Violence against women

Over the past thirty years, violence against women has escalated in popular culture. The misogynist language of gangster rap music, which was introduced in 1987, has been embraced by most aspects of the mainstream entertainment industry – television, radio, movies, video games -- and even by companies outside the entertainment industry.

Chrysler, for instance, used Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus), in one of their commercials, although his misogyny was a matter of public record. Broadus had, in fact, appeared on stage at an MTV awards show with two women in dog collars and leashes. In spite of this, Lee Iacocca, past chairman of Chrysler, who appeared in the ad with Broadus, called him a “good kid”.

While violent rappers and their music companies are responsible for the misogynist products they produce, no one forced other companies to jump on the band wagon. They did so for profit. There’s money in misogyny.

Another example: a Canadian company, Bell Mobility, introduced a line of ring tones called “PimpTones” that featured abusive language and threats of violence. When challenged, their defence was that the pimp motif reflected in the ringtones was “a huge phenomenon” in pop culture. Their spokeswoman said, “There are mainstream TV shows and products that use that language. It’s a big part of the culture these days.”

Indeed it is. Forty years ago, women protested being called “girls” -- now we have to protest being called “whores” and “bitches”. No one could call that progress.

Girls and young women are paying a heavy price for the commercial success of misogyny. Two studies of violence in Ontario schools showed that sexual harassment and sexual assault are occurring at “alarming rates”. A Toronto Star reporter interviewed girls from 5 area high schools following release of one report and found that girls are routinely subjected to a barrage of misogynist comments, many of which are lifted straight from popular culture.

Much of the blame for this poisoned social environment can be laid at the feet of politicians who have done nothing to curb the spread of misogynist expression in Canada. For instance, unlike other vulnerable groups, women were, until December 2014, excluded from the protection of the Criminal Code hate propaganda law. The law has just been changed, after decades of lobbying, and comes into force in March 2015. See the Hate Propaganda section for details.

There are regulations under the federal Broadcasting Act that prohibit the broadcast of abusive comments and images based on sex, but laws are only as good as their enforcement, and the CRTC, the federal broadcast regulator, doesn’t do a good job of protecting women and girls from the broadcast of misogynist material. See the Howard Stern and Bell Canada sections for examples of this failure.

As far as human rights legislation goes, a complaint filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against HMV Canada Inc. over the sale of hate rap, resulted in no action being taken by the Commission. They actually acknowledged that the material in question was misogynist, but they declined to take action as long as the hate material was sold in a tasteful manner. Indeed.

This section contains information on violence against women in popular culture, along with links to other sections that provide more detail.

Rape GIFs and the pernicious problem of sexist online trolls. Column by Emma Woolley, Globe and Mail, August 13, 2021

How Canada's sex-assault laws violate rape victims. Excellent article by Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail, October 5, 2021

I'd love some Respect from female pop stars, but I'd settle for pants. Excellent column by Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe and Mail, Oct 5, 2021

Social Media & Sexual Violence Conference: Understanding the links to students' mental health & well-being, London, Ontario, November 7-8, 2013. Sponsored by the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children at Western University. Check the site for info on the great speakers and topics. (Fall 2013)

Articles on the furor caused by Canadian university students "rape chant" (Fall 2013)

An Introduction to Misogyny in Popular Culture, by Valerie Smith, September 2010

Fact sheet on the previous exclusion of girls and women from the Criminal Code hate propaganda law. (The law was amended in December 2014.)

American Psycho Section: Information on a movie made from the misogynist book, a favourite of child killer and serial rapist, Paul Bernardo

Bell Canada Section: Broadcast of violent and degrading pornography by Bell ExpressVu; Bell Mobility's PimpTones

Exploitation of Girls Section: Articles on the hyper-sexualization of young girls

Hate Propaganda Section: Efforts to get the law changed and examples of misogynist expression

Howard Stern Section

Eminem Section

Pornography Section

Are mass media creating a culture of rape? Column by Antonia Zerbisas, Toronto Star (2010)

I Spit On Your Grave remake (2010)

Roger Ebert's review of the original I Spit on Your Grave (1980)

Sundance audience shaken by violence in The Killer Inside Me (2010)

Last House on the Left remake well made, but disgusting (2009)

Misogynist movie, Deadgirl (2009)

Film's new fall guy: women (2009)

Movies and television provide bad role models for girls (2008)

Information on hateful movie, Captivity (2007)

Girls being desensitized to gore (2006)

The Devil's Rejects - training film for serial rapists and murderers (2005)

Irreversible is a contemptible use of violence (2003)

Invisible obscenity - Hamilton Spectator article on slasher movies (1992)

Movie about a little boy pimp - Lil' Pimp - (2003)

Articles on violent film, Baise Moi (2000)

Director defends brutality in Trouble Every Day (2001)

Articles on Rapelay - Japanese rape simulation game (2009)

Generation M: Misogyny in Media and Culture

Articles on sexual harassment and sexual assault against girls in Ontario high schools (2008)

Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (2007)

Research on wrestling: teenagers more prone to violence after watching wrestling (2001)

Women in Peril, Parents Television Council report on violence against women on TV (2009)

Set on fire, shot, raped: welcome to prime time (2005)

Brutality against women prominent in 2005 TV season (2005)