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Feminism’s man problem (spoiler: no, absolutely not)

Vivia Hickman, our previous CEO, once shared a story of a man found wandering the building. Asking her about the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre building, she told him how it houses many women’s organisations and hosts women’s events in its mission to help all women in the state – through research, referral and reasoned debate.

This angered the man, outraged that prime city real estate would be squandered on women. “What about the men?”, he demanded. “Where is their special space?”

Vivia pointed outside – “it’s all out there”, she said as she ushered him to the world outside.

This fabulous story popped into my head when I read a recent article over at Bloomberg. “A Big Concern in Norway, a Country Now Ruled by Women: Male Anger”.

With more women in positions of political power, the article frames Norway as a utopia for women, but dystopia for men. Until you read on and discover men still control the other favoured avenue of power: money, with a gender pay gap and more men running banks and financial organisations.

But still, the article persists, there’s a problem with angry white men with the suggestion this is a problem women will have to fix.

Over in New York City, the local Human Rights Commission is investigating the Wing, a women’s social and co-working space, for potential sex discrimination. The discrimination? Men aren’t included.

Also in America: people are suggesting students should have been nicer to Nikolas Cruz, so he wouldn’t become a mass murderer, killing 17 students and wounding 17 more.

Appearing in the space of a week, these articles all point to a broader issue: won’t someone think of the angry white men? Those men unable to accept responsibility for their actions because its everyone else’s fault, mainly women.

It’s a curious notion that some (oh, not all) men feel they must be a priority in all life, amply evidenced by anyone who had to pause their enjoyment of International Women’s Day to answer “but when is International Men’s Day?”. It’s as if they are worried people will forget men exist, which shows an almost-charming ignorance of statistics and the Patriarchy.

How possible is it to forget about men when there are centred in almost every industry and form of cultural expression? When they earn more, get hired more, are depicted more across the arts, have greater privilege to travel without harassment and can generally assume more attention in the medical and legal systems?

Meanwhile, people are still writing articles about how boys won’t read books if the main character is a girl. I mean, what’s the point if it’s not about them? In totally unrelated news: boys are now statistically reading less.

The assumption that men must be tended to like some fragile hothouse flower and given the best position so they can thrive also relies on another expectation: that women not men must do the work of centering or tending to men.

In a recent searing editorial for the New York Times, fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Isabelle Robinson outlined how women dropping everything (including their standards and safety) to help angry white men won’t work. She details how he had previously winded her and that attempts to tutor Cruz resulted in sexual harassment. Women’s labour wasn’t going to prevent male violence, because male violence is a choice.

Naturally, feminists have been saying angry white men have been a problem for years and, to own the truth, women of colour have been saying it for a hell of a lot longer.

Just as naturally, this has been ignored until men felt a slight shift in power. But they don’t frame their concern about angry white men as “I agree with feminists” – suddenly it’s the feminists’ fault, that somehow, men were never violent, underemployed or angry until feminism took hold, tainting all that we (and by that I mean men) hold dear.

There are men who do this work – who write for men, try to help men, mend the crises and and give support. But so often this is done by men who seek in reinforce male priority and primacy over women, as can be seen with Jordan Peterson, who tells men to make their beds and decries feminism. Sexism is not the magic ingredient in treating male malaise, or male-aise.

Women aren’t dominating the world and causing men to suffer, nor are they truly being excluded from anything that women haven’t been blocked from for millennia.

As Ruth Bader Ginsberg says “I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

 

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Amy Gray is a Melbourne-based freelance writer currently working on Mother’s Ruin, a book exploring the feminist politics of motherhood. .

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    What Annihilation taught me about gaslighting

    Netflix

    Sorry – spoilers lie ahead. Why not watch Annihilation first on Netflix and come back?

    For a genre obsessed with the future, sci fi has a habit of telling you about the present. Perhaps audiences can only explore deeply personal issues when played out on spaceships or by aliens, needing a galaxy to get enough space to view the problem. It’s a thematic safe space where the unreality of the scene makes the real life issues easier to view.

    Yet, Annihilation, the straight-to-Netflix film directed by Alex Garland, doesn’t promise anything so overt. The film follows the muddled steps of an all-women science team who explore “the Shimmer”, an area in Florida where an iridescent oil-like glow acts as a force field and transforms everything it touches. The new team navigate the spot, trying to understand both the anomaly and the fate of the teams who disappeared while exploring the Shimmer.

    Each frame of the film toys with ideas of perception and reality and how their absence causes huge disruption. Stretched out on the screen, the film tells us that the characters and that strange, subverted land are both true and false at once. They can’t make decisions because they can’t trust what they see, think or hear and the land around them is now suddenly unpredictable. The further they progress, the more the Shimmer infects them, altering how they react and may survive.

    Annihilation is basically science fiction’s attempt to show gaslighting, when a person manipulates you into doubting your feelings and thoughts (and therefore your judgement). When you’re gaslighted, you end up feeling disorientated and insecure, more likely to trust another person’s version of reality – often the very person manipulating you.

    The more I watched the film, the more I was reminded of time when I had been gaslighted – in abusive or dysfunctional relationships. Times when I was told I was “seeing things”, that things I witnessed “didn’t happen”. Times when I was told reacting against an insult was me being “overly sensitive” or “paranoid”. Times when I used to remember how much stronger and happier I was before. Times when I wasn’t constantly feeling on edge, that thrum of anxiety and adrenaline, when your body is certain you’re close to danger but can’t explain why to your brain, unwilling to see the signs.

    The film’s main character Lena, played by Natalie Portman, constantly endures forms of this – whether the gaslighter is men or the alien landscape around her. Scene by scene we see her observations doubted by men, who then tell her what she should feel or what she really saw with her own eyes, as though they greater experts in her life than her.

    By the time we see her and the team in the Shimmer, we see women terrifyingly immersed in a world where the rules have changed without warning and the familiar is now as unfamiliar as any possible path home. Living with a gaslighter is often like living in the Shimmer – the rules and terrain can change all at once, leaving you disoriented and afraid.

    Whether Alex Garland deliberately meant to make a film about gaslighting is debatable – like relationships, intent and impact can have vastly different paths. But for a film focusing on perception with a strong female cast, it would be a stubborn male gaze that didn’t add the two and found it equaled gaslighting.

    Though statistics are hard to come by, gaslighting is often one of the first signs of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship and continually present as a technique for an abuser to remain in control of an incapacitated partner. But it can also be used in everyday dysfunction, especially in cases of workplace bullying.

    Ariel Leve often covers abuse and gaslighting in her work, and mapped out an escape route for anyone lost in its fumes. She points to defiance (refusing to bend to an abuser’s script) and detaching yourself from their views or any hope they will change or apologise. The author suggests writing down things as they occur and referring to them when you feel calm – a form of testimony free from manipulation.

    In the film, Lena’s salvation comes from having something “to live for”, something her “damaged goods” team doesn’t have. Her resilience and defiance in the face of fear and confusion give her a path home – forever changed from the infection that is gaslighting, but home and more safe than she was before.

     

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    Amy Gray is a Melbourne-based freelance writer currently working on Mother’s Ruin, a book exploring the feminist politics of motherhood. .

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      Fiji’s Feminism

      by Amy Gray 

      DIVA For Equality

      This is what a feminist looks like.

      After flattening the Tongan parliament in the worst storm seen in 60 years, Tropical Cyclone Gita is currently headed towards Fiji.

      Like many South Pacific nations, Fijians are used to this and can see the link between climate change and more aggressive cyclones as the years roll on. Cycles of behaviour are linked to cycles of action and inaction, with consequences quickly following behind.

      Perhaps that’s why Maria Nailevu and Noelene Nabulivou seem so casual as they tell me about the incoming cyclone as we chat on Skype. While cyclone season has long been part of Fijian life, as members of Diverse Voices For Action & Equality (DIVA for Equality), both Maria and Noelene  can often see cycles at play.

      With their group work, DIVA for Equality has become one of the most transformative and innovative feminist collectives whose ability to spot a destructive cycle, dismantle it and build lasting change is a lesson for everyone on how feminists get it goddamn done.

      “[DIVA] comes out of earlier South feminist works (the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Women’s Crisis Centre and Women’s Action for Change)”, explains Noelene, who acts as the groups Political Advisor. We did a lot of the earlier grassroots-focused action – you know, how do you take concepts of feminism and work through them at local and in autonomous forms.”

      The group started when “in about 2011, Shirley and I were approached by a group of younger and emergent lesbian, bisexual, transmasculine and gender non-conforming people and asked ‘look can we do something? We don’t even know what we want to do but we want to do something for ourselves and with our lives.”

      In its early days, DIVA for Equality “didn’t do much work outside ourselves but working on ourselves in what we called Free Schools”, Noelene says. “Free Schools are basically embedding the knowledge in our own collective and growing our politics from inside”. This inside work helped the group strengthen their political positions on bodies, identity, expression and orientation.

      DIVA use a praxis-based approach where they combine theory with personal reflection, community consultation with action – a magic mix of watch, think and act.

      DIVA ask themselves how a vulnerable group in need of help works and how that fits in with their understanding of theory. They talk with the group to see what they need (a question that is always asked because marginalised groups understand their needs better than any NGO could) and then get a collective agreement to help get them access to resources and rights.

      It often means they “act and reflect in cycles”. Which means they often balance issues on a needs basis, devoting attention to the biggest vulnerability or need at the moment with their commitment to universal human and sexual rights, political ecology (which should never be separated, according to Noelene), resisting the often rigid and colonialist presence of NGOs while retaining their internal focus to reflect on theory and action.

      Maria Nailevu, the focus point for DIVA’s Women Defending The Commons and climate change campaigns, has noted women in more remote areas are already doing “groundbreaking work” but just “needed the guidance and affirmation”, through connecting them with other women’s groups and concepts to help them use new techniques, build relationships and access resources the need.

      One group of women in remote Fiji who harvest sea slugs to sell at market needed DIVA’s help. The women were forced to sleep on the beach where they worked due to a lack of transport which, combined with hours spent in the water, left them continually cold and sore.

      DIVA fundraised for them so the women could get what they said would make their lives easier – hot water bottles and other sources of heat. Though a potentially small move, it was transformative for the women, not only solving an issue but teaching a greater lesson: they’re not alone. “It’s a new thing for them to see an organisation prioritising women’s needs”, Maria notes.

      But that effect goes both ways, with Maria highlighting the work “builds a community between regional and urban women” that is desperately needed. The more women and people work together, the more there can be an intersectional and interlinking feminism where people listen to one another, lend their skills and resources and collectively work to improve everyone’s lives.

      This is tied to a broader view that encompasses what is happening or getting discussed now with feminist history, something that isn’t always seen with a lot of Western feminism’s intergenerational in-fighting with barbs thrown across Feminist waves (and sometimes, damn accurately).

      DIVA’s love for a praxis-based approach provides an amazing example of how to manage this. The group practice what they call “the golden apple approach” where they look for the good in people and, through conversation and deep listening, determine if there is enough goodwill to work together. Noelene says this approach helps them to focus on the real source of power and oppression – the patriarchy.

      It’s a collaborative approach that respects feminism and feminist organisers. “We like to look back at the feminist movement as much as forward and say we’ve got such beautiful thinking and strategies that have come out of different kinds of work.” That perspective allows them to track their progression as a whole, asking themselves “what do we take from that and how do we move forward?”

      The answer they’ve arrived at is one that understands their politics needs both a foundation and future. DIVA focuses on building skills for all to make sure there is sustainable growth. Nolene and the group direct that need for sustainable growth at the group as well, noting  they are “in a 18 month period where two younger members will be gifted the leadership, so me and Shirley will step back”.

      In a world of instant action where solutions are expected to be immediate and perfect, the DIVA approach appears as unique as they are grounded in common sense. And yet that very combination is revolutionary. They are an iconic and truly transforming force for real, actual empowerment: their approach to people and the world is a blueprint for all feminists.

      If 2018 is the year of resistance, it starts with personal action. DIVA’s approach is a blueprint for personal and social change  – form a group, refine your feminist politics, listen deeply to what those around you need and give them the tools they need to make change so liberation can spread.

      You can find out more about DIVA for Equality at www.divafiji.com.

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        Tara Moss is Speaking Out

        Photo by Berndt Sellheim

        Tara Moss

        By Amy Gray 

        It’s hard to find a feminist writer more accomplished than Tara Moss – the author of countless books, ambassador for UNICEF, creator of the compelling series Cyberhate, academic, public speaker and listed as one of the Top 5 Diversity Figures In Public Life – and she’s bringing her laser-focus to QVWC to discuss why women’s voices are so important and why we need them more than ever.

        Over in the US, there is an unprecedented increase in women seeking public office since Trump took office. The reason for this, according to Tara, is “put simply, survival”.

        “When women’s rights are actively stripped away it is a pretty stark reminder of the need for women’s political representation. It’s about protecting the wellbeing and quality of life of women, but also about saving real lives. Make no mistake, politics impact us all, and most severely impact the already disadvantaged,“ she says.

        Tara believes this response from American women directly connects to what is happening in Australia. “When political will lags behind public sentiment, as with marriage equality for example”, she says, “the public is put in a position where they need to make their positions known and they must hold the politicians accountable – they are public servants, after all.”

        There has been reticence to this approach, with some arguing this is an extension of the “women on boards” syndrome where the addition of some women perpetuates rather than changes the system.

        But Tara disagrees this would happen, noting that “women’s greater representation in political and public life does, on average, correlate with improved quality of life for women and lower rates of violence against women, but it isn’t as simple as having a handful of high profile women thrown into a male dominated domain.”

        To Tara, there’s a balance between what women can change, our continual expectations women will do all the work and our community obligations. “A handful of determined people elected to public roles cannot be responsible for changing a whole system, much as they might make their mark”, she says.

        “It is a combination of public sentiment and greater political equality that ultimately makes the difference for any marginalised group, or any form of change.”

        This places more importance on community engagement and highlights their power when mobilised into sustained action.

        “Politicians are supposed to be representatives of their electorates, the voters and taxpayers. There must be overt public support for the transformative goals of gender equality and human rights for women or other marginalised people in politics to be able to afford to use their positions of power to make change.

        Part of this sustained action forms the wave of conversation and protest sparked by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which Tara has found heartening.

        “It has taken a lot of women speaking out over a lot of years – many of them paying a heavy price for it – to arrive where we have today with #MeToo and #TimesUp. The idea that women are ‘just now speaking up’ is a fallacy. In many cases women were speaking out loud and clear but they are finally being heard, and in other cases the numbers have reached critical mass where the risk levels for some women only just now make it possible for them to speak out without finding themselves ostracised and broke. These are brave people, brave women. We must seize this moment to keep up the pressure, support one another and install real change so that serial abusers no longer find themselves validated and protected, their crimes downplayed, excused and covered up.”

        If this sounds like a hell of a lot of work, it is. It should be no surprise that this often-unpaid social activism often results in burnout.

        Tara is a huge advocate for self-care, covering it in her book Speaking Out and practicing in with her heavy workload.

        “We need women to speak out and to be able to keep on speaking out. We need them in for the long haul, so self-care and support is vital in both an ethical and practical sense, she says”

        “Participating in the process of speaking out can be important but risky, so we need to support ourselves through the process, and support one another”, she says.

        Tara will speak out as part of Queen Victoria Women’s Centre IWD celebration on March 7, 2018 at 6pm.

        Tara’s event is booked out – tickets are no longer available.

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          QVWC Primer: how homelessness is a feminist issue

          Recent figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that the average person experiencing homelessness is a woman aged 25-34, often with a child in tow. During the 2016-2017 period 60% of people seeking support from homeless service providers were women – with Victorian women at the top.

          Homelessness is a feminist issue for the high number of women who need support but there are additional factors that make it an urgent crisis that requires intervention.

          The major reason women face homelessness is from leaving domestic violence situations. 40% of those surveyed –mostly women – reported that they and their children found potential homelessness was a safer option that remaining with their partner or family.

          This is further compounded by ongoing cuts to government services to help women and their children escaping violence. Often, an increase in public demand can act the same as a cut with many funded services unable to help and protect women and their children.

          While many of the women surveyed were able to access some form of housing, the huge spike in housing affordability (rental as well as mortgage-based) makes homelessness an ongoing, ever-present threat looming over their heads.

          Their options are thin on the ground – moving to regional locations may appeal for the lower housing costs, but 60% of people sleeping rough live outside city centres. Those sleeping rough are cut off from reduced or non-existent homelessness services.

          What are some potential solutions?

          • Balancing housing affordability to have a greater emphasis on accessibility rather than extreme profit
          • Increase amount of social housing
          • Increase funding to homelessness services
          • Increase funding and services to help women and their children escape domestic violence
          • Employment options that are flexible for mothers and allow them to maintain economic independence…without the gender pay gap.
          • Reintroduction of the single parent pension and extending the age limit
          • And, according to Dr Petra Bueskens, introducing a universal basic wage which will give women the finance and protection they need to find safe housing and food for them and their children.

           

          Below is a reading list to find out more:

           

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            Matricentric feminism – the feminism you should be talking about

            by Amy Gray 

            There are moments in our lives that make us a feminist or confirm our subscription – and one the biggest ones is becoming a mother.

            This differs from when a man says “of course I’m a feminist, I’m a father”, who can trot out the line and then go back to enjoying higher wages, greater professional opportunities and less housework than women while doing absolutely nothing to advancing women’s rights they apparently adore. Put it this way: a mother will embrace feminism because, unlike men, she cannot escape sexism she or her daughters will face.

            The reason for this milestone is that motherhood can be an accelerant for abuse, especially when it’s compounded by existing discrimination based on their gender, race or ethnicity, sexual identity, disability or class.

            Take it a step further and add motherhood into the mix and you have a situation where discrimination can increase on top of identity. It’s not so much that motherhood is an identity, rather, an identity lens, not unlike a magnifying glass under the sun focusing its burning intensity to increase discrimination ten-fold.

            This is where matricentric feminism comes in: feminism that is centered around the experience, discrimination and skill involved with mothering work.

            It’s an avenue of feminism that feeds into the larger movement of women’s liberation, one that touches upon other areas – as there are people devoted to queer feminism, there are queer parents with experiences unique to motherhood; so too with women of colour who are parents and face another set of historical and current discrimination explicitly centered around both their race, their children and their status as mothers.

            Matricentric feminism looks at motherhood as a lens that can increase the experiences and discrimination women face – because motherhood is not only what society often demands of women, it’s also what they use to punish them or make them more vulnerable to existing discrimination.

            Because motherhood is when women’s unpaid labour increases and job security decreases, it’s when women begin to leave their jobs, leaving their superannuation to stagnate. It’s when domestic violence can ramp up, medical issues become fraught or when the very ability to keep your children with you depends on the lottery of unearned privilege.

            And that’s just the start.

            Yet, as I’ve stated before here at QVWC, motherhood requires serious structural feminist analysis we don’t see in the mainstream press.

            In the process of writing a book about this topic, I’ve been honoured to read the work of academics and researchers who are experts in matricentric feminism. Like Dr Andrea O’Reilly, who not only coined the phrase matricentric feminism, but has been its loudest and most prolific advocate in academia and her specialist publishing arm, Demeter Press. Researchers who dive deep into data to measure the impacts government policy have on Australian mothers, like  AMIRCI who dedicate themselves to researching motherhood and how it is impacted by politics and society. Dr Petra Bueskens constantly writes about the psychology and reality of motherhood, most recently about the rise of homeless mothers raising their children on extended “holidays”.

            It is tempting to lay much of the blame on mainstream media uninterested in the wealth of experts who exist beyond the veil of hot takes and quick columns. But feminism isn’t performed solely in op-eds to an enraptured audience of women, employers or politicians.

            This is an issue that requires more than a simple solution – it requires the courage to dismantle and rebuild everything from how we hire, promote and pay, to a legal system that favours male protection and women’s labour, to our concept of families and who does the work and the unpaid work we all unwittingly take on to uphold society’s uneven standards.

            But 2018 is just around the corner and, as we make our resolutions for a brighter year, let’s include a vision for a more just and curious society, one that questions the assumptions we’ve carried for far too long.

             

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            Amy Gray is a Melbourne-based freelance writer currently working on Mother’s Ruin, a book exploring the feminist politics of motherhood. .

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              What Men Can Do in 2018


              by 
              Benjamin Law

              In some ways, 2017 felt like a year of correctives. So much of it was heinous – Americans voted a known sexual predator for president; Australians got a wasteful, painful $122 million postal survey that dragged on for eternity – but something seemed to personally change in us too.

              Injustices seemed to mobilise people in ways we hadn’t seen before. In response to Trump’s ascendence, we had the Women’s March – the biggest global protest movement in human history. In response to a divisive survey on the rights of LGBTIQ people, the Yes campaign won the Australian public and parliament convincingly. Whether it was about Manus, Adani or Indigenous constitutional recognition, it was as if people decided they were done. People in my life who used to be apathetic about politics knocked on doors, took to the streets, donated money and picked up phones.

              For women especially, it was a watershed moment. There’s a reason why the #MeToo movement became Time’s Person of the Year (knocking off Trump). Women looked around, realised there were enough of them in positions of power to proceed safely and started tearing walls down with their bare hands.

              And make no mistake: it was women who did the work. From female journalists at the New York Times to female journalists at Fairfax and the ABC, they were brutally efficient and organised. All those names – Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Australia’s Don Burke – only came tumbling down due to exposés done by women. And though the stories were hideous to behold, it also felt like a boil was being lanced. Horrific, but necessary. Vaguely satisfying in a gross kind of way, too.

              But while these conversations were happening, I noticed women in my life vent other frustrations. Why was it contingent on women, yet again, to do the heavy lifting and give over their time and emotional labour? Why weren’t men engaged in the conversation? Why weren’t men calling each other out or whistleblowing? Initially, I know I backed off because I didn’t want to ‘intrude’ on women’s conversations. I now realise that was the wrong instinct. I know other men were worried they were going to ‘get it wrong’. But here’s three ways I’ve learned we can make things right.

              Stop Other Men From Being Shit

              Let’s be clear about one thing about sexual harassment, abuse and assault:  this is a male problem. Do you intereact with women colleagues in ways you’d never dream of with men? Do you comment on their physical appearance as a way of socialising with other men? Would you feel comfortable if a female colleague overheard that conversation? Start pulling each other up on our behaviour (“I didn’t think you were that kind of guy”), given we have so much less to lose. You don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad egg. Not doing anything about it is just as crap.

              Put Your Money – or Time – Where Your Mouth Is

              Talk is cheap. Want to stop workplace sexual harassment at work? Good for you. Now here comes the difficult part: what are you going to do to create change? What new policies and strategies will you implement? Will you start offering family violence leave as standard policy? When will you announce those changes publicly? Need help? The Australian Human Rights Commission is a good place to start.

              Know When to Shut Up

              And finally: as much as it’s important to speak up, let’s also know when to shut up, fellas. It’s impossible to listen to women when you’re also listening to the sound of your own voice. And let’s do all of the above without expecting to be praised, given women do the work every other bloody day.

               

              Subscribe to our Newsletter

              Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

              Benjamin LawBen Law is the prolific writer of The Family Law (also an SBS tv series), Sh*t Asian Mothers Say, Gaysia, Law School and the Quarterly Essay Moral Panic 101. You can follow him on Twitter @MrBenjaminLaw.

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                QVWC Primer: Weinstein & #MeToo

                 

                 

                QVWC Primer: Weinstein & #MeToo


                This is the first in a series were QVWC summarises a recent issue for women and shares relevent reading.

                Have feedback? Send it to qv.media@qvwc.org.au.

                 

                The revelation that Miramax founder and producer Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted women has created a reckoning storm felt around the world.

                The original revelations were published by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in the New York Times, closely followed by an investigative piece happening at the same time by Ronan Farrow for the New Yorker.

                The revelations were unique due to the fact so many women came out publicly, using their name and their celebrity to shine a light on the abuse. Quickly thereafter, Weinstein was fired from the company.

                Women such as Rose McGowan rose to even higher prominence, using her platform on Twitter and elsewhere to rail against the abuse she and other women suffered.

                The event radiated out as women felt they could finally share their stories in a different environment than previously felt, one where men were excused and women were silenced. The amount of celebrity apologies were so profuse people started making caustic artwork out of them.

                This list by the New York Times catalogues notable American men facing accusations and, in a move that shows the sheer momentum of women and men coming forward to name their attackers and harrassers, is continually updated as each new allegation emerges – it’s currently at 34 in the space of under two months.

                The current incidents are remarkable for the following reasons:
                1) People aren’t afraid to name themselves or their alleged abusers
                2) Men are actually getting fired
                3) It’s gone global

                As mentioned earlier, the resulting avalanche of allegations is not restricted to America alone, as more people share their experiences around the globe. Locally in Australia, high profile barrister Charles Waterstreet faced allegations of sexual harassment, with Sydney University banning his firm from a careers hub. Additionally, there is work afoot to gather expose more local abusers with Tracey Spicer investigating reports and an arts-focused group aimed at dismantling the toxic working conditions women face.

                It’s also not just restricted to women victims. There have been numerous incidents of male on male sexual misconduct and harassment from Kevin Spacey, an actor, who has since been fired from the Netflix show House of Cards and edited out of an upcoming movie. Terry Crews has also shared details of his assault by agent Adam Venit, which he didn’t act upon for fears he would be racially profiled, among other reasons.

                Race is a factor in this push, with women of colour particularly targeted if they speak out about abuse they have faced – an almost immediate disbelief in their claims, a layover perhaps from Anita Hill’s stoicism in the face of sexual harassment. Harvey Weinstein didn’t individually dispute any woman’s claims until Lupita Nyong’o shared her experiences with the producer, which prompted a near immediate denial from him (something he didn’t do for any other woman).

                Similarly, when Aurora Perrineau began moves to pursue her alleged rape by Girls writer Murray Miller, showrunners and alleged feminists Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner claimed the actress’ complaint was actually a false rape claim. Dunham retracted and apologised a day later after much outcry – but not before Zinzi Clemens announced she would no longer write for Dunham’s newsletter Lenny and urged other women of colour to boycott or “divest” from the controversial writer and performer as she is more aligned with “hipster racists” which affects her feminism.

                While some women have embraced the #MeToo movement (created by activist Tarana Burke) where they share their stories of assault and harassment to highlight the enormity of the problem, others believe it does little to make structural change required to end the toxic culture. A recent piece in Slate argues that what we need now is a return to old school 70s feminist analysis – a return to interrogating structures and theories as well as feelings.

                In Australia, sexual harassment and assault is a huge concern, with 52% of women reporting they’ve experienced this at least once in their lives.

                Original reporting into Harvey Weinstein:

                Men’s sexual harassment and assault:

                Related coverage:

                RESOURCES FOR YOU

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                  Programming women’s safety

                  Woman looks upon background of binary code.

                  by Janet Brunckhorst

                  Most of us are pretty exposed online – it’s hard not to be. The trade off for talking with our friends and frenemies, cat gifs, book cars to pick us up and that pad thai we really, really want right now, is our privacy.

                  That might be an ok trade-off for most of us, most of the time. But for survivors or people experiencing domestic violence, stalking or other abuse, how can you stay safe in an increasingly connected world?

                  The intersection of technology and violence against women is a complex one. Technology can also be used to help victims or to successfully prosecute perpetrators. Non-profit Thorn’s Spotlight product identifies victims of sex trafficking who are advertised on the online commercial sex market. The tool has been used by law enforcement to identify and help thousands of trafficked children in the US.

                  Technology is also used by perpetrators to commit abuse. This can range from the use of technology in violence that happens in physical space, including domestic violence and stalking, to violence that takes place specifically in a digital context, like online harassment and bullying.

                  At the recent National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)’s Tech Safety Conference in San Francisco, Sherri Peak gave a harrowing account of how her ex-husband used technology to stalk her. He used spyware to monitor her computer and emails and installed a GPS device in her car in order to track her movements. While the tech has changed since 2005 when Sherri went through her terrifying ordeal, the core of the story is the same: perpetrators will find ways to misuse technology.

                  As Sherri’s experience shows, we need to consider the negative as well as positive potential for technology. This doesn’t always happen – it’s not that people building software don’t care – they simply don’t understand the issues.

                  Developers do consider threats when they create web sites or apps but are focused on large scale security breaches. This scale is different from the threat of domestic violence or stalking, where someone is targeting one specific person instead of thousands of users.

                  It’s easy for developers to overlook this threat when they’re focused on how to connect people, which is why Twitter, Facebook and Snap often fail users on safety. As one Twitter staffer at the conference observed, it’s really hard to do create a solution when your product wasn’t created with users’ safety in mind.

                  When it comes to social media, this leaves many users in a quandary: accept that they can’t be safe, or get off the platform even as advocates hammered home that “the remedy cannot be the same as the abuse”.

                  For many domestic violence victims, access to technology is limited or controlled by the perpetrator. If social media can’t give victims of domestic violence protection they are replicating the isolation of an abusive situation. Expecting people to opt out in order to protect themselves from (predominantly male) violence sends a troubling message, reinforcing a culture where marginalised communities are silenced as violent and abusive voices are allowed free rein.

                  There are cases where it is necessary for an individual survivor to opt out of social media for their own safety, but this has to be their decision and not due to a failure in technology or advocacy to prioritising safety as well as ending cultures that prolong violence.

                  Telling someone to get offline for their own good this is a kind of victim blaming; it’s the digital equivalent of “what was she wearing?”. Our lives are lived online now, whether we like it or not. It’s a public space where everything from professional networking to political organising happens. We can’t assume that opting out is a viable option for vulnerable people.

                  This is where issues of individual safety begin to fuse with larger issues around representation in tech. Women, people of color, transgender people, and other marginalised groups, have to carve out space for themselves online. This space comes at the price of safety, often met with bullying, threats, and doxxing.

                  The context is different, but these risks follow the same threat model as the risks to victims and survivors of domestic violence and stalking. These risks need to be mitigated in a way that protects the rights of vulnerable groups to stay online. Shireen Mitchell, founder of Digital Sistas, works for the inclusion of people of color in technology. In her keynote, Mitchell argued that the lack of diversity and inclusion in tech leads directly to the kinds of issues Biz Stone is fighting with Mike Monteiro about right now. More diverse teams equals a safer product. For everyone.

                  Perpetrators of online violence are not going to make space. People have to take it. And perpetrators are not going to stop misusing platforms and products no matter how thoroughly victims and survivors try to erase themselves. It’s the behavior of perpetrators, not victims, that needs to change. We need to hold them accountable, along with the companies that enable misuse and abuse. Because individual safety should be as much of a concern as the security of troves of data.

                  Resources
                  WESNET has many resources for victims and agencies, all for an Australian context.

                  The World Privacy Forum has a list of Top Ten Opt Outs. This list is US-centric, but the data broker and social media information is relevant to everyone (and this is the Do Not Call Registry in Australia).

                  Digital Sisters’ project Stop Online Violence Against Women has a list of resources specifically for online harassment.

                  Project Include works towards diversity and inclusion in tech. They have a set of recommendations for companies seeking to improve in these areas.

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                  Janet Brunckhorst is a San Francisco-based technologist and product manager.
                  Janet Brunckhorst is a San Francisco-based technologist and product manager.

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                    On Yer Bike

                    Catherine Deveny on her bike. Photo by Brent Lukey.Brent Lukey

                    Catherine Deveny on her bike. Photo by Brent Lukey.


                    By Catherine Deveny

                    “I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.” 

                    ― Susan B. Anthony

                    Susan B. Anthony was a feminist and American civil rights leader born in 1820. She fought tirelessly for women’s suffrage and died 14 years before US women were given the right to vote in 1906. Read up on her, she was incredible, passionate, and ferocious and we have much to thank her for.

                    This is my favorite of her quotes;

                    “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” 

                    Cycling played a massive part in early feminism. It was because of bikes that women could travel on their own to meetings, rallies and committees. Of course, as always is the way when women attempt to emancipate, the  ‘men in charge’ tried to stop women with apocalyptic rhetoric warnings if women rode bikes they would mash their reproductive organs, become manly and develop ‘bicycle face’.  Seriously.

                    I’m a deeply passionate commuter cyclist. Not everyone can ride everywhere but more people can ride more places more often, that’s for sure. Particularly women. The four things that dissuade women from riding the most are fear, fashion, fitness and family. All of which can be overcome.

                    Women riding bikes is a sign of a civilised society.

                    49 years old, 90 odd kilos and I ride almost everywhere. Errands, meetings, picking kids up, shopping, gigs, dates, dinner parties. The lot. Alone, with my partner, kids, buddies and sometimes as a part of organised rides with Pushy Women, Frocks On Bikes and Critical Mass.

                    I ride because it’s faster than walking, cheaper than public transport, safer than driving and it’s the closest thing to flying.

                    Sure it makes me happy and healthy but the massive unexpected by product is the amount of money I save, which is thousands a year.

                    Because of our riding we only have one car, which saves us at least $6000 a year (I did the sums). We hardly use the car we have so that means less spent on petrol, maintenance, parking tickets, driving infringements or paying for parking.  Massive health benefits means our health is better and that saves us money. Because of our choice to cycle I’m not paying mortgage on a garage or a driveway either. That alone has to save me tens of thousands of dollars.

                    Want to save money, get fit, have fun, empower yourself and be awesome? Get on your bike.

                    Get that bike in the shed serviced, or go splurge on a new one.

                    I’m not taking Lycra and Tour De France kind of riding. I’m not talking BMXing, mountain biking or making like a hipster and rocking the fixie.

                    I’m talking an old fashioned step through bike and not racing and puffing. There are some beautiful ones out there. Think walking with wheels.

                    So. On your bike!

                    Four steps

                    1. Get your ride. Dust off the treadlie from the shed, take it down to your local bike shop and get it serviced and spruced. If it’s time for a new bike, buy something you love. Something that makes you want to ride. You want the sparkly grips, the spokey dokes, silver streamers coming out of the handlebars and the basket with the flowers on it? Go get em. I recently had a loan of an electric bike for a week. Cannot recommend it highly enough. An electric bike is a regular pushbike with a motor you can flick on and off to give you a bit of a push when you need it up a hill, into the wind or if you are dragging the chain a little. It was hard to give it back after a week and I am seriously considering buying one.
                    2. Get your groove back. Perhaps you haven’t ridden for a while, you don’t feel super fit, you may have lost your confidence or even had a bingle and not ridden for years because of it. Start slow, baby steps and you know what they say, ‘it’s just like riding a bike’.
                    3. Get your route. Working out how to get places the safest way can really help you relax and enjoy your ride. Cycle lanes, cycle paths and back streets. Talk to people you see riding in your area. They’ll be delighted to help. The more people on the road on bikes the better it is for all of us.
                    4. Get your attitude. Here are my tips. Own the road. Maintain your line. Be predictable. Assume you are invisible. Look hot.

                    Cycling is revolutionary. Cars run on money and make you fat but bikes run on fat and make you money.

                    I can’t tell you what regular commuting cycling has done to make my life and bank balance happier. Start small. If you are not feeling confident just ride around the back streets a bit until you feel more sure of yourself. Then perhaps nip up to the post office. Then visit a friend. The next thing you know the two-wheeler will be your default setting and your car the back up.

                    And you know what? More often than not the ride is the best part of whatever daily mission I’m on.

                    “Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”
                     Susan B. Anthony

                    Catherine Deveny is a writer, comedian, author and speaker well known for her work as a columnist with The Age newspaper, as a Melbourne International Comedy Festival favourite and an ABC regular. She is also the creator of Gunnas Writing Masterclass. You can catch her via her website or on Facebook

                     

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                    Catherine Deveny on her bike. Photo by Brent Lukey.Brent Lukey

                    Catherine Deveny on her bike. Photo by Brent Lukey.

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