Addressing marijuana legalization and policy reform

This week in North Philly Notes, Clayton Mosher and Scott Akins, provide talking points about the legalization of marijuana, the subject of their new book, In the Weeds

In the Weeds is a historically grounded examination of marijuana policy reform and ultimately the move toward legalization over a period extending back more than 100 years, that also deconstructs the arguments of marijuana prohibitionists/demonizers. Examined under a larger historical lens, and given use of the substance for both medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years, we emphasize that prohibition of marijuana constitutes a historical anomaly.  We review the findings of several government commissions on marijuana from a variety of countries from the 1890s to 1970s, almost all of which concluded that marijuana was not a dangerous drug, was not physiologically addicting, and was not a “gateway” to the use of harder drugs. Marijuana prohibitionists (conveniently or deliberately) ignore this history.

Beginning with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act  in 1937, the U.S. federal government has taken a negative, science-optional, and essentially evidence-free approach to marijuana, most notably reflected in its refusal to remove marijuana from Schedule I status (i.e., no medical applications and high addictive liability/potential for abuse) under the Controlled Substances Act.  This refusal has several negative implications, including depriving scientists from accessing quality marijuana for the research needed to demonstrate its medicinal applications, as well as its possible negative effects; it affects the ability of marijuana-related businesses to secure financial services from banks; prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating pesticides and other chemicals used on cannabis crops, and, allows companies to fire, or refuse to hire, people who test positive for marijuana. The placement of marijuana in Schedule I also ultimately gives the federal government the ability to overturn both medical and recreational legalization of marijuana in states.

In the WeedsIn the Weeds also assesses the outcomes of current marijuana legalization “experiments,” with a focus on Colorado and Washington State (the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, in 2012, with sales commencing in 2014). Marijuana prohibitionists predicted that legalization would lead to skyrocketing youth use of the substance, and that our highways would be full of carnage due to “stoned drivers.” Neither of these outcomes have manifested. Youth use of marijuana in both Colorado and Washington State has stabilized and even declined. And while there have been modest increases in drivers involved in collisions (fatal and otherwise) testing positive for marijuana, and somewhat greater increases in the prevalence of drivers testing positive for marijuana in combination with other psychoactive substances,  we do not have sufficient data to prove that marijuana “impairment” caused these collisions (i.e., finding mere traces of marijuana in one’s system does not prove that the person was impaired, nor that the alleged impairment caused the collision). We also do not have sufficient historical data (i.e., pre-legalization) to determine whether there has been an actual increase in such incidents. It is important to stress that people drove under the influence of marijuana well before its legalization. Legalization did not invent marijuana.

Marijuana prohibitionists emphasize that marijuana use among adults in the U.S. is increasing, as is heavy and frequent use among certain individuals. There are legitimate concerns regarding these increases in heavy and frequent use. However, marijuana prohibitionists have not acknowledged the emerging research indicating that cannabis may serve as a substitute for other drugs such as alcohol, opiates, and even stimulant drugs. And importantly, it is by no means clear that increases in heavy and frequent use of marijuana is attributable to the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana – that is, marijuana use, including heavy use, began increasing in the mid-2000s.

Marijuana prohibitionists (conveniently or deliberately) ignore that, although cannabis is now legal for recreational purposes in 10 U.S. states, pursuit of the substance by law enforcement continues to be a major component of the ongoing war on drugs. In fact, the most recent FBI data indicate that marijuana arrests nationally increased in both 2016 and 2017, reaching almost 600,000 arrests for possession alone in both of these years. Over the last two decades, police in the United States have made more than 11 million arrests for marijuana possession.

Marijuana prohibitionists also conveniently or deliberately ignore the fact that the defining characteristic of marijuana (and other drug law) enforcement in the United States is the gross racial/ethnic disparities in these arrests. Nationally, blacks, who consume marijuana in roughly similar proportions to whites, are about four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession – in some U.S. jurisdictions, the disparity ratio is as high as 30.

Even in the rare cases where they do acknowledge the number of arrests and disparities, prohibitionists will claim that none of this is a big deal, because “no one goes to jail for marijuana possession.” This is simply not true. A 2015 report by the Department of Justice found that 11,553 people in the United States were in prison on marijuana-related charges (compared to only 5,800 for heroin). In addition, each year, tens of thousands of people arrested for marijuana possession are held in jail for several days or months because they cannot post bail. There are also collateral costs associated with these arrests – they commonly result in criminal records that show up on background checks when individuals apply to rent apartments or obtain and keep their jobs.

Marijuana prohibitionists have emphasized the fact that the marijuana available today is “not your father’s marijuana” – in particular, that the THC levels in marijuana available in states where the substance is legal is much higher than in the past. This assertion is debatable to begin with – people in the United States and elsewhere who wanted high potency marijuana have always been able to obtain it (consider hashish, for example). While high potency marijuana (especially as contained in edibles and other such products) may be problematic for novice users, there is scientific evidence that more experienced users will respond to higher potency marijuana by titrating their doses to achieve their desired high.  And importantly, one of the advantages of legalization is that consumers are informed of the content of the product they are consuming.  This obviously does not occur when marijuana is only available through the black market.

Marijuana prohibitionists (especially, recently, Alex Berenson in his book Tell Your Children) have emphasized a connection between consumption of cannabis and psychosis/schizophrenia. As we document in In the Weeds, prohibitionists have overstated the results of the complex science on this issue, and confuse correlation and causation.

Among the most significant incentives for recreational marijuana legalization is that the substance can be regulated, controlled, and taxed by government entities rather than the regulation and profit remaining in the hands of criminal enterprises. For governments that have legalized recreational marijuana, the tax revenue has been substantial, far exceeding expectations, and these revenues have been used to fund a variety of societal needs, including drug prevention and treatment programs, general health services, and public education.

In the Weeds concludes that marijuana has been legalized, and the sky has not fallen.

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Temple University Libraries and University Press’ Diversity Statement

This week in North Philly Notes, we post the Temple University Libraries and University Press diversity statement that recently posted on the library’s website.

Introduction

In 2017, the Temple University Libraries & University Press (TULUP) Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee was charged with mapping the trajectory of diversity and inclusion initiatives at TULUP. The TULUP D&I Committee facilitated the creation of a Diversity Statement in order to guide TULUP’s commitment to the range of human representations in all areas of our work. In an effort to exemplify a commitment to engaging diverse voices, all TULUP staff were invited to share their input on the statement. The TULUP D&I Committee used these suggestions to shape the Diversity Statement you see below and continues to work diligently to facilitate TULUP’s upholding of the principles within it.

Diversity Statement

The staff of Temple University Libraries and Press strive to engage, include, and serve the full diversity of the Temple academic and local communities regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, culture, language, political views, citizenship status, or diverse abilities.

We are dedicated to the principles and practices of social justice, diversity, and equity among our staff, collections, and services.

While our staff is not as diverse as the communities we serve, we are working toward our commitment to the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.

We hope to act as a catalyst to our users to challenge their own assumptions and viewpoints, while also intentionally building collections and services that let users see themselves reflected. We strive to create safe spaces in our buildings and on our websites, and do not tolerate harassment or hate speech in any form.

We’re fully committed to eliminating barriers to learning and fostering access for our communities. The development of a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment is a continuous process. We’re taking small steps every day towards our goals, including regular attention to these issues and calls to action from our standing Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

How could we be doing better? Let us know at asktulibrary@temple.edu.

The Joys and Challenges of Studying Contemporary Protests

This week in North Philly Notes, Ming-sho Ho, author of Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heavenwrites about tracing of the long afterlife of the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement, the subjects of his new book.

Like many book authors, I felt like a weary wayfarer approaching the journey’s destination when my Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven: Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement was printed in January 2019. When receiving the package of author copies, it is not so much an occasion for triumphal celebration, but rather a moment of relief for ending the seemingly endless proofreading and copyediting of a manuscript one has grown tired of rereading.

My book investigates two consequential protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Both the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement took place in 2014, and challenged the growing China’s sharp power in these two societies. The pair of protests shared many similarities, such as student leadership, the participation of educated youth, the reliance on digital communication, and the tactic of nonviolence, which amounted to an inviting topic for comparativists. These two movements have garnered scholarly consideration, as witnessed by the mushrooming publication in the forms of journal special issues and edited volumes. To my knowledge, mine will be the first monograph that deals with both cases at the same time.

When I initiated the contact with Temple University Press editors, the book prospectus stated the goal as a “standard reference of the genesis, the process, and the outcome” of the two major movements. While the first two research targets were relatively straightforward, the tracing of the long afterlife of the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement after their occupy protesters were gone turned out to be more challenging and exciting than expected.

challenging beijings mandate of heaven_smWhen the book manuscript was submitted in spring 2018, there were already signs that the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong have already ratcheted up repression against Umbrella activists. Six newly elected pro-Umbrella legislative councilors were deprived of their membership due to a technical issue of swearing-in. There were more harsh reprisals that I did not have time to put in the book, such as the draconian sentencing of Fishball Revolution participants (up to seven years in prison), the de-facto banning of Joshua Wong’s Demosisto from electoral participation, the disbanding of independence-leaning Hong Kong National Party, and the criminalizing of disrespectful behaviors during national anthem singing. In spite of these political headwinds, younger generation of activists inspired by the Umbrella Movement continued to explore new zones of engagement to promote the unfinished project of democratization.

Post-Sunflower Taiwan did not witness such crackdown; in fact, the subsequent years have largely followed the aspiration of that movement: the pro-China ruling party was voted out of the office, the rise of a progressive party that emerged to be the third largest in the legislature, and the advance of same-sex marriage legalization. However, in the local election and national referendums held in November 2018, Taiwan’s conservatives mounted a successful comeback in the issues of nuclear energy and same-sex marriage. The pro-China opposition party scored a major victory and now poised to win back the national power in the 2020 presidential election. Such drastic reversal highlighted the perils of the low supporting rate that the current presidency chronically faced since taking the office. The silver lining was that more than twenty newly elected local councilors hailed from the Sunflower Movement. Spreading across a number of political parties, these new political faces were in their late twenties and early thirties, and they have the potentials to become Taiwan’s future political leaders for progressive causes.

Studying the contemporary protests incurs the risk of having one’s conclusions “upended” by the latest development. And by the time an academic book has passed the rigorous review and production process, what is painfully described and analyzed has become the history. The Egyptian Tahrir Revolution of 2011 has inspired numerous scholarly works. Yet, the mass euphoria of ending a strongman’s rule and his police state was all too brief; the current situation in Egypt was as repressive as before, and the knowledge that a “successful” revolution has achieved nothing increased the bitterness.

In 1972, China’s Premier Zhou Enlai purported to claim “it is still too early” to speak of the result of the French Revolution of 1789. Such humble acknowledgment of one’s limitation appears to be a necessary reminder for the students of current affairs. The appraisal of the movement results can be different depending on one’s time horizon. A takeaway here is that one should avoiding using the judgmental terms of “success” or “failure” in describing the end of a protest episode. In the case of Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is tempting to jump into this conclusion because the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement has such contrasting endings (a triumphal farewell party versus a mass arrest).

In addition to allowing more room for subsequent development, scholarly attention is also better devoted to those intermediating processes, rather than the final results. In the field of social movement study, the focus on “mechanism”, understood as a universal casual relationship and hence a building block for those “processes” commonly seen in protests, have gain acceptance among research practitioners. Implicit in this methodological reorientation is an understanding that social scientists better stay away from the risky business of predicting dependent variables (usually the results of social movements). It will be more productive to locate and unravel those multiple mechanisms taking place during social movements.

There are joys and challenges in studying the contemporary social movements; after all they are one of the contending forces that attempt to shape the world we are now living in. With the cautious avoidance on the movement result and more attention to the intermediating processes, I am hoping my new book can contribute to the intellectual project of making sense of current politics.

Changing Climate, Changing Communities

This week in North Philly Notes, Braden Leap, author of Gone Goose, writes about how the population of Sumner, MO, the Wild Goose Capital of the World, responded to climate change and the lack of geese.

Communities being disrupted by disasters related to climate change have become a semi-regular fixture on the nightly news. One night, a reporter walks through the scorched remains of a neighborhood following a deadly forest fire. The next, they’re boating down the flooded main street of a small town following another major hurricane. But how do communities respond to climate related disruptions that range from catastrophic fires and floods, to warmer winters, to the shifting geographic ranges of an array of plants and animals? This is an especially urgent question because climate related transformations are taking place across the U.S. and around the world, and they aren’t likely to stop any time soon.

Climate catastrophe gets a lot of attention, and rightly so, but if we hope to sustain communities as they are disrupted by climate change, we need to know far more about how people work together—or why they don’t—to effectively respond when their lives are disrupted by shifting climatological conditions. Accordingly, in my recently published book, Gone Goose: The Remaking of an American Town in the Age of Climate Change, I consider how members of a rural Missouri town were reconfiguring their community in response to climate change. Although Sumner, Missouri claims the title of Wild Goose Capital of the World, the nearly 200,000 Canada geese that used to migrate there no longer come to Sumner because of a combination of land use changes and shifting climatological conditions. For a town whose culture and economy were intimately tied to geese and goose hunting, this has been a dramatic transformation.

gone goose_smWhile we often hear stories of small Midwestern towns fading away, that’s not exactly what was happening in Sumner. The population may have been dwindling, but after talking and working with residents for nearly two years, I found that community members were effectively rearranging the social and ecological complexities comprising their town to respond to the lack of geese. Men were dramatically transforming the landscape to make it more amenable to duck hunting. Women reorganized the town’s annual festival to cater to families instead of goose hunters. Both were working with staff at the National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the community to make it suitable for public uses other than goose hunting. In all three instances, they were strategically leveraging the social and ecological complexities of Sumner to rearrange and sustain their ties to the people and places they valued.

Although Sumner is undoubtedly unique, I argue it provides some important lessons for other communities disrupted by climate change. Most notably, it is sometimes possible for communities to be sustained and even improved. For this to happen, people must effectively utilize and rearrange the social and ecological beings and things comprising their communities. This is a somewhat hopeful lesson, but one that must be tempered by the realities of communities and climate change. Not all places will have the social and ecological inputs to adapt. The effects of climate change can also be so catastrophic that it can be impossible to adjust. Communities being inundated with saltwater because of rising sea levels provide a clear example. The environments in which our communities are entangled will continue to present both opportunities and challenges over the coming decades and centuries, but it seems clear that in some cases there can be more to climate change than catastrophe.

 

Temple University Press’s Annual Holiday Give and Get

This week in North Philly Notes, the staff at Temple University Press suggest the Temple University Press books they would give along with some non-Temple University Press titles they hope to read and receive this holiday season. 

 

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marking Director

Give: This year I’d give Nelson Diaz’s memoir Not from Here, Not from There because of its uplifting story as the first of many things—from first Latino to graduate from the Temple Law School to the first Latino judge in the state of Pennsylvania, and on and on.  This is a book for all of us who have dual status—American but also “other”—and a dare to dream of life’s many possibilities.

Get: It’s a bit late to give me a book that I’d want to read because I already have it.  Michelle Obama’s Becoming is another inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. Besides, I still haven’t gotten the book I asked Santa for last year—Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, a survey of African American art from 1963-83.

Karen Baker, Financial Manager

Give: The Eagles Encyclopedia Champions Edition by Ray Didinger with Robert S. Lyons, all my family—Mom, Dad, brothers, and kids who are all die-hard Philly fans.

Get: I would like to receive Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire because it looks so funny.

Sara Cohen, Editor

Give: This year, I’ll be giving Rebecca Yamin’s Archaeology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution to the history buffs in my life. It tells the story of 300 years of Philadelphia history through artifacts found in privies on the site of the Museum of the American Revolution through tons of gorgeous full color images. It’s also short which makes it an easy read and an affordable gift.

Get: I’m getting ready to move, so I hope that no one give me any holiday presents this year (just more to pack). Once I get settled, I’m hoping to read Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (I just read a great chapter on it by one of my authors) and Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto.

Irene Imperio, Advertising and Promotions Manager

Give:  Color Me… Cherry & White. What better way to unwind than with a coloring book?  A great gift for kids and kids-at-heart.

Get: Becoming by Michelle Obama, an eagerly awaited memoir of a truly inspirational woman.

Aaron Javsicas, Editor in Chief

Give: I’m so thrilled to have Steven Davis’s In Defense of Public Lands on the list. This is an academically rigorous and powerfully written book that’s not afraid to take a stand. Davis offers the privatizers’ best arguments in a fair-minded way, then systematically dismantles them. This is engaged scholarship at its best, and there’s simply nothing else like ityou won’t find a more comprehensive and keenly argued overview of this vital and terrifyingly timely debate anywhere.

Get: I hope someone gives me Kathy Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. I believe this book is still understood to have been the most prescient work on political conditions which would eventually give us President Donald Trump. Maybe I’m not the only one still trying to figure this out?

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Give:  Architectures of Revolt: The Cinematic City circa 1968edited by Mark Shiel. This book has all my Venn Diagrams overlapping—it’s about film, it’s about cities, and it’s about 1968. It’s also about protests and architecture. It’s the perfect gift for my cinephile friends, my urbanist friends, my activist friends, and anyone else who turned 50 in 1968 (or like the press will in 2019).

Get: Jonathan Coe’s Middle England. This is the third of Coe’s books about four friends that began with The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle. The only problem with getting this book is that it will make me want to re-read the first two!

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

Give: They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows, and to me, that was never truer than in the alliance of Evangelicals with Republican candidate and now President Donald Trump.  How people dedicated to spreading the message of Christianity could support a man who is at best morally ambiguous seems incongruous. If you, too, are perplexed, as are many of my friends and family, the contributors to Paul Djupe and Ryan Claassen’s book The Evangelical Crackup? The Future of the Evangelical-Republican Coalition explain how and why this came to pass.

Get: Technically, I already got this (as a gift to myself), but I’m looking forward to sitting down with a pot of tea and Circe, by Madeline Miller. I love Greek mythology, and books about strong, independent, intelligent woman are always on my wish list. Circe has both covered.

Ryan Mulligan, Editor

Give: Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America 50 Years After the Kerner Report, edited by Fred Harris and Alan Curtis. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission’s warning that the United States was headed toward two societies, “separate and unequal” and that “To continue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.” As Americans struggle more and more to find common ground, the keepers of the Kerner flame Fred Harris and Alan Curtis compile the top authorities on the most pressing urban issues and assemble a comprehensible compendium of what we know works: as reasonable a place to start as any in an unreasonable time.

Get: The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre. I’m a millennial, and if there’s one thing millennials like, it’s taking quizzes to better label, sort, and categorize ourselves, proudly declaring the insights that we’d only discovered moments ago must now be immutably true. Luckily, if there are two things millennials like, the other is reading about how all our habits and values are harmful and wrong. This book tells how the mother-daughter team of Myers and Briggs created our national obsession with slapping four letters on who we are and how we operate and asks what it is we think we’re getting out of it?

Kate Nichols, Art Manager

Give: Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic StudiesThis isn’t a first-time choice for me. Published by Temple University Press on behalf of the UCSB Center for Black Studies Research, Kalfou addresses the many issues and critical concerns that increasingly are plaguing our communities and institutions. The journal gives me a measure of hope in this very crazy time. As per the inscriptions in the beginning: kal ´fü—a Haitian Kreyòl word meaning “crossroads”“This means that one must cultivate the art of recognizing significant communications, knowing what is truth and what is falsehood, or else the lessons of the crossroads—the point where doors open or close, where persons have to make decisions that may forever after affect their lives—will be lost.”—Robert Farris Thompson.

Get: Educated by Tara Westover. I keep hearing wonderful things about it.

Ashley Petrucci, Rights and Contracts Coordinator

Give: Who Will Speak for America? edited by Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin. Who Will Speak for America? draws upon the current political climate to advocate for change, which makes it a very timely piece that I think is important for everyone to read.  This would definitely be a book of great interest to several of my friends, who would enjoy reading about the various perspectives and reading through the various styles of the contributors to this edited collection.

Get: The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History edited by Dennis Waskul and Marc Eaton. I may be a bit biased, since aspects of the supernatural were key components to my senior thesis on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but this would be the book that I would most like to receive.  I’ve always enjoyed horror movies and studying the supernatural elements of folktales and stories (particularly from the Middle Ages), so I would love to sit down and read this book over the holidays.  A nightmare before Christmas, if you will.

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Manager

Give: Undocumented Fears: Immigration and the Politics of Divide and Conquer in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, by Jamie Longazel. To quote the Preface, “This book contributes to an understanding of U.S. immi­gration politics in this tumultuous first decade and a half of the twenty-first century.” 

Get: Dreams and Nightmares: I Fled Alone to the United States When I Was Fourteen, by Liliana Velásquez.

Dave Wilson, Senior Production Manager

Give: Policing in Natural Disasters, by Terri M. Adams and Leigh R. Anderson, is inspired by the personal accounts of triumph and tragedy shared by first responders. The short- and long-term effects of these events on first responders—the very people society relies upon in the midst of a catastrophe—are often overlooked. This book opened my mind about the strength of these responders and the challenges they face while responding during times of crisis. I find it fascinating to weigh the dilemma: How do they take care of their own families first and risk neglecting their needs when the responders are required to place the needs of the people they serve first.

 

 

 

 

Highlights from the latest–and past–issues of Kalfou, a Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies

This week in North Philly Notes, we present the table of contents for the new issue of Temple University Press’s journal, Kalfou, edited by George Lipsitz, as well as some links to sample articles from previous editions of the journal.

Please recommend to your library! • To subscribe: click here  

VOLUME 5, ISSUE 2 • FALL 2018

Kalfou_generic-cover_102015FEATURE ARTICLES • From the symposium “Over the Line: A Conversation about Race, Place, and the Environment,” edited by Ingrid R. G. Waldron and George Lipsitz

No Ordinary Time: Indigenous Dispossession and Slavery Unwilling to Die • George Lipsitz

A Precarious Confluence: Neoliberalism, Race, and Water Insecurity • Michael Mascarenhas

Women on the Frontlines: Grassroots Movements against Environmental Violence in Indigenous and Black Communities in Canada • Ingrid R. G. Waldron

Marginalizing Poverty with Car-Dependent Design: The Story of Two Expulsions • Tristan Cleveland

Indigenous Environmental Justice, Knowledge, and Law • Deborah McGregor

Reconciliation and Environmental Racism in Mi’kma’ki • Dorene Bernard

Dismantling White Privilege: The Black Lives Matter Movement and Environmental Justice in Canada • Cheryl Teelucksingh

Community Mobilization to Address Environmental Racism: The South End Environmental Injustice Society • Louise Delisle and Ellen Sweeney

This Sacred Moment: Listening, Responsibility, and Making Room for Justice • Sadie Beaton

IDEAS, ART, AND ACTIVISM
TALKATIVE ANCESTORS Ida B. Wells on Criminal Justice

KEYWORDS Deflective Whiteness: White Rhetoric and Racial Fabrication • Hannah Noel

LA MESA POPULAR The Dependent Origination of Whiteness • John B. Freese

ART AND SOCIAL ACTION Stanton Heights: Intersections of Art and Science in an Era
of Mass Incarceration • Norman Conti

MOBILIZED 4 MOVEMENT The ENRICH Project: Blurring the Borders between  Community and the Ivory Tower • Ingrid R. G. Waldron

TEACHING AND TRUTH Rules and Consequences • Dave Cash

IN MEMORIAM When Giants Leave the Forest, the Trees Carry Their Songs: Clarence
Fountain, Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Aretha Franklin • Johari Jabir

Sample articles from past issues

“A Relatively New Discovery in the Modern West”: #BlackLivesMatter and the Evolution of Black Humanism, Juan Floyd-Thomas, Kalfou 4-1 (2017).

A Precarious Confluence: Neoliberalism, Race, and Water Insecurity, Michael Mascarenhas, Kalfou 5-2 (2018)

No Ordinary Time: Indigenous Dispossession and Slavery Unwilling to Die, George Lipsitz, Kalfou 5-2 (2018)

Prophets and Profits of Racial Science, Ruha Benjamin, Kalfou 5-1 (2018)

 

The Myth of Sexual Violence as Only a Crime Against Women

This week in North Philly Notes, we re-post Sex and the Founding Fathers author Thomas Foster’s recent article about sexual violence that appeared October 24 in The A-Line.

By Thomas A. Foster

In our national discussions about sexual assault and sexism that swirled around the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, we veered toward the historical view of sexual assault as a gendered crime. Men played a variety of roles in this national drama—as perpetrators of sexual violence, as raging patriarchs who have been angered by the audacity of women to accuse men of sexual violations, and as pro-feminist allies—but they did not figure prominently as survivors of sexual assault or harassment.

Indeed, if men figured as victims at all in our national discussions, it was primarily as targets of lying women, as victims of a “vast conspiracy,” as Brett Kavanaugh phrased it in his opening statement before the Senate Judicial Committee. Or, as President Trump put it: “It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.”

As an historian of sexuality in early America, I cannot hear such assertions without being reminded that the notion that every man should be concerned about the power of women’s false accusations of sexual violence is a very old one. It has always relied on misogyny and an inversion of the realities of our courts and culture—a paranoid, sexist fantasy that places powerful men in positions of vulnerability and vulnerable women in positions of supposed authority.

The book Look e’re you Leap; or, A History of Lewd Women (Boston, 1762), for example, warned men by deploying tales of rejected women who used false accusations of rape and seduction to have their revenge. Newspapers in eighteenth-century America routinely included similar fictional tales and just as many stories of trials and false accusations of rape to extort money. One problem with this fearmongering, as Tyler Kingkade points out, is that men are actually more likely to be victims of sexual assault than of false rape accusations brought by women.

Senator Feinstein prefaced her hearing remarks with the statistic that 1 in 6 men have been victims of sexual assault. Even with significant underreporting, 1 in 5 sexual harassment charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from men. Other figures confirm sexual violence against men as a significant problem. The Department of Defense reported that of nearly 20,000 reports of sexual violence in 2014, for example, roughly half were from men. Sometimes recognizing the existence of an issue does not mean that we take it seriously. Just as with comments that dismissed Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, sexual violence against incarcerated men is an open secret. All too often, it is treated as a source of humor.

Part of the reason that men have not been largely recognized as victims of sexual violence is that our nation has yet to move beyond the gendered definition of sexual assault established by previous generations. In colonial America, rape was explicitly a gendered crime and it remained defined as a crime against women for centuries. It was often also seen as a crime against the victim’s male guardian, a violation of one man’s patriarchal authority of a female dependent. It was only in the 1970s that states began revising sexual assault laws to include male victims. Only in 2012 did the FBI move away from its definition of rape as a crime against a “female,” a definition that had been in use since 1930 when it began tracking such crimes. The FBI definition, however, still focuses on “penetration” and excludes men who are forced or coerced to penetrate. When a CDC study in 2012 included men who were forced or coerced to penetrate in its study of intimate partner violence, it found that men and women reported relatively equal rates of non-consensual sex. The media reporting on the study, however, reverted to the soundbite that women were “disproportionately affected by sexual violence.”

The women’s liberation movement was effective at helping us recognize that power is at the center of sexual assault, instead of lust, as had been the previous interpretation. Feminism provides the tools for understanding sexual violence against men, even if popular culture has still largely defined sexual assault as a crime against women. Including men in a broader discourse about sexual violence, one that still takes into account gender, forces us to think more about root causes of sexual exploitation, rather than letting expressions of it define the problem in today’s society. One danger of defining sexual violence as a gendered crime is that vast portions of the country will reduce some of what is discussed to boorish behavior rather than expressions of abuse.

A young man who commits the kind of sexual assault that Brett Kavanaugh was accused of, is not only a man who does not respect women; he is a person who abuses power and authority for personal satisfaction and gain. The Kavanaugh hearing has shown us many things about ourselves, including that we have progressed very little in our understanding of root causes of sexual assault, and, I fear, therefore, even less in our ability to prevent it.

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