As Free as a Bird

Spreading my voice on the injustices of rape culture, misogyny, and human trafficking in an effort to educate others and empower like-minded women.

Archive for the tag “human rights”

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic Violence Defined

It is much more broad and far-reaching than many people realize.

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Death is Fashionable?

Trigger warning: Violent and disturbing images

Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up in the air.

I have seen an article before about violence against women in fashion magazines and advertisements, but I looked at it as something that we are moving away from at this point. Obviously I was wrong. Here is a new Marc Jacobs ad featuring a girl who appears to be dead:

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I fail to understand why violence against women is viewed as art. I’m not sure what message they are even trying to send here. They are normalizing and glorifying violence against women, and they are using a young woman who has admitted that she is unstable to carry out that message.

I could argue that these images are actually symbolic of society and the fashion industry, and the real damage that they can cause towards women and young girls. Women are often placed on a figurative scale. As a woman, you cannot be too skinny, because then you don’t have “enough curves”, and you cannot be overweight because that makes you “disgusting”. Why do we care so much about what other people look like or what they choose to do with their bodies? It would be different if comments revolving around weight were actually born out of true concern for the person’s health, but they rarely, if ever, are. I think many people mask their ignorant comments with “concern”.

These photos are why I am honestly feeling deterred from having children. Why would I want them to grow up in world like this? Violence against women is seen as art.

Again, these are really disturbing.

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I don’t see anything artistic about this. This has very little to do with fashion, and a lot to do with violent/gore media. They look like still shots from a horror film. I guess I will never understand the fashion industry, especially when they try to make strangulation look sexy.

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I realize that there are fetishes out there, but I honestly do not think it is healthy to put on display for young girls to see. I do think we should be more open about sexual education, but I doubt Rihanna songs or fashion ads are created for education. It honestly just looks like another image of a man dominating a woman- “putting her in the place”. People seem to think all these images and jokes are harmless, but I don’t see the humor or beauty in violence. The hyper-sexualization and glorification of violence against women is a problem displayed in advertisements and the media on a constant basis. Sometimes it feels as if there is no escape from their onslaught of images. Images like these images contribute to rape culture in America. We are so desensitized to violence against women; it is almost seen as normal, and sometimes goes as far as claiming to be sexy or artistic when women are abused.

That is a serious problem. Yet, how can we change it? It is so engrained in our culture. Are we too far gone?

 

Note:

If you would like to see more images or read more on the topic, here are some sources that I used:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/violence-against-women-in-fashion-continues-unabated

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/jan/09/female-corpses-fashion-trend-marc-jacobs-miley-cyrus

Real Women

Real Women

This is a great reminder, even for me. We are all “real women”. Not one body type, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or religion defines that.

Beauty Redefined

How To Look Beautiful

Be yourself.

A Note to Parents

A Note to Parents

Combating Misogyny

Educating men and boys on the importance of women’s rights is vital to the feminist cause. So many people perceive rape and violence against women to be a woman’s issue, but those people forget who the main perpetrators are: males. If we do not reach out to the male population and gather support things may never change. There needs to be education on all of the topics and a willingness to learn amongst both genders. Instead of working against each other and promoting hate between genders, a more effective route to take would be to work together to create equality for all. We may not reach every man, but we can appeal to those who have women in their lives and let these men know that misogyny and violence against women does personally touch them. If you have a woman in your life that you care about, it touches you. Women live in a constant hyper-vigilant state in order to avoid getting assaulted. Even if a woman has never been assaulted, we all take daily routines to avoid it, whether it is a conscious effort or not. We need to reach men, because they do care, they just need to be encouraged that it is acceptable and courageous to care.

 

A Different Shade of Beauty

I can’t even begin to understand their pain.

 

Racism, Stereotyping, and Self-Worth

This video shows that even at such a young age children are socialized to believe certain stereotypes about different races. Luckily I grew up in a family that was well-rounded and informed, rather than racist and ignorant, but not every child is so lucky. White children have been taught to fear those of a different race/ethnicity. We are constantly taught to question their motives and view them in a negative light. These thoughts can come from our families, but they most certainly come from society. Racial profiling is real, and I see it happen all the time. Though I grew up in an accepting family, I was still exposed to society’s thoughts on race. We are constantly bombarded with these ideals from society that tell us that only the white/light-skinned people are powerful, intelligent, beautiful, and successful. I don’t know how accurate the video is as far as what children of other races are taught, but I would like to know if their parents enforced the negative thoughts of their own race, if those thoughts are subconscious feelings taught to them by society, or both. I can’t imagine what it is like growing up in an environment constantly being told and feeling inferior, even if you are extremely intelligent and qualified. I partially know how it feels to be looked down upon or not seen as qualified since women are still making 77 cents to a man’s dollar, but I still have no idea how it feels to feel truly hated or screwed over by society. We shouldn’t have to have laws or interest groups forcing equality. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in the color blind mentality. The one when white people say, “Oh, race doesn’t bother me, I don’t even see their color.” Well, you should see it, and see the beauty and diversity. Saying you’re color blind is almost as culturally ignorant, if not more culturally ignorant, than someone who is racist. I had to learn this fact the hard way, too, fellow white people, but it is a reality you need to be aware of. We need to be as active as we can in children’s lives so that children are growing up educated, culturally aware, and accepting. It is about damn time we do so. And while we are at it, let’s take down societal norms. There is still racism even though we have a “black” president (P.S. he is mixed-race). If no one stands up against racism, things will never change and it will always be accepted.

Hope for the Homeless?

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This is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I live in a fairly sizable city in Texas, so we have quite a few homeless people and panhandlers. My parents have always been drawn to those less fortunate (which is probably where I learned my passions for others). Lately my parents have been traveling out to various groups of panhandlers asking what they need. Naturally these people were surprised when someone spoke to them, as very few people engage with them other than slipping them some cash on occasion (if they’re lucky). Out of their surprised state came an outpouring of stories. I remember almost all of their stories, but one stood out in particular.

One of the women in the group under the tree that my parents spoke with confided in my mom. During their conversation my mom asked the woman where she was staying and if she had anywhere constant that she could go. The woman pulled my mom off to the side and whispered to her in a cryptic tone, “I don’t want anyone to hear me, but I live under (a tree by ____ Road). I don’t want them to hear me because sometimes when my husband leaves men will try to come around and I don’t want them to.” I instantly began to weep and asked my mom if she thought the woman had been raped or sexually assaulted before. None of us really know for sure, but it is certainly a high possibility. Even though it probably happens all the time in the homeless setting, it is something I have never really thought about- until now. Here are people that the world views as annoying, gross, or pretty much shit. Yet, they are PEOPLE; they have real problems (obviously, but people don’t seem to care or recognize that fact), real feelings, and multiple dangers. Who knows how many of these women have been raped, and I am sure that they feel like there is nothing they can do about it. Hell, I am some white bread girl, and I felt I couldn’t do anything about what happened to me. I want to research this more, because there needs to be a program for homeless women who have been sexually assaulted/exploited, or who fear sexual assault/exploitation. There may already be one, but this is just the beginning of my research. I want to talk to this woman, and other women like her. There has got to be something I can do for them. It’s terrible enough that most women in general don’t feel they can report or get help, but it is even worse when you’re living on the streets without any real resources (phone, internet, etc). There has to be a way to give them hope/help. Something to think about.

Note: Feel free to add any thoughts or ideas. I’m thinking a special rape crisis center for the homeless, or even something like free self-defense classes. I want to give the homeless some sort of hope that isn’t found in a bottle.

 

Power to the People

The Venus Project logo

The Venus Project logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you make people uniform, you can control them. If you teach people to read, and think, and question things, you lose control. So, the best idea is to separate people if you wish to maintain a monetary system. It’s called divide and conquer. By dividing people, they’re not a threat, you can control them.” – Jacque Fresco

Society doesn’t accept the beauty in individuality, and that is partially because society wants to control women. The more uniform we are, the easier we are to predict and control. They want to silence us because they know we have the potential to be a powerful, unstoppable force. People fear strong women – women with power and intellect make them uncomfortable. Society doesn’t know what to do with a woman who stands up for herself, or stands up for others. We need to remember to lift each other up and remain a cohesive group, working together with using our own personal strengths and abilities. If we work together and do not let them divide us, we can bring change. Change is inevitable when we work together.

One word: Powerful

Schools and Shaming

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You can read more about slut shaming by clicking on the image.

The question today is, are schools promoting weight shaming and slut shaming?

A few weeks ago I asked my boyfriend’s cousin to stay with me over night so that we could spend some bonding time together. She is a junior in high school and has pretty low self-esteem from what I understand. Since I was bullied and mistreated in high school I have kind of made it my goal to help her and mentor her whenever I can. When she was staying with me she was talking to me at breakfast about school. With teary eyes she began to divulge an all too familiar story about her school administration. She is constantly targeted for her clothing, and I suspect it is because she is Hispanic and does not fit the Barbie mold. She has been told on several occasions that her pants are too tight or that she can’t wear shorts because her legs are too big. A school official has also said to her that certain clothing does not work with certain body types. To me that sounds like they are insinuating to her that she is too fat to wear shorts.  Frankly, that is her decision and own opinion to make, it isn’t the schools’ business to play fashion police. This is a terrible message to be sending a young girl in high school, or any girl for that matter. High school is a time when most girls are insecure, vulnerable, and have low self-esteem. The school is telling young girls that aren’t obese that they are fat, and even if they were actually obese it is still none of their business outside serving healthier foods for everyone at school. Rather than schools standing by their students and encouraging them, they are shaming them for being different. She is constantly targeted for her clothing while the administration looks the other way when it comes to a certain group of girls who wear shorts that are even shorter than what she wears.

Also, wearing leggings without shorts over them is banned from her school, as are yoga pants, I believe. While in some regard I understand why, I don’t think that limiting students’ clothing betters their academic career or causes them to “make better life choices” (and I hardly doubt that is the true reasoning for clothing restrictions). Frankly, it is slut shaming.

When did teaching kids appropriateness cross the line into shaming? This is a tough subject, because in a way I don’t think young girls should be baring themselves inappropriately at school.. but mainly because I know there are creeps out there that have to turn the way you dress into something sexual and run with it. Yes, you should dress respectfully in certain situations, but many of these recent cases of schools and dress codes have truly crossed the line and flew into another atmosphere.

Here are some great examples from an awesome article that you should also read:

1. A middle school in California banned tight pants. At the beginning of last month, a middle school in Northern California began telling girls to avoid wearing pants that are “too tight” because it “distracts the boys.” At a mandatory assembly for just the female students, the middle school girls were told that they’re no longer allowed to wear leggings or yoga pants. “We didn’t think it was fair how we have all these restrictions on our clothing while boys didn’t have to sit through [the assembly] at all,” one student told local press. Some parents also complained, leading the school’s assistant principal to record a voicemailexplaining the new policy. “The guiding principle in all dress codes is that the manner in which students dress does not become a distraction in the learning environment,” the message said.

2. A high school principal in Minnesota emailed parents to ask them to cover up their daughters. A principal in Minnetonka, MN recently wrote an email telling parents to stop letting their daughters wear leggings or yoga pants to school. He says the tight-fitting pants are fine with longer shirts but, when worn with a shorter top, a girl’s “backside” can be “too closely defined.” The big risk of having a defined backside, he thinks, is that it can “be highly distracting for other students.”

3. Two girls in Ohio were turned away from their prom for being “improperly dressed.” Laneisha Williams and Nyasia Mitchell were barred from prom this spring for wearing dresses that administrators considered “too revealing.” The girls say that they didn’t believe they were violating a dress code that said dresses couldn’t be too short or show too much cleavage. But one administrator told local news that the high school girls were only allowed to wear dresses that had “no curvature of their breasts showing.”

4. A kindergarten student in Georgia was forced to change her “short” skirt because it was a “distraction to other students.” It’s hard to imagine that a kindergartener’s outfit could be “a distraction to other students,” but a mother in Georgia told locals news there that her daughter had been outfitted in someone else’s pants — without parental permission — after the principal deemed the skirt the young girl was wearing too short.” The girl had apparently wore the skirt, and accompanying leggings, just one week before without incident.

5. Forty high school girls were sent home from a winter dance in California after “degrading” clothing inspections “bordering on sexual harassment.” A school board member’s daughter was among the 40 girls turned away from Capistrano Valley High’s February dance for wearing dresses that either exposed their midriffs or were cut too low. Before the dance, girls were apparently required to flap their arms up and down and turn around for male administrators’ inspection. The school issues image guidelines for appropriate dress on its website — though the images were nearly all of women, and the only male image depicted proper attire. One girl alleges that the principal told her, “Not all dresses look good on certain body shapes.” A grandmother of one of the girls who was turned away from the dance also said that a teacher remarked about her granddaughter, “What mother would allow her daughter to wear a dress like that?” Apparently the school did receive some praise, though, from the parents of two male students.

So, does slut shaming breed rape culture? Hell yes it does. Slut shaming tells girls that they are the cause of rape, they are seducing the men into action because of the way that they dress or act. FALSE. Rapists rape because they are rapists. Why should we condone shaming girls and placing blame where it doesn’t belong. Our society hides behind this guise of being politically correct, proper, and “appropriate”. Well, if accepting rape is proper and appropriate, I say f*^% propriety. Schools need to be in the business of education, not discrimination.

 

Cyber Bullying

I can remember when I was still in middle school and no one really associated bullying with kids being mean over the internet. Instant messaging was just starting to become popular, and kids were just starting to get deep into the online world of chat rooms. I was bullied online and it was almost completely dismissed by my school’s principal.

Most schools do not handle bullying properly – even at this point in time when bullying, and suicides resulting from bullying, is at a height. Bullying has always been around, but it has migrated to the online world at a rate that has been increasing at an alarming rate. There have been many recent cases where young girls have killed themselves as a result of online torture (many of these attacks started from the girls being sexually assaulted, or exploited over the internet).

As if victim blaming isn’t enough, teens have began to use victim shaming when girls come forward to report their rapists. Rape culture online contributes to the bullying when the media and society sympathize with the rapists.

Example 1:

Rehtaeh Parsons

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Rehtaeh was raped by multiple boys at a party when she was 15, and two years later she committed suicide after being bullied relentlessly. Even though there were photos of her rape that circulated around the community the Canadian authorities pushed her case to the side. She was bullied online and harassed constantly through messaging. enduring constant torment, she was made to feel as if no one believed her, until finally taking her own life. One thing is certain about this case: Rehtaeh was bullied and it resulted in her suicide.

Example 2:

Audrie Plott

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Audrie Plott was assaulted, when she was only 15, by three boys while she was passed out. Photos of the assault circulated online. Because of this Audrie ended her own life. She considered her life to be ruined; she was humiliated by the posting of the pictures online. The images went viral, but Audrie was not alive long enough to endure the torture that would ensue after the pictures were passed around online. She killed herself eight days after her rape.

Example 3:

Jane Doe of Steubenville

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Jane Doe was raped by two football players in Steubenville, Ohio. They were apparently sent to assault Jane Doe by her ex-boyfriend, who posted online saying that Jane Doe would regret breaking up with him. She was then harassed endlessly and threatened online by her peers, and even complete strangers, through Twitter and other social media outlets online. Here are some examples of the bullying she has endured:

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These are classic examples of rape culture, victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming. As if the mental and emotional trauma from the online bullying wasn’t enough, some girls, as you can see above, threatened physical harm to Jane Doe. The cousin of one of the rapists threatened to kill Jane Doe for making her cousin cry in court.

Example 4:

Amanda Todd

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Amanda Todd was not sexually assaulted, in fact she was known for being promiscuous. She showed her breasts online to a stranger, who then stalked her relentlessly, even after she moved schools several times. Her bully would follow her where ever she went, posting the pictures online for everyone to see at each school she attended. She was harassed by her peers constantly. While she may not have been perfect, but nothing can excuse what her bully/bullies did to her. She was harassed, and she killed herself because of it. Amanda was slut shamed. The fact is that it is no one’s business to judge another person’s sex life or sexual preferences. No one deserves the torture that she received.

*Note: Amanda’s case is going to carry me into an article on slut shaming.

If you would like to read about similar stories about bullying, victim blaming, victim shaming, slut shaming, and sexual assault injustices, you can read about it at the following links:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/03/torringtons-rape-case/63386/

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/05/social-media-gone-horribly-bad-teens-post-rape-on-facebook/

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/13/2003771/no-you-cannot-substitute-sex-rape/?utm_content=buffer21e93&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Buffer&mobile=nc

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2321447/Braylee-Rice-Teen-girl-hangs-middle-school-bleachers-necktie-class-family-says-bullied.html

The point is that we need to do something about this, because these cases keep happening.

Stand in Solidarity Against Bullying

The next few weeks I am going to be covering bullying, victim blaming, victim shaming, and slut shaming. We can stand up for each other. We may feel powerless at times, but we can lift each other up and make each other stronger. Bullying can cause scars, and I personally believe that it can be a precursor to, or as a result of, sexual abuse. It is important to remain strong, support others, and encourage each other not to give into the victim mentality. Let’s show the world how amazing and special we truly are. Speak out, because your voice counts!

Sunday Secret

Sunday Secret

Here is a postcard that was on PostSecret this Sunday. I know it is hard for many people to understand how/why someone would blame themselves for their own rape. The best way to understand is to ask. They may feel ashamed or as if they did something to cause the person to think that it was okay to take advantage. They may also feel as if they made poor decisions or that they could have prevented the rape. I am still struggling with this, and I know it can be a comfort to know that people understand you, that they hear you, rather than trying to give you advice from a perspective that does not understand. We are never at fault – THEY should have known better, should have made better decisions, should have prevented themselves from taking advantage, should have been respectful, should have been better.

 

We Demand Justice

“Rehtaeh was fifteen when her mom says she was raped by 4 boys. She was 17 when she took her life this weekend, following over a year of being shamed for her own rape. Her mother’s friend Sherri started a campaign — www.change.org/rehtaeh — asking officials in her Canadian province to launch an investigation into why Rehtaeh’s alleged rapists were never charged.

Can you share this photo to spread Sherri’s call for justice for Retaeh even further?” – as written by Change.org

Her story is very familiar to that of Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio. She attended a party, was raped by multiple assailants, and then pictures of the horrific act were posted on social media websites for the world to see. She was bullied, threatened, and shamed for her own rape. Unfortunately there were never any arrests. Later she took her own life and never received the justice she deserves.

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People claim that women have made it a long way, but have we really? Sure, we can vote, we can move up to some positions of power, but we are still shamed for being a victim. We still do not receive the coverage, compassion, prestige, power, or paycheck that men do. I can’t even begin to understand why a woman should be shamed for her own rape. How is it that I live in a country where women are blamed for a crime committed by a man? This is another great example of rape culture. If we are going to have the justice system, media system, and the lack of moral fiber/humanity that we have in this country, then there needs to be a some sort of a system that can also protect girls like Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and Audrie Plott. They need to have somewhere safe to go, a haven, where they can feel safe, heal from what they have gone through, and come out stronger than ever before (this is what I hope to accomplish some day with this blog). I want to start a bed and breakfast, or some sort of getaway, where women can go to stay to heal and move on.There is nothing wrong with running away to survive- I did it after what happened to me and it was the best thing I ever decided to do for myself. I went to stay with my parents on the coast of North Carolina. I was able to heal, forget, and move on in a tranquil and safe environment. Getting out of the situation and escaping the area where it happened- that is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is survival, and no one has the right to judge you for that. You have every right to do what you need to do to take care of yourself- that is self-love. In my personal opinion, if a parent has a daughter struggling with something like rape or sexual exploitation they need to help their daughter escape the situation so that they can heal and overcome it (which can be done after the incident is reported if the family decides that is what is best). They need to get out of the situation so that they are able to get away from any media, or social media, harassment. They need to be shown that life can go on after what happened to them, but there is a healing process that is absolutely vital in the mean time. This nation should be standing behind these girls, helping them, loving them, showing support, but they are condemning them and shunning them. More shockingly in regards to women who are trafficked, they oftentimes end up in jail rather than their oppressor, and even if the oppressor does go to jail their sentence is usually ungodly short. Where is the justice for these women?

*If you would like to help Rehtaeh Parsons fight for justice in death, you can do so by clicking here.

Anonymous speaks out for girls like Rehtaeh and Jane Doe, you can spread the word, too. Use hashtags on Twitter to get more attention.

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