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.

2013: A Bad Year for Women.

Not to discount Wendy Davis’ reproductive rights filibuster in Texas, abortion drug RU486 being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and feminism trending worldwide thanks to Beyone, Miley et al. clamoring to claim the movement for themselves, 2013 was a very bad year for women. But what year isn’t, really?

On Valentine’s Day in South Africa, Paralympian Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead, claiming he thought she was an intruder. Abusive relationship whispers abounded, but all the media could talk about was that Steenkamp was a hot, blonde model, and many news stories didn’t even bother to mention her name.

While Melbourne woman (by way of Ireland) Jill Meagher was brutally raped and murdered in 2012, the trial of her killer, Adrian Bayley, dominated the Aussie news this year. It was revealed that Meagher was the latest in a long line of rapes and abductions spanning a twenty-year period due to the failure of the parole system. Bayley was sentenced in June to 35 years in prison.

Many of Bayley’s rapes were targeted at St. Kilda sex workers, which brings us to the murder of Tracy Connelly in her van on 21st July which made news in the wake of Bayley’s sentencing. Melbourne writer Wendy Squires furthered Connelly’s story by writing about the woman she never knew by name, but with whom she became friendly as she passed her in her neighbourhood most days.

In the mid-year political uprising in Egypt, up to 43 women were sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, but they’re just collateral damage when the larger issue of political freedom is at stake, am I right? And while the brutal Dehli gang rape and bashing of an Indian student and her male friend which resulted in the student’s death from internal injuries happened late last year, 2013 has been rife with other sexual assaults. (It’s important to note that these are just the rapes that have been publicised and picked up by the Western media. Countless rapes have been and are continuing to be committed that we just don’t hear about.) Most recently, a 15-year-old Indian girl committed suicide after being gang raped six months ago.

The U.S. has seen a spate of woman-hating crimes come to light this year, too. In May, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Berry’s six-year-old daughter were rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio after being held captive by Ariel Castro for up to ten years. At trial in August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus and addition 1,000 years. One month later, Castro was found dead in his cell.

The football town of Steubenville, also in Ohio, made worldwide headlines for the rape and kidnapping of an unconscious teen by members of the town’s high school football team. The teenaged victim, whose identity is protected, was transported from party to party whilst she was unconscious (resulting in later-dropped kidnapping charges, in addition to rape and child pornography charges), had photos taken of her and shared on social media, and had her case picked up by vigilante hacking group, Anonymous, which forced the authorities to take the case seriously. The teenaged perpetrators, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were given the minimum sentences of one and two years, respectively, in juvenile detention while investigations have been launched into the role school officials played in covering up the case.

In another -Ville—Maryville, Missouri—two teenaged girls were raped by boys on their school’s football team… Sound familiar? One of the victims was left passed out on her porch in minus temperatures, has attempted suicide and allegedly had her house burned down as a threat. The case was dropped due to “insufficient evidence” but has recently been reopened as a result of public pressure.

Back at home, the deaths of two young girls and the abuse they suffered their whole lives at the hands of their parents were in the news. Kiesha Weippeart’s mother, Kristi Abrahams, was sentenced to up to 22-and-a-half years in prison in July for the murder of her daughter in 2010. Her partner, Robert Smith, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years for being an accessory to the crime. It’s no excuse for the brutal murder of a six-year-old, but this Good Weekend article is a harrowing account of the cycle of abuse in the Abrahams family that Kiesha was a victim of. Also making headlines was the sentencing for the murder of toddler Tanilla Warrick-Deaves. Donna Deaves had earlier in the year been sentenced to 12 years in prison for doing nothing to save her daughter from the fatal beating inflicted on Tanilla by her partner, Warren Ross. Ross was found guilty of Tanilla’s murder on 5th December.

But probably the two take away moments of misogyny in 2013 are Robin Thicke, who has been named sexist of the year, for his rape anthem, “Blurred Lines”, and its accompanying god awful video, and the ousting of Julia Gillard from the prime ministership. Now, before all the MRAs get up me for deigning to insinuate that a poor leader shouldn’t stay in that role because she’s a woman, I’m not talking about just her ousting. It was everything leading up to that: the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” placards; the sexist menu in which Gillard’s body parts were likened to meat; Alan Jones’ comments; the questions about her partner’s sexuality; the misogyny speech… Hell, Anne Summers didn’t write a book about it for nothing! I don’t necessarily agree with all of her sentiments, and she did make some bad decisions in parliament, but when we look back at Gillard’s time as the first female Prime Minister of Australia, there has been at least one positive development to come out of it: Gillard is now a feminist hero!

What have been some of the worst moments for women in 2013 that I haven’t included here? I would love to get your thoughts in the comments.

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

Elsewhere: [The Age] An Innocent Woman Slain. Where’s the Public Outcry?

[Sydney Morning Herald] Duty of Care: What Happened to Kiesha?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke Named Sexist of the Year.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

hard out here lily allen has a baggy pussy balloons

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 the (Rest of the) Net.

Sorry about the lateness again this week, but it’s been a hectic one preparing to jet off to New York City on Monday. Plus I just got back from seeing Beyonce in concert and she was rad; but really, did I expect anything else from Queen Bey?

So while The Early Bird will transform into somewhat of a travel blog for the next month, I’ll still be posting on the topics you’ve come to know and hopefully love this blog for and I’ll endeavour to get “On the (Rest of the) Net” up on Saturdays, U.S. time, so in a way the last two weeks have been a test run!

See you back Down Under in December! xx

rihanna-pour-it-up

What do strippers think of Rihanna’s “Pour It Up”? [Daily Life]

I wrote about Gossip Girl and inadequacy. [Birdee Mag]

Unpacking the dual feminism and misogyny of American Horror Story: Coven. [LA Review of Books]

Authenticity and performance on social media. [Jezebel]

I’ve had it up to here with Mia Freedman. And that’s not something I write lightly, as I consider her my idol and I even named my dog after her. But she’s written some doozies this week. First she slut-shamed Kim Kardashian for Instagramming a post-baby body pic and how that impacted her suitability as a mother, and now she’s making sure she warns her daughter that when she is of drinking age, she’d better watch out not to get raped whilst intoxicated. Never mind – god forbid – if her daughter is sexually assaulted prior to this or whilst sober, which is just as likely. Oh, don’t worry, Mia also makes sure to write that she will warn her sons about drunk driving and “having sex” whilst inebriated; notice the absence of “not raping” in this sentence. Because we all know boys hear enough of this and women and girls are the ones who need to modify their behaviour lest they be accused of “asking for it”. [MamaMia]

Maryville rape victim Daisy Coleman writes about her attack. [xoJane]

ICYMI: Misogyny in Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

Image via Billboard.

Book VS. TV: Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

under the dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King had been sitting on my pile of books to be read for nearly two years when I nabbed it off a friend who was moving interstate. When the TV series of the same name premiered earlier this year, I thought it was high time I delved into the 1074-page world of King’s Chester’s Mill, a small town in (where else?) Maine.

I’ve only ever read one other King book, 11/22/63, which wasn’t faultless by any means, but which I enjoyed. I’d hoped I’d feel the same about Under the Dome, but that wasn’t to be as it is one of the most boring, misogynist, needlessly violent, cringe worthy and pointless books I’ve ever read.

The first half is somewhat intriguing, but UTD could have been cut down by 500 pages and still make for an okay effort on King’s part. The descriptions of the female characters are unnecessarily focussed on their physicality, ages and physical appearances, whereas I don’t recall the men being written about that way. Many of the women are sexually assaulted both in life and death, and the apparent heroines are rendered pathetic as the story progresses, life under the dome becomes more hostile and their male paramours step up to the plate. There are far too many characters that they’re hard to keep track of, but were seemingly only written in to the story to be killed off in horrifically violent ways. The dialogue is some of the clunkiest I’ve ever read; the same goes for the inner monologues. And can someone please explain to me why King felt the need to get into the head of a dog who comes face to face with a ghost?! You’re really undermining your credibility here, King.

1000 pages later, UTD ends very unsatisfactorily and somewhat childishly.

Now, this could very well be the way every King novel finishes; I just haven’t read enough to know whether UTD is a terrible fluke but I suspect this is the case as 350 million readers can’t be wrong… Can they?

*

I finished reading UTD with about two or three episodes of season one left to air, but I didn’t end up watching it until last week. I think I just needed a break from all the nonsense before I gave the screen adaptation of King a chance. But I’m glad I did, because the series is far better than the book.

The characters are nuanced and you find yourself rooting for them onscreen far more than on the page. Whereas Jim Rennie was pure evil according to King, up until the last few episodes when his true evil proclivities are revealed, viewers are in Rennie’s corner. The same goes for his son, Junior, who is a mentally ill necrophiliac in the book, but has more facets when he’s played by Alexander Koch (though Junior is still the Dome’s most inconsistent and annoying character). I also really liked that the show did away with the unnecessary throng of characters, amalgamating several traits into one person, and thus the senseless killing: every death on TV meant something.

For anyone who’s read the book prior, you know what’s coming next, but the CBS series makes its characters empathetic, its storyline watchable and the motivations surrounding the dome that much more intriguing that its audience wonders if they’ll be different on the small screen…

Image via L.A. Times.

Event: Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

julia gillard melbourne conversation anne summers

Of course Sydney had to go and rain on Melbourne’s parade with all the newsworthy items from Julia Gillard’s first public interview since she was ousted as Prime Minister on 27th June this year coming out of her conversation with Anne Summers at the Opera House last Monday night.

But, from some of the reports I read (I didn’t watch the live broadcast on ABC News 24 as I wanted to be surprised for Tuesday night in Melbourne), the Sydney event was more of a girly advice session than a discussion of her time in the top job and what her future entails.

Luckily, Melbourne took the latter route, with #JuliaTalks(ing) about her sexist treatment (which spawned Anne Summers’ The Misogyny Factor) by the media, her colleagues in parliament and the general public. While the exasperated woman sitting next to me kept groaning every time sexism was brought up (seriously, considering the tone of her time in the top job, why would you go to a Julia Gillard talk with one of Australia’s most prominent feminists and not expect to hear about this?), I was pleased with the topics discussed.

Gillard talked about how she was working towards a “Labor government focussed on women and girls” but that’s now shot to shit along with the in-power government’s view of women. When asked how she feels about Tony Abbott assigning himself the portfolio of the Status of Women, Gillard reiterated her Sydney sentiments in that he should rely heavily on Tanya Plibersek and that she hopes “he finds it the most character building task of his prime ministership”.

On her famous misogyny speech—one year old today—Gillard certainly didn’t foresee it “going off on social media” but, to be fair, she certainly “didn’t foresee the level of misogyny” that marred her prime ministership, either. While on one hand, Gillard relayed an anecdote of her time as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon (“You may have heard about my time with the firm,” she joked) and the bitter clients she encountered to illustrate that she isn’t going to have that outlook on what transpired—“You can have a crap rest of your life or you can move on”, she was surprised at the “benign” reaction to her sexist treatment by the media. If the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” signs and slurs had been geared towards a black politician, the media and the general public would rightly be uproarious, she said. She was also disappointed that no politicians from parties other than her own reached out to her to offer their support during the height of her misogynist treatment. (Who could really say what the “height” was? It lasted all throughout her run.)

Another high profile person she was disappointed in who criticised her unfairly and irrelevantly was Germaine Greer, who made those inappropriate comments about the way she dresses and the size of her ass. I, along with so many others, I’m sure, wish she would just admit that she said the wrong thing instead of repeatedly defending her comments.

But Gillard could take a page out of that playbook when it comes to her views on marriage equality. If Gillard truly believes that there are “different ways of acknowledging love and personal commitment than marriage”, hence why she doesn’t advocate same-sex unions, then that’s fine (except not really). But I have a sneaking suspicion that she really does believe in equality, both in marriage and otherwise. (Though her asylum seeker policies left much to be desired, and she did express sorrow for the current discourse on refugees.) I just wish she would come out and say it.

Much of Gillard’s prime ministership was steeped in disdain, but audience member Evie, 11, asked if she had “any fun being Prime Minister?” Gillard replied that she gets a kick out of the fact that her treatment whilst leading the country means that 11-year-olds know the word “misogyny”. In all seriousness, though, Gillard does hope that “more inspiration than anxiety is passed on to [the next] generation.”

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

In Conversation with Germaine Greer.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

rape robin thicke blurred lines

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” lyrics, as said by rapists. [Sociological Images]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Short and sweet this week.

Rape as a plot device. I’m reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome at the moment, in preparation to delve into the series which Clementine Ford cites in her article, and let me tell you, it is rife with unnecessary and gratuitous rape and violence against women. Even the characters’ inner monologues reek of misogyny. It should be interesting to see if the TV show is as heavily drenched in it as the print version. Judging by Ford’s article, it is. [Daily Life]

The racial politics of Beyonce’s hair. [Daily Beast]

Lady Gaga and cultural appropriation. [Jezebel]

Why do we care so much about other people’s sex lives, or lack thereof? [Jezebel]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Melissa Fabello makes some good points in her video about not wasting time on in-fighting about who’s a good feminist and who’s not, but you know me; I really think more people should proud to call themselves feminists and that not all supposedly feminist acts are created equal.

Speaking of, it’s no secret I’m Taylor Swift’s number one hater but over at One Week One Band the dissection of all things Swift is truly eye-opening if a bit fawning. I still think she’s a dolt with some seriously detrimental views about gender and sex, but it’s nice to look at her music from a different point of view for a change.

Anthony Weiner’s mistress, Sydney Leathers (what a name!) gives her top sexting advice. And it’s mind-numbingly mundane. [xoJane]

A call to arms for Twitter to do something about their complacency for rape threats and gender-based hatred from a woman who’s been there; the woman who was faced with a torrent of vitriolic abuse from Tyler, the Creator and his fans. [Daily Life]

Rachel Hills on Hugo Scwhyzer’s retirement from the online femisphere. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Bisexuality on The O.C. [Bitch]

Why are all TV serial killers’ victims women? [The Guardian]

Well, the 12th Doctor Who wasn’t a woman or a person of colour, as has recently been speculated, but is Peter Capaldi’s age progressive in itself? [TheVine]

Then again, maybe not. [Jezebel]

The sexual politics of Grindr. [The Guardian]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Does having a feminist as a running mate during the election campaign make Julian Assange more palatable to voters concerned with the rape allegations against him? [Online Opinion]

A really thought-provoking piece about the evolution of cooking. Meal preparation is the bane of my existence; I’d rather clean than cook. I find it so boring and time-consuming that if I was to come into a large chunk of money, I would seriously consider hiring a personal chef. Recently, I even privately mused about just ordering takeaway every night, but that isn’t necessarily in line with my ethical philosophies, not to mention health. [Daily Life]

Hugo Schwyzer has quit feminism. While a lot of feminists will be rejoicing at this fact, I actually like Hugo and will be sad to see his brand of male feminism disappear from the feminist interwebs. At least for now… [The Cut]

Twitter misogynists are finally getting their comeuppance. [Daily Life]

Camilla Peffer writes about the inherent sexism of Australia’s Next Top Model. [TheVine]

An interesting response to “I want to date you because you’re awesome”: “I want you to date me because I’m awesome”. [Pandagon]

“The Rape Joke”: a poem about being raped. *trigger warning* [The Awl]

The difference between the Melbourne murders of Jill Meagher and Tracy Connelly? Meagher was “the perfect victim” worthy of mourning while Connelly was just a prostitute. [The King's Tribune]

But Wendy Squires posits that Meagher and Connelly were more similar than we think: they were both victims of predators who want to hurt women, regardless of their occupation. [The Age]

And it turns out the anonymous sex worker in Squires’ piece, above, was Tracy Connelly. [MamaMia]

Sex & the City‘s Samantha vs. Cougartown. [New York Magazine]