Racialized Sexism with Rape Survivors

I’ve been reading lots about rape and post-rape trauma. One of the latest books was What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Somalia Abdulali (2018). Her experience and story sheds light on the racialized sexist lens that is used to cover rape stories.

Abdulali was raped more than thirty years ago and her op-ed from then went viral due to the #metoo #timesup tag and rape cases in India. Her book is part autobiography, survival tool kit, and historiography of rape and trauma, but the highlight is the way that she examines rape culture and the intersection of race and sexism. What I enjoyed most was her guidelines for saving a rape survivor’s life on pages 75-76. This is a must-read book.

Abdulali, Sohaila. 2018. What We TalkAbout When We Talk About Rape. NY: New Press.

The Pain of #MeToo: Moving Forward

The #MeToo tag and subsequent anecdotes have gone viral. The tag was first referred to by Tarana Burke, an activist, who recounted her own story. But, in the last week, Actress Alyssa Milano used the tag and it spread like wildfire on social media and beyond. The legacy media responded by covering the story and it would be pretty hard to avoid the stories. We are at a tipping point. In the last two years, more stories came out regarding the current President of the United States—some thanks to the leaked audio and others thanks to the women coming forward. We also witnessed women coming forward regarding their terrible stories with actors and Hollywood moguls.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not new. It’s a known fact that rape is often used as a weapon of war during conflict. But, it was just in my lifetime that marital rape was coined. And, it was also in my lifetime that academic job interviews were moved from hotel rooms to lobbies or more public meeting places. I am certainly not condoning this behavior. I am stating fact. The stories that are flooding papers, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are important to listen and read—even if they are painful. These stories are too familiar.

Like most women, I have my own stories. The situations that stem from a tween through recent situations. But, where I have some semblance of power is the way that I support people around me. I am empowered, if not required, to speak up and support others. And, I do. My last post referred to a more common contact that I’m seeing on my social media channels—unwanted contact by men. I’ve taken to blocking once these sorts of contacts, as I don’t want to be hit on via LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media networks.

As a leader, I am familiar with the policies at work, and as a mentor, I am also supportive of my mentees and helping them maneuver any issues. LIkewise, I am glad to see that we are talking about sexual assault and harassment and the conversations are including men. Good. Overall, we are all responsible with making change and moving forward, so that the #MeToo stories become less common. However, I want to see more frank discussion about stopping violence against women and  conversations about unacceptable behavior.


Slutwalk and the Feminist Debates

Can I just say that the debates about the veracity of Slutwalk on the WMST-L have really hurt my feminist heart. The Women’s Studies Listserv has several thousand subscribers and the subscribers vary from those in Women’s Studies or other disciplines. You don’t have to be an academic to be on the list and lots of activists and writers subscribe. The WMST-L provides a beacon of feminist information sharing and dare I say networking. Occasionally a debate will transpire on the list among some of the list members.  Once again we have a round of back and forth where the debate is not so much about stopping violence against women, but instead is about semantics and feminist politics. Who has the right to say that they are the most feminist?! Using pornographic languages is apparently problematic and defeats the purpose of the walks. And, the salvos go back and forth.

This is a great example of how some academic feminist ideology not only turns off the mainstream from ideas, but also causes major fissures among the various feminist camps. Now, I’m not so pollyannish to expect us to all get along. What I don’t like, though, is how it appears that the debates become mired in certain conversations that smell of generational bullshit and  one-upwomanship on who owns the most feminist politics. Don’t get me started about how these conversations at times don’t offer an analysis that remembers class, race, sexuality and ability, but that would really complicate things, right?

Can’t we agree that the Police Officer should not have blamed the woman for her dress? He should have not said that she should not dress like a slut. For information about this Toronto situation see: http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/  And, can we agree that he should have kept his mouth shut or perhaps condemned the assailant. Yes, bring men into this discussion. Don’t rape women!

Then, the response with the Slutwalks in Toronto, Victoria and elsewhere was really about reclaiming the word and explaining to the public—don’t rape women. Stop violence against women. You say slut to demean women, well fuck you, we’re taking this word back! We’re going to go out in the public space and use this word and bellow a resounding, no. How is this not empowering? Well, the word is heternormative, demeaning, sexualizes women, and is an example of porn culture. Yes, but the point is that Slutwalk is reclaiming this word—empowering women to say, “Guess what—rape is never acceptable.”

There is power in words. Words are signifiers. We know this. However, we also know that we can take back words and refashion them and say that these words don’t hurt us anymore. Slutwalk is getting press around the globe and when more people talk about curbing violence against women this is a win for feminisms.

But, the debate about this term being problematic is really beside the point in my opinion. I’m sure Inga Muscio is smiling about these debates and thinking back about the flak she got with her first book. But, that my friends, is another blog post.


This season’s Dexter has been really hard to watch. The major theme is something out of a Stieg Larssen book. More than one dozen women have been raped, mutilated, and murdered.

Dexter is meting out his vigilante justice and has a companion helping him out–Lumen. She was one of the last victims, but survived. This season has disturbed me more than previous ones.