Showing posts with label Rape Is Not OK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rape Is Not OK. Show all posts

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The secrets that we keep

Note:  Recently I've been watching Downton Abbey, and I'm up to Season 4.  I'm not going to put any spoilers in the post, but there may end up being some in comments, and I wanted to acknowledge upfront what's prompted me to write this.  Content warning for discussion of rape, consent, secret keeping.

As I've aged I've become privy to secrets I was oblivious to.  I discovered, to give but one example, that my family is riddled with adoption stories, some good some not so good.  Every adult in my parents' generation, on both sides of my family, has either adopted a child or had a child adopted, and in one case both.  I'm pretty sure that has all come out now, into the open, but I could well be wrong.  These are stories with their origins in the 1960s, mostly, and some of the people involved are unknown to me or have died, so I'll never know it all.  These aren't secrets anymore, and they were the unacknowledged realities of others, not me.

The difficulty I'm musing on is in relation to the secrets of other people, and how those of us who keep them are obligated, or not, to disclose them.

Take a situation where you're aware that someone is a sexual predator.  You're also aware that the person (or people) who you know they have attacked desperately don't want anyone else to know.  You can shun the predator, exclude them from the realms you control, even let them know that you know.  But without broader disclosure other people will be in danger, the predator is unlikely to realise the horrible error of their ways and seek help, the predator is unlikely to be held accountable, other victims you don't know about may feel isolated and at fault.  You end up keeping a secret for a friend, someone viciously attacked and feeling awful, but that advantages the predator, not least with continuing their heinous activity.

Then of course there is the lack of justice in this country (and most others from what I can see) for situations like this.  If I could put my hand on my heart and say please go to the police if you are raped, they will do a good job, then I would.  But I can't.  And so I can understand the decision of those who don't report, knowing how difficult it would be to do so, especially when the person who has attacked them is in their circle, their family, their workplace.

To disclose a secret that belongs to another robs them of agency, and in cases like the example I've given above, and many others, they have already had power stripped from them, and I don't want to contribute to repeating that experience, even in part.

Silence enables abuse to continue.  Yet speaking out is not without cost, not least for those who have already suffered.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I believe Dylan Farrow

I believe Dylan Farrow.

Almost every time I am going to believe the victim rather than accused, when it comes to matters of rape, sexual abuse, abuse of power, and the like.  I think it's important to redress the massive power imbalance in these cases by giving more weight to the voice, the story, the experiences of the victim.  I believe Louise Nicholas too.

I understand that the way the justice system works is different.  Due to the presumption of innocence, currently it seems impossible to give anything approaching equal weight to victim and accused.  Ironically, what does serve to provide some balance are other prejudices coming in to play.  The version of the victim will be considered more believable if they are cis female, white, "presentable", middle-class, virginal/married to someone other than the accused, acted in accepted ways before, during and after being assaulted/abused.  The version of the accused will be discounted in part or whole if cis male, physically powerful, brown, a stranger to the victim, poor, shown to be non-vanilla in sexual preferences and practices.

I can form a different opinion from the verdicts the justice system produces.  I can make up my own mind.  It has no consequences for the legal outcomes if I do.

But, if I can express my belief in the victim and their story in a way they become aware of, or other victims and survivors become aware, then I'm hopeful I'm expressing some solidarity, some support, for them.  That in some small way I am helping to redress the tilt the justice system applies, on a social level if not a legal one.

Comment direction:  I am not interested in debating my central premise here in the comments below, as I believe that could be very harmful to readers.  I'll be deleting comments that denigrate victims, propose that the accused in these cases is the underdog, anything like that.  I am interested in discussion of how we make the justice system fairer in these contexts, up against the (important) presumption of innocence of the accused, and I have no easy answers on that.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

some help please

so last year, we had a national day of action against rape culture.  there was a great turnout, and i thought that some of the discussion that happened around it were really useful.  some were pretty frustrating, others were distressing, but on the whole, it seemed like some progress has been made in getting people to understand what rape culture is about and the need to challenge it.

in hamilton, we followed up the march with a public meeting which was quite well attended (over 70 people is really good for hamilton!).  again, there was a feeling that people wanted to take further action, to keep working on challenging that culture & to raise awareness.  and that was really heartening.

our first project for 2014 is having something put into student orientation packs for the university.  we've decided on 3B1 notebooks, with stickers on the front and back - mostly because it's cheap but hopefully effective.

we're now looking at messaging to put on the stickers, and this where i'd really appreciate some help.  i've emailed some people who work in the field & i hope to get some responses in the next few days.  i thought it wouldn't hurt to ask our readers as well, as to what kind of messaging would resonate with young people.  would appreciate your ideas.

while i'm writing, i thought i'd write about the DJ in wellington who made certain racist remarks about indians. as expected, there has been general outrage at the comments.  and i don't disagree with that, they were pretty nasty and unacceptable.  indians aren't any worse or better than anyone else when it comes to groping and inappropriate behaviour at nightclubs or anywhere else.  i'd say it was a pretty common problem across the world.

but in amongst all of the discussion, there was very little talk about the actual harassment and behaviour that goes on in many venues across the country, and by people of all races.  what i didn't see was people talking about the need for venues to have written sexual harassment policies and to enforce them.  any patron or staff members should be able to take a complaint to the venue, there should be an investigation and that should be the basis of anyone being banned. obviously this is work.  and it's much easier to make stereotypical assumptions and ban a whole class of people, rather than taking the time to investigate individual cases.

but i suspect it wouldn't be a whole lot of work.  once a place had gained a good reputation in terms of protecting it's patrons from harassment, people would be much less likely to carry on that kind of behaviour.

it's not like there's no problem with sexual harassment & rape culture when it comes to indians.  just like there is with all communities.  as i wrote in a post last year, we need to start having this conversation across various cultures

the wellington "community leader" who went to talk to the DJ is a facebook friend of mine, and he seems to have had a very productive conversation with some positive outcomes.  which is what i expected because he's a great person.  i just hope that part of the outcomes includes discussions about rape culture and issues of harassment.  because that definitely needs to be part of the conversation & i expect that community leaders in the indian community are really well placed to do that.

Monday, 9 December 2013

keeping up the momentum

we had our national day of action against rape culture.  it was awesome to see so many people out on the streets, raising their voices on this issue.  and it's good to see that there may be some changes to the law as a result of these protests.

but as time goes on & the pressure goes off, it's likely that there will be less change than we hoped for.  this is why we're holding a public meeting in hamilton tomorrow night, to have a discussion on what needs to change & what needs to be improved.  hopefully we can talk about meaningful ways to change both our culture and our institutions.  and hopefully we can come up with some action points to take forward.

it's election year next year, and most parties will be working on policies to take forward into the election.  it's important to make sure that issues around justice & funding in relation to sexual violence & abuse remain at the forefront of policy debates.  if there is a time to push for meaningful change, it's now.

for those of you who are already active in politics & campaigning, please don't let the issues slide.  raise it with your party caucus reps, your party's leadership & those who you know will be active in your party's campaign team.  the amount of discussion and debate that arose out of the "roast busters" incident shows that many, many people care about this stuff, and many people want things to change.

for those who aren't so deeply involved in politics, small acts make a difference.  letters to MPs, letters to the editor, questions at public meetings (& particularly at meet-the-candidates events in the campaign) will help to keep focus on the issues.  it's all basic stuff, the building blocks of any political campaign.

if you need motivation & you haven't read them all, then read through the testimonies of survivors in their own words (huge trigger warning - it's tough reading).  but i think so many of us have our own experiences to draw on.  the problem isn't that we don't care enough, it's that there are so many things to care about, so many fronts that we're fighting on, that we run out of energy.  or sometimes the issues are too triggering, the wounds still too fresh for us to be able to take on activism as well.  i understand that.

for those who do have the energy, and particularly if you're in the waikato, i hope you'll come to the meeting tomorrow night.  i'm a little nervous about it - i hope that the discussion is constructive.  but also pretty excited to have speakers like louise nicholas, dr neville robertson & catherine o'kelly.  here are the full details:

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

starting a conversation


it's a word that has come up a lot in recent weeks, as we have talked about things like a person being drunk not being able to give consent, about revealing clothing not giving consent, about being too young to give any meaningful consent.

there has been plenty written on this blog about issues around consent over the years.  about forced sex & coerced sex, about the various ways in which women are pressured into sex.  we are still trying to fight the battle to get acceptance of the notion that silence is not consent.

pressure can come in the form of an expectation.  it can come in the form of sulking or the silent treatment when someone says no to sex.  in its worst forms, it can take the form of intimidation and direct threats of violence.

sometimes, pressure can come from the expectation that a relationship, particularly one in the form of marriage, involves sex on demand.  it can come in the form of the notion that the provision of sex is a duty, to withhold sex is a grave sin.  this kind of pressure can often exist outside the actual relationship, in cultural norms and long-held traditions, in sermonising and in the casual judgement of people who are close to us.

pressure can come from a culture which presents women as always willing and available.  which gives us images of women as powerless within sexual relationships, images of women expected to please rather than to be pleasured.  these constant messages can create a situation where women have expectations of themselves, because they haven't yet understood their right & the power they have to say no.  once i've gone this far, i can't stop, i have to take this sexual encounter to it's full conclusion.  because that's what society is telling me is the right way to behave.

it's a culture that treats men as having unstoppable urges, and women as having no agency.  and it creates pressures and expectations that reduce the ability to give meaningful consent.

i've been thinking about these things, because i've been thinking about ways forward.  ways to combat rape culture.  and in particular, ways to have these conversations in ethnic minority communities.  communities that often think very differently about sexual relationships, and communities where expectations and pressures around relationships can play out in very different ways.

i've been thinking that i don't really know how to start such a conversation, particularly a public conversation, but knowing that we desperately need to start one.  the time is now, it's urgent.  it's overdue.

but i don't know how to create the space, the place, the time.  how to create an environment where people are prepared to listen and to be receptive to messages that are very different to the ones they are used to.  it's not that this task is in anyway easier in mainstream culture.  but maybe because there are so many more people involved, and the conversation started a while ago, it doesn't seem quite so daunting.

although i had an exhausting week last week, in an online debate which probably wasn't worth the energy or the time i gave it.  but it reminded me of how emotionally taxing it is to try to fight against a cultural norm that is strong and pervasive.  and how very inadequate i feel when confronted with such a task.  after all, this was only a couple of white men, and i was drained and shaken.  what will it be a like when it's a whole group of people who feel defensive & vulnerable about their cultural positioning in a society riddled with discrimination, being challenged on some fundamental beliefs that have a strong basis in cultural (& religious) traditions?

but the thing is, the conversation does need to happen.  now.  it's urgent.  it's overdue.  we need to be talking about active, positive consent.  about the removal of all kinds of pressures and expectations around sexual interactions.  about respect, and agency.  about basic human rights.

and i really don't know where or how to start.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Rape Culture: We're soaking in it

NB:  These points may already have been made, and made well, elsewhere. I've been largely keeping away from the Roast Busters stuff as I have other stuff going on currently that leaves me in a bad place to be dealing with that.  Hopefully this adds to the discussion, and the progress we MUST make, rather than just being a repetition.  Strong content warning for sexual violence.

Roast Busters is not new.  It is not some heinous development in human history.  Human history IS Rape Culture.  Rape Culture is a norm of centuries' duration we are trying to change, to overcome.  Well some of us are, anyway.

Rape Culture seems particularly bad right now because you are all seeing it.  It was there all along, so saturating us that it is the air we breathe.

Rape Culture is a society where the first things many people will consider when they hear of a rape include role of alcohol consumed by victim, role of clothes worn by victim, lack of parental supervision of victim,
instead of the reprehensible actions of the rapist.

Rape Culture is a society where victim blaming happens constantly.  Where female friends of the rapists speak out in the media to deny the accusations on their behalf.  Where those female friends may have been raped too, in the same circumstances as those they deny, and they can't face that they were raped too, because that is just too hard to deal with.*

Rape Culture is a society where a public health promotion agency deliberately uses fear of rape to scare women into drinking less alcohol, in the process promulgating a number of really really super unhelpful myths about rape and passing them off as truth.

Most women (and I suspect many men) have rape stories; their own, or those of others who have shared with them, things they have seen, things they themselves have done.  For me they are the stories of others, or near misses, but the chance that I will be raped at some point in my life is really very high - 1 in 4 women and girls in New Zealand have had that awful dehumanising experience.  I read once that 1 in 5 New Zealanders have asthma.  Amongst women being a victim of rape is more common than being asthmatic.

And we don't need more research actually.  There is a whole lot.  I'm not well placed to link, but Scube did, and I'm sure others have heaps of good links they can provide in comments.

What we need is more action.  More action by the State.  NGOs, individuals, groups formal and informal all do what they can, but they do not having the resources, the status or the longevity of central government.  We know enough to act; act effectively, efficiently and make a real difference.  Yet we don't.

We don't when we are the Government.  We don't when we are the Police.  We don't when we are people of high profile with significant media platforms.  Denial is a way of coping, I guess, because otherwise we have to accept that what we did to others could have been rape, what others did to us was rape, what we didn't stop happening to someone we love was rape.  What we allow and even encourage is Rape Culture.

We're soaking in Rape Culture, and it makes it hard to see.  When these moments come we must examine our complicity while we still can, so that once this case has faded we can still see the edges of our own enabling, and stop.

*  I have seen this happen first hand, and have no knowledge that this is at all the case in the Roast Busters situation.

Growing boys, not roast busters

Trigger warning: explicit discussion of rape culture.  I understand in a week with so much victim-blaming littering our media, any mention of sexual violence may be too much, so please be careful.

John Key's response to the gang rape club in Auckland (they call themselves "roast busters") is on the money:
"These young guys should just grow up," Key said this afternoon.
That is the point of this horrific glimpse into the misogyny and sexualising of power over and complete disregard for the personhood of the young women these men have raped - how are our young men growing up?

Let's be clear about this - these young men are bragging about girls as young as 13, about using alcohol to ensure the young women are unable to resist, about knowing the girls are not into what is happening.

They are bragging about raping. 

They are bragging about - and sharing with others - the ways they deliberately, in premeditated ways, over-ride the capacity of others to consent (that's when those others are legally able to consent).

The victim-blaming that has accompanied this - from the New Zealand Police choosing not to act when a 13 year old complained of rape TWO YEARS AGO to the vile commentary from an ill-informed, steeped in rape culture media - illustrates exactly why this gang rape club can exist.

We expect it.  We excuse it.  We tell young men - from the Prime Minister down - that boys will be boys, and if they are behaving badly, maybe we tell them to "grow up".

Well, I don't buy this.  I don't buy the inevitability of "boys being boys".  I don't buy the inevitability of growing boys into men who have no empathy, and no respect, and who prove their masculinity by exerting violence, including sexual violence over others.  I don't buy the inevitability of rape culture.

So Mr Key, to help grow boys into men who do not hurt women or anyone else, let's try getting them early.  Teaching little boys about empathy, teach them to try and imagine, by reading to them and talking to them, how other people feel.  All the time, about everything.  So when they are starting to explore being sexual with other people, that's in their kete of skills.

Let's stop telling little boys, big boys and men to "harden up."  Last week I was playing in my vegetable garden, and the next door neighbour's children were hanging out with me, weeding.  The three year old boy was heaving on some tall weeds, and fell on his bum, face crumpling up.  I asked him if he was ok.  His six year old sister said "Yeah, he's tough."

I said "I think you can be tough, and things can still hurt.  Are you ok?"  And he had a little cry and a little hand squeeze with me, then jumped up to do some more weeding and talk about favourite biscuits (his: tim tams; mine, on that day: toffee pops).

If we encourage boys to express all of the feelings they have - including vulnerability and sadness and sometimes just not knowing - we will grow men who have a range of emotional options available to them, not just anger.  And that will help them navigate the tricky waters of life, where anger being your default expression seldom leads to great relationships.

Let's start telling little boys about what great caring men they can be, and about what great women there are, and about the many and fabulous ways they can express their gender.  The less oppositional this is, the better.  There are no boys and girls toys, just toys.  There are no boys and girls colours, just colours.  There are no boys and girls games, just games.  Pointing out the rules some people have around these things is part of teaching gender literacy, part of making gender norms visible, but it shouldn't be a bible our beautiful children should have to follow.

Let's respect little boys autonomy with their body.  If they are scared and don't want to climb a tree, they don't have to.  How can we expect boys to learn respect around bodies when we too often teach them the exact opposite?

Let's teach boys about consent in everything we do, so by the time they want to be sexual, they know what it means, they know what the absence of it means, and they know how to negotiate with other people.  Let's make sure teaching consent is part of the ways we teach sex education - as opposed to sexist education.

And finally, let's teach little boys to stand up to oppression.  Whether that's their friends bullying other children, or their teacher saying racist things in class, or their sports coach ridiculing queer people, let's teach little boys to say "I don't think that's ok".  Because if one single thing could change rape cultures, it would be men standing up to other men.

I understand how hopeless this gang rape club situation is making people feel about the enormity of rape culture and how steadfastly it is growing in our public institutions, still.  I hope people are taking real care as they negotiate the media this week.  I'm thrilled to see there are protests springing up, all over the country because quite frankly the responses to the gang rape club are truly, truly horrifying.

But in all this, let's not forget - rape is something people learn is ok.  We can unlearn this.  Most people do unlearn this.  To end rape culture we need to grow different rules around masculinity.  We need our young guys to grow up alright - to be men who respect women and other people.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

How could this happen? - T/W

T/W - Discusses rape, victim blaming, and the Roast Busters case.
How could this happen?

I’ve heard so many people in the last week ask “how could this happen?” “How could this go on for so long?”, “why don’t the girls come forward?” when talking about the news about the repulsive predatory behaviour of a group of young men.
Tragically, they usually answer the question themselves, and in a bitter aftertaste, most don’t even recognise that they are the answer.

The next step in the lunch room conversation is to speculate about the victims of sexual crime, and “young people today”. What women are wearing, where they are going, who they are choosing to hang out with.
Why is the next logical step in breaking down the cause of a crime to look at the victim? Why not the assailant?
Why not our culture, which allows young men to feel so entitled to sex that there is a socially acceptable term for a friendship with a WOMAN WHO WONT HAVE SEX WITH YOU. (Friend zone). Like having a friend is some kind of hardship.

What is wrong with us?

I sort of understand. If we can find some “otherness” about victims, then we can fib to ourselves, and be reassured that if we are not like them, we will not be hurt.
If we jump over cracks, and turn the light switch on and off, cover our knees, and do not wear high heels we will somehow be immune to the Bad Man, who is some mythical boogie monster.

We need to turn 180 degrees, stop investigating the victims like there is some kind of magic thing that makes them a good target, and start looking at why we have young men with repeat predatory behaviour by the time they hit their teens.
Why do men rape is an incredibly complex question, but why do they CONTINUE?

Because they can.
Because the victims are put on trial too.
Because being unable to say no is STILL being treated like the equivalent of yes.
Because people still truly believe that rapists are the bad man in the darkest corner of our public parks or night club.
Because when someone is attacked, we avert our eyes from the normal looking rapist, and speculate on what makes a victim.
Because the victim’s reputation is under attack in the media and their community as much as the perpetrator.

 We are asking the wrong questions. We should be asking what makes a rapist.

If your response to these stories was any question about the nature of the victims YOU are part of what makes attackers stronger, more confident, and more likely to re-offend.

That's how this can happen.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The baying mob, or How I carry a torch.

So, you are horrified by the “Roast Busters”, and want to make a difference, but what can you do?

In my more frustrated moments, I would love to be that person carrying a torch at the front of a baying mob, crying for justice and making a difference to the outcome of a trial of people who have hurt someone else.
But we don’t live in a village of 100 people. These young men are not the only people out there perpetrating sex crimes. And we HAVE a justice system. It is flawed, but we need to use it so the flaws are SEEN, and changed, and our system can evolve with our understanding of right and wrong. An example of this is that rape used to be legal within marriage, and the laws evolved for the better with our societal changes.
We can’t nor should we, start a mob of people, so here are some ideas for how you can be brave, and carry your torch out into the community and really make a difference.

Be the light at the end of the tunnel.
Volunteer. Work on help lines. Or just be a strong and vocal voice for justice so that people see you as a safe refuge or support when they need it. Advocate for friends who need a voice. Speak for those still too traumatised to speak. Hold your friend’s hand when they decide they are brave enough to speak up, or pursue justice.

Be the voice of reality.
This issue is raising the topic of “what could possibly make young men behave this way.
Remind people that 1 in 4 women are raped. This act is not a rarity and we live in a rape culture.
It is raising the question of “how to avoid being a victim

Remind people that: most victims know their rapist.
That the rapist drinking is of more importance than the victim as far as causation.

Be the person brave enough to discuss “consent”.
People are often confused about what rape is. We need to start talking about the fact that rape isn’t what the media tells us.
Its subtle, it’s discreet, it is friends, it is family. It is quiet, it is dangerous, and it is under reported.
 You can inform them that in research when men are asked if they have “raped” most will say no. But when men are asked if they have “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex,” or if they had ever “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it" that answer changes significantly.*

Be the person who knows the facts.
When talking about false reports, there are more false reports for stolen cars than false reports for rape. As a crime it is under reported and really badly dealt with.

                      This image from the USA is incredibly depressing, and NZ is no better off.

Be the killjoy.
Be the person at your work, or social gatherings who when someone makes a rape joke, you look blankly at them and ask why it’s funny. If they have to explain it, it becomes apparent very quickly the rape culture we are living in.

Be the support person.
Be the person who listens without judgement, believes the person talking about abuse, and helps them with WHATEVER THEY CHOOSE TO DO.

Be the person advocating body autonomy for the children and young people around you.
Ask before you hug or kiss friends, family or other people you greet.
When kids don’t want to give you a kiss or hug hello or goodbye, say “that’s ok, kisses and hugs are special and we can ALWAYS choose when to give them.” Empower young people to understand that touch is a choice, and their bodies are their own to control.

Be the person supporting those on the front line.
Donate, remind those around you to donate, and when there are competitions for funding, support organisations who help. Thanks to Natalie for this link here, to resources available.

Not everyone can carry every torch and they are ALL important. Support the other torch bearers. Carry someone else’s for a while to lighten their load.  Accept that we will all need to take a break sometimes.
But as long as we are casting light in our own communities, that will spread, and other people will find the strength to start standing with us.

My love to everyone on the front lines.


*These quotes are from the WHO study, and are therefore gendered in this way.

Edit: a new post on this topic here at THM in response to the question "how could this happen"

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr Jones?

Bob Jones: goading feminist bloggers back from self-imposed blogging rest.

Content warning:  this article features repulsive rape excusing, victim blaming, gross inaccuracies about sexual violence, and is likely to be triggering for people who have been raped.  The fact the NZ Herald published it is an absolute disgrace.  The ethical irresponsibility of giving these views oxygen is quite astonishing.  Shame on you, NZ Herald.

The article is called "Rape a risk for those who walk on wild side".  This may be a sub-editing decision to create controversy, rather than Bob Jones having the right to name his own columns.  Either way, it's factually inaccurate.  Statistically speaking, people are more likely to be targetted for sexual violence if they are young (child sexual abuse effects about 1 in 4 girls and, according to international research, 1 in 6 boys); if they are female; if they are trans* or intersex; if they have an impairment/disability; and in Aotearoa, if they are Maori.  Because sexual violence thrives in situations in which there are power imbalances, and because rapists target people they believe will not be credible "victims", rape is a risk wherever power and oppression thrive.

The first few paragraphs feature the casual sexism of both Mr Jones and a Judge calling 18 year old women "girls".  If you don't think this is a big deal, consider how much easier it is to present "girls" as a bit silly, not very thoughtful, a bit infantile. 

Paragraph three has Bob Jones hoping "some awful fate will befall" the man sent to prison.  I assume he wants this man to be raped.  Delightful.

Mr Jones then moves on to call feminist barrister Catriona MacLennan a "girl" too - I wonder when we are allowed to be women, just quietly, as I'm pretty sure Ms MacLennan is a fully fledged grown up - while he ridicules her as childish, and later foolish, for saying she believes women should be able to move about freely without free of rape.

Now all of this is just snide, ridiculing nonsense.  Pretty common strategy for those with power - rich, white, straight cis-men - who don't need to play the issue, because their views are "normal",  they can just ridicule the player.  Bob Jones is telling us "girls" to stop making such a fuss.

Content warning some more.  Mr Jones moves on the describe feminists marching against rapes as "drowning wet parsons and large banner-wielding women, in both cases implausible rape victims, despoiling our streets." 

I'm assuming Mr Jones is saying feminists are ugly (despoiling) and possibly fat (not clear is the large refers to the banner or the woman) and therefore could not possibly be raped.  Feeling personally very pleased I'm not to Mr Jones' taste - being fond of large banners, feminism and indeed other feminists of all shapes and sizes - this is nonetheless, hateful stuff.

Women are not raped because they are thin, or Mr Jones assessed pretty, or carrying a small banner, Mr Jones.  People are raped because they are unlucky enough to be with a rapist.  For any survivor reading this and feeling pain and trauma again because Mr Jones is saying your rape doesn't count, tell him to fuck off in your head.  Tell him to fuck off with your voice.  Tell him to fuck off by feeling the rage in your body and directing it somewhere else, safely.  Your rape counts.  The fact Mr Jones doesn't want some rapes to count tells us volumes about him, and NOTHING about survivors.

The last few paragraphs are all about how inevitable rape is, apparently marches do nothing to stop rape, sanctions against rapists do nothing, gorillas and sparrows rape, rape is as old as "humankind."

Apparently 99.999% of men do not rape.

Mr Jones' pants igniting aside - why go to the bother of looking up rape statistics for Germany to be accurate, if you're going to literally pull a figure out of your arse to make rape look like a tiny problem?  The only purpose this serves is to obscure how common rape is, and how it usually happens.

It's not in dark parks, it's not when we're hitchiking, it's not a stranger.

For women, it's in our home or his.  We know him.  Recent studies about adult sexual assault show that while a small minority of men carry out a large number of rapes, a much larger number of men use sexually coercive behaviours when it suits them, usually with partners.  These acts meet legal definition of rape.

New Zealand studies show child sexual abuse against girls is usually committed by a male family member.  90% of the time it's someone the child or the family knows.  (We don't have comparable studies about child sexual abuse of boys yet.)

This irresponsible steaming pile of rape apologist crap should never have been printed.  Bob Jones can make all the excuses for rape he wants when he's chatting with his other friends who no doubt share his views.  I'm fascinated by men who distort sexual violence in this way, by men who essentially throw up their hands and say I guess rape is always going to happen, oh well.  What is their behaviour like around consent?  What would their partners say?

Rape isn't inevitable.  Treatment programmes with sexual offenders are pretty damn effective, especially when the sexually harmful behaviour is identified early.  Since most offenders begin offending in their teens, some well-placed resources here would literally change our world.  Sexual violence primary prevention programmes which teach skills in negotiating consent and help young people navigate the harmful gender norms around learning to be sexual are also effective, and should be part of our education system.

This large banner waving feminist is going to keep despoiling our streets.  That's a promise, Mr Jones.  Right up until when we don't need to anymore, because rape is seen as the despicable violation it is, however it happens.

Love and solidarity to survivors everywhere.

Monday, 5 August 2013

A few words about rape

Content warning:  This is about rape and the injustice of it, and stupid stupid rape culture that means many keep asking the wrong questions, and may be triggering for some readers

Most people seem to be having the wrong conversation about rape.  Too often the discussion ends up being about the person who was raped; what they wore, what they were drinking, their sexual history, where they were, their relationship to the person who raped them, so on and so forth.  As if my examining the minutiae of the lives of those who have been raped we can somehow find out how to stop rape.

It's the wrong end of the stick, and I know this will be 101 for many readers and bloggers here, but sadly it's still the only end of the stick for many in the media, figures of authority, radio hosts, and politicians. 

The problem does not lie with the people who get raped.  It never did, never has, never will.  You can examine them as much as you like, but you will never find a solution because you are asking the wrong question to the wrong people.

What we need to be talking about, again and again, is WHY PEOPLE RAPE.  Why do some people want to have sex with someone who isn't consenting?  What's going on in their head that that is ok and even desirable?  Is their decision-making impaired by alcohol or another substance?  Are they callous and narcissistic?  Do they actively want to have power over another to make up for some hole inside themselves?  Do they think that is how you show someone you love them, because that's what they've seen as a child? 

We must ask, and answer, these questions not to excuse the rapist, to minimise the rape, but to work out what the hell is going on that there are some people who think sex without consent is a good thing, something they need in their lives, or how we produced people who care so little about other human beings that consent is irrelevant to them. 

We can do this, we just need to decide, resource it and see it through.  There are a lot of NGOs and agencies doing incredibly valuable work at low levels, but it needs the omph of state support in my opinion.  Not likely currently, but absolutely essential to seriously tackle this really crucial issue that just gets put away in the One Day When We've Solved Everything Else file far too often.

Rape culture enables us to put it away, to forget about it, to put it back to the bottom of the pile time and again.  Rape culture allows us to Do Something about rape by actually doing very little at all.  Rape culture has to go. 

I'm keen to raise my kids to Not Rape.  But I don't have all the tools I need to do that because there isn't a focus on this side of the equation.  I'm teaching them to have agency over their bodies, to respect other people, to stop being so damn bossy (that one serves many purposes), and I hope I'm helping them to develop empathy.   I worry this isn't enough.  I do fear that my children might get raped one day, but ultimately that wouldn't be their fault, as terrible as it would be, and is thus largely out of their control, and mine as their parent.  What I can hopefully assist with is teaching them to respect others' bodies and choices, actively seek consent, and develop empathy for those around them.  That I can take some responsibility for. 

Rape is a horrible word, describing a hideous thing.  But we don't make it go away by not saying it, by not talking about how and why it happens and who does it.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Guestie: Babe of the Day

Thanks to Maus for writing and submitting this. Readers may also be interested in an alternative set up just last night:"NZ Misogynist of the Day.".

In the past month or so there have been several ‘Babe of the Day’ facebook pages popping up. The worst offenders seem to be the universities, although some of the more questionable pages such as ‘New Zealand Pair of the day’ and ‘WINZ babe of the day’ have their authors and affiliations hidden. I was recently approached by TV3’s nightline for a feminist opinion on these pages, and although I gave a fairly lengthy and detailed report of the problems associated with the pages, it was boiled down to ‘Angry feminists are killjoys’, and I was subsequently told across various social mediums that I didn’t like them because I was ugly. Of course.

The biggest problem is the lack of consent. These pages are created without the subjects consent; in fact on many of them, you are unable to nominate yourself. So we have pictures of girls, taken from their private facebook pages, and posted for all to see, and for all to ‘appreciate’. In fact, on the most recent ‘New Zealand Pair of the day’ page, out of the eight pictures posted, four have the subjects asking the pictures to be taken down, something the moderators ignored. When I posted under these comments telling the girls that although facebook doesn’t care about sexual harassment, you could report the image as your intellectual property and they would remove it fairly promptly, my comments were deleted and I was banned from posting further. There was even a picture of a woman holding her newborn child on one of the groups pages, which violates several peoples consent.

NOTE:: TVNZ, after interviewing me and listening to me talk about lack of consent, used several images from these pages, WITHOUT GAINING THE GIRLS CONSENT.

There are of course other problems with these pages. The university ones are full of comments like ‘who cares what she studies, shes bangin’, and although some of them have men featured, the sexisim is very apparent; for starters, mostly the guys are ‘Blokes of the Day’, not babes, and the accompanying text reads like a dating profile; ‘Bloke is a great guy, loves puppies and kittens and volunteers at homeless shelter’, and other such harmless banalities. Another interesting thing is that there seems to be a semblance of ethnic diversity in the ‘blokes’, you have many from many races, and the photos are typical headshots. In direct contrast, the women are uniform in their race, invariably skinny, and all wearing not much at all in the full body shots (I want to stress there is nothing wrong with being white and skinny, or dressing however you like. I just wanted to point out the standards of beauty are surprising given the diverse populations of universities).

There are enough reasons to have body image problems, and it is difficult to succeed as a woman in a academic world without being judged solely on how you supposedly look in a bathing costume. The response to my ten second sound bite was enough to show the reactions you get for speaking out from a feminist viewpoint. And I’m sick of it. There are hundreds of articles about there about why we don’t need to be judged for our looks, about the issues we face in the workforce and academic worlds.

I really feel like we should have come further than this, that I shouldn’t have to be typing this, I shouldn’t have to say something as simple as gaining a womans consent before encouraging hundreds of people to jack off to her picture is not a hard or wrong thing. And I certainly shouldn’t be abused for it, or told that I am ugly and therefore worthless. Wake the fuck up people. Consent isn’t hard, and I’m sick of having to shout ‘Yes means Yes’.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The learning goes on

Content warning: this post is about rape myths, victim blaming and rape culture.  Please be careful reading it.

When the Steubenville rapists were convicted three months ago, there was a great deal of media sympathy for the two young men, which highlighted yet again that many societies bend over backwards to excuse rape.  Astonishingly, CNN reporter Poppy Harlow described herself as "outraged" people thought she was excusing rape.  Here's her original report:
"It was incredibly emotional -- incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.
One of -- one of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, "My life is over. No one is going to want me now."

Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16- year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.

But Trent Mays was also found guilty on a second count and that is of felony illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material because he took a photograph of the victim laying naked on the floor that night. Trent Mays will serve two years in a juvenile detention facility. Ma'lik Richmond will serve one year on that one count that he was found guilty for.

I want to let our viewers listen because for the first time in this entire trial we have now heard from the two young men. Trent Mays stood up, apologizing to the victim's family in court. After him, Ma'lik Richmond.



TRENT MAYS, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPINGIN JUVENILE COURT: I would really like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, my family and community. No pictures should have been sent out or should be taken. That's all. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you'd like to say, Ma'lik?

MA'LIK RICHMOND, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPE IN JUVENILE COURT: I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything like that and I'm sorry to put you guys through this. (INAUDIBLE) I'm sorry.


HARLOW: I was sitting about three feet from Ma'lik when he gave that statement. It was very difficult to watch.

You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma'lik's father had gotten up and spoke. Ma'lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, gotten to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.

And his father stood up and he told the court, "I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn't there for my son." And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.

And Ma'lik's attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma'lik's father before say, I love you. He's never told his son that. But he just did today.

This was an incredibly emotional day."
I have a friend who calls events like Steubenville "social change learning moments." 

On a good day, I think that's right.  When people who do not usually notice rape myths notice a news report of RAPE CONVICTIONS doesn't refer once to what it must have been like for the young woman who was raped, filmed, threatened, mocked, bullied and pilloried - well, that's a great thing.  Because it makes those processes which support and enable rape more visible, which means we can change them.

But it's not always that easy for those of us who do notice rape myths operating, all the time.  For me at least, those "social change learning moments" are torture, because they remind me of the scale of victim blaming and the pain that survivors have to manage and the ways we excuse power over, in myriad little ways, all of the time.

One of the team-mates of the two men who raped walked past them while they were raping the young woman on his way out of the party.  Just moments before, he'd stopped another team-mate driving home drunk - because he believed that was wrong.  Yet he didn't stop his other team-mates raping.
"It wasn't violent," explained teammate Evan Westlake when asked why he didn't stop the two defendants as they abused a non-moving girl that Westlake knew to be highly intoxicated. "I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone."
The opportunities here for cultural change are enormous.  What if ideas of sexuality required enthusiastic participation, mutual checking in that everything happening was fun for everyone concerned?

This rape would not have been possible.

What if young men didn't let other young men rape?  What if stopping your team-mate raping was as culturally supported as stopping your team-mate driving drunk?

This rape would not have been possible.

What if when we saw someone who was comatose we helped them get home and made sure they were ok, regardless of whether our hopes for earlier in the night included sexy time?

This rape would not have been possible.

What if young men were brought up to believe women's desires and longings were just as important as their own?  What if masculinity was de-entwined from power over?

This rape would not have been possible.

If Steubenville is a learning moment - and my heart goes out to the young woman at the centre of this, and I hope she is surrounded by loving friends and specialist support - then the learning isn't over.  Because there are new charges being brought - against the man who publically released the tweets and images from the football team, which joked about the rape and ridiculed the victim.  He has been charged with hacking in connection with the Steubenville rape case.  And the potential penalty is 10 years in prison - 9 and 8 years more than the rapists.

How to make sense of this?  I'm not sure I can.  Deric Lostutter's actions helped bring rapists to justice.  Would those young men have raped again if this hadn't happened?  Almost without doubt, I'd say.  Would other team-mates?  Again, it's hard to see why not.

He is an anti-rape hero in my opinion, a view which seems to be shared by people donating to his defence fund.  As for the FBI, looks to me like they are punishing someone for challenging rape culture.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The DISLIKE button

Content warning: features explicit naming of violent misogyny and rape culture.

Anyone who's spent any time on Facebook knows it's both a great tool for organising and home to revolting displays of rape culture, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, disability hate name the kind of discrimination, Facebook will have it.

Women, Action and Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author Soraya Chemaly led a coalition which took this on last week, specifically around violence against women and girls, in an open letter to Facebook which encouraged advertisers to pull their content.

Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more.  Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant."
Within a week, 15 companies had taken up the challenge and fled Facebook. Now Facebook has responded in what looks like a considerable shift from their earlier stance:
In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.  In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.
The proof will be, as always, in the implementation.  Facebook seem to be saying they will privilege engaging with the large feminist groups in the US around this, which makes me wonder about gender-based hate coming out of other places.  Of course it's all online, but it seems to me that we need good process around reporting and removing any kind of gender-based hate (and other kinds of oppressive hate) for anyone who wants to raise concerns.

Nonetheless, it's a huge coup from the groups involved, and I'd personally love not to feel physically sick at some of the revolting rape culture up on Facebook.  


Monday, 13 May 2013

Breaking news: Stuffed Rape Culture

Today Stuff published an article about two rapists, convicted for raping a young woman and sentenced to 16 and 15 years in prison.  Both rapists had previous convictions for assaulting women.

Stuff's advice, right at the end:
Travel in pairs
Make sure people know where you are, and when they are next likely to hear from you
Be aware of your environment
Do not travel with strangers
Just what I needed to finish the day.

The only thing the two young women - yep, that's right, the young woman raped here was already following Stuffed Tip One and was walking home with a friend - the only thing the two young women could have done to be safer in this instance is to not be with rapists.  Maybe those two rapists should have to carry signs showing their previous histories of hurting women?

You know what means you get raped?  Being unlucky enough to be in the presence of a rapist who targets you.  That's all.

Stuffed Tip Two:  Make sure people know where you are, and when they are next likely to hear from you.
Bollocks.  When people don't know where you are, it's not usually because you're being raped.  It would be more effective to suggest women with boyfriends, former boyfriends, male friends or work colleagues should set up rape alarms.  We could set off permanent signals when we're with these men, to alert people about where we are every 15 minutes perhaps, because these men rape us 84% of the time.  It will catch on, I'm sure.

Stuffed Tip Three: Be aware of your environment.
Good tip.  You should avoid being inside, because most people get raped inside (67% of rapes in NZ happen inside the home of the rapist or the person raped.) 
You should avoid night-time, because most people are raped at night.  
You should avoid being around men, because most people are raped by men (99% of perpetrators of adult sexual violence in NZ are men). That's that one sorted.

Stuffed Tip Four:  Do not travel with strangers 
Mmm.  This won't actually help, because most people are raped by people they know (84% of perpetrators of adult sexual violence in NZ are known to the survivor).  More like, don't travel with boyfriends, former boyfriends, male friends or work colleagues.  Wonder why they didn't put that up?

Rape Crisis Scotland have some other ideas:

Rant over.  Get busy with telling Stuff what complete and utter victim blaming creeps they are, if you feel the urge.  The research is here, in case they have trouble finding it.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sexual abuse and culture

There's an interesting article from Joseph Harker, essentially arguing that whiteness is invisible when we talk about sexual violence, a privilege not enjoyed by Muslim people:
Every day across Britain, it seems, there's a new and horrific revelation of sexual abuse: last week we had the guilty plea of veteran TV presenter Stuart Hall, who confessed to 14 cases of indecent assault against 13 girls, the youngest only nine years old.  Days earlier the possible scale of child abuse in north Wales children's homes was revealed.
But after the shock has subsided and we have time to reflect on these revolting crimes, the main question in most reasonable people's minds must surely be: what is it about white people that makes them do this?
While Mr Harker has left alone the obvious male connection that all of these perpetrators - white and non-white - have in common, he raises a valid point, well.  And one which is just as relevant in Aotearoa, where as Moana Jackson points out the Kahui twins, Nia Glassie and James Whakaruru are household names, while the Nelson twins, Timothy Maybin and Samantha Nelson are not.

What I'm slightly disappointed by in Mr Harker's article though is the lack of attention to power in other ways.  Sexual violence thrives in situations in which there are power imbalances.  Predators target vulnerable people.  Child sexual abuse perpetrated by adults is in the main not by "paedophiles" but by men who have sexual relationships with other adults as well as targeting children. 

This power might be institutional - Jimmy Savile say, with his powerful role within the entertainment industry in the UK.  Where there seems to be a problem, given the Coronation St roll call of men accused of raping children is growing.  Institutional power within educational organisations, or community groups for children, or religious based organisations, or residential services for children, or facilities to care for children.  Social power that comes with adulthood, or being a caregiver, or helping out with babysitting.

We need to ask questions of culture if we want to prevent child sexual abuse, but they need to be much broader than racist deficit assumptions for Muslims, Maori or any other people of colour.  What was the culture in the British entertainment industries which has led to a Police investigation arresting  pop star Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr, DJ Dave Lee Travis, publicist Max Clifford and comedian Jim Davidson, alongside of course the Jimmy Savile revelations and the recent arrest of Rolf Harris?

How many children and adults did these men sexually assault?  How many people knew about it?  What did they tell themselves?  How can we stop that happening again?

The Steubenville rape convictions put the spotlight on the inability of young sportsmen to identify sexually assaulting a near comatose young woman as something unacceptable.  One teammate of the convicted rapists who saw the rape and walked away had just moments earlier stopped another teammate from drinking and driving.  How do we shift those cultural norms, so that young sportsmen are just as determined to stop their teammates raping as driving drunk?

The most important issue, whenever we are talking and thinking about culture, is that the analysis - and the shift to building and supporting protective social norms - needs to come from within the group of interest.  I don't know why the British entertainment industry has been providing such a safe place to abuse for men for decades.  But people working there will.

I don't think we should be scared of talking and thinking about culture when it comes to preventing sexual violence.  In fact I think it's imperative we do that work, if we want protective social norms which promote respect, safety, mutuality and consent as foundations.

We just need to be looking at our own cultural belongings first and foremost.  There's plenty of social change to go around.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Right help comes to Wellington

Something to go to - launch of the Everyone Needs the Right Help campaign in Wellington with some pretty fabulous speakers.

Helen Sullivan has been managing HELP, a specialist sexual violence survivor agency, for ten years and is a passionate advocate for survivors.  Robyn Hunt is a disability advocate with decades in the area, and the Clothesline Project is a groundbreaking opportunity for people with disabilities to name the kinds of interpersonal violence they experience - sexual violence, domestic violence - and break the silence around the impacts of that abuse.  Shakti support women and children from ethnic minorities experiencing violence within their families.  Carl Greenwood, formerly of the New Zealand Aids Foundation, is speaking about sexual violence within the queer community.

All this and a real live feminist MP.  It's going to be a hell of a launch.  See you there.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The politics of wearing white: being conscious of the patriarchy

Trigger warning - Discussion about rape 

My first post for The Handmirror was going to introduce my pseudonym and give readers a bit of an insight into why I'd chosen to name myself after the feminist thinker and activist that has touched me the most, bell hooks (look forward to that post in the coming weeks). 

Instead I've chosen to reflect on the events suceeding the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi and the assault of her friend last month. 

Coverage of largely women led protests in India and abroad has been extensive in the mainstream media and blogs. Two pieces of writing have impacted on me and are worth a look at. 

The New Yorker article stood out in particular because of the inclusion of a video of Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (if on the off chance you understand Hindi it's well worth a watch) that dealt with the issue of sexual violence, the failure of governments to protect women and the broader issue of the regulation of women by their families and communities. 

My own personal reflection takes a very different route to these articles. Given my geographic distance from the events and that my understanding comes primarily from English medium sources I can't add much at this point to the debate about rape culture in India. Instead I'm going to focus on a small reflection that I had while attending the silent protest held in solidarity with protests in India organised by the Young Asian Feminist Association (YAFA) with support from Shakti. 

The last time I went to India I was nine years old and my experience of Indian society and culture is deeply rooted in the diaspora. My Indian education has largely been through the sporadic and adapted teachings of my parents and grandparents and a good dose of Indian pop culture though Bollywood movies and music. What I felt is probably a reflection of where I'm situated in relation to this particular tragedy. I acknowledge that it's quite a meta reflection and may seen trivial to some. However it reflects the pervasiveness but often unique manifestatiosn of patriarchy.

The leaders of the Auckland based protest, quite appropriately requested that people attending wore white as this is the colour associated with mourning in India. White symbolises the absence of colour with colour being an important part of celebrations and festivities for most communities in the subcontinent. Like in the Western tradition white also symbolises purity. 

Sitting in the heat last Saturday wearing a white dress and dupatta (scarf) that belonged to my great grandmother I contemplated the significance of us wearing white and about how this symbolic gesture fitted in with our broader attempts to fight the patriarchy.

An ever present challenge for feminists is the pervasiveness of patriarchal culture within many of our communities and that while we fight the patriarchy on on front (sorry for the masculine language) it rears it's head in other ways.

This means as feminists we must be continually conscience of the patriarchy and its manifestations particularly in our forms of resistance. Sometimes that means our behaviour or methods will need to change  and other times it simply means being mindful and taking that mindfulness forward into our lives. 

For many Indian communities particularly those still residing in the sub-continent the standard dress for funerals is white. Wearing a particular shade or type of dress is something that many cultures have with colours and forms of clothing having particular symbolic meanings relevant to those cultural and spiritual contexts. In some cultures both historically and in contemporary society widows are particularly marked in how they should dress after the death of their husbands symbolising their continual mourning and status a widow. The wearing of black, associated with Queen Victoria, in the Western tradition and in Eastern and Southern European traditions is noteworthy as is the wearing of white and pale colours in Indian contexts. As with everything family traditions, caste, class and religion has an important role to play in this community and self regulation resulting in considerable diversity in expressions of mourning. 

While I took comfort in the communal wearing of white at the protest I was reminded of the partriachial role the wearing of white has played in the lives of widows in many Indian communities. While the tradition is less prevelent the colour associated with mourning reminds me of the often young woman who find themselves without husbands but still regulated by their status as a wife. In Hindi movies such as the iconic Sholay and the more recent Baabul and the festival film Water, this highly regulated role of a widow is portrayed with sadness and frustration with little ability to make life choices (something fundamental to feminism).

It may be that in both the subcontinent and the diaspora these patriarchal structures have largely broken down (it's hard for me to know) and that white no longer has this association with the heavy regulation of women widows in the communities it once did. However I'm sure that in many places and communities it still does.

I support the decision by the protest organisers to ask people to wear white. I think it was culturally appropriate and really emphasised that this was a protest that was organised by women of colour predominately from an Asian background. But what it made me realise, something that is pointed out by Kavita Krishnan, is that when we rise up against rape culture we have to also consider the broader regulation of women within society. In this way we can really honour the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey and other women such as her something the silent protest last Sunday did really well. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

I'm too sexy for my job

My parents conceived me in the USA, but my mother travelled half a continent, alone, to give birth in Canada.  The US were invading Vietnam at the time, and my parents, no radicals, did not want a possible son to be drafted to another imperialist war.

Just today, I'm thankful for that choice, difficult as it must have been for my mother.  Because in the USA, you can fire someone if you think they are sexy.  That's what happened to Melissa Nelson, backed up by the all male Iowa Supreme Court.  Her employer's lawyer said:
"While there was really no fault on the part of Mrs. Nelson, it was just as clear the decision to terminate her was not related to the fact that she was a woman," he said. "The motives behind Dr. Knight terminating Mrs. Nelson were quite clear: He did so to preserve his marriage."
Poor boss Dr Knight.  Apparently he found Mrs Nelson "irresistable" and wasn't sure he could restrain himself, describing her as a Lamborghini - which some might call sexual harassment, since it was in reference to it being a waste she wasn't having much sex - and he thought eventually they would have an affair.  Not based on anything Mrs Nelson had suggested, mind.

Not only do women have to make sure we're not tempting men with our bodies, our clothing choices, our habits, our movements - now we have to not earn a living, in case our male employers feel they might suddenly feel driven to be sexual with us.

Well, I don't know about you, but I find other people attractive and don't sleep with them all the time.  Some might say I make a habit of it.  Walking down the street - oh, there's someone else, I think I won't sleep with them.  Sometimes at work I see someone attractive and, well, chat to them about work.  Out with friends?  Just more opportunities not to sleep with people I'm attracted to.

That is life, isn't it?  Unless, of course, you're a male employer living in Iowa, unable to control those manly urges.   Having the power to fire someone because you think they are sexy is rape culture in the extreme.  Having that power bolstered by a Supreme Court shows how entrenched rape supportive attitudes are in the institutions supposed to protect citizens from crime.

Rape culture, Iowa is soaking in it.

Thanks again, Ma.