It seems like you can barely swing a well worn cliche around these days without hitting a sombre editorial lamenting how women suck at life. From the more asinine concerns around their geriatric-at-35 singlehood (could it be that you’re too picky, ladies?) to slightly more obnoxious frets about their clothing choices (when did empowerment start to resemble a porn set, amirite Angela?!), you’d be forgiven for thinking women stumble around all day like a wind up toy, only changing direction when they bump into a table leg or have a kindly man pick them up to gently urge them back towards the Safe Zone.
As irritating as this sort of fluff is, there’s something else that’s been worrying Concerned Citizens lately. Namely, why do women walk around without due diligence, refusing to take responsibility for their own safety in the badlands of society’s streets? While it’s true that reading maps is just one of the many, many things that women are bad at, even a cursory glance at urban cartography should reveal to them the giant land mass directly outside the perimeter of their home and local church that screams, ‘HERE BE MONSTERS’. And so, knowing how dangerous the world is for them, why don’t they listen and realise that they need to take more care?
In the condescending echo chamber that shudders into life every time conservations around harassment and sexual assault come up, there’s one argument that comes up time and time again. Where logic is concerned, it’s so ludicrous that it hardly bear acknowledging even by the process of contradiction. However, because people continue to use it to such stupifyingly large degrees, I thought it was high time that someone turned a hand to dismantling it once and for all. Let us begin.
If you leave your keys in your car, don’t be surprised if someone steals it.
Listen, it’s simple ladies. If you drive your vagina around and leave it double parked on a dark street with the keys dangling in the ignition and an apple pie on the dashboard, how can you expect someone not to amble past and just take it? I mean, if I were to just wander off and leave my wallet sitting on the table in a cafe, should I be surprised if I return later to find it gone? More to the point, if (as one commenter so helpfully asked a few months ago) I were to spread all of my possessions on my front lawn and retreat to the comfort of my living room for a Here Comes Honey Boo Boo marathon, can I really complain if I emerge, hours later, bleary eyed from the self induced high of a televisual acid trip, to the astonishing revelation that my worldly goods have been pilfered by opportunistic suburban thieves? Indeed, I cannot!
The lesson is simple: there are petty criminals lurking around every corner just waiting for hapless dames like you to walk around with money spilling out of your meat purses, so you should always put the club lock on your Honey Boo Boo.
It’s hard to believe, but such arguments are usually offered with a kind of arrogant ‘checkmate’ tone to them, as if sexual assault is merely the inconvenient by-product of Forgetful Girl Brain and not one of the most traumatic violations a person can experience. Worse, these kind of dismissive hypotheticals place victims at the forefront of blame. When we create and perpetuate caveats like this, we confirm to victims of sexual assault something that many are already deeply troubled by. That they could have done something different. That they asked for it. That they didn’t fight hard enough. That they deserved it.
The idea that we could possibly allow any victim of assault, sexual or otherwise, to think that they had somehow asked for it is so anathema to the idea of human decency that it beggars belief. Nobody asks to be raped. And vaginas don’t come with a goddamn steering lock.
Yet this argument persists because I think we’ve never really addressed the root of its logical inconsistency. A vagina is not a car, and rape is not the same thing as opportunistically taking someone’s abandoned wallet from a coffee table. Do you know why? Because if I leave the keys in my car – AND I’M SITTING IN MY CAR – anyone who comes along and tries to steal it will have to physically assault me in order to take it. If I sprawl all of my possessions on the front lawn of my house and then embark on my Honey Boo Boo marathon, that’s not an invitation to rape – it’s a sign that it’s hard rubbish day.
Presenting vaginas as disembodied possessions just waiting to be stolen isn’t just inaccurate (and searingly offensive – how many people who cursed Peter Slipper for comparing vaginas to mussels have invoked the old car key argument?) it also completely denies the reality of assault by shifting it into some kind of arbitrary narrative of property theft. Enduring rape has exactly zero things in common with the insignificant inconvenience of having to replace your credit cards, and it certainly isn’t done by stealth. When a woman puts on a short skirt, she isn’t signalling her exit from the building that is her body. She hasn’t left her car running on an empty street and wandered off to find some frozen yoghurt. All she’s done is put on a short skirt. You still have to ask her if she wants to have sex with you. You should still want to ask her.
Viewing a woman’s clothing as any kind of sign that she’s abandoned ship just confirms the idea that women aren’t truly in possession of their sexuality – that it exists for them to guard and for other people to take. Crucially, the reason so many men are upset by this prospect and use this argument in such fearful ways is because their concern stems from a desire to protect women from sexual assault rather than prevent it, thus allowing it to continue unabated by never really putting in the effort to take a stand against it.
If it’s true that rape was traditionally used (and continues to be used in some instances) as a weapon not against women but against men, it stands to reason that one of man’s greatest fears is being unable to protect the women he loves from this so-called reality of sexual violence. So what is actually being said when we ‘remind’ women that they’re vulnerable is this: Men cannot be there to protect you from ‘the monsters’ all the time, so for heaven’s sake, would you please meet them halfway and give them peace of mind by not behaving in ways that they think encourages others to rape you and disempower them. It’s not unnatural to want to protect the people in your life – but in this instance, it’s immensely unhelpful to assume that the best advantage women can have is male protection rather than a commitment to create the kind of world in which they can be equal beings, entitled to protect themselves.
What we should be saying is this: there is no excuse for rape. Period. What we should be doing is taking the level of effort and energy currently heaped into educating women on how they need to modify their behaviour in order to prevent sexual assault (which doesn’t work and doesn’t account for the fact that the majority of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim). We should be educating everybody that sexual assault of any kind is never okay, and you can’t just jump in a woman’s front seat and drive her away as if she has no one but her careless self to blame.
Next time: How men can help in the quest to radically change women’s safety on the street. And it has nothing to do with offering protection.
TAB is repulsed by sex offenders. All sex offenders are loathesome individuals who probably should in many cases have longer sentences than are currently given.
Particularly offensive are those who offend against children. And most victims are girls, though boys account for a significant and under-reported number of victims.
Most victims know their assailants and are often in relationships of trust with them. Predators rely on this trust to commit their appalling crimes.
These matters are relevant to what TAB tries to do because they deal with justice for victims. Prosecution of sex crimes often lead to injustices because of the difficulties involved in proving non-consent as well as the intricacies of forensic evidence.
Two stories today about sex offenders. Both committed offences against girls who were 12 and 11 respectively at the time of the offences. Both girls knew their attacker. Both accused were found guilty of the offences which is why we can discuss the matters.
One appealed against the sentence and won a reduction in the sentence, the other has indicated through his barrister that he might appeal against the sentence.
But – can you spot the difference?
A large number of pro-rape pro-child abuse pages apparently originating in Australia have recently sprung up on Facebook with titles such as
Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m going to fuck you with a rake
Rose’s (sic) are red, Violets are blue,my Rape mode is on and I’m coming for you!
Kicking sluts in the throat.
It i’snt (sic) actually a rape if you say “SURPRISE” first.
Missing your final exam because you were date raped the night before
Calling your penis Jack the Ripper because it kills and eats prostitutes
These are just a few of the hundred or so page URLs supplied to the Facebook reporting group Report Hate Groups for reporting by members.
Now you would think that some of the far right pages which also infest Facebook like a nasty plague, and which are always clamouring that they support women’s rights and are always accusing minority-group males of being rapists and predators would be front and centre at condemning these pro-rape pro-child abuse pages and calling for their removal.
And a far right site which is always pointing the finger at Muslims, asylum seekers and anyone they decide is a “leftie” has actually decided to inform one of the pro-rape pages that they are being reported.
And when an anti-rape activist decides to let members of Report Hate Groups know that the Tanty Bogans have informed the pro-rape pages that they are being reported
the Tanty Bogans are so affronted that they decide to conduct what passes for a discussion on their page.
Please note that their page has recently changed its name so if you can be bothered looking for it you will find it as Exposing the antiboganworldpress.com or something.
And as the chief Tanty finishes its tanty the peanut gallery chimes in with its usual ad hominem mouth-breathings. In fact Joel Rickard gets so excited at having seen a picture of a real woman that he feels the need to make the same dumb comment twice.
And when the Tanties are challenged for their hypocrisy and support of hate crimes against women
We know the Tanties hate facts and evidence, but it might be a good time to point out to them that in Australia one in three women is a victim of sexual violence – so they, their relatives and friends either include victims or know someone who is a victim.
We can also point out that men too are victims of sexual violence and child abuse. For instance one in seven males has been subjected to child abuse.
But that doesn’t worry the Tanties. They are only concerned with their freedom of hate speech.
Plus there’s this article from the SMH in which it was noted that
Mr King was preselected for the seat after previous candidate Paul Freebody was disendorsed over an email exchange is which he said he hopes Julia Gillard “follows the history of JFK”.
And there’s still more. Back in October 2011 for instance
Extensive research has shown that women consistently claim that one of the reasons they don’t report sexual assault is out of fear of being blamed or judged. King therefore needs to accept responsibility that his benignly titled column, ‘Women should play it safe’, may be part of the problem rather than the solution.
King is also capable of more shining moments. Back in 2007 for instance he “outed” the person behind anti-Muslim hate site Winds of Jihad, a favourite amongst the beige shirts at the APP Facebook group.
So we will now watch this contest with some interest, especially since King’s Labor opponent is a woman.
No doubt Queensland women will as well.
Despite a campaign that included 180,000 signatures, Facebook continues to post pro-rape pages, showing, yet again, that they care about users so long as they’re profitable.
Since August, tens of thousands of Internet activists have taken to social media to protest a social media giant — Facebook — for its apparent tolerance of user-created pages that make sexual violence into a punchline. The pages, with titles like “Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you dont [sic] want to wake her up” and “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina,” have been common to Facebook for some time, but campaigns against them began when a Facebook representative commented to the BBC on its decision not to remove that kind of content, stating, “Just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.” The pub analogy comment circulated among feminist activists on Facebook, and it was quoted widely on blogs, sparking a series of petitions that circulated for months, demanding the removal of the pages. When Facebook failed to respond, online activists organized a Twitter hashtag Day of Action, #notfunnyfacebook, to further pressure Facebook to enforce its own terms of service and hold its users accountable. Finally, following the Twitter action, Facebook elected to delete a few of the pages. It also allowed others to remain, so long as they were retitled as parodies.
The victory came as a half-hearted one for activists, who, with more than 180,000 signatures and hundreds of Twitter participants on their side, had not been able to call Facebook to account. New pro-rape pages are still being posted. One I just visited is called “That one slut you have always wanted to kick in the face.” After scrolling past three nearly identical wall announcements explaining how I could make easy money at home today (not involving, as I had first assumed, being “slutty”), I found a handful of nasty comments, all so poorly spelled it would be difficult for them to retain any air of menace. Then I recalled the anonymous person who scrawled “FAGETS” on the wall of a student organization I worked with in college. Then I saw what the page was really used for: with the “tag a user in this post” function, fans of the page could add the name of their intended target to their wall post, and that target would potentially see the post and the threat. It made me queasy.
If it was not clear before, we must understand now that Facebook wasn’t built for us — it was built for the profit of the very few. That Facebook is of value to the public as a communications platform is only important to Facebook insofar as it allows them to sell targeted advertising against our own speech. Its governing document, the Terms of Service, has been repeatedly applied unfairly and without accountability to its users, as its purpose is to legally protect Facebook from our conduct, not provide us with a free space, or even a safe space. Facebook needs to be only as minimally welcoming to us so as to ensure our return to use it again. And that we might use Facebook as a public square for activism? Not even in the business model.
Worse, Facebook has time and again turned its terms of service against the people calling it to account: women, queer people, young people, and human rights activists, among others. Facebook has removed content in favor of breastfeeding, deeming it obscene. Facebook famously removed a photo of two men kissing at a protest for queer rights. Organizers behind the UK Uncut protests had their pages deactivated by Facebook, along with dozens of related causes against austerity measures. When activists launched a call for solidarity with an Egyptian victim of police brutality, “We Are All Khaled Said,” Facebook removed the page repeatedly for terms of service violations. Its originator had used, perhaps wisely, an anonymous account to post it. Then, once the page was reinstated and its role in sparking Egypt’s revolution was international news, Facebook actually claimed the page as credit for advancing the Arab Spring.
Activists calling attention to violence against women have experienced similarly bizarre treatment by Facebook. When women’s rights activists in India had their Facebook pages defaced with violent messages and sexually explicit photos, they swiftly complained to Facebook, which responded by disabling the activists’ own accounts. How could Facebook have made such a rotten call? To a certain extent, it was to the credit of the activists and the genius of their message: they titled their Facebook page the “Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” and adorned it with a bright pink pair of chaddi (women’s underwear), inviting supporters to send a pair of their own to their target: members of a right-wing group who led attacks against women in pubs around Valentine’s Day in 2009. Within a matter of weeks, they gathered over 5,000 supporters and international media attention. The irony, that a group of outspoken women’s rights activists would take to Facebook to denounce restrictions on women’s freedom, only to be attacked again on Facebook, and then shut down by Facebook when it demanded action to remove the hateful comments, is something of a social media ouroboros. As organizer Nisha Susan wrote at the time, “The first rule of Facebook activism seems to be ‘Don’t use Facebook.’”
The insidious thing about most any online activism that relies primarily on social media is that it depends significantly upon the permission and whims of a corporation. Employees at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others are at liberty to apply their terms of service as they choose, and users — the public — have little recourse. Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices Online, encourages us to think of corporate-owned websites along the same lines as the privately owned public spaces where the Occupy movement has staged its protests. As a platform for civic action, social media websites operate much like Zuccotti Park: at any time, if their owners declare our actions there to be in violation of their rules, they can just summon clean-up crews to break things up.
It’s not all doom and censorship on Facebook, of course. Digging into the profiles of users who had “liked” some of the rape-is-funny pages, feminist writer Amanda Marcotte created a little dossier on a few of them. As Facebook requires users to set up their profiles using a real name, you don’t need a subpoena to click through and learn about these rape page fans’ hometowns, employers, and even relationship statuses. Here, the terms of service on Facebook allow for quite a different experience of unmasking a sexist harasser than, say, tracking down the endless legion of anonymous troll commenters who leave little more than an IP address behind as a calling card.
Given these ongoing battles — and opportunities — for free speech online, journalist, censorship expert, and Internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon offers this bold solution: we, as users and the public, must take back the Internet. We must demand a voice as those who are now governed, not just by states but by businesses. In her forthcoming book, The Consent of the Networked, MacKinnon proposes we need a new Magna Carta with Internet companies who use terms of service to regulate our speech, to assert our rights, and to center the civic interest, not corporate profit.
The heart of these companies — their reliance on our speech, our presence, our consent — is where we should aim our calls for transparency and accountability. Demanding that already dysfunctional terms of service be applied more harshly can only intensify the mandate of a corporation like Facebook to further regulate users’ speech. This isn’t to say that users who harass and threaten others should not be held accountable. Rather, we must remember that the mechanisms currently in place are blunt, do not serve the public, and in fact, have been turned against us.