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Mapping the Canadian Feminist Blogosphere

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by Jarrah Hodge

When I first started Gender Focus, almost four years ago now, I couldn’t find a lot of Canadian feminist blogs. There were a couple that were going strong, some that had long been abandoned, and no convenient way to find others.

So last year, Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) Vancouver decided that it would be valuable to catalogue and map the Canadian feminist blogosphere. Between January and April of 2012, Wammer and SFU student Candace Coulson started her research, under the direction of the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG).

The result is a report, released earlier this year, that contains analysis of 108 Canadian blogs that are either explicitly feminist or identified as “of feminist interest”. Coulson looked at what topics bloggers addressed, the level of engagement from commenters, how many blogs were run and authored by one person as opposed to multi-author blogs, and whether the bloggers explicitly identified as feminist.

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Some key stats that came out of the report:

  • 38% of Canadian blogs that covered feminist issues did not claim the feminist label, while 55% identified explicitly as feminist Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Why I’m Supporting the #FBrape Campaign

Facebook users are asking advertisers whether they really want their logos to be seen alongside jokes and threats about beating and raping women

Facebook users are asking advertisers whether they really want their logos to be seen alongside jokes and threats about beating and raping women

by Jarrah Hodge

Trigger-Warning for rape jokes, rape threats, misogyny

Over the past week there’s been a lot of buzz around the campaign launched by WAM! (Women, Action, & the Media) to call on prominent companies like Dove and Audible.com to pull ads from Facebook until the social networking site implements new policies and enforcement to ban gender-based hate speech. If you weren’t aware just how big the problem is, WAM! has cataloged some examples of what kind of content Facebook lets slide (serious trigger-warning for this link). When I posted the link to examples on Facebook most people commented that they were shocked and couldn’t even make it through reading all the horrible examples. The sad thing is that they were not hard to find.

But there is hope, and if we keep pushing, together we can show we are stronger than Facebook. In the first three days of the campaign over 22,000 tweets (using the #FBrape hashtag) and almost 2000 emails were sent to advertisers and the message is getting through. I’m feeling so motivated and inspired by this campaign and have been tweeting up a storm myself because I am so tired of having to try and keep reporting these types of posts individually, with often limited success. They offend me deeply but they also frighten me. The fact that anyone thought it was okay to create a Facebook page called “This is Why Indian Girls are Raped” or joke about “roundhouse kick[ing]” and “chokeslamm[ing]” a little girl is just horrifying. The fact that Facebook leaps all over requests to ban pictures of breastfeeding mothers but somehow thinks rape jokes don’t violate their community standards is appalling.

For me, though, this campaign is also personal.

Earlier this year someone on Twitter alerted me to the fact that a practically-professional Facebook troll was using my headshot as the profile picture for a really stupid and unsophisticated attempt at satire: a page supposedly created by a “Christian grad student” (represented by my picture) warning people against marijuana. The page owner, who had at least 10 accounts I could find under different fake names, had made my picture a target by posting incendiary information and graphics on the page.

When I found my picture on that page, there were more than 100 vicious, misogynistic comments on it. Here is just a small selection of the gems: Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 5 Comments

How Media Literacy Can Help End Violence Against Women

Jaclyn Friedman giving a talk at Memorial University. Photo credit: James Learie from Muse Magazine

As part of Prevention of Violence Against Women Week, the amazing Joanna Chiu is writing a series of posts for Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services. Here is the first post, cross-posted with permission. You’ll be able to read the whole series at the BWSS Ending Violence blog.

Like many students who were sexually assaulted in college, I didn’t identify what had happened to me as sexual assault until after I graduated. That moment of realization happened when I was sitting at a lecture hall back at my alma mater, the University of British Columbia. I had just returned to Vancouver from New York City, where I had completed a magazine internship and observed the curiosities and arrogance in the world’s media capital firsthand.

I was excited to be back in my hometown to catch a talk at UBC from feminist activist and writer, Jaclyn Friedman. Friedman is the director of WAM! (Women, Action & the Media): a global network that promotes gender justice in the media. She also co-edited the groundbreaking book, Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape with Jessica Valenti.

In her lighthearted but powerful presentation, Friedman talked about how messages in the media blame and shame survivors of sexual assault, and condone or trivialize sexual assault. In Canada, 1 in 2 women have survived at least one incident of sexual or physical violence, and in Vancouver, rates of sexual assault have only increased in recent years.

An idea that is common in the media, which helps sustain this epidemic of violence, is the notion that a person could be “asking for it.” For example, The New York Times wrote an article last year that was heavily victim blaming against an 11-year-old girl after she was brutally gang raped in Texas. The article included a quote saying that the girl “dressed older than her age,” and speculated about what the girl could have done for her rapists to “have been drawn into such an act.” Read more

Posted on by Joanna Chiu in Feminism, Pop Culture 7 Comments

I’m Sick of Being Sick of Rape Culture

This article, by Jessica Critcher, was originally posted at the WAM! blog. Cross-posted with permission.

I must sound like a broken record. I know people must get sick of hearing it, because I get sick of saying it, but we live in a rape culture. To preface what I’m about to say, I would like to give a brief description of what that means, as defined in Transforming a Rape Culture and quoted in a very powerful piece on Shakesville:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

Emphasis mine.

This latest wave of frustration was set in motion by a post on CampusBasement.com entitled “10 Ways to Fool a Sorority Girl Into Bed.” The post has since been taken down, but lives on forever in screenshots (and our nightmares).

The list includes advice such as:

2. Keep refilling her cup. Soon she will be unable to walk and need a place to “rest.”

4. Once she is sufficiently intoxicated (and only then!) say something that would earn the hashtag #failedpickuplines. She’ll stare at you in admiration.

7. Make the lighting in the room very dim. Once she says, “I’m sleepy,” you know you got that bitch on hold.

10. When the moment is right… move in for the kill. Like a tiger.

Not surprisingly, this “article” was met with some criticism. Shortly before it was taken down, Campus Basement added the following disclaimer:

This article has generated a tremendous amount of interest from readers. Campus Basement would like to clarify that the author meant absolutely no harm when she posted it, and our staff firmly understands that no means no. For more information on how you can help end sexual assault and abuse, visit www.takebackthenight.org.

Also we posted our community guidelines yesterday, please take a look: http://www.campusbasement.com/pages/community-guidelines. This article is from a sole individual and doesn’t reflect the views of Campus Basement.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly, “interest” is a weird way of spelling “rage.” Secondly, there is a difference between not meaning harm and not doing harm. While this could have been intended as some sort of satire, it is unfortunately too close to reality to be taken as a joke. One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism 2 Comments

Steven Greenstreet Isn’t Sexist; He Just Loves Hot Chicks

This article was originally posted at the WAM! (Women, Action, & the Media) blog. Cross-posted with the permission of WAM! and the post author, Gender Focus’ own Jessica Critcher!

If you haven’t heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Since the movement started in September, similar protests have sprung up in over 100 American cities and 81 countries around the globe. There has even been a show of support from Antarctica.

While major news outlets have finally started to give the movement some coverage, the primary method for spreading news about the Occupy movement has been the internet. A tweet attributed to Keith Olbermann describes the situation saying, “For those asking ‘where is the media coverage of the police riot at #OccupyBoston’ – Twitter IS the media coverage.” Updates, photos and video can be posted instantly. People who can’t make it out to the protests can watch events unfold live on their computer screens. This is a major reason why the movement is able to have such a global reach.

But as always seems to be the case, where there is media coverage, there is exploitation. Documentary film maker Steven Greenstreet has created a video and matching Tumblr blog called Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street. Why? In his own words:

Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc. But when we arrived at Zuccotti Park in New York City, it evolved into something more.

Apparently, since Greenstreet is telling us that there is something more to his page than hot chicks, we can’t get mad. In response to negative backlash, he said:

Apparently a lot of controversy has erupted online from people passionately opining (among many things) that this is sexist, offensive, and dangerously objectifies women. It was not my intent to do that and I think the spirit of the video, and the voices within, are honorable and inspiring.

He has also been quoted by Salon saying, basically, that he only titled it “Hot Chicks” to get attention, so we shouldn’t be mad. So which is it? Did he start off with sophomoric intentions only to be persuaded by the movement’s integrity, or did he start the blog with noble intentions and a sexy title to get the word out?

Frankly the answer is not important. No matter how you look at it, this is still a creepy form of voyeuristic objectification that raises serious concerns. Media that objectifies and sexualizes women creates a space where violence against women is more easily tolerated. Labeling these women as hot chicks, even if he does lip service to their political beliefs by calling them “smart hot chicks” implies that their only contribution to the movement is through their appearance.

Greenstreet is perpetuating the message that this is a men’s movement and women are simply around for decoration. While he vehemently denies that what he is doing is sexist, that claim relies on telling feminists they don’t know what they’re talking about. Last I checked, women make up about half of the 99%. And of that 99%, women, especially women of color, are disproportionally affected by poverty and our current economic crisis.

Though there are several unifying factors behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is also just as easy to exclude people who are already marginalized and excluded by society at large. Greenstreet seems to forget his privileged position as a white male. As Collier Meyerson points out:

The call for the redistribution of wealth alone does not get at the root of the problem. We have to think about this more critically and we have to be more vigilant of those (like homeboys that made this video) that are trying to keep existing power structures steadily in place.

Thankfully, the irritating chauvinists do not speak for the women of Occupy Wall Street, as they are more than happy to speak for themselves. There is a petition on MomsRising.org to encourage local mayors to be supportive of OWS. There is a sub-category of the protest in Chicago specifically for feminist issues and concerns within the Occupy movement. And all over, individual women are speaking about ways to make the movement more inclusive of women.

Jill Filipovic has turned Greenstreet’s recent rape joke into a powerful criticism of his film and his contradicting stance on women’s rights. While there is opportunity for objectification by the media, we can also use the media to speak on our own behalf.

Angi Becker Stevens sums up the need for a feminist analysis of OWS, saying “As feminists, we need to seize the opportunity to plug into this movement and make our voices heard. In turn, those already in the movement must be willing to listen. That’s what real solidarity is all about.” Why couldn’t Greenstreet have made his film about that?

Photo credit: IIP State via Flickr

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture Leave a comment