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.

How do you feel about drinking Pussy?

But really, how do you feel about drinking pussy?

Oh, not THAT sort of pussy! No. God, don’t be so FILTHY. I meant the energy drink, clearly! No double entendres here, thanks very much. See, look, THE DRINK!

Straight from the Pussy website, apparently, “the name Pussy shocks and demands attention – that’s the point. Inhibition is a recipe for mediocrity. This is a premium energy drink named with confidence.”

Ah – so I am *supposed* to be shocked! Well, that’s okay then. Funnily enough, it doesn’t mention anything about me also feeling vaguely homicidal, and wanting to punch the creators in the face. Guess they had a limited word count.

The other part that I find vaguely hilarious (in between me head butting the wall, that is). “This is a premium energy drink named with confidence.”

Confidence? Really?! See, I would have gone with stupidity, sexism, idiocy, and downright blatant misogyny before I would have said “confidence”. Maybe they were confident in their idiocy? Confident in their ability to laugh off the ridiculous amount of sexism they’ve managed to pack into one marketing campaign?

After trawling through their website, I’ve reproduced a few of snappy marketing one liners on there for your amusement:

“Pussy starts conversations. It believes in having a good time as often as possible”

“Looking for Pussy? To find out which bars, venues and stores stock Pussy near you, call us on 020 7348 9870.”

“Pussy is a 100% natural drink. No nasty chemicals and nothing manufactured. It is made for people looking for a natural alternative.”

“Pussy is spontaneous, entertaining, optimistic and fun.”

(All quotes taken from the Pussy website)

(Also, if you’re my mother and you’re reading this, please skip the next paragraph).

Now, let’s theoretically pretend that this double meaning is ACTUALLY trying to refer to a woman’s genitals for a minute, and compare what they’ve said with the truth.

Is my vagina spontaneous? Only when it decides to send me my period a week early, or late. So I guess you can have that one, Pussy.

Is my vagina entertaining? Only since I taught it how to play the piano.

Is it optimistic? God yes. Sometimes my vagina and I just sit up late into the night, talking. And I’m all, “God, my life is SO SHIT”, and my vagina is then all, “Nawww, Jess, cheer up! Be happy! You’ve got such a good life!”. Yep. My vagina is definitely optimistic.

Is is fun? Of course. Sometimes my vagina and I just go out for coffee, and get our nails done together, and then we sit on the beach.. oh, wait. I’m thinking of this ad now:

Does my vagina start conversations? Perhaps not mine specifically, but I do know that, according to popular culture, it’s all that men seem to talk about. So again, correct. Though personally, my vagina’s not that chatty.

And if you’re looking for my vagina? You probably won’t find it by calling that number.

But, in all serious, and vagina jokes aside, this entire ad campaign and product is just foul. It’s disgusting, it’s stupid, and it’s trying to play into a market of double meanings and rude jokes.

Not only does it manage to take sexism in advertising to an entire new level, but it also does so whilst claiming that it is pushing the boundaries, and by not being “mediocre”.

The creator (a man, obviously), Jonnie Shearer, obviously did not consider the thousands of women who are going to be serving drinks behind a bar, or simply standing beside someone as they order a “pussy”. He is obviously never going to be in the position of being an 18-year-old bar maid on a busy Saturday night, when some sleazy guy leans over and asks her for a pussy. I’m not saying that Jonnie Shearer caused these situations – but by god, he most certainly had a hand in furthering the instances of them.

All things aside, it is NOT okay for this sort of post-modern, retro sexist, double-entendre stinking pile of crap to exist. It simply isn’t. Anyone with half a brain can see that their advertising campaigns are blatantly sexist, and if it was up to me, I would show Jonnie Shearer the world that exists outside of his male-dominated perspective. A world where rape exists, a world where “pussy” is actually sold in the sex trade, and a world where woman have to be confronted with their genitals treated as a form of humour for this “natural energy drink”.

And just in case you were in any doubt about whether this product, and their advertisements, are sexist? Here are a few more posters advertising the drink:

You could argue that, perhaps, these ads are empowering. I mean in the last one the woman is clearly getting *something* out of it. And in the others, all the women seem to be having a pretty good time.

But there’s a few things I’d like to point out. In all but one ad, the man is holding the drink- ie, he is drinking the pussy (and in the last ad, he appears to be literally doing that). The woman is always naked, the man is always clothed – he’s a position of power, and she’s in a state of undress (which, coincidentally, is how uncomfortable some women might feel after seeing these ads. Like they’re naked). And finally? The women are all typically attractive (as are the men – but the men aren’t naked). Yet another body image issue for women to be concerned about. The only women deemed suitable to have ‘attractive pussies’ are slim, have light skin, and are young.

I’ll leave the final word to the advertising guru, Don Draper.

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”

Pussy seem to have forgotten this while they were busy trying to create attention for themselves. Controversy wanes, publicity wanes, but happiness doesn’t. And who on earth is this drink supposed to make happy? Not women. Not the majority of men. That leaves them a very small market.

Don Draper isn’t pleased with you, pussy.

Skirts, sexism, and the workplace: A response piece

On Friday, I came across this absolute gem of an article on The Age Online. Excuse me for not reposting the entire piece, but I have faith in your ability to click on a link.

In summary, the article (written by Paula Joye, who I honestly thought had a bit more sense) discussed the findings of a study that “showed 300 people pictures of women dressed in navy blue skirt suits and pant suits…Within three seconds, the majority perceived that the women wearing skirts were more confident, successful and powerful than their trouser clad sisters. The results concluded that the option women have to wear such attire creates a competitive advantage within the workplace…Professor Karen Pine, who co-led the research, said that the results contradicted previous studies that suggested women should dress more like men to succeed in business.”

Interesting.

“Women still have to maintain an identity that balances professionalism with attractiveness. The skirt suit may achieve that balance without appearing provocative”… said Professor Pine.

My first job – as assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of a fashion magazine – came with a dress code. I was allowed to wear pants (never jeans) but only on days that my boss was not receiving clients. If we had external visitors then I had to wear a dress or a skirt. My boss was a woman – very intelligent and powerful.  Her wardrobe requirements had nothing to do with sexism. At the time, I was hugely resentful but she taught me an important lesson about impressions and the art of smoke and mirrors. You aren’t necessarily what you wear but what others imagine you to be while wearing it.”

Okay. Hold up. Women have to balance professionalism with attractiveness? And this is done through wearing a skirt. But this somehow ISN’T sexist, and it IS a good thing.

Oh, and also, Paula? The notion that you can justify having to wear a skirt during your first job because your boss “was an intelligent and powerful woman” DOES have something to do with sexism. Unless the boys are also forced to wear skirts on the days that you’re “receiving clients” then it’s sexism, honey. Plain and simple.

“The real message in this study is that perhaps we’ve actually evolved. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? It’s no longer 1955 when women had no choice other than to wear a skirt to work in order to make a man coffee. Now we run companies, make our own cups of tea and have the choice to wear whatever we wish in the workplace. The women who blazed this trail had to fight hard and wear a lot of ugly trousers for us to be able to enjoy these progressions.”

This isn’t evolution, Paula dear. Evolution would be when women’s attractiveness DOESN’T EVEN ENTER THE EQUATION FOR HOW SUCCESSFUL SHE IS. This very same study that you claim is “good news” is actually suggesting that we don’t really have a choice in what we wear, and that in order to succeed, we should wear skirts in order to be considered more attractive. You’ve just contradicted yourself.

“It has nothing to do with the being viewed as a sexual object – far from it,” says Penny, 38, a lawyer. “It’s about putting a highlighter pen through your femininity. Many clients want to work with women as a preference because of our empathy, multi-tasking and ethics. A skirt suit is just an outward reminder that they’ve backed the right horse.”

PAULA. STOP GENERALISING. Not ALL women are more empathetic, or better at multi tasking. Men can also multi task, and are good at “ethics” (as a side track, WHAT exactly is this vague term supposed to mean? That women are better at identifying what is right and wrong?). These forms of generalising are complete and utter rubbish, as multiple studies will tell you. Have you ever heard of biological determinism? Because you’re doing it, sister.

“Let’s not turn these findings into a loss for the feminist cause… At last, women who wear skirts aren’t perceived as ditsy, sexually provocative or assistants. We no longer need to wear pants to be viewed as successful – we have a choice. Can’t we celebrate the fact we no longer have to turn down the volume on our femininity to compete?

Suddenly we have an advantage that men can’t cash in on (and don’t think for a second that they wouldn’t if they could). It’s the day that blokes start getting promoted for wearing skirts that we should be worried about.”

Oh, hardy har har. Boys wearing skirts. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

NO. It’s not funny.

Your entire argument is convoluted, and contradicts itself many times. You claim that your (female) boss made you wear a skirt on days you wear expecting clients, and yet this wasn’t sexist. You also claim that we are evolved enough to appreciate that a woman can wear a skirt OR pants, but then also claim that if a woman wants to be successful, she should wear a skirt. And that we should use our femininity to our advantage, because it’s something men “can’t do”. You want to know why men can’t do it? Because their brains are valued more than how shapely their legs are, Paula. That’s what we SHOULD be aiming for here.

Now, excuse me whilst I go change into a skirt so my boss knows that he has “backed the right horse”.

Maxibon’s latest JAWSOME effort

This ad is a strong contender for the Worst Ad of the Year. It reeks on every level of sexism, objectification, and general stupidity. Not to mention it looks like it was designed by a bunch of snotty, sniggering 15 year olds.

However. We here at YADTW do not discriminate between the unwittingly bad and the deliberately terrible ads- instead, we will metaphorically castrate the lot of them before throwing them back into the dog house. So, without further ado, let us begin:

So many questions…

DO I have a weak bite? DOES it prevent me from enjoying man food?

Clearly, I DO have a weak bite. Just like this guy. And like him, I also have to walk around licking an ice cream and wearing teddy bear floaties. It was alright up until those floods. Then everyone started thinking I was an alarmist. The social embarrassment factor has been THROUGH THE ROOF.

But fear not! Maxibon have a designed a, uh, CHEW TOY  (how very manly. A freakin’ chew toy) to build up my chindominals and jawceps (yes, those are technical terms) and I will be transformed into a BITING GOD. Just like this guy:

(As a side note, I’m not sure if being a biting god is a good thing. Especially if you’re in the hooker industry. Which, for the record, I am not. But just sayin’…you’d only be useful when someone needed some nuts cracked, in my opinion)

Additionally, Maxibon appear to have a fondness for the word “man”. how many times can they say “man” in a sentence. Three times? Five?

“The man choc, man biscuit and crunchy man nuts make for one freakin’ manly manwhich, man. And that’s why you need manchew.”

Seven. Of COURSE. How could I forget about the MANWHICH and the MAN NUTS?!

See? Even the token ‘hot babe’ was shocked that I forgot about the man nuts! How could I?!

And Maxibon have actually demonstrated that chewing on a dog toy has links to “spikes in testosterone”. They even have charts and shit, people!

Someone should really tell this to those AMI penis people- that way, we can have a bunch of dudes simultaneously nostril snorting and chewing. Excellent.

Maxibon also helpfully suggest that I “man chew at home, man chew at work, and man chew for two!”. Excellent! So much chewing for me to do!

I can just imagine now what happens when I bust my man chew toy out at work.

My boss: “What are you doing?!”

Me: “WHUFJKEMDSX” *slobbers*

My boss: “You’re insane. You’re also fired.”

Finally, Maxibon has decided to advertise that they “have a reserve stash of man chews that they found in a warehouse somewhere”. How very precise. A warehouse ‘somewhere’. But they don’t want these man chews going to just “any old lickers”. Oh no. Only the “worthy” lickers. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my moment. I can now get the jawceps I was destined for.

And then I can pick up these lay-dies (even though they look like a bunch of lickers to, I’m cool with that… *wink wink, nudge nudge*) and go do ‘manly stuff’. Then I’ll chew on my manly chew toy for 10 minutes every day. AND. IT. WILL. BE. JAWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!