Monday, September 12, 2016

The Interconnectivity of All Things and Why We Should be Worried About Rape Culture

New Zealand has a serious problem with rape culture. It's in our politics. It's in our sports. One could even go as far as to say that it's our national identity.

Just last year our prime minister, John Key, was found to have harassed a waitress by pulling her ponytail. He did this over a series of months but after the news broke, it was referred to jovially as "Ponytailgate". It was relegated to the realms of playfulness. This, is rape culture. We are saying that the use of power over a woman is just "boys being boys".

Rape culture is a culture that enables, and sometimes even encourages, rape.

This year, we have a rugby team called "The Chiefs" who have been found to have acted in an abhorrent manner. For one of their celebrations, they hired a stripper. When the stripper spoke out about her treatment, which included being touched between the legs "very forcefully", had gravel and alcohol thrown at her and had her having to kick one of the players to make him stop (because "no" apparently wasn't enough), things went insane.

The sponsors stood with the team. The corporate services executive of Gallagher Group, Margaret Comer, who is also a trustee for the Waikato Women's Refuge, blatantly blamed the stripper. She appears to have suffered no consequences. Neither from Gallagher Group nor Women's Refuge. i.e. the sponsors unashamedly enabled the behavior.

The internal investigation, conducted by NZ Rugby, the governing body of rugby in NZ (and owner of the Chiefs), said "allegations from witnesses could not be substantiated" and so players were issued a caution but no further actions were taken. It wasn't the players who were actually there that were issued a caution. The whole team was.

Does everyone remember the "Roast Busters" a few years back? It was a case that saw a bunch of teenage boys raping, often in groups, and posting photos of said rape on the Internet. When the story broke, the police had said they were aware of the group and had them under investigation. They also stated that no one had complained about the group. It was later revealed that there had been multiple complaints made though the police had, as in this case, decided to take no further action.

Our minister of women, on this matter, as on the matter involving our very own PM harassing a woman over several months, had absolutely no comment on any of this.

The stripper lost 2 jobs.

This is where I think things got really weird. A campaign was started by the Human Rights Commission titled "Love Rugby. Respect Women". The campaign was supported by a whole lot of women's rights advocates and it eventually lead to The Chiefs accepting help in attempting to improve their culture toward women.

Where do we start to untangle this mess? Hint: It is all a culture that enables rape.

But it doesn't stop there. NZ Rugby are a commercial entity. Every time someone buys a ticket to a game, NZ Rugby benefits.

Every time we refer to rugby as being a major part of our national identity or "like a religion" (as was on the "Love Rugby. Respect Women" campaign), we have tied our national identity to NZ Rugby.

We have put rugby above the rights of 50% of our population.

And this is why I find "Love Rugby. Respect Women."  weird. It perpetuates the problem by focusing on a game first. Our very own Human Rights Commission didn't say Respect People and then worry about a game. It said Love a Game. Worry about the humans and their rights second.

And yet, none of this is all that surprising. Last year a prominent rugby player won NZer of the year. His ability to play a game was deemed a greater contribution to NZ than a woman, Louise Nicholas, who the Prime Minister acknowledged as having "....done more for sexual violence and sexual abuse than any other New Zealander." at the award ceremony. Outrage on social media was met with "but he does other things too" or "he deserves it!"

We made, and continue to make, a statement about our values; it seems our values are that we would rather preserve our rape culture than acknowledge our own part in supporting it.