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Struggles with sexism: why we must be specific

Eradicating sexism is difficult because when men and women do the same things, they are interpreted differently – often to the detriment of women. Changing attitudes or portraying women as similar to men doesn’t always solve things. Here are a few examples:

When men are portrayed as dominating, that traditionally meant that women were passive and submissive. But getting more dominant women on TV might not make things much better because when women are dominant they’re seen as bitchy, crazy, mean and agressive.

When men are seen as having an insatiable sex drive, women are meant to be the civilizing influence on them, turning men to the family by witholding sex until marriage. Yet, for some regions the answer may not lie in portraying women as having equal sexual desire – because when female sex drive is acknowledged, it’s used as yet another excuse to control women (not allowing them free movement/driving) and seen as another inherent weakness in women (unable to resist temptation).

When women are percieved as more capable than men, this usually only extends to being better at parenting, organising, personal hygiene and tidiness. This portrayal of womens’ strength only serves to perpetuate the strict gender roles of women’s domesticity and motherhood-as-destiny. It further marginalizes women who are messy, disorganized or uncertain about being mothers. It’s fine for a man to be worried about loss of freedom when the baby arrives or worry about his capability as a father. Likewise, men are expected to be messy and oblivious to skin/hair products, even those for their gender. Thus, portraying women as superior to men may, in some instances, backfire completely as we inadvertently unearth the tired old Victorian ideal.

Therefore, solutions to sexism aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem. I am not advocating that we refrain from certain courses of action, nor that we do certain actions; I am just pointing out that the politics surrounding sexism are complex and that solutions cannot be too generalised. Solutions which work well in the west may backfire in other regions if the message is not more specific and tailored. Marketing images of women as superior to men may also backfire.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Why some sexist jokes cause harm and some don’t

Just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I believe that ALL sexist jokes cause harm to women.

 

I’m guessing that some feminists left after reading that. For everyone who has stayed on this page, I thank you, and here is why:

Some sexist jokes are too full of hyperbole and carry such controversial or very generalized messages that they have little effect on attitudes to women. For example, “Why did the woman cross the road? Never mind that, what’s she doing out of the kitchen!” is unlikely to significantly affect attitudes because our society does not believe in making all women housewives, and we know that doing so would affect the economy and create many other problems. Also, there is no real threat of men suddenly making all women housewives.

However, “Why do women have boobs? So you’ve got something to look at when you’re talking to them!” is more harmful because women are being objectified by men more than they are being forced by men to be housewives. There is a real threat of such objectification increasing (I blame lad culture, media and advertising more than pornography for reasons I’ll discuss in another post). Also, the message here is more specific and also more subtle: that women are meant to be objectified or that breasts exist for male pleasure.

Lastly, “What did her right leg say to her left leg? Nothing, because they never met!” is even more harmful because slutshaming is rampant and this joke is not only encouraging slutshaming, it itself is a form of slutshaming material. There is a real threat of slutshaming increasing due to the speech and rhetoric of certain politicians, radfems, prolife NGOs and anti-sexwork NGOs. The message is also subtle – that women are not supposed to express their sexuality, and that doing so is deviant and worthy of mockery. Who knows, perhaps this “joke” or something similar was used to bully Amanda Todd in any of the schools she moved away from. It’s a popular joke and has been used to shame and bully girls and women for years now. I dream of a slutopia where this joke would make no sense.

The most dangerous and offensive jokes are the ones that help perpetuate rape culture. Jokes about rape – of either men or women. The only way a rape joke could ever be funny was if the joke was about the rapist and portrayed the rapist as evil, inept, cowardly, etc. The joke should make the audience laugh at the rapist. Sadly I don’t know of any jokes like this. We don’t joke about murder or serious assault, so why do we even joke about rape? That’s a disturbing question right there. I also find objectionable jokes about accidental sex or jokes which do not make clear if it was consensual (“she said ‘that’s not my [object]’. And he said, ‘well that’s not my [object]’.”)

On a personal note, I don’t believe my tolerance of some sexist jokes to be that surprising, given that as someone who’s half Asian I like Asian jokes and the way L;u Kim is drawn in South Park. It’s hilarious to me and my Asian relatives. If racist jokes don’t inspire racial hatred and aren’t used in a hateful way, they’re fine by me; perhaps if South Park didn’t mock white males the most I wouldn’t approve. Family Guy is similar: “I’m standing outside the Park Barrington Hotel because they don’t allow Asians inside.” “When [an Asian guy] comes in I’m going to blindfold him with this dental floss. Nah nah nah nah nah nah, racial slur.” And I think this is absolutely hilarious, because these two shows mock every other race, so why should Asians be exempted? That would just be treating them differently.

And it’s the same with sexism. If we joke about men, gays, alcoholics, vegetarians, Jews, nationalities, race, rich people, poor people, politicians etc, why exempt women? Wouldn’t that be treating women differently?

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Rape the sluts: the ‘Men can’t control themselves’ excuse

The clothes that a woman happens to be wearing at the time of an assault are often used against her in court, in the media or in her own social circle. I remember as an 18 year old being told by a girl I knew about a newspaper article which reported that a rape victim’s underwear was shown in court to prove that she consented. This was because the underwear had been manufactured with the words “Little devil” printed on the fabric. More recently an article in the Daily Mail sparked outrage for claiming that rape laws were too harsh and were catching innocent men; an example used was that a 19 year old attacked by two footballers had been drinking and had the top three buttons on her blouse undone, so it could not possibly be rape.

Another tactic in using clothes to victim-blame is claiming that if a man sees a woman wearing revealing clothes, he cannot help not raping her, or that the clothes themselves confuse men or constitute consent (a dress is a ‘yes’).

However, the assertion that all men are filthy, sexualised animals who can’t see a bit of cleavage without attcking a woman makes no logical sense. Firstly, men (and women) tend not to commit sexual assaults when there are witnesses around. This is why most attacks on women happen in the victim’s own home, in a dark or secluded area (an empty classroom, a car, an ambulance, a quiet street), in the attacker’s home or are perpertrated by the woman’s partner or family member. So, if men are really beasts who can’t control themselves, why can they control themselves when they know they’re likely to be caught? Why don’t we see men committing rape in malls, busy classrooms or crowded streets? Even when they do abduct victims from crowded places, how are they able to control themselves long enough to get their victim into a secluded area (remember the 14 year old boy abducted from a mall and raped in a toilet in Marks and Spencer’s?) How can Daddy control himself in the street and when Mummy is around, but suddenly he can’t control himself if his wife leaves the house? The myth that men can’t control themselves is just a nonsensical excuse.

A disturbing fact is that we don’t accept the ‘I couldn’t control myself because of my gender’ for any other crime or for any other gender. Try telling a judge that you couldn’t help knifing that person or nicking that wallet because you’re a man. Try telling anyone that you couldn’t help sexually assaulting that man because you’re a woman. So why accept that excuse for men who rape? The excuse should either be valid for all crimes and all genders, or it should be invalid for all crimes and all genders.

Another fact: we don’t accept the excuse for men who molest children or have sex with underage girls. But it seems that if you’re over the age of consent, it’s all your fault for leading him on and he couldn’t help it. If he really can’t help it with girls over 16, why is he able to control himself with a 15 year old? Why is it all his fault if you’re 15 and consenting, and all your fault if you’re 16 and not consenting?

Yet another illogical aspect of this excuse is: If men can’t control themselves, wouldn’t that mean that women also can’t control themselves? So why are only men deemed to be animals, and not women?

The tactic of using clothes to victim-blame, or even just to slutshame women ordinarily, is a dirty trick. You see, that outfit that Jenny is wearing that seems slutty to you isn’t Jenny – it’s an outfit. You’re judging Jenny based on what she’s wearing. If you had met her two hurs earlier she would have been wearing a business suit. If you were to meet her two hours later she’ll be wearing a frumpy, mumsy cardigan and worn baggy jeans.Later, when Jenny’s wearing her fleecey PJ’s, you might be wearing a short see-through nightie. So if Jenny is attacked at 4pm, she will be wearing a suit and will be seen as a victim (unless she knows the attacker). But if her attacker decides to lie in wait for her until 5pm and stalk her, by the time he attacks her she might be wearing a ‘revealing’ outfit. So it’s her fault for being dressed that way. And if the rapist instead chooses to follow her home and then break in, she’ll be wearing her mumsy outfit and be seen as a victim. Women have no control and no choice over when they are attacked or what they’re wearing when they are attacked. We don’t dress in the mornings or change our outfits in the day thinking that we might be raped, any more than men dress to be raped. We don’t think that men are dangerous animals who will leap at the first chance to attack us; we’re not paranoid. Neither are men. Judging women and victim-blaming on the basis of dress puts victims under the power of their rapist. The attacker chose when to attack; he has that control. The victim doesn’t. By victim-blaming, you are giving the rapist the power to make his victim endure shaming and make her testimony less believable. You are giving him the power to negotiate and influence the wider disourse around rape, as well as the opportunity to escape prison if the victim isn’t believed. By assuming womens’ dress causes them to be raped, we might even end up with a society in which men try to attack women who are dressed a certain way, so that they will get away with it – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And if men are biologically compelled to rape if they catch a glimpse of cleavage, leg or belly button, how are they able not to rape when they see women in bikinis on the beach? Or naked women in nudist colonies? Or topless women on the beach? When I was 8 I once saw a naked woman at the beach, pulling her two young children in a rubber ring and covering herself with her other hand. Nobody tried to rape her or even noticed her or cared. In fact, I, an eight year old female, was the one who was staring the most.

This final argument comes with illustrations (yay!). In Britain, it is ILLEGAL to wear clothing in public that would display nipples or genitals. Strip clubs, nudist colonies and BDSM club nights may have different rules, but when you step out of these establishments onto the street, you will be charged with public indecency if you aren’t covering those areas. So how revealing can revealing clothes even be?

This woman is wearing a bralet and short skirt, but all she is revealing is a little of her belly.

This is the most revealing photo I could find of people who appeared on Snog, Marry Avoid. However, the two womens’ outfits, while being as revealing as possible without being illegal, are actually less revealing than a bikini. And neither of them are revealing their nipples or private parts, so the most sexual parts of their bodies are covered. So they aren’t revealing anything at all – the erogenous zones are covered up, leaving only the mundane non-sexy bits showing.

Really, anyone who believes that men are so weak, violent and bestial that they would attack these two women just because their tummies, legs and decolletage are revealed is an idiot.

A man wouldn’t be compelled to attack a woman walking down the street naked any more than a woman would be compelled to attack a naked man, or an adult of either sex would be compelled to attack a naked child.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Does love have to be forever?: “Love” priveleged; love myths

Love is a concept shrouded in myths. We don’t see love as on a continuum, at one end of a spectrum that starts with friendship or NSA sex. We don’t usually see love as flawed, fallible or even temporary in the same way that we see friendship and other sexual relationships. Somehow, love is supposed to be perfect and endure forever and ever. Love is supposed to mean the same thing to everyone and to be experienced in the same way by everyone. And the word “love” in English is used synonymously with the word “commitment”.

Love is a priveleged concept; it is always seen as sacred, pure, in no need of explanation or defence. While other feelings and relationships may be publically scrutinised, debated or denounced, love is not subject to any challenge. Even in the equal marriage debate, love is used as the justification for equal marriage, precisely because it is so difficult or unthinkable to argue against love.  The anti-equal marriage brigade resort to arguing that homosexual love is not-love; they do not challenge the pro-equal marriage supporters by arguing that love should not be priveleged or that love and marriage are irrelevant to each other. It is implicitly assumed by both sides that love should be rewarded by or lead to marriage and that love should be priveleged.

The Catholic Church and other random right-wing moralists, whether politicians, NGOs or think-tanks, criticise every other sexual emotion on the spectrum except for love. Love is immune. In fact, love is often favoured and other sexual emotions are compared to it unfavourably. Love is the ideal.

Women a little older than me may remember dreaming of – or being socialised into dreaming of – experiencing true love like Princess Diana. For those around my age, it was Cinderella, Princess Jasmine, Belle and Ariel. For those who are younger, Bella Swan is their role model. Previous generations had Shakespeare’s Juliet and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, unDisneyfied. Obviously, this is part of the reason why we put love on a pedestal. But the really interesting thing is that all of us expect to experience love in the same way as our fictional or celebrity heroines. We don’t entertain the idea that love might feel different to different people, or feel different with different partners or at different ages.

Love is inextricably linked to marriage and the family the two-parent heterosexual monogamous fertile family. Female children and teenage girls take it for granted that they’ll fall madly in love with their very own Prince Charming and get married. The reality for a lot of people, though, is marrying someone you like a lot and who you get on with; the scorching fires of I-can’t-live-without-you passion and wild romance seldom lead to stable relationships, as the magic fizzles out after a while. Yet, we continue to delude ourselves that we’ll ‘find our soulmate’ and ‘know it’s true love’ and ‘live happily ever after’. This is because we see love as a shining, separate entity, instead of an emotion resting on the far side of the casual sex-friendship-like-like a lot-love spectrum.

This is quite harmful, because the separation of love from all other close, bonding, sexual, romantic, passionate and friendship feelings leads to seeing love as copletely cut off from all other feelings. We tell ourselves that it’s either love or it’s not love. So, if we like a girl or guy, we might think we are “in love”. After all, we can’t stop thinking about them and love being around them, so it’s got to be love. Thinking you care more deeply about someone than you do is probably inevitable, but separating love from all other emotions only exacerbates the problem. Another effect is that we think in terms of lust and love, as if they were polar opposites. We think that if it’s casual, short-term or has no clear direction, it’s just lust, when in reality there could be friendship feelings or other feelings there, too. Everything is lust if it’s not love. And love is ranked as superior to lust; women are meant to love, not lust, and to prefer to get love instead of getting lust.

It would be better if our language allowed a more nuanced discussion of the spectrum instead of using love-words (love, romance, commitment, faithful) and lust-words (casual, passion, hot, sexy) as if they were mutually exlusive. For cohabitees, polyamorous people, swingers and those in open marriages, our language and discourse are unhelpful and redundant.

And we think love cannot be flawed; if a man beats or sexually assaults his wife or a woman hits her child, these individuals didn’t love their victims. But there is no reason why someone can’t be in love and still abuse or assault their loved ones; it’s not normal, natural or acceptable, and could be referred to as ‘pathological love’ but it could happen*.

Love is seen as an end in itself, a goal to be achieved, a meaningful pursuit even for a successful career woman. None of the other feelings on the love-lust spectrum are seen in this way. Lust is not seen as a meaningful goal for women to pursue, or an end in itself for anyone. In fact, women who enjoy recieving lust or openly have too much of the emotion themselves are often slut-shamed.

Love, in the West, is usually equated with commitment. But should it be? In our modern society we sometimes forget that love wasn’t always thought of as permanent or as requiring faithfulness; even Shakespeare’s Romeo fell in and out of love with Rosemarie quickly, and in love with Juliet almost instantaneously, similarly to the way King David fell in love with Bathsheba as he saw her nude. The Hindu god Krishna is continually unfaithful to his consort Radha whom he loves dearly. And I have heard – I think most people have – of one-night stands or even holiday sex turning into cohabiting and then marriage. While I can’t take seriously the claim of “I felt love for everyone I slept with”, it may be possible to be truly in love with someone for a short time. After all, that’s why marriages fail – people fall out of love. So why couldn’t people be truly in love, but not have any plans to commit? Does being in love mean you have to want to be with that person until you’re 80? Or is it possible to be in love but know you can’t be with them forever, and, when you do leave them, you wuld always remember and think about them?

In regards to the glamorising and glorifying of this emotion called love: Love is nothing special. It’s just the end-point on the spectrum when the feelings of friendship and sexual attraction intensify.

 

 

 

 

*I’m not saying all or even most people who assault/abuse their family members love them. I’m just saying it could happen. And I’m certainly not saying that their love somehow “lessens” their crimes – it doesn’t. Arguably it makes their crimes worse.

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Chastity’s blog post

“No vows, no sex”

Hello, this is me writing as Chastity White, a right-wing nutjob. I’m here to tell you why just the women you all should be abstinent. By the way, Kalika is not the only virginal slut/slutty virgin. Check out these other abstinent whores…I mean, totally serious photos that prove my points. If you believe in any other so-called religion that is obviously from the devil, leave now stay and be indoctrinated, you disgusting heathens.

“True love waits”

Women can make it easier for themselves to be abstinent by denying their femininty and degrading their sexuality. We must allow ourselves to be dominated by men, and wear underwear that expresses our dads’ possession of us as a commodity valuable only for our hymen.

Daddy owns me. Daddy’s a gun-wielding, violent maniac who’d murder his own daughter’s boyfriend, and he OWNS me. Help. Please. Child Protection servies? Anyone?

Another good tip is to be on your guard against impure thoughts. Never let a man have sexual contact with you – it’s your fault if he does, because you let him. Women are the guardians of sex and it’s our job to tell him no. It’s not his job to tell us no, or to control himself. If you don’t tell him no, that’s a shame on you but fame for him, because boys should have as many girls as they can. Their virginity is worthless but yours is priceless. This is all non-negotiable because it just is. It’s not even in the Bible, but let’s act like  it’s in the Bible and the laws of our country all at the same time.

Your virginity is your gift. It’s the greatest gift you have – worth way more than your intelligence, personality, good character, hard work, sports achievements, degree(s), religious or political beliefs…

Another argument is that this is all for your own good. Women get hurt by sex but men don’t. This is true for 100% of women and men even in vastly different cultures and historical periods. It’s just as true for homosexuals and trans people. The reason why women get hurt is that we are inferior to men and have a chemical called oxytocin that releases when we chat to friends or have sex; it makes us feel happy. Somehow, that interferes with our ability to not get emotions all mixed up with sex. Men don’t have this chemical or any similar chemical of course. That’s why men don’t have any friends. Obviously. And why men can separate emotions and sex; this separation is the reason why men don’t have committed relationships or get married. Only women ever enter committed relationships, because women fall in love whenever they have sex, and also they want commitment – men never want commitment, of course.

The hymen/corona is of sacred importance. Everything else is okay because it is the non-existent hymen that is symbolic. We know it’s actually called the corona, which never gets ‘broken’ and the ‘hymen’ is just a myth, but WE DON’T CARE. Seriously. So fuck off, liberals.

When you are abstinent, it is of paramount importance to comport yourself in a decent fashion. The abstinence cult doesn’t harm women in any way, or perpetuate the double standard at all. In fact, giving Daddy complete control over his daughter’s sexual choices in a purity ball or purity pledge is actually empowering for his daughter – even though girls as young as four are forced into these pledges. After all, what could be more self-actualising and healthy than letting Daddy decided who you date, and giving Daddy a key until the day you get married and he gives that key to your husband, symbolising the key to your heart and your virginity? This is very progressive behaviour and not barbaric or repressive at all. And although the fact that boys aren’t made to attend purity balls and pledge their virginity to their mothers, that doesn’t mean that we care more about female virginity than male virginity…it doesn’t…honest!!!! As to why Mommy isn’t the natural guardian of her daughter’s virginity, as she has of course gone through the same temptations and understands the urges and hormonal upheavals a young girl has to face, well…Mommy can’t guard her daughter’s heart. It’s Daddy’s job. After all, Mommy is just a woman…she doesn’t have a penis, which of course means she can’t be trusted with anything. Just look at the wonderful regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia – they know the score. Just because some women – and men- in those countries vehemently oppose the laws and campaign for gender equality doesn’t mean the governments aren’t totally right. We should use their example in our own society by not having a separation of church and state. That way, we could have abstinence indoctrination – sorry, I mean education – in ALL schools, not just some. Then the virgins will be virgins and the sluts will get pregnant and be shamed by the community as they won’t be allowed contraception or abortion (in my ideal universe). The women would have only two choices: which will you be, slut or virgin? No grey areas, just black and white – if you’re not a virgin, you’re a slut. The boys can do what they like, of course, boys are naturally meant to have lots of sex. And everyone would be a repressed conservative and worship the government.

Women are of course passive and asexual, and we don’t have a right to anything more.

 

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