Of All The Things I Wrote In 2014, My Favorites


This was the first year of my life since I was a young child that I did not go to school (that’s roughly 30 years of schooling…eek). Instead, I got paid to write. When I think about that, I still can’t really believe it.

And so, this is my self-indulgent blog post commemorating the work I’ve done in 2014 of which I am especially proud.

“Painting Wendy Davis as a bad mother is political sexism at its worst”: The Guardian, Jan. 26, 2014

On Monday, two days after Slater’s piece ran, Davis released an open letter in which she said that “our opponents have gotten more and more desperate” and are now stooping “to a new low by attacking my family, my education, and my personal story”. She says that her story of “resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance. And you’re damn right it’s a true story.”

Damn right. As a woman, a mother, and a person whose partner has helped me financially to secure a good education, I am disappointed in seeing the first female democratic candidate for Texas governor in a long while – a woman who came to international fame for fighting for access to full, comprehensive reproductive healthcare – being painted as a poor mother or a money-grubbing schemer.

A trio of pieces at Bitch Magazine’s blog about romance novels that we should hear more about

“Fighting Sexual Assault”: Austin Chronicle, May 16, 2014

UT has a robust and diverse group of tools, services, and people working to make the campus safer. When applied specifically to the finite and more easily regulated space of orientation, it appears that the administration’s efforts are working – but Bost cautions against presuming too much from the zero-reporting of assaults last summer. “The fact that we had no reports may or may not really mean anything,” Bost says. For her, the success of this new orientation program is that it gets “a very strong message across that we care about each other, we take care of each other.”

Hammat also notes that sexual assault statistics and reporting are at best an “imperfect science.” In this context, for example, no reports of assault could also be worrisome – the goal is to create a space where victims feel more comfortable coming forward. It’s uncertain if the lack of anecdotal evidence about sexual assaults during orientation was caused by the changes in housing and time of meetings. Like Bost, Hammat considers the success of last summer to be the university’s larger systemic changes in approach. “We put better training in place for all of our students to know that if they see something that isn’t right, they should say something. If they aren’t sure, they should ask. We’ve trained them on consent and what that looks like.”

“Faces Of Assault”: Sports On Earth, May 23, 2014

The rub here is that sexual assault cases involving student athletes often end up being high-profile cases and black men on campuses are greatly overrepresented on athletic teams. According to the 2013 report, “Black Male Student-Athletes And Racial Inequalities In NCAA Division I College Sports,” “Between 2007 and 2010, black men were 2.8 percent of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students, but 57.1 percent of football teams and 64.3 percent of basketball teams.” The report states that, at Oregon, black men make up 1.1 percent of the overall UO undergraduate population but account for 54.5 percent of football and basketball team members. Louis Moore, assistant professor of history at Grand Valley State University, says that unfortunately these disproportionate numbers mean that “the face of rape and criminality” in sports is often “going to be the black male” (though, of course, not exclusively). Additionally, the lack of black men on campuses, Moore argues, feeds into the idea that they are outliers in the community. “So there is this sense that they don’t belong, that they never belonged,” Moore said, “and when the crime happens, it becomes, ‘See, I told you so.'”

“Forward Motion: Charlie Strong and Texas football’s long journey out of segregation”: Texas Observer, Sept. issue

Austin is a football town, from the 100,000-seat Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to the Vince Young Steakhouse. Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and Michael Griffin, a safety for the Tennessee Titans, both played high school football in Austin. The Lake Travis and Westlake high school teams consistently rank among the best in the state, with Lake Travis taking five consecutive state titles from 2008 to 2012.

Austin is also a town with a long history of segregation and racially disastrous efforts at urban renewal. A report released earlier this year by the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas showed that among the 10 fastest-growing major cities in the country, Austin is the only one to register a net loss in black population. The study’s authors suggest that “the declining number of African Americans in Austin was the result of persistent structural inequalities,” including skyrocketing property taxes due to gentrification, a “troubled relationship” between black residents and the Austin Police Department, disparities in public education, and lack of economic opportunity.

It was into this intersection of athletic greatness and racial quandary that Charlie Strong, the new coach of the University of Texas football team, stepped at the beginning of 2014.

“The NFL’s Domestic Violence Problem And Our Race Problem”: VICE Sports, Sept. 25, 2014

Football, because it employs so many black men and is so popular, reflects a skewed racialized image of violence back into our society. Ben Carrington, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas who specializes in sports and race, told me that often “race is the trigger for society to express their moral outrage about another issue.” (In this case, interpersonal and domestic violence.) In fact, he says, when a crime is perpetrated by black people, that “helps to make us more angry because of what [the alleged perpetrators] look like.” Kaba echoed this. She told me she’s “dubious to the reaction to [these cases] versus the reaction to white men in the league who commit violence,” because when it is black men we are discussing, there are implications of these men being “inherently violent,” and that makes for an easy leap to “they should be locked up, we need to manage and control them.”

“Who We Talk About When Athletes Are Accused Of Sexual Assault”: VICE Sports, Oct. 14, 2014

The fundamental difference between the “let’s just move on” camp and the camp led by reporters like the ones at the Times is who is centered in each story. One focuses on the athlete, the other focuses on the victim. Consider Doyel’s piece on Winston, or the endless articles about Ray Rice that were written in the months leading up to the release of the video of him committing domestic violence, or those that chronicled in detail Roethlisberger’s return to the field following allegations of sexual assault against him and the announcement of his suspension, or any that waxed poetically about how the Kansas City Chiefs pulled through following the murder/suicide by Jovan Belcher: What we see at the center of these stories is the athlete or his team.

The alleged victims, meanwhile, are ignored, their names almost never spoken unless it is to shame them. And almost nothing gets written about the larger systemic powers that enable and coddle this destructive behavior. This is such an acute problem that following Belcher’s murder of his girlfriend and subsequent suicide, David J. Leonard wrote a piece titled, “Kasandra Michelle Perkins: We Must Say Her Name.”

“The Wrestler And The Rape Victim”: VICE Sports, Dec. 15, 2014

During Mock’s disciplinary hearing, his lawyer, Rufolo, asked Morris, “You understand the university can’t put [him] in jail?”

Morris said she knew.

“And how does that protect you if they kick [him] out of school?” Rufolo said. “You’re not coming back to school, are you? You’re going to New Mexico.”

“But that doesn’t account for the other thousands of girls that still attend UTC’s campus and are exposed to Corey or other males that are committing this act,” Morris said. “If I could just protect one other person. I wouldn’t feel right in my mind leaving UTC knowing that I was raped, did nothing about it and he was allowed to stay on campus and continue doing this to other girls without anything happening to him.”

“It wouldn’t bother you if he transferred to another school and had the opportunity to commit this act on all the thousands of girls of that university?” Rufolo said.

“That’s come to my mind,” Morris said. “But at the end of the day, I can only do what I can do … If he continues to do this at UTC, that’s on UTC. If he continues to do this at another university, that’s on that university. But I’m doing—I’m not super woman. I’m doing everything in my power to try to solve a situation that otherwise goes unnoticed.”

And 2015 will be the year I complete my first book manuscript. Here’s to what’s around the corner.

4 Responses

  1. Dr. Marti Kennedy says:

    Great job! Thank you for bringing to light many darkly closed issues. Best to you in 2015…and beyond.

  2. Mo says:

    What a difference a year makes! Congrats on continuing to do what you enjoy, and trusting in yourself to do it. Happy new year!

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