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 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.
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 UK has a “boys’ club sexist culture”, the UN’s spokeswoman on violence against women has said.
Rashida Manjoo is on a visit to the UK, studying its approach to the issue. She described the over-sexualisation of females as “pervasive” and raised fears that sexual bullying and harassment in schools was routine. The Home Office said the government was committed to ending violence against women and girls.
Ms Manjoo said she had found levels of sexism that did not exist in other countries she had visited. She raised particular concerns about the portrayal of women and girls in the media and the treatment of girls and women in schools. Ms Manjoo also raised “deep concern” that she had been prevented from visiting Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire. She said she believed an order to stop her gaining access to the facility had come from the highest levels at the Home Office. She had been due to visit the site with the help of the Prisons Inspectorate, she told journalists, but was told by the centre’s director that she would not be allowed access.
On BBC News.
But there’s more! The Sun doesn’t merely advise you to name your mammaries; you are also encouraged to tweet pictures of yourself checking your breasts. Jejune prude that I am, I always thought that checking your body for cancer symptoms was best done in private whilst listening to repeats of Gardener’s Question Time but, apparently, the best way to do it is in front of hundreds of thousands of complete strangers on the internet. A number of women duly shared images of themselves ‘checking’ their breasts and countless followers posted supportive comments, offering their assistance in the procedure. Model Jess Davies ‘copped a feel’ whilst sporting a tiny Chihuahua-sized T shirt pulled up above her breasts. ‘Want a hand?’ asked a helpful chap; ‘I’ll check the other one’ chirped in another cancer-battling gent. Jodie Marsh, referencing the enduring link between breast cancer and fetid, undead predators, tweeted a photograph of herself in a revealing vampire costume in honour of ‘Check ‘em Tuesday.’ A number of ‘fans’ then made heart-warming references to sexual assault, with one man stating ‘I’ll check yours Jode # cracking set.’
Sweet LORD! This is a great retort though. Satire is often the best response, I think.
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)
A new poster campaign by men’s rights activists has caught people off guard in several cities across Canada.
“Just because it’s your baby doesn’t mean it’s your trash,” the poster reads under the image of a dumpster. “Women can stop baby dumping. Don’t be that girl.”
This is followed by a description of the laws surrounding manslaughter and infanticide, with the implication that women who kill their own babies aren’t being punished enough.
The conclusion: “Chivalry justice has no place in a society where men and women are supposed to be equal under the law.”
The posters, which went up in early April in at least eight cities across the country, are the latest attempt by Canadian men’s rights activists to highlight what they perceive to be a societal double standard in the way men and women are treated. The same group — Men’s Rights Canada — ignited a firestorm of controversy in July of 2013 when a series of “don’t be that girl” posters suggested many women made false rape accusations against consensual partners because they felt embarrassed about their one-night stands or didn’t want to take responsibility for their own actions.
- “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
We’re 14 years into the 21st century, yet hard-won women’s rights are slowly being chipped away. It’s starting to resemble the Fifties all over again. Tanya Gold asks what’s going on…
On Stylist Magazine. (Wouldn’t be my first click for feminist pieces but there you are.)
Spain is about to criminalise abortion. The price will be paid in women’s lives: when abortion is criminalised, women die – from the drugs they will take illegally to end their pregnancies, from unsafe back-street abortion, from their own attempts to abort the child. It will also be paid in growing poverty, because it will be the poor who cannot access safe abortion as their families grow bigger and poorer: the rich will simply go abroad for the procedure. The final price is a growing knowledge that women are, where childbirth is concerned, still prisoners of their gender: a mother of many will never be economically independent – and she may have too many children to be a good mother at all.
This is not an isolated incident in a country that had suddenly decided to force women, no matter what their circumstances, to carry their babies to term (and please do not forget that child-bearing is life threatening, especially without a government-funded health service and especially when the vogue is for having children late); everywhere on earth female reproductive rights are threatened. Is this coincidental?
In America, local laws make it harder for women to access abortion and “Pro-life” groups pray outside abortion clinics and sometimes attack the people who work there; when prayer does not work, they lobby politicians for their closure. In England, a group called 40 Days for Life is praying outside abortion clinics for the whole of Lent, sometimes carrying photographs of dismembered foetuses as a way to express their “support” for pregnant women; in 2012 in Ireland, where abortion is illegal except when the mother’s life is at risk, a 31-year-old woman called Savita Halappanavar died after being denied an abortion, even as she miscarried at 17 weeks. If you’re Irish and want to go to England for your abortion? Well, you can; but you will pass pro-life adverts at the airport, again with the mutilated foetuses, to see you on your way. A woman, says this narrative, has no right not to bear a child. That is her purpose and her destiny, even in the 21st century. [Rest.]
But confusingly, misogynists are sometimes men who speak softly and eat vegan and say “a woman’s sexual freedom is an essential component to her liberation. So come here.” It’s a tricky world out there. And while I’d prefer a critical approach to gender from men I elect, read and even bed, in my experience, the so-called feminist men I’ve met deep down have not been less antagonistic or bigoted toward women. What I see over and over again is misogyny in sheep’s clothing, and at this point, I would rather see wolves as wolves.
This just in from the backlash: everything is feminism’s fault and we are the real woman-haters.
You knew that, didn’t you? That it was not men, but women — and not just women, but feminists — who were responsible for things like violence against women and sexual repression. It’s a pretty good trick, actually, because guess who gets off scot-free? Men. Also, oppressive systems of power. With women busy attacking other women for their own oppression, who has time to fight the real enemy?
As illogical as it sounds on paper, this phenomenon actually makes a lot of sense.
The most obvious explanation for feminist-hating among women (or even among feminists) is that we live in a culture that teaches us to hate women — that it’s acceptable to hate women, that it’s sexy to hate women, and that it’s funny to hate women. We see this normalized hatred of women manifested in a number of ways:
1) Cosmetic surgery
Here we have a “trend” that involves women hating their bodies so much that they quite literally cut the offending body parts off of their bodies and replace them with other, more “attractive,” more “perfect” parts.
Rest on Feminist Current.
Photo: Jack Fletcher
I have never seen so much confusion surrounding a campaign than ‘No More Page 3′ (NMP3). Yes, I am young and not world weary, but as a supporter of the cause I have certainly grown weary of the misconceptions and the false assumptions about what the organisers are saying. So I propose to tell you exactly what the campaign is NOT:
1. It is not against free speech. The campaign is asking members of the public to sign a petition asking the editor to make a voluntary change. If you sign the petition, you are declaring that you don’t like to see topless women displayed on Page 3 of The Sun Newspaper, for whatever reason you choose. There are many reasons to support it and simply saying you disagree with a part of the paper is perfectly reasonable.
2. It is not anti-breasts at all. It just feels that the context of a family newspaper is wrong for these images and The Sun newspaper sends out very different messages about each gender. One is dominant, powerful and depicted in clothes doing things like running the country and achieving in sport; whilst the other is shown passive and naked for the former to ogle.
On Huffington Post: Twelve Things the No More Page 3 Campaign Is NOT
- What James Corden’s Sun Issue Means for Page 3 (tokenfeminist.com)
- Can you hear the final whistle yet, Dominic? (weareunfinished.com)
- ‘Irish Sun’ ditches bare breasts on Page 3 (irishtimes.com)
- Girl Guides urge Sun to end Page 3 (guardian.co.uk)
- How ‘Page 3 vs Breast Cancer’ Backfired on The Sun (tokenfeminist.com)
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.”
Jan Dark on the challenge of overcoming female social conditioning and standing up to abuse from not just men, but other women. On the F-Word:
Since time immemorial, women have been taught that male violence and abuse are inevitable; we are expected to learn to either avoid it or live with it. Male violence against women and girls is so normalised that decades on from the beginning of the second wave, feminists’ voices are still not being heard. When our voices are heard, rather than being listened to, we experience a backlash.
The first ‘speak out session’ within the anti-rape movement in the USA took place in New York in January 1971. Over 300 women attended and at least 30 courageously spoke of their experiences of male sexual violence in front of a mixed audience. Some were subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the men present (including being urinated on) when they disclosed. Not surprisingly, a consequence was the recognition for the need for women-only spaces. How much has changed? Very little. Fast forward to the digital age and the abuse also happens online. What has changed is that is our women-only spaces and services are constantly under threat from male intrusion. [Rest.]
“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.