“You watch that?” Why we consume violence against women as entertainment

 

I have a confession to make.  I was once obsessed with the television show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Originally a casual viewer in my teens, I became increasingly addicted to the show when I transitioned into dorm-living at university, a place where fellow first-years far more tech-savvy than I introduced me to the wonders of closed file-transfer systems.  Entire seasons of pretty much any TV show you liked where but a click and short download away.  SVU extravaganza!

I watched all the episodes I could get.  And when I moved off-campus, I wasn’t going to let the fact that I could no longer safely pirate for free stop me from getting more.

So I began buying entire seasons on DVD (at anywhere between 60 and 70 bucks a pop) and holing up in my room for mini SVU marathons.  I had to watch them in my room because my roommate and dear friend could only handle so much rape and battery in our shared communal spaces.

You see, SVU is a crime-drama explicitly about, as the introduction to the show describes, “sexually based offenses,” which are “especially heinous.”  Unlike your regular, run of the mill murder at the centre of most episodes of the original Law and Order, SVU plots are about serial rapists, international child-porn rings, incest and the like.  You know, the stuff of warm and fuzzy primetime.

I honestly cannot explain my initial attraction to the show, other than to say that it was exciting and suspenseful, well-acted and full of the twists and turns for which the Law and Order franchise, and its creator Dick Wolf, have become famous.  I was also really into the dynamic between the two main characters – what I saw as truly plutonic respect and admiration between a male and female detective, which is a refreshing departure from your typical she-loves-him/he-breaks-her-heart soap opera storyline.  I wasn’t a criminology student, interested in exploring the psyches of abusers.  At that time I didn’t even identify as a feminist – it wasn’t a conscious effort to examine the portrayal of violence against women in the media.  I just liked the show, so I watched it.  Every episode ever made over the course of its 10+ seasons, in a matter of months.

As the show became more predictable and the quality of writing diminished, I became less interested.  I would still catch new episodes from time to time, but I didn’t plan my life around it.  The glory days were over.  But I still considered myself a fan.

Fast forward to last year, when, in the common area of the UBC Women’s Studies department, I casually mention to a professor of mine that I watched the show the night before.   An inexact dramatization:

Me: “So I was watching Law and Order: SVU last night and I think the storyline was inspired by a local case.  You know how Law and Order episodes are inspired by real stories?  Well last night it wa – “

Prof: “You watch that?”

Me: “Yah, I dunno, uh, er, [incoherent increasing panicked mumbling].”

Prof: “Wow. I make a conscious effort not consume gratuitous depictions of violence against women.”

Me: “Yah, me too, you know, it’s just such an interesting show… it’s, it’s uh, it’s not all bad.”

Prof: “Regardless. It is what it is. Which is something I would never watch. Ever.”

I had been outed.  Here I was, a feminist, in the feminist epicenter of the university no less, admitting first that I watched TV at all (gasp!), and worse, that I watched misogynist trash.  In a matter of seconds my proud L&O fandom became a source of incredible embarrassment.  Why did I watch that show?

I still don’t entirely know.  But the process of self-reflection in this regard was re-ignited last month when, at Vancouver Rape Relief’s public forum on violence against women, one audience member argued that the culture of sexist violence we all live in will never change as long as torturing women is considered entertainment, and as long as various programs all relying on graphic violence against women constitute our ‘choices’ on television. Later that night, my partner turned on his new favourite show, Criminal Minds. The episode chronicled the FBI’s response when a woman was kidnapped, gagged and rigged up to a bomb in the  middle of the desert by a deranged sociopath.  The people the anonymous commenter was condemning were people like us.  I felt like a phony, like a big, sleazy hypocrite.  In attempt to delve deeper into this part of my life (or perhaps, to assuage my guilt), I’ve reached a few conclusions.

I think it’s fair to say there are two very different categories of violence against women in popular media (primarily on TV and in movies).  The depiction of women being sadistically brutalized in the name of entertainment – or “torture porn” as it is now being called – is epitomized in the modern horror film genre (think the Hostel series).  It is gory, graphic, cruel, and revolting.  A very small (mostly male) minority constitute the group most willing to stomach it, even enjoy it.  It is a very dark and very twisted way of ‘escaping’ from the realities of everyday life, which is what I think of as the reason most people go to the movies.

As far as I am concerned, it is the farthest thing from entertaining.  While men and women are both decapitated, carved up and gutted in this genre, Kira Cochrane says “it’s the violence against women that’s most troubling, because it is here that sex and extreme violence collide.”  The psychopath protagonists in these films always reserve the most twisted of sexual torture for their female victims, and female victims’ sexuality is almost always front and centre to their character’s identity – she is either a stripper (or some variation thereof) or a virgin (or virgin-esque). She is sexy alive, but sexier dead.  Here we see the troubling resonance of the label “torture porn.” It may be a thriller, but it plays off of the all-too-familiar signposts of porn, something supposedly meant to spur arousal and feelings of sexual satisfaction.  According to a media professor at Temple University, the increasing representation of sexual characters in horror films tells us that the media “seem to be giving women permission to take control of their own sexuality.”  Now that’s scary.

The second category is less sensational but more widespread: violence against women that occurs as part of some (semi) believable plot, as part of a TV legal drama (think Prime Suspect, Law and Order, etc.) or feature film (The General’s Daughter, A Time to Kill, Thelma and Louise, just to name a few).  While it is certainly still disturbing, this kind of violence is presented as part of, if not central to, the show’s key conflict: it is a crime perpetrated against victims who deserve justice, if not healing, rather than a foregone conclusion resulting from some psychopath’s twisted agenda.  The audience is supposed to be angry that this thing happened to the victim and join in on the pursuit for justice (not sit back and enjoy it as they bleed out or are gang-raped).  It can be no less triggering than torture porn – actually often more so, given that it is more ‘real’ (we’ll come back to this).  That said it can still be sensationalist and bizarre – see the Criminal Minds example above – but it can also be very true-to-life, a semi-accurate depiction of what a woman might go through.  This kind of violence encompasses a wide spectrum of stories.

So why do people watch it?  Some people are really freaking privileged (honestly, I was probably this type of viewer originally).  They’ve never gone through heavy sh*t, or truly had to deal with real violence in their lives. So for them, it’s a glimpse into the Other – a totally different set of experiences that are different from theirs and thus, strangely entertaining (all with the caveat that this is all of course, fictional). There’s also a voyeuristic element to this kind of media. Violence against women is a taboo subject – not very many people talk about it on a day-to-day basis, let alone broadcast stories about it to the masses. So these shows have a ‘come and see what no other program will show you’ element to them.  It’s unusual and mysterious. And as much as it pains me to say it, there is probably a small minority of misogynists who take pleasure in watching women get hurt.

I think, though, there is a large contingent of fans that are after something altogether different: reassurance.  You see, crime dramas, by definition, position players in the justice system as central characters.  You are meant to like these people. Root for them. And by and large, they don’t disappoint.  They are very, very good and catching the bad guys (usually at record speeds, with incredible DNA-inspired certainty, no less) and are almost always on the victims’ side.  They are honourable, respectable and righteous, and their sole purpose is to make the world a better place. On SVU, Detective Olivia Benson is a strong woman, out to get justice for every victim she meets as a way to avenge the rape of her mother. Her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler, hates men who hurt women: he is big and strong and beats up ‘perps.’  They want to make criminals pay, and most of the time, they do.

In a world where police officers are sexually assaulting and harassing one another, failing to respond when women go missing en masse, and ignoring repeated tips about who is probably killing them, we are desperate for good-cop characters.  In a world where judges hand out probation to rapists, court-appointed psychiatrists refuse to label priests who collect child-porn as pedophiles, and lawyers re-traumatize women during sexual assault and abuse trials by attacking their character and humiliating them on the stand, we are begging for a sign that at least someone in the justice system actually cares about the victims, and that they’re not all out to keep protecting and excusing men’s sexist violence. When it comes to dealing with violence against women, the real world often fails us. So we turn to Law and Order to reassure ourselves that maybe it’s not all bad.  Maybe sometimes the system works.

Of course, we know these stories can be bad for us.  That the latter category of violence is seen as ‘true-to-life’ is obviously incredibly problematic.  First of all, most shows that address violence against women operate on the stranger attack storyline – the myth that most gendered violence is perpetrated by a stranger.  It’s not.

Moreover, because of racist and sexist structures in Hollywood (white, traditionally beautiful women are almost the only women who make it onto television), the victims in these programs are therefore mostly white and beautiful – the typical ‘good girl’ we are supposed to sympathize with, and not the ‘bad girl’ who we blame for her own attack and whose motives we question (victims of colour, poor women, immigrant women, women who’ve ever broken the law or women in the sex industry). Needless to say this is an incredibly narrow profile of the victim that reinforces stereotypes and re-produces social hierarchies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, most cases on these kinds of shows are solved by the end of an hour-long episode.  Detectives catch the killer, a jury convicts the rapist, or some kind of satisfying vigilante justice is carried out against a molester. In the real world, a tiny fraction of domestic violence and sexual assault cases are deemed credible and investigated, and an even smaller fraction of these actually result in charges and convictions.

As much as I’ve hated on SVU for perpetuating harmful stereotypes and rape myths, I have to credit where credit is due.  One of the most stirring episodes for me was about a trans woman who killed someone in self-defense. She was convicted, but because she was pre-op (she still had male genitalia and thus, in the eyes of the state, was still a man) she was sent to a male prison. She was brutally gang-raped. The episode begged the question, how does the justice system fail and endanger transgender people? What should be done to make it safer?

Other episodes have been more documentary-like – your average battered wife story or rape tale, depicted close-up, in painstaking detail. Unlike melodramatic storylines, these episodes were a genuine depiction of what it’s like. What it’s like to try and leave your abusive husband, only to have to cut off communication with your loved ones, check in to a shelter (with a curfew, and without privacy), and lose all your resources and try to get by without a cent because he insisted you  be a ‘kept’ woman, reliant on his income. Or what it’s like to report a rape to police – what it’s like to have your home turned upside down, your body inspected and photographed, your choices questioned, your experience being recorded over and over again, your boyfriend not understand. These two examples in particular are a direct response to the all-too-common questions, why didn’t she leave? and, why didn’t she report it?

Other episodes make explicit reference the incredible rates of sexual abuse amongst women with disabilities. Others tell stories of abusers within the institution itself – prison guards who rape and abuse female prisoners, judges who sexually exploit and blackmail, and yes, even cops who rape and coerce women in prostitution.

The bottom line is violence against women in the media can be gratuitous and disgusting, but it can also be compelling.  It can be ridiculously sensational, but it can also be accurate – ripped from the headlines, based on real cases, rooted in some kind of reality that we all would benefit from acknowledging. There is no one answer in how to deal with it, and even if there was, it wouldn’t necessarily be to swear it off altogether. Instead, as we watch our favourite TV shows or go to the movies, we need to ask ourselves (and the ones we are with): why was violence included in this storyline?  What is realistic about it, and what isn’t? How do these characters reflect the ‘real world’? And most importantly, what am I feeling as I consume it?  Why am I consuming it?

SVU returns with a new episode on January 18th.  I guess that gives me a few weeks to figure that out for myself.

 

 

 

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Back to the Basement?

In the 80s, women’s organizations were forming, operating shelters and crisis lines out of individual homes.  Women knew at the time that there was an urgent need to provide ongoing and crisis support to women experiencing violence.  Long after the consciousness raising groups of the 1960s and 70s gathered in our kitchens and our basements, women still know that there is an urgent need.  Sexual assault services, shelters, transition houses, and resources centres now operate above and below ground in office buildings and community halls, but continued funding cuts are forcing women’s organizations all over the country to close their doors, sending women’s services in many communities back to the basement and private spaces of our homes.  As if women weren’t already doing enough unpaid labour!

According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s UNiTE to end violence against women campaign, “violence against women must be prioritized at all levels.  It has not yet received the priority required to enable significant change.”  The campaign declares that “the most effective way to fight violence against women is a clear demonstration of political commitment by States, backed by action and resources.”

The BC Liberal government cut funding to women’s centres across the province in 2004. Most funding available now is program-based, with little available for day-to-day operating costs.  It’s difficult to provide counselling services with no phones or lights!  These expansive cuts have raised many concerns about the state of women’s equality in BC.  The United Nations has agreed that the actions of the current Liberal government may have undermined women’s equality and breached Canada’s international treaty obligations.

To all those concerned about justice for women in Canada, let us know: Are the women’s services in your community at risk?  Are you mobilizing?  Can we support you?

In March 2004, the Campbell government cut 100% of the 1.7 million dollars that was used to fund the 37 B.C. Women’s Centres.  Rabble.ca broke the figures down to find that each centre received approximately $48,000 per year for basic operating costs and that this works out to be less than a dollar for each woman in B.C. for a year’s worth of essential services (crisis support, counseling, hospital and court accompaniment, referrals, shelters, transitions housing, and drop-in spaces for women’s organizations to meet).

CLOSURES SO FAR… (tell us if you know of others!)

In March, the Cranbrook Women’s Resource Centre was closed.  In May it was re-opened for 1 year thanks to some one-time funding.

In April, the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre had to close its doors.

In May, the Vernon Women’s Centre closed its doors due to lack of funding.

In May, the Comox Valley Women’s Centre is also closing due to government funding cuts.

Last May, the Health Contact Centre in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver was closed by Vancouver Coastal Health.  It was one of the only places to access 24-hour services and its closure negatively impacts many members of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

IF THEY’RE DEFUNDING HERE, THEY’RE DEFUNDING EVERYWHERE.

In March, the government of New Brunswick eliminated 100% of the funding for the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women from the provincial budget.  The Council has been a crucial advocate for women in the province, operating at arms-length and speaking truth to power.

Since April 2010, the Lethbridge Womanspace women’s centre has been facing closure as a result of being denied federal funding.

THE WOMEN’S CENTRES ARE NOT ALONE.

These anti-woman policies show up across the board. When the BC Liberal government came to power in 2001, they rolled back the pay equity legislation established by the previous government, eliminated the Ministry for Women’s Equality and the Women’s Health Bureau, cancelled the $16 million universal day care program set up by the previous government, eliminated the Child Care BC Program, closed the Legal Aid Offices, and cut 50% of the funding for court ordered assaultive men’s treatment programs. All of this happened after campaigning with promises to expand affordable child care, promote wellness and preventative care, reduce domestic violence, and ensure equal access to legal representation and justice.

The Poverty and Human Rights Centre stated in their submission to the UN that the “government of BC should reverse recent regressive measures that have a discriminatory impact on women, in particular the most vulnerable groups of women, such as aboriginal women, immigrant women, disabled women and single mothers.”

WOMEN ARE STILL DOING THE HOUSEKEEPING, CLEANING UP MISOGYNIST MESSES.

Today women’s groups in Vancouver that are involved in the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry are boycotting the inquiry because their request for financial support that would allow them to participate equally was denied by the province. In the meantime, police and the province have fully funded lawyers and staff to be able to do their work. Women again are being asked to do the “housework” without getting paid! (Put up and shut up.) The cuts to women’s services across Canada are eradicating women’s equality rights and freedoms. We know that violence against women is, as Wally Oppal states “a cancer on society,” yet he is not willing to advocate for women to be compensated monetarily to do their work. As 52% of the population, women are demanding that all government monies are budgeted with gender inequity taken into account and used to support all women and women’s work.

WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY BACK TO THE BASEMENT.

We demand that the government of BC restore full and adequate funding to women’s centres across the province and ensure that women in all regions of the province have adequate access to a women’s centre. The withdrawal of the core funding to women’s centres silences British Columbian women, and we must have a voice in the decision-making processes that affect our lives.

For further information:

Elimination of Women’s Rights=Violence on Women and Children

Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

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Prostitution in Canada: Imagining Alternate Realities

Last night, I was inspired and moved by the powerful, passionate, political voices of three women:renowned legal scholar and anti-prostitution activist Gunilla Ekberg, anti-prostitution activist Trisha Baptie and Sherry Smilie of AWAN, who spoke yesterday at Prostitution and Women’s Equality, calling for the abolition of prostitution in Canada .

I’ll admit that despite the media coverage prostitution gets in Vancouver, in particular when discussing the DTES, the arguments for criminalizing the buying of sex are not something I’m thoroughly familiar with, or used to hearing. Far more time and space is given to those arguing that sex work and the activities surrounding it should be decriminalized in favor of a harm reduction approach (see this earlier post by Meghan Murphy for current legal challenges moving us towards decriminalization).

Thorough discussions of what the abolition of prostitution means are covered here, here and here, and last night’s panel discussion will be aired on the F-Word soon in case you missed it, so I will not delve into the details of this political vision here.

Instead, I am going to tackle three questions Gunilla Ekberg posed to the audience, challenging us to understand that prostitution is violence against women.

Firstly, who are the women used in prostiution?

Second, what is done by men to prostituted women?

Third, what are the effects of prostitution on women in prostiution, and society at large?

Think about these points for a moment, and consider the realities in Canada.

Who are the women used in prostitution?

We know, from collective knowledge and stats like these that women are prostituted in a context of poverty, racism, colonialism, and systemic sexual and physical abuse stemming from a patriarchal society that is tolerant of and complicit in, violence against women. In this context, can it ever be said that a woman is involved in prostitution based on her own free will? The context in which this ‘choice’ has been made cannot be ignored.

What is done by men to prostituted women?

Prostituted women’s bodies are used by men for sex, and that includes a myriad of acts that are humiliating and violent. Prostitution is synonymous with violence. We know this. It’s always lumped into that statement ‘high-risk lifestyle’ –as if it is a lifestyle choice to be at constant risk of violence and death. Prostituted women are beaten, raped, and murdered daily here in Vancouver. This is what is done by men to prostituted women.

What are the effects of prostitution on women in prostitution, and society at large?

Women in prostitution are degraded and devalued, their bodies are abused and trafficked, and they are used by men for pleasure and for profit. When we allow women’s bodies to be purchased and profited from, we perpetuate a patriarchal society that does not value women as equal citizens, a society where violence against women is systemic and alarmingly prevalent.

Examining these three questions, it is pretty clear that prostitution is violent and harmful to women who are directly involved in prostitution and to society in general; it perpetuates inequality between men and women, and contributes to a culture that normalizes violence against women.   Things aren’t going to change though, until we acknowledge that prostitution is violence against women, that men do not have an inherent right to access women’s bodies, and and it’s decriminalization will only serve to push it out of public view.

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How to read a porn star’s memoir

1. Do google the male co-author. Yes, it’s the same Neil Strauss that generously bestowed us with his experiences as a “pick-up artist” in his novel The Game. Chapters in The Game are dedicated to such subjects as Select A Target (naturally, I’m assuming ‘target’ is synonymous for a woman), Isolate A Target, and Blast Last Minute Resistance. So, when the ‘targets’ won’t go home with a budding PUA (Strauss’ acronym for Pick Up Artist) they say “I thought you were spontaneous. I thought you did want you wanted.” Direct quote.

Needless to say, I was not psyched about Strauss’ involvement in this book.

2. Delight in losing some negative expectations with surprising quirky frankness by Jenna the porn star.  When describing how she got her now famous surname she recalls:

“I grabbed the phonebook underneath the kitchen sink and flipped to the J surnames…Jenna Jameson, alcoholic, rock and roller. Right on. The name just stuck. I suppose if I were pickier I would have kept going through the J’s and ended up with Jenna Johnson or Jenna Justus or Jenna Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.”

3.  Appreciate (on my many levels) the queer content.  And, not sensationalized girl on girl action.

Her first time:

“It wasn’t just a peck on the lips, or one of those fake sexy kisses that girls do with other girls to turn men on. It was a full-on tongue-exploration-mouth soul kiss.  My breath quickened, and my mind raced.  I was in shock. But, at the same time, I wasn’t…I wanted to run my hands through her hair, feel her check against mine, and hold her in my arms.  I had to make a split decision. And that decision was yes. Yes, I wanted to throw down with this girl.”

Her reflections after more experiences:

“A relationship with a woman is much different than a man. There is a stronger emotional connection between women; with a man, there is more of a power dynamic at work.”

“After working at the Crazy Horse [strip club in Los Vegas] for so long, every man in my mind was a cheater, a liar, and a shitty human being…I was angry…Add to this my experiences with Jennifer and Nicki, and I was pretty sure I was gay.”

4.  Expect violence and drug abuse. There’s a part in the memoir when Jenna Jameson says that people often assume that she “suffered some sort of childhood trauma” in order to have ended up in the porn industry. She shrugs this off as mostly inaccurate and attributes it to teenage desires to become a model and then to impress her older boyfriend.  You only have to read the first two chapters to understand that it is not as simple as that.

Her first experience of ‘sex’ was rape. She discovered the dead body of her first close friend, another stripper named Vanessa, who was murdered by her own father. The same man who raped Jenna when she was sixteen.

Jameson won’t call out the entire porn industry as inherently anti-women but she will expose its darkest secrets on a whim. *A warning that the following excerpt is graphic and disturbing:

“Every day, World Modeling recruits for nude magazines and movies.  Dozens of girls arrive, strip down, get Polaroids taken, and then fill out a questionnaire. On the form they check boxes next to what they are willing to do: girl-girl, boy-girl, anal, double penetration, and so on. The main event comes once every three months when World Modelling holds a massive day-long cattle call. Most of the directors and producers in the industry come down, meet the girls, and inspect them like, well, cattle.  Some of the gonzo guys arrange to wait in the office, so that they can nab the best new girls before anyone else sees them. In a worst-case scenario, a gonzo director will take a girl to a hotel room and have their friends shoot a cheap scene in which she is humiliated in every orifice possible. She walks home with three thousand dollars, bowed legs, and a terrible impression of the industry.  It’s be her first and last movie, and she’ll regret it― to her dying day.”

5. Be frustrated, but not surprised, that after all her feminist observations, such as…

“I was no longer a daughter, a sister, a student, or a girl with any identity of her own whatsoever. I was just Jack’s girlfriend.  That’s how I usually introduced myself.”

…she’s still firmly entrenched in the belief that feminism is not the solution to the extreme vices of the industry:

“Though watching porn may seem degrading to some women, the fact is that it’s one of the few jobs for women where you can get to a certain level, look around, and feel so powerful, not just the work environment but as a sexual being. So, fuck Gloria Steinem.”

6. Remember (and this is one I have to keep working on) that all women’s stories are important.  We can learn so much from each other.

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It’s hardest to hurt the ones you love: On Law & Order: SVU

I admit it. I watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Honestly, I really enjoy watching it. I should say that I don’t watch too much TV. I don’t own one, so I’m limited to internet viewing. But I religiously watch SVU every week. I always rationalized to myself that it’s practically a natural extension of my feminism. SVU is about violence against women, I’m passionate about ending violence against women. SVU has a strong female protagonist, I seek out entertainment that features strong female protagonists. It’s practically a feminist show, right? Uuughhhmm?


Yeah, this is where I struggle. It’s easy for feminists to like SVU. The cast reflects a genuine ethno-cultural diversity that extends beyond tokenism. Powerful roles in both the police and District Attorney hierarchy are held by women. Messages such as “no victim ever deserves to be raped” are repeated throughout. They’ve touched on issues like violence against lesbians and transwomen, human trafficking, and domestic violence. And Ice-T is in it. The irony of the original Cop Killer playing a cop is too sweet.

But I cannot overlook the fact that the entertainment of this show comes specifically through the merging of sex with violence.  Virtually every episode begins with a brutal sexual assault against a woman or with the discovery of a maimed, yet still pretty, female corpse. In results of a recent study, the depiction of violence against women on TV has increased 120 percent in the last five years. Violence against teenage girls? Up 400 percent. And despite begrudgingly shrugging off the warnings as a teenager, I have come to believe that media and exposure to images does come to desensitize us and normalize certain behaviour. I’d put SVU up there in the main offenders when it comes to graphic depictions of violence against women.

I know we find it empowering to watch Det. Olivia Benson work 72 hours round the clock to catch a rapist, convict him in 2 days and ship him off to Attica for 25 years. But let’s not pretend for one second it works that way. The report rate for sexual assaults are very low. Of the reports that are made AND taken seriously, the investigations are often slow and sloppy. According to Canadian Research Institue for the Advancement of Women, an even smaller percentage go to trial. Approximately, 19% result in jail time while the rest result in probation or a full acquittal. Kinda blows the fantasy that the system is working hard and fast for us out of the water eh? OK, I hear ya. It’s a show, it’s not real and it needs a happy ending.  Except that the majority of people who don’t have a legal background or lengthy criminal record DO get their information about the justice system from television. The show really doesn’t do much to address the responsibility of the justice system in their shortcomings around sexual assault.

The more I think about it, they don’t really address the responsibility of any system when it comes to sexual assault. It’s still the individualistic idea of rapists being a few bad men doing bad things and if we put them in jail the problem will stop. There’s no mention of the fact that rape is an extension of the culture we live in that normalizes the merging of sex and violence against women. But then again, how would NBC make it’s advertising revenues? The only show that featured an explicitly by-the-name feminist character (played by the famously obnoxious Kathy Griffin) personified her with all the Regan-era stereotypes: man-hating, shrill, reactive, lesbian, and not the least bit attractive to Elliot Stabler.

Am I going to stop watching SVU? Nope. It’s got it’s merits. There’s a comforting/escapist level of justice in it. But am I going to give it the bona fide feminist stamp of approval? Unfortunately……..nope.  What about you?

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