Culturally Illiterate

*Contains what some might consider offensive language.

Image from https://twitter.com/stoprapeculture

Image from https://twitter.com/stoprapeculture

I’ve written about rape culture before and actively discuss it online. I recognize that there will be no dramatic change in this arena if for no other reason than it is politically expedient for everyone involved to keep the conversation hostile. Yet, at the same time, there is that tiny part of me that wants to believe that if those of us who truly think the right type of thoughts and clap, then the Tinkerbell of gender equity and safety will remain bright and alive.

It should be obvious that eliminating traits in our common language that perpetuates misogynistic treatment and violence against women. That by eliminating these culturally acceptable habits and language patterns would then turn around and hold those who engaged in actual behaviors to a higher standard.  But the more rape culture is called out, defined, cited for example, the more insistent some are in clinging to it. And why?

The moment a person or a group of people become defensive and challenge the existence rape culture by utilizing the #notallmen hashtag is when they’ve completely missed the point. Again. Acknowledging rape culture and demanding it stop in our society is not about blame. It’s about saying it happens and it’s wrong. Hiding behind #notallmen is about as effective as saying to cancer awareness advocates, “Not all cells cause cancer so don’t blame us that you’ve experienced some that do.” Or to members of MADD, “We get it. You hate drivers. Don’t get on our cases because we drive sometimes; we’re not all drunks.” Saying no to rape culture is not saying no to penises, but what is indicative of rape culture is how the penises will make it about the men.

It’s also not about fear. Rape culture awareness is attempting to eradicate our social contexts of circumstances before fear is even a possibility. Rape culture has been mansplained to me that it doesn’t actually exist, what does exist is a “heightened fear awareness” to force women to be paranoid of every look, comment, touch, or written word from a man. This was in response to the recent video made as a demonstration of the many catcalls a woman will receive while walking on a busy street. Of course,  the actress in this video has now received actual rape threats for even making the video so there really is no validity to the claim of paranoia. When I reached out to this same man for a follow-up comment, he responded with “Fuck you, cunt!”

This comment made me curious. I am cognizant of rape culture as it appears around me in the media whether it be advertising, music, movies, social media and so forth. But how aware am I when it happens to me personally? I didn’t want to purposely antagonize people, so I decided I would just set a start and end date then go back to my social media sites to review not only responses but any advertising that is out, trending topics, and what might be the most popular tweets, etc. might be.

Of course, in the short time I did this, the majority of trending topics and top tweets and Facebook statuses were centered on the newly releasing movie, 50 Shades of Grey. There is already enough written on this topic. However, I do want to focus on two specific situations that stood out to me even though I could write on several.

 

The first had to do with a local car dealership and what I felt was an offensive advertising banner. After experiencing a rude and dismissive phone conversation with the manager, I shared my grievance on Twitter in a matter of fact way — which I often do when it comes to a business. After the day had passed, I received this tweet in reply:

*fucking cunt whore

*fucking cunt whore

I didn’t know who this person was or who he was in connection to the car dealership. But according to him I was a “fucking cunt whore” because I complained about this dealership and this upset him.

The other instance occurred when I happened to tweet about rape culture:

This man, again, thought that by explaining to me, the lowly female, that because we now have fewer rapes than before we ought to not worry about rape at all, citing the department of justice. He then calls me a “Social Justice Warrior” (#SJW) — a derogatory term for someone who takes up the social causes of the day to not out of sincere belief but to earn internet popularity points. I informed the man (an avid “gamer” and someone who is actively tweeting on behalf for all male gamers who were wronged in GamerGate, by the way) that he had misinterpreted the data wrong. In fact, more than 200k rapes went unreported each year between 1994-2005 alone and that new statistics were not yet available. I also informed  him that this was from the Bureau of Justice, not the Department of Justice. He never responded to me. Apparently, he is only able to confront Social Justice Warriors — not real warriors.

My conclusion so far is this one: men rely two types of attacks on women when wanting to undermine a woman. The first is attacking credibility through sexually explicit terms. When the first man tweeted me outraged about my disagreement with the car dealership, he did not not first listen to my experience and then either disqualify or disagree with it. He immediately attacked my character by calling me a whore in one of the most sexually graphic ways, not caring it was in a public forum. I wasn’t a person to him, I was just a whore with a whore with a cunt to fuck. Therefore my opinion was worthless. Why am I even talking? The second experience illustrates a man who attacks using the patronizing mansplaining. I obviously can’t care deeply enough about a social cause or know enough about an issue to honestly advocate as a woman for other women. I need to a man to provide me with the truth data and then through that information be told that this is not a valid social cause — after all, rape statistics are on the way down, right? So why are we even worrying our pretty little heads? Why should we be fretting over the few women, children and men still being victimized across the country if the numbers show that this isn’t happening?

Of course, there are many other experiences I have not included but do not negate rape culture’s existence. There was the time I was called a slut because I wouldn’t respond to a man’s request for a nude picture — which doesn’t even make sense to me. Another time when I was called a cock tease because I responded with “Fine, thank you. How are you?” when a man asked me how I was doing. The list goes on.

Does rape culture exist? Of course it does. Anyone who says it doesn’t is either a fool or is deliberately myopic. The fact we even have to have a conversation about whether or not it is okay for a legislator to question consent by a spouse is evidentiary that rape culture exists.

Seriously.

Our culture needs to spend less time being critical of what’s between women’s legs and spend more time considering what is between their ears. I don’t care if not all men do it. I do care if they all stop allowing it.

C. Streetlights

I am soul. I am fire. I am red. I am me. I give a damn.

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Caught in the Web

I have been involved with social media since 2006 when I first joined Facebook at the request of woman who I once supervised as a student teacher. She was my one and only friend.  You’d think I would have been lonely except I didn’t even know what Facebook was at the time or what it was really for — I just clicked on the hyperlink in an email she sent me and next thing I knew I was creating a profile so I could look at her new baby’s pictures. I logged off and never went back on again for at least a year.  My second Facebook friend (Don’t worry, I won’t list all of them.) was my niece who sent me a friend request with the message “Shut up, you have a Facebook?!” I had no idea this was a big deal, but that’s how I made my second Facebook friend.  There was a time when my Facebook friendships have numbered in the thousands though I now my list is at a more reasonable 200 individuals.

It can’t be denied that social media has changed how we communicate.  Each day, I will more than likely post something on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I will probably look up recipes on Pinterest or share an article to my LinkedIn. I might look at the newest family portraits of a family member or college friend, read a blog post of a colleague or just watch a cat video — all shared on Facebook. I might engage in a discussion through a hashtag feed on Twitter or on Facebook status thread. It can be hard to conceptualize the connections that are being made through all these flying bits of data floating the air.

It is all so revolutionary yet commonplace at the same time.  I remember receiving a memo as a new teacher explaining how our new district email worked but to not worry “It will more than likely not be a useful tool” for us anyway. Going further back into the days of my elementary school years, the best time in the computer lab (next to Oregon Trail) was when we did Logo and taught the “turtle” on screen to move in certain steps to create pictures:

image17

With all of our webbing, we have created a sense of belonging that might not necessarily have been able to exist before. It was through Twitter that I first found out about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and to cry with other mothers during the funerals for the children of Newton, Connecticut. I have found old and cherished friends on Facebook who were then hand in hand with me to mourn with me for the death of another friend of ours. Friends from around the world kept me company while I was on bed rest with my baby and were there to keep me company in the hospital when she was in NICU.

And yet, regardless of how small we have made our world with the Internet and its social media we are no more closely connected than we were before. In many ways, it has provided us with a sense of arrogance and power, as if we can change any person’s mind or vote with one tweet, status, blog post, or YouTube video.  If one response to a status receives enough “likes” then maybe, just maybe, people will decide to go ahead and vaccinate their children. If enough misquoted quotes by Darwin are shared then that will stop people from believing in God. And surely, if the story about Einstein’s discussion with his professor and the absence of light is shared enough times, everyone will begin to believe in God.

I’ve learned a great many things about social media since I have been involved with it over the years. There is an unexplainable anger and turmoil hanging in the air, not just around me but around life in general. There is an unmistakable quiver of discontent. I’ve seen far too many emotional outbursts take place online, either through comment threads or statuses or tweets.  I’m not exempt from this either. I’ve lost my marbles enough times to know I’ve got a hole in the bag. Simplistically I could say the anger is left over from the Bush Administration. Or it’s the Obama Administration. Or it’s the Truman Administration. It honestly doesn’t matter who is in office because the electorate won’t ever be happy. That’s not the answer.

No. The answer is this: For all the ways we’ve connected, nobody is being heard.  The likes, shares, retweets, and favorites don’t mean a damn if the words aren’t valued. Everyone is speaking but no one is listening.  Everyone is responding but no one is hearing.

1d8768de909f954d1010f70999063f3eI don’t have any solutions to propose or any advice. I do know that I will try to be more patient with others online and  less eye-rolling — even though no one can see it. I’m sure they can feel it.  And I will try to post more cat pictures through the election season.

C. Streetlights

I am soul. I am fire. I am red. I am me. I give a damn.

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The Trespasser

***Trigger Warning***

 

Broken-Mirror-600x360

“I’ll wait,”
you said, then walked in.
And I,
not knowing what that meant,
watched you take a seat.

You hardly spoke
as you waited
for a roommate.
And I
assumed too much,
noticed too little.

Hardly speaking didn’t mean
hardly watching
to you.
And I
never knew what those words would mean
to me.

I went to my room for a textbook,
somehow an invitation
to you.
And I
was stunned when you were suddenly
on me.

Your silent presence
shoved me on my bed, my back
to you.
And I
shouted “Stop!” at the hands
on me.

You laughed, I still hear it,
while rolling me over
for you.
And I
began to cry my no’s when I knew
(I knew)
what he was about to do
to me.

My clothes pulled off,
a carnal sacrifice offered just
for you.
And I,
a virgin, destroyed by what was done
to me.

After,
You stood there tucking in your shirt,
watching me cry in devastation.
For you,
I was nothing.
And I
was nothing.
“This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t so pretty,” you said
to me.

After,
I stood in scalding hot water,

washing you off of me.
You
went down the drain.
I
went down the drown.
Nothing but the water mattered
to me.

 

Now,
it has been years since and
your words don’t own me.

Now,
there is no you to me.

Now,
there is just me
to I.

 

 

C. Streetlights

I am soul. I am fire. I am red. I am me. I give a damn.

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The Struggle is Frikkin’ Real

Even though people will either annoy or terrify me depending on the day, I readily admit I am fascinated by how we work. I don’t necessarily mean the biological mechanics of our bodies because most of that is filed under the “gross” category, but I mean the psychological and sociological ways we interact with not only each other but ourselves. In reality, we really are all living Lincoln Logs trying to fit and get along with each other just so we can build a cabin in and not be eaten by wolves. Obviously this is why applying social identity theory to Napoleon Dynamite makes total sense to me.

Like any movie, Napoleon Dynamite has its share of lovers and haters.  However, it seems as if when I find myself in conversations about my favorite wolverine hunter, the movie becomes a heated topic. What is it about this film that causes such an emotional response I have actually seen high school friends delete other people from Facebook because over it? If we can’t even have civilized conversations over whether or not it’s okay for some people to laugh over Napoleon needing Chapstick, then what can we talk about?

I had to understand this mystery so of course I went to my understanding of social identity theory and its hypothesis regarding of in-group/out-group dynamics. Simply defined, social identity theory is an individual’s sense of Self based on his or her group membership because this membership provides a feeling of self-worth and esteem.  This is what gives us a feeling of identity, or belonging, to the world.  In order to enhance our self-image, we then begin to add achievement badges to the group we belong to by enhancing it (“My team is better than that team. My school is better.”) or by making comparisons (“Republicans are heartless rich jerks. Kids today are lazy.”).

Cognitively, we naturally sort things because our brains are designed to do categorize. Social identity theory basically states that the in-group (Us) will discriminate against the out-group (Them) in order to enhance their status, thereby improving each individual’s sense of belonging to the world.

At this point, I was nerd-gasming all over the place because I wondered if this was what it was like to solve math problems on the first attempt.

There had to be something in common with all the people who loved Napoleon Dynamite and those who hated it since it appeared, to me, there were not many who fell in the middle.  Who are these people? The people who were popular in high school and those who were not.  Before I get hate mail, let me remind people: 1) Don’t rain on my Nerd Parade, and 2) Obviously, I speak in generalities. “GOSH!”

My observation, then, is that three types of people who hate this movie:

The “popular kids” in high school and think they still are — We know these people. I don’t even have to go into detail because we know them that well.  But these are the people who live in fear that they will wake up one morning and see what we see, the glory days are long since over. The Popular Kids watch Napoleon Dynamite and don’t understand why anyone would love this movie because the Nerd is the main character and therefore the hero. Their brain explodes.

The “popular kids” in high school who feel remorse – These poor souls watch the film and don’t recognize the emotion they feel is not from disliking the movie, it’s from voting for Summer all year long and realizing it was poor choice.  But their kids are the cool kids now, so that’s awesome.

The “nerdy kids” in high school who can’t let it go – Guys, can you please ignore the whole movie and just learn from Uncle Rico?

Of course, those who love this movie?

The egalitarian kids in high school – The people who might have been popular but didn’t really care or notice because they were too busy being friends with everyone. They watch this movie with the ability to identify with everyone and are able to laugh because of it.

The “nerdy kids” in high school who have moved on – The people who lived an awkward stage, maybe they’re still in it, and just don’t even care. Life is too short to be practicing football outside a van.

The “popular kids” in high school who have moved on – They graduated from those halls, went on and have lived their lives. They can now watch this movie and laugh at themselves.

So who is the in-group trying to maintain its status while discriminating against the out-group?  In this particular situation it would depend on who is participating in the conversation, though to me it makes it easier to understand why some people are so viciously invested in oppressing Napoleon. Especially since I knew them in high school and they took that popularity stuff as seriously as someone trying to be their own pharaoh in a pyramid scheme.

I just want to watch the flippin’ movie.

jon-heder-aaron-ruell-napoleon-dynamite

C. Streetlights

I am soul. I am fire. I am red. I am me. I give a damn.

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Good Morning House

#Reverb14, Day 11:
What tiny rituals: signal that your day is starting; help you ease into a creative project; give you closure from an intensive task; or mark other significant milestones in your day?
 

I’m not sure when it began exactly, but I remember our ritual beginning when my little girl was still a babe in arms.  I would hold her in my arms while I opened the drapes in the family room and sang a made up song,

Good morning house,
time to start the day!
Good morning house,
time to run and play!
 

As a wee babe, my little girl would smile and laugh, kick her little legs out while I sang as we opened up each room. First we began in her bedroom, then the family and living rooms, last we would open up my bedroom where we would end our tour of the home in the rocking chair. The spontaneity of our daily routine has made it even more precious to me, more than the planned traditions of certain holidays or birthdays. I treasure these too, but it is different when there is a sudden burst of ritual — like a falling star that signals the start of a new creation.

Even now, three years later we open the house with “Good morning house, time to start the day!” along with giggles and hugs, running from drape to drape. “Good morning house, time to run and play!” and she’ll clap her hands, hopping from one foot to another, asking me “Where are we going today, Mama?” We’ve opened the house through sunshine, rain and snow, countless days and the song remains the same.

Strangely, we’ve never come up with a “Good night house” version. It might be because by the end of the day my brain is too tired to think up new songs after a whole day of creating new songs.  As we go around and close the house up each day, though, I think the true reason is because we know our house is never truly closed. It’s always open to us and to the excitement we have for life. Which might explain why my sweet girl is constantly running and playing. I wish I had thought of that before.

This might not be the most profound of all rituals. I happen to actually have profound thoughts on how I do my laundry and sweep my floors; I have certain habits I continue only because of who taught me the skill in the first place makes them important to me. I might write about these things another time. At the moment though, I have a little girl jumping on the couch and we need to close up the house.  And I need to consider a Good Night House song.

C. Streetlights

I am soul. I am fire. I am red. I am me. I give a damn.

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where I’ve been

order in the chaos