pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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Be Brave, Be Heard

Something sort of weird happened on the way to sharing a picture for the #WeStandWithWendy campaign.

A couple years ago my friend Lady Katza from Peanut Butter Macramé took a picture of her daughter. She had made a gorgeous Little Red Riding Hood costume for her daughter, and completed the costume with a bloodied axe and a wolf’s head.

Her daughter was 8 in the picture; unmistakably prepubescent. There was little question of context for herself, her husband, or for me. In this storytelling, Red had saved herself with a Huntsman’s axe. She did not need saving. The girl in the picture was wide eyed, with her innocence still visibly intact. She did not look menaced or menacing. She looked determined, and young. It was, ultimately, a picture of female innocence that was capable, and not the least bit helpless.

It was the kind of story-in-a-picture that upends paradigms, in short.

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We loved it.

A few years passed. Years full of assault to women’s rights and women’s autonomy. Steubenville. The Paycheck Fairness Act being rejected by every single Republican representative. State after state falling down in upholding Roe vs. Wade.

Texas front and center.

State Senator Wendy Davis’s now famous filibuster blew our minds. We stayed up late into the night, completely riveted.

We watched as the Texas State Senate ended Ms. Davis’s filibuster on technicalities. We watched as other Senators picked up Senator Davis’s mantle and continued her filibuster. We watched  as the Texas State Senate closed them down, too. Then we watched as the outrage filled the Senate, and the people in the gallery picked up the mantle and ran the final minutes of the clock down. Then we watched the complete disregard for their own State’s Law with which they took the vote anyway, and passed the bill that would deny not only the rights that had been established with Roe vs. Wade, but also general healthcare for women in Texas. We watched as the record was fraudulently changed to show that the vote had happened within the time limit. Then we watched the bill dissolve under the world’s scrutiny.
Then we watched Texas Governor Rick Perry do what all knew he would, and schedule a second special session to again pass a bill that had been denied passage by the people of Texas.

This isn’t really about that, though. I mean, all of that matters, but that’s not even what I’m talking about here.

Orange was the new color. We donned orange to stand with Wendy Davis. Lady Katza mentioned the picture she had of her daughter and thought it would be an interesting picture to submit, were the color to change from red to orange. It was a picture of a girl with courage, determination, strength and no fear. She did not need to be saved. She was saving herself.

I agreed. It was late, though, and she had to go to sleep, so I turned to Laura Ross at @laurarossdesign.com to help turn Red’s clothes orange for us. Laura obliged happily. Red was now orange, and some subtle highlighting  was added.

I sent the result to Lady Katza, and in the morning she tested the waters by posting the original pic to her FB feed.

Then the weirdness started. The photo was picked apart. Red was recast as Lizzie Borden. Lady Katza was unsure whether it would be a good idea or not to post the picture at all, let alone with orange and text. Was this actually a strong picture, as we thought?

See, the thing is, there’s no context for this picture in our culture. This fits no archetype. A woman who violently defends herself is sexualized and fetishized into Lara Croft type tits-and-ass caricatures. We, as a culture, slut-shame away her frightening power.

That just wasn’t possible with this picture. This picture shows a little girl who is not menacing or menaced. She is competent, unafraid, and still in full possession of her innocence. The only other example we could even come up with was Hit-Girl from Kick Ass. That was kind of startling.

Of course people were going to create a menacing context for the picture, there was no other available context with which to view it.

Well then. We just need to change that. We need to create stories where the girl saves herself. We need people like Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte to be strong examples for us. We need Brave’s Merida, and no, thanks, we don’t want her slimmed down, given bigger boobs, a tinier waist, and made into a simpering Disney Princess that needs her complementary Prince. We need a Little Red Riding Hood that doesn’t wait for a Woodsman to save her, but saves herself.

We are ready to stand, and we will not sit down, and our daughters are ready, too. We will be brave. We will be heard. We will stand.

standwithwendytext


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I Just Can’t

I have one more thing to say. After that, I think I’m done on this subject for a while. Frankly, there are an awful lot of people saying it better than I am, and staying on it. I’ve got fatigue from it. I need to think about different things to face my day and put the best me forward for myself, or else face hopelessness. That doesn’t really do anything for anybody.

So.

In the wake of Steubenville. In the wake of the knowledge that there were purportedly further pictures on the boys’ phones of at least two other girls face down and inanimate-looking on that same carpet. In the wake of the fact that those pictures seem to no longer exist. In the wake of the rumors that there have been other girls that this Rape Crew treated sadistically as sub-human toys. In the wake of the knowledge that there are 232.2 rapes per day in the US, on average. In the wake of the knowledge that 54% of rapes go unreported in the US. In the wake of so much that I can’t even really find a stopping point, or hell a middle point in showing you what you need to see if you haven’t worked out that feminism is needed right now.

In the wake of all of that, I’ve heard a question or questions from many men, and even some women who have been fortunate to somehow not receive as much of the culture that the rest of us are permeated in.

The questioning thought’s path is, or can be paraphrased to “why don’t women stop this violence? Why don’t they report it when it happens? If rape and sexual assault are so horrific, why do they seem so unsure that it even happened and it wasn’t just a mundane sexual activity that they participated in and then felt retroactively unsure about?”

There’s a lot of reasons, really. This is about that “rape culture” term that you’ve heard thrown around so much lately. The term means that our culture is one that is supportive of sexual assault happening, denying that it happens when it does, blaming the victim themselves if they come forward to report, then finally protecting those who perpetrate, want to perpetrate, or will perpetrate as people who should celebrated and protected.

How are we supportive of sexual assault happening? The better question is how are we not, but fine. Let’s approach this one. We are supportive of sexual assault happening because we use terms that objectify women. We say they are a “sure thing,” or a “dog.”  We use terms like “friendzone” to refer to a condition where a man was nice to a woman, and the woman did not respond by responding sexually.

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We quite literally use images of women being victimized sexually to sell men products. I don’t mean pictures that depict fetish subculture consensual sexuality, either, but actual women-as-sexual-victim ads (a lot of the ads in question are low on this post, but be sure to read the whole thing, it’s really well written).

Shit. You know. I fleshed this out. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple days. That’s how I do things. I have a draft or three saved of ideas, and I come back to the one I’m working on regularly. Adding to it here and there in between my real, and very important job of being a mother. Every hour that it sits here, though, I come across another news story. I come across another article, or three, or seven. I come across another fresh pain that I need to add to the pile.

I just can’t anymore. If you don’t see rape culture? If you can’t figure it out for what it is? That’s willful ignorance at this point.

Google it. I don’t know what to say. Figure it out. Just for fuck’s sake, stop doing it, stop saying that the victim was the one responsible for it happening, and stop perpetuating the space that makes it possible for it to happen. I know that it’s this hard horror to wrap your brains around and you want to make sense of it and keep yourself safe. I know that trying to figure out reasons why it happened to some other her makes you feel like you can keep it from happening to you. That’s just not how it works, though.

I can’t keep writing about it.

And my original point? The reason I started to write this whole thing in the first place? I wanted to say that if someone comes to you and says “hey, this thing happened…” give them the space to talk about it. Don’t push them. Let them tell you at their speed. Help them get help if they ask for it (and if they don’t and it really seems like they need it? gently push for it). Don’t push them for the conclusion that satisfies you, either. If they don’t want to report, understand that this is a culture that does not support people who report, and that they are doing the best they can, and support them. If they do want to report, stand by them, they’re going to need you. Don’t offer to saddle up with your friends and create some street justice, either. If they do want that (and some do) then gently push them toward the legal options instead.

Here’s some good stuff to read about recovering from rape and sexual assault trauma.

Here’s some direct support online.

Or you can call 1.800.656.HOPE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I love you. You can do this. I believe in you.

ETA: For solidarity’s sake, and perhaps as explanation as to why I’m done with this, I’d also like to offer the not that surprising fact that I am also a survivor of rape. I was raped once as a child by a stranger, and I was raped once as an adult by an acquaintance. This isn’t me flashing my creds. It’s more… hey. I’ve been there. There is life beyond it.