September 11, 2009
I’m probably not supposed to laugh about this, but upon doing my usual news perusal this morning, I came across something that set me to giggling:
How can you avoid investigating that headline further?
At first, I was expecting some ridiculous scandal involving a bachelorette party and a “pin the penis on the naked man” game. Perhaps things got a little out of control and the girls ended up streaking the motel parking lot with paper penises glued to their foreheads, thought I. It could – and probably has – happen(ed).
Well, sadly, this is not a case of girls gone wild for fun. This is girls gone wild for revenge. This is the kind of story that would make for a great, albeit dark, comedy movie like Heathers, Jawbreaker or Death Becomes Her. In the case of each of those films, women – young and old – do deadly deeds in pursuit of something it seems most women covet: the right to call oneself “most beautiful” or “most popular.” In the case of the glued penis – that kind of sounds like a good book: Nancy Drew and the Case of the Glued Penis – four women pursued the right to call one of them “most likely to grow old with the world’s biggest loser husband.” How’s that for a superlative?
It seems that they don’t get much reality television in Wisconsin. Four apparently bored women including the wife of the “victim” concocted a scheme to trap a man who was sleeping with three of them indiscreetly. No, this is not the pilot episode plot summary for The Real Housewives of Calumet County.
Therese Ziemann claims that she met the man on Craigslist – I knew it was good for something – and fell in love with him. She allegedly payed for their hotel rooms and lent him $3,000.
Ziemann claims to have been contacted on the day before the assault by the man’s wife who confirmed that she was married to the man and was mother to his children; and that it was subsequent to that conversation that Ziemann, the wife, another girlfriend of the cheating husband, and Ziemann’s sister agreed to ambush the man at a Stockbridge motel and make him confess his treachery.
The man told police that he met with Ziemann for a sexual encounter at the motel, and she suggested that she tie him up and rub him down. She used bed sheets to restrain him and blindfolded him with a pillowcase. Then, according to the “victim,” she cut off his underwear with scissors and texted her accomplices telling them that he was tied up.
The four women asked the man questions about where his true affections lie. Then Ziemann slapped him and used Krazy Glue to attach his penis to his stomach, according to her testimony. The women took his wallet, car and cell phone and left him at the motel tied up. He then chewed through his restraints and called police.
My favorite line of the CNN article is: “CNN does not name victims of alleged sexual assault and will not name the alleged victim’s wife since they use the same last name.”
Why do I love this line? Because CNN is taking this man’s status as a victim very seriously – his identity is known. I put the word “victim” in quotation marks: this man made a series of deliberate choices (some illegal) that resulted in his uncomfortable apprehension. He’s not a victim like, say, children who find their genitals cut off in sadistic “circumcision” rituals in Africa et al. He’s not a victim like the Micheal Vick pit bulls who were riled up and used for sport. Nor, is he like the small rabbits and kittens that are used to bait such fighting dogs. And he certainly isn’t a victim like the millions of women and children who are beaten by abusive men in the United States and other countries around the world. No. Additionally, he did not find himself shot dead by George Sodini in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania or Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech. He did not find himself lying dead at the base of the fallen World Trade Center towers eight years ago today.
Can men be victims? Sure. And women have been known to beat their husbands and their children too. But, this man is not the poster child for penile rights! According to the article, this man “has a criminal record in Wisconsin dating back to 1998, (and) is in custody on unrelated charges of child abuse, theft and harassment.”
While CNN references its policy about not revealing the names of “victims” of “sexual assault,” I wonder at what point does this “victim” become the villain? At what point do his wife and his two unsuspecting girlfriends become “victims” of his treachery? At what point do his children become victims of his child abuse, the robbed victims of his theft, and the harassed victims of his harassment? As far as I can tell, this man is not a “victim” at all: he just got a little taste of his own medicine.
Now don’t go thinking that I am trivializing what must have been agonizing sexual assault for this man… No, you’re right, I am. Sexual assault in the form a Krazy Glued penis neither alarms nor horrifies me. Had they cut it off, then we’d have a serious crime on our hands.
Which brings us to the victims…eh perpetrators…of this incident: the women. At left is the image that CNN posted with its article. I assume these are the mug shots of Michelle Belliveau, Wendy Sewell and Ziemann (from left to right). That would make the woman on the right the man’s lover, loan shark and penis gluer. She doesn’t look too remorseful. Neither does her sister – who wasn’t sleeping with the man – on the far left. In fact, Belliveau looks rather pleased with herself. And the third cheated woman (Sewell in the center) just looks pissed off.
On the one hand, I want to say, “Good for them! They found a sisterhood and stood up for love and trust between sexual partners.” But on the other hand, I wonder what’s more pathetic: the fact that these women fell in love with and were duped by such a loser or the fact that they will stand trial and may go to prison for it?
Either way, I want to wear a t-shirt that reads “Release the Witches of Stockbridge.” For, even though they may have been tricked, they tricked back. In my book, “witch,” which is a term that has been applied to many women over the years including our esteemed – and often loathed – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a great thing to be: it means you’re smart, angry and perhaps a bit tricky! (I’m sure I would have been hanged from a scaffold in Salem, 1692.) At what point do women cease to be victims? When they rise up alone or together and fight back.
This really isn’t a case of men versus women where one or the other are bad guys or good guys simply because of their sex. This is a case of a group of people getting angry at a person for lying to them, stealing from them, neglecting them, etc. And this is a case of that group making a united stance saying, “We are not going to take it anymore!” For all intents and purposes, it’s the same thing when men and women of employment unions stand together and fight the good fight for better pay and working conditions. In this case, a group of people has also stood up for better treatment from “the man.”
I wouldn’t be singing their praises if they had really hurt this man. He didn’t physically damage any one of them irrevocably. But if people learn of this story, as with the case of the cut off Bobbitt penis, there might be a few men here or there who think twice before lying, cheating and stealing. And that’s a step forward for the happiness of heterosexual women, right?
If women heed the same warning, isn’t that a step forward for humanity as a collective?
April 23, 2009
Legal same-sex marriage has come to fruition in some of our United States. Not because everybody believes that all people should be allowed to enter into a marriage contract with their person of choice and receive equal rights and privileges under the law alongside heterosexuals, but because some people do. And gay rights activists should be proud of their achievement, which seems to be growing and spreading into the most unexpected places. To recap: same-sex marriage is currently legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and will soon be legal in Iowa (April 27, 2009) and Vermont (September 1, 2009).
Connecticut? The stingy, puritanical state with the highest average rate of per capita income (as of 2007, according to the United States Commerce Department) and the low average rate of pre-tax income charitable giving (1.3 percent as of 2005 according to Forbes.com)? Iowa? The seemingly conservative state nestled snugly in the Bible Belt?
Of course, I’m generalizing, which is unfair. While some people who live in these states may be opposed to same-sex marriage, others are not…though neither belief can be said to define the whole state in question. What this legality means for American homosexuals is that they will soon be able to live in legal matrimony in four states where heterosexuals must – by law – tolerate them. This is progress and it is good.
Unfortunately – even though he might have good intentions – the celebrity gossip blabbermouth known as Perez Hilton has set this progress back a bit by refusing to exercise tolerance for those with a different perspective. Apparently it’s all or nothing with him. As a judge at the 2009 Miss USA Pageant on April 19, Hilton posed a question regarding same-sex marriage to contestant Carrie Prejean, Miss California. Here’s her response:
Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. Um, we live in a land that you can choose same sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and in, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think that it should be between a man and a woman.
Needless to say, out-and-proud Hilton was not pleased with her response and responded by calling her a “dumb bitch” on his blog the following day. He later “apologized” for his attack saying that he was “just soooo angry, hurt, (and) frustrated by her answer.” He took down his initial post but has left this reminder of its sting:
See, to me, that illustration is much more offensive than her remarks at the pageant. (I think that image implies that she may have gotten to the top of the pageant circuit by “alternative means.”) Let me explain how her remarks don’t justify the shock and disdain they were greeted by. For starters, it seems to me that Prejean championed the equal rights of homosexuals saying, “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other,” referring to the choice of marrying a person of either one’s own or opposite sex. Furthermore, her personal belief that the word “marriage” is applicable to heterosexual unions ONLY is the majority viewpoint in this country, though it doesn’t mean that most Americans (Prejean included) advocate hatred. According to one recent poll, while 60 percent of the country is in favor of some kind of legal union between homosexuals, only one third of Americans support same-sex marriage. Even our liberal political pantheon (the Clintons, the Obamas, the Bidens, etc.) don’t advocate same-sex “marriage.” But Miss California: she’s the real villain? From where she stands, she has no ability to impact laws and amendments to the Constitution, crown or no crown.
This issue is truly semantic. As a non-Christian, should I transition the label of my union from “marriage” to “civil union” because I’m not religious, even though I am married to someone of the opposite sex? Marriage, shmarriage… It doesn’t matter to me what you call it; I want everybody to have the right to do it. I feel the same way about polygamy. As long as my tax dollars aren’t supporting the wives and children that a polygamous husband chooses to ignore financially – and as long as there’s no abuse involved, sexual or otherwise – why can’t polygamists have the “marriage” they want?
It seems that Hilton – who is himself the beneficiary of the free speech amendment as a blogger who often has less than eloquent things to say about people in the public eye – is not in favor of free speech for people who don’t share his opinions.
Or perhaps this whole thing is just a publicity stunt?
If that’s the case, and nobody’s feelings are really hurt, then this incident is upsetting me on several levels. In the first place, it’s taking attention from “real” news that’s more important: the state of the economy, women’s rights in the Middle East – and everywhere, new advances in the fields of science and technology, etc. The fact that CNN has devoted so much of its air time to this fiasco – booking Hilton on Larry King Live, for one thing – demonstrates once again the way this news network has devolved to tabloid journalism. (Good thing I don’t work for CNN, or it might have fired me for that declaration just like it did Chez Pazienza! Check out his blog. It’s definitely a better click than the one you might make to Hilton’s blog.) Hopefully this story will get lost in the haze of what CNN considers to be newsworthy: “Octomom” and her antics, tracking the outcome of reality television competitions, and the comings and goings of Sarah Palin and her daughter’s ex-fiance, to name a few of its hot topics.
But what REALLY bugs me about this is the fact that it forces me – a feminist blogger – to defend a beauty queen: a woman participating in a competition that reduces her to the status of an inanimate object. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not that kind of feminist. If Prejean is happy doing what she is, then I believe she should enjoy herself and I’m sorry that expressing her personal opinion may have cost her first place in the Miss USA Pageant. I’m the kind of feminist who thinks women should do whatever makes them happy without harming others: from raising kids to performing in porn movies to running businesses to running for President… But Prejean is not the person we should be listening to when we want to have a serious discussion about issues like same-sex marriage. She’s not qualified to make decisions about that for the mindless idiots who might hear her answer and agree with it because she’s very pretty! That spot should be reserved for somebody who has considered both sides of the argument and can render a “fair” decision, or at least for somebody who is prepared to answer the question with clarity. In a beauty pageant, the questions are a surprise.
Come to think of it, I don’t think Hilton should be the one to represent the gay community either. He’s definitely not qualified. And he’s made it his mission to “out” suspected homosexuals claiming that it’s their duty to be out and proud the way he is. There’s such a thing as personal privacy, Hilton. You’re not calling these alleged “closeted homosexuals” on their hypocrisy; you’re robbing them of their privacy. If I were a member of this community, I would resent the fact that Hilton has positioned himself as a gay crusader of sorts and despotically seized the spotlight as a representative of my cause. For me, this would be like waking up one otherwise average day to find out that I am being represented – as a feminist – by Ann Coulter. I don’t agree with anything she stands for – just the fact that she stands tall in her beliefs, so I would feel horrible if hers was the standard feminism by which mine was judged.
I aspire to live in a time and place where everybody can be who they are without criticism for it, and they don’t require the attention of others to validate their sameness or contrarily their uniqueness: where – as Gore Vidal envisioned – we will not be labeled as “homosexual” or “heterosexual” people for the homosexual or heterosexual acts we do.
Somebody whose take on same-sex marriage I would have liked to have heard perished on April 12 at the age of 58. Queer Theory “founder” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick – who died from breast cancer (a disease that I’m convinced would cease to be the rampant epidemic that it is if it affected more men) – was apparently a straight girl like me, but one who posed interesting ideas about Jane Austen and masturbation, as well as insightful observations about the male characters in the works of Henry James, and more. Sedgwick thought that it is dismissive to read only heterosexual intent in the established literary canon, and reductive to assign the label “homosexual” to that same body of work. Instead, consider sexuality as if it were something elastic and something that has nothing to do with the words society uses to define it. The same thing can be said for gender: it doesn’t exist except for what we – as a collective society – say it means (masculine means strong/aggressive, feminine means weak/passive etc.). Sedgwick – having considered all of the relative social issues – is somebody I’d have liked to hear discussing gay rights issues, rather than the bland and beautiful Prejean or the offensive and rigid Hilton.
Perhaps Boy George said it best: There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved.
…even Prejean with her unattractive perspective. …even Hilton with his vulgar scribbles.