Ness Lyons for UNmuted Productions, UK, SSH Blog Correspondent
Today marks the start of Freshers’ Week here in the UK. Over 400,000 undergraduates begin their first week of their first term of their first year at university. A longstanding institution, ‘Freshers’ Week’ – or ‘Welcome Week’, to give it it’s formal name – is fun, flirty and fabulous. A lot of planning goes into making it so and this year, more so than any other, a lot of effort has also gone into ensuring students’ sexual safety.
“Freshers Week is a celebration so please treat it as such,” states the website for Sussex University’s Student Union. “Respect other students, their bodies and their choices. If you’re initiating sexual activity with someone, make sure they are as into it as you are, and that they have the freedom and the capacity to make that decision themselves.” There’s an unfortunate irony in that statement; this is the same university that last month made a decision to continue to employ a lecturer convicted of assaulting his student girlfriend.
The website Unilad has also done a U-turn when it comes to its attitude towards female students. Four-and-a-half years ago, the site was temporarily suspended after making a joke that encouraged rape during Freshers’ Week. This autumn however, it’s turned over a new leaf. Unilad has paired with the charity Drinkaware to raise awareness of ‘booze-fueled sexual harassment’; their research shows more than half of 18-24 year old female students have experienced sexual harassment on a night out. Unilad and Drinkaware are campaigning to get young people to ‘call out’ such incidents by using the hashtag #GropeFreeNights.
Drinkaware has also launched a non-virtual initiative to protect drunk students from harassment. The Drinkaware Crew are specially trained staff who will patrol student nightclubs and drinking venues in four areas of the UK, including South Wales. Their aim, according to South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael, is to “support customers who are vulnerable as a result of drinking too much and prevent them from potentially becoming victims of crime.” While this quote gives the impression the Drinkaware Crew are there to protect all students from all types of crime, including petty theft, the sober fact is they’re in South Wales because of a series of sexual assaults that took place in Cardiff city centre during the 2015 Freshers’ Week period.
Following the attacks, the police, councils, universities and student bodies in both Cardiff and Swansea formed a task force to prevent the same from happening again this year. Aside from the Drinkaware Crew, they have implemented a Safe Taxi Scheme and Student Safety bus to help students get home safely. While these are all good practical initiatives, further progress has been made by Cardiff University in launching a ‘No Joke’ anti-lad culture campaign in April of this year and NUS Wales running consent workshops. Instead of simply removing potential victims from harm of sexual harassment and assault, it is after all far better to remove the actual risk and that’s what we should see more of.
Ness Lyons is a playwright, filmmaker and spoken word poet. She runs UNmuted Productions, is a member of Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab and is currently developing a script with an award-winning production company. Follow her work at: nesslyons.net and on Twitter: @lyonsnessShare on Facebook
Cross-posted with permission from SallyOReilly.com.
You’ve probably already heard about the new Calvin Klein advertising campaign. It’s worked, that’s for sure, in that Twitter and Facebook can’t get enough of complaining about it. And of course the pro-sexism and creepy factions can’t get enough of defending it and lashing out at people who recognise it for what it is – blatant sexist glamourisation of and dismissal of sexual harassment.
It’s so depressingly predictable. I almost didn’t write about it because I don’t want to give the advertisers my attention when I have better things to do right now – like eat lunch for example.
However, I’m incensed. I’ll be brief (that’s not a pun).
This new campaign features butt selfies, dodgy slogans, curiously vagina-like grapefruit and ‘upskirt’ shots of a girl who is not only not annoyed but is kind of, pleased looking. Because it’s flattering to have an upskirt shot taken right? At least that’s what they want us to think. They want us to think that women should be pleased to be objectified, and that being available in this way is what female sexuality is about. That this is erotica (yes ..they’ve actually officially called it “Erotica”). After all, women are the target market – right? (!!??)
This shot, despite vast amounts of complaints (which I’m THRILLED about) is still live on their Instagram account as I type.
It is appalling, and utterly lacking in awareness and basic empathy, that womens’ experiences of sexual assaults and sexualisation are being normalised and packaged as ‘Erotica’ in this way.
Erotic for whom exactly? Well, I think we can answer that..
But that’s Calvin Klein for you. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but if you have a teenage daughter who has recently insisted that you buy her CK underwear there is a very real chance that on her Instagram there is now a shot of her in said underwear, possibly with some sideboob showing and a host of ‘likes’ from strangers, hashtagged #MyCalvins or #meandmycalvins.
This is grooming.
At ‘best’, teenaged girls are being trained to view themselves as sexual objects without desires of their own. At worst the brand is encouraging underaged girls to pose in ways that will attract sexual predators and who will grow up to believe that their function is to look and be sexually available and to be OK with , indeed to like with being viewed as such. How is that erotic for them?
And now, these predators can feel more OK about it, after all the ads have gone viral and teens themselves are hashtagging away, blissfully unaware of the sinister side of their online activities.
I’m concerned, very concerned.
Please engage your teenagers in a conversation about this when you get a chance and consider signing any online petitions you can find. While there is the irritating reality that we are giving CK more publicity here, there is a more positive reality too – people are beginning to see how very real the threat of advertising is to the self esteem and sexuality of our women and girls. And people power is a real thing.
Meanwhile – #NotBuyingIt.
Sally O’Reilly is a psychologist, psychotherapist & clinical supervisor based in East Cork, Ireland. She holds the European Certificate of Psychotherapy from the EAP and is a graduate member of the Psychological Society of Ireland. Visit her websites and follow her on Twitter, @psychosal.Share on Facebook
Between June 30 and July 3, nearly 100 women were subjected to mass sexual assaults by mobs of men at Tahrir Square in Egypt, the Human Rights Watch reported.
Later on July 3,
@OpAntiSH tweeted: “So far (July 3rd, 1:30 am) we got 68 reports of mob assaults, we intervened in 46, & have at least one rape case.”
Volunteers with OpAntiSH and Tahrir Body Guard have stopped scores of attacks across those days. Today they are taking the day off, gearing up for more interventions tomorrow during the political protests planned.
On top of the violence, government leaders blame WOMEN for the attacks, saying they shouldn’t be there.
In response, a coalition of groups in Egypt issued a statement yesterday, this is an excerpt:
“The undersigned organizations and groups believe that the attempts of the authorities to use the incidents of sexual assault against the women to “smear” the opposition’s demonstrations mark the rock bottom of the official rhetoric of state institutions. The Egyptian authorities have failed to interpret the violent sexual assaults against women in spaces of demonstration as an extension to years of neglecting sexual crimes against women and the usage of these crimes by successive authorities, starting from the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak up to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, to punish women for their presence in the public space. Rather than attempting to find solutions to the crisis of sexual assault, the Egyptian authorities use the assaults as a smearing tool against the opposition, in an attempt to portray them as a group of “thugs”.
The undersigned organizations and groups believe that the strategy of using sexual assault to “stigmatize” women demonstrators opposing Mohammed Morsi is irresponsible and will not contribute to eradicating rape and sexual assault. Sexual violence has become a stable feature of the streets of Egypt, and not necessarily associated with large crowded demonstrations. The approach adopted by the Egyptian authorities only contributes to the aggravation of the problem.
The responsibility of protecting peaceful protesters falls on the Egyptian authorities, according to international law. Egyptian authorities are also responsible for investigating incidents of sexual assault and rape, guaranteeing that perpetrators are brought to justice, and providing adequate, effective, prompt, and appropriate remedies, including the rehabilitation of survivors; which entails providing psychological care as well as legal and social services, according to international human rights law. The Egyptian authorities must bear its legal responsibility towards the survivors of sexual violence rather than using the incidents as political tools against the opposition.
Long live the struggle of Egyptian women.”
Agreed and co-signed. We stand in solidarity with Egyptian women and everyone who is working hard to make sure they are safe in public spaces!Share on Facebook
During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (Nov. 25 – Dec. 10), Stop Street Harassment is featuring activists who took action against street harassment this year, one new country per day.
Day #16: Egypt
From creating human chains and organizing rallies to protest street sexual violence, to organizing volunteers to speak to community members about the issue, to advocating for stronger anti-harassment laws, to creating volunteer anti-harassment patrols, activists in Egypt have been BUSY this year!
To better understand the issue and what activists there are fighting, watch this powerful (but possibly triggering) segment from Unreported World, released on Friday. To know that men are paid to sexually assault women who are participating in the political process by protesting is horrific, but I gain courage from their courage as they fight and speak out despite this grim truth.Share on Facebook