Our Justice System – Redux

I have a lengthy comment from Mike which you can go and read in the original post. I was going to answer him in the comments section but I think it would be better served as a post of its own. So here goes.

Mike says:
“I don’t think justice was served here, but I disagree with feminists who use such allegorical “evidence” as proof that western political legal system treats women like chattel. Thats quite a stretch. By in large western legal systems take domestic violence seriously.”

It is in no way allegorical. Our laws our based on English commonlaw which viewed women and children as chattel.There is nothing allegorical about that. Altough laws may be updated, here and there, they are still largely written by men for men. The old boys network is alive and well and protects men like Scott Young.

Mike Says:
“People, especially people in power, get away with doing bad and illegal things all the time. Maybe Scott Young knew the right people, had a good lawyer, or just was lucky. By your line of reasoning I could look to OJ Simpson and argue that black people in the US can get away with murdering white people. I strongly disagree with feminists who use incidences like this to push their narrow self-serving agenda.”

Perhaps rich black men do. But this is not about race – this is about domestic violence. There is no ‘narrow self-serving agenda’ here. Unfortunately, the problem of violence against women, in all its forms, is so pervasive that dismantling it would shake our society to its very core. It is seen in the discourse of advertising, our jokes, our culture, our religions, the way we raise male and female children differently. We are not even aware at times when violence is being perpetuated against women. Open your eyes and look around. It is on tv, on the radio, in the locker room and in our homes.

Mike says:
“No society has ever tolerated violence against women. This is feminist historical revisionism. Rapists in medieval Europe were flayed alive (had their skin removed). The ‘rule of thumb’ myth was taken from a misquotation of statement made by a US judge in the 19th century who actually sentenced the male abuser to jail.”

This society sure as hell does!!! It goes on all the time. Many women don’t report rape as they will just be assaulted again when they come up against the male dominated justice system. Forget history, look at the situation today. Look at the murder suicides where men kill their entire families and then themselves. And before you trot Andrea Yates – she was mentally ill and had had so many children and sufferred such horrific untreated post partum depression that she went crazy. What is the excuse of the men?? Look at the honour killings in the South Asian community in BC. I could go on and on. These are not feminist revisionist events. These are real women dying every single day.

Mike says:
“Women are abusers in relationships as well as men. Domestic abuse has less to do with ‘Patriarchy’ and more to do with disfunctional partners and drug and alchohol abuse. Women stalk, kill their husbands and kill their children too. There are bad people of both sexes the same way there are bad people of all races. Just because in general men are capable of inflicting greater injury on women does not mean that men are the only sex capable of commiting evil, or even that society is run by men.”

Yes, some women might hit some men sometimes. Boo fucking hoo. Look at the stats – men kill and beat women at much higher rates then the reverse. Really, this is just a straw man argument to take us off course. Many men are conditioned to believe that they can treat women anyway they want. Furthermore, they have seen that the consequences are a slap on the wrist – conditional sentence with an 8 pm curfew? What the hell is that about? If this is what our justice system is doing to women when we are watching what is it doing when we are not?

Mike says:
“Society does not treat women worse than men. Men have always been the greatest victims of violence in war, genocide, and crime. The vast majority of victims of violent crime (murder and assault) are men.”

Sorry Mike another straw man argument. Who starts the wars? Who keeps them going? Certainly not women. Yes men die in war. But so do women, civilian women. Rape is an instrument of war and I am pretty damn sure that most of the people being raped are not men. Civilian women and children suffer the most in war. The soldiers have a choice. At least in the case of the US – they signed up for it this time. (This of course would be different if concription were in place as it was in other wars). However, the men are still paid to go to war. Even the women working for the international companies in Iraq are not safe from rape. So, tell me again how it is that men suffer? Oh ya, they get to carry big guns, shoot people, and get paid. Sounds like the wet dream of many a teenage boy.

More Maria frustration…

I mentioned in my last post about how the women on the show are referred to as girls. Well this carries over into the facebook group and all the posts there. Well I finally took a stand and said what I thought of this practice. Not suprisingly, many of the women posting there say that they take it as a ‘compliment’ when they are called a ‘girl’ or ‘girly’ or the really offensive ‘chick’. The are all wondering why I care about this so much.

it is evident by their comments that they have little no underdstanding of discourse theory. They do not seem to understand that language has power, it shapes how we perceive people and things. When a woman is referred to as a ‘girl’ one immediately things of the qualities of a pre-pubescent female: giddy, silly, uneducated etc. They do not think of strong, talented women who know their own minds. The more we as women accept this terminology and allow ourselves to be referred to as girls the more we undermine our own position in society. How can we ever hope to achieve equality (and no, we have not achieved equality yet) if we allow ourselves to be demeaned in this fashion?

I fail to understand why I am fighting women on this issue. It frustrates me to no end that as a feminist quite often it is other women who don’t get it. How on earth can we expect men to treat as equals when some of us relish being treated as less?

Privilege (heterosexual and others)

I am writing this blog entry in response to all the comments I received on facebook when I updated my status to indicate that I was annoyed by heterosexual privilege. Frankly, the comments surprised me but I guess I should not have been. Inherently, when one is in receipt of a societal privilege they may not be aware of it. This appears to be the case. Rather than going into a long drawn out explanation of heterosexual privilege I will refer you to an excellent blog entry written by Teh Portly Dyke. She does an excellent job explaining this and its impact on homosexuals. She also issues a challenge in her entry I encourage you to try it to gain a better understanding of how insidious heterosexual privilege is in our society.

Privilege is everywhere in our society and depending on your class, race, economic status or gender expression you may or may not enjoy privilege. Being Caucasian in our society affords you a great deal of privilege. Our society is geared to make life easier for people who are white. All of our institutions are inherently racist and difficult for people of colour to navigate and receive fair treatment. If you don’t believe me ask a person of colour what their experience is at a bank or worse trying to get welfare or other government services. When I worked in a downtown eastside welfare office in Vancouver there was a great deal of racism dished out to people of colour and particularly aboriginal people.

Class is another area of privilege. I certainly noticed that as a homeowner I am treated very differently by service people than I was when i was a renter. The white woman in Kerrisdale is treated much differently than an Aboriginal woman from the downtown eastside. Many of our judgements about class are rooted in the Protestant work ethic and Protestantism in general. One of the foremost Protestant thinkers, John Calvin, believed that it was predetermined who was going to heaven and who was not. Those people who were successful in life were assumed to be going to heaven and therefore treated differently from those who were impoverished. It was also believed that if those who were not successful ‘just tried a little harder’ they too could be successful. The old adage of ‘pulling up their boot straps’ applied. We may not consciously think this way but these ideas inform our culture and the way we view the world and the people in it.

Gender expression is another area of privilege. Those who fit into society’s binary gender roles of male and female enjoy privilege. There is no question which bathroom to use and you are treated with respect. Those who are gender queer, gender ambiguous or trans have murky waters to navigate. A male to female transsexual for example may be harassed for using the woman’s bathroom. Gender expression seems to invoke violent responses from some people. Many trans people are routinely targeted for abuse by people in our society who are uncomfortable with their gender expression.

It is interesting to talk to people who are different from you and to learn how privilege or the lack thereof impacts their lives. As a white woman I know that I enjoy a fair amount of privilege in our society. I have privileges of class, race and gender. However, somethings work against me. As a fat lesbian woman I have been the target of discrimination and hate although not that often. The group with the most privilege in our society are straight, white men. It is interesting to determine what privilege you enjoy and why you have it. Deconstructing privilege helps us to understand how our society works and how we can work to be allies to those who do not enjoy the same privileges that we do. It takes a great deal of work to look inside and see what is really there – the racist and classist thoughts and to try and understand how they impact our interactions with other people. It is a life-long process and one that is very difficult. Realizing our own racist, classist and gender biases can be uncomfortable. Talking about them and challenging others racist, classist and gender biases is even more difficult. If, as an individual, you are committed to an egalitarian society it starts with you.

‘Forced Sexual Activity’

Language and its use is very powerful. Take for example Cross-Country Checkup on CBC yesterday. They were talking about the Toronto District School Board Report released last week. Rex had Julian Falconer on who headed the commission that produced the report. I must say that I was very impressed with how Mr. Falconer grasped the issues. He was discussing the rate of sexual assault of young women in schools and the abysmal rates of reporting. His conclusion that for a young woman to report brought down the whole weight of the legal system, her parents etc was not working. After consulting with women experts in this matter he came to the conclusion that the issue should be handled like abortion. A young woman can make her decision about terminating her pregnancy without the involvement of parents. This way, he reasoned, young women are more likely to report the crimes committed against them school authorities and then the schools can take action against the perpetrators. To the parents who would complain that they would want to know if their daughters had been raped he basically let them know that under the current system they don’t know and at least if young women are reporting more then perpetrators are being dealt with and the parents may find out at some point. I was very impressed with Mr. Falconer’s clear and concise thinking around these issues. But I digress.

Back to the language issue. I hate it when people use euphemisms. Rex seemed to have a hard time with the word rape so he called it ‘forced sexual activity.’ What a way to diminish what is actually happening. Last time I checked ‘forced sexual activity’ is rape. Why can’t we call it what it is? Even sexual assault puts a softer touch on rape. We need to demand that violence, like rape, be labeled appropriately. If we do not then we risk a minimization of a huge crime committed mostly against women. You can bet that if it were the young men being raped it would not be called ‘forced sexual activity.’

Another one that is really pissing me off these days is the term ‘gender-based violence.’ I am not sure why we are calling violence against women ‘gender-based violence’ now. Again, it is throwing ambiguity at an all to real and serious issue. When that term is used people have to stop and think about what it could mean. Most people only see two genders (that is a whole other post) and so they have to stop and think about this applies to men. Well it doesn’t really. The bottom line is that in ‘gender-based violence,’ for the most part, men commit violence against women. Julian Falconer did not discuss violence perpetrated by females in schools. I am sure there is some. But for the most part it is young men who commit these crimes against their peers.

What are the solutions? I am not really sure. I do know that we have to call it like we see it. We need to expose violence against women and we need to call ‘forced sexual assault’ rape. As a society we need to address male privilege and how we keep passing it on to young men. Men need to take responsibility for their actions and women need to hold them accountable.