Walk A Mile in Their Shoes.

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.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Mia: “I Met Rolf Harris When I Was About 8 or 9.”

Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Popular Culture as a Feminist.

Recently, a friend questioned why I listen to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast when he’s a known intimate partner abuser. He makes a fair point, as I have shunned Sean Penn and Michael Fassbender movies and R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s music (not that I really had an interest in them to begin with) because of their woman-hating ways. But by the same token, I listen to 2Pac, John Lennon and Prince despite knowing their histories of similar assaults.

I replied that you can’t watch, listen to or read anything these days where the creator and/or their characters haven’t committed a crime or moral transgression. There’s Woody Allen, Game of Thrones, Michael Jackson and, to varying degrees, Bryan Singer, Fassbender and Halle Berry of the current X-Men film.

A lot of the pop cultural morsels I’ve mentioned above I first consumed before I knew about their creators’ wicked ways. I got into professional wrestling and all its problems, rap and hip hop and their misogynist lyrics, and the Beatles and MJ as a teen whose feminist ideals were in their infant stages, but by no means as staunchly militant as they are today. It’s easy to make the conscious effort not to consume products made by artists whose questionable morals you’re already aware of, not so much when you’ve already got a passion for them. (I’ve had conversations with people in recent weeks who did not know about Singer’s rape allegations nor Fassbender’s violent streak; their inner torment about liking something made by someone reprehensible [or at least someone who’s committed reprehensible acts] was evident in their pained, conflicted responses.) When I pointed this out to my abovementioned podcast friend, he asked whether that meant I thought I was exempt from examining the issues with famous men being rewarded for their transgressions just because I happen to like the stuff they produce.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. But by the same token, if we were to avoid problematic pop culture, we’d never leave the house!

I think the most important thing is not to make excuses about the problematic pop culture we choose to consume. I can’t say if I’ll continue to listen to Austin’s podcast but if I do I’ll be sure not to be hypocritical about it. No excuses here.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [The Smoking Gun] Stone Cole Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[Lipstick Alley] Flashback: Sean Penn Beat Madonna for 9 Hours in 1987; Charged with Felony Domestic Assault.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[Village Voice] Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Allegations Against R. Kelly in Full.

[MTV] Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details of Altercation.

[Lipstick Alley] Why Isn’t Tupac Remembered as a Rapist?

[Listverse] Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

[Daily Mail] Sinead O’Connor Talks About Punch Up With Prince.

[Vanity Fair] Mia’s Story.

[Jezebel] Game of Thrones, Sex & HBO: Where Did TV’s Sexual Pioneer Go Wrong?

[Wikipedia] 1993 Child Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Michael Jackson.

[Slate] What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations.

[People] Collision Course.

[TheVine] Can a Feminist Love Professional Wrestling?

[TheVine] Wonder Why They Call U Bitch.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Cleaning is still women’s work. [New Republic]

Is Jennifer Lawrence really as body-positive as she’s made out to be? [Sweaters for Days]

Unpacking the dissolving friendship between Meredith and Cristina on Grey’s Anatomy. [Vulture]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Lily Allen just released the feminist anthem of the year, with accompanying satirical video to boot! [Jezebel]

Though there are some important discussions that need to be had around the racism and objectification of the video. Is accessorising with scantily clad black women in the name of parody still using black culture as a commodity? [Birdee]

Most critiques of the song and video point to yes, just one reason being that it perpetuates the racism of white artists critiquing hip hop and rap music. I would’ve loved to see a black artist come out with this song and video, as it can be interpreted as Allen condemning black music culture without checking her privilege. I also think the themes of the video get a bit muddled: what genre is she trying to critique (“Blurred Lines”, Miley’s rachetism, the rap game…?) or is it the music industry in general? [The Trillest Villain]

Lily’s not the first female pop star to attempt to satirise the genre. [ThinkProgress]

Joss Whedon mansplains feminism. [Daily Life, Jezebel]

Let’s all move to Iceland! [Daily Life]

Intimate partner violence perpetrators in the National Hockey League. [Bitch Magazine]

Some of television’s most historically conservative channels are now the gayest. [Daily Beast]

Lip Mag‘s following in the footsteps of Rookie and Jezebel and releasing their own yearbook. Get 25% off when you preorder.

“The Problem with Sweden’s Feminist Film Rating.” [Daily Life]

You know you’re a feminist on the internet when… [Buzzfeed]

The misogyny of the left. [New Statesman]

ICYMI: I spent Halloween in New York City!

Image via Junkee.

On (Rest of the) Net.

Rachel Hills’ TEDx Talk on the sex myth, the topic of her upcoming book of the same name. [YouTube]

Defending The Onion‘s Chris-Brown-”I-Always-Thought-Rihanna-Was-the-Woman-I’d-Beat-to-Death” joke. [The Frisky]

Stop calling Amanda Bynes crazy. [TheVine]

What did Tony Abbott mean when he said “women of calibre” should be encouraged to have children and should feminists be speaking out in favour of the Coalition’s superior paid parental leave scheme? [Daily Life]

“Panels Full of Women”: on fetishising female news voices. [News Junkee]

Debunking the prevalence of sex-selective abortions in Australia. [Daily Life]

“See a Woman Reading? Leave Her Alone.” The perils of reading and subsequent street harassment. [Gender Focus]

The Great Gatsby doesn’t do the “newly liberated” flapper justice. [Collectors Weekly]

Manic pixie dream guy? [Nerve]

The sexism of Star‘s Most Annoying Celebrities list. [The Times Magazine]

Denmark’s latest televisual offering: women stripping naked in front of a panel of two men who critique their bodies. Obviously, this is a crazy and sexist idea for a TV show, but is it any crazier or more sexist than, say, Snog Marry Avoid? Both have an underlying message that women aren’t good enough, with one referring to the naked body whilst the other takes aim at how and with what a woman cloaks herself. Your thoughts? [Bust]

TV: Glee — Chris Brown is a Guilty Pleasure.

glee guilty pleasures jake bobby brown chris brown

Last week it was SVU, this week Glee is undertaking the Chris Brown treatment.

While Chris Brown is hardly in the guilty pleasures league of Wham!, Barry Manilow and the Spice Girls—the other shameful secrets of the New Directions—it was nice to see Glee address the notion of “liking the art but not the artist”.

This is an issue I’ve been grappling with lately as I write some wrestling-related pieces; for all its racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism and promotion of a rigid type of masculinity, is it still okay for a level-headed person to like professional wrestling? Much the same, is it okay for someone who acknowledges Brown for the “douchebag” he is (“I don’t think that douche is a strong enough word to describe him,” interjects Unique) to still like his music?

I personally have a couple of Brown songs on my iTunes (purchased pre-Rihanna beating, might I add?!), and against my best efforts, I do quite like “Turn Up the Music”, but I refuse to pay for anything he’s selling and make it my personal mission instead to compensate him with as much bad press as possible. I have even been known to exit a pumping dancefloor when a Brown song comes on, if only for the principle of it.

In researching one of the abovementioned wrestling articles, I came across a couple of articles that really resonate with this idea. In an article about female stereotypes in video games, Anita Sarkeesian asserts it is “both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” Similarly, in her fantastic post about the intersection of rap, feminism and cunnilingus, which I linked to here a couple of weeks ago, Maddie Collier urges us to acknowledge the instances our pop culture of choice “sickens and disappoints us” in order to “fully appreciate the moments when it’s good and kind and real”. And the Social Justice League has a whole article on the topic.

After incurring the ire of the feminists, Jake decides to change his guilty pleasure song choice from Chris Brown to another Brown: Bobby. While this is problematic in itself—which Kitty and Artie point out to Jake, who’s apparently oblivious to the whole Bobby and Whitney thing—it highlighted the fact that it is “My Prerogative” to like problematic pop culture. Just as long as we’re acknowledging where it goes wrong, right?

But “does it really matter what a couple of high school kids think?” Yes. Because as avid pop culture consumers they’re shaping the attitudes of tomorrow. And unless we’re educating them in the ways of navigating pop culture safely, the seemingly widely held belief that hitting your partner is justified will continue on into the next generation.

Related: Special Victims Unit Takes on Chris Brown & Rihanna.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

My Weekend with Wrestlers.

Elsewhere: [Think Progress] Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes VS. Women Series is Up—And It’s Great.

[The Pantograph Punch] Eat It Up & Lay Wit It: Hip Hop, Cunnilingus & Morality in Entertainment.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

Image via Ch131.

TV: Special Victims Unit Takes on Chris Brown & Rihanna.

law & order special victims unit rihanna chris brown funny valentine

Perhaps to make up for casting convicted rapist Mike Tyson on a show that largely promotes victims rights, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit holds a very unflattering microscope to the thankfully recently-ended tumultuous relationship of Chris Brown and Rihanna.

While the episode did cast a negative light on the predominantly black rap industry, “perpetuating the stereotype that hip hop artists are thugs”, we have to remember that the storyline was a direct commentary on Chris Brown’s beating of Rihanna four years ago and her subsequently taking him back.

Take, for example, the character of Micha Green, a young ingénue of an aging hip hop prodigy. Sounds a lot like Jay Z’s working relationship with Rihanna. And Micha’s lover and assailant’s, Caleb Bryant, initials are the same as one Chris Brown’s. Since giving Caleb the last name of Brown or Black would be too on the nose (and a little bit racist?), Micha is the one with a colour for a surname.

Further to that, the evidence photos of Micha’s mangled face are leaked to the press, and a restraining order is slapped on Caleb, who gets a tattoo on his torso that eerily resembles Brown’s neck tattoo of an alleged Mexican sugar skull that eerily resembles Rihanna’s post-beating face. Caleb might have “the Bryant team” (an obvious nod to Brown’s #TeamBreezy) on his side, but he’s playing “Russian Roulette” (Rihanna’s 2009 song) with Micha’s life.

Both Caleb and Micha, and, by extension, Brown and Rihanna, grew up with abusive fathers but SVU is sure to make a point of difference between the two couples, with Sgt. Munch suggesting they double date.

There’s a fair share of victim-blaming from witnesses and fans of the couple, which mirrors similar attitudes to Rihanna that continue to this day. “She shouldn’t have dissed him” lest she get beat in SVU becomes “she shouldn’t have taken him back” in the discourse of today.

Again, the show’s treatment of the “incident”, as Brown is so fond of calling it, was particularly harsh, with Micha’s “inevitable” death at the hands of Caleb, but if it helps to show that domestic violence doesn’t just “happen once”, then SVU can continue to paint as ruthless a picture of intimate partner violence as they like.

I’m just glad Rihanna got out before what happened to Micha happened to her…

Related: Rihanna & Domestic Violence.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Piling on Rihanna Accomplishes Nothing.

Image via Crushable.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

girls patrick wilson

Is Girls‘ Hannah Horvath physically worthy of the sexual interest of a successful, hot, rich doctor? While detractors thought this week’s episode was the worst in the series, presumably because Lena Dunham’s “refreshing, yet displeasing to the eye” (to borrow a line from Elizabeth Banks in Pitch Perfect) naked body was front and centre perhaps more than any other episode, I actually thought it was the best of this season’s bunch, and I had no qualms buying Patrick Wilson’s character being so sexually into Hannah that he begs her to stay in his apartment for a 48-hour fuck- and naked ping-pong-fest. I will say that the gratuitous nudity and the continuous lack of people of colour is really getting my goat, though. [Jezebel]

Also related, apparently the utter disbelief at the abovementioned May-December Girls romance completely goes against a middle-aged man’s biological inability to resist a younger woman. A bit closed minded, but still valid. [Jezebel]

Let’s all stop bagging Rihanna for taking Chris Brown back and maybe look at why she did and what support we can give domestic violence victims. [Jezebel]

That time someone made a blog about all those times Michelle Williams was ostracised from the Destiny’s Child fold. Funny but cruel but also kinda true? [Poor Michelle]

Class divisions in Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day. [Elsevier] 

James Bulger: 20 years on from his abduction and brutal murder. [Daily Life]

More equal opportunity nudity and sex on camera, please. [Jezebel]

The beauty myth: are people we perceive as beautiful really just average? [TheVine]

Following on from last week’s links on whitewashing in Hollywood, check out the ten most racist portrayals of characters of colour by white actors. [TheVine] 

Image via Rolling Stone.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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To pay tribute to the emergency and service personnel who helped in Hurricane Sandy, Vogue does a fashion spread inspired by the superstorm. Naturally. [Daily Life]

Apparently young Australians just aren’t into protesting the injustices we face today. Um, hello? Reclaim the Night, the Occupy movement, SlutWalk, the Arab Spring… all activist events started by Gen Y on social media which encouraged Time magazine to name the Protestor as its 2011 Person of the Year. Writer Alecia Simmonds does make a fair point that Aussies are particularly apathetic towards causes, but her assertion that online petitioning, blogging and social media doesn’t compare to on-the-ground activism kind of undercuts fellow Daily Life columnist Kasey Edwards’ argument last week that “Big social changes don’t just happen… Social and cultural change evolves out of a meandering path of small victories. Seeds need to be planted and ground needs to be fertilised.”

The latest trend in labiaplasty: the Barbie, in which the entire labia minora is cut out. [Jezebel]

And, in an attempt to counteract the alarming trend of wanting your vulva to look like a plastic doll’s, check out this (NSFW) Tumblr, Show Your Vagina.

What is it about our twenties that make us who we are? [Slate]

Miss America and race. [NYTimes]

Is freedom of speech overrated? Personally, I think so, as it allows those with abhorrently narrow-minded views to spill hate speech. This article makes the observation that free speech only seems to be defended when people like Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt put their foot in their mouth. [Daily Life]

Lena Dunham thinks that perhaps Rihanna should have been the one to sing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to Chris Brown. [TheVine]

American Horror Story: feminist or anti-feminist? [Jezebel]

Jane Roe—of Roe v. Wade fame, which had its 40th anniversary this week—ain’t what she used to be: now she’s an anti-choicer. [Vanity Fair]

Glee‘s Puck is a rapist, allegedly. [TheVine]

Nine of the ugliest feminists. [Return of Kings]

Breast feeding-shaming. [Daily Life]

A photojournalist documents an abusive relationship. Should she have stood by and photographed an incident of domestic violence or does her work portray an important aspect of lower socio-economic partnerships “unflinchingly”? [Fotovisura, Kiwiana (Inked)]

Image via Daily Life.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Think many rapes are reported falsely and the few actual rapists are punished for their crime? As this graph shows, you can think again. [Daily Life]

Interested in Melbourne’s gay culture and history? Go on this walking tour of Melbourne’s beats as part of Midsumma next weekend.

And while you’re at it, book tickets for Women Say Something‘s “Should We Destroy the Joint”, as Alan Jones so misogynistically termed women’s involvement in public life, panel featuring Gretel Killeen, Tara Moss and Catherine Deveny, on Saturday 19th January. [Midsumma]

Yay! Finally a famous female who identifies as a feminist. Although I wish it was someone I actually liked, beggars can’t be choosers… [Daily Life]

Where did all the African American rom-coms go? As a lover of black rom-coms like Two Can Play That Game and The Wood, I can certainly empathise with this author’s plight… [HuffPo]

Here’s a smorgasboard of articles attempting to unpack the now-defunct Nice Guys of OKCupid. [Jezebel, The Pursuit of Harpyness, The Atlantic, Daily Life]

What the modern incarnations of Sherlock Holmes get wrong about Irene Adler. [io9]

Abortion facts infographics. [Jezebel]

For those of you unfamiliar with the Steubenville High School Big Red football team rape and cover-up scandal, here’s a history of the town’s corrupt ways. [The Atlantic Wire]

Boycotting Chris Brown’s music is all well and good, but are we at a point where Rihanna’s blatant disregard for the impact her very public decision to get back with her abuser has on her impressionable fans and fellow battered partners alike means shunning her, too? Or is it just victim-blaming? Interesting piece. [The Peach]

Why does Tony Abbott keep ducking the “MamaMia crowd”? [MamaMia]

Is Gina Rinehart a feminist? [Daily Life]

A breakdown of exactly what you can afford when you live on $35 a week as a family of four on the Newstart Allowance, as Families Minister Jenny Macklin asserted last week. [MamaMia]

Is Les Mis anti-feminist? [Daily Life]

Image via Daily Life.