Broadchurch, Call the Midwife, Vera – Male Violence Against Women

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 07.03.17

There is not much in the way of quality programmes on TV, so it was with some delight that I looked forward to last weekend when three of my favourite programmes – Broadchurch, Call the Midwife and Vera  were going to be on ABC TV in Australia.

And each of them dealt with male violence against women.

In Broadchurch, Trish, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is a victim of sexual assault. She portrays the trauma of rape very realistically and sympathetically, forgetting her name and many of the details of her experience.

We see the detail of the forensic investigation, such an intrusion in itself. The detectives, Ellie Miller played by Olivia Colman and Alec Hardy played by David Tennant, respond to Trish with compassion and sensitivity.  The whole ambiance of these scenes acknowledges the trauma and pain of sexual assault.

“The considerable effort they have put into portraying the trauma of sexual assault sensitively and accurately is hugely welcome. Broadchurch, along with the likes of the BBC’s Apple Tree Yard, is helping to make significant strides in dispelling the myths and stereotypes around sexual violence.”  Rowan Miller
Read more Broadchurch, Call the Midwife, Vera – Male Violence Against Women

Is it time for the media to take responsibility for feeding fascism?

Cross-posted from: Crates N Ribbons
Originally published: 07.04.16

microphone

 

The media loves a little political or social upheaval. In the wake of the disastrous result of the EU referendum, newspapers across the country have been relishing the chaos, as they churn out headline after headline, each more sensationalist than the last. The pound at its lowest value in 30 years! Racism and hate crime have gone up 500%! The numerous lies of the Leave campaign leave voters reeling! Xenophobia sweeps across the country!

Yet, something about their seeming outrage at the miserable state of affairs we are in leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Perhaps it is their positioning of themselves as objective observers, just as shocked as anyone by the horrific unfolding of events, when in so many cases, they helped to create the very climate that they are now reporting on? I have yet to find a mainstream media outlet that has acknowledged its own role in shaping public opinion in the lead up to the referendum, or in helping to fan the flames of racial intolerance.
Read more Is it time for the media to take responsibility for feeding fascism?

When Benevolent Sexism is Mistaken for Female Empowerment

Cross-posted from: HerstoryArc
Originally published: 21.08.15

As the push grows for more women and girl protagonists in storytelling across all media forms, more artists and studios are starting to rise to the challenge. While these media creators are getting better at avoiding the more glaring misogynistic mistakes, more subtle ones keep rearing their heads. As our culture continues to shelve old stereotypes and tropes in search of new and fresh ideas it is not surprising that we are having some growing pains.

The mistake I want to discuss today is when a woman protagonist uses benevolent sexism as a vehicle to show her power and agency. If you are unfamiliar with the term benevolent sexism, I highly recommend checking out the links I’ve provided. Benevolent sexism is sometimes referred to incorrectly as “female privilege” because it is misunderstood as something positive*. In actuality, it can affect and harm both men and women. Some assumptions about, and reinforced by, benevolent sexism include:


Read more When Benevolent Sexism is Mistaken for Female Empowerment

Censoring Fiction by @feministvibes

Cross-posted from: Is My Gender Showing?
Originally published: 18.03.15

I was reading all the controversy surrounding the new Batgirl cover (which I personally liked) and after reading what everyone thought about it, it left me thinking about the arguments surrounding the censoring of abuse in fiction, which is something which seems to crop up again and again. Everyone has a different coping mechanism, a different strategy for moving forwards with life after any form of abuse, and that’s okay, everyone’s different, which means that everyone copes differently. Some people remove themselves from anything which might remind them of what they suffered because it triggers those emotions and memories. That’s considered an accepted way to cope.

Some people turn in the opposite direction- often turning to fiction, they see their heroes tormented, abused, violated but they see them take strength from what happened to them. They see those fictional characters they feel connected to go through similar situations that they might have been through, they feel understood, they no longer feel alone. These heroes don’t let their experiences turn them into something they aren’t, the  more hopeless their situation seems, the harder they fight.
Read more Censoring Fiction by @feministvibes

When Fantasy Becomes Fatal: Should Actors Have Social Responsibility? by @rupandemehta

(Cross-posted from Liberating Realisations)

Earlier this week, I took a rare lunch break and headed to a local hole in the wall eatery that serves delicious South Indian food. After ordering my spinach-cheese-masala dosa and serving myself two yummy bowls of sambhar, I settled into my chair to read my book, not paying much attention to Aishwarya Rai dancing in the rain on a screen hanging from the wall.

The place was abuzz with professionals taking advantage of some spare time to gulp some yummy food and from what I can see no one was really paying attention to the screen. Then few seconds later, the song on the screen changed to some really loud, obnoxious music. I looked up from my book and saw Salman Khan in a black wife beater dancing to the gory tunes. I immediately shook my head and went back to my book but something compelled me to stare at the screen again.

What I saw was absolutely dismaying.

The song from a movie called Kick, showed Salman trying to woo a good-looking woman in black glasses and a black knee length dress. Although I had no context into their actions, it looked like a typical Bollywood song where the girl refuses to accept the man and the man set s out to prove his love and pester the girl until she relents. Despite everything that we are witnessing in our country, people still continue to make these silly songs.

But it was what came next that truly mortified me.

Salman was still wooing the woman as she continued to refuse his advances. Then, in a bid to seduce her, Salman bends down and picks up the corner of her dress with his teeth until it is raised to her upper thigh. The woman is oblivious to all of this and when she discovers what he’s doing, hurriedly pulls her dress back.

I looked to the table next to me and three men, with AIG tags around their necks, had their eyes glued to the screen waiting to see what would happen next.

A few seconds later, the woman starts to snatch drinks from people around her in an attempt to get drunk so she can lose her inhibitions.Then she disappears to come back moments later in a scantily clad red dress that shows her extremely well-toned thighs. She sings and dances with Salman and throws herself at him. He is only too happy to embrace her. The song ends with everyone happy.

The song made me think—what is Salman’s obligation to the society he works and makes money from?

According to 2014 figures, Salman Khan earned 157.5 crores and as of October 2013, charged 55 crores per film. He was also on Forbes India’s top 100 list and the movie, Kick, that the song was from, made a record shattering 200 crores, Should Salman only be concerned with how well the movie does or should he question the content of his movies and the impact his ridiculous singing and dancing has on young and vulnerable minds?

There are millions of men in our country who look up to Salman as a role model and would emulate his actions in a heart beat without seeing the wrong in them. What happens when the woman they are inflicting their behavior on does not respond like the one in the song? What happens when the woman instead refuses to play along and dress in a skimpy outfit or get drunk and throw herself all over them? What happens then? And who is responsible for what happens to that young woman? Is it only the man who assaults her or is there a greater party here at fault?

This begs a larger question. In a world where it is clear that films do have an effect on our behaviour and society, do actors have any social responsibility? Are they culpable to creating a society that is safe and protected for the women who pay to watch their movies or should they simply make movies and dance to songs without any accountability?

Earlier this week, IndiaSpend reported how three years after Nirbhaya, conviction rates for rape remain the same. According to data from the Rajya Sabha, conviction rate for rape trials was 26.4% in 2011, 24.2% in 2012 and 27.1% in 2013.

Rape cases registered in India increased 35% over a year, from 24,929 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013. This is a good statistic because a rise in reported rape cases does not necessarily mean rape has increased. It could simply be that more people are comfortable reporting their rapes. And although data suggests there still is massive under-reporting this increase shows we are headed in the right direction.

Hearing these statistics evoked mixed feelings for me. The issue of rape has always been close to my heart and although I recognize there are numerous reasons that lend to this mentality in our society and force people to commit these actions, I overwhelmingly always come back to the role Bollywood plays in instigating people and sending the wrong message.

I understand movies are a source of entertainment and they should be viewed only as such. But the problem is too many people in India take them seriously and try to act out their fantasies in real life with women who are not actresses and are not playing a part laid out for them. In such an event, how appropriate is it for Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan or Ajay Devgan to ignore the grave issues that plague our society and continue with business as usual? And if I may ask, is it morally acceptable for them to do so? Is their role in society only to make money and continue to contribute in making a bad situation worse or should they be held accountable for their actions?

There is a cyclical relationship between society and the movies it makes.

Film makers may argue that they are only showing what the public wants to see but perhaps it is time to stop blaming one another and for one party to take a stand. Actors and Filmmakers can choose what they want to show and star in. They have the greater power and appeal here.

If Salman continues to chase women around in circles and woo them, then that’s what his fans will subscribe to. But what if Salman chooses to chase around social issues and respect that when a woman says no she definitely means no? Unfortunately unless Salman changes his priorities from making money to creating a better society, we will never know the answer to that question.

 

Liberating Realisations:  I am womanist. I’m a writer passionate about women’s right and equality. My aim is to bring change in the way women and men are treated around the world and specially in India. I’m fighting for respect and to be treated as an equal. My blog, Liberating Realizations, on Tumblr talks about /documents the inequality – violence, abuse, rape, torture – that women face everyday all around the world, and, particularly in India. I was a victim of violence for many years and for the first time in my life am finding my “voice”. I want to use this voice to talk about equality and promulgate the belief that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated better. I occasionally write about other things as well – anything that might grab my fancy – but in the end I am a champion for women/girl rights.  My Twitter handle is @rupandemehta.

Does Ched Evans emphasise the media’s role in normalising assault by @amymarieaustin

(Cross-posted from The Feminist Writer)

The contribution of media to the normalisation and perpetration of domestic violence is particularly worrying; varying forms of emotional, psychological, physical and sexual assault are increasingly normalised and desensitised in the public eye, and through mechanisms utilised by the media, Domestic Violence is fundamentally condoned, whether that be primarily or as a social by-product of glorifying the perpetrator. Media outlets tend to portray the devaluation of women, sexism, violence against women, and more recently rape, in a comedic light, and more often than not, the offender is portrayed as the victim. Inarguably, the role of mass media in perpetrating domestic violence (in whichever form) cannot be disputed and through repeated exposure, the media has the power to desensitise the public’s perception of violence, particularly against women. Troublingly, adverts, news outlets and even awareness campaigns (often disguised as ‘rape prevention’) mostly target women, shifting the focus away from the perpetrator and on to the victim.

This morning I woke up to this. Needless to say, I don’t read the Daily Star but it was left lying around at work, and after following the case I was shocked to see a headline that blamed feminism. Okay, maybe only a little shocked. It is the Daily Star after all, and considering the recent portrayal of sexual violence in the media, it was only a matter of time until they blamed the feminists. Frustratingly the world does enjoy spanking us, but it’s particularly saddening because once again sexual assault is being trivialised, normalised, and the wrongdoer, in this case a rapist (!!!) is being portrayed as the victim. 

Horrendous as they are, headlines like this don’t shock me anymore, which really saddens me because people tend to expect such rubbish from the media. ‘Footie Rapist ‘Victim of Feminists”Oh look, a free frisbee with my daily dose of misogyny. But we need to stop being so complacent about the daily portrayal of violence, because fundamentally it is so damaging to society. Fundamentally if the media continue to trivialise domestic violence, sexual assault will only further  be normalised. If domestic violence continues to be misinterpreted as some sort of romantic ideal, the media, albeit indirectly (sometimes), will continue to represent the ideology that violence against women is acceptable (or at least condonable under the right set of circumstances or pressures, as is so often exemplified in rape cases where the woman may have irrelevantly been drinking, or in this case, where Ched Evans has been described by the press as a “role model”). Minimising the gravity of such violence can lead to worrying outcomes; of course supporting the age old rape myth mentality that rape occurs in varying degrees of severity, but even more sadly, the negative portrayal of the real victim hugely impacts their access to support and justice.

This week sees the release of Ched Evans, a former Sheffield United player, from prison, two years into his five year sentence for the rape of a 19-year old woman. Current media portrayal surrounding his release has been particularly heartbreaking. It is evident that they are focusing very much so on rape hierarchy. Is this down to the media’s incessant belittling of date rape? I think so. Judy Finnegan’s Loose Women statement represents this down to a T.

“He’s served his time. The rape – and I’m not by any means minimising any kind of rape – but the rape was not violent. He didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person”

So basically Finnegan is suggesting that because the victim was not kicked or punched or strangled or mutilated or held at knife point, or stabbed or murdered, that she is not deserving of our sympathy. Rather that he is. That we should accept Evans’ apology, that he has “served his time”. God forbid we ruin his life even more by banning him from football. “The rape was not violent”: are you actually kidding me?! Rape is always an act of violence, as Louise Pennington writing for the Huffington Post explains. “The act of rape, in and of itself, is an act of violence. It can be accompanied by other forms of violence… but rape itself is an act of violence. Rape is the violation of a woman’s (or child, or man’s) body. It is the forced insertion of a penis into a bodily orifice without consent (as defined under law in England and Wales).” 

It is undoubtedly dangerous that society tends to obsess over the ideology that rape itself is not violent. Rape, regardless of whether or not it is accompanied by other forms of violence, is violent. Rape, regardless, causes bodily harm, and this is without highlighting the risk of vaginal/anal tearing and sexually transmitted disease (as Pennington goes on to stress). Not to mention the psychological, physical and emotional stress; increased likelihood of mental illness, depression, self harm, suicide; and the pain, both physically and mentally of having somebody force their penis  inside of you.

Despite all of this, Judy Finnegan is not alone in defending Ched Evans, unsurprisingly. Sarah Vine’s article: ‘Judy’s Right, Some Rapes ARE Worse Than Others’ is a load of rubbish, but scarily only emphasises the media’s role in normalising assault. “Rape is always a crime; (good on you for acknowledging that, you’re so intelligent) how much of one depends on the context.” Forgive me if I’m wrong, but how so Sarah? Here we go again minimising the severity of sexual assault, undermining those who have been through the pain, showing complete disregard for survivors. She goes on to introduce “some nuance” into the debate by suggesting that Evans should be allowed to return to football because the victim was “drunk” and the “rape was unpleasant but not violent”. I’m not even sure how to respond!? To me it seems laughable, because it genuinely sounds like satire, not that sexual assault should be humourised (but it clearly is, and it’s part of the problem). All I can say is that Vine’s comments, like Finnegan’s are overtly offensive. The heartbreaking truth is that a young woman was raped. “Ched Evans chose to rape a 19-year-old woman who was incapable of consent.” Surely this is what we need to be focusing on? Not the nuance that Evans deserves our support. Claire Carlisle, writing for The Guardian, also utilises some dodgy phrasing in her article: ‘Ched Evans has served his sentence for rape- Should he playfootball again’.

It is important to remember this. Rape does not always follow the archaic narrative that so often constitutes ‘rape’ in the media. The one where the stranger drags you into an alleyway, beats you, strangles you, threatens you at knifepoint and then rapes you. Whilst this does happen, and of course I am not denying this, this narrative is not representative of rape in general, especially if you consider the sad reality that most rapists are actually husbands, or boyfriends, or fathers, or colleagues, or friends. I have taken this passage directly from Pennington’s article as I think it is particularly poignant, and I certainly can’t put it any better myself:

“The vast majority of rape in the UK, as it is worldwide, is perpetrated by men known to the victim. Women are raped daily by men who supposedly love them; after all it is only recently that rape in marriage was made illegal. They are raped by acquaintances, brothers, fathers, employers and the man who lives next door. These men choose to rape. They aren’t confused about consent – they know perfectly well that they are committing rape. They just believe they are entitled to rape anyone they want whenever they want.” 

This only highlights the danger of the normalisation of rape in the media. These views show complete disregard for the victim, and talk only of violent men and their ruined lives. The lives that they themselves chose to ruin. We do not need to discuss nuances, or the fact that Evans is a good football player (as if it somewhat reduces the severity of his crime), rather we need to rethink the way we handle domestic violence in the media, we need to be clear in the fact that Ched Evans committed a crime. Ched Evans is a man who committed a brutal sexual assault; a rapist. And rape is violent no matter what. Yes Pennington, “we need journalists and media pundits to undergo mandatory training in victim awareness, trauma, and sexual and domestic violence and abuse.”  Ched Evans, you can’t play football? Maybe you should have thought of that before you chose to ruin an innocent woman’s life.

 

The Feminist Writer: Soprano. Music Student and feminist. University of Bristol. Identify yourself as a feminist today and you’re automatically assumed to be a man-hating, whinny liberal; we need to challenge this perception. Feminism is misunderstood and it seems important to fight against these misconceptions. @amymarieaustin

In the coming year, I have ambitious plans to expand AROOO, including a full professional blog redesign to increase accessibility and optimise sharing of individual bloggers’ writing across multiple social media platforms, as well as publishing feminist reviews of books, radio, television, and film. I also want to expand outside of traditional blogging platforms and start a chat forum. In order to do this, I need to raise £ 3000 so that I can pay the women web designers for their work. The work I do for AROOO is out of love for women and their writing, art, photography and lives. My tech skills simply aren’t adequate to develop AROOO to its full potential. The women involved with AROOO deserve to have their work shared to a larger audience and this requires financial support. This platform will remain non-profit, and advertising free, but the amount of work to redesign the site is substantial. Even one pound makes a huge difference to my ability to support feminist writing by creating a professional platform for feminists by feminists.