The Year of the Stalker.

morello oitnb stalker

2014 has been the year of the stalker, wouldn’t you say?

Let me count the ways.

In May this year, college student, men’s rights enthusiast and “involuntary celibate” Elliot Rodger shot dead three students at the Isla Vista campus of the University of California and murdered three more in his apartment before turning the gun on himself in an attack meant to target “blonde sluts” who wouldn’t sleep with him. We know this because of the video and written manifestos he left bemoaning his virgin status, fixating particularly on girls from his past who rebuffed him. (This is a frightening trend we can see in the stabbing death of a high school girl who said no to a prom invitation and the shooting killing of a Detroit woman who wouldn’t give her assailant her phone number. And for all you MRAs out there, male entitlement to women’s bodies doesn’t just hurt women: a man was stabbed nine times for defending his girlfriend against street harassment.)

In the fictional world, Orange is the New Black’s second season revealed the extent of inmate Lorna Morello’s crimes, including the stalking of her oft-discussed “fiancé” “Chris-tuh-phuh”, with whom Morello only went on one date in reality. This revelation was one of the more shocking storylines on the show, but on the whole it painted the perpetrator in a sympathetic light as opposed to a potentially dangerous criminal.

Robin Thicke presented a good case for being named the biggest sexist of 2013, and this year he solidified that title by producing an entire album dedicated to the stalking of his estranged wife, Paula Patton. The album failed at “Get[ting] Her Back”, the title of the lead track, and it also failed to make a dent in the charts, selling just 54 copies in Australia alone.

The young adult book blogging community didn’t escape unscathed, either, with author Kathleen Hale thinking she could publish an account of her stalking of a book blogger who gave her a bad review and not see ramifications.

And back to reality: gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a talk at Utah State University earlier this year when organisers wouldn’t do anything about the bomb threat she was sent should her seminar go ahead. Just today, she posted this snapshot of a cyber threat she received on Twitter.

Anti-street harassment organization Hollacback! attempted to shine a light on just what women go through every day while going about their lives in public. While many of the 108 incidences of harassment caught on camera over a 10-hour period of walking alone in New York City couldn’t be classified as stalking, one of the men did follow volunteer Shoshana Roberts for several minutes despite her giving him no indication that she was into it.

But stalking is nothing new: the focus on it in the media this year doesn’t mean it’s a novel phenomenon. Victims of intimate partner abuse, sexual assault and murder are a testament to that (As of 12th November, 2014, 61 women had been murdered by their intimate partners in Australia this year. The murder-suicide of an estranged Deer Park couple yesterday only adds to that unacceptable number.) It is interesting that 2014 has been smattered with high-profile (albeit sometimes fictional) cases of stalking.

In Australia, one in ten people will be stalked, with women making up 75% of victims. As with sexual and physical violence, most stalking is likely perpetrated by a person known to the victim, with 76% of women in the U.S. who die by the hands of their intimate partners having also been stalked by them. Still in the U.S., according to Colorado State University, those who identify as LGBTQ* were twice as likely to experience cyberstalking and harassment on campus, while non-white women also experienced a higher likelihood of stalking in general. And people with disabilities also experience a higher likelihood of victimisation across the board. While Hollaback!’s video was an important one, it failed at showing marginalised women’s experiences as evidenced in the statistics (which is why this video about the harassment experienced by women of colour in New York City is an important next step).

I don’t think the up-tick of stalking in news stories and fictional representations (Gone Girl’s Desi Collings is another example of this) is indicative of an increase in violence against women, I think it’s more representative of the fact that we’re finally starting to give a shit about violence against women. The deluge of allegations against Bill Cosby (though the general public’s response has left much to be desired, with the majority of people willing to believe one man in power over dozens of women with scarily similar stories and not a whole lot to gain) and the ousting of “dating coach” Julian Blanc from many countries, including Australia, on his tour of pick up artistry are evidence of this. We’ve still got a long way to go, baby, especially when it comes to non-white, middle class women, but respect for and recognition of women is gaining strides baby steps in 2014.

So 2014 is the year of the stalker not because stalking is becoming more prevalent but because police reports, news stories and fictional representations are moving into focus.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit http://www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Related: Gone Girls & Nice Guys.

On Stalking.

Orange is the New Black’s Morello’s Fractured Relationship with Romance.

Robin Thicke’s Paula: He Still Hates Those “Blurred Lines”.

Elsewhere: [The Daily Mail] Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto Targeted British Pop Star’s Daughter.

[USA Today] Boy Stabs, Kills Girl Who Turned Down Prom Date.

[Crime Feed] Engaged Woman Shot to Death After Refusing to Give Man Her Phone Number.

[CBC News] Man Stabbed 9 Times for Asking Catcallers to Stop Harassing His Girlfriend.

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

[Vulture] Which Country Hates Robin Thicke the Most?

[The Guardian] “Am I Being Catfished?” An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic.

[Buzzfeed] This is What Happens When an Author Tracks Down a Critic in Real Life.

[Kotaku] Anita Sarkeesian Cancels Speech Following Terror Threats.

[Daily Life] Australian Government Tells UN Violence Against Women Isn’t Torture.

[The Age] Deer Park Women Found Dead in Suspected Murder-Suicide.

[Wire] Stalking Information Sheet.

[National Centre for Victims of Crime] Stalking Fact Sheet.

[CSU Women & Gender Advocacy Centre] Stalking Statistics.

[Victims of Crime] Crimes Against Persons with Disabilities.

[Jezebel] A Hollaback Response Video: Women of Colour on Street Harassment.

Image via SheRa Magazine.

The 76th Down Under Feminists Carnival.

Pop Culture.

I wrote about Katy Perry’s insistence on appropriating other cultures.

I’m also at Bitch Flicks writing about physical and mental health on Orange is the New Black.

Still with OITNB, Morello has such a fractured relationship with romance she’s in prison for stalking her faux-fiancé.

“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Feminism!” [Bitch Flicks]

The racial and sexual politics of Hitch. [The Hairpin]

Clementine Ford writes about the Girls on Film Festival in Melbourne from the 12th to 14th of September: “Where are the men’s film festivals?!” [Daily Life]

Race & Religion.

Racism in the job network. [The Koori Woman]

Where was the Native American representation at this years’ San Diego ComicCon? [The Travelling Unicorn]

Racism in the digital age. [The Anti-Bogan]

Qantas’ Recognise campaign “seems to be little more than corporate endorsements and photo opportunities for powerful figures to prove how much they like us.” [Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist]

And she’s not the only one who’s got a problem with the campaign. [New Matilda]

Struggling to be a “traditional” Sudanese woman by a woman who has Sudanese heritage but was not raised there. [Redefining the Narrative]

“What is a Moderate Muslim, Anyway?” [Redefining the Narrative]

Navigating Islam and feminism in the 21st century. [Days Like Crazy Paving]

Evelyn Enduatta writes abouta pivotal time in the local history of my adoptive Yolŋu family…. [and] the introduction of wage labour relations in north-east Arnhem Land[;]… a case study in the nature and violence of alienation.” [Upswell]

“Just because you’re Aboriginal doesn’t mean you have to have an ‘Aboriginal’ job.” [ The Travelling Unicorn]

Violence Against Women. *trigger warning*

Clementine Ford sheds light on the savage beating of adult actress Christy Mack by her mixed martial arts fighter ex-boyfriend War Machine. [Daily Life]

There’s probably domestic violence in your workplace. [Women’s Agenda]

Examining the link between animal abuse and intimate partner violence. [SMH]

How liveable are our cities if women aren’t safe? [Daily Life]

Rape culture in politics. [The Hand Mirror]

Instead of devising beauty products that help women prevent their rapes, maybe we should be telling men not to rape. [National Union of Students Women’s Department]

LGBTQI*.

The tragic tale of Australia’s (alleged) first trans man. [Daily Life]

Thinking about trans identities in primary school. [Sal Gold Said So]

Sex & Relationships.

Are you putting out enough to justify your cost per (male partner’s) orgasm? [Daily Life]

“The kids are [having anal sex], let’s make sure they’re alright.” [Daily Life]

The infamous Brocklesnitch (aka Rebecca Shaw) on those “marriage vouchers”:

“Perhaps it might be more useful for the Government to focus more on things like housing affordability, availability of jobs, and letting young people access the welfare system rather than funnel millions of dollars into a counselling voucher scheme.” [SBS]

So Sam de Brito wrote a column about seeking the female orgasm and Junkee ridiculed it thusly.

Asexuality: the next sexual orientation frontier. [Cosmopolitan]

Physical & Mental Health *trigger warning*.

Going undercover as a surrogate mother. [Daily Life]

Correlating breast cancer with abortion discourages women from pursuing their reproductive rights and diminishes the devastation of breast cancer. [New Matilda]

Working with ichthyosis. [Carly Findlay]

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide asking RUOK is not the answer. [Culture, Nurture, Nature: Views, Reviews, Rants]

Another thoughtful response to Williams’ death. [The Hand Mirror]

Clem Bastow writes heartbreakingly about never being “enough”:

“You don’t tell your boyfriend, or your parents, or your friends, or your kind therapist that you’re thinking about all these things, because you figure it’s not worth being upset about after all these years, even though you are. You see people go through far worse things and continue the ‘It could have been much worse!’ charade, even though some days you feel so sad you want to lie down on the carpet for a week. Why can’t you just get over it? Why can’t you Think Positive About It All? Why would anyone write you a letter about such small things that it’s not worth being upset about, Dear Young Person?

“Young Person, you think a lot about all of these things. There are so many others: you laugh off your Bipolar 2 diagnosis as ‘the straight-to-video sequel to a real mental illness’; your plummeting weight during a two-year spell overseas is just ‘Los Angeles, lol!’; the nights you eat Vitamin C tablets for dinner are fine because ‘Other people are poorer’; the guy who makes you wear a horse-bit to bed is ‘great comedy material!’; the death of your dear dog at just five years of his young life ‘isn’t as bad as it would have been if he’d been around for 15 years, I guess.’ It never seems to be quite enough to be upset about, not really, truly upset, like some people have the right to be. Not poor enough, not depressed enough, not beset by grief enough, not abused enough.” [I Believe You, It’s Not Your Fault]

Blindness in speculative fiction. [ A.C. Buchanan]

My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga is a New Zealand-based campaign to shed light on health care professionals who refuse to provide or refer productive health services. [The Hand Mirror]

And there’s no shame in making these health care professionals known so that people in need of reproductive health care don’t make the mistake of visiting them. [The Hand Mirror]

“Abortions Don’t Cause Cancer Any More Than Parties Do.” [The Conversation]

Women in the Workplace.

The problem with Lean In:

“There’s a bigger debate to be had here about whether care work is valued enough (it’s not), whether the needs of children are prioritised appropriately (they’re not), and whether the desire by both men and women to spend time with their children is accepted (it’s not), but let’s at least agree that eliminating child care struggles is crucial for undoing sexist gender-role divisions. Where women can’t get to work they can’t achieve personal career goals, but nor can they claim the kind of decision making power that comes with income.” [Daily Life]

Australia still has an equal pay problem. [Women’s Agenda]

On the persistence of the pay gap: from penal colony to glass ceiling. [UNSW School of Business]

Ban bossy, be the boss. [Daily Beast]

It’s all well and good to feature a panel about the politics of sex work as part of Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, but perhaps it should, I don’t know, feature some sex workers? [Sex, Lies & Duct Tape]

Miscellaneous & General Feminism.

“Do not hold me to the standards that you have internalised. Do. Fucking. Not.” [Facebook]

Deborra-Lee Furness on Australia’s anti-adoption culture. [The Hoopla]

Melbourne schoolgirls were inspired to Kickstart their own “feminist collective” in the wake of Women Against Feminism and after “studying the character of ‘Curly’s Wife’ in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men.” [ABC]

Helpful hints for overcoming Tall Poppy Syndrome. [No Award]

Friday Hoyden: Emma Goldman. [Hoyden About Town]

Diversity and rebellion in Life at 9. [Hoyden About Town]

How to home school a preschooler. [Free Range in Suburbia]

Five reasons why Women Against Feminism actually need feminism. [The Conversation]

Are men better writers than women? No, they just have more time to write. [Overland]

“Political correctness gone mad” is more about not being an asshole. [TheVine]

What Kevin Andrews’ speech at the World Congress of Families might have sounded like. [Brocklesnitch]

More on protesting the World Congress of Families. [Gladly, The Cross-Eyed Bear]

The problem with limited-edition, girl-focused Lego. [Hoyden About Town]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Some thoughts shouldn’t be catalogued, or, “The Trouble with Thought Catalog”:

“The editors have decided that pageviews are more important than protecting the lives of the people endangered by these hateful screeds.” [The Daily Dot]

And now writers are petitioning to have their work removed from the site. [The Daily Dot]

The men who help their feminist partners through online trolling. [WaPo]

What it’s like to be a teenage pedophile. [Medium]

A piece I wrote a few years ago about feminism in the Scream franchise and Orange is the New Black‘s Morello’s distortion of romance and reality I wrote a few weeks ago have been crossposted at Bitch Flicks.

Being poor on television. [NPR]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Peeling back perfection of Instagram:

“Do you want to know how many pictures I shot before I actually captured a photo that both accurately (and attractively) displayed how happy I was in this moment? 56. I hope you’re judging me, because I am.” [Bustle]

My piece on physical and mental health on Orange is the New Black is cross-posted over at Bitch Flicks.

ICYMI: On Katy Perry and cultural appropriation VS. appreciation and OITNB‘s Morello, mental illness and romanticised reality.

If you’re finding these links lacking, head on over to this month’s Down Under Feminist Carnival. [Opinions @ Blue Bec]

Speaking of, I’m hosting the next Carnival, so get your entries in. [Down Under Feminist Carnival]

TV: Orange is the New Black’s Morello’s Fractured Relationship with Romance*.

OITNB-Bath-Bride

One of the most explosive backstories on this season of Orange is the New Black has been Lorna Morello’s.

The Italian-American, played by Australian actress Yael Stone, is presumably in prison for credit card fraud, as the opening segments of her life before Litchfield in episode four of the second season that aired last night on Showcase would indicate. We see a Jersey Shore-esque Morello returning to her chaotic familial home after seeing Twilight at the cinema for the “14th time”. She retreats from her accusatory sister, ignorant father, wayward nieces and nephews and sick mother to her bedroom which is adorned with posters of West Side Story (the classic tale of Romeo & Juliet in 1950s New York, with a healthy serving of racism, which Morello is inclined to dish out), male celebrities and wedding collages. She pauses to caress the glossy face of one of them before calling a mail-order luxury clothing company to request a refund for the patchwork Prada platforms she’s currently wearing but claims she never received.

Many of the women of OITNB have been busted for financial fraud—Sophia and Gloria come to mind—so it seems logical that Morello would be in for a similar crime. But as the episode progresses, it is revealed that Morello’s inner demons are much more extensive. During a trip to the post office to retrieve parcels of designer goods she’ll no doubt attempt to get reimbursed for, she “literally crashes into” the infamous Chris-tuh-phuh, as Morello pronounces it. Christopher promptly asks her out for a coffee after their meet-cute, and the rest is history, if the future Litchfield inmate is to be believed.

The juxtaposition between the following flashback scenes—Morello getting ready for a weekend away with Christopher and her trial on charges of stalking, harassment, violating a restraining order and credit card fraud—illustrates the fractured reality she exists in. Despite Christopher electing not to pursue Lorna after their first date, Morello still believes they’re together years later.

Stone plays Morello so sympathetically the audience feels sorry for her when we—or at least her fellow inmates—should approach with caution. The consensus at Litchfield seems to be that Morello’s fantastical romance with Christopher may not be etched in truth and word slowly starts to get around that her former “fiancé” is marrying another woman. When you’re bonding with Crazy Eyes (whom the show is taking pains in its second season not to fetishise and to address by her given name, Suzanne) about unrequited love, it’s clear that something’s not quite right.

Morello’s abovementioned childlike room, her harping on about how her and Christopher’s romance is “meant to be”, like something out of Notting Hill, Pretty Woman or Cinderella, and her psychotic break that sees her stealing the prison van to break into Christopher’s marital home, shows just how damaging society’s “wedding industrial complex and… [its] need to infantalise grown women”, as Nicky puts it, can be. It’s also an all-too-common one drummed into Western women everywhere they turn.

In a recent Buzzfeed longread, Anne Helen Peterson dissects the films based on Nicholas Sparks’ novels and their contribution to a Taylor Swiftian world where men perform romance and women have it thrust upon them:

“… Many women (and some men) use Sparks narratives to replace the lack of emotional intimacy and satisfaction in their own lives and, as a result, cultivate unrealistic ideals about what a relationship—and love—should resemble…

“The Sparks narrative offers a life—and a love story nested within it—that extracts its protagonist from [the concerns of everyday life] and consolidates the demands of life into one, simple task: Open yourself to love, and love in return.”

In a way Morello is like the mirror image of the Santa Barbara shooter, Elliot Rodger: the same but opposite. Rodger took his anger at his lack of attention from women—spurred on by porn and men’s rights forums—out on the female population in general in the most violent way, whereas Morello continues her stereotypically feminine obsession with romance and fixates on one man, dangerously crafting an alternate life with him. In Morello’s fictional existence no one died, but that’s not to say she didn’t try to kill anyone. (In the courtroom she is accused of strapping a homemade bomb to Christopher’s fiancé’s car.) Think that’s too heavy handed a tar with the same brush? They are both criminals with mental health issues, after all.

In one of the closing scenes of the season, Morello simplistically attempts to explain to the cancer-stricken Miss Rosa the plot of one of her favourite movies, Toy Story (again with the juvenile interests. Though, to be fair, Toy Story has universal appeal.) Her warped grasp of the children’s classic leads Rosa to exclaim, “You have one fucked up view of the world, kid!”

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: Physical & Mental Health on Orange is the New Black.

Taylor Swift—The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] Why Nicholas Sparks Matters Now.

Image via Bitch Flicks.