Time for a good old rant.

You know those comments people make to parents, particularly dads, about daughters who are conventionally pretty? Comments like; ‘Get your shotgun ready! You’re in for it!’ or ‘you’ll have to fend them off with a stick, mate!’

Well, I think they are actually kinda creepy. Let me break down why:

I think what people think they are saying is: ‘Your daughter is so pretty, she’ll have many suitors.’ And I think what they might be trying to imply is that in your role as Dad, you’ll have to protect her.

Protect what exactly, her virtue? Which is just code for virginity really. Are we really implying that it’s her dad’s to ‘protect’? Or do we mean her physical safety?

And protect her from what? Why would she need protecting? It seems we already assume that the men in her future life won’t respect her boundaries enough that she’ll require armed back-up.

Now sadly, there is truth to the assumption that life as a woman is risky, I’m not disputing that. But these comments normalise a world where ‘fending them off with a stick’ is an irreversible reality.

I also agree that as parents we have a responsibility to protect our children. But at some point they are able to make their own decisions about their lives (and yes, that includes their sex lives).

When I hear those comments, what I hear them saying is: Your daughter is your property. Her virginity is valuable, she can’t be trusted to look after herself and you cant trust other men, so you had better take up arms to protect what’s yours, because someday, someone is going to come and try to take it.

But the parents I know are teaching their daughters (and sons) to stand up for themselves and make smart decisions in their lives.

Mostly.

Sometimes though, we* lapse into these old-fashioned sayings which betray an old-fashioned way of thinking which isn’t even how my friends and I actually think. But yet these words and their terrible implications still fall from our minds and mouths and then they’re out there, reinforcing a culture and a set of norms which harm us all.

Fight back. Try not to say those things. and don’t let other people say them without pointing it out. Gently, mind you, at least the first time.

My response last time I saw that comment? ‘No need for shotguns, with parents like those, that kid will know how to sort herself out.’

 

* I am deliberately including myself as nobody is perfect

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Mighty Hearts

April 11, 2013

Tomorrow I will be out on the streets collecting funds for a well-deserving agency that provides front-line services for people who are perhaps in their darkest hours.

Wellington Rape Crisis is an inspiring wee agency, with a mighty heart. They provide free counseling and support to woman and their support people, who have experienced rape and sexual abuse. They work hard to create a welcoming and safe environment for all women-identified survivors.

This work is hard work.

Some days I speak with the staff there and they are fiercely angry because of what their clients have experienced.

Some days they are filled with tragic stories and brimming over in tears.

Some days they are literally roaring with activist energy, marching on the streets, speaking to crowds of people and taking political action.

But every day, every single day, they come to work, they take a deep breath and they open their doors and lives to people and their heart-wrenching stories.

On days when I feel like my job is hard and I’m whining at work about my workload, I remember these women and how everyday their work is, quite literally, saving lives.

And all of this, on a shoestring.

Like so many essential social services, Wellington Rape Crisis operates on a very small and very lean budget. Trust me, I’ve seen their books. There is no fat to trim, there is no budget line that has ‘some room’ in it.

They make every single dollar go further than I thought possible. Nothing is wasted. Wherever possible, volunteers supplement paid work and donated time and goods make a big difference.

You would think that an agency that is literally saving lives, healing hearts and keeps people safe, sane and, incidentally, able to continue in (paid and unpaid) work would be fully government funded. That as a society, we have decided these vital services are indispensable and therefore funded sustainably.

But they aren’t. Barely a third of their annual budget comes from the government. Now I could go on about how that just is not cool, not ok, not one bit, but that’s a different post for a different day.

The short story is that we need to all be part of the solution to this.

Here is how you can help: (not in order of priority)

1. If you can, please donate. It makes a difference, honestly.

Firstly and perhaps most obviously, it helps pay for stuff. Important stuff, like staff time, rent, insurance, comfy couches for clients to sit on, pencils, anything the agency damn well needs.

Your money might pay directly for counseling time, but it might also pay for decent computers for staff because that’s the kind of thing that people need to do this job.

Yes, it pays for stuff, but it also demonstrates in a really tangible way that you appreciate these women like I do.

2.  Collect some money. If you can’t donate money, you could ask other people to donate their money. Do this by volunteering at the next annual appeal. You could ask around, in your office, your neighborhood, on facebook, wherever you socialise and encounter people and ask them to donate.

Collect on behalf of the agency. You could donate twenty bucks or you could ask twenty people to donate twenty bucks. Or both, or ask 20 people to ask twenty people to donate twenty bucks…. you get the picture. Tell them about the agency, the amazing work they do. Convince them that the work is important.

3. Raise some money. Run an auction, bake some cupcakes, make art, grow your beard (honestly, that really did happen), sell something, host a party (they’re fun!).

Do something that in exchange people will give you money for. Give that money to Rape Crisis.

(Ok, I know that point 3 and 2 are really just slightly different versions of point 1, but go with me here)

4. Raise awareness. Tell people about the agency, how awesome they are, the work they do. Remind those around you that agencies like this exist, because the crimes of rape and sexual abuse exist.

This isn’t the only agency out there in Wellington. Sadly there is more demand than one agency can copy with. Most areas have a crisis agency like this. Support them. Wherever in the world you live and you are, find your local group of might hearts and support them.

5. Raise some hell. Challenge rape culture wherever you see it or hear it. As a community we need to STOP turning a blind eye and STOP accepting behaviour and speech that normalises and condones rape, assault and abuse.

We all need to STAND UP for one another.

Join a campaign, educate yourself, get involved.

Do something, you choose what will you do, but

do

something.

Please.

I’m trying to track the media storm following announcement by Wellington Rape Crisis that it is reducing it’s services by 20%. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.

Apparently through the magic of the internet, the more links, the higher the ranking of the hits. Please let me know if I’ve missed one.

August 22nd
Capital Time – The power of bad press
August 21th
Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis Announcement
Ideologically Impure – Wellington Rape Crisis is okay for now
August 20th
Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis able to open doors again due to donations
NZ Herald – Wellington Rape Crisis to restore all services
The Dominion Post – Hell of a week for Wellington Rape Crisis
The Hand Mirror – We’re voting with our wallets for now
August 18th
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – $55,000 is peanuts
August 17th

The Hand Mirror – Rape Crisis, brought to you by Hell’s Pizza

August 16th

No Right Turn – Donate to Wellington Rape Crisis

New Zealand Herald – Rape Centre to benefit from Hell Pizza PR disaster

Wellington Scoop – Hell Pizza apologises for Facebook mistake, offers donation to Rape Crisis

New Zealand Herald – Rape Crisis accepts Hell Pizza offer

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis training Hell Pizza staff

TV3 News – Hell tries to make amends for ‘sexual assault’ jibe

Radio Live – Hell Pizza in strife again

Jezebel.com – Pizza Company Tries to Make Everyone Forget it Promoted Sexual Assault By Donating to Rape Crisis Center

Voxy.co.nz – Women deserve better advocacy – Moroney

Radio Live – 4:45pm

August 15th

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – Wellington Rape Crisis and the failure of Government

New Zealand’s Rhema – Rape Crisis Centre Loses Funding

Ideologically Impure – Wellington Rape Crisis needs your help

Shakesville – Wednesday Blogaround

Coley Tangerina – Hell Pizza and Wellington Rape Crisis

Capital Times – Jitterati #3742

August 14th

Relationships Aotearoa- Concern for reduction in Rape Crisis Service in Wellington

Public Service Association – More than cake stall needed for Rape Crisis funding shortage

New Zealand Labour Party – One Step Forward, Two Backwards For Rape Crisis

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand – Wellington Rape Crisis forced to cut services

Wellington Rape Crisis – Amazing community support for Wellington Rape Crisis. Government funders notable by their absence.

August 13th

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis forced to cut services

Wellington Rape Crisis – Wellington Rape Crisis Announcement

Coley Tangerina – This is no country for women

The Hand Mirror – An announcement from Wellington Rape Crisis