The Lady Garden

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Monthly Archives: December 2012

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Just one thing to read this week – it is immensely sobering, and sad, and triggering. A distressing post about what it is like being a woman in Delhi – “The Subjugation Capital”.

I love Delhi, the city. I love its wide, open roads, its wonderful architecture. I’ve made great friends in Delhi. I went to a wonderful school in Delhi. I’ve also suffered in Delhi. I’m one of millions of women with tales to tell of how Delhi has ground our self-respect and security to dust. General descriptions of harassment can’t adequately describe the horror a woman faces every day in the city. There isn’t a single moment when you’re walking its streets that you can think “I’m safe, I can breathe easy and enjoy the sunshine. What a lovely day!” If you have breasts, you’re fair game. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how old you are, you can be a man’s property. You can be used for his gratification. You can be dominated.

Have you noticed how everyone is talking about “the Delhi rape victim”? I (Deb) have. She has been turned into a symbol, not a real person anymore. How about, “the woman in Delhi who was gangraped and beaten”? And now, even more sadly, the woman in Delhi who was raped and beaten so horrifically that she has died.

That’s all.

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

Eight reasons to end victim blaming. Speaking of, Jill and the Good Men Project. (trigger warnings for both those posts.)

Also, The Pervocracy on the Good Men Project and how most people don’t struggle not to rape (again, trigger warning.)

So when you hear all the totally plausible ways it could have been you, realize: nope, probably couldn’t have been. Most people don’t struggle not to commit rape. Most people don’t have trouble understanding sexual refusal. The vast majority of people go through drunken blunders and miscommunication and bad breakups without committing or being accused of rape, just as the vast majority of people don’t have trouble restraining themselves from torture or murder.

And QoT on the same issue: It’s just so damn difficult not to rape drunk people.

And whether or not it’s actually possible for projects like GMP to succeed. (I – Tallulah – think the part about it being tied to actual achievable policy goals is really important. And might be a way for these projects to work. Surely someone can come up with goals – even if not policy ones – that men’s groups can or should work towards?

In the wake of tragedies like the Newtown shooting, it is natural to seek answers for what caused it. While that is a difficult, if not impossible task, some of the ideas are batshit. Everything from the fact the US has excised God from its classrooms to, of course, the fact that teachers are normally women, and this wouldn’t have happened if there had been some nice strong dudes around to tackle the shooter.)

How to resist food-shaming around the holidays. Personally, I – Tallulah, again – intend to just tell people to bite me, but this is much more constructive.

Today in FFS, via Feminist Philosophers, it turns out that in Iowa you can be fired if your boss finds you too attractive. The seven judges who made that decision? All male.

I’m (Deb) exhausted. See you all on the other side of Christmas.

Guest Post: Cambodia

 (trigger warnings for sexual violence, and…everything. The world is fucked up – Tallulah.)

This guest post comes to us from Jane, who works with an organisation helping girls in Cambodia. More on that at the bottom of the post. She wanted to respond to last week’s guest post.

Your post is sad.  So sad.  But, without wishing to diminish or minimize your experiences in any way at all, reading it just makes me so much more aware of the terrible things that girls in Cambodia are experiencing as I type this response.    Right now.  Girls from isolated rural areas are being sold, often by their parents (because they are hungry and it enables them to feed the boys) with the encouragement of the village elders.  They are sold  for ‘domestic work’, which starts as general all-round slavery and nearly always continues on to rape and sexual abuse.  They are sexual slaves.

These young girls are silenced too.  Their ‘owners’ addict them to drugs so if they run away they have to come back to feed their habit.  They’re taken to another country where they can’t speak the language so they can’t complain or ask for help.  They’re beaten, and humiliated in a horrifying range of ways, their self-respect is crushed so their expectation of a better life dies.

Let’s focus on the positive though.  By speaking out (‘blogging out’?) and by demanding change, we can slowly change things in our own country.  By educating girls and their families in Cambodia we can enable them to resist the approaches of the ‘agents’ the come to ‘recruit’ the girls.  We can give them the tools to provide for themselves, to feel the rewards of working and supporting themselves and their families for a better future.

Let’s look forwards.  Let’s focus on what we can do to change the world, one girl at a time.  If you’d like to join me in doing just that, let me know.  I’d love to have a blog about it, and talk more about the work I do, and/or have email or phone conversations if anyone would like to do that.  You can email me or visit the website if you’d like to make a start!

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

Underwear that admonishes to “ask first”? Picking on Victoria’s Secret? Using sexy knickers to create a conversation about rape culture? SO MUCH GOODNESS.

Balancing Motherhood and Work and Art.

More art: beauty and power and the male/artist’s gaze.

A woman’s beauty is supposed to be her grand project and constant insecurity. We’re meant to shellac our lips with five different glosses, but always think we’re fat. Beauty is Zeno’s paradox. We should endlessly strive for it, but it’s not socially acceptable to admit we’re there. We can’t perceive it in ourselves. It belongs to the guy screaming “nice tits.”

Thanks to Atheist Pinko Sluts for sharing this Dan Savage video. I’m (Emma) ambivalent about Dan Savage: some of what he says is brilliant, some is surprisingly dickish from such a smart guy. I don’t agree with quite everything he says here – I think some people actually are naturally wired for monogamy – but the overall drift is well worth thinking about.

Jill Filipovic in the Guardian takes apartthe argument that a generation of selfish singles is destroying the family.

When the traditional family model isn’t something that everyone is expected to personally sacrifice to create, we can construct and implement policies that benefit actual families, in all of their incarnations. When they are not a crass economic contract where financial support is traded for housekeeping and child-rearing but instead a unit based on love, respect and mutual support, marriages last longer. The conservative and religious promise that there is only one best way to live, one that requires temporal sacrifice and is justified solely by obligation but will be rewarded by happiness in the afterlife, but it doesn’t actually lead to good outcomes here on Earth.

I am the woman in your department who does all the committee work – queue hollow laughter from all my (Deb) female colleagues.

I hope the pre-Christmas frenzy is not too frantic for you, and that you are finding some time to relax, somehow… Feel free to share grumps, grumbles and celebrations in comments.

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

We’ve got a fantastic guest post here on The Lady Garden, which I (Deb) don’t want to get buried, so I’m linking to it here: Guest post: On harassment, conditioning and silencing. Content note: discussion of sexual violence.

The 55th Down Under Feminists Carnival is up at News with Nipples. 55th carnival! Huzzah!! It has a great selection of posts from down under feminists.

How to behave to your non-primary partners: (TLDR: Don’t be a dick.)

Our society lacks roadmaps for how to conduct ongoing relationships of varying depth/commitment in this space. When you’re not just seeking casual sex, but you’re also not seeking someone to live, share finances, and potentially raise a family with (a primary partner), it can be very hard to figure out how to honor your own needs and boundaries while respecting others.

Nick Cave Dolls – a trip into the irony free surreal with Robyn.

And in the Oh Good Grief files, PZ Myers puts up a commemorative post about the Montreal massacre (that’s where a man who didn’t get into engineering school walked into the school with a gun and killed 14 women and injured 10 more, because they were women), and “12 comments in, the thread becomes about whether the particular rhetorical trope PZ used to point out the continued existence of misogyny was fair to misogynists…

Over at The Hand Mirror, Luddite Journo celebrates Wellington’s fair going queer.

It’s December. Time for Christmas trees.

Pohutukawa Trees at Cornwallis Beach

Pohutukawa Trees at Cornwallis Beach


So how has your week been?

Guest Post: On Harassment, Conditioning, and Silencing

Big old trigger warning for sexual violence on this post. Seriously. [Also, a note from Tallulah – we’ll be being very careful on the comments with this one. Go easy.]

I could talk about the PE teacher in my town who was asked to resign due to his harassment of female students, who was then hired as a school bus driver for a rural route with both primary and high school students. I could talk about how, from the age of seven, I refused to wear skirts or dresses, and from the time I entered high school at 10 to when I moved at 16 I always wore bike shorts or CCC shorts under my dress, because he was not particularly subtle about the way he looked at us – and those bus steps are high. I could talk about how this was common knowledge and was never denied by any authority figure we ever raised it with, but rather we were just kind of brushed off. I could talk about how, sometimes, I was the last person on my bus in the afternoon and I was never quite sure if something bad would happen to me, even though for a long time I probably couldn’t have articulated what it was that I feared.

I could talk about how I spent ten years of my childhood believing it was perfectly normal and acceptable for a seven year old child to stop wearing her favourite clothes because a grown man she relies on to get to and from school from a relatively remote location gets a thrill from looking up her skirt.

I could talk about the art teacher at my high school who used to run his hands up and down our backs, right along the spot where your bra sits. Considering most of us were fairly new to wearing bras in the first place, this was a decidedly uncomfortable experience. I could talk about how he used to get just a little too close for comfort in the supply room. Nothing overt, nothing nameable – just enough to make you drag someone else along with you if you needed a fresh piece of paper or you ran out of ink. I could talk about how the odd comment or complaint that was made was completely handwaved, that we were told to be very careful about what we were saying, that we could get someone in a lot of trouble by “starting those kinds of rumours”, and did we really want to be responsible for that?

I could talk about the first time I was made to feel ashamed of my body, at twelve or thirteen, getting into a water fight with my stepfather and uncle in the height of summer. I could talk about my grandmother completely flipping out, talking about how disgusting it was, how grown men should be ashamed of the way they were behaving with a girl. I could talk about how she then spent the next few hours trying to convince me I was being somehow victimised, while I was mostly confused about what had taken place – it took me a long time to work it out. I could talk about the unvoiced but ever-present fear for months afterwards that my grandma would bring it up again, that she would bring it up in the wrong place or to the wrong people and that my uncle, a schoolteacher, would suffer for it.

I could talk about how that destroyed what had been a fantastic relationship with my uncle, and how, ten years later, he still won’t hug me at Christmas.

I could talk about being called a frigid bitch and a slut in the same breath in high school. I could talk about multiple instances of sitting in a big group of friends, hearing someone trying to get into someone else’s pants, starting off sweet enough but quickly descending into emotional manipulation and thinly veiled abuse. I could talk about the time I went off with someone willingly enough and being followed by someone I considered a friend, someone who would not leave no matter how many times I said “no”, who only went away when the person I was with said that he “didn’t feel like sharing”.

I could talk about the family friend who always made me feel a little bit off for no discernible reason. The one who if I was left alone in the room with him, I would always find an excuse to leave. The one time I expressed this, I was told I was being a drama queen, and that I needed to grow up and stop being so precious, that one day I was going to have to deal with people I didn’t like and I might as well get used to it. I could talk about how he never did anything untoward, never gave me any specific reason to feel unsafe – but years after I last saw him, when he was  found guilty of four historical sexual assault charges, one of rape and three of indecent assault on girls under twelve, I was, for reasons I still don’t entirely understand, completely unsurprised.

I could talk about my boyfriend justifying his rape of me with “you could have fought me off if you really wanted you, you slut”. I could talk about how, when I tried to tell people, I was told I was being a nasty, spiteful, vindictive bitch. I could talk about how selfish it was of me to say such things, that he’d overcome such a hard life and was going to go on and make something of himself, who the hell was I to try and stand in his way?

I could talk about how my response to being raped was to sleep with anyone and everyone because I rationalised that if I never said no, then no one could force me. I could talk about how I have been told time and time again, by people who should know better, that this is a sign that I wasn’t really raped at all.

I could talk about how, when I finally worked up the courage to make a formal complaint of sexual harassment against my boss, I was asked why I had let it continue for so long, and what I had done to make him think his behaviour would be welcomed.

I could talk about how when a much later boss got me completely wasted at my leaving party, to the point where I couldn’t walk, and fucked me in a back alley, he waited until I was sober the next morning to tell me that he had a pregnant wife, because he heard through the grapevine that I was very strict about not sleeping with married people or straight women, and he thought I should “learn my place” and realise that I’m “not such a high and mighty bitch with a moral high ground after all”.

I could talk about these things, but I very rarely do. Since I was seven years old, I have been told that my body is not my own, that my consent is not my own, that my feelings of discomfort are not my own. I have taught myself to suppress my gut instinct upon meeting people. I have been taught to smile, to be polite, to suck it up if I feel unsafe. When I complain, I have been told I’m being irrational, oversensitive, and selfish. The underlying message is, how dare I try and ascertain any kind of control over my own body?

I should talk about it. But I don’t actually know whether I can.

Today in fat hatred (and hating on children for good measure)

Also today in pig-headed ignorance, and today in ignoring science, and today in failing to think through consequences, and today in hating on children.

F for fat: obesity on report cards?

A CHILD’S weight should be included in their school report as part of a radical plan to tackle the obesity crisis, according to [Professor David Penington] who led Australia’s successful response to the AIDS epidemic.

I find this mindblowing, not just for the complete disregard for science, but for the astonishing idea that it’s a good thing to shame children about their weight, and that somehow, magically, this will make them thin and happy. It doesn’t work with adults because (a) shaming just upsets people and (b) shaming does not result in weight loss and (c) weight loss does not lead to better health (just google “obesity paradox” and you will find the evidence), and it works EVEN LESS with children because….. (hold your breath, here’s a giant reveal that seems to have escaped Prof. Penington), CHILDREN DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHAT FOOD THEY EAT.

As parents, we impose our own lifestyles on children. The children in my house? They’re great at argument (conceptual, inferential, evidential, you name it – they argue it and yes, this is a problem from time to time), but sports, well, whatever. They play a bit and we go and cheer them on, but really, it’s just not a big deal. That’s because in our house, discussion is a Big Thing. But they miss out on sport, which is a large part of many families in New Zealand, because it’s just not a big deal around here. They are deeply influenced, and the patterns of their living set for a long time to come, by the way that Mr Bee and I live.

And the type and amount of food they eat, and the exercise they do, or don’t do, is deeply influenced by us. They have no responsibility for what does into their lunchboxes. That’s MY responsibility. I’m the one who buys the bread and the sandwich fillings, makes the muffins, ensure there’s some fruit and some yoghurt on hand, so that they can make their school lunches.

So when Prof. Penington sets out to shame children, not only is he doing something that is completely ineffective anyway, but he totally missed his target.

I’ve had enough of teachers and doctors and (alleged) experts filling the school curriculum with do-gooding nonsense, which only leads to children coming home and trying to get their parents to change. But exactly how much power do children have to change their parents anyway? Very little indeed. It’s an intolerable burden to place on children. I think Prof. Penington must hate children too.

Cross posted

How to illustrate a story about falling sperm counts

So how should one illustrate a story about falling sperm counts?

Headless pregnant woman

Headless pregnant woman

With a headless pregnant woman, of course!

Well done, New Zealand Herald. Well done.

Tick the tropes: men’s illness = women’s problem, women as bearers of fetuses, women responsible for the human race, women reduced to a state of pregnancy, women reduced to body parts. Any more?

Cross posted

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

On being fat at the gym.

I expose my body to expose the fears of others–the fear of claiming space as a fat person, the fear of calling attention to a body outside the bounds of accepted perfection. The other day, I saw another fat woman in tiny shorts on the treadmill ahead of me–tiny shorts, the secret handshake of happy fats.

A new study on the mental health of porn actresses should (but won’t) put the ‘damaged goods’ theory to bed forever:

The present study compared the self-reports of 177 porn actresses to a sample of women matched on age, ethnicity, and marital status. Comparisons were conducted on sexual behaviors and attitudes, self-esteem, quality of life, and drug use… In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group.

Clarisse Thorn has written a long and occasionally harrowing piece about the down side of being a kinky feminist.

But as I’ve written about feminism and S&M, I’ve also known the rules about what I get to write. I’m not sure how I internalized these rules, but I know them like I know my face in the mirror. When I write, I’m supposed to emphasize the emotional health of my relationships

Another thinky piece from a thinky feminist we love – Blue Milk writing at Daily Life on Meticulous Bohemia.

Andrew Potter described this perverse situation as “meticulous Bohemia” in his book, The Authenticity Hoax. A situation where you can feel like you are rejecting the materialism of the mainstream but be chasing the status of subculture. Where you can tie yourself in knots by self-consciously trying to perform an authentic sense of self, and where you resist advertising phoniness but then fall for any dubious product with ‘ethnic’ attached to it. Where you want to be different, just like everyone else, which is why every hipster around the world looks the same and all parents use the word ‘play-date’ now. The danger is that you can become obsessed with obtaining authenticity at any cost. And it never really existed.

The comments at Daily Life are… interesting. Blue Milk has an intro to the piece at her own place, and the discussion there is right on point.

The war on men. Sigh. You can probably write this by yourself. Women getting equality leads to sad men which is a bad thing so we should back track on this silly equality thing. Otherwise it’s plain that we just hate men. Whatever. The latest installment in this never ending series came from Susan Venker at Fox News. Our own lovely thinker Tallulah had a bit to say about it, as does Echidne of the Snakes: The new war on men. Women’s fault.

More on Gillard and Abbott: Is Abbott too sexist to rule?.

Mr Abbott said last month: “Never, ever, will I attempt to say that as a man I have been the victim of powerful forces beyond my control and how dare any prime minister of Australia play the victim card.”

Ms Gillard said: “I think it is actually a manifestation of deep sexism that you would say that if a woman raises her voice then that is her playing the victim as opposed to her standing up for her rights.”

FoTLG Friend of Marilyn writes about the sheer difficulty of getting the MSM to stop repeating myths about obesity: Untruths and Omissions.

Perhaps the most damage done by the news media on this topic is their refusal to accurately present the evidence on weight loss or engage with the evidence at all. Empirical data has shown weight loss attempts – whether through diet, exercise, lifestyle change, etc – to fail in 95% of individuals. Almost all individuals who attempt to lose weight are unable to achieve a meaningful (more than 10 kilos) and permanent (longer than 5 years) reduction in weight. And yet, this is rarely included in any story you see about obesity, fatness, dieting, etc. When was the last time you read a piece where weight loss was part of the story – and the 5% success rate was included? This glaring omission reinforces the belief that fat people could stop being fat if they simply tried hard enough. It reinforces the indignation of those with anti-fat attitudes, and the shame of those who have failed to reduce their body weight.

Your weekend funny: Capuchin monkeys fight for equal pay.

I (Deb) hope that you’re having a lovely weekend. Feel free to treat this as an open thread, for any chitterchatter you would like to share.