advice, feminism, feminist, Ireland, misogyny, rape, sexism, SlutWalk, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

My University’s Experience With Revenge Porn

I’m more than a little proud of my educational resume – I know, it’s privileged of me to say so, I acknowledge that I have been lucky enough in my race/ethnicity/class that I have been able to achieve as I have, though I have worked hard as a motivated student and aspiring lecturer/researcher. So I’m proud of my college history: undergrad in NUI Maynooth – Ireland’s oldest college with its beautiful heritage and village location – and University College Dublin – boasting in its alumni one of my favourite authors, James Joyce and one of Ireland’s most extensive and innovative gender/sexualities/feminist research clusters – for my MA and PhD.

That pride has been severely bruised this week.

The student’s UCD’s School of Agricultural Science have been linked with a “revenge porn” group-chat page on Facebook. For those who are confused: revenge porn is a relatively recent term describing the process of posting and sharing intimate partner photographs on the web for others to rate and “enjoy.” It’s known as “revenge” porn owing to the wide selection of individuals who post such images following a break up, in an act of punishment and self-vindication (you know, the whole, “she was a whore anyways – sure look what she sent me!!”). That’s the basics of revenge porn, anyways, once you take out the emotional trauma, misogynistic mistreatment and sterilizing objectification involved for the victim. Oh, and let’s not forget: the rape and lad cultures which normalize and trivialize these acts of non-physical violence.

Getting back to my own bruised ego: I was, initially, unsure. Certainly, a university with such a vibrant gender and sexualities rhetoric and collection of researchers couldn’t host such small minded, egotistical (let’s be honest) “lads.” The two schools are, afterall, only divided by a footpath, more or less. Moreover, the Student’s Union has only this year reinvigorated their sexual harassment and affirmative consent efforts, hosting their first SlutWalk last November and holding bake-sales advocating “consent is sexy.” Surely, this establishment of educated individuals wouldn’t contribute to such dehumanizing actions; surely, they know better.

Alas, I was wrong. The college confirmed via email today that they are investigating the allegations and encourage victims and anyone with information to come forward, urging:

While we can deal with the breaches that we uncover or are brought to our attention, I appeal to our community not to show any tolerance for abusive behaviour on social media.  I ask that each one of you recognise your responsibility in this regard.

 

The university’s pledge to investigate the page and potential members is a valiant one – no one should get away with mistreating women in such a manner – but already, the college has failed in one vital aspect.

The subject line of said email, reads:

Inappropriate use of social media

What should be the subject of this email? The use of social media? Or the people behind it and the people who suffer as a result?

The focus of this email should not have been misuse of Facebook but the inappropriate and cruel treatment of fellow students and peers.

Unfortunately, UCD has fallen into the techno-pessimistic trap: blaming the vehicle instead of the driver. We’ve all heard of the potential dangers of social media – for young people, cyberbullying and online predators are posed as a serious threat. But the threat is never depicted as a person at a keyboard, as what it really is. It is depicted as a digital profile page with no corporeal form behind the words and images on screen.

This logic is now applied to the dissemination of “revenge porn” also. It is the websites and domains which support posting and discussing images which are dangerous: this is easier than holding a person or group accountable.

This manner of blaming social media and/or the internet for harassment or bullying explicitly crops the person behind the post or page from the image and therein validates their actions. They are not accountable anymore: social media is.

So I say to the presidents, deans, lecturers, revenge-porn posters, chat groups, victims, students and peers at UCD and anyone else reading this: place the blame on the person responsible. Hold them fully accountable for their actions, these are college educated men who should be punished for such zealous mistreatment and cruelty. Recognize that the women they have victimized deserve some form of justice.

After all, if my ego is bruised, how must they feel?

 

 

 

 

 

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advice, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, postfeminism, sexism, SlutWalk

Postfeminist Protest: Amber Rose’s SlutWalk and Stylish Activism

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock (or simply aren’t aware of what’s going on within the women’s movement…) Amber Rose’s SlutWalk – a long awaited march on the practices of body/woman shaming and rape culture – took place this week, on October 3rd in LA.

A brief history (once again, for those of you under your rock…): SlutWalk first took place in Toronto in 2011 after Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti  advised women:

avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized (Mendes 2015)

While he did later apologise for the istatement, Sanguinetti’s “advice” came as the straw which broke the camel’s back for two Toronto-based women – Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett – who decided it was time to fight back against the systematically inherent messages of slut shaming and victim blaming which implicates responsibility on the victim of rape culture and rallied the very first SlutWalk later that year.Thousands of women flocked the streets in everything from pantyhose and bras to dress suits and sensible heels. Some embedded the namesake in through their attire in dressing as the cultural stereotypical “slut,” others highlighted the fact that what a woman wears will not protect her from its threat and that women’s sexual nature or sexy clothing is not responsible for rape; simply put, rapists are responsible for rape.

gloucesterslutwalkslutwalkjune2011London

Of course, the SlutWalk movement has hit some bumps. Certain feminist circles felt the movement played to the patriarchal eye by dressing up (or down) for the male gaze while notably, many Women of Colour feel excluded from it’s message – particularly due to the historically based inability for said women to reclaim the word “slut” and to place their bodies of display in such a manner. In an open letter to the SlutWalk movment, the Black Women’s Blueprint stated:

We are perplexed by the use of the term “slut” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress.  Much of this is tied to our particular history.  In the United States, where slavery constructed Black female sexualities, Jim Crow kidnappings, rape and lynchings, gender misrepresentations, and more recently, where the Black female immigrant struggle combine, “slut” has different associations for Black women.  We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label.

The movement, certainly, raises questions about the nature of postfeminist activism. The Postfeminism movement largely encourages women to adopt individualistic and consumerist ideals in order to achieve and perform their liberation and autonomy, a fact which many cultural critics and academics loudly critique and bemoan. Of particular concern for these critics is the lack of communal activism and protest within the postfeminist era – but does SlutWalk not prove this moot? In no way can I state SlutWalk to be a perfect embodiment of feminist activism – as stated, it has it’s issues – and while the tenets of consumerism and the proliferation of “raunch culture” (Levy) prevalent in Postfeminist discourse are problematic, I cannot wholly accept this argument that postfeminist fails to promote or encourage activism. Notably, despite the serious issues which the SlutWalks attempt to embody, one cannot deny the celebratory manner in which these women come together in support of one another and in support of the victims.

amberroseslutwalk2nyslutwalk2011

Yes, there are issues relating to the SlutWalk movement which prove it’s problematic nature, specifically – I believe – related to it’s grounding in postfeminist culture.

This, however, did not stop Amber Rose from orchestrating, attending and delivering the grounding speech at her own SlutWalk event this weekend. The ex-stripper, model, actress, fashion designer and artist became of note in recent years particularly due to negative, hurtful and slutshaming comments supplied by her exes (specifically relating to her previous career giving striptease). Rose stood against these criticisms with her sisters brandishing a sign “Strippers have feelings too”

Amber-Rose-Slutwalk-LA-October-2015-BellaNaija0003amber-rose-crying-825x510

In an emotional speech, Rose stated that she had been slut-shamed from the tender age of fourteen and spoke out against the double standards which narrowly define women as either prude or slut while heterosexual men can perform and vocalize their sexuality relatively freely.

If the highlight of the SlutWalk is on the issues of rape culture and not the attire of the (potential) rape victim – as the argument against rape itself states – then perhaps the movement need not be portrayed so negatively after all?