The New Republic: The role of white womanhood in violence against black people

The New Republic: The role of white womanhood in violence against black people

Last week at The New Republic, in the wake of the horrific church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, I wrote about the long history and ugly present of using white womanhood as an excuse for violence against black people:

We cannot talk about the violence that Dylann Roof perpetrated at Emanuel AME last Wednesday night without talking about whiteness, and specifically, about white womanhood and its role in racist violence. We have to talk about those things, because Roof himself did. Per a witness account, we know that he said: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” “Our” women, by whom he meant white women.

There is a centuries-old notion that white men must defend, with lethal violence at times, the sexual purity of white women from allegedly predatory black men. And, as we saw yet again after this shooting, it is not merely a relic of America’s hideous racial past. American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched.

You can read the whole thing here.

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The New Republic: The trauma of writing about trauma

The New Republic: The trauma of writing about trauma

My piece at The New Republic this week is about how reporting on trauma – on rape, on war, on anti-Black violence – can affect the journalists who write about it:

Hours after submitting to my editor my draft of a long, reported magazine feature about my alma mater’s campus rape problem, I woke up screaming from a horrifying dream about being drugged and raped. I’m not a survivor of sexual assault, but I write about it often, and this article was more than six months in the making. The accounts I’d heard had lodged themselves into my subconscious. Now, they were making their presence known, and brutally so. I barely slept for the next three nights, afraid that if I did, I’d return to that terrible nightmare.

Many journalists experience similar symptoms after witnessing horrific trauma, becoming traumatized themselves. In her new book Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story, human rights reporter Mac McClelland wrote about how her reporting on sexual violence in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake left her emotionally and psychologically shattered. The trauma of finding and telling stories about the worst things that can happen to human beings was cumulative; though witnessing sexual violence in Haiti was what triggered her PTSD, she had spent months reporting on human suffering, and often, doing that work put her in harm’s way. Before Haiti, she had reported on the human impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, writing about the misery of fishermen and their families as their livelihoods evaporated; before that, she wrote about vigilante justice on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma, where a group of her sources joked openly about raping her. After a while, doing her job left her unable to do her job.

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: UN Women has dumped Uber, and you should too

The New Republic: UN Women has dumped Uber, and you should too

This week at TNR, I wrote about why I’m glad that UN Women has backed out of their partnership with ridesharing service Uber, which was designed to create a million new driving jobs for women by 2020:

The creation of a separate system of women drivers designed to make women passengers feel safer will carry unintended side effects. As a woman who frequently travels alone, I am grateful for the option of car services that only hire women drivers. I used one in India when I traveled there alone several years ago. And having been groped in the New York City subway, nearly groped on the Paris Métro, and having heard countless stories of harassment, flashing, groping, and, of course, rape, on public transport, I can certainly see the appeal of creating a way for women passengers to get around without having to worry so much about those risks. Egypt, Taiwan, and Brazil—among other countries—offer women-only public transport services. In the United States, only 2 percent of taxi drivers are women, and only 170 of New York’s 46,000 taxi drivers—or 1.1 percent—are women.

Being a realist and a feminist are not mutually exclusive. Like many women, I am deeply saddened that these options are necessary while also being deeply grateful that they exist. And yet, it’s easy to see how the creation of these women-only spaces lets society at large off the hook. Rather than holding male Uber drivers accountable and creating a work culture—a culture, period—in which sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable, we instead create a parallel system for women drivers and passengers, accepting the inevitability and intractability of widespread sexual violence committed by men. For a company that claims to be visionary and paradigm-shifting, this is a surprisingly short-sighted and paradigm-enforcing approach to “empowering” women.

You can read the whole thing here.

CNN: Stop sexual assaults on college campuses

CNN: Stop sexual assaults on college campuses

I have a piece at CNN today, about institutional failures to prevent sexual violence on college campuses, particularly at my alma mater:

The U.S. Department of Education announced recently that it is investigating 55 universities and colleges for their failure to properly handle sexual assault cases on campus.

The list includes a number of prestigious institutions, including Harvard, Emory, UVA, William and Mary, Tufts, the University of Michigan, and my alma mater, Princeton, where a 2008 university survey found that one in six women students had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact while enrolled.

As a young alumnus, I feel a grim satisfaction at seeing my alma mater on the list. By the time I graduated, in 2009, two of my close friends and one of my former roommates had been sexually assaulted during our four years on campus, and I had watched another friend go through the labyrinthine and largely ineffective student disciplinary process in an attempt to see her rapist held accountable.

Like so many other survivors of campus assault, she was discouraged from reporting to the police, and her case was instead handled internally, away from real law enforcement. This is, of course, part of the problem: If there’s no real punishment for sexual violence, assailants know they can get away with it, and survivors won’t report it. And if survivors don’t report, universities can plead ignorance.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: February and March highlights

Thought Catalog: February and March highlights

What It Means to Believe Dylan Farrow:

Here’s what it feels like every time we have the Woody Allen “But… His Genius!” conversation, or the “But… Innocent Until Proven Guilty!” conversation or the “But… She Could Be Lying!” conversation. Here’s what it feels like every time we have those conversations that implicitly (or explicitly!) excuse the people who have in all likelihood abused girls and women. It’s like being stabbed in the heart.

Every time we have these conversations, I think about my friend. I think about the girl she was and the woman she is, and my heart aches. I think about the hundreds of thousands of other kids, innumerable children, who have been abused in similar ways, who are enduring this conversation right now, without the comfort of one degree of separation that keeps me insulated from the worst of it. My blood boils.

Dear Cate Blanchett, Please Say No to the Oscar:

Come March 2nd, you will almost certainly be a two-time Oscar winner. You’re up against the likes of Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, and Sandra Bullock in the Best Actress stakes, but your performance in Woody Allen’s latest is, I hear, unsurpassed by almost anything that’s happened on a movie screen in years. I haven’t seen it because I don’t pay to see movies made by Woody Allen. Wherever possible, I try to avoid lining the pockets of people who, in all likelihood, have committed rape. I really wish you’d do the same.

What It’s Like to be The Ugly Friend:

I wanted to hug this girl and tell her that though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, there really are more important things in life than being skinny. I wanted to tell her that looking like a model will, in the long run, be largely worthless if you aren’t also kind, and thoughtful, and hardworking. I wanted to tell her that looking good — as others define it — in a bikini isn’t a talent, or a trade, and it isn’t a marker of your intelligence, or of anything other than what you look like in a bikini. I wanted to tell her that the skinny girls at the top of the food chain can be miserable too, because again, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, looking “good” in a bikini isn’t the path to happiness.

No Makeup Selfies Are Brave… Kinda:

To get a sense of how integral we consider makeup to be to making a woman presentable, you only have to look at the masculine rejoinder to the no makeup selfie trend: cock in a sock, which is exactly what it sounds like. Unable to make a statement by taking off their makeup, since they aren’t expected to wear any (or indeed, socially permitted to wear any), men took off all their clothes, put tube socks over their penises, took photos of themselves, and posted them on the internet.

The Nation: Sexual violence and sex education

The Nation: Sexual violence and sex education

I’m guest blogging at The Nation this week, and my two most recent posts are on two interrelated topics: sexual violence and sex education. The first I wrote just after attending the Service Women’s Action Network conference, the Truth and Justice summit on military sexual trauma. It’s about what civilian survivors can learn from those who are assaulted in the military – and what the military can teach the rest of us on how not to respond to this problem.

“So, what’s it like to be sitting in a room with so many people who have been sexually assaulted?” My friend was asking because yesterday, I spoke at the Service Women’s Action Network conference, the Truth and Justice Summit on Military Sexual Trauma. I scoffed grimly and texted him back: “Look around the room you’re in now, and ask yourself the same question.”

It wasn’t an unreasonable question he’d asked. There is something bone chilling about sitting in a hotel ballroom at full capacity and knowing that almost every person in that room is a survivor of sexual violence. It’s nauseating to remember that most of that violence was inflicted while they were serving their country, and that it was inflicted not by the enemy, but by one of their own. A conservative estimate of the proportion of women in the Armed Forces who have been sexually assaulted is 20 percent. For men, the sheer number of assaults is higher than it is for women. We are talking hundreds of thousands of men and women, in all branches of the military. This week, several hundred of them gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk about their experiences, to discuss policy, and to visit Capitol Hill for a day of lobbying. There were moments in that ballroom, when survivors were talking about how they had suffered, first at the hands of their assailants and then from the military’s efforts to sweep what had happened under the rug, or from the VA’s failure to provide them with care, when you could hear a pin drop. There were moments when the pain, the betrayal and the anger, were almost palpable.

Of course, it’s rare, unless you do sexual violence prevention work, to find yourself in such a room. But statistically speaking, in America, if you’re in a room that contains six women, or a room that contains thirty men, one of them is a survivor of sexual assault. The difference between the ballroom I was in yesterday and almost any other room in this country is that in the ballroom, we actually acknowledged the statistics. We were thinking about them. And most importantly of all, we were talking about the problem.

You can read the whole thing here.

The second post is about Katelyn Campbell, the West Virginia high school student who was threated with administrative retaliation after she refused to attend a mandatory abstinence-only assembly. I took a look at the presentation she would have seen had she gone to that assembly (there’s a link to it in my piece, if you’re inclined to watch it yourself), and wrote about how the messages in that talk dovetail with other anti-choice messages kids will hear once they get out of the classroom. You can read the whole thing here.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Let’s end this for good, man to man

The Sydney Morning Herald: Let’s end this for good, man to man

I have a piece in Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald, about what men can do to prevent sexual assault:

Australian sport has a women problem: its men won’t stop assaulting them. After dozens of incidents of brawling, public urination and worse, footballers in particular have become notorious for their bad behaviour off the field.

But it is the repeated arrests and a handful of convictions for domestic and sexual assaults in the past two decades that are the most distressing.

Even one of our golden boys of the pool, Grant Hackett, is embroiled in a very public he said/she said marriage breakdown precipitated by a drunken rampage in October. He denies an allegation in a police report that he threw his wife, Candice Alley, across the room.

This is why men like Clint Newton are more important than ever.

You can read the rest here.