“What if nobody finds out?” or… Rape: Do You Really Need It? This Will Help You Decide!

Statistically*, at least one of you reading this is a rapist. I never got a chance to say what I wanted to say to my rapist, so I’ll say it to you: Stop fucking raping people. That pussy (or asshole or penis or mouth) is not there for the taking. It’s attached to a person.

That person has individual thoughts and desires and dreams and preferences, because, you know, they’re an actual human being. Accept that if this autonomous human being doesn’t want to fuck you, you should NOT fuck them.

Maybe this human that you want to fuck (who doesn’t want to fuck you) is intoxicated? Still NOT okay to fuck them.

What if they’re passed out in the spare room of your buddy’s house – or anywhere else? STILL NOT OKAY TO FUCK THEM.

Sometimes, the human being you are having sex with decides they no longer want to have sex with you, but you do whatever the fuck you want, and you continue to fuck that person. THAT’S FUCKING RAPE, YOU FUCKING RAPIST. Stop doing it.

It’s super easy: If the person you want to have sex with doesn’t want to have sex you, don’t have sex with them.

Maybe you’ll have hurt feelings and blue balls, and you might feel emasculated. That’s okay – you’ll survive. I promise. And your career and livelihood will remain intact and your penis will not fall off.*

If you’re fucking people without their consent, I strongly urge you to seek professional help – we all urge you to stop and seek help! There don’t seem to be many helplines or services for people who want to rape other people; the only resource I was able to find links to a lame ‘find a therapist’ website, but maybe it’ll get you pointed in the right direction. Your actions aren’t just hurting the people you’re raping. They’re affecting the families of the people you rape, their kids, partners, parents, and communities. You might have even created a fucking kid (or more than one, depending on how many people you’ve fucking raped) because women who are raped are two times more likely to conceive than women who have consensual sex.

If you’re waiting for someone to stop you, it’s probably not going to happen. Most of you fuckers get away with raping people because the people you rape are either too scared or too ashamed to say anything. Even if you do get caught or the person you raped files a report, the case might be too difficult to prosecute — or you might have a wealthy, well-connected daddy who writes you a fucking note and colludes with some good ol’boy judge to get you the equivalent of after-school detention.

Worse, if the person you raped knows you and loves you, they might not want you to go to prison. People who are raped by their partners often JUST WANT YOU TO STOP RAPING THEM.

So you have to stop doing it on your own. If alcohol is a contributing factor, stop drinking. If you get people drunk and take them home, tell your friends to keep you from going home with anyone so you don’t ‘accidentally’ FUCK THEM WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.

If you think it’s perfectly fine to rape other people because you believe they deserve it or because they have less value as a person, I hope you fucking die. How’s that for a twist on the rape threats so many women get for expressing their opinion on the internet? YOU can’t rape me to death if you fucking die first, you fucking fuck. In a more just world, I would say I hope you go to prison because you are a violent offender who needs rehabilitation and possibly community oriented restorative justice. But we don’t live in a very just world – 97% of you fuckers rape people and totally get away with it. So if you truly believe that you are justified in raping other people, I hope you fucking die so you can’t hurt anyone else.

But maybe you don’t like the idea of people calling you a rapist? Does it sting? This is actually a good sign – it means you know what you’re doing is wrong and you don’t want other people to know about it. There’s an easy solution: STOP FUCKING RAPING PEOPLE and apologize to the people you have already raped.***

——— 

*             “1 in 16 (6.5%) men are rapists. 2002 Lisak study, although other studies show as high as nearly 15%, or 1 in 7 men.”

**           99% of all perpetrators of sexual assault (aka FUCKING RAPISTS) are dudes. Hence, the penis remark. To the women out there who are raping people, STOP RAPING PEOPLE, YOU FUCKING RAPISTS.

***        It’s very possible that the person you raped is terrified of you and has nightmares and flashbacks about the time when you seized control of their body against their will. It’s very possible that you have mutilated them emotionally and negatively altered the trajectory of their life. If you are sincerely sorry for what you have done, coordinate with a sexual assault support group or qualified mediator to convey your apologies to the person you raped. You should not request to see them, but if you’re comfortable with a face-to-face meeting, let them know that you’re available to talk. Many people who have been assaulted express relief or resolution when their experiences are acknowledged by their offenders.

NOTE: I honestly believe that most people (even people who rape other people) can be good human beings. Maybe you’re a product of how you were raised or maybe you experienced some traumatic shit when you were a kid. It’s okay – you can still stop raping people. You can be a good person.

Here are some fucking articles:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-facts-rape_b_2019338.html

https://wearawhitefeather.wordpress.com/survivors/rape-culture-statistics/

http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ask-10000-men-about-forced-sex-and-rape-statistics-start-to-make-sense-5439627/?no-ist=&utm_source=smithsoniantopic

http://americansendingabuse.org/get-help/sexual-assaultabuse-help/help-for-rapists

http://www.vawnet.org/sexual-violence/print-document.php?doc_id=1231&find_type=web_desc_AR

https://law.wustl.edu/Faculty_Profiles/Documents/haley/SeminarPapers/GabrielPGreen-Mitchell.pdf

 

When it matters most- exclusion in ideas of political unity

Many liberal White folks are still angry that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is demanding mainstream attention through various protest methods, the most polarizing of which was when two #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupted Bernie Sanders’ speech in Seattle. They’re angry because they feel like Bernie Sanders is already doing his best. They’re angry because they feel like #BlackLivesMatter is undermining a delicate grassroots political campaign, one that is battling behemoth corporate interests that masquerade as competing presidential candidates. Bernie is talking about many pressing concerns – things like class, healthcare, poverty, prisons, and the environment. These are issues that affect everyone. These folks wonder why #BlackLivesMatter activists can’t see that Bernie is on their side.

On the whole, Bernie Sanders has stepped up. He’s added “Racial Justice” to his platform and he hired Symone Sanders as his press secretary, a woman active in the #BlackLivesMatter and criminal justice reform movements. This isn’t to say that Bernie can just sit back and wait for Black supporters and votes to come rolling in – but it does mean that he’s listening. And he’s one of the few candidates making concrete efforts toward racial justice.

But this isn’t about Bernie Sanders.

This is about Bernie’s White supporters. And no, “#NotAllBernieSupporters” are disparaging the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but a whole bunch of them are. I’m talking about the ones who feel outrage when #BlackLivesMatter activists interrupt their rallies.  I’m talking about the mostly liberal and well-intentioned Bernie enthusiasts who make up the bulk of his supporters – those who feel that if everyone would just ‘stand together’ and stop bringing up race, Bernie might actually win the primary. And, above all, I’m talking about people like me. Immediately following the Seattle rally interruption, I experienced anger, confusion, disappointment, and exasperation right along with the vast majority of my fellow White Bernie Sanders supporters. My knee-jerk reaction was to simultaneously write off the #BlackLivesMatter movement and dismiss the activists as rogue outliers. “Don’t they know they’re hurting their own cause?” “Why go after Bernie – he marched with Dr. King!” “Interrupting speeches is rude.” Yes, I actually got annoyed and dismissed an entire civil rights campaign because I thought the activists were being rude.

Many White liberal people, especially those who come from middle to upper class families, feel that the most important topics are environmental, political, or economic.  White people commonly believe that these are the root issues by which all others become important or relevant – that these are the core and universal issues facing our populace, and only by addressing these first will we be able to tackle issues of racial injustice. Because if we don’t have a habitable planet, we can’t fix racial inequality, right? Or if we continue to see increasing levels of corruption and austerity, our economy will go down the shitter and none of us will be happy. Or if unemployment rates increase, more people will fall into poverty.  

The troubling aspect of these lines of thinking is that each assumes that it’s okay for a smaller portion of our society to suffer as long as the rest of us are happy and comfortable. Yes, the environment matters! No doubt if we continue to use fossil fuels at current rates, our children and grandchildren will face dire consequences. And absolutely, topics such as Citizens United and the corporatization of our government need to be addressed, as do harmful institutional practices that contribute to increased rates of poverty and incarceration. Yet, at the heart of each of these concerns runs a common thread. Racial inequality is an exacerbating factor in every political platform championed by progressive White Americans:

  • The environment: families of color are more likely to live in areas where there are higher levels of ground and air pollution
  • The economy: unemployment and poverty rates are higher for people of color;
  • Mass incarceration (and the war on drugs): people of color are incarcerated at significantly higher rates than White people
  • Reproductive justice: women of color are disproportionately targeted and surveilled by Child Protective Services and have a more difficult time accessing reproductive services
  • Corruption in government: gerrymandering and voter ID laws are disenfranchising voters of color at alarming rates – also, this.

While there is no universal message that will meet every need of our diverse population, racial inequality intersects with all of these ‘conventional’ platforms. And not only do these platforms intersect with race; racial injustice is in fact a root cause of many political issues dear to the White liberal heart. The centuries long American tradition of perpetuating and maintaining racial inequality drives policy and business decisions and reinforces long-standing racially oppressive social norms.

Reader, you and I might have quite a bit in common, or we may have nothing in common, but just as an example, consider my (White middle class) family’s hierarchy of needs:

  1. We need high speed internet and two vehicles.
  2. We need to buy milk.
  3. We need to work on recycling more.
  4. We need to mow our lawn so our neighbors don’t get pissed off at us.
  5. We need to take our dogs to the vet and the groomer.
  6. We need to not get angry when our asshole neighbors play loud music at 12:30 am on Tuesday…
  7. We need to stop buying so much shit on Amazon (this should be closer to the top but I’m in denial).

My family lives in a safe, comfortable neighborhood. My children can walk to school without the looming threats present in high crime areas. My young sons can grow into teenagers without fearing the police or being subjected to excessive levels of state surveillance. My husband can speed on the interstate without being profiled by the highway patrol. I can use cannabis without worrying that Child Protective Services will remove my children. We have health insurance and have never had difficulty getting or keeping a job.

So, it would make sense that if I live day to day in a world where most people are just like me, I would likely prioritize the environment and universal healthcare as my main political priorities.

But if I lived in a different world, one where my children and husband had a one in three – one in three – chance of being incarcerated; where unemployment rates among people like me were much higher (and underreported) than the national unemployment rate; where I had fewer educational opportunities and was more likely to live in poverty and less able to escape it, well… my hierarchy of needs would be much, much different than what it is now.

And if while attending a rally to hear a politician talk about an issue that perhaps had little relevance to my day to day life, I witnessed two women – who looked like me and had the courage and audacity to interrupt a celebrated politician – speak about issues that directly impacted my daily existence (issues that are glossed over or diminished by the mainstream media and most politicians), I imagine I wouldn’t be too upset that I didn’t get to hear about social security.

I say ‘imagine’ and ‘if’ a lot because I don’t actually know firsthand. What I do know is Black friends and scholars are talking about their experience and it’s imperative that we listen and attempt to imagine how our comfortable lives could be much less comfortable. We have to imagine what it must be like to fear the very institution sworn to protect us, and we have to imagine having to instill that same fear in our children. For millions of Americans, it didn’t matter that Bill Clinton was a ‘progressive’ president or that Barack Obama is a ‘progressive’ president. Americans of color were, and continue to be, unemployed and incarcerated and killed and impoverished at higher rates than White people. So I have to imagine that many Black Americans don’t believe things will be any different under yet another ‘progressive’ president, even one as progressive as Bernie Sanders.

What can we do? We can listen! We can support people who experience these injustices firsthand and those who are surviving our system rather than thriving in it. We can participate in protests and/or we can counter dominant dialogue in the many different venues where it is produced (at work, in social media, at church, among our family and friends). We can understand how race intersects with every issue being discussed by our politicians and we can use our voices and our positions to highlight how people of color are disproportionately affected. We can use our privilege to speak with (NOT for) marginalized Americans.

We cannot, in good conscience, remain silent about the injustices perpetrated by our own system against our own citizens in order to win a primary – or even a presidential election. Bernie Sanders understands this and it’s past time that his White supporters understand it as well.

“How to become more feminine”

You know that time you looked up synonyms for “responsibility” and you were reminded of how fucking sexist the internet can be?

Capture (2)

Fuck you Google dictionary.

Oh wait, that was just me… But I’ll bet you run across shit like this sometimes and just shake your head. *Sigh* “Oh internet…”

However, as much as I want to barf when I encounter these little nuggets of archaic bullshit, I also like to share them. “LOOK!” I’ll say, “Look at how RIDICULOUS it is!” Why? Because there’s a pretty big gap in lived experiences between men and women, and when it comes to explaining how women experience sexism, the only way we can make well-meaning naysayers understand what sort of toxic shit is out there is to show them (and sometimes even that doesn’t work).

Another good reason to point this stuff out to your friends is so you can be reminded that your friends are awesome and smart, and that’s why you’re friends with them:

Capture fb response

SOMETIMES though, there’s this garbage and even though the internet is a vast space with plenty of darker, more horrifying examples of sexism, this one was particularly vomit-inducing. BUT THEN I FIGURED OUT I CAN EDIT WIKI-HOW!

Capture intro

So I did. Unfortunately….everyone else can edit it too…

goddammit

The original author rolled back all my edits and this lovely article reverted to its oppressive old ways (*also, because I used strikeouts to preserve the crazy original text, I was also not adhering to wiki-how’s editing guidelines). BALDERDASH AND CLAPTRAP.

But I got screenshots😀

(Click the on the images to enlarge)

The end!😀

Dear Future Ex-Lovers

This essay was written by Haley K.- a friend, an activist, a mother, and a sex worker.

Dear future ex-lovers,

My relationships are bound to fail. This is not necessarily my fault, although with what I am about to write, most of society will place the blame solely on me. My attempt is to try and disrupt the idea that choosing to partake in a socially unacceptable practice somehow justifies violence, morally based attacks, or attempts at saving/restoring me to my “true self”.

I’ll tell you when we start dating that I am a sex worker. You’ll ask what that means. I will tell you. You’ll try and hide the look of disgust from your face as I explain that I exchange sexual services for cash. You’ll ask if I’m a prostitute. I will say yes, but gently and patiently tell you that I prefer the term “sex worker.”

You might be accepting at first. You might not. Sometimes, you’ll ignite into a full on rage and physically hurt me. Sometimes you’ll put your hands around my neck and choke me. Sometimes you’ll throw me down on the ground and bash my head into my closet door repeatedly. Sometimes you’ll apologize for that, and usually you’ll validate your reaction by saying that you just can’t understand how someone seemingly so normal could degrade herself like that, and in turn disrespect YOU like that. That’s not the story I want to tell though.Love Isnt Free 001 [small] Jan 2015

More often than reacting in physically harmful ways, though, you’ll get the sympathetic look on your face, apologize for nothing in particular, and throughout the duration of our relationship, you’ll try and save me from myself. I’m going to work, I’ll say. Are you sure you want to do that? Can I pay you not to go? Want me to drive you? Do you know this guy? You weren’t in the mood last night, and now you’re going to fuck some other guy, so obviously I’m not good enough and clearly you don’t love me but I will continue loving you because obviously you are a broken, immoral soul who needs to be supported and saved by a good, upstanding man like me.

Either right away, or later after you’ve claimed you’re open minded about my profession, you’ll inevitably ask me questions – questions rooted in insecurities of yours, questions rooted in your perception of me, and questions centered around the morality of a frowned upon and illegal practice. In order to save you some time, I’ll answer them here:

You’re too smart, pretty, and driven to be a whore. Leave that work for the stupid girls.

Actually, I am too gorgeous, sexy, intelligent, open minded and driven NOT to be a whore. I find it demeaning to associate intelligence with sex work or being a “whore”. There are many intelligent sex workers I know who are also attorneys, social workers, masters students, PhD candidates, the list goes on. I also know individuals that haven’t experienced higher education, and that doesn’t necessarily determine their intelligence. In short, without negating the fact that much of the sex worker population is without the option to receive an education, I will speak for myself when I say that I find it demeaning to associate sexual labor with intelligence.

I am pretty by conventional standards. There’s a niche for every body type, and every appearance in the world of selling sex.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to claim I am too pretty to partake in erotic labor – there’s a market demand for women who look like I do (not everyone enjoys my body shape or appearance, but a lot do).

I am intelligent, so I am able to handle my money and as part of my intimate encounters, I am able to offer an additional element of intellectual conversation. So with the physical intimacy I also add intellectual and emotional intimacy (which in turn, keeps clients faithful to me, and I to them. This reduces the need to meet new clients, where I am more susceptible to violence, rape, and/or law enforcement involvement). I am driven – and I am driven in many different areas. I am driven to become an author. I am driven to become a better mother. I am driven to be an activist to help in the fight to gain rights for sex workers and change harmful narratives that (especially) women involved in the sex industry are powerless, passive, and victims. That’s simply untrue.

Were you abused as a child? What traumatic experience happened that would lead you to this? Did you have a pimp?

No I was not abused. No I was not a runaway. I have had trauma in my life, but none of this trauma forced me, coerced me, or otherwise led me into being a sex worker. I did have what some would call a pimp. For three weeks. Once empowered with the knowledge, I said goodbye. He didn’t track me down to kill me. He didn’t force me back to work. He didn’t threaten me. He called a few times because he missed me. That was all. What led me to do this work was an initial fascination with the illegality of it, and my own internal debates about whether or not sex work was in fact immoral. This was when I was 19. I toyed with the idea for quite some time. The first time I received cash in exchange for erotic labor was with my soon-to-be, so-called pimp. He gave me $17.00 to let him jerk off onto my glorious tits. After that, I thought about how easy it was, how surprisingly fine I felt with the exchange. But there were times I felt shame. There were times I felt guilt. But as I found a community that I could relate to, I stopped feeling those things and instead felt empowered and confident in my work. The narrative that all whores are there because of force, coercion, or traumatic childhoods is simply not true. I manage my own money, my own time, and do my own marketing (with the help of a photographer). I find great joy and empowerment in what I do, and what I choose to do with my money (whether that’s to give it to someone else or keep it for myself) is frankly, none of anyone’s business.  But I’ll answer that no, I am not managed in the conventional understanding of that word. Nobody is forcing me to engage in this work. But I don’t think I am any better than those that do use management, I don’t want to engage in the whorearchy – the classist, racist, and other “ist” systems in place that prevent sex workers from working together.

If I pay you, or if I marry you, will you stop being a whore? (in other words, can I have complete control of your vagina as an indication of your love for me?)

No. Maybe when I am older and ready and willing to retire from this business, I will find a sugar daddy type relationship. But I don’t know. I don’t view myself as monogamous by any stretch of the imagination, so you having complete control of my vagina is out of the question. I also don’t believe in the institution of marriage. I think it perpetuates the idea that women can be owned by men, and vice versa. That’s not to say I don’t necessarily believe in lifelong commitments, but marriage to me, seem like a business arrangement. That being said, I would likely get married if it was an act of resistance against government involvement in the lives of others – for instance, I would marry someone in order to prevent their deportation. I would marry someone I cared about deeply if I needed to do so in order to access certain resources such as making medical decisions. Continue reading

Give us a reason why the U.S. should continue to criminalize sex work and we’ll tell you why you’re wrong

This article was co-authored by Haley K.

Sex. No matter what underlying motivations exist for people having it, it’s a part of the human experience (for most people) and it happens on a massively broad scale. Like, seriously HUGE-everywhere-all-the-time.

People are totally getting it on. Right. Fucking. Now.

Sexual pleasure comes in all different forms, and as long as it happens between consenting adults, the majority of sexual encounters are within the limits of “legal” activity.

  • One-night-stand sex? Legal.
  • Just-bored-and-want-something-to-do sex? Legal.
  • Orgy-sex-club sex? Legal.
  • Getting-tied-up sex? Legal.
  • Cheating-on-your-girlfriend sex? Legal.
  • Married sex? Legal.
  • Single sex? Legal.
  • Sex-with-coworkers sex? Not advised, but … Legal.
  • Sex after sushi? Legal.
  • Sex AND sushi? Legal.
  • Sex WITH sushi? Legal.
  • Brony fantasy sex? Legal.
Pony time

Found on LandoverBaptist.net on a thread claiming My Little Pony is Satan’s newest recruiting tool

Unless you’re in public view, all sorts of consensual sex in all sorts of situations is totally fine – UNLESS at least ONE motivation involves the exchange of money for that sex (talking about children and their (in)ability to consent is beyond the scope of this writing; all arguments discussed herein refer to consensual sex acts between adults).

Not sex in exchange for jewelry, that’s fine. Not for financial ‘support’ (bills, rent, groceries, etc.) – that’s fine. Not within the confines of a marital contract (even a “mail-order bride”), that’s fine.

Just cash. As soon as cash enters the picture, the act of having sex is immediately criminal.

And it isn’t in the way people have sex, or where, or for how long, or how often they do it that is actually illegal, but specifically the reason why they’re doing it. There is no specific physical act that is ANY different from the myriad of ways people have sex that is criminalized, but simply the motivation (the thought-process) for why they are doing it. Continue reading

Blog Tour!

Often when I am supposed to be working I totally fuck around on the Internet instead. I am pretty sure this is why blogging was invented; people were supposed to be doing some shit – like laundry or taking care of their kids – but looking at stuff on the Internet was more interesting – so they decided to do their shit on the Internet. Now people blog (some people can actually make money doing it) – about how they’re not doing their laundry or they write ordered lists of all the things that make people bad parents.

Of course I’m making light of something that has evolved into a spectacular form of communication. The Internet has a way of equalizing voices that is completely impossible in mainstream media like TV and radio. It’s more accessible than ever, and pretty much anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection can write down and publish their own version of the world (I’m doing it right now). But as with any other source of information, there are definitely voices that are broadcast louder than others (the same news and entertainment agencies that dominate television have a significant presence online as well – because money). That’s why I’m pretty excited about being nominated for this blog tour. I spend a large part of my free time absorbing the world through blogs, news stories, tumblr, twitter, facebook and op-eds (and yes, buzzfeed), and on and on and on. But I know that there are some amazing gems out there that I’ll never see, that hardly anyone will see. How does anyone ever find that stuff (or, should I say, our stuff)? (Yes I just called myself a gem. Yes I did.) Continue reading

*Trigger warning – Discussion About Trigger Warnings

Why trigger warnings may hurt more than they help.

You’ve probably seen it: the “*TW” (Trigger Warning) preceding articles and news stories in social media feeds and news sites. This warning frequently accompanies stories about rape, abuse, sexual harassment, stalking, or domestic violence – topics that could potentially trigger a physiological or emotional reaction in readers who have experienced similar situations.

I follow a lot of feminist organizations and blogs, and since feminism exists because specific categories of people experience physical and organizational violence, that’s what people write about. Subsequently, I see this warning (*TW) multiple times per day. Systemic oppression and sexual violence are huge obstacles in women reaching social and economic parity, and these issues are compounded by preexisting social inequities for people who aren’t white, able-bodied, cisgendered, and straight. Feminist issues are inextricably linked with issues of violence and oppression, and therefore the subject matter is frequently distressing.

It’s vital that we continue to address these issues in any way possible – in blogs, news articles, art installations, videos, protests, auctions, film, poetry, fiction, memoirs, etc. – but the haphazard (or, worse, universal) application of the term “Trigger Warning” does little for those we desire to help, and can actually be harmful/hurtful to the most vulnerable among us. Continue reading

Patriotism and the Blue Angels

“If you don’t like the Blue Angels, you don’t like America.” – A Facebook comment in response to a Seattle photographer’s misgivings regarding military demonstrations and recruitment tactics at Sea Fair.

After returning home from Iraq in 2004 I avoided crowded places. Concerts and festivals were out of the question – the throngs of people and loud noises kicked my fight/flight response into high gear. Sporting events and air shows were another no-go; flyovers from fighter jets after the national anthem once inspired in me a sense of awe and swelling patriotism – after my deployment, however, I was only reminded of war. The piercing roar of jet engines would cause my heart rate to skyrocket and a tightly coiled knot of anxiety and panic would gather at the base of my skull making every nerve ending in my body buzz.

But my post-deployment aversion to the fighter jet flyover wasn’t just rooted in the physiological response it provoked, but also in the underlying message: To be a patriot, one must love (and be in awe of) the Armed Forces.

The idea of the Blue Angels is, at its surface, a nice wholesome message of seemingly traditional Americana. Look at our technology! Look at our might! Look at the discipline and excellence of our Navy pilots!

And those pilots are tremendously skilled and disciplined – in operating equipment that is primarily designed to kill human beings.

Think about that.

Each time the Blue Angels (or any military fighter jets) fly in formation overhead, it is a demonstration of America’s capacity to kill. In connecting our feelings of patriotism with our admiration for the capabilities of the Department of Defense, we’re essentially conditioned to conflate one feeling with the other. And a major sporting event isn’t considered complete without a military fighter jet formation flyover to conclude our national anthem. Each time military fighter jets fly over the Super Bowl, the World Series, and thousands of other events across the country, it serves as a way to reinforce the connection between our national identity and our military supremacy.

Red-White-Blue Deadly Patriots

So what? Isn’t military supremacy a part of our American heritage?

Yes, the US Military has been an integral part of US history (a history that was shamefully introduced with the genocide of Native Americans). But is employing the US war-making apparatus as central to our national identity actually a good thing? In the past we celebrated the return of our veterans from WWI and WWII and then helped them find their way back home with education and housing programs. As a nation, we began the work to right injustices that existed for people of color and women and those in poverty through numerous civil rights acts and social justice reforms. National protests brought our soldiers home from Vietnam. Our pride and heritage was centered on celebrating and bettering the lives of individual Americans.

Now the way we celebrate our country has morphed into a quasi-worship of the Armed Forces. “Support the troops” tropes have supplanted connections with actual veterans, and those Americans who question the value or need for increased defense budget allocations or preemptive military actions are in turn accused of lacking patriotism.

It’s a disturbing shift.

In much the same way US Military fighter jets have been incorporated into numerous American celebrations, at those same events the American flag is almost always carried out by service members or veterans, nameless and faceless in their uniformed number, merely a representation of the larger organization. Under the pretext of honoring veterans, the American flag is repeatedly associated with conflict and war. And at these events, are we really honoring the individuals who served? Do we learn about their favorite past times, their families, or their goals for the future? Almost always the answer is “no”. The Veteran or The Service Member is simply a placeholder meant to keep in the forefront of our minds the ever present connection between America and its fighting forces.

There are many other ways to celebrate the vast array of traditions and diversity in the United States without incorporating a demonstration of military power. Rather than watching nameless and faceless uniformed troops unfurl our colors at national sports events, imagine seeing elementary students or family members of the local team carry out our American flag. Perhaps instead of incorporating fighter jet flyovers after the national anthem, we could honor first-generation college graduates or recently naturalized American citizens.

While the US Military and American identity are connected historically, they aren’t inextricable. Celebrating our national heritage does not require that we also celebrate our ability to make war. Our national pride is not inseparable from our military might, and I argue that we will act as better Americans (and better plan for a peaceful future) if we do separate our national identity from our military capacity.

Babysitters, Car Shows, and Girls — Defining Gendered Spaces through Image Searches

Google search is a fascinating tool for surface-level social and cultural analysis. A 2013 UN Women campaign used search terms and auto-predict to demonstrate common searches about women, and the results are CRAZY and eye-opening. But that’s old news, right? What else can we do with Google searches?

This morning I was doing some preliminary “research” on gender and space (which resulted in quite a few references to Sally Ride – Haha, yay for unintended puns). As expected, there were a TON of academic and scholarly articles but that wasn’t really what I was after. I wanted some examples of how public areas and spaces can be “gendered,” meaning the ways that gender is reinforced and reproduced by and through our environments. A really blatant example of reinforcing gender roles is the way most department stores separate toys into “pink” (girl) and “blue” (boy) aisles. Car toys are almost exclusively marketed towards boys, so I decided to take it a step further and see what I would find in the adult realm. I typed in “Carshows” into Google and did an image search. This is what I got:

Capture

Okay, maybe I spelled it wrong… Here’s “Car Shows”in a Google image search:

Capture2Wow. This search yielded pretty much the same results.

I’m definitely not a search engine expert and this neat Google description of how search engines work in general was helpful. I’m assuming image searches work in a similar fashion by using algorithms and indexing to load the top results. I know that in regular and image search mode, auto-predict will provide you with the top searches related to what you’re typing – at some level this probably influences us to correlate the subject with the auto-predict results, even if those things aren’t actually related. If “car shows” actually means super-duper sexed up chicks placing their boobs on cars, what images would other terms generate?

I quickly realized that while it’s not a tangible “space” (I don’t physically go to Google to find my information), these image results are to a degree representative of commonly held perceptions. And in this example of “car shows” I definitely get the message that if I attend a car show, it will likely be a gendered space where women are commodities rather than consumers (and therefore not a place I would feel comfortable or welcome). So even before I consider attending a car show, I’m already deterred. Even without being in the actual space, this search communicates and reinforces gender roles relating to car shows through the resulting images.

Personally I think that’s pretty powerful (and (again) personally, I would probably still go to a car show if interested or invited because FTW I do what I want).

But it’s not all about dry-humping cars (I know… you’re sad) –  I did some random searches of people in places and occupations. Some of the screenshots when viewed individually aren’t all that bad (some aren’t really bad at all) but some of the images when viewed in comparison to contrasting terms or ideas began to surface questions or observations about how we represent some of those ideas and expectations.

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Okay, that’s it. All of these results can be duplicated (if you saw something you like or whatever… don’t want to know, not judging… PLEASE don’t let it be the babysitter page – *shudder*)

Oh, before you go though – here’s a different sort of car show model! *This guy is super cool and you can read more about the unique Toyota commercial here:

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Pot, meet Kettle: The VA’s ridiculously hypocritical approach to treating PTSD

This conversation occurred during my last appointment at the VA Hospital:

Me: You guys should really start looking into cannabis for PTSD treatment. I haven’t had to adjust my prescribed meds since I started using it, and I haven’t had a drink in over a month [I used to drink ½ a bottle of wine a night]. I’m sleeping better and I’m able to manage my anxiety better than I was with the beta-blockers you prescribed. 

Doctor: Yeah… You see, there are so many issues with that-  marijuana might not work for everyone since people respond differently to it and have different reactions, plus there isn’t any conclusive evidence that it works, and it’s still illegal at the federal level.

Me: … Well, it works for me…

Doctor: … mmmhmmm… So, you were asking about what we would do if your current medication stopped being effective?

Me: Yeah… I haven’t had to adjust my medication since I started using cannabis but I am concerned about what would happen since I’ve already gone through all the different types of anti-depressants. In the past, I got to the point where my meds weren’t working anymore and I couldn’t increase the dose because I was already maxed out. Then I had to switch to a different type, and deal with all the gross side-effects that go with each medication… Now there aren’t any other medications left that I haven’t tried… 

Doctor: Well, there are options. Not all the medications work the same for everyone, and while most people will notice decreased effectiveness, some medications do stop working altogether for a few patients. So we can look at different combinations of the medications you’ve already tried to see if something else would work… I –

Me: Wait, did you just say that the anti-depressants don’t work the same for everyone?

Doctor: Yes, why?

Me: Well, then should you really be prescribing them? Since you don’t know how everyone will respond?

Doctor: uh… Oh, I see where you’re going with that. You have a really good point there.

Me: I know.

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The short video below  is an excerpt from “The Botany of Desire” and talks about the science behind PTSD and cannabis treatment. One of the best lines from the video is this one: “It plays a critical role in a sometimes underappreciated mental function: Forgetting.”

And here are a couple more links discussing the efficacy of Cannabis in treating PTSD symptoms:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/12/23/256610483/could-pot-help-veterans-with-ptsd-brain-scientists-say-maybe

http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/drugs/study-links-ptsd-and-brain-receptors-activated-by-marijuana *

*(Please note that research was published on the drugfree.org site)