Dysfunctional Mitten

By Marie Cantor

With the end of the semester fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about home.  The breezy air from the Great Lakes, the bustling sounds of Ford Road, and the ruthless certainty that the Detroit Lions will never make it to the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in Michigan

Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. My Detroit. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit 

an my whole life. I’ve gone through the lows of Kwame Kilpatrickand the highs of the slow revival of the automotive companies. My whole life I was told Detroit is good, bad, and ugly. Currently, domestic violence in Wayne County–– the most populous county in Michigan, within which Detroit is included–– is on the rise.

Wayne County’s population is approximately 1.8 million, and Detroit accounts for roughly 37% of that population, according to the 2017 census. By comparison, twenty-eight Bostons can fit in one Detroit. Wayne County’s prosecutor, Kym Worthy, reports a noticeable increase in domestic violence in 2017. She explains that in 2017, the cases neared 9,000––thats about 2,000 more cases than average.[1]

Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. Unnamed. 2016. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

There are 72 organizations in Michigan that provide services to people experiencing domestic violence.[2]Recently, Wayne State University created a new program to help survivors in the Metro Detroit area. Of the 11,341 rape kits found in 2009, those that were tested by the Detroit Police convicted 152 rapists.[1]Pursuits to combat domestic violence in Michigan are all in full force and taken seriously. So why this sudden influx of abuse in Metro Detroit?

Worthy notes a trend she calls, “the CSI effect.” Alluding to the overtly dramatic television show by the same name, this effect makes clear the phenomenon that jurors in the Wayne courtrooms expect theatrics. Jurors want lawyers screaming, and eye-witnesses crying; the jury expects the courtroom to reflect entertainment from television shows.  Prosecutor Worthy says this causes difficulties in performing due process.[1]In our culture, there is a thin line between reality and what we see in the media.We watch shows like CSI and Law & Order, and expect to have the same experience in the real world.

The aforementioned theory still doesn’t explain the increase in cases of domestic abuse. The Detroit Police has not given any formal statements or information on the matter. Frankly, there isn’t much talk in general, except for casual slips of information regarding the increase in Wayne County. Even Prosecutor Worthy gave a small statement with no new information, and claims that the police department is  ameliorating such situations. Despite this statement, all I personally see is useless talk and little action.  I realize that feminist programs continue fighting to help survivors every day, but officials still shirk from solving issues sprouting from lack of communication.    

Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.
Williams, Izzie. The Beauty of the Broken. 2017. Instagram @livingizzie, Detroit.

Detroit is not an outlier in this issue. In our society, there is an abundance of programs to help survivors, which is fantastic, but there is no education on how to prevent violence in the first place. The question still stands–how can you tell someone not to be an abuser?

Relationship education is not stated in the sex education obligations providing by Michigan Department of Education.[3]In early education, there needs to be a standard of instructing what a healthy relationship looks like. Instead teachers are instructed to stressabstinence from sex.

Where are the statements? Why are there no questions? Why is there more domestic violence? We claim “Detroit vs Everybody” but it seems we are only fighting ourselves. There is no point of promoting strength when we are still crumbling through the cracks. Detroit is trying to rebuild its economy with fancy bars and cute decorations. But the people of Detroit are being forgotten. 

      

 

 

 

[1]Jachman, Matt. “Wayne County Prosecutor Talks CSI Effect, School Threats, Domestic Violence in Town Hall Meeting.” HometownLife, 5 Dec. 2018, www.hometownlife.com/story/news/2018/12/05/kym-worthy-talks-csi-effect-school-threats-more-town-hall-meeting/2161061002/.

 

[2]“Michigan Domestic Violence Help, Programs and Statistics.” DomesticShelters.org, www.domesticshelters.org/mi/michigan-domestic-violence-help-statistics.

 

[3]“HIV/STD and Sex Education in Michigan Public Schools: A Summary of Legal Obligations and Best Practices.” SOM – State of Michigan, Department of Education, www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Michigans_Sex_Education_Laws_Summary_303019_7.pdf

WMN EMPWRMNT: GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

By Melissa Hurtado

GABRIELLE MONTES DE OCA

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment means sisterhood and solidarity.

Every woman on this planet is fighting the same fight each and every day. No matter how different two women are, they likely share similar experiences when it comes to gender-based oppression. These experiences connect women in a unique way- it makes us sisters and sisters stand together.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Womanhood means freedom and possibility, but when it doesn’t, it means stoicism and strength.

Being a woman allows me to safely explore what it means to be pretty. Femininity and prettiness are intertwined, and as a woman, I get to have fun with both. I also get to be vulnerable and sensitive with those I trust. I have deep, meaningful friendships with men and women. Men are not as safe doing the same.

However, as a woman, I have faced danger and limitations. My parents raised me with fear, afraid of how the world could hurt me so they did their best to control and shelter me for as long as they could. It came with love “but a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.”

I can’t blame them- I have felt fear when I would walk home and strange men would yell at me, or when I would get stared at on the metro, or when I got followed to my car, or when I was flashed in a university parking lot, or when a faculty member at university tried to force me into an embrace.
In these events, as a woman, I have to stand my ground and be strong.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring vegan, love filled donuts, an open mind, a big heart, and loads of La Croix.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Force to be Reckoned With

Amid all the horrible things currently tearing apart our nation, we sometimes forget to appreciate everything beautiful in our lives. Let’s take a minute to bask in the glory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shall we?

Ms. Bader Ginsburg’s parents worked as a furrier and as a garment factory employee in the height of the Great Depression. Her parents emphasized the significance of education, although they themselves have not received university degrees. Unfortunately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother died from cancer the day before Ruth’s high school graduation. Despite this drawback, Bader Ginsburg completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. She met her husband, who was a Cornell Law School student, and started a family with him after she completed her undergraduate degree. Soon afterwards, Ruth Bader Ginsburg received her law degree from Harvard Law School. Upon graduating, despite her high qualifications, Bader Ginsburg was constantly faced with inequalities; she would always receive a much lower salary than her male counterparts and felt pressured to hide her pregnancy in fear that she would be fired.

Despite the countless sexist hurdles Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced, she still persisted. Ruth pursued civil procedure and then became a law professor at Rutgers University until she was hired by Columbia University, where she was the first woman to receive tenure. Former President Bill Clinton then appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court Justice, where she continued her passion for advocating. She fiercely fights for women’s rights, and even wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, which argued that women should not be prohibited from joining the Virginia Military Institute.

The moral of the story is, know your female role models. Know what you want in life, and persistently fight for it. Understand female role models’ history, the struggles that they lived through, and appreciate their accomplishments. Internalize their strategies that allowed them to climb to success. After all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not grow up in a wealthy household, but she is now a Supreme Court Justice. Despite the immense amount of personal hurdles and academic hurdles that Bader Ginsburg faced—including when she battled both pancreatic and colon cancer—she never faltered. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never missed a day of oral arguments, and proudly represents the feminist movement. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my female role model, and I hope she is yours too.

 

Source: https://www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg

 

By: Eleni Constantinou

 

WMN EMPWRMNT: Alexandra Marie Vargas

Photography and Interview by Melissa Hurtado

ALEXANDRA MARIE VARGAS

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Woman empowerment is what allows us, women, to comfortably have a mind of our own. It’s what allows us to express how we feel and do what we love. It is freedom. It is a step closer to being equal to one another as it should be.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: To be a woman is to be brave. to be bold. to be strong. to be love. I believe it isn’t the easiest role, but one of the most beautiful ones.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: What I bring to the table in focus of woman empowerment is knowledge, ingenuity, and kindness. I feel that they play such a big role in woman empowerment for individuality. Knowledge binds us with ourselves and allows us to open our mind to know more than what we’ve been told to do or feel. Bringing out our own ingenuity that differentiates one from another. With kindness, we accept and love one another.

Curls

Originally published in our Spring 2018 Reader, Dev Blair’s poem “Curls” is one of two prose poems that “tell a part of the story of a young femme wrestling with the ways in which they meet the world and the ways in which the world meets them.”

In their abstract, Blair explains that:

“In Curls, I draw parallels between my hair’s relationship to relaxers and my relationship to men, using the comparison to analyze the ways that I’ve been mistreated by the men in my life. While the terms “queer” and “non-binary” don’t feature in the poem itself, the experiences I describe within are inextricably tied to those parts of my identity, by virtue of how these things influence which men I interact with and how I am seen by them.”

If you are interested in buying a physical copy of the reader, email hoochie@bu.edu ! We are selling them for $5.


[ Content warning: for mentions of depression ]

Curls

by Dev Blair

For a long time, I didn’t quite understand the term “natural.”

See, I knew that curls grew from my scalp naturally and I also understood that I could see my curls intertwine and loc beautifully—if I ever stop tryna cop Britney’s ’‘07 hairdo every time I have a breakdown.

But what I didn’t get was how we could name our curls—something so deeply personal and meaningful—”natural,” as if to make them sound normal, mundane, or palatable.

See, I don’t want my curls to be something you can stomach, another vaguely ethnic dish for white eyes to consume.

My curls are something your combs cannot tame, your brushes cannot beat back, your razors cannot cut down.

My curls are twisted and kinky and they like to play rough.

Relaxers hide their faces in shame when they see my curls, gettin’ clowned on in their workplaces for lack of game, their own failure to play aces, ultimately to blame for their inability to run bases and tame my militant curls.

Like men disappoint me, so too do relaxers disappoint my curls. Inviting them in with promises of beauty and a future, they leave them desolate and lifeless after extracting every ounce of magic and joy from their being. Slinking down the drain, they take my curls’ hopes and dreams and parts of themselves with them.

Capitalizing on my curls’ labor and my curls’ abuse, relaxers are like men to me, suitors that preach and preen over how faithful they’ll be, only to treat our “unruliness” as a liability.

White cream slathered on black curls, like white men slobbering over black girls, suffocating them with their emotional unavailability, then leaving them a little more broken than they were found, even though it’s been years since they were chained and bound to Eurocentricity’s straight and narrow Middle Passage.

Postcolonial as in post relaxer as in post heart break post break up postmodernism, this is a poem posted like a notice on every door and Facebook wall saying that I’m better off without them. And so are my curls.

My beauty is achieved, not defaulted. My strength is earned, but not exalted unless it can be used to turn a profit.

My pretty smells of hard work and healthy routines learned from unhealthy habits and a history of hurt. My curls shine with a radiance not natural nor innate but learned from every trial that turned out to be a mistake. She must learn to love themself, because others don’t care to take the time to learn how to love me.

My curls have got it on loc because when I unlocked my heart for you, instead of with it you ran away with the key and so now only rage spills out, with no kiss to fix it or stop it up.

With each beat of my thoroughly disappointed heart, the rage rushes to my ears, breaking every part of myself I curated like fine art. As I crumble into sadness, the blood pounds with the barking madness of hell hounds bounding after their-query for you: “did it feel good to waste my time?” Before the answer can be found, my innocence dies like the Virgin Hairy, killed by sounds in my head of “you’re undesirable,” and “you’ll never marry,” and I am left limp and wet and barely recognizable.

Solange wrote a catchy song about it, so y’all get it already, right?

But see, you don’t. Because my curls are not just the feelings I wear, but the product of the pain I bear and the parts of myself I refuse to share and the things that I talk about in prayer.

I am not natural. Neither are my curls. We are more than you could ever hope to call natural—after all, what is natural about a body ravaged by the politics of desirability?

See, love is a battlefield and my body is the site of war. Y’all come into my life, fuck shit up, then call me whore so now I can’t sleep. I can’t rest or lay down and neither can my curls, and girls, that’s how we all got our razor-sharp edges-from pain so intense, we can’t even weep. That’s why I shave my head like I’m shearing a goddamn sheep, so if you want my curls, know that the price is steep. Don’t hurt me so deep that I can’t keep myself together. If you can avoid that and ease my bleeding heart, help me heal from the times I fell apart, then and only then do you deserve to look at my curls.

“Intro / Black Heels” : An R&B Slam Poem on Catcalling

By Izzy Weinberg

The funny thing about this piece is that I wrote it on a regular day, when the words just started coming to me. Being catcalled or talked at is almost a daily thing for most women that you’d assume it wouldn’t bother me. But I never get used to it, and it always puts a strain on my day. When I was writing it, I didn’t think about getting any certain message across, but when I read it back I realized it was from my unique perspective. These instances are a daily part of my life, but who the men who are on the other side of the situation, it doesn’t effect them. I go on with my day with that shame and humiliation on me. They get to laugh it off. It’s so much more serious to me, and while some things are flattery and complimentary, most of the time it’s just degrading. 

https://open.spotify.com/track/4o2icJJdqrOlSavvkSDOvL?si=BgS3LKw8Qd2t7H1XgYUxnQ

Transcription:

have you ever noticed that harassed
has the word ass in it?
It’s telling you exactly what not to touch
and yet that still doesn’t seem to be enough.
It’s not clear for you.
I walk down the street in fear of you,
in an outfit I wore for me
now how can that be?
see my daily routine does not involve you.
yet you seem to think that that’s not true,
that I provoke you.
that I want this.
excuse me but I don’t need you to tell me what my worth is
and it’s not really worth you’re commenting on is it?
just the way ass and tits sit
yeah that’s your business.
people say it’s a compliment
well that shame I feel when you linger near
doesn’t really booster my confidence.
makes me want to take off this outfit I wear
and change myself to hold you back
but that won’t stop the racket
so why am I the one who’s supposed to change
when you’re the one getting in my brain
Everyday.
feelings of humiliation won’t go away
through the days they always stay
I was just trying to go to work today.
So no,
I will not change so you have the power.
I will wear short skirts and I will talk even louder
I will stomp down the sidewalk in my black heals
and I will not let your stupidity blind me to my ideals.

Follow Izzy and FOOL:

Instagram: @officialfool
Facebook: @FOOLofficial
Spotify: FOOL
Soundcloud: @officialFOOL

 

 

Photos from the Boston trans rights rally

“Trans rights are human rights”:
a photo essay.

 

Photo 1: Friends showing support.


The photographer writes: “The 10/28 rally at Government Center was an incredibly interesting experience. It held many of the great aspects of a protest; building of solidarity, the exchange of stories, and the establishment of the existence of those who can stand behind a cause. However the crowd was also incredible diverse, especially in regards to ideologies. There were those who who were more vehement in certain ideas, some where more religious. Some were allies, many were directly affected by what they were protesting for. I don’t believe it would be hard to say some individuals would feel uncomfortable with the presence of certain others. However despite this these people were able to band together to support trans rights. I believe it was a testament to the power of solidarity. I hope these photos captured that diversity.”

Photo 2: Fear. Resistance. The Edge of Violence.


Photo 3: Wide shot of crowd.


Photo 4: Accessibility and joy.


Photo 5: Wonder Woman.


Photo 6: Solidarity, both digital and real.


Photo 7: Love in times of fear.


Photo 8: Religious love.


Photo 9: The sea of support.


Photo 10: Yes on 3!


About the photographer: Danial Shariat is a writer who often branches into different fields and modes of expression, one such field is photography. His work can be seen at danialshariat.com.

The Manspread: The Bane of Working Women

By Sabrina Schnurr

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 3.58.20 PM

Manspreading: “the practice in which a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat.”

This behavior – most commonly spotted on public transportation – is often attributed to a man’s “intrinsic need” to assert his authority and subsequently undermine a woman’s space. The prominence of manspreading on transportation in big cities poses a daily struggle for professional women on their way to and from work, and the newly noticed trend has attracted attention all over the internet and new sources.

Spinal neurosurgeon John Sutcliffe explains that the art of manspreading could in fact be a matter of physicality, rather than sheer egotism. Sutcliffe states that the “overall width of the pelvis is relatively greater in females and the angle of the femoral neck is more acute. These factors could play a role in making a position of sitting with the knees close together less comfortable in men.” He also suggests that most men “adopt the more spread posture”to avoid testicular compression from the thigh muscles.

I call bullshit.

While this is biologically true, humans – as an advanced species – have the ability and willpower to exhibit behavior that overcomes historically biological instincts. Men have the brain capacity to notice how much space they are unfairly consuming and to make a rational decision that would equally benefit those around him.

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 3.58.31 PM

Spain’s capital has recently taken a stand against manspreading: Madrid’s Municipal Transportation Company (EMT) has installed new signs in all of its vehicles reminding transport users to “maintain civic responsibility and respect the personal space of everyone on board.”  These signs serve as a visible warning that assuming bothersome seating positions is prohibited in the city’s transport system. The move comes after months of campaigning by women in Madrid led by the group Mujeres en Lucha.

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 3.58.57 PM

A similar movement has grown in the transportation system of NYC, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled public service ads that encourage men to occupy only one seat in subway cars. However, whether or not they will pay mind to the new ads is a whole other question. The ads have, of course, received criticism from many subway riders; a 20 year old man recently made comments declaring he’s not going to “cross my legs like ladies do. I’m going to sit how I want to sit … I’d just laugh at the ad and hope that someone graffitis over it.”

While I think that enacting a law to force men to sit courteously seems a bit extreme, it is quite upsetting that it has been deemed necessary. Once again, we are policing behavior with the wrong mindset; is it too much to ask for men to simply take up one seat? This is yet another example of our failure to raise our children to think civilly and merely respect the women around us.

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 3.59.15 PM

On the flip side, Mic released a video showing what happens when a woman manspreads on the New York subway; blog editor Elizabeth Plank wanted to see the reactions when a woman spread her legs in the same manner as men in public. Her male coworker, Nick, tagged along. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth attracted notably more glares from the men compared to Nick, who received very little.  While virtually no one noticed Nick’s manspreading, Elizabeth was made to feel uncomfortable and even shamed in her chosen posture. Nick – whose behavior was seen as just something that guys do – had to move only when people directly and repeatedly asked him to, whereas Elizabeth’s behavior was seen as both rude and unladylike.

How do these misogynistic and bigoted standards persist in an “evolved” society? While women continue to make strides in prominent areas through activism, how do we – as a society – go about shaping the minor habits of men that have drastic impacts on the minds of young girls and the women they grow up to be?

For starters, we must remember and defend our right to space. Although it is easier said than done, women need to protect our right to travel to and from work in the same manner as men. And we must recruit men that share in this belief.

 

Sources:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/manspreading-scientific-explanation-revealed-men-behaviour-public-transport-etiquette-a7862771.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/mandspreading-madrid-spain-ban-public-transport-bus-metro-behaviour-etiquette-a7779041.html

A look at consent in film

By Avery Serven

Introduction:

I think we can all agree that no means no, right? Rape is never okay, and you would never support a movie that promotes that kind of behavior…right? Whether you are aware of it or not, hundreds of films- ranging from 70s sports flicks to movies released as recently as this past summer- depict scenes in which the female protagonist is pressured into kissing, sex, or even a casual dinner date, despite this character having said that she was not interested (usually multiple times). For the purposes of this assignment, I will be looking at heterosexual, cisgender, predominantly white couples in films, as these types of characters happen to appear more frequently in popular films. Although numerous victims of rape are men and/or members of the LGBTQ community, I will focus on female victims shown in American cinema for my argument (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998).

There appears to be a strong correlation between media consumption and the behavior of the viewers, especially with young people. This correlation shows that exposure to problematic behavior in movies can normalize that behavior for viewers. Some say that society looks to and mirrors the media, while others say that the opposite is true. Either way, toxic masculine behavior has become the norm both on and offscreen in our culture, which perpetuates a cycle of sexual violence and misconduct. This is all evidence as to why filmmakers need to do a better job of depicting consent and relationships in movies. The rampant problem of sexual assault and harassment in our society can only begin to be fixed when the media starts depicting healthy relationships, which it needs to start doing.

Films:

SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984):

sixteen candles

In a scene from this John Hughes cult classic, high school students Jake and Ted discuss Jake’s girlfriend, who is passed out at a party (Filucci, 2018). Throughout the conversation, they use degrading language, referring to girls as “bitches” and “pieces of ass.” Jake says: “Shit, I got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” Jake then offers up Caroline to Ted, telling him he can take her home (YouTube, 2008). At first Ted says he is not personally interested in taking the unconscious Caroline home, but it later becomes clear that they do end up having sex (neither of them remembers it). At the end of the film, they kiss. In this situation it is clear that Caroline is not consenting to anything with either of the boys, regardless of whether or not one of them is her boyfriend, as she is incapacitated and unable to give consent. Jake, however, seems to think that he can auction his girlfriend off to Ted, telling him that he can take her as long as he makes sure he doesn’t “leave her in some parking lot somewhere” (Filucci, 2018). This is obviously problematic for a lot of reasons, but most importantly, Caroline falls for Ted at the end. This is sending the message that his sexual assault was not only okay, but also made her fall for him. What the hell, John Hughes?

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980): 

the empire strikes back

In one of the most famous scenes from the ever popular Star Wars franchise, Princess Leia and Han Solo kiss on their spaceship. Prior to the kiss, Leia is trying to fix a control panel, while Han continues to try to help her even though she has stated that she does not want help. He tells her she could “be a little nicer” and claims that sometimes she must  “think [he] is alright.” He then starts massaging her hand, to which she asks him to stop repeatedly. He says that she likes him because he is a scoundrel. When she replies to tell him that she likes nice men, which he is not, he interrupts her and kisses her while she is backed up against a wall (YouTube, 2015). Han does all of this despite the fact that Leia has told him multiple times up until then that she is not interested. During this exchange, Leia looks nervous and on edge. After this whole ordeal, she falls for him and they stay together (Wong, 2016). This interaction begs viewers to take a closer look at the characters in this franchise as a whole. Han Solo is a role model, the hero that young boys look up to. Princess Leia is supposed to be a feminist symbol of a strong female character, but a quick google search of ‘Han Leia rape’ results in countless fanfictions depicting Leia as a sex slave to be used at Han’s disposal. The fact that one of the most world-renowned film franchises condones this kind of aggression and “playing hard to get” ideology is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

THE NOTEBOOK (2004):

the notebook

In a scene from the hit romance film The Notebook, Noah, played by Ryan Gosling, asks Allie, played by Rachel McAdams, out in a pretty unconventional way. She is on a date with someone else when he jumps onto her cart, only to be met with her screaming at him to “get off [her].” He does not listen, and instead tells Allie he would like to take her out. He gets out and hangs from a spindle and asks if she will go out with him, to which she replies no. Noah asks her why and she says “I don’t know, because I don’t want to.” He tells her she leaves him no other choice and drops an arm. He asks her again, saying he won’t get down until she agrees. She hurriedly agrees, and he says “don’t do me any favors.” Noah proceeds to make her say, multiple times, that she truly wants to go out with him. He then responds by saying “alright, alright, we’ll go out” (YouTube, 2008). This kind of coercion and persistence, disguised by a popular romance movie as “charming and desirable,” is an issue that many women have to deal with daily. Even other media outlets normalize this kind of behavior, like a Seventeen article that claims that Noah “wooed Allie on the ferris wheel” (Devoe, 2016). No one should ever feel forced to go on a date with someone they don’t want to, even if that person is Ryan Gosling!

ROCKY (1976):

 rocky

Rocky, a film about an underdog boxer who trains to take on the world heavyweight champion, has a very problematic kiss scene between the two main characters, Adrian and Rocky. Adrian is at Rocky’s house and she tells him she wants to contact her brother because he might be worried. Rocky does not let her, and instead yells to her brother out the window. After that, Adrian repeatedly says she does not belong here (meaning Rocky’s home), and he tells her it’s okay. She then goes on to explain that she does not know him well enough, and that she has never been alone in a man’s apartment. She repeats that she is uncomfortable and tries to leave, but Rocky blocks the door and corners her. He then takes off her glasses and hat even though she has been silent since he cornered her. He says that he wants to kiss her, but that she does not have to kiss him back if she doesn’t want to. He starts kissing her on the neck and even though she is clearly uncomfortable, she eventually kisses him back (YouTube, 2017). This attitude of “knowing what she wants better than she does” is portrayed quite often in movies, as well as everyday life. Even though Adrian never explicitly says that she does not want to kiss or have sex with him, she does say that she shouldn’t be there, that she is uncomfortable, and that she wants to leave. Additionally, the nonverbal cues in this scene are pretty clear from the start. Awesome message for a Best Picture winner, right?

Studies:

As previously seen, many popular films have clear examples of sexual harassment, coercion, assault, and violence. Whether it be a comedic, romance, or sports film, the message is clear- keep trying until you get her to agree, regardless of how she feels about it. That’s what women see as romantic. Many viewers can probably look at this and say “Ok, but I see these messages in movies and am able to take them with a grain of salt.” However, research on our absorption of the media shows differently.

Based on research from the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, the mass media consumes a very high proportion of our free time. In 2014, they found that people spend, on average, 25 hours per week consuming media. This includes watching TV and movies, as well as reading magazines and newspapers (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

According to more research done for the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, young people are the most impressionable with the media (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). This is interesting when compared to statistics about the main perpetrators of sexual violence from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Stats from 2015 state that 25% of perpetrators are ages 21-29, while 9% are 18-20, and 15% are 17 or younger. Almost half of the total number of perpetrators are 29 or under (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 2013). I personally do not think this correlation is coincidental, as young people are more prone to the media’s messages, as well as sexual violence.

The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention also found that “induced fear and phobias” can result from media consumption. Additionally, the media (video games in particular) can create a blurred line between reality and fantasy, as well as confusion between positive and negative role models (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). After all, how are we supposed to feel after the male hero that we have been rooting for the whole time rapes the love interest?

They also looked at exposure to media and violence. The conclusion was that “visiting hate and satanic sites are associated with significantly elevated odds of violent behavior perpetration” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Additionally, they found that “exposure to media violence does not affect all children in the same way” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). However, there was enough evidence to conclude that violent media viewing correlated with the numbing of “emotional response” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). In a shocking discovery, fMRI studies showed that “exposure to TV violence activates brain regions that regulate emotion, arousal and…episodic memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Also, extensive viewing was found to lead to viewers storing a “large number of aggressive scripts…that end up influencing behavior” in “long-term memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Over time, there is a “lower emotional impact” due to media violence exposure (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

One official conclusion of the study was the following: “We…found that media is playing both constructive as well as destructive roles; on one hand it has lots of advantages, but on the other hand it has lots of disadvantages and at the end it’s up to the individual and society to decide which ones to use” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

Sexual Assault Statistics:

On Campus-

On college campuses rape and assault are extremely heightened issues; many women on college campuses regularly feel unsafe. According to RAINN, “among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation” (Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015).

rainn 1

rainn 2

In the United States-

The fact that college campuses are a hotbed for sexual assault does not mean that it doesn’t occur everywhere in our country. According to RAINN, “on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States” (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015). Additionally, “94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks following the rape” (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992, p. 455-475). As seen in the graphic below, many victims are under the age of 30 (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders, 1997).

rainn 3

Conclusion:

Through a look at violence against women and the supposed ‘blurred lines’ of consent in film, we can conclude that there are countless examples of movies normalizing this kind of behavior. The attitude of not giving up until a woman gives in, which is prevalent in many films, endorses coercion and even assault. Movies promote the idea that women are “asking for it” and don’t want men to wait for consent, because that’s attractive. This idea is often perpetuated by male filmmakers, having men who view the films thinking that’s what women want. The promotion of this attitude about consent in the mass media has a direct impact on viewers, who consume harmful messages and act based on the norms that these films perpetuate.

From these statistics and studies, we can conclude that the general public, especially young people, consume a large amount of media on a regular basis and are easily influenced by it. Violent media can also numb emotional response in viewers. Young men and boys view violent or aggressive sexual behavior in film and the behavior becomes normalized, which would explain the prevalence of this behavior in our everyday lives, especially among young people. Most of the perpetrators of sexual violence are young (under 30), while the victims are often also young people; this makes sense considering these are the people most susceptible to the media.

 Hope for the Future:

Luckily, the media landscape does appear to be changing. In the classic film Thelma and Louise, there is a scene in which JD wants to have sex with Thelma but she does not want to. He stops and respects her wishes. In another popular movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat is very drunk in one scene and tries to kiss Patrick, but he does not let her as he does not want to take advantage of her in her state (Vallabhjee, 2016). Although we have a long way to go, some films do treat consent the right way and show a positive depiction of sexual behavior. Additionally, with the #MeToo movement and all of the attention on sexual assault and harassment, it should become easier for viewers to recognize this kind of behavior in films. I personally believe the landscape is changing drastically, and I have hope for the future of the media.
For More Information on the Topic:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): rainn.org, 800-656-HOPE
  • Common Sense Media: commonsensemedia.org
  • Teach Consent: teachconsent.org
  • The Anti-Violence Project: antiviolenceproject.org

I’m angry. You should be too.

By Matthew Segalla

I’m angry at the state of our country. Angry at the decisions of those who hold authority. Angry for survivors who are not getting the justice they deserve. Angry that our country views minorities as “less than.” Angry that we live in a country where men are valued more than women. We are not just repeating history, we are moving backwards. A third of the men now serving on the highest court in our country have been accused of sexual assault. This is an issue that transcends party and politics, it is an issue of humanity and morality. Our country has never been perfect, nor will it ever be. In the same sense, those who run our country are not perfect and never will be, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. Nevertheless, sexual assaulters do not belong in our government, neither do those who have no respect for women. They don’t belong on our supreme court. They do not represent us or how we feel. They are sending a message to women. It’s not a good one. Women deserve so much more and so much better. This must change. We cannot stand for this. Keep fighting. Speak up. Keep fighting. Take a stand. Keep fighting. Make that change happen. Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on our supreme court, regardless of your political preference or beliefs. While I face challenges and prejudices of my own, I will never face or be able to fully understand the challenges that women are forced to overcome every single day. His victory is a loss for them. One day, we will get the justice that they deserve. Until then, all I can say is women, I am with you, I support you, I will do my best to defend you and fight for you, and without exception, I believe you. I believe all survivors. I believe women. I believe Anita Hill. And I believe Christine Blasey Ford. You should too.

feminist thought and action at boston university