BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


kicked out

i kicked out someone of the classroom today for the first time ever.  i have always hated when teachers did that. it’s such a cope out. and here i am.

i wish i had more time to address his reaction, his discomfort, his prejudice, but i did not. i had 45 minutes to try to explain the complexities of sexual violence, and crack the hard shell of streotypes and myth surrounding the issue.

he just couldn’t get over the fact that gay people do not rape. that men that rape men do it to humiliate, hurt and a overpower, not for sexual pleasure. they are straight men. they have girlfriends and wives. they are not attracted to other men. but none of that was being received. he would not even let me finish a sentence. all that was coming out of his mouth was “then they are gay, if they want to rape guys then they are fags”.  then he got up, started disturbing other kids, and throwing pencils.and i told him to leave, but it was throughly unsatisfying. he left that classroom with the same homophobic ideas than when he entered it, and i failed.

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just one dance
January 22, 2009, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

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as i was watching the dance between michelle and barak obama while beyonce sang “at last”, i could not help but have my gender lens on and rejoicing.

I have heard many of my friends and acquaintances talk about their weariness with the idea that obama will be able to single handily create positive change, or mend many of the fucked up realities going on around the world, and i find myself amongst their midst, hopeful but without a hint of cynicism.

as i was talking in schools in the past few days about gender though, i could not help but witness a subtle shift in the way both girls and boys addressed the societal pressures thrust upon them by society. in almost every class obama was used as an example by the students to describe masculinity, and a very different kind of masculinity than the one modeled by W. bush.

as i was watching the Obamas dance and talk to each other, goofy and tender, i witnesses a picture of equality, complicity and friendship that i cannot remember seeing in political leaders, ever. of course it would be shortsighted to think that a president is taken as a role model for all its nation, or even that it would be desirable for that to happen.

at the same time i see this change as a step towards a more equal society, not one that would turn on the news to see a smiling housewife with a vacuous look, and a distant grotesquely masculine husband like in the past 8 years, but a couple of people that are friends, that co-parent, and that exude mutual respect.



the links between
November 6, 2008, 2:03 pm
Filed under: gender violence | Tags: , , , , , ,

grouprapeantigayviolence

i stumbled upon an excellent article as i was answering questions for the high school students about the incidence of group rape. it makes a really intelligent, and in my experience at least, sound argument for the similarities between ant-gay harassment, and group rape. it’s a bit long but it might blown your mind!



“men speak out”
September 13, 2008, 5:08 pm
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i just devoured a book in 2 days, called “men speak out-views on gender, sex, and power”. it was hard to read at times, but filled this void in my ongoing internal gender discussion, and created a thread with so many disparate thoughts roaming through my mind.

it is a collection of essay written by men on masculinity, gender, and individual struggle with power.

when i started at the middle way i was working in the crisis line, and as an on scene advocate for people that have been sexually assaulted or hurt by their partners at the ER, most of the people i offered support to were women, and though the person hurting them was usually a men, they were absent from the picture, imaginary figures i never met.

it wasn’t until last year that i started facilitating workshops in middle and high schools where we talk about consent, healthy relationships,gender and sexual assault. in speaking with both boys and girls i had a whole different world opened to me, of kids that are trying to get out of being hurtful to the people around them, but are struggling continuously to find the appropriate tools, or even a language to talk about themselves and the pressure put on them as men and women in this society.

the essays offered an honest and direct window into the challenges tackled by men in their efforts to question and resist the narratives of masculinity most of them grew up with. it felt so rare to listen to voices of men that are not trying to justify, persuade, or defend when it comes to gender, but are willing to speak of their own difficulties with gender and power.

Hugo Schwyzer talks about his work with youth, and his experience in talking to boys about the pressure put on men to always want sex no matter what. it resonates of course, because i find myself struggling with that all the time in my work with high schools and middle schools. he approached the situation by simply asking questions, and discussing the line between being attracted to someone and objectifying them. no judgment or lecture, and it works much better.

another writer retells of the time when he first learned about sexual assault as a kid, and how his mother’s explanation was that “rape is when a men forces a women to have sex with him”. that very notion made it incredibly difficult for him to come to terms with being assaulted, because according to this description men are always the ones hurting, not vulnerable and with the power of forcing someone into sex.

there were essays about sexual harassment in the military, one about the experience of being an asian queer man, and the sexism and racism present it the gay community. one of my favorite is written by Richard Pringle, and relates different stories from men and their experience with sport, and the moments when they realized their own gendered way to do sports, and they ways they were affecting the people around them.

so, very good book, and a rare one at that.



talking to high school kids about sex- part III

so, today was the last day of a week long session of workshops and discussions at north high school. all my thoughts seem to be very dense and inextricable. it might be because i am awful at waking at at 6:45 and maintain a cogent line of thinking, or because there is so much to say.

even though i have been doing this for a while, and the information shared is similar in every workshop, the experience is always very different. even between one class and another the way people respond to the discussion varies greatly. the past week left me with many questions i struggle to have answers for. one of the classes in particular was very resistant to the idea that rape can mean someone freezing up instead of physically fighting , that if you are married you can still rape your spouse, and that making the first move does not equal to consenting to intercourse.

the people pushing these ideas forward happened to be male, white, and conventionally attractive and athletic-looking. i found myself battling my internal stereotypes as i was discussing with them, while trying to welcome other people in the conversation, and keeping the discussion respectful for all parties involved. it was not easy.

it left me wondering how i can engage men, as a woman, without making them feel like shit about themselves , but also challenging the myths that surround rape and sexual assault that i know to be hurtful. It feels like i am trying to tear down a wall with a bare finger. the ideas that man cannot be vulnerable or victims is still alive and well, as one of the piece of information that seems to be most shocking is that, according to the FBI (which is not one of the most progressive sources), one in 10 men is sexually assaulted or raped in their life time. it seems incredibly difficult to engage both genders in a conversation about consent and sexual assault, without man feeling like they are being accused of something.

why is that? do they just have an internalized guilt of being potential perpetrators? did they actually do something fucked up?

the other side of it is that, without fail, in every class there are men willing to challenge their peers, and to talk about masculinity. i met boys every day that are disgusted by rape, and angry at the social pressures they bear on their shoulders. these boys and men fit well outside the box of the expected intellectual sensitive guys, they are everyone.

Today i had a bulky, burly farm boy tell me about how aggressive his father is when he drinks, and that he has vowed to be different and responded vehemently to the other guys in the class claiming that what a woman wears can justify assault. This other kid that came in the first day with a tough swagger, and an air of being above it all, told me about the police coming to his house and not arresting his dad after he had beat his mother. he wanted to know more about the legal rights of people that are hurt by their partners.

so i finish my week feeling both drained and energized, defeated and victorious. and amazed at the infinitely complicated hues of human nature.