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  1. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm |

    CN: the very personal ranting of a sexual assault survivor.
    [Moderator note: refers to content of Guest Post "Strength" of Character: How the Silver Screen Perpetuates Gender Stereotypes]

    Certainly, Lisbeth Salander has strength as a rape survivor

    I know I’ve said this before in this space, but FFS. The night I was sexually assaulted, did an unnamed feminist sew a bravery merit badge onto my girl scout sash?

    Full disclosure, I haven’t read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books. Wikipedia and some BAMF Girls Club videos suggest that Lisbeth is a badass hacker chick who exacts 21st century-style vengeance against some truly douchey folks, and apparently at some point goes up against the Swedish equivalent of the CIA. But her strength? When we pick one throw away line, the character is reduced to a violent action someone committed against her rather than any fucking thing she’s done herself.

    Who knew that five years later, I’d be most pissed at the guy who assaulted me for taking me out of the category of “people” and putting me into a category of “survivor”? I could fight the CIA, but my strength will apparently be defined in light of someone else’s action on me. I’m not a person who is badass by virtue of my own merits and actions but because I had no control during a thirty minute period of my life.

    And that’s without getting into the closing line – which is “It is a matter of wondering whose story we’re really telling.”

    Well. Mine. I also can’t bring myself to feel bad when the only thing Hollywood seems to do right is occasionally humanize women with mental illness. EG highlighted that only looking at Natalie Portman’s struggle with mental illness in Black Swan is deeply reductionist, but I feel like I can’t be surprised given the first qualm I raised above.

    Also… while I get these roles are the ones that win women “Best Actress” awards, can we not act like the majority of roles for women are all non-neurotypical?

    1. anna_k
      anna_k March 4, 2014 at 12:50 am |

      I know I’ve said this before in this space, but FFS. The night I was sexually assaulted, did an unnamed feminist sew a bravery merit badge onto my girl scout sash?

      Just commenting to agree very strongly with the frustration of this particular feeling.

      1. tigtog
        tigtog March 4, 2014 at 3:48 am | *

        Pretty Amiable, thank you for raising this, and for using spillover to avoid derailing the original thread.

        I think this is an important side-discussion, and deserves a quicklink on the original thread along the lines of “this sentence provoked a rant from me on #spillover [link to comment]“.

        It strikes me that “survivor” is a distinct improvement on “victim”, but it’s still used far too reductively as a blanket label.

        1. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon March 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm |

          It strikes me that “survivor” is a distinct improvement on “victim”

          I’ve never really understood why ‘victim’ is supposedly so negative. I was victimized. That’s what happened. I’m still alive, and pretty cool. Is it the difference, between, ‘I have been a victim of sexual assault’ and ‘I AM a victim of sexual assault,’ where victimhood is an ongoing state of affairs? Even so, I don’t really care. I don’t see what is so negative about that, except for a general distaste for perceived ‘weakness.’ Having been a victim does not actually make one ‘weak,’ though, so I don’t understand it.

          I feel like ‘survivor’ is a little hyperbolic (only speaking personally here – it makes me uncomfortable to use the word survivor in relation to myself). I’m a ‘survivor’ of sexual assault and childhood abuse/domestic violence. But I was never in danger of DYING.

        2. tigtog
          tigtog March 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm | *

          ‘Victim’ should not be such a negatively-loaded word, it should be just a simple statement of fact about an act of violence/abuse by a perpetrator(s) against a person that is a part of a person’s history but not the be all and end all, but the word has become rhetorically inflated because it’s politically useful to do so: I see it basically as a pushback against social justice activism – refusing to enable ‘victimhood’ has become a ‘moral stance’ that excuses apathy in the face of social justice demands.

          Want a minimum wage because people can’t adequately feed/clothe/educate their children? Stop playing the victim! Just have some backbone! Pull up on those bootstraps!

          Want to regulate the banks more stringently to prevent crunches and crises where people have lost their homes and livelihoods? Stop playing the victim! Just have some backbone! Pull up on those bootstraps!

          By demonising the word ‘victim’ people have been made reluctant to talk about histories of both individual and systemic victimisation, but it’s the systemic victimisations that the political rhetoricians really want people to stop talking about. That people who are seeking justice for personal victimisations are further marginalised and silenced is splash damage rather than the goal, but that doesn’t make the damage to victims speaking out any less real.

          So I can see why various rape support activists sought to change the rhetoric around complainants from ‘victimhood’ to one of ‘survivorhood’. You’re not the first rape victim I’ve seen saying that the term makes you uncomfortable because it seems hyperbolic. Reclaiming ‘victim’ as a word evoking sympathy for a historical traumatic experience rather than its current status (that the political class has created) of evoking ‘perpetual pathetic whiner’ may not be possible while it’s so useful for them in denigrating social justice activism though.

        3. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon March 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm |

          I see it basically as a pushback against social justice activism – refusing to enable ‘victimhood’ has become a ‘moral stance’ that excuses apathy in the face of social justice demands.

          That bit (well, and most of the rest of what you said) is what I was trying to get at I think when I said ‘a general distaste for perceived weakness).

          But then I feel… when I have a strong personal dislike for the notion of ‘survivorhood’ as applied to myself, whether or not the idea of ‘victimhood’ can be reclaimed in a broader sense is irrelevant, at least as far as I’m concerned. Or perhaps there’s some other word that could serve us all better, but I can’t think what it would be. I personally would just prefer ‘victim’ to lose it’s loaded status with the snap of a finger, haha.

        4. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable March 4, 2014 at 6:47 pm |

          For what it’s worth, I consider both flipsides of the same coin. Both identify you not as a person (with strengths and weaknesses of character, with successes and failures to your name, as a summation of all of your experiences and NOT just one) but as an object that was acted upon by someone who does retain personhood. (For example, with the exception of the recent threads on Woody Allen, how frequently did the general public talk about Allen’s pedophilia informing his art? It was always about his neurotic, therapist-seeking, and Jewish backgrounds).

          Things I’m comfortable being used to inform my identity: my nationality (both of my parents are blue collar Polish immigrants, so it meaningfully informed my identity), my privileges, the axes upon which I’m oppressed, my personality, how sensitive I am to literally everything (I cry during reality TV shows if I think the ending is too happy), my commitment to independence. Those are things that have impacted who I was when I was 5 and who I am today at 27. The assault? Reinforced my commitment to an independent streak that was already there, activated a genetic predisposition for an anxiety disorder, and informs a couple of my passions. None of that is strong. None of that is weak. It just is.

        5. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon March 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm |

          Both identify you not as a person (with strengths and weaknesses of character, with successes and failures to your name, as a summation of all of your experiences and NOT just one) but as an object that was acted upon by someone who does retain personhood.

          Yeah, I’m picking up what you’re putting down. I suppose that’s something I get stuck on when this topic comes up – I would prefer to use the word ‘victim’ because I feel it’s more accurately descriptive of my experience (I was a victim of a crime or w/e), but I also don’t feel like I ‘identify’ as a victim, if that makes sense. Some of my bad experiences were def more formative than others (depending on when they happened – certainly childhood abuse had more of an impact on my developing personality/identity, or at least I can’t remember far back enough to pick that apart as well and see what was there to begin with, I mean, at that point it becomes kind of chicken-egg)

    2. Hugh
      Hugh March 6, 2014 at 7:56 am |

      It’s also worth noting that, in the books, Salander is not just a rape survivor but a rapist.

      1. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable March 6, 2014 at 9:07 am |

        Yeah! I had a closer look after I posted and saw that too. She straight up rapes a guy. I’m frankly a big believer that you should be defined by your actions rather than others’ actions upon you, so I’d be happier calling her a rapist than citing strength as a survivor.

  2. EG
    EG March 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm |

    I really don’t like LotusBecca’s use of “skinny” in the list of privilege signifiers she uses to slam Jill in the trigger thread. I understand what she’s trying to use it to say–believe me, I do–but quite frankly, in context, it sounds really close to yet another way to attack a woman by bodyshaming/bodysnarking her. Because what does Jill’s body have to do with trigger warnings?

    Skinniness in itself gets a host of things–respectful treatment from salesclerks at shops, significantly easier ability to find clothing, particularly in one’s preferred style, professional approval, less food policing.* But looking at a woman doesn’t tell you jackshit about the context of her skinniness–does she have an eating disorder? Did she used to? Does she have body dysmorphia? Has she been bodyshamed every day of her life since childhood into being skinny no matter the cost to her? Does she regularly get bullshit for being skinny from family, strangers, and colleagues? Being skinny, for all its advantages, is not a get-out-of-misogynist-body-judging free card, and I think it’s possible and vital to fight fat-shaming and fatphobia without acting like skinniness is some kind of escape from being a public female body available for derision.

    I think it’s bullshit to use a woman’s body as a way of shaming/admonishing her on a feminist website, particularly when the topic at hand has nothing directly to do with body size.

    * Almost all of these are also true regarding straight hair. Not the food policing, though.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll March 9, 2014 at 11:47 pm |

      I agree.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune March 9, 2014 at 11:59 pm |

      Agreed as well.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune March 9, 2014 at 11:59 pm |

        BTW I apologised on the thread; I was not addressing you directly in my reply to BBSH and I’m sorry I didn’t realise, and for being mean.

        1. EG
          EG March 10, 2014 at 8:09 am |

          Thanks very much, mac. I appreciate it. No hard feelings on my end–everybody has days when they don’t cover themselves in glory! Goodness knows I do, anyway.

  3. epinetron
    epinetron March 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm |

    Yonah, in the Trigger Warnings thread you asked:

    As another classicist, I wish you had been my professor. For some reason the rape, slavery, murders, torture, etc., never seemed real the way my professors spoke about it, like they were la-la-land equivalents of our modern real deal. I don’t remember a single good discussion about these things. If you know of anything written down (book, link to forum discussion, whatever!) I would be really grateful. We should probably take this to spillover?

    For ancient slavery, in particular, there are several different things to recommend: I would start with Page DuBois’ Slavery: Antiquity and its Legacy, which gives a really good overview of what Greek and Roman slavery was like, what their philosophers said about it, and how those ideas have filtered down into the present day as well as how they were used and co-opted to defend slavery in the antebellum US. DuBois also has another book on slavery, called Slaves and Other Objects, which focuses a bit more on Greece. For Rome in particular, Keith Bradley’s Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire is good, too.

    On rape, there has also been a ton written, but a lot of it is focused on particular texts (or representations in visual art) rather than being more general. There is a book called Rape in Antiquity that has articles on a broad range of historical time periods and genres, which looks good but I haven’t read it yet.

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head; if there’s anything more specific you’d like recommendations on, let me know! In general, the topics of horrible things done by ancient people still meet with a lot of resistance from certain portions of the field, and thus a lot of the undergrad-level text books still ignore this stuff (which is why I like the DuBois book I mentioned earlier– it’s very accessible to students of all levels). But there is also tons of work out there on these topics (and others), although a lot of it is only accessible if you have access to an academic library and/or a university affiliation that allows you to use JStor and the like.

    Hope that’s helpful!

    1. Yonah
      Yonah March 11, 2014 at 9:17 am |

      Thanks so much – I really appreciate it and will check these out. I have peasant access to JSTOR (three articles/two weeks, which is actually pretty good compared to what used to be available to people out of university) — is there a particular author or journal you recommend?

      I’d like your thoughts on something else. I notice that mention of women in positions of even vague power in the ancient world (as norms, not as exceptions) meets with heavy skepticism, even in cases where archeological evidence is robust. I wonder if part of this is because in the West most people begin studying antiquity with Greece and Rome, which seem like they were among the more misogynist cultures at the time (at least compared with ancient Judea, Germanic tribes, maybe others?).

  4. irishup
    irishup March 10, 2014 at 10:07 pm |

    This was originally @ ldouglas over on the “Moral Ground” thread. Then tigtog asked for a redirect to spillover (and there are now two Spillover 13 threads).

    I’m interested in the basis for this assertion. The Guttmacher 2013 report for the US would not seem to support it. The WHO specifically cites that tracking progress in reproductive access and maternal* and infant mortality is hampered by poor data collection, definitions, and other issues, and that those problems are worst in countries where access and mortality issues are worst. They currently cite that globally, some 222 million women* who would like access to BC, can’t get it at ALL. Much harder to nail down, is the number of people who have access *on paper*, but for whom real life constraints (access inhibited by travel, finance, social mores, burdensome legislation, other tools of patriarchy) mean they don’t ACTUALLY get to use BC or meaningfully control their own reproductive health. Globally, the majority of people who could potentially become pregnant and would like control over their reproduction, don’t have it as a matter of practicality.

    We have the resources and technology such that, if it were a priority, EVERYONE who has a uterus could be in (just about) 100% control of their own reproductive choices, including ending any unwanted pregnancies. Statistical hairsplitting over what percentage of The Enuterati have access to BC vs in 1900, or 10yrs ago is spurious. The PROBLEM is that the health and well being of 1/2 of the population* is still not important enough to make this potential their lived experience RIGHT NOW.

    [*NB Not all people who can get pregnant or die in childbirth are women. Unfortunately, epidemiological reports are routinely categorized in gender binary.]

    1. ldouglas
      ldouglas March 10, 2014 at 10:11 pm |

      The question at hand, however, isn’t whether everyone has adequate access to reproductive care- they obviously don’t- but what the trend is overall (i.e. towards more or less access). I can’t see any evidence for the assertion that the situation is getting worse, and there’s a lot of reason to think the general trend is upwards in most places over most timeframes.

      1. IrishUp
        IrishUp March 11, 2014 at 7:54 am |

        ldouglas, please stop shifting the damned goalposts. You do appreciate that this isn’t some hypothetical problem, this is stuff that is actually killing people, right?

        YOU wrote:

        I’m sorry, but this simply isn’t true. Empirically, access to reproductive agency is increasing dramatically nearly everywhere, across nearly all timeframes. While you can cherry-pick specific locations in specific countries across extremely short spans of time in which what you said is accurate, if we’re talking about ‘all women,’ it’s way off.

        THIS was your pushback on the other thread. It needs substantiation. . Where are you getting the idea that access is “access to reproductive agency is increasing dramatically nearly everywhere, across nearly all timeframes”?

        I provided links (over in the original comment) that contradict your assertion. I searched the Guttmacher and the WHO, and what data I could find, did not support your assertion. There are no hard benchmarks globally, by which to measure in a reliable fashion, what percentage and how many and in which places, people (theoretically) have reliable access to reproductive healthcare, according to the WHO. When you look on their website, many countries have NO data, and many others’ data is 5 or 10 or more years out of date. What data are available from the WHO, indicate that most people who can get pregnant, are experiencing significant boundaries to access, globally. I could not find data showing reliable trends upward, as you assert. But when measured by mortality statistics, laws enacted, the fact that poverty rates are increasing, and so forth, the emerging picture looks like more problematic access, to me. If you were being US centric, the Guttmacher report to which I linked shows evidence of DECREASING access fullstop. A change from 31% of US women living in the most restricted areas to 56%; an increase in poverty; more barriers to reproductive healthcare being experienced.

        So as far as I can see, you pulled that assertion OOYA, or from an unreliable source OR your reading of the data that I read is substantially different from mine. If you can’t substantiate YOUR assertion, how the hell can you accuse anyone ELSE of cherrypicking?

        1. ldouglas
          ldouglas March 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm |

          Sorry, just saw this. I’m not shifting the goalposts at all; I claimed that while there are significant boundaries to access, it’s a mistake to claim that the problem is worsening globally, where in generally, it’s getting better. You’re continuing to conflate lack of access with worsening access- and no, I’m not being US centric, which was sort of the entire point.

        2. irishup
          irishup March 25, 2014 at 7:48 pm |

          “where in generally, it’s getting better. ” Citation please – whose information are you using to inform this statement?

          And WTF does “You’re continuing to conflate lack of access with worsening access” even mean. This appears to be a distinction without a difference.

          Again, I’ve provided resources and analysis supporting piny’s original statement. You’ve provided? …….

    2. tigtog
      tigtog March 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm | *

      (and there are now two Spillover 13 threads)

      Oops. Forgot to renumber with the last post-cloning. Have now renamed this as spillover #14, which I hope doesn’t affect subscriptions etc.

  5. ldouglas
    ldouglas March 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm |

    In response to EG on Sanger:

    So while she became more heavily and explicitly committed to repulsive racism as her movement grew more popular, it is a mistake to characterize her feminist career as being concerned only with the well-being of middle- and upper-class white women.

    She certainly worked with working-class women, and perhaps in the abstract cared about their well-being, but the rhetoric she used to advance that goal was firmly on the side of impulsive poor people breeding like rabbits who need to have their birthrate limited so they don’t overwhelm the nice neighborhoods.

    In The Pivot of Civilization she wrote:

    Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly. People who cannot support their own offspring are encouraged by Church and State to produce large families. Many of the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble-minded; many become criminals. The burden of supporting these unwanted types has to be borne by the healthy elements of the nation. Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born.

    When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.

    I would argue both quotes show fundamental classism (as well as ableism, obviously).

    1. EG
      EG March 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm |

      You are comparing different eras in her life and thought. Like many people, her thought changed over time. That doesn’t mean the latter negates the existence of the former.

      1. ldouglas
        ldouglas March 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm |

        Ok, that’s fair.

        In general, and this isn’t aimed at you, I’m just pissed at all the denialism surrounding her. Planned Parenthood, an organization I strongly support and donate to, still repeats demonstrable untruths about her views because it’s politically more convenient. What does it say when PP puts out a press release saying Sanger believed all women should have reproductive autonomy, when we know she wanted to forcibly sterilize disabled women? To me, it says PP still doesn’t consider said women important.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L March 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm |

          I meant to ask:

          Do you have a citation for the statement you made in the other thread that “She particularly hated interracial procreation, and advocated for forcible abortions followed by mandatory sterilization for white women who engaged in it“?

        2. EG
          EG March 25, 2014 at 8:46 pm |

          I agree and am disappointed in PP for doing that. Perhaps I am simply too idealistic, but I’ve got to think that they would do better simply to say “Yes, our founder, Margaret Sanger, in addition to doing very important work to make birth control available to women in the US and Europe became a eugenicist with repulsively racist views. We are proud to say that while we are grateful for her work surrounding birth control, we completely reject her racism and eugenicism. It is an essential principle of PP that every woman, regardless of race or class, deserves to have control over her own fertility and body.” Or words to that effect, you know? Admit it, take the good, reject the bad, and do the work to demonstrate that you’re not racist…

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