Originally published: 31.12.17
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Content Note for rape
This is a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and the construction of consent in the aftermath of #MeToo.
Lisa Dando recently wrote in the Guardian about the closure of counselling services with histories of abuse, poverty and addiction.
“We supported women with complex needs. What will they do now?”
“One woman told me: “It was great to be in a safe environment and able to say things I wouldn’t normally feel able to voice, and to be heard in a completely non-judgmental way.’’ Another said it “helped to see that I wasn’t the problem. To recognise who I was and who I am. To break free and not be broken. To value myself in my future.””
This reminded me of an article I co-authored in 2011, which was published in Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, Australia.
It seems that women’s services continue to be under threat, and not only in Australia. Sadly this article is as relevant in 2018 as it was in 2011.
MairiVoice (Edit): I am an Australian radical feminist. I have had my blog for over a year now and write mostly about feminist political issues in Australia.I also run a feminist facebook page giving voice to radical feminism by sharing articles and interesting news. I have been a feminist for over 30 years and have been an activist around issues such as child sexual abuse, domestic violence and family law issues. I also love to read women’s books – both fiction and non-fiction – interested in feminist theory – and sometimes write about the books I am reading on my blog
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.”…
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 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 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: …
…. Love Island is a fascinating modern allegory of the battle of the sexes, and anyone still labouring under the misconception that feminism has somehow achieved its goal of liberating women from men’s dominance is, in my opinion, in need of a good sharp dose. On this sunny island, social and sexual relations between men and women as seen and normalised by the wider society are played out in all their horror. Here our social norms as enacted by a group of cookie cuttered out pretty people can be viewed under a highly magnifying glass. What better and more entertaining way in which to witness the sheer contempt in which women are still often held by much of society, and the psychological damage inflicted by the internalisation of this contempt by women themselves.
Most criticism of Love Island has, this year, so far focused on the conduct of Adam Collard. A tall, dark and over confident Geordie with a smooth air of superiority and a penchant for discarding women like used tissues as soon as something else shiny catches his eye, Collard’s callous treatment of fellow contestant Rosie Williams, which included laughing at her distress and disbelief at having been so brutally discarded, and then blaming her for his refusal to treat her with any respect whatsoever, saw chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, issue a warning to young women that behaviour like his could form a pattern of emotional abuse. …
Gappy Tales:Writer, feminist, mother. Likes cake, hates Jeremy Clarkson. These are my principles – if you don’t like them, I have others. @GappyTales or Huff Post
This is the text of a keynote (and the inaugural Lincoln Lecture) delivered at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference in Loughborough on June 12th 2018.
I am speaking today about sexual harassment and violence. It is difficult to speak about sexual harassment and violence; these are traumatic experiences, and survivors are subject to many forms of silencing. This is why ‘speaking out’ is crucial. We speak our truths publicly because problems need to be named, to be dealt with: and putting our trauma ‘out there’ is a way to avoid being consumed by it ‘in here’. But speech in this area is also vexed. Because of where and how we are able to speak our truths, because of how these truths constitute us as subjects and objects of discourse, and because of how our disclosures can be co-opted. We are also caught in a number of binaries and backlashes which position us or which we have to position against. There are binaries between men and women, between perpetrators and victims, which often map directly on to each other. There is a misogynistic, racist backlash from the so-called ‘alt’-right, and on the left what Sara Ahmed calls ‘progressive sexism’, which gives cover to sexual harassment and violence through critiques of neoliberalism and concerns about ‘moral panic.’ This is the context in which I share my thoughts about how sexual harassment and violence are ‘reckoned up’ in institutional and cultural economies. …
Alison Phipps: Genders, bodies, politics
This tweet provoked an avalanche of criticism–directed not to the Globe & Mail‘s new style-rule, but to the arrogance and conceit of Fern Riddell. And as she later told the BBC, she couldn’t help noticing that her critics were mostly men. A lot of men seemed to be outraged by a woman claiming the status of an expert and expecting others to acknowledge her as such. ‘Humility Dr Riddell’, tweeted one. ‘There’s no Ph.D for that’.
But why should women humble themselves when other people are there to do it for them? As I explained in an earlier post, the treatment of women in professional and public settings is demonstrably affected by a ‘gender respect gap’: while this disrespect takes multiple forms, one salient manifestation of it is the withholding of professional and respect titles. It doesn’t just happen in academia: a 2017 study showed that women hospital doctors are less likely than their male counterparts to be referred to by male colleagues with the title ‘Dr’, and in 2016 women lawyers in the US campaigned for the American Bar Association to make the use of endearment terms like ‘honey’ a breach of professional standards. Meanwhile, British school teachers have complained for decades about the convention whereby men are addressed as ‘sir’ while women of all ages get the rather less respectful ‘miss’. …
language: a feminist guide: It does what it says on the tin: a feminist language guide.
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: ….
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.
As you board a plane, it’s not uncommon to scrutinize the size of the seats and wonder where exactly your carry-on bags are supposed to fit. But other than that, we generally feel safe nowadays, having gone through several security screenings and identity checks to board the plane.
Another problem looms, especially for women who fly. Sexual harassment is commonplace on airplanes, with both passengers and flight attendants as targets. And the contained space in which it takes place makes the situation even more violating, with the person making unwanted advances — and the people who could stop it — sitting mere inches away.
What’s Causing Airline Sexual Harassment?
We know that many stories of sexual harassment, both on the ground and in the air, involve alcohol. One woman detailed her own terrifying experience with sexual harassment on a plane, noting just how much the man next to her had been drinking.
She said he downed several beverages quickly, perhaps to deal with a fear of flying. But the alcohol soon gave him the courage to make an advance on her, which started verbally and ended with him leaning in for a kiss. Nearby passengers intervened to stop him. …
This was first published at Feimineach. You can find the full text here.
The title of this post summarizes my thoughts whenever I have a discussion with men who seem to proudly display their ignorance about the constant attacks on women and girls. One should not have to pull heart strings in order for one side to have any feelings or even care about the subject at hand. It never forces men to have empathy for women and girls, it just reinforces the idea that men’s “damaged property” (female loved ones) should be the only reason why they should be against rape.
Snowmobilers are often presented as enjoying the natural beauty of the North. Oh please. Not at the speeds they drive. Not while their exhaust pipes spew fumes into our air. And their engines roar at a volume that must be endured by everyone within five miles. And their tossed beer cans litter the forest until someone comes by and picks up after them.
Jemima (her real name withheld by request) is a 19 year old university student living in Melbourne. At age 10 she saw pornography for the first time. Her life began to unravel, culminating in sexual assault by a group of teen boys when she was 14 and leading to severe mental health problems. I got chatting to Jemima at the recent Justice Conference in Melbourne. Within a few minutes her story poured out and she agreed to allow me to record her experience. Articulate and insightful, Jemima helps us see the way porn exposure so young shaped her view of herself, what she was good for, how she should behave and to understand the long-lasting ramifications nine years later.
Read more ‘I learnt to act like porn stars so boys would like me’ – Jemima tells MTR how her life changed when exposed to porn at 10, by @meltankardreist
First published on The Fifth Column, 2/10/17.
Students, sexual assault survivors and campaigners in the USA are riled up, and rightfully so: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week rescinded Obama-era guidance on universities’ duties to deal with campus sexual assault. But just because there’s a relative lack of public debate on the issue in Britain, doesn’t mean it’s not happening or that British universities and colleges are dealing well with campus sexual assault.
Let’s take a look at the legal situation in the USA first, then compare it to the UK.
A new angel has opened his wings!”
“We need more men like Hugh in this world today.”
These passionate declarations from his Facebook page are among numerous accolades for the pornmerchant Hugh Hefner, who recently died aged 91.
A charming trendsetter, brave visionary, legend, pioneer, icon, folk hero – the glorification is seemingly endless.
Big names joined the love-in. Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted in praise: “Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace.”
Read more The House that Hef Built: Hugh Hefner’s Dark Legacy, by @meltankardreist
Whenever sexual harassment is discussed, someone will always pipe up “but they don’t mind it if the bloke’s good-looking!” as if that proves – what? That sexual harassment is a deeply unfair concept, designed to unjustly prevent unattractive men from exercising their natural right to grope their female colleagues and friends whenever they want? That women are inconsistent and “want it both ways”, i.e.: want to have friendships and love affairs and personal relationships with some members of the opposite sex, without being obliged to extend their personal relationships to every single other member of the opposite sex who might fancy a relationship with them – just like men do?
How galling must it be, to be treated with civility and politeness every day, instead of being treated to what you are entitled to: bantering, flirting, joshing around and the occasional knee-stroke during the working day. How outrageous is it, that a woman might connect with another male colleague more than she does with you, finding him wittier, more congenial and more interesting than you and therefore treating him with a level of friendliness and companionship that will never be extended to you because … well, er, just because she doesn’t like you as much.
Read more Yes we do want it both ways. Because we’re human. Just like men, by @Herbeatittude
A flurry of internet indignation from rapey types has greeted the announcement of new guidelines for dealing with rape. New Guidelines
The guidelines advise that rape suspects who claim that the sex they had with a woman alleging rape was consensual, should be asked questions about how they ensured that the person alleging rape was actually consenting to that sex. Just as a man accused of burglary who said “no, guv, I didn’t do it” would be asked further questions to find out if he might be lying, a man accused of rape will be treated in exactly the same way.
This is considered extremely unfair by some sections of the internet, who appear to believe that rape suspects should be treated differently from any other crime suspect. “Off you go then mate” is apparently the correct response, followed by a no-crime report. By and large that’s exactly how it’s always been done and is one of the reasons our rape conviction rate has stood at round about 6-7% for the last few years: because police don’t bother to ask further questions in the way they do of other crime suspects. Now the DPP have issued guidelines to ensure that the police at least go through the basics of crime investigation when an allegation of rape is made, you would think that it means the presumption of innocence has been dumped.
Read more Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude
“Hugh Hefner is no ‘hero’ – he built an empire on misogyny”, by Claire Heuchan
Reading all of the glowing tributes to Hugh Hefner, I wonder if some sort of collective amnesia has struck. It is a sad thing when any life comes to an end, particularly for grieving family and friends. And yet so many celebrations of the Playboy founder’s work gloss over the sexism that was the foundation of Hefner’s company. Hugh Hefner profited from misogyny – he built an empire on it. At the time of his death, Hefner’s net worth was estimated to be £37 million – money that was made through the commodification of women’s bodies, through presenting women’s bodies as sexual objects that existed for men’s consumption.
Hefner was not, as some claim, a pioneer of the sexual revolution. There is nothing revolutionary about men exploiting women for their own sexual gratification or financial gain – it has been happening for hundreds of years, and is called patriarchy. Hefner has even been embraced as an LGBT ally for featuring a transgender model in Playboy back in 1991. If Hefner was an ally, the word is meaningless. Objectifying a transwoman does not pave the road to equality for anyone. …
Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.
It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians. …
When I heard Hugh Hefner had died, I wished I believed in hell, by Julie Bindel
On hearing that the pimp and pornographer Hugh Hefner had died this morning, I wished I believed in hell.
“The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous,” said the sadistic pimp in 2010. “Women are sex objects… It’s the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go ‘round. That’s why women wear lipstick and short skirts.”
Hefner was responsible for turning porn into an industry. As Gail Dines writes in her searing expose of the porn industry, he took it from the back street to Wall Street and, thanks in large part to him, it is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. Hefner operated in a country I live in, a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech. …
September has been a difficult month in terms of losses to feminism. First we saw the death of Kate Millett, the radical second-wave author of Sexual Politics. Now it’s been the turn of Hugh Hefner, the Playboy publisher who once described himself as “a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism”.
Obviously it would be difficult to say which of the two fought the hardest for women. Would it be Millett, who sought to liberate us from the bounds of patriarchy, or Hefner, who sought to free us from body hair, inner lives and clothes? An impossible call to make. Still, if it came down to the question of whose brand of feminism has won the day, there’s an easy answer to that.
Hefner feminism is all around us. It’s the feminism of pre-teen girls seeking designer vaginas; of men who rent out vaginas and wombs; of women who diet, shave, starve and never say no. We’re not free from oppression, but oppression is no longer stigmatised. Isn’t that enough? …
1. “Everyone thinks that the infamous metal gate was meant to keep people out. But I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.” —Holly Madison in her book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny
2. “When you’re here you have to be in by the 9 p.m. curfew. You’re not allowed to invite any friends up to see you.” —Carla Howe, The Mirror …
So it’s happened. Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States. He ran on a white supremacist ticket, and multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault failed to stop him taking the White House. There were reports of racist, homophobic and misogynistic hate crimes within hours of the result being declared. David Duke called the night one of the ‘most exciting’ of his life, and the Vice-President of France’s Front National declared: ‘their world is collapsing – ours is being built’. The Israeli Right took the opportunity to announce that the era of a Palestinian state is over. This only months after the British public voted to leave the European Union, ushering in a hard right agenda which ensures that the US and UK will (in Sarah Palin’s words) be ‘hooking up’ during the Trump administration.
These events are not surprising, even as they are shocking. Both Brexit and the election of Trump are national outpourings of long-held resentments, and a validation of the racist violences on which both the UK and US are built. Voters want to ‘take their countries back’ from people of colour, migrants, and Muslims. Entwined with this is suspicion and hatred of other Others: trans people, queers, disabled people and feminists. This ‘whitelash’ against globalisation and the very meagre gains which have been made in race equality targets all other social justice movements along with it. Under the pretext of ‘anti-establishment’ sentiment and suspicion of liberal political elites, white supremacists are trying to wrest back full control. There is no greater sense of victimhood than when entitlements and privileges are perceived to have been lost.
Read more The feminist classroom as ‘safe space’ after Brexit and Trump by @alisonphipps
Dear Alan Carr,
You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.
See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.
Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified – and hidden in plain sight.
… Responses to men’s violence against women which focus almost exclusively on ‘healthy relationships’, supporting victim-survivors and reforming the criminal justice system simply do not go far enough. Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men. The objectification of women, the sex trade, socially constructed gender, unequal pay, unequal distribution of caring responsibility are all simultaneously symptomatic of structural inequality whilst maintaining a conducive context for men’s violence against women. Feminists know this and have been telling us for decades.
One of feminism’s important achievements is getting men’s violence against women into the mainstream and onto policy agendas. One of the threats to these achievements is that those with power take the concepts, and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them. State initiatives which are not nested within policies on equality between women and men will fail to reduce men’s violence against women. Failing to even name the agent – men’s use of violence – is failure at the first hurdle. …