Swedish Police Fail Rape Victims

The last few days, a number of headlines in Swedish newspapers have discussed the large amount of rape cases that go unsolved. One of the reasons for this does not appear to be lack of evidence, but rather the appalling treatment of collected evidence.

Articles provide examples such as that of a 25-year rape victim who went to the police where semen and other evidence were gathered. The man accused of rape denied his involvement. A match in DNA analysis could have closed that case but the police mishandled the case so badly that it resulted in the loss of DNA evidence and dropped charges.

The woman, together with her attorney, filed a claim for compensation arguing that with the DNA the man could have been found guilty. The woman was, however, not given any compensation, form of restitution, or claim of justice. [Read more...]

Melinda Tankard Reist on the Harms of Pornography

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Melinda Tankard Reist, co-editor of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry. Melinda is also the co-founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation.

How did you become interested in researching pornography?

There were a few things that came together around the same time. Women started telling me their stories of being hurt and harmed by a partner’s compulsive porn use. In my talks in schools, teen girls shared with me the pressure they felt to provide a porn-style performance, to act, essentially, as a sexual service station for men and boys. They were expected to provide naked images of themselves, to provide sexual services. As well, the sex industry was dominating and colonising every public space and was rarely brought to account. I began to talk to my publishers about what I was hearing. Spinifex had published an earlier book in 2004 titled Not for Sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. It was a powerful book. But so much had happened since then, especially with the internet being used to globalize and spread pornography. We felt that a new book on pornography was needed. It also seemed to be a natural progression from my previous book Getting Real: challenging the sexualization of girls, published by Spinifex in 2009. [Read more...]

Consequences of Rape Culture and Victim Blaming

We’ve previously discussed rape culture in relation to a number of different topics: video games, politics, advertisement, and fuck rape culturechildren’s grammar books (to name a few examples).

Rape culture blames women in a variety of ways. It often challenges their lifestyles and behaviors to infer that they are somehow responsible for rape and sexual assault; or normalizes, trivializes, and defends rape. Rape culture and victim blaming is absurd since we are unlikely to blame a victim of robbery for carrying cash and credit cards, or because they simply left their house and someone later broken in.

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Women’s Honor and Survival: When a Woman Kills her Rapist in Turkey

This past September, a Turkish woman shot and beheaded the man that had blackmailed and raped her for months. The woman, identified as N.Y., was also pregnant by her rapist; she had “repeatedly stated her to wish to abort the baby,” according to news reports, but her request was denied by a Turkish court. In Turkey, women are permitted to abort a pregnancy that was the result of rape up until the 20th week; since N.Y. was 29 weeks pregnant, the court said she could not legally obtain an abortion. Last month, she gave birth to a girl; N.Y. has said she will not raise a child that was the result of rape, and the girl will be placed in state foster care. (Interestingly, the widow of the man that raped N.Y. had initially offered to raise the baby, but her children objected so much that she withdrew her offer.)

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Halo Reach, Sexual Violence and Rape Culture

This post contains explicit language and profanities.

I like to play video games and Halo has been my favorite for many years. Halo 4 came out earlier this month and it made me reflect on Halo Reach, what I liked about the game, and what I did not like. One thing I found very off-putting was the constant bantering and aggressive verbal behavior displayed during matchmaking. That was one reason why I rarely used a microphone while playing.

Here at Feminists for Choice we often discuss the concept of rape culture, which is the notion that sexual violence is in many ways condoned. We often hear or experience the normalization of rape, which often leads to blaming the survivor rather than the perpetrator. This normalization of rape and the use of threats of sexual violence are very common in Halo Reach as players communicate with one another. Interestingly enough, I have never witnessed any females partake in such a discussion, or in the one-sided arguments where putdowns and remarks are constantly made. When it comes to discussions and remarks about rape the message is one of power, domination and subjugation. The verbal threat or use of the word rape is therefore used to display the threat of subjugation and the power and domination certain players hold over others.  [Read more...]

A Discussion of Feminism and the Trans Community

Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we are talking with blogger and activist Helen. Helen writes and blogs for sites such as Bird of Paradox and the leading British feminist site The F-Word, where she is the Events Editor.

1. When did you first consider yourself a feminist, and what about the feminist movement appealed to you?

I’d been aware of the inequalities faced by women for a long time, probably since the 1970s, but didn’t really call myself a feminist until I began my transition. At that point, beginning to experience at first-hand the discrimination and prejudice and sexism that women face every day, it was more a question of, ‘how can women *not* call themselves feminists?’

It’s often been said that we only become politicised when we are directly affected by something happening to us, and so it was for me and feminism.

2. You have mentioned that discrimination against the trans community can be common within the feminist movement. What are some common forms of discrimination?

I’ve noticed many improvements, even in the 5/6 years since I began my transition, and many feminists now are well-informed about trans politics and are very good allies to trans people. The most obvious exceptions are those who call themselves ‘radical feminists’ but who cling to an ideology with its roots in the last century. These women seem to have the most hatred for trans women, even going so far as to demand that we be ‘morally mandated out of existence.’ Others will demand that we be refused access to essential medical care; that we be refused access to ‘their’ spaces, and so on. They will misgender us, publish our personal details on the internet, run blogs and forums that are nothing but transphobic hate speech, and so on. That branch of the women’s movement has no place in any contemporary feminism, I think. Thankfully, it seems to have little influence on a majority of feminists these days and I hope it will soon become no more than a footnote in academic textbooks.

3. You often discuss the violence that the trans community and especially transwomen face. How common is violence and how do you think we can minimize it?

Even though I blog very little any more, I do maintain a page called “A selection of published statistics of violence against trans people”, which lists links to various reports and websites where information about anti-trans violence is documented. I would especially recommend spending a little time at the TvT Project website; they have an update from March 2012 here.

These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg, for various reasons; this page talks about why.

Of course, we must not overlook the effects of the intersectionality of oppressions – I may suffer certain problems as a woman who is also transsexual, but I also benefit from such things as white privilege, class privilege, and so on. A trans woman of color who lives in poverty suffers many more oppressions and, statistically, is much more likely to be a victim of transphobic violence than me.

It has been said many times that ‘women are second-class citizens but trans women are second-class women’ and I think that is quite true. Really, only a change in attitudes amongst mainstream cis society is going to lead to full acceptance and equality. And although things are slowly improving, there is still a very long way to go – and I don’t honestly think I will see that day during my lifetime.

4. The language used to refer to LGBTQ concerns and different identities seems ever changing. What language/words are most important to know and be aware of?

I’m always concerned about the way trans people are pushed under the umbrella of ‘LGBTQ.’ I understand that it is important for oppressed minorities to form coalitions and alliances, to work together towards our common causes, but it seems that trans voices are often lost in the noise made by other larger and more powerful groups. So, although we may be preoccupied with equal marriage (and it is important to many trans people), other trans-specific issues (access to healthcare and employment, for example) are often sidelined.

The language is definitely in a state of flux; part of the problem is, I think, that trans people are (historically) defined by cis society’s perceptions of us, particularly by the medical profession. We are pathologised, stigmatised and demonised; objectified, fetishised, and generally treated as figures of fun. Moving away from the language of our oppressors is a good step forward towards being able to identify ourselves on our own terms. But it isn’t easy; there is much debate about what is and what isn’t acceptable language even withing trans communities (see the debates that go on around the use of the word ‘tranny,’ for example). And, of course, the power base held by our oppressors resents and fights our attempts at defining ourselves in our own right (see the hatred that some feminists have for being called ‘cis’, for example – even as they continue to call us ‘trans’ – are we not all ‘women’, when everything’s said and done?).

5. When discussing reproductive issues and rights, what rights do you wish to see for the trans community in the future?

The freedom to make informed choices, bodily autonomy, the removal of medical pathologisation without affecting our rights to access relevant healthcare… But all these things are, I think, preconditions of our being fully accepted by mainstream society for who we are (not who people think we are, or would like us to be).

 

Bullied teen blamed for being “too gay”

Bullied for her sexual orientation, a lesbian teen was told by school officials that she needed to tone down her “gayness” because she was scaring and confusing other students. School officials stated that the girl was to blame for flaunting her same sex attraction and thereby provoking other students to commit violence against her.

The school is assuming that heterosexual students have the right to express their sexuality and sexual orientation without being the victims of bullying or violence, but did not extend the same courtesy to the girl since she identifies as lesbian. She was thereby clearly being treated differently by the school because of her sexual orientation. Sadly, the girl left school after being physically abused and threatened. The high school did not follow protocol as they did not report the violence committed against the student, even though the school is required to report such incidences. When the teen confronted the school she was told that it was her responsibility to report the assault, thereby completely denying her rights as a student while simultaneously denying the discrimination, violence and bullying she endured. [Read more...]

Attempted rape of transwoman not classified as rape

A man in the Swedish city Örebro was acquitted from charges of attempted rape against a transwoman since there was no possibility of the rape ever being achieved, according to the judge. Since the woman did not in fact have a vagina, she could not be raped and thereby the man was freed from charges. The judge stated that: “The intended crime never had the possibility of being fulfilled” and that: “We believe that he wanted to rape this woman in particular. But as she turned out to be a man, the crime never was actually committed”.

Even though the attacker did “grab at the victims crotch” the charges of attempted rape were denied. Since the attacker also severely beat the woman he was found guilty of assault and made to pay a sum of around $ 2,000. [Read more...]

Obama Administration Taking a Tough Stance Against Clinic Protesters

The headlines of the past three years have been dominated by stories of anti-choice legislation, abortion protester shenanigans, and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. That being said, however, the National Abortion Federation says that clinic violence has actually decreased in the past year.

One explanation for the decrease in clinic violence is that protesters are starting to get a clue that their actions have consequences. The Obama administration has actually been taking a much tougher stance against abortion clinic protesters by enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (aka “FACE Act“).  NPR reports that the Justice Department has filed eight cases against abortion protesters under the FACE Act, which is a stark comparison to only one case being filed under the Bush administration. [Read more...]

Defending The Help

Like millions of other women, I read The Help for a book group. I enjoyed the book and appreciated that it led to a spirited discussion of its strengths and weaknesses among the women in my group. But in the year and a half since I read the book, I didn’t really give The Help a second thought. And then the film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s book, also called The Help, came out, and quickly racked up both impressive box office receipts and a slew of controversy.

While each critique is different, the main objections appear to present a sanitized, stereotyped view of race relations; that it glosses over a particularly turbulent and dangerous part of the Civil Rights movement; that both the book and movie focus on white experiences and, indeed, that the book was written by a white woman; and that the highest-profile, female-driven movie of the year only depicts black women as maids.

I’ve undoubtedly left out other accusations, but you get the idea: for a movie that’s just a little over two hours, it sure carries a heavy burden of expectations. In part, this can be explained by the fact that the film is based on a best-selling novel, and its casting and filming was pretty heavily covered in the press (well, the entertainment press, at least). But there’s also the fact that female ensemble movies are few and far between, particularly ones that have black women in lead roles. Reading all the criticisms of the film, it’s hard not to think that people are projecting their own hopes of what they want a movie about black women in the 1960s South to look like, and that it’s the inability to meet these expectations that’s driving the backlash. But to expect any one movie, particularly one made by a mainstream Hollywood studio, to be all things to all people is unrealistic.  [Read more...]