L’oreal lipstick and snow

I’m wearing L’oreal’s “Bitten Berry” today.

I’ve had an obsession with lipstick since the moment I became aware that I was female and aware that women wore lipstick. I’ve loved deep reds, 1940′s glam reds, campy 50s diner-waitress reds as long as I can remember.

L’oreal has a very specific scent. No other lipstick smells like it. There’s a note of industrial production, a waxy chemical smell. Then there’s a hit of vintage femininity, a thick, flowery, musky smell. It’s that last note that, when coupled with a snowy morning like today’s, spurs memories so strong they play like a flickery swimmovie in the back of my head even while I’m going through the motions here at work.

I was a swimmer in high school, and the girl’s swim team was active in the winter time. It was three years of chlorine-tinted, frozen hair, keeping damp skin from freezing to the cold, metal window frames of the school bus, reading AP English texts between races, at pools that dotted the Colorado map from Sterling to Estes Park to Boulder to Aurora. And there was lipstick.

I wore bright reds because there was a pretty big bell curve of similarity in body shape and size on our team and when we all donned our stars n stripes swimsuits, goggles and caps, we all looked a bit like a race of pale, bug-eyed, cloned aliens. And then there was me, with my bright red lips. So my parents could see me. I wore Revlon’s cherries in the snow and L’oreal’s True Red. I just wanted to stand out, in a small way, even when we all looked the same.

Swimming was a good sport for me: a team effort, but not in the way, say, soccer or softball would have been. When you’re in your relay, or your race, in your lane, you are completely alone. And for me, a kid who had struggled her whole life to obtain focus despite an unmedicated, persistent and pernicious case of ADHD, the moments spent with the sole task of breathing, moving forward, and going as fast as possible, were precious. Moments of utter clarity devoted to tasks that required my absolute and dedicated attention.

This morning, as I navigated icy sidewalks to the bus stop, I breathed the cold air tinged with L’oreal’s Bitten Berry, and remembered the white noise of the pool. The crunch of frozen locks of hair. The scent of chlorine. And my brain tuned to the only points that mattered. Momentum. Breath. Survival.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The things we remember, the things we forget

The rituals we have do not change now. There will be flags. There will be uniforms. There will be images, names, certain understandings. We don’t deviate from these, because it’s dangerous to stray from this path any more. There are rhetorical land mines on either side of this narrow, well-trodden road, the path we’ve learned to funnel ourselves into this day, every year, for the past twelve years. The mines are scattered and volatile. If you try to move around those in front of or behind you, you run the risk of tripping one of the mines: Truthers. The war. The other war. George W. Bush telling us to go shopping. Patriotism. Bin Laden. The WMDs. Yellowcake from Niger. Tacky 9/11 souvenirs, typically purchased by people with no real connection to New York or Washington. Every other consequence and related issue to this tragedy that is allowed as conversation matter every other moment of the year. But not this one. This day, we shuffle along and go through the rituals, carefully calculated attempts to bring us together with unifying blandness, while, on every other day, everything else tears us apart.

At the time of the actual tragedy, I was an idealistic 19, starting over, so I thought, at a small college far from home. I was a new person and my life stretched out before me with unending possibilities. I had made the biggest choice of my nascent adulthood: leaving the big university, starting a new life, making actual decisions for myself. I’d barely unpacked my things in my new dorm room when 9/11 happened, as if to remind me that adulthood was not just a Mary Tyler Moore credit sequence: it was uncertainty and fear, and, even more intimidating, changes that I had no way to control.

There was a brief, hot moment where it seemed Americans had become real people. That we had actual, raw emotions and we saw ourselves reflected in the faces of those from other countries whose hands reached out to us. And we saw that they, in return, didn’t see us as any different from them. For that moment… so brief, so exceptional, we weren’t just Americans being attacked for the trespasses of our bumbling leaders. We were wounded fellow animals.

And then, just like that, we went back to being Americans again. We stuck ribbon magnets to our cars and we went shopping like the president told us, and we started putting up the same old defenses. We were attacked because they hate our freedom, we said, as we pretended that Big Gulps and Hummers made us freer than those across other, similarly arbitrary borders. We bought commemorative items, buying up our memories because our own memories are so, so short and so, so, ephemeral. We needed license plate frames and posters  (and really? commemorative corn hole games?) and plates from the Franklin Mint lest we forget. Lest we forget. Lest we stop spending our money to claw back the feelings of importance and identity that were so quickly slipping away as other events reared up on the horizon. We spoke incessantly of our resolve, our will to go on, our resiliency. And we never again spoke of our vulnerability. We were never to speak again of that day we were weak. We forgot that it was our pain, not our power, which made the world look to us with kindness and sympathy that day.


And we keep forgetting. Those who have used that day as a reason to reconstruct Real American Identity in their own image of middle-class, hetero, Christian whiteness forget that the majority of those who died were New Yorkers and Washingtonians: many of them Jewish, black, brown, Asian, Muslim, atheistic, gay, educated. We forgot what it was like to feel like a real part of the world, not apart from the world. We forgot that learning from the past is different than clinging to it with incessant commemoration. And we’ve forgotten that real healing is still another matter altogether.

Posted in Postmodern Problems, Serious Face | Leave a comment

If everyone did what they loved, who would make the pencils?

The conflation of one’s profession and identity is one of those troubling American idioms, a strange, completely taken-for-granted part of our social vernacular that exists in direct contradiction with the reality of the capitalist machine. We’re told to follow our dreams, to find our niche, to dream big or risk betraying some part of who we really are.

But, if we all had jobs doing we loved, I asked my sister once, who would do the jobs that aren’t as lovable? Who would make the pencils? I’d watched the episode of “How It’s Made” featuring the Ticonderoga pencil factory. The factory workers seemed pretty unhappy. But I realized this was kind of a shitty prejudice on my part. “Of course, they’re doing manual labor in a factory, that’s GOTTA SUCK.” This attitude, I realized, was elitist bullshit. Yeah, these people work in a pencil factory, and that’s probably nobody’s lifelong dream. But they are employed, and they probably get decent benefits, and they have, at the end of the day, a tangible, usable product that they helped to create. That’s pretty cool. When contrasted with the laborious process of moving up through the ranks at some company to parlay one’s passion into a career, or the crushing realities of trying to integrate one’s passion into one’s own business, it doesn’t seem too bad.

We can’t all do the jobs we dream of, or there would be many things that would not get done, or made, or fixed. But this isn’t a crisis. It’s a reality that we exist in. Someone has to make the pencils. And clean the schools, and drive the buses, and test circuitboards, and cook eggs (thanks, honey!) and repair the machines at the adult bookstore (I actually know a guy who does this. He makes a ton of money). Yes, some people in these jobs are really passionate about what they do, and that’s fantastic. But some people are not. Some people just do their jobs and put food on their tables and their passions manifest themselves in other ways. I’m here to say that it’s OK to have a job that you are not passionate about, and still find a way to lead a life that you love. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

I want to call into question the whole idea that a singular passion in a person’s life should be the aspiration they carry into their working life. I want to question the idea that a job necessarily dictates your identity, your worth, and your personal happiness. I want to ask the question that nobody asks: Why should your dream be your job? Why can’t your dreams just be your dreams, your passions just your passions, and your job just be what you do to pay the bills? Maybe it’s enough to wake up and not hate what you face at work, because you have passions and aspirations outside of work that make it worthwhile?

And from a different angle: maybe being a passionate person about ONE thing isn’t necessarily the best or only way to be a passionate person or live a passionate life. I’ve struggled with this my whole life. We ask children, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” Just look at this question: not “what do you want to DO,” or “what kind of job would you like to have,” or “what kind of human being would you like to be?” But “WHAT do you want to BE when you grow up?” And we expect a passionate answer: a dancer, a fireman, a zookeeper, a doctor. We want children to express something that requires lifelong commitment and passion to a craft. But do we, as adults, take a moment to consider the stable of grown-ups in our Facebook friends list and who they have grown up to “be”? Do we look at the people around us at our own jobs and imagine the child-versions of them, answering through gap-toothed grins, “I want to be a network analyst!” Why, as a culture, do we place such an emphasis on the dream job when we know it to be little more than a manifestation of our childish hope that a job could be just like play?

“When I grow up, I’m going to sell flood insurance. But in my spare time, I’m going to find happiness in independent films, craft brewing, and a wealth of fulfilling personal relationships.”

As Americans, what you do for a living becomes who you are as a person. And this is problematic. As a child, my answer to the “when you grow up” question swung wildly from firefighter to psychologist to advertising copywriter (I watched a lot of Bewitched ,and Darren Stephens had what I thought looked like the coolest job ever) to graphic artist to industrial designer, to physicist to meteorologist, and finally, when the STEM impulse was irrevocably beaten out of me by my own lack of confidence and a dearth of solid female role models in the field, I whittled all the things I was good at down to writing. I am, indeed, passionate about it; I look forward to the time I get to spend on it. I have been fortunate enough to work it into a few jobs I’ve had (and I am very lucky to be working on some exciting projects in my current job that will hopefully let me do that much, much more frequently). But as passions go, it’s a tough one to make money with, and as a result, I’ve had to find a niche as an accounting professional. It’s OK. When I’m not getting paid to write, I write when I can, and all the better if I get to do it on my own terms.

I tell people now that I’m an accountant, since that’s most of my job, and it’s amazing how quickly that kills anyone’s desire to engage me further. But I’m still the person I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m an accountant, but I’m also compassionate, caring, strong, creative, funny, kind and hardworking. When people ask me what I do, I’m tempted to go into greater detail. “I work hard, I cook a mean vegetarian goulash, I ride my bike, I go for walks during the sunrise, I go on road trips with my sister, I watch bad movies with my husband and my cat. These are the things I do. This is who I am.”

My point is that passion is not predetermined, or unchangeable, or even all that important when it comes to one’s professional aspirations. And we’re not obliged to stay passionate about one thing or another (except, to a degree, in a marriage, but that’s a whole different blog). I find that people who are singularly passionate are actually not terribly interesting. So why, as a culture, do we continually build up this idea that everyone has the ONE thing they care deeply about, and THAT THING is what they should make into their job? Why is it that I can’t look at anyone’s Pinterest page without seeing some hackneyed quote to the effect of, “DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO,” or “WORK WITH YOUR PASSION, AND NEVER WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE?”

These kinds of quotes bother me for a couple reasons.

One: There’s really no good reason that your passions have to be included in your job, and several very good reasons why your passions can perform different, even more important functions in your life. Like, for example, a way to escape from your tedious job. Passions can change in both focus and intensity, and that’s OK. Unless, of course, you’ve built your entire professional life around them.

Two: They assume that you must be passionate about something, specifically something that you can make money with. In reality, capitalizing on something you’re passionate about might actually diminish your feelings for whatever it was that got you into the field in the first place. Some of my least favorite jobs have involved the most writing, because it was writing necessarily crafted to accomplish a dishonest, capitalist end.

Shitty truth: Sometimes, getting paid to do something you love will make you hate what you love.

This truth speaks directly to my final point: the ideal of the dream job ignores the fact that jobs exist in reality. Even someone who loves their job will hate it sometimes. I was fortunate enough to review rock shows for nearly four years. No, it wasn’t my day job, but it was a great job. And yet, there were times (late nights when my back hurt from standing and the beers at the venue were expensive and the drunk people around me were jerks who spilled vodka tonics in my hair) that I looked that gift horse RIGHT in the mouth.

Even the best job has bad days (I often think of the test driver for Mercedes Benz, on a day when he’s sick to death of new-car smell and would maybe just like to spend a day tooling around the Rhineland on his bicycle). Anyone who claims to love their job, every single moment of it, even if it is their dream job, is either stupid or lying. Jobs are a big part of our lives and life is complex… too complex to be happy all the time (another problematic ideal Americans seem to share). Conversely, even the worst jobs have good days. I was a temporary receptionist at a Methadone clinic for patients with HIV. The resolve of those patients, their desire to get through one more day, was inspiring in ways that still effect me, seven years later. A job is a job is a job. And passions are something else altogether. I think it’s time we realized that.

Posted in Postmodern Problems, Ranty, Serious Face, Working for a Living | 5 Comments

As a woman, a feminist, and a nerd, I’m begging of you… please don’t make The Doctor a lady.

Please… for this little guy.

I get it. No, really, I do. The idea of a female Doctor Who is an interesting thought experiment. Who would the companion be? Would a Time Lady brag of her escapades with the likes of Julius Caesar and Elvis? That sounds like fun. It really does.

But I really don’t think it should happen.

Here’s why: when I went to Denver’s Starfest in 2012, there was one little boy who came to the con in a different Dr. Who costume every day. Going all the way back to the Fourth. He couldn’t have been older than 11. And this year, there were even more little boys (and, yes, some girls) rocking their Dr. Who costumes, beaming gap-toothed grins as they pointed sonic screwdrivers at other Whovians, passing Daleks and the odd Cyberman.

My point is that Dr. Who is there for little boys who face a pretty grim selection of male role models on TV. Especially little boys, (like, I would hasten to guess, the one at the con) who are more mindful, sensitive, less physical than other boys. TV is a showcase of the worst expressions of masculinity, from misogynist douchebags (Don Draper, Daniel Tosh) to put-upon idiots (most sitcoms and cartoon dads). Even within the ever-growing “nerd culture” that is so well represented at places like Starfest, a pretty big contingent of male characters are hulking superheroes, up-armored soldiers and terrifying villains. In this swirl of violence, emotional illiteracy and unattainable physical standards, The Doctor is different. Yes, he’s supernatural, yes, he’s not actually human. And, I suppose you could argue that he’s an alien and his understanding of gender may transcend silly human binaries. But he represents a masculinity in which a man can think his way through situations he can’t just fight his way out of. He is complex in a world where men are cast in emotional black-and-white. He treats women with respect and care, and recognizes them as equals rather than damsels in distress. Yet, brilliantly, he does all of this without ever seeming like less of a “man.”

Of course I think there should be more positive female role models out there for young girls, who themselves face a dearth of complex, multifaced characters in both mainstream and comic/scifi/fantasy media. But Dr. Who, with his female companions, shows that women can be adventurers as well. The casting choices the show has made in regards to companions have broken from many standard “female” expectations for TV media. Companions have come from different ethnic backgrounds, different class backgrounds and different age groups than what little girls are typically shown on TV, and each one is equally as important to the doctor’s exploits. And, lest we forget, River Song… an intergalactic badass to give Ripley a run for her money. Would her character have had the same impact, had the roles been reversed, if a female Doctor had so beguiled a male River? Maybe. But I’m not sure.

I keep trying to think of what, exactly, from a feminist perspective, a female Doctor would accomplish. Would she show that women can go on adventures, too? The companions already show that. Would it prove that a female Doctor would bring something to the table that a male doctor couldn’t? Again, I think the companions already demonstrate that women can remedy the shortcomings of a male partner if needed. The show is already well beyond much of mainstream art and media when it comes to recognizing the strengths and contributions of women, and with the added bonus of demonstrating the sadly, still-radical notion that men and women can work together, platonically, to accomplish great things. It’s that dynamic that makes up the very emotional core of the show.

I guess one way to think of it is if they reversed the genders on other beloved characters. What about Wonder Man would be any different than, say, Superman? In her case, we’d just lose a solid female superhero and gain a pretty run-of-the-mill male one. I think the same could be said about the Doctor. I just don’t think there is enough to be gained by changing him to a her that it would be worth losing one of the few positive, emotionally nuanced, intellectual masculinities young boys are exposed to.

If that little boy from Starfest were my little boy, (and let’s face it… if hell froze over and I did have a son, that would absolutely be my little boy) I would hope that he would still love the Doctor just as much if he came back this time as a she. If the little girls who idolize The male Doctor are any indication, it shouldn’t be unacceptable for little boys to idolize a female one. But a part of me would be sad that my son had lost a man like the Doctor to look up to. The world needs more men like him.

Posted in Gender Blender, Nerd Up, Pop Pop Pop Pop Culture, This is What a Feminist Looks Like | 3 Comments

What you learn about someone when they talk nonstop for an entire 10 minute bus ride

She’s getting a tracphone today and she doesn’t know how it works; she’s 50 years old and doesn’t know about all this technology. Babies, though, these days they know it, they can pick up a phone and work it. Just the other day her grandbaby picked up a phone and took a picture with it, just like that. But she’s old fashioned, she remembers Mountain Bell.

Her mom worked at Lowry for 34 years and bought the house her sister lives in. Her sister is 45, but she’s older than she is in a lot of ways, she thinks, she knows her money and her jobs. The house is paid for and she lives in it with her sister. She’s blessed to have her sister, because she’s on medication and can pass out with no warning at all.

She had her babies in her late 20s and she thinks she waited too long but her babies are her life and she talks to them every day.

Her dad is dead, died driving a truck, which he did his whole life. Both her parents are in Heaven, she’s sure of that, absolutely sure. She herself doesn’t much like people, she’s been married 14 years and is waiting for her divorce. She doesn’t like people around her, in her home, always around doing things. She likes being alone, she’s a loner at heart. She likes Jesus to walk with her, and that’s it. Nobody else.

She is going to Emily Griffith school, she’s turning her whole life around. It’s a whole new chapter in her life, and she’s gonna take control of it.

She’s worried about young kids these days on drugs and in gangs. They know how to work their phones, but their lives are going all the wrong ways. You can see in their eyes, the eyes tell the truth and the truth guides her everywhere she goes. Their eyes, bugging out, you know they’re on some kind of drugs. But she lives her life clean and their ain’t no two ways about it.

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“Magic Mike” made me feel sad feelings

There are certain activities that are more difficult to enjoy with ironic hipster relish. Going to the shooting range and watching mass-produced pornography have both fallen into the “Oh my god, wouldn’t it be funny if we___?” category at least once for me and then, upon execution, have proven so depressing (porn) or genuinely, viscerally profound (guns) that they most certainly can’t be described as “ironic” experiences. I kind of expected watching Magic Mike to be another on my list of backfired experiments in pseudo-intellectual sneering. Hey, it’s a Soderbergh film, after all. But what happened was actually much more unexpected. Magic Mike is not a good movie, but it’s not the movie I thought it would be. It’s neither a Vegas-style flexploitation show of man-flesh, devoid of narrative, nor it is a “serious,” arty take on a trashy, consumer-driven subculture, set against the backdrop of sex and glitter that is (apparently) the world of male strippers. No, it fails at both of these, if it actually attempts either.

Here is what Magic Mike does that it probably wasn’t designed to do. It is a mumbly, sunwashed Abercrombie and Fitch commercial of a love story between two people whose connection is as inexplicable as it is boring. It is an after-school special without an ending. It’s a Channing Tatum vehicle that proves he will continue to need vehicles because abs can’t say lines and his face looks like it’s been over-proofed before baking. I actually didn’t watch this all the way to the end, but what I wound up seeing in Magic Mike was the floundering state of masculinity in a world that is beginning to superimpose the worst of our gender expectations for women onto men, while attempting to level the playing field by imbuing women with the same ridiculous limitations of the male gaze and dominant male sexuality.

Let me back up a bit on that one.

For me, the funniest thing, and at the same time the saddest thing (like that happy/sad clown face you can get airbrushed on a shirt at the flea market, right?) about male strippers is that the pageantry of it is simply a reworking of the male gaze and a male idea of what women want to see. Funny enough, although both the troupe of dancers and the audience are devoid of gay men, the pageantry of the dancers remains solidly within the realm of what gay porn teaches us that gay men like. And somehow, that is sold wholesale to female audiences as if they see and want the same things. And why is that? Well, basically, the culture as expressed in Magic Mike has no way to negotiate what women actually want to see. Because women aren’t supposed to want. Or to see. Women are supposed to be wanted and be seen. So, the whole male stripper thing is kind of a joke, because it’s not at all about responding to the ways women work sexually. It’s just a reversal of the way men work, replacing women in silly outfits with men in silly outfits, replacing a lucite heels and impossible hairlessness with a cop outfit. So for most of this movie, during the montages of men preening in the dressing room and modifying their costumes, I felt like the reversal was not only silly but really sad. As you hear about more and more men getting eating disorders, and as you see the airbrushed images of men in rags like “Men’s Health,” you understand how “being seen” (being objectified, in other words) is troublesome for all concerned.

So we’re living in a Maxim magazine world, and we all know that, and we all know why that’s problematic for both men and women. But that doesn’t seem to be what Magic Mike is interested in showing. Instead, what we see is Mike himself utterly failing at the things men are supposed to do well with. His fuck-buddy (Olivia Munn, the girl from “Attack of the Show,” the stuff of crusty teenage boy sheets everywhere) doesn’t take him seriously, he makes “furniture” nobody wants, his credit is shit and he can’t even get an SBA loan from Hank Schrader’s (flustered, clearly aroused, skittish) wife. 

Ma’am if you look at my resume, you’ll see that in addition to being an entrepreneur, I’m also a fireman, a construction worker and a cop.

Now, if this were a movie about a female stripper, none of these life issues would be a surprise to us. And it’s not really a surprise for us, when Mike puts on his suit like he puts on so many other costumes, and tries to dimple and grin his way into another woman’s good graces. But the subtext here is the same subtext we see in so many post-recession films. The guy just can’t get it together, and at every turn he’s faced with women who can. He’s surrounded by successful women and all he can do is live off the crumpled singles they stuff into his g-string. Just as we all knew that Nomi wasn’t gonna make it as a “dancer” in Vegas in “Showgirls,” we know that Mike isn’t gonna be hawking his hideous coffee tables in Skymall anytime soon. But while “Showgirls” was a shopworn tale of disposable people in a disposable culture, Mike is something other than disposable. He is… extraneous. Nobody needs Mike. He’s like so much of the ephemera in middle-class women’s lives. He’s no more necessary or enriching to a single girl’s life than her imaginary wedding planning board on Pinterest. But if you’re into that kind of thing, they are both nice to look at for a while.

In one of his many moments of stripper wisdom, Matthew McConaughey’s character “Dallas” waxes philosophical and shirtless about how the men at XQuisite provide women with an escape, and they are then able to return to their boyfriends or husbands with their needs fulfilled, guilt-free. For a guy who owns no shirts, but does own a marble bust of himself (I’m pretty sure this is either A: a prop Matthew McConaughey just “had” and let the prop folks use, or B: something created for the film that now has a place of honor in his own actual home) this is remarkably on-point.

Nobody enjoys being an asshole quite as much as Matthew McConaughey.

And this is probably the film’s point, although Soderbergh sure does take his time getting to it: come see a movie with a bunch of almost-naked dudes who could never actually be a suitable partner, go home to the guy that is (or to your single life that is free of any dudes, but which is still probably better than if you were dating a meat-headed stripper) and it’s all in good fun. But there’s something nebulously sinister about this film, even if the fantasy and escape are the real reasons for its existence. It reinforces the idea that women are turned on by exactly the same kind of constructs that men are (visuality, objectification, silly costumes and faked oral sex.), which is simplistic and silly. And it introduces us to yet another relatively useless guy who is adrift in a world where successful women hold the key to any guaranteed future stability. It felt like more of the same sad story of masculinity in America. And I can’t enjoy that, not even ironically.

Posted in Academe, Postmodern Problems | Leave a comment

An opportunity isn’t a right

I’m tired. I got a full three hours of sleep last night, due to meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages (yay!) and later, tossing and turning while my husband emitted snores that sounded like a bear. Passing a gallstone. Possibly while wielding a chainsaw.

So I’m running on no sleep, and it’s Monday, and I’m cranky. I’m especially cranky because I woke up to a media shitstorm that further explains just why so few rape cases go to court. Because too many people believe that given the opportunity to rape, men will take it. And that somehow, that opportunity is the same as a right.

Let me put it this way. You forget to lock your front door and someone steals your TV. Are you still robbed? You take a shortcut through an unfamiliar alley and someone jumps you, takes your wallet. Are you still mugged? You get drunk at a party, pass out, and a bunch of teenage football players treat you like a human fleshlight for several hours. Are you still raped?

Yes. The answer is yes. Yes to all of those things, because when someone messes with something that isn’t theirs, whether it’s your TV, your wallet, or your genitals, it’s a violation of your rights. It doesn’t matter if you made a bad choice. It doesn’t matter if you were forgetful and didn’t lock your door, or if you were ignorant and walked someplace dangerous, or if you were drunk and dressed “slutty.” Because it is still true: having the opportunity to steal from you, hurt you or rape you is not at all the same as having a right to do so.

The fact that anyone is defending the actions of the Steubenville rapists (and apparently, they are defending them) is deeply, deeply disturbing to me. Because this is not a case of “he said, she said” that was reconstructed in a courtroom where personal testimony was the only evidence. This was caught on tape. Circulated through a community via social media. Corroborated by many, disputed by none. Everyone involved agrees that the boys on trial had sex with a girl who could not consent to it. So what was on trial? How could anyone look at these boys and see anything but rapists?

The answer is that we live in a society that has such low expectations of its boys and men that we assume they cannot fight the urge to have sex with any vagina left unattended. We view anything possessed of a penis as essentially unable to make a choice to NOT have sex if presented the opportunity. We prosecute thieves even if their theft was easy. We prosecute those who plot nasty financial schemes against the elderly, even though they effortlessly prey upon the ignorant and uninformed. Why is it so much harder to get a conviction, and later, to get consensus, on something like Steubenville? Because we view thieves and con artists as people who make a choice to victimize, hurt, deceive. We view teenage football players as acting from a place of animalistic, natural drive, somehow beyond the realm of rational decisionmaking. Time and time again, rape trials focus on the failure of the victim to properly maintain her defenses against rape, not on the choices the rapist made. And this is so fundamentally wrong it bends my brain.

I, for one, think more of men than that. I know men can make choices about sex that come from a rational mind. I think most women can think of a time when sex wasn’t working for them, for whatever reason, and they asked their partner to stop. And he did. Men can, and do, make decisions about sex with their brains. I think it is perfectly realistic to expect all people to act with this basic level of decency, even when presented with an opportunity to do otherwise. And those that fail to treat others with respect, those who fail to respect the boundary of “yours” and “mine,” should be thought of with the same social disdain we direct toward all criminals. No matter how “easy” it seemed to be.

The CNN piece about the dousing of these young men’s “bright futures” is essentially a show piece on rape culture. Asserting that boys who showed so little respect for another human being can somehow still deserve to carry on as before suggests that they acted in a way that was beyond their rational control. Too many people look at the victim here and think, “she should have known better.” Whether or not she could have made better choices is beside the point. In fact, it was these boys who knew better. They should have- and absolutely could have- decided not to rape this girl. They made the choice to rape, and they deserve to face the consequences. Because even though they had the opportunity to commit this crime, they had every opportunity to do the right thing.

Posted in Ranty, Serious Face | 5 Comments