****Trigger warning: Discussion about rape. All of the links out also contain discussion about rape..****

The recent coverage by CNN on the case of the Steubenville rapists has received a lot of criticism (like here and here). This case, that has been exposed on the web through bloggers, Anonymous, and social media used by students involved, has recently ended with two football players being charged in juvenile court for raping a 16 yr old girl, with another charge of taking nude photographs of an underage girl and spreading those photographs. The pull-at-your-heart-strings situating of the rapists, focusing on their athleticism, good grades, and “promising futures”, resulted in reporting a verdict that did not reference the survivor in the whole segment. The impression that their lives were being ruined by the sentence- not by their decision to rape an underage girl- was clearly the stance of a rape apologist.

This is what rape culture looks like. It’s a place where rapists are talked about in terms of their promise and lost future, seen as “the real victims“, and survivors receive death threats and are ostracized in their communities. It’s a place where sexual assault is not seen as anything out of the ordinary, particularly for those who feel entitled to it, like the heroic school football stars. It’s a place where consent is the absence of a no, not consciousness or the presence of a yes. It’s a place where this is how rape is thought of:

“It wasn’t violent,” explained teammate Evan Westlake when asked why he didn’t stop the two defendants as they abused a non-moving girl that Westlake knew to be highly intoxicated. “I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.”

This is what rape culture looks like. When black-and-white boundaries are made grey, where it was “their fault for drinking”, where it was their parents fault for letting them go out into the world, where it was the ignorance of youth poisoned with hormones, when no one steps in because they didn’t think that violating an unconscious girl is violent. Rape culture is where the survivor is not even mentioned in the coverage that follows, and we are left apologizing and sympathizing with rapists. CNN has been an active participant in rape culture, as have many other reactions. It’s hard to see such blatant examples, but hopefully it will bring attention to the rape culture we are saturated in today.

If you are interested in an apology from CNN, we encourage you to sign this petition:

You may have seen in the news, perhaps here, that a University of North Carolina student, Landen Gambill, is facing possible expulsion for speaking publicly about her sexual assault. SACOMMS would like to extend this letter of solidarity with Landen Gambill, and would also like to share that letter with others. Please read and share this letter and other article pertaining to this very important case.


March 4, 2013


The Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Student Society (SACOMSS) would like to express its’ solidarity with Landen Gambill. Gambill is a student at University of North Carolina facing an Honor Code violation, filed against her in response to her complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, alleging that the University of North Carolina “has routinely violated the rights of sexual assault survivors and failed to assist them in recovery after the reported abuse.”[i]

Earlier this year, Gambill made the very brave decision to file a formal complaint with her university against her rapist. For her decision to be met with possible expulsion and challenges brought to her by the university is atrocious. A survivor’s decision to talk about their experiences of sexual assault is that, a decision, and it is never necessary to do so. Once one chooses to share their experiences, however, it is crucial that they be met with support and belief, two sentiments absent from the University of North Carolina’s reaction to Ms. Gambill. Part of a university’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of members of the university community; this includes supporting survivors of sexual assault. Instead, it seems that the University of North Carolina has chosen tactics of alienation and intimidation.

As a student-run Sexual Assault Centre, committed to offering support to survivors and their allies, we feel it is important to express our concern over the handling of Ms. Gambill’s experiences by her university and community. We wish to extend our support and solidarity with Ms. Gambill through this ordeal, and acknowledge her courage throughout this process. Ms. Gambill deserves to be respected and believed, as well as to see this process end equitably.

If you ever thought that everyone in the world is either a boy or a girl, when you start to hear about gender that is non-binary or the concept that gender is a spectrum, it can be a bit confusing. Wait, that person isn’t pink or blue- what does that mean?

Now, to get this concept of a spectrum, I’m going to ask you to put your statistics hat on. No, you don’t need to ever have actually taken a statistics course to nail this concept, but a few examples about how variables are looked at might help you visualize what a spectrum is and why the distinction is important. When you are given some data, there are two types of data possible: discrete and continuous. Discrete data is data that you can count in whole numbers– like this flower has 1, 2, 3 petals. There are no 1.2 petals. Continuous data is data that has an infinite amount of possible values– like this leaf is 1.8, 3.545, 18.713949 cm long. Any value is possible on the scale, and there’s no either/or option. Pulling you back out of the garden and back into gender, when gender is referred to as a spectrum, that means that there are infinite “values” or possibilities for someone’s gender. In the gender binary system, you are either 1 (boy) or 2 (girl)- there’s no 1.37. In a spectrum system, gender isn’t 1 or 2 it’s 1.8, 3.545, 18.713949 on a scale.

What the “scale” is remains contentious. Some people argue that putting “male” on one end and “female” on the other is only a slight improvement, still limiting people on a horizontal axis and implying that in order to be more feminine it is necessary to be less masculine (and vice versa). Some people prefer to think of the spectrum like a rainbow of colours- all different, varied, and no colour better than the other. This, while representative, may have difficulties because every label added will inherently narrow the categories. Perhaps the most important lesson from the “scale” is to understand that the concept of non-binary gender is an evolving conversation that is always working on becoming more inclusive and accessible to everyone. The end point has not been reached.

Gender is complex. There are many facets, it sure ain’t static, and as we continue to explore those facets on this blog, we hope that this concept of gender spectrum is kept in mind. If you have any critiques of our take on what a spectrum means, let us know and we will keep this updated accordingly. In the meantime, this is a video that explores multiple spectrums in a pretty comprehensive manner, and gives some food for thought about where these spectrums may also apply.

We have cool links!  Click on them!  

This week we’re featuring an interactive (bilingual!) website called Draw The Line about how to stop a culture that ignores sexual violence in little ways (and big ones). 

And controversy has sprung up around a new dress that disappears as the wearer gets aroused.  

Threats, an internet hate campaign, and a fatwa from Kashmir’s Grand Mufti have convinced Kashmir’s first all-girl rock band to stop making music

Finally, The Nation’s Jessica Valenti writes an open letter to her male relatives who “like” sexism on Facebook. 

This Thursday has a bit of an art theme, from modern art and photography to the art of satire.  We also have a more involved post about the Idle No More movement.

Artist Angela Washko set out to document what players in the World of Warcraft think of feminism.  This piece in Hyperallergic talks about what she found– which was mostly rudeness.  One interview she conducted while in the game stands out.  Washko had a conversation with a 19-year-old young mother named Chastity (video here), whom she named her project after.  You can follow Washko’s progress towards bringing feminism to WoW on her blog

Fifty Shades of Gay is a TED talk by queer photographer iO Tillet Wright about the gray areas of sexuality and gender. 

The Onion recently published this hilarious satire on the “complimentary” comments we make objectifying teenage girls. 

On a much more serious note, the Idle No More protests continue to bring Canada’s relationship with First Nations people into the public discourse.

And Tennessee is considering a law that would require school teachers, counselors, and administrators to ‘out’ LGBT students to their parents

We have a diverse set of links to share today, from a Vancouver high school student’s photo project to how Notre Dame football players bully survivors.  

Daniel Callahan, a prominent bioethicist, proposed increasing cultural prejudice against obese people as a way to encourage healthy habits.  Nobody else thinks this is a good idea.

A Victoria’s Secret model talks about privilege, perception, and pressure in this recent TED talk. 

In this article, Salon reviewed the stories of survivors being bullied into dropping cases against Notre Dame football players which are being ignored while the Manti Te’o story is receiving international media attention.

A photo project about slut-shaming by a Vancouver high school student has gone viral on tumblr.

I was researching the protests going on in India for our last Thursday article round-up (link).  A few weeks ago, international media picked up on the story of the assault of an unnamed woman on a Delhi bus, and has since been buzzing about it.  Many journalists commented on what says about how women are perceived in India—as objects.  For women in the Delhi area, the danger of being assaulted in a crowd setting is so great that the anti-assault protests happening now are usually populated only by men.  (Many news articles are quick to comment on the hypocrisy of this.)

I was reading an International Business Times piece on the subject when I noticed an ad on the side of the page.  It was a cartoon of a torso with breasts and some protruding belly fat.  “1 Tip for a Tiny Belly,” the ad read.  The body’s shape and the bubbly font of the text suggested it was directed towards women. 


Once I began looking, I noticed that most articles whose conclusions were against the objectification of women’s bodies had similar ads.  If a page didn’t have an ad for weight loss advice or Botox (always marketed towards women), ads would be for clothing, with only a certain body type represented by models.  


The ads that were not directly telling women to change their appearance were reinforcing a very strict idea of beauty—one where only thin, white women can be considered beautiful.   


Although negative media is not on the same level as a national culture of assaulting strangers, the objectification of women* represented by these ads was in sharp contrast to what the articles beside them were saying.   Although most of the articles were very feminist, most of the ads were not. 

It is impossible to tell whether news sites allowed these ads to support their work because they didn’t care, or because they didn’t know they had control.  Most of the ads shown above were supported by Google AdSense, one of the most popular ad services on the Internet.  I have an AdSense account, and decided to see how hard it would be to keep ads I didn’t believe in from showing up on a website I run. 

As it turns out, selecting what type of ads (and even what brands) are shown on your site is very easy.  Google makes it obvious and simple—on the AdSense website, it only takes a few clicks to block “weight loss”-related ads, or even specific websites, from buying space on your page. 


There are enough ads in the AdSense database that blocking ads you don’t support will not lose you money.  A different ad can take its place.  And if ads that objectify women can’t find space on websites, the products and services they sell will be encouraged to market themselves differently. 



*That’s not to say that men are not objectified, but the ads I saw while writing this post were overwhelmingly marketed toward women. 

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