Safety Tips For Ladies: A brief overview

Today, I participated in what could readily be described as one of the at times funniest, and at time most depressing, hash tag threads on Twitter this year. The #safetytipsforladies hash tag stemmed from a reaction to this article from The Punch, and the credit for starting the entire Twitter-based landslide goes to one @hilaryjfb.

As Twitter is wont to do, the hash tag took off before you could say “angry women fed up with the patriarchy” three times in a row. I, like many other people, jumped on board and contributed my own insights into how women could keep themselves safe in public:

And again, as Twitter is wont to do, things got misinterpreted. At this point in time, it’s worthwhile noting that I speak only for me here. The idea for contributing to these tweets was not to ‘poke fun’ at real, lived experiences of rape or assault. Nor was it to try to say that methods of preventation against these crimes are utterly useless. And for anyone who was triggered or offended by my tweets (or retweets through me) I am sorry. That was never the intention, and the tweets were made in good faith.

What the tweets were (and still are!) all about is the opportunity to highlight the ridiculous, sometimes seemingly insane measures women take in their day-to-day life to prevent assault or rape. Women actually are told to practice jumping under cars in case they need to hide. They are told to never go jogging alone. They are told to not tie their hair in a pony tail, or to have long hair at all. They are told to always “be aware of their surroundings” and to “shout ‘fire!’ not ‘help!’ if they are attacked” (presumably because people care more about a fire than an attack on a woman?). We are told all of these things in order to ‘protect’ us. And yet, when these (sometimes ridiculous) methods fail, we are then told that it is STILL our fault.

If you ask a woman (any woman!) what her preventative measures are to protect herself from harm whilst she is out alone are, she could tell you in an instant. Here are mine:

  • Never wear heels when alone, always wear or carry flats so you can switch into them to run away
  • Carry keys ready in your hand, always check the back seat as you get into the car, and lock the doors straight away
  • Never check your phone or listen to music when you’re walking down a street at night
  • Make eye contact with anyone who walks past you
  • Always ask for identification before opening the front door to a delivery or service person
  • Always have an escape route. Know precisely where the nearest safe, well-lit place is, and know that you can run to it.
  • ‘Follow your instincts’ (whatever that means)

There are many more, but these are just the ones I personally have and use in my day-to-day life. As many women have noted before me, if I tried to list them all we could be here for hours.

As a side note, one of the truly ironic undertones to these sort of ‘safety tips’ (which I still follow, regardless!) is the fact that many crimes against women such as assault and rape are committed by people known to them. And hence, these tips are largely rendered useless in the majority of actual crimes.

And yet another solution presents itself. One in which we switch the focus from the victims (who are, after all, blameless) to the perpetrators.  Quite simply, the solution is partly resolved by society forcing the actual perpetrators to take responsibility for crime they committed. The courts, the media, and society at large don’t excuse the perpetrator’s behaviour on the woman’s level of intoxication, or the fact that she was wearing ‘slutty’ clothing, or that she must have been asking for it because she was out late, walking through an abandoned car park. Additionally, another large chunk of the solution is, as always, telling men not to rape. Of course, ‘telling’ is different to actually achieving. But  one of the most important methods to addressing this ‘telling men not to rape’ criteria is, I believe, education programs on consent.

And finally, by not simply ‘telling’ men not rape (because, as I’ve just said, ‘telling’ often isn’t good enough). But by giving the crime of rape the attention, and severity, it deserves. By not claiming that being convicted of rape will ruin the perpetrator’s future. By not blaming the victim, but instead giving her the support she needs. By not wasting time on telling women what to do or what not to do, but by instead focusing on the perpetrators of the crime.

I’m sick of being told how to keep myself safe. When do we stop focusing on me, and start focusing on the actual criminals?

Airline’s ‘male & child policy’, and its inherent sexism

It’s not often that you find examples of companies policies that discriminate against men. But, lo and behold, Virgin has managed to produce one.

In case you haven’t been watching the news/listening to talkback radio over the last week or so, here is the gist of the story: in the last week, a Sydney fireman was asked to change seats on a local Virgin flight because he was seated next to two unaccompanied boys. It was then reported that a male nurse had a similar experience on a Qantas flight in June, when he was asked to move away from an unaccompanied young girl.

Ouch.

Image sourced from Sydney Morning Herald 

Now, let’s all just take a moment to reflect on the absolute short sightedness and idiocy of this particular policy. Virgin have attempted to do a good thing, and have executed this very poorly. By attempting to assuage the fears and concerns of modern parents, they have unwittingly managed to imply that an entire gender is dangerous, and unsuitable companions for young children.

Which brings me to my next point: it’s not only men that can be dangerous. Although statistics suggest that the majority of child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of men, there is obviously a small contingent of women that also perpetuate this abuse. And a policy that is as broad, and as sweeping as Virgin’s, does not allow for this fact.

This policy is, of course, inherently stupid and should be canned. As suggested by a variety of other media commentators, a number of alternative solutions could be put into place by Virgin – if it could be bothered making the effort. John Birmingham has mentioned that British Airways now seats unaccompanied minors in their own section. A solution such as this would be easy enough to implement, and avoids any ‘unintentional’ discrimination that may occur.

Policies of this sort unnerve me, for several reasons. The stereotypical perspective that adult men are all potential pedophiles is one – but it also makes me wonder what comes next. Will Virgin next suggest that only big, strong brawny men sit in the exit rows – as they are, of course, best equipped to help the women and children out of the plane in the event of an emergency? Should only male pilots be allowed to fly a plane, as their reflexes are clearly proven to be ‘better’ than females?

Of course, these suggestions are all obviously (hopefully) far from the truth – but it wasn’t that long ago that we stopped calling them ‘air hostesses’ and ‘stewardesses’ and started using the gender-neutral term of ‘flight attendants’. But in light of the recent revelation surrounding this particular policy, I would be interested to see what other discriminatory policies Virgin (and other airlines) have up their sleeves.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie posters – are you serious?

This series is one of my very favourite book trilogies. A bit predictable, given my views on men and women, but nonetheless I adored the original books – from the Swedish setting, to the character of Lisbeth Salander, right down to book’s themes of highlighting how “men hate women” (in case you’re wondering, that’s the title of the original book in Swedish).

In saying that, I have so many problems with how the current American version of the film was marketed to the English-speaking public. That’s what I’m tackling this issue, rugby-style, today – it’s been niggling at me ever since I saw the film a few nights ago.

The Film Posters:

Firstly, a comparison. Here are two of the Swedish versions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are two of the American/international versions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The differences are blatantly obvious. Particularly so in how they play on the dynamics between Lisbeth and Mikael. Firstly, looking at how Lisbeth and Mikael are positioned in the second Swedish poster – she’s in the foreground, gazing directly into the camera, and looks a lot more confronting than Mikael, who’s just chilling out on a chair in the background. She’s crouched, alert, and dare I say, ready to pounce. In the first Swedish poster, she’s staring straight out into the camera, with just a hint of aggression on her face. Not even a hint of sexuality.

If you jump straight from these posters to the first poster in the American/International series, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking it was a completely different storyline. But nope, that’s the very same Lisbeth Salander- albeit, one with less clothes.

I’m not sure if the people marketing the American version got the memo about Lisbeth Salander not liking to be touched, and the very graphic rape scenes in the book – but I’m going to take an educated guess that they either don’t know, or don’t care. Because why else would they have put her in a poster, naked, in a very submissive, ‘protected’ pose?

Rooney Mara said this about the poster:

There’s a certain way people are used to seeing nude women, and that’s in a submissive, coy pose, not looking at the camera. And in this poster, I’m looking dead into the camera with no expression on my face. I think it freaks a lot of people out.”

You know what wouldn’t be a submissive, coy pose? One in which she’s not some weird cross between a stranglehold and a protective arm placed across her by Daniel Craig. One in which she actually looks something besides passive, or at the very least, neutral. Give me the Lisbeth Salander holding a golf club, or a gun, or riding a motor cycle any day.  Because I’m sure as hell not identifying with the one with ‘no expression’ on her face. The only thing that freaks me out here is how she magically lost her clothes.

And for all the people out there that argue that Rooney isn’t sexualised in this pose, let me ask you a question: why doesn’t Daniel Craig also have his clothes off?

Because he’s an older man (albeit, an attractive one). He isn’t a young, sexy woman with her nipple pierced.

I’ll probably carry this into another post, because there’s quite a bit I’d like to say about the entire series (books, and films), and I won’t be able to do it justice all in one hit.

Who has the power, Sam de Brito?

There was a column published in yesterday’s ‘M’ lift out of The Sunday Age, written by Sam de Brito. In his article, he discusses how far men will go to “shag” women- playing “the white knight at some point – prancing about a woman, feigning chivalry, when their motives were a little more carnal.” (As a side note, the article isn’t up online yet, so I can’t link to it- but I will as soon as it appears- please see the picture at the bottom of the post for a scan of the article, or visit here for the original article).

Now, I’m not going to disagree that this happens, and Sam gives a few fine examples of just how far men will go to get into a woman’s pant’s. But (isn’t there always a but?), the concept that women hold power over men because of their sexuality and/or attractiveness is tired and oft-used excuse.

I just want to break his argument down into a few points, because I found it so unbelievably ignorant in some parts.

  • The idea that the “knowledge” of the “crazy lengths [that] blokes will go to to bed a woman… could be of huge value to most women”.

Women are told consistently about how their attractiveness gives them a certain sort of power. The thing is, this ‘power’ is a very narrow, specific type. It’s restricted to women that men find attractive. For arguments sake, I would say that these women are typically physically attractive (as De Brito says himself, one of the girls in his story was a ‘cutie’). If this power was truly worthwhile, it would be applicable to more than just a select group of women. As one writer puts it, the power the command attention in this fashion is so circumscribed – if it was really empowering, wouldn’t it be empowering for all women? Where are the 70 year old lap dancers?

It’s all very well and good to say that attractive women have power because men want to have sex with them, but by doing so it dismisses all the other ways in which women lack power. Women are still, on average, paid less than men. Women are underrepresented in our Parliament, and in upper-ranking positions in businesses. And before anyone starts telling me about how women can use their sexuality to advance themselves, just remember this: women shouldn’t HAVE to do this. This ‘power’ of being attractive, or appealing to a person’s sexuality, isn’t something that women should have to use. They should be respected in their own right, and not have to call upon their their sexuality to get what they want or need.

  • “This… shows the crazy lengths blokes will go to to bed a woman, but also how craven and duplicitous we can be once we’ve achieved that goal”.

Come on. Really? You’re also going to insult men now? Not all men will “crawl a mile over broken glass” to reach a woman – and not all are craven and duplicitous once they actually do. Can we please stop with the gender stereotypes for a moment and recognise that some men (along with some women) will go to great lengths to have sex – and other men and women simply won’t. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that. Stop buying into these cheap stereotypes, and stop perpetuating them with columns such as this. Branch out and write something that recognises the vast difference between various men and various women, and try not to further reinforce this “women are sexy so they have power” stereotype any more.

Apologies for the poor quality scan, but I thought it would be best to have some copy of the article online, as I can’t link to a copy. Just double click to enlarge the image.