Don't Date, But Do SlutWalk

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 Samhita Mukhopadhyay explains why dating is ruining your love life. SlutWalk draws good people and bad coverage, and "Gray's Anatomy" portrays abortion both sympathetically and realistically.

 

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Miss Representation

SlutWalk: A video diary

NYPD fashion advice

Local coverage of SlutWalk

Abortion episode of "Gray's Anatomy"

Hmmm....look who's talking

 

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be looking at the end of dating, the growth of SlutWalk, and a genuinely popular network TV show that addresses abortion without holding back or shaming women who get them.

 

The trailer for the documentary Miss Representation has finally come out. It’s 2 and a half minutes long, so here’s a small sample, but I recommend watching the whole thing.

 

  • miss representation *

 

I’m often skeptical of anti-media stuff, because it often gets a little hysterical or assumes that the audience is uniformly unintelligent, but this documentary seems to be aware that media can be used for good as well as evil.

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SlutWalk NYC came and went on October 1st, and I was one of roughly one thousand people of all ages, races, and genders that showed up to protest the way that victims are blamed for their rapes. It’s a year when this particular message seems especially important, since there’s been a slew of cases where accused rapists got off mostly because juries or prosecutors felt the victim wasn’t holy or virginal enough to deserve not being violently assaulted. Most of these cases seemed to be happening in New York, no less, adding some urgency to the proceedings.  And of course, since this is New York City, the entire thing was thoroughly documented.  I particularly enjoyed a short by Trixie Films about SlutWalk, in part because she interviewed a bunch of friends of mine for it.

 

  • slutwalk 1 *

 

The woman talking about the New York police was Jenn Pozner, and she was responding to a situation in Brooklyn.  See, there’s a rapist or multiple rapists prowling around South Slope in Brooklyn and attacking women.  But at least one cop was using this fact to impose his own ideas on women about what they should wear.  He literally has been stopping women on the street to scold them for wearing skirts or shorts, even though the one video we have of the rapist shows him attacking a woman in pants. This is how rape culture works. A handful of men rape and sexists everywhere use rapists as a weapon to control and shame women.

 

  • slutwalk 2 *

 

The woman they interviewed was wearing a skirt and high heels, which really demonstrates what’s going on here. Everyone thinks that the advice is sound advice for, you know, those slutty girls. Who are always someone else. The belief that we can somehow control it causes women to say, “Oh, as long as I don’t wear a skirt---or you know, a skirt from someone else’s wardrobe because clearly my skirts aren’t the kinds of skirts we’re talking about---then I won’t get raped.” Which, in turn, turns into juries letting a rapist off because the victim was wearing a skirt when she was told not to.  All this is completely ridiculous, of course. I’d guess the reason most victims were wearing skirts is that this is New York City. If you took a random sampling of women who were walking home at night in this city, three quarters of them would be wearing skirts, especially in warm weather. But it doesn’t matter. Most people think that rape is caused by especially horny men who are just out of control, and that’s why the whole “short skirts cause rape” nonsense makes sense to people. But rape is actually caused by men with serious power and control issues, and usually quite a bit of hatred towards women. The vast majority of rapists don’t even remember what their victims were wearing.

 

What SlutWalk is about is breaking open these myths. If women are like, “I’m the person you’re calling a slut,” suddenly it’s not so cute or obvious anymore to assume that rapists only target easy-to-identify sluts. Rapists basically target whoever they think they can rape and get away with raping.

 

The role the NYPD plays in all this is distressing, as is the media coverage of it.

 

  • slutwalk 3 *

 

Uh, nothing “ironic” about it. SlutWalk had all the permits and plans laid out beforehand. It’s the job of the police to show up and protect the protesters and make sure they don’t block traffic. Even if those people are critical of their department. It would be a crappy country indeed if government agencies could suddenly go rogue and stop doing their jobs if they deem the people they work for unfit. Yes, we’re critical of the NYPD. We pay their salaries. We’re their bosses. The whiff of approval for a police power grab is distressing here.

 

This report, which was from the NBC affiliate in New York City, also failed completely to mention that SlutWalker complaints about the NYPD extended far beyond just the patrolling of women in the neighborhood to tell them to wear clothes the cops find more modest. This shaming of women comes on the heels of two major rape cases involving the NYPD.  In one, two cops that are widely seen as guilty were found not guilty by a jury that basically pulled the “she was asking for it” card by citing the victim’s drunken state as a reason they couldn’t convict, despite the heavy evidence that included one cop confessing he used a condom. And recently, another cop was caught pretty much in the act of raping a schoolteacher who was trying to walk to work early in the morning. He’s also playing the “she was asking for it” card, or at least early indications from the defense suggesting the situation was supposedly “gray” suggest that’s the plan. In light of these cases, it’s really rich of anyone from the NYPD to suggest that it’s women’s skirts that cause rape, instead of, you know, rapists.

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insert interview

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I held off on writing about the Gray’s Anatomy abortion until the fallout episode was over. Often you get excited that an abortion on TV was portrayed realistically, and then boom! next episode, the woman who got the abortion is now punished or they take it back somehow. Even my beloved Mad Men did the take-it-back move by not having the woman seeking the abortion go through with it, even though it’s clear she had abortions in her past. But now another episode has passed, and there’s no apparent punishment and no take-backs, so I’m free to congratulate Gray’s Anatomy for handling the abortion plot for one of its characters with honesty and grace. For a show that tends to pander in the worst ways, they really didn’t pull their punches when it came to the abortion storyline. The woman who got it is shown sympathetically, and her refusal to stick to the right wing script but instead choose her own life was portrayed matter-of-factly. I was particularly pleased with how they showed a situation where the woman wanting to get an abortion is being pressured into having the baby.  First, the pressuring.

 

  • grays 1 *

 

I started to bunch up  and get upset that a main character was berating another about her desire to get an abortion like this, but then the character who was getting the abortion bust out this incredible defense of her stance.

 

  • grays 2 *

 

What I loved about this was how unapologetic it was. There was no hedging about how it’s just not time or suggestion that she has to because she’s not married or something like that. Simply not wanting to have a baby is presented as a good enough reason not to have a baby. Now, in real life, many women have abortions for all sorts of reasons. Some are like this character and simply don’t want to be a mother.  Most women who have abortions are mothers, and most of the rest want to be mothers some day. But women who don’t want to be mothers at all are just as entitled to say no to a pregnancy. And really, women who want to have children but limit the size of their families should be supportive of women who want no children at all. By securing our rights, the rights of everyone else are more secure.

 

I also liked that this speech made clear that women can contribute more to society than just mothering children. I mean, that’s an important job, but so is being a surgeon. The notion that a woman who devotes herself to a career that fulfills her and contributes to society is somehow incomplete without children is a toxic notion. I’m glad to see it being denounced on one of the most popular shows on TV.

 

And in case you didn’t find the speech itself convincing enough, the woman who was pressuring our heroine of abortion rights realizes how wrong she was. And she takes her newly changed mind and drops some knowledge on the husband who just doesn’t get it.

 

  • grays 3 *

 

The downside of all this is I had to endure an episode of Gray’s Anatomy to bring you these clips. The rest of the episode was not so awesome, and it centered around a pointless firing of a doctor plot coupled with an overdramatic situation where a man with no medical experience is basically expected to amputate his wife’s leg after they fall into a sinkhole. No, I’m not kidding. At least they refrained, mostly, from sound effects to bring home the cutting-through-squishy-flesh-and-bone idea, so I was able to just look away during those scenes with minimum desire to barf on my shoes. Still, I’m happy overall for this episode, since this isn’t an obscure drama like “Friday Night Lights”, but a ratings monster that seems like it will never be canceled because of its popularity.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, glass houses and stones edition. Andrew Breitbart decided it would be funny to say this about Janeane Garofaolo:

 

  • breitbart *

 

Uh, yeah. This from a guy who spends half of his time whining because he thinks that he can’t get a job in Hollywood because he’s conservative. Of course, that never stopped Mel Gibson or Arnold Schwarzenegger. So I’m going to have to say that there’s more than a little jealousy and projection going on here. And of course, as usual with Andrew Breitbart, huge amounts of sexism. 


This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive health and justice


 
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