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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Mr. Mansplainer: Or How I Learned to Start Worrying about how "youth entitlement" is a feminist issue

A scene on a train:
A young woman is talking to 2 male friends about running into someone who just got hired into a job she applied for. Said someone (let's call them "Successful Candidate") is clearly in her 50s or 60s, and (as explained in this train conversation), the posting was for someone with "3 to 5 years progressive experience." From chatting with Successful Candidate, the young woman has discovered that Successful Candidate got the job because the posting was actually "by 3 to 5 years, we mean 30." The young woman (who has been searching for work for several months now) goes on to vent, relatively good-naturedly, about how often that seems to be happening, and how she's just going to have to steal an entry level position from a new graduate.

As the subject is changing, the young woman feels a tap on her shoulder. Her back is to the door of the train, so she's a little perplexed... she turns, to discover that a silver-haired man has edged around her 2 male colleagues to squeeze in beside her because, apparently, he has something specifically to say to her.
"How old are you?"
... Really. That's what the complete stranger would like to start with? Well, this should be good.
"I'm 27," says our frustrated job seeker.
"Oh." The man is visibly surprised but undeterred. Here's a reasonably accurate paraphrase of what he's got to say next: "well, the problem with you... your generation, is that you don't stay. My firm does lots of hiring, but we don't hire you people because it's just too expensive to train you and you leave, so we hire immigrants. We bring in lots of immigrants."
The young woman politely but firmly thanks the man for his "advice" but indicates that she doesn't feel it's constructive and starts moving away from him. He touches her on the arm again and continues. This back and forth occurs a couple of times, then the woman, somewhat exasperated, says "I'm 27 and I have 5 years of management experience in non-profits, and I'd like to stay at the next position I get. I should at least get as far as an interview."
The man says "Honestly, I thought you were younger. And well, you might have to accept something at lower pay than you're making now, just to get your foot in the door, just til you know, you get to know someone."
Thankfully, this is where the woman and her friends get off the train, and her male friends spend the walk to their destination being just flabbergasted by the whole affair, and letting her know they had her back but didn't want to pile rescuing on mansplaining. Because they're totally awesome, supportive people.

As you may have guessed, our frustrated job seeker was me. And that is exactly what happened. A stranger approached me on the train to give me ageist, sexist career advice, and the only pertinent detail he felt he needed to get about me was my age. Not what I do now, not whether or not I have kids, not whether I wanted or needed his advice, whether or not I'm on the winning side of both the youth and gender wage gaps, which sector I work in now, and not even my name. It was lovely (sarcasm).

That's not the first time I've been confronted with generationalism about how "my people" are entitled, disloyal slackers, nor is it the first time I've been mansplained to. And it probably won't be the last (sadface). It is, however, the first time I've had both happen at once.

I've long had a problem with both phenomena. Sweeping generalizations generally don't serve very well for the starting point of meaningful social discourse. It's a kind of othering (more on that later), that creates divisions, not solutions. 

The sweeping generalization of "young people as entitled" is one that I've always found particularly bothersome. It's paternalistic, short-sighted, elitist, and all but totally inaccurate. But it's also persistent.  When young people take to the streets to protest ridiculous public policy moves like tuition increases, environmental stewardship, or any of the other myriad issues that get under 40s fired up (30s? whatever... what even is a young person?), it's because they're lazy and/or naive, not because they're getting a raw deal or because they care enough about the future (their future - all the old people will be dead by the time the tarsands are gone). Seriously - could you imagine what would happen if we talked about increasing taxes by $1625 per person over the next 3 years? There'd be an SUV-led revolution!

This has been exceptionally highlighted in the furor around the Quebec tuition protests of 2012. It's also firmly rebutted here. I strongly recommend reading the whole article, but the gist is

"The sense of entitlement among Canadian youth has been broadly mischaracterized as expecting something for nothing. On the contrary, insofar as young people feel entitled it is generally only inasmuch as they expect access to the same opportunities to which their predecessors were privy."

It's also gendered. Quite simply (only not simply at all, because I'm about to use a whack of big words): when you stack persistent systematized patriarchal pressures (wage gaps, institutionalized sexism, sexualization and objectification of women, privilege - the whole nine yards) within generationalism, you perpetuate the systematization of power as it currently stands. "We," the powerful, and "them" the lazy" creates a false dichotomy where "have-nots" are broadly and inaccurately defined as "not me" and are responsible for their own misfortunes; "they" are somehow to blame for any disadvantage or difficulty they currently find themselves facing up to and including their lived experiences of oppression. In my case, I'm expected to "accept a lower wage" because "young people" have somehow not lived up to the privileges of participating in the economy. And, because I am a woman, strange men feel comfortable coming up to me and saying so, as if that's somehow helpful or invited.

In short: 
Dear Mr. Mansplainer, 
The problem with "my generation" isn't us, or even me. It's you.

"My Name is Not Annie"

By: Liberate Zealot

I’ve worked with children and adults from Ireland, Poland, Russia, French, Hawaii, China, India, Iran, and who are African-American, all of whom have had “traditional” names that could be difficult for people of other cultures to pronounce. 
I’ve always made the effort to pronounce people’s names correctly, and every other teacher and adult I know has made the same effort for Niamh from Ireland, Katarzyna from Poland, and Guillaume from France. Not so for Jinyue or WeiWei from China, Negeen from Iran, or the African-American La-a or Aungenette, or say, Quvenzhan√©.  When these white teachers and adults who struggle so much for white people with long names or sounds unfamiliar to English tongues don’t care.  A close approximation is good enough, or else it’s:
“Don’t you have an English/nick name?” 
“I’m going to call you…”
As if not working our white person tongues, or feeling embarrassed from mispronouncing a name while we struggle to get it right, is more important than the feelings and identities of people of color.  
And if your response to this is “Well I’d call Katarzyna ‘Kat’ or some other nick name, or everyone with long names has a shortened version” than you’re missing the biggest part, the historical/racial context.
For centuries white people, Europeans, have forced name changes upon people of color. We’ve done it to Asian immigrants.  To the Native Americans from “King Phillip” all the way down to the children in the Christian re-education schools in the 1960s.  We’ve done it to the Africans we enslaved, and in modern times by refusing to hire people with “black sounding” names.  Sure, that history isn’t *our* fault, but if you don’t want to be associated with it then don’t repeat it by refusing to call people of color by their real names. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Identities Are Not Insults: Addressing Oppressive Language Among Children

By: Liberate Zealot
Content Warning: Discussions of oppressive language and slurs, use of oppressive language and slurs as examples

Part III of the Feminism and Children Series : Feminism and Children MasterPost

So the roommate and I are both teachers and we're both concerned with challenging oppressive language and the normalization of slurs. I'm with elementary schoolers and she's with middle schoolers so our approaches are a bit different.  But a recent purchase of hers, and some recent conversations with my students have brought this topic to the forefront of my mind, and so I wanted to share some resources, techniques, and conversations we've used to challenge the ubiquitousness of the kyriarchy in the language of children.

Feminism and Children MasterPost

Some of the Hive are mothers, some of us work closely with children.  The relationships between feminism and children are often written about at this blog.  Both in regards to teaching feminism and feminist ideas to children and treating children in a way that lives up to our feminism.  Therefore, we'd like to present the Feminism and Children MasterPost, a compilation of all our posts that have to do with children and feminism.

Part I - This is How It Starts - How children internalize rape culture and teaching consent.

Part II - Feminism and Children - Intersectional Feminist Resources for child play and education

Part III - Identities Are Not Insults: Addressing Oppressive Language Among Children - Guidelines, suggestions, prepared responses and resources

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Feminist Valentines Day Cards

On Names and Anniversaries

By: Liberate Zealot

Everyone I have a confession to make. With it being our one year birthday I thought it time to discuss the naming of Feminist Armchair Regime and how I'm so not qualified for that name.  You see... this is hard for me to say... but... I don't have an armchair.  In fact, I normally blog from a futon. I know, I'm disappointed in me too.

In all seriousness though I do want to discuss the naming of this blog and the Hive who created it.  I was not there for the initial inception and naming of either the Hive or F.A.R. so this is very much my own interpretation of these things and other members might have a very different view.

As mentioned in our About section, the Hive began through a bunch of us posting on the same Feminist and Anti-Rape pages, specifically about us counter-trolling the trolls, MRAs, and victim-blamers that would often show up in these pages and groups.  Over time we created our own chat (of which I was one of the last active F.A.R writers to join) which we sarcastically named after the various charges leveled at us by the trolls we encounter (misandrist, feminist HiveMind, gendercide supporters).  And a little over a year ago we decided some of our responses were so awesome and educational we should turn them into something a little more lasting, and hence the blog was born. The name itself came from a charge made by a group (RINJ) that some of the Hive were battling.  Feminist Armchair Regime a name that encapsulates an idea we've encountered before, a charge leveled against many who take their social justice activism to the internet: that we, and our causes and concerns are not real.

This is formed partially by the idea that what takes place on the internet isn't real. That what we say has less meaning than what we say in person. Also that activism on the internet is slacktivism, and that those of us who do internet activism are armchair warriors who never take our activism into the "real world". Lastly, many people mention how no one calls them out in their personal lives, so call outs on the internet are by overly sensitive social justice warriors who don't know "the real them".

To all of which I say:

When we write on the internet it is really us typing those words and there are real people reading them, even if we're all protected (somewhat) by pseudonyms.  Even though they're in computer code the words really exist and are really capable of doing real harm or help. And as every careless and half way famous twitter user knows, the internet never forgets. Just because it isn't happening in meat space doesn't mean the interactions we have aren't real.  Likewise trolling, and thus adding to the culture of oppression, doesn't negate the harm we do just because we wouldn't act like that or say those things to people face to face.

Similarly writing about social justice, acting to protect safe spaces, educating people, are real actions, whether they happen over the internet, in newspaper articles, or in person.  They all have equal ability to effect the lives of people. Likewise, us internet social justice activists are activists over the internet because we hold these beliefs in person, and we act on them in our daily lives.  Yes, even off the internet. We organize and attend protests, we volunteer at feminist related organizations, we study and work in fields like Law and Psychology and Education and unite these with our feminism.  And even if we weren't involved in a single formal or professional feminist action we would still be feminists.  We would be feminists when we were with our friends and families, when we were at our jobs, in all our interactions with strangers, and this colors all our interpretations and interactions with people and work. Even when we fail (as all who live in our Kyriarchal world do) we are still feminists, and trying to be better.

Lastly there is the attack of privilege, of silencing and erasure.  The "no one says this to me in my personal life" as if that negates any call outs about sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, transphobia, or ableism. When really it means they have privilege, and have either surrounded themselves with people who share their privilege and unconcern about it, or people without privilege who do not dare call them out when they are oppressive. To have the power and position where one's privilege and sense of self is never challenged, checked, or called out, is its own privilege.  Because no matter how good or awesome we are some or most of the time that doesn't undo when we mess up, when we're hurtful or oppressive. "He's really a good guy" or "She's done these awesome things" are not real defenses, they don't address the specific harm done.

So when we write about feminism and intersectionality and our concerns and oppressions in this Kyriarchal culture, when we call people out for perpetuating these, we are real people, engaging in real feminist actions. Doing so over the internet, while sitting in armchairs (or futons) doesn't change that.  If anything the internet has leveled the playing field and brought more voices to feminism and social justice.  Voices that are often shunned by those in power, both in formal social justice organizations and the larger mainstream.  Where once you needed the means to publish, or appeal to those who had such means, now all you need is a computer and internet access, which libraries make free.

So we gladly take the name Feminist Armchair Regime.  Because we are feminists, and the fact that many of our actions and interactions take place on the internet does not diminish or negate them, if anything it expands them to touch a larger audience. Likewise, we're so proud to be this "Regime" a group of friends and feminists who support and learn from and educate each other.

Thank you to each and every member of the Hive, and every other social justice warrior.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Happy 1st Birthday!

It's official, Feminist Armchair Regime has been active for one year (give or take a couple hours depending on your time zone)!

Thank you to all our lovely writers and readers who have made this blog what it is!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Babe, is this Sexist?

Thanks to everyone who voted over on the F.A.R Facebook poll.  The competition was close, but we're (proud? happy? our emotions over these ads are neither of those options) ... anyway, we have a winner for the Babe, is this Sexist? - Superbowl Ad Edition!
Audi - "Prom"

And yes, this is sexist, specifically because it perpetuates rape culture!!! 

"Wait", you might be thinking, "I don't get it/it was just a kiss/she seemed into it". Well, for those who don't immediately get why this ad perpetuates rape culture, let us break it down for you. 
  • Any sexual contact that happens without first gaining consent is sexual assault, and yes, kisses count.
  • The girl not fighting back, or looking "into it" does not change the fact that she never consented to kiss this guy.  She went to the prom with another guy, how much more 'not that into you' does this boy need?!
  • Fuck it, just go and read SlutWalks thread on the issue, lots of awesome people explained it awesomely there.  
Also girls and women are their own independent humans, not props for boys/men's egos, balms for their hurt geeky souls, nor trophies that prove how cool you really are. 

Any suggestions for the next installment of Babe, is this Sexist? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Twitter Trolls MRAs

By: Liberate Zealot

The Hive loves a good (counter) troll of MRAs and other sexists/racists/homophobes/etc. So we adored how Twitter quickly co-opted #INeedMasculismBecause to highlight the ridiculousness of popular MRA rhetoric.  We definitely recommend checking it out, but in care you don't want to tread through the shit, we complied some of the awesome comments.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Why Don't They Just Leave?

By: Mistress Malcontent
Content Warning: Discussions of domestic abuse and violence and victim blaming
Originally posted on Slut-Shaming Tumblr

When the issue of domestic violence comes up - the first thing a lot of people ask is “Why don’t they just leave?”

From an outside perspective, it can be confusing and heart-breaking that people stay with abusers. This confusion causes a lot of people to blame those who stay.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Poll IS Up

for our next installment of "Babe, is this Sexist?" - Superbowl Ad Edition.  Check out the F.A.R. facebook page to make your vote!