Rape culture affects every man, woman, and child

Did you see the photos of the so-called comedian Remi Gallard having simulated “air sex” with unaware women? Ha ha ha.


On Salon, Amanda Marcotte writes:

I hate to be nitpicky, but: Since the point of the joke is that the women are nonconsenting, then it’s not really simulated sex so much as simulated rape. Funny!


And all this time, I thought women were the ones who weren’t funny.

This morning I went for a walk.  It’s a beautiful, sunny day. My body felt powerful, fast, and strong, and I was getting all of these great ideas about the next chapter of my book. Then, I stopped to tie my shoe, and this picture popped into my head. All of a sudden, my experience of my body totally changed. I felt frightened, humiliated, and exposed. I tried to shake off the image. I kept walking, and the feeling faded, but I never got back the high I had before I bent to tie my shoe. It makes me so mad that women have see ourselves, experience ourselves, how men see us and experience us. As the great art critic John Berger wrote: Men watch. Women watch themselves being watched. This state of being is not because “men are visual” (total bullshit– humans are visual) but because men have created the culture and reality that dominates our lives. I’m sick of it.

Here’s the Berger quote:

“To be born a woman has to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. The social presence of women is developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space. But this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

Back to writing that chapter now…

Alameda County DA reports child sex trade epidemic in Oakland

I live in San Francisco and right across the bay, Oakland is the epicenter of human trafficking in the Bay Area. At this moment, 13 year old girls are being sold as sex slaves and practically everyone chooses to look the other way.

That’s right, in 2014 slavery exists in America and the victims are young girls. Of course, this slavery isn’t legal, but when no one does much to stop it, it may as well be.

Starting today,  Nancy O’Malley, the DA of Alameda county is putting up 27 billboards to educate the public about human trafficking, because for some reason, a lot of people seem to know nothing about it.

In an op-ed for the Contra Costa Times explaining her PR move, O’Malley writes:

The FBI has identified Oakland as an epicenter of trafficking in the Bay Area counties. The majority of exploited children are 13 to 16 years old, some as young as 11…Even more shocking, the number of commercially sexually exploited children is increasing, while the average age of those exploited is decreasing…There are two sides — supply and demand — that make sex trafficking of our children possible. Human trafficking exists because there is an endless and disgraceful demand for children for sex and traffickers fill that demand daily.


What can you do? O’Malley is clear on steps she’d like you to take. Below are quotes from her op-ed:

(1) If you see something, say something. Keep the human trafficking hotline in your cellphone, 888-373-7888 or text Be Free (233733), and report anything suspicious. Through this hotline, more than 75,000 calls have come in to identify nearly 9,000 survivors.

(2) You can also sign up for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch mailing list at HEAT-Watch.org to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do to join the fight. Download a free toolkit so you can build your capacity to hold traffickers accountable and keep victims safe.

(3) Donate your time and money to organizations that are making a difference, such as Misssey, Bay Area Women Against Rape, West Coast Children’s Clinic and HEAT Watch.

(4) Speak out: Let policymakers know we need the toughest penalties for traffickers and the predators who buy children for sex and resources for victims of human trafficking. Together, we will we put an end to modern-day slavery.

I have another suggestion for you. Please, do what you can to stop contributing to the sexualizing of young girls. Read my post here and don’t help to spread propaganda, in the form of media and toys, that sexualizes young girls. These products are not innocuous but dangerous. Sexualizing girls happens everywhere, so ubiquitous it’s paradoxically invisible.

Here are just a few examples of how we sexualize kids. Take a look at the popular Polly Pocket toy. This toy is marketed to girls ages 4 – 7 and the toy is all about dressing the doll in “sexy” outfits. Why would a parent buy her little daughter a toy like this?


Here are the Bratz dolls.


Melissa Wardy of Pigtails Pals recently wrote:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

Wardy blogged that after she and her young daughter walked to school behind a first grade girl wearing this backpack.


Wardy writes:

Given what we know about how early sexualization harms young girls,  I cannot understand how parents allow this kind of imagery and media in their homes.

This year, France outlawed child beauty pageants because they are so dangerous for children. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails.

But in the USA, we have hit TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” that glorify the exploitation of girls. Here, in the home of the free and the brave, sexualizing kids is accepted and normal. We allow it and condone it.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That is my interpretation of O’Malley’s billboards. I am so grateful she is taking a leadership position to end child trafficking. Please follow her example and act to end the sexual abuse of children.



Thank you, Daisy Coleman, for telling us shame belongs to rapist, not survivor

The Maryville rape has taken a new turn with this post on xoJane:

I’m Daisy Coleman, The Teenager At The Center Of The Maryville Rape Media Storm, And This Is What Really Happened.

Thank you, Daisy Coleman, for telling your own story.

Please read Coleman’s story and share it. And then ask yourself, what happens when women tell the truth about their lives? How could the world change?

Whether a woman tells her story or not is her choice, but how much of a “choice” does she really have? I wrote “The shame of rape” on this topic for Salon. Ten years later, in too much media and public opinion, shame still goes to the wrong person.

When will we learn to honor rape survivors as the heroes that they are instead of shaming them into silence?

The “shame” of rape



When 7-year-old Erica Pratt was abducted on July 22 and tied up in a basement by her kidnapper, she chewed through the duct tape that covered her mouth, freed her hands and feet, and broke through a door to escape. Electrified by the young girl’s feat, the media celebrated Pratt with a prolonged blitz of coverage. She smiled luminously for cameras as awed police officers praised her bravery. Her photo graced the front pages of newspapers across the nation, and she was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Week.”

When Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were abducted at gunpoint nine days later from a remote teenage trysting spot in Lancaster, Calif., they devised a plan to break free by stabbing their abductor in the neck. When one girl had the chance to escape, she didn’t take it for fear that the other girl — whom she hadn’t met before that night — would be killed if she abandoned her. These were brave and loyal girls — heroines who endured mind-numbing terror before police found them and killed their captor, who authorities believe was preparing to murder them and dump their bodies.

But Brooks and Marris were not honored by Time magazine or identified as heroes in other media outlets. Why not? What made their story so different?

Just as newspapers and the networks were scrambling to cover the story, they learned that the girls had been sexually assaulted during their ordeal. Because most mainstream media observes a self-imposed policy of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims, the coverage abruptly, and somewhat awkwardly, ground to a halt.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. But in concealing the identities of the young women on the grounds that rape is so intimate and horrendous that they should be spared undue attention, the media helped to promote the unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

TV stations began digitally obscuring the girls’ faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.

The lopsided coverage was especially disorienting because early in the story, the girls’ identities were broadcast everywhere — constantly — as a means of saving their lives. The idea was to familiarize as many Americans as possible with the girls’ names and faces so that average citizens might assist in tracking them, and their kidnapper, down. And it worked. But once the teens went from being kidnapped youths to rescued rape survivors, their status changed. They were branded with the Scarlet R. They had been raped. It was suddenly better for them, and us, to contemplate this shame without fanfare.

In effect, the girls disappeared twice — once when abducted, and again when the media erased them.

The policy of hiding the rape survivor makes the media complicit in shaming and stigmatizing her. It reinforces the myth that women are too weak, traumatized and tainted to decide whether they want to tell their own stories — of victory, not victimhood. And this assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt, there would be no reflex to make them disappear. Their survival would be cause for public honor and respect. Their rescues would be complete; their recovery would begin with heartfelt acceptance by everyone who prayed for their return.

Silence and shame protected the Catholic Church and one of its dirtiest secrets for years. And church officials made the right assumption: If you can’t see it, no one will believe it is happening and, more importantly, victims who are shamed and controlled will be quiet, silenced by a sense of complicity and sin. What if all those alleged male sexual assault survivors who went on “60 Minutes” and “20/20″ had their faces covered with a gray dot? What if no newspapers or magazines had been willing to publish their names? How much credibility or validity or power can you have when you have no face and no name? Would the public have believed these things had happened if faces had not been attached to the charges?

You can’t put a faceless woman on the cover of Time magazine.

Not all rape survivors take the media’s cue and withdraw. Many have told their stories as part of their recovery, most famously authors like Maya Angelou in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Dorothy Allison (“Bastard Out of Carolina”), and singers including Fiona Apple and Tori Amos. Current bestselling author Alice Sebold has said repeatedly in interviews that she could not have written “The Lovely Bones” until she wrote the story of her rape in her first book, “Lucky.”

With each of these acts of bravery has come further acknowledgment that rape is a horrible event and that everyone abhors it, yet hypocrisy — public and institutional — still exists. Rapists are rarely successfully prosecuted. For every 100 rapes reported in this country, only five rapists end up in prison. Sentences are relatively light, averaging just 10.5 years, and the usual time served is approximately five years.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t support the notion that a raped woman should have the right to an abortion. And U.S. foreign policy does not include sanctions, even strongly stated warnings, against countries like Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to rape their wives, and married women raped by men other than their spouses are punished for adultery. In Pakistan, when a young woman was ordered raped by a tribal council as punishment when her brother was seen in public with a woman not in his family, the U.S. State Department took no action.

At the same time that it is no longer socially acceptable to blame or stigmatize a rape survivor for what has happened to her, it appears to be socially unacceptable to recognize her as a hero and honor her for survival. But that may be about to change, thanks, in large part, to Marris and Brooks, two rape survivors who demanded to be seen.

A day after she was rescued and her identity had been quickly masked in the media, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.

A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.

When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”





Apparently, I need an animator

Look what ad just showed up on my Facebook feed.

Is your face sending mixed messages? It could be. Your “resting face” may make you seem angry, grumpy or unapproachable to others. This may affect both your private and public lives.So what can be done about this problem?Injectable cosmetics can also help women who look grumpy when they are at peace. Botox injections can smooth worry lines between the eyes and raise the eyebrows. Dermal fillers an round out the chin and mouth or fill in deep creases that make you look upset.If you don’t like the way your face looks when you are at rest, you may want to ask Dr. Kulick for advice. He will be able to point you in the direction of aesthetic procedures that could help alleviate this problem:
Is your face sending mixed messages? It could be. Your "resting face" may make you seem angry, grumpy or unapproachable to others. This may affect both your private and public lives.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><noscript><img class=
Can’t I just get a Disney animator to fix my image up? Who needs facial expressions anyway? Oh, that’s right, men do.
The Society Pages posts the PR for “The Counselor.”
 The men are not considered unattractive by virtue of the fact that you can tell they have skin.  The women, in contrast, have faces that are so smooth that they look inhuman; their images are halfway between photograph and cartoon.  Amazingly, this treatment of images of men and women is so ubiquitous that it now looks more or less normal to us.
Fantasy creates reality and reality creates fantasy in an endless loop.

New study reports co-sleeping not so great for moms

A new study by Project Siesta reports that co-sleeping isn’t so great for mothers. Apparently, co-sleeping moms are tired, and guess what? Exhausted moms don’t make ideal care-givers for babies. My first thought: Did we really need a study to tell us that how tired mothers are? Apparently, yes. Most moms report co-sleeping is a positive experience.

Most other studies have relied solely on moms’ recollections, but the additional data provided some surprising revelations.


Co-sleeping moms thought their babies were waking up more frequently than they were in fact, and reported more wakings than moms of babies who slept by themselves. But actigraph results showed the babies were not actually waking up: The co-sleeping moms appeared to be overly sensitive to nighttime movement by their babies, and were reacting to normal arousals or sounds that take place while the babies continued to sleep soundly.


These findings are significant because co-sleeping moms may believe they’re more sensitive to their child’s night wakings, though in reality they’re ignoring their own needs (and not actually helping baby).


Thank you Project Siesta for studying the well being of MOMS and linking back to what should be obvious: happier moms make happier babies. The study goes on to report co-sleeping moms are more depressed and anxious. This study makes me wonder: What if our culture did a 180 and valued mothers not for their devotion to self-sacrifice but their skills in self-care? And what if our culture understood that self-care for many women, just like for many men, includes a career and a paycheck? Not to mention, of course, that moms who get paychecks provide money to put food on the table, get their kids healthcare, education, and on and on, which is part of ” good mothering” just like it’s part of “good fathering.” Finally, isn’t it healthy for kids to see moms modeling self-care so when they grow up, they know how to do it too and expect their partners to do the same?



You are not better than a fat person, so shut the fuck up

Today, on Facebook, my friend, Jennifer, posts this:

As a person with multiple food allergies, I am officially getting annoyed that so many items are marked with “gluten-free” or whatever. I do not have a gluten problem, and I’m feeling very left out. Why don’t other intolerances/allergies matter? OH, because they’re not part of a FAKE WEIGHT-LOSS SCHEME. (Note: Gluten intolerance and celiac disease is real and I take it very seriously. But repurposing legit food restrictions as a diet is idiotic.) Thank you.

She’s totally right and what gets me about all this gluten-free bullshit is the smug people acting like they care about health when all they care about is being thin. Gluten-free, for most people, is just another diet. Honestly, I don’t even know if dieters masquerading as “healthy” people realize they’re fooling themselves. The biggest clue is the way the “healthies” act about the “fatties.” Healthies are terrified of fatties. They don’t want to be near them. They feel contaminated by them. Most of all, they feel superior to them. What drives me crazy about this bias is that it is seriously unhealthy to obsess about calories or fat grams or carbs or gluten or whatever the current trend is all day long. It’s a black hole of hell that many women fall into, never to return.

And, mark my words (here they are, in print) this obsession with gluten? It will shift. I blog a lot on Reel Girl about how “scientific” studies are often biased, and I cannot think of a better example of that than whatever the current doctor or expert is saying about health and what we should eat.

Speaking of, please think twice before you tell your kid what to eat. When my daughters get food in a restaurant, I always remind them to eat what their tummy wants. “Whoever put that food on that plate has no idea how hungry you are,” I say. Even here at home, I tell them “Only you really know how much to eat.” Can you imagine if someone treated you like so many parents treat their kids, making you eat steak if you really want a salad? Making you “finish” your food if you realized you didn’t want to eat it? Bribing you with the reward of one food if you consume another? No wonder why so many kids grow up with eating disorders.

Before you give me the whole “I’m not a short-order cook” argument, please read my posts (some linked below) on Reel Girl about food, health, eating, and eating disorders, because that’s the last thing I am besides a periodontist, or, probably, a member of Apple’s tech support team.

Please, don’t judge people by how much they weigh. You haven’t got a clue how healthy they are. Consider yourself lucky if you know how healthy you are.

Girls and food


More on girls and food


Preventing eating disorders by teaching intuitive eating to kids


Note to the babysitter


Oreos for breakfast? Really?


Post Halloween bliss


Parents, this is about you too

Victory for women in Supreme Court ruling against gene patenting

Finally, coverage of the Angelina Jolie breast cancer story/ BRCA gene shifts to a real issue. Here’s today’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Isolated human genes may not be patented, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday. The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated. The particular genes at issue received public attention after the actress Angelina Jolie revealed in May that she had had a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she had inherited a faulty copy of a gene that put her at high risk for breast cancer.

The price of the test, often more than $3,000, was partly a product of Myriad’s patent, putting it out of reach for some women. The company filed patent infringement suits against others who conducted testing based on the gene. The price of the test is expected to fall because of Thursday’s decision.

Read the full decision here.

Huge shout out to Breast Cancer Action for winning this important victory. Congratulate and thank BCA here.

Did you know BRCA (breast cancer) gene is owned by a corporation?

This week, news reports headlined that Angelina Jolie’s aunt died from breast cancer. Watching “Entertainment Tonight” yesterday, my husband and I saw graphs and images of Jolie’s maternal family tree back to her great-great grandmother, tracked by an investigative journalist. We saw images of death certificates and who signed them. I was wondering why, with all of this incredibly deep, highly researched, investigative coverage we never hear anything about the terribly creepy story of who owns the BRCA gene. That’s right, owns it. The “breast cancer gene” mutation that Jolie tested positive for, a discovery that made her decide to undergo a double mastectomy, is the property of a corporation called Myriad Genetics.

The ACLU/ Breast Cancer Action is currently challenging Myriad Genetics and gene patenting:

Breast Cancer Action opposes human gene patenting. We believe it’s wrong for the government to give one company the power to dictate all scientific and medical uses of genes that each of us has in our bodies. We urgently need more and better options for the treatment and risk reduction of breast cancer, and we cannot afford to have progress stymied by the monopolies that gene patents create.


How did I get the story about the BRCA gene amidst all the Jolie coverage? From CNN, the New York Times, an entertainment show? No, from a Tweet on Peggy Orenstein’s feed:

Myriad genetics OWNS BRCA gene. OWNS it. That’s a block to research & better options for someone like Angelina Jolie


I follow Orenstein because I’m a huge fan of her book, CInderellla Ate My Daughter. Orenstein is also a breast cancer survivor, who, coincidentally, wrote an in depth story for New York Times MagazineOur Feel Good War on Breast Cancer” covering the corruption in breast cancer research, funding, and treatment published just a month before Jolie’s huge story broke.

Here’s something else we don’t hear about breast health that I learned from Orenstein’s blog:

I find that when I tell my friends that my reconstructed breast is numb they are shocked: they had no idea that would be so.

I’ve blogged before that breasts are secondary sex characteristics, but we hardly think of them that way any more in this culture. The value of breasts seems to be mostly the aesthetic and sexual pleasure of men. Almost as an afterthought, we realize that breasts exist to nurture babies. But what about recognzing that breasts are there for the sexual pleasure of women? Fake breasts are often numb breasts, and if you think about it, that’s about as asexual as you can get.

As I’ve blogged, Jolie made a viable choice. I admire her for speaking out publicly about what happened to her. When women tell their stories, it helps all women. But I hope that America takes advantage of this media coverage about breast health to find out more on the truth about cancer and treatment.

Last night, “Entertainment Tonight” showed images of Jolie’s two biological daughters, Shiloh and Vivienne, reporting that medical experts advise they get tested for BRCA at age 18. I hope Jolie works to give her daughters better options, continuing to speak out about the issues around breast health, and the problems that occur when a government allows a corporation to own genes. Americans need to know about it.



Inoculate your daughter, teach her these basic mirror skills

Here’s a great tip to inoculate your daughter against internalizing the barrage of criticism about her appearance. If that critical voice gets trapped and trained in your kid’s head and wiring, it becomes a bad habit that, like any addiction, is difficult to break. I got this tip from Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals, and so far, it works really well. I can see my kids using it.


Tell your daughter that you use a mirror to see if you have food on your face or something like that. You don’t look in the mirror to see if you are beautiful. Beauty is a feeling that comes from within you, and a mirror can’t give you that. Let your daughter see you use a mirror this way as well.

Repeat this lesson as often as necessary. It’s basic but effective.

Extra tip: If your daughter protests or seems confused, which she may not, explain that the correct way to use a mirror is the exact opposite of how the wicked queen relied on it in “Snow White,” asking “Who is the fairest of all?” Explain how the Queen’s misuse of the mirror, her dependence on its voice instead of her own, sapped her power and helped to cause her downfall.




Thank you Angelina Jolie and Peggy Orenstein for speaking out

Today, actress and director Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. She made that choice after discovering she carried a dangerous gene and also because her mom died of cancer.


Last week, Peggy Orenstein, an author and breast cancer survivor, wrote an in depth piece on cancer for the New York Times, that included why she she made a different decision.



I am so grateful that both of these women have the courage and access to tell the truth about their lives publicly. When women can speak out and tell their own stories, that helps all women. Both of you are making sure that a “woman’s issue” gets on the front pages and into the forefront of national discussion. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this more educated than we were. THANK YOU.

Update: Here goes the nat’l public discussion: Did u know corporations can own genes? Tweet from Peggy, check out the link:

Myriad genetics OWNS BRCA gene. OWNS it. That’s a block to research & better options for someone like Angelina Jolie http://ow.ly/l1XTX