Archive | October, 2015

Paedophilia and hyper-sexualisation: girls will be attacked because of what they’re wearing, right?

30 Oct

Bikini Barbie

 

A few days ago I read this piece in New Matilda by philosopher Dr Mark Manolopoulos on the coexistence of an accepted hyper-sexualistion of children, and strongly condemned paedophilia. The fact that the former is condoned while the latter is condemned suggests a societal hypocrisy that is shameful, is the crux of his argument.

Although Dr Manolopoulos stresses that he makes no correlation between the two, the fact that he situates their coexistence in the realm of the hypocritical and shameful strongly suggests that he assumes a connection of some kind. Without a connection there is no hypocrisy, and there isn’t any shame either.

The first question is one we’ve been debating on Sheep for a few years now: are children hyper-sexualised?

There is only one, extremely narrow representation of female sexuality that is imposed on young girls. The grotesque image heading this text is an example of an ideal of physical sexuality that promises gratification to any male who is attracted in spite of, or because of, its lack of subtlety.

It’s a mainstream wet dream. Consequently, many women strive to emulate the impossible plasticity of the Barbie doll, and some women inflict the same struggle on their daughters in a ghastly mother-daughter bonding that to this observer, does not speak of hyper-sexualisation as much as it does of a desperate desire to be desired, and for the daughters to vicariously gratify the adult woman’s need.

A man or a woman who looks at a child in “sexy” adult clothing and make up and thinks, gawd, she’s so sexy, has something terribly awry with their perceptions and desires. The child is still a child, albeit a dressed-up child, and the adult who cannot tell the difference between dress-ups and the real is sexualising the child rather than seeing the child, and needs urgent assistance.

Can anyone in their right mind really look at a dressed-up child and see her as a sex object?

How many mothers who dress their daughters “sexily” are actually pimping them out to paedophiles? Practically none, I’d guess.

There is no proven correlation between the manner in which young girls are dressed, and their vulnerability to paedophiles. If there was, Dr Manolopoulos might have an argument, but there isn’t, and he doesn’t. Quite apart from the fact that many victims of child sexual assault are boys, who aren’t dressed in anything other than ordinary clothes.

The implication of the doctor’s thesis is the same old same old: girls and women will be attacked because of what we’re wearing. Paedophiles aren’t responsible for their crimes: little girls looking “sexy” provoked them, they couldn’t resist, and their mothers are to blame.

His remedy is, yes you guessed it, ban things.

Personally, I wouldn’t choose to dress my daughter, if I had one, in a manner that is Barbie sexual, but then I don’t dress myself like that either, except once I was in a burlesque show and that was fun.

Blaming paedophilia, or any sexual assault at all on the so-called “hyper- sexualisation” of the victim is yet again shifting the responsibility from the perpetrator, where it belongs, to the victim, where it doesn’t. This is the most shameful hypocrisy society urgently needs to address, but how much easier to demand the banning of clothing and music videos.

We don’t get raped because we wiggle our hips, no matter what our age. We get raped because rapists rape us. How about society tells rapists not to do that, and leaves us to dress ourselves and our daughters however we wish, without having to fear for our safety?

I don’t like this so ban it for me.

27 Oct

nospeech_fullsize

 

I don’t know how it came to this, but my post defending Germaine Greer’s proposed lecture at Cardiff University has caused me to be described as transphobic.

Given the current circumstances of my life I am strangely unmoved by this accusation, however what does cause me some annoyance is that it seems to have become increasingly difficult to say, I do not agree with this person’s views on a subject but I do support his or her right to express them, and I welcome the ensuing debate.

As I understand it, Greer wasn’t intending to speak about transgender people. However, because she has spoken negatively on this topic there is a view that she is not, apparently, permitted to speak on any topic at all.

The list of topics on which Greer has spoken negatively and with abrasion is very very long. It is this characteristic and dare I name it, talent, that provoked a revolution amongst women decades ago, and were it not for Greer, among other equally provocative feminists, we wouldn’t be getting our own mortgages and living as fluidly as we are, even though we have still a very long way to go.

With thanks to Jo Tamar, I’m linking to this explanatory post on the complexities of changing gender. I was vastly irritated by the tone, but if you can get past that it’s worth a look.

And this post, Who’s afraid of Germaine Greer, is also worthy of a read.

Accusations of transphobia, like all name-calling, serve to distract from the essence of my argument, which is that banning speech rarely results in a positive outcome, whilst engaging in debate can be creative and productive. It ought to go without saying that I don’t include hate and inflammatory speech, but I know it won’t go without saying so I’m saying it.

Students at Cardiff University wanted the authorities to ban Greer’s lecture. The University refused to do this, to its credit. Students could have, and should have, taken responsibility for expressing their disagreement and displeasure with Greer in any number of ways: boycotting, back-turning, protesting, writing, and speaking, however, demanding that authorities do their oppositional work for them was both idle and cowardly. I don’t like this so ban it for me. Well, ok, but don’t complain when you find yourself in a fascist state.

 

 

 

In defence of Germaine

25 Oct

Greer

 

Germaine Greer.  Now banned from speaking on a university campus because her views on transgender women are perceived as hostile, and transphobic.

What Greer says is that she doesn’t believe a man who is surgically and hormonally transformed into a female, is as much of a woman as are those of us born with female genitalia.

If you think, as do I, that gender is a social construct, Greer’s argument is “problematic.” If you’re born with a vagina, a certain set of protocols come into play. Likewise if you’re born with a penis. The concept of “woman” is a social construct, and gender is a performance.

Be that as it may, where Greer is right is that the experience of being constructed as a woman is entirely different from the experience of being constructed as a man. In that sense, a male who undertakes sexual reassignment in adulthood has not been raised as a female construct, and so is lacking in that experience.

Where Greer is wrong is in claiming there is such a thing as being really a woman, or really a man: it is impossible to separate the sex from the gender bias in our current social arrangements, and conclude that we are really anything.

For some reason I can’t fathom, Glamour magazine decided to award Caitlin Jenner (formerly Bruce) its woman of the year accolade, a move that has further provoked Greer and caused her to escalate her irritation of transgender people. This may yet lead to the cancellation of more speaking engagements.

And for mine, this is the most scandalous thing of all. Not that a man might believe sexual reassignment makes him a woman. Not that a woman may disagree with his perspective. But that people believe it is acceptable to ban Greer from speaking because she has a particular point of view on this.

If your position cannot tolerate dissent, it is a very weak position. Greer is not advocating violence against transgender people. Greer is not marginalising transgender people. She is expressing her opinion, and there’s a huge difference between expressing an opinion, and advocating violence.

I think her opinion is based on a false premise, nonetheless she has every right to hold it, and anybody has the right, and even the responsibility, to challenge her. When debate is shut down we’re all the worse off, and the notion that we have no right to speak if we don’t agree with a particular perspective is completely abhorrent.

 

Elite feminism. Enough, already.

24 Oct

feminism_small-003

 

Ever since I read this piece by Clementine Ford on this venture by Roxane Gay, I’ve been struggling with the reaction both posts have provoked in me.

Gay is calling for submissions for a collection of essays she’s pulling together written by women who have experienced sexual harassment, assault and abuse. The aim of the collection is to expose the way women are often told it’s not that bad after we’ve experienced one or all of the above, using the survivors’ own words. As Gay puts it:

Not That Bad is an opportunity for those whose voices were stolen from them, to reclaim and tell their stories. This anthology will explore what it is like to navigate rape culture as shaped by the identities we inhabit.

Contributing to this anthology is a chance to own your own narrative with all of the complexity of reality without shame or condescension. Because too many of us have lived this truth, there is no one way to tell this story.

Being told, it’s not that bad after sexual violation of any kind is a way for the culture to minimise the experience, and it’s also, I believe, a way in which others attempt to comfort us, albeit misguided. As a comforter, it’s not that bad is worse than useless, really.

However, my first thought on reading both posts was, this is a very exclusive offer to a relatively small demographic, and will exclude many survivors who aren’t academics or academically inclined.

Here’s a list of suggested topics:

Potential Topics (a brief list, not a prescription)

Testimonies of what “not that bad” looks like
Critical examinations of rape culture
What it’s like to negotiate rape culture as a man
How women diminish the sexual violence and aggression they experience and the effects of doing so
What “not that bad” looks like in popular culture—film, television, and music
Resisting rape culture
Combating sexual harassment, street harassment and cat-calling
How sexual harassment and violence erode women’s privacy

I’m an academic, and used a great deal of my experience of childhood sexual abuse as the basis for an interrogation  of violence and power in my PhD. So I’m not complaining about being excluded from the project by its frames of reference and the language in which they are couched. I’m also very aware of the potential helpfulness of a theoretical framework through which a survivor can view her experience, if she is so inclined.

So why is my reaction to this proposal exasperation and anger?

The women whose essays will be chosen for this anthology are not likely to be women without a voice. Indeed, a woman will need to have found a voice, and an educated one, in order to qualify for inclusion. There is nothing innately wrong with this: women with educated voices suffer sexual violations of all kinds, and there is no argument for silencing us.

Yet I want a qualifier on this anthology. It isn’t simply an opportunity for women whose voices were stolen to reclaim them. It’s an opportunity for a very select group of women, who have voices that fulfil the editor’s criteria, to publicly own their narratives. It ought to be owned as such.

My irritation is with a feminism that speaks of “women” when what is actually meant is a certain category of women, to the inevitable exclusion of others. This feminism, far from challenging the culture actually props it up, in its embrace of social hierarchies rather than its contestation.  So we measure the advancement of women by the number of us who sit on boards, achieve the status of CEO, and succeed in a patriarchal system.

Feminism, for me, is about contesting that system. A feminism that addresses itself to a particular category of women and does not own that, is a feminism that is patriarchal in its performance. It’s based on an assumption that other categories of women aren’t as significant, or that all women are the same.

There’s nothing wrong with Gay’s project in itself. The problem is with its claim to offer “women” a voice and an opportunity for ownership of our narratives. It doesn’t. It offers women who can intellectualise our violations, and write about them, the opportunity to be heard.

When I was sexually assaulted last year I saw a counsellor, and one of the things I said to her repeatedly was that I didn’t understand my reaction to this event, as I had dealt with so much as a consequence of childhood sexual abuse, to the extent that I’d based a PhD on the topic. I expected myself to know what was going on in me, and deal with it far better than I am.

Ah, she said. It’s one thing to understand events intellectually. But your body remembers. Dealing with it intellectually isn’t all there is to do to own the experience. Traumatic memories, ancient and modern, are not seen off by the intellect. It’s but one aspect of the situation.

So, while I could write a piece that would probably qualify for Gay’s anthology on navigating rape culture as shaped by the identity I inhabit (except that I’ve written this and likely disqualified myself) something in me, as a recently raped woman, baulks at this language and this framing.

I think feminists who practise elite feminism ought to expect resistance, because they are likely not respecting the existence of all women. It is, really, quite unacceptable to use the term “women” in such an unqualified manner when what you truthfully mean is: only women who meet the criteria need apply.

 

 

 

 

Hockey, Lawler, Jackson: the self aggrandisement of the the mediocre

22 Oct

Folie a deux

 

On Monday’s episode of Four Corners, we witnessed the destructive power of excessive self-belief as expressed in the folie à deux performed for us by Kathy Jackson and Michael Lawler.

I don’t think it’s  all that unusual for some couples to bond on the basis of the beliefs of one or another of them. I’ve known several whose raison d’être is one party’s (usually in heterosexual relationships the man’s) perceived talents, ambitions, goals and characteristics, all of which are fiercely supported by their partner, to the exclusion of clarity of mind and thought. Shared delusions form the basis of many a partnership.

The Lawler/Jackson combo is an exception to the usual, given that in their case, the man has almost entirely capitulated to the female’s fantasy of herself as noble, self-sacrificial and as a consequence, persecuted. Indeed, Lawler admitted that others may view him as “cunt struck,” a term with which I was entirely unfamiliar before Monday evening, but one which I am as taken with as I was when I first heard the term “rat fucker” from the moist and fleshy lips of former PM and excessive self-believer, Kevin Rudd.

I personally don’t give a rat’s rooted arse what happens to either Lawler or Jackson, and if any man or woman fawned over me as did Lawler over Jackson, I’d tell them to fuck off and get out of my face, but there you are, I’m ungrateful and like my boundaries.

What is most disturbing about the Four Corners intimate expose of the couple is that two such banal and emotionally immature individuals can bring so much chaos and grief to so many others. I mean, if you’re going to be done over by someone, at least let that someone have a bit of class. To be done over by people entirely lacking in any kind of calibre adds insult to injury, for mine.

Which brings me nicely to Joe Hockey’s valedictory speech. Talk about self-belief, or rather self-aggrandisement. The man is convinced, like his former boss Tony Abbott, that he leaves behind him a significant and worthwhile legacy. Colour me smashed Italian marble table.

All in all, I weep for the mediocrity of those who would be our leaders. We deserve better. Or perhaps we don’t. Perhaps we are all in a bubble of self-delusion, thinking ourselves greater than we can ever be. Perhaps our leaders accurately reflect the self-importance and entitlement of a nation that increasingly considers itself above the trials and tribulations of the rest of the world, for no reason other than it just is.

 

 

Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.

21 Oct

Chris Kenny

 

It’s profoundly concerning that Abyan, the Somali refugee currently living on Nauru and victim of a rape that left her pregnant, was forbidden to see her lawyer and denied adequate counselling for her trauma and her plight.

But now we hear that Rupert Murdoch’s minion Chris Kenny of The Australian was not only the first journalist in eighteen months to be granted a visa to enter Nauru in the last few days, he was also escorted by local police to Abyan’s accommodation, where he confronted her about her situation.

Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs has been denied a visa to visit Nauru, so Kenny is indeed privileged.

Kenny’s first account of his interview with Abyan, which you can access by clicking the link on Kenny’s tweet in The Guardian report above, seems to contradict Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claims that Abyan refused an abortion and was therefore returned to the island, and instead substantiates her own claims that she did not refuse an abortion, she asked for some time, and appropriate help. Neither the time nor the appropriate help was forthcoming, and she was deported after being refused contact with her lawyer.

The likelihood of us ever knowing the truth of the situation is slim, however, no matter how you look at it, Abyan has been treated in a most despicable manner by both governments, and their agents.

Dutton has belatedly diarised appointments allegedly made for Abyan, with and without interpreters. However, there is no way at all of verifying Dutton’s claims that these appointments were in fact made, and that Abyan was offered the medical attention he claims.

I have no idea why Abyan was then subjected to further traumatisation by having to endure Chris Kenny’s pursuit of her after she was returned to Nauru.  But everywhere I look in this situation I see an extremely vulnerable young woman, stripped of all power and agency, subjected to the interrogation and control of powerful men intent on furthering their own interests. The demonstration of male power & dominance over women that the Abyan story illustrates makes my blood run cold.

In his latest report from Nauru, Kenny stresses that Abyan has not reported her rape to the Nauruan police. The implication is clear: if she didn’t report it, perhaps it didn’t happen.

There are a staggering number of sexual assaults in this developed country that go unreported. The majority of rapes that are reported don’t make it into court. Reporting sexual assault to police is a harrowing experience, even when the police concerned are highly trained and care about you, and share your language group. I had a sexual assault counsellor with me when I did it a few months ago, as well as evidence, and a great deal of loving support. With all that, it was an horrific experience from which I still haven’t recovered. Reporting sexual assault if you are a young, pregnant Somali refugee woman condemned to life on Nauru for the indefinite future, must be an almost impossibly daunting prospect.

And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.

And let’s not forget that Dutton only agreed to offer Abyan an abortion in the first place because public agitation forced him to.

There is a recent pattern of unrelenting traumatisation of Abyan by men who have descended on her, for one reason or another, like vultures on a wounded animal. Most of them are white and middle class. Their actions are validated by an entirely brutal government policy that condemned Abyan to Nauru in the first place, a policy initiated by Julia Gillard and Nicolo Roxon. I wonder what these two women now think of where their policy has led us, or if they consider it at all.

An aside: a link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School on why the “leaning in” brand of feminism actually means leaning on other women. Quote:

For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies.

Yes. Indeed.

In an uneasy corollary with Abyan’s situation Nauru is a subordinate state (read feminised) dominated by and dependent on Australia. Australia sends women and children it does not want to Nauru, where they are raped and abused. Australia, however, claims this is none of our business as Nauru is a sovereign state and we cannot intervene in its legal system, or what passes for a legal system in that lawless nation.

White, privileged, and apparently having suffered nothing more traumatic than being the butt (sorry) of a Chaser’s joke concerning sex with a dog, Chris Kenny feels he is entitled to pursue and interrogate the traumatised Somali refugee because, well, he is white, male, privileged, and works for Rupert Murdoch. He has no expertise in the matter of trauma and sexual trauma. If he had the slightest idea, and any compassion, he would not have subjected Abyan to his inquiries, and he certainly wouldn’t have arrived at her home with a police escort.

The bodies that matter are firstly, white. Then they are male. Then they are the bodies of women of calibre. They are bodies that belong to our tribe. I think, almost every day, what would the man who sexually assaulted me do if his daughter had been treated as he treated me? He observed more than once that I was “not of his tribe,” a comment I found ridiculous at the time, but with hindsight I see that his perception of me as other allowed him to behave towards me as if I was less vulnerable, less hurtable than women who were “of his tribe.”

Multiply this a million times when the victim is a Somali refugee abandoned by Australia to fend for herself in Nauru, and it isn’t hard to understand why there were difficulties reporting the rape.

The headline “Rape Refugee” says it all. Written on the body. Written on the body that does not matter, by the body that does.

 

 

 

Turnbull’s actions should carry a trigger warning for all women who have survived sexual violence

17 Oct

Audre Lorde Two

 

At a time when we are struggling in this country with the death of two women every week from male-perpetrated domestic violence, and the physical, emotional and psychological injury of thousands more women. At a time when we are struggling with the lifelong scarring of children who witness this violence.

At a time when we are struggling in this country with the sexual abuse of children by men who have authority over them, both historical and current, children whose lives are ruined by predatory males in positions of power.

At a time in this country when we are only beginning to truthfully acknowledge the criminal damage done to women and children by men who abuse and torture and murder us.

At this time, our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his robotic axeman Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (who used to work as a copper investigating sex crimes, yes, think about that) choose as their scapegoat and human sacrifice to the racist subhumans who comprise the demographic that keeps them in power, a raped and pregnant S0mali refugee.

There will hardly be a woman amongst us today who has survived sexual assault, domestic violence, and childhood sexual abuse whose trauma will not be triggered by the treatment of Abyan by Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton.

We will flashback to the times when we cried out into a vast silence for someone to help us, and for most of us, nobody listened.

We will flashback to the terror, the helplessness, the powerless we experienced when a man more powerful than us exercised his privilege and presumed entitlement over our bodies, minds and spirits.

We will remember our impotence. The sense that nothing about ourselves belongs to us, but has been colonised by a male invader because he can, because he wants to and because he has no appreciation of or care for our humanity.

In their treatment of Abyan, Turnbull and Dutton have triggered the memories and the rage of thousands upon thousands of Australian women who have historical and current experiences of the brutality, contempt and sense of entitlement perpetrating men both feel and act out in their violence towards us.

Turnbull and Dutton have given their tacit support to sexual assault and violence against women by their actions in this matter. They may believe they are acting only against one Somali refugee. But they aren’t. They are acting against every woman who has suffered and survived, and they are acting against every woman and girl who can imagine what it is to be violated by a man, and is yet to be so violated.

When they sacrificed Abyan on the altar of their political ambition, they sacrificed all of us.

Oh, brave new world, that has such vile men in it.

 

 

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