spring 2017 issue feminism in 2017
table of contents 3 — Letter from the Editor | Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler 4 — Feminist Students United | FSU 5 — Control | Anna Waddell 6 — Sexual Coercion: when yes does not equal consent | Annabelle Holman 7 — Ableism and Body Shaming | Emily Hagstrom 8 — I’m a mess | Elle Kehres 9 — spring break in retrospect | Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler 11 — one and two | Olivia Hair 12 — FEMINISM IS NOT FOR YOU | Carley West 13 — untitled poem | Laura Brady 14 — Assertions to prevent and minimize the proliferation of shame in the time of Trump | Allory Bors 15 — mountains, shame, and self fastened straight jackets | Courtney Triplett 22 — Latinx Alternative Spring Break by Rachel Maguire 23 — Women’s Center Alternative Spring Break by Rachel Maguire 25 — FUCK MISOGYNY | Emily Killian
Cover Art by Madi Whalen Inside art by AW: Amber Williams
Siren Scheme Team
co-editor | Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler
co-editor | Tori Placentra
co-design editor | Rachel Maguire
letter from the editor Spring semesters have, for me, always flown by. The seasonal change blurs together confusinglyâ€”all the more so given North Carolinaâ€™s unpredictable weather. Still, there was something unfamiliar about the movement of days this time around. I am a senior, and this is the final time I will watch an issue of Siren go to print as UNC student. Over my last two years on the Scheme Team, the magazine has undergone so much growth and development, while never wavering on its commitment to provide a space for like-minded students to hold space and talk back. This issueâ€™s theme seemed almost too generic in early meetings: asking what feminism means and who it is for is not a question unique to 2017. However, the broad nature of such a theme ultimately proved beneficial: we wanted to give a chance for our writers and readers to consider 2017 through whatever lens was comfortable. We editors acknowledged that 2017 could not be solely summed up as a year defined by change. For some, reflections on feminism involved the new administration. For others, it was spring break, and the little moments that remind us each and every day that gender equity is an uphill battle. Ultimately, the issue presented to you now is the product of months spent by students of all walks of life writing and designing from the heart. Myself and the rest of the Scheme Team sincerely hope that you enjoy the work created. Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler
co-design editor | Allory Bors
co-treasurer | Emily Hagstrom co-treasurer | Jaime DiLauro community builder | Laura Brady
feminist students united Mission Statement: Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing. Tampon/Pad Drive: For the rest of the semester, FSU will be collecting sanitary products for the Compass Center. You can drop off donations at our weekly general body meetings on Thursdays in Dey 313 from 7-8 p.m. If youâ€™d like to join our listserv, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org Like us on Facebook @ UNC Feminist Students United and follow us on Instagram @fem_students_united
control | Anna Waddell I have never felt in control of my body as a little girl, I was touched as a woman, I was raped I was finally starting to feel powerful a woman was going to be elected as our president an independent, sentient feminist I had hope for my future now we have a man in office who has harmed the bodies of people like me people cry themselves to sleep over what he did and he has control over me when I raise my children in the future, I donâ€™t want them to hurt like I have I donâ€™t want them to feel the pain I have felt I want society to protect them from these horrors but this will never happen when we have men in office who have raped the bodies of people
I have never felt in control of my body
when yes does not equal consent | Annabelle Holman Nowadays, most people are familiar with the general idea of consent. No means no and yes means yes. Right? Well … no, not really. Not completely. Many are familiar with the notion that an absence of a no does not equal a yes, but what if a yes is a coerced yes? Is it still an act of sexual violence if you are coerced to say yes? IT IS. Sexual coercion is when someone pressures another person into “consenting” or agreeing to the sexual act, especially in a situation where consent was not initially present. It can use emotional or physical tactics, such as making someone feel guilty for not agreeing to the act or encouraging someone to drink enough alcohol to impair their judgment. Speaking from experience, sexual coercion is very confusing to deal with after the fact. I played the event over and over in my mind, asking myself if my “yes” was truly consensual. I have convinced myself again and again that by not being more assertive with my no’s and not removing myself from the situation sooner, I deserved all of the guilt and agony that I experienced afterward. At my first frat party I was coerced into kissing another guy while in a committed monogamous relationship. Looking back at it, it is extremely difficult for
me to imagine why I let the situation get as far as it did and since then, I have repeatedly beat myself up over my disloyalty and untrustworthiness to my partner I felt (and still feel sometimes) terrible, until I learned about sexual coercion and read about people who shared my experiences. I realized that my consent was not freely given or assertive. Knowing that there is a label for my experience lessened the burden I carried on my shoulders. It bothers me that I was not more aware of coercion sooner. I never said “yes, please kiss me.” What did happen was constant pressure and badgering to convince me to agree to a kiss. Asking. Asking. Asking. All I wanted to do was dance and I tried my best to make that clear. My friend even intervened at one point to tell the guy I had a boyfriend to help support my case, as if me saying no to kissing him wasn’t enough. However, a few songs later, after asking one final time, my moral boundaries crumbled to the ground. My head was swirling with an alcohol-induced mix of emotions and thoughts, trying to reason my way through agreeing to the kiss. Without a clear head or ample time to think it over, his lips hit mine, sending immediate shocks of regret and shame through my body. “What had I done?” was my initial thought, but it should have been, “What
did he do to me?”. My repeated “no” should have been enough to get him to shut up and stay away from my lips. My hesitancy definitely did NOT warrant a kiss. His disrespect for my personal wishes and desires constantly frustrates me. Although I saw the red flags and thought about leaving the room to remove myself from the situation, going out to a party with your friends should NOT be a green light to engage in sexual acts with strangers.
BUT WHAT IF A YES IS A COERCED YES? IS IT STILL AN ACT OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE IF YOU ARE COERCED TO SAY YES? IT IS. Definitions of consent vary from place to place and from person to person, but it is so crucial to understand that consent is not a rigid structure. “Yes” ≠ consent. Sexual coercion is legitimate. Remember this: you are in control of your own body. Do not let people convince you otherwise.
Ableism and Body Shaming Have No Place in the Feminist Movement | Emily Hagstrom
It’s been a while since I participated in the Women’s March on Washington, and I still can’t get some of the chants out of my head. Some of them were old favorites, like the call and response, “Show me what Democracy looks like?” to which the crowd calls back, “This is what Democracy looks like!” and, “My body, my choice!” But others weren’t quite as grounded in feminist values. These are the chants I really can’t get out of my head, the ones that both aggressively caught on and completely missed the point. One in particular that I’m referring to here is, “Tiny hands, tiny feet, all he does is tweet, tweet, tweet!” (“He”, of course, refers to Donald Trump.) At first this may sound like a funny (and appropriate) chant; the president has often been criticized for his tiny hands and his constant tweeting. Additionally, as I was recently mansplained by someone who thought my criticism stemmed from me not “getting” the chant, the president’s history of sexual assault combined with his comments about being “well endowed” make the notion of his having “tiny feet” certainly comical for many chanters. But, when we think critically about chants like this—does
this rhetoric actually further the feminist agenda? Those intent on defending the chant to me have claimed that the purpose of ridiculing Trump’s tiny hands and “tiny feet” was to call him out for his history of sexually assaulting women, but in less explicit terms. Yet, it is illogical to make fun of someone for
FEMINISM DOES NOT TOLERATE ABLEISM; IT PRIORITIZES BODY POSITIVITY. FEMINISM DOES NOT CRITIQUE LEADERS FOR THEIR APPEARANCE, BUT RATHER CRITIQUES THEIR BAD POLITICS AND DISREGARD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. having tiny hands in order to make it seem ridiculous that someone with Trump’s body type could have committed the egregious acts of harassment the President has been accused of upon numerous occasions. Firstly, that’s invalidating to everyone who has come forward and reported their assaults (which can have a very real and traumatic impact).
Secondly, there is no specific powerful stature that makes someone a more legitimate rapist than someone else; all kinds of people—whether tiny-handed or not, well endowed or not, or literally tiny-footed or not—are capable of committing sexual assault. And it’s never a trivial matter. There are a number of ways to perhaps make the president seem less scary or to address his horrible treatment of women. However, it is certainly not constructive to do so in a superficial way that engages the Trumpian rhetoric that people with some body types are more valuable or powerful than others. Indeed, to do so is to create nothing more than cheap humor. Some might consider chants like these a way of beating Trump at his own game—of making him lose even the ridiculous competitions of manliness and power that he creates, of showing him no one’s buying his bullshit. But the point of our feminism is that we are not playing his game. The size of someone’s genitals is absolutely unrelated to their character, their ability to commit sexual assault, or their influence. To even engage with that idea goes against the values the feminist movement has been attempting to cultivate for so long.
Further, chants that take cheap shots at Trump’s “tiny hands” and “tiny feet” encourage people like the white man behind me at the March to begin yelling things like, “Trump is a tiny handed freak!” and “Trump has a tiny Pence!” Although, thankfully, those chants did not catch on, it’s easy to see why making fun of Trump’s hands and “feet” pave the way for such thoughtlessness in what was meant to be a feminist space. Something we don’t often think about is how what just seems like words can be ableist and
harmful to individuals with what media outlets paint as unconventional body types. We, as feminists, as people marching for human rights, should aim to set the standard for political discourse—a standard that certainly should not encourage idealized norms of how bodies should look or make anyone feel uncomfortable in their own skin. It’s important to remember that, during such a volatile and honestly toxic time, we need to prioritize the values of our movement. Feminism does not tolerate ableism; it priori-
tizes body positivity. Feminism does not critique leaders for their appearance, but rather critiques their bad politics and disregard for human rights. As feminists, we need to acknowledge that our words have consequences—and it is important not to trivialize harmful discourse for some cheap laughs at the president. As Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, we go high.” It’s time to make a commitment to that, to remain critical of our movement, and to continue making progress together.
I’m A Mess | Elle Kehres I’m a mess I wake up with wild hair, mascara smeared around my eyes, and a wary pain in my heart. I drink too much, stay out too long, and borrow too much happiness from tomorrow just for the night. I have no self-control with sweet things. I spend too long in the rain and always catch a cold. I pop a pill, then another, hoping to ease the frantic thoughts that ravage my mind. Depression is hard. So I try harder. I exercise too little—then too much. Trying to maintain a balance that won’t lead me back to where I don’t want to go. I hold on to people too tightly. I separate myself from those I care for too easily. I get lost inside my head, emerging years later wondering what decade I’ve found myself in. I wear all orange, hide away in black, and dye my hair red only to change it back. I add another tattoo, read another book, kiss another kind soul and end up distracted with the hum of the overhead light. I’m a mess. But I’m learning to live with that truth. To enjoy this blessed life I’ve been given. To dance in the rain and drink warm tea when I get home. To enjoy the strawberry cheesecake and tell the mirror to ‘fuck off’. To build as many connections as I can, and pray that those who are meant to stay—will. Therapy, yoga, meditation, poetry. I begin to remember how to care for myself. How to put the bottle down and embrace a friend instead. How to prove myself wrong and learn to not pass judgement—especially on myself. I’m a Monet, smeared together with a smile. Beautiful and disastrous all at once. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
art cred: tumblr user nobunny88
spring break in retrospect justine orlovsky-schnitzler
we went to the Guggenheim on Monday evening, before the snowstorm that blanketed the City in quiet and white. it’s a private collection and we handed our money over with twinges of regret, and then immediately felt bad because maybe art has to cost something, and who are we to devalue someone’s work? we also know art should be cracked wide open and free to the masses. we moved upward toward the picassos with equal parts joy and trepidation. the museum building is a giant spiral, itself a piece of art, and a terrible structure for viewing framed works (as noted by my partner). we found ourselves lingering over the pieces others walked past in an attempt to get the art that “ought to be seen”, according to some unspoken general knowledge. we aren’t sure who made those rules. After we left we found a Jewish delicatessen in the Lower East Side and spent an hour suspended in disbelief while enjoying the food it felt we were born to eat.
we debated whether or not to see the Dinner Party installation at the Brooklyn Museum. it’s a giant piece of protest art, a triangular structure with settings for famous women throughout history. the table settings are almost grotesque—blooming vulvas, painted in unnatural hues and bright splotches of gold. we walked around and around dozens of times, trying to figure it out. is it better to reclaim the idea that the women represented could be boiled down to their genitalia? how much inherent value is there in elevating the vulva (not the vagina, mind you) to an art form? is it inherently transphobic? or is it wrong to discourage individuals for choosing to celebrate their bodies while admitting the artist can’t make that decision for women who have long since passed? this art piece was installed far before pussy grabs back made waves, and i wondered if those who marched with the flapped knit ears through the streets of the capital know this massive hunk of sculptured expression exists in Brooklyn. I found myself laughing at sections of it, admiring the curvatures at others, and frowning, all at once.
outside of the installation the museum is working on a new exhibit, involving black radical women and queer folks. I will be back for that. I liked the idea of that eventual exhibit surrounding and perhaps overtaking the entrance to the Dinner Party. as we left we passed through a short hall including reinterpretations of the Grande Odalisque, which is a painting of a white concubine reclining nude, glancing over her shoulder. here we found a Mickalene Thomas painting that spanned the length of an entire wall—a black woman, depicted by a black woman, proud in her beauty and dominating a space traditionally held by white male artists and their subjects. the placard beneath noted that in most renditions of the Odalisque, white women are attended by black servants, making the role reversal in the piece all the more important. “This,” noted my partner, “should be the entire gallery.”
we took the train from Penn Station north, questioning why we wanted to push further into the bitter cold. eight lazy hours passed us by, punctuated by lakes and industry and overcrowded New England cities. our arrival was heralded by the crunch of ice underfoot and the absolute quiet of empty space—the train pulls away and leaves us on the platform, forty miles from the Canadian border. we chose Burlington because we had a romantic idea of Vermont, and a problematic one at that. we spent our days reveling in co-op groceries and eco-friendly cars, while spending our nights reading up on how vermont is one of the whitest states in the county, and that outside the borders of Burlington proper exists startling poverty, and how much disconnect lives between the so-called liberals within Burlington’s borders and the neighbors they financially kicked out. we tried to reconcile the good with the bad, and sat quietly by Lake Champlain in the blustering cold, evaluating our place in such a city and the view in front of us until our hands turned blue.
olivia hair one my body lied over the ocean my body lied over the sea my body lied over the ocean ‘Til you took this body from me
two My tits, spotting the olive of My unvoiced pith, My skin hard in mango juice and silked in sublimity.
my curves rolled the waves of the ocean my idiosyncrasies sang with the sea
My breath, hueing the phrases
my laugh told the hum of the ocean
on My face and My vertebra,
‘Til you took this paintbrush from me
roused with vigor and sketched
my skin was enough for the ocean
in silent idiom.
my pores breathed the language of sea my cheeks filled the water with ocean
My lip, chapped. rawing
‘Til you said it looked no good on me
oh My blood and My cartilage bodied with moon cries and hummed in daffodil kisses.
FEMINISM IS NOT FOR YOU: A Letter to White Feminists | Carley West If it is more about showing than doing If you ever say “she shouldn’t have been drinking/dancing/ wearing that” If you say “why didn’t she just leave him?” If you don’t stand with survivors of sexual assault despite the identity of the abuser If you aren’t pro choice If you shame women for enjoying sex If you still use the term slut/ hoe/whore to demonize sex-positive women If you didn’t vote because “they were equally bad canIf you think the biggest issues didates” If you say “I’m not like other are the wage gap and birth girls” to put other women control down for male attention If you celebrate the 19th Amendment as women’s right If you think there is something wrong with celebrating to vote when it excluded femininity women of color If it’s just a slogan on an xtra If you shame women for following the beauty standards small pink baby tee that have been set for deIf it’s in your instagram bio alongside #sadgirl and glori- cades by the male gaze If you see nothing wrong fied mental illness with the appropriation of If you abandon it when a black culture, including procute guy says “I don’t know why girls have to be so politi- tective hairstyles If you “don’t understand why cal about everything” black women are so angry” If it is limited to facebook posts and accumulating likes If you don’t stand with Black Lives Matter and shares If you’re only a #activist
If you still make racist or homophobic jokes around your friends because no one is around If you can’t recognize the value of representation in media If you don’t respect someone’s pronouns because “it’s too confusing” If you celebrate your CISters but not your sisters If you think being a woman means having a vagina If you aren’t trans-inclusive White women in feminism must be scrutinized. They must prove their commitment to feminism. They are born into a system that affords them privilege and must be held accountable for using it as a vehicle to speak up for those who cannot. White women in feminism need to be intersectional. They need to be trans-inclusive. They need to understand that feminism goes beyond celebrating vaginas and talking about their bodies. They need to carry their weight and accept that they must work harder to prove that they are a part of the movement. They must be for everyone.
We are the pebble stuck in your shoe: You shake it out Seeing it fall to the ground and kicking it behind you, Comfort. It was a loud fall-The pebble bounced back Not broken by its fall, Resistant. Laughing and shrieking, A child picks the pebble up Admiring how smooth it is, Weathered. Walked all over; Pushed to the side at times Your weight doesnâ€™t crush anymore, Surviving. A storm rolls in: Ominous clouds cast shadows Heavy atmosphere weighs us down, Drowning. But we are the pebble in your shoe: The phantom feeling That never lets you rest, Permanent.
art cred: bruna lima, tumblr user poeticamenteflor
Assertions to prevent and minimize the proliferation of shame in the time of Trump: Wisdom from feminist theorists, activists, queer communities & personal reflection | Allory Bors
—Truth is like an asymptote. It is relative. —Cleanliness is neither a virtue, nor a flaw. —Promptness is neither a virtue, nor a flaw. —You do not deserve to feel that anything about how your body appears, or any function that your body performs, is revolting. Fat bodies, queer bodies, bodies of people who have experienced trauma due to racism, bodies of people who have experienced assault, disabled bodies, HIV-positive bodies - all of these types of bodies are deserving and entitled to humanity, self-determination, relief, healthcare, and love. —Progress is not linear. It is circular. We have been here before, and we likely will be again. I believe there is vitality to be found in surviving together in our communities. —Grammar is made up as we go along, and to serve the powerful. No dialect is inferior to another. AAVE/BVE/Ebonics is NOT inferior to other forms of English. —The singular “they” is grammatically correct, according to Webster’s. Even if it were “incorrect,” this would not delegitimize its validity or its necessity. —There is nothing essential about gender. Do what you need in order to pass. This is not dishonest. Alternatively, being non-normative does not mean you are attention-seeking, difficult, or immature. The norm is the problem, the binary is the problem - not you. —Concepts like “vanity” and “laziness” are gendered, racialized concepts that often function to obscure the impacts of oppression. —Eating disorders are frequently the results of trauma and do not indicate naivete or weakness to “media messaging.” —PTSD is not just experienced by soldiers. There is no moral failure in being unable to cope with an environment that does not serve you. —You are not an agitator for being vigilant about
calling out racism, transmisogyny, misogynoir, classism, ableism, and sexism. People in your vicinity who defend path dependency are gaslighting you. These “isms” are deeply, deeply engrained in our surroundings, our institutions, our collective consciousness. They are our default settings. Calling out microaggressions does not equate to calling someone a “bad person,” and if someone accuses you of this for being critical, they are refusing to be accountable. Everyone has unlearning to do. —Attendance policies often reinforce ableism. Not everyone has the ability to access mental healthcare or the ability to seek accommodations. The educational system is built to help certain people succeed and halt the progress of others. This is based on uncontrollable factors of our identities and it is not fair. Meritocracy is ableist, classist, and racist. —Sex work is real work. Sex work is honorable work. —Coping is real work, and is physically and mentally exhausting. —You do not owe the world your labor in order to be dignified with humanity. You do not have to earn your humanity. You do not have to earn your right to health care. —It is your healthcare provider’s responsibility to treat you with dignity, to solicit your consent for all procedures, to respect your expertise about your own body, and to respect your identity. This applies also to providers of mental healthcare. You have a right to demand this. —Drug addiction is a mental illness and is not a character flaw. You deserve competent care and assistance. —If you start to feel shame about something you are doing, ask yourself if it is causing anyone harm. If you are not harming anyone, there is no reason to feel shame. —The personal is political.
mountains, shame, and self fastened straight jackets Courtney Triplett **content warning: sexual assault, ptsd
15 photo cred: tumblr user ziebran
It happened again. Maybe not in the same way, seeing as how I’m older now. Wiser. Guarded. Experienced. At least I thought so. I would walk around on too-high heels with pink gloss smeared across my lips, thinking “I’ve been there. I can protect myself. I can see the red flags. The deception. The look in his eyes after too many rum-and-cokes. I’ll know when to run.” But it happened again. I was sexually assaulted, through no fault of my own. And this time, it wasn’t in the same way. But it felt the same. I thought I knew when to run. When to ball up my fists. To grow out my nails so I could leave deep crimson marks across cheeks, and necks, and strong forearms. But my nails were short and filed down. Defenseless. And for a moment I didn’t know how to run. I couldn’t. I was paralyzed. My screams came out as nothing but silence, ghosts of desperate words that died on their way out. I was sitting, legs crossed, in front of a wide oak bar, sipping a Cosmopolitan through giggles. I’d picked up the Cosmo habit while gallivanting through my New York City summer as an intern. I’d first chosen the drink to be ironic, to have a good laugh at the basic bitches who swore by them through their perfectly pouty lips, but predictably became hooked on them. They are damn good. And they’re pink. And I remain unconvinced that I’m not a poutylipped basic bitch anyway. Both of the hands of the clock behind the bar were making their way towards 10, and the lighting
was dim. It was noisy, but not too loud, and crowded for a Thursday night. My best friend T sat beside me, her long onyx hair curled beneath her shoulders as she flirted carelessly with the crowd of men that circled the two of us. There were at least five, all co-workers of hers, or their tag-along friends. We were surrounded. And we loved it. We played perfectly off of each other, T and I. The darkness of her hair and the exquisite sharpness of her features was always the perfect contrast for my platinum-blonde, girl-next-door vibe. We never got to see each other, living in different towns, so when we did, the day became by default our most favorite day. One of the smaller guys from the circle strutted up to where I was sitting, and leaned an elbow on the bar to face me. He peered at me for moment, almost a little too long, and then turned away to yell across my person to T: “I mean, you said she was hot, but daaaamn look at her. The pictures you showed us of her don’t do her justice at all.” He looked over at me, waiting on his validation. I washed my latest sip of Cosmo down with a noticeably dramatic eye roll, and let out a sigh. “Cool line, man.” I scoffed. “I’m more than just a pretty face, you know.” I was teasing him. He knew it, and I knew it. I made eye contact with him, and we both began to laugh.
was actually laughing at him as the result of his annoyingly confident comment on my appearance, remarkably small hands, and from the warm effects of Absolut. But hey, he didn’t know that. T did, though, and erupted into laughter beside me. She leaned across me to grab small guy by his collar. Her pointed black nails pressed into the fabric of his shirt as she teased him mercilessly:
I WOULD WALK AROUND ON TOO-HIGH HEELS WITH PINK GLOSS SMEARED ACROSS MY LIPS, THINKING ‘I’VE BEEN THERE. I CAN PROTECT MYSELF’… BUT IT HAPPENED AGAIN. I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED, THROUGH NO FAULT OF MY OWN. “Oh, fuck off. She’s way too hot for you, and you know it.” She released him from her grasp with a playful little push as we, again, succumbed to giggling girlishly into his face. I rested my head on her shoulder, and breathed her in. T always smelled like coconut oil. She planted a quick kiss on my cheek that was now flushed with alcohol, and grabbed my hand.
He wasn’t particularly funny; I
“Sorry man, she’s mine.”
together I’m pretty sure.”
I smirked and quickly agreed- we always tag-teamed making fun of random bar men and tonight was really no exception.
T blotted at her mouth haphazardly with a fistful of toilet paper while I helped her stand, pulling her up with both arms. I used my thumb to wipe her tears, and we both just started smiling, amused at the state we were in.
“I’m with her,” I assured him, non-ironically.
“This is so typical for us.” The next place we went to, we sat up at the bar again. Except this time, T couldn’t sit upright, and fell asleep face down beside me while I sipped my glass of Pinot Grigio. The bartender, finally noticing that there was a drunk girl passed out on his bar, studied us carefully as he worked drying beer glasses. “Hey, uh, is she good? “She’s fine, she’s a tough girl. We’re leaving soon anyway.”
wash over me. I was so happy to be warm, and to be in a familiar place. My head was buzzing from the alcohol, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Mason had to run back to work after driving us. It was going on 2 AM, and he had to finish closing up the bar. I sent him on his way, after promising several times I would make sure T was alright before bed. I shut the door, but didn’t lock it. He said he wouldn’t be long. T was back in front of the toilet again, and so, I was too. I sat cross-legged behind her, rubbing her back and whispering “good job, it’s almost over” as she continued to throw up several more times. Meanwhile, her phone kept ringing, so I finally grabbed it from her purse to investigate. It was small guy.
T’s boyfriend Mason appeared behind the bar, and began stacking rows of various glass cups. He was enormously tall, and towered over the bartender.
“Hey, T. Me and Jordan want to come hang out with you guys. What are you doing?”
He first noticed me, and stopped for a minute to wave. Once his eyes focused on T, he realized that the passed out drunk girl on the bar was his drunk girl, and immediately ran to her side.
I quickly wrote back.
“I’m so sorry, Court. I suck.”
With Mason supporting T, we left the bar and walked through snow flurries to his car. The air was frigid, and I could feel the wind cutting into my skin. It was the type of cold that you could feel in every one of your pores. I hated the stupid mountains in the winter.
“Stop. You’re amazing. This was literally me the last time we were
When we walked in the door of their shared apartment, I felt relief
He finally walked away to get another drink, defeated. T and I continued to sip our drinks, bat our eyes, and laugh the same laugh in sync, as was our usual. The bar was our own little movie, and we were the stars. That was, until, T had a little too much to drink. I found myself crouching on the dirty bathroom floor of the bar, holding back her long black hair as she vomited into the toilet. She looked up at me helplessly, mascara tears streaming down her perfectly structured cheekbones:
“Hey this is Courtney. You guys can come hang out if you want, but we probably aren’t going to be up too late.”
“Well, I would really be coming to hook up. Would that happen?” I drunkenly mulled over small guy’s latest text. Did I want that? Did I even remember what he looked like? Ehhhhh, what the hell, right?
I thought about it one more time. My head was pounding now, and T’s face was still in the toilet.
My eyes shot open. It was small guy, accompanied by his friend.
The room was spinning. I knew I was too drunk. And I knew I didn’t like him anyway. I texted him again. “Wait, we are actually too drunk to do anything. So don’t come. We are going to bed. Sorry.”
... “What... what the fuck are you guys doing here?” I was disoriented, having just woken up, and still very drunk. I could feel the dread start to pool in my stomach, coiling and twisting itself like a cobra that was about to feast on my insides.
I waited a few minutes, and there Small guy didn’t let me get in was no response. No ding this another sentence before his lips time. I texted again. were on mine. He forced my mouth open with his tongue, “Seriously don’t come. Too intent on exploring me. He was drunk. Sorry.” aggressive, and kissed me hard, tasting like stale beer and DorAfter several minutes of no itos. I fought back the urge to response, I assumed small guy vomit. had gotten the message, and was texting his plan b. ... “Wait, hold on a second. Please... just...” I stumbled over I forced two ibuprofens down T’s my words, trying to rip my face throat, and helped her to bed. I away from his. But I was powertucked her in, kissed her cheek, less. Lying next to me in the bed, and assured her that I would be he had one of my arms pinned right outside if she needed underneath his body, and much me. of his weight on top of me. I cracked the door to T and Mason’s room and collapsed on the pull-out bed. I wrenched my heeled booties off, stripped down to just my bra and panties, and immediately passed out. The next thing I remember was the sound of the door opening. I assumed it was Mason arriving home from work. My eyelids fluttered. Seconds later, as a body was climbing into bed with me, I realized it was definitely not Mason who had come through
Hot tears were streaming down my face. I was actually choking now. I felt my consciousness coming and going in waves. Was I about to pass out? Is that what he wanted? My mind started to go blank, and my vision was dotted with blackness—in and out—in and out. Maybe I should just pass out. Maybe I should just let him. Maybe this could be erotic? Maybe I was asking him for it and didn’t even realize. The seconds felt like hours. My mind was playing tug-of-war. Play dead. No, fight. No, play dead. Small guy ran his free hand over my body, grabbing my ass and attempting to finger my nipples through my bra as I writhed beneath him. He kept whispering in my ear, calling me a slut over and over again. His hand moved to my thigh, gripping it for leverage. His other hand was still around my throat.
Just for a moment, I stopped fighting. I thought... maybe I should just let it happen. Maybe I should just let him so he’ll leave me the hell alone after. That’s all he wants, anyway. If I say yes, I know for a fact he won’t hurt me. He’ll just do his thing and move along, right?
I stopped struggling. I laid there, limply, like a corpse. I felt my breathing begin to slow. I wanted to give in to unconsciousness. It was sure as fuck better than this.
I was mid-thought when I felt small guy’s hand close around my throat. He was choking me.
This was it.
“I’m about to punish you like the little bitch you are. Do you hear me, you fucking slut?”
His hand crept down my thigh, and found the top of my pink lace panties. He pulled on them.
All of a sudden, something came over me. I was going to fight. “NO!”
I screamed. I clawed at him with all my might, knocking him off of the bed. He hit the floor with a nauseating thud. “What the fuck is your problem?” He looked up, trying to talk to me, slurring heavily in the process. I realized he was chuckling. He assumed I was just playing hard to get. I ignored him, and ran into the room where T was completely passed out. I climbed into bed with her, and rolled on my side to face the wall...cowering...hiding. I felt her phone next to me in the bed, so I turned over and grabbed it. I quickly texted Mason. “Hey, there are some guys here. They won’t leave.I woke up and he was in bed with me... I don’t know what to do. He choked me. I’m freaking out, PLEASE come home now...They won’t leave. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do.” I shook T awake, but when I tried to tell her what had just happened, I couldn’t find the words. All I could say to her was “they won’t leave.” Small guy let himself into the bedroom and sat down on the bed next to T. I rolled over to face the wall again, leaning so far away that I was practically forcing my bones into the concrete. I didn’t want to look at him. I didn’t want him to see me. I wanted to be invisible.
T had no idea. It was after 3 AM, and she was just pissed that they had come over at all. They chatted while I texted Mason
frantically. I glanced up from the glowing screen. I could see small guy’s friend playing with the little dog in the living room; happily, unbothered, as if he didn’t just watch his friend curl his fingers around my throat. After what felt like an eternity, Mason burst through the front door, eyes flashing. “Hey. Get the FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE. NOW.” They were taken aback, T included. She looked at Mason, confused. Through shaking hands, I showed her the text messages I had been sending Mason for the last ten minutes. Realization washed over her. I watched as her amber eyes turned blood red with rage. I was sobbing now. I couldn’t control myself anymore. I was crying so hard that I thought I might pass out again, because I couldn’t stop to catch my breath. I curled up in a ball. Full-fetal position. I began to flash in and out, a triggered symptom of my PTSD. I was thirteen all over again. Breath on my neck. Concrete walls. A staircase. A much-older man’s tongue flicking my earlobe. We were inside a church. The church where I grew up. It was dark. He was so strong, holding me against the wall effortlessly as I squirmed. ... “Please, no. I don’t want to.” I was whimpering.
His fingers went up my skirt. Inside me. I had never been touched before. Blood. More blood. I flashed back in, this time practically convulsing. My body was racked with sobs. My lungs were on fire. I had entered full-blown hysteria. T gathered me in her arms, and held me tightly to her: “I am so sorry. Jesus Christ, shit. I am so sorry. Court what the fuck? What did he do? I swear to god I’m going to fucking kill him.” We could both hear Mason and the guys screaming at each other in the next room. I covered my entire body with the comforter, trying to drown it out. I didn’t want to flash back again, but I knew I had no control. There was a loud crash, and then the front door slammed. T jumped up from the bed and ran after them. I could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs: “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO MY BEST FRIEND? WHAT DID YOU DO? WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?”
I could still hear the screaming. From what I could gather from inside the bedroom, the guys still wouldn’t leave. Predictably, the neighbors called the police. They questioned all of us. T, Mason, and I were questioned together by two cops. Small guy and his friend were detained outside the apartment by two others. The cops inside with us were gentle. They probably took one look at me: face red and swollen with tears (which were still flowing) and shaking like a leaf, and knew something terrible had happened. They looked at all of the text messages on T’s phone to confirm our story. That sick bastard is so lucky that I didn’t mention the sexual assault. I told them the truth, that they had intruded and refused to leave, but didn’t mention the rest. I couldn’t face the implications of pressing charges. I couldn’t face anything in that moment. I just wanted them gone. Once I finished filing the incident report, the police finally left. I stood up, and immediately ran to Mason who was standing close-by. I threw my arms around him and buried my face in his torso, thanking him repeatedly through sobs:
other without any words. I’m not sure how long it went on, but I knew I didn’t want it to end. T later told me that small guy and his friend were detained for hours, even after we had gone to bed. The police were convinced, from our story and the text messages, that they had come over to rape us. I couldn’t sleep after that. T and Mason passed out, exhausted from the whole ordeal. I had them convinced that I was fine. I couldn’t bear the thought of making them suffer along with me until the sun came up. I preferred to suffer silently. I tossed and turned, fighting to keep the poisonous images out. I hummed little songs inside my mind. That usually worked. Especially 80s power ballads. “mmm I just wanna use your love tonight. Oh, I don’t wanna lose your love toniiiiiight.” My personal brand of PTSD comes in flickers. Like a flame, occasionally it will crackle and dart away from the usual rhythm. Then it returns to normal. But unlike a flame, I never truly return to normal. Not really. Flicker.
“Thank you... for, for saving us. Thank you for saving me. Thank you...thank you...”
Blood. More blood.
I felt two more arms close around me from behind. It was T. The three of us stood there in the middle of the living room... hugging, crying, and comforting each
“Oh, I don’t wanna lose your love toniiighhhht.”
Flicker. Hot breath. Darkness. Searing pain. Flicker. “I don’t wanna, no I don’t wanna looooosee your love.” The back and forth went on all night. Fighting against your own mind is an indescribable type of suffering. It’s like struggling to stay above water. It’s drowning, thrashing, knowing all the while that the very rope holding the bricks to your feet was tied in knots by your own hands. I couldn’t wait for the first sliver of sunlight to pour in through the blinds. It’s been over a month since that night in the mountains. I still have trouble sleeping sometimes. The place on my thigh where small guy grabbed me turned purple; I counted the number of days it marked my person... twelve. Twelve days I only wanted to wear pants. Twelve days I wanted to be able to wash it off in the shower like the filth it was. I was so arrogant. I really thought I would know exactly what to do in a situation like that. I was always the loudmouthed girl who screamed FUCK YOU back at cat-callers on the street I was always the fearless girl who could fight for herself, who punched a frat boy right in the face when he shoved me at a party. But here’s the thing. Healing, whether I like it or not, isn’t lin-
ear. Sometimes two steps forward can lead to three steps back. I was sexually assaulted again. And it was completely out of my control. I thought I always knew when to run, and that it would happen as an instinct now. But it didn’t. I literally had the thought that I should just play dead, and let it happen. How insane is it, that as women, we would consider being raped just to avoid something worse? That I considered just lying there so he wouldn’t hurt me for saying no? I still struggle with anxiety. I still struggle with PTSD. I still struggle with depression. But again, healing is not linear. Sometimes, terrible things happen and they happen without any warning.
sexually assaulted, again, at age 21 would send me right back to age 13. And for that night, it did. I was terrified. I was overwhelmed. And I felt utterly shattered. But as the light shined into the apartment through a crack in the blinds, I was reminded that I FOUGHT. I FOUGHT BACK. I’m not 13. I’m a woman. A fierce, badass, clever, and resilient woman. And I fought him when I wanted to play dead. I went through the fighting, flashbacks, police interviews, and nightmares all because I stopped, took a breath, and decided that I was worth fighting for. Because I am worth fighting for.
It’s the way you respond to those things that correlates to your healing. I thought that being
I realized that I am still the girl that punched a frat dude. That I
am still the brutally honest woman who is confident and driven, and hell-bent on being successful. That was not stolen from me simply because an asshole with Dorito breath and tiny hands tried to hurt me. I realized that shame and sexual assault so often go hand-in-hand. Growing up, I wore the shame of what was done to me as a self-fastened straight jacket. I couldn’t get out. I gave in. I didn’t know that I had it inside of me to fight, to escape from the shame that was holding me. But that’s the difference between 13 and 21. I refuse to carry that shame. I refuse to play dead. I know, now more than ever, that I am worth fighting for. And believe me, I’m going to keep fighting like hell to rip that jacket off... stitch by stitch.
Editors Note: If you, or someone you know, has been through a trauma and needs help, please consider reaching out to the resources below. All of these resources, and more, can be found at www.safe. unc.edu
Gender Violence Service Coordinators Cassidy: (919) 962-1343; email@example.com Holly: (919) 962-7430; firstname.lastname@example.org Compass Center (919) 929-7122 (24 hour hotline) Orange Country Rape Crisis Center *offer English and Spanish services* (866) 935-4783 (24 hour hotline, toll free) (919)-967-7273 (24 hour hotline, local number) University Ombuds Office ombuds.unc.edu; (919) 843-8204 Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) campushealth.unc.edu/caps (919) 966-3658 (919) 966-2281 (crisis line after hours) Carolina Women’s Center womenscenter.unc.edu; (919) 962-8305 LGBTQ Center lgbtq.unc.edu; (919) 843-5376
a conversation about the Latinx Communities Alternative Spring Break | Rachel Maguire Q: Where did you go on this trip? Jessica Mencia: We went to Durham, Raleigh, Dunn, Pender County, and Wilmington. On this trip, we primarily learned about farmworker rights. How far workers have been mistreated and the different kind of movements and organizations that are trying to help them The event/service’s office name is: APPLES Service Learning Alternative Spring Break: Latinx Communities Q: What kind of an impact has this trip had on you? Josh Francisco: Personally, the trip has made me more aware of the issues that Latino immigrants, many of whom are also farmworkers, face. Sure, I’ve heard about some issues already, but directly interacting with the community has raised another level of awareness. I guess learning about issues from a distance does not capture your attention as well as actually engaging with the community and listening and observing. The awareness that I have gained from the trip has really moved me to passionately lobby for change to address the issues those in the Latino community face: to me, as a student, that means spreading awareness and educating others about them. That way, more people might be moved to join the fight for change. Emma Cook: Prior to the trip I thought I had an understanding of the struggles people within the LatinX community faced and quickly realized I was wrong! I learned so much, especially about farmworkers (and their families) in NC. I never realized how much they contribute to our economy and receive little in return. This affects not only their livelihood but their family’s as well. Children of farmworkers are working in the fields as young as age 10 and can affect their ability to excel in school. While this isn’t always the case there is a large number that this impacts. Just becoming aware of these issues has driven me to become more involved in the community and contribute to the progress of farmworkers’ (& their families’) rights that is readily being made! Jessica: Even as a member of the Latinx community, attending this trip allowed me to have a more personal experience and become more educated about issues that I may not be directly impacted by. As a citizen of the United States, there were many things that my father had to endure, many experiences that I will never have to face. Being on this trip allowed me to welcome others into my own community, while at the same time, further educating myself on the lives and experiences of other people within the Latinx community. I wouldn’t trade this Spring Break experience for anything!
a conversation about the Women’s Center Alternative Spring Break | Rachel Maguire Q&A with Sabrina Gamero, one of the leaders Q: Could you explain the alternative spring break? A: We began by going on a retreat at Camp New Hope in Chapel Hill. Here we got a very basic Domestic Violence 101 lessons from the Compass Center. We learned about the signs of unhealthy relationships, stats in our community, as well as the type of work different organizations provide. Cassidy, one of the Gender Violence Service Coordinators, taught us about resources in our community and how we can support survivors of interpersonal and sexual violence. We got to work with an organization in Wilmington called Domestic Violence Shelter and Services. We worked at their thrift shop locations, which help fund 1/3 of the organizations’ budget. We worked with Mandy, one of the organization’s coordinators, and she gave us an overview of all the services they provide. This was extremely helpful because we got to see the impact the thrift shops had on survivors who got to WE CANNOT GO get free clothes without having to rely only on federal funds. She INTO COMMUtold us, “In this day and age we do not know when these grants NITIES THAT ARE will no longer be supported by the federal government and thankNOT OUR OWN fully the thrift shops lower our reliance to the party in power”. In Brunswick county we worked with Hope Harbor Home AND DICTATE THE in beautifying their shelter. We also got to speak to them about TYPE OF HELP THEY how they ran their organization serving a substantially large amount of people in a very limited community. NEED...WE DID Everyday after our work we debriefed, cooked dinner toWHATEVER THEY gether and had some sort of educational material. We discussed self-care as well as men’s activism in gender equity work. We read NEEDED US TO DO, Andrea Dworkin’s , “24 Hour Truce” and watched Jackson Katz’s AND THAT WAS “violence against women its a men’s issue” Ted Talk.
Q:What kind of impact do you think you had on the communities? A: I think that we got to see services the organization’s provided and we got to be a part of making those services happen. It was not direct change, but we cannot go into communities that are not our own and dictate the type of help they need. We provided service through whatever THEY needed the most. We did whatever they needed us to do, and that was truly satisfying.
Q: What impact did the communities and charity work that you did have on you? A: I think it gave me more affirmation that I want to go into this kind of work. I have been an advocate on the community level at UNC, but this made me want to pursue advocacy work as a career. Q: Why was this an important trip? A: I think giving up your spring break for any type of service work is important. I got to meet some of the most incredible, self-driven first years and sophomores. As a junior, that gives me so much inspiration for the future of Carolina. Q&A with Annebelle Holman, one of the participants Q: Can you tell me about your experience on the alternative spring break? A: Before going on the alternative spring break trip, I had very little understanding of how volunteering at thrift stores had any connection to domestic violence shelters. Over the course of the trip I learned that service to survivors of domestic violence does not have to be immediate or direct. Volunteering at thrift stores helps to ensure that the environment is operating smoothly and that survivors are able to access what they need, such as clothing. For example, one store offers â€œgift certificatesâ€? to survivors that could be used to purchase items that they may need after coming out of a domestic violence situation. Even though we didnâ€™t necessarily have firsthand contact, our volunteer work made a huge impact on the communities and a direct positive influence on surivivors of domestic violence!
FUCK MISOGYNY | Emily Killian Strip They say With widened eyes Suddenly A change of heart They tell us to cover up Our vast, rolling hills And deep, rich valleys Unexpectedly disgusted by our organic forms We wonder What is so unnatural about our bodies We ask Why have we grown to hate these incredibly capable vessels But true depth cannot be seen When instant gratification is demanded From our bare bones Dehumanized and drooled over A meaty, animal-like quality Is forced upon our lush temples And then told how very wicked they are Having the mere audacity to exist Wrong, are they As this is not what our rich figures possess But a raw allure That lies deep within Every scar and mark and curve Every line and movement A pure beauty That can never be contained or salivated over An untouchable mystery
25 art cred: bruna lima, tumblr user poeticamenteflor
art credit: Madi Whalen
Why “The Siren?” In Greek mythology, the Sirens were enchanted mermaid-like creatures. With their irresistible songs, the Sirens lured sea mariners toward land and rocky graves. We learn in “The Odyssey” that the Sirens’ songs, while deadly, were also full of wisdom. Hearing this, the hero Odysseus decides to try his fate by tying himself to the mast of his ship, but not before having his sailors put wax
in their ears to protect them. Courage and restraint enable Odysseus to hear and learn from the Sirens’ songs. He is then empowered to change his destiny. He makes it past the islands safely. We at The Siren want to help change our future for the better as well. At first our message, like that of the Sirens’, may evoke fear. The terms feminism, women’s rights, gender equality, gay rights and civil rights may cause many people to turn a deaf ear, like Odysseus’ sailors. But if you take the time to read our stories, you’ll find our songs full of wisdom and experience, too. We wish you good reading and hope our songs might inspire you as well.