The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘violence against women’

Degradation of women is not the new black

Posted by Cate on January 22, 2010

I was disgusted to read last night about the new Roger David t shirts that are being sold.

Pics and discovery of these t shirts from here

The t shirts are a new range called “Blood is the new black”. Gagging women, sexual violence, degradation…I mean seriously how can these things be depicted as acceptable themes in fashion?  Many of us have long contended that there are sexism and misogny in fashion (see American Apparel’s use of retail staff semi naked in their ads) but this takes things to a new level. I have to wonder who had the great idea of featuring degrading, dehumanising photographs of women on these t shirts. It’s not edgy, it’s not cool, it’s not provocative, it’s simply ridiculous and shows a deep contempt for women. It suggests that violence against women is something which should be sexualised and viewed by a mainstream audience. The name alone, is suggesting that blood (and violence) is in fashion. This is not ok.

These images present the message  that it’s ok to present women as restained, dehumanised, blind folded, gagged, mute and blind, their helplessness a  source of sexual pleasure.

On the Roger David facebook group, the owner states:

Blood Is The New Black offers independent artists the opportunity the display their work and points of views on one of the most common threads in society, the T-shirt. As with any of “the arts,” discussion, discourse and debate is often sparked, due to unique and controversial ideas. Art is meant to inspire and educate, and the meaning and interpretation is left in the hands of the viewer – we are here to inspire ideas, not mediate or control them.

The artist Dan Monick believes there is little to no meaning behind the shot. “She was wearing a headband and it started to slide down her face and she bit it. The shot is a snapshot from me and Annie hanging out, it is not a premeditated image. I took 3 frames. If I had put any meaning behind the image it’s more about the messed up aspects of Hollywood silencing individuality and unique voice. It’s about Hollywood silencing the human.”

Err… nice attempt at saving face hiding behind the excuse that it’s all about ‘art’.  Sounds more like a deliberate ploy to get in the media with some offensive pics. I’ll be interested to see if anyone buys the t shirts, I’d hate  to think of a friend, male relative, or young person thinking such t shirts are acceptable because they are created by an artist.  Blood will never be the new black. Sexual violence should never be in fashion. Ever.

Write to Roger David here to show your disgust.


Posted in art, Fashion, Sex Crimes, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Reclaim The Night 09

Posted by caitlinate on October 25, 2009


Reclaim The Night is this week! Some events are on Thursday evening and some are on Friday but it’s THIS WEEK. You can find your local event here.

If you’re wondering what RTN is Mel Campbell gave a great round up last year of what it is and why it exists which you should go (re)read.

I’m in Melbourne so I can only speak from experience about that but I thought the rally last year was great. It really got away from the sort of cliquey activist crew event that it can be and there were a lot of women from all walks of life present. Hopefully it’ll be even bigger and more open this year. I find it really thrilling and empowering to stand with so many different women and walk the street with them in a big group, laughing, talking, yelling, chanting, listening and more. It definitely felt like a really positive experience that celebrated the collective strength of women and our right to not be afraid or experience violence. It’s not about heavy handed feminist dialectic (as much as I love the stuff) but just about standing together, voicing a belief and feeling good about doing so. Anyway! I hope to see you all there!

Disclosure – I’m not part of the organising collective but I emceed the rally part last and am doing so again this year. Give me a wave! c

Posted in Announcements, events | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

McClelland Talks, Says Mostly Good Things

Posted by caitlinate on July 24, 2009

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced a series of (potential) changes to the family law system in Australia. These changes are aimed at tackling domestic violence and child abuse in Australia and altering the way the courts operate in terms of these issues. In the introduction to his speech he stated:

“I believe that at the moment there are still too many families that slip through the safety net. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions and they can’t be overcome by taking action in isolation. To address violence we need to identify holes in the system, and collaborate to tighten the safety net. It’s not enough to look for holes in the law, or in court processes or in the delivery of services, or any of these things on their own. Our safety net must provide the tightest protection possible for families negotiating the family law system.”

This is obviously in large part politician speak (he says ‘safety net’ three different times, somewhat unnecessarily) but I feel that his heart is in the right place and that revamping or strengthening the way the system works is a good thing. I do, however, have some reservations, in particular that the focus of this speech and these changes seems to be to the system after the fact – so after when the abuse occus rather than working on prevention in the first place.

The four main announcements he made are outlined in bold.

• A training package for family law system professionals and the development of minimum screening guidelines;

Training and information for ‘professionals’ within the system is a really amazing thing and I’m glad they are prioritising this. A lot of the problems that victims and survivors of violence have with legal system professionals (including the police) is that they are untrained and unaware of the impacts and complications involved in violence and abuse. This often results in behaviour/advice that can be further traumatising or unhelpful.

I am a little concerned that these training packages will be of a bureaucratic nature. The best way to inform people about the requirements and experiences of abuse survivors is to have survivors communicate about what they need or needed and the best ways to proceed. Nonetheless, it does seem that they are taking cues from the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children’s April report ‘Time for Action’ which came from a lot of community and survivor consultation.

The ‘minimum screening guidelines’ mentioned aren’t really elaborated on but I think McClelland’s talking about mandatory reporting levels and altering what he terms ‘inefficient jurisdictional boundaries’

• A pilot of legally assisted mediation for families experiencing violence;

I think this is an interesting one. The Howard government pretty much banished lawyers from some aspects of family law disputes, preferring separating couples to use counselors for mediation. McClelland has commissioned this pilot project to instead fund lawyers for mediation in cases where violence is alleged. He states:

“In assisting families to exercise choice in resolving their separation disputes, I am funding a pilot program to provide legal representation in mediation sessions to families who have experienced violence or are at risk of it.”

This could be positive. I don’t think that someone should have no legal support or recourse when the partner they are separating from has been violent towards them or their children. However allowing lawyers to the table could bring about two negative possibilities. One that bullying abusive lawyers will be in the room and it will be about forcing one party into submission. Secondly that if one partner is in a more stable financial position they will be able to hire a more experienced lawyer who can work for more favourable outcomes for their client – regardless of if they’ve been violent.

• A review of the family court practice and procedure, lead by Professor Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge;

This review seems to be about expanding the current model for dealing with children who have been abused or in abusive situations. Currently in use is the Magellan case management model – introduced in 1998. It brings together the family courts, police and child protection agencies to ensure the Court has all the information it needs to make decisions “in the best interest of the child” but is incredibly flawed. The current laws require the Family Court to presume the “best interests of a child” are served by a meaningful relationship with both parents after divorce, regardless of if one parent has been abusive. It forces parents into ongoing relationships with violent ex-partners and requires them to regularly hand over their children to the care of said ex-partner.

Chisholm is going to be consulting experts and examining whether the practices and procedures in the family courts encourage appropriate disclosures of family violence, and whether appropriate support is provided within the family court system for families who have experienced or are at risk of violence.

• An enquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to identify gaps in the law and reinforce the previously mentioned ‘safety net’.

This inquiry will look at two important issues raised in the National Council’s report:

1. It will examine the interaction of State and Territory laws relating to family violence and child protection with Commonwealth family laws and criminal laws to determine whether changes are required to better protect women and children; and

2. It will examine the impact of the inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in the context of family violence, on the victims of violence.

I can do nothing but applaud the fact that this enquiry is happening and cross my fingers that the outcomes will be positive for victims and survivors of violence, abuse and assault.

Overall I find the announcements to be on the positive side, even if only because action is being taken and family violence is being taken seriously. Some of the measures that will be introduced do raise questions but I don’t feel that any are to be damned but rather watched closely to see what the results are. I do wish that this was all less about enquiries and reviews and about real and substantial action being taken. However if the ‘reviews’ and ‘enquiries’ involve talking to communities, affected groups and survivors then I think extended evaluation is probably a better thing that rushed but ineffective action.

Finally, one other thing of interest McClelland mentioned is the following:

“Measures to address family violence will assist the Government’s effort to halve homelessness by 2020, as we now know that family violence is the principle cause of homelessness among young women with children.”

This statement displays, to me, an understanding of the wide and varied effect that domestic violence has on families, individuals, women and children, something of a relief after the draconian attitude of the previous government.

Posted in law, Parenting & Family, Politics, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Women’s Aid/Keira Knightley Anti-D.V. Commercial to be Censored

Posted by Sara Lewis on April 28, 2009

Though not yet officially released in cinemas, some of you may have already seen the anti-domestic violence commercial featuring Keira Knightley floating around the internet. The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday that Clearcast – the organisation that is responsible for pre-approving British broadcasting based on Ofcom standards – is to remove the scenes depicting violence before allowing the commercial to be released to the public in the United Kingdom.

The commercial, created by UK anti-D.V. charity organisation Women’s Aid, sees Keira Knightley returning home to be confronted by her on-screen partner, who accuses her of having an affair. The ensuing scenes see Knightley getting violently attacked by the man and being repeatedly kicked while lying on the floor. The Telegraph reported that

“…it is this last sequence that has been deemed too shocking for a television audience.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial already (N.B. If I haven’t made it obvious already… insert trigger warning here):

The commercial is by no means a flawless or all-encompassing portrayal of domestic violence. After all, domestic violence is often a long-term problem that doesn’t simply pertain to physical violence; it also refers to the psychological domination and potential control of one person in a relationship/intimate partnership over the other. It is the lack of media attention to this kind of violence and abuse that, in my opinion, is partially responsible for the women who refuse to admit that they are in an abusive relationship.

That said – it seems downright ridiculous for Clearcast to consider cutting the explicit scenes in the Women’s Aid commercial. While the scenes are extremely uncomfortable to watch, I believe that there is something to be said for not sugar-coating the events of the commercial. It only takes a quick YouTube search to see that, more often than not, domestic violence is unrealistically portrayed – even ‘spoofed’ – in the media. It might even be said that before the media’s insensitive treatment of, for example, the Rihanna/Chris Brown case (which saw Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face on the covers of tabloids everywhere), some people may not yet have even been exposed to ‘real’ domestic violence. [This is not at all to say that it was ethical, in any way, that the photos of Rihanna were leaked to the tabloids – every victim of violence has a right to protection.]

The Women’s Aid commercial is an extremely confronting portrayal of one form of domestic violence, but at the end of the day it is a fictional (hell, they got Keira Knightley didn’t they?) representation of what is, of course, a very real problem. Shouldn’t this be enough for Clearcast? They definitely need to add a trigger warning of sorts to the start of the commercial, but considering the amount of graphic depictions of – for example – drug addiction and binge drinking so prevalent in media campaigns today (the latter perhaps more rampant in Australia than in the UK), why is domestic violence the issue that needs to be palliated here?

Posted in Celebrity, Film & Television, Politics, Relationships, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Appropriate result for the long term abused

Posted by Cate on March 27, 2009

Supporters of victims of domestic violence are no doubt relieved to see that the case against a teenager charged with murdering her stepfather after years of abuse has been dropped.
The 19-year-old from northern Victorian had been accused of shooting her stepfather, 34, after he threatened her with a firearm. She had been subject to year of ongoing physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

You’ll recall my take on the case earlier this year. I’ve still not recieved any information about the repercussions to the school who failed to mandatory report the ongoing abuse.

Posted in Sex Crimes, sexual assault, Uncategorized, violence against women | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Excuses, excuses, excuses

Posted by caitlinate on March 12, 2009

I wish I could say I was surprised. From an opinion poll commissioned by the British Home Office:

How acceptable or not do you think it is for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to … ?

Would you say that a woman SHOULD BE held responsible, should be PARTLY held responsible or should NEVER be held responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped in the following circumstances?

Full Poll Results.

Thanks to Claire for the link.

Posted in violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quotation Marks, Saving The World From Pesky “Assault” Victims, One At A Time

Posted by Clem Bastow on February 28, 2009

We have discusssed newspapers’ use of rogue inverted commas in reportage and headlines before, and fellow feminist blogger Audrey has just provided a fine reminder of why such a seemingly simple editorial tool can be so punitive over at her Audrey & The Bad Apples. As she puts it:

‘I’ ‘do’ ‘not’ ‘understand’ ‘why’ ‘it’ ‘is’ ‘that’ ‘so’ ‘many’ ‘news’ ‘reports’ ‘about’ ‘rape’ ‘include’ ‘quotation’ ‘marks’ ‘as’ ‘if’ ‘somehow’ ‘already’ ‘preparing’ ‘for’ ‘the’ ‘moment’ ‘when’ ‘they’ ‘can’ ‘gleefully’ ‘reveal’ ‘the’ ‘female’ ‘bitch’ ‘boner’ ‘killer’ ‘was’ ‘lying’ ‘as’ ‘chicks’ ‘do’ ‘because’ ‘they’ ‘want’ ‘to’ ‘see’ ‘men’ ‘suffer’.

Well, it’s good to see that such pointless “reportage” continues across the pond (and then some). Witness The Daily Mail‘s follow-up piece on Rihanna today:

picture-51Okay, as I discussed in my last piece on the spurious use of quotation marks in headlines, it’s true that right now, Chris Brown is “only” (see? I can use them, too!) accused of assault; he hasn’t been found guilty. Thus, I can only assume the Mail‘s use of inverted commas has something vague to do with Brown’s being considered innocent until proven guilty.

But you would think, based on the leaked police photos – which, in true classy style, The Daily Mail has helpfully re-printed (Feministing’s Jessica Valenti efficiently sums up why Feministing, The Dawn Chorus, and many others have not shown said photos) – of Rihanna taken immediately following the assault that led to Brown’s arrest, they could leave out the quotation marks, just this once. Whether or not it is found that Brown was the one who “assaulted” Rihanna that night, there’s no questioning the fact that the woman was viciously beaten.

(All of this is to say nothing of “…but she can’t raise a smile”; hmm, you think? A young woman is – “allegedly” – assaulted by the man she thought was her whole world, who then goes on to issue piddling excuses for an “apology”, and she doesn’t look very happy? Stop the presses!)

Wake up, sub-editors of the world: stories like this (and so many others) aren’t Kevin Smith movies, so put away your air quotes.

Posted in Blog Watch, Celebrity, Media Watch, Relationships, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Indian Women Fight Valentine’s Day Bullies With Pink Undies

Posted by Mel Campbell on February 12, 2009

I like a good pub session as much as the next girl. But if I lived in India, this might earn me a bashing.

Members of a radical Hindu nationalist organisation known as the Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram’s Army) recently went into a pub in the southern university town of Mangalore and physically attacked female students. SRS leader Pramod Mutalik, who was arrested but bailed after the attack, called his followers “custodians of Indian culture” who were merely guarding the morality of the women at the pub.

Mutalik has since publicly vowed to force any unmarried couples found together on Valentine’s Day either to marry, or to tie string bracelets known as rakhis on their wrists to signify that they’re brother and sister.

As you might imagine, Indian feminists haven’t taken kindly to this. Journalist Nisha Susan has founded the Facebook group A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, which at the time of writing has 14,975 members. She says the members are ordinary men and women who are horrified by the way fundamentalist groups trample on civil rights.

“These people [the SRS] are not loonies – they’re guys looking for political capital,” Susan told The Times (UK). “The worrying thing is that we’ve seen before in this region how there can be a period of freedom and then it’s taken away. Look at Afghanistan.”

India’s Minister for Women, Renuka Chowdhury, agrees. She has publicly condemned the Mangalore attack as a sign of the increasing “Tale-banisation” of Indian culture.

As a protest, the consortium is planning to mail the SRS thousands of pairs of pink underpants, or ‘chaddi’ in Hindi slang. Not only are the undies a cheeky symbol of femininity; they also allude to the fact that members of the country’s largest Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, are often called “chaddi wallahs” because of their baggy uniform shorts.

Mutalik has rubbished the chaddi campaign, calling for a proper debate on the issue and saying, ‘Since they are women, stooping to the level of gifting undergarments will defame them only.”

However, the campaign has galvanised women across the country – and by making headlines across the world, it’s putting public pressure on a chauvinistic organisation that has a surprising amount of legitimacy in India.

Posted in Faith and Religion, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sex Crimes: How Much Does The Public Need To Know?

Posted by Mel Campbell on January 29, 2009

I hope we’d all agree that it’s better for crimes against women – especially sexual crimes – to be vigorously prosecuted, and for the details of these shocking offences to be made public so that the perpetrators are publicly shamed and in general these issues are talked about rather than swept under the carpet.

That said, there’s also a line between reporting a sex crime and finding its details titillating. I found the extreme detail in this report about the 2007 gang rape of a 13-year-old Sydney girl pretty upsetting to read:

Over the next few hours, the boys took turns entering the toilet cubicle, where they had oral sex with her.

One 15-year-old announced to the others “I’m going to root her”, but it took several unsuccessful attempts before he penetrated her while she experienced a tearing sensation that she said felt “terrible”.

When council workers interrupted them, they moved to a different public toilet in a nearby reserve where the activity continued, while outside the cubicle the boys made comments such as “smile like you’re enjoying it”.

They made her take off her clothes and watched one another violate her, causing her to bleed.

The issue here, I think, is to what extent journalists are obliged to report the particulars of a crime, especially if it involves children. (The victim in this case was 13; the perpetrators’ ages were not specified but at least one was 15.) I feel uncomfortable with the possibility that reporting of court cases like these is deliberately lurid because that way, the story is considered more ‘newsworthy’.

It’s illegal to name minors involved in court proceedings, but I can’t help but feel that the anonymity of both victim and perpetrator, coupled with the detailed description of the crime, dehumanises the crime. Does this then desensitise readers to horrific crimes in general? Elsewhere in journalism, it’s becoming common practice not to refer to the method of a suicide in case you give depressed people ideas, but what about giving potential sex offenders ideas?

This is an ethical issue I haven’t really worked out for myself yet, and I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Posted in Media Watch, Sex Crimes, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Keys To A Successful Marriage = Physical And Sexual Violence

Posted by Leah on January 22, 2009

You may have seen this news popping up in the media today – the story of a 2003 lecture by Melbourne cleric  Samir Abu Hamza (titled ‘The Keys To A Successful Marriage’) in which he allegedly claims men are entitled to be physically and sexually violent with their wives. I can’t say I’m surprised – there always seems to be people about happy to spread this kind of repulsive thought. And I do take heart that the issue of violence against women is apparently important enough for the Prime Minister to speak out against Hamza’s statements – even though he said Hamza’s comments had no place in modern Australia…which insinuates that they DO have a place elsewhere, or in another time…which I would beg to differ with!

I’ve been thinking about this story all day, and thinking about how to channel my angry response into some constructive action. Any ideas? Letter writing? Turning up at one of Hamza’s lectures and attempting to engage in a dialogue? Or something less reactive, supporting White Ribbon Day? Fundraising for a women’s shelter? I sometimes feel overwhelmed by this kind of hatred against women and just want to throw up my hands.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »