I wonder if men like Jackson Katz and Jonah Mix and Chris Hedges (mentioned in this piece by Meghan Murphy and by me in this post on ABC Lateline and ‘sex work’ know what it means to women to have them speak so strongly and unequivocally – and often condemned for doing so- on issues such as sexual violence, equality and the human rights of women? My colleagues and I share articles by these men and others with much enthusiasm. Perhaps it makes us feel a little less lonely? Men like this refuse to stand by and watch as women are trashed physically and emotionally around the world. (They also happen to write really well – of course not as vital a point to make, but it does have special appeal to those of us who live by putting words together). Today I’m reprinting Jackson Katz in a Huffington Post piece on 50 Shades of Grey and how it sets back relationships education with boys, and Jonah Mix twice because he’s so good, once wasn’t enough.
Fifty Shades of Grey and the Miseducation of Boys
Much of the commentary about the film’s release has focused on women’s reactions to it, including the message that its mainstream acceptance sends to girls about their sexuality and the lengths of degradation and self-negation that women are sometimes pressured to endure in relations with men to achieve intimacy or great sex.
But my primary concern for now has to do not with girls, but with boys like my son and other young men, who are trying to navigate the rocky shores of heterosexual desire themselves, in a culture that routinely offers them up sexually subordinate, compliant and sometimes self-loathing women at the click of a mouse or the price of a movie ticket.
What do parents of sons say to them about the draw this story has for women? How can we help them make sense of the mixed messages our society sends to them about what women want? That women want men to treat them as equals, even as millions embrace a story that countless battered women’s advocates say more closely resembles an abusive relationship than it does some sort of kinky sex fantasy?…
One of the most important goals of gender violence prevention work is to teach boys and young men that violence is not manly, and abuse is not sexy. To the extent that this movie complicates our efforts, it harms not just women. It also does damage to young heterosexual men, who in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey’s commercial triumph are left scratching their heads and trying to figure out responsible and healthy ways to relate sexually to women, and themselves.
Not rape just rough sex: consent and victim blaming
Rapists hiding behind the smokescreen of “rough sex” is nothing new. Jian Ghomeshi tried the same approach last year when his pattern of sexual brutality was revealed. It’s not hard to see why so many abusers utilize this defense; a simple mention of the word “consent” and the question shifts from exactly why a man enjoys punching a woman in the face to whether or not the women enjoyed being punched in the face. It’s a classic abuser tactic in which the spotlight of inquiry is shifted onto the victim so the perpetrator can remain unexamined in the dark.
Once you adopt the consent-as-sole-moral-consideration ideology, a man like Dominique Strauss-Kahn restraining a woman, choking her, and then violently penetrating her becomes immoral simply because she didn’t find it sexy – not because fucking someone with your hands closed tight around their neck just might, you know, not be a good way to relate to another human being. When you say that a man punching, slapping, choking, and bruising a woman is wrong only because she doesn’t “consent,” you’re saying that the only thing wrong with men’s violence is that women haven’t learned to enjoy it yet.
There was a time where rapists insisting their victims “wanted it” was considered the lowest insult one could possibly aim at a victim of sexual violence – thanks to BDSM ideologues, it’s become a meaningful defense.
To those who have publicly attested to their enjoyment of [violent pornography], I ask them to consider the lives of those who have endured the same treatment but without the magic word of consent. Are those women expected to watch and understand as their torture is reenacted as a legitimized means of entertainment? What the popularization of violent pornography is telling these women is that they could and maybe should have enjoyed their rapes. After all, if some women have, why don’t they all?
And I wonder: If male sexual violence becomes immoral only when it fails to arouse a woman, why should we attempt to stop predatory men from cultivating the woman-hating sadism that leads to rape when we could just teach women to find it sexy? Why are our anti-rape campaigns aimed at stopping men from violating women when we could just try encouraging women to develop submissive sexual desires? I can imagine the slogan of an anti-rape organization run by male kinksters: Stop rape – turn it into sex! Read full article
When Paternalism is worse than commercial rape: state of extraction and the new manarchist
Accusations of “moralizing” are by definition vacuous. Considering that morality refers simply to a set of standards we have for what ought and ought not be done, literally any political position is in some way moralistic unless it makes absolutely no demands on behavior. Opposition to police brutality or pipeline construction, for instance, are all acts of moralizing, in that they all make universalized prescriptions – that cops ought not enact violence on citizens, that indigenous land rights ought to be protected, et cetera. Chris Hedges’ condemnation of prostitution as abusive, depraved, and unjust is no more tethered to a moralistic outlook than the anarchist dude who rambles on about the evil of cops and CEOs. Both have beliefs about what behavior is permissible and both hold the belief that certain actions are justified to correct impermissible behavior.
The only reason that condemnations of sexual abuse and exploitation are stuck with the condescending label of “moralizing” while other political stances are not is, of course, because the concerns of women are systematically barred from consideration as political concerns. While the oppression of men is seen as an issue befitting the high ideals of politics and justice, the oppression of women is relegated to “morality” – a category most leftists, stuck as they are in the navel-gazing solipsism of post-modernism, see as contemptibly passé.
But accusations of “moralizing” are but one half of the Inane Leftist Dude Objection Power Duo, joined quickly by even more inscrutable accusations of “paternalism” – which, in this case, means the terrible sin of saying that we should have laws that protect women.
Dr Helen Pringle (long time collaborator and contributor to Big Porn Inc) and talented emerging young writer Laura McNally, who I’ve published here a number of times before. Both are contributors to the new Connor Court title Freedom Fallacy: The limits of liberal feminism’ edited by Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler. I had the pleasure of attending the Melbourne launch earlier this week and will run some extracts soon.
Disempowered Men? Tanveer Ahmed and the ‘Feminist Lynch Mob’
Dr Helen Pringle
…In Australia, this month, a man claimed that he too had been lynched. On 14 March, The Spectator even supplied a picture of the lynching to accompany the first-person account of the victim. The Spectator cover cartoon shows a man of colour swinging from a branch, complete with “the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth” of the “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” lamented by Billie Holiday. The lynched man is surrounded by foul-mouthed women, with burning torches and a pitchfork. Like the inscription on the back of a lynching postcard, The Spectator cartoon comes with a caption, so that we might not mistake its meaning: “Lynch mob-ette: Feminists did me in, says Tanveer Ahmed.”
Inside The Spectator, Tanveer Ahmed provides an account of his own lynching…Ahmed presents his account of his execution under the sub-heading, “Despite being a pin-up boy for the White Ribbon movement, I made the mistake of attempting to explain male violence.”
Ahmed was an Ambassador for the White Ribbon campaign against violence to women when he published an article in The Australian on 9 February entitled, “Men forgotten in violence debate.” The title almost makes it unnecessary to read further to grasp the striking new “argument” being made: that men are “disempowered,” with the perpetrators being the same “mob-ette” of radical feminist harpies circling the poplar tree.
Unfortunately, Ahmed’s argument in The Australian was by no stretch original – not only was it a tired reiteration of cliches, but those cliches were not even his own cliches, having been lifted in part from the writings of other “disempowered men…
In his Spectator attempt at an apologia, “Lynched by the feminist mob,” Ahmed mixes his metaphors with abandon in order to explain his plight:
“I have been considerably disempowered after writing about male disempowerment. Wading into the treacherous, virulent, oestrogen laden waters of modern feminism I have learnt that the gender wars are seen by many as a zero sum game, much like poker or derivatives trading.”
As he waded, Ahmed says, he was “treated to an orgy of abuse, threats and complete mis-representation.” Nurses at his hospital took him aside to ask him how he was doing, articles and letters were published on the net in support of him, unnamed (because trembling presumably) academics approached him on the sly to share how difficult it is to speak openly about “this issue” and Dr Ahmed was invited to speak at a Toronto conference “all expenses paid.” …
The Spectator editorial (“Lynch mob-ette”) commiserated with Ahmed’s fate at the hands of “an angry, vocal, left-wing group of ‘celebrities’ within the bosom [sic] of the local [feminist] movement.” According to the Spectator editorial writer, Ahmed had been “lynched on social media, to the point of threatening his career” by such “oddities.” Ahmed himself writes that he was so cowed by “the totalitarian character of the entire episode” that he packed his white ribbon away and “resumed writing prescriptions for psychoactive drugs” at his psychiatric practice. Hard times indeed.
This rhetorical escalation by Ahmed and the Spectator on his behalf goes beyond absurdity into the realm of the grotesque. Words like “totalitarian” lose all meaning when applied to criticism made of a rather dull kind of “argument” about modern masculinity (a predicament that certainly deserves a complex and thoughtful analysis). The completely inappropriate use of such words reaches beyond this one little corner of right-wing looniness, however, as the increasing use across the political spectrum of terms like “crucifixion” in response to criticism illustrates.
However, there is a particularly egregious wrong-ness in the use of the word “lynching” as a response to criticism. This wrong-ness comes from the freight that the word carries because of its entanglement in a history of sustained racial terror…
For Ahmed and The Spectator now to present his predicament as a lynching, both in words and in a captioned picture, is shameful. In Ahmed’s case, there is no “blood on the leaves,” there is no “smell of burning flesh,” no torture, no execution, no terror. There is only the hum of the Airbus taking off for Toronto, with a successful doctor onboard, “all expenses paid.”
But words still have meaning, to which they can be recalled. The history of lynching places on us an ethical injunction to precision in our use of the word. And no man was lynched yesterday. Read full article
Gender Neutrality or Enforcement? ‘Safe Schools’ isn’t as Progressive as it Seems
…Those who subscribe to queer theory would argue that this simply represents progress. From this perspective, gender is inherently fluid and exists in multiple permutations. Queer theory has now gone mainstream, ushered in from the fringes of the academic world to the core of the childhood education system.
For example, Safe Schools utilises definitions like this: “sex is your physical aspects (i.e. your wibbly wobbly bits) and gender is how you feel in your mind in terms of masculine and feminine.” Quite apart from the incorrect description of genitals – one that is advised against by health professionals – the idea that gender is a feeling is highly questionable. In fact, the idea of feminine or masculine thinking has long been disputed in the research.
Other topics to which children will be inducted through Safe Schools materials include the use of plastic surgery and hormone treatments to change gendered appearance, as well as how girls should bind their breasts if they aren’t comfortable about them. Not only does this promote dangerous practices, but it also has the potential to normalise body dissatisfaction within an already vulnerable demographic – all in the guise of “progress.”
Far from being progressive, such campaigns seem somewhat counter-productive. If gender neutrality really is progress, why the focus on classifying gender? How can such programs neutralise gender and yet simultaneously name, categorise and even medicalise it?
Gender itself is a sociological category, a concept designed to examine broad trends between the sexes. Yet it is now erroneously applied to children who are expected to understand and embody a theory usually only the purview of researchers. Suddenly we must scrutinise, analyse and even pathologise natural child behaviour as “gendered.”
While this focus on gender appears to be celebrating diversity, it may actually be doing the opposite.
Many people are indeed diverse and non-conforming, and ending discrimination around difference is worthwhile. But there is no consensus in the research on whether putting children into gender categories is helpful or simply premature and possibly disruptive. Theories about gender are dubious at best. As the Safe Schools program demonstrates, many theories still fall back on the archetypes of “feminine” and “masculine” traits, which have long been discarded in the research.
… Accordingly, 51 gender categories are now prescribed for children to choose from. Facebook has followed suit, offering these 51 gender options to users.
Indoctrinating children into these new “gender” categories is not going to resolve stereotypes. In fact, this may merely create a more exhaustive range of gender classifications within which the stereotypes continue to exist. This is not gender neutrality, but gender enforcement.
This may create more confusion, more anxiety and more pressure for children over an issue that is not their burden to bear. Stereotypes need to be done away with and diversity needs to be accepted. If we truly want to be progressive and neutral about gender, perhaps we would be better off just letting children be children. Read full article
At a time when many of us are working flat out to help young women avoid controlling, manipulative, emotionally and physically violent relationships, comes a film which presents these behaviours as romantic.
Fifty Shades of Grey, based on E.L James blockbuster book, hits the cinemas today for Valentine’s Day.
Sex shops report a roaring trade, hardware stores are stocking up on cable ties and rope, and everyone’s getting in on the act. Anti-violence men’s group White Ribbon was to be the beneficiary of a Fifty Shades screening until we pressured them enough to scrap it (unfortunately we haven’t yet had the same success getting Dr Ahmed Tanveer removed as an Ambassador for his Australian piece this week contradicting and undermining the White Ribbon cause, but watch this space). A Uniting Care pre-school was to benefit also from a fundraising screenings but Uniting Care was persuaded that that wasn’t such a good idea either and that idea was pulled.
But the juggernaut rolls on. The film is being advertised on bus shelters outside high schools and even in respite care centres for children.
Why say “I love you” with chocolate when you can say it with blood and bruises?
Christian Grey, 28, in reality a sexual sociopath worthy of a restraining order, is depicted as handsome, alluring and exceedingly wealthy. Playboy Grey targets and grooms Anastasia (Ana) Steele, a virginal, klutzy, 21-year-old college student.
His obsessive and controlling behavior towards the naïve Ana is read as a sign of love and devotion. He loves her like no other.
In the advertising overdrive, the dangerous messages propagated by the Fifty Shades phenomenon should not be missed: stalking, aggression, sexual violence, threats, intimidation, manipulation and control are sexy.
If he stalks you he must really love you. If you say ‘no’, that’s just a come-on. And if you love a sadistic abuser he’ll change and you’ll live happily ever after in a really big house.
None of these behaviours are marketed as problematic but promoted as romantic. That’s why domestic violence groups internationally have launched a campaign called ’50 dollars not 50 shades’ calling for a boycott of the film and asking for donations to women’s shelters instead. They have seen too many real-life Anastasias.
But rather than walk away from the Christian Greys of the world, the genre tells women that if you love him and cop enough of his shit, eventually he’ll magically morph into the man you wanted.
Melbourne mental health profession Geoff Ahern agrees. “It’s fiction that glorifies fear, intimidation, stalking and violence against women. When I read extracts from the book I hear my clients telling the same stories and that is most certainly not fiction”.
Natalie Collins set up the campaign group, Fifty Shades Is Domestic Abuse. The Independent reports:
When Collins’ co-campaigner first read the books, she said she was “deeply disturbed by how it mirrored the abuse that she had experienced from an ex-partner…women are coming to us and saying, ‘We feel exploited, we feel that our stories and the abuse and trauma that we have suffered are being capitalised upon.’ We’re concerned especially how that’s reflecting and impacting young people.”
Men learn to be turned on by women in pain.
Grey calls Ana his ‘submissive’ and expects her to sign a contract outlining the ways he intends to control her.
“I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele… Hard.” And then he “rips through” her virginity, making her cry out. He then tells her he wants her to be “sore.”
Young women are growing up in a culture which grooms and socialises them to be subordinate. Fifty Shades reinforces that – with the expectation they should also find aggression sexy and desirable.
An analysis by Michigan State and Ohio State universities determined that Grey is a perpetrator who uses an ‘interlocking pattern’ of emotional abuse strategies to manipulate Ana and control the relationship, including, stalking, intimidation, isolation and humiliation. Physical and sexual violence are prevalent and Christian uses alcohol to impair Anastasia’s consent.
“Sexual violence is pervasive,” said the authors, citing Christian using alcohol to compromise Ana’s consent, intimidation, initiating sexual encounters when angry, dismissing Ana’s requests for boundaries, threatening her and humiliating her.
The authors noted Ana experiences reactions typical of abused women such as constant perceived threat, altered identity, stressful managing, engaging in behaviours to ‘keep the peace’ like withholding information to avoid Christian’s anger.
Researchers believed the popular book series had the power to influence attitudes and beliefs surrounding intimate partner violence, arguing “individuals regularly alter their real world beliefs and attitudes in response to fictional communication.”
The impact on Anastasia is consistent with that of other victims of intimate partner violence –constant perceived threat, managing and altering her behaviors to keep peace, lost identity, disempowerment and entrapment.
A 2013 Vic Health survey found a sizeable number of people believe there are circumstances in which violence can be excused.
We don’t need more myths about intimate partner violence being a reflection of true love. The last thing we need is the romanticisation of domestic abuse.
We can’t ignore the implications of depicting a man worthy of criminal charges as hot, sexy and desirable. The packaging of a story about an abusive relationship as ‘Romance’ perpetuates violence against women and undermines efforts to promote equal, respectful relationships.
Collective Shout responds to common pro-Fifty Shades arguments
Over the last few weeks, the campaign calling on supporters to boycott Fifty Shades of Grey and donate to a domestic violence shelter has escalated – and so too has the backlash from fans of the book series arguing that it was all just a bit of harmless, sexy fun.
We’ve prepared responses to some of the most common arguments we heard in support of the book series and film.
“It’s just fiction!”
Many Fifty Shades fans argue that it is just a book/film, a work of fiction, and as such the eroticized representations of violence against women have no power to influence thinking, attitudes or beliefs.
However, an analysis of the novel found sexual violence and emotional abuse were pervasive and the popular book series had the power to influence attitudes and beliefs surrounding intimate partner violence. The authors argued that “individuals regularly alter their real world beliefs and attitudes in response to fictional communication” and “stories are especially influential when readers become drawn into them and cognitive resources, emotions, and mental imagery faculties are engaged.”
The authors noted in their conclusion “our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.” Read more
“It’s so popular!”
Fifty Shades of Grey is popular in large part because of the misleading way the the trilogy has been promoted. It has been marketed as “romance” and “porn for women” and defended as “playful fantasy encouraging women to become more daring in their sexuality.” If the story was promoted for what it is – a powerful sadistic man grooming a naive young woman for sexual violence and abuse – we doubt it would achieve the same success.
The popularity of Fifty Shades’ means it has even greater potential to perpetuate and reinforce damaging attitudes about abusive relationships.
Throughout history many there are many examples of oppression, violence and injustice that were popular or socially accepted in their time, but are now strongly rejected. Read more
“But he loves her so much!”
To accept this argument would be to believe that stalking, possessiveness, manipulation, jealousy, control and other elements of intimate partner violence are based in love – that abusive men hurt their female partners because they ‘love them so much’.
Perpetrators themselves like to say they acted out of love. This is false. Read more
The petition win is all over the media right now: on ABC News, news.com.au, Sunrise, Guardian Australia, Herald Sun, even reaching international outlets like AP, Forbes, UK’s Telegraph newspaper and others!
This is a huge win. For years, games like Grand Theft Auto have got away with this in-game misogyny and sexual violence.
It’s games like this that normalise rape and sexual violence. You’ve helped send a message to family retailers and brands that their consumers have had enough, and they’ve started listening.
We’re now asking outlets like Big W and Woolworths whether they’re going to stand up against Grand Theft Auto’s violence against women as well.
Yesterday on its Facebook page, White Ribbon wrote: “Target & Kmart have taken Grand Theft Auto V off the shelves. What are your thoughts?” With the question they posted a negative piece from a gaming site about the response of these corporates to our campaign (they posted no neutral or positive pieces). This was my response late last night:
Melinda Tankard Reist: What are OUR thoughts? Like you can’t actually take a stand on this yourselves? And you post a negative piece about the Change.org petition written by three women survivors of violence? You have nothing to say about the mainstreaming and normalising of violence against women, about treating the abuse of women as a game and as entertainment, about the importance of corporate social responsibility and ethical business leadership? We have often asked your support on campaigns and get nothing. Why are you in this for? What do you actually represent? Many of us – including women survivors of violence – are asking this question.
This morning White Ribbon has posted this:
White Ribbon believes that all forms of violence are wrong and we do not condone any form of entertainment that features violence against women. Thank you for sharing your opinions with us about Grand Theft Auto V – open conversation is the first step to raising awareness of men’s violence against women and changing people’s attitudes and behaviours.
We are in discussion with leaders in the games industry about this issue, and the broader issues of violence against women and the representation of women, as we have with the sports industry. This is an ongoing and long-term discussion that we have been engaged in for a while now. Achieving change is a long process and is most effective when we work together.
GTAV ‘discourages violence against women’ claims SMH journalist on The Drum.
Very disappointed with the coverage of GTAV, Change.org petition of 45,000 signatures and Target and Kmart response on ABC The Drum last night. (view from 18:00).
Did you see it? SMH journalist Kate McClymont quoting gamers against actual survivors of violence against women who wrote the petition. She said of the game “It’s actually discouraging violence against women.” And Paul Bongiorno saying it may have been a “stunt” and commenting on the“amazing graphics”. Couldn’t the producers find someone who actually knew what they were talking about? I expected more than this poor quality coverage.
This is how GTAV discourages violence against women
‘They referred to their abuse as a game’
Anita Sarkeesian speaks about her experience of online harassment and cyber mobs. It’s two years old but a must see.
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