Blake Lively, Gwyneth Paltrow and, yes, Beyoncé didn’t wake up like this. [The Cut]
I have a stalker.
I write that partly in jest, but I do have someone that has expressed an unwanted interest in me of late, despite no indications from me that I would be remotely interested in this person apart from being cordial when he asked me a work-related question, that could potentially turn into full blown stalking.
When I relayed this to a male friend, offhandedly saying that if I go raped in the near future he would be the most likely culprit, he initially expressed MRA-levels of outrage.
“It’s a bit unfair to automatically assume that this seemingly nice guy who probably just has a crush on you could be a rapist,” he offered.
This is not the first time I’ve received a similar response when bemoaning the unwanted male attention thrown my—and many other women’s—way.
“But what if a guy thinks you’re cute and just wants to come up and say hi and ask you out for a coffee?” one male friend asked.
There have been a few instances where that has happened, and when I’ve said thanks but no thanks, they’ve accepted that and let me go on my merry way. But we have to ask why men feel entitled to women’s bodies and time as they’re going about their business with no indication that they’re interested in being interrupted so some NiceGuy™ can air his feelings to you in the first place. Why is women’s privacy and right to be left alone less important than men’s? Patriarchal conditioning would be my best guess: boys and men are taught that they’re the gatekeepers of not only women’s bodies, but women’s happiness, too. Go out and get it/provide it, essentially.
Back to my friend who questioned my use of the stalker moniker. I agree that it is unfair to assume he’s going to rape me, but at some point, deep down, most women have to assume that all men are going to—or at the very least, can—rape them. Enter Schrodinger’s Rapist.
I’ve written about the fact that for the most part I personally don’t let fear prevent me from going out at night and, if it comes down to it, I won’t be afraid to tell my stalker where to go. But I also avoid certain areas where I know harassment is rife. Again, deep down, I know there’s always a chance I can be taken by surprise when my guard’s down because women can be harassed and raped and treated as second class citizens at any time or place.
And not only are women never truly physically safe, they’re not ideologically safe. Thankfully I’ve never been in the position to have to report a sexual assault to the police or take a sexual harassment claim further than nipping it in the bud in the first instance, but if I was, I’d surely be blamed for inciting it; abused all over again, as it were. I’m not trying to insinuate that my friend is a bad person for automatically jumping to my stalker’s defence, but even the fact that he didn’t believe my descriptions of his stalkerish ways illustrates that it takes a bit of convincing for a woman to have her claims believed.
As the husband of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher, Tom Meagher, wrote for the White Ribbon blog, the myth of the rapist being a monster hiding in the bushes, as Meagher’s rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was, blinds us to the fact that many rapes are carried out by people known to the victim. Partners, family members, friends, colleagues. So my deduction that my stalker could certainly become my rapist is not that far of a reach.
Related: The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.
Elsewhere: [TheVine] Feeling Like a Stalker.
Taylor Swift and “Power Friending”. [Daily Life]
The rise of IDGAF feminism. [New Republic]
Further to yesterday’s post, “Is Robin Thicke the Male Equivalent of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?”:
“Pathetically wounded, his ‘clean’ (married, romantic) image tarnished by ‘dirty” rumors of infidelity, more than a little deluded and dangerous in his insistence that ‘no’ always means ‘maybe,’ that the lines between him and the women he wants are always ‘blurred’ no matter how clear and firm they seem to anyone else, he’s perfectly suited for the Celebrity Meltdown slot we usually reserve for women. We hate Thicke the way we hate girls: Based on vibe, on rumor, on what he feels and whether we want him to feel it. Thicke may go down in history as the first man ever to be stereotyped as a crazy ex-girlfriend.” [Global Comment]
Robin Thicke, along with Pharrell and T.I., came out with arguably 2013’s most controversial song, “Blurred Lines”, about this time last year.
Now the son of Growing Pains actor Alan Thicke is back with a whole new album about his estranged wife, Paula Patton, entitled simply, Paula.
Thicke was caught with his hand on a female fan’s bottom and allegedly followed this up by cheating on his high-school sweetheart Patton, with whom he’d been involved for 21 years and has a son. The unflappable Patton seemed to take the split in her stride, at least compared to Thicke, who’s taken to social media and radio waves in an attempt to win his former ladylove back.
The fact that his forthcoming album’s tracklist consists entirely of breakup-and-makeup songs is supposed to be romantic, but to the discerning eye, Thicke’s predation that was front and centre in “Blurred Lines” has come to the fore yet again.
Not only does his public begging read as more desperate than romantic, it publicly shames the other party who’s chosen to deal with the dissolution of their marriage in private.
But we all know Thicke’s favourite pastime is to “degrade a woman” and that’s exactly what he’s doing with this ill thought out album. For some perspective, the titular woman filed for divorce from Thicke in February this year, and the album’s first single, “Get Her Back” was released in May, giving Paula a lead-time of three months. And it has only been a year since Thicke’s previous album, Blurred Lines, featuring the rape anthem of the same name, came out.
The actual Marvin Gaye medleys that Thicke has become so well known—and taken to court—for and that make up Paula aren’t the worst in the world, but it’s when listeners pay mind to Thicke’s lyrics that the album really starts to run into trouble. The calypso rhythm of “You’re My Fantasy”, for example, can’t rescue it from this little ditty: “Your legs on my walls/Your body’s on my ceiling”; while Thicke makes reference to the cheating rumours on the Motown-y “Black Tar Cloud”, crooning “I thought everyone was gonna eat the chips/Turns out I’m the only one who double dipped”. (Thanks for that visual.) The mumbly “Forever Love” is luckily accompanied by a lyric video because Thicke’s enunciation is so poor it’s hard to sing along like the 14-year-old sung along in Patton’s ear to Stevie Wonder’s “Jungle Fever” upon their first meeting as teens in early ’90s Los Angeles.
“Get Her Back”, the earwormy lead single is arguably the album’s only redeeming one however its problematic video, featuring scrolling text messages that we’re to believe were sent between Thicke and Patton atop close-up shots of a fake-bloodied and allegedly crying Thicke being groped by masked women who look marginally like Patton before they plunge head-first into cavities of water, references intimate partner violence, like much of the album.
Thicke carried out a thick (so to speak) and fast social media campaign for Paula, including the hashtags #GetHerBack and #AskThicke, which ultimately backfired in a flurry of negative feminist press. Thicke even went so far as to engage in a cross-promotion with 1800-Flowers, for which the “Get Her Back” bouquet will set you back a cool $350—but it comes with a free digital download of Paula, so you’re actually saving money. But it would seem that many music consumers are holding on to their pennies this time around: just 530 fans in the UK and a dismal 54 in Australia forked out for Paula.
Thicke might not be a one-hit wonder (remember his 2002 debut, the equally as rapey as “Blurred Lines”, come to think of it, “When I Get You Alone”?), he proves that perhaps sex was the only thing that sold “Blurred Lines”.
The Hollywood that Thicke grew up in would have us believe that male persistence is the way to a girl’s heart: “the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes,” writes Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. “You need to look no further than the outrageously popular Twilight series—books and movies—to know that the stalker-as-romantic lead looms large in our cultural imagination.” Real life headlines about intimate partner violence suggest that stalking is more deadly than romantic.
Further to that, Alyssa Rosenberg writes over at The Washington Post that “the simple fact of male persistence ought to be enough to bring a woman around to loving him”, while Clem Bastow asserted on Daily Life that Thicke’s quest to “Get Her Back” is “about the feelings of the man in question, not the woman he is searching for or seeking to reconcile with”.
But that’s Thicke’s pattern (pardon the pun); he’s crafting a pop cultural narrative where he’s the ultimate NiceGuy™ and if Patton continues to reject him she’s a cold-hearted bitch. And if Thicke was hoping for a deluge of sales to help him convince Patton to take him back, he’s sorely underestimated the public’s keen nose for desperation.
From The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss:
“Let’s talk about [selfies].
“These self-photographed images, existing as they do in an image-saturated culture, reflect some real aspect of people’s experiences. They are neither inherently empowering nor inherently disempowering. How can we pretend that beautiful young women in advertisements are just good old capitalism, that the publication of revealing paparazzi shots should be blamed on their beautiful, unsuspecting subjects, but selfies are morally dangerous because they sometimes reveal that young women (shock, horror) may try to look pretty or even hope to appear attractive? They are so self-absorbed! Narcissistic! So, we talk about what a big problem it is that women are taking photographs of themselves, without a middle man, and choosing to present those photographs publicly, for their own purposes, rather than the fact that images of women are used to sell everything from beer to automobiles to magazines.”
Can men please stop singing songs about women who don’t find themselves beautiful? (I explored the same topic here.) [Buzzfeed]
“What remains the same is that sex is made out to be a game, one in which men are competitors and women are prizes. Men are tasked with pleading, urging and coercing women into sex, or sexual behavior…
“Young women’s sexuality is so policed and constrained that they are often looking for excuses to be sexual — sometimes it’s drinking too much, sometimes it’s a silly contest. Anything for plausible slut-deniability.” [Salon]
Like Anna Gunn before her, Leighton Meester takes issue with the misogyny hurled at her character on the latest Broadway iteration of Of Mice & Men:
“The insults are thrown at Curley’s wife: bitch, tramp, tart. The further along in the production we go, the more I realise that the audience agrees. In rooting for our heroes—the everyman protagonists who scorn and demean the only woman—the audience finds themselves unquestioningly hating her, too. But why? … [I]n dissecting this piece for five months now, I’ve found that within the writing, there is both a lack of reason to truly hate this woman, and the inevitable and undeniable urge to do so…
“If this woman is purely a victim, why is she so hated? And if she is truly harmless, why is she so threatening? Without question, it was a commentary on the social climate at the time, which still surprisingly applies today. But if sexism is one of the featured themes, why not say it?” [HuffPo]
Naked women as props (NSFW). [Sociological Images]
The latest artists’ take on Disney princesses and social awareness features Cinderella, Ariel et al. as victims of domestic violence. [Daily Life]
Occupy protestor Cecily McMillan reports on the conditions inside Rikers Island Correctional Facility. And let me tell you, this ain’t no Orange is the New Black shit. [Jezebel]
There’s a difference between a feminist character and a character who’s a feminist. [Persephone Magazine]
Speaking of, Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is more feminist than Scandal:
“… The attention and praise Rhimes has received for casting [Kerry] Washington as [Olivia] Pope has overshadowed the fact that what Rhimes got right with her female characters in Grey’s, she got wrong in Scandal…
“When it comes to their personal lives, the women in Scandal are insecure, vulnerable and reactive, while the ones in Grey’s are stronger, self-assured and reflective.” [In These Times]
The 74th Down Under Feminist Blog Carnival is up, and one of my pieces about Orange is the New Black is featured. Head on over to check it, and much more feminist writing from the Aussie interwebs, out. [Pondering Postfeminism]
In the wake of True Blood‘s final season, Katherine Murray discusses its troubling sexual politics. [Bitch Flicks]
Grey’s Anatomy is one of the more feminist shows currently on the air. Hell, it’s created by Shonda Rhimes (she of Scandal and Grey’s spin-off, Private Practice, fame), a big champion of woman-centric storytelling on TV.
Across its ten season run, Grey’s has dealt with parenting, childlessness, abortion, romantic relationships—both heterosexual and otherwise, illness, loss, friendship and career mostly through the eyes of its female protagonist, Meredith Grey, and her colleagues, friends and family: Cristina, Izzie, Lexie, Callie, Arizona, April, Addison, Bailey and so on. This season, though, seemed to really tap into the oft-mentioned feminist issue of “having it all” (meaning kids and career) and what happens when a woman shuns that path.
Early on this season tensions were brewing between Meredith and Cristina when Meredith gave birth to her second child, Bailey, named after Dr. Miranda Bailey who helped deliver him, and leant out of the surgery game. As Meredith’s life became increasingly family oriented, Cristina felt alienated from “her person”, with whom she used to compete for surgeries and get drunk on tequila at Joe’s bar. This is not to suggest that just because Cristina doesn’t want children (a character consistency since season one) she’s not involved in that part of Meredith’s life: Cristina is often shown caring for and engaging with Meredith’s daughter Zola. But this story arc illustrates that having two children is a lot different than parenting just one (cue Elizabeth Banks-style outrage over mothers of one child being less than mothers of more) and Meredith’s redirected attention certainly takes its toll on her friendship with Cristina.
This comes to a head in episode six of this season when Meredith chooses to continue her mother’s portal vein research using 3D printers (which Cristina later co-ops for one of her groundbreaking medical coups). This is partly because of Cristina’s recriminations in the previous episode, “I Bet It Stung”, that Meredith doesn’t do as many surgeries or as much research as Cristina because she chose to lean in to her children. There is much talk about “choosing valid choices” but ultimately Meredith identifies an impasse between the two friends and surgeons because Cristina doesn’t “have time for people who want things” that she doesn’t want.
Business continues much this way until April’s wedding, in the episode “Get Up, Stand Up”, in which Meredith and Cristina are both featured as bridesmaids. During a dress fitting, Cristina takes issue with Meredith calling her “a horrible person, over and over… because I don’t want a baby”. Harkening back to their very first day on the job, Meredith accuses Cristina of sleeping her way to the top, while Cristina retorts that in her struggle to maintain work/life balance, Meredith’s “become the thing we laughed at.” By episode’s end, Meredith acknowledges her envy of Cristina’s surgical trial successes:
“I’m so jealous of you I want to set things on fire. You did what I tried to do and I couldn’t… I don’t want to compete with you… but I do.”
Come the shows’ mid-season return, Meredith and Cristina’s friendship is back on track, with them bonding over Meredith’s anger at her husband Derek reneging on their agreement to focus more on Meredith’s career upon her realisation that she doesn’t want it to slip by the wayside in the wake of motherhood. They do this while drinking wine and looking after the kids at Mere’s place while Derek’s out of town.
Derek’s absence throughout the season, in Washington D.C. on business at the behest of the President (I know!), is juxtaposed with Meredith’s desire to be an attentive mother, which she didn’t have growing up and was the cause of many of her ills, whilst balancing her first love of medicine. In last season’s “Beautiful Doom”, Meredith worries about leaving Zola in the care of others while she operates. Callie, a working mother herself, assures Meredith that “it’s good for Zola to see you work. It’s good for her to see you achieve. That’s how she becomes you.” The season finale sees Meredith decide to stay in Seattle despite Derek accepting a job in Washington D.C. She doesn’t want to become her father, who was a “trailing spouse” to her abovementioned mother.
As far as Cristina’s concerned, though, her ex-husband Owen’s desire for a family is what’s kept them in flux from on-again to off-again for the better part of the past three seasons. In the Sliding Doors-esque episode “Do You Know?” Cristina is given the option of two life paths: one in which she has children, whilst in the other she continues her focus on her career; both involve Owen, and both see Cristina becoming miserable. The married-with-children scenario elicits a certain empathetic desperation as it’s made clear Cristina’s only succumbing to it for her lover. And when Owen meets maternal-fetal surgeon, Emma, whom Cristina described as “picket fence; a dozen kids; fresh-baked goods,” it seems he’s found his happy ending. But Owen’s desire for Cristina, despite his better judgment, causes him to cheat on and subsequently end things with Emma who is befuddled at how her boyfriend went from house hunting to breaking up with her in the space of a day. Owen asserts it’s because Emma wanted to stay home with their kids when they had them and he wanted someone who is “as passionate about her work as I am.” Make up your mind, Owen!
While Owen’s indecisiveness is annoying, it’s refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t want children framed as desirable over the traditional portrait of womanhood. This is not to mention Cristina’s hardheaded drive. On the other hand, Emma represents the losing battle women face in the fight to “have it all” perpetually highlighted by the concern-trolling media: you’d better want to be a mother, but you’ve also got to be driven in your career; you have to be around to raise your children, but you’d also better be leaning in in the workplace.
Grey’s has always been a staunchly pro-choice show. Upon April and Jackson’s shotgun wedding, Jackson’s mother brings up the issue of April’s faith when it comes to raising their future children who will be on the board of the Harper Avery Foundation, but no pressure! Catherine Avery asks whether April believes in limiting reproductive rights, and whether she’ll raise her children with those views. If so, will that colour their judgment in providing funding to hospitals that perform abortions, like Seattle Grace/Seattle Grace Mercy West/Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital/whatever it’s called now?! And what about stem cell research?
Grey’s certainly doesn’t sweep these issues under the rug because it’s convenient for a storyline or for the show to remain politically unbiased. Rhimes has spoken about Cristina’s unintended pregnancy in a season one/two crossover storyline in which she was scheduled for an abortion but miscarried before she could have the procedure due to an ectopic pregnancy:
“… [T]he network freaked out a little bit. No one told me I couldn’t do it, but they could not point to an instance in which anyone had. And I sort of panicked a little bit in that moment and thought maybe this isn’t the right time for the character, we barely know her… I didn’t want it to become like what the show was about… And [Cristina’s miscarriage] bugged me. It bugged me for years.”
“I felt like we had earned all of the credentials with the audience. The audience knew these characters. The audience loved these characters. The audience stood by these characters. You know, we were in a very different place even politically, socially. Nobody blinked at the studio or the network when I wrote the storyline this time. Nobody even brought it up except to say, that was a really well written episode.”
With no signs of slowing down, but with perhaps one of TV’s most feminist characters departing, Grey’s Anatomy is sure to continue presenting women, work and the myriad choices in between in a positive and realistic way.
*Blanket spoiler alert.
In the wake of the Rolf Harris guilty verdict and sentencing, sexual abuse has been on the lips of many people.
Last week I happened to be privy to one such conversation, in which Oscar Pistorius, Ariel Castro and Harris were discussed. Pistorius was rightfully condemned but, as will happen when you’re in the company of much of the general public who take our patriarchal rape culture as gospel, these amateur sleuths discovered holes in the cases of Castro and Harris.
Because Harris wasn’t preying on children, but almost-of-age women, these people questioned the veracity of his victims’ stories. And the fact that another woman came forward with allegations against the former children’s entertainer after the verdict made them wonder why she would even bother or why she didn’t press charges.
Mia Freedman wrote last week of her encounter as a child with Harris, and how he tried to chat up her uninterested mother. She asserted that dirty old men have been rudely awakened in this day and age when what used to be excused as “touchy-feely” is now considered sexual assault.
The conversation then turned to Ariel Castro and his 11-year imprisonment of Michelle Knight (now known as Lily Rose Lee), Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. In addition to getting the facts of the case wrong (one person claimed the victims were all about 12 or 13 years old when they were kidnapped; in fact, DeJesus was the youngest at 14 years old, Berry was 17 and Lee was 21), victim-blaming was rife. They wondered why, if the victims were allowed free reign in the house and had been permitted outside (I don’t recall hearing or reading about this, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen), they didn’t just leave. From my understanding, Berry and DeJesus were given more freedom than Lee, who bore the brunt of Castro’s beatings, rape and torture. Plus, Berry had a child to Castro she would need to consider before attempting to escape. This is not to mention Stockholm Syndrome.
Someone wondered why the three women, upon rescue, seemed so normal; years of captivity would drive a person crazy, it was asserted. Firstly, I don’t believe the women seemed “normal” at all; we’ve hardly heard from DeJesus and Lee has been the most vocal about her abuse but it’s clear how affected she is by it. Secondly, when I interjected to say the women weren’t exactly children, so therefore had mental faculties that would serve them better in their fight-or-flight predicament, and that they had each other to lean on in the dire situation they found themselves in, I was shut down. Perhaps it was because I’ve heard this person say numerous times they hate to be alone and thrive in the company of others so couldn’t fathom only being in contact with three other people for 11 years, but the human body and mind have ways of adapting to such circumstances. Lee, Berry and DeJesus are a testament to that.
From here the conversation turned to domestic violence victims and, as we oft hear, “why they just don’t leave” and that “there would have to be some evidence of years of abuse” when victims are pushed to the brink and end up murdering their abusers. By this point I was livid and held myself back from saying what I am about to type lest I damage my at-arms-length but daily relationship with these people: intimate partner violence doesn’t just happen out of the blue. It’s not like one day your loving, equal partner snaps and hits you and that’s it: you leave them (although I’m sure there are a small amount of cases like this, the vast majority of abusers have a pattern of behaviour prior that results in violence).
While I’ve never been in an abusive relationship myself, I watched my parents engage in one for 22 years—a relationship that became violent long before that.
Abusers isolate their partner from their support system, severing contact with family, friends and the workplace, and thereby finances of their own, so that when the violence begins the victims have nowhere to turn. My mum was a stay-at-home parent and engaged in several small businesses with my father so she was completely financially dependent on him. My dad would even work three jobs while my mum stayed home which I’ve only just deduced was probably his attempt to keep her as his dependent. I watched my mothers’ friends and family come and go, oftentimes due to altercations about my father. She told barely anyone and never went to the cops or the emergency room; there was no point if she couldn’t leave. I think I remember Mum telling me once that her mother-in-law tended to her cut face and neck after my father glassed her. He abused her whilst she was pregnant with me, and I can count at least ten other times I witnessed violence before the age of 12. Around that time it stopped, but that was when the years-long break-up, make-up back-and-forth began and didn’t end until I was 22 and my father finally moved out of the familial home. My sister and I followed soon after.
I blamed my mother a lot for “not just leaving”, as the abovementioned gaggle of armchair commentators would say, and I still harbour resentment towards her for exposing her children to a violent relationship. But as I’m exposed to more and more women’s stories of violence, I come to understand my mother’s circumstances more and more. I only hope that as these cases continue to come to light, the ignorant among us can become just a touch more enlightened about other people’s lives.
The history of the sex education film. [Alternet]
There should be a Bechdel test for mothers in kid’s movies: “Show me an animated kids’ movie that has a named mother in it who lives until the credits roll.” And when mothers are present, they act as a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Mum, paving the way for the main characters—and their fathers—to carry out the rest of the narrative. [The Atlantic]
Duke porn star Belle Knox writes about her experience being slut-shamed from within the industry she works. [Jezebel]