When we talk about war and the casualties of war, women are rarely discussed. Wartime stories are heroic battle tales, fought among men; or they commemorate the suffering and deaths of soldiers. Never do we hold nation-wide days of remembrance for the women and girls who were brutalized and killed during wartime. Yet the tragedy and injustice of war makes women and girls its victim daily. The comfort women are symbolic of this erasure and it is our responsibility to acknowledge and address the way in which women and girls are sacrificed by our nation’s wars.

70 Years Later, Japan Is Still Denying the Systematic Sexual Slavery of Chinese ‘Comfort Women’ (via feministcurrent)

[T]he “confidence gap” is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured.

In girlhood, starkly-divided toy aisles teach us that engineering, electronics and science toys are for boys, that the futures for which we should be preparing are those of the Barbie Dream House variety. Adolescent girls – especially girls of color – are given less teacher attention in the classroom than their male peers. A full 56% of female students report being sexually harassed. Sexual assault on college campuses is rampant and goes largely unpunished, women can barely walk down the street without fear of harassment, and we make up the majority of American adults in poverty.

The truth is, if you’re not insecure, you’re not paying attention. Women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them.

Jessica Valenti’s first piece at the Guardian, The female ‘confidence gap’ is a sham.

That a secret fraternity is a breeding ground for rape culture is worrisome, but that it’s happening right in our nation’s capital makes that even harder to stomach. According to Erin Gloria Ryan’s research, one of the men in this email chain now works for a “prominent congressman.” Judging by how much rape culture permeates the political scene in the U.S., with influential politicians saying things like, “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,” or that certain forms of sexual assault should be legal, it’s no surprise many women still feel like DC will never stop being an old boys club. Of course not all men (or fraternities) promote rape, but it’s troubling to see so many that do.

Leaked Emails From American University Frat Reveal Prevalence of Rape Culture in U.S. Capital, PolicyMic

It’s simple: criminalize revenge porn, or let men punish women they don’t like

Maybe. Yet (1) criminal justice penalties do not serve as a deterrent against illegal activity and (2) it’s further use of the criminal justice system to deal with social problems, rather than addressing the “causes” of said problems. It’s an ideal feminist notion, always, that we could address misogyny and the despicable treatment of women and girls rather than resorting to legal measures to simply control them.

On the guardian.com:

Parting from someone you love is never easy. It often means watching the affection and intimacy you once shared turn into bitterness and resentment. It often means sorting out who sees the children when, who lives where, and who gets what.

Now imagine that in addition to all that sorrow and chaos, you discover that the person you once loved and trusted has taken your most intimate, vulnerable moments and turned them into sexual entertainment for strangers.

With the click of a button, an intimate photo of you can be uploaded to a website where thousands of people can view it and hundreds of others can share it. In a matter of days, that image can dominate the first several pages of search engine results for your name. It can be sent to your family, your employer, your co-workers, and your peers. [Rest.]

Stalked and beaten up: student stories of sexual violence in clubs

I felt a hand move slowly and grope my vagina.

On the guardian:

Nightclubs are a hotbed for sexual harassment, according to an NUS report. Many students even view sexual violence as a normal but unwanted part of a night out – and they say they don’t report it.

This month popular London venues signed a pledge to tackle the harassment of women and lgbt people. The clubs, backed by harassment charity Hollaback, want to give staff specialist training and put posters up that encourage victims to come forward.

But many more club nights around the country continue to make a business model out of sexism and sexual violence towards women.

Last year a club in Glasgow installed two-way mirrors in the women’s toilets. More recently, a Valentine’s Day speed dating night in Nottingham was cancelled after people complained about the “bag a slag” and “grab a hag” theme.

Young people can be particularly vulnerable. Last year a poster promoting a student club night in Cardiff contained an image with the words: “I was raping a woman last night and she cried“. And themes like “rappers and slappers” and “geeks and sluts” are common in student areas.

In this kind of club culture students can experience harassment “every time” they go out.

We spoke to students about their experiences. From a stranger groping a girl’s vagina, to another young woman being pinned against a wall, the stories indicate that sexual violence in student clubs is an issue that must be taken seriously.

On theguardian.com.

Stop using criminal justice to solve social problems

More from downsizingcriminaljustice. This is something I’ve mentioned a few times recently – the extent to which we should use our legal and criminal justice system to regulate and/ or address social problems. Below is a discussion of how that manifests.

When faced by the challenge of identifying ‘what bit of the criminal justice’ I would give up I was tempted to refuse.  For me it is a bit like asking what methods of capital punishment would you abolish?  By focus on one aspect, and by identifying it as particularly problematic, other aspects are, unintentionally, legitimised. So my first reaction is that the whole criminal justice system is so toxic, (with its single solution – state inflicted blame and pain – offered to every single problem it confronts), that we should not pick and choose but abolish the whole system, lock stock and barrel.

But on reflection there is something specific I think we need to focus our energies on abolishing, what Joelandeuit Beijerse and Rene Kool have referred to as the ‘traitorous temptation of criminal justice’. In contemporary society it is clear we face a whole range of social problems which need solutions.  The common sense of our age has increasingly been to conceptualise these problems in a manner that makes criminal justice the obvious response. Homelessnesspovertypre-natal caresquattinghungerprotestpoor mental health, druguse and abuse and the failure to buy a TV Licence are all seen as problems best solved through criminal justice interventions leading in many cases to the infliction of punishment through imprisonment. Readers of this blog would most likely agree that these are all areas where criminal justice interventions could (and should) be rolled back, even possibly abolished, but what about killing and sexual violence?  Surely we need the criminal justice system to protect us from those serious harms? [Rest.]

What is the prison industrial complex?

The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems.

The Prison Industrial Complex is not just prisons themselves, it is a mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners.

On downsizingcriminaljustice (which is a blog you should follow, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, by the way).

Yarl’s Wood: Immigration is a Feminist Issue

Very good piece on tokenfeminist about what should be an issue of feminist concern.

Last week Rashida Manjoo, a special rapporteur for the UN, stated that the UK has an in-your-face boys’ club sexist culture that is unlike that of any other country. She made the comments after visiting the UK to investigate the issue of violence against women. Unsurprisingly, there was a highly defensive backlash to the notion that the UK is more sexist than other countries, as there often is when anyone points out the blatant misogyny that occurs in this country every day. This culminated in The Guardian hosting the most pointless internet poll of all time, as they asked UK citizens whether or not they thought their own country was more sexist than other countries, without even asking them their age, gender, ethnicity or whether they had ever visited another country.

The most worrying part of Manjoo’s report related to Yarl’s Wood, a detention centre for female asylum seekers in Bedfordshire. The pictures and quotations on their site might lead you to believe that Yarl’s Wood is a supportive, happy place that really cares about its inmates residents. However, the reality is quite different. According to a report by Women for Refugee Women, 93% of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood are depressed and over half have suicidal thoughts. They do not receive adequate health care, a shortcoming which undoubtedly contributed to the death of 40-year-old Christine Case last month. She died of a heart attack after complaining of chest pains for several days.

This appalling treatment is not only a feminist issue because it is women that are detained at Yarl’s Wood. It is also a feminist issue because of the experiences they have had before they arrive there. Over 85% of the women have been raped or tortured in their home countries and almost all are now guarded by male staff. The majority say that this makes them uncomfortable, which is understandable when you consider that some were raped by prison guards. One woman had fled Uganda after being raped by guards and was on suicide watch at Yarl’s Wood, where a male guard watched her even when she was on the toilet. [Rest.]

It’s not a one-way street. It’s a spaghetti junction. But while it is interesting and informative to digest Sandberg’s learning, we also need to broaden the perspective. Sandberg has already “made it”. Perhaps we should listen more attentively to those on the bottom rung, because they’re the ones who need the assistance. Our obsession with the Rising Star, or the Leader, sidelines the “others”. And it fosters a crude belief that if one woman can “make it” on the basis of their own individual initiative, then that is the case for all. But that’s an individualistic approach, not a collective one.

- Una Mullally on the Irish Times – Women at the top should not forget sisters lower down

You don’t only get photographed when you’re eating

I missed WWEOT’s Tony Burke on the Today programme (praise the gods). (That’s the founder of the Women Who Eat on Tubes photoblog, for those of you who have not had the misfortune of hearing of it.) The line is that taking pictures of women eating on tubes (eating! the hideous fatties! disgusting!) is not sexist or invasive or threatening but, rather, it’s an “observational study”, “something artistic”. Feminist Times tells us more about “creep shots” and a reasonable expectation of privacy. There’s a wider issue here, too, of using the law to regulate/ address social issues. More on that over the next few days.

[...]

Creep shots are so common on public transport that even I, someone who avoids the tube as much as I can, have seen two men take pictures of women’s cleavages on the underground. The first time I was struck dumb in shock; the second time I saw the man take the picture from an adjoining carriage, and when I knocked on the window to tell him to stop he ran. I’m not quite sure what I’d do if I saw it happen for a third time. Stand up and shout “he’s taking a picture of your breasts”? Tell him he’s gross? Perform a citizen’s arrest?

Just like WWEOT there are creep shot Tumblrs, but google #creepshot and you should get a pretty good idea of how endemic this is – just put it into the search bar in Twitter now. Many of the photos are taken in restaurants, supermarkets, on the beach. Women and girls bending over, sunbathing, photos taken from under tables.

Here’s the rub. It’s technically legal to photograph someone without their consent, and of course it’s in our interest to be able to take photos of strangers in public places. It means taking pictures at the Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower or other packed places we want to take pictures of, which are full of tourists, is not going to land us in court. It also means reporters can go to war zones and disaster scenes or places of public interest and document; something Burke alluded his project did. [Rest.]

Rape and death threats are all too common in feminist circles, just ask Laura Bates

In the first month of the Everyday Sexism project Bates received up to 200 messages a day threatening her with rape and murder. No-one has yet been charged in relation to any of these threats.

On the Conversation:

From jokes to rape, there have been nearly 60,000 posts by women recounting their experiences of sexism and sexist violence since journalist and feminist Laura Bates launched her Everyday Sexism project in April 2012. Now the material has been collected for the first time in a book of the same name.

I’ve been familiar with the project for some time. Yet the sheer pervasiveness and repetitiveness which emerges when the material is presented in book form, accompanied by Bates’ clear, angry, witty, feminist commentary, is refreshing, depressing and enraging. [Rest.]

Sexual aggression isn’t an expression of maleness

Navigating our social world can sometimes be like stumbling through fog: intuiting the impact of our actions on other people often involves a confusing haze of speculative guesses about what they are thinking and feeling. However, some actions are clear as daylight in their intent and impact. Sexual harassment falls into this latter category.

David Foster argued here that blurred definitions of harassment mean people should be wary of ever complimenting anyone, lest it be interpreted as an unwanted advance. However, as Laura Bates articulated in response, generally speaking, most men are capable of differentiating between a genuine act of friendliness or flirtation (an act that intends a positive social outcome), and a hostile act of sexual aggression (oblivious to the impact on its recipient, or even actively calculated to cause distress). So, if there is a grey area between the two, it is very small, and inhabited by few people.

However, given this, a troubling thought then occurs. Many men who engage in verbal or physical harassment are probably aware that it will render their victim distressed, or at least uncomfortable. And yet they do it anyway. The question then is why?

Social sciences are bedevilled by such a bewildering array of competing perspectives that one cannot hope to offer the reason for a given phenomenon. Nevertheless, at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, one explanation for harassment relates to societal power: the perpetrator feeling either a sense of power, or paradoxically, a lack of it. The first type – surfeit – is easier to comprehend. Some men allow the clamour of their libido to drown out the faltering voices of their conscience, and their social position means they can express these desires without concern for the feelings of the recipient, or fear of reprisal. For instance, Lord Rennard allegedly bestowed his advances on people whose relative powerlessness meant their complaints were hushed up or ignored.

From theguardian.com.

Why anonymity would be a green light to rapists

The outcome of the William Roache trial resulted in a flood of demands for there to be anonymity for defendants in rape cases and talk of women eager to make false allegations of rape against men.  I believe that these demands are not just misguided but extremely dangerous for women and for justice generally.

It is often argued that an allegation of rape carries such a stigma that the defendant can never be free of it even if found not guilty and therefore should be anonymous.  Many crimes carry a stigma: murder, an accountant accused of fraud, a teacher accused of hitting a child, a driving instructor accused of drink driving.  If we allow the stigma argument to run its course then most defendants would be included particularly if the defendant was well known or a professional which could lead to a middle class exemption and fail victims.

A not guilty verdict in the criminal court in England and Wales does not necessarily mean that the conduct did not happen it simply means that the CPS did not prove it beyond reasonable doubt.  As a civil lawyer I deal with cases every day where we obtain findings in the Civil Court about domestic violence and sexual abuse where the Criminal Court has produced not guilty verdicts.  The case of O J Simpson in the US is a gruesome illustration of the Criminal Court finding the perpetrator not guilty followed by  a Civil Court finding that he did in fact kill his ex partner and her boyfriend.

On Rachel Horman (podcast of BBC Radio Manc. also on link)

Rape Allegations and Accusations of False Allegations

On megamouthpiece:

It seems to be the norm now to say that when an accused (usually) man is found *not guilty* of rape or sexual assault charges that his accusers made ‘false allegations’. That they lied. This is not how it works.

A defendant is found ‘not guilty’ (usually) because the jury has to decide: is their sufficient evidence to reach the burden of proof in criminal law cases which is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’? This means – taking all things into consideration does the jury feel that there is no reasonable doubt in their mind that the accused committed the crime they have been accused of.

In other words if there is a doubt in their mind and its reasonable (eg it’s what you or I would broadly consider reasonable – we might consider for example the thought in a Jury members mind that the accused had been removed from the incident by Martians unreasonable but we might consider reasonable that the alleged accusor misread the situation) then the jury must find the accused ‘not guilty’.

As I’m sure you can see the test in criminal cases is very high indeed. This is because in the British Legal System we feel that it is better for one man who is guilty to go free than an innocent man may end up in prison. I’m sure you can see therefore that it is very difficult to secure rape convictions *ever* because they mostly happen in private – they are what is terrifyingly termed an ‘intimate crime’. [Rest.]