#nakedisnormal, but for Playboy, #nakedisprofit

Today, Playboy announced that it was bringing nudity back to its magazines, a year after it had previously banned naked spreads. Following a series of tweets tagged #nakedisnormal, Chief Creative Officer, Cooper Hefner made the announcement this morning, stating that naked is normal and should not be treated as something to shy away from.

Naked is, indeed, normal. However, for a magazine that has been founded on the profits of pornographic material, naked is a profitable kind of normal, one that is used merely for exploitation. Playboy has founded itself on the oppression of women, and to claim that a return to featuring nudity is in our interests is nothing more than a lie. It’s a return to instant gratification, and the ownership of women’s bodies in an attempt to bolster sales.

In their return to featuring nudity amongst their pages, Playboy has co-opted the Free The Nipple campaign. But this is a campaign that is troubling in itself, given how it has been backed by Nice Guys TM, who want to assure women that if they want to sit topless beside them, that’s absolutely fine. It’s troubling, given that a quick search of the related tag on Tumblr shows that the tag has been co-opted by porn blogs, rendering the campaign something that can be – and has been – hijacked for the male gaze. The trouble with this lies in the fact that men have been raised in a society – that we’ve all been raised in a society – which treats women’s bodies as a reward. You can pay in and be rewarded, whether it’s with money, with kindness, or with your so-called support for their activism.

Given Hugh Hefner’s past – his involvement in the rape of Linda Lovelace and involvement in the rapes perpetrated by Bill Cosby– and the misogynistic undertones of Playboy that have run from conception to now, it’s easy to see the roots of this latest development. In a year where we have a President who has countless accusations of rape and assault to his name, in a culture where rapists are spared jail in exchange for being told they have to refrain from sex until marriage, this isn’t progressive. It is nothing more than rape culture, coming full circle.

A Celeb’s Guide To Misrepresenting Feminism

“[I’m not a feminist] because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.”

Shailene Woodley – “Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist, Time, 2014-05-06

There’s been a lot of talk of Shailene Woodley of late. Having taken on the role of Hazel in the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, and Tris in the recent adaptation of Divergent. For weeks, the media representation of her has been, on the whole, positive. 

It didn’t take long, however, for the above article to find itself gaining attention through Tumblr, and rightly so. 

The problem we have is that the aims of feminism have been distorted by the patriarchy sufficiently enough throughout the years that, even when attempting to resurrect a women’s group in my home town two years ago, the previous chair of the group interjected “We’re not crazy feminists, though. We’re not ripping off our bras and burning them, just trying to get a woman friendly space.” (Does anyone even remember where the bra-burning trope came from?)

Women are picking up on pro-woman messages, feminist messages, but even upon citing them feel the need to rebuff them. After all, we’ve been taught that feminism is a dirty word, usually by people who have no problem calling any woman who says otherwise a ‘bitch’, or likening her to Hitler. We’ve attached a stigma to the words ‘I am pro-woman’, ‘I am a strong woman’, and so forth that many celebs feel the need to suffix these words with ‘but I’m not a feminist’. 

But the problem we have as women is that we so frequently take our definition of feminism from men, whether we intend to or not. My first exposure to the ‘dirty word feminist’, was whilst calling out a customer’s sexual harassment, at which point, it was asked whether I was one of those ‘bloody feminists’. Feminism wasn’t something that was discussed in my household, nor in my school. And whilst I was reading articles in Bliss, More and Company about sexual harassment, rape and abuse, none of them ever name-checked feminism itself. So whilst women-produced media sets out the basics of feminism for so many young women, albeit the bare basics and an often contradictory message, so many girls and women first meet the term with a side order of derision. 

We need to stop allowing men to use feminist as a silencer, and this needs to stop. But what also needs to stop is the culture of celebrity dismissing feminism as wanting nothing more than female superiority and that ever pervasive myth of misandry. 

What we need more recognition for, however, are the celebrities who make pro-feminist statements beyond stating a woman’s right to be ‘sexy’. We need more women like Anne Hathaway, (although the only declaration of Hathaway being a feminist comes from another self-proclaimed feminist, Lena Dunham) and we need a fuckton more women like Ellen Page, and Louise Brealey who cites herself as a feminist very publicly on her Twitter biography. And, as I leave, I think we all need to consider this quote from Ellen Page, who puts it more succintly than I ever could. 

“But I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?”

#TwitterSilence? Silence won’t save us.

In light of the abuse aimed at Caroline Criado-Perez, Sunday 4th August was declared by some a Twitter ‘Trolliday’, or a day of #TwitterSilence. 

Of late, I’ve not been as active on Twitter. At times, silence comes naturally. For me, it’s the result of a need to retreat instinctively. For all my boisterous moments, I tend to need just as much time (if not more) to reflect. Natural silence is something that should be applauded, celebrated even, in the right circumstances. But it’s when silence is forced that concern is raised. And concerned, I am.

The Twitter Silence has seen some high profile names raise the issue of online abuse, bringing it to the forefront of discussion. But the irony strikes me with a certain bitterness. Our oppressors want our silence. Will they really strike up some new found empathy  with us in the light of a 24 hour twitter boycott? Doubtful. It merely teaches those that hate women that they can drive us off, in our hundreds. Thousands, even. 

At what point did we decide we stop discussion in the vain hope it would get our plight noticed? Silence from women is applauded by those who hate women. Our absence would be celebrated. #TwitterSilence teaches those who aim to silence women that it’s achievable. They merely need to push hard enough. 

Instead, we need to shout back louder. They want silence. I’m sure as hell not willing to give silence as a reaction to abuse. I know this is late in the day. I know many have logged off for the day, and won’t be back until the end of Sunday. But those who fall silent, those who co-ordinated the silence seem to be missing a key point. We have brought about changes over the past two weeks; From Caroline’s campaign to stop the erasure of women on UK banknotes, to the campaign for Twitter to tighten up it’s abuse policies and make reporting easier – These campaigns haven’t come about through silence, nor has silence contributed to their success. Silence doesn’t work. Instead, we need to keep shouting back. 

We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t. – Gloria Steinem

#IBelieveHer: And No Menz, I DON’T Believe You’ve Been “Falsely Accused”…

Today, I was “accused” by a male acquaintance of “always taking the women’s side” when it came to discussions of male violence against women. Inside, I cheered. Outwardly, my face showed no expression, as I knew what was coming. Mentally, a gameshow host was shouting in the back of my mind – “Bring on the rape apologia!” I hate it when these voices are right…

“I’m going to tell you something, and I’ve only ever told four people before you… You can’t tell anyone. But there was this girl who falsely accused me of rape. In the end, I had to go to the police to stop her, cos I was getting death threats from people she’d told…”

I can keep secrets. In fact, you’d be amazed at the secrets I keep. But this is one secret I refuse to shut up about, for the sole reason that I do not believe him. When men tell us they were falsely accused of rape, they expect to be believed immediately. Because men are our narrators in society, and we’re expected to believe them. God forbid we know of our unreliable narrators. God forbid we know they lie.

What my narrator didn’t know was I study everything. I absorb things that other people let fly under the radar. All five of his ex girlfriend’s were, in his words, “psycho bitches.” But of course, this was a “false allegation.” He told me to “shut up”, earlier in the conversation. But of course, this was a “false allegation.” He’d emotionally manipulated his last girlfriend. But of course, this was a “false allegation”. He’d once commented how Mini-Dragon liked to be the centre of my attention, with a hint of jealousy tinging his voice.

I didn’t accuse him flat out of lying. Part of me wishes I had. Instead, I pointed out false allegations counted for less than 3% of all reports of rape, and that men were statistically more likely to be raped than falsely accused of rape. I could see his eyebrow arch. He knew he wasn’t believed. We scare men by not believing their bullshit, and choosing to believe the women around us instead. I don’t think I needed to tell him I didn’t believe him. But a big part of me wishes I had…

But for the next man who decides to tell me he was “falsely accused”, all I have to say is, I don’t believe you, and the odds aren’t ever in your favour, this time…

#IBelieveHer; What #Steubenville Has Reminded Us About Rape Culture

“I would truly like to apologize. No pictures should have been sent out, let alone been taken.”

The words of Trent Mays, his supposed apology for raping 16 year old Jane Doe. The words that prove a tweet I sent last night wasn’t clutching at straws. In a fit  of fury over an offline conversation, I tweeted last night about the lengths people go to in order to defend a man’s right to rape; we saw it through Ched Evans’ support last year, through the Mike Tyson tours, which saw those supporting the tours claim Tyson had been set up. And now, we hear it from the mouth of the rapist himself… His remorse isn’t linked to the fact he raped Jane Doe. For one simple reason. We keep telling men they have a right to rape.

“But rape’s illegal!,” I hear some of you cry. You must be new, here… We lie to our women, we tell them rape is a criminal offence. Yet we see sympathy aligned with the men who rape women. 5,000 likes for a page in support of rapist Ched Evans, a grand total of 0 days in jail for rapist Roman Polanski, and a report on the rarity of false accusations twisted into an article about how men suffer from false accusations by BBC. I could go on, but fear I’d be here all night, just listing cases where rape has not only been minimised, but legalised too. Trent Mays didn’t apologise for raping Jane Doe, because he felt it was his right.

“But he was jailed!,” you argue. You really are new to these parts. Seriously. I’ll get you a map.  Figures from Rape Crisis and the British Crime Survey puts unreported rapes at 90%. In other words, men who rape have a 90% of their victim not going to the police. Why’s that, you ask? Take a look at the Saville cover up, the naming and bullying of the survivor in the Evans case, the rape myths women have forced down their throats at every time. As soon as we’re old enough to walk, we’re warned against “stranger danger”, yet it’s not strangers we need to fear, it’s the men sleeping in our beds, who think rape is their right.

And what really burns, is how ingrained rape culture is. We accuse the survivors of lying, despite knowing the rate for false accusations is low – 2%. We accuse the survivors of lying, choosing to believe the accused by default, on the basis of their sex. We try to blame survivors, by referring to their clothing, how much they drunk, whether they flirted with their rapist. We talk about rape, discussing it in terms of “sex”, when it’s not. It’s men’s violence against women, using penetration. To the survivors of rape, it feels nothing like sex. To those who campaign against rape, it looks nothing like sex. But we compare it to sex to discredit the survivors, and make excuses for the men who rape them. When we compare rape to sex, we try to imply confusion in the rapists mind. Yet they know they’re committing violence at the time. They know it’s rape, and we have to stop giving them a defence.

But with Steubenville, as in the Ched Evans case, it hasn’t ended with the verdict. The abuse continues, as the media empathises with the rapists, forgetting of the survivor. The first article I saw regarding the Steubenville verdict hosted a photo of Richmond crying into his mother’s shoulder – a move which aims at garnering sympathy for the rapists. The survivors pain is not as important as that of the men who raped her. If it was, the media wouldn’t sympathise with their “ruined futures”. They made the choice to ruin their futures when they made the choice to rape. And further more, social media allows the further abuse of the survivor – PublicShaming.Tumblr.Com has collected a sample of the worst of social media’s response to Steubenville.

Isn’t it time we stopped pretending rape has already been outlawed, and truly remove men’s right to rape?

#HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp; This is a Story Of Male Violence – Let’s Remember The Victim

This morning, a South African friend broke the news of Reeva Steenkamp’s death. At the time, an idea was floating around Facebook that her killer, Oscar Pistorious, had mistaken Reeva for a burglar. The two were in a relationship, and over the past few hours, details of the abuse Reeva endured at Pistorious’ hands have begun to surface. After posting a link to my own facebook profile, a friend informed me that Pistourious had shot Reeva four times. It was becoming clear that this was no accident.

As I headed over to twitter this evening, I was disappointed to see Pistorious’ name trending, alongside jokes. This is the last time I’ll use his name in this post.

See, Reeva Steenkamp should be the name on everyone’s lips. But her name was missing from the trending topics. Hell, I saw tweets referencing her death that failed to even mention the fact a woman had been killed by male violence, let alone Reeva’s name. She’s been dead less than 24 hours, and the patriarchy is already erasing her. Fancy that, eh… This would be the same patriarchy which failed to mention Andrea Johnson by name when reporting how her husband had murdered her before killing himself. The same patriarchy which sees women silenced, and ignored when they try to speak out against men’s violence against women. The same patriarchy which sees the murder of the prostituted class ignored, and women blamed for their own murders. Women are not allowed to live a life free of blame; the patriarchy won’t allow it.

We’ve heard how Reeva was an FHM model. The fact she was a law graduate was ignored. The fact she spoke out against violence against women has been ignored. Even in her death, Reeva has been objectified. Googling “Reeva Steenkamp” in the news section of Google relays, at present, 2,350 results. Images added to the search engine database, following her death, included an FHM cover, as well as various photos of Reeva in a bikini. Googling her killer’s name leaves us with 201,000 news results, although I’m unable to determine how many of these were added today. All I can say for certain is that I got 27 pages in to the results, and gave up.

We do not need to know Reeva was a model to feel saddened by her death. But objectifying her following her death remains a huge kick to the teeth. We need to remember her name, and we need to keep Reeva’s name at the forefront of our minds. It is time we stopped glorifying men who kill women, no matter how unintentionally we do so. Our conversation should not erase the victims of men’s violence against women, but instead, they should become the forefront of our discussion. We cannot end violence against women when the women killed by male violence are forgotten.

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. And we must not forget that.

*Edit: Google is now displaying more results for Reeva in the news. The stats above were what I found at 23:01 on 14/2/2013

#IBelieveHer: In Which The Daily Mail Forgets They’re Talking About A Nine Year Old Rape Survivor…

There are certain elements that I feel should be missing from a report on a survivor of child rape. Sadly, today, I was alerted to an article in the Daily Mail which contained all of these things;

  • DNA tests are being carried to determine who real father is – amid claims it is either her boyfriend, 15, or even her stepfather

Romanticising abuse. Not something you’d associate the Daily Mail with, right? I hope you can hear the sarcasm dripping out of your computers right now, because the Mail has become, to me, synonymous with misogyny, victim blaming, and romanticising abuse.

See, a 15 year old, who is having sex with a nine year old, is not her “boyfriend”. He is a rapist. But calling him her boyfriend romanticises the abuse, puts them on an equal footing and momentarily takes the lens off the issue at hand; Here is a nine year old girl who has been raped, and as a result, fell pregnant. Calling her rapist “her boyfriend” puts them, momentarily in the readers mind, on an equal footing.

The Mail continues, mentioning a report in a local newspaper which states that Dafne* could have been raped multiple times over several times, “but claimed it was never violent.” Rape IS violence, regardless of whether additional violence is used. To claim a rape was never violent minimises the experience of the survivor, and in Dafne’s case, ignores the fact that after the violence of rape, this girl had to go through the additional violence of an underage pregnancy and an underage childbirth.

Dafne has since been sterilised, showing yet again how she’s been failed by Mexican authorities. A nine year old girl, who has been raped and made to carry that fetus to term does not need sterilising. She needs protecting. And when it comes to the British Press, it serves no one well to talk of child rapists as “the boyfriend” of the survivor of child rape.