The “feminism Google Alert” blogaround!

April 5, 2009

To provide myself with ample blog fodder, I maintain a google alert for the word “feminism,” but I’ve been putting off, y’know, actually blogging any of it. So! I present to you: posts about feminism!

First, the angry-making category (also known as the Darth Vader NOOOOs):

Anyone for a pink fairy cake? Be a goddess but don’t quit your day job.

Then a couple of weeks ago The Courier-Mail declared the rise of the young domestic goddess. “Housewives are back and baking, reclaiming the kitchen and returning to the ways of their grandmothers before them,” the paper, unencumbered by statistics, reported.

Ha! This looks like a good start! (emphasis mine). One of the things that really stood out to be in Faludi’s Backlash was the prevalence of articles reporting on “trends” that were, in fact, not trends at all, but wishful thinking. No surprise that it’s happening again! But wait… what’s this? An endorsement of this “trend”?

…I am glad we are moving beyond the drudgery mantra, where you are letting the sisterhood down if you speak about housework without using the word mindless and moaning about wet towels left on the floor. Was there ever anything modern and revolutionary about women volunteering to be martyrs then complaining endlessly about it?

Geez, misrepresentation, much?

In an article provocatively entitled “Women’s Liberation Through Housework”, Rena Corey wrote about how, growing up in the 1970s, she learned to view women who cared about housework with condescension. “A lot of girls in my generation took to heart this message of liberation from the perceived drudgery of housework and grew up to have careers that our mothers never even dreamed of. But apparently, even with the monetary and psychic rewards of paying jobs, we still yearn for that cozy, clean nest,” she wrote.

NOOOO! (Emphasis mine, again.) I promise you guys, I have absolutely no yearning to clean my kitchen.

Rethinking Feminism.

Rarely a good thing in a mainstream newspaper, but let’s see how it goes.

Media assault on feminism has now a reached a record “high”…

Yes…

…sadly those who support the movement have been caught up in their own web to take notice.

…NO!

Feminists chose their battle with haste. They jumped into the abortion debate with so much passion that other important issues were completely neglected. Work-life balance, affordable childcare, health, education, employment, violence against women-issues of importance to today’s women do not seem to be a priority. As a result, young women do not see the feminist movement as something for them to be part of. They see it as a fistfight between the pro-choice and pro-life groups. In short, religious right has a serious advantage.

NOOOOO! Seriously, what the hell? Feminists don’t blog about work-life balance, affordable childcare, health, education, employment, or violence against women? Who the hell has this reporter been talking to?

The no-casual-sex challenge: would you do it?

Yet despite how much feminism hoopla exists around the subject, and no matter how many times we are told that women needn’t be afraid of putting themselves out there if the chemistry is right, the lighting is good and he paid for her dinner (even if it is the first date, the first encounter or with a complete stranger), there are unfortunately some grave emotional consequences …

This is all thanks to a magical (yet detrimental) little hormone that gets released into our bodies when women do indeed do the dirty with a bloke that she mightn’t even have feelings for until the fateful night. It’s called oxytocin – otherwise known as “the cuddle hormone”. The way it works is this: even if she’s not that into him to begin with, she’ll inevitably start to have strong sentimental feelings towards the bloke she’s just bonked thanks to the surge of hormones racing in her blood and affecting her brain.

As former groupie Dawn Eden wrote in the Times Online while expounding on the subject: “Women are built for bonding. We are vessels and we seek to be filled. For that reason, however much we try and convince ourselves that it isn’t so, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved, that the act is part of a bigger picture that we are loved for our whole selves not just our bodies.”

I would rant about this, if only I could stop projectile-vomiting. At least it’s horrific from start to finish– no awkward questions about how to categorize it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been overwhelmed by the oxytocin released when I was messing around with Mr. Experiment With Bisexuality and I guess I have to go ask him to marry me now, or something. My “cuddle hormones” demand it.

——

Some in-between articles:

1960s pioneer Steinem: Every woman stands for feminist movement.

Don’t call her an icon of feminism or the instantly recognizable face of women’s liberation. Don’t even call her Ms. Steinem. Just call her Gloria.

Can you think of anything less feminist than insisting that Gloria Steinem be referred to be first name only, rather than by Ms. Steinem, the title she specifically invented so that women could be addressed respectfully? Augh! The article isn’t the worst of the lot, at least, since much of it is simply quotes from Ms. Steinem; those are good. Everything else, not so much.

Common Cents: Chivalry? A sandwich isn’t going to make itself.

Whenever the demon of nostalgia rears its nauseating head, it’s only a matter of time before someone points out “chivalry is dead.”

The next time this happens, stop whatever you’re doing, look them in the eye and say “good riddance.”

Traditional wisdom tells us to not speak ill of the deceased, but traditional wisdom is exactly what I’m speaking ill of.

Yeah! I like this guy! He’s a good ally!

Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I’ll play the doorstop.

If anyone — regardless of sex — carries something heavy, I might take a second out of my day to help.

Some doors are more easily opened from one direction or another, and I might give a well-timed nudge when a stranger is on the wrong end of hydraulics.

To be clear, I do these things, not because I have to, but because I want to.

Yeah! Chivalry sucks, but basic politeness is fine.

And occasionally if I’m on my way to class — and an especially good-looking female follows — I’ll snap the door shut behind me and sing, “fatty, fatty, two by four, can’t get through the schoolhouse door.”

Not because I have to, but because I want to.

Huh? What? I’m actually sincerely baffled here. How does that make any sense?

Gentlemen, the next time you sense a girl wants you to take the check, lean back in your seat and pre-emptively thank her for treating you.

Have fun with it.

Wait a second… are you a jerk after all?

I don’t have time to split ponytails over which side of the sidewalk to walk on. If we go out to dinner, we’re splitting the bill.

If that makes me less attractive, then those unique, entitled snowflakes can all run back to their fathers.

The world has changed.

Adapt, or worthy males will select someone else.

It’s only natural.

Oh. Huh. You are a jerk after all. How disappointing.

Is Rihanna a product of feminism, or a victim of it?

This is a bad question to be asking. I am not sanguine.

Some critics don’t blame Brown, or Rihanna, but the culture of feminism. “We’ve so confused ourselves that now many teenagers in Boston are excusing Chris Brown. Why wouldn’t they?” writes National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez. “He and Rihanna are equal, and we expect no more from men — in fact, we’ve conditioned a generation or two now to expect less.”

Is Rihanna the product of feminism, or a victim of it? RedBlueAmerica columnists Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk weigh in.

Bluuurgh. How is it possible that “men and women are equal” but “we expect less from men”?! Doublethink FTW! But let’s check out those two columnists:

Clearly, something is wrong with the culture when young people say that the young woman had it coming. There can be no doubt, however, that feminism’s futile effort to deny the differences between the sexes has had consequences.

Among those consequences is the widely accepted belief that girls can and should be a sexually aggressive (i.e. promiscuous) as boys. Another is the popular idea, born out by a national illegitimacy rate approaching 40 percent, that fathers aren’t necessary. Yet another is the trend among a subset of women to leave their husbands for other women.

I AM THROWING UP IN MY MOUTH RIGHT NOW, OH MY GOD.

Why is this article in the “in-between” section rather than the “angry-making” section? Well, it’s because our second columnist is a lot less of a raging douchebag than the first:

I don’t know why those Boston teens blame Rihanna for her beating. I know they’re wrong. And I know that feminists — informed by feminism — are the first to say so.

…Feminism showed us the beginning of a way out. It insisted that abuse victims not be blamed for violence done to them. It insisted that “no means no.” It insisted that a woman doesn’t give up her rights to safety and dignity once she signs a marriage license. And it insisted, most importantly, that women are not secondary, inferior beings. That last assertion, in particular, seems an obvious truth — and yet it has set off two generations of howling outrage from those who see the empowerment of women as the neutering of men. That anger, in turn, has been channeled into a bizarre effort to blame all of society’s ills on feminism.

I’m glad they included this dissenting view in the post itself, because otherwise I’m not sure I could have survived all the concentrated assholamine. (Check that link out too, by the way; it goes to I Blame the Patriarchy, an excellent antidote to antifeminism.)

——

Then, some stuff by actual feminists! So we can end on a positive note. 🙂

Forget feminism, films are still a male domain.

It has always been an unwritten rule in the film industry, both in Mumbai and the South, that when it came to the box office it was only the hero who mattered. If the film was a hit, none of the credit went to the heroine. While the actor dominated the film, actresses were expected to be content with a role that comprised of six to seven scenes with a few songs thrown in. To add insult to misery, heroines were also handicapped with a short career, — they had a career span of five to eight years when they could enjoy being at the top of their game — after which it was presumed they were over the hill, or were married with children. Of course, none of this applied to our heroes who, despite being married and having children —or for that matter — being on the wrong side of 40, continued to enjoy a career which spanned 20 to 30 years.

It’s fascinating (if sad) to get a take on the Indian film industry, and to see that Hollywood actually compares favorably some places. Feminism! We need you!

Islamic feminists distinguish Islam from Muslims.

Anyone attempting to take stock of the position of women in the Muslim world cannot help but be confused. One finds stories in the media all the time about injustices committed against Muslim women, such as “honour” killings, child marriages and discriminatory legal judgments in matters of divorce, custody and inheritance.

On the other hand, one also comes across stories about the remarkable strides made by Muslim women in education, career development and political activism in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Morocco and Turkey.

How can we make sense of such a dichotomous picture?

The answer is simple: by distinguishing the religion of Islam from the Muslims who practice it.

Those who study the Qur’an know that Islam elevated the rights of women beyond anything known in the pre-Islamic world. In fact, in the seventh century Muslim women were granted rights not granted to European women until the 19th century, such as property ownership, inheritance and divorce.

That said, Muslims who codified the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) into Islamic law did not succeed in expunging the patriarchy of the pre-Islamic world from their practices.

This distinction between the faith and the various manifestations of its practice is a subtle but extremely important one.

This is one of the more serious posts I’m linking to today. Read it. It’s good.

Grrl Style: Feminism — JK!

I have to confess, when I saw only the first line of this in my RSS reader, I was sure it would enrage me. Rarely am I so happy to be wrong.

I am so over feminism. I mean, honestly, who was I kidding with all that “women and men are equals” bullshit?

Thankfully, I’ve finally come out of my bra-burnin’ college phase and into a new realization: that women are, in fact, the weaker sex.

I have no idea who this gal is, but I love her.

History is the proof: Out of all of the United States presidents, how many have been women? None. Coincidence? I think not.

Girls are simply too fucking crazy and hormonal even to vote, let alone govern. To quote the great Brooke Hogan ruminating on Hillary Clinton’s ludicrous presidential campaign, “I think it’s kinda crazy that a woman is running, because I think that women deal with a lot of emotions and menopause and PMS and stuff.

“Like, I’m so moody all the time, I know I couldn’t be able to run a country, ’cause I’d be crying one day and yelling at people the next day, ya know?”

Hey! Whiny privileged college dudes! This is what satire looks like!

——

So there we have it! Two thousand, three hundred and eighty-three words on THE STATE OF FEMINISM TODAY. Wasn’t it a fun ride?

I only made it through, like, a third of the posts I planned to look at it, but whatever! Plenty of time to come back for seconds tomorrow!

If you’ve got any more links, leave ’em in the comments!

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Quick Hit: The Meaning of Consent

March 25, 2009

Living in a rape culture as we do, one commonly hears all sorts of justification around talk about consent. Accusations of rape are met with drawn out discussions about whether or not she really consented, which is kind of patronizing, when you think about it. I mean, if she had really consented, then there wouldn’t likely be a trial, would there? How many times, when people say to the police that they were mugged, or that their car was stolen, is it said that they really probably consented to giving money/lending their vehicle? But in a rape culture, it’s all about proving she consented. Prostituted women and girls “consent.” Women in pronography “consent.” My friend “consented” when her abusive husband made her have sex even when she didn’t want to. Laurelin in the rain points out just how inadequate the idea of consent really is when she writes that “Consent implies nothing more than agreement to undergo.” I couldn’t decide which was the best part to quote because the whole thing is really good. Here’s a quick taste:

Consent is nothing more than ‘yes’. Yes may mean yes, but it doesn’t mean anything else.

When we speak of female sexuality and agency, we need to care about a hell of a lot more than the ‘yes’. Not just the ‘yes’, not just the ‘consent’. Not the signing of the form. Not the grudging agreement, the inability- for whatever reason, economic, psychological, physical- to say no. Not the yes of exhaustion, the yes of emotional manipulation, the yes of poverty.

There are numerous reasons that one may consent. There are numerous reasons one may say ‘yes’ to things we do not want to do. Consent in itself is not enough. Consent can be given in the direst of circumstances. Consent can be given because the other options are worse.

Read the whole thing. Here’s the link again. Hey, it’s even a short post, but oh does it say a lot.


Women in Iraq: CNN versus BBC

March 7, 2009

I’ve subscribed to a number of feeds from CNN and from the BBC, and I noticed almost right away they they both had written stories in response to an Oxfam report on Iraqi women. The difference in coverage intrigues me, though I can’t yet put my finger on why. Maybe as I get used to following these news sources, the differences will become clearer.

From CNN, we have Study: Iraqi widows struggle in new roles as breadwinners.

Story Highlights

  • An estimated 740,000 widows struggle in new roles as heads of house, survey says
  • Many women don’t have daily access to water and cannot send children to school
  • More than 40 percent of respondents said security situation worsened last year
  • Report urges Iraq to invest in essential social welfare services

From the BBC, we have The shame of Iraq’s pariah widows. They don’t give handy distillations of the stories, but this one focuses much more on the widows, and the specific hardships they face. The story is also advertised on the site as “Widows’ woe: Suicide vest or sex work? Fate of Iraq’s greiving women.” It highlights the fact that many widows are forced by their circumstances into sex work– night clubs (and “night clubs”) are growing in numbers, and about 40% of prostitutes in iraq are widows.

However, CNN doesn’t mention the increase in sex work at all, or the increased tendency towards suicide. It breathes not a word of either fate, instead repeating several times that women are struggling to gain access to electricity, water, and education for their children.

At first, that seemed like an odd omission to me. Why, if they had both read the same report, had the journalists come away with such different impressions? Well, I took a look at the full report, and it looks like the BBC must have been doing some independent research as well. The Oxfam report is broken fown into several sections, all of which focus on things like water, electricity, povert, and education. If sex work and suicide are mentioned, they are hiding in the body of the text, not given an independent section.

I think it’s most likely, then, that the BBC did do some indepentent reporting, but it’s muddling my opinion of these pieces as a set. I confess, dear reader, that I began this post intending to say mean and nasty things about CNN for ignoring women’s suffering! But now I’m not sure.

Why did the BBC go looking for the story it did? On the one hand, I want to be impressed by their go-getting reporting. Yes!, I want to say, ask women what their lives are like, what they need! Tell their stories! But on the other hand, something about the addition of the sex work angle seems off to me, titillating, maybe; I mean, it’s a serious story, and one worth telling, but it wasn’t part of the original report. Is it a failure of the original report, to ask all the relevant questions? Or reporters focusing on what they think is the “worst” part of the story?

I’m really not sure. Probably there isn’t any simple “this article is good, this article is bad” statement to be made. I expected it to be more straightforward (I only allotted myself 20 minutes to run off a rant!) but I guess life gets complicated like that.

What do you think?


More Thoughts on Yoko Ono’s Cut Pieces

December 17, 2008

I’ve been thinking about the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, and about the IM discussion that eloriane and I shared with you earlier. One of the pieces that stood out for us was Yoko Ono’s Cut Pieces. If you like, you can find it on youtube, but take a note of the comments – so many people really just don’t get it. We got it. And yet we were still having such a hard time articulating it. I would be interested in knowing what Ono was hoping to illustrate with that piece. The only thing I’ve read so far was that it was her “angry phase.” No doubt. What that piece exhibited makes me angry as well.

I had been talking about this video with my coworkers and one of them articulated a part of what we had been struggling with. The last man to cut at her clothing, you’ll recall, went above and beyond what anyone else had done (and with a grin) and cut away nearly all of the upper half of her clothing. My coworker had suggested that beyond wanting to participate in some kind of modern performance piece, he had wanted to subjugate her, and did, by cutting and cutting and cutting. Overall, the video was a powerful statement about female vulnerability and violence, and its partner subjugation, as well as the objectification of women. Well, really, all of that is about subjugation. It was also a comment on how far some people are willing to go when given permission. So many levels!

One of the things eloriane and I had discussed was this subtext of threat that men embody, consciously or no, willingly or no. I think a small part of it is the sexual dimorphism of humans in general; men are, most of the time, larger than most women. In the post-revolution society this might be irrelevant. However, currently coupling with this (made possible because of this?) is the power differential between men and women in society. Men dominate every social, legal, political, religious and artistic institution. But it is also how much violent crime is gendered. Statistically, men account for 97% of all sexual assault perpetrators (FBI) and 89% of all murderers (Bureau of Justice). Now, I don’t believe for one second that this is biologically based. In fact, I get really annoyed at these biological/evolutionary excuses that people come with to explain these facts. I mean really, if males are just that biologically more prone to rape and other forms of violence then we really should be giving them mellowing drugs or hindering their movement in some form. But no one would agree with that. And if you point out how men, if they are intrinsically more dangerous then they should be more controlled, then the excuses about men-as-a-class’s violent behaviour becomes about individuals rather than men as a group.

To recap: men are mostly larger than women. Men are responsible for 89 and 97% of all murders and sexual crimes. Here’s another statistic: 73% of women who are raped are attacked by men they know (Dept of Justice). In Canada, in the 80’s, approximately 80% of women who were murdered were killed by their former or current male sexual partner. Intimate partner violence in Thailand is the leading cause of death for females between the ages of 15 and 24 (millenniumproject.org). Murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in America (now.org). Worldwide, violence is a major cause of death and disability in European women between the ages of 15 and 44, occurring more frequently than that caused by war, malaria or car accidents(UN Development Fund for Women). More than 80% of the 3/4 of a million people enslaved in the sex trafficking trade are women and men are overwhelmingly the “consumers” (millenniumproject.org). Again, I do not believe that the reasons for this are biological in nature. I suspect a host of complicated and interweaving reasons, but the primary ones being masculinity as perceived in society being about being domineering and pimp-like towards women, and male supremacy in general.

There’s also this feeling that men can do to women what they want and women really have no means of stopping it, either individually when it’s happening, or culturally as a whole. Looking at the above statistics this isn’t just a feeling. We are constantly told, not always in so many words, that we need a man to protect us from other men. But who is going to protect us from the man we’re with? A number of years ago there was a mass outbreak of sexual assault and harassment in New York one summer day. Women went up to the police to ask for help and they did nothing. Gangs of men were hanging out in the park and sexually assaulting women as they walked by. Who stopped them? The men the women were with? Were they afraid also? The police didn’t stop them. Men took pictures of the events. For the police? Or to watch later?

We know as women – we know how little we are protected. How little we are believed. We know who has the power in society. And so do men, consciously or no (the unconscious awareness would be your male privilege). Many men might be appalled by the behaviour of all these other men in New York that day. Many men are pro-feminist, or at least try to be. I know many of those men. Many men will protest that they don’t hate women and don’t think of women as inferior. But did they laugh when that character in XXX called to the women saying “bitches, come!”? Do they laugh when sexist jokes are made about Sarah Palin? Do they watch porn? Do they tell you you’re being oversensitive when you try to talk to them about sexism? You might argue that there is a world of difference between laughing at a sexist joke and committing mass sexual assault in Central Park, and while this is obviously true it’s also all of a piece. They are on the same continuum of subjugation of women.

Feminists are often accused of hating men, and some might accuse me of being mysandrist in what I’m saying. But calling a group of people to account for their actions is not exhibiting hatred of them. Describing what so many members of a class of people do to another class of people is not “reverse sexism.” Telling the truth about what life is like for women is not hating on men. I’ve had people say to me, after I’ve talked about what men as a class do, how society is structured, that I “must really hate men.” It’s always confused me. It seems like such a non sequitur. “buuh. What?” I sputter back. I’ve just described what’s going on and I haven’t said anything about how I feel about it. It’s as if they think I’m making it up because I hate men, the way bigots will make shit up about people of colour, or immigrants.

But I’m not making this up. These are verifiable, well researched statistics. The statistics of the gender make-up of sexual abusers comes from the FBI. Hardly a bastion of radical feminism. So much sociological research has gone on in the last 30 years from all sorts of people that it’s a given, now, that we live in a male supremist society. Even my Sociology 101 textbook recognized the ground-breaking work done by feminists and feminism. In fact, it broke sociology down into two basic types: functionalism and critical perspectives. Their examples of critical perspectives were feminism and marxism. Ha! We’re mainstream, yo. And yet so often, that fact is ignored.