WKND Recap: The Good, the Bad, & the Unbelievable

Emma Sulkowicz, who is speaking out about her experience with sexual assault at Columbia University, in New York, May 1, 2014. Activists are using media exposure and legal tactics to force universities to change their approach to campus sexual assault, which means paying attention to an unfamiliar set of duties more akin to social work and criminal justice than education. (Kirsten Luce/The New York Times)

Emma Sulkowicz.

The Good

THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT declined to hear an appeal from North Carolina on a ruling made in the lower federal appeals court. The ruling in question centered around the steps a woman needs to take before she could legally have an abortion; in this case, that required step would have been undergoing an ultrasound performed by a doctor or technician, who would have been required to both show and describe the fetus to the woman even if she wasn’t interested in hearing or seeing it. The lower federal appeals court found that this law would have violated doctors’ free-speech rights, and apparently SCOTUS agreed. It is important to note that versions of this law have been passed in 23 other states, so: yay NC, but the struggle continues. (h/t Slate)

The Bad

IN LAST NIGHT’S Game of Thrones finale, Cersei Lannister — arguably the one character that most fans of the show love to hate, despite their feelings about all the other inhabitants of Essos — confesses to the High Sparrow (a pope-like figure of one of the series’ religious organizations) that she has had sex outside of marriage. The way she can repent for her sins, according to the High Sparrow, is to walk from the temple to the palace barefoot, stark naked, and with her hair shorn off. To add insult to injury, her subjects — she’s the queen, BTW — are there to shout “c*nt” and “b*tch” at her while hurling rocks and garbage at her, while a nun walks behind her ringing a bell and yelling the word “shame.” Understandably, Cersei is broken by the end of the ordeal — her literal walk of shame. While the showrunners claim that this scene has its roots in historical fact, it’s an uncomfortable thing to witness, especially when you consider how so much of Season Five of the series has featured violence — oftentimes gratuitous — against women. First, there’s the rape of Sansa Stark, a character who had just begun to take back her agency from the oppressive men in her life. Then, there’s the sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon, a child who was burned alive on a pyre by her father in order to advance his military aims. And there’s Gilly, daughter of Caster, who was raped by her father and had a child by him, and deals with the threat of rape again and again. It’s tough being a woman these days — in Essos or anywhere else. (h/t Refinery 29)

EMMA SULKOWICZ, the Columbia University graduate who accused another student of rape and started carrying her mattress with her when her alleged rapist went unpunished and remained at the university, just released a new project to follow up on the heels of “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).” The project is entitled “Ceci N’est Pas un Viol (‘This is Not a Rape’)” and is a video, posted to a website of the same name, featuring a graphic video in which Sulkowicz and an unidentified man engage in what first appears to be consensual sex that quickly begins to look aggressive and not-so-consensual. According to the site, the video is meant to ask viewers to consider how they distinguish between the way an object is talked about and portrayed and the object itself; in other words, the way we talk about and portray rape victims, and those victims themselves. A number of media outlets have picked up the story and run with it, but have been calling the video pornographic, when the intent is obviously so far away from that. (h/t Bitch Magazine)

The Unbelievable

NEWS BROKE over the weekend that Rachel Dolezal, a professor of Africana Studies at East Washington University and a leader of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, has ostensibly been lying for many years about her racial background. In a nutshell, she has been claiming that she is black, and her parents went on record that she is, in fact, white. This revelation has birthed a maelstrom on the Internet, sparking conversations ranging topics from the damage of racial appropriation to the appropriate and inappropriate ways to be an ally to people of color. It’s also caused many people to defend her, claiming that being “transracial” is the same as being transgender, going so far as to claim that liberals who support Caitlin Jenner but take issue with supporting Dolezal are hypocrites. While we don’t know Dolezal’s motivations, let’s be clear on one thing: race and gender ARE NOT the same thing. Let’s keep trans rights out of this conversation. (h/t Salon)

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