Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

The real danger in not standing up for yourself

2013 . 02 . 23 - Comments / Commentaires (5)

I have a hard time forgiving people who don’t stand up for themselves, but only because they often try stop others from doing it too.

A few years ago, my partner was touched inappropriately by a faculty member at Goddard College where he was pursuing his MFA. As often happens in cases of sexual harassment, the community turned against the victim, victimizing him further and even villainizing him to preserve a sense of everything being okay with their institution. (Read a full account of David’s experiences here.) 

Before this happened, I had had experiences with violation of my person—I’d been touched in ways I didn’t want to be touched by perverts in movie theaters, by creeps on public transportation, and once even by a man I was seeing. But I had never witnessed up-close an institution allowing and, to some degree, encouraging harassment. Having been through this with David has made me acutely aware of how peer pressure is not just an adolescent issue, and it has taught me that shutting up is not an option.

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(5) Comments / Commentaires: The real danger in not standing up for yourself

-- Kelly -- 2013 . 02 . 25 --

Wow Gwenn, I read David’s account fully.  I have had some very unfair practices, unjust things happen in college.  In life I have been abused and raped.  I was silent.  Age eventually taught me to stand up, I wish I would have learned how back then.  Actually I stood up to the Dean and got the same kind of behavior that David did.  I quit school.  You get blackballed.  I was even sexually harassed at work, same deal, couldn’t tell and continue to work!

When I did tell someone about previous abuse, they said that happens to everyone.  Basically suck it up!  That is WRONG!!!  What is wrong with people?

Bravo for him!  I cannot tell you how disappointed in the very places that tout fairness and equality are the LEAST.

It was very clear to me that his account was true since I have followed a similar vein.  I did not comment on his article since I saw where it was going in the comments.

I’m so sorry.  They still want him to shut up about their unfair lawless practices.  They all should know better but without consequences, they won’t stop.

I can only hope the rest of life will be free from this vile unjustice for him.

I completely agree with your video.

That’s all we want… justice, and for them to STOP!

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-- Gwenn -- 2013 . 02 . 25 --

I’m so sorry to hear of the things you’ve suffered through, Kelly. 

We need to figure out some way to stop communities from becoming mobs in cases of sexual harassment.  Because I don’t actually think that closing ranks behind harassers is just human nature.  Instead, I think it stems from the way communities have grown so large and disconnected.  People feel powerless so they rally around the powerful because that feels safer.  But how to stop this tendency?  That is the question.

Take care.

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-- kate powell -- 2014 . 02 . 17 --

Excellent vlog, and I also read David’s account.  Reverse discrimination, as it’s called, is rampant. 

I, to, was discriminated against at college, and wish I had sued for having to have the same asshole through every single year of my college.  He failed me my senior year because i would not bow to his wishes, and did the same with several other students.  University rules said no one could change a teacher’s grade, but they wrote me letters of recommendation on my thesis project.  I was accused of being a dumb blonde, and having my boyfriend do my work for me (He was a continent away at harvard at the time, but why quibble over facts.)  I had some amazing male teachers who stood up for me behind the scenes, but I still had to deal with him.  I was ridiculed publicly during my presentations about being pretty, stupid, painting my nails, belonging to a sorority, etc.  The entire time I was in college I wore men’s clothes, wore not makeup, and toned down my prettiness—and I never was the sorority type.  And I was simply not old enough to tell him to fuck off.

The day I graduated a group of students molotov cock-tailed his home.  I was not part of that, but I understood.  And he still teaches at USC.

I learned to stand up for myself through some excellent mentors, all men.  This would make an excellent art project, and it seems to be up right now, as this is the fourth time in a month I found the discussion “up.”

I think the most obvious discrimination regarding men is that people ALWAYS assume that if anyone ever says they were abused as kids, the man is assumed to be guilty.  And while it is true that more kids are abused than not (tragic, and so the statistical numbers are in their favor) it also doesn’t account for the smart angry psychopaths who make things up about a parent or teacher, and how a man cannot get a fair trial about this at all.

And I want David to know that not every woman feels men should be left out.  I don’t buy or submit to publications like WeMoon, though I adore their calendar (and suffer without it wink, because they will not allow a submission from a man.

I don’t want to be a woman who discriminates, nor support women who discriminate.  Locker rooms are fine separations for both sexes, and that is that.  Rape classes, separate for both sexes, yes.  But other than that, hmmmm… don’t think so.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 02 . 20 --

Your story is heartbreaking, Kate.  I imagine there was some satisfaction in that you weren’t the only one who suffered from this prof’s behavior, but still! 

I don’t know that I would call what David dealt with reverse discrimination.  I think it’s just discrimination.  I acknowledge the history of oppression and abuse that makes some forms of discrimination more appalling than others, but it’s all appalling and it’s all discrimination to my mind, no matter the level of access the victim has had in other situations because of their sex, ethnicity, sexuality, ability level, etc.

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-- kate powell -- 2014 . 02 . 20 --

There were five women in my actual class, and frankly, two were not what the profs would have considered good looking, and one was black—so it was really two of us that took their crap about being pretty and dumb.  They would never have picked on my black friend.

I agree with the latter, Gwenn.  I think the reverse comes from the era I grew up in; even then white men would try to talk about it and they called it that to distinguish it from what was, essentially at that time, new laws to end discrimination against women and non-whites.  While many even supported the new laws for minority percentages (and I was hired at IBM PARTLY to fill one of those spots) it still must have rankled to be passed over for possibly a lesser minority.  I think it was the right thing to do.

And BTW, regarding sexual harassment, men have it happen far more often than people think.  Ask a cop about little boys being raped; not by gay men, but by women.  There are numbers there.  And I have seen women bosses who prey on men; most men won’t talk about it for fear of having the other guys want to know why they are turning down a piece of ass.  Some sleep with them, and for some men it may begin as sport, but for many it becomes uncomfortable.  We’ve seen it on a few British tele shows (which are our tele of choice . . . )

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