#MeToo Editoral: By Refusing to Tell the Whole Story, New Republic Covers Up for UC Berkeley’s Indifference to Faculty Sexual Predators

I just wrote this indignant letter to the editors of New Republic.  We’ll see if they publish it:

Dear Editors of New Republic,

Thank you for drawing attention to the pervasive sexism and abuse of power at universities and colleges in the article, “A Professor is Kind of Like a Priest.” I applaud Irene Hsu and Rachel Stone for noting that Seo-Young Chu’s, Jane Penner’s and my stories are neither “single instances of faculty sexual abuse,” but rather part of a “larger culture of silence and complicity, which has made for a dangerous, destructive, and exclusionary educational environment.” I have a few complaints about the way the article was edited.

First, a correction. The copy reads, “After the two went out to dinner one night, Moretti returned with Latta to her apartment.” This is inaccurate. I have no memory of having dinner with Franco Moretti, and cannot remember why he came to my Oakland apartment.

Second, your article omits one of the most egregious elements of my story, which I told to Hsu and Stone. This is the university’s utter indifference and cover-up of my complaint at the hands of Frances Ferguson, then the Title IX officer at Berkeley. Ferguson covered up for Moretti by actively discouraging me from making a formal complaint, which she described as a harrowing experience likely to induce as much trauma as I had already suffered. Ferguson was a member of the same department and knew Moretti well enough to recognize whom I was describing when I went to speak to her, yet she commanded, “Don’t tell his name.” Ferguson’s icy demeanor and departmental association with the man who raped me twice, plus the fact that she was then the only university officer to whom I could go with my complaint at the time, made it clear to me that I would receive neither sympathy nor support from the UC Berkeley. She was the cold and indifferent face of the institution. Ferguson’s cover-up and Moretti’s threat that, if I were to file formal charges against him, the wife of another colleague in the English department, a powerful lawyer, would defend him and that he would ruin my career, silenced me for many years.

Third, your article fails to indicate that this same Frances Ferguson, Walter Benn Michael’s wife, actively sought to recruit Moretti for a position at Johns Hopkins University, where she was also teaching in the 1990s. It was only graduate student outcry after Moretti molested a female graduate student during his interview that foiled Ferguson’s wish to bring him to campus.

Finally, the editor of the article insisted that its authors insult me by asking whether I believed that Franco Moretti raped me both times that I remember having unwanted sexual contact with him. I emphatically responded, “yes.” The article fails to mention this second rape, and therefore also neglects to tell the whole story.

I will publish this letter publicly on Facebook, just in case you are too timid to publish it as an editorial in New Republic, where it belongs.

In truth,

Kimberly Latta, Ph.D.

#MeToo

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Kimberly Latta in Berkeley, 1985

 

What Happened at Berkeley in 1985

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Kimberly Latta walking in the Berkeley woods, 1985

During the first semester of my first year as a graduate student in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, in 1985, I took a class with Franco Moretti, who was then a visiting professor from Italy. He was considered one of the up-and-coming literary critics at the time and there was much excitement about his work. He was cool. He was hip. He hung out with the New Historicist and critical theory professors in the departments of English, German, French, and Hispanic literatures. I was particularly interested in studying with him because I had been told that he had particular expertise in the Frankfurt School of social theory and philosophy. I was 25 and very naïve. I had spent the previous year in Northern Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and was still coping with the shock of beginning graduate school in a country that felt strange even though it was “home.” Franco demonstrated a great deal of interest in me, and I foolishly believed it was because he found me intelligent. The quotidian details of our relationship—how it began, how many times we saw each other, and where—are difficult for me to recall, but I know that the relationship lasted for the entire semester, about 3 or 4 months. It seemed romantic at first. Quickly it became traumatic.

People want me to spin the narrative, run the film, so they can see it, comprehend it, fashion it into a chronology that makes sense to them. But traumatic memory does not work that way. Traumatic memory is fragmentary because trauma –the word derives from the Greek word for wound—injures the body and brain. As trauma experts Judith Herman and Bessel van der Kolk assert, traumatized people commonly report memory loss and dissociation because experiences of helplessness and terror cannot be integrated into normal autobiographical memory. Traumatic memories are jumpy, disjointed, incoherent, indigestible, cut off, separated, split away, like pieces of a puzzle that can never be put together.

I remember images, sensations, words, events, but could not say exactly in what order they took place. I remember meeting with him during office hours—his light coming in from the window behind him on the other side of his desk. He commented on my indigo-stained fingers. I apologized (!) and said I used a fountain pen. I remember him telling me, later, that he wasn’t attracted to me at first because he thought I had fat legs. Why? Because he had only seen me wearing those loose boots from the 1980s, the ones I got from my mother. They were real leather and I thought they were cool. The weather must have warmed up because, he said, he later saw me in shorts. It was then, when he pruriently gazed at me as though I were some Suzanna in the garden, that he decided to come after me.

He told me I was beautiful like Mathilde in The Red and the Black—not exactly a compliment. He said he had told “everyone” in the English department that he was in love with me. I remember feeling vulnerable, exposed, ashamed. I remember him inviting me to dinner in his apartment with other faculty friends. I remember being excited about the opportunity to socialize with the women and men I admired so much. I remember the dingy white walls in my apartment in Oakland. I remember him pushing me down onto my futon, going too fast, too far. I remember I said, “No.” I remember I said, “I’m not comfortable with this.” “I don’t want to.” I remember him saying, “O, you American women, when you say no you mean yes.” I remember leaving my body and hovering somewhere around the ceiling, looking down and telling myself, “This is not happening to me. It is happening to her, to that body, not to me, not to me, not to me.” I will never forget the bleak, blank despair of that moment, the collapse of consciousness , the escape into nothingness, the fall into disgust and shame.

I remember him telling me that professors in Italy routinely slept with their graduate students, so why was I being such a prude? I remember the yellowish late afternoon light in his office, the window just opposite to the windows in the library. I remember panicking and feeling paralyzed, terrified that someone would witness my defilement, would see him pushing me against the wall, unbuttoning my blouse, putting his hands on my breasts, his tongue in my mouth. I remember the cold against my back, my clenched and churning gut. I remember being stricken, immobilized, and ashamed. Ashamed of my degradation, my helplessness, my passivity. I remember feeling dirty.

I remember another time when he pushed me against the wall in his apartment. It was dark in there; the sunlight was outside. I didn’t protest when he undressed me. I stood there, allowed it to happen, and what came next. I was a doll, a puppet, a thing. “This isn’t happening to me,” I told myself. I absented my flesh, myself. My mind seemed to disintegrate, to become turgid and stupid. And for days and weeks and months it was impossible to think. I felt dead, utterly alone, separated, alienated, cast adrift, cut off from care, from concern, from love, from life. In class I felt such a sordid lurching in my belly and dizziness that I had to leave the room. Finally I stopped going. I took an incomplete.

I read in the news that Moretti said we remained on good terms. Maybe he meant that he gave me an A for the final paper I struggled to birth, that document of wretchedness. We did not remain on good terms. I saw him once, on an airplane on the way to the MLA. I think it was 1998. He came over with a big smile on his face and said, “Hello, hello! Do you remember me?” I was sitting with a friend, a tremendous supporter, and we were both on our way to our first interviews. My friend’s presence gave me courage. “Of course I remember you,” I said, “and I will never forgive you for what you did to me.” He turned away, ran back to his seat and never contacted me again.

Towards the end of the semester in 1985 I was unable to focus on my studies. I was constantly ill and nervous and frazzled, distressed, and ashamed. I didn’t know what to do. One of my friends must have suggested I go to the Title IX officer.  I don’t remember. I have forgotten—repressed?—so many things about that period in my life. The difference between ordinary forgetfulness and traumatic amnesia is that, in the latter case, although many moments are gone, the particularly grisly scenes remain permanently burned in. As van der Kolk puts it, “traumatized people simultaneously remember too little and too much.” Some memories are too much to bear.

I would never have gone to the Title IX office had I known who held it. It took all my courage to get myself there. With dismay and the familiar sensations of despairing helplessness, I discovered that the person responsible for protecting me was a not a neutral party, but rather, one of his colleagues, someone I was pretty sure he knew well. She was on his side. Or so I thought, reading her dispassionate expression and body language. She was not warm. She did not want to hear about it.   I was so ragged that I blurted out my story anyways. I told her that I was being harassed, sexually pursued. It’s possible I didn’t tell her that he had already raped me. I was so ashamed, ashamed of having been violated, of being unable to protect myself.   I remember her adamantly commanding me, “Don’t tell me his name.” This confused me. I had already told her enough about him—he was Italian, a visiting professor, in the English department—for her to know who he was. Of course she knew who he was. She discouraged me from filing a formal report, by describing the process as involving a scrutiny that sounded more traumatizing than what I was already undergoing. I remember insisting that she at least write down his initials, in case he did this to anyone else. She said she would. She also said there was nothing she could or would do for me unless I was willing to file formal charges. I do not remember her offering me the option to have the university administration write something like a cease and desist letter. Perhaps she did. I doubt I would have agreed to take such a path—it would only have led to retaliation and further abuse.

When I told Franco Moretti I had told Frances Ferguson that he was sexually harassing me, he said that if I pressed charges he would ruin my career. He said he would hire the powerful attorney-wife of a colleague in the English department (whose name I have forgotten, of course) and shred me. No one would believe me, he said. I believed him. The relationship ended there. I left the course, avoided him and his cronies, and did my best to carry on.

After he left Berkeley, Franco sent me two chatty letters, which I have not saved. I remember feeling flabbergasted by them. Why would he write to me? Did he think we were friends? Was he so narcissistically deranged that he actually believed that he hadn’t hurt me? After I had told him how devastated I felt? How I couldn’t even sit in his class any more, could not be around him or his faculty friends? I destroyed them. I didn’t want anything around me that was linked to him. My interest the Frankfurt school evaporated, and I turned to Simone de Beauvoir and other French feminists. It was difficult to go on, but I resolved not to let him destroy me completely. I avoided courses with people who I believed where close to him, but never really knew whom I could trust. A few good guys, especially Jeffrey Knapp in English and Michael Rogin in Political Science, were tremendous teachers and mentors for me at Berkeley.  But I didn’t tell them. I wanted to, but couldn’t. As soon as I passed the qualifying exams for the Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature—then a grueling four hours a day for five days in a row answering written and oral questions in three languages—I fled.

Writing about this takes a toll. Speaking about it, telling the story over and over again, has been far more stressful than I could have imagined. My throat constricts; my heart, thudding furiously, jumps into my mouth; my stomach aches; my forehead throbs. It hurts, physically, to remember and to tell the truth. My body knows what my consciousness refuses to acknowledge. I don’t go here often. I had buried all this deep down in the darkness, and now that I am bringing it back to the surface I am flooded with unbearable discomfort. I had not expected this.

Folks want to know what prompted me to speak out now. Because it is the right thing to do. Because I wanted to speak out long ago, but was afraid. He threatened me, after all. Now, thirty-odd years later, I know he can’t hurt me. Too many people can corroborate my story. As I have told my story to various friends in the academy of the years, many told me that they had heard that he had abused and harassed other graduate students. I was not the only one. Of course he denies it. Of course he is lying. Would you expect otherwise?

The hundreds of brave women who have spoken out—including Anita Hill, and all the women who exposed Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and others—inspired me to tell my story. Women writing about what feminine beings endure, such as Rebecca Solnit and Laurie Penny, give me courage. We are warriors. I speak because I respect myself and because silence almost always helps the oppressors, rarely the oppressed.

This story is not just about Moretti and Ferguson. It is also about the unacknowledged power to intimidate and abuse that professors wield over students. It is about the men who harass female graduate students and the women who cover up for them or look the other way. Ever since patriarchy became the dominant mode of reproduction—Gerda Lerner traces its origins in emergence of Mesopotamian temple-towns 3,000 years before the current era—women have cooperated with misogynist power structures to advance their own social and political capital. I think most academics start out with good intentions but too many are perverted by the institutions in which they achieve fame and fortune. I can forgive but not excuse their corruption.

Why don’t more women speak out about their abuse? Rape survivors very often doubt themselves because our point of view differs dramatically from commonly held beliefs about sexual assault. As Herman observes, returning veterans who have been traumatized are at least recognized for having been to war, but the terrorizing violence that rape survivors experience is rarely acknowledged: “Women learn that in rape they are not only violated but dishonored. They are treated with greater contempt than defeated soldiers, for there is no acknowledgement that they have lost an unfair fight.” Sexist viewpoints, shared by women as well as men, too often dismiss what survivors experienced as terrorizing violations. Sometimes even close relations refuse to understand, forcing victims to choose between expressing their point of view and remaining part of the masculinist community, a community that routinely blames the violated for their violation. Masculinism privileges the masculine over the feminine in all aspects of being and in all body-minds and defines the masculine over and against the not-masculine, the not-strong, the weak, the helpless, the shameful.  I want people to know what happened to me and to all those who fight for dignity in an academic system riddled with institutionalized masculinism.

In my letter to Stanford, I wrote that I wanted to bring Moretti to justice. I mean that people should know about what he did and decide for themselves what consequences he should suffer. It is not my place to say what would be fair, what would be just. It is my place to demand that all people in the world start paying closer attention to the suffering of graduate students who are tremendously vulnerable to the kind of abuse that I experienced at the hands of men and women. The University of California has had a problem with professors harassing students verbally and physically for a long time, as William Kidder shows in his forthcoming essay. Moreover, as Ali Colleen Neff suggests in her piece about academic precarity, the cut-throat academy enables, even encourages, people to do terrible things to others in order to get a job, tenure, full professorship, endowed chair, distinguished emeritus status. Does the university regard this behavior as distinguished?

As I said, it hurts to talk and write about it. The truth hurts whether we utter it or not, and I feel compassion for and solidarity with those who cannot. Too many still suffer. Too many will continue to suffer until we change.   I want our society to transform by rejecting masculinism and embracing the worth and dignity of feminine beings as equal to (not the same as) masculine beings in every way. We start by believing the individuals who have had the courage to speak up, to talk back to the powers that have demeaned and abused them for so long. #Metoo.

 

Coda: I wish to thank all the wonderful people who read my letter to Stanford University and who have written to express their solidarity with me. You have helped me to heal more than you know.

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Kimberly Latta reading at her home in Santa Barbara, 1985

 

 

 

Martha Nussbaum on sexual assault

What do you think?

Martha Nussbaum, a famous philosopher and a woman who has, you might say, “made it,” in the patriarchal halls of philosophy and academe, has this to say to women who would seek justice when famous and powerful men rape them:

Law cannot fix this problem. Famous men standardly get away with sexual harms, and for the most part will continue to do so. They know they are above the law, and they are therefore undeterrable. What can society do? Don’t give actors and athletes such glamor and reputational power. But that won’t happen in the real world. What can women do? Don’t be fooled by glamor. Do not date such men, unless you know them very, very well. Do not go to their homes. Never be alone in a room with them. And if you ignore my sage advice and encounter trouble, move on. Do not let your life get hijacked by an almost certainly futile effort at justice. Focus on your own welfare, and in this case that means: forget the law.

Source: Martha Nussbaum on sexual assault

Do you agree with Jennysaul, below:

Nussbaum draws on her own experiences to discuss sexual assault by powerful men.  Her main argument has a deeply depressing conclusion, consisting of advice to women:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

These hilarious and poignant pointers come from my favorite spinster aunt:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.

4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.

5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not rape her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or rape her.

7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when lurking in shadows.

9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

11. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be raping her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

In other words, the best way to prevent rape is to not rape anybody.

Thinking about Rape and #Lara Logan

While it is tiresomely predictable and lamentable that the knee-jerk reaction to the rape of a woman journalist has been to blame the victim, it is more distressing to me that so few commentators on the commentary have discussed the cultural conditions that permit and even encourage men to prove their manhood by beating, raping and violating women.   Over the many years that I have taught English to university undergraduates and graduates, I’ve been discouraged and stunned by the number of women who refuse to call themselves feminists and who adamantly insist that they have never been the victim of discrimination on the basis of gender.  A primary objective of most of my courses has been to show them how deeply misognynist and masculinist American culture is, and how we still live very much in a culture of rape. I have written about that here in relation to the Congo and Ben Rothlisberger and also recommend this article on the subject.

Misogynist means “woman-hating,” of course.  Masculinism is the arbitrary belief that masculine beings and characteristics associated with masculinity are superior to feminine beings and characteristics associated with femininity.  For a discussion of gender as a construct, please see this article.   We live in a masculinist culture in which many men are taught that they can only prove that they are masculine and superior to other people by dominating weaker persons, especially women.  Rapists violently and sexually assault their victims’ bodies and minds, often inflicting tremendous physical and emotional pain, in an effort to gain an illusory sense of themselves as powerful and manly.

They many people who blame a rapist’s victim for bringing the violence upon herself are also violently assaulting women, often including tremendous emotional pain.  This is not physical, but, rather, symbolic violence.  Violence inflicted through words that convey a deeply-rooted scorn for women as well as for all male beings who don’t measure up as “manly” in a masculinist culture.

Here what Echidne of the Snakes has to say about the case:

For what this is about:

On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.”>

I wish her full recovery from the assault. I hope that she approved the publishing of these details by CBS.

Now for the topic of this post, disgusting as it is: The comments wherever the sexual assault is discussed, especially on non-moderated comment threads. The majority of those comments are the vilest of the vile. Here is an example for those who wish to wade in the filth themselves. I advocate a Hazmat suit and excellent mental health as prudent precautions.

The loathsome comments are of two major types: The first type describes Muslims or Arabs as animals and so on. The second type, the one I’m going to analyze here, consists of victim blaming. It is Logan’s fault if she gets assaulted, in short.

There is a third type, too, which is about the desire of the commentator to join in with the gang rape of various too uppity women in the public eye or a wish that some other female celebrity had been assaulted instead.

And what about the victim blaming? Let me count the ways:

1. This experience teaches women that there are jobs women just cannot do. They get raped if they try and should stay at home, reporting on high school football games. I include that example because I came across it three times in the first 200 comments linked to above. Thus, women can be reporters but only about something which doesn’t let you advance very far in your career or truly compete with men. And the reason is not the women themselves but what can be done to them by some men. Thus, it is the victim who should pack her bags and go home, while the assaulters don’t get told to do that.

2. This experience teaches women that gender equality is impossible and that they should accept it and not to try to horn into the military services, for instance. Sorta like vive la difference but from a misogynistic point of view. Something like a sexual assault is Just The Way Things Are, and we should all be reminded of the value of traditional gender roles. Except, of course, in the case of Muslims who shouldn’t have them.

3. Logan is good-looking and blonde. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.

4. She dresses seductively. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.

5. What happened to her was a proper revenge for all her years of spouting liberal dogma and her assumption that she can just flit about in a man’s job.

Comment threads to posts about sexual assault will get a large number of comments from disgusting individuals, naturally, and I am not arguing here that what I describe would be based on a random sample of all readers of the piece. But even given the biased sample, the number and quality of the comments makes me want to give up my membership in the human species. Though people with the opinions I have outlined already think women are not full members of the species.

It is not just the comments threads which are full of woman-hating and inhumanity. Check out this post to get another eyeful of victim blaming.

Bikram in the Steel City, Day 75

The Strip, where my yoga studio is located, has been choked with people and cars since Christmas.  Now, just days before the Superbowl, it is jammed with CRAZED STEELER FANS.  Everywhere round, black-and-gold clad Black and White Pittsburghers move slowly along the sidewalks, perusing crowded tables of hats, gloves, socks, tee-shirts, sweatshirts, dog collars, pins, scarves, and, naturally, Terrible Towels.    It’s hard not to get into the spirit, impossible not to smile.  On every street corner Yinzer stores blare “Let’s Go”

In Penn Mac, the great, old-time grocery where you can buy all the cheeses of the world from a plump middle-aged lady who calls you “dear heart,” and choose from the greatest selection of pasta, anchovies, tomato sauces, olive oils, vinegars, salami, and all things Italian, for the best prices in town, you hear this song:

Prestogeorge’s, which has been roasting its own coffee beans and selling fine teas and cheeses for thousands of years, put up a sign that said “NO WISCONSIN CHEDDAR WILL BE SOLD UNTIL AFTER THE GAME”.

A man with bizarre headgear and a Steelers cape was reportedly dancing up and down the streets at six o’clock this morning, crowing with joy.  And we could hear the vendor below our studio calling out, “5 Dollars, 5 Dollars” all through our yoga practice today.  We giggled a lot during sivasana.

So, as you can imagine, it was almost impossible to find a parking spot. I was running late this morning, so I squeezed into a space that I probably would have skipped had I had more time. As I was easing my car into place, I very lightly touched the bumper of the car behind me, and heard an angry shout.  I popped out of my car and apologized sincerely.  The man–as wide as he was tall, bald, and very red–began to curse me out.  “I see you down here all the time and you drive a stupid, shoebox for a car and you can’t drive and you’re an asshole and blah-blah-blah-blah blah.”   “I’m really sorry, but there is no damage,” I said again.  “I don’t give a shit!!!”  he screamed, and continued to insult me, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  Then he threatened to ram my car and push it out into traffic.  I told him that I would call the police if did that, and wished him a nice day.

Seventy-four or even sixty days ago, I probably would have gotten into it with him and yelled back. Instead I kept my cool.  I even  felt sorry for him and made the sign of Namaste (it means: I acknowledge the divine in you and in me).  When I told a friend about it in the studio, he said.  “Men are always trying to intimidate women, you know.”  It hadn’t even occurred to me that he was trying to bully me, but that was obviously what had been going on.   I just figured that he was in a lot of pain and decided to take it out on me.  This was not my usual response.  I have a temper, especially when some,”man,” who is really a wuss,  is trying to scare me.   I get pissed off and escalate the violence.  I’m not proud of this.

Yeah, I worried about whether he was going to hurt my car, off and on, throughout class, but not very anxiously.  I was working too hard in some poses to think about anything but staying upright, or lifting, and too tired afterwards to do anything but catch my breath.  I giggled as the Vendor outside interrupted sivasana crying “5 dollars, 5 dollars.” I even bought a Terrible Towel after class.

The mean, red-faced man’s car was gone when I returned to my car.  And he had not rammed it.   I thought about going into the café where he works to complain to his boss, but decided against it.  It would only have escalated the bad feelings.  Plus, I felt great.  Relaxed, loose, easy.  The sun was out. Everybody on the street was excited about the end of the work week, and the coming football game.  Why fight when you can simply walk or drive away?

Required Reading: “GOP: Tax breaks for everyone, except those pregnant teenage rape victims, the dirty whores”

I’m reproducing major portions of Amanda Marcotte’s post because if you are a feminist, you need to read it:

HR3, misleadingly named the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, is a perfect storm of everything that’s nasty about the modern, hyper-conservative Republican party.  It’s dishonest, since women who have federal health insurance are already banned from using that money for abortion care.  This bill is actually an attempt to shut down abortion coverage through all private insurance, including employer-provided insurance, which means that it’s beyond even the dreadful Stupak-Pitts amendment/executive order.  Some “small government”.  As Rachel Maddow documented, this bill is just the most egregious example of how the GOP basically hoodwinked the voters.  They ran on “creating jobs”, which they clearly have no intention of doing, since they’re going to be too busy looking for ways to put the screws to everyone they hate, a long list that includes poor people, people who read a lot, gays, and basically all women, but especially the most vulnerable in our society.

Sadly, the mainstream media (outside of a handful of awesome fighters, like Rachel Maddow, Nicholas Kristof, and Bob Herbert) has gotten inured to relentless attacks on women from conservatives, and subsequently fail to properly understand that a bill like this is pure misogyny, with a giant side dose of class warfare.  They’ve failed to cover the nefarious workings of Rep. Chris Smith from New Jersey, who competes regularly in the heavy competition in Congress for the title Biggest Misogynist, and who has made a special pet project out of trying to shut down any foreign aid that would include contraception, and who has accused Secretary Clinton of being a friend to child rapists because she believes child rape victims should get medical care.  But as you’ll see, Chris Smith is actually the worst enemy in Congress a minor victim of rape could have, starting with the fact that he seems to believe they’re lying sluts who need to be punished.

See, HR3 has—like the Hyde Amendment—a provision in it that carves out an exception for rape, incest, and the health/life of the mother. But because anti-choicers like Smith are such ruthless misogynists, they tend to believe the misogynist stereotype that all women, especially those who claim to be ill or victims of crimes, are lying whores until proven otherwise.  Or just lying whores, regardless of the evidence they produce.  And so, to make sure those lying whores don’t get their hands on those delicious, orgasm-inducing uterine scrapings, the bill has language in it that, in essence, assumes that 70% of rape victims weren’t really raped.  The exception is only for “forcible rape”, which is vaguely defined, but in practice tends to mean that anything short of getting your ass beat down means you weren’t “really” raped.  Even if you’re a 13-year-old who was impregnated by a 30-year-old.  Also, if you happen to get pregnant by your abusive, rape-y father on your 18th birthday, you will get no funding to make sure you don’t give birth to your own brother.  Consent is implied if you’re female under these guidelines, and consent to sex with your male relatives is implied the second you turn 18.

Don’t simply stare in speechless disgust.  Get your fingers to work, and talk about this!  Write to your representatives in the House.  Tweet (Marcotte suggets that you tweet against it with the hashtag #dearjohn).

The Culture of Rape in the Congo

 

In the last few days, Congolese thugs raped 60 women, men, and children.  Sexual violence in the Congo has escalated at a terrifying rate.  Over 15,000 cases of  sexual were reported there in 2009.   And in the first six months of 2010, there were 7,685 cases.  More than half of the victims were younger than 18 years old.  The catastrophic transformation of the region has become so severe that Nene Rukunghu, a local doctor was moved to say, “This is no longer a crisis, it’s becoming a culture.”

What does it mean to say that a crisis has become a culture?  What is a culture of rape? What could possibly sustain such a culture, and what happens to people who live in a rape culture?

Let us begin with some definitions:

Culture, -noun: the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

Rape, -noun: an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.

In a rape culture, dominant human beings sexually force themselves onto others and transmit this “way of living” from one generation to another.  In a rape culture, sexual violation becomes a way of life.

It has long been established that most rapists are men and that rape is an act of extreme violence and aggression, as opposed to an act of sexual desire.  The aggressor inflicts himself on another to get power over another person by humiliating, degrading, and injuring that person.

Rape is a uniquely human act, barbaric but not like other animals’ aggression.  Only human beings rape because rape involves the complex, cultural understanding of “self” and “other” which the act itself reinforces.

Rape is a weapon of war that is used to shatter and erode the morale and dignity of an entire village, community, or people.  The act itself registers differently in different cultures.  It is most effective, or destructive, in cultures in which women are considered to be valuable only insofar as they remain sexually inexperienced and chaste.

This attitude is pervasive in cultures in which women are regarded as the property of their fathers or husbands, as chattel or goods that have a symbolic value that accrues to the owner of that property.  According to this way of thinking, the personal honor of the possessor suffers grievous injury when his chattel, his woman, wife, or daughter, loses her value through unauthorized sexual contact.   This way of thinking dominated Europe throughout the first millennium B.C.E. and is still vigorous in fundamentalist Christian pockets of the United States.

Rape, or any outlawed sexual experience, not only depletes the putative value of the woman, it also allegedly pollutes the honor of her father or husband.  In many cultures the rape of a woman is thought to pollute the honor of that woman’s entire family or tribe.  If you don’t already know about this, you should.  Introduce yourself to the topic with this video:

In order to recover their lost dignity and standing in the patriarchal community, the family or tribe will shame and ostracize the victim.  This practice was widespread in Bosnia and Serbia during and after the wars in that region, where rape was routinely used as a weapon of mass humiliation.  In aggressively patriarchal cultures, it is felt that male/tribal honor can only be restored through the murder of the victim.

In other words, patriarchal cultures are barbaric.  They are founded on the mythical belief that women are inherently inferior to men, and that therefore men have the right to own and control women.  Women do not have the right to own themselves or to make their own choices about their sexuality in these barbaric cultures.

Rape is an ancient means by which men have destroyed the mental and physical health of women to dominate and control them, but it is more fundamentally the crude method by which men seek to elevate themselves above other men.  By damaging the goods, and more importantly, the honor of another man or another group of men through rape, a man crudely proves that he is more powerful, more masculine.  Men in patriarchal culture are caught up in a mass illusionary game of quien es mas macho.

When men rape other men, they “feminize” their victims, treat them to the ultimate indignity to gain weaken their enemies and gain power over them.  But the rape of a man’s wife or child, especially if it is performed in front of him, also effectively emasculates that man.  He is forced to experience his own puny effeminacy in the face of other, allegedly more masculine men who have the power to take, degrade, and supposedly destroy, his woman or children before his eyes.

The rapist pathetically and barbarically “proves” his masculinity–his strength, his power, his honor–to himself and to his fellows, who also must engage in the same barbaric acts to sustain the fiction of their collective superiority over the people, the women, the men, and the children whom they are terrorizing.  For this reason, the rapist is completely unable to tolerate or even imagine how he might feel if someone were to rape his sister, or his mother, or his daughter.

Consider the frightening self-delusion  of the rapists in this video:

In the culture of rape that has grown up, tragically, in the Congo, men pass on to the next generation the perverted understanding that a man is only a man if he can out-man other men by raping their women.  But this culture is itself the natural expression of a culture in which men believe that men are superior to women, and that they have the right to possess, control, and govern their inferiors.

It is common to blame the crisis that has developed in the Congo on the Belgians, who brutally colonized the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Certainly it is true that the whites committed many terrible crimes as a result of their own racist and sexist assumptions.  But the culture in the Congo had gone wrong long before the whites came.  It went bad when masculinism–the arbitrary belief that masculinity is superior to femininity–began to infect African culture, probably about 6,000 years before the current era.

One could certainly say–as Andrea Dworkin did say–that all masculinist culture is rape culture. One in four women in the United States has been raped.   In any society in which men and women have internalized the arbitrary myth that masculinity is superior to femininity, a rape culture develops.  It does not always exhibit itself in the brutally overt violence that we are seeing in the Congo.  As explained very well in one of my favorite blogs, Ben Roethlisberger, the degenerate quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a product and producer of rape culture.

At home as well as in the Congo, human beings–mostly men–appear to be degenerating utterly into something that we shudder to call human.  When gangs of children who themselves were kidnapped, raped, and tortured commit these very same crimes against other children, and against women and men who fall into their paths, the myth of masculinity has taken then down a very dark and deadly road.

The good news is it is simply a myth, a perversion of human culture.  We have the power to imagine and built a better world.

The Smallness of “Big Ben”

Let’s just get some facts straight about the Steelers’ most embarrassing player, Ben Roethlisberger:

  • Two women have publicly accused him of rape.
  • Roethlisberger came on to a young woman working in Harrah’s, A Lake Tahoe Casino, in 2008.  The woman has charged him with raping her  in a civil case; she  has also filed a lawsuit against Harrah’s officials, including the casino’s chief of security, for attempting to silence her and for trying to undermine her credibility.
  • She said the security chief,

Guy Hyder, told her she was “over reacting,” that “most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger”

  • As  number of scummy people have made death threats to the woman whom tiny Ben aggrieved and probably raped in Nevada.
  • The second woman was a 20-year old college student in Milledgeville, Georgia. She says that Roethlisberger assaulted her in the bathroom of a bar where she met him on March 5, 2010.
  • The policeman who took the report that she filed,, Sgt. Jerry Blash, posing here with the inebriated thug, has recently retired from the force after admitting that he made derogatory comments to her.

In a statement to police on March 5, the young woman said Roethlisberger encouraged her and her friends to do numerous shots. Then one of his bodyguards escorted her into a hallway at the Capital City nightclub, sat her on a stool and left. She said Roethlisberger walked down the hallway and exposed himself.

“I told him it wasn’t OK, no, we don’t need to do this and I proceeded to get up and try to leave,” she said, according to the police documents. “I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be a bathroom.”

According to her statement, Roethlisberger then followed her into the bathroom and shut the door.

“I still said no, this is not OK, and he then had sex with me,” she wrote. “He said it was OK. He then left without saying anything.”

Two of her friends said they saw a bodyguard lead her into the hallway and then saw Roethlisberger follow. They said they couldn’t see their friend but knew she was drunk and were worried about her.

Ann Marie Lubatti told police she approached one of Roethlisberger’s two bodyguards and said, “This isn’t right. My friend is back there with Ben. She needs to come back right now.”

She said the bodyguard wouldn’t look her in the eye and said he didn’t know what she was talking about.

  • The bodyguard who wouldn’t look her in the eye was Ed Joyner, a Pennsylvania trooper.
  • The bodyguard who led the  20 year-old college student into the hallway where Roethlisberger allegedly exposed himself was Anthony Barravecchio, an officer on the force in the Pittsburgh suburb of Coraopolis.
  • Steelers president Art Rooney II has yet to discipline Roethlisberger in any way.

These are the facts.  Isn’t it nice to know that the security officers and policemen on duty around asshole bastard creepos likes Ben Roethlisberger do their best to cover up for his shitty behavior?

There are undoubtedly some fine men serving on the police force in Pennsylvania, but the low-life monsters who protect and serve  the stinking hulk of filth who calls himself Ben Roethlisberger have no place in our city or our state.

And what can we say about Rooney?  How can this guy keep on slapping his most revolting player on the hand while patting him on the head?  Why does he allow this man, who has a clear pattern of manipulating, abusing, and tormenting women, continue to play on his team?

O, that’s right.  It’s only women these assholes are attacking, either with their tiny words or their tiny body parts, and everyone knows that they don’t really think women are nearly as important “big” NFL quarterbacks.

Frankly, I can’t see why any woman or man would spend 3 seconds talking this foul-smelling muck of man, who uses his fame and money to entrance and then exploit other people.  The idea of anyone willingly having sex with this monster strains the imagination, and the thought of him forcing himself on others makes me vomit.

Tiny Ben is a cancer.  Cut him out, and cleanse our police force of the men who enable and then cover up his putrid messes.

The rapists at college

The commonplace that men who rape women are misogynists bears repeating. A recent study by psychologist David Lisak shows that college rapists are overwhelmingly repeat offenders (9 out of 10) who deliberately seek out vulnerable women, especially women who have been drinking. “When compared to men who do not rape,” Lisak observes,
these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial.
In response to this observation, Jacylyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti (authors of the book Yes Means Yes and blog by that name), wisely note

Guys who seem to hate women … do. If they sound like they don’t like or respect women and see women as impediments to be overcome … they’re telling the truth. That’s what they think, and they will abuse if they think they can get away with it.

NPR recently covered the story, and note that David Lisak interviewed more than 2000 college men over 20 years. 1 in 16 of those interviewed men answered yes to both of the following questions:
 

Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?

Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?

You might think that these schmucks would have been reluctant to admit to these acts. Lisak reports that the men he interviewed were “eager” to talk about them. “They’re quite narcissistic as a group — the offenders — and they view this as an opportunity, essentially, to brag.”

Lisak also found that the men who admit to coercing or forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse do not generally consider what they did rape. These men also typically rely on the fear or shame of young women to prevent them from reporting the rapes. They want the women they have coerced into unwanted sex to believe that they are somehow to blame for what they have done to them. They also know that the culture on college campuses discourages victims from coming forward and shields perpetrators from detection and conviction in the criminal justice system. He reports:

In the course of 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for me to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:

  • are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;
  • plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;
  • use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; they exhibit strong impulse control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;
  • use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats –backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;
  • use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.

College rapists are criminal sex offenders who are largely undetected, unpunished, and unrepentant.

Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself hanging around with someone who openly or covertly expresses his disrespect and hatred for women. Listen and believe what he is saying.