Tag Archives: feminism

Politically Correct

In Dutch there is an old-fashioned habit of adding the letter ‘e’ to words when they refer to women. More than once I’ve had to ask people to stop calling me “psychologe” and instead just use the gender-neutral term “psycholoog”. And I don’t appreciate it when my colleagues refer to me as ‘collegaatje’ either, which means little colleague. This habit of adding ‘tje’ to everything is typically used by women, and It makes everything in their life sound cute and tiny. They’ll have a ‘wijntje’ (little wine) with their ‘vriendinnetje’ (little female friend) and leave their ‘autootje’ (little car) at home. It’s as if their world is a dollhouse.

I believe the way we use language influences how we think about people, and I try my best to be politically correct because I know my words can cause harm. Precise wording matters, we need to use proper terms and stop ourselves from using stereotype-affirming wording. It’s a problem when sex workers are continuously called ‘girls’ or in Dutch even ‘little girls’ (meisjes), because it feeds this widespread feeling that sex workers are fragile kittens in need of our help and rescue. It’s a problem when policy makers call victims of forced prostitution ‘ex-prostitutes’, because ex-prostitutes are not always victims and victims are certainly not always ex-prostitutes. Many victims want to do sex work, and most ex-sex workers simply changed careers. We need to use accurate terms because this carelessness is causing confusion, it feeds stereotypes and creates more discrimination.

I can be a pain in the ass. You really don’t make friends when you’re always nit-picking about these ‘details’, if you’re constantly correcting people (“no, not little girls. Adult sex workers are men and women”) and often, people don’t see why it matters so much. And it doesn’t in every individual case, one person calling a sex worker a little girl harms no one, it’s the structural habit that’s a problem. But I think we can change that one person at a time. So I have these conversations a lot:

Them: Ha ha, HOMO!
Me: I don’t appreciate it when you use homo as an insult.
Them: Oh I didn’t mean it that way it’s just a joke.
Me: It’s not nice for us gay people when that word is used like that, it’s kind of hurtful you know? I know you didn’t mean it that way but I’d appreciate it if you stopped using homo as an insult.
Them: Yeah okay, don’t make a big deal out of it.
Me: Thanks.

But I think we can go too far. Or rather, that we can get confused over what the actual problem is. In some circles, politically correct language has become a goal in itself rather than a tool to reach equality and equal rights. People who are unaware of how language influences everything and use, for example, sexist language are suddenly seen as the problem, the enemy, instead of just a part of a structural problem in how society views (for example) women. Even for someone like me, with a good education and plenty of exposure to gender theories, sex work rights activism, sex positive activism and other subcultures with a lot of emphasis on correct language, it can sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells. Or rather, stepping through a mine-field and you never know when the next PC-bomb goes off.

Remember when Dan Savage got hated on because he talked about the problems with the word ‘tranny’ and he shouldn’t have said tranny even when he’s talking about why you shouldn’t say tranny because tranny is hurtful and he should have said t-slur instead? Holy hell, I just wanted to have a big fat wijntje with one of my vriendinnetjes when I read that…

I’ve seen the PC-policing go bad more than once and really agreed with Fredrik deBoer in his essay “I don’t know what to do, you guys“. I’ve backed out of plenty of debates on trans activism and other sensitive topics because it just all got so hostile so very quick, and the hostility was aimed at well-meaning potential allies who had no idea what kind of shit they stirred up when they unknowingly used a slur. It’s different when someone continues to use slurs after they’ve been informed why it’s a problem, then it becomes hate speech. But often, it’s ignorance rather than bad intentions.

Maybe it’s not your responsibility to educate others. But maybe it is your responsibility to not scare every potential ally away, because like careless language, it harms our final goals, which is a world where we are all treated as equals, where we all have the same rights. You don’t have to educate anyone, but don’t stop us from educating others by scaring our allies away. Because that is hurting us.

All about them without them

One of the most crazy aspects of the rescue industry is their ability to simply block any information that contradicts their views and fully ignore any sex worker who does not identify as a victim. The Christian Dutch broadcaster EO has made a series on prostitution and the lack of knowledge and insight is mind blowing. Jojanneke v/d Berge, the host of the show, was allowed to write a column for the feminist magazine Opzij and she shamelessly admitted that in her two years of research she had succeeded in ignoring every sex worker who did not fit into the image of a victim. Dutch sex workers are a pretty loud bunch, so that’s actually quite an achievement. They further displayed their ignorance with the following video. “What would it be like if women bought sex?” they ask, and their presentation of sex work is so hilariously unlike any reality of any sex worker that it’s hard to understand how they can present this with a straight face.

Argh, My twitterfeed is exploding with Dutch sex workers who are pissed off and flabbergasted. And while Jojanneke van den Berge is allowed to share her prejudice and lies in newspapers, tv-shows and magazines, sex workers are (again) ignored. Disgusting.

Click here for the video.

Oh girl!

I like All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor. It’s catchy, it’s easy listening and who doesn’t love all the right junk in all the right places? But I understand the feminist critique that the whole “fat is okay because boys like fat” is kind of bullshit and an entire song about how boys prefer more booty seems somewhat sad. I care about my appearance but come on, my body is not just something that should be pleasing to boys.

But we have our own Dutch “fat is fine” song which I think is way cooler. Six years ago Esther Groenenberg sang “oh meisje” and here’s the translated lyrics:

Oh girl, don’t forget to live
Girl, don’t forget to enjoy
You’re young and beautiful
Although you’d like to be thinner
Just don’t forget to live, ’cause living is great!

Amen!

Not All Feminists

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.

You’re Not Beautiful

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

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.

But it’s a Compliment!

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”.StopStreeHarassment

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.

The Weekly Personal

My sister and I are both planning a long trip abroad.

“I’m just not sure what I’ll do” she said. “What if I’m there and I don’t meet any interesting people and I’m alone? How are you going to find friends when you’re over there?”

“Well, I’m going to go on Fetlife and meet local kinksters of course!” I replied.

“Of course” she smiled. “I need something like that. Something to identify with, a community I can connect to.”

“Maybe you can meet up with local feminist groups?”

She laughed. “Yeah, I’m looking for something a little bit more ‘gezellig‘!”.

She was joking of course, but it was funny because it’s true. I’ve been in conflict with myself over my self-identification as a feminist for a long time. Why should I be a part of a movement that’s currently the biggest threat to women’s rights, together with fundamentalist Christians? Why should I fight to reclaim the word when it’s so strongly associated with oppression of sexual liberty? Why should I try to be included in a movement that so obviously doesn’t want me? Feminism isn’t a homogeneous group of course, and just as I’m sure there are pro-choice pro-sex pro-sexwork pro-women fundamentalist Christians out there, I can be one of the sane feminists. But it’s starting to feel like an uphill battle over a word I’m not even all that fond of.

See, I don’t think I’m feminist. I’m just not sexist. I don’t have a special word to express that I’m not racist either, it’s just assumed I’m not and called racism if I am. Same should go for sexism – it should be the norm that you’re not and if you are, we have a word for that. And I don’t like the fem in feminism either – although I’m totally pro fighting for women’s rights, I’m against all forms of sexism. Still, I like using a word to express that I am actively opposing sexism, that it’s something that I do. So feminism it is, for now. But I don’t find it very gezellig.

I felt like an angry feminist when I saw this ad though. Even putting your bike away properly is now supposed to be sexy huh? Jesus.

“Jij bent lekker” means “you’re hot/delicious”. “Jij bent lekker bezig” means “nice job/doing well”. I mean seriously, we can use sex to sell anything? But selling sex is a problem?

Come on.