Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

After I was on Fox News Saturday morning to discuss Amazon dropping its girl/ boy filters for toys and games many of you asked me about Tucker Carlson’s intro of me as his high school classmate. (I can’t figure out how to embed the video here, so if you’re more tech saavy than me, please post the link.)


Yes, it’s true! Tucker and I went the same boarding school, though I was expelled sophomore year. Tucker went on to marry the headmaster’s daughter in the school chapel. That pretty much epitomizes our differing experiences in prepland, his successful, mine not so much.


Here’s a blurry pic from the 80’s of us at a Grateful Dead concert. I’m in the front and Tucker is to the left wearing glasses. Jerry Garcia, looking rather skinny and two dimensional, is a cardboard cut out. Looking back on high school, I don’t know if Tucker was better behaved than me –I was suspended for smoking a cigarette in the dorm and then kicked out the following year for drinking or if he– like a lot of the kids who made it through boarding school– was just more skilled at giving the appearance of following all those seemingly endless rules.

If you watch the video, you can see I vehemently disagree with Tucker on Amazon’s decision– and most issues along with probably all of the other hosts on Fox News. Still, at least the network had me on to speak. I got a national platform to address about an issue I care about which is more than CNN or MSNBC has offered me recently.

I’ll leave one with one more nugget of prep school trivia. Julie Bowen, then known as Julie Luetkemeyer, the actress from “Modern Family” (and from kidworld “Planes: Fire and Rescue”) was in our class as well. As brilliant and beautiful then as now, she was probably the smartest kid in our class.


Finally, I didn’t get a chance to mention it in the 3.5 minutes I was on TV, but Amazon didn’t fully drop its filters. Read the details in my update here.




Sometimes yoga pants make me uncomfortable. Am I bad feminist or just old?

Yoga pants have been going through some tough times. Lululemon’s founder got in trouble for implying his clothes are only for skinny women, schools have created sexist policies focusing on what girls wear, and now Rep. David Moore of Montana, like some kind of American Taliban, wants to make them against the law.


A few years ago, back when I didn’t know what yoga pants were, I got into an argument with my 7 yr old daughter about them. She wanted to wear what she called “soft pants” to school. I explained they went under clothes, that their real name was “leggings.” I’m 46 and that’s what we called them. We wore them with skirts or maybe a super long sweater. My daughter argued that they’re comfortable, and all her friends wear them “just plain.” I didn’t believe her, not because I was thinking about sexualization but to me, it felt like wearing pajamas to class.

Once I started to pay attention, I saw yoga pants everywhere. All the girls in my daughter’s class were wearing them. You know how when you learn a new word, you start to see it constantly? “Yoga pants” stories kept popping up on my Facebook page. News alerts reported schools were policing what girls wear (usually for kids older than my daughter.) Once again, the bad behavior of boys was getting blamed on girls. Why not focus on male behavior, teach them not to harass or rape instead of instructing women how not to get harassed or raped?

Everyone wears yoga pants now. I live in California, so maybe it’s more trendy in the mild weather and casual vibe here, but I’m totally surrounded. I get the sexualized issue when I see women and older girls wear them. I admit, it’s taking some getting used to on my part. I still feel like everyone is in pajamas, not finished getting dressed. That also seems appealing to me: cozy, comfortable, casual. Sometimes, I feel like people are outside in their underwear. I’ve noticed in myself the opposite, though equally biased reaction, from the Lululemon founder. I may silently cheer on a heavier woman but roll my eyes at a skinny one with lots of make up. But here’s what’s obvious to me: Whether my reaction is because of my age or that I’m a bad feminist, whatever complex conditions and training got me to this emotion, my reaction is mine. Women and girls shouldn’t choose what to wear based on how I feel about their outfit. It’s about me, not them. That Rep David Moore thinks he has the right to put women in prison because of how he feels about their clothing shows how backwards the mentality of a male dominated world can be.

Orthodox Jews photoshop Merkel out of solidarity photo because she’s a girl

Want to know what’s wrong with the world? Here it is, a picture paints a thousand words as they say, so here are three:

#1 A solidarity march for Charlie Hebdo. Do you see German Prime Minister Angela Merkel front and center? Can’t miss her, right? Elbows linked with other marchers who are marching for the right to free speech, the right not to be censored.


#2 Here’s how the photo appears in the orthodox newspaper HaMevaser. Merkel is photoshopped out along with two other women Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The names of these three women are also not printed in the paper.


#3 Here’s what the photo looks like with the women shown and the men disappeared. I don’t know who created this photo but I saw it on Soraya Chemaly’s Facebook page.


Lori Day comments on Soraya’s page:

The secondary benefit of this photo, to me, is showing how few female leaders we have. Look at that empty street. PROBLEM.

Is this the march that the White House is apologizing for not sending a higher level official to? Why is that story headline news while this sexism is under the radar, something I didn’t hear about until I checked my Facebook page? Why does the world sit by and allow sexism to happen again and again and again?

HaMevaser, this is a visual assassination. The world is waiting for an apology for your sexism and misogyny, for falsifying news, for using censorship to supposedly cover a story censorship, for using religious extremism to cover a story about religious extremism, for being hypocrites and liars.



‘Rolling Stone issues despicable, victim-blaming apology for its own shoddy journalism’

I couldn’t agree more with U. C. Berkeley professor Bryan Wagner when he calls out Rolling Stone magazine for its “despicable, victim-blaming apology for its own shoddy journalism.” Have you read this bullshit? What makes me so frustrated is that we live in a culture where rape survivors are so shamed that they usually choose not to tell their own stories publicly using real names and real faces. Therefore, survivors are easy prey for high priced lawyers punching holes, for not knowing, say if the rapist was a member of the frat or if the rapist just happened to be at the frat that night. I mean, really, who doesn’t get her facts right about her rapist’s recreational habits? And for these discrepancies that Rolling Stone should have fact-checked, the survivor gets her entire experience discredited. It makes me sick. Once again, it is us, the culture that needs to change so rape survivors can feel safe coming forward and naming their attackers. I’m reposting something I wrote for Salon in 2002 about the media’s role (and the public’s role) in shaming survivors.

The “shame” of rape

Why does the media hide rape victims who fight back instead of honoring them as heroes?

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.”

Darren Wilson’s testimony: ‘The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon’

Darren Wilson’s testimony shows he sometimes has trouble using pronouns to describe shooting victim Michael Brown.

The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon…

To me, this quote tells us everything we need to know about Wilson’s mindset when he pulled the trigger. Turning a human into an “it” is almost always a prerequisite to violence. From the Rolling Stone article about the UVA gang rape:

“Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.


How can anyone make an ethical decisions when dealing with an object and not a human being? You can’t.




If you ‘don’t understand’ what rape culture is, you’re part of the problem

Are you calling your child’s college to speak to administrators about what they’re doing to keep students safe from sexual assault? Are you speaking to your sons and daughters about what rape is and helping them to decide what actions they can take to help to create a safe community? Are you donating time or money to organizations that help to keep women and girls safe? If you know a woman who is a survivor of rape/ violence what are you doing to help her? We look back on history and wonder how the average Joe and Josephina let slavery happen or the Holocaust, but right now, today, in 2014 violence against women goes unchecked. The President of UVA acting as if she had no idea what was going on at the campus she runs all this time, until the Rolling Stone article came out, is now suspending fraternities until– get this– January!  If you’re looking the other way, whoever you are, you’re the problem. Still don’t get it? Really? Try reading this post:

It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over and over and over with such frequency that ordinary people throw up their hands and treat it as a part of the environment instead of as violations of fundamental human rights.


Read the rest here.

Bill Cosby is a serial rapist

I’ve been posting stories about Bill Cosby’s record of rape on Reel Girl’s Facebook page for years. The stories from different women, spanning years back, have always been strikingly similar. Cosby invites them to a private place to help them on their career. He offers them a drink, and the next thing they know, they are half conscious and naked. Why did it take “real” journalists so long to take these allegations seriously? Here is the best and most honest story I’ve read from journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Please read it.

My name is Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky continues to tell her story, and I am happy she is speaking. From the first time I saw Lewinsky’s face on my TV screen, what upset me most was the repetition of the same old narrative, worldwide, through images and text: a powerful man was being brought down by the sexuality of a young woman. A man I voted for as a woman in my twenties because I thought that he would do good things for women.

It is this narrative and text that Lewinsky is speaking about right now. Finally, she’s taking control of her story.

So many say Lewinsky is just being used, she’s talking now because she’s trying to destroy Hillary’s run for president. Once again, this is Lewinsky’s story, not the Clintons’ narrative. Why don’t you listen to, and talk about, what she is saying instead of why you think she’s speaking?

Here is one of my favorite lines from Lewinsky’s speech: “Let me tell you about being publicly separated from your truth…Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression, and self loathing. And the greater the distance between the way people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.”

She also says this: “The problem is that I believe in the power of story, in the power of stories to inspire, comfort, educate, and change things for the better, fictional stories, stories from history, and yes, news stories.”

I do too. That’s the reason I started this blog, because I’m tired of the same old story. I want something better for my kids. From what I can tell, Lewinsky does too. Please watch this video.

Phil Plait of Slate: ‘I stand with Emma Watson’

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer. He is a public speaker, science evangelizer, author of Death From the Skies, and he is a feminist.

Today, on Slate he writes:

I signed up to back HeForShe with my voice and with my words… Some will go to any lengths to oppress women; loathsome knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights Advocates and their ilk have already shown what they will do in order to shut women up. I’ve seen many, many media outlets make that the story, but I refuse to do so; they crave the attention, and I will not feed it to them. I know how to stand up for my friends. I know how to write, and how to make myself heard. And I can hope that other men will do this as well, because while I don’t know the whole solution, I know a part of it, a significant part of it, is just showing that we are listening, that we care, and we want to help. And that’s why I stand with Emma Watson.


Thank you to Plait for joining HeForShe. Who’s next?

Hey guys, time to man up and speak out for Emma Watson

After Emma Watson AKA Hermione introduced the HeForShe campaign, making a brilliant and impassioned speech to the U.N. about feminism and asking men to join the movement, she received death and sex crime threats publicly posted on 4Chan. As punishment for being a feminist, Watson was publicly warned, The Mary Sue reports:

In addition to threatening to commit a sex crime against the actress and activist, users also spread a #RIPEmma hashtag on Twitter along with pictures of a fake report on the actress’ “death.”


I’m only  including one comment from 4 chan’s b board here; if you can stomach it, Death and Taxes has several classically vitriolic threats in their coverage on the harassment. But here’s a statement that perfectly demonstrates the boo-hoo babyman knee-jerk rhetoric behind the abuse:


she makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

It is amazing to me that this website is up and ticking while Tumblr took less than 24 hours to remove a list of rapists put up by University of Chicago students who were frustrated by the systemic lack of protection for students at the school. On the internet, threatening to rape is allowed but protecting students from rapists is banned.

The victim of 4Chan’s harassment isn’t only Watson, of course, but all women and girls. We are all being warned that if we dare to speak out, to tell the truth, to demand equality, or call ourselves feminists, we will be ridiculed, targeted, shamed and humiliated if not raped and murdered. This is happening legally in the USA.

In response to the threats, Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals writes a blog titled “Speak All the Louder”

The reaction of these men who use fear to promote their power is a measure meant to terrorize us to ‘stay in our place’.  To shame empathetic men and to overpower outspoken women. To stunt our thinking and growth as a society. To silence our voices.


I think this kind of man is an excellent reminder of why we must speak all the louder.


Peggy Orenstein, best-selling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter makes another point, urging men to speak up for Watson and against violence towards women. On her Facebook page, Orenstein writes:

Women can (and should) express outrage about the death threats against our beloved Emma W, but I think that given her message about the value of feminism to both men and women, and how increasingly important we know it is that boys, especially, learn to stand up and speak out around violence against women this would be a good time for guys to step up!!


I could not agree more. All males including fathers, teachers, doctors, athletes, musicians, writers, artists, students, boys everywhere, now is the time to speak publicly for Watson, for feminism, and to take action to stop violence against women. If you are silent, you are part of the problem.

Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, posted his picture on Tumblr with #HeForShe written on his palm, and captioned: “Supporting it as a feminist and as a human being…” If males worldwide publicly say yes to feminism, violence against women will stop.

Sign up for #HeForShe here. Speak out for feminism whenever and wherever you can. Join the movement. Change the world. The time is now.