It’s one month since Reeva Steenkamp was killed by a man who got famous. Coverage of her death has largely made that man more famous. Historically, men who kill women become anti-heroes or legends. I say let’s remember Reeva.
February 14 2012 saw the biggest global action to end male violence against women in our history. One Billion Rising. Reeva Steenkamp was visiting her boyfriend on this Valentine’s Day. He shot her at least three times. He took her life away from her.
BBC News covered the killing of Reeva by giving two people who met Oscar Pistorius a platform to gush about him at length, and then express how very surprised they are that he is in this situation. The Sun remembered Reeva. But not in a good way. It ran a gratuitous cover of Reeva, a model, unzipping her bikini. Human rights groups and journalists like Marina Hyde were rightly angered. Like hello? Leveson Enquiry? The Sun, like all red tops, only recognizes females for their flesh. I say remember Reeva for her humanity. I didn’t know Reeva Steenkamp. BBC3′s documentary, Oscar Pistorius: What Really Happened introduces me to her housemate and best friend, Gina Myers. Gina and Reeva were so loving and close that Reeva texted Gina that she loved her most nights. Gina says that Reeva was, ‘this incredible bubbley person’, who was ‘magnificent on the inside’ and ‘made her laugh’. Gina’s sorrow at losing her friend is still raw. A picture emerges of Reeva as an amazingly thoughtful, giving friend, who values closeness, who will go that extra mile. Gina recalls the time she got a new job that was a two hour drive away. Reeva didn’t want her making the journey alone and insisted she accompany her there and back, giving Gina photos to remember their ‘road trip’. Reeva was so positive and encouraging to her friend, texting her, ‘You’ll be awesome, I love you.’
The documentary tells me that Reeva was on the cusp of becoming a big name in South Africa, following her appearance on a reality show set in Jamaica. Footage shows Reeva being gracious, philosophical and grateful for the experience. ‘Always be true to yourself’ she says, to conclude her thoughts. Reeva was a former law student and model so her relationship with Pistorius inevitably drew the celeb mags to her. The editor of Heat described her as a ‘pleasure to work with’; another reporter describes how down to earth she remained despite the open gates to celeb land.
I’d never heard of Oscar Pistorius before this so I don’t know how to spell his name without checking. I say lets know how to spell STEENKAMP first.
by Rachel Bell on September 3, 2012Share on twitter
BBC2′s Toughest Place To Be is one of a handful of things worth turning the TV on for and last night’s programme took an A&E nurse form Preston to the murder capital of the world – Juarez in Mexico. Producer director Victoria Bell showed that, despite the constant flow of male victims to the hospital, it’s the female victims of the Juarez drug wars who aren’t lucky enough to even make it there. Since the early 1990′s women and girls have been disappearing from Juarez in their hundreds. As the programme highlighted when the Preston nurse, Maria, visited a local mother, the police don’t investigate and the bones are found years later. Only the remaining body parts hint at the unspeakable torture, rape and mutilation that is the fate of these Mexican women and girls. We are given an insight into the suffering of Trine, the nurse in charge of the prison ward. Risking her life to come to work, her story showed how the women who do live suffer, that no one is untouched by the violence. Trine lost her home. Her courage and giving compared to the men who destroy with guns was brought home when she and Maria visited a gun shop over the border in Texas. Of course the journey of the Preston nurse was the purpose of this programme but it could easily have focused on the drugs as the backdrop. Instead it reminded us that Juarez is a hole that swallows women. It’s important that it’s not just the mothers who never forget.
by Rachel Bell on April 7, 2012Share on twitter
ITV brought the sex industry to the kids again last night, with Simon Cowell giving a massive approval to the stripper who performed on Britain’s Got Talent at 8pm, sending the message that stripping is fun for all the family and will get you places.
So come on little girls, stripping wont just make you loved and famous, it’s actually a talent. It’s not the first time the kids have been entertained by strippers on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. When it’s burlesque, it gets excused as an art-form, or empowering for women who have real bodies, but it’s just stripping for middle class people who think they’re trendy, and now the mainstream think it’s all ever so quirky. So what if there is intended ‘humour’? So what if she has a ‘real’ body? Stripping is stripping. Empowerment is getting fairly paid, the right to representation in parliament, the right to abort your own foetus, that sort of thing, get it? Normalising the sex industry is normalising sexism, not sex. It’s very existence undermines all women’s chances of equality. I don’t want my three year old son, who was enjoying the show, to know that this is what women get noticed and applauded for just yet. I don’t want to have to face the depressing everyday scenario of ‘Mummy why has that women got no pants on?’ just yet.
Watch former lapdancers talk about their ‘work’ and what it’s really like to be a stripper.
Read the Fawcett Society’s report on how the sex industry undermines women’s equality in the workplace.
Read my interview with a woman who worked as a stripper here.
How did strip clubs get so normalised? Find out about Object’s Stripping The Illusion campaign.
Bravo to BBC3 for its documentary, I Never Said Yes, about the rape epidemic in the UK. Presenter Pips Taylor met survivors of rape who’d been through ordeals that would leave many people’s jaws agape. Unspeakable horrors and brutalities levelled by men is the new reality for a third of girls and women. The programme tells it like it is. After establishing the statistics on rape (15,934 reports of rape last year, only 1,058 convictions. And that’s from the teeny minority who do report) and blasting the some common myths, (most rapes are committed by acquaintances or in relationships, only 1 in 8 rapes is stranger rape), the presenter explored why the hell the British Justice System allows rapists to get off, whilst leaving hundreds and thousands of girls and women with completely shattered lives. Rape is the same as murder – it destroys the self – except you’re left to live. The interviews in the programme communicated that. Flaws within the CPS, who rarely bring a case to court as most cases don’t have 100% evidence (rape is usually committed behind closed doors doncha know) were exposed. Pips Taylor flagged up important points - that victims don’t get a lawyer (as they do in the US), and a defence lawyer saying ‘sometimes a family man might make just one mistake’ is, hel-lo?, not on. A rapist is a rapist. Many of them are do-gooders in society. They’re dads, husbands, boyfriends, friend’s brothers, fit men, rich men, famous men, they’re every man.
The title of the show must be applauded. By talking to some blokes at a youth project, Pips flagged up the excuse of mixed messages that men use. These were nice lads but their words were clueless and indicative of the long haul ahead to change attitudes. Look, if a woman is drunk, asleep, crying or on drugs, just don’t try and have sex. It’s simple: just ‘ask’ her if she wants to have sex. Ask her if she’s OK. Enough of this blaming women’s signals for not being clear. Crucially, the programme addressed the issue of shame. Ultimately, the jury decide and they lay the shame on the victim, reflecting society’s normalised sexism that places the blame on women. She put herself in the room, she wore a sexy top, she was drunk, she shouldn’t have got in the cab, she shouldn’t have given him a blow job. The usual outrageous accusations levelled at women, instead of focusing on the frightening violence that men do with impunity.
With a new controller at BBC3, it looks like the channel is addressing the crap that happens to young people in an intelligent, level way. I hope this means less gratuitous treatments of subjects like the ‘sex industry’. The sexism of pop culture and the normalisation of porn in children’s lives was addressed in a non-voyeuristic way with clips from one of the most misogynist videos ever made, Tip Drill. The message that rape is about power was communicated well in a meeting with the progressive Somerset police. The programme was brilliant but one thing would’ve made it brilliant with stars for me – further exploration of the culture of masculinity. Rape is a man’s issue. We need more focus on the question, What has happened to men’s humanity? How about: Part 2: What the fuck is wrong with men?
Truth About Rape busts the myths and helps survivors.
The London based Amina Scheme gives survivors support from women who’ve been through it too.
The Havens help girls and women who’ve experienced all forms of sexual violence, with no obligation to report to the police. I’m afraid they only exist in London.
by Rachel Bell on March 16, 2012Share on twitter
Come on CBeebies, where are the positive female role models? Rachel Bell reports on the case of the disappearing girls.
Since having two sons, still both pre-school age, I always notice when CBeebies commission a new programme. The programmes I remember being launched since my first son and I started watching are: Green Balloon Club, Little Charlie Bear, Mr Bloom’s Nursery, Baby Jake, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, Rastamouse, Iconicles (fronted by nice man Nat), The Adventures of Abney and Teal, Justin’s House, Gigglebiz (fronted by said Justin), Mike the Knight; Tommy Zoom, Andy’s Wild Adventures and Tree Fu Tom. In case you don’t know, Rastamouse is male. Spot the connection? All but two shows are male-led. In CBeebies, the females appear to be locked indoors. Maybe these unwanted girlchildren were aborted in the womb. Has Islamic Fundamentalism taken a hold? They’re just not there. OK, I’m exaggerating, but they’re not there much at all and if they do make an appearance, they are all too often pink and giddy. Imaginative that. The pink and giddy stereotype is led of course by Oopsy Daisy from In The Night Garden and De-Li from Waybuloo. Then there’s the pink and purple girls in Zingzillas, the ape band headed by frontman Zak, naturally. There’s the token girl, Dashi in Octonauts, who likes to comb her hair in front of a mirror. Oh, silly voiced Sweetie from Driver Dan was making cookies tonight. She’s not pink I suppose. The only girl protagonist amongst recent new commissions is Teal, who is adventurous and imaginative. THANK YOU! Tommy Zoom, Mike the Knight and Tree Fu Tom are as bad as the pink and giddy girls, stereotypes of the superhero, barking orders and being all alpha male. I can’t argue with Mr Bloom, he’s a softie, he’s into plants, is funny and brilliant with kids and he’s different to most men the entertainment industry exposes us to. Same goes for Justin Fletcher aka Mr Tumble. Apart from Teal and Green Balloon Club, none of the new commissions acknowledge girls as humans who lead full lives and lead their own stories. It doesn’t feel like we’ve moved that far forward since the creepy world of The Smurfs. Is the controller on a quest to wipe out the female species from public view?
Look more closely, peek behind the curtains so to speak, and you can find the non pink girls of course, doing something more than caring, cooking and smiling, doing more than playing second fiddle. There’s Charlie and Lola, which is hands-down cool, there’s Come Outside, which is hands-down cool too. Not only is the central character a woman, she’s old by telly standards and she’s a pilot. Brilliant. Balamory has a woman bus driver, then there’s dirtgirlworld, Nina and the Neurons and Everything’s Rosie. The last three all have their own shows named after them. WOW. But everything is not rosie at CBeebies. The girls aren’t centre stage in the way that the boys like Tree Fu Tom are. An older woman pilot and a scientist do not make up for the dearth of positive and diverse and more accurate female role models for girls and, just as importantly, for boys to see too.
With Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Koala Brothers, Timmy Time, Driver Dan, Chuggington and Octonauts being flagship shows, there’s too much that’s predictable. Males in charge of vehicles, and male vehicles, are overwhelming themes. There’s nothing wrong with lots of vehicles, girls like them too, but guess who’s manning the ship on new show The Rhyme Rocket? If you son or daughter becomes astute enough to ask, ‘Why are there so few women astronauts?’ you can give them Sandi Toksvig’s book, Girls Are Best, which will tell them it’s because when the American space agency ordered new suits in the 1990′s, they only ordered medium and large.
This is all important stuff. It’s about girls and boys learning about gender roles in the media and wider world for the first time. It’s about arming them with the knowledge that girls CAN DO STUFF. And boys don’t have to be all SUPER. It’s sex education for pre-school, showing boys that they can have healthy relationships with girls and benefit from wonderful friendships with them. Last month CBeebies was ten years old. Since its launch in 2002 it has doubled its audience and is now watched by around half the UK’s 0-6s every week (2.3 million). Clearly it does a good job of making education fun. Clearly it makes an effort to represent black and ethnic minority groups and people with learning difficulties. Why not women? As usual, sexism is not on the agenda. The UK has a duty to fulfill its obligations to the United Nations Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In 2008 CEDAW strongly called for action by the UK government to enact policies on gender stereotyping and the portrayal of women in the media and popular culture.
But you know what? Boys will watch girls. Cavegirl Igam Ogam on Channel Five was one of the best discoveries my partner made cos my three year old son loves it. It’s brilliant on every level. And thank you to Channel Five for the risk-taking Little Princess, and to Tiny Pop for the charming, innocent and calming cartoons at bedtime headed by best friends Milly and Molly. If we expose boys to the female experience at pre school age, they will accept it as the norm, rather than writing it off as ‘girly’.
With ‘sexualisation’ – it’s sexism we’re talking about here – hitting the headlines again following a report by the French government (read more here) we need to align all our media to represent females and males in a balanced way. Children’s film and television is the start of it all, and actor and activist Geena Davis has already done the figures. She was so outraged by the lack of female presence, never mind positive presence, in kids’ film that she did the research and found that for every one female, there are three males. In every group scene 17% is female. Nothing has changed since 1946. When she presented her findings to the film industry, they professed to be shocked. As is the case with most people, the male dominated world is ‘the norm’. They simply don’t notice. Ask any man why the The Smurfs was weird.
Geena Davis has set up The Geena Davis Institute to combat the lack of positive role models for girls. Why? Because Paris Hilton, Jordan, Rhianna, Kardashian, model, pole dancer, stripper, whatever you want to call them, they all do the same thing, is not all a girl can be. She can be Commander in Chief!!
Why does pink stink? It’s not much to do with the colour. Like Disney Princess, it’s about where it signposts girls to… Find out about the Pink Stinks campaign.
Read Zooey Deschanel talking about better roles for women in the Guardian here.
Hey, I know, let’s stop focusing on rape victims Ken Clarke, and instead, how about we just tell men to stop raping. Rape is rape, end of story. Now addresssing men’s violence would save the state a pretty penny. Until the UK justice system starts learning from the US, and giving rape victims a lawyer to represent them, here’s what it takes to be a GOOD RAPE VICTIM. It’s a blog post written by the protagonist in the work of the fiction I’m writing.
Are you going to trial? Courageous girl, brave woman, you have reached a rare point. Obviously there was evidence that made the CPS decide a conviction would be very likely. Perhaps the rapist left his imprint on your body. Bruises from his tightening grip or heartless fist, cuts in your flesh from his cowardly blade, a black eye so that you were made to wear your sorrow and shame like a badge. Maybe you reported straight away and they bothered to look for evidence, maybe he left his semen all in and over you. If he did, I am sorry. Whatever the evidence, it has been decreed that you are a Good Victim.
To be a Good Victim is impossible. As impossible to attain as the supposed perfection of the women on magazine covers and billboards. The airbrushed girls who do not, cannot, exist yet, yet we measure ourselves against them. The fake hair, tan, teeth, breasts, waist, legs, buttocks, eyes, lips that we women must aspire to be worth it. Worth anything. Like her, the Good Victim is not human. Yet men – and women who do not question rape myths, demand that women who cry rape be Good Victims to be believed.
A Good Victim is a tame creature. She must not be too confident and sassy. She must not be her own woman. She must not be an independent woman. And she must not be sexy, oh no never. There must be nothing sexy, sexual, or sensuous about her. She must be chaste, with no previous sexual partners. She must never have had an abortion. She must not have children, whose father has abandoned them.
And to be a Good Victim on your day in court, I pray to the goddess of women, whoever that is, that you are free of your abuser. For only when you are free, can your true feelings be set free. I pray you are not coming to your day in court from years of abuse, years of rape by your father or a family member. I know he will have a hold on you even from his from his cell or treatment ward. He will be tormenting you daily, even when he is not raping you daily. If he gets out he will kill you. You would kill yourself to survive that. I know that your pain will only set in once you are free of your abuser and you don’t have to focus on your day to day survival of him. When the day comes that you are finally not scared shitless of him coming to rape you and hurt you again, when you have the chance to run and tell, only then will you be free to feel the true monstrosity of your pain, feel how frighteningly deep it lives within you. Only then when the full extent of your vulnerability and hurt is known to you, will you be able to even begin to recover. But if you make it to the court room at last, brave girl, oh how the months or years of threats, of terror and horror are finally to be faced. Oh how, having been free of that terror for just a matter of weeks, it will all be so much for you to deal with at once. You have had a matter of weeks to come to terms with ten, twenty years of pain, pain that has been delayed so very long, pain that has built up and up and up and now you are in danger of it overwhelming you if and when you look it in the eye. Looking at it square on will make you vulnerable, you will be fragile. You could break like that. Can you take a trial? So maybe, so as not to break, you will carry your street smart persona, your face of survival. It will protect you right? I am sorry my brave girl, but take your street smart face of survival into that court room and you will not seen as a Good Victim.
That brings me, brave girl, to what makes you a BAD VICTIM. It brings me to the rape myths taken on by jurors. To their sexist attitudes about the roles of women and disapproval of a victim which is expressed as ‘doubt’. One of the biggest rape myths is that jurors are blank slates. I have many memories you see. I remember the girls’ and women’s faces, every one of them, as they stood there being judged. The girls and women haunt me. Nearly all of them did not react during or after the rape as the jury expected them to, a jury in which chauvinists or collaborators sat, passing their judgement onto women, just as they do every day. The faces of every one of those girls and woman haunts me. Those poor, brave girls and women who were judged to be BAD VICTIMS.
So what made them BAD VICTIMS? What will make you join the unlucky ranks of the majority? Here’s what. You didn’t fight for your life, until the death, against a stronger, armed man threatening to kill you or mutilate you. You don’t have lots of bruising and physical injuries. You submitted. Now this may be because your rapist or rapists had a knife or gun to your head, it may be that you were outnumbered. Submitting was your way to stop you being KILLED. Like you, most rape victims think they will be killed. Some must submit to save their child too. I remember her so clearly, the woman who was raped in front her own four year old daughter. She had been on one date with the man. She submitted to stop him raping her child, as he promised he would do. She pretended she wanted him, she let him rape her, to ease his violence and protect her beloved baby. She agreed to meet him again to get him out of her home. What did the jury say about this woman, this mother, who had endured such an unspeakable hell? Those men and women decreed, ‘She doesn’t look like the sort of woman who’d be that affected by this.’
Oh I pray that you do not look like ‘that sort of woman’. Or remind them of one, or do anything like one. For then you will be a BAD VICTIM. Now what else might you have done to make you a BAD VICTIM like the rest? You begged your rapist to use a condom, so that you wouldn’t get pregnant or get Aids or any STI. You slept with the rapist previously, consensually. You had sex previously, so you are a slut and unworthy – a slut cannot be raped –and the gynecological signs of forced intercourse have been caused by someone else. Now the biological sera of a woman’s underwear and her sexual activity is of no relevance. Yet it IS a distraction from the defendant onto the victim. It’s of no more relevance to the issue of consent than his sexual activity and underpants. Only in rape cases is the victim put on trial. A rapist is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A person who reports sexual victimization is not entitled to that same presumption. I’m afraid my brave friend, the criminal justice system does not afford you your rights.
Are you beautiful or too ugly? Are you too sexy? I pray you do not dress sexy. Those men and women on the jury are very concerned with clothes. Have you had sex before in your life? Don’t tell me you enjoy it. Are you unmarried? Maybe you enjoy sex even though you are married. You really are a BAD VICTIM. Did you have sex AFTER the rape? My, what a BAD VICTIM you are. You are angry or sullen. You are not educated or articulate. The jury doesn’t like your lifestyle or attitude. You didn’t take precautions. You’re too young or too old. You’re too emotional or not emotional enough. You’re not female. You’re not middle class or rich. You didn’t scream. You must be to blame, BAD VICTIM. There’s plenty more to make you a BAD VICTIM. Plenty more.
You have dared to accuse a popular, famous, well-liked, handsome, gentle, retarded, respectable, rich man. Or a man that gives back to the community and works with kids and has had no complaints before. You were drinking alcohol, whether the rapist was there or not. You take drugs. You are a single mother or pregnant or have had a child with another man. You are black/Latina. You work as a prostitute/stripper. You have a pole in your room, your friend does or maybe you went to a pole dancing class. You have given blow jobs at parties. Your testimony is ‘too good’. You repeated what the rapist wanted you to say: ‘Fuck me rough and hard, just how I like it big man’ and ‘I’m a slut, and I need your big cock to rip me apart.’ You were walking alone, especially at night, in a bad neighbourhood, even if it’s your own neighbourhood. You didn’t scream or run. You didn’t say ‘No’ convincingly enough. You did not report it to the police immediately or cry for help immediately afterwards. You went on a date with the man. You invited him into your house. You were not wearing underwear or a bra. The rape wasn’t ‘violent’. You had sexual contact with him just before the rape. You washed your hair and body afterwards. You are seductive, even though you are five years old.
You are a child and therefore lie and imagine things and fantasize. You complain too much and make the jury resent or dislike you. Yes that’s it. You’re just not very likeable. You could be one of those many women who ‘cry rape’. Jurors are warned about disturbed or calculating women like you. Nevermind that crime statistics show false complaints of sexual assault are no more common than with any other crime.
What? You did not have his semen in your vagina or on your body? YOUR BAD VICTIM STATUS IS SEALED. I am sorry brave friend, that that is because he raped you with a bottle or other implement. Or you pulled it out at the last minute and washed his poison off later. This is why castration will not prevent men raping. The myths are strong but they are myths. Rape is not about an uncontrollable sex drive or out of control hormones. Rape is ALL about control and power and taking pleasure in exerting that control over another human. Rape is taking pleasure in the degradation of another human being.
OK, so maybe by some miracle, the jury decreed that you are a rare creature indeed, that you are a GOOD VICTIM. Now, your case will only have reached court in the first place if a conviction is likely. A conviction is only likely when you have a good victim and it was a ‘real rape.’ It is no longer socially acceptable to openly condone sexual assault, so many people distinguish between ‘real rape’ and ‘grey areas’ such as’ date rape’. Yet all rape is real rape. Rape is rape. Only a fraction of rapes, about 7% are stranger rapes. But the jury will be full of collaborators, full of people who buy into rape myths to let rapists continue their hatred of women. So was yours a ‘real rape’? Let’s see if your rape matches up. Real rape is when: the rapist forced entry and robbed the victim as well. The rapist was a stranger who jumped on you in the middle of the night. Rapists always strike at night, armed with and Rambo-esque weaponry. Despite the rapist’s arsenal, you fought to within an inch of your life, preferably to the death and were seriously physically injured with multiple visible wounds. You, the victim, got a good look at the rapist as it was very light. At least one, preferably several, upstanding, respectable eyewitnesses saw it all and can identify the rapist and that you did not consent. It must never be a case of your word against his, you understand. The eyewitness testimony must be backed up by ample forensic evidence of trauma, semen, blood typing and DNA analysis.
You are a white, middle class, articulate, educated nice girl, even better a Christian, you are someone we can easily identify with by your conduct, demeanor and life history, someone we would welcome into our family and take home to see granny.
Now, what about your rapist. To be real rape, he must look like a monster. So much so that scary music comes on when he enters the room. He bears no resemblance to a normal person. He is certainly not good looking, popular or has a beautiful wife. You see the juror will believe, like many do, the myth that men who have plenty of opportunity for sex do not need to rape. No matter that there is no evidence that men rape because they have been deprived of consensual sex, including sex they’ve paid for. Rape is not merely forced sex, as you know brave friend. Its’ about power and control, about a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, about believing women are less, that they deserve it for whatever reason. For it to be real rape, you must have reported immediately. As for real rapists, well they are obviously products of excess testosterone who eventually confess. They are not evil. They are just sick and can be treated. They may have suffered abuse themselves, which made them do it.
I have been talking a long time I know. It’s because I am angry. Angry because rape is the only crime where the focus is on the conduct of victim. Only crimes that fit all these criteria, with Good Victims, are prosecuted successfully and reach a conviction. Most do not reach court unless they fit these criteria. Those who cling to the myth of ‘real’ rape dismiss the overwhelming statistics to the contrary as the ravings of lunatic feminists. They say ‘date rape’ is the same is ungentlemanly conduct and as for young men who act subhumanly, they’ll say, ‘boys will be boys’. Their focus is on the victim: did she lead him on? what was she wearing? Rape is the only crime that demands performance criteria from the victim. Where we put the victim on trial. Where her conduct and appearance count for so much. When she must prove that she didn’t ASK to be raped. It’s transferring blame onto the victim and ignoring the evil of rapists. In the same way, we ask of domestic violence situations, why doesn’t she leave, not why is he banging her head against the sink for not making the dinner he fancied. We don’t say to people who are mugged, why did you go out alone? What were you wearing? We need to look at criminology not victimology. The collaborators who will sit and pass judgement on you in court believe the line that rapists cross is so blurred, you can’t see it. What does this all mean? It means that like most, you will not get justice for the terrible crime done to you, a crime that many women liken to being tortured and murdered, then left to live. It means something else too. By not convicting and punishing rapists, we are sending a message to society that you can get away with rape, that it’s not all that bad. By giving this permission to rape, rape will rise.
by Rachel Bell on May 10, 2011Share on twitter
The sex industry continues its mythical infiltration into kids’ – and all our – lives with a lovely new video from dance act Nero.
The video for Guilt portrays a pole dancer performing in a high-end strip club for some johns who, we are to believe, are Japanese businessmen, too. (The pole dancer is a white westerner, nice mix of sexism and racism there). As usual, we are to understand that, because of the glamorous setting and bad ass attitude of the pole dancer, this pole dancing lark is incredibly exciting and empowering for women, especially as this one takes off her face mask to release some superpower lighty stuff at the end. The woman asks the john, ‘Would you like to see the special show?’ and some trickery ensues where her legs are elongated to cartoonish proportions. Now normally, this question means, ‘Would you like to pay a ridiculous amount of cash, that will mostly go to the management, to go into a private room where I shall give you a blow job and you can suck my tits and stick your fingers and/or penis inside my vagina?’ Any man who goes to a strip club and thinks he is not a john is deluded.
And so, another video to feed the very silly but frankly dangerous myth that pole-dancers, like women in prostitution, are actually aroused by the johns that pay for them and feel all empowered like Kate Moss and Billie Piper, is reaching the kids who think MTV is cool. Equally silly and dangerous is the current attempt to make pole-dancing an Olympic sport. Pole-dancing is part of the sex industry, that is where it started, that is where women who pole dance ‘work’. Christ, isn’t the overt sexualisation or complete devaluation of women in sport enough for us to contend with.
For a taster of how truly miserable it is to work in the sex industry, read my interview with a lap dancer here
And for the full picture on what being a pole dancer is actually like, and how the industry really operates, read Julie Bindel’s report, Profitable Exploits! Lap dancing in the UK here
Julie Bindel’s findings include:
* working conditions and terms of employment of lap dancers are exploitative
* Dancers are subjected to humiliation and sexual harassment on a regular basis, from customer and staff/management
by Rachel Bell on March 24, 2011Share on twitter
While Hooters have brought their tacky ‘family friendly’ sexism to Bristol, this May sees undead misogynist Hugh Hefner opening his ‘exclusive’ Playboy club in London’s Mayfair once again.
Continuing his crusade to make lots of money under the guise of sexually liberating womankind, the pornographer has been looking for a new generation of Playboy bunnies. The Evening Standard ran an ad reading, ‘Tip to toe, beauty and grace, welcoming smile and friendly face. Join the Playboy bunnies.’ Excuse me while I go throw. Well it’s illegal to advertise for ‘Fit birds with nice tits wanted to work as serving wenches for men whilst wearing uncomfortable costumes that sexualise and infantilise them all at once. Expect to work late shifts and sort your own cab home.’ April’s issue of Marie Claire reports that over 1600 women applied for 80 ‘bunny’ positions. The magazine sent a reporter to the ‘interviews’ in which the women were judged wearing the bunny costumes and encouraged to parade in bikinis. The reporter noted that no information was given about exact wages, promotion, maternity rights or sick pay. When she enquired about salaries, the response was ‘vague’. When the judging was over and the reporter was finally interviewed, the only reference to working conditions was the question, ‘What do you think about shift work and how would you get home late at night?’
Leaving such a venue late at night / in the early hours will be potentially dangerous for the women working there. Evidence has shown that crime rates and harassment of women is known to increase outside strip clubs for example, for both the women working in them and those using or living in the area. The clientele is bound to include some sad characters who believe the bunnies’ flirting is about them and not the tips, which they are allowed to keep. The employees should be guaranteed a safe, paid for ride home.
When the original Playboy Mayfair club closed in 1981, reports of bad pay, long hours and women being routinely weighed had feminists in uproar. How depressing that 45 years after the club opened in 1966, when young women have made significant gains in the workplace and being recognised as human, compared to the lot of their 1960s sisters, so many buy into the myth that this waitressing job in which they must advertise their tits and ass and suck up to gambling men is empowerment. Being a Playboy bunny will get these women noticed by the clientele of course. One of the applicants in the Marie Claire report likened the attention she’d get to ‘being a celebrity’. So lets be clear about the facts about porn empire Playboy and try to dispel some of the hideous myths. If you or anyone you know thinks the Playboy brand is sophisticated, classy, harmless, sexy, empowering, fun, or anything else connected with positivity, consider these truths, brought to you by the empowered people at binthebunny, who staged regular protests outside the Oxford street Playboy store, now closed.
Pornography magazine Playboy featured cartoon jokes about gang rape and domestic violence.
In 1992, Playboy published the article ‘Presumed guilty’ by Harry Stein, claiming child abuse is a fantasy.
Playboy markets to children through school stationery, duvet covers in the kids bedding section at Argos and too much other tat to list here. In 2003, when questioned on the ethics of marketing to children, Hefner responded, ‘I don’t care if a baby holds up a playboy rattle.’
Here’s my article, It’s porn innit? on Playboy’s grooming of girl children.
Playboy runs six porn channels in the UK. Playboy titles include Barely 18 anal virgins, Wait your turn bitch!, Fresh and juicy Lolitas, Cum drinking sluts, Ripped, stripped and shagged, Cock hungry fuck sluts, Submissive sluts, Piss loving lesbian sluts and Double entry.
According to ex playmate Jill Ann Spaulding, pornographer Hefner, the ‘women loving’ chum to the stars that he is, imposed a 9.30pm curfew on his girlfriends. (I remember another feature, in UK Glamour magazine I think, featuring a Playmate complaining of all the uncomfortable clothes Hugh made her wear. He wouldn’t allow her to wear the jeans she longed to wear etc). Controlling women in this way is recognised as a form of domestic violence.
While our women’s football teams perform better than our men’s, the men’s game is elevated to ridiculous proportions in our culture and its sexism usually permitted to grow unchecked. ‘Casual’ sexism exists all around us, and should always be challenged, not laughed off
The football sexism row, which has seen Andy Gray and Richard Keys lose their pointless jobs, has brought sexism into the Sun and Sky TV-consuming mainstream, and despite the hypocritical coverage from these pornographers, naming and shaming sexism is long overdue. Since Loaded made idiotic laddism cool and funny, naming sexism has been deeply unfashionable. And with some women joining in with their ‘empowering’ stripping, boob jobs and Katie Price-style aspirations, it’s become easy for simplistic-minded men to lazily tell themselves that ‘women are choosing it so it’s alright.’
We don’t tolerate racism or incitement to racial hatred, why isn’t sexism afforded the same gravitas? Shame then that when so few women are given a media platform – unless they’re eye candy for men – Question Time gave its valuable slot to a lapdog of blokedom, reality TV ‘star’ Kate Hopkins. Much of Hopkins’ comments suggest she hates her own gender. She said that women couldn’t handle equal treatment if they got it, and kept repeating how ‘it’s a tough world out there.’
What’s with this emphasis on ‘toughness’? It’s a cartoonish quality wrongly assigned to boys and men. Handy for extreme environments but success in work, which should be a civilised environment by law, usually results from intelligence, vision, drive, understanding your area, people skills, that sort of thing. The evidence is there that women in senior positions equals a company that performs better. Hopkins’ views suggest she doesn’t read too good, so here’s a sample for you Kate.
One study of America’s fortune 500 companies found that the one quarter with the most female executives had a return on equity 35% higher than the quarter with fewer female executives. On the Japanese stock exchange, companies with the highest number of female employees performed nearly 50% better than those with the lowest. As Kristof and Wudunn put it in Half the Sky: How to Change the World, ‘Companies who are innovative enough to promote women are also head of the curve in reacting to business opportunities. That is the essence of a sustainable economic model. Moving women into more productive roles helps curb population growth and nurtures a sustainable society.’
Hopkins calls herself a businesswoman but has she even considered why China is doing so well? She seems to think that a male dominated, sexist workplace, indeed world, is inevitable and unchangeable, and that women must put up or shut up to fit in. Feminists are striving for a world that is better for women and men, for society, not simply an invite to the chauvinist party. Reality TV stars aren’t known for challenging the status quo I guess.
Hopkins wants sexist ‘banter’ to be part of the cultural landscape. She thinks if we don’t like it we should get a sense of humour. It’s traditional to excuse sexism and belittle anyone who opposes it by calling it a ’bit of fun’. But the two men who’ve been sacked weren’t making jokes. They weren’t laughing. They want to believe that a highly experienced lineswoman or referee doesn’t understand the offside rule simply because she is a member of a group, women, which they view as inferior. They seem to think that the offside rule is a great, intellectual secret that only man can understand, and are allowed to own. Well didums. Andy Gray’s and Richard Keys’ role was to chatter about some men kicking a ball around. Hello?