Fighting with the Sky

Here are some links to great articles about the sexual assault charges against WikiLinks founder Julian Assange in Sweden.

Feministe: Some thoughts on “sex by surprise”

Well, no, I’m not sure it’s that straightforward. The actual details of what happened are hard to come by, and are largely filtered through tabloid sources that are quick to offer crucial facts like the hair color of the women (blonde) and the clothes they wore (pink, tight), but it sounds like the sex was consensual on the condition that a condom was used.

Salon: The rush to smear Assange’s rape accuser

Public evidence, as the Times noted, is scarce. So, it’s heartening to see that in the absence of same, my fellow liberal bloggers are so eager to abandon any pretense of healthy skepticism and rush to discredit an alleged rape victim based on some tabloid articles and a feverish post by someone who is perhaps not the most trustworthy source. Well done, friends! What a fantastic show of research, critical thinking and, as always, respect for women.

Alas, a blog: Rape Myths and Julian Assange

Most women who have been raped had little public evidence of their experience. By repeating these rape myths in defence of Julian Assanger people are attacking not just the women involved, but other women who have been raped and had their experiences dismissed. They are also contributing to a culture where rape is denied, minimised, and distorted.

Tiger Beatdown: How We Describe Women Who Reports Sexual Assaults Now

You guys, why are these women engaging in the (risky, socially consequential, unlikely-to-succeed) act of charging a socially prominent man with lots of supporters of sexual assault? They’re spies, right? Or they’re feminists who go around tricking men into having sex with them so they can make rape accusations? Whatever the case may be, it sounds like this is totally just about broken condoms, of all things! HOW BIZARRE!

Salon: Broadsheet: U.S. rape laws, explained

The country has the highest reporting rate in the European Union. (Perhaps because “Swedish women, backed by a strong consciousness of women’s rights and a history of a very public discussion of the scourge of sexual violence, may be more willing than most to look to the law for help,” writes the Times’ Katrin Bennhold.) Swedish law also recognizes “withdrawal of consent” as rape, which is what is alleged in the Assange case, and details three types of rape: “severe,” “regular” and “less severe.”

Reading about Sweden’s tough stance on sexual assault, I couldn’t help but wonder how the U.S. measures up. I gave Diane Moyer, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, a call to find out.

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I normally don’t participate in the Facebook trends, such as changing your status to your bra color to raise awareness about breast cancer research.  I don’t see the connection or the point to it.  But this newest trend really bothers me.

It has become popular to change your profile picture to a picture of your favorite cartoon from childhood in order to end child abuse.  Why?  What does this do?  Yes, child abuse is horrible and it’s a big problem.  But changing your profile picture is going to do absolutely nothing about it.  I feel like a lot of people who do this just want to be cool and just want to be able to say, “yeah, I care about child abuse, look, I changed my profile picture.”

If you really care about ending child abuse, or any kind of abuse for that matter, there are more proactive things that you could do that could actually have an effect on someone’s life and work towards ending child abuse.  Report any abuse that you see.  Even if you think, “oh, it’s just a one time thing” or “it’s not my place to get involved.”  This child’s life could be in danger and if you see the abuse and do nothing, you are letting it happen.  Get involved at a local shelter.  Many domestic violence shelters also offer children’s programming.  You can volunteer with these programs and help children escape from the cycle of violence and begin to heal.

There are so many things that you could do that could actually work towards ending child abuse.  Changing your profile picture on Facebook is going to do absolutely nothing.  So I will not participate in this Facebook trend.

PhD Comics

I know that I have been absent from the blogging world for a while now, but I feel like I have a good reason for it.  I have started grad school and am pursuing my Master’s degree in Social Work.  It has been a great semester with lots of trials and victories.  As I am nearing the end of my first semester of grad school, I thought it was appropriate to reflect on my journey so far.

I know that I don’t do well with change, so moving to a new city and starting grad school that would launch me in my future career was scary for me.  But once I got to know people here and start school, I easily fell into my new life here and came to embrace all of the opportunities that I have had available to me.

I started my internship at the sexual assault awareness center on at the university that I attend and fell in love with the work that I do there.  I am focusing on macro social work, so most of my work at my internship so far has been dealing with policies and research.  But I love this kind of stuff, so it was great for me.  And all of the people that work there, professional staff, interns, and student volunteers, are great feminists and advocates and I really enjoy spending time there.  I am even thinking of adding an interpersonal practice minor so that next semester I can interact with survivors directly.

My classes this semester have all been foundation courses, so they haven’t always been terribly exciting, but I do feel like I am learning a lot.  And next semester I am starting to take more advanced classes.

So, some things that I have learned about myself this semester:

  • I really want to work in the field of sexual assault and domestic violence.  This is the type of work that really calls to me and through my coursework and my internship, I have realized that I could spend the rest of my life doing this kind of work – with lots of self-care, of course.
  • I’m a football fan.  I have never really been that into sports.  But coming to a university that is known for its football (I’m not going to say where I’m attending, but some people might be able to guess), even if we aren’t doing that well this year, and going to games has made me invested in my team.  I don’t know if I would watch football if it wasn’t a game that involved my team, so I guess I shouldn’t really say that I’m a football fan, but rather a fan of my team.
  • Being around people with similar social justice mindsets again has really solidified my feminist beliefs.  There are some instances where I’m surprised how sexist or racist or prejudice someone in social work can be, but overall, I have found people who share my views on the world and are as passionate about them as I am.
  • I really can handle living on my own.  This is the first time in my life that I have been on my own.  During college, I lived in a dorm all four years and then I moved back home with my parents for a year before I started grad school.  One of the big things that I was worried about what being able to handle this.  I knew I could, but, as I said, I don’t like change.  But I have been able to handle living in my own apartment with a roommate, paying the bills on time (which reminds me…), and navigating a new city by myself.

So, now that I am nearing the end of my first semester, I think that I have a better handle on the work and schedule that grad schools requires and I am going to try to start blogging again.  I have really missed blogging and being a part of the online feminist community, so I am going to try re-entering while also giving adequate time to all of the other things going on in my life.

So hello again!

I don’t know how to feel about this song.  I would normally have an aversion to it just because it’s Eminem.  But is it trying to bring awareness to domestic violence or glorifying it?  And what about the fact that Rihanna, who was part of a largely publicized domestic violence assault, is the featured artist?  Or that Megan Fox donated her fee for appearing in the video to a domestic violence shelter?

Thoughts?

As a purely personal side note, when I was really disappointed in my dear, lovely Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) when I first heard that he was appearing in an Eminem video, and that was before I even had heard the song.  Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox both actually did a good job in just acting the video, no matter what my conflicted thoughts on the subject matter are.

I’ve recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (the first in a series, next is Catching Fire and Mockingjay comes out at the end of August).  I was surprisingly impressed by the book.  I had heard really good things about it, but I had no idea that it focused on a strong, self-sufficient 16-year-old girl.

The Hunger Games takes place in a the future in the continent of North America, but the country is now referred to as Panem.  Panem is made up of 12 districts surrounding the Capitol (which, from the sounds of it, seems to be around the Denver area).  Katniss is from the 12th district, the poorest of them all and she comes the poor part of district 12.  She has to provide for both her mother and her little sister.  She does this by hunting illegally in the woods around the district — she can shoot an arrow through the eye of any animal (because then it doesn’t waste any meat.  Every year, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games as a way to remind the districts of their control over them.  A boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected from each district to participate and fight each other to the death to declare themselves the victors of the Hunger Games.

Katniss’ sister, Prim, is originally selected as the female sacrifice tribute for her district, but Katniss volunteers herself, not wanting to see her 12-year-old sister put through that.  Katniss and her fellow district 12 tribute, Peeta, have to learn how to fight within the arena.  It’s as much of a competition of survival as it is of fighting.  But it becomes very obvious from the beginning that the Capitol and the Gamemakers like to exert their control over the tributes as a way of making sure that all the districts stay in line.  Katniss is well aware of this so she is able to outsmart and out-maneuver them.  You’ll have to read the book if you want to find out more about what happens specifically.

I liked this book on multiple levels.  First of all, it was a science fiction/futuristic teen book that did not revolve around vampires.  It had an original storyline that kept me interested.  It was not just a book about these Hunger Games, but about government control and living in a society with little personal freedom.

Secondly, I loved that the main character was a teenage girl.  Katniss is a girl that doesn’t trust many people because she has had to fend for herself for most of her life.  Her trust doesn’t come easy.  She can take care of her family by hunting, which is traditionally something that we see men doing in pop culture (just so you know, her hunting companion is male).  It becomes clear right from the beginning, and even more so once the Hunger Games begin, that Katniss is smart, strong, loyal, and yet compassionate.

One thing that I did not like about the storyline was that Katniss and Peeta’s mentor thrust them into a “fake” romantic relationship in order to gain public support within the Games.  I thought that it kept the storyline interesting and romantic relationships are something that a lot of teens will be interested in seeing int he books that they read.  It was important for Katniss’ character development for her to be able to trust Peeta with her life as well as admit that she needed help.  But I didn’t really like that Katniss needed Peeta in order to survive.  Towards to the end, it became very apparent that it was actually Peeta that needed Katniss.  However, their relationship just kind of felt wrong because I felt like it was bringing Katniss down from her full potential.  As with most storylines, there are negatives and positives though.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that The Hunger Games was all about a teenage girl.  I have to admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about the book before I started reading it.  I didn’t even know that it centered on a teenage girl.  I think that this would be a great book for teenage girls as opposed to something like Twilight, where the main girl is so emotionally as well as physically dependent on a guy.

I have really like a lot of USA Networks original series.  I’m a big fan of Psych, Burn Notice, White Collar, and Royal Pains.  But all of these shows focus around male leads and only have female sidekicks that are really only there to support their man/male lead.

So I was really excited to see their new show this summer, Cover Affairs.  From the previews of the show, it seemed to focus on a kick ass female CIA agent.  Granted, the previews didn’t really reveal much about the show, but at least it was a show that had a female lead.

So far, I have seen the first two episodes of Covert Affairs.  The show focuses on Annie (Piper Perabo), a new CIA agent who is thrown into the Domestic Protection Division because her language skills are needed.  She always seems to face new threats on her missions, which her boss claims is rare.  Her “guide” through her transition into the department is Auggie, a blind technician for the DPD.  Annie always seems to get herself out of the trouble that she digs herself into throughout the episode, with the help of Auggie and the occasional other CIA agent.  Annie, not surprisingly, also has a pretty flawed social and love life.

So, sounds great…a show that centers around a kick ass female CIA agent.  But as we learn at the end of the first episode, Annie was really only brought into the DPD because her past relationship with Ben Mercer.  She met Ben when she was on vacation and they spent three great weeks together before he mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night.  Joan, the head of the DPD, and her husband Arthur, the Director of National Clandestine Services in the CIA, seem to have an invested interest in Ben Mercer.  Ben seems to have gone off the grid, and not just in Annie’s life.  Annie was only brought into the DPD in the hopes that it would bring Ben out of hiding.

I also thought it was great that there was a female director of the DPD.  Joan is a powerful woman who won’t take any crap from the people around her.  And while Joan is all of those things, she is also obsessed with the thought that her husband Arthur might be cheating on her.  She uses CIA resources to track his every move and monitor his phone calls.

I thought this was going to be a great show that focused on powerful women.  It kind of is.  But it mainly focuses on these women in terms of their relationships with men.  Annie is valuable not because of her skills, but because her relationship with Ben.  Joan is part of a CIA power couple, but focuses more on her relationship with Arthur than on the missions.

I’d love to see more story lines about how Annie acquired all of her skills than about her relationship with Ben.  And I’d like to see more of why Joan came to be the director of DPD and why she is so good at her job, than focusing on her relationship with Arthur.

I have recently started reading the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson.  I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo probably about a week and a half ago now and became absolutely enthralled by it.  And now I’ve finished the second in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I was really impressed with the second book of this series…for a number of reasons.

Warning: minor spoilers for the first two books of the series (and please don’t leave spoilers for the third in the comments).  I will not reveal any of the major revelations of the books, but I will discuss some of the aspects of the plot and character development.

When I first started The Girl Who Played With Fire I wasn’t sure how I felt about the character developments of Lisbeth Salander, the female protagonist (I don’t know if ‘protagonist’ is the right word for Salander).  In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Salander came across as this incredibly brilliant, yet socially awkward woman, who didn’t take crap from anyone.  At the beginning of Fire, we learn that Salander used a (small) portion of the money that she obtained in Dragon Tattoo to get a boob job.  She spends the first 100 (or more, can’t remember) pages or so being self-conscious about not only her new breasts but her small body as well.  I don’t know if this was some sort of development to make her more relate-able because, yes, everyone has body image issues.  But all I saw was Salander going from this kick-ass woman to this whiny girl.  I didn’t really care for it.  Once we got past that part of the book, the “old” Salander seemed to come back with all her computer hacking and investigative glory.  As she is described at some points throughout the book, Salander is a woman who hates men who hate women (a play on the Swedish title of Dragon TattooThe Men Who Hate Women).

While it did take a while a long while for the murders of this murder mystery to happen (about 200 pages or so), which we knew were going to happen based on reading the back of the book, I did find the lead up to the murders interesting (even though I was frustrated that they hadn’t happened yet — is it a bad sign when you are asking yourself when murders are finally going to happen, even if it is in a book?).  The lead up to the murders dealt a lot with an expose of the sex trafficking industry in Sweden.  I thought it was a very interesting approach in that it’s something that most people generally don’t want to think about (on a whole, even though it’s a really important issue).  And I liked that they did focus on the victims of the sex trafficking industry, but they also looked at the financials of it and what pimps and johns gained from it.

I also thought that Fire provided an interesting look at mental illness.  Salander was in and out of mental institutions in her teens and was uncooperative with authorities, so she had numerous reports of something being “wrong” with her, that she was unstable, and that she was a psychopath with violent tendencies (which, yes, she does tend to have violent tendencies, but only when provoked).  During the police investigation into Salander, all they had access to were these reports, so they drew a picture of her being this crazy killer woman.  It didn’t help that she didn’t have that many friends.  But all of the people that they interviewed about her gave a completely different account of what she was actually like.  Despite the interviews from her friends, the police were insistent for a good part that Salander was responsible for the murders because she has a history of mental illness and violence.

It was interesting to see this story line play out.  As an audience, we have know that Salander had been in a mental hospital and that she was declared incompetent.  But we also saw her as being able to handle herself, as a genius, albeit, socially awkward.  We were just meant to believe that Salander had fallen to some bad situations that ended with her being in a mental institution (which doesn’t necessarily mean she has a mental illness — but there is talk in this book about the possibility of her having Asperger’s, but she has never been officially diagnosed).  But in Fire, we see the character of Salander that we have grown accustomed to challenged by her medical reports and the police being insistent that there is something “wrong” with her.  It also says a lot about the difference between reading reports of people (which are made through other people’s perceptions and biases — which plays a large role in Salander’s case) and actually getting to know the person, whether talking to them yourself or talking to the people that know her well (in the case of the book).

Overall, I thought that this was a great book.  I can’t decide if I liked Fire better or Dragon Tattoo, because they have significantly different story lines despite having the same characters.  In Fire, Salander and Blomkvist (the main characters) are never together except for the last page, so you don’t get too much of the interaction between them that you got in the first.  And the investigations in each book are significantly different in nature — both murder investigations, but under completely different circumstances.

I will make a note at the end here though, that there are some major trigger warnings for both books.  There are graphic descriptions of rape, violent scenes, domestic violence, and sex trafficking throughout both books.  I thought that Dragon Tattoo was a little more graphic in its descriptions, but there are still some major trigger warnings for Fire.

That being said, I would highly recommend this trilogy to anyone, just be aware of these trigger warnings as I was not when I first started reading Dragon Tattoo.