All the chilling things

I wrote an op-ed about the non-prosecution of the alleged rapists in the Roastbusters case, which was published on the Manawatu Standard. It’s not on the Stuff website, but it’s available on-line here: Roastbusters shows how society enables rape.

Every aspect of the Roasbusters story is chilling. There’s the sickening knowledge that a group of young men thought it was okay to target girls, get them drunk, pressure them into sex, and brag about it on-line. It showcases a disturbing culture among some young men, where women and girls are regarded as prey, something to “have sex with” and as a point scored in a game.

Click through to read more.

That Air NZ safety video

Air New Zealand has a new safety video.  It’s part of their on-going series of alternative safety videos, which have become a core part of their image. This time, they’ve taken Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to the Cook Islands.

You can watch the video here, but do be aware that it’s classic objectification of women, with a side serve of using people from a minority ethnic group as props adding local colour.

I’ve been in the media talking about it, and it turns out that I’m not the only person raising issues with it. Pam Corkery thinks that Air NZ has gotten it all wrong, and Hilary Barry is absolutely incensed by it.

“I’m incensed. I’m absolutely incensed by the safety video.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate, sexualised, objectifies women, demeaning, it’s just appalling.

It *is* sexualised. The women are wearing the usual skimpy bikinis, and they sit and stand in sexually provocative poses. To watch the video and claim that it has no sexual content would be at best disingenuous.

And therein lies the problem.

When it comes to sexual expression, one of the key criteria is consent. If I don’t want to see the models in the swimwear edition of Sports Illustrated, then I can choose not to buy the magazine. I don’t have to participate in the objectification of women, nor in the sexual content of the magazine.

But no such choice is available to me if I have bought a flight on Air New Zealand, because I am trying to get from one place to another in the most efficient way possible. I am trapped on board the plane, wearing a seatbelt, and I can’t move anywhere else, while Air New Zealand staff urge me to watch the video. They are forcing sexual content on me without my consent.

On top of that, the Cook Islands people in the video are not exactly front and centre. They’re off to the side, a back drop for the models. Does Air New Zealand think that people from the Cook Islands are just not beautiful enough to feature in the video?

Air New Zealand, please don’t force me to watch this video on your flights. All I want to do is get from one place to another. I don’t want to have to watch sexual material, least of all sexual material that uses people from a minority ethnic group as props. I do not consent.

Taking a Stand against rape and rape culture: newspaper opinion piece

I wrote an article about rape and rape culture, and what we can do about it, for my local paper. It’s not on-line, but I’ve made a PDF of it. It’s oriented towards an audience that may not have read much about rape culture before.

Stopping rape culture – pdf – 406kb

And I spoke at the rally against rape culture in my town on Saturday. You can read about the demonstration here, and incidentally, get a nice view of the back of my head.

Square protest against rape culture

The demonstration in Palmerston North was organised by a young man, Mark Byford. Mark spoke very effectively at the rally, and he did a great job organising it. Thank you, Mark!

Memo from the blue gang: women aren’t citizens

The police have been telling us that they can’t proceed against the Roast Busters gang because they lacked evidence and formal complaints. If only women would come forward, then they could take action against the Roast Busters gang. But they were constrained because no young woman was brave enough to come forward. When questioned, police said that they had received no formal complaints.

They lied.

It turns out that FOUR! young women have come forward with formal complaints. And police did nothing. They allowed the young men to continue raping girls.

From the NZ Herald:

Police have confirmed they received four complaints by alleged victims of the Roast Busters group of young men, between 2011 and last year.

Until last night, police had said they had been unable to bring prosecutions against the young men because they were yet to receive a formal complaint by any victims.

Police had been monitoring the group for the last two years, who bragged online they would ply girls – some as young as 13 – with alcohol and have sex with them.

Their activities came to light this week with media reports, and the Facebook page they boasted on was shut down.

Police have now said four young women aged between 13 and 15 had come forward with complaints of a sexual nature.

There’s so much that’s wrong with what the police have failed to do in this awful case, from victim blaming, to pretending that they could do nothing, to outright lying.

And the message they are sending us? Women don’t matter.

This is deeply worrying. Our police force is an important institution in our society. We give up the right to pursue retribution and recompense ourselves, and hand it over to police, so that they will protect us. We have a contract with them, that saves us from a solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short life in the state of nature. They will act as an impartial group helping to ensure that strong people don’t prey on the weak, that each person is tolerably safe as she or he goes about their daily business, that each of us can live securely, without needing to shelter behind guns and hard fists and high fences. We live in freedom, as free citizens, because we know that our police pursue justice on our behalf, and work hard to keep us safe.

Not any more.

The loud, clear message that police have sent in the last few days in their words, and over the last two years in their actions, is that women don’t count. They count so little that even there is clear evidence of criminal activity, of young men who are over the age of consent “having sex with” girls who are well under the age of consent, they will take no action. Even worse than just taking no action, they will actively choose not to take action and leave even more young women to be raped.

The problem is large. This is not just one incident, not just one police station that has gone a little rogue. It seems to be systemic. We know this from the extraordinary difficulty that Louise Nicholas experienced in getting any kind of justice when she had been raped by police officers, and we know this from Dame Margaret Bazley’s Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, and we know this from the repeated reports from the Auditor-General finding that the progress of police in effecting culture change is slow (one, two, three). Slow beyond all reason.

Very simply, as far as the police are concerned, it seems that women don’t count. Women are not citizens in this country.

That gives us all reason to fear. As women, what the police are telling, through their actions and their inactions, is that we ought not to bother complaining to them if we are raped or sexually assaulted. Because we don’t count.

And through all this, we must remember the young women who have been targetted and raped by this loathsome group of young men in Auckland. They have been assaulted again and again. First by the young men. Second by the police, who would not hear their complaints. Third by the knowledge that their complaints mattered so little, that police would not even take action to stop the young men from raping, even if they weren’t going to prosecute them. And fourth by the systemic injustice of police towards women, telling women that they don’t count.

So what can we do? First, to the young women who laid police complaints: may you find justice. We believe you.

Second, Scuba Nurse has some excellent suggestions about what action we can take, ranging from the small gesture of not participating in rape jokes, to donating to Rape Crisis.

Third, change the way we rear boys. Luddite Journo has some suggestions, in Growing boys, not roast busters.

Fourth, a series of protests is being planned around the country. Keep your eye out on social media for details of rallies planned for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on the afternoon of 16 November.

Fifth, look after yourselves. Here are some suggestions from The Wireless: A really heavy week on the internet.


I’ve been on the radio a couple of times this week.

The first was my regular discussion with Bryan Crump, on Radio NZ Nights. This time we talked about abortion law reform in New Zealand. You can find the discussion here: Abortion law reform in NZ – discussion with Bryan Crump on RNZ Nights 16’45”.

It was as ever, an interesting discussion, and a challenging one.

The second radio appearance was challenging too, in quite a different way. I was on NewstalkNB’s breakfast show, talking to Mike Hosking about this awful “Roast Busters” group in Auckland. I was a bit flummoxed by his opening question: he asked me about the girls, when I had expected to be asked about the boys who were deliberately pursuing girls and getting them drunk with the explicit aim of raping them. However, I recovered, and then had quite a good opportunity, I thought, to focus the discussion on rape and rape culture.

You can find the audio of my discussion here: Roast Busters and Rape – discussion with Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB – about 3 minutes.

Many thanks to whoever suggested that NewstalkZB should contact me. I have my suspicions as to who it was…

Today in rape culture

There was a horrific rape in Hamilton. The two men have been sentenced to 16 and 15 years in jail. They seem to be completely unremorseful. They tried to claim that it was consensual sex, but given that they first abducted the girl that they assaulted, it seems a completely unrealistic claim. Fortunately, the jury wasn’t convinced at all.

The details of the crime are horrid – all reported in the paper.

And courtesy of Stuff, there’s a massive serving of victim blaming at the end of the article.


Travel in pairs

Make sure people know where you are, and when they are next likely to hear from you

Be aware of your environment

Do not travel with strangers

Here’s a screen grab of the helpful hints.

And here’s a link to the article, for the record. Don’t don’t don’t read the article – it’s full of details about the crime. Rapist pair show no remorse

I find this astounding, that at the end of an article describing the brutal treatment of a young woman, a news site could include these “safety” tips, implying that somehow, it was the young woman’s fault that she was raped. This is rape culture in action – blaming the victim, and making it very clear that if only she had done something different, none of this would have happened.

I don’t have access to a physical copy of the Waikato Times, where the story was originally published. To the credit of the Waikato Times, the helpful hints don’t appear on their website. They’re only on the aggregated Stuff website.

Talking about rape culture

I was on Radio New Zealand Nights last night, talking about rape culture. I found it very, very challenging. It’s a topic that’s easy to talk about with my fabulous feminist friends, because we start from a base of knowledge and analysis about rape and rape culture. Bryan Crump, who hosts Radio NZ Nights, had done some background reading for the talk, but I was intensely aware that our audience had probably not heard much about rape culture at all, or preferred not to think about rape, or even found it offensive. And of course, some people would be have experienced rape or sexual assault themselves, so hearing a discussion about it could be difficult for them.

You can listen to the recording here: RNZ Nights – Discussion of rape culture – MP3 – 16’34”

If the link won’t work for you, you can download podcasts direct from the Radio NZ site: RNZ Nights – Audio from Monday 8 April.

I’m very grateful to the wonderful women who have discussed rape culture, particularly Melissa McEwan, TallulahSpankhead, Emma, Coley Tangerina, tigtog and the Hoydens, Luddite Journo, anjum rahman and of course, Julie Fairey. NB: all these links go to posts about rape and rape culture.

And off-line, my dear friends Jackie Clark, and Cat Pausé.