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Abuse Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum: Rotherham Is Not About Race

Author:

By Elli Wilson

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Alexis Jay’s report on the abuse of over 1400 children over a 16 year period in Rotherham, and the “collective” failings of the police, social care and the local authority makes for tragic, uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately, whilst the scale and extent of the victims’ suffering and the authorities’ failures were certainly shocking, they did not surprise me. Britain today is still a deeply prejudiced country in which sexism and classism run deep, social services are underfunded and overstretched and young, underprivileged victims are likely to be dismissed as ‘unreliable’ or even complicit in their own abuse. In such conditions, it is hardly astonishing that vulnerable children and young people are abused and then failed by those meant to help and protect them.

With so much public anger and disgust over what happened in Rotherham, there would seem to be no better time than the present to start a national conversation about what causes rape and sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. However, in a depressingly predictable state of affairs, much of the coverage of the horrific abuse has focused on the fact that the perpetrators were predominantly British Pakistani and most of the known victims were white working-class girls.

In reality, perpetrators of sexual crimes in Britain are predominantly white. The only trait that almost all perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse share is their maleness. Sexual violence is not a crime committed by one ethnicity against another; it is a crime of male violence against women and children. Alongside class, gender is the overriding factor in the Rotherham abuse case, as with all other incidents of sexual violence.

By focusing on the ethnicity of the perpetrators in Rotherham, there is a danger that the threat of rape and sexual abuse will be othered and obscured. It is far easier and more comforting to think that such horrifying crimes are only a problem for certain sections of society, than to face the fact that in 21st century Britain children – primarily girls – are abused and exploited across all socio-economic groups and by men of all races. This is not a problem that we can safely categorise as belonging to one section of society whilst shaking our heads disapprovingly; the causes are deeply rooted in our attitudes and our establishment.

This is not to deny that different communities have different challenges in the fight to tackle abuse. For instance, Ruzwana Bashir eloquently described the culture of shame that can make it difficult for British Asian victims of abuse to seek help and justice. However, it is not as if survivors from all backgrounds don’t encounter disbelief and victim blaming attitudes. This is precisely the problem with the media’s fixation with ethnicity in relation to systemic sexual abuse; it hides the fact that the factors which contributed to the Rotherham scandal are not specific to a certain sub-culture but rather permeate all levels of society.

The scale of the abuse in Rotherham unmasks the toxic misogyny and classism that intersect to create an environment in which underprivileged girls can be raped, and then held in contempt by those meant to help them. Whilst the details of the Rotherham scandal may be particularly shocking it is important to remember that such abuse does not exist in a vacuum. If we do not engage in serious work to change attitudes of the public and those in power, and to end misogyny and victim blaming, then many other girls will be the damage of society’s collective failure.

Women in Film

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women in film infographic

Emily Zhang

21st Century Fox, the large film corporation, is launching a mentorship program for women directors. This is incredibly exciting news, because Hollywood has a historically disproportionate number of women working in the executive departments of film.

Less than five percent of directors are women. The film industry (on a large scale) seems ridiculously unwelcoming to people who aren’t men. That makes me apprehensive and angry, because it means that there is a severe lack of diverse perspective, often leading to blatant objectification of women in movies. There’s the feeling that film isn’t for “everyone,” in the production or the viewing of it, and that we are forced to accept one “mold” of the female character in which there’s little complexity and much misrepresentation. (Maybe this is also a tangent, but what annoys me most is when women who are not young or skinny or “societally attractive” have their appearances used as punchlines in comedies).

But then something wonderful happened in response. The Twitter hashtag #hirethesewomen was created, and so were lists of women directors and screenwriters. I love how intuitively (and almost effortlessly) social media was used here to increase the presence of female filmmakers. Maybe a film exec will be on twitter. Maybe a film exec will see one of the tweets. But even if they don’t, the issue has now become more accessible to the public and the pressure is on. Like with the Indiewire graphic, people know about the underrepresentation of women in film, but also amazing women directors and screenwriters to support. Their work receives more attention from everyone.

And then there’s the mentorship program! According to Variety, the total period of instruction will be a little bit under a year for the twenty members who will also be able to produce a short film at the end. That’s great, because that means more opportunity for women and more women-directed projects.

I hope this is a sign that things are getting better. Generally, the Internet and television programs seem more open to women as directors/producers/writers (I hope I’m not grossly generalizing). There’s Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which also explores intersectionality. There’s the other “equalizing” effect of the Internet, in which people don’t need agents or contracts or whatever else to share their work. And on television (ok maybe I’m grossly generalizing) there’s Lena Dunham’s Girls. But film is important and people watch films and discuss them too.

I don’t think there’s a neat way for me to end this blog post, so I’ll make a mini list of female directors and screenwriters I love.

Sofia Coppola! Lisa Cholodenko! Mary Harron! Elizabeth Sarnoff! And Ava DuVernay!

Myself as a Man-hater

Author:

By Yas Necati

Someone told me recently that they thought I hated men. They couldn’t provide a reason why, but seemed convinced, somehow, with no evidence, that this was the truth.

So I just thought I’d make it clear here (although if you read my blogs, you probably already know): I do not hate men. I LOVE men. There are a few that I dislike, but there are a few women I dislike. I don’t have a problem with these select few for their gender, rather their principles. It is not men I am against. It is the patriarchy I am against. Male-domination, male-privilege, not men.

If I EVER do ANYTHING that implies that I hate men, please call me out on it. Because I don’t hate men and I don’t want to give that impression. If I’m acting in a way that suggests man-hating then that is not only offensive but it is wrong.

I’m not here to promote gender-bashing, I’m here to promote equality. I’m not here to promote discrimination, I’m here to promote acceptance. I’m not here to promote separation, I’m here to promote cohesion. Most importantly –

I’m not here to spread hate. I’m here to spread love.

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