Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I don't support rapists by laughing with them.

Apparently it still needs to be said.

Rape jokes are not funny.

Some of you may agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

Some may be on the fence, leaving more room for context and execution, etc.

Some of you may think that all rape jokes ever are funny.

To be frank, this is  your right. You are entitled to think any thing at all out there ever is funny. No government entity is going to break into your living room/ bedroom/ mother's basement and disappear you because you find rape jokes to be funny. Nor am I advocating that we change the laws so this can and will happen.

Nope, I do not at all intend to infringe upon your rights to independent thought and to find humour anywhere you like.

When you make rape jokes, I will think of you as a potential rapist. Or, I will assume that you are just not a safe person to be around and will not trust you any further than I can throw you. Because, if you're making rape jokes, or falling off your seat laughing at a rape joke, then I can only assume that you will not help me if I am or someone I love is being or have been sexually attacked, and I cannot trust you to not support the rapist.

If you are making or laughing at rape jokes, you are identifying with the rapist. You are agreeing that, "Heck, not only is rape not a big deal, but it's funny and something I can derrive pleasure out of at least in the form of humour."

I might not even let you know that this is what I'm thinking at the time. You might go on, giggle-snorting to yourself, completely and blissfully unawares that my stone silence and dead-eyed, slack-jawed response means that you've dropped from my "people I trust and look up to"-list to my "people I will avoid because they are not safe"-list.

It is physically safer for me to assume you're a potential rapist if you're giving me signals that you're a rapist or are ok with rapists. Because if you are a rapist or a rape apologist and I'm attacked, misplacing my trust in you could have serious and tangible consequences for me.

If you think that it is more offensive that I would mistrust someone and view them as a potential rapist because they made a rape joke than for someone to have made the rape joke, then you are not worth my trust, either.

Monday, 3 December 2012

How a word can kill a man (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't.)

Serioulsy, WTFail, Fiorito. I could easily rename this article, "How to scare monger about false rape reports in 6 easy steps."

1. Latch onto a story that involves a man.

2. Create empathy for him and make him a flushed-out, fully-realized character.

3. Introduce into the story the woman who reported the potential abuse, and make sure to make her a cariacature, make implications against her mental health, and lead to audience to dismiss her concerns outright, regardless of how valid they may have been.

4. Let the audience know upfront what was only discovered after the report was investigated to make the report seem unfounded.

5. Blame any consequences (in this case, him being deported) on the person who made the report, rather than on the protagonist of the story

6. Wrap things up nicely by telling people they'd better not report any suspicions of abuse, etc, because it could lead directly to death. Do not pass GO, do not collection $200, when you report abuse someone DIES.

There are lot of things wrong with our immigration system, so I'm not going to give Big Brother the thumbs-up for deporting this guy.

At the same time, there are also a lot of things wrong in a culture where an immigration story turns into a morality tale about not tattling on someone just in case. You know, I hope the woman who made the concerned call to police is planning on or presently studying to be a social worker. Because that is exactly what social workers are trained to do, and I'm pretty sure also obligated by law to do.

You want to make this a story about an immigration policy that doesn't make sense and needlessly boots people out of our country to their detriment and at a loss to our communities? I'm totally behind that. You want to make this a story about how scary it can be to find yourself accused of a crime you didn't commit? I'm with you on that, too.

But be honest about both the wording and the consequences. For starters, this isn't a false accusation - there was a child crying to such a degree someone seemed concerned enough to report it. It was an unsubstantiated report, because once investigated it was deemed no crime had taken place, or at least no evidence of a crime could be established.

And Husteclaber Cardoso is alive and well. He is not a political prisoner or being targetted by a corrupt government or criminal organization. He may very well not take very good care of himself and his sister and friends could have valid concerns for his ability to support himself.

This isn't a case of a hysterical woman making up a story and getting an innocent man deported and killed, and framing it as such is dishonest and does a great disservice to survivors of sexual violence and the small percentage of persons who have had false reports made against them.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

So who's gonna vote me in as the next mayor of Toronto?

I'm not gonna lie, yesterday I was downright giddy with the news that mayor Rob Ford had a judgment against him that would remove him from office. And in my household we popped a bottle of bubbly and made a toast to the fact that, "Sometimes the system does work."

Now this morning I'm catching up on the news and reading a lot of handwringing in articles and comments about how this isn't the way it should have gone down. By golly, people are so concerned about democracy and how, if and when Rob Ford was removed from office, it should have been by the will of the people alone.

Where do we draw the line? This guy has flouted the rules at every corner, turned his nose up at a half-dozen opportunities to do the right thing specifically in regards to the conflict-of-interest case that got him booted (nevermind all the other laws he's broken), and he's decided that the laws just don't apply to him. What threshold do we really, honestly need to set in order to decide that someone poses more harm in office than good? And if the people willfully voted for someone they knew were going to break every law in the book, does that mean that they're still immune from any legal penalties?

Now, I'm aware that there are other scandals that have been unable to remove other politicians from office. That really, honestly doesn't matter. If Hazel had killed an albatross with her bare teeth in the middle of a city council meeting and pummelled a GirlScout with its carcass, all without facing any penalties, does that mean we would have to let McGuinty off the hook if he robbed a liquor store while stark naked and armed with a tank?

Say what you will about whether you think that others have done worse, or that even Rob Ford himself has done worse and should have been turfed for another reason, he absolutely broke the conflict-of-interest rules and has shown not a glimmer of self-awareness or remorse. He is so full to the brim with a sense of entitlement that he honestly does not think that he should be punished, even despite flagrantly breaking the rules.

If he had, at any opportunity in the past couple years that this conflict-of-interest case has been stretched out over, taken personal responsibility and acknowledged that he was in the wrong and now he's gonna fix it, I believe 100% that he would not have been removed from office. As it stands, I do not think the judge had a choice.

My only regret in this whole situation is that I've just moved to Mississauga and therefore can't run against him in the by-election. Well, guess I'll have to save up my political favours until 2014 and hope the world doesn't end next month. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 23 November 2012

I'm not wrong. It's just an opinion!

I don't know how this argument started or how anyone could entertain it as a serious justification, but quite often I've heard some form of the following:
I'm saying that if women wouldn't dress so slutty, they wouldn't get raped. I mean, that's just my personal opinion.
Here's the thing about opinions - sometimes they are extremely subjective to the point where there really is no right or wrong. For example:
I think blue is the best colour. I'm of the opinion that it's a much nicer colour than green or red or any other colour. Yuppers. Blue is the best.
I'm of the opinion that women who wear short skirts aren't attractive. I'm not attracted to them and hold no personal affection for them because I find their choices in clothing distasteful.
Those are personal opinions. They reflect only on the beliefs and values of the person espousing said opinions. We may disagree with the opinion, but there is no objective right or wrong in those types of examples.

Now, some opinions can 100% absolutely be wrong, and no couching it as an opinion rather than stating it as fact will compensate for how ridiculous and wrong it is. Opinions simply cannot be used as a valid substitute for facts. For example:
I'm of the opinion that the moon is a hologram projected by a secret society of super-intelligent cats who are using it to brainwash people into giving them belly rubs and post their pictures all over the internet in order to lure more people into worshipping them.
The original quote is just as inaccurate and incorrect. It does not matter if your opinion is that short skirts cause rape, because this is not supported by any factual evidence. Not least of all because clothing is not consent, because clothes cannot prevent rape, and because rapists are 100% responsible for their actions.

On a more productive note, here are some tangible things that you can do, right now today, to actually help stop sexual violence.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Damsel in de Tech is a year old!

It's my bloggiversary!

It's been one year since I decided I'd had enough of retyping and rehashing my arguments to people who think slut-shaming and victim-blaming are nifty things to do! And golly am I ever glad for that decision. Not only do I have some of my favourite lolcats bookmarked in this blog for easy future reference, but I've also got my major arguments all orderly and labelled and ready to go. I love being organized.

Since there is still so much more to talk about, this shall be just one of many milestones to be celebrated. I've got 3 other posts in the works at the moment that I hope to be able to complete this week, but since this is a project primarily for me and not another reason to stress myself out, they'll get posted when they're posted.

To my faithful followers (I love and adore all 9 of you), and occasional lurkers, I'm going to let you in on some of the behind-the-scenes stuff going on with this blog.

For starters, here are my top 5 posts that have gotten the most hits:

5. Victim-blaming under the guise of "personal responsibility" aka, That's not how cause and effect works
  • 513 page views 
4. But, seriously, why can't we just shoot all the rapists?
  • 651 page views
3. Rapex and the enduring myth of the rape-prevention tool
  • 983 page views
2. "10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make that Ruin Any Chance For a Relationship"
  •  1237 page views
1. What can I do, right now today, to help stop sexual violence
  •  1394 page views

I reguarly check my stats, and so I knew that the second-highest post was going to be pretty high up on this list. When I first posted it, I didn't expect to get so many hits, but it's the number one article that gets viewed from Google searches. It's disheartening that so many people Google "10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make" and other similar wordings, but it's comforting that sometimes they're treated to my snark instead of some PUA bullshit.

In regards to other issues going on behind the curtain, I'd like to touch briefly on the often-fraught issue of... dun Dun DUN.... comments. My comment moderation policy is very strict. I consider this blog my living room, and will not let just any old asshole come in here and use my platform as their soapbox to make rape jokes or misogynistic remarks or bullhockey anti-feminist meanderings. There are many many many places on the internet where they can do that. I'm not gonna publish them here.

But, I will share with you some of the comments I've left waiting in the queue so we may delight in them together and on my terms, not theirs:

Ye-ah... I'm pretty comfortable with my policy as is. As much as "Dude, whatever" would have added to the conversation about whether Dave Chapelle makes a compelling argument in favour of slut-shaming and victim-blaming, I'm ok with leaving those posters to vent their frustrations elsewhere.

Since I love lists, I'm going to share a couple more. First, here's my list of Top 5 blog posts I hope people will continue to share:

1. What can I do, right now today, to help stop sexual violence
2. What do we lose when we always support survivors who disclose?
3. Victim-blaming under the guise of "personal responsibility" aka, That's not how cause and effect works
4. An All Too Common Case - What We Can Do
5. Just because they're awesome, doesn't mean they can't be awful

And, because this is my party and I'll repost whatever I want to, these are just my general top 5 favourites:

1. But I'm just trying to be helpful!
2. With a little help from my friends
3. Lions, Tigers, and Rapists. Oh, my!
4. Was that a duck?
5. All apologies

Thanks for helping make this first year and awesome one. Let's go forward and onward and have some more fun, shall we? And if there are any issues you'd like to see addressed, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Now, some more MST3K because I love you all and want you to laugh and have a happy Monday.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The science of YouTubes

Have you ever been discussing super important, serious, and totally no-nonsense issues and been blown away by your opponent's deft grasp of the power of YouTube videos? Have you then sworn that you would never again be caught unarmed and that you would find just the right responses to all those AVFM and GWW videos so that you can repost them at just the right time?

Well, rest easy, dedicated internet warriors. I have done the hard work for you and have here, for your convenience, delight, and edification, a series of versatile videos that are backed up by sciencefacts.

Let's see these bad mamma jammas in action.

What's that? Did someone just say that white men are the most oppressed group in North America?

Ok, how about another easy one? How about if someone asks a question like, "What? Just because I'm white/ male/ cisgender/ straight/ able-bodied/ middle to upper class/ educated, etc, I have privilege?"

Make no mistake, though, these can be useful for so much more!

Did someone just profess their love of bacon under your recipe for vegan tacos?

Hark! Has someone just told you you're a stupid caca doodie head because you vow an undying allegiance to Captain Jean Luc Picard, and extend no such love to Captain Kirk?

You see what just happened there? I single-handedly won the internet for you.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What do we lose when we always support survivors who disclose?

Short answer: Nothing.

Every so often when discussing rape, someone will bring up the myth that zillions of women falsely report rapes and ruin the lives of trillions of amazing men who have never even so much as hurt a fly. Involved in this myth, they will accuse the persons who are contradicting those myths of convicting all persons accused of sexual assault of being guilty before any evidence is weighed.

That's largely not what supporting survivors is about, not least of all because we know most survivors do not report the crimes committed against them to the police and that these cases will never be tested through the courts.

What is meant by believing and supporting survivors always, is that it takes nothing away from us to listen to people's disclosures and sit with them in that moment and support them. Maybe you don't believe everything they're telling you. Maybe what they're saying sounds too far-fetched that you don't understand how it could happen. That's really immaterial, because their disclosure isn't about you.

Going through crisis line training taught me a lot about feminism, and the legal system, and about abuse and it's forms and tolls it takes. The most important thing that I feel I took away from all of it, though, is how to be a better friend. To be a good crisis line volunteer and a good friend, we need to stop talking and start listening. It's ok to not have all (or any) of the answers. In many cases, just having someone to listen and bear witness to their disclosure is what survivors are looking for. Someone to believe them, not interrupt them or interrogate them, just to listen to them.

I know that it's hard for many of us to turn off that part of our brains that wants to fix things and make everything all better. But, just because we mean well, it doesn't mean we have all the answers or that we can reasonably kludge together a workable solution.

One line that gets repeated over and over to crisis line volunteers to help us turn that off is: people are the experts in their own lives. Seriously. We may be able to come up with potential solutions, and we can certainly recommend them, but in the end the person we are giving the advice to knows a heck of a lot better whether or not that will work. Or if they're willing to try to make it work. Or if trying that will put them in further danger. Or if you are completely off base and have no idea what you're talking about.

Let's try to put this theory into an example:
  • Person 1: Last night at the party our friend did stuff to me I'm not cool with.
  • Person 2: I'm sorry to hear that. Are you ok?
  • Person 1: I'm not sure. I'm really hung over and feel like shit. I don't know entirely what happened, but I just feel really weird and have been getting these flashes from last night of them doing things that I know I wasn't ok with.
  • Person 2: Do you want me to come over and bring you hangover foods or take you someplace? Do you want to go to the hospital or the police? What can I do to be helpful right now?
  • Person 1: No, I don't want to go to the police or the hospital. If something happened it's my word against theirs. Did you see anything happen to me last night? I don't remember if you were there.
  • Person 2: No, I'm sorry, I didn't. I was there until the end, but I was drinking, too, and don't remember much of the night.
  • Person 1: Ok. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy.
  • Person 2: I don't know what happened, but I can come over and sit with you and try to help you figure it out if you like.
  • Person: Yeah, I would like that. Thanks.
After a conversation like that, Person 1 is quite possibly having a bit of a meltdown and freaking out. Hearing these kinds of disclosures from strangers is difficult, and from friends and loved ones it can be absolutely heart-breaking. The urge to fix and to come up with the solution that makes everything better may feel neigh on irresistable, but this isn't something that can be fixed. Any solutions are up to the person making the disclosure.

Alternatively, maybe you're not heartbroken. Maybe you don't believe the person, maybe you think they're blowing things out of proportion. Maybe you're worried about them falsely accusing someone of something. This still isn't about you. Consider what your priorities are. If your priority is supporting your friend, just be there. Just listen. If your priority is to go over there and gaslight this person and bully them into making sure they don't tell anyone about what happened to them, it's ok to sit this one out. If you cannot possibly manage to just sit on your hands and listen, you don't have to get involved, and it's probably better if you don't pretend you're emotionally mature enough to try.

If you are prepared to support your friend, confidentiality is super important. This person chose you to disclose to. Not the whole world. If you want to talk to someone else about it (which is entirely reasonable, because handling disclosures is hard and it hurts like hell), then I recommend calling your local rape crisis line or speaking to a counsellor. It's ok if you're not the one who was victimized. They can provide you with resources to pass along, they can support you in your feelings, and they can listen this time as it's your turn to vent.

The reason I don't recommend talking to other friends or family members about the friend's disclosure, is that unless you know that the second person won't gossip, you could be doing far more harm than good. Your friend that disclosed has no reason to be ashamed of suspecting someone assaulted them, but that doesn't mean there aren't people who will use that against them. We don't always know who those people are, either, until they've proven themselves to be untrustworthy.

If you are lucky enough to not be familiar with some of the not-ok and really selfish and fucked up ways people react when they're informed of abuse, here are some articles from Captain Awkward that will be eluciding (and quite possibly unspeakably infuriating):

#209: My mom is pressuring me to invite my molester to my wedding, and it sucks BIG TIME.

Reader question #87: How do I talk about a molesting grandparent?

#393: My friends keep inviting my abusive ex and me to the same parties, despite being asked directly not to.

I think that the last post is especially relevant to this issue of supporting survivors regardless of how they've personally decided to deal with the person who victimized them. It's so frustrating that sometimes people aren't willing to even go the tiny step of not insisting someone is forced to be around the person who has assaulted them.

Whatever could be lost by respecting the survivor's requests and boundaries is surely far less substantial than what is lost by feigning ignorance. When so much more should be expected, the least (seriously, the very least) we can do is listen to people and not put them in harm's way.

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this heavy topic. Here's some MST3K and lolcats.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Pot of Cold comfort

So, NaNoWriMo is a no-go for this year. I couldn't get started this weekend, so I'm throwing in the towel for this year. That's not to say I won't be writing, just not along that kind of schedule.

Now, let's turn our attention to another source of disappointment: Pot of Gold chocolates.

For the past few years I've been driving myself batty trying to get the "right" box of Pot of Gold chocolates. You know, the ones with the orange and strawberry-flavoured fillings of creamy goodness? Or the maraschino cherries? And the general not crap that we're stuck with now?

Why have you forsaken me?

Yeah, they changed the line-up. I'm not the only one commiserating about it on the internet, either. But, at least I'm not just buying the wrong box. So that's something, I guess.

Still not sure what to replace it with, though...

Friday, 9 November 2012

NaNoWriMo - I pines at it. I pines.

After the letdown of not successfully completing the 3 Day Novel Contest, I had my heart set upon participating in NaNoWriMo this month. I still might, but I have not gotten a single word down to prove it.

Life just happened, you know? For November 1st we moved for the second time in 5 months (long story involving a divorce - not mine), and I'm recovering from a bacterial throat infection that had me off work for a week, and I'm just so drained. This has been a ridiculously bad year for me getting sick, and it's taken a toll in a lot of areas. But, I think I might have figured it out.

The gym.

Yes, it's great that I've been getting into better physical shape, but I realize that I started getting sick so frequently and so severely after sessions at the gym. And, realistically, gyms are getting big, sticky, oozing cesspools of germs. Ewwwwww.

This doesn't mean I'm not going to work out anymore. This means that I'm going to be more cautious of germs when I do, because I really don't like being an ebola monkey. It's not terribly fun, lemme tell ya.

I wish I were one of those people who could be really productive even when laid up in bed, sick. But, unfortunately, when I'm sickly, I can barely rub two brain cells together to get anything done, let alone freelance work, blogging, or writing.

Guess I'll just have to stay healthy from here on in.

Now, what on earth should I write about for NaNoWriMo...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

An open letter to Evelynn Hanon, re: "Travel tips for women: Staying safe on the road"

Dear Ms. Hannon,

If my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indication, you may be receiving some blowback from your recent article, "Travel tips for women: Staying safe on the road."

You may well be frustrated by these negative reactions and be thinking, as at least one poster has commented, something to the effect of, "This article is not what you guys want to hear, but it is an article about doing what is smart, not necessarily about what is right."

Here's the thing, we do want safety advice. We are desperate for it. Women are literally dying for that one-size-fits-all safety advice that will finally accomplish what we have been trying to do our entire lives and for generations before us - to keep us safe from sexual violence.

Because of this sincere want, and because so many people who are our allies want this for us, we are bombarded with various bits of safety advice our entire lives. From the time the doctor tells our parents, "It's a girl," we are treated as a separate class from men and boys and given a different set of rules on how we can stay safe from the threatening and mysterious "them".

Make no mistake, the threat is real. And the people who commit this violence against us are real. And, more often than not, this violence is committed against us by those we know and trust. But somehow, much of the safety advice that is given can't manage to put a face to this. Or, it borrows from myths and Hollywood tropes that describe this perpetrator as a "bad guy" that everyone can immediately recognize when they see him, because of the rise in dramatic music, fog machines, and tell-tale physical deformities. It tells us that these perpetrators are strangers, are foreigners, are hiding in alleys and far-away, exotic countries where "they" are different from us and go by a different set of rules.

We get lots of advice. Advice that is well-meaning. Unfortunately, most of this advice cannot keep us safe, because it relies on rape myths and on women being in control over whether or not they'll be targetted, just by virtue of their clothing or choice of beverage.

This advice does not match our realities.

The reason you are not getting perhaps the positive feedback you were looking for, is that we have heard your advice before and it did not protect us and we won't be fooled again.

Are some of the tips you provided useful? Well, sure. We don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Women are quite capable of reading what you've written and deciding what advice applies to them and what isn't relevant to their lives.

That's not the problem. The issue is not that there isn't anything useful in your article. I'm aware that you borrowed the content from the Canadian government's official travel guide. They're not off the hook with me, either.

The issue is that your carelessly worded phrasings are all-too-often victim-blaming, and at the same time not useful.

To clarify the problems I, and other people I've talked to, have had with your article are as follows

1. Don’t stand out — The next time you’re walking in your city centre, do this short mental exercise. Look around and notice which women stand out. Who looks timid? Whose purse has an unzipped pocket? Is anybody checking a map or guidebook?

Simultaneously, you are telling women not to stand out, and not to be timid. Be aware of your surroundings, definitely. That makes for good safety advice. That one can do to the best of their ability. But don't be timid or attract attention? I'm not sure what that would even look like.
2. Insist on safe accommodation — Don’t accept ground-floor rooms with easy access from outside via a balcony or fire escape. Make sure the doors can be locked from the inside and can’t be opened with a key from the outside. Pack a rubber door stop that can be wedged under any inward-opening door making entry extremely challenging.

Yeah, in the beginning this makes sense. I mean, this is safety advice that I definitely keep in mind when I'm travelling. The bit about not being able to open a door with a key from the outside doesn't make as much sense. Do you mean when I'm in the room, or also when I'm out of the room? How would I get in in the first place if I can't get in from the outside? The rubber door stop's pretty good, to. That could fit in carry-on luggage.
3. Carry a local shopping bag — At your destination, make a small purchase in order to have a shopping bag with the store’s logo on it. Now carry your camera and maps in this bag. Thieves are far less prone to steal a local’s shopping bag than to grab a tourist’s backpack.
Ok, you've lost me again. You want me to put all my valuables in a flimsy bag that only goes on my wrist, as opposed to one fastened to my back, because tourists don't carry shopping bags? I'm sorry if I'm starting to get a little sarcastic but... 
4. Watch what you wearTight fitting clothes are always an invitation—any woman in form fitting clothes will attract attention both good and bad. Especially if you are traveling solo it is the negative that you should be guarding against. It’s not worth gambling with your safety for the sake of a wolf-whistle.
Read the parts I have bolded and put in italics, and you tell me with a straight face that isn't misogynistic victim-blaming. If you are able to say that with a straight face, then we will have a conversation about internalized misogyny, because that's not cool.
5. Choose early morning exploring — In some cultures, a woman alone after dark is considered fair game by the local men. Often it’s best to have your big meal at lunchtime and to picnic in your room in the evening. There’s no harm in going to bed at a decent hour so you can be up bright and early ready for sightseeing in broad daylight.
I'm not sure what areas of the world you're referring to (because you never say it explicitly), but this can be impractical to the point of absurdity. In the winter here, in the Northern hemisphere, it can get dark as early as around 4pm. Are you honestly, with a straight face, telling women to "picnic" in their rooms from 4pm to 8am when they're on vacation? Honestly? Seriously? "Hey, what did you do on your vacation?" "Well, I ran out quickly for a couple hours a day, and then hid under the covers in my hotel room, shrieking in terror any time housekeeping or room service knocked on my door. Totally worth it."
6. Leave your expensive jewelry at home —Unless you are attending a fabulous wedding or Society Fashion Ball, leave all your jewels at home. They will always be a hindrance to your safety.
And here we have something practical again. I have no qualms with tips that actually make sense and can do things that are practical and tangible in terms of safety.
7. Watch for pickpockets — These people generally work in pairs. As you sit waiting to board your bus or train, one engages you in conversation while the other lifts your backpack. Foil them by bringing a Chinese newspaper from home. Pretend to be reading it. Unless would-be pickpockets speak Chinese, they’ll avoid you completely.
Yes, the advice about looking out for pickpockets is sound. I'm a little perplexed by the newspaper advice. It's not usually too difficult to spot tourists, and I don't see how this would help in that regard. But, sure, if people have reported that this works, then I guess there's no real harm in trying it. 
8. Don’t drink irresponsibly — It’s best to enjoy your alcohol in a pub or well-reputed hotel. To combat date rape drugs added to your cocktail there is now a product to test your own drink and foil any one who’s targeting you. www.drinksafetech.com
You may have predicted that this advice doesn't sit well with me. Not because I think everyone going to unfamiliar places should go ahead and drink to excess until they're unconscious. In general, I think that we need to have better alcohol-abuse education to help people learn how to enjoy intoxicants responsibly. I consider that more of a safety measure to keep someone from giving themselves alcohol-poisoning, than of preventing rape, however.

For starters, there's no guarantee you won't be targetted in a "well-reputed" pub or hotel. So, that's a false sense of security. Same with with date rape straws. The most common date rape drug is, actually, alcohol. So if you're being served doubles or triples when you're expecting singles, it really doesn't matter if your straw doesn't change colour.
9. Make lots of noise —Point your finger and shout, “Go away” at any male who is touching you or invading your personal space. The language you speak is not important. What affects these men is the negative attention being drawn to them. You also should consider carrying a personal security alarm or whistle that emits a piercing sound.
I have no issues with people loudly calling out harassers or attackers. If they feel safe doing so, by all means yell, whistle, blow your fog horn, etc.
10. Don’t divulge personal information — When other travellers ask you what you do for a living and you’re not sure if they can be trusted, tell them you’re a policewoman on holiday. Wrong doers won’t stick around very long.
For me, this doesn't just relate to going away to far-off places. You don't owe anyone your personal information, even if you're just on the subway on the way to work.
11. Keep emergency money well hidden — Save your empty vitamin pill bottles. Roll up five 20 dollar bills, put them into the bottle and add some loose pills. Shake this container and it still sounds authentic. Nobody will consider looking inside; your money remains safe for when you might need it.
Now this sounds practical, too. There's no problem with having a Plan B, or even a Plan C and D, etc. Emergency funds and ways to hide them make a lot of sense when travelling.
12. Check Global Travel Alerts — Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada posts information regarding safety and security, local laws and customs as well as health issues in foreign destinations. A savvy woman traveller will take advantage of this service by doing her pre-trip research at www.voyage.gc.ca.
Researching where you're going before a trip absolutely makes sense. I have nothing negative to say about taking the time to learn about where you're going and what health and safety issues you need to mitigate or be aware of before leaving.

I know that people are so earnest in their caring about women's safety, that they can often take extreme offense that people would dare to not take their safety advice as being well-meaning. I am absolutely giving you the benefit of the doubt, and believe (until such time as I am proven wrong) that you mean well.

Your good intentions will not protect women from your rape myths.

Please take some time to learn more about these myths so that you don't inadvertently keep passing them along, and about the totally tangible, practical, and immediately implementable things that we really can start doing right now, today, to help stop sexual violence. Your readers deserve better from you, and you deserve to know the difference, too.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Is the scary part over, yet?

If you know me at all, you know I love politics and elections. But, blogdamn, I'm nervous about tonight!!!! And I'm not even an American!

Good luck my Yankee darlings. I'll be watching the election tonight (and likely making a drinking game of it), and I have you all in my thoughts and best wishes.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Got this analogy on lock-down


Guess what time it is, folks? It's time for another installment of "That's not how that works".

I don't know what they're teaching kids in biology these days (or English, because these analogies are fecking terrible), but I've heard the following slut-shaming explanation quite a few times:
“If a key can open a bunch of locks, it’s viewed as a master key and is awesome to have. But if a lock is opened by a lot of different keys, well that’s a pretty shitty lock if you ask me.”
If we're talking about passwords and password-cracking software or encryption technologies like WEP vs WAP, or physical, tangible locks like what I put on our case that gets sent off to Iron Mountain every day, then yes. The above analogy is quite apt. It is much easier to crack a WEP-encrypted password than WAP or WAP2, so WEP makes for a mighty crappy lock/security measure.

If, however, we're just talking about an object's ability to fit into other objects, then that's where this analogy falls apart.

Let's say I am holding a little salad fork. Where can this fork go?
- in a jar of pickles
- up my nose
- in an electrical socket
- in the dishwasher
- into a lasagne

It fits into (or will make a hole into, as in the case of the lasagne) any of those things. Does that mean it functioned as a key? Negatory.

If the "penis is a key" and "vagina is lock" analogy is going to work, then this would be a more accurate representation of the bio-relationship between the two:

You're welcome. 

This witty blogger has their own satirical take on this analogy:
I’m not a misandrist, but let me put it this way: if a pencil has been in loads of pencil sharpeners, it’s probably a short pencil that wears out really quickly and should be thrown away! But if a pencil sharpener has sharpened lots of pencils, it must be a pretty good pencil sharpener.
Hahahahahahahaha.. heh... aheheh... oh, man. Hmmm. Dang it. Stabbing Westward was right. I have become the thing I hate

 But seriously, kids, people are not inanimate objects and genitals cannot be accurately analogized as such. It's disrespectful, it's dishonest, and it really just doesn't work that way. At all.

To offset the gif from The Thing, here's some lolcats and MST3K.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Was that a duck?

Pop quiz! If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a __________.

Can you spot the duck?

Yup. Definitely a duck. Look at that perfect example of a duck. I've got my eye on you, duck. 

Uh... yeah. Still a duck. Just, like, with a nose job or something.

Ah, there we go. Back to the definitive duck-action.

Uh... heh. Ok, you got me. It's a goose. But geese are like ducks, so nice try. 

Ye-ah... ok, so it's a swan. Point taken. Still, it could break your arm if you went up to it and called it a duck, so it's up to the swan to differentiate itself from ducks.

Ok, that's just mean. Yes, it's a duck even if it has mobility issues and can't walk quite like other ducks. Geez.

Uh... that's a movie character. It's some dude dressed up as a duck with animatronics and stuff.

Now you're just being sarcastic.

Ok, ok, I get it. Some animals have duck-like qualities and are otherwise totally not duckish at all.

.... you don't have to be rude ....

What the... what end is the...


To break it down for the uninitiated, when talking about issues including sexual violence and victim-blaming, etc, often we hear the aforementioned justification of "if it looks like a duck." Insert for "duck" anything ranging from slut, whore, n*****, f**, etc.

As you can see, it's not even straight-forward to describe a duck. Is it the bill? Is it the feathers? The affinity for water? Are loons ducks? Are geese just a tall and lankey species ducks? Do all ducks quack?

When it comes to women and the label "slut" (as just one possible example), it's even more complicated. Women and girls are frequently labelled sluts for every manner of perceived indiscretion, from the length of their shorts or skirts, amount of skin shown, number of sexual partners they're perceived to have had (real or imagined, really doesn't matter when slut-shaming), how they carry themselves, their profession, their hairstyle, their makeup, their height, their weight, their breastsize, colour of their skin (racism and exoticism of women of colour is a huge factor), who they associate with and family makeup (if one of their friends or family members has been labelled a 'slut', so much easier to label them as such), if they're perceived as flirty (again - reality doesn't matter so much as perception), marital status, etc etc etc.

This isn't hyperbole. This is what women and girls and queer not non-gendery-binary persons experience. Anyone who declares that there is a solid definition of whom can reasonably be labelled with a slur against their sexuality and that the lines aren't easily blurred to envelope whomever the slur-slinger wants to slander, is either blissfully ignorant or a baldfaced liar.

And, even if one happens to fall under the so-broad-as-to-be-meaningless definitions of slut, what then? If you are saying that sluts get treated as such, then you must have some idea as to what that treatment entails. And, here's a hint, it often involves violence.

If you aren't saying that you are sanctioning sexual violence against any one of the myriad of persons who, at one point or another in their lives or the course of a week, could be called a slut, then you really need to think more deeply about your words and their implications. Words matter. Words have meaning. Words can make the difference between supporting survivors of sexual violence or of supporting rapists.

Please think about your words and their implications, because they matter.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Victim-blaming under the guise of "personal responsibility" aka, That's not how cause and effect works


In the world of victim-blaming, one of the oft-used arguments people trot out is that people should exercise more "personal accountability". That they should be more "responsible" and "conscious that their actions have consequences". The reason I'm using quotes around those statements, is that those are all-too-often used against victims and not perpetrators.

I have zero issue with people accepting personal responsibility for not assaulting or harassing or abusing or bullying anyone else. I advocate that everyone should accept these as personal responsibilities, that they are personally accountable for the damage they wreak upon others when they engage in abusive behaviours, and that their actions have consequences, which should vary on the severity of what they've done. Raped someone? Go to jail. Called your little sister a caca doodie head and threw her Barbie in the neighbour's yard? You have to apologize, no desserts tonight, and no tv or internet for a couple days.

For example, I am personally responsible for many things.
  • I am personally responsible for getting to work on time.
  • I am personally responsible for ensuring my clothing is work and weather appropriate.
  • I am personally responsible for not sexually harassing or bullying anyone at work.
  • I am responsible for making sure I wear my steel-toed shoes and safety goggles when walking through the warehouse.
  • I am personally responsible for treating my coworkers with respect and, if I don't happen to respect them, to deal with my personality conflict with them in a mature and reasonable manner.
Now, there are things I am not responsible for:
  • I am not responsible for the cars I pass on my way to work and ensuring they stay on the road and don't run me over. I will stay on the sidewalk, keep my head up and stay alert and be on guard for traffic, but the rest is up to them.
  • I am not responsible for avoiding getting hit by lightning on my way to work, regardless of how well or poorly I dressed for rain.
  • I am not responsible for my coworkers sexually harassing me at work, regardless of my attire. Perhaps my boss can send me home to change if my outfit doesn't meet the standards I signed in acknowledgment when I started, but I'm still not responsible for the words and actions of my coworkers who are also fully-functional adults who are in charge of their own actions and reactions.
  • I am not responsible for accidentally slipping and falling if the floor is wet and not labelled to alert me to the danger. If I notice it without the signs, I'm responsible for making my way around or through, in whatever way I feel is safe and reasonable.
  • I am not responsible for avoiding hazards I am entirely unaware of, haven't been trained to deal with, and would have to be psychic to know about or avoid. I am responsible for doing whatever it is in my power, as an adult who has survived into the second decade of my 20's, to keep safe and sound, but in the end my power is limited to keep the rest of the world at bay.
Even when I accept responsibility for my actions and how I interact with the world, there are reasonable limits to what cause and effect should be.

I start my walk to work and haven't tied my shoes.
  • Reasonable cause & effect:
    • I trip and skin my knee and, if I'm really off-balance, maybe even fall into the path of traffic.
  • Unreasonable cause & effect:
    • another pedestrian notices my untied laces and pushes me into traffic, or a driver notices and barrells off the road to hit me
Let's say that it's chilly but I decided not to bundle up for my walk.
  • Reasonable cause & effect:
    • I am cold, maybe get a cold or flu or pneumonia
    • If it's really cold I get frostbite and and/or hypothermia
  • Unreasonable cause & effect:
    • another pedestrian notices my predicament and pushes me into a snowbank or a puddle, or a snowplow veers off the road to play a game of tag with me.
If I survive the trek to work, let's say I use company time and materials to make a lot of assinine comments in an online forum
  • Reasonable cause & effect:
    • People call me out on them, including and up to reporting my comments to the moderator if they violate the terms of service, or reporting them to higher authorities if they contain a threat or pose a concern of illegal activities.
    • At work, I might get disciplined for contravening the companies IT policies. If this is a recurring issue, I might even lose my job. 
  • Not a reasonable cause & effect:
    • My name and home address, telephone number, Social Insurance Number, credit card info, etc, are posted publicly with a call out to others to cause me physical, financial, and emotional harm
Now let's say I'm unemployed and decide to drown my sorrows at the local pub.
  • Reasonable cause & effect:
    • I drink too much and puke, make an ass of myself when I fall over into a table, get cut off and bounced from the club
    • If I drink too much, I could wind up with alcohol poisoning and if I try to drive myself home I could get arrested for drunk driving or wind up in an accident
    • If I assault someone while I'm drinking (or I'm still sober and they're drinking), I am blamed for it, and I am held accountable (legally, morally, socially, etc) for my actions against them. No matter how much I've drank, no matter how much they've drank, no matter what signals I assume or later say they were sending - I am still 100% responsible for my actions.
  • Unreasonable cause & effect:
    • Someone notices how intoxicated I am and decides to rob me or sexually assault me
    • I'm blamed for actions others took against me while I was intoxicated, forgetting that I didn't assault myself - someone else did that and is responsible for what they did.
After my misadventures at the pub, I may go home and blog about my worries, and potentially post a Youtube video describing my melancholy.
  • Reasonable cause & effect:
    • My friends see my post and either lament with me, or remind me that I lost my job because I was being an irresponsible jerk
    • My mom calls me and asks me why I'm being all emo on the internet and that my aunt saw my post and told her because she was worried about me
    • Strangers on the internet might comment on my video rudely (assuming my settings allow public comments) and I may not like all of what they have to say. Some of their comments might hit too close to home, might make me have to think about my part in what's happened to me, might shine some uncomfortable lights on the issue, or they might just be way off base and stupid.
  • Unreasonable cause & effect:
    • I get spammed with violent, misogynistic, and hateful posts that far exceed what is reasonable in response to my original post
    • Posters start following and harassing me, my friends, my family, with an unrelenting tidal wave of threats, calls for me to end my own life, violently graphic passages and images
    • Pornographic images of me are either uncovered or created using Photoshop and are sent to me, my family, my friends, my employer, etc.
    • Upon reaching out for help against this wave of abuse, I'm blamed for having had the audacity to post anything in public.
    • After being bullied, harassed, assaulted, stalked, and emotionally beaten down for a couple years with no legal recourse and my harassers receiving no consequences for their actions, I commit suicide, and am then blamed for that, too 
The main thread through all of this is that I am only responsible for the consequences of my own actions and my own words. It's because I am an adult. It's because I understand cause and effect and the Just World Hypothesis and because other people have the exact same responsibilites I do.

Thanks for reading. Here's some MST3K and lolcats.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A self-indulgent post of self-care, including much MST3K and lolcats

I'm going to be delving into a lot of intense topics coming up, partly relating to the loss of Amanda Todd to criminal harassment by a sexual predator, and partly inspired by the regular and ongoing clusterfuckofshit that is life in a rape culture.

So, in preparation, I'm going to post the funniest, cutest, most brain-meltingly adorkable things in this post for easy reference for myself and readers when they need a brain-cleanse. I'll be tagging this post at the end of future articles in lieu of pics right in the article to clean-up the format and so less people balk and say, "I can't take that blog post seriously. There are lolcats! Nothing good or profound or scientific EVER came from lolcats!"

Fie to them, I say! FIE!

Aaaaaand, now for the lolcats and GIFs!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I think that about covers it. I'll probably add more as I see fit. Hope you enjoyed the show.

Friday, 12 October 2012

An All Too Common Case - What We Can Do

This is being reposted in its entirety from a note an intelligent friend of mine wrote today:

*Trigger Warning: suicide, bullying, violence, asshattery**


The case of Amanda Todd is truly heartbreaking. The horrible actions of these bullies and the complete lack of justice are disgusting. Unfortunately hers is a story that is all too common.When a story like this comes out and everyone is reaching for the nearest box of tissues, flipping tables or clutching their pearls, I have to wonder about some things.

Where were all these crying supporters when Amanda Todd, or anyone like her, was still alive?

It is easy to say you support someone once they are dead. Too often people ignore victims (or take part in the victimization) and then come around crying when that victim has up and killed themselves. That is nothing more than a shameful grab for attention and sympathy which just further takes away from the victim.
To prevent suicides we must examine why people become suicidal, the treatment suicidal people currently face, an how we should/should not deal with these situations.

Today, let's focus on the treatment victims currently face. (The "why" topic deserves its own note)

Suicidal people are treated like criminals rather than people.
Cops are called, they are abducted from their homes under threat of arrest, they are yelled at, their coping mechanisms are taken away (if they cut), they are alienated and forced to go to hospital, they are then interrogated by "crisis workers". They are either kept there, or released to deal with this new traumatic event on their own.
It is like their mind is not their own and their lives are there to be examined and picked apart by anyone who has any questions.

They are brutalized, analysed, dehumanized and scrutinized.

This treatment further teaches the victim that (s)he cannot talk to people when (s)he is feeling upset because (s)he might be forced to undergo the same treatment again.
This effectively silences victims, thus taking away yet another coping mechanism.
That is not helpful to people who are feeling that life "is not worth it" anymore. If anything this treatment combined the new lack of major coping mechanisms makes for a more dangerous situation.

If you actually want to help someone who is, or has been, suicidal here are some things to do/not do:

-Be physically there (being alone is part of what is making them feel alienated)
-Assess the situation and their state of physical health (if they just swallowed a bottle of pills or have a very deep/life threatening cut, then get them medical help. (Small cuts don’t count here since they are often used as a coping mechanism). Be there WITH them throughout any needed medical treatment)
-Stay calm (put aside your own emotions and help them deal with theirs)
-Talk to them yourself
-Speak softly
-Actually say that you care (list the reasons why if need be)
-Ask or let them know you are going to hug them before you do (some are triggered by touch)
-Bring them a warm and/or caffeinated beverage (this will sooth them and perk them up)
*-If you can’t be there for them that moment, set a time/date for when you can with them (then keep it)
-Follow their lead, if they want to talk listen. If they want to be distracted, then go along with that.
-Be respectful
-Let them know why they are important to the world
-Help them come up with coping mechanisms that work for them
-Be present in their lives especially after they have confided in you

Afterwards do:
-Make future plans (ie: there is a party I am going to in 2 weeks, you should come too)
-Give them time to heal, or give them space (as they request)
-Do some research of your own and be sure to take time for yourself (your health and safety is important too)
-Help make the world a better place (ie: take a stand against patriarchy/rape culture, racism, intolerance, hate, etc)
(People often don't want to "live" because our world is so messed up. It is time we all stood up to fix this world and make it a more desirable place to exist.)

-Threaten to call the cops/”mental health” people
-*Make it about you (there will be other times for that)
-Break up with them (If you feel you can't handle it, deal with that on your own time, the focus is on them right now. See if you can work through this together.)( If you were planning break up with them before this situation arose, you can wait a few days until they are in a safe state.)
-Make promises you can’t keep (this will only further break their trust)
-Define their situations/experiences for them
-Deny their experiences/feelings
-Try to get rid of them or distance yourself by using insults (it is NEVER EVER okay or excusable to say "you're just not worth it/my time")
-Speak over them
-Tell them how to feel or how to react
-Diminish their coping mechanisms (even if you disagree with them)
-Use the age card. (ie: but you’re so young!) Age is irrelevent and is not an indicator of how many horrors they have faced.
-Tell them that “it will get better” (you don’t know that it will, so that is lying)
-Think you can't help
-Tell them they are reacting badly/over reacting
-Tell them they aren’t “normal” (Often they are reacting normally to an abnormal and unfortunate situation)
-Shame them
-Victim blame or propagate rape culture
-Bring religion into this

If you actually want to help someone who is suicidal (while they are still alive) you ultimately have to acknowledge that you cannot fix their problems for them. All people are broken in some way, but they fix themselves. All we can do is give them the emotional support and love they need to help themselves. We need to recognize and treat these victims as humans rather than science experiments there to be examined whenever and by whomever.We as a society need to stop re-victimizing victims with threats of “mental heath” bullshit and actually start BEING THERE.

All in all, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a “professional” to help someone out of a bad situation.
You just need to be a friend.

-Kira Ayn

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Clothes don't cause rape. Clothes cannot prevent rape.

There are many ways that the clothes we wear can protect us.

When I am at work, there is a dresscode that requires I wear safety glasses when walking through the warehouse because there is a lot of active machinery that could potentially shoot debris into my eyes. I also have to wear steel-toed shoes because there are forklifts and much equipment about that could pose a hazard to my precious piggies.

Even when I was working in call-centres, we would have to wear shoes that covered our toes and were thick enough to protect us from stray staples and other sharp detritus that may lay hidden in the carpet.

And then there are other jobs that I could only dream of working that have even more specific clothes built to deal with particular dangers of the trade.

Seriously, I can't photocopy in this.

There are definitely occasions when we need to dress with safety in mind.

Preventing rape is not one of those occasions.

Rape is not a workplace hazard that can be mitigated with an extra layer of fabric. I cannot wear bright, reflective tape to let rapists know that I am not the prey they are looking for.

"Well, I was going to target him, but then I saw the reflective vest and realized he wasn't the vulnerable demographic I intended to victimize."

Telling women not to wear "slutty" clothing is not safety advice, because "provocative" clothing does not increase one's chance of being targetted by a sexual predator.

According to this Duke study:
"While people perceive dress to have an impact on who is assaulted, studies of rapists suggest that victim attire is not a significant factor. Instead, rapists look for signs of passiveness and submissiveness, which, studies suggest, are more likely to coincide with more body-concealing clothing."
The same study found that people tend to assume that "provocative" clothing makes one a larger target for sexual violence. This isn't surprising, because when a myth is repeated over and over, it becomes so embedded in public consciousness that a lot of people tend to believe it without considering if they should. They just accept that the myth is the truth because they don't know any better.

This is one of the reasons we need to challenge the rape myth that clothing=protection or safety from sexual violence. Those who work with survivors of sexual violence know that victims come from all walks of life, starting from infancy up until old age. We know that the groups who are more at risk of sexual violence are persons who cannot protect themselves, such as persons with disabilites, or who have much less protection of the law due to intersectional oppression, such as trans folk, persons of colour, and sex workers (just to name a few). The sex workers are not targeted because of the clothes they wear. They are targeted because our society assigns them much less personal value and is less likely to hold their attackers accountable.

Are there ever any instances where women who are wearing "provocative" clothing are raped? Of course, because clothing doesn't cause rape and cannot protect one against rape, and rapists target people in every manner of outfit.

"But", you may ask as you play devil's advocate because you care so darned much, "But, what if we can help women to prevent even a fraction of the incidents of sexual assault by getting them to cover up?"

Well, oh-so-original-and-caring concern troll friend, I'm sure you will get some traction with that. Because there are women who were raped when wearing short skirts who will hear you or will hear your advice repeated, and who will internalize that blame. Some of those survivors, like many people, will fall back on the Just World Hypothesis in trying to make sense of what they've experienced, and will think, "If only I wore jeans that night, maybe I would have been spared."

If you fall back on the lazy tactic of trying to police wardrobes instead of the aggressive actions of abusers, you will contribute to victim-blaming and to the tools that tell rapists that if they can find any old rape myth to deflect blame from themselves, others will help them get away with their crimes. People who sincerely care about victims will help you. Survivors will help you. It's not that your tactic is unpopular, it's that it's harmful and really misses the point: the only person who decides who and when and why to sexually assault someone is the perpetrator.

The advice of, "More clothing will keep you safe," is as evidence-based and statistically sound as me selling tiger-repellant rocks. I always keep a rock in my pocket when walking through Toronto, and I have yet to be attacked by a tiger. It must mean that this rock wards off tigers, not that there haven't been any tigers to attack me.

Long story short, lecturing women on their clothing choices will not help protect them from sexual violence.

Clothes are not consent.

Men are not mindless, slavering beasts that can be attracted to attack someone, like a lion to a slab of beef.

Rapists are not some mythical force that operates on a different level than the rest of society and can easily be lured into raping someone if they happen upon an alley or wear the wrong outfit.

And, seriously, if anyone happens to chat with Dave Chappelle, give him a heartfelt "Fuck you" from me for feeding trolls with the victim-blaming "Whore's uniform." idiocy that pops up on anti-rape pages with frustrating regularity.

If you are telling women what they should wear because you are sincerely concerned about their safety, then here is some tangible safety advice that you can undertake today and pass along.