Changing our Cultural Values

The harassment that Ashley Judd had to deal with and is still dealing with is not uncommon.  Because of Ashley Judd’s status in society this case was brought into light of the media but many, many cases go unnoticed.  This cultural misogyny is a way for male power structures to continue growing, especially when many of these acts are not caught or ignored by the victim.  Especially when these men can hide behind a computer screen.  In this specific case they are taking out their prejudice towards women towards someone who already receives media attention while they mask their outward feelings through a twitter account.  If asked in public interview I’m sure many people who engage in such behaviours would deny their involvement.  Judd also mentions that many people are told that she is taking these actions too seriously that she “brought it on herself” or that “there are more serious issues in the world”.  We see these same concepts coming up in slut-shaming.  The fact that people attempt to use these excuses as ways to lighten the mood of the harassment says that is a very serious issue in the world.  Not only does the constant harassment make women feel like its ok, and that there is nothing they can do about it, but it can also lower self-esteem and lead to mental health risks.  Questions we need to ask ourselves is how different would this be if the roles were reversed and a man was the one receiving the harassment?  Would the media portrayal be any different?

This case also brings up small sexual scripts that due to our societies thinking seem to go unnoticed.  The idea that women are objects and that they can be objectified when and how people want.  These ideas are ones that are trying to be knocked down in third wave feminism.  Third wave feminism is working to promote women being who they are and having the right to express themselves how they want without having to be worried about being ridiculed.  The intersectionalities between masculine power structures, gender polarization and sexual scripts only strengthen the further box in the gender binaries that are set in society.

In many harassment cases towards celebrities people justify by saying that they should have known what they were getting into or that it comes with the job.  Most often celebrities will have mental health issues.  Although being part of the spotlight does come with a need to have a strong skin in terms of being told that your hair is not the right colour or being the headline of a magazine with the title “Selena Gomez looks so old without make-up”,  but the job does not at all call for the justification of sexual harassment.  Ashley Judd took it upon herself to find out what legal action could be taken in her case and many others.  I think this a very important step in the movement towards taking action against the strong gender binaries that work to try and justify harassment towards women.  Seeing as Ashely Judd is a strong role model and influence for women, this movement may help others in her situation to take a stand for themselves and try to do something to help their situation. Ashley Judd’s movement is helping to promote third wave feminism, which encourages women to celebrate themselves and embrace their contradictions towards cultural misogyny.

An example of an NGO that works to promote women’s right is Women for Women’s Human Rights.  This is an organization that helps to talk with women and inform them of their rights through education and awareness.  They have a multi-pronged approach that uses action-research, training, production and dissemination of awareness-raising materials and publications, advocacy, lobbying and networking.  Many women are not even aware of their rights, so the awareness and promotion that this NGO works towards is extremely important to the and empowerment of women.

Works Cited

“Analyzing Third Wave Feminism.” – The Feminist EZine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

“”Kiss My Ass”: Ashley Judd Stands Up to Threats, Fights for Women Online.” Mic. N.p., 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

“The Three Waves of Feminism.” The Three Waves of Feminism. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

“Women for Women’s Human Rights.” Women for Women’s Human Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wwhr.org>.

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3 thoughts on “Changing our Cultural Values

  1. Hey, this is an interesting post, I think it’s great you brought up an example of the resources that exist to empower women. I think that its certainly important that women understand their rights, in order to attempt to access assistance where possible. Hopefully, this could also help to alleviate some of the shame often associated with women’s sexual harassment by letting them know that the law considers this sexist and abusive treatment unacceptable.
    That being said, I also believe that if you really want to understand how Ashley Judd can act as a third wave feminist, it is important to understand the issue of harassment from an intersectional perspective. Intersectionality in this case means understanding how very few women are actually in Ashley Judd’s position of racial and economic privilege to respond to their harassers. For many women it is not a matter of needing to learn to stand up for themselves, instead I would argue that the changes that need to be made have more to do with governments that ignore women who DO stand up for themselves. For instance, in Canada, Aboriginal women and their communities continue to try and bring attention to the over 1000 women who have gone missing and been murdered since the 1980s. Despite this effort, the racialized and marginalized position of Aboriginal women in society has let this issue be overlooked. Stephen Harper has refused to acknowledge the sociological and structural nature of this issue, and focuses instead on how these are individual instance of crime. Additionally, while I think it is great and very brave for women to advocate for themselves in these situations, it should not have to be their responsibility to do so. Rather it is their harassers who ought to be responsible for changing, and the state’s job to enforce this. For many women experiencing multiple forms of oppression Ashley Judd’s approach is not an option. Nevertheless, I hope that Judd’s actions can bring some change to the existing culture, given that she has more positional power to do so.
    I also though it was interesting how you drew a comparison between the types of harassment female celebrities can expect to endure versus, the sexual harassment they should not have to face. I understand that you were using this comparison to draw attention to the severity of sexual harassment in particular, but I don’t think that making Selena Gomez’s face without makeup the cover story of a magazine is so far off from the culture of sexual harassment. The obsession with female celebrities’ and women’s appearances in general, relates back to the view of women as objects, whose worth is based on their appearance. This same view of women as objects is part of why it is seen as ok to harass women on Twitter in a sexual. I think its important to recognize how all these issue are intertwined with one another because it is the far-reaching and all encompassing nature of rape-culture, which makes it such a threat. Therefore even the seemingly benign instances where women are treated as objects need to be changed.

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  2. This was a very interesting post to read! I enjoyed how you recognized that Ashley Judd’s social status is what allowed her story to obtain so much media attention. As Meera pointed out, Judd’s privileged positionality is important to consider. Most women do not have the option to take Judd’s approach. I also thought Meera’s point about the role of governments in listening to the women who do speak out about sexual harassment particularly compelling! This is such an important understanding, especially in the case of the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
    In connection with your first point about Judd’s status allowing her story to be told, I also loved how you recognized that being in the spot like can also contribute to oppression. It is important to recognize all aspects of one’s positionality to understand the oppression that they face. Celebrities are often targets for extreme harassment and verbal abuse (often online or behind a screen, as you pointed out). The example of the comment about Selena Gomez is a great example of this. As Meera said, the common occurrence of treating or talking about women as objects needs to be changed.
    I’m also really happy that you highlighted the connection to self-esteem and mental health issues! This is such an important issue that needs more attention. Hopefully NGOs like the one you mentioned will help to encourage and empower women to seek the help that they need and have their voices heard.

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  3. Thanks for the interesting blog! I really like how you mentioned that often abusers hide behind a computer screen. Technology can facilitate all kinds of horrible harassment. I think that this scenario really begs the question of who is responsible for stopping online harassment. Is it up to the victim to speak out, or should we be pressuring platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to crack down on harassment?

    Another important question that this scenario raises is that of how the legal system should deal with online harassment. If someone walked up to a woman in person and threatened to rape her then the victim would unquestionably have the grounds to press charges against their perpetrator. Unfortunately laws on harassment tend to be outdated and not equipped to deal with harassment that occurs over the Internet. I hope that Ashley Judd’s case will set a new precedent in how these cases are treated in the future, but I am skeptical. I have read multiple stories where women are disregarded or even laughed at when they report online harassment. This article is particularly alarming: http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170.

    I wonder if ignorance of technology is the cause of this blatant regard for online harassment or if it is a more insidious reason such as misogyny. Unfortunately, I tend to believe it is the latter. There are countless examples of online harassment having real-life consequences, such as the Amada Toss case where a young girl was driven to suicide as a result of online bullying. I believe that it is imperative that online harassment is taken seriously and I hope that Judd’s story helps to raise public awareness of the gravity of this matter.

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