are likely to report their assault or seek help from campus organizations.  While reporting is definitely not a necessary step in recovery, some women who would have reported the assault are discouraged by the practices that they see on campus.  And because some students do not understand that seeking help from awareness and prevention organizations on campus does not require an official report, they are hesitant to even seek help.

If you are a college student, I encourage you to look at your college’s sexual assault policy to see how your college handles sexual assault charges.  Also, take a look at SAFER’s Campus Accountability Project and Winter Break Challenge.  Challenge your college’s officials to take charges of sexual assault seriously.

This past Tuesday, Virginia Representative Tom Perriello introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act).  This act will majorly revamp the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights and is a much needed update to federal policy.  The Campus SaVE Act will be a step closer to more comprehensive guidelines for universities when responding to sexual violence.

The Campus SaVE Act will:

  • Expands the list of offenses that must be covered in a campus sexual assault policy to include “sex offenses and other intimate partner violence, including stalking, dating violence, sexual violence, and domestic violence offenses.”
  • Mandates primary prevention programming that includes defining consent and bystander intervention training (!!!) and awareness education that includes instructions for how to report offenses that occur on OR off campus
  • States that victims will be provided with full explanations of their options for health, mental health, and legal resources both on and off campus, as well as their right to involve local police or campus security AND how they can obtain a restraining order/order of protection/no contact order.
  • Requires that all disciplinary proceedings must be “conducted by officials trained to understand the issues of sex offenses and other intimate partner violence.”

While there are still a lot of steps that could be taken by the federal government and by individual universities, the Campus SaVE Act is an exciting piece of legislation that will be a step in the right direction.  I’m particularly excited about the mandated bystander intervention.  Bystander intervention training will definitely help stop sexual violence on college campuses, especially if students receive this training during their first semester of their freshman year.

I am particularly excited about this piece of legislation.  During my internship at a sexual assault awareness center, I have been working a lot with the University’s sexual assault policy.  Doing this work has definitely opened my eyes to the work that still needs to be done.

You should check out the full text of the bill and become educated about the issue.  Then you can contact your representative about the importance of this bill.

*Most of this information is taken from the SAFER Campus Blog.

Trigger warning.

There have been some great posts lately about sexual assault and rape culture.  Here are some ones that I thought were particularly interesting/well-written.

Ms. Blog: Silence and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

I am compelled to speak up because sexual assault breeds in a Petri dish of silence. Certainly the potential danger in coming forward is critical for rape and sexual assault survivors. Yet even vocal bystanders risk violating a tacit cultural agreement to keep such problems hushed up.

Equality 101: Incorporating Discussions of Violence

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is that we need to have conversations about violence with our students and not just lecture about statistics and the plight of “those” women. Those women can be us, our students, mothers, sisters, daughters and the boys and men around us. We need to have conversations about this reality, but also empower women and girls, so that the conversation is not merely about the victim.

The SAPAC Voice: CouchSurfing ignores violence against women

In fact, CouchSurfing seems to continuously ignore the various complaints from many women on their own message boards, and only give out the standard response, that members need to look into their potential hosts more closely. The only way it seems to get CouchSurfing’s attention is through proof of legal action, where the responsibility is completely on the survivor to lodge a complaint and seek the authorities.

Gender Across Borders: Dear Jezebel

Just over two weeks ago, Jezebel published an article entitled American Guy in Paris Freed From The Idea Of “Consent”. In said article, an American named Edward Pasteck described a recent trip to Paris and certain revelations that struck him while embarking on his relationship endeavours. As the title of his piece might suggest, curious Edward discovered that, in Paris, it was okay to rape women!

Shakesville: Ugh.

Steve Harvey is back with more of his wisdom about men and women and relationships. (If you’re not familiar with this guy’s shtick, here is Renee’s “Steve Harvey” archive.) And, like all the rest of his gender essentialist, heterocentrist, deeply misogynist claptrap, this “men and women can’t be friends” garbage is about as fresh as pterodactyl droppings. It’s also one of the key narratives of the rape culture.

Trigger warning.

Earlier this semester, the sexual assault organization that I am an intern at was holding volunteer training at the university that I attend.  The volunteer was being held in the law school (it’s not a part of the law school, we were just holding it there for the space).  While setting up, one of the other interns started talking to a law student who had come out of a classroom and inquired about what was going on.  Then this law student asked, “isn’t rape more of an undergrad problem?”

He tried to explain this as undergrad go to parties and get too drunk, which then of course leads to sexual assault and of course this never happens in law school.

But no, sexual assault is not something that only happens in college and only to undergrads.  It has nothing to do with how much someone drinks or if they go to parties.  Sexual assault can happen to anyone.  That’s not meant to scare you, but just to get you to think about what the rape myths are and why they are actually myths.

And the scary part was that this was a future lawyer who was saying this.  These people are supposed to be defending the laws and seeking justice.  How is anything going to change in our culture if the lawyers are the ones that that promote these rape myths.*

So when you hear people talking like this law student or promoting rape myths, stand up to them.  Question their beliefs.  Provide them with the real information.

*I’m not talking about all lawyers.  Just talking generally about what needs to be done in society.

Ok, well, I think everyone should be feminists.  But this is more to comment on my surprise at the use of sexist language and practices within the social work school that I attend.

Most of my interactions occur with other students and I am often surprised at how often I hear sexist, victim-blaming, slut shaming, etc. language.  I thought going into social work I would encounter people who were social justice minded and working to fight oppression.  For the most part, that is what I have encountered.  But there are the occasional times when I hear homophobic language (usually “that’s gay”) or rape jokes.

It just amazes me that people who are social justice minded when it comes to race or class or other social identities cannot recognize sexism and homophobia.

We do talk a lot about LGBT issues in my classes because they present as a “vulnerable population.”  Gender is talked about occasionally by some professors, but not all.  A lot of people recognize that LGBT people are still discriminated against, but don’t recognize that there is still discrimination against women.

So what can we do?  What can I do as a social work student?  We can speak up when we hear oppressive language and sexist comments.  We can bring up the social justice issues surrounding women in classes.  We can fight to end sexism in the greater community.

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