Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

At age 17 I was raped on a second date. At age 19 I was raped by a man I had just met. For many years I thought both instances were my fault. I told no one. Eventually I was able to speak about them in the most general of terms but I still felt at fault. Over a decade later I was able to talk about them in more detail without paralyzing flashbacks, but I still thought I was to blame.

It wasn’t until the 2012 election season that things really began to change for me. All the crazy things candidates were saying and the subsequent conversations about those comments made me angry and sad and scared and … guilty. Why was I feeling guilty? I couldn’t figure it out. So I did what I always do when I am confused – I threw myself into research.

I started researching the statements politicians were making. I researched the commentaries on these statements. I researched rape, rape statistics, rape laws, the medical and psychological effects of rape and I read many survivors stories. I don’t remember exactly when or how but somewhere during all this shifting through information I had the most profound realization of my life: my assaults – my rapes – were not my fault. Period. Full stop. No ifs, no buts, no howevers. Not. My. Fault. This wasn’t just a change to my memories. It was a change to my way of thinking. It was a change to the way I viewed everything.

I was no longer a victim, I was a survivor. I was no longer ashamed, I was indignant. I was no longer scared, I was determined. What had haunted me for years was now something that gave me strength. But I began to wonder that if I had been so wrong about this for so long, what else was I wrong about? I slowly became aware of many things I had been wrong about, but that’s a different story.

My point here is to show that if I – a well-traveled, college educated, strong, independent woman and self-declared feminist – can fall into the trap that is the rape culture we live in, then anyone can. Victim blaming is so prevalent that even the victims blame themselves. Excuses are made for rapists. Rapists are shown pity. The victims are blamed, shamed, scorned and threatened. This is completely ass-backwards!

I feel that it is now my duty to speak up; to tell my truth. To let others know that it is NEVER the victim’s fault. To let other survivors know that it isn’t their fault. It doesn’t matter what you wore, what you did, or what you said. Unless you distinctly said “yes” with a clear and able mind, then it was rape! As my husband said to me this morning, “It’s really simple. If the other person is unwilling or unable to say ‘yes,’ then don’t do anything [sexual] with them.” He’s right. It really is that simple. An un-coerced yes means yes. Anything else means no.

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Why did I want to be part of this documentary project?

Good question and one that I have asked myself repeatedly since agreeing to be part of it. There are many reasons.

There are the typical, expected reasons.

As a feminist and activist, I felt I had to do this.

I wanted to give a voice to the people affected by the War on Women.

I wanted to expose injustice and hypocrisy.

There are the professional reasons.

I’ve always wanted to break into documentary making, but never knew how or thought I could.

I thought it would be a good start for a career in documentary making.

I’d get the all-important experience under my belt.

There are the personal reasons.

I faced extreme sexism from a very early age.

I am a rape survivor.

I am related to rape and sexual abuse survivors.

I am friends with rape and sexual abuse survivors.

But what was the real reason? What made me jump at doing this instead of the dozens of other projects I could have joined or started? What is that hidden, driving reason? It took a LONG time to figure this out. In the end, I realized that it was the most basic, visceral of reasons: I was angry. I wasn’t just angry; I was pissed – filled with a slow burning rage that roiled at the very core of my being.

After the decades that countless women had spent fighting for equality; after the years I had spent fighting equality; after people in the U.S. seemed to think that “feminism had won”; I realized that women had won precious little and even that was being threatened. It was a hard slap to the face. Reproductive freedom, equal pay, protection from violence and rape, assistance for pregnant women and young children, – it was all being attacked and dismantled bit by bit. Hell, I even heard some people suggesting we repeal the 19th Amendment (that’s the amendment that gave women the right to vote)!

It’s as if collectively, we women looked away at other issues and the instant we did – BAM – an all out assault on women’s rights exploded. But it was an insidious assault. Brilliant, really. The attacks came camouflaged at first. Sneaking in at the edges. Oozing into political cracks. Like ninjas in the night, opponents to women’s rights gathered and before we knew it, they had taken out our defenses and had women surrounded and backed against a wall.

Maybe it was the way I was raised. Maybe it’s the time I spent in the military. Maybe it’s the result of all my life’s experiences, but I do not take well to being backed into a corner. In fact, that is the quickest way to get me to fight. Ferocious and relentless, I will fight for myself, my family, my friends, for all women. I will fight in all the ways I know how. I will fight to regain the ground women have lost and will continue fighting until we achieved equality or I draw my last breath.

Women’s rights opponents thought they had found a way to roll back all those “feminist laws” and briefly, they did. But they didn’t count on women waking up and fighting back. And wake up we did! There have been hundreds – thousands – of sleeping warriors shaken from their slumber. I am but one among many. And this documentary is but one weapon I will wield in the War FOR Women.

~ Sara B. Free

Lady Parts Updates: The Journey of the Lady Parts

I can hardly believe it has been less than two months since I conceived of this idea, asked Sara to join me as a partner, and began the process with someone as fun as Sara to work with me. So much has happened that I will just start from the beginning.

  1. Sara and I had lunch in January, discussed this idea, plotted out the ways to do it financially, physically, and literally.
  2. We spent a couple of weeks discussing what exactly we wanted to do. Making a documentary with such a broad focus requires much forethought. Questions, interviewees, technical issues like what footage we can use and what we have to ask the rights to use…really exciting stuff.
  3. We found a good camera and a tripod suitable to our purpose.
  4. Interviews commenced! We had the honor of interviewing such people as Casey Lanham, Ellyahnna Christina Hall, author and professor at LeMoyne Owen College, Gee Joyner, and Joan Carr of Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis between late January and mid February.  
  5. Event filming! We were able to film at a Women’s Action Coalition of Midsouth poster making meeting for the Valentine’s Day One Billion Rising Event in Memphis. Sara edited the footage from the One Billion Rising Event and made a video that seemed to capture the essence of the event and its meaning.
  6. We stopped interviewing until March so that we could get some content for our blog, catch our breath, and attend events. The next event is the People’s Lobby Day in Nashville on March 12, 2013. Sara will be attending, and I may be attending. I may not be able to travel that day for personal matters.
  7. Upcoming interviews will be with Dr. Zandria F. Robinson, professor of Sociology at the University of Memphis, Rebecca Terrell from Choices in Memphis, Erin Lanham, student at the University of Memphis, and a few more we will announce later.
  8. Last, but never least, we have added a member to our team, author Ellyahnna Christina Hall, has agreed to be a regular writer for this blog. We are very excited about this and will have a more about it when she has finished her piece.
  9. We have decided to have guest authors to write about their thoughts on all things Feminist. Sara and I are funny women, so we only know fun people. You will not be disappointed by our guest authors.