SICK SAD WORLD

Reporting on rape

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on June 3, 2010

I was flabbergasted to read this rape story on the front page of the Rotorua Daily Post, with a huge 4-deck headline proclaiming:

CROSS-DRESSER FORCED HIMSELF ON WOMAN, COURT HEARS.

I am horrified by the way this story has been reported. Read it here.

The RDP seems to want me to think that the truly horrific and scandalous part of this rape story is the fact that the attacker liked to wear women’s clothes/had a sexual preference for bondage.

I would argue that the horrific part of this story is the rape, no matter what the sexual preferences of the attacker.

The intro read:

A Rotorua man with a fetish for dressing up in women’s clothing and being tied up and locked in a wardrobe is on trial for allegedly raping a woman who regularly tied him up.

As in the headline, the first facts we read are “fetish for dressing up in women’s clothing and being tied up and locked in a wardrobe”. The word “raping” only appears near the end of the sentence, which is again book-ended with “regularly tied him up”. From this we already see that the news angle is not the rape, but the attacker’s sexual inclinations.

After the cursory stating of name/location/age/charge/plea/court (Gordon Murray White, Rotorua, 42, rape, not guilty, Rotorua District Court) the first we read about the case is as follows:

In openings yesterday Crown Prosecutor Chris Macklin told the jury Waite got pleasure out of cross-dressing and being tied up with stockings.

Then we hear an explanation about how the victim lived alone before we read:

In the weeks before the alleged rape, Waite had revealed his fetish to the woman, visiting with a plastic bag full of women’s clothing he would dress in and then get her to tie him up and lock him in a wardrobe.

“It was a bit of a game … He would give her money to let him out,” Mr Macklin said.

Then we read about the events leading up to the rape, in which Waite hid in her wardrobe and jumped out wearing “just a woman’s g-string”. We then read:

“He forced her on to the bed and said to her if she has sex with him he will pay for her divorce,” he said.

The woman said no but he didn’t listen.

“The key issue for you today is one of consent,” he told the jury.

Crown Prosecutor Macklin is absolutely on point. The key issue is of consent. Not what sex games the attacker liked to play. The voyeuristic way the RDP has reported this would have us believe that this story is about “cross-dressing” rather than the actual crime of rape. Details of Waite’s sexual  inclinations are given with morbid glee and the key facts of the actual rape are nestled somewhere between the details of the sex play and the “quirkiness” of the situation.

The way this story was presented not only suggests that the real issue is the sexual deviance of the attacker, it implies that men  who get kicks out of dressing up in women’s clothing are more deviant than rapists. This is damaging for two reasons. (1) It perpetuates a misguided notion that people who choose to engage in consensual “kink” or bondage are “bad” and “deviant”. (2) It trivialises rape and ranks its worthiness as news below the “juicy details” of “deviant” bedroom activities.

It is clear, as “cross-dresser” is the first word you read in the headline, that this story only made it as the front-page lead because of the “interesting” characteristics of the attacker. If the rape had occurred in a “normal” way it would have been relegated elsewhere in the newspaper (or perhaps accompanied by some police spokesperson saying women should learn to look after themselves).

It’s sad that a horrifying crime such as rape only gets special coverage if it’s a “novelty” kind of rape. Because, as we so often sadly observe in our newspapers, rape alone is not a crime worthy of the front page. A man who likes to wear women’s clothes, however, is.

Waite has since been convicted of rape and has one relevant historical conviction of exposing himself to young girls. He deserves to be named, shamed and punished for his sick, abusive and criminal behaviour. However, the trivial details of his fetishes are not relevant and merely distract us from his true crime of rape. The The RDP has since published statements from him.  And the victim? Your guess is as good as mine.

Some help for heterosexists

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 25, 2010
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Review: A Single Man

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 18, 2010

I’ve just returned from watching A Single Man. I went to see it on short notice so didn’t prepare myself to be so overwhelmed by a superb treatment of a sensitive story. Apart from being deeply moving, the aesthetics were also lovely.

Tom Ford, after spending a career focusing our eyes on women’s bodies, proves a dab hand at turning our gaze on the masculine form. So expressive is his technique with the camera that we can feel George’s (Colin Firth’s) pain/love/lust through the objects of his affection, their beauty masterfully teased out before the lens.

The other thing that saves this movie from being another banal love story is the treatment of the female character, played by Julianne Moore. As a divorced woman in the 1960s, when the story is set, she also struggles to find meaning in a society that emphasises marriage and heterosexuality.

But I find it interesting that her character is portrayed as more pathetic than Firth’s – she obviously needs and depends on him, but he has no use for her. George, although gay, still has more privilege than her because he is closeted and can pass as straight. She affirms this by telling him to move on with his life because all doors are still open to him.

I also like that although it can be called a ‘gay film’ (in that touches on issues significant to queer people such as ‘invisibility’, shame and illegitimacy), it can also be a watched as a universal love story. The politics of love aside, it is a sensitive and fresh look at the pain of loss and loneliness and struggle for meaning. And Ford thankfully doesn’t try to package loose ends up in a tidy one-size-fits-all message, which always ticks my boxes.

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If black women were white women

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 17, 2010

Food for thought, in case we all  still want to wake up tanned, blonde and thin (like every character on the Hills etc).

Here is the Source

In “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem makes the persuasive argument that “Whatever a ‘superior’ group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever an ‘inferior’ group has will be used to justify its plight.”

For too long the definition of racism has been a fight between white and black manhood or “who’s the bigger man”, so to speak. We’ve trivialized the existence of gender between both groups of men in favor for discussion of the “bigger issue”.

This has historically enabled white female supremacy—the most unchallenged form of white supremacy—to escape any critical thought.

What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?

The answer is clear: Black women would represent value, purity; and based on their natural traits would be worthy of protection and instantly become the objects of universal desire. White women would represent the opposite.

“Beauty tar potion” would become globally popular to get the “black look.” “Dove” would be replaced with a black soap called “Raven” to help exfoliate the skin and bring out subtle hints of melanin.

White female features would be declared violent. Their “jagged” thin lips, “knife sharp” noses, and “harsh” jaw lines would be nature’s way of expressing why men have a natural preference for the soft features of black women. Soft lips, soft cheekbones, and soft, round noses would be proof of natural femininity. Full, pink lips and large, dark eyes would become associated with virginal black girls whose purity must not be compromised. Black female features would thus be said to represent youth.

Straight, blond hair would be considered “wild and unruly” because when the wind blew, it did not stay in place. Women with naturally straight hair would hide their “unruly” and “wild” stick-straight hair in public. The desire for “lightweight hair” that defied gravity would permanently end the use of blow dryers. Keeping one’s natural blond hair wild and straight would become indicative of a political statement.

The anti-aging properties of black female skin combined with soft, curvy bodies would be proof of the overall reproductive health of black women. Scientists would argue that black women were naturally preferred as long term mates and mothers because they were “healthier.” Men’s attraction to women is based on overall health and fertility, after all.

Suddenly, biracial women would be “in” because the hard features of white women wouldn’t prevent the fragile genes of “black beauty” from peeking through. Men would suddenly have the desire to date “ethnic,” non-black women since they would look “closer to black” than blond women—at least they wouldn’t look like white women.

Statistics would equate the fact that white women make up the majority with their “overpowering” and “strong” population. This would be proof that they could handle unsafe neighborhoods. The “strong culture” they would have created amongst themselves would enable them to withstand their lack of protection from predators and criminals. Statisticians would argue that men were attracted to black women innately because they made up a small percentage of the population. “We tend to value what is rare,” they might say.

Men would proclaim that white women deserve sexual objectification because “flat buttocks” allow for deeper penetration. In ghettos across America, men would stand on street corners and yell “Damn! You got a flat ass!” to remind white women of their sexual status in society.

Upper class women would be afraid that their “asses looked flat” since it would represent animalistic and sexual deviance, like white women. Black women’s buttocks, said to protrude farther from the body, would prove that their natural vulnerability made them “less equipped” to handle hardcore sex and rape like white women could.

“I need a strong white woman!” would become a popular “empowering” slogan for exploitative men who rationalized the emotional, financial, and sexual overburdening of white women.

Overweight white nannies would become the “acceptable white women” in popular culture as they do not pose a threat to black female superiority and privilege. Conventionally attractive white women would serve as a sexual threat to black women for single-handedly breaking down the beauty hierarchy.

Hip hop videos would feature men throwing money at “white bitches” bent over in front of the camera to showcase their white asses, eager for deep penetration. Entire songs would be devoted to hatred of “white gold digging bitches” who believed that they were entitled to the financial security in marriage to which black women were entitled. “Penetrable white asses” and “pale-faced hoes” would become the cash commodity for selling entire musical genres.

White women’s “hard” bodies would be deemed more “capable” of fighting off sexual attackers, while the soft curves of black female bodies would become worthy of police protection. White women, despite being at high risk of being victimized by violence and sexual crimes, would not “need” police protection.

Movies would feature black women as the main objects of men’s desire across racial lines while stereotypes of evil, bitter, and oversexed white women would further prove why men of all races simply did not prefer blonds. “We can’t help those to whom we’re attracted,” men would say. “Preference” would become an unconcealed acceptance of discrimination against white women. White women’s anger towards and sadness about the status quo would show their unreasonable jealousy of the innate superiority of black women.

Republicans would ban abortions to protect the virtue of pure, black motherhood and liberals would advocate increasing the number of abortion clinics in “low income” neighborhoods where white women would be the majority. Liberals would claim that white women had “culturally” approved of sexual objectification and were “safe enough” without outside help since they were warned not to touch “in-group issues” with a ten foot pole.

And so on and so forth.

The most important reality is that black feminists would eventually grow tired of being seen as innocent and vulnerable in patriarchy and would fight to erase the commodity of black femininity. “The innocent, submissive, and vulnerable representation of women is what puts us in danger. The rigid category of femininity has contributed to our oppression,” they might argue.

In the back of every black feminist movement we would hear the quiet and dignified pleas of radical white feminists. “But, we do not represent femininity. We are considered strong, incapable of feeling pain, and sexually deviant—but all this has done is increase our likelihood of being in danger. And aren’t we women too?”

As Gloria Steinem wrote, “In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless – and logic has nothing to do with it.

What remains universally evident is that the many justifications for power and privilege are always inherent, always scientific, and always permeate society to the point that they remain deeply buried within our collective consciousness.

Until someone challenges them.

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American Awesome

Posted in Fuck yeah! by Nancy on May 17, 2010

“American Able” intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company. However, these women fit particular body types.

In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies them the right to sexuality, particularly within a public context.