June 2, 2014

Misogyny Is Not Mental Illness

Posted in Current Events, hate crimes, Men's role in sexual assault, Popular Culture, privilege and oppression, Rape Culture, Uncategorized, Victim Blaming at 8:39 pm by sacetalks

Written by Cynthia

We can’t write the Isla Vista killer off as “just another crazy person”. First and foremost, this is a cruel disservice to people living with mental health disabilities, who are actually far more likely to be victims of violent crime than its perpetrators. Yes, Elliot Rodger saw a therapist. But, by his own admission, that’s not why he killed and injured people. He did so because he believed he was entitled to women’s bodies and was enraged that they didn’t see it his way.

What’s more, he expressed these ideas in multiple Internet forums where they went utterly unchallenged. Some of those forums are even devoted to promoting such hatred. They’re reinforcing a deeply toxic concept of manhood that hurts everyone involved.

Misogyny is the issue here, not mental illness. But it’s not just present on the forums Rodger haunted; as PZ Myers puts it, “[I]t’s not just MRAs and PUAs that spread that poison. Every politician and media blowhard who bargains away women’s rights, who dismisses efforts to correct economic inequities, or patronizingly decides that they must manage women’s lives for them, is polluting the atmosphere further.”

The #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter (so-called as a response to the frequent cry “Not all men” that often reframes issues of violence against women to be about men) showcases these issues, too, as people relate stories of misogynist violence and misogynists attempt to commandeer the tag by posting vitriol. Also on Twitter, Melissa McEwan sums up the problem with pointing at mental illness as the cause of this mass murder: “Dismissing violent misogynists as ‘crazy’ is a neat way of saying that violent misogyny is an individual problem, not a cultural one.” Indeed: if Elliot Rodger was sick, then society itself is sick.

What’s the cure? Continuing to challenge the idea that anyone is entitled to access another person’s body. Continuing to reinforce that women are not prizes earned by accumulating possessions or currying favour. Continuing to, as this mom did in this fantastic post, teach our children this lesson.

February 7, 2013

The Myth of False Allegations

Posted in Myths, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 8:28 pm by sacetalks

As a public educator at SACE, one of the most important aspects of my job is myth busting. There are countless myths out there about sexual assault. These myths are incredibly harmful because they typically blame survivors and excuse offenders, which contribute to an environment where sexual assault is not only allowed, but tacitly condoned.

The myth that I want to address today is the myth that people who ‘claim’ to have experienced a sexual assault are often lying about it, supposedly because they regret a one night stand, or wish to vengefully defame a former partner. This myth actually has a lot of different aspects and hashing out all of them would make this post cumbersomely long, so today I am going to specifically focus on clearing up some common misunderstandings about reporting and the court process.

First of all, I would like to say that sexual assault is a VERY under-reported crime. In Canada, we know that only 1/10 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Of that fraction, only 1/10 proceed to court, and of that fraction only 1/3 result in a successful conviction. This gives sexual assault an overall conviction rate of 0.33%!

Also, the process of reporting is not simple. It involves a lot more than just going the police station, making a one-time report, and washing your hands of the matter. Sexual assault is a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute, and I don’t just mean for the Crown. It’s also an extremely emotionally taxing experience for the survivor who often has to spend two years of his or her life in and out of court, having to see that offender over and over, being interrogated by defense lawyers, family, friends and the prosecutor. It is not a fun process and no one in their right mind undertakes such an ordeal for petty or trivial purposes.

On the subject of the court process, I would like to clear up two common misconceptions I often hear that are related to the myth that people frequently lie about being sexually assaulted: The belief that if a sexual assault is reported and it does not go to court, then that means the survivor was lying and the police knew she or he was lying; and the belief that if a sexual assault does go to court but does not result in a conviction, then that means the accused was ‘innocent’ and the survivor was lying.

Our legal system works in the favor of the defendant. By that, I mean that all the benefit of the doubt is given to the defendant. Our system is designed this way because it would be very bad for everyone if it was easy to convict people of crimes they did not commit. Most of the time this is a good thing – we all want to be protected from the possibility of being punished for something we are not guilty of. Unfortunately, the flip side of this judicial design is that victims of crime (or rather, their legal counsel) bear the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused victimized them in exactly the way they claim. I should be clear that survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the court system are by no means personally responsible for proving anything – that is solely the responsibility of the Crown prosecutor. I am just trying to illustrate the practical implications of a legal system that prioritizes preventing unlawful conviction over delivering justice to victims of crime.

Because of the nature of sexual assault, it is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a third party exactly what happened. This is because sexual assault is something that does not generally happen in the presence of witnesses who can corroborate the accounts. It is also difficult to prove because the issue is not whether or not sexual contact occurred – that can sometimes be confirmed with medical tests, but whether there was consent.

When a sexual assault is reported to the police, the police pass that information along to the Crown prosecutor who assesses the likelihood of that case resulting in a conviction in court – i.e. how likely is it that the sexual assault can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Crown deems that it is unlikely that the sexual assault can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, generally because of an understandable lack of evidence and witnesses, then the case will not proceed to court. That does not mean either the police or the Crown does not believe that survivor. It just means that sexual assault is a difficult crime to prosecute, and because our legal system prioritizes protecting people from unlawful conviction over providing justice to victims of crime (and I am not passing judgment on that priority), the burden of proof is too great for that particular situation.

Similarly, if a case does proceed to court but the accused is found to be ‘not guilty’, this does not mean the accused is ‘innocent’. It means that there was not enough evidence to verify the survivor’s account beyond a reasonable doubt. It may be that the judge, the jury, and the lawyers are quite convinced that the accused is in fact guilty, but if there is room for any reasonable doubt, than that benefit of that doubt is always given to the accused. Of course, it is also possible that someone who is found to be ‘not guilty’ at their trial is in fact totally innocent, but the point I am trying to make is that ‘not guilty’ and ‘innocent’ are not the same thing and courts are not in the business of determining ‘innocence’.

Another reason we know that it is rare for someone to lie about being sexually assaulted is because police statistics consistently show that, of those sexual assaults that are reported (and remember, only 1/10 are reported), only 2-3% turn out to be false allegations. This is actually slightly lower than false reporting for other crimes such as breaking and entering, or auto theft, but when someone says their car was stolen; people don’t ask “Are you sure? Are you sure you didn’t just lend it out and now you regret it?” While this statistic does show that it is possible for someone to be falsely accused of committing sexual assault and this does sometimes happen, it also shows the disproportionate level of concern society holds for what is actually an exceptionally rare occurrence.

When we believe these myths and put all of our focus and scrutiny on the survivor by doubting her or him, we are not only failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, but we are also neglecting to appreciate the incredible courage it takes for a person to come forward and share an experience of sexual violence. Telling anyone about sexual assault, especially the police or the courts, takes a tremendous amount of strength, and these survivors should be commended and admired for their resiliency.

Next time anyone hears this myth crop up, perhaps in conversation or in a movie or on the news, I encourage them to take a moment with those nearby and do some myth busting. The only focus that should be placed on the actions of the survivor is the utmost respect for the amazing strength and resourcefulness they have displayed in refusing to stay silent.

– Steph

October 18, 2012

Amanda Todd and the Degendered Language of Bullying

Posted in Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, hate crimes, Myths, New Release, Popular Culture, privilege and oppression, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 11:01 pm by sacetalks

Ok, we need to talk about Amanda Todd. We need to talk about Amanda Todd and the misogyny and sexism that led to her death and we need to talk about the deficient language of degendered, deraced and depoliticized “bullying”. I know that I am not the first person to make these connections, but I think the incredibly tragic circumstances that led to Todd’s death need to be widely examined and recognized.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the specifics of this story here is a brief overview: Amanda Todd was a 15 year old girl from BC who recently committed suicide. The factors that led her to make the decision to take her own life are as follows: When Todd was in Grade 7, she was convinced by a man (who she believed to be a boy her own age) in a chat room to flash her breasts on webcam.  He persuaded her to do this by telling her that she was beautiful, perfect and stunning.

A year later, she received a Facebook message from this man in which he threatened to send the screen shot he took of her flashing to everyone she knew if she did not give him “a show”. This man knew personal information about her. He knew the names of her friends and family and what school she attended. Todd did not comply with this demand. This man followed through with his threat and circulated the photo. As a result of the circulation of this picture, Todd was ostracized at her school. She was severely slut-shamed and humiliated on a daily basis. She tried switching schools but the picture and slut-shaming followed her.

 At one point, she met a boy who convinced her that he liked her. Under this pretense, they had sex. The boy later revealed he was lying, he did not have romantic feelings towards Todd, and he made a joke out of Todd for believing him and having sex with him. A veritable lynch mob, including the boy, came together to further slut-shame Todd and even physically assaulted her. Following this event, Todd made her first attempt at suicide. The harassment continued unabated even after this. Last month, after two years of sexual harassment, abuse and isolation, she made a YouTube video telling her story and asked for understanding. Last Wednesday, she took her own life.

Since this story broke, there has been an international outcry against “bullying”. Widespread condolences have been sent to her family and renewed commitments to taking “bullying” seriously have been made by many school and government officials. However, there is very little mention of the sexism and misogyny that defines Todd’s story, and there is even less recognition of the systemic and structural causes of Todd’s torment. Her story is different from the everyday experience of girls and women by degree, not by kind. Saying Todd’s life was claimed by “bullying” obscures the real, concrete ways people experience oppression because of gender, race, sexual orientation and able-bodiedness. It also denies the many ways that these characteristics constrain and shape a person’s behavior, actions and life.

For instance, much of the news coverage focuses on the fact that once a girl has a nude picture on the web, that picture can never be taken back. Framing the issue like this suggests that the moral of the story is “girls, don’t put pictures of yourself on the internet because look what can happen”. This understanding of Todd’s story misses two key points: First of all, we cannot fairly hold girls accountable for behaving in ways that suggest their self worth is based on their desirability and sexuality without also taking responsibility for the fact that we as a society force this message down their throats. We do this with media, with advertising, with lingerie football, with cheerleaders, with Halloween costumes, with jokes, with off-hand comments, with fairy tales, with coloring books, and with Barbie dolls, to name just a few examples. Secondly, where is mention of the perpetrators in this “moral”? Why isn’t the moral of the story “don’t spread pornographic images of people around without their consent, and if you receive a pornographic image of someone without their consent, know that this person is being victimized by an abuser, delete the picture(s) immediately, and support the victim/survivor by letting them know that what has been done to them is wrong and is not their fault”. Isn’t that a clearer, more supportive and responsive message than vaguely telling people not to bully while still suggesting the situation was the victim’s fault?

The generic language of bullying cannot capture the structural and highly gendered reality of Todd’s story. Todd was not simply “bullied”. These were not acts of childish immaturity; there were behaviors and attitudes that were learned from the adult world.  Allow me to contextualize.  Todd’s story actually begins with 13 years of gendered conditioning and sexist cultural messages. She is then victimized by an online predator who uses this conditioning to his advantage. She is slut-shamed, victim-blamed and ostracized by her peers (who have also been raised in a culture steeped in systemic sexism) for being victimized. We know that this piece of Todd’s story is not unique because we know the challenges survivors face in a society that only focuses on the actions and behaviors of the victim without questioning those of the perpetrator. At some point during the next two years of torment, she is assaulted by a boy who lies to her and manipulates her with malicious intent. The fact that this episode is called sex rather than assault (because consent obtained through lying, manipulation or coercion is not valid consent!) in all of the news reports I have come across further demonstrates the systemic, culture-wide sexist attitudes that prevail. As a result of two years of sexual harassment, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexual assault and isolation, Amanda Todd chooses to take her own life.

Framing this story in terms of “bullying” glosses over the lived realities of gender-based violence. It makes it sound like this “bullying” could happen to anyone, but that’s not true. This particular story could not have happened to a boy or man. It also could not have happened if we lived in a culture that did not accept discrimination based on gender and that supported and believed survivors of sexual abuse and blamed only the perpetrators. We have to recognize the specific oppressions that people face because of their gender, race, sexual orientation and able-bodiedness and work hard to rid our individual attitudes and our cultural systems of these prejudices. We owe this to Amanda Todd.

– Stephanie

February 17, 2012

Apparently, I’m a tool

Posted in Current Events, Popular Culture, Rape Culture, Uncategorized at 10:51 pm by sacetalks

This past week I’ve been over-exposed to the rotten deal that’s handed to women in this world I live in.

In the USA this week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing on contraception and whether it should be covered by insurance. Who was at that hearing? A table full of men. While contraception is important to men, who typically pay the bills for contraception like birth control pills and IUDs? Women.

Foster Friess, the billionaire backer of Rick Santorum’s campaign (if you don’t pay attention to American politics, these would be two Republican men who are key players right now in the up-coming American federal election), insinuated that all those women who are angry about their exclusion from the above mentioned hearing should simply stop being sluts. Then they’d have free contraception! Right.

Chris Brown performed at the Grammy’s despite being a convicted offender of physical assault, giving the age-old message that if you’re an offender of violence against women, most people will forgive you in a heart-beat.

Fox News commentator Liz Trotta blamed feminists for the rise in reported sexual assaults within the US military, the rise in costs for supporting the survivors of those sexual assaults, and the overall decline of the American economy. Again, offenders of violence against women were given the message that it’s okay, don’t worry about what you’ve done, we’re going to blame the person you did something violent and horrendous to. No, wait, we’ll blame the feminists. You can sleep at night while the survivors of your decision to force sex struggle with nightmares and flashbacks.

If you’re reading this thinking, “But we live in Canada. Things are much better here.” They’re not. Sexual violence is a major problem in our military, we struggle with our own issues of reproductive justice, and everywhere violence against women is minimized, trivialized, and dismissed.

Today, I stumbled across a cartoon on the Facebook page of Sonic 102.9, a radio station in Edmonton. The cartoon depicts Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes encountering a women taking a photo of herself. She’s posing with puckered lips. The next slide, he shoves a rifle into her face and shoots.

Where’s the funny?

Cartoons are supposed to be funny, right?

Anyway, this cartoon sparked a heated debate between those who found the cartoon depiction of a woman having her head blown off hilarious, and those who found it disturbing. It was swiftly removed from their page.

My position is that the cartoon trivializes violence against women, minimizes the real problem of violence against women in Canada, and reinforces the double-standard expectation for women to look attractive, but don’t be a try-hard.

But you know what, I’m a tool.

I forgot to mention men. Men experience violence too, actually more violence than women. My bad.

I’m also a tool, apparently, because I don’t laugh at every single picture, cartoon, comic, one-liner, online blog that was created to be a joke. Apparently, we are expected to find every joke we encounter funny, or else risk the threat of being a radical, over-sensitive, tool.

Seriously?

Not everything that’s created to be funny, is funny. Some jokes are just delivered poorly. Some jokes get old and lose their relevance. Some jokes are functions of a larger social system that is legitimized through the joke. For example, rape jokes. Rape jokes like, “It’s not rape… it’s surprise sex,” minimize and dismiss situations of actual rape for those perpetrating and those who have survived sexual violence. People, in real life, actually go into women’s rooms and start taking off the women’s clothes while they’re asleep. Men wake up after being passed out to men behind them, sexually assaulting them. They wake up to the shock and horror of sexual assault. It’s not surprise sex at all, and framing the statement, “It’s not rape…it’s surprise sex,” as a joke actually takes away the voice of those people who have been sexually assaulted while unconscious, asleep, passed out, or those who were shocked to discover that someone they know, love, and trust is willing to ignore the obvious: I (male/female/trans; young/old; drunk/sober; sexually experienced/never had sex) don’t want you to do that.

I take pride in the fact that I can think about the content I am exposed to online, and determine for myself whether it is actually funny, or in fact is a reflection of misogyny, racism, homophobia, ableism, fatphobia, etc.

If that makes me a tool, then I’m proud to be a tool.

But, I am sad that many people laugh at these jokes. Please, be a tool like me.

By Meagan Simon

 

May 13, 2011

Alien Sex

Posted in Myths, Popular Culture, Rape Culture at 9:45 pm by sacetalks

Sex sells music. That’s a fundamental truth you can take to the bank.

But, how does music sell sex? What does music tell its consumers about what is sexy? What does music tell its consumers about a man’s sexuality and a woman’s sexuality?

When I first heard Katy Perry’s song “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, I loved it. The beat hooked me along with Katy Perry’s digitally enhanced voice. Yet, when I finally paid attention to the lyrics and thought about what they meant, my love turned sour.

The first thing I noticed about the lyrics is the glorification of male sexual prowess. With such winning lines as, “Your touch magnetizing” and “Wanna feel your powers,” the listening audience understands that Katy Perry is addressing another person who has exceptional sexual skills. In Heteronormative World, where sex is always sold as heterosexual even when it’s not (re: Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”), we can easily assume Katy is referring to a man. To the listening heterosexual male, this means him. Still, anyone could see themselves in the role if they wanted.

Male sexual performance is being sold as heterosexual, powerful and awesome! If Katy Perry and Kanye West say so, this is the kind of sexuality that all women (presumed heterosexual) expect from good male lovers. Boys, grab your, *ahem*, pens and take notes:

–          You should be so out of this world good in bed, you’re like an alien, k? Like, supernatural, extraterrestrial, so futuristically advanced your DNA makes you superior to other men and all women.  When you infect a woman with your loving, it’s actually poisonous to her primitive DNA and will cause immanent paralysis.

–          But, that’s okay. You’re supposed to stun and hopefully render your female lover unconscious with your powerful and dangerous laser. It’s so sexy she’ll sing about it!

–          A woman wants to be controlled. See, women love a dangerous man they can’t tell is an angel or a devil. It hypnotizes then into passivity. To be a good heterosexual male you have to take charge to the point of abduction, but pretend that you’re protecting her.

–          Also, tell the woman you’re infecting that you tell her what to do. If she protests, keep repeating, “I tell ya what to do, I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do.”

(Modified from the lyrics to “E.T.”)

The song’s message: Men should perform their sexuality in terms of dominance, aggression and violence towards women. For those men who do not fit the above outline for heterosexuality, good luck “getting a girl.” For those men who do not think of themselves as heterosexual, well, you don’t apply.

People might get confused that Katy Perry is responsible for this messaging. We cannot blame one person for a song that condones and normalizes male sexual violence towards women. We can, however, hold accountable all participating members of the music economy and wider rape culture for fabricating a male heterosexuality that reaches its ideal performance in sexual violence.

Those responsible for Katy Perry’s “E.T.” also produce, market and sell female sexuality in addition to male heterosexuality. Waving a hypnotizing medallion back and forth, they suggest to female listeners, “you will choose to be an object for male heterosexuality and you’ll love it.” Despite the possibility that Katy Perry’s public relations people would spin this female sexuality as empowerment, it is first and foremost created for the male gaze according to the terms set by patriarchy. While heterosexual men and boys circle jerk to Katy Perry’s image, women are told that female heterosexuality is dressing provocatively to impress and attract heterosexual men. Be like Katy and you’ll get a boyfriend. In the song, female sexuality is predicated on and for the dominant male heterosexuality.

Don’t believe my analysis? Well, let’s look at the lyrics of “E.T.” one more time. Girls, if you want to learn from Katy and Kanye, hear are your tips to be a good, sexy female. Your tips come second because your sexuality comes second. Listen:

–          Your sexual pleasure is dependent on what your man can do for you. He’ll use his magic, bath his Ape in your Milk Way and probe you. You’ll love it so much you faint.

–          Look for a man that makes you afraid. It’s the dangerous ones that have the most magic in their touch

–          The only power you have in a sexual encounter with a man is to demand he perform. You can demand he kiss you, but you cannot be the one doing the kissing.

–          Sex for you is about a man taking something. You want this.

–          You want to be abducted. You want to be a victim of violence.

(Modified from the lyrics to “E.T.”)

At which point we come to the lyric that caused my feelings towards this song to spin feverishly towards anger. While the entire song sells heterosexual violent male dominance and female subjugation as fantastic/fun/sexy sexualities you’ll want to perform yourself, the particular line, “Wanna be a victim,” explicitly names it. It makes sexual assault sexy and reinforces the statement, “rape is a complement.” According to these lyrics, perfected male heterosexuality is achieved when a man becomes a rapist and perfected female heterosexuality is achieved when a woman becomes a rape victim… Anger, disgust, betrayal, shame, despair felt at this reinforced reality.

Why do we buy into songs with these kinds of lyrics? Because these oppressive lyrics reflect and reinforce the oppressive systems of heteronormativity, patriarchy and rape culture we and the song are already a part of. “E.T.” is just one of many moments in our lives where things are the way they are because that’s the way they are and the fact that I’m raising such a big stink about it is uncalled for.

Not only does sex sell music, music sells sex. People (men) in power (with money) are selling patriarchal, heteronormative sexuality by packaging it in the form of music. If a transgender  person, a gay person, or anyone who does not identify in terms of sexual and gender binaries, ends up buying the music, that’s a happy expansion of the market. The music industry produces male sexual violence and female sexual victimization for their listeners in an alluring package of bass, melody and semi-nudity.

Can I buy something else, please?

by Meagan Simon

“E.T.” by Katy Perry feat. Kanye West

[Kanye West]
I got a dirty mind
I got filthy ways
I’m tryna Bath my Ape in your Milky Way
I’m a legend, I’m irreverent
I be reverand
I be so fa-a-ar up, we don’t give a f-f-f-f-ck
Welcome to the danger zone
Step into the fantasy
You are not invited to the otherside of sanity
They calling me an alien
A big headed astronaut
Maybe it’s because your boy Yeezy get ass a lot

[Katy Perry]
You’re so hypnotizing
Could you be the devil
Could you be an angel

Your touch magnetizing
Feels like I am floating
Leaves my body glowing

They say be afraid
You’re not like the others
Futuristic lover
Different DNA
They don’t understand you

Your from a whole other world
A different dimension
You open my eyes
And I’m ready to go
Lead me into the light

Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

Your so supersonic
Wanna feel your powers
Stun me with your lasers
Your kiss is cosmic
Every move is magic

Your from a whole other world
A different dimension
You open my eyes
And I’m ready to go
Lead me into the light

Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

[Kanye West]
I know a bar out in Mars
Where they driving spaceships instead of cars
Cop a Prada spacesuit about the stars
Getting stupid ass straight out the jar
Pockets on Shrek, Rockets on deck
Tell me what’s next, alien sex
I’ma disrobe you, than I’mma probe you
See I abducted you, so I tell ya what to do
I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do

[Katy Perry]
Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

Extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

April 8, 2011

Thinking Film

Posted in Intimate Partner Violence, movies, Popular Culture, privilege and oppression, Rape Culture at 10:00 pm by sacetalks

I remember growing up watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I can’t remember what I thought about it then, a 5 or 10 or 13 year old child, with different and developing impressions about myself and the world around me. In all likelihood, I was probably fascinated with Gaston’s muscles and how many uncooked eggs he could swallow in one go. I also probably thought he was a jerk and it was wonderful that Belle ended up with the Beast/Prince in the end. It is unlikely that I would sit there in my youth analyzing my gendered relationship to Gaston, noting and reflecting on the perplexing discovery that I wanted his muscles for my female gendered body rather than wanting a muscleman wrapped around my body. And also, I probably never thought about why Belle and everyone else was white and what it meant for a young Belle to be forced to hide away in a Palace with a complete stranger in order to protect her father, eventually falling in love with her captor.

Like all Disney movies, people can view them and critique their depictions of sexual orientation, power, gender, body, race, desirability, etc., deconstructing how they create and sustain the dominant and normal roles for Western society. However, little children viewing them likely don’t have such a privilege to question and often, people don’t exercise that privilege even if they have it.

I’m a grown-up now with a grown-up education and grown-up privilege, so I get to question, criticize and make fun of the movies I watch. I did exactly that while watching a modern depiction of Beauty and the Beast, called Beastly. While it probably won’t gross $400 million in box office revenues like the Disney movie (it lack’s Disney’s musical flair), it too will make a profit by selling a story of love and captivity to young children and teens.

In Beastly, a powerful Witch changes a handsome young man’s body, a young man with the short-sighted impression that only beautiful people matter in the world, into a disfigured body with scars, metal, boils and cool tattoos (he gets to keep his muscles) to teach him the lesson that what really, truly matters is the beauty that we all have inside (and muscles). Kyle, the disfigured character, supposedly will learn that lesson by getting someone to say to him I love you.

An important aspect of the story is how Kyle’s rich, white dad abandons him and pays for a Jamaican woman and a blind man to take care of him. While under their care, Kyle develops a sense of empathy, relating to their misfortunes through his misfortune. That’s what we’re supposed to think anyway, only he never thanks them for putting up with his rotten attitude and providing for his basic needs, never recognizes the strength and resiliency of an immigrant woman trying to bring her children to the United States or sees his role in creating a barrier for her. Nor does he acknowledge how the blind man is quite happy and lively being blind, never once suggesting in the movie that it is something he loathes or wants “fixed.” No, Kyle, along with the audience, are supposed to presume that blindness is always something one would rather not have. Kyle “saves” them from their problems by making a magical deal with the Witch to give the man sight and give the woman her children once he achieves his good looks. That’s right; they are saved only if he gets his too.

 Our part as audience is simply to think that he’s learned a lesson about beauty. (The only lesson I would learn is people are beautiful only if they’re loved. Sorry singles). We are not supposed to notice how he spent an entire year of his life taking for granted the services others provided for him, using their positions of marginalization for his own gain. We’re not supposed to notice that he only does something for them when he is able to maintain his own privilege. And anyway, this plot line supposed to remain marginal in our thoughts compared to the main focus of the movie – his acquisition of the love of a beautiful girl (who by the way he also saves, what a good white hero).

The love story goes as follows: After he has sulked around in his home for the first few months of his “ugly” life, he decides to risk going outside. At a party, he speaks with a girl named Liddy who he thinks could fall for him. She is depicted as a female who gives back to the community, gives food to the homeless on the street and was able to see the good “inside” Kyle while he was still a handsome misogynist before becoming ugly. In the movie, sexism is sexy and so is criminal harassment.

He begins to stalk her. One night, he sees her attempt to protect her father from a drug dealer with a gun. Kyle runs to her rescue, causing her to fall and be knocked unconscious. He hides her away temporarily in her room and goes back to her father who’s just shot the drug dealer. Kyle blackmails Liddy’s father by taking pictures of the crime and threatening to show them to the police if the father does not give Liddy to Kyle because he wants her for himself. Wait, I’m sorry, it’s rather because he wants to “protect” her from the dead drug dealer’s brother. I know. It’s complicated.

She reluctantly arrives at Kyle’s home, not knowing about the blackmail. Kyle lies to her about who he is and why she is there. He begins to buy her things, builds her a greenhouse, and takes her to a mansion cabin in order to make her like him.

Eventually, she finds out Kyle loves her and whispers she loves him too. In the end, she isn’t really bothered that the ugly man she fell in love with turns into the handsome, rich Kyle who can take her on all sorts of trips all over the world.

Is it just me, or does Kyle use a lot of coercion to get Liddy to say she loves him? Is it just me, or does it seem like this would be a much different story if the Witch made Kyle both poor and ugly?

As my friend kept telling me, just don’t think about it.

That’s what I’m supposed to do right? When I see love depicted as a man using coercion to acquire a woman’s love – just don’t think about it. When I see how he still maintains his positions of white, class and gender privilege despite being made “ugly” – just don’t think about it. When I see a woman depicted as being both a 21st century independent lady and one who is defined by her role to take care of and love beastly men – just don’t think about it. She’s simply the care-giver ideal of femininity.

I shudder at the thought of a 12 year old boy not thinking about it, watching Beastly and forming his ideas about what it means to be a man; or a 12 year old girl learning to define her romantic attractions towards men she loves in sight of their beastly behaviors and attitudes.

I sit here saying that I will not not think about it, dang nab it!  I will not allow coercion to hide away in an image of heterosexual romance nor will I sit in my movie theatre seat not knowing that I just paid $12.50 to watch this crap.

Because I can.

Because I can think. We all can think about how love, sex, gender, power, race, privilege, disability, class, etc are depicted in film even as we pay to see those films. Except, of course, those who do not have the privilege to develop the skills of criticism, or the money to pay.

by Meagan Simon

March 4, 2011

Manitoba Judge fails at Sexual Assault Prevention

Posted in Current Events, Myths, Rape Culture at 6:14 pm by sacetalks

Whenever I speak to people about sexual assault, I usually cite two main ways to prevent it from happening. The first, really the only logical solution, would be for everyone to stop sexually assaulting people. Simple. Make sure every sexual partner you have consents for each sexual activity you engage in and if that person has a change of heart, respect this and stop. Simple. Know the consent laws. Simple.

However, for many people this suggestion does not seem so simple. It seems laughable, making a second prevention strategy necessary: changing our attitudes that make the first strategy so laughable.
Asking people to stop sexually assaulting others seems laughable to some because it holds offenders of sexual assault accountable for their behavior (you did something wrong, don’t do it), which is against the normative way of understanding sexual assaults: the victim is to blame. In that line of thinking, offenders are not responsible for their behavior, maybe because they “just lost control in the moment,” so there is no reason to ask them to stop. Thus, making a second strategy necessary, one that demands personal accountability and recognizes that offenders of sexual assault are always responsible for their behavior. It’s one that isn’t so simple. It is an attempt to change some people’s behaviors through a shift in everyone’s shared knowledge.

Recently, Justice Robert Dewar failed to hold an offender of sexual assault fully responsible for his behavior and therefore, worked against the prevention of sexual assaults in our communities. In a sexual assault case from 2006, Justice Robert Dewar recently convicted Kenneth Rhodes of sexual assault. However, in his sentencing he ruled that Rhodes was not completely responsible, his behavior wasn’t entirely wrong, and instead of the recommended three years in jail, Judge Dewar sentenced him to a two year conditional sentence without jail time. Why did he not hold Kenneth Rhodes completely responsible?

Because “sex was in the air” that night. According to Justice Dewar, Kenneth Rhodes, being as he was a “clumsy Don Juan,” was confused when the person he sexually assaulted said no. Because she was wearing heavy make-up and a tube top with no bra, she obviously “wanted to party,” and as she had hinted at swimming in a near-by lake naked, she created such “inviting circumstances” that such a “no” had no bearing in his “clumsy” efforts at seduction. You see, this is a unique circumstance, an entirely “different case” from other sexual assaults, a “case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.”
Each of his statements during his sentencing placed more and more responsibility on the survivor of the sexual assault, citing her dress and behaviors as more relevant reasons why it happened than Rhodes’ “inconsiderate” dismissal of her communicating no. Thank the stars and moons I have a brain, as do many other Canadians, who can and have seen how absolutely wrong his words and behavior were. There was a protest at the Law Courts in Manitoba last Friday, complaints have been made to the Canadian Judicial Review and we are all waiting to see if the Crown’s office will file an appeal.
Since so many others are taking action against his behavior, I would simply like to address two main issues with his statements.

I find it most noteworthy that Justice Dewar contradicted himself in his own statements about the assault. He notes that “this is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” Inconsiderate: selfish; thoughtless; insensitive; careless – words to describe a person’s beliefs or actions that do not take into account the personhood, desires, beliefs, and/or choice of others. Using inconsiderate to describe a person’s behavior surely recognizes that they did something that ignored another person’s perspective. How would it be possible in that situation that he also simply misunderstood signals? “I thought she wanted it.” If a person truly thought this, how could one then make a judgment that they were also acting inconsiderately? An inconsiderate act is either not “asking” that other person what they want, or seeing that they want something other than you, but ignoring this and carrying on anyway. In acting inconsiderately, miscommunication isn’t the problem. Rather, it’s that selfish person’s decision not to acknowledge and respond to their victim’s signs of discomfort and non-consent. It is not that Kenneth Rhodes misunderstood what his victim wanted; he ignored want she wanted and forced sex anyway. Judge Dewar knows this, otherwise he wouldn’t have convicted the man of sexual assault or recognized his “inconsiderate” behavior, yet apparently he believes it is not as important as how the person who was sexually assaulted dressed and behaved that night.

Another thing I’d like to draw attention to is how Justice Dewar attempted to justify his sentencing by claiming that this was “a different case” than other sexual assault trials. It is my understanding that a great deal of sexual assault cases involve an accused offender who claims that he or she just didn’t realize that the other person wasn’t consenting. Further, my job at the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton as a Public Educator depends on the reality that many people, including apparently Justice Dewar, believe that what a woman wears, her level of intoxication and her implied sexual promiscuity are all reasons for a man to force his penis into her vagina without her consent. This is not an extraordinary case of an offender misunderstanding the intentions of his victim, but a common excuse used by offenders to get away with their crimes.

If we are to prevent sexual assaults from happening, we all need to change our attitudes. We need to put full responsibly on offenders of sexual assault and validate the traumatic experiences of survivors. Even though this is a shared imperative for us all, it is especially true for those of us who hold positions of status and authority in our society because they are the ones who have the most power to instigate change. A Judge has a certain responsibility: communicate to offenders of sexual assault that what they did was wrong, so stop doing it, and communicate to everyone that the only people to blame for sexual assaults are those whose behaviors we deem reprehensible, the offenders.

by Meagan Simon

References:

news articles

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Judge+rape+ruling+beyond+sexist/4345312/story.html

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Rapist+sentence+likely+cause+uproar/4337109/story.html

http://winnipeg.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110301/wpg_dewar_110301/20110302/?hub=WinnipegHome

http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/02/25/outcry-grows-against-manitoba-judge-who-did-not-jail-rapist/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/judge-appears-to-blame-victim-in-sexual-assault-case/article1918444/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/christie-blatchford/manitoba-judge-is-dead-wrong-in-rape-case/article1920030/

http://thechronicleherald.ca/Opinion/1230693.html

http://www.globalwinnipeg.com/Crowd+protests+judge+assault+sentence/4348417/story.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2011/03/02/mb-dewar-sexual-assault-case-review-winnipeg.html

September 17, 2010

This week in the news (September 10 – 17, 2010)

Posted in Age of consent, Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, News Release, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 11:03 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.

Edmonton

Women’s groups blast Eskimos’ hiring choice

Tillman hiring spawns plenty of reaction

Morinville teacher denies sexual assault allegations

Teacher not guilty of sex charges

Hearing on hotel attack charges set for March

United Way aims for fundraising record

Alberta

Teen charged with sex assault

Local briefs – September 16

Canada

Police searching for suspect involved in sexual assault at house party

Two arrested in connection to rave sex assault

Sexual assault victim tells her story

Gang rape photos on Facebook: police

Man faces child sex charges from ’90s

Weekend sexual assault prompts warning from Vancouver police

Mounties on the hunt for man assaulting Kelowna women

5 charged in beating, sex assault

No remorse for sexual assault: Crown

Four years for sexual assault of 12-year-old

Woman grabbed on street; suspect charged with sex assault, kidnapping

Whitby McDonald’s manager charged with sexual offences against minors

Doctor faces abuse charges before College

Alibis key as sex assault trial wraps

Women and men Take Back the Night

Taking a stand

Taking back the night

Lack of DNA evidence halts sex trial

Prosecutor calls for 19-year sentence for HIV sex-assailant

Springhill physician pleads not guilty to sex assault charge

Mark Lafleur arrested

Teen Male Arrested For Sexual Offences

Elizabeth Fry Society reports an increase of sex assault complaints

Laffin lets lawyer appear for him on sex assault charges

Foot fetishist ‘dangerous sex offender’

Defrocked priest convicted of sex assaults paroled

Bail denied for accused Regina man

Border guard ordered strip searches: Crown

March to raise awareness about sexual violence

Grads gone wild

Take Back the Niagara rally goes Thursday

Victim saved by ‘angel’ relives frightful horror

Consequences needed

SJR making changes after sex abuse charges

More charges laid

Pratas facing two counts of failing to comply with bail conditions

Take Back the Night marching this Friday

Charge stayed due to doctor’s mental state

Sean Funk pre trial rescheduled

Woman, 34, sexually assaulted at North York massage parlour

Men found guilty

Officer’s trial adjourned

City man charged following criminal harassment investigation

Images spread so quickly, impossible to recall

Judge stays sex charges against man

Drug dealer guilty of rape

‘She’s going to be missed’

Teens appear in court on murder charge

Renald Côté to participate in UofM rehabilitation program

Annual march designed to help women Take Back the Night

Taking back the night

Ottawa police seek man who grabbed schoolgirl

Nine months for sex assault

Assailant was mentally ill: lawyer

Man charged in gruesome cemetery case

‘Con Air’ sends another one back to Ontario

‘Fen’ MacIntosh sentencing adjourned after defence objects to report

Psychiatric assessment ordered for man guilty of Courtice assault

Lepage abandons appeal

Man charged with assaulting a Toronto sex worker

Man deemed delusional when he slashed wife

Trial postponed in case of Quebec gym teacher accused of sex with her student

Safety main reason cited by coalition to keep gun registry

Man charged with disturbing graves in Baker Lake

Guilty plea for sexual assault of child

True shame belongs to the violent

Judge to decide on location of Proctor homicide trial

Adult Community Healing Resource Centre Opens October 1, 2010 in Cornwall Ontario

Vicious beating leaves victim’s kin traumatized

At OPP recruitment, gays set to protest “history of brutal policing”

Lawyers to present pretrial motions Nov. 22 in bishop’s child porn case

More sex charges a possibility

Rape trial stayed as woman avoids court after recanting charges

Preliminary inquiry in Dartmouth murder case set for March

The naked truth: It’s there somewhere

Sex attack suspect: mother ‘raised me to respect women’

Time served for scissors stabbing; neither man remembers attack

Take Back The Night

Granddad admits sex crimes against two

Police “aggressively” investigating jail cell incident

International

Teen alleges sexual assault, Fonzie the Clown charged

Judd opens up about sex assault

Sharpe takes leave from CBS after assault allegation

Christopher Hitchens: What if the Church’s own rules applied to it?

Reporter’s foray into Jets locker-room touches off debate

High cost of antique treaties

Filipino man jailed for having child porn

Rotten settles attack case

Israeli Soldiers Sexually Abuse Palestinian Children

Woman drags naked man by his beard

August 6, 2010

This week in the news (July 30 – August 6, 2010)

Posted in Age of consent, Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, News Release, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 9:54 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.

Edmonton

Molester pummelled by convict

Alberta

Former city psychiatrist faces 20 new sex charges

Sex attack lands 30-month jail term

Canada

Vancouver police seeking clues in sexual assault case

Ottawa police seek same man in two sexual assaults

Toronto police searching for sexual assault suspect

Saskatoon man gets prison term for 2008 sexual assault of 14-year-old

Proposal to put ‘rape’ back in criminal code abandoned

Missing teen sex assault victim sought

Man gets four years’ probation for assault during Ashbury trip

SIU investigates sex assault allegations against OPP officer

Suspect in bench assault due in court Aug. 31

Police are looking for person who followed sex assault suspect

Toronto residents fail to report crime due to perceived hassle, insignificance

Cyberpredator gets 10 years less time served

Victim Impact Statements

Man arrested for alleged sexual assault in town

Sex offender called risk to females of all ages

Man arrested for sexual assault

Man Accused in Sexual Assault at St. Vincent Hospital Denied Bail

Sexual assault charges dropped

Victims of sex abuse must be able to tell their stories

Boy was assaulted, say police

Former Saanich priest arrested on multiple sex charges

Woman sexually assaulted in downtown Vancouver

Former massage therapist wants ‘life back’

Two arrests, many charges

Sex offender lacks remorse, court told

Assault charge for ex-Lion

Ex-Blue QB on Texas wanted list

Pedophile’s harsh sentence hardly enough

DNA key difference

A woman’s place is on the police force

Dangerous sexual offender Koenders could be in Abbotsford

Long-term offender granted 3 short unescorted outings

Sex Assault Suspect and Fifteen Year-Old Victim Located

Mistaken inmate release under review

No one has the right to abuse

Manitoba inmates accidentally freed

Kelowna’s Most Wanted

Hearing begins into sex attack on woman

Offender back to prison

Prisoner released by mistake in Newfoundland

HIV-related criminal cases based on fear, not science, say advocates

Former Port Alice doctor sentenced – maintains innocence

Controversy Over NLHC Tenant

Band: Sex offender shouldn’t be chief

Indian Affairs rules sex offender is chief

Young girl attacked in school bathroom

So disturbing it is almost impossible to watch: judge

International

Self Proclaimed “Indian” Spiritual Guru Jailed For Rape

Unresolved legal situation leaves Packers CB Underwood unclear on future

Goa home minister, son linked to drug mafia: Scarlett’s mother

Al Gore cleared of sex assault allegations

August 4, 2010

This week in the news (July 23 – 30, 2010)

Posted in Age of consent, Child Sexual Abuse, Current Events, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (Rape Drugs), Intimate Partner Violence, Rape Culture, Victim Blaming at 10:29 pm by sacetalks

The following is a list of news articles and editorials on sexual assault in communities across the globe (over the past 7 days).  Many of the articles below may contain victim-blaming language, distortion of information which supports sexual assault myths, and/or triggering content.  What these articles do showcase is the prevalence of sexual assault (given that only a small percentage of the 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada which are reported receive media attention, several articles on sexual assault within one week indicate a huge number of assaults), what kinds of sexual assaults are reported and how rampant sexual assault myths are.  Please be aware that SACE does not support the content or delivery of any of the following news pieces.

Edmonton

Busted by science? Bank on it

Alberta

Calgary psychiatrist facing 20 more counts of sexual assault

Masseuse’s sex assault case delayed

Man admits to raping wife in front of child

Rapist seeks appeal but denied bail

Wife reported child porn suspect: court documents

Canada

Police release composite sketch of sexual assault suspect

Cab driver gets four years for sexually assaulting fare

Sketches of sex assault suspects released

North Saanich man not guilty of sexual assault and forcible confinement

Man arrested in sex assault at Ottawa respite-care centre

Man charged with voyeurism, making child porn, sexual assault

Ottawa police won’t review HIV disclosure policy

Retired doctor gets a year in sex-assault cases

Luxton sex assault shocks residents

Elder avoids jail term for sex assault

Man, 18, arrested in connection with Regina sexual assault

Community Gathers Around Victim Of Cemetery Sexual Assault

Burford man charged with assault of teen

Surrey man gets 13-1/2 years for child porn involving own daughters

Man guilty of sex crimes against two boys

Male facing sexual assault charges

11 years in jail doesn’t seem enough for sex tourist

Sask. woman admits making up nightmare sex-assault tale

Few sex assault victims seek help

Winnipeg teaching aide charged with sex assault

Sex charge prompts probe of youth-offencer penile test

Does HIV trump privacy?

Soaring crime rate pushing Nunavut’s judges past limit

G8/G20 Communique: G20 violence against women

Police still working on 2001 murder at CFB Trenton

Man charged after teen girl sexually assaulted on railway tracks: police

Repeat sex offenders should feel full weight of law

Suspect’s bail revoked in HIV murder attempt case

Teen rapist implicated by DNA

Five years for sex assault

BC doctor guilty in sex assault of teen patient

Victim’s brother in court to see accused colonel

‘Dangerous’ status sought for sex offender

3 fugitives nabbed by police in NB, Quebec

Charges Laid in Freeman Park Aggravated Assault

Sexual assault arrest

Beware of fake police

Man faces sex-related charges

The jamboree — some list of ‘highlights’

Williams’ wife ‘innocent victim’

Man jailed for missing court three years ago

Historic sex offender ordered deported

Assaulted on first date

P.A. sex exploitation case adjourned

Child pornographer released

Man charged with sexually assaulting girlfriend

House arrest extended to workshop for Millbrook man

Target johns, not prostitutes

Sex offender sues over alleged police beating

Teens charged in Kimberly Proctor murder appear in Victoria court

Durham police lay child porn charge

International

Michael Lyons AKA Mohan Singh sentenced for rape in London, England

A mission of mercy, mourning

Utah court reverses Jeffs’ convictions

Following a script to escape a nightmare

No consent? No problem!

‘Scarlett threatened by local few weeks before death’

People often regard massage therapists as prostitutes

Jurors in Pitino extortion trial watch TV interview

Jury finds Texas man guilty of starving 3 children

Casey Affleck sued for sexual harassment

US family sues Catholic diocese after accuser in priest abuse case commits suicide

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