sexism

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Part of a Solution, Or Part of the Problem?

Published July 28, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you saw this article from the Herald Sun over the past few days.  It is a piece by the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, calling for men to both listen to women when they speak about domestic and gendered violence, and for men to speak up against all instances of violence towards women, not just the big horrifying stuff.  It asks men to take a look at their own attitudes and behaviour, and whether or not they are contributing to a culture that excuses violence towards women.

It’s an excellent piece and I am happy to see such an influential man standing up and calling out the dismissive attitudes that many men have towards domestic and gendered violence.

I of course, shared it on my Facebook and asked the men in my life, who I believe are good men, otherwise I wouldn’t have them in my life, to take some action themselves.  I saw the article shared by many, many women but had not once seen a man share it.  So I asked the men in my life to ask themselves if perhaps this was an indication that they were not listening to the women in their lives, and could take a little more action to speak up against violence against women.

Two awesome dudes in my life took the time to post the article themselves and openly condemn violence towards women, no matter how big or small.  I’m so proud to know those two guys are listening, and are not afraid to step up and say that violence towards women is unacceptable.  That’s the kind of man I want in my life.

But I’m not so pleased about is the responses to the article that I saw.  They were the same response in every place I looked regardless of the gender of the commenter, or their age, or whether they were commenting on it posted by a man or by a woman.  Now while the actual wording of the responses were different, they all said basically the same thing:

Men are violent towards women because of [television/pop music/the economy/culture/parents/insert other excuse here].

Over and over and over again, something was to blame for men being violent towards women.  The shit kiddies watch on telly today.  Those awful rappers.  The economy, men don’t feel respected when they can’t be breadwinners.  Young people today.  Because women are sometimes violent too.  Porn, porn makes men violent.  Religion, religion makes men violent.

All these excuses.

I’m sick of the excuses.  Can we not just stand up and say that when men are violent towards women, it’s because those men believe they have the right to be?  And by making excuses and pointing the blame at external factors all the time, we’re GIVING them an out.  We’re telling men that we “understand” that things “make” them violent towards women, instead of placing the blame exactly where it lies, with the men who are violent towards women.

The one that bugs me the most is the whole “young people today with their television and pop music” argument.  I’m 41 this year, so I’m in my 5th decade.  I’ve been around since the 70’s, and guess what, the past isn’t some rosy place where no woman was ever subjected to violence.  Popular culture is no  more to blame for men being violent towards women today as it was in the 70’s when my father was kicking the shit out of me.  I’ve survived violence from men through every decade of my life, be it overt or subtle, it has always been there.  From the domestic abuse of my childhood, the sexual abuse of my teens and twenties, through abusive partners in my 30’s and I still have men groping or grabbing me in public, spitting at me, calling me a cunt in the street or sending me death threats online.  Music and telly didn’t cause that at any point in my life, the cultural excuses for violence against women did.

The same goes for the economy/breadwinner argument.  If violence towards women were based on economy or employment, then no wealthy man would have ever murdered, raped or assaulted a woman in history, which we know is not true.  We would never have had violence towards women in boom times, like after the second world war or through the early 2000’s.  Men in jobs they love that provide them with excellent incomes are still violent towards women, this is not about whether or not a man is “respected” as a breadwinner.  It’s pretty disgusting that anyone would demand that men should be “shown respect” through the struggling economy when women can’t even be respected as human beings whether the economy is good or not.

When we constantly try to find something to blame for violence towards women, we are contributing to the problem.  We’re building the culture that tells men it’s not their fault that they are violent towards women, instead of telling them that violence towards women is inexcusable.  We have to tell the perpetrators of violence that they are responsible for their actions, not find something else to blame.  Until we do, this culture is never going to be broken.  And women are still going to be living their lives in fear of “triggering” violence from men.

If you’re making excuses as to why men are being violent towards women, I want you to listen to yourself.  Whatever your gender, I want you to ask why there has to be an excuse, why you have to find something to blame?  Ask yourself, is this part of the solution, or am I part of the problem?

*And before you start in on the “But what about violence against men?!” crap, read this, and then read this.

No Excuses – No Victim Blaming

Published November 22, 2012 by sleepydumpling

This Sunday is White Ribbon Day.  I blog about White Ribbon Day every year, because it is a cause close to my heart.

This year, White Ribbon Day is particularly important to me.

What is White Ribbon Day?  It is the one day per year that is devoted to the cause of ending violence against women.  It generally has a domestic violence focus, but it is in fact a campaign to end ALL violence against women.  I’ll give you a few Australian statistics:

  • Every week, a woman is killed by a current or former partner.
  • One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of homelessness of women and children.
  • 33% of women have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life.
  • 25% have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • 1 in 5 women have been stalked.

Be aware these statistics are of reported cases.  This does not cover the hundreds of incidents every day that go unreported.  Violence against women is not just physical or sexual.  It is also mental, emotional, financial and institutional.  Every act of dehumanising a woman is violence against women.

This week just past has been hellish for me.  In the week since I attempted to launch a project for marginalised women and was forced to shut it down due to the amount of harassment, bullying and threats aimed at me and anyone who expressed interest in participating, I have been subjected to a constant barrage of abuse from complete strangers.  Everything from anonymous hate on Tumblr, days and days of harassment on Twitter, someone creating fake Facebook accounts in my name (with stolen photographs of me) and attempting to spam all of my friends and colleagues to actual death threats.

This abuse does not exist in a vacuum.  This abuse happens because culturally in Australia, and the rest of the world, violence and abuse against women is considered culturally  acceptable.  Not just the kind of abuse I’ve experienced this week either – rape, physical assault and murder are excused repeatedly.  Victims are blamed for their abuse – either they are told they actually did the wrong thing, ie were in the wrong place, wearing the wrong thing, behaving the wrong way etc, or if they do speak up, they are accused of “playing the victim” or “drawing negative attention to themselves”.

The most horrifying fact is that many women internalise these dehumanising messages and then turn them on their fellow women.  Just this week in my own experience, many women actively recruited men to help them abuse me online when I refused to apologise for telling them to fuck off out of my space.  This is disgusting behaviour, and a prime example of internalised misogyny.  “Women aren’t allowed to say that!” or “What a bitch, she’s going DOWN!”  Not once did I initiate contact with any of these people, nor did I go to their online spaces to leave abuse or even respond to them, the only time I responded was when they approached me, and mostly it was simply to tell them to fuck off out of my space.

There is NO excuse for violence against women.  There is NO reason that a woman is to blame for being abused.  No matter how she dresses, where she goes, what she does with her own body, what she drinks or consumes, what she says or how she behaves.

Women do not have to be nice, polite or submissive.  Women are allowed to say NO.  Women have every right to tell someone who comes into her space, be it physical or online to fuck off.  Women don’t have to give someone “the benefit of the doubt”.  If she does, and that person then abuses her, she is then blamed for not protecting herself.  “What was she thinking!?” people cry.  She was clearly thinking that she should give someone “the benefit of the doubt” like she was told to do.  Women are allowed to be loud, to swear, to dress themselves however they like, to have consensual sex with whoever they wish to, to be angry, to inhabit any public space without it drawing violence to her.  Women are even allowed to be rude, cranky, impolite, abrasive, abrupt, nasty, bitchy… and all those other words that are shame code for “women being assertive” without it drawing violence to her.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

If you do not like a woman, walk away.  Don’t pursue her into her space either online or physically.  Do not force her to pay attention to you when she does not want to.  Do not bully her anonymously to try to shame or silence her.  Don’t try to passive aggressively shame her by claiming you are offering “constructive criticism” when she does not want it and you are in her space.  You are not “offering” anything, you are forcing her, and that is violence against her.  Don’t recruit your friends or men to bully her if she doesn’t respond to your demands.  Do not abuse her for being rude if she walks away from you or tells you to leave her alone, even if she says “fuck off” in doing so.   She has every right to do so and owes you nothing.

If you really believe you are superior to someone, then you will walk away from them secure in that knowledge.  A better human being always will.

We live in a horrifically victim blaming culture.  We harass women online and off, threaten and bully them into submission, shame them when we deem that they are unworthy or inferior.  We get angry at women who stay in abusive relationships, but also deny them support and protection if they leave those relationships.  We shame them for not standing by their man, not standing on their own two feet, not caring enough about their children, not trying hard enough to make things better.  All the while we absolve the perpetrators of any responsibility.  We deny women support financially and emotionally when they leave abusive relationships, shame them for being “single mothers” or “sluts” or “a drain on society” for needing financial assistance when a partner has financially abused them and their children.  In the same breath that we tell women to give men “the benefit of the doubt”, we then blame her if she does and it turns bad.

But most importantly, we must speak up.  We must speak up as a culture and say “This is not ok.”  It is scary to speak up, as I’ve seen particularly painfully this week, and I am sure this very post will draw it as well*.  I am not “special” or “brave” for doing so – I’m just a woman who has had enough of being treated like shit by society and then blamed for it and treated even more like shit.  I have just reached a point where I can’t survive any more being pushed down for being a woman who is deemed unacceptable or inferior.  You too can speak up whether it’s loudly and publicly like I do, or amongst your own family or friends.  Big or small, every statement made against the violence women suffer gathers, accumulates and gets louder and louder.  Every voice, wherever it is, makes the world a bit safer for women and gives women courage to stand up to abuse and expect better for herself.

Tomorrow and through to Sunday there are many events happening around the country to raise funds and awareness for women who have or are suffering violence.  Every small donation for a white ribbon, every raffle ticket, every cocktail party or rally makes a difference.  If nothing else, donate a couple of bucks, buy a white ribbon and wear it to work, around your friends and family, on the street.  It is a tiny symbol of hope for women who have suffered everywhere that someone cares, that someone will stand with them, that someone believes that campaigning to end violence against women matters.

If I had seen that tiny symbol when I was suffering domestic abuse, I know I would have been empowered a whole lot earlier in life than I was.  I know I feel a whole lot more empowered now seeing it on men and women everywhere.

And if you are a woman suffering or have suffered abuse or violence of any kind, know that I care, as do many others.  I do this for you as much as I do this for me.

*I will be reporting any abuse I receive to the police,  including IP addresses and all other details.  I will also be publishing this information online.

Let’s Not Toss the Baby with the Bath Water

Published October 10, 2012 by sleepydumpling

There has been a lot of talk today about how it’s all well and good for Prime Minister Gillard to stand up in parliament and call out the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, for his hypocrisy about misogyny*, but many claim her own conduct/policies on other matters render her speech redundant.

While I agree, that Prime Minister Gillard (who I am no great fan of generally speaking) has a lot of work to do on issues like equal marriage rights, refugees, indigenous affairs, social support for single parents, and other issues, I think dismissing her speech yesterday undermines just how important the topic of misogyny from our political leaders is to the women of Australia.  Indeed, the women of the world.

We as a nation have watched our first woman Prime Minister treated in a manner that no male politician would ever be be subjected to, both in parliament and in the media.  We as a nation have heard the man who wants to lead our country, suggest that half of the population, women, are less adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.  We have heard this man suggest time and time again that women are somehow inferior to men.  Again, he is referring to half of the population of the country, whom he expects to vote for him to lead them.  On a regular basis, this man and the politicians he leads have referred to any woman in the Labor party as “the handbag hit squad”.  This is the man that said in an interview (therefore on the public record) “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…”

Misogyny and sexism are rife in daily life in Australia, and when the man holding the highest position in the political opposition in this country AND who expects the Australian people to vote for him to lead the country, makes statements like those Prime Minister Gillard quoted, and I have shared here, is it any wonder?

Prime Minister Gillard has a responsibility in her role, not only as the Prime Minister but as a woman in such a position of high rank, to represent the women of Australia.  Yes, she represents all Australians, but being a woman herself, and being the example of a woman in public life and power, how she allows herself to be treated, reflects on how she allows all Australian women to be treated.

Yesterday, she stood up and said “Enough.”  She stood up and spoke out against an issue that affects half of the population of her country directly, and the rest indirectly, whether they wish to admit it or not.  This is not some trifling matter to be thrown away because other policies and positions she holds do not come up to standard.  If you are a woman in this country, and you expect to be treated with basic respect as a human being, then the speech Prime Minister Gillard made yesterday should matter to you.  It should be significant to you and to this country, regardless of whether or not you align yourself with the Labor party or Prime Minister Gillard herself.

Yes, we need to keep pressuring Prime Minister Gillard on other issues.  We need to make it clear that there is still much work for her and the Labor party and indeed parliament to do to earn our votes and to successfully lead this country.

But we also must remember that in one regard at least, she has taken a significant stand for the women of Australia.  In her words:

the Leader of the Opposition should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.

We are entitled to a better standard than this.  All women, everywhere are entitled to a better standard than they are currently receiving, all over the world.  And to that, I say thank you Prime Minister Gillard, for finally standing up on one of the most important issues facing Australian women, all women of the world, today.

* a transcript of the entire speech can be found here.
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