Category Archives: Feminism

Let’s Stop Saying Women. Let’s Say People.

These are people, people.



The minute you say “women”, all of a sudden listeners place them in a separate mental pocket.


Close your eyes for a moment. When you imagine people, you see all sorts of humans, right? (Some of you may envision only men. Men are not the default, so go back to your caves.) Nevertheless – eyes open – the humans pictured above are people first. Yes, they’re people who are female, granted. Still, human beings, people, first and foremost.


An interesting thing has been happening over the past few years with regard to humans who were bought and sold prior to the Emancipation Proclamation in the US, and those who now live the same tragic existences all over the world, primarily in India.


They used to be known as slaves. These days, most journalists and even the guides at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, refer to them as people held in slavery or enslaved people.


You can tell the difference, right? A slave is not as human as an enslaved person. The latter is a person held in a temporary state of non-liberty. The former is, perhaps, subhuman and born to be owned.


Huge difference.


Think how a similar enormous difference impacts the human beings shown above. Referred to as people, they remain human. Called women, however, and something happens in the mind of the listener, particularly if dangerous cultural or political baggage gets in the way, as in this article regarding the politics of sexual violence in Egypt.


They become something less than people, as if we were speaking of dolphins or aardvarks.


Farfetched? No. Language carries enormous cultural weight and can cause confusion. In Spanish, for example, mujer is the word for both woman and wife. Asked by authorities if she is the “wife” of an injured man – spouses may give consent for medical care – a woman may well answer “yes” even though she is not legally married to him.


Language gives order to how we learn and remember. Language has power, and it offers power, as well. Witness the rise of Welsh-language schools in Wales, the persistent efforts of French speakers to make Quebec a separate country, and the efforts of billions of people to learn and improve their English, the current linguistic coin of power.


It’s just not wise to dismiss how we use words when their use either reduces power or increases it.


We should not have to keep making signs saying “Women Are People, Too!”. That’s so 20th-century.


We do need to begin replacing the words woman/women with person/people as much as possible.


It might sound awkward at first to talk about pregnant people, people with breast cancer, people who have survived FGM.


Though we do speak of pregnant whales, giraffes giving birth, and elephants that have survived poachers’ attacks.


If one, why not the other?


Doing so would point up the humanity of people who are female, rather than consign them to a lesser status in the mind of the listener. Calling them people gives primary acknowledgement to their personhood. Qualifiers – like the word female – are the secondary identification. Then again, speaking of people means that if they carry XY chromosomes, they too will need a qualifier. Male.


When we talk of people, we’ll make more sense than if we used words that mistakenly relegate others to a status below humanity.


Words like slave. And, unfortunately, women.


Stand firm. Use words with care. Up with people !




Filed under Feminism

When “Having Sex” Belittles Torture



Let’s be perfectly clear. Children don’t “have sex”.


I’m not talking teenagers. Teenagers have sex, though, when they’re underage, there’s no consent. That’s what makes it statutory rape. When a person through immaturity – via age or disability – has no right to consent to sex, and the law protects that right, the person sexually engaging them is committing rape by legal statute. But if adolescents are both over the age of consent, and there is no force or coercion or drugs or alcohol used to elicit or ignore consent, then, yes, have sex they do.


Nor am I talking adults. Grown-ups sometimes have sex. Sometimes it’s mutually consensual. Sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, as with teens, then it’s rape.


But children cannot have sex, meaning intercourse of any kind. Their bodies are immature. Their brains are immature.


If someone is “having sex” with a child, they’re not having sex. They’re raping and committing torture.


Newspaper and magazine writers (print and internet) haven’t caught on to this. You still read, shamefully, of a man “having sex” with a neighbor’s daughter.


No. He forced sex on her. He raped her. He used his penis as a weapon to torture her.


To “have sex” in those circumstances is to ignore the horrors of what really happened. It’s a mealy-mouth word, a euphemism to avoid calling it what it is.


The Indian woman who was captured and attacked over hours by a group of men on a Mumbai bus was, of course, raped. Since she died, she was also murdered. But in addition, she was tortured. How else explain the agony she must have endured as one man after another forced himself into her? As they bit her all over her skin? As they shoved an iron rod into her, tearing her inner organs and causing the severest infection?


That, people, is torture.


So is the insertion of a penis into a body too immature and unwilling to accommodate it.


We’re used to regarding torture as associated with war or the Spanish Inquisition, or Guantanamo. It’s a method used to extract information – not very efficiently, according to research. That’s not its only use. Many people have through the centuries inflicted repeated pain on their captured enemies, not to acquire information, but just for . . . I suppose they called it fun.


The noun torture, however, exists as a description of behavior, not of purpose. Here are dictionary definitions:


–The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.

–A method of inflicting such pain.

–The pain or suffering caused or undergone.

–Extreme anguish of body or mind; agony.

–A cause of severe pain or anguish.


Where someone is subjected to pain through non-permitted insertion of anything (including an erect penis), that is torture. It doesn’t matter that information is not sought, or that they’re not at war. The purpose is not important. The behavior is criminal.


“Well, I didn’t mean to cause pain.”


You didn’t stop when the person you were hurting screamed, did you? You didn’t stop when they begged you to, you didn’t stop when you saw blood, you didn’t stop when they fainted from the agonies.


You knew they were in pain, and you went ahead.


“The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.” Ignoring others’ pain and going ahead? That is sheer cruelty.


Which leaves a huge pain footprint.


Call it by its true name. It’s not having sex.


It’s torture.

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Filed under Abuse, Cruelty, Domestic terrorism, Feminism, Harassment, Health, India, Law, Misogyny, Morality, Pain, Pain footprint, Rape, Rape is torture, Rapist as parasite, Sexual assault, Torture, Violence, War against women



Imagine you’re a good-looking 23-year-old woman. You’ve done some modeling, won a few beauty contests, had your physical appearance judged as you strutted the stage. You’re okay with that . . . after all, you grew up in Alabama, a state not known for its reluctance to hail feminine attractiveness. Since you were teased and bullied about your looks as a child, it’s nice to get some affirmation.


Then a man 50 years your senior, old enough to be your grandfather, gushes over your looks on national television.


“What a beautiful woman!” That’s some of what Brent Musburger, 73-year-old sportscaster, said over the air at the BCS Championship football game about Katherine Webb, who is dating the University of Alabama’s star quarterback, A. J. McCarron.


As ESPN cameras focused on Webb, Musburger blurted more than was really healthy.


He totally ignored McCarron’s lovely mother, Dee Dee Bonner, standing inches from Webb. Bonner, who is young enough to be Musburger’s daughter? Nope, Musburger said zip about her. He had eyes only for Webb.




Notice that he didn’t say of Webb, “what a beautiful young woman”, thus acknowledging the age difference between himself and Webb, a distancing tactic that would have rendered his words a bit less grandiose: “I think you’re gorgeous, but I’ve got five decades on you, so this perception is merely the appreciation of an elderly man for the gifts of youth.” One can almost hear Maurice Chevalier humming in the background.


No, his word choice shows that he envisioned Webb and himself as contemporaries. They stood, in Musburger’s mind, on a level playing field. They shared parity, if nothing else.


No wonder that women interviewed about Musburger’s reaction called it “creepy”.


Webb has been gracious about the Musburger ode. She doesn’t mind, she insists. She enjoys having her beauty acknowledged. (Although since that night, she’s had to change her phone number, and I would be surprised if Twitter hasn’t carried some less-than-lovely tweets.) It’s true, too, that Musburger wasn’t the only man expressing appreciation of Webb’s looks. He was, however, the most vocal. And the camera guys were being instructed by the ESPN director, who carries responsibility for focusing on Webb rather than on the game itself.


But Musburger’s words were his. The adoration, his. The smacking lips, all his.


That last one is a joke. I hope.


A bunch of people – hold it, a bunch of men – are protesting the protest. Cut Musburger a break, they say! Especially because he’s been through the sportscaster wringer.


Just because someone’s experienced bad luck at work doesn’t mean they should get a pass on future behavior, does it? That’s too big a “free pass” card.


Imagine if Musburger were female and Webb male. A 73-year-old woman carrying on over national television about a much younger man, one her grandson’s age? You can hear the hoots and protests, the shouts to call in the mental health professionals.


Look, beauty is tempting. It’s nice to regard, fun to fancy.


But where the age difference is so great, at the very least, acknowledge that. Alternatively, keep it zipped.


You’ll sound a lot less like an immature creep.


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Filed under Brent Musburger, Bullying, ESPN, Feminism, Harassment, Katherine Webb, Sports broadcasting, Sportscaster, Television

Deal With It

Schooling is essential


Imagine having to leave school, forever, because a maturational event beyond your control made it impossible for you to attend every class. Imagine having to spend days in a rough cowshed – dirty, smelly, cold or hot – simply because you were a healthy 14-year-old.


That’s what happens all over the world to people who have two X chromosomes.


Even in such “Westernized democracies” as India. (I put those words in quotes because of the cruel tortures of this past week in Delhi, and the initial government reaction to furious protests.)


As this recent New York Times article makes clear, the difference between the bodies of healthy girls and healthy boys within their society can create lifelong inequities, regardless of one’s intelligence, work ethic, talent or skills.


When these girls’ menstrual periods start, they are barely trained by their mothers in hygiene. Lacking the resources of girls in wealthier parts of the globe (e.g., sanitary napkins, tampons, reusable cups), they must – as was common everywhere before the 20th century – create their own pads from cheap cotton. And then, how to dispose of the pads? Keep in mind that years ago, even in America, because handmade fabric was expensive, used menstrual pads were often soaked in water and washed to re-use.


It is to avoid embarrassment and shaming that girls quit or are yanked from school. Staying home even one week per month, as is common in Africa, means girls fall behind in their studies. Staying home forever makes for a society in which only boys are educated beyond the onset of adolescence. This create an enormous power differential.


It also enables a ridiculous waste of resources.


What sense does it make to consign a person with intelligence and imagination to a life where every repetitive task could easily be done by someone less able to resolve complex problems and come up with innovative solutions?


What does the world look like when half of a country’s collective talent is ignored?


And what do women who manage to get educated face in a society that dumps female intelligence on a domestic scrapheap?


In part, they face a world where cruelty is inflicted upon them, where male police officers dismiss their pain, where their pleas for justice go unheeded. It’s not just for show that West Bengal – the Indian state whose biggest city is Kolkata (Calcutta) – plans 65 all-female police stations. It is that state’s response to a fact that Indian women know well: police stations staffed by men are not places of succor and refuge for women. They are offices of scorn, criticism, blame, and, too often, sweep-under-the-rug-ism.


Police stations, offices, hospitals that are uniformly staffed with men in charge are symptoms of societies in which biology, specifically menses, is still destiny — despite IQ test levels among women that are measurably at least identical if not larger.


Insert large sigh here.


For half the adult population, menstruation is a fact of life. Experiencing regular periods is not essential for health – many women’s cycles are irregular, and some birth control methods eliminate menstruation for months at a time – but where they’re present, regular cycles are simply monthly occurrences.


Deal with it.

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Filed under Feminism, India, Menarche, Menstruation, Rape, Rape is torture, Rapist as parasite, School, Torture

The Female Race

No one deserves this treatment. Everyone deserves for it to stop.


Say you are a man walking down a city street, minding your own business, intent on reaching work or school. Someone makes derogatory, offensive comments to you based on race. That’s harassment, right? In some nations, you’re well within your rights to haul that person into court to answer for their racism. The court will take the charge seriously. It will listen to witnesses. If you have made a video of the other person’s behavior and comments on your phone, the court will take that video into evidence and weigh it when passing judgment and ordering a sentence.


Say you are a woman walking down a city street, minding your own business, intent on reaching work or school. Someone makes derogatory, offensive comments to you based on sex. Is that harassment?


It should be. Depending on the nation, it might be. But don’t count on it.


Why is racism worthy of punishment but the much more pervasive sexism ignored? When half the world is female?


A Belgian researcher has released this video of harassment on the streets of Brussels, the country’s capital. (Though a small country, Belgium has two official languages – Flemish is spoken in the north, French in the south – so the abusive comments are in both.) The “Femme de la Rue” (“Street Woman”) videos by Sofie Peeters have garnered much attention. One Frenchman unleashed a storm on Twitter by claiming that he had never heard of street harassment, so Peeters’s experience must be exceptional, a one-off. He was answered by a flood of tweets detailing other women’s experiences on the street – and underground, in the Métro.


Any woman who has walked by men – not just construction workers – knows the hassle, the fear, the emotional pain of jeering, suggestive, or offensive comments. Yet when we object to them, we’re called other things.


Too sensitive. Making it up. Deserving of it because of our clothes.




Nothing prevents these comments. Age does not inhibit offensive remarks and questions. They’re tossed at young girls and grandmothers alike. What we wear has no bearing. We’re as likely to hear insults and invitations whether we wear a business suit, a dress, or jeans – or, as women even in Saudi Arabia will attest, a burqa and veil.


The only thing that silences the foul-mouthed is the presence of an accompanying male. Apparently, the idea that a woman is “owned” by another male stops the gobs of abusers. Otherwise, they’re all in. If the same woman walks by thirty minutes later, alone, the verbal knives will be drawn.


It’s time to make horrifying remarks about sex as unacceptable as horrifying remarks about race. It’s just trading one sort of verbal abuse for another. Aside from white supremacists carrying on with their rage and hatred, most men have realized that most of society regards making racist comments as the verbal equivalent of spitting on the sidewalk. It’s just not done anymore.


But sexist comments seem immune to general societal disdain.


Let’s not keep on that way. Comments based on a factor of one’s being that one cannot alter are out.  (Re-gendering is only visual change, as every cell in the body proclaims through DNA the truth of sex.) Height, skin color, sex, national origin, ought to be out, out, out. The brain processes emotional pain using the same structures in the same way as when processing physical pain. So those words? They’re not just metaphysical sticks and stones. They are sticks and stones.


In addition, what goes around comes around. Next life, the abusive guys will be female. Won’t those women deserve better treatment?


Karma. Now that’s the real bitch.

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Filed under Belgium, Brussels, Burka, Burqa, Feminism, Harassment, Humanity, Misogyny, Morality, Sofie Peeters