Friday, October 30, 2009

Compounding the disappointment

The BMJ (British Medical Journal) British Journal of Criminology has declared the widespead use of date-rape drugs to be an urban myth. This depresses Tressugar, but I am GLAD to see it said so clearly. It drives me batty when people get so earnestly grave and serious with their roofie-warnings for young women. When people use oversimplifications/exaggerations like this to pretend to confront a problem as complicated* and serious as rape, it creates a sense of complacency.

Tressugar says:
It's troubling that some experts and the media cannot find a way to remind people about the dangers associated with binge drinking without discrediting women who have been victims of sexual abuse.
I think it's conceding too much to say that this is a discredit to victims of rape. I imagine that blackout-drunk women pushed into sex haven't played out in their minds exactly what all the possible consequences of extreme drunkenness could entail. I don't think that acknowledging that a victim's actions contributed to the situation in which they were vulnerable is a discredit; it's a simple acknowledgement of cause-and-effect. To me, it's like the math that you do when you decide whether or not to buy health insurance. You can do a bunch of things to lessen the likelihood that you will become very very sick, but you can't eliminate the possibility. Shit happens, and blame isn't really the point, especially because the one who actually pays is the victim. I ignored/didn't really notice a constant headache for a couple of months, and if I'd noticed it sooner, I just might have been able to prevent the devastating illness I ended up with. But maybe I couldn't have; I don't know. I'm not in charge of these things. I'm also not in charge of how people around me act, and neither is any other drunk woman of the people she's with. Glossing over the contributing factors to anything works against the possibility of preventing it.

So the roofie lie is dangerous in two ways: it leaves people more vulnerable to rape AND it discredits the anti-rape cause, which its detractors would say collapses without an overcautious but shamelessly deceived victim. There's nothing just-so about the story. The last thing I expect out of the godless, random universe in which I live is fairness. It's up to people to enforce that.

Of course, the number one contributing factor among the things that make rape happen is the action of the rapist. It's really not possible to control all the influences upstream from there; most people who get drunk don't get raped or commit rape. But a lot of people who are raped or commit rape did get drunk beforehand. I mean, how many hundreds of times have you heard the story about the marathon-running only-organic-vegan who died of a heart attack at 55?

Justice is not natural, so we have to consciously choose it. We can and should BLAME THE RAPIST FOR RAPING. It's not a crime (or even really impolite or unwise) to get drunk; It is a crime to rape. You don't just increase the chances that someone will be raped when you rape them - you decide that you will rape. You may get away with smoking cigarettes for a couple of decades without related health problems, but you will definitely have created a problem if you fill your kid's sippy cup with bleach.

It seems pretty simple to me, but a rape culture's self-enforcement doesn't get it, (link via Amanda from Pandagon) and refuses to, so if I'm going to really face facts here I'm not going to hold my breath until our sick culture can acknowledge what the facts mean.

Someone got raped? Let's think of anyone we could blame who is not the rapist! Maybe...the victim! Yeah, she's a total slut!

It's pretty nice when the stars align so that your drunken escapades don't end up with some guy raping you, but that doesn't make you better than the people whose did. I know I've never drunk so much as to black out again for a couple of reasons: a) I don't want that to happen to me again and b) it's just not fun to be falling-down drunk, or to have the falling-down drunk hangover.

*I know that people claim it isn't complicated, but I'm not convinced, and I find it seriously counterproductive to gloss over the complications of the subject. There are a lot of debates about what is and is not rape, and to use some pop-cultural examples, I think it's pretty damn clear that Joan was raped by her fiance, but Pete did not rape the babysitter that lived down the hall. He used some deception and unfair coercion, but he "convinced" her to sleep with him, and in the face of her disadvantage, she relented. That transactional view of sex is icky, sure, but it seems to be an actual way people carry out their sex lives. I'm not willing to define rape down to where it is the primary mode of sexual interaction between two people who are getting a raw deal out of their sex lives, but basically comfortable with it.

A stereotypical woman who "gives" sex to her partner in exchange for love/security/material support may in fact be satisfied with her sex life. It's obviously not a great way to negotiate a sexual relationship - to me it's downright creepy - but if it helps some limp through patriarchal control of their lives, I say let them keep it as long as they want it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Acceptable Rebellion

I am a fan of Lady Gaga. Lame provocateurs rely on cliches to upset people - The 90s saw Marilyn Manson "pushing" the same boundaries metal trashed in the 80s. She pushes some of the go-to boundaries like nakedness and gender - to good effect. I was really impressed with Gaga's red lace dress that covered her face. It really helped me understand why I don't buy it when people talk about fashion being artistic. Fashion's completely and voluntarily restricted by the paramaters of prettiness. No one experiments with outfits that make them look fat or like they have a pretty bad case of scoliosis.

I can only imagine that the intersex rumor was started by her, as a part of the attempt to really push boundaries of what people find attractive or interesting. Of course, she still follows a lot of rules: she's thin, she's white, she's American, she's rich, she usually complies straightforwardly to gender norms, and she makes vanilla pop music. It's an unfortunatev truism of boundary pushing that there are always some holds barred.

Another thing I love about her is that it's hard for someone who grew up after the sexual revolution to have any comprehension of what it must have been like to be actually shocked by something a media figure does. My age cohort hasn't had a single cultural shock. I do wonder what it is with the kids these days, though. Nothing seems subversive. Self-deprecating humor is basically the only kind out there, but I think that Liz Lemon is really a subversive character because she embodies Impostor Syndrome. Self-critical people use really melodramatic terms (I'm so STUPID, how could I have done that?) and Liz is what that melodrama describes. She's bad at everything (skills/looks/relatioships) except work. And her mom thinks she's cool.

stepping out of the corner Republican sensationalism has painted us into

The first thing I heard this morning when my alarm went off was NPR saying that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was kind of a lolwut moment for me. Obama hasn't even been in office for a year, and even for that little amount of time, hasn't done very much. He ran a very emotional campaign, and I think it's resulted in a little confusion. Hope and change are pretty neat things, and it must have been a conscious decision to make him the fun candidate. Like a lot of opinion regarding Barack Obama, I think that hading this prize to him is more about projection than what he's actually done. The rest of the world seems pretty taken with him, and relieved that the US hasn't been permanently poisoned by Bush-brand haterade.

For all the talk about Bush's everyman appeal, I find Barack Obama's no-drama approach to Presidenting to embody common sense in a way I'd never expect out of a national leader. The low-key response to rooting out some potential terrorists has been very impressive, and I just loved how he brushed off the media for the national day of prayer. I don't think he can really fake enthusiasm, or have press-conference tantrums. Also, a little while ago, the DHS came up with an SOP for deciding when to raise or lower the terror-rainbow alert system. Bush didn't have a way to lower it - literally.

I'm not thrilled with Obama, but I think he's engineering his media presence to be as unexciting as possible. If he can succeed in toning the media down, he'll have done something that this country has needed very badly.

But here I am projecting and speculating, almost as badly as a talking head.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Well no kidding

It turns out that shackling prisoners during childbirth is unconstitutional. Idaho is one of the states where this is practiced, and the ruling came from the 8th circuit, so I don't know how/when this might reach us, but it's sure nice to have a conservative court ruling in favor of women's reproductive freedom. From RHReality Check:

Last week, in Nelson v. Norris, a federal Court of Appeals held for the first time that the U.S. Constitution protects pregnant women in prison from the unnecessary and unsafe practice of shackling during labor and childbirth. Notably, although the American Civil Liberties Union argued the case more than a year ago, the court’s decision comes on the heels of three states (TX, NY, and NM) passing legislation in 2009 to restrict the use of shackles on pregnant inmates. These three join IL, VT, and CA in restricting the practice. Both the outcome and the history of the Nelson case and the recent legislation demonstrate the dramatic shift that has taken place around this issue.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Being a good sick person

I still am totally fascinated with my brain thing. It's been nearly a year and a half since I had surgery, and most people I meet have no idea what happened to me. I don't have a shaved head or black eye I need to explain away anymore. For a while, I tried to be more vague when it came up that I had ongoing medical issues, but I only ever came up with a more spooky and ominous impression that way. I had a major medical incident which I'm pretty much better from now, even though it completely turned my life upside down - but let's move on to something more interesting. When I saw Rachel Getting Married, I was completely mortified when I recognized Kym's self-absorption in myself. I think it's probably a stage everyone with a huge illness goes through. When your entire world is what medications to take and when, you don't have a lot else to talk about. I have a couple of factors contributing to me being a broken record about my issues - there's the almost died, life changed thing, plus, the technical issues behind it are exactly the kind of thing that tickles my intellectual curiosities.

Both of my younger sisters got engaged to their long-time boyfriends over the past few months, and one of the first things I thought (besides "yay!") was, "Oh thank god -- something exciting is happening to someone in my family and it's not me having a stupid medical problem." I've been grateful to have such a supporting family and set of friends, but being brain surgery lady gets kind of old. Getting a new job where no one knew what happened to me was pretty thrilling - they aren't handicapping my performance with my condition in the backs of their minds. The crowd at Disability Support Services probably has a handle on the etiquitte necessary to have a working relationship knowing about a person's particular difficulties, but I've decided not to really disclose my issues, since it gives me a place not to be Brain Surgery Lady. The mood at DSS is kind of one of don't ask don't tell, where we work hard to let clients keep their privacy in general. I haven't met most of my clients (not that I have a lot), even now that I'm in the classroom providing services.

Rachel at Women's Health News wrote a post about the reception Penelope Trunk has gotten after tweeting something related to her miscarriage: Trunk got a lot of grief about oversharing, and she wrote a great rebuttal about how we do our best to ignore major medical issues women have because they make us uncomfortable. It's even more uncomfortable to have shame heaped upon you for even mentioning your ongoing miscarriage than it is to hear about it. Right on, sister. Miscarriage is often a Big Deal in a woman's life, and everyone tries to ignore it as much as possible. I'm sorry if it's awkward for you to hear about my bizarre medical condition (and I promise you, whatever it was that happened to me really was bizarre). If you had the patience and empathy to deal with other peoples' problems, you would realize that it's not all that bizarre for miscarriage or neurological problems to occur.

Rachel mentions that she has always found Trunk's blog to be off-puttingly self-promoting and sensationalistic. And then once something interesting happens to Trunk, she mentions it, and all of the sensationalism backfires on her. I spent most of my life kind of cultivating an eccentric personality, and all of a sudden it backfires when my neuro-immunity goes bonkers one day. I was weird before, and I'm still strange now. Very soon after I had surgery, one supposed supporter of mine decided to explain away my support for gay rights as a delusional side-effect of my condition. So if I'm going to have a different outlook on things, I have to conform in every other possible way to get anyone to take me seriously.