Dave, Tommy, and I will be sharing blog duties; we felt that we ought to give you fair warning about what we’re like! So here’s a bit about who we are and why we’re blogging.
I got into the entirety of the world of gender justice really after my first job out of college - I worked for a soulless corporate beast that destroyed my ability to think clearly or grow hair regularly. I made it just over a year at that place before I got fired, in the fall of 2006. I found myself puttering around, applying for a million other positions, and trying to occupy my time so I didn’t get insanely bored. I had always been interested in gender issues through school, but didn’t have either the vocabulary to talk about it, or the knowledge of where to go to learn more.
After a while, I learned the Boston Public Library was a pretty cool place to hang out while job searching - I could send out five or six applications, log my incredible job-finding failure, and tidy up my records and still have most of the day free to read something interesting. I sort of stumbled across Susan Brownmiller’s book Femininity, and that’s when feminism got its claws in me. A whole book about how gender norms are crap? Be still my beating heart!
I think I read every book I could find in the BPL’s sociology section, and that started to lead me to look for places online and in Boston that had that same level of critical analysis. Feminism has been, for me, the most well-thought out criticism I’ve seen of the culture in which I live, and I really crave that type of critical thought and analysis. In late 2006, I read Naomi Wolff’s Promiscuities, and she challenges the reader at one point to get active if they want to consider themselves feminists and just people. After I put the book down, I went online and searched for rape crisis centers in Boston. Good thing that BARCC has a straight-forward name!
Why the blog action?
My time with BARCC has been righteous so far, but one of the things I constantly lament is our inability to do even more - there’s a practical limit to the time, energy, and funding that any one organization has. Creating media that challenges the dominant culture, that connects people who may not otherwise have connected with BARCC, and helping to push the acceptable boundaries for gender behavior - these seem like awesome things, that awesome people do. Since I generally consider myself to be an awesome person, I figured I should do them.
Two of the big issues I struggle with while I do this work are, first, what exactly does it mean to “do this work?” How am I actually going to affect the world through either my time with BARCC or this blog; and second, what is the appropriate place for someone with as much social privilege as I have in a movement for gender justice? I’m male identified and conform pretty strongly to what society expects me to look and act like, most of the time - how much of the gender justice world do I need to do outside my own self, and how much do I need to do inside?
I moved to Boston in 2006, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have a day job - at least not at first. Health issues. So I knew I’d actually have time to volunteer at the local rape crisis center, something I’d wanted to do for years.
It was the health issues that kept me from doing what I’d originally wanted to do with BARCC, actually; I was interested in medical advocacy, but I knew that I couldn’t guarantee my ability to be functional for hours on end on any given shift, not when my condition was varying wildly. So I signed on to be a Survivor Speaker, and then joined CAPS. One of my friends has referred to my outreach work, especially at tablings, as “being professionally sparkly”. :) That, I can do no matter what! And thankfully the health stuff has improved over the years - enabling me to now work at BARCC!
I’ve been blogging for eight years. My non-BARCC blog is fairly unfocused, a blend of my fiction and poetry, pictures of my cats, silly stories, and random musings - but I began, more and more, to talk about rape and sexual assault, because every time I did, the response was tremendous. Having this blog where that was not unspeakable became a very powerful thing, for me and for my readers. Almost every time I post something about rape, I get new people popping up who’d never spoken about it before and were intensely relieved to find a place where this discussion would happen.
I’ve been nudging for BARCC to get a blog for a while! If I posted everything I have to say about rape and sexual assault in my own blog, it would end up being almost *nothing* but that. No room for cat pictures or talking about my daughter’s school play! :) So I’m thrilled to have a place dedicated to just this.
(I will post cat pictures only upon request, I promise.)
My friend, who’s a hotline volunteer here, referred me to BARCC. I had expressed interest in working with teenagers. In exactly what capacity I wasn’t sure, other than knowing I wanted to provide kids with some of the tools and respect I wish I’d been given when I was their age.
My background is pretty common around these parts: I was born at the former St. Margaret’s in Dorchester, raised in the Irish Catholic tradition, and graduated from a Boston Public high school. To say that my family and immediate community didn’t talk about sex outside of abstinence would be a gross understatement. Health education—and more to the point, sexual health education—was not a priority. It wasn’t until I got to college that I developed any sort of vocabulary to define what I was seeing and experiencing.
Binge drinking was a big part of my college’s culture. I saw a lot of things that made me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t articulate what was wrong with what was happening. Really, it was in my therapist’s office where I was first able to assign words to the things I had seen.
I got involved with BARCC because rape sucks. It’s a fight that must be fought and can be won. Working in schools with teenagers has proven to me that prevention is effective. It’s amazing to see the change in students over the course of a semester. And it all comes down to talking, dissecting values and retraining our focus.
In my free time, I blog quite often. But mostly, my personal stuff is personal and only loosely connected to the larger culture. Blogging for BARCC is an opportunity to marry my advocacy work with my writing, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’m grateful for this opportunity to represent my views through such a progressive, compassionate organization.