In the wake of what feels like an onslaught of horrific events in our country we realized we can't simply shake our heads and hope it gets better anymore. Below are each of our reflections on recent events. We are honored to have such a wonderful group of people to share our thoughts with. Thanks for reading; please feel free to share any reactions or other thoughts in the comments.
By Coach Mel
We have the same reaction, authority figures make the same speeches, the same imagery pops up on facebook with a different colored flag, everyone is well-intentioned, nothing changes.
The past month has been a Facebook thread of emotions. Summer was off to a nice start and then Brock Turner took over our news feeds. Listen: 1 in 5 women is raped due to statistics of reported rape but I would go so far as to boldly say that 5 in 5 women experience some type of sexual assault within their lifetime. Sexual assault definition includes sexual harassment or threats without consent and I would be shocked to find a female who had never heard a man say or imply something derogatory to her and I’m pretty positive we could all agree that the conversations don’t go down like:
Man: Hey I’m going to make a comment about your ass as you walk by now. Do I have your consent?”
Woman: Yes of course, I’d be flattered.
So Brock raped a woman behind a dumpster and got 6 months for it (well, 3 months if he has “good behavior,” whatever the fuck that means to a rapist). Then the woman wrote an amazingly brave letter which she read to him and the story went viral. And thank god it did. According to RAINN the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization:
Out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.
Only 344 are even reported to police.
63 of the reports lead to an arrest
6 of those end up incarcerated.
That’s laughable. But it should not invoke just an angry breath of air as we read about it on our screens; it should invoke action. If it is seemingly men’s right to rape, then it is women’s and men’s duty to start talking about it. Because as it stands more robbers are incarcerated than rapists.
As much as we want to be infuriated at Brock, let’s celebrate the heroes of this story and follow their example. As hard as it is, we women need to start talking about what happens to us and calling out our rape culture. As it stands, we are at the point where it has to cross every woman’s mind before she even walks down a street alone that something could happen to her. Every single time. That’s rape culture. How freeing it must be to not have to worry about that. We have to make it known and aware that we have a huge problem. Let’s be like those guys on their bikes who took Brock down. When they saw what he was doing they reacted and were the only reason he went to jail at all. Bystanders, if you see something do something. Parents, raise your boys to respect women and don’t feel like because you have a boy you “got off easy” because he can’t get pregnant. You have the hardest and most important job turning upside down everything your son is going to hear, see, and want to do.
And now, this week, Brock can breathe a sigh of relief while his face takes a break from the media because so far 49 people have lost their lives. And a higher number are injured. And an exponentially higher number of people’s lives have been turned upside down due to loss of loved ones. Even more still have been judged and ridiculed because they are LGBTQ+ or because they are Muslim.
I hate that these events are what it takes to trigger action but it feels like our world is falling apart and it’s time to follow through on our word. Living in Portland, it is so easy to think that the world is a more accepting place, that we can be who we are without being afraid. Like women need to tell their stories of how we very much live in a rape culture so do all minorities need to share their experiences. Because when we don’t talk about it, it is like saying we are ashamed of who we are. And that mentality gives people leverage to call it out as “not normal” and to have a platform to stand on for hate.
I can’t speak for what I don’t have experience with. I am not Muslim and my heart breaks for those fearing what will happen to their lives if our country is turned over into certain hands. But I can share what I do have experience with. I hope that soon the day arrives where people don’t have to “come out.” That we just date whomever we are drawn to. The very notion of “coming out” and crossing your fingers that all goes well is the same as saying, “Hey, I am not normal but please accept me anyway.”
I was 28 when I came out. But I only came out to my friends in Portland that I knew wouldn’t care. It technically took me another 8 months to tell my parents and, if we are being honest, I still haven’t actually told them I am gay. What I actually said was, “I am dating someone… Her name is…” What I still have so much trouble vocalizing could just be implied by that. The fact that I couldn’t let this part of me surface until I was 28, like not even address it until it slapped me in the face, is the evidence in my life that our culture has a long way to go. I realize my whole story pales in comparison to the torture so many experience, but we all share similarities across the gamut. The first time I held hands with my girlfriend in public another couple was walking toward us and I got immediately uncomfortable. She sensed this and said “it’s okay, let go whenever you want; it’s been years and I still feel weird every time.” Small daily reminders like this keep the divide alive and they take their toll. But a shooting, the largest shooting, is not something we can ignore. The whole of the LGBTQ+ community was touched in some way on June 12th whether it be directly or just by bringing up a story or memories you don’t want to remember.
You might not have done the shooting in that night club and you didn’t rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. But if you don’t speak up, if you sit silently while your buddies make derogatory comments, if you speak in slurs, if you get uncomfortable thinking about same sex marriage, then you are creating the culture that breeds the kind of people who pull the trigger. You are the fuel that ignites the fire and that is just as bad.
Thank you, POINT community for being our ears, standing up and saying something, sharing your stories, listening to ours, and taking a step forward to initiate change.
By Coach KB
I know whatever I write here won’t represent all my thoughts and emotions; this is part of what makes me feel powerless. I feel powerless in knowing my audience, although comprised of people I know and love dearly, is limited. But I also know that if I say nothing I am stripping myself of any power I have at all. Any power to impact the world. Any power to effect change. Any power to give to others. My reach may not be vast but it is important. It is important because YOU are important. WE are important. What we say matters. But what we say only matters if we actually say it. That is why I am writing today.
When the news hit I felt trapped. I felt like I had no outlet for the compassion, for the anger, for the frustration, for the fear, for the sympathy, for the love, and for the whole slough of other emotions that I’m not even sure I could name. It took a couple days to hit me. Initially I was numb to it - just another fucking day of life in America. When will it stop?
It will stop when systems change - when systems change our society changes and when society changes our culture changes. The concepts of systems, society, and culture seem really intangible but the thread that ties them all together is people. Systems change when THE PEOPLE in the system change. Society changes when THE PEOPLE in society change. And culture changes when PEOPLE change. And those people are US! You and me. Our families. Our friends and coworkers. Our bank-tellers and doctors and mail-carriers and all the people we pass on our morning commute.
It is easy to blame the aggressor. But the truth is that he (and sometimes she, but let's be honest - what no one talks about is that crime, and especially violent crime, is not a black problem or a poor problem or a Latino problem or an ISIS problem; it's a male problem) is a product of our systems, society, and culture. It is much more difficult to believe that we are just as much a part of the problem as we are the solution. People will only change when we realize we all have the power to change the systems and cultures. I am often crippled by feeling like there is so much to say and so much to do that I do nothing; it’s too overwhelming and I feel like what I have to say is not important. I have finally realized that we can’t all have the large platforms that politicians, celebrity figures, and professional activists have but we can all tap into our own power to speak out. To do SOMETHING. ANYTHING. And if we all did small somethings or anythings within our small audiences it would add up to one big push toward change.
This blog is a call to action, my friends.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated action or a political action or an action that reaches a lot of people. I am pissed off that we are still hoping and praying that things will change. I understand that effective change is a long process, but the Columbine shooting was in 1999. That’s almost TWO DECADES ago… FIVE presidential terms and SEVEN different presidents of the NRA.
And while we’re at it, that’s the same year I first learned about the concept of “consensual” sex (and only 17 years later - aka a couple weeks ago - I had the realization that there is no such thing as “consensual” sex… It’s either “sex” or it’s “rape” … WTFuckingF about Brock Turner!?!! The ultimate privilege is to be convicted of raping someone, only get sentenced to 6 months in a county jail, and then have all the negative press about you completely disappear from social and TV media because someone else decided to commit the largest mass-shooting in recent history just weeks after your sentence. Do not forget about this.)
Whether it is homicide or rape, homophobia or xenophobia, sexism, racism, or classism… As soon as it seems like we make progress with one thing, another one pops up and overshadows it. The bottom line is, all of it has roots in violence and hate, and ultimately the notion of privilege. We have to speak out, not only against hate but also in support of love. We have to take care of ourselves and one another.
This is one of the main reasons we wanted to start POINT Gym and Kitchen. A lot of people roll their eyes at rhetoric about love and community but the truth is that fitter, healthier people are more likely to be happy, productive community members that spread joy to others - it’s science! When you are unhealthy you don’t eat well, sleep well, or feel well which makes you stressed out and have a short fuse. Usually these people want everything to be easy because they don’t have the patience to deal with anything that might get in their way; they tend to blame others for all sorts of things. We want to spread joy! But muscles don’t do that on their own.
I am writing this blog because privilege has given me the opportunity to reach a small community of awesome people who I think have the power to influence more small communities of people within our larger PDX community. Utilize your areas of privilege to create positive changes. Are you literate? Read about others’ experiences and write about your own. Are you heterosexual? Speak out when you hear derogatory remarks against the LGBTQ+ community. Your silence normalizes the hate. Are you a heterosexual man? For the love of all that is good in the world do not cat-call women, make sexually aggressive comments to another man about a woman, touch a woman anywhere without her permission, blame women for getting assaulted, or worse yet, assault a woman. Do you have children? Teach both genders what respect and equality look like and sound like. It’s cool that girls can play with “boy” toys now but you will truly help change culture when you teach your boys to play with “girl” toys. Do you spend money? You vote with your dollars so spend in accordance with your values. Are you Christian? Be humble. Your religion does not make you better than anyone else nor does it grant you the right to commit acts of hate and violence in the name of your religion. Do not lump whole groups of people in the same category of terrorists, just as you would not want to be associated with the KKK. Are you thin, pretty, male, and/or do you look “normal” within the construct of our heteronormative society? You have it easier than others do. Don’t argue; you do. Treat everyone well.
The list goes on… Are you educated? Are you white? Do you have a job? Are you middle to upper class? Can you drive? Are you not too young but not too old, either? Are you free from mental or physical disability or debilitating disease? Are you an American citizen? Do you speak English?...
Explore your areas of privilege to see what the haves and have-nots are within each. Then decide how you can use your privilege to change systems. This blog is one of my actions. Thank you, POINT community for being our ears, standing up and saying something, sharing your stories, listening to ours, and taking a step forward to initiate change.