The Blame Game: NFL Edition

Ray Rice is a despicable human being. So are far too many players in the NFL (Erin Gloria Ryan has a good run-down at Jezebel). A two-game suspension for knocking out a woman when smoking pot gets you four? The NFL is getting well-deserved criticism for this mind-blowing decision.

And Stephen A. Smith, and those like him, are so eager to protect the sport and its corruption that he blames women for getting hit and abused. Oh, of course he Tweeted, then issued, retractions after the outrage, but who believes him? He began his tirade with this:

This will be a long tweeted message, folks. So please stay with me and let me finish my complete thought before responding…b/c i’m ANNOYED

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

You’re annoyed? You know, I bet all the women who suffer getting hit in the face very day by their “loved one” are pretty “annoyed”, too. No, scratch that. They’re furious that you, on national TV, have told them, and their abusers, that it is possible for them to not be battered. You told those women that it is somehow possible to calm the raging asshole in the abuser. You implied to abusers that they are, in some ways, justified in their abuse, because their women provoke it. Abusers search for ways to justify their actions, Mr. Smith, and they are going to ignore your response to the outrage because it’s just a PR stunt. They are going to take your initial words and add them to a list of reasons that rationalize why they abusing their girlfriend/fiancée/ wife. The harm is already done, and you can’t take that back.

I knew a woman whose husband would become furious if a complete stranger passed them in the grocery store and that stranger smiled at her as he/she reached past them to get some product. The husband would angrily grill her about who the person was, where she knew them from, why they smiled at her, etc etc. How is it possible to stop another person from smiling at you? That’s all it takes to invoke the fury of an abuser in some instances. Saying women can somehow do something to placate her abuser and stop abuse is like yelling at a hurricane to go the other way. It’s impossible. The only way to stop an abuser beating you is to leave (and then you get to go to court and relive every terrible thing while trying to get custody of kids, get stalked, etc.).

This is rape culture expanded. This is our “blame the victim for everything” society, one that so many are so proud of. They bemoan the bad luck and falling graces of the perpetrator. They fight tooth and nail to make sure the woman is shamed and ostracized. They make sure that everyone knows that, no matter what happens to the woman, the man (or men) will be forgiven and promoted.

Funny, how many of the terrible, horrible stories to hit national media about abuse and rape involve football players. They start young (Steubenville), continue their illegal behavior through college (recent expose on Hobart and William Smith College) and hone themselves into truly horrendous human beings by the time they hit pro (NFL, too many to count). Players are never taught to respect others, never punished for their transgressions, and they know that they can get away with practically murder (almost, and as long as your victims are men, you’ll get charged). They are too important to castigate and it doesn’t take long for them to figure that out.

The more we have jackasses standing up and proudly displaying their ignorance and misogyny by defending these horrible people, and in turn being defended for what pops out of their mouths, the more our society fails and falls. Women are half the population. We deserve better than this. We deserve to be treated like human beings, not a shitty man’s punching bag.

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

I asked my husband what’s wrong with this picture painted by Leena McCall. What was pornographic about it? The Mall Gallery took it down due to complaints that it was pornographic. The woman is not in a compromising situation. She is mostly dressed, hinting at her sexy bits but not displaying them. He guessed that people must be complaining about the pipe.

No, people complained because the model is not shaved. The model is woman naturale. Expose a bit of pubic hair and outrage rears its ugly head. In this day of age, in art, if the painting does not conform to societal standards of appropriate womanhood, then it is pornographic. Really.

Modern and contemporary art had several artists who pushed at convention and made people see in a new way. That is the progress of art; start with the concept of painting light (impressionist) and move towards painting emotion (expressionist), add in cubism and other non-realistic ways to paint the world, and run with it. Slather paint on a canvas. Worry about texture, color. Paint music. That was the twentieth century in art. Push boundaries, see where it takes you. But in the twenty-first century, if a woman paints a real woman who is unapologetic about her womanness, the painting is hidden away, kept from the public as embarrassing, non-conformist, too sexual, pornographic. You need a properly waxed, razor-thin model showing ribs through her skin in a bathing suit that hides nothing because there is nothing to hide, to be seen as acceptable.

But, as with all things women nowadays, hidden is comfortable, better for society, because a strong woman is terrifying.

Misogyny Expected

It’s hard for me to take the denials of the War on Women seriously, especially if they are muttered by a woman. The right can prop up anyone they chose to firmly state there’s no war, and to those of us living in the trenches, we just laugh. Cathy McMorris Rodgers telling the Republican National Committee, “There’s no truth to it” makes her look out of touch with the rest of us. Focusing on personal power and individual freedom is a nice thought and in line with the Lean In crowd, but McMorris Rodgers and Sheryl Sandberg ignore the fact that their words are fluffy cotton candy, empty of true substance and designed to make the privileged feel smugly superior about their success while giving them an easy means to look down on those who haven’t “made it” and claim that those women just don’t work hard enough, or want it bad enough, to succeed in life.

Wanting something bad doesn’t make it so–especially if you are a woman.

Misogyny is ingrained in our society. This blog post by Una Spenser nicely sets out the reasons this is so, and why it is so difficult to overcome this inherent belief. Those in power want to stay in power, and creating a “loser” as a counter to them as “winners” makes sense when you desperately want to keep the status quo and need a scapegoat to shoulder the blame for what goes wrong. Blaming the victim is easy, and people tend to go along with it (rape culture, poverty, etc.) because they truly, perhaps desperately, wish hard work granted them the benefits they see at the top. Work hard enough, and everything will fall into your lap.

This is the Lean In idea. This is the motivation behind The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Wish hard enough, work hard enough, and you will succeed. Outside interests rarely have an affect on success, it all comes from within. I laugh whenever I hear such nonsense. Hard work means nothing, and wishing will certainly bring nothing unless it’s accompanied by hard work–or luck.

For instance, Sandberg went to Harvard and her adviser, Larry Summers, hired her as his research assistant after he left the university to work at the World Bank. That led to opportunities she never would have had otherwise. Lucky her, that her adviser took her along for the ride. That’s not to say she didn’t work hard, but I know plenty of women (and men) who have advanced degrees, who worked their asses off to attain them, and can’t find work. I know plenty of people who never went to college and break their backs at three jobs trying to make ends meet because otherwise they won’t eat. I’m sure they would love to have a manager move to a different job and ask them to come along for the ride, which includes a pay raise and benefits.

But Sandberg is reluctant to observe the world outside her bubble. When asked pesky questions by bloggers that interfere with her concept of Lean In, she, and her organization, refuses to answer. There is hard work and that is all. You must want it bad enough to succeed or you won’t.

Succeeding is more difficult when you don’t have a wealthy family to back you up if you fail. Yes, Mitt Romney, we ALL have parents who can loan us $20,000 to start a business.

Sandberg, Byrne, and those like them are wealthy white elite. They seem unable to understand that not everyone has their background, their opportunities given by that background, and by pointing the finger at women who fail and telling them it was their fault, they play into the misogynistic world view held by their peers. That is why the wealthy sneer at women on welfare and ignore the hardships that brought those women to ask for government assistance. It is why they blame women for the burdens of misogyny and racism they shoulder rather than the society that placed them there. That is why, when misogyny rears its head in the workplace, it is seen as normal. Expected. Unavoidable.

This can come in the form of unequal pay, a refusal to promote women, harassment, the denial of health care…the list goes on. And on. As a society, this is an accepted norm, and it’s why the media tends to highlight the few women who have reached a seat of power in a company, because then society in general can pretend that their misogyny really doesn’t hold women back. They can pretend that the lazy women get their just desserts, and the hard-working (read “wealthy”) women succeed because of their inherent abilities. Those successful women have earned the right to lead their lives as they see fit, because they’ve proven their worth. It’s too bad for them that, in the end, their achievements do not shield them from the misogyny they propagate (the questions posed about Hilary Clinton’s ability to become president because she will have a grandchild are testament to that).

Dimalique’s Disgust at the Supreme Court

The Hobby Lobby victory, where SCOTUS has told me that my employer’s corporation has more rights than I have, is the impetus for this blog, though not the only factor in its creation. The time for silence, for sitting on the sidelines doing what you can locally, is over. I am lending my voice to millions of other women who are screaming into the night that they matter, that their choices should be respected, no matter what those choices may be. Birth control is just the next item in a long, long list of ways the frightened patriarchal status quo try to regain their power. They believe their voice is the only voice, and silencing everyone else is in their best interest, even if their actions actively harm others. As long as they can exert their influence into people’s private lives, any damage done is an acceptable loss. Control is everything.

I take a birth control shot (however inadequate it is compared to the pill) because the menstrual cramps are so bad I throw up otherwise. Working is terribly difficult when you’re in the restroom hunched over a toilet all day. That sort of health issue is actively ignored by those who think the Hobby Lobby decision is a victory. Punishing women with pain for being women is all in a day’s work for these people because the Bible says women should be punished with pain. ‘Nuf said. What is even crueler? Preventing a woman who has ovarian cysts from getting the medicine she needs so, in the future, she may still be capable of having children–or even living. It shows the hypocrisy of these religious types, that they prefer to deny a woman the meds she needs to have children while claiming that they only want to save the lives of unborn children. They obviously have no care for those potential children in the ovarian cyst case, since they actively try to make certain they are not born, so it seems very unlikely they actually care about the few cells in other women that will eventually turn into children once born. No, they care about control, telling others what to do, despite the harm it causes.

The high court has singled me, and every other woman, out for specialized treatment due to our gender. The Hobby Lobby case focused solely on lies about how birth control actually works, and those lies trumped truth. Here I thought that bearing false witness was a grave enough sin that it figures in the 10 Commandments–rules the president of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, claims to follow, but apparently only does so when it’s convenient. Following the Word of his Lord proves very inconvenient when greed is the motive–after all, money is God, correct?

And Steve Green plans to be paid very well for creating his 4 year high school course on the Bible. Of course, just because Mustang, Oklahoma has decided to adopt the course despite the fact it’s not even completed yet does not mean they are setting precedent for the rest of the country–though Green thinks so. He has seen the billions Pearson makes by selling their testing products to K-12 schools and decided to get in on that action.

Again, greed. Again, the want to destroy lives (this time the future of the children attending public schools in Mustang, OK) as long as it puts an extra dime or three million into an offshore bank account.