Heteronormativity of Valentine’s Day (From the Archive)

Sacchi Patel

Co-Founder MasculinityU

February 14, 2011

Today marks an important holiday for Americans as we spend close to $18,000,000,000 to make up for not showing others we love them the other 364 days out of the year. A simple Google search for “Valentine’s Day Gifts” promises to yield more red heart-shaped merchandise than even Cupid intended for. All this isn’t my issue as I no longer contribute to this substantial one-day consumer financial deficit due to low wages and no partner; aka I’m a broke and single grad student. What troubles me much more than spending my textbook money on a sterling silver necklace is the fact that one of our nation’s largest holidays (and one that most Americans seem to observe indiscriminately of religious affiliation) is only intended for part of our population. You see, Valentine’s Day only actually exists in a heterosexist and patriarchal framework also known as “everyday American life”. Valentine’s Day is one of the most Heteronormative displays of our country’s message: members of the LGBTIQ community are not welcome here. This of course is hidden behind chocolate, roses, hearts, and more chocolate.

Capitalism encourages websites and stores to neatly categorizes their items “Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her”. This makes life easier for many of us, however it does not make it easier for all of us. In fact, it can actually lead to people feeling out-casted and worthless. Today, I saw a “His & Her” matching pajama set for sale online. Though accommodating for heterosexual couples, imagine how some people of the LGBTIQ community would feel if they saw this at every store or every website that they visited to find something for their partner. Some relationships may have no one who identifies as either a man or a woman. What options would they have? Should this just be their problem since they are gay? Should they have to feel the constant disapproval of their relationship from all of our society with every offer of a blue and pink pajama set? In short, the answer is no.

The fact of the matter is that heterosexuality is a privileged identity, which by virtue of its definition encourages us never to think about anyone who isn’t heterosexual. Heteronormativity encourages us to live life with its advantages and never stop to think how those advantages come to us so easily nor does it allow us to think about who is systemically suffering when we accept those privileges.

Further, Valentine’s Day allows our society to harbor dangerous beliefs that contribute to a system of hegemonic masculinity. The holiday not only teaches us that boys must like girls and vice versa, but it teaches our youth that boys must be the providers for needy girls who must remain submissive. With this thought it is no wonder that these simple ideas can manifest themselves into adulthood that at times can be filled with violence. Additionally, we must challenge all the ways that Valentine’s Day forces us to conform to a binary system as it pertains to gender. We are declaring that only men/boys and women/girls exist or should exist, when in actuality we know that we are leaving many people out

Though it may seem that I am a bitter person who hates love, I assure you that my intent is to spread love. A love to be spread every single day of the year, to every one of us (without leaving anyone out).

Kasandra Perkins’ Murder – Some Things Keeping Three Guys Up at Night

Jovan Belcher‘s murder of Kasandra Perkins should be keeping us up at night. Families, communities, football fans, men – we all have reasons to be upset by this murder.

For us three guys, there are some specific things keeping us lying awake these past few nights.nfl DV

1.  Almost nobody in the mainstream media is saying it. But for those of us who do this work, the Belcher case sounds like domestic violence. A lot. And domestic violence (DV) happens. A lot. Most men reading this know someone who has been affected by it. Perhaps we witnessed it ourselves. The majority of DV is never reported. And while it can be committed by anyone against anyone, 1 out of 4 women in the US are abused by men in their lifetime[1]. On average, three times a day in the U.S. a man kills his female partner or ex-partner.[2]. It happens. A lot. While this case is tragic and shocking, it is not by any means uncommon. So, why are we pretending this case is something else? Why are we so afraid to confront the reality that we all know?

The reality of domestic violence in the US goes far beyond this small paragraph. It has kept us up many nights. But it’s not the reason we’re writing this today.

2.  Media coverage of domestic violence tends to suck. Big time. When DV does make headlines, it is often grossly distorted to the point of doing more harm than good. Predictably, we are seeing: victim blaming, minimization, denial or distortion of the “facts”. And as with other celebrities and athletes of color – racism, mostly coded.  Some examples of all too common headlines and (lack of) discussion about domestic violence:

Two examples that we like a whole lot more:

Members of the media need to be held accountable when they perpetuate victim-blaming myths. This has also kept us up many nights. But the reason we’re writing this today-the reason we’ve been up nights these past few days – is….

3.  Domestic violence is also a MEN’S ISSUE.  Belcher’s case shows us this, dramatically and poignantly. It is a men’s issue because it affects our lives, all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. And usually we are very aware. But we don’t admit it.

We need to ask ourselves:

How are we as men – and the men in Jovan’s life – working to ensure that this never happens again?

Are we men challenging those (news outlets, our families, even our fantasy football leagues) who blame victims of domestic and sexual violence for someone else’s choice to control, abuse, and even murder?

Are we as men okay with men committing violence against women? If not, what are we doing to stop it?

This, THIS is what is keeping us up at night.

Men’s silence. Our own deafening silence.

Our silence in the face of this epidemic of violence is intolerable. How dare we men turn a blind eye when our brothers, fathers, uncles, co-workers and teammates commit violence against the women in our lives? Against women we have never met?

How dare we men stay silent? Women have been speaking, yelling, begging, arguing for decades (centuries!) about domestic violence. Women have been educating us about it, and waiting for us to stand with them as allies – waiting for us to finally end our silence.

And where are we? It is time for us as men to PUT UP OR SHUT UP. Either we start speaking out en-masse against men’s violence, or admit publicly that it isn’t a priority for us. That we actually don’t care about the consequences of violence against women.

But silence is not acceptable anymore. It can’t be. Too many women (along with a growing number of men) have worked too hard for too long. Domestic violence is too well known. Too many are injured and dying for us to stay silent anymore. There are no excuses left. Really, there never were.

If this confuses you, inspires you, angers you, just plain affects you in any way then join us at Masculinity U…or Joe Erhmann – Coach For America, or the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, or Men Can Stop Rape, or A Call to Men, or Men Stopping Violence, or the White Ribbon Campaign, or Coaching Boys Into Men, or Promundo, or the dozens of other men’s and women’s organizations doing the work we should be doing.

In the wake of Jovan Belcher’s actions, support the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, or the Rose Brooks Center, or the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, or your local domestic violence organization. Donate goods to them, contribute money, volunteer for them – call them and see what they need. Write to Congress – urge them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before it expires at the end of the month.

Or start your own damn group.

And share this with the men in your life.

Sincerely and in brotherhood,

Joe Samalin, Sacchi Patel, and Ben Atherton-Zeman

[1]Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” (2000).
[2] Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.

Role Reversal at the Gym

I ran across this video on the front page of Yahoo! News and found that they flipped the dominant script on what men and women say and how they behave at gyms.  I’m not sure if this was produced for equality sake, or just entertainment… however, I figured I’d post it up and see what MasculinityU readers think.

Flip-Side Workout

Be sure to comment in about your reactions!

Still think rape jokes are funny?

*Trigger Warning*  Please reblog and share 

Guest post by Sister Storm

The twitter and blog world is buzzing right now with the story of how a “comedian” made a joke about an audience member being gang raped because she did not find his previous rape joke funny and (rightly so) voiced her opinion on it.  I am inviting anyone who thinks rape jokes are funny to read this and see if they still think jokes about sexual abuse and assault are so hilarious.

The reason I am doing this is because I am getting increasingly sick of telling people I hear making flippant comments and jokes about rape that IT ISN’T FUNNY, so I am hoping that visually I may be able to educate them as my words and clearly the words of others seem to fall on deaf and ignorant ears.

Have you ever seen someone a few minutes or hours after they have been brutally raped?

Have you seen the look in their eyes as they desperately try to escape the thoughts of what has just happened going around and around in their head?

Have you ever seen their torn clothes, dried blood, cuts, bumps, bruises and defense marks they received for putting up a fight?

Have you ever had to tell someone who has just been raped that they are safe now and the people around them are just trying to help them?

Have you ever tried to comfort someone who has been so badly assaulted that they cower and flinch at your touch?

Have you ever helped someone rebuild their life and trust in the human race after they have been so horribly violated?

Have you ever watched the tears stream down someone’s face as they recount every little detail of their ordeal to a police officer or doctor carrying out their medical examination?

Have you ever had to sit up with someone all night because they were too afraid to go to sleep or be alone?

Have you ever had a conversation with a survivor of rape or sexual assault to try and educate yourself and understand what they have to go through?

If you have never had to do any of those things then you are very lucky.  There are just two more questions I want to ask you…

How would you feel if the person I was just talking about who was viciously beaten, repeatedly raped and gone through utter hell was your mother, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, wife, cousin, daughter or close friend and you had to look them in the eye?

Do you still think rape jokes are funny now?

Live, laugh, love and educate,

Sister Storm

Here’s to the male feminists!

—Guest Post by Sister Storm

As a woman feminism is something that is very close to my heart, for obvious reasons.  It is in my best interests to want better and equality for my gender.  Of course there are many negative connotations associated with feminism that I regularly have to combat from both men and women.  I don’t hate men, I don’t want to be a man, I don’t think I am better than men; we are equal and should be treated as such in every aspect of our lives.  So with the flak I get for refusing to have my beliefs silenced and being a big scary butch man hating bitch I can only imagine the kind of shit some male feminists can get for willingly being affiliated with such a dirty word and ridiculous notion.

It is hard being a woman in the 21st century but it is equally hard to be a man, not just any kind of man though, it is damn hard to be a decent man in this day and age.  To not be ‘one of the boys’ or buy into the vile and ever increasing ‘lad culture’ phenomenon, to not laugh at rape jokes when a room erupts at the hilarity of it, to think it is completely unacceptable to follow, touch, grope, scream at, perv on or ‘compliment’ a woman who is going about her business, to voice their opinion on equality and how highly they value women.

Thankfully there are more and more men out there in the world (or as I also like to call them REAL MEN) who are perfectly willing to be considered feminists, who realize the importance of equality and are not afraid to voice their opinions on the matter and other important issues like trying to end violence against women.

So instead of bashing the arrogant, slimy, ignorant, misogynistic, uneducated ‘men’ that are crawling all over place, who don’t value or deserve to have decent women in their lives how about we give a big three cheers to the awesome men out there who are on the front line too.  These men should be celebrated and considered role models to all the confused kids out there who get pulled into a world of misogyny, not knowing their own self worth and being afraid to speak their minds.  More men like these are needed in the world, so here’s to them!

Live, laugh, love,

Sister Storm.

Surviving Rape: What I Want Other College Students to Know About Title IX

Originally Posted on June 21, 2012 | NWLC.ORG
Posted by:  Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern

After-rape is to be consumed by emptiness, isolation, fear, shame, and anger.

And after-rape at college is to be confronted by my rapist every day—on the quad, in the library, at breakfast. It is to be ceaselessly reminded of the moments in which power and control were stripped from me, in which I had no option but to let go and resign myself to the fact that this was really happening.

I was raped my sophomore year of college by a male student at my school. In the weeks after the assault, he followed me around campus, physically blocked me from going up the steps into my dorm, and threatened my friends. One Friday at three in the morning, he tried to break into my room while I sat terrified inside.

The rape and harassment changed everything for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I stopped studying. School was no longer on my radar screen. I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. I considered dropping out.

I found out about Title IX by chance, through a lawyer friend. She told me, “Title IX is not just about sports. It says your college can’t make you leave school because you were raped and feel unsafe. They’re supposed to make sure the campus is not a sexually hostile environment.”

It seemed so sensible once she’d said it, but I’d never heard anything about my supposed right to a safe educational environment ever before.

Turns out, Title IX grants survivors of sexual assault a number of rights, by requiring schools to:


Donate to Domestic & Sexual Violence Shelters!

Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60-70% reduction in incidence and severity of re-assault during the 3-12 months’ follow up period compared to women who did not access shelter. Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location.


(Campbell, JC, PhD, RN, FAAN. Anna D. Wolf, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Protective Action and Re-assault: Findings from the RAVE study.)

stat from: http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/