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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Police Story

Ah hindsight, its wicked isn’t it, especially when it comes to relationships. What feels like an exciting, romantic gesture when you’re together, suddenly looks a little bit weird and creepy when it all falls apart (am assuming that Katie Holmes knows how that feels this morning). So how does it feel when you read about potentially systemic abuse by any number of police officers and realise that, while not abusive, your previous relationship with a policeman was littered with the same behaviours?

I experienced firsthand (and let me be very clear on this) in a non-abusive relationship with a policeman, the following:

  • Flowers sent to my work address which I had never given him; when challenged, he shrugged and said “I’m a detective”
  • I don’t believe I ever gave him my home address and yet he knew it
  • After we split, which was his decision, he continued to email and text – even after repeated requests to stop
  • He promised to delete my contact details and then contacted me again – his explanation for how he found my contact details was weak and now feels suspicious
  • He had serious anger control issues, never with me, but it was very close to the surface
  • I haven’t heard from him since February, the last time he got in contact he sent a message which was deliberately written as if it was part of an ongoing conversation to (I believe) disguise the fact it was him and lead me to engage; I am constantly waiting for the next message

I know of other women who have had experiences with the police and “romance”, scarily similar to mine. As a result, my BFF and I have a rule about not dating policemen; when she got chatting to one in a bar, she told him about this rule in jest and he totally lost it at her – point proven?

There are the extreme cases, such as that of Stephen Mitchell who has quite rightly been jailed for life. But beneath that it looks like there is a culture of abuse of authority and betrayal of trust. It appears that police officers are seeking out the vulnerable for their own sexual needs.

I’ve made this point before, but I think it’s important; sometimes it’s the casual, everyday stuff that is the key signifier. A police officer feels comfortable seeking out contact details as part of his dating strategy because there is a culture in which that is the “done thing”. To abuse your position with good intentions, doesn’t mean you haven’t abused your position. To do so with such casual disregard for the other person’s feelings is downright terrifying.

Now here’s the thing, I’m a strong, confident woman who may have got swept up in the sexy policeman’s antics and maybe it took me too long to see the light, but I got there. But if I were vulnerable, if I had met him because he was investigating a crime that happened to me, would I be able to see him as anything but my saviour?

So hindsight, brilliant isn’t it… I’m off for a shower to wash away the feeling that I have been slightly violated.

The Guardian report is here http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/29/guardian-investigation-abuse-power-police.

What Would Gregory Peck Do?

There is a scene in Roman Holiday in which Gregory Peck takes a very stoned Audrey Hepburn back to his apartment. She’s totally out of it and a princess and enjoying her first illicit taste of freedom. Gregory could make a move and she’d probably let him, because that’s how out of it she is. But you know what, he doesn’t make a move (although he does plonk her on the sofa), you know why Gregory Peck doesn’t make a move, well two reasons:

  1. He’s a total gentleman and wouldn’t do that sort of thing
  2. It would be rape

Point 1 I think we can all agree on and move on to point 2 there because that’s the important one. The fact our adorable princess is far too out of it to consent, means she hasn’t consented, which makes it would have been rape. I thought we had all agreed on that by now.

And yet, today/last night, Twitter was alight with idiots discussing Julian Assange’s alleged crimes with too many people suggesting that, if he did what he was accused of, it wouldn’t be rape/sexual assault, you know because she was asleep next to him. I suspect if we could be bothered to look into it, a substantial amount of the people who don’t feel Assange could be a rapist also don’t believe Ched Evans is a rapist (despite people who heard all the evidence thinking he is) because the victim was drunk and may or may not have agreed to sleep with his friend. See also, Mike Tyson’s victim “asking for it” because she was in his hotel room.

This, we call “victim blaming” and it’s a nasty nasty habit that this world has got into. Women are raped because someone rapes them. The blame lies squarely with the rapist; the person who should have acted differently is the rapist.  I simply do not believe that any woman puts herself in a position where she could be raped, no woman would ask for it… Never, ever.

So, in case I wasn’t clear that rapists are to blame for rape, here are a few things that aren’t to blame for rape/sexual assault:

  • Wearing a short skirt/low cut top/underwear as outerwear/high heels/hot pants
  • Being drunk
  • Being in someone’s hotel room
  • Walking home alone
  • Being high
  • Travelling on public transport
  • Sleeping
  • Being a princess high on tranquilisers and on the run from your handlers
  • Being a prostitute
  • Being married to/living with/dating a rapist

 And here are things that are to blame for rape/sexual assault:

  •  A man who rapes/sexually assaults
  • A woman who rapes/sexually assaults

If you are unsure if the person you are with is definitely consenting and is in a fit state to consent, then I would recommend not having sex with them. And if you’re still not clear, then a good rule of thumb is probably, what would Gregory Peck do?

 

This Sporting Life

Once you realise how much sexism there is in sport, it’s impossible to look away, it is everywhere.

Women athletes are subject to the same bullshit misogyny as the rest of us but ramped up to 11. They are judged on their looks more than their skills; remember Flo-Jo’s nails, The Sun called Jessica Ennis “The Body” earlier this year, type “Serena Williams Fashion Disaster” into Google and you get 85,700 hits. The International Olympic Committee’s charter states “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” and yet Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have yet to send female athletes and are yet to be banned. They get less funding, less sponsorship and less coverage. There is a perception that if you don’t look good, you won’t get any attention at all. As mentioned in a previous blog, lady footballers were encouraged to wear tighter shorts to get more attention. Fuck you Blatter!

Last Sunday I did a little non-scientific research of ITV’s Euro coverage (no need to call in Ben Goldacre, hands up, it wasn’t expertly done) in order to see what the representation of sports women would be like – I was expecting sporty adverts, it being the football and that. Over two matches and way too many advert breaks we saw male athletes, being identified by their sportiness; advertising cars (lots of cars), chocolate, beer, tyres, Nivea, The Sun, logistics and betting sites. Lots of “manly” and “non-manly” things that couldn’t possibly be represented by a female athlete… During all of those hours of adverts, we had two incidences of sports women; a lady fencer for UPS (who doesn’t really do any fencing) and some lady tennis for Magners but that’s being played in the dark so as not to offend. A nod of appreciation to Morrisons who seem prepared to accept that women watch football, not play football obviously, that would be silly. The ad for the Kia falls into a similar category, pretty lady drives to football stadium but she’s there to sing – know your place pretty lady.

Of course the most offensive football related advert is for WKD in which a pub hilariously goes silent while a man pretends to his partner that he’s working late, the helpful barman adding sound effects to make the call sound authentic. You know, because ladies won’t understand you having a night out with the boys and would lock you in the house using their ovarian tubing if they suspected you might want to socialise rather than hunter-gathering or husbanding. Also, lest we forget, girls don’t like football and therefore it’s better to lie than let on you are watching it. As Springbreak (@sayrahtonin) said, “I hope the fictional girl in the wkd ad who’s being lied to by her pathetic bf about being in the pub is fucking someone else while he’s out”.

So here’s a bit of everyday heroics for give us all a bit of faith…

A few weeks ago I went with my little sister to watch a local charity basketball game. On the team was one girl, let’s call her Becky, because I’m fairly certain that was her name. Becky didn’t even have a real kit; she had a home-made t-shirt. When Becky was knocked on her arse by a giant man, Becky offered a forgiving high-five that the giant begrudgingly accepted. However, Becky had the most amazing talent that none of the other players seem to possess, Becky was invisible. Neither her own team nor the opposition could see her. She could get herself into wide open spaces because none of the defenders saw her, but then no one would pass to her because her own team couldn’t see her either. Everyone watching could clearly see her and some of us were getting very frustrated by the lack of play she was getting. When we mentioned this super-power to Becky she shrugged and said that it had always been the same, whenever she plays with men and she’s been doing this for 10 years. Becky was invisible, because she is a woman. I don’t know Becky, so I can’t tell you why she carried on playing on a team that was trying its best to ignore her. But I can tell you that she was awesome.

My little sister is a huge basketball fan and I hope, for her, Becky was visible. Becky is a fucking hero, an everyday crusader.

If you’ve been affected by any of the themes in this blog, try Stylist Magazine’s Fair Play campaign (you can read it here http://www.stylist.co.uk/people/support-stylists-fair-game-campaign#image-rotator-1).

New Look Who’s Talking

A big big thank you to everyone who joined in the campaign against New Look. Today they announced the withdrawal of the Fantasy Football t-shirt. Which is amazing and has given me a tiny bit of hope that the Feminists might get listened to once in a while.

To all of the bloggers, tweeters, facebookers and nuisance makers who helped NL see what we thought of their “fantasy” t-shirt I am sending huge amounts of love.

So, we get 1 drink, 1 high five and then it’s back into battle…

They might have withdrawn the primary target of our rage but these beauties are still on sale:

Girl of your dreams     http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/white-technicolour-girl-ttoshirt_256105916

“Aztec” Girl      http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/gold-aztec-girl-print-ttoshirt_251977293

Let me be your fantasy (2 for £15, bargain)   http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/green-let-me-be-your-fantasy-printed-ttoshirt_251984532

Nice Cans       http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/pale-grey-nice-cans-printed-ttoshirt_251990902

Team Double D (They need your support)!!!!!          http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/team-double-d-ttoshirt_252545710

And I only looked at the first 100 because my head was exploding.

And if you think it’s just New Look, try these from Burton…

Cross Hatch (dark series) featuring hand prints on her arse:            http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5582793&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426992&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Porn ice cream                       http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5582815&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Faceless invite to anal            http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5565624&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Indie decks girl, correctly in bra and collar     http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5562056&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Much thanks to Little Tweets (@stfumisogynists) for her sterling research into hideous t-shirts.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been wondering why this matters to me so much? They’re just t-shirts right? Aren’t there bigger battles to fight? Well maybe, but I think it’s the very casual nature of the t-shirt that offends me so much. I made the point about the gorilla/rape t-shirt (http://wp.me/p2t9bD-b), if we can treat misogyny so lightly that we put it on a t-shirt, what hope is there?

Someone, quite rightly, challenged me on this by asking if it was alright that teenage girls have t-shirts which feature scantily clad JLS members. I had to think on that one before pointing out that JLS are famous for doing a thing (singing jaunty pop/R&B and backflips). A JLS t-shirt celebrates your love of JLS and their backflips. Whereas the t-shirts above feature nameless, unknown models. The only thing being celebrated is her breasts/arse/ab’s/ability to eat ice cream seductively. It reduces the woman to the level of a symbol or a logo…

“When I got dressed this morning it was a straight choice between iPooed or a woman suggesting anal, but the iPooed one needed ironing”.

I am in no way undermining our win today; I don’t think anything has made me that happy in a long time. But there’s still work to do, so if you’re feeling mischievous and/or outraged, why not post a review of one or all of those t-shirts on Burton’s website.

About Last Night

Firstly a bit more on New Look; thank you so much to everyone who has been reading, retweeting the blogs, contacting NL and joining the Facebook group. So far I don’t believe New Look have responded to anyone, but the more we keep the issue in their faces, the better!

So, last night after a lovely dinner and cocktails my friend and I decided to head to The Piccadilly Institute for some dancing. I know, it’s not the classiest of establishments but they have Tanqueray behind the bar, a light up dance-floor and play The Spice Girls; I don’t have many more needs in a nightclub.

The problem is that I have taken the Feminist Red Pill and now find it really hard not to see the patriarchy everywhere. So maybe I should shrug off the Gentleman’s Corner of the cocktail menu in the Slug and Lettuce, I don’t really like whiskey based drinks anyway. And of course there was street harassment, it was Saturday night in the West End; it’s not right, of course, but it was inevitable really.

Maybe through my cloud of cocktails and laughter I could let it all wash over me. I probably would have done, if I hadn’t started talking to the lovely ladies who work behind the bar at The Piccadilly Institute…

I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, it has lots of different rooms, each with its own theme and music; there’s a party room, an R&B one, another R&B one, one that just seems to be noise and probably some that I’ve missed which also play R&B. Behind each bar works a team of very attractive ladies in themed outfits. The ones that I saw for certain were sexy nurses, Geri Halliwell-esque Union Jack dresses or basques and tutus. Meanwhile the men wear either medical scrubs (no idea) or I Y PI t-shirts. So I asked several of the female employees if they had a choice about what they wore and was told a variety of “yes, but they are all revealing” or “not really”.

So I asked, “you do realise that’s discrimination don’t you?” and guess what, they did, they all knew that their employer was discriminating against them and they also felt pretty much powerless to do/say anything; not if they wanted to keep their jobs. One even said, “discrimination pays well”… Wow! I know discrimination happens frequently in workplaces across the country, but how often is it that blatant do you think?

Now I will fight for anyone’s right to wear whatever he or she wants to wear, as long as it is absolutely what he or she is choosing to wear. If a group of girls chooses to go out on a Saturday night in basques and tutus, well fair play to you ladies. Back when I thought I might be Courtney Love I used to wear baby doll dresses, silver DM’s and a necklace that said “slut”. All of which was very much my choice and I thought I looked amazing.

But I didn’t get the sense that any of the ladies working last night would have chosen to wear those outfits if they had an alternative that was less revealing – especially in a building packed with drunken harassers. They are at work and working behind a bar is tough and hot and messy, no one wants to do it while worrying that their breasts might spill out of their basque do they?

There is no argument that I can find for the necessity of the outfits, these are women who (I imagine) look stunning in cat-hair covered sweat pants and a t-shirt blotched with hair dye; well better than I look right now anyway. Are the managers of The Piccadilly Institute by any chance suggesting that their female bar teams are part of the aesthetics of the club? Could it be that they put their employees in purposefully sexy outfits to titillate and excite their guests? Does that sounds a little bit like objectification?

Seriously, there is no need to do this. All you are doing is creating an environment where you are legitimising harassment by choosing outfits that scream “look how sexy our team is”. Those women are employed to make drinks, give good customer service and ensure your guests have a good time. They are not there to provide wank-bank fodder for the stag does and birthday boys.

Here’s my BBC style “helpline” sign off… If you have been effected by any of the issues raised in today’s blog, please contact me and I’ll do what I can to help (I know a thing or two about employment law).

Oh and if you enjoy my little feminist rants, come follow me on Twitter @seja75 where I am currently enraged by sexism in sporting adverts amongst other things.

New Look Back in Anger

This weekend, I was out shopping and I saw this t-shirt in New Look menswear http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/red-fantasy-football-ttoshirt_252533060. The blurb says “featuring fantasy football girl print on front”; in case you thought she was, you know, a real girl. For further evidence see Let Me Be Your Fantasy t-shirt, (http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/green-let-me-be-your-fantasy-printed-ttoshirt_251984532) and Nice Cans t-shirt (http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/pale-grey-nice-cans-printed-ttoshirt_251990902).

Yes, it’s ridiculously sexist, totally offensive and it made me immediately put down the clothes that I was about to buy and walk out of the store; I will never shop in New Look again if they think that this is okay.

Is it okay to sexualise a young women in this way and then parade her publically? To link her sexuality to a sport which is lead by a man who famously said that the women’s footballers should wear tighter shorts in order to become more popular? No, no, no!

If you need more info on why this (and the similar t-shirts are so vile) I recommend you read http://londonfeminist.com/site/dear-new-look/ the fantastic open letter to New Look from @Londonfeminist.

However, I decided not to write another blog about the casual sexism inherent in this, because I felt there was a bigger point to make, a point about how young girls are perpetually bombarded with these images of what (literally in this case) is identified as a fantasy female. Look at her, she’s gorgeous; abundant breasts, tiny (wide open) thighs, perfect skin and the knowing come-hither look. Who wouldn’t want to look like her? She’s the female equivalent of a fantasy football league; she might even know the off-side rule.

This t-shirt was in a prominent place, visible as you travelled up the escalator from womenswear to accessories and the youth range aimed at ages 9 to 15. It was also on the natural route between the 9-15 range and the shoes. So, that’s every one of New Look’s not unsubstantial customers and in particular their younger customers, who will see a clearly identified “fantasy female” who, I’m guessing, is a long way from the physical reality of most of those shoppers. A double-whammy there; the fantasy is an unrealistic beauty plus women are there to be the equivalent of a sport. Wow, I hope my 15 year old sister and her friend saw it…

Did you know that New Look have a foundation, to give them some additional Corporate Social Responsibility points… Can you guess where this is going? You’re right, one of the aims of their foundation is:

Learning to deal with issues – helping people to help themselves and their friends by tackling anxieties linked to such issues as eating disorders, obesity, body image, bullying, alcohol or substance abuse, sexual health, domestic violence or gun and knife crime. (http://www.newlookgroup.com/newlook/en/sustainability/foundation)

New Look is a sponsor of B-eat (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/), an amazing charity which helps adults and young people with eating disorders in the UK. B-eat is brilliant and doing brilliant, important work. Any support they get is fantastic.

However, doesn’t New Look have a responsibility to stop perpetuating the causes of the body image crisis that we are trying to resolve? How do their young customers feel when confronted by New Look’s vision of the fantasy women? How does that help? It can’t! Images like this can only hurt someone who is already troubled with low self-esteem and body image worries.

New Look are letting young women down when they should be building them up. Confidence is what we need to give women of all ages who are struggling with their body image. The confidence that they are powerful and have value well beyond anything that could or should fit on a t-shirt.

I emailed a draft of this to New Look before publishing, but have had no comment – I don’t think @LondonFeminist has heard anything either.

If you care (at all) about the negative messages that the UK’s biggest fashion retailer for young women are sending to that audience, please contact them and let them know how you feel – how we feel.

And thank you for listening to another of my rants – I shall keep them coming!

UPDATE: There is now a Facebook group you can join https://www.facebook.com/NewLookMisogyny please do!

Do I Amuse You?

I always intended this blog to be about my experiences and the things that make me mad. So, I should be honest, I’ve told jokes about terrible things, I’ve laughed at terrible things. Having said that, let’s move on…

I know a lot of this has been covered, but rape jokes hey, aren’t they funny… You know, edgy, dark… Get a sense of humour about it, Jesus, these chicks are so uptight. Really? No, really?

The “best” rape joke I was ever told was on a date (oh stick with me, it gets better). About once a year I think I ought to give in to the social expectations placed on me and give dating a go. This year I found a barrister online, he claimed to believe that women should be treated like princesses (we’ll cover that another day), seemed funny, smart and interesting so I agreed to meet up with him. In between insulting me and his family, he told me that he mentors more junior members of chambers. As an example of what a great guy he is, he told me that he had been approached by a young female barrister who was struggling because she was working on her first rape case. In order to help her feel better about it, he thought the best thing to do was to tell her a rape joke; a joke that he then told me.

For completeness, here’s the rest of the date:

Me:        Did you just tell a rape joke?

Him:       *Cross between a snigger and a shrug* Yup

Me:        *Downs drink* Well this isn’t really working for me, good luck *legs it to Tube and texts all female friends*

So let’s just run through that one more time… A male barrister supported a female colleague by telling her a rape joke. But it’s alright, they regularly use gallows humour, it’s just what they do, I was taking the whole thing out of context.

We hear a lot of talk about ‘rape culture’ and I think there is a certain amount of scepticism that it either exists or that there is any impact on women if there is one. My previous post showed a casualness to rape via the medium of a t-shirt. However, that’s nothing compared to the idea that someone who might be prosecuting or defending my attacker felt that making a joke of it was ever, in any circumstances, an appropriate thing to do. This thought makes me feel physically sick.

Plus this man, regardless of his career choices, felt comfortable telling women that he couldn’t have known very well a joke about rape. He’s not the only one, I’m not singling him out because he was extraordinary, I’m singling him out because it happened to me and this is my blog. A friend recently overheard two of her male colleagues discuss “which female here would you most like to rape”. Let’s assume (because assuming anything else would be too horrific to live with) that they were joking, so that’s two men, in front of a female colleague, having a lovely jape about which women they would sexually assault. Was my friend supposed to feel flattered or insulted if she was/wasn’t chosen?

I like dark edgy humour, I do and I think it’s okay to be offended by things. But right now, we’re fighting a losing battle in a world in which people can tweet the most vile things about a rape victim (thank you again to @stfumisogynists Little Tweets for showing up the full horror of it). This is not a battle that is going to be helped by finding the humour in it.

So, here’s my advice on rape jokes… if you can be absolutely, 100% positive that no one you are talking to has been raped or sexually assaulted or knows someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted then you go ahead and tell your jokes… But guess what; hiding under the covers of almost every woman out there is an experience of sexual assault, physical abuse or rape. Maybe not personally, but to someone they are close to, someone they have picked up and tried to put back together again. So, that’s your mum, your sister, your aunt, your best female friend, your grandmother, your niece, your best mate’s girlfriend, your colleague, your date, your wife… Now, tell me that joke again.

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