White Ribbon Day

All posts in the White Ribbon Day category

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.

Keeping it Positive if it Kills Me!

Published November 20, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It’s been a bit of a rough week for me.  A stressful time at work with two huge projects about to hit their critical points, coupled with the most debilitating allergies (don’t let anyone tell you that allergies don’t have a high impact on your quality of life – they’ve never experienced them fully if they think so) have left my tolerance levels very low.  Where I would often ignore someone’s ignorant behaviour/attitude, I’ve just had no tolerance for that kind of shit this past week or so.

It all culminated in me making some decisions on how I use tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which blogs I read and follow, and what kind of approach I want to have for the world at large last night.

I vowed this blog would be positive this month, so I’m going to put a positive spin on this past shitty week and talk about some of the awesome people who’ve stood up to the ignorant, the insensitive, the bigoted, the narrow-minded and the downright rude over the past couple of weeks.  I want to celebrate those who with their passion, eloquence, strength of character and articulate writing make a difference to the world we live in.

There has been some drama within the Fatosphere/Fat Acceptance world over the past couple of weeks with one blogger (whom I won’t name, y’all have encountered it) who has made some folks uncomfortable, and instead of listening when people tried to respectfully point out how they were making others uncomfortable, they did one of their now famous rant “teardown” posts, which then grew into a big mess on Tumblr.  I personally have been the subject of one of these teardown posts and it still smarts to this day that instead of talking to me directly, I was torn to shreds publicly.  Oh the author apologised, and I accepted that apology, but it doesn’t mean that it was right to do it in the first place.

Anyway, there were three writers who really amazed me with their responses to the anger and arguments coming at them and others.  The first I saw was from Simone Lovelace, who with grace and a whole lot more dignity that I had to offer, laid out the points of her argument over and over with such clarity that I can’t tell you how impressed I was.  I am without doubt that so many who would read along would learn so much from Simone’s writing and hopefully take it away to think over a bit before continuing on.  I know I have.

The next one that knocked my socks off was the fabulous Jessica of Tangled Up in Lace.  Her response to a very angry post on Tumblr was nothing short of fucking brilliant.  For me, I nearly fell off my chair with this quote:

But seriously my fingers are too fat to play the tiny violin for you….

Not only does Jessica have the ability to make an amazing argument, and express herself beautifully, but she’s such an entertaining read as well.  Her sense of humour and creativity in her writing is the stuff that will have you spraying your Reese’s Puffs all over your computer screen with laughter and general cheering .  Or is that just me?  Go read her stuff, plus she’s all glamorous too, so you get even more value from her work.

However, the writer who really knocked my socks off in the whole brouhaha was Elizabeth of Spilt Milk, who posted a response on her Tumblr (read it here, I can’t leave this one un-linked) that touched on so many points that are so deeply important to me, and did so in a manner that was nothing short of brilliant, that I shed a few tears and needed a few days to process my own feelings around the topic before I talked about here.  To my mind, Elizabeth is one of the best writers in the Fatosphere and indeed beyond.  I am constantly learning from her and expanding my own thoughts thanks to her writing.

What all three of these women did so beautifully, that I’ve struggled with a bit over the past couple of weeks, is stood up and spoke up when someone was behaving in a way that bothered them.  To be honest, the circumstances behind it don’t really matter, it was the fact that they did so, and did so in an eloquent and articulate manner.

I realised over the past few days that I censor myself a lot of the time.  Particularly when I’m outside of my immediate circle of supportive friends and the fabulous Fatosphere.  For example I have a Twitter account that I use for work purposes (mostly library stuff and librarians) that I found myself tolerating some really ignorant behaviour, until this week, when I wasn’t feeling well, and I decided to challenge someone who has troubled me with their ignorance about health/weight before.  Of course, this guy had gone unchallenged before, so he really didn’t like me pointing out that something he posted and his assessment of weight loss being “simple really” was highly patronising.  The hostility he responded with opened up quite a shit storm.

Then of course, it being White Ribbon Day this coming week, and there being extra campaign activity in the media, the indignant choruses of “But men suffer violence too!!” have started up.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, this is a topic very close to my heart and one that I have spoken out about before.  So I found it particularly offensive that some of the people around me STILL don’t get it, and that I have to take up that message again.

And finally, the short lived Privilege Denying Dude (which has been closed down on Tumblr and pretty much taken over by privilege denying dudes on the meme generator – how meta!*) started out as a fantastic way to express just what the marginalised folk of the world are up against (and it’s ridiculous) but is now a neat little lesson in just how far those who wish to keep us marginalised will go to shut us up.  I believe there are threats of law suits against the creator/s of the meme who paid for and credited the image they used for the meme.  Yup, not even a silly internet meme is safe from the kind of person who thinks that nobody should speak out against the privilege denying dude!  I say keep making and sharing and reblogging the meme.

But what with all of the above things happening over the past week or so, I’ve seen a whole host of:

“You’re being too sensitive!”
“If you block or remove people who oppose your views, you’re just surrounding yourself with sycophants!”
“Feminists have no sense of humour.”
“Don’t be so paranoid!”
“You’re just censoring my freedom of speech.”

And my “favourite” of the week:

“Methinks somebody needs to take their meds.” (way to stigmatise mental illness and undermine other people’s realities hmm?)

What I want to get at with this post, the positive message I want you to take away, is that you don’t have to shut up and suffer through ignorance.  You are not censoring anyone, you’re not humourless, you’re not surrounding yourself with sycophants if you choose who you engage with, you are not too sensitive, and nobody ever has the right to question your fucking sanity or suggest anyone needs to be medicated.

These are all just tactics to shut us up when we speak up about ignorant attitudes and behaviour.  They’re passive-aggressive manoeuvres to put us on the back foot, to make us feel we have to explain why we are speaking up about their ignorance.

Keep speaking up.  Don’t let them undermine you by telling you that you’re too sensitive/paranoid/humourless.  Disengage whenever you need to, and cut them right out of your life if you want to and can.  Why should any of us waste our lives with people who treat us and others as though they are less than them?  Every minute you spend on someone who is disrespectful and wilfully ignorant, is one that you’re not able to spend with the wonderful people out there.  Every minute that I waste on trying to convince some patronising jerk on Twitter that he’s being ignorant is a minute that I could be spending talking to one of my awesome friends or reading the fantastic writing of people like those I have mentioned above.

Keep standing up.  Keep speaking out.  Disengage from those who would shut you up for calling out their ignorance and bigotry.

And in the words of Dr Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

*I just found out that Privilege Denying Dude was shut down on Tumblr, but has sprung up again on Blogger.  Linky linky!

White Ribbon Day

Published November 25, 2009 by sleepydumpling

Today is White Ribbon Day.  It is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In Australia, the focus is on domestic violence, as this is the single most common violence that Australian women (and children for that matter) will suffer.  In fact, world wide, violence at the hands of men that women know and usually love is the most prevalent form of violence that women will suffer.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.  My father was a man who violently beat his family (in particular my mother and I) until we left him when I was 14.  It was the second time that we had attempted to leave him.  My clear memory of the first time was begging my  mother to carry through her decision to leave because I knew if we didn’t, he would probably kill either one or both of us.  I was 13 at the time.  However he continued to violently abuse me until I was 20 years old whenever I saw him.  I was terrified of him and consequently all men.

I also suffered domestic violence at the hands of my stepfather and other male relatives, whom I shall not name because I know that they have made changes to their lives and have never revisited this behaviour.

Domestic violence is particularly nasty because it is at the hands of the men who are supposed to love you.  Wives/partners and children are the victims.  The men who are supposed to love you most (fathers, grandfathers, husbands etc) are the ones doing you the most harm.  Not only does that physically hurt you, but it emotionally and mentally hurts you for the rest of your life, even after you move from victim to survivor.  These are scars that will never fully heal, despite the fact that they may fade.

Every year, on White Ribbon Day, there is a rash of “But men suffer violence too!” statements.  Not only from men too – I see it from women all the time.  This falls into two categories.  The first is the good old fashioned “What about the mens?!” where men simply fail to get the importance of the issue being discussed and think women are “making a fuss”.  More on that in a minute.

The second is when there is a legitimate case of a man being a victim/survivor and he feels voiceless.  This second category is valid and men need to be able to speak about the things they have suffered.  But what it means is that men need to create this space themselves, and not negate when women speak up about their suffering and demand change to cultural attitudes around this.

Back to the “What about the mens!?” (WATM) issue.  From the WATM article linked above from Finally Feminism 101:

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. The thing is, a feminist space — unless the topic is specifically men’s issues — is not the place to have that discussion and neither are spaces (feminist or otherwise) in which the topic is specifically focused on women’s issues.

What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues. There are a lot of feminist allies who do this, in fact, and there also a lot of non-feminist (or anti-feminist, if you really want to go there) spaces that are welcoming to this kind of discussion. Thus, the appropriate response to a thread about women is not to post a comment on it about men, but rather to find (or make) a discussion about men.

Women are conditioned from a very young age that we should be nice.  Don’t make a fuss.  Don’t whinge.  Be polite.  So it’s intimidating and annoying to some men when a day of action and awareness about violence against women gets attention.  They’re not used to having the attention diverted from them.  They don’t like being told what to do when it comes to how they treat women.   So they call it out with “But it happens to men too!”  Suddenly the focus is about them again, and they are happy.

When women pull the WATM card, it is for the same reasons.  Either they are uncomfortable with women having the focus of an issue and action being taken about it, or they’re speaking on behalf of a male who is suffering or has suffered.  Again, the latter is valid and  has it’s place, but when introduced during action for the benefit of women such as White Ribbon Day, it negates the voice that women have on that day.

From the White Ribbon Day fact sheet (pdf):

What about violence against men?

While this campaign focuses on violence against women, it is important to acknowledge that men too are often the victims of violence. Many of the victims of murder, manslaughter, and serious physical assaults are male.

Men are much less likely than women to be subject to violent incidents in the home and are more likely to be assaulted in public places. Violence against men is far more likely to be by strangers and far less likely to involve partners or ex-partners. Of all the violence men experience, far less is represented by domestic violence (less than 1 percent, versus one-third of violent incidents against women).   Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm, injury and death from other boys and men, but small numbers are subject to violence by women.

It’s pretty straight forward.  White Ribbon Day is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is one day per year.  Deal with it.  Get over the fact that the focus is not going to be on men for a day, that it is on women for this  one day, and that this issue is real, huge and needs to see cultural change before it will go away.

Want to never hear about White Ribbon Day again?  Take the oath.  Be proactive about changing the culture that it is acceptable for men to be violent towards women and eliminate the problem, and you’ll never be pressured to buy a white ribbon again.

Support article: Domestic Violence – Myths and Misconceptions

This post is dedicated to my friend Ian, who was the first man I ever trusted not to hurt me, and to Dave Earley, whose speaking up on Twitter this morning inspired me to write this post.  And all other men with the testicles big enough to stand up and say that violence against women is wrong.

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