Face the Faceless

Content warning for sexual assault.

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Morgan is a senior here at UMBC pursuing a BA in Media and Communications major with minors in English and Cinematic Arts. If she’s not working at the Women’s Center you can find her watching Ghost Shark (2013) with her friends. 

You know who Brock Turner is. 

In January 2015, Turner sexually assaulted “Emily Doe.”. His face was splattered everywhere in the media. Sometimes it was his mugshot and other times it was the shining photo of him competing on Stanford’s swimming team. He’s a rapist but look, he’s an athlete! One year later, in 2016, you knew his face and you knew his name. Prosecutors recommended six years. He was sentenced to six months. He served ninety days. In a letter to the judge, his father stated that legal repercussions were a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” 

We were all forced to reckon with the reality that for many victims of sexual assault they get no real sense of justice, in court or otherwise. Emily Doe was a blank space and Brock Turner’s narrative was the one that filled it.

That was until Chanel Miller revealed herself to be the “Emily Doe” in the case of Turner vs. the People. Now, the case takes on a different face. Not only is Chanel Miller a survivor of sexual assault, but she is a woman of color, white and Chinese-American. I, along with countless others, had assumed she was white. It immediately became clear why there had only been a six-month sentence, why the judge was so quick to discredit her, and why her facelessness resonated so deeply. Chanel Miller, like many before her, was another woman of color who knew all too well the intersections of white supremacy, rape culture, and violence against women of color.

Her pain feels familiar in too many ways. Miller was violated in the same way that white men historically and continually perpetuate violence (especially sexual violence) against women of color over and over again. Take for instance, the expected sexual violence against black women by their white slave owners. This was normalized so much so that raping a black woman was not a crime for much of history. How can you violate your own property? Or the comfort women of Eastern Asia–women and girls forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Army around World War II. Women from China, Korea, the Philippines, and many other areas were objectified by the Japanese who believed themselves to be a superior people. For the Imperial Japanese Army, it was not just about sex; rather, it was about power and domination.

Rape is never about pleasure. It’s about power. Chanel Miller was incapacitated beyond the point of consent and Brock Turner knew that — despite what his testimony might tell you. He saw an opportunity to exercise his power as a white man and he took it, leaving lasting harm on a woman of color he doesn’t know. 

In the aftermath of rape and sexual assault, his mugshot was in every headline and on every news report. Chanel Miller, in identity and aftermath, remanded faceless left with her perpetrator serving three months in jail with a six-month sentence from a judge who was later was recalled partly due to the public’s accusations of the negligence in the People v. Turner case.

In court, Chanel read a particularly powerful impact statement that went viral. I read the whole thing in one breathless sitting when it was first published. I remember my heart beating out of the chest as I read and read through Chanel’s (then “Emily Doe’s”) words to Brock Turner. “I am no stranger to suffering.”

She continues, “[Turner] made me a victim. In newspapers, my name was ‘unconscious intoxicated woman’, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am.”

Her words rang in my head and resonated with me. In leading Take Back the Night the past two years, sharing my own survivorship, and hearing the stories  of other women of color that sense of erasure feels reclaimed in a way.

 

It’s not about the Brock Turners anymore and their faces and all their harm. 

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This is a list of questions Miller was asked at Turner’s trial. Read through them. Every single one. 

How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? 

Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.

Sources:

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/katiejmbaker/heres-the-powerful-letter-the-stanford-victim-read-to-her-ra

 

https://eji.org/history-racial-injustice-sexual-exploitation-black-women

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dear-christine-blasey-ford-i-too-was-sexually-assaulted–and-its-seared-into-my-memory-forever/2018/10/03/2449ed3c-c68a-11e8-9b1c-a90f1daae309_story.html

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2019/09/24/chanel-miller-brock-turner-rape-emily-doe-book-review/2073117001/

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/24/opinion/chanel-miller-know-my-name.html

 

https://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1324&context=rrgc

No, I Don’t Want Michelle Obama to be President

MorganMorgan is a senior here at UMBC pursuing a BA in Media and Communications major with minors in English and Cinematic Arts. If she’s not working at the Women’s Center you can find her watching Ghost Shark (2013) with her friends. 

My title is a lie.

If only because I actually want Michelle Obama and her magnificent arms to rule this country as a monarch and Sasha and Malia to be next in line for the throne. However, it does hold some truth to me and Coco Connors from the Netflix series, Dear White People puts it best:

“I don’t want to wake up every day and see how much this country despises [Black women].”

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President Obama was vilified in the press for each and every decision he made. Along the way his legitimacy was questioned, his family was picked apart, and he was criticized for everything from his ears to his birth certificate. There were death threats, racist comics, and he was called a monkey and the n-word with a hard -er. As a Black woman, it hurt to know how much this country hates people who look like me for four years.

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But then I think about Michelle Obama and her toned arms, larger than life personality, law degree, and unwavering dedication to this country and its people. And I think how she sits at the same intersection of blackness and femininity that I do. And I can see the news headlines. I can hear the news reports. I know what this country would think of her presidency. I know how she would be picked apart for every little thing she does in the same way people who look like her always are. Even if Michelle Obama were to become the president of this country, she cannot escape the continual dismantling of blackness and femininity that we face.

Take, for instance, the recent controversy surrounding what was perceived as aggressive behavior from Serena Williams during the US Open competition. After being accused of cheating during her match, she became increasingly frustrated and ultimately broke her racket on the court. Her behavior was broadcasted and criticized over and over again on social media and news networks. She was even drawn as a Jim Crowl like caricature by comic artist, Mark Knight.

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Click here for an example of a Jim Crow comic in comparison.

Never mind that white men have been cursing at referees, breaking their rackets, and displaying the same, if not worse behavior for many years.

Serena Williams has always been a role model to me and many other young black women for as long as I can remember. In watching Serena become vilified over and over again, my heart is broken for her each time. However, there is a different kind of hurt and pain that comes with watching Serena Williams. This feeling I hold every time black women in the public eye are picked apart in the media is a personal one. I have never been surprised though. In Netflix series Dear White People, Coco Connors, a black, female character is faced with a seemingly simple and what one would think is a joy-inducing question for any black woman.

Blackness and femininity garner a very unique type of criticism from the world. In being black, your shoulders can often be weighed down with centuries of institutionalized racism, the modern day bombarding of negative images of black people, and just day to day fear and anxiety. However, black and femme folks also deal with sexism, a patriarchy stacked against us, and the continual violence inflicted on women. While we face outside criticism, there’s pressure from the black community itself to put your race above your gender identity.

As if the two can exist separately in the first place.

“Do you want Michelle Obama to become president?”

The question still rings with me. It was only a split second, an inconsequential scene that they moved on from. It stuck with me.  Michelle Obama, an absolute, undeniably black force, she sits at the suffocating intersection of being black and being a woman. She would never be safe again.

Resources

The Racist, Sexist History of Tennis

Jim Crowe comic

Dear White People, Season 2 Epsiode 8

US Open 2018: Serena Williams fined over outbursts during final

 

B-I-N-G-O spells SCOUT…with the Women’s Center

Last semester we launched everybody’s fave, the Women’s Center Scouts! And it was really, really popular.

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Like really popular and if you missed out you’re probably feeling a little sad right now. Well, don’t be because we’re rolling out the Women’s Center Scouts Spring Challenge!

BINGO!!!!

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We still have the Women’s Center Scouts, but this semester it’ll be a little different. If you haven’t already, start by joining the Women’s Center myUMBC page and following at least one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). If you’re already a member and following one of our pages, great! You’re one step closer.

Now, instead of completing three different Women’s Center events throughout the semester, you’ll be racing to get a Connect 5 on our brand new bingo board (aka Punch the Patriarchy Card)!

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  • Attend any one Women’s Center event
  • Bring a friend to the lounge and give them a tour
  • Donate paper towels, tissues, or food to the Women’s Center
  • Attend one program before Spring Break Attend one Women’s Center workshop
  • Color a coloring page in the Women’s Center
  • Bring a friend to a Women’s Center event or group
  • Fill out the question of the week on the whiteboard
  • Attend one Knowledge Exchange
  • Make a ~new~ friend in the Women’s Center!
  • Read a Women’s Center blog on womenscenteratumbc.wordpress.com and ask the author a question
  • Introduce yourself to a Women’s Center student staff member and learn about their astrological sign
  • Free Space (Because We Love You)
  • Share a Women’s Center post or event on your social media and tag or mention us!
  • Follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter Instagram) and comment on one of our posts!
  • Attend a Women’s Center Pop Culture Pop-Up (look out for when they’re announced but they’ll always fall on Wednesdays at noon)
  • Attend one discussion group (i.e. Between Women, Women of Color Coalition, Returning Women Students, or We Believe You. Not sure if the discussion group is for you? Check out our website to learn more about each group’s purpose and community).
  • Attend one Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) event (calendar coming later this semester. All SAAM events will take place in April)
  • Celebrate Galentine’s Day with the Women’s Center on 2/13/19
  • Donate coffee or tea!
  • Check out a book from the Women’s Center Library
  • Bring back a book from the Women’s Center library
  • Make a Take Back the Night rally sign
  • Go to the Clothesline Project Display on 4/8/19 on Main Street
  • Attend Trans Day of Visibility film screening on 3/27/19

A few rules! It is completely up to you to track your progress. The Punch the Patriarchy Cards are already printed and ready for you to claim in the Women’s Center. Each person’s card will stay with us at the Women’s Center front desk, but you’re welcome to take a picture to help map your moves and keep track of your progress. When you complete a square, it’s up to you to “punch” it with a pen or marker of your choice. Don’t forget to date the square when it is completed. And finally, we’ll trust you to keep a scouts honor and mark challenges you ~actually~ did complete.

Any UMBC community member who completes the challenge by May 1st gets a Women’s Center T-shirt! If you already have one, you’ll get a shout-out on our social media pages for being a stellar scout (or maybe, just maybe you might be able to get one of our awesome Take Back the Night t-shirts).

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All UMBC students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate!

IT’S BINGO TIME WOMEN’S CENTER STYLE!

For questions, stop by the Women’s Center or email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.