<![CDATA[People Against Rape Culture - Our thoughts]]>Mon, 08 Feb 2016 20:22:34 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Touch, a short animated film by Sugandha Bansal]]>Thu, 04 Jun 2015 01:04:28 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/the-touch-a-short-animated-film-by-sugandha-bansal
by Liz Puloka

Sugandha Bansal is the creator and animator of a short film called "The Touch" that challenges the misconception in India (as elsewhere) that rapists are strangers who prey on unfamiliar and unprotected girls in public spaces. The final assignment to second year university students at Cambridge School of Art in England was a short animated film on a topic of their choosing. Sugandha was stirred by the recent uptick in coverage of brutal sexual assault in India and the way the ensuing panic manifested in counter-productive efforts and reinforced inequalities. "At the time I was very disturbed by the rapes happening in India and all over the world. So, I just decided to do something about it,” calling the journey of making the film "quite hard, really.” Watch Sugandha's stirring piece here and read on below for more about the film's backstory:  
"I didn't know from the beginning that I wanted to show the story where the person who rapes is not a stranger, but a relative - someone who is trusted. I wanted to break the common notion that a rape is done by a stranger in odd times and odd places. So, I knew I wanted to share that part of the story.”

Sugandha began writing the poem and creating the animation, she researched statistics on rape in India and found that 98% of rapes were committed by "a neighbor, or a relative, or parents or family.” Sugandha was "shocked” because of how that contrasted starkly with the overriding belief that the time and place to fear sexual assault is outside of the home for unchaperoned girls and women. She describes the “terror and fear inside you” instilled in Indian parents and girls by the public outcry and hype / panic spurred by the recent spike of coverage of brutal and public rapes. When she found out that most rapes are occurring between known peoples in the literal and figurative home of family and trusted others she wanted her project to deliver the message that "It doesn’t just take place outside your home.”

Sugandha isn't able to show her film yet due to qualifying restraints for submission, but she plans to. One of the places she could show it is in a school run by her mother. There students have a curriculum that includes education about rape and sexual assault.

"I think it’s very important to provide sex education in India, because many parents feel uncomfortable talking about it, and kids don't realize there’s something wrong,” 
Sugandha said.

She goes on to say that while her mother is extraordinary in her commitment to teaching sex ed in her school, she is but one committed individual for so many needy pupils. "I know that she personally has talked to all the kids. The teachers have talked to all the kids about it and taught them what’s right and what’s not. And they take it very seriously, but there’s just so many students! India is a very, very populated country and the schools are hugely populated.”

This brings us to talking about how certain mediums can reach children and youth who might not otherwise get this education and support in their schools or homes. Animated media like Sugandha’s could join the likes of Priya’s Shakti as a way to educate youth about rape and sexual assault in formats that they already enjoy as well as understand.

"What do you do when a lot of people who are very uncomfortable talking about it and then you have huge populations and it’s just hard to actually get messages to them?” I suggest that Sugandha’s film could be a powerful tool to do just that. By using a medium that is both engaging and easily consumed like her animated film the message could be broadcast to groups in a format that they are more inclined to engage with and trust.

Sugandha embarked on this project because she wanted to show that "the touch that is supposed to be tender can also be brutal, and dirty [...] In a way that is short and effective.” And while she is buoyed by growing numbers of activists and supporters joining the fight to end rape and sexual assault in India, she recognizes there is still much more to be done. "The good thing is that many people are standing against it, because there were so many protests and many organizations did come together to protest against it. But the sad thing is it’s still happening.”

Sugandha’s film and others like hers could be a way to message young minds about a traumatic topic in a medium that is familiar and easy for them to understand. We hope she gets cleared to share this with her mother’s school and any other outlets willing and eager to use it as a sex education tool soon. We also hope that she creates more in the same service, joining the growing number of individuals and organizations using creative outlets to spread messages of support and awareness to challenge India’s rape culture.

<![CDATA[Milk Cult and reclaiming language´╗┐]]>Thu, 28 May 2015 20:46:48 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/milk-cult-and-reclaiming-languagePicture
by Liz Puloka

It's Called What?
A few weeks ago Washington City Paper picked up on a scuffle going down on Twitter and Instagram over a DC ice cream start-up's new packaging for a vegan frozen dessert. Milk Cult decided to showcase the new packaging for one of their frozen treats: Bangkok Brothel. 

Yeah. That didn't go down so well, at least after some of us noticed it. Owners Ed Cornell and Patrick Griffith said their vegan frozen dessert had been around since last summer and were surprised that the name was upsetting to folks almost a year later. 

I first heard about it when a friend sent me a screenshot of the pics, asking if I had seen it. I hadn't, and quickly took to Instagram and Twitter to ask Milk Cult why they chose that name and if they thought it was funny or edgy. As you can see, neither PARC nor I find it funny or edgy, and we let them know that.

When I found out about this gaffe, my first thought was that the owners likely weren't trying to be cavalier about a sex trade that includes thousands of trafficked and underage sex workers. My second thought was that the best way forward for them was to do damage control with a group that advocates for sex workers. So it was a pleasant surprise to read their statement and see that they had done just that! The owners of Milk Cult had a sit down with HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), an organization focused on harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement for sex workers, and issued a statement indicating that they had come to a much better understanding of sex work generally and specifically in Thailand. They went on to say that not all sex work is coerced and that positive, sex worker-run operations also exist. 

Milk Cult will now add information to their packaging about sex work and plans to donate 5% of proceeds from the vegan ice cream to both HIPS and Empower, a direct service oriented organization doing on-the-ground work for sex workers in Thailand. And to that we say Bravo! But, they have no plans to change the name.

HIPS executive director Cyndee Clay is compassionate and compelling in her stance regarding the name change.

"They were unaware, potentially, about the level of controversy and obviously didn't mean to do what they did," Clay says. She is happy with the outcome and won't be pushing for a name change. "They see their mistake and they're trying to do the right thing and spread the word and to make everybody more knowledgeable about an issue that doesn't get a lot of balanced and good conversation."

While she doesn't think it's a good idea for an ice cream flavor, she does think it could be an opportunity to reclaim brothels and sex work as ipso facto negative spaces, calling attention to the bad ones and recognizing the “empowering and sex-worker run” operations as something to support with harm reduction techniques and respect.

And l understand that. However I think that reclaiming language is tricky at best, and often hard to accomplish, as these erudite people have expressed. I also don’t think that changing the name would be 'sweeping it under the rug,' as the owners put it. With their public statement, donations made to HIPS and Empower, and information on the packaging educating about sex work, they have done a whole lot to air this out and fix it. It seems peculiar to say that they're going to leave the name as is, in an effort to show that they're not running away from their mistake. Keeping the name seems to be a doubling down of their explanation that they had seen nothing wrong with it and that it wasn't to be taken too seriously. The easy solution would be to change the name and then include a backstory and let that be the intro to whatever information they already plan on including in packaging. Makes sense, right?

Perhaps what may have made less sense was what I was aiming to accomplish through my comments to the City Paper about the name, as evidenced by some of the comments from aggrieved readers wondering why someone in my position felt it was OK to use the language I did. Part of what I was doing was baiting the reader with a statement I thought would get much more criticism than it did. I wanted it to become a jumping off point for a counter-argument and discussion about several different things - things like what sorts of jokes are OK and which aren't? Why is it hard to navigate such humor? And who's allowed to say what? So, let's get into it, shall we?

A Bag of Dicks: A close reading.
Having just commended Milk Cult's damage control actions and plans, I gave my take on the name change. Here's what I rattled off to Jessica Sidman at the City Paper while pulled over in a gas station parking lot off 95, somewhere in Connecticut.

"If they wanted to be provocative and tongue-in-cheek and edgy, there's so many things they could have done. You could call this thing 'a bag of dicks,' and I would have eaten the hell out of it," Puloka says. But as much as she loves dirty jokes, she thinks there's a way to be sexy and edgy that isn't also "misogynistic and shitty and cavalier about marginalized people."
There’s a lot going on in that statement, and I want to unpack it for you here.

"If they wanted to be provocative and tongue-in-cheek and edgy, there's so many things they could have done.
I have no problem with provocative, edgy, and even outright crass humor. What I have a problem with is the lack of imagination, whether naïve or deliberate, that is so often behind jokes at the expense of marginalized groups. Why can't you come up with something that's funny and not at the expense of women and not in the service of reinforcing this limited practice of not-clever provocation?

When someone like me calls out this allegedly harmless fun, critics would say that I can't take a joke. Such a statement implies that it's a lack of a sense of humor on my part. It also suggests that humor and jokes that further attack and demean an already vulnerable population are one and the same, that you can't be funny if you're not sticking to the tired and lazy punchlines full of women and bitches and hookers and their bodies and sexualities. That retort often goes something like this, from the comments on the City Paper article: 


Nope, that's not what I’m upset about. It's not the allusion to sex or the celebration of the cheek of sexual innuendo. It's just the part where you're contributing to the lack of seriousness paid to the struggles these punchlines live with to have control over their bodies and exist in safe, productive spaces.

On Twitter I had suggested they change the name to 'Coco-Nut in My Mouth, Not on My Face Please.' You might get the idea that this frozen treat features a coconut flavor. It's also quite sex positive – an articulated request of what you do and don't want from a sexual escapade. Also, you put the ice cream in your mouth -get it? You can be funny, edgy, and rife with sexual innuendo and it doesn't have to be with the hackneyed punchlines that reinforce women's marginalized positions. Jokes don’t have to shore up a world where sexual objectification is standard and healthy sexuality and agency are absent. You can be funny and flaunt standards of PC language while not reinforcing harmful stereotypes.

You could call this thing 'a bag of dicks,' and I would have eaten the hell out of it," Puloka says. 
Here's an example of me not having a problem with crass and vulgar humor by using that language and then saying I would happily purchase and consume that vulgarity with gusto.

But as much as she loves dirty jokes, she thinks there's a way to be sexy and edgy that isn't also "misogynistic and shitty and cavalier about marginalized people."
As a heterosexual identifying woman who enjoys the company of men and their dicks, my name-change suggestion is also a true statement and one I offer up without embarrassment and with the challenge to find what's wrong with it. It is sex positive and doesn’t come at the expense of anyone’s humanity. 

If what is wrong with it is that it is crass, ask yourself if it is more crass to see a pint of ice cream labeled 'Bangkok Brothel'. The erasing of the realities of the sex trade in Southeast Asia behind an alliterative front is crass and vulgar in its insidiousness. I bet these guys would have given pause before calling peach flavored ice cream 'Plantation Passion'. Maybe culturally there are enough cues that a name like that might offend as it makes cute the idea of the Plantation and maybe even makes light of the forced and coerced sexual relationships and abuse between masters and their slaves. So if we find 'Bangkok Brothel' to be unsavory but ultimately harmless maybe it is because our awareness around sex work exists largely as cultural tropes and wink-winks about those lovely Thai prostitutes and the playland that awaits privileged western travelers. Or even worse, sneering jokes disparaging sex workers, full of the stale and harmful and unfair punchlines that paint them as dirty and without value -thereby reinforcing their vulnerability to dangerous conditions. Light hearted jokes about serious issues not taken seriously in the first place reinforce the injustice by separating the issue from reality and keeping it at the edges of what is worth one's care and attention.

If something about me in particular is what rubs the reader the wrong way, I say it is fair to validate someone's boundaries of decorum, and I can see that my comments are indecorous and you are entitled to thinking so. Without criticizing that opinion I am asking for an examination of why you may find my statements crude. If it's because the phrase coming out of a woman's mouth is harsher, cruder, and more distasteful than if a man had said it, that's a telling thing to explore. Soraya Chemaly talks about the higher standard of politeness expected out of women, such that identical behavior is seen as acceptable or not depending on your gender. And that has serious ramifications. Women who dress a certain way are seen as less deserving of safe spaces, women who are overtly sexually or speak crassly get framed as 'bad girls' who aren't smart enough or cultivated enough to behave properly and therefore don't deserve the safety of respect and acceptance. As Amy Schumer points out, if you're a woman talking about sex with blunt, crude humor then you are just that, but if you're a man you can do far cruder and still be considered intelligent and dynamic. She gets labeled a sex comic perhaps because her sex schtick stands out against her male counterparts. I don’t think that’s fair, and that is one way women get constrained and restricted from the same livelihood and expression that men are allowed.

So there you have it. Badly named vegan ice creams and how the way we talk about and label things affects how we understand and value them. And this gem. Indeed, what's wrong with it? Asking that question is an important starting point to explore where our beliefs and values come from and why, and can be an opportunity to challenge and change those that are harmful. 

<![CDATA[Not These Guys: Hollywood Edition]]>Fri, 02 Jan 2015 20:20:27 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/not-these-guys-hollywood-edition
by Liz Puloka

As we venture forth into this second installment of Not These Guys, we turn our attention to Hollywood. This features guys who demonstrate helpful and productive ways to show the world they are men who would not commit or tolerate harassment and violence against women, in contrast to the #NotAllMen camp with their counter narrative of knee-jerk defensiveness.

As we did with the inaugural installment of this series, we’d like to point out the distinction we're aiming to make here between recognition and praise. The scrutiny and discussion of men who participate in women's movements is valid and important and serves to explore the ramifications and limits of how voices of privilege can contribute to or constrain movements of the marginalized. Further, one simply has to picture what is said about women who identify as feminists (hint: a lot of eye rolling) versus men who identify as feminists (a lot of swooning). When women do it, everyone's all “geez give up all your whining already!” and when men do it, they get the “what a GOOD guy, you know?” treatment. And that sucks. And we're not doing that here.

What we’re recognizing is that while potentially problematic and nuanced, men need to be a part of the movement to end violence against women, the vast majority of which is coming from men. We are not praising these feminist guys for espousing support for the idea that women deserve the same rights and respect that men do-  just means you’re also a human. We point to them as examples because we need to change the cultural conversation on masculinity so that it can be articulated as powerful by being respectful or protective or loving. It is especially important for young men to see examples of this narrative, particularly examples that hail from men in mainstream and vaulted positions of success. Men like Aziz Ansari, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have publicly declare their feminism in some funny and thoughtful ways.

Criticism of these recent coming-out-as-feminist stories abound, and with good points. While Anzari laughs about it and Gordon-Levitt squints and grins about it, being a man who stands up to other men and challenges their ideas of masculinity and femininity can be a pretty daunting and scary thing with real consequences, and that aspect certainly deserves our attention and acknowledgement. Taking a stand and speaking out against violence is remarkable because it takes courage and conviction and can yield powerful progress, and we should go ahead and recognize the men taking this up and welcome them to join the many women who have already been fighting this fight. We should welcome these men to the conversation because if we want boys and girls to grow up thinking that feminism is cool and the way to go it's gonna help to have cool people they can relate to promoting that.

Recognizing male feminists is complicated, and should be done just so. We need to smartly recognize and hold up these men as examples for others to follow and then encourage them to follow the example of women who have walked this talk already. This would allow us to capitalize on the need to have examples of men who promote feminist values to point to while managing the overpowering effect their voices can have when they're treated as doubly important as those of their female feminist allies.

On the late show with David Letterman, Ansari identified as a feminist and brought his comic wit to critique those who eschew the term and credits his 'big feminist' girlfriend for enlightening him. Joseph Gordon Levitt has talked about his feminism publicly and why it is so important for everyone to participate in the conversation. He also notes that one must go beyond just saying you are a feminist and that that can be harder than some think. Ryan Gosling is a feminist, articulating the patriarchal norms that shape what we expect to see from males and females on screen -thank you forever Creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling for this significant contribution to the meme world. More recently Terry Crews is getting some attention for his progressive views on gender and masculinity.

As many lists of male feminists to swoon over as there are, there are many really good think pieces about why we should ask these men to deepen their commitment to feminism through reflection and action. Also, just follow our lead guys. We're glad you want to join us, and we welcome you with hopefulness and some guidelines for how to best walk your feminist talk.

<![CDATA[Meet Sarah, PARC's Intern!´╗┐]]>Tue, 09 Dec 2014 06:25:21 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/meet-sarah-parcs-internPicture
PARC is very excited to welcome a brand new member to our team - our 2014 / 2015 Intern! Take a moment to meet Sarah and learn all about her passion and drive. We're super glad to have her on the team!

My name is Sarah and I live in a small farming town in the central valley of California.

I am currently at my local community college, having recently graduated high school a year early in the top 10% of my class. One of the top reasons I left school was because I was bullied throughout high school. That ultimately led me to want to stand up for myself and others.

I am a communications major studying to be a journalist. I am a full time college student and also work in a restaurant as a busser. I also am a Christian. I enjoy reading, especially Stephen King books. I play about twelve musical instruments, speak French, and I am on the road to learning sign language.

I found PARC while preparing a presentation for a public speaking class. Our assignment was to deliver a speech on a topic about which we are passionate. I immediately thought of the injustice rape victims face and found the term rape culture. From there i found PARC, saw that they were looking for an intern and immediately applied.

I got involved with PARC because of their mission to stand up to rape culture. It really made sense to me, this idea of a culture where it is the victim’s fault and the rapists rarely get jail time. I joined because this culture perpetuates the idea that women are objects and men are mindless and animalistic - and I want to change that!

I will be helping PARC by writing articles focusing on the perspective of a college student. I will also be running the PARC tumblr page. I’m really excited to be sharing and also learning more from others. I am excited to be a part of an organization that is making a difference.

I want to help change this culture for my two little sisters, who are being taught that spaghetti straps are a distraction to boys’ learning. That they will be looked at inappropriately, and that it should be a compliment. They will be taught to tolerate harassment from boys and men, because that’s just how it is. They will be taught that if they wear a short skirt, or show skin they are putting themselves at risk for an attack. That if the go to a party and get drugged they should have watched their drink. That they will probably be harassed or discriminated against in school if they were to come out as gay or bisexual. 

I want people to know that if someone says no, it doesn’t mean let me convince you. I believe our society does have a rape culture, but I also believe nothing is broken beyond repair. I want to be a part of the change, for my friends, my sisters and ultimately for generations to come.
Welcome aboard, Sarah! Check out her latest work at PARC's tumblr page.

<![CDATA[Congress on Consent and Yes Means Yes]]>Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:49:53 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/congress-on-consent-and-yes-means-yesPicture
By Ashley Medley
Just before college students filed into the dorms this fall, Congress (spearheaded by Senator Claire McCaskill) introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act or “CASA” .

There are two laws that, up until now, dictated how educational institutions dealt with cases of sexual assault - the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, known as the “Cleary Act” and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

There is a lot to like about CASA. There hasn’t been any major updates to sexual assault legislation among academic institutions since 1990. Here’s what has happened since then…
  • Prior to 2012, the federal definition of rape had not been altered since 1927. It stated that “forcible rape [was] the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This definition excluded a long list of sexual offenses and crimes, including oral and anal penetration and penetration with objects, as well as rapes of males. The current, updated federal definition of rape is, “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This definition was effective January 1, 2013.
  • The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, with reauthorizations passing ever since.
  • The Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act was passed in 2000.
  • The Department of Justice conducted a Campus Sexual Assault Study in 2007
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey was conducted in 2010. 
So it might be time to reevaluate whether our laws reflect the society in which we now live.

Unfortunately, CASA isn’t as comprehensive as we hoped. Many colleges and university judicial systems claim that Senator McCaskill’s proposed legislation reads as though she did not take to heart the feedback from her three Capitol Hill roundtable discussions this summer. One of the most common refrains heard from folks actually dealing with these cases at schools is the conflicting guidance between Cleary and Title IX. Many hoped that Senator McCaskill’s anticipated legislation would clarify what were intended to be basic instructions for administrators, campus police and other actors in the chain of responding and reporting to these. In the eyes of many people close to the issue, this legislation falls short of its intended goal - and it hasn’t even passed yet.

And does it even have a chance of passage?

This legislation was announced practically moments before both houses of Congress left on August recess. There hasn’t been much journalism on this bill. This was understandable in August, as the shooting of Michael Brown in McCaskill’s home state of Missouri occurred just days after the introduction of CASA. Introduction of CASA was timed for the back-to-school season, with the vote open to occur at any time while Congress is in session. Since then, our news media has turned its attention to Airstrikes in Syria, ISIS, the Ebola outbreak - all leading up to a November off-year election dominated by the Republican party. The chances of a CASA passage are looking pretty low.

Meanwhile, on the state-level, we have an example of what strong legislation looks like that addresses prevention of sexual assault. The hotly discussed California “Yes means Yes” law that passed last month applies to colleges that receive state funding. We’re fans of this law at PARC, and give it our enthusiastic consent! (wink) The law calls for "affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity" that is "ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time." That is, a law that approaches campus sexual assault and rape at the prevention level and is focused on educating college students on the difference between consensual sex and sexual assault. With one law, the fault and blame shifted from the accusing to the accused.

So here are my questions: why does CASA address just colleges? Some say the best defense for this law is that this will get a conversation going about what consent is and what a crime is - whether it’s worthy of expulsion from your university or criminal punishment by the state. We, at PARC, want to help guide this conversation. But why stop just in California? Why couldn’t Sen. McCaskill's bill have been more like Yes Means Yes?

<![CDATA[#NotTheseGuys: NFL Edition]]>Sun, 05 Oct 2014 18:53:18 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/nottheseguys-nfl-edition
 by Liz Puloka

#YesAllWomen quickly became a movement beyond the hashtag that elicited enormous and widespread response validating the omnipresent dangers of street harassment, sexual assault, and victim blaming that the vast majority of women face daily. The response from #NotAllMen challenging that reality was a chorus of earnest voices chiming in about their innocence, claiming unawareness and doubt about the pervasiveness of gender-based harassment and violence that women face. Needless to say, this was unappreciated for how it re-centered the conversation around a guy needing to validate his innocence while invalidating the lived experiences of women, and also because that kind of conversation does nothing to change or ameliorate hostile environments women live in. My feeling is along the lines of: 'You're not that type of guy? That's great. What do you do to show that to people? What's that? Not speak up when someone is being catcalled on the street? Not step in when some lecher is creeping in on a girl on the metro? Not tell your friend who won't stop bothering me at the bar that he should lay off? Got it.'

Here's the gig: I'm sure there are some women out there who think all men are harassers, and my guess is that would be because they face harassment from the males in their lives. However, I and probably every woman I know knows that not all men are like that. But they probably also know that not all men will let other guys know that by calling out and challenging abusive behavior and harassment. In fact, very few men will. In my many years of walking the streets, taking the metro, socializing and just generally existing in the world, never, NEVER, has a guy stepped up and interrupted a guy making inappropriate or abusive comments or behaviors to me. But a whole lot of guys have averted their eyes, buried their faces in their paper, turned away, or just generally tried to ignore it. And I get it, I do. Stepping in to challenge someone being aggressive risks having that attention turned towards you and that can be unpleasant and scary. But sitting there and thinking 'I'm not like that guy' is doing nothing to show the target of the harassment and the other people around you that you aren't like that guy. In fact, what it looks more like is like you are ok with that behavior. So if the only way you are showing women you are not like those other guys is to interrupt their testimonies to absolve yourself and not by enacting this benevolence in ways that actually help women and show other men you are not like that, then that sucks and you should really be quiet. Oops, got a little fresh there. But I'm serious. Enacting #NotAllMen does nothing to change the pervasive acceptance of harassment that women face, and instead channels energy and attention into making sure you don't look or feel bad. Which is a poor way to listen to the plight of others, and comes off as whiny and petulant. So! What's a modern man to do if he wants people to know that he is a man who respects women and doesn't stand for their abuse and harassment? You act it. You go public. You speak up and out.

In this series we are going to highlight men who speak up and act to fight violence against women, be they athletes, actors, politicians, or men in our communities. We do this not in the vein of some of the praise for male feminists and allies, because really treating other people like human beings should be a given. We do this to highlight these men as examples because it's rare for men to speak out like this, and we should acknowledge the ones that do and feature them as models and mentors for others. Particularly young boys who look to examples in their worlds to figure out how to treat other people. And what better example of dominant masculinity than football players? Let's start there.

After the Ray Rice scandal, lots of people and players were challenging the trending conversations that were coupling football players and violence, big dominant men and abuse towards women and the like, saying that scandal and bad behavior lead to more headlines than the alternative, of which they argue there is plenty in NFL players. And they're right. Guys like William Gay with the Steelers and Jason Witten with the Dallas Cowboys are two such examples that we'd like to highlight.

Both of these guys grew up feeling the harsh effects of domestic violence early on. Witten talks about his mother having the courage to leave his abusive father and move her kids back to her parents' place in Tennessee, where Witten's grandfather was able to be a positive male role model for his grandson. Today the Cowboys tight end looks back at his journey and sees where he is now and understands that he is in a great position to help other families affected by domestic violence. His SCORE foundation has launched several initiatives to help women and children affected by domestic violence. His SCOREkeepers program puts trained male mentors into shelters to be positive male role models for kids in an effort to help break the cycle of violence that so many kids experience and learn, and his Coaching Boys Into Men program launched in 2010 to train coaches to educate their players about dating violence.

Similarly, William Gay grew up to be a survivor of domestic abuse. At age 7, his stepfather fatally shot his mother before taking his own life, leaving Gay and his siblings without parents and with a lot of pain and questions. He talks about his evolution as an angry kid to quiet football player to a man who speaks up when domestic violence is the topic. In a piece he wrote to open about his experience and work with domestic violence, he touches upon the silence that often enshrouds domestic violence and allows it to go unchecked.

Last year, I was with a couple teammates and the issue of domestic violence came up. Someone said, “What if you found out your teammate or your friend was beating up his wife or girlfriend? Would you intervene?” The answers were mixed. Some said yes, but others said no—that it should be none of our business, stay out of other people’s personal lives. That’s the problem. Answers like that are why domestic violence is still an issue. I told everyone, “Look, I don’t care who you are, if I find out you are hurting a woman, I’m going to say something to you and I’m going to do something about it.” In our society, grown men are taught to mind their own business and that it’s not OK to get involved. We need to figure out a way to fix that trend.

He goes on to say that the league should be stepping up to help players like Ray Rice with programs and support for healthy relationships before anyone gets hurt, let alone killed. In a wise and compassionate turn he diverges from the stance that many of his league cohort have and instead says he would like to reach out to Rice because what abusers need is education and training, a more effective way to fight domestic violence than to be condemned and cast out and forgotten about.

Men off the field have chimed in as well, with CBS anchor James Brown and ESPN's Keith Olbermann delivering searing criticism of not only Rice but the silence and inaction by others that enables abusers. Indeed part of why their speeches were so stirring is the relative rarity of hearing men make such calls to action from other men, demanding change on a cultural level so that women are not disregarded so easily, thereby making their value and wellness easy to discount.

Not all men have the courage and compassion to speak up against discrimination and violence against women, but these ones do. These guys show their strength by standing up and speaking out as powerful and compelling role models, and they have some great things to say about how real men treat others.

<![CDATA[The Great Watermelon Success of 2014]]>Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:41:14 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/the-great-watermelon-success-of-2014
PARC president Liz Puloka poses with the winning team and Lambda Chi organizers and brothers at their inaugural Watermelon Smash to benefit People Against Rape Culture.
On a hot and sunny September afternoon in DC, a fraternity at American University hosted a fundraising event to raise awareness around rape culture and contribute support and partnership in the fight against campus sexual assault. Reflecting recent initiatives taken by 7 other fraternities nationwide, Lambda Chi Alpha invited PARC to speak and participate in the day's event which rallied a raucous crowd of fellow fraternity and sorority members to carve, roll, toss, and eventually slip-n-slide in a whole lotta watermelon. All totaled, the day raised $1500 for PARC, and immeasurable fun and community building as we spent the afternoon connecting with young and engaged college students who are taking seriously the call to all of us to fight rape and sexual assault on campus. College campuses are a hotbed of sexual assault, and the more students join together as peers and allies to create cultures of respect and consent the further we come in our efforts to dismantle rape cultures and encourage healthy relationships and lives. A huge thank you to the event coordinators, and to all who came out to participate!  
<![CDATA[Allies in Our Brothers: The Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at American University reaches out to PARC]]>Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:32:11 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/allies-in-our-brothers-the-lambda-chi-alpha-chapter-at-american-university-reaches-out-to-parc
Fraternities are often front and center in discussions of campus sexual assault, with countless stories of assaults taking place at hosted parties and often by fraternity members. And it’s little wonder; if rape and sexual assault thrive in cultures that silence and shame victims, prize male heterosexual domination and encourage a double standard when it comes to sexual activity, then the frat house makes sense as a locus of high risk for many young college women looking to socialize alongside their peers. While not surprising, this reality stands in stark contrast to the language and the missions of many of these fraternal organizations, formed ostensibly as social clubs meant to enrich and nurture young men to be contributing and meaningful members of their communities, full of leadership and integrity. Thankfully, amongst the milieu of fraternities acting badly and ex-presidents speaking delusionally, there are some voices calling for that leadership and integrity and change from within.

Recent high-profile tragedies have brought Greek life into the same ignominious limelight the NFL is squirming under now, with enough public outcry from concerned and bereft parents, funders, and community members spurring big changes in how fraternities address safety. The Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative was recently launched as a consortium of eight prestigious national fraternities pledging to come together to change the way greek life contributes to sexual assault, binge drinking, and hazing. Just last week 21 fraternities at the University of Indiana released poignant and encouraging statements against sexual assault, and in just a few days, a fraternity at American University will be making a similar, if not messier, statement about how seriously they take campus sexual assault and the particular importance of their leadership and participation as fraternity members.

We at PARC were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly excited to have American University senior Colin Scott reach out to us on behalf of his chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha, to see if we would be interested in being beneficiary’s of their annual fund raising event. Lambda Chi Alpha is one of the fraternities to have recently joined the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative, and Colin Scott and his brothers are walking that talk by organizing a fun event this saturday September 27th at American University designed to raise awareness, encourage responsibility and accountability, and support community efforts to fight campus sexual assault. At a time when the vast majority of news coming out of campus sexual assault is rife with victim-blaming, trauma and hate, it is refreshing and critical to hear stories like this of young men on college campuses talking about responsibility and engaging their peers to join them in creating cultures of respect and consent. Read on for an interview with Colin Scott and his brothers talking about why sexual assault is important to them and what they are doing about it.

PARC: Rape and sexual assault have really come to the fore of national public attention in the past few years, with key populations and institutions being revealed as likely spaces of cultures that harbor frighteningly high rates of sexual violence. Being that the ‘campus’ is one of these hot spots for sexual assault, and fraternities and their parties especially implicated, we were both surprised and excited to have you as a representative of your fraternity reach out to us for a fundraising event. Can you tell us how and why you decided to approach us as an organization?
Colin: Fraternities as a whole have carried the reputation of being hotbeds for rape culture for years, and frighteningly, it is not simply a stereotype. On campuses across the country, fraternities share the values of respect, duty and integrity, and if they are true to these values, then fraternity houses should be one of the safest places on campus for a woman to go to – but that is not the case. Instead, fraternity houses are one of the most dangerous places for a woman to go to. This is indicative of a systemic flaw in Greek culture, and it needs to be addressed.

It is not our intention to sit here and condemn other Greek organizations of being part of the problem, because up until now, my own organization was content to sit on the sideline and take the “Well, we’re not like that” approach. I wanted to redirect the focus of our philanthropy toward this cause, but I wanted to find the right organization before really pushing the idea on the rest of the chapter.

I looked through dozens of organizations both on the national and local level, and finally settled on PARC, because I think that it is working to address the root of the problem. There are many other organizations out there that are doing amazing work for survivors of sexual assault, but I was really drawn by the idea of this education program having a ripple effect, and stopping sexual violence before it ever happens. Once I decided on PARC, I introduced it to the chapter and they were fully onboard with it – they are so excited to put on this event and support an organization that is making a positive impact on the world.

PARC: As college students and members of the Greek system, you are perfectly positioned to observe rape culture on campus, and it’s various manifestations. How do you approach this culture and it’s discourses? How does Lambda Chi Alpha discuss and approach sexual assault and rape culture?
Colin: As a group, we take our values and teachings very seriously. Respect is one of our seven core values, and we hold each other accountable. Our teachings are not geared specifically toward fighting rape culture, but when we hold education sessions, that is always a topic that is discussed, especially in regards to respect.

PARC: Some key messages around rape and sexual assault involve things like consent, bystander intervention, victim­-blaming, and responsibility. How are these messages filtering down to you and your cohort? That is, what is the general interpretation(s) or response to these messages, and do you see areas for improvement?
Colin: Even before the recent events on our campus last semester, I, and the rest of my brothers, took all of these seriously. Before freshmen are eligible to rush, they are given multiple lectures during orientation about sexual assault prevention. I would never expect to hear about any problems from our members when it comes to consent and victim-blaming. Any kind of incident that might occur where it’s clear that a brother did not listen to these messages would be grounds for an investigation into the matter and formal punishments laid down from the Executive Committee, with immediate dismissal on the table. All of our brothers know that a breach like that would be a metaphorical middle finger to all of the values we stand for, and we would not associate ourselves with that criminal behavior.

Bystander intervention and responsibility are trickier beasts. Our values and expectations are clear when it comes to consent and victim blaming, but these other two subjects are a bit harder to lecture about and discuss in a focused manner. Much of it can be common sense– keeping a watchful eye on your friends and others when you are out, helping out those who may be unable to help themselves, etc. Those are obvious and I can confidently (and proudly) say that all of our members would do the right thing in a situation where it was clear someone intervening could make a difference. However, I also think that we, myself included, need more help. We still have work to do in a number of areas, whether it’s keeping a better lookout, talking about it in the right ways and caring for any survivors.

To help with this, we are arranging for experts and trainers to come in and conduct Safespace training for the chapter. Hopefully, we can learn more about nonoffensive language on the subject (so we aren’t unintentionally offending people or sending the wrong messages), how to talk to survivors that may approach us as friends, how to confront offenders or somebody who may be about to commit an assault, etc. All of our members mean well, and hopefully a session like this can give them a chance to learn and ask questions from people who have dealt with these issues for years.

PARC: What do you think are some of the better ways students and especially fraternity members can do to foster communication and cultures of respect to uproot cultures that trivialize, naturalize, and excuse rape?
Colin: We know we are small fish in a big ocean, but that should not be discouraging. On a college campus, we are in a unique situation where we can easily reach out to people on a peer-to-peer level. Events like this are great for raising awareness, but they are ineffective unless people can take away from the event that this is a serious problem that we need to be sensitive about. If you can reach out to your friend group and really imprint on them that this kind of culture is toxic and shameful, then that can be a step in a chain-reaction that marginalizes those who continue to perpetuate this culture.

Ignoring the problem like you would a dog that’s acting up isn’t going to change anything, but screaming at somebody who might be cracking jokes on the quiet floor of the library won’t help the cause either. The people you are best-poised to impact are your friends around you who respect your opinions and care about what you have to say – start with them.

<![CDATA[It's Time for Inclusive Fan Conventions]]>Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:23:56 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/its-time-for-inclusive-fan-conventionsBy Charlotte Stasio
Nerd culture has become mainstream culture. What was once pejoratively thought of as the domain of a few basement-dwelling social outcasts has risen over the past several decades to become a major influence over our society and a huge economic driver. Many of top grossing movies in the past five years have been based on superhero comics, video games are now a $100 billion industry worldwide, and the sales of fantasy literature such as Harry Potter made a billionaire out of author JK Rowling. The public’s insatiable appetite for all things nerdy drives this incredible financial growth; as a result of this demand, scores of fan conventions, expos, meetups and other gatherings have sprung up to celebrate every facet of geekdom. However, the darker elements of nerd culture hamper the inclusive potential of these events - ultimately turning away fans and leaving money on the table for artists and organizers.

These sort of conventions serve as massive gathering places for die-hard fans and feature celebrity guest speakers, merchandise booths, and elaborate home made costumes (known as cosplay). These events are huge opportunities for authors, artists, game designers, publishers, and film studios to present their work to a receptive audience. Conventions are also profitable for event organizers and local economies, as thousands of merchandise-seeking fans descend upon cities the world over for a chance to attend. Online event organizer Eventbrite estimated that fan conventions earn about $650 million in ticket sales alone every year. And how much do fans buy when at these conventions? Over 50% of attendees spend $100-$500 and about ⅓ spend over their planned budgets, according to an Eventbrite survey of over 2,500 fan convention ticket purchasers.

You could spend the better part of a lifetime attending all the fan conventions out there, but some of the biggest events include:
So where is the dark side of nerd culture when it comes to fan conventions? Despite the egalitarian leanings of such fantasy worlds as Star Trek, these conventions can be hostile to certain populations. Many women who enjoy cosplay have experienced extreme harassment at conventions in the form of unwanted touching and / or intrusive photographs (such as upskirting) from other attendees. Geeks for CONsent, an organization dedicated to “creating a more inclusive convention culture,” recently reported a particularly egregious example of such an incident where a female convention attendee was intentionally punched simply for telling a male attendee not to grope her. In another disconcerting example at the Eurogamer Expo 2013 event, a transgender video game journalist was mocked and humiliated on stage by a presenter representing Microsoft.

The following video from anti-street harassment organization HOLLABACKPhilly, shows just how widespread the problem of harassment is at fan conventions:
The incidents listed above and described in the video are anecdotal and do not represent the behavior of the majority of people at fan conventions, but events like these create an atmosphere of hostility for would-be attendees. If someone thinks they will be harassed or attacked at one of these events just for who they are or what they choose to wear, they won’t go. Organizers, working in cooperation with artists, filmmakers, publishers or other content creators, need to ensure that these conventions are safe spaces for all attendees. Geeks for CONsent suggests several methods for creating a welcoming atmosphere, including anti-harassment policies, sensitivity training for convention staff, and stepping in as a bystander if you spot harassment (as long as it is safe to do so). Organizers also need to promptly investigate any report of inappropriate behavior.

Nerd culture is too big to ignore. If we want to welcome everyone to this burgeoning world and increase opportunities for artists and organizers, we need to create an inclusive, safe and accepting atmosphere at conventions!
This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.

intro image by PopCultureGeek.com, modified by author
<![CDATA[1 in 5 is a Lie]]>Wed, 10 Sep 2014 19:59:39 GMThttp://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/our-thoughts/1-in-5-is-a-lie1 in 5 is a lie.

I think of people in my life who had this happen to them. I think about all the women who've come up to me after teaching a class on relationships or consent. I think about all of the anonymous questions. They all sound the same, "x and x happened, did he rape me?" 

I think about me. It just doesn't add up.

1 in 5 is a lie.

It's a lie because society talks us out of what we know deep down is....that thing...that thing we just can't name.

It's a lie because society makes us think, "well I shouldn't have done x thing." Even if you know better. You can't help but wonder what steps you could have changed in your day to avoid that thing.  Maybe I should have worn that nail polish. Is it going to tell me if a man is going to treat me with like a human who deserves respect, dignity, and autonomy? 

"I should have just given in like all the other times then I wouldn't have to be here. I don't know what I was trying to prove." That's when I realized it was a lie. When I thought to myself, "why didn't i just give in like all the other times..."

It’s a lie because people don’t know how to be there for you. I know what I need to do. I know what steps to take. I know why it was wrong. I know. Believe me. No one knows this better than me. But what you don’t know is that I need to feel like I’m in control of something. Pushing me to do what you think is right is not the way to give me that control.

It's a lie because he talks you out of it.

"Calm down. You know how much trouble you can get me into? You're making it sound like I raped you or something."

"Rapists are monsters! I'm not a monster!"

"I feel you slipping from me. I wanted that connection back."

"You're just making it worse for yourself by calling it rape."

It's a lie because you want to hate him so bad. But you can't. You can't stop wondering where society failed him. Why does he think what happened was anything other than what it was?  Where did I fail him as a woman? Where did I fail him as his lover? Where did I fail him as his best friend?

It's a lie because of the police.

"Did you report it? Why not?"

I can think about a million reasons. The most important ones being:
1. No one would believe me.
2. I don't feel like having my life torn apart and ridiculed and judged by men armed with guns, and even worse, misogyny.

It's a lie because we silence people. It's a lie because we refuse to believe that rape culture is real. It's a lie because we refuse to teach men that they are not entitled to women's bodies. It's a lie because we judge. It's a lie because we don't trust women. It's a lie because we don’t talk to our friends, sisters, mom, grandma, aunts, cousins, etc, etc, about what consent is and isn’t.

It’s a lie because you don’t make the space for us to tell you the truth.]]>