La Roux: women who dress like that bring violence on themselves.

by Laura // 21 June 2009, 18:04

I absolutely love La Roux's Spring anthem, In For The Kill (particularly the Skream remix) so I was hugely disappointed when a reader forwarded us this interview, in which singer Elly Jackson is quoted as saying:

I know that there's far more ways to be sexy than to dress in a miniskirt and a tank top. [...] I think you attract a certain kind of man by dressing like that. Women wonder why they get beaten up, or having relationships with arsehole men. Because you attracted one, you twat.

Harsh doesn't even begin to describe it, does it?

She recognises that the music industry's attitude towards women's sexuality is 'patronising' and is pleased that fans have welcomed her rejection of the feminine, sexed up style expected of female artists, but in attacking women who do fit the 'boobs, heels and tan' stereotype and blaming male violence on women's appearance she is helping to perpetuate the very objectifying and offensive attitude that she detests. She rejects the pressure to be a sex object, but views other women as sex objects that 'arsehole men' simply cannot resist.

I don't need to repeat this here, but just in case La Roux is reading: women get raped and abused no matter what we look like, no matter how we dress, no matter how we behave or who we flirt with. If, like me, you feel better about yourself by not conforming to mainstream feminine sexiness, then that's great, and I agree that having a musical role model who doesn't capitulate to the pressure to look like a Pussycat Doll will help young women feel more comfortable about themselves. But don't think that makes you any more immune to male violence than Nicole and her bandmates, because it doesn't. You might not have the short skirt and heels, but you're female, and that's enough both for men to feel you are fair game and for the general public and a court of law to find some reason - be it your sexual history or the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream - to blame you for the consequences. So, please, have some empathy, and stop blaming women for male violence just because you don't like their style.

Comments From You

depresso // Posted 21 June 2009 at 19:35

This is also the same young woman who said that 'girls look silly with guitars' and other 'traditional' instruments. Another case of reaping the benefits of feminism, but swallowing the patriarchy whole, I think. Her comment about girls with guitars put me off her so violently that I haven't even listened to her music and have found myself listening to L7 much more lately!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 21 June 2009 at 19:40

I'm not going to engage in blaming La Roux but instead see this as another example of how male-dominant society reinforces myths of male violence against women.

It is always far easier for subordinate groups to engage in blaming each other for the dominant group's actions and behaviours. It also allows the dominant group to once again disappear because whilst we are engaged in holding other women accountable for men's violence against them, the male perpetrators' actions and accountability are ignored.

So, just like the proverbial broken record, men choose yes choose to commit violence against women because it works and furthermore it reinforces male power and domination over women as a group. Not all men commit violence but most men remain bystanders in that they refuse to speak out or challenge other men's misogyny or violence committed against women. By not speaking out men overtly condone and justify male violence against women.

So, before anyone claims 'but women are equally as violent as men etc. etc.' The facts speak for themselves - globally it is overwhelmingly males who commit violence against women primarily because women are not biological males and it is this biological difference which reinforces the myth of innate male supremacy.

But male supremacy cannot be upheld without enforcement and this is where violence comes into play. Male domination is never 100% secure and therefore women need to be constantly 'put in their place' under men's heels and the way this is enacted is by male violence against women.

So, remember next time the centuries old myth is uttered 'women are responsible for causing men to commit violence against them.' This is designed to hide and excuse male accountability, because male supremacy does not want us to hold violent men accountable for their violence against women. Male supremacy also does not want male power over women to be made visible - far better all women and men believe male violence against women is only commited by deviant 'others' rather than a deliberate system which enforces women's subordination to men as a group.

David Kames // Posted 22 June 2009 at 02:28

Excuse me for not commenting on Elly Jackson - but I found this comment FAR more interesting:

@Jennifer Drew>"globally it is overwhelmingly males who commit violence against women primarily because women are not biological males and it is this biological difference which reinforces the myth of innate male supremacy."

So wait - maybe it's the fact that it's 2am - but WTF?

Men commit violence against women because the women victims are biological females, and not biological males? If so, how do you explain the even higher rates of violence against trans-women, who are also biologically male? Why then do so many men act in so many different violent ways against other men? Is it just that men are innately, uncontrollably violent?
We can't stop ourselves?

Apparently not -
>"men choose yes choose to commit violence"

sianmarie // Posted 22 June 2009 at 10:08

thanks for posting on this. really shocking, and such a stupidly misinformed thing to say, and shows how horribly pervasive these myths are. although i think it is horrible to put pressure on women as young as la roux to be a "role mdoel", she is well respected by young women as a successful artist, and people will listen to what she says. the whole phrasing of her answer is so cruel, calling women "twats" is bad enough!!! the only way to fight this ignorance is education education education, we need to go into schools and colleges and tell young women how vitally important it is to not believe these lies!

My name is Jose // Posted 22 June 2009 at 10:24

"Jennifer Drew -

I'm not going to engage in blaming La Roux but instead see this as another example of how male-dominant society reinforces myths of male violence against women."


Eh?
She's just said women can 'have it coming' simply because of their dress sense. There's some accountability there, surely? You're just infantilising her into a position of non-responsibility and yet....


"Not all men commit violence but most men remain bystanders in that they refuse to speak out or challenge other men's misogyny or violence committed against women."

It's bizarre, frankly, that you can excuse one person and admonish another, simply because of their sex. Aren't both sexes to be held to an equal moral account? Or are you happy to pat La Roux on the head and say "well she's only a women, what do you expect?"

Kristel // Posted 22 June 2009 at 14:37

I don't think anyone's putting pressure on La Roux to be a "role model" and it would be worrying if they were. But somebody who comes out with the kind of incandescently ignorant bullshit that she just has, i.e. that women attract male violence by dressing in a certain way, deserves huge criticism.
The age range of female victims of male violence is between a few months to at least eighty-something years. So how the hell can appearance have anything to do with it? There is evidence to suggest that attackers pick on victims who they think look vulnerable and therefore can't fight back. Are you going to blame a baby or an eighty-something woman for appearing vulnerable?
How many more times does this have to be said?!

Shaunie // Posted 22 June 2009 at 15:18

No rapist, mugger, bully or attacker of any kind is going to pick on someone they think might kick off. Dress is the LAST thing they look at. What attackers do look for is something about a person or their situation that would make them easy prey. Are they small and weak-looking, slow, very young or old, scared, isolated, in some kind of difficulty they can take advantage of?
A confident woman in a miniskirt and heels is less likely to get attacked purely because she looks confident and might be trouble.

JenniferRuth // Posted 22 June 2009 at 16:11

@ Shaunie

"A confident woman in a miniskirt and heels is less likely to get attacked purely because she looks confident and might be trouble."

That is a ridiculous blanket assumption. Any women can be attacked anytime, anywhere. It doesn't mater what she is wearing, it doesn't mater if she is drunk, it doesn't matter if she is a nun or a prostitute, it doesn't matter if she carries a weapon, it doesn't matter if young or old, it doesn't matter if she is fat or thin - nothing that she does matters.

What does matter? The presence of an attacker or rapist

End of.

NorthernJess // Posted 22 June 2009 at 16:19

Sorry Saunie but I have to disagree- it doesn't matter how confident you look- anyone is vunerable to attack, I walk tall and have still been grabbed, mugged and asaulted in the past. The thing I have against wearing heels and miniskirts has nothing to do with the sexualised element, I refuse to wear them because they constrict movement, why should you make yourself even more vunerable than you already automatically are, as long as it is so easy for men to get away with attacking women with the ridiculously low prosecution figures for rape and sexual assault? La Roux should be criticising the exploitation of women by the companies who design clothes that limit movement, then the companies that psychologically brainwash the populance into believing that without doing a job you hate to buy shit you don't need then you are an outsider, not the women who have been manipulated since birth into buying into all of this.

Jen // Posted 22 June 2009 at 16:46

La Roux should be critising the exploitation of women by the companies who design clothes that limit movement, then the companies phychologically brainwash the populance into believing that without doing a job you hate to buy shit you don't need then you are an outsider, not the women who have been manipulated since birth into buying into all of this.

Yeah, cause the only reason women wear heels or skirts is because they're part of a "populace" and they have been "brainwashed", and they wear these out of an all-consuming fear of being outsiders.

Not, say, because of a little thing called "style", or a host of other reasons. And women have "jobs they hate" purely to buy heels and skirts, not because they need a living or anything.

Knowing that, whenever I go out wearing shoes that don't quite succeed in their primary function as a means of transport, there might be a feminist lurking about getting ready to blog about how she saw a poor brainwashed member of the populace tottering in heels, is just as bad as hearing LaRoux talk about how women wearing those things are kind of slutty.

Besides, LaRoux isn't going to speak out against clothing companies, because (a) it's not her job, and (b) they probably have business ties to whoever puts out her records. Why are we even taking her words at face value at all? She's not saying stuff, she's building a brand - or rather, a bunch of people are building her brand. Yes, it's an obnoxious brand that involves pitting her against "wrong" women in order to define herself. That's where we should start - not by discussing what she should or shouldn't do or say, which is irrelevant, since she's basically no more than a talking logo.

Anna // Posted 22 June 2009 at 16:49

There's definitely something in it though - despite being of the same height and build me and my best friend get harassed on wildly different levels (me far more than her). I'm shy, quiet, and walk around generally looking a bit lost and very unassuming - will get out of the way for everyone, etc - whereas she is loud and brash and swaggers around and almost never gets trouble, wheras I get men coming up to me, regularly, asking if I'm lost or I want to be walked through that big scary park at nighttime (I don't think so, sweetheart).. she had to teach me how to walk properly so as not to be harassed last time we were out, which was amusing.

Shaunie // Posted 22 June 2009 at 17:00

Jennifer Ruth and Northern Jess, I do take your point. But I said LESS LIKELY, I'm not making a "blanket assumption" that no one will be attacked or raped if they look confident. Of course the presence of an attacker/rapist is what matters most. No argument. But as Kristel pointed out, there is evidence to show that attackers do pick on people they regard as looking more vulnerable. I'm not blaming their victims for looking vulnerable, I'm blaming the attackers for being bastards. The point I was trying to make is that it's completely stupid to blame victims for how they dress.

And Northern Jess, surely most women have got at least some capacity to think for themselves? Nobody can be forced to wear clothes that constrict their movement. (Well, okay, they can in some countries.)

Laura // Posted 22 June 2009 at 17:03

@ Jen - I think Elly Jackson is more than 'a talking logo'. We're not talking about a member of a manufactured pop band who was picked as the pretty face to make money for the people and companies behind the scenes; she has worked hard to produce her music and get noticed as an artist, and while she will of course be affected by her record label and management, I don't think she's any more a helpless pawn than, say, a member of the Klaxons.

JenniferRuth // Posted 22 June 2009 at 17:07

@ Shaunie

Sorry, I was probably a bit reactionary to your comment - I see what you are trying to say now and I agree with you. :)

Cara // Posted 22 June 2009 at 17:20

I agree about confidence, actually.
I have recently been working on that. I walk around like I have the right to be there.
It does make a difference, no more harrassment by idiots. I do think attackers of all sorts are more likely to pick on people they think look weak.

Note that I said *more likely*. Of course all types of women get attacked, and of course what matters is the presence of a rapist/ mugger/ bastard. Given the choice, though, attackers will go for the less confident looking person.

Doesn't have much to do with clothes, except for wearing what you feel good and comfortable in. If that's high heels and a miniskirt, great, if it's trainers and jeans, also great.

Karen // Posted 22 June 2009 at 19:11

I got assaulted when in a shortish skirt and platform boots but then I am only 5ft tall, does this matter to me? No, what matters to me is that I and many others got assaulted for whatever the hell the reason was. Sorry but too many young women feel that they have to renounce feminism to some degree these days so that they appeal to the type of men that could be outwitted by my pet tortoise. I can't stand the likes of the pussycat dolls or girls aloud because I think the imagery they use covers a multitude of musical sins. Speaking of which, I'm sticking to the Pet Shop Boys, proper intellectual electro where silly hats not sexism rule!

Charisa // Posted 22 June 2009 at 19:34

Just wanted to say hi Laura! and thanks for this post. I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the sentiment of Cara's comment but I love this "I walk around like I have the right to be there." :-D
xx

polly styrene // Posted 22 June 2009 at 20:24

Why attackers pick their victims is surely irrelevant? I appreciate that it's a good idea to be aware of personal safety, but that isn't the same as thinking women are to blame for being attacked. The fact is that most women who are raped are raped by a partner or ex partner. IE men they thought they could trust.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2146077.stm

CMK // Posted 22 June 2009 at 20:58

I think there are a number of arguments and issues here and people are talking slightly at cross purposes.

1) Men are not instinctively violent against women (in my view), I'd argue the very opposite in fact. To say otherwise gives the perfect excuse to an attacker, its not my fault its just the way I am...

2) Who gets attacked the most (male or female) is largely irrelevant - violence is wrong irrespective of who it is against

3) There are many odd attitudes regarding violence - see this article BBC News and its these attitudes as much as the acts themselves that need to be addressed
4) Rape/Sexual assault is usually about power and control, attacking someone perceived as weak might work in the short term but eventually the attackers will want to stronger 'target'
5) An individual who is attacked is never at fault, however there are things they can do to reduce the chances of it being them. e.g. avoid certain areas, carry mace, think about clothing, fly to the moon... failure to do these does not make it the individuals fault if they get attacked. That doesn't mean some of these things are not prudent to do.

Alex T // Posted 22 June 2009 at 23:18

Whether or not an outfit makes one more likely to be attacked is irrelevant. A woman should be able to wear whatever she likes. It is an attacker's fault if she gets attacked.

It really is that simple.

Don't tell anyone else what to wear, for heaven's sake! I can't believe the amount of woman-blaming going on here! A woman should be able to wear 'clothes that restrict movement' if she bloody well wants to and likes how they look! The freedom to wear whatever I want is part and parcel of feminism for me. I refuse to judge or be judged on the basis of outfits.

We have no obligation to cover up, wear flat shoes, carry a rape alarm, stay indoors at night or travel only in packs. Men don't have to so neither do we. The obligation is on men not to attack or rape. It is attackers' and rapists' behaviour that is at fault, not that of their victims.

I would have thought that was obvious and am disappointed at some of the opinions expressed here.

Rob // Posted 23 June 2009 at 01:52

Uh, I'd say it matters very much who is getting attacked, and what factors increase someone's chances of being attacked. How are you meant to decrease these kinds of attacks without knowing what the motive of the attackers is in the first place (unless, like Jennifer Drew you think it's part of a co-ordinated worldwide male conspiracy)?

Kaarina Vanderkamp // Posted 23 June 2009 at 08:27

I think some of the above comments illustrate how the heat is taken off of a subject by inner bickering. I feel that La Roux, regardless if it is to further her musical career or publicity etc, has agreed to make these statements which are damning to the women she targets. She is ultimately responsible for what comes out of her mouth. In saying these things, she joins the males in perpetuating this rubbish. The males will be more than happy to see her denegrate her own kind. Males are one thing but when women take up the banner against their own, this enables men to sit back and let us perpetuate their patriarchal dominance through the lies that has been fed to females for centuries. It is dreadfully sad that despite education and the work of many, these myths are regurgitated time and time again. If you watch men in a situation of attack, they stand together. Even if they don't agree on all points, they stick together. Even if caught alone, they go on the defensive. They defend the known mass conciousness. I say once again, as many have said before me, woman/females of all ages are attacked, raped, bullied, punched, a host of other abuses and killed by men daily! These are females that are babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, young women, older women, middle aged women, old women, females with handicaps and with mental handicaps, mentally ill women, women in hospital, in short, females of any age tall or short, fat or thin, in nora batty type tights and pinafore or with a nappy. It is about power and dominance and maintaining this over women.

Jen // Posted 23 June 2009 at 09:55

I don't think she's any more a helpless pawn than, say, a member of the Klaxons.

Well, be that as it may, it makes little difference whether she's her own talking logo or someone else's. I still don't think what she says is as relevant as the brand it represents. The fact that she's competing in a marketplace, making an effort to get people to buy her records, alone, is going have an effect on the stuff she comes out with.

Obviously there's still a problem there, if this is her brand, she's peddling a kind of individualist "we all get what we deserve" thing that's not that different from whoever she's competing with, it just wears different clothes. I still wouldn't take it any more seriously than anything the Klaxons would say. Remember when the Strokes were going on about what the best places to sleep outdoors in New York were, because they were "gutter punks"? That was obviously bullshit.

Jen // Posted 23 June 2009 at 10:00

Actually, you can scrap the "she worked hard to get where she is" bit, her mother is a well-known actress, and her dad passed her demo to his friends in the industry, and electro-pop happens to be in fashion right now.

Do you know how hard it is to even get a gig for an actual hard-working band that can't afford expensive equipment and doesn't have connections?

Laura // Posted 23 June 2009 at 10:13

@ Rob: I think the point is that it's not really relevant to La Roux's comment.

Jen // Posted 23 June 2009 at 10:58

Actually just before that quote she says that if you're a real woman you won't need all the accoutrements because you'll be able to make "the sex eyes" at men.

She's also pretty emphatic about how the short-haired girls who look up to her aren't "big butch lesbians" with deep manly voices, just normal girls. Quite a precisely-targeted feminine ideal she's calling for there, then. I think by suggesting she's brand-building I'm giving her more credit than by taking it at face value.

Although there's a dad and a mysterious producer guy behind her, you have to consider the possibility that she's just being wound up and pointed towards interviewers.

Like how she's all about getting into the charts (well, nothing wrong with it) but she's against "big producers" who just happen to be hip hop and r'n b producers and two of the best producers around, as well, like that would be too commercial, so it's the same there, she manages to be scornful of both the underground and hip hop guys in LA.

To be honest, she's so scornful and elitist all the way through that interview, I really hope it's a schtick. "Regular girls", whoever they may be, deserve better than to look up to someone like that, I means she's so scornful of almost everyone that you have to either agree with her or be one of the unenlightened who deserve to be beaten up. Whatever the context, whatever the degree of branding, those are some pretty despicable things to be saying, you picked the crowning moment to post about but I don't think there's a single redeeming feature in that interview (well, it's very NME, so you can see what she's aiming for).

And the Pussycat Dolls had at least one good single, for what it's worth. Plus they're professional dancers, that's more of a skill than having a quiff, looking mildly androgynous, and scorning people.

NorthernJess // Posted 23 June 2009 at 11:30

If women want to wear clothing that constricts their movement and it is totally their free choice, and in no way have they been influenced at all by any outside force such as peer pressure to conform to a certain look, or constant bombardment by advertising and the media to buy into certain fashions, and there is no patriachal pressure to contort their boides into shapes that men have been told by a similar bombardment of images in medias which are meant for their eyes to believe that they will find instinctively attractive, and if the women are completly completly free in their choice in how they dress then of course I have no problem with them wearing these things! I am in no way suggesting that it is in any way the woman's fault for being attacked and I never would-what I am saying is that women should not abuse other women for dressing a certain way they should abuse the capitalist institutions that pressure them to do so. And I am not saying that these women deserve to be attacked- no woman deserves to be attacked. And I'm not saying that women who go out wearing flat shoes and loose clothing aren't attacked any less because they are and I know because I am one of them and I have been. I yes of course I think that women can think for themselves, but, in my culture you are told since birth forty times a day that unless you wear heels then you aren't sexy and unless you are sexy then you aren't worthy of consideration by men and unless you have male approval you are nothing then that is going to have some effect on your descision making as to how you dress.

My name is Jose // Posted 23 June 2009 at 11:40

"@Kaarina Vanderkamp -

I think some of the above comments illustrate how the heat is taken off of a subject by inner bickering. I feel that La Roux, regardless if it is to further her musical career or publicity etc, has agreed to make these statements which are damning to the women she targets. She is ultimately responsible for what comes out of her mouth."

I agree with that. This bit though...

"she joins the males in perpetuating this rubbish. The males will be more than happy to see her denigrate her own kind. Males are one thing but when women take up the banner against their own, this enables men to sit back and let us perpetuate their patriarchal dominance through the lies that has been fed to females for centuries."

Well speaking as a male, I'm not happy at all about what she said.
No-one should 'have it coming', concerning what clothes they choose to wear.
Not so long ago, a Goth couple made the news, after being attacked and the girl was beaten to death...simply because their faces/clothes didn't fit.

I'd hazard a guess that her boyfriend wont "be more than happy to see her denigrate her own kind" in this instance

"They defend the known mass consciousness."

I don't think he got that particular male patriarchy memo

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/7316601.stm

Jen // Posted 23 June 2009 at 14:28

NorthernJess,

If you want to launch into an ideology critique of the culture of feminine accoutrements, I'm right there with you, however if you're using words like "brainwashed" and "populace", you're off to a bad start. First of all, how did you escape this conditioning? By being smarter than "the populace"?

I could also invoke certain gender identities and point out that it's not just men who like to look at women in high heels, that lots of women also like to, but that would be too easy.

I think, since you bring it up, there are loads of reasons that some of us would wear high heels. Choice is usually a red herring (few of us have much of it). Sometimes it's for employment reasons, other times it's for pleasure - and there is something pleasurable about teetering about on those things, god knows why. Personally, I'm not that into "satisfying the male gaze", either. I guess I just like 1960s European art movie actresses, I'm not sure if I want to be them, do them, or just get style tips from them.

Also, a lot of the women I admire have had different priorities, in their various anti-establishment struggles, than changing the way they dress. For instance, Anna Karina and Juliet Berto starred in a bunch of highly communist movies. Colette scandalised high society by kissing her girlfriend onstage and was one of the first female members of the Academie Francaise. And Simone de Beauvoir was one of the first women in France to get a Doctorate and later wrote the Second Sex.

So, maybe my political priorities also lie elsewhere than worrying about the significance of the shoes I'm wearing. Maybe I dig chicks in heels and hope that they dig me back. Or maybe it's a European thing. And I'm sure there are plenty of dodgy reasons too. I'm fairly certain that if I just got it from fashion mags, I would take battered men's Dr Martens every time, like I do a lot of the time anyway. For a lot of women in office or retail jobs, there's a requirement to wear them. For a lot of women on production lines or cleaning jobs, they don't get much of a chance to doll up during the week and enjoy it at the week end. Not all of those reasons are politically sound or perfect in every way, but they're certainly a lot more than the pre-programmed reactions of a 'populace' of patriarchy-pleasing fembots.

But you're not going to convince me, ever, that any of the women I mentioned above were "brainwashed" with a pathological need to "contort" their bodies (Ms de Beauvoir, in particular, was a keen walker and cyclist) because they hadn't discovered feminism yet. And there's no such thing as a "populace" - there are people, who do things, face dilemmas, and have priorities, for various reasons.

In any case, it's not very good methodology to come to the conclusion first and ask the questions after.

NorthernJess // Posted 23 June 2009 at 16:29

Jen
"If you want to launch into an ideology critique of the culture of feminine accoutrements, I'm right there with you, however if you're using words like "brainwashed" and "populace", you're off to a bad start. First of all, how did you escape this conditioning? By being smarter than "the populace"?"
-No I don't think I'm smarter than anyone-in fact I personally think I'm incredibly stupid at times and ill read and uninformed. As you have proved. Thanks for that. I have not escaped my conditioning. I still worry constantly about how I look, if the clothes I wear are out of date, how I appear to others-not on a 'do I look nice' way but 'do I fit in' way. I still shave my legs everyday (I have tried and tried to stop but those veet ads keep haunting me), I still monitor the hair growth on my upper lip like a hawk. I still spend money on products to make my skin smooth and young looking and I still care about my feet, which I have ruined from years of wearing too tight too high shoes. I am trying everyday to forget what I have had forced into me since childhood- that without male sexualised approval I am worthless as a person. Slowly I am trying to regain confidence in myself, regardless of how I look like. I tell myself that it really really doesn't matter what I look like as I am a worthwhile person. I have a job that helps people and I am a good friend. I have to tell myself this you see because, out in the big wide world, I am made to feel like a failure. Because I refuse, I frankly refuse, to be looked at sexually, I also refuse to help any company who exploits or demeans people profit. I do this not because I am more clever than anyone, but because I don't want my existance to marr anyone elses.
"I think, since you bring it up, there are loads of reasons that some of us would wear high heels. Choice is usually a red herring (few of us have much of it). Sometimes it's for employment reasons, other times it's for pleasure - and there is something pleasurable about teetering about on those things, god knows why. Personally, I'm not that into "satisfying the male gaze", either. I guess I just like 1960s European art movie actresses, I'm not sure if I want to be them, do them, or just get style tips from them."
I happy for you that you can feel pleasure from wearing that clothing-like I said before, if it is a true choice than fair enough, as I would say to anyone- if it really really is your choice that you have conciously made then go for it, wear what you like do what you want, as long as you're not hurting anyone. Personally, I believe that I could never wear heels by choice- I hate the feeling on my feet, the way people look at me in the street, the comments I get, the feeling of being trapped- I hate it. It makes me feel sick. I can understand why people get off on being restrained in a sexual context, and I guess for quite a lot of people (not you- I don't know you) the feeling of wearing constrictive footwear is part of that. However I really don't think that every single normal woman on a night out in my city who I see teetering on them gets off on it. There are a myriad of products available to buy (more stuff you wouldn't need to combat the effects of the original stuff you didn't need) that help your pain given by heels. Half of the banter I hear in my mostly female office (where my not 'caring' about my appearance leads me to be ostracized and looked upon with almost pity by the others who are all ridiculously in debt in order to buy things that they wouldn't need unless they needed to appear to 'care' about how they looked-in order not to be ostrasized by other women, even though they things they buy are designed primarily to profit men) is either apologuising for eating/ being alive or complaining about their shoes hurting. If you want to look like someone else because you are attracted to them, again fair enough, its your choice. I don't want to look attractive because I don't think that people should be judged on what they look like. I want to be judged on what I do and what I say. I also don't believe that most people genuingley dress in clothes and make up that they see celebrities wearing because they admire them for the same good reasons you admire the women mentioned in your comment. People are admired now my the majority because they are a) good business people, or have people working to represent them that are good business people (thus purpetuating the myth that you have to be constantly productive and materially successful in order to be a good person) b) sexually attractive (using the standard set by the media-usually a look that takes as much money and products as possible to pull off). I'm not talking about the sudden fashion for vintage celebs, lifestyles and looks that has sprung up in the last few years amongst a reletively small percentage of the population who enjoy contorting their bodies and displaying their sexuality publically- which I have no problem with because its their choice and fair enough. I'm talking about normal people who watch popular televisiona and listen to popular radio and read popular magazines- I volunteer in a school with 7-9 year old girls and all of them want a big house, a fast car, and big boobs. We had an end of term party recently and took some pictures and the girls all instinctively posed like supermodels, hips jutting out, hair tossed back, chest pushed forward, and they all brought their heels for the party (heels are banned during school hours). These are 9 year old girls who see no women who do not dress like this when they can 'choose' how to dress, liked being 'dolled up' on the weekend, or act like this in their culture- just as I saw no women who did not when I was growing up. We didn't see a lot of 1930s communist art house when I was growing up, and neither will these girls unless the curriculum drastically changes. I had never even heard of de Beauvoir until I went to university and was in the library. I'm sorry I can't reference any incredibly brilliant women who have stuck out about not wearing heels/corsets/anything else, apart from the obvious Klien. I guess I'm just not as well read and well rounded a person, I'm just so incredibly angry about seeing women have a go at other women all the time, when we should be banding together to smash the oppressors! I would never go up to you in the street and critisise how you choose to dress because I know what it is like to be on the constant recieveing end of insults being thrown, children whispering behind your back and people automatically thinking you are stupid because you are not wearing a full face of makeup, heels, a tight skirt, and perfectly coifed hair first thing in the morning for your office job.
I'm sorry about my lack of methadology but I was just commenting on how I feel, not writing an essay. I find that with me, most people come to the same conclusion every time- that I have given up on myself. And I am fed up on having to explain that actually, it is really hard not to conform rather than just go with it and do what I'm told by the big billboard like a good little girl.

alex // Posted 23 June 2009 at 17:44

rationalising rape is wrong full stop.

polly styrene // Posted 23 June 2009 at 20:46

"Uh, I'd say it matters very much who is getting attacked, and what factors increase someone's chances of being attacked. How are you meant to decrease these kinds of attacks without knowing what the motive of the attackers is in the first place "

Que? Are you really saying, Rob, that the 'motive' of a rapist is that they are helplessly aroused by short skirts and heels, and that if all women went round in say, sensible shoes and a nice pair of slacks rape wouldn't happen?

Sensible shoes can stop rape! You read it here first.......

Jen // Posted 24 June 2009 at 09:42

NorthernJess,

I feel there's a "but..." after every instance of the words "it's your choice" in your comment, but anyway, I mostly wanted to say, I see where you're coming from and I agree quite a lot.

I don't think it's my free choice to dress the way I do either because I don't believe any such thing as free choice exists. As I was saying before, it's a cultural thing, it's probably partly a sexuality thing - I doubt very much that many men are attracted to the way I dress, at least I hope they're not because I have incredibly specific taste in men.

I'm also no stranger to feeling inadequate about my personal presentation, I'm pretty sartorially challenged, mainly due to the fact that most of my shit is from charity shops or the sale rack in H&M, and I forget to shave all the time, quite often I think I'm dressed up smart and when I get wherever I'm going, well... not so much. I don't know how to apply make-up properly, and aside from anything else, lack of money is going to ensure I never look quite right anyway - I have the choice to worry about it or just put up with it, mostly I put up with it, however there are situations (job interviews mostly) when, yes, it's frustrating and ridiculous that poorly-applied mascara could lose you the job.

I share some of your other points of frustration too: that capitalist notions of success drive how people think of you; that there is even the option to think of a human being as a "failure"; that for women, part of that success is supposed to involve cardiovascular meltdown at the sight of anything celeb-endorsed, making strange compulsive squeaky noises at the sight of chocolate, and tearing all your hair out because the new bathroom tiles are slightly the wrong shade. Old friends won't talk to me anymore because, once we've established the important facts about husbands, kids and houses (none of which I have), we've got nothing left to talk about - some of the stuff I did seemed a bit childish to them at 18, never mind now in my early 30s.

And interestingly, I do seem to leave a trail of people going "you think you're so clever well we can't all be clever!" in my wake when it was never my intention to upset them at all - but I don't think anyone, including other women, really expects a woman to not be shy about wielding her brain. Not that it's an especially good brain, alcohol, caffeine and youtube-addled as it is, but I guess I have to make sure it doesn't go off in populated areas and hurt people, right? Being French doesn't help - people assume you're trying to be a snob when you even mention writers from your country (there are streets named after De Beauvoir in Paris, I knew her name before I even knew who the hell she was), and you don't even want to know the feminine stereotypes associated with it in the UK (ooh la la! le sexy croissant!).

So, in short, I know where you're coming from, I don't disagree with you. I also think women shouldn't trash each other, in fact it makes me completely sick when I'm around women and we find ourselves gossiping and bitching about other women, sometimes it seems we're incapable of empathising with each other. The truth is that most women are in situations where it's impossible for them to act in the best way possible or make good decisions, and if we're feminists the first thing we need to recognise is that this is true of all women including ourselves. The other thing is that for various reasons, women have this drive to be completely irreproachable - hence why we're so quick to reproach other women I guess. I mean, look at the Elly Jackson interview we're meant to be discussing for instance.

I'm sure we all feel pretty awkward on the whole, in fact some of the most stressed out women I've met have been the ones winning beauty contests and getting all the guys.

So, that's why using words like "brainwashed" and "populace" isn't a good place to start, because they're both pretty pejorative words, so it does make you seem unsympathetic when you use them, even though you're obviously not. And personally I'm not that interested in anti-conformism either, why put that distance between yourself and "the masses of conforming women"? Plus, some pretty rad people work for Burger King, sometimes necessity dictates that particular decision. It's not really about conforming, because unless you have money you're not going to be able to.

And those Veet adverts bother everyone - eek! I'm not male, definitely... and if that's a female... then what am I??

But it's probably not fair on Laura to have these big long comments for her to moderate - let me know if you want to carry on the conversation by email or anything. And please - whatever I said that upset you, I totally didn't mean it, okay?

Cara // Posted 24 June 2009 at 11:14

Charisa - ha! :-) damn posting at work.
I meant my comment in the context of this discussion - many women *don't* walk around confidently and *don't* feel they have the right to take up public space, as this discussion is all about, we are told 'don't walk around alone there, it's a bad area, don't walk alone after dark.
Low self-esteem does lead to acting as if you don't have the right to be there. I know I used to *always* get out of others' way on the street, and when on public transport if someone sat next to me I'd move over, I wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, would be looking down and generally in a submissive posture.

Polly Styrene - why attackers pick their victims is I'd say relevant or irrelevant depending on the question, surely? On the level of the individual who would like to not be attacked, looking more confident will help. Of course the attacker can just pick another victim.
I didn't mean my comment to come over as victim blaming, though. Obviously the perpetrator is 100% responsible for their crime, and

Northern Jess - ha, I recognise the female bonding in the office well! Shoe talk and 'ooh I'm so bad, I shouldn't be eating that!' Oh yes, and excessive apologising.
Ironically, having been used to that kind of office, I am now in a quite male-dominated atmosphere - the few women in my workplace don't wear heels or much make-up etc - if I said my feet hurt due to heels I'd get eye rolling! My behaviour is seen as very submissive, and I have had to work to be more assertive and direct - which in my previous offices would have been seen as rude. C'est la vie...

Madeleine // Posted 24 June 2009 at 11:44

Northern Jess and Jen, I LOVE what you both write and find it fascinating! Please keep on with the long posts, I for one would love to read more and I'm sure Madame La Moderator wouldn't mind.

Laura // Posted 24 June 2009 at 12:32

Madame La Moderator is happy with the long posts, as long as they are interesting and nice :-)

Jen // Posted 24 June 2009 at 12:42

And I should probably add to this

It's not really about conforming, because unless you have money you're not going to be able to.

that if you do manage to do everything to conform to that particular ideal, if you have it all, you're going to find out it doesn't compute anyway. It's a bit like finding the holy grail inside a Kinder egg: you've got the foil, the attractive chocolate shell, all of it basically, and when you break it open... oh right, it's a little plastic twat holding a paper flower.

Plus of course I could go on at some length about regular 4-D women trying to make themselves look like 2-D images: most beauty icons are in fact odd, asymmetrical-looking, striking women who need to look memorable in photos even after all the modifications, whereas the image regular women are encouraged towards is really quite different, it's more of a blank slate, non-offending kind of image.

Cara,

many women *don't* walk around confidently and *don't* feel they have the right to take up public space, as this discussion is all about, we are told 'don't walk around alone there, it's a bad area, don't walk alone after dark.

Well, that kind of introduces a class element doesn't it? After all, what about the women who happen to live in those areas? I had a funny experience the other week, when a colleague dropped me off near home, pointed directly into my neighbourhood, and said "Sure you'll be okay walking through there? It looks kind of rough..." You'll tend to find that the definition of assault varies according to the social situation of the people concerned. One time I heard about this guy who was beating up a woman and pushing his cock in her face right in broad daylight in the town centre, and no one did anything because it was "a chav fight".

As for office talk, it's been different everywhere I've worked. I did hear some of the girls from the office downstairs when I was in the toilet once, and they were completely trashing this woman behind her back, destroying her dress sense and complaining her arse was hanging down to her knees and analysing her love life in the harshest terms (she goes out with swarthy foreigners in cheap suits apparently, zounds!). I just thought, bloody hell, if I walk past that lot with mascara smeared halfway down my nose, they'll have a field day.

Cara // Posted 24 June 2009 at 17:12

Jen - am really appalled that no-one did anything. Fwiw, if I saw *any* woman being attacked by a man I would call the police.

Yeah, there are class differences in the perception of what is a 'rough' area. of course. I've known people be amazed when I tell them where I live, and comment that I must be terrified walking home from work at night, let alone if I've been out. You can't live your life like that, though. Men are more likely to suffer straightforward violent crime - muggings, being beaten up - than women are, and as for harrassment, women are as likely to get sleazy comments, groped etc. from pissed rugby playing City boys, in a posh bar, as anywhere else.

And as we know, most rapes are committed by a perp who is known to the victim.

The point I was making, though, is that *all* women are harrassed when out in public. The message is that women simply don't have the same rights to be in public space as men.

Ha, I've heard about that sort of bitchiness, but so far as I know, never worked anywhere that was that bad! Yeah, all offices are different.

polly styrene // Posted 24 June 2009 at 21:19

Hi Cara, my sarky comment was actually addressed to Rob, but I think there's a difference between being sensibly aware of personal safety (eg don't use unlicensed mini cabs, don't take short cuts down unlit alleys) and thinking it's a woman's job to prevent rape.

The fact is that most "dangerous" things women aren't "meant" to do, I've done. I constantly walk home alone at 3 am, often slightly tipsy, and I've never been raped. This is because most rapists DON'T jump on women in the street. It's also fair to say that I never wear heels or skirts and can pass for male in some circumstances, but the real reason I've not been raped is that I'm a lesbian.

And for that reason, I don't have male partners, and I'm unlilkely to go back to some bloke's home (socially) from a night in the pub, and I'm never alone in my own home with a man, unless I've called a plumber. These are the most common circumstances in which women are raped. Being jumped on in the street is vanishingly rare.

If women are constantly meant to limit their lives to a ridiculous extent because of fear of some anonymous, mostly mythical stranger rapist, how does that help women? It doesn't. I'm not about to stay in for the rest of my life for fear of rape, but there are plenty of people who'll tell you women shouldn't even go out after dark alone.

elmo // Posted 25 June 2009 at 11:53

i think there is a very simple reason why La Roux, some women and some parts of society feel the need to blame victims-fear. if they believe a woman brings rape on herself, then they feel that, by not wearing (for example) a mini skirt, they can prevent themselves being attacked. Afterall, its often very hard to face the prospect that you could be attacked simply because you are a woman, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Its not about the clothes you wear, or apparently appearing to be "asking for it", its about the mindset of the attacker. As a young person it pains me to constantly hear so much victim blaming (particularly of women), but i think it largely is caused by peoples fear of attack and desperation to stop it happening to themselves. Basically, as someone else said, you cannot rationalise rape. p.s. im so pleased i found this website, i am getting sick of being teased about being a "viscious man hater" by my friends, simply because i want equality!!!

Jen // Posted 25 June 2009 at 16:35

Cara,

Jen - am really appalled that no-one did anything. Fwiw, if I saw *any* woman being attacked by a man I would call the police.

The trouble with that is that if the girl is working-class and if she's not especially delicate of manners or elegantly-dressed, there's a chance she might be in as much trouble with the police as her attacker.

Polly,

And for that reason, I don't have male partners, and I'm unlilkely to go back to some bloke's home (socially) from a night in the pub, and I'm never alone in my own home with a man, unless I've called a plumber. These are the most common circumstances in which women are raped. Being jumped on in the street is vanishingly rare.

Yes, I think the idea that women shouldn't walk home alone at night is probably a vestige of the idea that the woman (or her sexual virtue) is some guy's private property and that he needs to protect her from theft - or from the days when she would have had to have any consensual extramarital sex, even, in secret, and even that would be considered theft from her husband or dad. Well, I'm saying that, it always seems lazy to talk about "the days when..." as if we know better now, because obviously we don't - just some parts of it become sublimated whereas different ones are made more explicit.

Elmo,

I think there's something in what you're saying about fear of being attacked, that if you take certain steps you'll be protected and it's reassuring. But I think there's more to the victim-blaming than that, if you look at soaps or cop shows - particularly those actually - and also the press even, whoever turns out to have committed the crime is usually the person who deserves to have done it, and the girl who's going to get raped or attacked will have a bunch of easily-identifiable signifiers if she's someone who "deserves" to be attacked, or, well, there are distinct signifiers according to whether you're supposed to think she deserves it or not. Quite often the guy who dunnit ends up being the guy who deserves to spend time in jail just for being a shit of a human being, never mind what the crime was (why I hate cop shows, summed up in a few words).

But that's not all, there's this real underlying narrative that people get what they worked for and deserved, that if they're poor they somehow don't deserve a living, the civil and human rights should actually be earned privileges and not rights, that you get good and bad people rather than good and bad actions... I'm not saying people copy what they see in the press, I'm saying the press are the mediators of this ideology - and actually, there's definitely something in what you say, because lots of people are cheated out of a huge part of their rights, and no one wants to be told that or even think about it most of the time, so these terrible things to think about other people actually do become reassuring. Then again, they're less so if you were careful to wear skits below the knee, avoid hoop earrings, and not have a posh voice where you drop a bunch of glottal stops to try and sound working-class, and shit stuff happens to you anyway, then you have no appeal.

As for Elly Jackson, I think she's just suffering the side-effects of giving an interview to a music magazine, she's a bit indie and edgy so controversial pronouncements are part of her job description - but it's definitely a part of perpetrating that ideology, yes.

That's kind of why I was hoping she didn't completely mean it, really, because that would mean she had redeeming qualities...

Elmo // Posted 26 June 2009 at 21:53

Jen, I completly agree, I think there is a huge feeling projected by the media that people "get what they deserve"-just think about jade goody's death, all those nasty people declaring that it was some kind of karma for her actions, when really she was a victim herself, of poverty and ignorence. And yes, there is definetly a class divide when it comes to sympathy, a notion (often subtly suggested by the media) that poorer women who are attacked probably "deserve" it , and that you're poor because you're lazy, you're raped because you're slutty, etc etc. It's a fantasy view that the world is a fair place, where everyone gets what they deserve, which is of course not in the least true. the whole thing is basically infuriatingly insane.

fairplaytoher // Posted 01 July 2009 at 11:58

Christina McDermott has commented on this today in her Guardian blog: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2009/jul/01/la-roux-women-beaten-up

The post is very critical of La Roux and actually mentions feminism in a positive light (I haven't often seen that outside sites like the f-word). The comments are depressingly typical rage-inducing cif.

lindsey spilman // Posted 11 July 2009 at 16:20

I agree polly that women need to be more concerned about being raped by the men they invite into their homes and lives. I also walk home late at night, i do not wear heels, ballet flats or shoes that limit my movement. My reason for this is that i like to be active and wish to save my feet and knees for exercise rather then have sore feet from bad shoes. I agree though that the rapes that do happen in the street are rare and probably are more likley if the attacker thinks the woman cannot get away. It is the same with aggression, most women are assulted by men they know in their own home, so a woman is safer outside where there are other people then in the home alone with a man there.

A lot of womens clothes are de-powering and make the wearer less able to move around. I have yet to understand why in the 21st centuary so many women take pride in spending money on nights out to hobble around in restrictive shoes. All they end up with is ugly mangled feet, and they still are fooled by the idea that the shoes that are worn by men are ugly on women.

polly styrene // Posted 11 July 2009 at 21:03

To be 100% clear, I'm not seriously suggesting that women should avoid having male partners to avoid rape. I was making the point that it's absurd to think it's women's responsibility to avoid rape in the first place. And more or less impossible to do for most women.

claren // Posted 15 July 2009 at 15:52

I am a British woman who has been living in Central Asia for some years. The situation re street violence and violent attacks is completely reversed compared to in the UK, in that many foreign men have been attacked (simply for being foreign men) and very few foreign women have. (I’m not going here into the situation for local people and the rights and wrongs of this.) Foreign women tend to be treated very respectfully because chivalry is still a big thing here (not going into this either except to say there are many outdated male/female stereotypes very much in play), while the expat men tend to be resented by local men and there have been frequent incidents of a man going home late a night, often drunk, who gets beaten up quite severely. I remember thinking, after I heard one of these stories, what was he thinking walking home at 3am, obviously drunk, probably loud, and wearing clothes that marked him out as a foreigner - how stupid! What did he think was going to happen? I was then very uncomfortable about my own reaction, since it didn’t seem so different from the people who blame women who are raped in similar situations. I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make here (sorry!), maybe just that its very easy to blame the victims, especially if they are drunk or dressed to stand out, and therefore necessary to make an extra effort not to do this.

giselle // Posted 30 October 2009 at 09:17

For chrissakes, to Elly who thinks that only a certain type of woman attracts abusive men, or to the commenters who believe the confident types are "less likely" to be abused WAKE UP. Rape and sexual abuse has never been about titillation but dominance and power not what you wear or how you carry yourselves. I can't believe that this drivel is coming from, and being perpetuated by, women themselves.

My auntie is a very confident woman. She's a very tall woman as well, and not meek or particularly vulnerable looking -- whatever that's meant to mean. If you saw her walking down the street you'd have admired her poise. She's at the top of her game as a CPA for a Big 4 accounting firm -- one of the few women in senior management. She dresses conservatively, and like a man, actually. She wears pant suits because she's always dealing with the Boys Club. Did that stop her being beaten with a steel pipe by her husband? No.

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