Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Reasonable Doubt

I hate trial by media and twitter. It's dangerous and unfair. But if victims of sexual abuse, and so many of them, can't go to the police for courts and justice, where can they go?

Once I heard this woman tell her story in her own words, I was ready to convict.  Now, so many more.  What does it say about our procedures for treating sexual assault that so many women did not file charges?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Men, Women, Sex, Consent and Jian Ghomeshi

I'm about to step into controversy again. I don't know why I can't keep my big mouth shut and stay safe. It's not like people are beating down my door for my valuable opinions. But when I see angles that aren't being covered and know things that aren't being said, I can't keep quiet for long.  If I do, I make myself sick.

This latest compulsion started with two events. First, reading about the Jian Ghomeshi case.  If he was using kink and consent  as a cover to beat women because that's the only way he can get off, to hell with him.  But I don't want to fry anyone without a thorough examination and hearing from all sides. I think it's possible to be sympathetic and understanding of the accusers without presuming anyone's guilt until we have as much information as possible. For the record, I don't know him, don't recall ever listening to his show, and my only contact was once sending his show a press release about an Iranian human rights campaign I was involved with. (I didn't get a response.)

The second thing that sparked me up was re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird.
I wonder how the Tom Robinson-Mayella Ewell case, with its emotionally fraught issues of race, class, sex, and gender, would play out in today's world.

Yes, it was a fictional case but it was inspired by many true cases. When I was a child, men, and sometimes women, were still being lynched on untried and patently false charges. Black men and other minorities were particular targets of untried rape charges that led to lynching. Accusations were brought  despite the fact that women were horribly shamed, stigmatized and victim-blamed not just for consensual sexual behavior but for being raped.

It's better now, but in essence, these things still go on to varying degrees.

I know what it is to be the victim of attempted sexual abuse and have known since I was a kid and a male babysitter tried to molest me. I told my mother, she told his mother, and every time that woman saw me in public she said loudly, "There's that little liar, Sparkle Hayter." I know what it is to be date-raped by a boyfriend and derided, victim-blamed and emotionally abused for it.  I know what it is to be the subject of nasty online harassment and gaslighting.  I know the powerful pressures on women to be "good girls."  I understand why women are afraid to come forward.

I know what it is to be a public figure and have people envy it, try to exploit it, to subject me to intense scrutiny, and go out of the way to pull me down. I know what it is to feel envy, to feel unjustly thwarted, and try to even the score.

I know what it is to be colluded against and lied about by girls, women, boys, men to protect themselves or promote themselves and their agendas--and sometimes for sheer sadistic pleasure. Anyone who has come up against a clique of powerful, popular kids knows this.  It only gets worse as you get older, when those popular kids are richer, more powerful, better connected, have more access to and control of society's institutions, and have more to lose.

I know what it feels like to learn you've been tried in absentia and in secret, to not know what the specific charges are, to have no chance to defend against them or face one's accusers.   I know how badly one can get burned by trying to fight fire with fire, or indirect fire with indirect fire.  If you're not as savvy and strategic as your adversaries, you can get badly burned, and feel shitty about yourself to boot. I know how hard it is to just walk away and move on.

I understand that men and women are different, they're treated differently by society, by their own gender and by the other(s).  Sexism is not the exclusive province of men. I know that evolution made men with a steady drum beat of sexual desire, whereas for women it fluctuates with hormonal changes.  It's easier for men to have orgasms than women, for physical and psychological reasons, and great inequalities arise from this.

I know that many people are squeamish about sex, and how not being able to discuss it openly, for fear of stigmatization or condemnation or because of sexist expectations, leads to gross misunderstandings between men and women on issues like consent. A woman may be reluctant to consent in a forthright way because she'll look pushy or slutty. Men may find a bold statement of consent or invitation slutty or even threatening.

I know how women are encouraged to talk themselves into being in love because they've had sex, because sex under the banner of love is more acceptable than sex for its own sake. I know what it is to be told someone loves you in order to get sex, then be cast off callously. I know what it is to feel victimized after the fact, and want to get even.

I know how self-interest and other biases can cloud my judgment.

I understand how frustrating it must be for men to hear women talk about how we want to be treated as equals with no double standards, while accused rapists are named and accusers are unnamed. I understand why this is done (see victim-blaming and slut-shaming, above), and how painful this is for women in a society that is still patriarchal, a word I use economically, and unequal, a society that still judges us largely on attributes like sexual attractiveness, maternal competency and traditional good girl qualities.  At the same time, men are also judged by superficial criteria, like the size of their wallets (ability to provide for women and children),  their power in the wider world, and even their looks (to a lesser degree).

I don't have the answers and I don't mean to imply I'm morally superior.  I'm not. I don't want to encourage promiscuity in young men or women, because sex is fraught with dangers, especially for women, and the odds of a happy ending, especially for women, are not good.

These are talking points based on the experiences I've had in my many lives over what feels like a very long time.  The one thing I can say with confidence is that I've tried to follow the advice of Atticus Finch and walk in the shoes of others before judging.  That, and the suggestion that we all have a deep, honest and patient discussion of these issues, are the only answers I can offer.

Want to discuss? We're doing that on Facebook, here.

Update:  Other women have now come forward, and one was brave enough to speak about it on the radio so you can her story from her, here.

Update: Lucy DeCoutere, a well known and respected Canadian actress, has now come forward.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thinking of This Tonight

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe.

Thomas Eric Duncan died this morning, ominously during the 'Blood Moon.'  He died in Dallas, so now we privileged North Americans are taking it seriously.

"A simple act of kindness probably exposed him to the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa" -- New York Times.

He came to the US to rekindle an old love.

If you have some money and want to help West Africa, these people are fighting Ebola every day.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm looking for help from French friends, and friends with French friends to try to find out who used to own this cat. The cat pictured moved in with me in Paris in the winter of 2004, after howling under my window.

He was in pretty bad shape, so I fed him, brushed him, and tried to find his owner. I did not succeed, and when my Mom died in 2005, I moved back to Canada for a while and took the cat with me to my father's house. The cat loved it. He lived there for five years, until he became too ill and we had to put him to sleep. 

Great cat. He had a partial tattoo in his ear that showed he had been neutered in 1989, and was 20-21 years old when he died. The rest of the tattoo was too blurry and broken to read. I've always wondered if someone missed him, and would like to try again to find out where he belonged, so if he had owners, they can be reassured that he had another five great years in a place with lots of big trees, and mice, and people who loved him. 

Despite the female name, Irma La Douce, the cat was male. Breed: Forest Cat. Found November 2004. More photos here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Whacked Out Mideast Manson Family and the Summer of Hate

The first inkling I had that ISIS was not what it claimed to be was a blog in English by a recruit who seemed to know less about Islam than I do. The more blogs, tumblrs and tweets I read, the more it looked like a big, whacked out, mideast Manson family. So I nodded, when I read this line in the Huffington Post today:

In fact, two UK citizens' final purchases from Amazon before setting out to join a jihadist group recently were the books Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies.  

Not a huge fan of religion, but the post makes some good points worth considering.

(Is weaponizing ecstasy off the table?)


As an addendum to my previous post, to preclude any more rude comments, no, I don't want to discuss sex with you or hear your opinion on it.  I'd much rather talk about doughnuts. If you have a recipe that tastes exactly like a Krispy Kreme, I'm listening.  Hackers: the only photos you'll find on my computer now are photos of my pup Alice looking adorable.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dear Ricky Gervais

Sorry to write this publicly, but I'm not a big time comedian and am not sure how to reach you otherwise. I've defended you in this whole celebrity photo thing, because I get that you're a great comedian and the best comedians often have a kind of Tourette's. They have to, otherwise, they'd have a normal natural fear of exposing their own human flaws so, well, nakedly. You take a bullet for us every time you do that, and allow us to laugh at things that might otherwise drive us to self-loathing. You show us we're not alone, other people are sometimes freaks and idiots and assholes and small-time bigots, even bigger ones than us on occasion.  I love you so much for that, and Louis CK, ROSEANNE, Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, and Chris Rock and Larry David and Lena Dunham, and Amy Schumer, and Janet Evanovich, and Gilda and Groucho and Phyllis, Bugs Bunny and all his creators,  Monty Python, Peep Show, the Trailer Park Boys, BROAD CITY, and Tina Fey even though 30 Rock kinda stepped on my material and made my work less TV-worthy because she did it so much better than I could, and Robin Williams... and so many others, for pulling me back from the edge of the cliff time and again. I owe you for that, and I love you for that so much I get tears in my eyes as I type this. I love you for THAT.  I get why you might feel angry and hurt that other people don't always see that.  I've said lots of mean, thoughtless things, because I have that Tourette's thing as well, and taken a few beatings, and my sane friends have had to take me aside and say, with love, humor and some self-awareness, I get you, I love you, but this is wrong and this is why.

I don't love you for your advice on storing one's sex media, even though I think you meant it as good sense and good advice, in the slightly snarky way you might tell someone to secure their wallet in a tourist area full of pickpockets. But what women hear first is, "It's her fault for putting the photos on the phone." We hear this because we've been victim blamed our whole lives.  It's our fault for wearing revealing clothes, walking after dark, drinking, liking sex, talking about sex, having opinions, and merely living as females and having vaginas.  We're not the only victims of victim blaming, but wow, we've had to take so much more of this crap, since religion blamed us for eating the apple and bringing on the dawning of consciousness and sexual shame. To be fair, we take a lot of it from other women who don't get it, but we don't have to worry so much that they're going to use it as an excuse to rape and murder us.

 What you are experiencing now is just a taste of what women experience when they're slut-shamed.

Thumbing your nose at your critics is wrong and won't work. You need to see that those creeps who spread the photos are criminals and those women have been violated, then you need to say it, and that you're sorry for not getting it. It's hard, and probably not a good thing, to apologize to the worst online commenters whose outrage against you seems even greater than that against the soulless monsters who stole and posted the photos, and who have probably said one or two thoughtless, mean, bigoted things themselves in their lives. When the reaction is that big and loud, and you feel misunderstood and unjustly convicted, if you apologize it's like you're admitting to the whole buffet of negative charges.

Critics of Ricky need to see that he is revealing ourselves through himself, and doing this can be dangerous.   RIP Robin Williams.  Do we really want him to censor himself at the risk of  shutting that down?

You don't have to apologize to the online commenters, but if you get it, and I know you do, apologize to the victims, like Jennifer Lawrence, and every other victim of revenge porn, like me, because I've sexted and some of my photos and possibly a video are floating around out there somewhere. We can tell other women, look, this happened to me. Take great, hot nudies, sex can be fun, but be smart about securing your media.  If you can't secure it 100 percent, which includes trusting the person you've sent it to, there's a good chance it could fall into the wrong hands. Tina Fey handled this perfectly on 30 Rock, btw, as did Peep Show in the porn-bullet episode.  You can't give us advice here, even if it's meant satirically.  The only advice men can give us here is the very best way(s) to secure our sex media, unless this has happened to them and they've been slut-shamed for it the way women are. Lots of gay men understand.

Here, I need to insert an apology for embarrassing any friends or family, like my supercool Mormon cousins, and thank them for  being so supportive of my nutty, curious and freewheeling ways, to believers and others of all stripes with more modest attitudes about sex than I have. Mine are close to those of Henry Miller, who has also pulled me from the ledge a few times.

I feel bad for any discomfort, but I've also felt bad every time I saw someone else get fried for something like this, not celebrities so much as high school girls who were driven to suicide, and the boy who killed himself after his roommate secretly taped and distributed a secret video of his homosexual encounter, and anyone unfairly hounded and hurt by other people. I'm so sorry to them, and all their loved ones, for not standing up and saying, "I'm a much bigger slut than any of you, and I'm not ashamed.  YOU are not the cause of this. The guilty party is those that did it to you."

If you don't want to hear criticism of your naked opinion, don't expose it on the internet. Personally, I think it's better if you do, because it opens up the discussion, and helps us find ourselves in each other.  Every chance we have to do that is needed in this crappy world.   Thank you for giving me this chance.