Showing posts with label blaming the victim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blaming the victim. Show all posts

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Making the lazy choice: victim blaming in the movie "Bernie"

Last night we watched the movie Bernie with Jack Black. Or to be honest I watched half of the movie before I fell asleep to the amusement of The Dude (seriously, if you knew him you’d know how funny it is to call him that). The movie is based on real events and is about a small time funeral director who befriends and eventually kills an eighty-one year old wealthy widow (Margery Nugent).

In both the film and the real case Bernie is well loved by everyone in town while the townspeople generally dislike Margery, so much so that the real townspeople play themselves in the film and spend much of the time telling the camera what a horrible person she was and what a lovely charmer he was.

Left: the real Bernie and Margery (Joe Rhodes) Right: from the film (Millenium Entertainment)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This week in rape culture…

I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to blog about this, I wasn’t going to tweet about it. But after seeing the attacks being made on someone I consider a friend who has chosen to take on Daniel Tosh and his defenders I need to say this.  If you haven’t heard, the comedian Daniel Tosh, in response to a woman who “heckled” him by telling him that rape is never funny, declared to the audience “Wouldn’t it be funny if she got gang raped by five guys right now?”  This after witnessing the horror that has been unleashed on Anita Sarkeesian because she had the nerve to even consider talking about sexist tropes in video games. But I digress.

In the ensuing online shit storm a bevy of men, many of them comics themselves, have rushed to his defence.  Because apparently heckling a comedian is the worst possible sin, deserving of any vile or threatening reaction the comic can spew forth.

So, to the point.

For every person defending anyone’s right to make rape jokes there is a woman who just locked another door. In her house, in her car, in her mind.

When I was fifteen at least half of my female friends had been raped or sexually assaulted.  One by her older brother when she was still a child, she worried that because of the assault she’d never have children.  One by a guy in an ally with a knife. One never told me the details, she just asked if that meant she wasn’t a virgin anymore.  Everyone in the school knew that a certain guy had raped a certain girl, when her boyfriend went after him the rapist stabbed him.

When I was in grade twelve a girl in my school was stalked, raped and murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

When I see these people defending the funniness of rape jokes I feel that much less safe in an already unsafe world.  I know that there are real people on the other end of the keyboard who, at the very least, I could not trust to defend my safety if I were openly threatened in a public setting.  More likely they would tell me that I was lucky that someone was paying me any attention at all.

I start wanting to lock doors in my heart and my mind that I have been trying oh so hard to crack open.  Part of me wants to never leave the house again.

I want to not feel nervous every time I hear a bunch of white guys laughing among themselves. I want to not fear for my safety just because I don’t want to give some guy my phone number. I want to remember what it’s like to not fear sex.  And right now, more than anything I want to wrap my arms around those women who literally put their safety on the line by directly challenging the terrifying onslaught of misogyny on Twitter and in the gaming world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fatal Attraction or how I learned to fear men

Dedicated to the memory of Racquel Junio, and every other woman or girl who has died for the sin of being female.

[trigger warning]

I was thirteen when I learned what a dangerous world it is for women. And not just because of my personal experiences with abusive boyfriends and sexual bullies at school.

The year was 1989 and on December 6th of that year Mark Lepin went on a shooting rampage at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. He was angry at “the feminists” for taking up spots in a school that he thought rightfully belonged to men. He killed 14 women. Those events quickly came to be known as the Montreal Massacre.

When I heard it on the news I cried. I still cry every time I think about it. Not just for the women who died or were terrorized on that day but because I understood in that instant just how dangerous it could be to be a woman.

Plaque commemorating the victims of Mark Lepin

In 1992, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy were abducted and killed by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, it was later discovered that Bernardo had also been the Scarborough rapist. As a teen girl living in St. Catharines this was constantly on my mind. I had friends who had known Kristen, I knew someone who had known the Homolka family. The tension in the air was palpable. Those of us who were living in St. Catharines at the time all bear a collective scar from those years.

In 1993 Kara Taylor, a student at my school, was raped and killed by an ex-boyfriend who had been stalking her. Once again, I had friends who had known her, some of whom had begun escorting her to her car in order to protect her from her ex.

These events, partnered with my own experiences with abusive men, shaped my understanding of what it means to move about the world as a woman.

If you’re a trans woman, belong to a racialized group or have a disability you’re at even greater risk.

Do you think that Robert Pickton could have abducted and killed women for so long if his victims had been white, middle class women?

Do you think the McDonalds staff would have been so indifferent to the beating of a cis woman?

Of course not.

Every time I hear about a woman being killed by her male partner it feels like a punch in the gut. For every murdered woman there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others who are daily subjected to emotional and physical abuse. From partners, from employers, from friends and family members; we watch our backs as we walk the streets at night but deep down we know that it’s not the strangers on the streets that pose the greatest threat.

Statistically, we are told, a woman stands a 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted in her life. My experience is that more than half of my female friends throughout my life have been victimized in one way or another.

In the aftermath of the Montreal massacre there was a lot of heated debate over the significance of the fact that Mark Lepin targeted women. Some made the point that it was an extreme example of the misogyny and violence that rests in the hearts of so many men. Others said that he was just a deranged madman, as though that precluded his delusions from being shaped by the dominant culture’s antipathy towards women. In the midst of all this, some men decided that it was high time that men take on the responsibility for ending male violence against women. Of all the things that Jack Layton did in his life, this is the one for which I am most grateful.

We often talk of the negative impact on girls of being inundated with images of women as sexual objects. But we forget that they are also absorbing the much more visceral lessons about what it means to take up space as a girl or woman. Walking through life in a heightened state of vigilance, worrying about being called a slut, a tease, a whore. Hearing boys and men brag about “hitting that” in yet another conflation of sex and violence. Watching as friends or loved ones take hit after hit (physical or emotional) from abusive partners.

I don’t have any pithy comments. I don’t have a stunning conclusion. I only have this: If I’m rude to a man who makes a pass at me it’s because I have learned that a man showing interest in me is one of the most dangerous things of all.

Some stats on violence against women in Canada

Related posts:
Padded bras and victim blame: it’s always your fault

Silence means no

And at my other blog: Sexual harassment is bullying

Friday, March 25, 2011

Padded bras and victim blame: it's always your fault

I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to blog about this but here goes, Abercrombie and Fitch has just launched a line of push up triangle bikinis for girls as young as seven.  That’s right, better make sure when your second grader hits the beach that her ‘tits’ are up front and centre because that’s what the boys and (possibly uncle Larry) want.

I hate this for the obvious reason touched on here and here but I want you to read the last paragraph from that second link again:

“It doesn't matter much, these days, as to what the comments are surrounding what the fashion industry has decided our teeny-bopper sex tantalizers should adorn themselves in. I'm slapping the blame on moms  for not seeing any further than their own breast implants when it comes to purchasing push-uppers for girls that don't, as yet, actually have any breasts,” said Shirlee Smith, CEO/Founder of “Talk About Parenting With Shirlee Smith.” “Who is paying for this sexy- kiddie marketing?  Mom in the short run, sex object girls in the long run.”

That’s right, it’s not A&F’s responsibility not to contribute to the hypersexualization of young girls it’s, wait for it…’s fault.  Because it’s always mom’s fault.  Because dad has no involvement in raising the kids.  Because all little girls do exactly what their mothers tell them.  Because kids aren’t affected by the message sent by the very existence of such a product.  Because adults aren’t slowly absorbing and accepting the increasingly sexual images of and for our girls (see Miley Cyrus, Bratz Dolls, hell just read Cinderella At My Daughter by Peggy Orentstein).

Okay, sarcastic rant done.

But here is where I need to take it a step further.  I few weeks ago the New York Times wrote an article about the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl by 18 men and boys, for more details read this article from

Don’t worry, I’ll wait…..

To quote:
After all, as the Times helpfully points out, "Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands -- known as the Quarters -- said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said." Gosh, I wonder if she's pretty or you know, developed, because that's relevant too.
The residents also wonder "how could their young men have been drawn into such an act" and lament that "These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives."

Did you get all of that?  The implication is that because she was “dressed older than her age” these poor boys were “drawn into such an act”.

So this is where we are, on one hand Abercrombie & Fitch wants our young daughters to wear padded bikinis and thongs and on the other hand, if your little Wonder Woman gets assaulted while wearing these clothes she was asking for it.

But wait there’s more….
The Times quotes a neighbor lamenting, "Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking? How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?"
The girl's mother, identified only as Maria, told the New York Daily news this week that the family has received several angry phone calls, and that the child has been moved to foster care for her protection. "These guys knew she was in middle school," she said. "You could tell whenever you talked to her. She still loves stuffed teddy bears." Where's that quote in the Times story?
Well, we’ve come full circle now haven’t we because not only will it be your daughters fault if she gets raped while wearing these precocious clothes it will also be yours, you know, if you’re a mom.  Dad’s are off the hook apparently (is anyone else wondering what happened to the stereotype of dad’s protecting their daughter’s virtue?)

It’s not the fault of the people who make the lingerie for girls if someone perceives her as a sexual object.  It’s not the fault of the rapists if she ‘looked like a ho’.  Stores are businesses after all and their only responsibility is to make lots of cash for their blessed shareholders.  And men, well, they cant’ be held responsible for what their bodies do while their hearts aren’t looking.

And there you have it, capitalism and patriarchy in a nutshell.