Adventures of Frangipan

Friday, 30 December 2011

Outrage at NY Times article about rape of 11-year old girl

I was reading something today that linked to this story about an 11-year old girl being raped by a group of boys. Or more rightly, the link is to an article outraged by an article in the New York Times about said rape.I was just as outraged and wanted to sign the petition demanding that the NY Times apologises, but this story is from ages ago and it has timed-out. So I'll say my bit here about some choice comments from the NYT.
Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?
They weren't drawn into such an act. They chose to rape. The 11-year old girl was the one drawn into it.
the girl had been forced to have sex with several men
Say rape. It has more impact. It has more meaning. In fact, 'forced to have sex' has no meaning because sex is consensual. You can look up 'rape' on Wikipedia and see that to be the case.
A relative of one of the suspects arrived, and the group fled through a back window. They then went to the abandoned mobile home, where the assaults continued.
So they had some inkling that what they were doing was wrong and tried to hide it? Heaven forbid we actually say that though. Much better to let readers infer that for themselves. Notice also that the 11-year old girl has been essentially thrown in with the fleeing group. In legal terms, have they not also kidnapped her? I very much doubt that after being raped and assaulted by a group of boys and men for some time, she chose to go with them for it to continue.
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
Well this changes everything. She visited the area regularly? She talked to teenage boys? She dressed older than she was? Clearly she was asking for it then (sarcasm). Clearly she wanted to have sex (sarcasm). Clearly this behaviour means we can excuse what those boys and men did (sarcasm).

This story reminded me of an episode of LA Law that I watched a few years ago and have been trying to find a video of to embed or link to. In the episode, Grace was prosecuting a man accused of statutory rape and rape [I'm not sure of the exact legal terminology, but as I understand it, statutory rape is sex with (or rape of?) someone under the age of consent; and rape is non-consensual]. Grace loses the statutory rape charge as the girl - 16 I think - was dressed maturely. The defence argued that the man did not know she was underage, and were able to have the jury see the girl dressed as she was on the night in question. I can still remember Grace's closing argument about the rape, in which she stated that no matter how old a girl is or how old she has made herself look, or where she is, or whether you're already kissing; no means no, stop means stop. She won the rape charge.

LA Law aired until the early 90s, and I can't believe people still don't get this. You would think the fact that not all boys and men go around raping any girls or women that talk to them, or wear make up and revealing clothing would prove that boys and men can control their sexual desires and understand that rape is wrong.

So to really hit the message home, here are some placards from SlutWalk Brisbane via Creatrix Tiara:

“Not fair game when drunk, not fair game EVER, deal with it!”
“Yes means yes, no means no, however we dress, wherever we go”
“We’re not asking for it - our clothes are not our consent"
“Only rapists can stop rape”

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Sarah Palin is apparently Feminist

Just been reading an article from Jessica Valenti in Newsweek and had to post this. Quote from the article:
In much the same way Obama-supporting feminists were criticized, women who didn't back Palin were swiftly denounced as hypocrites by those on the right. Rick Santorum called Palin the "Clarence Thomas for feminists," blasting women who didn't support her. Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America said, "Even feminists—who supposedly promote women's equality and the so-called 'women's rights' agenda—are questioning a female candidate's ability to get the job done." The criticism of women who failed to back Palin even indulged in sexism. Dennis Miller said that women who weren't behind Palin were simply jealous of the candidate's sex life, and Time magazine reporter Belinda Luscombe wrote that some women had a "hatred" for Palin simply because she was "too pretty." (My favorite, however, was Kevin Burke's argument in National Review that women who didn't support Palin were suffering from "post-abortion symptoms.") Palin even managed to divide some feminists. Elaine Lafferty—a former editor of Ms. magazine who had endorsed Clinton but then signed on as a consultant to the McCain campaign—condemned feminist leaders for "sink[ing] this low" and called feminism an "exclusionary club" for not welcoming Palin with open arms.

Or perhaps people didn't like her because of stuff like this:

Or that an actor knows more than she does about dinosaurs:

I'm not American so this isn't something that directly affected me. But apparently as women, if we get a female candidate, it is our duty - as women - to support them. No matter how ridiculous that particular woman might be, or how little she knows about politics. If Britney Spears decides she is running for president, all women must vote for her. Quite frankly, if you think that way then you can fuck off. I was too young to really understand the Thatcher years but looking back on it, I don't much like her. When white men had to choose between Al Gore and George W, were the younger ones told to vote for Al because he is younger than George? Or was it based on their height, build ... favourite colour? What about when British men are (likely) to be asked to choose between David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg? Support the same football team perhaps?

I feel I should also note how lovely Katie Couric was about the Sarah Palin interview when she appeared on David Letterman. She could have completed slated her - as most people were doing - but she was very polite.

I do not claim to know everything about feminism. In fact, the more I read about people's issues with feminism, the more I realise how much I have to learn. But the version (or brand or label or whatever) of feminism that I adhere to is about social justice. Not something I associate Sarah Palin with.

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Riot Grrl


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Friday, 23 December 2011

Nirvana for Christmas Number One!!

Much like the Rage campaign in 2009, there is an attempt for an alternative Christmas Number 1 in 2011: Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.

Rage was a momentous occasion. 'Killing in the Name' is an anthem, and it brought together people who were fed up of the usual X Factor Christmas chart topper. Simon Cowell said the whole campaign would make him think about the usual X Factor format.

Fast forward to 2010 and, oh look, another X Factor cover version topping the chart! Not much change then.

And now into 2011. There was plans to have Gary Barlow write an original piece of music for the winners to release as their first single. But then it was decided that Damien Rice's 'Cannonball' would be covered instead. Cue lots of angry Damien Rice fans.

I will be buying 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Despite apparently having no meaning, it was the song of a generation. It came to represent anger, confusion, outcasts ... which colours many people's teenage years! I think it would be quite fitting for it to be a chart success in Nevermind's 20th anniversary year; a year that will also be remembered for protests and riots throughout the world.

However, it is highly likely that the Military Wives will get the Christmas Number One this year.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Vegan Snack Recipe

I had a great idea of making Christmas presents this year, partly to save money and partly cuz I thought it was nice. Turns out it's been quite a lot of work and not all that cheap!

However, one thing I did want to mention was my copy of the Cocoa Orange Nakd Bar.

I kinda love these snacks, and according to the packet, it's just a bunch of raw ingredients blitzed together. So I took their percentages (10% = 100g) and made my own version. All the ingredients went in a blender to break down and mix together, then got blended with the mini-whisk until fine. The only thing I did differently was add a bit of water to the cocoa powder, and that was probably a mistake cuz they're a bit soft and squidgy!

So now I have some pretty tasty, healthy, vegan snacks to give out to my friends and family for Christmas. Along with not so healthy flapjacks.And tomorrow, I'm going to try to make the Apple Pie bar.

FYI: ingredients are:

  • 400g dates
  • 400g cashews
  • 140g raisins
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • juice of 1 orange

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Rape and Victim Blaming

I've really been getting on a feminist trip recently, reading many, many articles written on feminist blogs, such as The F Word, Geek Feminist, etc.

One subject that comes up time and time again is rape, and more specifically the culture of victim-blaming. While reading all these articles, I found myself not getting entirely on board with what was being said, and I think (and hope) I've finally figured out what I mean. Although this has changed while I have been typing this out!

First of all, let me be clear that I do not believe anyone who is raped is in any way to blame. The act of rape is entirely in the hands of the person who chooses to do the raping.

Calls from police and safety groups that urge women not to go out alone at night might mean well, but seem to forget that men get raped too, and that there is not necessarily safety in numbers: rapists might think the same way and group together! I understand the idea behind sensible drinking campaigns that urge you not to be a victim, but again, missing the point. These also ignore the fact that you can be raped in your own home.

Now to my issue. Again, I must be clear: I have not been the victim of rape, and to my knowledge, I do not know anyone who has been. I do not pretend to know what it must be like. The only thing I can equate it to is when I was mugged by two boys of about 16 when I was in university in Leeds in 2003.

I was walking home alone after a few drinks in the pub with a friend, and these two boys took advantage of the fact that we were alone on the street. One grabbed me from behind, holding my arms down, while the other grabbed my bag from my hand. I was thrown to the ground while they ran off down a side street. I was almost ready to run after them, but a car pulled up and those people drove me home while calling the police.

The police arrived very quickly and were excellent. They were very sympathetic and drove me to where it happened and where the boys ran off towards, in case anyone was still around, or if any of my belongings had been dropped. I should note that I was quite useless in this whole process: the muggers wore jeans and hoodies, I didn't see them from the front and couldn't tell you anything more than their height and build. I also could not tell where exactly it happened (bloody terraced housing all looking the same!). Nevertheless, the police were patient with me.

I do not blame myself for being mugged. That was entirely the decision of those boys who I remember laughing as they ran off. But that doesn't change all the shoulda woulda couldas I told myself over the next few days/weeks/months. If I didn't have so many drinks, I would've been more aware of my surroundings; or I wouldn't have walked so quickly and overtaken lots of other people, leaving myself alone. I knew mugging was a possibility, so I should've taken better precautions. Etc.

There was also an occasion when I got so drunk that I left a bar without my bag and ended up walking into a part of the city I didn't know, completely unaware until I seemingly 'woke up' a while later, and spent several hours trying to figure out how to get home. I got home completely safe and thankfully my friend (who I left in the bar) had my bag. While my friends thought I was a legend for this drunken behaviour, I still kick myself: it could've ended quite differently.

This is the part where I second guess myself. I started by wanting to say...
Let me reiterate again that I do not know what it is like to be raped, and nor do I blame the victims. But looking at the only experience I can equate it to (one of exploitation, control, etc.), I hate how much I tell myself that I should've done something differently. Mainly because as a victim I felt I was quite useless, and thus I blame myself for the lack of justice.
I wish I had taken more regard for my safety not because I deserved to be attacked or was 'asking for it' or anything else that someone else might tell me. I wish I had taken more regard for my safety because of how much I beat myself up following these incidents.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I agree with my own opinion! What if I hadn't been drunk, took a taxi and got raped: what would I tell myself that I should've done differently then? And I haven't changed my behaviour. I walked home along similar roads and in similar conditions (although less drink) the following weekend and many other times afterwards. I returned to university (Northumbria) last year and, upon deciding that that area of Newcastle seemed safe enough, walked around alone at all times. Even after warnings from the university that women had been attacked. I also walk around the countryside and woods at home at all times, more afraid of Blair Witch than anything else! This was the case before all reading all the feminist blog articles, and after reading, I become more and more angry with my own opinion above, and the world at large.

I'll finish by saying that I think we all (men and women) have to take a certain amount of responsibility for safety in a world where you can be raped, mugged, or attacked in any way. I do not think this amounts to curfews or having to find men to escort us from A to B (do men have to find bigger men?!). I do think self defence is a good idea.

But most importantly we need to wholeheartedly agree that it is just plain wrong to attack anyone (men or women) in whatever situation they may put themselves in. Everyone should be able to feel safe at any time of day or night, anywhere, without being attacked. And this comes back to chipping away at the culture of victim-blaming.

So in a very long post, I've gone from not entirely agreeing, to being totally on board!

And for those still not agreement:
Only 11% of serious sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
Finny, A. (2006) The cost of domestic violence, Women and Equality Unit; quoted in VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Why an Integrated Strategy in Wales?

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Teaching and Exam Board Scandal

I feel compelled to write about the Daily Telegraph's recent expose on exam boards because I know one of the teachers who appears in a video on the website, and who has apparently been suspended following the article.

The man in question is Dr Paul Evans of Denbigh High School, and formerly Ysgol Brynhyfryd, Ruthin. He only ever taught me a few hours of General Studies, but to this day, I believe I would've studied History to GCSE and possibly A-level if he had taught me in Year 9. And I regret that. He was well-known throughout the school as being a great teacher, not only for his passion for his subject but also for his ability to communicate with students in a way that actually got through to them. I can't remember if I had already left Brynhyfryd when I heard he was moving to Denbigh High, but I do remember thinking it would be a great loss to Brynhyfryd.

And now onto the scandal of - shock horror - teachers knowing that questions are cyclical and passing on this knowledge to other teachers and students. Frankly I would be concerned if a teacher with many years experience had not cottoned onto this fact. The real scandal here is the Daily Telegraph featuring an expose in 2011 when this has been going on since before I left school 10 years ago. British journalism is apparently in the same sorry state that the education system is in.

I was taught at GCSE and A-level in a way that allowed me to gain good exam results, because guess what? Teachers and schools are rewarded for good exam results! I was lucky to have many excellent teachers, including Dr Evans's wife, who all had to deal with limited time to teach broad syllabuses, usually to large classes of varying educational standard.

I went on to an excellent university where, like many universities, you can buy past exam papers to aid your revision. It is not difficult to notice that questions here are also cyclical. Or if you're really lucky, they ask the same 10 questions every year, and you only have to answer 3. How many would you bother revising? I always chose 4, just in case they threw in something different.I have since gone on to study a module with the Open University, where I gained excellent marks for basically quoting their own textbook back to them.

It is absolutely disgusting that Dr Evans is being used as a scapegoat of this whole debacle, when it is plain to see from just one student's point of view, that this is not cheating. It is simply the way things are done in this education system. Making Dr Evans out to be the bad guy and suspending him just shows how ridiculously out of touch the Daily Telegraph and Denbigh High School and anyone else badmouthing him is.

As quoted from Elizabeth Truss MP in this Guardian article, "It's a mistake to say there's a few rotten apples [in the exam system], this is a symptom of a wider problem with the way the system is structured, that we need to deal with."

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Friday, 2 December 2011

Celebrity vegans

I have decided to blog a list of unlikely celebrity vegans. By this I mean people you wouldn’t expect to be vegan because they do not conform to the stereotype. Judging by the number of comments I get about ‘looking healthy for a vegan’, it’s fairly obvious that veganism needs re-branding. I haven’t worked particularly hard to put this list together: it’s basically a mash up of lists from Wikipedia and Happy Cow.

I’m going to start with actor James Cromwell, simply because he became vegan after playing Farmer Hoggett in Babe. Other vegan actors and actresses include: Woody Harrelson, Daryl Hannah, Casey Affleck, Ed Begley Jr, Joaquin Phoenix, Tobey Maguire, Olivia Wilde, Jenny McCarthy, Darren Boyd, Vanessa Williams, and Jared Leto.

There are also a lot of vegan musicians, many of which are punk or straight edge. I won’t go through all of these, but I will mention Tom Gabel of Against Me! simply because I adore him. Others include Bryan Adams, Brian Bell (Weezer), Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Modest Mouse, The Cribs), Michael Franti, Anthony Keidis, Jason Mraz, Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys), and Geezer Butler and Bill Ward from Black Sabbath.

Own photo

‘Business type’ vegans include: Anu Garg (founder of; Gulu Lalvani (founder of Binatone); William Clay Ford Jr (Ford CEO); Russell Simmons (co-founder of Def Jam records); and Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter).

Deceased vegans include River Phoenix and Cesar Chavez. There is also some dispute over whether Leonardo da Vinci was vegan. He certainly did not eat meat and also released caged birds, but it unclear whether he consumed eggs, milk, etc.

A couple of odd ones: Steve-O from Jackass has been vegan for a couple of years. Howard Lyman is a former cattle rancher and now a vegan writer and speaker. And Mike Tyson has been vegan since 2009.

And lastly to the sportspeople. The following people have chosen to become vegan for either ethical or health reasons, but there has been no negative impact on their performance due to their diet:
  • Carl Lewis: track athlete, winner of 9 Olympic gold medals and 8 World Championship gold medals.
  • Scott Jurek: ultramarathon runner, winner of: Hardrock Hundred (2007), Badwater Ultramarathon (2005, 2006), Spartathlon (2006, 2007, 2008), and Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (1999-2005).
  • Brendan Brazier: winner of Canadian 50-km Ultramarathon Championships in 2003 and 2006.
  • Fiona Oakes: cycling and marathon runner, and former Olympian.
  • Georges Laraque: recently retired Canadian ice hockey player.
  • UFC competitors Mac Danzig and Luke Cuomo.
  • Professional wrestlers Bryan Danielson and Taryn Terrell.
  • NBA players Salim Stoudamire and John Salley (retired).
  • NASCAR driver Andy Lally.

So there you go. By no means a full list: I have deliberately avoided unhealthy looking and more stereotypical vegans, but it is a growing celebrity and sporting trend. I think it is particularly encouraging to see the number of models and ‘fashionistas’ who are becoming vegan. Hopefully that’ll give a boost to more stylish vegan shoes (and clothing), and once again put fur where it belongs.

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