Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SOMANYFEELINGS: On Chris Brown's Tattoo, Reproductive Rights Legislation, and Trampirism

WARNING: I am full of piss and vinegar today, and this post will include EXPLICIT language and adult themes. Also, thanks to Margo. This is for you.

Okay, there are some things bubbling in me that I have needed to blog about for a while and though I try not to use this space to vent about the general SUCK that is being a feminist in the modern world, I feel the need to get a few things off my chest. So I promise to get back to the love letters to New Orleans and the amazing Elemental Perfumes project I've been wanting to tell you all about starting tomorrow, but right now, a girl has got to take a few minutes to talk to you and know you feel me. Okay, dear reader? Be with me on the following things:


Seriously, this has got to be one of the most fucked things I have EVER SEEN. And before you even start some shit with me, let me say right now, THAT IS NOT a dia de los muertos mask. CHRIS BROWN HIMSELF, when confronted about it, said (through his rep) it is a "random woman." Yeah, sure it is.

(1) If it were a dia de los muertos mask or "sugar skull," he/his rep would have said that.

(2) Maybe it is a random woman. Rhianna is unlikely to be the first or last woman Chris Brown beats the crap out of. Maybe it is a showcase of his handiwork, a kind of portfolio of pain inflicted on unsuspecting women through the years. Like Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, but you know, Chris Brown's Beaten Woman. FN1.

All I know is this, EVERY TIME YOU GIVE THIS MAN A DOLLAR, you are telling him and men like him, that it's cool he beat down a woman who loved him, a woman he alleged to love. And don't even bring that crap about "separating the art from the man" up in here today, because Chris Brown, like any artist, draws from his life for his work, and supporting his work is supporting his life, and it sends a message that the things he's done, not to mention turning it into music he can then sell and profit from, is okay.

And that's the terrible genius of his celebrity, this tattoo, all of it. That man is getting press right now because of this piece, and I hate, I mean HATE, giving it to him. But his choices aren't just about him. His choices, because of his celebrity and because of hers, are scrutinized by the media and it becomes about the way the media reacts and responds and even excuses celebrities who perpetrate and perpetuate intimate partner violence from Chris Brown to Mel Gibson to Charlie Sheen to Sean Penn (FN2), until it becomes a story about 'what drives a man to hit a woman' as though one person leads another to violence, about his punishment and apologies and crying on talk shows, and we forget the survivors in the rush to talk about the men.

It's not about the individual men. It's not about Chris Brown. It's about a society that continues to hold him and men like him up as a talent and a star, despite the fact that he beat a woman badly. It's about the fact that we, as a society, continue to excuse this kind of behavior because it happens between people who are supposed to be in love. It's about the fact that domestic violence is a disease that kills women every day, and as a society writ large, we don't even bother to pretend to care.

Also, as the esteemed Sara Perle pointed out: "It's like he wants to do the most violence possible. Even if dude can't knock someone around personally, there's his face plastered across our screens all the time, now perpetually paired with a hella triggery image." This is the total truth.

And while I will never repost the photo of Rhianna's face because I really do not want to be another site that shows what he did to her when she never wanted those photos out in the world, and I respect her right to privacy as a survivor, and because she deserves to be able to move on, it's linked from the piece referenced above, and I encourage you all to keep in mind that what was done to her was not only terrible, but terribly, terribly common.

AND IT IS NEVER OKAY. Say it with me, people. INTIMATE VIOLENCE IS NEVER OKAY. But hey: thanks, Chris Brown. If we're all really lucky, other abusive pricks will follow your lead and tattoo some obvious representation of the women they've beaten in their lives on a visible part of their bodies, and then all women they meet in the future will know to run, not walk, in the opposite direction.

~ So many f-ed things on the reproductive rights front I feel almost overwhelmed by them, but let's start with this:

Anti-Abortion Lawmaker Has ‘Never Thought About’ Why A Woman Would Want An Abortion
“What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?,” an Al Jazeera reporter asks Buchy[.] “Well, there’s probably a lot of — I’m not a woman so I’m thinking, if I’m a woman, why would I want to get — some of it has to do with economics. A lot has to do with economics. I don’t know, I have never — It’s a question I have never thought about,” responds Rep. Buchy. “It’s a question I have never thought about.”
Bunch wants to make abortion ILLEGAL -- HAS NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT WHY WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS. How can you even think about writing legislation to address what you see as a social ill WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT WHY IT HAPPENS? Why would you do that -- EVER? "I want to outlaw homeless people. Not going to think about why they're homeless." THIS IS NOT SOMEONE YOU WANT WRITING ANY KIND OF LAWS, PEOPLE.

 To quote Taylor Swift's new single: Like, EVER. FN3.

And while we're talking about why you should avoid electing knee-jerk, reactionary lawmakers who don't know their legislative business from a hole in the ground, let's talk about this AMAZING piece of law-making fuckery:

Life before conception: Arizona anti-abortion law defies science
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed her name to a controversial bill on Thursday, authorizing the state to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

According to the legislation, however, the state considers the starting point of the life of a fetus to begin on the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, essentially establishing life to begin before scientifically possible.

With officials now considering the gestational age of the fetus to begin on the first day of the last period, abortions can actually be banned as early as 18 weeks after conception. Lawmakers insist that complications can occur for both the mother and child if abortions are administered later than that, but the bulk of the controversy coming from Brewer’ signing isn’t about the medical consequences. Understandably, many are mad about the government getting involved between the legs and love life of everyone in Arizona.
The law “disregards women’s health in a way I’ve never seen before,” the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Jordan Goldberg explains in protest. “The women of Arizona can’t access medical treatment that other women can.”
THAT'S RIGHT, LADIES. Arizona's legislature, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to start its regulatory clock on your uterus EVERY TIME YOU START BLEEDING, just, you know, in case you might have some baby potential up in there. Even though, you know, while you're menstruating, YOU ARE NOT PREGNANT because that's your body shedding it's baby-making endometrial lining. And yes, I know last menstrual cycle is the date used by doctors to determine fetal age. THAT DOES NOT MEAN WE SHOULD USE IT AS A REGULATORY MEASURE, particularly when it raises issues regarding forms of birth control pill (BCP) for non-pregnant women.

What issues? Okay, off the top of my head, in less than five minutes, I have the following questions:

(1) If you're on a BCP that shortens your cycle, if you keep taking that BCP because, hey, you didn't know you were pregnant, are you now guilty of attempted abortion? If you accidentally cause yourself a miscarriage and medical complications arise such that this is discovered when you seek medical care, while you be in violation of the law? What happens to you? Will you be charged?

(2) If you're on a multi-cycle suppressing birth control (i.e. Seasonale, Jolessa, Quasense, etc.), are you violating the law by merely taking the BCP since you're eliminating some of your cycles, or do you just get a free pass since you bleed less?

(3) re: #2 - Same questions go for the depo-provera shot.

(4) If you don't technically have a cycle because you don't have a lot of lining to shed for a BCP- or medical condition-related reason (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, anyone?), but you somehow manage to get pregnant, do you now get a free pass? If there's no blood, does the clock never start on your 20 weeks, or can you just have an abortion whenever?

(5) Alternately what if, thanks to a medical condition and/or your body's interactions with BCP, you  just continually spot. If you never stop bleeding, does the clock never begin?

I cannot stress enough how poorly written laws have unintended ramifications, and how important it is that lawmakers take the time to educate themselves about all the possible interpretations and applications of the laws they write. And lest you think this problem is limited to Arizona, let me take this moment to lead you to this Ms. Magazine piece on how six other states have crazy 20-week bans that have even murkier definitions of when the anti-choice clock begins to tick tock on your reproductive freedoms.
So why are anti-choicers so stuck on using this inaccurate term “postfertilization” in their lawmaking, despite the fact it undermines medicine? Dr. Gunter thinks that not only have they failed to hire medical professionals to vet the bills, but also that they “got so wrapped up in life at fertilization that they needed to state it.”

It’s indicative of the dangerous, anti-abortion extremist mindset: Reiterating the terms “fertilization” and “postfertilization” and “probable fertilization age” emphasize the fetus while further removing the woman from the law. Acknowledging gestational age, two weeks prior to fertilization, would mean acknowledging that there is someone else involved in an abortion—the woman, whose body has been existing, functioning and preparing for gestation even before the fetus was conceived.

Although there are many things in the Arizona law to rage about, the correct medical terminology is not one of them. Dr. Gunter urges all of who are pro-choice to also be pro-facts: “Those of us who stand for the facts need to be clear about what the laws say, even if the lawmakers themselves don’t know.”
You got that, folks? We can't expect the people who write our laws to understand WHAT THOSE LAWS EVEN MEAN, to think about why they're writing these laws or the impact the made-up non-words they use have on the people (and here I mean WOMEN) who will be subject to their legislation or even why a woman would have an abortion. NOPE. That is just too much to ask. Gotta be on us to EXPLAIN what, precisely, is wrong with those laws.

Oh, and when you do? Expect to get called a baby-hating murderer. Happens to me all the time.

I'd love to tell you that a basic human biology class could fix this problem for people like, say, Todd Akin, who think women's vaginas have magical anti-rape baby powers, but these laws tend to be written by people who refuse to accept basic scientific theories like evolution, so I don't have a lot of hope.

And lest you think Todd Akin's (R) campaign was dead in the water, he received a major endorsement from the Missouri Farm Bureau today so Mr. "I Cannot Even Bring Myself To Say the Word Vagina But Think I Should Get To Regulate Them" isn't out yet.

And Todd Akin isn't even the craziest among them. And instead of getting laughed out of public life for-EV-ER as they so richly deserve, they just keep on trucking. One of them went on to run Arkansas's state Health Department. Thanks Mike Huckabee (R)!

~ Okay, last but not least, and this is mostly to add some levity to this post, I need to talk to you for a minute or four about this whole 'trampire' business.

As I'm sure you all have heard by now: Kristen Stewart was caught on film getting smoochy with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders, who is a 40-something married man with two kids. She even made a public apology affirming the affair.

Some people are really disproportionally upset about this. (Thanks, Will Ferrell, for your hilarious critique of the overreaction. FN4.)

Now FIRST: let me say this -- THIS IS NONE OF MY DAMN BUSINESS. Seriously. It's not yours, either. As far as I can tell, the only people who need to deal with the betrayal these illicit smooches represent are, in no particular order: Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, Rupert Sanders, his wife, his two kids. That's it. That's all.

This really does not involve ANYONE ELSE.

The only reason I am talking about it because (1) I promised Thu I would and (2) I feel the need to say the following:

1. Thank GOD no one was following me around at 22, taking photos of all my worst decisions, and printing them in national publications. Because oh, holy vestal virgin, KStew would look like a damned saint next to my stupid ass. (Okay, not really. But you know, close enough.) In all seriousness, though: did ANYONE make entirely good, noble, and pure decisions at that age? We don't even know what Jesus was doing when he was 22, but I'm willing to be bet we don't want to. My heart has to ache a little for ANYONE who has to deal with that kind of scrutiny.

2. Why is KStew getting all the haterade? Can we stop and talk for a minute about the INSANITY that is the slut-shaming going on here? I think this piece by Nico Lang does a really nice job of outlining the underlying problems with all of the public discourses related to this private disaster.

I don't know that I'll go as far as this piece by Liz Jones, which declares Stewart an "Anti-WAG Superstar" and intimates, "And so I hope Kristen Stewart is self-indulgent rather than self-sacrificing. I hope she sends forbidden texts, and tries to seduce her yoga teacher and makes him drive her to the airport so she can conduct an illicit tryst without taking the Heathrow Express."

But I will say that when all the critique is headed one direction, and that direction is the shoulders of an unmarried 22 y.o. girl rather than the 40-something married father of two who decided to sacrifice all the trust built in a marriage of ten years for an affair, something is terribly wrong with this picture. Stewart is being targeted for being a sexual being, for having her own mind, for playing outside the script roles like Snow White and Bella Swan allow for women.

 Simply by being human and making mistakes in her life choices, Stewart has accidentally engaged in a transgressive act, an act that cuts against the narrow script our society has written for her. And our society, our sexist, misogynistic, women-hating society, absolutely hates women who violate their scripted role.

Women are not meant to be actors, not in idealized fiction, not in the world, and not even in their own lives. When a woman of prominence colors outside the lines, expect people -- men and women -- to freak out. Bella waits; she doesn't go get it on with someone else, no matter how many of us wanted her to. FN5. The real woman behind the provincial Mary Sue fantasy, however, isn't as easily controlled, hemmed in, or limited to only approved audience-tested tropes.

And that, if nothing else, is the greatest piece of public tragedy in this whole 'trampire' fiasco. It isn't that Stewart is being publicly shamed for her choices, though that's pretty terrible in its own right. It is that the world is thunderstruck by her autonomy, and is now taking this opportunity to make sure that Stewart, and any of the fans watching this go down in the public sphere, know their place in it.

So I stand with Kristen Stewart, screw-ups and all. She gets to make a mess of her life, if only because it's her's and that's her right as a flawed but autonomous being. And when people try to shame her for those choices, and send all the criticism in her direction for failing to be the 'Angel of the House' they want all women to be, we need to all get behind women like Kristen Stewart and say to the critics, men and women alike: "HEY! THAT IS NOT OKAY."


I think I'm done now.

In the only good feminist news of the day, Amanda Palmer's new album dropped, and it is awesome. Explicit video below.

Also, it's 9/11, so let's take a moment to honor the dead and the living and those who've served, and remember that there are first responders still waiting for benefits and compensation.

FN1. If he ever admits it is Rhianna, I hope she sues his ass for intentional infliction of emotion distress for monetary damages and a court order compelling him to have the tattoo covered or removed.

FN2. ...and that's only to name a very few and even before I get to all the celebrity athletes...

FN3. I love the video. LOVE IT. I also think Taylor has inadvertently acquired herself a large fan base among the plushophile community. At least, I think it was inadvertent...

FN4. At least, I hope that's what you were doing.

FN5. Seriously, check out the video. The Hindi girls are epic.


Ines said...

Ok, now I'm upset as well. I wasn't before reading your post. That is not to say I'm blaming you, I'm glad I read all of it.
I am reminded again that if there is ever any change to be done in the world, each and every one of us has to start building it. And then I think I really should be a dictator and force people to be reasonable.
I wish I wouldn't have to say/write/think this every single day: But what in the h..l is wrong with people?!?!
Is everyone just plain evil? Why else would they feel the need to force their own views on everyone else? I don't mind people thinking completely opposite of me but I also don't force them to behave as I'd like them to. Unless I were a dictator. But I would be a benevolent one ;)

I completely agree with you on the Kirsten thing. Why isn't anyone condemning the guy? I'm pretty sure he was the one who started it. And even if he wasn't, he was definitely the one who should have stopped it.

P.S. I made some serious mistakes well into my 20s. :)

Amy said...

This is why I love reading your blog: you are so articulate about all the things that make me so angry I can't do anything but flail and spit and twitch uncontrollably. Our world is so very, very fucked up, and I am so glad there are people like you to help explain how, exactly, it is. So thank you!

ChickenFreak said...

I remember when I found the concept of "magical thinking" in toddlers to be a fascinating phenomenon - the idea that when a toddler insists, "I didn't break it!" right after knocking down the crystal vase, that toddler truly believes that saying it and believing it will make it true. They don't have a grip on the idea of firm, persistant reality that's independent of their thoughts.

More and more, the politicians that pass these laws seem to be at this toddler stage - or, really, trying to push us back to that stage. Maybe it's always been this bad and I'm just naive, but it seems as if the level of magical thinking, and condemnation of those who do believe in a persistent reality, has grown in the past couple of decades. It seems to me that ignorance, passivity, and lack of clarity in understanding and communication are increasingly being painted as core virtues.

Come to think of it, I suppose it's the same game that's always been played on women - intelligence and independent thought in women has been treated as unattractive and morally suspect. Now it seems that the same standards are being applied to the electorate as a whole.

I was thinking that this only applied to the lawmaking part of your post, but, really... to make the connection that if it's a woman it's not a sugar skull and therefore it is celebrating violence against women, requires thought. To understand that a society that soft-pedals violence against women will have more of that violence, requires thought. To understand that an actress is not her worshipped character, and that the general public really doesn't have a stake in her personal life, requires thought.

I think I've mentioned my mother's fear of being caught thinking, a fear that led her more and more to suppress the urge to do so. It's starting to look like our society is emulating her.

olenska said...

I'm pondering it all, or trying, but my brain keeps screeching to a halt over that tattoo.

I saw the segment on CityRag.com in which CB's publicist cites a MAC cosmetic ad graphic as the inspiration for this design. But it is SO CLEAR that if CB handed the tattoo artist this ad graphic, he ALSO handed them a photo of his brutally beaten girlfriend and said, "Alter THAT to make it look more like THIS."

His arrogance and lack of compassion is beyond my comprehension. The only way he could justify this action is if Rihanna herself had told him, "Sure, I'll forgive you... but I want the evidence of what you did to me to be engraved in YOU forever, visible to everyone-- including you, everytime you check yourself out in the mirror."


Diana said...


Sorry to spread the upset around, but occasionally I just feel this build up of stuff and have to purge or it eats at me. It is terribly hard to be a woman these days. Better than many days before, and yet somehow worse, because it is hard to believe we haven't made it further.

As for Kristen, I just hope this doesn't hurt her career. My hsuband and I were talking about it, and I said one of the worst things about all this is that it never seems to hurt male celebs the way it does female celebs when these things happen. He was saying there wasn't really an analogous story, and I pointed out that the Hugh Grant/Elizabeth Shue thing was actually quite analogous, and the result of that fiasco for Hugh Grant was that he now got to play both the bumbling romantic (Four Weddings...) and the sexy scoundrel (Bridget Jones). It actually *helped* his career, broke him out of typecasting, etc. Somehow I doubt Kristen will be so lucky.


Diana said...


Thanks for the feedback. It's not so much that I feel our world is so very fucked (though it is), as much as I am so frustrated by how little we manage to accomplish with all our potential. In my secret heart, I am still a somewhat naive idealist who longs for a better world and wants us to do better. My anger is borne on my disappointment, but also my hope for change.

Thanks for reading.


Diana said...


I always find your commentary so interesting and

I don't know that my mother ever thought enough of herself to be afraid of being caught thinking. She just always seemed to assume the answer to all her problems would show up in the form of a man one day. When I think of her, I always think of the sort of person who never gives up on the silly incomplete narrative of the fairy tale, and the damage it has the potential to do those who don't think/see/feel their way through or away from it.

As for magical thinking, that is precisely the kind of thinking that seems to pervade aty least half the electorate these days. "I built this business without any help!" never mind the bank loan through a federal program or the infrastructure your goods were shipped through or the tax breaks and incentives you received from our government or the public transportation used by your employees to get to and from their jobs. "Public education is terrible and wasteful!" nevermind what would happen to our society at large without access to education as a gaurantee. People call these things "entitlements" but I think of them as "basic human needs." Shelter, healthcare, food, education -- those are earmarks of a civilized society. They are the base of Maslow's heirarchy, and without them -- and an ongoing assurance of them -- we are all doomed to an ill-advised Hobbesian end:

"In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

People like Mitt Romney can't exist without a certain degree of certainty on the part of every man, woman, and child in America that their life as a degree of certitude. To think of these basics as "dependency" or "bread and circuses" is to think of it backwards, from the perspective of having such things, not of what life would be like without them. We can only move forward when these basics are met for all. If you truly believe in a state or a society, you have to recognize that improvement and achievement -- collective and individual -- is impossible without these basic needs being certain.

In other words, if you 'love America,' if you are truly 'patriotic,' and if you dream of the kind of nation or life or soceity as dreamed of by the founding fathers, one of liberty, freedom, independence, and progress, then you have to side with the PROGRESSIVE.

But, as you say: this requires thought. It isn't easily boiled down to a 30 second sound bite. But Mitt Romney and his 'producer' class can't actually produce anything without those of us working down here in the widget factory making decidedly less than the $200-$250K/yr he thinks the middle class rakes in. Sigh. If only Americans could be honest with themselves and stop acting like we're all temporarily embarassed millionaires, we could get something done.

Wow. That got decidedly political, didn't it? What can I say...you inspire me. :)


Diana said...


Yeah, I don't see how you can justify the image. Even if it was an unrelated tattoo that happens to look so much like his beaten girlfriend's face that it ias obviously mistaken for said image, how did he not realize it? That photo of her haunts *ME*, so how the hell can he wake up in the morning and not see it every day? Because abusers never acknowledge their responsibility. Someone always "drove" them to it; someone "pushed" them. So yeah, he doesn't see it, because he doesn't want to, because if he did he'd have to confront who he is, what he did, and how society supports, excuses, and even promotes that kind of violence towards women...and that's a lot of work. So yeah, it's a sugar skull, and denial is just a river in Egypt.

Also, I'm bitter. ;)