Doing Real-Life Processing Instead of On Line

Just a quick head's up.  Sometimes digging into one's past turns up nice juicy earthworms -- the kinds Robins love and kids love to see in gummy-candy form.  Other time it turns up rats nests.  I've been processing rats-nesty stuff.  The good news is when/if I come back a lot of stuff will be a lot less abstract and ivory-tower-y for me.  The bad news is it might take a little while and it's not fun.  Wish I'd had sense enough to deal with it decades ago.  On the other hand I'm benefitting from an explosion of research, understanding, and experience that has accrued to modern counsellors, workshop leaders and attendees.  Same with a lot of plain old-fashioned family and friends.  All of whom I'm enjoying immensely.

My one piece of advice: once you start noticing stuff it's better to get it out than to let it fester.  Once you start talking it's amazing how many others have something to something to contribute or something to share.

One more reason to remember the whole Sir Galahad myth is bullshit.  Sometimes dangerous bullshit, other times just really, really, really unhelpful bullshit. :-)

More later.

Leadership Lessons: Joe Paterno and Sen. Joe Manchin, Contemptable Bystanders

Coming right on the heels of watching this TEDx talk by Jackson Katz, arranged by women in San Francisco's Financial District, the subject of the following news snippet is... pretty disappointing

West Virginia senator: Women senators ‘are on top of’ military sexual assault reports

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) suggested in an interview on Tuesday that it was his female colleagues’ responsibility to monitor reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military. “I talk to all the different senators, especially to our female senators, who are really on top of this and watching it very close and following it,” Manchin said in a CBS News interview. “It is very concerning and I can tell you, we’re all in concert with this, as far as changing the dynamics of what’s going on in the military.”


What.  Ever. Dude.

What's so cool about Katz's approach is that he's pretty aggressive about countering the "good man" notion of "sensitivity" victims, and the more mainstream notion that sexual assault is a women's issue.  Instead he said, quite bluntly, that sexual assault is a leadership issue! 

Because contrary to most of our narratives the biggest issues aren't about who the victims are.  It's not really even about who the perpetrators are.  Katz's point is that it's about who the bystanders are.  And Sen. Manchin clearly lodges himself firmly in the moist, brown, smelly orifice of bystanderhood.  "'Female' Senators have a handle on that embarrassing ladybusiness assault shit," quoth the male Senator, consequently it's cased closed for him.

Which is bull. Shit.

Katz points out, correctly, that stopping relationship or sexual violence isn't a matter of sequestering potential victims, and it definitely isn't a means of waiting to intervene.

Instead it's about leaders leading on the matter -- not tolerating it, scowling at attempts at humor, dismissing attempts at excuses or justifications, and in particular by benching not just offenders but bystanders -- by snubbing them, calling them out, letting it be known that no promotions or bonuses will be available, by turning their backs, by making their displeasure with failure known -- in other words doing what leaders do when instilling all other company, military, academic, or moral/ethical standards: leading!

Leaders who are men.  Leaders who are women.  Doing what leaders do naturally in virtually all other circumstances.

Not focusing on victims.  Not even really focusing on perpetrators.

Insetad letting it be known that there will be no patience, no tolerance, and no future in the enterprise for passive, flabby, weak, useless bystanders.

As Katz points out in his video, at Penn State plenty of people knew Jerry Sanduski was a serial abuser.  But it was a low-level whistle-blower who finally, well, blew the whistle outside the normal channels of leadership.

But at no point did any Penn State leaders lead!  The fabled head coach Joe Paterno?  Of all people he wasn't a leader, he was just another lousy bystander! The various presidents of the college who also evidently knew?  They turned out not to be leaders either -- malingering bystanders the lot of them.  Just like Sen. Manchin.Pretty contemptable, really.

"Christian" Ministers Like Dean Saxon IV and "Brother Jed" Hate Men, Are Merely Angry at Women

You know how conservatives, MRAs, and other anti-feminists are always saying how feminists insult men.  And you know I often say no, it's usually antifeminists that keep insulting men.  Here's more proof that I'm right and they're wrong.

Here's "campus minister" Dean Saxon the 4th venting his anger at women and expressing statisfaction at their comeuppances: “Lusty hussies think that they can flaunt their stuff in the face of the public without consequences,” he concluded. “Brother Dean audaciously stated the obvious, ‘The Emperor has no clothes!’ Consequently, all Hell has been stirred up against him.”  Oh, while carrying a sign saying "You Deserve Rape."

Charming, right?  And where did he get this notion?  From a "mentor" named "Brother Jed" Smock of something called "Campus Ministries USA," who says Saxon the 4th's heart is in the right place but, really, he's a little to soft

“Dean is not advocating rape; he is trying to discourage rape by shaming girls into dressing in a manner which will not stir up the passions of men lacking in self-control,” he added. “He is challenging women to not be in places where they ought not to be such as parading in the streets and bars at night, especially unescorted. It’s as simple as making sure to lock your possessions in high crime areas."

Find the quotes and follow the links at

Again, charming, right?  But check out the subtext: because, he says, men have no more impulse control than a pitbull with a pork chop he's angry  at (oh, and "concerned for") women who fail to basically keep their valuable "booties" under lock and key.  Oh, and always escorted by literal body guards!  Because men are so #%! dangerous and untrustworthy it's up to women to keep us out of trouble... by restricting what they wear, where they go, how they behave, what they consume, whether they party, etc.

Clue: It's Only Patronizing When You Single Out One Sex or Gender

Image from Flickr user London Looks.

Responding to a complaint that those anti-assault Make Your Move posters are patronizing to women because they don't blame the victim enough enable "eschewing personal responsibility and projecting [their] own mistakes onto the people around [them]" the author over at STFUFauxFeminists was simultaneously blunt, cool, and awesomely inclusive.

Actually, everyone needs protection from their “silly choices” sometimes. People of all genders get too drunk to consent sometimes. And people of all genders take advantage of those situations sometimes. And people of all genders can take actions to check in on these people to make sure that everything is ok. It’s not about projecting mistakes. It’s about encouraging people to take care of each other. If you have a problem with that, you can go fuck yourself.

I like that so much I'm going to divide the core parts of it into a bulleted list for easier reading:

  • Everyone needs protection from their “silly choices” sometimes
  • People of all genders get too drunk to consent sometimes.
  • People of all genders take advantage of those situations sometimes.
  • People of all genders can take actions to check in on these people to make sure that everything is ok.

And here's the clincher

  • It’s not about projecting mistakes. It’s about encouraging people to take care of each other.

That's pretty cool, right?  Not least because (contrary to MRA and anti-feminist dogma) she's at least as concerned and supportive about male victims as she is about female ones, as aware of female predation as male predation.

Which, as I'll probably keep saying till I'm sure everybody's got it, the only chance we have of eradicating sexual violence is to prevent all of it, all forms of perpetration, and all forms of perpetrators.

Aside: STFU concludes her piece by jumping hard on the person who raised the objection: "You’re not going to turn an anti-sexual violence campaign that’s about encouraging people to care about whether or not everyone in their group is having fun and enjoying themselves into some kind of fedora-wearing misogynistic bullshit about “needing to protect women from themselves” because it’s readily obvious that’s not what the campaign is about if you have half a fucking brain cell."  Ouch!  But then he or she really is missing the point of the poster campaign.  And/or making the gross assumption that only women screw up....  And that protecting women screw-ups from predators is also preventing them from "learning their lessons." Screw that!


Aside #1: No two ways about it, that "we shouldn't keep 'screw-up' women from learning their lessons" is a really nasty, thuggish attitude. Because think about it: which is worse, "coddling" someone who's isolated or intoxicated to the point of vulnerability?  Or coddling the predators by approving the "lessons" they mete out to their victims?

Aside #2: My only real complaint is that while the complainer sure sounds like a misogynist and an anti-feminist there's only a 50/50 chance he or she was a "fedora-wearer" (a.k.a. MRA) and not an anti-feminist woman like Laura Ingraham, Christina Hoff Sommers, Heather Mac Donald, Camille Paglia, etc., who really do "privilege" women by arguing they should 'get what they deserve' in a way different from what men should get.  When, as so many of us including STFU are trying hard to get across, is that passed out and/or otherwise vulnerable men are roughly as liable to experience sexual violence as women.  Aside from occasional lip service, what befalls men is completely inconsequential, incidentally, to anti-feminists and misogynists of pretty much all stripes.  And that, in turn, is yet another reason I strongly prefer feminist and feminist-leaning approaches to MRA or anti-feminist ones.

Don't Want Fewer "Make Your Move" Posters, Just Want More Aimed At "Those Guys"

Images from Make Your Move Missoula on Facebook.

The tag lines from these poster series all turn the "obvious" interpretation inside out.  For instance

Big text: "It was 2:00 A.M. I offered her a ride thinking you never know..."
In tiny letters: "...if the guy who'd been after my friend all night might try something. No way I was taking off without her."

And I think that's pretty great!  I appreciate that they're all like that -- that all have a "I'm watching out for her" theme where the standard social scripts would expect sexual violence.

And reallly, I don't want to see less of that.  I'm not complaining, at all, about the good intentions. And it really, really is a good idea to keep an eye on each other.

But! I'd like to see some corresponding posters about intervening with the guys (and it's mostly guys) who are the implied threats the friends are being proactive about in the posters.

Because, seriously, each poster treats "those guys" as if they were unchangeable, unmovable Chthonic Gods of hearth and date rape.  Instead of, you know, social beings who are subject to peer pressure, care about reputation, fear of seeming ignorant or stupid, threats to self-preservation, appeal to reason, etc., just like all other social beings are.

I particularly appreciated the "Don't Be That Guy" campaigns coming out of Canada.  They're directed... well... directly at potential predators.

And yes, I completely understand that a disproportionate amount of sexual violence and coercion is perpetrated by a remarkably small percentage of predators.  And I get that, by and large, those predators aren't going to be directly affected by any kind of appeals to their better nature or to guilt trips or peer pressure.

But!  By tackling both sides of the perpetrator/victim problem, and not just the victim side, by setting those kinds clear social expectations in media we can still reduce the still very-large volume of assaults by the merely oblivious, ignorant, or intoxicated.

Which, in turn, will tend to make it much, much harder for the serial predators to "pass" as just one of the gang.


Final point, the other reason I'd like to see both sides addressed is that the tone of the ads is still a little patronizing: the whole "she can't help herself so I'll help her."  It's really important to communicate that just because someone needs help they're not helpless.  Because that kind of "good man gallantry" also perpetuates the attitude that without intervention women are fair game.  Let's not be those guys either!

Yeah, Misandry's a Thing -- It's Just Not Something Feminists Do

Did you see Miri's post over at BruteReason?  The upshot is misandry's thing, it's just not a feminist thing.

I've been saying for years that nobody hates men like anti-feminists do. (Seriously, the reason women have to be kept down is because men couldn't compete on a level playing field? Seriously? Wow, thanks, Phyllis, Newt, and Pat!)

Miri's found a preliminary study that backs up my intuition.  Go check it out.

Anyway, guys want to complain about misandry need to take it up with the actual misandrists.  Most of whom aren't even remotely feminist.

Fire Steve Landsburg for His Steubinville "Jokes" But Also for Evangelizing Misandry

Echidne of the Snakes points out a much deeper problem with currently-in-hot-water "gonzo" economics professor Steven Landsburg.  In addition to his WTF was he thinking "thought experiement" about the victims of the Steubinville rapists, he's opined in the past that polygamy ought to be beneficial for hetero women but bad for hetero men.  Because it expands the market of potential husbands while making it harder for (most) men to find wives.

Echidne, a passionate feminist, summarizes what's wrong with this picture: "Thinking about that clarified to me that [Landsburg] deems a fraction of a husband every bit as good as a husband or a father than a whole husband."

Actually I suspect that really is the way a) Landsburg thinks about men, b) Landsburg thinks women think about men, and while we're at it, c) what most anti-feminist men and women think about men.

Realizing that was one of the things that made me want to hitch my wagon to feminism for men: feminists are often angry at men, and even more often exasperated with us, but feminists rarely hate men.

Certainly not the way anti-feminist women and men do.

This is also the thing that fed me up with what on paper ought to have been my natural cohort: men's movement guys. I mean, yeah, a lot of their analysis of man-hatred is right on: men are seen as "walking wallets," we're cannon fodder, we only contribute a teaspoon of semen to progeny here and there, if you can send one man to the moon why not all of them, blah, blah, blah, "when the 'big one' hits the 'average' out of shape middle-age guys will be completely surplus because the really fit guys will 'get' all the women," blah, blah, blah.

But where they never, ever go is where those attitudes come from. Answer: definitely not feminists, so you can't blame them; mostly not women in general so you can't really blame them either. Instead it's... pretty much mostly men who believe crap like that.

Landsburg's part of his own oppression and he's sitting there blinking like an owl wondering "what did I say?"

Anyway, of course he's going to think that for women having to "put up" with a fraction of a man is better than having to put up with a whole one. (Hey, "giving" access to sex is a "resource" so that means in polygamy any individual woman has to "give it up" way less.) And in his blighted little economics world view, if one man's income can support multiple wives at the same style to which they would expect from a monogamous man it makes zero difference to the economy.

It never occurs to him that women might, I don't know, love their partners. Or even find them arousing. (A common mistake: Landsburg, being straight, doesn't find men attractive so he can't imagine anyone else finding men attractive either.)

Ugg. I agree they should sanction Landsburg for being an egregious troll. His Steubinville cracks were almost certainly calculated to sound "gonzo" or "freakonomics-y." That was just stupid, insensitive, exploitative, and misogynist, and even he knows he was wrong. 

But I think he should be fired for his paradigm-deep conviction about -- and his consistent evangelism of! -- the limited-utility undesirablity of men as a gender, as well as for his projection of that onto women.  Not ony is that attitude dangerous and wrong, he likely doesn't even think he's wrong.

More Evidence that *Everybody* is at Risk for Sexual Violence: Military Issue Edition

Brian Lewis, former Petty Officer Third Class, U.S. Navy -- AP photo by Carolyn Kaster via
Former victim testifies before a Senate committee investigating military sexual trauma. AP photo by Carolyn Kaster via

Tough news about U.S. troops as victims of sexual trauma from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, as reported by George Zornick of The Nation.

The study found extremely high rates of military sexual trauma, both in men and women. About 48,100 women and 43,700 men reported suffering military sexual trauma, the authors note. These relatively even numbers are a useful reminder that sexual assault in the military happens not only to women, but men—as was demonstrated at a powerful Senate hearing last week.

Does the issue affect women disproportionately to men? You bet!

But women comprise only 14 percent of active-duty military, so even raw numbers don’t reflect the fact that women, in much greater proportions, are the victims of military sexual assault. Over 21 percent of female troops reported military sexual trauma, compared to under 2 percent of men.

But because there are nearly 10 times as many men as women in the armed services the raw numbers of victims, 48 thousand to 44 thousand, are depressingly similar.  Roughly equal numbers of human beings in service to our country.  Nearly 100,000!*

Given those numbers does anyone still think the issue of sexual violence is "just" a women's issue?

If so then here's something else to think about...

Women have only been seriously involved in combat and combat-support roles in the U.S. miltary for, what, 15 years?  20?  Not that long, right.

Chances are that that 2% of servicemen figure has been true since at least the beginning of military combat in the U.S.

Actually, it's a good guess that somewhat similar figures have been true for men in non-service but still mostly-male environments in America since 1492.

Still think sexual violence is "just" a women's issue?

Anyone still think that for men sexual violence should "just" be a sentimental wives, sisters, daughters concern instead of a "wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and personal" issue?

If we want to stop this thing, and despite stereotypes about knuckledraggers and fantasists I'm pretty sure everyone actually does, then we can't pretend it's just a women's issue, or just a men's issue.  It's not even just a military issue.  It's an everybody issue.


Note: While I'm often wary of "recovery" programs, while researching this post I ran across this insightful rundown at a clinic called The Ranch.  I particularly appreciated this passage which, to me, really helps drive home the commonalities between perpetrators on the one hand and their victims on the other

Military sexual trauma, defined as any unwanted sexual activity, including harassment, sodomy, rape, verbal remarks, grabbing and pressure for sexual favors, affects thousands of men each year. Victims are most often young, low-ranking enlistees who fall prey to peers’ and superiors’ desire to demean or humiliate others. The acts are rarely homosexual in nature but rather an effort to feel powerful or dominant over others.

There's really not a lot of evidence thateither same or opposite sex sexual violence is about anything but personal or social domination using as tools whatever the perpetrator considers most humiliating, degrading, and/or painful for his or her victims. 

The status of sex as least socially acceptable makes it an ideal choice for "demonstrations" of power over the powerless.  It's this fact that made, say, the case of the (evidently still completely unrepenetant) Lynndie England's sexual humiliation and terrorization of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison a gender-neutral commonplace rather than a female-gendered novelty.   Quoth she "Then you see staff sergeants walking around not saying anything [about the abuse]. You think, OK, obviously it's normal."

And, untill we recognize that, no, really, it's not just a women's issue and it's not just a men's issue and that it's almost never even a sexual issue (it's a power issue, remember) then by the tens and hundreds of thousands we'll all continue to experience, encounter, and perhaps even perpetrate what happens to roughly 21% of women in the military, roughly 2% of men in the military, roughly one in four women and one in seven men in civilian life.


* Anyone beside me think it should be a little closer to zero for both?

Serious Question About the Chris Brown / Rhianna Debacle(s)

So while I was driving my daughter home we somehow got onto the subject of the "fairness" of domestic violence law enforcement.  (I swear she's tapped into some seriously retrograde middle-school attitudes somewhere.)

Anyway, after straightening her out her perspective with a couple of questions of my own she opined that she really couldn't listen to Chris Brown after he'd beaten up his partner, Rihanna.  Then she asked how women can go back to their abusers.  And while I was trying to straighten that out this completely other idea popped into my head.

A question I can't begin to answer even though my cultural conditioning all says it's so obvious I shouldn't have to ask.

But I'm going to anyway.

The question isn't why Rhianna would go back to Brown, or why any abused partner male or female would go back to their partner.

Instead it's...

Why the sam hill would Chris Brown go back to Rihanna after beating her up?

I mean, why would any abusing partner,male or female, go back to someone they'd battered?

I mean, yeah, we've got all these narratives about Stockholm Syndrome, cultural indoctrination, nowhere-else-to-go, blah, blah, blah for victims (the "simple" answers all being too pat because, according to the domestic-abuse folks I've talked to it's never very simple.)  But at least we think to ask that question.

We don't think at all about why abusers -- almost always gendered as men -- would want to go back.  It's just assumed they want to.

And don't get me wrong -- it's a pretty safe assumption!

But the more I think about it the stupider it seems.

If you can get angry enough at someone to hit them why on the Big Blue Marble would you want to see them ever again?

Point being, here, that with all that questioning and/or defending Rihanna's decision why aren't more of us questioning what was going through Brown's head?

Point being, what do you think it would take to create some new narratives -- new lyrics, new comics, new t-shirts, new... whatever... that challenge the assumptions about batterers?

Short Version of Why "Good Man" Is Never the Best Self-Description

Image from "I Guess It’s a Jungle in Here Too, Huh?" at Feministe

One might be inclined to read the following and despair.

In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist.

Source: Ta-Nehisi Coates in the New York Times

But even though what Coates says is just as true about sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, classism, age-ism, and just the whole shebang, dispair would be a mistake.

The trick is getting over the idea that you can ever completely overcome ground-in stuff.

To use a completely neutral example, a past-middle-age friend who's spoken fluent, unaccented, and vernacular English since coming to the U.S. as an elementary school kid said he occasionally still has dreams in his natal German.  This doens't mean he wants to "go back" to Germany.  It doens't mean he's "secretly" German.  It really doens't mean he's fluent in German -- he came over in 1st or 2nd grade and hasn't really spoken it since!  All it means is that even though he has little nostalgia and less practical interest in it there are still vestiges of something he was exposed to literally from birth, even though he learned to be -- and prefers to be -- an English speaker from a pretty early age.

So it's the same with racism, sexism, and pretty much everything else we were raised with growing up with the voices, expectations, and attitudes of everyone older than us.  It's not even anything good or bad in itself.  We can't exactly go back in time and say "Grandma, that story about the little boy and the tigers stereotypes East Asians out the wazoo."

Case in point: ever wonder whether the word "wazoo" has ethnic overtones?  Possibly negative ones?  Me neither.  It was just in there in my natal catalog of euphemisms and it came out.  (Answer, since I just looked it up: no, wazoo probably isn't derogatory, or not directly so. While there could be cognates in mideveal and/or Louisiana French and maybe in the Pama-Nyungan family pre-colonial Australian languages, it apparently just sounds funny.)

And while that one seems to be ok, and while I've consciously filtered out plenty of other distinctly ethnic, religious, sexist, abilist, and neuro-atypicalist euphemisms, other choices I still might have made, from the same stockpile of childhood "substitute for cuss words" are almost certainly of less savoury origins.  But they're just there in the language and I haven't learned about them.  Yet.t

So still not feeling better?  I'm tellin' ya it's really not that bad to know how much you don't know.  Because consider the alternative!  Ignorance with confidence is just about the best place to stand while maximizing misery and chaos for others.  As well as bringing heaps of  generally well-deserved contempt upon one's self when one earnestly attempts to downplay, pooh-pooh, or otherwise reassure others that no, in fact, really, you're not one of those homophobic buggers.


This is why I think it's not just dumb or arrogant but rash to proclaim yourself a "good man," or a "nice guy."

It's not just that you're setting yourself up for ridicule.  Or a fall.  It's that if you really are well-intentioned, and if you really do want to do good work then you want to just pull up your big-boy pants

In Landmark Education (the erstwhile EST) they have, or maybe had, this declaration "Who I am is the possibility of [ABC,] and the act that I'm giving up is [XYZ.]"  Say what you like about Landmark (and plenty of people do) there's something to be said about acknowledging that you can't ever be completely rid of old habits.

The other point, I think this one's more from the 12-Step philosophy, is that rather than rashly claiming you've purged yourself of all sexism, homophobia, misandry and misogyny, or even hey-you-mean-it's-not-obsolete anti-Irish prejudice,* the trick is to get out of denial, clean up what you can, and get back on the wagon.  Sooner or later everybody falls off.  The trick is having the fortitude to get back on.

More importantly integrity doesn't depend on never transgressing!  I.e. being a "good person."  Instead integrity depends on learning from your mistakes, apologizing, cleaning up the damage if you can, and living with it if you can't.

In fact, the time you spend defending the "good person" you are is identical to the time you spend out of integrity.  And, perhaps worse for you and more embarrassing to your friends, its identical to the time you spend without dignity.

There's a saying among exterminators: there are two kinds of people in the world, those who know they have rats, and those who think they don't.  Guess who invariably has the bigger collection of rats?

Well, there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to being "good" too.  Choose which one you'd rather be.

* Considering it's been nearly 100 years since the last big outbreak of anti-Irish political sentiment it's amazing how many anti-Irish sentiments remain in modern American culture -- see "paddy wagon" or Notre Dame's overtly belligerant, dimunitive caricature of a football mascot.  Thus it's kind of pompous to imagine we can as quickly shed stereotypes reinforced both subtly and overtly as recently as last week.