Revelations of Harvey Weinstein bring revelations of more harassment and assault

Woman holding hand up to stop attacker
Image: iStock

CW: sexual harassment, assault

The revelations about Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein has emboldened a number of women into opening up about their own experiences of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and other violence.

Social media has also been flooded with stories of sexual harassment and assault. The hashtag #MeToo on both Facebook and Twitter saw many men and women tell their own stories of harassment, abuse and rape. It’s also been used to shine a light about the need for consent:

 

It’s good that people are feeling strong enough to tell of their own stories. It’s also scary how prevalent sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape is. It’s horrible! How can this be so widespread? How has it ever been so widespread?

 

When I first wrote about the Weinstein scandal, I wondered how there wasn’t better protection and how abuse of power became so prevalent in the entertainment industry. Could the same be said for society in general? What can be done to combat this plague?

The actual purpose of this post was to give a shout out to women and men who found the courage to speak out about their own experiences of abuse and harassment. I can only imagine how hard that must be. I hope you get the support you need, if you haven’t already. To the rest of us, I think it is imperative to believe victims who speak out. We also need to demand that victims of sexual assault, rape and harassment get justice.

 

Exposing harassers and abusers is an important step. Changing attitudes about gender, sexuality and, most importantly in this context, power, is more important. Both men and women need to say enough is enough.

Everyone look up at link of the tweet I embedded earlier in this post. No means no! If someone doesn’t or can’t give consent, then, it’s a no! Don’t touch, don’t argue, don’t manipulate, nothing. If there is a power imbalance, then it’s a no! Don’t bribe, hassle, manipulate or threaten ANYONE into giving what sexual ‘favours’ you think you deserve but don’t! NO ONE owes you ANYTHING!

"Stop sexual harassment' sign
Image: iStock

A note to those who’ve experienced assault, harassment or rape: my heart bleeds for you. I want to give you a big hug. My prayer is that you find support, comfort and eventual healing. Nothing will be able to reverse what has happened. I hope you get some kind of peace of mind knowing that you DID NOT deserve what you experienced. It was in NO WAY your fault.

I want to also give a shout out to male survivors of sexual assault, rape or harassment. NONE OF IT was your fault. It doesn’t make you any less of a man. If anything happened to you that you didn’t or couldn’t have given consent to (i.e. you were under the age of consent or someone in power assaulted you), it is the perpetrators fault, not yours.

 

If anyone needs general counselling, you can call Lifeline: 13 11 14

NSW Rape Crisis: 1800 424 017. For more information from the website, click here.

For readers who are from overseas, please feel free to drop any contact details of any counselling or sexual assault/ harassment services that you know in your state/ country. 

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International Day of the Girl Child: how far have girls’ and women’s rights come?

Young woman shopping
Image: iStock

 

Yesterday was the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child. On Paul Murray Live last night, they were talking about women and girls’ rights, including here in Australia.

There is no doubt that women’s and girls’ rights and attitudes toward them have changed in the past forty years in the West. Some may argue that in some areas, such as education, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Education experts have suggested that the education is nurturing for girls, yet failing boys. Attempts to reengage boys into education through non – traditional mean, while not wide – spread, seemed to have a positive impact.

By law, in New South Wales, women can’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, marital status, pregnancy or sexuality (there are exemptions for areas such as marital status and sexuality. Single – sex institutions/ clubs also are protected with exemptions).

There has been a push to make workplaces more ‘family friendly’ with many employers trying to accommodate for new mothers. Some companies, such as retail giant, Myer, offer female employees paid parental leave. The government also offers mothers eighteen weeks’ paid parental leave at A$695.00 a week.

Another area where women in Australia benefit is health awareness, with campaigns that are endorsed by celebrities making a commitment to raising awareness for breast cancer and putting it at the forefront of people’s minds. Movember aims to raise awareness at men’s health, particularly prostate cancer and mental health every November. While it’s a start, more can always be done.

Domestic violence has become another hot issue. In recent years, the Australian court system has come under heavy scrutiny over how domestic violence perpetrators, including murderers (yes, that’s what they are when they kill someone. I don’t buy the “guilty plea makes it manslaughter crap), are given way too lenient sentences.

More recently, the public has become aware of “child brides” (a.k.a. rape victims). These girls who are often barely teenagers, are often ‘married off’, (i.e. raped), to men decades older than them. These ‘marriages’ (a.k.a condoned child abuse), have been solemnised by religious leaders. Unfortunately, when taken to court, perpetrators have been given insanely low sentences.

 

Aboriginal women are particularly vulnerable to domestic  violence. with statistics indicating that Aboriginal women are thirty – five times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence than the general population. Until recently, this is another issue that people have been keeping their heads in the sand about. Fortunately, more people are speaking up. Last year, former National President of the Labor Party and Chairman of Government Advisory Council for Aboriginal Affairs, Warren Mundine wrote an article in the Australian, condemning the epidemic of violence in Aboriginal communities, the actions (or inaction) of prominent Aboriginal leaders and the demonising of people who dared speak out.

 

Girls and women around the world

Obviously, Australia is, by and large, much better off than many other countries around the world when it comes to the rights of women and girls. Last month, I wrote that even though women were able to drive in Saudi Arabia,  no long – lasting change would happen unless attitudes changed.

 

According to UNESCO, around the world, there is 31 million primary school – aged girls that don’t go to school. 34 million adolescent aged girls don’t attend high school. Women make the majority (two – thirds) of people who are illiterate world wide. This means more than 60 million girls and teenagers are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy (which, for many can be fatal for both the baby and the mother).

 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also a big issue. It’s been brought to the attention of Westerners due to cases that have happened in the UK and here in Australia. Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 200 million girls are  victims of the barbaric ‘procedure’. This is due to myths and scaremongering over females and their sexuality. This is inexcusable.

 

While many countries around the world have made strides in women’s and girls’ rights, many still have a long way to go. The West in particular should not turn a blind eye to the atrocities that happen to girls worldwide, nor excuse them. I think it’s also important for women in the West to acknowledge that great strides have been made to benefit us. It’s not perfect, things by and large are still good.

 

What do you think is the greatest achievement made in regard to women’s and girls’ rights? It can be happening anywhere around the world. 

Older people are being left out of discussions… until now

Old woman with flowers wearing hat
Older people need to be included in current social and political debates. (mage: iStock).

 

Actress and activist, Jane Fonda along with Robert Redford is starring in a new movie, Our Souls at Night. According to Studio 10 on Wednesday, the movie is about Addie Moore  and Louis Waters, who fall in love with each other in their senior years.

I have no intentions of seeing the movie, to be honest, (might one day. who knows), but it got me thinking about how society is just starting to add older people in discussions about social issues.

Mental health is one. In 2016, Mindframe reported that the age demographic with the highest suicide rate was men over 85. To his credit, Sky News’ Australia’s Paul Murray has raise this issue on Paul Murray Live. Other than that, you don’t hear much about it in the media.

Also to do with mental health is the impact that becoming widowed can have on the spouse left behind. Loneliness and often abandonment from family are also issues that too many elderly people face.

 

Then there are the social issues like same – sex marriage (I know everyone’s sick of the topic, but please hear me out).

When the issue of same – sex marriage is raised, it’s often young LGBTQ people that are the point of the discussion. It’s the mental health of young LGBTQ+ that cause commentators to worry and for politicians to attack. What isn’t talked about as often is how it affects LGBTQ people over fifty. On Monday, a man, probably in his fifties or sixties, rang up Sydney’s 2GB, saying that the marriage debate had brought back bad memories from when the Australian LGBTQ community started demanding rights, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The 1978 protest, the first Mardi Gras in Taylor Square started peacefully, but turned into a violent clash between gay, lesbian and transgender people and the police, which saw a number of the protesters were arrested.

One day, I was reading a Facebook post from a counselor who said that he had an increase in the number of LGBTQ+ clients contacting him for help during the same – sex marriage debate. A number of these were same – sex couples over fifty; those who lived through the period when homosexuality was criminalised. These debates were deja vu for them.

Older gay couple
Older people tend to be left out of the same – sex marriage debate, despite the affects that the 1978 clash with police might have had on them. (Image: iStock)

 

Poverty is another dire issue that many elderly people, especially women, face. One of the reasons for this is a lack of super, due to having time off to have a baby. This is a reason why I do support some sort of adequate paid parental leave scheme for new parents. Also, this is why the energy debate in Australia is so heated (no pun intended) at the moment. Of course, people should be able to live comfortably in their homes during the range of weather conditions that Australia is well – known for!

 

I’m certain that there are multiple other issues I can add. I’ll just leave you with this. People over fifty need and deserve our love and support. They should be a part of our national debates. They need to be heard.

I’d ask people too, if you have elderly people in your life, grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, friends, that you check up on them. Keep them in your mind and (if your religious/ spiritual), in your prayers.

Women can drive in Saudi Arabia. But if attitudes don’t change about women, nothing will

Saudi woman driving with niqab on
Women can now drive in Saudi Arabia, although it’s very restricted and guardianship laws still apply (Image: iStock)

Laws have been passed to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia. They will come into affect from June next year.

Saudi Arabia, a Wahhabism state, has implemented a strict form of Islamic law, based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Qu’ran. According to FutureScopes, Saudi Arabia has been only one of two countries in the world that have had a ban on women driving (the other being Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled in 1996). This ban has given Saudi Arabia a bad reputation around the world, including by their ally, the United States.

 

The excuses given to prohibit women from driving are nothing short of ludicrous. An article from The Atlantic in 2013 reported that  Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al – Lohaidan, a judicial adviser of an association for Gulf psychologists, claimed that women shouldn’t be able to drive because it pushes the pelvis up and affects the ovaries. This is not backed up by any science.

Saudi women who have dared to drive or protest the ban have also been likened to terrorists. According to India Today, two Saudi women were arrested for ‘terrorism’ offences when they defied the driving ban in 2014.

 

Earlier this year, Asma Alsharif wrote in Reuters that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz permitted women to be able to vote. Also, this year, Saudi women have been granted the right to take up tertiary studies, access some medical care and work without the permission of a male guardian.

As I pointed out above, while much progress has been made, there seems to be ingrained beliefs that will keep women oppressed. To be frank, I doubt that the most recent change has anything to do with rights of women itself.

The reasons why this ban has been so – called ‘lifted’ is to allow women to drive to work, to help the Saudi economy. From what I can gather, the change hasn’t come about because attitudes about men and women have changed. This explains why male “guardianship” is still enforced in the strict Islamic Kingdom.

 

Saudi Arabia is also infamous for accusing and executing people, predominately women for ‘sorcery’. Sounds quite 17th century, doesn’t it? (Note: for those who are confused why I picked that century and not the first millennia, I had the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller in mind. Same diff. Outdated and barbaric beliefs).

That is why these ‘advances’ that Saudi Arabia has made has been taken with a grain of salt. The reason why Saudi Arabia has had such a bad reputation globally when it comes to women’s rights is the fundamental beliefs about them. Without changes to those beliefs and attitudes across the country, what’s to stop women’s rights to study, access medical care and drive being stripped away again? Nothing, really.

 

From the outside looking in, Saudi Arabia is an epitome of how far the rights of women has to globally. It’s not just laws that need to be changed in such countries to make long – term impact. It’s beliefs, attitudes and distribution of power, particularly between men and women. Then, maybe the world will applaud Saudi Arabia for real progress.

Have you been to Saudi Arabia? Do you live there? What was/ is it like? Feel free to tell me your experiences.

The AFL has every right to support the LGBTQ+ community, including same – sex marriage

Screenshot of Herald Sun opinion piece "Praise AFL for its social conscience' by Justin Quil 25 September, 2017
Herald Sun’s acting media lawyer, Justin Quill has praised AFL’s corporate stance on same – sex marriage

I was going to criticise the AFL’s stance on same – sex marriage. My argument was that they shouldn’t it’s a hot – button issue and they may alienate spectators. Reading Justin Quill’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Herald Sun gave me a new perspective.

Companies DO have a right to express a view on social issues. As Quill pointed out, this is not the first time that the AFL has supported social causes. The AFL has had a reputation of trying to combat racism in the game, starting with former St. Kilda player, Nicky Winmar, who lifted up his Guernsey to defy racism back in 1993.

Now, the AFL has turned it’s attention to supporting LGBTQ+ people.

Over the past two years, the AFL has had the “Pride Round” between St. Kilda and the Sydney Swans. As I wrote last year in another one of my blogs, I supported this as I though it was good that the AFL were taking a stance against discrimination. I still hold that view.

While there are no openly gay or bi men in the AFL, there are two AFLW players in long – term same – sex relationships. It’s great that these women have gotten so much support, both from the media and the AFL.

 

Having said that, the AFL hasn’t been without controversy when it comes to homophobia, or at least, a lack of acceptance. In 2010, former Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions player Jason Akermanis controversially suggested that gay players should stay in the closet to avoid making other players uncomfortable. Maybe Akermanis’ comment revealed that, at the time, the AFL wasn’t openly embracing of gay and bi players.  Last week on ABC’s The Drum, former footballer – turned LGBTQ advocate, Jason Ball highlighted how hard it was to be gay in football. This was largely due to the prevalence of homophobic slurs and jokes in the game.

Screenshot of Jason Ball on ABC's the Drum
Jason Ball talks about how hard it has been for gay footballers when talking about the AFL’s controversial change in their logo in support of same – sex marriage.

The AFL has worked to tackle racism in the AFL and now turns it’s attention to homophobia and bi – phobia. This is great, as players, regardless of background, religion or sexuality should be able to play the game they love.

Likewise, LGBTQ+ spectators, should be free from discrimination and any that does occur will be condemned. LGBTQ+ who want attend a AFL game should be able to without fear of having slurs hurled at them or worse. Same – sex couples should be able to attend and enjoy the football like any straight couple. To be honest, it’s a shame that this still seems to be a controversial idea.

Regarding the criticism that the AFL is trying to enforce same – sex marriage on  the spectators and players, Quill made the point that no same – sex marriage opponent was being thrown out because of their stance. If that was the case, it’d be wrong. What the AFL are trying to do is make LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and that discrimination won’t be tolerated. That’s not a bad thing. Is it?

What are your thoughts on the AFL’s stance on gay marriage or the Pride Round? Let me know in the comments below. 

Madeline should not have been let off for opposing same – sex marriage

18 – year – old, only known as Madeline, was let go from her contract at Capital Kids Parties, Canberra, after putting ‘It’s OK to Vote No’ filter on her Facebook profile.

Her contractor, Madlin Sims made a Facebook post saying that she let go of Madeline because she thought her views were “hate speech”.

There are feelings that there is more to this story, but I’ll go with purely the issue of unfair dismissal and anti – discrimination.

I don’t think people like Madeline should be let off purely because of their political or religious beliefs. And, as long as they are not advocating for the killing of LGBTQ+ people or they are openly hostile towards people because of sexuality, gender, race, etc, they shouldn’t be sacked/ lose their contract.

However, I’ve got a funny feeling that some people who defend Madeline also want businesses to be legally be able to discriminate against people based on their relationships, gender or sexuality. It should be all or nothing. Sims should be able to discrminate against conservative Christians, or it should be unlawful for a business or servicecto refuse to employ or serve LGBTQ+ people. All of one or the other.

 

There is something that I think has been left out of this discussion. Madeline is only eighteen. She’s probably just finished Year 12. She still needs time to grow and I do feel for her. She’s had her work and her beliefs scrutinised in the most public way. Her character has already been debated,bsparked by Sims’ Facebook post. Regardless of who you agree with in this, Madeline is still so young. She has her whole life ahead of her and she’s been subject to public scrutiny already. All over a Facebook filter. That to me, is extreme.

 

I feel for Madlin Sims, too. By the look at her Instagram picture, which supince has been taken down, apparentky,bshe’s also incredibly young. And the abuse she and her brother have allegedly suffered must be condemned. Why this hasn’t been talked about and condemned by mainstream and independent media, I don’t know. (You already know how I feel about the whole ‘debate’ and ommissions,bso Ivwon’t repeat them here).

 

Unfortunateky, I think this case has put a bad light on the ‘Yes’ side, again. It’s also exposed my worst feears about same – sex marriage; a values clash between the Left and conservatives that I believe needs to be sorted before (if) same – sex marriage becomes legal in Australia.

 

What are your thoughts on anti – discrimination laws? Should there be any exemptions on moral grounds?

 

 

 

 

Can we talk about LGBTQ+ mental health?

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

 

CW: suicide, mental illness, homophobia

It’s ironic that World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK Day came in the height of the same – sex marriage debate. I think there has been a lack of genuine discussion on the issue of mental health of LGBTQ+ people throughout these past few months. Organisations who have brought up the issue like the Australian Medical Association and have been slammed for suggesting that the same – sex marriage debate is deemed a health risk to the LGBTQ+ community.

Couple embracing
Image: iStock

I don’t know how these findings came about and I’m always skeptical of data when the sample size used is particularly small.

However,  Canberra Times reported that counsellors did see a spike in calls from LGBTQ+ people as the debate raged.

 

I’m not saying that those who are going to or have already voted ‘no’ in this survey are responsible for any suicide or mental health crisis that an LGBTQ+ person may experience. However, I am disappointed that sections of the media has quickly dismissed suggestions that some may be affected.

 

While I support a debate and a vote — to be frank I think it’ll be better later on — I’d be lying if I said it has been a walk in the park for a number of LGBTQ+ people. To their credit, Canberra Times, Huffington Post Australia and SBS have brought this up. I’ve also seen a number of Facebook posts giving coping tips to LGBTQ+ people who are finding it hard. Kudos to those who made those posts.

All I ask from the public is this: regardless of your views on same – sex marriage or how you’ve voted, please, please look out for LGBTQ+ you’re close to. Be a soft place to fall. If you think they need it, encourage your loved ones to get professional help.

For those who do need help, contact Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

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