abuse, advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, Uncategorized

Being Victim and Being Brave

Yesterday, I opened Roxane Gay’s new edited collection, Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, a selection of stories of abuse, harassment, trauma and surviving. I knew, given my history with rape and it’s structures, it would be no easy read.

The first three stories (introduction included) were visceral, troubling and unnerving. The fourth cut me to the quick:

“Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave or strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble.
I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. “He broke me,” I say to a friend. “You’re not broken,” she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”

– “& the Truth is, I Have No Story,” Claire Schwartz

I cannot speak for how hard these words hit me: they collaborated with a truth inside me, a bothersome narrative which I find others reaffirming for me once they hear I was raped/assaulted.

It is the same mantra which they will tell countless others:

“You’re a survivor/Brave/Strong/Better/[Input inspirational comment here]”

And I do understand the impulse and the kindness which drives them to tell me and others these words. I also rail against them, because they erase the messy truth of the event, the negate the reality of rape and that to become a survivor in any way, one is first a victim.

That’s a denigrated word nowadays: victim. It’s frowned upon to see a someone, post-rape, as a victim:

“You’re a survivor”

But to be a survivor at all, one first needs to be a victim. Sometimes, after rape/harassment/assault, you need to be broken. You get to be torn apart and take the time necessary to re-piece parts of yourself together, however haphazardly. I needed time – a lot of it – to repair and recollect. I look back on that time, full of self-pity, loathing and anger, and know I was not the image of a survivor; I also know that I needed that time to find recovery and locate self-care in myself.

I recall one day at feminist event, one of my peers told us her story, told us her rape, I sympathized, felt an instinctual bond, a desire to protect. Another attendee interrupted her:

“Can I let you know, you are not a victim, you are a survivor”

I remember thinking: What is wrong with being a victim. Why is it so negated? So hated a term? Why do others feel the need to remove that identity from us?

Is it their own fear? Their own unwillingness to see the unjust realities of the world? An uneasiness over how easily rape can happen? Or is does it fall back on the old moniker: ‘everything happens for a reason’ so of course, you survived this and became better?

I cannot tell, I do not know the reason behind these platitudes; I do know their is nothing wrong with being a victim.

One cannot become a survivor without having first been a victim, and there is nothing wrong with that truth.

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advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Gaga Politics: Lady Gaga’s AntiRape Activism and”Til It Happens To You”

“The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses

“Til It Happens To You” Lady Gaga

 

To say Lady Gaga is a controversial persona might be a moot point at this stage. Certainly, many revile her many ostentatious looks as “over the top” and her celebrity persona as “attention seeking” based merely on image; but then there are her many droves of fans, her so called “Monsters” who adore these exact traits.

For me, there is nothing so important in the Cult of Gaga as her politics. Unlike many pop stars and celebrity personas with mass followings, one cannot accuse Gaga or shying away from the societal and political issues which affect – not only her – but her fanbase and her peers.

Indeed, Gaga is a well known supporter of the LGBTIA+ Community: her hit anthem “Born This Way” and her own queer activism are proof of this. She actively defends herself as a “bisexual” women – a sexual identity highly contested on grounds of (I am paraphrasing from a selection of argument I have had) “selfishness” and “attention seeking”- drawing attention to the difficulties and controversies currently surrounding claims to sexual identities and preferences facing those who put the B in LGBTIA+.

More recently, however, Gaga has loaned her celebrity status and her vocals to an equally significant issue: Rape.

In the last year, Gaga has emerged at the head of a vanguard against rape in America. Her haunting and emotional tribute to survivors and victims of sexual abuse, “Till It Happens To You” closes the recent documentary on campus rape “The Hunting Ground” and has come to openly identify herself as a survivor of rape, describing her own traumatic and emotional experiences and advocating as a survivor for an end to the rape culture which plagues college campuses and countless men and women.

 

Most recently, on Sunday night, Gaga invited and stood with a dozen or so survivors of sexual abuse and rape having just performed “Til It Happens To You”. The survivors – men and women; white and black – and Gaga raised their clasped hands to thunderous applause,  both audience and performers in tears in this moment of solidarity against the rape epidemic.

lady-gaga-2016-academy-awards-show-photos-81-620x413.jpg

Gaga dedicated the performance, earlier that night via her Twitter, to Kesha Rose – who was recently denied an appeal to break her Sony contract with her alleged rapist Dr Luke

I’ll be thinking of u 2nite. This is not over we’ll stand by u until you are free to live a HAPPY life. Everyone deserves that.

Gaga went on to reveal her gratitude to these survivors and to celebrate their stories and their bravery via Instagram, in an image which, contrasting their grim faced sobriety during their performance, displays their joy and euphoria in their solidarity.

Thank you for standing next to me on stage. Thank you for all the things you said, for listening to my story and sharing yours. I will never forget it. 50 survivors, so brave, relentless determination.

The music video itself is a shocking narrative not only of the rape of different women and the aftermath of their attempted recoveries – but is itself an examination of gender and sexual identity. One of the narratives reveals a young woman binding her breasts – an act which implies her transsexual identity while her subsequent rape can be read as a “punishment” for her identity. The two other primary narratives of the music video, simultaneously, depict the horrors of acquaintance rape – where a seemingly friendly encounter becomes a violent act – and the drugging of two Asian women at a house party which follows with one of the women fighting off her attacker and then aiding her worse-off friend. 

These emotional and, for many of us, all too real narratives take up only two minutes of the 5 minute 25 second video.

What follows is a depiction of the aftermath, when the trauma truly shows. The survivors are depicted with their inner most thoughts tattooed on their very bodies – the instruments of their assaults – from “I am Worthless” to “sometimes I hate myself” and all the thoughts which come with survival and the one hope so many women have following sexual assaults:

“Believe Me”

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And while these three women among others are depicted walking away from their narratives of abuse with those who believe and support them, their is one woman left in the end. A silhouette of the next victim of the rape epidemic infecting college campuses.

happens-to-you-lyrics-lady-gaga.jpg

The ultimate message of Gaga’s song is the simplest expression most rape survivors have: “believe me.” And with so many victims of abuse accused of being willing participants, of being too drunk, too naive, too provocative, this statement simplistically describes how many victims feels they will be treated following such traumatic experiences.

attack, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, race, racism, rape, sexism, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

A New Year’s To Remember in Cologne, Germany

It’s more than a little shocking – moreover it’s absolutely appalling and disgusting – that in our ever shrinking world (where we can contact the other side of the world via word, photograph or video within seconds) that the news of MASS SCALE SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON WOMEN only begins to gain attention after a week of silence.

The New Year went off with more than bang when mobs of men in city Cologne, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in Germany turned violent and angry. Reports reveal that fireworks were thrown into crowds and the police claimed to have felt notably intimidated by the angry crowds. The final results were worse, with over 100 women assaulted  by the mob: many reported being groped and verbally insulted, some where even raped by men in the crowd.

Little has been done in the way of appeasing or supporting these women’s fight for justice – news is only now breaking of the mass scale of the assaults and the horrid nature of what seems an almost systemic attack on women in these cities. Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker has disappointed the public, with her response seemingly admonishing the women for being out in the first place – she has advised women to travel in group and keep an arms length between themselves and men, she has even promised to publish a set of guidelines, her “code of conduct”,  advising and preparing women, how kind of her. Furthermore, the Cologne Police Chief has been removed from his post following weak responses, both during and after the events (no one has yet been arrested despite the public and mass nature of the assaults) and after allegations that the scale and nature of the event was being covered up within the police force.

The nature of these attacks rest on the crux of a very volatile social issue currently shaking Europe: that of Syrian refugees and the immigrant crisis. Germany, crucially, has been both applauded and criticised for welcoming scores of Syrian migrants into the country and it is these people who are largely being held accountable for these attacks.

The facts and as we know them are as follows and are updated with some common sense knowledge:

  1. Mobs of men (over 1000 in Cologne) are reported to have sexually assaulted a number of women on New Years Eve 2016.
  2. These men are reported to have been of Arab and African descent – just to be clear, this is what is being stated in many newspapers at the moment, if the crowd is as large as stated (over 1000 men) not all could be so clearly identified, some may have been white, Asian, Mexican, or even – shockingly – German.
  3. No arrests have yet been made.
  4. No political, ethnic, social or racial group has taken responsibility for the attacks.
  5. Several reports are stating that Syrian men were boasting of their new reputations in Germany to police – this, obviously, does not necessarily mean these men were actually Syrian.

Finally and most crucially:

What is going to come across most as this event gains more media attention is the racial crux. What the media and subsequently the people will discuss and condemn will be the Syrian men who commited this act. This is not a racial issue; this is an act of gender based violence. This is an act of misogyny in its most volatile form. This is the physical form of sexism at its most extreme.

The problem with what happened in Cologne was little to do with race and everything to do with gender; the perpetrators of this crime were men. In over 95 per cent of cases regarding rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment and intimidation, the perpetrators are men.

Rebecca Solnit, in her illuminating essay “The Longest War” states:

We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human right’s issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.  (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2013/01/24/longest-war-one-against-women)

 

That gender is, unfortunately, male. Solnit apologetically continues by stating that of course not all men are violent (thank God); but violence is often perpetrated by men.

That is why what needs to be focused on following these large scale events is not the Syrian or migrant elements of the attacks – of course, should any Syrian men be found responsible and guilty of these crimes they should rightly be punished – but should concentrate on the fact that of the 1000 people committing these attacks there is one definite determining factor which binds them: they are all men.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

We all know what New Years Eve is about. We all know why we join with our loved ones and celebrate – boisterously, sanguinely, or quietly. We do it to ring in a not only a New Year, but a new opportunity, another 12 months. We do so with optimism and hope and sometimes alcohol.

We have insurmountable expectations for the year to come; but for the women of Cologne this was not the expectation. None of those women expected or deserved this to happen.

 

 

feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

50 Voices Verses 1: Cosby Finally Charged

After more than 50 women testifying and many waving their rights to anonymity, Bill Cosby has FINALLY been charged with the sexual assault of a women almost a decade ago. 

In the last year the comedian has had numerous chargers of solicitation, drugging and subsequent assault and rape leveled against him, and though more than 50 women have come forward to testify against him, Cosby still maintains his innocence and had even began a defamation lawsuit against several of the women testifying against him.

cosbycover

The women involved, and those following this case with baited breath, are undoubtedly between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The rock being Cosby: a wealthy and famous man with a vast network of support and aid to back him and the money required to ensure a smooth ride. The hard place: the American law system and an ill-placed Statute of Limitations which renders most of these women’s experiences and suffering invalid.

In between the rock and the hard place is the environment these women inhabit: patriarchal society, where women’s experiences, their histories and their voices are misrepresented and distorted to suit the status quo. There is the age old mantra: she was asking for it. There is the stereotype: she’s a gold digger. There is the ever-present fall back: women are liars/crazy/jealous and everything in between which frees men from the accusation.

Here is the simple truth of this case: over fifty women have presented themselves as victims of Bill Cosby’s privilege, his disregard for human life and choice, his perception of the female body as an object for his consumption and pleasure. In a word, his entitlement to women.

More than fifty women have cried “wolf”, only to watch that wolf be welcomed back among the flock of sheep with open arms. These women’s experiences – like so many others – have been deemed invalid against the claim of one man and disregarded in the eyes of the law.

Andrea Constand claims Cosby assaulted her in 2004. Nearly a decade later, with thanks to Constsand and this unfortunate sisterhood of women, this wolf will finally be charged for his crimes against women.

These voices will be heard.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

feminism, gender, rape

Fox News: “Stop Victim Blaming”

victim blaming

Fox News has never been especially diplomatic or liberal in their reports… but these statements reach a new level of horror:

Fox News hosts Stacey Dash and Andrea Tantaros shared their thoughts on campus sexual assault last week — saying “good girls” avoid frat parties, and women who are raped are “bad girls” who “need to be kept away from liquor and boys.”

The myth of the victim as responsible for their own rape is a horrific one. Secondary victimisation for victims is an issue which threatens countless women and men who are raped/sexually assaulted. These issues need to be raised in the public consciousness and news casters need to be aware of how their words affect rape survivors.

Countless media and authorities figures continue to emphasise the victim as responsible party and as ‘asking for it.’ These rape myths need to be stymied. The damage has already been done for many but their are countless more who need our support and emphathy when they speak out about these horrors.

Join and spread the petition against these acts:

https://www.facebook.com/PlannedParenthoodAction?app_data=%7B%22organization_id%22%3A1330%2C%22referring_action_id%22%3A6231%2C%22fb_referrer_uid%22%3Anull%2C%22source%22%3Anull%7D&v=app_335652843138116

Educate yourself and others on the fallacy of “rape myths” and their affects.

Be better than those an Fox News.

abuse, advice, domestic violence, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght, women

1 is 2 Many

Watch this minute one video in which President Obama, Vice President Biden, Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, Dulé Hill, Seth Meyers and Steve Carell as they advocate an end to sexual assault.

The video, in a change from many mainstream reviews of assault and rape, places the responsibility of stopping rape on men – on the rapists and assaulters, not the victim:

 

‘If I saw it happening, I’d never blame her, I’d help her.’

and encourages people to be understanding and supportive of victims.

The video was published by the White House and includes a selection of prominent male figures, encouraging men to take responsibility for the rape epidemics all over the world.

 


 

 

In the video about, both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden discuss the Council on Women and Girls and their joint desire to end violence against women.

President Obama says that as a government, and as a nation, we have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Biden, who has long been an advocate for women’s protection from rape and violence, in the video states:

Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right, no man has the right to raise a hand to a women for any reason, any reason, other than self-defense.

Furthermore, Biden encourages that women no longer be blamed for their assault; he correlates the survivors of rape and assault with those who have been robbed or attacked, and emphasises that these men and women are never asked questions such as ‘what were you wearing’, ‘did you cause this’ etc.

President Obama’s depiction of sexual assault and rape is empathetic, racial, ethnically, and sexually diverse in its understanding, and emotionally sympathetic towards survirours and their families struggles. Moreover, Obama highlights the severe self-doubt and emotional baggage associated with the aftermath of rape and how this can affect much more than just the individual:

It has to matter to all of us, because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted and maybe starts withdrawing, we’re all deprived of their full potential. When a young women drops out of school after being attacked, that’s not just a loss for her, that’s a loss for our country.

What is evident here, is that President Obama is implying that the men and women who commit assault or rape damage more than just one individual life, couple, or family, but – furthermore – damage the nation in which they belong, to his great “shame.”

Vice President Biden emphasises:

No man has a right to go beyond no.

advice, feminism, feminist, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght

Kitesting Could Prevent Rape

Trigger warnings: Rape, sexual assault, rape schedule.

 

MIT graduate Stephan Boyer’s new online service, Kitestring, could prevent your rape.

That might seem shocking. Taking action to prevent your own rape, but it’s something women are expected to do almost every day in little ways – don’t walk down that laneway, don’t go out alone after dark, don’t drink too much – Kitestring, however, is an encouraging take on protecting yourself and taking safety into your own hands.

Boyer himself stated:

I founded Kitestring to keep my girlfriend safe

And maybe in this case, it’s less about the rape schedule and blaming women’s corporeality, than about feeling safe and creating a new safe environment. Especially if, say, you know you’ll be out alone or in a dangerous neighbourhood and you want to take that extra unit of safety into your own hands – without literally taking a weapon – you can just take your mobile.

The service works just as shown above – detail your outing/plans and Kitestring will check in with you at an agreed time. Should you fail to reply, the service will forward on an emergency message to a contact, as shown below.

The premise is simple, and with so many pointless – MyLighter and Seismometer (seriously!?) – and slightly frivilous – Snapchat and Confide – apps and websites available, it’s a welcomed change for women and men who do feel they need the increased security.

There’s always the heightened concern that women are taking the happenstance of their rapes into their own hands. The rape schedule dictates how women should avoid sexual assaults, and frequently, therein, create a vicious circle of self-blame and guilt to which women already dealing with the severe difficulty of rape should not be exposed.

On the other side of the story, however, are the anxious-prone individuals or perhaps those who’ve experienced an assault in the past. If Kitestring helps put this group at ease, allowing them to socialise, communicate, commute, or just exist a little easier then my fingers are crossed that it truly does make a difference.

domestic violence, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, violence, women

Violence Against Women: An EU Wide Survey

The first EU wide survey, by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights, has revealed some startling statistics regarding violence against women.

The research revealed that approximately eight per cent of Irish women experienced sexual violence since the age of 15; while the European average was 11 per cent. In terms of the Irish-based statistics, almost half (48 per cent) of Irish women experience sexual violence from a non-partner and, moreover, decided not to approach the authorities or any kind of support service afterwards. Two-thirds of these women emphasized that they did not go to authorities/support services because they felt prepared to handle the experience themselves or because the prepetrator was a friend/family member. 

Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland Fiona Neary said:

This survey confirms that sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive and pandemic across Europe.

Yet, since 2009 funding for rape crisis frontline services has been cut by 16.5 per cent with further cuts planned for 2014. Neary continued: 

These cuts were to a sector that was already chronically under resourced and have been so unevenly distributed that in fact the centre with the lowest funding was cut by over 30%.

The visualisations below speak volumes:

atAGlance-VAW-1--Physical--sexual-and-psychological-violence-EU27-EU27-EN-740.entitled

 

Emotional response to the most serious incident of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15:

crossCountry-VAW-AllSubset-01--All-DVS_B01-EU27-EU27-EN-740.entitled

Experiencing any form of stalking from the age of 15:

euBars-VAW-AllSubset-01--All-DVS_D01-EN-740.entitled

 

In general, how common do think that violence against women is in your country:

crossCountry-VAW-AllSubset-01--All-DVS_H01-EU27-EU27-EN-740.entitled

Find the complete research here: http://fra.europa.eu/DVS/DVT/vaw.php