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Easter break break from blogging. Enjoy a few days off, if you’re taking some.

Rape and death threats are all too common in feminist circles, just ask Laura Bates

In the first month of the Everyday Sexism project Bates received up to 200 messages a day threatening her with rape and murder. No-one has yet been charged in relation to any of these threats.

On the Conversation:

From jokes to rape, there have been nearly 60,000 posts by women recounting their experiences of sexism and sexist violence since journalist and feminist Laura Bates launched her Everyday Sexism project in April 2012. Now the material has been collected for the first time in a book of the same name.

I’ve been familiar with the project for some time. Yet the sheer pervasiveness and repetitiveness which emerges when the material is presented in book form, accompanied by Bates’ clear, angry, witty, feminist commentary, is refreshing, depressing and enraging. [Rest.]

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[Rape culture] is, simply put, a culture which makes violence against women appear normal. This normalization of violence against women consequently leads to a myriad of things whereby the violence against women becomes accepted, even encouraged, and people therefore have the tendency to blame the victim of the violence (the woman) before they blame the perpetrator of the violence (the man). In short, this all fosters an environment for which rape, the worst act of violence against women (with the possible exception of murder), can occur.

Sexual aggression isn't an expression of maleness

Navigating our social world can sometimes be like stumbling through fog: intuiting the impact of our actions on other people often involves a confusing haze of speculative guesses about what they are thinking and feeling. However, some actions are clear as daylight in their intent and impact. Sexual harassment falls into this latter category.

David Foster argued here that blurred definitions of harassment mean people should be wary of ever complimenting anyone, lest it be interpreted as an unwanted advance. However, as Laura Bates articulated in response, generally speaking, most men are capable of differentiating between a genuine act of friendliness or flirtation (an act that intends a positive social outcome), and a hostile act of sexual aggression (oblivious to the impact on its recipient, or even actively calculated to cause distress). So, if there is a grey area between the two, it is very small, and inhabited by few people.

However, given this, a troubling thought then occurs. Many men who engage in verbal or physical harassment are probably aware that it will render their victim distressed, or at least uncomfortable. And yet they do it anyway. The question then is why?

Social sciences are bedevilled by such a bewildering array of competing perspectives that one cannot hope to offer the reason for a given phenomenon. Nevertheless, at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, one explanation for harassment relates to societal power: the perpetrator feeling either a sense of power, or paradoxically, a lack of it. The first type – surfeit – is easier to comprehend. Some men allow the clamour of their libido to drown out the faltering voices of their conscience, and their social position means they can express these desires without concern for the feelings of the recipient, or fear of reprisal. For instance, Lord Rennard allegedly bestowed his advances on people whose relative powerlessness meant their complaints were hushed up or ignored.

From theguardian.com.

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Why anonymity would be a green light to rapists

The outcome of the William Roache trial resulted in a flood of demands for there to be anonymity for defendants in rape cases and talk of women eager to make false allegations of rape against men.  I believe that these demands are not just misguided but extremely dangerous for women and for justice generally.

It is often argued that an allegation of rape carries such a stigma that the defendant can never be free of it even if found not guilty and therefore should be anonymous.  Many crimes carry a stigma: murder, an accountant accused of fraud, a teacher accused of hitting a child, a driving instructor accused of drink driving.  If we allow the stigma argument to run its course then most defendants would be included particularly if the defendant was well known or a professional which could lead to a middle class exemption and fail victims.

A not guilty verdict in the criminal court in England and Wales does not necessarily mean that the conduct did not happen it simply means that the CPS did not prove it beyond reasonable doubt.  As a civil lawyer I deal with cases every day where we obtain findings in the Civil Court about domestic violence and sexual abuse where the Criminal Court has produced not guilty verdicts.  The case of O J Simpson in the US is a gruesome illustration of the Criminal Court finding the perpetrator not guilty followed by  a Civil Court finding that he did in fact kill his ex partner and her boyfriend.

On Rachel Horman (podcast of BBC Radio Manc. also on link)

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feminine.
pinterest (feimineach)

feminine.

pinterest (feimineach)

Stalked and beaten up: student stories of sexual violence in clubs

I felt a hand move slowly and grope my vagina.

On the guardian:

Nightclubs are a hotbed for sexual harassment, according to an NUS report. Many students even view sexual violence as a normal but unwanted part of a night out – and they say they don’t report it.

This month popular London venues signed a pledge to tackle the harassment of women and lgbt people. The clubs, backed by harassment charity Hollaback, want to give staff specialist training and put posters up that encourage victims to come forward.

But many more club nights around the country continue to make a business model out of sexism and sexual violence towards women.

Last year a club in Glasgow installed two-way mirrors in the women’s toilets. More recently, a Valentine’s Day speed dating night in Nottingham was cancelled after people complained about the “bag a slag” and “grab a hag” theme.

Young people can be particularly vulnerable. Last year a poster promoting a student club night in Cardiff contained an image with the words: “I was raping a woman last night and she cried“. And themes like “rappers and slappers” and “geeks and sluts” are common in student areas.

In this kind of club culture students can experience harassment “every time” they go out.

We spoke to students about their experiences. From a stranger groping a girl’s vagina, to another young woman being pinned against a wall, the stories indicate that sexual violence in student clubs is an issue that must be taken seriously.

On theguardian.com.

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Rape Allegations and Accusations of False Allegations

megamouthpiece:

It seems to be the norm now to say that when an accused (usually) man is found *not guilty* of rape or sexual assault charges that his accusers made ‘false allegations’. That they lied. This is not how it works.

A defendant is found ‘not guilty’ (usually) because the jury has to decide: is their sufficient evidence to reach the burden of proof in criminal law cases which is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’? This means - taking all things into consideration does the jury feel that there is no reasonable doubt in their mind that the accused committed the crime they have been accused of.

In other words if there is a doubt in their mind and its reasonable (eg it’s what you or I would broadly consider reasonable - we might consider for example the thought in a Jury members mind that the accused had been removed from the incident by Martians unreasonable but we might consider reasonable that the alleged accusor misread the situation) then the jury must find the accused ‘not guilty’.

As I’m sure you can see the test in criminal cases is very high indeed. This is because in the British Legal System we feel that it is better for one man who is guilty to go free than an innocent man may end up in prison. I’m sure you can see therefore that it is very difficult to secure rape convictions *ever* because they mostly happen in private - they are what is terrifyingly termed an ‘intimate crime’. [Rest.]

Society Is Starting to Wake Up to Rampant Street Harassment of Women

Some Facts About Street Harassment

Does a man asking a stranger on a date in a respectful manner without the expectation that he or she will say yes, constitute street harassment? No. Is a man asking a woman he encounters in public for directions to the nearest cologne store street harassment? No.

Here is what does count as street harassment: groping, stalking, sexist comments, and publicly masturbating in someone’s presence. These kinds of assaults happen with great frequency. According to a 2010 study conducted by the CDC, “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,” the category into which most instances of street harassment fall, is the most prevalent form of sexual assault: 70-99% of women worldwide have experienced street harassment.

The fact that victims of street harassment are usually unwilling to report their experiences also speaks to a culture that has deemed such actions appropriate. A 2007 study found that 63% of 1,790 surveyed New York City subway riders said they had been sexually harassed. Just as concerning was the discovery that a mere 4% of these respondents said they had contacted authorities in reference to the incident.

On Alternet.

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UN representative says UK has 'sexist culture'

The UK has a “boys’ club sexist culture”, the UN’s spokeswoman on violence against women has said.

Rashida Manjoo is on a visit to the UK, studying its approach to the issue. She described the over-sexualisation of females as “pervasive” and raised fears that sexual bullying and harassment in schools was routine. The Home Office said the government was committed to ending violence against women and girls.

Ms Manjoo said she had found levels of sexism that did not exist in other countries she had visited. She raised particular concerns about the portrayal of women and girls in the media and the treatment of girls and women in schools. Ms Manjoo also raised “deep concern” that she had been prevented from visiting Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre in Bedfordshire. She said she believed an order to stop her gaining access to the facility had come from the highest levels at the Home Office. She had been due to visit the site with the help of the Prisons Inspectorate, she told journalists, but was told by the centre’s director that she would not be allowed access.

On BBC News.

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The Sun doesn’t merely advise you to name your mammaries; you are also encouraged to tweet pictures of yourself checking your breasts.

But there’s more! The Sun doesn’t merely advise you to name your mammaries; you are also encouraged to tweet pictures of yourself checking your breasts. Jejune prude that I am, I always thought that checking your body for cancer symptoms was best done in private whilst listening to repeats of Gardener’s Question Time but, apparently, the best way to do it is in front of hundreds of thousands of complete strangers on the internet. A number of women duly shared images of themselves ‘checking’ their breasts and countless followers posted supportive comments, offering their assistance in the procedure. Model Jess Davies ‘copped a feel’ whilst sporting a tiny Chihuahua-sized T shirt pulled up above her breasts. ‘Want a hand?’ asked a helpful chap; ‘I’ll check the other one’ chirped in another cancer-battling gent. Jodie Marsh, referencing the enduring link between breast cancer and fetid, undead predators, tweeted a photograph of herself in a revealing vampire costume in honour of ‘Check ‘em Tuesday.’ A number of ‘fans’ then made heart-warming references to sexual assault, with one man stating ‘I’ll check yours Jode # cracking set.’

On My Tights Won’t Stay Up.

Sweet LORD! This is a great retort though. Satire is often the best response, I think.

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"Class distinctions do not die; they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves." This is as true now as it was 25 years ago, and 25 years before that. "Each decade," he continued, "we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty." Compare this with "We’re all middle class now" except we’re not; or "Playing by the rules" which are made by, and change at the whims of, the most privileged; or "We’re all in this together" unless you’re a scrounger.

From Richard Hoggart’s introduction to introduction to George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

On The Guardian.

Zero Tolerance and Broken Windows Policing Criminalizes Homeless and Poor People ... and Can Kill Them

Alternet:

The recent death of homeless veteran Jerome Murdough in a Rikers Island cell should be more than a temporary debate in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it New York media cycle that often desensitizes us to tragedies. I know it hit close to home for myself — Mr. Murdough sought refuge the night of his arrest in an East Harlem public housing staircase three blocks from my home and across the street from my where my kids go to school. When sleeping in a staircase, I thought, lands you in a Rikers cell, something is wrong.

Murdough’s death laid bare some of our collective disregard for the poor as well as an aggressive police department with an obsession for law and order rivaled only by military dictatorships and science fiction characters (i.e., RoboCop, Judge Dredd). Is it enough to have roundtable discussions lamenting the case of Mr. Murdough as one of someone slipping through the cracks? What happened to him is the not-so unpredictable outcome of a society heavily invested in enforcement by way of zero-tolerance policing and criminal justice system. It’s an approach that is neither humane nor sustainable. But as some debate what stop-gap reforms or long term legislation might be crafted, let’s not lose sight of how Murdough arrived at the cell he would die in: the NYPD and the low-level crime-focused Broken Windows theory that guides it. [Rest.]

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The slippery slope of gender: why shaving and snacking are feminist issues

Gender policing is all about the little things – trying to limit women through rules about beauty and dress and behaviour. But little things become big things, and it’s vital we fight the battles that make a difference.

On New Statesman:

It’s always the little things. In the midst of a welter of unutterably depressing news about welfare and political turmoil, the great controversy of the week has been, yet again, the stunning fact that women are human beings with bodies that grow hair, eat, sweat and shit.

First, a spectacularly misogynist and homophobic (and now withdrawn) advert from Veet, manufacturers of hair-removing goo, claimed that failing to remove your leg-hair with the help of Veet products will turn you into an actual bloke. Then there was the equally repugnant site set up to shame “Women Eating on the Tube”, featuring non-consensual pictures of women doing just that, because there’s nothing worse a female person could possibly do than demonstrate in public that she has a body which gets hungry. There have already been some stellar pieces written about this round of gender policing, the best of which have been by Paris Lees and Ellie Mae O’Hagan respectively.

Now, in five years of feminist blogging I have avoided weighing in on the body hair debate, for two reasons, the first of which is political. I’ve always been faintly distrustful of the school of feminism that advocates a return to “natural” womanhood as a political statement, because as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing. There is something a tiny bit reactionary about the plea for nature as opposed to liberated modernity; it runs uncomfortably close to the rhetoric of those social conservatives who would prefer women to be “natural” when it comes to being submissive to a male provider and hogtied by their own reproductive capacities, but to continue the decidedly unnatural practices of bleaching, waxing and taking a bath more than once a year. [Rest.]

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I hate Strong Female Characters

Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.

On New Statesman:

Pepper Potts, in a screengrab from Iron Man 3 (from New Statesman).

I hate Strong Female Characters.

As someone spends a fair amount of time complaining on the internet that there aren’t enough female heroes out there, this may seem a strange and out of character thing to say.

And of course, I love all sorts of female characters who exhibit great resilience and courage. I love it when Angel asks Buffy what’s left when he takes away her weapons and her friends and she grabs his sword between her palms and says “Me”. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I love Zhang Ziyi’s Jen sneering “He is my defeated foe” when asked if she’s related to Chow Yun-Fat’s Li Mu Bai. I love Jane Eyre declaring “I care for myself” despite the world’s protracted assault on her self-esteem. My despair that the film industry believes the world is more ready for a film featuring a superhero who is a raccoon than it is for a film led by a superhero who is awoman is long and loud.

But the phrase “Strong Female Character” has always set my teeth on edge, and so have many of the characters who have so plainly been written to fit the bill. [Rest.]

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