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MSNBC reports that on Friday Egyptian women and a few men gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest against sexual harassment and demand its criminalization. The demonstrators were subject to the very thing they were fighting against: harassment and violence by men attempting to scare them out of the square. Women involved in the protest demand the right to walk the streets unmolested; one referred to harassment as a “disease.”

“You know when you leave home it will happen, either touching or bad language. Every day [harassment] happens here on the streets.  Some days it’s escalated,” said May Abdul Hafiz, a travel agency supervisor. She explained that women are considered at fault for encouraging unwanted male attention by dress or behavior. “You are not supposed to say anything because they think you brought it on yourself.”

The men who attacked the demonstrators were angry that the women would distract from the “legitimate” protests against the candidacy of former Egyptian Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq. One young man said that now is “not the time” to fight harassment. But, as Marwa Salah, a banker, says, the protest is part of a struggle for women’s rights, widely important and frequently neglected struggle:

“When you have freedom you will have your rights. It’s about freedom for all Egyptians,” said Salah. “We have been brainwashed for 60 years. All people were so busy fighting poverty, women’s rights were a low priority.”

Despite the violence they faced, protestors who survived the assaults found another chance to speak. According to MSNBC, some were invited to speak out against sexual harassment on a popular Egyptian talk show, thus reaching a nation-wide audience.

Women brave attack to protest sexual harassment in Egypt [MSNBC]

Egyptian Women Protesting Harassment Harassed by Counter-Protesting Dicks [Jezebel]

On May 6, Nobel Peace Laureates and advocacy organizations around the world made a pledge to campaign for the end of rape and gender based violence in times of conflict. As outlined on the organization’s website, The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict is dedicated to providing voices to survivors and compelling political leaders to taking preventative measures against rape and gender violence. Rape is often deliberately used as a tactic of terror, and too often as well are survivors stigmatized and left with the burden of shame in addition to physical trauma. The Campaign also states that current commitments to end rape and gender violence are inadequate or unenforced.

The Campaign website includes news updates, resources, information about rape as a weapon, and more. If you are interested in getting involved, their site offers ways to volunteer, use social media or offer donations to further the cause. You can also take a pledge as outlined on the home page.

Rape is not always an act of violence between two individuals, but oftentimes implicated on a much larger scale, as part of a much larger agenda. Gender violence can include and is not limited to, rape, sterilization, and sexual slavery. These kinds of tactics can be used to destroy communities by both state security and arme forces, even after peace has been established. For all the above reasons and more, this campaign is crucial to advocating for human rights that have been heretofore under or little addressed.

The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

In response to an article in The Atlantic Wire, Kate Harding tweeted: “Once more with feeling: Rape allegations are not a ‘sex scandal.’ They are a violent crime scandal.”

The article in question concerns French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn. DSK has already been charged with numerous allegations of sexual assault, as The Atlantic has previously reported on. Now he is being accused of gang-raping a Belgian sex-worker in 2010. The Atlantic article however equates this latest accusation of a violent crime with a “sex scandal”:

Sometimes we just wish Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his sex scandals would vanish from the news cycle. He probably does too, considering the fact there are new accusations coming out today that he allegedly gang-raped a Belgian prostitute in D.C.hotel in 2010.

Gang rape, or any form of rape, may involve a sexual act, but it is not itself sex. It is an act of violence. Reporting that equates allegations of rape with a sex scandal perpetuate the myth that rape is about sex, when in reality it is about power.

Last year, media coverage of the accusations of sexual harassment made against DSK were reported alongside coverage of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelities and child with a member of his household staff. Kate Pittman at Loose Garments described the conflation of these two events’ similarities as an indication that we do not consider crimes involving sexual violence a serious matter:

Conflating these two events frames the sexual assault charges as something other than what they are, criminal violence.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proven guilty.   But discussing this alleged crime using terms like “sexual antics” and “sex scandal” illustrates that socially, we still do not take crimes involving sexual acts as seriously as other crimes.

The L Magazine also talked about the harmful consequences of labeling allegations of rape or sexual abuse as “sex scandals” in light of Penn State’s so-called “sex scandal.” Last fall, numerous media outlets discussed the accusations child rape made against Penn State coach as a “sex scandal,” but a non-consensual act of a sexual nature committed against a child should in no way be conflated as sex.  It should not fall into the same category as a story about a politician having a child out of wedlock by, what appears to be, consensual sex between him and his housekeeper. Putting an act of violence in the category of a sex scandal only appears to lessen the crime, which, as L Magazine describes, has harmful consequences:

Calling rape a sex scandal reinforces the idea that it’s equally bad to get caught messing around on your wife as it is to rape someone. I know there are people out there who are like oh, it’s just language, quit quibbling, politically correct blah blah blah. But language matters. It’s how we understand the world around us, and every time somebody minimizes rape or apologizes for a rapist, they make it that much easier for some other person out there to think he or she can get away with rape.

Language is not innocent; it is in part because of this language that we live in a culture where “college football is more important than children not being sexually abused.” Our language should reflect how  serious and harmful a crime rape is, not treat it like tabloid fodder.

Thank you Kate Harding, for reminding us again: Rape allegations are not a “sex scandal.” They are a violent crime.

DSK’s Pimping Scandal Now Has a D.C. Gang Rape Allegation [The Atlantic Wire]

New Sex Allegations Against Strauss-Kahn [NY Times]

Rape is not a “Sex Scandal” [Loose Garments]

What Happened at Penn State is Not a Sex Scandal [The L Magazine]

*Trigger Warning* This post contains an explicit image of violence.

Jezebel’s Jenna Sauers posted an article yesterday that discusses a highly disturbing photo shoot in Pop magazine. The images feature an under-age model in various highly-sexual images, and one that depicts a hand choking her. The model, Hailey Clauson, is 17 and her parents have previously sued a photographer due to the exploitation and sexualization of her image.

The photograph suggests that it is not just acceptable to choke a teenage girl, but sexualizes and glamorizes the act to present it as even more appealing. Fashion is no stranger to using under-age models, nor is it any stranger to depicting violence against women as glamorous. As she is 17, one has to question just how much control this model can exert over the use of her image, and to what degree she can consent to such a situation. This is not technically an advertisement like the Calvin Klein campaign I discussed in a previous post, however it is still utilizing an explicitly violent image to sell a product. At the top of the photograph are by-lines for the designer clothes and accessories shown in the editorial. The magazine benefits from the exploitation of this model, as do the designers who receive publicity alongside her image.

Image after the jump  Read More

PETA has a new ad campaign to encourage men to try a vegan lifestyle. Their approach uses sexual violence to equate virility and assumes this must appeal to men as good reason to try vegansim. The campaign labels girlfriends of men who go vegan as “victims” of BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me. The video above accompanies a whole site dedicated to this fictional phenomenon. This is not the only video; there is a whole section of videos. One portrays a woman talking cheerily about the “side effects” of her partner’s veganism while covered with bandages.

PETA presents these “side effects” as a reason to go vegan, as though beating a partner were a good thing. It is just another way sexual violence is used to sell something; in this case an otherwise healthy lifestyle. This campaign says that being vegan doesn’t have to mean losing one’s masculinity, because according to the website, veganism can encourage behaviors that appeal to men:

For years, women have been open to the physical, emotional, and karmic benefits of veganism. But now, more and more men are discovering the perks of a plant-based diet. More specifically, a dramatic increase in their wang power and sexual stamina.

In the videos above, “wang power” is equated with sexual violence. This maintains the idea that a sexual male is ought to be a controlling, violent male. Connect the Dots has a response to this disgusting ad campaign. The post addresses that PETA missed an opportunity to approach veganism through a sex-positive lens and just about everything else wrong with this ad:

What’s the real message here?  Rather than a sex-positive take on veganism, this ad plays on traditional and harmful notions of masculinity.  It perpetuates common norms, like power and violence, that support a culture of sexual violence and exploitation.  It sends the same old, tired message that being a man is all about power, violent and sexual power, over women.  We wonder if vegan men appreciate being portrayed in this light.  And what are women good for?  That’s obvious.

Why PETA would approach a male audience in this way is not only baffling but extremely offensive not just to women, but to men. This horrific ad campaign rests on all kinds of assumptions about men’s desires and actively promotes the idea that men should use violence to assert their sexual prowess. One can only hope PETA will respond with an apology.

One Plus Negative One Equals Zero: A Response to PETA’s Rapey Ad [Connect the Dots]

UPDATE: Here is a link to a petition asking PETA to terminate the campaign: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-peta-violence-against-women-is-never-okay

At last night’s Grammy Awards, Chris Brown took to the stage after a three-year hiatus. Because he now has a successful album for sale and has been on “good behavior” it is apparently acceptable to reward him with a platform such as a performance at the Grammys. Some people in last night’s audience even gave him a standing ovation.

In 2009 Brown physically assaulted his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, shortly before the Grammy Awards of that year. Since then he has released a high selling album and now he is allowed to perform again at a huge venue. In granting Brown this kind of platform, the entertainment industry is sending the message that beating his girlfriend is totally excusable. It is not.

HelloGiggles ran a post before the performances last night detailing the response in the media to Brown’s assault on Rihanna. Rather than supporting Rihanna and speaking out against domestic violence, by and large the media did little to speak out against his crime, even despite the horrific photos of Rihanna post-assault that later surfaced. Even worse, Rihanna herself was subject to backlash:

In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

BuzzFeed ran Twitter responses that sadly confirm just how dangerous this message is. The tweets from accounts that appear to be run by young women say things such as:

I don’t know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.

Chris Brown could serenade me and then punch me in the eye.

Considering the spotlight Brown has been given, it is no surprise so many fans have reacted this way. He is once again being held up as a pop star worthy of adoration. What he did is inexcusable and yet the fall-out was minimal and he is allowed to proceed with business as usual.

HelloGiggles asks if things would have been different if Brown had hit Taylor Swift, instead of Rihanna. Swift, like Rihanna, is a young successful pop star, but her public persona is “pure” and virginal, while Rihanna’s is built on overt sexuality (if you need proof of this, just look at what Swift and Rihanna wore to last night’s red carpet). Maybe the media would’ve reacted differently, maybe the blame Rihanna faced in her own assault wouldn’t have befallen Swift.

No matter what, Brown’s actions were permissible under no circumstances. The entertainment industry has rewarded Brown, however, thereby sending the message that his commercial success makes his violent attack on his girlfriend totally OK. This message is detrimental to any survivor of domestic violence. It makes it far more difficult for victims to speak out and seek help. And it makes it far easier for people such as Brown to continue to commit assault on their partners with little to no repercussions.

I’m Not Okay With Chris Brown Performing at the Grammy’s and I’m Not Sure Why You Are [HelloGiggles]

Chris Brown’s Grammys Comeback: This Is How Men Get Away With Domestic Violence [Blisstree]

Horrible Reactions to Chris Brown at the Grammy’s [BuzzFeed]

 

The New York Times reports that all Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee  have voted against a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The law was first instated in 1994 to provide federal funding to fight domestic violence and sexual assault. It has since expanded to protect victims of other forms of assault and violence, such as stalking and dating violence, through reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005. The new draft up for reauthorization was in fact introduced to the committee in part by Republican Senator Michael Crapo of Idaho, yet his fellow party members on the Senate Judiciary Committee have unanimously voted against the new draft. As the Times reports, they take issue with the bill’s language in aid of minority groups:

The Republican opposition seems driven largely by an antigay, anti-immigrant agenda. The main sticking points seemed to be language in the bill to ensure that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender and a provision that would modestly expand the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence — a necessary step to encourage those victims to come forward.

The bill passed the committee nonetheless, but now needs to pass through the Senate.  Fighting violence, of any kind, should not be a political issue. It is clear from this committee’s actions however that it is still subject to political biases, evidently in this case due to attempts to aid LGBTQ or immigrant victims.

Here is a full PDF of the proposed law: To reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994

Republicans Retreat on Domestic Violence [NY Times]

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