When the creeper is your mate

Alex Casey and Duncan Greive at The Spinoff have written a phenomenal article about sexual creepiness and exploitation of young women, specifically by Andrew Tidball of Cheese on Toast and bFM. (Trigger warnings apply. This is a difficult read.)

It’s led to another discussion about predatory/abusive men in different cultural niches, and the responsibility particularly on other men to identify and call up their comrades on this stuff. To believe women rather than immediately assuming they’re liars. (As I said on Twitter, you’re not neutral if you refuse to believe women; quite the opposite.)

Every time we have this conversation, a little progress happens. I remember where conversations about rape culture were five years ago; we’re still fighting the fight, but it is getting easier. When it comes to calling out missing stairs (trigger warning: sexual violence) and identifying the bad apples in our various fandoms, we’re making headway.

But one difficulty I’ve noted in a thousand little ways around sexism and progressive politics in general: when you know your’re One Of The Good Guys, it can be difficult to see abuse happening right in front of you.

In the gaming crowds where I spent much of my lecture-skipping university days, some dudes were well-known as bad dudes. Creepers who literally everyone recognised as such. And other men would step in – no, you shouldn’t get a lift home with that guy; make sure we don’t leave the new girl alone with him; definitely don’t assign him a romantic role with her at the next LARP. It made me feel safe, and that’s a rare experience in nerdy circles.

Those guys looked out for you and knew who the predators were and, if they didn’t go so far as to kick the missing stairs out of the club, they didn’t excuse the creepiness or tell you it was all in your head or make you feel like they wouldn’t believe you if you had a problem with someone.

Until it was one of their mates. Because it’s really easy to say “that guy’s a predator” when he’s someone you already didn’t like. When he’s also obnoxious, dishonest or outright violent to men as well as women, it’s easy to believe the ones who say “he’s a real creep” or “I don’t feel safe around him”.

But when it was their friend who sexually coerced a woman with implied threats of violence, well. He was having a really rough time. He’s not dangerous. When it was a member of their D&D game regularly intruding on your physical space? Look, he just got mixed signals. The group clown keeps plying younger women with drinks and touching them without consent? Oh, it’s so funny, he’s just trying to flirt.

When you know in your heart you’re A Good Dude, you can be oblivious to your friends’ creeping. You tell yourself you’ve called out Bad Guys on their creepiness, you look out for your women friends – therefore the way your mates behave isn’t the same. Because they’re your mates.

This is the danger. The creepy dudes who you think are charming and affable are using your status As A Good Dude to harass and abuse other women. You’re their meat shield. They’re your mate, so they must be safe, because you wouldn’t stand for creepiness.

Believing women can’t just be about believing them when their experience aligns with yours. It has to mean reflecting, checking your instinct to say “but he’s my mate”, when the creep in question is your good friend.

And this isn’t just about geek circles and creepy dudes. We all have to be aware that our self-image, our conviction that we’re on the side of the angels, doesn’t make us immune from thinking and saying and justifying horrible oppressive or abusive stuff. When we’re against slut-shaming but say Kim Kardashian should cover up; when we’re against government policing poor people’s choices but think a sugar tax will force them to “make better choices”; when we’re totally pro-choice but think three abortions is way too many. It’s too easy to undermine our hard work trying to change the world by replicating the very awfulness we struggle against.

Being a good progressive person isn’t a one-off achievement. It’s a never-ending personal struggle. It means not just taking the easy road of criticising the despised. We have to be open to criticising ourselves – and our friends.

Women of #nzpol: still fighting rape culture in 2016

The women-of-#nzpol roundup is brought to you in the interests of amplifying women’s voices in the political debate and also because:

incredibles misandry

Well, 2016 is definitely not going to be the year we stop blaming young women for being sexually assaulted. The Herald kicked things off with this column – and yes, it’s by a woman, which doesn’t make it any less sexist – which says in part:

I have a huge concern for the way in which young women behave in relationship to alcohol. While I am one of the first to stand up and say that women have the right to be safe (and have in fact spent many years working in that area), with rights come responsibilities.

simpsons marge grinding teeth

The women of NZ Twitter were less that impressed.

https://twitter.com/Dovil/status/689321570368524288

https://twitter.com/VishOnAMish/status/689329611910463494

https://twitter.com/Dovil/status/689325653326315520

(Click through for the whole series of tweets from @pikelet)

And a response from the amazing Emily:

https://twitter.com/DearMama_/status/689372107386421248

Because this is one of those issues which so readily gets dismissed as “oversensitive women who can’t handle criticism”, a few words from the Men’s Auxiliary.

https://twitter.com/gtiso/status/689326152188469248

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.

Women of #nzpol Twitter: on John Key, David Carter and using rape for political gain

The “Women of #nzpol Twitter roundup” is brought to you in the interests of amplifying women’s voices in the political debate and also because:

misandry coffee

If you’re even peripherally aware of what goes on in NZ politics you will have heard about what went down in Question Time yesterday. Harried and useless on the issue of New Zealanders being detained on Christmas Island by the Australian government, our honourable Prime Minister decided to scream across the House that Labour was “supporting rapists”.

And then David Carter cemented his position as Literally The Worst Speaker Of The House Ever, Possibly In Any Country In History by neither finding this comment unparliamentary, nor facing the music of a no-confidence vote.

Many props to the Opposition MPs who walked out on that charade. Here’s what the women of #nzpol Twitter had to say.

https://twitter.com/DeniseRocheMP/status/663889031239852032

https://twitter.com/Dovil/status/663889891860721664

They did.

Then they came back to hold David Carter to account.

The reaction was not good.

https://twitter.com/DearMama_/status/663960693637386240

Metiria Turei asked if John Key is losing it.

And there are a lot of issues to think about.

Deborah Russell has a great post up about the situation of the people in the detention centre.

Commenter weka at The Standard provides an interesting list of the government’s record on sexual harassment and assault.

Ultimately, I’m glad some people took a clear stand against the many levels of bullshit going on in this story.

Kelvin Davis spoke passionately about the situation on Christmas Island – which he’s seen first hand – at the Labour Party conference. We have to be clear: these are people who have already served their time for the crimes they’ve committed. Many of them have no family or community ties in New Zealand, having left when they were kids. They’re being subjected to utterly inhumane treatment on a rock in the middle of the ocean under a law designed for getting rid of terrorists.

But instead of doing something decisive about the problem, John Key has settled for slinging shit at the Opposition who are literally doing their jobs by holding him to account. And David Carter is letting him use the highest body in our democracy to do it.

Women of #nzpol Twitter: on the incarceration of trans women in male prisons

The “Women of #nzpol Twitter roundup” is brought to you in the interests of amplifying women’s voices in the political debate and also because:

beauty and the beast misandry

[Content note: transphobia, sexual assault, corrections]

It was reported on the weekend that a prisoner at the Serco-run prison in Wiri had been physically and sexually assaulted. But that wasn’t the whole story.

Unfortunately, the fact that the prisoner is a trans woman was initially missed from media reports – and the story then became about Serco, not all the other concerns about where trans women are incarcerated.

@cannibality posted a great set of tweets about the wider issues of incarceration – and why we shouldn’t just blame Serco – starting here (click the timestamp to see the whole thread):

I feel a bit sorry for Jacinda Ardern, who copped a lot of the frustration from people – because no other political party said boo about the story. But there are some good grounds for criticism in Labour’s past treatment of issues affecting trans people, and erasing the fact that this case involved a trans woman in a men’s prison – an issue which covers all correctional facilities in NZ – felt like opportunism to some tweeters.

Another great thread from @cannibality begins here:

It’s easy enough to say “oh well, realpolitik, the story is easier to sell when it’s about Serco being vile” or “let’s focus on one issue at a time” – if you’re not trans and this is thus a problem you get to treat as abstract.

We can think of more than one thing at a time. We can condemn Serco for their horrific mismanagement and criticise the government for pursuing a privatisation agenda and agree that it’s simply inhumane and demeaning to incarcerate trans women with cis men.

The thing we (cis people) shouldn’t do is think our options are to either remain silent or ignore the serious issues at hand in order to push a different agenda.

No Pride in Prisons are holding a rally against Serco’s actions and Corrections’ lack of transparency about its treatment of trans prisoners, this Saturday at noon in Auckland. Please go and support them.