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For the last ten weeks or so I have been living mainly in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Iceland’s political system and egalitarian being were at the core of the travel proposal I made last fall when applying for the particular scholarship that would provide the opportunity.  I knew that it couldn’t be as perfect in reality as it was on paper, but that didn’t stop me from building up my own personal North Atlantic utopia.IMG_1842Iceland has ranked #1 in the global gender gap index for the last three or four years. They’re #1 in literacy. They are #1 in the global peace index and have been #1 in 3 out of the last 5 years with an interesting break in 2009 following the economic collapse.  The population is under 350,000 people which for my anarchist friends probably makes plenty of sense.  They have universal healthcare, tuition-free education at the University level and no standing army.  They politically engaged and informed about current events and host voter turnout rates usually in the 85%+ range.  This year’s election had a turnout rate of 81% and everyone is freaking out about it being so low….you see what I mean? For some context – the US presidential election saw a turnout rate of nearly 54%.

100_1427Oh and MAY I MENTION they have a limited prison system.  And by that I mean they have one prison.  And it’s not like the US prisons. It’s a rehabilitative prison and the folks there have access to real medical care and therapy.  I’ve heard people complain that they are “too comfortable” but I imagine if you have a wide ranging social infrastructure that provides for basic needs and seeks to actively eliminate poverty you won’t see people committing crimes just to get three squares a day, amirite? Yes. I am right -because Iceland also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  And besides, when the prison is full (it holds around 60-70 people), and it rarely is full, people just wait until someone gets out to serve their sentence.  Oh and there’s no death penalty. Oh and the maximum sentence is 16 years.

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YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? DO YOU!?!!?!?

Siggh…..in addition to all of this they are quite LGBTQ friendly, though the whitest place I have ever seen in my life.  They passed a marriage equality bill unanimously in 2010 almost as an afterthought….they were all chilling being white and having an excellent tolerance to the cold when someone said “oh – hey – everyone’s talking about gay marriage. We should probably do that, show we’re on board.  I mean, there’s not a lot of economic advantage to marriage in a socialist country, but all the same, let’s spread it on.”  And then everyone was all like “aye.”  And that’s it.  Until this summer their Prime Minister was a legally married radical lesbian.  Boom.

IMG_1155It doesn’t even end there, though. Iceland is a geological anomaly.  It’s situated directly on top of the mid-atlantic ridge (that’s how it formed at all, way out here in the ocean) and exists halfway on the N. American tectonic plate and halfway on the Eurasian plate.  As a result – VOLCANOES EVERYWHERE! But mostly under glaciers (lots of flooding).   And because it only recently (compared to other masses) emerged from the ocean, everything is still wild.  Recent (1700s) giant eruptions still have large percentages of the land looking like the lunar landing.  Lava fields as far as the eye can see!!!  They’ve only recently started putting on heavy moss and lichen coats, so the soil in these areas is thin to nonexistent.  Apparently there were some trees in Reykjavik around the time of settlement (870 +/- 2) but SOMEBODY harvested them all (I’m looking at you, original Norwegian Vikings).

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There are some reforestation…or…forestation efforts, rather, but the only viable spots are around the edge of the island as the interior is nothing but highlands and hidden volcanoes waiting to bring forth new basalt.

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And I mentioned the glaciers? And there are a lot of sheep. It’s great. Except the daylight is all kooky through the year.  Like midnight sun in summer and 4 hours of daylight in the depths of winter. But whatever – they eat a lot of fish and that helps. Also they have astounding rates of alcoholism. For coping with that SAD shit, it seems.

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Did I mention the President and Prime Minister are in the phone book and that everyone is called by their first name?

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But ALAS, my friends.  Things haven’t turned out to be quite as lovely as I had hoped.  Everything I say is true but there’s still probably some racism. I can’t be sure because I’m white as hell, too, but this old woman uses the n-word to describe people with dark hair and eyes, like me.  Someone tried to explain how it isn’t the same because it’s like…some…derivative of a word that means black and dark….uhhhhhh……but….I haven’t been able to find an expert on the matter, so…there’s that. Also, as a general rule, where there are white people there is white privilege and racism.

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There’s no history of oppressing people of color specifically in Iceland as far as I know, but they sure as hell cash in on that European whiteness and whatnot (i.e. not being invaded and ruled by US and UK from 1944- 2004, but instead just hosting bases and receiving the benefit of lots of US spending on infrastructure (Keflavik airport).  Call it a hunch, but I feel like if they were an island nation of brown-skinned people with no military they’d be a U.S. territory alongside Puerto Rico.

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The other thing is that for the most “feminist friendly” place on earth, they sure do have a lot of rape.  Iceland has the highest rate of rape of all the Scandinavian countries.  It’s lower than the rate in the US but the rates of official reporting and prosecution are as bad as anywhere else in the world.  In addition there is a similar breakdown in “types of rape” that function to make the rape of someone who is unconscious termed “abuse.”  The penalty for rape (has to be “violent enough”) is the maximum sentence – 16 years – while the penalty for “abuse” is 6 years.

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While this is a stouter punishment than the US typically doles out (though we know harsher punishments don’t prevent crime…), prosecution rates render this effectively meaningless.  I mean, the US used to consider rape a crime punishable by death – if you were the “right kind of father’s property” and not just some white lower class woman….and don’t even bother if you’re a woman of color of any class. It’s symbolic of a false ideal.

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I’ve heard ONE GUY make light of it to the tune of “well we were settled by Vikings, what do you expect?”  and while it’s true that 62% of the women in the original class of settlers were mostly stolen women from the Hebrides and forced into marriage, I mean is that the kind of thing you want to compare yourself to?

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So I bring this up as an interesting contrast point – with the exception of the story I am going to tell you in a minute, I have not been catcalled, grabbed, ogled, groped, hit on inappropriately, “accidentally” brushed up against, or even leered at from a distance…probably.  It was one of the strangest sensations of my life, sadly, to be completely free of that constant worry.  I didn’t have to watch my drink or hang onto my bag for dear life or anything.  It’s so straightforward.  And the people are super-sexually active.  No sex-shaming and slut-shaming.  People just fuck all the time. Safely.  They have real sex-ed.

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So why the high rate of rape? I don’t know.  But I read something that suggests that an unusually large percentage of these rapes involved children under the age of 16 and that rates of rape with male survivors are higher than those of peer nations.  So I’m not really sure what’s going on.  Money isn’t put into researching the crimes and probably half or more of folks who seek help with rape crisis center don’t trust the system enough to press charges and don’t want to go through the ordeal with which we are all so familiar.  I don’t know what the typical reaction to a rape survivor is in this society, but I suppose we could imagine that it’s not exactly welcoming.

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Icelandic Feminist Activist  Hildur – famous for being constantly banned from facebook for publicly posting death threats made against her has a Tumblr called: Men who hate women.  On it she posts misogynistic comments made specifically by Icelandic men.  It was pretty devastating to my whole “Iceland is perfect” theory, but I’d rather know the truth, I guess.  It’s why I started investigating rape in Iceland, so I’m very happy I found it.

http://karlarsemhatakonur.tumblr.com/

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Please enjoy the rest of these photos!! I am so ashamed of how bad of a photographer I am….but I highly recommend seeing it for yourself if you can someday.  You’ll see what I mean. This waterfall is called Skogafoss

IMG_2168This one is called Gullfoss – it means Gold Falls

IMG_2550This is the glacier lagoon – a glacial tongue that leads out to sea.  It’s called Jokulsarlon

IMG_2816Famous lava fields with some excellent layers of snow – in mid-September

IMG_2855Selfoss Waterfall

IMG_2922Basalt sea cliffs near the town Vik — called Reynisfjara

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A bit of glacier melting — It’s called Solheimajokull.

Published in the Daily Tar Heel on April 10, 2013

TO THE EDITOR:

On Monday, Alert Carolina sent an informational message about charges of false report being filed against a sexual assault survivor by the UNC Department of Public Safety.

This message shocked me, given that Alert Carolina had not made an announcement about any reported sexual assaults on or near campus in the past several days.

The message explains that there was no “imminent threat” to the Carolina community following the assault, and that an alert would have compromised the integrity of the investigation.

I question the integrity of a sexual assault investigation that turns into a case against the reporting survivor within 48 hours of its initiation.

The informational message contradicts the Department of Public Safety’s encouragement of survivors to report sexual assault.

In this case, the survivor was burdened with proving that an assault occurred, and has now been charged with a crime for speaking out.

What significant interest should a false report have for the Carolina community that a sexual assault does not?

I cannot think of a clearer message to students, faculty and staff that survivors will be punished for speaking out.

Sarah-Kathryn Bryan ’15
Women’s and Gender Studies, Comparative Literature

http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/04/uncs-alert-carolina-discouraged-reporting

Ha. So.  We’ve been sort of out of commission (this blog) for the last month or so.  Our bad. There was some stuff, and a lot of things…NEVERMIND. We’re back now! We’re back and we’re ready to take some action.What you missed:

  • FSU got together with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center to host a training for the Stewards of Children program.  It’s a fabulous thang. You can learn more about this child sexual abuse prevention training here: Stewards for Children
  • 3 of our fabulous FSU and SURJ activists received funding courtesy of IPAS to attend the FMF #NYFLC2013 – the 9th annual young feminist leadership conference.  We had a ball, went in with a critical eye, learned a lot, met some fantastic feminists from New Hampshire (and the rest of the states,of course) and found ourselves amongst the largest gathering of self-identified feminists ever.  There will be more information on that as we each find a few moments to write reflections.  Please do not hesitate, however, to contact us, because as Kaori said earlier today, “I’d be doing my community wrong, though, if I didn’t try my hardest to act as a resource for other young feminists who are interested in events such as these. If you have any sort of interest in getting involved with feminist events like this, please pleeeeez don’t hesitate to message [us]”
  • TOMORROW we are hosting a t-shirt making PARTAY to support the UNC group SWAG as they bring The Clothesline Project to our campus. We have T-shirts, we have supplies, we have a room!! Check out our FB event page

That’s really not even close to all of it. I think perhaps this merits….5-100 of its own posts, but suffice it to say that our campus is the throws of a federal investigation and the UNC administration has been attempting to silence those who have spoken out against their sordid practice of abusing and intimidating survivors of sexual violence. One of those survivors was recently charged by the honor court for “creating an intimidating environment” for the man who raped her, but remains undaunted by their threats.  She’s filing intimidation charges.

Her lawyer – “The retaliatory charges against my client are inappropriate, unconstitutional and utterly without merit,” and “Ms. Gambill’s public criticism of UNC – as an institution that ignores, silences and discredits sexual violence survivors as PR strategy – can no longer be met with attempts to ignore, silence and discredit her,” he wrote in the letter to Thorp. “Instead, it is time for the university to take responsibility for the broken system it has created, starting by dismissing this case.”

Can I get a FUCK YEAH?!

SO, PEOPLE, keep vigilant, keep vocal, and never stop fighting.  That’s it for now, but I swear we are back in action and will be bringing you more awesome, informative, feminist posts relevant to UNC, NC, The US, and the WORLD.  This I promise you.

http://www.wral.com/apnewsbreak-unc-student-files-intimidation-charge/12265409/

I feel honored to have spoken out alongside so many brave survivors from our community today.  I have transcribed my statement below in hopes that it will help empower other people to speak up about their experiences with violence.

My name is Sarah-Kathryn Bryan, and I am in my second year at the University.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who has come to support the UNC-Chapel Hill community of sexual assault survivors, as well as those who could not attend today, but who have expressed their solidarity with survivors, and who continue to struggle with us for justice.  Several of us are primary or secondary survivors of sexual assault, but it is not necessary to recognize a shared experience of sexual assault in order to work together.

Today’s impressive attendance testifies to the potential strength of our Carolina community where society has previously failed us.  The act of coming to a Speak Out implicitly expresses a commitment to ending violence.  This commitment comes from the understanding that if sexual assault is even a conceivable threat to anyone, every one of us lives in a culture of violence in which none of us is invulnerable to violence in one form or another.

We must hold perpetrators of all forms of abuse (including sexual abuse, the abuse of state power, and cultural abuse) accountable for their actions.  And as a community, we must hold each other accountable for bringing perpetrators to justice in a way that benefits both the survivor and our community as a whole.  Any other outcome subjects survivors to renewed trauma and frustration.

I speak today as a non-reporting survivor.  The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was thirteen years old.  As a young person, I was not empowered to access the healthcare –let alone the sympathy– I needed in the wake of the assault.  Having been raised in a culture of violence that teaches victim-blaming even in the absence of comprehensive sexual education, I remained silent about the assault for months, and did not tell my parents for years.  I am only beginning to repair what damage the silence wrought on my interpersonal relationships.

Age is one of a host of factors that complicate a survivor’s ability to report a sexual assault.  To name a few, race able status, religion, gender expression, sexuality, age, and socioeconomic status make reporting any crime to the authorities less a matter of choice than of circumstance and courage.

In order to eliminate victim-blaming, which is the first step to holding perpetrators accountable and eliminating violence from our culture, we must support the methods of care and avenues to justice the survivors in our lives seek.  This may never be easy until we learn that because our struggle for justice and freedom from violence is a shared one, we disempower ourselves when we appropriate, ignore, or actively silence the struggle of our neighbor.

Sarah-Kathryn Bryan

You know what I don’t get enough of??  Harassment.  JUST KIDDING.

As a radical feminist who rejects normative standards/ideals of femininity and has spent the last two years creating their own definition of queer woman-personhood? I’ve gotten quite a share.  It’s been a really interesting experience in terms of facing one’s own privilege and attempting to reject what pieces you can, etc. and lemme tell ya –  as a former henchperson of the right-wing, I used to do that whole “woman” thang RIGHT.  The constant feeling of discomfort aside, I was really good at being white and embodying features of ideal womanhood.  I did it so right, in fact, that I blended right in – I never made anyone the slightest bit uncomfortable.

I guess that has changed now.  I think that I honestly believed, at the time, that it wouldn’t make a difference, ya know?  Like…how I looked on the outside wouldn’t – COULDN’T – possibly ever affect how I was treated by others.  But I noticed the difference right away. I had no choice.  Mostly because I was suddenly being SCREAMED at by drunken college-aged men on Franklin st., but also because of the staring, the oddly frequent AUDIBLE questioning of my gender/sex by perfect strangers at bars, etc.

*NOTE: I am never upset by children who do this.  It is the sweetest, most innocent questioning of their little realities, and is never malicious.  Even when it’s just a statement – like the innocuous “you look like Justin Beiber – I have a Justin Beiber toothbrush!” that I got last week.  I love it. Teachable moments, y’all.

So that was one way I challenged myself and the powers that be, but what accompanied that physical change was obviously (I hope this is obvious…) something greater happening within my dome piece – that lovely sack of membranes known to us as “the brain.”   So changing my physical body was a visible piece of resistance – it made people uncomfortable and causes tension to this day,  elicits interesting responses, and in general makes particular kinds of people feel suddenly entitled to an opinion about my body practices.

But the more awesome thing here is that brainy change…that interest in challenging people’s conceptions, to whatever degree of civility, as resistance. That sudden (or was it gradual? I have no idea who I was then anymore…) need to call out sexist and racist and classist BULL SHIT on the spot.  That point when my fear of confrontation and of my own overwhelming anger were pushed aside for the sake of something bigger.  And OH the responses.  OH the depravity that a few words rubbing against their finely woven grain can inspire!!!

SO what this was all leading up to is perhaps a bit anti-climactic but nonetheless rage inspiring and I wanted/HAD to share it with someone lest I EXPLODE.  It’s that time of the semester.  SO – in the name of the awesomely bad ass Hildur Lilliendahl, I present to you, my experience the other day.  Double click or triple click or something to enlarge, and then feast your eyes.  The first red circle is the message to which I was responding – DON’T ASK WHY – I am not sure why I would feed so many trolls at once!  Either way.  The exchange went like so, I have blocked the names of those who weren’t involved.

The second red circle serves as a reminder to us all (because we needed one) that people like HIM exist in this world.

And the third red circle…well…

SPOILER ALERT: I won a veiled rape threat. 

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SO for those of you who do not know, Hildur Lilliendahl is an Icelandic feminist who has gained a certain level of infamy in the woman-hating circles for her screen shots of their misogynistic comments – LITERAL WOMAN HATE – that she collected in a facebook album for the world to see.  After receiving death threats and continued harassment, facebook chose to do the right thing and disabled HER account.  Excellent.  She has moved the album to this tumblr http://karlarsemhatakonur.tumblr.com/ if you are interested in taking a look.  It is mostly in Icelandic, but you know how to operate the google translate.

I write this particular post with Hildur in mind.  I reported those scum buckets for their harmful/harassing/creepy as shit comments, but the truth is that this sort of behavior is terrifyingly common and there is no real recourse for those targeted by said scum buckets (the joys of anonymity!)  Instead, people like Hildur and the women who admin the Uprising of  Women in the Arab World (http://www.facebook.com/intifadat.almar2a) are censored and punished for their actions while groups that exist solely to “joke” about inciting violence against sexually active women or raping their girlfriends while they sleep are protected as free speech. Feminists never want anyone to have any fun.

At any rate – that’s my share for the day.

READ THIS GREAT ARTICLE: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11/does-facebook-hate-all-women-or-just-feminists/

On Wednesday, UNC’s Men’s Ice Hockey team chose to advertise its upcoming tournament by painting a cartoonish image of a woman in a string bikini with breasts bigger than her head wearing high heels above the text, “Come watch us score.”  As members of FSU, UNC students, and human beings, we were outraged by their extremely offensive presentation of women as sexual objects to be won and we decided to take action.  Early Thursday morning, we painted a neighboring cube to call attention to their problematic design and identify it as part of the larger rape culture under which we live.  Take a look at our response:

Immediately after we put on the finishing coats of paint, people began to react.  We saw many students stop to take photos, talk about the cubes animatedly with their friends, and, as our eye-witness (shout out to Abigail who had a clear view of both cubes from the union) reported, the hockey players who were initially laughing at our cube proceeded to paint over the bikini-clad woman after two adults appeared to emphatically explain why their cube was offensive.

Moments later, FSU received an e-mail from an officer of the men’s ice hockey team apologizing for their actions, offering to come to our next meeting to learn more, and pledging to “do all that [they] can to make it right on behalf of the team.”  We are pleased with the Men’s Ice Hockey team’s prompt response, and we look forward to working with them to raise further awareness about the harms of rape culture and what they can do to work against it.

It is important that we don’t treat their cube as an isolated incident resulting from a temporary lapse in good judgment. Their misguided actions are only a small reflection of a much larger problem.  Members of the UNC community felt that this cube was appropriate and perhaps even funny because we live within a rape culture that objectifies women and glamorizes sexual violence on a regular basis.

Just over a week ago, FSU invited Dr. Matt Ezzell to speak about gender, power, and how the media routinely relies on the unimaginative exploitation of women’s bodies to sell products.  He discussed how these ads and images that we see constantly have extremely dangerous consequences—one in four college-aged women experience sexual assault first-hand, and all women live limited lives due to the threat of sexual violence.  While by no means do images such as the one on the cube cause rape, they are an enabling factor of a larger system known as rape culture.

Rape culture “is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

Marshall University lists the following things as aspects of rape culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Gratuitous gendered violence [and objectification] in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

Members of the ice hockey team did not initially realize that their advertisement was remotely offensive, and the misguided comments on our previous post highlight similar ignorance. And we have to ask why. Education about rape culture and patriarchy cannot be limited to a handful of speakers brought in by student groups and a few academic departments.  This analysis needs to be emphasized via multiple avenues at our university and at all institutions of higher education that claim to prioritize diversity and safety.

While it can certainly seem daunting to attempt to change harmful cultural norms, remember that cultures (ours included!) are composed of individuals who can choose to act in ways that either reinforce or challenge sexism.  Although it’s clear that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, hard-working students, faculty, and staff have already made important steps in fighting rape culture and creating a safer and more equal campus community.

Moving forward, we need to unequivocally shift the focus of the conversation from how to deal with the problem of violence against women to working to change the fact that men overwhelmingly perpetrate violence in the first place.* Women don’t need more self-defense classes, more canisters of pepper spray, more advice about not walking home alone at night, or more blame when men perpetrate violence against them despite all of their precautions.  Everyone needs to speak up and refuse to allow actions/advertisements/jokes that promote men’s violence against women. We’re glad that our cube has generated so much buzz about the problem of rape culture—let’s keep the conversations and the actions going!

*Although most men do not commit violence, 95% of sexual violence is committed by men.

For more information and ways to get involved:

http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/?page_id=295
http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php

Great work on the action last night!  Feminist Students United has appeared twice in local media today.

The Daily Tar Heel (UNC-CH’s student newspaper) has published an article praising Flynt for his defense of free speech.  They ignore the effects of his speech, ignore the police officer who threatened an FSU member with arrest, and claim that FSU staged a “muted protest.”  The Daily Tar Heel: a protest doesn’t have to be involve posters and shouts to be loud.

Hustler’s Larry Flynt defends First Amendment in UNC speech
The Daily Tar Heel, February 19, 2010

News 14 Carolina’s video report still focuses on whether Flynt’s speech and the speech of those present should be free or not, instead of pornography’s harmful effects.  They also claim that an FSU member was “reading to the audience,” instead of reading a pre-written question.  Look for a footage of the anit-programs we created and a brief sentence with in the video.

Prominent pornographer key note for free speech event
News 14 Carolina, February 19, 2010

_______________________

UPDATE:

Below are recent letters to the editor that have appeared in The Daily Tar Heel.

Flynt event lacked broader discussion about society
The Daily Tar Heel, February 22, 2010

Flynt event didn’t embrace the marketplace of ideas
The Daily Tar Heel, February 23, 2010

Not possible to separate Flynt from his pornography
The Daily Tar Heel, February 24, 2010

_______________________

And what follows is a post in the comments section of another letter to the editor, where our FSU member writes out the question he would have asked had the police not silenced him.

“First, I wanna ask the audience how do we feel having the UNC First Amendment Law Review bring Larry Flynt to our school and our community. I say this because once we move beyond an abstract conversation about freedom of speech and instead examine the content of the “speech” Larry Flynt creates and defends, then we can really start to discuss whether we want this person here. It’s important to note that an article about this event appeared on the pornography website Adult Video News, which shows us that the porn industry is using the law school to legitimize Flynt’s products.

*at this point I was interrupted by the moderators and silenced by the campus police officer. what follows is the rest of my question, had i been allowed to ask it*

But let’s take a look at some of the products Flynt has created… Barley Legal Cumming of Age, Big Black Meat In Little Blonde Treats, Ass To Mouth Guzzlers, Daddy Please Stop Fucking My Friends, Face Down Ass Up Asian Style, Young Latin Girls 14. Not to mention, he has advocated in Hustler for an end to the age of consent, calling for acceptance of adult-child sex and legalization of incest. So now that we have gotten to the content, I’d like to ask you, Mr. Flynt, how do you feel creating racist and sexist “speech” that teaches men domination over women in our sexual relationships and depicts women as sexual objects?”

Tonight at UNC-Chapel Hill, members of Feminist Students United handed out programs challenging the audience of pornographer Larry Flynt’s keynote address for the First Amendment Law Review to think deeply about pornography’s harmful effects on women, people of color, and low income people in particular, its harmful effects on everyone in general, and its contribution to our society’s rape culture.

Before Flynt’s address, several men passed out these programs to audience members lined up outside the Great Hall of UNC-CH’s student union. The program, a joint creation by members of FSU, asked the question: “Does Larry Flynt Have the Right to Speak?” and answered: “Absolutely.”

However, the program went on to ask the audience members to consider the violently sexist and racist content of Flynt’s porn industry. “Instead of having an abstract dialogue about ‘Freedom of Speech,'” the program says, “we must examine the content of his work, and its effects. Let’s start talking about how to move our sexual imaginations toward respect, toward empathy, toward connections based on equality, not domination.”

Though Feminist Students United acknowledge Larry Flynt’s legal right to speak, we feel it is important to ask deeper questions about exactly what he and his company are saying. Pornography represents the widespread acceptance of men’s domination over women in sexuality. Mainstream pornography uses society’s most racist and sexist stereotypes in its depictions of sexuality. How can a society truly be free and egalitarian when a man like Larry Flynt, who has created such works as “Barely Legal Cumming of Age” and “Big Phat Ghetto Azz All Greased Up,” is regarded as a hero of free speech and invited to speak at a public university? What does it mean that many young boys learn about sexuality through films like “Gag Factor?” What does it mean that many women who appear in such videos as “ATM [ass to mouth] Guzzlers” are completely dehumanized and subjected to humiliation and violence in order to make a living?

The event itself, though posed as an open exchange of ideas wherein two moderators asked Larry Flynt several questions about his work around free speech, was instead yet another legitimation of pornography in mainstream society. The questions the moderators asked Flynt were simple and uncontroversial: “Do you feel mainstream media has gone soft?” “What do you think about Obama?” “Do you feel today’s politicians are hypocritical?”

His answers, though dismissive of conservatives, organized religion, and the recent rise of the populist “Tea Party,” revealed no acknowledgement of the effects pornography has on our society. Despite the desperate conditions capitalism places many women into, he insisted that his films have never exploited anybody; despite the epidemic of men’s violence against women that occurs in our culture, he insisted that no person has ever been harmed by his films. Of course, porn does not cause men to attack their partners, but can it really be said that erotic films depicting violent sex acts have no connection to sexist violence?

Finally, despite the introduction of tonight’s talk as a marketplace of ideas where conversation about free speech can take place in a manner befitting “high level academic discourse,” a member of FSU who asked a lengthy question during the audience Q&A session was told by the moderators to stand down.  He was interrupted by the moderators while he read his question.  When he continued to read his question, a police officer covered the microphone with his hand and threatened him with arrest unless he immediately asked Flynt the question.  Can an event where civil but opposing viewpoints are shouted down, and where one voice (the voice of the rich, white, pornographer) is the loudest, truly represent an egalitarian marketplace of ideas?

Pornography harms our friends, family, and loved ones. Feminist Students United condemns this distorted view of sexuality, and advocates the creation of an equal, compassionate, and respectful sexuality in its place.

Check out this post for updates on news coverage of FSU’s direct action at the Larry Flynt event.

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.

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