I was full of mirth once and clever and colours spun off the water and the radio and I sung words to myself until they were a white wave.
I grew breasts and cheekbones and men whistled. All sorts of particles flew off me and left. I was welcome. I was so very welcome.
I was a copy and an enlargement and copied. I was paper with plastic reinforcement. I was malleable and stiff.
I was as large as a planet and they unrolled me so I was unwieldy and when wind lifted me I made cracking sounds like a whip and they stretched me and pulled the skin over my bones and fixed me flat and firm against the sky.
I was a portent, a giantess, a mountain.
There was a man too. Clambering and I realised I was naked and
he was clothed.
And there was only one of me but I was everywhere. I was again and again.
He was, I realised, all over me and I was plastered in place, I was pasted and I could not move.
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
No really, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
So I was lying down and naked and the man was clothed and clambering on scaffolding and I realised we were not strangers but I knew him and knew this. Him moving and me still, so still I could be dead or dying and him slightly smiling.
Him exploring and me explored and his fingers and his knees and his holding.
I cannot remember precisely everything. My head is jammed up hard against a wall and my chin is thrust back and I cannot turn my neck and there is no room to think.
Is it more frozen or more fossil?
Everything around me moves. The road like a river. The rain. The gulls like small bursts of light blistering the air. The tree with its flowers the colour of old blood.
There is only one of me and there are hundreds of me and we are all of us hung in this precise moment, his scaffolding and him clambering towards us and we lying there like a goddess and our heads are slightly turned and we are all smiling slightly.
I never sleep. I am radiant. I shine out. I appear to be lit from within but I am scared of the night and I am scared of the night ending.
I think I have been here forever. I think everyone can see me. I think they all know he has me right there. I think they know he had me and I was frozen or a fossil and he will have me over and over and I will not move and they are all smiling slightly. In the cars they are nodding to each other and slightly smiling.
Did I say before? I think I remember this.
Thanks to Pip Adam for subject matter prompt.
TW, Rape and violence.
Imagine you were going to create a poster that illustrated the notion of male entitlement. Male entitlement, being the idea that some men feel they have rights to women's bodies, to sex with women, and obviously, those being the key functions of women, to women themselves. And the problem with male entitlement, being, among numerous other major and minor violations of women's self determination, rape.
You could have a picture of a naked or near naked woman with a vacuous expression, passive and laid out, clearly for perusal by men. Perhaps you could have some text that reinforces the idea that the woman is not a person, but an object. You could show the man's game is to access the object. Let's get to all the bits of her we can. That could be quite educational, to show how nasty those ideas are and the harm they cause. The way in which attitude is linked to action.
Wait! Look! Access Solutions have come to the party.
What do we have, popping up on billboards around the country? A vacuous naked woman, the implication she's just an awkward building that a man has to manouevere around. Yup, she's no more than a thing to gain access to. This ticks all the boxes as a great piece on rape education.
But these billboards aren't here as a statement on the way men are educated to believe women should lie around waiting to be accessed. Nor is it a cutting satire to show up the insidious way in which culture normalises the idea that women are men's property and play things. Nope. This thing is for real. This is an advertisement for a company that rents out scaffolding and forklifts.
Hahahahaha. A women as an object that we could lend you a cherry (snigger) picker to gain access to. Oooooh loook, he's about to paste up the bit with her nipple on it. She'll just lie there and you can do anything you want, and we'll help you. Hilarious.
The problem with promoting these ideas, is not that it's going to insult feminists' sensibilities, or that it's smutty. The idea promoted in this poster, is actually hurting women of all sorts. It's telling certain men that their sense of entitlement is right on. The men who habitually rape and hit their partners. The men who do things to women who are drunk and passed out. The men who in more subtle ways pressure women into doing things they're uncomfortable with. This poster tells women and men, that men with entitlement issues, have the backing of their company and all sorts of large machinery.
The NZ Advertising Standards Authority have rejected a complaint against the poster, citing a humour clause in their guidelines:
The owner and directer of Access Solutions, Michael Biddick, assured someone who had written directly to him asking him to remove the billboard that he too abhorred advertising that promoted rape, and went on to say:
I disagree with your accusations that our advertising in any way 'condone violence towards women’ as there is nothing in this billboard that is even suggestive of violence, nor does it 'promotes a rape culture by saying that men can access women's bodies at any time with the right equipment’. I am surprised that you have interpreted the concept in this way - we sell equipment that enables workers to reach high levels safely: the billboard shows the use of an EWP (Elevated Work Platform) allowing a worker to do just that - to change out a billboard advertisement. There is no suggestion of the worker (or anyone else) having any intention of rape or inciting violence towards the woman.
Hmm, 'I throw my innocent arms in front of me, I'm just a simple guy doing my best, oh I barely noticed it was a picture of a naked woman!' Snigger, snigger.
Do we really need to explain again that rape and violence against women are not spontaneous and natural behaviours or inclinations of men? Do we really need to say that all people are equally capable and inclined to gentleness and genorousity? Do we really need to say that a society where rape is common, doesn't emerge in a vacuum? Do we really have to tell you that men are actively trained in minimising and laughing about male violence against women? That this tells them it's okay? Do we really? Again?
I started writing a response to some of the comments on Giovanni Tiso's blog post Suffer the little children about the reluctance of Auckland Libraries to remove a book, that as it has been pointed out to them, instructs people not only to beat their children, but also how to beat them and with which implements.
My response started going on a bit and was in numbered sections with multiple parts, distinct personalities, and too many semicolons so I thought I better do my own post.
First, an anonymous librarian (anonymous because Auckland Library employees aren't allowed to comment officially on the issue) says the book probably arrived in the regional library by way of people being interested in research.
"By research I don’t mean academic research – I mean people volunteering for community groups, for internet think pieces, for blogs, writers of non-academic books, journalists etc. This is where I suspect the initial request for purchase came from, and where the current 19 requests on the book come from. I doubt any of these people are looking for parenting advice or will find the arguments in the book compelling. "
Given the book was in 1994, up to its 22nd printing, it seems to be a bit naive to suggest that some Aucklanders might not be among those who have obviously found the arguments compelling.
Additionally, the idea that the book is sitting in the collection as an item of interest in terms of research and not as a parenting guide would bear more weight if the library catalogue entry tagged the book with child abuse rather than under parenting.
Go to this Auckland Libraries site and type child train into the search box and it will be the first result returned. You can clearly see the item's tags Religious aspects, Amish, Family relationships, Parenting, Child rearing, Parent and child, Amish. Nothing which implies this is anything but a legitimate parenting manual. While the book may not be kept on the open shelves, as Anonymous suggests, it sits openly in Auckland Library's catalogue complete with the detailed description of the book as written by the publisher. Click through to the book's full catalogue entry and you can see the Author's notes and sketches and if you so desire "Learn more about them [the authors] and sign up for the No Greater Joy bi-monthly magazine at NoGreaterJoy.org ." Good grief.
Dylan Horrocks comments:
"... however much I reject the positions such books might take, I would be disturbed if the library refused to acquire a book on what are essentially moral grounds. Libraries did precisely that for many years, and the result was the suppression - above all - of minority voices, dissidents, feminists, queer writers, etc. "
I do argue that Auckland Libraries shouldn't hold this book - or if they do it needs to be tagged with child abuse, human rights violations, nasty thuggish ideas about beating up children and Childcare by Psychopaths and certainly not with Parenting . I know Dylan's with me on reclassifying it.
But my argument is based on the fact that it is an explicit manual on how to violate human rights. It is not the same argument used to suppress dissidents, queer writers, minority voices unless they too are producing manuals on how to violate fundamental human rights.
They're different arguments coming from different places. And it's okay, this is complicated stuff. We're allowed to be nuanced. We're allowed to say some stuff is okay and some stuff isn't.
As my friend Fraser said on Twitter
“But where do we draw the line?” How about somewhere this side if the child abuse manual?
Which brings me to THREE....
...which is more of a question really. What if this was a step by step manual on how to rape a child? Would the rather wussy defence of the book by Auckland Library representative Louise LaHatte, that libraries are committed to the principle of "freedom of access to information", that they acknowledged the book was "divisive", and they wouldn't
"suppress or remove material on the grounds that it gives offence" stand?
Or is it, as I suspect, that beating a child is a more palatable and socially acceptable violation of a child's human rights than rape. And that should an instruction manual on how to rape a child inadvertantly make it to the library shelves then Auckland Libraries would quietly and rightly remove it knowing that words like divisive, access to information and offence simply weren't appropriate.
I'm not convinced the language of rights is appropriate here at all. No-one is getting arrested or shot for reading the how to beat up your child book. It's probably getting preached in various toxic churches without repercussion. You can do all manner of searches on the internet and I imagine get detailed information and support from others who also want to maim their children. The right to information and speech is not under threat here.
A member of Auckland's population has made a stand and said it's inappropriate for a publicly funded institution to hold a book that instructs readers hurting some other members of Auckland's population. New Zealand is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which isn't down with hurting children. Auckland City Council must be bound by the Convention's Articles, so I reckon that's a fair point.
Okay, I'm all in favour of using a human rights framework as a starting place for policy but Auckland Library's call for freedom of access to information, and others' concern that 'banning' this book is a violation of freedom of rights plays several shonky moves.
It presumes that the right to freedom of information and freedom of speech should be realised even if it means the inability for others to realise their own freedoms.
It favours those who are already engaged in the process of informing and speaking, over those who aren't. In this case the rights for Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of To train up a child, to speak and certain Auckland Library user patrons to be informed take precedence over the rights of children simply because they're there and they showed up and they're tall.
It reduces the discussions of freedoms to a single issue of right and wrong, zooming closer and closer, until everything except this particular perceived violation of a right is blurry and forgettable and unimportant. Context is important.
In our society, where the realisation of human rights is uneven, defending the rights of the already powerful is not enough.
We need to be intelligent, and expansive and proactive about rights. We must ask Whose freedoms are we thinking about? Who else's freedoms should we be thinking about? Does this freedom impact other people's freedoms? Is this cry for freedom actually a flag flying call to defend the status quo?
If our attention is drawn to the rights of child beaters, we must think also about the rights of the children they would have us beat.
NB on the date. This was originally posted in the early hours of 15/2/14 but the post went down, so I've reposted.
Dear lovers of music, dear worshippers of freedom of speech, dear fellow freedom fighters, dear attackers of the appalling censorship of Odd Future, today is a wonderful day.
It's so heartening, so great you've spoken out in such vast and articulate numbers about Odd Future. I had no idea New Zealand was filled to the brim with champions of free speech.
You'll of course be horrified to learn that the banning of Odd Future is just the tip of the iceberg. Yup, if you think stopping these poor 'anti-establishment', grammy-nominated, critically-acclaimed, chart-topping artists from coming into the country(1) - probably winning them a hefty compensation package and a few thousand more fans - is a travesty, wait until you hear this.
Last year about 11(4) New Zealand women were censored. They weren't banned from playing some concert 12,000 kilometres from their home town. No. They were censored globally and permanently. Not a single country opened their borders to them, and not a single council let them play in their concert hall. They were denied their freedom of speech and their freedom of movement. The year before last the same thing happened to another 11, and the year before that, about the same. This year, maybe another 11.
Because every year, on average, 11 women are censored by their male partners or ex-partners who decide it's a good idea to shut these women up for good. They kill them (2). They probably kill them because they talked too much and said stuff that the establishment (these boyfriends or partners or ex-partners or the fathers of their children) didn't like. Or maybe they killed them because the women had said they didn't want to be in a relationship with them any more. Whatever, the men didn't like what the women were saying so they censored them. They stopped them from talking to anyone, ever again.
For every women irrevocably censored each year, there are hundreds more who are censored through rape, assault and fear. Who don't talk because it might cost them their lives, or their kids' lives.
And guess what? Some of those dead forever-censored women may have been or might be extraordinary musicians. They may have been astonishing rap artists, or DJs or poets. They might have sung like goddesses and danced like the devil. Or maybe not. Maybe they were just women going about their lives. Doing their best. Being nice, being horrid. It doesn't really matter. What what they weren't was an elite bunch of globe-trotting musicians who write and perform lyrics like I fuck bitches with no permission… Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome/Starve her 'til I carve her then I shove her in the Rover/Where I cut her like a barber.
What they don't have is a vitriolic and possibly entirely new fan base foaming at the mouth at the violation of human rights afforded by denying a few people entry to our country. One country, once. They don't have a bunch of liberal men getting all romantic about disagreeing with what they say but defending to the death the right for them to say But keep your motherfuckin' daughter's mouth shushed boy and every girl I deal and fuck/it's always against her will.
It would be tempting to think some men feel it is a lot, you know, more radical and open-minded and muso-hip to defend a man's right to say he kills women for fun, than it is to defend the women's right to be alive. But no, I know I must have that wrong.
Yup, awesome job on the freedom fighting today guys. Man, those really successful, wealthy, profoundly popular artists who are saying the same old hackneyed women-hating shite, really need your back.
And I'm totes looking forward to you proving that you're not just a bunch of needy blokes who are shocked to the gills with the idea that maybe you won't get to go to a gig you want to go to, or that your mates might want to go to. Or maybe your mates' mates (3). I am utterly convinced you're not just having a little freedom speech tantrum because you're so astounded things aren't going your way this once.
I can see with the fire in your belly, you'll be launching incredible freedom campaigns that will stop the irretractable censorship of around 11 women a year in this country. And stop the daily and widespread violation of women's freedom of speech and movement by men. Police won't be called out to a domestic violence incident every six minutes. Thousands of protection orders won't need to be issued each year.
And the Women's Refuge volunteers who are used to answering some 60,000 calls a year will instead be waiting around getting bored. Maybe they'll surf YouTube, find some blistering new artist, and get to listen to the whole track, start to finish, without some tragic interruption.
(1) On admittedly spurious grounds of possibly causing riots (update 17/2/13 as information has emerged it's looking less spurous to me - not just an incident when a policeman hurt his arm but a far more serious incident in Australia but that's another story ( or post?)
(2) This and other stats come from http://www.nzfvc.org.nz/data-summaries/family-violence-deaths and http://www.areyouok.org.nz/files/statistics/ItsnotOK_recent_family_violence_stats.pdf. It's quite hard to get the exact statistic I was trying to extract but I think from both these sources the 13 a year for partner and ex-partner male to female murder is not far off. Gendered analysis of violence fell out of flavour for several years in New Zealand so getting a good understanding of what was going on has been difficult. My number crunching wise friends may be able to be more specific (see note 4, I updated this from 13 to 11)
(3) Edited on16/2/13 from "...music you might want to listen to" etc, as I realised "gig" better reflects the situation with Odd Future that I am referencing. Anyone, of course, can listen to OF, they just weren't able to listen to them at one particular concert.
(4) Edited on 17/2/13 from 13 to 11. One of my wise number crunching friends did indeed say the official stats would make the figure closer to 11. My initial reasoning can be seen in (2)
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