Feminism

“Female Privilege”

Posted in fail, Feminism, New Zealand on February 14th, 2012 by steph – Comments Off on “Female Privilege”

The biggest mistake I made yesterday was reading this article on The Good Men Project when I saw the link. I really knew not to expect anything from a post on the GMP, but I couldn’t resist. “I Have Female Privilege”. I should’ve just walked away from the computer and never read this, because cleaning up the resulting mess from my head explosion was just not a great use of my time.

So, apparently the world is now a “woman’s world”, and women have all sorts of privilege; “I know that battle has not been won everywhere. There are countries or cultures where horrendous things happen to you if you are female. But in my country and in my culture, and in many other western countries, I would suggest the tide has well and truly turned.”

 

1. I’m allowed to be far more open about my sexuality than a man is. In fact, if I’m bisexual, it’s encouraged (both male and females encourage it funnily enough). If I’m hetero, I’m allowed to make comments about how hot men are, compliment men without others thinking it’s harassment and generally can make lewd comments about any person, be them male or female, and it’s considered ok. I can say “I fancy him so much I’d  even rape him” or “I need to pull him into the storeroom and show him I mean it” or “He is mega hot” about any male whether  he is seventeen (I am forty) or seventy. I can sit in a Twilight movie and drool at Jacob (for instance), and not be seen as a dirty old woman.

 

As QoT said on twitter last night, “I have privilege because people are happy to objectify my bisexuality!”. Some fucking privilege it is that lesbians and bi women are still positioned as being wank-fodder for guys- it’s so great not having your sexuality taken seriously! Additionally, the reason women are allowed to make “lewd comments” is because our sexuality is still seen as non-threatening; and, in fact, women are actually shamed for their sexual desires (too high=slut, too low=frigid, and there is no ‘perfect medium’ because no matter what you do you will always be a slut or a prude to someone). Some privilege that is. I’m not trying to say that men have it much better- in some ways they do, and in others they don’t. For me, that’s a part of why I’m a feminist; trying to work against mainstream stereotypes of men always being horny and lascivious beasts, and trying to combat homophobia. But just because men have it bad in some ways, that doesn’t mean that women have privilege over them in that area.

 

2. If my partner and I were in a domestic dispute and both violent, or both shouting, and I hit him … if the police were called, my male partner would still be the one far more likely to be taken into custody for the night. If my male partner tried to report domestic violence, it would be harder for him to have the charges laid, than if I did so. In fact, while there is a charge of Male assaults Woman in my country, there is no Woman assaults Male. That would be classified instead as General Assault.

 

So, because men may not be believed if they accuse a woman of violence, women have privilege? Even though the actual facts also include the statistic that women are much more likely to be the victim of violence (perpetrated by a man) than men? If that is what female privilege is, then you can have it back, thanks. It’s so reassuring to know that in a “woman’s world”, women are at risk of violence (domestic, but also sexual violence and rape outside of domestic spheres). I mean, come on. Really?! REALLY?! Because surely in a woman’s world, we would be at very low risk of being victimized. Oh, but men might not be believed if they report being victimized by a woman- well, that does suck. But it is in no way an indicator that the world is a woman’s world; in fact, it is a sneaky little byproduct of patriarchy- you know, that system that positions men as the top dogs! Yes, that’s right: in the patriarchy, where gender stereotypes roam free, women are seen as weak, submissive, passive, and generally incapable of violence against men. In the patriarchy, a man being hit by his wife is as absurd as a talking horse. So no wonder he might not be believed if he claimed to have been hurt by a woman- it is a ludicrous role-reversal. So, this example of “female privilege” is really just male power and dominant positioning backfiring for men. To be clear: as a woman and a feminist, my ideal world would be one where acts of violence were all treated seriously; I don’t want to live in a world where a man who is hurt by a woman is not taken seriously because I don’t want women to have power and control over men. That attitude – that the only dynamic is one group having power over the other- comes from the perspective that the world is a zero-sum game, and that improving the lives of women means an automatic switcheroo so that men are now on the bottom. That is a fairly common false conceptualization of what the goal of feminism is, and seems silly when you consider how explicitly feminists state that we want equality (which, as you can see, includes the word “equal”. It seems obvious enough…).

 

3. If my relationship with the father of my children was to break up, I’m far more likely to get the kids. And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not, I get to choose whether the father’s name is on the birth certificate or not (and if he queries it, he’s the one who has to pay for the DNA test) and if he’s named as the father, he then has to pay child support, whether he was aware I was trying to have a child or not.

 

There is so much fail contained in this example. Firstly, the reason a woman might be more likely to “get the kids” is because in this world- the patriarchy!- women are positioned as the caregivers and often the primary parents, so who better to “give” the kids to than their figure of eternal love and nurturing?  This attitude is an attitude of the patriarchy, not of a “woman’s world”, so using this as an example of how women have all the privilege is just hilarious. A patriarchal attitude being used to explain how the world is no longer biased towards men- I find this very, very funny. Another clear example of looking at the small picture and not thinking about the larger causes and dynamics at play. And, to top it off, the idea that women usually “get” the kids is actually disputed- apparently, men not getting custody is often due to men not applying for custody, and when they do they often get it (in some form)- the whole “feminazis have infiltrated the justice system and the courts are female-controlled” line is most often spouted by good old MRA types who love to talk about the “gynocracy”.

And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not”

Oh, what a privilege to live in a world where if you did what this first example suggests you would be slammed as a gold-digging deadbeat single mum, and your parenting routinely criticized until the end of time. We do not live in a world friendly to single mums, and often it is actively hostile. So sure, you can “do” that, technically, but to pretend that it is an easy option, and to not mention the backlash that comes with that choice, is utter misrepresentation. And great, we can choose to “have the baby or not”. Sucks that while we may have that choice, the world we live in- which is apparently a woman’s world- is still generally not very positive about the choice of abortion, nor does it provide great support for parents. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The post is, apparently, about New Zealand (given that the writer is from here, and mentions “her” country early on) and other western countries: we’re apparently awash in the privilege to choose not to continue a pregnancy in New Zealand, where abortion access is not nearly as easy as people believe and where grounds for abortions are laid out in the Crimes Act (“Serious danger to the life or to the physical or mental health of the mother. Risk that the child would be severely handicapped, physically or mentally. Pregnancy as a result of incest or unlawful sex with a guardian. Severe mental subnormality of the mother.”). That is not what a “woman’s world” in New Zealand looks like to me, and if that is considered to be “female privilege”, then it’s a fucking joke. Other western countries aren’t looking to great when it comes to choosing not to have a child either- the reproductive rights of Americans are being chipped away at, and abortion providers in the USA continue to be targets of domestic terrorist acts (and yes, that is what clinic bombings and the murders of doctors is) committed by anti-choicers, and access to abortion services (choosing not to continue the pregnancy) is fraught for many people in many states of America. This is NOT what female privilege looks like. To argue that because women have “female privilege” because we are theoretically presented with choices about pregnancy  is 100% tunnel vision, full stop.

 

4. I’m allowed to be as education- and career-driven as I want to be, and push for the top, seeking equity and equality in everything. But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought. And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.

 

I’m allowed to be as education and career driven as I want, provided I make sacrifices in other areas of my life that a man would not have to, and put myself out there for criticism that a man would not receive. I can push for the top if I want to be called a ball-breaker, or have my ability to do the job questioned, or have it insinuated that I only achieved success because I used my sexuality and/or got the job because of sexual favours. I also may be the victim of sexual harrassment by coworkers, or be excluded from the old boys network that still exists in many places. And when I want to work and have kids, it’s considered “having it all”, whereas for men it’s called “being an adult” or not called anything at all. Hooray, female privilege! Life is so great.

But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought.”

Two words: BECAUSE PATRIARCHY. Patriarchy is why men are expected to take care of women, and it sets up a world where this is an acceptable dynamic. When women are viewed as needing to be looked after and provided for like a small child, of course you are expected to pay for their dinner. Chivalry -such as holding doors for women- is a product of the patriarchy, and doesn’t actually mean that it is a “woman’s world”: in fact, if you actually think about the situation beyond the superficial interaction, it is an example of how it is still a man’s world. Chivalry is patriarchal, and patriarchal means, by definition, that the world is a man’s world. I guess it sucks to be a guy who is so goddamn pleased with his superior status (as bestowed by the patriarchy), but then realises that this now means he is expected to take care of the people inferior to him as part of the deal.

 

“And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.”

Yeah, it does suck that the expected dynamic is women stay at home and men go to work. But guess what? Once again, that is actually not an indicator that it is a woman’s world and that women have the privilege, but it is a byproduct of patriarchal attitudes that say  “why the fuck would any red-blooded man want to stay home to fold clothing and change nappies? That’s women’s work!”. So yeah, another invalid example, and another case of looking at the small picture but not the bigger dynamic and what causes the small picture. As a feminist, I would love for it to be easier (both practically, in terms of support systems, but also in terms of reduced social stigma) for men to stay at home with their kids. Women being considered the default caregivers is not a privilege that women have, because it robs everyone of choice.

 

5. If I write an inflammatory comment, or a blog, or article, and a man questions anything in it, all I need to do to shut the conversation down is call him a bully, or say he’s a privileged male. I can also make disparaging comments about his sexuality, his economic standing, the size of his penis, and his ability to do pretty much anything in return for him disagreeing with me. I can do this, because when I do, I KNOW there will be a bunch of other women who will stick up for me.

 

This is obviously a joke, right? Or written by someone who has never been a woman in a comments section in the internet? Because, come on. That is basically the exact opposite of what it’s like to be a woman on the internet. Generally how it goes is: woman has opinion, man calls her a feminazi slut who is too ugly to even be raped, then rinse and repeat. “Men call me things” is a great example of how women are attacked for just existing online. Sure, you will often have many women to back you up against the guy, the usually all that means is that they all get threatened and abused too. Generally, when people accuse feminists of “ganging-up” on a guy, it’s because he had blundered into a conversation to denounce their opinions and use his manly male authority to tell them how things ACTUALLY are; i.e. man waves his male privilege about in a space that doesn’t kowtow in deference of it, and suddenly he is the victim when his actions don’t go down well.

 

Basically, this whole article about “female privilege” is a huge joke. Most of the examples are actually examples of the patriarchy in action, and are actually not all that privileged when considered in their wider context. It’s the equivalent of describing a wrecked car as fine because that one headlight isn’t damaged; you absolutely must look at the entire picture, and the author failed spectacularly. And, because of this myopic perspective and the insistence that seeing women using their privilege all the time “sickens” her, and the repeated talk about how women now have freedoms our ancestors did not (did you guys know we can go to university? And, like, own property and stuff? I think women are even allowed to vote and drive cars and wear pants!) just gives the impression of a woman desperate to ingratiate herself with men by proving that she thinks guys are great and actually have it way tougher than them, and how she’s brave enough to call women on our greedy, ungrateful attitudes and ignorance of our own good fortune. The statement in her author bio, “She considers herself both a feminist and a masculist”, doesn’t do anything to change that impression either.


“Feminism is anti-evolution”

Posted in fail, Feminism on July 21st, 2011 by steph – 4 Comments

I’m at home after having a wisdom tooth removed, and so not really in the mood for blogging, but one thing is causing me more pain and discomfort than the tooth extraction has: this horrible opinion piece, “But I’m a Feminist and I love chivalry!”. Sorry, I mean “Should chivalry be stopped?”. The entire thing is terrible, and is a great example of a bad opinion piece, but all I can really muster up the effort to ask is: do you think the men quoted in it (Ned, Tom, Jed, and Kent) are really just dudes the author made up (“Ned”, “Tom”, “Jed”, and “Kent”) to put forward her various perspectives on the issue but also include a man’s view? While reading it I was reminded of being a teenager reading Cosmo- pages and pages of sex tips and “what I like in a woman” quotes from men named Dylan, Sam, Jack, Christian, and I was fairly certain that rather than finding 50 new guys to provide opinions every issue that the author just made up a bunch of quotes and attributed them to fictional guys. Either that or asked the people in the office to make up silly shit (“My girlfriend wore her used thong as a scrunchie and it was super hot!”) and made up a bunch of guy names for their “sources”. So when I read that Ned, a “30-something finance guy” thinks that “From an evolutionary perspective, I’m meant to do the physical stuff because I was born stronger than her, and because she is busy with the children or whatever. Opening a car door is a tiny manifestation of that.”, it reeks of the Cosmo treatment to me. Or maybe I just don’t want to believe that the men quoted in the article are for real…

 

The Stroppery

Posted in blogs, Feminism, New Zealand on April 17th, 2011 by steph – 3 Comments

New blog alert! Some of my favourite feminist bloggers  have started up a sweet new blog, The Stroppery.

All I have to say is: I want to go to there.

New blog on the block

Posted in Feminism, New Zealand on February 3rd, 2011 by steph – 3 Comments

One of my very favourite people has recently decided to come over to the dark side and start up a feminist blog of her own. Feminethicist is all sorts of goodness about feminism and reproductive ethics, and well worth a read. So run, don’t walk, and check it out!

My muffin top is all that

Posted in bodies, Feminism, stuff.co.nz on January 12th, 2011 by steph – 10 Comments

Apparently the latest item of clothing to be resurrected from the fashion graveyard is the humble crop top t shirt. Yes, crop tops are in again. Well, they’re in again for thin people, that is. The original article only vaguely alludes to this with a reference to the “unsightly muffin-top phenomenon”, but the comments get right to the point on this one: fatties should stay the fuck away from this trend. Like, on a different continent far away. The consensus seems to be that crop tops are fine/awesome/acceptable/fashionable when worn by “people who can pull them off”, i.e. “girls that look like the one in the picture”: “slender and toned” women can wear this, but it is not for “fat chicks”. To that I have to say: fuck you. Fuck you; I wouldn’t tell you what to wear, so don’t tell me or anyone else. I personally have no desire to ever wear a crop top (I find them fairly hideous not matter what the person wearing them looks like; I think it’s some sort of visceral reaction to 90’s revival fashion), but that doesn’t mean I have any right to stop other people from wearing one. I find lots of items of clothing generally weird and not aesthetically appealing (three-quarter length pants, maxi dresses) but I don’t get to make that call for anyone but myself. Even if I see someone wearing a maxi dress and think “ugh, maxi dresses are awful”, I don’t actually have the power to tell other what to wear and I have no desire to actively police people’s outfits and enforce some sort of dress code. And I certainly don’t get to say things like “people who look like X shouldn’t wear Y item of clothing”, or decide that only certain people can “pull off” that look. It’s none of my business. If these people who think that only the toned and slender should wear crop tops genuinely think that, then they should just keep it to themselves and if they see an “unacceptable” person wearing one then maybe they should just swivel their head around 90 degrees and look at something else.

The thing I that stands out most to me when I think about how my feminism has evolved lately is that I feel very strongly that we don’t actually have the right to police other people’s choices in this way;  nobody gets to tell me how to dress and dictate whether an item of clothing is acceptable for me to wear or not, so by that logic I have no right no judge the choices that others make when it comes to that. Which is why even though I think crop tops are weird and kind of ugly, my stance isn’t going to be that nobody should wear them, or only thin women should wear them. All those people telling women with muffin tops to back away form the crop tops fatties should stop worrying about the idea that they might have to see the midriff of a woman who –gasp!- isn’t a size 6 and move along. And this body-policing, fat-shaming shit has to stop. Right now.

And anyway, what’s with all the muffin top hate? Surely everybody agrees that the muffin top is the best part of the muffin, right? I’m sure Jenna Maroney agrees with me on that one.

Conditioning

Posted in Feminism on September 9th, 2010 by steph – 2 Comments

Now that LadyNews has finally caught up with the real world, and joined Twitter, I get the benefit of the super-awesome wisdom of some rockin’ feminists. This tweet from Natalie summed up something I have been thinking about a lot lately

Just because I identify as feminist, it doesn’t mean I have successfully shed all the conditioning I’ve been subjected to.

Lately I have been berating myself a lot for being a ‘bad feminist’, because I have noticed a lot of things I do and patterns of thought that I have, and they’re things I don’t like and don’t feel are representative of where I’m at with my feminism. But this tweet reminded me that some things, especially ones that take years to build up, aren’t broken down as easily as we would like. Years and years of endless conditioning isn’t something that disappears overnight, and I feel that for me it might take as long to shed as it did to become entrenched in the first place. So, shedding of my conditioned thoughts and behaviours and responses is still a work in progress. But I think awareness of this is the key, really.

Also, when I think ‘I am a bad feminist’ thoughts, I remind myself that ‘bad feminist’ is just part of my conditioning to think that I have to be perfect, and that small flaws are major, and that I won’t ever be good enough. And that’s something that is a huge part of what girls and women are being taught to feel.  So, I’m happy to give myself a mental slap on the wrist whenever I call myself a bad feminist.

Pyramid of Egregiousness

Posted in change it, Feminism, sexism on September 1st, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on Pyramid of Egregiousness

Courtesy of Name It, Change It: the Pyramid of Egregiousness. (Scroll over the segments for reveal).

Comic funtimes

Posted in comics, Feminism on August 31st, 2010 by steph – Comments Off on Comic funtimes

A classic from the xkcd archives: Girls suck at math

And a nice addition/homage from a softer world: lowered expectations!

(Rather than giving you the pics I thought I would link, so you get the sweet tooltip thingy when you move the cursor over the comic. The one for the a softer world comic is especially good!)

Another phrase I am so very sick of

Posted in Feminism on August 31st, 2010 by steph – 5 Comments

“Man up”. Yep, if I never heard that again I would be one very happy lady.

It’s like people write articles like this just to keep me in the blogging business. ‘WOmen told they must man up’. To be fair, it is only the author who uses the phrase man up. But the article itself is full of that attitude, just without the nasty phrasing. It gets off to a really good start

Behaving more like men could help women boost their sex lives, eat healthier and stress less.

But that would mean bitching less, not focusing as much on perfection and worrying less about being on a diet.

Becoming more comfortable with being sexually aroused would also help improve a woman’s sex life, according to experts.

Oh, we complain about things? And have worries. Sorry for being total Debbie Downers.

registered psychologist and director at Auckland’s MindWorks clinic, Sara Chatwin, said many women aired their problems with too many people and gossiped mercilessly among friends.

Men, on the other hand, tended to keep their problems to themselves or asked advice from one trusted person – something women could learn from.

“Women are more likely to canvas a raft of friends about an issue, whereas men are more self-contained,” said Chatwin.

“It is often really problematic, the way women gossip, and really anxiety-inducing.”

Chatwin said women should adopt the male “can-do” attitude.

“We should stop gossiping and start acting. Men make decisions well.”

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I dislike hearing gender-based generalizations like “men make decisions well”; “women air their problems with too many people”. Especially from a psychologist. Maybe I am hyper-sensitive, but I just loathe being told that I am a neurotic, catty, boundary-less insecure wreck; because that’s what you do when you make a generalization: you’re making that blanket statement about every member of that group. Guess what? I can make decisions pretty well, thanks. And I know plenty of men who don’t have that male “can-do attitude” (and would admit this themselves). Does this exempt them from the male group? Are they women now?

Chatwin said women who focused too much on being perfect – whether it involved keeping the bathroom clean to not having a hair out of place – could also be doing themselves a disservice.

Here’s a crazy idea: why don’t we do something to change the motherfucking culture that tells women that they need to be perfect? Because this worry doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from repeated exposure to messages about being the best and having it all and looking good while doing it. And it comes from pressure on women to look after their kids and work a job so they can have a career and then come home and clean the bathroom, all with not a hair out of place. Women aren’t just worrying about these things and feeling inadequate because we don’t already have enough to stress about. These ideas come from somewhere. So telling women who worry about these things that they are doing themselves a disservice is pretty insulting, and very patronizing. Oh, you mean not worrying about being perfect is an option? I had no idea, silly me. If only I had known this, and it was that easy, then I wouldn’t have done it at all!

In the bedroom, women generally had things under control. But Wellington-based sexologist Michelle Mars said women could work on arousal.

“Men are comfortable with the idea of being aroused,” said Mars. “Women are less likely to say that something ‘turns them on’. They’re just not as comfortable with it but getting aroused is what makes all those feel-good hormones.

This too is missing a glaring point: women’s sexuality is pretty freakin’ maligned in society, and a lot of women don’t know how to ask for what they want, or think they can, or they think they have to be a certain way to be sexy – a way that they themselves might not find sexy and arousing at all – because of the messages they are exposed to about what sexiness is, and what is an acceptable form of sexuality for a woman. So is it surprising that some women might not feel totally comfortable with the sexuality and the idea of being aroused? This article is so superficially written, completely failing to mention any of the societal forces acting upon women. I know, it’s The Herald. But if you can’t accurately represent the situation, don’t do it a massive disservice by presenting only the shallowest of half pictures. Because people like me will get angry, and maybe shout about it. And someone will read this and feel bad about themselves because they have these problems and now feel like they are to blame, or someone will read it and go “yeah! Damn women just need to be more like men!” and start perpetuating that idea, which could do some damage.

The whole article is ladies do this silly thing; men do this sensible thing. Ladies swallow down tubs of icecream when they’re sad; men just swallow their feelings and get on with their lives! Aren’t men the smartest? Be like men! Men can just get up and go for a run; ladies decide not to because they have a physical injury – one that will probably be worsened by running! Oh, ladies.

Another terrible thing about this was the little tip list at the end by the actress (Sally Martin) who plays Nicole on Shortland Street about how she “lives like a man”. Oh, so there are tips on how to do this besides “if you identify as a man, you are living like one”? Because, in case some 101 is needed here, there is no one way to “live like a man”. A list of advice demonising ‘female’ behaviour, and praising the ‘male’ behaviour to perform in these situations is terrible, and I find it pretty offensive. If this was saying ‘hey, sometimes we all procrastinate, or we try to enjoy our lives more’, and was gender-neutral, then ok. But it isn’t. It’s pigeonholing behaviour (and people), saying that women do this, and men do that. Basically, the tip list and the whole article are saying here are ways that ladies are fucking up, and if you just act like men, you’ll be doing things properly. Which completely ignores the giant glaring fact that all of us -men and women- act in non-optimal ways sometimes, and making a mess of a situation, or having fears, or being flawed isn’t gender-specific behaviour.


Feminism ruins everything

Posted in Feminism on August 30th, 2010 by steph – 2 Comments

Someone who is a Facebook friend of mine recently posted a status asking whatever happened to the independent woman and imploring all the ladies to burn their bras. One of the responses to this status (in response to a comment about chauvinism having had it’s turn) was

So has feminism, it took less time to do more damage. What, three generations (?) after the feminist movement we have women living on their own who don’t know how to cook healthy meals, don’t know how to sew, don’t want to sacrifice their careers to have children, they’d rather pay someone else to do it? – I’m not saying ALL women don’t know how to do this short example of things, but I am saying there is a large majority of the population that don’t – to me it seems like it’s time for the male vs female crap needs to stop being flung around and humanity needs to learn what it’s responsibilities in life are.

And all this time I thought I was a shitty cook because I hate it so never really did it much, but apparently it is, once again, the fault of feminism! Sneaky fucking feminism, getting all up ons and affecting my ability to cook a meal and sacrifice my (non-existent) career for my (non-existent) children. Dang it, feminism! Why you gotta be like that?