Enough with Catcalling: Fighting Sexual Assault in Brail

Enough with Catcalling: Fighting Sexual Assault in Brazil

Directed by Amanda Kamacheck and Fernanda Frazo (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns a female-led campaign to reduce sexual assault levels in Brazil, including verbal aggression commonly known as catcalling.* Brazil, where a woman is raped every 11 minutes, is fifth highest in the world for its rate of femicide. Eighty-one percent of Brazilian women report being emotionally distressed by catcalling. Forty-four percent complain of touched without their permission.

In contrast one-third of Brazilian men blame rape victims for being raped. Twenty-six percent agree that women who reveal too much of their bodies deserve to be raped. As for catcalling, a majority feel it’s okay – because it doesn’t invade women’s space and “women should accept it as a compliment.”

In Brazil, men are raised to believe they have the right to control women’s bodies and comment on them. The filmmakers interview female academics who echo views presented in Feminist City and Invisible Women They lament women’s age-old battle to be present in urban spaces (as opposed to being confined at home), despite women making up 50% of the workforce “since the beginning of time.”

Like Leslie Kern and Caroline Priado Perez, they agree the layout of Brazilian cities (favoring residents with cars) has made them less safe for women who walk, cycle, or wait for buses, especially at night. They also agree that the the solution to verbal, physical, and sexual aggression against women is to make women more conscious of the level of aggression men subject them to. They find social media extremely helpful in increasing consciousness levels.


*Catcalling: The act of publicly shouting at women with harassing and often sexually suggestive, threatening, or derisive comments.

People with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Just type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.

Sexual Violence Against Women in New Zealand

She’ll Be Right

Directed by Frances Pavletch and Carl Naus (2020)

Film Review

She’ll be Right is a film about New Zealand’s extremely high rate of sexual violence against women. In a recent survey at Otago University, more than 1/3 of female students reported incidents of sexual assault. The format consists of a succession of soundbites from #MeTooNZ activists interspersed with a variety of video clips illustrating the issues they raise.

The film highlights a number of factors contributing to New Zealand’s sexual assault epidemic, including

  • New Zealand’s binge drinking culture
  • the link between colonization and male privilege
  • a culture that values men over women and teaches men sexual entitlement
  • consent laws that place the burden on women to say no, rather than requiring men to seek consent
  • an adversarial legal system that makes no pretense of trying to ascertain the factual basis of victim complaints (only 13% of rape cases result in conviction)

The documentary also reveals that imprisoning convicted sex offenders (New Zealand has the second highest incarceration rate in the world) is totally ineffective at rehabilitating them or protecting Kiwi women from sexual assault. It explores the restorative justice process as one potential alternative to warehousing sex offenders in prison.

The video can be viewed free at https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/shell-be-right/

 

Mumia Abu Jamal: Murder Incorporated

Murder Incorporated: Dreaming of Empire Book 1 (Empire, Genocide and Manifest Destiny)

By Mumia Abu Jamal* and Stephen Vittoria

Prison Radio (2018)

Inspired by Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, this book is a carefully compiled history of the genocidal racism that forms the bedrock of US history and culture.

Murder Incorporated begins by exploring the Aryan and New Israel mythology embedded in the writings of the early colonists and so-called founding fathers. This was the same Aryan mythology Hitler would borrow to justify the attempted extermination of European Jews. According to the myth,  a selected subgroup of Aryans  reportedly originating near modern day Iran) migrated north to Germany and west to England. They purposely kept their bloodline pure by annihilating all the inferior tribes they crossed paths with.

The writings of North American settlers are also full of New Israel “Manifest Destiny” mythology. The latter regards the continent as a “new Israel” promised to them by divine Providence – Just as Palestine was promised to Jewish slaves escaping Egypt.

Mumia and Vittoria quote extensively from  Thomas Jefferson, the founding father most commonly extolled for his “liberalism.” His writings are full of these myths, which he uses to justify both the extermination of Native Americans and the immensely profitable institution of African slavery. In his business journal about whipping boys as young as 10 to force them to work in his nail factory.

The authors also definitively settle the question of whether he “raped” Sally Hemings, the slave who bore him six additional slaves. They also refute modern accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “love affair” with Hemings – by pointing a 16-year-old slave girl is incapable of consenting to have intercourse with her 47-year-old master.

Moving on, the book describes the founding fathers’ deliberate decimation of dozens of indigenous civilizations over the next 75 years. They provide an equally graphic analysis of the western slave trade, which would cost the lives and/or freedom of 60 million Africans. This sections includes a fascinating discussion of the Arab trade in African slaves that preceded it.

The following chapter covers the brutal class war between farmers and workers and wealthy planters and merchants who forced them to fight in the War of Independence and later wrote the Constitution to strip them of their basic political and economic rights. Citing Zinn and others, the authors detail scores of food and debtor prison riots that began 50 years before the Declaration of Independence.

Setting the stage for two centuries of bloody foreign conquest, a long chapter on the Monroe Doctrine (1824) leaves no doubt the founding fathers knew they were building an empire from the outset. The Monroe Doctrine would be used to justify the US invasion of Mexico in 1846, of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, of Colombia in 1983 (leading to the US occupation and annexation of Panama), of multiple Latin American invasions under Wilson and his successors and the 56 successful or attempted CIA coups to overthrow democratically elected governments.***


*In 1982 Mumia Abu Jamal was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia police offer, despite a local gang member’s confession to committing the murder. In 2011 his sentence was commuted to life without parole. He continues to fight for a new trial. See Mumia Wins Right to Re-Open Appeals

**Allowing the US to occupy and annex more than half of Mexico (which at the time included California, Nevada, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma).

***Including Australia in 1975. See John Pilger: Gough Whitlam 1975 Coup that Ended Australian Independence

 

 

 

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange

Four Corners – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2013)

Film Review

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange provides a detailed timeline of his 2010 visit to Sweden. It casts serious doubt on the sexual assault allegations against him.

Aug 11, 2010 – Assange arrives in Stockholm with traveling companion Sofia Wilen. The primary purpose of his visit is to negotiate with the Pirate Party for Wikileaks to use their Internet server, located inside a former nuclear bunker to discourage hacking. Anna Ardin, one of his accusers, plans to be away and offers him the use of her apartment.

Aug 13, 2010 – Ardin arrives home a few days early and has consensual intercourse with Assange. They both acknowledge using a condom which broke. Ardin subsequently claimed Assange both pinned her down and deliberately broke the condom.

Aug 14, 2010 – They participate in a public forum together and Ardin organizes a crayfish party for Assange – during which she tweets about being with “the coolest people in the world.” A friend offers Assange alternative accommodation, but Ardin wants him to reman at her apartment.

Aug 15, 2010 Ardin and Assange attend a dinner party together organized by the Pirate Party.

Aug 16, 2010 Assange, with Ardin’s knowledge, travels to a nearby village to have sex with Sofia Walen.*

Aug 17, 2010 He returns to stay with Ardin at her apartment.

Aug 20, 2010 Wilen phones Ardin about Assange’s failure to use a condom and having sex with her when she was half asleep. Ardin and Wilen visit the police together to inquire whether Assange can be forced to undergo testing for STVs. When she learns the police plan to charge Assange with sexual assault, Wilen refuses to sign her statement, claiming she’s been railroaded. The prosecutor leaks the charges to the Swedish tabloid media without notifying Assange of the charges.

Aug 21, 2010 Assange presents to Swedish police for questioning, and a senior Swedish prosecutor withdraws the rape charge but maintains the molestation charge. Assange decides to remain in Sweden to prove his innocence.

Sept 15, 2010 After repeated offers to make Assange available for further questioning, his lawyer is informed there is no arrest warrant against him and he is free to leave Sweden.

Nov 28, 2010 Assange leaks the first of 250,000 embarrassing (classified) cables exposing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Nov 30 2010 At Sweden’s request, Interpol issues a Red Notice for Assange’s arrest

May 2012 After losing his Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Sweden (which he and his lawyers fear will extradite him to the US to potentially face torture and the death penalty), Assange is informed the 14 days granted for his appeal to the European Court has been reduced to 0. He’s seeks, and receives, asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy – based on their fear that his human rights may be violated.

The film makes no reference to Ardin’s past history of involvement with a CIA-linked anti-Cuban group (see Raw Story)

It also makes no mention of the possible role of George Bush’s dirty tricks guru Karl Rove, long time advisor to Swedish Prime Minister Frederic Reinfeldt, in the Swedish decision to prosecute Assange (see Shadow Proof)

Presumably this will all come out at Assange’s extradition trial.


*During Assange’s visit to Wilen, Ardin tweets:  “He’s not here. He’s planned to have sex with the cashmere girl every evening, but not made it. Maybe he finally found time yesterday?”  See Everything Points to Assange’s Accuser Being a CIA-Directed Liar

 

Fracking, Rape, Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Sex and the Oil City: Sex, Crime and Drugs: The Dark Side of North Dakota’s Oil Boom

RT (2018)

Film Review

As its title suggests, this documentary mainly concerns the escalation in domestic violence, rape, prostitution and sex trafficking that have accompanied the explosive growth in North Dakota’s fracking industry.

The state’s western fracking towns have seen a massive influx of men working 12-16 hour shifts and earning six figure salaries. Tens of thousands of them, living in “man camps,” find they outnumber local women by 100 to 1. With nowhere to spend their money, narcotics abuse and alcoholism have become enormous issues – as has violence against women. Police call-outs in one town skyrocketed from 41 a year in 2006 to 7.414 in 2014.

The video’s main protagonist is Windie Lazenko, founder of the non-profit group 4Her North Dakota. This is an advocacy group providing outreach services for women and girls who are victims of local sex trafficking. Wendie herself was held captive by local sex traffickers and pimps from age 13-16.

There was  a significant decline in North Dakota’s fracking industry when the price of oil fell in 2014. With the oil price recovery that occurred in 2018, the boom is on again.

America’s 1.4 Million Homeless Veterans

Shelter: America’s Homeless Veterans

Al Jazeeera (Barbara Koppel) 2017

Film Review

This heartbreaking documentary is about the  1.4 million US veterans who are either homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, due to poverty, mental illness, alcoholism and/or drug addiction. An American vet commits suicide every 61 seconds.

With the demise of nearly all Veterans Administration programs (eg GI Bill of Rights) that helped World War II vets reintegrate into society, veterans of America’s permanent War on Terror are mostly left to their own devices.

Owing to an extreme shortage of female shelter beds, homeless female veterans are the most underserved. Many homeless female vets were raped while serving, some multiple times. Those who report their sexual assault to superior officers are frequently kicked out of the military.

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa*

By Lizzie Marvelly

Book Review

The goal of That F Word is to dispel common confusion about the meaning of the word “feminist.” To singer journalist Lizzie Marvelly, the word simply refers to someone who advocates for full women’s equality. She illustrates by demonstrating all the ways in which women aren’t fully equal to men in New Zealand (or the rest of the industrial world).

If women were fully equal, they would enjoy equal pay for equal work, decriminalization of abortion* and equal representation in government, the boardroom and the media and entertainment industry. Domestic violence and rape culture would end because sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as would the routine exposure of 14-year-old boys to misogynist Internet pornography; the widespread use of soft porn to sell commercial products; the continual media pressure on women to hate their appearance; and the constant verbal abuse and rape and death threats against women who openly express opinions in the public arena.

Marvelly views the advent of social media as a two-edged sword for women. Despite the ubiquitous use of social media by insecure men to verbally abuse, degrade and threaten women, it also offers women a unique opportunity to openly share personal experiences of abusive treatment by men. Even more importantly, social media has brought into the open the extreme level of misogyny women experience in contemporary society.

Presented as an expanded memoir, That F Word is a remarkable achievement for a 29-year-old author. In my view, it should be required reading for all men with a genuine desire to understand the condition of women in the 21st century.


*Aotearoa is the original Maori name for New Zealand

**In New Zealand, abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act – unless a woman obtains independent certification from two health professionals that proceeding with the pregnancy will seriously endanger her mental health.

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This BBC documentary is about the multiple rape charges against Bill Cosby that have surfaced in the last 14 years. It begins with a brief summary of Cosby’s stellar career and his former importance as an African Americans role model. The film highlights his unrelenting philanthropy and promotion of African American education, via millions in donations to Black colleges. In 2004, after the Cosby Show ended, he embarked on a series of nationwide tours in which he railed against black mothers for not getting jobs and not caring for their kids properly.

2004: First Rape Allegation

According to people who worked with him closely, Cosby was known for “cheating,” ie engaging in a series of affairs with women he mentored as proteges. However it wasn’t until 2004 that a woman made a serious rape allegation to Philadelphia police. When Philadelphia prosecutors declined to press charges (for lack of evidence), the victim filed a civil lawsuit. Cosby settled in 2006. The details of the settlement, as well as a four-hour deposition Cosby provided under oath were sealed.

As a consequence of the lawsuit, 13 other women approached the victim’s lawyer about their own experience with Cosby “drugging” and raping them. These new complaints received little media attention until BuzzFeed picked up a story about a Black standup comic named Hannibal Burris making rape jokes about Cosby. More women came forward, and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred arranged a press conference for those willing to speak publicly about their experiences.

Court Unseals Cosby’s 2004 Deposition

This, in turn, led an AP reporter to apply for Cosby’s 2004 sworn deposition to be unsealed. Although Cosby’s lawyers maintained this violated his right to privacy, the judge ruled his years of public “moralizing” negated his right to privacy.

In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged having sex with women he was mentoring and sometimes giving them quaaludes. This, along with dozens of new complaints from women Cosby allegedly abused, gave prosecutors sufficient evidence to proceed with the 2004 rape case.

Cosby’s first trial ended in a hung jury in June 2017. At his re-trial in August 2017, a jury found him guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting his accuser. Cosby is appealing the charge.

YouTube has taken the video down but it can be viewed for free here:

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

Granny Fight Club: Elderly Kenyan Women Learn to Fight Off Rapists

Granny Fight Club

RT (2017)

Film Review

Granny Fight Club is an RT documentary about the self defense program in Korogocho Kenya that teaches elderly women to fend off prospective rapists.

The deliberate rape of elderly women is an increasing problem in Kenyan slums – largely due to the prevailing myth that raping a grandmother will cure a younger man of AIDS.

The women are taught a strategy that relies mainly on self-confidence and a loud aggressive voice. However they also practice delivering blows to vulnerable areas of a man’s body.