This past year, rape has dominated the headlines. From front-page coverage of the Penn State trials to Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment to international outcry about gang rape in India to national focus on Steubenville, talking about rape—a long-silenced topic—is finally a mainstream conversation. We are in a unique cultural moment where the ever-present epidemic of sexual violence is being recognized.
We need to not only recognize the reality of rape, but work to end it. We need a platform to honor survivors that will forever change the way the American public responds to their experiences. We need to create a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse.
Director Shola Lynch spent eight years researching intricacies surrounding activist and scholar Angela Davis—she wanted to make sure that her film documenting Davis’s controversial 1972 murder trial got the story right. And, well, she did.
A review and clip of her new film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners are below the cut.
Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
I'm *the* liberal, lesbian, feminist living in a small town in Pennsylvania.
This same conversation is happening at Catholic universities all over the country, as increasingly queer-friendly young people come up against university’s traditional, anti-gay policies. Both Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America have had very public discussions about the role of schools in requiring a strict adherence to Catholic orthodoxy as students on campus pushed to create gay-friendly student groups.
Elena Kostyuchenko (in the yellow hat) at the pro-gay Day of Kisses protest.
On January 25, 2013 the Russian State Duma swiftly passed a bill banning the “promotion of homosexuality.” The bill will have to undergo two more readings and be signed by the Russian president before it becomes law. If this happens, it will give the Russian government the right to fine publications and individuals up to half a million dollars for “promoting homosexuality.” Meanwhile, the law does not define what constitutes “promoting” and conflates homosexuality with, among other things, pedophilia. LGBT rights activists speculate that the passage of this law will lead to the government shutting down organizations, websites, and print publications that support the already besieged Russian LGBT community.
Protests for LGBT rights in Russia have a history of violence. Along with those brave enough to participate in them, protests often attract thugs calling themselves Russian Orthodox activists who pelt the LGBT protesters with eggs and physically attack them. The thugs discuss their plans for the beatings in their online forums on V Kontakte (a Russian version of Facebook), and cover their faces with scarves and masks in order to avoid being identified. Although the police are always present at such protests, the Orthodox activists seems to have their tacit approval.
This Sunday is the season finale of HBO show Enlightened, starring Laura Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a woman who has a nervous breakdown after her self-destructive tendencies cause her life to implode. Like the show's creators, I'm afraid this may be the last-ever episode of Enlightened. I'm not sure I can describe how fantastic Enlightened is and convince you to tune in for the final show, but I’ll try my best.
Enlightened is a darkly comedic look at California new age pseudo-spirituality, corporate culture, and misguided activism. It’s also a serious look at addiction in a multitude of ways—from substance abuse to Amy’s own reliance on her newfound spirituality to temper her rage and justify her terrible behaviors.
Baltimore feminist group FORCE took the world by surprise last December when they launched a line of fake Victoria's Secret, dropping underwear emblazoned with phrases like "Consent is Sexy" and "Ask First" at Victoria's Secrets around the US and promoting the fake Pink Loves Consent line on the internet. The spoof came off brilliantly, using a well-coordinated "feminist Facebook army" to hijack Victoria Secret's social media and broadcast the a discussion of consent to millions of mainstream shoppers. Last week, I talked with FORCE organizers Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato about what they learned from the Pink Loves Consent campaign, how Facebook and Twitter have censored their spoof, and the details on their next action, a Valentine's Day protest that will install a temporary monument to rape survivors in Washington DC.
BITCH: What choices did you make while planning Pink Loves Consent that made it so wildly successful?
HANNAH BRANCATO: The big decision was that we couldn't sell the underwear. This is a spoof, we're using Victoria's Secret's trademark, so we couldn't legally sell anything. There was all of this intense energy around the project when it first launched but the only thing people could think of doing was buying the underwear.
REBECCA NAGLE: The first thing they asked was, 'Where can I buy this?" And I think it was powerful to come back and say, "You can't buy it, it's an idea." Instead of sending people to a checkout cart, we're sending people to resources, to saying, "Here's a zine you can make."
Whether we like it or not, the legacy of colonization has shaped Canadian society and continues to permeate its political practices. Since 2008, the Harper government has made major cuts to aboriginal health and school funding, turned a blind eye to the over 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada, refused to share residential school documents with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, dropped land claim negotiations, stood by as Aboriginal youth suicide rates hit crisis levels, and attempted to erode environmental protection laws enshrined in First Nations treaties.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard something or other in the past month about a horrifying gang-rape case out of Steubenville, Ohio, involving two of the town's star football players, an inebriated out-of-town girl, and an alarming number of adults willing to defend the boys and blame the girl. (Because: football! Is there anything more important?)
Actually, if you have been living under a rock, consider yourself lucky, because this case just gets uglier with every new bit of information. With the juvenile-court date approaching in early February and online activists (both masked and not) stepping up to protest the city's handling of the case, there's going to be even more to parse in the coming weeks. So here's a primer on the events.
Taking a cue from feminist art-world culture-jamming collective the Guerrilla Girls comes Australia's Bolshy Divas—anonymous disability activists "in the style of feminist masked avengers, exposing and discussing discrimination, unmet need, and issues which affect people with disability and their families."