The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Cultural Studies

Trigger warning for sexual assault

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation, and I used the words “rape culture”. And the conversation went like this:

“What’s rape culture?”

“Fuck. Um…well, it’s the idea that we live in a world where rape is a crime that many, many women, and some men, face, and that as a crime, it is often lessened, because it’s in the patriarchy’s interests to control women’s bodies, and to encourage male aggression. Ok, wait, that’s a really bad definition…”

“The patriarchy?”

“Lordy. Um…look, can I send you some links…?”

“Yeah, I guess, but I mean, why do you care so much? You’ve never been raped…”

I didn’t, but I wanted to explain to him that he had just perpetuated rape culture. First, the assumption that I’ve never been assaulted, because he would automatically know that. Because it would be my responsibility to share that information, or he’d just be able to tell, I guess. Second, the idea that violent crime only affects the victim.

When we talk about 1 in 5 women being assaulted, or whichever statistic you’d care to use about violent crime, we focus on the 1. We think about how many women we might know who have been raped. We think how lucky to not be one of those people. But what that means is that women constantly live in a space where there’s a fairly good statistical chance we’ll be Next. Where my friend can say to me “But I’ve seen you. You’re really good at keeping yourself safe”, and not think about whether it’s reasonable that I have to do that. Where I can be harassed by a group of men walking down the street on a Sunday night, and my first thought is not to fight back, but how quickly I’d have to run to get home safely. It’s using the threat of a violent crime to control women’s behaviour, and lessening the severity of the crime because it suits your purpose.

Rape culture is where a judge can tell a sexual assault victim:

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

When you blame others. WHEN YOU FUCKING BLAME OTHERS? The “other” is TO BLAME. By the same token, I would never been assaulted if I just hadn’t let a dude slam his way into my house, or led him on with my sexy, sexy flannel pyjamas. What are women meant to do? How are we meant to learn about vulnerability? Never go to bars? Never leave our houses? Never, ever, see other people?

The US election, and the constant use of women’s bodies as political tools must have been wearying for some people, at best. And downright triggering for others. I am on the other side of the world, and I’d like to lock Todd Akin in a room with some victims and some heavy objects. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you are using the word rape in a sentence, and it’s not to denounce a violent, horrific crime, then you need to take a good look at yourself.

I don’t know what we do to go about ending this. Call it out when we see it, make a fuss, slutwalk. But the thing about living in a culture of fear is that some days, you can’t get yourself out of the bathroom. And that’s OK. It’s a reasonable response. We all need to be pushing back against the Richard Mourdock’s of the world when we can, and we need allies.

So, if, like me, you’re finding the way US politicians seem comfortable talking about women problematic*, and because this has been something of a heavy post, here, have some of the queen.

* Problematic = TLG code for Really Fucked Up

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Michelle at Fat Nutritionist on debate:

For me, this is also an emotional conversation, for reasons I mentioned above, but also because my beliefs about this issue are anchored to an immovable ethical conclusion that I have come to in my life: that it is not right to treat people poorly, or to afford them fewer rights, because of their body or appearance.

I’ve (Deb) always been interested in scepticism, and atheism, and general show-me-the-evidence-ness. So when Elevator-gate (for goodness sake, go and google it) blew up, I followed the wreckage. It has gone on and on and one: people in the sceptic and/or atheist movement seemingly completely unable to accept the idea that women are, y’know, equals. Rebecca Watson has a piece in Slate about it: It stands to reason: skeptics can be sexist too.

What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.

Sez it all.

Women as academic authors – which disciplines just can’t seem to get it into their tiny little minds that women can think too? (Lowest of the low…. all those great thinkers in Philosophy!)

tigtog has a new post at Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog, on the changing meaning of misogyny (helpful hint for Tony Abbott – you will need to recognise the fact that language changes over time).

On Stuff(!!!), an astonishingly sensitive piece on how not to talk about depression.

And, umm…, because usually I’m (Deb) not a fan of hers, Judith Collins gets it exactly right on breastfeeding.

And Blue Milk has another deeply nuanced essay about motherhood at Daily Life: Complaining about motherhood.

Another piece from Blue Milk, on her blog, about home birth: You don’t have to be a homebirth advocate to see that homebirth is a feminist issue. I (Deb) agreed with Blue Milk on this, but I thought it revealed some sharp contrasts between New Zealand and Australia. Home birth is certainly not de rigeur in NZ, but it’s common enough, and fairly well accepted, but it seems to be quite radical in Australia. Midwives here in New Zealand seem to have much more freedom to work with a birthing mother. BTW: I’ve had babies in both countries, and my NZ experience was much better, but that might just be because it was second time around in NZ.

Right. That’s it then. Back to work…..

Time to submit!

Submissions on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill close this Friday. So you need to do the submission thing NOW.

Here’s a post about how to make a submission: How to make a Select Committee Submission.

Here’s the call for submissions on Parliament’s website: Make a submission: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. Very, very handily, if you scroll to the bottom of the Make a Submission page, you will find a button that enables you to make an online submission. So really, you can go ahead and make your submission right now. All you need to do is say something like, “I support the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, and I think it should be passed immediately.”

Please, do make a submission. Here’s what FoTLG Oliver had to say about making a submission on this bill, in his guest post (linked above).

… even if you have nothing to say except, “This is a wonderful bill, and I think it should be passed immediately[1]”, say that. Those submissions are counted, rather than considered, but they are counted, and the only thing every politician agrees on is that numbers are the most important thing there is.

So go on. Click on the link, and make that submission now. Make a submission: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week:

Harassing Men on the Street:

I surveyed 331 [gay and bisexual] men around the world about their experiences, and about 90 percent said they are sometimes, often, or always harassed or made to feel unwelcome in public spaces because of their perceived sexual orientation

The nun who became a sex therapist…. ‘though to be fair, she was only in the convent for a couple of years. But she has interviewed other former nuns, some of whom were nuns for a very long time before leaving, and discovering sexuality, not necessarily in that order.

How to be a popular internet feminist: Be white, be fashionable, be cis, be thin. Etc.

A beautiful photo essay from Time Life, featuring Maude Callen, a nurse midwife working in Rural southern America in the 1950s. (Incidentally, I – Tallulah – found this while searching around for photos to update the pictures in the sidebar. Anything you would particularly like to see?)

Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to pilot her own balloon.

In an elaborate white dress and matching hat accessorized with an ostrich plume, Blanchard, carrying a torch, began her ascent. Winds immediately carried her away from the gardens. From above, she lit fireworks and dropped them by parachute; Bengal lights hung from beneath her balloon. Suddenly there was a flash and popping from the skies; flames shot up from the top of the balloon.

Binders full of women… reviews of binders at Amazon and the tumblr, of course, and
analysis from the Guardian.

On skinny girls talking about body image issues – there’s probably no right way to do it.

The vicious on-line harassment of girls and women, the tragic death of Amanda Todd, and the outing of the reddit creep Michael Brutch: the consequences of “free speech”.

More on the all pervasive harassment of women, and all those calls for evidence, because a woman saying that she experienced harassment does not count as evidence: What we learn when professorly d00ds take to Facebook.

So why are women paid less? It’s complicated.

Shoes… or to be precise, high-heeled shoes: Treacherous heels the very height of misogyny.

Wearing heels can be uncomfortable and make you vulnerable to tripping or sinking into wet grass; not wearing heels invites the fashion police to denounce you as frumpy.

So, few women leaders will go flat-footed; most of them – like most other women – want to be stylish. But the choices for women today are not just between heels and flats; the height of the heel is the issue, and they have never been higher.

Hmm…. I (Deb) have to say that my dear friend Megan has taught me to think of very high heels as a form of jewellery – very much something for special occasions. The rest of the time, it’s me and my Kumfs.

On that note, have some pretty shoes.

Green Striped Shoes

From Pretty Shoes (Pinterest) put together by pinksuedeshoe.

Well, obviously

Let’s play fatshaming bingo, shall we?

  • The immediate inference that being fat is clearly bad.
  • Using a model who is “not especially fat”, because clearly you’d never want to put an actual fatty on the cover where people might see her. Because: Gross.
  • And especially not in togs. OMG.
  • Vague, possibly spurious, scientific claims.

Don’t believe me about that first one? How’s this from North & South’s FB page?

Is sugar the new fat – and will it cause the next wave of heart disease? (No, our cover model isn’t especially fat but, like many of us, you can bet she’d like to lose a few kilos. What she probably doesn’t know is how much “hidden” sugar she’s eating.) In the new North & South –Donna Chisholm reveals some surprising new discoveries on why we gain weight.

So. North & South is clearly the new Cosmo. Vague, threatening claims about weight on the cover, and references to “breaking up”. Chuck in something about a blowjob, and the transition will be complete.

I mean, do they actually know this woman would “like to lose a few kilos”? To me, she looks strong and healthy and beautiful. But, then, what would I know, being a fatty? And OF COURSE, it’s a woman. Men aren’t fat, right? It’s only women who suffer from obesity. I’ve only skimmed the article, because I value my mental health, and smarter people than me can debunk the claims therein. Also, what I care about is how this issue is presented. But as far as I could tell, this is a stock photo. So HOW DARE someone suggest she might want to lose a few kilos?

Inside the article, there’s a few more photos. A (male) researcher, and a dude who has cut sugar out of his diet. And another stock photo of an overweight woman, back to the camera, hunched over the scales she is standing on. So: Men, capable of talking about weight. Women, just used to illustrate the story.

And this. Everyone’s favourite.

The ubiquitous headless fatty. Sigh.

Want to bet, based on the pose, she’s smiling, or pouting, or something other than looking ashamed of herself? And we couldn’t have that, could we?

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Jill at Feministe takes on Roger Rivard’s rape comments, and just basically Gillards him (yes, that’s a thing now).

In that view, sex is essentially a bartering chip. It’s not something that is good in and of itself. It’s good only when it’s used for both parties to get what they want in a socially-sanctioned way. It is something women “give” to men, once men give women what women want.

On Coming Out Day, Clarisse Thorn talks about why she’s still closeted.

Field Theory on Moa Beer’s idiotic and desperate bid for publicity.

As someone who can barely balance his bank account, I am the last person to criticise a company about shares and stocks and what-have-you. Instead I mean the disgusting way that Moa conflates manhood with the ownership of women.

Our Emma is in fine form on Moa’s prospectus over at Public Address too: Moa: sub-standard

No, here’s my problem. I really, really don’t like it when vanilla advertising co-opts imagery from BDSM. … Context is everything. You’ve quite deliberately taken that imagery out of context, and planted it square in your hotbed of misogynistic marketing bollocks. I mean, it’s not that you’re really sexist and homophobic, right Moa? You just think it sells.

And Atheist Pinko Sluts Monthly (which you should all be reading) on the same.

The Guardian talks about the gendering of toy-shops. This is something that I (Emma) have noticed become much worse in the decade since my kids were small.

More from the British press – The Independent on freshers’ week: Lesson one: we’re students, not slags. (Content note: sexual assault)

Many would dismiss some of these incidents as harmless, or claim that themed events like “Pimps and Hoes” have little real impact on student welfare. But these reports suggest a disturbing culture of female students facing sexual objectification and demeaning labels, and the use of such names for official university and student union events sends a powerful message by implying the institutions’ acceptance or approval of this culture.

More on that fabulous speech by Julia Gillard. Blue Milk has an excellent round-up of responses to the speech, but not so many from the mainstream media, who seem to think that Gillard was wrong wrong wrong to ever mention misogyny and it was all just a political tactic – About the Prime Minister’s speech. And she has a post about the silencing tactics being used against Gillard.

Another piece of awesome from an Australian woman: Senator Penny Wong discussing the nature of sexism in the Australian parliament.

Transcript here

LEIGH SALES: Do you – what do you say to the Opposition’s suggestion that the Prime Minister is now using gender as a shield against any criticism of her performance?

PENNY WONG: Well I think this reflects what I said before. This is what happens when women name what’s happening. People use ways, and they are either you’re being a victim, you’re trying to cover up your competence, you’re just being politically correct – these are all tactics to silence women when we speak out about what is really happening. It’s not a new tactic. I think most of us who’ve had to confront sexism in our lives, in our workplaces, are familiar with it.

Annette Wale wrote a rape apologist letter to the Dom Post, and our Coley wrote one back, which was published today.

Annette Wale’s reprimand of women who dress as they please and expect the basic dignity of not being sexually assaulted is a “dangerous message” indeed. Not only is it offensive to men to imply they’re one short skirt away from being rapists, it also makes women feel they are to blame for someone choosing to disregard their consent and autonomy.

According to Ministry of Justice statistics, one in four women in this country will experience unwanted and distressing sexual contact in her lifetime. Most will be with someone known to the victim, and in their own home. So let’s stop characterising rape with dark alleys and strangers. But regardless of the scenario, the fact women still haven’t escaped proprietary status is never more obvious than when we’re held responsible for ‘tempting’ men into abusing us. Rape myths harm everyone.

Something pretty: the cupcakes I (Deb) made for my daughter’s birthday.

Mushroom cupcakes

Singing our song

Women in Australia, and all throughout the world have been chortling with glee today, delighting in every word of Julia Gillard’s truly wonderful speech calling Tony Abbott out on his appalling misogyny.

For nearly three years now, Abbott has used the most sexist epithets against Gillard, and against women. He has tolerated the use of words such as bitch, witch, “that woman”, allowed his supporters to use vile language against her, told Australian women that they ought to get back to doing the ironing, that they just don’t have what it takes to be a leader.

Gillard has simply taken it all. She has had to. We know what happens to women who dare to fight back. They are simply subjected to a further round of abuse, derided as shrill harridans who can’t take a joke. Abuse, followed by dismissal. She simply could not afford to fight back. She had to (pretend to) ignore it all.

How demoralising that has been all of us. When Gillard took power, my daughter and her friends raced around the oval (playground) at their school, thrilled that a woman had become prime minister. It was a tremendous moment of liberation for them. They could aspire to anything!

And then they watched. And I watched and other women watched, as Julia Gillard was attacked for the sin of being a woman. Each time my daughters watched, and each time I watched, and each time women in Australia watched, we learned the lesson that to be a woman in a public role is to invite abuse, for the crime of being a woman in public.

Finally, Gillard hit back. Hard. In a forum where her chief tormentor was forced to sit and listen. Just for once, a woman could tell a man exactly what she thought of his despicable beahviour, and he couldn’t simply walk away. At last, he was being held to account for his misogyny.

Didn’t he hate it?

It gets so wearying, day in day out, watching and listening to women in power being derided simply for being. So often we just shut the rhetoric out, try to let it not get to us. But it is so very, very tiring.

And this is why women everywhere are cheering for Gillard. Just for once, a woman has had a chance to tell it like it really is, and the bloke has had to sit and listen. And be held responsible for the hate he has been spewing.

Today has been a good day.

Should you not have watched the speech yet, make yourself a cup of coffee, or pour yourself a glass of wine, and take 15 minutes to enjoy it.

Julia Gillard’s speech in the Australian House of Representatives, calling Tony Abbott out as a misogynist.

Or you can read a transcript: transcript of Julia Gillard’s speech on the Sydney Morning Herald site. But seriously, if you have time, watch it.

Mum, you will *love* this. And so will you, my beautiful daughter, who was so pleased when Gillard became Prime Minister.

Cross posted

Today in Researching the Bleedin’ Obvious

Well, who would have thought?

Free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births, a large study concluded Thursday.

From a huge study in the United States

I’ve never been able to understand the mindset of people (read, the Catholic Church hierarchy) who condemn abortion, and in the same breath, condemn contraception. Yes, I know that the Church’s arguments can all be held together by some cant about respect for life, or openness to life, or some such thing, but it just seems bleedingly obvious that if you want to minimise abortion, then one easy way to do it is to make sure that women have easy access to effective contraception, of their choice.

That choice bit is important. Our Minister of Social Welfare is keen on getting beneficiaries to use long term contraceptive implants, to stop all the slappers from breeding. But in the US study, women were offered a *choice* of contraceptives. When women could choose, when they were empowered, rates of unwanted pregnancies dropped dramatically.

Of course, it’s much harder to control women when they have choice…

Today in victim blaming

trigger warning for rape, victim blaming, and a healthy dollop of institutional sexism.

This letter should have, actually, been titled “Women get dangerous message that it’s wrong to expect not to be attacked”.

Picture stolen from our Coley’s Twitter feed.

It’s doing the rounds on Twitter now, of course. And of course, we’re all angry and pissed off and making arguments about victim blaming and slutshaming and OH MY GOD FUCK OFF ANNETTE WALE.

Not to mention the argument that all men are a few beers and some exposed flesh away from being rapists. You’re all hopped up on testosterone, dudes, and too weak to withstand flirting from a sloppy drunk chick.

So far, so not new. Feel free to combat those arguments in the comments. It’s not like we haven’t before.

Here’s a question though. What the ACTUAL FUCK is the “paper of record” in our capital city doing printing shit like this? Does the Dom have a responsibility to think about how this perpetuates double standards and makes it easier for rapists to commit their crimes? Or is it really just about getting people to look at its letters page?

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Leading the week, Rebecca has put together a fabulous collection of posts for the 53rd Down Under Feminists Carnival.

The Pervocracy on The Worst Thing in the World, or how fear fucks us over.

If a relationship fails, if you get fired, if you get rejected… you’ll fall into TWTITW, so you put everything you’ve goddamn got into that relationship.  You’ll try anything to keep the relationship. Because it’s literally unthinkable what will happen if it ends.

Clarisse Thorn’s Slutwalk speech, on consent. This in particular rang some bells for me (Emma):

I’m a feminist, but there are feminists out there who tell me I can’t choose to do S&M because S&M is always abusive. Some of them tell me that I only want S&M because we live in a broken patriarchal society that has brainwashed me into believing I want something that I don’t. I think they’re wrong, and for a long time I discarded everything they said because I was so angry at them for telling me I can’t choose what to do with my body.

On the harassment we face all the time, every day, and why we put up with it.

Just about every woman has experienced these kinds of things, and I’m guessing that most of the men in our lives have no idea of the extent of the harassment our side of humanity puts up with.

Even more reason not to put up with it anymore, eh? No real men want this sort of thing to be happening to their sisters and mums and aunties and cousins and girlfriends and wives and daughters and and and, and so I say to men, too, don’t put up with it.

How about some awesome women? Some douchecanoe took a photo of a woman – without her knowledge and consent – and put it on the internet. Because she looks “funny”. And she responded with grace and dignity and far fewer swear words than Tallulah would have. And then there is this brilliant call out and smack down from a local US news anchor:

(Tallulah ended up writing a piece about the video, here.)

That famous picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, celebrating the end of World War II? It was a sexual assault.

This piece, by Roxanne Gay, is my (Tallulah’s) favourite thing I’ve read all year.

I also want to be myself. Bad feminism seems like the only way I can both embrace myself as a feminist and be myself. No matter what issues I have with feminism, I am one. I cannot nor will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman. I am, therefore, a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.

And Blue Milk has, as we have come to expect from her, a beautifully nuanced review of Jessica Valenti’s book on feminist motherhood: Why have kids, by Jessica Valenti.

That’s it for the week. I’m (Deb) at my parents’ place, where internet access is a bit creaky, so nothing pretty to hand to end this post. See you all next week.