Archive for the ‘Rape culture’ Category

Explaining rape culture to a man named Kyle

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


TW:  rape culture, victim-blaming


Today’s post is dedicated to Kyle, a fellow who recently left a comment on a SlutWalk themed-post that was first published in 2011. That piece was called “To our male allies: a challenge,” and if you follow the link you may read his thoughts in their entirety; I will only quote from it here. Be warned that the original post is triggering as hell!



Dear Kyle,

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I don’t know what brought you here, but it’s obvious that you are exactly the sort of man that feminists like myself are trying to reach when we talk about rape culture.

This is one thing about feminism that rubs me the wrong way,” you wrote, “what do you all mean when you say that you want the right to ‘walk down the street and exist and not have to fear assault? I really don’t understand that.What are you saying? Do you not feel safe when you walk down the street?”

From your defensive, almost unbelievably naive viewpoint, I assume that you are the sort of person who has led a pretty charmed life. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my Replacements tickets  that you are a cis-gendered straight white male who is about to run to Google to research what the hell “cis-gendered” means. You haven’t met many people likely to challenge you on your rosy view of the world, but when you do, you say what you wrote in your comment to me:

“That sucks, but what exactly do you want me to do about it?” 

This is such a common reaction that it has its own meme. Several, actually. I like this one:




You continue: “What do you want? More police on the street? Ankle tracking bracelets on all men? Is this even that big of a problem? Is there really an epidemic of rape going on, or are you all just sensationalizing a story and getting worked up into an irrational fear of the outside world?”

Kyle, this is the part of your comment that really breaks my heart. I’m totally serious. You can sit at a computer screen, with THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD at your fingertips, and still believe that rape and sexual assault might not be “even that big of a problem.”  But let me be clear: my heart does not break for you, Kyle, but for the women in your life.

Because, Kyle, you know women who have experienced rape and sexual assault. The Joyful Heart Foundation quotes a 2010 CDC study that found one in five American women are raped in their lifetime.

Think about the last time you gathered with your family, Kyle. Maybe it was for Easter, for a Passover seder, or just a birthday party. Were there five women in the room? Grandma, aunts, cousins, nieces? Maybe you were there with your wife and your daughters. One in five of those women is keeping a secret from you.

Why? Because you are an insensitive creep who would dare suggest that rape is not “even that big of a problem.” It’s not a problem to you, Kyle, because the stigmatization of survivors prevents them from telling you that they are part of you family, part of your community, part of your world. That’s what we mean by rape culture. If your daughter were robbed, no one would tell her that the theft was her fault, but the same would not be said if she were raped, especially if she were raped by someone she knows, which happens in 60 percent of cases.

You end your comment with this statement, the caps yours:

“If you want to feel safe, then YOU NEED TO STOP FEELING AFRAID.”

This is rape culture, Kyle. A statement like this makes sexual assault an issue to be resolved by victims, not perpetrators.

You say you don’t rape. That’s great. Now allow me to quote MYSELF from the 2011 post, the point of which you totally missed in your clumsy attempt to absolve yourself of any blame for sexism in America:

Help us end [rape culture], guys. We can’t do it without your help. We need you to speak out against this warped view of the world. You are not dogs, and we are not meat. We are all human beings who deserve respect, safety, and freedom.

I hope you’re listening, Kyle, and that you’ll allow compassion for the survivors in your life to soften your angry, defensive heart.


The Radical Housewife












Wonder women rising

Thursday, February 14th, 2013


Whatever your feelings about the obnoxious commercialization of Valentine’s Day, put them aside and consider the goals of today’s OTHER big campaign, One Billion Rising.


…and whatever your feelings about the largely symbolic nature of the One Billion Rising movement (and I share them, believe me), consider that Katie Couric, hardly a radfem, just Tweeted: “1in3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her life.”  Anything that gets that TRUTH spoken more often in public is, to my mind, a step in the right direction.

Do you remember the first time you heard that statistic?  I do.  I couldn’t believe it–and really didn’t believe it until a friend told me what happened to her.  Then another friend told me her story.  Then another and another and another.  As a member of the randomly lucky two out of three, I was changed forever.

I am changed every time I hear the truth.  Are you?

I hope to attend tonight’s Minneapolis event, a rally, meal, and dance dedicated to the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, but it’s possible that I’ll be worn out after  my usual Thursday duties: volunteering for a local organization that provides services to women and children experiencing domestic violence.

As a dedicated binary rejector, I tell you this not to imply that one (direct service) is better than another (dancing at Powderhorn Park).  Each complements the other.  In fact, survivors of violence and those who work in the field are the ones who need to dance most of all!

My hope is that those who come to dance  are equally moved to put their hearts, hands and wallets to work towards domestic violence education and prevention, as well as ensuring that resources are readily available to survivors who need them.  Many of today’s dancers know where to buy a Wonder Woman outfit but remain unaware of their power to be advocates for REAL wonder women in their own neighborhoods.



To DANCE in your community:

To SERVE in your community:

To LOBBY for reuathorization of the Violence Against Women Act:


SlutWalk 2: Legitimate Rape Boogaloo

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012



It’s that time again!

Time to put on your t-shirts, thongs, hoodies, dashikis, combat boots, tank tops, hijabs, miniskirts, Chuck Taylors, granny panties, stilettos, bow ties, Wonderbras, jeggings, jodphurs, jeanshorts, bikinis, overalls, OR scrubs, Crocs, saris, slacks, power suits, cummerbunds, evening gowns, Zubaz, bell bottoms, Birkenstocks, bondage pants, flannels, petticoats and WALK TO ELIMINATE RAPE CULTURE.

Here’s a picture of me at the walk last year:

No, I’m not the Clone Trooper, silly!  I’m holding the white NOW round, wearing my red SlutWalk Minneapolis sweatshirt, brown Old Navy cords, and Saucony Jazz shoes.

Did I look like what you expected?  Did I “prance down our streets in lingerie and fishnet (sic),” as a local self-described feminist worried, making me “look stupid, desperate and ignorant of our common history and the fragile, ever-eroding political power of Minnesota feminism”?

To be fair to Kristine, she’s right that rape culture did not magically end after October of last year.  But neither did the Minnesota legislature hurry to take away my right to vote and wear pants, corduroy or otherwise, in public.

What has changed is that the concept of  “rape culture” left the lofty realm of feminist academic (and blogospheric!) discourse and entered the mainstream.  Sadly, we have truly awful humans Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to thank for that, not the concerted efforts of millions of anti-violence advocates.

Sigh. It was ever thus.  In the meantime, we keep walking.


If you can’t join us on the Minneapolis riverfront on Saturday, remember: SLUTS VOTE!  I expect all you sluts to be registered and ready to cast your ballots on November 6.  The above image is available on a t-shirt that benefits SlutWalk Minneapolis would really rock your poll workers’ world.  Grab it before it sells out!


Calling it “rape,” or: the pearl-clutchers of convenience

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

You want a trigger warning?  You got one.

Surf away if you don’t want to read the word “rape,” think about the act rape, or get a taste of my wrath directed at pearl-clutchers of convenience who gleefully report about rape all day long in the name of news, but are shocked, SHOCKED that rape might be mentioned in a comic strip.

No, not reruns of Peanuts, silly.  Doonesbury!



Good old Garry Trudeau is wading into the forced ultrasound wars with a series this week featuring the trials of a woman seeking an abortion in a conservative wonderland (or the early stages of the Republic of Gilead).  Trudeau told the Washington Post that to ignore the issue would be “comedy malpractice.”  Bless his feminist heart!

Above is today’s strip, cut from the print editions of the two dailies in my area, the Minneapolis StarTribune and the St Paul Pioneer Press.  I haven’t subscribed to either for many years, due in part to cost-cutting measures that sacrificed journalism in favor of really big type and the kind of salacious reporting that belongs in the pages of In Touch Weekly, not a newspaper (remember when the PiPress’s reporting on SlutWalk Minneapolis appeared in the shape of a woman’s sexy legs?  I sure do).  Thursday’s strip promises to feature a doctor annoucing “by the power invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”


But when the papers themselves can’t control the narrative (rape=kinda sexy), the issue is suddenly controversial, too hot for print.  When Garry Trudeau likens a transvaginal ultrasound to rape, it’s “inappropriate.”  As David Brauer of MinnPost (an online news source staffed by canned Strib & PiPress employees) so astutely observes, children reading their parents’ papers are already being exposed to stories that detail rapes of kids their own age.  

But that’s news, the editorial boards would argue.  People have a right to know.  Following that logic, then, it can’t be controversial that readers have a right to know that transvaginal ultrasounds look like this:




…and that these ultrasound laws coming up for debate would require that women seeking abortions would be forced to endure this vaginal probing without their consent.

Sure sounds like rape to me.

A Pap smear is not rape, despite the suggestion of Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America.  Just like Janice, I schedule Pap smears with licensed, trained professionals whom I trust.  Janice and I consent to the procedure, following the guidelines recommended by our doctors.  It’s not against the law to skip ‘em, though.  We have a choice in the matter.  When we get Paps, we say yes.*

But back to the pearl-clutchers of convenience populating the editorial boards of Twin Cities newspapers, suddenly so nervous about children.  THE CHILDREN!  MY GOD, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Give me a break.

The word “rape” should make people uncomfortable.  How are we going to stop it without talking about it?  How are we going to debate the politics of mandated vaginal ultrasounds without considering that, yes, the procedure looks and sounds an awful lot like rape?

A credible newspaper cannot reasonably claim that news articles on the rape of children (reported in much larger type than appears on the comics page) are somehow less damaging than a comic strip satire.  Pearls cannot be clutched only when it suits….The Suits.

The whole thing almost makes me want to start a subscription so I can cancel it in a huff.  Almost, but not quite!  Happily, these papers are dwindling into insignificance all on their own, due in large part to dumb decisions like this one.

You can keep up with Doonesbury online here:


* can you believe I’m still explaining this yes-means-yes, no-means-no shit?  I can’t, either. 

Rape culture is real. Here’s why you should care

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Apparently, only the Centers for Disease Control and the mainstream American media are surprised that there are numbers backing up this thing that we feminists have long called “rape culture.”  I mean, when was the last time that NPR reported on rape when it didn’t involve a male celebrity perp?

I’ll wait.

In the meantime, the tight knot in my right shoulder, the one I call my Angry Muscle, is telling me that I ought to write a blog post on the subject, but I fear that no post will be nearly as straightforward as the one written by a friend who blogs as Minneapolitan Mademoiselle.  The MM is a whip-smart feminist and anti-violence advocate here in my hometown, whom I suspect blogs anonymously as part of her plan to run for public office.  She needn’t worry, though, as she writes with a great deal of common sense, neither cussing wildly nor baiting misogynists like your rad mama here.

The MM kindly allowed me permission to repost an excerpt from her roundup of Life in Rape Culture, which she entitled “And this is why you should care…”

[Yesterday,] the CDC released the results of the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Some key findings include the following:

  • As many as 1 in 3 women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, compared to about 1 in 10 men.
  • 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
  • Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half experienced the first rape before age 18.
  • 28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
    • Both men and women who had been menaced or attacked in these ways reported more health problems. Female victims, in particular, had significantly higher rates of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, frequent headaches and difficulty sleeping.


Doesn’t that just inflame the hell out of your Angry Muscle?? But wait, there’s more:


Next up we have an article in the NY Times about how women and men who have been sexually assaulted are often victimized again, by people they know, by the legal system and by the media. Not really big news among we DV/SA advocates, but great that the Times is giving the issue some much needed coverage. It’s a short, good read.

I read it.  I had the same reaction as I did when I listened to NPR this morning.  “This isn’t news to millions of victims, or to people who care.”  And by care, I don’t mean caring about rape and sexual violence in general, as social ills–I mean people who are compassionate and kind enough to be trusted by a survivor with his/her story.  Whenever I encounter someone who claims not to know any victims of domestic and/or sexual violence, I have to break the news that they do.  Actually what I usually say is: “ask yourself why you’re such a fucking jerk that no one trusts you with the truth.”
There I go, cussing again!  Back to MM:


Another example of of systems failing rape victims…According to the WaPo, “A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against former defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates by 28 military members and veterans who said they were victims of sexual assault.” Thankfully, the plaintiffs’ attorney plans an appeal, because we need action taken on this hugely important issue. According to the article, there were “more than 3,000 reports of sexual abuse in the military in fiscal year 2010, but only 529 went to trial.” That is only one of a number of issues that exist with sexual assault in the military.


OUCH.  That really activates the ol’ Angry Muscle.  MM suggests that we all check out the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) to learn about how we can support the health and safety of our sisters in uniform, and I agree.

And finally, a fraternity at the University of Vermont thinks it’s legit to ask new members who they’d like to rape. The University doesn’t think so and has suspended the organization. Here’s a brief write up about that. 


My Angry Muscle clenched up so tightly I think I may have fainted for a second.
Many, many thanks to Minneapolitan Mademoiselle for allowing me to repost from her blog.  Advil, anyone?

A rape culture morning

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

There are some days in which I deeply regret waking up and opening the laptop.  I want to rewind my day completely: unbrew the coffee, uncook the oatmeal, unpack the lunches, unkiss the children goodbye.

Today is one of those days.

Photo credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This happened last night.  I’m in shock.  I’m nauseated.  I’m so tense I can barely pry my jaw open for said coffee and oatmeal.

It is honestly killing me that thousands of people would take to the streets to support a man accused of covering up the sexual assault of children.  

These people are mostly college students, the types who are gravely affected by the issues that sparked Occupy Wall Street.  But are they protesting the fact that the hyperinflation of college fees and predatory lending policies mean that their average student loan debt will be well over $20K per person? No.  They are protesting the firing of an 84-year-old man who allegedly conspired to hush up the actions of a serial pedophile.  What the hell is wrong with them?

Add the menacing warning of Herman Cain’s lawyer to those who accuse the powerful of sexual assault and harassment (“THINK TWICE”) and you have a headache that just won’t quit and a strong desire to crawl back into bed, wishing that this day never happened.

Welcome to a rape culture morning, folks.


SlutWalk Minneapolis: a challenge from Barbra Peterson

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Friends, fans, flamers: I give you Barbra Peterson.


“We’re challenging you here today. We demand that you start covering the crime itself.  Start now doing stories about the backlog in processing rape kits.  Start now doing exposes on why only six percent of rapists serve any time.  That’s a crime in itself, don’t you think?  And how about how colleges try to discourage the victim from reporting the crime? Do you think the newspapers should be doing stories about that? Instead of a word we choose to call the event? What do you think?”

What DO you think?  Tell me in the comments.

One thing that we won’t debate, however, is the brilliance of Barbra, a woman I cannot BELIEVE I am lucky enough to know.

Pinch me!


SlutWalking through the media

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

…and it ain’t pretty.  Or is it?  I’m so burned out I don’t know anymore.


Regular readers of this blog should recall a recent post here called “If we didn’t confront you, you wouldn’t pay attention.” It described my thoughts shortly after I completed an interview with a local reporter about SlutWalk Minneapolis.  Richard Chin and I talked for a good 30 minutes about all things feminist, including the fact that my work today is informed by my desire for my daughter to grow up in a world where her IDEAS mean more than her BODY.

Her miniskirted body.  Her high-heeled body.   Her blah blah blah…, did you see those LEGS!  Check out the GAMS on HER!

The article hit the streets (pun sadly intended) on Monday, September 26. You can check out the article yourself here.  I am quoted near the end of the piece, NOT within the legs, thankfully:

Shannon Drury, president of MN NOW, said she thinks the SlutWalk can present a different face of feminism that attracts younger women. “There’s a lot of baggage when it comes to feminist imagery. There’s a lot of stereotypes of what feminists look like,” said Drury, 39. “Some people don’t like the idea that a feminist would dress in provocative clothing.”

The Mama Grizzly was right: you really can’t trust the Lamestream Media!  For those who haven’t met me in person, I wear a bra.  I shave my legs.  Am I still a feminist?  I do not wear makeup, nor do I wear heels.  Am I still a woman?  And most importantly, what on earth did Richard Chin and I talk about for the other 29 minutes of our conversation??  Did rape as a public health emergency come up at all?!!

Happily, I was able to share my opinion on the subject with the good people at Minnesota Public Radio News, who printed my commentary, “A rape protest whose talk draws attention to the walk,” on Wednesday, September 28.  Allow me to quote myself, please:

…during the course of those 30 minutes, the reporter mentioned that a previous interviewee said she would fear for her daughter’s safety if she were to wear a SlutWalk t-shirt in public. I replied that everything I do for women’s civil rights is done to ensure that my daughter’s world is a little better than the one my feminist mentors left me. Why should I accept limitations for her? Shouldn’t I demand that my culture accept her dignity, her humanity and her bodily autonomy? In the end, the one quote [the reporter] used was about feminists in provocative clothing….

Sex sells, with or without consent. In a puritanical society as baffled by sexual behavior and expression as ours, it follows that any frank discussion of sexual violence would lead to confusion….I challenge the opinion that SlutWalks draw negative attention. The negative attention is already here. It’s called silence.

My thanks to the editors at MPR for allowing my hastily- and furiously-cobbled together piece space this week.  One interesting bit of feedback I received from the essay was via a friend who sent it to a vocal opponent of the entire SlutWalk movement.  Said this critic after reading my commentary: “well, at least Minneapolis has its act together.”

Gosh!  I might be pretty after all!  But I’ll take another picture, just to be sure…

Additional links to local coverage of SlutWalk Minneapolis (trigger warning for victim-blaming in comments sections):

Heavens! A SlutWalk in Minneapolis.  Brian Lambert,

SlutWalk comes to Minneapolis.  Sheila Regan, Twin Cities Daily Planet

SlutWalk March divides feminists.  Kristin Tillotson, Minneapolis StarTribune


Criticism= good. Victim-blaming= bad.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Does that make sense now?

Is that simple enough?

It better be, for I no longer have any interest whatsoever in defending the words “slut” or “SlutWalk.”  Really.  I’m done.  One more interview with the college kid who wrote me this morning and THAT’S IT.

Right now I’m in triage mode.  Sexual assault survivors I know are hurt.  They feel attacked, and for good reason.  They are triggered.  I am triggered, observing them.  Just because I haven’t experienced rape today, doesn’t mean I won’t tomorrow.  No woman can say she’s out from under the shadow of rape culture for as long as she lives.

Conservative estimates (via RAINN) guess that a person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two seconds.  By the time I finish this post, there will be …  christ, who am I kidding?  Untold numbers of people–sisters, mothers, daughters, brothers, sons–will experience sexual violence at the rate I’m going.

Eldridge Cleaver said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  I hate to get all binary, but that’s what happens when I’m pissed off.

So which are you?  A solution?  A problem?  If you’re not sure, ask around.  One of your friends is a rape survivor: ask her.  Ask what she was wearing when she was assaulted.  What she was doing.  What she’d been drinking and how much.  Ask how she’d feel if a discussion on the merits SlutWalk degenerated into a referendum on how her recovery from her rape is going.

Go ahead, ask!

I’ll wait.

In the meantime, I’ll remind you that I’m not so far up on my high horse that I cannot accept criticism.  Far from it–as a Privileged White Woman, learning from others is my job!  I’m serious!  PWW isn’t a label I reject.  How can I reject something that’s true?  I mean, have you SEEN me?


Have you heard back from your survivor friend yet?  The RAINN clock is ticking, you know.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons said in her address to the participants of SlutWalk Philadelphia, “as strange as it may seem today, I’m sure some, if not many people [once] took the position ‘what do you mean take back the night? You shouldn’t be out at night!’”  Will SlutWalks last forever?  I have no idea.  Nor do I care!

We won’t always agree, and we shouldn’t.  A movement like that would be too boring for words–even words like “slut” and “SlutWalk.”




Thank you.

Talking SlutWalk, this time with the pros

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Can you stand another post about SlutWalk controversy?  It has to be more interesting that arguing about whether Gardasil causes, erm, “mental retardation” and/or slavish devotion to Big Pharma.

The good people at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MN CASA) recently issued a series of discussion points about SlutWalks that I found absolutely terrific.  Excerpts:

Positive Results from SlutWalks

  • In order to dismantle institutionalized power, privilege, and oppression, the movement needs people actively working both inside and outside of traditional systems. 
  • The organizers have created a lot of very important attention and reaction to victim blaming in sexual assault cases. 

Opportunities for More Dialogue

  • Is this attention being done at the expense of women and children who are currently caught in the system of prostitution? How might they feel to see others parading as “sluts” while this may mirror their reality – likely not a choice. 
  • Is reclaiming really effective? Do we want to reclaim “slut”? 

Read more here.  It says something about the thoughtfulness of MN CASA’s release that I am actively fighting the temptation to dive in arguing (if the assumption that the organizer of SlutWalk Minneapolis can’t possibly be a woman of color annoys ME, how must it feel for Kim, an honest-to-gawd woman of color?).  It’s definitely worth a read, especially because it comes from an organization dedicated to eradicating sexual violence and not from pundits, armchair or otherwise.

If MN CASA’s discussion points inspire some insights of your own, consider participating in a open forum in Blaine tomorrow afternoon (details at the SlutWalk Mpls Facebook page).  Pros and cons will be hashed out in a safe environment, moderated by Kim and others on the event planning committee.  I’d be there, but the fam and I have tickets to see the Twins get pummeled at Target Field that afternoon. Even feminists need a peanuts and Cracker Jack fix now and then.