Blog Archives

Talking about rape

I have been struggling lately with how to talk about the issue of rape in a manner that both is representative of the gendered nature of rape and its use as a weapon against women but also does not silence or erase the experience of men who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

I strongly believe in the gendered nature of rape – particularly the ways in which women victims are treated compared to other crimes, the lack of prosecutions that occur for rape and rape apologia in general but I also strongly detest the idea that men can never be raped.  I believe this notion is part of a patriarchal social structure that views men as insatiable sexually and unable to control their sexual impulses meaning they always want to have sex no matter what. This both feeds in to rape culture – ideas around “well he couldn’t help it if she was dressed like that”, “She was coming on to him all night what did she expect” and also makes male victims either invisible or targets for ridicule as people question their masculinity.

How do I talk about rape in a way that is true to the social and political fact of rape and the threat of rape being a gendered experience without silencing or erasing other experience.  I would love to know what you think.

Advertisements

Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus

Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus.

From the link:
“At some point during the debate a group of left-wingers, most of whom Cameron didn’t know, joined in the debate.

They proceeded to call him:

An Idiot
Fucked Up
A Marxist
A Fatuous, self-serving, carpetbagger
Uneducated
A Wanker
A skinhead
A Neo-nazi
A member of the KKK
An Aryan
A Genocide supporter
And a white supremist”

 

The gist of the article implies that people calling Mr. Browne these names was sufficient justification for Mr. Browne to tell a woman he disagreed with – who did not call him any of these names – to “get raped”

One of these things is not like the other. Telling anyone but particularly a woman who you are disagreeing with to “get raped” is not a slur it is the implicit threat of gender based violence. It is permeated in the idea that ‘uppity women’ who get above themselves need to be put back in their place. Mr. Browne clearly used this particular phrase against a woman with the specific intent of silencing her indicating he knows and understands the power and context of it. Nowhere has Mr. Browne apologised for using this phrase.

This is rape culture in action. Using the implicit threat of rape to silence a woman then pretending it is nothing. Do me a favour and if Cameron Browne ever stands for election don’t vote for him – because this is clear evidence of man who is a misogynist and is no ally to women.

MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News

MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News.

So these comments of the head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand are so full of fail I barely know where to begin.

“Mr Thompson today admitted there was a gender pay gap in New Zealand.

He told Newstalk ZB it was partly explained by some women needing sick days every month, along with extra time off to care for children.

“Let me get down to tin tacks. The fact is women have babies. They take time out of their careers.

“Looks at who takes the most sick leave. Women do, in general, why? Because once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do they have children they have to take time off to go home and take leave of…

“I don’t like saying this because it sounds like I’m sexist but it’s a fact of life.”

I find it deeply humorous that a man of Mr. Thompson’s age and stature cannot openly refer to menstruation and refers to it as “monthly sick problems”. I suppose points should go to Mr. Thompson for admitting there is a gender pay gap in New Zealand, but the rest of his analysis suffers from a severe lack of structural analysis.

Firstly the fallacies, Mr. Thompson implies that all women suffer from “monthly sick problems” and have children. Of course this is not true many women either cannot or do not menstruate for a wide variety of reasons and the same applies to procreation.

Even if what Mr. Thompson said is true of all women he would still be wrong. He is implying that women should rightly be paid less because of their biology.  This should not sit well with anyone with even a slightly developed sense of justice. Women are paid less because of a society that systematically devalues their work on every level. From the care work that they do within their homes to the career work they do outside of it. The gender pay gap exists because women are expected to do the lions share of  care-giving and unpaid house work while also managing to have a career.  The gender pay gap exists because women are consistently seen as less than their male counterparts,

I almost wish that every woman could/would go on strike from having children to see whether that would close the gender pay gap.  I don’t imagine it would but it would make people fear for the future of the human race quick smart.

 

Commitment

To The Other Side of Dreaming.  Go read this first.

Today I am stating my commitment to be a good ally, a fierce comrade to join you in your fight for social justice no matter who you may be. I promise to never stop educating myself. I promise to apologise sincerely when I fuck up. I promise to never make my support conditional upon your tone, on making yourself less than. I promise to truly listen to what you need and not to provide what I think you need.  I promise to never act as though you should be grateful for my support.

This is my commitment to every social justice movement that I am involved in which I do not personally identify as being a part of. I will strive each day to make sure that this remains true.

Womanly things

Sometimes I get so frustrated with how anything associated with women is deemed frivolous and unimportant. Women’s fiction, women’s  cinema, women’s interests, women’s issues.

Being girly in common parlance means being into fashion and make up and skin care and interior decorating and having things match. Basically making all things including yourself pretty. There is nothing innately wrong with this it is just simply the assumption that this should be all a woman should want and could ever be interested in that is deeply problematic.It is just as problematic that ANYONE who is interested in these things is frivolous and stupid and womanish because that is what they are womanly.

I feel like that the way things operate right now is that it is awesome for women to like things that are traditionally associated with masculinity and that these things are ‘gender neutral’ and that this neutrality has freed us from having to be interested in silly traditionally womanly things, as no one would REALLY be interested in these things given the choice.

This is obviously not true and makes many women feel at odds with the mainstream feminist movement and also does nothing in terms of making socially constructed gender boundaries more fluid as it is OK for women to be interested in and to do more masculine things because they are ‘better’ but not for men to do the opposite because traditionally female things are ‘worse’.

NGO funding again

Over time I am becoming more and more frustrated and disgusted when it comes to the funding of NGO’s. Funders seem to have no clue what it takes to actually provide services or achieve outcomes. I strongly believe that it this is in large part due to the lack of value care work has to contemporary society because it has in the past always been done for free by women.

NGO work is in a lot of ways on a macro societal level what a home maker does on a micro individual/familial level. Trying to make sure that everyone one is cared for, that they have clothes and food and are as healthy as they can be, that they get a reasonable education, They they stay out of trouble and away from things that could harm them.

These tasks in contemporary society both on the micro and macro levels have often been considered of little value because they are not related to income generation or economic development.

The only way our capitalist system can fucntion is if there is someone to do this care work. With the advent of the dual income family there has been the rise of cheap domestic labour travelling across borders.  With the advent of governments being unable to provide baisic services to their needy citizens NGO’s have stepped in to fill the gap.

However just because this work is now being paid for does not mean it is valued any more than in the past. In the vast majority of countries domestic work does not count as ‘real’ work and is not covered by labour laws leaving (the almost all female) domestic workers open to exploitation. NGO’s have to fight tooth and nail to get money for actual staff, even programme staff and finding money for support staff is a joke. There is an expectation that these things can just happen without people being paid even a fraction of what they are worth.

This way of thinking is deeply embedded and needs to change, some work is considered important and some is not and it has very little to what you actually in real terms contribute to the world. I challenge you to think about how you view the people in your life that do domestic work, I challenge you to think about all the mundane things that make it possible for you to live the life you do.

SHARK!

I had most of last week off work due to the Thai new year so my partner and I decided to head to the southern islands to soak up some rays while we had the opportunity.

While there I took my fat belly ( I don’t really have a fat ass) snorkeling (in a lovely blue polka dot bikini I might add) I was having a great old time bobbing along with the fishies.  It was very peaceful being in the incredibly beautiful clear blue water seeing all manner of wildlife. Until I saw a shark. For real, an honest to good shark. I’m pretty sure after posting siting googling that what I saw was a grey reef shark and although it is a bit hard to judge size in the water it was roughly around 1.5 meters long.

My reaction went something like this”Oh look a shark!! That is so cool! It is a decent size too! I must tell my partner! So I swam over to my partner to tell him and somehow my excitement turned into blind panic.  I got out “OH MY GOD I JUST SAW A SHARK” and then the panicky breathing started and I had to swim (calmly but I didn’t stop) back to shore.

I knew intellectually that this shark was too small to see me as a meal but that didn’t stop a highly irrational emotional response from kicking in. There is so much emotional conditioning around sharks that just hit me like a punch in the gut.

The fear response was very primal and it made me think more about other forms of social conditioning and the emotions we attach to things.   It really hit home for me that we can internalise things even when we don’t think we are. For example Shark = FEAR, Fat = Disgust, Women = Lesser. All these things seem ridiculous but it is so hard to keep what we really think and feel straight with all the other messages sent to us and so sometimes your emotions default to the shortcut, what we have been told is true even though we know it is not.

I know the next time I see a shark (I really hope there will be a next time sharks are really cool) I will be able to resist that fear much more easily because I have experienced it once and I feel that each day I spend resisting those other proscribed feelings and associations really does make it easier and easier. I’m not sure if I will ever kick the conditioning for good but I will do my damnedest to try!

Sucker Punch The Movie – A Reading

I found this movie really interesting to me. Of course there were some deeply problematic elements (there almost always are in mainstream pop culture) but there was also a lot that spoke to me. This post is going to have a lot of spoilers so don’t read if you haven’t seen it yet and you care about that kind of thing.

I suppose because of my particular experiences and perceptions I read this film very differently from many other people who seem to think it is purely  a male masturbatory fantasy.

The story goes like ths: A young woman known only as babydoll is framed for the murder of her younger sister by her step father who after their mother’s death becomes enraged as she has left all of her money to the two girls. As a result Babydoll is committed to a mental institution. From here in order to cope with the realities of life in the institution Babydoll descends into her mind where the institution becomes a girly bar and brothel and further from there when she dances to please the men she goes deeper into her mind and creates vivid mental pictures of fighting villains with swords and guns in order to complete missions. These missions are linked to retrieving the objects she and her friends require to escape from the asylum.

What I saw that was deeper about this movie than a mere sexy chicks and guns gore fest was this.

The film presents a world that is ruled by men. Even when women are in charge they are not actually, they have some power but they still have to play by the rules which are created by men. This is seen by the character of Dr./Madame Doskey who is meant to be the real authority at the mental asylum but is subverted by the orderly Blue and who is in charge of the girls in the brothel but is ruled over by the pimp Blue. She is an authority figure but her authority is never absolute, she is always either not being taken fully seriously or ignored when what she is doing does not suit the men around her.

At the same time however the movie indicates that subverting male authority is difficult but possible. This is seen when the ‘girls’ (babydoll and the other patients and the asylum) band together in order to find the things they need to to get out. This to me spoke of using the tools of the world order to subvert them – Babydoll would do her sexy dancing to distract men while other stole or copied the items they needed.

At the end of the movie it is made clear that a group of orderlies have been sexually abusing the patients of the asylum and it is likely that this is where Babydoll’s inner fantasy of the brothel comes from – she sees the asylum as a place where men can use women for their pleasure and they do. This speaks to the disturbingly high rates of sexual abuse in institionalised women because society does not value them and their voices are not heard, something I feel is a running theme throughout the movie.

This is not to say that prostitution is always victimisation, just that the particular juxtaposition of the two environments in the film leads to this particular contextual reading.

What I like most about the movie I think is the idea that men are both in the position of opressors but can also be allies. Throughout babydoll’s battles there is an older man present. He reminded me of the Charlie character in  Charlies angels – telling the beautiful young women who’s butt they were meant to kick. I definitely found this off putting. However at the end of the movie his ‘real life’ role turns out to be the bus driver who drives the bus that leaves from the station near the asylum and he helps the one patient that makes it out to get back to her home town.

Of course there are plenty of elements to this movie that were not necessarily pro woman at all, but I did think there was a lot more there than many other people. Perhaps I am reading too much into it but I found it interesting nonetheless.

The Big D

I have struggled with depression for as long time. I remember being 8 years old and being totally overwhelmed with life and not having the words or concepts to understand what was happening in my head.

To many people it seems ridiculous that an eight year old child with so much going for her can struggle so much. Children have mental health issues and it is not just the ‘obvious’ candidates. I had attempted suicide twice by the time I was 14 and I was from a a middle class family,my parents were still together and did not have any obvious issues. Luckily I didn’t really know what I was doing although looking back I did come perilously close. My home life was far from idyllic but what I was going through simply did not fit neatly into the accepted categories that resulted in broken children.

When I finally tried to talk about my mental health issues with my parents they were dumbfounded. The only way they knew how to react was with ridicule. I had every advantage in life, what could I possibly have to be depressed about? When I realised they couldn’t help me and I reached out to others they were horrified because I was airing my dirty laundry in public.

We have come a long way in the perceptions of mental illness but the underlying perception that mental illness can be overcome easily and is something that only happens to ‘those’ people is plain to see when we look how we think about mental illness in relation to children.

Grief

It seems like so many people I know lost important people to them in 2010. It is such an incredibly painful thing to go through. The finality of death, even when it is a long time coming – the human spirit makes hope hard to give up- and when there is no hope left the pain is astounding.

I remember being 14 and just feeling total shock that the world just kept on turning when my whole world had just fallen apart. One of the most deeply upsetting things that happened during this time was people questioning my grief. Treating it like it was inadequate and imperfect. Because I didn’t cry when people thought I should this meant that I didn’t love enough. Because I sought comfort with ‘inappropriate people’ I was not sincere enough.

As time went on it got worse because I was still hurting so deeply when the people around me expected me to get up and get on with life. In the world that we live in it seems as though grief has a time limit. You are only allowed a certain amount of time out before you have to go back to being a productive citizen. If you don’t then you are milking the situation.

It should be obvious but it often isn’t. There is no one correct way to grieve. People process things in their own ways and there is no set period. You can’t just decided to let loss take the back burner and get on with the rest of your life. I hate that the world I live in does not make allowances for broken people. That compassion is a virtue discarded for the bottom line. I hate that appropriate behaviours are often considered more important than actually dealing with feelings and resolving issues.

My main problem with the kyriarchy is that it never allows those who don’t fit just be. It imposes limits and puts people into boxes, taking away their personhood and reducing them to being simply the glaring fact of their marginialisation.

I see this reflected in placing people into boxes of appropriate and inappropriate grief. Measuring their reactions determined by some arbitrary standard calculated by gender, culture and strength of attachment. These are the small but infinitely damaging ways in which the kyriarchy worms its way into our lives – making us small enough to fit.

%d bloggers like this: