Well, today’s XKCD was enough to make you go “eeeek”. But they’re generally awesome. I just love it when people get it.
Headscarfs still cause a lot of debate in the Netherlands, some feel it’s a form of oppression and we shouldn’t allow it. I’ve always felt forcing women to undress themselves when they don’t want to would be far worse. Covering female breasts is a sexist cultural norm as well, but we don’t change that by stripping women naked against their consent. It is my body, and i have the right to show or cover it as I wish. And honestly, the tone of the debate makes me so angry sometimes I just want to cover my hair to make a point – I am not an object, I am not an idea or ideology, my body as a woman is not a political battle ground. This is my head, my hair, my breasts, and if I don’t want to show them to you, you have no right to see them.
I really can’t see this issue separate from sex workers’ rights and reproductive rights and women’s rights in general. The idea that as women we decide what we want to do with our own bodies seems so radical sometimes. Instead of allowing others to decide for us, as if we are children, we get to use our bodies as we please. Whether I want to cover my body, have sex for my own reasons including money, show my breasts in public or stay a virgin is my business and mine alone.
“Prostitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. (…) In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women’s bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. It’s impossible. And no woman gets whole again later, after.” — Andrea Dworkin
I’m not a fan of Anita Sarkeesian. I mean, obviously I was on her side when her discussion of sexist stereotypes in computer games resulted in people sending her rape threats. It’s crazy that even talking about feminist issues can still be so dangerous, and in the grand scheme of things I’m on her team. But she calls sex workers ‘prostituted women’, a degrading term used by radical feminists to deny their agency. And as far as I know she has not yet responded to the many sex workers who have let her know that term is offensive and hurtful, which is such a crappy but typical thing to do for radfems.. Talk about sex workers, claim you want to help them, but do everything you can to ignore them and not give a damn about their wishes. Meh.
Anyway, her latest video is about butts. I thought it was good.
It’s ‘SEX WORKER’, Anita! Get with the program so I can be your fangirl!
As soon as I heard about the term ‘feminism’ I understood I was a feminist. I believe men and women should have the same rights and opportunities, and I think fighting for women’s rights is a necessary part of reaching gender equality, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me I should identify as feminist. But in recent years reality has forced me to step away from that ideological position and consider a more rational, fact-based one: modern feminism in practice is not a cool thing. Mainstream feminism is at its core a sexist, oppressive philosophy that fights against individual freedoms in favour of the ‘protection’ (for their own good!) of women against the aggression of men as a group. Mainstream feminism desires to punish men, silence women and put the state in a position of ultimate power. We see this happening in Sweden where men are punished for having consensual sex with adult women, we see it happen in the US where women are incarcerated when they don’t admit to being victims, we see it happen in the UK where sex workers are told to shut up so feminists can speak for them in a lecture they’ve ironically called Suppressed Voices, we see it happening in campuses where the lives of men are destroyed because they had consensual sex with women who weren’t constantly enthusiastically cheerleading during intercourse. Feminism degrades men by telling them not to rape while ignoring or even celebrating and laughing about the violence of women against men. Feminism is the cause of thoroughly sexist laws and legislation that dictate we treat men and women differently, such as the Violence Against Women Act or the laws in Sweden that call for heavier punishments if the perpetrator is a man and the victim a woman. Confronted with all these facts I had to come to the conclusion that mainstream feminism is such a threat to individual freedom and gender equality that I simply could not support it any longer.
After I published an article in the Dutch paper The Post Online on the dangers of modern feminism I got the same reactions so many writers get when they criticise feminism: not all feminists are like that. The gender-egalitarian feminists argue that mainstream feminism has got it wrong, that they don’t represent real feminism, that those are the ‘bad feminists’ and I shouldn’t confuse them with the ‘good feminists’. Real feminism is about women’s right, after all! But the important fact to consider here is that those ‘good feminists’ are the minority, the outliers. They hold virtually no political power, are not brought in as experts by governments, do not run Women’s Departments and are rarely visible in mainstream media. ‘Bad feminism’, the feminism of women as victims, men as perpetrators and the state as our saviour through incarceration is the mainstream feminism, the feminism we are dealing with, the feminism that is attacking our freedoms.
I am not at all unaware of the existence of good feminists. There’s actually a whole community of sex-positive queer-identified lgbtq-aware kink-friendly consent-minded buttplug-testing Feminist Porn Awards-attending gender-equality aiming feminists that have their own totally ‘radical’ workshops and lectures and orgies and porn movies. Although I share Furry Girl’s frustration with the privileged “omg I’m so political with my expensive dildo!” feminish-ism, I don’t necessarily think this sex-positive community is useless. A lot of communities that are loosely connected to sex-positive porn-loving feminism, such as the BDSM scene or polyamorous folk, do get influenced by their ideas and ideals and I think the good stuff might spread from there. But we have to be honest, these few ‘good’ feminists aren’t really political or influential. There’s nothing wrong with Porn Awards and expensive high quality sex toys, but it’s a hobby. And again, nothing wrong with hobbies, but watching my favourite tv series isn’t an activist, radical activity either.
Mainstream feminism, modern feminism, is a highly organised, highly influential movement with large NGO’s, great political power and they are getting shit done. This feminism is attacking our freedoms, killing our fellow humans, destroying lives and gaining power. I have nothing against your queer porn or sensible articles, totally love your radical ideas and hope to see you at a cool kinky event, but feminism is hurting us and we need to stop it. If you want to continue calling yourself feminist or want to fight to reclaim the word, well, that’s your decision to make. But please don’t put your energy in “omg not all feminists” when you decide to share an identity-label with our biggest current threat to gender equality and personal freedoms. Feminism is scary and it’s hurting us.
As women we are told that our beauty is central to our worth. You’ll notice this when women speak up on tv or in politics, their looks constantly being evaluated or criticised. An interview with a female politician will have a picture of her shoes or a text-box on her sense of fashion. Women who dare to voice their opinion are told they are too ugly to be heard. And then there’s the other side telling us we’re all beautiful, Dove with their ‘real beauty’ campaign and our friends assuring us that we are gorgeous. “Everybody is beautiful” they’ll tell us, “you just need to take the time to see it!”.
But we’re not. We are not all beautiful and it’s offensive to think we would believe such an obvious lie. Some women are definitely below average looking. How about we open our minds to the idea that.. maybe that’s okay?
We all possess some beauty, of course. We all possess some intelligence, and some height. But when we say somebody is tall we mean to say that person is of above average height. When we say somebody is smart we mean they are extraordinarily intelligent and when we say a person is beautiful we mean to say the are remarkably beautiful. And by definition, we can’t all be above average.
And we shouldn’t have to be.
The crazy mental gymnastics required to believe the lie that we are all beautiful is only necessary when we hold on to the belief that a woman’s worth is defined by her beauty.
It’s alright to not like something about your body, but it’s sad how it spirals out of control because we feel beauty is what really matters. Being below avarage when it comes to beauty does not equal being of below avarage worth as a human being. But for women, it’s almost as if we’re told it is. I say we take back the right to be unattractive, just like we have the right to be dumb or weak. Maybe an asymmetrical face, blotchy skin or lack or waist is not pretty. Maybe stretch marks are not beautiful and maybe that doesn’t matter! I can’t even lift my own body weight, but I don’t have a world pestering me that I can, that I have to be able to, lying to me that I’m strong because if I’m not I’m worthless.
It’s nice to be beautiful of course, just like it’s great to be smart. A flawless skin is nice and an hourglass figure is awesome. They are good things to have. But beautiful is just one of the things we can be. We can be beautiful or ugly, strong, weak, a great or terrible singer, friendly or bitchy, tall or short.
Maybe we don’t have to be everything. Maybe we can stop saying we’re all beautiful, because we’re not. Maybe we don’t have to be beautiful, maybe we can reject the idea that we have to be and stop listening to the lies that we are. Maybe we can just be what we are.
Domestic abuse is always horrible, and I’m so glad we’re startng to create more awareness and understanding, and providing more resources for victims. But thanks to deeply sexist views on the differences between men and women, male victims of abuse don’t always get the support they need.
I noticed him looking at my legs. There weren’t many people in the train that evening, he was sitting across from me and I watched as his gaze went over my ankles, up to my knees, and further to my thighs and hips. Shameless, I thought. Then he looked me in the eye, a bit startled, smiled apologetically and quickly looked out the window. He blushed a bit, looked at me again and I grinned. We both looked away and I comfortably listened to my mp3 player until I reached my destination. I felt flattered.
Almost every woman experiences street harassment, but men often find it hard not to get defensive when women discuss this problem. “What, is it a crime to look at a woman now?” they’ll ask, “if you’re dressed in a sexy manner, aren’t you asking for the attention?”. They’ll tell us “but it’s a compliment!” and advice us not to be so sensitive. “We just find women pleasing to look at”.
But I don’t think that’s it. Street harassment isn’t just a man finding a woman attractive and expressing that. A compliment is intended to make the other person feel good, if you really want to compliment someone and they express discomfort you back off. Street harassment is a man believing he has the right to look at a woman and talk to her whether she consents and feels comfortable or not. Often, street harassment is bullying, the intention is to make a woman feel unsafe or scared. It’s not a compliment.
It’s a dark, empty parking lot. A guy walks up to me. “Five euro’s if I can wet my fingers on your cunt!”. I pretend I heard nothing and walk faster.
“You look pretty”. I force a strained smile and look away. “Hey, I complimented you! You’re really pretty. What’s your name?”. I mumble a ‘sorry’ and start walking away. There aren’t many people around and I feel uncomfortable. “Why are you walking away? Hey! I complimented you! Come back here!”. I keep walking.
He catch him looking at my legs. He continues staring for so long it’s becoming rude. I try to make eye contact, but when he finally looks at me he gives me a “how you doin'” smile and says “hey”. I look away. He makes himself comfortable and examines my legs some more. I try to cover myself with my coat.
The guy in the first example acknowledged me as a person, was sensitive to my emotional response and didn’t feel entitled to my attention. It was a compliment, something he gave for free without expecting anything in return. The second guy intended to scare me, the third guy felt I owed him something and the third guy didn’t give a damn how I felt and just used me for his enjoyment. That’s not flattering. It’s intimidating, it made me feel unsafe and disrespected.
Don’t tell me to take it as a compliment.
After Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista because he was angry women wouldn’t have sex with him, a group of men on Twitter were quick to explain to the world that “not all men are like that”. In response to #NotAllMen a flood of women began sharing their experiences of violence, misogyny and harassment under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Men might not all be like that, but yes, all women experience the consequences of sexism. We live in a world where “I have a boyfriend” is the best way to get rid of men who bother you, where sex workers say “I have a pimp” to get rid of pushy clients, because some men have more respect for other men’s ‘property’ than they do for women’s agency. It’s true not all men are like that, but when we’re talking about violence against women maybe this is not the time to be so defensive. When we’re talking about a racist murderer it’s not the appropriate time to go “not all white people are like that!”. We know you’re not like that, but this isn’t about you. And honestly, derailing discussions about violence against women by constantly changing the subject back to the feelings of men, you’re part of the problem.
However, after the #YesAllWomen hype it seems it’s become taboo to talk about the fact that #NotAllMen are sexually violent. It’s wasn’t the time and place to talk about it then, but we do need to talk about it. Not all men are sexually violent, and we’re creating a huge problem by approaching all men as if they are.
“We shouldn’t teach women not to get raped, we should teach men not to rape” has gotten, in a strange sense, out of hand. Men are taught that their sexual desires are disrespectful, that any sexual initiative is inherently potentially violent. I know men whose mothers gave them a stern warning not to treat women as sexual objects, not to go straight for the boobs, be careful you don’t pressure her, so much that they’ve become afraid of being sexual with women. Men are
taught they are so dangerous, they should never be alone with a woman, they shouldn’t be left alone with kids. Men are told “boys will be boys” when other men do things they find morally objectionable, as if those evils are part of what it means to be a man. Men are mistrusted when they invite someone over for coffee, are mistrusted when traveling alone with a child, are perceived as violent when they even so much as look at a woman. Men are there when women are told not to leave them alone with their drinks, men are there when women are told not to be alone with a man, men are there when women are told it’s dangerous to be drunk in the presence of men. Men are bombarded with stories of how men victimise women, how men are predators, how men have oppressed women. The trafficking myth is based on the offensive perception that men are so vile there is actually a huge market for abused crying sex slaves in dark little prisons. After all this slander, we should have the respect to listen when men tell us “I’m not like that”.
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people, but perhaps we should give the radical notion that men are people a try.