On Schrodinger’s Rapist.

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.

Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

Walking While Female.

To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

On Stalking.

Elsewhere: [TheVine] Feeling Like a Stalker.

[Shapely Prose] Schrödinger’s Rapist: Or A Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced.

[White Ribbon] The Danger of the Monster Myth.

Walking While Female.

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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.

americas next top model caridee smart

Approaching America’s Next Top Model from an academic perspective. [The Atlantic]

The enduring relevance of Freaks & Geeks. [TheVine]

Gay men need consent to touch a woman, too. [Role/Reboot]

Why do humans have sex at night? (SFW) [io9]

In defence of “Blurred Lines”. Could it in fact be about sexual liberation instead of sexual assault? [Slate]

Image via Wet Paint.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

victorian era breastfeeding

Victorians were more progressive about breastfeeding than we are! Although, it was linked to femininity, class and bonding with the child, stigmas that still exist around breastfeeding (or NOT breastfeeding) today. [Sociological Images]

Do ladymags publish serious journalism? Follow the #WomenAtLength hashtag on Twitter to find some examples of longer, “serious” pieces written by women. [Jezebel]

What Adrian Bayley’s crimes can teach us about prevention, rehabilitation and incarceration. [New Matilda]

Everyday Sexism has made a doco about shouting back at street and sexual harassment. The accompanying article by Clem Bastow is equally as hard hitting. Check them both out, because no one should be made to feel like they brought harassment on themselves, they’re overreacting, or dread at the prospect of leaving the house because they might experience it. [Daily Life]

The manic pixie dream girls of superhero movies. [Think Progress]

Someone actually wants my opinion on the week that was in sexism and misogyny particularly in politics, but across other spectrums as well. Kudos to Corey Hague on editing me to sound like I actually know what I’m talking about! [ABC Central Victoria]

Meanwhile, Mia Freedman thinks it was a good week for women: at least we’re talking about sexism and there have been consequences for it. [MamaMia]

Famous women writers before their suicides. What do you think: artistic or glorifying suicide and sexualising violence? I find some of them, like the Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf portraits, visually appealing because they’re inoffensive to the eye and create tension and anticipation, but I can’t stomach the Dorothy Parker nor Sanmao ones. Vice may be known for their provocativity (is that even a word?!), but I think this photoshoot is in the same vein as Terry Richardson and Dolce & Gabanna’s rapey aesthetics – which I quite like despite myself – where stopping the sexualisation of violence against women should trump artistic expression. [Jezebel, as the photoshoot on Vice's website has been removed]

It was Father’s Day in the U.S. over the weekend, and to celebrate, The Hairpin has collated fiction’s worst fathers. As someone with a deadbeat dad myself, I can empathise.

Fashion, feminism and femininity: mutually exclusive? Hell no! The other day when discussing feminism with a mansplaining misogynist who told me I only make him more confused about feminism because of the way I look, a friend interjected that I might just be the most feminine person she knows. And the most feminist, might I add?! [Daily Life]

Kim Kardashian may be a fame-whore, but she’s a person, too, and she deserves some semblance of basic decency. [TheVine]

Is the only reason we watch True Blood anymore for the sex? [The Daily Beast]

If we can’t have the real deal, Feminist Taylor Swift is the next best thing. [Twitter]

Image via Sociological Images.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

I’m writing about reconciling my feminism with a love of professional wrestling for TheVine.

While Beyonce may be the female version of a hustler, Clem Bastow writes that men can certainly be divas, too. It’s just that they’re never called that… [Daily Life]

In praise of The Mindy Project. [Medium]

Rapper Kitty Pryde unpacks the onstage sexual assault by a female fan of her male tour partner, rapper Danny Brown. [Vice]

Check out the latest online edition of ZINm magazine, by my friend Marc Bonnici, and contributions from yours truly and the woman who designed the artwork for this here blog, Zoe Meagher.

What the tabloids were speculating Angelina Jolie was doing while she was actually getting a double mastectomy. Sickening. [The Cut]

Not as gross as the trolls who are “mourning the loss of Angelina’s curves”, though. [Slate]

“An Open Letter to White Male Comedians.” [Jezebel]

Does Australia hate intellectuals? I tend to lean towards the affirmative. [Daily Life]

What the spate of cancellations means for the representation of gay people on television. [Slate]

Test the gender balance (or imbalance) of your retweets. And while you’re at it, follow me! [Twee-Q] 

Searching for an alternative name for “stay-at-home dad”. [The Atlantic] 

In response to the body- and slut-shaming surrounding Teen Mom Farrah Abraham’s porno, Jezebel reiterates that vaginal and anal sex don’t make you “loose” [SFW].

TV: Glee — Female-on-Male Molestation is, “Like, Every Teenage Boy’s Fantasy.”

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Apparently the episode in which Ryder and Kitty reveal that they were molested as children was made in partnership with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nation Network, although you wouldn’t think it from Sam and Artie’s reaction to Ryder’s confession.

“Some hot 18-year-old played with your junk? I’d kill for that!”

“Why are you ashamed of this?”

While their responses are typical of many of the attitudes surrounding female-on-male sexual assault, the fact that these were really the only strong reactions—apart from Marley, Tina and Mr. Schue’s meek protestations about it being “not cool”—before the show moved on doesn’t really scream sexual assault awareness.

Artie, Sam et al.’s feedback simply buys into the notion that girls who are sexually assaulted are sluts who wanted it (Kitty’s depiction on the show as a bitchy, sexually promiscuous cheerleader proves this, though in their defence I doubt the writers had this storyline in mind when they created her character) and boys are sexually awakened studs. Had the episode aired a follow-up scene in which Mr. Schue led the class in an after school special-esque speech about the detrimental effects of sexual assault and the accompanying attitudes surrounding it, it would have been schmaltzy and patronising as only Glee can be, but at least it would have taken a crack at dismantling such bias.

Elsewhere: [RAINN] Glee & RAINN Team Up for Episode.

Image via Wikia.

TV: The Carrie Diaries — “Mumbling Incoherently Does Not Mean She’s ‘Into It’.”

the carrie diaries fright night larrissa passed out

Last week the female anatomy and empowerment were addressed, and this week The Carrie Diaries was all about the disenfranchisement possession of the female anatomy can sometimes beget.

It was Halloween, and Carrie took Walt to another one of Larissa’s fabulous parties in the city. (How these 16-year-olds manage to club- and party-hop without any mention of fake IDs is beyond me.) Carrie met a hot young writer for her bible, Interview magazine, and ditched Larissa and Walt for him, who both happened to be high on ecstasy and LSD. Later, while Carrie was tending to a strung out Larissa, her crush, Bennett,  was cruising Walt, who flipped out and left the party for the streets of New York. When Carrie left Larissa passed out on a bed that doubled as a coat rack (isn’t that the beginning of an episode of Law & Order: SVU…?) to get back to flirting, she finds out that Walt’s gone missing. Carrie admonishes Bennett for letting her friend go missing, when she was the one who left him at a party in the city whilst he was high for the first time. Whilst Carrie’s stressing out about one friend going missing, the other is getting molested while she’s unconscious by a guy in a lion costume. Carrie employs her newfound feminism to tell the extra from the cast of Cats that “mumbling incoherently does not mean she’s into it” and that being unconscious is not an invitation for sexual advances.

The Cowardly Lion calls her what all feminists have been labelled at one point or another, a killjoy, and Bennett tells Carrie that “Larissa got herself into this mess” by taking drugs. After smoothing things over, Carrie entrusts victim-blaming Bennett to watch over Larissa while she takes to the streets to look for Walt. You’d think someone as small-minded as Bennett would insist she stay indoors while he heroically braves the parasites of the city to find her friend, lest she bring on a sexual assault herself. But Carrie just tells him not to “take advantage of her while she’s passed out” to which Bennett replies, “She’s not my type.” You mean unconscious women aren’t sexually attractive to him? There may be hope for Bennett yet—oh wait, he was insinuating that women in general aren’t his type, not just passed out ones. Nevermind…

Related: The Carrie Diaries—Vagina Monologues.

Image via Ch131.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The iconic photograph of “The Kissing Sailor” may actually be an image of sexual assault. [Crates & Ribbons]

Let’s put more nudity on Page 3, not ban it:

“… I say the answer is more nudity in newspapers, not less. Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.” [New Statesman]

While I don’t agree with most of her sentiments, Clem Bastow makes some interesting points about the inclusion of men in feminism. This was also a topic that came up during the abovementioned “who’s-a-feminist” debate with my friends. [Daily Life]

Let’s stop debating the “culture wars”: people deserve rights. The end. [Jezebel]

Julia Gillard’s Question Time smackdown against Tony Abbott and the liberal party’s sexism and misogyny primarily against her gets the New Yorker treatment. In a nutshell, maybe Obama could take a page out of her book?

Michelle Smith’s Wheeler Centre Lunchbox/Soapbox address on girls in culture, both now and in the Victorian era. Wait, they’re not the same thing?!

I’ve been embroiled in a “I-don’t-believe-in-feminism-I-believe-in-equality” debate this week but, as Ben Pobjie rightly points out, when it comes to Kate Ellis being talked over and shouted down on Q&A, it’s about human decency, not feminism. [MamaMia]

Jill Meagher and safety on the streets from a disability point of view. [ABC Ramp Up]

The case against condom use in porn. [Jezebel]

In defence of Mean Girls‘ Janis Ian. [Rookie]

Brave isn’t “Just Another Princess Movie”. [The New Inquiry]

Image via Tumblr.

Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

For the past two weeks it seems as if Jill Meagher has been exclusively in the media. Then, since her funeral last Friday, her name has all but dropped out of the headlines, if not from our collective consciousness.

Her tragic disappearance, rape and death sure played on my mind after some colleagues talked about it not-stop a few days after Jill went missing and transferred their obsession with the case onto me.

As I wrote last week, tragedies like this that are hyped up by the media rarely affect me. Obviously there is something about Jill that has permeated our abovementioned collective consciousness, if the outpouring of grief, support for her family, flowers out the front of the store where some of her last moments were captured on CCTV and the 20,000 Melbournians who turned out to march for peace two weekends ago are any indication.

Jill’s murder was no doubt horrific and it’s heart-warming to see so many everymen affected by a woman they never knew. But since her killer was charged and her body was found and laid to rest, I’ve started to get a bitter taste in my mouth about all the hoopla surrounding Jill’s disappearance and death: what’s so remarkable about this situation that has everyone calling for safety on the streets?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for safe streets, but I resent the fact that it’s women who are being cautioned not to walk alone at night, to get a taxi or a friend to accompany you home.

Some of this “concern” was directed my way last weekend at a friend’s birthday not far from where Jill lived, partied and was abducted. I was asked by a friend to please not walk alone at night and, as the non-owner of a car who is often without money for a taxi, I responded that I don’t have that luxury. It’s decadent to catch a cab two streets from the train station to my house, and unless that friend is going to offer to chauffeur me around the city, I think I’ll take my chances. It doesn’t come naturally for me to live my life in fear, not to mention the fact that the chances of experiencing a violent crime the likes of which Jill did are extremely rare. My friend is more likely to be involved in a car accident than I am to be attacked while walking home.

Upon further thought, my male housemate, who is out late many nights per week at work, rehearsals for a play, jogging and being social, was also there when my friend expressed her misguided anxiety about my after dark activities yet not a peep was directed his way. For those alarmists who think that any female on the street post-sunset is doomed to the same fate as Jill, please be mindful that according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, non-sexual assault is the most common form of violent crime, more likely to be committed against men than women. Why are women the only ones who are deemed less safe after Jill’s death? And why is it our responsibility not to get attacked? Maybe we should be focussing our concentration on teaching boys (and even then, it’s not just men who rape and women who are raped) not to rape and on a better screening process for criminals who are likely to reoffend, as Jill’s murderer, Adrian Bayley, did.

And another thing: abduction, rape and murder were just as scary and real before Jill made the news as after. In fact, because her killer is now in custody, the streets could actually be deemed safer (no thanks to the legal system who knew of Bayley as a repeat sex- and violent crime-offender but he’s only off the streets now that someone’s dead). That’s part of the reason why the moral outrage this incident has incited rubs me the wrong way: how many abductions, rapes and murders (not so much in Australia for the former and latter, but definitely so for the second crime) happen on a daily basis that we don’t hear a peep about? Or if we do, it’s only after it’s too late. All of the horrible things that happened to Jill were in existence before she experienced them. What’s so unique about her case?

I think it’s because she’s the “perfect victim”, if you will. Young; beautiful; white; middle-class; a migrant. If Jill had’ve turned up alive after her sexual assault, I think we would have heard the whispers of victim-blaming that circulated in the early days of her disappearance become a lot louder. She was drunk. She was out too late. Her shoes were too high. What was she wearing? Why did she talk to/go with her attacker? Don’t you think it’s weird her husband wasn’t with her? (This is a direct quote I heard from several people specualting about her disappearance.) Why didn’t she insist someone walk her to her apartment only a couple of blocks away along a route she took frequently? But because Jill did meet a fatal end, she’s become a martyr for making our streets a safer place as opposed to just another slut who was asking for it.

A blog post about Jill and the subsequent Sydney Road peace march and Reclaim the Night rally still to come talked about how SlutWalk is a radical feminist phenomenon that’s got its heart in the right place in theory, but that the Jill rallies are much more palatable. These sentiments are echoed in some of the comments on the post, that SlutWalk isn’t right for them but marching for Jill is. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion (as is the catch cry of my concerned friend. Indeed, you are entitled to feel scared on the street at night if you so desire just as I am not to be.), but I don’t understand how taking a stand against victim-blaming, slut-shaming and rape culture isn’t “right for you”. But somehow a march to honour the memory of a woman we’ve only come to know in the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, without the clear objectives that SlutWalk, marriage equality marches and the banning of live exports rally over the weekend have. Did 20,000 people turn up to those?

In no way am I being a rape-apologist or trying to suggest that rape isn’t an increasing problem, both in practice and in our culture. I myself, friends, family, colleagues and people I’ve only read about have all experienced intimidation and harassment, if not something more sinister, on the streets and within circles we thought of as safe. But perhaps instead of using Jill Meagher as the scapegoat who warns women to keep themselves locked away in their homes after sundown or, at the very least, be clothed in shapeless, unrevealing garb with a chaperone present at all times, we should be focussing on the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in society, perpetrated not only by strangers, but more likely by those close to us as well, and our reluctance to deal with its true cause and prevention unless it happens to the right kind of person woman and only after the fact.

Related: To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

Elsewhere: [Australian Institute of Criminology] Trends in Violent Crime.

[Dangers Untold & Hardships Unnumbered] Jill Meagher, SlutWalk & Reclaim the Night Sydney Road.

[unWinona] I Debated Whether Or Not to Share This Story.

Image via SBS.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Disney’s least to most feminist princesses. [Nerve]

A hilarious guide to how to take the best bikini body photos. [Jezebel]

Is the reason not many women hunt because their menstruation stench wards off wild animals? [Scientific American]

A deluge of complaints have come in about Carefree’s latest panty liner ad, saying that the use of the words “discharge” and “vagina” are offensive. When I first watched the ad, brought to my attention from a friend via Facebook, I was shocked: you just don’t hear the word “vagina” in advertisements. But good on you, Carefree, for finally bringing to the mainstream’s attention that most women have vaginas, menstruate and experience discharge. [Jezebel]

On the other hand, do we really need a product to mop up discharge if it’s “normal”? Is this just another misogynistic feminine hygiene product we’re being sold to make our vaginas less “dirty”? [TheVine]

When it comes to the Mooncup, preparation is key. [Feminaust]

O.M.G. Who knew all the boundaries and defences we put up when we’re “… Walking While Female” aren’t enough when you’re ambushed from behind by a guy on a bike. Scary stuff. [Collective Action for Safe Spaces]

The psychology of the compliment.

Interestingly, I had to unpack the psychology—and misogyny—of a compliment paid to me last week.

A male co-worker whom I hadn’t seen in a while complimented me on my hair. I said thanks, but I was thinking of changing it (appointment booked for next week!). He said I should keep it how it is because a lot of men would like it that way. I, tongue-in-cheek, said I definitely wouldn’t change it then because my mission in life is to wear my hair how men like it. He exclaimed that he can never give me a compliment without me taking it the wrong way. I said I take compliments fine, just not from him because there’s always a backstory laced with misogyny.

Earlier that day he’d also been talking about which celebrities he finds hot, and that he used to think Katy Perry was the bomb til Russell Brand posted that unflattering, make-up free shot of her on Twitter. After this, it was the final straw. I asked him to please stop talking about the way people look as if it’s the only worth they have. He said I was overreacting (ahh, the catchcry of gaslighters everywhere), and at that point I started to raise my voice. Two of my supervisors came into the office to ask if everything was okay, and I told them that my colleague was being misogynistic, offensive and inappropriate. He claimed I was the one being inappropriate, and my supervisor told him that if I’ve said something offends me and asked for it to be stopped, he has to stop. “No means no,” effectively. He started to sulk and said he would just stop speaking to me altogether (this would not be the first time he’s ostracised himself from fellow co-workers), and my boss said that wouldn’t be necessary; that he could just speak to me about other things.

This kind of behaviour has been going on with this guy since I met him three years ago; colleagues who’ve been there longer than that claim it’s been since day one. He says inappropriate things about peoples’ appearance, whether it be related to their sexuality or perceived sexiness, their race, etc. He has also been known to touch women’s hair and he comments on how I apparently look like Anne Hathaway, Natalie Wood and/or Kat Dennings and how hot he finds them in comparison. I’ve also called him out on defending rapists and saying that lesbians are gross. Obviously, he’s an abhorrent human being, one that until last week I avoided telling that his attitude is disgusting and would he please stop it.

My supervisor later told me that he would respect me more for calling him out; I’m sad to say that his misogyny is too deeply ingrained for what I said to make a difference. No doubt he’ll tell our co-workers that I’m “hysterical”, “overreacting” and “can’t take a compliment”. [Jezebel]

How to tell a rape joke. Daniel Tosh: take note. [Jezebel, Cookies for Breakfast]

Bettina Arndt’s at it again, this time telling women not to overreact to workplace sexual harassment, which is essentially just flirting. [MamaMia]

*Eye roll* Yet another successful, trailblazing female who “isn’t a feminist”: new Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer.[Jezebel]

Image source unknown.