• Survivors of military sexual assault testified this week in a Senate hearing to advocate for outside review of cases. Among the strongest voices for a chance in policy was that of New York senator Kristen Gillibrand, who told lawyers for the Defense Department, "I appreciate the work you're doing, but it's not enough." [L.A. Times, N.Y. Daily News]
• The Steubenville rape trial continues, with key evidence in the form of damning text messages and, today, testimony from eyewitnesses who took photographs and later erased them. [Huffington Post]
• Meet the new pope, same as the old pope—especially when it comes to LGBT rights. Salon has a roundup of Pope Francis's greatest hits on the subject, and by "hits" we mean "terrible, awful, heartwrenchingly bigoted statements SHUT UP MAN UGGHHH STOP TALKING." [Salon]
The Americans, a new FX Network spy show developed by ex-CIA agent Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, illustrates the unique physical and psychological dangers that threaten women in espionage, the military, and law enforcement. In addition to the expected danger incurred in shoot-outs and international arms deals, the show's lead female character deals with the very real threat of rape.
On the show, as in real life, institutional sexism allows sexual assaults to persist the military. The Americans shows that unfortunately, for women, being in sexually hostile situations has for too long been a part of the job.
The National Mall got a new memorial yesterday, if only briefly. As part of One Billion Rising, Baltimore-based feminist group FORCE installed a temporary memorial recognizing survivors of sexual assault. The group greated giant letters out of a statement from a rape survivor and floated the eight-foot-tall words onto the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
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."
It's hard to talk about and even harder to film. In this exclusive Bitch Q&A, feminist poet and writer Katha Pollitt talks with filmmaker Jennifer Baumgardner about her powerful new film, It Was Rape.
KATHA POLLITT: Your new film "It Was Rape" consists almost entirely of 8 women, telling the story of their rape and its aftermath in great detail. I found it simultaneously compelling and unbearable to watch. How did you find women willing to identify themselves as rape survivors?
JENNIFER BAUMGARDNER: Sadly, it was incredibly easy finding people who had been raped. I lecture frequently on college campuses and each time I mentioned that I was working on this film and project, at least two people would approach me after the talk to tell me about their story. I somewhat randomly chose the stories that ended up in the film. Going into the interviews, I didn't know the stories beyond the barest sketch.
Most of the women in the film were not out in public about being raped—often they had discussed it with just a few people in their lives—but they were hungry for a venue in which they could talk about this really huge, life-altering event and be listened to respectfully and openly. I had no problem getting people to talk. That said, many were scared to see their interviews when the film was finished. The prospect of being in the public opened up the possibility of being not believed (again) or blamed (again).
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.
My what a douche-y week! In desperate times like these, we feminists have only one option.... A douche-off! In one corner, we have Ann "R-word tweeter" Coulter, an awful person if there ever was one. In the other corner we have Richard "God intended rape pregnancies" Mourdock, who is also terrible. Two douches enter, one douche leaves!
When a rape victim went public with her story earlier this year, Jim Foley, Vice President of the University of Montana, sent an email asking if she could be punished under the Student Code of Conduct.