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This morning, before I left the house, I got dressed. One might argue that by putting on clothing, barring a wardrobe malfunction, I could reasonably assume my privates would stay private even as I move through public space.
Last week, the court ruled that under existing Massachusetts law, up-skirt photos—photos taken surreptitiously, without consent of the subject, up skirts or down shirts in public space for private or public viewing—were not illegal.
There was immediate public outrage at the ruling—but let’s not lay blame with the court. Massachusetts’ rules were outdated on this subject, along with most states in the country. Lawmakers very quickly jumped to support changes to the phrasing of the law, in which photos taken up the skirts of fully-clothed adults failed to meet the “nude or partially nude” litmus; this flurry of action is a good sign. Technology advances rapidly, and our legislation can’t always keep pace—which is why it’s so crucial, right now, this very minute, that we commit to updating other loopholes and legislative gaps to reflect modern threats.
Our focus should lie with thoughtful, thorough solutions: updates to legislation that protect citizens from this new technological violation as well as others, which also consider the impacts criminalization can have on marginalized communities. The law needed to be updated, in short order, absolutely—but we need more than a rapid response to public outrage that will burn out and lead to other, similar legislative changes taking a back burner.
Why did previous proposals to update peeping tom laws in Massachusetts languish? What other, new ways are women and girls and people of color and the LGBTQ community being violated in public? What other outdated laws need to be updated, loopholes for modern realities closed? These issues need our collective energy and attention, too, and not just for the brief days it took to make upskirting, specifically, illegal.
When we allow protections like an updated, modernized peeping tom law to take a back seat, we reinforce a societal norm that devalues the experiences of already marginalized citizens; by declining to keep our codes current, we refuse to offer means of recourse or support for victims of creepshots and up-skirt and down-blouse photographs. We reinforce the widespread belief that assault, harassment and violation are an invariable fact of life for a large portion of our population and support the assumption that to enter public space is to risk mental or physical harm. Hollaback! Boston works alongside myriad other organizations to challenge these norms, locally and globally, every day: shouldn’t everyone be entitled to feeling safe in public space, on public transit, and to have access to various means of recourse if we do not feel safe?
Yes. We should.
Last week saw an enormous amount of outrage over the ruling, and understandably so; individuals, and lawmakers, assumed we had a right to privacy beneath our clothes, and we’ve seen again what happens when you assume. The court has highlighted the need for this specific update and the challenge our legislative system faces in keeping up with technological advances that may or may not be covered under current laws.
Until we dig deeper, and sometimes test them in court, it’s difficult to set priorities among so many proposed laws. What this instance should highlight for everyone is that, despite our communities’ best work to eradicate the sexual and gender-based violence that colors our movements through public space, there are new and unregulated means of violation that must also be addressed. Let’s not allow the outrage cycle to turn the important discussions surrounding last week’s ruling into a flash in the pan.
What a week! Between White Ribbon Day festivities, the Massachusetts upskirting ruling and legislative updates, a workshop at Harvard and inquiries leading up to International Anti-Street Harassment Week, we’ve been busy – and we’re not done yet. This weekend, Brenda and Britni are presenting amid an impressive lineup at the Five College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference at Hampshire College.
With so much excitement, a few things you may have missed:
What else did we miss in all the action this week? Let us know in the comments!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
Technology is a funny thing, and quick; advances are often made more rapidly than changes in legislation, leaving loopholes that our justice system is frequently unable to close. In Massachusetts today, the court has ruled that current state law does not in fact prohibit up-skirt, creepshot or other surreptitious photography on public transit.
“At the core of the Commonwealth’s argument to the contrary is the proposition that a woman, and in particular a woman riding on a public trolley, has a reasonable expectation of privacy in not having a stranger secretly take photographs up her skirt. The proposition is eminently reasonable, but § 105 (b) in its current form does not address it. [FN17]“
Hollaback! Boston is glad to see that we agree – in that we find it eminently reasonable to expect privacy beneath our clothes in public. Like other forms of sexual harassment and violence, there is a power dynamic at play in this type of photography, a taking of what the perpetrator deems rightfully theirs (be it a phone number, a conversation or a private photo) while the victim is left without a chance to consent.
Unlike snapping a photo of a stranger, intentionally or in the background, where that person is fully clothed and presenting themselves as they see fit in public, up-skirt photography disregards the intent of the subject – getting dressed to keep parts of their body private – to place higher value on the desire of the perpetrator. Like harassment, it’s not a compliment; up-skirt photography is not intended to benefit the subject, only the photographer, while a true compliment would do the opposite.
Like many states, Massachusetts’ laws have not been amended to address the new ways harassers can and do use technology to violate women, but we are hopeful that this ruling will shed light on the issue and motivate work toward legislative updates, and we’re thrilled that Massachusetts lawmakers are already voicing interest in bringing our state laws up to speed.
For more on the larger trend of upgrading up-skirt laws, take a look back at Time’s coverage of the topic last fall, and read up on what other local sources have to say today:
Boston Herald: Mass. court: Subway ‘upskirt’ photos not illegal
We think that up-skirt photography is a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy, and we look forward to supporting legislative changes to provide protection for victims choosing to report the behavior. What do you think? Do you expect that what you intend to keep private beneath your clothes can be up for consumption when you leave your home?
–The Hollaback! Boston Teamone comment
February flew by, and March is jam-packed with events as we ramp up for spring and International Anti-Street Harassment week. Stay tuned for details as they’re finalized, and bookmark the Upcoming Events page for a current calendar!
As we dive into March, here’s a quick peek back at our most popular posts in February:
What are you getting excited about this month?
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
I made a music video about street harassment and I think you folks here would dig it!
I’ve been making hip-hop music for over a decade and, one day, my wife inspired a song about all the gross things men say to women in the street under the guise of giving compliments. It was easy to pen because, growing up in New York City, I’ve heard them all.
The chorus pretty much wrote itself because it’s what my wife would exclaim when she shared the harassment of the day. From our hearts to yours; do everyone a favor, dudes, S T F U!
Before you come out to join us in some self-care tonight, a quick list of links you should be sure to click this week:
Have a lovely weekend!
The team here at Hollaback! Boston firmly believes that everyone has a right to have their voice heard. We believe that everyone’s voice matters, and we strive to listen to the things that people tell us. And in that vein, we have chosen not to participate in V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign. We made this decision because we do not feel that we can support a campaign that many communities have told us actively causes them harm. Collective Action for Safe Spaces said exactly what we want to about this decision:
But if our voices matter, then it also matters when and how we use them. This is why, when February 14 rolls around, CASS will not be participating in V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign. The ways in which this campaign has co-opted or erased the community-driven work of people of color — while representing this erasure as the price to pay in building a universal movement — have been well-documented since the campaign’s beginnings, and the conversation is far from over. The movement to end gender-based violence can and should involve learning, solidarity and alliances across communities and borders. But CASS recognizes that not all communities experience gender-based violence in the same way(s), and that effective and sustainable responses to violence must, by definition, be community-driven.
We also want to take a cue from CASS in terms of how we choose to mark today, February 14:
Instead of supporting One Billion Rising this Friday, we will use the small platform we have to show our solidarity with the good work of activists and organizations that are responding to the needs of their communities in innovative ways.
So today, we’re choosing to highlight local organizations that are doing amazing and badass work in communities of color. If you’re not already familiar with these orgs, we suggest you check them out!
Boston GLASS is a drop-in center for GLBTQ youth ages 13-29. They create a space where youth can explore their gender-identity and sexual orientation and feel supported and encouraged. HIV and STI prevention, support, awareness and testing is a huge part of their mission, and they also provide groups and social support.
Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC) is dedicated to the unique and complex needs of the Black, Hispanic and Latin@ LGBTQ community. Founded in 2009, they work to inspire and empower Latin@, Hispanic and Black LGBTQ individuals to improve their livelihood through activism, education, community outreach, and counseling. They hold amazing community building events, and an awesome Youth Empowerment Conference each year, which we were honored to participate in in 2013.
HUES Boston is a collective of LGBQ/T identified Brown Womyn in Boston. HUES is a program of HBGC that works to provide a space where LGBTQ Black and Hispanic/Latin@ womyn can be safe, visible and celebrated.
The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, their work aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We strengthen our communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services. Their TOD@S project seeks to gain more insight on domestic violence/partner abuse within Black and/or Latin@ LGBQ/T communities and to create greater access to resources and services for survivors from these communities.
MAP for Health is a community-based, nonprofit organization that works to improve healthcare access, disease prevention and service delivery for the Asian Pacific Islander community in Massachusetts.
Mass Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA) is a Boston-based organization for GLBTQ people of South Asian ethnicity. Their aim is to increase the awareness of our presence in the social spaces that they inhabit and welcome alliances with like-minded individuals and groups regardless of their ethnic/cultural/sexual identities.
Professional Queer Women Of Color is a group for professional queer women of color living in New England who are interested in meeting with other sisters to share laughs, tell stories and support one another.
Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (QAPA) is committed to providing a supportive social, political, and educational environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and questioning people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in the Boston and New England area.
The Theater Offensive seeks to present the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities.
MataHari: Eye of the Day is a Greater Boston organization of women of color, immigrant women and families who organize as sisters, workers, and survivors for personal and societal transformation, justice and human rights. MataHari’s Mission is to end gender based violence and exploitation.
Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) primarily serves Asian families and individuals in Massachusetts and New England who suffer from or are at risk of suffering from domestic violence.
Queer Muslims of Boston seeks to be an safe, inclusive, confidential and welcoming space for those Muslims who identify as LGBT, Queer, or Questioning. They aim to remove isolation and alienation, to build community, and to increase visibility for Queer Muslims in the Greater Boston area.
Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) strives to build community power through a comprehensive approach to community development. They work to develop and preserve safe and culturally diverse affordable housing communities whose residents will have opportunities to increase their social, educational, economic and political power, in order to reach their full potential. They use the arts as a community-building tool to increase cultural pride and foster cross-cultural connections.
Director’s note: Last week, the Hollaback! Boston team got wind of controversy brewing over the placement of a hyper-realistic statue of an undressed, sleepwalking man, placed outdoors on Wellesley’s campus as part of a larger exhibition. The Hollaback! mission is very specific to street harassment, and does not generally include art critique, but a core tenet of our work is the belief that everyone deserves to feel safe in public space—and, through that lens and in the interest of sparking conversation, we reached out to students currently petitioning for the removal of the statue indoors to offer our online space as a platform for respectful discussion.
One student at the center of the debate, though she declined to guest post at this time, pointed us to a piece on the topic written by a Wellesley alum; we connected with Alix, and asked if she might have anything else to say about the statue and its impact on safe spaces.
Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence and assault, PTSD, street harassment, public masturbation and the like. –Kate
Hi. My name is Alix. Once upon a time, I attended a women’s college, I worked in an art museum, and I was sexually assaulted.
A few days ago, I would have never thought those three things belonged in the same sentence, but here we are. Last week, my former employer erected an art installation at my alma mater that has sparked an intense debate about sexual assault, public safety, and artistic freedom, on an international scale. To quote one of the great movies of our time, “The shit hath hitteth the fan…eth.”
I already discussed many of my personal feelings on this story on my own blog (tl;dr: I recognize the value of getting campus more involved in talking about art, but not at the expense of public safety), but Hollaback! Boston invited me to elaborate on the subject as it relates to the wider topic of street harassment and rape culture.
In the past few days, I’ve answered a lot of questions about why this is an issue we should be talking about, and I’m going to try and address some of those here today. Before we begin, though, I’d like to include some important caveats:
I am an alum, and as such, I am primarily coming at this story from the perspective of someone in the alum community. I don’t keep in touch with anyone currently on campus, and at the end of the day, those are the only people who should really get a say in this story. Not me, not other alums, not the artist, and definitely not some trolling commenter on a news article who has absolutely no relation to the Wellesley community. I don’t think this invalidates my perspective as a former student, former museum employee, and sexual assault survivor, but it is something to bear in mind as you read this or any other article on the subject.
I also do not speak for all survivors of sexual assault or rape. I can only speak for myself, and use my own experiences as a frame. I’ve seen plenty of Wellesley alums who are also survivors and do not support the petition to move the installation inside. That doesn’t negate the concerns of the many students for whom this is an issue.
At the heart of this debate is context. Every victim’s experiences are uniquely horrible, and everyone deals with trauma in their own way, in their own time. Likewise, every survivor is going to respond to similar situations differently. Moreover, trauma is a dynamic problem. For my own part, this would be a very different piece if I had written it a year ago instead of today. My assault experiences haven’t changed, but I have. In another year, I’ll probably view things differently still. The context in which we process and deal with sexual assault is always evolving. In my own life, the perspectives of my past and future selves are equally valid as mine is today, just as the perspective of a survivor who supports this art installation is equally valid to that of a survivor who doesn’t.
So, with all this in mind, here are my answers to the most common questions I’ve seen regarding this debate.
How many students could this possibly affect?
First and foremost: if it’s one student, it’s too many. Wellesley’s primary job is to provide an educational environment in which its students can thrive, and public health and safety is an essential part of that environment. If I had a physical disability—say, I were in a wheelchair—Wellesley would be ethically and legally obligated to make sure that all my classes were scheduled in accessible classrooms. No university would say, “Sorry, you’ll have to negotiate those stairs or else not go to class.” So why is it ok for Wellesley to say something similar to students struggling with mental health issues? “Sorry, you’ll have to negotiate this triggering statue or else not go to class,” is not an acceptable answer. The placement of the statue is such that for many students, it is simply impossible to get anywhere on campus without encountering it. Whether it’s one student or five hundred, the university has an obligation to provide access to education to all its students in a safe, healthy environment.
But it is not just one student, or even a couple students, that could be affected by this. I could list statistics about the number of women who are raped or assaulted, or the number of women who will suffer from PTSD in their lives. But you probably already know those numbers. I love math, and I love statistics, but sometimes they are difficult to relate to on a real life level. Well guess what? You definitely know a woman who has experienced sexual assault or rape. Maybe it’s even you. More than likely, you know many women who have experienced some form of sexual trauma.
When I finally started sharing my history of assault several months ago, more than half of my female friends responded by telling me their own horrific stories. This art installation may only be a problem for a very small minority of women who’ve experienced sexual trauma, but the number of women with those experiences is so great that even that small minority is almost certainly larger than a handful. Survivors often do not widely discuss their trauma experiences for a variety of cultural and personal reasons, but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Come on, how could this be a trigger for anyone? It’s inert!
Triggers can be anything. You don’t get to pick them, and there’s not always a clear explanation as to why something is a trigger. For a while, I couldn’t go into any grocery store without having a panic attack, for no discernable reason. I’ve never been attacked in a grocery store, and yet the produce aisle now gives me anxiety. No idea.
Here, it’s a little more cut and dry. Again, it has to do with context. Wellesley is a women’s college. Generally, there is a minimum of men walking around campus in their underwear, so this hyper-realistic sculpture is going to be surprising at best. (In most contexts, I think a random man wandering around in his tighty whities is going to be surprising at best.) Wellesley also has a history of flashers, public masturbators, or otherwise creepy men showing up on campus from time to time. My senior year, we had a man known as “The Fondler” who would loiter in the woods around campus and then masturbate in front of students, until he was eventually caught. Strange men wandering around campus in their underwear is rarely a good thing, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be alarmed by the perception of one.
For someone who doesn’t struggle with PTSD or anxiety, you might simply be startled until the moment that you do realize that it is an inert sculpture. But for many people who have experienced trauma, including myself, it only takes a fraction of a second for that startled feeling to turn into a panic attack, for reasons that I’ll try to explain more thoroughly in my answer to the next question.
It’s not going to be a trigger for everyone, but the bottom line is: it is a trigger for some people. Full stop.
Ok, well once everyone knows it’s just a statue, how can it still be a trigger?
Oh man, how I wish triggers worked that way. My life would be so much easier if the part of my brain that controls anxiety was able to better communicate with the part of my brain that controls logic. Think of all the groceries I would buy! I wouldn’t have had to eat the very sad, very oniony, and very stale sandwich I had for dinner last night, because I would never run out of food again!
To answer this properly, we’re going to have to get a little neurosciencey, so bear with me. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I have spent a lot of time listening to counselors and doctors explain all the ways in which my brain is trying to sabotage me, so I’ll give it my best shot.
The amygdala is a part of your brain that processes memories and emotions. When you perceive a danger or threat, a little warning alarm starts sounding in your amygdala that kicks your body into survival mode. Your brain sends signals to your endocrine system to flood your body with adrenaline, which triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response. Because this is a survival mode, it supersedes any other kind of brain function or logic. Even if you know, logically, that a situation is not dangerous, there’s no override function that the rest of your brain can use to stop this reaction.
The problem that many people who’ve experienced trauma face is that we can get stuck in this hyper-sensitive, high-alert mode. Not only real, present threats, but even the mere memory of threats can trigger this panic survival mode. The amygdala cannot distinguish between what is a real, present threat, and what is only the memory of a threat. This is how, 8 months ago, I was walking down a busy street, and something about the sound of footsteps and a man’s voice behind me brought me back five and a half years, to a December night in Paris when a complete stranger followed me home and attacked me. The logical part of my brain knew that this situation was completely different, but in the tiny moment when my amygdala linked the sound of footsteps to that horrible, traumatizing memory, that was enough to switch on survival mode. That’s why articles like these come with trigger warnings, because even reading that sentence can dredge up enough feelings for some people to flip that switch.
Unfortunately, that is not the worst part about anxiety or PTSD. The worst part is that you become so afraid of your own anxiety that it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. I’m not afraid of grocery stores because they are somehow inherently threatening. I’m afraid of them because one day, I had a panic attack in a grocery store, and now I’m terrified that every time I run out of milk I’m going to have another.
That’s what makes this sculpture’s continued presence on campus so troubling to me—the memory of being triggered can sometimes be more powerful than the trigger itself. I know from experience that anxiety is something that can spiral out of control quite quickly. For five and a half years, I functioned remarkably well without ever dealing with my assault experiences. I’m not saying that things were perfect, but on a day-to-day basis, my trauma was not something I thought about. Literally in the course of one afternoon, all of that changed, because that one trigger, that one day, quickly became lots of triggers, lots of days. Now, there is not a week that goes by that I don’t have to think about how my PTSD is going to affect my life on the most mundane levels—my job, my sleep, even my ability to buy groceries.
Isn’t it unrealistic for survivors to expect that all triggers be removed from their lives? Shouldn’t they learn to deal with it?
I don’t think anyone is requesting or expecting to go through life avoiding all triggers. All that’s simply being asked of the college is to help minimize that risk, which they are refusing to do. I don’t resent the existence of grocery stores or people on the sidewalk because they give me anxiety, but it does help me manage my anxiety to be able to control when and how frequently I interact with them. I deliberately go grocery shopping at times when the store is less crowded, or I walk down less busy streets to get somewhere. The college is not giving students that option by keeping the sculpture so prominently displayed in the middle of campus.
What’s wrong with the artist telling students that see this as a statue as a trigger to go to counseling? That seems like good advice.
For context, this is a quote from the artist:
“What they see in the sculpture is not in the sculpture,” said Mr. Matelli, who added, “If you have bad feelings toward this and it’s triggering you, you need to seek sympathy, you need to seek help.”
First of all, let me just say that nobody gets to tell you how to interpret a work of art, not even the artist. So there’s that. But on to the bigger issue—why do some people (such as myself) view these remarks as unhelpful or insensitive?
All too often, our society treats mental illness in a very different way than it does other illnesses. If I’m physically sick, say, I wake up with a migraine, I can call my boss and tell him or her “Sorry, I have a migraine, I can’t come in to work today.” But if I’m having a day where I’m suffering from panic attacks, I would never say, “Sorry, I can’t work today, because my PTSD is too bad.” There’s a perception that people with mental health issues are fragile, unbalanced, and even untrustworthy that makes it very difficult for many people to work up the courage to go to counseling.
Furthermore, it took me over five years to seek professional help because for a long time, it felt like giving into the PTSD and admitting that I needed help was handing power over to my assaulters, like I was conceding defeat. I also just wasn’t ready to process some of the things that happened to me; dealing with these kinds of issues can be really, really difficult, and it is a long, ongoing process. When I started counseling, things got much worse for me before they started to get better again. Everything was harder; my panic attacks were more frequent, and my triggers became more numerous. And in all likelihood, PTSD is something I’m going to continue to struggle with for the rest of my life. Mental illness isn’t a cut or a break that you can solve with some plaster and bandages; there’s no magic cure, and I don’t get to walk away from a few weeks or months or even years of counseling not having to worry about when my next panic attack is going to be.
Counseling can also be extremely expensive and hard to come by; I am very fortunate in that I have access to a local rape and sexual assault counseling center that provides me indefinite counseling, free of charge, but that’s about as common as unicorns. Many universities put caps on the number of times a student can seek counseling services within a year (according to their website, Wellesley’s counseling center offers only short-term counseling of 6-8 sessions). The sad truth is that many women might not have access to the resources they need.
And of course, the last thing any victim needs is someone on the outside telling them that they’re broken, that they need to somehow fix themselves. That’s not only insulting and condescending, but it also feeds back into this idea that women need to take responsibility for their own rapes.
Talking about mental illness is already fairly taboo in our culture, but when you add any kind of sexual violence into the mix, the problem becomes even more complex. We live in this deeply entrenched, rape apologist culture where we’re so good at covering and ignoring the problem that in addition to the systematic blaming of women for their own assaults, even victims learn to blame themselves. If you want evidence that our society doesn’t support victims of sexual violence: a few days ago, I was quoted in a news article about this statue business, and someone in the comments with a PhD in psychology implied that I am a “drama queen” because I have PTSD. I could not make this stuff up if I tried.
But it’s art!
To me, this is the most maddening part of this entire discussion. What the artist, museum director, and college administration all seem to refuse to acknowledge is that they are having an entirely different debate than the students who would like this statue moved inside. I am trying to address each of these questions in as objective a way as possible, but I have to admit here that nothing in this story has incited rage in me quite like this quote:
“I was completely taken aback by this response,” said Ms. Fischman, who hopes to use the discussion around the work as “a teachable moment” on “creative freedom and what it means to honor that on campus.”
Wow. That is… very condescending and also completely missing the point. Dear Ms. Fischman: please let this be a “teachable moment” for you about rape culture and how the first amendment actually works.
My right to express myself extends exactly as far as the point where my act of expression infringes upon someone else’s rights, and no further. This is why we have libel laws and movie ratings and all sorts of other legal and cultural structures that we, by and large, accept as functional pieces of our society—because expression, as wonderful and necessary as it is, can be dangerous in certain contexts. That’s all anyone is saying—this art installation, in this specific context, is a public safety hazard. It’s going to cause traffic accidents, negatively impact student health, and ultimately prompt vandalism if it stays up. Moreover, nobody gets to come into my house and put up art I don’t want; neither Tony Matelli nor the Davis Museum has any inherent right to put up art in the middle of a private, residential institution.
The fact that all this is happening in an academic setting is all the more insulting because it doesn’t comply with any sort of academic research ethics. Let’s say tomorrow, a Wellesley professor decides to conduct a study in which she observes how students react to different art works. Without the informed consent of the experimental participants, that study would never receive ethical approval from any academic institution. At its core, that’s what this art installation is—an experiment in student perceptions of art. Only, the students did not consent to participate.
Finally, as another alum pointed out, in the above article, Ms. Fischman chose not to install the equivalent female sculpture outside because she thought it would seem “too exposed” (um… ok. It’s a women’s college; literally every person there sees a pair of boobs every morning in the shower), which suggests that she herself is aware that certain contexts are not always appropriate for certain art works. Apparently, though, that argument is exclusively limited to what she feels is appropriate, not other people’s opinions. Thank you, Ms. Lisa Fischman, for being the arbiter of all that constitutes propriety in the art world. We would be eternally lost without your wisdom.
This is such a trivial issue. Shouldn’t we be worrying about starving children in Africa?
If you take away nothing else from this post, please take this: that is a logical fallacy. Both as a society and as individuals, we are capable of caring about multiple things at once. We also don’t have to individually place the same weight of importance on the same issues. If we did, nothing would ever get accomplished because we’d be so busy fighting over the best way to solve really big problems that no one would bother with anything small and immediately addressable.
Look, I have a master’s degree in sustainable development. Believe me, I am acutely aware of what a hot mess the world is. That doesn’t nullify the importance of this issue to this community of people. An issue doesn’t have to be important to you particularly to be important to someone else.
Moreover, this debate is part of a larger discourse about gender inequality that is intrinsically tied to a whole host of other issues, including starving children in Africa. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside how problematic foreign aid can be and momentarily accept the premise that we, the Wellesley community and Americans in general, are somehow necessary to alleviating global poverty. Even if that’s true, there is endless research that indicates that poverty is inextricably linked with gender inequality. You cannot solve one without dealing with the other in some measure.
These conversations, small and insignificant as they may seem, are tiny cogs in a very big machine that’s trying to change the way we treat sexual violence in our culture. I don’t write about my own trauma experiences because I enjoy it—I do it because I genuinely believe that in talking about these issues, and hearing the voices of more and more survivors, we are changing rape culture. In doing so, we are able to address so many other difficult issues in the world simultaneously. No one story is insignificant or unimportant. As a culture, we need to stop minimizing and trivializing the little struggles, because each tiny battle is a turning point in someone’s life, somewhere.
Enough of those turning points, and we’ve changed the entire landscape of our society.
image credit: The Importance of Being Alix17 comments
This week, take a look at another illustrated discussion of the cumulative effects of street harassment from Happy Jar, consider voices raised for and against a petition from Wellesley students to move Sleepwalker indoors, read another response to the debate over twitter feminism, contemplate what it is about powerful men and very young girls, refresh your definition of rape culture, take a peek at the work of Fat Girl Food Squad in cultivating body positivity, and review 15 life tips from Amy Poehler in gifs.
Then, take a break. What are you up to this weekend?
image credit: Happy Jar
We jumped into 2014 with both feet, and January kept us busy! Here’s a look back at the five most popular posts from last month, in case you missed them:
Stay warm and dry this week, Boston!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments