A Final Insult

Standard

Content note: anti-choice propaganda

Today Broadsheet.ie shared this image of a truck displaying an billboard ad from extreme anti-choice organisation Youth Defence, which was parked opposite the Dublin rape crisis centre. A truly reprehensible to do, unquestionably. It puts paid, once and for all to the notion that they are “pro-woman”, but why a rape crisis centre? Even by Youth Defence’s abysmal standards, this is a despicable move.

My theory is this: Youth Defence have realised that they have lost the political battle. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that the overwhelming majority of respondents are in favour of legislating for the X case, if not further. Youth Defence are cognizant of this, and the only avenue left to them is to simply cause as much offence and hurt as possible, a final slap in the face. Abortion in cases of rape is not provided for in the legislation currently being proposed, but YD are no doubt aware that many women and girls who have conceived as a result of rape will be contemplating abortion, whether in the UK or by ordering pills online. The slogan on this poster is a direct message of abuse and intimidation to these women. Youth Defence’s political power is limited, but creating an atmosphere of misogyny and shaming may be good enough for them at this stage. 

I’ve said in the past that Youth Defence are low-hanging fruit in terms of agents of misogyny and woman-hating in Ireland. There are more insidious forms of misogyny in Ireland; institutional sexism and rape culture is runs through the fabric of Irish society, and abortion legislation will not remedy that overnight. However, what Youth Defence does have is a healthy bank balance, courtesy of their friends in the United States. Their legislative influence is not what it used to be, but while they can afford to beam these dismal, taunting slogans into the view of vulnerable eyes, they’ll be satisfied. 

Advertisements

Role Models

Standard

 

Content note: misogyny, violence against women, rape apologism

 

Today, a vile misogynist screed masquerading as an article by Liz Jones appeared in the Daily Mail, asserting that Rihanna is a “toxic role model for her army of young fans”. I won’t link to this shit on the Mail site, but a reproduced version is available to read here.

Jones argues that despite the fact that the singer “has the voice of an angel and is self-made, feisty and confident”,

All these qualities pale to nothing when we know she went back to her abusive boyfriend, Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty to assaulting her in 2009; that she promotes drug-taking, drinking and the sort of fashion sense on stage that surely invites rape at worst, disrespect at least.

Wow, that’s one clusterfuck of awfulness to unpack; victim-blaming slut-shaming, and rape apologia contained in a single paragraph. It’s utterly depressing that this needs to be re-iterated time and time again:

1. People return to abusive relationships for a variety of reasons. It is not my place to speculate on the ins and outs of Rihanna & Brown’s relationship, largely because it is fucking beside the point. Rihanna is a survivor of abuse, and if you’re going to demonise, demonise the fucking abuser. I know I keep plugging this Pervocracy piece like a divine screed sent from God, but it eloquently and thoughtfully breaks down the nuances and dynamics of abusive relationships.

2. […]sort of fashion sense on stage that surely invites rape at worst, disrespect at least.

Clothes do not invite rape. *Nothing* invites rape. Victims are not responsible for their rape, rapists are. That the Mail is tacitly endorsing one of the oldest, deeply problematic myths about rape is utterly disgraceful.

Jones’ entire thesis rests on the contention that Rihanna is a corrupt and contemptible person. Her language seethes with hatred; she is “toxic”, “poisonous”, she “infecting” the high streets. This nakedly hateful character assassination is, however, couched in the language of concern:

Is it fair that we berate female stars for being bad, when we don’t admonish men in the same way? Yes, it is fair. Because young women are far more impressionable than young men.

There you have it. Young women are more “impressionable”, apparently incapable of critical thought, and the best way to nurture a positive social environment for young people is to pour buckets and buckets of misogynist bile on a woman that has the temerity to be in the public eye! Why does this concern for young women look so much like misogyny?

Rihanna issued this response on her instagram:

LOL!!!! My money got a bad habit of pissing people off!! If you sincerely wanna help little girls more than their own parents do, here’s a toxic tip: don’t be amateur with your articles, you sound bitter! What’s all this about hair and nails and costumes and tattoos?? ….That shit ain’t clever!!! That shit ain’t journalism! That’s a sad sloppy menopausal mess!!! Nobody over here acts like they’re perfect! I don’t pretend that I’m like you, i just live… My life!! And I don’t know why y’all still act so surprised by any of it!! “Role Model” is not a position or title that I have ever campaigned for, so chill wit dat! I got my own fucked up shit to work on, I’ll never portray that as perfect, but for right now it’s ME!! Call it what ya want!! Toxic was cute, Poisonous Pop Princess had a nice ring to it, just a lil wordy! And P.S. my first American Vogue cover was in 2011…APRIL!!! #ElizabethAnnJones

Rihanna articulated something that has never sat very well with me when celebrities are being discussed. Why must female celebrities always serve as “good role models?” What is a good role model? To me, these discussions are ridiculously gendered. Footballers, singers and actors who misbehave are lauded as “lads”, while women in the public eye who drink and are unashamed about their sex lives are treated like toxic waste. When male celebrities are criticised in the mainstream press, they are never slated as being bad role models for young fans. For instance, the aforementioned Brown has been quite rightly upbraided in the press for his despicable behaviour, however, never to my recollection has he been dubbed a bad role model for young boys.

This insistence that female celebrities be purer than the driven snow, while often dressed up in the language of feminism feels too much like good ol’ fashioned patriarchal preaching and policing of women’s lives. Rihanna is derided for being successful, famous, talented, and crucially, confident and self-assured in a way that women, particularly women of colour, are not allowed to be under patriarchy. She refuses to “behave” according to the proscribed script, and this has rattled a few cages.

Yes, let’s have role models. Let’s have brilliant female writers, doctors, journalists, engineers, scientists, activists, musicians, singers, dancers, screenwriters, actors, directors, icons. There’s room for all of them. Do you know what I’d like to see less of? Hacky misogynist tabloid journos who exist to perpuate patriarchy. They’re no role models for anybody.

I Refuse To Call Them Pro-Life

Standard

How did we let the term “pro-life” slip into our lexicon as the standard synonym for “anti-abortion?” As a phrase, it is utterly redundant. Also, that opposition to abortion is the metric for being considered pro-life is utterly ridiculous. One might oppose abortion but perpetuate oppressive ideas and structures that are anti-life. For instance,  politicians may be dyed in the wool “pro-lifers” favour austerity measures which may cause deep personal hardship and psychological trauma; more of that later.

In discussions surrounding pregnancy and abortion, anti-choicers tend to pay lip service to the lives of women, but their main concern is with the fate of the foetus.

What was pro-life about the treatment Savita Halappanavar received?

What is pro-life about forcing people to endure a pregnancy that may irrevocably damage their health? What about denying sick pregnant women lifesaving medical treatment, as in the cases of Michelle Harte and Sheila Hodgers?

What is pro-life about forcing a person who has been raped to carry that pregnancy to term?

What of the twelve people who travel abroad on a daily basis for terminations? Where’s the compassion in forcing someone to go through the stress of arranging flights, accommodation, organising time off work,  perhaps childcare?

I could go on an on. These examples underscore the dis-ingenuousness of a  pro-life position for whom a foetus  trumps the suffering of pregnant individuals.

These so-called “pro-lifers” are also disingenuous and cowardly. They know as we all do about the incessant traffic to the UK, and are quite happy to see women slipping away in the night like criminals, without the support of their families. These are women with the means and wherewithal to do so. What of the women who don’t? Do these people, who claim to cherish life, think that suffering an unwanted or harmful pregnancy is somehow a fitting punishment for these women? Do they think that physical, emotional and psychological torment is an appropriate sentence for the crime of being female and poor?

The following is a list of TDs that voted against a motion to reverse the cuts to home help hours. I’ve somewhat arbitrarily chosen this particular set of cuts, as there was a neat list available online;  I could just as easily be talking about a myriad of other cuts to services, such as the mobility allowance, respite care and special needs assistants. Among these names you’ll notice Peter Mathews, Brian Walsh, John O’Mahony, Peter Fitzpatrick, Damien English, Michael Creed and Billy Timmins, all who have, according to this Irish Times article, have expressed reservations about the abortion legislation. Let’s focus on Peter Mathews for a minute. Mathews has been most vocal over the last few weeks and months about the life of the unborn, not least on this unforgettable star turn on Tonight with Vincent Browne. Clearly, for Mathews, women and girls register a good few points lower than unviable foetuses on the scale of things that are worthy of concern.

Home help services are provided in order to assist people to remain in their own home and to avoid going in to long-term care. It is imperative to the quality of life for families throughout this country. Now, Mathews sees himself as a champion of life, but what about life as it lived on a day-to-day basis? How can you claim to be pro-life when you are actively approving measures that are making life more difficult for people? Would it be audacious to suggest that in straitened circumstances may opt for abortion in order to feed the family she already has? Of course, as I’ve written elsewhere, that is an avenue closed to women in Ireland without the means to travel. Women with money have options, women who don’t have babies.

I’m pro-life, I don’t know anyone who isn’t. I am also pro-choice. I don’t think being pro-choice is the opposite to be being pro-life. On the contrary, I believe that the pro-choice position is inherently pro-life, as it respects the nuances of life and people’s various lived experiences. Anti-choicers who have anointed themselves custodians of the pro-life cause are not only supremely arrogant; they are the term a great disservice.

A few thoughts on #IAmNotAProperFeminist

Standard

This morning, a few tweets with the hashtag #IAmNotAProperFeminist popped up in my timeline. The initial tweets satirised the exclusivity and policing of women that, unfortunately, the feminist movement engages in all too often. I fired off a few tweets, basically saying that I don’t agree that Caitlin Moran is a feminist Messiah, that I don’t care  what anyone does with their body hair and that I don’t regard pop stars with a raunchy image like Rihanna as a bad influence. Other tweeters expressed similar sentiments.

Other people tweeted stuff along the lines of “I wear make-up, heels, etc.,” “I bake”, “I don’t hate men, LOL”. At this point, it was becoming hard to tell discern whether or not the satirical element was becoming lost in a sea of stereotypes, or if the sentiment was genuine frustration at feminist hypocrisy or actively anti-feminist sentiments. Wearing make-up or heels are, in my view, meaningless signifiers with regard to someone’s feminism or lack thereof. Whether you shave or don’t shave, wear make-up on a daily basis or hardly ever is immaterial. Yes, beauty standards as set down by the mainstream fashion and magazine industry are ridiculously narrow, but policing women’s genuine choice and preferences seems incredibly patriarchal.

On the flip side, other feminist tweeters took issue with the fact that the hashtag existed at all. Any criticism of feminism at all seemed to be anathema to them, unwittingly pinpointing the reasoning behind the hashtag in the first place. Mainstream Guardianista type feminists, predominantly white middle class women have all too often acted as gatekeepers of “proper feminism”, with trans* women, women of colour, women with disabilities and women in sex work often ending up under the bus in these discussions.

There is not just one type of feminism, there are various feminismS; some of them problematic, or even actively oppressive (see trans* exclusionary radical feminism, or Radfem2013). The feminism I favour, and the one I believe to be most effective does not police women’s lives, values the differing views and lived experiences of women, and does not throw women under the bus when it is expedient to do so. Yes, all women suffer under patriarchy to varying degrees, but patriarchal oppression links to other systems of oppression.  To deny that some women have varying degrees of privilege is oppressive and NOT what feminism should be about.

#IamNotAProperFeminist, to me, is not a mockery or denigration of feminism per se, but a critique of how an ostensibly progressive movement can also be exclusionary and reactionary.

 

I don’t know what I expected-John Waters & his putrid misogyny

Image

I’ve spent the last while trying to process this unbelievably misogynistic word-turd in the Irish Catholic by John Waters.  I’ve read enough Waters to be desensitized to his odious views by now, but this was so terrible, so nakedly anti-woman that I just had to respond.

In the lede, Waters quotes a letter from a correspondent, which he subsequently describes as “very good” and its premise “entirely reasonable”:

‘What is the difference, in human rights terms, between a situation in which a distraught male goes in to his doctor and says that his partner is making him suicidal and that he fears that unless he/she (the doctor) arranges to have the partner killed he will kill himself, and a situation in

which a distraught female goes to her doctor and says that her unborn child is making her suicidal and that she fears that unless he/she (the doctor) arranges to have the child killed she will kill herself?”

From the outset, we have an equivalency between the life of a foetus and the life of a woman or girl. Indeed, further on, Waters states that,

“there can be no moral distinction between the idea of killing an adult woman and killing an unborn child.”

Having firmly established that women are not full human beings, Waters bravely goes on to make an impassioned plea for mercy for disenfranchised cis white men everywhere.

At a superficial level, the refusal to publish the letter might be deemed ‘sexist’, but this would amount to a naïve understanding of things, since it has long been obvious that ‘sexism’ is a concept available only for the protection of females

John, “reverse sexism” is not a thing, anymore than anti-white racism or heterophobia. Sexism and other “-isms” only have impact when perpetrated by the  institutionally poweful group, i.e. men against the disenfranchised group, i.e. women.

From October 2012 to the present – approximately 300 Irish men have ended their own lives, roughly one for every day of this debate.

Indeed, the spectre of male suicide in this country is a deeply tragic one, however, nowhere does Waters address issues that may be at the root of this-austerity, economic woes, inadequate mental health services, homophobia, expectations of conformity and rigid gender roles, to name but a few. No, Waters does not truly care about these men or challenging the status quo, the suicide statistic is merely another weapon in Waters’ crusade against feminism.

And yet, discussion about male suicide – as a discrete phenomenon, which it is – has been accorded the tiniest fraction of the energy given to the theoretical idea of a pregnant woman wishing to kill herself because she is pregnant.

“Theoretical idea?” I can assure you, John, that there is not merely “theoretical” about women for whom the idea of carrying a pregnancy to term is a scenario end their own life. However, since abortion is merely an academic exercise for you, I doubt you’ve contemplated this.

If all that wasn’t suitably horrendous, Waters goes on to do the unimaginable and cross his Misogyny Event Horizon:

We have been conditioned to think about the idea of pregnancy as some kind of imposition on a woman and her life. This idea actually runs back through Irish culture, predating even the earliest clamouring for abortion rights.

When you’ve been pregnant, John, in your womb for nine months and faced all the attendant risks it poses, come back and talk to me about it being an imposition.

It is related to the victim-status claimed by and ceded to women in Irish culture, which has long disguised the true nature of power structures in the domestic realm of Irish life.

HA HA IT’S ALMOST AS IF WE HAVEN’T BEEN LIVING IN A PATRIARCHY FOR CENTURIES

Because women are prone to more extravagant shows of emotion than men…

Oh, he DID NOT

our society is far more willing to concede their demands than it is those of males.

LOLWUT?

Not only that, but, almost regardless of how much we claim to repudiate abortion, we refuse to criticise or question the women who seek this remedy for themselves. We will condemn the abortionist who wields the knife, the politician who implements the abortion-facilitating law, the campaigner who demands the change, and so forth.

But the person who obtains the ultimate ‘benefit’ from all this activity is regarded as some kind of enfeebled innocent, upon whom the ‘necessity’ for an abortion is always thrust by unfortunate circumstances, for which the woman has no responsibility herself. Even the priests and bishops who lead the moral crusade against abortion will never speak a word against those on whose behalf abortion is being sought.

 

You can almost visualise Waters hunched over his desk, frothing with misogynistic hatred. These words could only be written by a creature that truly despises women and their sexuality.

Do you think women who avail of abortion aren’t stigmatised, John? Why do you think it’s been TWENTY-ONE years since the X case and we’re only legislating for it now? Why don’t most of the women who’ve had abortions in the UK feel they can be upfront with their GP about it? Why are women and girls slipping off in silence to the clinics in the UK without whispering a word to a soul? Why, when the women of @TFMRIRE went public on the Late Late for the first time did I see tweets in my timeline calling them “murderesses?” I think it’s fair to say that women who have abortions are pretty fucking stigmatised.

Let’s revisit this sentence:

But the person who obtains the ultimate ‘benefit’ from all this activity is regarded as some kind of enfeebled innocent, upon whom the ‘necessity’ for an abortion is always thrust by unfortunate circumstances, for which the woman has no responsibility herself.

In John Waters’ world, no woman or girl is ever raped. No woman ever endures a pregnancy that will endanger her life or do grievous harm to her health. No woman has ever experienced fatal foetal abnormalities. No, in John Waters’ Good Catholic Ireland, a women who has sex  must be prepared for the “consequences”, and abortion is the preserve of brazen harlots who don’t deserve human dignity.

As Waters ploughs on to his conclusion, he makes a stab at a semblance of  analysis:

There is no reason to assume that a pregnancy ought to be anything other than a source of joy to the woman involved. In the vast majority of the very limited number of cases in which this is not so, the factors underlying the difficulty usually relate not to objective circumstances but to either intuited societal disapproval

He actually acknowleges that every woman or girl may not be thrilled to be pregnant! Incredible! He also concedes that we need to change society! YES, YES, YES! Let’s dismantle patriarchy, ensure that everyone has access to sex education and contraception and OH WAIT HE DOESN’T WANT THAT AT ALL

selfishness on the part of the woman involved.

Yeah, no let’s not do that, let’s shame the sluts for being slutty, I mean that’s so revolutionary and totally not what we already do!

This article, and Waters’ oeuvre as a whole isn’t concerned with abortion per se. I’m sure Waters’ anti-abortion sentiments are genuine, but what really seems to be at the fore is a sort of rage against women, against difference;  middle-class, middle-aged, white Catholic men like Waters are having their position and ways of thinking challenged, and they don’t like it one bit. John Waters is hankering for a simpler time, when the world made sense to him, hence his rage. Let’s stride purposefully in the opposite direction.

Why Won’t They Leave Us Alone?

Standard

Today, the discussion on my timeline has centred on two things; this excellent piece by the Irish Examiner’s Colette Browne, and this utterly repellent Kickstarter project, that dispenses advice on sexually abusing and harassing women in public masked as dating advice. 

In her article, Browne recounted situations that are sadly all too familiar to many of the women reading it, myself included. 

The time a man in a pub grabbed my hand and placed it on his crotch because he wanted me to feel his erection and “see what I had done to him”. The time I was on a deserted train carriage when a man, sitting opposite from me, began to masturbate. I stood up and got out at the next stop. There was the time I went to a friend’s house party and, having gone to sleep in a spare box room, woke up in the middle of the night to find a man in bed with me with his hand up my top.

 

As the post was shared, most of the men I follow reacted with horror, but for the women, the sentiment was slightly different; revulsion, yes, but also weariness and exasperation. 

Browne tweeted that this was the typical reaction. Many women said that they had had similar experiences, and regretted not doing anything about it at the time.

A particular incident that stands out for me occurred Arthur’s Day 2011, as I was shopping in Penneys in Galway. It was about 4.30 or 5, and I was queuing at the till. Two young guys, clearly already pretty obviously drunk, sidled up behind me, and one of them proceeded to grope my breast. From this remove, I’m frustrated with myself. I’m annoyed that I didn’t drop my purchases and dispense a swift kick to the balls to the little prick, or roar for security or DO ANYTHING, apart from standing rigid in the queue, silently paying and slinking off home. I’m incredibly introverted by nature; I’ll cross the road if I’m out for a walk and see a group of more than two coming in the opposite direction, so I’m averse to confrontation.

While that was an outstanding incidence, micro-aggressions occur on a regular basis while out in clubs or bars. I’ve had my arse groped countless times while in queues or ordering at bars. I’ve had my glasses pulled off and hair pieces, etc. grabbed at. I once had a man follow me and pull my hair when I refused to engage with him. A more minor irritation, but a particular bugbear of mine is being told to ‘smile’. Urgh. What do these men want, do they think that I’ve been put on this earth to greet their very presence with delight? That we should be permanently wearing rictus grins for their amusement? 

This events, these micro-aggressions take place time and time again, and virtually any women you talk to will recognise these scenarios. It seems that simply being out and about is an act of extreme audacity, and that this sleazy harassment is the tax we pay for it.

I’m tired of it.

These are our streets aswell.