A week ago, I started to write my expected year-end piece reviewing the highlights of 2012 and thought better of it. You were there and frankly, no one needs to be reminded of the idiocy of 2012. I’m still a little pissed about the whole “Mayan Apocalypse” thing fizzling. There went my retirement plan. It was disappointing after being screwed out of two perfectly good raptures in 2011, but life’s tough – wear a helmet.
The last year here was spent attempting to put social issues in some reasonable perspective and to teach you to think for yourself. We live in a complicated country in complicated times and anyone who believes there is a definitive position on any single issue is a fool. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a position, but listening to people who disagree with you is paramount when becoming informed. I like people who disagree with me and can voice their position using facts and statistics – real ones. Too many people come here to just tell me I’m stupid. Disagreeing with me is fine really and while I am many things, stupid isn’t one of them. There’s a reason why I include so many magic blue links to my column – they prove that what I’m saying has a factual basis. If you go back to previous columns, you will see that I quote university professors and government agencies and highly regarded economists, in essence, people a lot smarter than me. What I don’t do is quote bloggers or news sources that have far too often been discredited and I’ll explain why. I’m well known for being a good researcher. As such, people write to me almost every day asking me to confirm or debunk a statistic or a news story and most often, the pieces in question come from Fox News. I have spent hours and even days tracking down the sources of their “news” and found a disturbing trend: they use themselves as sources for their own news. I was once asked to confirm a story they did on a school group being forced off the steps of the Supreme Court building for praying. The story named the school and the administrator and linked to several sources. I ran down those sources and each of them led back to the same story, same reporter and same details – it’s what I call a “news source circle jerk”. I called the school in question who would not comment on the story and when I tracked down the teacher named there, it turns out she not only wasn’t on that trip, she hasn’t been a teacher in that school district for more than a decade and has had no affiliation with the school since she left. In essence, the story was another red herring put out by Fox News to demonstrate Barack Obama’s fake war on Christians.
I appreciate that not a lot of people have my dogged determination to run down the details of such a story or even the desire to do so. It’s not like it was a major story, but many people who ascribe to the belief that this country’s government is attempting in any way to limit any citizen’s right to worship freely accepted that story as further proof of a false premise. It’s a dangerous trend that has taken hold of our country and I’d like to spend my time doing something more fruitful than proving that Fox News isn’t news. I’ve pretty well debunked that one. The lesson here is if you plan to come at me, you may want to come armed with actual facts, not made up ones. I’ll always respect that.
On another topic, I get that there are people who criticize me for not writing more “real women stuff” about getting in touch with your inner self or talking about marriage and child-rearing or the latest fashion or sharing recipes. I understand there’s a place for all of those things and I respect the women who write about them. But ladies, men aren’t the only people on this planet who have serious conversations around the water cooler. Men aren’t the only members of our society qualified to lead this country or have opinions and there’s nothing wrong with being both female and having a strong opinion. It doesn’t make you less feminine and it doesn’t make you a bitch, regardless that I seem to have won the mantle on that one. These are serious times that call for serious people. There was a time, back in the 60’s and 70’s when serious women did speak out. They were called lesbians and man-haters when none of those things were true. Hell, I’ve been called all of those things, not to mention those who smack me around for not being delicate. I get frustrated. I swear. I say “fuck” a lot and I know if I was a man, not too much attention would be paid, but since I’m a woman, I’m constantly reminded that it’s not lady-like and how resorting to swearing is the hallmark of a small mind. Those things are usually said by people who have small minds and are so prudish they think I’m too stupid to know how often they masturbate and feel guilty about it. Swearing doesn’t make me a bad person, doesn’t diminish the truth of my argument and I don’t really care much who I offend. When people stop acting like douchenozzles, I’ll stop referring to them that way – ‘cause I’m a lady and shit.
On the subject of real news, I’d like to share with you some personal observations about the young woman who was gang raped in India this past December 16th and who ultimately died from her injuries. I’ll tell you something the mainstream media is not – her name. She is known to the world as “India’s Daughter” or the “India Gang Rape Victim”, but underneath all of the fluff, was a woman with a name and her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey. Her father released her name today because he wanted the world to know there was a real young woman behind the story. She was a 23 year-old medical school graduate who had gone to the movies with a male friend to see Life of Pi at an upscale mall. When they couldn’t find a rickshaw driver willing to pick them up, they boarded a private bus where six men decided they had the right to take everything from her. After breaking the leg of her male companion and gang raping Miss Pandey, they threw their naked bodies from the bus near an overpass where it took 20 minutes for someone to contact the authorities and 25 minutes more for them to arrive. The victims were offered no emergency medical care or anything to cover their bodies while police, arguing over jurisdiction, stared at them. Eventually, she was taken to a medical facility where she succumbed to massive internal injuries. Her male companion was given no medical care, and instead spent four days in a police station being grilled by the cops. Five men have been arrested and their trial will begin soon.
The head of the World Hindu Council blames the influence of Western culture for growing crimes against women in India. I call bullshit – to a point. Women in this country are blamed for what they wear, what they drink and where they go. They are admonished for all of these things and told if they had just stayed home, not ever drank and worn Puritanical dress, none of it would have happened. We spend a lot of time in this country teaching women how not to get raped but never telling our men not to rape. The message we’re sending to men is they are all potential rapists and the onus is on all women to know their place because men are Neanderthals who have no ability to control themselves and if a women has a pulse and is available, she gets what she deserves. Our Christian leaders are the worst of the lot. It isn’t the Western influence of modern society to blame for growing violence against women, it’s the attitude of Western men there is nothing women have they can’t take. Think I’m kidding?
In 2009, a California man crawled into bed with an unmarried 18 year old intoxicated woman. He initiated intercourse with her and in her drunken condition she assumed it was her boyfriend. At some point, she realized it was not her boyfriend and tried unsuccessfully to fight off her attacker. He was convicted of rape and sentenced to three years in prison. This week, his conviction was overturned by an appeals court because an 1872 law, still on the books in California, doesn’t provide protection against rape for unmarried women when someone impersonates someone with whom she’s been intimate. Under California law, impersonation only applies if the victim is married. If you’re outraged, you should be. There are more rapes in this country than there are smokers. Think about that. To get a sense of just how pervasive rape is, click here to get rape and sexual assault statistics from the Bureau of Justice. Then think about the number of rapes never reported because in this country, the best way not to be re-victimized by being blamed for it is never to report it.
On August 11th of 2012, a Stueubenville, Ohio high school girl was gang-raped by members of the football team. The town, valuing football more than they value this young woman who was urinated upon as the boys videotaped and photographed the assault that occurred over several agonizing hours, covered it up to protect their star athletes. Weeks later, this was the reaction of some of the local boys. It’s 12 minutes long and hard to stomach, but it’s important to watch when understanding the rape culture in this country:
Their parents must be so proud.
This same week, the United States House of Representatives failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Why? Because it contained broadened protections to include Lesbians, Native American women and women who are undocumented immigrants. If you belong to any of those groups and find yourself in an abusive situation, the message from our Congress is “straighten up, woman and next time maybe you won’t have to be told twice.”
When researching this piece, I came across a quote on the topic of rape that left me a little gobsmacked:
I can explain myself: If you want to be safe, walk in the middle of the street. I’m not joking. You’ve been told to look both ways before crossing the street, and the sidewalk is your friend, right? Wrong. I’ve spent years walking sidewalks at night. I’ve looked around me when it was dark, when there were men following me, creeping out of alleyways, attempting to goad me into speaking to them and shouting obscenities at me when I wouldn’t, and I suddenly realised that the only place left to go was the middle of street. But why would I risk it? Because the odds are in my favour. In the States, someone is killed in a car accident on average every 12.5 minutes, while someone is raped on average every 2.5 minutes. Even when factoring in that, one, I am generously including ALL car-related accidents and not just those involving accidents, and two, that the vast majorities of rapes still go unreported. And, thus, this is now the way I live my life: out in the open, in the middle of everything, because the middle of the street is actually the safest place to walk. ― Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls
I won’t walk in the middle of the street because it’s the “safest place”. I’ll walk where I want to walk because I am a human being and no one has the right to rape me.
Women aren’t raped because of what they wear. Women aren’t raped because of what they drink. Women aren’t raped because of where they go. Women are raped because someone rapes them. As the ashes of Jyoti Singh Pandey float peacefully down the Ganges River, we can honor her by repeating that over and over.
Women are raped because someone rapes them.
When we accept that as an absolute truth, only then will we make the paradigm shift toward treating women as equals. Welcome to 2013. This is just the first of many adult conversations you can expect to read in this column.
This is “Here Women Talk” and it’s where real women talk.
Carol Baker is a free-lance political writer. She is a regular contributor to Here Women Talk.
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