Monday, September 9, 2013

Lone Screw-up?

The resolution on a blog isn't always the best. So let me explain just exactly what it is you are looking at. This is misogyny making money. A small decal printing and advertising company in Waco, Texas thought it should shake things up with the realistic quality their product conveys. They say they don't condone what they're product portrays, but that begs the question--what was it they were trying to convey in the first place with the image? It isn't exactly clipart, no this was an image created by a person, a designer, someone who took time, effort and energy, put their talents to work making-- misogyny.

Scrolling through trending articles late last night I catch a headline I can't resist reading, Company in Texas Fails Hard with Tailgate Decal of Bound Woman, my verbal response--aloud, to myself, "Texas you go to hell." Scroll, Share. The next morning I check my Facebook updates and find a few comments on the shared article from Jezebel. One from a woman I've respected and admired since the moment I was introduced. She pointed out that she was born and raised in Texas, and involved in the Fetish community and that while what the one company did was stupid, I shouldn't blame the whole state of Texas for this one lone screw-up.

Being Texan myself, I feel it is my right to tell my home state exactly where to get off.

Because the problem is, it isn't just this one company, or that one asshole- this disgusting decal is indicative of a system and society that does not value women's lives and further more sees female identifying people as weaker, controllable, and deserving of violence. And unfortunately my home state has made an infamous name for itself driving home the sexism of this society.

Just this last May, the NRA held its convention in Houston, Texas. Do we all remember the controversy over what happened there? This was being sold through a vendor's brochure:

This shooting target's name is "The Ex-Girlfriend." The more you shoot at her, the more she bleeds. Attendees at the convention came to the company's defense saying it was a "gag" and obviously just a zombie in need of killing. So tell me then, is knowing that every day at least three women are killed by a domestic partner in the U.S. alone, a funny gag to you too? Because conditioning violence against women has consequences- namely increased violence against women, and normalizing behavior to the point of it becoming a "gag" to a desensitized audience is as good as opening hunting season on the women who step out of line in these men's lives. Let me make it perfectly clear, I still do not lay the blame, in its entirety, at the feet of this second stupid misogynistic company. 

Back in June we learned of the killing of Lenora Evie Frago, by her client Ezekiel Gilbert. Gilbert was charged with murder, but at trial he advanced a defense based on a Texas law that allows people to “use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.” Frago was an escort who Gilbert met through an ad on Craigslist. Gilbert said he thought sexual intercourse was included in Frago’s $150 fee. Frago tried to leave after taking the money and without having sex with Gilbert. Instead of letting her go, Gilbert shot and paralyzed Frago to get his $150 back. Frago later died of her injuries. Because Frago was just a “Craigslist escort,” the jury decided that her life just wasn’t worth $150 and Gilbert received an acquittal. 

We live in a society that never prioritizes women's lives, especially their healthcare in practice, that never allows women bodily autonomy or agency, and that consistently punishes women who report their abusers, or assaults. We live in a society that polices our bodies as soon as we step outside of our prescribed gender roles, and threatens us with violence, sometimes even silencing us forever. But more specifically I grew up and spent most of my adult life in a state that has a reputation of doing all of this. And to concretize my point, I submit my home state, which had been trying (now successfully) to take away my access to reproductive healthcare and abortion services.

This draconian legislation that passed in Texas, HB2/SB5, as a writer for Socialist Worker put it,

"not only bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but also requires clinics and doctors providing abortions to meet a range of unnecessary standards. These standards, including requiring clinics that provide abortions to become ambulatory surgical centers, will force all but five abortion-providing clinics to close. Because the five remaining clinics are located in the eastern third of the state, women from West Texas will have to travel up to 600 miles to have access to abortions." In reality, this anti-abortion bill is intended to continue rolling back the historic gains of the women's movement, including women's fundamental right to control their own bodies and lives.

The overwhelming majority of the representatives of the State of Texas, those elected based on gerry-mandering and crooked county deals, or just plain old bigoted politics, sealed the fate of 42 out of the 47 women's healthcare clinics with their votes. These are the bastards that run my home state. It's not like they're met with no resistance, it's there. It's strong and brave and takes many many shapes and I am so proud to know most of the people making it really really hard for those bastards. But the fact remains, I could pick just about any issue, anything at all, and Texas is the leading asshole.

I could start all the way back in 1836, with that whole pesky we should still be considered Mexican territory. That little thing. Our Independence now adding insult to injury with a highly militarized wall of death separating the Mexico border from the Lone Star State- which is patrolled using tax payer's dollars, and comes with automatic machine guns and military purchased helicopters, also purchased using tax dollars. That's okay though because those greedy public school teachers across the state would have gotten that money and then where would we be?

Well, we'd probably be learning about the dangers of natural gas drilling, while sitting in our fully funded school libraries, so that we'd know to pressure our local officials not to sign pro-fracking or pro-drilling measures that destroy, and degrade our soil, water and air. Or maybe if the schools and community based programs got more money we'd see less crime, have more invested in our youth and see fewer prisons pop-up as warehouses for a surplus population that this state and country as a whole don't give a shit about. Oh, unless it is about the annual prison rodeo! Texas does like a good rodeo. Or how about when our state contracts out prisoners for slave labor on nearby ranches? They do seem to care then. State sponsored wage-theft is really the only way Texas knows to show its love for us. Texas also displays its care and concern by killing in its citizens name's.

Texas cares so much that it even murders innocent people because they are poor, or Black, or have the IQ of a child, or even because they cursed during their incarceration and march to the death chamber. Because the way this state and its agents, namely Gov. Rick Perry put it, "I've never struggled with that at all [the implementation of the death penalty]. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required. But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."

Tell that to the fighting soul that actually won his freedom with the help of committed activists on the ground struggling with him and against this murdering state--Anthony Graves. Or tell that to Kenny Foster who's sentence was commuted because as it turns out that whole "very clear process" that the state uses to convict people like Anthony and Kenny is really fucking smudged.

To see that state abstractly, and not see it as its agents, policies, and practices is to ignore the Texas that wrongs, maims, brutalizes, and murders, that so many people have come to know.

Texas is like this because beautiful people like my friend aren't in power, if they were people would have an idea of what healthy kinky consensual sex is! Hell, we might have comprehensive sex education in school! Look out! If beautiful people like my friend were in charge I bet we'd have better health care, sex workers might have unions, and our clinics would still be open. If beautiful people like my friend were calling the shots we'd have vibrant happy relationships built on trust and compassion with one another, where the courage to ask and the confidence to enthusiastically consent are know behaviors by all.

I'm getting carried away, but that's because I believe that we, not Rick Perry and those bigoted hordes, are the ones with good ideas fostered by need and knowledge. We are the ones that have no vested interest in sexism, misogyny or violence. We are the ones with solutions to the myriad of issues raised here, because when confronted by sexist ad, or blatant instance of rape culture, one right after the other, it stops feeling like a coincidence and more like symptoms of a sick system that profits from the abuses it perpetrates. We need to see all of these abuses and injustices as connected, not fractured isolated incidents propagated by assholes, although they are assholes, they're assholes living in a larger framework that often rewards how oppressive they can be, and at times celebrates it openly. There's a system in place that puts the few above the many, and it's about damn time we turned that on its head.

It was Texas people that raised me, and who imbued within me a sense of self-worth and grit that has made me mad as hell at what that state is doing to my brothers, sisters, and everyone in between back home. With every horror-policy a precedent is set that other states latch onto and run with, and no amount of breakfast tacos, barton springs, or burlesque can cover up just how dirty that state is. As my Nanny says, "Its soul needs a washin'," and I think we've got to be the ones fed-up enough to do it.