Tag Archives: Feminism

On Hanson’s claims that women lie about sexual assault

14 Nov
Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

 

My default attitude to Pauline Hanson is that my life is too short to spend much time contemplating her, however, an interview on Sunrise (no, I’m not linking) in which she gloated about the Trump victory and sputteringly claimed that women who accuse him of sexual assault are liars and women in general should toughen up when a man, uninvited, strokes our breasts and grabs our pudendas enraged me to the extent that I have to address it.

Aside: Sunrise enrages me as well, as does all breakfast television: who the hell wants to start the day with overly-cosmeticised women in tube frocks, and self-congratulatory men in nifty suits cackling & exclaiming, not me, I’d rather listen to the parrots & wattle birds brawling outside my window, they make more sense. Somebody thoughtfully sent me a clip of the Hanson debacle. It’s the only thing that’s consistently distracted me from Leonard Cohen up and dying.

Hanson articulates (?) a distressingly common attitude by some women towards claims of sexual assault, an attitude I confess confounds me. Their sympathies default to the accused man, innocent until found guilty as of course he is, but here’s the thing: so is his accuser. It’s quite something to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault when you weren’t present, have limited knowledge of the circumstances, and are basing your judgment entirely on your feelings for/impressions of the accused, and/or dislike of the woman.

In the event that you are wrong, you’ve further harmed an already seriously harmed woman and added to the entrenched narrative that women lie about being sexually assaulted. That narrative is challenged in the link, and it’s well worth a read.

I recently watched the BBC Channel Four series National Treasure, inspired by the ghastly revelations that celebrities such as Rolf Harris and Jimmy Saville sexually assaulted and molested women and children during their highly successful careers. Paul Finchley, played by Robbie Coltrane, is a celebrity comedian charged with the historical rape of a minor, and sexual assault of another woman. Marie, played by Julie Walters, is his blindly devoted (and controlling) wife, who has long since come to terms with his many infidelities on the condition that he tells her about them.

Finchley’s two accusers are torn to shreds by the defence counsel, demonstrating why so many women do not pursue action against their attackers. However, what for me is most riveting in a series whose every moment is absolutely riveting, is the gradual admission by Marie to herself that her husband has “many layers,” his most obvious being that in which he plays the role of a harmless, loving husband and father, as well as a much-loved public figure.

With great and admirable courage, Marie slowly allows herself to see what has always been present in Paul, but brilliantly disguised: the sexually predatory, self-obsessed, emotionally immature man who believes, if he even bothers to think about it, in his entitlement to gratify his needs and desires whenever and however he sees fit.

(This acting in this series is beyond superb, btw. I haven’t recounted much of the story, in case you haven’t seen it. If you have any doubts about the complexities of sexual assault, this series will go a long way towards unpacking the life-shattering effects those complexities have on everyone involved.)

The point is that even wives and girlfriends of sexual predators can live in ignorance and denial of their partners’ “hidden layers,” so how does Pauline Hanson or anyone else know if a woman is lying about a man sexually assaulting her?   Of course she doesn’t, and what’s so deeply troubling is the need by some women to deny the experiences of other women, when it comes to the actions of men.

Hanson is the current poster girl for this attitude, in her ludicrous defence of Trump, and her vicious attacks on women who’ve made claims against him. Hanson is a member of the Australian parliament. She has a platform and she is inspired by Trump’s victory.  So, much as I resent spending even part of my morning writing about her, I can’t ignore her poisonous views. They have to be challenged. She has to be called.

It is never, ever acceptable to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault until one knows, beyond a reasonable doubt, if she is.  It is never, ever acceptable to base one’s judgement on dislike of her, or affection for the man she’s accused. Until we as a society get past defaulting to the assumption of false claims there will be no justice for women, and perpetrators will remain free and unaccountable.

 

 

 

 

Women in a Trumpian world

11 Nov

trump-women

 

World markets took a frightful tumble when the US President-Elect turned out to be Donald Trump, something I found temporarily mystifying as you’d think they’d be elated at the prospect of a billionaire business man in the White House, what could possibly go wrong?

However, after months of repulsive orations President-Elect Trump managed a nano second of “statesmanlike” rhetoric, made possible, I believe, by the euphoric release of claiming victory after the mounting excitement of witnessing his electoral college votes accrue to the point of certainty.

Buoyed by this split second of Trumpian civility, the markets rallied. I’m guessing we can expect these wild fluctuations to become a regular thing over the years of Donald’s incumbency, given the man’s well-documented volatility.

All well and good for the markets, but what about the ladies?

Only moments after it became apparent Trump was on the road to victory, a marauding mob of young males in a Sydney University bar began chanting “Grab them by the pussy that’s how we do it.” There have since been many reports on social media of women in the US being intimidated by white males, inspired by Trump’s advice to treat women like shit.

There are hundreds of Trump quotes on women, including lengthy extracts from his interviews with Howard Stern, and they all demonstrate ways in which to treat women like shit.

Trump’s elevation to leader of the western world gives license to men who want to treat women like shit. This attitude was no barrier to him achieving his goal, and it confirms what we’ve long suspected: women are not believed to be as fully human as are white men. We are allowed to do more than we used to be allowed to do but how we are regarded and treated is not an issue important enough for many (including women) to consider when electing a president.

And whatever gains we’ve made, we’ve made because they allowed us to. Let’s not forget that.

(Trump also thought Muslims should be treated like shit, an opinion shared by enough Americans to be of little consequence in the electoral contest. However, I understand his master plan to ban all Muslim immigration has vanished from his website which must feel like a betrayal to Pauline Hanson and George Christensen, but there you go.)

The western world just became a much more dark and difficult habitat for women. It would be my hope that our own government will stand up for us against the new president’s misogyny. And then I look at our government and I see there is absolutely no hope of that.

We have a very long way to go before women are recognised as equal in western culture. We are blocked by the men who are threatened by equality, and who will take the opportunities legitimised for them by Trump to express their fear and hatred in university bars, on the street, in the privacy of their homes, in workplaces, in the world. Such men are unrelievedly ignorant and stupid; overtly and covertly brutal. They’ll be celebrating right now, as their leader prepares to move into the White House.

Trump’s ascension will have a ripple effect in every western country. We have already seen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shamefully search for similarities between himself and Donald. We are both business men, he said, and the new president will be pragmatic, as business men always are.

However, a true pragmatist would work to establish equality, because a true pragmatist would instinctively grasp the immense gains awaiting us in equality, rather than the abject losses of discrimination that are currently our established norms.

A true pragmatist would refuse to countenance the incomprehensible loss to society of treating women like shit. But we don’t have true pragmatists in charge. We have the men who treat women like shit.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies, & up your flaps. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humour and class

5 Nov
Only a bird in a gilded cage...

Only a bird in a gilded cage…

 

My grandfather, who along with my grandmother raised me until I was seven, started work in a North Yorkshire coal mine when he was thirteen.

He was exceptionally smart and exceptionally funny, and it was from him I learnt a profound disdain for the preenings of wealth and power, and the sense of entitlement generally apparent in the political and ruling class. He also shared with me his contempt for the bourgeoisie who tirelessly aspire to the privileges of their betters, and act as their agents in the control of lower middle and working class rabble.

For my grandfather, these contempts were instinctive and visceral, rather than acquired from education. He loathed pretension of any kind, and his mockery was ribald and witty.

So it came naturally to me when I saw these two of images of mining magnate Gina Rinehart (First Lady of the Birdcage, as some media put it) to guffaw from the gut:

Pride

Pride

 

Before the fall

Before the fall

 

I shared my mirth on Twitter and it wasn’t long before I was set upon by people telling me I wasn’t nice, and it isn’t nice to laugh at another’s misfortune.

Well, I’ve never pretended to be nice (I would rather be described as satanic than “nice,” that insipid word that damns with faint praise) and my contempt for Rinehart is such that I felt not the slightest twinge of conscience laughing at the image of her misfortune.

Had I been present, though I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would be in the “Birdcage” (what the actual fuck is that, by the way, I loathe aviaries, what kind of twisted individual enjoys looking at imprisoned creatures with heinously stunted lives, the metaphorical implications of the term are entirely negative what is wrong with the ruling elite entirely rhetorical question don’t feel you have to answer) had I been present at Gina’s Fall, I would have called an ambulance and waited with her till it arrived because no one should be left alone in pain and shock, but as I wasn’t, as I was only looking at a photo and I knew she’d suffered no ill-effects, I laughed my fucking head off.

One anonymous man told me it was “undignified” for anyone to laugh, and I told him I couldn’t comment because I’m not the dignity police and he said I was “gaslighting” him and he totally has absolutely no fucking clue about what that term actually means.

There can be little more bourgeois than rushing to defend the ruling and political class against the humour of those they exploit. It’s the Stockholm syndrome: the defenders can’t believe in their own exploitation.

I finally lost my temper with the Twitter twats, and reminded them that Ms Rinehart would metaphorically cut all their throats in a nano second if she believed that act might bring her even a smidgen of gain. You don’t have to lower yourself to her standards, somebody replied.

I am hard put to understand this equivalence. Laughing at an image is in any way comparable to the economic and political manipulation of entire classes of people in the service of personal wealth and power? Get a grip.

The ribald mockery of the political and ruling elite is an act of subversion, as my grandfather instinctively knew though he was unlikely to use that word. It was left to his granddaughter to go to university and acquire the discourse that gave language and context to what her grandfather had taught her to know in her gut.

There is also the matter of gender, in this instance mine. Being a woman, I endure expectations of niceness generally not imposed upon those who bear their genitals on the outside of their bodies. I had an answer for that: You can stick your fucking expectations of fucking niceness up your fucking clackers, I wrote. That touched a nerve, and got a lot of retweets and favourites.

The political and ruling class are, in general, ludicrous as well as dangerous. The bourgeoisie who protect and support them in the hope of favours and privilege are no less ludicrous, and no less dangerous. One of the few ways available for the exploited and controlled to express dissatisfaction is taking the piss. There’s also violent revolution and the tumbrels, but I don’t think that time has arrived yet.

 

 

Dear Mr Turnbull. With regard to respect.

29 Oct
Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

 

For quite some time now, you’ve been speaking in mellifluous tone on how lack of respect for women is at the root of violence towards us, with particular reference to domestic and family violence.

There are times when listening to your respect defence I imagine I’m in a courtroom. Your political rhetoric is in the nature of a legal argument, designed to convince, persuade and coax a jury into accepting your narrative, and so extend leniency to your client.

Perhaps I might stretch the analogy and describe your client in this instance as The Perpetrator of Domestic Violence. Your Honour, he is not a bad man, he merely needs to be taught how to respect women, at least sufficiently not to kill them.

I assume you believe that you are respectful of women. I don’t believe you are. I believe that to be respectful of anyone requires not only rhetoric but action, that is, doing everything you can for them when you see they are being mistreated by others. Failure to do this is, in your terms, disrespectful. In mine, it is criminally neglectful.

Action has a two-fold effect, Mr Turnbull. It assists the woman under attack, and it demonstrates to the perpetrator how respect is  a practice as well as a theory.

You are in a unique position to walk your talk in the matter of respect, yet you seem to be running on the spot.

If you truly respected us you would make funding available for the frontline services we so desperately need to save our lives, our health, our well-being and our children’s well-being when we are faced with a violent man who will harm us, and/or kill us. That would be respectful of you, Mr Turnbull.

That you continue to refuse to make this money available is an act of extreme disrespect for our well-being, and for our very lives.

If you truly believe that lack of respect for women is the root cause of the domestic violence perpetrated upon us, then as leader of this country you must demonstrate active respect for us, if you sincerely want to bring about change. Otherwise you are on the side of the perpetrator.

In depriving us of refuges, community legal centres and ongoing specialist services to assist us and our children to recover from unspeakable trauma, you are signalling to the perpetrators that they are free to continue their savagery, and not only are they  likely to get away with it, they are enabled by you to continue, as we have no avenues of escape.

If our government cannot respect us enough to provide the assistance we so desperately need, why should a perpetrator?

I think it was Leo Tolstoy who wrote that respect was invented to fill the place where love should be. His heroine, Anna Karenina, died at his authorial hand, like so many of us die at the hands of the men who control the narrative. You are the man who controls our narrative. You have the power to change our stories. All that is required of you is that you respect us enough to provide resources for our shelter, protection and assistance.

Until you can do that, Mr Turnbull, your rhetoric of respect is a lie, and you, sir, are a liar.

Sincerely, Survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid. An allegory.

28 Oct

the-little-mermaid

by Hans Christian Anderson.

Like her sisters before her, the Little Mermaid is only allowed to rise to the sea’s surface when she turns fifteen. It’s a rite of passage for mermaids, an experience that marks their coming of age.

When it’s the Little Mermaid’s turn to view the lands above the sea, she witnesses a handsome prince fall from his ship in a storm and saves him, carrying him in her arms to the shore where he lies unconscious. As the Little Mermaid watches from the ocean, a beautiful human approaches the Prince who awakens, and briefly glimpses the girl he believes has saved him.  The Little Mermaid is very sad that the Prince doesn’t know he owes his life to her, and realises she has fallen in love with him.

The Little Mermaid is very discontented when she returns to her ocean kingdom and her family. She asks her grandmother if she can be immortal, like humans, but her grandmother tells her no, the only way for her to attain immortality is to be loved by a man more than he loves his mother and father. Then the man must marry her, and when he does, his soul will enter her body as well as staying in his own, and the Little Mermaid will attain immortality from their shared soul.

I want to be a human, cries the Little Mermaid, and marry the Prince I saved from the sea! Then I will be with the one I love and he will give me my soul!

Don’t be silly, her grandmother remonstrates. We mermaids live far longer than humans anyway.

But the Little Mermaid will not be dissuaded. She visits the Sea Witch and asks for a spell. The Sea Witch pulls no punches, and tells the Little Mermaid she is both stupid and doomed. However, says the Sea Witch, it is possible to replace her mermaid’s tail with human legs and feet if she insists, but there’ll be a price.

I don’t care about the price, declares the Little Mermaid. If I can be with my Prince and he gives me my soul no price is too high.

All right, says the Sea Witch, I will make you a potion. When you drink it will be as if you are swallowing knives. Then you will lose your tail, and grow human legs and feet. But every time you walk it will be as if you are walking on beds of broken glass. The pain will be excruciating.

And there’s another thing, continues the Sea Witch. I want your beautiful voice as payment, so you won’t be able to either speak or sing.

Take it! cries the Little Mermaid. I want only to be with my beloved Prince and for us to share our soul!

And you can never come back, says the Sea Witch. You can never again be a mermaid. And if he marries another your heart will break and you will become sea foam on the crests of the waves.

Wait, says the Little Mermaid. What will the Prince love about me if I have no voice?

Your beautiful form, your graceful walk and your expressive eyes will enchain a man’s heart. You don’t need a voice, says the Sea Witch. Come here and I’ll cut out your little tongue.

The Little Mermaid loses her tail and grows human legs and feet. It is just as the Sea Witch has promised: every step she takes is agonising and she has no voice with which to cry out her pain. She finds her Prince and he is indeed enchanted with her. Most of all he loves to watch her dance and she performs for him endlessly even though her pain is excruciating. He isn’t at all concerned that she cannot speak: as long as he can look at her and watch her graceful movements.

But even though the Prince is enchanted, he has refused to marry anyone other than the beautiful girl he believes rescued him from the stormy seas. He has vowed to spend his life, if necessary, searching for her. The Little Mermaid is unable to tell the Prince it was she who saved him, so she continues to perform for him every day, and at night sleeps outside his door on a velvet cushion.

One day the Prince finds the girl he thinks saved his life, and in due course they marry. The Little Mermaid is broken-hearted. It is the end of her life, and she has not even gained an immortal soul. Then suddenly her sisters appear in the sea below the palace. They’ve brought her a knife, obtained from the Sea Witch with instructions that if she kills the Prince as he sleeps she can reclaim her tail, and become a mermaid again.

But the Little Mermaid cannot kill her Prince and so she dies and becomes sea foam on the crests of the waves.

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

The debate that told us all about about sexism. In case we weren’t sure.

11 Oct

trump_debate_stalk_rtr_img

 

It’s difficult to imagine a man finding himself in the same position as did Hillary Clinton in the second debate yesterday.

When did you last hear of a man being held responsible for his wife’s alleged sexual crimes?

When did you last hear of a man centre stage in a political  forum, with his wife’s alleged sexual victims as invited audience members?

Aside from Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes, and aside from Donald Trump’s lascivious objectification of women including his own daughter, yesterday’s debate in itself could not have more clearly enacted the sexism endemic in western culture.

When challenged about his attitudes to women Trump reacted by arguing that Bill Clinton is worse, and then went on to list all the things he believes are more important than sexually assaulting women, managing  to further demean us in that tacky investigation into the relativity of suffering.

What Trump unsurprisingly fails to appreciate (and many others male and female share his lack of perception) is that the objectification and sexual assault of women and girls originates in a collective mindset that is so accustomed to dehumanisation it can justify any destructive action against anyone, should it be judged necessary.  If you are part of a dominant group that treats some 50% of your country’s population as lesser beings because they have vaginas, it’s not going to be difficult for you to do the same to anyone else who threatens your fragile sense of who you are, such as people of religions and ethnicities that vary from your own.

Yes, I know Trump seems far from fragile in his sense of self, however, there’s a psychological theory of over-compensation for fears of inadequacy that might be applicable here.

There was a point in the debate when Trump appeared to stalk Clinton, moving in very close behind her as she answered a question, looming, as if to remind her of his hostile presence. It was nasty, almost as nasty as the video tape of Trump leaving his bus ten years ago to meet a young woman he’d only just finished crudely sexually assessing. He asked her for a hug. In those few seconds we saw sexism, intimidation and violation played out: the young woman couldn’t refuse Trump if she valued her career, and so obliged him in his effort to vindicate his boastful claims of sexual irresistibility. She did this in complete ignorance of the crass conversation about her that had just taken place.

If you’ve ever been groped that vision would have caused you to shudder.

I don’t think HRC did very well in the second debate. How much of this is down to Trump’s psychological tactic of ensuring women linked in the worst possible way with her and her husband were present, and his focus on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of them and other women, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think quite a bit, as there is simply no other area in which Trump can outdo HRC. It seems she’s got the presidency in the bag, unless something inconceivably catastrophic occurs.

A woman who stands by her philandering man isn’t necessarily admired for that: some see it as more a demonstration of strength if she kicks the cheater out. Whatever your position on this, it’s a fraught topic for women. Hillary is entrapped in Bill’s mess, as women are so frequently trapped in the messes made by men in their lives. Trump is making the most of it, because at this point there’s really little else he can use to cause HRC public discomfort.

How interesting, then, that both candidates have to deal with sexual scandals. And what a comment on women’s place in the world that Trump’s scandals are his own, while HRC’s are those allegedly perpetrated by her husband.

Says it all, really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Controlling women’s bodies. Trump & Pence.

9 Oct

trump-on-women

 

It neither shocked nor surprised me to yesterday hear a recording of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, made some ten years ago, boasting that his wealth and fame entitle him to grab women by the genitals, and kiss them without consent, because he finds female beauty irresistible:

I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Men using their power to gain sexual access to women is nothing new. Bill Clinton has been accused of rape, sexual harassment, exposing himself to a woman who didn’t want to see the presidential penis, and of numerous affairs, the most famous of which involved White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and the most lengthy of which was, it’s said, conducted over some twenty-two years.

These matters are relevant a) because Trump repeatedly points to Clinton as being just as bad: Well, look over there, I’m not the only one who does it and b) because Trump has threatened several times to raise Clinton’s sexual history during debates with Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, on the somewhat bizarre grounds that any woman married to an unfaithful man isn’t fit to be president of the United States.

HRC, goes Trump’s argument, has enabled her husband to sexually exploit women, therefore is as responsible for harm as is Clinton. This harmful enabling disqualifies HRC from challenging Trump on his attitudes to women because hers aren’t much better, particularly, Trump argues, as Secretary Clinton has allegedly pursued and intimidated some of the women with whom her husband enjoyed intimacy in an effort to ensure their silence.

There is some substance to the theory that tolerating deceptive behaviour is enabling that deceptive behaviour: the unfaithful spouse learns faithfulness is not a requirement for the relationship to continue, and there will be no catastrophic repercussions. I can only guess at HRC’s motives for choosing to remain in a marriage with Clinton, but I’m pretty certain that had they divorced she wouldn’t be running for President today, and she likely wouldn’t have been Secretary of State in the Obama administration either.

HRC is a pragmatist. Anyone running for presidential or other high office, male or female, must have that goal as their primary ambition and be willing to tailor his or her life to the demands of the race. Divorce and the failure it signifies in a country where religious beliefs about marriage and family hold great political sway, together with financial settlements that may reveal far too much about one’s circumstances are situations to be avoided, particularly if you are a politically ambitious woman.

It may well be that HRC long ago came to an understanding with herself that the anguish of betrayal was the price she’d have to pay for achieving her goals. She isn’t the first woman to come to this conclusion, and she won’t be the last.

There are women who find sharing life with a treacherous partner is more than they can bear and that they deserve better, as they do. The cycle of betrayal is a cycle of abuse. Married life with a man such as Clinton would be intolerable for me, but I’m not interested in political office and my priorities are living a life free from abuse and humiliation with a partner I can trust. HRC doesn’t appear to have been in a position (within the confines of the system she inhabits) to both achieve her political ambitions and live free from emotional and mental spousal abuse. She’s had to make choices.

HRC’s pragmatism does not in any way indicate an unsuitability for high office, quite the opposite I would have thought.

Trump’s attitude to women is vile, and it’s on the higher end of a vile continuum. He’s been caught on tape voicing his sordid desires and intentions: we know we’re dealing with a poster boy for sexism and exploitation. But think on this. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, believes abortion to be “monstrous” and vows to do everything possible to prevent women accessing the procedure, including attempting to overturn Roe v Wade.  Should Trump win, Pence is next in line for the presidency in the event of some kind of Trump collapse.

Everywhere we turn, we find a man attempting to control women’s bodies, either through sexual exploitation and abuse, and/or control of our reproductive processes. Trump, Clinton, Pence are high-profile performers of a dominant culture that is still, despite its sophistication  and its claims to western superiority, profoundly contemptuous of women, and committed to denying our autonomy and our humanity.

I’m no fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are, in my opinion, many concerns about her becoming the next president of the US. However, Bill Clinton’s sexual predation and the manner in which she’s chosen to deal with it are not among them. But hey, she’s a woman. On that fact alone she’s blameworthy, and Trump knows it.

 

 

 

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