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2257 (from the “Let’s Think About This for More than 30 Seconds” file)

Posted by A birch tree on July 20, 2008

It has come to my attention that certain parties are attempting to silence Stop Porn Culture‘s new slideshow (which I will not link to, as I have been informed it contains explicit images) by using US Code Title 18, Section 2257 to declare it and other such anti-porn information and demonstrations by activists such as Gail Dines (who has a great non-pornographic presentation viewable here) illegal.

2257 says:

(a) Whoever produces any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, or other matter which—
(1) contains one or more visual depictions made after November 1, 1990 of actual sexually explicit conduct; and
(2) is produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce;
shall create and maintain individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer portrayed in such a visual depiction.

It goes on to talk about specifics and penalties. In a nutshell, this means that anyone who produces pornographic shit needs to have records verifying who the victims are and how old they are (because remember, porn magically becomes a safe industry after a woman turns 18).

The parties opposed to antipornography activism, in a full-out defensive breath-holding temper tantrum, are claiming, with much mock indignance on the part of pornography victims performers, that people who put together such slideshows that include pornography for demonstrative purposes are in violation of 2257 in that they don’t have the aforementioned identification documents on site.

I smell Male Logic(tm)* at work. Taking a clear, valid law and messing around with the meanings of words and the original spirit in which the law was intended in order to punish the people that they are opposed to, but whose goals the law was intended to help along, while at the same time not insisting on the same application for industries and activities they favor, is pretty classic. They use a process I like to call “I couldn’t find a flaw in the first thirty seconds on thinking about this idea, so it must hold water”. It’s the same kind of thinking that gives us “Men are hardwired by evolution to love big breasts” and “Women are underrepresented in science and engineering and other high-prestige, high-paying fields because they just don’t like math.” It scratches the surface of an issue, creates a soundbite, and sends the soundbite around the world to make it gospel.

To wit: I imagine said parties would not insist that x-rated movie theatres, so-called “adult” bookstores, or pornographic video stores are noncompliant with 2257 because they don’t have the requisite identification documents on-hand. Furthermore, if 2257 were as strictly applied as some with a porn addiction and/or a financial stake in the sex industry claim they would like it to be, it would subject a dude who gets his buddies together to watch his latest porno to criminal charges and fines, since he doesn’t have the documentation in his bedside table, and would therefore be liable for presenting it to his pornsick friends.

I might accept that trade-off. Anti-porn radical feminists and radical pro-feminists are no longer allowed to show an audience an informative slideshow or video as long as individual dudes are not allowed to show an audience a titillative slideshow or video, and “adult” bookstores are no longer allowed to include peep booths, and X-rated movie theatres and video stories must get copies of all the relevant documentation for every movie they show or carry.

Of course, the pro-porn crowd (including the odd male pro-porn feminist) doesn’t promote that particular set of stringent applications because (A) those consequences only show up in the brain at around 32+ seconds of thinking and (B) they only want to use the law to protect their interests, not thwart them.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I have not seen Stop Porn Culture’s slideshow, nor any of the pornographic ones Gail Dines is reputed to be responsible for, nor do I necessarily agree with that particular method of education. The efficacy telling people to stop using pornography via showing them lots of pornography is, to my mind, rather arguable; at least in that most people (men especially) who profess ignorance of the content of modern pornography are probably liars, seeing as our society is pretty much being pickled in a barrel of porn-brine. Having said that, a number of activists, including some I personally respect, consider it to be a viable and effective method of education and communication, and it appears the pro-porn lobby agrees with them, elsewise they wouldn’t be going to the trouble of trying to selectively misapply parts of US law to lever said tactic out of Stop Porn Culture’s hands.

I suppose what really ruffles the finches’ feathers is that the pro-porn lobby seems to show so much concern for the “rights” of porn participators when it comes to using their images without proper documentation, but not when it comes to, say, their terrifyingly high rates of PTSD or the fact that 80% of them don’t even get the courtesy of a condom, much less how they tend to discount the stories of any woman who has been horribly abused by the porn industry. No no, their (arbitrarily applied) concern is over documentation. That’s obviously the important issue.

-a birch tree

*[Male Logic(tm) is merely a reference to the skewed and often idiotic twisting of actual logic that is often used by men trying to justify the un-justifyable, but its use is no longer constrained by gender. I mention this so that nobody gets the idea that the subjects of this post are exclusively male.]

Posted in Feminism, Links, Sex Industry | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

On trusting men

Posted by A birch tree on July 16, 2008

When I logged on today, the finches said to me “Tree, don’t get sidetracked. We’ve got a huge post on transgenderism/transphobia to research, and we’ll probably have enough grist left afterwards for another Fact Dump. You’ve got three hours, use them wisely!”

Then, just as I got started, I ran into the furor surrounding Kyle Payne. A self-proclaimed radical pro-feminist blogger and sexual assault advocate is arrested for raping and photographing an unconcious student at Buena Vista University, where he is a Resident Advisor.

I read that post and my stomach churned. I read some of the other links back, and did a quick google on the situation, and my stomach positively flipped over.

You know how they say child molestors will try to find jobs or homes where they have easy access to children? That’s exactly the kind of thing this man did; he had a rape fetish and put himself into a position to be close to the kinds of victims he fantasized about. He listened to, and probably got off on, stories of women’s nightmares from the mouths of the victims themselves, who had no idea that they were being re-victimized right there in his presence. He was finally caught acting on his deviant fantasies by the university and the police when they found his homemade rape porn on his computer (some comments in this blog claim that his computers were originally siezed in a search for child pornography, and that it is stated in the search warrant records. I haven’t looked up that information myself, but, you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me at all).

How many women poured their stories of trauma and terror to this man, only to have him masturbate about them? How many women will be afraid to take advantage of services for rape victims due to the harm this man has caused so many women? And, most importantly, how many women did he rape that he didn’t videotape?

This is exactly why men should not be working with rape victims in an advocate or crisis-counselor capacity: men cannot be trusted. Maybe, if I’m feeling generous, I might allow for the idea that “not all men” do this, and there are some loving, caring, wonderfully fuzzy happy men who work in this field for the sense of personal fulfillment blah blah blah. I can’t for the life of me figure out how someone could justify forcing the vulnerable, traumatized women who call these centers to take such a significant risk of re-victimization just because there might be a dude somewhere who has bucked his sociosexual training enough not to take advantage of every perceived position of power over women to fulfill his own sense of entitlement to, among other things, feelings of control and sexual titillation. Is a man’s desire, innocently and helpfully motivated as it may be, to work in this specific field really worth more than women’s desires not to have to worry about being re-victimized? Is this issue really so important for men that it’s worth making rape victims add an extra set of anxieties on top of the ones resulting from the rape itself, for example: “will/is/did my rape crisis counsellor get/getting off on the story of my brutal rape? Was/is that exciting for him? Does he want to rape me too?”

The only people that the whole “Women shouldn’t automatically distrust men, because we’re not ALL rapists!” meme benefits are rapists. Any man who gives a shit about women and their daily struggles wouldn’t be offended by distrust or suspicion. Any man who is trying to toss his load of priviledge and entitlement would welcome the opportunity to prove his general good-ness via a slow progression of time over which he demonstrates in all his behaviors, large and small, in all social and private contexts, that he is not a dickwad, rather than simply having the assumption made that because he has a penis he is the embodiment of all that is upstanding and trustworthy in spite of the intense rate at which crimes against women are perpetrated by penis-wielders in this society.

As far as this specific case is concerned, the ripples from this man’s actions continue to spread. Some blogs go so far as to take his actions as an indictment of the anti-pornography movement (paraphrase: “See? People who don’t use porn are the REALLY dangerous, repressed ones with scary dark sides! This guy proves it!”). Some people say the radical feminist movement should have to answer for this dude, since he claimed to be among their number and linked to a bunch of their blogs. Lots of people are really quick to blame women for either this man’s actions, or for trusting him to begin with. Fingers point. Fur flies. This man’s crimes are used to futher unrelated personal vendettas at the expense of his victims. Women who had no idea this man even existed are called to task for not denouncing him.

We live in Patriarchy, after all; everything bad a man ever does can, eventually, be used to shame, blame or discredit a woman or two. The status quo marches on.

-a birch tree

*How do I make this, and some of the above, assumptions? Pretty simple, actually: he’s a rapist, he committed rape, and he presumably got off on rape. Ergo, this man gets off on rape, ergo, he probably got off on accounts of rape his victims gave him, turning it into an even sicker form of pornography.

Posted in Feminism, Liberal Men, Rape, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

From the “Hightening My Cynicism” file..

Posted by A birch tree on July 9, 2008

I’ve been hit with a double-wammy to my faith in the general basic goodness of humanity in just the last twelve hours or so.

Late last night, Aria and I were watching “The Secret Lives of Women: Eating Disorders” on the WE network. It was a pretty good show, following a quartet of women who have various eating disorders, talking to them and their families about their feelings and struggles and treatments. Then we get to the commercials. In the words of Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up: Weight Watchers. WE sold ad time during a show about eating disorders to a predatory diet company. And then, just when I had finished saying “WTF, mate?”, it gets worse: they run an ad for bariatric surgery. Seriously, what the hell? Are they hoping some poor woman with anorexia might be watching the show and saying “Wow, look at that, maybe I should look into getting some help…” and then see the surgery ad and go “Yes! That’s the help I need! Right there! Sign me up!”? See fig. 3-7.

Then, this morning, Aria points me to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail (found via Life After the Oil Crash). If last nights commercial shock pegged my cynicism needle, this story shattered it.

Just two days ago, Gordon Brown was urging us all to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions.

But yesterday the Prime Minister and other world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.

Words, which have never been exactly willing and pliable beasts to my harness, stop in their tracks to nibble grass while I try vainly to prod them into motion.

I’m trying to imagine the conversation at the dinner table.

Bladass Politician A: “So, nom nom nom what do we nom nom think about the nom food crisis? nom nom” [crumbs fall from his stuffed mouth]
Bladass Politician B: “nom nom It’s obviously not nom nom nom all that bad, nom nom, eh?”
[General Bladass Politician Laugher, disgusting chewing and burping sounds.]

Yeah, these people give a shit. Yeah, they’re in touch. Riiiiight.

Posted in Feminism, Food Crisis, Global Environment, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Back, Kinda

Posted by A birch tree on June 26, 2008

So my discharge went through, and I’m home with my family, which is really, really good news. It gets better every day I’m home.

I really feel like I dodged a bullet, in spite of my ambivalence. While I bristle a bit about being offically labeled as nuttier than squirrel shit in the mental health department (I went nearly 30 years and never noticed, as I may have mentioned once already), watching world events and reading Heart’s post about Navy rapists, I can’t fight the feeling that had I managed to stay in the Navy I would have ended up just as bad as all of the people I wrote about in A Hall of Shame and/or slowly rotting in at the bottom of the sea at the start of the next world war. Fortunately, I’ll never know.

Being home again after all this time has a lot of challenges, like finding a Real Job(tm), re-integrating into civilian life, getting to know my family and my role in it from a new perspective, and so on and so forth. That’s made posting a bit more of a hassle than I’m ready to tackle on a regular basis. I’ve put up a couple of things, but nothing substantial.

I’ve got some ideas that are formulating, though, and I anticipate a couple good, meaty posts coming in the next week or two, after Aria and I get back from our backpacking/camping trip.

In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve been reading that I recommend:

Updates on the New Jersey 4 Dandrige and Hill have had their convictions overturned! Rejoice!

A discussion of women’s choices over at Feminist 101. I cannot for the life of me find it, but I’m reminded strongly of a post put up a very long time ago by one of the UK feminist bloggers (I think); she said she always believed it was her free choice to shave her legs until she did an experiment to prove it, and didn’t shave her legs, and after a couple weeks, her boyfriend had a complete fit and she realized that she had less freedom of that choice than she thought. I wish wish wish I could remember who posted it, and could find that post again. I think it was called “Pressure” or something similar. It was pretty eye-opening for me.

From Our Bodies, Our Blog, an analysis of Abstinance Only sex education when put up against Comprehensive sex education.

And now I’m off to help make homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing. And I don’t even have to worry about making weight for any upcoming physical readiness tests! JOY!

Posted in Feminism, Links, Miscellany | Leave a Comment »

A Crude Awakening

Posted by A birch tree on June 21, 2008

One hour and twenty-two minutes of streaming video garaunteed to scare the pants off of you. Great stuff, very well done, but very, very disturbing. Just give it half an hour to hook you.

Peak oil is here. Sky’s fallin’, yo.

A Crude Awakening

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts, Humans vs. Planet, Political | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

WTF is this??

Posted by A birch tree on June 14, 2008

So I sent an e-mail to my wife, and on the “Congratulations! We decided to work, this time!” page, there was this advertisement:

WTF is this all about??

I followed the link, and it just went to some generic MSN portal page, and it took me several minutes of head-scratching before I noticed that the portal was for MSN Arabia. Which is substantially more offensive than if it had been a link to a nudie mag or dating site or something, because now instead of catering to individual misogynists, it’s catering to a stereotype of embedded cultural misogyny and saying “Hey, arab dudes, we get ya! Leave the wife locked in the kitchen and come read the news!”

I’m incensed. Too incensed to do or think or say anything constructive. Refer to Fig. 3-7.

Posted in Feminism, Media, Misogyny | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Hall of Shame updated

Posted by A birch tree on June 11, 2008

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve added five more entries to A Hall of Shame. I figured just adding to that one would be easier than making a whole new post for every batch of hatred.

-a birch tree

Posted in Feminism, Misogyny | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Kibbles and Bits

Posted by A birch tree on June 11, 2008

1) So they moved me out of my room in the barracks, because it’s been “condemned”. Actually, the entire building has been unofficially condemned, but they get to keep housing us here by calling only certain rooms condemned and shuffling us around to less-condemned rooms. Thus, why I am accessing the internet from the laundry room, rather than from at my comfy desk. The free internet doesn’t extend to my new side of the hallway. How laughable is that?

2) When moving out of my old room, I just found out I left my pool cue behind. I hope the construction guys who come in to empty it and make their evals have a nice time with it. Damn it.

3) I have my discharge date! Said date was greeted with both enthusiasm and disgruntle…uh…ment. Disgruntlement. The first, because I know when I get to go home to my family who I haven’t seen in six months, and go on with my life after having been jerked around for, like, ever by a system that couldn’t decide if it wanted me to stay or go. The second, because the Navy was pretty much the only job I ever had that could make me feel like I was successful. Like I was good at something. And now I feel like I’ve failed at it, somehow. How do you fail at a job where 80% of your performance is based on showing up on time in a squared-away uniform with a good attitude?

I didn’t want to leave the Navy. They diagnosed me with a mental condition that made staying in the Navy impossible. Maybe it explains some of my past, but shit, I lived 25+ years without knowing I was nuts, and my family didn’t know I was nuts, and my parents didn’t know I was nuts, and my friends all say “Man, that’s such a load of shit, you’re not nuts!”… but the doc knows best, right? Whatever. I bounce back and forth between being happy as a lark or grumpy as a snail in a salt mine. I guess I’m mostly just be happy to have it be over, finally, and go home to be with people who know me and whom I care about, and away from some of the nastiest, meanest people I’ve ever known. Should I really take pride in succeeding in such a misogynistic, violent environment? I don’t know.

4) I’ve been reading The Gift of Fear. It’s a pretty good read, and the premise of giving people (primarily women) a set of logical, empirical reasons behind why their intution works the way it does (and thereby giving them permission to heed their intuition without feeling silly or irrational) is great. I’ll probably be quoting lots of things from it as time goes by, especially about Nice Guys, violence against women, entitlement, priviledge, and lots of other cool topics. Unfortunately, it also rasies my hackles in a victim-blamey sort of way in many spots, although I guess that’s inevitable with any book that tries to give people tools to avoid becoming victims. It’s always going to open the door for people to say “See? This expert guy says there was something you could have done differently, why did you let this happen to you?”, and a book about how violent people can use their own intution about themselves and the reactions of people around them to suss out and curb their own violent tendancies probably wouldn’t sell very well. Still, it would have been a nice attempt.

5) Yes, you’re right, I did in fact edit the picture on top of “A Bit About Male Priviledge” a little bit. You weren’t just seeing things before, I promise.

6) I don’t really have anything else to say that wouldn’t take hours of research and typing and proofreading and editing while sitting in a stiflingly hot laundry room. So I’ll stop now.

-a birch tree

Posted in Miscellany | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Bit About Male Priviledge

Posted by A birch tree on June 5, 2008

A few days ago, my blog was mentioned over at Women’s Space, in a very kind way, but a way that made me uncomfortable. I posted in the comments, but thought maybe I should put my feelings down here as well, with some elaboration.

I would like to say, for the record, that I’m really uncomfortable being the subject of phrases like “men who actually get it”, and “men who have earned safe passage through Women’s Land”, because I don’t think I have. I really only get much attention at all, I believe, because I am male, and the bar for males is so low that all I have to do is write about some relatively elementary “Well, duh!” things I discover about myself and the world I live in as I walk down the road of becoming a halfway decent human being, and I can be a relative shining star in a sea of dirtbags.

The only reason I can write about what I do is because of all the women I’ve learned from, who have sacrificed their time and energy to perform a task I should have been doing for myself all along.

My wife, Aria, has put herself on the limb for me time and time again, not because it was something she enjoyed doing; she’s sacrificed emotionally and spiritually and has spent many sleepless nights because of my obstenance, entitlement, priviledge, and misogyny. She’s done it because she’s more or less stuck with me, and desperately wanted me to be safer for her to be around in every sense.

Feminist bloggers, like Heart, The Biting Beaver (of whom I was a great fan, and miss sorely), Twisty, Red State Feminist, Polly Styrene, Sparkle*matrix, and countless others, are the foundation upon which all my ideas and writing stand. Behind this halfway mediocre, sexist man stands a hundred amazing, intelligent, women. I stand upon the shoulders of giants, and that imagery is, I feel, very apt, in that standing on women’s shoulders to receive recognition is pretty much the definition of the Patriarchy. It is only my priviledge in this society that allows me to do so, and it is certainly my priviledge that would allow me to accept any sort of accolade whatsoever for ascending an inch or two above the bar of male expectation by riding on the coattails of great women.

I do strive to one day truly earn the praise I’ve been given, but I haven’t yet. I’m not that good of a feminist out in the real world. I have priviledge, and sexism, and misogyny, and entitlement suspended like cholesterol in my very blood; the part of me everyone sees on the internet is not the whole me. My past is a testament to Patriachy in action, and my present is rife with episodes of silent cowardice and resistance, silent and otherwise, against some very basic Feminist principles, and that I feel shamed by all of them is cold comfort to the women who must interact with me.

I write to catalogue a journey I should have embarked on long, long ago and should be much, much further along with; a journey I should have begun by myself rather than by being driven along from behind by women whose options were to either teach me or put up with me. I don’t feel that any of my ideas are new, or novel, and I only get what hits I do because of the very male priviledge I’m ashamed of using: a male who, even the tiniest bit, “gets it”, is to be esteemed regardless of how recycled his words are or how shallow his observations.

Part and parcel of that is the fact that I feel a pressing need to address the fact that I have not earned any praise. I am not a good man. I am not a decent man. I am, at best, a slightly-less-neolithic man, and I cringe at giving myself even that much credit.

The whole point is that no, I don’t “get it”. Not yet. I am very uncomfortable with that kind of description because it makes me feel like I’m setting out to fool people. When those words come up, I feel fraudulent. Here, on the internet, I put forth a persona that I strive to live up to in reality, not a snapshot of who I am in reality.

I will say things that offend. I will say things that are stupid. I will fail to grasp concepts that are elementary. Even though I can say that, and even though I can see them coming in a vague, misty sort of way over the horizon, I won’t see them in specific until they’re right on top of me, and I will fuck up. I do not ask for anyone’s slack, nor will you ever hear me say “I’m still learning!” as if the beginning point of my learning was a marker in the river of destiny that I could not have moved or avoided. I just don’t want anyone to have to choose between defending my fuckups, or eating crow and feeling cheated, and in both cases having their judgement questioned because of my actions. That’s the very definition of male priviledge; men do ignorant, shitty, apathetic, and/or outright malicious things which hurt women, and women have to bat cleanup for them.

There may be other male pro-feminist bloggers out there who use the women who read and usually like their blogs as shields against valid criticism from other women who were rightly offended. If such men exist, I want to avoid them like an old cliche.

Why the hell am I rambling on and on about this long beyond the point of redundancy? Because it’s really important to me that I get across that I am so totally not enlightened. I don’t want anyone to feel, at any time, like I’ve put out a false respresentation of myself for personal gain. As I’ve said before, I’ve done many of the things that were on the Rapist Checklist (thus, I’ve raped). Hell, I’ll call out the numbers for you, since just saying the above without getting specific naturally leads one to conclude that I would be referring to some of the “lesser” numbers, and make no mistake, in spite of the fact that rape is bad and all of those numbers are rape, many people, somehow, consider some of them to be “worse rape” or “more rape” than others, so just saying “I’ve done things on that list” could be pretty misleading. What are my numbers? They are 1, 3, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 33, 34, 36, 37, 45, and 51.

I’m male. I’m part of dude nation. I benefit from Patriarchy and rape and porn and institutionalized sexism and every other nasty, horrible thing that goes on here. It doesn’t matter how much I write, or what I write about, I’m always going to benefit until the revolution comes. I can’t accept kind words from women while still benefitting from their pain.

So, yeah. I think I’ve run out of words. I haven’t run out of thoughts, but I’ve run out of words. I don’t know if anyone will even get what I’m trying to say here. If the “man who gets it” actually does exist, he’s, uh, yeah, like, not me.

I really, really appreciate the praise I’ve been given, and it makes me feel like I’m getting a few small things right, maybe. But I’m afraid I can’t accept that praise, and will have to respectfully return all that praise to the people who have given it, because I haven’t earned it, and I don’t think I ever will. To accept it and keep it would be to embrace the very priviledge I’m supposed to be taking a stand against.

-a birch tree

PS: For crying out loud…. I can’t figure out how to say what I’m thinking without coming across as emo and/or self-loathing and/or fatuous and/or like, what’s the word for being all falsely humble to get pity or attention? I can’t remember and google isn’t helping. Anyway, I guess I’ll just hit the “publish” button here and hope for the best.

Posted in Feminism, Liberal Men, Musing | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Two Additions

Posted by A birch tree on June 3, 2008

I’m in a funk, still being given the runaround about my pay disparities and my discharge, still being given bullshit work assignments, still being put on watchbills I’m not supposed to be on, and still feeling dirty after writing out all the awful comments I’ve overheard without saying much of anything.

So I don’t have much to post, except two new comments I heard today that I did, in fact, respond to:

Situation one:
Dude A: “There has got to be a better way to get these creases into my dress uniforms.”
Dude B: “There is. Get married.”
Me: “Dude, do your own fucking laundry, you lazy ass.”
Dudes A&B: [nervous laughter. I put out my cigarette and leave.]

Situation two:
Dude X: “I heard they were talking about a pilot program to test out an all-female submarine crew.”
Dude Y: “The sub would have to come back right out of the docks, because they’d kill each other in three days.”
Me: “Actually, they’d probably get qual’d in half the time men do because they’re not doing stupid shit like ‘The Brain’ to each other or making the skips eat San#2 Sandwhiches and put their cocks on silver pipes.”
Dude Y: “…uh… I dunno. Did you see the Red Wings last night? Triple overtime!”

Posted in Feminism, Misogyny | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »