Thursday, May 21, 2009

please explain

Thursday, May 14, 2009

more on Johns - how women in the media respond

The feeding frenzy triggered by the previously mentioned Four Corners program continues. Here I look at how two prominent women in the media approach the story. Strangely, I come away finding a feminist in the most unlikely place.

Miranda Devine is not known for her female solidarity so it is no surprise that after beginning her article with an attempt to chastise John’s for his behaviour in 2002, she ends by blaming the victim. Devine segues from a backhander about “Clare’s” integrity, “It would be a rare woman who would willingly consent to such an experience, without being damaged in some way, with low self-esteem or imperfect understanding of what was happening”, to discussing the “Twilight” phenomena (a series of books for teens written by Stephenie Meyer, a Mormon). Devine totally misses the fundamentalist christian brainwashing that the series portrays, instead choosing to believe that the chaste, romance desiring female characters are an acurate reflection of our current society. In other words, all young women wish to remain virgins til marriage and it takes the super-human restraint of an honorable man to resist defiling them.

Of course, Devine points out that this is rather a lot to expect of men considering, “It is unfair to expect men to bear full responsibility for sexual mores as the boundaries of acceptable practice are blurred. Young women are told they can act and dress any way they please, and it is men, alone, with their supposedly filthy, uncontrollable sexual desires, who must restrain themselves.”

Reading this I wonder what millennium we are living in. She ends her opinion piece blaming the victim, once more. Men cannot be blamed for being sexual, it is up to women to give clear messages in the way they dress, by moderating their alcohol intake and by not going back to a motel room with men in the first place. Any other behaviour suggests that “no” actually means “yes”.

There is no understanding that female sexual attitudes have always been the most successful regulator of male sexuality - not politically correct re-education programs that are exercises in legal risk management for the NRL. (the odious source)

Strangely less repugnant was the ACA interview last night. I’m not a fan of A Current Affair and other shows of its ilk but I found Tracy Grimshaw’s interview with Matthew and Trish Johns quite interesting. Although I would have preferred to see John’s grilled by a more hardline journalist, without an obvious friendship and network affiliation, Grimshaw at least stuck to some of the nuts and bolts of the issue. She talked of the victim as being out numbered, she raised the issue of star status and the power that it gives the footballers and she didn’t get especially side tracked by the ‘infidelity’ issue. Tracy thanks for attempting to fly the feminist flag on commercial television, you did the best you could.

John’s was obviously uncomfortable about the interview. I doubt he submitted willingly, the network had just suspended him and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that Channel 9 wielded a lot of leverage to get an exclusive interview from the couple. Ironically it may have given John’s a taste of feeling powerless. The couple’s body language was entirely different. When asked direct questions about the events of the night Matthew Johns’ eyes dropped downwards almost every time, while his wife looked upwards with her answers. Whether this implied Johns was lying, embarrassed or merely uncomfortable I can’t say. His remorse appeared genuine but the cause of his sorrow seemed firmly rooted in the personal embarrassment it had caused him and his family, rather than from actually believing he had abused “Clare” on the night.

Do you really believe the young woman said “Someone come forward and have sex with me” (Johns’ delivered this as the actual words that “Clare” said at the time)? I’m a kiwi, we don’t talk like that. The language and syntax does not ring true to me.

In the meantime, Johns is sticking to the code of silence by not naming the other participants.

And Trish is sticking to Matthew. And like Devine, she is blaming the victim.

Update23 May 2009: The delightful Catherine Deveny is incomplete agreement re Ms Grimshaw (fan club any one?), but of course can write it a tad better (or at least get paid for it!)

Part one of Other Rants take on the Johns' saga.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

self defense

In high school I took an elective called “Self Defense”. I have no memory of what other things were on offer for an hour a week for one term, other than driving lessons that I had taken earlier in the year (we could get our drivers licence at 15 in NZ at that time, fuck legally at 16, vote at 18 and drink in a pub at 20 – I did things in my own order, but that is another story). I

I went to a girls state school. There were surprisingly few of us who took up the self defense option, this may have had something to do with the cute driving instructors. The woman who took the class was in her late 20’s/early 30’s, very attractive and a black belt in some form of martial art. She was tall, strident and confident. Over the weeks she taught us what she called “party tricks”, the nuts and bolts of what a wee thing weighing under the norm (oh those were the days) could physically do to fend off a bloke twice her weight and a foot or so taller.

The tricks stay with me to this day. You aren’t going to knock them over, so go with their forward momentum and try to throw them off centre. Jab your fingers in their eyes and gouge them for all your life. How we groaned at that one, “Miss we don’t want to hurt him!” “You’d prefer to be raped?” she would answer back.

The problem is that most of us 16 year olds would have been more likely to submit, than fight. We were deeply programmed to not harm others. When she gave us instructions on how to do damage to the testes, a number of young women blanched. “They feel like a ripe plum, girls”, she’d urge us, “Only without the stone in the middle”.

But her story left a stronger impression than the tricks themself. She’d learnt a martial art because she’d been sexually assaulted. I guess it was a situation known diminutively as “date rape” these days. She knew her attacker. She did not consent. She felt powerless.

Become a practitioner of a deadly art made her feel strong. But her plot to bring down her predator was far more vicious. For years she tracked what he was doing in his life, found out where he was working and then some how (the details are sketchy, it was a very long time ago) she’d have a word in the boss’s ear and get him fired.

Time and time again. She got her revenge. For years.

And yes, she wanted him to realise that it was her, that he’d done wrong, that rape has repercussions. She was happily married by the time I met her. She was the first woman I’d ever met who talked about the sexiness of bald men. She seemed balanced and content in her life but she was still not ready to let her rapist off the hook. She was going to give him another year before her next intervention.

Hearing that Matthew Johns has lost his gig on the Footy Show following the Four Corners story "Code of Silence" this week, I feel one small victory for the woman he assaulted all those years ago in Christchurch. Of course, he’s only been “stood down” for an indefinite period. A bit like Sam Newman getting a slap on the wrists for his mistreatment of women. It will take a persistent smear campaign against Johns for him to loose his lucrative gig permanently.

The tradition of gang rape (or “group sex” as it is called to avoid defamation in the media) across all the football codes in this country is a rite of passage. Certainly these young, buff, testosterone driven blokes get a mixed message from women. They have their fans, their groupies and even those women who think it is an honour to give any number of them a blowjob in a pub’s toilet. That exists too. But what has happened to the way we educate men, sportsmen or otherwise, that they believe if one woman has ever emphatically said “yes” to having sex with them, then she has consented for every other woman on earth?

There are many pieces to this equation. Yes alcohol and drugs play a role in violence and abuse. This is not an issue quarantined to footballers; it is a major part of the sexual abuse picture as a whole. But rape is about power. And the media does not seem to be commenting on this. And power is at the centre of this, why so many women have not gone forward to make official complaints. These men, with their team supporting their ‘stories’ and a legion of supporters out number a lone, vulnerable woman, who feels shamed and embarrassed by the encounter.

The lack of genuine remorse, of real understanding of the perpetrators is another issue. Acknowledgement of the offence and a genuine apology can be part of the healing journey for the men, women and children who have been abused. Many victims of sexual abuse within the catholic church have sought an apology from the Pope as part of their recovery; it is an important part of the process. Though the pontiff fails to recognise this. In fact the abuse by the clergy and the footballers have a lot in common. Though your local priest has god on his side too. That is almost like being a sporting hero.

To have John’s, in his “pre-emptive strike” on the Footy Show last week, apologise to his family for the pain and to leave the woman involved out of his contrition is unforgivable. Loosing his spot on television is a small victory for now. Perhaps that is what drove him to say sorry today, uttering in the same breath that he still believes she consented and offering another mea culpa to his wife in the same sentence. He is sorry, in his own way, that the woman involved was traumatised but you get the strong feeling that he still doesn’t get how she could have been.

"Any trauma, embarrassment that she's gone through as a result of this incident I'm extremely sorry for," he said.

"I'm extremely sorry to my wife and family as well."(ABC news)

You do however suspect that John’s wife watched Four Corners this week and took on board the young woman’s plea directed at her, the wife of the man that (allegedly – oh how we must use that word) raped her.

And as for sex, I don’t think John’s will be getting much of that at the moment.

Well, at home that is.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

change is as good as a holiday

Or so they say.

I'd describe the journey of my life as rather rutted right now. Not rutted as in bumpy, rather one long trough in which I have been comfortably ensconced. In the sprit of change the Not Boyfriend and I swapped sides of the bed a while ago.

Today we finally got around to dislodging the books, papers and collections of rubbish built up on the wrong sides of the bed.

An hour after huffing and puffing and cleaning - we were still left with this.

If I don't find a home for the dusty collection of oddities on my half in the next couple of hours before I go out tonight I guess I'm sleeping on the couch.

The NB, on the other hand, is quite capable of crawling under the mess - cat and all - and sleeping.

Want to post a picture of your shameful little domestic secrets?

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sydney matron 1st victim of Easter Horribilis Flu

Almost a telethon-worthy affliction, don't you reckon?

Sylvia Avati of Balmain said the best way to describe her stay was an Easter horribilis.

"No one would answer the phone, room service/house-keeping/reception/main switch were never answered. I had to walk the 120 metres to reception and complain to get an ice bucket delivered to the room," she said.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

there was no severed head in a bag, nor an Australian city under siege from a pig

Is it just me or do you think the Australian media is desperate to break a story declaring the arrival of Swine Flu on our shores?

All week there have been tantalising headlines, alluding to the onset of an actual epidemic in this country.

Today, the fast becoming tabloid-esque. The Age’s leading story bore the headline Second Australian tests positive for swine flu. Horrors, the pig flu has arrived!

Well, no, it’s actually an Aussie abroad. The rag doing yet another beat up.

But is did remind me of this:
The Day Nothing Happened”

June 4th, 1973 was much like any other summer’s day in Peterborough and Ralph Mellish, a file clerk at an insurance company, was on his way to work as usual when - nothing happened! Scarcely able to believe his eyes, Ralph Mellish looked down, but one glance confirmed his suspicions: behind a bush, on the side of the road, there was no severed arm, no dismembered trunk of a man in his late fifties, no head in a bag – nothing, not a sausage!….

I wonder what Monty Python would make of Swine Flu?

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