CI: Victim Blaming, Backlash, and Distractions

October 23, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Military Industrial Complex, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Victim Blaming, Backlash, and Distractions
by nancy a heitzeg

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, first observed in 1987. The month will remind us of many horrific statistics ( high-lighted throughout), call us to Stop the Violence!, offer a few words of advice, and create some short-lived solidarity.

dv2Then we move on – to the next Steubenville, the next Maryville, the next Marissa Alexander.

Frankly, I am tired of “months” that come and go decade after decade, with little sustained attention to real change. I am tired of “solutions” that focus on the criminalization of individual perpetrators and merely cosmetic law enforcement efforts that ultimately make matters worse. I am tired of the denial of the toxic structural and cultural forces that shape and sustain violence, including that perpetrated by the state. I am tired of the sensationalistic media focus on select cases, almost always with some eventual blaming and shaming of the victims themselves, as if they were responsible for their own assault and abuse.

What is required is this: an acknowledgement that we swim in a violent structural and cultural milieu which harms us all — women, men children.  What is required is this: Transforming A Rape Culture .

As Lisa Factora-Borchers  notes:

Rape culture is like smoke.  Insidious, it hangs in the air, getting into everything, staining and deteriorating whatever it touches.  It’s highly adaptive, cunning; clever in its ability to morph into whatever context it is placed.   Rape culture prices and prioritizes human dignity, as if it’s something to earn and not inherent.  Rape culture sets behavioral prescriptions and if one does not adhere to them, they deserve violence or, at the very least, are somehow responsible for it…

Rape culture .. is a deeply engrained and believable operating system in our collective conscience, whispering its influence into every aspect of life, at every stage of personal formation and development.  Rape culture is not a separate culture from the one you and I are living in.  They are one and the same.

And rape culture is more than just sexual violence against women; it is part and parcel of a system of oppression that metes out violence, both interpersonal and structural, across multiple lines of race class and gender difference. It is, at root, about power and raw domination.


The fear and loathing behind the Brittney Griner NBA tryout backlash

April 16, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ

Head coach Kim Mulkey, left, is lifted off her feet by Baylor’s star center Brittney Griner. Photograph: Tony Gutierrez/AP

From The Guardian:

These misogynistic jokes discredit Griner’s ability to play ball with men by tapping into old sexist ideas that women are always less than men and that their specific space in this world is wherever men are not. The very act of getting on Twitter and saying misogynistic things about such a popular female sports star is an act of desperation. It means to set right the balance that was upset when Cuban floated the idea of allowing Griner to try out for the NBA.

With an irony not apparent to these commentators, the belief that Griner is “not manly enough” to play in the NBA is flatly opposed by the other offensive method people used to insult her: that she is a man. This is a classic transphobic trope, or a fear that her gender presentation does not “match” the sex she was assigned at birth. For example: “she possesses man parts, so why not?”; “Griner has a penis and would fit right in”; “She looks and sounds like a man.” For much more, if you need it, in this vein, just check out the hashtag.

These transphobic jokes, like the misogynistic ones, devalue Griner because we live in a society that denigrates trans people in general and chafes whenever confronted by someone who does not fit into a neat box of “feminine woman” or “masculine man”. Because athletes are seen as “masculine”, female athletes, by being athletic, are no longer feminine.

It’s Bigger Than Adria Richards

March 28, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Science/Technology, White Privilege


From Racialicious:

Richards tweeted a picture of two men near her who joked about “dongles” and “forking repos” during the conference. She informed conference staff, she said, after seeing a picture of a girl who took part in a coding workshop during the event made her worry about the environment created by the “forking” jokes.

The situation degenerated when one of the two men — neither of whom she identified — was fired by his company. As TechCrunch reported, the unnamed employee apologized for the original joke on Hacker News, but also noted Richards’ platform:

Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.

Shortly thereafter, Richards was the target of a string of personal and professional attacks against Richards, including the posting of her personal information onine, death threats, slurs, accusations of “misandry” and even attacks against her employer, Sendgrid.

Later, Sendgrid CEO Jim Franklin announced that the company had terminated Richards, saying, “her actions have strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite.” The original incident was glossed over, and the attacks against both the company and its own employee were not addressed at all. Franklin closed comments on his post on Monday.

The conference also altered its Code of Conduct to forbid public shaming, requiring future disputes to be reported to PyCon staff. There is no mention, however, of what happens if there are conflicting accounts of an incident, or if convention staff disagrees with a person’s assessment of something as offensive or triggering. Is what happens at PyCon supposed to stay at PyCon from now on?

From Colorlines:

By now you’ve probably heard at least one version of the story about Adria Richards, the black technology evangelist who was fired from her job at SendGrid last week for tweeting a picture of two white guys who were sitting behind her making sexually charged jokes at a major tech conference.

Richards’s tweets from PyCon, which bills itself as the largest annual gathering of Python programmers and users, immediately drew the ire of trolls and their attacks intensified after the “big dongles” jokesters were canned.

Individual social media-related firings always make news, but the bigger story here is how Richards became the target of a very particular kind of harassment. Social media trolls repeatedly called Richards the n-word and threatened to rape her. Some scoured the Internet for her personal information and put it on blast (“doxxing”). One particularly disturbed individual even tweeted Richards a photo of a dead woman’s decapitated body laying on a bed. (Thankfully, Twitter intervened, the image has been deleted, and the account in question was suspended.)

So far, the onslaught of hate has had the intended effect on Richards. At press time, the technologist—usually a prominent online voice—hasn’t tweeted since March 20 and her popular blog, But You’re a Girl, is silent. She emailed VentureBeat’s John Koetsier a simple message on March 22: “I’m staying safe.”

The Richards incident is a reminder that the tech world is very similar to the outside world when it comes to calling out sexism or racism. It’s a frightening and often thankless task.

International Women’s Day: “But When the Sea Turns Back…”

March 08, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Intersectionality, LGBTQ


A Woman Speaks

Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.
I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
I am
and not white.

Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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New York Poised To Pass ‘Rape Is Rape’ Bill To Update Definition Of Sexual Assault

February 13, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality

From ThinkProgress:

As anti-choice politicians seek to narrow the definition of sexual assault to “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape,” lawmakers in New York State are taking the opposite approach — and actually may be prepared to advance a bill that would expand the definition of rape to encompass additional acts of sexual violence.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D) first introduced the legislation last year after Lydia Cuomo, a Bronx schoolteacher who was raped by a city cop, discovered that her assaulter wasn’t going to be charged with “rape.” Since Cuomo’s rapist didn’t vaginally penetrate her, his crimes fell outside of New York’s current definition of rape — but Simotas’ bill seeks to change that by widening the state’s rape statues to officially include forced oral and anal sex. Cuomo traveled to Albany on Tuesday to use her own personal experience to help advocate for the proposed legislation, urging state lawmakers to make sure an outdated legal definition won’t continue to deny survivors the justice they deserve.

At the beginning of 2012, the FBI updated its definition of rape for the first time in 80 years to include forced anal and oral acts. But, while that’s an important step to update the way the agency measures trends in crime, it doesn’t impact federal or state legal codes. Twenty five states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have eliminated the word “rape” from their codes in order to use the more inclusive terms “sexual assault” or “sexual abuse” — but in the remaining states, including New York, the official definition of what’s considered to be rape can vary widely.

Roe v. Wade at 40

January 22, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Poverty


Guttmacher Institute

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 By the Numbers (ThinkProgress):

  • 70: Percentage of Americans who now oppose overturning Roe, the highest number since 1989. Most religious groups also want to leave Roe in place
  • 135: Number of new state-level abortion restrictions enacted over the past two years. 2011 and 2012 represented the worst years for reproductive freedom since the 1973 Supreme Court decision. 87: Percentage of U.S. counties that don’t have an abortion clinic. At least four states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi — only have a single abortion clinic left.
  • 45: By the time American women reach this age, nearly half of them will have had an unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives. About one in three will have had an abortion.
  • 20: Number of states that allow insurers or employers to deny women affordable contraception by refusing to comply with Obamacare’s birth control mandate. Studies have shown that Obamacare’s contraception provision will help reduce the national abortion rate.
  • $470: Average cost of a first-trimester abortion. Even though most of the women who have abortions have health insurance, the majority of women pay out of pocket to have an abortion.
  • 42: Percentage of women who have abortions whose income levels fall below the federal poverty line. Seven out of ten women who have had an abortion would have preferred to have the procedure sooner, but many of them were forced to delay because they needed more time to raise the money for it.
  • 0.3: Even fewer than this percentage of abortion patients experience complications from their procedure that require hospitalization. Some studies have suggested that having an abortion is actually safer than giving birth.

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CI: Real Justice?

January 09, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Real Justice?
by Juvencia Townsend

(Courtesy of Victoria Law*:

“Juvencia originally wrote this letter to a local newspaper columnist. She never received a response.

The conditions that she describes are not limited to this one prison. They are also not limited to the state of Colorado. People inside women’s prisons across the country face similar issues.

Although the number of incarcerated women skyrocketed from 15,118 in 1980 to 112,797 in 2010, their issues, voices and experiences still remain largely overlooked in discussions about prisons and prison justice. This has not stopped women like Juvencia from speaking out and trying to find allies and advocates willing to help change conditions within.

While striving for a world without cages, we need to remember that there are currently over 200,000 women in jails and prisons nationwide. We need to acknowledge, recognize, publicize and support the actions that incarcerated women themselves are taking to resist and change the conditions that they endure. While their actions may not challenge the presumed need for incarceration nor directly tear down the prison walls, they do tear a hole in the continued invisibility of women behind prison walls. These women speak and act at a price, making continued outside support essential to ensuring that their well-being is not further jeopardized.”)


The 113th Congress Will Be The Most Diverse in History

November 14, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Poverty, Workers' Rights

From ThinkProgress:

Though Congress remains whiter, older, and more male than the nation as a whole, the incoming class will be the most diverse in history.

The 113th Congress will be more representative of the United States from race to religion, and from gender to sexual orientation. It will look more like America with 4 new African American representatives, 10 new Latinos, 5 new Asian Americans and 24 women in the House or Senate.* It will believe more like America with the first two Hindu congresspeople, the first Buddhist senator, and the first non-theist to openly acknowledge her belief prior to getting elected. It will love more like America, with 4 new LGBT congresspeople or senators, including the first openly bisexual congresswoman and the first openly gay congressman of color. And it will be younger, with four new congressmen born in the 1980s.

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