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Revealing information

Confession: I’ve sent nude photos.

They were a handful of pictures of my breasts—all slightly out of focus but clear in their revealing nature—which I sent to my then-boyfriend. While I own up to the fact that I made that choice, it’s also a choice I’m not happy with having made: the context behind my choosing to hit send on a series of blurry Snapchats was convoluted, and left me feeling anxious as I watched that perky, bouncing ghost icon.

He never took screenshots as far as I know, but of course I’ll likely never know (since Snapchat is renowned for not being particularly dependable or safe). I regret what I did, and know that I could conceivably be punished for my choices; but particularly with the series of leaked celebrity photos we’ve seen over the last year, I wonder why we’re collectively punishing and shaming people for a violation of their bodies and privacy.

Technology’s pervasive presence in every nook and cranny means that the decision to share something privately has become a public matter. Well, the public has weighed in, and apparently the victims of the mass nude photo leak are to blame: these women created the content—although it was their personal property, created for personal-use or to share with trusted partners—and it’s their fault someone violated their property, privacy, and bodies.

I don’t think I—or any other person who takes nude photos—deserve punishment for trusting someone I thought I cared about. I don’t think I should be shamed for sending two-second Snapchats to my then-boyfriend. I wasn’t asking for anything.

As Luke O’Neil writes for Esquire.com, “[M]ost of the people who consume these [leaked photos] and trade them back and forth like young men might have done with prized baseball cards in a previous generation would scoff at the suggestion that there’s any analogy to be made here to rape. Much like we’ve seen in nearly every other realm, however, our ethics here have not caught up to the technology. Very few of us would hide in the bushes outside of a woman’s home in order to catch a glimpse of her getting changed, but how is that any different from this?”

Well, some of our ethics have caught up with the technology: as Farhad Manjoo tweeted, “I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards.”

The more we dust off that old accusation that “You were asking for it,” the less apt it becomes. This victim-blaming is outdated, though we continue to apply it to different situations of violation: women who take nude photos, women who drink “too much,” women who wear short skirts, women who go out alone at night, and women who leave their door unlocked. As Lena Dunham tweeted, “Seriously, do not forget that the person who stole these pictures and leaked them is not a hacker: they’re a sex offender.”

We take these women’s leaked bodies for inspection, ogling, and ridicule. We belittle their forethought and intelligence when they get “caught” taking nude pictures (as if they’re the criminals), yet say astoundingly little of the people who hacked their property. We feel entitled to these women’s bodies, and to judge them unmercifully—however unfair that judgment.

The reason we say these women were asking for it is because we want to feel safe and complacent in the thought that we know better, that we’re immune. In reality, you don’t know when you’re vulnerable—that’s what makes you vulnerable. An unknown person could hack into your laptop camera without your knowing, and a peeping tom could spy on you through your window.

We persist in excusing criminals in the same ways—slut- and victim-shaming is astoundingly commonplace in our discussions of violation. Our world is changing, making the private public and facilitating judgment from the peanut gallery, but it doesn’t justify shrugging and laughing in the face of crimes.

Originally published in the Other Press.

One in five children in BC lives in poverty

image courtesy Stephanski/Flickr Creative Commons

image courtesy Stephanski/Flickr Creative Commons

The November 24 “Child Poverty Report Card,” conducted annually by children’s advocacy group First Call, has reported that BC’s child poverty rates place fifth in the country.
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The blame game

Lettitor

The Jian Ghomeshi scandal led to a lot of women coming forward and asserting that he abused them, and this outpouring of divulgence has prompted other women, not associated with Ghomeshi, to open up about their abuse. The #BeenRapedNeverReported trend was started by Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star and her friend, to empower women who have chosen not to report a crime against them.

Another very different response to the Ghomeshi confessions has been blame—not entirely for Ghomeshi, but for the women who didn’t come forward about their abuse sooner.

Clearly, based on how rapidly and globally the #BeenRapedNeverReported hashtag has spread—with 41,549 total tweets between October 29 and November 3—experiencing violence, abuse, or assault and not reporting it is common. With it being so common, it can’t be unmotivated or insignificant. A report on abuse of older adults lists reasons like “fear of more abuse … a belief that they are getting what they deserve … a belief that police or social services cannot help them … [and] a belief that they cannot prove the abuse is happening.”

LifeCentre.uk.com also notes that “For many people [not reporting] is a good decision and enables them to concentrate on their own healing and ability to rebuild life positively.”

In addition, while 46 out of 100 rapes get reported to the police, only “12 lead to an arrest, nine get prosecuted … three [lead to] even a single day in prison,” according to Rainn.org. Of course the justice system can be complicated, and is set-up to be fair and just to all parties, which in part explains the relatively low rate of convicted rapists; there has to be enough evidence to convict someone of a crime. It’s not too surprising though that some abuse survivors do not want to put themselves through such an emotional rigmarole, when it might not result in any substantive consequences.

It’s also common to blame the victims, or to assume the accused is actually a victim of malignity. I understand the value of innocent until proven guilty and maintaining justice in the courts; in the social realm though, it’s more complicated when an abuser is given the benefit of the doubt over the abuse survivor’s word, and we lend weight to the rate of false rape accusations. Even with generous statistics which assert that 10 per cent of rape allegations are false (the statistics range from two to 10 per cent, and are difficult to pin down), so many more allegations of rape and abuse are all too real.

Our response to abuse victims coming forward is problematic enough, but this is compounded by our response when they don’t come forward. Yes, ideally we would catch criminals and lock ‘em up, so they were unable to commit crimes again, and yes, that is largely dependent on people coming forward with allegations. Again though, there are so many reasons why a victim might not step forward right away, if ever. An abuse survivor might never feel comfortable with opening up about their experiences, and it’s their right to make that decision. The process of coming forward about abuse is emotional and difficult, and often fraught with accusations of falsification, so I don’t think we can blame anyone for not opening up about their abuse. When we—as a society that traditionally blames and discredits survivors of abuse, assuming their dishonesty—turn around and blame them for not stepping forward “sooner,” we create a vicious n0-win situation for survivors of abuse.

It can be difficult to navigate moral issues such as this, which might not lend themselves to substantial evidence outside of testimony, and it can consequently be tempting to side with the accused. While it is important to maintain innocent-until-proven-guilty in the justice system, we as a social collective can listen to several women stepping forward about their abuse and say, “Hey, maybe they’re telling the truth.” That doesn’t mean then going wild and pursuing vigilante justice—justice is still a matter for the courts. Simply saying “I believe you” to an abuse survivor can be meaningful and powerful, extending sympathy to a person in need.

Originally published in the Other Press.

Gifts for girls this holiday season

No matter how one celebrates the holiday season, purchasing gifts for the modern girl has become an issue. Whether you are family, an educator, or even a babysitter, getting gifts for young girls nowadays is more complicated than just grabbing a Barbie off the shelves.

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Love thy selfie

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I take too many selfies.

I know I’m not supposed to admit to such narcissism, acknowledging that the shallow depths of my self-reflection mirror those of Narcissus. Yet, as I’ve persisted in documenting my self-ie, I’ve come to see value in this pat-on-the-back photography (bear with me).

Consistently the image of traditional beauty that we’re presented with in media is one of a white, thin and supposedly healthy, able-bodied, and often photoshopped-to-oblivion person. The variation between these conventional images is low, and when we see faces or bodies that do challenge the traditional beauty image, they will generally conform in other ways or will be the butt of a joke. These beauty images are unreal, and they function to present impossible ideals, unrealistic expectations.

The faces which actually make up the populace have one thing in common: they’re all different. Yet the quirks which give our faces and bodies character, which make them ours, are glossed over in the world of lights and cameras. The occasional “oddity” which does get accepted in this world is generally fetishized, or treated as an exception to the rule. Oftentimes, they become more a part of the person’s “brand” than their appearance: just take Cindy’s mole, Lara’s gap, Cara’s eyebrows, and Kim’s butt.

What does it say about our physical characteristics when they’re either fetishized in media or capitalized on? When those physical characteristics are made into a joke, or only accepted under certain circumstances?

It devalues those characteristics; it sets them up as other, different, and unattractive. We mere mortals don’t have the resources to snip, suck, tighten, lift, increase, decrease, and plumpen all of our imperfections, and we don’t fit within the frames of hegemonic beauty.

Selfies emerge as a challenge to this dominant narrative of exclusive beauty. Ok, yes, they’re still largely narcissistic or whatever, but selfies give us the opportunity to display those features we like, or which make us different. Someone with big pearly whites can show off their 1000-lumen smile. Someone with a prominent nose can present a striking profile. We can mask or magnify whatever characteristics we choose to, rather than shying away from cameras because we aren’t Gisele Bündchen.

More than that though, we can show through selfies that we are more than the sum or our parts. Selfies are for showing personalities, events, and emotions. Selfies aren’t just about slapping body parts into a frame and hitting hefe. They’re about making faces, shooting from different angles and in interesting places. If you reduce selfies to a simple solo photo shoot, then of course they’re uni-faceted. There’s artistry to a selfie though, in perfecting a shot or documenting your day, your life, your personality.

The camera isn’t just for traditionally beautiful faces and bodies; the selfie is for everyone. So pick up your phone and snap some pics, because you love thy selfie.

Selfie tips!

I’m not very good at taking selfies, but I can give a few tips from my time spent smiling awkwardly in front of a camera. (For more expert advice, search up Sophie Isbister’s guide to selfies on our website, titled “Express your selfie”):

- Brush your hair, make sure nothing’s in your teeth, do whatever you’ve got to do to make yourself look reasonably put-together.

- Find good lighting. The pros all say that natural, outdoor lighting is the best, because it gives you a soft glow—no harsh, artificial lighting for you!

- Choose a good background. I’m not a fan of pictures feat. messy bedroom, or a toilet lurking in the background of an otherwise cute selfie. I like to opt for a plain wall, but you can also selfie in front of flowers, paintings and pictures, a mirror, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

- Use a front-facing camera, for god’s sake.

- Take lots of selfies, from different angles and with different facial expressions. You’ll eventually become familiar with the poses and expressions that best suit you, but for the time being experimentation is key.

Originally published in the Other Press.