Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

  1. 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.


  2. 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.


  3. 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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  4. 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.


  5. 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

     


  6. Five Myths about Feminists

    October 16, 2012 by Ashley

    Let me preface this by acknowledging that I am not an authority on the subject of feminism – but I am feminist, and these are my views on some of the big misconceptions that stand in the way of people’s understanding of feminism.

    Image from blogs.siuc.edu

    Is the F word a dirty word? When I asked my now boyfriend on our first date if he was a feminist, he said no, he was an ‘equalist’. But shouldn’t that be the same thing? Isn’t feminism, at its heart, about equality? I am still surprised when people, especially women, tell me that they don’t identify as feminists. So I’ve written down some thoughts on why that might be… Feel free to add your own in the comments, or feel free to disagree!

    1) Men and women are equal now – we don’t need feminists anymore

    Despite the fact that we have come along way since the fight for women’s suffrage, there is still a lot to do in order to realise full equality between men and women. For one thing, the pay gap in the UK has been around 25% since 2000 – that’s 12 years with no improvement. And at the moment, women make up just over 15% of board members.

    Looking at the disturbing idiocy of sites like unilad.com (this link goes to our posts related to unilad, not to the site itself), shows there is a lot to be done to get rid of misogyny and sexism. It is incredibly ignorant to assume that just because we have the vote and can drive in the western world, women and men are treated as equals. We still need feminism.

    If you have a spare 15 minutes, DO check out this amazing video of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivering the mother of all smackdowns to the leader of the opposition concerning his misogynistic and sexist hypocrisy.

    2) Feminists hate men

    This might be one of the biggest (and most disturbing?) misconceptions about feminists. Feminism at its most basic is about equality - not supremacy. Hating men would have absolutely no positive impact, as the only way we can achieve equality is through men and women working together. We need men to be on board with us if we are ever going to change things – so hating them will achieve absolutely nothing.

    Besides, I like men. They can be really fun and sometimes they make you eggy crumpets when you’re hungover. And my dad makes the best pavlova in the world.

    3) Feminists are militant fun sponges  

    “Feminists do not know how to have fun. Every conversation is an angry rant from an uptight woman who’s probably just in need of a good shag.” Yes – that is actually an argument someone used in front of me during a discussion about feminism. I almost had to laugh. In the same conversation he used the word ‘feminazi’ and ‘man hating’. Au contraire, mon frere. Most of my female friends are feminists and they are some of the funniest, coolest, kinkiest people you will ever meet. And boy, do they get laid. I’m absolutely, passionately, and resolutely feminist in my views, but I don’t bring it up in every single conversation and I don’t shout down people who don’t agree with me.

    Yes, some feminists are militant, but that’s a good thing. We need some of us to be the passionate ones, that march and scream and shout about it. But it’s also ok if you’re not that way inclined. No one wants to spend seven days a week angry. I like talking about feminism because I like to understand why people don’t identify as such (for me it is the default position – I am usually amazed that people don’t realise that it’s essentially about equal rights for women AND men). But I have never once yelled at someone for not agreeing with me.

    4) You cannot be a feminist and a housewife

    This is another popular myth – even among people who identify as feminists. Feminism is about equality, and part of equality is having the right to choose what you want to do. I believe as a modern woman that you have just as much right to choose to be a stay at home mum as you do to be a rocket scientist. Being a housewife used to be the default – it used to be the very symbol of female oppression. Well, I don’t think it is anymore. You should be able to choose what you do. See the movie Mona Lisa Smile for more on this.

    It annoys me when people suggest that baking cupcakes or wearing aprons or going to sewing classes is a step backwards for women. It’s not. It’s not symptomatic of a mass regression into the days where women were expected to be at home all day – if anything I think reclaiming such hobbies is a positive thing. If no one is standing over you demanding that you darn socks and put dinner on the table by six, I say sew on. The current fashion for twee is harmless – it is not the first sign of the apocalypse, and it is not damaging to the feminist cause. You can absolutely enjoy knitting and baking while simultaneously campaigning for equality. To suggest cupcakes and feminism are mutually exclusive is to make women one dimensional. Equality should encompass the freedom to choose your hobbies.

    5) Feminists are all hairy-legged bra-burners

    Bra-burning has to be one of the most ridiculous myths. Bras are designed for support, not restriction. If you’re small-breasted, let your boobs fly free – but if you have rather larger breasts, bras are fairly essential for comfort. Besides, a quality bra is expensive – so bra-burning really isn’t a sustainable activity in this economy.

    And the phrase ‘hairy-legged feminists’ is one that just seems to roll off the tongue, like ‘chocolate chip cookie’. Shaving and waxing are 100% personal choices that generally do not have a much of a bearing on your views on equality. Some women don’t shave in order to make a point about beauty standards, others just prefer to be au naturale – but the thing to remember is that women that do shave/wax and women who wear make up etc are just as likely to be feminists than those who don’t. Shaving your legs, waxing your bikini line, and having a minor addiction to Lancome does not make you a bad feminist – it’s a personal choice. The bullshit argument that says women wear make up and shave to please men is nonsense. I do not get up in the morning and think, ‘I reckon the patriarchy will be pleased by my freshly waxed eyebrows today’. (Though if you are thinking that at 7am then you might want to have a word with yourself.) It’s none of your damn business if someone, feminist or not, decides to let nature keep them cosy or not. It’s about the freedom to do what you want and not prevent others from doing their own thing.

    ~

    So, what are your top myths about feminism?

    Ashley is the editor of teamawot.com. As well as working as a press officer, she runs a little food blog, called Peach Trees and Bumblebees. She’s also on Twitter. Oh, and her boyfriend now identifies as a feminist. Score.



  7. It’s been One Month since we looked at K Stew and started the crazy ass judging. MAKE IT STOP!

    September 7, 2012 by @NotRollergirl

    Photo from tiptoptens.com

    I am pissed. Pissed in the traditional sense (I have been drinking beer on a sofa all afternoon, in my knickers) but mostly in the American, angry sense. I’m in Brooklyn and drowning in jetlag and 30 degree heat, and it doesn’t take much to irk me – but I’m really fucking irked by the way that the media shitstorm has not calmed down and got reasonable after a MONTH. We’re still talking about the Kristen Stewart thing.

    She’s not exactly media friendly. The movie that shot her into the celebrity stratosphere is a movie series beloved by tween and teen girls – not a demographic that is known for supporting and celebrating other women. Especially not women who are dating their most favourite sparkly vampiric porcelain skinned British crush man, R Patz. And she’s notoriously awkward. When I was a baby journo intern and she was a film star to be, I interviewed her and found the whole thing so tricky that I burst into tears immediately afterwards. (I speak a very archaic brand of British English, it was on a fuzzy phone line and she understood none of my questions). But she’s 22. She’s 22 and been with the same dude since she was 18 and she hooked up with an older, married colleague and now everyone hates her. Her boyfriend hates her, her colleague’s wife hates her – apparently even her family hates her. Left leaning liberal friends who are sound in mind and body and only read the Daily Mail side bar of doom in a “wry” way – they hate her too. Even though she’s never made them cry. Can we give the chick a break?

    How can it be that the most reasonable people in the world are falling over themselves to call Kristen a harlot and a homewrecker, when Rupert “married with two kids and nearly twice Kristen’s age” Sands is getting perhaps ten to five per cent of the vitriol? In the first week following Kristen-and-Rupert-In-The-Back-Of-A-Mini-K-I-S-S-I-N-G-gate, I read EIGHT pieces on whether she’ll be able to salvage her career. Prognosis: Doubtful. Less has been written about Chris Brown “salvaging” his career in the last three years. The same Chris Brown who hospitalised his girlfriend. In fact, I think I’ve read more about Rihanna “sending out a bad message to fans” by “taking him back” than I’ve read about Chris Brown and how he should be stopped from making any music that isn’t Jailhouse Rock.

    The ongoing Kristen saga has made me think about how feminism is faltering. I may dress like a WASP punk but I have the heart of a hippy, and I really just want us all to love each other and be kind to each other. Sure, you should yell at people for finishing the cheese and having bad driving manners. It’s fine to hate on people who describe themselves as “crazy and random!” or those who make faces when you reference reality shows and say “I don’t really watch TV. Only BBC4 and documentaries.” But women who hate on other women for “betraying the sisterhood”? NO! THAT IS THE MOST ANTI FEMINIST THING OF ALL!

    I’m going to add to the Kristen conjecture by saying that I think that whatever happened between her and Rupert was born out of passion, not meanness. I think that one of them looked at the other and they both thought “I know this is completely wrong and inappropriate, but if I don’t feel your lips on mine soon my skin will fall off and I shall catch on fire.” I don’t think Kristen ever thought “how can I really upset that nice Liberty Ross and all the teenagers who fancy my boyfriend?”

    We’ve all said we’d never cheat. We’ve probably all also said we’d never smoke a cigarette, have an abortion or bone a guy whose surname we didn’t know. If having and living by lofty principles makes you happy, that’s awesome. If it makes you feel superior to everyone who doesn’t and fails and makes mistakes and does the wrong thing occasionally, you can go and suck a big bag of dicks. I’ve cheated, and I’ve been cheated on, and it always ended up in sadness, hurt and complications – but it was never borne out of any of those things. As long as people fancy each other, people will cheat. It doesn’t make me sad or anxious about humanity.

    You know what does make me sad and anxious about humanity? The way we judge each other. The way we criticize and condemn before we relate and empathise. And that’s what makes me worry about feminism and moving forward. I don’t want to be part of a sisterhood who will go full Hester Prynne on someone who snogs my boyfriend. I want to be part of a joyful, forgiving, broad, gin based kind of feminism that will not throw me out for my fuck ups. If after reading this you’re still going full Judge (that) Dredd (ful Kristen), I urge you to go out and get off with someone who makes you feel like you might catch on fire if you don’t kiss them.

    @NotRollergirl is a freelance funnywoman and writerlady. She’s the women’s editor over on Sabotage Times (where she writes a ridiculously popular column on Made in Chelsea), she writes books, and she knows all the words to ABBA’s entire collection. Follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles).


  8. Rape: As much about men as it is about women

    August 28, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    Image from thefastertimes.com

    Several old men have offensively sought to re-define rape against women for their own political ends in the past week. And while the online response has emphatically reminded people that rape is rape, much of the online backlash – such as the #MenAgainstRape hashtag – has actually  been more telling than the comments themselves, and helps shed light on how misunderstood the issue of rape really is  

    Rape. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, it is unlikely to have escaped you that rape is on the news agenda at the moment. In a big way.

    First, we had US Congressman Todd Akin giving an interview in which he staggeringly-ignorantly described how, “as I understand it, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down”.

    BOOM! In that one single sentence we have both utter ignorance of how the female body works AND a suggestion that some rape isn’t legitimate. Well, holy shit, we must have reached the pinnacle of white, old men pontificating on women’s bodies, right? But no. Wait! There’s more!

    Next up comes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently hiding in the London Ecuadorian embassy, flatly refusing to come out, thereby winning this year’s prize for stretching the rules of hide-and-seek to patience-whittling levels AND refusing to face rape and molestation allegations in one fell swoop.

    Now, while it’s beyond the remit of this blogpost to properly comment on the WikiLeaks situation and what embassies will and won’t allow, the rape allegations seem unequivocal. In the more famous indictment, Assange is accused of having had consensual sex with a woman, who then woke up later on to find him having sex with her again. Let me repeat: WOKE UP – ergo, Assange started having sex with her while she was still UNCONSCIOUS.

    The law is clear on this: it’s rape. A means through which some men have sought to demean, dominate and violate women since the beginning to time. (Yes, men get raped too and many of the same points still stand, but in this case, we’re talking about a man doing it to a woman.)

    As Hadley Freeman, and so many others, got piercingly-right when they repeated it again and again: rape is rape is rape. If you have sex with someone without their outright and mutually-understood, fully-conscious consent, then that is rape.

    It’s quite simple really. Except, apparently, for some people.

    In which Galloway sends himself down shit creek

    Because, next up on the batshit-tosser train this week was Respect MP George Galloway (best known for dressing as a cat on national television) who inexplicably joined Akin and Assange in the redefining-rape fun by saying that for some people, being naked in bed with them means you’re “already in the sex game”, and therefore have consented to more sex EVEN IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE ASLEEP. “Sure, a tap on the shoulder would have been more polite,” he then went on to suggest, causing me to have a minor embolism before I could continue watching.

    Although it has to be said that the sheer numbers of people who have come out against the comments, as shown by the Vagenda’s ‘Rape rainbow’ or Jezebel’s ‘Official guide to legitimate rape’, is one of the most heartening things about this whole sorry tale, some responses haven’t been uniformly encouraging – and have actually highlighted why we still need to keep talking about these issues in the first place.

    Of course, it all started with a hashtag. The #menagainstrape hashtag.

    In case you’ve read this far and your eyes are getting squiffy, that’s Men Against Rape. Many people took offence to this hashtag , but I think it addresses some serious points; the dismissal of which could be potentially extremely damaging to what we’re all trying to do: educate people about rape.

    In a nice handy list, here are a few of the most common ideas that I saw bandied around in criticism of the hashtag.

    • It’s making this crime, which largely affects women, about men
    • It’s taking away from women’s ability to talk to men and put their own experiences across
    • It’s obvious and completely unnecessary; why not simply have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstMurder, or #MenAgainstPaedophilia or #MenAgainstDrinkingBleach ?
    • It seems to ‘thank men for not being rapists’, and suggests that this is an ‘opt in’ thing rather than a general base level of respect we’d all expect  as default

    Although I can see where these points come from, they largely miss the point that, actually, rape is quite often about men.

    In fact, wherever the crime is a man having sex with a woman, that’s about a man as much as it’s about the woman. About the fact that a man has so little respect, appreciation or understanding of that woman’s right to her own body and sexuality; about how her sexuality, power, intellect and identity has got absolutely nothing to do with him, unless she explicitly consents to make it so.

    Rape is about power, and as long as it’s about the wielding of power over women, it’s also about men.

    Feminism was born from women demanding dialogue with men, and even though women now have the power to speak out without men’s permission or help, it doesn’t follow that men cannot empathise with women or espouse their views on equality.

    Of course men shouldn’t seek to redefine or dominate feminist debates, or women’s experiences. But joining a discussion or wholeheartedly espousing its principles doesn’t automatically mean a man wants to dominate it, ‘make it about them’ – or, if you will, ‘mansplain’ it.

    While rape of women strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a woman, in these cases, anyway, it also strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a man coexisting with women.

    Of course, it’s extremely obvious to have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstRape.

    Because OF COURSE men should be against rape as a default position. Just like I’m against kicking puppies and shooting children with rifles.

    BUT the fact that some men and women still agree that in some cases, rape just isn’t that serious and that women must shoulder some of the responsibility when they ‘lead on’ a man or drink a bit too much; the fact that there are still people in the world (especially those who are in positions of political power) who think that conscious consent is a blurry concept, means that actually, I’d say having a #MenAgainstRape hashtag isn’t such a bad idea.

    At the very least, inviting men to join discussions about rape might get people ‒ namely men for whom it doesn’t seem immediately obvious ‒ considering what rape means, and getting them to think about it a bit more before engaging in sexual relationships with people.

    It might also provide a rallying point for men on the subject, in their own arena, away from the feminist blogs and the sections of the newspapers which, with the best will in the world, are not usually read by those who have the most need for them.

    All those men who are so obviously already against rape, well thank god for you, you’re absolutely right. You don’t need to ‘opt in’, or pat yourself on the back for not being a rapist. (But if so, this hashtag, and the comments created alongside it, were not aimed at you.)

    And frankly, if it gets even one man thinking about what it means to rape versus not rape, or even strikes one line of dissention against the ideas perpetuated by Akin, Assange and Galloway, then I’d consider that a success.

    At least it’s not trying to redefine or qualify rape, in a discussion which is so often reduced to a ‘women’s issue’ against men, simplistically pitching the genders against each other.

    It’s simply saying that actually, men don’t all agree with Galloway or Akin.

    And if it provides a rallying point for groups such as domestic violence charity Respect UK (NOT Galloway’s ‘Respect’, thank god) to tweet links such as “10 things you can do to stop violence against women” or “If you want to show sexual respect, always check you’ve got an enthusiastic yes”, then frankly, where’s the harm in that?

    It doesn’t take away, it only adds

    Giving people a platform on which to assert that they are against rape doesn’t take away from the testimonies of women coming out to tell their story about rape. Neither does it, logically, suggest that anyone who doesn’t assert their view in this way is therefore ‘for rape’ or ‘rape ambivalent’.

    In fact, as I see it, it only adds to the dialogue between the genders; only adds an additional voice to the crowd of people around the world telling Assange, Akin and Galloway, and their sympathisers, that their views are profoundly offensive, unwanted, unfounded, ignorant and completely at odds with the experiences and views of the vast majority of men and women.

    And isn’t that what we’re all trying to get across in the first place?

    Comments and (constructive!) criticism very welcome!

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, or see her other writings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com where a version of this post first appeared.


  9. From here to maternity

    July 26, 2012 by Anon

    Image from ucl.ac.uk

    Figuring out what to do with regards to your maternity leave isn’t as easy as one might expect. For the record, before falling pregnant, I didn’t have a clear idea on how long I would take for maternity leave – I thought that as soon as my uterus was no longer advertising a vacancy that I would just know, you know?  It turns out though that all of the usual umming and aahing that we do about our careers isn’t resistant to pregnancy hormones.   The two lines on the pregnancy test also happened to coincide with two little lines on an email –

    “We really liked you at the first interview. We’d like to invite you back for a second interview.”

    Arse.

    I’d been to an interview a few weeks previously at a company I really liked, whose ethos and manner of working were so me I felt that, as vomit inducing as it might sound, I’d “come home” when I stepped into their offices. I clicked with the directors and shared their values and vision for the firm. They also did some really cool shit. I now had a bit of a dilemma – I wasn’t legally obliged to inform them of my situation so could technically go to the second interview and accept the job (were it to be offered to me) without letting them know about my internal Hummingbird Bakery activity. On the other hand, the thought of doing that that made me feel dishonest, uncomfortable and a bit of a bitch. I find that when someone starts to italicise (verbally or otherwise) the word “technically” then they generally know that what they’re doing isn’t 100% above board. You know what I mean, it’s like when you tell yourself it wasn’t technically a lie when you said there was a problem on the tube when you arrive late. There was a problem – but it was on the District line, and you came on the Northern line.

    So I told them. And, as they are legally obliged to interview me anyway, they still invited me for interview. Long story short, they liked me, I adored them, they offered me the job. I turned it down.  I didn’t feel that I could take the job knowing that I would be on maternity leave within 6 months of arriving. It didn’t really seem fair on anyone. I felt that I would be judged for taking a job right before going on leave and, in typically dramatic and overly poetic fashion, I imagined my colleagues’ resentment growing alongside my unborn child. I’m not kidding. I was imagining their resentment with actual kidneys.

    So it was pretty interesting to see one of last week’s big news stories about Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO. You may be more familiar with her being referred to as Pregnant Marissa Mayer, which is apparently her full name.  For anyone who hasn’t heard the story, it’s quite a controversial one and Mayer has been alternately lambasted and held up as a bastion of feminist example, for accepting the job at Yahoo at 6 month’s pregnant. Yahoo has been praised for their “evolved thinking” of employing someone whose uterus is currently in use.

    Except I don’t think that it is all that controversial. I mean, for one thing, Mayer is taking all of about 5 minutes of maternity leave. Well, okay, two weeks. So really, Yahoo is doing the equivalent of employing someone who already has a fortnight’s holiday booked. So not that evolved then. As for the amount of maternity leave, that is totally Mayer’s choice. To be honest, she could have it either way – she would be more than able to afford to take a more extended period of time; equally, childcare from the minute the cord is cut wouldn’t be a financial hardship either, with a base salary of $1 million. If I were in that enviable economic position, I reckon I too would play fast and loose with what’s regarded as “normal” up the duff etiquette.

    And that’s it really – at the end of the day it is Mayer’s choice. I really don’t think she’s trying to make a point – for or against feminism – as has been variously claimed. But if what she’s doing is making the choice that is best for her and best for her circumstances then that’s got to be good for the sisterhood – regardless of whether those travelling pants are maternity or not.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.


  10. Feminism: No longer needed, right? Erm, wrong

    July 11, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    In my life, I could view gender struggle as something that ‘happens to other people’. So why do I feel such a strong need to view the world from a fighting, ‘feminist’ point of view? Because it’s only by understanding what happens when gender equality is not upheld that I can appreciate just how lucky I am, and therefore how important feminism still is

    Feminist doormat

    Sound familiar?

    You know the scene. A few glasses of wine have been had, and a discussion starts. And yet again, I take a feminist viewpoint on something, and see the issue irrevocably coloured by its gender politics. And yet again, I find myself having to justify my stance, to women as often as to men. I find myself having to justify why feminism is still relevant to someone like me.

    ‘Why are you a ‘feminist’, anyway? Isn’t that all about bra burning and stuff? Why do you even need it, it’s so outdated?! You’ve got the vote and equal pay, haven’t you/we? Women go out to work nowadays, you/we can get divorced, have access to the Pill, get abortions, men do housework, look after the kids, I mean, what more do you/we want? How often do you/we get cat-called in the street? Maybe other women do, but you/we hardly ever do, right? And didn’t you hear that story a while back about how even builders don’t think shouting out at women is OK anymore? Think how much better you have it than women around the world! I mean, honestly. Are you just looking for something to get angry about?’

    And despite the seriously frustrating nature of these questions, it’s not always that easy to give a proper answer.

    It’s all very well engaging in feminist discussion on ‘women’s blogs’ where everyone agrees more or less with where you’re coming from, but in the ‘real world’, around the pub table, people who take on feminist stances can see themselves being looked at strangely, given distance as that crazy, angry woman in the corner, getting pissed off about stuff that doesn’t even apply anymore.

    It’s all very well being seen as akin to the ‘madwoman in the attic’ when the law says you’re legally your husband’s property, but hey, we’ve all moved on since then, so what are you still whinging about?

    • It’s not a question easily answered, if you consider it from my own personal point of view.
    Vindication

    A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft

    Quite often I do find myself wondering why I personally feel the need to assume such a ‘feminist’ viewpoint on life. I gravitate towards ‘feminist’ blogs and ‘women’s’ take on the news; feel strongly about women’s independence, am deeply interested in discourses surrounding and between men and women, the ‘confounding’ of gender stereotypes (to paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft) and derogatory language used by either sex, and generally am drawn towards individuals and media groups that bravely, intelligently and passionately argue for a more equal, more accepting, more tolerant and more liberal society, particularly where men and women’s gender ‘roles’ are concerned.

    • But, beyond the obvious, I sometimes wonder why I feel this way. On the face of it, I don’t have any real personal motivation for seeing the world through this kind of lens.

    Controversial statement, perhaps, but despite being an opinionated git; interested in news, debates, philosophical discussions and other things that would come under that rather horrible umbrella term ‘current affairs’; stubborn and outspoken, I’m not hugely political, and often feel myself assuming the rather non-triumphant role of observer rather than activist when it comes to these issues in real life.

    I’ve never marched for anything, and in my everyday life have been lucky enough to never have experienced first-hand any real sexist or sexual abuse, comments or problems (of which more below).

    I’ve had a great education, got a job, earned my own money, shared a flat on my own terms, and walked around London at night without feeling in any way especially discriminated against or at any disadvantage simply for being a woman (unlike in other countries I’ve visited, namely in India, where I sometimes felt threatened and stared at just for daring to appear on the street ‒ I can only imagine what would happen in other, even more conservative countries).

    Unlike women in other countries or cultures, I’ve not been denied contraception or been sneered at for having sex before marriage; I’ve been given just as good an education and chance at a career as my brother, I’ve never cooked a meal or ironed a shirt that I’ve not wanted to (being tired and wanting to watch the latest episode of Girls doesn’t count), I’ve not been pressured into marriage, or felt forced to have, or give up, a child, felt at any real risk of sexual violence, suffered domestic abuse or felt the glass ceiling pressing down on my head.

    I have barely even been ‘cat-called’ in the street – to which, stupidly and completely absurdly, my initial reaction is to feel offended and convinced of my own unattractiveness as a result, before I remember that such idiocy completely flies in the face of my own more considered convictions that women (and men; everyone) should have the right to walk down a road undisturbed.

    That I’ve not suffered this seems purely a case of luck; I know many of my friends have had explicit comments whispered at them while on public transport, and lewd comments shouted at them humiliatingly across the street. The internet is rife with women speaking out, quite rightly, about the verbal harassment they receive. But personally? It’s never been a big problem, to be honest.

    • On a wider level, compared to many other countries, in Britain we are streaks ahead in terms of legislation regarding women and equality of the sexes.

    Ignoring, for the moment, all the ways in which things still aren’t perfect in the UK, women are – in theory, anyway ‒ able to be educated, to claim the right to live without sexual harassment or fear, not legally able to be forced into marriage; able to have abortions, get free contraception, and entitled to be paid as much as a man doing the same job. Discrimination and lack of opportunity in this country is rife, but arguably far more as a result of socio-economic inequalities than gender ones.

    Of course, for each of those points I could (and probably should) enter into heated debate about why that’s not true, how this state of affairs only applies to white, heterosexual, middle class, privileged women. I could talk about the exceptions; the statistics that claim that these rights are far from universal, and why just because it’s the law, doesn’t mean it actually happens.

    But the fact that these laws and conditions exist, de jure at least, if not de facto, for many, already puts our nation far, far ahead of what women in other countries have to live with (or not, as the case may be). In some ways, women’s positions in this country are far from dire – or at least, legally they have the potential not to be.

    I can barely believe how lucky I am, and yet – if I am so lucky, and living in a country where such laws are in my favour, and where I personally am rarely made to feel threatened or limited because of my gender, then why do I still find myself feeling strongly about ‘women’s issues’, gender politics, and other debates that come under the heading ‘feminism’?

    • Why do I persist in seeing things through that ‘gendered lens’? Well, perhaps because, in reality, most of what I’ve written above is bollocks.
    Feminism people

    Radical, huh?

    While the legal ins and outs of what I’ve written are true, such as, for example, that women have a right to vote, a right to equal pay, and to live without harassment ‒ and that I myself haven’t suffered any real gender inequality ‒ that doesn’t mean that this state of affairs applies to all women, or that I don’t need to care.

    Even though, critics say, many of the key feminist battles have been won, that doesn’t mean that we no longer need to regard society from a feminist viewpoint, or defend the lines along which the original, old battles were fought.

    Women may have won the vote a while back, and bra-burning may (one might argue) belong in the faded days of Germaine Greer’s first-edition The Female Eunuch, but that doesn’t mean that feminist viewpoints aren’t needed. For so many reasons I barely know where to begin – in fact, so many reasons that a website called just that – A Thousand Reasons – was set up to highlight misogyny on the Internet, and, in its own words, to ‘discuss the continuing necessity of feminism’.

    • Because, yes, I realise I may be preaching to the converted here, and saying the obvious. Except, to me, it doesn’t always seem hugely obvious, because – as I’ve said above – I pretty much have never felt side-lined because of my gender.

    Beyond getting irate at some very-slightly off-colour ‘banter’ in my office, I’ve never obviously been at the receiving end of any real discrimination because of my sex. I’m a privileged white girl without much cause for complaint at the moment – certainly not from a gendered point of view, anyway. Lucky bloody me.

    But why, then, do I need to espouse a feminist viewpoint on the world, and get irate about such issues? Hasn’t all the hard work been done for me by women far stronger and more politically engaged than myself?

    • Yes, and yet, understanding one’s own motivations for taking a feminist stand on the world is something that I don’t think people talk about enough.

    It’s not enough to say ‘well, I’m a woman so obviously that’s why.’ It’s not enough to simply jump on the feminist bandwagon and get angry and excited about an issue just because I can. It’s not enough to mindlessly follow something without examining, in some way, why you’re doing so.

    • Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but it is to my serious embarrassment that sometimes I could find myself agreeing, at least from a personal point of view – that on the face of it, ‘the big’ feminist debates don’t really apply to my life, so why, personally, do I care?

    Of course, the answers to these questions have the potential to be as huge as they are debatable. Why, for instance, do we care about others at all? Why should we engage socially or politically in issues that don’t necessarily affect us directly? It’s about why we pay taxes, why we build a civilised society at all.

    This issue is also part of the whole ‘mansplaining’ debate on the Internet, which asks whether people who haven’t experienced prejudice can still own the struggle against it – specifically whether men can really be feminist, or ‘explain’ to women what ‘real feminism is’. Can I, even as a woman, justifiably care about feminism, and identify with its arguments, when I’m not on the receiving end of the worst of it? It’s a thorny question.

    But then, I don’t have to be non-white to understand that racism is completely wrong; I don’t have to be gay to want equal rights for gay people.

    • But all that aside (because this post is long enough as it is, and ‘mansplaining‘ is a huge issue in itself), on this particular issue, for me it’s basically very simple. It’s about appreciating what I (and millions like me) have, and recognising how easily, and apparently without too much fanfare, those gains could be lost.

    It’s about recognising that feminism isn’t just making a lot of noise about ‘women’s issues’, but understanding that it’s a fundamental part of who we are as a society – that not too long ago, women had to leave work when they got married; had to have a man’s permission before opening a bank account; couldn’t control their own fertility and were side-lined and marginalised and controlled as a result.

    I think for me, it basically comes down to the fact that a knowledge and continued debate on women’s rights, what they mean, and instances in which they are not upheld, simply informs my gratitude and understanding of just how privileged I am, but also, by extension, how far there is still to go when it comes to gender equality, and how easily such rights can be subverted.

    It’s only by seeing the ways in which apparent equality is letting other women down, of ways in which legal conditions can be subverted, of examples where woman are NOT given what I could so easily take for granted, of understanding just how vile people can be to each other on the basis of sexuality, sex and gender, and of looking – both historically and currently – of what happens when gender equality is NOT fought for, that I can see how lucky I am.

    And, therefore, in doing so, in my own, tiny way, try and work against prejudices that could flush away everything from which women like me have benefitted. At the risk of sounding like a character in Harry Potter, the phrase ‘constant vigilance!’ comes to mind.

    • Because gender inequality, especially today, when on the surface things look so much better than they historically have been, can be insidious.

    The privileges and rights that women have fought to claim, the moves that have been made against the patriarchy (which, I will add, at the risk of pursuing a positively scarlet herring, can harm men almost as much, if not just as much, as women) sit on a knife edge.

    Those rights could, if we stop caring, fall away in far less time than it took to instate them in the first place. Gender equality is still young. Women everywhere in the UK only got the vote in 1928 – not even a hundred years ago ‒ and other laws are younger still. And it’s hardly necessary for me to say that just because laws change, mindset is a whole other ballgame.

    To name but a few instances from a potential pool of millions, in Ireland, it’s still illegal for women to get abortions. In America, they’re still debating whether access to contraception makes women more promiscuous. They’re still asking whether legalised abortion is OK. They’re still debating the key, seminal issues at the heart of women controlling their own sexuality, of having the right to decide what they do with their own damn bodies. They’re still contemplating voting in someone who would limit women’s rights over all these issues.

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton in makeup-less *shock*

    In this country, the media still print bare breasts on page three of the most-read national newspaper. Hillary Clinton choosing to go without makeup is still news. Most rape cases go unreported and unpunished. Many women do still feel threatened walking in the street. Magazines airbrush, focus on sex, looks, products and advertising more than anything else. Far too many women are still abused in their own homes, get paid less than men, feel like they are valued only for how sexy they are, how slim they are, how glossy; and only see themselves in relation to the men in their lives.

    Women are still, if the media is anything to go by, encouraged to value their looks and reproductive functions over their intellect; even the bloody UN can’t make a video about women going into science without making some highly-questionable, lipstick-and-high-heel-driven, patronising fluff complete with amazed ‘proper’ male scientist going all gaga at the fact that women Can Do Science (read: faff about with test tubes). In China, women are still being forced into having abortions; in countless other countries, they are conversely being forced in childbirth, underage marriage; deprived of education – constrained not just by poverty, or social constraints, but purely and only because of their sex.

    • But, hey, on the surface of it, no, man or woman in the pub, none of this directly affects me.

    I could choose not to take any notice of it, relegate feminism in Britain to a historical footnote, and make use of the legal victories that have been won for me in decades gone past, and stop, as one acquaintance once put it, ‘stamping my foot’ and ‘getting all indignant’ about certain ‘feminist’ issues because it ‘feels good’ and ‘I can’.

    Yes, despite wobbles where my conviction sometimes slips, I am lucky enough to have grown up knowing that basically, I don’t have to be abused in my relationships, pressured into sex, have sex without protection, get paid less than men, feel bad for speaking my mind, or feel subordinate in any way unless I actively choose to. I don’t have to wear high heels, sleep with a man to feel good about myself; I don’t have to look like a model – or like anyone, in fact.

    Actually, I could say, I am one of few around the world who can take privileged comfort in the fact that I can breeze merrily through life, unconstrained, perhaps limited by my own lack of energy, tendency to procrastinate, laziness or lack of focus – anything, in fact ‒ but not, NOT by my gender.

    But knowing just how much other women have been at that receiving end of gender inequality (e.g. not being able to get a conviction for rape, or feeling trapped in an abusive relationship, feeling intimidated in the street on or the Tube, or any other kind of deprivation, discrimination or entrapment, great or small), forces me to appreciate what I have, and understand just how precious it is.

    • For example, yesterday I watched the Mike Leigh film, Vera Drake, for the first time.
    Vera Drake

    Vera Drake, starring Imelda Staunton

    Watching the story ‒ fictionalised though it is ‒ that depicts the life, arrest and conviction of a caring, compassionate, ordinary, community-minded yet ultimately criminal backstreet abortionist in 1950s England, renewed my feminist viewpoint and reminded me why I care.

    Watching how women were repeatedly blamed, and criminalised, for their own sexuality; lampooned socially and legally for the sheer temerity of having sex before marriage, getting pregnant or wanting to control their own fertility; at how not so long ago, women who were raped were seen as having brought it on themselves and utterly responsible for any consequences, reminded me why I see the world in this ‘feminist’ way in the first place.

    Mike Leigh may have made a deeply touching film that tries very hard to avoid judgement on either side – but that doesn’t mean that my own judgement was left in any kind of doubt. The notable absence in the film of any of the fathers of the would-be babies, was striking. But worse was the uncomfortable feeling that so much of the moral and legal condemnation visible in the film is still on the political agenda of most countries in the world today – and, therefore, how easy it could be for that condemnation to return to society.

    • How close I could be to losing all the rights I (and people like me) could so easily take for granted.

    Beyond giving a slightly sexist joke a casual raised eyebrow or giving a steely look to an idiotic joker on the street, I’ve never had to personally test out my feminist convictions. I’ve never had reason to ask for legal aid in a battle fought solely due to my gender or sex, been in a relationship where I’ve felt threatened, or seriously been discriminated socially or professionally for the sole reason that I’m a woman.

    But it’s only by educating myself about the cases where women – both around in the world and in the UK ‒ haven’t had it so good, and the instances in which the law or society has failed them; by understanding the ways in which society, the media, and the law might work against the values that I hold so dear, (including, on what might sound like a more frivolous level, magazines that encourage women to value themselves largely on what they look like and what they consume that month, TV shows and news stories that show women as silly or of value only for their looks or relationships with men, rather than their intellect; political debates that re-hash the meaning of women’s sexuality and sexual rights over and over) that I can truly appreciate the vulnerability of my own fortune.

    • That ‘feminist’ issues don’t seem to hold much real, pressing role in my life is in itself paradoxical – it’s because they’re there that I can ignore them. But it’s at my peril that I forget they exist at all. Feeling in my position shouldn’t be a privilege – it should be a right, for all women, everywhere.

    And until it is, and until there’s no risk of that right ever being taken away, I’ll continue to see the world from a stridently ‘feminist’ viewpoint.

    It’s a slightly longer answer than your mates down the pub might have been expecting, perhaps – but surely one worth saying, nonetheless?

    Ps. I realise this is a sensitive and hugely complex topic. This post is already far too long but I welcome any discussion or debate in the comments if you feel I’ve glossed over something or perhaps need to think about something more. As many wiser than me have said before, just because I write about something doesn’t mean that’s the end of my thoughts on the topic – often it’s actually the beginning. Any abuse will be deleted though, cheers!

    My top feminist blogs and sites (including the fabulous AWOT, obviously!)

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, and see her other witterings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com


  11. SEX FOR EVERYONE

    July 10, 2012 by @NotRollergirl

    Gorma is 9 months pregnant. She was 12 years old when she became pregnant. (photo from Save the Children)

    Oh, sex. You’re everywhere. From first thing in the morning when I check Twitter and retweet someone’s bumming joke, to last thing at night when, if I’m very lucky, I get to get it on. I can spend my day Googling Kate Upton, thinking about Ryan Phillipe, writing about wanking and watching old Benny Hill clips as I whistle along to Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Marvin Gaye. (This isn’t hyperbole, this is how I spend quite a lot of my free time.) I can go on a chemist crawl and by a gross of condoms before teatime with nothing to stop me but my overdraft limit. I can pay a stranger to de-fluff the contents of my knickers and if anything in my pants is giving me cause for concern I can have it looked at, gratis. And those pants might be turquoise satin burlesque-esque giddy knickers, or the stretchy bobbled boy shorts I found in my stocking last Christmas. I love having sex, and I love talking about it, and I think I’ve got a right to do both.

    Last night I attended a dinner hosted by Save The Children and discovered that many women in the world don’t get that right. I heard from the astonishingly brave Aselefe, who, at 17, decided to become a peer educator and spread the word about women’s rights and contraception after her best friend became pregnant and was abandoned by her family and boyfriend. Aselefe called a helpline to find out more about contraception and sexual health, and the operator refused to advise her because she “sounded young”. We heard of girls as young as 12 becoming mothers, who barely knew sex and pregnancy were connected. Girls giving birth whose mothers are in their mid twenties. And girls dying, because your body isn’t ready to support a baby when you’re still a child yourself. And these aren’t women who know they’re ready for sex. In developing countries, sex is often something that just happens to you. Something that has the power to destroy your future, or even kill you.

    On Wednesday 11 July, there will be a Family Planning summit backed by the Gates Foundation, UNFPA, charities, campaigners and attended by governments from across the globe. Potentially, it could save millions of lives. If you think every woman deserves the right to own her own body and control what happens to it – and I hope you do – please sign the petition here and paste this link all over Twitter and Facebook.

    http://givegirlspower.savethechildren.org.uk/action1.html

    Sex is awesome. It can be hot or sweet or filthy or funny, but it should be a force for good. And a happy, worry free sex life should be a right – not a privilege.

    @NotRollergirl is a freelance funnywoman and writerlady. She’s the women’s editor over on Sabotage Times (where she writes a ridiculously popular column on Made in Chelsea), she writes books, and she knows all the words to ABBA’s entire collection. Follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles).


  12. Darn Right, I’m a Feminist!

    June 27, 2012 by tedmcwhirter

    Image from sinninginsuburbia.blogspot.com

     

    Something happened to me recently which got me thinking. A friend of mine came over for a catch up, and as we sat (discussing the breakdown of Johnny Depp’s marriage, if you must know) I took the opportunity to sew a patch into my husband’s work trousers. Each time I looked up from my stitching, I found her looking at me, bemused. At first I thought she was just interested in what I was doing but the longer it went on, the more flustered she became until (as I picked up a sock that needed darning) she blurted out,

    “..and you call yourself a feminist?”

    I was struck dumb, but must have conveyed my confusion through my raised eyebrows because she added,

    “Make him fix his own clothes. You don’t have to do that!”

    Now, there are several things wrong here and I’ll tackle them one by one. Firstly, no – I will not make him fix his own trousers because he can’t sew. In the same way that my husband (a carpenter) would not leave me to build my own extension on our house. I do the sewing because I’m good at it.

    Secondly, (and this is a major one) I like to sew. I find it relaxing. I like the fact that, given a couple of hours, I can make myself a dress or change the length of a skirt. I also love being able to fix things – when my buttons fall off, or hems come down or seams come apart I don’t have to pay anyone to mend them (or, worse, throw the items away). No! I can simply put them back together again. Saving money, recycling and giving my self a nice sense of accomplishment to boot. Brilliant.

    Lastly, (and this is the kicker) no-one is making me do anything. It’s 2012, not 1952 – my marriage is a partnership. I do not have to have dinner on the table when my husband comes home. I do not spend hours slaving over the laundry. My friend had reacted as if I’d whipped out a mangle and sobbed “he won’t let me use the washing machine because I need to learn my place!” (In truth, he wandered into the house with his pants showing through the rip in his trousers and said “bum flap!”). I hadn’t implied that it was a chore or that I was annoyed to be doing it.

    I wondered whether she would have had the same reaction to other household tasks – would sweeping the kitchen floor have resulted in a lecture? Or hanging out the washing? Or fixing my own socks? I think not. What had bothered her was the idea that I was doing housework for my husband. And yet, would she have reacted as negatively had she seen him putting my clothes away? Or shining my shoes? Or darning my socks? No – that would have been seen as kind, caring – as ‘making an effort’. Why does this double-standard still exist?

    The problem seems to be that the term ‘feminism’ is widely misunderstood; many people associating it with a fight for female superiority rather than for a world in which women and men have equal rights and freedoms. The confusion is understandable. Looking at the negative aspects of womanhood is always going to involve comparison with the positive aspects of being a man. The issue becomes a battle of the sexes – which, by its nature, implies that there will be a winner. Any idea of equality falls by the wayside.

    In ‘How to be a Woman’, Caitlin Moran succinctly explains that her idea of feminism is “neither pro-women nor anti-men [but rather] thumbs up for the six billion”. We’re aiming for a system within which we all have a fair deal – not a world in which one sex lords it over the other. What’s not to like? I can darn socks if I want to and so can my husband – equality. If we don’t want to do it we can buy new socks. Brilliant. Of course, I’m simplifying a much bigger issue but the fact remains that for many people my action of sitting mending my husband’s clothes would’ve prompted a similar response.

    So what’s the answer? I don’t know – but here’s what I did. I explained everything I’ve said here to my friend as I finished darning the socks, I gave her my copy of ‘How to be a Woman’ and then I wrote this article. It’s not easy to lecture friends but it is sometimes necessary. Why? because if more of us spread the word then hopefully the need for rants like this will disappear and we can get back to the important task of making things fairer. Simple.

    Alis writes a wonderful blog here – www.alphabetteringmyself.com – based on bettering herself each week via the alphabet. Go check it out and you will understand – it’s very cool. You can also find her work on the HuffPo. She tweets as @tedmcwhirter.