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Sunday, 3 November 2013

When 15-Year-Old Girls Highlight Issues with Traditional Canon and Academia

By: Liberate Zealot

In class my students had to perform a summary and theme analysis of Chang'e and the Archer, a Chinese myth that is also known as the Moon Lady. It's the story of an immortal couple punished and sent to earth through the husband's attempts to save the people of earth.  His wife is upset and he goes in search of a way to become immortal again.  Versions of the myth disagree on wether it was a pill, potion, or magical apricot, but he gains one of these from the Queen Mother of the West. and it should be strong enough for both of them to return to heaven as immortals.  However, the archer doesn't tell his wife of this, instead he hides the pill/potion/apricot away because it must wait to mature, or be taken on a cloudless night.  He leaves and Chang'e finds the pill/potion/apricot and eats it.  However, she overdoses, or the night is cloudy, and instead of going to heaven she flies up to the moon instead.

Traditionally this story is meant to warm about the dangers of curiosity, taking things that don't belong to you, or warn women to be obedient.  However tradition is often most influenced by men.  My students, who generally don't have much experience in traditional critiques or theme analysis, and a girls raised in an increasingly feminist society, interpreted the myth quite differently.

Instead of being a lesson for Chang'e the morals were directed at her husband or men in general:
"Women will always find what you try to hide."
"Be honest with your partners."
"Don't hide things from you wife."

When it was a moral directed towards Chang'e it was about "don't allow yourself to be punished for someone else's actions."

And I know in so many classes or places my students would have been called wrong.  The morals they found were so far off from the "traditional" that many wouldn't pause to consider their validity.  Despite their answers being text based and ones they could argue and support such interpretations go against centuries of (male) thought that they must be wrong.

This ties into issues with academia, tradition, and interpretation in general. For so long the literary canon has been decided by the people with power in academia.  The proper interpretations of this canon were decided by these same people.  Centuries of traditional and academic correctness have been built by the values and ideas of these people.  And the vast majority of the time these people are men, mainly white men, who come from the upper and middle classes.
I'm a feminist, and I like to think I challenge such hegemonic and kyriarchal structures, but the truth is I was brought up in accordance to this structure.  I was brought up to accept the literary ideas of this culture, and I was brought up to articulate ideas in line with the culture.  And I was good at this.

But these black teenaged girls, from a poor city, who most would consider under-served by the educational system came up with interpretations that were more complex than the moral messages of tradition.  And in hindsight, I think their interpretations are also more correct.  Because why should a wife be punished for something her husband did that she had absolutely nothing to do with?  And what decent parter gains access to a powerful and potentially dangerous substance and doesn't warn their spouse?

Sure, "don't eat things when you don't know what they are" is an important lesson to teach.  But do we have to use grown women to teach lessons that most children learn by the time they're three? 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Where are the Young People?

By: Liberate Zealot

It's been several months since I've been able to write for Feminist Armchair Regime.  During this time I've been taking classes and teaching, first at a summer school, and now at an all girls public high school.  I've been so busy that actually seeing my live in partner is a struggle never mind writing for this blog.

But during this time I've seen and heard such amazing things from these teenagers.  Thoughts and beliefs and concerns that society seems so bent on refusing to acknowledge teenagers can have, especially the teenagers I work with. The vast majority of my students are black and living in or near poverty.  Some of them are teen moms, or homeless, or practicing Muslims who wear hijab.

Society has so many ideas about what teenagers like my students are like. Stereotypes about black people, and teen girls, and Muslim women, and poor children, and teen moms.  That they're unengaged and don't care about politics or feminism or LGBTQ rights.  I've heard so many people in power decrying the youth and their values.  And I constantly wonder what world these people are living in.

Because I live in a world where every feminist org or protest or rally I've been involved in has had at least half of the people participating be under the age of 30, and depending on the time there are a significant number of teenagers involved.

Some of my students regularly discuss if characters in the stories we read are feminist, none of my 150 students have ever questioned the importance of feminism.  Most find Malala Yousafzai inspirational and want to learn more about her.  Many are doing extra work to research women in literature.  They love Rosa Parks and are disappointed that more black women aren't commemorated in the Civil Rights movement.

And it isn't only the girls who are interested in these discussions.  Several black young men in my summer school class discussed the relationships between power and masculinity, wealth, and mental illness.  One knew the term and concept of Patriarchy as it's used in academia and social justice and was enthused to learn of Kyriarchy and the articulation of power structures that he was struggling to name.

And this high school I work at, full of African American teenagers, is one of the most LGBTQ friendly places I've been outside of official LGBTQ spaces.  Students who present in gender queer or butch ways are accepted.  The girls speak as positively about the lesbian relationships as they do about straight ones.  There is an active GSA.

And numerous students are interested in local and national politics, specially the government shutdown.  The day that happened several students came in to homeroom early to ask about the repercussions of the shutdown, and were horrified at museums being closed.  Some of my 13 and 14 year old students discussed the possibility of defaulting on our loans triggering another Great Depression.  And every single student is concerned about what this means of WIC and Head Start.

And one reason so many of these students are engaged, and so knowledgeable is because these concerns touch their lives so intimately. The pay gap is a much more pressing concern for black teenage girls than 20 and 30 something college educated white women.  It's the same for limitations to sex education, birth control, and abortion.  WIC and Head Start are what provided for many of my students when they were younger, some need it now for their children, otherwise they'd have to drop out of school and work full-time.

Police abuse and institutionalize racism in the legal system is something these children grow up knowing, elementary students can discuss Trayvon Martin, and not one of my freshman was unaware of lynchings or segregation or have hope for Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mocking Bird. My sophomores understand the struggle of Malala for an education much more so than the white kids in the suburbs that I've worked with, they understand it more personally than I do myself.

They also understand the concerns of health care and mental illness more personally than I do. They know what lack of health care feels like, they know the value of having it.  They know the importance of getting diagnosed and treated for mental health issues.  They know because they see their family members, or themselves, lacking that care, being under diagnosed.  They see that mental illness in poor black people is as likely to lead to prison as a psychiatrist.

They're much more knowledgeable and engaged than I was at their age. They care so much.  But their knowledge and experience and concerns are ignored by the very people in power who claim to lament their absence.
"Where are the young people?" they ask, "why don't young people care?" while they broadcast another interview with Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber or other wealthy, white, young people for whom feminism or politics can be concepts where engagement is unnecessary.

These people in power, very often white and middle class themselves rarely engage with the teen activists of TAP who are taking a stand in New York against Stop and Frisk. Or De'Jaun Correia a teenager who speaks internationally against the death penalty, and whose uncle is on death row, and remains unacknowledged outside of The ROOT.  A quick google for "black teen activists" contains more first page hits about the Trayvon Martin activists not speaking out against the beating of a white student than about current teenage African American activists.

So we have to look at the reality.  The young people are there, already as activists, or with all the passion ready to be engaged.  The issue isn't with them.  It's with us, the people in power who don't want to reach out.  Who don't want to work with poor black or immigrant teenagers.  Whose feminism or political activism doesn't actually care about the concerns of the passionate and informed youths in the US.  We'd rather maintain our privilege and decry the lack of youth engagement than admit it's not young people who are the problem, it's us. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Babe, Is This Sexist? - Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines.

Survey says... HELL YES IT IS.

The fucking title of the song is "grey rape is fun!" for fuck's sake.

Nevermind the song itself, Thicke's 'defence' of the song and the video speak for themselves.

I mean, ladies, seriously - it's okay. Robin and Pharrell are married, so it's fine.

Furthermore, degrading women is a pleasure. Also, a feminist movement, dontcha know!

And, if that doesn't convince you... well, his Mom thinks it's totes okay.

Just, seriously. This is one of those "if I have to explain how it's sexist, you've already failed at life" sort of things. Unfortunately, it looks like we have a TONNE more explaining to do.

These teenagers NAIL the issue - here are your blurred lines right here. Time to stop teaching the next generation that this kind of shit isn't confusing anyone.

We agree, Teens React - "Ah ha. Feminist movement, THAT? OKAY. OKAY.

God dammit people."

And please leave suggestions for topics for future posts in the Babe, is this Sexist? Series.  
You can do so by leaving messages here or in the masterpost.
By tweeting us @FemArmRegime #babeisthissexist?
By messaging us on Tumblr or Facebook

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Babe, is this Sexist? - Blurred Lines

Hello, dear readers!
Babe is this Sexist? returns! And we want to hear from you!

Robin Thicke's single "Blurred Lines" is currently in its 14th straight week at number 1 on the Billboard charts. So, we ask: Babe, is it Sexist?

Let us know what you think with this handy dandy survey, or leave your comments.
The video can be viewed here, or you can get the lyrics from this 3rd party site (though the video is definitely part of the story, we'll understand if you don't want to watch it).
We'll post the results on Sunday.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Speaking Feminism: The Whom Rule

by Eudaimonatrix)

(and an accidental linguistic easter egg)

[trigger warning: domestic violence, sexual harassment]
[trigger warning: stark and explicit references to domestic violence] Awhile ago I saw a great TED Talk by Jackson Katz called: Violence against women—it's a men's issue. Go watch it now. I’ll wait.
[waits for 18 minutes, or, if you want to see where I’m going here, for a couple minutes while you watch starting at about the 2:28 mark]
In the video, the speaker uses grammar to elegantly illustrate how objectification and victim blaming work, and are desperately inter-related. His illustration centers on simple sentence construction: how the way we use the subject and the object in a sentence send radical signals about how we’re thinking about accountability, agency, and domestic and sexual violence.
Today’s comic from The Oatmeal is also grammatical: How and why to use “who” and “whom” in a sentence.  I usually get a kick out of The Oatmeal’s grammar humour, and this comic is no exception (I don’t know why unwashed koalas are funny, but man, the lols…). The grammar tip basically boils down to
Whom = enquiries about the object (him in a properly constructed sentence)
Who = enquiries about the subject (he_ in a properly constructed sentence)

Handy tip. Now I know how to keep who and whom straight. AND….[drum roll] how to tell if you’re objectifying or victim-blaming someone using grammar!

The ‘subject’ in a sentence is the ‘doer.’ They have the agency (and are ostensibly accountable for the action taking place).
For example:
DudeBro shouted “nice tits!” at the Stranger.
Who shouted? DudeBro, the subject. Whom was sexually harassed? The Stranger, the object of the sexual harassment, whom you  (depending on who you are) feel sympathetic towards, angry on behalf of, or entitled to bother.
Passerby intervenes, by telling Dudebro “yo, Dudebro, not cool.  Not a consent-based interaction, man.”
Who intervened? Passerby, the subject doing the talking. Whom got told? Dudebro, the object.  Notice how in this case the Passerby is brave, and the one in control?
“Whatever, [insert homophobic expletive]. She’s got great tits, and she should cover up if they’re not for me to compliment,” sayeth DudeBro.
Now, here’s an interesting one. The DudeBro is a subject in that he said the thing. However, let’s look at what he said. It’s not easy to pick out from the sentence construction (simple sentences are usually subject-verb-object, as in the first 2 here). So let’s use the who=he (and I) and whom=him (and me) rule.
She is the subject. She is the one who has something and should do something.
Me (in this case, Dudebro me) is the object.  Her doing something (or not doing something) has an effect on him.
Who is in the wrong? She is (yep, the Stranger is a she – go figure).
According to whom? Dudebro, who implies through his sentence structure that her appearance in a public space affects him.
Presto. See what happened there? The Stranger is objectified. Then Dudebro (who objectified her in the first instance) is challenged to be accountable for his behavior, and turns the Stranger into the subject so that he can blame her for the action being challenged. Hopefully the scene continues with Dudebro getting an eloquent can of rhetorical whoop-ass getting poured all over him, but we'll leave that up to your imagination, dear readers.
Easter egg time!  The thing that got me thinking about this originally was that the whom-him mnemonic doesn't work for 'her.' As a matter of fact, that shortcut would be whor-her. Telling, no?
(Note:  Mat Inman & The Oatmeal  have been the source of some really sexist “humour” and rape “jokes” in the past, and the comic I link to above actually has a tangential joke about sexual harassment in it that relies on the old “dudes who harass women are just socially awkward, you guyz” standby). I’m still a fan – albeit a critical one. My complicated relationship with sexist media will be something to get into another day).  

Friday, 2 August 2013

The UK Porn Filter: The Plaster Over the Wound?

By: Suk Maklitt

The UK porn filter is a topic causing a lot of debate. It’s one I’m hesitant to comment on not because I have nothing to say on it but because I probably have too much. Where do I start? Well, maybe I’ll start with what I won’t discuss and that’s the censorship/ free speech/ technical issue. I think that’s been covered by enough people.

So, I want to ask is, will this UK porn filter achieve anything beneficial? Abusive porn will be blocked? Sounds good to many (me included) but what will doing so achieve? Will people stop creating abusive porn and images? Will rape culture dissolve overnight? Will paedophilia? Will sexual objectification? Will sexism? Will our relationships magically improve? Will everyone suddenly become respectful of one another’s bodily autonomy and sexuality? No, that would be ridiculous. So what I’ve been thinking about is how a UK porn filter is like sticking a plaster over a gaping, infected, oozing, maggot-riddled wound.

Abusive porn and images do not exist in a vacuum but, rather, sit on the extreme end of a spectrum. A spectrum we are all familiar with although we may not recognise all its elements’ true toxic nature, like certain romantic comedies or Page 3 or MTV or, even, Disney. Abusive porn exists because people move up and up and up that spectrum, from the seemingly innocuous to the mild to the obviously harmful, until they reach those pornographic extremes. It’s an insidious spectrum we’re exposed to daily and it saturates our entire culture. Simply hiding the abusive porn will never remove that spectrum just like hiding symptoms of radiation poisoning won’t remove the risk of others becoming exposed to the same radioactive source.

Additionally, there are the claims that such filters will block out feminist porn, LGBTQ-friendly porn, sex advice, relationship advice, educational materials, forums for sexual assault survivors, etc. It will, inadvertently, censor education and social progression. This fact becomes more terrifying when you realise the internet - despite its many dark, shadowy corners - is currently the greatest source of sex and relationship advice for children and teenagers (and, actually, even adults) we have. To describe school sex education as ‘lacking’ would be exceedingly generous. Sex education in the UK barely covers the basics. I don’t know about you but I distinctly remember a teacher telling us during sex ed class that only “silly girls” got themselves pregnant whilst still attending school. That’s practically state-sanctioned slut-shaming.

Despite these failings, when given the chance to improve the situation in June this year by implementing mandatory and comprehensive sex and relationship education in state schools, the majority of the ConDems voted against. Why? Presumably under another misguided attempt to protect children. There is contradiction in our society where unhealthy sexual imagery such as objectification is constantly thrust in people’s faces but healthy, body-positive sex and discussions of can be taboo; the former is so prolific we’re accustomed to viewing it whilst the latter’s liberal inclusivity and often anti-oppressive nature threatens the status quo and thus appears dangerously revolutionary. One of the biggest issues here, as I see it, is this erroneous conflation of healthy sex and unhealthy sex as one big, bad, dangerous package which should be kept out of the reach of children, at all costs, lest it corrupt their sparkling innocence. Well, too late. Look around. Unhealthy sexual images are everywhere and they are not just relegated to those dark, shadowy corners of the internet that the government think they can block off. Adults and children alike are absorbing these unhealthy messages every day through television, cinema, newspapers, peers, parents, fashion, music, advertisements… like I said, everywhere! This is the reason why abuse is prolific. This is the reason why abusive porn exists. This is what’s enabling abusers. An internet filter will benefit no one because refusing to address problems will never make them go away.

Isn't it about time the government realised there is no greater filter than education?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Don't be that Guy gets a Makeover, and it's bad news

By: Eudamontatrix

TRIGGER WARNING: lots of talking about sexual assault, images related to sexual assault on lots of the links, victim-blaming, MRAs.

Edmonton has a problem. Thankfully, it's garnered national media attention, so some of you fair readers may have heard about what I'm talking about.

Here's the short version: in 2010, an Edmonton-based coalition called SAVE launched the 'Don't Be that Guy' poster campaign to international acclaim, and is credited with reducing instances of sexual assault in Vancouver, Canada, by 10%. The aim of the campaign was simple and unsurprisingly (though seriously frustratingly) controversial: to ask male perpetrators of sexual assault to, you know, stop doing that.

A couple of days ago, Men's Rights Edmonton (not going to link that - I'll link to the news shortly, but I don't want these guys to get even more web hits than they already are) put up rip-off "Don't Be That Girl" posters whose messages are, unsurprisingly (and seriously frustratingly) that drunk girls who are victims probably aren't and also, probably lying.


ACTION: If you're in Edmonton and want to be part of the action, YEGSlutwalk is happening on July 27, and would be a good place to get your solidarity on (they're currently fundraising to host the march). There are also a few counter-poster campaigns and community watch reporting initiatives on the go. A Voice for Reasonable People Edmonton is a good place to go to get information on what's happening. So is twitter (#yeg).

INTERNET RESPONSE: There's been a lot of thoughtful (and a lot of not so thoughtful) commentary on the issue so far. I recommend checking out University of Alberta Womens & Gender Studies Chair/SAVE Coalition member Lise Gotell on CBC Radioactive, for starters if you want to hear some good thoughts on it. If you're up for joining the never-ending comment wars that get waged over these kinds of things, two problematic columns are up for your viewing pleasure. Paula Simons from the Edmonton Journal raises some good points (yay for more feminism!), but also some really bad ones, and this column from the National Post's Robyn Urback is just a disaster. And while not directly on the current controversy, I think this piece from Slate on an infographic about sexual assaults in the US is pretty on point. On a related note, anyone who has the opportunity to do so and can do it safely should take in Jacyln's Freidman's Beyond Consent workshop: also a very thorough reflective piece on why we need to talk about blaming perpetrators and re-framing consent and sexuality.

I've been doing a lot of writing on this issue for the past couple of days, so I'm also going to share what I've been writing - this is going to be a bit disjointed, but I wanted to share in case it helps other people who care about this share.

On the idea that "Don't Be That Guy" victimizes men by being sexist:
1) Most sexual assault perpetrators are men. (Note: this is not the same thing as saying that most men are perpetrators).
2) Men are more likely to be sexually assaulted by other men than they are by women (Note: this is not the same thing as saying that women do not sexually assault men)
3) Feeling "insulted" by some posters is not the same thing as feeling oppressed or threatened by the world you live in, and is certainly not the same thing as being sexually assaulted. (Note: Women are often the victims of those last 3 things, and are more often the victims of those three things than men. This is not the same thing as saying men are never the victims of those things).
Therefore, those posters were trying to reach a target audience informed by statistics - that audience being male perpetrators of sexual violence, or their male friends who might be able to intervene before they commit sexual assault. Not a perpetrator? Ignore the poster - just like you can ignore posters directed at women telling them to buy tampons. Not friends with perpetrators? That's great - ignore the posters.

On the idea that 'raising awareness' of false accusations is a constructive thing to be doing in response to campaigns asking perpetrators to not rape people:
Of reported sexual assaults, between 2 and 4 percent are found to be false accusations. Sure. HOWEVER, sexual assaults are dramatically under-reported compared to other crimes, so the number of false accusations compared to the number of sexual assaults that actually happen is WAY less than, say the number of murders committed versus the number of false accusations of murder.
Man or woman, you are far, FAR more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault than you are to be falsely accused of one - cracking down on the problem that people actually commit sexual assaults is a touch more likely to positively affect large numbers of people than cracking down on the number of people who make false accusations (a problem the system is already relatively good at catching).
Maybe we should try 'raising awareness' of that.

On Paula Simons' column (via a facebook discussion)
 I agree with quite a bit of what she has to say, but disagree with her narrative swap - the narrative in the 'Don't be that Guy' posters is about focusing on the perpetrator as the person responsible for stopping sexual assault, and she plays into why that's (tragically) novel and important by jumping on the 'yeah, but...' train that almost inevitably shows up when anyone tries to assert that "rapists cause rapes. Period." Rapists cause rapes. "Yeah, but, what about the behaviour of the victim?" is not a constructive question to ask, and will not help end sexual violence.

I also resent her generalization that young women who drink too much do it so that the feel comfortable having sex they don't want to have. I get that she's critiquing that as a social structure problem we're all responsible for and would benefit from fixing, but it's a disingenuous red herring to raise here. Don't Be that Guy's aim (while imperfectly executed) is to clearly state that perpetrators cause sexual violence, not victims. Don't Be that Girl seeks to put the blame right back on the victims - "you're responsible for your own sexual assault and furthermore, you're probably a liar." They're not equally flawed messages - Don't be that Girl is worse.
On the broader issue of how victim-blaming hurts us all (private facebook chat)
One of the really big problems with blaming victims is that no one has anyway of telling who the rapists are. They look just like anyone else. So advice to "protect yourself" (typically directed at women) is basically saying "protect yourself from all the men, and especially the men you know the best" (your likeliest rapist) . Flip side of same coin: men who get abused and raped are assumed to have failed to defend themselves from something they should have "easily" been able to stop. Which is just as horrible a thing to say. Talking up false accusations makes all that worse - it brings up an INCREDIBLY rare issue that serves to reinforce the idea that all kinds of sexual assault are less common and more likely to be falsely reported than they actually are.
The result: when a woman gets up the courage to honestly (as opposed to falsely) accuse someone of rape, it isn't usually "send that bastard to jail!" It's usually "what were you wearing/you were drunk/why were you out alone/you deserved it you slut."

And for male victims it's just as bad, if not worse.

Here's hoping the voices of reason manage to turn this into an opportunity to really move the conversation on ending sexual violence forward. It's high time we got used to the idea that the solution to this is for perpetrators to stop committing sexual violence, and for us to work together to end the patriarchal systems that allow them to get away with it. No buts.
UPDATE: YEGSlutwalk responds to Paula Simons, and Metronews engages in some shoddy journalism by publishing completely made-up "statistics" about false accusations (page 16, for those of you who click that last link). 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

It's Patriarchy, it's Misogyny but it's NOT MISANDRY.

By:  Violet Paradox

To those men who think misandry is on par with misogyny, I ask you -  How has misandry affected your opportunities in life?  The fact that some women find you or other men personally deplorable does nothing to take away from the privileges of being male in this world. Yes there are some women who hate men, it's a natural response to a society that consistently and continually reinforces the message that women are inferior and worthless, where women are raped, beaten and abused in numbers wildly disproportionate to men, told we are sluts for daring to own our own sexuality, wear the clothes we want, speak our mind, for just being a woman.  When everywhere we look we see women being objectified, sexualised, expected to live up to unrealistic beauty ideals.  Shamed if we're thin, shamed if we're fat, shamed if we choose to let our body hair grow naturally or fucking dare to have the audacity to grow older and then shamed again if we give in to the pressure this expectation of perfection creates and cut ourselves to pieces trying to obtain the unobtainable.

To those men who label it misandry when men are portrayed as bumbling and incompetent in domestic matters such as running a household and raising children, who complain about the social expectations of the dating scene, ie; who pays for dinner, the issues involving child custody, and the harmful stereotypes of masculinity which stifles men from fully expressing themselves and their emotions for fear of being labelled as weak,  these are  in actual fact, effects of patriarchy.  It's been said before, but I will say it again, patriarchy hurts men too.  The same hateful system, that although ultimately benefits men and oppresses women, does have negative side effects which are felt by men.  It's something that feminism does address when discussing the effects of patriarchy and women's oppression and it is real, but it is NOT MISANDRY.

Also, is it surprising that like men,  women internalise the messages of patriarchy?   Just as a woman may  internalise the expected behaviours and stereotypes for women that patriarchy teaches, she does likewise  with the messages patriarchy reinforces about men.  It is still misogyny when she expects you to pay for her dinner, open doors for her, judges you for not being the 'manly man' by daring to be vulnerable and show emotion. It is crappy, unpleasant behaviour but it is NOT MISANDRY.  

Unlike misandry, misogyny has very serious and damaging effects for women.  It's what fosters rape culture which excuses sexual violence and other abuses towards women by calling on harmful stereotypes and myths that are used to blame victims and hold them responsible for their own attacks and rapes.  The pervasiveness of rape culture promotes such a fear in women that it restricts their ability to move freely in the world.  Misogyny restricts women's careers and earning potential, especially in male dominated professions and work environments.  And professions that are typically female dominated are held in lesser regard by society and remunerated accordingly.  Then there is the Madonna/Whore complex which polices women's sexuality by basing a woman's value on her sexual status.  Slut shaming plays on this.  It is used to excuse all matters of crimes against women and also as a powerful silencing tool, as many women will go out of their way to avoid labels like, 'slut' and 'whore'.  Misogyny is restricting, oppressive and dangerous for women and sometimes men.  Misandry might hurt your feelings, but it's unlikely to turn your whole world upside down. 

 There are so many reasons to be angry as a woman and if sometimes that anger by individual women is directed at individual men or even all men, it does not have the institutionalised power behind it the way misogyny does, and is not comparable.

Image courtesy of [Salvatore Vuono] /

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Choice, Motherhood, and Being a Woman.

By: Liberate Zealot

Sometimes it is difficult for me to reconcile my feminist identity with that of me as a part of my family. Other times it's it nearly impossible to reconcile my upbringing with that of a woman (in the United States).

No matter the aspect of myself, or my actions and beliefs, there seems to be an incongruence.  This touches every part of my life, but for most it is the idea that my identity as a person is not completely recognized, within society or even my family.

I imagine this is a recognition many people experience.  Those of us who are in some way outside, be it because we're queer, or people of color, or disabled, and non-Christian or women.  And rebelling against the established norms only exacerbates our lack or personhood and belonging.

So often society/politics/my family makes me feel incomplete. A not fully actualized version of a person.  And oddly enough it is my upbringing that makes me able to recognize this incongruence.

I was brought up to be opinionated; and confident in my voice and experience and opinions. I was brought up to see myself as a being of worth, as a full and independent entity. And yet, as I age, that full and independent worth and identity is stripped from me.

Once upon a time I saw myself with children, even if I never had a partner.  But as I've left my upper middle class upbringing, and as political and social spheres has turned more pro-fetus and anti-woman, I've experienced a great change in that regard.  Now I know I'll never be willingly pregnant or a mother.  And when I expressed that to my (mainly feminist) parents the question wasn't centered around what had made me change my mind, but what my male partner thought of this. As if my decisions about my body and life were incomplete without a man's opinion.

And I have a brother who goes to pro-life marches and studies to become a priest in the Catholic Church.  And I have so many other family members who seeks to do right and help others but cannot conceive an existence of worth without it being one in line with their own views and beliefs.

And these views and beliefs are the ones that say I should be incomplete without offering up my body and life to motherhood.  That my male partner is the primary actor in our partnership.  That to be a true  women I must be a mother.  And that to be a mother I must sacrifice all for my children.  And that my body, mind, and desires are secondary to that.

And so many of them cannot understand my virulent objection of these ideas.

They cannot understand that my primary objective to motherhood is that of being unwilling to sacrifice my personhood. Instead they convince themselves that it is about a lack of love and understanding of children (despite my decade of work with children).

I cannot conceive of being pregnant in a country where so many people prize the life and humanity of a pregnant person as secondary to the fetus they willingly (or unwillingly) carry.  And that this is a devaluation of humanity that only effects pregnant people.  No one else is expected to sacrifice their organs or living conditions for another person.

And I cannot conceive of being a parent, a mother, in a world that devalues mothers.  Where father's are praised where mothers in the same situations are hated and mocked.  Where women are hated for being working mothers, or for needing more than motherhood to experience a complete life.

I am a person, a human, first and foremost.  And many aspects of my identity means that society seeks to take that personhood away from me.   And I cannot imagine willingly ceding more of my personhood.

Some people must give up parts of their personhood to live the lives they want, and I cannot blame them for such.  Certainly I have done the same in different areas.  Some do not see these identities or lives as a ceding of their personhood.  Some glory in the chance of rebellion.

All of these lives and choices have worth.  And I hope, with all my heart, that they are centered around a freely made choice.

I just wish society recognized the choices of women.  And saw us as full humans worthy and capable of making choices about our own lives.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Babe, Is this Sexist?

And once again we address Rosie the Riveter remakes and cleaning advertisements. But this time they're mixed together!


Of course this is fucking sexist, as has been noted by other people.  But seriously, how anyone could have missed the sexism (or not cared) and approved this image is beyond me.

Rosie the Riveter was a rallying cry for women to support the Nation during war time.  It was about women entering the work force in new and necessary ways. It was about casting off old gender roles.  It was about more women shouldering new responsibilities with pride and success.

To take all of that and turn it into some cheap knock off about cleaning (traditional women's work) is so fucking sexist and reductive and just a ridiculous understanding of signs and signifiers and art/history that I really cannot fucking believe it!

And please leave suggestions for topics for future posts in the Babe, is this Sexist? Series.  
You can do so by leaving messages here or in the masterpost.
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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Do Not Mistake My Calmness

By: Liberate Zealot

Content Warning: Mentions of rape, street harassment, and rape threats.

Don't mistake my projection of calmness for a lack of emotion.
I'm a woman, brought up not to rage.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Please Sir, Tell Me More About How to Feminism

By: Liberate Zealot
Lady Feminists we all owe Charles Clymer of Equality for Women a big “Thank You”!

I especially like his telling women what words they can reclaim or not reclaim, almost as much as I like straight people telling me not to use the word queer.

Also he’s right, I should be exceedingly thankful for my period.  After all it’s only 5 days a month (~900 days so far) of sometimes crippling pain and the hundreds of dollars of added expense for pads, tampons, pain medication, and stained underwear.

And it’s true, reminding male feminists/allies that they have male privilege is totes disrespectful.

And promoting classism and dismissiveness to women are surely the ways to do feminism right.

And If I was being sarcastic in this and actually have nothing but contempt for men like Charles Clymer, well I’m just one of those 1% feminists who has nothing better to do then foam at the mouth.
Plus I’m totally a misandrist. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Top Ten Tips For Being a 'Good Wife'.

By Violet Paradox

Today I came across this blog post written by  a woman named Suzanne Venker.  It lists her top ten do's and don'ts for being a good wife.  If  alarm bells are ringing, they should be.  This list, taken from her book - How to Choose a Husband - is truly terrible.  Venker justifies her awful advice to women by claiming that she knows her tips are not politically correct but that 'they work'.   I suppose that depends upon whose happiness is being  prioritised.  (Hint:  Its not the woman's - surprised?)  You can find the full post here.   

 I've added my own little response to each of her husband friendly tips, but I'm sure there is much more to be said, and I would love to hear other opinions.  I make the note, that I too am a wife and a stay at home mother (of five).  If I had to follow these tips to be a good wife, then I'm afraid,  I wouldn't be a wife at all.  Luckily, I know my husband wouldn't want his happiness to be at the expense of my own.  

1.    When it isn’t absolutely necessary to speak up, don’t. Silence can be golden.

Golden to whom?  To your husband who is probably blissfully unaware that there is something that he has said or done to upset or anger you?  Or even worse, knows he is being a jackass but you, being the good wifey that you are, won't challenge him on his asshattery?  Because a healthy and happy marriage is built on the happiness and peace of mind of only the husband?  Silence is only golden at the end of the day when the kiddies are asleep and you have your feet up relaxing with the beverage of your choice.  Other than that, No, silence is not golden, it's counter-productive and detrimental to your well being.

2.    Have regular sex, even if it’s just a quickie and you’re not in the mood.

This is extremely rapey advice.   Having sex when you are not in the mood is never an advisable thing to do.  A partner or husband who would disregard your feelings in this matter and  have sex when you were not into it, is not taking the time to ensure that you are actually consenting to sex.  But how would he know anyway, when Venker is advising you to stay silent and not speak up?

3.    It’s okay to cook for your husband and even—gasp—serve him a plate of food. Cooking is      love.

Patronising much?  Negotiate your own cooking arrangements.  To do this, you would have to disregard tip number one, you bad wife you.  And -gasp- It's okay for hubby to wash the dishes even after he's cooked.  Washing up is just that.  Washing up. 

4.    Encourage your husband to go out with the guys just as you like to go out with your girlfriends. (Note: This does not include an eight-hour game of golf on Saturday after you’ve just given birth.)

If you are getting enough time away from the house with your friends and hubby needs some encouraging to do the same, I see nothing wrong with that.  My guess is that hubby isn't staying at home and away from his friends unless that is exactly what he wants to do. If he thinks it's appropriate to go and play golf just after you've given birth, maybe extra encouragement to go out with the guys isn't what's needed here.

5.    If you’re home with young children and your husband is the breadwinner, give him time to decompress after work. Don’t shove a baby in his arms when he gets home and take off for  the night.

Breadwinner, pfft!  How much 'bread' will he be bringing home if you are unwell and he needs to take time off work to look after you and the children/household?  Exhaustion, stress, and a relentless routine can suppress the immune system making one susceptible to germs and bugs or other more serious illnesses.   Especially when you cannot even rely on the person who is supposed to love you the most to notice that you may need to 'decompress' too, if not more urgently.  And seriously, 'take off for the night'??  Who is this hypothetical wife that Venker is basing this article on?   Offloading a noisy, unsettled baby onto the father as he walks in the door sounds reasonable to me.  Anyone who  has dealt with an unhappy baby for a few hours, let alone all day by themselves, will know that it can be an extremely stressful thing to deal with.  It's highly unlikely that mum is going to do a dash out the door at the same time and not return for the night.  I'm not saying that doesn't happen, but really, how often would that scenario occur?  And even if she did, she probably needs it and totally deserves to get away.

6.    Do everything in your power not to measure the amount of work your husband does at home with the amount of work you do at home. If you’re your children’s primary caregiver, you will always do more household chores because you’re around the house more. Unless your husband spends most of his time in front of the TV outside of work, he’s probably pitching in more than you think.

This sort of attitude really gets my goat.  Hubby knocks off work, gets to come home and 'decompress' while you silently go about managing the children, (My guess is that you are supposed to ensure they are silent and well behaved too) while cooking him a nice dinner, (extra sprinkling of love, or hot chili - whatever).  When is knock off time for you?  He's been working all day, you've been working all day (Yes it is work, unpaid, mostly undervalued, but hard work, no matter how much one loves or enjoys it most of the time).  How about you both decompress over a cuppa, then  finish off the day together, helping each other with what needs to be done?  Oh and even with men that 'pitch in'  what seems to be equal amounts of housework when they are home, chances are they are doing a lot less  than their fair share.

7.    Make your husband’s family your family, particularly since you expect him to do likewise.

 If extended families are the kind that generally are decent people, who are tolerable to be around, then fair enough.  This isn't always the case and no one should have to be around those who are threatening, triggering or downright dangerous.  Family situations and obligations are complex and there needs to be an open communication between partners to negotiate this (oh dear, flouting tip number one again!) If your husband's family are constantly undermining you, your husband needs to stand by you and insist that their behaviour change, and support you if you decide that you cannot be around people who do not respect you. Even if they are his family.  This should work both ways.

8.    Let your husband date you. This includes letting him choose where you’ll be going, letting  him drive, and allowing him to hold the door open for you. It also means letting him pay the bill. (Even if the money’s in one pot, the gesture is important.)

If your husband gets to the door before you, sure let him open it, but will it kill his self esteem so much if you open it first and let him through?  Partners take turns to pay the bills all the time.  I can't understand why making a point of letting him do it is such a big deal, unless his masculinity depends upon such gestures, then I would say it is a problem and that would be cause for concern.  And as far as driving.  How about who ever feels like driving  at the time, do the driving?

9.    When you and your husband have a conflict, look in the mirror. You may or may not be to blame, but recognizing that what you’re doing isn’t working can help steer you in a different direction. You can’t change other people—only yourself.

Well, since you are supposed to stay silent in all matters apart from ones of the utmost importance...'Um excuse me dear, you appear to be on fire...'  I guess looking in the mirror and trying to find ways to blame yourself for the conflicts that you are having with your husband is pretty much all that is left for you to do.

10.   Last, but definitely not least: Don’t be a bitch. Be sweet. 

I've  been about as sweet as I can be reading through this garbage.  So all I have left to say in response to this one is, 'FUCK OOOOOOFFFFFFF!!!!!1111!!!!'

 I know what won't be on my Christmas wish list this year.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

When Male Feminists/Allies Aren't

By: Liberate Zealot

I'm so sick of these "feminist" men who in attempting to recruit more men to feminism start telling women feminists how to feminism, or what language we should use, or the proper tones and measures to take to end patriarchy/kyriarchy.

Male feminists/allies should be attempting to turn their places feminist.  They should discuss feminism and bring feminism to men.

But in doing so they don't get to declare the death of "women's issues".
Or say the male hierarchy should/will be the main factor in ending patriarchy.
Or claim it's necessary to make feminism more appealing and comfortable for men.
Or co-opt and rebrand feminist/women's terms to appeal to men.

They don't get to take feminist theory (built and centered around women) or issues that primarily target women and other uterus havers and re-name and re-center it around (cis)men. Those actions are not the actions of a feminist/ally, but a perpetuation of the patriarchy.

I have absolutely no patience for these types of men.  Especially when they speak as "accredited" feminists/allies and representatives of feminist/women's orgs.  I'm not going to waste my time "educating" them and providing a detailed break-down of why that they're saying/writing is patriarchal.   They obviously have the resources to learn why such behavior is inappropriate.  If they cared enough about dismantling their male privilege they would attempt to do so, instead of glorifying in their high brow version of WATM.

If you can't handle something being woman centered, where the primary actors of change are women, then you'e not a feminist/ally. And if you think the only way to appeal to a certain group of men is centering feminism around them, then you're failing, because you're not creating allies, you're creating in-group oppressors.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why Charles Ramsey Is Not My Hero

By: Malanka Sveta
Content Warnings: Discussions of rape, kidnapping, abuse, and murder

Don't get me wrong, I'm certain that Charles Ramsay is a good man.  I am grateful that he was present when someone needed help.  I'm grateful that he, at some slight risk to himself, helped a woman and a child get through a door.  I am grateful that he called 911.  I will always be grateful that Charles Ramsay is a functioning person who will meet the minimum requirement for being a good person.  I am grateful for every functioning person I know, and those that I only hear about.  But he is not the hero in this story.  He risked very little, and he was in a position of having freedom.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Babe, is this Sexist?

There's been no voting this time around, mainly because there's one particular mass market/pop-culture object that we really want to address.  Namely, Disney's Marvel Heroes Shirts for Teen Girls.
Yes, it says "I NEED A HERO"

Sexist in it's own right, and sexist when compared to the Teen Boys shirt (which says "Be A Hero").
Really, this shirt is sexist in so many ways.
- There's the erasure of the female Avengers (Black Widow, the Wasp) and other female Super Heroes (like half of the X-Men, which is why they were my favorite superhero teams as a child). 
- Then there's the absolute horrible messaging.  Boys can be heroes, but girls can't.  We just have to sit around waiting to be saved.  Which just plays into all the standard patriarchy gender roles especially as they apply to stories/literature; girls are trophies for active males, they aren't active in their own right.

And women and girls are just supposed to pay money for these messages? 

Now we're hardly the first to call out this t-shirt, and Disney has already pulled it (which how it got created in the first place still boggles my mind).  

Of course they still have this other sexist shirt...

Too bad it's not a picture of Black Widow.  

And please leave suggestions for topics for future posts in the Babe, is this Sexist? Series.  
You can do so by leaving messages here or in the masterpost.
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Monday, 15 April 2013

Resource in dismantling the claims and "proof" of MRAs/"Humanists"

By: Liberate Zealot

One thing trolls/MRAs/"humanists" love doing when they come into feminist spaces is share videos from girlwriteswhat and all her awesome proof that its much harder being a man, patriarchy doesn't exist, and feminists are stupid and man haters.  I'm guessing their propensity to share her videos verses other attempts to discredit feminism is partially because she's a woman and partially because if you're not educated on the topics she discusses then her points can seem persuasive.

Now I'm going to respond to some of her claims, but the focus is responding to people who use girlwriteswhat as proof that feminism is unnecessary.  This post is not directed at girlwriteswhat herself.

General response when people post her videos:
The points made by girlwriteswhat can seem persuasive, however a majority of them are based on inaccurate or misrepresented history/law/practice/science.  A lot of them rely on popular tropes that upon further investigation from reliable/academic sources proves untrue.  In the rare cases what all of girlwriteswhat information is correct she's still faulty in her focus on feminism.  The causes of the issues she correctly names is the Patriarchy/Kyriarchy, which feminism fights against.

The two most popular videos that people share (in my experience) are the ones on "Feminism and the Disposable Male"and the almost two parter about rights of the child, paternal rights, men's responsibility in preventing pregnancy and financial abortions.

The myths within the "Disposable Male"
"Women and Children First" as a successful policy of life saving pretty much began and ended with the Titanic.   Other British ships did claim this policy, but when it came to maritime disasters it was almost never followed. Generally men are much more likely to survive a disaster, this is even more true for the captain and crew ("going down with the ship" was basically another Titanic exception).
Also unlike her claims, current standards of saving people on ships/from fires makes no distinction between men and women. People might need and receive special assistance because they're children/have disabilities/carrying multiple children. Basically you take care of people who need the most care/assistance first which is generally not an able bodied adult of either gender. 

Almost no society in history or our modern era provides resources or care for men last. Now the resources and care people get are very class dependent, but if families/communities don't have enough wealth to care for all their children male children receive the food/healthcare/education first (infanticide and sex based abortions really don't happen to boys). The primary exception to this is when the woman is pregnant/breast feeding (a son). And that's because so many women had miscarriages (1 in 3 or 4) or died in child birth (1 in 3 again) that the extra resources were necessary for them to have a chance of a healthy pregnancy/delivery. 

As for the continuing of the species, child creation is easier for a man.  Men *can* father children on a variety of women.  The costs of pregnancy (time and the 1 in 3 death rates) are much harsher on women.  But when it comes down to it genetic distribution necessitates almost as many reproductively viable men as women.  

Inaccurate representation of causes

Work place death - Men are more likely to die at work, because they're more likely to take dangerous jobs like mining/oil rigging. The reason is women are still often excluded from these jobs. When it comes to dangerous factory jobs and the fire in them women are as likely, if not more likely to die (because they've been locked into the factories). Work place safety is a definite issue, but it's caused by classism/Patriarchy/Kyriarchy, not feminism. And plenty of feminists do work to fight classism and engage in labor movements. 

As for war, women have been soldiers (at lesser numbers then men) for millennia. Also the main attitude of women at battlefields was not about them being locked up and protected, but rather tortured/murdered/raped. Many feminists fight to gain women more fair access as soldiers. Many feminists are also anti-war activists. Some of us even do both. 

Paternal, Maternal and Child's Rights
Preventing pregnancy - Everyone engaging in sex is equally responsible for preventing pregnancies.  Now there isn't a male pill, thought it is scientifically difficult yet possible, but there are two good ways for men to prevent pregnancy. Condoms, which have the extra bonus of protecting from STIs and STDs, and vasectomies which are relatively simple and safe (especially compared to tubal ligation).  If you happen to be in India there's also an even better way for men to control their own birth control.  In India there is a gel injection which can block semen.  It's cheap, lasts for 10 or so years, is easily reversible, and has very few documented side effects compared to hormonal birth control. MRAs also seem to have a great fear of reproductive coercion where women sneakily get pregnant (through the sabotage of birth control) against the wishes of her male partner. And this can and occasionally does happen, but birth control sabotage most commonly is done by men as a form of domestic abuse.   

Abortion is not just an answer to not wanting to be a parent, but is also about body autonomy and not wanting to be pregnant.  Which is why the idea of "fiscal abortion" is rather offensive.  Sure, you don't want to have the legal and financial responsibility of being a parent, but that's what adoption is about.  

Adoption and parental rights also comes up in the case of men wanting to keep a child but the women giving them up for adoption.  Which in the US doesn't happen.  Adoptions can't go through without the father's consent.  Men have the right to raise their children and can challenge adoptions and the other legal methods people can give up children.  The exact rights vary based on location, but birth father's have rights and it's a complete falsehood to state that birth mothers can give their child up for adoption no matter what the birth father says. 

When it comes to divorce and custody parental responsibility and "rights of the child" are the main concerns.  This means that if equally shared custody is not possible than the primary or sole custody is determined on the best interests of the child and who is the primary caretaker.  The is determined by which parent is more active in the day to day life of the child, who picks them up from school/when they're sick, who helps with homework, who prepared their meals.  Patriarchal gender roles mean woman are more likely to do this so mother's are more likely to get primary or sole custody.  (This isn't the case if the parents are unmarried and/or have never lived together while raising the child).  In my experience working in child care and dealing with lots of divorced/never married families (and sometimes being involved in the divorce/custody proceedings) the mothers are more likely to be awarded custody, however if the father is an active parent and wants custody of his kids then the custody will be shared equally or he'll get primary custody. 

Other generic claims - 
Benevolent Sexism really is a thing, and while it's more prevalent in places with high hostile sexism something being less worse than the alternative doesn't make it acceptable.

Actually feminists aren't man haters, hating the patriarchy isn't the name thing as hating individual men. Feminists are less likely than non-feminists to believe the male-hating ideas of "men are dogs" or "rapist is a natural state for men".