An International Women’s Day Wishlist #IWD14

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I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because I’ve been busy with my postgrad. In fact, that’s what I should  be working on now. Anyway, let’s make this (non-exhaustive) thing short and snappy.

  • Repeal the fucking Eighth Amendment already.
  • Scrap section 37.
  • I never, EVER want to see another male abuser of women or girls escape a jail sentence because he could produce a wad of notes to wave in the judge’s face.
  • In an addition to the above, I never wish to hear the words “He was from an upstanding family”, “pillar of the community” or any other qualifiers like that coming from the mouth of a judge in relation to a rapist or an abuser.
  • I want to see rape culture dismantled. I want zero tolerance on rape jokes. I never want to hear about a rape victims clothing, sex life or previous boyfriends. IT IS NOT RELEVANT.
  • I want contraception to be freely accessible.
  • I want to see kyriarchy dismantled. I’m not here for Lean-In, corporate, book-deal feminism that only lets white, cis, wealthy, well-connected women swap places with men at the top of the pile.
  • I want to see an end to white supremacist feminism.
  • I want transphobia and whorephobia to have absolutely no place in feminism and society in general.
  • I want to see an end to ableism.
  • I want the Magdalene survivors to get justice in their lifetime.
  • I want so-called feminist organisations to stop oppressing my sisters who do sex work. Using state violence to deprive women of a living is not my feminism.
  • I want reproductive justice.

Those are just a few thoughts that immediately spring to mind, this list is far from exhaustive, as I said. I hope all my sisters have a wonderful, peaceful and happy international women’s day.

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Today in Irish Patriarchy

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Three news stories that dominated my newsfeeds today show just how far Irish society has to go before it can dismantle the patriarchy that still runs through this place like letters through a stick of rock.

The last few days have seen a shameful outpouring of online misogyny following the uploading of the Slane photo. A young woman has been slut-shamed and subjected to unbelievably vile abuse by dozens of strangers, much to detriment of her own mental health. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this here, so I’m don’t have much left to say on the subject, other than express my utter disgust and contempt at the fact that in this day and age, a young girl needs to be hospitalised for being seen as somehow less than human.

The second story is that of the 17-year-old girl who took a sexual harassment case against her former employers. The girl was subjected to a horrendous levels of sexual harassment:

She started work in June 2008 and was told not to speak to her mother, who worked in the same Dublin store. She alleged that two supervisors started making inappropriate sexual remarks to her.

They told her: “You are only letting on to be a little Virgin Mary to your mammy, we know what you really are,” and: “You are nothing but a little hypocrite, you little Virgin Mary.”

She alleged that the two supervisors taunted her at work by asking whether she was a virgin and whether or not she was performing oral sex. They also told her mother that her daughter would come home pregnant from her holidays.

This story of male sexual entitlement, intimidation and misogyny is sadly all too common in Irish workplaces.

The concurrence of the Slane story and the “Virgin Mary” store also is a perfect illustration of the bullshit virgin/whore dichotomy, a girl can only be a dirty slut or a frigid prude, but in neither case is deserving of any respect. 

The final story that made my blood boil today was that of a UL student, Úna Roddy, who was refused the pill by her family doctor.  The paternalistic attitude of the doctor was enraging, but sadly unsurprising. 

Dr X began by assuming I had a boyfriend if I wanted to go on the pill, when in fact my relationship status is none of his business or anybody else’s. He didn’t seem to understand the fact that this is the 21st century and my contraception and my relationship status are two completely unrelated things. He then went on to declare that “co habiting” (he made little quotation marks with his hands) couples had a higher rate of break ups than married couples. He also threw in the fact that ‘fellas’ often experience so much they don’t know what to settle for. Aside from the fact that I’m not something to settle for, it really didn’t seem to register that I was having sex because I wanted to – not because my imaginary boyfriend did.

That this kind of archaic moralism can trump a woman’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy is utterly depressing and an affront to us all. 

Why, in TWENTY FUCKING THIRTEEN is a hashtag like #slanegirlsolidarity still necessary? Why can’t a woman do a day’s work without being harassed? Why can’t a young woman avail of basic healthcare without being lectured and patronised? The answer is simple folks-patriarchy. 

Patriarchy. Misogyny. These aren’t swear words, folks. Recognise them for what they are, and don’t let anyone dare tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.

 

 

One Night Stands-an antidote to the College Times

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TW: misogyny and rape culture

Everyone is by now familiar with that College Times piece. It  seems to have disappeared from the site, with this inept nonpology in its place, although this Journal.ie piece gives a good flavour of the content, and there’s a screenshot here. The article is breathtaking in terms of its misogyny, and is steeped in rape culture.  It describes sex in terms of “predators” and “prey”, advocates sexual harassment, and advises the reader to get women inebriated in order to engage in (non-consensual) sex. The writer also suggests targeting a woman who has “low self-esteem and potential daddy issues”. This vile piece is indicative of so many horrible aspects of our culture-misogyny, rape culture, lack of respect for personal autonomy and slut-shaming.

First of all, let’s call sex with a person who is so intoxicated they are unable to give their consent what it is-rape. Non consensual sex is rape-period. That the College Times is selling this as some kind playful “lad bantz” is appallingly irresponsible and dangerous.

The article also reifies horrible, problematic tropes about women and sexuality. The notion of women as “prey” for men undermines our own bodily autonomy and sexual agency, not to mention being incredibly heteronormative. Also disturbing is the exhortation to seek out women with “low self-esteem and potential daddy issues”. I deeply resent the contention that if a woman enjoys no-strings sex she must (a) have low self-esteem (b) be somehow emotionally damaged.

As I’ve said multiple times, we in Ireland really need a sex-positive alternative to both pearl-clutching moralism & UniLad style “woarrgh, SMASH IT!” bullshit. Believe it or not, MOST WOMEN ENJOY SEX. Yes, despite what our bullshit, slut-shaming patriarchal Madonna/whore dichotomy culture dictates, some woman do like to have no strings attached sex with a hot guy or girl, and then move on with their lives afterwards.

Feminist objections to attitudes like the ones put forward in this article aren’t based on prudery, they’re based on a desire to establish respect for women’s autonomy, end rape culture and work towards equality. We need to develop a consent culture, where mutual respect for bodily autonomy is paramount. As Pervocracy writes,

I don’t want to limit it to sex.  A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well.

This is not about restricting people’s sex lives. This is absolutely not about putting your genitals in cold storage and joining some kind of enclosed religious order. If anything, restrictive sexual mores are what led to this situation in the first place. I want adults to be able to communicate like adults, as equals on a mutual footing. I want to end sexual stigma. As I said in a Twitter conversation earlier today, I want a culture where women carrying condoms on a night out is considered as normal as carrying lip balm.

So, to finish I’m going to offer some one-night stand advice for humans?

  • Find someone attractive that you want to have sex with.
  • Make sure that you communicate with them *exactly* what you want, and that they are cool with it.
  • Remember, consent is an ongoing practice. Be sure that they are clear and firmly comfortable with what is happening every step of the way.
  • Go forth and have sexy sex!

Role Models

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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

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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

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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.