Feminism

Can we please talk about male entitlement?

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News flash: no one owes you anything. Image via Everyday Feminism.

Last Friday night reminded me of why I avoid going out: men. And no, not all men—just a certain type of men. The one who prowls clubs looking for a partner to do the dirty with. The one who thinks he’s entitled to your attention. The one who’s shocked to find out he’s not.

But that’s what it’s like when you go out in a small town.

It was karaoke night—and there were only around 20 patrons in the entire club. It was the first time I’d gone out in months—with my mum and best friend, no less. But of course, when there’s a woman, there will be a man thinking he’s entitled to her attention.

A random guy came up and put his hand on my back.

“Come on, come up and dance. Support my buddy,” he said.

Firstly, no. Take your hands off me. You have no right to touch me—even if it is just my back. The location isn’t important: the lack of consent is.

“No thanks!” I replied. Because dancing in front of some random dude who thinks that’s a sign i’ll go home with him is probably the last thing I want to do.

“No?” he was shocked I’d refused—and with no excuse either!

“No,” I responded, smiling and waving my wine glass.

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Yes, I am happy with my wine. No, I don’t need your attention. Image via Inside Amy Schumer.

With that, he left, shaking his head. What a shock that must have been! A simple “no”, rather than an excuse. I didn’t tell him I wasn’t drunk enough to go dance, I didn’t tell him I had a boyfriend, I didn’t tell him I wasn’t at all interested: I just told him no—and that’s how it should be.

Ladies and gentlemen: you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s not bitchy to refuse. It’s not rude to refuse. It’s your right. Just because a member of the opposite sex happens to smile at you doesn’t mean you have to do anything. You don’t owe him anything. Women do not exist to pump up Male egos.

I’ll repeat that: women do not exist to pump up male egos.

And really, if your ego can be shattered by a person saying no, you probably weren’t all that good to begin with.

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. Like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter for more!

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Orange is the New Black addressed something really important–and we need to talk about it.

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Tiffany Doggett. Image via Buzzfeed.

Why are we so afraid to call it rape?

Rape culture is very real and very dangerous—but Orange is the New Black isn’t afraid to tackle it. In the latest season of the hit Netflix series, we see conceptions of rape addressed—and reformed—through the characterisation of inmate Tiffany Doggett.

Doggett was raped last season by a commanding officer at Litchfield Penitentiary—a man who was supposed to be responsible for her safety. Instead, officer Charlie Coates took advantage of her and raped her: but it wasn’t how we usually see rape represented on screens. Doggett wasn’t screaming. She wasn’t frantically trying to beat him off. But we could see from her face that she desperately didn’t want to be there.  It doesn’t matter if she didn’t fight tooth and nail to stop him—or even if she didn’t tell him: it is still rape.

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Image via Cosmopolitan.

This season, Doggett confronts Coates, making sure he’s not raping anyone else. But here’s the kicker: he didn’t even know he’d raped her. “But I love you,” he insists. “It’s different.”

“But it didn’t feel any different,” Doggett responds.

It didn’t feel any different because it isn’t—rape is the unwanted penetration of oral, vaginal or anal cavities. So, why are we so afraid to call it that? We live in a society where we’re so focussed on blaming the victim: what did they do to provoke it? What were they wearing? Were they drinking? Had they slept together before? Were they in love? Where they in a relationship? Why didn’t they yell for help? People voice these questions as if any of these factors negate a heinous crime. Newsflash: it doesn’t.

One in six women and 1 in 33 men will be raped within their lifetimes. One in two transgender persons will be sexually assaulted, as well as 44% of lesbian women, 26% of gay men, and 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men. This is a major problem—yet instead of tackling these issues, we’re too focussed on blaming the victim.

As a woman, I’m afraid to walk home alone at night—even though my bus stop is only 500m away. As a woman, I am afraid when a group of men walk towards me. As a woman, I make sure I’m not too drunk to keep my wits about me. I make sure my dress isn’t too short. I make sure I don’t lead anyone on—and even then, I’m not safe.

Doggett was raped in a prison environment meant to protect her.

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Most rapes are not reported, and even if they are, they’re not likely to result in a conviction. This must change. Image via Waging Non-Violence.

Our actions do not give another person permission to so much as touch us. Even if I walked down the street naked, I’m still not “asking for it”—because my body is mine, and every human being deserves that right. But some people still don’t seem to get the concept of “no”.

Maybe you loved them. Maybe you knew they were horny, so you just let them do it. Maybe you did try to stop it, but gave in because it was easier than fighting. Maybe there were tears in your eyes, as you stare at the wall, wishing you were anywhere else. Maybe you cried when it was over and they were asleep or gone. Maybe they did love you. But then, maybe they didn’t. Maybe it was a cruel and vicious crime—and actions or intentions don’t change that.

As women, we’re so programmed to feel like we have to please our partners—even if we don’t want to. But love is not an excuse for rape: nothing is. And this line of thinking, this notion of “oh, you can’t call it rape after it happened” is absolute bullshit, and a massive cultural problem. Maybe you were too scared to speak up—maybe you’re too afraid to confront in your own mind what it was, and only realise what it was later. It is “not making it up” to get someone in trouble—because only one in six rapes are reported, and only 17% of rapes are actually convicted.

Rape affects every facet of your life. It restricts your sexuality.  It restricts your chance at future relationships. You lay awake, crying and reliving those moments. You flinch at every rape joke, or mention of sexual assault.  This is not okay.

But we live in a society that would rather blame the victim than prosecute the victim. But it is not the victim’s fault—it’s the rapist’s fault.

Rape is an unforgivable crime—and we need to stop sugar coating it.

Stop telling me I “don’t look like a gamer”.

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Accurate. Image via Big Bang Theory.

I don’t feel comfortable. Maybe it’s my anxiety, but I’m not so sure. My palms are sweaty. My breathing escalates. I feel their eyes on me. You don’t belong here, they snicker.

I pause. Well . . . Why don’t I belong here?

I’m talking about my recent visits to various comic book and gaming stores. Now, I love gaming. I’ve loved it ever since Sonic the Hedgehog came out on Sega, followed by the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games on PlayStation1, various PlayStation 2 games, and now my PlayStation 4. I’ve gleefully wasted countless hours of my life mashing buttons and yelling with glee at the screen. I’ve finished my favourite games multiple times, and if I’m ever not responding to Facebook messages, it’s probably because I’m gaming—can’t talk, killing zombies. But for some reason, whenever I visit a nerdy store—filled with things I love dearly and would gladly spend my money on—the eyes of other patrons tell me I don’t belong.

Is it because I’m a woman?

Is it because I don’t “look like a gamer”?

Is it because I wear pretty floral dresses and bright red lipstick?

Is it because I wing my eyeliner sharp enough to cut the haters, have my nails done and carry cute handbags?

Whenever I go into these stores, I feel like I have to justify myself. I have to prove I like these things. I have to prove I’m not a poser. Because obviously, my appearance is directly linked to what things I can and can’t enjoy, and how good I am at said things.

It is not posing when a female enjoys games, anime, comic books or other like things. Believe it or not, we’re not trying to act cool to impress boys (or girls). Here’s a crazy idea: maybe we enjoy it—just like you.

Instead of judging and hating each other, we should be promoting acceptance, love, and mutual enjoyment of cool and quirky things. After all, aren’t we the same geeks that were (most likely) picked on in school? Teased for liking things that weren’t the norm? Stereotyped as nerds and weirdos?

I am a nerd. I am a geek. I’m a weirdo. And I’m a girly girl. But you know what? I’m proud of that. I love these things, and I can’t wait to experience more. And if you’re ever tempted to judge someone else, maybe you should take a good hard look at yourself. Stop looking at me with those eyes. I do belong here—F off. I can’t hear you over the sound of me winning, anyway.

Stop telling me I can’t wear heels to uni.

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Image via Medical Daily.

There seems to be a stigma attached to women who wear high heels to uni—or anywhere casual, really. People say: why would you do that? That’s really silly. Don’t your feet hurt? Your feet look like they hurt.

News flash: if I wear heels, it’s because I want to—not to please you. Do my feet hurt? Probably. But at least I feel confident and pretty. Besides, it’s not like I always wear heels. I rarely do. Please, stop judging and be on your merry way. There are actually a lot of benefits I think people don’t realise—particularly in the colder months.

They look fabulous.

Now, I don’t think of myself as a vain person—but looking down at my feet or catching a glimpse of my shoes in the reflection of a window or glass door makes me feel confident and sophisticated. To me, wearing heels can signify professionalism. When I’m in the city or interning at a magazine in the city, all I can think about is how fantastic and confident they seem. While I have worn huge and gorgeous heels in the city (and yes, they do kill), I can’t help but feel it’s worth it. Besides, you can always pack flats: the best of both worlds.

They give you height.

I’ll admit, I’m a short ass—just below five foot three. Actually being able to see the top shelf, or over the sea of people is awesome. Plus, when you wear heels, you’re less likely to step in puddles and have to walk around with soaked converse or ballet flats. Winning.

Shoes, glorious shoes. Image via Express.

They make you work more.

It’s no secret that it does take more effort to wear heels—but, something I noticed today, is that it has the effect of making you feel warmer. Which makes sense—you’re exerting more energy in moving. The result: warmth. Fantastic for the upcoming winter months.

Because I want to.

But seriously, I don’t need your validation. I am not conforming to some kind of stereotype of women needing to wear damaging and painful heels. I’m doing it because I want to, and because it makes me happy. And if it makes me happy to occasionally don some heeled boots or a pair of pumps, then that is exactly what I’ll do.

Love yourself—all of yourself—no matter what your style.

It’s time to free the nipple.

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Model and actress Cara Delevigne posted this image on Instagram in support of #FreetheNipple. Image via Instagram.

Warning: this post contains nipples.

It all started with a simple Facebook post.

Renee Gerber is a 21-year-old Queenslander—and she’s the latest person to get on board with the #FreeTheNipple campaign—in particular, a social media campaign promoting—you guessed it—nipples.

The campaign—set to launch later today—plays a game of “Guess Who?” by editing female and male (as well as transgender) nipples onto male bodies in order to protest the irrational and unequal status of women created by the sexualisation of the female nipple and breast. The goal of the campaign is to grant women the right to legally expose their breasts, as well as to destigmatise breastfeeding in public. In order to promote inclusiveness, the 20 images (with various quotes and captions) will include nipples of all genders, sexualities, races and body types.

“It’s important to understand that they’re simply body parts, and if you constantly sexualise them, that’s your own inappropriate interpretation.” Ms Gerber said.

After viewing an Instagram post last Sunday night about Orange is the New Black star Matthew McGorry doing something similar, Ms Gerber decided to upscale it into a campaign for equality. A simple Facebook post about her frustrations brought the campaign to life—and 29-year-old Clinton Ulfhedinn-Visi into the picture, who too believes it’s an important issue, and that women shouldn’t  be shamed for their natural bodies.

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Matthew McGorry photoshopped Miley Cyrus and Chrissy Teigan’s nipples in support of the #FreetheNipple campaign. Image via Instagram.

“It’s about mother’s breastfeeding, [women] swimming in uncomfortable tops, having to constantly think about what you’re wearing, and if you’re covered up correctly,” he said.

“It’s about the fact I don’t even think about putting a shirt on when it’s hot around the house. It’s the fact that it’s just simply not fair and equal.”

The pair hope the campaign will raise awareness, encourage conversation and eventually lead to parliamentary change with enough support.

“We want it to go viral,” Ms Gerber said.

While some may believe campaigns like this are immoral and useless, they may not realise that in Australia, women can be imprisoned for showing their nipples. According to section 393 of the Crimes Act 1900 ACT, indecent exposure, which is defined as “a person who offends against decency by the exposure of his or her person in a public place”, carries a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment. The legislation is similar in all other Australian states, with varied terms of imprisonment and in some cases, hefty fines

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“Who’s nipples are those? They certainly aren’t mine, but this picture is okay because i’m a male. I even stuck my chest out for you, why should the fatty lumps on my chest be okay when others are not? If those same nipples were on a different chest, this picture would violate T&C’s, be deleted, and I might even get a ban on my account. Sounds a bit ridiculous? That’s because it is.” Image via Facbook.

But really, why do we consider it “indecent”? The primary function of the female breast is to breastfeed—it’s only become sexualised because we as a society believe it to be. And let’s not forget that it was only a few decades ago that it was illegal for men to expose their nipples in public.

In the United States, it’s illegal for women to be topless—even when breastfeeding—in 35 states, with threats of up to 3 years imprisonment, and $2500 in fines. It was only 75 years ago that it was illegal for men—in all states—to be shirtless.

This is why the Free the Nipple campaign—which originated in the US—is so important. It even has a film dedicated towards the movement, which proclaims itself to be a “mission to empower women across the world” by standing against female oppression and censorship.

Ms Gerber said it’s just another form of female oppression—and also points out that women in other countries aren’t even allowed to show their ankles. While this may seem absurd to us, to them, it is normal—it serves as proof that our expectation on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for a woman’s body is purely social conditioning.

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Are they female nipples? Who knows. Image supplied.

“Cultures have long controlled women’s bodies, and unfortunately ours is one of them,” Mr Ulfhedinn-Visi said.

Even Facebook and Instagram follows the same logic—a person may post a picture of a woman’s entire breast, so long as it doesn’t reveal the nipple, as that would violate its “community standards”.

Ms Gerber believes Facebook further perpetuates the sexualisation of the female nipple, and that it is important to challenge that.

“With our photos, we’re refusing to reveal if the nipples used are male or female. It’s almost impossible to visually tell the difference,” she said.

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IT’S OKAY, it’s a man. No violation to community standards here. Image supplied.

“The nipple is a way to feed children. We all start as female in the womb, that’s why men have nipples in the first place,” Mr Ulfhedinn-Visi said.

“This view we as a society have of women’s bodies is really toxic and harmful,”

“We deserve the right to our own bodies—we’re born with them. When that right is taken away, it becomes oppressive,” Ms Gerber said.

“It’s an example of pure female objectification.”

Support for the campaign—even before it’s official release—has been astounding, with many volunteering their nipples as tribute. Australian model JD Gower, as well as model and musician Barnaby Oakley, are involved as well as a few others yet to be confirmed. Ms Gerber hopes to collaborate with the Veronicas, as she’s collaborated with them on similar issues in the past. Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevigne are also strong supporters of the American Free the Nipple campaign.

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Miley Cyrus posted an image in support of the #FreetheNipple campaign, which was shortly removed for violation to community standards. Image via Instagram.

“People are waking up to the sexist and slut shaming ideologies we’ve been taught, and they’re not happy,” Ms Gerber said.

“It’s time for change.”

New abortion laws: one small step for womankind

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Yesterday, the ACT introduced new legislation which decrees there will be 50-metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics, preventing anti-abortion protesters from congregating and harassing women outside of ACT medical clinics.

The Health (Patient Privacy) Amendment Bill was introduced by Greens member Shane Rattenbury in July, who believes women should have access to abortion services without fear of abuse.

“This is fundamentally about a woman’s right to medical privacy,” he said, inviting would-be protesters to raise their concerns to the Legislative Assembly instead.

Anti-abortion protesters have been gathering outside abortion clinics for the past 16 years, according to Angela Carnovale of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.

“Even silent vigils convey judgement,” she said.

The amendment is one step closer towards reproductive equality, as under current legislation, women do not have control over their own bodies. The NSW Criminal Code states that any person who obtains or assists with an unlawful abortion may be sentenced up to ten years imprisonment. The 1971 case of R v Wald set the precedent that an abortion is lawful if it was deemed necessary to protect a woman from serious danger to her life, self or mental health.

Basically, if a practitioner doesn’t believe a woman meets this criteria, she cannot get an abortion. This sets the dangerous precedent that women and their opinions do not matter—they are secondary to an unborn foetus, and therefore second-class citizens.

End 12 is a Greens pro-choice campaign that has long fought for exclusion zones around clinics, as well as the decriminalisation of abortion. It believes women have the right to choose without fear of prosecution or harassment. A survey by the Greens indicated 86% of Australians believe abortion should legalised, while 76% did not know abortion is a criminal offence.

Greens senator Larissa Walters believes these laws are archaic, dangerous and regressive.

“They have no place in modern society where women should always have their own control over their bodies.”

Exclusion zones are set to come into force in six months.

The Intern: Break the Expectations

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Starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, this film far exceeded my expectations. It’s inspiring, uplifting, with the perfect amount of heartbreak and humour. It’s been three days since I saw the film, and I’m still reeling from the emotional rollercoaster I was put through.

De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a retired 70-year-old looking to spice up his monotonous life with something new. That spice just so happens to be a senior’s intern program for an up-and-coming online clothing business, headed by the awe-inspiring Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Since Ben is an actual senior (citizen), a lot of the typical intern questions don’t really work out, such as “where do you see yourself in ten years?”, and “what was your major?” followed by “do you remember?” Ben, however, handles himself at all times with pride, respect, patience and concern—just what the doctor ordered for Jules.

Jules, by the way, is a ground-breaking character. She’s a pillar of dedication, strength and determination, as well as kindness and concern for her employees and customers, truly going above and beyond. In the first nine months of creating her business, she met her five-year goal, and went from 25 to over 200 staff members. She also tends to ride a bicycle through her office—complete with a cup holder for coffee: a brilliant idea. And she hates it when people don’t blink. Or when they talk slow. Jules Ostin is truly a quirky inspiration, who isn’t afraid to smash glass ceilings. Go, Anne Hathaway! Girl power!

I hope i’m successful enough to ride a bike through my office some day.

That is, until the misogynistic and sexist investors want to replace Jules as CEO in favour for someone a little more “seasoned”. In order words, an older man. They convince her she’s doing too much, and as a woman, should let a man handle the business world. And at first, she believes them. But then Ben Whittaker saves the day with his old-world charm, and kind, caring demeanour. And he always encourages everyone to do the right thing—even if it’s hard. From Jules’s drunk chauffeur, to co-workers with lady problems, to cheating husbands: Ben can fix it all. His best tips? Breathe deeply. Take some me-time. Talk to people in person, and talk to them honestly, but most importantly: believe in yourself—because no one knows you as well as you.

Robert De Niro makes everything better.

The Intern also tackles some pretty complicated themes, from the invisibility of the elderly who still have music left inside them and a wealth of knowledge, to working mothers.

“It’s 2015, are we really still critical of working mums?” Ben asks. Indeed, we are. Jules, when not being a superstar businesswoman, is also a mum to her young daughter, Paige. Her husband, Matt, quit his job in marketing in order to be a stay-at-home dad. And on the surface, this works. Well, until Matt cheats repeatedly with a woman from Paige’s school. Matt eventually confesses, apologises profusely, saying he lost himself, but now he’s ready to be a real man—as if that was a valid excuse. Is this particular man so emasculated by his badass, bread-winning wife that he has to sleep around in order to validate his manhood? Please. Talk about toxic masculinity. And the worst part about all this: she takes him back. SHE TAKES HIM BACK. It’s not like it was a one-time thing—he was cheating on her for months, knowing it was wrong, and still did it anyway. But oh, throw a few compliments and lovey-dovey words in there, and everything is fine and dandy. Matt, you’re a jerk face.

Did I mention Ben is a criminal? Yeah, they save Jules’s ass by breaking into her mother’s house and deleting a rather inflammatory email. And oh, hey there Bumper from Pitch Perfect!

But even in the face of heart ache, even in the face of intense adversity, Jules does not give up. And that’s definitely something to commend. Ben is the perfect Robin to Jules’s Batman, and while I was still pissed off about that jerk-off Matthew, it was hard to not be inspired by the pair. You go guys, don’t be defined by societal opinions of age and gender. Smash those expectations. I believe in you.

Overall, it was a great movie—it left me wanting more. So I guess the writers did their job. The movie has also earned $107.8 million at the Box Office, so they must be doing something right. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking and it’s inspiring—and you won’t regret watching it.

Note: this article was originally published by me for Re-Views Magazine.