Monday, 15 August 2011

The cost of being a woman in public

Felicity Perry has talked to both Stuff and Nine to Noon about her experience on the Independent Youth Benefit. This is one of the benefits that National is planning to target with its latest scheme to pathologise young people.

David Farrer wrote a post about her (I'm not linking to it). In the comments thread someone posted her cellphone number. In that thread she has been repeatedly denigrated. She has also been harassed by phone.

She told a small part of her life story. Of her experiences on the Independent Youth Benefit, and what these policies would have meant for her. Her experience was not the experience of MPs, businessmen and international financial traders. It was not enough for those who disagreed her to denigrate her and attack her legitimacy to speak; they also had to harass her personally and extract a toll from her for what she'd said.


On Friday's New Zealand Next Top Model the contestants were given a "Pacific Blue Courtesy Challenge". They had actors making life hard for the contestants, and this included an actor playing a papparazzi. The fake papparazzi took a picture of one of the contestants, Aroha, in her underwear when she was getting out of the taxi, and when she tried to get away from them she was the most assertive.

Aroha was deemed to fail the "courtesy challenge" and kicked off the show.

She was blamed both for being harassed, blamed for her harassers success, and blamed for fighting back.


Drawing attention to misogyny on either kiwiblog or New Zealand's Next Top Model, is kind of like talking about the wetness of the sea. Women's bodies and lives are treated as public property, and these are just two of an ocean of examples. But as well as being examples they normalise it. NZTM is fun Friday night entertainment, and the huge number of tampon adds on TV3 OnDemand makes it very clear whose its ideas of what it means to be a woman are for. While Kiwiblog is happy to exact a cost for stating opposing views - a cost that'll be higher for those who are more marginalised.

So my opposing narrative is to offer solidarity to Aroha and Felicity. To applaud their strength and resistance. To offer the same to other women who are experiencing variations of the same horrible harassment, whose lives and bodies are treated as public property, and who are penalised for any difference with what the viewer expects.


Cactus Kate said...

On the other hand,if you can't laugh off a Kiwiblog thread and the troll farm there, then you probably shouldn't put yourself in the firing line.

I do agree with your comments regarding women in many respects however.

I hypothesize you could put a photo of the most beautiful woman in the world (whomever that is) on the internet. And somewhere some fugly little dwarf who lives at home in the basement at 40 and has never scored with more than his left hand at night, will type derogatory comments about the woman into his keyboard about her looks. Like she would actually go near him!

It's a strange phenomenon of the internet age.

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks Maia for this. Don't agree CK that this is about "laughing off" - abusive phone calls are not that funny as far as I'm concerned.

Misogyny's a strange phenomena of many ages, sadly. This is a really good example.

Maia said...

Cactus Kate - The cost of being in 'the firing line' is different for different people. The hoops that people need to jump through to get on the IYB are significant, and often represent a traumatic time in people's lives. To say 'well if you can't laugh it off your problems' is basically excluding people who are or have been on the independent youth benefit from the discussion. I'm aware that's actually a goal of the right-wing discussion on this issue, and hta'ts why I want to name it.

I also disagree that the bodies of those doing the criticising are particularly relevant.

LJ - Thanks heaps.

Anonymous said...

Just Saying

Excellent post Maia, and Luddite Journo for the post above.

I'd like to add my solidarity to Felicity and Aroha, if by chance they stumble across this post.

There seems to be a special kind of hatred towards women who 'get out from under' or worse, refuse to be "under" in the first place. The punishments meted out are particularly vicious, and are often condoned by many who should know better, in the community.

DPF:TLDR said...

I've got to say Kate, your record on not mocking people for being "ugly" isn't exactly stellar.

But then, re-reading your comment, I see that your problem is not that people are attacking other's looks, but they're attacking one another's looks without earning the right to do so by being sufficiently attractive. As a self-proclaimed "hotty" I guess you feel you have the right.

(Also, "dwarf" = ableist language)

Cactus Kate said...

Dear Hugh

More bs from you. Do a word search on my blog and you will come up with the word "ugly" used. Very rarely. Just 8 times in 6 years of posts, and all in different contexts to personal abuse.

I have never used it in the context of calling a specific person unattractive for their looks.

I dare you to find a post where I have commented on another woman's looks in a negative way. You won't. You may actually find where I have complimented other women on their attractiveness or fitness.

I have never compared myself in terms of looks to another woman and have never self-proclaimed anything. I don't have to because I don't care what some spotty geek sitting at a computer thinks regarding.

You are seeking in your comment here to accuse me of the very thing you are doing - trying to put me down for actually making a nice comment defending and agreeing with Maia's actual post by ridiculing Kiwiblog as a troll farm.

Dwarfs call themselves dwarfs. I suppose you call them "little people" to make yourself feel superior?

Let us know if you need a hand off that high horse you are sitting on.

DPF:TLDR said...

Touched a nerve did I Kate? Here's a tip - rather than try to argue the point, why not just ignore me? I mean, I don't work in the finance industry, so you've got ample reasons to consider my opinion worthless (well, by your own logic, anyway).

But oh no, you went ahead and engaged! So, here we go:

The whole thing is riddled with snarky comments about Nanaia Mahuta's weight.

"built like a two-tonne truck"

"I wouldn’t want her sitting on my knee, she'd crush it"

"Anyone can see that Nanaia is just too bloody fat"

"lard asses"

Etc etc.

I guess you're gonna say that this is all just about touching concern for her health?

I've got to say, Kate, for somebody who wants to become an MP, you've got a lot to learn about exactly how much a "nice comment" is worth. Protip: That and five bucks will buy you a shitty cup of coffee and the company of a bunch of wankers at a pretentious Cuba Street coffee shop.