Undergraduate, graduate student Gender Studies Program
Boise State undergraduate student Christina Kopper and graduate student Shanna Hagenah presented at the competitive annual meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association in Baltimore, Maryland, representing the Gender Studies program with their original research.
Hagenah, a graduate student in communication and affiliated with the Gender Studies program, presented her work titled “Freedom to Learn: How Critical Pedagogy Can Disrupt White Hegemonic Discourses That Oppress Women of Color.”
Kopper, an undergraduate in gender studies and sociology, presented her paper titled “‘But What Happened To You?’ Navigating College and Hookup Culture Among People Who Identify As Asexual.”
Each of these students’ papers was accepted to panels alongside presentations from research faculty across the country; a significant achievement for two talented young scholars.
BAD FEMINIST BOOK DISCUSSION W/ ROXANE GAY
August 31 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Want to discuss “Bad Feminist”?
Celebrating Roxane Gay’s visit to campus, we want to invite you to a discussion WITH Roxane of her collection of essays that uses pop culture, honest reflection, and real-life experiences to provide thoughts on gender and inequality.
Share out about your favorite parts of the book and hear what others have to say!
The Advocate Official Publication of the Idaho State Bar
Volume 59, No. 3/4March/April 2016
Idaho Women Lawyers
Negotiating Your Worth as a Professional Woman:
Wage Disparity Causes and Solutions
Rape culture? It’s too real
By Sally Kohn, CNN Political Commentator. Updated 1:55 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Editor’s note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. Watch Don Lemon’s special, “The Cosby Show: A Legend Under Fire,” on CNN on Monday night at 9 p.m. ET. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) — We don’t yet know all the facts behind the now-infamous, poorly fact-checked story in Rolling Stone about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. What we do know: Rolling Stone at first blamed the alleged victim, “Jackie” — rather than its own journalistic sloppiness — for so-called “discrepancies” (before changing its callous statement).
And new reporting by the Washington Post does reveal that Jackie’s friends, cited in the story, say they are skeptical about some of the details. Still, they all believe that Jackie experienced something “horrific” that night, in the words of one, and we do know that Jackie stands by her story. Most of the doubts about it were apparently raised by those she’s accusing, including the fraternity and main alleged assailant — whom, I guess, we’re supposed to believe instead.
But one other thing we do know is that gang rapes just like what Jackie is alleging do happen — too often, and all over America. Here’s one measure: Today the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a new report showing that 80% of college rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to police, and 67% of such attacks by non-students go unreported. It would be a terrible and infuriating mistake to use the confusion around Jackie’s story as a convenient way to discount this reality.
While Rolling Stone’s reporting was clearly shoddy, for example, some writers who initially poked holes in Jackie’s story did so for ideological motives. For instance, even before the reporting lapses were revealed, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg called Jackie’s story unbelievable. “It is not credible,” Goldberg wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t believe it.”
Instead, Goldberg insisted, Jackie’s account was “a convenient conversation for an exposé of rape culture,” something, incidentally, Goldberg also doubts to be real. “‘Rape culture’ suggests that there is a large and obvious belief system that condones and enables rape as an end in itself in America,” Goldberg later wrote in National Review. It’s all hogwash, says Goldberg, alleging that the very idea of “rape culture” is just “an elaborate political lie intended to strengthen the hand of activists.”
In other words, whatever the reality of what happened to Jackie, Goldberg and others were skeptical because they simply don’t believe rapes like that happen with the participation of groups of assailants, let alone the complicity of bystanders. This is where they’re mistaken.
On October 24, 2009, in Richmond, California, a 15-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by a group of young men in a courtyard outside their high school homecoming dance. Six assailants were eventually tried and ultimately pleaded guilty or were convicted. Over two hours, as the assault occurred, as many as 20 other people watched. “As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated,” said Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department. The witnesses didn’t report the crime to police.
On August 12, 2012, a 16-year-old girl who was incapacitated by alcohol was raped by two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio. In the backseat of a car and later in the basement of a house, the two assailants stripped their victim naked and took turns, one inserting his fingers into her vagina, the other forcing his penis into her mouth. This is not in dispute. Both football players were convicted of the crime.
As the crimes were taking place, friends took pictures that were shared with other friends. Ultimately, Ohio investigators confiscated 17 cell phones used in sharing the pictures. Some of those at the party even posted pictures of the unresponsive girl, being carried by her wrists and ankles, on Twitter with words like “rape” and “drunk girl.” In Steubenville, four adults have been indicted after being accused of covering up the incident, including the school superintendent.
On May 11, 2014, an 18-year-old woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by three students at a party after their high school prom. The three alleged assailants, all prominent athletes, have been charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault and are awaiting trial. According to police, at least one person witnessed the assault in the room where it took place and several other people at the party knew it was happening. But no one stopped it.
In June 2014, a 16-year-old girl went to a party where she was allegedly drugged and raped. She doesn’t remember what happened, only passing out and waking up the next morning with her clothes messed up. But weeks later, the young woman received text messages of photos showing her unconscious and undressed, apparently taken at the same party. The photos went viral on the Internet, with Twitter users posting photos of themselves in the same awkward position, mocking the alleged victim. When the Houston Press asked someone who posted such a picture on Twitter why he did it, he simply said he was “bored at 1 a.m. and decided to wake up” his Twitter feed.
This is by no means an exhaustive account of incidents in which young women have been gang raped while bystanders have either cheered the crime, hidden it or stood by in silence. In the case of Jackie, I believe in innocence until guilt is proven, even as I realize that we have a society where rapists are given the benefit of the doubt, often despite overwhelming evidence, while female victims are shamed (see multiple Bill Cosby allegations).
The fact is, there doesn’t appear to be any incentive for Jackie to have lied. She wasn’t seeking to tell her story in the first place (the Rolling Stone reporter found her), and she must have known that she would face the usual victim shaming and blaming (witness the slime “journalists” who have now published what they allege is Jackie’s full name and address). Indeed, while Jackie named the fraternity involved, she left her alleged assailants’ names out of it, so it’s hard to see what sort of “revenge” agenda could be served by fabrication.
Anti-feminists have it wrong. No one, myself included, wants Jackie’s story to be true (that’s absurd and offensive), but we cannot apologize for erring on the side of a fair, compassionate and credulous hearing of a woman’s account. What feminists want — as we all should — is a culture in which it is safe for women to report sexual assault when it happens, where they can trust that their families, their peers, the police and courts and, yes, the media will respond with sensitivity and compassion, not skepticism and shame.
The peaceful and non-violent protests by the students and supporters of Jadavpur University took an ugly turn today when the police and RAF attacked them, resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate violence upon all the students present at the sit-in outside Aurobindo Bhavan.
“Rape can happen anywhere,” she explains in the video above. “For me, I was raped in my own dorm bed. Since then, it has basically become fraught for me, and I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”
Sulkowicz’ senior thesis, titled “Mattress Performance” or “Carry That Weight,” is a literal expression of that emotional weight. In what she calls an endurance art piece, she will drag her mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled or leaves. The project, she says, could extend for one day or for the entire remainder of her time at Columbia.
“The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space and bringing it out into the light,” she says. “So I think the act of carrying something that is normally found in our bedroom out into the light is supposed to mirror the way I’ve talked to the media and talked to different news channels, etc.”
When Sulkowicz’s case made it to a university hearing seven months after the actual incident occurred, administrators were confused about how anal rape could happen and she had to draw a diagram. The experience left her feeling physically ill.
“I was so naive that I guess I thought they would just believe me because I was telling the truth,” Sulkowicz told The Huffington Post in February. “I didn’t expect the school was going to try to not take my side.”
Sulkowicz was one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia for mishandling sexual assault cases, in violation of the gender equity law Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education has yet to determine whether it will investigate the university.
“Carry That Weight” is especially powerful protest against injustice, while also forcing her community to face the emotional and physical trauma of sexual assault. While one of her rules for the performance is that she can’t ask for help carrying it around, Sulkowicz said others are allowed to offer their help.
“I’m hoping that not only do I get better at carrying the mattress, but… I’m very interested in seeing where this piece goes and what sort of life it takes on,” she says.
The One Thing Keeping ‘Orange Is the New Black’ From Being the Most Feminist Show on Television by Noah Gittell July 10, 2014
Television has a nudity problem, and Orange Is the New Black is its latest victim.
As viewers reach the end of the Netflix show’s second season, critics are celebrating its victories for feminism. Prachi Gupta notes in Salon the show’s “predominantly female cast, the prominence of minority, trans and LGBT women, and full characters that make the Bechdel Test seem obsolete.”
But these victories come at a cost, as the television industry levies what we might call a regressive cultural tax that keeps shows like OITNB from realizing their full potential as feminist texts: A seeming requirement that every series without broadcast network censorship features gratuitous female nudity, regardless of how incompatible it is with the show’s themes.
The only featured characters asked to disrobe on Orange Is the New Black are those who adhere to our society’s rigid and unrealistic definition of female beauty. Regardless of its good intentions, the show sends a tired message to its viewers that only a thin, taut, young female body is worth viewing.
Orange Is the New Black toes a very fine line. It indulges in the lesbian/prison fantasy by depicting beautiful women in various states of undress, while also displaying a winking self-awareness about this titillation, which allows viewers to feel in on the joke about the degrading nature of the sexual material while also still indulging in it.
This dynamic was evident from the very opening scenes of the series, in which we see Piper, our blonde, bourgeois protagonist, in the shower with her lover/ex-lover, Alex. Both of them are topless and kissing. Just before the action gets too steamy, however, we cut to the present day at Litchfield prison, where Piper is struggling with her first prison shower. It is a neat way to show the differences between civilian and prison life, but it also gives the audience thin, young, conventionally beautiful, naked women to drool over — with an implicit promise of more of this type of nudity in future episodes.
Worse still, this scene depicts the nude Piper as a helpless victim of the predatory sexual gaze. Her shower is interrupted when another inmate pulls Piper’s towel away to gape at her breasts. She even comments on Piper’s form, telling her, “You got them TV titties. They stand up on their own all perky and everything.” You have to admire the writers here: They found a way to tell viewers that the show is smarter than the marketplace that requires this female nudity, even if they are still beholden to it.
But the real problem — and the one that keeps OITNB from being the most feminist show on television — lies in those “TV titties” and the fact that, over its two full seasons, every featured character who bares her breasts looks like she could have come out of an issue of Playboy.
The breasts and naked bodies featured on OITNB are always perky, never saggy. They are not always big, but they are always flawless, unblemished by scars, moles or odd proportions. Besides Piper and Alex, there is Morello, the Brooklyn-accented stalker who has a same-sex fling with the lecherous lesbian Nicky in season one.
This season, Nicky also beds Brooke Soso, a new inmate who bares her breasts for the camera within a couple of episodes. We also are treated to a flashback in which Poussey has a teenage sexual relationship with a well-endowed German girl. When they break up, Poussey tells her that she’ll “miss [her] killer tits,” another instance in which the writers remind the audience that they are in on the joke.
There are more examples, but I’ll stop here, lest this devolve into a Mr. Skin recap.
It is worth noting which characters do not take off their clothes. The butch lesbians, Boo and Nicky, remain clothed for the entire series, despite being the most sexually active characters in the cell block. So do the older female inmates and fuller figured characters, like Taystee and Cindy. In an interview with Vulture, Lorraine Toussaint, who plays the middle-aged Vee, joked that Netflix executives were not disappointed when she and other older cast members asked for no-nudity clauses in their contract.
“Nobody wants to see two old broads,” she said.
It’s worth pointing out that this criticism only applies to the show’s featured characters. To OITNB’s credit, the extras who appear in the showers and in strip-search scenes come in every shape and size. They look like real women. Another outlier is the character of Vee and her nude scene toward the end of season 2 — who chose to do one even though her contract stated otherwise; she is a middle-aged woman whose body does not conform to the unreasonable Hollywood standard.
So who do we fault here?
It’s not so easy — or productive, or accurate — to lay all the blame at the feet of show runner Jenji Kohan and the other producers of OITNB. While the show’s nudity certainly undercuts their revisions of the shallow depiction of women in the media, they are still beholden to the realities of the marketplace. This is truly a systemic problem.
Cable television (including Netflix) is driven by the male gaze. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, women made up just 28% of creative behind-the-scenes staff in the 2012-13 television season. It could very well be that the occasional centerfold-type nudity is one of the things that got the show on the air, and if that’s the price to pay for all of the show’s other feminist victories, so be it.
But the “great tits” problem extends to many other shows that are not so protected by overt progressive themes, and, in some cases, the message is getting muddled. Earlier this year, True Detective was criticized for endorsing the misogyny of its main characters, particularly Marty (played by Woody Harrelson), a husband, father and serial philanderer who had a knack for finding willing, young women who looked more like models than the type of women you might find in rural Louisiana.
Much of this criticism fell to the film’s casting of Alexandra Daddario as Marty’s first mistress and the way the camera assumed the male gaze by lingering on her breasts. As Emily Nussbaum put it in her terrificNew Yorker piece, “When a mystery show is about disposable female bodies, and the women in it are eye-candy, it’s a drag.”
True Detective creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto addressed that particular scene — and television nudity, in general — with BuzzFeed, citing pressure from HBO executives as its cause: “There is a clear mandate in pay-cable for a certain level of nudity.” This would explain shows like True Blood, Californication and Game of Thrones (which actually hired porn stars as extras) that feature bevies of nude model-types for no particular reason other than to titillate.
But several shows have found ways to subvert the rule. They may not be as popular as True Detective and OITNB, but they show that it can be done. In that same New Yorker article, Nussbaum pointed to Top of the Lake, in which showrunner Jane Campion “films the saggy bodies of middle-aged women, members of a feminist encampment.”
Then she stitches this subplot, in which she satirizes the cult of self-help victimhood onto a small-town mystery about sex crimes against teenage girls, who are filmed with comparative discretion.” While Top of the Lake came and went without much fanfare, everyone knows about Lena Dunham’s proclivity for baring her own body on HBO’s Girls. With her repeated nude scenes, Dunham has probably done more to normalize the average female body than anyone in recent memory.
Dunham and Campion should be celebrated for their dedication to changing the way our society perceives women, and so should Orange is the New Black. Despite its flaws, the show has done as much to advance the causes of feminism, LGBT equality and prison reform than any recent work of pop culture.
But the systemic male gaze is not so easily overcome. OITNB effectively subverts it through the show’s content, but the next important step is to change the form, and that means rejecting nudity for titilation’s sake. If we are ever to overcome the “boob mandate,” we must hold all of our entertainment to a higher standard and expect those shows that promote gender equality to be consistent in their application of those values. For OITNB, true gender equality is only one step away.