violence against women


Thousands of people in 46 states rallied this past Saturday against the ‘War on Women.’ Though the marches received relatively little coverage from the so-called ‘liberal media’ (ha!), the issue of the GOP attacks on women are not going away.

Speaker Boehner will have you believe that the ‘War on Women’ is feminist hysterics. He’ll even throw a temper tantrum on the House floor to prove how upset it makes him. Steven Benen would like him to know that he could make the whole issue go away pretty simply: change your anti-woman policies.

Boehner can shout, point, and pound the podium to his heart’s content, but if he doesn’t want to be criticized for Republican measures that undermine women’s health, he should change his party’s agenda, not whine about Democrats shining a light on that agenda.

Rachel Maddow also recognizes that the GOP attacks on women is about policy. She put together a great segment highlighting the attacks and Republicans’ subsequent denial here: Maddow: GOP Denies War on Women. I encourage you to watch the whole thing.

Where I think Maddow really hits the nail on the head is when she points out that conservatives and progressives seem to be working from different facts. Just as the Republicans are currently denying they are waging a war on women, the same days/weeks that they are passing anti-woman legislation or taking money from women’s health programs, they seem to be clueless as to why they are being accused of this ‘war.’

As Maddow attempted to make a point about Equal Pay on yesterday’s Meet the Press, she was interrupted and treated condescendingly by GOP strategist and well-known sexist Alex Castellanos. He insisted that women don’t earn less than men by cherry-picking a small data point about single women ages 40-64. But he flat-out denied that women earn less than men, which is a well-documented fact.

Because the GOP is unwilling to change their policies that hurt women, they have to deny that any problem exists. They need women’s votes, as we are the demographic that elects the president. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if they choose to lighten up on the attacks in recognition of the political toll they are taking, or if they will double down and alienate the most important voter block at the risk of losing their jobs.

It’s time to stop talking about women and start listening to women. Or you can laugh at us and interrupt us like Alex Castellanos. It may be good television, but it’s bad politics.

This video is a little old, but sadly still perfectly relevant.

After Tiger Woods got busted for serial infidelity, my 90-something-year-old grandpa concluded that would probably be the end of his career. My mom and I countered that would probably not be the case, as he had only wronged women. Just look at Kobe, we told him. The Pro-Am just concluded and sure enough, nary a mention of Tiger’s ‘personal problems’ as he continues to struggle back to peak form in golf.

That is not to suggest that cheating is even in the same ballpark as battery. Rather, I mean to point out the willingness to forgive high profile men for their bad behavior toward women. Just look at Charlie Sheen, who continues to be one of the highest paid actors in television and has a new show coming out in June.

Shortly after Sheen’s estranged wife is granted a restraining order against him, Sheen was welcomed at the Emmys. At the time, Heather Tooley suggested:

Hollywood and fans have a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior if they play nice long enough.

No. The court of public opinion has a way of cutting celebrities a lot of slack for bad behavior against women. Period.

I didn’t watch, but I hear Chris Brown performed not once, but twice last night. He also won Best R&B album. A lot of people made light of his triumphant return, while still others glorified the abuse (TW for physical abuse at those links).

As Jay Smooth said, and you think you’re being persecuted?

What is Chris Brown complaining about? I’ve never seen someone complain so much, about getting off so easy, for doing something so bad. …You brutally, physically assaulted a woman, a woman you supposedly loved, that you beat to a pulp and then left there alone in that car so you could go get a head start on your PR strategy.

I wanted to share an example with you of what I was referring to in my previous post, where people brag about fitting into smaller sized jeans. This example showed up on my friend’s Facebook page two days after Love Your Body Day (with names and faces blocked for confidentiality):

This friend of mine has an eating disorder. We’ve known each other since we were very young and I’ve watched her struggle with it for more than a decade. So to see her ‘friends’ uniformly praising her for losing weight is quite upsetting, though not surprising. Isn’t there one of them who knows, deep down, that her thinness is not a sign that she is more healthy? Isn’t there one of them concerned for her health? Not one who chimes in to tell her she is a beautiful person no matter her size?

In contrast I’d like to share this article that encourages you to think twice before praising someone for weight loss.

So when we actively and publicly praise someone for his or her weight loss (especially young women/girls), are we praising someone for a healthy and balanced approach to living or someone who is facing a critical, mental health crisis? Are we mistakenly encouraging someone to continue a process that has allowed them to lose weight, a process that will, if gone unchecked, lead to their death?

So will you be the dissenting voice on the Facebook thread that chimes in with something other than praise for pounds shed? You may be surprised at the reaction you get (not always positive). But perhaps you’ll awaken someone else who is in the habit of affirming problematic, even dangerous, behavior. It’s fast and easy to click “like” or to chime in with the crowd. But consider what you’re affirming and whether it’s what you value most about your friend.

Last week I participated in a book discussion at the college where I work. We were discussing a book by a journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting on the war in Afghanistan. During our discussion, one of my colleagues mentioned how dangerous these combat zones have become for journalists. She then said, “Look what happened to Lara Logan in Egypt. I mean, what was she thinking?”

Today as I listen to reports of the filmmaker and photojournalist killed in Libya, I can’t help but notice that not a single person has questioned their decision to be there. Instead, these men are lauded for bringing us the truth and taking risks in the process. Despite the fact that they chose to put themselves in harm’s way without protective gear, no one is questioning their judgment.

Several reports I’ve heard have pointed out the sensitivity with which Tim Hetherington captures images of war. I dare to suggest that Lara Logan brought a similar sensitivity to her work in Egypt. Simply due to her gender, she was better able to gain access to Egyptian women’s experiences, a perspective often overlooked in the coverage of that story.

The recent loss of these brave journalists in Libya is tragic, and I am not suggesting that they should not have been in a combat zone. I do, however, wish to draw attention to the very different narratives surrounding male and female journalists in conflict areas. With Lara Logan, the story was about her appearance and her gender, and it was chock full of victim-blaming. Newsweek immediately did a story about “Women in Harm’s Way.” Some even suggested she was enjoying all the attention her assault would bring her. She was not viewed as a brave journalist willing to venture into a dangerous situation to bring us the truth, but rather as a woman who took an unnecessary risk.

Over the next few days as you learn more about the story unfolding in Libya, please notice the narrative surrounding Tim Hetherington and his colleagues. They are described with praise, admiration and dedication. All of these words are undoubtedly appropriate, but should not be attributed selectively, based on the person’s gender.

“We have an epidemic here,” [Rep. Jane Harman] said. “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

That was 2008, yet little has changed.

Kori Cioca, 25, of Wilmington, Ohio, tells about how she was raped while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Long story short, I was raped.

When I told my command they waited. They didn’t do anything to help me. It’s like they didn’t care. It wasn’t important. I wasn’t important.

The coast guard’s a lifesaving service yet they didn’t save mine.

Military doctors say that 40% of women at veterans’ hospitals report being sexually assaulted during their service.

[Rep. John] Tierney said, “what’s at stake here goes to the very core of the values of the military and the nation itself.

“When our sons and daughters put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us, the last thing they should fear is being attacked by one of our own.”

Will we kick the can down the road on this, as victims of sexual assault in our own military suffer in silence? Will we continue to hold hearings and listen to the military say it takes these issues seriously, while the evidence in these cases proves the opposite to be true. We must listen to these women’s stories. We must believe and trust them. And we must demand justice.

Please check out the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) for more information and ways to get involved.

There continues to be a lot of press about the recent murders of two young girls here in San Diego. As the community mourns, the denial and sadness have turned to anger. The anger is understandable and justified, though at times misguided. People want to write new laws to ‘protect our daughters’ without first examining the failures of the laws already on the books. Laws that likely would have prevented these latest murders if enforced properly.

After Gardner was charged with killing Chelsea and linked by police to Ambers disappearance, prison officials disclosed that he had violated parole conditions seven times but was never returned to prison.

According to parole records, Gardner allowed his GPS battery to lapse four times. He also missed a meeting with his agent, was ticketed for possessing marijuana and was cited for breaking residency conditions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that Gardner opened a MySpace account despite a parole condition banning him from using computers; agents failed to discover the violation.

Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. The board that’s supposed to investigate the parole violation has few staff and no budget. Many of the people on the board are representatives from the department of corrections, which is essentially tasked with policing itself. One has to wonder if the governor really wants productive outcomes to come from this investigation.

Nationwide, government and law enforcement often go through the motions when it comes to crimes against women. Their actions speak much louder than their words. It is clear that sexual assault cases are not a priority. Picture storage rooms full of untested rape kits. Listen as victims of assault are deemed not credible. Observe as our community implores girls to take self defense classes, placing the responsibility solely on the potential victims rather than the perpetrators.

We need to call out the empty nods and broken promises. We need to get everyone involved in working toward a solution, not just stakeholders who have their own political interests in mind.

A new commission was formed in Cleveland, in response to the bodies of 11 women being found in the home of a registered sex offender, that looks a lot different from the one here in San Diego. The three accomplished women leading the commission are meeting deadlines, documenting problems and making recommendations. All of their 26 recommendations were accepted by the mayor. Now we wait to see if this is yet another example of paying lip service or if a community will finally demonstrate that they believe that indeed women and girls deserve better.

As my community is plastered with the face of yet another missing teen girl, I can’t help but ponder the interconnectedness of things. A registered sex offender is in custody, and there is a strong possibility he was involved in at least one other attack on a jogger nearby. As I read about the outpouring of support for the family and the search effort, something just doesn’t add up on a deeper level. The amount of energy and support put into the search for Chelsea King should now be put into preventing such a thing from happening again.

People don’t connect this incident with larger-scale issues like sexism and misogyny. Some of the same people whose hearts go out to this girl and her family would turn around and deny the inequality that women face. They don’t associate this negative viewpoint of all-things-girly with other examples of hatred towards women and girls. And if you try to connect the dots, they come at you with anger and more personal hatred. If you doubt the anger that women face on a daily basis, just take a look at the comments in articles such as this or this one. Many feminist sites have recurring features about the hate mail they receive. As Jessica Valenti points out in a response to the comments on her Washington Post piece (emphasis in original),

As irritating as it can be to read comments like these, they prove a valuable point: Sexism is not only alive and well; it’s angry. These comments are not taking issue with my article with a ‘well, I don’t really agree women have it that bad’ kind of argument. They’re furious and they’re hateful. And they’re an excellent reminder for why feminist work is so important.

Another example of a connection that’s not being made is the widespread practice of treating women’s bodies like objects (see here and here). There is such a clear connection between this kind of objectification and a sexual predator who uses his victim and throws her away.

If you are genuinely concerned about this young girl and others like her, you have to acknowledge that sexual assault does not happen in a vacuum. We live in a society that teaches men that success can be measured by access to women as sexual objects (Tiger Woods). A culture that sexualizes young girls, laughs at rape jokes, blames victims or turns the other cheek breeds these predators.

A refusal to acknowledge deep-rooted sexism and pervasive violence against women makes you part of the problem, rather than the solution. If you care about your sisters and daughters, you have to make the connections between these incidents and the bigger picture. Every time. It can’t be selective. It’s got to be consistent. The same people who were out there searching for Chelsea should be dedicating their time and energy into preventing future sexual assault. It can’t just be when it hits close to home, but maybe the close to home ones will open people’s eyes.

Yesterday, in Tiger Woods’ apology for (getting caught in) his marital infidelity, he made the following statement:

I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them, he confessed. I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules.

He felt he was entitled. To what? To having any woman that he wanted be sexually available to him. Why? Because he is a wealthy, famous male athlete and that gives him the proverbial all-access pass to what he wants whenever he wants it. It is widely known that high school athletes on recruitment trips to prospective colleges are often offered women as part of the ‘perks’ of attending that college. Current Legal Developments in the Cal State system note:

…part of the strategy for recruiting high school athletes to play football at the university was to promise them alcohol and sex during their campus visit. Female ‘ambassadors’ were asked to escort the recruits around campus and to make sure that they ‘had a good time.’ One ambassador apparently arranged for several football players and recruits, who had been drinking, to visit Simpson’s apartment. Ms. Simpson and Ms. Gilmore were allegedly sexually assaulted and were too intoxicated to consent.

According to this same article, the media has reported on this widespread policy of ‘showing recruits a good time’ since (at least) 1983, yet the practice appears to continue unchecked today. Woods hit the nail on the head with regard to his sense of entitlement toward women, but he is wrong about male athletes and the rules. We clearly judge male athletes’ behavior by a different set of standards.

“There is a mentality among athletes that ‘we can get away with this, that no one is going to challenge us because we are student athletes,’” said Richard Lapchick, professor at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. (ABC News)

The general population has a conviction rate of 80%. The conviction rate of an athlete is 38%. (Benedict/Crosset Study)

The discourse surrounding male athletes’ transgressions sends them a clear message that we’re willing to turn the other cheek, as long as their behavior does not get in the way of their athletic performance or, as in Tiger’s case, their sponsors’ ability to package and sell their image for millions. But is this true only for athletes?

But former college athlete and coach Peter Roby, director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, disagreed that this is a problem for athletes specifically. The former basketball player for Dartmouth College said damning the athletes misses the larger point. This is how society instructs men in general to behave, he said, and athletes have merely achieved the pinnacle of that goal. (ABC News)

The society that teaches male athletes to view women as prizes they’ve earned is incapable of viewing women, female athletes included, as anything but sexual objects for consumption. Just ask Lindsey Vonn.

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was arrested early this morning for allegedly choking and restraining Tila “Tequila” Nguyen. The coverage on sports sites unsurprisingly focuses on how this will hurt Merriman’s team, and frustration that this could happen so close to the start of the season. According to SR at the Bleacher Report:

The real questions is…What in the world was Merriman thinking? After all this time in working to come back into the NFL, why would he do something so stupid to not only hurt himself, but his team as well?

To the author’s credit, he does assert that NFL players can’t be choking women and getting away with it. But his immediately concern for the player and the team, with very little consideration for the health of the alleged victim (a sentiment echoed by several articles) is staggering.

Check out this poll:

MerrimanPoll

Misogyny in the sports world is thriving. If you have any doubts, read the comments section of any article covering this story. As a woman who loves sports, it’s growing harder to support any professional team because they condone violence against women.

Late last year, Brian Giles, outfielder for the San Diego Padres, faced assault charges by his former girlfriend. At first, the Padres came out with a strong statement insisting that they would not condone any form of violence against women and, much like the Chargers are doing, vowing to watch the case carefully as it unfolded. Despite video evidence showing Brian Giles throwing his girlfriend on the ground in a public place, the story was swept under the rug. At first, I tried not to support the Padres, a team I’ve rooted for my entire life. Eventually, I started watching games again, secretly rooting against Brian Giles each time he played. But why am I forced to choose between loving professional sports and condoning violence against women?

Sadly, Michael Vick has faced a much stronger backlash for his role in dog fighting than any recent athlete accused of violence against women. Is it because no one was able to turn the tables in the Vick case and blame the dogs? Shawne Merriman’s alleged attack on his girlfriend happened this morning. How long will it take for the media to blame his victim and then forget anything ever happened? Michael Vick has inspired boycotts and angry petitions from sports fans and non-fans alike.� Where’s the “NFL Fans Against Violence Against Women” group?

Salon reports that secret recordings have been released in which one Army psychologist admits that he is under a lot of pressure not to diagnose returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can listen to the recording and read the details here.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing. (emphasis mine)

Just days ago, Ann Jones asked “How can we stop the epidemic of killing women and children by returning soldiers?” She notes that the young men we send to war are not the same ones returning home. She doesn’t blame them (several excerpts below, but read the entire post here).

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them “changed” and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans’ services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

All too often, the war wounds turn into violence against the servicemen’s family members.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it’s naturally worse — as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: “S.F.’s [Special Forces members] don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off…”

As it turns out, the military is not only creating the problem but covering it up.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn’t even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

It is perhaps the same flawed medical evaluation process described above that prevents the cycle of violence from being addressed.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the “Black Raptor,” half-man, half-dinosaur.

As the current administration talks of military escalation in Afghanistan in this time of recession, the conversation must address the military personnel coming home. Will they have jobs? Will they be given psychological support and the necessary medical attention to transition home? Or will they be left alone, brain injuries and all, to make sense of their new lives?

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love. (Ann Jones)

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