Why alcohol, clothing and the group mentality just don’t matter

I’ve been following the Steubenville case pretty closely. Frankly, I’m livid. 

America is a developed nation. We, as Americans, have the opportunity to succeed and are granted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do not live in a third world country; I am accustomed to an ideal American lifestyle.

Although we have options galore for success and happiness, what exists (and really blows my mind) is the rape culture present in the good ole’ USofA. HelloGiggles writer Julia Gadzag describes “rape culture” as “a culture in which attitudes about rape are tolerant enough to be an enabling factor in anything ranging from sexual harassment to actual rape.”

In the case of the young girl (not a woman) who was raped and was photographed while naked in Steubenville, Ohio, her life has changed dramatically. She will no longer be viewed as innocent or pure–perpetuating the prevalent double standard–and will most likely find it difficult to experience a healthy relationship or sex life for that matter. 

I was ashamed watching CNN discuss the trial and “promising futures” of the two football players. SN: An athlete is a human being, first and foremost. What he/she decides to do illegally with his/her free time should be punishable regardless of talent on the field. Being an athlete is NO excuse to rape someone. EVER. 

What about the young girl who is now receiving death threats because she actually…gasp…confessed to being raped? Her life is over. A dark cloud now hangs over her head because mainstream media has made her out to be the villain in this sick and twisted scenario. It’s not fair. 

Let me put it to you this way:

  • Just because I smile at you doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.
  • Just because I flirt with you doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.
  • Just because I’m wearing something revealing DOESN’T mean I’m “asking for it” if you decide to “be a man” and force sex upon me. (We’ll get into the culture of hyper-masculinity in a later post, don’t fret.)
  • Just because I drink a few glasses of wine and look like I’m “ready for it” doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me. 

It’s not okay. Here’s a little more perspective thanks to STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response):

  • In the US, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives
  • In Louisiana, the rate of forcible rapes in 2009 was estimated at 30.3 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • 9 in 10 rape survivors are women
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault survivors know their attackers

This brings me to my point. This young girl knew these men. They had been in contact before the night in question. She flirted with one of them. Does that mean she was asking to be raped and photographed? No. She was drunk…not an excuse either. These young athletes were popular, I’m assuming, in their hometowns. So that makes it fine, right? Hell to the no. 

We HAVE to stand up for victims. We cannot victimize perpetrators, and we certainly can’t blame the victim based upon variables that can attribute to the act of rape. It’s not okay. She didn’t ask for it. We have to do better

Battles, skeletons, whatever

If you’re not conspicuously fighting it, you’re probably hiding it.

We are quick to judge someone based on his/her appearance or by what we have heard about them from “trusted sources.” What I have learned is that by living this way, we limit ourselves to the scope of people we interact with. I would argue that if most people were asked about what they were most proud of, they would admit their individualism takes the cake. In my opinion, we subconsciously end up homogenizing ourselves with those who we are most comfortable to be acquainted with.

For instance, I was always told that I would “find myself” in college. I’m not certain that I have completely found out who Erin Kenna is, but I’m striving each day to learn something new about myself. I like to think that I skip to the beat of my own drum; I have a feeling we all like to think that. Ideally, we could walk around in whatever clothes–or lack thereof–we decided to throw on without a second thought. (I have a feeling a small minority of the US population does this, hence People of Walmart.)

Societal norms hinder us from attempting to branch out even more. We are constantly concerned with what someone else might assume if we do something slightly out of “normal” character. The summer camp I have had the opportunity to work for hosted classes in psychology and philosophy which asked the question “What is Normal?” This question stumped the scholars. Let’s be real, I don’t know how to answer this one. Is it what society tells us normal should be? Am I normal? Am I abnormal?

And who’s to say that we should have the power to judge others based on superficial aspects? I know that some of the people in my life are probably battling a war within themselves that I can’t even fathom.

This is confusing. My MAIN POINT is that we should take the time to broaden our friendship horizons. We should pick out the positive attributes about a fellow human versus focusing and obsessing over the flaws. We all have flaws. We can’t help it. I’m making it a point to get outside of my friendship safety net. Would you like to join?

Women + MLK + Civil Rights

I feel that this post is fitting for a day set aside for Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Image

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Mississippi, being her usual self…a badass. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

Most Americans who are familiar with the Civil Rights era refer to Rosa Parks as the most pivotal female within the movement. She was crucial, of course, but she was not the first black woman to take a stand–or a sit–for her race. Claudette Colvin, a teenage girl from Alabama, preceded Parks. She and the court case following her stance was not publicized, however, because she was pregnant and single. AKA she would not have portrayed the movement in the correct light given the societal norms.

Other than Rosa and Claudette, more women were taking care of business behind the scenes:

  • Ella Baker was a charismatic labor organizer and longtime leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She believed the movement should not place too much emphasis on leaders.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark, often called the “queen mother” of civil rights, was an educator and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist decades before the nation’s attention turned to racial equality.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and gave a fiery speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
  • Vivian Malone Jones defied segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 and later worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

(Bullet points courtesy of NBC News)

Martin Luther King will always be the face of the Civil Rights Movement. He was innovative and a visionary. He was able to motivate those who felt they had nowhere to turn. Women within the movement were critical, but he was forefront. He deserves to be at the forefront. Keep in mind the silent group who accomplished incredible feats throughout these tumultuous years. Women participated in marches, freedom summers, bus boycotts, anything imaginable.

Go MLK and go WOMEN behind the movement that changed the world for the better.

The Difference Between a Feminist and a…

Bones to pick. Bones to pick everywhere. 

I love being a woman. As much as I hate the following tasks at times, I take pride in my appearance. Shaving my legs can be annoying and painful; painting my nails can be messy and mundane; curling my eyelashes can turn into a horrible experience (side note: I don’t recommend doing so while driving).

Not all women shave their legs, do their nails OR curl their eyelashes. No worries. Make yourself happy. My beauty rant isn’t about beauty at all though. I am a feminist, and I’m proud to say I am. Usually when I say this out loud, I get one of two responses:

Response A: “That’s really cool. What makes you a feminist?”

(Actual interest and curiosity pervades with these words.)

Response B: “Oh wow. Are you really? I would have never guessed that about you.” 

(Usually this isn’t a positive response; sometimes I can hear a sense of mockery through these words.)

In its basic definitive form, a feminist believes that genders are equal. I believe that a woman and a man should be allowed to do anything his/her heart desires. There should be no boundaries–even if something seems “physically impossible.” If it is one’s free will to accomplish a goal that seems otherwise impossible, you go for it. You have my support in most cases.

I am not a man-hating, pessimistic and crass woman. There are so many negative connotations connected to the word “feminist.” It’s not fair, in my opinion. (Side note: I love men.) Like anything, I believe that to form an opinion, one should research and derive an opinion based on facts and convictions, which is what I have done throughout the last 5 months of my life.

If a woman wants to pursue a profession, that should be acceptable and supported just as if a man was pursuing the same profession. She should be able to be a caregiver for her husband and children if her heart desires; she should be able to prove her dedication to a company if she desires to become the CEO of a Fortune 500. There should be no limitations.

I’m not a bitch. I have my off days (not due to my menstrual cycle, by the way) and I deal with them just like anyone else does while juggling life. There are pressures everywhere we turn; why should I feel more simply because I describe myself as being a feminist?