We did a thing!
It was amazing to get so many people out, including a lot of guys. Some people have expressed concern that we played into Roosh’s hands by giving oxygen to his awfulness – but it can’t be good for the sexist douchebag cause to have such a broad, positive rejection of their ideology.
The pet rock adoption agency did a roaring business and raised $399.50 for Wellington Rape Crisis. That’s the equivalent of keeping WRC’s drop-in centre open for two days, or eight social work sessions for one of our clients. You folks are so awesome.
This is Clive, our new slightly-Cthonic pet rock.
Here’s a copy of my speaking notes. I diverged from them at points but that’s speaking notes for you. There is video of the speech but I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.
Tēnā koutou. I want to welcome you all here to the Stand Up for Women meetup, which was organised openly on Facebook and didn’t require a secret password!
Thank you all for coming out on this blustery Wellington night and taking the time out of your long weekend – if you get one – to take a stand on violence and abuse.
I also want to acknowledge that this is Waitangi Day, a day when we should remember and acknowledge one of the founding documents of our country and the ongoing struggle to have te Tiriti o Waitangi properly honoured.
My name’s Stephanie Rodgers and I blog at a little corner of the internet called Boots Theory. I’m also on the governance group of Wellington Rape Crisis.
Rape Crisis is a support centre for survivors of rape and sexual abuse, their families, friends and whānau. Like many other agencies in Wellington and across New Zealand they do incredibly important work supporting people affected by sexual violence, often on shoestring budgets and with no guarantee of government funding.
But they’re not really the answer to sexual violence and abuse. The responsibility for stopping abuse lies with each of us. When we all stand together at an event like this, it sends a message. It draws a line about what is and isn’t acceptable.
But we have to follow this up with the much harder work of getting the message out in our communities and challenging the people who share these harmful attitudes. They aren’t just strangers on the internet: they can be our friends and coworkers and family members.
When we started talking about this event and having people speak to the media, we felt it was really important to have men’s voices out there. Not dominating the conversation or shouting over women, but taking a stand, as men, against sexual violence and sexist attitudes. The reality of living in a patriarchy is that men get heard when women saying the same thing are written off as nags and bitches.
Changing behaviour is a huge process, and men have a really significant role to play in supporting each other to get help, holding each other accountable, and offering support to the people affected by the abuse. That’s as important if not more important than being a righteous dude standing here today.
At Wellington Rape Crisis we see a lot of guys who are supporting survivors. Our agency manager Eleanor told me she gets a lot of calls from men asking how they can support their partner or daughter. That’s another hugely important, practical thing men can do.
A lot of us are angry. It’s reasonable to be angry. But sometimes violence is not the answer to violence. Treatment is more important than punishment. Most sexual abuse is committed by people close to the victim, and often that means the person who hurt them is still going to be in their lives – in their family or community. Many survivors who come to Rape Crisis don’t want to see punishment – they want their abuser to understand the harm they’ve caused and ensure it doesn’t happen again to them or someone else.
Just this week we’ve seen the diplomat who assaulted Tania Billingsley here in Wellington sentenced to home detention. And her support person, the legendary Louise Nicholas, who couldn’t be here tonight, talked about how home detention doesn’t really fix anything – not unless he’s going through rehabilitation. Not unless we address this man’s beliefs about women and sex and relationships.
Speaking of men with terrible beliefs about women: I don’t want to forget the guy who brought us all together. We’re here tonight because of a man named Roosh, who writes books and blog posts about how to coerce and assault women.
His theories do sound like a joke – that rape should be legalised on private property, or that you can tell if a woman’s promiscuous because she’ll have a “slut face”.
But this is serious. The attitudes he promotes are a very dark, but very common, part of our mainstream culture. The men who visit his website and others like it are believers. They’re going out in public and putting his theories into practice – and that inevitably leads to the abuse of women, queer people, trans people, Muslims, Jews, any other group he has targeted.
This isn’t about one guy who has one messed-up idea about whether or not rape is acceptable. This is an ideology. And other men who accept that ideology planned to meet up, here, in Auckland, in Dunedin, and across the world.
But we said no. And we said it loudly, and we’ve said it together, men and women, activists and allies, everyone who is affected by this crap – everyone full stop. Thank you all for being here and being a part of that.
It’s still just a first step.
It’s actually pretty easy to say rape is bad. We all know rape is bad. But to make real progress against sexual assault we have to start with the little things. It’s the jokes about rape, the sexual harassment at work, the dehumanizing way we talk about trans people or sex workers, who are at a massively greater risk of sexual assault. It’s making excuses for your mates when they call women bitches and sluts. It’s talking about date rape or grey rape as though they’re different or less bad than rape. Every little bit builds a culture which excuses and even encourages sexual violence.
Together, we can tear that culture down and make our society safer for everyone, starting here.
Now we’re going to have a few speakers and then kick back with some music. We’ll be hearing from Robert from the White Ribbon campaign, who are looking to get more proactive on these issues. Then Fi McNamara from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Hadassah Grace, and Dan Clemerson-Phillips will wrap everything up.
We want to acknowledge that not everyone is represented in our speaking lineup. We arranged this gathering pretty quickly online and tried to get a broad range of people up here, including trans women and women of colour.
But Roosh and his cronies are the kinds of people who openly talk about filming, identifying and harassing people who stand against them. A lot of people we talked to were concerned about their own safety. That’s the kind of environment these guys deliberately create through organised online harassment and implicit threats of violence. People who have more privilege, especially men, or cis women like me, don’t face the same kinds or levels of difficulty being publicly identified. That’s part of the culture which we need to change, because it shouldn’t just be people like me who get to talk about this stuff.