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.

Santa Barbara gunman Elliot Rodger isn’t the only one who feels awkward about their lack of sexual experience. Women feel like this, too!

“The notion that all women can get effortlessly laid, if only they open their legs, reduces the reality of female experience, transforming women from complicated individuals to the vessels for male sexual desire…” [Nerve]

Still with Rodger, taking the pressure off sex might have made him realise that losing your virginity doesn’t change your life. [Vice]

Finally, he wasn’t a “virgin madman, he was an entitled madman with four guns… Misogyny actually kills people.”

ICYMI: Feminism in Elle magazine.

You’d better #pitchbitch: a new initiative to encourage women writers to get their stuff out there. [Kill Your Darlings]

Pregnancy on TV. [Los Angeles Magazine]

Finally: alcohol doesn’t cause rape, rape mentality causes rape. [Times Free Press]

ABC’s disability discussion website Ramp Up will cease publication at the end of this month, thanks to the new government’s budget.

Walking While Female.

10384219_10203246280830764_2114437458099026142_n

There’s been a hell of a lot of assaults on women at night in Melbourne making the news lately. Acquaintances I’ve spoken to in passing about the news ask why is such a deluge of assaults happening now? I would argue that they’ve been happening pretty frequently since the beginning of time but they’re only just making the news, more so since the brutal rape and murder of Melbourne woman by way of Ireland, Jill Meagher.

One Facebook status a friend sent me a screenshot of, which I found particularly ignorant, asked why women insist on walking at night in Melbourne. Um, because we’re human beings?! The status came from someone who lives in a small town where everyone has cars and it takes ten minutes to get everywhere. When my friend pointed out the implausibility of the status in the comments, she got the reply that if women must walk at night, to do so in groups.

As a person from said small town who doesn’t have a car and who now lives in the city, I can tell you that suggestions like these are just not viable. Taxis to get from one side of town to the other can cost you hundreds of dollars. Not everyone lives close to public transport and most likely have to walk to and from train stations and bus and tram stops. This is not to mention people who can’t afford taxis and public transport, people who use wheelchairs or other mobility assistance apparatuses (apparati?), the elderly, the homeless, etc.

None of my friends live in my area so it’s not like we can organise a buddy system of pick ups and drop offs. Melbourne is not a town where everyone congregates in one park or on one stretch of shopping mall; many people don’t walk for fun, but for necessity.

Some other helpful hints to protect young women are as follows: don’t walk your dog before or after work (it’s almost the dead of winter in Melbourne and daylight only exists from 8am to 5pm, the hours many people are away from their pets at work); if you must walk in the dark, make sure you have a dog with you; and don’t wear headphones when walking alone. These suggestions are, again, completely out of touch. Most pet-owners have to walk their animals; not everyone has a pet; and while I can acknowledge the argument against loud headphones limiting their use in this tech-obsessed society is pointless. And many women use headphones as armour regardless of whether they’re listening to anything through them. Sometimes I’ll have headphones on on public transport to avoid being spoken to by entitled men who must know what you’re reading or to remain alert in uncertain situations unbeknownst to others. (Someone recriminated me for not being alert whilst wearing headphones because they honked at me on the street but I “didn’t hear them”. Anyone who’s walked whilst also being a woman knows responding to honks on the street is “asking for trouble”, as so many people are wont to accuse us of.)

In the furor surrounding Jill Meagher’s murder and the seemingly random Brunswick and Yarravile attacks, as well as the attack on a schoolgirl in Glenferrie, we’re forgetting that people we know, trust or even live with are the most dangerous to us. Remember in the past few months the influx of intimate partner murders reported in the news?

Because men have perpetrated all of these attacks, maybe we should be telling men who match the description of said assailants to limit their nocturnal movements outside of their homes lest they attack an unassuming woman just going about her daily business. Now wouldn’t that be a controversial idea.

Related: Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Objectifying disability: Stella Young, she of the soon-to-be defunct ABC Ramp Up website thanks to this week’s budget announcement, talks about disability as inspiration porn.

Makeup made me a feminist. [Vagenda Magazine]

Ladymags that rely on advertising can never be feminist. [The New Inquiry]

I’m featured in the 72nd Down Under Feminist Carnival for my piece on rape on Gossip Girl, originally published on Bitch Flicks. [Blunt Shovels]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

gossip girl rape chuck jenny

I wrote about rape on Gossip Girl. [Bitch Flicks]

Mindy Lahiri is not a Cool Girl. [ThinkProgress]  

Are young adult film franchises fascist? [TheVine]

Miranda Devine thinks Kate Middleton’s chaste princess façade is more feminist than Miley’s “slutty” one, as though either woman has complete control over their images in male-dominated industries. Or monarchies, as it were. [The Daily Telegraph] 

Image via Bitch Flicks.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

LindsayOWN

I wrote about Oprah’s docuseries being bad for Lindsay Lohan’s career. At least before her lacklustre reputation could be boiled down to “Rumours”. Now, despite her addiction and various other mental and physical issues, we’ve see just how unprofessional she really is. [Junkee]

Jill Meagher’s widower Tom on the “Monster Myth”, rape as punishment, and as an inevitability for certain types of women by certain types of men who don’t understand “the rules”:

“The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on ‘how not to get raped’, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naïve because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing x or drinking y well then of course the monster is going to attack—didn’t she read the rules? I have often come up against people on this point who claim that they’re just being ‘realistic’. While it may come from a place of concern, if we’re being realistic we need to look at how and where rape and violence actually occur, and how troubling it is that we use a nebulous term like ‘reality’ to condone the imposition of dress codes, acceptable behaviours, and living spaces on women to avoid a mythical rape-monster. Okay, this rape-monster did exist in the form of Adrian Bayley, but no amount of adherence to these ill-conceived rules could have stopped him from raping somebody that night.” [White Ribbon Australia]

Can you be a feminist and…? [Another Angry Woman]

Equal opportunity objectification. (I also wrote about the phenomenon upon the release of Magic Mike in 2012.) [Jezebel] 

James Franco, teen girls and “Humbert Humbert culture”. [The Style Con]

The garish-yet-elegant art of drag… and wrestling! [WFAE NPR]

On TV, troubled women are better off dead than being helped. [The New Republic]

Still with TV, rape in the golden age of it. Notice how most of these shows centre around men while raped women are in the periphery. [Washington Post]

And further to this, isn’t it about time straight, white men on TV stopped being represented above all other possibilities? [SBS News]

Battling street harassment with street art. [New York Times]

The science of promiscuity. [The Wheeler Centre]

Image via Junkee.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Sixteen-Candles-drunk-girl

Was Sixteen Candles the blueprint for the Steubenville rape? [Bitch Flicks]

How Hannah Horvath’s eBook would read IRL. [Nerve]

@ModernClueless makes a cameo at the Val party! While you’re following them, head on over and follow me, too. [Twitter]

Can we separate the art from the accused-pedophile, Woody Allen? [The Onion]

Beyonce blogged about gender equality. [Mother Jones]

Sexualising violence against women. [The Guardian]

And while we’re on the topic, check out Yolanda Dominguez’s photo series of real women in model poses. Ridonculous!

Stop calling yourself a feminist if all you’re really interested in talking about is how hard it is out there for the menz. [The Guardian]

Being a woman on the internet. [Pacific Standard]

Navigating teen witchdom. [The Lifted Brow]

Fat on film: Brodie Lancaster muses on how it makes her feel when fat characters are the butt of the joke. [Rookie]

What it’s like to have a partner behind bars. [Vice]

I critique dick pics. [The Hairpin]

What Beyonce and Michelle Obama’s friendship tells us about feminism. [Daily Life]

Image via Bitch Flicks.

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.

beyonce pretty hurts beauty queen

I’ve probably linked to this before, but in the week Beyonce secretly releases her musical (and video!) feminist manifesto, unpacking her views on women’s equality—and our views on her—seems particularly pertinent. [Bitch] 

But can we really take advice about sticking it to beauty ideals from a woman who chucked a tanty over unflattering SuperBowl photos and curates her Instagram feed to within an inch of its life? [Double X]

In defence of the single girl. [Double X]

On being a “bad feminist”. [The Virginia Quarterly Review]

How can we expect abortion ban exemptions for rape when so many rapes are deemed deserved in the first place? [The Atlantic]

Yet more musings about American Horror Story: Coven and its uncomfortable attitudes about race: is it all about white guilt? [In These Times]

 

I wanted to cut and paste the whole paragraph on Rihanna’s “Pour It Up”, sexual and creative agency and slut-shaming, but since it’s a lengthy portion of the article, head on over and check the whole thing out for yourself: “‘Slut-Shaming’ Has Been Tossed Around So Much It’s Lost All Meaning”. [Jezebel]

Image via RnB Music Blog.

The Week in Twitter.

Not since news of Wendy Davis’ reproductive rights filibuster broke the same day, Australian time, as Julia Gillard’s ousting as Prime Minister has Twitter seen such a flurry of feminist activity. This week, Peppa Pig emerged as our new leftist, Marxist, socialist, feminist hero. That is, until Beyonce dropped her latest album—replete with critiques on beauty, a sample of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent TEDx talk and 17 ready made music videos to go with—at midnight last Thursday (Friday afternoon Australian time) with no fanfare and the interwebs lost its shit. Oh, and then there was the Village Voice interview with Jim DeRogatis by Jessica Hopper about the decades-old sexual assault and child porn charges against R. Kelly that went viral and is finally seeing the singer being—rightly—harshly judged in the court of Twitter opinion in the wake of his critically acclaimed new album, Black Panties (gag me).

While I haven’t heard or watched Beyonce yet (an iTunes gift card is on my Christmas wishlist), I’ve been devouring all the think pieces on her, her album and her feminism. Critiquing pop stars’ feminism is one of my favourite things to do, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the 14 tracks and their copious accompanying clips live up to the feminist hype.

On the R. Kelly front, I’ve never been much of a fan of his: I’ve got “Ignition (Remix)” on my iTunes and I enjoyed a boogie to it at my work Christmas party before the resurgence of interest in his pedophilic tendencies. But I have to say I’ve enjoyed scouring Twitter and the wider ’net for other opinions on separating the man from the music, the racial elements of the allegations and why we give artists a pass.

As far as Peppa Pig goes, her moment in the feminist sun was overshadowed by Beyonce. But some feminists are still holding on to their fondness for the children’s propagandist cartoon: Van Bandham has made Peppa her Twitter avatar and at Cherchez La Femme’s Christmas event, Feministmas, last night in St. Kilda, writer Jessica Alice performed a poetic ode to the pig in what I thought was the highlight of the night.

And so, as Christmas approaches, we wonder what pop cultural presents Twitter will gift us next…

Related: The Year of Beyonce.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Accused: Peppa Pig, a Tool for Dangerous Feminist Left-Wing Propaganda.

[YouTube] We Should All Be Feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDxEuston.

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

[Ebony] Beyonce Preaches on “Pretty Hurts”.

[xoJane] I Repeatedly Fought Back Tears While Jamming to Beyonce’s New Album Because Free Black Girls Are Not As Much of a Thing as We Should Be.

[The Gloss] Beyonce Isn’t a Feminist, According to White Feminists.

[Grantland] Rethinking R Kelly: A Fan’s Second Thoughts.

[Twitter] Van Badham.

[Twitter] Jessica Alice.