Combatting gender based violence

Ashley Judd, famous actress known for her role in the movie Divergent, recently spoke out about online gender violence through her personal experiences. During a Sunday night basketball game, Judd tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—“(Judd). After Judd sent out this tweet she received back numerous tweets that were misogynistic and filled with gender based violence. Judd stated that “tweets rolled in, calling [her] a cunt, a whore or a bitch, or telling me to suck a two-inch dick. Some even threatened rape, or “anal anal anal”” (Judd). What I find most of all disturbing is that after these misogynistic, violent, and sexist tweets were released, many others failed to recognize the overall harm. This is a big reason why movements fighting gender-based violence are crucial in our society. Judd states that many tweets declared that she brought this violence on herself, she deserved the threatening tweets due to her whininess and lack of humour (Judd). Judd is incredibly passionate and determined to end gender based violence on Twitter, but it is important to notice the point of view she is writing from. She is a white heterosexual female speaking from an upper-middle class perspective which inevitably includes some degree of bias. Ashley Judd’s incident on social media is unfortunate but is not uncommon, previous to her experience there has been incredibly large activist movements that are organized to combat gender-based violence. This essay will discuss more thoroughly a movement commonly known as “SlutWalk” that takes place yearly in Toronto. SlutWalk is a feminist movement combatting gender-based violence, rape and the autonomy of female bodies. This essay will argue that although SlutWalk beneficial in some aspects, it fails to be inclusive which becomes problematic when trying to achieve a common goal.

Gender-based violence is an unfortunate reality of many people, but often it is not brought to the publics attention unless the victim is white, heterosexual and likely influential. Specifically, gender-based violence becomes more problematic when African American women are involved because race is an underlying factor to the violence being experienced. Another common target group for gender-based violence would be trans sexual and trans gender individuals. Recent studies on trans people showed hat “20 percent had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and that 34 percent were subjected to verbal threats or harassment” (DiMenna, Hillary). Seeing as black women and trans women are a primary target of gender-based violence one would assume they need SlutWalk just as much as any other group of women. The main issue that black women have with this movement is the use of the word “slut” seeing as the history of this word particularly pertains to white women bodies and thus joining the walk would in an attempt to reclaim this word would be ineffective (An open letter from Black women to the SlutWalk).

Trans women are another group excluded from the SlutWalk movement. Veronika Boundless responds to SlutWalk Chicago expressing her concern with the lack of trans inclusion in the movement. She states four reasons why it is crucial that trans individuals are included in this movement, one reason being that “the popularity of the stereotypes of the transsexual prostitute and the stealthy deceiver play into the slut-shaming of trans women and trans feminine people” (Boundless, Veronika). Slut shaming is one of many reasons why movements that combat gender-based violence are needed in society. Slut-shaming, or publicly shaming a woman because of the way she expresses sexuality, is another aspect of gender-based violence and is demonstrated in Judd’s twitter incident. I chose to search on twitter some of the tweets aimed at Judd after her March Madness tweet and it was horrifying to see tweets related to Judd’s incident that involved not just men slut-shaming but also numerous women slut shaming other women.

SlutWalk fails to be an effective movement for many reasons, one being the lack of intersectionality shown through the exclusion of trans and black individuals. An infamous example of the failure to be intersectional comes from a poster an individual participating in the walk paraded with, which said “Women is the N*gger of the world”. This poster only emphasized the divide between black and white women which involves the white privilege that white women receive versus the racism that black women receive daily. However, this does not deny the legitimacy of the harsh experiences white women go through when it comes to gender violence and rape, but there are other groups that need recognition as well. Overall, I find it incredibly important to fight for an end to gender based violence, but the way which this is done can be difficult to accomplish. In order for a movement such as SlutWalk to be successful, it would need to be intersectional and inclusive of all groups of women.

Works Cited

  • Judd, Ashley. “”Kiss My Ass”: Ashley Judd Stands Up to Threats, Fights for Women Online.” Mic. 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Blog Two: Trans Gender Violence and Trans Misogyny in the media

In her speech, Laverne Cox explains the unique intersectional experience that black transgender women face on a daily basis doing activities such as walking to the subway. A vast majority of trans women face discrimination and mistreatment on a daily basis and Cox’s speech specifically focuses on the intersection of racism, sexism, misogyny and transphobia that occurs when women are catcalled on the street. Part of her speech which I would like to further discuss is the problem with street harassment, violence, and media depiction of trans gender women and why conversations including these topics are important to have.

Misogyny is a societal problem that is rooted in the idea that women and femininity are inferior to men and being a woman automatically places you at less value. This mind-set gives some the idea that violence and harassment whether it be vocal or physical, is acceptable. Trans-misogyny specifically targets women who were assigned male at birth but now identify themselves as women. Trans-misogyny manifests itself in many ways such as how many “violences committed against gender-variant individuals targets individuals on the trans female/feminine spectrum”(Serano). Unfortunately, being a target of violence and discrimination is the reality of many trans women. Trans women risk street harassment and violence 8% of the time compared to cis-gender women and do not have cis-gender privilege. What I mean by this is that that if they were to report this violence, often times police officers will continue the harassment or do little about it (Dylan Finch). In 2010, the National Coalation of anti-violence projects found that out of all murder crimes committed against LGBTQH (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV infected) 44 percent were trans women (Hammer). This is evidence enough to believe that violence and discrimination against trans women is simultaneously anti trans and anti female and understanding trans-misogyny as only anti trans or only anti female is neglecting its intersectional roots. Furthermore, “it can be expected that [any trans woman] will be unfairly interrogated because apparently all trans women are people who provide commercial sex, simply by virtue of walking and being a transgender woman”, which is otherwise known as trans-objectification (Dylan Finch). Trans- objectification is a process in the bodies of trans individuals is reduced to their body parts and others get pre-occupied with medical procedures may have been undertaken (Serano). Laverne Cox in her experience walking to the subway exemplifies trans-objectification on a daily basis. The two men who were harassing her were so caught up in gendering her that they end up objectifying and reducing her to nothing but her external appearance.

The topic of gendering and trans objectification is important when looking at ways trans women are depicted in the media. Julia Serano points out in her piece called “Whipping girl” the two ways trans women are shown on television or in movies. Either trans women are seen as the “deceptive” or the “pathetic”, both of which are incredibly inaccurate depictions as they portray trans gender women as having one goal which is to achieve ultra femininity (10). Simply put, deceivers are those who successfully “pass” as women and others generally see this as a threat, versus the pathetic who claims to be a woman trapped in a mans body and is generally not seen as a threat. The most important part of the way that the media depicts trans women is that it makes the audience believe that the goal of all trans women is to live out some sexual fetish and the way to do this is through appearing ultra-feminine. This view is evidently problematic because those who do not have knowledge on sexuality outside the binary might interpret what they are seeing on television as truth and thus may carry the idea that trans women aren’t real women.

Penny Proud was a trans gender woman who was fatally shot in New Orleans and was the fifth reported trans woman of colour in the United States to be pronounced dead in the past month. Following her death, police misgendered Proud and focused on the area she lived in which neighbours reported to have prostitution. However, this had no direct correlation to the murder (Peck). Another problem arises seeing the way trans women and trans men are ignorantly misgendered in the news. The media is widely consumed that it has such an immense influence on the way people think so by misgendering and victim-blaming it sends a message to the public that trans individuals set themselves up for brutality, thus the trauma they endured is fault of their own. It is crucial that the way trans women are depicted in the media whether it be on television or in the news needs to adjust because it leads to violence, harassment and mistreatment.

Overall, trans women evidently are at a higher risk of harassment just based on their outward appearance and the general stigma that surrounds trans people. Furthermore, it is important to note the intersectional roots of trans misogyny in order to fully understand how to combat systems of oppression. I think for larger changes to occur in society, smaller ones need to start happening. These changes can start in the media seeing as it is one of the largest influences in modern western society. News reporters should start respecting the identity status of those who are trans gender, because mis-gendering only facilitates violence. and hopefully can extend its influence to start changing the mindset of individuals who lack proper knowledge regarding transgender individuals.

Works Cited

Dylan Finch, Sam. “Why Our Conversations About Street Harassment Need To Include Trans Women.” Everyday Feminism. 7 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Hammer, Ida. “Trans Violence Is Violence Against Women.” On the Issues Magazine. 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2015

Peck, Patrice. “Penny Proud Becomes Fifth Transgender Woman of Color Murdered in US in 2015.” BET Interactive, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Serano, Julia. “Trans Misogyny Primer.” Julia Serano. Seal Press. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Serano, Julia. “On the outside Looking in.” Whipping Girl: A Transexual Woman on Sexism on the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal, 2009. Print.

Blog 1: Boy Meets Girl- Film review

The film Boy meets girl directed by Eric Shaeffer is a romantic comedy film which premiered at the Kingston Reelout festival on February 4th, 2015. Boy meet girl is a story that revolves around the lives of Ricky, a transgender girl, and her best friend Robby who live in a small town in Kentucky. Robbie and Ricky have been friends since they were young kids and according to Ricky, Robbie has been there for her through all of her toughest times which makes Robby an incredibly important figure in Rickys life.  When a young and beautiful upperclass lady walks into the coffee shop where Ricky works, Ricky can’t help but be drawn to her which forces Robbie to confront his true feelings for Ricky. Only briefly into the movie the audience gains knowledge into what it was like for Ricky to grow up being the only transgender girl in her town. Although at her current age, Ricky is accepted by most people in her town for who she is, it unfortunately was not always like that because most individuals have very narrow binary ways of thinking. This film showed through the character of Francesca’s fiancé  that sometimes binary mindsets need to be challenged and questioned in order to be overcome.  The film served as a great entertainment due to the diverse cast and because the plot was relatable to many everyday experiences. Furthermore, the music was very accurate and was used as an excellent tool in order to set up the proper mood for the audience. For example, in the video Ricky filmed as a young girl admitting her battle with depression is shown on the screen, the background music is a sombre tone, which allows the audience to sympathize with Ricky. For a number of scenes it felt as though time was moving incredibly quick and important events were happening at a rapid pace instead of being focused on for a longer amount of time. This was especially true for Ricky and Francesca’s friendship that escalated into a romantic relationship in what seemed like merely a day.  What really added to the theme and message of the story was when Ricky was filmed naked in a scene with Robbie. This eliminated any mystery or confusion one may have had prior to the film, regarding transgender bodies and this emphasized that there is beauty in everyone. An important scene to note is when Ricky and Robbie get into an argument and Robbie gets caught up in his anger and in his rage admits that he thinks of Ricky as not being “a real anything”. This scene takes place towards the end of the movie when the audience has already developed a strong liking for the relationship between Ricky and Robbie therefore it is incredibly shocking when he says this. This scene is important overall because it reveals the true struggle of MTF and FTM individuals which is that they don’t have an “us” to figure out who they are with. This brings up an even bigger problem that exists in society, which is the “us versus them” model that is set up between heterosexual and queer individuals. Lastly, I think this scene exemplifies how far we have moved into the third wave of feminism seeing as this scene and movie as a whole shows the acceptance and normality of transgendered bodies. Lastly, I believe this scene exemplifies intersectionality, because Ricky is not only being discriminated against because of her gender and sexuality, she also experiences privilege because of her race.

Entering the festival was an experience for me seeing as Reelout was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and enter a community focused around queer ideas and debates. If felt very welcomed entering the festival and my original feelings of confusion and nervousness towards the film I was about to watch was changed to excitement. At first I thought that I would not connect and be able to relate to the film because I am not transgender, nor am I aware of anyone in my life who is. However, immediately into the film there were so many scenes I could relate to and so many traits I shared with the character Ricky. For me the best part of this film was that Michelle Hendley, a transgender girl in real life plays the character of Ricky instead of hollywood movies which usually cast cis-gender actors to play transgender characters. What I enjoyed most about the film is that it was practical and dealt with issues that are realistic and authentic to the trans experience.