Tuesday, November 30, 2010

College Campuses and How They Deal With Rape Cases

Something I never understand is how people are so ridiculous with how they deal with rape victims and incidents on college campuses. A place where people should feel safe is at school. I now realize that this was an ideal concept. Somehow I felt safe at school and just because I didn't hear about rape happening while I went to Emerson didn't mean it didn't happen.

Until I read this article, I myself forgot about my own incident with sexual assault. Thankfully I prevented any harm to come to me, but while I was at BU I had a male friend come by on a Friday or Saturday night after he was drinking and he tried to force himself on me. I guess I kind of forget about it because nothing really did happen, but at the time I felt incredibly violated. I never reported it. I never even thought to. I remember other people in my residence hall thought I was crazy for thinking he even tried to sexually assault me. They thought I was just over-exaggerating, but the truth is that a person really can't over-exaggerate this type of situation if it truly scared them.

In the past year, a friend of mine also told me how she was sexually assaulted on campus by a male student who ripped her shirt open to expose her body in front of several students as well as saying extremely sexually explicit things to her. The act was caught on camera. My friend reported the situation after she and I had a long conversation about it. When she told me the counselor she spoke to told her that nothing was going to be done to rectify the situation. This type of negligence is what causes people to feel uncomfortable in their situations. My friend felt like she couldn't go to her work-study job because her assaulter was often there. In my situation, I left BU. Not just because of my assaulter, there were MANY more reasons, but he did add to my poor freshman year experience.

I sometimes also wonder why or how women are chosen as targets for sexual assault. As many of my friends know, I present myself with this tough bitch attitude, probably as defense mechanism against such situations. I figured that if pose myself as someone that cannot be taken advantage of then no one would try. However, I have also been told that this type of behavior can also make someone feel threatened and try to put me in my place by harming me in some way. This type of behavior is common, whether sexual assault is the method of harming another or not. Everyday, people put others down who threaten them etc to make themselves feel better. Ultimately, it is all about a control of power. The student who assaulted my friend was trying to show her how he has a right to something and to put her down and make her feel uncomfortable so he himself can feel more comfortable again.

But really... why is it that people seem ill equipped to deal with situations of this nature? It seems like if a person is a serial rapist something will be done to put him or her in their rightful place, but if you are a college student they almost dismiss these acts of violence and give them another chance to attack somebody else. It seems like these situations are too sticky that not many people want to get their hands dirty because if they do something to punish the assaulter, they may receive some wrathful consequences. But that doesn't make it right to not stand by and let it happen again. These are the types of situations that really make me reconsider giving up my creative aspirations and settle into counseling/social work so that at least there can be someone out there helping these kids who are turned away by their own schools. If you, the reader, EVER have a friend who comes to you with something like this, please urge them to come forward and find some justice. Even if the outcome is not what you wanted, it is important to at the very least have it on the record somewhere, so that it isn't an incident that can go completely forgotten or unknown.

If you want to read more of the article that fired me up to write this entry here it is:

Student Commits Suicide After Alleged Sexual Assault By Notre Dame Football Player

Read more: http://jezebel.com/5696455/student-commits-suicide-after-alleged-sexual-assault-by-notre-dame-football-player#ixzz16nFhOQeX

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Bride...

For as long as I can remember (especially in the past 9 months), I've been anti-wedding, anti-bride, anti-romance etc. However, I am going into the wedding photography industry... partly it fell into my lap because a number of my friends are beginning to start saying their "I do"s and they've known that I am a photographer.

Two weekends ago, I made the journey to South Royalton, Vermont to photograph my friends Amy and Dave's engagement photos. This past weekend, I joined my business partner and friend, Brian, to photograph his friends Ryan and Colleen's wedding. I have got to say that both Amy and Colleen are by no means the conventional bride, but both made me cry of joy for what they both have found. Both are strong women with vibrant personalities. I have known Amy since I was 11 and have seen her with Dave since we were 14... I knew what they had was real since I was about 15 or 16 years old and had a hunch that this was going to be a companionship that would last. Colleen I only got to know the day of her wedding. Throughout the day, I got to understand her relationship with Ryan, and with that single day I understood that it was similar to Amy and Dave's relationship in that it was a companionship that would last.

There is something to be said about both of these remarkable women... they both have been pursuing their dreams in their career paths as well as their love lives, which I feel is a characteristic that is not found in most women. I myself lose myself when I'm in a relationship with someone, but I think it is this sense of truth to one's self and one's desires that helps a relationship last. When you take the time for yourself and your needs then you can be truly happy, whether you are in a relationship or not... It is this that I celebrate in both of these women.

Below is a photograph I took of Colleen the day of her wedding on Franklin Town Common. I love how the light hits her veil and is making her glow. This glow delineates her happiness on this day. I could not help but smile and try to hold back tears of joy for both her and her groom. Congratulations Colleen and Ryan to finding one another and to your commitment to one another. It is truly something to celebrate.

Colleen, October 23, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Loss of a Great Female Role Model

On October 8th, 2010, my family and I suffered a significant loss. My grandmother passed away from fighting stomach cancer for the past 2 years. She died at the age of 89. She was an inspiration to both her kids and all her grandchildren. A generous, kind-hearted and especially loving woman. Her family meant everything to her and she always put all of us first before herself. I have a lot that I am still learning from my grandmother and will always continue to strive to live up to her example.

She was boundless and adventurous. She immigrated to America with my aunt, uncle and cousin in 1979. She worked as an x-ray technician during World War II and as a Russian to English translator at St. Elizabeth's hospital when she moved to Boston. She took so much pride in her family and all that we have become and always supported us to reach for our goals and dreams.

Tomorrow is her funeral and I'm not sure what will happen or how I will react, but I know she will always be in my heart and that she has touched my life because she helped make me who I am today. She was always so strong and I see her strength in myself.

I love you Grandma. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Alexandra Vinnikova
August 5, 1921 - October 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Please Help Pass the International Violence Against Women Act

A bill is currently pending in the U.S. Congress that could help millions of women in developing countries escape violence and poverty. The International Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 4594, S. 2982) would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history.

Please Tell Your Legislators to Support This Legislation: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/840/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2154

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) would require all U.S. foreign assistance programs to take steps to reduce violence against women and girls. These steps could include promoting women's economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. It would require the U.S. government to respond in a timely manner to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict - such as the mass rapes now occuring in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And by investing in local women's organizations overseas that are succesfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the International Violence Against Women Act would have a huge impact on reducing poverty - empowering millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amy Littlefield...

I spent part of this past weekend with a friend from high school... A wonderful feminist blogger/reporter/guitarist who time and time again had a profound effect on my life. Amy and I met when we were in high school and bonded over music. As we grew up she has never left my mind even though we have gone in and out of each others lives. She is a woman of many talents and always strives to achieve what she wants.

Amy is currently a report for the Brockton Enterprise as well as a writer for Gender Across Borders, an online feminist blog. Amy is also a singer, guitarist and song writer. In high school, Amy used to make me mix tapes of the songs she wrote and I continue to listen to them to this day. I have been constantly inspired by Amy since we were 14-15 years old for her independence, tenacity and multi-faceted interests. Although we do not see each other as often as we used to, I embrace every moment I spend with her. The idea behind these photos of Amy is finding her utopia which is in a chaos of papers, journals and her guitar. Here are a few images from the photo shoot:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

See It Split, See It Change

The title of this post precisely describes my sister and I. You see people split, you see people change. My twin sister and I have split on an emotional/personal plane when we were 16 years old and physically split since we were 19 years old. A mere 5-8 years of our lives and yet we are completely different people. I have been reading Abigail Pogrebin's One And The Same, a book about twins and how they are alike, how they're different, how they react to one other's presence, etc.

Throughout reading the book, I kept thinking to myself about how interesting it is to read about how much of a bond these twins have that were interviewed for the book... how they finish each other's sentences, get in similar lines of work and cannot stand living too far apart from one another. Some of them even LIVE together into their later years. I started to question why my own twin sister and I didn't have a similar bond to the ones I read about.

The author looked into some twins studies results and these particularly interested me:

Aggression: mostly genetic
moderately inheritable

Bipolar disorder: identical twins more concordant
identical twins who stay more in touch live longer than identical twins who don't

strongly genetic component

strong genetic link

50 percent genetic

identical twins are more similar to each other than fraternal twins and become more alike in intelligence as they age. Dr. Nancy Segal cites the finding that "identical twins are nearly as alike in IQ as the same person tested twice."

Job choice: identical twins choose more similar careers than fraternal twins
Left-handedness: more frequent among identical twins
Loneliness: 50 percent of identical twins and 25 percent of fraternal twins shared similar characteristics
mostly genetic

Sleep patterns:
identical twins are more similar than fraternal

Social life:
the identical twin who has a tight-knit social circle is in better overall physical health than the one who doesn't

I found the job choice similarity particularly interesting. Mostly because Lisa and I are on completely two different planes with our jobs/social lives/lifestyles. I know that not ALL twins choose similar careers, but that's where the question for me of nature vs. nurture comes to me because it seems so obvious that career paths are not inherent but they are made. My sister went to Boston University and majored in International Relations, Economics and Spanish. She now works for a notable senator in Washington DC and lives what I would like to think as my 23 year old self, a very grown up lifestyle. I on the other hand, transferred from Boston University to Emerson College and majored in Film Production with a minor in Photography. I currently work for Newbury Comics as a fashion buyer and continue to have similar lifestyle patterns from college. This just goes to show much environment matters to people as they are growing older.

When I was 16 years old, I was taking the SATs the first weekend of May in my junior year of high school. I made the conscious decision that day that I wanted to smoke pot for the first time. I believe this choice is what really divided us physically for the first time. I think I just got sick of the pressure of perfection that I felt from my family. I also stopped having the need to compete with my sister so instead I choose to rebel in the most extreme way I knew how. I started hanging out with a crowd my twin sister didn't understand nor conversed with. It was the first time I had my own set of friends and did things separately from Lisa and it was invigorating to have people know me for who I am as an individual rather than as a set. My values changed pretty quickly and severely. Suddenly getting all A's didn't matter so much. The tension at home got worse because my family didn't understand what was happening to me or what I was doing.

As kids we were the best of friends. We would play with our Barbies and if someone as so much entered the room we would promptly yell at them and kick them out (them being my grandmother, mother or father). They were not hurt by our reaction. They in fact enjoyed it. They loved seeing how much we loved and cared for one another, because back then there was nothing to compare each other about. There was no competition. Our competitive nature came out more in middle school when my mom put us both in rhythmic gymnastics and there was a clear division between the two of us. That division was then more apparent in our grades, our attitudes, our appearances... we were compared to the other about everything and it drove me crazy. I just needed to cut out my own little piece of this world for myself.

Lisa simply decided to choose a more socially-acceptable path (a path that is well understood by my parents and peers) and I diverted to art/film. I still feel the judgement from my family for making this choice just because they simply don't understand it and do not make the effort to understand it. So basically I found it interesting how much our environments changed us. My mom both raised us the same, threw us in the same activities etc, but it was the people I surrounded myself with that changed me, which I suppose one can say is an innate decision I made. I just chose a lifestyle that is a bit more of a risk which I think I may be the one who has taken the greatest risks in my family. My sister certainly would not have chosen this lifestyle because of the risk of not being able to pay bills on time etc.

I'm happy to say I wouldn't change any of it. Every experience I have had greatly benefited me and made me understand more about what I want out of life. I originally thought we would be more similar (and frankly we are still EXTREMELY similar in our mannerisms, stubborn nature, etc), but our values are polar opposites and that is what ultimately separates us now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jewish-Palestinian sent to jail for deceiving an Israeli woman....


This article baffles me. A man is being sent to 18 months in jail for misleading an Israeli woman about his true race... yes he misled her into thinking that he too is Israeli rather than Palestinian but I cannot see how this can be rape? If this is considered rape then there certainly are a lot more rapists out there... men deceive women constantly to participate in sexual encounters... as do women for that matter. So where is the line drawn? It states in the article:

"The question is whether the state should punish somebody in that situation. It puts the law in the position of what could loosely be described as discrimination. I would feel intuitively uncomfortable about prosecuting someone for something like that."

This case comes down to the Israeli versus Palestinian conflict rather than deception. If there was not such a large rivalry between the two ethnic backgrounds I'm sure that this case would've been dropped from the start. So really this is about prejudice. Israeli-Palestinians live in constant fear of being harassed simply for being Palestinian so they live in disguise. So this supposed rapist is now being persecuted to a high degree simply for trying to survive in a highly prejudiced society.

This is the part of the article that really gets me...

"If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated," Mrs Segal said as she delivered her verdict.

WHO has sex with a RANDOM STRANGER if she was interested in a serious romantic relationship?

I realize that this entry isn't entirely about feminism... but it interests me that a woman is sending a man to jail for deceiving her when she is probably just angry with herself for having sex with a stranger and did not know his ethnic background. These are the type of women that give our gender a bad reputation... for crying wolf when you should have been a bit smarter about the situation you were getting yourself into. Yes this man lied to her, but she should have had the common sense that involving herself in a sexual encounter with this man could lead her into something she didn't ultimately want to get herself involved with. Have more self-respect for yourself.