So I’ve been writing for this other site, Examiner.com, about Women’s Issues in the Newark area. Granted, I don’t live in Newark, but they just generally mean the North Jersey area. I haven’t been neglecting my writing, but I have been neglecting this blog. Here’s the link to my other articles.

I feel that there’s a lot of overlap in subject matter between the two blogs, and since I get paid for posting on that site (about 2 cents per person who looks at it), I usually post there if it’s relevant to women’s issues. Hope you enjoy!

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For those “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fans, I’m sure you’re familiar with the D.E.N.N.I.S. system. For those who don’t know, the character Dennis makes a 6-step, fool-proof plan for how to seduce women and get laid, using the letters in his name as an acronym. I am in no way advocating this system, because he uses, emotionally abuses, and then abandons these women once he’s slept with them. He’s a complete asshole. However, due to my lack of ability to write a proper blog post in the past few months, and given how much I miss writing the Sex and the Dimple column for The Wheaton Wire, I’m going to discuss the K.A.T.I.E. system of sexual seduction. Disclaimer: I will be talking about stereotypes of heterosexual relationships, so I fully acknowledge that this is not typical of all heterosexuals, and I also apologize for not touching upon homosexual relationships. Perhaps that will be a separate blog post.

Most people, especially women, think that if a woman “puts out” too soon in a relationship, the man will lose respect and interest in the woman. They think he’ll have no reason to stick around since he already got what he wanted. (Apparently, all men want is sex, and women do not in fact want it, at least according to this theory. And obviously men can get it whenever they want, seeing as they will cease to call said woman once he gets sex and thus go elsewhere.) My theory is that if a man does abandon a woman after sex simply because he “got what he wanted” and has lost respect for her because she was too “easy,” then he’s a complete douchebag and not worth dating. But hey, at least she (hopefully) got a good lay out of it!

That’s the positive spin on it: everyone comes out a winner. Man gets the sex he wants; woman gets sex, too, and avoids wasting her time dating an asshole who was only going to use her for sex anyways. And yet, many women see a problem with this scenario. So, let’s change it.

Woman withholds sex for the first few weeks. Jerk of a man seduces her during said period and spends lot of time, effort, and money wining and dining her. Woman feels flattered and eventually gives in and has sex due to the over-abundance of material investment man has made. Jerk Man is disappointed, thinking the first encounter awkward sex (because let’s face it, first sex is always awkward) was hardly worth all the time, effort and money. Woman gets emotionally attached because she thinks she’s finally made an emotional connection with jerk man. Jerk Man loses interest. Jerk Man dumps woman. Woman is heart broken.

Granted, if he wasn’t a jerk, perhaps he’d form an emotional connection with the woman during the no-sex period. However, if he wasn’t a jerk, he also would never use the woman for sex to begin with, so the time frame in which first sex occurred wouldn’t matter. Basically, the moral of the story is that if you’re dating a jerk, he’s still going to be a jerk no matter how long you wait to have sex with him, and will probably get hurt in the end. In my opinion, it’s better to get it over with sooner rather than later to avoid the emotional heartbreak, and possibly get a good shag out of it.

This is not to say every woman (or man) wants to “give it up” so soon. Some people just personally aren’t ready to until they’ve formed an emotional attachment to the person they’re with. That’s fine; everyone has personal preferences. All I’m saying, is that women shouldn’t feel pressured to withhold sex because they think they have to. Newsflash: Women like sex just as much as men do.

Sometimes, if you have sex soon into a relationship, the man has such low expectations and is pleasantly surprised by the furtive romp in the sack. He thinks, “Wow, this chick is awesome! Why wouldn’t I want to call her again?” This is, of course, assuming he understands that the women does not get emotionally attached to every man she sleeps with and he is thus not scared of a commitment he is not ready for. (Disclaimer: I want to reiterate that some people, women and men, do get emotionally attached to every person they sleep with. There is nothing wrong with that, although it can lead to more heartbreaks if one is not careful. That being said, there is also nothing wrong with people who are able to detach their emotions from sexual acts.)

After said couple engage in multiple acts of coitus, they are able to form an emotional connection. At least in personal experience, the post-coitus state of mind is much more relaxed and allows for more open and honest conversation and connection with one’s partner. Perhaps after this casual, sexual relationship ensues for some time, the couple will realize that they actually have developed feelings for one another, that perhaps they want to make their relationship something more than casual dating and hooking up. Perhaps the prospective of future casual hooking up will keep the man interested until he realizes his true feelings for the woman. This may not be the case, and the relationship may dissolve. Again, at least they got a good lay out of it.

I see nothing wrong with casual sexual interactions. Given that said encounters are safe and responsible, meaning that birth control and communication are key ingredients, why should a woman not “give up” sex? What is she in fact giving up? Why isn’t a man thought of giving something up when he sleeps with someone? After all my experiences, I still have my dignity, my pride, my self-confidence, self- esteem, and have been pregnancy and disease-free. Heck, I might even be more self-confident knowing that I’ve been able to have such successful relationships, both casual and serious.

I think it is also worth noting that not all women are looking for relationships, and not all men are looking for casual sex. But again, I said I was talking about stereotypes.I also want to touch upon this idea that a man loses respect for a woman who’s too “easy.” Whether or not he stops seeing her after sex begins, if he doesn’t have respect¬† for her simply for being a sexually secure and confident female, then he’s still a jerk and not worth dating. Along with birth control and communication, respect is vital to any relationship.

I was going to think of a clever acronym, maybe Kick Attract Tame Initiate Enjoy. Kick them to get their attention (just like in kindergarten). Attract them by flirting. Tame their desires with playful kisses. Initiate sex (men love women who take control). Enjoy the ensuing encounter, which may or may not evolve into something more. But then again, I don’t want to sound too much like the douchebag Dennis.

Women, the only person who won’t respect you after sex is yourself. So if you are able to enjoy safe, responsible casual sexual encounters, by all means do it! It’s your sex life and that’s all that matters!

Newsflash: Election day is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3. New Jersey and Virginia are going to elect a new governor, and Maine is voting on the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage, just to name a few important ballot issues. I ask my friends and co-workers here in the states if they’re voting tomorrow. Most just say, What? When’s that? What are we voting for? Either that, or a definitive, “No, I’m not voting, I hate politics, I never vote.” Never vote? One of the times we actually have a say as to how our government is run and you DON’T VOTE!? Let me tell you a story about living in a totalitarian government where some people don’t have the luxuries we do.

When I first arrived in Tunisia in the Spring of 2008, the other students and I didn’t know much about the small country. One of the first questions we asked our director was, “What type of government does Tunisia have?” His response, as was the response of most of our teachers or other official figures, was an over-emphatic, “Tunisia’s the greatest democracy ever! We’ve been a democracy since 1956 when we gained independence from France. We have 13 political parties, but everyone loves the president!” As evident by the 94.5% vote he got in 2004, and similar figures in other elections. Obviously everyone must vote for him! (Or their voting system is super corrupt, but no one would ever admit that while in the middle of a corrupt, Big Brother-esque government, sort of a Catch 22.) Also omitted was the fact that President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali amended the Tunisian Constitution multiple times so that he could run for more terms than originally allotted.

Ben Ali

Just one of many billboards of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali you will see traveling the roads of Tunisia.

In the most recent election a few weeks ago, Ben Ali won by 89.9% of the vote, and the U.S. is officially “concerned” by the results (minute 13). Who wouldn’t be concerned with a win that big? Also disconcerning is the fact that I felt like I was living in Orwell’s 1984 while over there. People were afraid to talk about the government, period, especially in a negative manner, and if they were bold enough to educate the American they would whisper about it, look at the sky warily, turn their cell phones off, etc. What was even more 1984-esque was huge billboards and banners in the middle of Tunis and on the sides of the roads, or just basically everywhere.

I asked my Tunisian friends if they voted, and most said no, there was no point. For one, there is no one particular opposition candidate. And even IF the government allowed an opposition candidate to heavily campaign, and IF there was a large voter turn-out and IF the opposition candidate actually did win, there are no independent voting organizations to tally the votes, so Ben Ali would most likely still officially win. Iran, anyone?

When people tell me they don’t vote, that they know they have the right to vote and they make a conscious effort not to go to the polls, that just ticks me off. Heck, in Jersey it’s super easy to vote by mail, absentee, just because you don’t feel like leaving the house. Or you can go to the county clerk’s office the day before the election. It’s so easy!

People in the US take their rights for granted, especially the most fundamental ones like freedom of expression, as I’ve mentioned before regarding the press. I’m not expecting everyone to be super politically involved, or even be kept extremely up-to-date with every single political issue that affects us as Americans and New Jersians. But read a few Star Ledger articles covering the election; they break it down for readers very easily. Be at least slightly informed and go out to the polls.

Maybe I’m asking a lot for people to actually care about their country, about how it’s run. Maybe it’s too much for me to ask people to not be lazy, ungrateful Americans. I’m not even asking people to like who they vote for, as both Christie and Corzine admittedly have their faults (although one more than the other, in my opinion). But even so, I’m asking people now, get up and go vote! Exercise your rights while you still have them.

Whenever someone accuses a person of disliking Obama because he’s black, or that racism fuels a lot of the debate against him, the accused person automatically becomes exacerbated and criticizes the accuser for stooping so low as to “play the race card.” Obviously they’re not racist, they have black friends! Heck, some of them even voted for Obama, America’s not racist any more! How dare they suggest that!

I never really understood what it meant to “play the race card,” or any card for that matter. Are people trying to say that race has nothing to do with people’s perceptions of others? That in a country where where segregation was legal not even 45 years ago, where immigrants are currently being discriminated against for their inability to learn English, or rather, our inability – nay, unwillingness – to accommodate to new cultural changes in the melting pot that once defined our great nation, where women still don’t have equal pay for equal work, for people to say that there’s no racism or sexism or other forms of discrimination in today’s society is plain ignorant.

No one likes being called a bigot. Our society has changed so that it’s no longer socially acceptable (or in some contexts, legal) to be overtly discriminatory. No one likes having their faults pointed out to them. So for someone to accuse you of being racist, regardless of your actions, you may honestly think that you’re not simply because you want to believe it. Also, some people think that being racist means being a member of the KKK, or actively denouncing integration, or any other public form of extreme racism. But what many people don’t realize is that discriminatory behaviors can be subtle, even subconscious. Just because we don’t recognize it or admit it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I watched a clip from a South Carolina news station today about civility in discourse, and how it’s disintegrating. One question asked was, “Are we a racist society?” Two of the guests said yes, definitely. The other man said, “We’re a racialized society where race matters profoundly.” What the hell does that mean? For one, I think he made that word up. Is he saying that it’s possible to be un-racialized? De-racialized? That it’s possible to strip people of fundamental parts of their identities and not see their race? If it were simply that race matters, fine, it matters but all races are treated equally, but that is not the case in America. Racial minorities are discriminated against in so many ways I won’t even get into, so yes, we are racist, not just racial or racialized. Why are people so unwilling to admit that? Because we don’t want to own up to our own shortcomings?

As for people supposedly not caring that our president is black, let me reiterate that racism can be unconscious. Having black friends or having voted for Obama is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for being racist (a phrase I’ve borrowed from one of my favorite writers, Tim Wise). I certainly do not mean to say that everyone who criticizes Obama is automatically racist, or doing so out of racist motivations. That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying everyone who hates George H.W. Bush does so because they hate Texas. I’m saying instead that everyone who claims they’re not racist for criticizing Obama isn’t necessarily right… some are, but not all. Maybe racism isn’t the only factor. Maybe they disagree with his policies, but the fact that he’s black makes them that little bit angrier; it’s the difference between going to an Obama protest and going to an Obama protest with a poster of him dressed as witch-doctor.

As for Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), the one who everyone’s been defending lately: he didn’t just blatantly disrespect the President in a joint session of Congress. He didn’t just state his opinion (and the opinion of many other Americans) in an inappropriate manner. He called the President a liar.

If two men walk into a department store, one black and one white, who is the salesperson most likely to follow to make sure he doesn’t steal? The black man. If two men are walking down the street in jeans and a T-shirt, one black man and one white man, which man is the one that will unconsciously be perceived as the criminal, the one who will be shied away from in passing? The black man. White people are always given the benefit of the doubt and assumed to be honest people. (No one called Bush a liar for a few years, even though by the end of his terms there was enough evidence against him for Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to impeach him, yet it’s not even a full year for Obama and people think he’s dishonest despite lack of solid evidence.) No one knows what Wilson was thinking or why he said what he did. My guess though, is that at least part of his motivation to so blatantly disrespect the President was due to the fact that he thinks black men are inherently dishonest. I’m sure many other Americans feel the same way, but of course would never admit it or even acknowledge it.

Am I “pulling the race card”? Am I being so ridiculous as to assume that subtle, unconscious racism fuels some (if not most) of today’s political debates? Why is it that I’m the one chastised and criticized for pointing out racism when I see it, when those acting racist are protected by this invisible, evil “race card”?

Fine,¬† maybe I can’t fully understand because I don’t experience racism first hand because I’m white (and no, I don’t think there’s such a thing as reverse-discrimination). But I do experience sexism first hand, and I have people tell me I’m just overreacting, I’m just a crazy, angry feminist who over-analyzes everything. I am thoroughly, genuinely offended by certain actions, and I’m told that my concerns are unwarranted, that I’m being an “irrational” female (and then furthering my disgust at sexism in society).

Example: I was walking down the street in Morristown the other weekend with two female friends, heading to a local bar. A man outside a coffee shop calls out to us, “Oh look, it’s Charlie’s Angels! Are you an angel?” I just say, “No,” as I walk by. He screams to our backs, “That was a fucking compliment!” Oops, my bad. How silly of me to not realize that some random man calling out to me on the street was trying to be a gentleman! I say this is sexism, I pull “the sexism card,” or “the feminist card.” I was offended. He would not have called out to me if I were a man. But because he has the authority of being a man, if he says it’s a compliment, then it is a compliment with 100% pure intentions. Just like if a white person says they didn’t act racist, then it must be true. Right?

Wrong!

My message is this: next time you’re about to accuse someone of “pulling a card,” stop for a moment and analyze your actions. Is it possible that perhaps your actions can be perceived as having discriminatory implications even if you didn’t intend to do so? Is it possible that due to social perceptions of minorities, you might act subtly racist even if you don’t realize it? It’s not a definite, but it’s a maybe.

When I first heard that the Hofstra student who was the alleged victim of gang rape recanted her accusation, I was a bit skeptical. To me, it sounded as though she was harassed and forced into saying that it was a consensual act in order to clear the four men of charges. I later learned that there was apparently a cell phone video of the event, in which she claimed she was tied up and beaten, which the video showed no evidence of.

I’m naturally still skeptical of the entire situation, but what I’m more upset at is the media portrayal of it. I read the news on a daily basis and would like to think that I keep up with major events in today’s world. However, I hadn’t heard of this case until after she recanted her accusation. Now, the media’s painting the four men as the victims. I’m not denying that they are victims, that they were wronged and they deserve justice. If this woman really did falsely accuse these men of gang rape, then she deserves to be punished and these men deserve to have their names cleared.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is that too many times these are the only stories that we hear. So many times, either through the media or through the friend of a friend, the stories we hear are the horrible women who falsely accuse men of rape, assault and harassment. These men will forever have their names tarnished, and that is a shame. I am in no way justifying the actions of women who charge false allegations against innocent men to either hide their own actions or to simply be vindictive, because it is a crime.

But what about the millions of women who actually get raped, beaten and harassed, and their perpetrators are never found nor tried? What about the millions, yes millions, of women who are true victims and are too scared to speak out, who are shamed into thinking it was their fault or that they deserved it, who are never given justice? What about the millions of rapists who go unnoticed, undetected and keep on raping, who live their lives every day knowing that they got away with something? Where’s the justice there? Why don’t we hear about those stories? Why is it that these stories exponentially outnumber the cases of false rape accusations, yet we hear so little about them unless it’s an extreme situation such as a father kidnapping and raping his daughter for 30 years?

A few months ago at home for break, my mom’s boyfriend was reading the local newspaper. A woman who worked for the county clerk accused her boss of sexual harassment and he was fired. It made front page news. My mom’s boyfriend picks up the paper, reads the headline, and the first thing he says is, “Oh my god, this woman accused her boss of harassment, how dare she, she ruined his life, all these women, ruining men’s lives over false accusations of harassment, they’re just overreacting!” It never occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, this white man was actually guilty of the crime he was being accused of. It never occurred to him that just possibly, her right to freedom from harassment at the workplace overrides his right to say and do whatever he wants simply because he’s a white male.

White men think that whatever they say goes, they make the rules, they set the standards, and anyone who disagrees is obviously out to get them. If a man says to a woman in the office, “Those pants make your butt look great!”, they think they’re giving a compliment. They think, “Well, if a woman said that to me, I’d think of it as a compliment, so therefore it must be a compliment.” I.e., “If this is what I think, anyone who disagrees with my white male view of the world is obviously a lunatic and just needs to suck it up.”

Newsflash: not everyone is a white male, and not everyone processes things the same way. If a man that I worked with said my butt looked great in a pair of pants, that would mean he was staring at my butt (which is inappropriate for the workplace), and that he felt that he had the right to comment on it. Why does he have that right? Why does he think that my body is out for display and he is free to comment on it in any way he sees fit? Some may say, “Well if you didn’t want to be complimented you shouldn’t wear such form fitting clothes, you slut, you’re asking for it.” I’m sorry, since when were baggy pants in fashion for women? Since when did a woman wear baggy pants to work and not get criticized for “not being feminine enough”? Double standard anyone?

Point is, we need to stop making women out to be the badguys. We need to stop only focusing on the few cases in which some women abuse the system set up to protect them. There are people that abuse every system; does that mean we should take away the systems altogether? E.g. Just because some people kill others with guns, should we take away the 2nd Amendment, are all gun owners bad people? Certainly not. We need to direct our focus on the women who actually are victims, the women who are assualted and raped on an hourly basis and have no voice in this world. I (and many other feminists) are not trying to paint all men as evil, or assume that every man is a rapist. We’re not trying to accuse every man of wrongdoing. We’re calling those men who aren’t rapists to stand with us and end the violence, to end the pain, and to give a voice to those women and men who are sexually abused and assaulted. Don’t let them remain silent in fear.

I’m home. I’ve been home for about 3 weeks now, but the lack of anything to do has made all of my days just meld together. Coming back was at first a bit strange, not going to lie. It’s so green here, people have front lawns instead of walls around their houses. It’s also cold. I’m used to sweating simply from sitting still. I connected in London and spent the night with a friend. It was 15 C (60 F). There was no sun, and I was downright cold! During the past 3 months I’ve felt a chill occasionally, a light breeze, etc, but the actual feeling of cold was so foreign to me. As I shivered in my sweatshirt by the bus stop, my friend walked over in a T-shirt and laughs at me.

I also noticed how much calmer everything is here. Granted, I’m in a fairly rural suburb, but people actually obey traffic laws, cars wait for each other, they stay in their lanes… what is this? I even walked all the way down Main St. and didn’t get cat called a single time. It was glorious. I’ve been so used to being on guard all the time when in public, that I forgot how nice it is to just be able to walk in peace.

The strangest thing for me so far is the fact that everyone speaks English. Not only is it a shock that everyone around me can understand me and I can understand them (unfortunately, at times), but it’s a shock that I can’t speak another language. Even simple things like “Hello” and “Thank you” must be spoken in English, even though my first instinct is to say “Aslaama,” “3ayshek,” or even “Merci.” I worked with my mom at a restaurant twice this week where everyone else who works there is Hispanic. All but one man is fluent in English. While my first reaction was to want to speak to him in a language other than English (because he can’t understand) I found myself going to Arabic first, then told myself no, I need so speak a Romance language, and would go to French. Neither of those is Spanish. I’ve just been so used to speaking those 2 languages (or at least trying to), that even 3 weeks later, and even though Spanish is my best second language, my brain doesn’t automatically switch to Spanish yet. Perhaps if I were saying more complex things, words that I only know in Spanish, then it would be different.

I’d have to say that the most frustrating part about being home is not being able to get around. I do not have a car, and there is nothing to do in town within walking distance except go to the grocery store. Even in La Marsa, a suburb, it was busy and there were many taxis, and it cost about 1 dinar to get across town. Even in the town next to mine, Morristown, which is the county seat and very happening, a taxi would cost at least $5 to get around. Hardly a regular form of transportation.

Of course I also miss the small things, like couscous, eating fish multiple times a week, fresh baked bread at every meal, the constant view of the sea, and naturally, my friends.

I’m currently job-searching within the public health field, specifically women’s health and trying to combine it with some form of advocacy and outreach. Graduate school is of course in the future, but like most college grads these days, I need to garner an income for a little while. As my hard-earned tan slowly fades and the sun periodically peaks through the Northeast clouds, my time spent in New Jersey has yet to be anything comparable to my time abroad. While I do plan to return at some point, until then at least I can say that I dreamed of Africa, and I lived the dream.

I know some Tunisian Arabic. It’s not great, but it’s enough so that I don’t get lost or ripped off in a taxi, I can buy what I want in stores and restaurants, I can communicate where I’m going, comment on the weather and other various phrases, and understand at least the topic of conversation when two Tunisians talk. I’m still learning.

It’s interesting how language shapes a culture, how words that exist say a lot about the people who speak them. For example, the plethora of nicknames for “vagina” that are negative and derogatory (cum dumpster, ever lasting cum stopper, bearded axe wound, etc), or define the vagina as in relation to a penis instead of an entity in and of itself – it reflects the sexist culture that we live in, the negative and inferior way at which women are still looked. Take this in relation to the nicknames for penis that make it sound mighty and large (the shaft, rod, sex pistol, Russell the one-eyed wonder muscle). This indicates that men are stronger, sex machines, etc. Language says a lot.

Now take Arabic, or at least the Tunisian dialect. I recently learned what to call my boyfriend – sa7bi (transliteration because I don’t have Arabic letters on my computer, and some numbers look like Arabic letters that don’t exist in the Roman alphabet, pronounced SAH-bee). Lyoom, bish nimshee fee piscine m3a sa7bi. “Today, I will go in the pool with my boyfriend.” Now, in this instance I am referring to a male who I am dating. However, if I meant a friend that happens to be male who I am not romantically involved with, I would still use sa7bi. In English, we typically use “my boyfriend” to mean romantic partner, and “my guy friend” to indicate a platonic relationship. However, if I said sa7bi, regardless of who I was actually referring to, the person I’m speaking with would probably assume I meant romantic boyfriend. Same goes for men who refer to their sa7ebti (female form of “my friend,” pronounced sa-HEB-tee).

Why the ambiguity? Why is there no way to clearly refer to a platonic friend of another gender? Basically, because much of the Arabic culture thinks that no such thing can exist. Obviously all men are horndogs and are incapable of being “just friends” with a woman. And obviously any woman who’s “just friends” with a guy is leading him on and a slut, because no respectable woman should hang out with men that she’s not married to or related to. (I don’t think that, I’m just trying to see things from their point of view… but still not seeing it.) And also, if I’m female referring to sa7ebti (or a male saying sa7bi), I obviously mean a platonic friend, since homosexuality is so taboo that it’s not talked about, and there certainly isn’t a word to describe it.

I find that “guy friend” is a good way for a woman to refer to a male friend. I can also use “girl friends” to refer to a group of female friends. If I say “girl friend” though, at least in some social circles, it can sometimes be ambiguous, too. If I say it, people who know I’m bisexual may wonder what the relationship is like. In other contexts the ambiguity does not exist, but our culture as a whole has become much more open and accepting of homosexuality. Granted, there is still a LOT of discrimination, but we’re progressing.

It’s interesting that when referring to both romantic and non-romantic female friends we use “girl” as the prefix. Whereas with a romantic male we use “boy” and non-romantic we use “guy.” Perhaps because women are still looked upon as more juvenile? Who knows.

No real point to this post. Just an interesting reflection on how language shapes a culture, and how culture shapes language. Since different-gendered, platonic relationships don’t exist in Arabic culture (at least not until recently), there’s no need to have a word to describe an impossible situation. This also makes me appreciate the English language for having gender-neutral nouns to avoid this mess. And also, sometimes I like ambiguity.