Human Rights Badasses

I’m. So. Jealous.

Because as far as I know, no hateful person has called my state the Land of the Sodomite Damned, which probably means we’re not doing enough right. No, definitely. But Fred Phelps generously bestowed that appellation on the state of Minnesota for its tolerance of homosexuality. His daughter blamed them and their tolerance for the bridge collapse that just happened, which is so sickeningly cruel that I don’t even know what to say. Now I don’t want to generalize and name every single Minnesotan a Badass, but a commenter on who’s from Minnesota wants Land of the Sodomite Damned on their license plates, which sounds pretty badass to me. That’s a cool way to handle an insult from someone grounded in hate. His comments, not to mention his protests at soldiers’ funerals where he blames gay tolerance for 9/11, are hurtful and disgusting, but there’s no reason to lend him any credence.

So let’s laugh instead.


Not only did good ole MN give homosexuals some protection under the law and then refuse to repeal it (not that there aren’t any gay rights problems there), but they also just made birth control less ridiculously expensive (from feministing). That doesn’t really qualify as badass, it’s more of a straight-forward laudable really, but while we’re on the topic…

Why would it be so important to make birth control inexpensive? I mean it’s not like poor people have lots of unwanted pregnancies and don’t have the means to support large families or anything. And it’s not like women are more likely to be poor and malefit* disproportionately from unwanted pregnancies. And it’s not like having birth control that women use (like the pill instead of the condom) is important because of things like rape and men who refuse to wear condoms. So I really don’t get why it’s such a big deal. I mean if you want to have sex, well, you better be able to afford it, either by paying for full-price birth control or paying for a kid, ok? You have to earn the right to have sex by making money. And that’s fair, because meritocracy is totally real. Bad things never happen to good people and if you work hard you’ll get rich. So if you want sex badly enough, you’ll get off your lazy butt and get lucky in the stock market or get yourself adopted by rich people. Gosh.

So now that we’ve decided that affordable birth control is really not something you want to support, here’s a petition to sign saying that you want the price of birth control to go down. I toggle a lot between sarcasm and sincerity, I know.

*a word I made up meaning the opposite of benefit. From Latin male, badly, contrasted with bene, well. I’m hoping it will catch on, because I find it very useful. I’m a big proponent of generative morphology.

PS – How can anyone who’s read the Bible seriously refer to homosexuals as Sodomites? Read the damn (sodomite damn) story. Ha, I wonder if Fred Phelps thinks butt sex is damnable but offering your two daughters to be gang raped is perfectly acceptable. Yes, Lot did that, yes, Lot, the “righteous man.” Somehow they forget that part when they talk about it in church, it’s just one of those things that slips people’s minds. But one time I talked to someone who did remember it, but acted like it was ok because the daughters later turned out to not be perfect themselves (they committed incest in order to keep their father’s line going – another problem with patriarchy). You see, only perfect people deserve not to be offered for gang rape. You have to earn human rights. And if a woman does something bad, that proves that the Bible isn’t sexist. Case closed!


Bob Allen (R-FL)!


Just kidding. Ah, whenever I get upset about the woman who was just charged for her own rape by the [expletive] military (please write your reps), I just think of this story, and it’s so friggin fantastic – if by fantastic you mean racist, wildly hypocritical, delightfully undermining, and not entirely surprising – that I can’t help but laugh. Really releases the tension.

: )

I just finished watching America’s Got Talent with my mom. I’m not the show’s biggest fan, but watching those competition shows has somehow become a way for my mom and I to spend time together. So I’m going to talk about one of the groups in the competition: The Glamazons.

I don’t like everything about The Glamazons. They’re a singing and dancing group of women, and their singing and dancing are enthusiastic but not exactly impressive, especially compared to the talents of the other competitors. I also didn’t like the part in their act tonight where they pretended to push men down before implying having sex with them. Mixing violence and objectification with sex is not ok by me, no matter which sex does it to which.

But the thing about them is, they’re not skinny. And yet they not only are comfortable enough to perform in front of thousands of people on television, but they do it in sexy outfits. I wouldn’t call them feminist icons; something about the idea that all women should have the right to be sexually objectified regardless of their size fails to inspire me. But you gotta admit, they’re ovaries-y. I mean, there are a lot of women who more closely fit the mold of what our society says is hot who would be embarrassed to flaunt their bodies like that – not based on modesty, but based on shame over what they look like. And fat comes with a lot of extra body shame around here. By performing and declaring themselves sexy, they’re giving the society that says you’re not only not sexy, but even a bad person, the middle finger. And you gotta respect that. It was a risk, but the cool thing is, it’s working. They made it into the top 8, which means people are voting for them, and the two male judges (someone want to explain to me why male judges always outnumber female judges on these shows?) give them real praise, on their sex appeal most of all, which is great, because I was afraid they would get some patronizing, “oh isn’t that sweet” kind of crap.

So I’m not praising everything about them, but what they’re doing is still brave, and I hope it will make heavier people feel more confident and women of all sizes, but especially larger ones, to be able to block out the messages about how they need to “fix” their bodies in order to be worthy of love. (No, I’m not confusing love and sex, but our culture does, so that’s what I have to work with.) And despite my reservations related to the sexual objectification of women, their act tonight seemed to say that women like sex too and it’s ok for them to show it, which is important for feminism.

Ironically, this shirt from their store looks too small for most women to fit into. I guess the whole world hasn’t changed yet. Baby steps.

If you haven’t heard of, it’s a website (there are websites for other cities as well, but I get the feeling it started in New York) where women can post pictures they took of men who sexually harassed or assaulted them on the street or the subway and tell the story of what the men did. It’s very difficult for women to get any justice when men threaten and harass them like that, but at the very least, they refuse to be silenced and shamed, and instead reaffirm that it’s not their fault and it’s wrong and the harassers are lowlives.

Needless to say, the people who started Holla Back and the people who post are all Badasses.

And I am a Badass in training. I’m not there yet, but today I’m going to take a little tiny step towards badassdom. I’m going to publicly tell my story and just exactly what I think about it.

A few days ago I tried to sign into one of my email accounts and it didn’t work. Not only did my password not work, but sometimes it said my username didn’t exist. I knew I was using the correct information, and I thought, maybe somehow my account got deleted. So I emailed myself from another email account, to see if the email would bounce back with an error message telling me the addressee didn’t exist. But that didn’t happen. Instead, someone replied.

I was absolutely terrified. What is this person going to do with my personal information? How did he get into my account? Where else can he get into? (Pardon the male pronouns – he later indicated that he is in fact a male so I’ll use he for simplicity.) I got really paranoid. And that’s what he wanted, I’m sure. To intimidate me, to make me feel powerless, to upset me. Sort of like sexual harassers make their targets feel, although in a very different way.

He logged into my blog and changed the description to some nonsense that managed to degrade women in a couple of different ways. The phrase “greasy box” was employed. He also wrote a post demanding that I write thirty reasons why he should give me my account back. I assume that was meant to feel degrading. We emailed back and forth a little bit, and his tone towards me went from rude and sarcastic to really quite normal, almost cooperative. He changed his demand to twenty reasons, and I countered by giving him however many actual reasons I had. I guess when he saw my non-bs reasons he decided I was a human being and started being a little more respectful. He said he’d hold up his end of the bargain – just as soon as I sent him a picture of myself holding a sign that says Anonymous.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a No Sending Pictures of Myself to Internet Harassers policy. If you don’t have one, consider instituting it. So I told him I didn’t want to and asked him what it was for. He assured me it was nothing dirty (which I pretty much believe) and that it was just for a souvenir (though I have to wonder if that souvenir is destined for the internet).

At this point I should explain why he was doing this in the first place and how I was not the only target. A few months ago, I was just beginning to explore feminism and especially whether I could be both feminist and Christian without my head exploding. I came across the forum on Women’s Space/The Margins, where someone was talking about just that topic. I wanted to get in on the conversation and ask some of the questions I had, so I registered. Somehow, though, I still couldn’t sign in, so I gave up without ever commenting.

Sometime after that, Mr. okthnxbye came across the website and eventually found enough evidence of what he considered man-bashing to get him angry enough that he wanted to wreak some havoc. He got hold of a list of all the registered users’ information, including passwords, and started breaking into our accounts to “teach us a lesson.”

Why was I “taught a lesson”? Because I registered – didn’t comment, just registered – on a feminist website. What did I learn from that lesson? Certainly not what he wanted us to learn. I imagine he wanted us to learn that it is absolutely terrible to say mean things about men (honestly, will someone tell me exactly what man-bashing is going on on that website?) and that men are wonderful and we should love and respect them and be REALLY REALLY SORRY for what we did. Well I didn’t do shit, so I am not sorry. And even if I had, how would being harassed by a man make me think more highly of men and think that I was wrong for insulting them? Mr. okthnxbye was not only hypocritical by saying a couple of not-so-pro-woman things, but he also completely undermined his cause by being so immature and unethical as to try to terrorize people into feeling differently instead of trying to communicate with them in a respectful and open forum.

I can’t quite figure him out, though. I asked him whether he was against feminism (based on a list of major feminist issues) or just against the specific instances of man-bashing he saw. He said he’s just against the man-bashing and that he believes in equal rights and respect for men and women. Here’s where I get confused (if you’re out there, Mr. okthnxbye, feel free to comment). How, exactly, does a person who doesn’t have some sort of out-of-control hatred for women think it’s ok to track down their accounts and break in and make demands on them because he doesn’t like what they said? I just don’t understand, because he didn’t sound unbalanced enough for that to be possible. It’s totally understandable to become enraged looking at some of the crap people say on the internet. To be honest, I haven’t come across a lot of man-bashing (please note the difference between disliking patriarchy, sexism, and male priviledge, and disliking men), but – and I hate to link to this, but sometimes you’ve got to make a point – look at this piece of trash. Just one example from the cesspool of woman-hate. This is a “marriage contract” that would more accurately be called a slavery contract from the same website. And in fact, there has been quite a bit of woman-bashing on Women’s Space, like this comment:

A. Friend | | IP:

Heart, this is horrible. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. These people want nothing to do but to hurt you and your cause. I feel for you.

In fact, I want to feel you now. I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.

Not Spam — Aug 4, 1:57 AM — [ View Post ]

But as much as that makes my blood boil – and believe me, if I let myself really think about it, I would probably go insane, or just sink into a very deep depression – it would never cross my mind to break the law and all sense of common decency and harass and violate the misogynists who run and use that site, especially not for no reason except to mess with them. If anything, I would send them emails about how they were wrong – not a bunch of expletives, but actually how they were wrong – which is much different from commandeering their email and blogs. But personally I don’t even do that, mostly because I know they wouldn’t listen to me. Just like if someone actually hates men, she’s not going to listen to a man, especially when he’s violating her privacy, not to mention the law. (To be fair, he said he didn’t look through my emails, and appears to have left everything in order. As internet harassers go, he wasn’t very bad – but then, what does that really mean?)

I’m still afraid that he will come across this and somehow still be able to do something to get revenge, and that he will still not see that revenge wouldn’t do any good. But thanks to the Badasses of the world, I have decided that it’s worth it to speak up instead of letting him make me feel powerless and scared.

Habiba Sultana is a 13 year old girl in Bangladesh. Her father needed money and decided to marry her off to a 23 year old man. She didn’t want to, but what did that matter? She told some of her friends about it at her all-girls school, and they decided that it did matter. Well, that, and it’s against the law to marry off a minor. As usual, my sources conflict on some details. El Pais says a friend told her father (her own father, not Sultana’s) about the issue and asked him to report it to the police, but he didn’t. BBC says Sultana’s friends parents tried to get her father to call the wedding off, but he didn’t. Either way, patriarchy would have the story end there, but these high school girls decided they could accomplish something without depending on men to do it for them and without giving up when a man says no. 50 girls from her school protested the marriage, and sure enough, it was called off and Sultana’s father had to sign that he wouldn’t marry her off until she was of age.

There are lots of things still wrong here, and there are a lot of root problems that need to be fixed before child marriage will end. Poverty, for one, patriarchy, for another, the commodification of women and girls, for yet another. But I can’t help but smile to think about these girls. When I was 13, I would’ve been too self-conscious to protest against something and risk getting in trouble or looking weird. And this is in Bangladesh, not the be-an-individual United States. Quite impressive. And it worked! Sure, she’ll get married off when she’s 18, and there’s no guarantee that guy will treat her properly, but the girls protested and people listened and their demands were met. Females got their voices heard. Kids got their voices heard. Double whammy against patriarchy right there. I hope this experience makes them confident to keep speaking up in the future. Good times.

You can also find the story in the Bangladeshi paper The Daily Star, and I got this from feministing.

Call me cynical, but I kinda laughed when I read the first line in this article from In These Times: “For all of its trappings of money, fame, and corruption, professional sports has a lot to do with character.” But believe it or not, I’ve got good news from the sports world, in terms of treating people like actual human beings. Michael Daniel Penner was a male sports writer who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. She’s now Christine Michelle Daniels, who still writes on sports for the Los Angeles Times. Not only that, but she wrote about her transition for the paper. No hiding, no shame, just honesty and badassery.

I can only imagine how terrifying that was. “Responses to the revelation came in three distinct flavors: kudos from sports fans, effusive thanks from other transsexuals and rants from bible-thumpers.” haha. I’ll settle for the kudos from sports fans. That’s a lot better than I would have expected. Really vitriolic homophobia and sexism come out online (this quote was talking about online comments), and for people in a hypermasculinized field to be congratulatory of a transsexual is huge. I mean, there are places where even a woman from birth can’t be a sportscaster (I tried to google this to find the article I’m vaguely remembering and half the results on the first page were about how hot different female sportscasters are. I want to bang my head against a wall. This is why I have to write a blog on the positive things).

Does this mean all the problems are over and we can all live happily ever after in the sex and gender in which we feel at home? Ha. No. But I think what this accomplished was to make people deal with sex reassignment. Not that all of these fans went and deeply pondered the issue and joined the HRC, but this is out there, in public, in the mainstream, in your space. Your options are: 1) be a jerk about it, or 2) accept it. If you accept it, yeah, you still might make a funny face if you find out someone you know is a transsexual, there’s still room for improvement, but you’re at least acknowledging that this happens and that the people who do it are human beings, not freaks or demons.

The article I linked to mentioned another sports writer, Christina Kahrl, who transitioned (from being Chris) in 2003, and no one said anything about it. They quoted Kahrl as saying that sports is a bridge for Americans, everyone can come together via sports. I’m happy that Kahrl had such a smooth experience, but I’m not that optimistic about the fans; I think a lot of people probably just decided to ignore it because it made them uncomfortable. Daniels didn’t give people that option, or at least made it harder to pull that off.

Christine’s boss actually told her to write the article, but I still give her b/a points for doing it, because she was the one on the line here. Her boss gets points for tolerance though – some people fire transsexuals (speaking of which, please help end workplace discrimination). And of course there were negative responses, and if I wasn’t writing a happy blog I would have a lot to say about them. But overall it sounds like it has gone well. Read about if for yourself at her blog, A Woman in Progress. Even if you think transsexuals are going to hell, it couldn’t hurt to find out what it’s like from their point of view. The rest of the original article has lots of info on sex reassignment as well.

Dowries, money that the bride’s family pays to the groom’s family, have already been outlawed in India. India’s problem when it comes to the mistreatment of women is not so much that it lacks the proper laws. Enforcement, however, is another story entirely. It’s against the law to dedicate your daughter as a devadasi, a sex slave to the goddess, but it still happens. It’s against the law to decide whether to abort a fetus based on the fetus’s sex, but somehow lots more female fetuses get aborted than male fetuses. (No, women’s rarity will not help them. It will increase sex slavery and the buying of foreign brides.) And so on. Not that enforcement trouble is in any way unique to India, but there’s your background information.

Pooja Chauhan’s husband and parents were (allegedly*) “physically torturing” her to get her to pay a dowry. The Times of India says it got worse when she bore a girl child. She reported her husband and his family, but nothing happened. In her desperation, she tried to set herself on fire but the police stopped her. So she cried about it. Just kidding, she’s a Badass, of course. (No offense to women who would cry about it, I sure would.) She stripped down to her underwear and paraded in the streets of the conservative neighborhood to embarrass her husband and his family. Brilliant! Of course it got people’s attention, and all the sudden the police became a little more cooperative.

Bad news: 1) Some people commented on the TOI website that even though this shouldn’t have happened to her, she was wrong to go to such extreme measures as to walk around in her underwear. Please join me in a collective exasperated eye roll. (Not that I don’t understand different standards of modesty, but seriously, even trying to immolate herself didn’t work. I think extremes were called for and people need to stop victim-blaming. Remember, women are killed over dowries sometimes.) 2) Although the BBC said police denied charging her for indecent exposure, the Times said they did (but that they would take into account her mental state). Are these the same police who ignored her plight for so long? Good job.

Back to the good news: Here’s another story about a Badass, Nisha Sharma, who didn’t put up with this dowry crap, risking shame in another way by calling off her wedding. She’s in Indian textbooks now :).

*I saw on another blog that the law under which the husband and his parents were arrested is a law that provides for the accused to be guilty until proven innocent, which is a violation of human rights. I’m not an expert on this case or Indian law, but regardless of what people do, violating human rights is not ok.

Malalai Joya is an Afghan woman. Being an Afghan woman is not easy. I’m not kidding. Anyway, at age 19, she started teaching literacy classes to women. She later opened an orphanage and health clinic. She is the director of the Organization of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities and has received all kinds of cool awards. But kicking ass at life wasn’t enough for her. She went on to become a full-fledged Badass. She ran for Parliament and got the second highest number of votes in her province. What makes her a Badass is that she keeps speaking up no matter how many times people threaten to kill her, attempt to assassinate her (4 times so far), or generally defame her. She is the youngest member of the Parliament, under 30, but she’s brave enough to speak out against the warlords that still infiltrate the Afghan government. She gives in on one point: she wears a burqa when traveling, for her safety. I think this only serves to highlight her badassery. The woman covered head to toe is a sign of submission to the deeply patriarchal culture, a sign that their intimidation is working. But from underneath her burqa, she won’t shut up. My sources below quote her as saying “They will kill me, but they will not kill my voice.” I love it.

Info on Ms. Joya:
From BBC
From the Defense Committee for Malalai Joya
From The Omega Institute, for which Malalai and others will be speaking at a conference on Women, Power, and Peace in September.

Info on Afghan women (you can help!):
With the Feminist Majority Foundation
With Equality Now
Donate to Malalai Hospital (named after another female Afghan Badass, isn’t that crazy? Remind me of this name if/when I have a daughter)

I want to add something about the burqa.  If a woman wants to wear a burqa (as some point out, it’s a safe haven from men leering, at least, and some may like the religious symbol), that’s fine with me.  I have a problem with it when a woman doesn’t want to wear one but has to anyway because otherwise she’ll be assaulted.  Just to clarify.

et cetera