I say no to rape-promoting meetups in my city

[Serious content note for pick-up artist rhetoric, rape culture, racism, anti-Semitism, sexual assault and psychological manipulation]

6 February won’t just be Waitangi Day and Bob Marley’s birthday this year. It also sees – allegedly – a set of coordinated meetups for “neomasculinists” – adherents of the teachings/writings/bizarre YouTube videos of “Roosh V”, variously described as a “pick-up artist”, “relationship guru” and “incredibly creepy rape promoter”.

The Stuff article on the meetups planned in Australia/New Zealand provides a pretty good summary of the beliefs of Roosh and his fans. But it’s really easy to look at one paragraph with ridiculous concepts like “rape should be legal on private property” and shrug these guys off as a bunch of fringe weirdos.

It’s much worse.

Let’s put some numbers on this. RoK has 11,000 followers on Twitter, with 12,500 “liking” the RoK Facebook page. Roosh himself has nearly 18,000 Twitter followers. The Quantcast page for RoK’s January site stats show 1.1 million unique global visitors and 3.7 million pageviews. RoK’s advertising page suggests a sponsored post would garner “5,000 – 15,000 views”.

And immediate online reach isn’t where this ends. The attitudes and ideas promoted by people like Roosh V are tacitly reinforced by far too much mainstream culture. The dudes reading Roosh are telling their friends about it. They’re going out in public and putting Roosh’s teachings into practice. This can, literally, only end with women being psychologically bullied and manipulated and physically assaulted.

It still sounds a little extreme. But here’s a sample of what Roosh V and Return of Kings promote.

Roosh even has a crisis response strategy ready for the “inevitable”, i.e. one of his followers committing an act of mass murder.

Yeah.

The list goes on, and on, and on. That’s the thing. This isn’t a movement led by a guy who one time had a messed-up idea about when rape is or isn’t acceptable on private property. This is a full, active, insistent ideology.

It’s horrific. And now the kinds of people who idolize that kind of thinking are declaring their intentions to meet publicly in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

There’s a silver lining. I know many other people will be there too, to let them know that we oppose their violent, hateful ideology. We don’t even need to be angry. We just need to be men and women of all stripes having a great time together, in defiance of every Roosh utterance about roaming witch mobs forcing men into sexual servitude and the dangers of pussy inflation.

RoK attendees at Saturday’s meetups are to perform the sign/countersign “Where is the nearest pet shop?” / “The pet shop is here.” So I think we’ve got our theme song.

My thanks to the tireless work of David Futrelle at We Hunted The Mammoth, the internet’s premiere documenter of men’s rights activist douchebags.

If you intend to turn out on Saturday, do keep yourself safe. It’s laughable that the RoK FAQ for the meetups has attendees worrying about being identified and doxxed when their own guru has actively encouraged the doxxing and harassment of his critics. Be aware that these are vicious, vindictive dudes. Your safety is more important.

When survivors speak out

Content note: discussion of sexual violence and the experience of survivors.

Yesterday I did a round-up of the women’s voices on Twitter talking about recent events in Parliament, where women MPs from the Opposition, many of them survivors of sexual violence, were thrown out of the House for taking exception to John Key saying they supported rapists.

There have been other great posts in the last day or so expanding on what this means.

Claudia has written at Public Address about her own experience.

I want to believe in trigger warnings, because I want to believe there’s something people can do to make me feel safer in a world that has proven, twice, that I am not safe.

This week, the highest body in New Zealand has proven to me that that wish is pointless. That I can’t be safe. Because the people who are meant to protect me care more about scoring political points than they do about the people who need them.

Hadassah Grace has put together a brief history of John Key and his Government’s record on sexual violence. She has a tremendous list of sources at the end.

The National budget includes an increase in funding to sexual violence services of $10.4 million over the next two years. Although this is much needed, it comes five years after the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence first recommended a funding increase. Five years of drastic funding cuts in which many providers were forced to lay off staff, reduce services or close down altogether.

This $10.4 million is less than the yearly budget for ministerial travel.

This was written last year on the Wellington Rape Crisis blog, but it’s just as relevant today:

With media and hearings coming up, something we are often asked is do we have someone who is prepared to speak to a camera about their abuse. This has led us to consider again how do we include the voices of survivors when most wish to remain anonymous? Something that both the sexual and domestic violence sector finds is that when survivors have done some of their healing they want to contribute to public knowledge about this issue. However, our ‘human interest’ angle in the media requires names and photos. How do we hold the tension of public wanting faces to go with stories, and a survivor’s right and need to have control over information people have about them?

Deborah Russell calls it an object lesson in silencing women.

Accusing the Labour Party of backing rapists is the latest tactic that the Speaker of the House is using to protect a Prime Minister who simply won’t fight for New Zealanders, who wants to pick and choose who he will act for as New Zealanders, and who is determined to make sure that the only New Zealanders he will look out for are the people who are convenient for him.

There’s also excellent video from Story of the women MPs who walked out yesterday talking about their experiences. Trigger warnings apply. Other good coverage came from The Guardian.

Please go read these posts in full. I know there’s a concern about “buying” Key’s line – about getting distracted by are-they-rapists-or-not or are-we-defending-rapists-or-not – but I reject it. I said on Twitter last night:

We can do more than one thing at a time (if you watch the article on Story, you’ll see they do!). And if we can improve the situation for Kiwis in Australian detention centres and demand a better national conversation about sexual violence, we’ll have done some real good in the world.

Support Wellington Rape Crisis this week

(Full disclosure: I’m a member of the WRC governance group on a voluntary and unpaid basis.)

This week is Wellington Rape Crisis’ annual appeal. Despite being an organisation which provides vital crisis and ongoing support services for survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones, most of the agency’s day-to-day running costs are paid for by public donations.

Government grants typically cover specific types of work or distinct projects, and have to be reapplied for regularly (usually annually). The administration involved in all those applications is a significant cost in of itself!

As well as support work, Rape Crisis is the lead agency in the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, which runs courses in schools, bars, government departments and professional organisations about consent, healthy sexuality, and how to be aware of and step in to stop sexual violence.

If you’re out and about on the streets of Wellington this Thursday and Saturday, look out for WRC collectors, or right here and now you can make a donation to WRC online – details at their website.

Every donation makes a huge difference.

Deborah Russell on Jane Austen, rape culture and John Key

Great feminist minds do think alike – back in January I posted a classic quote from Pride and Prejudice which shows just how entrenched the idea of “a woman says “no” when she means “yes” to lead men on” is in our culture.

The amazing Deborah Russell has used the same quote to highlight a slightly different issue: the way men don’t even bother assuming a woman is playing games; just refusing to hear the word “no” at all.

The connection to John Key’s sexual harassment of Amanda Bailey should be obvious – but head over to Deborah’s and read the whole thing. It can’t be said enough.