Special Edition: Critiquing the Critique

Women on Wednesday is a critical program with a rich, 26 year history of highlighting the voices of diverse, intelligent, savvy and  creative people, especially women working to end sexist oppression and promote a safe, inclusive and engaged community through advocacy, education, alliance-building and women’s leadership.

On March 30th, the Women’s Center hosted Vednita Carter and Joy Friedman from Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution, at a Women on Wednesday session titled “Sex Trafficking 201: Dynamics of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking.” We’re excited to report a record-breaking audience of 157 for this engaging presentation from two survivors about the realities of the sex industry and the experiences of prostituted women. (Follow this link to listen to an audio recording of the session and hear their powerful stories yourself!)

Every session, the Women’s Center distributes feedback forms to all attendees and invites them to critique, analyze and provide feedback about the event. This week, after (it needs to be said again) enormously powerful testimonials about the realities of life as a trafficked person, we received this “feedback:”

Angry WOW Feedback from 3.30.16 session BACK PAGE

To view a typed version of this evaluation, click here.

For all the folks who wonder why Women’s Centers exist, who say that all genders are equal, who say that there’s no work left to be done because we live in a  post-sexist society…. attitudes that victims are to blame for their assaults because they are weak and/or mentally ill, that men’s “biological need” for sex trumps consent, and that women who name their experiences and hold perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions are “claiming victimhood” still exist. They’re right here in our community, perhaps in the seat right next to you at events like this.

It’s too easy to dismiss these types of comments and attitudes (although sometimes, to take care of ourselves, we must). So we’re not going to. Let’s break down some of these statements a bit, shall we?

First of all, the feminazi’s among us believe that any and all sex is rape.  In my male opinion, this is a female mental issue which can be changed by not always feeling the need to be a victim.

Let’s pause on the fifth word: Feminazi was a term that became popular in the 1990s, thanks in part to Rush Limbaugh. Interesting imagery that evokes, isn’t it? Feminists who demand equitable, safe, and inclusive social systems are equated to the Gestapo. Accurate? You decide.

“Any and all sex is rape?” We’ve never heard a feminist theoretical framework, platform, or person note something so nonsensical. Why would feminists create anti-sexist erotica, sex toys, and advocate for comprehensive, age appropriate, and medically accurate sex education? Because we want to teach one another how to “get raped better?” Perhaps he missed when Laci Green came to campus to talk about healthy sexual relationships.

“This is a female mental issue.” Excuse us? This is a systemic issue reproduced and supported by rape culture that objectifies and dehumanizes women into sex objects and creates the impossible virgin-whore dichotomy used to pressure us into never having sex (unless our male partner wants it, then whenever he wants it) and then shaming both if we do and when we don’t! A female mental issue? Women are MURDERED for turning men down.

“Which can be changed by not always feeling the need to be a victim.” Be sexually and verbally harassed daily when we do something as daring as walk down the street, be shamed about our sexuality and sexual behavior both by strangers and by people we know and even those we love, be told we were “asking for it” or “must have just had bad sex” if we name our experiences of rape, and face mutilation and death for turning men down…Sounds like a party. SIGN ME UP, I’d like to be a victim, YES PLEASE. (That last sentence is definitely sarcasm if you didn’t catch it.)

Default sex for men is a biological need.  To better understand this male biological need is similar to your stomach telling your brain when it is hungry for food.

This problematic language is  justification for sexual assault and trafficking women (Women who are trafficked for sex experience sexual assault multiple times a day) so men can pay to rape them (as our presenters noted).

Sexual desires are nothing like the need for food. You absolutely can live without sex (most of us have done it for various periods of time, and some people all their life and they are perfectly functional human beings), and you can go your entire life without ever raping someone. People do that, too.

Okay, and can we just make clear that defining gender by biological sex is just inane? STOP DOING IT. There are more than two sexes, there are more than two genders, and having a penis doesn’t make you a man (and on that note, not having a penis doesn’t not make you a man, either). And having a penis doesn’t mean you don’t have empathy, social skills, critical understanding of humanity, or, you know, a conscience, right? Right. Having a penis doesn’t mean you are entitled to consume people like objects; it doesn’t mean you are entitled to sex whenever you feel like it.

Side note: “default sex” makes us think of men walking around perpetually erect with no critical brain function just looking for a way to orgasm. Hole in the fence? Water bottle? Banana peel you found on the street? Well, gotta get that release! Seriously? How degrading.

Women have sex when they want something, babies, love, money, boyfriends, husband, diamonds… When they don’t get what they want they call it rape or they are a victim.

Babies, men, money…what could a girl want more? (Cue sarcasm, a blank stare into the camera, reminiscent of The Office.)

Women only have sex when they want something, but men have sex only for a biological need?  So, women don’t really want sex? The notion that women only have sex for material goods or to legitimize a straight relationship is not only indicative of this man’s unhealthy perception of the women in his life, but it erases the existence of women’s desire, sexuality, queer identities and relationships across the board. What about women who have sex with other women? Men who have sex with other men? People having sex with people…because they want to? Impossible! (You know this is sarcasm too, right?) And we know women masturbate, yes?

More of that victimhood by choice rhetoric? Aye…

Female teacher[s] need to educate their female students to be strong physically, strong mentally, independent thinkers, and be capable of defending their moral values.  Instead, females are taught to be weak, submissive, victims, and then complain to be a victim.

Many of the challenges women and girls face regarding their self-worth, on a large, often global scale, can’t be traced back to individual people. That is, patriarchy is what really affects women’s self-worth: sexism is embedded into the institutions that govern (quite literally) our lives.

Whose values are we talking about?  Some of the problems with patriarchy, and indeed the very system that we are all forced to live in, is the idea that we must have these “values” so frequently touted.  But really, whose values are they?  The idea of values are different for every person and depend on a number of factors: age, religion, community, background, orientation, etc.  Values also change throughout our lives (for some of us that changes as we become more aware of injustices in the world).  The idea that someone wants to hold everyone to the same “moral values” is really just a way to say, “do what I tell you.”

With that background from no moral family support and public school teachers, what are their expectations?  I know what I’m talking about.  Happy and married the last 43 years to the same beautiful, attractive, strong, independent, woman.

Again, whose moral values?

I’m glad the most important qualities for his wife are that she is beautiful and attractive.  We all know that’s the most important thing in a mate.  Sigh.  Seriously though, the idea that a person’s  value should be determined by their looks seems straight out of the middle ages.  And let’s not forget that when a woman denies a man her looks are the first thing attacked.  Alexandra Tweten just talked with us at a keynote for Women’s History Month about attacks made over dating websites.  In some cases women are also  physically attacked for denying men access to themselves or their bodies.

Learn to trust your moral values and be strong!  Weak people get abused, unfortunately.

We do trust our moral values and are strong, which is why we are committed to bringing powerful speakers on real issues that women face in our community and around the world.  And seeing “feedback” like this is a poignant reminder as to why we have chosen to stand up and talk about these issues.

So…to the person that felt the need to leave this “feedback”, THANKS!

We WILL continue to be STRONG for all of those whose voices are minimized and whose lives are marginalized; people who will possibly be abused by those who feel the need to attack the rights and freedoms of every person that stands up for the betterment of our communities.

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