Monthly Archives: March 2013

Victim Blaming: A Global Problem

TW: Discussion of rape, blame culture and victim blaming

Earlier today, a good friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook while I was on the bus home. The messaged contained a link to this article in the Independent. I struggled, with my shitty mobile internet, to open the link; when I did manage I immediately regretted it. The compulsion to swear uncontrollably at my phone became to much and I started almost convulsing with rage. The poor man next to me! I don’t blame him for starting to shuffle away. Unluckily for him, he is my long term partner; I grabbed him, shoving the phone in his face. “Read this!” I hissed. “We’re moving to a fucking commune babe, I can’t deal with this shit any more!” He read it and sighed. “Horrible babe but please stop swearing. We’re on public transport at 3.30 pm.” Sighing, I conceded and vented my obscenities on Twitter. The article in question tells of a Swiss tourist being gang raped in front of her husband in a rural area of India. Six men were arrested. The police inspector claimed that the victim – the woman who was attacked by up to 8 men in an area she knew little about, while her husband was tied up and forced to watched – was partially responsible for the attack. Why? Because she should never have been camping in the area. It was tempting fate.

Let’s just stop and let that sink in for a second. Tourist on cycling holiday with her husband. Heading for Taj Mahal but stops and camps en route. Camp is attacked by up to 8 men. She is gang raped and robbed, her husband tied up and forced to watch. She is told she must share responsibility because she was camping in the wrong place. It was bound to happen; she was tempting fate. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!

This is victim blaming to a hideous degree. The victim is held partially responsible for her own attack – as if it’s her fault that 8 men attacked her and forcibly had sex with her against her will. There is outrage of course, completely justifiably, but let’s not pretend this a problem exclusive to India. Yes, I’m going to talk about Steubenville.

For those of you who have been living under a rock recently – or depend on the BBC for your news, as I notice this story was not really covered – two young men have just been jailed for the rape of a 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. This poor young woman was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted while she was too drunk to protest, taken from party to party like some sort of play thing and even urinated on. Steubenville is a town with a thriving football team – the rapists were successful young athletes. When the victim pressed charges she became the victim of a character assassination. Apparently it was her own fault: she was drunk, she was a “slut”, she was asking for it. She never actually said no. She received death threats for bringing the town and their footballing legacy in to disrepute. This poor, scared young woman who had had terrible things done to her against her will then had to deal with some of the worst victim blaming I have ever seen. Even after her attackers were convicted: CNN covered the story, claiming that it was a tragic loss of two promising young athletes who’s careers had been destroyed by the conviction. No CNN. Their careers were destroyed when they had sex with a young woman repeatedly against her will while she was too drunk to protest.

I don’t care if she was drunk. I don’t care if she was wearing a short skirt. I don’t care if she had a history of sexual promiscuity. No means no. If a woman is too drunk to say no, DO NOT ASSUME IT IS A YES. A short skirt is not an invitation. No matter HOW the woman is dressed, no matter what she is drinking, rape is NEVER the victims fault – unless you assume that all men are led purely by their balls and are incapable of controlling their urges, which of course is not true. The fault lies solely with the rapist. Even if she seemed up for it but changed her mind. Even if she’s walking alone at night. I’m not going to list all the times when rape is unacceptable because RAPE IS ALWAYS UNACCEPTABLE. It is ALWAYS the rapists fault. Now for fucks sake get your heads around that CNN because I don’t think my nerves can take a repeat of this. Oh, and let’s not pretend that victim blaming and blame culture is a problem exclusive to India. Let’s get off our privileged pedestals  stop gasping in abject horror at the inhumane actions of these exotic others on the other side of the world. Don’t flatter yourself. Wake up. This sort of thing happens everywhere; right under our noses. It’s unacceptable.

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What am I? On being “upper working class”

I don’t particularly believe in the class system and I’ll tell you why: I don’t really have a place in it. I was brought up just outside Croydon, South London. My mum didn’t work during my childhood and my dad worked hard to support us – my mum, my brother and I. When I was about 10 my dad lost his job and we struggled. It sounds so daft but although I had a very happy, idyllic childhood with two loving parents, we didn’t have much. I never had Pokemon cards, they were a waste of money. We waited to find a Tracey Island in a charity shop. Most of my clothes were from the charity shop actually, that or George of Asda. I know it sounds silly but I always felt different from my friends: they all watched Cartoon Network on their digital TVs (this was the 90s remember, no Freeview boxes in those days), played with their Gameboys at break time and went on holiday to “abroad” – I didn’t leave the UK til I was 15. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy: I was. It’s just that I got free school meals at a school full of kids with their Dexters Lab lunchboxes full of Mini Cheddars. Before you all sneer “oh woe is you, no Gameboy? How did you ever survive?” let me reiterate that I am grateful for what I had and I know there are plenty of others with far less than I had. Anyway, I digress.

My parents got me in to a comprehensive high school 3 miles from home in central Croydon. My dad was working for a big company up in town and my mum became a dinner lady at the local primary. I thrived at high school. I made great friends and had a wonderful time but although it was highly selective on the grounds of Christian belief, the school went downhill once they were forced to admit community places. I left with average GCSEs. At A level I worked my arse off. My boyfriend was extremely supportive and I excelled all expectations, gaining a place at Royal Holloway, University of London against all the odds.

Upon arriving at RHUL I became acutely aware that I sounded different from my peers. I made a conscious effort to enunciate and not drop my t’s. I was in receipt of a full maintenance grant and bursary as by this point my mum had stopped work to battle the cancer that eventually claimed her life. It was at this point that I noticed a rhetoric that only the supposed middle classes went to university. You must be middle class Laura, you’re here aren’t you?

Am I middle class because I worked my ass off to get here? Do you immediately become middle class the second you graduate? Am I middle class because I blog and have done well in education? I don’t know. This is why I struggle with the class system. I don’t feel like I have a place in it anymore.

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What I’ve Learnt: Coping with and Preventing Migraines

I’ve suffered from migraines for a very long time – the earliest I can remember being told I was having a migraine as I lay writhing in agony in bed was at the age of 11 but when I think about it, I was having them for many years before that but they didn’t have a name. My migraines are particularly severe – they start with the aura and progress to blinding headaches, aching muscles, numbness down my left hand side, nausea and light sensitivity. They can last for up to four days. Until I eventually went to the doctors many many years later and was prescribed Zomitriptan, migraines were a seemingly unavoidable part of my life. They happened on average once a week and normally manifested themselves as first the aura, then the nagging headache behind the eyes and sometime (about once a month) they would then progress.

I have learned since then that a lot of migraine prevention comes down to lifestyle. Below I’ve compiled a list of things of things I do every day that have worked for me in controlling my migraines; although they may not work for everybody. Since implimenting these basic lifestyle changes that everybody can do I have been getting markedly less migraines so I thought I would share my experiences; I am not a doctor, I am a Geography undergraduate and Women’s Empowerment blogger so of course, consult a physician if your symptoms are making life very very difficult!

When I wake up I drink two big glasses of water.
This is an important one: dehydration is a very common cause of migraines and is one that is often overlooked. Simply by drinking plenty of liquids when I wake up, I have found that my migraines happen far far less often. I use my dads pint glass, so I drink around 2 pints in the morning and then repeat before I go to bed.

Carrying a bottle of water in my handbag at all times
Same as above really. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. I buy one of the 500ml bottles of Evian on my way to the train station in the morning and refill it during my lunch break.

Regulating my sleep pattern
I know, I know. Easier said than done and all that. For just one week, try to make sure you get a reasonable number of hours sleep every night. I find that when I’m particularly exhausted, they strike!

Avoiding the Three C’s
Another one that’s easier said than done. The Three C’s of migraine prevention are Chocolate, Cheese and Citrus. It’s not fun and it’s not easy but the big one for me is chocolate, particular chocolates with high cocoa content. Dark chocolate can give me a migraine with 10 minutes of eating it.

Try not to stare at a screen all day
I have no reasoning for this. I just don’t think it helps. Maybe because your eyes get tired? I dunno, I’m not a doctor. When I stare at my screen all day I get migraines.

Alcohol.
This is a tough one. Basically, alcohol dehydrates you. Dehydration causes migraines. If you really want to get hammered, I suggest that old trick of having one boozy beverage followed by one glass of water. I used to think I just got hideously awful hangovers or that I was allergic to alcohol. Turns out they just cause enormous, world haltingly awful migraines. Try to stay hydrated, especially if “drink goes straight through you” as they say.

Carry painkillers with me!
This seems like a no brainer. If you’re prone to headaches, carry some pain killers. I tend to go for the “easy on the tummy” ones as migraines often make me nauseous.

Avoid too much sugar
This is another one I have no reasonable basis for. I used to eat a hella lot of chocolate digestives, have  2 sugars in my tea and have a real penchant for flapjacks. I also got a hell of a lot of migraines. Since cutting down on sugar, they have dramatically reduced. I think it’s something to do with heightened blood sugar levels, but as I say I’m not a doctor; just sharing my personal experience.

Regulating my body temperature
I know humans are warm blooded but sometimes when the temperature changes very quickly from hot to cold or vice versa people can get migraines – something to do with changes in air pressure or something. Not much we can do about that but I found when I went on safari that by ensuring I stayed hydrated (I know, I’m repeating myself) and kept cool during the day I avoided anything to horrible.

Stress
This is a tricky one. Nobody wants to be stressed so you’d like to think we all actively avoid it anyway. I go swimming when I’m stressed to help me chill out. I also shout at misogynists online, but that’s besides the point.

I hope that this has been instructive and that at least one person is helped by this post. As I say, these are just tips that worked for me; everybody has different triggers and it may be a case of cutting things out and trying different things until you find yours. I have also been prescribed Zomitriptan for when they DO strike and if you feel that nothing is working, speak to your doctor. There is a plethora of options. Good luck!

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This is not okay.

MASSIVE TW: CONTAINS SCREEN GRABS OF RAPE CONDONING MISOGYNISTIC ASSHOLERY OF THE HIGHEST DEGREE.

Okay Internet, I’ve had enough. I’ve tried to be polite, I’ve signed my fair share of petitions and I’ve written a great deal of letters of complaint but tonight has really taken the biscuit. Over the course of the last few hours I have been made aware of two very similar horrors: both involve online shopping, both involve slogan T-shirts and both involve disgusting levels of horrible being on display.

The first was this:

keep calm and rape t shirts

These T-shirts (and many others like them) were produced and approved for sale by a company called Solid Gold Bomb. They were for sale on Amazon UK and, rightly so, my Twitter feed exploded with rage. Amazon UK apologised and promised to remove the items within 24 hours (although we’re still waiting) and Solid Gold Bomb… well, they claimed they were computer generated, it wasn’t their fault, please go away and stop shouting at us. They then deleted their Facebook account and haven’t been heard from since. The fact that even if they were computer generated they should still have been checked before being put in to the public sphere and on sale to the millions of Amazon shoppers seems inconsequential to them. “It wasn’t me it, it was the computer” was the very clear response from the Solid Gold Bomb camp and I felt smug in our victory.

Having successfully slain Solid Gold Bomb, I put the kettle on and settled down to watch Armageddon with my boyfriend. I checked my Twitter again about an hour later and was made aware of this:

tonight im gonna get my rape on tshirt

This has made me feel sick to my very core. Produced by a company called Foul Mouth Shirts, they claim to specialise in offensive clothing. When you click to make a complaint, a loud voice booms “LEAVE AND TAKE YOUR BIG FAT PUSSY WITH YOU.” Their FAQ page makes it very clear that they do not care if they offend, they consider you to be a politically correct hypocrit that should “fuck off”.

Just to make clear, the text next to the image says
“The weatherman says the night is going to be extremely nice outside. It’s going to be a new moon so it’ll be very, very dark. You know what that means, don’t you? Rape weather.”

Am I missing something here? Since when did bragging about wanting to have non consensual sex with somebody ON A T SHIRT become okay? Since when did claiming that you are going to rape somebody in the dark become okay?! Am I really such a humourless bitch that I’ve just missed some massive joke?! I’m sure that’s what they’ll claim.

I do not object to this because it is not politically correct: I object to this because it is trivialising rape. This is not funny Foul Mouth Shirts! There are not enough expletives in the world. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is not okay – I’m sure the vast majority of people know that this is not okay. Claiming you’re going to rape somebody tonight is not “banter” and it certainly is not a joke. This is why so many rapes go unreported. This is why so few rapists are convicted. Rape has been trivialised and normalised by our society to the point where people feel ashamed to admit they’ve been raped in case they’re accused of lying or stigmatised because of it. Rape has been trivialised to the point where T-shirts like this are produced. I take comfort in the fact that I doubt very many people would actually wear this shit – it is a very tiny minority of people who think that condoning, trivialising and even actively encouraging rape is okay. It’s not okay. It is disgusting.

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