A Let’s Make it Better App

So, there is a person that I follow on twitter. She’s been having a rough go of things lately. She’s not whining about it, or asking for favors because of it.

She is documenting it because her experiences are part of a larger social justice struggle. The things she experiences daily are things that I simply don’t have to deal with, things that I would guess the majority of my readers don’t have to deal with. But they are her daily lived reality. And they are the daily lived reality of many other people like her.

I was scrolling her feed the other day and trying to find ways to support her. There’s the easy and obvious, reply to her with words of encouragement. I did that, but I am a small voice in a sea of hate on her bad days. And – I’m a stranger. I follow her, but she does not follow me. We are not friends. We are simply fellow travelers, and I am eavesdropping on her conversation at the bar. I am an intruder in her space and my voice simply does not travel as far inside as that of a friend.

Now, at a regular bar if this happened, I could have my server, or the bartender, send over a drink or some food. Some small token from one human to another, “I see you, I hear you, I feel you. This too shall pass.”

But, on twitter… There is no way to do something that tangible.

I did send her a message and offered the usual – a shipment of chocolate or cookies, or even homemade jam. (Remarkably, yes, sometimes strangers do accept shipments of jam from me.) She didn’t reply. Again, I’m a stranger, and for me to send her anything she would have to trust me enough to give me her address – and she has no reason to do that.

And then I thought about other times that I have reached out to people on the internets to send them emergency chocolate, a box of cookies, coffee and tea gift baskets, a handwritten letter, and yes – jam.

And I thought about all the people I follow and interact with, people I have never met, probably never will meet, people who have absolutely no reason to give me their address (Have you seen the ranty shit I write!?! Would you trust me with your address?!?) and I had an ah-ha! moment.

I am not normally an app kinda gal, but… There should be an app for this.

There should be an app that allows someone like me to send a cookie gram, or chocolate gram, or flowergram or emergency teddy bear to someone on twitter or facebook or next-hip-social media space – even if their handle is the only thing I know about them.

Now – the first follow-up thought I had to this epiphany was – “Oh wait, the trolls!” Because many of the people who need this service most need it because they are receiving so much hate on the daily, fucking rivers of hate, tsunamis of hate, that the last thing they need is for trolls to be able to send them hateful messages wrapped up with flowers. Can you even imagine surviving *another* horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day only to come home to a doorstep filled with sugar-coated hate!?!

So – this app would need to work with known retailers, retailers who refuse to print hate filled messages on anything. Personally, in my magic app world – you would get to choose from a number of positive messages, no personalization options, and send only nice things. (No lumps of coal.)

Once someone like me signed up/signed in with my social handle, I could input the handle of the person I wanted to send something to and the social network that handle was associated with. The app would ping that person and let them know they had a gift pending. The person would have the option to accept or deny the gift. If they accepted they would sign in (if they were a member it could be a simple one click YES! or NOPE!) and put in their address, so the kindly stalker would never see it, and the worthy person would receive their gift. If they rejected their gift, or simply ignored the gift notice for more than 3 days, the giver wouldn’t be charged and no gift would be sent.

The app company could skim off the top of the charges, taking anywhere from 1-3% for their trouble (or charge the gift giver a standard service fee ala Fandango) and get the goodies delivered.

I am telling all of you about this idea in the hopes that one of you (or lots of you) are app developers or know app developers because that is not my skill set, but this is an app that I would pay for and use and would like to see in the world. So, if someone could make that happen and get back to me, that would be great.

There are a whole lot of people out there who could use some cookies and I’m just the lady to send them.

 

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Filed under Naive idealism, Things that work

Expanding Humanity

I recently finished Marissa Meyer’s book Cress. It’s the third installment in her Lunar Chronicles series.

cress

Where does humanity stop and alien begin?

What follows here is less a review and more a discussion of something I realized when I finished this particular book, but which has been there all along, gently teasing at the edges of my mind and tugging at the corners of my heart…

There might be mild spoilers, but I don’t think so. All the same, if you’re worried, go out, buy Cinder, Scarlet and Cress (and pre-order Fairest) and get reading and then come back and join the conversation.

Okay, disclaimers over – diving in.

I fell in love with Cinder the moment I saw the cover. It’s brilliant, and it describes the book perfectly.

Then I read it and I loved it even harder. The writing is brilliant, the characters are true, the story is mind-blowing. I became an instant “Lunartic.”

Scarlet upped the ante again, adding whole new layers of depth and intrigue to the story, enriching the world Marissa Meyer has created. It provided another 36 hour reading marathon and a book hangover so heavy it appears I forgot to review it.

And now Cress. This is by far and away the best book in the series to date.

I read it strictly for pleasure, no sticky notes in hand, no intention to review or discuss it. But this one – stuck with me. In a way that the others didn’t. (The others stuck, but just as fun books I can’t wait to foist on every person I know who is over the age of 12, and a few who are younger…)

Perhaps it is just the timing of this one, but I realized as I read Cress that it was challenging some important notions, pushing some important boundaries, encouraging some important discourse. I’ve read a few reviews to see if anyone else is talking about this, I couldn’t find anything. And I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of the author, or just me imposing my political views on these books – but… There is a deep brilliance in these books.

As I read Cress it hit me.

Marissa Meyer is challenging us to re-examine our definition of “human” of “citizen” of “us.”

I suppose in a way this is a common theme in sci-fi, where there are all sorts of sentient beings co-existing and we are challenged to find the “human” within the alien. Honestly, that has always been one of the strongest draws for me to sci-fi and speculative fiction – this expansion of what counts as humanoid.

But there is something deeper and more direct going on in the Lunar Chronicles. The Lunar Chronicles directly challenge our narrow definition of “human” in ways that many other stories do not. In much sci-fi, the aliens are still aliens. Sure we may parlay with them, work with them, coexist with them – they are humanoid, but they are not human. We may grant them the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as humans, but there is a subtle undercurrent that says we can revoke that decision at any time.

We have leveled the playing field, but we reserve the right to pull the aliens out of the game if we perceive them as a threat to us winning. Like the USA did to Japanese Americans during World War II.

And this is how things begin in the Lunar Chronicles. There are various us/them groups and splits and divisions. There are the Earthens – humans. But within that group there are also cyborgs (Hello Cinder!) who while still technically human, are legally “less than” to compensate for being mentally & physically “more than.” Not to mention the androids, who are just AI machines, or is Iko more than that?

And then there are the Lunars – and within the Lunars there are subgroups such as “shells” – Lunars with no powers, Lunars who may as well be Earthen – but who are actually more powerful than Earthens because they are immune to the power of other Lunars. Then there are the queen’s wolves, genetically enhanced killers programmed to do the Lunar queen’s bidding. And the Thaumaturges – the powerful leaders of the queen’s army.

In Cinder and Scarlet as all of these groups were introduced, we were encouraged to see the differences, we were encouraged to understand the strife keeping them all apart. But in Cress, as the “tower” (a satellite) falls, so too does the illusion of separateness begin to crumble.

We begin to see, and understand, and feel the innate humanness of all of these groups. We are challenged to break down the mental barriers that have been built up and see past the prejudices to the deeper truth.

Lunars began as humans. Despite a despotic ruler, Lunars are human still. Just as Japanese Americans were still Americans, whether we could bring ourselves to see it or not.

We see Cinder’s existence challenge Prince Kai’s notion of humanity – can she still be fully human as a cyborg? As a Lunar? Can he still love her?

We see Wolf challenge everyone’s notion of humanity, including his own – he’s not only a Lunar, he’s also genetically altered and enhanced to be a killer. Can his core human override his animal programming? (An analogy to The Hulk would not be out-of-place here.)

What about Cress? She is Lunar, yes, but she is a shell – her own people were supposed to have killed her as an infant. She is feared by them for her ability to resist their control, and feared by Earthens because of her birth place. But inside, is she really so different? Is she any less worthy of human dignity, human respect, human rights?

When I look at the world Marissa Meyer is building, I see the parallels on our own world – the divisions of “us” and “them”, the ideas that the strong must be limited to protect the weak, but in a weird contradiction – that the weak are also somehow simultaneously less worthy of the full set of rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with full citizenship. I see the same lines being drawn around different groups, trying to define them, designate them, shield them from others and others from them.

But, in Cress, I see the beginning of hope – the beginning of a better way, the start of understanding and compassion.

And it begins on a personal level. It begins with people willing (or forced through sheer dumb luck and rabid desperation) to engage “the enemy,” to extend the smallest amount of wary, guarded trust… And I see it build out from there.

This is something that I see here in our world too. Yes, there are many people who have created bubble-wrapped echo chambers, online, in social media, in personal interactions, in the news they watch and read – selecting only those sources that reinforce their world view and tell them they are right and the others are Others – strange, incomprehensible & scary.

But more and more, I am seeing a brave few break down their own walls and start following, reading, engaging “Others” only to discover that they are more alike than anyone ever told them.

I remember the last time I got arrested in China. (For those who don’t know, I was arrested in China 3 times in a 3 month period with my parents. Long story.) We had finally made it to Beijing, we had just gotten our hotel room for the night. We thought we were in the clear. And then the police knocked on our door. To be fair, it was the nicest interrogation we had on our journey. The captain took us out to a restaurant and asked us about our trip, where we went, who we talked to, what our purpose was in going places we weren’t allowed to be, whether we took any pictures, etc. The interrogation took long enough that his officers had plenty of time to ransack our room, make copies of our journals, run background checks using our passports, etc. and determine that we were probably not spies.

At the end of the interrogation, I remember the police captain offered his hand to my father and then pulled him in for a hug. There were genuine tears in his eyes when they pulled apart. “I have been told my whole life that you are the enemy. That America is evil and corrupt. That you are poisoning the world. But now I have met you, and I see that we are not so different at all. We both want our children to be healthy and get good educations. We both want good food for our families, and to be able to provide shelter and clothing for them. We want to live our lives in peace. I think maybe that all over the world, this is true. I think maybe people are all the same, we all want the same things. I think maybe my government, and your government are wrong. I think maybe they should have dinner together and talk and maybe they will see this too.”

And then he walked us back to our hotel room, talking and laughing and crying some more with us.

When I travel, that is why I travel – yes to see the different ways that people express their humanity, but also to remind myself that at the end of the day, we are all far more alike than we are different. We are all striving for the same goals. We all want the same basic things – to take care of ourselves and the people we love. While we might live under different governments and different faiths – at the end of the day we’re all citizens of this planet, and we are all equally deserving of the same basic human rights and the same compassion. When we allow ourselves to drop our shields and engage “the enemy” with an open mind, we often discover that we’re standing on the same common ground, striving to reach the same common goal – we’re just taking a different path to get there.

Cress pushes this idea of expanded humanity, expanded citizenship even wider – challenging us to take off our “us” and “them” lenses and see past our divisions and our prejudices to look for and hold dear the common humanity that we all share and begin to build a better world based on that.

 

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Filed under Books, Naive idealism, Things that work

Still me, but with less swearing

I am hoping to make it back to TBT today to either post part 2 of the Guns in America conversation, or perhaps another detour about ethics, morality & money.

In the meantime, and in case I don’t make it back – My first article for Everyday Feminism just went live, so you can read about parenting in a post-feminist world over there -

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/make-room-for-bigger-truths

The article is a positive action based piece on helping kids break open their gender boxes a little bit to make room for more of their truth to shine.

Feel free to drop a comment. I’ll be bouncing over periodically to join the conversation.

Cheers.

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Filed under Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Things that work

Celebrating the Intention of Liberty and Justice for All

When I woke up this morning I was a bit of a mess. I didn’t want to celebrate a nation that wasn’t celebrating, or even respecting me.

I was fed up.

I thought about all the things that this holiday tends to celebrate – American exceptionalism, American colonialism, American bigotry… And, I just couldn’t do it.

I was too angry. I felt too betrayed by my country, and I saw too many other people, much worse off than me, being hurt by my country’s policies, laws and ignorance and I didn’t see anything worth celebrating.

I tried to wake my husband up with the first cup of morning tea, but as I handed it over to him, I just collapsed in sobs, waking him up with tears instead.

We talked, and he reminded me that the 4th of July doesn’t actually celebrate the independence of America from Britain, it celebrates the INTENT. We don’t celebrate the day that Revolutionary War was won. No, we celebrate the event that started the war, the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

We celebrate the day a group of people said, ENOUGH!

We celebrate the day that we declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

American melting pot

We are ALL endowed with the same inalienable rights.

And that is something I CAN celebrate – the intention to create a nation where all people are created equal, where all people are treated equally under the law, where all people are afforded equal respect and all people are seen as worthy of dignity and the same unalienable rights.

But – we aren’t there yet. And I think that on this day, above all others, we need to collectively recognize that there is still work to be done. We are still on the journey. We still have a long way to go.

The fight is not over.

We may have beaten the British. We may have passed the 13th amendment and (finally) freed the slaves. We may have extended citizenship and voting rights to a larger number of people. We may have passed the Civil Rights Act, but we are not done yet.

We have not ratified the ERA, making women full legal citizens with the same protections under the law as men. We are still battling the legacy of slavery and entrenched racism within our borders. We are still denying equal rights and equal humanity to gay and transgender people. We are still trampling on the native and natural rights of our country’s first inhabitants unless they reject their ancestry and assimilate into our world view. We are still calling ourselves patriots while blockading buses of refugee CHILDREN.

When the Declaration of Independence was written, our founding fathers did not truly include all people in their manifesto – but as Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Today I am going to celebrate the progress we have made, the progress we are pushing for and the intention to see it through, to truly create a nation where ALL PEOPLE are seen as equally endowed with the same rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

I hope you’ll join me on the journey. It’s a long, twisty road, but it’s not so hard when we walk it together.

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Emotions, deeply held beliefs and actual facts.

I’m 3/4 of the way through 6 articles right now – Part 2 & 3 of the American Gun Culture conversation, a piece on teaching children compassion, a piece on immigration reform and Obama’s rumored executive action on that, a piece on being an askable adult and a piece on buffer zones and free speech.

I haven’t been able to work on any of them for the past couple of days because I have been blinded by rage. And… as much as I like preaching to, or screeching with, the choir from time to time, recently I’ve really enjoyed using this space to try to speak a little more calmly and clearly about issues that matter to me and to try to shed new light on contentious issues.

So… I’ve been doing some gardening, some cooking and when I could, some reading.

I’ve been trying to breathe and find my peace in the world.

This afternoon, finally, I was able to slink past the visceral emotion for a brief, shining moment to give a friend some additional facts to support her argument that Monday’s SCOTUS decision regarding Hobby Lobby was complete and utter political/religious bullshit.

*deep breath* Trying to calm the rage and get back to facts – because… The facts simply aren’t on the side of Hobby Lobby.

Here’s the tip of the iceberg -

Beyond the fact that Hobby Lobby  has no problem importing most of their cheap products from China, which engages in forced abortions, or the fact that their retirement plan invests in companies that make bank producing and selling contraception, including the forms they claim to object to…

Hobby Lobby’s employee insurance previously covered precisely the forms of birth control they “sincerely object to” – until they re-examined their policy in light of ACA and pressure to bring suit by an outside organization.
http://www.becketfund.org/…/Hobby-Lobby-Complaint… (Note 55, page 14 of their original complaint.)

They claim they did not know they were covering it, but here in Colorado, if you offer insurance to your employees, you are required to cover all forms of FDA approved birth control if prescribed by a doctor, so… They knew because birth control coverage is mandated in 26 states in which Hobby Lobby operates! (For those who need a little help, that would mean that the majority of US states recognized contraception as basic health care prior to the ACA.)
http://www.ncsl.org/…/insurance-coverage-for

A side note here – this can be looked at two ways, as employers being required to pay for things they don’t agree with, or as insurance companies being required to cover a defined minimum set of standard medical care options, including contraception.

Last, their sincerely held belief that IUDs cause abortions is scientifically and demonstrably false so having the Supreme Court uphold their right to deny their employees medical care based on false beliefs is truly terrifying. SCOTUS’s response that the government can come in and pay for/subsidize these forms of birth control is naive since the Hyde Amendment bars the federal government from funding abortions and SCOTUS just agreed with Hobby Lobby over medical science that these 4 forms of birth control are actually abortifacients if you just clap your hands and believe hard enough.

These are actual facts – that Hobby Lobby’s “sincerely held belief” only began once Obama signed the ACA into law, that prior to that they had never sued any of the 26 states which required all employee insurance plans to cover all FDA approved forms of birth control and that their belief that these forms of birth control are abortifacients is simply false and therefore SCOTUS just showed an employer’s religion preferential treatment over their employees, thus actually violating the intent of the first amendment they claimed to be upholding.

Here are some more facts.

If we have insurance, we are all paying for things we disagree with. That is how insurance works. They take all our money, pool it together in one giant pot and use that money to pay out claims – without consulting us. I don’t have a say in whether Bob next door gets to take viagra, or whether June down the street really needs medication for her depression. Those are decisions that are made between a patient and a doctor and the insurance company’s job is to pay the damn bill. And yes, my money, as a healthy person who never goes to the doctor, is being used to cover those treatments whether I agree with them or not.

This whole, “But I don’t want to pay for your…” argument is tired and boring and ignorant.

pay for war

I don’t agree with war. But my taxes still pay for it.

We are ALL paying for each other via insurance premiums and tax dollars.

In addition to that – allowing employers to say that they don’t want their insurance plan to cover certain items is dangerous and despite what SCOTUS said, should be illegal.

Here’s why.

Insurance offered through your employer is part of your overall compensation package which consists of wages AND benefits. How we spend our wages cannot be controlled by our employers. How and where we use our vacation time cannot be dictated by our employers. How we use our insurance shouldn’t be either.

Freedom to impose your religion

Your freedom ends at my body.

If Hobby Lobby really has a sincerely held religious objection to these 4 forms of birth control, then does that mean they can dock the wage of any employee using these forms of birth control, or fire people who are using them (or benefiting from their use)? I ask because of this whole, “They shouldn’t have to pay for your slutty choices.” argument.

If they are paying wages to someone who uses those wages to purchase an IUD or Plan B or any other form of “objectionable” birth control (If they were Catholic that would be ALL of them…) that really is the same as offering insurance to their employees which covers those options.

Could an employer fire someone because they used their sick days or vacation time to access an abortion? If not, they should not be able to dictate how an employee uses their private insurance which is offered to them by the company as part of their overall compensation package.

What people fail to understand about the birth control coverage mandate is that – it requires insurance companies to simply cover all FDA approved medical prescriptions – including but not limited to birth control. It requires those to simply be part of every plan. It does not actually require anyone to USE that coverage, any more than it requires me to get a colonoscopy even though that too is covered by my (and your) insurance plan. If I don’t want a camera up my ass, I don’t have to let a doctor put one there. But if my doctor tells me that it would be a good idea to take a look, at least I will know I won’t have to pay $1,000 for the discomfort.

(And not because I have “pre-paid” for that service via my monthly premiums but because the other members of my insurance plan have been paying into the pool. So, you might be paying for that. Since Rush Limbaugh wants video of my slutty sex if birth control is covered by insurance, does that mean he also wants the video of my colonoscopy!?! That thought almost makes me want to get one… Because I’m malicious that way.)

A last note – I know that Obama created a work-around for actual religious institutions and organizations. For the record, I was pissed off then – and this is why, because of the slippery slope it created. I am tired of women’s health being up for debate. I am tired of being told that no one wants to pay for my slutty sex while staying absolutely silent on the continued coverage of penis pumps, viagra and penile implants.

I am so tired of the argument that birth control is frivolous and therefore shouldn’t be covered by regular insurance alongside viagra.

Seriously? Men have a “right” to erections, but women don’t have the “right” to protect themselves from an unplanned pregnancy?

See, birth control is something that is used for many purposes outside of slutty sex. The pill is something you have to take every day whether you plan on having sex that day or not. If you plan on having sex that month, or the next month – you have to take the pill every day. If you’re worried that you might get raped, you have to take the pill every day. IUDs are long term birth control that a woman gets and tends to just leave in until she decides she wants to have a child. It isn’t worth the hassle or expense of getting one put in, taken out, put back in… They ARE NOT abortion machines delivering 365 abortions per woman per year. (366 on leap years.)

The pill, IUDs, the Ring, Depro, etc. are all basically insurance policies for women (and the men having sex with them). They are not things women use and pay for so they can have slutty sex every day. They are tools for planning and controlling family size and timing. Many of the most effective methods are used by women for long periods of time even when they are not having sex.

I used birth control for a full year before I ever had sex. And I stayed on it during every “dry-spell” in between partners. It helped me walk home late at night from my job as a security guard in the middle of a rape epidemic. I hoped being on it would mean that even if I was raped, at least I wouldn’t ALSO have to deal with a pregnancy and abortion.

Beyond preventing pregnancy, many birth control methods are also tools for promoting the overall health and well-being of the women who use them. Women use birth control to treat a variety of ailments that have nothing to do with sex or preventing pregnancy.

The reasons a woman is using birth control, as well as her reasons for choosing one method over another, are private medical decisions that take place between the woman and her doctor and she should never have to justify them to her boss, to her legislators or to strangers at her insurance company. Contraception is basic, common preventative health care and it’s time we started treating it as such.

As for who is going to pay for it – we all are. Just like we all pay for the other basic, common, non-controversial health needs in this country. It’s time we recognized women’s health needs as legitimate health needs.

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Guns, rape and self-defense

This is part one in a planned three-part discussion on gun culture in America. This post is a response to something a friend sent me. The other two posts will have a broader focus.

A friend of mine sent me this article, which is a response to something John Scalzi wrote about the desirability of guns for self-defense. He wanted my take.

To save you from having to follow the links, here’s my breakdown:

On the desirability of guns for self-defense – a former Marine talked about his perception of the reality of owning/using guns for self-defense.

His basic response was that, guns kill people. Given that, unless you are going to take the time to get trained to use the weapon properly and safely you are putting more people at risk than you will ever help, that even people who are trained miss the person they are aiming at more often than not (70% of the time) because fast-paced, high stress moments do not make for good marksmanship. And last, that if you do use your gun in self-defense and you use it correctly and you hit your “target” there is a solid chance that you will kill another human being. Make sure you are okay with that before you decide on a gun as your primary self-defense tool.

Scalzi’s response was to say that he agreed with many of this man’s points, while also supporting a person’s right to own guns as part of their personal security system, but that he hopes gun owners engage in significant training and be responsible with them. And then he infuriated gun fetishists, the folk who open carry AK-47s because GUNS EVERYWHERE!, by saying that when he sees them he doesn’t see a strong, confident patriot, he sees someone who is afraid of everything all the time.

So, the response – a long piece about how using guns for self-defense is really the only rational thing to do in this world, especially when it comes to preventing rape.

First this man talks about prevention of rape and sexual assault. He does give a passing nod to education – making sure that everyone knows what rape is, not using taking advantage of drunk people as a humor device in movies, and otherwise giving more people a clue and compassion for what rape is and what it does to the victims.

Then he talks about sociopathic rapists, not just the clueless, bumbling “oops, was that rape?” nice guy rapists, but the drug your drink with the intent to rape you, jump out of the bushes to ravage you type rapists. He says there is no preventing them, just as you can’t prevent a rabid dog from biting, or an arsonist from lighting things on fire.

I want to pause for a moment here to say that I think he paints the sociopathic rapist with a very broad brush. I personally believe that there are a lot of social and cultural factors that go into creating people (often male) who believe that other people’s bodies (especially women’s) are up for grabs. While it is intimidating to think about changing our culture because it feels like a huge task, it is not an impossible one. Culture shifts all the time, I don’t understand the resistance to doing it with deliberation and foresight to create a better, safer world. Unless, of course, you are one of the people who benefits from the current power dynamics and who would lose status by promoting equality.

Saying, “This is the way the world is, live with it.” sounds depressingly defeatist to me. Especially as a historian who knows that this is not the way the world has always been, and therefore this is not the way the world has to be. Nor is it the way the world is everywhere now. There are cultures where rape is statistically at zero. Rape is not an inevitable consequence of sharing space, it is a result of imbalanced power structures.

So to me, the sociopathic rapist is, like the sociopathic arsonist, a product of our culture, which means that if we really want to, we can change not the individual, but the circumstances that created them, over time. It is within our power.

create change

It’s not a question of can we do it, it’s a question of WILL WE?

However, in the meantime, in this current reality, yes, we have rapists.

So – what do we do about them right now?

The author discusses avoidance. He states that educating people on ways to avoid attack is not blaming the victim, because the agency is on the attacker always.

And… In many areas of life this is true. While I am encouraged to lock my car doors, and my house doors, if I fail to do so and my car is stolen or my house is broken into, the police will still come, they will still file a report, they will still follow-up if there is enough evidence for them to do so – and in the meantime hopefully I have insurance that will reimburse me for those losses, regardless of how lax I was in protecting my possessions.

If I am violently assaulted or killed, the police will again arrive, take reports, collect evidence, process the evidence and (unless I am a person of color) do their best to find the perpetrator and bring them to “justice.”

However, if I am raped… That all breaks down. Yes, the police might gather evidence and put together my rape kit. But the chances of them processing it… slim to none. (Though that is starting to change.) The chance of them pursuing the case – that will depend entirely on who the alleged rapist was, whether I act properly victimized, and how many of the “don’t get raped” rules I broke, because while this author believes that agency always belongs to the attacker – when it comes to rape, our culture and our justice system disagree.

Again, that is the part we have to change as a society. And all the guns in the world aren’t going to move that needle.

But yes, by all means, let’s avoid dangerous situations. For women that means wearing burkas and never leaving the house. Oh wait, that doesn’t prevent rape either. Damn, what’s a girl who wants to exist to do?

And so we get to: Reaction – how to react or respond to your rapist.

Guns and violence.

The author states that, “The solution to violence is almost always more violence, escalated to the point where the attacker decides to disengage.” And he does list a bunch of links and studies which show that guns and violent resistance do deter aggressors.

And then after making sure we know and believe that violence ends violence, he states that therefore bringing a gun to your rape is the best way to prevent the rapist from completing the rape.

EXCEPT (and these are his words, so I don’t even have to do the dirty work here!) “It’s less effective for date rape, rape involving drugs, marital rape.  It’s most effective against direct physical attack, which may or may not be part of the above.”

In other words, bringing your gun (that you are trained to use) to your surprise attack rape could, possibly prevent it. But, that still leaves the other 90% of rapes (on college campuses) or 78% of rapes nationally.

And this is really where the “just get a gun” argument falls apart for me, and for most rape survivors that I know. Bringing a gun to our rape means pointing a gun at and possibly using a gun against someone we know, and possibly even someone we love. And that is true for the VAST MAJORITY of rape victims.

Date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape… These are the most common forms of rape. And yet they are taken the least seriously unless they are accompanied by additional violence and are the least talked about because – what the fuck do we do about them? Do we really shoot the perpetrators? Because it turns out, women who do that tend to end up in jail. Oddly “Stand Your Ground” and even basic self-defense arguments don’t seem to work out so well for us. Funny that.

stand your ground

Stand your ground. Unless you’re a woman.

And even if going to jail for defending ourselves wasn’t likely, we would still have to live with killing someone!

When I think back to my rapes, my sexual assaults, my stalkers even… Could I have killed any of them? Who would I be now if I had to add that to my conscience?

The author says that by calling the police on my stalker I was committing violence by proxy (except, of course, the cops never showed up. But in their defense they did say that if he managed to break in and rape me they would come collect evidence afterward, so there’s that.) and that really, I should have taken matters (violence) into my own hands instead of outsourcing it. And sure… I was already there. If I’d had a gun I could have killed him and felt safer for a minute. But somehow I imagine that the same cops who wouldn’t come to my defense when I called them, would have arrived in a flash if I shot my stalker off my porch. Cops tend to frown on citizens taking matters into their own gun warmed hands. And even if I did get off on a self-defense plea… Once the initial feeling of safety wore off, I would still have to live with having killed someone. I don’t know about that.

(And as for simply brandishing the gun to get him to go away, this is a person who my father dangled over a three-story balcony while threatening to rip his balls off and force him to eat them if he ever came near me again. And that didn’t work. Clearly his fear response was underdeveloped.)

Even this author, a male survivor of sexual assault, admits that a gun would not have prevented his assault – because he was drugged and could not use it.Which is sort of ironic since the person who drugs a drink and rapes is the exact example of the sociopathic rapist that cannot be stopped, except by a gun, that he cites to remind us feminists that insisting on culture change is somehow enabling the aggressor.

Meanwhile, in many of those drug & rape scenarios there are witnesses and additional participants who do nothing. Do not speak up, do not intervene, do not call the police and certainly do not pull out a gun and insist that the rapist stop raping on behalf of the drugged victim. Why? Because of the culture that we have created that says other people’s bodies (especially women’s) are up for grabs. But yeah, changing that and getting people to intervene when they see sexual violence happening is totes enabling the aggressor.

Bringing a gun to your rape, might prevent it. But… I wonder, and I would love to see the study that says how determined and able to use the gun you have to be for it to work as a deterrent. Is it enough to point a shaky gun in the general direction of an aggressor while sobbing? Do you have to have clear eyes and something that looks like good aim from the barrel end of the gun? Do you have to look like you really will, and are able to, pull the trigger?

ready to fire

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

As someone who was taught gun safety at a young age and who married a gun owner, the first lesson I was taught was only point it at things you INTEND to put a hole in. Ie; if you’re not planning on firing it, don’t point it. If you can’t follow through it’s better not to get it out at all. So bluffing with a gun is out.

Finally, the author talks about the “myth” of being disarmed and having your gun used against you – but says he can’t find any examples of that.

So, I’ll give him two. I am a 5’6″ 135ish pound, untrained civilian woman and I have disarmed two men with guns. In both instances I was in my 20s and much smaller than I am now. I disarmed one physically, taking the gun from him and disarmed the other by talking him down. Granted the one I talked down was threatening himself, not me. But the one that I disarmed physically was pointing it at me. It was not hard to take it away from him. I could teach most able-bodied people how to do it in a couple of minutes of practice. Why? Because most people with guns think the gun will protect them from action. They rely on your panic to stop you from moving at them.

As for women having their own guns used against them, yes, there are records of that happening too. Remember that most rapes occur within the framework of an intimate relationship or solid acquaintanceship. This means that many perpetrators have access to the victim’s gun, and that even if the victim is holding the gun – there are some confusing emotions roiling around in there and her grip/aim/resolve might not be as strong as that of the person who thinks he is entitled to her body.

Yes, sometimes guns have stopped violence. They have also escalated it. And redirected it. And made it worse.

Ultimately, do I think women should be allowed to own guns for self-defense. Yes, if that is the method they choose – but like Scalzi, I think they should engage in significant and ongoing training and be responsible with their guns. Also, I think that all people who use guns as their primary method of self-defense should recognize that having a gun is not a guarantee of safety.

As a nation, I would like us to consider whether adding more guns to the gun pool instead of limiting who gets to go swimming in the gun pool is the national safety strategy we want to pursue.

More on that in Guns in America – Part II & III

It’s less effective for date rape, rape involving drugs, marital rape.  It’s most effective against direct physical attack, which may or may not be part of the above. – See more at: http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/rape#sthash.VKIZzJEz.dpuf
The solution to violence is almost always more violence, escalated to the point where the attacker decides to disengage. – See more at: http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/rape#sthash.VKIZzJEz.dpuf
The solution to violence is almost always more violence, escalated to the point where the attacker decides to disengage. – See more at: http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/rape#sthash.VKIZzJEz.dpuf
The solution to violence is almost always more violence, escalated to the point where the attacker decides to disengage. – See more at: http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/item/rape#sthash.VKIZzJEz.dpuf

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What does abortion cure?

This post was inspired a few days ago on twitter, where else.

It started with a guy asking “What disease does abortion cure? None. Abortion is not health care.”

Setting a broken bone doesn’t cure a disease, but we still consider it to be valid medical health care.

Then came the Melinda Gates post explaining why even though she wants to help women plan their families and stop dying from preventable pregnancy related complications, her foundation does not fund abortion because that is a separate matter, ie; not legitimate health care.

So, here’s the thing – abortion is health care. Not only does it actually, literally cure a few things, it also treats potentially lethal conditions and can provide a compassionate end for a non-viable fetus.

abortion care

Abortion is reproductive health care.

Preeclampsia & eclampsia (which is defined as an acute and life threatening complication of pregnancy.) Abortion cures gestational diabetes, which if it gets bad enough is also life threatening. Abortion cures severe cases of placental abruption and placental praevia, both of which can cause severe uterine bleeding leading to enemia and threatening the life of the mother. Abortion cures pregnancy related high blood pressure which can lead to death. Abortion can cure certain types of sepsis, or infections, caused directly by the fetus. Such as the recent death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland where a woman who was spontaneously miscarrying was denied an abortion to complete the miscarriage and ended up dying of sepsis caused by the dying fetus.

Now, granted – not all women who experience these conditions and diseases of pregnancy experience them at a level where an abortion is medically indicated. BUT SOME DO. And the decision to end a pregnancy to save the mother needs to take place between the woman and her doctor. Period. Full stop. Politicians don’t need to step in, unrelated citizens don’t need to step in, uninvited family doesn’t need to step in. This is the WOMAN’S life – she gets to decide, with her doctor, what her pregnancy risks are and how close to death she wants to risk getting in order to give life to another human.

Then there are the other conditions that abortion cures. These are more black and white. When this happens there is exactly one choice. Save the mother, or let her die. There is no wiggle room.

Depending on how “pro-life-of-the-fetus-no-matter-what” you are, abortion could also cure an ectopic pregnancy. For those of us who are more “pro-life-of-the-mother” we don’t consider that to be an abortion because ectopic pregnancies are NOT VIABLE EVER and if left untreated can kill the mother. AND YET – some Catholic owned hospitals are not allowed to treat ectopic pregnancies because even though the pregnancy is not viable, they consider ending it to be an abortion. So, you know, kill the mother even though the fetus won’t live, because the Catholic church is pro-life.

Then there is my friend who required a uterine ablation, a procedure that removed the lining of her uterus permanently. The result is that any future pregnancy will be life threatening for my friend. The only way to save her life would be for her to have an abortion. Her husband got a vasectomy, but nothing is 100% and vasectomies have been known to reverse themselves, there is also the disturbingly real risk that my friend could get raped and become pregnant if either of these scenarios were to happen, my friend would have no choice but to terminate her pregnancy or widow her partner and leave their children motherless.

I have another friend who was diagnosed with cancer six weeks after learning that she was pregnant with a very much wanted pregnancy. Her type of cancer and the stage that it was at left her with two choices – keep the pregnancy and forgo treatment (because Chemo kills fetuses) which would allow the cancer to grow and spread beyond what modern medicine has a hope of curing, or… End the pregnancy, get treatment and try again once she was healthy. She had to choose – her life, or a baby.

Those are just a few of the direct, clear-cut medical reasons for abortion to save the mother’s life.

There are also some reasons to have an abortion to save a baby or child from excruciating pain.

Before I dive in, I want to remind everyone that as a parent now I have not only the right – but the obligation – to make medical decisions for my children. If they are in a horrific accident and are in a coma with little chance of ever waking, I am given the option to remove life support. If they are diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill them slowly and painfully, in some states I have the right to allow a doctor to help ease them from that suffering. There are many reasons that I, as a parent, would have the right to compassionately end the suffering of my children.

As a pregnant person, whose body is being used as a life support mechanism and who will be a parent if the pregnancy is viable and a live child is born from it, we too should have those same rights of compassion.

If at, or after, 20 weeks it is discovered that our fetus has a condition or disease that makes it incompatible with life, we should be allowed to end that pregnancy and end any suffering that fetus might experience as the pregnancy progresses, not to mention our own suffering in carrying a pregnancy that we know will not produce a live child.

If we learn that our fetus has a condition that will force them to spend their entire life, no matter how long or short, in severe, crippling pain, we should have the right to end that suffering.

This is a decision that should be made between a doctor and the woman – and no one else. Not politicians, not strangers, not uninvited family or people of another faith who purchased the only hospital in town. This is a difficult, emotional, medical decision and it is a decision the parent carrying the fetus must make with the information provided by the medical people she has hired to assist her.

There is also the case of a woman who sought an abortion because she was in an abusive relationship. She told her doctor that her husband was abusing her and beating the children they already had. She did not want to bring another child into that life.  The doctor would not perform the abortion without the husband’s permission, which the woman could not get. The baby was born and within a month the father had killed it in a violent rage.

Those are cases of what I would call compassionate abortion. Terminating a pregnancy to end or avoid undue suffering.

There is another category of abortion.

We, as a nation, have been talking a lot about mental health. What with all the shootings and stabbings and whatnot. And granted, most of those conversations are about all the angry white guys – but… Women have mental health issues too.

postpartum depression is a real thing, and it can kill. For women who already suffer from depression, or who are experiencing it for the first time because of the circumstances of their pregnancy are at a very real risk for developing severe postpartum depression, or even severe depression during the pregnancy. This depression could cause the pregnant woman to commit suicide, or could lead the mother to kill her child after the birth.

These, to me, are the clear-cut examples of times that abortion is health care. This is when abortion saves lives, or helps to end them compassionately.

These are all instances when a doctor and their patient should be left alone to make the decision that is right for the people whose lives will be affected.

There are plenty of other stories of when abortion is helpful and is health care.

Last, it is worth noting that illegal and unsafe abortion is one of the three leading causes of maternal death world-wide – which is to say that safe, legal, and accessible abortion cures unsafe and illegal abortions and the maternal deaths that they cause.

illegal abortion kills

Making abortion illegal or inaccessible doesn’t stop abortion, it just kills women.

Safe, legal and accessible abortions SAVE LIVES. Women’s lives.

That is why abortion is legal in the USA, that was the basis for the supreme court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Women have the right to access abortions as part of their reproductive health care because abortion is a medical procedure that helps women who need it remain healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally. That is why abortion should be covered by insurance, including medicaid. That is why Melinda Gates foundation should fund abortion if she really does care about reducing maternal death world wide.

 

 

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