Event: Destroying the Joint? at Melbourne Writers Festival.

The opening paragraph of disability activist and writer Stella Young’s chapter in the recently released tome Destroying the Joint begins thusly:

“Destroy the joint? Shit, I’d be happy just to be allowed in the joint.”

And on Sunday, when the Melbourne Writers Festival event Destroying the Joint? was held in Deakin Edge at Federation Square, Young might have been able to get in the joint, but she was certainly not able to get on the stage.

While inexcusable on the part of Fed Square and MWF, Young’s imposition did serve to remind us of a very important point: as a disabled woman, she cops a double-whammy of discrimination.

The event started only a few minutes late as organisers scrambled to move the stage to an accessible level, and Young explained that sadly, she’s come to expect things like this. Whereas when she was younger she might have consented to being lifted onto the stage and having a little cry about it, as a disability activist she will not allow ignorance to infantilise her anymore.

I definitely take my able-bodiedness for granted, but I can sort of relate in the sense that as a woman, I’ve come to expect to be harassed when I leave the house. This isn’t an everyday occurrence, to be sure, but it happens far too regularly for my liking. I’m sure many women can empathise.

This is why I will be attending SlutWalk this weekend; to have an opportunity to strut the streets in solidarity with likeminded people who won’t put up with street harassment, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and just plain bigotry and discrimination. Young will also be there as a speaker.

But back to last Sunday’s event, in which a show of hands indicated the amount of people who’ve protested or engaged in activism in some form in the past six months. Young and her fellow panellists, Destroying the Joint editor Jane Caro and author of The Activists’ Handbook Aidan Ricketts, stated the importance of physical protesting, like marching for refugees or marriage equality or attending SlutWalk, as opposed to slacktivism, which movements such as Kony 2012 and Destroy the Joint itself. Young even joked that she fantasises about chaining her wheelchair to a W-class (well, pretty much all except C- and D-class) tram in protest of their inaccessibility.

There has been much maligning of Destroy the Joint, with vocal opponents of it, such as Gretel Killeen and Helen Razer, deriding its angry tone. While I think getting outraged about things you’re passionate about can be useful, Caro asserts that spewing outrage doesn’t work. Young tended more towards my way of thinking, in that outrage as the primary emotion can be moulded into more constructive outlets and avenues: like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Caro also noted that it’s important to set small goals and always be moving the goalposts. Small aims are easier to reach, engender positivity and allow you to always be setting new victories to achieve.

Related: Hating Kony is Cool.

Women Say Something: Should We Destroy the Joint?

Book Review: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers.

anne summers misogyny factor

“Misogyny” seems to be the word on everyone’s lips after newly ousted former PM Julia Gillard’s famous parliamentary lambasting of Tony Abbott last October. It was certainly on Anne Summers’ when she spoke at the University of Newcastle in August last year about the then-Prime Minister’s rights at work and how, “… if she were an ordinary worker, she would have a case for sex discrimination and sexual harassment.”

That quote appears on page five of Summers’ recently released The Misogyny Factor, born out of the above two speeches.

Gillard was quick to be criticised for intimating that Abbott is a misogynist; after all, how can you be a misogynist if you’re happily married and have three daughters? (That line of thinking was employed in a recent Facebook debate I had with a friend over Robin Thicke’s hit, “Blurred Lines”.) While the dictionary definition of misogyny is hatred of women, Summers explains the reasoning behind calling her book The Misogyny Factor:

“… [T]he misogyny factor is that set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions (business, politics, the military, the media, the church, academia) that stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded respect… I am not sidetracked by strict dictionary definitions of ‘misogyny’. Sure, it can mean, ‘hatred of women’ and we still see far too many instances of that. But it is more complicated and far more widespread than the prejudices of individuals, which is why I use the term ‘the misogyny factor’… I am talking about systemic beliefs and behaviour, which are predicated on the view that women do not have the fundamental right to be part of society beyond the home… Such views can be, and are, held by women as well as men… Why they defend misogyny is mystifying, yet plenty of women do.” [p. 7–8]

Essentially, “sexism goes hand in hand with misogyny. Sexism provides the rationale for misogyny.” [p. 8]

There is sexism and misogyny to be found almost everywhere you look, but The Misogyny Factor primarily focuses on the realms of politics and the economy. For example, we’re all (well, those who have a vested interest in the pay gap and who don’t buy into the misguided notion that we now have gender equality. If anything, we’ve regressed, and Summers addresses this specifically in the book, too.) familiar with the fact that a post-graduate degree-holding woman entering the workforce today will earn $2.49 million over her working lifetime, while her male counterpart earns $3.78 million [p 53–54]. For being a “young woman in Australia today,” “there is at least a million dollar penalty.” [p. 54]

And for those women who do manage to crack the glass ceiling and rise to the upper echelons of the corporate world, they mustn’t show an ounce of femininity lest they be deemed “too emotional” for the job:

“If women brought onto boards are expected to behave like men, what is the benefit of their presence? It is the worst of all possible worlds: the company is denied the different perspective women directors might bring to its governance…” (emphasis mine) [p. 89]

I’m glad Summers was sure to include “might”, as without it she might as well be buying into the very idea she’s trying to debunk: the belief that women are so inherently different from men that they can’t possibly execute jobs traditionally held by the opposite sex, or if they are granted employment in them, they’ll do a vastly different performance than the menz. They’ll “destroy the joint”, if you will.

Speaking of Destroy the Joint, the feminist social media movement, and now a book, born out of Alan Jones’s comments that female politicians and business leaders were “destroying the joint”, Summers explains:

“[Alan] Jones’s intended insult, that women were ‘destroying the joint’, was turned on its head. It wasn’t the first time that women had transformed what was intended to be a belittling comment into a triumphant battle cry. In 1905 the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain ridiculed the suffragists— those, mostly women, who were fighting to get the vote for women, by calling them ‘suffragettes’. The more radical of the suffragists embraced the term. They started using it with pride to describe themselves, and to differentiate themselves as radicals from those who used more moderate tactics. They created a publication, The Suffragette. More than a century later in another country, Australian women also took the disparagement and created the modern-day equivalent of a campaign newspaper, the Facebook page and the Twitter handle @JointDestroyer. Yes, that’s right, women responded. We are going to destroy the joint. We utterly reject a joint whose sexism and misogyny is so ingrained that far too many people see it as perfectly normal behaviour. We will no longer tolerate a joint that systematically excludes women from its ranks, that insults us as a matter of course when we stand up for ourselves, a joint that sees something wrong with spending money to stop violence against women. If that’s what the joint is, we don’t want it.” [p. 139]

The modern-day equivalent of the suffragettes? SlutWalkers and Joint Destroyers.

Some feminists have expressed concern that these movements are too radical and scare off more moderate feminists from the cause. When you look at the fact that “… In 2012… 21 per cent of people in Australia has been sexually harassed since the age of 15, a slight increase the previous report in 2008 (20%) and that a majority (68%) of those people were harassed in the workplace… [and] most of these were women.” [p. 97], it becomes pretty clear why we need such “radical” movements. Personally, I’ve been sexually harassed too many times to count, and a handful or two in the workplace. I need SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Many of these grassroots campaigns occur online, to match the spate of online abuse women on the internet receive. I just received my first rape/death threat for views expressed (about To Kill a Mockingbird, no less!) on this blog: I can now officially call myself a feminist blogger. But when Kickstarter sees nary a problem with raising funds for a sexual assault manual, Twitter is used as a forum to berate women who don’t fit the mould, and Facebook bans breastfeeding photos but keeps rape memes and pages, misogyny is plain for all to see online. For example, former political cartoonist for The Australian, Larry Pickering, who most recently depicted Julia Gillard with a big black dildo, a strap on slung over her shoulder (“It seems that Pickering cannot envisage a Prime Minister without a penis—so he has to five Gillard a strap-on” [p. 125], Summers notes) and animations of the former PM topless, had the latter deleted by Facebook but the strap-on images were allowed to stay. Seems like Facebook has a women (or just female breast-) problem…

It’s not just online, as the sound bites from fellow politicians and menus from Liberal fundraisers will attest, that Gillard experiences sexual harassment. “It says something about our country and about us that we could subject our leader to such vile abuse” [p. 130], Summers writes. Look at the U.S.: while they arguably have more problems with misogyny than we do, at least the Office of the President is viewed with respect, regardless of the figurehead who occupies it.

Still with Gillard, “Can it really be the case that a tax—a carbon tax—could really spur so many people to such levels of hatred? I find that impossible to believe, so I have had to conclude that the persecution of Julia Gillard has to be about something else. Is it just the simple fact that she is a woman?” (p. 130-131)

In the fallout from Gillard’s ousting, and the subsequent gendered abuse I heard and saw thrown her way in the media and on Facebook and Twitter (which lead me to unfriend certain long-time-coming people), unfortunately I think Summers is right. The misogyny factor is alive and well in Australia.

If you’re after some similar content from Summers, check out her recent Emily’s List oration and this Meanjin piece.

rating1

 

 

 

Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Event: Midsumma Festival & Women Say Something’s Should We Destroy the Joint?

Elsewhere: [Do Something] CEO of Kickstarter: Refuse to Fund How-To Guide on Sexual Assault.

[Jezebel] If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats?

[HuffPo] Breastfeeding Photos on Facebook Removed From “Respect the Breast” Page.

[Gawker] Facebook Removes Pro-Rape Pages, Kicking & Screaming.

[Anne Summers] Emily’s List Oration 2013.

[Meanjin] The Sexual Politics of Power.

Image via New South Books.

Mother to Daughter: Second- VS. Fourth-Wave Feminism.

While I’ve only begun calling myself a feminist in the past few years, I think I’ve always had feminist tendencies: I’ve always believed in reproductive rights, I’ve tried never to judge a woman based on her choices and it’s been instilled in me that, as a woman, I can do and be anything I want to.

A lot of this is thanks to my mum, who is a ’70s bra-burning hippie feminist through and through.

Though recently, as I increasingly immerse myself in current readings of feminism, I see just how far we’ve come, baby, and how the second-wave feminism of my mother’s era is worlds apart from today’s discourse on gender equality.

There have been many debates between second-, third- and fourth-wavers about who did, and is doing, more for the movement.

At a 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival presentation on why we still need feminism, Sophie Cunningham asserted that feminists under 25 can’t really grasp the concept because they’re still young and beautiful and have men falling at their feet. She also observed “a sort of ‘bottleneck’ in modern feminism”, where white, Western feminists aren’t able to incorporate intersectionality into the fold, which was a criticism of SlutWalk, one of latter-day feminism’s most high-profile conquests. Pardon me, but wasn’t it foremother Betty Friedan who was accused of being racist and homophobic with The Feminine Mystique?

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the constant bickering amongst young feminists as to what, exactly, feminism is. You’ve got women undertaking such obviously feminist tasks as Marissa Mayer overseeing Yahoo! and Beyonce nearing total world domination, yet they’re reluctant to call a spade a spade. And the non-feminist media would have you believe there’s infighting going on about who is allowed to be a feminist (definitely not Taylor Swift!).

But, I think, the feminist movement of today would like to believe it’s accessible to all kinds of women (and men): straight, gay, bi, male, female, trans, black, white, mixed-race, rich, poor, able-bodied and non-able-bodied, sex workers, etc. Can second-wave feminism of yesteryear say that?

This divide is illustrated by Germaine Greer’s infamous comments about Julia Gillard’s clothing choices and how they accentuated her apparently undesirable body shape last year on Q&A and feminists everywhere taking to their respective platforms to mostly disagree with her. One such vocal detractor was Mia Freedman, who said Greer “broke my heart a little bit” when she took herself “down in a hail of self-inflicted friendly fire while the world watche[d] in embarrassment.” When the two women appeared together on a recent episode of Q&A, Freedman was asked to clarify her response: did it mean she wasn’t a fan of the “ground-breaking, arse-kicking lightening rod for social change who ignited a feminist movement from which every woman in the western world has benefited” anymore? Was this an example of the abovementioned feminist in-fighting?

Freedman responded that while she has nothing but respect for the woman in whose water she grew up and who influenced her mother’s feminist awakening, “feminism needs to have a lot of different voices… It should be really, really broad and inclusive.” Essentially, feminism should accommodate both the foremothers and their daughters.

Freedman went on in that same episode of Q&A to—what some would describe as—shame sex workers, or “prostitutes” as she archaically called them, which ignited a backlash of her own. So much for that broad inclusion she waxed lyrical about…

While liberating housewives of Germaine and Freedman’s mother’s era from “the problem with no name” and ushering in the birth control pill are milestones women of today must be thankful for, they’re very much narrow-minded accomplishments: The Feminine Mystique appealed to white middle-class women and many women can’t afford the birth control pill, a predicament that still exists today. And second-wave feminism was very much responsible for the sexual liberation of a generation of people, but I’m not so sure that transfers to the hook up, raunch and porn culture/s of today (as Freedman’s comments about sex workers above would indicate).

For example, when I was living at home and Girls of the Playboy Mansion came on the TV, my mum would make me turn it off (keep in mind I was 22 by the time I moved out and this was not long before that). When I brought this up recently as an example of her generation’s reluctance to embrace sex positivity, she launched into a tirade that ended with her calling into question the women who pose for Playboy’s sexual promiscuity.

We must acknowledge that media like Playboy is an inherently patriarchal construct, but I think making the assumption that any woman who uses her sexuality as a commodity is a slave to said patriarchy is buying into the notion that feminism works against: women have no autonomy. Much like the debate over women in Islam (and don’t even get me started on the fight I had with my mum about asylum seekers that, similar to the Playboy exchange, ended with her defensively inquiring about the legality of people seeking asylum via boat), certain kinds of feminism need to broaden their scope to take into account the lives of all women, whether we agree with their choices or not.

This close-mindedness comes from a lack of access to new information and technologies and willingness to learn from and hand the reigns over to the feminists of today, I think. While many feminists of all ages count the works of Greer, Friedan and Naomi Wolf amongst their collection of feminist tomes, how many second-wavers can say the same about the musings of Jessica Valenti, Clementine Ford, Rachel Hills and the myriad feminist bloggers? That face of feminism has certainly changed to make it much more accessible. What once was narrowly accessible at rallies, underground meetings and in academic journals is now available wherever you look: Gillard speaking up against sexism in parliament, movements like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint and all across the interwebs.

So on this Mother’s Day eve, it’s important to acknowledge the gender equality path paved for me by my feminist foremothers, including my actual mother, but also to recognise that we have, indeed, come a long way, baby. Maybe that’s something that second-wavers need to consider, too.

Related: Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” In the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] 4 Big Problems with The Feminine Mystique. 

[The Guardian] The Tragic Irony of Feminists Trashing Each Other.

[MamaMia] Germaine Greer: You’ve Lost Me.

[MamaMia] No, I Won’t Apologise for My Sex Worker Comments.

[Daily Life] Stoned for Having Short Hair.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

storm-troupers-01_191344271826

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.

Event: Midsumma Festival & Women Say Something’s Should We Destroy the Joint?

women say something midsumma should we destroy the joint

Prompted by Alan Jones’ admonition that women in parliament and positions of power are “destroying the joint”, which spurred the online feminist movement of the same name, feminist group Women Say Something brought their panel consisting of such high profile Aussie feminists as Tara Moss, Catherine Deveny and Gretel Killeen to the Thornbury Town Hall on Saturday night to ask whether we should, in fact, destroy the joint.

I must say I didn’t know much about Killeen’s feminist credentials prior to the event, but her total rejection of the Destroy the Joint movement, and most modern movements, was the surprise of the night. Killeen said she didn’t really believe in the premise of feminism and that she identifies more as an egalitarian. Tara Moss interjected here, saying that there’s not just one Feminism and that everyone has their own version of what feminism is. While I do support this notion to a certain extent, I think feminism is first and foremost about equality for all, not just for women. And I also take issue with different feminisms for the fact that this allows people like Tony Abbott and Sarah Palin, who are the furthest things from feminism out there, to claim themselves as part of “the club”.

This idea certainly didn’t go undiscussed, either, as Killeen raised the point that modern feminism is always looking for “aggressive marketing terms” like Destroy the Joint, SlutWalk and reclaiming the word cunt to recruit new members, like Abbott, no matter their ideologies and at the risk of offending the general public. Who cares about the general public? They’re always offending me with their sexist, racist and homophobic ways, so why not ruffle some feathers with feminism?

This lead Killeen to ask when feminism became a label that just anyone could apply to themselves. While I agree with this, and it’s the point I tried to make above, it is contradictory to what (my) feminism is about: equality. Moss then raised the argument of who’s more or less of a feminist, which is an issue I struggle with and which I’ve written about before. Someone then said that feminism allows room for discussion and disagreement, which the panellists certainly demonstrated; feminism isn’t a one size fits all movement.

It seems as though Killeen was playing devil’s advocate at first, with all her snubbing of most of the other panelist’s ideas. But as the night progressed, it became clear that she actually has some pretty radical views of human rights. As Catherine Deveny asserted, it’s not about feminism: it just comes down to being an “asshole and not [being an] asshole”. Here, here.

Some current pop cultural issues came up during question time, such as Beyonce’s recent underwear-clad GQ cover and accompanying article in which she espouses some feminist ideals, without actually saying the word itself. (Let’s remember in 2011 that she neither confirmed nor denied that she was a feminist, instead she suggested we create a new word for the movement.) Moss again reiterated the notion of many feminisms and that “if one of them happens to be in their underwear then that’s great,” which I wholeheartedly support (even if I don’t support feminism being thrust upon an undeserving pop star).

If Abbott’s declaration is anything to go by, seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry are clamouring to get a piece of the feminist pie, what about all the damning of feminism as a “failed” movement? Deveny insisted that, as many a book, blog post, feminist or historian will tell you, feminism is the most successful human rights movement alongside the black civil rights one. Without feminism, we wouldn’t have the Pill, childcare, pay advances, or the vote, amongst a myriad of other rights.

So, should women destroy the joint? As one panellist said (who it was escapes me now), movements like Destroy the Joint and SlutWalk are “training ground[s] for activism”. Killeen suggested, again, that they’re just angry marketing ploys and that they don’t do anything to further our cause. Facilitator Kate Monroe and fellow panellist Casey Jenkins insisted that primarily social media movements are vital in “chipping away” at the patriarchal zeitgeist, and we need that as much as the “fireworks” of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, for example.

On anger, Gillard managed to harness hers at her treatment by pretty much the whole of Australia and turn it into one of Aussie feminism’s most important moments heard ’round the world, regardless of her personal or political beliefs. Many of the panellists (except, again, Killeen) agreed with an audience member’s assertion that anger is an important virtue when it comes to feminism. Far from the archetype of the angry, man-hating, hairy pitted feminist, anger can be fermented into passion which is essential for any feminist and feminist movement, wouldn’t you say?

What do you think? Should we be destroying the joint or do you think there are less radical ways to bring people around to feminism?

Related: Magazine Cover of the Week: Beyonce Named Sexiest Woman of the Century.

Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

Image via Facebook.

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.

TV: New Girl Should Attend a SlutWalk Sometime…

On last night’s New Girl the inevitable pairing of Jess and Nick began, with Jess’s model friend CeCe crashing the loft and watching the sparks fly between them.

Jess is oblivious to Nick’s interest, and tells CeCe that not everyone wants to have sex with everyone else, like CeCe thinks they do. CeCe begs to differ, and Jess asks, in horror, if her clothes are too revealing or if she should wear thicker pyjamas. Really?!

If SlutWalk has taught us anything it’s that the amount or type of clothing a woman is wearing has nothing to do with the interest she ignites in a man, whether that man is a potential rapist or harasser, or just a regular Joe with a crush on his housemate. We’re at episode four now, so Nick has gotten to know Jess and all her (at times insanely annoying) quirks. God knows if he’s expressing interest it’s in spite of the abovementioned quirks and not because of how she looks or what she’s wearing. (Although last week’s nudie run could throw a spanner in this theory!)

Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Body Acceptance on New Girl.

Image via HelloGiggles.

Magazines: The Protester May Be Time’s Person of the Year, But SlutWalkers Aren’t.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Time’s Person of the Year issue came out and it, along with the majority of 2011, was all about The Protester.

The Arab Spring, Occupy and SlutWalk took centre stage in news stories across the world throughout 2011, however Time chose to focus on just the former two, with only one small mention of SlutWalk’s Toronto origins on page 52, “The Protest Network”.

While SlutWalk may not have inspired as much change as The Arab Spring did (it remains to be seen how influential Occupy can be, but it seems like it’s been making headlines for sexual assault and police brutality rather than any real change on Wall Street and amongst the world’s 1%), it was still certainly headline making and, personally, greatly affecting.

Occupy has no real vision nor authority in charge to determine what is to eventuate from the protest, while each SlutWalk was pretty well organised and had a clear expected outcome, whether that was reclaiming the word slut, ending victim-blaming, or simply raising awareness that what a woman was wearing when she was sexually assaulted or harassed has no bearing on why she was targeted.

Call me biased, but I think SlutWalk should have had a more prominent position in Time’s protester issue.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Elsewhere: [Time] People Who Mattered in 2011: The Protester.

Image via Time.

12 Posts of Christmas: The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

Sexual harassment seems to be the theme of my (and a lot of those around me) life lately, and the blog has had a heavy focus on it in recent months. The original article can be found here.

The other day at work I was sexually harassed by a customer.

I was just standing there, and a short (probably around my height), bald, fat man in a dirty navy blue polo shirt, who was about 50–55, came up to me and asked me where the toilets were. I told him, then he asked “how’ve you been”, with a tone that implied he knew me. I said fine, and he looked me up and down and said in a sleazy voice, “Ooo, I’d like to take you home.” I immediately walked away and told three of my colleagues who were stationed nearby. As I left, he said something to the effect of, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

No, he shouldn’t have.

Now, sexual harassment probably isn’t anything new to a lot of women. It’s just something we have to face because we have a vagina.

I’ve been harassed at work before, not as blatantly as Sunday’s episode, but I’ve never felt comfortable enough to eject myself from the situation. As someone who works in customer service, I think I placed not being rude above keeping myself safe. But, post-SlutWalk, I now have the confidence not to put up with that shit.

But I didn’t report it.

I told a few colleagues, until I eventually mentioned it several hours later to a security guard, who also happens to be a close friend of mine. He sternly asked me if I’d reported it to my manager. I told him no, and he asked me what I would do if he came back? If he stalked me? If he attacked me? If he attacked someone else? His older-brother protectiveness made me decide to report it.

It’s funny that I didn’t think to report it the moment it happened. I guess that’s the stigma of sexual harassment (and don’t even get me started on the stigma of sexual assault!). I think I thought that because I can handle myself and I won’t put up with that shit, that it wasn’t a big deal.

It was.

I filed a report with my manager, security know about it and have footage of the man, and it’s been forwarded to the appropriate department.

The responses I got from fellow colleagues were at each end of the spectrum. Some expressed outrage and encouraged me to report it, others asked me if he touched me, as if that would be the only thing to warrant filing a report. No, he didn’t, because that would be sexualassault. (Why do we not bat an eyelid when verbal harassment occurs, but are quick to leap into action when the physical barrier is breached? Both are violations of a person based on the fact that their harasser thinks they’re public property, or available for them to make comments on/touch.)

But these responses really illustrate the abovementioned taboo of sexual harassment. That boys will be boys. That as a young, pretty woman, you just have to suck these things up. That it doesn’t really count because you were only verbally violated.

I am somewhat ashamed that I was so quick to brush it off. (Let’s be clear: I’m not ashamed that I was harassed. I’m ashamed that I didn’t take it seriously to begin with. Rape is my biggest fear, but if I was ever raped, you can be damn sure I wouldn’t keep quiet about it because I was ashamed.) This is 2011. This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening. But it does. So as modern women, we should be able to say that making comments about our physical appearance without our consent is a no-go. Just like making physical contact with our bodies without our consent is.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?