Remember: Nice guys can do bad things and sex workers are people

So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.

Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.

A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.

He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.

What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.

Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.

Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen? [Read more…]

“Bad things happen – get over it”

That’s the message from this Rosie Millard piece [DNL url]: “Women get their bottoms pinched. It is part of life. Get over it”.

I don’t know much about the legal aspects, I don’t know whether we charge someone for a crime the victim says she’s over. I think those are complicated questions, deserving of fuller examination on a case-by-case basis. However, Millard goes from these concerns to outright telling people to “get over it”. That’s a separate discussion, but it’s woven in seamlessly into the discussion of prosecuting this guy called David Lee Travis. Just watch (emphasis mine):

The unnamed victim of the assault, who said she was paralysed with fear at the time, has spoken of her luck in being able to get on with the rest of her life after the event – the event being having your breasts squeezed for 15 seconds, backstage at The Mrs Merton Show. Hello? If such things really caused deep trauma, half the female population of the UK would be in long-term therapy. Women get their breasts squeezed. They get their bottoms pinched. Without asking for it. It is not particularly exciting, but it is part of life. Get over it.

But don’t worry, I guess, because it happens all the time in the media.

In the media, where the intoxicating combination of fame is customarily wafted about in what one might deem a bohemian atmosphere, this sort of behaviour is particularly apparent. Again, not something to be proud of, but it is simply part of the setup.

You know like how non-whites in apartheid had to use separate entrances? Yeah, it sucks, but you know: “It’s part of the setup”. I look forward to telling my dad the reason he couldn’t buy a house in another neighbourhood was that it was “part of the setup”; that he should’ve “got over it”. It’s part of life, you know? Geez.

this sort of thing happened all the time, so much so that it was almost funny.

Ah, well, if you think it was “almost funny” I guess no other person should have to worry.

I am not referring to or indeed excusing sexual assault. I am pointing out that there was, and probably always will be, a certain amount of irresponsible behaviour in the entertainment world, whether from Radio 1 DJs or anyone else, and women in particular have to negotiate it as they see fit.

They “negotiate it” by speaking out; they “negotiate” by pointing out who the creeps are.

Dear Rosie Millard: Women and marginalised people will speak out. Get over it. People who think an environment is too protective of powerful men will voice their disaproval. Get over it.

I am sick of people using their platforms to defend the status quo which they themselves acknowledge isn’t safe, secure, helpful. I’m sick of people blowing smoke in the face of awful behaviour because that’s “just” the environment – as if we’re powerless beings who are not fighting back by speaking out. And yet when we do speak out, we are told to “get over it”.

I have to keep asking: Why would you use your finite time, finite resources to yell at people wanting progress and improvement? If you also can acknowledge that things suck, why would you not want them changed? And if you say, I’m just pointing out reality, you’ve done nothing: We know the environments suck, we know women are mistreated. If we didn’t already know that, we wouldn’t be speaking out. Whereas activists are saying “This environment is awful therefore we should change it”, shruggers go “This environment is awful therefore that’s the way it is.” Who cares? We know that’s the way it is and we want it changed.

Environments are created by humans, we change them, improve them. They’re not magically entombed. These wizards from the school of the insultingly obvious seem so keen on taking on activists or those who want change. I can’t really understand why: if they annoy you, who cares? How are you affected except that – shock! – as a marginalised person, you might have a better, more safe environment? Otherwise, why do you want to stay in a creepy environment?

These people are confusing and are targeting the wrong people. I really want them to use their resources and finite time for better ends. We could use it – the creeps don’t fucking need defending. Society in many ways does that already.

Male entitlement, why it’s a problem, why I (and you should) oppose it

Because, in 2014 (not, you know, 1814), a woman can be sent a document, from her husband, detailing when she said no to sex. Because a website can publish a list of traits “attractive girls” have that, I guess, “unattractive” girls don’t. Because a man who’s not exactly on good terms with women’s equality can make an entire album for his ex-wife about getting her back – and people think it’s cute, not incredibly invasive and creepy.

Because, perhaps worst of all, many responses to such stories express support for the men writing and conveying such worldviews; because people, especially women, who oppose such treatment  are threatened, harassed, abused. Women are owed to men, it seems. [Read more…]

Women, science and the machine of exclusion

In my latest for The Daily Beast, I respond to a piece about how “females” just can’t brain science as well as men – or rather, that “females as a whole” tend to find science boring. Apparently. According to some dodgy data.

Anyway, I had some amazing input from some brilliant scientists who have had experience with this. There is also plenty of data supporting the machine thesis, that of a culture that makes science into a man’s space, that is unwelcoming to women, then uses women’s absence and disinterest (after they’ve been taught to be) that women don’t like science.

Of course while writing it, I forced myself to watch that awful Science: It’s a Girl Thing video again. *Shiver*

Remember this BS?

Yeah. I totally wonder why women found this so horrible! /s

Ubisoft, women and diversity in media

My latest for The Daily Beast is on Ubisoft’s (lack of) prioritising women in their upcoming games and the response, in general, from those wanting diversity in media. Specifically in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Unity I found this really disappointing, since this is a talented bunch of people – who not only themselves wanted women, but are great at encouraging diversity.

I’ve been sick and busy with work, so apologies for empty blog for awhile. I should be returning to at least my infrequent levels of blogging – I definitely have an upcoming fisk.

Abortion, choice and stigma

My latest for The Daily Beast is a criticism of apparent moral hypocrisy regarding a woman’s choice to have an abortion, premised on disliking a women’s chosen career path. There’s more to it than that, of course, but I really dislike the idea that people can be pro-choice – but only for some women (who are not “sluts”, “famewhores , etc., like aspiring model Josie Cunningham).

There’s a debate to have on what “pro-choice” means – which choice, etc. – but that’s different to being a hypocrite, which we all need to be careful of. Especially if it feeds in to an already prevalent and powerful stigma that has damaging repercussions on actual policy.

CollegeHumor hates “fake” nerd girls

Disclaimer: I’m aware the CollegeHumor article is a bit old. But I only saw it recently.

LOL! So check these silly women who think they’re nerds cos they wear glasses. Ha, what fakes! Let’s take Tweeted pics and make an article mocking them for thinking they’re nerds!

pic

LOL, high five bro!

We’ll show these dumb womin that it’s wrong to call yourself a nerd because… well, because! It’s too difficult to explain and if I have to explain then you’re obviously not a true nerd. And who doesn’t want to aspire to be a self-loathing, hateful, vengeful manchild — I mean “true nerd”?

What you mean let people call themselves what they want because it has no fucking impact on my life? That makes no sense! I must defend the kingdom of nerdom if people aren’t nerding in the perfectly right way that I’ve arbitrarily determined! Dammit! People can’t just enjoy themselves: they need to enjoy the things I love in the right, special, sacred way I’ve determined!

This is for men. When you come in here, with your women parts, it upsets the balance. And that’s wrong because… you know. Because it is upsetting! Stop it, just look at that list and laugh at those silly women that deserve to be shamed on a widely read site for doing a harmless activity!

Hey! We mock men, too, so it’s fine! Things are equal! How come feminists always talk about how people are equal but then when they get targeted they want special treatment??! Huh: What you mean recognising the world is unequal doesn’t negate treating people equally? That makes no sense. Women are just being hysterical as usual! They should get over themselves, they just need a man in their life.

Everything is fine and I’ve never seen or experienced an environment that constantly judges and negates me for my sex, race, sexual orientation – THEREFORE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO ANYONE ELSE. That’s logic! And I should know, bro, I’m a totes true nerd! Let’s go be offended by Star Wars…

UPDATE #2 Men cry foul cos evil feminism makes hitting on women more difficult

Would probably helped if I linked to the piece: Here.

That’s a piece I wrote, as a response to a Guardian post which – to say the least – I didn’t like. The piece claims campaigns like Everyday Sexism make hitting on women harder, because it makes all them “females” think confident flirtation is same as harassment.

Er, yeah. No.

I also commented directly on the piece itself, in the comment section, which got one… strange response.

Some readers can’t locate my comment Guardian site. I’ll reprint it here:

Since I’ve been following Everyday Sexism for a while, I find the author’s characterisation of the project different to mine. I’d be interested to see where exactly the claims come from that indicate all men do this – considering the campaign has been encouraging and welcoming men’s voices, too, who speak out and discourage this behaviour.

I’d also be interested where exactly the claim is made that mild flirtation is equated with street harassment. It seems to me if you can’t distinguish between the two then maybe that’s a serious problem and you should rethink what you mean by flirting – not what the woman you’re flirting with is “doing wrong”.

Of course, your intention could very well be one that truly is harmless and is non-threatening – but misinterpreted. And this I understand, to a small degree.

But considering, as you know, the environment in which women live and what some face everyday, that’s just… well… TOO BAD. Yes, it sucks that it’s harder to intitiate conversation and flirtation without being perceived as “yet another creep”. Yes, it sucks that women have been so constantly bombarded with such idiocy they change their behaviour, time of day for jogging or walking or doing basically anything (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/02/apps-and-online-programs-offer-new-ways-to-report-street-harassment.html), – because victim-blaming also is this pernicious, see?

It’s easy for us men to claim “but we’re nice guys and never do that” – but again, I assume most people can distinguish between the two behaviours.

There will exist genuine mistakes and misinterpretation – as there is in everything we do. Except here it’s compounded by the environment that so many women live in, everyday. The name of the project says it all.

In a world screaming for their attention, namecalling them when women refuse to give it, we shouldn’t be wagging our fingers when our kinder voices go unnoticed. We should be empathetic, target the environment and other men doing this – and also respect women enough to, you know, be able to tell the difference between harassment and harmless flirtation. I don’t see Everyday Sexism as ushering in the downfall of sexual freedom – I see it as protecting it, particularly women’s, so that we can all live in a better world.

(Weirdly, Dawkins linked to this comment – even though his quotation indicates his support of the very article I was criticising in that comment.)

PS: Ophelia also has some important insight, as always.

“I do not condone rape” but…

This comment appeared on a local site about rape culture and what it is.

Comment
I’d rather not link to the comment directly nor name the individual, since I’m unlikely to change his mind. But it does set up a good basis to respond to yet more nonsense about women and sexuality and how men should consider both.

Let’s look at what this bro thinks about silly sluts and rape, then.

>> “I will start off by saying that I DO NOT condone rape. Boys and men should adhere to a girls [sic] or woman’s right to say NO.”

Good start. But don’t be surprised that people (like me) now read this as “I’m not racist but…”

>> “That being said, I too don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman dressing and acting like a “slag” and then being raped.”

Read that again. “I… don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman [acting like a slut] and being raped”.

So, sympathy for a rape victim is eroded due to learning that a woman was “acting” in a way you, personally, deem sexually provocative.

Of course!

There’s no way that people confuse friendliness for sexual advances; men have never mistaken amicability and Platonic interest for flirtation. And there’s no way women dress in a way that is revealing, enhancing of their features, etc. because it makes them feel great in their bodies (but almost always for a short period of time, because they live in a society that constantly pressures women into hating their bodies because they’re not photoshopped).

No: You are the Royal King Mister Master who can perfectly identify what “asking for sex” behaviour looks like.

Slutty, as Madison Moore highlights, is “when someone else’s sexual behavior makes you uncomfortable.” But probably also means you find them attractive (since people find tentacle hentai porn and consensual adult incest uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll call such things slutty).

So how that mitigates rape is mystery and only highlights women are people – but only up to an arbitrary point you have defined, premised on their sexuality. Which can’t be their own, of course, but must be defined by the loudest bigots.

And, here is a shocker: There is nothing wrong with women wanting sex and doing what they can or want to get sex. And, further, even if a woman is naked in bed with you, it may come as a surprise to learn that forcing yourself on her, ignoring her rejections, is still wrong. It’s weird, but women surprisingly are not objects making sounds to play hard to get. They aren’t setting up a challenge that manly men must overcome.

>> “The guy raping a girl/woman like that should suffer as much as their victim did, but the victim should also take responsibility for her actions that lead to this wrongdoing.”

What does “take responsibility” mean? And used so casually alongside someone who is, you know, raping seems to equate the two.

And since we’re asking women to “take responsibility”, I hope we’ll be consistent and demand the rapist’s parents also “take responsibility”; and I hope his teachers and lecturers “take responsibility”; his friends too, for not stopping him or teaching him, should “take responsibility”. I hope society “takes responsibility”. And books – whatever books he happened to read – that we find the authors and demand they “take responsibility”. Who else? Obama? Yeah, him too.

We’ll eventually find everyone and be able to account 100% for all the responsibility because obviously the person most responsible is irrelevant until we account for 100% of everyone involved toward the rapist raping – or the “rape occurring” like some malevolent Sauron-like disembodied force.

We do this for all other crimes, too: we demand the victim who is shot in his home take responsibility. We blame the victims for their murder and their physical assault, we worry that the perpetrators lives will be ruined (not their victim who is probably deceiving us right?); we distrust murder victims, we think they’re probably lying (dead but also in terms of deception)

Look, murder victims, just take responsibility for what happened, ok? At the funeral, let’s raise this and point this out to their families – because we do it for rape victims, so it means we do it elsewhere too. We’re totally not hypocrites!

>> “If you’re going to act in a certain way, you will attract the wrong people who WILL take advantage of the situation, no matter if it’s right or wrong.

Yes. But also note wrong people are still wrong. You’re not casting some magic spells that summons evil people.

>> “Girls should be taught from a young age that their actions and manners have consequences and if they don’t want these horrible things to happen to them, they should act responsibly and do what they can to prevent it from happening.

That’s right: The best way to avoid rape is not to be a slut. If you’re raped, it means you were being slutty/are a slut. That’s some perfect logic. QED. It’s totally not about how stats indicate rape victims are targets of someone they know, sometimes someone they themselves are attracted to, often someone they’re already in a relationship with.

Nope: rapists are like vampires and your slut behaviour is the open window (magic spells remember?). So just shut it. So obvious. And it’s so obvious and no woman has ever considered this because their brains are probably too small. That rape happens so often is obviously perfectly proportional to all the sluttish behaviour – or what I’ve called slutty – that occurs.

>> “No prevention method is 100% full [sic] proof and you may [be] the unlucky 1 to fall victim to rape or any other violent crime. The best you can do is everything in your power to prevent it from happening to you.

“Fall victim to rape”, like how you fall victim to disease, you know? Same thing.

Also, it’s not about luck so much as it is the way much of society – people like yourself and media portrayal – undermine rape s an actual serious crime, due to viewing women as not being allowed sexual identity. And it’s not an “unlucky” few.

>> “Girls, you know these things happen & there are men who don’t take NO seriously. Don’t give them the slightest idea that they can have their way with you unless you choose it. You are 99% in charge of your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body. Be responsible for your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body.

Yeah, “girls”. Don’t give “the slightest” indication you’re interested because, as we know, we all perfectly interpret flirtation, interest and so forth. And also once you show even a little bit of an interest, it means sex must happen. That’s the law, right? I think it is.

It’s so great to know that we’re 99% in charge of our fates: it’s not up to politics, economics, technology, other people’s whims, our bodies failing, strength, support. No: it’s just us. If you have a chronic disease, just think that crap away! You’re in charge cos it’s your body. QED.

So be responsible. If anything bad happens to you, you clearly wanted it cos you’re 99% in charge of what happens to you.

If you can find a more solipsistic perspective of life, I’d be surprised.

>> “Most men I know would never rape anyone, but there are many rotten apples, both male and female, out there. Protect yourself as much as you can.

Most? Most?!

Who are these minority of men? And are you doing what you can to prevent them raping? If you aren’t doing what you can to prevent them raping, then you’re not “taking responsibility” for these men. In all seriousness, I don’t know how you can say this without being concerned and fearful of such people and you know, potential victims (who are just sluts, so who cares?).

This is basically what you said: “There are a few men I know who would rape, but there are also some pretty crappy women, too.”

This attitude and dismissal and equivocation is part of what creates a prevalence of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, dismissal and derision of women as persons who are victims – not instigators – of one of the most horrible acts imaginable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting sex, desiring sex, flirting and having multiple partners. And further there’s nothing wrong later not desiring sex. People who feel “led on” have no right to “take” sex (i.e. rape) just because they (thought they) were promised it. Women aren’t Amazon.com – they’re people who are allowed to change their minds. If you feel hurt, too bad. You’re not that special and people can and are allowed to change their minds and do what they wish with their bodies, without it being about you.

Yes: Care should be taken that no one is hurt – through using protection, treating others as adults and persons, and so on. But until someone offers a definition of slut that isn’t merely the sounds people with conservative views of women’s sexuality (genitals are for pregnancy or for sluttiness and that is all!), I’ll continue to hear such claims as screams from the Dark Ages. Particularly when they promote dismissal of rape victims and think being slutty is (a) automatically a bad thing and (b) is a reason to think maybe this rape wasn’t so bad.

This list of how American conservative media treated women in 2013 is too long

Seriously.

Lou Dobbs described a Pew Research study that found an increase in female breadwinners as full of “concerning and troubling statistics.” Dobbs said the study was suggestive of “society dissolv[ing] around us.”

On the June 20 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, frequent Fox guest and conservative radio host Bill Cunningham shouted down Fox contributor Tamara Holder during a debate saying, “You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth” and asking if she was “going to cry”

On the November 18 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co, host Stuart Varney wondered, “Is there something about the female brain that is a deterrent for getting on board with tech?”

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh offered his “suggestion” to avoid being accused of sexual harassment: “You walk up to the woman and say, ‘Will you please ask your breasts to stop staring at my eyes?'”

WSJ‘s Taranto Says Of Alleged Domestic Assault: George Zimmerman Simply “Guilty Of Being Male.” After George Zimmerman allegedly threatened his estranged wife with violence, James Taranto tweeted that Zimmerman was “guilty of being male”:

And so on and so on. Horrible.

Thanks to the researchers Emily Arrowood, Olivia Kittel, Olivia Marshall, & Samantha Wyatt at MediaMatters.