BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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Schools Teach Shame and Bullying

January 23, 2013 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Sex

I came across this news story yesterday. Some school official told a girl’s mother that, if her daughter wanted to end the harassment she was subjected to, she should get a breast reduction. Because, you know, how dare you have a body that might make people think of sex.

And then there is the video posted up at Womanist Musings a little while back.  Teens were shown the story of Amanda Todd – the girl who was harassed, stalked, slut-shamed, abandoned by her friends, and eventually killed herself. Because god forbid you show your tits or have sex. And if you don’t have anything to show, you will get shamed for that too, as one of the girls in that video tearfully describes.

The school official that suggested a breast reduction isn’t some anomaly. @Pliny_theElder put it perfectly.

@ "shouldn't have dressed that way" reaches its logical conclusion: "shouldn't have been born that way"
@Pliny_theElder
Eugene V. Dubstep

School is all about control and shaming. And the kids learn to shame and bully just like the adults. Look at some of the tweets that went out yesterday with the tag #IGoToASchoolWhere

#igotoaschoolwhere the dress code is more important than the education. DON'T SHOW YOUR SHOULDER IT DISTURBS OTHER CHILDREN TRYIN TO LEARN
@TheDummiee
MarioPerez Jr
#IGoToASchoolWhere the teachers care more about what trousers/skirt you're wearing, than what grades you get.
@DaniChivers
Daniellee
#igotoaschoolwhere the uniform being worn properly is more important then the education
@kristenshepley
Kristen Shepley

Is it really a shock that, when a school spends all their time monitoring how much skin you are showing, you end up with comments like:

#igotoaschoolwhere some girls walk around half naked but demand respect from guys. #no
@sami_bourjas
sami bourjas

(92 retweets last I looked. The number of girls who retweeted that makes me want to vomit.)

People hear about Amanda Todd and ask what we should do about bullies in school. Administrators need to crack down. Parents need to get involved.  We better do away with free speech because of bullies. We should put students in jail for filming a fight, because that is cyberbullying. Kids are so mean and out of control. How can we better control them?

Kids are mean. They are mean precisely because parents, administrators, teachers, and every other adult they grow up around teaches them shame, shaming, and bullying every day of their lives. They are mean precisely because people are constantly trying to control them – their sexuality, their thoughts, their appearance, their dreams.

And the tinier the box we push kids into, the more nasty they will be in trying to keep other kids smashed into those same boxes. You want to know how adults can stop bullying? Stop being bullies.

P.S. That pic is from a story by Dick Gregory about how he learned shame in school.  Read it.

Halloween Hussies

November 03, 2011 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Sex

Halloween just passed and with it came the usual slew of posts about women and their slutty Halloween costumes.  The consensus seems to be that women feel pressured to dress sexy for Halloween.  Hugo Schwyzer had one of the more intelligent posts,

the problem lies in the compulsory sexualization that is so much a part of today’s Halloween celebrations for teens. A lot of us are more upset by the absence of options than by the absence of fabric; we know that pressuring girls to act sexy is not the same thing as encouraging them to develop a healthy, vibrant sexuality that they themselves own. I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.

Now I don’t disagree that compulsory sexualization is wrong. Compulsory anything is wrong. But I don’t know that compulsory sexualization is what we are seeing. In fact, I think it might be the opposite.

A while back, one of my friends asked Facebooklandia why women love Halloween so much. One of the women answered, “Most women love Halloween because they can dress all sexy in public and no one thinks they are hookers.” In other words, it isn’t that women feel compelled to dress sexy. It is that Halloween is one of the few days you can dress like that and get away with it.

On Halloween, I can wear those awesome, thigh high, vinyl boots without other women giving me the stink eye. And since everybody else is letting it all hang out, the smarmiest dudes attention will be spread around. I’d wear those boots every day during the winter if I could.  They are warm as shit. But it would make for some very awkward work meetings. (That’s me hanging out in my winter gear. That’s totally what I’m wearing when I write these posts.)

As to the absence of options, it seems people think us poor little girls can only manage to buy pre-made costumes in a plastic bag. It so happens that I am lazy and that is often what I do. But Halloween is creative time. The best costumes are the ones people make. One of my friends taped a bunch of smarties to her pants. And voila! Smarty pants! Instant costume. We aren’t shackled to what some crap store feeds us. Perhaps we should be lamenting a lack of creativity?

To be fair, Schwyzer’s article is about teens. And most of what he says is spot on. I suppose I can understand why people are creeped out by really young girls dressing like prostitutes. I can only imagine how people reacted when my nine year old ass actually did dress like a prostitute. My seven year old friend was my pimp. Her sign said, “Bunny, $100 a trick.”  It was my sister’s idea. I think she was either trying to get rid of me or damage me for life. (I know you read this blog, Sister. I blame you for everything.)

One of my parents probably should have intervened at that point. What can I say. My father would do or accept almost anything for a laugh. (OMG. I think he was a hipster! Did they have hipsters in the 1940s?) Almost thirty years later, I could write a thesis on why that was inappropriate? But I don’t think I felt pressured by society to be sexy. In fact, I’m fairly certain that society was appalled, which is exactly why my father and sister found it so hilarious.

I’m sure a psychiatrist could have a field day with this little tidbit.  But the point is this. Maybe if we didn’t police what women wear every other day of the year, we wouldn’t want to let it all hang out on Halloween. And perhaps if we stopped treating kids like they are brainless automatons and gave them an empowering education about sexuality and a little respect for prostitutes, they would make different choices. Even at nine, I would have understood.

That’s my two cents. Mostly this post gave me an excuse to wear my boots and snazzy Anarcho-Drunkard t-shirt. Like Joe says, “Those molotov bottles don’t just empty themselves.” You all can buy one here. (Sorry it took me so long to snap it, dude. I’ve been busy… and drunk.  Hope you like the pic. I’ll expect a vodka tonic for every five sold. Just don’t buy me any more of those chocolate martinis. They were almost the death of me.)

Why Slutwalk?

May 19, 2011 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Sex

One morning, when I was in eighth grade, I got dressed for school and went outside to wait for my father to drive me. I was wearing a long knit skirt, sweater, and some boots. My outfit would have met the requirements for an orthodox family temple outing. But when my father walked out the door and saw me, he told me I looked like a slut. I was devastated. More than that, I was baffled.

You have to understand that, when I was a kid, my father and I were as close as two people could be. There was nobody on earth that I would rather have spent time with. My father wasn’t some uber-conservative, misogynist douchebag. He was the guy who always made me feel like my opinion was important.  He was the one who made me believe that there was nothing I could not do.

There was nothing slutty about what I was wearing (if you believe in that sort of thing). It wasn’t about that. And at some level I knew that. But I still didn’t quite get what the hell was going on. All I knew was that my father’s attitude toward me changed. In fact, all men’s and women’s attitudes toward me changed. One day I was playing with barbies and the next day grown men on the street were trying to fuck me. The really mindboggling part was that somehow their desire was my fault. Somehow that made me dirty and wrong. There was some kind of code that I was missing.

One of my friends at the time had the misfortune of having huge boobs. She would spend hours in a store trying to find exactly the right t-shirt. If it was too big, she would look fat. If it was too tight or the neck was too low, then she would look like a slut. In the hours that she spent trying to find a shirt that fell just perfectly on the spectrum between fat slob and dirty whore, she could have written a novel.

It really didn’t matter if my friend found that perfectly chaste t-shirt. Because if something had happened to her, it would still have been her fault. If she was wearing a t-shirt, someone would say she should have been wearing a turtleneck. If she was wearing a turtleneck, someone would say that she should have been wearing a hijab. If she was wearing a hijab, someone would say the attack was due to some errant hair.

The idea that girls and women are in some way responsible for other people’s action, for the sometimes truly awful things that people want to do to them, is pervasive. It is so pervasive that, when an eleven year old girl was gang raped, the first reaction was to examine her actions.  Really? Is there something that an eleven year old can do to bring something like that on herself? What kind of society even lets that thought pass through their heads?

My teen-aged reaction to this bullshit (and a whole lot of other bullshit) was a big, punk rock Fuck You. I was not reading Betty Friedan. I did not have deep thoughts about how all of my personal mini-tragedies fit into a larger context. I knew that it hurt. I knew that trying to conform to social expectations would make me lose my fucking mind. I knew that, if I wanted to survive my teen years, I was going to have to give everyone the finger.

So I did. It didn’t always work out. Sometimes I did some really self destructive shit. I spent way to much time acting in opposition to things and to people.  I did not understand that, when you are acting in opposition to people, you are still letting them define you. But it was the road I needed to take.

I’m boring you with this tween years confessional because a couple of people have inquired about my participation in the upcoming DC Slutwalk. For those of you who have been on Mars for the last few weeks, there was an incident in Toronto that set off a firestorm.

“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” the officer said, according to Hoffman. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Women in Toronto got pissed. They decided to give that cop, and all the others like him, a big punk rock Fuck You. So the slutwalk was born. And women all over the world have been marching – sometimes scantily clad, sometimes not. Tiara will march marched with a sign that says said,

This is what I wore when I was raped. I still did not ask for it

I think Katherine Feeney and Suzanne Moore were a bit like me as kids. They get the riot grrl attitude behind the slutwalks. But lots of other people don’t like the slutwalks at all. Some people just don’t get the in your face fuckyouedness. Some people think that victim blaming really isn’t a problem anymore. Some think the word “slut” can’t be reclaimed. Some say the slutwalkers are just ruining things for real feminists. There are those who say it is too feminist and those who say it is not feminist enough. Some people think that it isn’t very sophisticated, only showing one side of the madonna/whore dichotomy. Still others say it is racist.

Every day that I open my blog reader there are more articles on the slutwalks. And I was going to respond to the criticisms. I was going to write about how some people just don’t get the attitude. I was going to write about how things don’t always have to be so fucking intellectual. I was going to write about how I thought some of the criticisms were valid. But then I thought….Meh.

The truth is that I am going to participate in the slutwalk because my inner fifteen year old thinks it is …like….totally….fucking… awesome. That’s it. I’m not going to intellectualize it or make excuses for its shortcomings. I’m not going to pretend that it is inclusive or that it is going to solve anything. I don’t believe that suddenly everyone is going to understand how debilitating it can be to be on the receiving end of that hate.

One thing that is certain is that we are talking about this issue in a huge way. I think that is a good thing. I wish that there had been a big public discussion like this when I was a teen. Maybe it would have helped me. Maybe I would have put two and two together a little sooner. Maybe I would have seen how scared shitless and emotionally ill-equipped my father was. Maybe he and I would have found a way to heal our relationship before he died, because we would have understood that what was going on between us was much bigger than just us.

Or maybe not. All I know is that me and my inner fifteen year old are going to put on a completely inappropriate outfit and give a big, cathartic Fuck You to a lot of clueless people. And it is going to feel good.