50 billion shades of feminism

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 06.07.13

The brutal gang-rape that took place on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 galvanized feminists both in India and around the world. Among them there were differing views on what this horrific incident meant and what should be done about it; but those differences did not stop women from taking united action. Rahila Gupta argues that if we keep our larger goals in sight, while also acknowledging that different contexts call for different political responses, the many shades of feminism can merge into one strong, vibrant colour*.  

It’s become fashionable, after the meteoric rise of that mediocre book, to refer to 50 shades of everything. When it’s applied to feminism, however, I worry that it underlines our divisions whilst appearing to celebrate our diversity. At the level of discussion, it’s important to tease out our differences; but at the level of action, we’re trying to build bridges and coalitions by keeping the bigger goals in sight.

Shades of opinion are not just about women squabbling among themselves about the best way forward, but about different contexts giving rise to different demands. With that in mind, I want to talk about the brutal gang rape on a bus of a 23 year-old woman who was left for dead in Delhi last December. Different shades of opinion emerged in the solidarity actions that took place in the UK, but they did not prevent a common platform of action.
Read more 50 billion shades of feminism

Meritocracy, the enlightened west and other myths about women in politics by @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 16.01.17

It is interesting, that, in discussions about gender equality, “merit” only comes up when we are speaking about women taking up positions that are traditionally male. Nobody questions whether it is meritocratic that, say, prostitution is a predominantly female profession, or that a disproportionate amount of women work in underpaid caring jobs. Similarly, to imagine that competence alone accounts for male dominance in politics is a fantasy. Merit, from Latin meritaremeans “to earn”, and if any group in society has earned a fair chance to shape it, it is women. This is what my latest piece for the Guardian, there titled “On parliamentary equality the UK is 48th. It could learn from No 1: Rwanda” and shared below, is about. 
Read more Meritocracy, the enlightened west and other myths about women in politics by @MsAfropolitan

The Women’s March Washington: The Speeches by Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Angela Davis’s Women’s March Speech via @ElleMagazine

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.” …

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Gloria Steinem’s Historic Women’s March Speech  via @MarieClaire

“Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?

Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.

I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse. …

What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

First Class Racism by Jamelia

…On Thursday my daughter and I boarded a Train at London’s Euston station after I took part in a photoshoot. We’d had such a fun day together, and looked forward to our journey home. Tiani, my daughter, wanted the window seat, she scooted in and looked for the book she was currently reading as I readied myself to be seated too. As I took my place, a woman in her early 40’s approached me and in quite an accusatory tone asked me “Do you have a first class ticket?” I was genuinely confused at her question, why would I be sat in the 1st class carriage without one? I look at her, she isn’t dressed as if she works for the company, I glance around and it clicks…My daughter and I are the only black people in the carriage. I feel it’s necessary to give her the benefit of the doubt, and for clarity, I ask “why did you ask me that?” she leans in, and in a hushed tone, as if helping me out says “well i’ve just seen the conductor, and he wont let you travel in this carriage” again, I ask “why?” she replies “you need a 1st class ticket” At this point I feel her assumptions are crystal clear, i’m offended and my daughter’s face shows she has understood the rhetoric too. I feel this is a teachable moment, for both the woman in question and my daughter. …


Read more What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 27.11.16

Across everything that divides societies, we share in common that men’s violence against women is normalised, tolerated, justified – and hidden in plain sight.

Credit: Counting Dead Women project

… 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. …


Read more When a Man Kills a Woman by @K_IngalaSmith

Andrea Dworkin – Behind the Myth by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 01.09.15

Andrea Dworkin was, and remains, a Feminist legend. It is too bad that what most people know about her is nothing more than anti-feminist myth.

I first met Andrea in Brighton in 1996, at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship. I was then lucky enough to meet her on two other occasions, including several conversations that I will treasure. I will never forget listening to her keynote speech in that hall in Brighton, amongst rows and rows of over one thousand women, all mesmerised by the honesty and strength of Andrea’s testimony. I will never forget the passion with which she spoke and the clear, steely determination behind her low, slow, measured and husky tones. She did not mince those words; a lot of her speeches are visceral, they reference the physical suffering of abused women and children, they reference the legacy that scars the bodies of those in prostitution and pornography. 
Read more Andrea Dworkin – Behind the Myth by @Finn_Mackay

The Problem with “Innocent” Ignorance: Racism, Whiteness & the Working Class by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neo-colonialism and its Discontents
Originally published: 19.11.16

One of the more interesting debates that has come out of Trump winning the US presidency has been about the role of the white working class in perpetuating racism. Although the white working class did not constitute the majority of white votes Trump received, they have been scapegoated by some as being the reason for why Trump won. This scapegoating, I believe, is wrong, particularly since in this particular case most of Trump’s support came from the white middle class. A class that has increasingly been confronted with the neoliberal reality of the “American Dream” and who have lost more and more as they have become deeply embroiled in a system of debt, credit, and precariousness. However, this class can’t only be analysed in pure class terms, since it is precisely the white middle class that voted for Trump in large numbers. Part of the story is also a backlash to Obama – the first Black president – as well as to the increasing focus on racism in public debates following the excruciatingly high rates at which Black men and women are being killed and imprisoned. As Christina Sharpe has argued in her new book “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being” the Atlantic slave trade is a living, breathing part of the United States; it is not the past nor a historical legacy; it is what has formed the US today; Black people are not left out of the system; Black exclusion is the system.


Read more The Problem with “Innocent” Ignorance: Racism, Whiteness & the Working Class by @saramsalem

Boys getting off on the debasement of girls by @meltankardreist

Cross-posted from: Melinda Tankard Reist
Originally published: 01.11.16

The Courier-Mail is to be commended for its series on the hypersexualisation of our young people — especially the impacts on children by allowing them to be exposed to porn even before their first kiss.

What has been documented here in the Generation Sext campaign is what I’m hearing everywhere I go.

gensext

Educators, child welfare groups, childcare workers, mental health bodies, medicos and parents are reeling.

All are struggling to deal with the proliferation of hypersexualised imagery and its impacts on the most vulnerable — children who think what they see in porn is what real sex looks like.

They tell me about children using sexual language, children touching other children inappropriately, children playing “sex games” in the schoolyard, children requesting sexual favours, children showing other children porn on their devices, children distressed by explicit images they came across while searching an innocent term, children exposed to porn “pop ups” on sites featuring their favourite cartoon characters or while playing online games.
Read more Boys getting off on the debasement of girls by @meltankardreist

Do we really live in a patriarchy? by @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 12.08.16

When feminists use the word patriarchy, it is usually followed with a shrug, a rolling of the eyes, or a sigh.

This is because when we speak about patriarchy, we are referring to the sanctioning of male dominance in society. We are taking issue with boys clubs that exclude women from matters which concern them. We are pointing to a binary hierarchy system where the value of the female sex is diminished by tradition, religion, culture etc., while the value of the male sex is given unreasonable preference.

There is no denying that this system exists, but I have started questioning how accurate it is to call it patriarchal. …


Read more Do we really live in a patriarchy? by @MsAfropolitan

Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

Cross-posted from: Young Crone
Originally published: 05.10.16

On Sunday night, I watched the Louis Theroux documentary ‘Savile’, which investigated why he (and by extension, others) hadn’t realised who and what the thankfully deceased serial rapist and abuser Jimmy Savile was, back when he interviewed him in 2000. In it, Theroux recognises and acknowledges that he missed certain signs, etc., as did so many others, but at the end, when he finally concludes that we will probably never truly know how Savile got away with so much for so long, he is completely mistaken. Because it’s totally obvious why he did – misogyny. And Theroux, for all his soul-searching, for all his sense of guilt and shame, for all his willingness to research the topic and hear difficult things from victims, including insulting things about his own past involvement with Savile, never stops to analyse the most obvious reason for why he also failed to spot the truth – his own misogyny. As a liberal, lefty guy, he probably doesn’t think he’s sexist at all, and I imagine that if you met him, he probably would come across as very nice and less sexist than a lot of men. Like so many men, because he’s not an out-and-out leering chauvinist pig who thinks women should only exist to attract and service him, he thinks he’s not sexist. BUT. BUT. His misogyny and male entitlement and participation in patriarchy are glaringly obvious in the documentary.
Read more Louis Theroux, Jimmy Savile and the failure to recognise the obvious: misogyny

BAN “FLIRTING” IN TAXIS? YES PLEASE. (BUT LET’S NOT PRETEND THIS IS ONLY FLIRTING.) by @grainnemcmahon

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 01.04.16

Update: this post has been through a couple of permutations now. First, I just told the story (prompted by the guardian piece below), then I added some thoughts on how I felt at the time and how I wanted to challenge this guy’s behaviour, and then I thought about the ways in which I did (and really did not) challenge his behaviour, and then I thought about the ways in which I was discussing my own actions and reactions. I didn’t say anything about them at the time but I want to now. 

I realised at the time, and have thought about it since, that I was engaging in some really problematic discourses about myself and about women. Now, importantly, I am stressing here that my perpetuating of these discourses is not problematic, per se, but rather part of a broader, social issue. 

If you read on, you’ll see that my discussion of events is littered with victim-blaming (i.e. if anything had happened to me it would have been my fault for provoking the taxi driver in the way that I reacted to his “flirting”). I do not on any level agree that this would have been so but I also know that victim-blaming is so embedded in women’s consciousness that it informs nearly every aspect of our lives (and not just potentially violent situations). What do I do in this situation? How do I react? How do I avoid something bad happening to me? And, if something bad does happen, we think about what we could have done to avoid it. 

I repeat: I do not on any level agree that a victim is to blame for her experience of violence but we are told so often that she is and that she should have been careful and that she should have watched herself and that she should have done this and that and then this again differently, that is impossible for us to truly avoid placing ourselves within those discourses when we think about our own behaviours. It’s a horrible, debilitating trap that we fall into time and time again. 
Read more BAN “FLIRTING” IN TAXIS? YES PLEASE. (BUT LET’S NOT PRETEND THIS IS ONLY FLIRTING.) by @grainnemcmahon

TAULA AND KAULA WAHINE, PROPHETESSES OF THE PACIFIC

Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archives
Originally published: 01.01.14

I spend a lot of time digging around for cultural records of women. This information is not yielded up easily, and the sources are often problematic for their bias, whether masculine or Euro-racialist and colonialist. So it is gratifying to come across a source that contains very hard-to-find information, in this case historical accounts of female spiritual leadership in the Pacific Islands. I proceed on the assumption that a great deal of information is preserved in oral traditions I don’t have access to, and that documents written by missionaries and “explorers” (traveling with colonial navies) can be problematic because of their biases. Yet they sometimes contain important testimony, as shown by what follows.

The following is drawn from an article “Oral literature of Polynesia” in a book with a most unlikely title for such a subject: ‪The Growth of LiteratureThe ancient literature of Europe, by ‬Hector Munro Chadwick‬, ‪Nora Kershaw Chadwick‬, ‪Kershaw H Chadwick‬. London and NY: ‪Cambridge University Press‬, 1940 (1968). The book came to me via a roundabout search triggered by an Hawaiian oral history that set me looking for prophetic and priestly women. It was a story about the prominent kaula wahine Pao.
Read more TAULA AND KAULA WAHINE, PROPHETESSES OF THE PACIFIC

Race/Class/Gender: French secularism and Whiteness by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neo-Colonialism and It's Discontents
Originally published: 24.08.16

4252.jpg

The recent image out of France that show policemen surrounding a woman who is removing her veil have struck many people because of how overtly Islamophobic they are. France – a country that constructs itself as being open and secular – recently imposed a fine on women who wear a ‘burqini’ at the beach. This announcement was controversial, and seeing images of this fine in action is bringing even more attention to the new rule. 
Read more Race/Class/Gender: French secularism and Whiteness by @saramsalem

The Scottish Write to End Violence Against Women and Girls Award!

The Write to End Violence Against Women Awards Nominations close on Sept. 30!

Violence against women is often in the news. Its prevalence in society makes it a ‘hot topic’ for reporters and its complex nature makes it an interesting issue for feature writers. However, the fact that violence against women is so complex can mean that even journalists with the best of intentions can misrepresent some of the issues and perpetuate myths that are harmful to women.

On the other hand, good reporting can play a vital role in increasing understanding of violence against women and challenging its place in our society. And many journalists and bloggers produce high quality work which confronts violence and gender inequality.

We believe that their hard work deserves to be recognised, which is why Zero Tolerance with the support of NUJ ScotlandWhite Ribbon ScotlandScottish Women’s AidEngenderEveryday Victim Blaming, Women 50:50Rape Crisis ScotlandWomen for Independence and the Scottish Refugee Council are pleased to present the fourth annual Write to End Violence award for excellence in journalism. We are also pleased to announce the Sunday Herald will be working with us as our media partner.

This award seeks to drive up standards in journalism by rewarding those committed to furthering the cause of gender equality through their work.  It is open to all those writing in Scotland, and there are categories open to both paid and unpaid writing. Articles and blogs must be published between 01/09/15 and 01/09/16.
Read more The Scottish Write to End Violence Against Women and Girls Award!

Post-Brexit, time to question neocolonialism. via @MsAfropolitan

Cross-posted from: Ms Afropolitan
Originally published: 03.07.16

The arguments that Africa will be worse off post-Brexit are everywhere. To give just a few examples, Foreign Policy writes that “Brexit Is Bad News for Africa. Period.”  Newsweek explains “Why Brexit is bad for Africa.” Quartz is all doom and gloom in “Afrexit – Brexit will be terrible for Africa’s largest economies.

While the titles all imply that Brexit is bad for Africa, the articles’ content actually reveal that Brexit is mainly bad for the UK. As FP states, “Brexit will leave Britain with a fraction of the influence it currently wields in Africa”. It is a “damage to British interests in Africa.” What are those interests? Well, one example is the London Stock Exchange listed South African company, Lonmin, which fell 15.7% after Brexit. Yes, this is the same Lonmin behind the Marikana massacres. Bad for Africa? Hardly.  …

 

You can read the full article here.

 

Ms. AfropolitanA site about Africa and Diaspora in society from a feminist perspective.

Gaslighting Culture by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smashes the P
Originally published: 05.11.15

gaslight-anthem_00289562

Lately I am really coming to terms with the fact that patriarchy is a gaslighting culture, and for the most part, messages do not need to be true in order to be consistently believed by a large number of people, or to be actively disseminated by the media. In fact, I’d go far enough to say that truth is often considered irrelevant in the media. I used to get angry when these messages veered so far off course from the truth, but I’m starting to see that as a feature and not a bug. That is, they never were meant to convey truths or reality- they were meant as wide spread propaganda.

For example, neo-liberal culture frames personal individual negative impacts in terms of “choice” and “consent” rather than systems of power that constrain groups of people, even though choice has very little to do with whether, say, impoverished inner city kids succeed in school. The same is true with the hidden-in-plain-sight fact about the toxic nature of masculinity and male pattern violence. The fear of taking sides or being too radical by *naming the problem* shapes the thinking patterns of almost the entire world.
Read more Gaslighting Culture by @smashesthep

Party Lines – on Women’s Equality Party by @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Strife Journal
Originally published: 16.02.16

With elections coming up in May this year, Holly Dustin gives us a briefing on what the Women’s Equality Party is all about.

Without a doubt, the British political landscape has shifted significantly since I was trudging through a Politics degree at the University of Nottingham 25 years ago. It was, in some ways, a simpler time for those of us interested in who has power and what they do with it. Margaret Thatcher was still in office (until 1990), and you were either for her or against her. Nelson Mandela was still in prison on Robben Island and the Cold War dominated geo-politics. You voted in elections and in between time you could make your voice heard by going on a demo or wearing a t-shirt (I did both). There were no smartphones, no epetitions, no Facebook likes, and definitely no lobbying your MP on twitter.

There were few women in Parliament then and Thatcher, known for ‘pulling the ladder up behind her’, only ever promoted one woman, Baroness Young, to her Cabinet in all eleven years of her premiership. The Politics Department at Nottingham was an all-male affair too (my memory is of a micro-Cold War between the Thatcher supporting majority and Marxist minority). Politics (capital P) was black and white, and did not appear to include feminism.

Twenty five years later we can say for sure that British politics is less blokey, though still too white and male with only 29% of MPs being women and less than 7% of MPs being from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and there is a new wave of feminist activism both in Parliament and outside it. Furthermore, British politics is fragmenting; the three-party system is breaking up with the collapse of the Lib Dems in Parliament and the rise of Nationalists around the UK. and smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Greens, gaining electoral support even if first-past-the-post means that support doesn’t translate into seats.
Read more Party Lines – on Women’s Equality Party by @strifejournal

Why Women’s Spaces are Critical to Feminist Autonomy by Patricia McFadden

Cross-posted from: Isis International

The issue of male presence, in physical and ideological terms, within what should be women-only spaces is not just a matter of ideological contestation and concern within the Women’s Movement globally; it is also a serious expression of the backlash against women’s attempts to become autonomous of men in their personal/political relationships and interactions. As human societies have become more public through the intensified struggles for inclusion by various groups of formerly excluded constituencies (the largest of which is made up of women of differing classes, ages, sexual orientations, abilities, ethnicities, nationalities, and locations), so the struggle for the occupancy and definition of space has also taken on a concomitant significance.

In this short article, I want to explore some of the reasons why this contestation over women’s spaces has arisen. I also want to argue strenuously that women must not allow men into our spaces because strategically this would be a major political blunder for the future of the Women’s Movement, wherever it is located and engaged with patriarchal hegemony and exclusion. To argue for men’s inclusion into women’s political and structural spaces is not only fundamentally heterosexist; it also serves an old nationalistic claim that women need to take care of men, no matter where they are located and or what they are engaged with. This claim is inherently premised on the assumption that women who are not attached to or associated with a man are dangerous, rampant women who must be stopped. That is why the statement that women need to “take men along” smacks not only of the deep-seated patriarchal assumption that women’s mobility requires male approval. It also facilitates the transference of socio-cultural practices into the Women’s Movement that nurture male privilege and pampering in spaces that women have fought for centuries to mark as their own.  ….

The rest of this article is available at Isis International.

Vesta and Ana Mendieta: Sacred Altars Re-visited by @rebecca9

Cross-posted from: The Daly Wolf
Originally published: 09.10.15

I am intrigued by asteroids. Peculiar asymmetrical floating formations of carbon, stone, and metal. Piles of streaming space rubble, some astronomers conclude. There are literally thousands (and more being discovered) of these eccentric objects in orbit around the sun ranging in size from pebbles to hundreds of miles of surface. Their home is called the asteroid belt, that celestial territory between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers conjecture that asteroids are the leftover material of our solar system, or the fractured remains of what was once a planet, but they don’t know for sure. The four major asteroids (major because of their size) are Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Hygiea; allegorically symbolized in the astrological literature as females with mythological roots in the Roman and Greek storied timeline.

Many astrologers don’t often include the asteroids in readings, partly, I think, because so little is known about them. The Dawn Spacecraft mission has been orbiting the asteroid belt for about eight years now and we can expect to hear much more about the features and mechanics of the main asteroids.


Read more Vesta and Ana Mendieta: Sacred Altars Re-visited by @rebecca9

A Sphere of One’s Own

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 24.05.14

Attachment parenting, mommy blogging, hipster homemakers and urban homesteaders…Delilah Campbell reads a book about the new domesticity. 

Emily Matchar, Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Back in 2001, I wrote an article for T&S about the ‘new domesticity’– a sudden revival of popular interest in the art of keeping house. Knitting was back in vogue, and cleaning was the subject of a popular reality TV show. Nigella Lawson published a book entitled How To Be a Domestic Goddess, and a rash of glossy magazine articles featured women who had given up their high-powered careers to concentrate on full-time homemaking.

Thirteen years later, it’s clear that this was not just a passing fad. Cath Kidston, the queen of retro household accessories,  is a global brand; the Great British Bake-Off is a national institution. University students have formed branches of the Women’s Institute. And the new domesticity is also big on the other side of the Atlantic, where according to Emily Matchar, the return of the full-time housewife is a genuine trend. Her book Homeward Bound is an attempt to investigate what’s behind this phenomenon, and to ask what it might tell us about the times in which we live. She thinks it has a lot to tell us: ‘Our current collective nostalgia and domesticity-mania’, she argues, ‘speak to deep cultural longings and a profound shift in the way Americans view life’ (4).
Read more A Sphere of One’s Own