missing the point

If we’re going to protect women, let’s do it properly.

Posted in missing the point, rape, rape culture on June 2nd, 2011 by steph – 2 Comments

The topic of who’s to blame for rape is red-hot right now in the wake of comments by Paul Quinn and discussions about Slutwalk. And I’ve been thinking a lot about rape culture and victim-blaming. In light of these serious discussions about the role of clothing in rape and how it’s not a woman’s fault for being raped but she could’ve been more careful or something, the idea of ‘slutty’ clothing comes up often. And oh so helpful people have explained to me that slutty clothing makes you an easy target and let’s people know certain things about you that they might just have to act on. Short skirts are not as innocent as they appear. And I figure that if provocative clothing is really so dangerous, and so culpable in the act of rape as people keep saying, why is slutty clothing even allowed to exist? If an outfit is “designed to turn men on” (13th comment in the comments section), and it is so dangerous for women to wear such outfits and send these siren song messages of whoreishness, and these things are actual factual real risk-elevators for the act of rape, then why are we not just trying to outright ban them? I mean, we as a society obviously care about our women- after all, we’re just trying to protect them by telling them what clothing is “safe” and what is rape-lust-inducing, so we obviously care about the safety of women! But if we know these types of clothing to be so key in rape and have such power to drive the urges of rapists, then why aren’t we going that extra step further to protect women and calling for slutty clothing to be banned full-stop? I mean, it’s not like women need to wear miniskirts, right? And bad things happen when women do wear miniskirts. So why don’t we get rid of these horrible rape-facilitating items? Don’t we care about protecting women???  If something like a short skirt has potential to incite such an awful sexual crime, then it isn’t enough to say “don’t wear that to the club while you’re drunk”- after all, that isn’t the only place you could wear a short skirt. We need to stop focusing on women who dress like whores when they’re out on a Friday night- the power of the short skirt is obviously somehow inherant in the skirt itself and thus can be wielded in any location or at any time. I’m wearing a skirt right now, at work, and the hemline hits me mid-thigh. I shouldn’t be allowed to wear something to work that has the power to provoke rape! Why isn’t anyone stopping me? Do you people who say “she isn’t to blame, but is wearing that kind of outfit really wise..?” only care about those sluts in bars?

The only solution: total miniskirt ban. And probably a ban on v-neck tops just to be on the safe side. I mean, maybe we could make an allowance for a woman who wants to wear a short skirt for the purpose of titiallating her husband in her own home in the context of maritial relations- as long as the curtains are closed so no rapists can see it and be compelled to rape her. Seriously; all you people out there who are trying to help us ladies by letting us know that what we wear out on the town could be a bad choice: why don’t you care? Why are you half-assing this campaign to stop rape? Are your cries of “but I’m only trying to  keep you safe!” not actually true? If you were really trying to keep us safe you would  ban the demon miniskirts from ever touching the legs of another woman again, and we would all be safe from rape, hooray!


Yes, it actually is sexist

Posted in missing the point, New Zealand on February 7th, 2011 by steph – 3 Comments

Another woman has chimed in with her opinion that John Key’s “Hurley’s hot” comments weren’t sexist. Rebecca Barry thinks that while the comments were undignified and inappropriate, they were sexist. After all, she says, is it really sexist for a man to find a woman attractive? Well no, is isn’t necessarily. As far as I know, the criticism of this incident hasn’t actually been criticising the fact that Key finds women attractive. Guess what? Lots of people find other people attractive. Lots of people also dicuss it with their friends, or have a joke about it. But this isn’t a guy calling Liz Hurley a hottie over a beer with his mate; this is our Prime Minister discussing the hotness of celebs on a public radio show that he was taking part in in his role as Prime Minister.

The sexist thing is not that he finds a woman attractive- as a feminist I’m certainly not trying to ban men from being attracted to women, or any one person from being attracted to another- the sexist thing is that we have this kind of culture where it’s being framed as blokey and normal to go on public radio in your role as head of the country and talk about the appearance of women you don’t even know. A culture where women’s looks are a legitimate topic of general conversation, and a culture where trying to portray oneself as a typical, average guy involves talking about the appearance of women. What he did was sexist becuse he was creating a image of what it is to be a “normal” guy, and this revolved around rating the hotness of various women. If he had said “what does this have to do with anything?”, that would be opting out of participating in a sexist culture. But he opted in.

Barry herself also engages in some delightful sexist judgement while defending Key’s “non-sexism”: she says that Angelina Jolie has used her sexuality to advance her career, and uses this as an excuse for being able to judge her on her looks.

She also says “the s word” to refer to sexism, implying somehow that allegations of sexism are gigantic and damaging, and that saying something is sexism is a massive call to make.

She also reinforces this idea that the comments were all in harmless fun: Key chatted about his celeb crushes in a “casual, blokesy setting”. This again reminds us that chatting about women is a way to be a man, to perform masculinity and to show people you’re a typical down-to-earth bloke.

She also talks about the Anna Faris/street harrassment situation in this charming way

Then there was the case of actress Anna Faris, who told a US chat show host that two separate carloads of Kiwi men yelled sexual obscenities at her while she was in New Zealand.Most Kiwis are polite but it didn’t surprise me that a pretty blonde, walking alone along the street, experienced such charming hospitality.

Am I the only one who hears “well, she’s super hot, is anyone surprised she was cat-called??” in that statement? Because that’s what it sounds like.

Rebecca Barry also describes the world now as “post-feminist”, which I have an issue with, because clearly -given the size and strength of the feminist movement that I’m a part of, at least- feminism is still alive and kicking.

And, to round it all off, she gives us some examples of the big, bad real sexism to make the point that those things sound a lot more sexist than John Key calling some actress hot. Well, the thing about sexism is that it can manifest in lots of ways -big or small-, and more than one indicent of it can happen  at any given time. Shocking, I know. Just because there is other sexism happening, and some of it is bigger and more obvious, does not mean we get to give the small things a free pass. And the thing about the John Key situation that Barry seems not to have grasped is that it isn’t just about “calling some actress hot”: it’s about bigger and more harmful things, and a bigger and more harmful sexist culture.