I genuinely like Chris Rock. He is incredibly funny and usually on the ball with things which are important. Okay, he frequently misses the whole issue of sexism with his tendency to reinforce it in the same breath as claiming to want a better future for his daughters. He is, however, not on my list of Dudes: the hypocrites who think that voting for Obama and claiming to be pro-choice cancels out any violence against women that they perpetrate. [I’m speaking to you here Zack Braff]. Chris Rock is one of those men who should be too intelligent to be debasing themselves with misogynistic jokes but do it anyways. Every time he opens his mouth, I twitch waiting for the inevitable Kim Kardashian joke. Now, I’ve never actually see the Kardashian show[s?] because I don’t do reality TV. I think it’s vile, nasty bullying of vulnerable people. Anyway, apparently, Chris has joined in with the Kim Kardashian bashing which disappoints me. And, pisses me off. I have no idea what Kim Kardashian has done to deserve such nasty bullying off everyone but unless she’s a serial killer or personally paying the entire costs of the War on Women, I’m going to guess she doesn’t deserve it. So, Chris, you need to stop hangin’ with misogynists. They are stupid and you, supposedly, are not.
Good Hair is classic Chris Rock. He is equally snarky and lovely. Plus, it has Maya Angelou and who doesn’t love Maya Angelou? I only have two real criticisms. The first is that Rock doesn’t ever really delve into the issue of men’s hair. It is referenced by Reverend Al Sharpton but many of the other men in the documentary had shaved heads which left me wondering about how much pressure men feel under to have “real” hair. But, that’s not a very fair criticism since the documentary was about African-American women’s hair and constructions of beauty. This is where I had a problem because I think Rock pulled his punches.
Rock should have been using the terms racism and misogyny but he didn’t. He talked about the construction of beauty being about white women with beautiful hair and how damaging it was to the self-esteem of young African-American women. He also talked a lot about how expensive it was for African-American women to buy weaves but, at $1000 minimum each, how many can actually afford to buy weaves for their hair? Or, can afford to buy the “relaxing” cream [which is effectively poison]? Again, I felt Rock skirted around the issue of poverty. He just didn’t make the clear correlation between race, poverty and the construction of beauty. Maybe I’m asking too much of Rock and expecting a feminist critique but I just felt he didn’t push hard enough. I don’t mean he should have questioned the women he interviewed harder. One of the nice things about Rock is that he genuinely seems to enjoy chatting to pretty much anyone and actually listens to what they say [rather than what he thinks they should be saying]. I just wanted Rock to go farther with his own political analysis. I wanted him to be bell hooks and Audre Lorde.
I wanted Rock to talk about more than his daughters.
I wanted to hear a male celebrity talk about misogyny, racism and poverty.
I didn’t want him to subtle; I wanted to hear him say those words.
I wanted him to call out the billion dollar industry which profits from racism and misogyny.
Most of all, I wanted to hear Chris Rock yelling “Fuck the Patriarchy” so I could mail it back to him and politely request that he stop being so rude about Kim Kardashian. Instead, he ended the documentary with a quote from Ice-T, a man who is not noted for his respect for women.
I know I have already blogged about this but it has made me very, very cross. There is so much wrong with this survey. It’s poorly worded and deliberately and maliciously negative, as Salt and Caramel pointed out here. So, I’m going to break my complaints down by image. It’s not very exciting but, let’s be honest here, malicious smear campaigns about feminism aren’t very exciting either. Mostly, they are tedious and dull. So, to start with, that bit about this being a “new movement … to reflect women’s personal choice”, well that’s either some serious reinvention of history or extreme stupidity. I haven’t decided yet. Normally, we call this Third Wave Feminism. I’m not quite sure how Netmums managed to miss this but, apparently, they did. And, if 36% of youngsters (and WTF is a youngster on a parenting site? I was a teenage mother. The last thing you are is a “youngster”) can’t imagine a time when men and women were not equal, I would suggest they have never actually engaged with the media in any way, shape or form. Also, I’d be questioning their education. I’d be sending OFSTED in, pronto, for a quick inspection.
I still don’t know what they mean by “old-fashioned” feminism and how “old-fashioned” is different from “traditional”. Or, how “old-fashioned” feminism is too “divisive” and that 39% of women “don’t want to be equal – women are different to men and we should celebrate the differences” whilst simultaneously claiming that it is “old-fashioned and not relevant to their generation”. Which old-fashioned is it? Because that is the same answer to two very different statements.
And, frankly, anyone who thinks feminism has gone “too far” when women still are paid less than men, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, and rape is still a daily occurrence is a nincompoop.
Dear Pussy Riot Supporters,
Increasingly, I have become concerned about your inability to see the woods for the trees. Your desperate attempts at out-cooling each other as the Great Defenders of Free Speech seem to have come at the cost of your critical thinking skills. Frankly, I’m still disturbed by the articles which seemed to suggest that the only people who shouldn’t be deported to the Gulag are the women of Pussy Riot because they might be raped or killed. I know you can’t really mean that. No one deserves to be raped or killed because they committed a crime and, let’s be honest, Pussy Riot aren’t the only Russian citizens being deported for questioning the state. I have no idea what the statistics are for convictions and deportation but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Pussy Riot aren’t the only political prisoners. So why are they important and others not? Why is it important they not be raped or killed in prison?
This case is manifestly not about “free speech” or the right to protest. What this case has demonstrated, time and time again, is that we, as a society, are essentially a bunch of hypocrites. The ‘Western’ support of Pussy Riot is not because we are the great defenders of Free Speech. Anyone who believes that is, frankly, completely deluded. Pussy Riot has not garnered support because they are feminists who are critical of the power of the state and church. In fact, their feminism, which is actually a fairly patriarchy-approved brand of feminism, has been written out of much of the media coverage. They have gotten support because they are young women dancing in public. They have been supported because they don’t really challenge the status quo; although they do wear all their clothes which puts them ahead of Femen’s soft porn protests. If Pussy Riot were challenging the Patriarchy in any way, they would have been slaughtered in the Western Press. They certainly wouldn’t have Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and half of Hollywood lining up to support them. Personally, I think a lot of their support is because of their name. It appeals to the juvenile; those who haven’t progressed emotionally from being 5 and yelling penis in the playground. And, yeah, I sniggered the first time I heard a right-wing journalist say ‘pussy’ on air but that’s not a good enough reason to support Pussy Riot at the expense of others.
The UK has recently banned protest outside of Parliament. If there is any physical space in the UK where the right to protest should be paramount, it’s outside of Parliament. Yet, we let the government deny us this right with very little complaint. Trenton Oldfield was sentenced to 6 months in prison for jumping in water to disrupt a boat race. His crime: prejudice against prejudice. You literally couldn’t make it up. As Nina Power writes: “The message is blunt: if it’s on TV and aristocrats are involved, then the state can deprive you of your liberty for as long as it likes.” The correlations between Oldfield’s conviction and that of Pussy Riot are pretty clear, yet I doubt there will be any protests to have Oldfield’s sentence over-turned. Certainly, there was very little campaigning about the ridiculously harsh sentences given out in light of last years riots with people being sentenced for 6 months for, basically, shoplifting. If we incarcerated every shoplifter in the UK, prisons would be overflowing. We’d have to move all prisons to the Outer Hebrides and let them fend for themselves since no country can afford to imprison that many people.
I think the Pussy Riot case matters. I think it matters a lot. These women do not deserve to be arrested or imprisoned for what was a political protest. Political protest against the government should be a fundamental human right but let’s not be hypocritical here. The right to political protest really exists nowhere. There are limits everywhere on the right to protest and Russia isn’t the only country guilty for imprisoning people for political reasons. Pussy Riot aren’t the only activists whose voices are being silenced by repressive regimes. Oldfield isn’t the only protestor being silenced in “democracies”. You only need to look at the 3 activists currently imprisoned in the US for refusing to testify in a grand jury case. Maya Evans was incarcerated in the UK for having the gall to read aloud the names of British soldiers who died in Iraq across from the Cenotaph in Whitehall. That garnered very little support. There has been very little media coverage of the attempted silencing of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho by drug cartels. In Cacho’s case, I suspect the almost total lack of media coverage has something to do with the fact that she deliberately targets the Patriarchy in her research into sex trafficking. Yolanda Ordaz De la Cruz was murdered because of her activism as a journalist. The murder of journlaist Anna Politkovskaya was covered by the media but she had no celebrity endorsements about her right to free speech [or the right to life for that matter].
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be protesting or standing up for Pussy Riot. I’m saying we don’t get to choose whose “free speech” we defend based on their relative attractiveness or the fact that their name inspires giggles. If we are defending the right to protest all political structures, then we damn well had better be defending everyones and not just a group of young girls in Russia. We also need to ensure that our defence of “free speech” does not happen at the expense of harming vulnerable members of our society. The use of free speech to defend pornography and prostitution is basically the acceptance of state-sponsored rape. It’s the Patriarchy defending itself.
And, all those celebrities lining up to support Pussy Riot, how about you put your money where your mouth is and pay their legal representation. How about you pay for the childcare of their children required whilst their mothers are in prison? How about you financially support the grassroots activists in Russia fighting to end the Gulag system? Why aren’t you financially supporting Sara Kruzan who was imprisoned for life as a teenager for killing the man who raped and trafficked her?
Some articles which need to be read:*
Why the Pussy Riot case still matters.
CeCe McDonald vs. Pussy Riot: Political Imprisonment and Perspective
Q&A: Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich on Their Fight for Freedom
Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith
From Pussy Riot to Todd Akin: The Claiming—and Silencing—of Language and Speech
What Pussy Riot taught the world
Riot Grrl, Pussy Riot, and the Heartbreak of Seeing Feminism Attacked in Russia
Pussy Riot: Gender, Free Speech, Benevolent Sexism and Western Hypocrisy
I always have these half-formed blogs posts that I never quite finish and then some journalist, in this case Deborah Orr, comes along and writes it. With this piece, it was partly my lack of confidence in my ability to explain what I meant but also the realisation that naming men, especially celebrities, would inevitably involve naming the young women they abused. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about child rape in a manner that would label another woman’s experience as part of the spectrum of sexualised violence. Do I have the right to do so without their consent? On the Relationships board of Mumsnet, there are frequently posts by women asking if their experience constitutes rape or some other form of sexualised violence. In those cases the answer is, inevitably, yes and the threads become both places of support and places to share stories safely. But, taking the story of someone famous (or identifiable in their own community) and labelling it as child rape without them using the term feels invasive. But, at the same time, is it not silencing to refrain from discussing these stories which leads to further normalisation of unhealthy relationships and sexualised violence? I’m loathe to label experiences for other women whilst simultaneously believing we need to. I’ve had these conversations before but I am never sure where the line should be drawn: insisting that we do not obfuscate or minimise sexualised violence whilst worrying about harming those who have not yet labelled their experiences.
I’ve also become increasingly concerned by the the conflation terms of “paedophile” and “underage girls”. Now, I do believe that paedophilia is a psychiatric illness but I find it incredibly bizarre that every man who rapes a child is called a paedophile when it is simply not true. The term paedophilia is used indiscriminately to obscure the fact that many men, perhaps even most, who rape children do so because they want to without having any underlying psychiatric condition. In fact, men who are paedophiles also rape children because they choose too. A psychiatric illness does not always negate criminal responsibility. There are some which limit or restrict personal and criminal responsibility but paedophilia isn’t one of them and, technically, Savile wouldn’t be classed as a paedophile since the girls he raped were post-puberty. Conflating paedophilia with child rape allows rapists to elide and conceal responsibility for raping 15 year olds because they aren’t “children”.
The competing use of the term “underage girls” also feels like its obfuscating the fact that these are children. We can’t use the term “girl” anymore to label a female child since it now refers to adult women; effectively erasing the question of legality and the definition of child rape. The use of “girl” confuses the boundary between adulthood and childhood making it easier for male sexual predators to claim ignorance about the exact age of the child they are abusing. “Underage girls” puts the focus on the victim, not the abuser. The abuser makes it all their fault. It is not a compliment to be labeled a “girl”. It is a way of silencing criticism of male predatory behaviour towards teenage girls. If all women are “girls”, then there is no reason why an adult male can’t have sex with a 16 year old.
The use of the term “underage girls” has simply evolved into victim-blaming. It is their fault an abusive man groomed and then raped them. It is their fault for looking 18 instead of 15. But, we never question why men who are 25 or 35 or 50 want to fuck 18 year olds. It is about power. It is about control. Why are these men worried about the very fine line between legal and not legal. A sexual relationship between a 15 year old girl and 35 year old man is illegal. A sexual relationship between an 18 year old and a 35 year old may not be illegal but it is still creepy. The power dynamics are wrong. This isn’t about love relationships. It’s about fulfilling a desire for power and control. We should be criticising and questioning these men; not congratulating them for joining Hugh Hefner in the abuse of young women.
We need to stop obfuscating with language and start using words like child rape to refer to relationships between 15 year old girls and 35 year olds. We need to start asking men why they find an 18 year old sexually attractive because it isn’t just about women who pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. It’s about the real definition of the Patriarchal Fuckability test: being young, frequently malnourished, sexually available at any time but only to fulfil the male orgasm. The male orgasm is the only point that matters in sex. The sexual desires of adult women are eroded and subsumed into a rhetoric of domination.
But, then we also pretend that teenage girls should be pleased that middle aged men find them sexually appealing rather than being utterly creeped out by it. We groom them into thinking that being desired by older men is something to aspire too; that their only value is in their sexual availability. We need to stop celebrating men who date young women barely out of childhood. We need to start asking these men why they can’t date women their own age. What is the difference between an 18 year old whose birthday has just passed and a 17 year old a week away from her 18th birthday? What makes adult men think this is reasonable behaviour? What are we teaching our girls if we are raising them to believe that having sex with a man old enough to be their father is all that they deserve. If women and girls were truly valued, we would not be obfuscating the line between consensual sex between two competent adults and the sexual abuse of young women and girls by older men.
Do feel free to contact Clarks here to explain why you won’t be buying these shoes for your daughter.
In the US, the month of October is recognised as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It came into being in 1988 and was designed both as a remembrance of those babies lost but also as a way of increasing knowledge and awareness around the issues of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, still births, SIDS and other causes of infant loss.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It was founded by Robyn Bear to give all parents one day to grieve for their babies. Bear asks everyone, in every time zone, to light a candle at 7 pm for one hour to give a wave of light in memory of the babies lost too soon.
I will be lighting candles for my friends. For Lissie. For Jaime. For Sarah. For Rena. For Mira. For Catherine. For Cheryl. For all mothers whose babies were taken too soon. I love you.
I promised myself I wouldn’t write about this case. There is nothing I can say that a thousand other Feminists haven’t been saying for years about Reddit’s stance on misogyny. They are all for it. I mean, I’ve never used Reddit but it’s a social media platform. It doesn’t matter which one you mention, they all support misogyny [and racism, disablism and homophobia]. They all hide behind the construct of “free speech” to protect the right of men to say and do what they want without any thought to the harm their actions/ speech cause. It is the very essence of male entitlement and privilege. As I’ve said elsewhere, publishing photos, nude or otherwise sexualised, without consent is sexualised violence. This is an issue of consent and of the right to privacy. It is not something that should be covered under the construct of “free speech”. Free speech is the legal protection for the right to critique the government and other political/ cultural structures. The right to free speech is not the same as the right to be a jackass. The fact that a large number of men are confused by this is their problem. We shouldn’t indulge their desire to allowed to be as violent as possible just because they want to. There is no right to “Free speech” for those who are actively harmed in the perpetuation and perpetration of rape culture. We need to stop pretending that the right to free speech is more important than anything else.
It is the issue of “creepshots” which has brought Reddit to the attention of mainstream press but not because rendering women into objects by uploading photos their sexualised bodies without consent is wrong. Nor is it because the issue of creepshots creates some serious legal implications in terms of the right to privacy and what constitutes a criminal offence. Nor is it because of questions the the construction of “sexuality, entitlement and public consumption.” That’s not why men are having whiny-arsed tantrums and the media is running stories on it.* Nope, the issue has come up because Feminists have taken the step to publicly out the men perpetrating sexualised violence.
The hypocrisy of these men whining about their right to privacy having been violated by being named online when they have deliberately and maliciously participated in the sexualised violence of women by posted “creep” shots of them without consent is unbelievable. I am so very glad that someone with the computer skills tracked them down and named them. Yes, the expectation of privacy whilst in public is non-existent but that’s but that’s because we perceive women’s bodies as public objects. Women have as much right to privacy as does the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square. The level of male entitlement to women’s bodies of which they should have no access is unbelievable. If we complain about being objectified, then we are abused and humiliated; labelled whores and fat and ugly and stupid and frigid.
We need to hold these men accountable for their sexual predation. If the law won’t support us in criminalising these forms of sexualised violence, then we too should have the right to free speech without limit. We should be legally entitled to name and shame these men as they have named and shamed us. Michael Brutsch didn’t want to be publicly identified as Violentacrez because of his family. Yet, he did not care about publicly humiliating women or perpetrating rape culture. If he did not want his real life name attached to Reddit sites publishing photos under the terms: jailbait, rapebait, incest and misogyny, then he shouldn’t have put them up in the first place. His behaviour is the problem. Not the Feminist activists who are holding him publicly accountable for the sexualised violence he perpetrated. If James Silverwood and Dominic Terry were actually concerned about their right to privacy, they shouldn’t have started a Facebook page called “12 year old sluts”. These men need to be held accountable for the harm caused by their behaviour and we should have the right to call them on it. Otherwise, free speech is nothing more than a joke; a privilege of men denied to all others.
So, a huge thank you to my Feminist sisters who have called these violent sexual predators out.
This is nothing less than a War on Women.
It is a war whose battlefields are women’s bodies.
We have every right to fight back with every piece of technology available; after all, men are using the same technology to destroy us.
*The vast majority of news stories I’ve come across have been written by Feminists like Kira Cochrane. However, I do not believe the media would be running these stories in mainstream press if it weren’t for the fact that Feminist activists have started outed the sexual predators involved in taking and distributing the photos. These sites have been running for years without any real comment on the level of misogyny they perpetuate.
I’ve ranted about some of the more offensive rape campaigns before, with the West Mercia Police coming for some serious criticism for the victim-blaming shite they tried to pass off as an anti-rape campaign. There are, however, some new really positive campaigns who hold the rapist responsible for rape. I attended the Rape Crisis Scotland annual conference in Glasgow last week where a few of the better campaigns were advertised. I’m going to post links to some of them over the next few days. I would, however, like to post links to any positive international campaigns. So, please send me links either as a comment to this blog or to my email: email@example.com
There have been 3 very good campaigns in Scotland in the past 5 years. Two were developed by Rape Crisis Scotland. The newest campaign called We Can Stop and was developed by the local police forces. The tagline: “Sex without Consent is Rape. We Can Stop it.” is one that Assange might want to think about. The entire campaign focuses on men. It puts the onus on men to understand the legal definition of rape and consent:
Rape. Are you the type of guy who understands what this really means?
In Scotland the law relating to rape has recently changed. It now concentrates on what ‘consent’ means and the fact that consent can be withdrawn at any time. In addition, sexual attacks on men have been legally classed as ‘rape’ for the very first time.
It also directly challenges rape myths which is more than the Met managed with their fancy-pants new campaign which ended up being the same patriarchal, victim-blaming bullshit about women making themselves vulnerable to rape. You’d think that the specialist rape unit of the Met might be slightly more aware of rape myths but, you’d be wrong.
By far, the most powerful part of the campaign is the images: