Part of the Solution

Things you may or may not know about me:

  1. I am a certified women’s self-defense instructor and taught for 8+ years in California.
  2. I have a B.A. degree in Women’s Studies from UC Santa Cruz.
  3. In college I was part of a grassroots group of students who created a peer education program on sexual harassment for the campus. In later years, I would be paid to run the group.
  4. In a former job I was the co-facilitator of groups for young women. These groups met weekly and focused on building self-esteem and empowerment.
  5. For 3 years I planned and executed an all day conference for over 300 teen women with workshops and speakers. When I wasn’t in charge of planning it, I mc’d or taught one of the workshops.
  6. I am the F word. That’s right- a Feminist.
  7. I grew up Catholic and went to 13 years of Catholic school. I have since strayed from the church but consider myself a spiritual person. This is important to note as it helped shaped my thinking around a woman’s place and sexuality.
  8. I was a crisis line volunteer for a year where I heard too many horrific stories about the atrocities of violence against women.
  9. I think I received possibly an hour of sex ed in school. It was clinical and not all that helpful.
  10. I was the Community Educator for three years at an Anti-Violence Against Women organization. I went into schools, jails, police departments and hospitals to facilitate presentations on sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because, hopefully, it gives you a bit of a lens to look through when I talk about my commitment to raising awareness when it comes to such an important topic as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Because of the work that I’ve done, over the years, it’s been assumed that I am a) a lesbian, b) a hardcore Feminazi, c) a prude, d) a survivor of rape/molestation/incest/domestic violence. While none of these things are true, it’s interesting the stereotypes that come up when you publicly admit to being passionate about a cause. The biggest topic of discussion was generally how I was a man hater.

I am not a man hater. Totally and absolutely the farthest from the truth. Honestly, I had to stop doing the Community Educator gig because I was tired of being told that the message I should be delivering to young kids was that it was all the boys’ fault. It’s almost impossible to teach middle school and high school kids in 45 minutes about rape because there is a lot of discussion about the intracacies of sex. So I changed my tactic because if I was going to get less than one hour, I was going to walk out of there having taught them some tools on how to successfully communicate with their partner, how to recognize and respect their own boundaries and those of others, and how to hopefully start thinking about their own worth. I believe that communication and self-esteem (or lack thereof) in relationships play a large part in all the fuckedupness that contributes to violence against women.

Am I blaming women? Hell no! But too many women don’t respect themselves, don’t know how to speak up for themselves, and were never taught to value and honor their own bodies. Am I blaming men? No. Though the power males are given in our society directly contributes to the violence. Are all men rapists or abusers? Absolutely not! But too often we are not teaching our young men to respect “no” when a woman says it, how to talk about their own feelings, or sometimes even that women are not less than a man by virtue of their sex. (Hello! They are not!)

My point being (and I do have one) is that if we don’t teach our youth how to talk about sex and how to value themselves, we are just perpetuating the issue. We become part of the problem. We can all be role models – respect yourself, respect others, know your boundaries, talk about them, and when someone says “no” believe them.

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This post is part of the month-long awareness campaign on behalf of Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).  Please be sure to write “GBBMC2008″ in the “More Information” box and indicate that you came from Sizzle Says when you donate.

It’s not too late to get involved! Participants can sign up through April 15th. Won’t you join us?

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32 thoughts on “Part of the Solution

  1. After reading this, I came away with no stereotypical thoughts. My only thought was: you are an AMAZING person. Seriously, the time and attention you have given to speaking to young women is very admirable!!

  2. I know there is so much to respond to here but I just wanted to say THANK YOU. First, for all you’ve done (you are remarkable, woman) and second for defining the difference between a Feminist and a Feminazi, as they say. The lines are so unclear to so many people and knowing there are people that know the difference (and more that don’t but will read what you share here) gives me some hope.

    Way to go, girl.

  3. The first two people said basically what I wanted to say. You are truly amazing.
    What do you mean your not a lesbian? You mean the Fella, is actually a fella? What about that kiss with Hilly? My hopes, my dreams are dashed. I am still stalking you at target though.

  4. I love this post. I spent over a year volunteering at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. I witnessed first hand what happened when there were no communications and/or the male figure in the house did not respect the woman’s communication.

    I will admit in the past, I have given into the stereotypes of feminism. However, after reading this post, I will more actively try to correct my ill-conceived assumptions. 🙂

  5. I really admire you. You’re right, we need to teach our youth how to respect each other and themselves. Sometimes we still need to even teach or remind each other about boundaries and respect. And it’s unfortunate that people would see you as “man-hater” or “feminazi” when they should have been listening to what you were saying instead. It’s great you never quit, though.

    Thanks again.

  6. Proud F-word here, too.

    I wish more women would own it. By not claiming themselves as Feminists, they play right into the propaganda game that seeks to weaken and stereotype us all.

    Thanks again for speaking out!

    Hey, how about some kind of Sizzle Sisters campaigne where those of us who would like to raise awareness about your cause and maybe have a sex post or two in us (but not a whole month) can join you in posting and linking?

    Would any other Sizzle readers be into this?

  7. can i just say: you are my hero. and i agree with you, i don’t think women are taught how to stand up and be strong. At least not for themselves.

    this post really has me thinking, and i think i’m going to make a response post on my own blog. women are taught to be girls – and stay girls. we are taught to be polite, soft spoken, compliant, and relationship/family oriented. When we step away from these roles we are called a slew of names I will not repeat here –

    hm… I’m going to have to think about this one. Thanks for the AWESOME post! I am really looking forward to reading more about this subject as the month rolls on.

    thanks for carrying as you climb – and setting a great example for all of us.

  8. This post is brilliant. I have tried to make so many of these points myself in the past but you make them so succinctly and eloquently.

  9. Those stereotypes are a thin line to walk. I took a women’s studies course in college, and instead of the normal prof (she actually wrote the book that’s used at several private and public universities in the state), we had a “guest lecturer” for the semester. I didn’t dislike the guest lecturer, but I did find it did get a bit old to always feel like she was shoving lesbianism down our throats. I got the fact that they were trying to tell us that anything you choose is fine, that being open about your body and your sexuality is the important thing, but there were definitely times when the lectures got a bit “penis-hating.”

    That said, I probably learned more in that one class than any other I took during my four years. Agreeing with everything presented in class isn’t necessary: being given the information and told to think for yourself is.

    I say good for you for standing up for something you believe in, and working toward making things better for other woman.

  10. BRA-FREAKIN_VO SIZZLE! BRAVO!!

    You are amazing and most likely helped more people (men and women) than you even know. I too did not think anything sterotypical of your cause. No need to explain a thing to anyone. It is a wonderful cause to be a part of and you should be VERY proud. Keep it up and keep smiling!

    =)
    p.s. I’m am going to dedicate today’s post on my blog to the RAINN. Thanks.

  11. Wow, I had no idea you were involved with domestic violence education! I worked as a back up crisis counselor for a rape crisis center in California. It could be very emotional but I generally enjoyed being with survivors and helping them through a horrific experience. Thought I was an initial agency contact so I didn’t have follow through on cases and that was hard sometimes.

    I agree with you 100% about the need to educate children to respect themselves and know boundaries.

  12. Well done, Sizz. As a recovering alcoholic and bipolar, I am far too familiar with the stories of abuse, and I know from personal experience how easy it is to devalue yourself and what that can lead to. Well done, you, for all you do to help people avoid that.

  13. I was date-raped by a boy during the summer before I started college. It took me almost 2 years and a speech from a fellow student in a speech class one day to figure out what had happened to me. I was *that* blind to the situation when it occured that I didn’t even realize I had been violated so absurdly.

    I rationalized. He didn’t mean to. He must not have heard me saying no. He WAS, after all, my semi-“boyfriend” at the time! How could it have been rape?

    But it was. And the sad thing is he probably still has no clue to this day what he did. And maybe did to other women as well.

    I don’t fault myself for what happened, and I’m always comforted by the fact that he broke out in some weird rash the week after he did what he did to me (still makes me smile, as nothing happened to me at all, which makes me think that someone was smiting him for his perverse behavior that warm summer night…), but I wish I’d had the balls to confront him when I ran into him the summer after I’d been in that speech class. Instead, I cowered and ran away, leaving him to probably talk with his buddies about how he “scored” with me one night on a picnic table on the beach in Laguna.

    I’ll never be without those balls again, dammit. Never, ever.

  14. I am definitely the F-word too. Let’s hope our children (boys and girls) learn to respect each other. I really do think that is the key.

    Sex is such a very major important, fun, amusing part of our lives. Unfortunately, too many people (men and women) use it as a form of power and violence.

    (Totally unrelated aside: Is the Fella a feminist? More out of curiosity.)

  15. Amen! You are a perfect role model for young women today. There are not enough of you to light the way for young folks. A huge cheers and smile to you!

  16. Thank you for not only using so much of your life energy towards such an important topic, but talking about it on your blog as well. I think you hit a key point when you mention that people are not taught how to value themselves.

    (My opinion) This leads to accepting less than desirable treatment from those around you and if you haven’t practiced using your voice, this is a really tough first time to try it out when someone is de-valuing and intimidating you.

  17. The reason why there are the stereotypes is because of me and my former coworkers. Years ago, I worked at a women’s shelter. When I went through a personal meltdown, the executive director explained to me that every woman on the staff had personally experienced some sort of abuse in the past. And all of my coworkers were in healthy relationships by then. So we didn’t hate men as a whole — just specific ones.

  18. Great post! Respect is one of my favorite things to preach about. Why do we have so little respect for ourselves, for others and for others’ things?

  19. Kudos Sizzle to all that you do! It’s great to see another Feminist in the fight. Some days the Sisyphean task that we’ve undertaken seems daunting. But when you are able to change the life of just one girl to be safer and to be able to defend herself and her body, then all the heartache and tears are worth it.

    From one self-defense instructor to another – keep fighting!

  20. Here, here. Great post, Sizzle. Admittedly, a lot of peoples’ experiences drive them to take up a cause, but I have to admit that I never make that assumption.

  21. Sizzle, I’m in agreement with everyone above me, but I do have a question: how best to teach our little ones? How do we do it without tearing their innocence up before they’ve had a chance to enjoy it?

  22. Awesome post.

    And for the teachings of little ones, I really recommend two things I have blogged about: the book Protecting the Gift by Gacvin DeBecker and also the DVD, Stranger Safety with the Safe Side Chick from John Walsh.

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