Tag Archives: misogyny

On Dentists, Doxxing and the Death of a Lion

The internet is a funny, scary place.

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Over the past 48 hours, an Australian woman has been subjected to a torrent of the vilest imaginable abuse from fans of an American performer, whose work could be said to be misogynistic. The Australian woman made a public comment asking for her government to reconsider granting the performer a visa to enter Australia due to the content of his music (which features lyrics glorifying rape, sexual assault and violence against women) and when the performer announced, erroneously, on Twitter that this had resulted in him being denied access to the country, the woman endured thousands of disgusting Tweets. These Tweets were sent by fans (overwhelmingly male) of the performer – so, way to go with proving that listening to such music doesn’t encourage a person to feel, or think, or act in misogynistic ways. Or maybe the music speaks to a deep level of preexisting anti-woman sentiment in the fans’ minds. Maybe it’s both.

Here is a link to her Twitter feed, should you care to check it out. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, exactly, but it’s up to you. She shared several of the vilest threats she received, and also some of the supportive messages. It’s an education.

Also over the past 48 hours or so, a story about the horrific death of a lion in Zimbabwe has been making headlines globally. Lured from the safety of a national park, hunted, tracked and eventually slaughtered, the lion was skinned and beheaded and its carcass left to rot. The lion was named Cecil by the rangers in the park where it had lived since at least 1999, and it was part of a longitudinal study by Oxford University. It was a local ‘celebrity’, drawing tourists and those who wanted to marvel at its beauty and splendour. By all accounts, Cecil even enjoyed the company of people.  But it has emerged that an American man, known as a big-game hunter (and one who has had brushes with the law due to irregularities with his behaviour) had paid a hefty fee to hunt and kill ‘a lion’ – not necessarily Cecil, if the hunter’s account is to be believed – in the area, and had apparently believed his actions were entirely legal and above-board.

Except, when the animal was dead and it became clear that it was a collared lion, being monitored, the hunters made every effort to cover up their actions. They tried to destroy the collar., unsuccessfully They still skinned and beheaded Cecil, and left the remains behind. They made no effort or attempt to ‘fess up. The hunter returned home. The ‘guide’, who had been paid the hefty fee, pocketed it and turned away.

This situation is abhorrent. I, personally, condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I do not agree with the hunting of big game, whether one pays a ‘fee’ to do it or not, and whether or not this fee goes towards conservation. If one can afford thousands of dollars to destroy an animal in the name of ‘conservation’, why not simply go on safari to observe, take photographs, and pay your fee to preserve the animals? I do not agree that a lion which may have been more accustomed to humans than most deserved to be lured, tricked and tracked, shot with a bow and arrow and left to suffer for almost two days before finally being killed. I hate what this hunter has done with every fibre of my being, and he should be punished. He should never be allowed to take part in another hunt. The entire sport, when done in this way, should be abolished. (I’m not including hunting in indigenous communities, which is done to provide food, shelter and other necessities to maintain life, here; I’m talking about hunting as ‘sport’, whether paid for or not, simply for the ‘thrill’ of the kill).

But I do not stand over online harassment of this man’s family, staff and clients at his place of work, nor of the man himself. I don’t agree with vitriol being left on his website, or threats being made to his safety and wellbeing. If we condemn the abuse meted out to the Australian woman who dared to make a stand against misogyny, we can’t then turn around and shriek blue murder at a hunter whose actions happen to make us sick. Online abuse is online abuse; just because it’s being aimed at a ‘deserving’ victim doesn’t make it right. I hope that the family and friends of the hunter in question (and, grudgingly, he himself) are not feeling the same fear and stress that the Australian woman must have been feeling over the past few days – he deserves to be punished, certainly, and I hope he will be, to the fullest extent of the law. But his family and associates are innocent. They are as innocent as the solitary woman who said ‘no’ in the face of misogyny. I am not defending the hunter or his actions, which I believe to be abhorrent. I’m simply saying that in the clamour for ‘free speech’, we forget so easily the huge responsibility which comes with that privilege. We should use our freedom of speech to enact real change, and make meaningful commentary, and engage in true debate. If we sink to the level of online trolls, we have already lost.

The type of online abuse being suffered by the American hunter and the Australian woman is vastly different. She has been threatened with horrific physical abuse and threats of rape; he has received a few death threats among hundreds of largely clearly-phrased, well-written letters of condemnation. This, in itself, is a lesson. Women and men do not fare the same online. There are lessons we can learn, and things we can take from this situation – it’s an opportunity to begin a sea-change in how we conduct ourselves on the internet.

It won’t be taken, of course. I know that. Trolling will continue, and online hate will continue. But not, if I can help it, in my name.

The Woman Question

At the weekend, I had the misfortune of watching three quite terrible movies. The only virtue they all shared was that they were rather short – in the vicinity of 90 minutes apiece. One of them featured Scarlett Johansson, who happens to be an actor I am a fan of; usually, I find her movies worth watching (when the director/s can stop lingering on her physical attributes, that is, and just allow her to be a human being, doing a job). This particular film, however, couldn’t be saved even by her, even though she was as engaging as ever to watch.

One of its plot points centred on violence being perpetrated on Johansson’s character, which had an undercurrent of sexual threat to it. For the rest of the movie, as her character grows in intelligence and ability, it is matched with an increase in her sexual allure. This – I’ll be honest here – annoyed me. Not as much as the movie’s overall ludicrousness, admittedly, but still.

The second movie featured female characters as either a) something to be saved, or b) something for the male characters to be rewarded with. The third featured women as little more than decoration, focusing on sexual attributes even when a woman’s sexuality had nothing to do with her character or her role in the film, and making the same woman (for there was only really one female character in the whole thing) into a helpless ‘daddy’s girl’ when the plot called for it.

Sometimes, one would be forgiven for forgetting that this is the twenty-first century.

Photo Credit: stofiska via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: stofiska via Compfight cc

As well as that, though, the movies were bad because there was absolutely no story to any of them. The Johansson vehicle, I’ll admit, started off well – largely because of her skills as an actor, and the fact that the first half of the movie actually has a point – but the last half-hour to forty-five minutes was devoted to swirling special effects and mumbo-jumbo. The final frames made me want to destroy something.

I haven’t walked out of a movie theatre for years. In fact, I can’t remember the film that was showing the one and only time I did, but I know it wasn’t as bad as this one. I would happily have walked out of this film halfway through, however, and because I didn’t I now know I missed absolutely nothing.

It’s almost like the movie-maker expected Scarlett Johansson’s beauty to convey an entire movie. Perhaps there are viewers who are happy to sit and watch her do little else but exist on screen and still come away feeling like they’ve had a rich cultural experience, but I’m not one of those viewers. That she is a beautiful woman can be seen in the first five to ten seconds of first encountering her; it doesn’t need to be the primary – or, indeed, the only – thing of note about her. Why is it? Why can’t female actors simply be actors, people pretending to be assassins or scientists or geniuses or whatever it is, without cameras hesitating to move away from their bodies or hovering over their lips as they speak or the plotline making them seem vacuous, stupid, powerless and of value only insofar as they relate to a man?

In fact, I also caught some of a James Bond movie at the weekend, too, released in 1965. Sadly, that movie was more female-positive than any of the modern films I watched. It featured female characters playing pivotal and interesting roles (in fact, one even saves James Bond’s skin at the end), and it allowed them to be intelligent and sparky. It showed scenes where their power and pleasure was to the fore. Importantly, not one of the actresses – not one – looked thin enough to blow away in a strong breeze.

Progress, huh?

I’ll be in my cave if anyone wants me.

Photo Credit: Jokin BCN via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Jokin BCN via Compfight cc

 

Book Review Saturday – ‘The Shining Girls’

I can’t quite believe, after so many months of wanting to get my hands on ‘The Shining Girls’, that I’ve finally read it. It’s been experienced. I can never experience it again. Time’s sort of funny like that, isn’t it? It only goes one way.

Unless you’re Harper Curtis, that is.

Image: forbiddenplanet.co.uk

Image: forbiddenplanet.co.uk

‘The Shining Girls’ has one of the best central ideas I’ve ever heard of – a serial killer who can travel through time, meaning that his crimes are pretty much impossible to connect to one another. In other words, he is untraceable, unstoppable and terrifying. Harper Curtis is this serial killer, a man who has been psychopathic from childhood (a chapter detailing his role in an accident involving his older brother, a truck and an unpulled handbrake was, to me, one of the most chilling episodes in the entire novel – and Harper was only eleven at that time.)

Early in the book, we see him gain access to a mysterious House, one with eerie capability; he comes across the key to this House through committing an act of violence, and that same violence powers the House. At various junctures in the book, when characters peer in the windows, the House looks like a rundown flophouse, ransacked and ramshackle and unfit for human habitation. But when Curtis enters (along with several other characters, who seem to be able to ‘see’ the House properly), it becomes a well-appointed, attractive place with fixtures and fittings from Chicago in the 1930s. When he opens the front door again, Curtis steps out into an entirely different reality, years in the future. The time-travel has sensible limits on it; Curtis is always in Chicago, and he cannot seem to travel to any point earlier than 1929 or later than 1993, but he always has one thing on his mind – the destruction of the Shining Girls.

And who are the Shining Girls? They are young women who burn and sparkle with potential. They are dancers, performers, scientists, journalists, architects, welders, wives, widows, maidens, mothers… all manner of womanhood is here. For reasons we are never truly privy to, these girls must die, and their potential – their shine – must be quenched.

Curtis has been murdering women since the 1930s, taking a token from each woman and leaving it on the body of another victim. When he first arrived in the House, he saw a list of names scrawled on a wall, in his own handwriting, and he knew what he was going to do – in a way, because he had already done it. His actions were inevitable. We encounter him first in 1974, when he meets the six-year-old Kirby Mazrachi, who we know is one of the Shining Girls. The darkness within Curtis as he interacts with the innocent Kirby is like a miasma around him, like a stench emanating from him. I’ve never been so repulsed by a character, and I mean that as a compliment to Lauren Beukes’ writing. We see him give Kirby a plastic horse, a toy which becomes vital to her story at the end of the book, and we know he will be back at some point in her future.

Kirby meets Curtis again in 1989, when he attempts to murder her. Out of all his victims, she is the only one to survive – and, at that, only by pure chance. For a long time Curtis thinks he has been successful in killing her, but when he realises that she survived, he becomes determined to finish what he started.

I wanted to love this novel. It’s exactly the kind of thing I enjoy – time travel, compelling characters (particularly compelling female characters), an excellent core concept, a bit of mystery, psychological intrigue, crime – but I can’t say that I did. I really, really liked it, and I would recommend it, but… I’m not sure. There was something missing, for me, at the end, perhaps as a consequence of having spent so many months looking forward to reading it. Some readers were disappointed by the fact that a lot of the mystery at the core of Curtis’ time travelling ability is left unexplained, but that didn’t bother me at all. I was perfectly willing to accept that this House (it deserves the initial capital, believe me) was able to transport its occupants to any point in its own timeline, and I was perfectly willing to accept that it would draw a man like Harper Curtis to itself in order to carry out the murders it felt were necessary. I loved the concept of the ‘shine’, the potential for greatness that existed within each of the victims, even though they were divided by time, race, sexuality, ability and age; I loved every character (from the point of view of how well they were created, that is, not an actual ‘love’ of their personalities.) I can see why some readers would find it hard to suspend their disbelief, but it didn’t cause any issues for me. I loved how Beukes handled her time-travel. Still, having said all that, something about the ending felt flat.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away pertinent details, because this is the sort of book you really don’t want to spoil for other readers. I will say this much: I read it all in one sitting, I found it hard to put to one side, and Lauren Beukes is a massively talented writer. The story is gripping, though a little hard to keep straight in your head due to the shifting, hopping timelines, and the crime sections are gruesome but extremely compelling. The investigation Kirby launches against the man who almost murdered her is a bit so-so, but the reader has to remember that this part of the book is set in the early 1990s when investigation techniques were not what they are now (I’ve read several reviews of this book which slam her weak investigation into her attacker – but it was a pre-internet age, we can’t forget), and I really enjoyed reading about the lives of the Shining Girls, each of them interesting enough for a novel in their own right.

The book is gory, with scenes of extreme and misogynistic violence, and I do think readers need to be aware of that. It’s not an easy book to read, but it’s a powerful and important book, and as such I would recommend it. The statement Beukes is making – that the world itself conspires, at times, to snuff out the light of its Shining Girls – is one that needs to be heard and heeded.

Happy weekend, y’all. Happy reading!