Whose Afraid of Female Masculinity? | finnmackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 20.08.18

In November 2017 Ruth Hunt, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, the national LGBT human rights organisation in the UK, stated in Huffington Post that butch lesbians are all woman. Rightly defending trans rights, she did so with reference to the differences between trans people and butch lesbians like her.

“I have never – regardless of the way I present who I am – questioned my gender identity. Dressing‘like a boy’, wearing a suit, having short hair, is my way of being a woman” (Hunt, 2017).

Skip forward to the tinderbox Summer of 2018 and everyone is in love with comedian Hannah Gadsby and her outstanding show ‘Nanette’, screened on Netflix and quickly becoming something of a sensation. Part way through her show, Gadsby recalls appeals from audience members who contacted her to urge that she declare herself to be transgender; she recounts that this was news to her. Clarifying that she is not trans, she explains that she is a different kind of woman, and seen as such, often to the detriment of her own personal safety as many lesbians will unfortunately recognise.  …

 

The full article is available here.

Finn Mackay: My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community.  @Finn_Mackay

What we’re reading this week, by @wordspinster @sianushka @slutocracy @SarahGraham7

The kids are alright , by Deborah Cameron at Language: A Feminist Guide

When I was a kid, I sometimes encountered adults who disapproved of the way I’ve just used the word ‘kid’. ‘A kid’, they would say, repressively, ‘is a baby goat’. They weren’t really objecting to the substitution of animal for human vocabulary. They just thought ‘kid’ was vulgar, a sign that the person who uttered it was uneducated and unwashed. They were using a spurious argument about language to proclaim their superiority to the common herd. They were also asserting their power, as adults, to hold young people to their standards of acceptable speech.

I was reminded of this last week when I read an article in Teen Vogue about the importance of using gender-neutral language. Clearly, I am not in the target audience for this publication, being neither a teen nor in any way voguish, and I can’t say I’ve ever looked at it before. But my interest in this particular piece was piqued after a number of people shared it on Twitter and commented on the absurdity of some of the terms it suggested—like ‘pibling’ and ‘nibling’ as gender-neutral substitutes for ‘uncle/aunt’ and ‘nephew/niece’. …

The obsession with “Boris’s blonde” has gone beyond public interest into misogyny, by Sian Norris for New Statesman

There were two not entirely unexpected things in the news this weekend.

The first was that Boris Johnson, the man who once boasted “I haven’t had to have a wank for 20 years”, has had a series of affairs during his 25-year marriage to lawyer Marina Wheeler.

The second was the obsessive and often sexist coverage that accompanied the revelations.

Perhaps the most egregious example was a line from Tim Shipman’s and Caroline Wheeler’s piece in the Sunday Times – photographed, highlighted, and tweeted under the caption “cracking quote” by BBC political correspondent Chris Mason – in which an unnamed ally referred to the skeletons in Johnson’s cupboard as having “skin and big tits […] walking around the West End.”…

It Was A Shadow Hanging Over My Whole Pregnancy’ – We Need To Talk About The C-Section Postcode Lottery, by Sarah Graham

Giving birth by caesarean section has long been seen as the “too posh to push” option for expectant mums. Either dismissed as “the easy way out” (which it isn’t; it’s major surgery!), or criticised for not being the “natural” or “maternal” way of bringing your child into the world, the C-section generally gets a pretty bad rap.

But for some women and their babies it is the best option – either in the form of an emergency caesarean following labour complications, or as a birth plan in its own right. Sadly, women pursuing the latter continue to face stigma and obstacles at what’s already a challenging and emotionally charged time. …

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America Proves Right Wingers Are Ignorant About The Political Left, at Slutocracy

Sacha Baron Cohen has duped lots of people on his TV show Who Is America? where, Borat-style, he plays different characters and fools his interviewees into reacting to those characters. He’s tricked lefties, he’s tricked righties. He’s tricked ordinary Joes and lawmakers, celebrities and folks working out their payroll. Baron Cohen isn’t targeting any particular group. But something surprising emerged from the very first episode: right-wingers fell for his lefty character far harder than lefties fell for his right wing character.

Baron Cohen’s Professor Nira Cain N’Degeocello character is the epitome of the right-wingers’ idea of a leftard snowflake: he apologises for being a white male, is obsessed with gender equality, immaturely emotional about Trump’s presidency, frets about accidentally engaging in cultural appropriation, and is judgemental towards Trump supporters while acting like he’s “healing the divide.” He uses words like “triggered” out of context, rendering them meaningless. N’Degeocello stretches sentences to breaking point to avoid mentioning gender, for example when asked if his partner Naomi is a woman, he responds that she “has a round vagina…she has nipples but they are attached to swollen mammaries” when even the most dedicated leftist could have stated that Naomi was born female, is a cisgendered woman or has XX chromosomes. But perhaps an extreme view of what lefties are like is unsurprising for right-wingers who live in a right-wing bubble. What is most surprising is that right-wingers seem to horribly misunderstand what the left stands for- to the extent that it’s easy to see why these misconceptions would lead them to choose right wing attitudes over left wing ones. …

Finn Mackay’s What’s Feminist About Equality for TEDx

Kate Manne’s Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny and Citation Politics

Cross-posted from: Toda historia es contemporánea
Originally published: 08.08.18

Kate Manne’s recent book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford University Press, 2018), discusses the concept of misogyny and its relationship to sexism. Her basic premise rejects the dictionary definition of misogyny as the expression of an emotion -ie. the “hatred of women”- in favour of a definition which classes misogyny as an action: the punishment of women for not conforming to patriarchal norms. Similarly, she rejects the correlation of sexism with misogyny, arguing that sexism should be better understood as the justification and rationalisation of a “patriarchal social order”. In this way, sexism is expressed by arguing that women act in a certain way because they are women and justifies sexual discrimination via science. Misogyny is, on the other hand, “the system which polices and enforces” (via verbal and physical violence) women’s obedience to the sexist norms. With these redefinitions, Manne argues that patriarchy is a system that guarantees male supremacy via both misogyny and sexism. This system requires the collusion of both men and women, and as such, can never be conceived as exclusively male.

In order to defend her hypothesis, Manne makes the following argument: in patriarchal ideology, the gender binary dictates that men and women have different emotional, social and cultural roles. The male is the principal actor, around which narrations are formed and whose point of view is always prioritised. The female role is that of an eternal supporting actress, whose job is “to give to him, not to ask, and expected to feel indebted and grateful, rather than indebted.” This role is most obvious “with respect to characteristically moral good: attention, care, sympathy, respect, admiration, and nurturing.” As a result, men feel entitled to women’s emotional labour: …

 

This article is available at Toda historia es contemporánea

Hiding Under the Bed is not the Answer is the blog of historian of Mexican politics Cath Andrews who also writes for e-feminist and Toda historia es contemporánea. She tweets at @andrews_cath

What we’re reading this week from: @rae_ritchie_ @sianushka @wordspinster & @MelTankardReist ‏

When boys struggle at A-level, it’s a crisis. When girls do, it’s celebrated, by Sian Norris

It’s that time of year again, when papers post pictures of jumping girls while middle-aged white male celebrities pompously explain how failing their exams never did them any harm. It’s A-level results day!

This year, the Daily Mail greeted the results with a resounding “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” headline (it was later updated). For the second year in a row, male students outperformed girls. The Guardianmeanwhile, reported “the proportion of students in England gaining C grades or above in A-levels fell back this year, driven by a relatively weaker performance among girls”.

This shift towards improved boys’ results has come after a change to A-level courses was introduced. The new structure places more emphasis on final exams, with less coursework and fewer practical assessments. A 2013 study by the Independent Schools Association, as reported by the Telegraph, claimed that “a shift towards more end-of-course exams would […] have a disproportionate impact on girls who appear to favour coursework-style tasks”. …

Love Between Black Girls Has the Power to Save in Night Comes On, by Claire Heuchan

Angel is a girl with a mission. On her eighteenth birthday, she’s released from juvie after a year’s imprisonment. She leaves with two objectives. One: to find a gun. Two: to find out where her father lives. Newcomer Dominique Fishback gives a captivating performance in Night Comes On, the flashes of vulnerability in Angel making it impossible to look away from the devastating story. Angel’s mother was murdered by her father, who has been living free while his two daughters were shunted from foster home to foster home.

The driving force behind the film is Angel’s need to avenge her mother’s death. In her single-minded pursuit of these goals, it becomes clear that Angel is as determined as she is loyal to the memory of her mother. Only one thing has the power to shift Angel’s focus from revenge: her ten-year-old sister, Abby. …

The illusion of inclusion, by @wordspinster

Feminists (and other progressive types) talk a lot about ‘inclusive language’, and it’s generally assumed that we’re in favour of it. But what exactly is it? What makes a word or an expression ‘inclusive’? And are feminists’ purposes always best served by inclusive terms?

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, feminists criticising conventional usage rarely talked about ‘inclusive’ (or its antonym, ‘exclusionary’) language: we talked much more about ‘sexist’ and ‘non-sexist’ language. As the issue became more mainstream, other terms came into use which were seen as less overtly political and thus more palatable to people of moderate liberal opinions. Many included the word ‘gender’: it became common for institutions to formulate policies and guidelines about ‘gender equal’, ‘gender free’ or ‘gender fair’ language.

The concept of ‘inclusive language’ has become popular more recently, and it represents a further move away from the original feminist critique of sexism. ‘Inclusiveness’ is much more general concept: guidelines on ‘inclusive language’ may address concerns about the linguistic representation not only of women, but also of other marginalised groups like ethnic minorities, disabled people and LGBT people. And while most feminists would probably see this broadening as a good thing in principle, some (myself included) might argue that in defining the problem as ‘inclusion versus exclusion’ we have both narrowed the scope of the earlier analysis of sexism and lost some of its more radical insights. …

How Pinterest has changed my life (or at least been super useful for work), by @rae_ritchie_

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WIN: DFO pulls down ‘Starving for Fashion’ billboard after protest initiated by 13 year old, by Melinda Tankard Reist

It’s so good to be able to share another win with supporters. This one thanks to 13-year-old Melbourne teen Naomi, who spotted this billboard advertising the DFO at Morabbin Airport in Melbourne

Naomi told her mother, long time supporter Gloria Anderson, who texted me the images and her daughter’s comments.

“I knew it was wrong because it was promoting anorexia, sending a message that you need to be skinny to be fashionable, which is obviously not true.”

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Anne Lister and a Theology of Naming Lesbians., by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 03.08.18

There are many things about the current kerfuffle over Anne Lister that make me reach for a facepalm gif, but it’s one particular comment that tipped me over into writing this blog post.

In case you’ve never heard of her (and if so, you are missing out), Anne Lister was a Yorkshirewoman, born in 1791. She inherited the late-medieval house at Shibden Hall, where her manner of dress and her habit of seducing women earned the nickname ‘gentleman Jack’. Lister kept a diary, in code, which tells us a lot about her sexual exploits, but she was also devoutly Christian and in 1834 she organised a wedding ceremony to her partner Ann Walker, in Holy Trinity church in Goodramgate, York. Delightfully, Holy Trinity recently agreed to put up a blue plaque in honour of Lister and her marriage, which is both charming and rather daringly polemical, given the Church of England’s current stance on gay marriage. Here it is:

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You can find the full article here. 

Reading Medieval Books! :I rant about women in literature and history, occasionally pausing for breath to be snarky about right-wing misogynists. I promise pretty pictures of manuscripts and a cavalier attitude to sentence structure. @LucyAllenFWR

Raising Boys: The Feminist Way ,by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay

This is a brief practical guide to raising humane children, male and female, daughters and sons. The ideas contained here are not new, they are available in many other places, and I cannot take credit for them; they have been said before in parenting guides, feminist theory on girlhood, feminist theory on masculinities, as well as in attachment parenting and gentle parenting manuals for example. In many ways these suggestions are instinctive and common sense. The problem is, however, that our world is so rigidly divided along gender lines, and our brains so thoroughly washed in either pink or blue, that parents and carers have learnt not to trust their instincts and to assume instead that baby humans must be treated remarkably differently based on their sex. The following is not really a feminist guide at all, and it is not solely about sons. There are 24 suggestions in the list, I’m sure you could add more. I have included some examples or case-studies to show possible practical implementation of these suggestions.

A bit about me: I am not a parenting expert. But, I do have a professional background in youth and advice work. I set up and managed award winning domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying programmes across all children and young people’s settings (including Early Years) for a London Local Education Authority – Islington – and I advised on national anti-bullying policy and safeguarding. I have delivered training to teachers and whole-school staff, social workers, nurses and police. I am now an academic researcher in the area of feminist theory and activism, with a PhD from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol. I have been involved in feminist activism for over twenty years; I founded the London Feminist Network in 2004 and revived the London Reclaim the Night march. I currently do a lot of research on masculinities and I work with several men’s organisations. I am a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and author of ‘Radical Feminism: Activism in Movement’ published by Palgrave.

I only have one child, my son is toddler age. I am a terribly impatient person and therefore parenting is often an effort for me. As is the case for all women, childrearing does not come naturally to me, though it may feel instinctive to some; parenting skills are however, unfortunately, not genetic nor predestined by sex. My partner and I are trying to raise our child as best we can in the world as it is; acknowledging that the world as it is, is imperfect, and so are we. While I know the world is imperfect, I do not have to accept that, nor do I have to remain silent about it and I hope to teach my child the same. I hope to raise him actively against much of the culture that he will be increasingly immersed in, because much of the culture tells him lies about boys and men and the biggest lie of all is that his future is written in stone. Boys will not be boys, they will be adults, carers, fathers, lovers, friends, colleagues; they will be human, like anyone else, and humane, if only we let them be. …

You can read the full article here.

My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community.  @Finn_Mackay

Great feminist & womanist writing to start the week: via @ClaireShrugged @LucyFWR @SianFergs

As part of our Changing Things Up! drive, we are changing the ‘What we’ reading this week. From now on, we’re no longer collating writing by women who aren’t members under heading “What we’re reading”. Instead, every Monday we will be publishing writing by our members entitled “Great feminist & womanist writing to start the week”.

We Need to Talk About Misogyny and the LGBT Community’s Erasure of Black Lesbian History, by Claire Heuchan 

Finding the stories of our Black lesbian foremothers isn’t always easy. That’s not because there were none. Despite what the history books say, Black lesbian women have been around for hundreds of years, living lives filled with the extraordinary and the everyday. Women like Stormé DeLarverie have led revolutions. And yet Black lesbian stories are hard to find.

Those who have traditionally held the power to decide whose stories get to be recorded as history have been white, male, and invested in the social order of women living lives centered around men: the system of heteropatriarchy. For the most part, those historians considered the experiences and inner-lives of Black women beneath their notice. Close reflections on the average Black woman’s life at any point in the last few hundred years would also have held the risk of making it that much harder to sustain the myth that Black people weren’t really human, bringing home the ugly truths of white supremacy.

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay, by Sian Ferguson 

In a world where female characters are often one-dimensional props that add to a narrative centered around male characters, complex female characters are pretty revolutionary. What’s even more revolutionary is when these female characters aren’t super palatable and likable.

‘Dislikeable’ female characters force us to ask ourselves why we don’t like them. More often than not, dislikeable female characters unpack potentially problematic beliefs in ourselves. This introspection is valuable because it makes us realize whether we have attitudes or actions that we need to change. …

What does one word matter? Doctoral women on twitter via @LucyAllenFWR

A few days ago Dr Fern Riddell, a historian (who, like me, works on sex and gender), was involved in a nasty twitter conversation with a man who poured scorn on her expertise and – gasp! – what he considered to be her arrogance in defending her qualifications. In response to her refusal to be patronised, storms of women academics have been changing their twitter handles to include ‘Dr’. The negative responses are predictable. What does one word matter? What do these women think they’re proving to anyone? Who cares how you talk about yourself? And so on.

For a lot of women academics I know, Riddell’s is a familiar story. Outside academia, ‘Dr’ is a man. Despite the fact that increasing numbers of women are going into medicine, ‘Dr’ is also a medic. Academic woman come in for a double dose of slapdown for advertising their qualifications as a result, and the scaremongering hits in at full force. Use ‘Dr’ on your passport? You’ll endanger the lives of millions as you are forced, coerced, into performing an emergency tracheostomy in a Boeing 747, since your doctorate almost certainly required the removal of your common sense and your ability to say ‘no, I’m not a medic’. Other academics – I leave you to guess their typical gender – will tell you condescendingly that they have no need to use ‘Dr’ with their students. I prefer to be Dave. They respect me just the same, and by the way, did you see how my teaching evaluations didn’t contain a single comment on my clothing or my tits? Amazing. A woman who pretends to academic expertise is presumed to be overreaching or posturing, and if she points to her qualifications, she’s insecurely boasting. …

Family carers are doing more care, at Women’s Views on the News, 

The current social care system is putting pressure on families to step in and provide care for relatives where the state does not.

Such family care is an essential element of the current overall system of social care yet it is not often put at the centre of conversation about the care system.

A report, Caring for Carers, published by the Social Market Foundation on 16 July 2018, estimates that there are 7.6 million family carers over the age of 16 in the UK – and that the majority of family carers are women.

The report’s authors, Kathryn Petrie and James Kirkup, found that 16 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men provide family care.

There is a clear gender difference in family care: six in ten (59 per cent) carers are women. Over the last decade, the share of women providing care has increased by 11 per cent. The share of men providing care has increased by 3 per cent….

Male and female power, and ‘structural analysis’ – avoiding the MRA contagion, at Liberation is Life

Cross-posted from: Liberation is Life
Originally published: 01.04.18

There’s an MRA-style position too beloved of economistic socialists — it would be wrong to call them marxists — which treats women’s unsympathetic wordstowards males as being on a par with male-pattern control over women and children, and all the violence and abuse which that entails.

This economism acts as though a sufficient anti-capitalist critique can be accomplished by ignoring capital’s support for male power over women and children, and by blaming DV and rape mainly on ‘poverty and cutbacks’. By avoiding any mention of gendered socialisation and how it is actively enforced, especially via society’s main institutions, from birth.

Real marxists reject the claim that this is any kind of competent ‘structural analysis’.

The failure to get this right makes it impossible to ‘structurally critique’, or understand the inherently oppressive nature of, a key institution of capitalism — the capitalist (male-led) family unit: ….

Read Here

Liberation is Life : Renewing a feminism that’s scientific and fighting (marxist) rather than individualist/consumerist. That opposes neoliberal reasoning-via-identity arguments along the lines of ‘I identify as feminist/marxist/radical and therefore my position is feminist/marxist/radical and I have no need to justify it’. This leads only to sectarianism – to the abandonment of solidarity with women who ‘identify’ differently – and to the dumbing-down of feminism.

Figure Skating: A Very Gendered Thing, at Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist

Cross-posted from: Hell Yeah, I'm a Feminist

Many call figure skating a sissy sport, a feminine thing.  To the contrary, and to my unrelenting irritation, it is a very gender-inclusive sport, a sport of both sexes, a sport where men must be men and women must be, well, girls.

Consider the costumes.  The men usually wear ordinary long pants and a more or less ordinary shirt.  The women, on the other hand, with such consistency I suspect an actual rule, show their legs – their whole legs – and as much of their upper body as they can get away with.  And they always wear that cutesy short little girl skirt.  What is it with that?  Or they wear a negligée.  (Ah.  It’s the standard bipolar turn-on for sick men: sexy-child.)  (Why is child sexy to men?  Because child guarantees power over.  And that’s what sex is to men – power, not pleasure.  Or rather, the power is the pleasure.  Probably because they don’t recognize the responsibility of power.)  (So even in a sport without frequent legs-wide-apart positions, the woman’s costume would be questionable.  But I believe it is actually a rule – the female skaters must show leg.  Like most rules women are expected to follow, this one surely was made by men, for men.  As if women exist for men’s viewing pleasure.)

 


Read more Figure Skating: A Very Gendered Thing, at Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist

Womanhood: On Sex, Gender Roles, and Self-Identification, by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 09.02.18

A (not so) brief foreword: this essay was originally commissioned by an independent publisher looking to release an anthology on gender. In 2017 they asked if I’d be interested in writing an essay on womanhood. I was a little surprised, the publisher being explicitly queer and me being a radical feminist, but ultimately pleased: their goal was to publish a collection with plural perspectives on gender, and I believe wholeheartedly that having the space for plural perspectives on any issue is essential for healthy, open public discourse. I knew that my lesbian feminist essay would probably be in a minority standpoint, and felt comfortable with it being published alongside contradictory perspectives. Given the extreme polarity of gender discourse, which results in a painful stalemate between queer activists and radical feminists, it was encouraging to think we had reached a point where multiple views could be held and explored together.

So I wrote the essay, made the requested edits, and produced a final draft with which the publisher and I were both delighted. Their words: “We’re really happy with the edits you’ve done and the areas you’ve developed on upon our request. You did a splendid job refining the essay.” However, certain people objected to the inclusion of my essay before having read it. Some early readers gave the feedback that they were unhappy to find a perspective that they were not expecting, and alarmed that I had connected my personal experience of gender as a woman to the wider sociopolitical context we inhabit. Backlash escalated to the point that the publishing house faced the risk of having their business undermined and their debut collection jeopardised.

They gave me the option of writing another essay for the gender anthology, or having this essay published in a future collection. I declined both choices, as neither felt right – fortunately, there are more projects on my horizon. That being said I have great sympathy for the publisher’s position, and find it regrettable that their bold and brilliant venture should be compromised by the very people it was designed to support. Furthermore, I wish the publisher every success with this project, and all future endeavours. As for the essay, controversial even before being read, I have instead decided to publish it here as the seventh part of the series on sex, gender, and sexuality. It is, in my opinion, a good essay and deserves to see the light of day. 
Read more Womanhood: On Sex, Gender Roles, and Self-Identification, by @ClaireShrugged

THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING IS MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER, by @histoftech

Cross-posted from: White Heat
Originally published: 11.08.17

I recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post using history to debunk the infamous “Google Memo” and its contention that women are somehow less innately suited to technical pursuits. Truth is, for a long time women were predominant in the field of computing because technical work wasn’t seen as important. Their disappearance has everything to do with structural discrimination and little to do with “innate” differences.

I was also very glad to get a few mentions in The Guardian. See this (delightfully acerbic) article about memogate in general, and this one that’s specifically about the history of computing’s role in helping us better understand power and (the lack of) diversity in our technological landscape in the present.


Read more THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING IS MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER, by @histoftech

Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

Cross-posted from: The Arctic Feminist
Originally published: 17.12.17

Mothers Day, several years ago, I went with a friend to feed the ducks (and possibly nutria) at a local park. It was supposed to be a pleasant excursion to take my friend’s mind off of troubles with her own kids and to see some animals. It ended up being a sad and clarifying outing.

The nutria did not come out which was unfortunate as they’re really incredible creatures to interact with. We were flooded with ducks and geese grabbing our treats. After we ran out of goodies for the birds we sat talking and let everyone get back to their routines. It didn’t take long before we witnessed a horrific scene on the water of several drakes gang-raping a duck, her screaming out in pain and fear. We shouted at them and threw rocks into the water in the hopes of scaring them off but could only do so much to frighten them. They did let up soon after they were interrupted by us but it was too late, she was already hurt and violated.
Read more Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

Female socialisation to ‘care’, and the political impacts on proletarian feminism, at Liberation is Life

Cross-posted from: Liberation is Life
Originally published: 16.10.17

Because of our socialised belief that it is women’s responsibility to put our own needs behind those of others, women in the feminist movement also often expect its other members to deprioritise the cause and their own needs, in order to provide for theirs.

This common expectation on the part of feminist women that we should be ‘agreeable’ and ‘caring’ (at least in a performative sense, by ensuring that those around us perceive us as such) has wide-ranging ramifications, such as women desiring the cessation of both political debate and even criticism of individuals, because such criticism interferes with one’s personal and social comfort levels.

These expectations tend to work ‘down’ social hierarchies, in that more bourgeois ‘feminists’ are less accustomed to prioritising others and less accustomed to the pressure to agree with what other women say, although they may expect more proletarianised women to agree with them.

 

You can read the full text here.

socialisation not to disagree

 

 

Liberation is Life : Renewing a feminism that’s scientific and fighting (marxist) rather than individualist/consumerist. That opposes neoliberal reasoning-via-identity arguments along the lines of ‘I identify as feminist/marxist/radical and therefore my position is feminist/marxist/radical and I have no need to justify it’. This leads only to sectarianism – to the abandonment of solidarity with women who ‘identify’ differently – and to the dumbing-down of feminism.

 

Feminism 101, by @alisonphipps

I have recently produced two introductory undergraduate lectures on the subject of feminism: the first tackling discussions around universalism and intersectionality, and the second applying an intersectional analysis to the topic of gender, power and violence. These lectures are free for academic colleagues and others to download, adapt and use as they see fit. Both should be seen as introductory rather than comprehensive, and I’m sure there is plenty I have missed! Consider this a work in progress and a small contribution to the rich array of gender-related teaching resources which exist online.

Feminism 101: Universalism and IScreen Shot 2018-01-20 at 18.47.50ntersectionality (link here)

 

Feminism 101: Gender, Power and Violence (link here)

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This lecture attempts to construct an intersectional analysis of gender, power and violence. It asks questions about: how acts, threats and allegations of violence both reflect and reproduce gendered and intersecting power relations; who is more likely to be able to claim state protection and who is more frequently a focus of (violent) state governance; how our definitions of violence and victimhood are shaped by intersectional identities and oppressions; and, how these dynamics enter the political and geopolitical spheres. Click the image above to download the Prezi; click here for the reading list.

I hope you find these resources useful – if so, do recommend them to colleagues.

 

Alison Phipps : I am currently Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex University, and this site houses links to my academic and non-academic writing, and resources I have produced.

Inspiring boys to break the mould by @MogPlus

Originally published: 27.07.17

It is very important to me that both my children grow up knowing that they do not have to change who they are, that they do not need to limit themselves just because society is so attached to restrictive gender roles.

There are loads of incredible female role models for little girls – loads of women who refuse to conform to gender stereotypes. What I have struggle to find is men who do the same.


Read more Inspiring boys to break the mould by @MogPlus

Top Ten Most Read Articles of 2017

How do they know who to kill?, by @marstrina  

“However. Here’s what I think anyone pushing the “sex is a social construct and therefore it is up to me to decide if my reproductive organs are male or female” has an absolute moral duty to account for: if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill? This is not state mandated, low-resolution social engineering: each individual family, each individual father, and sometimes mother, has made a decision to abort this baby, but not that baby. Each individual village midwife or grandmother or mother in law in a village somewhere has decided to take this child and leave them by the side of the road to die, but not that child. These people are not scientists and they are certainly not feminists. They didn’t get their decisions out of a Janice Raymond book, so give me a fucking break, use your educated-beyond-its-capability brain for a second and think about it: if sex doesn’t really exist, how do they know who to kill?”

 

The Thing about Toilets, at Not the News in Brief 

“The thing about toilets is that it’s not just about toilets. It’s about ALL the public spaces which could present a risk to women and/or children because of factors such as confined space, being locked in, restricted escape routes and being either explicitly or potentially in a state of partial/complete undress. These spaces include public toilets (no, not your private one at home, stupid), changing rooms in shops, gymns, leisure centres etc, prisons, rape crisis centres, dormitories, shelters and more.”

 

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist.  by @ClaireShrugged

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.”

 

‘Men, shut up for your rights!’, by @wordspinster

“If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.

There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.

The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.

The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.

His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to be a damning report on its corporate culture. At a meeting called to discuss the report, Arianna Huffington (who at the time was Uber’s only female director) cited research which suggested that putting one woman on a board increased the likelihood that more women would join. At which point Bonderman interjected: ‘actually what it shows is that it’s likely to be more talking’.

 

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism, by Sister Hex 

“The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.”

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, by @GappyTales ‏ 

… At the root of women’s oppression lies an unassailable biological reality. Women are denied reproductive rights, paid less than men for doing the same job, and carry out the vast bulk of unpaid labour in the home, for no other reason than we are biologically female. As a woman I don’t get to opt out of this reality. I don’t, for instance, get to say to my employer that today I’m identifying as male so will be expecting a pay rise commensurate with that fact. Gender on the other hand is imposed and performative, so I can present as feminine in make up and heels, or I can choose to shave my head and wear masculine clothing. Either way my biology and the discrimination I suffer as a result of it remains a fact, not a privilege. …”

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales 

“We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 

1. Woman: An adult human female.

2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilised by male gametes.

3. Gender: The state of being male or female, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behaviour.

So a knowable truth gleaned from these definitions would be that sex is a biological reality, and gender a more malleable social construct. Let’s consider then, the medical condition of gender dysphoria, experienced by individuals as a distressing mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Let’s imagine it on a spectrum. How many people do we know with no mismatch at all between their biological sex and the stereotypically gendered traits and behaviours associated with it? The truth is very few humans fit perfectly into pink and blue boxes meaning, surely, that we can dispense with any ideas of an existing gender binary. ”

 

Dress Rules for Women over 40 by @JumpMag   

“Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.”

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice 

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  …

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster 

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 11.48.11

In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender? …

 

Binary or Spectrum, Gender is a Hierarchy, by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 05.09.17

A brief foreword: this is the fifth essay in my series on sex, gender, and sexuality. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 are available here on Sister Outrider. With this essay, I challenge the notion that gender can be repurposed as anything other than a hierarchy. This one is dedicated to E, a stellar lesbian and feminist.


 

“It is impossible to name and act against oppression if there are no nameable oppressors.” – Mary Daly

What is Gender?

Gender is a fiction created by patriarchy, a hierarchy imposed by men to ensure their dominance over women. The idea of a gender binary was established in order to justify the subordination of women by positioning our oppression by men as a natural state of affairs, the result of how characteristics innately held by men and women manifest. Framing gender as natural not only serves to depoliticise the hierarchy, but uses essentialism in order to convince women that radical resistance to gender – the means of our oppression – is futile. Hopelessness breeds apathy, which undermines social change more effectively than any overt challenge. If abolishing gender (and therefore dismantling patriarchy) is an unobtainable goal, women have no choice but to accept our status as second-class citizens of the world. To treat gender as inherent is to accept a patriarchal blueprint for the design of society.

gender imageGender is a hierarchy that enables men to be dominant and conditions women into subservience. As gender is a fundamental element of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks, 1984) it is particularly disconcerting to see elements of queer discourse argue that gender is not only innately held but sacrosanct. Far from being a radical alternative to the status quo, the project of “queering” gender only serves to replicate the standards set by patriarchy through its essentialism. A queer understanding of gender does not challenge patriarchy in any meaningful way – rather than encouraging people to resist the standards set by patriarchy, it offers them a way to embrace it. Queer politics have not challenged traditional gender roles so much as breathed fresh life into them – therein lies the danger. 
Read more Binary or Spectrum, Gender is a Hierarchy, by @ClaireShrugged

Lessons from Russia: Why We Can’t Trust Men to Protect Women’s Rights

Cross-posted from: Woman as Subject
Originally published: 03.03.17

The 90s were a time of unbridled optimism. Fukuyama was so certain of the victory of Western liberal democracy that he excitedly declared that  were witnessing the ‘End of History’, leaving us all to sit back smugly on our laurels, put our enlightened feet up and carry on  reading the Guardian in the knowledge that all would be well. Society decided that we were living in a post-feminist world – (we’re so equal now, why do we need all those silly old ideals?) and we could concentrate on the important things like consumerism and working and not questioning the logic of endless growth through the magic of the free market. Times were good.


Read more Lessons from Russia: Why We Can’t Trust Men to Protect Women’s Rights

Language and talking at cross purposes

Cross-posted from: MOG Plus
Originally published: 19.07.17

Language is a funny beast. It’s fascinating, but also rarely straightforward. Online conversation can make for some interesting clashes in language: for example, I used to be a member of a forum that talked primarily about vintage fashion. Occasionally there’d be a thread where a member would say they wanted to find somewhere they could buy a vintage “jumper”. The rest of the thread would then become confusing, as the UK members recommended places that sold knitwear and US members hunted for a pinafore dress.

The nature of the internet means you often end up talking to people from places where words don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Even different regions can have massive variations – I’ve seen a fair few jovial arguments over what to call a bread roll. Different age groups can see similar differences in language; different social groups, too.

Now these are minor disagreements with no major consequences. But not all language differences can be so amusing: some can cause massive arguments, with high emotions and a lot of anger.

 


Read more Language and talking at cross purposes

The Olympics, Maria Miller, and sleeping under bridges, by @marstrina

Cross-posted from: Not a zero sum game
Originally published: 28.01.16
Let me just say at the outset: I don’t really care about sports all that much. I don’t watch it, much less play it. The only reason I’m even talking about it now is because it’s a hugely important aspect of modern culture, in terms of both the passion that individual people invest in it and the multi-billion part it plays in the global economy. But as a person, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I didn’t even watch the Olympics when they were in he UK, meaning in my timezone and not at some outlandish hour in the middle of the night, so. Having cleared up any confusion about my Olympic aspirations, let’s have a look at what equality in sports looks like for trans men and trans women. 

 

The International Olympic Committee recently released the guidelines from its November “Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism“, in which it asserts a commitment to “ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition”. This is a pretty decent goal in and of itself, taken in isolation. It’s not clear to me why the commission is especially concerned with trans athletes; even at the largest estimates, they constitute a tiny proportion of the population. The crossover between people who are trans and people who are good enough to try for the Olympic games must be infinitesimal indeed; but OK, it’s the trendy minority right now, and the Caster Semenya case is still ringing in everyone’s ears, so fair enough.


Read more The Olympics, Maria Miller, and sleeping under bridges, by @marstrina