‘Feminism’ Category

  1. Feminist Fairy Tales

    November 11, 2013 by alicehaswords

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    My brother works in a primary school. As well as helping out with a particularly troubled/naughty little boy, he runs a weekly after-school storytelling club. This often involves discussing the week’s stories with me beforehand.

    This week he was planning to use a traditional Arthurian legend: Sir Somebody-or-other and the Hideous Hag. The story irked me. In it, King Arthur is put under a sleeping spell by an ogre, who promises to lift the spell if the Arthur’s knights can answer a riddle: what do all women want? The only way the knights are able to find the answer is by kissing a wise, but hideous, old hag. The answer she gives? ‘All women want their own way.’*

    We used to have a book of politically correct bedtime stories. Snow White and the seven people of small stature. Goldilocks and the three bears, in which Goldilocks rejects the condescending lumberjack’s offers of help and deals with the situation herself, thank you very much. That kind of thing.

    I suggested some changes to the story along these lines, to make it a bit less dreadfully sexist.

    1. The whole ‘hideous hag’ concept isn’t very original. In fact, almost all folk stories ever use three basic female character tropes: the virgin, the temptress, the crone. (See: most Disney films.) How’s about we make her a more rounded character, and avoid judging her on her age and appearance alone? Just because she’s old and not conventionally attractive doesn’t mean she should be treated with less respect.
    2. Why does the author assume that she’s so desperate for male attention that she’d blackmail the knight for a kiss? I’m guessing this story was originally written by a man, whose self-importance had been misguidedly inflated by the patriarchal society he was brought up in. See, it’s not healthy for any of us to exist in a social system that values one gender above others.
    3. Both the riddle and its answer are problematic. So here’s how I think the story should go…

    .

    King Arthur is put in an enchanted sleep by an ogre. Not because ogres are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour than other magical creatures, but because this particular ogre has unresolved psychological issues which lead him to use his powers irresponsibly, to compensate for the lack of positive attention he received from his parents during childhood. The Knights (a diverse group, some of whom opt for shining armour, some of whom condemn violence in all forms and so avoid the use of its associated paraphernalia) are sent out to discover the answer to the ogre’s riddle.

    The knight who finds the wise old woman is called Sir Jane (- some of the knights, of course, are women). They have a nice sit down and a cup of tea in the old woman’s hovel; the roof is a bit leaky, so Sir Jane registers it on her list of homes for repair by the Knights’ Community Outreach Programme. They discuss how much the forest has changed since they cleared all those trees to build the big new castle; how it’s made the area much more prosperous and cosmopolitan but disrupted the local unicorn population, and whether the benefits will outweigh the losses in the long run. (Now the story passes the Bechdel test. Really not hard, is it?) They move on to the topic of the ogre’s riddle, and come to the conclusion that it’s a trick question; there is no one thing that all women want, because women are individuals with their own wishes and desires and can’t be lumped together as one faceless generalisation.

    Sir Jane returns home and informs the ogre that his riddle is based on sexist assumptions, hands him a reading list of key feminist texts and directs him to the nearest library. She then goes to King Arthur and wakes him up by throwing cold water on his face, because that always works in movies.

    THE END.

    I think my version is much better.

    Go forth, feminist parents, aunties, uncles, babysitters, storytellers generally! Tell feminist fairy tales to your kids. Teach your wee ones gender equality through the power of stories. May they grow up without preconception or prejudice, into confident, thoughtful young patriarchy smashers.

    .

    *I may have entirely misremembered the story. But I think that’s more or less it.

    .

    Alice finds it a bit strange talking about herself in the third person, somebody else usually does this bit. Um. She is generally a good egg. She likes making things. Cats like her. She tweets here: @alicehaswords


  2. Feminism in London conference

    October 21, 2013 by Ashley

    What: Feminism in London conference 2013
    When: Saturday 26th October, 9am-5:30pm
    Where: Institute of Education, London
    How much: £25 (concessions available)

    Postcard, Sarah Maple, Feminism in London 2010

    Postcard, Sarah Maple, Feminism in London 2010

    Tickets are selling fast for the Feminism in London conference, which is back this year after a hiatus. FIL is the biggest feminism conference in the UK and this year it will play host to some absolutely fantastic speakers. It’s a brilliant opportunity to come along and meet like minded people, get into some meaty debates, and share your thoughts on feminism in 2013.

    FIL started in 2010 as an offshoot of the London Feminist Network. It’s women-run and women-led, but is open to everyone to attend. This year’s conference/convention will focus on activism and inspiration rather than academic discourse, though there will be something for everyone on the day.

    Feminism is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with everything from No More Page 3 to the Slutwalk. Progress is being made, but we still do not have equal pay, equal representation, or equal freedom from sexual violence. Many women might be reluctant to describe themselves as ‘feminists’ but it seems almost all women feel strongly that justice and equality are relevant to them today. FIL will approach these topics in a way that is engaging yet accessible. 

    The format of the conference will be an opening panel discussion, followed by panel discussions in the main room with breakaway workshops taking place simultaneously. These will continue throughout the day. There will also be artwork and a film room, as well as a ‘soft space’ for those who are triggered by subject matter, those who are non-neurotypical (e.g. people with Aspergers) and those who simply want a quiet space. There will be a creche, and workshops for children.

    The event will finish with the presentation of the Emma Humphries Memorial Prize, followed by the popular Reclaim the Night march, and finally, for those who are not yet feministed out, a party. It’s set to be a fantastic event!

    To get tickets, head to the Feminism in London website.


  3. In defence of @robinthicke

    October 3, 2013 by JRFBurton

    Image from cultureandlife.co.uk

    Image from cultureandlife.co.uk

    I am pretty unimpressed with the decision by various universities to ‘ban’ the song ‘Blurred Lines’. As well as being utterly toothless either as censorship or serious condemnation, since the ‘bans’ consist of just not playing it in the student bar, it smacks of an ill-thought-out, knee-jerk reaction, and may instead have the effect of ending the possibility of conversations between men and women that desperately need to be had.

    Because of the exhaustive coverage the lyrics of the song (and the video, though I intend to concentrate on the lyrics here) have been given over the summer, it is distressingly clear that a problematic aspect of the song arises from the use of words and phrases that are enormously triggering for both female and male victims of sexual assault and rape.  The way in which sexual offenders distort language to contribute to causing a range of fundamental wounds to their victims’ lives is horrifying.

    I don’t feel it necessary to cover the same ground as so many other opinion pieces, beyond noting that the use of ‘bitch’ in particular grates with me whenever it is used as a descriptor for a woman. I also don’t particularly like the rap in the original and prefer The Roots’ version. However, I am also prepared to accept that, within the context of an adult and consensual encounter, someone who likes their sex rougher than I do may find the original rap very… compelling.

    Because here’s my confession: I find that song really hot. It turns me on.

    Robin Thicke has attempted to respond to the criticism of the song by saying on the Today Show: “When we made the song, we had nothing but the most respect for women …We only had the best intentions…It’s supposed to stir conversation… if you listen to the lyrics it says ‘That man is not your maker’ — it’s actually a feminist movement within itself.” Evidently his response has not convinced. I note the clarity of the anger expressed by, among others, The Kraken below.

    However, I want to try to walk the difficult line of attempting to clarify what I believe Robin Thicke is trying to say, while accepting the validity of the conflicting views and reactions expressed elsewhere.

    I think the song is exploring an experience that is familiar to me, and that is the kind of highly sexually-charged encounter or meeting with someone that I want. I don’t know if this has happened to you, but it has happened to me more than once (and anecdotally it’s also understood by those of my friends that I have discussed this issue with).

    I mean a meeting where your eyes meet and there’s an immediate, urgent chemistry. You want that person, and you both know that, at some point, you are going to have each other.

    Sometimes you don’t even have to have touched each other, not even in the most non-sexual way, to begin to have the conversation that acknowledges there is a powerful heat between the two of you.

    While most of the commentary has focused on an interpretation in which the (undoubtedly very cocky) man is creepily singing to a woman who has shown absolutely no interest in him, an alternative scenario is that he’s absolutely right. The woman does want it, she does want him, and then the lyrics become hot wordy foreplay with nary a touch needed.

    I’ll get on to the actual lyrics later, but want to point out that what Robin Thicke has attempted to express in his defence is an exploration of the continuing situation in which being honest, even blunt, about the strong lustful feelings women also experience is complicated at best. In this case, being a ‘Good Girl’ might mean feeling lust for someone, but not feeling allowed to show it or admit to it, or perhaps feeling frightened by the intensity of the body’s response without input by heart or brain, or even feeling that to allow a sexual encounter to take place will cause, afterwards, an automatic reduction in one’s own self-esteem and the respect in which others hold them, including the respect of the person with whom they’ve just been intimate!

    And I find it frustrating that so many articles discussed only the scenario in which the woman is not interested – since quite clearly that’s not the scenario Robin meant to explore, and he’s probably a bit tired of feeling comprehensively misunderstood, the object of anger from the women he claims to respect, and endlessly lectured on what he did wrong. He is a person after all, and people tend not to respond positively to lots of criticism without also getting some praise and some guidance on where to fix things in future. Broadly, if we women keep telling men ‘Don’t do this’ – which is perfectly reasonable – we need also to say ‘But try this instead’. It’s the only way to have a conversation with (rather than at) someone with whom you disagree, that doesn’t immediately shut down any constructive results. And we need to have constructive conversations: about rape culture, about female sexuality, about equal pay and equal parental responsibility and all manner of things.

    So I’d like to tell Robin what he did right, at least for me.

    Here goes: Robin, I like your song a lot, it gets me hot, and that’s because despite being fatly, happily married and 30-something feminist, I am also a highly, powerfully, sexual person and I recognise what you’re talking about. It’s only slightly because you’re kinda my type, physically (and if I were talking to you on Twitter, there might be a winky face here.)

    I know the kind of encounter you’re describing, and those encounters and the physical encounters that followed have been some of the hottest and most exhilarating moments of my life.

    When you sing ‘I know you want it’ I think of the times when the lust has been unmistakeably written all over my face. When you sing ‘Do it like it hurt’ I think of the times I’ve had when Chandler Bing might have exclaimed “My god, it sounds like someone’s killing her in there”. When you sing ‘What you don’t like work?’ I hear it as a request that a sexual partner is fully engaged in the act with you, so that afterwards her muscles ache pleasurably as after a really good workout.

    Most of all, I hear ‘I hate these Blurred Lines’ as a straightforward expression of frustration with anything other than a similarly straightforward response from a woman. Whether the answer is Yes or No.

    I was a bit confused by ‘Baby can you breathe?’ in the context of ‘Baby can you breathe? I got this from Jamaica’ until I realised that, in context, it’s clear you were talking about a room full of marijuana smoke. This one does seem to have got you into trouble for the wrong reason, doesn’t it? Sorry about that.

    I don’t like women being referred to as ‘bitches’, in whatever context. Sorry, I can’t get past this one Robin, I don’t even like it in dirty talk. But I appreciate that substituting ‘girl’ is also a diminutive from a full-grown man such as you, and ‘woman’ doesn’t actually fit the line. Neither, of course, has the same ‘punch’ as you need at that point in the song to give it a climactic moment. So I’m not sure what to suggest instead, and of course, this whole ‘bitch’ thing isn’t something you in particular made up. But, I really think there ought to be some alternatives – perhaps you can think of some others please Robin? And tell your colleagues too. Cheers.

    Lastly, I would really have liked it if you’d been perhaps a bit clearer in discussions about the meaning of the song, and especially I think it would be great if you confirmed for us that you do mean that when a man talks this bluntly to a woman, he should appreciate and expect honesty from her in return, so that the only sort of response to ‘I know you want it’ that he would even consider moving forward with is something like ‘Yes, I want you too.’

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    Janey Burton likes to have constructive conversations with loads of people, so come and chat @JRFBurton. She also enjoys constructively criticising authors, publishers and agents as a Publishing Consultant, offering Editorial, Marketing and Contracts services at www.janeyburton.com.


  4. Give It 2 U – an open letter to Robin Thicke

    October 2, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Oh, Robin Thicke, you clever clever man. You’ve done it again. Once again I am bowled over by your lyrical tenderness and perspicacity.

    First off, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, thank you so much for saving us all three extra letters to write when we reference the title of your poetic genius – Give It 2 U. I, for one, find it very tiresome every time some pedantic spelling Nazis insists on using the full words ‘to’ and ‘you’. Geez; what killjoys!

    Next up, you’ve got a gift for me, you say? How delightful. A ‘big kiss’? Riiiight. Thanks. A ‘hit’? Hopefully not a physical one there, Robin. Lols. A ‘big dick’? Now you’re talking. I can’t wait for you to give me that big dick. Oooh, and a whip too? And your balls are hard as well? You charmer.

    And now you want to make everything I fantasise about come true? Do you know how much a lifetime’s supply of chocolate costs? Do you? I’m not sure you’ve thought this one through; run a budget past your accountant and then we’ll talk.

    Now what’s this? You want to put cheese on my face? Hmmmm. Melted? Because that might hurt, Robin. Although I am partial to some squidgy brie.

    It’s great that you hang out with such talented people as well; like that nice Kendrick Lamar, who lends his dulcet tones to your latest ditty, but, here’s the thing, I’m not sure I want to sit on his face as he so kindly requests, nor do I want his dick. And wowsers, I’m not comfortable being his cotton candy if he wants a ‘fistful’, but least his heart is in the right place though as he promises he won’t ejaculate inside me because he’s learned his lesson; bless.

    To be honest, Robin, I think you’re on to a winner here, pet. You’re speaking from the heart and your outpourings of deep emotional love are both riveting and highly erotic. I can’t wait for you to give it to me. No, really. Go on, get that big dick up there… Did I mention I always carry around an abnormal large pair of gardening shears?

     

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    Betsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

     


  5. Going for a song

    June 20, 2013 by The Kraken

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Dear Robin Thicke,

    (CCd to Pharrell and TI)

    Oh, Robin, you are a massively suppurating bowl of stool-water aren’t you? In fact I can now see where the name Thicke comes from. It’s not so much a moniker as a statement of your mental prowess, bless you and you underworked intellect.

    Now I’ve no doubt that you are chuffed to shit over the pop-picking hit you currently share with Pharrell and TI called Blurred Lines, or as it is called in our house Three Men Caterwauling As They Finger Their Own Foreskins. And I dare say that you’re almost (no, literally) creaming yourself over the accompanying video in which every woman is naked and letting her tits flap in the wind. It’s just that there’s a small problem with all of this, Robin, love. It’s that your video and song lyrics look like a rapist’s manifesto.

    Now you reckon that Blurred Lines is “throwaway fun” and that you and Pharrell have “a lot of respect for women”. You also claim that the tit-soup of a video isn’t sexist and that “If that’s sexism then so is everything inside the Louvre”. Jesus, Robin, Thicke really is the word of the day isn’t it?

    First, before I really start to kick the shit out of you, you need to know that you should never, ever compare yourself to anyone whose art hangs in the Louvre. See, that would be the equivalent of saying that if next door’s dog pissed into a test tube his efforts would be comparable with those of Stephen Hawking. They wouldn’t be and, artistically, neither are yours.

    Which brings me to your vomited lyrics. Now you reckon that you have respect for women. Problem is that your song doesn’t. In fact it has as much respect for women as an enraged Jim Davidson after hearing that his summer season slot has gone to a female comedian. You sing, “I know you want it” (as if you’re fucking telepathic), “I hate these blurred lines” (because for you “no” means “yes”), “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” (like the promise of raging constipation), “He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” (well, I’d stab the bastard if he did) and “Baby, can you breathe?” (because a near death experience at the hands of a guy who refuses to stop is always a treat).

    Seriously, if that’s respect for women what in the fuck would you warble at a woman you didn’t like? I had no idea that the way to show a woman that you love her was by destroying her rectum and choking her with your knackersack. And there I was showing my female friends and relatives that I love them by buying them flowers. Next time I’ll nip into Soho for a ball-gag and a gallon drum of rohipnol.

    Oh, and before I sign off I have to also thank you for making the charts as accessible to kids as a sandpit loaded with fly-sprinkled cat turds. What I mean is that I’ll be buggered if my small daughter is going to get a whiff of the Top 40 after this. Now, Robin, I’m not suggesting that you write about fairies, monster trucks and Lego but I am suggesting that you get the hell away from the subject of rape. Really, at the age of five, my child does not need to be told that you’re going to screw her whether she likes it or not.

    Which means, Robin, that you can take your Blurred Lines and shove them up you own arse, hopefully tearing that in two as well. Oh, and you can treat Pharrell and TI to the same experience while you’re at it. No, you say? Well I don’t believe you. In the words of your own barf “I know you want it”.

    Lots of love

    The Kraken x

    The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here.


  6. Utilising Our Vaginas To Change the World

    June 3, 2013 by Laura

    Painting from Georgia O'Keefe's 'Flower of Life' series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    Painting from Georgia O’Keefe’s ‘Flower of Life’ series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to every vagina in Uganda that’s had her clitoris lobbed off in the name of tradition. For every vagina in China that gets left on a roadside to die as a baby because she isn’t a boy. To every vagina in India that gets raped with an iron rod for riding the bus after dusk, to every hijab-wearing vagina in Saudi Arabia that is forbidden to drive a car, and every vagina in the world that has ever experienced being told no because she isn’t male.

    The way we change the world for every vagina out there starts with our jobs. We need more women in power.

    The battle isn’t won. There are still more men than women in the top spots of almost every profession. The further up the career ladder we look, the fewer ladies are playing the game. This often- not always, but sometimes, which is often enough- means two things: one, we see it’s near impossible to do, so don’t try. Two, when we do try it’s at the cost of other women because one female boss is rare enough. More than that is mythical. Well- at least outside of the major cities anyway.

    Both choices come from mentalities engineered by the rich old white men who recognise the radical potential we have to upset their comfortable status quo of owning the ways we make money, and who know that should we shrug off the shackles of their surprisingly methodical career oppression and demand a presence in their boardrooms we’d make stuff really difficult for them.

    I know a bunch of women who see what it takes to be considered leaders in their field, to secure the chief position- long hours normally at the sacrifice of a life, in-house politics, gender stereotypes to dispel daily- and so decide to opt-out, choosing instead to build an existence that doesn’t begin and end with the office. That includes me.

    For the women who do play the game, we’re fed a myth that “success” is finite, like a cheesecake, and so we can’t afford to truly help one another lest we lessen our piece of the pie. This ridiculousness is perpetuated by the rich old white men who hold the key to the bank, who treat the workplace like The Hunger Games- at my first internship I was pitched against another young writer, told on the first day of work that there was only the one opening at the company and so may the best woman win. Teamwork was not encouraged.

    But, what the rich old white men don’t tell you is that if I light my candle from yours then the whole world is brighter. If everyone has their piece of “success” it doesn’t then mean that there is less “success” for everyone else.

    We’re making progress, but at the same time also continue to work in environments where a pregnant woman is asked not to give the client pitch, since their dedication to the account might be questioned. A workplace where Sally, not Simon, is asked to make the tea. Once, as the only female in an all-male company, I was pulled off my duties to help with the décor of the new office; obviously as a woman I’m genetically pre-disposed towards giving a shit what colour the walls are.

    In order to combat this everyday sexism, we need to stick together to alter the value system set for us by dudes who don’t know what it means to live now. Because here’s another thing: the men of our generation don’t want to play by the rules their grandfathers set either.

    As a culture, our principles are changing. “Success” in life isn’t the most money, biggest house, and fanciest holidays. For my generation success is less time at work, more time learning and travelling and just being. It’s turning a passion into a lifestyle that supports itself, not saving it for two days of every seven. The metrics we use to quantify “success” aren’t what they once were. I really believe that.

    As long as it’s these rich old white dudes running the companies at the very top levels and signing the paychecks, we’re all- male and female- going to be held to their standards. We operate in a form of modern-day slavery where we’re bound to our jobs because we need the house that is mortgaged by the bank our boss’s boss sits on the board of. It’s insane.

    Our choices- don’t bother to strive for the top jobs, or do so at the cost of other women- are derived to keep things as they always have been: the choice few in control of the rest of us who work for them. That’s made much easier when essentially 50% of the world’s population don’t have a voice. But. If women are as accountable as men in genuinely influential positions, and 100% of the population demands change, we all get heard.

    We need to support each other at work in the same way we support each other at cocktail hour, because we’re stronger as a team than we are divided. Together we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the men of our generation, the men who want to overthrow the outdated value set of their predecessors so that they can stay at home with their kids if they want, or not have to run the company to be respected in it, and their partners, of either gender, can go out to work in jobs they love and are truly valued in.

    We as women will then be free to work in positions of power and influence alongside men, equal in number, making not only the lives of us and our partners more fulfilling, but also making a real difference to the role women play across the globe. This isn’t only about us.

    There’s so much more to living than a job title, but we need to help each other fill those titles in order to change what they mean. And when we do that I reckon we’ll change the world.

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    This post is an excerpt from Laura’s ebook I’m Fat (and Still Get Laid). Laura blogs about vagina, a surprising foray into spiritualism, and being brave every Monday and Thursday at Superlatively Rude. Also food: there’s a lot of fat bitch talk. All necessary stalking materials are found here. You can follow her on Twitter here.


  7. A teen’s take on feminism and why we need it RIGHT NOW

    March 8, 2013 by @NotRollergirl

    Sophia Valentine is a talented 17 year old writer. She has recently discovered the power of feminism after realising that female sexuality is often expressed and discussed in a highly sexist way. Here are her views on what it’s like to grow up in an overly sexualised society.

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    As a teenage girl growing up in Britain in 2013, it can be nearly impossible to negotiate the issue of sex. Under constant pressure from the media, society and your peers, the mixed messages you receive can seem overwhelming.

    Recently, my mother announced that sexting was “shocking. [It’s] so detrimental, and children are being sexualised so young” And yet, to many teenagers, there is no line between texting and sexting. It’s simply becoming the norm. Most of my friends have experienced sexting in some form or another, and I’ve seen the persistence of teenage boys who want a “photo” – many of them are willing to nag incessantly until they get what they want, or try to guilt trip my friends. They don’t understand the meaning of the word “no.” Our parents are the generation who grew up with Playboy at the extreme end of the scale – now any child with a smartphone can watch pornography with relative ease. And what is the effect of this? Too often, porn is seen as creating over-expectant adolescent boys, who expect all women to be as willing for sex as the porn stars they see.

    John Bishop has joked about using porn to instruct his son, claiming he told him: “Actually son, they’re not usually that up for it.” But what about the effect of porn on women? Teenage girls see porn stars behaving in a certain way and feel they must mimic it. We are not objects, to be used and discarded. For me, the idea that a partner’s expectations of me are determined by pornography is ridiculous – real women have feelings and needs, they are not here simply to satisfy but also expect to BE satisfied. And what about when a woman doesn’t meet a man’s sexual expectations?

    Rape. The idea that someone will not respect my wishes is terrifying. The idea that someone would deliberately ignore my request to stop, especially in a situation as intimate as sex, is frightening. When I say no, I mean no: it is not a request, it is a command. It means stop. Being aware that almost 80 per cent of rape victims knew their attacker makes me fearful about future relationships. And where are these rapists and prospective rapists learning to behave this way? It can only be because they see women as objects, and they have been taught to prioritise their sexual urges over anything else.

    Which situation is “better”, in the eyes of society: sexual assault by an unknown attacker, or by a partner? Is either “better” at all? When I put the question to my friends, they agreed that often, sexual assault by a partner could be perceived as “worse”: each day you must face the person who hurt you, and something previously intimate is now threatening and negative. For me, while I recognise that rape by an unknown attacker may lead to mistrust of strangers, rape by a partner causes something far more severe – mistrust of the ones you love. You cannot recover without the support of those you trust – and yet you cannot trust them either. 85% of rapes go unreported, and often sexual assault by a partner is dismissed by the victim, who may begin to blame themselves. Anyone on the outside of an abusive relationship might wonder why the abused doesn’t leave – but more often than not, the abuse itself has left them without the strength, space and spirit to be able to walk away.

    The term “rape” has become an almost empty threat. Often, it is made to seem like an unavoidable destination: “if you dress like a slut, you’ll get raped.” To me, this use of a serious criminal act with severe repercussions as an inevitable concept is shocking. Whilst teenager drivers are often warned not to drink and drive, they are not told “if you drive under the influence, you WILL die.” With all other crimes, there is a degree of possibility indicated in the warning. You might be attacked. It may have serious consequences. With rape, there is no indication of doubt indicated in the language surrounding it – women are taught it will happen.

    For my generation, what hope is there? Adults condemn our actions, yet they are the result of a society that is constantly finding new ways to exploit young people. Too often, teenagers feel suffocated by societal pressures. For many teenage girls, feminism is an unknown concept, a “dirty word.” As a friend stated, feminism is often drummed out of us by society or overexposure, until it becomes part of the background, hidden at the back of the social consciousness.

    Teenagers, especially young women, need to know that sexism and sexual violence is never OK – and that if they speak out against it, they will be encouraged and supported. We look to so many different sources of information in order to find out how to behave. Will women’s magazines tell us how to get a boyfriend? Will porn tell us how to make him happy? But feminism needs to infiltrate and frame every fact we get given, otherwise it’s irrelevant and dangerous. Finding feminism has filled me with hope for the future. It needs to infiltrate the mainstream so that other teens use it as a source of ideas, answers and comfort.

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  8. Sexual Harassment on the Tube

    March 6, 2013 by Hannah

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Sexual harassment has been front and centre in the media – apart from, of course, the Queen’s digestive system – in recent days. It’s happening on our doorsteps, in the workplace, on the public transport we all take every day to get between those two places. It’s not restricted to meek women, or bolshy women, or women who seem to flirt with the very way they put their coat on. The whistles, the gropes, the shouts have been highlighted. It’s not a matter that’s restricted to women at all – some male columnists have also stepped forward to say it’s time that their half of the species sorts it out.

    By some horrible coincidence, the week all these women I admire were speaking out about the leers, the shouts, and the touches they’re forced to endure on a daily basis was the same week I learnt the true meaning of objectification, and with it felt a little bit of my innocence drop away.

    Of course, it’s behaviour that I’d heard about before, online or in the news. I was familiar with how disgusted the subjects of catcalls from idle builders would be when they’re just trying to nip to the shops for a pint of milk. But it hadn’t happened to me, either in the small city I grew up in or the larger city I went to university in. And I didn’t think it would.

    Although not a justification in any way, I could see some sort of sense in men who don’t exercise self-control verbally lusting over my friends, like an extension of the nightclub leers of well-liquored young men, but in daylight, and arguably more creepily.

    I, on the other hand – and I say this not in self-deprecation but as a matter of fact – am decidedly plain, and a few stone overweight. I dress, most days – including the day concerned – in black tights with flat shoes and a work-appropriate skirt, topped with a high-neckline jumper or shirt, covered by a fairly long, woollen coat. I am not alluring, deliberately or otherwise. I believed – naively, ridiculously – that, as if some kind of silver lining to my appearance, it’d save me from having those experiences. I thought objectification was something that only happened to conventionally attractive people.

    Until, in the jostling to squeeze onto an already-full tube carriage last week, I felt a hand on my buttock. Not a dulled touch through the layers provided by coat and skirt, but so close to my skin, through only tights and underwear. I swiftly swept my hand down behind me, knocking the hand of a short, tubby, old man away, and giving the skirt and coat he’d pulled up a firm yank downwards.

    As the train pulled out of the station, he stood firm behind me, pressed hard against my back as if he was trying to make our body shapes fit together like jigsaw pieces. As I tried to wriggle away, using every half inch of space I could find around me, nothing changed. He was still there, unapologetically pressed against me.

    I’d recognised the man at the platform, as someone who had previously been uncomfortably close to me, an incident I brushed off as one of the pitfalls of commuting. This time, again, I wondered if it was an accident. But no matter how awkward the morning commute can be, I can’t help but feel like if you’d somehow accidentally lifted someone’s skirt and coat and touched them inappropriately, you’d say sorry. Emphatically and many times.  The man behind me said nothing, and for 3 stops continued push up against me, as nausea rose inside me and I scanned the carriage for an escape route every second of the journey.

    Like so many people, I said nothing. My instinct wasn’t to speak out, it was merely to get away. It’s an act which is easier said than done, on a train where you can barely breathe, let alone move to the other end of a carriage.

    Although in comparison to some others’ experiences, mine was very, very minor, I was surprised by how I thought about it afterwards. It wasn’t flirting. It wasn’t a compliment. It didn’t feel like a matter of lust, as I’d assumed. It didn’t feel like, I, my appearance, had anything to do with it. It was an objectification that didn’t feel related to the kind you see in magazines filled with women wearing skimpy bikinis, or less. The assumption that my appearance would “save” me was naïve and ridiculous because what had just occurred had nothing to do with my appearance. It didn’t even have anything to do with any part of me. I was reduced to less than my composite parts, barely even a woman, just a thing. I couldn’t shrug it off any more, and it made me sick to my stomach.

    But what’s truly, horrifyingly shocking is the backlash from anonymous online commenters on every single article calling out people who commit sexual harassment, so many of which seem to be men who don’t see anything wrong this behaviour. Reading the comments on an article, written by a man, which appeared in the Telegraph and speaks out about the harassment women experience on a daily basis is the intellectual equivalent of rubbing your face across the business end of a rusty rake – you pick up all sorts of shit that just makes you feel ill.

    And what it makes clear is that this isn’t really a matter of a few dodgy builders. Expecting dirty old men to refrain from putting their hands up my skirt doesn’t make me a “princess”, and doesn’t mean I’m a prude who can’t handle a bit of flirting. It’s not a matter of “well, it’s evolution, it’s human nature, we can’t help it”, because the vast majority of the men I stand close to on the tube manage to rein it in. Speaking to friends, it became clear that London is a hotspot for sexual harassment, but if it was an unavoidable part of being male, there wouldn’t be hotspots. It is not the natural order of things.

    A part of my loss of innocence was when I realised what objectification meant in the real world.

    But what’s just as tragic is this. As a nation, we’re so quick to criticise other cultures in which women aren’t deemed to be entitled to an education or allowed to drive. We’re better than that, we think. Liberated. But it’s 2013 and women are still scared to walk home alone at night. We can’t go to work without being treated as a plaything. We still feel the need to deliberately wear our scruffiest clothes in an effort to avoid being shouted at by strangers. We are made less than human every day.

    And we will not stay silent any longer.

    Hannah writes a most wonderful food blog called The Littlest Bakehouse, which I recommend checking out immediately. You can also find her on Twitter.


  9. Suffragette Shitty

    February 21, 2013 by The Kraken

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Tell you what, you’ve just gotta love Nadine Dorries. She’s the gift that keeps on giving because just when I think she has run out of surprises she leaps out at me from any given nook with even more reason to take to this blog. Yesterday, though, she was particularly generous because she used a blog post to wail about how her being investigated by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over alleged expenses irregularities is the same as the plight of the Suffragettes. OK. And breathe…

    What in the fuck is going on with Dorries? Has she been shooting up bong water? Well, she must have been because these suffragette-based comments are so despairing that they make me want to steal a horse and fucking well gallop over her myself. See, Dorries believes that the investigation into her expenses is a smear campaign because she appeared on I’m a Celebrity…Feed Me Koala Nads! And, get this, because she is a woman and a single mother.

    In fact, she bleated: “Because a woman died under the hooves of a horse in the quest of female emancipation and because IPSA impact upon every single parent who is or wants to be an MP and because I refuse to allow a money hungry quango to compromise my right to work, be a mother and a pet owner, I am not allowing IPSA to get away with this.”

    No, Dorries. Just no. Whatever the fuck else you do, comparing your skirmish with that of the Suffragette movement is like comparing a stubbed toe with the trials of a double leg amputee. Seriously, until the IPSA starts dragging you down the street by your ankles, tearing at your underskirts, locking you in a rat-infested cell and force feeding you by shoving a fat rubber tube down your throat you are about as far from the Suffragette movement as John McCririck on a stag night.

    Worse, Dorries is playing the gender card, like a true squirming MP. But if she’s being fingered by the IPSA it’s because there’s possible financial fuck-uppery, not because her body houses a uterus. And if she is being harassed after appearing on I’m a Sleb… it’s because she pissed off to the jungle for a month rather than doing what she is paid to do in her constituency, not because she’s familiar with the business end of a tampon.

    See, the unfair treatment she claims she is receiving is exactly what I’d expect her to receive, not as a woman but as an MP who abandoned her constituents and as a professional who may have cadged tax-payers’ money for personal expenses. And if she was a he I have no doubt that he’d get the same amount of suspicion and derision chucked at him too. If Dorries thinks she can run off with Ant n Dec to scoff bulging grubs on company time but then bark about equal rights when she gets called-out she can, quite frankly, go screw herself.

    When Dorries squawks about her rights as a woman she’s actually taking a mahoosive dump on every other woman in the country. Instantly she makes women who shout about genuine inequality look like shrieking harpees who will holler misogyny at any given opportunity. Yeah, yeah, I know the Commons and Lords are hotbeds of sexism but Dorries turning that to her advantage just because her own behaviour is biting her on the arse is offensive, not just to the women’s movement generally but to those women who fight sexism every bloody day.

    So until Dorries can prove that her gender lies at the heart of this kerfuffle, my mind will translate every word she says as utter bollocks. This isn’t about not listening to a woman who is genuinely struggling with misogyny. It’s about not listening to a woman who uses the struggles of others to cover her own arse. If Dorries thinks the Suffragettes fought for her to do that then the jungle is exactly where she belongs.


     The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here


  10. It was a bad week for women

    February 20, 2013 by Ashley

    This post is taken from @Blonde_M‘s fabulous blog, Against Her Better Judgement.

    Gods above, but that was a bad, bad week for women. In amongst the other enormous breaking news stories (resigning Popes; covert ground-up horse in apparently everything; meteors hitting the Earth), a woman was shot dead in the middle of the night, allegedly by her boyfriend.

    Image from Jezebel

    Image from Jezebel

    The story has garnered far more media attention than any other case of domestic violence might because the man who’s been charged with her murder is a world-famous Paralympian athlete. This, understandably, has meant that the focus of the story has been Oscar Pistorius, rather than the victim, Reeva Steenkamp. The faint irk that she seemed to be referred to for the first 24 hours of reporting as “his girlfriend” rather than by her name was nothing in comparison to the anger felt the following day when tabloid newspapers around the world saw fit to illustrate the story with pictures of law graduate and model, who spoke out about empowering women, in the skimpiest bikinis and underwear they could find.

    Then, on Friday morning, between a tweet about a band’s new single and Bruce Willis flogging his latest film, Daybreak tweeted the following:

    Image from Twitter

    Image from Twitter

    I’m well aware that Daybreak isn’t the epitome of high culture and sophisticated discussion. That’s fine: there’s space for both it and BBC4. But it’s a programme with an enormous audience, and one staffed by people who should know better than to put out such idiocy. ONS stats might be a deeply worrying portrayal of Britain’s attitudes towards women and sexual violence, but the responsible journalistic approach isn’t to start a “debate” where there isn’t one. It’s to educate viewers that there aren’t two sides to the argument. This might be an individual incident, but it’s individual incidents that combine to add up to a culture in which blaming victims is acceptable, when actually the only people who are responsible for crimes are those who have committed them.

    Because these two incidents came in a week when the 1 Billion Rising campaign was launched, highlighting and campaigning against the fact that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. They came in a week when the BBC ran a deeply saddening but entirely unsurprising piece about women’s attitudes to their own safety when walking home after a night out. The verdict was unanimous: from Ramala to Kampala, Melbourne to Rio to Ottowa, women don’t feel safe. They make sure they have something they can lay hands on as a weapon should they need to. A quick, unscientific Twitter poll of followers elicited the same information. Check with your female friends: I guarantee the majority of them will have done it, at least once, if not regularly.

    Is it any wonder, really, given that – globally – there’s a culture of violence against women. It’s a systemic problem; that if we don’t speak up against it where we see it, nothing will change, and one billion more women will suffer.

    AWOT1.png

    Blonde writes a fantastic blog which I recommend you bookmark immediately. You can also find her on Twitter.


  11. Feminism: A Subject I Approach With Trepidation

    January 16, 2013 by Jenni

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 - image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    Copyright Paula Wright 2012 – image from dispatchesfromtheclaphamomnibus.blogspot.co.uk

    I am a feminist. Or at least I think I am, and therein lies the problem. I’m fairly new to the whole feminism thing, or at least new to calling the things I already thought anyway ‘feminist things’, and I’m still feeling my way through the whole thing. Here’s the thing though… it seems that there’s apparently a right way and a wrong way to be a feminist – to believe in the simple notion of equality for everyone because it appears there’s a lot of dissention amongst the ranks.

    I’ve got lots of feminist friends, I follow a lot of feminists on Twitter and they follow me, but I don’t really get into discussions about it with them, I’ve never blogged about it before and to be honest I try to avoid the subject. Why? Because there can be a lot of backlash if you’re the wrong type of feminist, it seems. There are certain names that are associated with feminism that a lot of people seem to hate for various reasons. There’s a lot of angry people in the world of Twitter who don’t like them and make it abundantly clear- “X calls herself a feminist? Well she can’t be because of these reasons…” sort of thing. And that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to an opinion on the matter.

    The thing is though, it makes it really hard for us baby feminists to find our feet because we don’t want to make a mistake, or worse, be the subject of Twitter hate ourselves because we said we liked the wrong person. “Oh… X is the subject of a lot of angry tweets saying she can’t be a feminist. Does that mean I’m not one because I quite liked that thing she wrote and her views made me think differently about feminism in the first place? Better not mention it.”

    That’s not how it should be. People shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re “doing feminism wrong” or worried that if they agree with a certain someone then they can’t be a real proper feminist. Everyone who identifies as a feminist should be encouraged to speak out, to make joyful noises on the subject of equality and get angry at people who want to pretend that it can’t/won’t/shouldn’t happen, not get angry at each other for saying the wrong thing and then being a bit of a nob about it. Yes people say stupid things sometimes and yes sometimes they make it worse by saying more stupid things and being a prick about the whole thing but at the end of the day that’s an opinion. Not everyone has the same one as everyone else on certain subjects.

    But please, let’s stop vilifying each other because we disagree slightly. At the end of the day if you’re a person who thinks that all other people regardless of any factors should be equal and recognised as such in society, then you’re a feminist in some way or another. Let’s stop trying to make people feel passionately about every subject, let’s stop making it feel awkward to like certain feminist figureheads, let’s stop scaring away people from using ‘the F-word’ and force them into hiding because they don’t want to do it wrong. We need to encourage each other to speak out, to talk to everyone we know about feminism/equality and why it’s important and to stop making it matter what sort of feminist you are, when all that really matters is that you are one.

    NB: Even after I wrote this and was submitting it to AWOT, I was feeling incredibly nervous as to how it would be received. I can only hope it goes better than I expect it to. *cowers*

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here and you can find her on Twitter right here

     


  12. Why pink should be banned

    January 3, 2013 by Hayley Cross

    Before we get started, I should be clear about something. I am not talking about Pink the artist. I rather like Pink the artist, and have done since I was about 15 (in fact, I quoted her in my GCSE English Language exam). And I really like her in that relatively new video where she’s all buff and hangs about upside down a lot. This one:

     

     
    No, my beef is with pink the colour. Not that pink the colour is to blame, of course.

    This has been an issue on my mind for a little while, but it really came to light upon the birth of my niece in September. When visiting her for the first time, I was physically shocked (as in, I made a strange gasping noise involving a small amount of mucus that I think I successfully managed to disguise as a cough) at the sheer number of pink cards she had received congratulating her on her arrival on earth.

    ‘What’s wrong with this?’ you might cry.

    Everything is wrong with this.

    You see, poor little Lucy is being conditioned right from birth to be a poor little girl who likes pink. My own mother failed to see the significance of this. Her first retort was that, when Lucy is old enough, she will be able to make her own choices whether she wants to own / wear pink items. But a choice is exactly what she won’t have. She is going to spend the next few years being showered with pink presents, and before she even knows what a choice is, she’s going to believe she likes pink.

    Image from werewolvesandshotglasses.com

    Image from werewolvesandshotglasses.com

    Mother clearly didn’t have an argument against this, so she quickly changed tack and said that the reason it was important for Lucy to have / wear pink was so that when she is out and about people will know that she’s a girl. Why is it important, that, aged two weeks, random members of the public know that she is a girl? Mother’s claim was that people need to know what pronoun to use: i.e. to be able to say “Isn’t she lovely?”. I swiftly responded that the pronoun “they” could easily carry the same message (“Aren’t they lovely?”) or, perhaps revealing my own opinions on babies, “it” could suffice.

    Children aren’t born with a gender (a sociological term), they are born as a member of a sex (a biological term) – this is an important distinction. And there’s something in the eagerness to call Lucy “she” that is akin to dressing her in pink – it’s transforming her into a girl rather than merely a set of female chromosomes. I’m not suggesting that we only use gender neutral pronouns from now own, but what I am saying is that we need to think again about carelessly turning girls into girly girls.

    Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with being a girly girl. Provided you have had a choice in becoming one. A friend of mine offered a snippet of information to me recently: apparently blue used to be associated with femininity (reminiscent of the Virgin Mary), whilst red was the colour of masculinity (war, aggression etc.). I’m not quite sure why we need colours for boys and girls, but somewhere along the line, pink has become associated with femininity, and not in a powerful way. Pink is the colour of the Disney Princess range, those girls who famously need their Prince to come and rescue them. Pink is the colour of delicate flowers, that need tending and protecting from the weather. Pink is the colour of pigs, domesticated beasts only used for their body and tortured for their meat… OK, I’m getting carried away now. But ultimately, pink is watered down red; something weak, lacking power and blatantly pathetic.

    Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that jumping straight into banning something was a good idea: choice is clearly one of the benefits of a democratic society. But choice is exactly what young girls don’t have at the moment. Pink needs to be banned because, no matter how many more female CEO’s battle their way to the top of the business world (still a measly and insignificant number), the concept of feminine weakness is too ingrained in your average Briton’s mindset. As my Mother quite clearly illustrates, the older generation don’t understand this, and continue to exacerbate the problem by surrounding my niece with thousands of pink cards, so that when she gets old enough to make a choice, she’s already been brainwashed.

    Even as an adult woman, I find it tremendously difficult to avoid pink. I am currently sat typing this in a pair of pink fluffy slippers (which, incidentally, I think were a present from one of the aforementioned pink baby-card senders) and suffer regular angst at trying to find gym wear that doesn’t contain even a dash of pink. The only female razor available in the Tooting Sainsbury’s the other day was pink, and I received a pack of pink earplugs ‘for feminine ears’ this Christmas. Similarly, the ‘Bic for Her’ range of pink pens was suitably humiliated by reviewers earlier in the year (worth a read, if you haven’t seen it before: http://tinyurl.com/dxdh3d8), and yet they are still on sale. The problem is that most of us don’t see the humiliation and the restriction in the constant everyday alignment of pink with femininity.

    But the scary thing is, it’s not just the ‘oldies’ that are fuelling the issue. Having tested my theories on a trusted friend, I thought I was ready to start gently pushing my ideas on some pregnant women. It didn’t go well.

    A month or so ago, I had a conversation with a seemingly strong woman in relatively senior position at school. She is probably only 6-7 years older than me, and is currently pregnant with a baby girl. When I floated the idea that she could think about not dressing her future daughter in pink, she looked at me as if I had suggested we abort her baby from her womb, right there and then in the lunch hall. If successful women aren’t even prepared to consider rejecting pink for their daughters, then how are we ever going to escape our pink prison?

    So I guess what I’m saying is that, seeing as my words have very little sway with the government, and I’m not sure of the practicalities of banning a colour, we should all attempt to be a little more like Pink the artist and “Try” (yes, pun!) to give young girls a chance to be something, anything, more than a Disney princess.

    You can start by not sending any more pink greetings cards.

    AWOT1.png

    You can find Hayley’s blog here, or her Twitter here