Flare and Fade

It's just not that hard

Rhetoric, Feminism, justiceRebecca Brink

I was walking home with Michael this evening and I was telling him that my intuition was telling me that we're on the verge of a real revolutionary moment. It's been a bad year for women, it's been a bad year for people of color: Mike Brown, Marissa Alexander, Eric Garner, Janay Rice, Tamir Rice, Retaeh Parsons, Ezell Ford, Yvette Smith, Dante Parker, the Farr Road Victim, Jordan Baker, John Crawford. Isla Vista, Marysville-Pilchuck (yes, that's gender-based violence). Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi. And on, and on, and on.

It's gotten so bad that I don't think any of us buy the idea that the higher-ups are actually looking out for us, or actually have our best interests at heart. I can't imagine what measures it would take to make us feel like we're valued American citizens. Even an indictment for Darren Wilson - and everyone knew that wasn't going to happen - wouldn't have changed the impunity with which so many other people have been killed. And we're all just so tired of being told that there was something we could have done better to avoid being killed, profiled, harassed, raped. We're through with this culture. We're through with this government. We don't trust either. It has to change. 

I think we're on the verge of a revolution. 

And I say that having studied revolutions, specifically revolutions for independence in Africa, Socialist revolutions in Russia, and revolutions for democracy in Germany, Poland, and the rest of the Soviet Bloc. It's just - I know this is going to sound weird and very superficial, but, it's cold out and people are turning out in droves. That actually means something. That's a canary in a coal mine, in terms of activism. Our outrage is warming us.

I told Michael, "I'm afraid women are going to be left behind." I elaborated on that statement some: People seem to be more comfortable being vocally outraged with the complete disregard with which Black lives are treated in America than they are being outraged with the complete disregard with which women's lives and autonomy are and have been treated in America. It's not that I think one must be more important than the other, of course: to some extent, they're separate issues that require a different vocabulary altogether. To some other extent, to a greater extent, there's a lot of overlap. The overlap is horrifying. Yes, our culture feels entitled to women's bodies: Nowhere is that more evident than the way we treat the bodies of women of color.

But it occurred to me: "I might just be worried about my place in this moment, as a white woman." I might be clutching for representation, and if I am, I'm clutching for representation that I already have. The women of color who are organizing so many of the Ferguson-related actions and doing some of the best reportage are vocal feminists. Why should I feel afraid for my representation as a woman

My womanhood is represented. My whiteness isn't. I'm OK with that. The fact is that I've found this year that many, many white feminists are unreliable allies to women of color. I've found this year that feminists of color have more dynamic, less regressive ideas about how to move feminism forward. I'm thinking of Mikki Kendall, Mychal Denzel Smith, Tracy Clayton, Bhas, Luvvie Ajayi, Jamilah Lemieux, Aura Bogado, Soraya Chemaly, Franchesca Ramsey, Wagatwe Wanjuki, April Reign, Mia McKenzie, and, of course, Jesse Williams and Roxane Gay. Black Twitter - and every other representation of people of color on Twitter - has been more informative to listen to than the thinkpiece re-cycle of white feminist writing that constitutes the majority of feminist content on the Internet.

And yes, I'm part of that problem, and yes, I'm trying to do what I can, little by little, to fix it.

I said it on Twitter before: #YesAllWomen means we stand together. If we're in a cultural moment wherein marginalized groups are starting to rally together for real change, I have to sort of immolate my non-marginalized identity to be a part of it. My non-marginalized identity is my identity as white.

I say "immolate" for the sake of poetics. Of course, it's easier than that. All it means is being aware of the fact that I have been grasping my white privilege and saying things like "I'm afraid women are going to get left behind in this movement" when women have in fact been extraordinarily included in it, have been leading it, and the "women" I was referring to is really code for "white women." All it means is catching myself when I'm saying something questionable, recognizing that it might be arising from my privilege, talk it out, and do better next time. It's a dose of self-awareness and humility. It's a matter of not digging your heels in and defending your privilege because it makes you comfortable.

It's just not that hard.

My Marathon Playlist

About Me, FunsiesRebecca Brink

Somehow y'all keep visiting even when I'm not posting, which means YOU ARE THE BEST. Thank you. I've been having very, very, very bad insomnia for the last two weeks in addition to the stress that comes along with starting a new job and finishing training for a marathon (plus, I've taken TWO injuries in the last three weeks of training which has been JUST GREAT). That's why I haven't been around. I will be around more. Soon. I might start doing more personal posts, narrative nonfiction, and artwork, because those things flow out of my brain a little easier.

The Chicago Marathon is tomorrow! I'm running for Advocate Illinois Masonic Behavioral Health, which provides low-income patients with comprehensive mental healthcare. I've reached my fundraising REQUIREMENT but I would love love love it if I got more donations. I'm able to fundraise through the end of the year, so if you happen to have a few dollars and want to help provide mental healthcare for the people who need it most, please head over to my fundraising page. I'll probably mention it a lot, because I care about Masonic Behavioral Health a lot.

In the absence of more interesting things to say, I'm just going to post my running playlist in order of artists. My theory through training was to only put songs I really, really liked listening to on my playlist, and for the marathon, in order not to repeat any songs, I've had to add some in that are sort of Tier 2. Anyway, here you go. It clocks in a 6 hours and 5 minutes JUST IN CASE.

 

Alexander

  • Truth

Andrew W.K.

  • Party Hard
  • She Is Beautiful

April March

  • Chick Habit

Bell Biv Devoe

  • Poison

Beyoncé

  • Drunk In Love
  • Partition
  • XO
  • ***Flawless
  • Video Phone
  • Countdown

Bob Marley

  • Is This Love

Bon Jovi

  • Wanted Dead or Alive

Britney Spears

  • Work Bitch

Bush

  • Machinehead

Buzzcocks

  • I Don't Mind
  • Ever Fallen In Love?

Chuck Berry

  • You Never Can Tell

The Clash

  • Rock the Casbah
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go

Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • Up Around the Bend
  • Fortunate Son

David Bowie

  • Heroes
  • Queen Bitch
  • Starman
  • Ziggy Stardust

Dead Milkmen

  • Punk Rock Girl

Dengue Fever

  • Tiger Phone Card

Diamond Rings

  • Wait & See
  • You & Me
  • Something Else
  • All Yr Songs

Dion & The Belmonts

  • Runaround Sue (by the way, between The Wanderer and Runaround Sue, Dion was a total hypocrite)

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes

  • 40 Day Dream
  • Om Nashi Me
  • Home

Erasure

  • Chains of Love
  • A Little Respect

Future Islands

  • Spirit

eorge Harrison

  • What Is Life

Janelle Monae

  • Tightrope (which, by the way, is MY FAAAAAVE running song)

Jay-Z

  • Picasso Baby
  • Somewhere in America
  • 99 Problems
  • Takeover

Jimi Hendrix

  • Foxy Lady

Joan Jett

  • Bad Reputation

Kanye West

  • Gold Digger
  • Gone

The Knife

  • Heartbeats
  • Pass This On

Kriss Kross

  • Jump

Lady GaGa

  • Applause
  • Born This Way
  • Bad Romance
  • Telephone

Led Zeppelin

  • Whole Lotta Love

Lorde

  • Tennis Court
  • 400 Lux
  • Royals

Matt & Kim

  • Daylight
  • Let's Go
  • Now

Nicki Minaj

  • Anaconda (that song fell into my training like manna from heaven)

No Doubt

  • Just A Girl
  • Sunday Morning
  • You Can Do It

OK Go

  • WTF?
  • White Knuckles
  • End Love
  • Do What You Want
  • Here It Goes Again

Pixies

  • Debaser
  • Wave of Mutilation
  • Gigantic

Regina Spektor

  • Better
  • On The Radio
  • Us

Scissor Sisters

  • I Don't Feel Like Dancin'

Sleigh Bells

  • Crown on the Ground

St. Vincent

  • Bring Me Your Loves
  • Digital Witness

Streetlight Manifesto

  • Here's to Life
  • Dear Sergio
  • We Will Fall Together
  • Somewhere in the Between
  • Punk Rock Girl (yes, I have two versions of the same GREAT song on my playlist)
  • Such Great Heights

Sugarhill Gang

  • Apache (Jump On It)

The Toadies

  • Possum Kingdom
  • Away

Wilson Pickett

  • Land of 1000 Dances

Young Fathers (btw DEAD is my favorite album of the year, hands-down)

  • No Way
  • Low
  • Get Up

The Zombies

  • This Will Be Our Year
  • She's Not There

 

Great taste in music or GREATEST EVER TASTE IN MUSIC? Only time will tell.

I Don't Want to Work, I Just Want to Watch Zelda Walkthrough Videos All Day

Rhetoric, About Me, WritingRebecca Brink

Michael got me hooked on Ocarina of Time walkthrough videos, not because he plays Zelda, but because he plays other games and watches competitive gaming. He said it was fun, so I applied that logic to my favorite video game, and now I can't stop.

OMG

(Keep in mind that I write these posts the night beforehand, which is why I'm watching Zelda walkthroughs right now and not working. Amelia, I promise I am not a slacker.)

If I'm going to comment on any piece of rhetoric today, it's going to be the idea of "needing to." "You need to do this!" That's generally only applicable regarding breathing, eating, sleeping, eliminating, etc. I don't know what's more petulant - me saying "Um, no, I really don't need to do almost anything," or someone deigning to tell me what my life requires in the first place.

It's different, obviously, when we tell ourselves what we "need" to do - which is still, in reality, not much - because we're just trying to tick things off a list, most of the time. That being said, my therapist has been working on getting me to stop talking about what I "should" or "need to" be doing, because then my reaction to not doing those things is a low-level but compounding sense of shame for not accomplishing those things. It's anxiety-inducing, in other words, and it's bad enough when I tell myself what I need to do; it's outright offensive to me when someone else prescribes something for me, especially when either they don't know me tremendously well or that something else is a matter of their personal tastes, or both.

In some ways it's a critique. But it's not a very well-argued critique, because the fallacy lies in the idea of needing. Anyone you critique doesn't need to change, at all. You can suggest that changes might be beneficial, but no one ever needs to change, existentially speaking.

Yes, Of Course I'm Angry, and It Probably Won't Change For A While

Rebecca Brink

I occasionally get critiques for writing what some readers consider unfunny vitriol, or writing in a tone that's too angry or condescending. 

I don't care.

I care about my writing consistently improving, and I care if my anger gets in the way of that, but in the grand scheme of things, I write well. I write what I'm passionate about. I find vitriol funny when it's aimed at the right people or things, and that's a valid taste to have. And yes, I am angry. I'm angry about the horrible shit that has happened to me in my life. I'm angry about the horrible shit that happens to other women and to men. I'm angry about people who say that the homeless are lazy; I'm angry at the detective who had no right to grab my phone and start going through my unrelated, irrelevant text messages to come to the personal conclusion that I wasn't raped, I'm just a slut; I'm angry at my ex for the $400 loan payments I make every month for money we borrowed together, just one more way of extending his manipulation and control over my life; I'm angry at feminist media for ignoring stories about the horrific, ongoing physical and sexual violence against Black women and Latinas that is committed every day; I'm angry at the people who hate mail me to tell me I'm a cunt; I'm angry at the men on the street who reduce me to my body when all I want to do is go to the god damned bank and now every time I wear tight clothes I feel like I have to be prepared to respond to some bullshit someone thinks I "deserve" for wearing comfortable, flexible fabrics; I'm angry that my trans friends are being harassed not only by their peers, not only by their parents, not only by employers, not only by landlords, but now also by Facebook, a tool they're supposed to be able to use to connect to the communities who actually DO support them; I'm angry that I know now that my high school rapist became a drug addict and so now I have no reason to just brush it off by saying "I hope he fixed things and didn't do that again and I wish him well in life"; I'm angry at men who corner me and other women on the train and harass us until we're forced to leave and wait for the next train, which is a crapshoot anyway; I'm angry at all the hipster douchebags who hide their racism and misogyny and bad behavior under intellectualism and theory and excuses, excuses, excuses; I'm angry that I can't just watch a god damned comedy special without anticipating an unfunny, offensive "joke" about women that really just amounts to "women are a joke" and I'm angry that there are so few specials featuring women comics.

And I'm angry at the people who gaslight me, the people who say that my anger makes whatever argument I'm making invalid. I'm angry at the people who bother to read my work, which is frequently very personal, but can't puzzle out why I make vitriolic jokes.

I'm working on my anger. Not because I care how other people receive it, not because I think it makes me a bad writer, but because it eats away at me sometimes. And in the meantime, I try to cut through the frustration to get to the core of why I'm angry, and I try to share that with people. In the meantime, I try to be funny. Believe it or not, a lot of readers like it. A lot of readers can relate to my anger and frustration and heartbreak and desperation.

I can't just switch it off. It's the result of years of living with problems that I don't know how to solve, and it's the result of knowing, deep down inside, that some of them are not resolvable. And it's a result of the fact that at this particular point in my life, I am not capable of accepting that. So I host the anger, and I try to do the best work I can with it.

Why I Give Money To the Homeless, and You Should Too

Fact CheckRebecca Brink
  1. Because I have money to give. Even when I was “broke,” I was less broke than the homeless. I still had money that I spent on unnecessary shit. So I’d have to buy unnecessary shit one less time for every time that I gave money to the homeless, which, especially considering how much money it is to them, is not that big of a deal for me.

  2. Because I don’t give a shit if they spend it on drugs. Detoxing is a fucking nightmare. IF the person you’re giving money to happens to be addicted to drugs, it should not be up to you to determine when they detox. The best-case scenario is that they do it under the supervision of trained medical professionals, not while they’re starving on the street because so many people refused to give them money that they couldn’t afford food, shelter, OR a fix. So you’re concerned for their life? Well, theoretically, by not giving them money, you’re forcing them to die struggling on the street rather than slipping away in an overdose. Which death would you prefer? How on Earth do you think a poverty-induced street detox is going to end well? Help get them through until they can get help.

  3. Because they’re adults, and they can make their own decisions with their money. I’m not going to patronize other human adults - including the mentally ill, and yes, many of the homeless are mentally ill - by pretending that I know what’s best for them as regards the way they spend their money. It’s empowering to be able to make your own decisions. They have so little empowerment because they have so little money. I care for their dignity, I care for their empowerment, I want them to succeed, so I give them their money and I give them my trust as a fellow human adult.

  4. Because the money I give them is charity, not an investment. We talk about the money we give to the homeless as if we want to see results on the money we give, as if we expect them to use a few cents and make something of themselves with it, which is the most obnoxious buy-in to the “bootstraps” bullshit I can think of. All they can do is buy themselves a roof for the night or a little bit of food. Life is expensive. They’re not going to be able to get a permanent address, a haircut, a new wardrobe, and a job with your petty change. But at least they’ll be able to survive, and if you want to consider your charity an investment, consider the fact that they’re still alive and therefore still have a chance to be the return.

  5. Because the government isn’t going to help them. For one, the police SURE aren’t going to help them. But for another, funding for homeless assistance has been steadily decreasing in America. Homeless shelters are often full, there’s nowhere to get food, and community mental health clinics are closing with increasing frequency. They do not have the resources they need, and our politicians are entrenching them in homelessness. I do not believe in this form of governance. I believe the government should be investing in the welfare of its citizens, especially those who need the most help. But since that isn’t the case, I consider it my responsibility as a human being to help them in the government’s stead. I can donate to homeless assistance agencies, and I can give them money when they ask for it.


Stop being a patronizing dick and start giving your money to the homeless. There is no moral grey area on this issue.

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Rebecca Brink

Part 1

Feminism  is a form of radical authoritarian gender structure that came to prominence in the early 20th century. Influenced by gender syndicalism, feminism originated in America in the years leading up to World War I, combining more typically right-wing positions with elements of left-wing politics, in opposition to liberalism, Marxism, and traditional conservatism. Although feminism is usually placed on the far-right on the traditional left–right spectrum, a number of academics have said that the description is inadequate.

Feminists sought to unify their gender through an authoritarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the female community and were characterized by having leadership that initiated a revolutionary political movement aiming to reorganize the gender along principles according to feminist ideology. Feminist movements shared certain common features, including the veneration of the gender, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultra-feminism and militarism. Feminism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve feminine rejuvenation, and it asserts that stronger genders have the right to expand their socio-political power by displacing weaker genders.

Feminist ideology consistently invokes the primacy of the female. Leaders such as Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany embodied their gender and claimed immense power. Feminism borrowed theories and terminology from socialism but replaced socialism's focus on class conflict with a focus on conflict between nations and races. Feminists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky to secure female self-sufficiency and independence through protectionist and interventionist economic policies. Following World War II, few parties have openly described themselves as feminist, and the term is usually used pejoratively by political opponents. The terms neo-feminist or post-feminist are sometimes applied more formally to describe parties of the far right with ideological similarities to, or roots in, 20th century feminist movements.***

Part 2

We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” Angela Davis.

“The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.” Angelina Grimke.

“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

“I speak not for myself but for those without voice, those who have fought for their rights, their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” Malala Yousafzai.

“The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.” Audre Lorde.

“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.” Simone de Beauvoir.

“The authority of any governing institution must stop at its citizen's skin.” Gloria Steinem.

“Once you do away with the idea of people as fixed, static entities, then you see that people can change, and there is hope.” bell hooks.

“We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by the truth.” Lucretia Mott.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” Frederick Douglass.

“Gender is a straitjacket for the human soul. Gender works us all over, makes enemies of the people we’re supposed to love.” Laurie Penny.

 

Braindead

Rebecca Brink

Soooo this was my first week at The Frisky as Associate Editor which is great for about ten million different reasons but also I am more than a little bit braindead and haven't yet figured out how exactly to handle life as a responsible adult who writes her own blog posts ahead of time so that it doesn't get lost amongst work/marathon training/having a boyfriend. I also haven't picked up the phone when my mom has called in the last three days, the first time because I was still working and the second time because I was on the bus and all I wanted to do was get my ass home SORRY MOM. I didn't post yesterday and I'm copping out by writing this shit today.

Sorry for the placeholder. Hopefully over the weekend I'll be brilliant.

Forgive Me

Art, RhetoricRebecca Brink

Today was my first day working full-time in over a year, and I'm behind on backlogging posts for F&F. FORGIVE ME FOR MY LATENESS, DAMN IT

To make it up to you, here's a video to which I was directed from the eminent Bad at Sports which I promise will be worth your 7 minutes and 21 seconds:

I unironically love everything that's tacky or, you know, um, not so well-executed. I can't tell you how many bad movies I've watched. I'm sure this is a part of my brain that went haywire in high school, when I spent a more-than-decent chunk of my free time with a guy who intentionally sought out bad movies. I moved to my neighborhood partially because there's a record/cd/video store nearby that stocks ripped c-movies and cult stuff.

One of my friends on Facebook, a few weeks ago, posted that there was a very good-looking man in the café in which she was working who clearly knew that he was good-looking, and she knew this because whenever he caught someone staring at him, he would wink at them like "Yeah, I know, thanks." Also tacky; also love it. Why bother with faux-grace?

I also am a big big big big big big big big big big big big BIG fan of Lynda Benglis, and I'm sure that people who recreationally twist their underwear into knots, shove them up their own buttholes, and walk around like that all day will hate the fact that I'm going to call Lynda Benglis tacky, but what the fuck else is her Artforum ad?

Image via Daily Serving

Image via Daily Serving

What else are her Sparkle Knots?

Image via MOCA

Image via MOCA

Lynda Benglis saw a connection between what people call "tacky" and therefore unfit for the art world, and the arts and crafts materials that women and girls are encouraged to use, which seems simultaneously like an insult to femininity, a stereotyping of femininity, and a discouragement of girls and women to engage with "higher" forms of art. And why? Why is glitter tacky? Why is acrylic tacky? What makes it not sophisticated enough?

There's a sort of implication that to be forthright and obvious isn't elegant enough to qualify an object or a product or a mode of behavior as intelligent or engaging, but part of the problem with the contemporary art world is that a lot of art historians obscure their critiques with unintelligible language, and a lot of artists either obscure meaning behind excessive language about symbology that isn't that complicated. I mean, fuck, just listen to Jeff Koons, for god's sake. It's not that I agree with Morley Safer, it's that I understand why he's so fucking confused.

And lord knows, I appreciate a piece of art that's elegantly executed. But obfuscation isn't elegance; there's a line between them that I'd rather not cross, even if that means that the greater part of my time consuming art works (of various media) will be spent on products like "Maximum Wage" or Computer Beach Party. At least they're honest.

The Richard Dawkins Delusion

Fact Check, Feminism, AtheismRebecca Brink

O RLY? I mean, look, I can call myself a unicorn. But it doesn’t mean I have a horn on my head which, when ground, makes magic dust. It doesn’t mean that my tears are collectible for potions. It doesn’t mean that I have any idea whatsoever what the intentions, motivations, and experiences are of unicorns, and since I’ve never had the chance to talk to a unicorn about its intentions, motivations, and experiences, I can’t even act like a unicorn in good faith upon that knowledge. But, I mean, I can call myself anything I want to.

How do I know that Richard Dawkins isn’t a feminist? Because he doesn’t think, act, or talk like a feminist. And I’m not talking about the “radical” feminists he’s tweeted and retweeted about in the last week, I’m talking about those of us who don’t just talk and wank off theorizing, but those of us who hear, for instance, an allegation of assault, and choose to proceed in as level-headed a manner as possible.

Mark Oppenheimer at Buzzfeed fleshed out the course of events that led to the whole Richard Dawkins rape-tweet debacle, and I’ll summarize here:

  • Allison Smith and Michael Shermer met at the 2008 TAM conference in Las Vegas, specifically at an after-party.

  • They started drinking.

  • Shermer started hiding his drinks under the table without Smith’s knowledge.

  • Both parties knew that Smith was more inebriated than Shermer.

  • Shermer and Smith walked back to the hotel where they were both staying.

  • At some point, they had sex.

  • Smith was drunk enough that she didn’t remember everything that happened.

  • Shermer, after rumors started circulating that he had taken advantage of Smith, wrote an e-mail stating that they had not had sex and that two guys who had wanted to have sex with Smith had started those rumors.

  • Five years later, PZ Myers received an anonymous e-mail from Smith saying that she had, in fact, been “coerced… into a position where I could not consent,” and stated that she had heard similar stories about Shermer from other women in the atheist community. (Oppenheimer mentions that he was able to get two women to go on record about their experiences, though neither of them explicitly accused Shermer of rape.)

  • Shermer then changed his story about the events at TAM 2008, stating in a blog post that he and Smith had had sex, but that it was consensual.

  • Neither Smith nor any of the other women pressed legal charges against Shermer.

Richard Dawkins’ reaction?

I swear, we should invent a dance called the Dawkins Backpedal.

Dawkins has misrepresented the course of events here. His narrative goes, essentially, Smith got drunk, consented to sex with Shermer, and then accused him of rape to get him arrested and jailed. This is a common narrative among rape apologists that operates on the assumption that women who are assaulted while drunk just regret their decisions and try to accuse their assailant in order to clear their consciences of their own bad behavior.

It’s a misunderstanding of the point of talking publicly about sexual assault that involves alcohol. Notice that no one filed a police report against Richard Shermer. No one tried to get him jailed. This is the great red herring of rape apology - the idea that women do this with the intent in mind of ruining a man’s life via jail time and subsequent sex offender registry. Then, when we - and I will say we because I was raped while I was drunk and did not ultimately press charges for a plurality of reasons - when we don’t follow through either with a police report or formal charges, we’re labeled as liars, because apparently the only way to validate a trauma or a violation or sexual violence is by involving the law.

Nope, guys. Nope nope nope. Smith stated her motivations for talking about it in the e-mail she wrote to Myers: “I wanted to share this story in case it helps anyone else ward off a similar situation from happening.” There are three ways to cope with a rape when you are the victim: Legal consequences, social sanctioning, and healing yourself emotionally. Smith decided, for whatever reason, that she wasn’t going to press charges. That doesn’t mean that she wasn’t raped. I’m sure that in the ensuing five years, it has probably occurred to her to seek help to heal from the trauma. Part of that might have been the decision, borne of a conviction that there’s a troubling pattern in the atheist/freethought community, to speak out publicly about Shermer taking advantage of women repeatedly.

And here’s the thing: We feminists do actually know that there are nuances in the experience of rape, something that people like Dawkins and other rape apologists don’t understand, which I’ll get to momentarily. No one ever accused Michael Shermer of rape. No one used the word rape. They did question his sense of responsibility, however. Rather than saying “it’s her fault for getting drunk,” can we explore the possibility that Shermer has allegedly made a habit of drinking quite a bit less than the women he has sex with, thereby putting them in a questionable position to actually, consciously, enthusiastically consent, and that that is irresponsible of him?

That conversation is the goal. The conversation that asks, when is it appropriate to expect someone to be able to consent? No one is trying to get Michael Shermer put in jail. They’re having a conversation about what is apparently a pattern of behavior on his part that they would like to see change.

Thing is, though, Richard Dawkins doesn’t even validate that conversation. Last week, he retweeted a link to an article from the Daily Caller, a right-wing publication that Dawkins himself has criticized in the past, claiming that California’s affirmative consent legislation is “bizarre” and will make “sex a legalistic nightmare for college males.” I don’t think I’m wrong to assume that this retweet constitutes support on Dawkins’ part, considering his attitude toward women in the past and, of course, presently.

What really got me about this article was this quote: “Communication of consent can be vague and muddled - a nod of the head, say, or perhaps some kind of lean-in movement.”

Lean-in movement = “Yes, I absolutely want to have sex with you, where’s the condoms”? Um, no, it’s not the same thing. I know from fairly recent experience - I was dating pretty heavily in late 2012 and early 2013 - that it is simply not that difficult to take a minute before proceeding with intercourse to verbally check that your partner is on board. Even when you’re drunk. And, frankly, if one of you is too drunk to hold a conversation well or potentially, you know, remember whether or not they consented, it might be a good idea to just save it for later. The only argument that I’ve heard against this kind of behavior is “Well it’s not very sexy to do that; it breaks the flow of the moment.” Oh, boo hoo. 1) Yes, it is sexy to know that the other person is completely on board with having sex with you. Enthusiastic verbal consent is a huge ego-boost. 2) You’re willing to compromise your ethics to keep your mojo flowing? Stop. Just stop it.

I wish that, as a society, we hadn’t gotten to the point where it felt necessary to legislate consent. But that’s where we are - the campus rape epidemic is bad enough that as of June, 64 schools were being investigated by the Department of Education for Title IX violations. Campus rape investigations are a mess that too often ends with a victim who has at best received no justice and at worst been pressured off of campus by her peers while she’s trying to recover from trauma. And the more that rape apologists dig their heels in and say that this isn’t happening, that women are liars, that there is no rape problem, while women continue to be raped, the more it’s going to come to legislation.

Really and truly, we just want to change the conversation about how sex happens in this country. Because one in five women will be sexually assaulted during our lifetimes, according to the best and most recent information that we have from the CDC, and that is too many. To keep denying or qualifying it is counterproductive and constitutes an endorsement of rape.

You would think that the atheist and freethought communities would be behind feminism as a rational cause (you know, one that is founded on statistics and data about women being viably less than equal to men and wanting to change that), but the number of anti-feminist atheists boggles the mind. I have an idea where these atheists-against-feminism come from, though, and it might have something to do with atheist thought leaders who sneer down their noses at women who are tired of being constantly harassed by strangers either for sex or about our looks or any number of other topics that generally have to do with reducing us to our bodies in complete denial of the fact that we have brains at all, and then take three years to issue a then further problematic pseudo-apology that kind of reiterated the asshole statement in the first place, that street harassment and violent rape aren’t the same thing, which Rebecca Watson already knew when she very mildly requested in 2011 that men not harass her at conferences.

Which is the same attitude that led to another troubling tweet that Dawkins published and then deleted, just a few days before he issued his kind-of-sort-of apology for “Dear Muslima,” stating this: “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and think.”

Holy missing the point, Batman! By saying that stranger rape at knifepoint is worse, you’re qualifying date rape as “better,” implying that date rape victims might have something to be thankful for (it could’ve been worse, after all!), which just isn’t even the issue here. Can we start from the assumption that all rape is bad, and then go on to say that every single rape is different without necessarily needing to qualify it as “better” or “worse” than something else? I get that Dawkins appears to be concerned with the legal consequences of criminal accusations, and therefore would be interested in discerning what punishment is appropriate for date rape versus rape at knifepoint (although I’m not sure why the rapist being a stranger or not would make a difference if there’s a weapon involved).

But even if we’re going to assume that it’s appropriate for Dawkins - who is a biologist and a freethought advocate, not a legal scholar - to continue pondering aloud about what a viable legal punishment for different kinds of sexual assault would be, I would like him to start by noting that in the United States, rape reporting rates are low (40%), rape investigation rates are even lower (10%), and rape prosecution rates are lower still (8%). Which is to say that rape rarely leads to any viable kind of punishment at all in the U.S., despite the fact that false reporting rates are only 2-8%, the same as for any other crime.

So was it better or worse for me that I was raped by someone I know - twice - rather than being raped by a stranger at knife- or gunpoint? I don’t really care. I just care that as a society, we do better at acknowledging the validity of rape claims and supporting victims through their recovery and, if appropriate, legal process, instead of haranguing them about whether or not they were REALLY raped or just assuming they’re lying from the get-go. I care that we talk about rape like it’s a real thing that really happens at quite an alarming rate and is incredibly painful and traumatic for victims instead of talking about it like this theory that feminists have that we’re just pulling out of our asses to make men feel bad.

Instead, of course (of course), Dawkins is making feminists out to be hysterical reactionists. Yes, some of us have strong visceral feelings about being raped while drunk and not being taken seriously because some of us were raped while drunk and not taken seriously, or our friends were, or a classmate, and we're tired of living in communities in which our experiences are treated as if at best they're just topics for thinkpieces and pithy tweets instead of real events and real traumas that have a real impact on our lives and are judged and abstracted by the community at large but not given justice or even very much basic compassion. The atheist community is that, for women atheists. And Richard Dawkins is one of the largest reasons why.