Reaction to RoastBusters

November 15, 2013

It’s all over the media, here in NZ and apparently all over the world.

I’m exhausted. I’m disillusioned and I’m depressed about it.

Why?

Because for me, as for too many women, it’s personal. I’m a rape survivor, and the first time I was raped I was only 13.

I like to approach all problems with logic. And I always want change. I want to live in a world where the young girls approaching 13 that I know (I have a child who is 12) will not have to live with what I live with. I believe that change is possible, that we can live in a more civilised community. To believe otherwise is too depressing.

I like to participate sometimes on community forums. Usually I stay in the safer women dominated spaces, those for mothers. We talk about issues that affect our lives as mothers and it’s mostly comforting and inclusive and it feels good.

Except this week nothing online feels good.

I am dismayed at the mainstream reactions I see to the RoastBusters case. The questioning of the victims and the scarcity of questioning the perpetrators. Why were the girls drinking? Why did their parents let them out so late at night to parties with alcohol? The accusation that those girls should have been more sensible, and they would not have been raped.

I’m sick of it. And here’s why.

There is nothing women can do to stop being raped. Apart from never be in the presence of a rapist. Unfortunately most rapists don’t wear signs on their heads. So they’re hard to avoid. The elderly lady recently in NZ who was raped in broad daylight outside her home, emptying her letterbox, could not have done anything to avoid being raped except…. maybe never go outside? Another recent case in NZ another elderly lady raped in her own bed is told by idiots online she should have locked her door.

There is everything men can do to stop raping women, and there is so much the majority of men who are good men and who do not rape can do to encourage a safer environment for the women around them.

Don’t accept rape humour. For the woman sitting next to you it may be an extremely uncomfortable moment, but she’ll smile and try to not let anyone know. Rape is not a joke. I never laughed about the several times I was raped, and I’m figuring I never will.

Teach our young what consent looks like, boys and girls. Consent requires the active and free “yes” of all genders, at all time, during any sexual encounter. Very simple really.

Teach real respect for others as human beings. Teach empathy.

Don’t engage in victim blaming discussion. Saying “it’s just commonsense” is a cop out. Telling women what we should to to stop being raped is not going to stop rape. Ever. And we know already. It wouldn’t have helped either of the elderly ladies mentioned above, it wouldn’t have helped me as a child of 13. What it does do though is makes rape survivors understand they need to keep their experiences hidden because if we bring them to light our behaviours will be questioned in minute detail, or it will be assumed that we are lying. What it does do is push half the population to live in fear of being raped by the other half, and push half the population into understanding that their movements, behaviours and dress must be limited in a way that the other half does not have to do. It limits our freedom to be ourselves.

The most depressing thing about this week is the focus on what women should do to avoid rape, and the lack of focus on what it is in our wider society that we can change to make rape rare or even (shock horror!) stop it completely.

Apparently there are a few societies worldwide in which rape is rare: Ashanti, Mbuti, Mongo, Tuareg, Gond, Mongols, Lakher, Cuna and Jivaro. Now I am no expert on cultures, I’m a biologist not an anthropologist. But if even one of the societies listed really is one where rape is rare then that proves a point. It proves that it is possible to create a society where rape is rare. And that is a society I think we should all aim to achieve.

But I have been told that I’m dreaming. Rape is always going to happen and I’d better take steps to avoid it. That these societies are not / cannot really be rape free or rape rare. It’s not possible.

The only answer I have to that is dismay, and an understanding that if that is the way most New Zealanders think then they’re right. We will never achieve it.

And one final point in this long rant. The reason I think why this is is because it makes many men uncomfortable. Men in NZ frame our social discourse, and it is men who do the vast majority of raping of women, children and to a lesser extent other men. To point out to men that it is from within their half of the population which rapes makes them uncomfortable, apparently it is misandry to point out this simple fact.

Now if you’re a man reading the above paragraph, read it again. Notice that NOWHERE do I say all men are rapists. I understand that the majority of men are not rapists. But I also know that most rapists are men.

Grow up guys. Put on your big boy pants and help us out here. We are well aware that most men don’t rape, but if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

Not with it’s current business practice it won’t.

I’ve been using a bit of Facebook advertising. And I’ve noticed some strange goings on.

In using an ad to promote my website directly I noticed that the number of clicks reported and paid for from Facebook was always about 20% more than the number of clicks (in the form of visits) actually recorded by google analytics on my website. Always. Without fail. Phantom clicks?

So I deleted that campaign.

Now I’m using Facebook to advertise may page and increase my “likes”. And I’m noticing some other strange behaviour.

The CPM rate keeps increasing, something which Facebook automates and which I have no control over. Every day it creeps up a little further. It started out at less than 0.20 cents, now it’s up to 0.35 cents. When I began this campaign I calculated I would need about USD 200.00 to reach my goal of 1,000 likes. Now that cost has doubled with the creeping rate I am being charged.

When I had a problem with an ad on my Facebook campaign I tried to contact Facebook using their “help” menu. Ha! Trying to contact an actual real person is difficult. And when I did get a message to Facebook I received a dumb reply from someone who clearly had not looked at the problem and identified a solution. I solved it myself eventually.

I suspect that Facebook hires people from the same place that Paypal does, and has the same training process in how to not listen and simply cover your ass as Paypal does.

If Facebook engages in dodgy practices (possibly they’re using bots to record phantom clicks and increase their revenue) and makes it hard for their paying customers to contact them to resolve issues and bugs, then businesses are not likely to stay and give money to Facebook.

They’re doing it wrong.

No.

And I don’t think the USA actually wants him to be.

The case here in New Zealand has been delayed to March next year.

I am embarrassed to be a New Zealander today. Our National government is playing lapdog to the FBI.

New Zealand police conducted surveillance on Kim Dotcom, his family and associates for months prior to the January 2012 commando style raid on his home and his arrest. They knew that he was planning a trip to the United States later this year. It is now August. If they had waited they would have probably had him by now.

They would have known at the time of his arrest that an extradition would be a lengthy legal process and would probably not happen within 6 months. So the quicker route to actually getting him in custody within the United States would have been to exercise patience and wait for him to go to them. But they did not.

So why?

I can only conclude that they don’t actually want him in custody within the United States because then the case would actually be heard within a United States court. And then the US government may lose based upon case law (YouTube vs Viacom, 2007). So this is a delaying tactic. Why?

Again I come back to the immediate effect of Kim Dotcom’s arrest. Megaupload was immediately shut down, his funds were seized and he was thrown in jail. The biggest part of this was the immediate and continued shutdown of Megaupload.

What was on Mega’s servers that the US government does not want anyone to access or see (except themselves)?

So here’s the latest from our Prime Minister, John Key; a loyalty scheme paid for by taxpayers to NZ shareholders after three years of holding shares in NZ power companies soon to be floated.

So National are wanting to sell shares in companies which the Government of NZ currently owns (so by extension New Zealanders own) and they want to sell them to raise funds. Except New Zealanders want the ownership to at least remain in New Zealand hands so that profits don’t go overseas worsening our balance of payments deficit. So John Key comes up with a plan to reward “Mum and Dad” investors to pay them a loyalty bonus if they hold their shares after three years.

So he wants Kiwi’s to buy something they already own (but relatively few Kiwi’s will be able to afford to do this) and then he wants to reward them after three years by paying them money out of taxes in the form of a bonus. After which they can then sell to the highest bidder, which in all likelihood would be a foreigner. So a large portion of ownership of our basic infrastructure would probably go overseas and a large amount of money would be transferred from taxpayers to the few who have more money (enough spare cash to buy shares anyway).

No. Just… NO!

Again Paula Bennett moves into very dangerous territory suggesting the government wants the ability to issue court orders preventing some people from having children. She stops just short of calling for mandatory sterilisation of citizens. Just.

As in the case of offering free contraception to women and their daughters on benefits, this proposed change does not change how the government acts in reality. Currently the government already removes babies just after birth or at birth from some citizens; 148 in 2011 and 177 in 2010. Simply telling people “don’t have more children” and offering contraception will not prevent births and so the government would be left with… removing the babies at birth. Which it already does.

This again begs the question; if this proposed change will not change government actions towards these same people, then why the proposed change at all?

One answer which fits logically is that it seeks to legalise government involvement in citizens reproductive rights. Once government is legally allowed to tell us whom among us will be allowed to have children, and who cannot, the next step is to enforce this difference through forced sterilsation.

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

– this quote is attributed to Martin Niemöller, a German who originally supported Hitlers rise to power.

My main reason for opposition to this policy is it allows government to go where no government should ever go. I agree that people who have abused and killed their children should certainly not have more children, but the state already does remove such children from their parents.

Our economic system has for generations now created inequality. The wealth gap is growing ever greater and will continue to do so as long as our money is based upon interest bearing debt. This is the logical outcome.

If a society allows a growing number of it’s population to be impoverished and excluded from wider society this will breed resentment and a higher crime rate among the disadvantaged. It breeds an “underbelly” in society. Left for too long, anything of three generations or longer, and this underbelly becomes entrenched.

The answer as the wealth gap grows is not to penalise and control the poorest citizens. The cause of the problem will not be solved by doing this, it will only allow society to slide towards dictatorship.

The answer is to address the underlying cause of inequality which is the very structure of how our money works. I have written about this extensively, see the category on this blog “money and the economy”.

A restructuring of the economy to allow near or full employment would allow all citizens to participate fully. It would all but eliminate child poverty and allow the poorest of parents to provide for their children with a decent weeks work. Once the poorest members of society can provide all of the necessities for their families then most of them would do so. Crime would reduce, education participation would increase. Not all problems would be solved, some are too far entrenched in behaviours over generations to be reversed so simply, but the state could then have funds to focus on support and assistance for parents.

Just as it takes three generations at minimum to entrench disadvantage, it would take three generations at minimum to reverse the problem.

I would much rather live in a society which seeks to address the causes of our problems rather than uses knee jerk reactions to the symptoms of our problems. I would much rather live in a society which cares for and supports parents than one which punishes us when we get it wrong and constantly judges us on our performance… oh wait, that’s the society I live in.

The National Government of New Zealand is offering free birth control to all beneficiaries says the New Zealand Herald. But the headline should more accurately read “free birth control for the poorest women in New Zealand on benefits”. Not all beneficiaries. Because in all the angst over those lazy welfare bludgers having lots of babies to stay on benefits for their whole lives, the targets of this particular policy have been poorly identified. And it’s not men.

Where is the companion policy of giving out sex education and free condoms to all men on unemployment benefits? It takes two human beings, a male and a female, to create a baby. Last time I looked.

On the surface this policy does look like common sense. It seems pretty obvious that people who find themselves on a benefit would be making very poor life choices to conceive and carry to term another child. However, there are aspects to this policy which feel disturbing and wrong. I’ll try to outline this.

The policy is directed only at women, not men. This highlights the target of the National Party’s vitriol, women. Keep those pesky women in line, preferably in the kitchen.

Women on benefits already have access to either free or dirt cheap, and easily available, contraception. I live in a small town in NZ (population less than 2,000) and my birth control costs me $15 every five years. That’s it. And it’s just down the road. For most Kiwis this is pretty typical. So women on benefits have access to very cheap medical care, reasonably accessible, and can discuss their birth control options with their doctor. So if this policy is not making the situation of access to affordable birth control much different, it must be about something else. That something else is I think control of women and pandering to the middle class “can’t-feed-don’t-breed” brigade.

By implementing this policy National allow WINZ staff (that’s welfare office staff) to have conversations with poor women (again, not the men!) about their birth control methods. And furthermore it allows WINZ staff, who have zero medical training or qualifications, to advocate one of two long term birth control methods (IUD or implants) to women.

You can bet that this policy introduced as “voluntary” will be anything but. The power imbalance between WINZ staff and beneficiaries is huge. When a WINZ staff member discusses birth control with a beneficiary there will be an element of coercion. I would not be at all surprised if the government introduces penalties to women on benefits who do not use an IUD or an implant. That’s the next step.

Finally, the only professional who should be having a conversation with poor women about their birth control is a medical professional. Not a welfare officer. Ever. Allowing the government to intrude into peoples reproductive choices in this manner is stepping very far over a line.

This policy is hailed by many middle class people as only common sense, and aren’t all those beneficiaries only lazy bludgers and they shouldn’t be having more children anyway. But there for the grace of god go I. Those who judge others harshly look harsh and nasty. It’s really a horrible trait in human beings, and I’m dismayed so many New Zealanders do it. If we allow the government to intrude in this way into womens’ lives we allow them to intrude into someone else’s life. We could be next. What other “common sense” policy will they come up with next? This is how facism starts, and we need to be aware of it and fight it even at the beginning.

Finally, the problem with assuming that we can reduce the number of children in beneficiary households by only giving their mothers long term contraception options is short sighted. This viewpoint makes some silly assumptions:
1. All contraception is 100% safe and effective, those children born to beneficiaries could not have possibly been conceived if their mothers used contraception.
2. At the time of conception each parent knows exactly what their financial situation will be when that child is born, their financial situation would never deteriorate over time.
3. Abortion for economic reasons is freely available, accessible and affordable for all women.

Clearly NONE of these three points is correct.

Although I agree that people receiving government benefits should not have more children while they are on those benefits, this policy is wrong and misguided. It feels nasty, short sighted, dishonest and unnecessarily intrusive. If we allow and condone it we allow this government to go where no government should go, into poor (and overwhelmingly brown) women’s wombs. And that’s just not okay.

Kony 2012?

March 17, 2012

Joseph Kony has been operating in Uganda since 1987, kidnapping children to turn them into sex slaves (girls) and child soldiers (boys). He is responsible for many atrocities and numerous killings. It has taken a while for the international community to take notice.

I have watched the recent “Kony 2012″ video on YouTube which has gone viral, and is produced by a charity organisation based in San Diego, California, Invisible Children. Watching this video was a sickening experience.

This is yet another example of muddling bumbling American interference. The video gives no historical context to the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), does not recognise that Kony is no longer currently in Uganda (he’s now in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan), does not recognise that Kony’s resources and the numbers of the LRA are much depleted, and offers zero explanation for why he has been free for so long.

There will be a reason why the government of Uganda was unable to catch did not catch Kony for so long, why he operated without being caught for decades. Understanding the historical context and current power dynamics of this problem surely is crucial for anyone interested in assisting to make things better? Apparently according to Invisible Children not.

All we need to do to stop Kony is to click the “like” button on a Facebook page, and buy a T-shirt and bracelet. Oh, and maybe put up a poster or two. Easy. Great. Problem solved, pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done.

It’s unsurprising that when the documentary was shown in northern Uganda where Kony has wrought so much destruction that the locals reacted furiously, throwing stones at the documentary makers. I hope this angry reaction from the locals gives the folks at Invisible Children cause to stop and rethink their approach, but it probably won’t.

So what’s so wrong with the documentary?

While it did not explain any history or context, it did spend a fair bit of time showing the personal journey of the white American male film director. It showed the birth of his son with the horribly racist comment that “because he was born here he matters” which infers that black kids born in Africa don’t matter. Yeah right, try telling that to their mothers and families!

We see plenty of footage of the film director and his cute blonde haired kid, and zero footage explaining the historical or the current situation in Uganda. Surely the film could have tried even a little explanation?

The film comes across as very commercial, light weight, American centric. The solutions to a complex problem that is Kony are simplified commercialisation; buy some stuff and participate in some social network sites.

It reeks of “we’re the enlightened white knights with the technology and understanding to come and solve problems in black Africa”.

And to top it all off, it recommends US troops in Uganda. As if sending US troops into any country makes the place safer for the inhabitants. This is a total and complete failure on behalf of Invisible Children to be aware of the behaviour of their troops internationally. They really do need to educate themselves on how US servicemen behave when stationed in foreign countries; the numerous atrocities they commit on civilian populations and how the locals feel about their presence.

I suspect that Americans think that their troops behaved badly only in isolated incidents in Vietnam, perhaps occasionally in Iraq, but this is an aberration. It’s not guys. And bad behaviour by American troops in foreign countries is much noticed by the locals. Even in peaceful countries, like modern day Japan, the locals campaign to remove American bases from their soils.

Any solution which ignores complexity, history and even the current true situation, which is focussed on simplistic commercialisation and further violence by committing yet more US troops to be stationed in yet another foreign country, is doomed to failure.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.