Tag Archives: petition

Petition Misses the Mark

We take a lot from American culture here. We watch American sitcoms and dramas, eat American style fast food, read American authors and even drive American cars. The gun culture, though, is not something we’ve adopted and I’m happy about that because guns scare the bejesus out of me, personally. I’ve written before about my feelings on toy guns so it was with interest that I read about Toys R Us being petitioned to stop selling Breaking Bad figurines in the US. The figurines were marked to be for ages 15+ but one mum was completely outraged they were being sold in a toy store, because they came with matching guns, a cash bag and a bag of meth.

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Over 9000 signatures later and they did remove the products. What I find interesting is the toys NOT being petitioned against. Take this for example- a Walking Dead Carl figurine (another show aimed at adults) of a 12-14 year old boy- see the knife on his hip? How about these Predator figurines, one covered in blood, aimed at 17+ year olds? They’re ok? How about this TMNT Soldier, aimed at age 3-8 years? What’s that- 3 different guns AND a knife? What about the classic G. I Joe? Here he is, aimed at ages 4 and up- check out how many weapons he comes with!

I’m the first to admit, again, that I’m no fan of toy guns. Research in this area is limited and of mixed results. So maybe toy weapons are bad for kids…but maybe not. I still don’t like them, personally and what others do is their own choice. Still, it seems strange that in America someone had such strong objections to ONLY this toy line, citing it a “dangerous deviation from their family friendly values”. The person that started the petition is a Florida mother- Florida being considered fairly accommodating when it comes to guns.

It really doesn’t seem that weapons/violence was the issue here, despite the wording of the petition:

“While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”

And Predator figures. And Walking Dead figures. And literally hundreds of other action figures bristling with weapons and combat gear. Family friendly??

Touche, Mr Cranston, touche.

This lady hasn’t gone on to start other petitions about the action figures aimed at older teens or even the ones aimed at 3 year olds, despite them clearly referencing violent media. It’s the meth and cash bags she was upset about. I get that- no one wants to glorify drugs to their children or have them exposed to illicit drug culture. Even older teens who one would hope would know better.

The USA is embroiled in an ongoing “War Against Drugs” that it is, by many accounts, losing, with massive numbers of drug-users flooding the prison system while rates of drug use increase. I can’t tell them what to do (though I’d like a stab at it!) but I can certainly see why a toy seeming to glorify the drug trade would be a scary article for a mum in the USA. 

I guess what I don’t get is why the guns aren’t the issue. America has the highest gun related mortality rate in the developed world.

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I saw a thread, recently, within an international babywearing facebook group, that was devoted to sharing photos of Mums and Dads who wear their babies while also openly carrying firearms. I actually found it difficult to contain my shock and, I admit, horror. The discussion that ensued got pretty interesting, with American mamas horrified at the idea of Australia being a place where “only the bad guys have guns”. They couldn’t believe how much lower our rates of gun crime really are or that  firearm related suicide and homicides have decreased steadily and that mass shootings are practically unheard of here since the laws surrounding guns changed.

Nothing I said would change anyone’s mind. Pointing out America’s gun mortality rate was water off a duck’s back. Another Australian mama pointed out this recent study showing almost 10,000 children in America are hospitalised or killed due to gun injury each year but people ignored it. I can’t fathom it. The culture surrounding guns seem so ingrained and entrenched and I just can’t help but think this petition was missing the point- if you want to get upset and drug culture, fair enough. Research into drugs may or may not surprise you but even so, living where you do, I get that concern, when something like half of a massive prison population is in there for drugs.  The petition page mentioned a “celebration of the drug trade” but honestly, anyone who has ever seen Breaking Bad has to admit it’s no party. It’s one of the most devastatingly sad things I’ve ever watched! But why ignore the fact that guns are a huge and deadly problem in your society too?

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N.B- It’s also worth noting that their is a counter-petition going strong too, with almost 6000 signatures at time of writing- I wonder if this will see the toys reinstated?

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Anyone but Abbott

The election has come and gone, leaving the Liberal Coalition in power. Since then, PM Abbott and co have formed an interesting cabinet, removing key portfolios, amalgamating others and forming the new and dubiously titled “Border Protection” one- but that is a whole other post.
This cabinet contains exactly one woman. Other parties and governments around the world manage to include more females. Is it that there are no other women qualified for this position within the Liberal Party? I can think of a few off the top of my head so surely this is not the case. Suffice to say, this cabinet is hardly representative of the community it would govern and this is a real shame, and an embarrassment.

Even Lord Voldemort’s “cabinet” had more women than Abbott’s cabinet.

Tony Abbott himself has taken on the portfolio of Women’s Issues. I am sorry to say it, but almost anyone would be better qualified. A vagina is certainly not essential to the position, though it would be an excellent start. PM Abbott has proved himself, over and over, to be out of touch with Australian women. The following quotes from the man himself speak volumes on their own:

What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.Sydney Morning Herald (February 9, 2010)
I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.– Quoted in “FOUR CORNERS” on www.abc.net.au (15/03/2010)
The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.- Quoted in [1] “RATE OF ABORTION HIGHLIGHTS OUR MORAL FAILINGS” on www.tonyabbott.com.au (Wednesday, 17 March 2004)]
I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.- Panel discussion “Religion, Sex and Politics” on www.abc.com.au (19 March 2009)
Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.– Quoted in “Rate of abortion high-lights our moral failings” on www.tonyabbott.com.au (17 March 2004)
I think I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question… it [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that’s what I would say.– Quoted in “Hypocrite Abbott panned for Virginity Stance” (27 Jan 2010)
While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework– Quoted in “Rudd hands PM a crucial lifeline” (6 August 2010)
I want to make it clear that I do not judge or condemn any woman who has had an abortion, but every abortion is a tragedy and up to 100,000 abortions a year is this generation’s legacy of unutterable shame.- Abbott to parliament in February 2006 (Four corners transcript of speech)

Got all that, ladies? Your power bills are up because you have to iron- it’s inevitable. Try to understand that. It’s not Tony Abbott’s fault.
Also, you just don’t have the aptitude and ability that men do. That means you are dumber and less useful. Feeling like a valued member of society yet? You should. We need more physios and housewives like you!
Sex is not yours to withhold either. Not really. I mean, your virginity is a precious gift and you shouldn’t give it away to just anyone, but if someone really wants to have sex with you, you should remember that it’s not really your right to say no. So if you have sex with someone after realising that it’s not your right to withhold sex, and then find yourself in that awkward position known as pregnancy- well, you CAN get an abortion. I mean, Tony Abbott certainly won’t judge or condemn you. He will just say you’re doing it for your convenience and that you’re contributing to a legacy of unutterable shame because abortions are tragedies. But he’s totes not judging or condemning you, ok?

Putting aside all these telling comments for just a moment- lets look at one of the other reasons Tony Abbott should not be in charge of women’s issues- he’s proven himself to be sexist. His sexist treatment of former PM Julia Gillard is well documented. Her now legendary speech in parliament addressing his misogynist and sexist behaviour was not a bolt from the blue, it was the culmination of long term sexist and poor behaviour on his part and addressed specific incidences of sexist and misogynist behaviour.

This man would look after women’s affairs?

Click here to see Julia Gillard’s speech detailing Tony Abbott’s sexist and misogynist behaviour.

So what can we do? Probably not very much. Get back to the ironing, I suppose.

No.

I just remembered, we have the Internet! Sure, our National Broadband Network might be on hold, but we can still work with what we have. So why not sign my petition? Will it make PM Abbott give the portfolio to someone better suited? I don’t know. But it may well at least let him know that he’s further alienating a significant proportion of the population that he hopes will keep him in government. And if he has even half a brain, he needs to take note of that. I don’t expect him to be a genius, after all, “No one,however smart, however well-educated, however experienced … is the suppository of all wisdom” But I do think enough people letting him know that they aren’t happy with something he is doing might help to bring about change.

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Rap, rape and Reebok.

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In a previous blog I touched on the crazy awesome power that social media and the Internet has given us to bring about change. A typed message, a website, a Facebook page and the result is that companies have no choice but to listen or risk ostracising sizeable portions of their market. I know they are listening to what is good for their profit margins, but my inner optimist hopes that our voices (our signatures, our placards, our phone calls, our Facebook shares, our tweets- however we express our outrage) are being heard and that we are helping to change the attitude towards, and portrayal of, women within advertising and the media.

Recently, sportswear company Reebok, in an attempt to gain a better foothold in the urban market, took on rapper Rick Ross as spokesperson and model, to endorse their products.
During his short stint with Reebok, Ross was featured on a track called U.O.E.N.O, by artist Rocko, also featuring Future.
Part of Rick Ross’ verse as follows:
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The lines are a pretty clear reference to date rape, with the term ‘molly’ apparently referring to a pure form of MDMA. When the song hit the airwaves, women’s rights group UltraViolet decided to do something about it.

With the input of over 500 rape survivors and tens of thousands of members, UltraViolet spearheaded an online petition campaign and a phone in campaign, both of which were publicised on their website and Facebook page. They then staged a rally and petition delivery outside Reebok’s flagship store in New York City.

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Protestors outside Reebok’s flagship store in NYC including Wagatwe Wanjuki, right.

Meanwhile, rapper Rick Ross fired off a short tweet that was meant to pacify, however, once again, his choice of words failed him, with many labeling his tweet as further evidence of his lack of sensitivity and understanding of what constitutes rape, which, funnily enough, is still rape, even when you call it something else.
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Reebok did go ahead and drop Ross, releasing the following statement to Billboard.com:
“Reebok holds our partners to a high standard, and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so. While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse. At this time, it is in everyone’s best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross.”

After the rapper had lost his contract with Reebok he issued an apology that seemed much more heartfelt, however it was too little, too late, and this slightly cynical mind wonders if it was because he really learned something about rape, or if he really learn something about bad publicity and record sales. I hope it was the former.

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Wagatwe Wanjuki ,above, shown addressing the rally,  was the top signatory on the petition of rape survivors who campaigned to have Ross removed from Reebok and spoke at the petition delivery and rally in New York City. She is an American woman of colour, a feminist activist and a survivor and she was kind enough to speak to me about her role in this successful campaign.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in New Jersey, a first-generation American. I’ve been interested in and passionate about human rights since high school. It laid the foundation of me getting into feminism as a student at Tufts. At Tufts I got into issues of sexual violence, trying to reform the sexual assault policy. I was raped as a student and was kicked out after the school refused to help me, so living with the consequences of a school that doesn’t care about rape really makes the cause important to me.

You were involved in the campaign to have Rick Ross removed as a spokesperson for Reebok. How did you hear about the campaign and become involved?

I used to work at ColorOfChange, which a part of a nonprofit network called Citizen Engagement Lab of which UltraViolet is a member. They had heard about my activism work speaking out as a survivor of rape and they asked me if I’d be willing to get involved. The rest is sort of history.

Can you tell me why removing Rick Ross as spokesperson for Reebok was so important to you?

Removing Rick Ross as a spokesperson was important because I am a firm believer that our media shapes our culture, which in turns shapes the beliefs of our people. What made Rick Ross’ lyrics particularly dangerous is that he refused to acknowledge that they referred to an instance of rape. A huge part of rape culture is that violence against women is normalized because most cases of rape are dismissed with such a narrow definition dominating the narrative. We need more accountability in media about the perpetuation of rape culture and incorrect notions. Celebrities carry a lot of influence on people they will never meet; if Reebok had kept Ross on it would mean they don’t find normalizing rape as a serious issue and thus don’t care that more people out there are going through trauma without their experience legitimized.

What did the campaign involve, and what was your involvement?

I worked with UltraViolet as an individual. It is a woman’s online organization that mobilizes members (who sign up through email) to sign petitions and take actions on campaigns that center on women’s issues. As a feminist, I appreciate having a feminist organization with such power. There was the initial campaign & petition, a petition delivery at its flagship store in NYC, the phone-in action, and a survivor’s petition with me as the top signer. I know about UV because I used to work at an organization that was in the same nonprofit accelerator called Citizen’s Engagement Lab.

Ross has since issued an apology for his lyrics and they have been removed from the song. Do you feel his apology was genuine or just damage control after no one believed him that his lyrics had simply been “misinterpreted”?

It’s hard to truly know whether his apology was genuine. I honestly have not met him in person or ever heard his apology vocalised, so I don’t feel comfortable making a call. It’s very possible that he did not learn from the campaign, but it’s just as possible that he did finally take the time to learn what rape is and how serious it is to make light of it as a celebrity.

 A recent trial discussed in the American and international media was the Steubenville Rape Trial. It seemed to illustrate that many younger people, both male and female, don’t understand what constitutes rape and don’t understand that the blame lies only with the rapist. What do you think can be done to help end this culture of rape and victim blaming at a grass roots level?

I think that we need to move schools to teach about consent in sex ed. We need to be willing to talk about not just sex, but enthusiastic consent and what healthy sexuality and interactions look like. As individuals, we have to also be more critical of media and not hesitate to call out language or scenarios (or people!) that are problematic and do not take rape seriously. We have to not accept victim-blaming by others, either. I am a big fan of media literacy and public conversations about the larger implications of what we consume may be. I also think, and this is a huge part of rape culture, that we as people need to stop viewing rapists as one-dimensional monsters. We need to stop thinking that just because we know someone that they are incapable of rape, and we should attack the person who said they were raped. It isn’t about good vs bad people. It’s about a particular action that occurred where you were not present. While it is hard to think that you are related to or friends with a rapist, we need to stop letting loved ones get away scot-free with no accountability when someone makes the decision to speak out. False rape reports are EXTREMELY low. We need to emphasize that and encourage critical thinking – we know what happens to women who speak out; they are run through the mud. Why would someone make a false report? A vast majority of the time the only person who gets negative effects is the person who reported in the first place anyway.

Special thanks to Wagatwe Wanjuki for taking time out of a busy schedule to talk to me.

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