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.
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.]
I felt a hand move slowly and grope my vagina.
On the guardian:
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.
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. Homelessness, poverty, pre-natal care, squatting, hunger, protest, poor 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.]
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).
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
inmatesresidents. 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.]
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.]
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.]
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.
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)
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.]
Some Facts About Street Harassment
Does a man asking a stranger on a date in a respectful manner without the expectation that he or she will say yes, constitute street harassment? No. Is a man asking a woman he encounters in public for directions to the nearest cologne store street harassment? No.
Here is what does count as street harassment: groping, stalking, sexist comments, and publicly masturbating in someone’s presence. These kinds of assaults happen with great frequency. According to a 2010 study conducted by the CDC, “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,” the category into which most instances of street harassment fall, is the most prevalent form of sexual assault: 70-99% of women worldwide have experienced street harassment.
The fact that victims of street harassment are usually unwilling to report their experiences also speaks to a culture that has deemed such actions appropriate. A 2007 study found that 63% of 1,790 surveyed New York City subway riders said they had been sexually harassed. Just as concerning was the discovery that a mere 4% of these respondents said they had contacted authorities in reference to the incident.
The recent death of homeless veteran Jerome Murdough in a Rikers Island cell should be more than a temporary debate in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it New York media cycle that often desensitizes us to tragedies. I know it hit close to home for myself — Mr. Murdough sought refuge the night of his arrest in an East Harlem public housing staircase three blocks from my home and across the street from my where my kids go to school. When sleeping in a staircase, I thought, lands you in a Rikers cell, something is wrong.
Murdough’s death laid bare some of our collective disregard for the poor as well as an aggressive police department with an obsession for law and order rivaled only by military dictatorships and science fiction characters (i.e., RoboCop, Judge Dredd). Is it enough to have roundtable discussions lamenting the case of Mr. Murdough as one of someone slipping through the cracks? What happened to him is the not-so unpredictable outcome of a society heavily invested in enforcement by way of zero-tolerance policing and criminal justice system. It’s an approach that is neither humane nor sustainable. But as some debate what stop-gap reforms or long term legislation might be crafted, let’s not lose sight of how Murdough arrived at the cell he would die in: the NYPD and the low-level crime-focused Broken Windows theory that guides it. [Rest.]
And here’s what else I’ve been reading this week.
- Fox News Hails Doctor Who Said Gay Rights Lead to Child Molestation (mother jones). Sweet Lord.
- How the Cult of Internet Openness Enables Misogyny (mother jones)
- Equality for women isn’t an optional extra (observer)
- What Needs to be Done to End Corrective Rape by @not_alone_uk (aroomofourown)
- Vintage homophobia: Tips for when you meet a lesbian from 1988 (feministing). Can’t actually figure out if this is for realz or not.
- Stop telling survivors they must report to the police (feministing)
- Rape is only ever enjoyed by rapists (content note for rape) (everydayvictimblaming)
- The art of embellishing the histrionics of Pistorius (everydayvictimblaming)
- Good Intentions Don’t Make Sexism OK (lipmag)
- Feminism is not an extreme term, says Penny Wong (guardian)
- Defining “Real” Feminism: A response to Natasha Devon (elegantgatheringofwhitesnows)
- The Hypocrisy of the Male Gaze (dietofbrokenbiscuits)
- Legal abortions – a case of women’s human rights (thefword)
The Internet has given new meaning to the notion that Latin Americans love to connect. The region has the fastest growing Internet population in the world and 97 percent of its users are on social media platforms. By comparison, in the U.S. only 67 percent of Internet users are on social media platforms. South America’s largest country is no exception to the growth trend. Brazil has 65 million Facebook users, making it the largest market for the platform outside of the U.S., the same is true for Twitter with 41 million users.
But what makes Brazil’s social media unique is the way it is successfully transforming civil society’s ability to mobilize around a cause. The world witnessed this in June of 2013 when millions of citizens took to the streets to protest excessive government spending in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, and to demand better public services, such as education and health care. Social media experts also see the platforms as an important battleground for political hopefuls, particularly with the upcoming presidential elections in October.
Last week, a controversial study was released by a major Brazilian research institute, Instituto Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada, of almost 4,000 people across Brazil on attitudes towards women. Its goal was to understand how public opinion has advanced in recent years. In a shocking revelation, one of the most profound findings of this study was the deeply inset “machismo” that still exists within the country despite the sex of the official in Brazil’s highest office. The majority of those interviewed (65.1 percent) agreed that “women who wear clothes that show off their body deserve to be attacked.” Most shocking of all, 66 percent of the poll’s respondents were female.
On Huffington Post.
Photograph: Picture Partners / Alamy
Destiny was in eighth grade when, in the middle of an altercation with another student, she grabbed a teacher’s jacket and threw it out of a classroom window.
She was enrolled at the Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, New York, where almost every kid is black or Latino and living in poverty. Only 5% are meeting standards in math and reading.
New federal data shows that across the United States, schools with demographics like these tend to respond to bad behavior with aggressive force. Principals put students as young as four years old into isolation rooms or suspension, kicking them off campus for days or even weeks at a time. School-based police officers – in New York City there are more of them than there are school psychologists or social workers – sometimes respond to offenses as trivial as talking back to a teacher with physical restraints or even arrest.
But Destiny was not isolated, suspended or arrested. She wasn’t even sent to detention. Instead, wearing gold hoop earrings and a t-shirt with a big pink heart, she appeared, a little jittery, before a “justice panel” of four teenage peers. They listened to Destiny’s side of the story (she didn’t know the jacket belonged to the teacher, she said) and determined her punishment: a face-to-face apology to the teacher, two days of community service cleaning up her classroom during lunch, and a follow-up conference with the peer panel to discuss what she had learned from the incident.
- “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”: The result of false narratives on women’s lives (everydayvictimblaming)
- Consent in Institutional Sexism (everydayvictimblaming)
- Study suggests police systematically undercount rape reports (feministing)
- A Bechdel Test for Philosophy Papers (feministphilosophers)
- Womb with a View: Bounty – I’ve got my best “fuck-off face” ready. (feministtimes)
- What Does a Feminist Art Show Look Like in Russia? (bitchmagazine)
- Is This The End of ‘Lads Mags’? (tokenfeminist)
- Sluts and geeks: ‘widespread’ sexism in student club promotion (theguardian)
- How Convenient (fanniesroom)
- Girls weigh in on “bossy” (feministe)
- Cultural Femincide?! What’s that? by @schoolsexism (aroomofourown)
And the best of the quickhits this week:
- “I do consider “rape culture” to be a useful and accurate way…
- “Crying wolf”: Why don’t the police believe women?
- It’s time we stopped using the ‘boys will be boys’ line
- Purity Culture as Rape Culture: Why the Theological Is Political
I do consider “rape culture” to be a useful and accurate way of describing the way in which sexual violence has been normalized and sexualized in our culture. There is simply no denying that, when we see male students “joking” about raping female students, as we did recently at the University of Ottawa, when fraternities are untouchable on campus despite the fact that the “Greek scene” is a cesspool of toxic masculinity and sexual violence, when students at Canadian universities participate in “rape chants” during frosh week while fellow students are actually being raped on campus, when violent pornography that depicts sexual violence is defended as “just a fantasy,” or when we learn that acting out rape scenes is a way for us to recover from our own trauma, when women are afraid to walk alone at night, when women are afraid to be home alone at night in their own homes – this is a rape culture. We’re living it, every day.
On Feminist Times:
In December 2012 Naomi Oni was attacked with acid on her commute home from work by a jealous friend.
The fear, pain and panic of this horrific attack are difficult to comfortably contemplate. Unfortunately for Naomi, this was only the start of her ordeal. Painful medical procedures, a prolonged hospital admission, and a traumatic police investigation added to her distress.
Naomi alleges that the Metropolitan Police Service accused her of throwing acid in her own face, as a histrionic self-harm, motivated by a desire for publicity and fame. Although one can understand the need to explore all avenues of enquiry, as the Met have stated, this seems like an incredibly unlikely scenario. I have worked as a Psychiatrist for many years, and such severe and maiming self injury for secondary gain is exceedingly rare. How then did such an outlandish theory escalate to the point where the victim was not only accused but told that no assailant was seen following her on the CCTV footage?
Could the ‘canteen culture’ of sexism within the police force lead to such disastrous practices as victim blaming and a loss of empathy, with the potential of ultimately alienating the victim and causing further psychological damage? This case highlights a wider problem of gender bias. In a damning report on police response to domestic abuse, published last week, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary reported:
“HMIC is concerned about the poor attitudes that some police officers display towards victims of domestic abuse. Victims told us that they were frequently not taken seriously, that they felt judged and that some officers demonstrated a considerable lack of empathy and understanding.”
“The attitude is, ‘these girls are lucky to be at this party,’” Friedman says. “That inherent power dynamic feeds right into rape culture.”
Sexual assaults like the one detailed by the brave anonymous Harvard student happen when men feel entitled to women’s bodies and when men feel as though they can commit bad acts with impunity. And that’s what is extra troubling about these Ivy League assaults: they happen at institutions where student identities are entirely grounded in a narrative of exceptionalism.
Does the “I’m special” ethos turn students into rapists? Of course not – sexual assault happens in nearly every corner of the world, and on college campuses of all types. But the Ivy League identity may help to cultivate the assumption that such extraordinariness somehow means there are fewer consequences for the chosen ones.
Studies show that men are more likely to commit acts of sexual violence in communities where sexual violence goes unpunished – a truth reflected in the way we understand assault in institutions like the military and in far-away countries like the Congo, Bosnia and India, where we use the word “impunity” to describe how weak governance and a culture of higher-ups looking the other way allows abuse to thrive.
It can be more difficult to see our own institutions of higher learning in that same context of power and abdication of responsibility – and surely there are innumerable, substantial differences, particularly between rape as a war crime and acquaintance assault. But as different in nearly every way as Harvard may be from Kosovo, the Ivy League implies a similar freedom from consequences, and inadequate sexual assault policies affirm it.