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Sometimes while surfing the web you find passages that are so brutally eloquent that the only acceptable action is to replicate them. This from the Notes Against Humanity Blog.
“I am targeted for rape and other types of sexual violence because I’m perceived as female. The only effective way to protect myself from rape is to not exist in the world while being perceived as female. (And even then, you know, men get raped too.)
Do you have any ideas about how I could do that?
I am patronizingly told that yes, rape culture is a thing, yes, men should be taught not to rape, yes, yes, rape is very very bad and it’s always the rapist’s fault, but
shouldn’t we really be giving ladies the tools they need to stay safe in the meantime after all change doesn’t happen immediately and we can’t just tell all men to stop raping and they’ll stop and yes this is unfair but maybe for now you can just keep yourself from getting raped so that we don’t have to feel bad about this?
Okay, I’ll indulge you. What’s your plan? How long am I supposed to appear outside only with an escort, carry pepper spray and keys between my fingers and a gun that I’ve paid money for and been taught how to use and self-defense training in case I can’t access the gun, wear only baggy clothes, refrain from drinking or dancing or consensual sex or anything else untoward? What’s the timeframe here? How long do I have to do this while you do the work of teaching men that I don’t belong to them? How are you going to teach them that? Where are you getting the funding for these programs? Who will teach law enforcement to take rape accusations seriously? Who will teach coaches, religious leaders, politicians, and other powerful men to stop covering this shit up? How are you going to implement mandatory consent-based sex education at all grade levels?
What’s your plan?
How long do I have to live like a prisoner in this world?
Do you know how it feels to be a target?”
***Let me preface this post with a handy disclaimer for clarification – When women say that have been abused – I believe them.***
**Update – Lucy DeCoutere speaks of her abusive experience with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC radio’s show The Current – Catch the podcast here.**
Okay this story broke over the weekend and the major print media involved so far has been the Toronto Star. In the TS’s words here is what happened -
“CBC star Jian Ghomeshi has been fired over “information” the public broadcaster recently received that it says “precludes” it from continuing to employ the 47-year-old host of the popular Q radio show. Shortly after CBC announced Ghomeshi was out the door on Sunday, Ghomeshi released news that he was launching a $50-million lawsuit claiming “breach of confidence and bad faith” by his employer of almost 14 years. He later followed that up with a Facebook posting saying he has been the target of “harassment, vengeance and demonization.”
Hmm. Well I think the CBC’s information – having a host that is violent toward women – is probably a good reason for canning the dude.
“Ghomeshi’s statement said that he has been open with the CBC about the allegations. He said the CBC’s decision to fire him came after he voluntarily showed evidence late last week that everything he has done was consensual. Ghomeshi blames a woman he describes as an ex-girlfriend for spreading lies about him and orchestrating a campaign with other women to “smear” him.
The three women interviewed by the Star allege that Ghomeshi physically attacked them on dates without consent. They allege he struck them with a closed fist or open hand; bit them; choked them until they almost passed out; covered their nose and mouth so that they had difficulty breathing; and that they were verbally abused during and after sex.
A fourth woman, who worked at CBC, said Ghomeshi told her at work: “I want to hate f— you.”
Fascinating. It would seem that Ghomeshi has the standard defense of blaming and making women responsible for his shitty behaviour down pat. Might another dodge in the dude’s handbook be that what he does in private (beating women) should have no effect on his job?
“Let me be the first to say that my tastes in the bedroom may not be palatable to some folks. They may be strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive to others. … But that is my private life. … And no one, and certainly no employer, should have dominion over what people do consensually in their private life.”
Ah, but Jian the three women in question all say that you physically attacked them explicitly without their consent – and that boyo – means your private life, your private kinks – are fucking irrelevant to the issue at hand, because attacking people is against the law.
“Early last summer, the Star began looking into allegations by young women of sexual abuse by Ghomeshi over the past two years. The Star conducted detailed interviews with the women, talking to each woman several times. None of the women filed police complaints and none agreed to go on the record. The reasons given for not coming forward publicly include the fear that they would be sued or would be the object of Internet retaliation. (A woman who wrote an account of an encounter with a Canadian radio host believed to be Ghomeshi was subjected to vicious Internet attacks by online readers who said they were supporters of the host.)”
Go read that paragraph again. You will not find a more clearly defined example of what rape culture is and how it affects women and their choices.
Why didn’t these women just go to the police? Because often filing a police report and going through the process ends up as nothing more as a re-victimization of an already traumatized individual and no legal censure for the abuser in question. Plus, now with the shiny new information age, women are targeted for harassment, rape and death threats over social media and email (just take a peek at the abuse women get for daring to speak their mind). Coming forward just isn’t that easy or cut and dried as people would like to portray.
From the New York Times:
“They [the women Ghomeshi abused] explain further:
“Each of the women accusing Ghomeshi cite the case of Carla Ciccone as a reason they desire anonymity. Last year Ciccone wrote an article for the website XOJane about a ‘bad date’ with an unidentified, very popular Canadian radio host whom readers speculated to be Ghomeshi.
“In the days that followed, Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats. An online video calling her a ‘scumbag of the Internet’ has been viewed over 397,000 times.”
In her 2013 XOJane piece, Ms. Ciccone writes that a man she calls Keith, who “has a successful radio show in Canada,” repeatedly tried to touch her when they went to a concert together, even after she asked him to stop.
Those who speak up about sexual harassment or violence have long been subject to public scrutiny and criticism. But an onslaught of online abuse and threats has become a strikingly common response to women’s public statements — see for instance the threats Anita Sarkeesian and others have received when they speak publicly about misogyny in video games.
Brianna Wu, a game developer, details her harassment in an essay at XOJane, describing death and rape threats as well as threats to her career:
“They tried to hack my company financially on Saturday, taking out our company’s assets. They’ve tried to impersonate me on Twitter in an effort to discredit me. They are making burner accounts to send lies about my private life to prominent journalists. They’ve devastated the metacritic users’ score of my game, Revolution 60, lowering it to 0.3 out of 100.”
Yah, soooo..before we get any spirited arguments about “Why didn’t they just go to the police? – the above quote is your answer. Do you want to face the possibility of ruining your life given the very real chance that your trauma won’t be taken seriously by the authorities? Can you see how large the disincentive is for women to “go public”. Again, say hi to what it like to live in a rape culture.
Heather Malik writing in the Toronto Star elaborates this key point about how rape culture effects women and the reporting of sexual abuse:
“When it comes to redress for suffering a sexual attack, Canadian women might as well be in Saudi Arabia. We whisper among friends and quietly trade stories, or we shut up for our entire careers.
The barriers start with institutional sexism and pile on with the almost impossible burden of proof for acts committed in private, the adulation offered to well-paid and well-connected men, the insulation of a large staff on Ghomeshi’s radio show Q, his hiring of a PR company and a team of libel lawyers, the fact that he claims he is a union member now filing a grievance against the CBC, an army of carefully catered-to fans online, the continuing shock of being physically assaulted, and then one of the worst things of all, the terror of being placed in the online bearpit.”
The stigma for women surrounding sexual assault and battery needs to be removed. The choice between ruining your life for a slim chance at justice or shutting up about your sexual assault is really no choice at all for women, as this story so vividly illustrates. Women need protection and support from the legal system and society. Woman should be able to exercise their human and legal rights without fear of retribution from the misogynistic elements of society that would see their lives ruined for the mere act of speaking the truth about their experiences.
As a long time CBC radio listener, I sincerely hope that Mr.Ghomeshi is not rehired. Canada is a progressive country and the abusive, anti-woman vibe that surrounds Mr.Ghomeshi has no place on our national radio network.
Wow, kick back and let Ms.Moran guide you though the problems of liberal feminism with regards to prostitution and the changes that are necessary to make in society.
First of all I’d like to talk a little bit about what Radical Feminism means to me in the context of my work as an abolitionist activist, and also in an emotional sense, as a sex-trade survivor. Three years ago, when I began writing anonymous newspaper articles and blogging under the pseudonym FreeIrishWoman, I noticed pretty quickly that my words were shared amongst and disseminated by a particular group of feminists: Radical Feminists. Given that the recollections I described were the experiences of a homeless, socially-disowned, prostituted fifteen-year-old girl, I would have expected support from the feminist community, of all places. Just as well I wasn’t completely politically ignorant with regard to the divisions between those who describe themselves as feminists, otherwise it would have been a shock to discover that while my words and experiences were honoured and shared by Radical Feminists, they were widely ridiculed and had their authenticity relentlessly challenged by some of those who referred to themselves as Liberal Feminists.
Liberal feminism – which holds that anything a woman does can be empowering as long as she does it without a gun pointed to her head – had always sounded like a crock of crap to me anyway, so I cannot say I was terribly disappointed. I was wounded though; and above all, I was galled. It is both wounding and galling for me to know that there is a whole army of twenty-something, white, socially-privileged young women out there talking of prostitution as the very epitome of female empowerment. That they’ve made this assessment about an experience they’ve never had, while having spent years being educated in an effort to keep themselves out of the social class of women who most commonly have to experience it, and have decided it’s harmless, in spite of the tsunami of evidence that attests to its harm, is, to me, the most repulsive sort of hypocrisy.
Sometimes we who speak the truth about the global sex-trade find ourselves close to despair, crushed beneath the weight of the prevailing public view, steeped as it is in ignorance; both wilful and malignant, and in obliviousness, sometimes innocent in its nature, and when it is, all the more frustrating for it. We know the interests of patriarchy are served by the very existence of the global sex-trade and by the annihilation of the innumerable female lives snuffed out of existence within it. It is galling therefore, for all of us to listen to the Liberal Feminists toe the patriarchal line with the lie they buy for themselves and try to sell on to us that black is white, up is down, and imprisonment is liberating. Conflating consent with liberation is the business of those who do not know that oppression cannot operate without it. But the consent of oppression, consent under duress, is not true consent. The duress itself has morphed consent into a different shape and moved it away from its own nature. True sexual consent is not possible here. Sexual consent is beyond the laws of commerce; it is beyond sale and it is beyond purchase. Sexual abuse however, often has a price tag, and when it does, we call it prostitution.
I am tired of the ignorance of women who do not understand this, but is it surprising to anyone, really, that most of these women are, as I’ve said, young, white and privileged? I doubt that any of the women gathered here today are surprised by that, because, that the socially privileged are removed from the realities of the socially dispossessed is simply not surprising to any woman with a whit of political savvy.
But yes, I’ll own that we are tired and frustrated and pissed off, and with good reason. Each time we speak out, they do their best to shut us down. We’ve seen examples of this in recent weeks, as we do in all weeks. As I speak, there are fools running petitions against this conference from Edinburgh to Brighton and back again. The most genteel advice I could give these women would be to consult their dictionaries, and turn to the word feminist. Of course, unfortunately, I’d have to also advise them, in many cases, to disregard what they had found, since so many dictionaries frame feminism as a matter of sexual equality, which rather puts the cart before the horse. A woman who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes is not a feminist, but a fantasist. We don’t live in that world; we don’t have equality, and, as Radical Feminists know, a prerequisite of equality is the dismantling of male supremacy. First, we must be liberated from it. Then, and only then, might we live our lives as equals.
The simple cruelty of the Liberal Feminist stance is something that also, apparently, escapes them. Their stance tells us sex-trade survivors that every rape we endured did not matter, that every sexual assault of every manner and variety were just occupational hazards, and that our gang-rapes would not have been gang-rapes had legislation just forced those men to use us one at a time. Well, I have news for them: flat rate brothels and gang-bang packages are all the rage in Germany now. For anyone who hasn’t heard these terms, a flat rate brothel is prostitution’s answer to an all you can eat buffet. Men pay a one-off fee, a ‘flat rate’, and for this fee they can use the body, or bodies, of women for as long as they are humanly able, climaxing as many times as they want, or can. These are sometimes combined with gang-bang packages, whereby five or six or seven men arrive at the brothel together, pay their ‘flat rate’ and use the body of a woman until she can barely stand. I have had photographs forwarded to me from one such a scene from a German brothel. The girl being used by a half dozen men was nineteen years old, and seven months pregnant. This is the true face of the regulated sex-trade that Liberal Feminists fight for.
It has been claimed, in the midst of the campaigns against this conference, that I am endangering the lives of women in prostitution. It is telling how the depths of their incomprehension is revealed by the very charges they level against me. There was only one group of people who were ever responsible for endangering my life when I was in prostitution, and they most certainly were not abolitionists; they were sex-buying men; the same sex-buying men whose dicks will never be sucked by the Liberal Feminists who defend and uphold the rights of those men, to have their dicks sucked by other women; economically disenfranchised, educationally disadvantaged, socially deprived and racially marginalised women.
So where do we go, with our frustrations? And what do we do, with the anger that is so inevitable here, such an intrinsic human reaction to the injustice of telling the truth and being called a liar. The first thing I would say is take heart: this situation will not last forever. It is precisely the hypocrisy of the Liberal Feminist stance which will be its undoing. The doctrine that says ‘empowerment can be found in these experiences (which we will fight tooth and nail to avoid for ourselves)’ has a shelf life. That type of nonsense has a sell-by date. However popular it might be, for however long, such doctrine is doomed to exposure – Emperor’s New Clothes style.
I have been profoundly comforted these last years (and especially this last eighteen months, since my book, Paid For, was published) not only by the truths that were accepted from me, but by the truths that were told by so many other women, most of whom did not have to have lived these realities to acknowledge them. I have been comforted to see, in country after country, abolitionist movements spring up where none had existed before, or become strengthened where they had been floundering, and everywhere I have seen the strengthening of abolitionism I have seen a strong overlap between the abolitionist movement and the Radical Feminist movement, or, at the very least, a strong adherence in abolitionism to Radical Feminist principles.
The reality is that Radical Feminists are on the right side of history here, and they are the only feminists who get the full picture, and the reasons why it exists. Socialist Feminists have my respect, but they don’t have the whole picture here. Prostitution does not exist as a consequence of women’s economic disenfranchisement. Poverty is a supporting factor. Not a reason. Supporting factors are not reasons. They are simply supporting factors. Prostitution exists for only one reason; that reason is male demand. No amount of poverty would be capable of creating prostitution if it were not for male demand.
I have come here today to ask for the support of every woman in this room in fighting this scourge that weighs almost exclusively on girls and women. We need to fight this, not by ripping at the leaves, nor hacking at the branches, nor even cutting this off at the trunk; we need to rip it up by the roots. As daunting as this task seems, we already have the tools to do it. We are not, thankfully, totally bamboozled like the liberals, nor are we hobbled in our understanding like the socialists. We know that prostitution is both a consequence and good evidence of the subordination of women, and it is from the standpoint of this understanding that we can dismantle it. It is very important that we never give an inch in this fight. We must never concede to the tactics of the pro-prostitution lobby, the first of which is to pretend that prostitution is not a moral issue. Let me say in front of you and in front of the world: You can be damn sure that prostitution is a moral issue, as human rights always are.
Abolitionists, the pro-prostitution lobby contend, are engaged in a ‘moral crusade’ to rid the world of prostitution. Crusade, here, is a pejorative term, and it is linked with morality in order that some of its contemptuous derision will rub off. Morality itself, we are told, is negative, ill-founded and, well, wrong. The straight-up foolishness of asserting that discerning between right and wrong is itself wrong apparently escapes some people.
I am tired of hearing people frame abolitionist arguments by beginning ‘I am not a moralist, but…’ We are all moralists, unless we are psychopaths, and since when was morality a dirty word? Here’s the answer to that: morality has been a dirty word since it suited certain people that we look the other way and pretend that morality is null and void here; and you will find, time and again, that people who espouse that position are defending something which is very plainly wrong, hence their absolute insistence that morality shouldn’t get a look in.
There is also the nonsense claim that those who oppose prostitution do so necessarily from a religious standpoint, as though there were any shortage of ethical atheists in the world. The moral principles that govern or influence conduct often have no basis other than our own innate sense of what is or is not harmful human behaviour. Prostitution is damaging to the human psyche on every conceivable level; it is exactly its harmful, degrading nature that gives rise to the instant sense of objection we feel when we imagine prostitution as a feature in the lives of the women we love.
So let us stand firm on these points: That prostitution exists because of the male demand for it, and that we know damn well and will not be shaken in our assertion that it is flat-out wrong. There is a reason we are fought so consistently on these points; the reason is our opponents know we can win on them.
Let me repeat that I have come here today to ask for the support of every woman in this room in fighting prostitution. Please hear this as a call to action. Across Europe, our politicians are beginning to discuss prostitution more frequently, and just this February the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to adopt the Honeyball report, which calls for a Europe wide adoption of the Nordic Model. When your politicians speak out, please support them by letters both public and private. When they do not, please encourage them to do so. When you see abolitionist campaigns spring up – and you will see more of them; the abolitionist movement is growing – please lend your time and your energy and your voice.
I am working with a group called SPACE International. SPACE stands for ‘Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment’. Our membership spans seven countries now and all of us have made the deeply painful sacrifice of speaking out publicly about our abuse in the sex-trade. We have friends and allies in several international organisations and we are gaining ground, but we cannot do this without the support of women in the general public. I encourage you to join RadFemUK and other groups like them, and to support their actions by sharing and disseminating their campaigns and materials. We need a groundswell of support from women, but maybe before that happens, we need to remind women that the bodies of their daughters would be just as welcome in the brothels and the red-light zones as ours ever were, should the circumstances of their lives ever happen to place them there.
I do love the heroic proclamations of anti-feminists and others boldly stating there is no need for feminism, or that we’re now in a post-feminists society, or worse they are an “egalitarian” *eye roll*. Yeah… soo… anyhow lets look at the evolution of costumes for women. See if you can spot the any troublesome trend as women graduate from “child” to “object I want to put my dick into.”
Woo. Can’t you just feel the equality oozing from the above selections. I know I can if I squint a little and get a partial lobotomy…
Extra bonus Sexy Halloween Costumes over at Your Social Constructs Are Showing.
“The Problem with Birkenstocks” by Annie Kreighbaum illustrates so perfectly the fantastical through-the-looking-glass distortions of reality that we collectively we know as “Fashion“. Unpacking this article was kind of fun in the “Wow..really??” sort of way. What wasn’t so fun is that amount of shaming that is going on and the expectations of self-policing and in general the absolute necessity of being hyper-aware of you looks and how others perceive you.
“Birkenstocks are the Chipotle of footwear. Like opting for a burrito bowl and a side order of guac at the end of a long workday, you wear them when you’re in no mood to try. And you don’t feel too bad about it either, because they reek of integrity and liberalism and therefore don’t invite the same harsh criticism as things like foam flip-flops or Arby’s. But still, too much Chipotle is never a good thing.”
Just so we are clear where the biases are, as a person who wears Birkenstocks all the time, the idea that they are somehow the Chipotle of footwear just leaves me scratching my head. That somehow they are a last resort when you are “in no mood to try” – well that grinds against my feminist fancy in an entirely different way and is definitely the topic of another post.
“Your foot might splay a little bit,” said NYC podiatrist Dr. Hillary Brenner in response to a rumor my coworker’s friend, this girl Alison, heard from her shoe sales guy at Jeffrey that all the Birkenstocks and locker room slides women are wearing nowadays are making their feet bigger—thus forcing them to size up on their Fall ’14 footwear purchases. 38? Guess again, now you’re probably a 38.5.”
[Alarm Klaxon] Whoop whoop whoop! Ladies it is with considerable regret that I have to inform you that your feet are getting….*whispers* bigger. You thought Cinderella was just a story! Oh no no no, Double XXers – you have to live by this shit because the grotesquery of moving from a 38 to 38.5 must be considered a horror that should not be named.
Unless of course you’re a bland, humourless, feminist killjoy like myself who lives for blaming on this sort normative buncombe.
“Splay” is a great word, and by that Dr. Brenner simply means that the muscles and bones inside of your feet are getting a nice little stretch and they don’t want that feeling to end. So it’s not like they’re gaining weight—they’re just not as toned.”
Gaining Weight!?! Gaining Weight?!? Good Lard! Anything but that… Is there no hope? Also, how do feet that are squished inside shoes that don’t fit = toned?
“Your foot gets comfortable in these types of shoes and only certain muscles are working. Then when you go into a high heel that’s more narrow and stiff, your foot can’t splay as much. Different pressure points are being loaded, and you’re having to use muscles you haven’t used in a while.”
Wait, what? It sounds like you’re making an argument that it’s just ‘different muscles’ being used when you go from ergonomic brikenstocks to the damaging instruments of torture known as high heels. You’re not actually making that argument against healthy feet and promoting the damage high heels are responsible for?
“But there are abs somewhere under the mushy softness of your lazy Birkenstock feet, and they can be un-splayed and ready for the heel-loving city life.”
Holy hell, you are toe-tally going there. Because having footwear that fits is completely the equivalent of “mushy softness”. Did you feel the lip curl of disgust there? The comparison between flabby abs and now your damn flabby feet? Can we get a little more hate and shame on for female bodies?
What, exactly the fuck, is heel-loving city life? Who loves manoeuvring around in the frigidly winter-dark icy streets in high heels? I want Dr.Brenner to try the icy-fun-dance in high heels – the pain of his twisted ligaments would bring me a great deal pleasure (keeping with the theme of the post, would that be shodden-freude ?).
‘Dr. Brenner suggests training your feet back into a pair of your old heels rather than buying new ones, “You still have the same foot as you’ve always had, it’s not growing wider, it’s just getting put into a different device.”
“Oh,” says the doctor who, in theory. has sworn to do no harm – you ladies just need to acclimatize to having your toes squished and your tendons abnormally stretched. It is like taking a round with the thumbscrews before heading to the rack…you just need to warm up!
“You’ll feel it at first, in the same way that your body will feel sore after the first time of doing a workout tape. But after a while your body gets used to that workout and new muscles are being stimulated. Eventually you won’t feel as sore. It’s a good idea to wear a variety of shoes overall, so that your entire foot is being worked on a regular basis.”
All you need is time to get used to wearing damaging footwear. Awesome.
“So, and correct me if I’m wrong, the takeaway here is that you can eat as many burritos as you like, just do it while wearing heels?”
No. The take away is that you’re advocating against women wearing shoes that properly fit and you’re attempting to shame them into wearing shoes that can potentially damage their bodies.
Full marks for making fun of phony social constructs. :)