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With YOUR help!
HOLLABACK MELBOURNE NEEDS YOU!
Do you want to contribute to ending street harassment in Melbourne? Are you fed up with being harassed or seeing others being harassed and feel inspired to take action? Or are you an awesome feminist-minded human being who is looking to gain some professional experience?
Come and join the Hollaback! Melbourne team. We are currently looking for REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS,and an EDITOR/ WEBSITE MANAGER.
What do you get? Experience, getting to work in the friendliest most flexible feminist street-harassment-fighting team going, and the satisfaction of helping to end the most common form of gender based violence in your community.
Check out the POSITION DESCRIPTIONS HERE! All the info is on that page, but if you have any questions shoot them over to Alanna Inserra at email@example.com. We will be accepting applications for these positions until WEDNESDAY MAY 22.
So a few weeks back now, on the ‘stalkerspace’ facebook page for my uni, a guy made this joke about having been ‘raped’ by an exam he took. We’ve all seen it before; guys equating being beaten with being raped, and winning with raping. It’s pretty terrifying really.
Seeing his post I decided to put it out there that jokes of this sort just really aren’t funny; to read the comments in response you’d think I had suggested a ritual burning of anyone making rape jokes. A number of guys took it upon themselves to target me for saying it wasn’t funny, to show me the error of my ways; telling me they were sorry I was a “precious white petal with no sense of humour”, or that I was being simply unreasonable or crazy.
It got to the point where I was being berated so much that I admitted to having been sexually assaulted, almost to try and shock them out of being so awful, and then suggested that there were probably far more people who would see this guys ‘joke’and find it triggering. Forever seared into my brain will be the response of one ‘man’ to this; “Well we can’t all be entitled can we.”
Thanks for painting me a humourless bitch because rape jokes aren’t funny.
Thanks for trivialising my experience of having been sexually assaulted by claiming I’m acting ‘entitled’ by having an opinion about the issue.
But most of all, thanks for showing me that rape culture is not only alive, but thriving.
Hi! Let’s chat (very quickly) about how culture and the media influences us!
In short, researchers from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg showed that 56 per cent of the advertising in popular US men’s magazines depicted ‘hyper-masculine ideals’. The effect, according to The Guardian?
Lead author Megan Vokey, and her colleagues only considered ads where a photograph, picture or symbol of a man was shown.
They were faced with range of questions for each ad like, ‘Does it appear that being extremely muscular is important for men?’
Results showed that a significant number of the advertisements portrayed or promoted one or more component of hyper-masculinity, defined as: Toughness, violence, dangerousness and calloused attitudes toward women and sex.
Ms Vokey said she was concerned how these help to normalize unsocial practices. Previous research has linked hyper-masculinity to problems including drug use, violence towards others and dangerous driving.
It’s just a quick one from us today, but it’s imperative that we be critical of the messages we’re being sent about what it means to be a man or a woman by the media. What qualities and attributes are encouraged in men, and which ones in women? Why do we have toys for babies and toddlers being marketed as either masculine or feminine? Are there differences in the way men and women are required to present themselves in office environments, in politics, in the media? All interesting questions.
Happy Tuesday everyone!
I consider myself pretty immune to harassment. People sometimes yell at me from cars, but it’s pretty rare these days, I’m a lady who walks tall, talks loud and is perpetually ready to stand-up and help someone in need. That’s why this guy really threw me.
I was sitting on the tram, practising an instrument (trying to be relatively quiet) there was a few spare seats arounds but this extremely large man choose to sit opposite me. Not only that, he almost fell on top of me. Not wanting to give to big a reaction, I glanced up with my quizzical don’t fuck with me face, and he began muttering. I’ve been around people who are violent with mental health issues before (not that the two necessary go hand in hand at all but… this guy was a prime candidate for potential violence) and I began to be afraid that this could escalate unless I began to placate the situation.
Immediately he began copying my body language. When we got to a point of mutual understanding, I politely began to ignore him. All the while he continued to mutter under his breath. Again, I’ve been in lots of these situations before, and I still felt pretty confident that I would be ok. But as he left, he leaned to say “I love you” and that was the final straw. The way this man had been dominanting the space, even when I made it clear I was unable to give him attention was ok, but the psychic effect of the I love you, was just so creepy it stayed with me for days. It was then that I thought of the danger I felt, and how this shit is just so not ok.
Hi I’m Poppy and welcome to my column! Here I’ll be writing about my own personal experiences with sexism and misogyny, and examining how many of our everyday actions contribute to a culture of sexism even when we aren’t necessarily aware of it. As you might have gleaned from the title of my column, I believe that our own personal experiences of sexism aren’t isolated occurrences, but feed into broader structures of inequality.
In a recent episode of Q&A (April 8th 2013), a young female audience member described the act of labelling oneself a feminist in contemporary Australian society as both a negative and disempowering experience and claimed that the term has come to be a “pejorative stereotype.” This young lady then went on to ask the all-female panel if they thought that feminism in the West was obsolete, and whether or not they believed that our efforts would be better spent focusing on women in the Third World who are facing real injustices and discrimination based on their sex.
As a young feminist myself (and quite a staunch and vocal one at that), I’m often asked about my position on this matter. My patronising detractors are constantly insisting that Australian women are treated as equals now and that I should just get off my high horse and quit my whinging, but I’m not convinced. Just because we don’t have to wear corsets, act like demure little lambs à la Beth March from Little Women and we can vote, it would be premature to strike up a celebratory sing-along of Kumbaya just yet. This is because there’s a world of difference between formal and substantive equality. In other words, even though women are technically treated the same as men in the eyes of law (for the most part anyway), there’s a disjuncture between the reality we’re told we’re allowed to experience, and the reality we actually experience.
Speaking from personal experience, I’d definitely say that young Australian women are pretty disenchanted with feminism on the whole. Many see it as dull and conservative, restrictive and daggy. Feminists are often thought of as naysayers, who hate on everything from Channing Tatum to sunbaking and want everyone to wipe off their makeup and discuss the joys of body hair. I’m worried about the misconception amongst many Australian women that feminism is somehow obsolete or unnecessary, and was relieved to hear all of the panellists on that episode of Q&A agree. In the two years that I spent living on-campus at university, I witnessed some of the most disgusting acts of sexism I’ve ever seen and worryingly, the girls participated in their own degradation. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that colleges are microcosms of society at large, but I do think that the shenanigans that go on there reveal something scary about the way that men and women interact with one another in contemporary Australian society.
The aspect of college life that epitomised the blatant sexism I put up with on a daily basis and, unwittingly, helped to perpetuate was intercollegiate sport. Of course, everybody took boys’ sport incredibly seriously because um, duh, boys are like ten squadrillion times better at sport and are just superior in pretty much every way possible to their female counterparts. Every Friday night without fail we’d dutifully kit ourselves out in college gear and head down to the oval to cheer them on and support them.
In stark contrast, there was an upsetting unspoken consensus amongst the girls that athletically we were a joke and should therefore treat our sporting pursuits as such. We consistently referred to our intercollegiate football games as “Chick’s Footy.” We made posters to advertise upcoming games using heinous puns like “Balls and scoring go hand-in-hand” and “Come watch the girls play with balls this Saturday!” We believed that the only way to get the boys off their backsides to come and support us was to make entirely unsubtle references to things like mud wrestling and “girl-on-girl” action, and so that’s what we did. In hindsight, I now realise how offensive this is to both boys and girls alike. This sort of mentality reduces boys to one-dimensional, pervy ignoramuses, and reinforces the misconception that women are nothing more than sexual objects that exist solely to be ogled at by men.
Sadly, this sort of mentality isn’t restricted to the realms of college. In the sporting world at large, women seem to be either the butt of someone’s pathetic idea of a joke, or just a pretty face on the sideline. Don’t believe me? Check this shit out. And also this shit.
As poorly as the media portrays them (I’m sure you heard about the debacle at St. John’s), college students generally aren’t nuffies. Being smart was cool, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that it wasn’t quite enough. As a girl, to win the affections of your male counterparts and the acceptance of your female peers, you needed to be cute and to look the right way. Intellectual thrust alone wasn’t a one-way ticket to the top of the pecking order, and this was particularly reflected in attitudes towards the female tutors who lived on campus with us.
I now know that these women were highly intelligent and worldly, having studied fascinating things like chemical engineering, quantum mechanics and Lacan’s post-structuralist theory, and had their Master’s degrees and PhDs. Some of them had published articles in international journals and had lectured at universities around the world. They were there to provide us with scholarly council, read our convoluted essays and, the college board hoped, foster the development of an ‘academic community’ where students and tutors would live and learn together as one.
However, rather than turning to these women for advice or celebrating them for their contributions to society, I sniggered at them for wearing kitten heels and pantsuits, having frizzy hair, and loving academia more than they did the opposite sex. My stupid behaviour contributed to maintaining a climate of sexism where women aren’t judged on their merits or achievements, but their ability to choose the right shoes for their outfits and look pretty.
Whilst at college, I regularly abandonned my principles to get a cheap laugh or impress a boy, and bit my tongue when I should have been screaming out in protest because I was worried that I’d be labelled a prude or a bitch. Little did I know, the attitudes I was displaying were having a detrimental affect on all the women around me.
I used to be oblivious to the sexist bullshit that was being dished out to me on a daily basis. I didn’t really realise that there was anything wrong with the language my friends and I were using (“She’s such a dumb bitch”) or the things that we were doing (going to parties dressed as Playboy Bunnies) until somebody sat me down and very matter-of-factly pointed it out to me. As soon as I bothered to stop for five minutes and think critically about what I was doing did I realise how rubbishy the system I’d become a part of actually was. I realised that I wanted to be respected for my sporting ability, not how good my tits look as I run the length of a football field. I realised that I want to live in a world where all women are valued according to their ability to affect change and be good people and not on the size of their bottoms and I dare say that I’m not alone.
A little over a year ago at a dinner party I found myself on the verge of tears as I waved my fork at my best friend and insisted that she was a feminist. She rolled her eyes and looked bored as I sat across from her, little bits of roast beef flying from my mouth as I reeled off a litany of reasons why she was profoundly wrong in her assertion. I kept at it on the way home, ignoring her every attempt to placate me.
I’m proud to say that my persistence paid off, because that very same friend helped me to write this article. She too went to college and when we reminisce about our experiences there, it’s often her who’s first to point out the blatant sexism that went on and how unfair it was.
The good news is that pretty much all girls are feminists. The problem is that they just don’t know it yet.
Welcome to our first official edition of The F Word!
Last week we mentioned that we would be beginning a new series to explore some frequently used feminist terminology. These will be words that you might have read here or there but may not have a good understanding of unless you’ve studied a gender studies course or something similar.
We’re going to start with a big one: VICTIM BLAMING.
This a term that gets thrown around a lot, and many people will have at least some idea of what it means. It is, after all, fairly self-explanatory. What we’re going to do today though is dig down a little more, look at some examples of victim blaming, how it ties into the issue of street harassment and why it’s such a problem.
A brief trigger warning for today: this piece will be dealing with issues including victim-blaming (obviously), but particularly in the context of rape and other forms of sexual assault. It may be triggering for survivors of sexual assault, who are encouraged to read on with caution.
Victim blaming is a term used when the victim of a crime is blamed for what happened to them. It is a term that can be used in many different contexts (a common one is victims of theft), but is most often used in association with cases of sexual assault, harassment, or rape.
It happens when we question the actions or behaviour of the victim of a crime, and in doing so suggest that they are in part responsible for what was done to them. In cases of sexual assault or harassment, this could mean questioning what a woman was wearing when she was attacked, or whether or not she was drunk. When these kinds of questions are asked, we are saying that the victim deserved to be attacked as a result of their own actions, rather than identifying the person who did the attacking or harassing as the real perpetrator. This kind of culture is clearly unacceptable, as no one deserves to be abused, harassed, raped, or hurt in any way and should not have their own actions questioned because someone else has done the wrong thing.
There are a huge number of examples of victim blaming, in the media as well as comment threads on news articles, facebook pages and twitter. It happens not just here but also overseas. Below are a few examples which demonstrate this phenomenon but this is by no means an exhaustive list. It is in fact rare to hear about an incident or allegation of sexual assault without it being followed by some of the common ‘victim blamey’ phrases like “What was she wearing?”, “What did she expect, being that drunk”, “She shouldn’t have been alone at night” and others.
One of the highest profile examples of victim blaming in recent times was in the discussion of the disappearance, rape and murder of Jill Meagher, who disappeared whilst walking home along Sydney Road in September last year – in her article Can we please stop the victim blaming? Clem Ford beautifully sums up how a lot of the early speculation was very much focused on what Jill Meagher had done to get herself into the situation and whether she had done enough to protect herself. These comments came from media personalities as well as the general public via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Take a read of Clem’s article to see what kind of arguments and questions were being thrown around.
Another example from here in Melbourne goes back to 2010, when two Collingwood footballers were questioned after a young woman came forward with allegations that she was pressured into having sex with multiple men at a South Melbourne home. Former player and media personality/commentator Peter ‘Spida’ Everitt tweeted “Yet another alleged girl, making alleged allegations, after she awoke with an alleged hangover and I take it, an alleged guilty conscience. Girls!! When will you learn!”, as well as this gem: ”Girls!! When will you learn! At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO! Allegedly”. Because of course the men involved in this incident had nothing to do with it and no control over their own behaviour. Of course.
And one from overseas – the incredibly well known Slutwalk movement was sparked into being after a police officer from Toronto, Canada, suggested that to avoid victimisation “women should avoid dressing like sluts”. He clearly managed to nail down a lot of the societal issues that contribute to women’s harassment and assault with that one (*sarcasm*). You can read about it over on the Slutwalk Toronto website.
One final example that is a lot closer to home – we’ve received a large number of submissions on our site in which women have recounted their experiences of harassment to us, and one in particular highlights a number of the issues associated with victim blaming. This particular woman, after being sexually assaulted and reporting the assault to the police, was asked by an elderly male psychologist ‘Do you honestly take no responsibility for the assault?’. This comment contributed to her withdrawing the assault charges as she felt the courts might feel the same way, which is absolutely not how survivors of sexual assault should be counselled. To read the whole submission and our response to it click here.
Street harassment is a form of sexual assault that is widely experienced by women and members of the LGBTQ community (often men who don’t conform to the typical ‘masculine’ stereotype). It is a form of violence that is unasked for and means that women, and some men, are unable to exist in the public space without have their appearance or even presence commented on. Street harassment can be verbal, and include unwanted ‘compliments’, threats, sexual or crude language, wolf-whistling and more, or could entail stalking, groping, and other physically threatening actions.
Many of the ‘justifications’ for street harassment are based on the argument that women, by virtue of their appearance, ask for attention and deserve any harassment that they receive. Harassers might say that their victims wear clothes that are too revealing, or too much makeup, or have too many piercings, or are just too pretty ignore. The list of excuses goes on and on. This policing of women’s appearance and existence in the public space needs to end. No one should have to deal with harassment, and absolutely no one ‘deserves’ it, no matter what they look like, or are wearing, where they are or what they’re doing. Saying that a victim of harassment is responsible for bringing the harassment on themselves is classic victim blaming, and completely distracts from the real issue, that there are harassers (who are primarily men) who feel that they have a right to comment on women’s appearance and make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe in public.
Victim blaming is a serious problem in our society, because it shifts the conversation from one telling men not to assault, harass or rape women, to one telling women not to be assaulted, harassed, or raped. It removes the responsibility of not raping and not assaulting from those actually doing the raping and assaulting, and it also serves to excuse those actions and behaviours. When the questions most commonly asked by the media are focused on the clothing, behaviour, company, drunkenness or appearance of the victim of sexual assault, they are reinforcing the idea that the attacker, the person doing the assaulting and actually committing the crime, cannot be held responsible. It also suggests that men cannot control themselves when faced with a bit too much leg or cleavage, or a women who’s had a lot to drink, which quite frankly does a huge disservice to all the men out there who do manage to do the right thing and treat women with respect.
When you see or hear victim blaming taking place, call people out on it. When media outlets publish or broadcast stories perpetuating a victim blaming culture or attitude, complain, let them know that you don’t believe their coverage is appropriate, accurate, or acceptable. Talk to your friends, start a discussion about victim blaming. If a friend comments on a girl’s clothing or ‘slutty’ behaviour, ask them why they think it’s a problem – does it make her more deserving of sexual assault or harassment?
There are a few great media campaigns around that are putting the attention back on the (potential) perpetrators of sexual assault. The picture below is from the great ‘Don’t be that guy’ campaign from Canada (click on the picture to see more from the campaign), and another fantastic example is the We can stop it campaign from the UK. Take a look yourself and share them with your friends and family.
The fantastic ‘Don’t be that guy’ campaign from Canada.
No one deserves to be raped, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted, no one deserves to be harassed, and unless we start to police ourselves and our society, we won’t change the prevailing attitudes that keep putting the onus on women to ‘protect themselves’, rather than on men not to do these things. If we call people out on it though, we can all help to end this culture of victim blaming.
And that was our first edition of The F Word. If you’ve got any comments let us know, or any other examples of victim blaming, whether in the media or comments made by celebrities (Twitter is a great place to find these kinds of horribly offensive attitudes and behaviours).
If there are any particular terms you’d like us to break down in future editions let us know, and we’ll see you in two weeks!
I live near the beach which is great except that summer tends to bring out a lot of dudes in cars which means that generally I get whistled and yelled at often when I’m just out walking maybe two blocks from my house (this has been going on since I was 14, I’m 20 now). I was getting so sick of the way it made me feel that I went searching on the internet to see if anyone else felt the same anger and frustration, that’s when I stumbled on Hollaback and after reading the stories I’d decided next time it happened I’d stand up for myself. I didn’t have to wait long, I went for a walk along the back beach near the time ball tower a couple days later, maybe 5 or 6pm and I’d just thrown on whatever was on my floor, a green shirt and red shortish skirt (which looked terrible with my short bright blue hair, but I just wanted to listen to some music and go for a stroll). A lot of people cruise around this road and a big 4 wheel drive started heading my way with a couple guys in it, about 23-25, I partially missed what they yelled at first, I had my headphones on. But when they pulled up about 2 metres away they said “close your legs ya slut!” which is kind of hard when you have to move your legs to walk. So I flipped them off and pulled a face at them to take back some kind of power, he laughed in a taken aback way and finished off with a “No fuck you, you blue haired fuck!”. Although I was still angry he’d ruined the calm of my walk, for once I felt like I’d defended myself, in a small way but it made me feel less like a victim.
I had the audacity to sit on a bench to myself on the tram. An older man sat next to me and asked what I was eating (a bag of chips, thank you very much). He proceeded to grab my hand, hold it in a lock between his two arms, and ask me to go for some drinks with him. I said no and tried to pull my hand away and he pressed on. Luckily we had to change trams and I was able to run ahead and sit next to a woman on the next tram (silly me, forgetting my place). I’m just SO ANGRY that even at noon, even if the man is at least 60 years my senior, I can’t take transport without first thinking of my safety.
One of the dirtiest words we have in the English language these days seems to be the ‘f’ word – not the four letter one that we’re taught not to say when we’re small, but the ever terrifying ‘feminist’. A lot of people more eloquent than me have discussed this particular phenomenon, so I won’t try to replicate that here (but if you want to have a read of some, head over to Why Not Feminism?, I’m not a feminist but… or for something a little more sarcastic and absolutely brilliant, Clem Ford’s Simple Steps to Becoming a Real Feminist). What we at Hollaback! Melbourne have decided to do is start a new series that will be brought to you fortnightly called The F Word. What we will do in this series is talk about feminism, and go over a few of the terms that are thrown around a lot not only here on our site, but ones that you’ll often see elsewhere in discussions of street harassment, victim blaming, rape culture and other topics.
It can be difficult to decipher what a feminist argument means when terms like patriarchy, victim-blaming, misogyny and structural inequality are used. It can make it hard to see how feminism relates to your life and experiences when you don’t personally use these terms, or even necessarily know what they mean (and that’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – I’m still not 100% sure I know how to explain some of these!).
With The F Word series, we aim to break down what a lot of these terms mean to help make the street harassment conversation accessible for everyone. Every person’s experiences are important and worth telling, and no one should feel that they don’t have anything meaningful to add. The terms we will discuss can help you to articulate the problems and inequalities you see.
We will kick off The F Word next week with a piece on VICTIM BLAMING: what the term means, some common examples, and why it’s such a problem. If you have any particular terms that you’d like us to explore then let us know! Much like Takedown Tuesday, we love to have suggestions from our readers and submitters. We want you to get involved, because by getting involved, learning more about these issues and talking about them with your friends and family, you can help to make a real change in our society.