A week of power(lessness)

I need to stop apologising about how I’m always busy and not posting, and actually post. As things are going on in my life lately, intellectual pursuits have gone further down the pecking order. One of my tasks of late has involved keeping my eye on world affairs through RSS feeds, and I thought I had a thematic observation about the news stories of the past couple of weeks.

‘Sluts’ (or it’s less offensive to say it as a mention and not a use)

Let’s summarise for posteriority’s sake what the main headlines are. After an ignorant police officer in Canada made a comment to the effect that a woman’s sexual assault was her responsibility instead of the perpetrator of the attack. This has led to an initially nationwide grassroots response by (predominantly) women to create the SlutWalk, a demonstration celebrating a woman’s right to wear what she wants without molestation. In the UK, a SlutWalk is going to occur in London which has affected many pundits to reply in a cliche way of answering “to whether they agree or disagree”, this kind of journalistic framing is so boring it is almost formulaic. On the upside, this issue has raised the awareness of women’s rights and feminism to the fore, and brough a more public discussion among the unusual suspects such as broadsheet and tabloid media as well as the non-feminist bloggosphere. It’s terribly cliche and hipster to say “I was there before it was popular” (I wasn’t), but the issue of women’s safety and grassroots feminist movements in the UK is no new issue, it is only new that it is getting more detailed and deserved public attention. For too long, grassroots demonstrations such as ‘Reclaim the Night’ have been ignored, but add the word Slut and you have the idiotic masses listening.

The issue of rape has come up a lot in public discussion of late, not just for the SlutWalk, but also in a gaffe by the British Justice Minister concerning sentencing. I recall an F-Word article (citation needed) earlier this week which stated that nothing has especially changed regarding the phenomena of sexual assault, except some public events going on, yet this issue has gained a lot of attention. I suppose the fear of many commentators is that the SlutWalk has succumbed to appealing to the ‘male gaze’, in a campaigning attempt.

My hero Arnold

Another story has emerged this week, concerning one of my absolute favourite living people in the world. Having said that, I now feel a conflict about how I percieve this individual, and to some extent myself. Last week it emerged that Bodybuilding and action hero politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger had separated from his wife, initially the reasons were undisclosed. Earlier this week it then emerged that the Schwarzenegger had an affair with a member of his house staff, which led to an illegitimate child. Why does this conflict me? Well considering the news of the previous week about the phenomenon concerning rape, a discussion emerged in various blogs and podcasts I have followed which emphasised how the cultural shift of responsibility of sexual assault and harassment should go to the perpetrators and not the victim. The sensitivity of being a victim, coupled with the intensely sensitive issue of being a sexual attack can make such harrassment or assault very shameful to the victim and causes a great deal of psychological damage, another factor is that many of these victims (men and women) may feel powerless to the justice system for various reasons, such as the legal and police process following such an attack, as well as potential power issues relating to the perpetrator, the victims indeed have a justified sense of being powerless.

…and then comes a story about Arnold. Arnold has a reputation of being inappropriate with women. There is a phrase attributed to him to the effect of “eating [oral sex with a woman] isn’t cheating”, and a number of allegations concerning sexual harassment from women, some of these cases were settled out of court. I suspect (although time will be the judge) that Arnold’s reputation would be protected by what one might call the ‘Mike Tyson’ factor. A figure like Arnold, or ‘Iron Mike’ has such a monumental cultural influence among the media, and among many men, largely and crudely on the basis of their characters and physical pursuits alone. If I am to ask myself if this story would affect my enjoyment of a film such as ‘Total Recall’, where his treatment of women isn’t exactly civilised (but it is to ‘comic effect’). The cultural myth of the powerful man can get away with anything is utterly pervasive, and even though many will judge him from the perspective of his matrimony with Maria Schriver, I suspect his reptuation is not harmed. I find this potentially troubling because I suspect a famous woman could not get away with an equivalent media revelation.

Superinjunctions, the reserve of rich men

This story of court injunctions has gone on for a while now (and long enough too). The notion that a judge can order through his/her mandate a block on the media to report a piece of news is very dangerous. As dangerous as the AHRC integrating contemporary political ideology (but that’s another story). Now, it doesn’t really matter if a famous footballer who was in a Premiership team which won a certain cup, or if a famous comedian-actor who appeared in Revenge of the Sith is into BDSM, or a cast member of a recent early 20thC period drama called *ownto* Ab*ey likes having a prostitute (whose previous client was a famous England footballer) putting dildoes into his anus, or how when a star of a famous Channel 4 drama based in the north of England has an affair with a co-star, and gets found out, the latter female co-star is kicked out of the show.

Superinjunctions are the reserve of the rich, and for men too. There is at least one injunction concerning a woman, but most of these cocnerning. There are many victims of this horrible injunction power of the judges. The media for one, the public for another, considering the case of  a certain oil company last year, and on a personal note, these women are used as means to an end and not an end in themselves. The most popular media gagging order concerns an affair between a obscure member of a former reality television show. The woman of the affair (the reality show participant) is allowed to be named, but she personally is not allowed to name her other party. In the most personal way possible, a man, under the mandate of the law, and under his decision to commit and infidelity, is given the upper hand and a position of great power to humiliate this woman and limit her right to expression. In the allegation concerning the SHAMELESS actor of a famous Channel 4 series, the woman in the affair is the victim, losing her job as a result of the revelation. This injunction must be addressed, not just for its obvious hindrance to freedom of expression, but a tacit legal justification of the ‘default’ of normative male privilege, not just in his sexuality, but his power to silence.

Suddenly, there’s more to worry than a glass ceiling.

Michael

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