Generally, men are willing to admit that women are raped. They are able to admit that nearly every woman and girl experience, have experienced, or will experience harassment, assault, or other violence, and in a more-than-singular or exceptional way. The moment it becomes something to stubbornly deny is when the person committing the violence is named. Because men can identify with a guy who has a name. What is apparently so difficult for them is the idea that *they* can be part of the problem. Not that they really fear a false accusation – because in any case very few complaints are taken seriously, and even fewer ever make it to court, and fewer yet result in any significant punishment to the accused. It’s simply – if they admit that their friend, their brother, even their neighbor harassed or assaulted someone, it projects upon them. Even if they do not see themselves as violent, they identify more with the accused than the accuser, viscerally, instinctively, because they know that they live in this environment, they see what goes on around them, they laugh at certain types of jokes, or maybe they slept with someone who didn’t really want to and required “persuasion”, or a friend of theirs did. They label women as sluts or cheap or easy, and think that therefore they are less entitled to sovereignty over their own bodies. They don’t want to be held responsible, and therefore – even though just a moment ago they had no issue with the generic story (“When I was 20 years old, I was raped.” “Oh, how awful!”), now, when the story is more real and immediate (“Your friend, Bill, raped me.”) they suddenly insist on the involvement of courts, and police, and evidentiary systems they don’t begin to comprehend unless they studied law.
And so, in every discussion about rape or sexual violence, no matter how horrifying the story, or how overwhelming the statistics, of millions and millions of cases… Their first reaction will be something about false accusations, or they’ll find some way to blame the victim, or they’ll entrench themselves behind some legal concept they don’t understand (presumption of innocence).
And so I say – men – check yourselves. The day is coming where you will no longer have the privilege of remaining indifferent. You don’t need to be a rapist to be part of rape culture, and this is a culture that will not stand.
On Friday, April 5th, the Tel Aviv SlutWalk took place and we totally rocked this city! I am so proud of all the hundreds of women who showed up and marched, of the organizers who put their hearts and souls into making it a success, of those who got up on stage and spoke to the crowds about their experiences with rape culture and victim blaming.
I was hoping for the best, but was cautiously optimistic. Rain was expected. There was another organization trying to appropriate the SlutWalk while basing their activities on blatant slut-shaming. Historically, anti-sexual violence marches do not attract huge crowds here. As a matter of fact… This was the largest march I’ve seen! We got good coverage on TV, radio, newspapers, news sites and blogs… So surprising, so gratifying! I’m really just brimming over 🙂
Photos and videos are still being assembled – here is one from YouTube:
This year I decided to organize the Tel Aviv Slutwalk. Last year, the event was sabotaged by the police (and the weather), while this year a non-feminist organization tried to co-opt the Slutwalk to promote their own political agenda… All very vexing, and so I decided that the event would be safer in my radical little hands.
One of the added values my cohorts and I are trying to bring about in this year’s march is to underline how rape culture affects absolutely everyone, but also how voices that are often silenced anyway, are doubly or triply silenced when it comes to sexual violence. So we’ve invited women from all walks of life, from different ethnicities, refugees, trans* folk, people who are discriminated against for being deaf or in a wheelchair or for any other disability, fat women, lesbian and bisexual women, young and old women… And so on – to share a text saying why she needs the slutwalk. We make a poster of it, and put it on the event page. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The images are in Hebrew, so here is just one sample (though you can see the entire album here if you’d like):
As a teen, I need the Slutwalk because the fact that my breasts have developed does not mean that anyone has the right to mention it all the time, or to touch my breasts. Because I’m tired of all the adults around me interfering with my sexual life, and thinking that is legitimate. As a teen, I have not yet entirely learned how to say no, or to run away or protect myself, and I find myself just freezing in shock and waiting for someone to come by and help me.
As a teen, this is my opportunity to learn to say no, before I get used to being harassed.
I usually do not do any type of fundraising on this blog… But today I decided to make an exception. This event is just that important to me. I set up a page for anyone who want to buy a tank top for the event, or just make a donation. So I thought I’d open up the opportunity here as well, on the off-chance that someone here wants to support this effort.
The funds will go towards signage and such, and any leftovers will be sent to our sister slutwalks in other cities.
Donate here, or check out the page with the shirt for sale. Not sure what I would do with international orders for an actual shirt, I guess it depends on the amount of the donation 🙂 The shirt without shipping is about $8-10. So I guess I would send it to you for a donation of $20 and above. Just let me know!
On the 3rd episode of the current season of the Israeli franchise of The Voice, a contestant bragged about an incident in which he sexually assaulted Jennifer Lopez. He described how, after appearing on American Idol, during a hug goodbye he “accidentally on purpose” grabbed Ms. Lopez’ buttocks. The host, Michael Aloni, proceeded to joke about the incident, and comments were made (jokingly) about warning Sarit Hadad, the only female judge on the show, about the contestant. Aloni later, in commentary about an interaction between the contestant and Ms. Hadad, giggled that now he was “pulling a J Lo” on her.
My hands “fell”
This incident is extremely disturbing. Sexual assault is not a joking matter. The fact that some men see Jennifer Lopez – or any other woman – as a legitimate object for them to physically grab is not a joking matter. The fact that this was all viewed as a positive thing on a prime time show with top ratings is not a joking matter, and is in fact quite frightening.
And apparently, there are many who share this view. Since the incident, a growing wave of protest has been seen on Facebook, online publications, and blogs – objecting to the general “boys club” view of women as objects, the support this attitude is getting on Israeli prime time television, the glossing over an actual description of an attack (by the attacker)… And all of this occurring on your hit show, The Voice. But Reshet, the Israeli franchisee, has either ignored our objections, or informed us that “it was all in good fun”. We don’t know how Reshet defines good fun, but we feel that if a man grabs at a woman without her consent, that is not any kind of fun, but rather an extreme violation of her body, and also a criminal act.
I touched her ass.
Meanwhile, on last night’s episode, the “fun” continued, when special guest Mosh Ben Ari referred to a young contestant as “forbidden fruit” and cited this is a reason to promote her on the show. Forbidden fruit? A term hinting at lusting after a young contestant, while acknowledging that this is “forbidden” raises serious questions as to the general mindset of the show.
Our purposes in writing you this letter are as follows:
To inform you what is being done in your name, namely creation of a sexist, sexually violent atmosphere and mindset on The Voice (Israel)
To ask you to take action to ensure that The Voice is a safe place for both contestants and judges
To make a statement that The Voice objects to sexual/gender violence, and is actively against it
And to take action to back the statement up (for example, dedicating an episode to awareness of sexual violence).
Meanwhile, we have already been inspired to act on this subject. On Friday, January 18, we will be holding a singing event in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, to raise awareness of the endemic sexual violence women are subject to, whether on television or in the streets or even in their homes.
We, the undersigned organizers and supporters of the event, look forward to your support and cooperation in this endeavor.
Mitpakdot Feminist Lobby
Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel
The Feminist Forum of Meretz
Panorama – Bi and Pansexual Feminist Community
Nakum Project – Women and Community, College of Management Law School
Nimrod Ben Ze’ev
Lin Chalozin Dovrat
Hila Shemesh Coohen
Eshkar Eldan Cohen
Avital Agiv Sariel
Amnon Brownfield Stein
Avital Hedva Eshel
Giovanna C. Kleymerman
Erika Tamara Traubmann
Rachel E. Bell
Lilach Ben David
Roni Doron Matarasso
Iris Stern Levi
Orna Zaken Heler
Anat Ben Ezra
Osnat Ita Skoblinski
CC: Reshet, The 2nd Authority for Television and Radio (Israel), various Israeli government offices, the press.
PS – Attached as an addendum are copies and excerpted translations of responses we received (after the writing of this letter) to our complaints filed with Reshet (your franchisee) and with the 2nd Authority for Television and Radio – both the TV Broadcast Division and the Ombudsman (Public Complaints Department). You will see that Reshet, your franchisee, insists on treating the matter lightly, while both the Broadcast Authority and the Complaints Department have expressed their objections to the sexist nature of the show’s contents. While the Broadcast Authority has not taken any action other than stating the wrongful nature of what took place on The Voice, the Ombudsman has not yet ruled out action, which we are vigorously pursuing, of course.
In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.
Most of us are familiar with this picture. Captured in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945, it has become one of the most iconic photographs of American history, symbolizing the jubilation and exuberance felt throughout the country at the end of World War II.
For a long time, the identity of the pair remained a mystery. It certainly looks passionate and romantic enough, with many speculating that they were a couple – a sailor and a nurse, celebrating and sharing their joy. This year, however, historians have finally confirmed that the woman is Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental nurse at the time, and George Mendonsa, a sailor.
Have a look at some articles about it. Do you get the feeling that something is not quite right?
A few facts have come to light. Far from being a kiss between a loving couple, we learn that George and Greta were perfect strangers. We learn that George was drunk, and that Greta had no idea of his presence, until she was in his arms, with his lips on hers.
The articles even give us Greta’s own words:
“It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed!”
“I did not see him approaching, and before I knew it, I was in this vice grip.”
“You don’t forget this guy grabbing you.”
“That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”
It seems pretty clear, then, that what George had committed was sexual assault. Yet, in an amazing feat of willful blindness, none of the articles comment on this, even as they reproduce Greta’s words for us. Without a single acknowledgement of the problematic nature of the photo that her comments reveal, they continue to talk about the picture in a whimsical, reverent manner, “still mesmerized by his timeless kiss.” George’s actions are romanticized and glorified; it is almost as if Greta had never spoken.
In a way, I understand this. The end of war is a big deal, and the euphoria felt throughout the nation on that day is an important part of American history. For so long, this photograph has come to represent that unbridled elation, capturing the hearts of war veterans and their families alike. The fact that this much-loved photo is a depiction of sexual assault, rather than passion, is an uncomfortable truth, and to call it out as such might make one seem to be a priggish wet blanket. After all, this sailor has risked his life for his country. Surely his relief and excitement at the end of the war is justified? Surely these are unique circumstances? The answer to the first question is yes. He is perfectly entitled to be ecstatic. He is perfectly entitled to celebrate. However, this entitlement does not extend to his impinging on someone else’s bodily autonomy.
The unwillingness to recognize a problem here is not surprising, considering the rape culture in which we live. It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. It is far easier to turn a blind eye to the feelings of women, to claim that they should empathise with the man, that they should be good sports and just go along with it. And the stronger the power structures behind the man, the more difficult it becomes to act otherwise. But if we are serious about bringing down rape culture and reducing the widespread violence against women, then we need to make it clear that engaging with someone sexually without consent is not ok, even when it is an uncomfortable position to take. Especially when it is an uncomfortable position to take.
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.
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.
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
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.
Which just goes to show we need to keep our voices out there. All the time. As frustrating as it often is.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Photograph Me” or “Submission”, depending on the circumstance.