Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fraternity men address sexual violence

Fraternity men are often in the news for countless unflattering things, however our experience with these guys has been far more positive. Here is a blog written by the type of men we so often work with but not enough folks write about as it is not sensational or sexy, they are simply men who believe in respect and equality. The author is someone we have grown to respect and from his insights I am sure you will see why. Below the entry is the link to the Fraternity blog, The Road so you can comment and see more of the cool things they are talking about.

Greek Men, Weak Men
By Jeremy Berggren
Today is the last day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I wanted to make some points.

1. Power, as the fourth fundamental principle of Deltism, relates to sexual assault on an interpersonal, group, and systemic levels. By that I mean sexual assault can be about power and control. As Greek men we should also consider ourselves responsible in this fight. It is not just a woman's issue, it is a mens issue too. When someone you know is sexually assaulted you have the power to do the right thing, and that could be: 1. Believe them. 2. Remind them it is not their fault. There are other resources on the Unite for Change website. Knowledge is power.

2. Faith: Did you know that rape is the only crime in which the victim must prove their innocence?If we are really concerned about moral superiority, wouldn't we associate responsibility with the perpetrator and not make the survivor prove their innocence?The thought that women "cry rape," is about a dereliction of duty, it is essentially being weak - in heart and mind. As Greek men we need to rise above these pithy statements and myths. Weak men can fall back on social norms, sexism, and the status quo. Are we committed to excellence or status quo preservation?

3. Courage is standing up for what is right, even in the face of fear. A member at a chapter was expelled when the officers found out he attempted to rape a member of a sorority on campus. Earlier the member was trying to get in a room with the female, but she was drunk. Chapter brothers pulled him away, but later that night he got in again. The chapter called an emergency meeting and immediately moved to expel the member.It wasn't about myth or making the female prove it, the brothers knew there was a problem and they took action, and some of this member's best friends were in the chapter. Accountability is a piss in the bucket if there are no consequences. In this case it meant expulsion. That took courage.
4. Truth. Every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator. 1 in 4 college women surveyed are victims of rape or attempted rape. 90% of all acquaintance rapes involve alcohol. 84% of college men who committed rape said that what they did was definitely not rape. 42% of college women who are raped tell no one about their assault. Nearly one third of college men said they were likely to have sex with an unwilling partner if they thought they could get away with it. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before age 18. Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated they make up 10% of all victims.

In terms of what we can do, as Delts, there are many things. Going back to power I want to address four levels (and by this I mean that power = access to resources):Personal = accessing your own experiences, knowledge, and learning more. A great resource is on the Unite for Change website.
Interpersonal = how you share resources with one other person. If this is a sexual assault survivor it could be your knowledge that it is not their fault, it could be believing in them, it could be using your personal power to seek proper steps from that point. If this is a chapter brother it could be sharing these resources with him, so he can be another ally and advocate to stop sexual assault.Group = how groups of people share resources. This is your chapter. Your family. Within the group leadership is necessary to create a vision of where you want the group to go. It can also mean aligning with other groups to have more resources about sexual assault, and what men can do about it. System = groups under an umbrella, or a lot of resources. This could be the overall Fraternity, or the Greek system. As Delts we've used "Playing the Game," a DVD about sexual assault. But are there other things we should be doing? Do you, as a student (and legislative body of Delta Tau Delta) have the power to make changes in the larger system?
Sexual assault is not a woman's issue. As Greek men we are associating with sorority members, our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and more. Weak men would only associate responsibility to the mom's, little sisters, cousins, girlfriends, classmates, and other women in our lives and our communities. As Greek men we must take issue with this.
We've got to live our values, and stand beside and up for those we care about.

Jeremy Berggren is the director of leadership development for Delta Tau Delta and recently attended a Male Ally Conference at the University if Illinois in Chicago. He believes all fraternities have a systemic responsibility to address men's violence/sexual assault and our highest values and aspirations call us to do so.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dear Bacardi and Bacardi Breezer Ad Team, You should be ashamed to say the least.

By Molly Hays, Communications Intern

Above: ridiculous, inaccurate, inappropriate and not to mention damaging ad run by Bacardi.

To insinuate the staff of Bacardi Breezers consumed too much product when they came up with a new promotional campaign might be a little harsh, however I can logically draw no other conclusions.

The campaign basically implies to the target women consumers that all they have to do to be hot is purchase Bacardi Breezers and find an ugly woman friend who by proximity will increase the consumer’s own hotness. It’s interesting that they think that by discriminating some women, other women will be more attracted to purchasing their product. But I like to think that women as a whole stand up for each other.

Apparently the campaign, titled, “Get An Ugly Girlfriend!” ran for two months during 2008 in Israel. The campaign included English and Hebrew websites and a Hebrew Facebook group.
After discovering the site many feminist websites and news sites featured the story. Readers responded and complained to Bacardi who promptly shut down the sites.

Bacardi officials responded to the negative feedback in a letter saying, “Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

Later Bacardi released another letter claiming that the company never sponsored or developed the promotion and that a third-party developer created and carried out the promotion.
“As a Company and as individuals we are also angered and dismayed that such a campaign was ever created and we have taken immediate action to stop it as it violated our stringent global marketing principles that we firmly support,” said the second letter.

I don’t know who to believe. I feel that if Bacardi had the power to shut down the site so quickly that they must also have had immediate access to it. But what does this say about what advertisers think is acceptable, funny and appropriate? Where are we headed when discrimination and misogyny run rampant in advertising campaigns, especially campaigns aimed at the same sex that is being discriminated against?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Queen Latifah is Squarley Facing Forward

Queen Latifah Reveals Past Sexual Abuse in July 2009 Issue of ESSENCE

I came across this sneak peak from the July Issue of ESSENCE. The article shares how Queen Latifah has got to where she stands today and even lets us into a very personal experience of her being sexually abused as a child. She kept silent about the abuse for many years which ultimately affected other relationships in her life. With the death of her brother, she realized that she needed to let it all out and tell her parents. She is now sharing with the readers of ESSENCE. Sharing such a traumatic incident with anyone is a hard thing to do. I applaud Queen Latifah, for sharing with us, for being a great role model, and inspiration to many. By sharing her story, she allows girls and women to be inspired to overcome life’s obstacles. She even gives women who have been through similar situations a chance to relate, have hope, and realize that they are not alone. Queen Latifah is a remarkable woman, who is admired by many, so I would like to personally thank her for sharing her story and for giving women and girls a voice.

--Sabrina Sadler, Outreach Intern

*Remember the following is just a sneak peak of the article featured in ESSENCE, to check out the full article pick up the July issue on stands now!

During the two decades since she began her ascent, Queen Latifah, born Dana Elaine Owens, has reached higher than she could have ever imagined in her wildest dreams. To an onlooker, it might appear that her every move has been carefully orchestrated, but that wasn't the case. "I never envisioned all of the things that I've accomplished," she tells me two days after her party. We're on the roof of West Hollywood's Le Montrose Suite Hotel, chatting. "In the beginning, I just wanted to hear my record on the radio, then I just wanted to make a movie," Latifah confides. "I didn't really have a long-term plan, but as more opportunities came my way, I just ran with them."

Her efforts have paid off in the form of an Oscar nod, as well as a Grammy, a Golden Globe and even star number 2,298 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Queen is nothing if not versatile. Remember how folks gasped when she portrayed a fearless bank robber who kissed a girl in the movie "Set It Off," while the teenybopper crowd fell out laughing when, on the advice of her friend's young son, she starred in the third installment of the Scary Movie spoof-horror franchise? Then, of course, there's the easy, breezy beauty she's been serving up as the face of her Queen Collection cosmetics line with CoverGirl.

Even with all her success, Latifah has had to bob and weave her way past the jabs that have been flying at her since day one. First there's the fickle industry she's chosen. Then there are the whispers and innuendos that continue to orbit around her, yet she never seems too fazed, not publicly anyway. Some questions she will answer readily. Was she really up for that role in "Monster's Ball"? Yes. When did she quit smoking? Almost five years ago. How much weight did she lose on Jenny Craig? More than 20 pounds, and still maintaining. But when it comes to inquiries about her personal life, she pumps the brakes.

There is, however, one personal experience that she's now willing to share, one that she had kept to herself for years. For a short period of time when she was a child, Latifah was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a teenager charged with her care. "He violated me," she says of the abuser. "I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm's distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue." Eventually, she opened up to her parents, who separated when she was young. "When I was 22, my brother died, and I knew that I couldn't carry his death and that secret," she says. "I had to get it off my chest. My mother felt terrible. She was kind of a country girl, so she wasn't up on how slick people could be. When I told my dad, he said nothing." Latifah says now that it was scary when her father didn't respond. "He's a man of action," she says.

Now at peace with that part of her past, Latifah is squarely facing forward. She hasn't any idea what's next on her horizon, and that's fine by her. Rather than obsessing over a checklist of wants and wishes, she's intent on enjoying the space she's in while staying open to what chance might have in store. "There are some places I'd like to see, some young 'uns I hope to raise, but other than that, I've done a lot of what I've wanted to do," she says. "Everything else is icing on the cake."
POSTED by Regina R. Robertson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Perez Hilton’s Altercation Highlights Issue of Victim Blaming

Perez Hilton is known for taking cheap shots at celebrities, but things got messy when Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am’s manager physically fought back.

Apparently members of the Black Eyed Peas asked Hilton, real name Mario Lavandeira, to back off on his critical approach of the members and their music at the MuchMusic Video Awards held in Toronto on Sunday. He refused and engaged in some explicative name-calling.

Later Hilton was assaulted by the band’s manager, Liborio "Polo" Molina. Molina has been charged with assault and has a hearing scheduled for early August.

Regardless of the situation that led up to the altercation, the reaction following has been strikingly similar to reactions many sexual assault survivors experience. Victim blaming has been occurring all over the web, from tweets to blogs to comment’s on Hilton’s site.
What’s sad about this situation is that people are finding justification for Molina’s actions, just as many people find justification for the horrific experiences sexual assault survivors endure.
John Mayer used his twitter account to inform Hilton that, “People don't want to see you hurt, they want to see you experience something equalizing,” and “By understanding the genetics of a violent incident you can learn to avoid them. And if you can't, you will learn to end them.”
The flaw in his logic though is suggesting that Hilton could have avoided the violence. While name-calling could have been avoided, there’s a line between verbal violence and physical violence. And one doesn’t justify the other. However, Mayer’s not alone.

Others are justifying the incident saying that Hilton, “Had it coming to him,” and that this must be his karma.

That sounds very similar to, “If only she hadn’t drank so much…” and “Just look at the way she was dressed; she was asking for it.”

No one asks to be assaulted.

Hilton responded to all the reactions on his blog, saying, “There are many ways to deal with disagreements, both good and bad, but violence is never the answer. Never. I now know that first-hand. It should not be condoned, promoted or accepted. No one "deserves" to be the victim of violence. No one "has it coming." NO ONE. And victims should not be ridiculed.”

I find it surprising that victim blaming even exists. However, I hope this situation will highlight victim blaming as a whole, and especially victim blaming in sexual assault cases. I hope that all these people coming to the celebrity blogger’s side will open their eyes and reevaluate victim blaming on all levels, not just on the plane of celebrity ranting.

--Molly Hays, Communications Intern

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sexualzation of Young Girls- How Parents can help

Authored by The American Psychological Association (apa.org)

Girls get this message repeatedly: What matters is how “hot” they look. It plays on TV and across the Internet. You hear it in song lyrics and music videos. You see it in movies, electronic games, and clothing stores. It’s a powerful message.As parents, you are powerful too. You can teach girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how they look. You can teach boys to value girls as friends, sisters, and girlfriends, rather than as sexual objects. And you can advocate for change with manufacturers and media producers.Tune in and Talk. Watch TV and movies with your daughters and sons. Read their magazines. Surf their Web sites. Ask questions. "Why is there so much pressure on girls to look a certain way?” "What do you like most about the girls you want to spend time with?" "Do these qualities matter more than how they look?" Really listen to what your kids tell you.Question Choices. Girls who are overly concerned about their appearance often have difficulty focusing on other things. Clothes can be part of the distraction. If your daughter wants to wear something you consider too sexy, ask what she likes about the outfit. Ask if there’s anything she doesn’t like about it. Explain how clothes that require lots of checking and adjusting might keep her from focusing on school work, friends, and other activities.Speak up. If you don't like a TV show, CD, video, pair of jeans, or doll, say why. A conversation with her will be more effective than simply saying, "No, you can’t buy it or watch it." Support campaigns, companies, and products that promote positive images of girls. Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers, and retail stores when products sexualize girls. Understand. Young people often feel pressure to watch popular TV shows, listen to music their friends like, and conform to certain styles of dress. Help your daughter make wise choices among the trendy alternatives. Remind her often that who she is and what she can accomplish are far more important than how she looks.Encourage. Athletics and other extracurricular activities emphasize talents, skills, and abilities over physical appearance. Encourage your daughter to follow her interests and get involved in a sport or other activity.Educate. You may feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality with your kids, but it's important. Talk about when you think sex is OK as part of a healthy, intimate, mature relationship. Ask why girls often try so hard to look and act sexy. Effective sex education programs discuss media, peer, and cultural influences on sexual behaviors and decisions, how to make safe choices, and what makes healthy relationships. Find out what your school teaches.Be real. Help your kids focus on what’s really important: what they think, feel, and value. Help them build strengths that will allow them to achieve their goals and develop into healthy adults. Remind your children that everyone’s unique and that it’s wrong to judge people by their appearance. Model. Marketing and the media also influence adults. When you think about what you buy and watch, you teach your sons and daughters to do so, too.

For more information, see the American Psychological Association report at http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/sexualization.html

Provocative Calvin Klein ad featuring models engaged in foursome.

Congratulations CK, you got our attention. The scantily clad billboard pictured above has people talking and not just folks in the Soho district of NYC where the 50 ft. tall controversial ad currently resides. People all over the world are talking about it. Some call it raunchy and disturbing and others say it’s sexy and engaging.

Calvin Klein Inc said its "intention was to create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic." So, we’re asking you, what does this ad say to you? Has CK taken it too far? Is this ad portraying an empowering position for the woman or is it making the woman an object for these men’s play?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sexversate on Facebook

3 of Spades: Do you have a responsibility to tell your partner if you have an STI?

--Molly Hays

Sexversations® are a series of questions about sex, intimacy, sexuality, relationships, STIs and questions for your conscience that are set in a super chic deck of cards. It’s sexy (to say the least), entertaining and informative. Through Sexversating we empower. Find out and get involved in the Sexversations® Facebook Group , Facebook Fan Page, or website.

This week we’re sexversating about STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and informing your partner. Check out the 3 of Spades post and then give us your two cents. Or for 15 dollars you can purchase your own game at sexversations.com and get your own sexually employing game of poker on.

But before you do, here’s a brief rundown on the current state of STIs.

- There are over 30 different bacteria, parasites and viruses that can be sexually transmitted.
- The most common STI’s are gonorrhoea, chlamydial infection, syphilis, trichomoniasis, chancroid, genital herpes, genital warts, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B.
- In 2007, over 1 million cases of Chlamydia were reported, making the disease the most prominent reported disease in 2007.
- STIs can be transmitted not just sexually, but also from mother to child during vaginal birth, and from tissue and blood transfers.
- People ages 15 to 24 comprise nearly half of all new STI cases yearly.
- Many people living with STIs experience few or no symptoms at all.
- The next most effective safe sex practice in reducing STI transmission risks, besides abstinence and monogamy, is employing consistent and correct use of male condoms.
- Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, protects against viruses that cause 70% cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.
- STIs are the main cause of preventable infertility, especially for women.
- 19 million new infections are reported each year in the United States.

Thanks to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for statistical information.

P.S. Atlanta is hosting the 2010 National STD Prevention Conference next March. It may be a while out, but then again, it’s never too early to plan for your health and well-being.
In the meantime, log on to Facebook and start sexversating!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FREE Condoms

Just this morning I was doing a little research to help someone locate free condoms in their community and I came across JollyJohns.com which is a web-site that provides free condoms and free shipping. No sooner did I stumble upon this source before reading on their site that JollyJohns will be shutting down permanently on June 30th, 2009. The freebies are coming to an end BUT they're providing free condoms until their official closure at the end of the month. So if you're in need of condoms and want to save some cash go to JollyJohns.com for the hook up while you can.

To find out if free condoms are available in your community please contact your local Health Department.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Get Involved! Make A Statement!
--Sabrina Sadler

Delilah, Caterina, and Sabrina, 3 ordinary young ladies determined to make a statement!

Women from all over Northern California ran in the Nike Women’s Fitness Festival a 5k run/walk. The run benefited WEAVE inc., the local domestic violence and sexual assault agency. Being very strong supporters of me, my two best friends, Delilah and Caterina wanted to help bring Awareness to Sexual Assault. As seen in the picture, we each represented one of three programs that I am currently involved in. Each one of the programs is determined to bring a stop and awareness to Sexual Assault.

UNITE FOR CHANGE: Works with students to provide education and resources that promote sexual assault awareness and prevention.

NO WOMAN LEFT BEHIND: Brings awareness and encourages college students to stand by one another to prevent sexual assault.

WEAVE: Is the primary provider of crisis intervention services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento County.

Our statement only began with representing these three amazing programs, but the true understanding the three of us ladies took from these three programs is UNITY! No matter the program, No matter the agency, No matter the campaign… WE STAND UNITED

We as individuals, agencies, programs, campaigns are united to end violence. It is our GOAL! I felt so proud to participate in a run benefiting Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and to be able to represent the three programs! During the run people actually read the front and back of our shirts. I remember someone shouting from the side with pride “No Woman Left Behind”, and then as we passed other participants we heard “We Stand United.” People did read our shirts! Three ordinary ladies got involved in the community, brought awareness, and made a statement.

So What can you do to get involved? You can get involved in local events or runs just like we did!!! And if you’re not a runner you can volunteer to help. Agencies like WEAVE are always looking for volunteers.

Check out your local community. Here are some upcomig events that just might be in a city near you...
Stride Against Violence in Chicago, IL on September 13, 2009
Race to End Violence in Concord, New Hampshire on October 3, 2009

These are just a couple of the many run/walks taking place in our communities. Many of these events take place in April which is Sexual Assault Awareness month and October, Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Remember you have the power to bring change and awareness. Get Involved and Make a Statement!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Combat the Silence with Clicks

Clicks for Change
-- Molly Hays

Blogger Alexandra Kain of the Seattle Grassroots Examiner was so inspired to act. What stirred her was a movement called “Silence Is The Enemy,” started by The Intersection and ScienceBlogs.com of Discover Magazine to raise awareness of sexual violence against women and specifically the sexual violence being committed in Liberia.

Six years since Liberia’s civil war ended in 2003, sexual violence is still being used as a weapon of control for both sexes. Furthermore, sex is still viewed as a man’s right.
Bloggers are uniting and pledging to donate portions, if not all of their June revenue, to Doctors Without Borders, the organization providing care to victims in Liberia.

According to the organization’s special report, entitled, “Shattered Lives: Liberia,” a 2008 study revealed that 40% of women combatants and 32% of men combatants were victims of sexual violence during the war. Of the women combatants, 74% had symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Also, 70% of sexual violence survivors in Liberia are children.
Directly from The Intersection blog (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/06/01/silence-is-the-enemy/), “Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away. Why? Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help. We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them. I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

In regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more. Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.”

Oh, the internet, proving wonderful channels to direct social change. Do your part and get the click counts up. Each website click generates a penny, and every penny counts.
Below is a list of blogs contributing their revenues.


Combat silence with clicks, let that mouse roar.

News Release Reports Increase in Sexual Assaults

Sexual Assaults on the Rise in Sacramento
-- Sabrina Sadler

Recently, the Sacramento Police Department released the first quarter Crime Statistics for 2009. The results showed a reduction in crime rates in all categories with the exception of sexual assaults. Sexual assaults in Sacramento have nearly DOUBLED since last year.

So the question arises, is the increase in sexual assaults due to an increase in the crime or is the increase due to more victims reporting sexual assault?

My hope is more victims are reporting the sexual assault.

The other factor in these statistics is the perpetrators are more commonly a family member or acquaintance. So what should this tell society? Do sexual assaults only happen by strangers? NO

A Sexual Assault can happen…
To Anyone.
And by someone you know and trust.

My hope from this news release is for the public to become more aware and acknowledge that sexual assaults are occurring. For Sacramento, sexual assaults are not only occurring but they are occurring at an increasing rate. We need to educate ourselves on sexual assault and then share our education with those around us. Become aware, get educated, and take a stand against violence.

City of Sacramento Police Department
News Release

Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Sexual Assaults Increase for 1st Quarter of the Year

Thus far in 2009, the Sacramento Police Department has seen a reduction in crime rates in all categories with the exception of sexual assaults.

From January - April 2009, we have received nearly double the number of sexual assault reports in comparison to the same time period from the previous year. In reviewing the cases, the increase was noted in cases where the suspect was known to the victim either as a friend or a family member. The Police Department encourages those who are victims of sexual assault to immediately report the incident. In sexual assault cases, it is important to preserve any physical evidence of the crime by not showering and maintain the clothing you were wearing.

The following are some general safety tips to try and follow:

- Avoid meeting anyone alone that you have never met or only know casually (i.e. online chat rooms, blind dates, etc.). If you do, make sure someone knows who and where you are meeting, and try to meet in a public place
- If you are out after hours or late at night, have someone you trust walk with you.
- Always watch a bartender mix your drink and don't accept open drinks from strangers.
- Don't go to parties where you don't know the host
- Don't accept rides from strangers
- If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, call someone you trust to pick you up.
- Stay in well-lit, public areas when out at night
- If you don't know a person, don't trust them
- Avoid being intoxicated to the point of not remembering or not being able to defend yourself
- Go out in a buddy system and have an agreement that you will stay together and leave together
- Beware of people you meet on the internet. Internet conversations can lead to a false sense of knowing a person
Sacramento Police Department – 5770 Freeport Boulevard, Suite 100 – Sacramento, California 95822

Monday, June 08, 2009

Eminem, Misogyny and the Sounds of Silence

In our world there are several crusaders whose temperance, vision and wisdom ring so true to us as we work to fulfill our mission. Jackson Katz is one of those figures. He shared with us this article he recently authored and with his permission we are reprinting it here. It is wildly thought provoking and as always we would love to hear your opinions (regardless if you agree or disagree with the article).
K & B

Eminem, Misogyny and the Sounds of Silence
By Jackson Katz
The Huffington Post
June 5, 2009
Eminem is back and once again looming large over the pop cultural landscape. On the occasion of the release of his new album, Relapse, his full-length, full-color image appears literally larger than life on billboards in major cities from New York to Los Angeles, not to mention cities all over the world. Although the album itself has received mixed reviews, the elite arbiters of cultural taste and artistic merit have given the rapper’s return the red carpet treatment.
The New York Times ran a giant photo and story on the front of its Sunday Arts and Leisure section on May 24. Entertainment Weekly featured the 36-year-old on the cover of its summer music preview issue; Time magazine devoted two pages of its June 1 issue to a review of his album and discussion about the state of his life and career. Of course the online universe is also abuzz; at the time of this writing, a Google search with the words Eminem and relapse returned 2.7 million hits.

Despite a five-year hiatus, there is no doubt that Eminem remains a popular artist. Relapse debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 608,000 units in its first week of release.
For those of us who had hoped that his cultural moment had passed, the return of Eminem forces us to confront the disturbing reality that our society remains in deep denial about misogyny and its myriad manifestations in the art and commerce of everyday life. Misogyny (the hatred of women) in rap preceded Eminem and has thrived in his absence. And in fairness, the fact that he is white makes it easier for this writer and other whites to criticize him than it is to call out Black artists whose work is similarly sexist and oppressive. These racial dynamics are important issues to examine in another time and place.

Nonetheless, the evidence of our culture’s unwillingness to address the reality and ubiquity of men’s violence against women is not merely contained in the lyrics on Eminem’s new album, which when they’re not exploring the depths to which the artist’s drug addiction had taken him, characteristically communicate a deep contempt for women and a violent rage at them. This unwillingness is most clearly seen in the music reviews and overall media coverage of the rapper’s comeback.

It is not what they say that is cause for concern, but what they studiously avoid. With a few notable exceptions, such as Alan Ranta on the web site Pop Matters calling Relapse “chauvinistic hate-speech,” the high priests of cultural criticism in the journalistic mainstream seem to have decided that Eminem’s virulent misogyny is no longer even worthy of a mention, much less an appropriate subject of extended commentary and critique. Is it truly possible that women’s lives have been so thoroughly devalued that a multi-platinum musical artist with nine Grammy awards to his name can sing multiple songs about raping and mutilating women and hip sophisticates can’t even bring themselves to utter the words “woman-hating?”
It is as if critics have decided that 1) there is (still) nothing wrong with one of the most celebrated musical artists in the world devoting multiple songs to verbal attacks on women and girls, as long as there’s a catchy beat and the content is rationalized as “dark comedy,” or 2) homicidal misogyny has become so commonplace in entertainment media that there is no further need to discuss it.

A survey of recent articles about Eminem in several major media outlets yields plenty of lines like “a stunning return to form from the man who is arguably rap’s most talented lyricist,” (Entertainment Weekly), but a near-absence of criticism directed at Eminem or Interscope/Universal Music Group for releasing an album with lyrics like the following from the song Stay Wide Awake:
Fe Fi Fo Fum I think I smell the scent of a placenta I enter central park, it's dark, it's winter in December I see my target with my car, and park and approach her tender Young girl by the name of Brenda and I pretend to befriend her Sit down beside her like a spider, hi there girl you mighta Heard of me before, see whore you're the kinda girl that I'da Assault and rape and figure why not try to make your pussy wider Fuck you with an umbrella then open it up while that shits inside ya

No thoughtful person would argue that music lyrics themselves cause men to be violent; that is the sort of simplistic argument which defenders of Eminem and other misogynous rappers and rockers raise and then ridicule whenever anyone mentions the possible “real world” effects of artistic portrayals. But just as it is reductive and problematic to draw a causal link between lyrics and actual behavior, it is similarly nonsensical to deny that the production and reception of art always has a social dimension. Popular art succeeds, at least commercially, precisely because it resonates with a certain audience – for whatever reason – in a given cultural and historical context.

In discussions of Eminem’s choice to feature on his comeback album a number of songs that explore the sadism of his misogynous serial killer alter ego, Slim Shady, is it not relevant to mention the ongoing pandemic of men’s violence against women, including the outrage of serial murder? Is it not relevant to ask why some men are so angry at women that they would derive a twisted sort of pleasure from singing along with a first-person narrator (Slim Shady) who delights in terrifying, degrading, raping and murdering them?

In addition to his predilection for writing “comic” lyrics in the voice of a serial murderer, Eminem continues to find lyrically inventive ways to joke about raping women by shoving objects into their bodies, like in the lyrics above, or in the song “3 a.m.,” where he casually raps about inserting “…a flashlight up Kim Kardashian’s ass.” This is in a country – ours – where one out of six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. And while the reality of rape is not funny anywhere, the global reach of the U.S. entertainment industry means that boys and men can listen and laugh along to Eminem’s songs in countries where the rape and mutilation of women and girls are even more common and less socially stigmatized than they are here.

Consider the tragic case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the rape and murder of women are beyond pandemic and are closer in scope to genocide. For years Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist, has operated daily on dozens of women and girls as young as two and three-years-old whose insides have been ripped apart by men who brutally gang rape them, shove sticks and bottles into their vaginas, and sadistically mutilate their sexual organs in unimaginable ways, causing the ones who survive a lifetime of excruciating pain, incontinence, disease and loneliness. In a New York Times article in 2007 Dr. Mukwege said “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear. They are done to destroy women.”
Is it going too far to suggest that when wealthy nations such as ours export music by the likes of Eminem to countries with that level of misogynous violence that we are practicing what might be considered a particularly insidious form of cultural imperialism?

Defenders of world-famous artists like Eminem would surely rush in to say: Eminem is not responsible for these unspeakable outrages! He is an artist! Of course. But is it unreasonable to suggest that when Eminem jokes about sticking umbrellas up women’s vaginas that one effect might be that it helps to desensitize his male (and even female) fans across the globe to the humanity and suffering of women? Desensitization is one of the key effects of exposure to violence, both in media and real life. An Alternet article entitled “Torture Chic: Why Is the Media Glorifying Inhumane, Sadistic Behavior?,” suggests that the increasing presence of torture in entertainment media, such as on the hit TV series 24, has helped to desensitize Americans to real torture done in our name, such as in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

The silence of mainstream music critics on such matters has been deafening. If an artist’s job is sometimes to be provocative and push boundaries, isn’t it a critic’s job at the very least to ask questions like: What does it say about our culture that Eminem’s lyrics resonate with millions of American men, and even many women? How can we discern the difference between artistic revelation and crass exploitation in Marshall Mathers’ art? Does his vaunted lyrical virtuosity provide us with any insight into the larger belief systems – along with individual motivations --- that lie behind men’s sexualized brutality toward women? Is he a brilliant artist exploring important artistic terrain, or is he merely going for cheap voyeuristic thrills at the expense of women, knowing full well that no one will hold him – or his record company -- accountable?
One piece of circumstantial evidence for the latter view is provided by Jon Pareles in The New York Times, who explains the process Eminem and his collaborators went through in deciding how to position his comeback:

Both Eminem and Dr. Dre thought hard about how Eminem should re-emerge. And both concluded the world wanted more Slim Shady. “I talked to my son about it,” said Dr. Dre, “and he was like: ‘The kids want to hear him act the fool. We want to hear him be crazy, we want to hear him be Slim Shady and nothing else.”

The tone of at least some of the coverage this time suggests there are a few authoritative voices in music criticism and commentary who have moved beyond the adulatory groupthink that characterized much writing about Eminem back in his heyday earlier this decade. In those headier days, when Eminem was both lionized and criticized for being the “Hip-Hop Elvis,” many in the cognoscenti actively sought to rationalize Eminem’s murderous lyrical misogyny and homophobia by claiming that the “Slim Shady” character Marshall Mathers hid behind was a creative fictional construct through which the artist sought to explore taboo topics with lyrical dexterity over an infectious beat produced by Dr. Dre. If you didn’t get the joke or appreciate the humor, it was because you were too dense or politically correct to appreciate the brilliant artistry at play.

But at least some writers seem to have grown tired of parroting the debatable (and profitable) premise that Eminem is a major artist with important things to say. In one of the most dismissive pieces I reviewed, Josh Tyrangiel in Time magazine ridicules Eminem’s attempt to regain the title of America’s Most Outrageous:

Half of Relapse – the aggressively dull and stupid half – is devoted to re-establishing Eminem as a man so unhinged, he’s capable of anything or at least fantasizing about anything…. By the middle of the first song, ‘3 a.m.,’ Eminem, or one of his multiple alter egos, has masturbated to Hannah Montana and left a pile of bodies behind the counter of a McDonald’s….On ‘Medicine Ball’ he promises to rape the Pussycat Dolls and spits out a couplet of abuse for Madonna and Rihanna, while ‘Same Song and Dance’ has him raping Lindsay Lohan in one verse and Britney Spears in the next. Suffice it to say that many more rapes occur and I stopped taking notes.
The corporate media have played a crucial role in Eminem’s highly lucrative career in part by defining the parameters of how he can be criticized. As Jon Pareles writes in The New York Times, Eminem “quickly became an offensive scourge to those who took Shady’s fantasies literally, or worried that others might.” Note the narrow range of possibilities the writer offers to describe those who might be “offended” by Eminem’s art. Conveniently left out are Eminem’s detractors who possess a more complex understanding of the effects of violent, misogynous lyrics than whether or not people (men) take them literally.
Another distortion about Eminem and his detractors that many music critics have turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy is the idea that resistance is futile, because Marshall Mathers is just too clever. Pareles writes that when combined with Eminem’s murderous lyrics, the “bouncy beat and singsong choruses of kiddie music” that characterize Dr. Dre’s production constituted a “smiley-faced nastiness (that) was enough to make Eminem a target for the censorious, which in turn gave him a new bunch of antagonists to provoke.

So people who are concerned about the ongoing pandemic of men’s violence against women -- including thousands of domestic violence and sexual assault advocates and educators – are “censorious” if they have a problem with lyrics that normalize and find humor in (fictional) rapists’ misogynist fantasies of brutality and degradation? Pareles quotes Eminem’s response to (unspecified) criticisms of his work with yet another non sequitir: “I didn’t get in this game to be a role model.” As if criticism of his artistic contributions necessarily implies such an unsophisticated understanding of the social functions of art.

Many of the same people who defend Eminem and dismiss his feminist and gay rights critics are white people – including good liberals and progressives -- who long ago accepted the idea that racist depictions in media play an important ideological role in perpetuating racism, not because whites will go out and imitate the behavior of fictional racist characters, but because the institutional structures of racism require ideological and cultural apparati to sustain them.
It takes no great leap of logic to see that sexism works in the same way. One need not argue that boys and men who listen to Eminem will become rapist-murderers in order to maintain that misogynous music and lyrics play an important role in legitimating men’s mistreatment of women by making it culturally acceptable and even “cool” for men to express sexist rage against women and then hide behind the pretense that “it’s only a joke” if anyone takes it too seriously. That argument has long been discredited when it comes to racism. What’s the difference when the oppression in question is sexism, or heterosexism?

For women and men who work in the trenches of the sexual and domestic violence fields, and see daily the brutal results of male socialization played out on the bodies of girls and women (and other men), bearing witness to the continued success of Eminem, Inc. can be an emotionally excruciating experience. I know plenty of people who would prefer to crawl under the covers and pretend that none of this is really happening.

But those of us who take seriously the feminist idea that rapists teach us something about the society that produced them have no choice but to pay attention to Eminem -- both the content and context of his art, and how critics and others describe and make sense of it. With rare exceptions, men who rape are not anomalous monsters. They are products of their socialization and the deeply misogynist norms that prevail in their societies. In the long term, the only way to reduce dramatically the incidence of men’s violence against women is to change the social norms that help to produce abusive men – which includes critically examining what sort of art we choose to celebrate, and why.
In domestic violence advocacy, there is a term used to describe a situation where people contribute to an abusive man’s behavior by their conscious actions, by their minimization of his crimes, or by their silence. It is called “colluding with the batterer.” It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a society where radio stations continue to play Eminem’s records, people continue to buy them, and critics continue to write about them while leaving out any condemnation of their vicious sexism, is a society that is in profound collusion with the batterer.

Jackson Katz is the Director of MVP Strategies his book, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help, is available at major bookstores and at Amazon.com. Learn more at www.jacksonkatz.com.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Walker Middle School Rape

This deeply disturbing case that is unfolding in our hometown is so heartbreaking and troubling. Bullying and rape at a local middle school. A huge part of the community conversation surrounds charging the students as adults, what do you think? If the reports prove true and a pack of young boys taunt, bully and rape another child on multiple occasions, should it be handled on a more serious charge or does the fact that they are children, unable to make adult decisions and understand consequences outweigh the severity of the crimes?

Where were adults at Walker Middle?
Published Thursday, June 4, 2009
St. Pete Times

Four Tampa teenagers are answering criminal charges that they repeatedly raped a 13-year-old schoolmate on campus grounds. But there is another question that needs to be answered: Where were the adults at Walker Middle School while this boy was allegedly pinned down and raped with a hockey stick and broom handle in the school locker room four times in two months?
As horrific as these allegations are, the idea that this was not one isolated event but a series of planned attacks heightens concerns about a systemic failure to provide reasonable supervision.
Prosecutors have brought adult charges of four counts of sexual battery against each of the four defendants, whose ages range from 14 to 15. Prosecutors said Wednesday the victim endured months of abuse and intimidation — all apparently in silence. Students would later tell investigators they heard the victim scream during one attack, but neither the victim nor the witnesses informed anyone in authority. The allegations came to light only after the victim and one of the accused fought during a flag football game.
The Hillsborough County School District has no specific policy requiring staff to monitor the locker rooms, a spokesman said Thursday. The district does have an overall responsibility to supervise students on campus. It also has antibullying policies in place that seek to inform school authorities and parents when a child is harassed.
Those policies are not good enough. Staff should reasonably monitor every facility on campuses that holds large groups of students. That does not necessarily mean every baseball dugout, restroom or stairwell. But common sense says locker rooms and the like are easy places for students to gang up on others.
The school district said it will use the summer recess to train teachers and staff to be "hypervigilant" to signs of bullying. It also intends to review the rape complaint to determine whether it needs to improve its campus security or reporting procedures.
The school district has a real problem if its staff members throughout the county are as out of touch as they reportedly were at Walker. It is incredible that it took weeks for the allegations to surface. It is especially troubling that some students reported hearing the victim scream and yet none of the boy's schoolmates came forward to protect him. Middle school students may not quickly confide in teachers, but they talk plenty among themselves. The problem here goes beyond the effectiveness of anti-bullying policies. The school district and parents need to challenge the culture among students that equates standing up to snitching.
The district also faltered by waiting to review the conduct of its staff until law enforcement completed its criminal probe. It lost valuable time. The district would not have interfered with the criminal probe by merely moving sooner to investigate how its staff handled the rape complaint. Incidents are going to happen on school campuses in Hillsborough and elsewhere, but parents need a higher comfort level that their children are safe and well-supervised on campus.
What is striking about the allegation is not only the savagery of the crime but that the opportunity to commit it apparently occurred repeatedly. This should be a warning to Hillsborough and other school districts to review their supervision policies and make sure their campuses are well-monitored.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Do fame and glory lead to sexual aggression?

This post comes to you by way of our Communications Intern, Molly Hays. We are happy to say that Molly will be sharing her thoughts and talents on the regular. We're looking forward to her weekly blog posts throughout the summer and we hope you are too!


Alcohol and sex; the two activities are unfortunately frequently intertwined. No matter where you live or who you are, this fusion often ends in sexual violence.

Six students of Kyoto University of Education in Japan were arrested Monday for allegedly gang-raping a woman.

They were all at a pub and the 19-year-old woman was drunk. Only one man admitted to the charges, the other five claimed she was not drunk and therefore consenting. The five are claiming they engaged in consensual group sex.

However, personally, I don’t know any 19-year-old who would consent to that kind of “group sex.” Group sex in a vacant pub room, where all parties involved were presumably drinking, sounds a lot like gang-rape. I find it really frustrating when lawyers get involved and switch phrases, saying, “it’s not gang-rape but group sex,” and thus placing the blame on the victim as if her supposed promiscuity is at fault and not the six men surrounding her.

Regardless, Japanese media outlets are reporting that this case seems to be following a trend of other gang-rape cases in Japan as all six men involved were members of athletic teams. The current trend tends to link sports team members and alcohol usage with the ending result being gang-rape.

Why are athletic teams world wide being linked with gang-rape? Is there some sort of mentality athlete’s share that justifies sexual violence? Do fame and glory lead to sexual aggression?

But what about the players? Is it even fair to make this connection between athletic teams and gang-rape? It seems unfortunate and condemning to all athletic teams that some select members have been accused of committing gang-rape and thus the reflection of the few is harmfully projected on the majority.

Perhaps athletes do share a sense of entitlement that directs this behavior; yet I can’t help but think that without alcohol these gang-rapes would be nonexistent. Even the slightest bit of alcohol consumption can alter perceptions; “no” and resistance may not register with someone under the influence.

So what do we do? I think prohibition during sexual acts is not only reasonable but necessary for the safety of both parties but also we need to reeducate people and force them to reform negative attitudes towards women that allow for gang-rape and other violent acts to be perpetuated.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dane Cook and the word RAPE

Before we get down to what comedian Dane Cook says about using the word RAPE in his most recent Comedy Central special we want to introduce you to the author of this post, Ms. Sabrina Sadler. Sabrina is our Social Outreach Intern and we are more than excited about all that she will contribute to the blog and to Unite for Change this summer. Thanks Sabrina for the first of many posts to come.

Dane Cook’s transcript from his “Isolated Incident” tour on Comedy Central:
I think the word we need to remove from our everyday vernacular is the word “raped.”

I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It’s like, “Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!”

I’m pretty sure if I talked to a woman who’s been through that horrific situation and I said, “What was it like you know being raped?" She’s not gonna look at me and go, “Have you ever played Halo?”

After watching Dane Cook’s Isolated Incident Tour on the Comedy Central, and hearing his opinion on the word rape, he definitely caught my attention. Not only does he say the word rape needs to be removed from everyday conversations but that the word rape is used to loosely.

I know from personal experience. I have seen and heard the word rape be used inappropriately far too often whether it is in a friend’s Facebook status or in casual conversation. I know in today’s society we have begun the transition of using the word rape to use sexual assault which is a broader term. This being the case I have never seen someone using the term sexual assault out of context or in a casual matter so we shouldn't be using the word rape out of context. Both sexual assault and rape are acts of sexual violence and sexual violence is no joking matter. So what can we do to stop the word rape from be used so casually?

First, we need to be aware. Be aware of the meaning of the word rape. Look up the actual meaning of the word!

Second, acknowledge what the word rape may mean to a victim of rape. Chances are a victim will have strong feelings about the word rape and the word will be no joking matter.

Thirdly, take a stand! If you hear someone using the word rape in a loose matter question that person. Get them to think about the meaning of the word.

Help bring Awareness in your everyday life! We ALL have the power to do so!

Thank you Dane Cook for questioning the use of the word rape.