Today I saw the video posted below on gender bias in media.
I think these two media messages are linked. If a radio talk show host had suggested someone blow President Bush’s penis off because of 9/11 and then watch while he slowly died an agonizing death, I think that would be as close to treason as one could get. So why is there so little media attention to someone wanting to kill the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State? I think it’s because violence against women is commonplace in our society and across the globe. Violence against women is encouraged in some cultures as a means to control women and to ‘regain’ family honor. Violence against women is often considered a ‘ private matter’ when the violence is committed in a domestic situation between intimate partners. Violence against women in the form of rape and incest is clouded by spoken and unspoken questions about the woman’s role in inciting the violence perpetrated against her. Violence against women is too often see as a feminist issue stirred up by extremist who want to cause trouble.
Last week in Tacoma, Washington a former high-school student filed suit against the school, alleging rape at the hands of another student. AP and several local newspapers published this headline: Ex-student sues Tacoma schools over restroom sex. Really? rape becomes ‘restroom sex’? Rape does not equal sex and this headline is a symptom of the larger issue surrounding violence against women. Women are not believed and the violence done against them is often down-played, swept-under the carpet or characterized as something they wanted.
This Congress would not renew the Violence Against Women Act citing three key reasons:
- Tribal law: There is an epidemic of domestic violence on Native American reservations. According to the National Congress of American Indians, a Native American rights advocacy group, about 40 percent of Native American women will face domestic violence. But more than half of Native American women are married to non-Native American men, which means that when cases of abuse arise, the local tribal authorities can do very little because they don’t have jurisdiction over non-tribe members.
- Immigration: The original Violence Against Women Act contained provisions that allow undocumented victims of domestic violence to apply for legal status, called a U visa, if they agree to cooperate with law enforcement. But because it took a few years for the federal government to set up the program, there’s a backlog of thousands of U visas that were never used. The U visas are crucial for domestic violence victims because they give them work authorization along with legal status, which means they aren’t reliant on their abuser for income.
- LGBT rights: Republicans agree that organizations receiving federal grants shouldn’t discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. They just don’t understand why Democrats want to make it the law.
After much grass roots shaming, the Act was renewed.
The news breaking about sexual assault of women in the military is getting some traction, but not enough. And when Stubenville high-school football players were found guilty of gang-raping another student, video taping it, then sharing the video tape, Candy Crowley and other news journalists expressed sympathy to the boys.
Sir Patrick Stewart, geek-icon of my generation, wrote a revealing and emotional essay on the domestic violence in his house. He is now a powerful ally for women’s rights and ending violence against women.
My mother had no escape route. There were no refuges she could run to; no helplines to call; no advocates to speak out for her. No one came to help, even though everyone knew what was happening behind our closed doors. The small houses in our road were close together, and every Monday morning I walked to school with a bowed head, praying that I wouldn’t run into a neighbour who had heard the weekend’s rows. The police, when they were called, were little help. I remember hearing them say things like “She must have provoked him”, or “Well, Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight”. They had no idea. My mother did nothing to provoke the violence she endured –- even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict.
Violence against women is an epidemic.
- Every 15 seconds, somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner,
- Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
- One out of every five American women has been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
- Approximately 1,270,000 women are raped each year. Another 6,646,000 are victims of other sexual crime, including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, or unwanted sexual experiences.
- Over 22 million women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime.
- The FBI estimates that only 46% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.
- Factoring in unreported rapes, about 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 15 out of 16 will walk free.
The media images in the ads shown in the YouTube clip are not funny and they are not sexy. They are horrific portrayals that perpetuate and encourage desensitization toward the subjugation of women. Can the image of a dead woman in a trunk with her heels dangling be the only way to create a great ad for Jimmy Choo shoes? Is the appropriate response to split milk getting your head stood on by a man?
These are images of hate and dehumanization as much as is the call to sexually assault Clinton with a gun. Dehumanization and a campaign of superiority are always the calling cards of hate and destruction. When images of women being stepped on, choked, and used as furniture are the hallmark of advertisers wanting to see product, the advertisers are participating in and perpetuating violence against women.
Look at the video. Speak up. Stop the cycle.
- Patrick Stewart: The Legacy of Domestic Violence (The Guardian)
- Promiscuous character of woman irrelevant in rape cases: SC (ibnlive.in.com)
- “Egyptian Women’s Fight for Equality against the Specter of Violence” (projectafricanewschool.wordpress.com)
- Military members battle to sue over rape, sex assaults (wtvr.com)
- Raping the World — Sexual Assault In The US Military (uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com)
- Violence against women (flattrackfink.wordpress.com)
- I am rising…will you? (sashalane.wordpress.com)
- Bleeding Ex-Girlfriend Shooting Target At NRA Conference Promotes Violence Against Women (IMAGE) (addictinginfo.org)
- The Feminist Wire: 10 Ways Men Can End Violence Against Women (masculinityu.com)
- UN Study On The Status of Women, (Year 2000)
- Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) calculation based on 2000 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice
- National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010
- The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010
- Department of Justice 2010.