Tag Archives: MTR

The conservative sexual crusader wants kilos of McFadden’s flesh

3 Mar

At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website today there’s a list of tweets from the hapless Brian McFadden, promising to donate money to rape crisis centres, and saying he’s sorry that his lyrics have been misunderstood.

He reiterates that he intended them as an intimate song for fiancee Delta Goodrem, and not as triggers for women who’ve been sexually assaulted while drunk.

I’m inclined to believe the bloke. I don’t think for  minute he wrote that song with the intention of glorifying or encouraging the rape of senselessly drunk women.

But his apologies and donations are not enough for Melinda Tankard Reist. Not a truckload of money, she writes, will make up for the damage he has done to women.

Even in a court of law, intention counts when you’re passing sentence. But not in the courts of Christian sexual conservatism.

MTR also holds Delta Goodrem partially responsible. Why didn’t Delta check the lyrics before allowing Brian to record them, she asks. Is Delta so inured to sexual violence that she didn’t even notice what Brian was on about?

This would be unfortunate, MTR implies, as Delta is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, a group that raises awareness of violence against women.

I guess the sexual conservatives also hold women responsible for what the men they live with do.

Personally, I think that’s a pretty low and unnecessarily malicious swipe.

Then there’s a letter from a victim of sexual assault whilst she was drunk, telling how McFadden’s song has brought it all back and is severely distressing her.

Nina Funnell then writes a long reassuring response to the victim, and I hope the woman follows this up with counselling.

There are triggers that cause memories of sexual assault, and many other traumatic experiences to flood back into consciousness, often without any warning.  This is very hard for the survivor to deal with.

Triggers can be almost anything. I once worked with someone whose flashbacks were caused by pieces of green soap with a particular smell. Triggers are impossible to predict, extremely individual, and powerfully connected to the original trauma.

As much as the survivor would like never to have encounter these triggers, it is literally impossible to clear the world of them.

In some instances they may be so particular as to rarely emerge. Sometimes they aren’t known until the moment they strike. In many instances the triggers are all too common, and people have to deal with them on a daily basis.

It would be a foolish therapist indeed who recommended total avoidance of anything likely to act as a trigger. That would be condemning the survivor to a miserable life.

What we can do is teach cognitive behavioural techniques that can be used to manage the distressing flashbacks. This has the added advantage of empowering the survivor, both with the skills to handle bad times, and with the sense that she or he has some control over circumstances that can feel uncontrollable.

Given the proliferation of sexual topics in popular culture, it’s unrealistic to blame any artist for triggering a survivor’s flashbacks. As the triggers are so individual, its impossible to know what they might be.

As stupid as you might think McFadden’s song is, blaming him for activating post traumatic stress disorder is wrong. You might as well blame the manufacturer of green soap, and I believe McFadden, in his intentions, is as  undeserving of blame.

The world is not an easy place to live in when you’re suffering post traumatic stress disorder. Many people don’t understand it, and have a low tolerance of sufferers who can seem difficult, withdrawn, moody, angry, weepy, and generally not interested in much. It’s tough, having first to withstand the trauma, and then to spend your time dealing with the aftermath.

The most difficult part is working with people towards an acceptance of their experiences, in the sense that they cannot be changed and must be lived with, as must the aftermath. The survivor has to take responsibility for learning to do this. This is the cornerstone of recovery. It can take many years, and nobody can do it for them.

I don’t think it helps survivors to be encouraged to look for someone to blame in the world around them. Nobody deliberately triggers someone’s flashbacks, unless they are entirely sadistic and know the survivor well enough to be able to do it.

If a creator of any kind must first consider if something in their work will cause distress to someone somewhere, and then abandon it in case it does, then nothing will be created.

I think Tankard Reist’s crusade against McFadden, and now Goodrem as well, is bordering on the vicious. She wants what she wants, which is an abject confession that they’ve caused immeasurable distress to women everywhere by recording the song. If she doesn’t get that, she will hound them, of that I’m certain.

She is displaying all the signs of the outraged self-righteous good Christian woman bent on vengeance, not only on him but on the woman he loves, and that is not a pretty sight.

And let’s remember, he isn’t a rapist. He wrote a song.

Do as we say, not as we do: the moral code of the censors

27 Feb

Talk about hypocrisy!

In the above link to a post titled ‘Surrounded by a culture in which girls are all body and only body’ Melinda Tankard Reist objects to Lea Michele, star of hit television show Glee, appearing on the cover of Cosmo showing cleavage. Michele is in her twenties, BTW, and the dress is unremarkable.

Such appearances, claims MTR, teach girls that the only thing that matters is what they look like, and that it’s of prime importance that they look “sexy.” Who they are and what they do is subjugated to the imperative to cultivate and flaunt their sexual power.

All well and good.

So how  does MTR feel about her fellow campaigner, (who also trains those recalcitrant footballers in how to respect women)and frequent contributor to her website Nina Funnell, appearing in Cosmo October 2010, wearing a sexy mask, and stilletos  with slave girl ankle bands? (About as “offensive” as the cleavage shot.)

The occasion was a competition to find the year’s most influential woman. But before Cosmo selected contestants for their career and personal achievements, they first had to pass the Cosmo “look” test.

Every woman in the competition is styled within an inch of her life. There are no mature aged women. Odd, if we’re looking for influential role models. They are all slim, have good hair, teeth, and legs, and some of them show a great deal of thigh. As much if not more than we see of Lea Michele’s breasts.

by Clee Villasor via flickr

The women’s faces are partially covered in glamorous masks, I really don’t know why. The glamourous mask usually implies the possibility of anonymous sexual encounter. So what does that sexual implication have to do with being influential, and a mentor to young women?

‘Surrounded by a culture in which girls are all body and only body’, you might say, seeing as how they look is the most important consideration in this competition, and if they don’t have the look, they don’t get to enter, no matter how much they’ve achieved in their lives.

Not a peep from the Tank about this travesty. Maybe because her fellow campaigner is one of the stars?

Bottom line, the Cosmo competition is way more destructive than the Michele cleavage shot. The competition pretends to be about a woman’s achievements. But it’s really only about the achievements of a handful of women who have the right look. If you don’t have the look, forget it. No matter what you achieve you’ll never be a Cosmo influential woman of the year.

Lavartus Prodeo nights.

14 Feb

by Linus Ekenstam via flickr

It wasn’t my intention to visit the Lavartus Prodeo blog. I was on my way to somewhere else when an enticing little link popped up and before I knew it I was right in the middle of the Lavartus Prodeo On Line Opinion thread.

My first post was an alternative perspective on moderating from that dominant in the thread. This brought an immediate response, to the effect that those with enough wit are capable of composing comments that don’t require the intervention of a moderator, and the witless were deleted and dispatched elsewhere. LP is a cyber club, the post continued, and if I didn’t like the rules of the cyber club I should also move elsewhere.

I was a little taken aback at this reaction to what, after all, had only been a personal observation on alternative moderating.

Later on, another commenter told me that I’d announced my alternative opinion in a way that was too challenging and provocative, and I shouldn’t go onto blogs for the first time telling everybody I had a different opinion, because that immediately got them all off side.

In spite of the uninviting nature of the initial reaction, or because of it, my curiosity was aroused. Many people would have run a mile and never returned, but I have a compulsion to continue even when, or especially when, someone tells me right off I don’t belong.

I think it’s a consequence of experiencing severe marginalisation as a child. Freud’s repetition compulsion. I’m still trying to resolve the original trauma of not being allowed to belong, so I compulsively take on anybody who tries to shut me out. Daft, but a compulsion is a compulsion.

As well, I had my own strong opinions about the OLO controversy, and didn’t mind expressing a few of them at LP. I’d go for it, I decided, and girded up.

My decision to subject myself to the experience was also influenced in no small part by the effects of large doses of painkillers I was taking after surgery. These gave me an exaggerated sense of my own capabilities, and made some things seem funny that probably weren’t.

Choosing the best hat for the occasion

Some years ago I read an account of the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim’s experiences in a concentration camp. He’d survived, he felt, because he had been able to observe and record the experience through the framework of his training. He’d used it as an opportunity to observe human behaviour under extreme conditions. He’d learned a great deal, and given himself a purpose that kept him going. The result was some fascinating insights into the human animal under intolerable stress, and his survival.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that visiting LP was anything like Bettelheim’s ordeal, but since I read how he survived, I’ve often employed his methods when I’ve found myself in testing situations.

I also got a bit of encouragement in this direction from Foucault, who’s mission it was to always find the back story – “My problem is essentially the definition of the implicit systems in which we find ourselves prisoners.” Well, that.

To add to all that, being curious about nationalism, border protection and sovereignty in all its forms, even when manifested on a blog, I sensed there would be a great deal there for me if I took the time to engage in a few encounters.

I also spent years as a clinician, a lot of that time running groups. That specialised interest is probably also a consequence of being chucked out of my original group at an early age.

The past does indeed determine the present, and the future.

This is not the first time I have done this

One more disclosure. I have conducted this experiment (being the only disputing voice and seeing what happens) on a Melinda Tankard Reist comments thread. Though in that case I was quickly joined by others, and the burden of sole dissent was removed from my shoulders. LP is the only blog where I’ve been absolutely alone.

Don’t talk about the PhD

Many of the insults directed at me by MTR’s followers were repeated at LP, especially, strangely, insults about my academic qualifications. I would have thought that both places, the one Christian feminist, the other apparently catering to the educated, would have taken them in their stride, and found them unremarkable, but not at all. I was roundly ridiculed in both places for having mentioned my PhD.

Even though in the MTR case someone had demanded to know what my qualifications were, and I obligingly told them.

And in the LP case Mark Bahnisch corrected me when I addressed him as Mr, saying that he was in fact Dr. So I signed my very next post as Dr, seeing as it seemed to matter.

And brought down on my head an outpouring of mirth from what seemed like a zillion commenters, some of whom revealed their own academic credentials, (no doctorates) and others who made a few up.

Dr Bahnisch was having a joke, it seems, and in signing myself Dr, I apparently responded too seriously. I know him very well, someone posted, and you’ve got him all wrong.

Well, as I’ve never met him, and heard of him only vaguely for reasons I can’t recall, I can’t think of one reason why I’d be expected to know him, much less be au fait with his sense of humour.

God, it’s hard when you don’t know the group norms!

Eric Sykes then showed great insight when he commented that perhaps the blog was not for me.

Somebody then expressed the hope that I would go away.

I took another pain killer. It was time.

Starved of radical dissent

I posted a few times about the OLO situation, and my thoughts that in attempting to close OLO down, an attack was being launched on free speech, among many other things. What did I mean by free speech, Dr Bahnisch demanded. Was I referring to John Stuart Mills? Was I making claims about OLO and the Socratic dialogue? OLO and the principles of the Enlightenment?

By now there were numerous LP commenters attacking me like starving feral cats will set upon a bowl of food left out by a kindly human. I began to think that these people probably didn’t often have the opportunity to talk to someone who completely disagreed with them. They were starved of radical dissent, desperate for someone other than themselves against whom to test their brute intellectual strength, and I was it.

Whoa people! I wrote. You are many and I am but one!

Yes, someone called Fine replied. You might be feeling overwhelmed but if you would only argue properly instead of using rhetoric!

I move blogs

Later that day I meandered over to Club Troppo where I left a comment about the OLO situation. Only to have Mistress Kimbrella (one of the made up qualifications) from LP pursue me like one of the furies.

Well, hello there, Dr Wilson, she wrote. Sorry you didn’t make any friends and influence people at LP.

Really, Mistress whatsit, I admonished as the drugs kicked in, I have given you a day and much of the night. Are you not satisfied? I never said I was interested in commitment. Are you going to demand my attention on the flimsiest of excuses?

The Mistress then reminded me that she had been at Club Troppo and LP for many years. Her point apparently being that I, on the other hand, had only just arrived.

Oh, you mean I’ve landed illegally in a leaky boat without my proper papers, in sovereign territory where I was not invited? I wrote.

What was it again? Oh yes: “We will decide who comes to this blog and the manner in which they come!”

And they’d better assimilate straight away, having first been suitably humble, or they can go right back where they came from.

By now it was becoming clear to me that these people were not fans of Levinas’ theories of radical hospitality.

Group dynamics

Anyone with superficial knowledge of how a group works, knows that one of the basic bonding rituals used to strengthen and reinforce the group is for its members to unite against an outsider. The herd mentality does not have the capacity to embrace the other. It is entirely dedicated to preserving its sovereignty.

The outsider offers a perfect opportunity for a closed group to reinvigorate itself. Members who may feel themselves on the outer for some reason are given the opportunity to return to the fold, as they unite with their fellows against the stranger.

This process is essential from time to time, as the closed group inevitably becomes incestuous when deprived of external contact, turning on one another and splintering into factions. The appearance of a stranger can cause the group to temporarily abandon its dysfunction, re-bond, and celebrate its strengths.

Or as Costas Douzinas puts it “The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state…”

Getting a good kicking

I have to say LP was much, much worse than MTR. MTR does welcome very opposing commentary. Some of her followers will give you a good kicking, but they don’t tell you to find another blog because you don’t fit in. They thrive on dissent. In this I can only admire them, though many of their views are, in my view, bordering on the insane.

Finally, I accept that I’m not wanted.

I have taken the advice of the LP commenters, and removed myself from their site, probably never to return, unless I have more surgery requiring pain relief.

I probably won’t go back to Club Troppo either, as Ken Parish told me metaphorically to bugger off because my arguments are relentless. I was only trying to rebut statements and opinions he’d attributed to me that were not mine. But I was a foreigner there, too, and perhaps foreigners aren’t supposed to get so uppity right off. Even if they do feel they’re being misrepresented. Maybe foreigners are supposed to just suck it up till they’ve been initiated and accepted? I don’t know.

The last word I give to Derrida:

“For hospitality is not some region of ethics…it is ethicity itself, the whole principle of ethics…”

There’s a lesson in that for all of us.

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