Creepers at the Gym

I know this has been done. I know this has been said, over and over again. Evidently, it’s my turn to say it:

Dudes: LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE AT THE GYM.

Stop staring. Stop walking up and making stupid comments. Stop your pathetic attempts at flirting.

I don’t care that “guys are always looking” and “that’s just how guys are.”

Nope. Nope nope nope. You’re not. Look around you. See all those other guys, busy lifting weights and running on the treadmills? They’re working out. That’s what you do at the gym. They’re busy building muscle and burning calories. In other words, they’re not looking. They’re not “flirting.”

You’re just being an asshole, and trying to convince me (but mostly yourself) that it’s a perfectly normal and okay thing to do, because everybody does it. They don’t. It’s not.

Mr. Creeper last night was, at first, simply annoying. “Man, ya’ll are working out your whole bodies, ain’t you?” Cue puzzled glances between me and my companions. We were, after all, only doing curls. “No we’re not,” one of my companions replies. “Yes you are,” Mr. Creeper insists, “I was watching you earlier over there on the elliptical.”

WHOA, WHAT.

Welcome to Creepytown, population you.

Cue us quickly wrapping up our business on the curl machine and making a beeline for the other side of the gym, to the leg machines. After we finished, we stretched, and we headed toward the locker room.

“Hey! Where are ya’ll going?! It’s time to do abs!” Mr. Creepy called out to us.

Normally, I would work out a bit longer while my companions tan, but I wrapped it up early last night.

I don’t mind chatting with regulars, encouraging one another as we push ourselves, or recommending machines.

I do mind, however, complete strangers behaving as if we’re old buddies, making obnoxious comments, and hollering at us as we are Getting The Fuck Away.

For the last time, just stop.

 

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Escorts at Louisville’s Abortion Clinic

Kentucky has only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services–one of them is in Louisville, the largest city in the state.

Unfortunately, this clinic is regularly a target of anti-choice protesters. By regularly, I mean all the time. The protesters harass, intimidate, shame, and attempt to deceive women by directing them to the TWO crisis pregnancy centers on the same street as the clinic. (CPCs are fake clinics set up by anti-choice organizations. Their goal is to prevent women from having abortions, by either convincing them not to, or by giving them false information about, well, everything.)

Because of this, a bunch of really great people volunteer to escort women from their cars to the clinic doors. They get up ridiculously early to make sure women have a buffer between themselves and the protesters, and to give them support every step along the way.

The escorts have a blog–they post stories, photos, and video of everything that goes down in front of the clinic. Check it out.

The bullshit they deal with is incredible–the verbal harassment, the pushing, hitting, tripping, physical intimidation, and sometimes, even worse.

I’ve got to warn you, though: it will piss you off.

It pissed me off.

I can’t but admire the escorts–for doing what they do.

I’ve wanted to volunteer myself–but getting up so early, after working so late in the night, is out of the question.

I wonder, too, if I’d be able to keep my temper in check. I wonder if I’d be able to refrain from pushing back, hitting back, or kicking out the kneecap of the person that tripped me. As my regular readers know, I’m big on self-defense.

But then again, I read stories like this from the escorts, and I want nothing more than to go down there and help. I want to escort. I want to write and write and write. I want to write here, and on Pulse of the City. I want to write to the mayor, the chief of police, and anyone else and demand they post officers at the clinic to protect patients and escorts. I want to post endlessly on my facebook page, ranting and educating, and encouraging people to take action.

It’s so easy to hear stories and think, “wow, that’s completely fucked up” and perhaps write a ranty comment, and then go on with your day. Until I found the Louisville escort’s blog, I was like that, too. Reading their stories, talking to people I know that go down there, and seeing the photos and video of anti-choice protesters doing this in my city, to my people, made it so very real to me.

Oh, and by the way? What these protesters are doing is illegal. Obstructing access, intimidation, threats, violence, in order to keep women from obtaining reproductive services–illegal. Did I say it was illegal? It’s illegal.

But they do it anyway.

Not only are the escorts doing important work by escorting women, but they’re also exposing to the world what exactly happens in front of America’s reproductive clinics. Support and honor them by reading their accounts, viewing their photos, and watching their videos.

Mix Racism, Classism, and Vigilantism and Get the “Ho Patrol.”

There is so much utter FAIL about this story I’m not sure where to begin.

These women reference the recession and the resultant budget cuts as the reason why their local police force has been cut, but they utterly fail to recognize that the woman they’re so intent on persecuting are suffering from the recession as well.

Desperate times call for desperate measures–and when millions are unable to find jobs–sex work is one thing many women turn to, to provide for themselves and their families.

Instead, these nosy vigilantes believe that the recession is the only reason they’re not in jail, rather than the recession being what put these women on the street in the first place.

Rather than handing out condoms, pamphlets from local centers that offer job assistance, low-cost health care, rather than founding a group for local women to pull together resources and do something, rather than anything else, they choose the Ho Patrol.

I wonder if they realize the influx of sex workers being arrested will take even more from their city’s coffers?

Or that legalizing prostitution would not only get the women off the street, but function as another source of revenue for the city?

Of course, because this is the blogosphere, the obvious must always be stated: by all means, call the police when violence occurs. I’m not defending violence, or railing against self-defense. But I’m not talking about the violence. They’re not really, either–they don’t fancy themselves “the assault patrol.” Rather, they center their focus on sex work, and the people who engage in it. Ergo, that is the centerpiece of this post.

Take this quote:

“But sometimes confrontations between the Watch Owls and the prostitutes get dicey. One prostitute, who asked not to be named, told ABC News that she had already made $200 the night we spoke to her and wanted to make more that night. She added that other women on the street are not pleased with the Watch Owls’ efforts.”

How, exactly, is it “dicey” that the women are not pleased that these busybodies are snapping photos and following them around? For one, this is piss poor writing. This paragraph makes no sense. But it is obvious what the writer is attempting to do: frame the sex workers as threatening figures, and the “ho patrol” as not only do-gooders, but do-gooders that are under attack.

Take this quote, thrown in as an aside:

“To date, there have been no violent confrontations. In fact, the Watch Owls said they have tried to connect hookers with social assistance programs.”

“In fact.” In fact, the nosy neighbors, after stalking women, they tried to play White Knight! I’m assuming that they failed, since the writer says they “tried” to help, rather than “they did and do help.” But their “help” was rejected. Gee, I wonder why?

The photo gallery on this article just makes me sick. It shows, among other things, their “proof” and their “techniques” for “repelling” prostitutes. Their “proof” which are photos, consist mostly of photographs of women of color dressed up and walking down the street. Because WOC in sexy clothing have to be sex workers, right?

These do-gooders pour cooking grease around their homes to “repel” sex workers. Like they’re fucking pests, rather than human beings.

And really, COOKING GREASE?! What the ever-loving FUCK?!

The racism and dehumanization of poor women of color and sex workers is just disgusting.

*note: The article I took the quotes from has disappeared. Here is that link, and here is the search results that pop up when I looked for it. It is the first result that shows up in the search. I apologize for any confusion.

Weinergate? Please.

If you want to know why Breitbart and his cronies set their sights on Congressman Anthony Weiner, check out this excellent piece by Allan at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Seriously, click it.

If you need another reason to discredit the Congressman’s detractors (other than the victim’s statement saying she doesn’t believe for a minute Weiner sent her the photo, Weiner’s denials, the demonstrations of the ease of hacking Yfrog, the mismatch between “the photo” and other photos the Congressman has uploaded, the fact that the only person who saw the tweet was harassing both Weiner and Cordova, et cetera and so on.) this piece is the golden nail in the coffin.

 

 

Supreme Court Decides on Westboro Baptist Church Case

Earlier today, the Supreme Court (U.S.) released its decision on Snyder v. Phelps. This is the case where Snyder, the father of a fallen Marine, sued Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church for picketing his son’s funeral.

The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Phelpses.

Having read the decision, the decision in favor of Westboro troubles me. It seems that the Court has taken the easy way out (though undoubtedly unpopular).

Firstly, it does not even consider Westboro’s actions as harassing, only as “speech on broad public issues.” Secondly, it holds that the signs that specifically target Lance Corporal Snyder and his family were irrelevant, because their overall message was one speaking of “moral” and “religious” issues. The Court also holds that since the protest was on public property, complying with police orders, and out of sight of the church itself, that while the protest was scheduled and located to be in the same place and time as Lance Corporal Snyder’s funeral, it was not intentionally causing emotional distress. Thirdly, they did not consider a posting by a member of Westboro post-funeral that personally attacked Matthew and his parents, (though it was brought up at trial) which would prove that the protest was not public commentary, but rather a personal attack. (Since apparently, the signs were not enough. I won’t quote them here, because they’re triggering and hateful, but if you wish to know, some are mentioned in the New York Times article, and most in the Court’s decision itself.)

Justice Alito was the sole dissenter, and wrote a very good opinion. I urge you to read it, even if you’re not interested in reading the entire decision, which is thirty-six pages long. Alito’s dissent begins on page twenty-three of the PDF.

Here are some excerpts from Alito’s dissent:

Read more of this post

Tales of Epilepsy: Refusing Treatment

For a long time, I refused any kind of treatment for my epilepsy. For a period of my life, I hated any kind of drug, even aspirin or acetaminophen, and refused to take anything. And I got endless harassment for it. It was my decision. It was my body, and my choice whether or not to pump chemicals into it, and I chose not to. I knew well the consequences of my decision—I knew that it left me open to seizures, should the circumstances, and my body’s reactions to them, be the right combination, and I chose not to take medication anyway.

I was foolish, people said. I wasn’t taking care of myself. Didn’t I know all of the bad things that could happen to me if I had a seizure at the wrong moment? I was being immature, people said. I should take medication. I didn’t like drugs? Well, I should suck it up and take them anyway. I was being selfish. How dare I!

I quickly saw it wasn’t about me for these people. It was about them. They would worry about me going away to college with untreated epilepsy. I inflicted my epilepsy upon others. My body, my neurological disorder, my choice to reject medication, and my seizures were mine. I made my decision, and I had to live with it. I had to live with my epilepsy every day. Not them.

Every partial, every seizure was an opportunity for friends, family, EMTs, ER staff, and random strangers to lecture me on my choice, and to attempt to cajole me into taking medication. I was already struggling with the loss of control over my own body. I was struggling with memory loss. I struggled with the injuries I’d gotten from falling down stairs, knocking my head on the concrete, the soreness from my body tensing up and then jerking about. I struggled with the indignity of pissing myself. I struggled with the humiliation of the lonely walk from the cab, the ambulance, to my bed, knowing I looked like hell, wasn’t quite fully aware yet, and very few actually cared enough about me and my well-being, to actually ensure I was alright. I struggled with the knowledge that I could not ever fulfill my dream of being an officer in the United States military because I had abnormal brain waves on an EEG, and these people were taking advantage of all of that to get me to do something I did not want to do, had chosen not to do, because they wanted me to do it, so I would not inconvenience them.

Sure, there were some good arguments. I could hurt someone else. My life would be much easier if I took medication. I—can’t actually think of anymore than that. But what no one considered is that I considered all of that already, and I still did not want medication. I had my reasons. They were even more intimate. Sometimes, I would get so frustrated I would blurt it out, in a desperate attempt to shut them up. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I got, “So? Get over it already.”

My professors were outraged that I hadn’t told them while on a study abroad trip. So much so, in fact, that when I had one, they threatened to send me home if I didn’t take medication. I had very little choice. So I did. I took medication that had just been released in Europe, that hadn’t even been considered by the FDA in America, which I knew nothing about. When I forgot to bring the medication on a weekend trip, I was lectured, reduced to tears, forced to remain on the bus while the rest of my classmates toured a chateau, and forced to take a Xanax. I wouldn’t be allowed to join our group on our next stop, Auschwitz, if I didn’t take the Xanax. What choice did I have? None. So I did. I took a drug that I didn’t, and still don’t, even know the name of. I took a pill that I knew would do nothing for me because my professor thought it might, and that was all that mattered. My knowledge of my own disorder, my own body, didn’t matter.

When I got home from the trip, and that new drug ran out, I got on medication. Once I started, I couldn’t easily stop—my body adjusting to the lack of drugs would mean more partials and more seizures while the drug was purged from my body. I’ve been on medication ever since. It’s been a year and a half since my person was disregarded, my choice disrespected, and my agency taken from me. Everyone is happy I’m taking medication. They’re so pleased that I got a little keychain pillholder for emergencies. They’re satisfied that I’m being the Responsible Broken Body. Everyone is happy, but me.

Chris Armstrong & Student Government

Like I mentioned here, student government can get pretty intense. At least, that was my experience, and the experience of my colleagues. But this?

Is beyond the pale. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, of Michigan, has been stalking and harassing University of Michigan’s openly gay student body president Chris Armstrong. AAG Shirvell even has a blog dedicated to bullying this young man!

David Layton, Democratic candidate for Michigan Attorney General, has released a statement demanding current AG Mike Cox fire Shirvell, as well as called for his opponent, Republican Bill Schuette to join him in condemning Shirvell’s actions and demanding his termination.

Mike Cox, current Attorney General, had refused to fire Shirvell, saying that “All state employees have a right to free speech outside working hours. But Mr. Shirvell’s immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.” So he thinks his Assistant Attorney General is immature and has a lack of judgment, but still thinks he’s worthy of being an employee of the Michigan Justice Department?

Chris has responded only once during this debacle–he made a statement during a student government meeting. Everyone has lauded his grace and dignity in handling this harassment and degeneration of his character and of his person. I laud his strength and his dedication–my colleagues and I dealt with plenty of insults and criticism of our every move, though nothing to the level of what Chris is dealing with. And it was hard.

What everyone forgot was that we were college students–we had a full load of classes, with books to read, papers to write, and research to do, just like they did. We had families, friends, and partners to spend time with just like everyone else. Most of us were involved in other campus organizations, clubs, honor societies, or athletics.We were in student government because we wanted to help. We wanted to make the university a better, friendlier, cheaper, and more convenient experience for us, our friends, and all the other students, current and future. Our intentions were good. We weren’t evil Politician Jr’s, looking to take over the university and better our situations at the expense of everyone else.

What everyone forgot was the time we invested. The executive cabinet regularly devoted 40 hours a week to student government–they were only required, by the Student Government’s Constitution, to devote 8-12 hours a week, depending on their position. We met with administrators & professors. We met with student groups and individuals, listening to the issues they had, and the things they wanted to do, but needed money to put in motion. We filled out paperwork and wrote legislation. We coordinated with other student governments in the state’s universities to rally in Frankfort to meet with legislators to talk about higher education funding. Senators were only required to attend the weekly Senate meeting and attend one committee meeting a week. Many were much more involved than that, spending hours in the office, working alongside exec.

I don’t doubt that Chris does the same. Knowing you’re doing everything you can to help your campus community, and knowing that some will continue to criticize every move you make, every word you say, despite that you’re the same age, with the same experiences, bugs the crap out of you. It cut us to the core–we had no experience dealing with something like that. We never imagined, and no one ever told us that we might be thrust in the spotlight because of our work behind the scenes.

We talked about it a lot. We wanted to say, “if you don’t like what we’re doing, or what we aren’t doing, why don’t you join student government? Why don’t you try to make change? We will help you. We will throw our resources and our experience behind you.” Eventually, we said it. No dice. The critics were fine with insulting our ability, our motives, our intelligence, but they didn’t want to help fix the “problems” they saw.

It could be hard, since the student newspaper without fail would give them a platform to spew their venom. They ate it up.The difference between our situation and Chris’ is that he is being attacked because of who he is. This is undoubtedly not the first time, and undoubtedly not the last. Because of the idea that expressing your “opinions” in your treatment of others is not only okay, but vital in keeping your “freedom,” that respect is “PC” and therefore undesirable, shit like this happens.

Chris is lucky. He has the support of his university, his professors, and his peers. But he is unlucky that this man is in a position of power over the entire state. This man has resources to drive across the state the follow him on campus, to his home, to the homes of his friends and their parents. This man also, judging from his appearance on CNN, has no compunction about using the power of his office to further prosecute, harass, and intimidate Chris, should the opportunity arise.

I cannot imagine the extent of the stress Chris is under right now. I can identify with the sort of experience that he is dealing with, but not the scale, and certainly not being attacked on a national scale because of who I am.

University of Michigan students, thank you for standing by Chris. Continue to stand by him. Not only because he’s your President. Not only because he’s a member of the UM family. But because he is a human being, and no one, no one, deserves such treatment.

I’m so heartened to read this article from the Michigan Daily, UM’s campus newspaper, both because Shirvell is being disciplined, and because the UM community is rallying so fervently behind Chris. Thank you. Thank you, to everyone at UM.

Chris is one of many. Many LGBT kids, students, adults, and elderly are attacked, harassed, tortured, and killed for simply being who they are. Continue to rally around Chris, and show your support for not only him, but the entire community of people he represents on this planet: the gay community.

Here are some suggestions:

-Continue to write letters to the campus newspaper expressing your support of Chris and the LGBT community.

-Write a letter to your hometown newspaper, sharing what’s happening to Chris, and why it’s so important to express support of the LGBT members of your hometown.

-Post a sign in your dorm window, door, or on your car, expressing support for the LGBT community, and for Chris, and his right to live free of harassment, stalking, and attacks on his character and person.

-Join your campus LGBT group. Learn how you can be an ally, just be standing in solidarity with them, or by getting involved as an activist.

-Most importantly, call out friends and family members when they say bigoted or hateful things toward the gay community. People like Shirvell operate because they feel like, not only are they right, but everyone else agrees with their hatred of a vulnerable community. If it is safe to do so, do the same in public, too.