Tag Archives: feminism

Everyday Victim Blaming – a new campaign

30 May

Reviewing media coverage of violence against women and children, we’ve found an overt victim blaming tone in many of the news reports.  Men are described as being unable to ‘help it’.  They are ‘driven to it’.  They kill their children (and sometimes themselves) and it is a ‘tragic isolated incident’.  They murder their children and it is because of a ‘difficult divorce’.  They rape children because she was ‘drunk’ or ‘out at 4am’ and so ‘asking for it’.  They rape girls who are so drunk that they cannot stand up, yet these men claim sex is consensual.  There are so many excuses that we’ve read recently – none of them considering that the abuser has choices.  All the choices are around women (and children) behaving differently in order to avoid being abused.

The media reports cases of violence against women and children with an almost wilful avoidance of the actual reasons for these acts.  Power, control, women and children being considered ‘possessions’ of men, and avoidance of personal responsibility all contribute to a societal structure that colludes with abusers and facilitates a safe space in which they can operate.

A clear example of this has been the Oxford Gang case.  The victims were cross-examined by a number of barristers (which is to be expected in a fair trial, of course) with repeated accusations of lying or consenting to the rape, sexual assaults and violence.  As we have seen, some of the girls were too young to consent under law and were effectively purchased by their abusers.  Dr Aisha Gill writes an excellent critical analysis of this situation.

Almost immediately after the completion of this trial, we heard of the tragic murder of two children in France by their father, a man who should have protected them from violence.  Julian Stevenson, a British man who has lived in France for approximately 10 years, killed his children on his first unsupervised access visit following a divorce.  His access to the children previously had been in the presence of either his ex-wife, or a social worker due to his violent behaviour.  The prosecutor’s office has released a statement confirming that Stevenson has admitted killing the children, but would ‘not discuss his motive’.  Media reports about this case have been littered with excuses and apparent explanations, including using the issue of child contact being ‘insufficient for his needs’.

In the UK at least, child contact orders under the Children Act 1989 should consider the welfare needs of the child as paramount.  This should mean that the courts consider the emotional and physical safety of the child(ren) when making a decision for a contact order.  If we assume that the law is adhered to and that contact with a non-resident parent is set up in order to meet the needs of the child, being at risk of violence or in this case, murder, is certainly not about the needs of the child(ren).

The combination of these cases, in addition to the almost constant victim blaming in the media, prompted us to set up this campaign.  We regularly discuss issues around child protection, violence against women and children and domestic abuse with other women.  This campaign is about changing the culture and language around violence against women and children.  We aim to challenge the view that men cannot help being violence and abusive towards women and children.  We want to challenge the view that women should attempt to ‘avoid’ abuse in order to not become a victim of it.

We are utterly frustrated.  We know other women and men who feel powerless and voiceless against mainstream media and we are aiming to change that.  We believe that the only people responsible for violence and abuse are violent abusers.  We do not believe that victims are in any way responsible for the choices that are made by those who abuse them.  Societal change is not easy, but it happens.  With persistence and dogged determination, we can succeed.

You can help by submitting your experiences, thoughts or views about victim blaming via our website www.everydayvictimblaming.com.  We will accept submissions that are personal, if you’ve written a critical analysis on gendered violence, written about media coverage of rape, abuse, sexual exploitation or if you just want to have your voice heard.  Submissions can be anonymous and we will soon be able to signpost to organisations offering support around these issues via our website.

Wish us luck!

Follow us on twitter @EVB_Now

Matriarchy – a powerless, meaningless noun.

22 May

By Catherine Brockhurst

Domestic violence, rape, violence against women and girls, sexual assault, sexual abuse, harassment, inequality. When faced with a barrage of reports, articles, testimonials, blogs and actual conversations from women either having their stories told for them, or telling themselves – I am still astounded that there are people who genuinely question that there is a bigger issue at play than these experiences in isolation.

More specifically – take Jack O’Sullivan’s piece in today’s Guardian’s Comment is Free section “The masculinity debate: no wonder men stay out of it” – ignoring the fact that men rarely stay “out of it” and indeed rarely even have to debate given that the odds are already stacked in their favour – I’m struggling to understand what purpose this article fulfils, other than to undermine women and downplay (to the point of ignoring) the stance in society the majority of men enjoy.

The statement that jumped out the most for me was this; “But all this fails to generate male leadership or collective discussion. Each of us is operating in our personal world of change, with little sense of what it’s like for the other guys. The women’s movement produced articulate women to narrate their agenda. Where are the men?” – O’Sullivan was discussing how men are now challenging their perceived gender conformity-lucky them, to have a platform to challenge from at all. I fear he may have missed something.  What world is he inhabiting? Not mine that’s for sure; In the UK where 25% of those residing in Parliament are women, just 20% for the House Of Lords. Where in 2012 the percentage of women on boards of the Fortune 500 companies was just 16.6%. Where according to the IBR (International Business Report);

  • Women hold 24% of senior management roles globally, a three-point increase over the previous year (Yes that’s right, we’re up from 21%)
  • The proportion of businesses employing women as CEOs has risen from 9% to 14% (into double figures here)
  • Just 19% of board roles around the world are held by women although quotas have been put into place

But this is just a set of info to illustrate the inequality that still exists-whether this writer believes that men are failing to generate “male leadership” or not. How about the assertion that;

“…An important factor is that otherwise powerful, educated men – the ones you might expect to speak up – tend to have been raised in, and live in, households where they defer to female decision-making and narrative. The reasons are complicated. Women’s centrality in the private arena is a complex expression of both male power and male impotence, of patriarchy and infantilisation. But a consequence of boys and men living in private matriarchies is that even the most senior male chief executive often lacks confidence in areas that might be defined as personal, private or family”.

OK, let’s talk about that oppression of men in their own home. Let’s look at what that means for the millions of women also residing in those households that they apparently have control and autonomy over;

Domestic Violence is insidious, here are just a few stats to back up the assertion that this is far more prevalent that people appreciate and far from being about men lacking the confidence to challenge the women in their lives, the opposite is far more likely and is not mentioned at all in this article by O’Sullivan;

  • Domestic violence accounts for between 16% and one quarter of all recorded violent crime
  • One incident is reported to the police every minute
  • 45% women and 26% men had experienced at least one incident of inter-personal violence in their lifetimes. However when there were more than 4 incidents (i.e. ongoing domestic or sexual abuse) 89% of victims were women.
  • In any one year, there are 13 million separate incidents of physical violence or threats of violence against women from partners or former partners
  • Women are much more likely than men to be the victim of multiple incidents of abuse and of sexual violence: 32% of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so four or five (or more) times, compared with 11% of the (smaller number) of men who had ever experienced domestic violence; and women constituted 89% of all those who had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence
  • Women are more likely than men to have experienced all types of intimate violence (partner abuse, family abuse, sexual assault and stalking) since the ages of 16. And nearly half the woman who had experienced intimate violence of any kind, were likely to have been victims of more than one kind of intimate abuse
  • 54% of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner
  • On average 2 women a week are killed by a male partner or former partner: this constitutes around one-third of all female homicide victims

Time and time again we are told what a raw deal men are getting, having to fight to be heard, being “emasculated” by women, being pushed out by career women who play the “sex card” or sleep with the boss to get ahead. All the while we are expected to ignore the fact that in virtually every walk of life women are treated as secondary, they don’t even get a platform to debate from let alone get listened to. If only a quarter of the policy makers are women it’s not a big stretch to imagine there will be a weighted view of the law in favour of men. Caroline Criado-Perez has been campaigning for equality in the representation and visibility of women as experts in the media, as co-founder of The Women’s Room, an online database of expert and experienced women in their field. More recently she has been challenging the Bank Of England for their decision to remove the only female representative on our UK Bank Notes, Elizabeth Fry. And you know what the most common challenge to her campaign is? What about the Queen? Her answer, a thousands times by now I would imagine, “What about the monarch?”. Once the queen is gone we are left with an entirely male cast. You can see the petition here.

Everywhere you go, every direction you turn you will be faced with an example of women being treated unfairly, unequally and in many instances in truly awful ways. Please stop telling us that men have the raw deal here, we have our eyes and ears open, we believe her, we hear her, we’re listening and we will not be silenced.

A scandalous portrayal? Black women in the media

7 Jun

Abi Johnson

'Scandal' actress Kerry Washington

‘Scandal’ actress Kerry Washington

WVoN co-editor

ABC recently celebrated the finale of its prime-time television series, ‘Scandal.’

In this political thriller, Kerry Washington plays a character based on Judy Smith, a former White House aide and consultant.

What’s different about this show is that it features a black woman in a lead role. For me, the scandal is that still too few black women play dramatic leads on television.

The issue of the representation of black women in the media is one that I’ve followed closely for the last 20 years.

This is partly because I am a media professional myself, and partly because I am interested in seeing how I am represented on screen (or not) and whether my views are expressed in print (and how).

I’m hoping the two extremes of us either being invisible or stereotypically portrayed is a thing of the past.  Sadly, it seems it’s not.

Today, the same questions are still as pertinent as 20 years ago. Where am I on the television? Am I only ever a singer, an actress, a sidekick, a comedian or a sportswoman? Why, in print, am I confined to covering issues of race? 

Brittany McBryde from Pittsburg was so frustrated with the portrayal of black women in media that she made a film about it – The Image of Black Women.

“It started as an idea of bringing a new voice to the topic of diversity – my voice, specifically,” McBryde said.

And so her documentary film was made, not just to challenge stereotypes, but also to explore how black women themselves have become de-sensitised to seeing themselves portrayed in certain ways.

And if portrayal is a problem, so too is invisibility.

Victoria Coren, writing in The Guardian, says she feels a bit sad when flicking through magazines  “that all the faces are white.”

“I think we’ve reached general agreement,” she continued, “that this is weird and wrong, that black women should be more visible in all media, especially the women’s market.”

‘Don’t Tweet me this way – still sexist and not just on paper,’ a National Union of Journalists conference on women in the media taking place in London later this month, will focus on the issue on women in the media.  Participants have been asked ahead of time certain questions about their experiences.

It has also asked delegates to suggest if it has left any questions out. Yes. The issue of black women in the media has not been included on the agenda.

So, I’m putting it on the agenda here. Without diluting the focus on women, it is also important that the particular experiences of black women should form part of the debate too.

Many of the questions covered by the NUJ “pre-conference” relate just as easily to issues of race.

For example, whether your career as a journalist has been affected by being a woman, the pay gap, discrimination in old age, sexual harrasement, discrimination in redundancy, freelance female bloggers, being side-lined to features rather than financial pages, glass ceilings …the list is endless.

So, let’s take a look at television.  I’m pleased to see that there has been a proliferation of black women’s faces on UK TV recently.

But you know why? London 2012.

With so many of Team GB coming from diverse backgrounds, black women are being promoted as the face of this product and the face to promote the games.

Take for example the advertisement of the mother who proudly watches her son develop and grow from a toddler to a top athlete – all in the name of promoting a certain brand of wash powder.

And while it is good to see these images, a legacy of the Olympics should be that these adverts continue to be seen and be made long after the athletes have returned home, long after the medals have been proudly placed in display cabinets and long after the Olympics are over.

Moreover, despite the increase in the number of black women’s images in the media in the run up to the games, this continual link of black people and sport and music is outdated.

Of course, there are many strong, powerful black athletes, and in the music world it goes without saying the black presence is omnipresent. But there should be other things in the mix too, besides music and sport.

When it comes to the print world, while there are a growing number of female journalists from diverse backgrounds, too often we only see them when a comment is needed about a certain race or cultural issue.

These women have a breath of knowledge and experience in a diversity of areas, but often it’s cultural/race/ethnic issues that they are asked to give an opinion on, usually with the title ‘Cultural Critic’ or ‘Commentator.’

I know such women can certainly provide a comprehensive critique on the cultural issues of the day. But, I am confident too that they can also comment on matters of finance and economy, war and defense, education and enterprise.

And if they can’t, there are many black women behind them who can. But we are rarely asked to.

As a young journalist back in the day, I was often pigeon-holed into working in areas covering race. While those are the areas I like exploring, this did not mean I wanted to be restricted to just these domains, and so I worked on several BBC programmes covering a breadth of topics without being labeled.

That said, I will always see the world from the perspective of being a young black woman (OK not so young!). I will always see the world from the perspective of being a black woman.

Because that’s what I am.

So, 20 years on, some progress has been made, there is less of the ‘mammy figure’ or of the angry black woman on our television screens. In America, Gloria Browne-Marshall has become the first black woman to receive media credentials to cover the US Supreme Court.

We have Kerry Washington as the lead black woman in a primetime ABC television show.

For me, the fact that we can name them on one hand means it’s still too few.

We are still largely invisible.

There’s still work to be done.

I hope some of it can be continued at the forthcoming NUJ conference on women in the media.

This article first appeared on Women’s Views On News. See the original here

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