Things you may or may not know about me:
- I am a certified women’s self-defense instructor and taught for 8+ years in California.
- I have a B.A. degree in Women’s Studies from UC Santa Cruz.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I am the F word. That’s right- a Feminist.
- 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.
- I was a crisis line volunteer for a year where I heard too many horrific stories about the atrocities of violence against women.
- I think I received possibly an hour of sex ed in school. It was clinical and not all that helpful.
- 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.
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?