My friend sent me a link to the Fox News story about the reporting of the first female United Arab Emirates pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri, who was part of the US led bombing mission against ISIS. It was a nice, little piece reported on by Kimberly Guilfoyle on The Five show. She seemed excited and proud to report it.
She was barely finished reporting when her co-host, Greg Gutfeld says “But after she bombed it, she couldn’t park it.” I guess he was referring to the stereotype of women as bad drivers. Not to be outdone, Eric Bolling says, “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” I guess his “funny” reference was to the term “boots on the ground,” which is the notion that troops need to be physically close to the fighting. It gets more offensive if the visual pops into your head. Mr. Bolling apologized the next day after being chastised by his wife.
The denigration of women in the US alone has become so apparent with the nearly daily news reports of uninvestigated rapes at colleges, domestic abuse in the NFL and the proliferation of rape and abuse T-shirts being pulled from retailers’ shelves. For years artists have been trying to raise awareness about women and violence. Because of social media they are finally being heard.
As the mother of a daughter who will go to college next year, I can’t get the image out of my mind of Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia University, who is carrying her mattress with her all over campus in her fight to be recognized as a rape victim. Here is a student who was raped in her own bed on the first day of her sophomore year and three years later has not gotten justice. Her attacker roams free on campus. The rape has completely taken over her life, her mattress piece becoming her senior thesis. Hmm…I’m sure that’s what she imagined her four years of college would be like when she first stepped onto Columbia’s campus.
I certainly hope my daughter will have a very different college experience. And yes, I get that life happens and this brave, young woman may be making a bigger impact on the world than if she hadn’t been raped. But I’ll bet she would have chosen to live a quieter life, unraped and uninfamous.
At UC Berkeley this month, there was The Clothesline Project event put on by Meghan Warner, a junior and sexual assault survivor. The Clothesline Project began in 1990 and has become a worldwide mission. It is simple but powerful. Victims of sexual violence write a message on a t-shirt and hang it on a clothesline. With thousands of shirts gently blowing in the wind it is mind-blowing.
The most visceral art project I’ve read about is called Project Unbreakable. Nineteen-year-old photographer, Grace Brown, created this organization in 2011. She photographs sexual assault survivors holding up a sign with quotes from their attackers. Over 3,000 sexual assault survivors have participated in this piece since its inception.
While discussing this issue with my 17-year-old daughter, she mentioned something that was trending: the notion of dress codes as an attack against young women and girls and perpetuating a rape culture. Really? I have actually teased my daughter that young women are doing better than men academically because of those distracting leggings. I am ashamed to say that I have unwittingly bought into the “women are causing men to behave badly by their clothing choices” mentality.
Lindsay Stocker, who attends high school in Quebec and has been sent home for dress code violations, has taken on her school’s dress code with very provocative signs, which she tapes around her school. Good for her. The dress codes in our elementary and high schools are really only directed at females. No shoulders should be showing, or stomachs. You know why? Because apparently guys can’t control themselves and it’s the girl’s fault.
This is a bit simplistic and if I had my druthers I’d put all school kids, public and private, in uniform. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s a socioeconomic leveler. I know, I know…you don’t want to take away a kids chance to self-express through their clothing. I say Pshaw! They can do that outside of school. They can do it in school through their work. There is a bunch of other ways to self-express.
Why is there such violence and misogyny against women? I’m not sure but I think we can stop it with education and awareness. If all boys were taught to respect women from when they were young we would be living in a different world right now.
When I went to college in 1981, there was no sex talk from my parents or the school. I think my pediatrician mentioned something about something. When I arrived at school I discovered that girls got drunk, girls had sex, sometimes stupidly. That was my take on this.
An acquaintance of mine, who also went to college in the 80’s, remembers a girl being really drunk and passed out in a room at a frat house party. A stream of guys went in and presumably raped her and no one did anything. Did they not know they were committing a crime? She is still haunted by her inaction.
So when I went to the SAIC in 2007, more than 25 years after my first college experience, I went to the “sex talk” segment of my orientation. I was already married with four kids but was curious about how things had changed. I thought I might get some insight into how to talk to my own kids. The speaker was very funny and engaging as she gave “the talk.” She was very direct and clear while showing us how to properly put a condom on a banana.
Then she said, “Okay, so you are thinking of having sex. You need to sit down with your potential partner and discuss this, find out her likes and dislikes. This needs to be a conscious (literally) choice by both parties. She pressed home, If you are drunk and he’s sober, it’s not consensual, If you’re sober and he’s drunk, it’s not consensual, if you’re both drunk, not consensual, if you’re both sober and you both agree, and have discussed your needs and desires and have protection, you can have sex! My God, I thought, that’s a tall order! Why bother?! Perhaps that was her point.
This discomfort with talking about male/female relations inspired me to create a puppet show entitled The Talk in my Performance and Puppetry class. I performed it for a large group of people, including my classmates and my kids. It starred a bunch of goofy characters but Mr. Hand summarized how sex should happen in five easy steps:
“Before you choose to have sex, on 5 things you need to think: The relationship should be consensual or you could wind up in the clink. Make sure you are not using him or her, and that your heart is pure. Always be honest with your partner for that you should be sure. Make sure you both get pleasure; there should be no Wham Bam…and always use protection, either a condom or a dental dam!
Finally, I have a suggestion for the two Fox News commentators: Why don’t you use your powerful positions as educators of the public on world events to become part of the solution about violence against women, not part of the problem.
Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and teacher with Doodle Art & Design. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com