Sexual Violence Round-Up

Today, a different round-up. Gender violence is a “pet” topic of mine, so I always want to post about it. But I usually don’t like treating it in a shallow manner, which means a great deal goes unsaid. Recently, there have been lots of discussions about this in my life again, which led to another 30 tabs being open in my browser… So rather than an in-depth post on one topic, I’m including several. Because they were all good enough to stay open on my desktop until I gave in and posted them.

Rape Culture

Rap, I mean, rape culture and Black women

In January, rapper Too Short appeared on XXL, where he gave various bits of advice to boys, regarding girls – including pushing a girl up against a wall and inserting a saliva-wetted finger up her vagina.

Inundated with protests, XXL eventually removed the video from their site, and both XXL and Too Short issued very minimal apologies (too little too late), neither of which actually took any responsibility for statements encouraging violence against girls, or acknowledged the danger of the attitudes underlying Too Short’s statement.

Professor, activist, and blogger Mark Anthony Neal writes that

In a society that continues to assert its familiarity with the bodies of Black women and girls… Too Short advising boys to “take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens… is, unfortunately, not all that surprising; seems more like the status quo for Black women and girls.

He adds that girls and women are not the only ones harmed by perpetuating this attitude:

And this is not simply about political correctness; besides advocating rape and sexual violence against Black women and girls, diatribes like Shaw’s also further criminalizes Black boys, within institutions—our schools—in which Black boys are always, already criminalized.

Neal calls for new strategies other than protest/petition/outrage leading to minimal, too-late apologies and content removal after the damage is done. I’m not sure he has found that alternate solution yet – I’ll be waiting.

Meanwhile, I just found this song — Your Revolution — by Sarah Jones and I found it stunning and somehow appropriate:

Feminist Looking Glass says,
This song is a really clever take-off on Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Sarah Jones sings that “your revolution will not happen between these thighs,” and invokes just about every famous sexist hip hop lyric of the past decade to make her point. → lyrics

UK’s Uni Lad Promotes Rape

Yes, it was a busy week for rape proponents… Huffington Post reports this story from the UK:

The National Union of Students (NUS) has called for the website UniLad, which claims to be the “number one university student lad’s magazine and guide to getting laid” to be pulled down over the article.

In an article titled “Sexual Mathematics” it stated:

“If the girl you’ve taken for a drink… won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported.

“That seems to be fairly good odds.”

The writer then adds at the bottom of the piece: “Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’.”

Though the article has been removed, the battle is still ongoing on twitter, where women daring to criticize Unilad are verbally abused, including lesbophobic use of the term “dyke”.

Critics point out that the issue is far greater than this one article; that Unilad is filled with misgynistic content that reflects, and contributes to, a corresponding misogynistic attitude on UK university campuses, and largely unreported and unpunished violence against women in the UK as a whole.

And still – the Twitter campaign has made waves, and provided critics of Unilad with a great deal of support. (I found this illuminating article via Twitter: Laurie Penny writes how Uni Lad’s “banter” is based on exclusion. And Another Angry Woman wrote them this open letter, and provided the image below, so funny :/ )

Which just goes to show we need to keep our voices out there. All the time. As frustrating as it often is.

Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is still all too common. When questioned about who gets raped women answer that women that dress a certain way, act a certain way, drink, are out late, or… are those who get raped. Their assumption is that it is women who are directly or indirectly responsible for the violence perpetrated against them. There are also indications that men are even more likely than women to blame the victim.

See for example the case of the Pennsylvania Liquor Board campaign, which first blames the victim (because she was drinking), then her friends (because “Calling the shots starts with you. What if you didn’t watch out for your friends during a night of drinking?”), and at no point blames the rapist.

Feministing wrote this powerful post about why victim blaming is not a good way to prevent binge drinking.  Some of the points to think about include:

  • These campaigns are aimed at women, and limiting women’s behavior. That is more palatable somehow than limiting men’s behavior.
  • However, a third of sexual assault perpetrators are intoxicated at the time of assault, so clearly there is a case to be made for redirecting attention – away from women, and onto the attackers.
  • The use of sexual assault as a scare tactic to prevent binge drinking demeans both the very real dangers of alcoholism, and the issues faced by survivors of sexual assault.
  • These types of campaigns reinforce rape culture. “We’re basically telling rapists they can get away with it when the lines of consent are hazy, that they should target drunk people.”

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan wrote of the ad, “Rape is not just a bad thing that happens to someone after drinking too much. It’s a deliberate act on the part of the rapist, a violation of another person committed solely because the rapist wanted to rape. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we’ll be rid of stupid, finger wagging ads like these.”

Ebony magazine, for one, thinks that enough is enough – that public service ads aimed at women telling them how to prevent rape are misguided and harmful, and that men should be better educated instead.

Holding women and girls accountable for preventing sexual assault hasn’t worked and so long as men commit the majority of rapes, men need to be at the heart of our tactics for preventing them.  Let’s stop teaching ‘how to avoid being a victim’ and instead, attack the culture that creates predators in the first place.

And  in Salon.com, Tracy Clark Flory injects some reality into the dialog in How to Prevent Rape Without Blaming the Victim.

Here’s an ad campaign that gets it:

http://www.mencanstoprape.org/

And then there’s this public service ad from Scotland:

Survivors

This is one of the most amazing, emotional, difficult, painful, and necessary projects I have ever seen.

Project Unbreakable

About Project Unbreakable, from the project blog:

In October of last year, Grace Brown began a photography project called Project Unbreakable. Grace uses photography to help heal sexual abuse survivors by photographing them with posters that hold quotes from their attackers. Rape survivor and advocate for victims of sexual abuse, Yvonne Moss, describes the project as a way for victims to take the power back of the words that were once used against them.

Grace plans on photographing survivors for as long as she possibly can. Her goal is to spread light, awareness, and healing for those who have been affected.

If you are interested in participating by either being photographed or sending in your own image, you may send her an email at projectunbreakable@gmail.com with the subject line “Photograph Me” or “Submission”, depending on the circumstance.

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Project Unbreakable Facebook page

After the Fall

Back to Nabi Saleh, after the murder of Mustafa Tamimi:
Sexual intimidation by the military, and the double standard for Israelis and Palestinians — even Israelis on the “wrong” side.

This post was begun the week after Mustafa Tamimi was killed, when local Palestinians and supporting activists went out again for their weekly protest. Tension was fierce, I am told, as everyone wondered if there would be more violence (there was).

Meanwhile, other events took over, and another weekly protest or two have come and gone. Ho hum. Back to the normal business of occupation and resistance. Which of course takes place in many other places, not only Nabi Saleh.

I want to share with you the testimony of activist Sahar Vardi, of that first time back after Tamimi’s murder (December 16, 2011):

A few minutes before I was arrested in Nabi Saleh on Friday, we were walking near the soldiers. I kept pretty close to them while they approached the main road, mainly because I knew that the other soldiers would not shoot tear gas in the vicinity of the soldiers – a sort of reverse human shield strategy. Anyway, I was walking, and I don’t remember anymore whether I spoke with them or not. I think I did, I think I asked them why they were there, and if they feel they are protecting something, someone, or me? And then one of the soldiers turned to me and asked: “How big is the Arab cock you’re getting?” Many answers ran through my mind, most if not all of them at the same level as his question. And no, I don’t answer, it’s better not to answer. I will gain nothing from it, I will be speaking with myself only if I say anything. And still, it echoes in my head for hours. It doesn’t harm me. It doesn’t bother me at that level. Or maybe it does, it harms me not as “me” but as a woman – and a political woman. It harms me because, as I explained to the interrogator later at my interrogation, at the point where they ask “Do you have anything to add” – and I had what to add – I want to add that a soldier asked me, “How big is the Arab cock I’m getting.”And the investigator stopped short in astonishment. Not so much because of the fact that the soldier asked me that, but more because of the fact that I said it. And he asked me why I said it, as I knew he would, and I had my answer ready, and I answered him, but fuck it, what does that mean, why did I say it? Why did HE say it?!

So here’s the explanation to the interrogator for what bothers me so much, and why I have to say it, and why I should file a complaint for sexual harassment if I identify the soldier: Because that soldier, in a single sentence that was to him just an insult and nothing more, removed from me, as a woman, any idea of free choice, any possibility of being a political being, of having positions and thoughts and ideas of my own. I am a tool. I am a sexual tool in the hands, or thoughts, or bed of a man. That’s what I know how to do, and that’s how my thoughts, ideas, and ideologies are formed. I am a woman – I am a sexual object – and anything I do, including protesting, is the result of a man objectifying me. I am a woman, I am a sexual object of the soldier or the Arab, ours or the enemy’s, but either way, it doesn’t matter which side I sleep with, their cock is what determines my opinions and thoughts. Their size it what determines whether I protest here, or enlist there. So that’s what aggravates me so much, that with just one sentence, without even thinking about it, that soldier put me back in the position of an object with no desires other than its sexual desires. An object that must be the property or objective for conquest of an instrument, and of course, it is size that determines whose instrument it will be; an object whose every thought, idea, or action is ultimately determined by one thing – a cock.

And to today’s double standard — emphasized by the heroism of two women: 

Vardi was arrested along with other protesters. As usual – the Israeli protesters were let go within a day, while the Palestinians were held over.

This time, Vardi and another woman – Ayala Shah – refused to be released until the Palestinians were released. Let’s just say it took a while.

See a video from the protest here: Who’s Afraid of Women’s Song?

Tahrir and Beyond

By now, the image of the Egyptian “woman in the blue bra”, being stripped, dragged, and kicked by soldiers is probably seared onto your retinas. It is on mine. Few images of women protesting for their rights have ever sparked that degree of coverage. I’m not exactly sure if the prurient aspect of her bra being revealed is the reason, or her presumed humiliation for being undressed that way… After all, women are often humiliated, with no international consequences.

I also wonder why three weeks of protests against the military government, and then escalation to violence where many women and men were beaten, shocked, and humiliated, and at least 10 people were killed (10 at that point; the number is now at least 17) – didn’t evoke a particular response.

Either way, what was astounding and wonderful in my eyes, beyond the recognition of the brutality and the reason for it – this brave woman standing up for her freedom – is the tremendous wave of protests by women in Egypt in response. For almost a week now, thousands and thousands of women are taking to the streets, saying – we are drawing a red line, and you may no longer cross it! (View video)

           “It is your eyes that are cheap”

And in the spirit of the Tahrir, here are some other women’s protests from around the world this past week:

Late edit: I am happy to report that women were everywhere this week, so this is far from comprehensive. Let’s call it a very significant sample.

Belarus          December 19

The Ukrainian feminist group Femen organized a protest in Minsk against Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to commemorating the brutal shut-down of the protest of his fraudulent re-election last year, Femen protests sex trafficking carried out via Belarus. Protesters were teargassed, beaten, and many were arrested. Three of the protesters have reported that they were taken by the KGB, blindfolded, stripped, doused with gasoline and threatened with immolation. The KGB agents then beat them, cut their hair, took their money, clothes, and passports, and left them in the woods, 120 miles from Minsk. In addition, at least a dozen reporters were detained, including Australian reporter Kitty Green, and several Belarusian reporters. Though no charges were filed, the reporters were fingerprinted and interrogated, and the photos on their cameras were erased. In that spirit — view a photo album of the protest.

Yemen             December 20

A women’s march in Yemen on Tuesday

Bahrain             December 15-17

Bahraini women occupy a roundabout on December 15 — simply sitting there, asserting their right to be. Nevertheless, authorities violently removed the women, and beat and arrested activists Zainab AlKhawaja (shown above) and Fathiya Abduali. On December 17, the third day of anti-government protests, protesters react to tear gas fired by riot police.

India          December 14

A sit-in demanding fair compensation for farmland seized by the government for private development.

Thursday Round-Up

Personal and work pressures make it difficult to be as focused as I’d like on my pet topics. But these great blogs and articles keep coming my way, so I thought I’d share some. If it works out I’ll do it regularly.

Gender Violence

Dear Abby, Thank You for Saving My Life

December 6 was Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, held each year on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, where 14 young women were killed for being women.

In this moving post, Marvelist shares her own story and her thoughts on Canada’s decreasing support for gender equality.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an annual international campaign that runs from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. Over 2000 organizations in 154 countries have participated in the campaign.

I wanted to post this before the 16 days were over… Oh well. It’s worth noting anyway.

  • Nobel Women’s Round-UpIf you click on nothing else, DO check out the Nobel Women’s Initiative 16 Days of Activism blog: Each day features another amazing woman activist from a different part of the world: Palestine and Israel and the Congo and Iran and South America… Well, there are a lot of amazing women out there!!

  • And here is a great initiative that runs during the 16 days, aimed at encouraging girls and women to take control of technology and end violence.
    Take Back The Tech
From The Queer Activist Blogosphere

The Social Justice League’s blog post Fauxgress Watch: “Born This Way” examines why it is actually detrimental to queer folk to use the argument “we were born this way” or “being queer is not a choice!” as a justification for seeking rights/equality.

Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Of course, I had several tearful moments watching three women accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Women from areas fraught with violence, who were brave enough to find their personal power, raise their voices, become leaders, and make a change.

Heifer International – an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty – opine that these three women can start a movement.

Culture & Media

Deconstructing the Bechdel test

Ana Mardoll discusses what the Bechdel test is actually for.

Rethinking the Strong Female Character

Feminist literary blog Canonball’s thought-provoking post on why we might want to rethink what Hollywood considers to be strong female characters.

The weekly Trope

I will love and/or curse my lovely friend L. forever for getting me hooked on TV Tropes. Today’s trope: Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female On Male

And of course, the “shocking” discovery that rapists and men’s magazines sound suspiciously alike

An investment manager’s email asking for a second date 

This email had me laughing out loud in my office. There are a LOT of responses, but so many of them are just so hysterical it’s worth scrolling around a while.

In Israel

Israeli former president, Moshe Katsav, finally begins his prison sentence for rape!

This New Yorker blog post gives a quick history of the case.

How our fearless leaders REALLY see women (without their uniforms!!)

But sexism is still rife at the top of Israel’s government and military, as evidenced by the “joke” – caught on tape – in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army Chief of Staff Benny Ganz objectify female soldiers and one of the minister’s own media team. These two senior men then threaten the press if they release the tape.

Murder of Mustafa Tamimi

I began this as an item in my roundup, and it grew, and grew… So this horrible episode got its own post.

Schrödinger’s Rapist

I’m reading a LOT of blogs lately, trying to read up on topics I want to write about, and then, just surfing through things that catch my interest. Sometimes I learn new things. Sometimes I come across stuff I know, but with a new twist, or presented in a way that makes me want to cheer and applaud the writer.

That’s what happened when I read a blog post from a couple of years ago called “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced“, by Phaedra Starling. First of all, I’m excited by the coining of the term. And then, it is well-written and clear. Finally, it is important.

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

I hope you click on the link and enjoy the read.

Schrodinger's Rapist
  Schrodinger’s Rapist