Everyone Knew: The Harvey Weinstein Allegations – my new project

https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/latest-news/2017/43/a-comprehensive-list-of-every-weinstein-allegation-so-far (via @amysoandso)

Everyone knew.

We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.

Somehow ‘everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour. Even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.

 

Continue reading Everyone Knew: The Harvey Weinstein Allegations – my new project

David Bowie and the issue of statutory rape

*** note*** I wrote this the day David Bowie died. I took it down after months and months of rape threats. I’m republishing now, with more links to media coverage of Bowie’s involvement with the ‘baby groupies’ scene.

In the 1970s, David Bowie, along with Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger and others, were part of the ‘Baby Groupies’ scene in LA. The ‘Baby Groupies’ were 13 to 15 year old girls who were sexually exploited and raped by male rock stars. The names of these girls are easily searchable online but I will not share them here as all victims of rape deserve anonymity.

The ‘Baby Groupie‘ scene was about young girls being prepared for sexual exploitation (commonly refereed to as grooming) and then sexually assaulted and raped. Even articles which make it clear that the music industry ” ignor(ed), and worse enabl(ed), a culture that still allows powerful men to target young girls” celebrate that culture and minimise the choices of adult men to rape children and those who chose to look away. This is what male entitlement to sexual access to the bodies of female children and adults looks like. It is rape culture.

David Bowie is listed publicly as the man that one 14 year old girl ‘lost her virginity’ too. There are more allegations about Pop, Page, Wyman and Jagger, however Bowie was certainly aware of what was happening.

We need to be absolutely clear about this, adult men do not ‘have sex’ with 13 and 14 year old girls. It is child rape. Children cannot consent to sex with adult men – even famous rock stars. Suggesting this is due to the ‘context’ of 70s LA culture is to wilfully ignore the history of children being sexually exploited by powerful men. The only difference to the ‘context’ here was that the men were musicians and not politicians, religious leaders, or fathers.

 

Continue reading David Bowie and the issue of statutory rape

Michael Beck: Why labelling men who kill as ‘non-violent’ is irresponsible journalism

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 09.06.42Every single week, 2 men in England and Wales make a choice to kill their current or former partner. Despite the fact that these men consistently have a history of domestic violence, the media insists on reporting comments from random neighbours claiming that these men are ‘caring fathers‘, ‘loving brothers’, ‘quiet neighbours’,  and, as above, ‘non violent’. Men who choose to kill are violent. It’s pretty much the definition of the word since murder is an inherently violent act. As a culture, we refuse to recognise that coercive control is a choice made by men who believe they are entitled to own women and children, and that men who kill are not aberrations, but representative of the consequences of patriarchy.

 

Continue reading Michael Beck: Why labelling men who kill as ‘non-violent’ is irresponsible journalism

Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Within hours of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people across social media were sharing images of those who were declared missing. Some of these were shared by family and friends who knew girls and women attending the concert, but who had not yet heard whether they were safe. These images were also being shared by those wanting to help – a desire borne out of genuine kindness. Unfortunately, by early Tuesday morning, media were already reporting that some of the images being shared were of people who were not at the concert. One of the first images we saw when we logged on to Twitter was of Nasar Ahmed, who died in November from an asthma attack at school. We immediately tweeted out asking people not to share images of children declared missing unless they knew that the source is real. At that point, we didn’t know the scale of the spiteful and cruel trolling. Then we were informed that another image being shared was of Jayden Parkinson who was murdered in 2013 by her boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence. In the end, multiple false images were being shared; many of which originated from a thread on reddit where men were encouraging each other to deliberately and maliciously harm the families and friends of victims with ‘fake news’.

 

Continue reading Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Women’s Spaces and Feminist Politics; yesterday, today and tomorrow conference

This is the speech I had written for the Women’s Spaces and Feminist Politics; yesterday, today and tomorrow in May 2014. I didn’t actually say what I had written. Instead, I spoke specifically to male violence as a silencing tactic and erasure of women’s work because of male violence.

I want to thank every single woman who has supported AROOO since our inception. I never thought this network would be as successful as it so thank you.

 

Continue reading Women’s Spaces and Feminist Politics; yesterday, today and tomorrow conference

Edinburgh Evening News: When a Perpetrators’ Career is more important than Sexual Assault

This article was first published by Everyday Victim Blaming. 

Sebastian Trotter was pled guilty to sexual assault and was placed on the sex register for six months, given a six-month offender’s supervision order, and ordered to pay the victim £500. The Edinburgh Evening News used this headline: “Newly-wed accountant’s career in ruins after sex attack”. Following complaints on twitter, the article heading was switched to “man on sex offenders register after groping women in nightclub”. You will note that Edinburgh Evening News chose to change the term “Sex attack” for “groping” – a word that is frequently used to minimise the criminal act of sexual assault. Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 11.02.10

This is still the subheading:

 A CHARTERED accountant’s career is in ruins after he was placed on the sex offenders register.

This suggests that the perpetrator’s career is more important than his criminal convictions for sexual assault.

 

Continue reading Edinburgh Evening News: When a Perpetrators’ Career is more important than Sexual Assault

Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and the labelling of sexualised violence as “erotic” (spoilers)

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.17.18Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest The Clothing of Books is both an essay on the art of book jackets and  love story of books from the perspective of a reader and a writer. It is beautiful and thought-provoking essay examining the way in which book jackets impact on how a book is understood and marketed. It is a short read at 70ish pages, but also one of my favourite books this year.

I read The Clothing of Books the same day I started Han King’s The Vegetarian, which won the Man Booker International Prize (2016). King’s book is also beautifully written. It also exemplifies Lahiri’s thesis on the complex relationship between writers and their books once the publishing company takes control. And, not in a positive way.

The front cover of my copy of Kang’s book includes both the emblem of the Man Booker Prize and a not quite inappropriate quote from Ian McEwan who calls it a “a novel of sexuality and madness”. Unfortunately, I suspect McEwan believes that the two apply to the same character. They don’t.

The blurb on the back is the following:

A darkly beautiful modern classic about rebellion, eroticism, and the female body. One of the most extraordinary books you will ever read.
Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.04.53

The Vegetarian is an extraordinary book, but it’s not “erotic” unless you view multiple accounts of rape as erotic. The book’s central character is Yeong-hye who, following a dream, becomes a vegan. Her husband, described as a “normal man” is abusive before Yeong-hye’s conversion. His abuse increases when Yeong-hye refuses to capitulate to his demands that she eat meat. He ignores her quite clear mental illness and anorexia and punishes Yeong-hye’s “defiance” by raping her on multiple occasions. Yeong-hye’s father also physically assaults her at a family meal for “shaming” her family. Yeong-hye’s husband abandons her after she is incarcerated in a mental institution; as do her parents. Later we learn that the father has a long history of emotional, physical and psychological abuse of Yeong-hye when she was a child.

The Vegetarian is an incredible, beautifully written book but it is not “erotic” since that which is being deemed “erotic” is rape. Yeong-hye, despite being schizophrenic and having anorexia, is read, by those who wrote the various blurbs on the book, as consenting to “allowing” her brother-in-law to paint flowers on her naked body and then “have sex” with her. The brother-in-law, who is already a lazy and incompetent husband and father, uses his position as a ‘trusted’ family member to target Yeong-hye. It is his sexuality and desire that is responsible for the destruction of his own family. His desire is not “taboo” as another comment on the books suggests. It is criminal. He chooses to sexually assault and rape Yeong-hye because he likes the idea of a birthmark on her bum.

In the end, the only person who stays with Yeong-hye is her sister, yet none of the comments on the book jacket mention sisterhood as a theme within. In-hye does everything that is demanded of a women: she is financially successful, the mother of a son, does all the caring and lifework so that her husband, “the artist”, has no responsibilities. She is the quintessential “good girl”. And, is punished, repeatedly, for being so.

In The Clothing of Books, Lahiri ponders if those designing her book jackets or writing the blurbs actually bother to read her books. Reading The Vegetarian, I too wondered whether or not those writing the blurbs had read the book. Or, if they simply failed to recognise the patterns of male violence and its impact on women. As with Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, which is described as “deeply romantic” on the book jacket, The Vegetarian,  demonstrates the unwillingness of readers and reviewers to define male violence as violence.

I gave The Vegetarian two stars on Good Reads. As I write this, I wonder if the number of stars is a reflection of the book itself or a visceral reaction to the book jacket’s definition of the book. There is certainly a huge disconnect between my reading of the text and the blurbs on the book jacket.

Transforming a victim blaming culture

evb-logo-1Media discussions of male violence against women focus on the actions of the victim rather than the perpetrator. How can we challenge this narrative using survivor’s testimony without putting them at risk of online harassment?

 

“If I was Ched Evans i would find that whore and actually rape her this time!!”

This is one of the many abusive and threatening messages directed at the victim in the rape trials (and appeals) of footballer Ched Evans’ over the past 4 years. She has experienced an incessant barrage of abuse and threats of physical and sexual violence via Twitter, alongside a deliberate smear campaign including repeated breaches of her anonymity. She has also received a tremendous amount of support from women across the UK. Her experiences demonstrate both the importance of centering the voices of survivors, who are frequently disbelieved, but also the limitations, particularly with the development of social media platforms predicated on notions of ‘free speech,’ that allow survivors of rape to be labeled ‘a fucking cunt’ or ‘lying psycho bitch’.   Social media platforms have, to date, been unwilling to have honest discussions of the reality, representation, and ubiquity of male violence against women and girls, despite a recent EU report that suggests 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-74 have experienced sexual or physical violence. …

Read the full post at Open Democracy.

16 ways to End Violence against Women and Girls

These are just a few of the ways that you can support women’s services during the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Male Violence against Women and Girls.

  1. Donate £1 to a different specialist women’s service like the national organisations Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, or Refuge every day.
  2. Donate £1 to your local service providers supporting women who are living with domestic and sexual violence and abuse. BME women’s services have been disproportionately impacted by so-called ‘austerity’ so please don’t forget them.
  3. Share fundraisers for women’s services across social media. We understand that many women can not afford to donate £1. Sharing fundraisers is just as essential as being able to donate £1.
  4. Host a coffee morning for your friends to raise money.
  5. Bring some baked goods into work and ask for donations to a service of your choice from your co-workers.
  6. Collect clothing, bedding and any other unused household items to donate to your local refuge or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc.
  7. Donate toys to a local refuge for children who will be living in them at Christmas or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc..
  8. Donate new toiletries and another nice gifts for teenage girls and women living in refuges.
  9. Make a donation to your local food bank. All women are disproportionately impacted by poverty and austerity measures. Women living with violence are disproportionately impacted by cuts to housing benefits and women’s services. 
  10. Donate sanitary products to food banks. These are essential for women and teenage girl’s access to education and work. 
  11. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP to demand ring-fenced funding for women’s specialist services, including those for BME women or those with disabilities.
  12. Write to local councillors, MP, MEP, or MSP and ask them to undergo specialist training on domestic and sexual violence and abuse from specialist organisations.
  13. Write to your MP and MSP demanding they support the campaigns to end the detention of refugee women and children.
  14. Write to your MP and MSP demanding mandatory sex and healthy relationships education in schools, as well as campaigns to make schools safer for girls.
  15. File complaints with media about inappropriate, misleading and offensive coverage of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  16. And, if you’re a man, stand up for women’s rights. Challenge men who make rape jokes. Call out male friends who refuse to financially support their children. Insist your employer implement the equal pay legislation. Donate money to rape crisis centres and refuges. Wearing a white ribbon isn’t enough. Your need to do the work to end violence against women and girls.

You can find the address and contact details of your local councillor via  WriteToThem.

 

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

The Naming Elena Ferrante

(originally published at Everyday Victim Blaming)

The identity of Elena Ferrante is a secret well-guarded by her publisher. At the request of Ferrante. Ferrante has made it clear on multiple occasions that she does not want her art confused with her real life. This may not seem something that our campaign would necessarily concern ourselves with but there are multiple reasons why women deserve anonymity and even more reasons why breaching their anonymity puts women at risk of male violence.

As many of the writers we’ve linked to below demonstrate, authors owe their audiences nothing more than what they write – and even then audiences are not entitled to new material. What concerns us, and is referenced by some of the authors below, is the refusal to recognise the reason why a woman would want to keep her real life private. As with Facebook’s ‘real name’ policy, there is a complete refusal to recognise the reality of male violence against women and girls. Claudio Gatti, the journalist (and his publisher) who believes he’s entitled  to know the real name of a woman despite her refusal demonstrates a total disregard of women’s safety.

Ferrante’s decision to remain anonymous may simply because she values her privacy – something that all women are entitled to. It may be as a way of protecting herself from online harassment and abuse that many women writers experience. It is also entirely possible that her anonymity is a way of protecting herself from male violence – both historical and potential. Ferrante has every right to do so and Gatti, and others before him, simply do not have the legal or moral right to doxx Ferrante just because they don’t like successful women writers (and there is more than a whiff of misogyny here). 

Doxxing women is part of the continuum of violence against women and girls. Ferrante may be able to protect herself better than other women due to her financial resources but that does not mean she deserves to be doxxed or harassed.

The outing of Elena Ferrante and the power of naming by Lili Loofbourrow

…No one knew who the “real” Elena Ferrante was until this week, when a journalist who, perhaps in an eager bid to make a name for himself, tracked her down using financial records and seems to have exposed her real identity. (I will not reveal the name he suggested here.)

There is much disagreement over whether this was a reasonable thing to do. On one side are those who believe the recent success of Ferrante’s books (she is the author of seven novels, including the four celebrated “Neapolitan novels” that have won her worldwide acclaim) makes her a public figure worth exposing. Her extraordinary sales figures make her real name newsworthy, they argue. On the other side are those who believe Ferrante’s rejection of personal fame amounted to a conscientious objection to the way we receive literary art, and female literary art in particular. I am in the latter camp.

Why does this literary tempest in a teapot matter? What’s in a name, after all? What does it mean that she refused to be named, and instead named herself? This is not a clear instance of a woman taking on a male pseudonym (like George Eliot) or using initials (like J.K. Rowling) in order to circumvent a sexist literary marketplace. Ferrante just chose a different Italian woman’s name. Why do this? And why is it a big deal for her to be exposed? …

Who cares who Elena Ferrante really is? She owes us nothing by Suzanne Moore

Rifling through someone’s bins looking for clues about their life or identity is considered a tabloid activity performed by low-lifes who sell information on celebrities. In this game celebrities “owe” us something because we made them, therefore we can take them apart via such intrusion.

Now we have the literary equivalent, and it stinks to high heaven. Elena Ferranteis an Italian novelist whose Neapolitan quartet have become bestsellers. Once you enter Ferrante’s world, you are changed by it. She writes so brilliantly about the transformation of women’s lives. Our bodies, our hearts, our politics. The books speak of what keeps us together and what takes us apart. We know nothing about her own life, as she has chosen – as is her right – to be anonymous. Not for her the book tour, the literary festival, the glam author picture. “I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” She has given other, more complicated, meta-explanations of her desire to protect her anonymity, which are to do with the nature of fiction itself. … E

Elena Ferrante has her reasons for anonymity – we should respect them  via @ConversationUK

….The dust from the media storm will take a while to settle. The history of anonymous authorship is also a history of triumphalist “unmasking” at the hands of self-appointed public servants who assume the right to trumpet the spoiler – and who also, if there is justice in the world, tend to suffer their own exposure as the parasitic charlatans they often are.

Gatti thinks he has unmasked the “real author” of Ferrante’s acclaimed books – something that has been the subject of much speculation in the past – but even were this latest round of revelation to turn out to be “true”, there are bigger fish to fry here. The violation of anonymity brings with it, kicking and screaming in Gatti’s face, a host of problems at the heart of power and identity. This is an ethical, political, but also a literary issue of the deepest concern to all of us.