Archive

Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

Nashville Feminists and the Downfall of TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham

XGR--Special Session-LawmakerLast April I covered a feminist protest in Nashville’s legislative building calling for State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) to resign behind allegations of sexual assault from three young female interns. In the protest’s immediate aftermath, which drew considerable media coverage, Durham attempted to grandstand his way out of the frying pan by blaming his plight on the protesters, telling the Franklin Homepage:

Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.

Durham’s insinuation was that sexual harassment and assault were somehow partisan issues. At the time I noted that, as an eyewitness to the protest, there was no “liberal” political grandstanding. The protest was rooted in issues-based activism, which seemed increasingly relevant due to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Just over 24 hours after the protest ended, the state Attorney General’s probe into Durham’s behavior uncovered “inappropriate physical contact.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell banished Rep. Jeremy Durham to a new office building and limited his access to staff after a scathing Tennessee attorney general report found the Franklin Republican engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

“Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to House officials.

In accordance with the attorney general’s findings, Harwell, R-Nashville, is limiting Durham’s access to certain legislative buildings — including moving his office across the street — and he has been barred from having contact with almost all staff or interns as the investigation continues.

Three months later, the AG released a report stating that Durham engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with 22 women. Things haven’t exactly gone well for him since. In August, federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Durham’s campaign expenditures by issuing subpoenas for records related to campaign finance and tax violations. Then days after a $191,000 discrepancy was discovered between his election finance reports and bank records, Durham (also a lawyer) shuttered his real estate title company, Battleground Title & Escrow.

But in September, Jeremy Durham made Tennessee history by being the first state representative to be expelled from the legislature for alleged sexual misconduct. In what the Tennesssean described as “an historic move by state lawmakers,” he was officially ousted as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives during a special legislative session.

Republicans and Democrats joined together to remove the 32-year-old Franklin Republican, voting 70-2 to cast Durham out after more than an hour of discussion to approve the first legislative expulsion since 1980, and only the second since the Civil War. The House needed 66 votes to remove him.

Immediately after the vote, Durham’s name was removed from his desk on the House floor and his name was removed from the legislative website. He is no longer eligible to receive a state pension, having not served enough time in the House.

Now with his legislative career at an end, Durham found his legal career in jeopardy almost immediately thereafter. The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the state agency charged with disciplining lawyers, started investigating possible “trust account violations” and the possibility of misusing client money.

Just a week later, the hits kept on coming for the ex-lawmaker. Literally.

Jeremy Durham hit a University of Florida fan in the face during the University of Tennessee’s football game Saturday, resulting in the Franklin Republican being escorted out of Neyland Stadium by law enforcement.

There are no official details about what happened, but several witnesses confirmed an officer approached Durham and asked him to leave. The recently expelled lawmaker complied and was escorted out of the stands by a Blount County sheriff’s deputy.

A Tennessee fan who saw what happened said Durham was sitting with his wife and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a longtime friend of Durham. The Tennessee fan said a particularly boisterous Florida fan was yelling loudly, and at one point Durham responded to the yells. The Florida fan started yelling at Durham. Once the Florida fan yelled at Durham, the Tennessee fan said, Durham turned around and hit the man in the face.

It’s safe to say that September 2016 was a low point for Jeremy Durham. But he couldn’t even make it to 2017 without another anvil landing on his head.

In December, a subpoena confirmed a previous Tennessean report that federal prosecutors are pursuing wire fraud and fraud mail charges against recently ousted state lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

The subpoena also indicated the investigation involves possible bribery charges.

There are clues as to what federal investigators may be looking for: Connections between Durham, a different person who admitted to rape and child porn charges and a wealthy campaign donor; allegations from lobbyists made during the Tennessee attorney general’s investigation; and Durham’s relationship with a high-profile Republican donor.

Somehow it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that a supreme creep like Durham has connections to an admitted rapist. And being under yet another federal investigation was a fitting end for his 2016 and a promising start to ensure that his 2017 is just as awful. To think that all of this snowballed from the “grandstanding” actions of “young liberals” bringing attention to such “a serious matter.” I know, Mr. Durham, it’s “extremely unfair.”

 

 

Advertisements

Nashville Feminists Call for TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham to Resign

image1-4In January three female interns revealed to the Tennessean that then-House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham (Franklin) sent them inappropriate and harassing text messages, even asking for photos in some instances. Fearing retribution, his accusers came forward on condition of anonymity, and the Tennessean verified that the text messages in question were in fact sent by Durham’s phone.

However, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick already knew.

A woman approached House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick about inappropriate text messages and phone calls she said she had received from then-House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham during the summer, McCormick confirmed Thursday.

The meeting, acknowledged publicly by McCormick for the first time this week, happened months before The Tennessean published an investigation focused on three women who said Durham sent them inappropriate text messages.

She was the second of two women to discuss with McCormick behavior by Durham that they considered inappropriate. Although McCormick said he advised the women to take that information to a human resources official, he said he never asked to see the text messages.

Breaking the story in the press prompted House Speaker Beth Harwell to form a special legislative committee, and Attorney General Herbert Slatery continues to investigate. Unfortunately, the investigation still remains unclear. Durham stated that he’s done nothing wrong, doesn’t remember sending the texts, has no intention of resigning, and is seeking reelection.

In an even stranger turn of events, the State Senate recently passed a bill that forces people who sue state employees to pay their legal fees if the plaintiff doesn’t win. Attorney General Slatery issued a statement to the Tennessean following its passage.

The bill ‘levels the playing field’ and says there are consequences when you sue a State employee in his or her individual capacity for leverage, knowing you will be able to recover damages from the State. This seems only fair.

The important distinction here is State employees acting in an official capacity, as opposed to the State itself. However, it’s your right as a citizen to seek redress without fear of retaliation – such as being taxed for losing your lawsuit. Apparently the political class thinks it more important to stoop to intimidation in favor of protectionism.

Although there is no evidence to suggest any correlation between the bill (which is supposed to be aimed at combatting frivolous lawsuits, according to legislators and the AG) and the investigation into Rep. Durham, the timing is extremely poor, if not suspect. Only three State Senators appealed to Governor Bill Haslam to veto the bill.

Dangerous legislative overreaches at all levels of government should be a cause for concern for all citizens. It transcends partisan politics, ideology, and philosophy when basic rights like seeking redress without fear of reprisals are impinged. Citizens aren’t supposed to fear their government; the government should fear its citizens. Who works for whom?

Moreover, the lack of any conclusive investigation into Dunham only contributes to a climate of intimidation by implying that the onus of stopping harassment is solely on the women who were already harassed. In lieu of these events, as well as it being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a team of community activists including the Nashville Riot Grrrls, Nashville Feminist Collective, and Fisk University students decided to stage a protest at the legislature calling for Rep. Durham’s resignation from office.

Yesterday, at approximately eleven in the morning, a dozen activists descended on the legislative offices with Tennessean coverage in real time.

The group of 12 silently marched the halls, dropping off “Jeremy Durham Resign” signs at his office, stopping at the members of the committee members tasked with investigating Durham’s behavior and finally standing hand-in-hand outside the door of House Speaker Beth Harwell.

“We are not sure why he hasn’t been held accountable,” said Ashley Dixon, 32, one of the protesters.

The women said they were from throughout Davidson County and felt it was an issue important to them after a Tennessean investigation reported on allegations of inappropriate text messages sent by Durham.

Nashville’s local ABC News affiliate WKRN-TV was also on the scene and spoke with the group’s media spokesperson Whitney Washington, who affirmed their position that the entire chain of events “is making this an unsafe work environment for women.” They want Durham to be held accountable for his actions.

Speaking with Whitney Washington myself, she reiterated the need for direct action. “We’re not circulating petitions but encouraging people to call, email, and tweet.” NRG member Lauren Strange posted all of the aforementioned details for members of Durham’s investigative committee in the event’s Facebook page and fired off some tweets of her own.

Rep. Durham was actually on the floor introducing a bill during the protest, but spoke to the Franklin Homepage in its aftermath.

Although I fully support freedom of speech, I’m disappointed that these young liberals would turn a serious matter into political grandstanding and minimize the weight of this important issue for those who have truly been harassed in the workplace,” Durham said. “I realize we live in a politically correct society, but making a false accusation when there was never even a complaint filed is extremely unfair.

Rep. Durham might need a reminder that he’s currently under investigation for verified texts sent to three “young” female interns from his own phone, even if that investigation doesn’t inspire confidence. And as an eyewitness to the protest, there was no “liberal” political grandstanding or partisanship of any kind. The protest was rooted in issues-based activism, unless harassment and intimidation are now partisan issues.

Even if we assume Durham will suddenly buckle under the pressure and resign, it’s highly unlikely that Williamson County appoints a liberal in his stead. So who’s really engaging in political grandstanding? Smart money is always on the embattled politician running for reelection.

The age-old right of crusty white male politicians to harass their female subordinates is under attack. I know. It’s “extremely unfair.”

UPDATE: This afternoon, just over 24 hours after the protest ended, the Tennessean is reporting that the Attorney General’s probe into Durham’s behavior found “inappropriate physical contact.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell banished Rep. Jeremy Durham to a new office building and limited his access to staff after a scathing Tennessee attorney general report found the Franklin Republican engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

“Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to House officials.

In accordance with the attorney general’s findings, Harwell, R-Nashville, is limiting Durham’s access to certain legislative buildings — including moving his office across the street — and he has been barred from having contact with almost all staff or interns as the investigation continues.

UnSlut is Now in Bookstores!

December 29, 2015 1 comment

unslut memoirUnSlut Project founder Emily Lindin‘s diary and memoir officially hit bookstores today. Join the fight against the dangerous hypocrisy of “slut” shaming and sexual bullying in our schools, communities, media, and culture.

When Emily Lindin was eleven years old, she was branded a “slut” by the rest of her classmates. For the next few years of her life, she was bullied incessantly at school, after school, and online. At the time, Emily didn’t feel comfortable confiding in her parents or in the other adults in her life. But she did keep a diary.

UnSlut presents that diary, word for word, with split-page commentary to provide context and perspective. This unique diary and memoir sheds light on the important issues of sexual bullying, slut-shaming, and the murky mores of adolescent sexual development. Readers will see themselves in Emily’s story—whether as the bully, the shamed, or the passive bystander. This book also includes advice and commentary from a variety of distinguished experts.

About the author: Emily Lindin is a Harvard graduate, PhD candidate, and suicide prevention activist living in Southern California. The UnSlut Project was inspired by her own experience. It began when Emily, as an adult, chose to publish her own middle school diaries online in response to learning about the suicides of several teen girls who had experienced similar slut-shaming and bullying. Emily had a strong desire to reach out to others who still suffer such abuse. Her diaries have been read by hundreds of thousands of people and have brought much attention to the practice of slut-shaming and the harassment of young women. Now the project expands to include UnSlut as well as a documentary film. Emily has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows including “The Katie Show” with Katie Couric, and she was recently named one of Glamour magazine’s “Heroes of the Week.”

*Disclaimer, for what it’s worth: I’ve penned a guest post for the UnSlut blog.

End Violence Against Sex Workers

It’s December 17th again.

dec 17

Prostitution: When Feminists Become Patriarchs with Lady Parts

lena dunham

Actress and “Feminist” Lena Dunham

“Across 110th Street a pimp’s trying to catch a woman that’s weak.” –Bobby Womack

Lena Dunham’s crusade against Amnesty International’s push to decriminalize sex work is the epitome of white privilege elitist feminist hypocrisy. What’s more perverse than a rich and famous actress claiming to be a feminist while simultaneously trying to convince the world of what women should or shouldn’t be able to do with their own bodies?

Even more absurd is Dunham’s reliance on sources with zero credibility on the issue, like Nick Kristoff of the New York Times, as opposed to journalists on the feminism beat like Elizabeth Nolan Brown and experts with blogs like Maggie McNeil – or the groundswell of sex workers on social media.

Opponents of sex work decriminalization must be unaware of what happens to the market for a good or service once driven into the criminal underworld. In short, there’s violence and uncertainty without market regulations and courtrooms to adjudicate disputes. Operating in black markets carry higher risk premiums, so who really suffers behind sex work prohibition? Sex workers. You know, women.

Street pimps and sex slave traffickers don’t want to see sex work legalized. It would hurt their wallets. Badly. That’s pretty telling. They’re probably Lena Dunham’s biggest fans right now.

At it’s core, Dunham & Co. represent a dangerous strand of feminism driven by their own self-righteous, arbitrary feelings and beliefs from issue to issue – sitting way up in their ivory towers – as opposed to the idea that all humans possess natural rights to their life, liberty, and property. These rights are subsequently suppressed, threatened, eroded, and robbed by coercive, patriarchal institutions, the nation state chief among them.

If the goal of feminism is to smash patriarchy, feminists must endeavor to smash the state. Only in a bizarro world would a feminist look to cure the horrors of the sex slave trade and daily dangers faced by sex workers (created by borders and prohibition) by championing the same coercive borders and prohibition laws that perpetually oppress and harm the very victims they seek to help. Legalization is the only solution that allows for sex workers to peacefully practice their profession and earn a living without the threat of violence or incarceration.

For more, my favorite commentary to surface thus far regarding Lena Dunham’s supposed feminism is by Kelly K. Vee over at C4SS: Will the Real Feminists Please Stand Up?

UPDATE: Due to some of the sillier reactions on social media, I just included a comment in the thread below in hopes of quenching some fires and letting cooler heads prevail. Most reactions have been positive or at least respectful. For that, and all the attention and traffic this post has already received, I’m quite grateful.

Liberty, Feminism, and Punk Rock

I’m very pleased to announce that I have a guest post up at Sandra Sanchez‘s blog The Individualist Feminist. Here’s an excerpt, but go read the entire post!

Thanks to some older friends that I skated and played hockey with, the sounds of punk rock music began invading my brain. I was introduced to classic anarchist punk rockers like the Sex Pistols, and more contemporary bands like Operation Ivy, Green Day, Screeching Weasel, and NOFX. The antiauthoritarian attitude was just the sort of flavor I was craving. And for a young teenager, it’s not exactly a shocking outcome to rebel against all forms of authority and societal norms.

Fortunately for me, South Florida’s underground music scene was one of the most vibrant and flourishing in the entire nation during the nineties. It spanned three counties (Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach), a diverse range of age groups, and was comprised solely of those partaking in the scene – musicians, fans, and friends. We weren’t patroned by wealthy investors and record labels, nor welcomed by commercial venues. In fact, we were a real live, organic, market anarchist movement that grew and sustained itself through spontaneous order.

What differentiated our movement, however, was the message that punk rock music carried with it. Sure it was laced with antigovernment, down with the system-oriented hyperbole, but at its core, that attitude stemmed from outrage against the injustice and oppression caused by governments, corporatist cronies, and any other institutions that perpetuated racism, sexism, etc. For instance, we used to do an annual benefit show for the nonprofit organization Food Not Bombs (members of the Alliance of The Libertarian Left).

Be sure to follow Sandra’s work on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m a Hetero-Sexist Tragedy

Propagandhi-Less_Talk,_More_Rock-CDIn light of the recent rape-related posts at Bleeding Heart Libertarians by Sarah Skwire and Steve Horwitz, as well as the general surge in libertarian feminism – thanks to the likes of Jessica Flanigan, Cathy ReisenwitzSandra Sanchez, and others – I’ve decided to make it back-to-back Propagandhi posts in this space. And appropriately so, as Horwitz notes:

The fundamental problem of civilization is how to generate social coordination and cooperation in a world of anonymity.  We are not equipped by evolution to do this very easily.  In fact, our dispositions are to resist the constraints on our behavior such a world requires.

So in my longstanding tradition and spirit of being a pro-feminist punk rock anarchist, I once again offer up a tune from Propagandhi’s second full length album Less Talk, More Rock (released by Fat Wreck Chords in 1996), “Refusing To Be A Man”.

The song tells the tale of a man that recently came of age and is attempting to shake loose the indoctrination of institutionalized sexism. In fact, Propagandhi frontman Chris Hannah launches into a preamble about combating sexism prior to performing the song in December of 1997 (long before their popularity as a band really began to surge). Forgive the quality, it’s an old video, but a worthwhile message:


Here are the powerful lyrics with the album version below:

I’m not going to try to tell you that I’m different from all the rest
I’ve been subject to the same de-structure of desire and I’ve felt the same effects
I’m a hetero-sexist tragedy and potential rapists all are we

But don’t tell me this is natural, this is nurturing
There’s a difference between sexism and sexuality
I had different desires prior to my role-remodelling
And at six years of age you don’t challenge their claims
You become the same or withdraw from the game
And hang your head in shame

I think that’s exactly what I did
I tried to sever the connections between me and them
I fought against their further attempts to convince a kid that birthright can bestow
The power to yield the subordination of women and do you know
What patricentricity means? I found out just a couple of days ago
It means male values uber alles and hey whaddaya know…

Sex has been distorted and vilified
I’m scared of my attraction to body types
If everything desired is objectified
Maybe eroticism needs to be redefined
And I refuse to be a “man”


Image via Less Talk, More Rock

Classic Rock for Classical Liberals archive

%d bloggers like this: