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Feminism & Faith: An Interview with Sister Simone Campbell

Faith and religion can often be a dividing force in American politics.  Nobody knows that better than Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, and ringleader of the “Nuns on the Bus.”  The Nuns faced censure from the Vatican a few years ago after Pope Benedict became concerned that the Sisters were spending too much time aiding the needy and not enough time persecuting gays and protesting abortion.  Already a champion of the vulnerable, she has thrown the weight of her organization and the newfound fame brought on by their conflict with the Vatican behind progressive causes like fighting poverty, promoting universal healthcare, and opposing the Ryan budget.   WRUN sat down with Sister Simone to talk about Pope Francis, women’s leadership in faith communities, and the progressive nature of Christianity.

amanpour-sister-simone

Sister Simone on CNN’s “Amanpour”

WRUN:  So, a lot of people are surprised to find out about you and the Sisters, that you are these “radical feminists” and progressives.  You lobbied for the ACA, testified before Congress to keep our safety net intact.  It seems that in our culture, when you say “religion,” especially “Christianity,” people immediately associate you with hardline conservatives. 

SS:  Oh my gosh, that’s certainly true of politics!  I mean, that’s historically been one of the challenges, to be a progressive and a person of faith in politics.  I mean, it’s like “how could you possibly be that, you’re like a traitor!”  You say “religion” and people assume the far right, as opposed to a deeply spiritual place.

WRUN:  It does seem that the right seems to feel that they have some kind of a lock on moral authority.

SS:  Right, but we let ‘em do that.  That’s the thing that’s annoying to me, is that I backed off speaking religion for a while, and it was because I didn’t want to be identified with the right.  But then that ceded ground to them.  And I shouldn’t have, I don’t think.

WRUN:   You wrote this great article about Pope Francis in Time magazine last fall, and it does seem like you share a little bit of a wavelength with him about what the Church’s mission ought to be about.  Have you been happy in general with the leadership you’ve seen from him so far?

SS:  Absolutely.  I’m a progressive so I’ll never be totally satisfied, but I think that the amazing thing that he is doing, is that he’s living his faith, from the inside out… That’s huge!  He is not a fearful person at all, he trusts the spirit is alive and living among us, and he acts accordingly.  I mean, it’s a challenge.  The November Exhortation was a challenge to everybody.  It’s a challenge to progressives, and it’s a challenge to conservatives.  Because what he says there is, “We cannot be satisfied with the safety net.  What we must do is change the structure of our economy so that all will benefit and no-one is left out.”  And he talks about private ownership; the responsibility of private ownership is to hold property for the sake of the common good.  The responsibility of those who own is to share.  Isn’t that fabulous?

WRUN:  It does seem that there are some Catholics who are having a bit of sticker shock with him, that he’s not quite the Pope they thought they were going to get.  

SS:  Yes, he’s quite surprising.  I enjoy the surprise of it.

Prominent-Catholic-Newspaper-Endorses-Women-Priests-MovementWRUN:   There is one thing that you don’t agree with him on though, which is the ordination of women, and how he sort of slammed the door on that.  What do you think is really keeping that from happening?

SS:  Experience.  Just experience.  He speaks about women not as the Eve temptress, but as Mary Immaculate, and we’re neither.  We’re human beings.  And so, there’s a couple of things we need to do.  We need to have women in leadership roles, so these guys who have worked in primarily male environments have experience with us.  And that once there’s experience, then the change will come eventually, I believe.  Additionally, it’s not only about changing their definition, but I also think that we’re being called to expand how we think about ordination, and that just utilizing the bishops’ definition as the only definition I think limits the quality of service that we’re called to.  For instance, when I was the head of my religious community, it was really abundantly clear to me that many times, I served a priestly function for my sisters.  I led prayer, I heard confessions in an informal sense, I gave forgiveness, I mediated sacred mysteries, I received the vows of new members.  All those are priestly functions.  But we have, in some of our fights with the Bishops about women’s ordination, have lost sight of some of the ways in which we do serve priestly functions.  I don’t know if you know tai chi, but the idea is that if you push against something, you just reinforce it.  And so rather than pushing against, they recommend standing aside.  Find your own definition.  So that’s some of what I think we’re called to do.  Stand aside, and the new will emerge.  Eventually.  It’s not fast enough for me, but eventually.

WRUN:  You’ve mentioned elsewhere that when you were practicing law in the 70s, that there weren’t a lot of women, and you saw a lot of women lawyers trying to kind of emulate the male lawyers.

SS:  Right, when I first started, that was for sure.

WRUN:  And to some extent that’s still an issue in a lot of professions now, even.  If you were to see women be ordained in the sort of traditional sense that the Bishops think of it, what do you think they would bring to the role that would be different from the way that men do it?

SS:  Well, first of all I think that they’d have to wrestle to find the alternative… Because just getting ordained doesn’t necessarily automatically mean that you’ll do it differently.  But in that exploration, I quite frankly cannot believe that a woman would stand by and watch the pedophiles abuse and not do something about it.  In fact I was just up in Minneapolis last night and heard that the reason why the situation finally came to light there was that because the woman chancellor pushed it.  And she finally ended up resigning from being chancellor because she would not condone the fact that they were refusing to deal with it.  And she’s the one that has brought it to the public’s attention.  I think women are much less likely to cover up something of that nature, when kids are being hurt.

WRUN:  I do think we have a lot of religious women that follow us and they’re torn.  There are a lot of issues that they’re torn over both as women of faith and as feminists, and the child sex abuse scandal is certainly one of them.  In the back of their mind, they have a distrust issue with the Church, and also the fact that they have mixed feelings about how the Church views them.  It tends to get pretty confusing at times, like, “I want to be a part of this group, but does this group want me?” 

SS:  I can relate to that.

WRUN:  Do you think there’s a middle ground there?  What do you think the Church should be saying to women as opposed to what they are saying?  Because there are women who feel that they are faithful but they have key differences with the Church on issues like contraception, like IVF, and they feel that those particular issues put them at odds with the Church over their family, which is also equally important to them.  What do you think the Church should be saying to them?

SS:  I think that we have to learn that we are the Church.  We’re a piece of the Church.  It’s not them, it’s us.  And we all struggle.  I just finished doing a piece for another group, and I was talking about how what I think Pope Francis is calling us to is conversion, and we all need to be converted in some form.  And that the challenge is that the wealthy and the leadership have hidden from their own conversion, and lied about it.  And that their fear of losing power or prestige or whatever it was, led to the pedophilia thing.  And what we have got to do is to hold our leadership accountable, and I think that is what the Pope is trying to do.  They cannot hide from it.  The only way forward is through repentance.  We’ve got to find a way to weep together over what’s happened, and that so many people have been hurt either through actually being molested or abused in some fashion, or if not directly abused, then shocked.  Scandalized.  Hurt.  Puzzled.  We’ve got to find a way to atone and weep before we’ll know new life.  And I think we as women have less invested in the trappings of leadership, and have been denied trappings of leadership, so maybe our gift is to be the leaders who are breaking out of the cocoon and allowing ourselves to really weep and change.  But it’s us.  We’re all in this together.  It’s not them.  It’s us.

WRUN:  Which is a very different idea of leadership than what people think of when they think of the Church.

SS:  Oh, yeah, that’s true, unfortunately.

WRUN:  You are many things: a lawyer, a woman, a follower of Jesus Christ, a sister, a leader and an American citizen. What do you think of yourself as being first? Do you even rank those things or do you consider yourself to be all of those (and more) in equal measures?

SS:  That’s an interesting question.  I’m just me.  I’m a woman who has a deep contemplative practice.  On the good days, it all works together.  On other days, many various perspectives sort of have tug of wars, but on the good days, in that contemplative stance, it’s all one.  It’s all in the spirit.

Sister Simone and the Nuns on the Bus are the subjects of a documentary film entitled “Radical Grace” which is currently in post-production (see below for trailer).  To learn more about their work and support the efforts to bring this film and the Sisters’ messages to the world, visit radicalgracefilm.com.


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Practically Feminist

PRACTICAL FEMINISM ARTWORKby Jen Giacalone

If there’s one thing that we can say for sure about the multi-headed beast that some call Third Wave feminism (or is it Fourth Wave now?), it’s that feminism often seems like it can be whatever the hell you want it to be.  This makes it difficult for us as feminists to speak with one voice about things that are really important.  And in the end, it may be hampering practical approaches to improving things.  Feminism isn’t an idea, it’s a collection of a lot of ideas, and we’re free to argue them with one another. That’s healthy.  But feminism needs to sort out what it’s trying to do.  Right now, it feels more like a chaotic, en-masse reaction to attacks on our rights, as opposed to a positive, proactive movement.

When I first started putting my toes in the waters of feminism, I was really only interested in working on legislative activism.  I wanted to roll up my sleeves and call state senators, and put out useful infographics encouraging people to email their representatives about this bill or that bill.  I essentially limited my entire focus to brass-tacks, equality-under-the-law issues.  And it made sense to do that.  There was, and still is, so much work to be done on that front, and so many legislators trying to take away rights our mothers fought for, that it felt unproductive to get drawn into “soft” cultural issues and wrangling with feminist theory.  On my best days, I am a practical gal.

The truth is, though, that it’s useful to explore cultural issues and feminist theory because it forces us to reflect on the underlying biases of the choices that we, as well as our politicians, make on a daily basis.  Feminist theory is often the soft underbelly of public policy, and its thinking often colors the more “mainstream,” legislatively-oriented discourse.  The problem is, the continuum of idealistic feminism often yields ideas that don’t translate well to the harsh light of day-to-day living.  The policy activists and the Judith Butler disciples have to figure out how to talk to each other, because right now, it feels like a food fight: nobody’s really getting hurt, but boy is it a mess.

I recently found myself in a real, live argument with a bunch of other feminists about whether or not sex work is a particularly healthy or positive career choice.  Spoiler: my position was, “Broadly speaking, no.”  I was a little surprised at how unpopular a position this was.  I got roundly scolded for prostitute-shaming, silencing, and even being a flat-out misogynist. It was a little mind-boggling that there was more of this than there was actual concern for the very real structural dangers and problems inherent in that industry.  It may have been the moment I finally chose a label and slapped it on my sweater: call me a “practical feminist.”

“Dear lord!” I thought. “Give me back my old-fashioned public policy wonkery!”  I can tell you why we need an Equal Rights Amendment, and tell you whose office to call about it.  It’s straightforward.  But ask me whether or not a girl should take what seem like a few smallish precautions to avoid a sexual assault…?  That’s a hornet’s nest.   Many feminists argue that such advice contributes to victim-blaming.  I would never have thought that risk-reduction precluded teaching consent.  But here we are.

You find these divides throughout feminism on a whole host of issues:  Is sex work an empowering life choice?  Should we specifically do things to avoid rape?  Should someone tell Miley Cyrus to put some clothes on?  Someone besides Sinead O’Connor? For crying out loud, we can’t even agree on how we feel about the relatively unimportant matter of sledgehammer fellatio:  is it empowering or degrading?  Of course it’s Miley’s right to do it.  Don’t be mad though, at the feminists who can’t work up much enthusiasm about it.

Women are sexually harassed on the street, ogled at work, passed over for opportunities of all kinds, because for so many men, we can’t possibly be more than instruments for their enjoyment.  So, when you, as a woman, lead with your sexuality, it can be hard for a lot of people to see that there’s a person, with talents, opinions, preferences and passions, attached to it.  And it’s hard for some feminists to say, “You go, girl!” to the woman who’s choosing to do it, because it can feel like she’s perpetuating the objectification that, in spite of our best efforts to leave it in the past, is still a problem.  Short version:  it feels a little counterproductive to put your tits in someone’s face and then get annoyed when they aren’t looking you in the eye. But it’s a debate feminism is still having with itself, and nobody really has a good answer. And in the meantime, women and girls are still getting the short end in a lot of ways, large and small.

So practically speaking, what do I think would help it?  I like policy prescriptions, so I’m likely to reach for mundane things like accurate and early sex education, a gender studies requirement at the high school level, and with any luck, a loosening of religion’s stranglehold on our morality and public policy-making. Despite the fact that the jury is 100% in on the failure of abstinence-only sex education, we’re still dealing with deeply religious policy makers who seriously believe that simply not giving kids information about sex will keep them from having it.  (The irony is, most abstinence education does far more to devalue and objectify young girls than Ke$ha shaking her booty in a thong.)

Pushing for high school health classes to require a unit on consent as part of sex education would do far more to prevent rape than berating women who sometimes circulate those “how to avoid rape” lists.  Pushing to decriminalize prostitution is a far more empowering step than demanding that fellow feminists affirm sex work as a positive career choice.  Regulated prostitution appears, at least from a number of studies, less dangerous and damaging to the women (and men) in it than the system we have now, and it’s a move that a lot of feminists could get behind; why are we expending so much energy policing each others’ feelings about it as a life choice, when there are massive, practical, structural problems with it (risk of arrest, STIs, dangerous weirdo clients) that we could be working on?  We don’t have to give 100% approval to everything in one another’s hearts, we just have to figure out how to band together on productive actions.

If we’re not all at least somewhat aligned on what it is we’re supposed to be fighting for (or against), in what sense is feminism a movement?  The very nature of the term “movement” is a pretty clear.  It’s supposed to move.  Presumably forward.  Going backwards, and even standing still, aren’t options.  If we can’t coordinate, we need to at least get out of each other’s way.  It would be nice though, if we could agree on some concrete things we can DO, together, or else this is just one giant online coffee klatch, and everyone’s got a bone to pick.  It’s human to respond to stimuli, but if the response isn’t coupled with a plan, then that’s all it is.  A response.  Not a movement.

There’s work to be done, ladies, and a lot of it.  Who’s with me?


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Radical Grace, Radical Change: An Interview with Filmmaker Rebecca Parrish

Rebecca Parrish is a filmmaker with a track record for making incisive, ground breaking films with a progressive and often feminist bent to them.  WRUN Admin Jen Giacalone sat down with Rebecca recently to chat about her current project, Radical Grace, which follows the Nuns on the Bus and the other Catholic sisters in their fight for social justice and their struggle against the Church patriarchy.  Followers of the page know that we are NOTB fangirls, so the editors will not bother to hide their glee.

 WRUN:  So, I have to ask… how did you and the sisters find each other? Did you seek them out, or did they approach you?

rebecca and simone

Director Rebecca Parish with NETWORK’s Sister Simone Campbell, in the field while filming “Radical Grace.”

RP: A friend of a friend was a friend of Sister Jean’s.  So our mutual friend connected us and we thought there was a film there. Then we approached Jean.  That’s the short version.

WRUN:  Did you know immediately what the story was that you were going to try to tell or did that reveal itself over the course of working with them?

RP:  I knew I was interested in a couple of things: What it means to do social justice as a spiritual practice, and what it means to be a feminist in a patriarchal institution.

There are the two opposing concepts of spirituality that are illustrated in this story. The hierarchy is typically all about who are the insiders and who are the outsiders, who is closer to God and who is further, and how do you get to heaven. The sisters are all about how we’re all interconnected and how we need to be there for each other, and, as someone who’s not religious per say but sees value in spirituality, their story and approach to this concept of God in a really broad way really appealed to me.

WRUN:  It must be an interesting learning experience for you as a non-religious person. What is like to experience the Church through their eyes?

RP:  It totally changed my conception of what “the church” is.

WRUN:  How so?

RP:  It used to be that the hierarchy defined it for me. Whatever the pope and bishops say Catholicism is, is what it is.  Now I see that it’s the people, and the community they have built together who define it.  The sisters and other lay people have just as much “authority” in my eyes, if not more ‘moral authority,’ than many of the bishops.  Before, I just never thought about it that hard.

WRUN:  I think that’s something that would be surprising to a lot of secular folk who are a little hostile to religion in general.

RP:  Yeah, totally.  It was like, ‘Catholics believe XYZ, the pope is infallible…” Now I see that it’s all much more contested.  I think that’s part of what gives faith such a bad rap: the people on the outside take those who claim to be the representatives at face value.

WRUN:  So, there’s been a bit of hostility between “The Church” and feminism. Feminists often feel that religion, and Catholicism in particular, upholds dogma that is oppressive to women.  Do you think that this project can have some impact on the way that these groups view each other?

RP:  I hope so.  I think that secular feminists in particular have a lot of assumptions about people who have maintained their Catholicism. I certainly did. I think this film debunks some of those stereotypes.

WRUN:  What would be the one thing that you would want secular feminists to walk away with after seeing it,  if you had to boil it down like that?

RP:  Ooh, that’s always a hard question for me.  I tend to approach filmmaking more as an exploration and asking questions than with a particular agenda.  I guess I want people to see opportunities for coalitions and collaboration. I think the separation between faithful feminists and secular feminists is a real detriment to their shared goals.  It’s like a divide and conquer thing.

WRUN:  Imagine what could be accomplished if feminism and the church were both bigger tents?

Exactly.

WRUN:   What are the sisters like?  How has it been to spend so much time with them?

RP:  They are really fun.  Another huge thing for me has been seeing how they approach such challenging work with so much joy.  Maybe that sounds trite, but they really know how to party.

But I think that ties in to my interest in spiritual activism, because a huge part of what their spirituality brings to their work is a sense of lightness, joy, and resiliency.

WRUN:  Does most of the film take place out on the road with them, or is it more about what they do within their community?

RP:  It’s both.  The film actually follows three separate stories: Sister Jean’s, Sister Chris’s and Sister Simone’s stories are separate but interwoven.

We filmed with Simone at NETWORK, lobbying on Capitol Hill, on the road with Nuns on the Bus, and at her Motherhouse.

We filmed Jean working with formerly incarcerated people at St. Leonard’s house and making decisions with people at her Motherhouse.

And we filmed Chris organizing Catholics to work for church reform in parishes and leading a pilgrimage to sites of early women leaders (who have been obscured) in Rome.

WRUN:  I saw a little of Jean’s story in the trailer and thought that looked really moving.

RP:  Yeah, it is. Her story spans both her work with the formerly incarcerated and her struggles with the institutional Church.  She doesn’t always see God in how the institution operates, but she does see it in the guys at St. Leonard’s house.

WRUN:  Chris’s story sounds fascinating too.  I think the only notions that a lot of people have about women in the early church come from Dan Brown novels.

RP:  She leads the pilgrimage to the archeological sites, because women leaders often don’t show up in the written history, which was written by men. But they do show up in the art, which is a more direct source in terms of how people lived and how they understood themselves in relation to faith and society.

WRUN:  Amazing.  So tell me about Simone’s story.  Does that follow the health care law?

RP:  That’s part of it.  That and the Nuns on the Bus.  When the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, she was heartbroken.  She and NETWORK have been working on healthcare reform for a long time. And when it finally started to look like a real possibility, her own church leadership was opposing it.

And, she knew that the USCCB could have a real influence on Catholic legislators, so she crafted a letter that leaders of many nuns’ congregations across the country signed, saying that this law was in alignment with their faith values.  They say that universal healthcare is “the REAL pro-life stance.”

Then her organization, NETWORK, is named in the Vatican censure. And to her, it’s obvious that this is payback for their work standing up for healthcare reform. As she/they become famous as a result of the censure, Simone asked, “how can we use this new fame to further social and economic justice?”

She’s very strategic. The big issue at that time was the federal budget, and Paul Ryan was twisting Catholic Social Teaching to say it supported cutting social services. So she used her new fame to, once again, be a progressive Catholic voice for change.

WRUN:  I have to tell you, we really love that story.

RP:  Yeah, so many people connected with it.  I think many secular, or unaffiliated, or “spiritual but not religious,” people connected with her kind of spirituality.  She also represented something people were/are hungry for in that way too.

And, of course, there is the progressive Catholic laity who were excited to have a positive public model of what their faith is all about.

WRUN:  Well, you could easily argue that there’s been a real failure of leadership in the political class on these issues.  Do you think Simone and the sisters are kind of filling a void there?

RP:  Yeah. I also think that progressive organizing lost its soul in a way.  It’s very materialist.  Maybe I’m getting too abstract?

 

radical groupWRUN:  Well, I think there’s something to the notion that you have these big progressive organizations that feel very corporate, because they are.  They have budgets, and staff, and PR firms, and so on.  There’s something about the way that the sisters are doing what they’re doing that is very genuine and uncorrupted.

RP:  Yes. That’s very true.

I think it’s like the humanity, the feeling of connection and interconnectedness drops out when it becomes so corporatized.  But at its heart (no pun intended), that’s what progressive organizing should be about, or that’s what motivates it, and helps people keep going when it’s tough, and builds community and solidarity.

Radical Grace is currently in post-production.  Rebecca and the Sisters are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to finish and promote the film.  If you are interested in learning more about the Sisters’ work, the film, or how to help, go visit: Bit.ly/RadGraceFilm


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Our Top Five Posts of 2013

by Jen Giacalone

Well, in a last and final nod to the timely passage of 2013, the WordPress helper monkeys were kind enough to send us an assemblage of our top five posts of the year.  So we thought, in case you missed any of the fun, that you might like to see what they were, in case you haven’t been at this party for very long.  They range from the totally not at all surprising to the “who’d a thunk it”… You never know what’s going to reach people.

#1) Feminism Isn’t Working and I Give Up
This rather hastily-written rant blew up like nothing we ever had before, and is still a juggernaut that sends us a stream of new visitors on a regular basis.  Someone memed the final paragraph, which is now floating around on tumblr.  Admin Jen was a bit crushed by the news cycle and how every time she tried to catch her breath, it seemed like she was hearing some other awful story about women’s rights.  She sort of had a fit.  This was the result.

#2) Why I’m A Feminist Guy
Our guest blogger, Marc Belisle, produced this very popular piece on why, as a man, he supports feminism. Marc is a great writer and after you check out his piece you should go check out his blog.   Everyone loves a feminist dude.

#3) You Can’t Invade Without a Map
This is easily the biggest surprise on the list.  It occupies the #3 Spot, and for the life of me, I’m not sure how.  Not because I think it was a badly written piece.  It’s just that… gerrymandering in Ohio is about as unsexy a subject as one could dream up, no matter how one may try to make it entertaining.  Apparently we succeeded.

#4) Honey, We Have to Talk About Your Friend Wayne.  He’s Really a Problem.
Anything criticizing guns or the NRA is a sure win.  Angry gun folk come by to tell us how wrong we are.  Thanks for boosting our numbers, guys!

#5) Tired of Talking About Abortion?  Me Too.
A piece about why the abortion issue is about so much more than just abortion.

If you haven’t been following this blog for very long, these are the “hits” of 2013 and we invite you to check them out.  It was an interesting year and we expect 2014 will be nothing short of exciting!  We don’t want to spill the beans, but we’ve got some interviews and stories coming up that we’re very excited about and we hope you’ll stick around to read them.

Happy New Year!

~Your WRUN Admin Team


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Ho Ho Ho, Here’s a Stocking Full of Man-Pain

bad-santa-charged-with-groping-18-year-old-woman-dressed-as-elfby Jen Giacalone

It’s hard to say why exactly, perhaps the holidays are making them feel resentful that loads of women are sexually unavailable to them, but the whining, the raging, and the general loutish behavior coming from the MRA camp are audible from the other side of Mount Entitlement this week.

Backing up: for those unfamiliar with the term, MRA’s are “Men’s Rights Activists.”  A sane person can look at the shifts in gender dynamics and put together that along with the expansion of what women are able to do and be, there are some things that are no longer fair to expect of men and that some things need to change.  For example, this page has previously mentioned its support for changes in divorce and family leave law to make it more accommodating to men’s changing roles in the family.

However, MRA pages are mainly dens seething with misogyny (or at least with anger at suffering under the iron fist of misandry), blaming women for all the ills of the world and claiming that men are truly the oppressed gender.  Go ahead, finish banging your head on the desk, I’ll wait.

Amanda Marcotte talks about this in a recent blog post for RH Reality Check.  The MRA community is outraged –outraged!-  at the arrest of Kevin Bollaert, who is facing 31 counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and extortion for running a “revenge porn” site.  It is stifling their free speech, apparently, to not be able to post nude photos of women who broke up with them, along with exes’ personal contact information so that they can be stalked and humiliated.

Goodness, where are my tiny violins?  I need to play the world’s saddest song for these oppressed men who are being told they can’t harass and intimidate women who no longer want to have sex with them.

Meanwhile, back at Occidental College, there’s apparently a rape epidemic, with hundreds of reports flooding into the university’s anonymous sexual assault reporting system.  Oh, wait, don’t worry, it’s actually just a douchebag epidemic.  Hundreds of MRA’s with nothing better to do decided to go and fill out hundreds upon hundreds of obscene (and obscenely false) reports on the college’s anonymous sexual assault online reporting form, in order to scuttle the system.  Why?  Because every woman who claims she’s raped is lying, and destroying resources for survivors is hilarious.

Oh wait, I’m sorry, I mean, because it’s their duty as men to protect the men of Occidental from false accusations of rape, in spite of the fact that the form is not designed to function that way.  How do you even investigate an anonymous rape report?

Really, people.  Even the Community of the Wrongly Accused thought this form was no big deal and that there was no particular reason to try and destroy it.  It’s mainly a tool for the university to figure out how widespread the sexual assault problem is on campus so they can properly allocate resources.  Their blog post about it is a more intellectual, long-form “whatevs.”

Ironically, a favorite tactic that MRA’s often use to try to get feminists to shut up about rape and sexual assault is to cry, “MEN ARE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED BY WOMEN IN EQUAL NUMBERS TO WOMEN ASSAULTED BY MEN!!!”  So, apparently, they don’t want male assault victims to get help either.

Watch out y’all.  The MRA’s have broken into the Schnapps and are marching on your town to claim it for the ManFederacy!

3x14-The-Red-Badge-of-Gayness-south-park-21273032-720-540

Ahem.

By the time I read the article about Fathers4Justice taking out an ad attempting to publicly shame Kate Winslet because she’s a single mother (“KIDS NEED A FATHER AT CHRISTMAS, KATE.”), I was ready to either smash something or try to raise money to have every last one of these guys checked for brain tumors.  They appear completely undeterred by the whole “not knowing her personally or having Clue One about how she conducts her family life” thing when it comes to telling her how to do it.  Because kids need fathers.  And women need to be told what to do.  By men.  Even when the men have no information on which to base their valuable opinions.

Which goes back to a point I’ve made before:  Most of these MRA’s are not, generally speaking, really that interested in the issues they claim to care about.  They’re just using these thing as cudgels to beat you, the feminist, over the head till you shut up.

Go visit a site for male rape survivors, or an “intactivist” (anti-circumcision) blog, or anyplace where there are people actually working on these causes.  You won’t find much misogyny.  In fact, you’ll probably find a lot of women.

So, ho ho ho, MRA’s.  You can complain and play “pranks” and take out all the nasty ads you want, but women are still going to be living wonderful, fulfilled lives that don’t include you.  So here’s a stocking full of man-pain.  Don’t scarf it all at once or you’ll get a tummy ache.


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Ride With the Nuns on the Bus

MET-AJ-1-NUNS-BUSby Jen Giacalone

Ok, not literally.  But they are the subject of an upcoming documentary film, and you can play a small part.  Let me explain.

If you follow this blog, you know that we love the Nuns on the Bus and their efforts to stand up to the Vatican and create a space in Catholicism for women’s leadership.  They are warriors for the poor, sick, disadvantaged, and downtrodden.  They are radical feminists facing down the Catholic Church, possibly the most patriarchal entity there is; a battle worth waging, and inspiring to even heathen folk like myself.

The film in progress, from Do-Gooder Productions, follows their journey as they stand up for their spiritual convictions.

Where do you come in?  The working title is “Sisters,” but the they’ve been running a contest and asking for people to submit a new title to re-christen it.  You can go do that, here, after you’ve watched the movie trailer.

And then if you want, you can pay a visit to our guest blogger Jamie Utitus’s post from last year that discusses her love for the Sisters and why they are important to feminists of faith, here.

If you want to put the Christ back in Christmas, showing some love and support to these women religious is a great place to start.


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Patriarchy’s Magic Trick: How Anything Perceived As Women’s Work Immediately Sheds Its Value

Crates and Ribbons

Doctors

The gender wage gap has long been an issue of importance for feminists, and one that consistently finds itself on the UN and government agendas. Despite this, there is a persistent idea among many in mainstream society (mostly men, and some women) that the gender wage gap is simply a myth, that women are paid less on average because of the specific choices that women make in their careers. Everything, they claim, from the industry a woman chooses to establish herself in, to the hours she chooses to work, to her decision to take time off to spend with her children, and so on, leads to lower pay, for reasons, they confidently assure us, that have nothing at all to do with sexism. Now we could delve into, and rebut, these points at length, but in this post, I will focus only on the assertion that the wage gap…

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Making College Campuses SAFER

SAFER ARTWORK

by Jen Giacalone

There has been an uptick lately in conversations about sexual violence on college campuses, whether it comes in the form of seeking its causes or examining its effects.  While there have been decreases in certain kinds of sexual violence in the general population over the last 10 years or so, the world of higher education has tended to exist in a sequestered little universe all its own, one where the rate of rape and sexual assault has remained largely unchanged.  We all know that drugs and/or drinking is involved in a staggeringly significant portion of college sexual assault.  But teen drinking is part of growing up, is easily as large a problem in itself as sexual assault, and one that is not likely to go away any time soon.  We can pick apart youth drug use, the inhumane behavior of young people towards each other online, and the dubious influence of Robin Thicke, but there’s an obvious culprit that often gets overlooked: university policies.

Just look at the recently-released Campus Accountability Report from SAFER, a non-profit group devoted to helping students and their families push for sexual assault policy changes on their campuses.  The report detailed a study of 299 colleges and universities, and graded them on their sexual assault policies.  The average grade was a C.  The highest was a B+.  Not one school managed an A rating.  A third of these schools did not comply with federal law.  According to Tracey Vitchers, Director of Communications at SAFER, around 25 different institutions in the last year have had violations filed against them of either the Clery Act or Title 9 that were specifically around the issue of sexual assault.

Colleges are supposed to provide an annual report on their crime statistics.  That’s the essence of the Clery Act.  But sexual assaults, stalking, and partner abuse are often not included in these reports, often at the discretion of the schools’ dean, or some other individual or internal disciplinary body that is often more concerned with safeguarding the school’s reputation than providing proper supports for a survivor.  It creates an environment in which a student can piece together that assaulting a classmate will likely not bring much consequence.

When Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year, it included the often-overlooked Campus SAVE Act, which creates better minimum standards that colleges have to follow.  It clarifies Clery and Title 9 to ensure greater transparency around the issue of sexual violence on campus.   It requires that students reporting a sexual assault on campus be provided with their rights, assisted in dealing with local law enforcement, and be allowed to make changes in their campus living situation if needed, in order to avoid a hostile environment, to name a few important points.  “They’re kind of being forced to look at their policies and procedures under a hard light to see what they are doing, and what they could be doing better,” says Vitchers.

What SAFER does is offer tools for both students and parents to evaluate and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own schools’ policies, and then arm them with the information they need to push for improvements.  While there are no “chapters” to this all-volunteer organization, their one paid staff member actually travels around the country offering trainings at universities on how to tackle this issue on campus and get the students prepared to be advocates for themselves.

For example, one common institutional problem is the turnover of the Dean’s job.  Many disciplinary procedures on campuses go through the Dean’s office, but typically a Dean of Students only serves a three or four year term, so every time a new dean comes in, they have to re-learn the policies, procedures and disciplinary processes.  A dean who starts his or her job in July may not be fully prepared to handle an incident that occurs in the first few weeks of school.  But one institution that SAFER has been monitoring is actually hiring a Director of Sexual Violence Intervention & Prevention to bridge that gap.  This is a relatively simple way to address the problem, and likely to be applicable at other institutions.

But SAFER’s mission extends beyond policy change to actually educating students on subjects like consent, and the touchy matter of risk reduction.  Most states do not have real requirements for high school sex education.  High school health classes fail kids because they, at best, teach about the mechanics of safe sex,  but rarely get into the subject of consent and respecting others’ bodies and boundaries.  So very often, when kids are exposed to the conversations that SAFER is promoting on these subjects, they are hearing it for the first time.

There is still a lot of work to do on this issue; misconceptions abound with regard to what a sexual assault looks like, and even who can be a target.  SAFER stresses that the trope of the straight, female victim attacked by the straight, male perpetrator is limited, and ultimately damaging, because it contributes to men and LGBT survivors vastly underreporting their own attacks.  During our conversation, Vitchers cites a JAMA study that actually shows near-parity between young women and young men as perpetrators of sexual aggression when certain types of assault are included in the metric.

College is a time for growth, discovery, and yes, for a lot of kids, drinking and sex.  But we do our youth a disservice if we don’t do everything in our power to make sure that that sex is safe and consensual.  SAFER is out there trying to empower students, parents, and faculty to ensure that the university environment will give them that.  As with so many seismic changes, it has to happen not only in the hearts and minds of those touched by the issue, but in institutional policy prescriptions as well.

For more information or to donate to support their work, visit the SAFER website at:  www.safercampus.org