Sexual harassment and violence in higher education: reckoning, co-option, backlash, by @Alison Phipps

Cross-posted from: Gender, Bodies, Politics
Originally published: 12.07.18

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. …

Untitled

 

You can find the full text published here. 

Alison PhippsGenders, bodies, politics

 

Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Everyone Knew
Originally published: 30.11.17

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 07.41.08

Everyone knew.

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.


Read more Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Even after death

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 03.11.16

I’ve often written about the case of William Burke Kirwan on this blog. His was the case that caused me to pursue a different path in life. Since 2010 I’ve been researching his murder of his wife and it’s lead me back to university and in directions I never dreamed of and there’s plenty more to do. So at this stage I’m a little bit proprietorial. My friends know this about me and tend to point out interesting nuggets about the case they stumble upon. In Dublin, after all, it’s a very well know case indeed. You can still argue about it if you take the boat out to Ireland’s Eye from Howth.

So when the Irish Times featured the case as part of their series of stories from their archives, quite a few Irish friends sent me the link and asked me what I thought. Now I’ll say again that this is a case that is very special to me so I’m apt to be a touch judgemental but in this case the article in question raised my hackles both as a historical scholar and as a court reporter. 
Read more Even after death

The murders of Clodagh Hawe and Megan Short by @EVB_Now

Cross-posted from: Everyday Victim Blaming
Originally published: 21.10.16

There was a tremendous amount of outrage about the appalling media coverage of the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons in September. Unfortunately, this level of grossly inappropriate and inaccurate representation of family annihilators is not an aberration.

Mark Short Sr. murdered his wife Megan and their children — 8-year-old Lianna, 5-year-old Mark Jr., and 2-year-old Willow. He also killed the dog. Time magazine covered their murder with this headline:

Pennsylvania Father Took His Kids to a Theme Park Before Killing Them

Because murdering your children and your wife is somehow a lesser evil if you treat them to a day out in a theme park first. 
Read more The murders of Clodagh Hawe and Megan Short by @EVB_Now

BAN “FLIRTING” IN TAXIS? YES PLEASE. (BUT LET’S NOT PRETEND THIS IS ONLY FLIRTING.) by @grainnemcmahon

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 01.04.16

Update: this post has been through a couple of permutations now. First, I just told the story (prompted by the guardian piece below), then I added some thoughts on how I felt at the time and how I wanted to challenge this guy’s behaviour, and then I thought about the ways in which I did (and really did not) challenge his behaviour, and then I thought about the ways in which I was discussing my own actions and reactions. I didn’t say anything about them at the time but I want to now. 

I realised at the time, and have thought about it since, that I was engaging in some really problematic discourses about myself and about women. Now, importantly, I am stressing here that my perpetuating of these discourses is not problematic, per se, but rather part of a broader, social issue. 

If you read on, you’ll see that my discussion of events is littered with victim-blaming (i.e. if anything had happened to me it would have been my fault for provoking the taxi driver in the way that I reacted to his “flirting”). I do not on any level agree that this would have been so but I also know that victim-blaming is so embedded in women’s consciousness that it informs nearly every aspect of our lives (and not just potentially violent situations). What do I do in this situation? How do I react? How do I avoid something bad happening to me? And, if something bad does happen, we think about what we could have done to avoid it. 

I repeat: I do not on any level agree that a victim is to blame for her experience of violence but we are told so often that she is and that she should have been careful and that she should have watched herself and that she should have done this and that and then this again differently, that is impossible for us to truly avoid placing ourselves within those discourses when we think about our own behaviours. It’s a horrible, debilitating trap that we fall into time and time again. 
Read more BAN “FLIRTING” IN TAXIS? YES PLEASE. (BUT LET’S NOT PRETEND THIS IS ONLY FLIRTING.) by @grainnemcmahon

Its Time to Change the Narrative on Victim Blaming by @rupandemehta

Cross-posted from: Liberating Realizations
Originally published: 22.08.16

Not too long ago, Brock Turner, a Stanford student, raped a woman who was inebriated. The judge gave him to a meager sentence saying he has too much potential and did not want to ruin his life.

Last week, an exact copy cat case occurred. Austin Wilkerson, a University of Colorado student, offered to take his inebriated friend back to her dorm. Instead of escorting her to safety, he took his chances with her and raped her without her consent. He was let off with a light sentence too, despite confessing that he “digitally and orally penetrated” the woman while he “wasn’t getting much of a response from her.”
Read more Its Time to Change the Narrative on Victim Blaming by @rupandemehta

#16Days: Why Supporting Women In Leaving #DomesticAbuse Is Vital by @FrothyDragon

Cross-posted from: Frothy Dragon & the Patriarchal Stone
Originally published: 06.12.12

I noticed an irony the other day. I don’t remember the exact date I returned to D, following his court case. But, given that it was a matter of days before my birthday (very early December), it would have been during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The irony of this only struck me recently; As my family were convincing me to give my relationship with D another go – to put things right-, feminists would have been campaigning to help raise awareness of domestic abuse.

My family, when I phoned to tell them that D had headbutted me whilst I was holding our ten month old son, were a little less sympathetic than they should have been. A few weeks after the attack, I found myself being subjected to an hour long lecture from my mother, about how I’d “isolated” D, by choosing to breastfeed and co-sleep. I’d denied him intimacy. D’s right to sex was, in my parent’s eyes, more important than parenting in a way which worked for myself and my son. I was told that, by pressing charges I was over-reacting. At this point, I’d yet to tell anyone of the extent of abuse D had put me through.
Read more #16Days: Why Supporting Women In Leaving #DomesticAbuse Is Vital by @FrothyDragon

When The Cake Is Never Shared: Liberals and Their Passive Aggressive Victim-Blaming

Cross-posted from: Life in the Patriarchal Mix
Originally published: 01.04.15

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the hatred towards mothers always seems to go unchecked and is always the norm. Whenever a mother shows any concern of the impact of sexualization of women on her children she is immediately branded a “prude” or someone with “no life.” It’s incredibly ironic that many will accuse a mother of “having no life” because the minute she does not center her life around her children she is also branded a horrible mother.

Likewise, they will find ways to accuse her of hypocrisy, or imply hypocrisy, by asking her if she allows her children to watch any television. I am not certain about how exactly that is relevant to her concern because the difference between media consumption in the home versus public advertising is that she at least has some control over the media her children consume but out in public she does not have this power. You cannot simply “ignore” a hyper-sexualized advertisement when it is a fifty foot billboard in full view of the young impressionable children. Liberals may deny this, and most certainly will, but children do notice their outer environment, they do not live in a bubble (as much as Liberals would love to make it so) and they do take in everything that they see around them. They cannot ignore that it actually does take a village to raise a child and our mainstream media is part of our global village. The accusations of moralistic pearl-clutching against Jennifer Campbell is absurd and the other arguments against her very legitimate concern are also astoundingly ridiculous.
Read more When The Cake Is Never Shared: Liberals and Their Passive Aggressive Victim-Blaming

I Hate Myself Every Time I Tell Her To Be Careful (Why Do We Tell Our Daughters Not To Get Raped?)

Cross-posted from: Ponderinglif
Originally published: 13.01.15

The world of media, Facebook as well as Twitter has been full of conversations about rape and sexual assault over the last few weeks. There are conversations about Ched Evans and what are called ‘political sex scandals’ (rape of children) and most recently there has been a groping incident on celebrity big brother. These conversations have become intertwined with people discussing degrees of rape, because some rapes are seen as worse than others. One journalist tells the story of how her friend was attacked and raped in a dark alley by a stranger and how this is far worse than the victim of Ched Evans whose victim can’t remember the rape as she was so drunk, so that’s not real rape. Perhaps if all rapists simply knock out their victims to impair their memories there wouldn’t be so young men whose lives are ruined when they are caught and prosecuted? Maybe all rapists should carry a bottle of spirits with them to make sure their victim is discredited because as we all know rape is an acceptable punishment for being drunk if you’re female.
Read more I Hate Myself Every Time I Tell Her To Be Careful (Why Do We Tell Our Daughters Not To Get Raped?)

Those twitching net curtains again

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 27.01.15

“Because they should know better…”

That’s what I was told when, as a young journalist, I asked why it was always bigger news when a crime was committed by someone in a white collar job. I never liked that answer. Let’s leave aside the fact that it assumes that anyone from a less privileged position in society doesn’t or can’t know that committing a crime is wrong, I just don’t think it’s the whole story.
Read more Those twitching net curtains again

The man, the ball and the woman. A Tale Of Two footballers. by @JeanHatchet

cross-posted from Hatchet’s Off

orig. pub. 25.4.15

I am going to keep this simple. I think a lot of pictures might be needed. Words aren’t a lot of use to my intended audience.
Read more The man, the ball and the woman. A Tale Of Two footballers. by @JeanHatchet

‘Nagging wives’ aren’t the problem; lazy-arse husbands are by @Firewomon

cross-posted from Firewomon

orig. pub. 10.5.14

In a spectacular display of misogyny, a headline in yesterday’s Telegraph informs us that ‘[n]agging could cost the lives of hundreds of men’.

Yes, you read that right. Before I go any further, let’s just unpick that sentence. ‘Nagging’ is defined as ‘constantly harassing someone to do something’ but, let’s be clear here, it is a slur which is used against women – indeed, the OED gives an example of the word’s usage as “a nagging wife”. The Telegraph’s headline refers to the lives of ‘men’ only, which suggests that women are the wrongdoers and men are the victims. The implication is that women are nagging ‘hundreds’ of men to death. As hyperbolic statements go, that takes some beating.

Delve further into The Telegraph’s piece (if you can stand to) and you would no doubt be astounded to find that ‘around 315 extra deaths per 100,000 people per year could be caused by spousal demands and worries’ with ‘men tend[ing] to respond to stress with higher levels of the hormone cortisol which is known to be linked to poor health’. Women, so the report says, are ‘immune to nagging’. It is poor, put-upon men who are apparently dying in droves as a result of being ‘subjected to ‘nagging’, constant demands and worries from their partners’.

From a feminist perspective, ‘nagging’ is a misogynistic term because it is used pejoratively and more or less exclusively against women. The ‘nagging wife’ is the subject of ridicule and disgust. If a man complains to his friends or family that his female partner is ‘nagging’ him, he will expect – and more than likely receive – sympathy. No-one thinks to question why his female partner is ‘nagging’ him. Why would a woman ‘nag’? Why would she ‘constantly harass someone to do something’? If we remove the term ‘nag’ and replace it with ‘protestation at being used as a slave’, that brings us closer to the nub of the problem. Could it be that women, responsible for the bulk of childcare and household chores, just want the men in their lives to get off their lazy fucking arses and actually help out?

Of course, male socialisation and male entitlement contribute massively to male lazyitis. From a young age, many girls are expected to help out around the house in a way that boys are not. Girls are taught from an early age that housework is Our Job. Research carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that just one in ten of married men does an equal amount of cleaning and washing as his wife. This is appalling. Do men somehow produce 90% less mess than women? Do they eat 90% less? Obviously not. Why, then, are they leaving their female partners to do the vast majority of meal-planning, cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning, and the looking after of children? Why do men expect their female partners to clean up the vast majority of the mess they create? I don’t think it is a stretch to describe this as slave labour. Radical feminists have long propounded the view that marriage enslaves women – given these statistics, is it any wonder? It is difficult to argue otherwise.

Articles such as this one in The Telegraph are damaging because of the inherent implication that women should just shut up and get on with the household chores. It normalises inequality within heterosexual relationships. It says: housework is a woman’s work, a wifely duty. If she objects, if she dares to even voice her dissent, she risks driving her male partner to an early grave. What a burden to place upon a woman!

The Telegraph goes on to say that ‘poor habits such as eating junk food and lack of exercise… exacerbate the problem’. Ah. So, of these ‘hundreds’ of men who are dying each year due to ‘nagging’, an undisclosed number of those would have died anyway because they never move off the sofa. I suppose woman should be blamed for that as well, eh? Your hubby’s a fat, lazy bastard? You’ve compounded the problem by hoovering around him! You should have asked him to move! It’s all your fault!

As Germaine Greer says:

The universal ‘division of labour’ between the sexes was in fact the apportioning of daily drudgery to the female, so that the male could indulge his appetite for sport, play, dreaming, ritual, religion and artistic expression.’ (The Whole Woman)

The problem, again as Greer points out, is that:

Men resent having to work and harbour a positive ambition to do nothing… Men regard weekends as time off [whilst] working women use weekends to catch up with the tasks left over from an exhausting week.

The truth of this cannot be emphasised enough. How many times have you heard a female friend or colleague say that her male partner is ‘babysitting tonight?’ In some cases, the act of a man looking after his own children appears to be so rare that one wonders why he is being praised for stepping up to the mark for once (presumably after some ‘nagging’) instead of being challenged over his dereliction of duty. A mother would never be described as ‘babysitting’ her own children – looking after them is her job and hers alone, see?

A ‘nagging’ woman is a woman who refuses to keep quiet when faced with the drudgery of housework and the huge responsibility of childcare. A ‘nagging’ woman is a woman who recognises the unfairness of her situation, who gets angry about the unfairness of her situation and who tries to persuade her male partner to do the things he should already be doing. This Telegraph article is blaming women (‘you nagging harridan!’) for voicing their dissatisfaction at being a man’s slave. Ask yourself: in a relationship where women do 90% of the household chores, who is the real victim?

 

Firewomon: A Radical Feminist Blog [@Firewomon]

Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons. by Mary-Anne Franks

One night in November 2011, a 17-year-old boy threw a party. At this party, he watched a friend rape a 15 year-old-girl while she vomited out of a window. Instead of intervening, he took a photograph of the rape and distributed it to friends. After months of tormenting by her peers over the photo, the girl hanged herself.

The friend who assaulted the girl was charged with distributing child pornography, but not rape. His trial is set to begin soon.The boy who took the photo was charged with creating child pornography and entered a guilty plea.

Today, a judge ruled that the boy, now 20, must apologize to the girl’s parents and take a “sexual harassment” course. No jail, not even probation.

The girl’s name was Rehtaeh Parsons. In 2013, her father wrote this letter. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking letter, and this passage in particular stands out given the sentence today:

“Rehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed. Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.”

Her father is right. Those boys knew they would get away with it, and they did.

 

Mary-Anne Franks: I write about gender bias generally and often write specifically about non-consensual pornography. I am the Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (cybercivilrights.org), a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about online abuse and advocating for social and legal reform. CCRI is the parent organization of the End Revenge Porn Campaign (endrevengeporn.org) founded by Holly Jacobs. In my work with CCRI, I have helped more than a dozen states and the federal government draft legislation on so-called “revenge porn.”

Ways to deal with Eve-teasing by Occupy Sexism

Action against sexism by Street Smart Girl:

Yesterday the medias reported 12 bizarre tips issued by a Kolkata police station. They basically burden women and victims with the responsibility of stopping street harassment, instead of targeting the perpetrators.

Ways to deal with Eve-teasing (police’s tips for women):

1. Dress decently.
2. Have emergency speed dial numbers in your phone.
3. Self defense.
4. Aware of people around you.
5. Avoid late nights.
6. Carry pepper spray.
7. Be well behaved.
8. Stay in groups.
9. Avoid travelling in crowded bus or train.
10. Avoid going in isolated places
11. Walk in well-lit and frequented areas.
12. Be street smart.

 

Dear cops, you have now removed them from your website. Why don’t you upload new tips targeting teenage boys and men, the usual perpetrators, for a change? Let me suggest my dozen tips:

Ways to deal with Eve-teasing (woman’s tips for men):

1. Act decently. Your attitude should send a positive message.
2. Have emergency speed dial numbers in your phone in case you witness eve-teasing.
3. Self control.
4. Respect people around you.
5. Avoid late night if you won’t control yourself.
6. Carry a smart phone and pin the creep if you witness any eve-teasing.
7. Be well behaved. Don’t harass others.
8. Stay in groups and encourage each other to behave.
9. Avoid travelling in crowded bus or train if you won’t control yourself.
10. Avoid going in isolated places so women can enjoy there safely.
11. Walk in well-lit and frequented areas so women will see you from far away.
12. Be street responsible.

Let’s STOP street harassment.

Occupy Sexism: We were taught that being subjected to misogyny was just part of being a woman. We should not attempt to curb male violence, not even name it. But… This is Operation Occupy Sexism. We are Women. We are 3 billions. We do not comply. We do not tolerate sexism. Expect us. Occupy Sexism is a platform to share our experience. Share your success stories of fighting sexism and shouting back at misogynists !

The Great Big Patriarchal Shaped Elephant In The Room #RotherhamAbuse by Outspoken Redhead

(Cross-posted from Outspoken Redhead)

As if to delight news channels across the country, August vomits up the moral panic of the inquiry into child exploitation and sexual abuse in Rotherham. 1400 children abused or exploited over 17 years by abusers, some of whom were Asian males. This is a news story with perfect components:

POLITICAL DRAMA!!!! Should Labour be blamed? After all it’s a Labour Council isn’t it, and its Social Services Department is probably staffed by bearded do gooders more likely to remove a child because their parents want to take her to Sunday School than challenge Asian people.  Labour grab this chance to score endless home goals by demanding the resignation of the Police Commissioner or else they will suspend him from the party! Oh yes, that’ll show everyone.  And anyway, isn’t this the Tories fault for introducing these Commissioners roles in the first place with their £120k salaries and then finding out no one can remove them.  All of these points may or may not be true, none of them have any relevance or any prospect of making things right for the victims.

RACE AND MULTICULTURAL DRAMA!! Up pop UKIP, making sly digs about different cultural values and even sensible people mutter that this is what Islam is like, painting non Muslim White women as whores and this is where it all ends.  People who have never read the Qu’uran feel qualified to pronounce on religion, at least other people’s religion, foreign religion that doesn’t belong here. Nigel Farage must have wept with joy that a UKIP MEP in Yorkshire is Pakistani and could be wheeled out to condemn his own community.  Look, a Pakistani person thinks this is a race issue, so it must be right, just as it is when a woman condemns feminism. This makes it TRUE!

USELESS PUBLIC SERVICES DRAMA!!  Police, Councils, they’re all the same. Sitting on their gold plated pensioned arses, doing sod all except soaking up taxpayers money. Sack ’em all!  Ok, sack quite a lot of them.  Well, please for the love of God can we sack some of them so that we can all convince ourselves that this is sorted and has gone away and will never happen again?  Can’t we?  Isn’t this how it works?

Well, sadly no.  Sexual abuse of women and children isn’t like a flu pandemic.  It happens every day in every city, town and village in every so-called civilised and not so civilised country.  It’s perpetrated by black men, white men, religious men, atheist men, rich men and poor men.  Handsome men and ugly men, successful men and men who have failed in every other part of their lives. But you will see there is a common thread. It’s men, abusing women and children over whom they have some power.  Or power imbalance.  Because while it can often be the power of the priest, the politician, the famous radio star or the children’s entertainer which prevents their victims from speaking out or being believed if they do; sometimes it’s the powerlessness of the victim, a Looked After* Child (*yes, I do use the term wryly) or so often simply the powerlessness of the child that depends on its father for a home and security.

Sexual abuse exerts power and control, most of all by shrouding the victim in shame. It’s easy to spot a bruise or a burn on a child – but how does any teacher spot the signs of sexual abuse.  The psychological impact is often profound or over sexualised behaviour can make the child stand out but to make the link to abuse is close to impossible unless the child speaks out.  And then, as we have seen all too well, so many men are capable of swaggering while protesting their innocence and damning their accusers and achieving a successful prosecution is beset with difficulties. And is that even what victims want?  Most of all they want it to stop, for it never to have happened in the first place and for the shame and guilt to be removed, feelings that overwhelm, like Lady Macbeth dabbing futilely at blood and only being amplified by having to recount every detail in court to a man in a wig determined to show you and your 12 year old self as a slut and a liar.

The incidence of sexual abuse, shown by surveys of adults shows it is shockingly high and massively undiscovered.  1400 children in seventeen years in a town the size of Rotherham is the screaming headline figure. Why don’t we poll towns of the same size over the same period and ask the questions we never ask and see how high those figures are?  Perhaps we might find out what we don’t want to know – that sexual abuse is rife in every community, that it is entirely equality proofed in every way, except gender.  While we’re asking awkward questions, could we also consider whether we want families to be less ‘private’, more subject to scrutiny without screaming Nanny State! While we’re at it, do we want children to be able to talk freely about sexuality without shame from a very young age without having paroxysms of outrage?

Wow, if we were to have really difficult discussions, could we talk about patriarchy? Could we talk about how our male dominated society tells us sex is something men want and women give, that girls are sluts while boys are ‘lads’ and every day a national newspaper publishes pictures of women’s breasts for a bit of fun and how all of that might, just might, determine how many men view all women?

Could it be that if video games allow young men to rape prostitutes or kill them, it might be evidence of something really, really wrong?  We are told equality is a battle long won, look, we had a female Prime Minister.  Let’s just forget that for every year she was in power it was lawful for Denis Thatcher to rape her, a law repealed in my adult lifetime.

Actually, that’s all a bit difficult isn’t it.  Tell you what, let’s get back to political mudslinging, baying for sackings and making dark assertions about race.  Sexual abuse happens to the others, not us and is perpetrated by evil monsters, not that nice chap next door.  Let’s continue with our time-honoured hand wringing and say over and over “This must not happen again”.  Except, it already is.  Right her, right now and will continue until we start to name the real problem. Patriarchy. Or just Power, if that’s not as scary.  Either will do, but once again those in power choose Pretence.

 

 

 

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.



When Women and Girls Are Attacked by Men, We Blame Everything Except Male Violence by @CratesNRibbons

(Cross-posted from Crates & Ribbons)

Last Tuesday night, two teenage girls from India went out into the fields, looking for a place to relieve themselves, due to the lack of toilets in their village. On their way, they were brutally attacked by a group of men, gang-raped, and murdered. Their bodies were found the next day hanging from a tree, in a sickening display of complacence that speaks volumes not only about the men’s arrogance and lack of shame, but also their sense of entitlement to female bodies. Activists in India have rallied in protest against the problem of sexual violence in the country, and villagers have condemned police inaction relating to the incident.

Yesterday, an article appeared in The Guardian, citing the lack of basic sanitation as the main reason for the death of the girls. It was the lack of toilets in their village, the article suggests, that resulted in the attack, never mind the perpetrators themselves, never mind the global ideal of masculinity that accepts, even encourages, violence in men, never mind the global culture of misogyny that normalises violence against women.

Don’t get me wrong — I do believe that basic sanitation is crucial. It is of the utmost importance for reasons of hygiene, leading to cleaner surroundings, safer food and water, lower rates of diarrhoea and illnesslower risk of snake bites, and lower mortality rates. Access to toilets provides privacy and dignity, and having a toilet in schools can encourage girls to continue with their schooling after hitting puberty. And with around 2.7 billion people around the world without access to basic sanitation, the problem is a pressing one.

Neither do I deny the fact that many men choose to attack women when they are seeking a secluded spot in the fields to relieve themselves. Yet, to focus exclusively on the circumstances surrounding the attack, while ignoring the main source of the attack (the perpetrators), fits into a pattern that feminists have been decrying for decades — society’s propensity to treat male violence as an accepted fact of life, to make allowances for it, to try to avoid it, and to attempt to redirect it. None of these can keep women safe.

Around the world, men have been raping and murdering women in every conceivable situation. They have carried out violence against women in their own homes, on the street, in clubs, atpartiesin hostels on a school trip, on public buses, in school toilets, in high school hallways, atconcerts, while camping, during piano lessons, in taxis, during a football game, the list goes on. Women can avoid going to dark and secluded areas, we can stay at home, we can take all the precautions we have been told to take. No wearing short skirts, no going out alone at night, no getting drunk in public, no trusting a strange man. But as long as men continue their violent behaviour, as long as they continue to rape and murder women, then — naturally — women will continue to be raped and murdered. They will be raped and murdered no matter where they are, no matter what they happen to be doing at the time.

The global epidemic of male violence against women must end, but we will never end it by refusing to place our finger on the key issue at hand, the link between socialised masculinity and violence. If we continue to ignore this, then the only world where men no longer attack women will be a world where women and girls do not exist at all.

 

Crates&Ribbons:  A feminist analysis of society [@CratesNRibbons]

“We Must Not Always Talk in the Market-Place of What Happens to Us in the Forest”: Victim Blaming is Our Scarlet Letter at Americas Studies

(Cross-posted from Americas Studies)

Source: Wikimedia Commons. “”Hester Prynne & Pearl before the stocks”, an illustration by Mary Hallock Foote from an 1878 edition of The Scarlet Letter”

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

Are we all born with scarlet letters, unseen until someone or something makes them visible? Like unlucky lottery scratch cards, a letter rubbed raw, eczematous, infectious: one for every woman who dares to speak out against rape and sexual assault. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional character, Hester Prynne donned a red letter “A” for adultery, a signal of her deviant sexuality, a public warning, a badge of shame. Today, society has become that puritanical scarlet letterfor every woman, every victim, everyone who tries to take back the power and make a try for justice.

Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is the scarlet letter used by rape culture to marginalise women. It is as much an elaborate cross-stitch of (un)reasoned words as a flaming mark left by a phallocentric branding iron. In an article examining the problematic attitudes toward rape in Ireland, Amnesty International state that, in relation to low conviction rates for sex crimes, “It is clear. . . .that public attitudes to victims of rape are a significant part of the problem, and something the UN too said needed to be addressed. Rape, as with other forms of ‘gender-based violence’ against women, is directed at a woman because she is a woman. The underlying cause, according to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, is the historical and ongoing discrimination against women by men. Also, these attitudes necessarily dictate how victims are treated subsequently.” As Hawthorne says of Hester’s scarlet letter, “It [the scarlet letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” Isolation, social exile, mockery, threats, even violence are some of what can face rape and sexual assault survivors who speak out against their attackers.

An accusation is worth a thousand brandings

Hester says to her daughter, “Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl! We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.” What Hester was talking about is sexuality. Not much has changed for women since Hawthorne’s 19th century exploration of 17th century womanhood in Puritan America. We are not supposed to talk about rape, sexual assault, sexuality, or gender-based violence. An accusation is worth a thousand brandings leaving the victim mottled and worn by the collective prejudice of a society that is stunted by patriarchy, shackled to a medieval chauvinism, and hog-tied to ignorance.

Education, Justice, Support

There has been a surge of posts, articles and commentary about rape culture and victim blaming since the Steubenville rape case became global news. Many bloggers have compiled lists of why victim blaming happens, how it happens, and how to put a stop to it. Quite simply, we need to educate, improve our justice systems, and provide more support for victims of rape and sexual assault. As long as statistics like the ones below exist, we have an impossible task ahead of us. These figures are also the glaring reasons why education, justice and support are essential, yet lacking.

 

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“Violence against women is not a private matter – it is everyone’s business. We too must challenge negative attitudes to women, and resist images and information channels that reinforce discriminatory attitudes and perpetuate violence against women” – Amnesty International.

 

Americas Studies: This blog, Américas Studies is the product of an Irish feminist researcher in transatlantic dialogue with the Américas. It is grounded in my current experience as a doctoral candidate with posts about literature, film, feminism, and issues related to academia.

Richard Dawkins: Belittling Rape by The Feminist Writer

(Cross-posted from The Feminist Writer)

originally published July 29. 2014

These are just a few of the horrendous Tweets posted by Dawkins today:

This morning Richard Dawkins took to Twitter to announce the idea that there are varying levels of sexual assault (a view that he has never kept quiet) and one which unsurprisingly caused a ruckus on the social media site. To put briefly, in a discussion about syllogism, Dawkins suggested the enduring rape myth that there are varying degrees of rape, and he was wrong to do so. Based on the misconception that ‘date rape’, or rape by a partner, is less violent and therefore less important than rape by a stranger, Richard Dawkins excellently showcases misogyny in all its glory. Not only is this completely untrue, (let’s look at the facts) anybody who choses to utilise sexual violence as an acceptable example of syllogism clearly undermines those who have gone through the pain of being assaulted, showing complete disregard for survivors.

Dawkins ‘logic’ does not need to be based on such an unnecessarily horrific (and inappropriate) analogy. Rape is rape and all rape is violent. If we look at the lowest statistics recorded by the MOJ and ONS (and reported by Sian Norris in today’s Independent Online), every single one of the 1,100 rapes that occur weekly in the UK is a violent crime. And regardless of whether or not you know the perpetrator (even though evidence by Kelly suggests that 89 percent of rape victims know their attacker), the violence still stands. So rape is rape, but Dawkins choses to ‘rank’ sexual violence in terms of severity, and brushes off doing so by suggesting that regardless he is not “endorsing” the lesser of two evils. In fact, I have no issue with catagorising things in terms of severity, but like most women, I have a huge issue with claiming that rape can be categorised dependent on the situation. Richard Dawkins may not be “endorsing” date rape but by suggesting that date rape should be taken less seriously, he is most certainly adding to the difficultly that survivors face when reporting or speaking out about their experiences.

As ‘stranger rape’ is more likely to be reported by the media, it creates the false impression that these assaults are ‘more serious’, and therefore ‘more newsworthy’. The rapes that fit the narrative of what society is told constitutes rape. The rapes where the perpetrator hides in a dark alley way, knife in tow. And the rapes that all too familiarly distance society from the fact that most rapists are actually “husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, colleagues and friends”(as Norris puts it). The very fact that Dawkins alludes to varying levels of sexual assault only heightens the culture of victim shaming, and encourages the questioning of the victims behaviour (what was she wearing? Did she go home with him? Didn’t she like him?) We shift the focus away from the perpetrator and examine the behaviour of the victim instead. This is never ok. The fault of the rape lies with the rapist and never with the victim regardless. This negative portrayal of the victim not only heavily supports the enduring rape myth, but also has a huge impact on women’s access to justice, which is heartbreaking. Considering the ideology that partner rape is ‘less serious’, in a society where only 15 percent of rapes are reported, 89 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, and men like Dawkins encourage such harmful misconceptions, is it any wonder that so many rapes go unreported?

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

“THE FAPPENING” – A BLAME GAME at Three Letter Blog

(Cross-posted from Three Letter Blog)

So this is a quick blast-post about the horrible event that has taken place in the past 24 hours. Anyone with their finger on the pulse of social media will know that a major photo-hack has taken place. Originating in what my BF has affectionately referred to as ‘the Dickhead Hive Mind’ aka 4Chan, intimate and nude photos of numerous celebrities (Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton to name but two) were posted earlier today and the internet has exploded. (Oh and FYI the super classy hacker/poster/collector isapparently disappointed they haven’t made that much cash of these ladies bodies)

Now, this is going to be a short(ish) post to address a couple of the more disturbing reactions I’ve come across today. Namely Victim Blaming, and Slut-Shaming.

The reaction of the world wide web has been abundantly disheartening today with most comments ranging from ‘YES, INTO THE WANK BANK #TheFappening’ to ‘What idiots, who would be so careless, they should know better’ and my personally most hated ‘Who even takes these photos, sluts deserved it’ (these are all abridged versions of tweets/comment/fb statuses I’ve seen today, feel free to find your own).

What is obvious is that there’s a real culture of victim blaming surrounding these photos. People seem to feel they have an outright valid claim to these intimate images, these celebrities are already out in the public sphere in sex scenes and raunchy photo shoots, so what’s the addition of a personal photograph in that mix? Well the issue here is one of consent. There’s a big difference between consenting to a Playboy photo shoot and knowing about the incoming sensation in the aftermath of one of their centerfold pieces (Madonna, Kate Moss, Sharon Stone, Drew Barrymore, and Lindsay Lohan to name a few) versus the violation of people’s private accounts and disseminating them amongst the masses. These raunchy  photo shoots and steamy sex scenes are carefully crafted and are done with the full consent of the actress/model in the comfort of a controlled environment, along with full monetary recompense for their work. They enter a CONSENSUAL CONTRACT about these images and understand how they will filter into the public. Contrast that with a VERYprivate naked-selfie you’ve taken explicitly for your own, or your partner’s own pleasure, and I think the differences are obvious.

marc-jacobs-kate-moss-playboy

Apparently however, the difference is lost on some.

Most comments I read which aren’t merely of the tasteful ‘oh my right hand is gonna be sore this week!’ variety, specifically blame the girls for the violation of their privacy. More often than not I’ve encountered that age old House-Analogy regarding the self-prevention measures people could have put in place regarding their own personal safety: ‘Excuse me while I leave all my doors and windows unlocked because no one should break in’ – Imgur User. Which basically means, if you don’t police yourself and use security measures to the extent of a metaphorical bunker then you deserve EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that happens to your body/house. If we continue with the ridiculous House-Analogy then logically this argument is just a few steps shy of saying ‘I mean, I could leave my house, but if I did that I’d totally be bringing it on myself when I get stabbed to death.’

It’s increasingly shocking how often these analogies are used in response to Rape. Apparently if we don’t walk around with chastity belts and razor-blade lined underwear we are at fault in any and all violation of our bodies/houses. The same goes for our nude pics. If we don’t want to have our privacy abused, we shouldn’t take photos. Which is basically the same as saying, ‘If you don’t want your privacy violated, don’t have a private life’. It’s inhibiting, it’s victim blaming, and it’s verging on the Big-Brother style self-policing. Why do I have to live a life of fear and imposed nunnery simply because others have no decency? I have every single right to photograph my own body in an intimate manner and share this with my partner. You have absolutely no right to look at them. (FYI the Guardian has written a great post discussing the abuse of this current scandal, I encourage you all to read it). Granted, uploading photos onto the cloud is a bit silly, I personally delete any/all backed up photos for fear of accidentally sharing them on my Google Plus page and my father accidentally coming across them. That is a logical fear. But equally, the cloud is accessed via means of password-protected accounts. PASSWORD. PROTECTED. Simply because these were on the cloud doesn’t mean the public has right of access. These are private accounts. Full stop. You have no ownership or right to these images. Do kindly piss off.

The most upsetting element I have found around this whole scandal is the Slut-shame aspect. People seem to feel that these ladies, taking photos for their personal use, deserve what has happened, because who else other than great big skank-whore-slut-bags takes nude photos!??

I do.

MJ does.

I’m pretty sure my mum has. Your mum probably has too.

Are you calling my mum a Slut?

Fuck you.

And do you know why we take these photos? Because bodies are beautiful. The ability to share your body with your partner is one of the most sensual and brilliant things you can do. MJ has written beautifully about the self confidence she found in being photographed by her lover. To deny others that form of self expression and self confidence is ludicrous. If I take a naked photo of myself it’s because I feel fucking great. It’s because I’m happy with my body and because I want to share that with my partner, so he can reinforce my confidence by waxing lyrical about my bodacious boobs and awesome ass. We have every right to do whatever we want with our bodies, and share them (consensually) with others. You have no right to shame me for doing so. Thus, posts such as this one:

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Which suggest that those who don’t take nude photos are cleverer/classier than those who do, need to be burned (or whatever the internet equivalent is). It sets up and perpetuates that age old Madonna/Whore complex, in which there is a publicly accepted level of sexuality which women are allowed to posses; and there is a level which only men are allowed to exploit. Stop it.

And to end on just a quick afterword: It’s honestly eye-opening to me to see the public’s reaction to this hacking scandal. The public outrage felt by News International over the phone-hacking of private conversations (THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN TALKING ON BURNER PHONES IN SECRET GOVERNMENT BUNKERS IF THEY DIDN’T WANT TO BE LISTENED TO – House Analogy) was palpable. Sadly, because these are photos of ATTRACTIVE, NAKED, WOMEN there doesn’t seem to be the same levels of anger and outrage. It just goes to show how a mobile phone is considered more sacred than a woman’s body in our culture.

So, I urge you all not to look at/disseminate these photos, and please rebuff anyone who says it’s the fault of these ladies AKA Victims. It’s abuse, it’s violation. It’s that simple.

 

The Three Letter Blog: Our writers (VJ and MJ) are two twenty-something ladies living in big cities across the UK, one is currently drowning in the midst of a Literature PhD and the other is a kick-ass young professional in the Marketing world. After becoming increasingly irritated with the idealistic, mostly sexist and romanticised sex lives promoted in glossy monthly magazines, we decided to create this blog as a means of discussing the actual reality of sex for the modern day woman (and man). We hope to present to you a mix of anecdotes and articles, a discussion of all things, from sexual health to role play, foreplay to foreskin, and everything else in between. We feel strongly that sex and being sexual is a part of being human, and that being in charge of your own sexual discourse is empowering and liberating. TLB is an open conversation seeking to break the taboos surrounding one of our most intelligent and indulgent past times.