Do we need a Men’s Rights Movement?

I arrived at the question of a men’s rights movement as a sceptical, self-proclaimed feminist.  After extensive research, I’ve remained a self-proclaimed feminist, still sceptical of the men’s rights movement, but not of men’s rights. Let me explain.

Throughout history, women and men have been fighting to erode the gender binary. Feminism was established to push the female agenda so females could have the same rights as males. Somewhere along the line, feminist semantics have led to the misinformation of what it means to be a feminist. Feminism has been misconstrued to be synonymous with misandry and male oppression. Now we see feminism divided into what seems like factions, from radical feminism, to feminazis.

Amid the feminist semantics and efforts to push the female agenda in order to gain equal rights to men; two things happened. One, men’s rights were overlooked. Two, we saw the emergence of a men’s rights movement created as a counter-movement to feminism. ‘Why’ the movement was created is an objection to the movement itself, its ideology was not built on pushing the male agenda, in order to ensure gender equality, it seemed to almost be created in spite of feminism, to redirect feminist efforts. The “why” factor has been a huge point of contention for feminists who question the movement. In recent years the movement, according to some feminists, has gained traction by instilling a hatred for women evidenced by their campaign “Don’t Be That Girl”. ‘How’ the movement is carried out has ignited a wildfire of backlash by feminists who question the credibility of the ‘misogynistic’ movement. It’s the “why” and “how” of the movement that casts shade over men’s rights.

The movement is doing a better job at polarising feminists than solving the serious and real issues men face such as the high male suicide rate, inequality in custody disputes, unequal parental leave, false accusations of domestic and sexual violence and the stigma around men as victims of domestic and sexual violence and many more.

At Macquarie University we can see how the movement itself, casts shade over the real issues men face. Females have a women’s room. Men have no equivalent. Male students have claimed it is sexist that they don’t have a men’s room, when females do. Yes, if men want a men’s room, and women have one, then theoretically it would be sexist to deprive men of that right, but I don’t have to be a male to see that this claim of sexism is fuelled more by spite, than the fact that men have a pressing and real need for a safe haven from females. This kind of tit-for-tat, fuelling the men’s right movement doesn’t help the case for men’s rights.

As I’ve said, I’m sceptical of the men’s rights movement, but not of men’s rights. To answer the question at hand, do we need a men’s rights movement? Certainly, not this one. Feminists should be reminded that the end goal is gender equality, and so fighting for men’s rights should be just as important as women’s rights. I’ll leave you with one final thought, is gender equality even possible, and if it is, what would it actually look like?

(Published in Macquarie Liberal Street Magazine)

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

The Unknowing Victims: Revenge Porn, Parasite Porn and Morphed Porn

It was 2am on a Saturday night and unlike my typical weekend of wild partying, I was enjoying a quiet night in. Little did I know that what started off as aimlessly browsing the web, would turn into an even wilder, unexpected three year ordeal that to this day is far from over. That night, my mind turned to something I heard about earlier that day, the Google Image Reverse function, that allows you to upload a picture and find out if and where it is on the Internet. So, out of pure curiosity, I decided to try it for myself. What I discovered made my body ache, like the feeling you get from hearing troubling news, but a million times worse. Dozens upon dozens of porn sites had my face featured on their pages, from xhamster to and many more.

As I opened up the sites, one at a time, I found galleries of my photos, many had been taken from my Facebook page or my friends’ Facebook pages or from nightclub albums.  My details were listed- name, age, location and what I studied. The comments that were left about me are too explicit and offensive to repeat. “Parasite Porn” is the phrase used to describe the posting of photos stolen from social media websites and repurposed for pornographic purposes.

I called the police that night and I was told to bring screenshots of the sites to the closest police station. Monday morning came and I travelled to Eastwood Police Station with my laptop in hand. There was nothing they could do.  They informed me that once a photo has been posted online anyone can use and do whatever they want with it, even if it meant misrepresenting you on porn sites. I would like to note that none of the photos I had were sexually explicit. I pleaded with the police saying that the lack of consent must make this illegal, but all I could do was to contact the sites myself and request to take them down. I have successfully taken down many sites since, but I am still in the process of removing numerous sites which feature morphed photos of me, that is, photos of me that have been manipulated into a sexually explicit nature, this is an example of “morphed pornography.”

My personal experience is not an isolated one. In a society that is dominated by a vast, under regulated Internet and social media culture, where photo sharing is a commonplace activity, many victims of this sort of cybercrime, predominantly women, find themselves vulnerable and without adequate recourse. Some victims may be able to afford the expenses to remedy the damage, such as lawyers and private investigators. But there is no remedy for the emotional damage to the spirit and dignity of these victims. All too often these crimes are occurring, from the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, where many female A-list celebrities like Jenifer Lawrence had their iCloud accounts hacked and nude photos disclosed, to the very recent incident surrounding 500 Adelaide women who were found to be victims of “revenge porn,” the public sharing of sexually explicit material, often by ex-lovers, for the purposes of humiliation.

It is easy to adopt the view that if you don’t want your photos to end up in the wrong hands, don’t upload them, or if you do upload them you should expect this kind of backlash. This very sentiment was echoed by Sunrise, when in response to the Adelaide revenge porn incident they stated “when will women learn?” not to take such photos.  The comments made by Sunrise sparked outrage when feminist writer Clementine Ford called Sunrise out for “victim-shaming,” when the in fact, these women were merely “victims of crime.”

Repairing the damage done by cybercrime can be very difficult; there are issues of jurisdiction if some websites are outside the Australian domain, not to mention the adverse effect on the victim’s employability and reputation, as she may likely become susceptible to slut-shaming. In my opinion, the most dangerous part of all, is the fact that many victims of crimes such as these, have no idea they are victims until the damage may is irreparable.

Luckily, all is not so grim. Amit Singhal, a senior vice-president of Google has announced that they would remove from their search results, nude or sexually explicit photos that were uploaded without the victim’s consent, although the photos will still appear on the original websites. Whilst Google’s course of action will not solve the issue at hand, it is a huge step in tackling this kind of cybercrime. Numerous states in the US have seen the emergence of revenge porn legislation. Australia is yet to follow suit.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

The Anatomy of a Bitch

Have you ever been called a bitch? Have you ever called someone a bitch? Have you ever thought someone was a bitch? Let’s be real, we could all answer yes to at least one of the above.  A bitch is defined as a “spiteful or unpleasant woman,” but the term is no longer used just to refer to the mean girl in class, the ‘Regina George’ type. It is increasingly being used to refer to women who are outspoken, opinionated, competitive, honest, demanding and dominant, particularly women in positions of power the ‘Miranda Priestly’ type.

So how honest or outspoken can a woman be before their considered a bitch? What extent can they express what they want without coming across as demanding? And why are men who are also in positions of power often seen as assertive whereas women are seen as bossy or bitches. Is it the way women talk, their tone or pitch that is distinct from a man’s voice, is it found in a woman’s mannerisms or appearance, is it influenced by pop culture representations of women in the media, or are we as a society still subconsciously holding onto traditional gender stereotypes where women are expected to be submissive, nurturing and empathetic and men are expected to be dominant and outspoken; and rejecting any departure from these traditional gender roles? Surely not, but let’s explore.

The way men and women communicate varies significantly, women tend to possess a passive-aggressive communication style where they don’t say what they mean because according to psychologists women have been trained to be nice and avoid conflict. . Take the simple example of a man pursuing a woman in a bar, if she’s not interested a woman will often lie that she has a boyfriend or is even a lesbian, or fabricate some excuse in order to be nice, avoid conflict and maintain harmony. If she rejects him by saying she’s not interested, she’s seen as a bitch.  The trend of passive-aggression among women means that when women express something, it is often interpreted differently by the listener, leaving the woman open to misinterpretation possibly causing confusion and tension. Also, for many women, trying to be assertive can easily turn into being either too passive or too aggressive.  So, if you’re passive you’re seen as weak. If you’re aggressive, people are going to think you’re a bitch. But is this the same for men and does this leave assertive communication as the only way for a woman NOT to come across as a bitch?

It seems not. Even if a woman masters the art of assertiveness, being assertive is still seen as a traditional masculine stereotype. Could it be that society is holding onto traditional gender stereotypes, and when a woman possesses traits that are “traditionally masculine traits”, such as being outspoken or competitive are we as a society aren’t willing to accept it? When we explore this idea further we can see the same is true for men. The only time a man is really called a bitch, is when he follows orders instead of making them, when the man is the submissive. A man, who is called a bitch, is a man who is seen to possess feminine qualities. This man is a bitch because he does not conform to traditional notions of what a man should be. Similarly, a woman is called a bitch because she does not conform to what a woman should traditionally be. When we use the word bitch are we subconsciously reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes?

In a world where the majority of men’s voices are louder than women’s and men are bigger and taller than women, it is very difficult for women to climb up the executive ladder or to have their voices heard. In order to raise their voices, women must resort to possessing masculine qualities in positions of power. To succeed in this world, women must “act like a lady, think like a man” but when they finally do, they are still undermined by this word “bitch.”

The word bitch is more damaging to notions of gender than we realise. It also doesn’t help that pop culture portrays outspoken women as bitches, in the movie “10 things I Hate About You,” the opinionated protagonist Kat is referred to as a “heinous bitch.” For all intents and purposes it’s practically irrelevant whether the woman is a nasty, spiteful, unpleasant bitch, because no matter how a woman acts, socially or professionally she cannot avoid being undermined by the word bitch whether she is or not.  Luckily, in recent news a new form of leadership is brewing among white-collar females who are utilising their empathetic and nurturing traits, on a CEO level.

I think before we use the term bitch, we should be aware of what it’s doing to notions of gender. The very application of the word undermines women’s views and voices. It reinforces traditional gender stereotypes and rejects any role reversal among genders. It’s an insult. Alternatively we can take on a different perspective and reclaim the word. We can empower women through the word itself. Sherry Argov does just this in her book “Why Men Love Bitches” describing a bitch as an “empowered woman who derives tremendous strength from the ability to be an independent thinker, particularly in a world that still teaches women how to be self-abnegating. This woman doesn’t live someone else’s standards, only her own.”

To bitch or not to bitch?

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

Kim Kardashian West: A Modern Day Heroine?

Kim Kardashian West is a modern day heroine. There, I said it. This may come as an affront to the work of eminent heroines such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Rosa Parks or Mother Teresa, courageous women who have changed the course of history or dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate, or who possess qualities that have influenced millions after them. How dare I say that a woman who reached celebrity status from a sex tape could be a modern day heroine?

In a TEDxVancouver talk, Elaine Lui, a “professional gossip” spoke on the sociology of gossip, and made some insightful comments about celebrity gossip and how it says more about our social culture than the celebrities themselves, and how the portrayal of celebrities in the media reflects “popular moral and ethics of that time.” In many ways, how we view Kim Kardashian says more about us than her and whether we are ready to label Kim a modern day heroine.

A heroine is a woman admired for her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. If you are sceptical or quite frankly offended at the notion of Kim as Heroine, I’ll break it down for you.

The Sex Tape

Kim’s sex tape wasn’t the first nor will be the last celebrity sex tape. In interviews where Kim has directly been asked about the tape, she responds that we’ve all made mistakes and the sex tape was a mistake. If we accept the tape was a mistake, then unless we’ve never made mistakes, who are we to judge. If the tape was leaked without her consent, she would be the victim of a grave breach of privacy. Maybe it was a publicity stunt, nevertheless, what we never see is a social condemnation of Ray J, the other party in the sex tape, it’s the woman who is slut shamed and condemned and the public are ruthless, especially on social media, cyberbullying is rampant. We overlook the strength of someone who can live through being called the most hated woman on the planet. It takes courage not to let the shame, embarrassment and humiliation adversely affect her entire life, but Kim turned it around for herself and now has a self-made multi-million dollar empire. Her courage should be admired.

Talentless Kim

In a 2011 interview with Barbara Walters, Barbara said to Kim, “You don’t really act; you don’t sing; you don’t dance. You don’t have any — forgive me — any talent!” To which, Kim responded by saying “I think it’s more of a challenge for you to go on a reality show, and get people to fall in love with you for being you.” In my opinion the “talentless claim” is complete nonsense, Kim is one of the most successful businesswomen in the world, with clothing, jewellery, perfume lines, a television show, an extremely successful app and many more. By modern standards, her accomplishments are heroic.

Provocative Image: Woman, Wife and Mother

Bum, boobs, and back. We’ve seen it all. From her nude photoshoots, to provocative attire. How dare I associate a heroine with someone who leaves nothing to the imagination, who doesn’t respect herself? We live in a society with so many expectations on how a woman should look, dress and behave in order to be taken seriously or be worthy of respect. These conservative and superficial expectations for women are outdated. Women should have the choice to wear whatever they want- it has nothing to do with their self-respect. I mean, does the human anatomy really offend your delicate sensibilities?

Kim does not conform to society’s expectations of women, she does and wears whatever she wants. She sends the message that girls shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies and should embrace and reclaim their bodily autonomy. Also, Kim is criticised for celebrating her sexuality because she is a mother and a married women. We hear “keep it for your husband’s eyes only,” or in the words of Naya Rivera, Glee actress who commented on Kim’s photo saying “I normally don’t. But…you’re someone’s mother.” Kim, or any woman, shouldn’t have to hide their sexuality once their married or have children. Social commentators have called Kim the overlooked face of feminism and the women’s sexual liberation movement.

Bad Role Model for Young Girls

Girls, don’t aspire to be a self-made successful businesswoman, a wife, a mum, with a smoking hot body (Note the sarcasm). Also, Kim’s work for charity is often overlooked. Kim is on speed-dial for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles when funding is needed. Upon receiving an award this year at Variety’s Power of Women New York she recited “Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.”

Whether we admit it or not, Kim empowers women in more ways than we acknowledge, we have to admire her courage, accomplishments and her message. If you are still skeptical, maybe it says more about us than her. Kim is a modern day heroine.