The War on Terr’r Part 6: The Wiener as a Weapon (On Rape, Sexual Assault, and Patriarchy)

And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We’re talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty. You can’t have equality or tenderness or intimacy as long as there is rape, because rape means terror. It means that part of the population lives in a state of terror and pretends… that it doesn’t.

I am guessing that my astute readers will recognize that quote, but in case you didn’t, it was a portion of Andrea Dworkin’s speech, “I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape.” I am also guessing that a lot of you have been wondering why, in my War on Terr’r, I have yet to discuss the most significant form of terrorism that women face: sexual assault. I was saving the shock and awe for the endgame; the War on Terr’r is about to become an occupation, meaning I’ll still be fighting it but won’t necessarily want to say so all the time, and so this topic seems like a fitting one to address before I declare major combat operations over.

Let me start off by saying that I’m going to talk about patriarchy in this post, which I rarely do. I often find myself, when I think about things like rape being a tool of the patriarchy, feeling as if I have lost my mind because I can’t figure out how these things perpetuate themselves, can’t separate the chicken from the egg. I generally avoid referring to the patriarchy because I consider doing so taking a shortcut, but I have to here, despite my discomfort. The reason I avoid referring to the patriarchy is that it’s often an incomplete explanation. Yes, we live in one, but why does it continue to exist? Why does a ship with no one at its helm continue on the same course? Are rapists consciously trying to uphold a vast and oppressive social system when they act, or (more likely) are they taking out inchoate aggression on an individual victim? Are men who use pornography making a conscious choice to promote women’s subjugation in our society, or (more likely) are they allowing their selfishness to override their humanity for a few minutes at a time? All of the senses in which women are degraded and devalued in our society are related to each other, but why do they seem to dovetail so perfectly? How can something that seems pre-planned operate with no organizing force? Is the organizing force simply the hatred of women? If it is, then whence does that hatred come? This train of thought is circular, it goes nowhere, and it drives me up the fucking wall because I believe the only way to extirpate something is to find its root.

But let’s get to the point. Sexual assault is terrorism. Rape is terrorism. But who decides what sexual assault is? Who decides what rape is?

People seem to think Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” guideline for identifying obscenity works with rape and sexual assault. We’ve all seen movies, or heard stories, from which we find out what a rape is “supposed” to look, sound, and feel like. Strange men in alleys with weapons rape, gangs of frat boys rape. Women walking alone after dark get raped, women who get too drunk in bars and at parties get raped, women who don’t learn to fear and avoid men they don’t know get raped. Rape is violent, loud, and unexpected, and it could be lurking around every corner.

What does that image of rape do in service of the patriarchy? It allows all but that very small proportion of rapists whose actions have threatened the patriarchy itself off the hook, and it does a fairly sound job of controlling women by making them afraid to venture out alone or overstep the bounds of acceptable female behavior (i.e., it’s an effective terrorist tactic).

It’s estimated that only 21% of women who report having been raped report that a stranger attacked them. Does that simply mean that for every 21 stranger rapes, there are 79 acquaintance rapes? I wish the numbers were that “low.” First, let’s remember that that’s 21% of reported rapes. Women are highly unlikely to report a rape in the first place, but they are even more unlikely to do so when their experience doesn’t match our cultural conception of what a rape is, especially once they see how acquaintance rape victims are treated by our justice system, media, and society in general. Spousal rape? Druggings? Forget it. Those have hardly even been deemed crimes yet. Rape, being the most serious form of sexual assault, is the most likely form of sexual assault to be taken seriously and to be prosecuted. It’s a fairly sad commentary on the progress women have made toward a safe, equitable relationship with men when even the most serious form of terrorism they face is often ignored.

Stranger rape threatens the patriarchy’s ownership of women’s and children’s bodies, and so women generally have men’s support when they find themselves victims of rape at the hands of a stranger, if you don’t take into account the fact that the rapist’s attorney will most likely be allowed to call the victim a lying whore in court (gee, thanks, guys). Acquaintance rape, including spousal rape, is a whole ‘nother story. Because of the way our legal system works, women are assumed to have consented to sex unless they can prove otherwise, which is a fucking travesty if there ever was one. Lack of consent in a stranger rape is easier to prove than in an acquaintance rape, but the onus is still on the woman to prove she did not give her consent. In the case of acquaintance rape, the victim usually has virtually no way of proving that she did not provide consent. Know what that amounts to? I don’t believe that most men think about this consciously and plan to take advantage of it, but it basically means that our culture and our legal system are telling men that women are available for raping, especially if you know them.

So, we have none but the most cursory of protections from our legal system. We’re the weak, men are the powerful, and the institution that promises the weak protection from the powerful is run by and for the powerful, which means it operates at the expense of the weak. Men decide what rape is, and men have decided that the only kinds of rape they will make any kind of serious effort to help us avoid are those that threaten their ownership over our sexuality. There it is, and my head feels like it’s going to explode; I doubt that any individual man would say, “Fuckin’ A right. The whole plan is to set up a system where I can rape anybody I want, but I can also put motherfuckers in jail who rape the women and children I’ve set aside for myself to rape,” but that’s nonetheless the way shit works.

Does rape, then, really amount to terrorism on the part of men aimed at using fear to manipulate women’s behavior? This is where things get very complicated and very contentious. It’s also where most anti-feminists get their straw men from. Andrea Dworkin has been accused of saying that all heterosexual sex is rape, and feminists are often accused of saying that all men are rapists. That ain’t the fucking deal. The deal is this: men know that women live in a precarious situation in this society, know that women are vulnerable and lack the protections and power they have, and some of them use that knowledge to their own advantage. That means, in concrete terms, that some men sexually abuse some women knowing that they can get away with it because women don’t have the power to fight back, don’t have the might or even the support of the justice system behind them, don’t have any other option but to acquiesce. That means that some men coerce women into having sex with them, some men take advantage of women’s fears to manipulate them into performing sex acts they do not want to perform, some men purposely create fear in the minds of women in order to get them to comply. Fear isn’t limited to the fear of violence: it includes the fear of being abandoned, the fear of financial destitution, the fear of being left to raise children alone, the fear of being mistreated in one’s own home, and so on.

Are we to differentiate coercion from actual physical force or the threat of violence? I don’t think so. I think that when a man uses fear to coerce a woman into having sex against her will, a rape has occurred. I’m not as radical in my view of heterosexual sex as some people are; I believe that consent is possible and that there is such a thing as un-coerced heterosexual sex. Maybe I have to believe that because I’m not a lesbian, but I still do believe it. Patriarchy places women in a position in which all of our choices are limited, but I think the intent of the people involved in a sex act is the crux of the question of whether a rape has occurred. Now, that doesn’t mean that I excuse the behavior of men who are so ignorant of their own privilege that they don’t understand that coercion is tantamount to rape. Rather, it means that I’m charitable, that, despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary, I believe most men are human beings and that most of them don’t want to hurt us and don’t want us to do things we don’t want to do. It’s the men that, knowing we do not want to do something, use force, fear, or dishonesty to make us do it anyway that are the terrorists.

To recap, not all heterosexual sex is rape, but sex that has been coerced through the use of actual force or through fear (of violence, poverty, abandonment, etc.) is rape, and is thus a form of terrorism. Individual men are instruments of patriarchy, not its architects, but that does not remove their responsibility to acknowledge and address their own privilege, nor does it excuse their patriarchy-enforcing behavior.

Rape is meant to force women into boxes, to limit their actions, to remind them who’s the fucking boss, but it doesn’t always go as far as rape. Sexual assaults of any kind have the same effect. Let me tell you two stories.

When I was 11, I was walking home from school down Fulton Road, alone, when a white truck drove up on my left. The shitbag driving it slowed down, honked, and then raised his pelvis up so I could see through the window that he was having a wank, and then drove off. I was fucking TERRIFIED. I only knew one person who lived on that street, and she lived 1/2 mile away, and the entire street was fucking deserted. I was positive this motherfucker was going to come back and kidnap me and do who knows what to me in his fucking chicken shack or whatever. I went home and was too afraid to even tell my mom because I didn’t know how to explain what the guy had done. For months I refused to walk home on Fulton Road, opting instead for a potentially more dangerous route that was also much longer, and I never again walked down that road alone, even though I lived in that town for 10 more years.

When I was 16, I was at a party with some people I knew, and one of them had brought his friend, Eric. I sort of tertiarilly (I love coining words) knew Eric through the dude I was dating at the time. He was basically kind of an alpha-male asshole and was constantly doing shitty things to people that he got away with because people thought he was cooler than they were, and because that was how people who did shit on boards acted back then (and still do – I’ll be writing about the misogyny inherent in the skateboarding world shortly). Anyway, someone wanted to take some photos, and this motherfucker decided that he would get his dick out whenever he was in a photo with a girl, myself included. I don’t pretend to know what he thought the effect of doing that would be, but it scared every girl he did it to and made all of us quiet all night. It put us in a sort of tailspin because we didn’t know what was going on or what we had done, just that we had been disrespected and insulted and that his intent was to show us that he had the power turn us into victims, and so he was in charge.

These two incidents can be called sexual assaults. “Sexual assault” is a nebulous term because the patriarchy (in the guise of the justice system) gets to define it, but any act that is sexually aggressive in nature and is intended to create fear in the victim can be called a sexual assault in my book. (I don’t know that the law is even the appropriate way to deal with these sorts of incidents, anyway. I think these call for vigilantism. See my suggestions on dealing with sexual harassment.)

That’s what the wiener does for men who misuse it. I know I’ve got some readers who are into wieners (I’m still on the fence), but they can be and are used as weapons by terrorists. The wiener may be cute to some (I really don’t get you two, seriously), but it can also be used as a tool (!) of oppression against women who are seen as having transgressed whatever arbitrary role the penis owner has decided he would like to impose. Men can flash us, masturbate in front of us, or play stupid jokes on us and other men with their wieners, and the net effect is always the same: they’ve asserted power over us by creating fear in order to manipulate our behavior.

That means that all sexual assaults, up to and including rape, are acts of terrorism aimed at taking away our freedom as women and as human beings. That also means that the War on Terr’r won’t be over until Ms. Dworkin gets her wish, and not just for twenty-four hours.

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The War on Terr’r Part 4: Fetal Privilege

After my recent post explicating my stance on abortion, my resultant written scuffle with an anti-American (my term for pro-forced-birth types), and L’s post on why anti-abortion measures amount to terrorism aimed at limiting women’s freedom, I got to thinking about the various kinds of terrorism women face every day, and the result was this blog series. As such, it’s only proper that I dedicate a post to the people who inspired the whole War on Terr’r (and the most unapologetic and unrepentant terrorists women may ever face) in the first place, those anti-American types that would use terroristic tactics to subvert the law of the land and restrict women’s freedom in the most fundamental of ways.

L sums the essence of anti-American activity up as:

… violence against women to prevent them from caring for themselves, to restrict their identities to baby-makers, to limit the choices and amount of agency they have, to ignore the contexts of their lives for the potential life of the cell-clusters inside them…

Which means that anti-choicers are terrorists, does it not? Their activities aim to make use of fear to manipulate women’s behavior, whether that fear be of harassment, humiliation, or state intervention in the form of laws restricting women’s reproductive rights. If that isn’t terrorism, then Lou Dobbs loves Mexicans.

I think I ought to start by analyzing the motives of anti-Americans (although, being a freedom-loving patriot myself, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to make complete sense of such a freedom-hating ideology as theirs). The fundamental difference between anti-Americans and patriots such as myself is our conception (ha!) of when life begins. They claim it begins at the moment when sperm and egg form a zygote, and I say it’s at birth. They may argue that a zygote is a life because god says so, or because “science” defines life as:

… the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.

In either case, they’re wrong.

First of all, it’s 2008. That we’re making ANY decision based on the fabricated anecdotes of dudes who lived in huts in the desert 2000+ years ago is pretty embarrassing. I’ve gotten in trouble with one anti-American for referring to religious beliefs as inherently anti-logical, but I stand by that statement and here’s why: if a belief is logical, we needn’t worry about having faith in it. Believing that the Bible is a book, for example, is something we can all logically infer from empirical evidence. Believing that it is the divine Word of some deific Dude in Sandals, on the other hand, requires us to believe, sans evidence, something that goes far beyond what we can directly observe. I’d like to think that these JC-loving types are just an advanced species of humans that have transcended positivist thinking (Comte is so outdated, man) and moved on to some more interesting and flexible thought system, but I suspect that the opposite is true and that they’ve yet to make it into the Enlightenment mentally (serious theologians, meaning those who have the capacity to debate these things intelligently and openly, notwithstanding).

The argument that “science” says that a zygote is a life and that science is thus on the side of anti-Americans is also utter horseshit. By using that definition I quoted above as proof that a fetus is a “life,” anti-Americans are opening themselves up to some serious counterarguments. First, if we are supposed to respect the integrity of every “life” under that definition, we’re all going to starve to death. Unless they can live on rocks and dirt, anti-Americans are going to need to come up with a better endorsement from “science.” Second, despite the fact that scientists may say that life can be defined as the opposite of death, the scientific community is hardly backing the anti-American position on abortion en masse. Honestly, aside from the few token “scientific” yes-men that these people seem to be able to produce, very few scientists are anti-abortion, and those who are usually base their position on their religious views rather than their scientific knowledge. The reason they do so is that, as any scientist must admit, they cannot refer to a fetus as a viable individual animal until such a time as that fetus can live on its own outside of its mother’s body. A zygote, while it is a living organism, is not yet a human being. As such, it technically fits the definition of “life,” but such a definition would also include any living thing, be it an amoeba, a donkey, a capybara, or a rutabaga. Either these anti-Americans start making dirt burgers, or they’re going to have to find a new way to mischaracterize the conclusions of secular authorities to promote their own illogical stance.

Luckily most anti-Americans have god to fall back on, because the science argument is obviously pretty lame. If you bring god into the picture, you can say that a human zygote is more important than the other kinds of “life,” because a human zygote has a soul as soon as god stretches his sparkly finger down from the heavens and touches a woman on the belly. It may be irrational, but it seems to work for them.

You hear a lot of arguments from these people about the potential of the fetus. What if that baby was going to grow up to save the world? What if that baby was going to become a firefighter or a doctor or a DJ and save your life in the future? What if Jesus was aborted!?!? Ahem. I’m pretty sure that people elect to have abortions in cases where they aren’t emotionally or financially prepared to become parents. Know what kind of parents those people usually make? Shitty ones. That means it isn’t likely their kids are going to grow up to be superheroes (DJs, maybe), but rather regular people with regular people’s problems and limitations. So, really, the “potential” argument ought to be reworded: “You may be aborting a future Sandwich Artist!”. As for what would have been the case had Jesus been aborted, I’m going to have to call the bluff of the anti-Americans: I say we’d be better off because we wouldn’t have to deal with the legacy of 2000+ years of people believing in shit that doesn’t exist, which tends to lay down some serious obstacles on the path to human progress, especially for women.

Sometimes these anti-American types let the mask slip and make a comment that clues us in to their real, albeit possibly unexamined, reason for wanting to restrict women’s access to safe health care. They just can’t stand the idea that a woman would be out behaving irresponsibly and using abortions as birth control. That’s a serious red herring, no?

I often wonder if the arguments these people provide in defense of their policy proposals aren’t a cover for their belief, conscious or unconscious, that women who have sex ought to suffer some kind of consequence. Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m fairly positive that the entirety of the anti-American movement operates from a subconscious belief in exactly that, which is evident in the logical weakness of their arguments and in the desperate appeal to “morality” they turn to when their logic is shown to be faulty (“But why should we let loose and irresponsible women use abortion as birth control?”). Mind you, I’m not saying that these guys* are consciously deciding that women who have sex are whores deserving of punishment, but that the idea has been implanted into their psyches by religion and by a society with a schizophrenic conception of sexuality and morality, and that this idea has been reinforced by their own shadowy understanding of their own societal and sexual privilege. You see, men have a vested interest, whether they are conscious of it or not, in maintaining control over women’s sexuality. When female sexuality is subordinated to and defined by male sexuality, men get to decide what sex is and how it should be done. Women hosing around wantonly is a pretty serious threat to that privilege, as well as several others that have been well documented by more impressive thinkers than me (I suppose those exist), and is therefore something to be feared and suppressed.

You know what’s not a threat to the privileges men reap from controlling women’s sexuality? Fetuses. I don’t know whether any of these anti-Americans are self-aware enough to have said this out loud or thought it in explicit terms, but the underlying sentiment in the pro-forced-birth movement is, “If we privilege fetuses, we can control women!”

Fear breeds fanaticism and hatred. White guys who were afraid of losing their privileged position after the Reconstruction stepped up their violence against blacks, men afraid of losing their privileged position in the workplace and the family are fueling the growth in the violent porn industry, you get the idea. Nothing motivates repression like the threat of equality, and nothing would contribute more to women’s equality than actual sexual freedom (and by that I do NOT mean the internalization and regurgitation of misogynistic male fantasy that is the sex industry). Therefore, the most obvious forms of terrorism women face tend to revolve around women’s sexual freedom and autonomy, as women’s sexual freedom is seen as a direct threat to the patriarchal order.

Terrorism is often the tactic of a minority when faced with a majority juggernaut. It’s the weapon of the desperate, calculated to create maximum results through the use of fear. If anti-Americans can do something shocking enough, they reckon, they can keep women from exercising their freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies, no matter what the majority of the people want, and no matter what the law says. If they bomb a clinic, they not only kill a doctor who is willing to support women’s freedom, but they also use fear to manipulate other doctors who are willing to support women’s freedom and to manipulate women who are considering going to a women’s health care provider, whether for an abortion or not. When they picket a clinic, they plan to create fear in the minds of women considering abortion as well as those who arrive at the clinic to have one; they hope that the specter of the emotional trauma and humiliation they intend to inflict will be enough to dissuade a woman from exercising her right to decide her own destiny.

But those are just the most visible of their tactics. Many anti-Americans quietly and insidiously focus their efforts on the legal system. For now, women have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and that right is guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which is still (despite what the president thinks) the last word on the law in this country. But that doesn’t mean these motherfuckers can’t and don’t weasel around the court’s decision and terrorize women in small and not-so-small ways. They’ve managed to restrict women’s access to procedures they are guaranteed the right to seek out by pushing state laws that restrict those rights in various ways. They force minors to notify their parents or the father, they force women to sit through anti-American propaganda lectures before they are allowed to receive medical treatment, they attempt to unseal the private medical records of women who have had abortions, and so on ad nauseum and infinitum. All of these are terrorist tactics meant to create fear and to thereby manipulate women into giving up their freedom of self-determination.

Well, fuck that. They’re terrorists and they deserve to be treated like terrorists, whatever that means to you. If that means throwing ground beef at them, do it. If that means getting out your Super Soaker full of piss and doing a Boyz in the Hood on them, sweet. If it means breaking their signs and screaming at them, spitting on them, throwing eggs at them, calling them anti-American traitors, or anything else, right on. When some asshole puts a sticker on his car admonishing you to think of it as a “child, not a choice,” feel free to vandalize his car, or to cover that sticker up with a sticker of your own choosing with some sort of feminist (ideally pro-abortion) message. When someone approaches you in front of the grocery store with a petition that would limit women’s reproductive rights, take their petitions and tear them up. Tell them that these colors don’t run, and make it known to your elected officials that you consider these people to be anti-freedom, anti-American terrorists, and that you won’t be voting for any appeasers.

The key is to make it not worth the hassle for them, because that’s exactly what they hope to do. They think if they’re obnoxious enough, we’ll give up and acquiesce to their terroristic demands. We just have to be more determined to protect our freedoms than the terrorists are to take them away.

* Another note: We all know it’s easier to become an appeaser than it is to resist patriarchy and run the risk of calling an act of terrorism down on oneself, and that it’s almost impossible to resist internalizing patriarchal values, so it’s no surprise that anti-Americans have been able to recruit women into their anti-woman movement.

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The War on Terr’r Part 3: Bad Medicine

Don’t act like you don’t like old Bon Jovi references.

One of my most radical (and therefore coolest) readers, chlorophyll, has pointed out one of the most insidious forms of terrorism women face, the terrorism inherent in the medical system/industry/whatever-you-wanna-call-it.

I’m out of town right now and don’t have access to my usual school clinic, which is thankfully lousy with female nurse practitioners, and I just had to go for a little visit to the doctor for a little flu-type thing. I normally request a female doctor, but they didn’t have one available and I decided to stay and see a male doctor. I can honestly say that I felt uncomfortable making that decision, because I felt like I was going to subject myself to emotional discomfort in order to avoid offending their male doctor with my preference for a female doctor. What the fuck? I heard my Homeland Security-issued Terrormeter (TM) start to twitter (It looks kind of like that thing they used in Ghostbusters to detect paranormal activity. I suggest you get one.). Was some subtle form of terrorism afoot?

My doctor, who looked like a cross between Craig Kilborn and Larry the Cable Guy in Crocs, was pretty cool as far as male doctors go, but the experience nonetheless reminded me what a strange position a visit to the doctor puts women in. Despite the fact that this doctor was perfectly well-behaved and a nice dude, I couldn’t help but think of George Bush’s little gaffe about gynecologists practicing “their love with women” and some of the experiences I had with male doctors before I was old and wise enough to know what was and wasn’t appropriate behavior on the part of a doctor.

I remember going for my yearly women’s exams when I was younger and not knowing that I had the option to request a female doctor. Those exams are heinous enough with a woman doing the examining, but when you’re 18 and alone in a room with a dude doing the exam (this was 10 years or so ago, before having a female present became standard practice during gynecological exams), it can be borderline traumatic, and that’s if the motherfucker behaves himself. As such, I would often go 2-3 years between exams, making and canceling appointment after appointment because I didn’t want to deal with the weirdness of the whole thing, which I hear is common behavior. The fact that women avoid examinations that are crucial to the protection of their health because the exams are so emotionally trying should tell us there’s a problem with the way we’re doing things.

There’s a problem with the entirety of the way our medical system deals with women’s health, and, though this connection is going to be about as easy to make as one between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, I’m going to show that the way our medical machine operates amounts to terrorism in that the culture of our medical system terrorizes women into acquiescing to treatments and procedures that are detrimental to their physical and emotional wellbeing.

First off, doctors are invested with WAY too much authority; as people with several years of training that supposedly makes them experts on that most important of subjects, health, they unsurprisingly command respect from the culture at large, and especially from their physically vulnerable patients. We are told from childhood that doctors are to be respected and listened to at all times, and that what they say goes as far as our health is concerned. It’s no shock, then, that we don’t think it’s our place to question their pronouncements. It’s only in cases of flagrant misconduct that the authority of these experts ever comes under any kind of scrutiny, and it’s a funny thing, because they rarely even seem to know what is wrong with us. The relationship between a western doctor and patient is a distinctively lopsided one; the patient must do what the doctor says and must maintain reverence for him (or sometimes her) regardless of whether his/her diagnoses and treatments prove correct and efficacious (respectively).

That to me seems ridiculous; a doctor and patient, despite the fact that the doctor may possess more cultural authority than the patient, ought to form a reciprocal relationship in which the doctor, in exchange for the respect afforded to his/her authority, takes responsibility for the care of the patient and the results of his/her ministrations. But doctors in western medicine have the full weight of science behind them, which means that they are representatives of the source of truth as our culture defines it. That’s pretty heavy shit, if you think about it. In China, for example, there are several different ways of understanding the human body, and though some of them tend to carry more authority than others depending on the circumstances, there is no one source of immutable “truth” about the human body and how it will operate. And hence, the relationship between a Chinese doctor and his/her patient is a much more reciprocal one. (I know, I know, Chinese medicine includes eating bears’ dicks and whatnot, and often doesn’t work in the way we’d expect it to, but just remember that your opinion of it is heavily influenced by your having been raised in our own science-says-it’s-so-so-it-is culture.) Anyway, what all this means is that questioning the authority of a doctor in our society is akin to questioning the established source of all truth and knowledge, and who’s going to be brave enough to do that shit? I imagine that someday our slavish belief in the ultimate truth of science will seem as odd as the unquestioning faith people had in the Church before the Enlightenment, but for now our obsequiousness toward doctors seems to know no bounds.

It’s easy for doctors to let that shit go to their heads, is it not? Imagine if 50 people came to see you every day to ask for your advice about something essential to their beings, like whether they should get tribal tattoos, and they listened raptly to whatever you said and then went home and followed your advice to the letter (the answer is no, in case you were wondering). How would that not cause some delusions of grandeur? Sure, some medical professionals can minimize the egoism corollary to such a dynamic, but most of them succumb to it to some degree over time, and some of them get into the profession knowing full well that they’ll be invested with that cultural capital and intending to use it to their own ends, whether those ends be as relatively benign as self-aggrandizement or as nefarious as easy access to victims to sexually assault. Just think about it: how many medical students do you know that aren’t assholes? Most people’s motives for entering the field in the first place are pretty weird, kind of like those of the majority of the people who choose to become cops.

So, we women head into the doctor’s office expected to place our unalloyed trust in someone whose motives we have every reason to doubt, and whose expertise has yet to be verified, and we’re expected to eschew asking any questions lest we offend this sacred authority figure with our impertinence. I don’t know about you, but that sounds suspiciously like terrorism to me, if terrorism equals the use of fear to manipulate the behavior of others.

But what fear are doctors are using to manipulate us? Are they doing it on purpose? Can we consider most doctors terrorists? I’d say that in most cases it isn’t that a doctor is consciously using his/her position of authority to frighten us into submission, but that there’s an unspoken awareness on both sides that the doctor can help us or hurt us, and we don’t know which he/she’ll do, so we’d better play nice lest we offend the doctor and bring his/her wrath (or complacency) down on our already vulnerable bodies. That fear confronts men, too (although they are conditioned to defer to male authority figures to a much lesser extent than women are). But there’s another fear that only women face when deciding whether to question a medical professional’s authority: doing so likely means we’re going to be accused of being irrational, overly emotional, or (fuck!) hysterical.

The medical system we live under right now tends to see being female as pathological by nature, and sees the female body as particularly likely to betray its owner. Everything our bodies do that men’s bodies don’t do is treated like a disorder, from menstruation to pregnancy to the fact that we have breasts. Our bodies are seen as enemies that will stop at nothing to sabotage us. Menstruation and pregnancy aren’t natural states in this system (unless you’re arguing against abortion or for women’s sequestration within the home, that is), but rather things to be “dealt with” by professionals. Saith chlorophyll:

I’m especially sketched out by the traditional insistence that women give birth lying down in a hospital, administered by a male doctor, rather than giving birth in the natural squatting position with the assistance of a midwife. … [T]here is something wholly unnatural about a woman needing institutionalized male assistance in an act as biologically reflexive as childbirth.

Post-industrial American culture seems to have conditioned its female subject from an early age to believe that pregnancy outside the institution of Christian marriage is an unnatural and dangerous phenomenon. The fear of dying by childbirth seems to be a timeless and exaggerated fear, because come the fuck on, people — the female body (as many misogynists love to observe) is perfectly designed for the process of conception and birth.

Unfortunately, most young girls throughout historical cultures have been raised in a heavy fear of illegitimate birth for reasons beneficial to men, and this fear has been wrapped tightly around the spaces of the female body. Childbirth is a natural act that even a mute retard in a McDonald’s stall could do simply because that is what the female body is equipped to do.

Why, then, should young girls be conditioned to believe that she must not, under any condition, be impregnated without the proper social sanctions in order to give birth? Most reasonably well-do young girls are raised to believe that a successful live birth is absolutely impossible without expensive medical care and a team of medical practitioners. Is it an issue of class or something? Do the upper and middle class women unconsciously seek to require such extensive professional care in regards to the primitive instincts of childbirth in order to distinguish themselves from the lower classes that are forced to give home births like crossbreed bitches because they simply can’t afford the “proper” medical care?

Most contemporary women who decide to get pregnant are subjected to a series of social obligations like frequent medical checkups leading up to the Big Day when she will be placed on her back on a stretcher before being wheeled into a room full of doctors and nurses to give birth. The helplessness conveyed by a body lain out on a stretcher is further magnified by the fact that this position defies the very gravity that is actually a helpful proponent in easing the fetus out of the womb through the vaginal canal.


The medical system also tends to assume that women, when they are ill and when they are not, are especially susceptible to bouts of irrationality and hysteria, that most feminine of mental maladies. Our mental health system, because we live in a society in which the default identity and the default normative experience is a male one, tends to treat women’s mental health as naturally defective, and tends to treat women’s emotional concerns as trivial or irrational. I’ve yet to meet an adult woman who hasn’t had a mental health professional tell her she’s a few beers short of an 18-wheeler because she’s unhappy to find herself stuck in a repressive patriarchy that limits her freedoms and subjects her to terrorism on a daily basis. I once told a psychologist that I thought this world a difficult place to be a heterosexual woman because sex was so closely tied to power, and he told me I needed to go to biweekly counseling for at least half a year to “deal with” what I consider a fairly clear and sound assessment of the current state of things. (Remind me not to share my most logical of worldviews with men whose authority that worldview threatens anymore.) I wonder if men go into a phsychologist’s office and get told they need to straighten their loony asses out when they complain that they don’t like the current government’s policies or some such thing. Probably not many.

And here’s how this all amounts to terrorism: doctors and mental health professionals, having the power to label us irrational and hysterical, having the power to deem us “abnormal,” and having the power to harm our health, hold us in a state of extreme vulnerability. Though they don’t always use that to blatantly sinister ends, they do avoid having to explain their actions and decisions (and mistakes) to us, and we keep silent out of fear of offending them, even when it comes to our own physical and emotional wellbeing. That’s the best case scenario, which we all face every time we see a doctor. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are many of us who can’t give an example of the worst case scenario, in which a doctor or psychologist, knowing that he has us in such a position of vulnerability, uses his advantage to abuse us sexually or mentally. That sure as fuck sounds like terrorism to me, since there’s an awful lot of fear being deployed to manipulate women into acquiescence and silence, even in situations in which an assault has taken place.

So what’s the solution? Frequent female doctors until the demand for them evens the field between male and female doctors? Sorry to say, that ain’t going to work. There are far too many appeasers working in the medical system, and especially the mental health field, for that to prove effective. I hate to say this, but I have to be a serious radical on this issue: our medical system isn’t ever going to serve women’s needs, nor will it ever be free of terrorism directed at women. It operates under the assumption that maleness is the ideal and that femaleness is inherently pathological, and is therefore fundamentally flawed when it comes to treating women (I won’t even get into transgender issues), and it places many women at the mercy of men who most likely don’t understand women’s experiences and who frequently abuse their position. Really, it doesn’t even serve men’s health needs very well (although that’s their problem). We’ll have to scrap the whole thing and figure something else out. But you’ll have to call Michael Moore for that shit. All I do is complain, I don’t offer alternatives.

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The War on Terr’r Part 2: She’s Such a Slut!

It isn’t only men that hate freedom. There are a lot of women who have decided to side with the terrorists and adopt their tactics toward other women in the hopes that, by doing so, they can appease the terrorists and protect themselves from acts of terrorism. I’m here to tell you appeasement doesn’t work, and it’s high time all these Ms. Neville Chamberlains realize that they’re doing business with the enemy. The War on Terr’r begins on the home front; it’s essential that we as women (and as Americans) all realize who the real terrorists are and band together to fight terrorism at its source.

Appeasement comes in many forms, but its most common manifestation is in the actions of women who attempt to enforce limiting feminine gender roles on women who don’t wish to adhere to them. Let me tell you what I mean by that.

By the time most girls reach junior high, they’ve been so inundated with the message that their chief worth lies in their physical attractiveness and their ability to attract boys’ attention that they have almost no hope of ever believing otherwise. They’ve probably been reading Seventeen and playing with Bratz longer than they’ve been doing long division, and they’ve probably spent more hours watching gender role-reinforcing television programming than they’ve spent reading, playing with their parents, and eating combined. Pink shit abounds these days. It’s no wonder, then, that adolescent girls, who have yet to develop the capacity to understand the entirety of the burden that has been placed on their shoulders by a fascistic ideal of femininity, tend to internalize the dominant culture’s ideas of womanhood and attempt to enforce them on themselves and others. They have yet to realize that it isn’t possible to be the object of every boy’s lust and respect at the same time. They have yet to discover that you can’t have rewarding friendships with other girls if you look at them as the competition. They have yet to find out that, if they play along, their lives will be dominated by the quest for male approval and acceptance and that, if they don’t play along, they can expect to find themselves victims of countless small (and not-so-small) acts of terrorism at the hands of male terrorists and their female appeasers.

In a patriarchy, women are valued for their usefulness to men, and women who adhere to patriarchal values judge other women by that same standard. Once the contest for male attention kicks off, girls discover that they only have one means of competition available to them, their appearances, and the results of that realization are not pleasant. Other girls become a source of fear in such a scenario, and nothing breeds hate like fear. When we don’t have any way to distinguish ourselves from our peers, we tend to develop hostile attitudes toward them. It’s a disgusting trap, and it’s no wonder that girls grasp at whatever straws they can reach in an attempt to escape it. That means that, in the absence of other means (appearances notwithstanding, because very few girls are born with the kinds of looks that allow them to escape this game) of distinguishing themselves, girls are left with one option: using the tools of patriarchy to tear other girls down in order to improve their own position within the patriarchal system.

It’s in junior high and high school that girls begin deploying those most hurtful of weapons, insults and exclusion, against their peers. I think most of my readers will agree that they first began hearing girls refer to each other as whores, sluts, skanks, and hos at around age 12. It’s also around age 12 that girls begin to get really vicious in their evaluation of their peers’ appearances, fashion choices, and behavior. Adolescent and teenage girls are probably the meanest people alive, and their terroristic actions during such formative times might just be responsible for a larger part of women’s unhappiness in this world than any other factor. But it isn’t their fault. They’ve been told that their worth will be determined by how much male attention they can garner, and they’ve been told that women who don’t follow the rules of the game of femininity are to be shunned and feared, and most certainly not emulated. They follow the rules, they do the toenail painting, the tanning, the waxing, the hair straightening, etc. They put on the restrictive clothing, the painful shoes, and the make-up. They pretend to be less intelligent than they are, they pander to male egos, and they mold their personalities to fit what they think is expected of them as women. They remain chaste whether they want to or not, and they don’t complain that boys get rewarded for hosing around. They go along with all this bullshit, and then they see someone else get the male attention they thought was their due for all that hard work simply because she’s prettier, or because she cheated by not following the restrictive rules of femininity and chastity.

So they try to force other girls back into what they believe is a fair competition (but which will never be one) through acts of terrorism. Adolescents and teenagers fear nothing more than the censure of their peers, so calling a girl who breaks the rules a whore, ugly, or something even worse (I’m sure there’s new slang I’ve yet to have to hear) is an extremely effective terrorist tactic when deployed against young women.

It is in this crucial period that I believe the most difference can be made in the War on Terr’r. These young women have to be told that appeasement isn’t the way to deal with a terroristic patriarchy. They need to be told who their real enemy is, and that it’s treasonous to treat their fellow victims in such a manner. They need to be made aware that it’s the unreasonable demands being placed on them that deserve their ire, not the few girls brave enough to resist those demands. And they need to be told often, because the message coming from the other side is repetitive and loud, and it comes backed up by the threat of terrorism, as I’ve defined it (tactics that make use of fear to manipulate people’s behavior, in this case the fear that boys will not pay attention to them and that their lives will thus be without meaning). Girls need to be told that when boys call them ugly, when boys call them sluts, when boys attempt to render them invisible or worthless with their acts of terrorism, they ought to tell those boys to fuck right off, not attempt to appease them by turning that sort of terroristic behavior loose on other girls.

And that applies to adult women as well. Sure, adult women tend to be less overtly vicious toward each other, but that’s only because they’ve learned to tear each other down in much more subtle ways. I don’t know about you, but I still struggle constantly with having internalized the terrorists’ values, and I think about this shit constantly. Just imagine how hard it must be for the type of woman who rushes to say, “I’m not a feminist or anything, but…” to resist turning to appeasement.

Remind yourself when you are thinking about other women that they aren’t the enemy, that you aren’t in competition with them, and that, regardless of the fact that they may be appeasers, they aren’t the real source of terrorism, but rather people in need of a dose of the Truth (capital T). Be charitable and remember that it’s easier to join ’em than to beat ’em, but make the appeasers aware of the consequences of their actions,* and then turn your hostilities toward the real terrorists. If we fight them where they live, eventually we won’t have to fight them where we live anymore, and isn’t that the goal of the War on Terr’r?
To be continued…

* Note: Unregenerate appeasers still get kicked out of the band. I say, “If you aren’t with us (or can’t be convinced to join us), you’re against us.”

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The War on Terr’r Part 1: Shut Up, Asshole

The most common form of terrorism that women face is street harassment. How many times have you had some dickface drive by you and yell something that you couldn’t make out over the din of the Eminem or Insane Clown Posse blaring from his “system” or the buzz of his enhanced exhaust, but were still sure was perverted? How many times have you walked by a group of dudes and had one of them tell you what he’d like to do to you or, worse, grope you? How many times have you had to deal with some asshole looking you up and down and asking, as if he gave a fuck, “How you doin’, girl?” I lost count before I was old enough to drive, as I’m sure most women did.

What is the source of this kind of terrorism? Are these guys all members of terrorist cells that get together and devise ways to make going outside a pain in the ass for women? Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case. It would be nice if it was, because then we’d have an easier target, but the roots of this kind of terrorism go deep and it’ll take some serious anti-terror action to shut that kind of shit down. The message of street terrorism, though most of these assholes haven’t thought it through consciously, is, “Woman, what the fuck are you doing outside? You’re making me and my sense of superiority as a male uncomfortable with all your freedom and shit. I want to make sure you know who’s in charge, so I’m going to remind you that I can reduce you to a few body parts with nothing but a poorly-constructed lewd phrase or some grab-ass that you can’t do anything about ‘cuz I’m bigger than you!”

But street terrorism is even more invidious than that. Have you ever heard men talk about their own terroristic activities? The MRA types, with straight faces, often argue that their taunts and their small acts of aggression are compliments, and they actually expect women to be flatterred at having had the opportunity to serve as the victim of an act of terrorism. They thus get to terrorize those women they consider fuckable, and also those they don’t, who they can say aren’t “worthy” of their acts of aggression. In either case, the goal is to make women uncomfortable or to control their behavior when they go outside, which amounts to an attempt to restrict women’s freedom. That sounds pretty un-American to me. This aggression will not stand.

So, what is one to do when one is the victim of street terrorism or sees it inflicted upon someone else? Call the cops? Riiight. When was the last time you sat around and listened to what cops talk about when they get together? I’m pretty sure if you don’t hear the word “pussy” at least five times a minute, there’s one of the, like, five female cops in the universe nearby. I’ve never tried this little experiment, but I may soon and I think you should, just to see if it works: next time you are a witness to or a victim of street terrorism and there’s a cop around, ask him or her to do something about it. If that works, then maybe we can use some of the master’s tools (Haha! Get it? I called cops tools!) to tear down his house, but I’m betting it won’t, and besides, how often is a cop handy when this kind of shit goes down?

I’ve heard a lot of talk about what women should or shouldn’t do in the face of street terrorism, and it usually amounts to, “Don’t say anything back, it may enrage the dude to the point that he’ll get violent.” Bullshit. If these guys weren’t weenies, they wouldn’t be engaging in that kind of shit in the first place. Besides, that threat is just another form of terrorism, isn’t it? “Don’t fight back, or the consequences will be worse! You don’t want to provoke men’s terrible rage!” Balls. The idea that we ought to sit there and take abuse from male strangers without responding because of the threat of more abuse is obscene. I still say that the vast majority of people in the world are decent and will come to the aid of someone who is being victimized, so I recommend that, if there’s a crowd around, you let the terrorist know about himself, come what may.

I think the reaction ought to be commensurate with the offense, but let’s remember that his words have more of an intended impact than most of our retorts are capable of creating, so that doesn’t mean that a reply in kind will always suffice when one is faced with street terrorism. If a terrorist attempts to force you back inside by reducing you to body parts with his words or deeds, you need to respond with something that will have a similar effect on him, something that will make him wish he hadn’t left the house. Let’s say you’re at a bar and some terrorist touches you uninvited. Would touching his wiener teach him a lesson? Not likely. So, let’s get practical. I’ll run through a few situations and provide some possible responses, and I hope people will comment with their own ideas.

  • The sitch: guy in car yells lewd comment. The response: if he’s going slow enough, do some damage to his car. If he’s not, get his license plate number and call the cops and tell them you saw him cruising for victims near an elementary school, or that he’s out driving intoxicated and putting the public at risk. If you can get his contact information with his license plate number, do it, and post fliers in his neighborhood about how he likes to verbally terrorize women on the street.
  • The sitch: group of guys make rude comments or gestures. The response: this is tricky. It’s not likely that a group of guys will all be comfortable with violence against women, but use your judgment. All things considered, I’d say an appropriate response would be to spit in the face of whoever seems to be the ringleader, then call all of them something really emasculating or make reference to the inadequacy of their wangs. I’ll leave the wit up to you, but I think the spit is key. If you’re a dude and you see some dudes terrorizing a woman, you have one tactic at your disposal that she doesn’t: you can pee upward. Pee on the guy’s pants (I recommend peeing on the shoe for any woman who wants to attempt it, too, but I think it might be easier for dudes). If it seems dangerous to approach the group and you have a car, go get in it and get out your pre-filled Super Soaker full of piss and do a drive-by on them.
  • The sitch: dude at bar/party does some uninvited groping. The response: I’d go either with pouring a drink over the guy’s head or a kick. Where to land the kick is up to you, but make sure to draw attention to him. Shame is one of the most effective ways to deal with terrorists. If the guy has to go home because he’s covered in Whisky Dick Pale Ale or because everyone in the bar/at the party saw him get kicked in the nuts and yelled at by some chick, you win.
  • The sitch: dude does the head-to-toe sweep and makes gross noise or otherwise irritating comment. The response: men almost never do this when they’re alone, so you have part of your response built right in. If you respond with, “I’d rather drink a glass of cat piss” or something, he’ll be pretty well embarrassed in front of his bros, and he’ll surely think twice before repeating his routine. If he’s alone, or if you’re particularly irritated, toss whatever you’re drinking on him. A face full of Tab is a powerful training tool, and you’ll still get the benefit of shaming him in public, because any bystanders will know exactly what went down.

To be continued…

* Thanks to the esquire for the graphics for this 5 (or 7, or 9, or 3) part series.

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War on Terr’r begins, graphics at 11

I’m really way more excited about this War on Terr’r than the original one, though I have about as much hope for its success as I do for the original one’s. Maybe if we conduct this one properly it’ll have a better outcome. At least I know I can trust feminists more than the god damned Army to comport themselves with some dignity (at least as I define that term) and not fuck things up worse than they already are.

So, what is terrorism? I’m not letting some crew of old coots at Webster or Random House make this call for me, I’m defining it myself. Terrorism is any action that makes use of fear to manipulate someone’s behavior. That fear needn’t only be of death or dismemberment, or even sexual assault, but can include the fear of censure or of being made an outcast among one’s peers. I know that’s fairly protean, but this is a war on a concept, and all’s fair in wars on concepts.

As it’s defined above, women are victims of terrorism throughout their lives, and it works effectively to limit their behavior, their choices in life, and their development as human beings. I say that’s at odds with the values of Americans and those of our allies, and we shouldn’t allow it to continue. We can’t let evil-doers who hate freedom dictate our lives to us and prevent us from exercising our freedom to go outside and eat fast food, shop, and buy cars and shit (or do none of those things) with their terror tactics. It would be un-American, and I’m American as fuck. As such, anyone who tries to put women “in their place” through the use of harassment, threats, or actual violence is a terrorist, and ought to be treated like one.

How do we wage this War on Terr’r? My adopted hometown of New York City had (has?) a campaign that urges citizens to take action with a catchy slogan: “If you see something, say something.” I’m for adopting that slogan, but not using it merely as an excuse to call the cops every time your brown neighbors do something “weird.” Also, I’d prefer to change it to, “If you see something, do something.” That allows for more than just tattling and officious unsolicited advice-giving; it makes room for vandalism, violence, and sundry subterfuge.

I say if you see a terrorist say something rude to a woman on the street, give him the finger, piss on his shoe, kick him in the shins, etc. If you see some anti-American terrorists in front of an abortion clinic trying to block access, throw ground beef at them. If you see something sexist in an ad, deface it (I have stickers you could use for the purpose, or you can make your own or go big and do it with spray paint). If you see something sexist while sitting in the movie theater, yell something clever about it. When you hear a song in public that asks us women to “back that ass up” or something, shout that you won’t be doing so and that you think the request terroristic. Or you could just write a blog about it. Trust me, everyone wants to know what you think, and if they don’t, fuck ’em, they’re with the terrorists and they don’t deserve to live.

Note: I don’t actually think I have the kind of influence it would require to start a huge anti-Terr’r campaign, but hopefully these kinds of things spread like I think they do and soon it won’t just be the few and the proud making themselves ticks in the hide of our misogynistic society.

Another note: Graphics are on the way for this 5 (or 7, or 9, or 3) part series.

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