That Time The Mikvah Lady Thought I Was Abused

On my most recent trip to the mikvah, the mikvah attendant thought I was an abused women.

As I was getting ready to immerse, we made small talk while she checked my nails and feet. We had never met before, so we exchanged pleasantries such as, “what do you do?” and “where did you grow up?”. Everything was fine and pleasant. She seemed sweet. Then, I pulled down my robe slightly so she could make sure there were no hairs on my neck or back.

Her tone changed completely. “Oh. My.” she said. “You, um, you have a LOT of black and blue marks all over your neck…” Her tone was one of immense concern. I had no idea what she was talking about. “Do you know where these marks came from?” She asked. I didn’t even know what marks she was talking about.

She gently touched one, and as she touched it, it started to rub off. “OH!” she said with a huge sign of relief. “They’re not bruises!” We deduced that I had been wearing a cheap, fake gold necklace earlier in the day, and that my skin probably reacted with the necklace material in some way. She wiped off the marks with some makeup remover, and I apologized for holding her up and thanked her for helping me. “Oh, it’s no problem at all” she said. “I’m just glad the marks aren’t bruises! Then, we’d have much more serious problems!”.

We finished, I dunked, and then I went home. On the way home, I thought about the irony of the situation. I, a woman who works with victims of rape and domestic abuse all day, was suspected of herself being abused. I also thought about the Mikvah Lady’s role in spotting the abuse. I know that they’re trained to recognize signs of abuse and to potentially confront women they view as victims, but I wondered, how would that conversation go? I can’t imagine it would be pleasant. And to intertwine it with the mitzvah of mikvah? I know that mikvaot often place ads for help agencies in the prep rooms, since those are a safe spot, away from the intimate males that could be endangering the women. They’re great places to make the initial call, to make a safety plan, and to seek help. But, still, what if a woman wasn’t ready to take the first step but the Mikvah Lady confronted her anyway? Then, the mikvah would just turn in to another source of anxiety and fear. Thoughts like , “Will she ask me about my bruises today?” and “What cover story can I use this time?” will replace the serenity that mikvah often brings. Some women might be pushed to not even use the mikvah, for fear of being confronted.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that for the thirty seconds that my mikvah lady thought I was abused, I felt very uncomfortable.

SlutWalk DC

I got an invitation on facebook to SlutWalk DC.

SlutWalk is a march to protest blaming the victim in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. The official SlutWalk DC website lists the demands that the protestors assert, essentially just that every DC resident should have equal access to reproductive health care (including abortions), every victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment should be able to receive treatment, and that all people should be able to report sexual assault/harassment without fear of other legal repercussions, such as deportation for undocumented aliens.

The demands are not so farfetched. I completely, one hundred percent support them.

Apparently, SlutWalk was started because Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto police officer, gave a talk to college women at Osgoode Hall Law School in which he said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid being victimized”.

It is true. Women and men should also avoid walking through inner city streets to avoid being mugged, children should avoid walking alone in order to avoid being kidnapped, and consumers should avoid using their social security number to avoid identity theft.

That being said, muggers should stop mugging, rapists should stop raping, and men (and women!) should stop thinking of women as sex objects. Of course. And, people that are victims of these crimes should certainly have the right and the security to report the crimes and get treated, if needed.

However, if your goal is to avoid getting raped, there are some things you can do to prevent it. Dress like you want to show off your brains, not your body.

Of course, sexualization of women in the workplace is all too common, and should be avoided. But lets be honest, is a bunch of women marching through the city scantily clad, showing off their bodies, and advocating for “sluts” really going to make chauvinists think any higher of women? I think not.

True Social Welfare

The long anticipated post on social welfare is here.

Working in an office which deals with cases of inner city child abuse and neglect on a daily basis has given me a completely new perspective on this issue of social welfare.

I have some pretty conservative leanings politically. I have always been a high achiever, and tend to have similar expectations for the rest of the world. A little unfair, yes, but so be it. If you want to eat, you have to work. Almost everyone in America has the ability to go to work. You’re a little disabled? Ok, get a job that your disability won’t hinder. You’re not the smartest key in the shed? Get a job that doesn’t require brains. You can’t stay sober enough to get to work everyday? You don’t get paid. Harsh, yes. Unfair, no.

However, there are certain aspects of social welfare which are really, truly, social welfare. I say that in comparison to what I call “personal welfare”. If one person can’t afford to eat and the State gives him food, that’s not for the good of society, thats for the good of a single person. Even if the state gives out thousands of benefits to thousands of recipients, these are all essentially lots of gifts that benefit lots of people individually.

Truly social welfare is different. It benefits society as a whole.

Every day, I interact with parents that have been accused of child abuse or neglect. One of the fundamentals in the field of domestic violence is “the cycle of violence”, essentially, an abused person is exposed to abuse for so long that they think that is how everyone acts, and they, in response, abuse others. Almost ALL of the parents that come into our office accused of abuse/neglect are already in the system as children of abuse. It’s a whole cycle. I probably have one client a week come in because they voluntarily put their child in foster care. These people live in a culture where many of their peers are in “the system” and they thinks its a completely responsible way to live. Find a guy who wants to have sex with you, get pregnant, stay with the guy even though he cheats on you/beats you/forces you to do things you don’t want because he says you’re pretty and that makes you feel good, get overwhelmed with being in highschool, having a baby, and dealing with your abusive boyfriend, decide you don’t want your baby being exposed to the bum baby-daddy, put the child in foster care, party, get clean, attempt to get your child out of foster care. Repeat.

The financial strain on our government from all this is infinite. The police officers that respond to the domestic violence calls, the State’s Attorneys and Public Defenders, the judges hired solely for child abuse cases, the foster parents, the medical care for foster children…the list in endless.

In many ways, the strain on our government budgets would actually be alleviated by providing birth control, sex-ed, health clinics, therapeutic centers, and state-funded education to underprivileged populations. Now, this may not be “fair” to the hard working people that actually pay for these things (and don’t be fooled by the recent law that requires no co-pay for birth control, you actually just pay more for your insurance premiums), but it benefits them as well. Crime is reduced. Taxes are reduced. More educated, achieving citizens are produced which in turn work and benefit their communities.

And that is TRUE social welfare.

On Feminism and Date Rape

I used to be a rape apologist, as some would call it. I never really bought into the argument that “just because I’m wearing a mini-skirt and grinding with you doesn’t mean I don’t want any from you”. I agreed with this person’s view on date rape. Read the article, but if you don’t, this quote just about sums it up:

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

I recently went to an event at my college about sexual assault. There was a poster there which said, ” ‘yes, yes, yes, oh God, yes!’ means yes. Prevent rape by waiting for enthusiastic consent”. I’m still not sure whether I agree with that one. I mean, there’s been movies that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see that my boyfriend convinced me to see. Does that me he coerced me into seeing it? Did he “rape” my movie-choosing? No, he convinced me to see it. Same with sex. Sometimes one partner is unsure of how much they want. Simple, non-forceful convincing is part of the give and take of a relationship.

At the event, a girl spoke about her rape and made me think about it in a totally different way. She said she was raped at a frat party, after going back with a guy whom she’d been dancing with the whole night. She said to the crowd “Maybe I was looking for SOMETHING, but not EVERYTHING. My dress does not excuse his behavior.”

Right. I sometimes forget about limits. The hard part is being able to communicate what the limits are, often because I myself don’t know what I want. Did this girl at the party have limits? Apparently. Did she communicate her limits to the guy she was with? Possibly. Should potential sex partners have to wait until their partner is begging them to have sex? Probably not. Where is the limit. Should one have to sign a consent form for sex? The lawyer in me wants to say yes, but the realist in me says no way.

Additionally, feminists will probably shun me for saying this, but I have certainly fallen privy to the game of saying “I’m fine” when in reality I mean “I’m not fine, but I don’t want to just come right out and say it, because I want you to press me to tell you whats really going on”. I like this. I like the fact that he begs me to open up to him. I like the fact that he reinforces how much he wants to know what I’m thinking and feeling. I don’t WANT to tell him straight away.

If men aren’t allowed to claim yes means no with regards to sex, can women claim that yes means no in regards to emotions? Can we really allow ourselves to force our boyfriends to press us to tell them why we’re upset, if they can’t then press us into having sex with them? Frankly, I’m not ready to give up the cat-and-mouse game of emotional jenga. And if that means playing cat-and-mouse sex, okay.