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1yearviolencefree

Today I am one year violence free.

It has been arguably the hardest year of my life, and the most painful. I am unfathomable grateful to the people in my life who stuck by me this year, who showed me what true friendship really looks like. You have meant more to me than you will ever know.
There were times this year when I was so low that I didn’t see a way out. But I made it through because of your support and I am now so hopeful for the future. I am sitting in the cafe right now writing this, overcome by so much happiness that tears are spilling down my cheeks.
If anyone out there is in an abusive relationship (whether that abuse is physical, verbal, or emotional), please know that even though taking that first step to get out is SO damn hard, you deserve to be treated with love and respect. No matter what your abuser is telling you, you ARE worth it. You are worth all the love in the world, and more. I believe in you and I am here to talk with you and support you ANY damn time of the day or night.
I’ll be celebrating all day today, and tonight in Capitol Hill. Any and all are welcome to come and join me.
My heart is so full of love.

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I don’t know why I’ve held back on sharing this for so, so long.

My ex was convicted of Count 2 Unlawful Imprisonment DV (Domestic Violence), AKA kidnapping. Because he pleaded guilty to kidnapping me, they dismissed his Assault 1 charge (probably because I didn’t get seriously injured).

Justice, at least some amount, was served to him by the Seattle court system.

He received:
– Probation for 2 years, during which he is to abstain from all drug and alcohol use including marijuana and will receive random urinalysis testing
– 5 days of mandatory work crew
– He cannot receive any new criminal law violations
– He must ask permission in order to leave WA state
– He is ordered to complete a Domestic Violence Assessment and to abide by any recommendation
– He is to receive a chemical dependency evaluation and complete any recommended treatment
– He cannot possess any firearms
– There is a 2 year No Contact Order in place (he cannot be within 500 feet of me, my place of work or my home, and can be arrested on site if he is)
– He must pay fines of a little over $1000

My Victim Advocate also told me that she has almost never heard the judge speak so sternly to a defendant in all of her time at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. She told me that the judge must have been deeply impacted by what I wrote in my victim impact statement. He said to my ex (and his whole family, who were in the court room):

“I want to be clear that if you miss a UA or come back positive I will likely jail you. You have issues that you need to deal with; I am very concerned based upon what I read in this report about you dragging a woman, covering her mouth, telling her that you are going to do unspeakable things to her and putting your hands over her neck, which is the number one indicator that you are likely to kill somebody in a domestic violence incident. I am not going to give you any leeway; for the next two years if there is any violation you will be seeing me and you can expect to go to jail.

I want this to be clear that you are to go to this Domestic Violence Assessment and you are to be honest with the assessor and you are going to do what he or she tells you to do and you are going to do what probation officer tells you to do. You are to not use alcohol or non-prescribed drugs. You are not going to violate the law. You are going to be squeaky clean for the next two years. You do NOT want to come back and see me because of what’s likely to happen then….and you need to get your LIFE IN ORDER so that you do not find your way back here.”

She also mentioned that the judge told him that his behavior was very homicidal, at which his mother (physically battered for years by her own husband, who was sitting next to her) burst into tears.

I cried when I read this. Cried because it’s hard to understand how I got to this place. Cried for his mother, who I cared for dearly. Cried because I was so happy that some sort of justice was doled out to this man that I used to love so much. Cried because I was afraid he might come after me due to being so mad that he wasn’t going to be allowed to party or travel whenever he wanted. Cried from exhaustion.

I’m still healing every day and I just want to tell everyone out there who’s dealing with DV that things do get better. But it’s a freakin’ slow process. And life sucks sometimes in the aftermath of this type of betrayal.

Still, I know how incredibly lucky I am to have escaped before we got married, had kids, or he did real physical harm to me or someone else in my life.

Just remember, friends, things aren’t always what they appear to be on the outside. If you think your friend might be in an abusive relationship, find a way to gently talk to them about it. You could save a life.

If I can help prevent even one person from going through what I’ve dealt with over the last year, it will all be worth it. I continue to stay as strong as I can, despite health and emotional issues resulting from this misery. I hope you all keep on staying strong too. You are worth it – and you deserve to be truly, unconditionally loved.

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Originally posted in Everyday Feminism

(Content warning: sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming)

In February of 2014, actor Shia LaBeouf was whipped, stripped, and raped. By a woman.

Although he remained silent about the assault for a time, the young actor eventually told the world that he was raped by a female stranger during his Los Angeles art installation, #IAMSORRY. The installation ran during Valentine’s Day weekend and allowed art show attendees to sit silently in a private room with LaBeouf, who wore a paper bag over his head.

In an October 2014 interview with Dazed Digital magazine, LaBeouf told reporter Aimee Cliffthat a woman whipped his legs for ten minutes, removed his clothes, and proceeded to rape him. After she fled from the scene, LaBeouf sat silently in shock, unsure of what to do or where to turn.

LaBeouf’s art show collaborators, British artist Luke Turner and Finnish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö, claimed to have intervened to stop the assault, but the woman (whose identity remains unknown) has not been charged with any crime.

Sadly – but not unexpectedly – LaBeouf received disturbing backlash for speaking out.

Critics asked why he didn’t “fight her off” (thus attempting to discredit the deep loss of control that LaBeouf experienced when he was raped) and made jokes that he must have enjoyed it because “what man wouldn’t enjoy no-strings-attached sex?”

Others accused him of fabricating the rape for publicity or laughed off the feasibility of a man being raped by a woman entirely.

These taunts, accusations, and denials are exactly the type of victim-blaming that the feminist movement has been fighting against for decades in terms of the rape of marginalized people.

They deny the power and control that LaBeouf’s female assailant exerted over him because he is a man and therefore should have “fought back.”

Many people simply won’t admit to the real societal damage caused by women who sexually assault men.

The patriarchy has cemented society’s idea that “real” men are always craving sex and constantly, infallibly “ready to go.” Under these prescribed circumstances – where women hold the key to sex, which men are relentlessly seeking – men are expected to be grateful for any sexual advances thrown their way, wanted and unwanted alike.

Worse yet, popular culture has made male rape into a culturally accepted joke.

Let me be very clear about one thing: Rape is never a joke.

The concept that sexual assault of a man by a woman is impossible, ridiculous, or funny stems directly from assumptions about patriarchal gender roles – precisely the same assumptions that are used to blame and silence other rape survivors.

There is no question that in our world, the number of cisgender men raped by women is much lower than the number of cis and trans women, trans men, and non-binary people who are raped by men. But this doesn’t mean that male survivors should be cast aside or laughed at.

In order to be true allies of rape survivors, we absolutely must support all survivors – not just those who we identify with.

This article seeks to investigate the experience of one type of rape survivor specifically – that wherein the survivors are cisgender men, which means that their experience of their own gender matches that which they were assigned at birth.

And hopefully, by understanding more about the rape of men by women and recognizing ways that society undermines male rape survivors, we can create a more inclusive community where all survivors feel safe and supported.

In order to do so, let’s take a look at some significant reasons why the rape or sexual assault of men by women should never be downplayed or joked about.

1. An Erection Does Not Equal Consent

Let’s start here: Not all men have penises, and not all people with penises are men (because not all people are cisgender!). However, the social myth that it’s impossible for men to be raped by women comes from the (oppressive) assumptions that 1) all men have penises and 2) erect penises are always signs of sexual arousal and consent.

But despite what people will tell you, it is physically possible for someone with a penis to be raped by someone with a vagina.

The scientific truth is that men can have a physiological response to sexual coercion even if consent has not been given or desire does not exist.

Research shows that deep fear and traumatic stress, coupled with the physical stimulation of an assault, can result in involuntary erections or ejaculations.

As another example, according to research psychoanalyst Paul Joannides, most men experience REM sleep erections in the morning when they first awaken – and these erections are often not accompanied by feelings of sexual desire at all.

Simply put, just because a man has an erection does not mean he wants (or has consented to) sex – because the body is capable of having erections without any sense of sexual desire.

This is not unlike the phenomenon in which people with vaginas who are raped sometimes experience self-lubrication of the vagina or even orgasm during their assault.

These survivors often have a hard time admitting that they experienced physical arousal or pleasure while being raped, and feel that their body has “let them down.”

It’s plain and simple: Sex without consent is rape – erection or not, lubrication or not, and last but not least, orgasm or not.  And this is universally true, regardless of either person’s gender or sexual orientation and no matter what prior relationship existed between the two individuals.

All people deserve to have complete autonomous choice in their sexual activity.

This remains true even if no physical violence has been enacted against the survivor (see section three for more about this important distinction). Just like a woman is not “asking for it” by wearing a short dress, a man is not “asking for it” because he has an erection.

2. Sexual Assault of Men by Women Is More Common Than You Think

Society teaches men and women from an early age to strive for power and control – and that rape is one of the most devastating and powerful forms of control over another person. To believe that these societal messages affect only men is false. Women are susceptible as well, and women can be rapists – even if the number of female perpetrators is much, much lower than the number of male rapists.

For example, statutory rape of a male student by a female teacher is one way in which an older woman can exert authority and power over a younger man. And although she may be the most famous case, Mary Kay Letourneau is not the only predatory teacher ever to take advantage of a young male student.

Over the last few years, an increase in cases of female teachers committing statutory rape against their teenage male students has been reported.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the numbers of assaults are going up – it may simply suggest that more survivors are coming forward.

Still, there are undoubtedly many more cases that go unreported – due to manipulation and abuse of the minor, or due to the minor’s fear of society’s retribution against them.

Statutory rape of boys by adult women occurs outside of the classroom as well. Women who sexually assault their own children or children whom they have authority over (as the child’s counselor, coach, or mentor, for example) make up many of the cases.

But it’s not just boys under 18.

Adult men are also sexually harassed or assaulted by their female partners.

However, because of the lack of research done in this field and the fact that many men feel intense pressure not to report these crimes, statistics regarding the rape of adult men by women are unreliable.

When reviewing this topic, it’s also very important to recognize that the number of identified woman rapists is very low compared to that of men overall. Only 3-4% of single-perpetrator sexual assaults are attributed to women.

Taking into account that we don’t have reliable statistics about how many men are raped by women – and the undeniable fact that even if we had accurate numbers, they would be drastically lower than those of cis and trans women, trans men, and non-binary people who are raped by men – it’s crucial to recognize that we can still help male survivors of rape.

And of equal importance is the fact that we can be supportive of them in a way that doesn’t detract from the support offered to other survivors.

3. Not All Sexual Coercion Involves Physical Violence

Woman perpetrators often use very different tactics than men to push for sex, such as repeated unwanted touching, emotional manipulation, and intoxication.

Categories of sexual coercion include foresexual or presexual contact (kissing, touching, or groping against the survivor’s will or without their consent), coercive sex (described above), attempted rape, and completed rape.

Studies show that women are much more likely to instigate unwanted foresexual contact or coercive sex than the latter two categories.

New research estimates that roughly 19-31% of college men experience some degree ofunwanted sexual contact, and researchers believe that the bulk of the perpetrators in these cases are women.

A woman who coerces or forces a man to have sex with her, even without initiating any physical violence, is still a rapist. “People think men can’t be raped and they don’t understand that…no still means no,” says Curtis St. John, a representative for MaleSurvivor, a national support group for male survivors of sexual abuse.

It’s crucial to remember that all sexual harassment, manipulation, and assault is extremely problematic, for men as well as women – and downplaying any aspect of it hurts the movement to support survivors.

4. Survivors Who Are Men Are Even Less Likely to Report Being Assaulted

Survivors of sexual assault who are men are much less likely than women to report it to the police. There are many reasons for this, all grounded in society’s fucked up teachings about gender.

Sadly, some men may not even realize that a crime has been committed against them.

According to sexual assault researcher Garnets, “because most men have internalized the social belief that the sexual assault of men is beyond the realm of possibility…men have trouble accepting their rape experience as real, not only because it happened to them, but that it happened at all.”

This idea is bolstered in cases where no physical harm was done to the survivor.

Other men may feel that they have lost their manhood as a result of being assaulted and experience profound shame and embarrassment, causing them to stay silent.

Many straight men don’t speak out due to fear of being ridiculed as gay because they weren’t interested in sexual advances from a woman.

Because the patriarchy has taught them that being gay is “wrong” from birth, they may not even be willing to admit that they didn’t want to have sexual contact with their rapist, for fear of being labeled as gay.

Project Unbreakable has chronicled some of the horrible things that male survivors have been told by their rapists and their supposed “support systems.” One survivor’s ex-fiancé told him to “man up” when he panicked after seeing his rapist for the first time in the eight years since the rape occurred. Another young man was told by his rapist, “You’re a guy. You can’t say no to a girl like me.”

When messages like these are the prevalent experience of male survivors, it’s no surprise that many are hesitant to speak up.

In order for this to change, it’s crucial that we as a society stand up for male survivors along with other survivors. All survivors deserve equal recognition and equal justice.

5. Male Victims Experience Traumatic Fallout After Rape, But Are Still Made into Jokes

Many men who are sexually coerced or raped by women experience long-term negative consequences, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

This is especially likely to happen when older women rape young men or when alcohol is involved in the rape.

As previously mentioned, a man who has been raped by a woman and achieved erection or ejaculation during the assault may feel deep disappointment in his own body. He may feel that he doesn’t have the “right” to call the event rape because he had an orgasm.

Even if his body had a different reaction to the assault, he may still feel deeply conflicted about calling the rape out on what it is. After all, society has told this very man – consistently since he was very young – that having sex should be one of his top priorities in life and that he will be admired and venerated for his sexual conquests.

Research shows that most rape survivors, regardless of gender, are deeply traumatized by the unfathomable loss of control over their own bodies that they experience when raped.

However, men are much less likely to be honest about how much they are suffering in the aftermath of an assault, due to gendered expectations of masculinity and the public response to male rape.

It’s no secret that the rape of men is downplayed by the media and often made the punchline of jokes. Whether it’s a news commentator doubting the legitimacy of a survivor’s experience, or a crude joke on Tosh.O, the rape of men by women simply isn’t taken seriously in the public eye.

But here’s the thing. Rape is never funny. Certainly not to survivors. And it should never be delegitimized or downplayed.

Check out this article for just a few reasons why rape jokes are never acceptable (and ways to cope with hearing them).

Resources for Male Survivors

Men who have been sexually assaulted or raped by women are not alone.

Organizations like MaleSurvivor and 1 in 6 offer helpful resources for men dealing with the aftermath of rape, including hotlines, support groups, access to therapists, daily affirmations of hope, and recovery retreats. They also provide a large body of research for people who want to learn more.

And if you are the partner of a rape survivor, read up on ways that you can support and help your partner.

All Rape Is Real

There’s still a long way to go in acknowledging and respectfully representing men assaulted by women.

After LaBeouf’s experience at #IAMSORRY, popular commentator Piers Morgan made an all too familiar victim-blaming statement, proclaiming that “LaBeouf is one of the toughest actors in Hollywood…[but] he just let it all happen.” Morgan also called LaBeouf’s allegations of rape “truly pathetic and demean[ing to] real rape victims.”

As if Morgan – or anyone else, for that matter – has the authority to define what “real” rape is.

Rape comes in many forms and sizes, but it is devastating to the survivor no matter what.

And as feminist critic Van Badham eloquently states, “After Shia LaBeouf’s art gallery trauma, we should affirm that all rapes are ‘real,’ and all are breaches of trust.”

***

To become a better ally of rape survivors, we must support all of them. And wonderfully, supporting male survivors of rape actually helps all survivors.

By working together – and never delegitimizing any case of sexual abuse – we can create a more inclusive survivor community.

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Yesterday was the second pretrial hearing of my ex (hereafter to be known as X). The second time that he got up in front of a judge and had his lawyer ask for a “continuance” (ie, more time) to come to an agreement on his case.

X has been charged with Assault and Unlawful Imprisonment. Or, domestic violence and kidnapping. Whatever you want to call it. The prosecutor in the case asked for him to be given 34 days in jail, fines totaling $1143.00, a criminal no contact order protecting me for two calendar years, a mandatory chemical dependency evaluation (and treatment if necessary) and the completion of domestic violence counseling.

In all likelihood, he will just end up paying the fines. It’s not that I want him to go to jail. No, that seems too dangerous of an outcome in a way. X would probably stew in his cell, reciting a constant mantra of that crazy bitch, that crazy fucking bitch. Perhaps he would come out even angrier at the world, at women, and at me.

No, it’s not jail time that I wish for him. It’s clarity of mind. It’s change of attitude and character – so that he won’t go on to hurt another woman. Another partner that he makes his whole world and swears his never-ending devotion to, that he tells is the most wonderful person he has ever met, that he is so proud of and wants to spend his life with…until she doesn’t live up to his perfect ideal of a subservient housewife who automatically knows how to make all of his favorite dishes perfectly. Who was practically a virgin until she met him, but is know well-schooled in how to please his needs and fit his every fantasy. Who is willing to put her own desires, beliefs, convictions – and even her own friends and family – aside for his.

I was never going to be that girl. And I think that the more that X got to know me, the angrier I made him. I wasn’t docile enough, innocent enough, selfless enough…and I had strong beliefs. Perhaps this was the worst thing of all. He once told me that I could NEVER teach our children about feminism.

Feminism, he said, was something he just did not like. When asked if he knew what it was, he became more volatile. X clearly did not have the slightest clue. But any time it became obvious to both of us that I was better educated than him, or that I was more knowledgeable about a certain subject, he would erupt into a state of rage and tell me how truly awful I was for “talking back” to him or for “making him look bad” in front of so-and-so.

There is so much that I want to say. And I don’t know that it is 100% safe for me to say it. But I am sure as hell that I need to say it – or this will just be one more story of domestic violence that goes unheard. One more sad tale of control and abuse that gets swept under the rug and forgotten – by everyone except the person who bears the scars, that is.

I need to repeat to myself: I am safe. I am loved. I will be okay. There is a good and happy future waiting. I do not need to feel this pain forever. I will not spend my life in fear of men. I will not let one angry, hurt man destroy my soul. I will not be controlled and abused. I will protect, support, and love myself. I will move on. I will be strong. I will find new and deeper strength each day.

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Me sunbathing at Suryalila

It’s been a long time, friends. A lot has happened. Ups and downs, adventures and joyful moments, sorrows and anxious nights. There’s much too much to write it all down in one sitting.

But to quickly summarize – I took a giant leap and traveled to Andalucia, Spain to take an incredible yoga teacher training course with Frog Lotus Yoga on an olive orchard/retreat center called Suryalila. I had the time of my life, worked my yoga butt off, wept tears of frustration, made incredible friends, pushed my boundaries, and learned more than I thought possible in 20 days.

I left the experience with a whole new approach to yoga, a deep passion of mine, and continued on to travel more in Spain, Germany, and Austria. I’ll upload pictures another day, but suffice to say, it was the experience of a lifetime. I will always be so thankful that I worked so hard to get there (working odd jobs all summer and getting donations from wonderful friends enabled me to pay the tuition), and that I succeeded in reaching my goal of becoming a yoga teacher.

I am now teaching yoga at multiple esteemed studios in Seattle (and have been since two months after I returned from Europe). I love the freedom and joy that this job gives me. When my students come to me after class and tell me how much they enjoyed their practice, my heart fills.

Striving to uplift my students while working out their minds and bodies can be a lofty task. There are days when I just don’t feel like teaching. Days when I feel like I’d rather pull my mat to the side of the room and just flow through the asanas (movements) while someone else leads the practice. But once I actually get to the front of the class and see those radiant faces, I am so grateful for the ability to guide them.

Other than teaching, I’m also working as the PR Manager of a growing vegan protein powder company, Sprout Living. This awesome group of twenty-somethings is dedicated to creating the very best organic, raw, non-GMO, cruelty-free protein on the market, and I’m proud to be part of the team.

That’s the very briefest of updates of course. There is a lot more to tell – not all of it happy. In fact, some of it is so devastating that I am still reeling as I write these words. But those tales are for another day.

For now I am simply happy to say that I feel ready to write again. I look forward to sharing stories, opinions, pictures, and much more with you all. ❤

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Cross-posted from my article in Everyday Feminism.

Morning: a man shuffles out of a cab in last night’s rumpled suit, holding a pair of dress shoes in his hands that have begun to pinch. The neighbors stare. This is the walk of shame.

Afternoon: a man skips lunch and pops three aspirin before heading into the waxing salon, preparing to endure searing pain for a clean, hairless nether region. This is the beauty routine.

Evening: a man leaves work to attend his kid’s school play; his all-female management team judges him for “putting parenting before work” (even though many of them have kids too). This is the double standard.

…Just kidding.

In reality, the man gets a high five from his doorman, drinks a beer while enjoying his lunch break, and rests easy because he knows his coworkers won’t criticize his work ethic just because he’s a dad.

From unrealistic beauty standards to slut shaming for promiscuity, there are a lot of things that women think about every day that men have never once had to consider. From the workplace to relationships, simple by being male, men experience privilege that makes their lives easier –and that they (usually) don’t even notice.

So we call out that privilege.

Not to castigate men for being born into it, and not to shame them for benefiting from this privilege—but to make them aware of how it affects their everyday lives and the lives of the women with whom they interact.

Because it’s not their fault that they aren’t conscious of it. Our patriarchal society works extra hard, day-in and day-out, to make sure that men aren’t aware of their privilege.

Let’s look at some examples of questions men don’t need to ask themselves – and how they make a difference in our lives.

1. Why am I expected to spend exorbitant amounts of money and time on my looks? And why do I get condemned as vain and superficial for doing so?

“Now every girl is expected to have: Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

While this quote is satirical and full of stereotypes, Tina Fey has a point. Women are held to ridiculous beauty standards that are impossible to meet.

And if she spends all that money, works out relentlessly, shuns fattening food, and achieves something akin to the patriarchy’s idea of “perfection?” Well, then she’s just vain and self-obsessed.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t choose to meet these standards, she’s a slob and doesn’t care about herself or her appearance.

There’s really no way to win, is there?

2. If I smile at people, will they interpret my friendliness as a sexual invitation? If I don’t, will they tell me to lighten up?

On a regular basis, many women have to deal with catcalls and degrading sexual offers from men as they walk to a meeting, the grocery store, the gym, the mailbox—you name it.

If she smiles or appears friendly, these offers and salutations will usually become more pronounced and gratuitous – almost as if she is expected to follow up on a simple smile with a blowjob.

But if she walks with her eyes forward and no smile on her lips? Then men will tell her “smile, sweetheart,” or “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”

How many men are told on a regular basis that they should smile? Especially by perfect strangers?

Not many, that’s for sure. In our patriarchal society, men are allowed the choice of how to portray themselves to the world – without the same level of judgment that women receive.

3. If I wear something that shows skin, will I get harassed?

From an early age women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies—men, not so much. Therefore, men don’t grow up believing that in order to be virtuous, they must cover up – or pay for it with degrading comments and behavior from others.

And although some men get criticized for their style of dress, it is much less likely that they will be sexually harassed for what they are wearing – I mean, men can walk around without even wearing a shirt and no one blinks an eye.

Conversely, women who choose to reveal skin are consistently sexually harassed, slut-shamed, or fat-shamed for showing off their bodies.

Simply put, society does not police men for how much skin they show. Unlike with women, the decision of what to wear is left up to them, not considered fodder for public discussion.

4. If I wear sexy clothing and enjoy partying, will people accuse me of provoking sexual harassment and/or assault?

“Why was she wearing such a short dress?” “Why was she out so late?” “How much did she drink that night?” “Why didn’t she know better than to hang out with those people?”

When we discuss a burglary, we never assign blame to the victim by saying that the beautiful garden in front of her house “tempted the robbers in.” Obviously, that would be ridiculous. But in the case of a woman being sexually harassed or raped, people often justify the crime by putting the onus on her provocative appearance, level of intoxication, or “improper” behavior.

Men aren’t held to these same standards (although sadly, they deal with an entirely different degrading patriarchal construct involving sex and consent).

As mentioned above, men aren’t criticized for showing off their bodies –and conversely are encouraged to drink to excess by the ingrained fraternity culture of our society.

5. If I have sex with him, will everyone think I’m a slut?

No one calls a man a slut for having sex. But women run the risk of being called sluts just for kissing a guy.

It’s simple: the sexual double standard still rules in America. Men can have promiscuous sex and be congratulated for it. Women who are sexually promiscuous are rarely viewed in a positive light.

6. If the condom breaks, will I get pregnant? If so, what then?

This is a no-brainer. No cis man has ever wondered this – and barring some very intense scientific advances, no cis man will ever have to. They will never have to worry about having to choose between aborting the child or having their whole world change as their body accommodates a new life.

Before anyone gets up in arms, let me state: this is biology, and no one would ever blame cis men for not being able to conceive. But it’s just one more example of how sexual choices affect cis men and cis women very differently.

7. If I reveal my gender, will I receive the same level of respect?

In an experimental Yale study, a group of scientists were given the same application to review for a lab position. Half of the scientists received the application under a female name, while the other half received the exact same application with a male name attached.

Across the board, the scientists rated the “male” applicants higher in competence and hireability, and offered them higher starting salaries than the “female” applicants.

For the exact same application.

And that’s just one small example.

Because of the myriad ways that women are discriminated against in professional, academic, and social circles, some women take to hiding their gender in order to be accepted into the “boy’s club” and to receive more respect from male counterparts.

Especially in the professional world and academics, but also in other online forums, women often have to work twice as hard to earn the same respect as men, because of society’s gendered expectations.

8. If I become upset at work, will they blame it on PMS?

We’ve all heard it a million times: “We can’t have a [cis] female President because she might go bomb Russia when she has PMS!

As ludicrous as this idea is, it’s still talked about.

Here’s a little dose of reality: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) does not make us irrational.

Can PMS make a woman feel more moody? Sure. Physically uncomfortable? Hell yes. But hands down, PMS does not change a woman’s brain chemistry enough to make her irrational or less competent.

Because cis men don’t menstruate, they don’t have a recognized equivalent syndrome that their rash behavior can conveniently be blamed on. On the contrary: when men display anger or intensity at work, they are often thought of as “strong,” “alpha,” or “dominant.”

9. Will I have less of a chance of being hired or promoted because of my gender?

The good news is that sex discriminationwhich involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person’s sex – is illegal in the US.

The bad news is that it happens all the time anyway.

Studies show that the majority of industry managers (especially in male-dominated industries like Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and STEM fields) tend to look for masculine stereotypes when hiring and awarding promotions.

Because of these male-biased hiring and promoting practices – which spring partly from a lack of diversity in the industries themselves – it is often extremely difficult for women to excel and move up in the company.

10. If I don’t do well at my job, will people take it as a sign that people of my gender shouldn’t be doing this line of work?

Sometimes the system keeps women from succeeding at their jobs.

For example, women working in male-dominated industries are often subjected to huge amounts of pressure to conform to the same masculine traits exhibited by their male counterparts. If they don’t, they are usually viewed negatively and kept from advancing in the company. And as we already know, the system – from hiring, to awarding raises and bonuses, to achieving managerial status – is stacked against women, making it much harder for them to rise to the top.

Sure, there are certainly individual women – just like there are individual men – whose particular talents aren’t suited for these jobs.

But using a couple of examples as reason to write off an entire gender is foolish, uneducated, and sexist – and fails to acknowledge the success of female leaders everywhere.

11. If I do well in my company, will people say that I slept my way to the top?

When men in high-power jobs succeed, it is generally presumed that they worked their asses off to get there. But women who reach the same level of success are often accused of sleeping their way to the top, despite the falsity of the claims.

This is because society often dismisses a woman’s hard work and perseverance, and reduces her to an object only valuable for bringing sexual pleasure to others.

12. If I have kids, will people assume I don’t care about my career anymore?

For years, studies have shown that working moms are discriminated against in ways as small as being left out of meetings, to as substantial as losing promotions – or even their jobs.

In September 2014, the federal government reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo over allegations that the banking giant discriminated against pregnant women, new mothers, and women on maternity leave.

Studies also show that working fathers simply do not deal with this level of discrimination. But because many people still believe that a woman’s place is “in the home,” they pigeonhole working mothers and discriminate against them unfairly.

13. If I don’t want a family, will people assume there’s something wrong with me?

Barren. Cold. Unloving. The crazy cat lady.

People make a lot of judgments about women who decide not to have children or get married. This is probably because the belief that women exist to be mothers lives on to this day in the assumption that a childless woman must be lonely, or unhappy, or that she should be pitied for not having been able to find “the right man.”

When a man decides to do the same, there may be some similar pity – but he is also likely to be venerated as a successful bachelor who “can’t be tamed” (think George Clooney).

In reality, having a family is entirely a personal choice – and there is no reason why men and women should be judged differently in relation to that decision.

***

These are a few examples of male privilege at its most insidious – patriarchal norms working below the surface to uphold sexist double standards in society.

Yes, everyone has a different life experience, and some men may, at some point in their lives, ask themselves some version of these questions. But that does not negate their male privilege.

We can all learn more about how patriarchal structures perpetuate this privilege. And the more we know, the better we can change how people respond.

Because even though men don’t generally have to think about all the things on this list – and so many others – they should.

Just by acknowledging their male privilege, men can start chipping away at it. And that’s a damn beautiful thing.

Source: CBS Charlotte

Cross-posted from Everyday Feminism

Angry Americans have a lot to say about welfare.

Some of it’s questionable, most of it’s derogatory, and almost all of it is incorrect.

There are millions of people who currently receive government assistance in our country. To some Americans, this rings alarm bells.

But how much do they really know about what welfare actually is, or about the people who need it?

First of all, many people would be surprised to discover that there is no one program called “welfare.”

The word “welfare” refers to a number of different government assistance programs that provide help to Americans struggling with poverty in distinct ways. SNAP/food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), tax credits for working families, and Social Security are just a few programs under the welfare umbrella.

Despite how commonly used these programs are, most people are unaware of how their daily lives are affected by government assistance.

In fact, many people who complain the most about the “evils” of welfare are actually receiving it themselves – in some form or another. They just don’t realize it, because they don’t know what welfare really entails.

Confusion about welfare is not a new thing. Stereotypes about recipients have played a crucial part in politics and propaganda for decades, fueled by class warfare and racist ideology. And the only real way to get folks to stop spreading misinformation is to educate them.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular welfare stereotypes and discover just how wrong they are.

Myth #1: Welfare Payments Are Too High

In reality, welfare benefits are modest at best, despite the continual attacks by conservative politicians who try, year after year, to reduce them.

Take the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps: The average benefit per person is $1.50 per meal.

Can you imagine trying to feed yourself adequately – not to mention healthily – on such an small amount of money?

Similar to SNAP, most other government assistance programs seek to provide only the barest minimum amount of help that an individual or family needs to survive.

Myth #2: Welfare Recipients Are Lazy

The idea that most people on welfare are able-bodied adults who are just too lazy to get a job and make an honest living is utterly false.

Most benefit programs require recipients to work in order to collect. Take Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), for example. Single parents receiving this grant must work at least 30 hours per week in order to be eligible, and two-parent families must work between 35 and 50 hours a week.

The fact is, blue-collar wages in America are simply not high enough to support workers in today’s economy. The wages paid by many large employers (including giants like Wal-Mart) are so low that their full-time employees are eligible for welfare.

You heard that right: People are working full-time to support their families, paying their fair share of taxes, but are so underpaid that they can’t get by without relying on government assistance.

This is partly due to the disturbing fact that the federal minimum wage has not been increased in over five years (despite the incessantly rising cost of living in our country) and partly due to voracious corporate greed.

And furthermore, half of all food stamp recipients are children. More than 82% of all food stamp money goes to households that include children, elderly people, or people with disabilities. These are people who legally or physically cannot work and live at the mercy of the system.

So where are all of these able-bodied lazy adults who are luxuriating off of their benefits? They are a fabrication.

Most people on welfare are hardworking, taxpaying citizens, just like the rest of us. Or they are impoverished children, elders, or folks with disabilities.

But it’s a lot easier for welfare critics to take help away from people that they imagine are lazy and deceitful, so that false image lives on.

Myth #3: Undocumented Immigrants Are All on Welfare

Nope. Absolutely not.

In fact, undocumented immigrants in the US are not eligible for any benefits except emergency Medicaid (in the case that they are severely injured or sick).

According to the Social Security Administration, about half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes, including billions in Social Security taxes for benefits that they will never see a penny of.

Yes, their kids can attend public schools for free, but undocumented immigrants are actually contributing more to the American economy than they take away – and they have no access to food stamps or other welfare programs, despite being one of the lowest-paid groups in the nation.

Myth #4: People Use Welfare to Support Their Drug Habits

Federal government research tells us that the population of welfare receivers on drugs is basically the same as that of the American population in general – in some cases, even lower.

Recent drug testing results from individual states also prove the falseness of this widely accepted myth.

In July 2014, Tennessee began testing their welfare applicants, resulting in a whopping 1-in-800 people testing positive for illegal drugs. That’s less than 1%.

In Florida, four months of drug testing revealed that only 2.6% of applicants tested positive (in contrast, 8% of Florida’s non-welfare receiving population regularly test positive for drugs).

Research proves time and time again that mandated drug testing costs taxpayers much more money than it saves. And since welfare naysayers never get the results that they want from the tests, you would think they would give up with this tired tactic already.  

Myth #5: The ‘Welfare Queen Is Hoodwinking Us All

Ronald Reagan once made a speech in which he claimed “There’s a woman in Chicago. She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards… She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000.″

“Who is this woman and how dare she steal the money of innocent, hardworking people?” cried the voices of people across the nation.

Thus was born the infamous and still widely discussed “Welfare Queen.”

She stands for all welfare recipients that are (supposedly) lazily drinking the day away, popping out babies in order to “rake in” more welfare money, and fooling the system by getting more than their share of benefits and then using them to buy iPhones and lobster dinners.

Oh, and she’s obviously Black. Although Reagan didn’t specifically mention her race, he played upon white America’s racial fears to ensure that people assumed she was Black.

What’s more, she is the perfect scapegoat for us to blame for the problems of our nation, the perfect reason to not feel bad about voting for politicians who want to cut meager welfare benefits to struggling families.

There’s just one catch.

She doesn’t exist. Good old President Reagan made her up.

What’s much more important than the falsehood of that single example is the fact that this stereotype doesn’t hold up in general. As we’ve already discovered, most welfare recipients are people just like us – hard workers struggling to support themselves and their families in the wake of the Great Recession.

My advice? Speak out when people bring up the tired Welfare Queen and her 12 babies. A future in which people don’t begrudge struggling families their humble benefits based on a racist myth is possible.

Spread knowledge and knowledge will overcome.

Myth #6: Welfare Is Not Effective

Government assistance is extremely effective at helping people get out of – and stay out of – poverty.

Conservative groups like the Cato Institute try to convince the public that because of increasing demand for programs such as food stamps, welfare has failed. In fact, the economic damage done by the Great Recession is the cause of rising food stamp participants.

The question we should be asking is, where would we be without these programs?

Well, in 2013, for example:

  • Food stamps helped lessen the burden of poverty for 4.8 million people.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit kept 8 million hardworking families from falling under the poverty line.
  • If Social Security didn’t exist, 27 million more people would be poor.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Every year, Census Bureau data proves that welfare programs are instrumental in helping people get back on their feet – and quickly.

This is exactly why these programs are necessary. And precisely why cutting their funding doesn’t make any sense.

In contrast, increasing funding to welfare programs would help alleviate poverty to an even greater extent, which would in turn help the economy grow and protect the middle class.

This brings us to the greatest myth of all – the myth that you or I will never, under no circumstance, need government assistance.

Myth #7: You’ll Never Need Welfare

Welfare, in some form, touches most people at some point during their life.

Maybe it was that few months of unemployment benefits that the war vet received when she was laid off. Maybe it was childcare resources that saved the single dad’s ass when he needed to go to work and leave the kids at home. Or perhaps it was the tax credits that got that working family through their roughest time.

No one can truthfully know that life will not throw them a curveball that severely impacts their financial situation. It’s crucial to understand that many of the welfare recipients people pity – or disdain – started out in a much more stable position.

And no matter what our current circumstances are, things change. Wealth, health, and good luck do not always last. Not one of us can know for sure that we won’t need to rely on welfare at some point in our lives.

Realizing this is just one important step towards cultivating empathy for those who are less fortunate than us.

***

Providing a safety net through government assistance makes our country stronger – and it’s time for Americans to stop spreading untrue and damaging rumors decrying the very programs that are creating a brighter future for our nation’s most vulnerable. It’s time for politicians to stop trying to cut meager benefits to struggling families.

Because there are millions of people out there who truly need these programs to help them get back on their feet. And you never know – someday, you might be one of them.