Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I choose to stay and fight

You may know that I live in Santa Barbara county. The tragic events last Friday night at UCSB have enveloped all of us. It is a sad time, one in which the ongoing discussions of lack of services for mental illness, gun control, and the pervasive misogyny in our culture have resurfaced with renewed vigor.

I have been hit particularly hard by both the violence and the fervor in defending assault weapon ownership, but even worse, I've been paralyzed with disgust at the multitude of comments defending the demented beliefs of the shooter that drove him to kill 6 innocent people and injure 7 more. Because the tragedy happened on our doorstep, I've talked to our kids at length about it. Even though we don't watch tv and they've been mainly protected from some of the more heart-wrenching details, they have a lot of questions. I have done my best to answer them, but they are not easy conversations.

What's particularly difficult is to talk to them about WHY he was so angry that he wanted to kill people. The truth, the horrible truth of how he thought about women, is more difficult for me to talk about than mental illness or gun control. Misogyny is not a grey area, so it should be easy...but it is so accepted in so many subtle and not so subtle ways in our culture that as a mom, it's difficult for me to explain to my 7 year old daughter that there are groups of people, mainly men, who are creating fan pages on Facebook holding up the Isla Vista shooter as a hero of their misogynistic beliefs. There are many, many people who sympathize with him. There are many, many people who believe that his violence was justified.

But it's worse than that. Many women I know have reported these fan pages to Facebook for Hate Speech and Facebook has denied requests to have these pages taken down. I AM ANGRY. A mom posts a picture on Facebook of breastfeeding and is taken down for obscenity, but a fan page for a woman-hating mass murderer is ok? What the hell is wrong with us, all of us, if these things just happen and we let them?

I'm a mom, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a co-worker...I have every right to choose who has access to my body and when. So does your mom, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, your daughter, your friends, your co-workers. Thinking otherwise is not just misogynistic, it's obscene. It IS hate speech to say I don't have that right, just because I happened to be born with a vagina instead of a penis. It doesn't matter what I look like. It doesn't matter what I'm wearing. It doesn't matter if I said yes before I said no. It doesn't matter if I've been drinking. It doesn't matter what time it is. You're not entitled to anything without my permission and I have the right to revoke that permission at any time.

When I read that Facebook is protecting these hate pages against women and allowing them to be hosted on their platform, I was going to quit Facebook. It's tempting to walk away, to simply say "I'm out." But that doesn't solve the problem, does it? Because I may leave, but then who will say this is not ok? Who will say it if I don't? How can I have these conversations with my daughters about men who marginalize, sexualize, objectify and victimize women if I don't stand up and say it's not ok? How does this get better if I don't work to make it better?

I'm staying on Facebook, but I'm not here just to post pics of my kiddos and beach selfies and geeky memes. I'm staying to be vigilant and to fight. I'm staying to say it's not ok to tell girls they need to dress more modestly because boys can't control themselves. I'm staying to say it's not ok to victim blame. I'm staying to report pages that hold up misogynist extremist mass murderers as role models. I'm staying to try to be a feminist role model for my sons and daughters.

Why are you on Facebook?

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