Originally published: 31.12.17
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Many people find being invited for and having cervical screening (a smear test) uncomfortable and distressing. But if you have experienced sexual violence, you may find it particularly traumatic or distressing.
If you feel this way, you are not alone. We recently did a survey with survivors, where almost half said they had not attended cervical screening because of their experience of sexual violence.
Cervical screening can feel both intrusive and intimate because of the physical position the test is done in and the medical equipment used. This means it can trigger flashbacks of the things you have been through, or evoke physical and psychological responses, like a panic attack, dissociation, or freezing. Many survivors are anxious about having to disclose their experience to a healthcare professional. …
This is the text of a keynote (and the inaugural Lincoln Lecture) delivered at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference in Loughborough on June 12th 2018.
I am speaking today about sexual harassment and violence. It is difficult to speak about sexual harassment and violence; these are traumatic experiences, and survivors are subject to many forms of silencing. This is why ‘speaking out’ is crucial. We speak our truths publicly because problems need to be named, to be dealt with: and putting our trauma ‘out there’ is a way to avoid being consumed by it ‘in here’. But speech in this area is also vexed. Because of where and how we are able to speak our truths, because of how these truths constitute us as subjects and objects of discourse, and because of how our disclosures can be co-opted. We are also caught in a number of binaries and backlashes which position us or which we have to position against. There are binaries between men and women, between perpetrators and victims, which often map directly on to each other. There is a misogynistic, racist backlash from the so-called ‘alt’-right, and on the left what Sara Ahmed calls ‘progressive sexism’, which gives cover to sexual harassment and violence through critiques of neoliberalism and concerns about ‘moral panic.’ This is the context in which I share my thoughts about how sexual harassment and violence are ‘reckoned up’ in institutional and cultural economies. …
Alison Phipps: Genders, bodies, politics
As you board a plane, it’s not uncommon to scrutinize the size of the seats and wonder where exactly your carry-on bags are supposed to fit. But other than that, we generally feel safe nowadays, having gone through several security screenings and identity checks to board the plane.
Another problem looms, especially for women who fly. Sexual harassment is commonplace on airplanes, with both passengers and flight attendants as targets. And the contained space in which it takes place makes the situation even more violating, with the person making unwanted advances — and the people who could stop it — sitting mere inches away.
What’s Causing Airline Sexual Harassment?
We know that many stories of sexual harassment, both on the ground and in the air, involve alcohol. One woman detailed her own terrifying experience with sexual harassment on a plane, noting just how much the man next to her had been drinking.
She said he downed several beverages quickly, perhaps to deal with a fear of flying. But the alcohol soon gave him the courage to make an advance on her, which started verbally and ended with him leaning in for a kiss. Nearby passengers intervened to stop him. …
This was first published at Feimineach. You can find the full text here.
We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.
‘Everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment.
Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.
In the 1970s, feminists had analysed rape as an act of male power, raised awareness about its prevalence and deconstructed the myths that surrounded it. However, it was only later that literature about other forms of male sexual violence began to emerge. SSV focused on a wide range of manifestations: it was one of two ground-breaking books published in 1988 which forced childhood sexual abuse onto the public agenda (the other was an American self-help book, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis’s The Courage to Heal).
Mothers Day, several years ago, I went with a friend to feed the ducks (and possibly nutria) at a local park. It was supposed to be a pleasant excursion to take my friend’s mind off of troubles with her own kids and to see some animals. It ended up being a sad and clarifying outing.
The nutria did not come out which was unfortunate as they’re really incredible creatures to interact with. We were flooded with ducks and geese grabbing our treats. After we ran out of goodies for the birds we sat talking and let everyone get back to their routines. It didn’t take long before we witnessed a horrific scene on the water of several drakes gang-raping a duck, her screaming out in pain and fear. We shouted at them and threw rocks into the water in the hopes of scaring them off but could only do so much to frighten them. They did let up soon after they were interrupted by us but it was too late, she was already hurt and violated.
Read more Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange
Roll up roll up … according to Twitter today, having a smear test is quick, easy, and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Apparently research has shown that women are too embarrassed to go for a smear test. This is being tweeted about today under the hashtag #SmearForSmear – a campaign which encourages women to post selfies of themselves with smeared lipstick on. Its to highlight that the number of women going for their routine cervical screen testing is falling.
The hashtag has been trending all morning, and all you have to do is have a quick look to see the mass consensus – that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, it doesn’t matter what your ‘lady garden’ looks like or doesn’t look like, that its quick, that it could save your life, that the nurse has seen it all before, that its worth it and so on.
Read more Smear Tests and being a survivor – #SmearForSmear @helen_a15
Shame is one of the most powerful human emotions we can experience. All emotions have their roots in evolution which means they have to serve some sort of useful biological purpose. Shame is all about making sure that we don’t get outcast by the group. It whispers in our ear that we are dirty, unlovable, not good enough, and tells us that we must hide our sins (and sometimes ourselves) away. In times gone by, to be outcast by the group spelt a relatively quick and lonely death. This threat to belonging was serious, and it was important to our survival that we were made aware.
A new angel has opened his wings!”
“We need more men like Hugh in this world today.”
These passionate declarations from his Facebook page are among numerous accolades for the pornmerchant Hugh Hefner, who recently died aged 91.
A charming trendsetter, brave visionary, legend, pioneer, icon, folk hero – the glorification is seemingly endless.
Big names joined the love-in. Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted in praise: “Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace.”
Read more The House that Hef Built: Hugh Hefner’s Dark Legacy, by @meltankardreist
Whenever sexual harassment is discussed, someone will always pipe up “but they don’t mind it if the bloke’s good-looking!” as if that proves – what? That sexual harassment is a deeply unfair concept, designed to unjustly prevent unattractive men from exercising their natural right to grope their female colleagues and friends whenever they want? That women are inconsistent and “want it both ways”, i.e.: want to have friendships and love affairs and personal relationships with some members of the opposite sex, without being obliged to extend their personal relationships to every single other member of the opposite sex who might fancy a relationship with them – just like men do?
How galling must it be, to be treated with civility and politeness every day, instead of being treated to what you are entitled to: bantering, flirting, joshing around and the occasional knee-stroke during the working day. How outrageous is it, that a woman might connect with another male colleague more than she does with you, finding him wittier, more congenial and more interesting than you and therefore treating him with a level of friendliness and companionship that will never be extended to you because … well, er, just because she doesn’t like you as much.
Read more Yes we do want it both ways. Because we’re human. Just like men, by @Herbeatittude
A flurry of internet indignation from rapey types has greeted the announcement of new guidelines for dealing with rape. New Guidelines
The guidelines advise that rape suspects who claim that the sex they had with a woman alleging rape was consensual, should be asked questions about how they ensured that the person alleging rape was actually consenting to that sex. Just as a man accused of burglary who said “no, guv, I didn’t do it” would be asked further questions to find out if he might be lying, a man accused of rape will be treated in exactly the same way.
This is considered extremely unfair by some sections of the internet, who appear to believe that rape suspects should be treated differently from any other crime suspect. “Off you go then mate” is apparently the correct response, followed by a no-crime report. By and large that’s exactly how it’s always been done and is one of the reasons our rape conviction rate has stood at round about 6-7% for the last few years: because police don’t bother to ask further questions in the way they do of other crime suspects. Now the DPP have issued guidelines to ensure that the police at least go through the basics of crime investigation when an allegation of rape is made, you would think that it means the presumption of innocence has been dumped.
Read more Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude
Content note: this post contains reference to sexual harassment and violence.
Universities in the US, and increasingly in the UK, are finding themselves under siege. The far right is targeting academics and their social justice work, bolstered by a mainstream suspicion of ‘experts’ and ‘elites’, and a general rightward shift in politics and public opinion. With a white supremacist, alleged serial sexual harasser and abuser in the White House, a hardline English government, and a ‘new normal’ that involves overt and unrepentant sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination, we’re in for a tough few years. I have previously written about the feminist classroomas a ‘safe space’, and the need to protect our most vulnerable students. I have also thought a lot about how the neoliberal university suppresses the very capacities required to do this. I have theorised an ‘institutional economy’ of sexual violence, exploring how institutional responses (or non-responses) to violence and abuse are shaped by neoliberal rationalities. In this post, I will attempt to sketch how the market framings of sexual violence in the university interact with our contemporary political field and growing hostility to progressive work.
Read more Speaking up for what’s right: politics, markets and violence in higher education, by Alison Phipps
The Guardian recently published leaked documents of hundreds of pages of abuse and sexual assault of women and children on Nauru’s off-shore refugee detention centre. Much of this abuse appears to have been at the hands of the Wilson’s security guards at the facility.
There have been articles since condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers and its blatant disregard of these abuses, such as that written by Jennifer Wilson.
The Immigration Minister, Mr. Peter Dutton’s response to the publication of the leaked files was:
“some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint”…”I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault,”
Whilst our focus must be on stopping our government for perpetuating such abuse on women and children, women and children who are fleeing from horrific wars and violence in their own countries, it is also important to put this in the context of the patriarchal world that we live in.
Read more Same Old Patriarchal Crap: Abuse and violence against refugee women and children.
The brutal gang-rape that took place on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 galvanized feminists both in India and around the world. Among them there were differing views on what this horrific incident meant and what should be done about it; but those differences did not stop women from taking united action. Rahila Gupta argues that if we keep our larger goals in sight, while also acknowledging that different contexts call for different political responses, the many shades of feminism can merge into one strong, vibrant colour*.
It’s become fashionable, after the meteoric rise of that mediocre book, to refer to 50 shades of everything. When it’s applied to feminism, however, I worry that it underlines our divisions whilst appearing to celebrate our diversity. At the level of discussion, it’s important to tease out our differences; but at the level of action, we’re trying to build bridges and coalitions by keeping the bigger goals in sight.
Shades of opinion are not just about women squabbling among themselves about the best way forward, but about different contexts giving rise to different demands. With that in mind, I want to talk about the brutal gang rape on a bus of a 23 year-old woman who was left for dead in Delhi last December. Different shades of opinion emerged in the solidarity actions that took place in the UK, but they did not prevent a common platform of action.
Read more 50 billion shades of feminism by Rahila Gupta for @Strifejournal
So it’s happened. Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States. He ran on a white supremacist ticket, and multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault failed to stop him taking the White House. There were reports of racist, homophobic and misogynistic hate crimes within hours of the result being declared. David Duke called the night one of the ‘most exciting’ of his life, and the Vice-President of France’s Front National declared: ‘their world is collapsing – ours is being built’. The Israeli Right took the opportunity to announce that the era of a Palestinian state is over. This only months after the British public voted to leave the European Union, ushering in a hard right agenda which ensures that the US and UK will (in Sarah Palin’s words) be ‘hooking up’ during the Trump administration.
These events are not surprising, even as they are shocking. Both Brexit and the election of Trump are national outpourings of long-held resentments, and a validation of the racist violences on which both the UK and US are built. Voters want to ‘take their countries back’ from people of colour, migrants, and Muslims. Entwined with this is suspicion and hatred of other Others: trans people, queers, disabled people and feminists. This ‘whitelash’ against globalisation and the very meagre gains which have been made in race equality targets all other social justice movements along with it. Under the pretext of ‘anti-establishment’ sentiment and suspicion of liberal political elites, white supremacists are trying to wrest back full control. There is no greater sense of victimhood than when entitlements and privileges are perceived to have been lost.
Read more The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps
Forty-five and still standing. I have made it this far.
So by definition I have survived. Yet, it is only recently that I have come to consider myself a survivor. This is probably common to many of us: reaching that understanding of what happened to us later rather than sooner.
My own story is nowhere near unique, probably not even rare: abused on a regular basis by my maternal grandfather between the ages of five and 11. Repeated trauma, occasionally disclosed, but never responded to.
It can be hard, particularly on a bad day, to say to yourself “I am a survivor”, or even, to use the words of pop goddess Gloria Gaynor, to know “I will survive”. After all I don’t feel like much of a survivor when I am reliving a trauma, in the midst of an anxiety attack, overdosing on attachment despair, feeling deep shame, or hating every label applied to me (including survivor). On those days I feel like a victim.
Without a doubt, the British political landscape has shifted significantly since I was trudging through a Politics degree at the University of Nottingham 25 years ago. It was, in some ways, a simpler time for those of us interested in who has power and what they do with it. Margaret Thatcher was still in office (until 1990), and you were either for her or against her. Nelson Mandela was still in prison on Robben Island and the Cold War dominated geo-politics. You voted in elections and in between time you could make your voice heard by going on a demo or wearing a t-shirt (I did both). There were no smartphones, no epetitions, no Facebook likes, and definitely no lobbying your MP on twitter.
There were few women in Parliament then and Thatcher, known for ‘pulling the ladder up behind her’, only ever promoted one woman, Baroness Young, to her Cabinet in all eleven years of her premiership. The Politics Department at Nottingham was an all-male affair too (my memory is of a micro-Cold War between the Thatcher supporting majority and Marxist minority). Politics (capital P) was black and white, and did not appear to include feminism.
Twenty five years later we can say for sure that British politics is less blokey, though still too white and male with only 29% of MPs being women and less than 7% of MPs being from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and there is a new wave of feminist activism both in Parliament and outside it. Furthermore, British politics is fragmenting; the three-party system is breaking up with the collapse of the Lib Dems in Parliament and the rise of Nationalists around the UK. and smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Greens, gaining electoral support even if first-past-the-post means that support doesn’t translate into seats.
Read more Party Lines – on Women’s Equality Party by @strifejournal
Commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
Women’s groups in London published a ‘manifesto for ending violence against women and girls in the capital,’ recently and sent open letters to Mayoral candidates highlighting the endemic levels of domestic and sexual violence in London, and asking them to make specific commitments on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), on prostitution, on ensuring support services are maintained, and the effective policing of these crimes.
A new ‘mayorwatch’ website, which will track all relevant mayoral and Assembly candidates’ pledges has also been launched.
The manifesto and open letters precede an ‘ending violence against women and girls hustings’ in central London on 12 April, with Sian Berry, Green Party; Yvette Cooper MP for Labour; Stephen Greenhalgh for the Conservatives; Annabel Mullin for the Lib Dems; and Sophie Walker, standing for the Women’s Equality Party, on the panel.
Read more Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen
It’s two days before my Anthropology exam, and I can’t concentrate.
I was sexually assaulted the day before. I feel teary. I feel numb. I don’t know what to feel.
I’m torn between knowing that I need a break so that I can begin to recover from my assault, and feeling guilty for missing an exam.
My guilt stems from believing that my academics determine my worth. It also stems from my believing that my worth is defined by my productivity levels – a capitalistic lie that we’re all taught from a young age.
Because of these deep-set beliefs, a part of me feels as if missing exams means I’m weak, useless, and a failure.
I know I need to practice self-care. But practicing self-care at university – a place that equates our worth with our academic ability – is incredibly difficult. …
Read more 8 Ways to Practice Self-Care When College Is Taking a Toll on Your Spirit by @sianfergs