Sunday, September 13, 2015

What feeds rape culture--or--doesn't everyone want a dress with a penis on it?

No publication is complete without an occasional inclusion of the latest in the fashion world. I most likely would not have stumbled on this had it not shown up under a “rape culture” alert I subscribe to. Rape culture is a term that showed up five or so years ago, and it means a society in which the abuse and exploitation of women by men not only exists but is encouraged and supported and, by extension, a society in which males hold almost all of the power and privilege.

This has resulted in many things--none of them, as far as I can see, good. One is the rise of a militant type of feminism that seeks not to promote women—a noble goal—but to belittle men. Another is the insanity that is sweeping U.S. college campuses, one that is resulting in an accusation of sexual assault being treated the same as a conviction and any insistence that the accused receive due process being derided as coming from “rape apologists” and as proof of male privilege and the existence of this rape culture--a circular argument if ever I heard it.

But what does that have to do with penises on dresses, you ask? Let’s start with the fact that the fashion collection is named, “My pussy, my choice.” Add to that a major motif running through much of the collection—“cartoonish penises in transparent latex and sparkly silhouette.” 

And the reason for this…questionable…choice of design and accessory? “ ‘It's like playing the penis game,’ Namilia [the designers] said of its playful use of a symbol of male power. ‘The more often and louder you say it, the more harmless it becomes.’ ”

A comment made in reference to a bra constructed of representations of male genitalia—one on each side—reveals what this is all about. “Filling out sparkly 2-D testicles with breasts is a brilliant power play.” 

Power. Make men's most obvious physical difference from women a fashion accessory, reduce it to a meaningless pattern on a piece of clothing or, even better, something in which to insert a female body part, and men themselves are negated to something weak and laughable and pathetic.

Feminism was about equality. It was embraced by those of both sexes as something whose day was long overdue. This feminism is about power. It is the opposite of equality. It allows no equality. If you question that, imagine the fall-out if a designer of men’s clothing used the pictorial representation of breasts and vaginas to decorate shirts.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Just remember back a few short months. A brilliant scientist, Matt Taylor, instrumental in the success of an important ESA mission, had his career virtually destroyed because he wore, on camera, a shirt that portrayed female film stars wearing bathing suits. Bathing suits. He was bashed and ridiculed and demeaned by bloggers and tweeters across a wide spectrum of individuals. Feminists demanded his resignation if not his head on a platter. One male blogger with a wide readership wrote, “If he [Taylor] wore that shirt around female colleagues it was automatic sexual harassment anywhere in the US, and completely disrespectful to any woman in the room...."

What if one of the women scientists there had worn a blouse decorated with penises? What would that have been called? Courageous and empowering?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A new name and a new law claiming to fight child sex abuse, and guess what? THIS one will work!

We could say the names in our sleep—Megan’s Law; the Adam Walsh Act; Polly Klass; Jessica’s Law; Lauren Book; Chelsea’s Law; Laura Ahearn; and so many others.

They all mark milestones for laws and policies and mandates and programs that claim to fight child sexual abuse. More than one has launched the major participant to fame, fortune, or a political stepping-stone. They all claim to be pro-victim—but they aren’t. They are pro-registry. They are pro-public notification. They are pro-lifetime punishment for those who have committed any one of over 200 offenses, from the mildest possible to the most horrific, that triggers sex offender registration.

None of them are supported by evidence or empirical data. None of them focus on victims.

Enter Erin’s Law.

Erin Merryn is not involved in self-promoting activities. She does not appear to seek fame or power. She isn’t running for political office. She has limited her activism and her advocacy, born out of her own childhood abuse, to writing books and to lobbying legislators about the need for research-based sexual molestation prevention programs in public schools.

This is from her website:  
 After Erin introduced the legislation in her home state of Illinois, the bill was named “Erin’s Law” after her by legislators and it has caught on nationwide. “Erin’s Law” requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program which teaches:
  • Students in grades pre-K – 12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult
  • School personnel all about child sexual abuse
  • Parents & guardians the warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families

 I have scoured the site. I have found zero references to the sex offense registry. As far as I am able to determine, this is a totally victim-focused program. It is an education and prevention program, not a punishment program or a revenge-motivated program.

There are one or two statistics used on the site that I find contrary to research studies, but I can forgive that, and I will attempt to communicate with Erin about those things.

What I find possibly the most significant is that in five years, 26 state legislatures have passed Erin’s Law, and a significant number more are considering it. The states are underwriting the expenses themselves. They are receiving no help from the federal government.

Compare that to the states—is it 17?—who have adopted the Adam Walsh Act in nine years, and many of those only through coercion and federal help and with many reservations and reluctances and with some states poised to repeal it.

People who commit crime should be appropriately punished. Then everything possible should be done to foster rehabilitation and re-connection to a healthy lifestyle and a law-abiding community.

Making a significant difference in the number of children who are sexually abused will only be effected through education and prevention, and of every “law” named after a victim, Erin’s Law is the only one of which I am aware that is putting the total focus in the right place.