Linkfest 3000: Victim Blaming Edition

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault, victim blaming and rape culture.

Well, technically this is the opposite of a “victim-blaming edition” — here’s a (growing) list of links with something sensible to say in response to Mia Freedman’s “tell your daughters not to drink” article of October 23.

There’ve been dozens of articles and probably thousands of tweets debating victim blaming, rape prevention, rape culture and survivor support in the last couple of weeks. It’s exhausting. If you’re interested in the discussion, you’ve probably experienced diatribe worthy of screencapping and sending to STFU Sexists. Hopefully you’ve had some productive discourse too. Here are some useful links you can use to support and encourage productive discussion surrounding rape prevention. Want to learn how to support survivors better? These are good for that too.

See also: Friedman, J and Valenti, J. 2008. Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power in a World without Rape. Berkeley: Seal Press.

Got another article or link worth adding? Let me know in the comments!

Empathy and Victim Shaming at Cracked

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and rape jokes

From “Four ‘Victims’ We Have to Stop Feeling Sorry For”, by Adam Tod Brown, editor and columnist at Cracked.com:

At some point, the talk on stage turned to what subjects can and cannot be considered funny.

“That’s where the details get hazy, but it’s alleged that a woman in the audience yelled out “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” or something to that effect, to which Tosh replied, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that chick got raped by like five guys?”

“Of course, they’re both wrong, but we can’t just collectively settle on that conclusion and power on as a team, so instead, the incident turned into a gigantic controversy that resulted in halfhearted apologies and everything.”

Using your stage time to encourage a crowd, “jokingly” or not, to rape — violently assault — a person isn’t a joke or part of any comedy routine. It’s harassment and bullying, and the women belittled by Tosh had every right to speak out.

So many — so many — women have been harassed, assaulted and/or raped. That includes your friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, sisters, mother, colleagues, peers — and audience. (And let’s not forget that men are raped and assaulted too.) We can be 100% sure that Tosh made that comment to a room in which some — or even more than some — had suffered assault. That’s like joking about cookin’ with gas to Holocaust survivors who lost loved ones to horrific abuse.

A friend of mine put it really well today: we don’t take offence — we are hurt by the way rape jokes make light of horrific experiences and we are frightened by intimidation and threats. No one goes to a comedy show to be frightened. Tosh might have thought his “just joking” threat was hilarious — but fear of assault (and the onus to a. prevent it and b. prove it was genuine) is something women face daily. We’re always looking over our shoulders.

It’s surely time to stop talking about Daniel Tosh. But Cracked, and other commentators, have shared his flaw: a lack of empathy for their audience. We choose not to make rape jokes not to avoid causing offence, but to avoid triggering upsetting emotional responses and terrifying memories.

I really feel like Cracked is losing the plot, lately (and their female audience).

(Reposted from my tumblr. I’m comforted to see that others, in the tumblr world at least, were also angered by Brown’s insensitivity.)

Window Shopping

In a Lush store window in London yesterday, a very brave woman — Jacqueline Traide — consensually underwent torture in protest against animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

An article in the UK’s Daily Mail published photos of the event here. (Whether you call it a stunt or endurance art is up to you.) I post that link with a trigger warning; the photo series is (for me, at least) extremely upsetting. But that’s the point. It’s easy for us to distance ourselves from the pain of animals. We can call them dirty vermin or test subjects. They can’t speak up, and their deaths happen quietly, out of sight.

We wouldn’t let the same torture occur to our friends or our pets. There would be outrage. Charges would be laid. Yet industries that practise animal testing or factory farming continue to torture conscious, feeling creatures — and we continue to rationalise it.

Take a look at that link. Be horrified, disgusted, upset, anxious, nauseous, sad — whatever you feel. Then, in future, think about the products you buy, how they are made, and what you condone when you purchase them.

Traide’s 10-hour ordeal challenged London window shoppers. Who, of course, are the real animals, when we make these kind of nightmares commonplace?

Lush, as one example,  proves that the testing of cosmetics on animals is unnecessary. It is a thriving global business that acts ethically and works to minimise impact on the environment. (They also fixed my face.) This is my chance — as a recent convert — to sing their praises without being dull and telling you Things About Soap.

There are lots of horrifying things going on in the world, and often it feels overwhelming. But every little thing you do to help counts, so do even the little things when you can.

The Problem at Hand

So, my note to Queensland cracked 1000 page views yesterday. Not a big number, in the scheme of things, but certainly a happy anomaly for a little poetry blog. Thanks for reading and sharing. Glad to know you’re out there.

A brief exchange at Brisbane Airport hit the nail on the head for me yesterday, when our shuttle bus driver asked us if we’d heard the results. He explained that he usually votes Labor but — like many Queenslanders wanting change — voted Liberal this time around. He looked uneasy and said, “I just hope Campbell and the Libs have some good plans for the next few years.”

Herein lies our problem, Queensland. You’re meant to check out your candidates’ policies before you number the boxes — not cross your fingers afterwards. It’s your democratic right to vote. But however your politics swing, it’s your democratic responsibility to vote with forethought.

Oi, Queensland!

Dear Queenslanders — no, let’s get more specific. Dear Queensland women and feminists, artists and arts workers of all kinds, Indigenous people, refugees, queer and LGB people, trans people, genderqueer people, poly folks, pro-choice people, environmentalists, unionists, students, academics, journalists, weirdos, and friends and lovers of the above:

Now is not the time for that peculiar Aussie apathy.

Nor is it time to skip town.

More than ever, now is the time to be visible and vocal in Queensland. It’s time to be patient, fearless, and determined. It’s time to be aware of your rights and to be vigilant.

And above all, it’s time to create as much art as superhumanly possible. Get cracking.