Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's Get it Straight, Assault is Assualt. Period.

Okay, I've had enough and it's time for me to actually start spouting off about the SlutWalk. Although I've been fairly involved in the event, I've not spoken publicly about it yet. But get ready because there's about to be a whole lot coming from my corner. I think this is the single thing that I feel most passionate about in the whole world and the SlutWalk has brought it front and centre in Edmonton right now. I am thrilled to see the issue of victim blaming getting so much media attention but the backlash that inevitably comes with it is at once infuriating and heart-breaking.

First of all, for anyone reading who doesn't know about SlutWalk, here's the deal. The concept of SlutWalk started after Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti told a group of students at York University that 'women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid being assaulted'. In reaction to this comment and to call attention to the victim-blaming that, made evident by Sanguinetti's comment, is still rampant, women in Toronto organized an event they called 'SlutWalk'. It has caught on like wildfire and there have been SlutWalks all North America and even overseas.

The use of the word 'Slut' is controversial and has brought on many criticisms that the name of the event and the event itself is degrading to women. I have never felt that. From the moment I heard about this, I understood it. The word 'slut' needs to be used because that is the word Sanguinetti used and that is the word that is used and has been used for decades to dehumanize and to blame women. The point of this movement is not to reclaim that word or give women the right to be 'sluts', it's to call attention to that ugly word and the layers of hatred, shame and blame that lie beneath it. We do not walk as sluts. We walk as women who have been called sluts and are sick and fucking tired of it. We walk as women who know that we should be able to wear whatever the hell we want and walk wherever we want and act how we bloody please without the fear of 'provoking' an assault. Because that's just it, women don't provoke sexual assault. Sexual assault is an act of violence that has not one single thing to do with the way a woman acts or looks. It's something that is done to her by someone intent on causing harm.

I have worked with survivors of sexual assault for almost 20 years. I would venture to say that 99% of them blamed themselves in some way for the violence that was done to them. I know what that does to someone. It makes her question everything she says, every move she makes, every piece of clothing she wears, every relationships she starts or ends or continues, every sexual act she participates in, every thing she ever did or didn't do. It makes her wonder if at sometime, somehow something she does will again put her in the position where she will be assaulted. It makes her afraid to live her life. It robs her of her freedom to be who she is. And you know what? Every single woman in our society is affected by this to some degree and it's so insidious that many of us don't even know it. But we hear these comments like Sanguinetti's so often that it seeps into our consciousness. And if the day comes, and sadly if comes for far too many of us, that we are sexually assaulted, the first thought that will come into most of our minds is not 'how can I get some help?', or 'where should I go to report this?', it will be 'what did I do to deserve this?' and 'how could I have let this happen?'. Those thoughts carry with them an enormous amount of shame and they keep women from reporting sexual assaults. Heck, they already blame themselves, why would they ever want to share it with someone like Sanguinetti who's just going to blame them too? And THAT is what perpetuates our culture of sexual assault. THAT is what makes it easier for offenders to rape. THAT is what makes it easier for them to get away with it without consequence. and THAT is why we need to stop blaming victims.

That is why I am participating in SlutWalk. We are not sluts. We have no interest in reclaiming the word 'slut'. We are women. We want to live our lives and express ourselves in whatever way we want. We will not tolerate being called sluts and we will not tolerate being blamed for violence which we did not provoke, have never provoked and for which we are not responsible!

This is so very important, I can't possibly stress it enough. If you agree, go to SlutWalk. And if you or anyone around you is the victim of sexual violence, just love and support them and make sure they understand that it's not their fault.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is it possible to raise a child without gender?

It's been a long long time since I've posted in this blog. The daily tasks of running a business have kept me away for many months. But having been inspired by some amazing bloggers (who I'll probably repost her soon), I'm committed to coming back and posting regularly now. In an age of info. overload, I often feel like there's nothing more I could contribute, but there is so much going on in the world of sex that there is always something to talk about. This is a forum where I can freely share my thoughts and maybe people up on all of the crazy stuff that crosses my desk.

Today, I was forwarded an article about a couple on Toronto who have made the radical move of refusing to share their new baby's biological sex with anyone. They have name the baby Storm (how cute is that?) and have said that Storm will decided for him or herself when and what to share about his/her sex and gender. Not surprisingly, lots of people have come down on these parents as selfish and abusive - claiming that they are messing with the kid's mind just to make a point. I disagree. I think it's actually the opposite. I think they are making a valiant attempt not to mess with the kid's mind. This is not an easy thing to do. What is always the first question asked of new parents? "Is it a boy or a girl?" Always, without exception, that's the first question - usually even before the baby is born. To not answer that question is, I'm sure, difficult and uncomfortable. And yes, I'm sure, if Storm continues to go without a declared sex and gender, it will be difficult. People will be confused by Storm and Storm may have to endure some teasing and probably some mis-treatment. But is this any more difficult than what countless people who don't identify with gender norms have to endure every day of their lives? I think Storm's parents are just trying to give Storm a chance to be Storm for awhile - before too many people jump in their with their conclusions about what little girl Storm or little boy Storm should be.

I think it's a brave parent who dresses their little boy in pink. Imagine, if parents get flack just for that, what these parents will have to endure. I wish them and Storm the best. I hope we here more about what happens for Storm and what kind of gender identity emerges for him/her.

Isn't it ironic that it's almost impossible to write about this in a clear and concise way because our language around gender does not allow us to? We have no words to describe someone who is neither or both male and female. We have no pronouns to use in this case. Isn't it about time we got some?

Read more about this story here.