Category Archives: Language

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.

Today in ‘What Mia Freedman has done now’

WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES MALE SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

Mia Freedman’s at it again, blaming women for stuff and calling it feminism: This isn’t victim blaming. This is common sense:

Let’s say you have a daughter. Or a little sister. And let’s say there was something you could tell her that would dramatically reduce the likelihood of her being sexually assaulted during her lifetime.

Would you tell her?…

I’ll tell her that getting drunk when she goes out puts her at a greater risk of danger.

Look, I get it, I really do. Telling women that there are things they can do to prevent sexual assault seems like common sense, but it’s really not. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned advice, but it simply doesn’t stand up to logic: if women could prevent sexual assault, then we’d all prevent it and there’d be no sexual assault. It’s a no-brainer.

Telling women that if they don’t get drunk they’ll “dramatically reduce the likelihood” of being sexually assaulted is also telling them a massive lie: Women are at more risk in their own homes, from men they know, than they are from someone they meet while drunk.

We’ve been telling women for an awfully long time not to get themselves raped and yet, men are still raping them. Could it be – gasp! – that this ‘women take responsibility for your actions/don’t make yourself vulnerable’ message is utter bollocks?

Freedman’s article perpetuates pretty much all of the rape myths – that rapists are creepy dudes in dark alleys, that she was asking for it by drinking too much, that guys can’t control their urges and roam the streets looking for victims, that nice sober girls don’t get raped, that it’s not rape unless she tries to run away – and she would know this by now. I mean, it’s not like it hasn’t been pointed out to her before. By hundreds of people.

Let me be clear: sexual assault is never the fault of the victim… But teaching girls how to reduce their risk of sexual assault is not the same thing as victim blaming. It’s not. And we must stop confusing the two.

Now Mia, I know you’ve learned the term “victim blaming” but you haven’t learned what it means. It’s like the time I thought “reactionary” meant someone who reacted to things. Boy, was I embarrassed when I discovered it meant someone who opposes political/social progress. If we teach girls that they can reduce their risk of sexual assault by not getting drunk, and then they go out and get drunk and someone assaults them, then what? It means that if she didn’t get drunk then it wouldn’t have happened, right? That means she’s kinda responsible for what happened, right? Hello, victim blaming! You can’t possibly say in one breath that “sexual assault is never the fault of the victim” and then in the next breath suggest that something she did caused the assault. That seems pretty bloody obvious to me. Some might say it was common sense.

Will I also teach my sons about this connection between alcohol and sexual assault? Sure. I will teach them that binge drinking will obliterate their ability to make good decisions – about getting into cars, getting into fights and having sex.

Hopefully you will also talk to your sons about not being rapists, since 93 per cent of offenders are male. As Carina Kolodny writes, you need to have the “don’t rape” conversation with your sons “because so many parents have thought they didn’t need to and so many people have suffered because of it”.

Somehow, in some quarters, the right to get wasted has become a feminist issue and this troubles me greatly.

I haven’t seen any feminist argue that the “right to get wasted” is a feminist issue. Fighting myths that give rapists excuses, now that’s a feminist issue.

Freedman then mentions the study that was in Emily Yoffe’s piece that “almost 20 per cent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. More than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol”.

So, what you’re saying is that a large number of college guys are sexually assaulting their female classmates. And they think it’s ok to rape someone if she’s drunk. That shit is scary, but no no Mia, you should continue to use your privileged position in our society to suggest that it’s women who are the problem here.

This is not an issue of morality. If you want to have casual sex, go for it. Safely. Just make sure it’s your decision and one you’re still comfortable with the next day.

You know, I’m gonna give Freedman the benefit of the doubt here and believe that she’s not suggesting that rape is the same as sex you might regret.

Here’s what you are responsible for when you get drunk: your hangover; losing your phone; falling over and smashing your knee; spending too much money on booze. Here’s what you are not responsible for when you get drunk: someone else commiting a crime. To suggest you are responsible for that is just ridiculous. So I’m gonna repeat the point I made earlier: if women WERE actually able to prevent sexual assault, there’d be no sexual assault. Ever. There’s your fucking common sense, Mia.

One more time for the slow learners

Warning: This post discusses male violence against women.

I can’t believe I have to write this post again.

Again again.

So, one more time for the journalists who still don’t get it: when you write your news stories about male violence against women, you need to stop pretending that there is no perpetrator of that violence.

It’s not like they don’t know how to report accurately, because they do it with other crime stories. But when it comes to reporting male violence against women, they like to pretend that violence is a cloud of gas that just hangs in the air waiting to happen at women. No other crime is reported as though there was no criminal.

Let’s start with this story on theage.com.au a few days ago: Tom Meagher says parole board ignored his emails: report. It’s been updated with comments by Victoria’s police commissioner Ken Lay since it was first published, but for most of the day the beginning of the story matched the headline. These were the first two pars (they’ve now been pushed a little lower):

Jill Meagher’s husband has lashed out at the Adult Parole Board, saying it disrespected him and its members are cowards after it failed to answer a series of questions about why her killer was free to prowl the streets and murder his wife.

Ms Meagher was snatched off the street while she was walking home in Brunswick last September. She was raped and strangled in an alley off Sydney Road before being buried in a shallow grave near Gisborne, north of Melbourne.

In the paragraph detailing Adrian Bayley’s crimes, he isn’t mentioned. Not even once. His actions are completely removed from him and just hang there, as things that happened to Jill Meagher.

Now look at this story by Maria Bervanakis on news.com.au today:

All these things that just happened to the girl.

All these things that just happened to the girl.

Again, there isn’t a single mention of the men who committed the crimes. The headline is terrible – Girl, 15, held on pot farm where she was locked in toolbox and used for sex – and the story begins:

A MISSING teenager was held captive on a marijuana farm in California where police allege she was locked up in a metal toolbox for days on end and used as a sex slave.

Wrong wrong wrong. It SHOULD read: Two men have been arrested for kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl.

Update 29 July: Smh.com.au has done the same thing today with this story:

Apart from the fact that the headline has nothing to do with the standfirst, the online journo has connected the violence to the woman, not the men who did it.

Apart from the fact that the headline has nothing to do with the standfirst, the online journo has connected the violence to the woman, not the men who did it.

And one more, this story from smh.com.au’s Megan Levy yesterday (hat tip to Femo bear for sending it to me): Father abducts son at knifepoint from Sydney home:

A car allegedly used to abduct a baby boy from a home in Sydney’s west has been found abandoned in Bargo, but police say there is still no sign of the child or his father.

The Toyota Camry was found on Avon Dam Road about 6.50am on Friday, nearly 12 hours after the eight-month-old boy and the baby’s 16-year-old mother were abducted from their home in Chester Hill at knifepoint.

It’s not until half way through the story – 7 pars in – that Levy reports that the man assaulted the woman. Hell, she didn’t even mention in the first sentence that he abducted her as well. It would have been terrifying – he has an AVO against him and he had a knife – but Levy almost ignores the man’s violence towards the woman. Why? Seriously, I’d really like to know why journalists report this way. If you’re a journalist, please let us know. (If you’re nervous about commenting, check out my comment policy. It’s a civil ship around here.)

Update 31 July: Dailytelegraph.com.au has done the same thing today:

Oops, the journos at dailytelegraph.com.au forgot to mention that he also allegedly abducted a woman.

Oops, the journos at dailytelegraph.com.au forgot to mention that he also allegedly abducted a woman.

And here’s the story: On-the-run dad hands himself in to Bankstown police:


A MAN, 24, who allegedly abducted his baby son last week handed himself into Bankstown police late last night.

Police spent more than five days searching for the man, who is accused of taking the eight-month-old and his ex-girlfriend from their south-western Sydney home on Thursday.

There she is, tucked into the middle of the sentence.

It’s really important that journalists stop pretending that there’s no one responsible for male violence against women. As Jane Tribune writes in this excellent piece, the way the media frames information “influences, if not dictates, how we think of it”. When you continuously remove the male perpetrator from the story – when you continuously pretend that violence is just something that happens to women – it’s not surprising that so many people still wrongly believe that it’s caused by something the woman did. Because how do we stop men being violent towards women if the public conversation we have about that violence says men aren’t responsible for it?

Warped reporting at Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph

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Trigger warning – this post discusses sexual violence.

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It’s tough being a woman. We just walk down the street and then, out of nowhere, an assault happens to us. We need to be particularly careful of these disembodied assaults that just hang around until they can happen at someone. At least, that’s the impression I get when journalists report on violence against women: men don’t assault women, it’s just that women have assaults happen to them.

Today’s story is awful. On Sunday morning, a group of men kidnapped a woman and raped her. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been and how much it must have hurt. I can’t imagine how any victim of a crime like this copes in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. I really hope that this post does not add to her trauma because that is not my intention at all. My intention is to make journalists think about why they report violence against women in a way that almost removes the perpetrator from the crime.

AAP was the first to report the story. On dailytelegraph.com.au they headlined it Sydney woman abducted and gang-raped by group of men, police say. On smh.com.au they headlined it Sydney teen abducted and sexually assaulted by gang. They are both passive sentences – generally frowned upon in journalism. But it becomes more sinister when you consider that passive sentences are usually used to deflect blame, to be vague about who is responsible, or because the person responsible is unimportant.

Four hours after they published the AAP copy, smh.com.au had an updated version (with two bylines and an additional nine words): ‘I don’t think it gets more serious': woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say.

Call me crazy but I think the men did something more serious than ask for directions.

The journalist (Rachel Olding) even includes this sentence at the end:

The victim, who was not affected by alcohol at the time, has been receiving intense counselling and is being supported by her family, Detective Superintendant Kerletec said.

Now, I don’t know if Olding asked the alcohol question, or if another journalist asked it and she reported the answer, or if Kerletec anticipated the question, or if Kerletec believes it’s important, but how is it relevant to a story about other people committing a violent crime? What do journalists think it actually means if she had been drinking? That the crime those men committed is less of a crime? That it’s somehow her fault? That it’s ok for a group of men to assault someone who has been drinking? What? They obviously think it means something important, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked. I’d really like a journalist to let me know why they asked the alcohol question – why they always ask the alcohol question – because I’ve been a journalist and it never occurred to me to ask it.

Here’s the story on smh.com.au:

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

The men who committed the crime aren’t even mentioned.

Compare that to another crime story below it:

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

If the robbery story was reported the same way as the assault story, the standfirst would read: “AN Armaguard van was attacked early this morning while parked on a street in Glebe.” It might even include this sentence: “The van, which was not affected by alcohol at the time, had previously been at a bank where it collected a large amount of money.”

But wait, there’s more.

In one story, ‘I don’t think it gets more serious': woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say, the criminals are barely mentioned in the first two sentences:

Police say an alleged gang-rape attack on a teenager in Sydney’s north-west is “as worse as it gets”.

The 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a car load of five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills on Sunday morning, police said.

In the other, Shot fired at Broadway: gang attempts to rob van, the criminals are the main part of the first two sentences:

Four men have attempted a brazen armed robbery of a cash-in-transit van outside a Sydney inner-city shopping centre, witnesses say.

A witness to the incident said three of the men approached the Armaguard truck armed with firearms outside Broadway Shopping Centre at 8:30am on Monday.

Two crime stories, both involving gangs of men, but reported very differently. Why is that?

Here’s the story on dailytelegraph.com.au:

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney's northwest.

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney’s northwest.

The bit mentioning the gang of men is tucked into the middle of the sentence so you don’t really notice it.

Now, compare it to the story below it on the homepage:

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

The focus of sentence is the alleged criminals, not the victims. Again, the opposite of the way journalists report violence against women.

We get this constant stream of “a woman was abducted on the way home, a woman was sexually assaulted while drunk, a woman was assaulted in her home, a woman had something bad happen to her because she was somewhere late at night” because journalists pretend that assault just hangs out on the street waiting for a woman to walk past so it can happen at her. Assault is not something that’s just part of being a woman, like periods or a squirty bot bot after eating three-day-old takeaway that was a bit iffy. Assault is a crime committed by another person. Yet it’s reported as though that other person doesn’t exist. There are two options here: one, journalists don’t bother to think about the words they use; or two, they want us to believe that men aren’t to blame for the majority of assaults against women. So, journalists are either stupid, or they’re arseholes. I don’t know which is worse.

Update:
The smh.com.au story now has video. The caption reads: NSW police are warning women to be cautious on the street after an 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills.

No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.

Can we talk about Gina Rinehart without insulting her?

You know when you notice something and then you can’t stop noticing it? Like, when people say “like”, like all the time? Or when you think, “I like her yellow shoes” and then you see loads of people wearing yellow shoes? There’s a piece on Daily Life about whether or not Gina Rinehart is a feminist role model that is filled with something that I can’t stop noticing.

For most of the article, Alecia Simmonds looks at whether there’s evidence of feminism in Rinehart’s business life. But it’s the little digs at Rinehart’s appearance that I noticed, and once I noticed them I couldn’t stop noticing them, and I reckon Simmonds didn’t even notice she was doing it.

For example:

And she exhibits a delightful refusal to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty.

Um, what? If you do a google image search for photos of Rinehart, you’ll see that in almost all of them she is wearing make-up (usually lipstick, often eye shadow), her hair is coloured (I’m making that assumption because in some photos there’s grey hair and in others there isn’t), she’s wearing the classically feminine accessory of pearls, and she’s neatly dressed in feminine clothing. Now, I don’t have a list of patriarchal beauty standards, but if I did it would be any combination of: wearing make-up, colouring your hair so you look younger, wearing feminine outfits, being slim, being pretty, and spending money and time on maintaining the slim and the pretty and the outfits and the make-up. So, what exactly is Simmonds talking about here? Is it a comment about her weight? Because I’m not sure that Simmonds wants to be in the place where she says that women whose bodies are bigger than slim/curvy-yet-still-slim automatically stop conforming to/caring about beauty standards. Statements like that are best left for when we know, for sure, that a woman is refusing to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty. And we usually know this by asking her if she is refusing to conform to patriarchal standards of feminine beauty and she says “yes”.

I definitely furrow my feminist brows when Rinehart is called an heiress while James Packer is called a billionaire. How is Packer any less an heir? When Julian Morrow quipped that Rinehart was ‘the elephant not in the room’, and Germaine Greer advised her to find a decent hairdresser I became a spit-flecked ball of feminist fury. Rinehart is held to a suffocatingly restrictive image standard that her counterparts like Clive Palmer and James Packer are not. We’re capable of discussing wealthy men without mentioning their hairy shoulders or wide girth. Gina Rinehart is reduced to her bingo-wings.

I agree with her point about Packer. I think Morrow’s comment was mean and childish. I think Greer, well, I find it hard to agree with anything she says these days. I think Palmer and Packer cop shit for their bodies, but without the nastiness that Rinehart gets. But in that final comment – “bingo wings” – Simmonds does exactly what she’s railing against: she makes a mean comment about Rinehart’s body. Look, I’m sure it was just a witty one-liner. But bingo wings is a derogatory term. It’s used to shame women – particularly older women – into covering their bodies. To stop them wearing comfortable clothing in hot weather, in case someone is forced to look at their arms for a moment. The horror of bingo wings is used to get women to diet and to exercise (this article suggests stretching your arms FIVE TIMES A DAY to avoid bingo wings. With all that arm-stretching we have to do, who has time to topple the patriarchy?). Why didn’t she just write “body” or “appearance”? It would make the same point about the “suffocatingly restrictive image standard” without buying in to the same language? This may seem like a trivial objection – this whole post is probably trivial – but I’m interested in the way that so many people just casually insult Gina Rinehart. Because honestly, what the hell do her arms have to do with whether or not she’s a feminist role model?

If you’re poor, then stop ‘drinking and smoking and socialising’, she barks.

Nasty people bark orders. It’s a small thing, sure, but the article is about whether or not Rinehart is a feminist role model, not whether or not she’s a nasty person. A better word would have been “lectured” (if you feel you have to use a word like this) or “said”. There is nothing wrong with said. It’s a very good word because readers don’t tend to notice it, so they focus on what is being said, rather than the fact that it’s being pondered/mused/uttered/barked. And it’s also a poor choice of word because dogs bark and dog is a word commonly used to insult women and you know I may be overthinking this.

Her philanthropic contributions to feminist organisations are negligible, she has campaigned to destroy decent working conditions and she refuses to see that opportunity is defined by social context. Let’s keep the obscene, unshared wealth of Gina Rinehart and feminism in opposite, warring camps, and focus more on the liberation part of women’s liberation.

Ah, Rinehart’s “obscene, unshared wealth”. I think we all have a philanthropic responsibility, because we’re rich people in a rich country. And I also think people can do whatever the hell they want with their own money. But when it comes to Rinehart, there’s an expectation – no, a demand – that she share her money (with who? With writers of opinion pieces?). Because women should care about others and help others and sharing her money with others is a nice thing to do and if she doesn’t share her money then she’s greedy and mean. And I’ll stop believing that this is what it’s about when I see an equal number of articles that casually mention that James Packer and Rupert Murdoch and Clive Palmer should share their “obscene” wealth.

The problem with Mia Freedman’s ‘leggings are not pants’ column

As I see it, the bigger problem with Mia Freedman’s “leggings are not pants” column is not what she said in the column, but what she didn’t say afterwards. She was using what she believed to be a light-hearted point about clothing to introduce bigger issues around political attitudes, and I get that. And for many in her audience (judging by the comments on her blog), they get that too. But when it was pointed out by some readers that there are classism, ableism and sizeism judgements in the leggings as pants conversation, any good points that Freedman’s column made were immediately erased by her response: that they were wrong. Instead of admitting that she’d never thought about those issues before, she told people their views were not legitimate. Readers on her blog responded the same way, telling people to “get over it” and that they were “getting upset about nothing”. Critics were silenced.

I highly recommend reading Fat Heffalump‘s post on the isms around leggings: Cut the snarky fashion judgement crap.

The leggings as pants conversation is one we had here last year. I made a joke about it, but it wasn’t a very funny joke and I offended my readers. I relied on people knowing that I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell others what to wear so it must be a joke, which is not good enough when you have a public blog. So I apologised and updated my post. I had never considered the issues around leggings, but now I know better.

I also offended people with a remark about bullying in my Kyle Sandilands post, and updated that one too. I guess it’s about what kind of person you want to be: someone who can’t see their privilege, or someone who is willing to acknowledge how their privilege shapes the way they see the world. (My privilege: white, middle-class, able-bodied, in a heterosexual relationship. It’s almost the Western privilege jackpot, right there.)

And since I’m sharing the times I’ve offended people through my ignorance, I used to say things were “lame” until it was pointed out that I was using ableist language. From FWD:

“Lame” is an ableist word. It’s an ableist word because it assumes that having difficulty walking is objectively bad, and that therefore, a word which is used to describe difficulty walking can be safely used as a pejorative to mean “this is bad.” Using “lame” reinforces ableism in our culture by reminding people that disability is bad, and that it’s so bad that it can be used as a shorthand code to talk about bad things in general.

(And before you say “oh, it’s political correctness gone mad”, I’d like to point out that in my experience, people who complain about political correctness are just annoyed that when they use someone’s race/religion/ability/gender as an insult, someone will call them on it.)

Freedman is, of course, free to hold any view she likes. And she’s free to write about her views, just as people are free to disagree with them. But it’s disappointing that when informed of the world outside Freedman’s privilege, and about how her comments have offended others, she put her fingers in her ears and shouted “LALALALALALALALALALA”.

Comments and credibility on news sites

A journo friend sent me this link and suggested it was one for NWN: An abusive battlefield for women at ADFA.

Many journos send me stories to blog about because they can’t. They have been silenced by heavy-handed policies that ban them from saying anything negative about their organisation and about their competition. Which means that anyone working for Fairfax or News Ltd can’t critique anything written by anyone else working for Fairfax or News Ltd. It’s something I’ve written about here before (in a post I had legalled yet my editor at the time still tried to bully me into removing it), and also in the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine, Newswrite, about how my job was waved in front of me when I wrote about one of the organisation’s other publications.

This silencing goes on in newsrooms too. In the last place I worked, any attempt to talk about the way we covered stories meant I was Trouble. A Difficult Employee. It meant I’d never get a pay rise, never get a promotion, and was encouraged to leave. Audiences (and journalists) were abandoning – and ridiculing – the publication, yet the editor, Mr Toupee, was not to be questioned. Surely the most obvious question to ask when audiences are laughing at you is: maybe we’re doin’ it wrong?

But I digress.

Back to the ADFA story:


MORE than 70 per cent of female students at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a high-level inquiry.

Despite this, the majority of women surveyed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick were positive about the military academy.

The second sentence sits uneasily with me. Instead of giving more information about that statistic – and that 70 per cent of female cadets are sexually harassed is ridiculously, outrageously high – the journo (Ian McPhedran) moves on to imply that the Broderick review says “hey, women get sexually harassed but it doesn’t bother them so we shouldn’t worry about it”. The information in that second sentence is important, but it shouldn’t be used to dismiss the first sentence.

I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed, even though some dickhead sexually harassed me. The douchecanoe wasn’t someone I worked for or with, just someone in the same company on a different publication, so the two issues were separate. I’m not saying this is the universal experience. But it is tied to what the McPhedran article doesn’t mention – and I don’t know if the Broderick review asked – about whether the harassers a small group of fuckwads or if they are the majority of cadets? If it’s the former, then it’s easier to stop. If it’s the latter, then there’s a cultural problem inside ADFA and also outside ADFA if we are raising loads of people who think this is ok.

And, of course, since the article is about men doing bad things to women, the journalist has used language that removes the men from their actions. Check this out:

The Broderick Inquiry is one of six launched by Defence Minister Stephen Smith in response to the “skype sex scandal” earlier this year when secret film of a female student having sex was shared among male cadets.

There is no mention of the male cadet who made the film. There is no mention of the plan the male cadets made beforehand to film the sex. The film just happened. Possibly as the female cadet was having sex with herself. Oops. I don’t know about you, but that happens to me all the time.

But the true “joy” in this article is in the five comments that some bright spark at dailytelegraph.com.au decided to publish. I hate to think of the ones they didn’t publish:

Ubique1964 of Sydney Posted at 8:16 AM November 03, 2011
LOL is she really serious:- Ms Broderick has made 30 recommendations for cultural change to attract more women into ADFA and the military. They can’t control the woman in the Defence Force now and they want to add more fuel to the fire, look out fellas. Yes that is right, I AM implying that it is not always the blokes fault.

Yep, that’s right, ADFA can’t control the women who are forcing men to sexually harass them. Probably by wearing their army uniforms just a little too tight. And saying hello to fellow cadets. That’s a true sign of a slut who is asking for it.

Dan of Sydney Posted at 9:04 AM November 03, 2011
This sounds like a friday night at any pub in Australia. A storm in a teacup.

Dan of Sydney likes to sexually harass women on Friday nights. My guess is he’s a complete loser with no social skills who gropes women in crowded venues because that’s as close as he’ll ever get to a woman’s body.

Ex Digger of 10 years of Sydney Posted at 10:55 AM November 03, 2011
And if they can’t handle the unwelcome suggestions, I wonder what will happen to their feelings once some insenstive jerk starts firing Ak-47 rounds or an RPG at them! Perhaps they could complaint to the UN about the unwelcome advances made by the bullets and how the enemy should be made to stop such actions against females. And then of course, see a lawyer about compensation… Heaven forbid we should hurt anybodys feelings whilst training them to be unfaltering “leaders” on the battlefield. Nobody likes a soldier until the enemy is at the gate.

Can you imagine having to work with this knob? Being groped by your workmates is just part of the training, and if it hurts your feelings, then you aren’t tough enough.

I judge a news site by the stories they run and by the comments they publish. To be seen as a credible news source, you can publish the stories and comments that add to intelligent/useful discussion, or you can be the dailytelegraph.com.au.