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.
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.]
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.
Gender policing is all about the little things – trying to limit women through rules about beauty and dress and behaviour. But little things become big things, and it’s vital we fight the battles that make a difference.
On New Statesman:
It’s always the little things. In the midst of a welter of unutterably depressing news about welfare and political turmoil, the great controversy of the week has been, yet again, the stunning fact that women are human beings with bodies that grow hair, eat, sweat and shit.
First, a spectacularly misogynist and homophobic (and now withdrawn) advert from Veet, manufacturers of hair-removing goo, claimed that failing to remove your leg-hair with the help of Veet products will turn you into an actual bloke. Then there was the equally repugnant site set up to shame “Women Eating on the Tube”, featuring non-consensual pictures of women doing just that, because there’s nothing worse a female person could possibly do than demonstrate in public that she has a body which gets hungry. There have already been some stellar pieces written about this round of gender policing, the best of which have been by Paris Lees and Ellie Mae O’Hagan respectively.
Now, in five years of feminist blogging I have avoided weighing in on the body hair debate, for two reasons, the first of which is political. I’ve always been faintly distrustful of the school of feminism that advocates a return to “natural” womanhood as a political statement, because as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing. There is something a tiny bit reactionary about the plea for nature as opposed to liberated modernity; it runs uncomfortably close to the rhetoric of those social conservatives who would prefer women to be “natural” when it comes to being submissive to a male provider and hogtied by their own reproductive capacities, but to continue the decidedly unnatural practices of bleaching, waxing and taking a bath more than once a year. [Rest.]
Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.
On New Statesman:
Pepper Potts, in a screengrab from Iron Man 3 (from New Statesman).
I hate Strong Female Characters.
As someone spends a fair amount of time complaining on the internet that there aren’t enough female heroes out there, this may seem a strange and out of character thing to say.
And of course, I love all sorts of female characters who exhibit great resilience and courage. I love it when Angel asks Buffy what’s left when he takes away her weapons and her friends and she grabs his sword between her palms and says “Me”. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I love Zhang Ziyi’s Jen sneering “He is my defeated foe” when asked if she’s related to Chow Yun-Fat’s Li Mu Bai. I love Jane Eyre declaring “I care for myself” despite the world’s protracted assault on her self-esteem. My despair that the film industry believes the world is more ready for a film featuring a superhero who is a raccoon than it is for a film led by a superhero who is awoman is long and loud.
But the phrase “Strong Female Character” has always set my teeth on edge, and so have many of the characters who have so plainly been written to fit the bill. [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)
“For 43 years the only nipples exposed in mainstream media have been those attached to the large firm breasts of teenagers and young women displaying them provocatively on Page 3 of the Sun, for the sole purpose of male sexual titillation. Meanwhile, breast-feeding in public has remained taboo.”
“We tend only to see nipples when it’s for men’s sexual pleasure…it’s quite incredible really how this part of the female body has been sexualised and commodified in this way for men – to the extent that showing pictures of nipples for any other reason, namely the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding, are censored.”
Essentially, it’s all about marketing: sexy tits have had decades of hard sell, usurping millennia of their quietly useful function as milky mammaries.
Stephanie Davies-Arai and Lucy-Ann Holmes on Shock news: Nipples feed babies!
In the tumultuous few days after Maria Miller had delivered her grudging apology to the House of Commons and before she realised she had no option but to resign as culture secretary, a number of people opined that Cameron was hanging on to her “because she was a woman”. Nonsense. He may have been hanging on to her because he was a man who was painfully aware that he did not have many women in his cabinet. But that’s quite a different point, in an important way.
“Because she is a woman” implies that it’s easy for women to get on in politics, simply by virtue of their gender. Such an idea is backed up neither by the entire history of parliamentary politics in Britain, which has been shaped by men, for men, nor by the current gender balance in the Commons, which stands at nearly four to one (in favour of men, in case you were wondering). Under these historical and contemporary circumstances, women can only succeed in parliamentary politics if men agree that it is important for them to be allowed to. Saying that Cameron supported Miller “because she was a woman” is a destructive way of acknowledging that Cameron realises that this is the case.
On The Guardian.
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.]
Leading men age vs. leading women age (#HollywoodSexism)
Richard Gere: younger women in all but one film.
Yesterday, Kristen Stewart fell out of the con-artist comedy Focus after Will Smith replaced Ben Affleck as the male lead; according to Variety, she was nagged by “the feeling that the age difference between the two would be too large a gap.” For the record, Smith is a mere four years older than the 40-year-old Affleck, and if it seems a little odd that either of them would be considered a romantic partner for the 23-year-old Stewart in the first place … well, welcome to Hollywood. It seems like time and time again, male movie stars are allowed to age into their forties, fifties, and even sixties while the ages of their female love interests remain firmly on one side of the big 4-0, but is this a perception borne out of reality? To find out for sure, Vulture has analyzed the data of ten middle-aged leading men and the ages of the women they’ve wooed onscreen; you’ll see the results in the charts below.
Johnny Depp: younger women in all.
How’d we arrive at our conclusions? For each of our leading men, we tried to pick a representative sample of films — usually ten — where that A-lister had a notable love interest or wife, then we plotted the age gaps on our charts over the course of that star’s career. (Because production dates for older movies can be hard to come by, we measured the stars’ ages on the day the film in question was released.) The results confirmed our suspicions: As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties). If our actor was sharing the screen with an A-lister of commensurate star power like Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, the age difference would drop somewhat, but in movies that relied solely on our guy’s big name, the lesser-known love interests would nearly always be decades younger.
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.”
According to the Women’s Media Centre (WMC), male journalists dominate the U.S. news industry, receiving 63 percent of byline credits across almost all media sectors compared to just 37 percent for women.
In conducting the research, the WMC examined 20 of the most widely circulated U.S. based media networks analyzing some 27,000 pieces of content including TV, newspapers, wires and online news on full time staffers as well as freelancers and non-paid content only to find that gender inequality exists across every platform in the news
The key findings of the study include:
- Among the top 10 most widely circulated newspapers in the United States, men acquired 63 percent of bylines, compared to 37 percent for women.
- Male journalists at ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided 66 percent of news reports from the field.
- The New York Times had the widest gender gap in male-female bylines, while the Chicago Sun-Times came closest to gender parity with 46 percent female bylines.
- More women had bylines at Reuters than at The Associated Press , but at both news wires, male bylines still outnumbered female bylines with women representing 43 percent of the bylines at Reuters and 32 percent at AP.
- Huffington Post had more women contributors (48 percent) than the three other large online news sites: CNN (41 percent) The Daily Beat (30 percent) and Fox News (38 percent.)
- Female journalists were more likely to report on lifestyle, culture and health while men were assigned to cover politics, criminal justice or technology.
- NBC “Nightly News” and CBS “Evening News” feature men as primary anchors with female anchors comprising of 7 percent of news stories at NBC and 5 percent of news stories at CBS.
- Academia: Political Science Is Rife With Gender Bias. Gender: Chelsea Manning and the Politics of a Pronoun. (psawomenpolitics.wordpress.com)
- Hard Evidence: is there still gender bias in journalism? (newstatesman.com)
- Data from the U.K.: The gender imbalance in newspapers is real, and both vertical and horizontal (niemanlab.org)
- Gender in Journalism (vitaminj1990.wordpress.com)
- White males dominate the media (nuclear-news.net)
“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.
I’ve posted these before, but I get a kick out of them every time. On feministtimes:
“You’re such a nice girl, why aren’t you married?”
Conceptual Photographer Suzanne Heintz explains her “Life Once Removed” project, after it went viral online.
What would drive you to pack a family of mannequins into your station wagon, and take them on a road trip? Enough pressure to conform will send anyone packing. Conform to what? Well, it was getting late. Seriously late for a woman my age not to have a ring on her finger. People said, “You’re such a nice girl, why aren’t you married?” No one actually used that out of date word, but, what they were driving at was that I was a “Spinster,” and I got tired of hearing about it. [Rest.]
- Suzanne Heintz: I Was Tired Of Pressure To Get Married, So I Started A Mannequin Family (huffingtonpost.com)
- Spinster Photog Lampoons Traditional Life Expectations in Mannequin Family Photos (petapixel.com)
- Single Woman Creates a Dream Family with Mannequins (mymodernmet.com)
Leftists who otherwise pride themselves on analyzing systems and structures of power, can turn into extreme libertarian individualists on the subject of pornography. The sophisticated, critical thinking that underlies the best of left politics can give way to simplistic, politically naïve, and diversionary analysis that leaves far too many leftists playing cheerleader for an exploitive industry.
I can see that.