26 September 2009

Unpacking the knapsack can be so satisfying when your baggage weighs a ton.

Something I've noticed recently in reading posts about privilege is that there are people who don't want to examine what they think or why they think it. Well, that's something I've known for a while; I've just seen it a lot recently.

It's something I don't really understand; because unpacking the invisible knapsack is something I actually enjoy. It doesn't make me uncomfortable to spot my internalised sexism or racism, it makes me excited. I don't know when I begun doing it consciously, because it was a long time ago; and it wasn't something I came to after reading about it on the internet, it was something that grew out of my own experiences. I only heard about the knapsack a month or so ago, but I've been familiar with its contents for most of my life.

Although on the surface I look like I fit very well into the privileged class, it's not something I ever felt until I was older. When I was young I was alienated, ostracised and othered by the people I grew up with. I grew up in a hetero-normative, misogynistic, colonially British, Catholic community, but I didn't fit neatly into any of these categories. My early experience set me up to question the things I was told. When told "we won the war" I questioned the notions of us and them, because I was both us and them, with ancestors fighting on both sides of that war. I have never been able to see attempts at othering people as anything but Orwellian because of that. I was taught that God loved everyone, and then when I grew old enough was taught that God hates gays; but since I was queer I questioned that and found it both bigoted and hypocritical.

My church, my family and my culture did not nurture this questioning spirit, and did not support me in crucial ways, ultimately making me feel bad about who I was. To reclaim my sense of self-worth, I had to challenge where I had internalised these detrimental closed-minded attitudes. I found that the more I weeded out prejudice and assumptions from my own mind, and the more I questioned what I had been taught, the better I felt about myself, and my beliefs became well-thought out and carefully chosen rather than just parroting what I was fed by my culture. The process makes me feel strong and free and valuable, capable of thinking for myself.

In the beginning it's easy, because the shit lies close to the surface. But as the years go on it becomes harder and harder, because the prejudices which are left are so ingrained, so part of the fabric of your world that you can't even see them. You don't pick up on them so often, but that is when you need to be especially vigilant. Because no matter how open-minded you are, no matter how progressive, you never completely get rid of them.

I found one of these a few months ago. Growing up Catholic, the gender divisions in the Church were one of the main reasons I felt left out. Excluding women from having an active and meaningful role in the church is something I am against. I don't see any good reason why women can't be priests.

A few months ago I was visiting a friend and he mentioned that the minister of his church is a woman. The next day I was at his mother's house (his father had just died). A woman came over to ask if his mother was OK and did she need a ride to the funeral. I could tell this woman was religious; she had that serene glow and she had a whopping great gold crucifix around her neck. Clearly she was a nun, but her manner was so familiar I began to wonder if she wasn't also a relative. When she left, my friend turned to me and said, "so you've met our minister". I was floored; although he had told me only the night before that his minister was a woman, my internalised Catholic told me that the only thing a religious woman could be was a nun.

It doesn't bother me that I thought this; it would have bothered me no less if someone else had pointed it out rather than noticing it myself. Because although I internalised that reality to the point where I perpetuated it without thinking, I know it was something I picked up from outside and not what I really believe. I was excited to spot it because it was such an insidious piece of sexism, and the kind that had made me feel alienated from Christianity all along. Having identified it, you can be damn sure I won't let it happen again.

I guess it's the same for me with any kind of prejudice or stereotype. I know I occasionally find some piece of it in my thoughts, but I don't get defensive about it. I celebrate the fact that it is no longer an unconscious thing, because it gives me the opportunity to examine it and see if I really believe it or have just be taught to.

I find it easy to acknowledge how bigoted and discriminatory my society is, because it discriminated against me. I find it easy to acknowledge how much I internalised all that shit, because that internalisation detrimentally affected me. I find it easy to see the benefit in making sure I don't perpetuate that shit on other people, because I benefited from ceasing to perpetuate it on myself.

And I don't really understand why it's so hard for anyone else.

25 September 2009

Lingua Franca

I asked Stinkypaw how Canadians feel about being a bilingual country and she wrote a post over on her blog to answer. She mentioned in passing that she thinks people who migrate to Quebec should understand that it is a French province and should endeavour to learn French rather than English. Marius and Barb related that back to what they think about Hispanic migrants in the USA who 'choose' not to learn English or 'refuse' to learn it, and that got me thinking.

When there is an enclave of language speakers, their density and volume predict the longevity of their language. If there are few of them and they are widely dispersed, the language dies out quickly. If there are many of them, and they congregate together, their language is more tenacious, but for it to survive they have to be self-sufficient. An example of this is the German speaking enclaves in places as wide-spread as Hungary, Massachusetts and the Barossa Valley. While they were self-sufficient and had little contact with those outside their community, their language hung on. But with modern connectivity that kind of isolation is near impossible, and now they struggle to maintain any of their language.

I found the whole conversation ironic. Because if your ethnic minority is small, the language dies out in around three generations. There is only one generation that stays monolingual in the old tongue. Their lives are facilitated by their bilingual children, and they struggle to communicate with their grandchildren who are monolingual in the new tongue.

But if your enclave is big enough and self-sufficient enough to resist that - well, you get Quebec.

Interestingly, Canada has made both English and French the official languages; so they have a unique situation accommodating for both. It certainly raises an expectation that every Canadian should be fluent in both; but in practise it is in Quebec that French is expected, whereas English is expected everywhere else. This is pretty much explained by history; it is the default through right of conquest. Similarly, although they don't have official languages, the default in the USA and Australia is English through right of conquest. It is expected that the Indigenous people acknowledge that conquest by learning English, and it is expected that those who who come after acknowledge the precedence of the ruling wave of conquerors by learning their language - English.

Back in England and France, the lands of the conquerors, colonialism has come back to bite them on the arse. There are large numbers of migrants coming in from the colonised lands; and while the colonials stuck to their own languages, the migrants who have arrived in England and France have done the same thing. The same people who had a horror of 'going native' now have the expectation that every migrant community in their country should go native. When you meet someone who refused to learn Urdu after four generations living in Pakistan, it's pretty amusing to hear them complain about how Urdu is being taught now in British schools because of the migrant Pakistani community.

Actually it's difficult for me to regard fears about multiculturalism with anything other than amusement. Of course, I am a monolingual first-generation born Australian. One generation back, my family is trilingual. I am a product of the assimilation era so I have little patience with the rhetoric of assimilation.

I've heard people complain about hearing other languages spoken on the bus. I've also heard people confess that it's because they fear those people are talking about them - and maybe they are. That's never a nice thought, but I guess it's something I'm used to; growing up in a family that I couldn't understand meant there were lots of times I knew I was being talked about in a foreign language. It's no different to the possibility of English speakers talking behind your back; you either trust that they won't be nasty or you don't.

I have a different reaction on the bus; I am wildly envious. I envy anyone who is bilingual. My one regret is that my family did not teach me their language. But in not doing so, they gave me another precious gift in its place: the ability and motivation to learn how to communicate with people who barely speak my language. Both Aussies and foreigners have commented on my ability to communicate with people whom no one else understands. I adore and embrace multiculturalism for I see no reason now to keep Australia British, and I cannot realistically see us giving precedence and dominance back to the fractured Indigenous languages and cultures which are left. I think the best outcome here is the breaking of barriers and the sharing of knowledge, to let the melting pot create a fusion culture which hopefully is more suited to the ecology and global position of Australia than British culture has been.

In Australia, although there are hundreds of languages spoken, there is no one language that is a serious linguistic threat to English. In the USA, however, 1 in 4 people are Hispanic. That's an awfully large minority. And since English is only the main language due to right of conquest, I think that people who feel uneasy about the increased use of Spanish in the USA are worried that the tables are turning, they are losing the privilege of being in the majority, and that one day they will wake up and find English has dropped off the signs and their grandchildren are monolingual Spanish speakers. And maybe they fear that Hispanic people won't be accommodating to them.

Because here's the thing I've seen in Australia. We are multicultural, but we still have our prejudices and traditional English schema. And the people who blend in quickly and easily are the Europeans, no matter which generation. The people who are accused of being segregationist and not assimilating are the ones who look different - the ones, incidentally, that are shunned most, either consciously or unconsciously. Through my lifetime, the majority of immigrants to Australia have been European, and I have seen them welcomed, approached, included, and helped with their English. During that time the Asian, Middle Eastern and African migrants have been ignored and excluded, yet somehow expected to improve their English and become part of Aussie culture while only speaking to other excluded people. When I have talked about this with people of these minorities, they have always spoken with sadness about their isolation from mainstream Aussie culture. I have been asked by Arabs 'where is a friendly neighbourhood to live in?' and not been able to tell them, because the truth is no one would be particularly friendly to them. I have been assured by Muslims that they are happy to go to pubs, since they realise that a large part of Aussie culture happens in pubs, but no one invites them, and they are likely to be harassed if alone and unable to speak English well. And ultimately they stick to their own kind out of a basic human need for community and friendship which is not being met by the community at large.

I think we shun them, due to fear or ignorance or ancient enmity, and it's easy to do that when there are very few of them. But we create our own enemy by othering them, and then we fear they will take over and our lack of connection or understanding will be our undoing. So we demand they get to know our terms because we cannot understand them on theirs.

At its heart, I think this debate exposes the great lie of democracy - that what counts is the will of the majority. The USA has shown over and over again that the will of the people only counts when it is in line with the will of those who hold the power. When other nations have democratically elected governments that do not suit the will of those who hold the power in the USA, they very undemocratically enforce their will on those nations.

And I think this is the case inside the USA today. In the past, the majority have been aligned with those who hold the power - WASPs. But if a new group become the majority who aren't in line with the WASPs, the will of the majority may be for an Islamic Republic, or a Hispanic dictatorship, or a Communist regime. And those who are happy with the status quo and hide behind the fact that it's the will of the people, will have to face the fact that what they believe in is not, in fact, the will of the majority, is not, in fact, democracy at all, but is actually their own personal agenda, their own comfortable privilege, their own position on the side of those who hold the power.


If you're in South Australia, here's something to remember:
South Australian District Court judge, David Smith, thinks that having sex with someone who is asleep or unconscious isn't rape. Well, only technically.

If you are raped while unconscious, and take it to court, and your case comes up before judge David Smith, he will believe that you weren't raped, because he believes that penetrating a woman who is unconscious isn't rape, providing the man believes the woman would have consented to sex if she was conscious.


This horrifies me. I hate to think that any man I agree to have sex with has the right to rape me in my sleep. But according to judge David Smith, it would only be a technical rape - you know, not the kicking and screaming kind.

Here's the new twist - the girl wasn't unconscious at all - she was feigning sleep in the hope that he would stop!
"well, that moves the goalpost then" said the judge. Because, you know, to him rape is about scoring. Not about raping.

So the story has changed again - he never got any consent. He just did it. But the judge is choosing to believe that the man thought he had consent.

And he thought that because..... that's right. The woman wasn't kicking and screaming, therefore it wasn't rape. Even if she was rigid with fear, terrified of being murdered, it still wasn't rape. Whether or not she was conscious, it still wasn't rape.

The official courts sa website states: Judges regularly participate in education workshops and seminars. Topics include Aboriginal cross-cultural awareness training, mental impairment and judicial ethics.

Too bad they don't train them in things like the definition of consent.

The judge wanted to sentence the man leniently. So leniently that he didn't even want to give the man a suspended sentence, even though he pleaded guilty, because he was worried the man's future prospects might be hurt if he was convicted of rape when, well, it was only rape because she didn't consent, not like a real rape where.... hang on.

Strange that the judge is so concerned about the future prospects of a rapist. Oh, that's right - a technical rapist.

What kind of precedence is he setting for any other predatory male out there? If you get her so drunk she passes out, or so terrified she can't say no, then you can do whatever you want to her! And if you get caught, I'll make it quite clear that no matter what happens in court I won't believe you're a rapist or treat you like one, and I'll make sure that your future isn't affected by your crime.

Tell me something. How was this man supposed to know that he needed to ask for consent when even the judge doesn't believe it.

So, David Smith. What are you telling us? What are you telling us women about your desire to dispense 'justice'? What are you telling us about who you think deserves justice? What are you telling us about your own beliefs, your own morals?

What are you telling us?

Well, after all that hinting by the judge, now the man has withdrawn his guilty plea. What a surprise. This judge has shown us all that he is firmly on the side of rapists.

Well, technical rapists.

10 September 2009

You get a cookie Dr Who, but get your hand out of the jar until you learn to share.

The other day I sat down to watch an episode of Dr Who. I'm quite a fan, not least because I'm quite fond of David Tennant. And just for my own amusement, I applied the Bechdel test and the PoC Bechdel test.

It failed.

Not surprising, you may think. After all, it's Dr Who; it's about Dr Who, and Dr Who is a man.

Thing is, I was watching season 3, episode 13, which is about a black woman (Martha) saving the universe.

This on the surface looks like a good example of why the Bechdel test should have stayed as a comic strip. After all, you can't get much more pro-active in your scifi than a black woman saving the universe.

Except... you can. Sure, it's difficult in this episode; although Martha saves the universe, she achieves this by walking the earth for a year, talking about a white man. Dr Who. However, there is some dialogue in this episode, and not all of it is about a man. There was the potential for this to pass the Bechdel test. It contains several black non-speaking characters (Martha's family), and several woman (at least two of whom had major roles). Yet it STILL doesn't pass the Bechdel test.

Dr Who has moved a long way from its origins, and is full of strong female characters. Martha was a pioneer in being the first black companion. The show may never have a female as the main character. It would be impossible to have the show Dr Who without the Doctor, and there is no indication so far as I know that Time Lords can change their gender. I really enjoy Dr Who, and not just to perve on David Tennant. I enjoy the strong female characters, enjoy their diversity, enjoy the fact that they are more than just love interests for the main character. Have a cookie, writers.

But I was very disappointed to find that, even when they write a story where Martha saves the world, they still can't pass the Bechdel test.

I'd analyse this, but it's time for bed.


9 September 2009

To the USA: If you want to dispel your international image as a nation of idiots, then at least get your propagana right!

What, you didn't realise that the rest of the world sees you as a nation of idiots? Sure, it's a shitty stereotype, but that's what stereotypes are. Shitty. If you want to see what I mean, check this out. Then come back.

This, from the Investor's Business Daily, was one of the arguments made during the debate about universal Medicare in the USA:

"People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't stand a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

Notice the problem here?

Here is Stephen Hawkings response:
"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NSH. I have recieved a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

Yes, that's right. Stephen Hawking is, and always has been, British.

Surely, if you're going to create 'Reds under the Bed' propaganda about socialised health care, you'd want to avoid people picking you for a big fat liar as soon as you started?
It's not that hard to get your facts right. Here.

5 September 2009

Sometimes you never know just what you're anticipating.

I had no idea
While writing that last haiku
that today I would.....

Be offered the chance
To fulfil my most cherished
Childhood dream next year.

It's really real, and
So much sooner than I'd hoped.
It's within my reach....

I'm so excited
And also afraid, of course.
But fear won't stop me.

Two different days

Haiku on anticipation

Six in the morning
Filled with possibilities
And singing magpies.

Haiku on the benefit of creating new memories to feel good about in hindsight.

Six in the morning
Reminds me of a sad time
I'd rather forget.

3 September 2009

A new kind of date rape

Or rather, a new way to blame women for being raped.

Okay, so it's an article in Cosmo. Yes, I know I shouldn't expect any better. It's like watching tt or aca and expecting journalism.

But really, I can't quite work out what Laura Sessions Stepp is trying to achieve with this article. So I'll break it down.

Stepp basically says that there is a 'grey area' surrounding consent. That, I would soundly agree with. Although the rules of consent are clearly and legally defined, there is a huge grey area when it comes to understanding what those rules are.

But from here, she doesn't seem to be thinking an awful lot. I know, I know. Cosmo. But her conclusions just don't add up. Yeah. Cosmo. I get it. Not quality.

Bear with me.

This new type of rape, 'grey rape', is that fuzzy area where no one said no, but someone feels raped. Note, this is a 'new' kind of rape, which, according to Stepp, has evolved as a result of the pick-up culture. What is the pick-up culture? The one where people can 'pick each other up'.

You know, for sex.

In the good old days, roles were clearer because women wanted relationships and men wanted sex. Rape was easy to define. Now that women can and do seek out casual sex, everything's a murky grey. This is how Stepp puts it: But those boundaries and rules have been loosening up for decades, and now lots of women feel it’s perfectly okay to go out looking for a hook-up or to be the aggressor, which may turn out fine for them — unless the signals get mixed or misread.

Yes, you heard it - women get raped because they enjoy casual sex and aren't giving clear enough signals. Apparently, if you have a sex drive and want to satisfy it outside the bonds of matrimony, then it's your fault if men can't tell whether you want them or not.

Stepp then proceeds to give a few pages of anecdotal examples, seemingly to prove her point. They all involved women who had said no but not loud enough so he might not have heard, had said they wanted to leave, had said outright that they didn't want sex, had stopped pushing, had passed out before it started - all different stories, but oddly enough all with one thing in common. None of the women had said Yes. And not once did anyone ask them for their consent. And yet Stepp didn't think this was a significant enough factor to point out at any stage in her article. Her emphasis was on how the victims reacted; more specifically how they didn't fight back hard enough.

It doesn't sound to me like these women were giving unclear signals - it sounds like no one was paying attention to the signals they were giving.

And to top it off, some of those girls were drunk. They were, according to Stepp, drinking almost as much as men. They were too drunk to be in control, to remember if they consented - that's why they experienced 'grey rape'. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't - who knows when you're that drunk. Strangely, the fact that someone is so blotto they can't give clear consent is taken as a reason for 'grey rape', instead of being textbook rape. Intoxicated=consent invalidated. Why is the fundamental issue of consent slipping between Stepp's fingers here?

Lesson, girls - don't drink. Doesn't matter if he does - you are the keeper of his moral compass. It is up to you to make sure he doesn't 'accidentally' become a rapist while drunk, by remaining sober yourself. Oh, and if you don't want sex, don't wait to be asked - you must kick and scream unceasingly throughout the entire experience or your consent is implied.

Because, if you weren't so damn confusing then the poor innocent men wouldn't accidentally rape you.

These poor guys, who just want sex and then get accused of rape. You can understand, with the mixed signals they recieve, why there would be a high level of cognative dissonance. They don't want to think of themselves as rapists. And if they're doing stuff that's classed as rape, that makes them rapists. But I'm a nice guy, not a rapist, - therefore what I'm doing can't be rape. Which means, if some chick says it is - well, she must have been lying. That's how a guy could force sex on a girl who didn't want any, then expect a hug goodnight, and walk out not realising that what he did was rape her; because he assumed compliance was consent. Classic cognative dissonance.

Except, that reading of the situation doesn't actually hold true once Stepp speaks to men. While she holds up a couple of examples as if they are the male side of the story, they are actually the male side of a sightly different story. And it isn't one where the men are blissfully unaware that the woman didn't consent.

She interviews a couple of guys for their take on things. Here's what one said: “I’ve had girls tell me ‘I don’t have sex on the first night.’ And I say, ‘That’s fine, I respect that. Mind if I play with you a little bit?’ A girl will say no, she doesn’t mind, then she’ll get so hot, she’ll say, ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s the scariest part. Is it then my responsibility to say no?

THERE. Did ya see it?

There is some evidence of consent. And what happened? He's worried she'll change her mind after the fact and re-write history to call it rape. After all - isn't that what date rape is - a chick who got into it and then cried rape afterwards? In doing this, he is casting doubt on all those other women who stood up and said they were date-raped - maybe they're revisionist, and maybe this one will be too - after all, she flicked from no consent to consent before. What's to stop her flicking back? ?

Nothing. But there is a fundamental difference between changing your mind about what you want now, and re-writing history to lie about what you wanted in the past. He is already casting her as a potential liar, and therefore a potentially unreliable witness; already defending himself against her potential accusations of rape. Why would he do this? More to the point, why would he even consider playing with her if he's worried she'll spring a rape accusation on him?

Note his use of language (yes, his language is significant). He didn't ask if she wanted him to play with her. He asked if she minded - as if her vagina was some kind of toy, a teddy bear or train set, that, if she didn't mind, didn't object, if it didn't bother her, he was going to play with for a while. As long as she didn't mind, it didn't actually matter whether she enjoyed it or not.

So we have men who believe they're decent guys, yet who view women's bodies as toys. And some of them, like this one, understand that you have to ask permission to play with the toy. But there is nothing in that sentence “Mind if I play with you a little bit?’ that implies he wants a willing partner, that he is even interested in engaging sexually with a person rather than just playing with the fun things she hides in her toy box (and we all know we have to share our toys, am I right? We all know it's not nice to chuck a tanty if someone comes over to play and dives into our toy box without asking, don't we. If we get angry, we're called selfish and told to play nicely, aren't we? Good. Just making the metaphor clear). His asking of consent is routine - not do you want me to do this, but will you agree to not complain if I do this. It's the language you use when you're slightly inconveniencing someone, not when you're trying to give them pleasure. Do ya mind if I take this seat? Do you mind if I borrow your lighter? Do you mind if I play with you a little?

Here's the kicker - when it comes to penile penetration, he then becomes scared that when she says yes she really means no - suddenly, whether she wants it matters. And it matters because now his behaviour could get him in trouble if she does complain- not because he genuinely cares whether she's into it or not. If he genuinely cared whether she was into it, he wouldn't have asked if she 'minded' him playing with her after she already said she didn't want sex. He wouldn't have accepted her consent then, only to raise his doubts later about her trustworthiness and whether she 'really' wanted it (when penile penetration could get him into trouble if she didn't) . Sounds like he's very conscious of how much he can get away with, and he's is unhappy with the fine line he's having to tread. Still, this one could still easily think of himself as a nice guy. Because hey, he actually respected her decision not to have sex, and asked if she minded him playing with her. So is it cognative dissonance or a planned strategy? Well, a little from column A, and a little from column B....

Stepp didn't notice any of this. She was too busy sympathising with the man for being unable to trust in this dodgy new climate of grey rape.

We're now getting a picture of men who view women's bodies as toys, who know that women sometimes want it, who are told that women are capricious and ambiguous - - Men who've been taught that rape is defined by how much the woman is kicking and screaming, who've been taught that if she doesn't want it, then it's her responsibility to kick and scream, because that's how you can tell she doesn't want it. Men who for the most part have been taught that it's okay to keep going unless she tells you to stop because that's how to get laid - but at the same time to be very very careful about the risk of a rape complaint. Men who, whether they care about consent or not, aren't told or expected to get it in any positive way. The message is reinforced from all sides: If she doesn't scream NO, then it's green light GO!

We also have women who don't expect to be asked for their consent, but are told that if you didn't kick and scream it wasn't rape, that if you wanted a bit you might have wanted the lot, that if you present yourself as a potential sexual partner it automatically becomes a fait accompli and anything you don't like from then on is your fault for not being clearer. It's your responsibility to see it coming, and it's your responsibility to stop it if it does - and if you don't, well, it wouldn't have happened if you had, that's all. If you stayed at home, if you stayed sober, if you'd stayed in your scummy clothes, if you had shouted louder. If you'd realised he was a rapist before he raped you wouldn't have been raped.

None of which is surprising in a context like this.

And yet according to Stepp, the reason why 'grey rape' occurs is because women enjoy and even seek out casual sex but aren't clear enough to men about what they actually want.

She reckons the guys find the pick-up culture secretly freeing, because it allows them to act like arseholes and use women.

Er, looking at the evidence, I'm not sure the pick-up culture is to blame.

In fact I know it isn't. The culture of assumed consent is to blame for supporting this kind of behaviour. That's not something Stepp is addressing or even acknowledging - she's too busy supporting it.

At the end of the article, Stipp urges women to 'protect themselves' against rape (because, you know, it's their responsibility to make sure they're not raped). Here, she seems to have lost her thread slightly - she can't decide now if the rapists are malevolent, or just bewildered at the greyness of girl's consent. There are four recommendations - recognise his mind games (of course, if he's playing mind games he's not too concerned about your consent), don't get drunk (if he rapes you when you're too drunk to notice - again, he's not too interested in consent), be more clear about what you want (this is her central argument - the classic 'it's your fault if you feel raped because he didn't know you didn't want it'), and then finally, as the last three sentences at the end of a six page article, this:

Under the law, a guy has to get a clear verbal or nonverbal yes from you to have sex. Just because you consent to one sexual activity (making out, even with few clothes on) does not mean you have given permission for any other. Also, silence doesn’t always equal consent, nor does being too drunk to know what you’re doing.

Why was that tucked away (and not in bold either) at the end of a six page long article about how women's unclear signals are responsible for their rapes? Confusion about consent was established as the issue in the very beginning, yet consent was not defined in the article until the very end. - All through the middle, women are blamed for being raped and told how to avoid rape. Then right at the end, Stipp adds a kind of ps actually it's completely the men's responsibility to stop rape. It jarrs with the rest of the article, like she's cut and pasted in a hurry to get her word count up, or her editor just slipped this token in at the last minute. Three sentences, at the END of a six page article. Those three little sentences didn't have much impact. They were kind of diluted by the previous six pages of grey.

It is quite difficult for me, given the above, to see much evidence that that Laura Stipp believes any of the following :
- that men are responsible for making sure the person they want gives their consent - sober, prior to the event, and at every step of the way.
-That when consent is denied, unclear or unsought, men are responsible for not raping women.
-That women's boundaries around their bodies should be accepted.
-That women who identify as rape victims will get support.
-That men should never rape women, even if she enjoys sex, enjoys men's company, changes her mind, hangs out in bars or gets drunk.
-That even if the woman is not kicking and screaming, if she hasn't given consent it is rape.

This is how Stipp ends the article, but it's inconsistent with the rest of her argument.

Initially, this article posited a question, 'was I raped.' I would love to say that this article enlightened me on the seriousness of sexual assault and the importance of consent, considering that consent is what everyone is confused about here.

Unfortunately, the message I came away with was, well, it probably wasn't rape, but if it was, it might have been your fault, and anyway, you'll never really know. So girls, if you're not sure whether you were raped or not, well, you should carefully examine if you wanted it or not, and whether you were clear enough about what you wanted. Then, according to Laura, "if something bad does happen, seek help immediately, and don’t blame yourself. It was incredibly empowering for me to say ‘I’m a survivor of rape.’”

WTF? How, exactly, is it 'empowering' to say you're a survivor of rape in a context like this, where if you seek help, you're likely to come up against judges like this, and then afterwards have to deal with arseholes like this, when there is barely a hint anywhere of this?

And wtf does 'empowering' mean anyway?

Oh, one more thing.

While I was flicking from page to page of that article, I noticed the URL. At first I thought it was unfortunately misfiled; then I realised it was exactly where they wanted it to be.


Sex love. Tips moves. New kind of date rape. They had the option to file this under 'secrets and advice'; it fits that pretty well. But instead they chose to file it under 'sex and love', in the 'sex moves and tips - best sex advice' section. Yep, rape is in the same category as sex and love, just another way to make a move. Want some tips? It's so difficult for people to accept that rape is a crime.

And they wonder why we're all confused about what really happened.

2 September 2009

Those happy times

We passed the joint around the table, each smoking in turn as we talked and laughed, joking with each other. Australian, Japanese, Taiwanese, French, German, Kiwi, British. Seventy years ago our nationalities would have branded us as enemies. Yet here we were, sharing a smoke and a drink, sharing a bond developed over a few weeks of living together in the same campsite.

We can talk easily about the war with each other, unanimously agreeing that war is hell and nobody wins. We are all to some degree open-minded hippies, free-spirited travellers, citizens of the world. We have no use for xenophobia.

Yet I can't help but wonder if we would have felt differently had we met during that war. I like to think we could have resisted the blanket designation of 'enemy'. I like to think we could have remained untouched by jingoism, still able to form friendships, to love and trust each other based on who we are are people. But I suspect that we wouldn't have found it so easy.

I feel a sense of wonder as I look around the table. We talk, we joke, we laugh. We hug and dance and tickle. We share what we have, and we watch each other's backs. I've come to cherish our connection. We are each other's family in a place where we would otherwise be alone.

I look around and I think with pride, we won that war.

We won, all of us - all of us who refuse to hate anyone for their colour or creed, refuse to hate merely on the basis of our fear or ignorance. We won, in spite of the forces which would want us to hate each other. We're still winning. What a triumph!

It's so satisfying to know that our grandparents' demons didn't prevail.