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As promised:


My new blog – http://stephanielanesays.wordpress.com/

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Last Post (for now)


This blog has taken many forms over the years. When I first started it in 2008, it was a sex advice blog. Like I knew what the fuck I was talking about. In the following year, it served as a place for me to post academic papers and responses I was writing for various women & gender studies-type courses I’d been taking, then subsequently a blog for sharing music by independent female artists I like (which got the original URL banned), then, upon respawn, it became what it is now — a collection of my political thoughts, most often feminist, and always engaging in whatever was happening around me.

This blog also changed when I started my career in professional writing. It served as a profile of my work, and helped me get a couple of awesome gigs. Through working in professional writing, I gleaned an education about how to successfully run a blog, and for a while, I utilized SEO and other ways of promoting this blog to promote myself. When I stopped doing paid blog gigs and ghostwriting, this blog seems to have lost its way a little bit.

I was 18 then. I’m 22 now. So much has happened in that time that has caused me to grow up, a lot of which has been written about here. At its final stage, this blog became a healing tool for me. I’d grown up to experience many of the issues that I so vehemently had already formed opinions about — abortion, rape, misogynistic jerks, and so on and so forth. The best part of all of this is the fact that I’ve been able to reach so many people, strangers or otherwise, who were helped by what I’d recorded here. Problem is not so much that I don’t know what the fuck I’m trying to do here (I don’t), but I’ve been trying to use this blog for things it isn’t actually good for — part-diary, part-self promotion, part-release from being a cog in a capitalist machine — you get the picture. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been able to reconcile what I wanted this blog to be with what it actually is.

My friend Amelia has an awesome blog that I love to read. She’s also a feminist, but unlike this blog here, hers is not restricted to just feminism — it’s about her life in general. And it just so happens that, like me, she tends to take a stance a lot too, and she doesn’t keep her mouth shut about it. I also have somewhat of an artistic envy of her, because she treats her blogging (and all her writing in general) like literature. It’s an indescribable quality, and probably is rooted in her over-all awesomeness and ingenuity that I will never match, but I can’t help but want, right?

Anyway, point being, since this is a blog post and they’re always supposed to have points, I’ve decided to stop updating Fires Underground. It’s something I’ve considered for a long time, and my last post being what it is, I feel I’ve said all I have to say here. That’s not to say that I don’t have anything left to say about feminism, or poetry, or even any of the specific issues I’ve written about here. But something about this blog, after four years, seems very contained, and I’d like to be able to broaden my horizons to write about other things. When and if I start a new blog, I will definitely post about it here. But for now I’m going to continue to attempt to observe, to focus on my poetry, as well as my personal health, and see if something new can emerge from that.

In the past year, I’ve learned that speaking out is no form of inaction, as what I’ve written about my experience here or shared publicly or organized around has helped many people (while simultaneously offending perhaps just as many). But I do feel that blogging can be a form of slacktivism, can cause us to neglect ourselves, to merely “speak into the void” about issues we should be taking to the classrooms, the streets, the round tables and our work places. It’s easier to take a stance while sitting in front of your computer and to shred the faceless opposition apart. More horrifyingly, facebook, twitter, and tumblr have made it so that you barely even have to share your own opinions rather than just co-opt those of others.

As a writer, I do feel that writing, art, and self-expression in general can be both very tangible and very effective tools of implementing political change. However, now it seems silly to expect this blog to grow into anything other than what it already is — a collection of second- and first-hand knowledge, opinions and experiences. A facsimile of myself. I’m a firm believer of “the personal is political” when it’s done well, but somehow it seems like what I want to do conflicts with how this specific blog presents itself. I’m not in school anymore, so I’m not actively writing 500 reading responses. I’m still organizing, but for the time being it’s related entirely to my poetry career. I’m no longer sucking metaphorical dicks in the professional writing field, so I no longer turn to this blog for release after spending days hacking away at some mind-numbing assignment. I work in a used bookstore now. And I teach. Those things are great! But I have a whole nother life outside of the incredibly politicized one I’ve recorded here. The shoe doesn’t quite fit anymore.

So, I hope you enjoy the work that’s already up here, if it’s new to you. I’m quite proud of a lot of the things I’ve written here, most of which were a labor of love. If you know me, I hope you’ll keep in touch, and hope that when I start this new blog, it will interest you. Until then, you can keep up with my portfolio blog and my art collective’s blog. See you around!

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Earlier today I saw this post on STFU, Sexists:


“What the hell is this? I clicked through to get some context, but there was none. Without context it seems kind of like a rape joke.”

I was caught a little off-guard by their remark; my first reaction was that the image was a poignant commentary and I didn’t consider the humor, but reading their response, I had to revaluate the image. I detest rape jokes; it’s the #1 reason I can’t watch Family Guy. They’ve always made me cringe–anyone using the term in a light matter has bothered me. Rape is not something to be joked about. The experience is traumatic and happens all too often–telling what may be intended as a lighthearted joke not only diminishes the experience for survivors, but could be triggering for those suffering with trauma, and is all-around insensitive. Still, I didn’t see this particular image in that same light, and it made me reconsider my stance on the one subject for a joke that I had always viewed as off-limits.

A large part of what has created conflict between me and the online feminist community is my view of politically incorrect jokes, and to be honest, I don’t care so much if it hurts my empowerment cred. I think humor and satire are perfectly valid–not to mention effective–ways to point out injustices, depending on how you intend your joke and how a given audience perceives it. When ever you make a racist or sexist joke, for example, you run the risk of propagating those views, but that’s not all there is to it. Sometimes, you’re also pointing out the flaws in accepted ways of thinking. Satire is an effective method of ridiculing society, individuals, and ideas; it stands as an important tool of social criticism, and in a world where more young people watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report than watch the news, its influence is not to be disregarded. At the same time, these shows are not without their faults, and laughing at the world’s pettiness does nothing more than illuminate the farce we live in. I think whatever response you have to a politically incorrect joke–whether it be laughter or offense–is valid. And while it’s easy for liberals to mock irrationality within politics, I still have a hard time with most jokes that take jabs at minorities whom are discriminated against, ESPECIALLY when they’re coming from the mouths of people who have never experienced these oppressions.

So are images like the beginning of this post doing more harm than good? I suppose that can be decided on an individual basis. This was my response to the image:

i think if you’re going to call this a “rape joke” it could fall into the same grey area as any other politically incorrect joke. whereas most rape jokes are just cruel and diminish the trauma that survivors feel, i think this one makes a somewhat interesting point—“date rape” doesn’t apply to just being forced or pressured into sexual acts after going on a date; “date rape” has become a sort of blanket term used to describe the type of rape that happens between two people who know each other and may or may not have a sexual history (or implied sexual future). unfortunately i know several people who have been “date raped” and it never has involved dinner, much less an actual date. in this way this image makes an interesting point to me.

at the same time, i’m sure this joke can be viewed in a completely insensitive context, and i don’t know what the artist’s intentions were. it points out a double-standard in our society, in the heterosexual dating world, that if you buy someone dinner, you have to have sex with them. it could negate the “rape” in that respect for many misogynistic people.

i agree that more context would be helpful with this image. but for me—someone who has been, in all other cases, made extremely uncomfortable by rape jokes—the fact that this is ambiguous and made me rethink my position says something about its message.

Most of the rape jokes I’ve heard have equated “rape” to “hot sex.” I recall as a teenager hearing phrases like “That’s so rape,” or “She’s so rape-able.” It never sat well with me, and I don’t understand how it could be okay with anyone aware of the statistics: 1 in 6 American women have experienced sexual assault, and only 16% of rapes are reported to police. Only six percent of rapists will ever see time in jail. When I hear these numbers, I can’t help but think of how many women I know, and how many must not speak about their experiences. A few women I know have confided in me at one point or another at being “date raped,” and none of them had reported their experience to the police. In a lot of cases, they were unwilling to compare their situation to what Whoopi Goldberg called “rape rape,” using the term “date rape” to differentiate their experience and somehow justifying their perpetrator’s actions. I know from first-hand experience with sexual assault that there is no difference between being date raped and “rape raped;” whether the assailant’s motives are to act on a disdain for women or to get himself off, they are disregarding the woman as a thinking, feeling person and tacking into a power relationship equivalent to an attempt to enslave.

The sad thing is, for as many women there are who are victimized, I’ve heard a dozen more victim-blaming comments, and the whole “if the women deserved it” mentality carries over into rape jokes. I don’t think this attitude is entirely absent from the above image, but I think the fact that it comes from a female perspective makes it sit better with me. It’s one thing when Michael Richards drops the n-bomb at an annoying audience member and another thing when Dave Chapelle says of Barack Obama, “You don’t wanna be first black president . . . second or third, that’s fine, but, that first nigger better watch his ass.” Politically incorrect humor is just that–politically incorrect. But if we always acted in ways that were “acceptable,” we’d never question the flaws in how we live our lives and view the world. So maybe being a little lenient on the offensive humor has made me lose some feminist cred; I’m not about to live my life without laughing at the absurdities around me.

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We live in a culture that revolves around male sexuality; female sexuality is rather unstudied and warped by male view points. Young women are seen as attractive and passive, while older women are often associated with the “cougar” stereotype. Women who have sex too much are promiscuous and are contributing to the spread of disease, abortion, and the cultural demise of the “family.” Men are more likely to remain bachelors and sleep around; women need to marry because they depend on a man for income. Dr. Laura Berman has come forth from her own research into female sexuality to dispell four common misconceptions about sex & relationships:

1. A woman’s sexual performance peaks in her forties, while a man’s peaks in his teens.

Myth. While Planned Parenthood says that the sexual prime for males is around age 17, and that females’ sexual prime is around age 30, these ages actually reflect the genital prime, when sex hormones (testosterone in men; estrogen in women) are highest. But in general, both men’s and women’s sexual performance will peak when they feel most comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Though this tends to happen between 40 and 60 for both men and women, it can really happen at any age, depending on the person!

2. Having sex more often can help boost your immune system and prevent illness.

Truth! Researchers at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., found that sex may help strengthen the immune system. According to their study, couples who had sex once or twice a week as compared to couples who had sex less than once a week had 29 percent higher levels of immunoglobulin A, an immune system protein that protects the mouth and upper respiratory tract against cold and flu viruses. Just another reason to get busy with your honey as often as you can!

3. Older people have less sex and/or less enjoyable sex.

Myth. According to a recent study of 27,000 people conducted across 29 countries, the majority of men and women studied had active sex lives past the age of 40 and well into their ‘eighties’! Couples in Western Europe who shared greater equality were more likely to enjoy their sex lives than couples in more male-oriented societies, such as those found in Asia and the Middle East.

4. Most American women who are 45 and over are married.

Myth. About 25 million of the 57 million American women who are 45 and older are not married, according to a recent study by the AARP. The study’s authors suggest that this may be because American women marry later, have high divorce rates, and tend to outlive their mates.

Source

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I’m sure many of you are familiar with Candie’s, the shoe brand notorious for sexualizing teens in their controversial ad campaigns, the most recent being a campaign featuring Britney Spears juxtaposed with the concept of her being a role model for girls all across the country. I would have little objection to yet another celebrity getting paid to further confuse the body images of girls at least ten years her junior if it weren’t for The Candie’s Foundation, which was formed to promote teen abstinence, their prize-winning slogan being “I’m sexy enough to keep you waiting.” Essentially, a teenage girl should continue to use sex to prove her self-worth, but abstain from sex until marriage when they can go on to have lots of babies and fulfill their purpose as a slave to the uterus.

Ironically, it was Britney Spears who faced a minor career sabotage as a role model for teen girls just a few years ago when she admitted to giving her virginity to Justin Timberlake outside of wedlock, after promising to wait until marriage–just as the Candie’s Foundation begs teen girls to do. The Candie’s Foundation Website is designed to get important information to both teens and parents about the facts of premarital sex, but these “facts” are rather questionable; they are percentages of teenagers who share an opinion rather than concrete statistics regarding issues such as teen pregnancy and STI’s. Nowhere does it suggest using condoms to correct the problem of unplanned pregnancy/spreading of STI’s, which may be useful information for teenagers who are already sexually active, or those who plan to have safe sex one day.

Examine the numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation to see just how much worth abstinence-promoting campaigns such as Candie’s contribute to keeping teens out of the bedroom. Between 1993-2003, the percentage of sexually active teens decreased from 53% to 43%. However, the likelihood that a teen will engage has increased in correlation with age: in 2003, 62% of high school seniors had engaged in sex, in comparison to only 33% of ninth graders. The majority of students still lose their v-cards in high school. In addition, although students chose to abstain from intercourse, engaging in oral/anal sex has been on the rise, and abstinence only programs–such as the Candie’s Foundation–turn a blind eye to other sex acts, focusing only on preventing pregnancy outside of wedlock. At the same time, abstinence only programs seem to have had little effect on Latin American and Black communities, which have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. (Is it a coincidence that the Candie’s Foundation website has virtually no depictions of anyone other than white?)

The most startling statistics from the KFF have not to do with teen girls–who are so inaptly singled out in the Candie’s Foundation Campaign as being those solely responsible for maintaining virgin purity–but with teen boys. Males are, on the whole, more likely to have sex in high school–and at a younger age–than their female counter parts. Yet they are rarely the target of abstinence only campaigns; the responsibility of chastity is placed upon girls, who are taught starting from a young age that they are inherently more valuable to life-long partners as a virgin than if they are not. Meanwhile, girls who do choose to have sex are looking towards older partners; a quarter of girls lost it to guys who were at least four years older. Girls are also much more likely not to use protection the first time they have sex. Reasons for this? Perhaps the perpetuation that the person they have sex with should be their life long partner–someone in their 20s or older is more likely to be ready to settle down and can provide better for a young girl, although most men that age are not interested in making babies with a baby. What’s the point of preventing pregnancy with someone with whom you plan on having children? What’s the point of preventing the transmission of STI’s that you’ve never been educated about?

We could be investing time and money into programs that tell 20 year olds not to commit statutory rape, or programs that teach kids what truly constitutes a healthy, long-lasting relationship. We could be turning our attention to the prevention of spreading STI’s and preventing teen pregnancy across the class/race board. But instead, Candie’s exemplifies what many would rather do–use sex to sell abstinence, and to keep women virginal and pure objects for the morally perverted.

Teens have sex. You can’t stop it. Telling an adolescent not to do anything is pretty much counter-productive to the cause. Worse of all, promoting abstinence clings on to gender expectations as outdated as the role of women as put forth in the Old Testament. Instead of perpetuating images that turn young girls into soulless bodies with the purpose of looking good for boys, how about we try to produce thoughtful, opinionated, well-educated young women responsible enough to call their own shots about their personal health.

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Perhaps I was born kneeling,
born coughing on the long winter,
born expecting the kiss of mercy,
born with a passion for quickness
and yet, as things progressed,
I learned early about the stockade
or taken out, the fume of the enema.
By two or three I learned not to kneel,
not to expect, to plant my fires underground
where none but the dolls, perfect and awful,
could be whispered to or laid down to die.

Now that I have written many words,
and let out so many loves, for so many,
and been altogether what I always was—
a woman of excess, of zeal and greed,
I find the effort useless.
Do I not look in the mirror,
these days,
and see a drunken rat avert her eyes?
Do I not feel the hunger so acutely
that I would rather die than look
into its face?
I kneel once more,
in case mercy should come
in the nick of time.

-Anne Sexton

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