Feminist Progress Report: But CAN Men Be Feminists?!
Marinda Valenti | On 12, Oct 2013
Welcome to the Feminist Progress Report, where Feminspire shares with you recent bits of disappointing or inspiring news that managed to slip under our writers’ radar. Let’s get started!
X - First up, CNN reported this highly disturbing tale of a woman whose habitually abusive partner padlocked her blue jeans shut to force her into fidelity. I say “habitually” because the minute-long segment below reveals that this disturbing behavior has gone on for 12 years.
Unable to use the restroom for several hours, the woman from Veracruz, Mexico went to the police in pain, but chose not to press charges against her 40-year-old boyfriend—whom CNN insists on reporting as the woman’s “lover.” The video explains that she was too afraid to cut her jeans herself and expresses surprise at the woman’s refusal to press charges. Women’s rights activist Araceli Gonzalez explains that nobody acted against the woman’s attacker, nor was the case handled sufficiently by the law—yet the blame for inaction implicitly falls on the victim for making the entirely common decisions not to increase the chances of being further harmed by her abuser.
What’s also rather distasteful about this story is its media categorization, which falls under CNN’s “Strange but True” video playlist. As Gonzalez states in the video, this woman’s case is one of thousands of instances of overlooked abuse, making forceful, abusive, and frightening assertion of ownership over a woman’s body—unfortunately—anything but strange. In addition to the upsetting story itself, we’re giving this a thumbs down for dismissive reporting on an already trivialized topic.
✓ - One of the creepiest social chairs of anything ever distributed an egregious guide to getting laid at parties to members of a chapter of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at Georgia Tech with the charming subject line “Luring your Rapebait” and
PKT is hardly the first fraternity to perpetuate rape and rape culture, but the aftermath of this gross email has been somewhat of a positive anomaly. Not only did the email quickly go viral on the online greek community TotalFratMove, receiving disapproval from fellow fraternity brothers, but the social chair who wrote the email has since publicly apologized—and it isn’t terrible. From the apology:
I am both embarrassed and ashamed at this dialogue and realize now that any sexual statement that is demeaning to women is never a joke.
Granted, this statement likely comes more out of the threat of chapter suspension from Interfraternity Council and less from a sudden understanding of rape culture. But in this situation, either PKT, perhaps out of fear, steps up its game to become an example for other fraternities, or the chapter that perpetuated such garbage is discontinued—and thereby serves as a warning to other fraternities. We’re hopeful on this one.
X - Back to freaking out, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Joplin, Mo., recently faced a threat of attempted arson. That’s the second one in a week. During the first attack, someone tried—and failed—to light flammable bags on fire before throwing them on the clinic’s roof. They gave it a second go last Friday and caused minor damage to the building. So that’s scary.
Just a word to the arson in question: Don’t waste your time, man. There’s really no need to try and single-handedly eliminate federally funded support for women’s health and safety—the government shutdown’s got that covered!
X - Most of us are well aware that unpaid internships are a thing—and definitely a thing with a lot of problems, especially for us millennials who are repeatedly caught in the crossfire of struggling to find paid employment and dodging condescending ridicule for being unemployed (and unmotivated, and self-absorbed—traits which miraculously entered humanity’s genepool in the late 80′s from yet-to-be determined sources). But what exactly does the employment limbo that is the unpaid internship mean for unpaid interns’ personal protection as workers? When it comes to sexual harassment, the answer is squat.
Unpaid intern for Phoenix Satellite Television Lihuan Wang filed a suit against the Chinese-language media company after her supervisor, Liu Zhengzhu, assaulted her. According to the District Court for the Southern District of New York, Wang was unable to legally complain of sexual harassment due to being an unpaid intern and “not an employee.” Know this now: Unpaid interns are not covered by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That is, unpaid interns are not protected against sexual harassment in the workplace.
? - Finally, we ask for your judgment on this last piece. CNN featured an article penned by John Brougher, the founder of MaleFeminists.com, which professes to readers Brougher’s feminism and urges men to follow suit in the quest for gender equality. He explains contemporary struggles feminism faces (“For many, even just the word itself conjures up images of radical ideology”), mentions repeated celebrity resistance to the term (citing Taylor Swift, specifically), and attempts to demystify the concept of a man who advocates women’s rights (“As far as I know, men are absolutely allowed to be feminists … I should explain what that word means to me”). Ultimately, he attempts to garner support from fellow men, declaring “Sexism doesn’t just hurt women, it breaks our very humanity.” The article features a spread of famous self-proclaimed male feminists, such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and former president Jimmy Carter in case readers are too incredulous to buy into this male feminist thing without some photographic evidence.
While it’s refreshing to hear men encourage other men to not just be aware of sexism, but actively do something about it, there is always a duality to the situation that begs the question—why won’t you listen to the women who have been talking about this for ages?
What do you think? Does it detract from feminism’s collective mission (broad strokes, I realize) to necessitate a male mouthpiece to get men to pay attention? Or do the benefits of men’s involvement in feminism outweigh the limited methods by which we get them involved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
This week’s rating: 1, maybe 2/5. You make the call.
Written by Marinda Valenti
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