Tag Archives: gender: violence

Social Networking and the National Movement to “Know Your IX”

I absolutely love this photograph of a collage on the wall of an activist in the rather new national movement to hold colleges and universities accountable for sexual assault.  Referencing Title IX and the “bigger picture,” it documents cross-college efforts to use the amendment to ensure that sex crimes on campuses don’t interfere with women’s rights to equal access to education.

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What is exciting is that this is a national movement. The many college names pinned to the board are just some of the schools that have filed, are filing, or will file Title IX complaints with the Office for Civil Rights. “Oxy” is my school.

I’ve been somewhat involved with Oxy’s role in this movement — the credit goes to Drs. Caroline Heldman and Danielle Dirks and the dozens of survivors who, as part of the coalition, have publicly and confidentially shared their stories — but I’ve had the pleasure of talking to journalists about our case.  Regarding the national movement, they often ask me “Why now?”

Why Now?

This is a tough question to answer and, first and foremost, credit goes to the extraordinary people at the center of this fight, such as Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, Dana Bolger, and Alexandra Brodsky at Know Your IX.  As Margaret Mead famously said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

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Importantly, though, the efforts of this small group have been greatly enhanced by the internet and, specifically, social networking sites.  Students (and sometimes faculty, staff, and administrators) are no longer confronting these issues alone.  They are reaching out across campuses and talking with each other; they are teaching each other how to file federal complaints; they are building and sharing templates; they are sharing stories of institutional foot dragging and spin and developing effective resistance and protest strategies.

For example, Annie Clark, who filed federal complaints against the University of North Carolina, helped Profs. Dirks and Heldman at Occidental College file their complaints: “Over the past few months,” she writes:

I have spent countless hours with them on Skype and the phone in order to share information and help the[m] write their complaints. Yet, six months ago, I had never even heard of Occidental College — and many of the 37 women there who filed had not yet heard about Title IX protection against gender discrimination beyond athletics.

These coalitions are creating both activist networks and fast friends. This is a picture of students at Swarthmore (Swat) showing their love for students at Occidental (Oxy). Both campuses filed Title IX complaints on the same day:

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As Prof. Dirks explains, this collaboration is a big deal:

[L]earning the stories of other survivors who are actively pushing their colleges and universities to create safe and equitable learning environments has opened the floodgates of what students now feel empowered to do.

This is all possible, of course, because the internet is still at least a somewhat democratized technology. You and I are equals on the internet, at least in principle.  So we all have the opportunity to produce content.  In contrast, other forms of media — TV, radio, movies, magazines, books — typically offer us only the opportunity to consume.

The activists in this movement have a platform and a megaphone, then, metaphorically speaking.  The technology — and our regulation of it in ways that preserve its democratic nature — is helping enable this movement.  Just as the TV made a huge difference in shifting popular opinion about the Civil Rights Movement.  Accordingly, we need to remember this when corporations fight to own and control the internet and its distribution.  For reasons like this one, we should be fighting back with the goal of making the internet a public utility.  Democracy depends on it.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Hooking Up at Occidental College… at Occidental College

1This past semester I had the genuine pleasure of giving my talk about hook up culture to students at my own institution, Occidental College.  This was a treat — and also a little bit scary — not only because I was talking to my own community, but because many of the students in the audience had been part of the two studies that informed my talk (here’s one).  I wanted to do them justice and make them feel good about their contribution, even if they had  mixed feelings about the stories of theirs that I was telling.

In the end, it felt like an incredible catharsis.  The students, who I adore, seemed genuinely thrilled that I was there to bring their experiences into the light; whether they were a part of the study or not, they knew that on some level this was about them.  Their response was overwhelming.  So I post this talk — with relatively bad video and decent audio — but an amazing audience response, as evidence of how receptive college students are to interesting analyses of their lives by (relatively) impartial analysts.  And, also: I love you, Oxy!  Y’all are my favorite!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Women as Targets of Misogyny, Literally (Trigger Warning)

Cross-posted at The Ethical Adman.

So it turns out there’s this company that makes “zombie” targets for gun enthusiasts. They have clown zombies, nazi zombies, “terrorist” zombies, dog zombies and even a green zombie named “Rocky” that has Barack Obama’s ears.

And one woman.

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Here’s their explanation:

The Zombie virus does not discriminate and neither does Zombie Industries.  We take preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse seriously, which is why we strive to have all groups of undead monsters represented in our product selection.  In addition to the Ex Girlfriend Zombie, we currently sell 15 male zombies, 5 animal zombies & 2 aliens… to discriminate against Women by not having them represented in our product selection would be just plain sexist.

Each of the zombie targets has a story.  Here is the story of “The Ex”:

Be warned, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but a man scorned is nothing to mess with! A young gent from Louisiana, we’ll call him André to protect his identity, was deeply committed to his one true love and her to him, or so he thought. While partying with her friends during one particular Mardi Gras, she took several suitors over the course of the festivities. André felt something odd indeed, so he paid a visit to his great aunt, Marie, who helped him see the truth. With a few eggs, candles lit and kiss upon his forehead, her voodoo curse was set in motion. Late each night while lying in bed, a smile would appear across his face, for a slight breeze would travel through a cracked window bringing with it, a faint whiff of decay and a unnatural cry of regret.

That’s right. In this narrative, a man kills a woman for cheating on him, and has her turned into a zombie. Which you, bro, are now invited to blow to bits.

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Despite the game-like zombie theme, it is notable that the single human female representation has been created specifically as a target of violent male anger towards a woman’s ownership of her own sexuality.  And “The Ex” is portrayed in a highly sexual way, with what seems to be a bare lower torso and busting out chest.

Policymic writes, “Every day, at least three women are killed by an intimate partner in the US alone.  Let’s make sure those numbers go down, not up. Let’s make sure companies like Zombies Industries know that we’re not buying it.”

Some people, however, are buying it. And this is what’s most troubling.

From the product reviews:

This Zombie Bitch is awesome, reminds me of a girl I knew in High School, My LMT LM308MWS should put a stop to the undead bring them on !!! Later Party till you drop Corvette forever !!!!!

And:

I love that this target looks like Britney Spears and it bleeds when I shot it.

And from YouTube:1

Tom Megginson is a Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. He is a specialist in social marketing, cause marketing, and corporate social responsibility. You can follow Tom at workthatmatters.blogspot.com.

Occidental College Faculty Vote “No Confidence” in High Level Administrators

Cross-posted at BlogHer, VitaminW, and The Huffington Post.

At about 1:00 Monday, a quorum of the Occidental Faculty overwhelmingly voted No Confidence in the campus attorney, Carl Botterud, and the Dean of Students, Barbara Avery. I was among the faculty in attendance.

The votes are in response to a belief that these high-level Occidental employees have mishandled sexual assault education, reporting, and adjudication in ways that have harmed individual students and campus culture.

While the motions are symbolic, such measures are quite rare. It is a very powerful statement coming from a faculty united in defense of survivors of sexual assault and their allies. We now wait to see how the College President, Jonathan Veitch, moves forward. The two are currently still active employees at Occidental (that is, not on administrative leave) and Avery continues to chaperone students through the reporting and adjudication process. We are told there is or will be an internal investigation into their conduct.

The vote of no confidence comes on the heels of two federal complaints filed by a coalition of students and faculty and a set of lawsuits filed by Gloria Allred. It is the next step in our personal fight for a better campus, but part of a nationwide movement involving dozens of campuses across the country.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Verbal Consent to Sex and The Vampire Diaries

1Research has shown that college students largely think that asking for sexual consent — “Do you want to have sex?” — “ruins the mood.”  This is partly because it violates their sexual script, the norms and expectations that guide sexual encounters.

If explicit consent violates the sexual script, then students are left trying to discern consent from more subtle and implicit verbal and non-verbal cues.  I did a research project to determine how they do this, interviewing 19 college students about their perceptions of sexual consent in popular television programs. 

I discovered that students often interpreted the same scenes dramatically differently. For example, I showed them this scene from The Vampire Diaries (0:04 to 1:27):

Eleven of my 19 respondents brought up the issue of verbal consent.  Five said the verbal interchange in the scene indicated consent; six said it did not.  Their contrasting perceptions focused on the male character’s statement, “Let’s get out of here.”  The five students who saw the scene as consensual were inclined to classify the declaration, “Let’s get out of here” as the moment where verbal consent is given.  For example, Hannah said:

…like I mean he doesn’t outright say “do you wanna have sex” but he says “do you want to get out of here” and she’s like “yes.”  That’s like the only one where there’s like an actual yes! [giggling] I mean like a verbal yes.

Hannah said the scene indicated consent because she equated “getting out of here” with sex.

In contrast, Natalie and five others disagreed with Hannah and those who considered the verbal exchange between Tyler and Caroline to be a form of verbal consent:

No, I would say, there was like no talk of consent, really… In the Vampire Diaries one, by him saying like, “let’s get out of here,” there might be an assumption associated with that and then her saying, “Okay,” like could be consent, quote, unquote.  But, I don’t really think that qualifies, either.

Natalie believed there was a correct way to obtain verbal consent.  When I asked her what would make this scene consensual, Natalie replied, “Basically saying ‘Do you want to, do you want to go through with this?’—something like that.”  Obviously, Natalie viewed consent as a different kind of verbal question.

The differences in these responses to The Vampire Diaries scene are striking. While verbal consent is often held up as the gold standard, I found disagreement as to exactly which statements constitute consent.  This disagreement sets the stage for serious miscommunication about students’ sexual intentions.  Some students interpret a phrase such as “Do you want to leave?” as “Do you want to leave this party and have sex at my house?” while other students believe that only a phrase such as “Do you agree to have sex with me?” communicates sexual consent.

Nona Gronert will graduate from Occidental College this May with a degree in Sociology and Spanish Literary Studies.  She aspires to become a professor of Sociology.

Law & Order Quotes Actual Rape Survivors, Calls Itself “Fiction”

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post.

This is a new one.

Some of you may know that there is a wave of colleges and universities filing complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, claiming that their institutions are failing to protect women from sexual assault. This (first) wave includes Amherst, Yale, the University of North Carolina, Swarthmore, and Occidental among others.

Well, last night many of the details of the stories of the students whose cases have been mishandled — right down to exact quotes from their lives — found themselves in an episode of Law&Order SVU.  They didn’t ask for permission, offer a “consulting” fee, or even warn them that it was coming.

This just leaves a this-is-so-wrong-I-don’t-even-know icky feeling in the pit of my gut.   I know that Law & Order has been ripping stories from the headlines for three decades, but it stuns me that it can claim to be fiction and not compensate the real women who’s lives are clearly and unequivocally depicted in this show.

Let me put this in stark terms: Law & Order is brazenly capitalizing on the pain and trauma of young women and not only failing to compensate them for stealing their stories, but actually denying that they exist by claiming that the “story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.”  Stunning.

Alexandra Brodsky, a survivor who filed the complaints against Yale, told Jezebel:

The SVU episode strikes me as an extreme example of the risk of going public as a survivor: your story is no longer your own.

I’ve not seen a more obvious example of this fact.

The teaser for the episode, plus a list of 15 ways the episode copied real life, collected by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel, is after the jump.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

How Friendship Can Help End Rape

Cross-posted at PolicyMic.

1Let me ask you a question: Do you have a good friend of the opposite sex?

Odds are you do. In fact, the odds are overwhelming.

When I first began teaching, 25 or so years ago, I asked my students how many of them had a good friend of the opposite sex. About 10% said they did. The rest were from what I called the When Harry Met Sally generation. You’ll remember the scene, early in the film, when Harry asserts that women and men can’t be friends because “sex always gets in the way.”  Sally is sure he’s wrong. They fight about it. Then, thinking she has the clincher for her position, she says, confidently, “So that means that you can be friends with them if you’re not attracted to them!”

“Ah,” says Harry, “you pretty much want to nail them too.”

Young people today have utterly and completely repudiated this idea. These days, when I ask my students, I’ve had to revise the question: “Is there anyone here who does not have a friend of the opposite sex?” A few hands perhaps, in the more than 400 students in the class.

But let’s think, for a moment, about the “politics” of friendship. With whom do you make friends? With your peers. Not your supervisor or boss. Not your subordinate. Your equal.  More than romance, and surely more than workplace relationships, friendships are the relationships with the least amount of inequality.

This changes how we can engage men in the efforts to end sexual assault, because there are three elements to sexual assault that can be discussed and disentangled.

First is m en’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, to sex. This sense of entitlement dissolves in the face of an encounter with your friends. After all, entitlement is premised on inequality. The more equal women are, the less entitlement men may feel. (Entitlement is not to be confused with resentment; equality often breeds resentment in the privileged group. The privileged rarely support equality because they fear they have something to lose.) Entitlement leads men to think that they can do whatever they want.

Second, the Bro Code tells those guys that they’re right – that they can get away with it because their bros won’t challenge or confront them. The bonds of brotherhood demand men’s silent complicity with predatory and potentially assaultive behavior. One never rats out the brotherhood. But if we see our female friends as our equals, then we might be more likely to act ethically to intervene and resist being a passive bystander. (And, of course, we rescue our male friends from doing something that could land him in jail for a very long time.)

Men’s silence is what perpetuates the culture of sexual assault; many of the excellent programs that work to engage men suggest that men start making some noise. We know the women, or know people who know them. This is personal.

Finally, we’re better than that – and we know it.

Sexual assault is often seen as an abstraction, a “bad” thing that happens to other people: Bad people do bad things to people who weren’t careful, were drunk or compromised. But, as I said, it’s personal. And besides, this framing puts all the responsibility on women to monitor their activities, alcohol consumption, and environments; if they don’t, whose fault is it?

This sets the bar far too low to men. It assumes that unless women monitor and police everything they do, drink, say, wear etc., we men are wild, out of control animals and we cannot be held responsible for our actions.

Surely we can do better than this. Surely we can be the good and decent and ethical men we say we are. Surely we can promise, publicly and loudly, the pledge of the White Ribbon Campaign (the world’s largest effort to engage men to end men’s violence against women): I pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls.

Our friends – both women and men – deserve and expect no less of us.

Michael Kimmel is a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.  He has written or edited over twenty volumes, including Manhood in America: A Cultural History and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.  You can visit his website here.

Sex, Death, and Slasher Films

Re-posted in honor of Roger Ebert’s passing. Cross-posted at BlogHer.

University of Minnesota doctoral candidate Chris Miller sent in a fascinating episode of Siskel and Ebert, a long-lasting TV show devoted to reviewing movies.  What is amazing about this episode is the frankness with which the movie critics — Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert — articulate a feminist analysis of a group of slasher movies.

The year? 1980.

First they describe the typical movie:

A woman or young girl is shown alone and isolated and defenseless… a crazy killer springs out of the shadows and attacks her and frequently the killer sadistically threatens the victims before he strikes.

They pull no punches in talking about the problem with the films:

These films hate women.

They go on to suggest that the films are a backlash against the women’s movement:

I’m convinced it has to do with the growth of the woman’s movement in America in the last decade. I think that these films are some sort of primordial response by some very sick people… of men saying “get back in your place, women.”

One thing that most of the victims have in common is that they do act independently… They are liberated women who act on their own. When a woman makes a decision for herself, you can almost bet she will pay with her life.

They note, too, that the violence is sexualized:

The nudity is always gratuitous. It is put in to titillate the audience and women who dress this way or merely uncover their bodies are somehow asking for trouble and somehow deserve the trouble they get. That’s a sick idea.

And they’re not just being anti-horror movie.  They conclude:

[There are] good old fashioned horror films… [but] there is a difference between good and scary movies and movies that systematically demean half the human race.

It’s refreshing to hear a straightforward unapologetic feminist analysis outside of a feminist space.  Their analysis, however, isn’t as sophisticated as it could be.

In doing research for a podcast about sex and violence against women in horror films (Sounds Familiar), I came across the keen analysis of Carol Clover, who wrote a book called Men, Women, and Chainsaws.

Clover admitted that most horror films of the time sexualized violence against women — meditating on the torture and terrorizing of beautiful female victims — but she also pointed out that the person who ultimately vanquished the murderer was almost always also female. She called this person the “final girl.”

The final girl was different than the rest of the women in the film: she was less sexually active, more androgynous, and smarter.  You could pick her out, Clover argued, from the very beginning of the movie.  She was always the first to notice that something frightening might be going on.

Boys and men watching horror films, then (and that is the main audience for this genre), were encouraged to “get off” on the murder of women, but they were also encouraged to identify with a female heroine in the end.  How many other genres routinely ask men to identify with a female character?  Almost none.

In this sense, Clover argues, horror films don’t “hate women.”   Instead, they hate a particular kind of woman. They reproduce a Madonna/whore dichotomy in which the whores are dispatched with pleasure, but the Madonna rises to save us all in the end.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Siskel and Ebert full episode:

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Full transcript after the jump:

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