A comment on sexual assault that is hard to ignore

Rihanna, herself a public victim of abuse, has made a stunning and controversial music video about sexual violeence.

It may seem hard to believe we need another violent video. And certainly there are people >calling for its withdrawal.

Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears, which campaigns against negative images in the media argued, “If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass.” Porter described the video’s violent scene as “a cold, calculated execution of murder in prime time.”

Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council said, “Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability.”

However, it may also be a way of giving the anguish of victims a concrete form.

Feminist Law Professors quote Prof Janell Hobson on a Ms Blog in support of the video:

In light of recent events–from Dominique Strauss-Khan’s alleged assault on a hotel room attendant to the acquittal of New York City cops who took advantage of an inebriated woman to Eman al-Obeidi’s reports of rape by Libyan soldiers to Peace Corps volunteers’ stories of rape to Yale fraternity boys chanting “No means Yes!” to the various Slut Walk protests around the world to the countless rape survivors who have yet to come forward–now is not the time to ban and censor this powerful narrative.

Rihanna has pointed a lyrical gun on the issue–one that we don’t have to take too literally, especially since we adults should be more discerning for our youth. Let us respond by triggering useful conversations on the myths and the realities of rape and sexual violence.

From MS: Janell Hobson
Janell Hobson is a cultural critic and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. She is the author of Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture, and is presently at work on her second book, tentatively titled Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender.

Sesame Street and the decline of bigotry against the glbt community

Fox news, however, sees the promotion of tolerance as part of the liberal plot. From the blurb:

The hollywood industry is too liberal, immoral & discriminates against conservatives according Ben Shapiro (author of “Primetime Propaganda”), Ken Blackwell (former Ohio Secretary Of State), Kirsten Haglund (Miss America 2008) & Sean Hannity.

Readers are invited to share their favorite lines. I thought the idea that artists have been more liberal that the general public for hundreds of years was indicative of something.

“Before and after DSK”

France now talks about “before and after DSK”. Two weeks since the head of the International Monetary Fund and great Socialist hope for president was arrested and charged with attempting to rape a New York hotel maid, a sexual revolution is underway.

Strauss-Kahn denies the charges against him, but whatever the outcome of his case, it has sparked an outpouring against French sexism and harassment disguised as “gallantry”, as well as a new openness about tackling rape.


For more, go here.

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Last week I found this gem of a post at feministing.com:


The post includes a video clip in which Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson spoke out against disrespect for women in the legislature. Her words are extraordinary, powerful, and sadly much needed.

Here is the Texas House webpage for this wonderful woman:


“Rep. Thompson has been in the forefront of every campaign against discrimination for the last four decades. Ms. Thompson has among the highest ranks of any legislator for her voting record on issues of concern to women, minorities, labor, consumers, reform advocates, domestic violence victims, the elderly, teachers and civil libertarians.”

“Rep. Thompson has authored and passed more than 200 Texas laws, including Texas´ first alimony law, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, laws prohibiting racial profiling, the state minimum wage, the Durable Power of Attorney Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Sexual Assault Program Fund, the Model School Records Flagging Act, the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, contraceptive parity, and scores of other reforms benefiting women, children and the elderly. Rep. Thompson pushed through major reforms in child support enforcement, simplified probate proceedings, and complete overhauls of statutes dealing with statutory county courts and municipal courts. In 2005, she passed legislation requiring free testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), an early indicator of cervical cancer, for women who have health insurance.”

House Floor – Rep. Thompson on Disrespect to Women – May 26, 2011

This clip is only 7 minutes and 53 seconds. Please watch/listen to every second of it.

My favorite part is this, especially the last sentence (beginning at about 6 minutes and 24 seconds):

“… And we have not earned this disrespect in this house. We fight here we get elected just like you do. And we have not earned this kind of disrespect. And I don’t want to tolerate it by anybody. And men, if you don’t stand up for us today, don’t you walk in this chamber tomorrow.”

Also this part (beginning at about 4 minutes and 8 seconds):

“… This is wrong; it cannot exist. And I think that – I want to ask you if you have any intestinal fortitude, and I believe you do, to stand up and tell this organization that this is not acceptable conduct for the members of this house…”

Some of Representative Thompson’s sentiments here remind me of (one aspect of) G. A. Cohen’s criticism of John Rawls’ focus on the basic structure of society and social institutions, as opposed to focusing on individuals and individual obligations. Liam Murphy published a paper on the same topic, and you may know of the literature surrounding it. These matters remind me of the frequent part of many speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he identifies the greatest injustices not necessarily in the horrible, unethical actions of bad people, but rather in the silence and inactions of (seemingly) good people who know what ethics/justice requires and do not step up to do things about it (because doing so has various costs and risks for sacrificing one’s career, job, time, resources, freedom, and/or life). We can find similar sentiments throughout history. Senfronia Thompson could not have said it any better than she did in her words above (as well as in many other places for those interested to look).

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero