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Tag Archives: protest
Civil Disobedience Gone Horribly Wrong
Anyone who’s been at an airport lately probably agrees that those new TSA bodyscans/patdowns suck. One woman, however, apparently reserves some very special wrath for this procedure, because it infuriated her so much that she assaulted a female TSA officer. Not in the usual shoving/punching way, though:
TSA staff said Mihamae refused to be go through passenger screening and became argumentative before she squeezed and twisted the agent’s breast with both hands. Police said Mihamae admitted to the crime and was arrested on a felony count of sexual abuse.
Just in case this isn’t bad enough, there is now some sort of movement to keep Miyamae (that’s the actual spelling of her name; the media outlets got it wrong) from being prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It’s a Facebook page called “Acquit Yukari Mihamae” and it has currently been liked by 4,694 (and rapidly counting) people.
That’s a lot of people who think that physically assaulting someone is a fair response to a policy they dislike.
Here are some of the comments I found on the page:
“I love the story about this those disgusting TSA pigs need a taste of their own putrid medicine. I hope everything goes well I will offer all the support possible. NO PARA-MILITARY a.k.a TSA”
“GOOD JOB!!!! you should have twisted those bad boys right off!!!! show them punk asses a case of trading places… they think this is bad wait till they push us so far into a corner that the only option left for us is to revolt!!!!!!!!!!!”
“THANK YOU, Yukari for standing up to the TSA and for doing what I have always wanted to do!! You are a true hero and you show that resistance ios NOT futile!! I hope everyone will learn from your example and resist the senseless groping. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage and bravery!!”
“Thank you Yukari for your courage. You are the modern day Rosa Parks”
“Well, if somebody doesn’t stands up as Yukari did ,the world will be destroyed already… kudos for you!”
“TSA is to the United States as The Gestapo was to Nazi Germany!!”
“I live in Australia and was thinking of vacationing in the US. Until TSA follows the Inquisition and the Stasi into the dumpster of History, I’ll go elsewhere.”
“Keep twisting Yukari-san.”
Perhaps nothing disturbs me more than the comparisons of Miyamae to Rosa Parks and of the TSA to the Gestapo, the Stasi, and the Inquisition.
As for the suggestion that what Miyamae did is somehow equivalent to what the TSA does, that’s preposterous. Whether or not you agree with the actual method, the TSA has been charged with keeping airline flights safe. They’re not scanning/patting people down in order to make them uncomfortable, molest them, or embarrass them. They’re doing it because they’re trying to stop potential terrorists.
Furthermore, last I checked, we don’t do “an eye for an eye” here in America. We don’t rob convicted burglars, we don’t rape convicted rapists, we don’t punch kids that we catch fighting with classmates.
It seems that people have, as usual, fallen victim to black-and-white thinking. To them, the TSA’s screenings are “bad.” Therefore, anyone who resists them in any way must be “good.” Even if that resistance takes the form of an assault on someone’s body.
The supporters of Miyamae, particularly the ones who compare her to Rosa Parks, also seem to neglect the fact that real civil disobedience is powerful precisely because it harms no one. The image of Rosa Parks quietly sitting on the bus and refusing to stand is completely different from that of Miyamae forcefully grabbing and twisting the breast of another woman, a woman who is simply doing her job and trying to make a living.
Should the Personal be Political?
I recently came across the site Does This Make Sense? and I already love it. It’s got a lot of intelligent, thoughtful commentary. One piece that I particularly liked is called “Hell, No. I Won’t Say No.” It concerns the idea that women who want to change their society should withhold sex from men until their wishes are fulfilled. Lorraine Berry writes:
In principle, choosing not to have heterosexual sex as a protest against policies that restrict women’s abilities to have autonomy over their bodies seems the ultimate in women’s power. It did, to some extent, work in the case of Liberia, where the brave women there forced their men to continue negotiating for peace by sitting naked outside the building where the negotiations were taking place.
Ultimately, though, Berry argues that this form of protest is not only ineffective but counterproductive for women who happen to enjoy sex (which is, I might argue, almost all of them). There are many problems with a “sex boycott, such as what gays and lesbians would do, and the fact that it almost seems to confirm right-wingers’ anti-sex campaign (no abortion, no contraception, no pornography, no comprehensive sex ed, no premarital sex, no non-hetero sex, and so on).
However, I have another problem with it, and it involves the concept of “the personal is political.”
Here I’m going to just be a bad feminist and say that I disagree with this principle. Of course, I do believe that people should live according to their values (political ones included), but I cannot condone manipulating personal relationships for the sake of one’s politics. Unless your partner is personally overseeing the campaign to take control of women’s bodies, it’s completely unreasonable, not to mention unethical, to punish him for the actions of certain other members of his gender. (This is not even to mention that I cannot imagine a feminist woman dating an anti-feminist man to begin with.)
And, in general, I don’t think that politics should direct one’s personal life. If I choose to date a woman, it’ll be because I like her, not because I want to make a political statement about bisexuality. If I choose to date someone of a different race, it’ll be because I like him/her, not because I want to make a political statement about interracial dating. In contrast, the so-called “political lesbianism” movement advocated choosing to be a lesbian for political purposes. How is this an authentic way of living?
Of course, sometimes the personal becomes political, as when an anti-gay politician is revealed to be having same-sex relations, or when people speculate on whether or not Elena Kagan is a lesbian. In the first case, although people may bristle at the obvious hypocrisy, I think being anti-gay is bad enough regardless of what one does in his spare time (and sending inappropriate messages to teens is bad enough regardless of their gender). As for the second, most would agree that it shouldn’t matter. The fact that people make it matter is the crux of the problem.
So, is the personal political? Maybe, but it shouldn’t be. In my opinion, personal relationships are a sort of refuge from the outside world. I don’t bring politics into the bedroom, just like I wouldn’t bring my cell phone or my laptop or God into it.
The fact that Abercrombie & Fitch tried to market a push-up bikini top for pre-pubescent girls is old news now, but I read an interesting post on Fbomb about it and whether or not a “girlcott” would be effective. This got me thinking about the concept of “girlcotts” and of personal boycotts in general.
[Random aside: How would a push-up top work if there’s nothing there to push up? Anyways.]
The Fbomb post mentions a so-called “girlcott” led by the Women and Girls Association of Pennsylvania against stupid stuff from Abercrombie in the past. Apparently, it turned out to be effective and Abercrombie stopped selling the stupid stuff in question (though, of course, its shelves are still overflowing with various other crap.)
However, egregious overthinker that I am, I naturally have a problem with the term “girlcott” in the first place. Namely–and the people protesting these sort of issues would do well to recognize it–this is not a women’s issue. This is everybody’s issue. It should not be just women boycotting stores that sell products like this. There are men who don’t want to see these things marketed to their daughters and little sisters. There are men who refuse to buy into our society’s fetishization of little girls, who find themselves sexually attracted to women who look like women, not women who look like prepubescent girls. While men obviously wouldn’t be shopping for this stuff, framing this issue as one that only women should and do care about only robs us of potential allies.
Clearly, this neologism is a response to the perceived gender-specificity of the original word, “boycott.” However, some quick Wikipedia research has uncovered the fact that the word actually comes from someone’s name (specifically, that of Captain Charles Boycott) and has nothing to do with boys whatsoever. Furthermore, the solution to gender-specific words is not more gender-specific words, it’s gender-neutral words.
My second issue with this whole concept stems from a point brought up later in the Fbomb post, which discusses the idea of personally choosing not to shop at a certain store in order to make a point. I have mixed feelings about this. If you’re doing it for your own personal comfort and integrity–as in, you’d feel uncomfortable shopping at a store that doesn’t share your values–then sure. But it definitely annoys me when people think that they’re actually going to have an impact on the store itself if they refuse to shop there. If that’s what you want to do, organize a protest.
At any rate, nobody’s going to care that you personally refuse to shop there. At most, you’ll be preventing yourself from owning things you potentially like and making no impact whatsoever. It just doesn’t make sense.
The Courage to Protest
Last week I went to see a speaker named Gloria Feldt. She came to campus as part of the annual Sex Week, and, since she is a former CEO of Planned Parenthood and was speaking about women’s rights (which I am a full supporter of, in case anybody was wondering), some students actually came out to protest the event.
They stood outside the auditorium holding anti-abortion signs for the entire hour and a half that Feldt was speaking. At first I was annoyed by this, because they glared at me as I walked in and because I felt that they should’ve at least listened to what Feldt had to say (after all, her message was primarily one of female empowerment and had almost nothing directly to do with abortion).
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how relieved I was to see actual protesters on this campus. Because, let me tell you, that doesn’t happen often. Sure, there’s the occasional rally–yesterday was Take Back the Night, the infamous anti-rape rally, and a few months ago the Living Wage Movement (which seeks to provide a living wage to all of Northwestern’s employees) held a rally.
But see, it doesn’t take much courage to hold a rally against rape or supporting a living wage. Most people at this school will either agree with you or keep their disagreement to themselves (or, occasionally, post immature, ignorable comments on related news articles).
Protesting abortion, however–now that’s going to get you some dirty looks.
Maybe that’s just because this is a liberal campus. In a more conservative area, maybe holding a living wage rally would be gutsy and controversial. But here it’s not. And I, too, support things like abortion, rape prevention, and the living wage. But I still like to see people taking a stand for what they believe in, even if it’s not what I believe in.
The last time we had a protest that actually seemed controversial was way back at the beginning of the year, when some random people stood around holding signs that were meant to highlight the fact that low-income people do indeed exist at Northwestern. However, the way they went about this was questionable. While there are certainly people here who are struggling to get by (and people who have to work fulltime to put themselves through college), the protesters instead chose to hold signs saying things like “My top 3 sororities didn’t want me” and “I can’t afford North Face.” Haha. Well, honey, neither can I, and I’m hardly disadvantaged!
(Also, personally, I would be absolutely honored to be rejected by a sorority. Means I’m not a carbon copy of somebody. But that’s a topic for another blog post.)
(Also, while not evidence of actual economic disadvantage, the North Face sign could perhaps be viewed as a protest against Northwestern’s homogeneous fashion sense. But I don’t think that was the point.)
That protest also included signs about race relations on campus and the fact that they need to be improved, but honestly, nobody can seriously argue with that. That fact that one of the protesters was asked if she wears her hijab in the shower is pretty sad.
In any case, I’ve yet to see someone publicly display a controversial viewpoint on this campus and face the possibility of scorn and ridicule. It’s a completely apolitical campus in that sense. Until now. And honestly, it restored my faith in this school a little bit (after it was gradually shattered over the course of this past year). I guess there really are people here who care enough to stand up for something–and I mean, really stand up for something. As in, stand in a group of just several people and hold signs while dozens file into an auditorium and sneer at you. That’s a far cry from attending a big feel-good rally that represents the opinions of 90% of the campus with your twenty best friends.
The truth is that, as much as I disagree with people who oppose abortion, I’m proud to go to school with them. I’m proud that at a campus where it often feels like everybody’s on a mission to look, talk, and act like everybody else, some people still aren’t afraid to stick out.