Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
(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!
Incumbent Roger Rivard (R), lost his Congressional seat to Steven Smith (D). Rivard was the chap who told passed on his father’s wisdom that “some girls rape easy.”
Todd Akin (R) failed to take what should have been a winnable senate seat for the Republicans. Akin was the chap who told us that if a rape was “legitimate”, then a woman could not get pregnant because her body would shut conception down.
Tea Party backed candidate Richard Mourdock couldn’t win what should have been a wide open race, giving the Democrats one more seat in the Senate. Mourdock was the chap who told us that pregnancy resulting from rape was something that God intended.
But why should we care, here in New Zealand, an ocean away from the United States?
Here’s why. We should care because the anti-women rhetoric coming from conservatives in the US travels down here swiftly. Rape culture is alive and flourishing in New Zealand, and concepts like “legitimate rape” and “can’t get pregnant from rape” and “some girls rape easy” and “God meant for you to be raped” play into it, and sustain it.
I am so very glad that voters in the United States rejected these men who endorsed rape. It’s a push back, a small step towards dismantling the narrative of hatred and contempt for women.
[I’m belatedly adding a trigger warning for child violence to this post.]
“The popular public perception is that women and children need to be protected from men, but this ‘gender’ focus is misleading. Mothers killed 15 (45%) of the 33 child victims, comprising 10 daughters and 5 sons,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “If we’re really serious about reducing family violence, we need to talk about family violence, and our violent culture, and the role alcohol and drugs play in fuelling this environment.”
“While Family First is stating a fact, they are being irresponsible by not presenting the numbers with all the specifics. “Only two out of the 15 deaths where mothers were responsible for the child, was physical assault the cause of death. Contrast this with the 10 out of 10 deaths where fathers and step-fathers were responsible for the death of a child and were caused by assault.
Every time I think Bob McCroskie and his cronies could not be any more vile, I am wrong.
Trigger warning for sexual assault, assholishness, and losing all faith in humanity.
By now, you know all about the “funny” competition winner Hell pizza congratulated on its Facebook pages and its epic non-apology.
Hey everyone, tonight we posted a fan’s confession seeing it in the spirit of a prank between mates. Once we understood that offence had been taken and saw the bad light the post could be seen in we removed it, and we apologise to those offended. Lesson learned.
Because, yes, shoving your genitals in someone’s mouth: a prank between mates.
But, oh dear, people were offended, so we’ve taken it down, so those delicate little flowers stop being upset. Because no one in this country can take a joke. </sarcasm>
Now, that apology doesn’t make me think that Hell even understands why what they posted is offensive, let alone that the company is even remotely contrite. What confirms that for me is the conversation they have let go on. I was drunk, so I Read The Comments. Don’t.
Apparently, I can’t take a joke, I’m “just jealous”, teabagging someone isn’t that bad, and it’s definitely not sexual assault. We all need to lighten up, we all need to stop being so damn PC, it was funny, if someone did that to them they’d just punch them in the face and be done with it.
So far, so sigh-inducingly predictable. Rape culture 101. And were it not Hell, who has history, I’d probably be more surprised and angry. But I’m not. I don’t like their pizzas, so I’m OK. Feel free to boycott them, if it floats your boat. I doubt they give a shit about people like us.
Meanwhile, Habitual Fix has also “apologised” for their horrendous transphobic and body-shaming Manwiches ad:
Hi everybody, we are very passionate about what we do, which is doing everything we can bring you your fresh food fix every day. We believe this is something that many similar NZ businesses cannot claim and this is why you, the customer, share our passion. But to stand out in a vanilla society that’s currently happy and safely sitting on the fence, we need an opinion, to stand for something and yes, a lot of attitude. Part of that attitude is to be current and very patriotic, that’s why last week we proposed the ‘Gold coin smoothie for Val’ promotion to you.
When did “vanilla” become a bad thing? Vanilla’s a great flavour. And if someone identifies as vanilla in a sexual context – and I am uncertain if that is the connotation they are going for – then that’s actually fine. Great even. You know what’s great? Vanilla added to a hot chocolate made with really dark, bitter, chocolate. Delicious…. Sorry, where was I? Yeah. Vanilla – good. Not a catchphrase for conservatism, for people being to PC, not getting your joke. And, like all sexual preferences and identifications, not something to imply is a bad thing, and you’re a better person because you don’t “sit on the fence”.
Here’s the thing. It actually is possible to stand out in a conservative society, have an opinion, and an attitude even, without BEING A COMPLETE FUCKING DICK WHO DENIGRATES OTHER PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR APPEARANCE. Shocking, I know.
[Update: Hell has offered money to Wellington Rape Crisis. Well. This is an interesting turn of events. If by interesting, we mean extremely problematic.]
This year has been a tough one for me, for lots of reasons. Part of it is that finally, for the first time, people know that I’ve been on the receiving end of partner abuse.
My partner and I have both balked at the word ‘abuse’. I’ve had to accept that’s what it is. It’s not Domestic Violence as people imagine it by default. He hasn’t hit me. But I’ve left my house because I’ve been too afraid to stay there.
This had been going on, very rarely, for years, but this year it got much worse. It got to the point where we had to acknowledge it, and for the first time tell other people about it. And the reactions have been interesting.
Those friends who have stuck by me this year, through all the other shit, have been brilliant. And yet, even then… There is a pervasive attitude, that I had myself without realising it, that if it’s not violent, it’s not serious. I’ll tell people what’s happened, and they’ll ask if he’s hitting me. They’ll say, “If he hits you, leave.” As if everything before that point is somehow okay. They’d never say that, of course, or consciously think it, but the unconscious separation is there. Not all abuse is physical, and the emotional and psychological abuse counts too. Just as much.
I’ve lain on my bedroom floor crying hysterically, while he leaned over me and yelled abuse. I’ve struggled to dress and leave while he mocked me for “pretending” to be afraid. I’ve seen my GP in tears because I can’t tell her that when I go home, I’ll be safe. The fear became my defining characteristic, the thing that controlled my behaviour and influenced my decision-making. Even when we started trying to work things out, I made myself responsible for policing his behaviour.
This happened for the first time sixteen years ago, and for all that time I kept it to myself. I told no-one. Most of the time things were fine, after all. He’d come home from work the next day and everything would be back to normal, like it never happened. I helped him pretend it didn’t happen.
So in February this year, when it got so bad I was safer on the street at four in the morning than at home, I had nowhere to go. Not one of my friends who lived in the same city knew what was going on. I’d, quite voluntarily, isolated myself from help.
What I did have was the resource pack my counsellor had given me, from Women’s Refuge. No matter how alone, how frightened I was, there was somewhere for me to go.
So this Appeal Week, I’ve made a donation. Maybe you could too.
As a friend, you can’t save someone else. You can’t make someone leave a situation like this. What you can do is give them your belief and your support, and take what they say seriously. Just because there aren’t bruises doesn’t mean there isn’t damage.
No matter how much it tries to backpedal and reframe and rephrase, no matter how many soft words it puts around the conversation, the fact remains that this government, in the person of Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Welfare, has advocated adopting some sort of policy to prevent some women from having more babies. That’s the plain meaning of Paula Bennett’s words yesterday.
They scare the hell out of me.
What they suggest is a government that is happy to control women and to control women’s bodies. At present they only want to do it to “bad” mothers, people who have killed their children, or abused them so badly that the children have been taken away from them, or people who form new relationships with “bad” men who then abuse and sometimes kill their stepchildren. It’s all being done in the name of saving the children.
Of course we want to save children from harm, and of course, we can save them from immediate harm by ensuring they are not vulnerable to abusers, and of course, the easiest way to do that is to take the children away from the abusers, or scarily, to stop abusers from having children in the first place.
Therein lies the problem. This is the easy solution. The hard solution would involve trying to work out why people abuse and kill children. The thing is, we already have a fair idea about that. Aside from psychosis and revenge, it turns out that most killings occur when parents are down and out, when they have no hope and no resources, when they have given up, or been given up on, any hope of a life integrated into the structure of a community. A quick search on Google would have told Paula Bennett that. Reducing the number of children who are abused or killed won’t be easy. It will involve working closely with women and with families, helping women to become independent, ensuring that they live in meaningful and supportive communities, that they have secure incomes, that they can look after themselves and their children, trying to ensure that they are not under such stress and feel so hopeless that they take out all their problems on their children. But that would be hard work, and it would cost money. Much easier just to opt for the big stick of sanctions. This is a policy that fits all too comfortably with National’s policy on getting beneficiary mums and their daughters to use long term contraceptives.
In the name of pragmatism, and easiness, this government takes the shortcut of asserting control over women’s bodies.
What next? Is the government going to suggest that women on the DPB should be sterilised? Maybe women who drink while pregnant will have their babies removed at birth. Perhaps if you have a student loan, government will tell you that it isn’t wise to have children now, and it will “help” you to avoid having any.
And that’s exactly where the danger lies in this sort of policy that attempts to control women’s bodies. Today it’s women who harm, or allow harm to come to, their children. Who is it going to be tomorrow?
And that’s why, liberal dudes, I am so tired of hearing you say that this is all just a distraction. My bodily autonomy is at stake here, and you tell me that I should get to the back of the queue, because it’s just a minor matter, designed to get people to take their eye off the government’s woes in other areas. Because at the end of the day, women’s rights are always tradeable.
Thank you so very much.
And let’s not forget the racism underpinning this. We know that killing and abuse of children (‘though not sexual abuse, which seems to be classless) is much more common among the least privileged socio-economic groups, and we know that socio-economic groups are highly race marked in New Zealand. This is another move towards stigmatising people with brown skins, and controlling them, and worst of all, taking away their children. And we all know how well that kind of policy has worked in the past.
Update: One of those liberal dudes has since posted on the matter: A rancid style of politics. I think he’s right about the convenience of Bennett’s announcement. Many thanks for your post, I/S.
Trigger warning for sexual violence.
Last night, I went to the wonderful show A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer, put on in support of Wellington Rape Crisis. It was moving and tearful, but in a supportive and empathetic space. I cried, darlings. A lot.
One of the monologues, written by Eve Ensler, talked about being angry. So angry you could spit. So angry you scream and rant and lose all sense of propriety and ruin a party. So angry at the violence and mutilation and shame and distress that you can’t understand why everyone isn’t so angry.
That was me last year. Angry, raging frustrated. Furious. Willing to temper my anger with humour, because that’s who I am. But angry nonetheless.
This year, I am not. I’d like to be angry. I miss the fury. I miss my high atop the Mountain Of Righteous Anger attitude, that got me through the first SlutWalk. Not the March itself, but the comments and posts telling is why what we were doing was pointless, unnecessary, dangerous. Why we were wrong, and our shorts skirts are an invitation to rape.
This year, I am not angry. I am scared. I’ve been scared all my life. This is what I thought about when Jan Logie, playing Eve Ensler asked “How can you not be angry?”
I’m scared of the violence done to our bodies. Of all the little ways we are beaten down, diminished, destroyed. The ways we are taught out bodies are public property. Not wholly our own. That our chastity is our most important virtue.
I’m scared of the half-formed memory. The one that tells me not to think about it, because I don’t want to know, to remember. That knowing, remembering might be something I can’t bear.
What I do remember is being scared of strangers. The first time my mother taught me not to talk to strangers, and illustrated it with the story of a girl from out neighbourhood who had been brutally raped and then murdered. My mother isn’t crazy, she didn’t put it like that, but it was my first taste of that amorphous fear that all women live with. I was so scared, when my uncle tried to pick me up from school one day, I wouldn’t get in the car with him. So scared, I cried when the priest at my family’s church shook my hand.
I’m scared for the girl I was at 17, at my first taste of actual violence. For the man who broke my ribs. I didn’t tell that story for a decade, so scared I was that I’d be blamed. I provoked him, I asked for it, I deserved it. Scared to tell the story because after so long, I wouldn’t be believed. That people who knew me then wouldn’t believe me, that I’d hidden it too well. And that they’d tell other people they didn’t believe me. (They did, and I was angry. But it taught me an important lesson. Don’t tell.)
I’m scared of the street harassment and the casual violence of being yelled at from a parked car. Of being reminded that being a woman in public is dangerous. That I don’t have the right to walk down the street free from fear. Free from being accosted, from being thrown against a wall and attacked. I’m scared for the women I know for whom the statistics aren’t one in three, they’re eight in ten, because they have the misfortune to have been born brown and in another country.
I’m scared of all the times I had sex I didn’t want to have. Of being coerced into fucking someone, cajoled. Not wanting to be a prude, or having a reputation as a Good Time Girl to maintain. Of being too drunk to say no, too stoned to move, too high to know better.
I’m scared of the man who is harassing me now. Who thinks that because he was allowed to touch my body once, that’s an open invitation. That because I opened my legs for him, I’ll do it again and again. And that my desire not to makes me a whore, a worthless nonentity who he can treat how he likes. That he can hurt, scare, torment. I’m scared of his anger, and of my own. I’m scared of walking home, being in my house, sleeping. And I’m scared, again, of talking to people about it.
I’m scared for those one in three women, for those one in five men, for those one in two transgender people. I’m scared, until I remember I’m one of them. I’m scared, but I will march, again. Because it’s important. I hope you will too.
Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration which takes different forms in different countries. In New Zealand, it serves as a day to consider the progress that women have made, and the progress that is yet to come.
The New Zealand Herald focuses on the biggest concerns facing women, with various facts and stats, and an interview with Rowena Phair, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The issues are… interestingly framed, in the way that Sheryl Sandberg’s analysis of why we have so few women leaders for TED is interestingly framed (video at link). Sandberg is Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and her advice for women about how to get to top positions is all about how to behave like men. She pays no attention to systemic problems that confront women, and instead offers advice for individual women, not contemplating even for a moment that it might be better to look at the whole way our society structures work and work expectations. See Julie’s post at The Hand Mirror for a discussion of the Sandberg talk: Too few women leaders.
The CEO of Women’s Affairs tells us that the top five issues facing women are:
1. Balancing home life with paid work
2. Staying healthy
3. Getting the right reward for their skills
4. Backing themselves as leaders
5. Feeling safe in relationships.
All good issues to focus on, of course, but look at the advice that is given for each issue.
1. Balancing home life with paid work:
“A big issue for women is managing those responsibilities.”
2. Staying healthy:
“New Zealand women need to make sure they leave space in their busy schedule to take care of themselves.”
3. Getting the right reward for their skills:
“Women are concerned about their financial future, especially in their 20s, and Phair said one way this can be dealt with is by considering all the options available to them in the workforce.
4. Backing themselves as leaders:
“Women are really active in their communities, they’ve got opinions to contribute, but they’ve really got to have the confidence in their convictions…”
5. Feeling safe in relationships:
“It’s very unusual for men to be physically violent without some behaviours that lead up to that so women can keep themselves safe by being very alert … and to get help as quickly as they can.” She said young women are particularly vulnerable to abusive relationships. “Woman really need to keep their eyes open in relationships.”
With the exception of the first, it’s all about what individual women can do to change things. No discussion of systemic factors that might work against women. For example, it sounds like the easiest thing in the world to find a bit of time to stay healthy, but if you are trying to care for small children, and trying to work, then just finding the time to do anything extra can be difficult, even when it’s home based. As for trying to get to the gym, well, you have to sort child care first, so the cost can be considerable. Getting up and going for a run in the mornings might do, until winter darkness closes in. And even then, someone has to be a home to care for the children.
Getting the right reward for their skills? The evidence is that even when women don’t take time out for child care, and do push just as much for higher salaries, they still don’t get paid as much as their male colleagues, because it’s not nice for women to negotiate, so women who do negotiate are punished for it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. More recently, Catalyst found that:
When women did all the things they have been told will help them get ahead—using the same tactics as men—they still advanced less than their male counterparts and had slower pay growth. (Source)
Being a leader in your community – it’s up to you to be confident in yourself. No mention of the constant put-downs that women are subject to, from on-going commentary on their appearance and what they wear (vide Helen Clark and Julia Gillard) to being spoken over, to the dispiriting experience of saying something insightful and helpful, only to have it ignored, until a man two seats further along the table says exactly the same thing, and the point is taken up with enthusiasm.
And the last one – that’s a real doozy. It’s up to the woman to keep herself safe in violent relationships, and the person who perpetrates the violence is not responsible for his, or more rarely her, violence at all.
We are hearing the CEO through the filter of the NZ Herald reporter, so we can’t be sure that Phair herself framed those issues and responses in exactly that way. Even so, it is at least disconcerting to find no attention paid to the systemic issues that women face. Instead, it’s all individualised, and the remedies are all focused on what individual women can do.
On the other hand, the Herald’s reporting is several light years ahead of what Stuff has come up on International Women’s Day. You can find out How to look 10 years younger! In a transparent piece of advertising for a book masquerading as editorial content, women are told that they need to use the right make-up so that they can look younger. The book’s author says that she loves, LOVES! working with older women, aged over 35, because they can look 10 years younger with the right make-up. And of course, it is a woman’s duty to look as young as possible, because older women are simply socially unacceptable.
This 46 year old woman declines.
For a much more inspiring analysis of International Women’s Day, take a look at Scuba Nurse’s post, where she writes about all the good things for women in New Zealand, as well as noting where there is still work to be done: International Women’s Day 2012. And over at Hoyden about Town, Mindy has some Sobering thoughts on the eve of International Women’s Day, reviewing the international statistics on violence against women.
Breaking News: Bob McCroskie won’t be wearing a white ribbon this year. Why? Because it’s not a gender issue. And you ladies should stop telling lies.
If we’re serious about reducing family violence, we need to open both eyes – and tell the truth. The website says “Violence is endemic within New Zealand. One in three women are victims of violence from a partner”. The first part is right – the second misrepresents the facts….But will the researchers ask men to what level they have been victims of intimate partner violence? How many men would say they, too, have been physically assaulted, or made to feel bad, humiliated in front of others or intimidated by their partner?
Now. I’m not going to negate that there is certainly violence against men, nor that women can also commit family violence. (And that your analysis completely – and shockingly – ignores anyone who isn’t cis and hetero.) But if we’re going to have this conversation, wouldn’t it be good to do it without some hand-picked statistics selected to prove Bob’s point?
Here’s one I found, simply by googling “crime stats NZ”:
There were 1,696 fewer family violence offences recorded in 2010/11 than in 2009/10 – a 3.1% reduction. A total of 52,408 family violence offences were recorded compared with 54,104 during the same time last year. This 3.1% drop marks a strong reversal in the steady upward trend of recent years.
Within this figure there were 555 fewer family violence assaults – down -2.1% from 25,935 to 25,380 family violence assault offences. Most of these assaults were male assaults female which decreased by 904 from 8768 to 7864 offences.
Here’s something else I found with a really quick Google:
In 2005 the New Zealand Police recorded 62,470 offence and non-offence family violence incidents; 62,615 children and young people aged under 17 years were involved (TAVF 2006). Between 2000 and 2004 54 women were murdered by men through family violence, and three men were murdered by women (TAVF 2006). Although the overall murder rate is declining, murders that are domestically related are not (TAVF 2006); in fact the number of deaths of women due to domestic violence has increased from an average of nine per year in the 10 years to 1987 (Fanslow et al. 1991) to an average of 15 in the years 2000 to 2004, suggesting a real increase (see TAVF 2006). In 2007, 25 of 53 murders were recorded as family violence-related (TAVF 2007). In 2005 Women’s Refuge supported 17,212 women and 9,904 children (TAVF 2006). Between 90 and 95% of all applicants for protection orders in New Zealand are women, and most respondents are men (Bartlett 2006, Law Commission 2003).
Want more? (if you can stomach it).
I’m sure, if I had the time and the inclination, I could find as many statistics as I wanted. And I am fairly certain that LGBT people would be over-represented therein. But frankly, I don’t feel like spending my afternoon trawling through facts and figures about women being assaulted, smacked around, intimidated or murdered.
But no, Bob, it’s not a gendered issue, is it? And in fact, you’re right, it’s not. But not for the reasons you have. Not because your self-righteous, holier-than-thou, indignant sensibilities are offended by an ad campaign that happens to be aimed at people like you. (Which, as the White Ribbon campaign points out works, because more men respond to messages aimed directly at them.) It’s also not because WOMEN DO IT TOO, no matter how loudly you try to scream that.
It’s not, because stopping family violence is incumbent on us all, regardless of our gender. It’s because standing up and saying “this isn’t OK”, stepping in where we can, helping out where we can, doing what we can do – that’s for all of us. And for you, Bob, to say that you won’t support the campaign because “the statistics lie”, is disingenuous at best, and downright fucking disgraceful at worst. And I know which I believe it is.