Screw You, Tim Tebow: Thoughts from a Feminist Sports Fan

{Katy Gehred is a first-year graduate student in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Originally from Dayton, Ohio; she is currently researching gender in early-America.}

Photo courtesy of SI.com

Prior to the Broncos/Steelers game of January 8, one of my friends posted a Facebook status which read something along the lines of: “Well, one of them will rape you and the other won’t let you get an abortion.”

I’m sure that dark comedy like that was floating all over the internet before the Tim Tebow/Ben Roethlesberger showdown. I noticed because usually the sports smack-talk that shows up on my feed is humorous at best, and at worst annoying; rarely does it touch upon topics that I actually care about.

Now, as a Packers fan I know a little something about loyalty to a sports team (unlike Brett Favre, OH SNAP!) and so I understand how trivial it is. I mean, I root for the Packers, I get emotionally involved to the point of shouting at my television screen and then I move on with my life. Loyalty to a specific sports team is simultaneously insanely dedicated and astonishingly trivial. Because after the blood, sweat, tears, and emotion of a football game is over, it all comes down to a bunch of guys in weird outfits running around and knocking each other over.

Perhaps I’m revealing myself as a bad fan or something, but I’ve always assumed that the whole point of football was that it didn’t matter. It’s a cathartic way to have some silly regional pride—or vent some pent up emotions—while eating Buffalo wings with people you like.

And so when a scandal happens, like Ben Roethlisberger or Kobe Bryant being accused of rape—or the horrible Penn State child abuse case—all of a sudden something fun and cathartic gets mixed up with something deeply serious and disturbing. And that can be conflicting for a fan whose parents dressed them in team jerseys before they could even talk; it’s hard to shake that kind of dedication.

Much ink has been spilled about sex scandals in sports. The media loves pitting the stereotypical he-man sports fan—who’s never taken a Women’s Studies course in his life— against the anti rape-culture of women’s rights activism. Rape cases and sex scandals are rarely cut and dry and so a whole lot of hate and victimizing gets spat out before the media finally loses its interest. And by then, usually, the perpetrator goes back to being a role-model for children and making more money than I’ll see in my entire life.

And so life is hard for a feminist sports fan. I certainly don’t have any answers. Is it better to just pack it in and boycott sports? When I think about the beer commercials I’ll have to sit through that sounds pretty tempting. But then I think about that Giants game last week when I could hear everyone in the apartments around mine celebrating simultaneously. I’ll never hate sports, but I just can’t forgive the rape apologists either.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: All-American Muslim, Victim-Blaming Ad Campaign & “Muscular Empathy”

via feministryangosling.tumblr.com

  • In an attack on women of color’s reproductive freedoms, anti-choice members of Congress have pushed for a bill called the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” which seeks to prevent women of color from attaining abortions in the name of “civil rights.” Clarification: Neither Susan B. Anthony nor Frederick Douglass would have supported this BS.
  • Feministing breaks down the victim-blaming and just downright disturbing “rape prevention” campaign at “ControlTonight.org”, targetting — you guessed it — young women victims. Same old ridiculous narrative: the raped person should control the rapist’s urge to rape by NOT going out and drinking.  The ad’s image itself is a trigger warning, so be prepared to fume with anger.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates responds to the Forbes article, “If I Were A Poor Black Kid.” It’s entitled, “Muscular Empathy,” and explores one of the greatest challenges an historian faces, let alone a human being: empathy with people from very different circumstances than ourselves. Here’s an excerpt:

This basic extension of empathy is one of the great barriers in understanding race in this country. I do not mean a soft, flattering, hand-holding empathy. I mean a muscular empathy rooted in curiosity. If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

Harris-Perry is at her strongest when she breaks down the devastating and unseen culture of shame that is put upon and often internalized by black women; it is fed by a dangerous form of misrecognition that harms both individuals and societies. Harris-Perry is nuanced in her understanding of shame not only manifesting as a sort of shrinking-away, but in the compensating “strong black woman” stereotype that seems positive, but leaves little room for the full scope of human vulnerability. Shame, then, serves as a kind of social control.

  • Robin Lim, an American midwife who has served thousands of Indonesian women in their births, is CNN’s Hero of the Year.

Sebelius claims that her reason is that the FDA didn’t show that 11-year-old girls, some 10 percent of whom are fertile, understand how to follow the EC directions….If a sixth grader can’t understand those elementary, crystal-clear instructions, we should just move back to the caves, because civilization is finished.

Linkety Links: Rape in Prisons, White Privilege and Feminists, Hotels, Pervs, and More!!

Its been awhile, friends and readers!! I’ve been bouncing around, adjusting to a summer job and detoxing my brain from school. But I haven’t stopped reading!! Here are some of the pieces that have caught my eye as of late. Happy perusing! <3

Why that Harvard/Tufts Study Isn’t Breaking News
Racialicious: “Another week, another head-scratching study result. Or so you’d think, right? The study, conducted by researchers at Tufts and Harvard Universities, concluded that white people think the prejudices blacks faced during the Civil Rights era are literally in the past. But it’s not all rosy, apparently, for the majority of the 209 white people (alongside 208 blacks) surveyed….But, setting aside questions regarding the size of the survey group and the focus on white/black relations in an increasingly diverse country, one has to wonder: is this really a surprise?”

Hotel’s and Their Pervs Revisited
Mother Jones: “Let’s revisit the issue of pervs in hotel rooms. Why not, after all? It started with New York Times op-ed by Jacob Tomsky, in which he told us that housekeepers are flashed or otherwise sexually accosted by male guests ‘more often than you’d think.’ My off-the-cuff reaction was to suggest azero-tolerance policy for this kind of thing: ‘Do it once and you’re thrown out and blacklisted forever. What’s the justification for extending even the slightest forbearance toward this kind of behavior?’…So why don’t the big hotel chains have policies like this?”

White Privilege Diary Series #1: White Feminist Privilege in Organizations
Daily Kos: “Anyone who has done anti-racist work for more than a few years has run up against this problem:  most racists are happy being racists, and simply don’t want to change.  But at the same time they want to be protected from accusations of racism, and resent anyone who makes them “feel bad” about it.  White feminists are no different from other white people in that regard, as feminists of color well know.  A few are truly committed to diversity and anti-racist action, but the majority of us are not, and get angry and nasty when we’re driven out of our comfort zone. In my estimation, however, a racist feminist is no feminist at all.”

Exposing the Prevalence of Rape in the U.S. Prison System
Bilerico Project: “So, the fact is, our country is globally recognized as having some of the nastiest prisons and jails in the world – owing in part to the rampant sexual violence that prevails, even in juvenile detention. Steve Mason comments on this. This sexual violence is often directed against inmates who are known to be, or simply suspected of being, LGBT. But it can also be turned, like a flamethrower, against any individual or group, for any reason whatever. Violence – not law – is what runs our prisons and jails, and often the penal authorities themselves participate in it.”

Coming Out: Audio, Photos, Stories of Gay Teens – Interactive Feature
New York Times: “Bullying and suicides of gay and lesbian teenagers are in the headlines, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been repealed, and the debate over same-sex marriage continues to divide the country. Against this backdrop, many L.G.B.T. youth wonder how accepting society will be.”

2,500 Years After Buddha, Tibetan Buddhists Acknowledge Women
The Huffington Post: “Buddhist women are celebrating a landmark victory: In April, the renowned Institute for Buddhist Dialectical Studies (IBD) in Dharamsala, India, conferred the degree of “Geshe” — the Tibetan equivalent of Ph.D. — to Venerable Kelsang Wangmo, a German nun…[I]t may come as a surprise to many that despite its peaceful and somewhat progressive image in the West, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition does not know full ordination for women. For complex historical and patriarchal reasons, the lineage did not migrate when Buddhism spread from India to Tibet, thus outclassing the Tibetan Buddhist nuns as inferior.”

Some links!!: Mother’s Day stories, a sweet zine, and how to deal with anger

The U.S. Maternal Healthcare Crisis: 14 Numbers You Need to Know
Science & Sensibility: “Mother’s Day is May 8. At Amnesty International USA, we’re honoring mothers by fighting for maternal health — sending Mother’s Day action cards to U.S. and international decision-makers, hosting events and more (sign up at amnestyusa.org/mothersday).  Amnesty is also launching a One-Year Update to our groundbreaking report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA. From that update, here are 14 numbers you need to know.”

When We Hated Mom
The New York Times: “Contrary to myth, “The Feminine Mystique” and feminism did not represent the beginning of the decline of the stay-at-home mother, but a turning point that led to much stronger legal rights and “working conditions” for her.”

The Greatest Hits in Contraceptive History
Mother Jones: “Pretty much since the beginning of time, people have looked for ways to control their own fertility—from jumping backward seven times after sex, to using elephant or crocodile dung as suppositories, to drinking mercury and donning reusable condoms. And for just as long, there’s been a veritable crusade against (mostly) women’s efforts to control reproduction. From the book of Genesis to the 21st Olympiad, here are some noteable moments in the war on contraception.”

“The PIC (Prison Industrial Complex) Is…” Zine
Chicago PIC Teaching Collective: “This publication is offered as a gift. The topic is tragic and deadly serious. However those of us who worked collaboratively to create this zine envisioned it as a crie de coeur and as something to be shared. We expect that those who care about issues of justice, equality, and humanity will use it as a teaching tool and as an organizing tool. ”

Anger Management: On Emotion, Oppression, and Being Productive
The Canonball Blog: “What is the correct way to express anger? How can you express your anger and still have productive conversations? How can we support each other in expressing anger? Lorde’s answer: people of privilege need to learn how to listen. “If we listen to the content of what is said with at least as much intensity as we defend ourselves against the manner of saying.”

So Far This Week: Osama’s death, the GOP and rape/abortion, the history of rainbow pride, and more!

Hey hey hello there! I was trying to wait until the end of the week to post links, but all of a sudden this morning I already had so many. Here are some the news bits that have caught my eye so far this week. Enjoy! – Katrina

In Search Of Meaning: Osama Bin Laden and the Dancing Americans
Mondoweiss: “Those of us that know history did not begin on September 11th have been resisting the abrasive, suffocating encroachment of imperialist and reactionary elements on our lives and identities, building up to the present moment of revolution: between Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and the rest of the region, Arabs, Muslim or otherwise, are fighting to end the age of US puppet regimes on their own terms. One cannot help but wonder what “victory” the United States can claim in the murder of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil.”

The GOP’s Stealth Plan to Redefine Rape
Mother Jones: “While they’ve amended their legislation, which faces a floor vote in the House on Wednesday, Republicans haven’t stopped trying to narrow the already small exception under which federal funding for abortions is permissible. They’ve used a sly legislative maneuver to make sure that even though the language of the bill is different, the effect remains the same.”

White House to Host First Ever Trans Meeting
Note: This meeting happened days ago, but I wasn’t able to find any analysis/commentary/news on the meeting itself. But it happened!! 
The Washington Blade: “‘This is the first president who has allowed trans people — really allowed LGBT people — to bring forward problems and then advocate for them,’ Keisling said. ‘In the Bush administration, we couldn’t even do that. They wouldn’t even listen to us. They didn’t care what our problems were. In fact, they were making most of our problems.'”

Detroit’s Financial Martial Law Hits Home for Teen Moms
Colorlines: “Now, with all 5,466 of Detroit’s public school teachers getting laid off, Catherine Ferguson is on a list of schools to be either turned into charter schools, i.e. sold to and remade by a company with its own agenda, or closed. When students got wind of the impending closure plans, they made the decision to protest; community organization BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) lent support, police were called in, and the day went downhill from there.”

Claiming Rainbow Pride
Bilerico: “In this paper, I will provide a historical context for the [rainbow] flag’s creation, as well as critique the rhetoric used when telling this history, searching for what or who it might leave out. Taking South Africa as a case study, I will present some discourses around how certain people are erased from gay and lesbian visibility, space, and politics in Cape Town as a result of intersectional identities and oppressions. My aim is to open a door for discourse that more deeply questions whose history we take up as queer people when accepting the symbols (and politics) handed to us at first ‘outing.'”

Norway is Best Place to Be Mom; U.S. lags
Jezebel: ” A worldwide study shows that the best place to give birth is Norway. … The US ranks 31st out of 164 countries on Save the Children’s Mothers’ Index. Its maternal mortality rate is 1 in 2,100, the highest of any industrialized country (that’s 15 times higher, for instance, than the mortality rate in Greece). Child mortality is also relatively high, with 8 out of 1,000 children dying before the age of five.”

Pollitt Weighs in on Assange

Katha Pollitt dedicated her most recent column in The Nation to discuss the left’s reaction to sexaul assault charges against Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.  Pollitt writes, “What’s disturbing is the way some WikiLeaks admirers have misrepresented the allegations, attacked the women and made light of date rape.”  I particularly liked the last few sentences, which sums up the whole point of her piece:

One reason the Swedish rape conviction rate is low is that, thanks to thirty years of feminist progress, the law defines sexual violence and coercion broadly, but as in other countries, police and juries often do not. The same seems to be true of large swaths of the American left.

WikiLeaks is revealing information citizens need to know—it’s a good thing. Assange may or may not have committed sex crimes according to Swedish law. Why is it so hard to hold those two ideas at once?

Read Katha Pollitt’s full article, “The Case of Julian Assange,” here.

–Rosamund Hunter

Womanist Musings: New Angelina Jolie Movie Turns Rape Into Love Story?

UPDATE: Via Huffington Post

Angelina Jolie has cut short the shooting of her first movie in Bosnia, her producer said, after rumors that it portrayed a relationship between a rapist and his victim sparked protests from women assaulted during the Bosnian War.

Jolie had originally planned to shoot scenes for her movie for about ten days in Bosnia, but now her crew will film the scenes in just three or four days, said Edin Sarkic, Jolie’s Bosnian producer. Jolie herself will only briefly visit the set, he said.

The change of plans came after rumors surrounding the movie’s storyline angered an association of women raped during the war in Bosnia who heard the film was about a rape victim falling in love with her rapist. They pressured city officials to withdraw Jolie’s filming permit in October.

The rumors proved to be untrue, but still cast a shadow on the project.

Renee from Womanist Musings wrote on Friday about a new film rumored to be about a woman—portrayed by Angelina Jolie—who falls in love with her rapist during the Bosnian War.

During the Bosnian War, rape was used as a weapon to terrorize and demoralize.  It was an attack aimed specifically at women.  In most cases women were subject to multiple rapes by various men….

It is disgusting to suggest that a woman could come to love her rapist. I am further troubled that Jolie would continue with this project after the victims themselves raised an objection.  She does not have the right to dramatize their stories for profit.  Even if she feels that the story must be told, or she desires to bring attention to rape as a crime of war (I am being generous here, because I believe her motive is financial profit), such a project should only be undertaken with the support of the survivors.  Furthermore, this story is not Jolie’s to tell.  This story belongs to the survivors and if it is to be told, it should begin and end with them.  So much has already been taken from them and Jolie should respect the agency that they have.

The fact that Jolie is a woman does not make the appropriation any easier to stand and in fact it helps to break down necessary solidarity between women, which aids in fighting the sexism that we all face.  Perhaps Jolie felt that this would not be problematic because it occurs nearly five nights a week on television.  How many episodes of CSI, and Law Order have chosen to portray stories ripped out of the headlines.  They always include sensationalism and a slight change to deny the appropriation of these stories.  This is not just a crime being documented; this is direct appropriation of what is most likely the most horrific even of these women’s lives.  No thought is given to how triggering this could be to the survivor watching her experience dramatized or women who have also been raped.  The point of this is not raising awareness about the sexual violence women face, but profit. Women are continually being re-victimized. The fact that this is not noticed or acknowledged is a sign of the patriarchal world that we live in.

Read Renee’s full post at WomanistMusings.com.