With the landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States legalizing gay marriage last Friday, June 26, 2015, one would think only celebrating and rejoicing would be heard throughout these 50 states, which are founded upon the principles of “liberty and justice for all”. However, one does not have to look far to see the glaring reminder of the right-wing religiosity that plagues American culture and politics.
The vile response by evangelicals and fundamentalists has been most prevalent on social media with an extra helping of crazy being bandied about in the news media. The past seven days have offered a shocking reminder at just how deep the fundies’ misguided hate runs in this country. Lifelong friends have been unfriending and blocking each other. Preachers have threatened to light themselves on fire. Businesses have posted “No Gays Allowed” signs on their doors. Narrow-minded troglodytes everywhere have shown their true colors amidst the “rainbowification” of the United States.
The one thing that has not happened is the earth imploding, or falling out of the sky, or hell freezing over, or some other catastrophic calamity causing the end of life as we know it — even with the religious right prognosticating that marriage equality would end life as we know it. In fact, everything looks pretty normal from here … and I’m in the Red State of Mississippi. The marriage equality ruling was blocked by Governor Bryant — whose son is gay! — and Attorney General Jim Hood, but the people demanded their equality — backed by the Supreme Court, and won. Things are looking good here as gay and lesbian couples have been getting their marriage licenses around the state.
Amazingly, the LGBT community and allies have taken the high-road amidst all the vehemence spewed by so-called Christians. Yet, real Christians, who actually live by Jesus’ teachings of love and tolerance, do count themselves amongst the allies, and hopefully, they will drown out the cacophony of the religious nuts’ anti-gay and anti-equality rhetoric that has filled the media since Friday.
Sure, it’s a balmy summer’s day, but not because of the predicted fire and brimstone.
Apocalypse, anyone? Not today.
The last two minutes of Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” finale sent the internet into a frenzy as Jon Snow succumbed to an “Et tu, Brute`” ending. And yet, no one is talking about the beatings of the women in the finale, Cersei’s solo walk of shame, or the systematic abuse and rape of women throughout the show’s seasons. I address this in my latest YouTube video: youtu.be/YEx8CBo_ziY or watch it below.
When people speak of “Game of Thrones”, they marvel at the costumes, the production values, the pseudo-medieval landscape of knights, swords, and dragons. In fact, before I had ever seen GOT, I asked about it on Facebook, and the comments were all enthusiastic, with one in particular exclaiming, “You’ll love the costumes and the look of it. And the sex is GREAT!” The sex, of course, was mostly incestuous.
Fast forward past the hideous reign of the sadistic Joffrey, abuse of women is so commonplace in the show as to have lost any impact at all — in much the same way rape and domestic violence are pervasive in American culture but considered a “women’s issue”, leaving women the task and responsibility of not getting raped or beaten.
“Game of Thrones” gets its social commentary right sometimes. The storylines of religious fanaticism rising up and taking over the government to create a fascist state of oppression is a direct mirror of the Tea Party in America. The targeting and persecution of homosexuals was a realistic plotline with which many in the LGBT community can identify. But where is the episode in which all the women band together and address the battery and assault of women?
The subjugation of women in media reflects the fight women are still waging in society-at-large to live in a world that recognizes women are human beings. At the time of this writing, the Equal Rights Amendment is still in limbo. American women are not equally protected under the Constitution.
In the United States, women make up 51% of the population, 51% of small business owners, 52% of voters, 52% of the professional-level work force, and 60% of college graduates; plus, we control 80% of consumer spending. Why aren’t 51% of the television shows and films centered on women and women’s issues? Why aren’t 52% of the writers, directors, and creative artists women? Why aren’t 60% of corporate CEO’s female? Why don’t 80% of advertisements portray women as complete, healthy, fulfilled human beings instead of reducing us to the industry-standard Photoshopped, hypersexualized marketing prop?
Only 20% of the United States Congressional body is comprised of women — even Afghanistan has women in 27% of seats in its Parliament, according to the Quota Project. The Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks the United States 72nd in the world for women in national parliaments. And why hasn’t the United States had a female president yet? The United States ranks 78th in the world for having women in top positions of executive power. China, India, the Philippines, Latvia, Georgia, Ireland, Rwanda, Cuba, Indonesia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, the Bahamas, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Brazil, and the Central African Republic are just some of the countries that have had a woman as a president and/or head of state.
What could possibly be holding the United States back from women’s advancement in government, business, education, and society, in general? If you guessed “patriarchy”, you are correct. The foundation of all modern civilizations is patriarchy, an institutionalized form of culture that feeds off of misogyny, intolerance, and violence and specializes in the oppression of women through sexualized violence and domestic abuse.
Cultural phenomena such as “Game of Thrones” that harken back to a dark age of brutality and violence against women reveal our culture’s deep-rooted misogyny and help keep the cultural mentality stuck in a bleak, abusive purview that ultimately harms everyone, not just women. This mentality is reflected on college campuses that require incoming female students to attend a “how not to get raped” orientation rather than teaching the incoming males not to attack female students. Over 80% of reported rapes are committed by someone the woman knows, which insinuates that some men still think they have an unwritten entitlement to sex, willing or not.
How do we fix this everyday sexism in culture and media?
Hire more women writers to create new works. This will give an authentic voice to storylines about women so that the portrayal of women is not limited to male writers’ secondary filter of how men think women are or how women should be. The Broadway League’s 2002 poll of professional theatres and venues revealed that only 20% of theatre professionals, such as creatives and designers, are women.
Hire more women directors. Women have our own aesthetic, our own rhythms, and our own ideas about how relationships — romantic or not, can be portrayed. A simple theatre exercise will prove that the same script can look and sound completely differently when directed by a woman than by a man. Difference is okay. The world will not fall off its axis because conflict was resolved without the quasi-obligatory male machismo or violence.
Put a woman at the center of the story and the action in new works. Write her to be a leader who does not spend half of her time talking about a man — or obsessing over a romantic relationship — and who does not have to endure a plotpoint of being raped — as if women can only gain personal, internal strength by being raped.
#WhereAreTheWomen was a powerful rallying cry for feminists during the 2012 election year, and it is absolutely valid in most professions. Women make up only 4.8% of Fortune 500’s list of female CEO’s, while Rutgers University’s studies on the gender gap in college settings show only 24% of full-time professors are women. The numbers are even worse in the professional, commercial arts that create the entertainment media that pervade our culture, such as “Game of Thrones”.
The 2015 Academy Awards had eight films nominated for Best Picture. Not one film had a woman as the main character. Of the five directors up for Best Director and of the 10 films nominated in the Writing categories, not one nominee was a woman. For the 2015 Tony Awards, not one of the nominees in the categories of Best Director of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations, or Best Scenic Design of a Musical was a woman. But history (and herstory) was made when Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron became the first female writing team to win composer/writer Tony Awards for a show. It only took 69 years for that to happen.
The bottom line is this: our voices are not being heard. Our stories are not being told.
According to the World Economic Forum, the United States ranks #20 in the world for economic gender equality, behind Nicaragua, Rwanda, and South Africa. The United Nations has reported that 70% of women experience a sexual attack at some point in their lives. The U.N. also works for gender equality through its Development Programme to help women around the world: 60% to 70% of the world’s poor are women, over 65% of women are illiterate, and over 30% of women are subjected to some form of violence during their lifetimes.
Men cannot tell our stories for us. Only women can tell women’s stories fully and authentically.
This is not a coincidence. This is a systematic silencing of women across society. This is why popular shows such as “Game of Thrones” are able to thrive with little opposition or outrage toward the portrayal of violence against women. After all, why complain about the way women are mistreated when the sword fights and costumes are so cool?
Wake up. Speak up. Be heard.
CALL IN to (646) 787-8587 and voice your opinion on this ridiculous verdict, or post your comments in the online chat room.
Wrong. I have ONE cause — Human Rights. All other rights issues stem from this central trunk of the rights and issues’ family tree. Women’s rights, LGBT, genital integrity, workers’ rights, children’s rights, and more — ALL are branches of the primary concept that roots us in our basic right to self-determination, autonomy, and our humanity.
Today provided a perfect example of how different experiences color our activism. Usually, this is a good thing, but occasionally, our pain from our own experiences clouds our words, resulting in our message devolving into a war of emotion. It becomes a contest of “my pain is greater than your pain” — a competition no one wins.
My morning started with me checking my Facebook and Twitter while I made breakfast as I hurried my daughter to get up, get ready for school, and catch the bus.
I try not to spend all day on Twitter, but tomorrow’s Full Moon seems to have kicked up people’s crazy cycles a day early.
First, on Facebook, I responded to a friend’s comment about his neighbors’ loud sex last night. As the conversation progressed to sex positions (okay, I brought it up), I mentioned that the reason the original missionary position is the only position ever condoned by the Catholic church was because it provides the least pleasure for the woman. It puts the man in the superior, stronger, aggressive position while the woman is inferior, at the mercy of the man, and passive and submissive. Another chick chimed in saying some women “love to be ‘conquered.'” As a woman who has spent most of my life fighting NOT to be conquered by men, I disagreed, but I did not linger since I had to get some real work done.
I spent a couple hours working my day-job (Thursdays are a day-off for me), and what followed was an entire day on social media in one activist role or another. And I have preserved some of those exchanges in the photo gallery below. (To view them at full size, click the box on the lower right of your screen.)
The second round of today’s activism started out simple enough — me talking about orgasms, specifically, mine, and how I cry when I orgasm. I followed that with a comment that men crying during orgasm is perfectly natural. Twitter being a public forum, a random guy jumped in the convo with a rude comment ridiculing how it would look with a “he man blowing his load and crying.” This began a series of tweets back and forth as I tried to explain that a man crying during orgasm is perfectly natural. After all, men are human beings, and human beings have feelings.
Apparently, men are still not allowed to be full human beings in our society.
The third and most exasperating exchange occurred with a man who, it turns out, is also an activist — an intactivist, to be precise. An intactivist is someone who fights for ending all circumcision — on males and females — because genital mutilation is a human rights violation of a child’s bodily autonomy and is sexual assault on the child. This guy had tweeted the following comment:
“The sexual urges of women in our society are more important than the pain of a baby boy.”
After a morning of hearing that some women want to be conquered, men who cry are not masculine, and a few other ridiculous notions that are proof positive our society is still sexually repressed and almost entirely mentally unbalanced, I could not sit by and let this tweet go without standing up for women’s right to be sexual and not be shamed for it. Did I do it the right way? Could I have handled myself better? Should I have called him a moron so many times? Maybe. Maybe not.
The thought I had toward the end of this Twitter war (that lasted over a couple hours) is that this guy is reacting and projecting because of his own pain with his circumcision. Just as I possibly was too harsh in earlier altercations today.
Hearing a woman wants to be conquered made me think back to when I was molested as a kid, my rape when I was 21, and my Steubenville-esque experience. Talking about the horribly unsatisfactory missionary position brought to mind my own status as one of the 70% of women who has never orgasmed during sex — a statistic for which I still feel shame for myself and anger at my partners for not caring enough about me to ensure I had pleasure, too. It reignited my distaste for the porn industry that created a caricature of women as hyper-orgasmic nymphomaniac slut-bunnies — as opposed to erotica that presents sex and sexuality in a beautiful, honorable way.
I was reminded yet again of the hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of women who have been raped, tortured, killed outright, and burned at the stake by the Christian church who has feared women’s sexual power since Peter stole the church’s high seat from Mary Magdalene. As a pagan witch doing research for my stage writings, I spent years reading witch trial transcripts, scouring historical documents of witch hunters, Inquisitors, and missionaries in Europe and in colonial America who were obsessed with exorcising the natural sexuality of women. This does not include the women who were beaten, raped, and killed for wanting the right to vote, or the right to fight alongside men in the modern military. Too many thoughts and memories swarmed in my mind.
Hearing that a man can’t cry when he experiences pleasure infuriated me because so much of our patriarchal, imperial, testosterone-driven culture still carries the gender-role prejudices of religion and hierarchical misogyny and misandry that does a disservice to women and men.
Today’s activism was about shame. And pain. And how, even when we mean well, speaking up for one issue cannot happen at the expense of demeaning other people who are probably also in pain. After all, the oppressive culture that says mutilating a child’s genitals is okay is the same repressive culture that says a woman is to blame for her rape because of how she was dressed, or two people cannot love each other because they’re the same gender.
I’ve been a grassroots activist for 27 years, and I’ve seen in-fighting in every single rights group I’ve ever worked with — religious rights, American Indian rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights. Who’s a real witch? Who’s a real Indian? Bisexuals aren’t really discriminated against. Women don’t need full body autonomy or equal pay. Conservative Democrats aren’t real Democrats. And it’s all bullshit.
My motto has always been, “Human Rights are non-negotiable.”
I love that there are so many of us, each working in a niche that is important to us. Yet, that does not mean one corner of activism outweighs another. We can’t all work for all causes at all times. We have to split up into different groups to cover all the bases. Remember that equality does not mean we are the same, but rather, though we may be different, we are of the same value as human beings. Our human rights family tree is rooted in and celebrates our differences, with roots deep in the soil of our humanity, echoing the ancient axiom, “As above, so below.”
However, if you only care about one group who is hurt or exploited and not another, then you’re not working for rights issues, you’re a special interest asshat who is no better than the elitist oppressors who mock human rights activism while making fortunes off the masses’ suffering.
So I may not know the full extent of pain that another person has experienced, just as they won’t know the full extent of mine. But we can try to listen better. We can forgo the pain-game and stick to the work at hand. Don’t allow the oppressors’ need to stuff us into boxes and categories or divide us into opposing sides hinder our work of coming together and doing the work.
We are better than that. Do the work. Be the Change.
We Are All Connected.
- NEWS: Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
- OpEd: ‘Male Circumcision Is No Biggie’
- Anatomy: #TeamUncut Intact Natural Penis Collage for #ForeskinFriday (21+ NSFW)
- OpEd: The Face of Orgasm: Is Your Woman Faking Orgasms or Not?
- DailyOJ 01-26-13, Part 2: The Fear of Intimacy
- OpEd: America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Breasts