Friday, March 30, 2007

Double Double - Sentencing Sexual Assault Cases

A 31 year-old woman was recently sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for sexual assault on a 12 year-old boy. At the time of the events, the boy was dating the accused's daughter. According to her, it was the victim who had started making sexual "advances" to her. The assaults, which ranged to "vigorous" kissing in public to complete acts of intercourse, occurred on a 6 months period, after which neighbouring finally contacted the Youth Protection Services.
In addition to her incarceration, the woman will be subjected to a three-year probation, in which she will have to undergo therapy, and she will be registered as a sexual offender.

I was watching a news report on this case on TV this morning. The anchor called it "une affaire de moeurs" (roughly, "a matter of public morals"), and described the case as a love story between a woman and a much younger man.


A curious instance of double standards arises from these facts.

First, the sentencing judge was a lot harsher on this woman than he would have been on a man in the same situation. It's no secret that there is something seriously rotten in the application of the rules on sentencing in Canada, especially when it comes to sexual assault. As a matter of fact, most offenders who are sentenced for sexual assault, i.e. mostly men, are sentenced to a few months' imprisonment, and often get conditional sentence (in which the offender is "imprisoned" in his own home and has to submit to a curfew) where the assault was not "violent" (i.e. where no violence was applied on the victim, beside that which is inherent to the assault itself).

Thus, I find it very surprising that this woman got such a "harsh" sentence. (I know. 15 months plus probation is not nearly enough, when you think of the harm that was inflicted, but believe me, it's considered harsh in Canada).

Secondly, the public reaction to this case and the comments from the media were simply appalling. Had the offender been a 31 year-old man and the victim a 12 year-old girl, I doubt that anyone would have tolerated public displays of sexual touching for so long. And I also doubt that anyone would have described such an exploitative relationship as a love affair, in which the child voluntarily seduced the accused.


For further information, here's an interesting article on the issue of the rationalization of sexual exploitation of children by adults.
(I feel morally obligated to render what is due, and admit that I found this article via a post at Ladies Against Feminism.)

Growing up as equals

Feminists rant a lot. From a feminist's point of view, there is, after all, lots of things to rant about. We'll rant restlessly until our job's done, and chances are we'll continue to rant afterwards, just to keep things in check.

But sometimes, there comes a time to cheer, and feel that there is hope at the end of the day.

Du Côté des Filles is a French organization whose goal is to raise awareness of the gendered social conditioning of girls through culture generally, and through educational materials and children's literature.

The name of the organization itself is derived from "Du Côté des Petites Filles", the French translation of Elena Gianini Belotti's 1973 study on the assimilation of stereotyped gender roles by little girls through social norms, education and play.

Du Côté des Filles also encourages healthy, pro-feminist alternatives to stereotypical fairy tales. (Is it still necessary to point out that Prince Charming is guilty of sexual assault, or at the very least, of attempted sexual assault on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White?)

My favourite story is "Rose Bonbon", which features a young female elephant, Pâquerette. In a world where all male elephants are grey and all female elephants are pink, Pâquerette is an outcast who, despite all her efforts to follow the rules and be like all the other female elephants, is incapable of turning Pink. When her parents finally give up on her, Pâquerette is free to venture out of her garden and play along her male peers, and eventually finds her true happy self.


For more thoughts on the matter, have a look at this series of posts on sexism in games marketed to children and teenagers.

What's in a name?

It doesn’t take much to incense Conservatives. As if they didn’t have enough with your typical, hairy-legged feminists, now there’s a new breed in town – with even hairier legs.

That’s right folk. Men. Yep, you’ve read it right. Male feminists. Human beings without vaginas who think men and women should be allowed to enjoy and exercise the same civil rights. Just like the feminists you were used to diss, bash or otherwise denigrate, they do all sort of bizarre, hideous and utterly unnatural things that endanger our beloved patriarchal Judeo-Christian Western society.

Things like taking your wife's name upon marriage, for obviously immoral reasons, such as to show her a token of your love and commitment (as opposed, of course, to relinquishing your independent juridical personality and becoming your spouse’s chattel).

Did I scare ya? Thought your cherished civil liberties as a woman were threatened? You silly goose! That was only California! That was just those silly over-the-top conservative Americans! People would never question this practice in an actually progressive country , say, Canada!

In the province of Québec, the law now prohibits women from taking their husbands' surname upon marriage. Enacted as part of a reform of family law that sought to impose gender equality in marital relationships, art. 393 of the Civil Code of Québec provides that “in marriage, both spouses retain their respective names, and exercise their respective civil rights under those names.” When a married woman who bears her husband's surname moves to the province, she will automatically revert back to her maiden name. In the past however, the courts have allowed applications from (religious) women who wanted to change their own surname for their husband's (e.g. Gabriel v. Directeur de l'état civil).

Similarly, a child does not automatically take his father's surname. Art. 51 of the Code provides that the child can bear either his father's surname or his mother's, or both (e.g. Leblanc-Lenoir). Moreover, art. 52 stipulates, where the parents disagree, it's the Director of civil status who will have the final say. (Most often, the Director will give the child a hyphenated surname.)

While viewed from the outside (i.e. the ROC or the US), Québec may seem like a Liberal-minded, feminist haven.

Not so true. Recently, the Globe and Mail ran a story about the trend in Québec of putting aside hyphenated names and going back to the patriarchal tradition of only naming children after their Daddy. The Globe reported that many young adults who themselves had hyphenated names were responsible for this step backwards. The parents that were interviewed cited, in justification for their choice, considerations of convenience (since the maximum number of hyphenated surnames is two, they would have had to choose), the fact that hyphenated names represented a “feminist battle” that is "gasp!* no longer relevant today, and (my favourite one) that it was a way for the father to feel involved in his children's life.


Maybe it’s just me, but there really is something unnatural going on in "la belle Province". There is a powerful conservative wind blowing, and it’s sending us years behind...

Want more proof? The local redneck, right-wing party, the ADQ, just won 41 seats at the National Assembly, thereby superseding the secessionist, left-wing Parti Québecois as the opposition. For those of you who are not familiar with the ADQ’s policies, let me just say that they wanted to give families child-care allocations (instead of giving more money to the public child-care system) in order to encourage women to stay at home instead of going to work, one of their candidates publicly called the École Polytechnique massacre a “feminist myth” and negated the prevalence of violence against women, while another candidate has a criminal record for sexual assault.

Ain’t it grand to be a Québécoise these days?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Feminist Films: Kill Bill

I found this lovely feminist analysis of the movie Kill Bill Vol. 1.

As a comment, I would like to point out that this film (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)can also be interpreted as an ode to single, working mothers. As a matter of fact, the Bride's marriage never worked out, as one stereotypically hoped it would. As the story progresses, she discovers that she was limiting herself to being a mother was contrary to her true nature: as she "opted out" from the workplace, the Bride true aspirations could not be fulfilled. It's only by resuming her job (now as an...hum... "independent entrepreneur", rather than as Bill's employee) as well as the guardianship of her daughter that she finds true happiness.

On a more technical note, as a (male) friend of mine en movie enthusiast remarked, one the main visual theme of both parts of the film is the appropriation by female characters of traditionally male and/or phallic symbols, such as suits and business attire, guns and swords.

(Back off, patriarchy! This is the new face of single working feminist mothers!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What the hell is wrong with fashion designers lately?

This is a follow-up to my previous post on the heinous D&G ad campaign.

Here are other equally hateful ads. The first one is from Jimmy Choo Shoes (as part of a campaign dubbed "Shoes to Die For"). Dead girl in mini skirt, car trunk, shallow grave in the desert, mysterious, Black man.

This ad just screams "Be careful, Party Girl. Or the Big Bad Wolf will get you and nobody will ever see the rest of you again."

It even earns extra hate-points for its blatant racism, because of the dichotomy White girl/Older Black man, and the obvious suggestion that another White, upper-class (heck, she's got Jimmy Choo's on!) girl has been sexually assaulted and savagely murdered by an animal-like Black man...

The second ad is from Marc Jacobs, and is part of a series of advertisements featuring 12 year-old actress Dakota Fanning, modeling an adult line of clothes, which were reportedly tailored to fit her small size.

The Marc Jacobs ads are disturbing on just so many levels. I don't think it's just has to do with the fact that it's inappropriate to have a child as young as 12 model clothes that are designed and marketed for adults. It mostly has to do with the aesthetic treatment of the photograph. I'll be blunt: she looks dirty and scared (notice the blotches that look like bruises on her face and legs), as if she had been kidnapped and confined and a lurid basement, as if she was just about to be abused.

It's beyond distasteful. It's just wrong. I'm so sick of designers using violence against women - and girls, for that matter - as a medium for advertising. It trivializes and normalizes gender-based violence, and even try to represent it as desirable, or rather, as if the abused person was to be envied, for some sick reason...

Thirdly, if you can still stomach more commercial exploitation of sexual violence against women, you can look at the pictures from an episode of America's Next Top Model. This series, titled "Crime Scene Victims", depicts dead women, most of them dressed in revealing dresses or lingerie, graphically twisted in painful - and sexual - postures, complete with gruesome details such as extensive bruising and realistically splattered blood. According to the judges on the show, those pictures are not inherently degrading, nor disgusting. Rather, they have described them as "absolutely beautiful", "extraordinary... very beautiful and dead", and "powerful".

(Featured: "Strangulation" and "Pushed Downstairs")

Face it ladies: "Abused", "raped" and "dead", are the new "beautiful".


On another, sadder note, a verdict is expected shortly in the trial of a second male charged with first-degree murder, in the matter of the tragic and brutal death of 13 year-old Nina Courtepatte. Other individuals have been charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and first-degree murder, and are presently awaiting trial.

Ironically, Nina Courtepatte, who was described as a bright and cheerful teen, aspired to become a model.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Because all women dream of being gang-raped... as long as they're wearing D&G, duh!

NBC recently reported that Dolce & Gabbana pulled an ad featured in American, Italian and Spanish publications, due to the public outcry and - for once - governmental pressure, on the ground that it was offensive to women.

The ad shows a woman in a struggling pose and wearing some sort of bathing suit or underwear, with stylettos and blank look on her face, pinned down to the ground by a half-naked man, while four other men are gathered around them, watching.

This ad just make me want to vomit. It's just sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. But what is even sicker is the response from the dimwits at D&G, who justified the ad as merely reflecting an "erotic dream", a "sexual game" or a "fantasy rape". They also went as far as to say that they couldn't see how the ad could be interpreted as representing rape or promoting violence, and quickly added that they really "loved" women.

No shit. Surely, this picture provides a good illustration of healthy and empowering heterosexual social interactions.

Can't you feel the "love" they're talking about?

In Canada, when a couple of men gather around a woman and pin her to the ground to express their "love" to her, it's called sexual assault, and it's punishable by imprisonment.

I don't know what I find the most offensive: the glamourous depiction of rape in the ad itself, D&G's adamant denial of the character of the ad, or their suggestion that women fantasize about rape.

Oh right, not just rape. Gang rape. Don't we all dream about it?

In addition, D&G made a couple of other deeply troubling statements.

First, they suggested that even if the ad was indeed offensiven and did in fact depicted a rape, absent of overwhelming evidence of the widespread social harm thereof, they were justified in running the ad.

"The effects did not arrive in Italy until after the poor Spanish reaction [to] the ad. We understand that in Spain there is a truly important social emergency as far as violence against women [is concerned], which is why we did not want to offend anyone, so we immediately withdrew the image from all Spanish press."

So what the people at D&G are essential saying is that it's justified to use blunt references to rape, or rape myths or stereotypes, as an advertising medium in any country where violence against women in general, and rape in particular, is "not a problem anymore".

Another creepy thing about D&G's response to the negative public reaction to the ad was the dismissive tone in which they rebutted the criticism and trivialized the issue of sexual violence against women.

"We are sorry that unfortunately other campaigns also weren't understood, but we want to reaffirm that we never had the intention of causing noise or controversy in any way."

For comments, rants and hate mail, please write to the brilliant minds who "love" women so much they want to bring us closer to our true desires at:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy (Belated) Women's Day!

I know... It's lame... Not that I forgot about it, but like many other people I guess, I found some crappy excuse not to be all out about it...

More to come later...