Open Thread: Rape Culture USA

I was so shocked by the “high tech stalking” app that Dakinikat wrote about earlier today that I thought I’d follow up with some more examples of the rape culture American women have to survive in every day.

I missed this story when it first happened, so forgive me if you already heard about it. On March 23, Belvedere Vodka posted an ad on their Facebook page with a photo of a man apparently trying to sexually assault a startled, frightened woman. The ad copy read, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly. Women quickly bombarded the page with outraged comments. From Jezebel:

Facebook comments ranged from “tell the cry-babies to shut up… this picture is AWESOME!!!” to “this kinda looks like rape.” Belvedere apparently decided to side with the “kinda” camp, because the photo disappeared from their Facebook page and Twitter account within an hour. An apology followed soon after: “We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.”

The president of the vodka company, Charles Gibb, quickly apologized via Twitter; but really, this was simply inexcusable. Why anyone ever thought it was a good idea I never understand. But as some commenters noted on Dak’s post, some men just don’t get it no matter how many times it’s explained to them that rape isn’t funny or sexy and it’s not a good way to sell your product unless you’re looking to go out of business.

Now there’s more bad news for Belvedere. It turns out the woman who appeared in the ad–which has been plastered all over the internet even though it’s no longer on the company’s facebook page–is suing because she did not give permission for her image to be used in the ad.

Alicyn Packard is a vocal actress living in Los Angeles whose likeness was used in the Belvedere ad….

Packard never gave her permission for her likeness to be used.

In fact, the image of her was stolen from a comic on-line video by her production company, Strictly Viral Productions.

“The repercussions have been huge,” Packard told KTLA in a phone interview. “It’s been a really terrible experience. The whole thing.”

Unbelievable! But of course ads depicting rape are not new. Women are often shown in violent situations in high fashion ads. You may recall the famous Dolce and Gabbana ad depicting what looks like a gang rape in progress.

And you may have seen the series of Calvin Klein ads, which were banned in Australia. Here is one of the banned ads.

Why is sexual violence being used to sell products? The Belvedere ad appears to have been aimed at men, but the Dolce and Gabanna and Calvin Klein ads were designed to appear in women’s fashion magazines lke Vogue. Do women really respond to violent ads by running out and buying whatever product they are selling? I came across a 2010 article at Alternet that addressed this question.

To learn more about this issue, researchers, Barbara J. Phillips and Edward F. McQuarrie, interviewed regular readers of fashion magazines and discovered that most women don’t consider the implications of violent sexist ads, but rather, they gravitate to them for the tantalizing narrative.

They recently published their findings in the Journal of Consumer Research and explain that the women who liked such ads, “Would be transported into the story world set in motion by the ad’s pictures, asking themselves, ‘What is happening here?’ and ‘What will happen next? These women would immerse themselves in the images, examining its lighting, colors, lines, composition, and creativity.”

Unfortunately, the “researchers” only talked to 18 women, so this conclusion is really based on case studies and not particularly scientific. Experts in Australia argued that ads like this could encourage gang rape.

Clinical psychologist Alison Grundy, who works with sex abuse victims, said advertisers were reaching a dangerous new low by using sexual violence as a marketing tool.

“If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualized and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse,” she said.

The thing is, we’re bombarded with these images all our lives. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from them, we’re going to be exposed to them at least occasionally. Frankly, the people who create these ads are also products of our rape culture. They have grown up seeing images of sexualized violence. No wonder so many women are raped and murdered! Young women especially are treated by our culture as objects for men to use and discard.

What do you think? Feel free to discuss this or any other topic in the comments.


High Tech Stalking

It seems there’s an ap for that.  It’s called Girls All Around Me and the details as explained by the site Cult of Mac are chilling reminders of the dark side of social media.  The functionality of the ap depends on how open your settings are on Foursquare and Facebook.

“So let’s say I’m a bro, looking to go out for a night on the town and pick someone up. Let’s say I’m going to the Independent around the corner, and checking it out ahead of time, I really like the look of this girl Zoe — she looks like a girl I might want to try to get with tonight — so I tap her picture for more information, see what I can find out about here.”

I tapped on Zoe. Girls Around Me quickly loaded up a fullscreen render of her Facebook profile picture. The app then told me where Zoe had last been seen (The Independent) and when (15 minutes ago). A big green button at the bottom reading “Photos & Messaging” just begged to be tapped, and when I did, I was whisked away to Zoe’s Facebook profile.

“Okay, so here’s Zoe. Most of her information is visible, so I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal. I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday.”

“All of that is visible on Facebook?” one of the other girls in our group asked.

“More, depending on how your privacy settings are configured! For example, I can also look at Zoe’s pictures.”

I tapped on the photo album, and a collection of hundreds of publicly visible photos loaded up. I quickly browsed them.

“Okay, so it looks like Zoe is my kind of girl. From her photo albums, I can see that she likes to party, and given the number of guys she takes photos with at bars and clubs at night, I can deduce that she’s frisky when she’s drunk, and her favorite drink is a frosty margarita. She appears to have recently been in Rome. Also, since her photo album contains pictures she took at the beach, I now know what Zoe looks like in a bikini… which, as it happens, is pretty damn good.”

My girlfriend scowled at me. I assured her Zoe in a bikini was no comparison, and moved on.

“So now I know everything to know about Zoe. I know where she is. I know what she looks like, both clothed and mostly disrobed. I know her full name, her parents’ full names, her brother’s full name. I know what she likes to drink. I know where she went to school. I know what she likes and dislikes. All I need to do now is go down to the Independent, ask her if she remembers me from Stoneham High, ask her how her brother Mike is doing, buy her a frosty margarita, and start waxing eloquently about that beautiful summer I spent in Roma.”

Author John Brownlee calls this a “creepy ap”.  I’d say it’s dangerous.  I think about all that information out there on youngest daughter’s Facebook and then consider she’s smack dab in the middle of a university campus and its student slums 24-7.   My mother’s radar is off the scale.

Girls Around Me is a standard geolocation based maps app, similar to any other app that attempts to alert you to things of interest in your immediate vicinity: whether it be parties, clubs, deals, or what have you. When you load it up, the first thing Girls Around Me does is figure out where you are and load up a Google Map centered around your location. The rest of the interface is very simple: in the top left corner, there’s a button that looks like a radar display, at the right corner, there’s a fuel meter (used to fund the app’s freemium model), and on the bottom left is a button that allows you to specify between whether you’re interested in women, men or both.

It’s when you push the radar button that Girls Around Me does what it says on the tin. I pressed the button for my friends. Immediately, Girls Around Me went into radar mode, and after just a few seconds, the map around us was filled with pictures of girls who were in the neighborhood. Since I was showing off the app on a Saturday night, there were dozens of girls out on the town in our local area.

Fortunately, an update to this piece shows that FourSquare actually read it and stopped the access to the ap.  However, it should serve as a cautionary tale about checking exactly what your social media sites are sharing with other vendors.  As the mother of daughters,  I’m going to go wicked crazy making sure their privacy settings are set to kill.


Lazy Caturday

Good morning, news junkies… I’m sort of figuring out how to do a photo bomb more space-efficiently, and I’m not particularly fond of the “slideshow” feature on wordpress… so I’m trying out the “gallery” feature instead. I’ve only used it a couple times before, so let’s see how this works out! (If you’re familiar with the slideshow format and prefer that over this, let me know…!)

Oh, and… it’s still my birthday week. So the link dump (following the Lily+Rue photo spree) is gonna be really paltry this Saturday! Enjoy the less-homework like recommended reading while it lasts… ;)

Click on thumbnails to view photos:

Super shrinked Linkage (any puns, unfortunate):

Today (March 31) in Women’s History:

  • Event: 03-31-1776, Abigail Adams wrote her husband when he was in Philadlphia helping plan the Declaration of Independence:
    Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could… If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

Okay, before I go, I have a question for the Cat Peeps segment of our Sky Dancing population (I’m pretty sure that segment is upwards of 80% of our community… ;) )… Anyhow, here’s the q: How do I get Lily to eat her dental treats? She won’t bite! Rue is eating all of them! (Alas, ’twas the same story with the pill pockets…) Is there something else I can use/apply on Lily besides dental treats? I’m talking to her vet, too, of course! Just want all the help I can get.

Alrighty, guys! I’m gonna wrap this baby up and turn the soapbox over to y’all… what’s on your Read+Rant list this Saturday?


Late Night Open Thread: Did Rick Santorum Almost Use the “N” Word While Referring to Obama?

I saw this video this morning, and I wasn’t sure. But this recording clearer than the one I heard earlier. I really think Santorum started to say “government ni**er” and then caught himself.

Remember this?

And here’s something else I found on-line about that phrase. I also found a reference to the phrase on a racist website that I don’t want to link to.

What do you think?


George Zimmerman was Fired from his “Under the Table” Security Guard Job for Aggressive Behavior

George Zimmerman

More details keep dribbling out in the Trayvon Martin case. This morning the New York Daily News published an anonymous account from someone who worked with George Zimmerman between 2001 and 2005 [UPDATE: The Zimmerman family moved to Florida in 2002, so the 2001 date at, at least,must be incorrect.] when they acted as paid security guards for “illegal house parties,” earning between $50 and $100 per night, paid under the table. Zimmerman would have been between the ages of 17 and 21 during those years.

Zimmerman, at the center of a firestorm for shooting an unarmed black teenager a month ago, worked for two different agencies providing security to illegal house parties between 2001 and 2005, the former co-worker said.

“Usually he was just a cool guy. He liked to drink and hang with the women like the rest of us,” he said. “But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When the dude snapped, he snapped.”

Zimmerman was fired after a particularly violent incident:

“He had a temper and he became a liability,” the man said. “One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted,” he said. “It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”

As the Daily News points out, 2005 is the same year in which Zimmerman was arrested for fighting with a cop and also had a physical fight with his former fiance Veronica Zuazo that led to each of them taking out restraining orders. The anonymous source said that Zimmerman “loved the power” that came with the job.

When I read this article, I had no idea what “illegal house parties” were, but via Google, I learned that they are drinking parties or maybe raves? thrown by underage kids, perhaps when their parents are out of town–like in the movie Risky Business perhaps. According to the Daily News article, there are actually agencies that provide security for these parties.

Times sure have changed since I was in high school. I admit I’m biased, but is anyone else getting the feeling that Zimmerman is a much better candidate for being called a “thug” than Trayvon Martin?

Joe Oliver

More recently, Zimmerman has been working as a “forensic loan review analyst” (an underwriter) at Digital Risk, LLC. One of his co-workers was Joe Oliver, a man who has been appearing regularly in the media to defend Zimmerman. Oliver, a former local and CNN news anchor, has worked at Digital Risk for the past three years as a “forensic chart review specialist.” According to Oliver’s Linked-In profile, that involves “process loans in default for forensic underwriting.”

It sounds like Oliver could have worked closely with Zimmerman. Given that Oliver’s wife is a close friend of Zimmerman’s mother-in-law, I wonder if Oliver helped Zimmerman get the job?