Author Archives: newswithnipples

This is not how male violence against women should be reported

Journalists have a very important and privileged position in our society. They control what news stories we get to know about, and the way we tend to think about those stories. The words they use to describe a crime become the words we use to describe that crime. Which is why it matters when they get their reporting so wrong, like they do almost every time they report male violence against women. They focus on the victim and what she was doing, and barely mention the male perpetrator of that crime. As a result, when we talk about sexual assault we talk about women when we should be talking about men.

Take this story by Megan Levy on smh.com.au: Unconscious mother raped in toilet block while daughter cowered in cubicle:

A mother was knocked unconscious and raped in a public toilet block while her six-year-old daughter cowered in a cubicle just metres away on the NSW south coast, police say.

Australian journalists use the pyramid style of reporting, which puts all the important bits in the first sentence. There’s no mention of the man who did it, so Levy clearly didn’t think the man who committed the crime was an important part of her story about his crime.

The second sentence offers up an excuse for his actions – he’d been drinking:

The 37-year-old woman woke to find the man, who smelled like cigarettes and alcohol, lying on top of her on the floor of the toilet block in Batemans Bay late last month. He then ran away.

What is more important – that a man hit a woman so hard he knocked her out and then he raped her, or that the victim was 37, the daughter was six, the daughter was in a toilet cubicle, the cubicle was a few metres away, the toilet block was in Batemans Bay, Batemans Bay is on the south coast of NSW, it happened a few months ago, and the attacker smelled like cigarettes and alcohol? It’s a tough one, I know. It’s the kind of thing that would keep you up at night, wondering if you’d made the right decision about what was more important in your story about a violent crime.

The third sentence about what he did doesn’t even mention him at all:

Detectives initially believed the woman had been indecently assaulted during the attack, however they now say she was raped in the minutes that she lay unconscious on the toilet block floor.

Here Levy, let me fix that for you: “Detectives initially believed the man indecently assaulted the woman during the attack, however they now say he raped her”.

Later, Levy writes “The mother was then punched and knocked unconscious, before she was sexually assaulted”, when she should be writing “The man punched the woman, knocking her unconscious, and then he sexually assaulted her”. This is not complex stuff. The words we all use to talk about male violence are important. As Jane Gilmore writes in her excellent piece about male violent crime, the phrase “violence against women” means “Violence is the subject, women are the object, and the perpetrators of the violence aren’t part of the discussion”.

I know I keep going on about this, but journos don’t report other crimes this way. I used to give them the benefit of the doubt with this stuff. But this is not news to them. I know journos read these posts. Some of them contact me to say thank you, and some of them ask for advice on their stories. I’ve emailed Levy before about this. But there’s also the sub editor at smh.com.au and the homepage editor who didn’t see a problem with the way this story was reported. They either didn’t notice, or didn’t care, that the story about a man’s crime barely mentions him at all.

Update 15 December 2014:

Another horrific story about a man killing a woman but you wouldn’t know he did it by reading the headline: Deer Park woman found dead in suspected murder-suicide

On theage.com.au homepage, journos have minimised the man’s role in his violence:

The Age does its best to ensure we don't think about the man being a murderer

The Age does its best to ensure we don’t think about the man being a murderer.

But that’s not the worst bit. I am absolutely gobsmacked by this comment from the cop in charge of the investigation:

Homicide Detective Sergeant Paul Tremain said police were aware of a history of domestic violence going back to at least 2012.

“There was an intervention order taken out in 2012 which expired four days ago,” Detective Sergeant Tremain said.

“These are just shocking circumstances of two people who couldn’t work out their differences and it’s ended in a tragedy like this,” he said.

COULDN’T WORK OUT THEIR DIFFERENCES? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? They “couldn’t work out their differences” is what you say when a relationship ends. It most definitely is NOT what you say when a man with a history of being violent, threatening or abusive towards a woman decides to murder her. Tremain’s attitude is appalling. Australia has a huge problem with male violence against women, and many people have attitudes that excuse that violence. Journalists who interview neighbours for quotes about what a “nice guy” the murderer was are part of the problem because they are trying to excuse his actions. And yes, Detective Sergeant Paul Tremain, you are also part of the problem.

Calling 18-25 year olds

Woah, July was my last post? Sheesh. Sorry about that. Now I’m about to do something rude and ask for a favour.

I’m currently researching the news habits of young Australian adults, with a particular focus on social media and comedy as sources of news. It’s for my doctorate. Yeah, the one I’m still doing. I know, I know.

Anyway, I need some more 18-25 year-olds to fill out my online survey and it would be FREAKIN’ AMAZING if you could send the survey link through your networks:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SLHYB9B

The survey is open to anyone in the age range who lives in Australia.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Here is me, seeing the finish line:

dynamite

Proof that roller derby is better than other sports

Right now, I am the strongest I’ve ever been. I admire my biceps. I marvel at my muscular thighs. We had to put the Elvis mirror up higher in the kitchen because I was constantly checking out my derby butt.

It wasn’t always like this – when I was skinny and when I was fat, I still hid my body. I’ve never cared what strangers thought of it, but I’ve always been so worried that people I know will look at my not-perfect body and think less of me. (No doubt this comes from growing up in a family who felt entitled to comment on my body all the time. Particularly during puberty. If you feel entitled to comment on someone’s body, stop fucking doing that.)

I figured this new body confidence was the result of playing sport. Of being physically active in a way I haven’t been for almost 25 years. But it’s not. This body confidence, this body satisfaction, it’s not a sport thing. It’s a roller derby thing. Peer-reviewed research says so.

For a lot of female athletes, there is conflict between their social world and their sporting world: to be successful in the former, they need to be feminine in appearance and demeanour, but to be successful in the latter they need to have strong muscular bodies and show characteristics associated with masculinity, such as assertiveness and competitiveness (Krane et al, 2004). So while they are proud of their muscular bodies in a sports setting, they tend to be self-conscious and have lower body image in a social setting. That’s no surprise. The ideal Western female athlete is slim, toned, white, and heterosexual-presenting – hell, that also describes the ideal Western woman and it is so damn hard to not internalise all that patriarchal bullshit. But this is where it gets interesting. Research by Andrea Eklund and Barbara Masberg (2014) indicates that playing roller derby leads to better body image, greater body satisfaction, and – in a surprise to no one who has been around derby players – a tendency to wear tight clothes in daily life. Wearing tight/revealing clothing at training and in bouts gives derby players the confidence to wear tight/revealing clothing in social settings. This finding contradicts research into other women’s sports that indicates that wearing revealing uniforms leads to lower body confidence (Krane et al, 2004).

Eklund and Masberg (2014) suggest that derby creates greater body acceptance, and acceptance of all body types, because unlike other sports, derby does not have an ideal-typical body type for that sport. Derby values all body types. However, in one of the greatest sentences to appear in an academic journal, “It should be noted that the respondents valued “booty”,” (Eklund and Masberg, 2014, p. 60).

This high level of body satisfaction and acceptance is also found in rugby (Fields and Comstock, 2008) and in belly dancing, which is one of the few styles in which dancers are not pressured to lose weight or to conform to any particular body shape (Downeya et al, 2010). Like derby, belly dancing promotes healthy body image in participants. Downeya et al (2010) suggest that belly dancing provides some sort of “immunity effect” in relation to social norms about ideal body types.

So there you have it. Proof that roller derby is better than other sports. I love the idea of getting immunised against harmful Western feminine ideals. An injection would be easier than learning to play derby, but it wouldn’t be as much fun. Not by a long shot. I fucking love my roller derby team.

References:
Downeya, D., Reelb, J., SooHoob, S., and Zerbib, S. (2010). Body image in belly dance: Integrating alternative norms into collective identity. Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 19, pp. 377–393.

Eklund, A. and Masberg, B. (2014). Participation in Roller Derby, the Influence on Body Image. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 49-64.

Fields, S. K., and Comstock, R. D. (2008). Why American women play rugby. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, vol. 17, pp. 8–16.

Krane, V., Choi, P., Baird, S., Aimar, C., and Kauer, K. (2004). Living the paradox: Female athletes negotiate femininity and muscularity. Sex Roles, vol. 50, pp. 315–329.

Man’s opinion changes between his early 20s and late 40s

I’m still chuckling about people who think that Joe Hockey having a different opinion now to the one he had almost 30 years ago is a BIG STORY.

When Joe Hockey was a uni student in 1987, he protested about the introduction of a $250 admin fee. Now, 27 years later, he’s part of a government that wants to make uni so expensive that students will be in debt for the rest of their lives. Women will cop the worst of it. (I couldn’t find anything on how the changes will affect Indigenous students, but we already know that the Budget hammers Indigenous people, with over $500 million cut from Indigenous affairs, including $160 million cut from Indigenous health programs, $3.5 million cut from the Torres Strait Regional Authority, $15 million cut from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, $9.5 million cut from Indigenous language support, and that’s before you consider the GP co-payment and disgusting cuts to youth welfare. If you have an education link, please let me know and I’ll update this.)

Yesterday, the online editor at smh.com.au ranked the Hockey story in the top spot. The same story was still in tops (“above the fold”) this morning until 10am-ish, albeit with the date changed to today. I haven’t checked News Ltd sites because frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about their coverage.

Please note that I’m not saying it shouldn’t be reported. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t talk about it. What I am saying is that, as far as journalism goes, it shouldn’t be the most important political story of the day. I saw journos on twitter congratulating each other over what a “good get” it was. Huh? That Hockey’s views about tertiary education were different when he was in student politics three decades ago is hardly a “GOTCHA” moment. Not least because his 1987 opposition to the $250 fee was reported last week (and at the time).

Mind you, I’m questioning why it was considered the most important political story on smh.com.au on a day when a video of some guys not getting caught in a tornado made news around the world, so I shouldn’t be surprised and why the hell am I wasting my time getting shitty about this stuff?

I’m yet to see a decent argument about why this story deserves the coverage it got. One argument is that it’s important because the education changes will affect a lot of people.

Yes, the changes do affect a lot of people, but what has a decades-old change of mind got to do with that? If it had happened in the last 12 months, then sure. But it’s probably closer to two decades ago, since he was president of the NSW Young Libs from 1991-1992, and made noises about changing Commonwealth funding of education in his maiden speech to Parliament in 1996. It’s an interesting side story, but it’s hardly OMG IMPORTANT.

Another argument is that it’s important because it gives his views context, and highlights his decision-making process.

Except it doesn’t do either of those things at all.

What does knowing that he said one thing in 1987 and now believes the opposite actually tell us about his decision-making process? Nothing. It tells us nothing.

What context does it provide to the current education debate?

None.

But, you know, writing 466 words about what is said in an old video is a hellava lot easier than doing the kind of journalism that is actually important and useful. Yay, jernalism.

Derby + beer + dress ups

Is there anything better than roller derby, beer, and dress ups?

Why yes, actually, there is.

It’s roller derby, beer, dress ups, and an art auction to support a great charity.

My derby gang, the Inner West Roller Derby League, has teamed up with Young Henrys brewery to do some pretty cool stuff this year, and this is the first:

Young Henrys, Inner West Roller Derby League, Jackie Onassis

Young Henrys and the Inner West Roller Derby League put the FUN in fundraiser. (Yeah, ok, that was pretty bad.)

Local artists are donating work to be auctioned, with all proceeds going to Dress for Success, a not-for-profit group offering professional outfits and interview training for women who can’t just go out and buy these things.

The exhibition is this Saturday, from 12pm at Young Henrys brewery (76 Wilford St, Newtown). The auction starts at 5pm. We had some fun last night with the gorgeous Hellcat in a frock, pearls and skates, and one of the photos will be in the auction.

And then the after party is at the Union Hotel in Newtown from 7pm. There’ll be a prize for the best Jackie Onassis outfit, as well as a raffle to support the league.

Here’s the facebook invite.

Come along, buy some art, drink some craft beer, and meet a bunch of fucking fabulous people who have brought so much fun to my life.

The special women’s section

The Guardian has a new women’s section, called She Said:

Bold, insightful and provocative, She Said is here to bring you a fresh perspective on what’s going on. The Observer’s female writers, and some occasional special guests, will post reaction to breaking news along with thoughtful, witty analysis and general musings on life. No topics are off limits – from politics and world affairs to sport and culture, food and fashion. Not to mention our daily irritations and celebrations.

Making an explicit effort to include women’s voices in the news is an excellent idea, but it is a terrible idea to put them in a special section that men will never read. It’s the same complaint I have about Daily Life (another complaint being that the content is often indistinguishable from the lifestyle and entertainment sections), and about the All About Women Festival at the Opera House, where well-off women will pay to see other well-off women talk about stuff they already agree with. Some of the festival will be interesting – Ilwad Elman and Mona Eltahawy are speaking – but is unlikely to lead to any real change because it’s pitched as an event for women. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot of benefit in women talking with each other about how to change things, and in writing for each other about our opinions and lives. We do that all the time, and I enjoy it and learn a lot from it. But if cultural change is the goal, then it won’t happen this way.

Events pitched at women and special sections on news sites would be fine if talks and conferences and tv panel shows weren’t just a parade of white men talking to white men. How often do you see episodes of QandA or The Project in which women outnumber men? And they’re just there talk about stuff, not necessarily “women’s stuff”? How many news stories in which women are expert voices on something other than parenting? As long media organisations continue to quarantine women’s voices from the “real stuff”, then they can kiss my arse.

The Guardian, like smh.com.au, has realised there are clicks in publishing women’s voices, but they clearly don’t see them as being a part of the “real news”. The news where men write 70 per cent of the front page stories, are the focus of 72 per cent of the stories, and appear as experts in 78 per cent of the stories (figures from The Blokeyness Index and to be fair, they pre-date The Guardian‘s Australian arrival). It’s not hard to find female experts, but it’s apparently too hard for most journalists to look for them. If news organisations were serious about including female voices in their news cycle, then editors would simply send copy back to the journo if it doesn’t include a female voice. It’s not rocket surgery. (And it might mean we stop seeing so many one-voice stories. But that’s another post.)

Get your marching shoes on

On Sunday, I will be marching for my right to control my own body.

We only have a few weeks left. Next month, the NSW Upper House will vote on the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 (No. 2). It gives a foetus (20 weeks or more) the same legal rights as a person.

For background, in 2009 Justine Hampson was driving under the influence of drugs when she hit Brodie Donegan, who was 32 weeks pregnant. The child (Zoe) was stillborn as a result of Donegan’s injuries. Hampson was convicted for causing grievous bodily harm to Donegan, including the loss of her foetus, and jailed for nine months. At the time, Donegan seemed to accept the result, but grief is a funny thing. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but I do know what it’s like to lose a baby sibling, and that grief fills up all the spaces in a room.

It is understandable that Donegan and her husband Nick Ball want their loss acknowledged. But this is a bad law. That Fred Nile drafted the first version in Zoe’s name without even speaking to the family makes me pretty damn sure that their loss is being exploited by people who want to remove women’s rights.

The Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW, Domestic Violence NSW, Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, NSW Bar Association, The Law Society, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Reproductive Choice Australia, and the Women Lawyers Association are all against the bill. They say it’s unnecessary and may harm a woman’s access to an abortion after 24-weeks – usually carried out for quite serious reasons. As Sarah Krasnostein writes, this affects:

Those who are in denial or too traumatised to find out because the pregnancy resulted from rape, from incest. Those too young to know the signs. Those who have a mental illness or an intellectual disability and do not understand that they are pregnant.

But it’s not always a question of not knowing. There are those who know too much. Who must make an excruciating choice after test results diagnosing severe foetal abnormality. For instance, the test for Anencephaly happens at 15-20 weeks. Babies with this neural tube defect are born without a forebrain and the remaining tissue exposed. If not stillborn, they die shortly after.

The proposed law has an exemption for medical procedures, but according to Women’s Legal Services NSW, that will be open to interpretation. Keep in mind that abortion in NSW is a crime for women AND doctors, unless the doctor believes the woman’s physical and/or mental health is in serious danger. Faced with this new law, it’s easy to imagine doctors becoming reluctant to perform medical procedures that are legal.

For more info on the legal ramifications, read this excellent piece by law lecturer Hannah Robert:

Once the foetus is defined as a legal person, the law has a direct relationship with it, and the mother’s consent becomes irrelevant. She becomes invisible in the eyes of the law, despite the physical realities of pregnancy meaning that any interaction with the foetus necessarily involves her.

Chilling, isn’t it? As far as the law is concerned, once you get halfway through a pregnancy, you are irrelevant.

This great piece at Hoyden about Town lists some of the potential problems, such as compromising medical care, coercion, and prosecuting pregnant women who don’t follow dietary guidelines.

Make no mistake, this bill is about moving us closer to making it impossible for women to access safe abortion. Women’s Legal Services NSW called the bill “a clear attempt to undermine women’s rights by changing the legal status of a foetus”. Please read that WLS piece, because it deals with the current law, and the emotive and incorrect language of the proposed bill.

In the US, foetal personhood laws are being used to stop women accessing safe abortions and even emergency contraception. Republicans have tried a few times to change the law so that when a man rapes a woman, resulting in pregnancy, that woman is forced to continue the pregnancy and have the baby. They’ve also tried to legalise the murder of doctors who perform abortions. And they are running a war on contraception. Think that won’t happen here? Albury pharmacist Simon Horsfall tells women that if they’re buying the pill so they don’t get pregnant, they should go elsewhere because he doesn’t believe in contraception. He doesn’t sell condoms or the morning-after pill. Melbourne pharmacist Stephen Mulqueeny also refuses to sell the morning-after pill because of his religious beliefs. I have no doubt that there are many more pharmacists who refuse to sell these legal products. (Not that these products are good enough. The majority of abortions in Australia are the result of contraception failure – about sixty per cent of women were using at least one form of contraception at the time.) The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is willing to remove women’s rights in order to do deals with Geoff Shaw, the MP holding the balance of power. Shaw is an evangelical Christian. The first two things he wants to do are to make late-term abortions illegal, and to remove the legal requirement for a doctor who is a conscientious objector to abortion to refer patients to a doctor without an objection. If he gets those two things, you know he won’t stop there. Having religious/conservative politicians who want to control the bodies of every single woman in Australia is one thing, but it’s disgusting that we have so many other male politicians who are willing to trade away women’s rights to do deals on infrastructure and asset sales. And people like Fred Nile and John Madigan are rubbing their hands with glee.

In November, the bill passed in the Lower House 63 to 26. Here is a list of those MPs who voted for and against it. It goes to the Upper House in March. We don’t have a lot of time.

This is why I’ll be at the protest tomorrow. See you at midday at Martin Place.

Update: Restricting our access to safe abortion is not an unintended consequence of this bill, it is THE intended consequence. Zoe’s Law is not an accident.

Update: You can email your MP here. Debate on the Bill in the Legislative Council starts at 10am on Thursday 6th March. MPs who oppose this Bill said it helps if we’re there. See you then.