Travels With Queerness and the Politics of Space: An Interview with Kim Sharp


Image shows a postcard with vertical, rainbow stripes in a vintage fashion.  The text reads: Travels With Queerness: In Search of America

Kim Sharp is one of my favorite queer, feminist writer friends.  She recently took a big, brave risk in doing a micro-retirement so she could work on her writing.  One of the fruits of that labor is her new project, Travels With Queerness, which explores what it means to take up space as a gender-nonconforming, feminist person on the road with their best friend, who happens to be a pit bull.  I interviewed her today to find out more about the project and what it means for space to be political.

CONTENT: This interview contains descriptions of homophobia, harassment, and hate speech.

Tasha Walston:  Hi, Kim!  Thanks for doing this interview.  What is Travels With Queerness?

Kim Sharp: Travels With Queerness is a book project that’s based off a road trip I’m going to take with my dog, Petey, this September. Think Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, but through a queer, feminist lens. I came up with the idea earlier this year when I was re-reading Travels with Charley. I wanted to take Petey on a similar trip, but I knew it would present challenges because of our identities: I’m a lesbian, and Petey is a pit bull.

I’ve mapped out a route that will take us more than 5,500 miles, through 11 states in the western US over the course of 25 days. During the trip, I’m going to post short essays detailing our experiences on my website,, and via Facebook and Twitter. The book will draw everything together into a cohesive narrative.

I started thinking about all the things I’d have to do before traveling–mostly how I would present, and what I would do to stay safe. I thought about getting mace, maybe growing my hair a little or dressing a little more femme. I even thought about things as simple as taking the HRC equality sticker off my car.

And that’s when the idea of a trip transformed into a project. Changing my appearance and removing that bumper sticker would mean altering my identity. Losing that authenticity would kill so much of the project’s meaning.


Image shows a map of the Northwestern United states with a travel route drawn on in blue.  Individual stops on the route are marked numerically.

TW: So it was Steinbeck’s book that made you want to go on the journey?

KS: That and a few other things. I’m doing a sort of mid-life, micro-retirement this year, and I want to make the most of it. I want to spend more time with Petey and take him on some big adventures. He’s 11–but let’s not go there.

The other really big influence: a book my grandma gave me when I was eight. It’s this beautiful coffee table book called Natural Wonders of the World. She got it free with a subscription to Reader’s Digest. I fixated on Craters of the Moon in Idaho and Crater Lake in Oregon. I’ve never seen either.

So it all started coming together: a road trip with my dog, in search of natural wonders and the open road.

Steinbeck’s book made want to go on this trip and it made me want to politicize it.


Image shows a white pit bull on the left with a brown spot over one eye and tongue lolling. On the right is a smiling person with short, brown hair wearing sunglasses, a hoodie, and a seatbelt.

TW: Why does it matter that you’re traveling as a queer, feminist woman?  Are you doing the trip because of or in spite of your identity?

Both. Absolutely both. My plans started coming together right after the Oregon stand-offs came to an end. I couldn’t help but think of the culture in some of the places I wanted to go. Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, and Idaho aren’t the most welcoming areas in the Northwest.

So it’s scary, right? As it would be for many women. We’re told not to travel alone and to avoid the places where we don’t feel safe–and for good reason.

If I followed that advice, though, I wouldn’t see all the places I want to see. I probably wouldn’t even leave my house. I can’t separate my fuck-it attitude from my queer, feminist identity. I shouldn’t have to. None of us should.

But here’s another thing: I’m not strongly connected to either of these communities. I’m too shy and introverted to do any sort of activism. Crowds aren’t my thing, so I don’t go to Pride or LGBT events. I’m more or less on the periphery of the LGBT community–yet I call it mine. I grapple with that a lot.

So I come back to what I am capable of and how I can contribute. I’m a writer. I believe in the power of story and I want to capture the stories that aren’t being told. Putting myself out there with this project, sharing my experiences as I seek answers to big questions, then drawing it all together in a book–that’s my contribution.

I question–constantly–who I am on this journey. Who or what am I traveling with? And it all comes back to that one day when I was at my most vulnerable, when I was threatened because I am comfortable in my skin.

TW: It would be scary for any woman to travel alone.  How do you think your queerness complicates that?

KS: One of my first girlfriends told me that lesbians in Seattle are more or less invisible. For a long time I believed that. I felt safe. That changed after I chopped off my long hair and started dressing more masculine. I’ve been harassed, and I’ve been discriminated against because of the way I present. I’m a short, fat woman with a butch-like aesthetic, and I think it’s pretty obvious I’m gay. I think about that all the time. I also think about how my experiences are nothing compared to what others in my community have experienced.

Yet, there’s something about being called “faggot” that goes far beyond the gut punch. It made me feel more connected to the LGBT community in this really weird way. It was a reminder that we’re not invisible at all. Any of us could, at some point, be a target. We are all vulnerable.

TW: Someone called you “f*ggot?”  Can you tell me about that?

KS: Sure. It started as road rage on the commute home. I honked at a guy and he started tailing me. He followed me for a couple miles and I knew it was a bad situation. He wasn’t going to back off. So I went to the safest place I could think of–somewhere where men would be outside. The guy followed me there, got out of his car, and came at me with fists raised. He was ready to lay into me.

Then he saw my tits.  It shocked him. He said he thought I was a dude. Then his fists dropped. He started shouting “faggot, fucking faggot.” Over and over and over. He was inches from me. I was rendered mute. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t move.

All it took was for him to shout that word at me once and I felt worthless and dirty. But he kept throwing it at me and the more he did, the more I believed it.

TW: That must have been terrifying.

KS: Terrifying isn’t the right word. It’s been over a year and I can’t find the right word. Of course I was terrified, but while I was being threatened I was also being told that I’m worthless, because of who I am. Because I’m gay.

TW: If you’ve experienced that kind of harassment in a “liberal” city in the Northwest, do you have any particular fears or hopes about what will happen on the road?

KS: Definitely. Here’s the thing: the harassment took place in Shoreline, literally across the street from where the Seattle PD jurisdiction stops. If I’d gone one more block, this would have been reported as a hate crime. I talked with Jim Ritter, SPD’s LGBT liaison. He couldn’t take a report, but after hearing all the details he assured me it was a hate crime. I filed a report with the Shoreline PD, and guess what–they said it’s not a crime at all. So hey, if you want to engage in a car chase, physically threaten someone, verbally assault them, go to Shoreline.

It’s not just about what happens in different areas of the country, it’s about how these things are handled.

I got a lot of great support from Jim, and plan to talk with him about the trip and safety precautions and so forth. That alone fills me fear and anger–that I even have to do this, that I have to seek this kind of support.

So, yes, I have fears. That incident taught me something I didn’t think of much before: I’m a target. That changes everything.

TW: What are some places you are particularly looking forward to visiting?

KS: I’m looking forward to seeing those places I told you about–Craters of the Moon, Crater Lake, a lot of national parks. I’m also really looking forward to going to Salinas. I want to see the Steinbeck Center. I want to see Rocinante–Steinbeck’s white privilege mobile.

Mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing the places I don’t know about. I’m fascinated by small towns. I want to talk to people there–if they’ll let me. I want to know what it’s like in other places. How does geography affect how we move through our worlds?


TW: What makes Travels With Queerness a necessarily feminist project?

KS: That’s a really good question. While the travel narrative genre is slowly becoming more diverse, travelogues are still written primarily by white men. This project is an attempt to fill that gap, to explore and show our country through a different lens. It’s about intent, and it’s a feminist project because I am putting emphasis on identity–particularly my identity as a gay woman–and framing the narrative of my travels through my worldview and issues of privilege.

TW: Why should folks support your project and how can they best do that?

KS: Being out there, literally exploring spaces where we can be safe, is not going to be easy, but it’s incredibly important work. After the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a lot of people are questioning the notion of the safe space, if it even exists. I don’t think it does.

I’m not scouting out safe spaces; that work has been done by a lot of organizations. What I’m doing is mapping out a vast landscape and documenting what it’s like to travel in spite of a lack of guaranteed safety.

It’s a huge undertaking, and a costly one. I’m hoping people will contribute to my Kickstarter campaign to help fund what portion of the trip I’m not able to and print and production of my book.

If you’re not able to financially support the project, please share the word with others. This is just as much a marketing campaign as a fundraiser.

Like I said, this is my contribution to an important movement. Everyone who supports Travels with Queerness in whatever way they’re able is chipping in on that contribution and making this a communal journey. And how cool is that?


Image shows a white and brown dog on the left, tongue lolling, and a smiling person with short, brown hair wearing a hoodie, sunglasses, and a seatbelt.  Text reads, “Support us on Kickstarter.”

Long-Distance Doulas and Radical Self-Care: An Interview with The Doula Project’s Mick Moran


I’ve known Mick Moran for about a decade, starting back in the early 2000s when they volunteered with  me over at VaginaPagina.  Since then, Mick started working with The Doula Project in NYC. Most recently, they’ve been putting together a sort of “doula skillshare,” spreading community and radical self-care through their zine project, DIY DOULA: Self-Care for Before, During & After Your Abortion. I interviewed Mick today to find out more about the zine and The Doula Project.

Tasha Walston:  Hey, Mick.  Thanks for doing this interview.  Can you tell Hellish Rebuke readers a little bit about The Doula Project?

Mick Moran:  Sure.  The Doula Project is a volunteer-run, New York City-based 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides free compassionate care and emotional, physical, and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy. Since its founding in 2007, The Doula Project doulas have supported hundreds of birth clients and over ten thousand people through abortion and fetal loss.

TW:  How long have you been involved?

MM:  I trained with the Project in January of 2014. I’d learned about the Project when I was attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, and I went to a workshop called something like, “Increasing Healthcare Access for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People Using Midwives and Doulas.” I wanted to write it up for VaginaPagina, who I was volunteering for at the time.

A few months later, I heard through a queer networking group that The Doula Project was recruiting new volunteers, so I started thinking about applying. When I started to talk to my friends about it, they were like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I never thought of this for you before, you would be so good at that.”


An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After your Abortion.  Art by Mick Moran.


TW:  What about the project really spoke to you? Was there a moment or a thing that really made you go, “Oh, I have to do this!”

MM:  It wasn’t a role I ever imagined myself doing, and I don’t think I would have ever gotten involved if it wasn’t with an organization like The Doula Project that does full-spectrum work — it’s very important to me that we support people having abortions, and that we support people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to doula care.

I’m trained as a birth doula as well, but most of my work is supporting people in clinics having first-trimester abortions. I’m also trained to support people through second-tri procedures and fetal loss, which are both things that I’d like to be more involved in.
TW:  So it was the full-spectrum, inclusive aspect of the work that really drew you?

MM:  Definitely. That and the fact that we offer support to low-income people. Most people who have access to doula support are are wealthy people who have a lot of privilege in other ways, like they’re white or they have a masters degree or whatever.

Those folks also often have better support for an event like a birth — not because low-income folks don’t have good support network, but because they may not have the money to fly family members out, or their partner may not have the kind of job that you can take off from very suddenly (or they might not be able to afford the lost wages), or they might not have childcare for their other kids. Sometimes the doula support is the only support they have available.

TW:  Does that have to do with why you decided to make a zine? Whose idea was it to create a zine, and what made you choose that format and not a website or something else

MM:  We collectively (our Leadership Circle and Board of Directors) applied for a grant with the Abortion Conversation Project for a grant with the intention of making a booklet about self-care for before, during, and after your abortion. ACP’s focus is to break down stigma surrounding abortion, so that was one of our goals.

We also wanted to talk about full-spectrum doula care, and we wanted to give our doulas an opportunity to work collectively on a project like this. The idea was to distribute printed material that folks could take home with them from the clinic, either after they’ve had doula support or if they didn’t have access to a doula, and the idea completely blew up from there.

As we explained in our IndieGoGo, it was an intentional decision: “Keeping in tradition with The Doula Project’s own radical grassroots approach, we intentionally created this guide as a zine. Zines have been a popular way to cheaply and effectively reproduce knowledge among marginalized populations and help educate and inspire without the influence of those in power. Zines are a way to create your own media when your needs are not served by mass media.”

The other reason it went in this direction, and how I came to head up the project, is because I had recently had a comic about being an abortion doula selected for publication in the 1 in 3 Campaign’s upcoming graphic novel about first-hand abortion experiences, “Our Stories Will Not Be Erased” — so that got everyone excited about how things could potentially look.




DURINGbest advocate

An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After Your Abortion.  By Alex Pitre.

TW:  Zines have a long history in punk and political movements as a way to build community. Is that something you’re interested in doing, too–I mean, aside from getting info to individuals, which is also important?

MM:  Yes, absolutely — and I think that’s part of the way that this zine can really help break down stigma. People might be more willing to talk about their experiences with each other, or ask for support from people (we try to model how to do this in the zine), or maybe even get together to do some of these self-care practices together.

And it has definitely been community-building for our doulas, who are all volunteers who lead super busy lives — we don’t get to see each other all together as often as we’d like, so it’s been really lovely to get together to work on this project and talk about our values and what messaging we want to give to people.

It’s also been almost like a doula skillshare because we all have such different styles that we all have probably picked up different things to try as we’ve had these conversations and built this toolkit.

TW:  What is your personal history with zines? What did you bring to the project?

MM:  I have some history with zines — I’ve attended NYC’s zine fest in the past and I grew up in the Jersey punk scene — but my inspiration was more related to grassroots media. When I was in high school, I was part of a non-hierarchical youth grassroots activist organization, and there was a lot of the same handmade, DIY, cut-and-paste technique used to make flyers for protests or other events. I actually wrote my thesis on that kind of DIY media activism — using what is accessible to you, whether that’s drawing comics or collaging pictures and making four-to-a-page photocopies because that’s cheap.

The Doula Project’s media coordinator and several people on the zine committee also brought some zine background. We took a field trip to the zine fest at Barnard College for inspiration.

TW:  Did you take away any ideas from Zine Fest?

MM:  I think the biggest takeaway was that people were excited for our zine. We had some conversations about it and people were already asking if we had a flyer or something about it. It’ll be great to go back next year and be able to distribute them there.

TW:  Awesome! Who do you most hope you’ll reach with the zine? What do you hope to achieve with the project?

MM:  We really hope to reach people who don’t have access to a doula in their communities. When we first stated working on the project, we were thinking a lot about practical stuff, like the DIY heat pack. But as we talked more, we realized we wanted to try to give people doula care even if we couldn’t be there. And that meant that we needed to give them the messaging that we give people. We trust you. You know your body best. You know how to make good decisions for yourself. You are strong and you can handle this. All of that stuff.

We know that some people aren’t getting that from their partners or families or providers for whatever reason. Being a doula isn’t about *giving* someone strength, it’s about helping them find their own strength — that’s easier to do in person, but we hope that we can do that at least a little, long-distance.

TW:  I was going to ask you what is the most important thing you wanted folks to take away from the project, but it sounds like you’re already hitting on it when you talk about helping folks find their own strength. Is there anything else?

MM:  Not just strength, but comfort, and that they can trust themselves. We want people to know that there are so many different ways that people feel before, during, and after an abortion, and that it’s normal.

It’s normal to feel relief, it’s normal to feel sad, it’s normal to feel numb. It’s ok to be scared, it’s ok to make jokes. It’s ok to have so much hard stuff happening in your life that you think that being told to drink a cup of tea and take a deep breath is bullshit. We meet people where they’re at, and we’ve tried to do that on paper, too.


An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After Your Abortion.  By Annelise Stabeneau.

 How can people get involved and/or help support The Doula Project and the zine?

MM:  We’re selling pre-orders of the zine on Generosity (part of IndieGoGo).

People have the option to buy one for themselves and donate one for us to give away. They can also use #DIYDoulaZine and share the campaign so we can make sure folks know about it, and if they have a relationship with any pro-choice groups, make sure they know this new resource is out there.

You can also support our work by donating directly to The Doula Project or by setting up your Amazon Smile account to donate to us.

We have a newsletter and a Facebook page if you want to keep up with our work.

TW:  Is there anything else you want folks to know?

MM:  The more pre-orders we get, the more free zines we’ll be able to give away! We’re really excited to see where we can take this.

This project received a Seed Support grant from the Abortion Conversation Project to reduce abortion stigma.  If you want to know more about the zine project, you can contact Mick at  
MICK MORAN trained with The Doula Project in January of 2014 and joined the Leadership Circle as a Site Coordinator later that year. Mick has spoken at institutions such as Hunter College and NYU about topics such as media activism and reproductive justice for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people. 
THE DOULA PROJECT‘s founders, Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell, have a book coming out later this year detailing their commitment to supporting a pregnancy no matter the outcome—whether it results in birth, abortion, miscarriage, or adoption.  Check it out/preorder on Amazon:  The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People.  

A Knuckle Sandwich?

So I guess I was under the impression that Seattle doesn’t tolerate this kind of bourgie-ass Reddit-grade overt sexism:

sexist sandwich truck

If you’ve unhinged your dumb mouth to mansplain to me how this is not sexist, you may close it again because this is sexist AF. Did you know that the phrase “Now go make me a sandwich” is so pervasive in shutting down women’s voices in online spaces that the 2012 GeekGirlCon had to have a fucking PANEL about how much hindrance it’s caused? That’s right, in addition to being trite and overused, it’s also super denigrating!

(If you’re not familiar, “Now go make me a sandwich” is the rallying cry of Internet broheims whose carefully crafted walls of text have failed to change a woman’s mind about whether or not she is a kitchen appliance. Panicking, they hit the “make me a sandwich” emergency button, whereupon all of her points are rendered invalid! Voila, her opinions are drowned out by his X-treme wit and the loud, ensuing laughter of the hallucinated audience, who is definitely watching and cares.)

sandwich panel

Then the Viking thing is just a gross cherry lodged in the asshole sundae. How now, m’ladies, I’m a sweaty, unrefined man-slab who’s worked hard browsing Imgur all day! I want a sandwich, and it’s someone else’s job to provide it for me. You may address me as “your liege” when you deliver it to mine dripping jaws. This is how I think about myself! By the way, men have rights too, and have you seen the new Game of Thrones?

Like, I’m sure these dicks find a healthy cash flow when they drive their little misogyn-obile over to the Amazon campus or Chuck’s Hop Shop, plenty of sexist shitheads in that demographic. Maybe they figured no women would ever see it.

Dear men of Seattle, if you wouldn’t say this degrading catchphrase to a woman, please don’t encourage these business owners, who have co-opted it, by buying their stupid bro-tep sandwiches. Fuck them for capitalizing on the hilarious Internet fad of silencing and discrediting female voices. It’s not acceptable.

And to the business owners: I don’t know where in the world you think you are. This isn’t medieval Norway, you and your clientele are not Vikings, and modern, progressive Norwegians would hang you by the balls for this stunt. You may not name your food truck this. Get out of my city with this shit.

fuck off sandwich

P.S.: Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Richard Wagner made that up.

P.P.S.: I’m currently researching who is responsible for this, and it turns out to be a woman, I am going to sob into the trash can for the rest of my life.

Screaming Without Being Heard: Rape Culture in the Hardcore Music Scene

By Stacey Spencer
June 9, 2016


Street art by Grrrl Army–women and allies from the Seattle hardcore scene (read more about the project here)

This morning I woke up with horrible laryngitis, went to urgent care, and discovered that I’ve been fighting bronchitis for the last month. It’s ironic that during the time I’ve wanted to scream the most, I’ve been completely voiceless. All day I’ve been thinking about how to put what I want to say into words. I’ll do my best:

The last 24 hours have become a completely gut-wrenching examination of everything I’ve experienced in the punk & hardcore scene for what is now over half of my life. By now, everyone has heard the 30+ allegations against Jim Hesketh, former singer for bands like Champion and True Identity, and, like me, you’ve likely been watching that unravel all day today. You’ve seen the horrifying comments, the dismissal of the survivor(s) by people all over the internet, as well as the folks coming forward to support his victims and try to give women space to tell their stories.

I personally don’t have my own stories about Jim’s predatory nature – our bands toured together, we hung out without incident – but I have witnessed and experienced enough in the hardcore scene to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his victims are speaking truth. And that presents a larger story which I think this conversation needs to evolve into, in time. Yes, Jim Hesketh is a problem. But Jim is not THE problem. We cannot simply denounce him and then let this conversation end.

When I started going to hardcore shows at 15 years old, I was received with mixed reactions. I was invited into the scene genuinely and whole-heartedly by some. My intentions were questioned by others – punks of all genders who doubted my sincerity, who felt threatened by new kids entering the arena.

And then there were the worst kind of dudes – the ones who were “welcoming” and excited about a new girl joining the ranks – only to try to date or sleep with me. At the time, it felt like a compliment. Being flirted with by men who were a decade older than me was flattering. I felt like I was “cool” and “accepted” when I turned 16 and a guy in his thirties started giving me sexual attention.

Young women are always taught that “girls mature faster than boys” – and older men sexualizing young girls is so normalized in mainstream culture – it didn’t strike me how bizarre it was that someone literally twice my age would want me in that way. Our mutual friends knew what was going on and nobody said or did anything. It just felt normal.

As I became more immersed in the scene and To See You Broken started touring, I began to see the rampant sexism all over the country. There were the never ending micro-aggressions (“is the band here yet?”) when we were setting our gear up on stage, constant questions like “do you write your own music?” and backhanded compliments like “you’re pretty good for a girl band!”


To See You Broken, circa 2003.

There was outward misogyny (like dudes yelling “show us your tits” when we got on stage, or the now infamous “no clit in the pit” signs at shows). There were so many sexual propositions that TSYB actually made a rule that we would NOT hook up with any men while we were on tour, for fear of inheriting a reputation for being promiscuous. Dudes were constantly badgering us for sex, and yet we were frightened that WE would be ostracized for our behavior if we ever succumb to their advances.

We wrote songs about scene sexism and rape, and the backlash was intense at times – one record review in particular stands out in my head because it compared Sara to a “bitch barking,” and I remember being ashamed for having a voice. At times it felt like everything would be easier if we would just shut up.

As I got older and began dating and having relationships with men, it took me a long time to learn how to communicate consent. Far too many partners were either ignorant about how enthusiastic / verbal consent works, or unwilling to practice it. I have dealt with a disturbing and embarrassing number of men who actively did not ask for my consent.

Men who were coercive when I was hesitant, who ridiculed me for being nervous about particular sex acts. Men who would compare me to other partners they’d had to make me feel ashamed about things I’d never done. Then, men who were disgusted with me when I admitted I HAD tried particular sex acts or slept with more people than they had. Men who said things like, “I thought you were just being coy!” when I explicitly told them “no.” Men who assaulted me while I was asleep. Men who non-consensually hit me during sex because they thought it was a turn on.

Most of these men are people that my friends are still friends with. Some are men that I am still friends with. Some that I am even empathetic towards. This is the problem with rape culture: it is so ubiquitous, so normalized, that people sincerely don’t understand the difference between sex and rape.

And as women, we are taught to be so self-conscious about our sexuality, we rarely speak out when these things happen. Even now, writing this, I am mortified that my family or colleagues will read it. I am still ashamed.

Recently, I’ve seen more women come forward to confront the men who have coerced, abused, and taken advantage of them. The reactions have been all over the map. I will be the first to admit that my own responses have been unfair and shitty at times. When an acquaintance first came forward about Kyle Oels years ago, I took part in a failed accountability process for him and actively tried to help him resolve his issues, despite his blatant disregard for the women involved.

When news about Andrew Arellano hit my radar, I gave him a chance to tell his story – and I was duped by his bullshit lies for months because I didn’t want to accept his victims’ experiences at face value. I have since vowed to never make that mistake again. I have realized that if we are ever going to make progress as a community, we need to tune out the manipulative rationalizations that abusers spew, and amplify the voices of their survivors. I am making a promise to myself and to my community to be better. I hope that you all will too.

With all of that said, I’d like to quickly point out the fact that I have 33 mutual friends with a rape apologist who has been accused of sexually assaulting at least two women. I have 29 mutual friends with a known abuser who has been confirmed to use sexual coercion and emotional manipulation to control his partners. I also have friends who continue to maintain their relationships with one of my ex-partners, even after hearing about his verbal abuse, control tactics, and sexual assault.

I’m honestly not trying to put these people on blast – my point is that we ALL have work to do when it comes to figuring out what we are going to accept from our friends and the people in our community. And we ALL need to figure out how to resolve these problems – preferably without the use of the cops and the courts who have failed survivors over and over again.

Women: we need your voices heard. It breaks my heart to see so many of your comments stating things like, “this is why I stopped going to shows.” While I have to respect your decision, WE NEED YOU. Don’t let these garbage humans destroy what you once loved. If you can find it in you to join this conversation, please do so. The hardcore scene needs to hear you.

Men: it’s time to sit down and listen. Women have been trying to tell you for literal decades how difficult it is for us in this subculture. So many of you constantly say things like “how come more girls don’t come to shows?” one minute, then the next minute you’re sending unsolicited dick pics to the women that do show up. Or you’re questioning the legitimacy of a new girl in the scene. Or you’re spin-kicking into an unsuspecting bystanders face with no regard for anyone’s space at a show.

(Mosh etiquette is a whole other subject that I can rant about: bands constantly tell us on to come into the pit because it’s “not just boys fun,” but what are you going to do to protect us once we’re there? I am guilty of this too, don’t get me wrong. Just two nights ago at the Angel Dust show in Portland, some shitty dude was aggressively wind-milling into folks who were clearly not enthused, crowd killing to the back of the room and making everyone uncomfortable… and even I was scared to say something to him because I didn’t know who he was, didn’t want to start a fight, and didn’t want to seem like I was overreacting to someone just trying to have fun. UGH.)

I hope my voice comes back soon because I really want to talk to you all about this. You have my word that I will do the best I can to help make things better for our community. Please don’t let Jim Hesketh’s dishonorable discharge from hardcore be the end of this conversation.

Locally in Seattle, Brian Skiffington, Sam Lee, and others are working on facilitating an open meeting to get a dialogue going. Get involved if you can. Tell your stories. Listen to one another. Maybe NWHC can be an example for the rest of the country for creating something that is truly accepting, truly radical, and truly inclusive. I’m not giving up on us yet.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge my partner, Sean, for being an amazing example of a super radical human being, a person who consistently and intentionally practices consent, and who has been listening to me rant about this nonstop and encouraging me to speak my mind. Also, to Carey, Sara, Lisa, and Katy for being in the trenches with me during the TSYB years – I learned so much from you, thank you. Let’s keep this going, please.

Remember: “Fuck you – the sexism ends here… I don’t want to keep screaming, without being heard.”


To See You Broken, circa 2003.

Fathers of Sons: 8 Steps to Avoid Being Dan Turner

Just yesterday I wrote a hellish rebuke of Brock Turner and rape culture, but it turns out I’m not done.  And if you’re a father, neither are you.

Dan Turner’s shitty letter defending his son is an act of violence.  It positions him clearly as an agent and ambassador of rape culture, blaming everything but his son for the rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.  It positions Brock as a victim of alcohol and (his victim’s) promiscuity and, worst of all, it completely erases the the actual victim of the crime.  (By the way, @alexandraozeri on Twitter fixed the letter.)

But alcohol and promiscuity aren’t the problems.  Men are speaking up about that fallacy all over social media, thankfully.  Matt Lang notes:

I’ve been drunk many times, even in the presence of promiscuous women who were also drunk, and I managed not to rape them, so I don’t think drinking and promiscuity are the problems.

This here is the problem: some guys are entitled pricks, and they’re entitled pricks because their fathers and coaches and friends taught them to be entitled pricks. Because they are entitled pricks, they think they can have whatever they want, and that their worth is defined by what they have and what they take.

Chris Taylor echoes Lang in a piece he published on Mashable yesterday titled, “Dear Dads, This is what rape culture looks like and you’re responsible:”

Rape culture is a thing. I’m sorry if you bristle at that notion, guys, but it just is. Any time you put the onus on our daughters — don’t wear that dress, don’t get drunk, don’t lead guys on — you’re perpetuating it. Any time you make a rape joke, you’re perpetuating it.

And any time you miss an opportunity to educate our sons about the concept of consent — even if you prefer to talk abstinence because you’re not comfortable talking about sex, or if you just say something vague that conflates drunkenness and rape — you’re perpetuating it.

See, educating one’s children about consent and sexual assault is a responsibility that typically falls to mothers as a matter of course in the form of somber, hushed conversations between mothers and daughters.  (Of course, leaving that kind of educating to mothers also adds to the heaping pile of invisible labor that we already do, but that’s a post for another day.)

“Well,” you might say, “It falls to mothers because rape is a women’s issue.”

But when we frame rape as “a women’s issue,” we make it women’s problem, and we make it women’s responsibility to prevent our own assault. That is victim blaming and rape culture, full stop.  Don’t believe me?  Let Jackson Katz tell you about it in his TEDTalk,  “Violence Against Women–It’s a Men’s Issue.”

Until we make rape everyone’s problem, we excuse it with our silence.


WaPo published this infographic.  The system is fine, right?

Turner’s joke of a sentence reminds us that–at least with matters of sexual assault–we can’t count on the legal system to do what is just, moral, or ethical. We must rewind, look deeper, and take control of the narrative ourselves.  What interventions should have happened along the way, before it seemed drunkenly reasonable for Brock Turner to unrepentantly drag a woman behind a dumpster and rape her?

A 2015 study from the University of North Dakota found that 1 in 3 young men would force a woman to have sex with them if they knew there would be no consequences and they wouldn’t be caught (and isn’t that what the Brock Turner sentence confirms?); however, here’s where it gets interesting:

But, when the researchers actually used the word “rape” in their question, those numbers dropped much lower — suggesting that many college men don’t associate the act of forcing a woman to have sex with them with the crime of committing rape.

So young men understand they should think rape is wrong, but they don’t really know what rape is.

That’s obviously a huge problem, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone.  We live in a society that, in every way conceivable, sends the message to women that we are less human than men, only valuable in relation to men, and they are entitled to our bodies.  It’s oppressive and misogynistic and it’s way worse for women of color and LGBTQ folks.

So what do we do?  If you’re the father to some sons, the best thing is to get in on the conversation early and often.  You probably already have the best of intentions and a lot of love for your kids, but you might not be aware of some of the things you yourself have absorbed around masculinity and rape culture.  Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Get curious about your own privilege and take nothing for granted.  The first step is figuring out your own privilege and the ways in which masculinity and rape culture have been part of your life. Things that seem natural might suddenly start looking kind of messed up and it’ll be uncomfortable and hard.  Watch The Mask You Live In and Tough Guise 2 and then talk about them with other dads/men. Ask why.  Ask who benefits, who is harmed. Being self-aware will make everything I suggest after this a lot easier and already puts you leaps and bounds ahead of Dan Turner.

2. Abandon the stand-alone lecture. Start talking early and make messages about consent ongoing, consistent, and age appropriate.  Embed consent in your family culture/code of honor.Outside of the fortress of your home (and even in it as long as we have TVs and internet access), violent masculinity and misogyny are everywhere.  And guess what?  Those two are the grotesque parents of rape culture.

See, rape culture isn’t just manifested in an isolated, sudden act of brutality like the one rapist Brock Turner committed; rape culture is everywhere we are.  It’s in music, movies, pop culture, advertisements, conversations, and so much more.That means that whatever messages you try to share with your kids about consent will run counter to everything else they’re soaking in.

So you can’t do the one-time lecture and be done; you have to start early and make consent culture a part of your everyday family life.

3. Early messages about consent don’t have to be about sex, but can focus on bodily autonomy. Teach your young son to honor the bodily autonomy of other people by having him ask before he touches others.  If he’s too young to form sentences, model it for him. “I think Buddy here wants to give Aisha a hug–is that all right with you, Aisha?”

Another way to model consent is to ask before you tickle or roughhouse with your children.  At our house, we also do safewords for starting and stopping a tickling session–“time out” to stop, and “time in” to resume.

Don’t make your kid give hugs and kisses to relatives and friends if they don’t want to.  Instead of saying, “Go give Auntie Gretchen a hug and a kiss,” try, “Do you want to give Auntie Gretchen a hug, a high five, or a wave?”

Show them that their own bodily autonomy matters so they might think to value the bodily autonomy of others as well.

4. Teach your sons that women’s and girls’ bodies don’t exist for their pleasure and judgment. Never, ever comment about other people’s weight loss/gain or clothing choices.  You might say to your younger child, “In our family, the rule is we don’t comment on other people’s bodies.”  At the same time, follow your own advice and don’t disparage your own body or the bodies of others in front of your children.

If you are having a play date with younger kids, don’t comment on a girl’s appearance or clothing.  Resist the urge to tell her how pretty she is or that you like her dress; you wouldn’t tell a boy the same thing, and that’s because we want boys to value–and know we ourselves value–other things most.

If you have older sons, find out if there’s a dress code at their school and talk to them about how dress codes can be oppressive and they value the education of boys at the expense of that of girls.  Ask your sons what they think about the idea that an exposed collar bone on a girl will make them incapable of doing school work. What does that say about people of all genders?

5. Don’t buy into the heteronormative gender binary (which is not real anyway) by saying things to your sons like, “boys will be boys.”  We’ve all seen it–boys roughhouse or play-hit a girl and we joke that they’re showing affection.  It might sound harsh, but these are early displays of violent masculinity and heteronormativity (assuming a boy will be interested in girls and not other boys), and they are the precursors to rape culture. These precursors start early and so should you.

There is real harm when we say things like “boys will be boys,” because we plant the seed that there is an inherent, insuperable, irresistible drive inside boys to dominate and conquer.  “Boys will be boys” promotes the idea of boys as savages who can’t control their violent–and later sexual–urges.  We tell them that to be a boy and a man, they have to be heterosexual and aggressive. Similarly, we teach our daughters that aggression and violence are healthy ways for their male partners to express affection.

So when you hear comments like “boys will be boys”–especially in front of your sons, name it and talk about it.  Don’t let your silence be an endorsement.  Those little silences add up into a loud message down the line. (The Mask You Live In is a good documentary to watch with teen sons.)

6. Name rape culture when you see it.  When your kids are old enough, start conversations about the music, ads, movies, jokes, and comments they encounter that seem to promote rape culture.  If you see the Budweiser ad that says, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” ask your son what he thinks of it and if it seems problematic. Ask who benefits and who is harmed.

With teens, expose the intersections of race and class with rape culture by noticing the disparity in sentences for kids like Brock Turner and Cory Batey.  Talk about how young men of color are serving decades in prison for lesser, non-violent charges and get curious with your sons about why that is.

7. Observe and comment on representations of women. Get curious about what they’re watching and watch it with them, or have a family movie night.With younger kids, watch things that show women as three-dimensional, powerful agents of change in their own lives. Ask questions during bedtime stories about why it seems like the main characters in a lot of books are boys.

With older kids, ask questions about representations of women when you watch a movie together.  Things like the Bechdel test for films (a tool so simple it’s absurd) can be useful in exposing misogyny, sexism, and male privilege. Look at this graph showing the disparity of dialogue between men and women in movies and see what your sons think and if they noticed.

When your sons see messages all around them that women are objects and no one contradicts it, those messages become lessons that they take into their relationships.  Make yours a voice in the conversation.

8. Don’t enforce rigid notions of masculinity.  So many of the messages we send boys about how they should act comes from the way we ourselves were raised and things that seem natural or normal to us.  When we subtly guide kids toward one of two extreme, rigid gender poles, we run the risk of erasing their identities and sense of agency.

Please don’t tell boys not to cry.  Don’t make them play sports if they’d rather take ballet.  Don’t show them that withdrawal, anger, and humor are the only safe emotions to show.  Don’t make homophobic, sexist, or rape jokes.  Don’t laugh at homophobic, sexist, or rape jokes.

Show boys that men can–and should–be sensitive.  Show them that being gay doesn’t make them less of a man.  Share their interest in art or theater.  Teach them empathy and compassion for animals and other people–especially women and other marginalized folks.  Show them affection and let them see you cry. Believe women, girls, and non-binary people  and stand up for them.

Because when you don’t do these things, and even if you don’t mean to, you teach them to conflate weakness with femininity and to despise and devalue both. When you can’t empathize with someone and you don’t see their value as equal to yours, it’s a whole lot easier to dehumanize them and treat them like their pain and life and feelings don’t matter–especially if you’ve been doing it your whole life and adults brushed it off.

We must be able and willing to transform our own actions to be more in line with our ideals.  All parents can do this, but dads of sons have the added benefit of being able to consistently model what it means to be a man who respects boundaries, communicates clearly about consent, and values women and other marginalized people as human beings.  You can embody it, live it, not just lecture about it.  So much of what kids learn is from what is not said.

The bottom line is, if we don’t want to raise more Brock Turners, if we want to raise more kids like the ones who stopped Turner from continuing to rape his victim, then we need fewer Dan Turners in the mix.  Dan Turner loves his son and surely doesn’t see himself as a rape apologist, so the best and first step to avoid becoming a father like Dan is to cultivate self-awareness and reflection in yourself.

Believe me, women are watching.  We notice when men say nothing and when men take a stand against rape culture. And you know who else is watching?

Our sons.

A Hellish Rebuke of Brock Turner and Rape Culture


Portrait of a rapist on the occasion of his booking.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the joke sentencing of rapist Brock Turner.

You’ve probably also seen his victim’s searing 12-page indictment, and maybe you’ve even seen Brock’s father’s preciously written, tone-deaf “defense” of his son (WHO NO LONGER EATS STEAK OR WANTS SNACKS!! Wahhh!), which turns out to be the embodiment of several key points in Brock’s victim’s scathing statement.  There’s also a petition calling for the removal of Judge Aaron Persky (for showing bias toward a particular class).

No doubt about it, the entire thing–start to finish–is a stunning example of rape culture and systems of oppression in action.

Rape culture is the normalization of rape. It is the interrogation of a victim’s past and the mourning of a rapist’s potential and future. It is the systemic devaluing of women’s bodies/lives and the systemic valuing of rich, white, male lives.

Look, here’s how it works, and how it has always worked:  You can drag an unconscious person behind a dumpster while scraping her head on the ground, remove her clothing, and then get caught in the actual act of raping her.

There can be witnesses and zero doubt that a brutal crime took place. In fact, you can try to run away when you are caught by two bystanders, and one can even tackle you to the ground. (Why did you run if you are not guilty of a crime?  Why didn’t you tell them to go talk to your consenting partner to get the whole thing straightened out?)

The person you raped can go to the hospital and endure a brutally invasive exam that confirms everything the eyewitnesses saw when they interrupted.  You can even be charged with FIVE felonies.

Then, if you’re white and male and young, and especially if you go to a really good school and you’re an athlete, you can get sentenced to what will amount to THREE MONTHS (after time served) in county jail for a crime that would cost someone in a different identity bracket a DECADE or more of their life in prison.

This is white supremacy. This is misogyny and classism and rape culture.

It is also bullshit.

There should be no doubt–and there has never been, for many of us–that the system does not exist to protect victims; it exists to protect its own interests, which means perpetuating systems of power and privilege.

The system will, in its disinterest and tone deafness, repeatedly send messages to men that raping someone is probably not that big a deal, even if you’re caught in the act.  As Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber noted, there’s also a message for women: “[Judge] Aaron Persky is telling these women don’t bother calling police.”

All this will perpetuate rape culture and patriarchal values.  The system –which is made up of actual human beings like Judge Persky with a lot of power–will violate victims a second time, only worse.  And when that gets done enough in repetition, it starts becoming expected and normal.


Here’s Turner a few months later at his sentencing, after he’d Richie Rich-ed himself all up.

In her article, “We With the Pitchforks,” Kristen Mae points out the failures of these systems and issues a call to arms, addressing Turner directly:

But I am going to do something to you that might be worse than jail, Brock Allen Turner. Actually, we all are. All of us who are enraged at what you did, at the fact that to this day you continue to deny wrongdoing aside from getting too drunk, that you continue to feign ignorance as to the egregiousness of your actions. All of us who are enraged by the fact that the not-very-honorable Judge Aaron Persky* was so clearly more concerned with your life than with your victim’s, together, we are going to put you in a new kind of jail.

We are going to splatter your name and face across social media so that everyone knows who you are and what you look like. So that everyone knows what you’ve done. So that women know that they’d better not get drunk in your presence…or even…be in your presence at all.

Responses like hers are important because Brock Turner, his father, and judge Persky continue to center Brock’s distress at the heart of the ordeal–hallmarks of male privilege.  Brock and his father assert that the real perpetrators are alcohol and promiscuity (whose, though?). Even when there is an actual, identifiable victim in a brutal crime, we are still asked to pay attention to the feelings of the male perpetrator. In fact, the actual victim is nowhere to be found in Brock’s father’s statement.

Along those lines, folks on social media are calling out the Washington Post for its misogynistic reporting of the case.  The article is littered with sycophantic descriptions of Turner’s career as a swimmer:

Turner turned down scholarships at a host of universities to attend Stanford, where he joined a top-10-in-the-country swim team. But on Jan. 17, 2015, midway through his freshman year and first swim season at Stanford, Turner’s life and career were upended during a night of drinking.

One Facebook user, Ellie Fialk, feels no pity for Turner and takes WaPo to task:

Thank you, Washington Post, for this detailed track record of Brock Turner’s swimming career, which is so incredibly relevant to the fact that he was just found unanimously guilty of committing an unforgivable act. I’m sorry things were so sudden for you, Brock. That your career was “upended during a night of drinking.” Since you know, that’s all it was, just a casual night of drinking when you raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.


I’m so sorry, Brock, that you’ve suffered so greatly from your own actions. That you believe you are the victim. That this act has stripped you of your degree and titles at the age of 20. Yes, 20 is young, but not young enough to misinterpret an unconscious woman for sexual consent, nor young enough for the malicious and immoral nature of rape to go unrecognized. I do not pity you.

Brock was sentenced to only 6 months in jail, on the basis that, “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.” As if being raped did not take a severe and irreversible emotional toll on the female victim. This boy is apparently too intelligent, too wealthy, too white, too athletic, to belong in jail.

But as his victim reminds us:

Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

The wounds on her body and psyche–both invisible and material–are wounds we all share.  Rape culture is violence, a gash that never closes or heals, and it hurts us all.

Now what? Maybe some people have the patience and resources to pursue institutional, systemic, legal change, but I’d argue that’s a privilege of the few.  In the meantime, the rest of us can do a little more than wring our hands.

We can, as Kristen Mae suggested, take up our pitchforks.  And pitchforks can look like a lot of different things.  Women and other marginalized people are no strangers to taking matters into our own hands when systems fail.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Use Brock Turner’s full name and mugshot when you share images of him. Be curious about the media’s use of Brock’s smiling, be-suited, teeth-gleaming yearbook photo.  Wonder–preferably aloud and with other people–why that image was the first to circulate when dead kids of color who haven’t even committed a crime don’t get the same courtesy.  Even if it wasn’t a case of ill intent, it matters because it adds to the racial bias and victim blaming.  That stupid blazer photo is an act of violence.
  2. Name it.  Do not permit passive, slippery, unethical language: Brock Turner raped someone.  He did not, as his father suggested, experience “20 minutes of action.” That kind of imprecise wording lets Turner off the hook (without an active verb, there is no subject doing anything–it’s just a vague happening-thing), it minimizes the seriousness of the crime, and it completely erases the person he victimized in the process.
  3. Ask questions about why the rape of female bodies is treated differently than other violent crimes.  A lot of shitty things, including murder, can happen in “20 minutes of action;” that doesn’t mean we let the perpetrators off the hook. Press yourself and the people around you to wonder what it is about rape that leads to preferential treatment for rapists.  Could it be… DUN DUN DUN!… misogyny?
  4.  Talk about the ways in which race and class compound gender oppression.  There is no way in the world this would have played out at all the same had Turner been poor or a person of color.  Let Shaun King tell you more about that if you’re not feeling it (or even if you are).
  5. If you live in Santa Clara County, California, vote Judge Aaron Persky out of office and push for his removal.  He had a chance to do something just and surprising that might have challenged the prevailing narrative around rape and whose lives/bodies are valued, but he didn’t. Instead, he used his race, class, and gender bias to prop up oppression and rape culture–to excuse a rapist because Turner is too ambitious, too white, too rich, too educated for prison.
  6. Understand that this case is not an exception, but the rule.  Look for patterns and connections.  Be suspicious of the emphasis on Turner’s achievements and the scrutiny over his victim’s past. Call that what it is: rape culture.  Bullshit.  Violence. Misogyny.
  7. Interrogate your own privilege.  Privilege is often invisible and becoming aware of it, finally, is usually uncomfortable.  But you can survive it.  In fact, it’ll be a piece of cake compared to surviving sexual assault and then the probable retraumatization at the hands of the legal system.  The stakes are high and the risks to you are low, so what are you waiting for?  Letting privilege go uninterrogated feeds oppression.

So, yeah.  Keep talking.  Don’t let it become a fast-fading “20 minutes of action” on the internet.  Remember his name:  Brock Allen Turner, Rapist.

Remember, too, that apart from his class, gender, and skin privilege, he is no one in particular.

People like him get away with rape all the time, and we should be outraged.

Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla

All right! Let’s talk about the toddler-falling-into-the-gorilla-habitat thing. We are going to. More to the point: If you think that the kid’s mom should be fined/cited/punished/SHOT TO DEATH, as some people have suggested, I’m here to tell you how profoundly wrong you are and how ashamed you should be.

I’m only putting this here because I want you to look at what the subspecies names is. Yay, I love it, it is the only thing I liked about writing this post.

To begin: Yesterday, a deplorable, non-sequiturial article that I’m not going to link to was published all about how the kid’s dad has a criminal history, and I had a few Facebook friends latch onto that as well as string up the mom for the alleged crime of not watching him closely enough, and in some cases for having a kid at all. People are saying that CPS should take her kids away, and lots of people are saying it.

This is some privileged, snot-nosed, misanthropic, racist bullshit, and I will explain why.

I don’t have kids, and I’m gonna come clean: I don’t really enjoy their company. But even though I don’t like them, I do understand why other people like them, and that they have the right to have some. It’s not a mystery to me, because I can imagine not being myself, right, and additionally I understand the concept of liking things. E.g., I don’t like green bell peppers, I think they taste like pennies, but I GET why some people like them–they’re vegetabley, and I like vegetables, and they’re similar enough in taste and texture to vegetables I do like. I like kittens, and I like red bell peppers, so I understand how people arrive at liking babies and green bell peppers.

Imagine, for a second, that you are not the only person in the world, and that there are other people, ones who prefer and enjoy things that you do not. Pretend it is Opposite Day. You’ve heard of Opposite Day. This is finally it. Then imagine, briefly, that you are not the king of other people’s tastes and preferences and don’t get to tell them what to like! Good, OK, now imagine that THOSE PEOPLE–the people who you’ve imagined, and who I’ve not even asked you to accept are real people, they can still be pretend people for right now–also know that YOU like things that they don’t like! Consider the fact that those people don’t try to punish you for liking a thing you like, either, even though THEY DON’T LIKE IT. It’s cool with them. Instead, they just mind their own business and let you like the thing. OR dislike the thing! This may well happen to you all day, every day. Think!

OK, stay with me. Now imagine that the thing to like or dislike here is “kids,” and not only that other people are ALLOWED to like them despite the fact that you think they taste like pennies, but they also have this thing called a biological imperative that HARDWIRES THEIR BRAINS to make them like kids. And reproduce. It’s, like, inside of their minds and bodies, this hardwiring, this fondness for children. You know the way you want to play shitty violent video games all the time and ache for them when they’re not around, because you are obsessed with hurting or killing people who you think you’re better than? It’s a good feeling, right? It’s just like that for these whoops-not-imaginary-anymore people, but with kids.

Other animals are like this too. It’s OK if you’re not, you don’t have to be, but recognize that it is not only normal but is actually the default setting for all mammals, birds, fish, and insects. And flowers and mushrooms and worms and dirt. Everything. You are in poor company if you don’t have this voice-force inside you that’s compelling you to make babies.

OK, good work, you did great. Sorry I psyched you out on how those people were secretly real the whole time, but I didn’t want to freak you out, and look how far we’ve come. Now.

Even if you are a compassionless cold-handed White Walker-ass wretch, which is your complete right to be, as an American, you are still super incorrect if you are spouting a bunch of braggy pious Child-Free Movement rhetoric all over the dinnernet about how the toddler falling into the gorilla enclosure was the mom’s fault and she should be in jail or dead. For having the kid, which in your estimation is dumb, and for then not watching the kid meticulously during all seconds of the day. You’re so wrong that I’m embarrassed for you. Firstly, even though you don’t like them, she still gets to have a kid if she fucking wants to because it is literally the point of being alive, as we’ve just covered, so you’re the actual dumb one for that, but additionally: Have you ever met a human child? Maybe you’ve seen one on TV, or in a comic strip from the 1890s. This idea has been around for a minute, so it may not shock you, but as evidenced by, I don’t know, the Katzenjammer Kids, children are slippery, mischievous creatures who they routinely set out on an unintentional mission to kill or grievously injure themselves. That is their whole executive summary. It’s because they don’t know danger and that is how they learn it. This was true for you when you were a child, and it is true for most kinds of baby animals, and human is a kind of an animal, you see, and a toddler is a baby version.

Also, kids are little fuckers and will go out of their way to defy the wishes of their parents. You can sure as shit try to keep them from getting into trouble, but good luck having a 100-percent success rate there.

Kids: They’re fuckers.

It’s as though the naysayers don’t know this? So I am clearing it up for them. These folks have patently never heard of kids.

I know you don’t care about this, but it is regardless true that you, as a non-parent, enjoy a luxury of judging the mother of this kid from afar, and that you would be whining a different tune if you were in her position. I motherfucking guarantee you that if you, with ostensibly less job experience in caring for kids than the poor mom whose DEATH PEOPLE ARE CALLING FOR on social media, were minding not one but THREE of them simultaneously, at least one of them would escape your sight some of the time. Almost certainly all of them at some point, and almost certainly multiple times apiece.

Imagine actually liking kids, which people who have kids usually do. Or liking YOUR particular kids, at least, thanks to that biological hardwiring thing. Imagine you would be devastated for the rest of your life if you lost one of them, like it was your fucking XBOX or whatever in the fuck you like. And imagine it’s not just your regular XBOX but an XBOX that talks to you and came out of your body. You have a pretty strong motive to not let the XBOX climb into an enclosure with silverback gorillas, eh? You could be the number 1 best XBOX owner in history, and if your curious little XBOX had legs and were sentient, it still might get away from you and climb in with the gorillas. Especially if you brought it to a place that was crowded with other walking, death-wish-having XBOXes, and especially-especially if you had three of them milling around at once. If you brought your precious meat XBOX there in the first place, you’d probably be reasonably sure that it was a safe environment for XBOXes beforehand. Because you like it and don’t want it to get smashed. Yeah?

(And maybe if it did happen, you would already feel awful enough about it, without people who weren’t even there blithely judging you for it from thousands of miles away.)

That brings us to the place where this happened. A zoo, which is a prison for animals, is an establishment that chiefly markets itself to 1. families with small children, and 2. schools for small children. “Bring your small children to us,” zoos say! “We’re great for those things.” So, supposing zoos weren’t ghastly and inhumane, which they are, how are you going to be a business that invites large groups of soft, miniature people with real knack for accidentally killing and maiming themselves to come to your place in exchange for for money, and then be like, “Awp, BTW, we have dangerous animals inside enclosures that a toddler can easily scale! But we’re not going to tell you that, because you caretakers of children should just know that, intrinsically! Yeah, that’s not our problem, hope that’s cool, thanks for the money.”

Like, maybe I’m wrong on this? I can’t tell you the last time I was at a zoo myself, but when I was, I sure as shit didn’t see any signs that read,”Hey, your kid could fall in the gorilla pit, hope you’re watching him.” (I know I’m not wrong because if that were true, and the zoo knew this, no one would go to it and there would no zoo.) 

But you watched the video, you say, and Harambe was trying to PROTECT the little boy! You are not a gorilla, but you just, like, know this! You know things! Here is the zoo’s director, emphatically stating otherwise. “That child’s life was in danger, and people who question that or are are Monday-morning quarterbacks or second-guessers don’t understand that you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla.” He also points out that you saw one person’s phonecam video on Facebook, from one angle, but you did not see everything that was going on at the scene. As my friend Lana said, “Jesus, but it’s easy to play basketball from the bench.”

“We’re talking about an animal–with one hand–that I’ve seen take a coconut and crunch it.”

Oh, but are you a zoo director? Or a primatologist? Or an animal specialist of any kind, or even a naturalist? Is there any reason that you would know better than this guy about what should have been done in this situation? Would things have turned out way better if YOU had been in charge here? Or are you just some momo on the Internet who knows shit about fuck and who wants to punish people, especially women? Especially-especially single moms? Tripe-especially black single moms?

That is the revolting irony here. The irony is that you are not using your fucking brain, by which you are so impressed, when you say that the decision to kill the gorilla was wrong and that you are right. And that fuck this lady because YOU could mind a 3-year-old 24/7 with two other kids to juggle, and that he would never ever escape from your sight. That is stupid. You are refusing to employ a basic understand of logic or critical analysis when you say these things. You, the stupid-caller, are actually the stupid one for thinking that, my holier-than-thou childfree friend.

(Augh, and please don’t tell me they should have used tranquilizers to knock the gorilla out. It was an emergency, for godsake. Tranqs take a while to start working, and there is a dysphoric period wherein the animal is unpredictable, plus the pain from the dart could have just agitated the gorilla further. They should not have used a tranquilizer dart. That is also stupid as shit to say, so stop fucking saying it.)

It also speaks volumes when you show the world that you will spring to the aid of a gorilla but you don’t give a fuck about the plight of any actual human being. The news about Freddie Gray’s murderer being acquitted doesn’t faze you, but your world comes grinding to a halt when an <i>animal</i> is unjustly killed. You don’t give a shit that this gorilla was given about 3 and a half minutes longer than Tamir Rice, a human child who was sitting on a swing with a toy and not thrashing a toddler around by the leg, was given. Fuck everyone but animals, basically, is what you’re getting at.

I know that it feels natural to assign blame in a tragedy, because it’s painful to hear about a wrongful death, even of an animal, yes, of course. I do grok that part. I know that you want things to have turned out differently. No shit–everyone wishes that Harambe the Gorilla hadn’t been killed. If YOU think you’re sad about the death of a gorilla you never met, think about the zoo handlers, who worked with him every day and had to make the agonizing decision to kill him. It’s not an ideal outcome for anyone.

But it’s on you, as the total brain genius you’ve touted yourself to be, to place your blame carefully. This tragedy is not the mom’s fault, for trusting the zoo to be a generally safe environment for children, and it’s not Harambe’s fault for being a gorilla–if you must cast blame, cast it on whomever encouraged people to bring their children to a zoo with a climb-able-by-a-toddler gorilla enclosure. Which reportedly was in agreement with height regulations, so then it’s the fault of whomever sets the zoo-enclosure-wall-height regulations?

I personally believe that the blame, in fact, falls on the zoo for being a zoo, for showcasing imprisoned, dangerous animals for profit, and I invite you to place it there along with me. A goddamn 400-pound gorilla shouldn’t be kept in an enclosure to begin with. Zoos are unethical relics leftover from a barbaric era in history, and there’s no reason for them to continue existing when the same biological research can be carried out in animal sanctuaries and wildlife conservation parks. Today’s zoos exist only for profit. Fuck a zoo. Dismantle all zoos. Circuses too.

But if you blame this woman for the death of Harambe the Gorilla, you are straight-up being an asshole, which you’re doing because you like it and it’s fun, and it’s rooted in a hatred of single moms and general racism and misogyny, so at least own that. Like, do it if you must, but go forward having been informed.
P.S.: If you DO have kids and you’re calling for this lady to be arrested or fined or shamed or otherwise punished for what happened to hers at the Cincinnati Zoo, you’re the very worst kind of asshole. And my, but it’s just so interesting that a perfect parent like yourself has so much free time to spend denigrating other parents on Facebook.

Attn: Tormund Giantsbane

I drew this a few years ago while reading Book 1, and it holds up inre. recent developments on the Thronesgames show. I will never get why Brienne is victimized and harassed all the damn time. LADY, YOU ARE SCIENTIFICALLY A GIANT. And murder is apparently legal where you live. Dude on your jock? Whether he’s hatin’ or he’s coming on to you? JUST KILL HIMMMMM



The Time I Didn’t Get Murdered IRL after Inviting 7 Grown Men into my Home to Play D&D

3D model of an adventuring warlock holding an orb and wearing a scowl. A red d20 is next to tge model for scale.

My current D&D character, who is basically the warlock version of Darlene from Roseanne.


Last year I joined a Dungeons & Dragons group that was made up of seven grown men and me.

The only person I knew was Davey, the dungeon master, who was DMing his first campaign. I knew Davey from other, anti-oppression circles; I trusted him, but as the date of our first gaming session approached, I got nervous.

As the minutes ticked by that night and our characters got to know each other through time rifts and creepy, badly done taxidermy, I monitored the low buzzing in my ears and the slight tremble in my hands as I rolled d20s and scooted my LEGO mini-fig around on the map.

Well, I told myself out of character, it’s pretty normal to be nervous.  After all, it’s been a lot of years since you played D&D and you forgot so much.  It’s nerve-wracking to be a beginner at something, especially with male nerds.  But these were Real Nice Nerds, like me, and some of them were beginners, too.

Maybe my nerves are on account of role playing feeling a little awkward, I thought. I felt a little goofy after all; every time I had my character do anything, I kept recalling the fully armored LARPers (no shame) who meet at a local park to carry out campaigns and wondered how far removed from them I now was, having now announced things like, “I compel my familiar to collect a sample of the ooze for my collection.”

I’ll let you take that in for a second. I know how cool it sounds. (So cool.)

When everyone left at the end of the night, I realized I let out a sigh of relief and my body unclenched.  Suddenly, it hit me:

I was relieved because I had not been murdered.

Let me repeat that.  I was relieved because I had invited seven grown men that I did not know into my home to play Dungeons & Dragons (5e, if you must know), and I survived the night without being raped or murdered.  To be clear, I’m talking about me, the actual person, and not my character, whose survival continues to be deliciously precarious (thanks, Davey).

Knowing this bunch of dudes as I do now, it seems absurd to even think it. (I have actually said since then that we should campaign together until we are 109.) Yet, there it is.

Like a lot of folks, I imagine, I play games to escape the unpleasantries of life. Yet here was rape culture, showing up uninvited, stealing my enjoyment and my focus, destroying my suspension of disbelief, and defiling a good thing.  Again. Still.

You probably know about Gamergate.  Maybe you’ve read articles like this one by Latonya Pennington about how even if you aren’t subject to direct violence or threats when you dare to step into male-dominated gaming spaces (that’s pretty much all of them, FYI), dudes will (inadvertently or sometimes deliberately) push you out by making the group culture so vaguely hostile that you’ll eventually give up and go away–and then they’ll call you crazy for it.  The whole thing is exacerbated if you’re queer or a person of color.

Pushing back can lead to being alienated or less respected.  If you can’t stand the heat, they say, get out of the kitchen.  Better yet, stay there and make me a sandwich.  (That is an actual thing someone said to me once.) As if rape jokes come standard with gaming culture and there’s nothing we can do about it except continue to issue them while denying that anything is wrong.  Death to false logic!

Before my latest D&D stint, I played World of Warcraft for a number of years.  I deliberately chose an ugly, male troll as my avatar and named him something that sounded like the German word for goblin puke.  I played a warrior and eventually became a guild officer and class lead. I did that because it was fun, but also to protect myself from harassment.

My very unfeminine, aggressive, powerful character was an effective shield. When new guild members would hear my voice over Vent, they’d often be taken aback that I wasn’t a guy and I was in charge of them.  The jig was up.  My elaborate ruse to create a fantasy world/character untouched by the daily realities of misogyny and rape culture inevitably ended when my voice shattered the illusion.

Even though I was mostly playing with a bunch of people that had been gaming together for years and knew each other to varying degrees, there were still rape jokes.  Unfortunate or undesirable things were called “gay” and “retarded.”  Players were advised to not be pussies or fags. There were attempts to rename the guild after pornographic acts that demeaned women.  It was all “just joking around,” you see.

There is a hatred and fear of the feminine in mainstream culture and it’s (in my experience) more amplified in gaming culture.  Guild chat, player-vs-player combat, and talking into headsets for everyone to hear become proving grounds for masculinity.  Gaming–whether it’s tabletop or online–is creative and awesome, but absolutely not approved by the arbiters of all things masculine.

To make up for it, gamers can work hard, level up, and become more powerful, thus allowing them to dominate their enemies in evermore fantastic ways.  Things like tea-bagging someone you just killed (bouncing up and down to simulate repeatedly putting one’s testicle’s on another avatar’s face) are displays of dominant masculinity, but they are also a feminization of the enemy.  There is shame in being feminized, in being feminine.  Here, weakness, gayness, and ineptitude are all conflated with the quality of being feminine.



dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
“she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny”

It could be argued that the constant numerical, measurable ascension toward ever greater power in games reinforces a culture of entitlement that is already prevalent in rape culture among white, hetero, cisgender men.  I did the thing!  You give me reward! (P.S. You’re the reward.)

In fact, everything about gaming reflects that entitlement back at male gamers: the objectification of female avatars, the absence of complex female heroes, the tired save-the-princess tropes, women as rewards, women as ornamentation or backdrops, the hyper-sexualization of female avatars, etc.  Anita Sarkeesian explored these themes in her seminal series, “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” and–wait for it–got rape and death threats for her trouble.

When the entitlement math breaks down, when the prize is denied, that’s when things get lethal and terrifying for women and gender-diverse people.  I mean, just openly being a woman or gender diverse (or not white) on the Internet is scary; doing it in gaming spaces ups the ante exponentially.

So I walked into my new D&D crew with some considerable apprehension.  What if the men I was going to play with ended up being those kind of gamers?  What if it wasn’t safe?  What is the entire night was full of microaggressions and I wouldn’t be able to come back? There are no headsets; I can’t just turn off Vent and ghost out when I’ve had enough or need a break.

In the end, it was totally safe.  Davey put together a group of compassionate, reflexive, creative thinkers and a campaign full of surprises that honors gender diversity.  The players, too, brought surprising, atypical characters to the campaign. The guy that role plays a female character does so with nuance and care. When things come up, we deal with it.  The men I play with call each other out (“Tasha has been trying to suggest something for a while–let’s listen”) with minimal trauma and zero male tears. I want to go all the way to Mordor and back with these guys!  The long way, too–not the trick with the eagles.

But it could have gone the other way, and you just never know.  That’s the thing.

Rape culture is all around us, whether we game or not.  But gaming adds new stakes that I didn’t even know existed until we all sat around the table.

I lived to tell the tale, but how many women and gender-diverse gamers will never pick up a bag of dice or a keyboard because it doesn’t feel safe or they’ve been pushed out of the scene already?  We need some serious Title IX enforcement for gaming.

Look: Men may be the most dominant gamer group, but they aren’t the most numerous.  If you’re a guy who games, use your dominant voice to call out other guys on bullshit behavior.

Gaming culture is a living, organic thing.  It’s not static.  It hasn’t “always been this way.”  We can decide what defines it and whether or not we want rape culture and misogyny to be a part of it.

How about not.



by Carolyn Main

One of the reasons I love Billy Joel so much is the same reason so many people hate him: because he’s super fucking catchy. You’d know him as the Piano Man, since it is on the radio half of all the time. Failing that, if you still listen to the radio, you can switch stations to catch “Uptown Girl.” Keep tuning the dial until you are sure you Did Not Start the Fire. Yes, the Beej is inescapable pop culture. I get it.

Still, you may be missing some of his best works, which also happen to be the most feminist ones. And that’s the other reason behind my adoration: Markedly unlike most mainstream music, Billy Joel’s works are never misogynist. They love women. As does he, with almost as many hits (33) as marriages (4).

Even more than that, Joel came of age in an era that was arguably more sexist than our own. One need look no further for the gold standard of ’70s gender politics than boot-faced old Charles Bronson’s Death Wish (1974), wherein his wronged daughter is spraypainted in the butt by Jeff Goldblum, basically to death. Well, it’s more of a catatonic vegetable state for life. But because of a spraypainted butt. That’s, if possible, somehow even more insulting.

Joel, though, bucked sexism of the decade to write and record some of the smoothest sax-positive songs in America. During the current election cycle, it’s really easy to feel crazy and also to hate old white men. But good news: If you ever need to listen to a boomer who you don’t hate, and who doesn’t hate you back even harder and more irrationally, just take a listen to this, the Billy Joel Feminist Playlist:

6) “Shameless”

Billy Joel will not allow anything to compromise his desire to please. Why would he? So, just ask. It’s not a problem. He’s so into you, and so over the judgment of society, that he’ll do pretty much whatever weird shit you like. Craft store? Yes. Cunnilingus? Sure. Both at the same time? He’s open to it. Featuring Cyndi Lauper’s vocals (YES) and frequently covered by Garth Brooks (shrug).

“And I’m changing, I swore I’d never compromise
But you convinced me otherwise
I’ll do anything you please”

5) “Stiletto”

Billy’s comfortable with a woman on top. Perhaps to a fault. Is this an unhealthy relationship, or does she just get in the best one-liners? (Along with the knives/stabbing heels entendre, over and over.) Either way, he’s stuck, and he’s loving it.

“She cuts you hard, she cuts you deep
She’s got so much skill
She’s so fascinating that you’re still there waiting
When she comes back for the kill”

4) “Only the Good Die Young”

Every day is another potential assault on a woman’s sexuality; politics, the patriarchy, and religious propaganda try to control a pussy and put it behind lock and key. Fuck the stigmas that would keep a woman from the power and pleasure of her own sexuality. And once you have thoroughly dismantled that nonsense, would you please consider bringing your heat to Billy Joel’s meat? Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask. There’s a reason this song was so controversial to the Catholic Church, as it makes the case for fucking instead of going to mass. There’s pretty much no comeback to that.

“Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done”

(The video above is a cover by Melissa Etheridge, who makes it much more suggestively lesbian-tastic and hot hot hot.)

3) “Code of Silence”

Just like a sea witch, what’s the first thing the patriarchy would steal from you? Your voice! (Because from there, they can strip away everything else.) As a woman, you are being diminished from all sides and are taught that there’s no one can hear you. So, you’re expected to just tamp it down and try to move on with a slit throat. But look. Billy Joel is ready to dismantle those blocks in your throat chakra and encourage you back to an authentic person who speaks their truth. He’s ready to listen. Also featuring Cyndi Lauper, YAY, who should have done even more songs with Beej. And maybe they should have probably had a baby.

“So you can’t talk about it
Because you’re following a code of silence
You’re never gonna lose the anger
You just deal within it a different way
So you can’t talk about it
And isn’t that a kind of madness
To be living by a code of silence
When you’ve really got a lot to say”

2) “Modern Woman”

This is an all-out doo-wop-style 1980s feminist anthem. It’s bordering on corny, but it’s still somewhat shocking when you think about it, since how many other mainstream dudes of the era would say such a thing? Name one. I’ll wait. Because if they exist, I would really like to hear more of these. BJ was born in 1949, and he formally recognizes outdated the gender norms he’s grown past. He’s totally ready to embrace and celebrate his empowered paramour. She’s not his uptown girl; she’s a grown-ass modern woman.

“She looks sleek and she seems so professional
She’s got a lot of confidence, it’s easy to see
You want to make a move
But you feel so inferior
Cause under that exterior
Is someone who’s free.”

(By the way, this song was featured as Bette Midler’s workout montage in the ’80s flick Ruthless People. Fun! But Bette, FYI, you don’t need to diet or work out, tho. You’re fine Just the Way you Are.)

1) “She’s Always a Woman”

Billy’s most direct response to misogyny, he wrote it for his wife-slash-manager at the time, who was much maligned by every passing sexist in the music biz. Because she was powerful. Of course, Bill had no problem with that.

Even though their relationship would turn out to be doomed during this album, as evidenced by the title track, “The Stranger,” this creamy balled endures. Here, Bilj loves his woman, and he tells the dudes who wanna hate her that that’s just their problem. This came out in 1977, for godsake; music should be way, way more advanced by now. Mike. Drop.

“She is frequently kind
And she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She’s nobody’s fool
But she can’t be convicted
She’s earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she’s always a woman to me”

Isn’t his ’70s perm amazing?

Billy’s hair, like that marriage, has since fallen away. However, unlike too many iconic pop stars of late, Billy Joel remains, still playing to sold-out audiences. Via helicopter. And he reserves the front rows, not for the 1 percent who game Ticketmaster, but for the fans who he likes to perform for the most: women. Thereby proving to the world that even if you’re a worldwide musical legend (who happens to be a dude), you don’t have to be a misogynist sell-out to rock ‘n’roll.

carolynCarolyn Main is a cartoonist and writer in Portland, Oregon, who is in the process of releasing her own card game, Pitch Please. She has tickets to see Billy Joel at Shea Stadium for the first time, and she is hecka pumped. You can check out more of her art at