Feminist in the making

I have no idea why I woke up with this memory going through my head but I did and thought it was worth discussing.

Trigger warning for content including abstract discussion of rape.

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“I’m sorry, we don’t have any officers available.”

Source:

I have always lived in a part of the country that has had round the clock police, fire and medical personel available for any number of emergencies. There has never been a point where I considered that I would call the police and be told that there was no one at all available. Oh sure, I can easily imagine having to wait a bit or being asked to give my name and number and wait for a return call for non-emergent things. That’s expected. Being told that I would have to wait through the entire weekend for any county officer to respond to anything, even breaking and entering and likely physical harm, has never ever crossed my mind.

That is exactly what is going on in Josephine County, Oregon. I have a hell of a lot to say on this, but I don’t think a rant is what this story needs. Not at this point. First we need to make it so people are aware that this sort of thing is happening. Then perhaps something can be done.

What is Wrong With This Way of Thinking?

I’ve been reading The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti off and on the last few weeks. It’s not something I can read for extended periods of time because I get pretty upset as I go from one point to the next. I despair for the generations of kids that have been taught so many lies-condoms don’t work, abstinence is the only answer, birth control is wrong, etc. I am angry, truly angry, at the legislatures and lawmakers who have decided they know more about human anatomy, physiology, conscious, and emotional well being than dozens of well respected organizations like the American Medical Society and other similar organizations of professionals. I want to shake the doctors, nurses and pharmacists who put their own “morals” above that of doing what is right by their patients. Medical professionals have no right, no right at all, to force a woman to a particular treatment and should not deny a treatment just because it is morally ambiguous rather than medically wrong. I’m sure some could argue that birth control or the morning after pill or abortions (mostly abortions) are medically wrong, but they would be arguing against their peers and would have less to stand upon than their damn morality argument.

However, the part that makes all of this worse is how destructive the entire culture we live in is when it comes to rape and any sexual violence. As I was reading a chapter that focused on this topic, I couldn’t help but remember an exercise I did in my high school home economics class. The chapter noted how as soon as drugs or alcohol are involved people are significantly less likely to sympathize with the victim and instead condemn them. The exercise from my class was a thought game where supposedly fictional situations were presented. In all but one scenario the possible victim of sexual assault was female. More often than not the majority of the class agreed on what scenarios were or were sexual assault/rape regardless of the presence of drugs or alcohol. The one that stands out the most in my memory though is when the teacher asked if a male teenager who was intoxicated and unable to walk straight was raped by a teenage girl who convinced him to have sex with her. I was one of three students out of 30 or so that said it was rape. Even the teacher said that if the guy agreed and was capable of maintaining an erection then he probably wasn’t intoxicated enough to have been raped. I was appalled at the double standard she presented as not two questions before everyone had agreed that if we switched the roles of the male and female it was rape. It doesn’t matter the gender of the individual who is being coerced into any actions that lead up to sex, including sex, it is and will always be rape.

Mind you in some ways I was happy that most of my class was able to recognize when a woman is a victim of sexual assault/rape. However, the fact that few recognized that men can be victims too, and that I argued with a teacher about this, just solidified my opinion that most people don’t actually know what rape or sexual assault is. Maybe I’m reaching, but it would not surprise me if the majority of the people in that class would not recognize a victim of sexual assault/rape when these things actually happen in real life where the information is not as clear and obvious as it was in those classroom scenarios. When we have everything presented to us by the media it requires more than just glancing at a story to understand what happened. We have to read through the perspective of the journalist and what is sensationalizing the story and actually try to understand what happened.

The most recent example of a rape case that received national attention (as of the writing of this post) was what has come to be known as the Steubenville rape case. The national coverage did not start until late into the case but that didn’t stop the media from reporting directly from what can only be called the victim-blaming pulpit. When the guilty verdict was finally read by a juvenile court judge the coverage from CNN epitomized the rape-culture of America. They sympathized with the rapists for the majority of the 6 minutes of their initial “breaking news” broadcast. The victim was mentioned twice, both times in passing. “Lives were destroyed” was stated multiple times by several different reporters but always in regards to the rapists. Never once was anything said about the victim and what she must have been experiencing, what she must have gone through or anything at all about how her life had been destroyed. Luckily, in my opinion at least, CNN received a huge backlash for how they reported on the verdict and their focus on the rapists. The reporters involved were extremely upset that they were accused of sympathizing with the rapists despite the fact that yes, that was what they did. (For more on the entire case go ahead and start here.)

How could two female reporters who do not consider themselves part of the misogynistic culture that is part of the American way of life end up in such a position? It’s really easy when you consider that most people don’t even realize that the way that they reported was possibly wrong. It was only after it was pointed out to them that this was wrong that they even stopped to think about it. Consider this – these two boys were charged and found guilty of accidental man slaughter or whatever the legal equivalent would be. It would be easy to say yes, what they did was wrong and they deserve jail time, even if it was an accident. There would be sympathizing with them, but the victim and the victim’s family would be mentioned and have just as much coverage as the two who were found guilty of that crime. However, the coverage of rape is always different. These two boys consciously chose to act as they did and used their victim as they saw fit. There was nothing about any of their actions that was an accident. They didn’t “accidentally” remove her clothes. They didn’t “accidentally” carry her from one party to the next. They didn’t “accidentally” take pictures or videos of her. They didn’t “accidentally” insert foreign objects into her body. None of their actions were accidents, but because the charges were for “rape” they were seen with much more sympathy than they otherwise should have been. We don’t want to admit that rape happens, that we all take part in this rape culture, or that how we view rape is skewed and wrong. We especially don’t want to admit that high school, star football players are capable of rape because it completely goes against our ideas of what “all-American” boy are and what they are capable of doing. That requires admitting that they can be wrong and that they are not perfect and that they are not the ones being led down the path of the dark side by the “wrong kind of girl”.

I must count myself as part of that culture too. I am aware and conscious of the fact that I was raised in a society that dehumanizes victims and disregards acts of violence against women (or men) if sex was involved. If I do not stop and think about what I am reading or hearing it is too easy to fall into that misogynistic and paternalistic way of thinking. My parents did a pretty good job of raising me in such a way that I question a lot of things I read, see or hear. While it makes me more aware, it doesn’t necessarily help when the society they are raising me in, as enlightened as Boulder County was, is still overwhelmingly full of negative messages for women, especially women who dare to step outside what has been designated for them, and elevating men, especially those who not only fulfill their role as men but “encourage” women to fulfill theirs as well. Awareness at least makes me wary and I can take my time to really think about what is going on and what I can do to help/stop/make others aware.

I hope the kids I grew up with in high school have had some of the same insights that I have as they’ve become adults. I hope that maybe they are able to recognize rape and sexual assault and who is the victim and who is the aggressor in real life. I hope that they don’t blame the victim getting raped after drinking or using drugs or wearing the wrong clothes or being out in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope they are working with their friends and families to help be part of the slow change in our culture. I hope… it sounds so small when working against something so large.

Equality?

Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.

Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.

Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.

What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.

I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.

Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.

But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*

Sheriff Maketa: “An Injustice Against Our Citizens”

Sheriff Maketa: "An Injustice Against Our Citizens".

On Monday March 4th, 2013 the legislative branch of the Colorado House and Senate set a terrible, terrible precedent for how the citizens of Colorado and their concerns can be overridden and ignored in favor of politicians and party agendas. On a single day, Monday the fourth of March, five seperate gun control bills were set for public hearings by the state Senate. One day only was set aside for some of the most controversial bills that have been proposed in years. The next closest would probably be the Civil Unions bill that was passed without much, if any, fan fare this morning. While individual bills are scheduled for only one day of hearings, bills like these would normally be set on different days so that citizens have greater opportunities to make it these hearings and testify. Not everyone gets to, but usually it is a first-come, first-served deal. If you get there early enough, you’ll most likely be able to testify. Again, that was hot how these hearings were run.

Sheriff Maketa, a man who has reason to be very concerned about these bills and the legislative process, described what he saw on Monday. “…On numerous occasions, bills similar in nature were set for hearing on different days to ensure opportunity for anyone to participate in the deliberative process. On Monday, this didn’t occur. Instead, gun bills were simultaneously scheduled and of 25 plus sheriffs, only one could testify per bill. Hearings were split so bills heard simultaneously were on different floors, even though all were heard by senate committees. Rules for testimony changed three times from Thursday afternoon through Monday at 10:30 am, when hearings began. … Minutes after I signed up to testify, I learned a different process would be utilized and testimony was based on three categories: experts, preferred witnesses, and public witnesses.” (Emphasis added by me.) It seems to me that all these changes were specifically implemented to prevent citizens from voicing their opinions. They were blocked from representing themselves before their legislators. I would go so far as to say that the multiple changes in procedure, holding the hearings on the same day, and even creating different categories of speakers where committee members designated “expert” speakers were all designed specifically to prevent testimony against these bills.

“Later, I phoned a member of our legislature and expressed concern for what I had witnessed; changing of rules, time limits, new classification of speakers to establish priority and most of all the number of citizens who made the journey to the Capitol in hopes of being heard. I was told the rules did change several times and that this was very unusual. These changes were driven by the majority leadership, Senator John Morse, and the chairperson of the involved hearing committee.” I am appalled and ashamed at what the Colorado Democratic party, the current Senate and House majority, has done. I am a registered member of the Democratic party but am seriously considering severing my ties with them because of how they are treating the voters that elected them to office.

Maketa continued, voicing concerns that I truly believe we all should take a very close look at. “…I recognized the injustice that was unfolding before my eyes. Citizens of Colorado were prevented from participating in the legislative process. Their rights had been overridden by the agenda of a few members of the State Senate.”

I think what disturbs me the most of this entire process is that this is a new precedent that is being established by a party that I voted for. I helped to elect some of them into office and now am watching the government take large steps towards ignoring me and fellow citizens entirely, unless we agree with them. Did I go to the hearings on Monday? No, but it wasn’t due to lack of desire. I had classes that I could not miss and am now under the impression that it would not have mattered. My voice would have been silenced with the other estimated one thousand people that attended Monday’s testimony hearings.

Are there other methods for making my voice heard? Yes, I can email or call my representatives. I can attend town hall meetings. Would that have really made a difference here? No, because the representatives for the district(s) I live in are both Republican and voted against all five bills. I could have contacted other representatives, those I did vote for in previous elections for example, but they do not have to listen to me any more than other state representatives at the national Senate and House have to listen to me. I am not part of the slice of their state that they represent and therefore am not as important to them, at least not when we are talking about an issue that is so decisive and split down party lines like this.

Will I be making my concerns knows to all of the state representatives currently serving? Yes, I will. Again, the precedent that they have set is one which has the potential to lead to a government ruling class which is above the citizens they “represent.” I am aware that I am possibly using a slippery slope argument here, but I also believe that I am justified in being so concerned. I hope I’m not the only one. If you also believe that what has occurred here is wrong, please add your voice to mine and speak out against what has happened. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the gun control bills themselves. They are but minor players in this particular concern. I am much more concerned about my rights and my voice being ignored and silenced. I believe you should be too.

New experiences at work

Hello there. I have left this blog inactive for too long. This is probably not the greatest topic to start up again with, but I have to vent somewhere.

I started working at a locked psychiatric acute treatment unit a few months ago. I’ve been working in psych for years. Five years I think. I’ve been in some pretty funky situations with people threatening all sorts of things, people out of control, and people acting out against others. However, I’ve never really been in a situation with someone who is not just actively planning suicide, but acting out on it.

Well, tonight that changed. I was just getting ready to leave work. Grabbing my purse and going out to grab my jacket and all that good jazz when one of the room call lights goes off. Since there were only two other staff in the facility and one wasn’t in the office I went out to see if they needed some help. Turns out the counselor found one of our patients in her room trying to hang herself with a part of her blanket that she tore apart and was trying to loop around the door handle. She had tried to block the door from opening with her body (why the doors open into the rooms and not both ways is still beyond me) but luckily it’s hard to block a door with your body if you’re not propped against something.

I think the thing that stands out to me the most is that she had written a suicide note and had it right there on the desk. This wasn’t a call for help, this was an outright attempt. A pretty good one too. I’ve had patients threaten to hurt themselves and declare they were actively looking for ways to do it, but they never actually managed to do so. This gal, she planned it well. She waited until right after a check (every 15 minutes due to risk) and tore the blanket, tied it, and arranged everything. Lucky for us, the counselor went to talk to her earlier than the patient had expected.

The good thing is that we worked well as a team. The RN took lead and the counselor and I were able to act on directions calmly and without tripping over each other. The other patients remained safe and most didn’t seem to even realize something funky was going on. I don’t know if that speaks to our handling of the situation or to how low functioning this particular group is.

I hung around until our program manager could come in since I have to be back in at 6 am and didn’t really get much of a debrief. I guess this is probably it for now. I don’t feel that I need it as much as the counselor does (did?) as she was the one who found this patient and interrupted her. I can only imagine the emotions associated with that, the number of questions, “what if…” that would come to mind. I’m sure she’ll get the debriefing she needs – our program manager made sure to ask how she was doing during their first phone conversation.

Regardless, I’m bringing some chocolate in for both of them and my manager. They deserve it for how well everything was handled and for remaining calm and collected while still at work. I already have my chocolate so it’s only fair that I make sure they get theirs too.

There Should be a Rant Here

There should be a rant here. Really there ought to be. I have a lot of anger directed toward “the system” right now that has very little opportunity for outlet. Outlet being anything more than a rant or raging against something which is beyond me, but which I am also a part of.

The system I am referring to is the publicly funded mental health system within the state of Colorado. There are so many issues with it, so many times where I and my co-workers are stuck between a rock and a hard place, between being ethical and recognizing that the bottom line still is, and always will be about funding. The safety of the consumers is taken so much more seriously than the safety of the staff, except where the risk of bad publicity or press is possible in which case much is swept under the rug. If someone doesn’t have insurance but truly has a need for services, we may be able to find some time, some funding, some help. But if someone else has insurance but no motivation or drive or desire to get better we keep throwing more and more services at them because god dammit, we can make up for their lack of anything if resources are thrown at them. Except it doesn’t work that way. And we all know it. But because they can get the services, it’s not right to hold them back for someone who maybe can’t afford them but would actually possibly benefit from them.

Oh is it so very broken.

And I feel dirty sometimes for being a part of it. For perpetuating it. Despite the fact that I dig in my heels and advocate for what is most ethical, at least as far as actual treatment and therapy is concerned. But I am very low on the totem-pole and my opinions only matter if I can convince the psychiatrist who is having the medical director breathing down her back as well as the board members and other such peoples that best ethical practice is not always best practice. And dammit she doesn’t have enough power to go against it either.

And the worst thing is that I can’t even blame them. If they weren’t so pushy about what they want from the programs I work with, the programs would no longer exist. Funding would have dried up years ago and the services wouldn’t exist for anyone. At least nothing that stayed around long enough to actually be of any use to the people who need them. But it doesn’t make it any easier to think about either.

Despite what it appears up above, you still haven’t seen my rant. You’ve seen the tale end of it, where I am on my hands and knees, spent and crying and begging for some brilliant solution to make itself known to me or the people around me. This is the spent and wrung out and just plain tired part of me begging for something to change.

In the meantime, I’m going to snuggle with my fiance and try to forget that when I wake up in the morning and get ready to go to work that despite all my best efforts, it’s never going to be enough to help everyone that needs it and that I’m part of a system that I cannot stand. Because there are some days or weeks where I have to forget it if I’m going to be able to do anything of what I can do for the poor souls caught up in the system. I know that I have been able to help people. I know that I have helped to turn around peoples’ lives and that they are better off for me having been their nurse. But on days like today, it’s so very difficult to remember that.

I have to try though.

Peace