Saturday, 10 October 2015

On Violence Against Women

This blog post is not about toilets. Today's topic is violence against women.

Life. It's one vile fucking task after another. One vile task we've had to spend time on recently is reporting sexual harassment at Copenhagen Airport.

A member of the Privy Counsel recently found herself thinking, "Oh. I was just sexually harassed. Again.", when having her arse grabbed by a male member of the security staff at Copenhagen Airport. And no, she was not asked if she preferred being searched by a female member of staff. She wasn't even told she was going to be searched.

Copenhagen Airport is supposed to be one of the safest, most pleasant airports in the world (we certainly appreciate the stylish wooden floors and clean, noise-insulating toilets with quality mixer taps), but apparently it is rife with sexism and power abuse of the nastiest kind. After journalist and university lecturer Anne Lea Landsted wrote a leader article in Politiken in August about how fed up she was with being sexually assaulted at Copenhagen Airport, over 50 more women came forward to say that they, too, had been assaulted and harassed. (Read a summary of this sorry saga in English here.)

Apparently baulking at the sheer volume of complaints, Copenhagen Airport, acting on legal advice, asked the police to communicate with the women concerned. There are no news reports about the outcome of this process as yet, though we are not holding our hopes up at the Privy Counsel; an Australian woman who reported being subjected to sexual assault at the airport in May this year was apparently told that the CCTV footage of the incident had been deleted.

Image from fairfaxunderground.

In an incredibly facetious move, Copenhagen Airport then argued that new scanners would solve the problem, as these would remove the need for body searches. Because technology, as we all know, can instantly remove all traces of institutional violence, as long as you close your eyes and cross your fingers hard enough.
What Copenhagen Airport management apparently did not do was conduct an investigation into which staff members were guilty of criminal acts, and fire them, preferring instead to turn a blind eye and let staff continue committing acts of sexual violence.
The Privy Counsel member who was sexually assaulted at Copenhagen Airport passed through the security control in September, when the problem was supposed to have been magicked away by the new scanners. Evidently, ignoring the problem did not make it go away.

Having your arse grabbed is not unusual. Women and girls experience sexual harassment and assault all the time. We repeat: All. The. Time. And, sometimes, men do, too.
The problem is, sexism is not a series of unrelated incidents. It is a system of abuse and discrimination that targets women and girls and is intended to intimidate and silence them. It is part of a culture where men feel they have the right to interrupt women, assume they know better than women, and take liberties with women's bodies. (And don't give us the "not all men" crap, because it is myopic and unproductive.)

This same culture tolerates violence against women on a scale that would be shocking if it concerned any other group of people. In Britain, two women die from domestic violence every week. Imagine the outrage if a corresponding number of lawyers were killed every week by violence directed specifically against them, or postmen, or office workers.

Image from naterecording.

In Australia, domestic violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45, with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week. A woman dies every three weeks from domestic violence in Sweden, and sexism and violence against women are notoriously rife in Denmark, despite, interestingly, a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women.

We are mistaken if we view history as a linear series of events, where "progress" leads to things getting "better". This is 2015. Prejudice, sexism, and gendered violence are rampant.

Does it surprise us that Copenhagen Airport displays such a cavalier attitude to its staff harassing and abusing women? No. Does it anger us? What do you think?

Do you think men would continue to harass, catcall and abuse women if their actions had resulted in negative consequences? Of course not. But because violence is normalised, harassment trivialised, and contemptuous attitudes to women are prevalent everywhere - in history books, in media, in movies, in our own damn families - nothing ever changes. Boys grow up believing they can treat girls any way they want - because they are never told they can't. Men believe they can harass women, and violate their bodies - because they are never told they can't. Even in countries where all forms of violence against women and girls are illegal, men aren't penalised, even when found guilty.
Well, we would find it refreshing if someone, somewhere, would tell men that they can't subject women to violence and get off scot-free.

Image from thedailybeast.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Copenhagen Airport - do you have the balls to harden the fuck up and do something?

We thought the message was clear, but apparently some skulls are so thick it's not getting through. The message is very simple:


Video - The Law Revue Girls, Blurred Lines [Feminist Parody] "Defined Lines"

Related Reading

Our friend Lucy Bonner's virtual reality simulation lets you experience what it's like to be street-harassed:
'It's Not a Compliment': VR Lets You Feel What It's Like to Be Street-Harassed

Advice on how not to be a sexist swine from our friend Stig (who is Danish, male, and a staunch defender of women's rights - apparently this is not an impossible combination):

My advice for men in general 
If you see a beautiful woman on the street and feel the urge to express it. Keep it to yourself! 
If you see a beautiful woman in the street and you are with a friend and you feel an urge to express your feelings, well don't, keep it to yourself. 
If you are working on a construction site and a beautiful woman walks by and you feel a strong urge to catcall her, see a doctor! 
If you see an unknown woman with the most well-shaped behind and you feel a strong urge to touch it, then walk into a gay bar and let unknown men fondle your private parts.  
If you watch women's sports on TV just to admire their beautiful athletic bodies, read a book instead.

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