Last week, the internetexploded as the NY Supreme Court ruled that Kesha was obliged to fulfill her six album record deal with Kemosabe Records, the label of her alleged rapist and abuser Dr. Luke. What happens to women when we are bound to communities that hurt us? The whole world now knows that Kesha is forced to choose between protecting herself and pursuing a career she is (presumably) very passionate about.
Bike polo is a small enough community that when assault happens- and it does, though it's almost never spoken about publicly- we force the same choice without any lawsuits binding us together. There are no easy solutions, and I'm no crisis counselor, but I think it could help to start a conversation. So below I will describe the two times I was assaulted, both times by polo players, once as a rookie and once relatively recently. Commentary will follow after the row of X's if you'd like to skip that bit.
July 2008, LA Critical Mass, two weeks after my 18th birthday. After drinking on a group ride for the first time (it was maybe the 10th group ride I'd been on, less than a week after I first went to polo, and the first ride where someone offered my underaged self liquor), I was convinced to accept a ride back to the valley with a few of the other ridazz/polo players I had recently met. The driver of the car was very conveniently the one who had been plying me with alcohol all night. Also conveniently, he dropped off the other three men before taking me home. Except he didn't take me home. He took me to his place and forced me to come inside, even though I insisted that I could wait in the car for whatever errand his pretext for stopping his place was. He sat me down on his couch, and proceeded to touch and kiss me, ignoring my multiple protestations about having a boyfriend and the dozens of times that I simply and clearly said "No." I was too drunk to be able to move well, and the idea of being able to even lift my arms to push him away was laughable. When he tried to take my shirt off, I was so overwhelmed that I vomited. Luckily for me, he was repulsed by this and agreed to really take me home at this point. I am convinced that if that had not been the case, he would have completed his attempted rape.
October 2014, Echo Park, CA. I caught a ride back to LA from a cross race with a friend of mine and we decided to have dinner at her place before going out for the evening. The guy she'd been having sex with the past night or two was already there with food and a bottle of vodka. As he was an old friend of mine, we got to work killing the bottle and ditching any other plans in favor of trading old polo stories and going through photos. Two moments stood out: when she and I diverged on an in depth tangent about old school, lesbian separatist, radical feminism (and our support of such a school of thought), he sat back from the conversation and stopped engaging entirely; and at a later point he actually said to me, "You can't be gay, you don't look gay."
Around 2 or 3 in the morning she (being AN AWESOME FRIEND ILU), suggested I stay the night instead of trying to ride home drunk and tucked me in to her bed. After she climbed in as well, he stripped naked and jumped on top of us, pinning me to bed as he masturbated. After a minute or two, he shifted his weight enough that I was able to pull free and run out the door.
After the first incident, the man in question exuded a silence towards me that I interpreted as a warning: we would not discuss the incident, and for my silence, I would be allowed to continue interacting and becoming accepted within that social group. At the time, this was my only option for being included in the local bike riding/polo scene, which was something I desperately wanted. I sucked it up and pretended nothing had ever happened, cheering him on in tournament finals for the next three years before telling anyone else or even publicly asserting my distaste for him. (Shout out to anyone who peed in his helmet at No Manor!)
After the second incident, the man in question tried to blame me for my reaction rather than apologizing. I told a handful of close friends what had happened, and have been nothing but hostile to him ever since. I've been pretty free in telling anyone who inquires about the source of said hostility without the gory details. Several months later, once he realized that his social capital was being impacted, he suddenly started trying to make amends. I have no interest in such false apologies.
What I do want is to drag this issue kicking and screaming into the light of day. It's shitty to be in forced proximity with these men, whether it's at pick up every week or at a tourney once a year. It's amplified by the many people imploring me to "just drop it" and stop impinging on their enjoyment with my hatred for these men. The polo community can do better.
For more information about rape and sexual assault, please visit the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) website. If you feel you are in crisis, please call their hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I would also like mention #NameYourRapist, on behalf of those it's applicable to. It's a powerful action.
I have two long term goals for this project:
1. Create a spreadsheet that allows folks to easily input their own tourney data.
2. Create a database where all these numbers and the source material can live, allowing for easier tracking over time.
I was very impressed with the large number of female participants at Hallowmeme III, and decided to take a page out of Emily's book and run the numbers. (If you want to see her previous analyses, go here and here.)
This project got a bit out of hand.
Why it's important: once you start analyzing the data, people think a bit more critically about their actions and how they affect the status quo. This impact study from the Geena Davis Institute is my inspiration.
Here are the raw numbers for the past 3 tournaments I have attended:
Hallowmeme (Grand Rapids, MI)
24 female [30.8%]
55 male (1 trans male inc.) [69.6%]
2 all female
11 all male
14 mixed gender
4 female majority
10 male majority
Podium: 2 female majority, 1 all male
44% female, 56% male
Toot Spooky Halloween (Seattle, WA)
25 (ish?) players
3 female [12%]
22 male [88%]
4 all male
3 mixed gender, male majority
Podium: 2 all male, 1 majority male
11% female, 89% male
Ballwacker's Ball (San Francisco, CA)
11 female [15.3%]
60 male [83.3%]
1 nonbinary [1.4%]
2 all female
17 all male
5 mixed gender
1 female majority
4 male majority
Podium: 3 all male teams
Hallowmeme saw gender parity on the podium, with 4 women and 5 men, while there was only one woman on the Toot Spooky podium and none on the Ballwacker's podium, although the BWB podium is not particularly comparable since it was incorrectly grouped and played out.
Two days ago, KPCC's Take Two had Wall Street Journal reporter Joel Millman on air summarizing his longer piece on LGBT asylum seekers in the US. Slate did a decent breakdown of the issues in his reporting over here. My first exposure to the story, however was (as with many things) in the car driving home from work. The radio segment can be found on KPCC's website. Here's what I sent to the Take Two catch-all email at 11 am yesterday:
To Whom It May Concern,
I just wanted to take some time to let you know how disappointed I was in your coverage of this sensitive issue. I have been listening to KPCC since I was a child, and have always respected your standards of reporting and high quality programming. That made it all the more upsetting to tune in to the evening edition of Take Two to find gross misrepresentation of trans* people on your show. Your guest, Joel Millman, consistently referred to a transgender woman by male pronouns, going so far as to use her birth name rather than her preferred name. Since he was reporting on her attempts to seek asylum due to her status as a transgender woman, these incidents of misgendering clearly come from a hostility towards transgender people rather than a lack of understanding.
Misgendering one's source is sloppy and inaccurate reporting, and publicizing this woman's birth name could place her further at risk, an ethically unsound decision. This behavior engenders mistrust in news media in general, and will lose you listeners if it continues.
Again, I am extremely disappointed.
Sarah Livingston, Lab Assistant, Sexual Health Program Health Services Los Angeles LGBT Center
After receiving no response in what was, admittedly, a shorter time period than I would usually wait, I decided to forward the original email to all eleven people listed on the KPCC website as producing or reporting for Take Two individually. I added:
After receiving no response from the generic email, I'm forwarding this to the Take Two team individually.
This evening, my aunt texted me offering to take me out to dinner. While there:
-I related a story of my boss's contempt for/unfamiliarity with tofu. My aunt replies 'What race is she?!" I ignored her, and she revised, "what's her background?" to which I replied "die hard carnivore". My aunt went on a brief rant about how some people are just so uneducated and uncultured.
-On the ride home, without a bat of an eye or a trace of irony, she completely fails to even attempt to pronounce quincenera. Her son (who's just so good at languages) jumps in with, "At her Cuisinart..."
-Also, as we left the restaurant, "well, this location [Pasadena] certainly has a different clientele than the one in Santa Monica..." As in, not 100% white. Just 60%.
Ugh. I skipped out on a pretty girl for this.
[Not sure why this didn't post when I wrote it. Going up now. Written Oct. 27, 2012]
Today I came home from work to find LA polo's board breakdown crew sprawled out in the living room watching 'The Deadliest Warrior' on Netflix. The show really disturbed me, and as I watched I started teasing out exactly what I so disliked about it. List time!
-Glorification of violence and brutality.
-The disembodying of the violence from the very real men and women it was carried out on historically.
-How much the above ties into our current tolerance of the bloated military industrial complex in this country.
-Also, such a boys club. Only Manly Men can know anything about guns, amirite?
-Also, the historical inaccuracy of it all- we were watching the Waffen SS vs the Viet Cong. Those two groups went to war at very different times in history, under very different circumstances. Had the two actually engaged, it would have been under very different terms than either of them engaged the American army on.
-Oh hey, a woman! ...oh she's just a whore. Right. Whore with a gun, poor persecuted menz, being tricked by the evil women they sleep with.
-So much posturing and bullshit. Blegh.
-Oh, and those Vietnamese are just so weird, right? Like, totally backwards junglemen. And the Waffen SS's Aryan-only requirements, were just, y'know, what it takes to get the best of the best.
In summary: Explosions? Cool. Blood and guts? Cool. Both those things in the explicit context of separating them from any notion of accuracy and, more importantly, human empathy? So very not cool.
On a lighter note, I'm pretty sure that my annual NaNoWriMo attempt will actually be a NaNoBlogMo, hopefully I'll break the 5,000 word wall I seem to hit each year that way. I have over a dozen unfinished posts already, I'd like to go through and actually tease out all those ideas floating around in my head and wasting brain-RAM. To 50,000 words!
I spent ages and ages on this video, and when I compiled it into a .wma file, all the precision timing was lost. but it's still awesome and worth watching for the lulz.
It seriously bummed me out to see that I'd have to go back and redo everything to fully realize the video in my head after months of working on this intermittently, amounting to several hours of my life for a one minute video using someone else's footage and someone else's music. I have even more respect for editors now.
And if that didn't cheer you up, here's my new favorite song:
Cut from "Burning Low" in the fourth season of Adventure Time.