Tag Archives: rape culture

I Pity the ‘Foo…

Have we all heard about poor old Redfoo? For those that don’t know, he was part of dance music group LMFAO, he’s on The X-Factor and has really big hair.

That pretty well sums up all I knew of him until this week when, in the wake of the Julien Blanc saga, he and his mates released a new song which was immediately dubbed the most sexist song of the year.

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I watched the clip here to see what all the fuss was about.

I have to say, at first, I was horrified. I mean, it would appear that a bunch of girls go to a party, refuse to drink alcohol (because literally, they can’t!) and dance and do “girl on girl” and get told to shut the fuck up. As the video progresses, Play-N-Skillz ft Redfoo, Lil Jon and Enertia McFly and the other party-goers surround this group of women and kinda force their dance moves on them. As each women succumbs to what can only be described as physical peer pressure, their clothing seems to shrink and appears smaller and tighter. Weird. It’s almost like when they succumb to the pressure to drink, dance and go girl-on-girl it makes them…sexier? At one point a woman or two ends up falling or being half-dragged or pushed into a wading pool,  and they spend some time gyrating around in the water with clothes falling off a bit while someone- possibly Redfoo himself?- appears to videoing them on a mobile phone and accessing a website called “Red Tube” (don’t Google that one at work- imagine a YouTube for…erm…adults) presumably to upload a video.

Then there are the lyrics. Here are some of Redfoo’s bits:

You got a big ol’ butt
I can tell by the way you’re walkin’
But you annoying me… ‘cause you’re talkin’ (STFU!)

and 

I said jump on the pole
I didn’t need your opinion
Gurrrrl I’m sippin’ on this drink
I’m tryna see what you got
Not tryna hear what you think

And the rest of the song is basically guys yelling at women to shut the fuck up when they don’t want to do something. It appears to be an exercise in pressuring women to conform to what these men want; wild girls who drink and perform sexual acts and dress revealingly but don’t express individual opinions or thoughts. So you can probably see why I felt the way I did when I watched it.

Thankfully, Redfoo jumped on twitter and cleared the WHOLE thing up.

See, we have it all wrong. We all purposely misinterpreted the clip and the song to support our agenda. You know, the whole rape culture, misogyny thing we’re all harping on about for no apparent reason.

We just jumped on this song and CHOSE to see it as a group of women being pressured to drink, dance and do “girl-on-girl” as if it were a party trick. It might seem as if it’s a group of men shouting at women to shut the fuck up when they aren’t compliant. It looks like women being forcefully sexualised. But really, Redfoo and Co are the victims here.

Oh! Well, that’s okay then!

He has great respect for women. It’s true, I mean, look at the “artwork” with his single “New Thang” (note the camera on his forehead):

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See? It’s SATIRE. If you’re offended it’s because you DON’T GET IT. It’s not because it’s offensive! At the time of writing this, over 16 thousand people have signed a petition to remove Redfoo as a judge on The X Factor. That’s over 16,000 people who don’t get it.

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Image Source Redfoo (above): a man of wit so subtle that more than 16,000 people don’t get the joke.

For those of us that just don’t get this particular brand of “satire”, you should check out this modified cover of “Literally I Can’t”. It was rewritten and performed by Melbourne art rock band, The Stiffys. Don’t let the band name put you off- this is LITERALLY  the best thing to come out of this debacle:

The petition to remove Redfoo from The X Factor was launched by Collective Shout, who campaign against the objectification and sexualisation of women and girls in media, advertising and popular culture. Here is what they had to say:

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He has since posted this fauxpology on Facebook:

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This song is meant to unite people through laughter, dance and celebration? Yeah, no. As a woman, I can categorically state that there is nothing unifying about being told to shut the fuck up. I listened to the song. I watched the video. I wasn’t laughing. It didn’t feel like a celebration. Like the women in the video, I didn’t want to dance, either. 

Obviously, it’s up to Channel 7 to decide whether or not they still want this guy on their show. I wonder if losing a job would push the point home?

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Have a laugh on me</div
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Polished for Protection?

The other day, I saw a story about some students who are attempting to develop a nail polish that reacts to the presence of date-rape drugs.

I have some reservations.

From what I’ve read, there is a chance this product won’t work like we are all thinking it will work, as the technology that makes it possible is limited and unreliable. It could lead to false positives and won’t necessarily react quickly or to all possible substances.

That aside, say it did work and you got a positive result- what then? Do you refuse the drink and leave the venue, leaving this person to move on to their next target? Or do you somehow call the police without him noticing and hope they arrive before he gets suspicious and leaves? 

It’s difficult to see what the practical application will be like.

Drink spiking is thought to be an under reported crime in Australia, so it’s hard to say how often it happens exactly. One thing I have read here on the Australian Drug Foundation site and also on various police and crime statistic websites is that the most common drug used to spike drinks is something extremely easy to obtain- alcohol. Someone could theoretically buy you a vodka and add an extra shot, giving you double the alcohol over the course of a few drinks. In this scenario, the nail polish would only serve to give the wearer a false sense of security.

I think it bears mentioning that the vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim– a friend, a partner, a relative. How likely is it that we would test a drink bought for us by a friend? Because while the stranger attack scenario does happen, it isn’t at all as common as shows like SVU would have you think.

The idea is just that at present, while the young men behind it attempt to crowd fund for the required research and manufacture. It has received a lot of support. I just can’t help but think this is another way for women to be expected to prevent sexual assault which will eventually lead to victim blaming. Think about things like “She walked there at night/wore that dress/got so drunk so she was kinda asking for it!” Will we be adding “She didn’t wear her drug detection nail polish when she went out so…..” to the list?

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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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