Archive for the ‘politics’ Category
Maternity leave isn’t something I’d given much thought to. I know there is a debate raging, I know that my Swedish co-workers correct me and say “parental leave benefit” and I know my current benefit is competitive (16 weeks, full pay, regardless of gender of the parent or birth/adoption/guardianship of child). I didn’t know how parental leave impacts retention of women in the workforce across all incomes and sectors, but I knew that Google increased their benefit in a pitch to retain female employees and it worked.
And then, seemingly overnight, this became a major consideration. I became a 30 year old woman in a stable relationship with Plans. Moreover, I became a 30 year old woman in a stable relationship with Plans and the good fortune to be desirable to people who occasionally show up and try to offer me new jobs. And in looking at these, I discovered that my maternity benefit is very, very competitive. Others I’ve seen have ranged from 8 weeks at full pay but no ability to take more than 8 weeks to 16 weeks at no pay.
And my first question is “do you people not want to retain female talent?!” It costs about $10,000 to hire someone in my field when you think about time lost to interviews, money spent perking people up (recruiting), and various other activation costs. I guess depending on the hire that’s only 1-2 months of paid leave, but I think I just found the leaky pipe everyone has been talking about.
My plan had been to work until it was baby time (in a year or two, relax folks), take my leave, then come back. If I were in a job with one of these less generous leave policies my plan would be either 1) work until I though “ooh, baby next year” then look for a job with better benefits or 2) work until baby time, exhaust the benefit such as it is, then quit my job and find a new one 6ish months later.
There is a huge, glaring, major assumption in my plan: I am in a high demand, well paid field and I have options. I assume that if I quit my job I will find a new one 6 months later. I have enough padding to quit my job for 6 months.
Now imagine the average woman who at this point may or may not be partnered (40.6% of American babies were born out of wedlock in 2013 per the CDC) and whose income is probably in the $40k-$50k range (if she’s lucky). What the hell does she do? No, really, daycare is prohibitively expensive, her leave benefit might only allow 6-8 weeks, what does she do?
Parental leave is about so much more than individual families – it becomes a major concern in enabling women to have joint career and family goals. It enables men to take time off to spend with their families beyond a couple of days of PTO, and normalizes work-life balance regardless of gender. Further it helps level the playing field between rich and poor moms and boosts retention of female employees across the income spectrum.
Every time I see “you’re not queer enough” or “you’re not kinky enough” all I want to is put up another sign on my proverbial front lawn that says “have the sex you want, with the people you love, and if you have the energy create the space for others to do the same.”
Sometimes I also want to stand on my front lawn and scream “who the hell cares!” But I don’t, because sex is actually really important. And group belonging can be very important. So this whole thing breaks my heart from all directions. And then I remember that time a friend and I had an argument about it, and he was sitting on the stairs later, trying to pacify me I think, and he says “it’s bad for everyone but for some people the good outweighs the bad.” And that’s true, but what he missed was that my heart broke in that moment. Sex is powerful and intimate and beautiful. It has the power to connect us and make use feel whole. People risk beating and jail time for the right to have sex they want with the people they love. And you want to take this precious, beautiful thing and put it in a place that’s “bad for everyone”? No. We can do better.
That friend was defending the BDSM scene. But then I see people who realize that the BDSM scene is sorta a cult of personality, or it’s broken in some way. Specifically it’s broken in that it hides abuse and puts itself out there as the only place to have safe kinky sex at the same time. So people try to break away from that, but then they police their new borders even more thoroughly. It’s the lavender menace all over again.
So I guess what I really want to say is that people have been trying to tell others how to have sex for 5000 years. Just because they are a leather title holder or they are a radical anti-bdsm queer fairy, doesn’t give them any more say-so about what you and your partner do wherever you do it.
Another friend told me a while back that “there is no such thing as radical sex.” You can work for cultural change, you can try to change social views such that everyone feels accepted and open about their sexuality. You can work to educate people about consent and change the frameworks we use to talk about it. But when the bedroom door closes, whatever you do, it’s about you and the person or people you’re with, and it’s normal and perfect.
This morning I came across yet another article about how only 3 in 100 accused rapists see any jail time. This is riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s annoyance about creepy reddit so I am, not unexpectedly, annoyed. Or disgusted. One of those for sure :)
And I’m also annoyed because I really freaking love the Predator Alert Tools that maymay and Co. created. Specifically, I love the Facebook add-on which scales the protective behavior I already do, and the OkCupid app because it’s an easy at-a-glance alert. What I’m pissed off about, is that like many a technical solution to a human problem, adoption was spotty. Actually, from speaking with the creator, it wasn’t spotty so much as not attempted – the tools were a proof of concept.
Proofs of concept, however, don’t reach the regular Jane, and social tools need high conversion rates early on to be seen as worth while, and in this case, to generate the content needed to protect users from sexual assault. It’s ok, I’m not saying the people working on this suck or anything, these tools were made in a metaphorical garage with minimal resources (you can help). If Google+ can’t cope with the roll out/adoption challenge and it has the backing of an Internet mongrel, I’m surprised small social enterprises happen at all.
What I am saying, however, is that this absolutely hands down matters. For OkCupid less so, because you can piggyback off of OkCupid’s existing community since all the questions are crowd sourced but from the general question pool, not from specific PAT-OkCupid questions. Here you have a direct link between people who install and run the plug-in and people who are helped by it. The challenge you have is easier, really you just need to get the influencers in college dorms (and with age of first marriage going up, urban book clubs and wherever mid-20s women gather) to try it out. If they tell their friends, or better yet, use it while a friend is shoulder browsing, you’re 75% of the way there. PAT-OkCupid is a technical challenge, make it fast enough and non-obtrusive enough and it’s worth a try. Roll out a feature that lets users add specific filter questions on their version only (he wants kids, he loves dogs, whatever) and you can alert users to potential sexual predators while they’re using a better filtering convenience tools.
The Facebook app is harder. It requires users to give a little in order to function. User generated content is hard to bootstrap already, I can only imagine how hard it is to bootstrap such private and sensitive content. I have to say, I was royally miffed when this was marketed as “by survivors for survivors,” but people who identify publicly and conscientiously as survivors are most likely to create this kind of content. Unfortunately, that framing is extremely off-putting to most outside the social justice clique. I hate to say it, but this is a fantastic engineering solution that was incubated in too niche a bubble and missed it’s mark. Well, actually, that may not be true – if it’s target has always been social justice die hards who want to share their story and help each other heal it’s probably spot on, it just doesn’t address my problem: how to we proactively flag inappropriate sexual behavior and put preventative information in all women’s hands?
Again, I have to applaud the creators for doing so much with bare bones resources. The tools themselves are a solid foundation, they achieve their goal of being proofs of concept, and they certainly spark conversation. Where they miss the mark, in my mind, is on adoption and market growth – areas the creators weren’t interested in to begin with.
Anyway, back to the if I ruled the world scenario (I just love that scenario!) You have these tools that from a technical perspective are really cool, and they use technology to scale an existing human behavior, and they help women avoid sexual predators: that’s awesome! But they seem pretty niche, which is less awesome because it means fewer women will use them to avoid sexual predators. So, what would I do if I had a dev team and all the money in the world (or the mythical million dollars which runs a small team for one year…)
- Focus development on making the tools faster and more reliable. I hate to say this, but faster browsing today beats avoiding coffee with a douchbag tomorrow :-(
- Position the tools as convenience or information sharing, not as a crusade against sexual assault or a survivor support group. Most rapes are not reported, there are a lot of reasons for this not least of which is a desire to move on with one’s life. We also have some pretty negative perceptions of what walking through the world as a survivor means even when we are trying really really hard to not blame the victim and to give them space to heal. Finally, and I know this sounds weird, but sometimes doing the things you’re supposed to do to not get raped feels dis-empowering. Just think about all the times women are told not to wear that, or not to walk there, you get the idea.
- The people who are most invested are most invested for a reason – they’re also the most likely to be butt hurt when it doesn’t match their vision. That’s why I’m up to 930 words on the topic, but it’s also why there is soooo much chatter about every little detail of these tools from the choking question (come on dude, haven’t you used Yelp before!) to moderation (because you clearly don’t realize that these conversations happen already). Which gets me to the point: cultivate the passive users too. This is harder for the Facebook app, again cause content, but rather than going after every evangelist in the social justice scene, grow a large user-base of folks who just want a better flagging mechanism. 1) They’ll be helped from day one, and 2) you can rally them later around a big issue, or slowly over time.
- Build relationships with the sites themselves, with college rape crisis centers, and with consumer brands. This is a serious blue sky if I ruled the world thing. It’s not what the creators of these tools are about, and I know and respect that. I also know they’ve reached out to the sites themselves and didn’t get a response (shame on you OkCupid). However, this is my blue sky solution and in that solution I want Jezebel to promote it. I want mid-range women focused brands (brands like Healthworks, which recently partnered with rape prevention programs to offer self defense classes) to sponsor the damn thing, and then I want OkCupid to be pressured or shamed into integrating this and other rape prevention methods (perhaps post-date reporting) into their services. By the way, some of this is way far out, but other things, such as promoting PAT-OKC on college campuses, is the easiest place for you to get involved (there’s a list of groups to reach out to here, but PiratePad is down as of this writing).
It’s easy to theorize about how a thing should be different when someone has already done the hard work of making it to begin with, so what concrete, non-theoretical, things can we do today to make sure that rapists have nowhere left to hide?
TL:DR – You fucking douchbags how are you not outraged?! Here, this person did a thing, go do things like that.
I think I’ve said this before, but there has been a lot of chatter coming through my world recently about creepy reddit – a subreddit devoted to creeping on random snapshots of women, either taken without their knowledge in public, or used out of context (since shut down). And I’ve been meaning to pull together a couple of links about how we don’t trust women for C. The bottom line is this: I get that the idea that you might be accused of rape is scary. It is also statistically small, much smaller than you imagine.
Meanwhile forums devoted to being creepy about women exist. Revenge porn exists. Oh, yeah, rape exists. So, first off, how about you lower the chance that you’ll be accused of rape by working to make rape itself less ubiquitous and therefore a less common threat in popular culture both as an action and as an accusation. Secondly, if you are deeply and vocally concerned by the reputation impacting power of the Predator Alert Tools, and yet have remained unconcerned about the things mentioned above, just so we’re clear: you’re part of the problem and I look forward to that rug being pulled out from under you.
There has been a bunch of chatter on my social media streams about the Predator Alert Tool for Facebook, so I thought perhaps I should take a look. Oh, and this was largely my first real look – I have let this one completely pass me by in its development. I didn’t preview it or participate in its creation, and so I’m in the interesting position of this being the first PAT tool that’s truly a surprise to me.
The premise is pretty straightforward: automate the process by which (mostly) women warn each other off dangerous men in their social network. And lets face it most rape is perpetrated by someone the victim knows, which means rapists aren’t crazy dudes in a hidey hole somewhere, they’re in our social networks.
The Predator Alert Tool for Facebook is designed for survivors of sexual assault and rape. It allows you to share information about people in your social network who may be dangerous without having to reveal your identity.
Using Predator Alert Tool for Facebook, you can:
Talk about it. Contribute your story with as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable sharing.
Decide who knows. Control who gets to see your story and who doesn’t. Display your identity only to the people you choose.
Get support. Connect with friends who have had a bad experience with the same person you did.
Hear about it. Find out about others’ bad experiences with people you know.
This is an interesting choice of framework, “designed for survivors of sexual assault and rape.” That sounds like designed for sharing, voicing, healing. It’s a valuable framework, but it’s not for me. I’m not a survivor, and when I asked here’s what others said about the word:
“In some ways I think it’s appropriating…survivor is not a word I feel comfortable using abt myself.”
“I was abused as a child, but I don’t think of myself as a survivor.”
“Not a term I’m fond of…”
“We are all survivors”
“I also dislike when people feel that they can TELL me I’m a survivor.”
But there is something for me in this. The much cooler side of this tool for me is designed for hearing, thinking about, comparing notes – designed for active prevention, and ladies, lets be honest, designed for learning more about that guy who bought you a beer. Not that I would ever advocate hijacking someone else’s tool, buuuuut, this is just what the Women’s Information Network needed – way more streamlined than trying to pop into the ladies’ at the same time as his ex’s sister’s roommate :-p
Now the makers of the tool are getting prepared for people screaming about the rumor mill or vigilante justice, and you can read their very well thought out responses here. But let me tell you what actually happens when a woman is thinking about going on a date with a dude: she asks her girlfriends. She engages in the exact behavior this tool would automate, only she does it in analog. “Hey Barbra, do you know Jake from chem lab? What’s he like?”
My coworker once had a crush on the college friend of someone I used to date, we’re all in our late 20s/early 30s, and we still did the “my friend likes your friend” dance. Humans are tribal animals, that’s just what we do.
You know what else women do in the physical world? We warn each other if we see our friends flirting with the douch at the party. Maybe we’re vague about it, maybe we only warn the women we already know not the new girl he’s talking to, but this app is cool specifically because it mirrors existing behavior.
And it scales it.
And that scares the shit out of the douch bags we’ve been talking about all along.
The other thing I really love about this tool is that it’s the first PAT tool I see as truly mainstream. This is not for or about the BDSM scene, this deals with a modality of interacting every western woman I know has experienced. As such, I am really curious to see the response. Frankly, I would love to see a partnership between the creators of PAT-Facebook and college rape crisis centers, and I know the creators are working hard to achieve that.
Still concerned that this will be misused to spread rumors? That will probably happen. Most technology is, sooner or later, used to spread rumors. But tell me, how is it you’re ok with teenagers – scratch that, adults too – having access, to Facebook at all? And what else, aside from opposing this tool, are you doing to combat cyber bullying? Sorry folks, but if this bugs you more than all of Reddit, I’m gonna assume you have some other agenda that’s best served by sweeping rape under the rug.
…Can I just say I never expected to hear myself saying those words? In 2011 I didn’t support Occupy, didn’t feel safe in the Occupy encampments, and was firmly of the opinion that “the 99% doesn’t accurately represent me.” Except I totally just said to someone, in a conversation about what a success case for change in America would look like, “I want to see bankers arrested.” Hello Overton Window. I wonder if the legacy of Occupy won’t be a simple shift of classically liberal leaning voters into classically radical positions – I can’t be alone in this, there’s nothing unique about me and my experience.
BTW, I was following the news out of Turkey, wondering what it would be like to see 40,000 people on the streets of America, and then I found this, and that made me rather sad.
I want to delete this blog.
Every time I think about it I burst into tears. I made a backup to protect myself, among other things, against overly enthusiastic future self. It’s not even “I want to delete this blog” it’s I want to walk away – it’s just too cyclical. I want to walk away because when I come back in 5 years – because as one brilliant woman just told me, “burnout doesn’t last forever” – we will still be having the same conversation about sexually submissive men, about rape and naming abusers, about BDSM as consumer culture. Think about it, the mainstream BDSM scene, as it stands today in North America, has had at least 20 years to address sexual abuse in its ranks. Clearly, it’s failed. You want me to believe it’s really gonna change this time? It won’t, they’ll still be arguing over if one should say the acronym SSC or RACK while molesting newbies at knife-point in the back corners of private parties.
It turns out that burnout is incredibly personal. It looks like “I did stuff that was hard and the payoff wasn’t that great and now I’m a little tired.” It feels like “I gave this thing everything I had, changed my life, and my hobbies, and the ways I walk through the world around it, and when I needed something to lean on everyone and everything disappeared.” That’s not true, depression is a lying bitch, we know that now don’t we? I am guessing burnout is too.
At least part of what’s happening is that I don’t see how this is a priority. BDSM just doesn’t matter when the best minds of my generation are dying or in jail. The food we eat is genetically modified and processed in ways that we don’t have any long term research on. Police violence is rampant. What were popular revolutions of the Arab Spring are giving way to Islamist reforms in the tradition of Iran. And you want me to care about anal fisting? Sure, as a personal thing, kinky sex is something I want in the privacy of my own home with someone I love, and I’m willing to go out of my way to find sexually compatible partners in that regard,* but to reform something you have to love it. You have to want to live in the world you build, you have to fight for your future self at least if not for your children’s children as that hippie song goes.
I don’t want to live in a world with a better BDSM community. I mean, yes, I want to live in a world with less rape, I want to live in a world where everyone has access to the sex they want with the people they love, I want to live in a world where who you sleep with and how you do so doesn’t impact your job prospects or your ability to get a spousal visa or custody of your children. But that’s not a better BDSM community, that’s a world that has obsolesced the BDSM community. And it’s a world in which I do not believe the BDSM community would survive because it needs the fear, and the isolationism to thrive. It needs its threats and its ways to enforce fucked up in-group norms.
So I want to delete this blog. What I am going to do instead is keep talking about the fact that the BDSM scene does not have a monopoly on kinky sex, and I’m going to figure out how to get backups of my tumblr blogs, and look into doing that with various other feeds that I follow. And I’m gonna figure out hosting just in case, because I think these things should be out there, and findable, so that I can be the last person who isn’t sure if their kink is out there cause c’mon, it’s the internet, “only one” doesn’t exist. And then I’m gonna go do things I’m scared of doing somewhere else.
*I don’t know if I believe that, I’m just not sure what else to say given, ya’know, my history. We’ll see.