JK Rowling, TERFs, Bioessentialism, Sexual Assault, and Trauma Performativity (or, in other words… yikes)

I read the essay.

Some of you likely know exactly which essay I’m talking about, but for those who don’t, I’ve just finished reading JK Rowling’s lengthy response to the correct and justified backlash she’s received this week for being more openly anti-trans than usual. As folks on Twitter may know, this isn’t Rowling’s first TERF-y moment: for at least several months, she has made statements in support of or liked Tweets by known anti-trans public figures. This week, she took severe issue with delineating a difference between “people who menstruate” and “women,” sparking the backlash that’s led to where we are now.

First, a note on this: we need a difference between “people who menstruate” and “women,” because those two things aren’t inherently linked. The Venn diagram of the two is not a circle. In obvious ways, it ignores both the trans community and the intersex community, and I’d be remiss to erase either group from the conversation. (If you’re not sure what intersex means, here’s a great primer. Please note some historical descriptors of this community are considered degrading and should no longer be used.) It also imposes ridiculous limits on AFAB (assigned female at birth) people: what happens when you hit menopause? Do you no longer count? What about if you’re on an IUD, and as a result you don’t have a period? What about AFAB people who never have a period at all?

That said, we’re not going to spend time centering cis women past this point. The argument is massively more harmful to transgender and intersex people, whose biological features may not align with the tropes (and, by extension, societal expectations) associated with their gender(s). And while it can be easy to encourage marginalized people to not care what society says, have you ever educated yourself (by reading plenty of available material, NOT by foisting emotional labor on your nearest relevant person) on how difficult it is for trans and intersex people to get quality health care? Are you aware that literally yesterday the Trump administration made this even more difficult by giving insurers and health care providers the ability to openly discriminate against trans people? Did you know that many intersex people are operated on at a young age without their consent to attempt to make their bodies conform to one binary or the other, often with negative long-term side effects? Have you realized that the insidious goal of anti-trans rhetoric is to produce tangible policy changes that, by doing things like cutting off access to health care (at any time, but especially during a pandemic), further disadvantage the trans community and will literally, quantitatively cost lives?

Continue reading JK Rowling, TERFs, Bioessentialism, Sexual Assault, and Trauma Performativity (or, in other words… yikes)

Hello Pretty Lady

[CW: sexual harassment]

Hey, men friends? Y’all who believe in equality and want to be on the right side of things? I need you to listen to this one. Bear witness. Brass players, this would be good for y’all to read intentionally, too.

I’ve spent the last couple days trying to figure out how to deal with a bass trombonist close to three times my age who showed up in my Messenger inbox, completely unprompted, and decided “Hello Pretty Lady” was an appropriate and acceptable way to start his brief introduction (which ended with a link to his website). He’d entered my social media sphere as part of the absolute deluge of Facebook friend requests I’ve gotten over the past week. Most folks have been brass players, and in the interest of community, I’ve okayed the vast majority. Many of those will turn out to be good decisions; this guy was not.

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on assault and high school boyfriends

By the time I started dating in high school, I’d already been sexually assaulted. Those early relationships were a little extra fraught for me—I’d only had the terminology to accurately describe what had happened to me for about a year, and the idea of talking about it in any detail was downright terrifying. Still, I was a teenage girl who rocked out to Taylor Swift and desperately wanted to know love, and when presented with the opportunity, I dove into dating.

My first boyfriend, who lasted approximately three months and was away for summer vacation for almost all of that time, never found out about my assault. (We still follow each other on Instagram, though, so maybe he knows now.) My second boyfriend, whose tenure neared a year and spanned my final months of high school, did. He was the first person I’d told besides my mom, who found out when it happened.

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Things I Do That Men Have Assumed Was Flirting (or being slutty) (or looking for attention) (or playing hard to get)

  • smiling
  • being correct
  • being incorrect
  • being confident
  • being shy
  • laughing
  • wearing a dress/skirt
  • wearing short shorts
  • wearing skinny jeans
  • agreeing with them
  • agreeing with their friend
  • dyeing my hair
  • wearing bright makeup
  • wearing dark makeup
  • wearing girly makeup
  • wearing edgy makeup
  • not wearing makeup
  • asking questions
  • asking for help
  • being confused
  • playing an instrument (esp. in a setting/genre/instrumentation they play in as well)
  • singing
  • saying I’m not interested
  • saying I have a boyfriend
  • saying no
  • introducing myself
  • asking for advice
  • asking a question
  • confiding in them
  • shaking their hand
  • hugging them
  • hugging literally any man
  • sitting with literally any man (at shows, hangs, etc)
  • not drinking
  • knowing anything about alcohol despite not drinking
  • being bi
  • being on the ace spectrum
  • looking nice
  • looking professional
  • brushing them off
  • trying to leave the conversation
  • arguing with them
  • asserting myself
  • trying to leave
  • leaving

Thanks for reading! This blog is part of my writing for Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2020. If you like what you read (or got something out of it, or feel fulfilled/validated/educated), tune back in every Saturday at 8pm MST(/PDT). For more, join me on Patreon, or follow me on Instagram @ordinarilymeg.

Guilty/Not Guilty and the Catch-22 of Seeking Justice for Sexual Violence

As I’ve mentioned before, I am unable to even potentially seek justice for my first sexual assault. My statute of limitations expired roughly a decade ago; I don’t have an exact date or time (or even an exact year, really—just a decent guess); I can give you only the barest of details about my attackers; the business in which I was assaulted closed long ago, so there’s no one who could even look for any tapes that might have existed (and even then, it’s pretty hard to track down a functioning VCR these days). I will never see a day in court to face down those particular demons.

But even if I could have that day in court, I don’t know that I’d take it, largely because I don’t know what I’d possibly gain from being there. Did my assault irrevocably alter my life? Of course. Can I put a dollar sign on that value when my assault is one of my first five concrete memories? Not so easily. And for me, searching my memories to make that determination would necessitate more emotional effort (and therapy) than would probably be wise for me at this point in time. I’m two decades out, and unless these men were definitively positioned in a place of power that could enable them to assault again, I’d probably want to keep living my life instead of upending it for an uncertain outcome.

Continue reading Guilty/Not Guilty and the Catch-22 of Seeking Justice for Sexual Violence

the men who assaulted me

[CW: sexual assault]

I wonder, from time to time, about the men who assaulted me.

They were boys back then (teenagers, really—old enough that they should know better but young enough that they could’ve done what they did on a dare)—but they’re certainly men now. And even though most days I am beyond glad I do not know their names, occasionally I’ll wish that I did. Not to rain hell down on their beings (though I’ll admit I wished it on them from time to time during my own teenage years); no, just to check up on them. Facebook-stalk them. Find out what they’re up to these days.

Because, by my best estimate, they were sixteen. (Give or take.)

Continue reading the men who assaulted me

Hostile Work Environments and Unraveling Tapestries: A Follow-Up to Untouchable

Untouchable took me a month and a half to write, but I spent four years trying to articulate its content. As (the blessedly many of) y’all who read it probably saw, I referenced fifteen other pieces I’ve put out since early 2017. This morning, I piled all sixteen posts into a single document to check the word count, and it came out to just under 29,000 words—or about half of the minimum requirement for a full-length novel. It was 47 pages of material. While that bodes well for any potential doctorate I may choose to pursue in the future, it says some interesting things about the likelihood of being both believed and understood within our community.

You see, I don’t expect people to believe me when I start talking about most of the things I discuss on my blog. Part of why I started writing the thoughts down was because my in-person conversations with peers were so often derailed by some level of disbelief—sometimes in the form of “[other woman] doesn’t say that,” sometimes manifesting as “I’ve never seen that so it must not be too bad,” sometimes in other forms that are intricate and nuanced and harder to illuminate. I was only rarely allowed to communicate a thought beyond its first couple sentences and almost never given the space and time to puzzle through something that felt important. On paper, though, I had the freedom to do just that, to make sure an idea was complete and concise before putting it out into the world. And while no one’s obligated to read the entirety of anything I post, I find a lot of people do. (For this, I’m incredibly grateful. Yes, that means you, sitting at the screen.)

Continue reading Hostile Work Environments and Unraveling Tapestries: A Follow-Up to Untouchable

Untouchable: The Male Gaze, ASU Jazz, and the Phoenix Community

When I was an undergrad running with the jazz boys, no one wanted to sleep with me.

…Yeah, I didn’t know how to start this one, either. For all my work addressing sexual assault, I actually don’t spend all that much time dealing with sex. (I tend to leave that creative artistry to Rebecca Drapkin, the sex-positive to my sex-negative.) While I love my body and everything it can do, I’ve grown accustomed to keeping my sexual side to myself. I’m still figuring out how much of it belongs in my artistic life. And though that answer is nonzero, part of why I keep my sex life (and body, and sexuality, and . . .) separate from the rest of my artistic discourse is just because I don’t share all of me with all of you. But part of it isn’t, and there are reasons for that—reasons I can trace back to a very specific time and place—and though I’d rather not discuss any of this, I think it’s time.

Continue reading Untouchable: The Male Gaze, ASU Jazz, and the Phoenix Community

on representation and artistry

Every once in awhile, usually when I’m in the middle of a slew of pieces about assault, my mom will check in with me about my writing. “You are taking the time to write happy music, right?” she often asks. It’s a time-honored song and dance—she asks, I reassure; lather, rinse, repeat. Less often, she echoes a sentiment I’ve also heard from my friends and my own internal monologue: I don’t want, theoretically, to be known for my assault work and nothing else.

That sentiment is a difficult one to wrap my head around on a good day, but I’ve always understood it on a fundamental level. I don’t want to only be approached when someone’s looking to dive deep into the dark; I don’t want to be known as the girl who doesn’t write music for more straight-ahead performances. And while I maybe won’t always write work that’s best when programmed on a vanilla concert, the underlying idea is stark: don’t close doors that might stay open if I picked more palatable subject matter. Put more bluntly, don’t brand as broken.

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Ownvoices versus Intentional Programming: A Primer

In the last year, I’ve sat down several times to break down problematic and offensive programming and publishing decisions by major music institutions. Sometimes it’s started on Twitter, sometimes on my blog, but I’ve found myself circling back to many of the same issues again and again and again. In certain cases, it’s been harder to spot, because the Phantom Regiment snafu and resulting fallout look different on the surface than, say, the Larry Clark/Keiko Yamada moment or my thoughts and hesitations about Fire in my mouth. Each of these points to different, interconnected issues within our communities and the ways in which we talk about marginalized composers and their work. However, they also point to different ways in which our current mainstream discussions of these issues aren’t specific enough to make the right arguments for folks who may not be as plugged in as we are.

Because while these instances and others (looking at you, St. Louis Symphony’s History/Her Story programming) all fall under the umbrella category of Things Concerning Marginalized Composers, they don’t all deal with the same issues. In fact, they concern themselves with two distinctly different things: intentional programming and ownvoices representation.

Continue reading Ownvoices versus Intentional Programming: A Primer