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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
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. …
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. …
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….
And they’re off! As we move into the Season of Endless Televised Sport (this year centring on the month-long FIFA World Cup), some men have started their own competition to find the Most Unconvincing Reason Why We Shouldn’t Have To Listen To Women Talking About Football. I’m tempted to name this contest the Samuel Johnson Memorial Award for Sexism, in homage to Johnson’s famous remark comparing a woman preacher to a dog walking on its hind legs: ‘it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all’. (It also doesn’t hurt that ‘Johnson’ is a slang term for ‘penis’.)
Simon Kelner made an early splash with his suggestion that asking women like Eni Aluko and Alex Scott to offer expert technical analysis of matches played by men was like ‘getting a netball player to discuss major league basketball’. Er, not really, Simon: netball and basketball are different sports, whereas women’s football and men’s football…well, the clue’s in the name. Scott, who made 140 appearances for England during her career and played in three World Cups, can hardly be said to lack insight; Aluko’s analysis has been incisive enough to prompt applause from Patrice Evra (a patronising gesture which makes him another leading contender for the Johnson award). …
language: a feminist guide: It does what it says on the tin: a feminist language guide.
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.
We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.
‘Everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment.
Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.
The concept of the ‘good-enough’ mother, introduced by Winnicott (1965), is still in common use today in family law, and in health and social services. However, it is often misused to blame women for falling below expected standards of parenting rather using it in its intended context. It is often not understood that the concept of the good-enough mother was embedded in another concept: that of ‘the nursing triad’. Winnicott acknowledged that support for mothers is necessary to mothering. The author did not have an expectation that mothers could be ‘good-enough’ without the support of either the child’s father, or another supportive adult. On the contrary, Winnicott acknowledged that mothering would be very difficult without support: this was a concept that he applied to all mothers.
Read more Winnicott’s ‘good-enough’ mother
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).
Today, Playboy announced that it was bringing nudity back to its magazines, a year after it had previously banned naked spreads. Following a series of tweets tagged #nakedisnormal, Chief Creative Officer, Cooper Hefner made the announcement this morning, stating that naked is normal and should not be treated as something to shy away from.
Naked is, indeed, normal. However, for a magazine that has been founded on the profits of pornographic material, naked is a profitable kind of normal, one that is used merely for exploitation. Playboy has founded itself on the oppression of women, and to claim that a return to featuring nudity is in our interests is nothing more than a lie. It’s a return to instant gratification, and the ownership of women’s bodies in an attempt to bolster sales.
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 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
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 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
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
Sparked by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein as an alleged serial sex offender, a mass confessional has taken place recently via social media, in which women everywhere have held up their hands and said, me too: the things that Weinstein did to those women have happened to me too. I hope to goodness it was cathartic and useful for the women who took the brave and exposing step of outing their private pain to the world, and I hope to goodness there were as many women reading who felt less alone, less ashamed as a result. But the outpouring is slowing and I, for one, am relieved. A collective boil has perhaps now been lanced, although I still cannot see through the pus.
The pus gathers in the responses, which can be divided into three broad categories. First is blanket denial, whereby men and their cheerleaders deny that sexual abuse on such a massive scale exists at all. Women are fanciful, lying, exaggerating for effect. There is a bandwagon onto which women are joyfully leaping in an attempt to malign men and revel in their perceived victimhood. Second, we have the more modern form of denial which concedes that yes, sexual abuse is a common problem, although not a gendered one. There are simply some people that abuse other people and all abuse is equally bad. The inconvenient and statistical truth that 98% of all sexual crime is committed by men, and that the overwhelming majority of their victims are female, can be pasted over with obfuscation and the politics of individualism. In other words, if we focus in carefully enough on all the tiny pictures, the big picture will begin to fade into the background and eventually disappear altogether. In the face of this manipulative myopia I can find myself longing for the first, more traditional trope. It is, at least, straightforward. Lastly, we have the outraged hyperbole. The shock! The fury! Whoever could have imagined such horrifying evil existed in the world?!
Yesterday, I received an email. I received dozens, actually – term started today, and a lot of students were checking in with questions about reading or deadlines or meetings – but this one stood out. It was from a journalist, and that journalist was asking (yet again) the question that makes my heart sink.
Can you talk to us about trigger warnings, censorship, and safe spaces?
That’s the gist of the question. You might also paraphrase it: Dish the dirt on your students and tell us how precious they are! The articles that result are always pretty much the same: they insinuate that students of today are fragile, entitled little things, pampered by their parents and schools, and unable to cope wit the rigours of the full and meaningful education everyone over the age of 30 enjoyed. Students are demanding ‘trigger warnings’ because they cannot read any text containing violence. They are picketing lectures on Pope because one of his poems has ‘rape’ in the title. They are refusing to read Othello because it’s about violence against women and racism. And so on.
Read more Lazy Journalism Never Dies: Safe Spaces and Censorship Yet Again, by @LucyAllenFWR
This morning on the Today program I listened to a very interesting segment regarding deaths of children and young people in the criminal justic system. You can read more about it here:
The charity Inquest has worked with the Prison Reform Trust to produce a report
(called Fatally Flawed, can be found here) regarding deaths in custody, specifically those of children and young people under the age of 24. They report that in the past ten years 163 children and young people have died in the care of the state, mostly as a result of suicide (although there are cases where the cause of death was a result of, for example, the types of restraint used against them). Of those who died, two thirds of those under 18 and almost a third of those between 18 and 24 were being actively monitored for self harm and/or suicidal behaviour. Today’s coverage is as we await an announcement from the prisons minister, Jeremy Wright as to whether he will acquiesce to the charities’ request to hold a full independent enquiry. He has previously refused such calls, but has agreed to look at the request again.
Read more Why don’t women matter?, by @FeministBorgia
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 …