Awkward post about how the quote on my blog has been misattributed the whole time

So, guys, breaking news, the “Edgar Allan Poe” quote below the photo on my blog in fact wasn’t Edgar Allan Poe. It was another Poe, the female singer-songwriter from the 1990’s. 

Feel free to laugh at me. I’m laughing at me.

(Sneakily replaces quote with a new one.)

Being a woman: what it’s like to be on the walk of shame all the time

Last week I posted on the Advanced Reporting blog about the frustration of being a woman in, yes, 2013. 

Oh god, not another complaining girl, you may think. Well, cowboy, hold on there for a second.

I wanted to take more time to write about that semi-off-the-cuff post. I wrote it very quickly and in kind of an emotional rush. I meant every word I said, but I feel the need to elaborate on it because I can’t seem to not talk about it.

I guess I should go back to when I first realized my perspective on women was crooked. It was a couple years ago when I saw the film Miss Representation that I first cared about women’s rights. Before that, I was one of those women who think that we should just deal with it and stop complaining. So, any of you who are sensitive to women’s activism, I get it. I used to think that way. 

But after this film, and after talking to my sister on a New York subway about womanhood and women’s unfairly low notch on the societal totem pole, I made a huge and intentional 180 in my perspective. I almost couldn’t believe that I used to think women’s rights weren’t important.

Some people may say that it’s overreaction. You make more money now. Yes, we make more money than in the 1960’s and 1970’s when we made a little over half of what men made. I think now women made about 80 percent of what men do. But just think about that. It’s still 80 percent. Not 100 percent. It’s the concept of making less than a man that’s hard to get over. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but…no. (I’m trying to find a way to localize this to write about it, because I’ve been wanting to write about women for a while but I haven’t figured out the avenue in which to do it.)

Anyway. 

The main reason I’m jumping back to this post is because of a very, very important event that’s happening in Ohio. I’m talking about the Steubenville rape case that was decided this weekend with a guilty verdict for both accused rapists.

What’s interesting about this case is that it’s probably the most chock-full example of women’s rights and youth and the culture of men v. women: it brings together social networking, chauvinism, football culture, “inappropriate behavior” from women like “flirting with a guy at a party” (seriously from one testimony) (because women are totally trying to get raped when they flirt), victim blaming, women blaming women, sexual consent, drugging, the bystander effect, pornography, drinking, shaming, social isolation, oh, and most importantly…rape.

(But seriously read this NYTimes article about the case because it’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time.)

I’m not sure if it’s overexposure or if I’ve just become hyper-aware, but the rape culture has become increasingly prevalent recently. (Don’t bring any pitchforks to my house, I don’t know the stats behind it, but that’s what it feels like.) But that’s not the issue. Rape is not a new thing. Hating on women and victim blaming is not a new thing. Female degradation is not a new thing.

Don’t think that these issues with women aren’t in your own backyard. The devaluing of the woman is in our own lives, in our houses, on our TV screens. It’s hard to say that our culture has developed beyond the tendency to destroy women’s role in society when Seth McFarlane is cracking jokes about nudity at the Oscars and when someone at Esquire actually tells journalism students that they don’t hire women (although I wouldn’t really want to write there anyway but still) and when Daniel Tosh jokes about how an audience member should be raped and people still laugh about these things. Laugh.

People have talked about rape and humor. I’ve read a lot of different articles from journalists and comedians combined that delve into the science of humor and stand-up and when rape is funny and when it’s not. But hey, guys, here’s an idea: how about you don’t joke about it? Is there really not enough in this world to joke about? Seriously. Donald Glover joked about being a kid in Home Depot (I think Home Depot?) and I was crying from laughing so hard. Mike Birbiglia joking about his childhood also induced tears.

Rape? Not so much. I get it. It’s such a ridiculous concept to rational people that it seems okay to joke about it. But that’s the problem. We say that we can joke about rape because it’s so unheard of and so outrageous but that’s the problem. It’s not unheard of. It’s not outrageous. (Note: women rapists do exist but I honestly don’t know enough about the issue so I’m not going to talk about it here.)

And rape has been a “thing” for a long time. It’s in Greek mythology, for goodness’ sake. I mean, have you ever read the story about the “abduction” of Europa? Totally ridiculous story, by the way. Girl is gathering flowers. Girl then gets “stolen” by Zeus in the form of a bull. You can figure out the rest.

But rape is perceived as some kind of elusive folklore that everyone knows about but nobody thinks actually happens. But it does happen, and in many forms. 

Whether it’s in the form of pressured sex between partners or oral sex between a football player and a drunk girl, rape is serious and disgusting and it’s the ultimate manifestation of how women are still disrespected, used, taken for granted, devalued, blamed, hated and perceived only as surface-level physical beings.

But even beyond rape lies the dangerous animal of women being secondary and suffering from a panoply of double standards. Female politicians are not, at first glance, criticized for their foreign policy theories; they are judged on how they dress and how their hair looks today and why does Hillary Clinton look so old? The “innocent” image of womanhood runs parallel to slut-shaming and the heralding of stale Puritan values via Taylor Swift songs and fairy tales and romantic comedies. Our conservative male (and female) politicians are literally trying to take away and shame away women’s control of their bodies and their reproductivity

Oh, and violence against women? Important? Not to Sen. Roy Blunt and 21 other senators. 

I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of politicized opinions on women because that’s too exhausting. What frustrates me is that every single woman deals with discrimination or shame or disappointment in themselves on a daily basis. I know this because I experience these things on a daily basis and I can’t be the only one.

I frequently wear pants instead of a skirt because I don’t want to deal with the glances and the subtle comments. I feel bad when I wake up from a night of drinking because I feel like I’ve made mistakes and I feel shameful and dirty. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I feel it anyway. I don’t wear much makeup mainly because I don’t like wearing a lot of makeup but I also know what a lot of makeup implies. I have always been self-conscious about my body because it is athletic and not tiny and waifish. For a long time I did not want to be too passionate about anything because I thought it came off too strong (fortunately I don’t do that anymore). I judge myself when a guy doesn’t text me. Sometimes I make fun of other women – not maliciously, but I have to admit that I do it, and I feel awful about it. I try not to sashay my hips too much even though it’s my natural gait. 

These are natural things that women consider. It’s a slow process, but I’m making myself more aware of what I do and I’m trying to improve. I even got my hair cut very short recently and it looks wonderful and it gave me the most liberating feeling. Maybe it’s shallow, but just doing something like that helped me.

There are many issues with women’s rights today, and it comes from all angles: it comes from women, from men. It’s a hard issue to tackle, but I’m going to try.

Let’s straighten some things out.

1. A girl who freely chooses to have sex is not a slut. A girl who freely chooses to not have sex is not a prude. Either way, it’s her choice, not her identifier.

2. A drunk girl is not asking, in any way, shape or form, to be raped.

3. A girl wearing a “slutty” outfit is not asking to be raped (I had trouble with this one for a while but I now wholeheartedly believe it).

4. A flirty girl is not asking to be raped. A girl is, in general, never asking to be raped.

5. Rape jokes are not okay. Ever.

6. A woman wearing a lot of makeup is not asking for attention or anything derogatory.

7. A woman walking down a street doesn’t want to be cat-called. 

8. A hungover woman is not a slut. (Cue in everything wrong about the concept of the “walk of shame”)

9. Sleeping with someone shouldn’t say such ill things about a woman’s character. It conveniently doesn’t ever reflect a man’s character, so it should be the same for a woman.

10. Sex in general shouldn’t be so derogatory.

11. A woman who is ambitious and assertive should not be considered “like a man.” (That one will probably never change though.)

12. A woman who chooses to not have sex before marriage or until she’s in a relationship or whatever is great, but that doesn’t mean her convictions are stronger than a woman who does have “casual” sex. 

13. BUT, a woman should never feel obligated to have sex in any form if she does not want to. If unwanted sex happens, it is not her fault and she should have no blame washed over her.

14. Women need to accept chivalry and kind actions from men. Saying “thank you” goes very far. I know we’re angry about mistreatment, but that doesn’t mean we have to close up when a man tries to do something nice.

15. When women’s rights come up, we should not be afraid to talk about it. Talk about it, rant about it, waste time talking about it, thinking about it, etc. It’s an issue and we don’t talk about it enough because the culture for some reason tells us it’s not worth talking about.

These are things I need to tell myself frequently to maintain my sanity. Putting these in this post helps solidify it for me.

The most productive thing I can say right now, I think, is that, deep down, shame is at the core of many social issues for women. Shame is a painful, scarring feeling, and it’s different from guilt, as described in this absolutely beautiful TED talk from Brene Brown that Allie posted the other day.

“Guilt is saying ‘I made a mistake,'” she says. “Shame is saying, ‘I am a mistake.'”

Women are told that what they do are mistakes. Wearing a short skirt is a mistake. Getting pregnant is a mistake. Getting drunk is a mistake. Taking birth control is a mistake. Being aggressive in the workplace is a mistake. Talking about women’s rights is a mistake. 

But, more importantly, we are told that we are mistakes.

But we are not mistakes.

We must stop telling ourselves that we are mistakes and we as a collective whole must stop telling other women that they are mistakes. We need to not judge each other’s clothes and each other’s actions and we need to stop judging each other in general and we need to resist being judged.

Wanting to change this whole culture is not just a woman’s issue, and that’s why being in support of women’s rights is not equal to an anti-man sentiment; I’m the last person to say men are the enemy and I think that argument is tired, dangerous and counterproductive. I think men are vital to the equation, and women get too defensive towards men. That’s the wrong idea. If anything is going to change, perspective-shifting will need to happen in both genders.

We are not mistakes. 

It’s just a matter of believing it.

Eye for an eye

This week was one of the most mentally exhausting weeks I’ve had in a while.

Well, I guess you could say last weekend was just as draining too. I hesitate to say “draining,” though, because that word carries a negative connotation to it. The thing is, this past weekend was the weekend that I’ve been looking forward to for a year – literally a year.

It was True/False weekend. (Ah! Oh no! Not another post about True/False! Fear not. Or fear. Whatever. I’m still going to write about it.)

I first came to True/False in my freshman year here at MU as a volunteer for events. From running around in a gorilla suit under peals of thunder and sheets of rain to being equally saddened and exhilarated by film after film after film, I could say I’d never experienced anything like it before.

I’ve fallen in a beautifully serendipitous way into True/False, being just a student at the university. But the fest has never failed to excite me weeks – and months – beforehand.

I came to the journalism school originally for photojournalism, but for a slew of reasons and because of shifting tides in my interests, I switched to written journalism. I felt like I was more attuned to writing.

But as time has passed, I’ve really felt a deep gouge within myself that has to do with the stories I tell. I write, and I write, and I write – and I love it. I love writing. When I cry and thrash around and curl up on my couch under the weight of a moment of depression, the first thing I do is go to my computer or grab a sheet of paper and write. I have a huge collection of short stories and poems lying around like shards of glass memories.

But every time I come to True/False, I feel like the stories told are being done in such an innovative and visceral way that I can’t help but think that that’s the way in which I should communicate. There’s something so instantly connecting about visuals, something that’s so successful at garnering a response from people.

(I know everyone else says this. Literally everyone else who goes to the fest wants to become a documentarian. I know this. But it’s hard not to want to. And I refuse to listen to anyone who is condemning about the idea of documentarian-style anything just because other people are interested in it. And, anyway, isn’t that the goal of something like T/F – to get people to want to jump on board?)

I’ve had a lot of trouble and difficulty over the past year, and I’m not sure I can really pinpoint what it is. I’ve struggled a lot and I’ve pushed myself through, and I’m in a wonderful place. But sometimes I find myself drifting into a stream of sadness that, while brief, is significant.

When Brian Storm came to MU a while ago to talk about his website MediaStorm, he said something about how we as journalists take too much command when telling a story (I mean, that’s our job, duh). He said how we should instead let the people themselves tell their stories, and give them the reins. I’m not saying let citizens write A1 articles or man the copy desk. Rather, let them cry when their dog dies. Let them laugh when they finally get that trick on their skateboard or kick a wall when they get let out of a night in jail. And most importantly, let them show these things through you as a medium, whether that medium is a film camera or a video camera or a pen. I can’t help to think, however, that seeing someone laugh is much more effective than reading someone laugh.

I know this isn’t the right thing to say right now. I want to say, “Yes! Writing, the almighty form of communication!”

But I can’t simply say that. I’m not devaluing writing. In fact, writing is what I’m good at. It’s what I have the most natural ability with. But when I tell my stories, the stories are not about me. They are not about my ability or about what I think is best. They are about the person I’m writing about.

Maybe I just need to become a better writer and come to terms with the difficulty of description and with enticing readers.

That’s one main thing I’ve been struggling with. I want to write, and I will continue to. But if I can see these documentaries impact people at such a local level in such a strong capacity, I can’t help but deny wanting to be a part of it.

And, besides, going back into visuals doesn’t mean I can’t hone my writing craft. There is a marriage between writing and visual, narrative and scene. Now I’m realizing not only how important visual is, but also how much I want to be making the visuals myself.

I had a DSLR camera for a long time that broke last year.

I’m buying a new one (somehow) and I’m going to be working on bringing back my visual side in my spare time.

But for now, I must continue to write. I need to learn how to use both methods – written and visual – to communicate. I don’t think it’s write to approach journalism looking only at clip count and bylines and page numbers. It’s about the stories we tell. It’s about the people we talk to and the people who listen to us. And if there’s a way to tell a story that can bring a hardline frat star to tears and a quiet girl to feminist anger, there’s no way I’ll tell that story any other way.