Monday, October 24, 2016

Make America Rape Again

By Kelly Cogswell

It’s not just a joke. The only upside to the Trump candidacy is how having a sexual predator as presidential candidate has inspired women to talk about just how frequently we are attacked and harassed.

One woman can just be contributing a perfectly harmless comment to a Twitter thread, and the next thing she knows some man is typing, FUCKING CUNT, FUCKING BITCH and getting all his friends to make death threats. Another is merely walking down the street, a hallway, a subway platform, and some man screams at her, or grabs her body, or shoves her wordlessly merely because she exists as a woman in a man’s world and she happened to cross his path.

The weird thing is that people rarely talk about these attacks as in the same category as racist aggressions, or homo- or trans- phobia. In fact, groups tracking hate crimes rarely even keep statistics on anti-woman acts.

Maybe it’s because rapists, for instance, are rarely seen as anti-woman. Young or drunk they're excused as normal red-blooded boys just overcome by normal sexual urges that got a little out of hand. That is why men are not to be tempted with short skirts, scarlet lipstick. Or public female drunkenness. Who can really blame swimming star Brock Turner for getting some when he had the chance? Later on, men who rape become outcasts, are considered the intrinsically violent, the “perverts” whose choice of female victims is almost beside the point.

In college, I remember being shocked when I read Susan Brownmiller’s groundbreaking book, “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape,” describing rape as an act of domination which was all about power, not sex, even if men used their dicks to do it. For one thing, it was the first time I understood that all girls got the warnings my mother gave me, and also that this vulnerability, this violence was partly why all the presidents and vice presidents, almost all the representatives and senators and preachers and doctors and priests--were men. (And overwhelmingly white).

Brownmiller’s 1975 book also contributed to a growing understanding of how rape is used as a tool of terrorism, aimed at punishing and subduing whole populations. And why we see rape wherever we see war and civil conflict. Across different cultures and races. From the Sudan to Syria to the American South, both during and after slavery. If she made this leap forward, seeing rape as pure power, it may have been because she was building on work done by black women in the South who had already begun framing it as a civil rights issue when they pressed rape charges against white men who not only wanted to humiliate and paralyze black women, but shame the black men who could not protect them. Eldridge Cleaver was inspired to rape white women in revenge--first practicing on black women--before he had a later change of heart.

The problem with talking about rape as a tool, is that it begins to sound abstract. And erases women. Making the men seem detached and calculating almost as if there was no hate involved, and that rapists, and aggressors don’t hold inside of them a cache of fear and loathing that occasionally, or often, wells to the surface in violence and rape. As if Trump grabbed women by their pussies just to establish his power, and not in the joy of pure hate directed at our femaleness, and a desire to humiliate and destroy.

We don’t have many choices in how to respond. You can fight it every time and die of grief and rage. You can ignore it, even as you shrink a little having learned, as do all people of color in this predominantly white country, that the bodies we inhabit are vulnerable, don’t quite belong to us. The way an effeminate boy learns to shudder at the locker room.

But indulge this machismo enough, allow your culture to celebrate it, you get femicide, the murders of women like Lucia Perez in Argentina who was drugged and raped so violently the pain gave her cardiac arrest. The BBC reports that on average, one woman is killed there in domestic violence cases every 36 hours. Argentina adopted an anti-femicide law in 2012, with harsher penalties for men who kill women because they’re women.

By comparison, in the larger U.S., three plus women are killed every day just by their partners or ex’s. Many more every day are raped. The biggest difference is that last Wednesday people all over Argentina walked out of work for a couple hours in the pouring rain to protest against anti-woman violence. Signs read, "If you touch one of us, we all react," and “Not one more.” Protesters supported them in Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. I can’t remember the last time women in the U.S. have been outraged enough at murder after murder, rape after rape for us to take to the streets on our own behalf.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Our America

By Kelly Cogswell

I was following my twitter feed and channel surfing during the "debate" last night when I heard a news anchor announce that the police were looking for a serial groper. When I glanced up I really did expect to see Donald Trump's pink butthole of a mouth, and flabby sulking face, but it was a photo of a normal looking white guy with ear buds in, and a greenish grey tee shirt hanging over his skinny chest. Which is what most sexual predators look like. As ordinary as anything.

There is nothing particularly impressive about dictators either. In photos, Pinochet smiles like somebody's affable grandfather. Hitler only looks peculiar to us because of his mustache. Evil doesn't leave a trace. Even Putin looks ordinary with his slightly balding pate, though like with Pinochet, the journalists, activists, or politicians who oppose him have a way of spending years in prison, meeting untimely ends, disappearing.

All day, I'd hoped Clinton would simply refuse to go, quit normalizing Trump's candidacy as all of America has done for the last year, imagining that this rapist, this tyrant, and Putin-loving demagogue would just go away. I'd add racist or bigot to the list, but the words seem too mild to describe how he intentionally enrages the rabble, attacking people of color, immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims. Words like nigger and kike are coming back into fashion as Trump, and his anti-gay running mate Pence, not only reveal America's latent hatreds but fatten them every time they open their mouths.

And yet, when nine o'clock struck, Clinton took the stage with Trump, and both smiled for the cameras, as if it were business as usual. Republicans versus Democrats. Later on, I even saw a few tweets by folks complaining that nobody was talking about the issues. Why wasn't there a mention this time of police brutality? As if we could even hear what Clinton said while Trump furiously grabbed his chair, lurked behind her like a psycho killer. As if Trump would say something rational, not respond to questions with lies and obfuscations, offering a bizarre dismissal of his taped sexual assault brags, as "just words... locker room talk, and it's one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS." Sniff!

Given the circus-like atmosphere of the election, I'm not sure that we have seriously considered the implications of Trump's threat to unleash his Justice Department on Clinton if he is elected president, to send her to jail. It was the most naked assertion to date of his aspirations to rule without the rule of law, binning the basic protections every citizen is assured by our constitution.

The response was enthusiastic applause from the back of the room. Because what so many Americans want is a strongman to take the cunt down. Take all the pussies down. Commenters across the board found this disturbing, chilling even, though this has been commonplace at Trump's rallies for the eternity of this election season.

I can't stand any of it. His red-faced lying, rapey hate. Everybody's perpetual surprise. The GOP's attempt to distance itself from the monster it created. The Democratic silence about its own treatment of Clinton for decades. The dykes who have repeatedly announced their hatred of her voice, her thighs, her hair. All those gay men feeling absolved by their gayness that call all women cunts and bitches every chance they get. Who exclude women from leadership positions. Fuck you. Then there are the lefties who will get behind every mediocre man of any color who promises the populist moon. No wonder Trump was applauding Sanders, Sanders, Sanders.

Through it all, Clinton remained pleasant and composed, even smiling as Trump did his best to intimidate her. And I watched as guys tweeted things like, "I don't know how she does it." "I'd be pulling my hair out." "She should knee him in the nuts." All the women were like, "Every female on earth has had to learn how to deal with this." Because we have. With strangers in the street, or bosses, but more often from classmates, men at church, cousins, brothers and fathers. All of them threatening us with their dicks, and asking, Just who do you think you are?

As @meganamram tweeted, "With this election we're simultaneously breaking through the glass ceiling and the rock bottom. We got a really big room now." And it's not even over yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

President Trump?

By Kelly Cogswell

Well, I won't do that again. Not without a lot more alcohol down the hatch. But I did it. I watched the first Trump-Clinton debate. I will summarize it for you as a rational, mostly truthful woman answering the moderator's questions on one side, and on the other a shrieky, red-faced man interrupting her twice a minute with a mix of gobbledygook and factually challenged, often terrifying statements, all delivered with the absolute conviction of a sleazy used car salesman.

FYI, Ford is not packing up and taking its plant to Mexico. No, Clinton is not responsible for ISIS. Or the Iraq war, either. (See Bush, George W.; unilateralism). And the fourteen million your pops gave you to start a business was not a "small" loan. And no, you absolutely don't get to bomb another country's ship just because somebody made a rude gesture to yours. Yes, Russia is to blame for recent cyber attacks and hacking meant to elect Trump and/or discredit our electoral process.

And long before Trump declared Obama and illegal immigrants were responsible for the uptick in murders in Chicago, while repeating his dog-whistle call for law and order, I was thinking for the millionth time that you'd have to be nuts to vote for him, and have no idea at all of how the world works, or even your own country. But then I remembered-- that's entirely possible. This is America, where half the people that get federal entitlements are against federal entitlements because they don't understand that that's what disability payments are, for instance. Or social security checks. Public schools. Medicare. VA programs.

Reason and logic and knowledge have nothing to do with it. We've proudly announced for years that we vote for whomever we want to have a beer with, so why not that smirker Trump who rails against the politicians who screw everything up, and positively gloats about not paying taxes "because they would just be squandered"? Yeah, he tells it like it is. So heck yeah, I'm for Trump, his supporters say. So what if he's declared bankruptcy a whopping six times, he must be a smart business man because he always seems to come out ahead. And ISIS is a big problem. And Secretary Clinton has been in power for like a million years, so it's all that cunt's fault.

Almost as deluded are the folks on the other side who believe that just because Trump uses imaginary words like "bigly" bigly! and lies every time he opens his mouth, that voters will laugh him out of contention, a tactic that worked so well in previous elections (ibid). It was almost heartbreaking how happy they were last night that the polls after the debate showed viewers believed Clinton trounced Trump, as if a poll actually had some long-term impact.

A large part of the problem is that the mainstream, and even alternative media, does little to challenge Trump directly. Mostly because they don't really care about fairness or justice, just the illusion of it. Remember their coverage of same-sex marriage? They'd have one person rationally explaining the importance of equality under the law and what it meant to lesbian and gay citizens, and then some random preacher ranting that The Gays were going to destroy the family and we should all be killed. And both were equivalent, as if we were discussing whether tax penalties or incentives were more effective.

This time, we end up with rags like The New York Times using their op-ed page to offer the unprecedented acknowledgement that a candidate is entirely, one hundred percent unfit to be president, but this morning sends out an email again reporting on the attacks and responses in the debate as if the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates were equal.

Ditto after the debate, when I watched the PBS commentators lift a few mild eyebrows at Trump, but then go after Clinton, quibbling with how she responded to Trump's criticism of her economic proposals, but mostly offering the usual Hermione-hating crap like "her answers were too long" "she didn't offer us a vision" "she didn't reveal herself." In short, she didn't slide down in the stirrups and let us see a vagina bursting with rainbows and unicorns.

So I'll tell you all what I've been telling my friends for months. Don't underestimate the power of stupidity and misogyny in this election. If Democrats continue to smugly laugh at Trump, if the extreme left and independent voters continue to say both parties are equal, advocating protest votes, we could very well end up with President Trump. He would not only support conservative white nationalists that hate minorities of all kinds, including queers, (seriously! they hate our guts), but would ravage the economy and environment for his personal gain. Trump might even employ nuclear weapons to avenge the slight insults. And I will be the first rat off this sinking American ship.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Season of Grief

By Kelly Cogswell

My uncle died a couple days ago in Kentucky. I can't digest it. Maybe because I'd only seen him once since I left almost three decades ago. At first I'd make occasional pilgrimages back to visit my gay-hating mother, but there was too much suffering involved, it messed me up. So I finally quit going altogether, and lost them all-- cousins, uncles, sisters. Even now, with small reconciliations, it's too late to recover what's gone, or grieve what I already mourned.

I won't go back for the funeral. Who needs to revisit old wounds? Who needs a memorial, installation, TV program, anyway, to remind us of the dead? I know what I'm talking about. Saw both towers fall with my own eyes. Today, September 12th, 2016, it's enough to look at the sky which is the same bright blue that the passengers saw fifteen years ago before they crashed, the same gorgeous blue in which we first saw the two enormous plumes of smoke that would loom over the city for months. Or are burning still.

I've never been to the 9/11 memorial, though I've seen the selfies of friends who've grinned in front of it for their camera phones. I guess that´s better than the fake solemnity you sometimes get. One of New York's football teams went and during the pre-game show we got to see a video of this beefy white guy trying to bow his head but having trouble because his neck was so stiff with muscle. Probably we don't deserve better. The streets were still covered with ash when vendors began to sell tee-shirts, "I survived the Twin Towers" or whatever.

There's not much dignity in human history. It keeps repeating itself, sometimes in tragedy but mostly farce. We didn't even get a gloomy sky as backdrop. Worse, it was an election Tuesday in New York with the usual cast of ridiculous Democrats running for mayor. The big, red-faced, meaty-fingered Hevesi. The flip-flopper Ferrer. And whatshisname Green. I want to say Al, but that's just wishful thinking. Ana and I woke up to shouting from our neighbors behind us, and for some reason turned on the tube. Then Ana went downtown with her journalist's notebook, while I went up on the roof, saw the world changed, then went back downstairs and, after Ana returned safe, but covered in dust, predicted the rise of a stupid new American nationalism, cycles of revenge and retribution, foreign wars, racism, Islamophobia.

Nothing that came after was a surprise, not even the Islamophilia in which "progressives" absolve themselves of their own privilege and bigotry by letting that religion off the hook for misogyny and queer-bashing we'd never let slide in Catholics or Southern Baptists.

Still, I had nightmares. For weeks afterwards, local TV showed nothing but the buildings burning then falling, then burning, then falling, and people jumping from the upper stories again and again and again, and every night I'd be fleeing fireballs. When the bombing started in Afghanistan, portions of ravaged bodies would also enter my dreams. I was overcome with fury and grief, mourning the victims here in New York, but also those in Kabul, and then all of us who would be destroyed by the delayed real and metaphorical explosions any idiot could see coming in Bagdad, Aleppo, Orlando, Nice. Moscow.

Remember how Putin was emboldened to become less and less democratic after Bush's unilateral actions in Iraq? Remember that while the world was distracted, the Cuban regime arrested a huge swath of disgruntled bricklayers and independent librarians, many of which are still in jail, or exiled, or conveniently dead?

Our whole response was so stupid, but it's too late now. Even this cult of September 11th is weird because we usually mark the ends of wars, not the beginning, except in local ceremonies. And we're still in the middle of this one as a nation with no end in sight because the "War" Bush declared "On Terror" wasn't against a human enemy, but an abstraction, requiring not just the usual boots on the ground, but an army of watchdogs, an infrastructure of new language and a legacy of fear and loathing that we must continually replenish.

There's something so… made-up … about the whole thing I sometimes think we should be able to unravel it. We've been duped. Before September 11th we Americans didn't even have a Homeland to defend, just a home. Or a country that may or may not have embraced us, but was ours. Sadly, the history we repeat doesn't offer quick solutions. It's only easy to destroy.