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
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:
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
…. 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.
“What I hope for is a world filled with richness, texture, depth and meaning. I want diversity with all its surprises and variety. I want an epistemological multiversity which values the context and real-life experiences of people. I want a world in which relationship is important, and reciprocity is central to social interaction. I want a world which can survive sustainably for at least 40,000 years. I want a wild politics”.
In the 1970s, feminists had analysed rape as an act of male power, raised awareness about its prevalence and deconstructed the myths that surrounded it. However, it was only later that literature about other forms of male sexual violence began to emerge. SSV focused on a wide range of manifestations: it was one of two ground-breaking books published in 1988 which forced childhood sexual abuse onto the public agenda (the other was an American self-help book, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis’s The Courage to Heal).
I have written previously about Maria Mies’ thesis on how the success of the accumulation of capitalism has been dependent on patriarchy and the oppression and exploitation of women.
In Chapter 3 (‘Colonization and Housewifization’) she outlined how wealth and growth in Western countries was based on exploitation of the colonies, where countries, dominated by colonial powers became the producers of consumer goods for rich countries. Rather than meeting their own needs, production in developing countries was promoted to meet the demands of markets in developed countries.
“Production and consumption are now divided by the world market to an unprecedented degree”. (p.114)
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
My eldest daughter’s first year of secondary school included a residential outdoor education trip. She had already been on one in primary school at a similar centre so I wasn’t going to bother attending the parent’s information meeting. Until she came home with not only a list of things required to take but skills needed to be allowed on the trip, including:
As with all comprehensive schools in Scotland, integration for students with additional support needs was policy (although these children never get the actual level of support required due to systemic underfunding). The school also had a unit attached for students with autism who may find a full day too difficult. I assumed that my daughter had collected the wrong form and that the list was to double check children’s support needs in order to ensure the appropriate level of staffing to ensure that all children could attend. I went along to the information meeting assuming it would be a waste of my time (since I’d sat through a similar one the year before).
Mez McConnell is the Director of 20 Schemes, a church planting organisation seeking to “see Scotland’s housing schemes transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ through the planting of gospel-preaching churches”. His passion for and commitment to seeing lives transformed by Jesus is extremely inspiring. 20 Schemes is working with some of the most marginalised people in society. This is also a mission I am committed to. I come from a working class background, have been a teenage mother and single parent. I have lived in deprived areas almost my whole life and have worked with many women who have been deeply wounded by men and by poverty. My husband and I are now raising a little boy from a severely deprived background having spent a year trying to support his mum to be able to become a parent again. As such I hope that this blog is read in light of my great respect for 20 Schemes mission and passion.
Mez published a blog on the 20 Schemes website earlier today entitled “Why My First Church Hire Was A Woman, And Yours Should Be Too”. At first glance, this blog seems to be incredibly pro-women, challenging male-led churches to value the contribution women make to the life of the church. Not only that, he is insisting women should be paid for doing this, shifting away from the idea that women’s labour should be offered free.
“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 …
Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’
On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it. Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.
The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina] regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.
Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation. Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.
For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor. The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.
On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.
Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA, a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim
No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.
[i] Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.
I’ve not felt this working class in a long time. For working class, read inferior/not up to standard/not our sort – delete as applicable.
Applying for a funded PhD is a fairly painful process at the best of times. Even applying for one that you self-fund is a trial. But without your own secret stash of cash, it can be a valuable lesson in class politics.
Class politics. You know, the social class system that doesn’t exist anymore because the Tories got rid of it and made us all equal? Or maybe it was New Labour. I forget now. I was probably cleaning toilets or doing some woman’s ironing for a shilling or something working class like that at the time. Busy making myself equal.
Anyway, why should applying for a PhD have anything to do with class politics I hear you ask.
Mek a brew, duck, an ah’ll tell ya..
Read more Academia and Class Politics, by @RevoltingWoman
“A woman without paint is like food without salt.”
This quote, written by comedy playwright Titus Plautus sometime between 254-184 B.C, at first glance appears to be an archaic quip, unlikely to be at all relevant in our modern world. Written by a playwright whose work was overwhelmingly concerned with men sowing their wild oats, perhaps a bit of sexist, Roman “bantz” is to be expected, despite the fact that Shakespeare is said to have been heavily influenced by his work. His point isn’t terribly subtle; that a bare-faced woman without makeup was somehow incomplete, perhaps a bit bland and unappetising. There’s also the crude comparison being made between women and food; women were a pleasure in life, existing only for the consumption and delectation of men, and therefore they had to be as palatable as possible. Still; good job we’re past all that nonsense nowadays, right?
Read more Painted Little Princesses – A post about the sexualisation of young girls, by @jaynemanfredi
In the last week, I got my first introduction to Jon Jorgenson after stumbling across his video “Who You Are: A Message to all Women” after it found its way into my Twitter feed. The video is well on its way to having 6 million views. Jorgenson is a Christian spoken word poet and although this video’s title is aimed at women, the video is set in a lecture hall and seems to be seeking an audience of younger women and girls.
A white man telling girls who they are didn’t seem like a particularly liberatory model. So I decided to have a watch. With emotive music and short dramatic sentences, the video is designed to create a specific emotional response. He tells girls they’re smart and precious and funny and insists we have a responsibility to set free the “world changing woman” within ourselves. Incidentally the video is entirely produced by men. So he doesn’t think women are actually smart enough to be involved in creating his videos with him.
After moaning about the video on Twitter, I was informed that he has also created one for men. So I had a watch of “Who You Are: A Message to all Men”, it has close to 2 million views. The thing that is MOST fascinating is comparing the words of the videos (and though I don’t have time to delve into them, also the tone and body language within them and soundtrack lyrics behind them). The subtly (or not so subtly) different language devices within stories that are broadly the same. The overarching narrative of both videos are:
It might seem strange to apply a real world principle, like privilege, to a fictional character. But I think it can be quite interesting to consider it in this manner, as it has the potential benefit of allowing a degree of distance and objectivity.
The reason I’ve chosen to do this is partly because I’m a little bit excited about the Wonder Woman film, but also because she is a character who is raised in a radically different environment to the one she ends up in.
For those who don’t already know, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince is born and raised on the island Themyscira, previously titled Paradise Island. This is an island populated solely by women who have no experience of life with men, and therefore exist entirely outside of the patriachy. (If you wanted to read a book that Paradise Island was likely based on I can highly recommend Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
On Themyscira no woman has been socialised to believe that there are women’s roles and men’s roles, as women are required to do all roles through necessity. As such they are unlikely to have been taught that women have to fit into a narrow personality type, or only be interested in selected hobbies, or any of the other demands that are placed on women in our society.
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.
Read more Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice
On Saturday January 21st the Women’s March on Washington took place in order to protest the potential effects the election of president Donald Trump would have on women’s rights in the USA. Conceived of by women, organised by women, networked and shared by women and overwhelmingly attended by women, the Women’s March became a chance for women worldwide to join in solidarity with their American sisters, and march for women’s rights in towns and cities all over the world. And this is what women did, in large numbers and in many places.
It is quite clear from the pictures that this was a women’s event, though it was by no means exclusionary – anyone could attend, but the focus was on women. In the UK for example there were many feminist and women’s groups represented:
Read more The Women’s March and the Erasure of Women by @helensaxby11