A Teachable Moment? At what cost?

My letter to the editor of the New York Times did not get published – here it is:

Dear Mr. Feyer,
The headline “A Teachable Moment” (Feb. 20) connotes the idea of imparting knowledge and, I’d add, in an ethical fashion. Mr. Jones did no such thing.
Domestic violence is not mutual, as Jones implies. According to credible sources, like CDC, males perpetuate intimate partner violence 85% of the time. Police reports, shelter statistics, and court records provide further proof. And while boys can also be sexually abused, more often it is by older men – not women. Moreover, women are more likely to be murdered and stalked than are men, not vice versa.
Accurate information allows us to focus our resources, including financial ones. Remarkably, Jones refers to this as being “profitable” to organizations that help victims ‘projected as homosexual or female.’ What kind of teacher does this?
We can sympathize with male victims, but not at the cost of misleading society or disparaging organizations that assist victims.
Here is what I responded to:

To the Editor:

Charles M. Blow aims to provide readers with a “teachable moment” regarding the suspension of the CNN commentator Roland Martin after a gay rights organization complained that his Super Bowl tweets advocated violence against gays (“Real Men and Pink Suits,” column, Feb. 11).

Noticeably absent from Mr. Blow’s and others’ commentary was any criticism of the numerous graphic acts of violence — slaps, head butts, kicks, punches — depicted against heterosexual males during the Super Bowl commercials in the interest of humor.

Many commentators, politicians and advocacy groups tend to cast victimization with a homosexual or feminine identity under the guise of advancing equality and social justice. While profitable and politically expedient, such projections not only marginalize the significant number of heterosexual male victims of violence, neglect and abuse, but also recast them as victimizers.

Domestic violence is just as likely to affect men as women; one in five males in the United States has been sexually abused; males account for nearly half of all missing persons; the number of male and female child prostitutes is essentially equal in major cities; and more than half of confiscated pornography depicts boys, not girls. In short, no group has a monopoly on suffering.

We should condemn all public endorsements or mockeries of violence. Our rebuke should not turn on whether the victim is heterosexual or homosexual, male or female, or a member of a group to which we belong, but whether there was an offense made against a person’s human dignity. Unless we, as a nation, hold ourselves to such a standard, we will only substitute one brand of social injustice and bias for another, and compromise our moral authority.

SAMUEL V. JONES Chicago, Feb. 14, 2012

The writer is an associate professor of law at the John Marshall Law School.

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Twice victimized

I’m happy to see sexual assault getting more media attention these days, stemming from the Penn State scandal. I can only hope this will continue to snowball – to include family court cases, for example.

The New York Times ran this article and has a follow up next week on the care of victims:

The twice victimized of sexual assault

It is all too easy to see why. More often than not, women who bring charges of sexual assault are victims twice over, treated by the legal system and sometimes by the news media as lying until proved truthful.

“There is no other crime I can think of where the victim is more victimized,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University who for 20 years has been studying what happens legally and medically to women who are raped. “The victim is always on trial. Rape is treated very differently than other felonies.”

So, too, are the victims of lesser sexual assaults. In 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, told Congress that the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her repeatedly when she worked for him, Ms. Hill was vilified as a character assassin and liar acting on behalf of abortion-rights advocates.

Credibility became the issue, too, for Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant chambermaid who accused the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of forcing her to perform fellatio in a Manhattan hotel room. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case after concluding that Ms. Diallo had lied on her immigration form and about other matters, though not directly about the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

When four women, two of whom identified themselves publicly, said they had been sexually harassed by Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful, they, too, were called liars, perhaps hired by his opponents.

Charges of sexual harassment often boil down to “she said-he said” with no tangible evidence of what really took place. But even when there is DNA evidence of a completed sexual act, as there was in the Strauss-Kahn case, the accused commonly claim that the sex was consensual, not a crime.

Impunity in rape case(s) – no surprise there

The NY Times recently covered a rape charge, resulting in acquittal, against two NYC police officers. The writer, John Leland, gets the angle correct in writing about the non-surprise of 2 police officers getting acquitted. However, I’d add that we’re not ever surprised when violence against women results in impunity – it’s the number one reason why the violence continues worldwide.

Reacting to police rape case with anger, but little surprise

In interviews around the city on Thursday and Friday, reactions to the verdict revealed the simple terror elicited by the case — that the very people sworn to protect you can take advantage of you. Amid the anger, many expressed little surprise that in a trial without physical evidence, the jury believed the officers over the woman accusing them, who testified that she was too drunk to remember much of what happened.

“It’s disgusting,” said Annie White, a retired home health care aide, who said she had to shut off her television after watching the verdict.

“New York City cops can get away with anything,” Ms. White said, sitting in front of her home on 117th Street in Harlem. “This is the only place I know where there are certain rules for police officers and certain rules for civilians. Acquitting those two today is totally out of line. They should put those cops in jail where they belong.

“Right is right, wrong is wrong. To take advantage of a drunk woman? If you’re a woman in this city you don’t have a chance; you can’t even call the police. If they were civilians, they would be in jail.”

The trial of the two officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, featured spirited courtroom confrontations and a steady drip of intimate revelations, including the woman’s familiarity with various sexual positions and the song that Mr. Moreno testified that he sang to her when he cuddled her in her bed (Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”).

The officers were found guilty of official misconduct and fired from the force — an inadequate punishment, several people said, for officers who took advantage of a woman at her most vulnerable.

Mother’s Day round up

Happy Mother’s Day to all – to those that have children, to those that have lost children, and to those that care for children.

When we hated mom – NY Times article by Stephanie Coontz – provides an historical account of motherhood from a (feminist) sociological perspective. Feminism, Coontz explains, has improved the lives of women (and men) – but, hey, we knew that! Interesting to note, though, society’s disparaging view of protective mothers:

Momism became seen as a threat to the moral fiber of America on a par with communism. In 1945, the psychiatrist Edward Strecher argued that the 2.5 million men rejected or discharged from the Army as unfit during World War II were the product of overly protective mothers.

From the Washington Post, we have an article on racism…onMother’s Day. Granted, I don’t get a home copy of the Post, but this is all I could find in their daily email of headlines. It seems some media outlets would rather celebrate anniversaries (Freedom Riders, David Goldman reuniting with his son) rather than Mothers. I object to racism too, but when can we get national discussions going on sexism? They can even be combined. But, as one writer pointed out, it’s worse to be a racist than a rapist. Both should be despised.

Freedom Riders, 50 years on,  see today’s youth as disconnected from racism

The heartless way Conservatives treat young women who choose to have babies by Amanda Marcotte

Everytime I think the Republicans/Conservatives couldn’t get any worse, they surprise me with their renewed spirit of misogyny. Gotta give it to them for disguising hate with “fiscal responsibility.” There’s always some reason to put women’s issues on the back burner…or to just burn them.

The girls were arrested for holding a sit-in to protest the closing of their school, the Catherine Ferguson Academy, which was established to serve students who are pregnant or mothering.  The school provides day care and parenting classes, and focuses on getting students to college and giving them skills that help future self-sufficiency.  Supposedly “pro-life” conservatives should not only be supporting this school, but demanding that every high school in the country provide these services to teenage mothers.  After all, these girls did what anti-choicers ask of them.  They chose to have their babies.  And now the very same conservatives that wax sentimental about “choosing life” are working to shut down the educational opportunities of young women who did what anti-choicers want, by having their babies.

Don’t forget the women who’ve had injuries or their lives cut short from the men that supposedly loved them and fathered children with them – and, please, don’t forget that it’s more often when these women do the “right thing” that they get injured or killed (far too many people, including feminists, blame the victim for “staying” with an abuser) –

Man charged with ambush slayings of ex, her dad

Orange County prosecutors have charged a 36-year-old man with murdering his ex-wife and her father after they came to his home to take court-ordered custody of the couple’s 7-year-old daughter.

Ex-wife. She left him. They came to take court-ordered custody. Court must have granted dad custody if they came to take her back. It wasn’t enough to kill the ex-wife. He killed her father, too — he shot them both in the backs, the coward.  This 7-year-old just lost her mother (and grandfather) in the week leading up to Mother’s Day. 

Roughly 3 women die every day in domestic violence in this country. This week alone, we’ve lost 21 women, many of whom were mothers.

Candlelight vigil for murdered mother of four

Fresno – Four kids are dealing with the loss of their mother after a murder-suicide in southeast Fresno Tuesday.

The kids were joined about 100 family members and friends Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil.

They gathered on Shields Avenue, the spot where 28-year-old Jennifer Puentes Chatman died, after her ex-boyfriend, 34-year-old Richard Haynes, shot her.

She is the victim of a deadly domestic violence dispute.

This article also ‘blamed the victim’, saying she had chances to leave, but didn’t. But – why didn’t she? Because he threatened to take or kill the kids? Because she feared sharing custody with him or worse, losing custody all together? Because she didn’t have faith in the justice system? Because she feared not being believed? Because women are in greatest danger when they leave?

 Mom with cancer loses custody of kids

This 37-year-old stay-at-home mother lost custody of her 2 children because she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She lives in North Carolina. The father is taking the kids to Illinois. Nice. What a Mother’s Day.

No woman, no cry – Oprah is offering this documentary for free for the next ten days. It discusses death during childbirth.

Mothers rally for fairness in courts

Lori has spent the last eight years fighting the courts for custody of her two children. It began, she said, with her accusing her then-husband of abusing their 3-year-old boy and year-old girl. It ended with him gaining custody and her getting visitation rights.

“He drained me out,” said the 47-year-old Westfield woman, who declined to give her full name for fear it would hurt her future custody chances. She can’t afford a lawyer and has to represent herself after spending more than $100,000 in legal fees over the years.

She was a housewife. He is a lawyer. She has little money. He has lots.

It is a formula that legal experts and advocates say creates a lopsided matchup in the courtroom for custody cases – one in which the mother most often loses.

It looks like HE takes HER to the cleaners – then, why, oh why, does the media portray the opposite?

And, remember, there’s a candlelight vigil tonight from 6-9 pm in front of the White House (see post below).

Happy Mother’s Day to all — Let’s work towards improving the very lives that give us life

New York Times’ film critics discuss films with female violence

Not as interesting as I thought it would be, but worth a read:

Gosh, Sweetie, that’s a big gun

MANOHLA DARGIS It’s no longer enough to be a mean girl, to destroy the enemy with sneers and gossip: you now have to be a murderous one. That, at any rate, seems to be what movies like “Hanna,” “Sucker Punch,” “Super,” “Let Me In,” “Kick-Ass” and those flicks with that inked Swedish psycho-chick seem to be saying. I like a few of these in energetic bits and pieces, but I’m leery of how they fetishize hyper-violent women. Part of me thinks the uptick in bloody mama and kinder-killer movies is about as progressive as that old advertising pitch for Virginia Slims cigarettes, meaning not very. You’ve come a long way, baby, only now you’re packing a gun and there’s blood on your hands (or teeth).

This part resonated with me most; it’s by Dargis:

It’s tricky whenever a woman holds a gun on screen, even if the movie is independently produced and the director is female. I’m glad that “Meek’s Cutoff” exists and that Kelly Reichardt is making a new film every few years — long may she direct. I complain about the representations of women, but I’m more offended when in movie after movie there are no real representations to eviscerate, when all or most of the big roles are taken by men, and the only women around are those whose sole function is, essentially, to reassure the audience that the hero isn’t gay. The gun-toting women and girls in this new rash of movies may be performing much the same function for the presumptive male audience: It’s totally “gay” for a guy to watch a chick flick, but if a babe is packing heat — no worries, man!

To my surprise, I’ve become a fan of the TV show ‘Nikita’- I say ‘surprised’ because I don’t like violence – not even as “entertainment” – but somehow I tune in every Thursday night to see Nikita kick ass. I think it’s because I need to see female representation – especially of empowered, strong women. It actually reminds me of when I was a child, growing up watching Charlie’s Angels. I thought those gals were awesome. And, somehow – in all those years in between Charlie’s Angels and Nikita – there have been few – very few – females fighting for justice. That’s pretty sad.

Shooter targets women

And, again, no national news…no conversation…no outrage. It does not have to be inevitable/normal/acceptable that women are injured or killed by men.

Shooting at college in Alabama kills a woman and wounds 3    (women!!!!)

By KIM SEVERSON

ATLANTA — A woman was killed and three other people, including a woman believed to be in her 90s and a 4-year-old girl, were wounded on Wednesday afternoon when a man with a gun walked onto the campus of a community college in Opelika, Ala., and began firing, the police said.

The police, who described the shooting as a case of domestic violence, said they arrested a suspect, Thomas Franklin May III, 34, early Wednesday evening.

A 63-year-old woman, who was shot in the upper body, was killed, said Capt. Allen Elkins of the Opelika police.

The child was injured by glass from a van window shattered by bullets, the police said. A woman the police believe to be 93 or 94 was shot in her neck and back. Another woman, 36, was shot in the arm. They were taken to local hospitals, and their conditions were not released. A van on campus had three windows shot out and what appeared to be blood stains on the seats, according to The Opelika-Auburn News. The police said the gunman drove away in a white Jeep.

Opelika, about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta, has a population of about 27,000 and little history of public shootings. “This is very rare and very unbelievable,” said Jan Gunter, a community relations specialist with the city.

The college, Southern Union State Community College, whose students often go on to Auburn University, has strong nursing and other medical programs, Ms. Gunter said.

The shooting happened near the health sciences building, and faculty members ran to help the victims, said the college’s interim president, Amelia Pearson, The Opelika-Auburn News reported.

Update: Libyan woman who was raped

Please sign the petition asking Turkey to use their diplomatic means to get Iman al-Obeidi released:

AVAAZ.org

168,235 people have signed the petition so far – they’re seeking 500,000 signatures.

Have you seen this yet? Her alleged rapists are suing her for defamation. How is it possible for rape victims to have the tables turned on them? 

Militia members sue woman who accused them of rape