Archive for February, 2011

Just the missionary position

Posted in O RLY? on February 12th, 2011 by steph – 10 Comments

If you were raped, and part of that rape involved the rapist holding you down with his body, guess what? That’s just the missionary position, silly.

(This is not me making a definitive call on whether or not Assange is a rapist, but rather commenting on the idea that it’s fairly common for people to try to redefine the experiences of victims – for example, street harrassment is “just a compliment”- and that there’s something to be said about  “he held me down with his body” being refuted by saying “that’s a normal sexual position” as if the woman wouldn’t know what was an okay sexual position experience and what was force that she wasn’t consenting to)

Yes, it actually is sexist

Posted in missing the point, New Zealand on February 7th, 2011 by steph – 3 Comments

Another woman has chimed in with her opinion that John Key’s “Hurley’s hot” comments weren’t sexist. Rebecca Barry thinks that while the comments were undignified and inappropriate, they were sexist. After all, she says, is it really sexist for a man to find a woman attractive? Well no, is isn’t necessarily. As far as I know, the criticism of this incident hasn’t actually been criticising the fact that Key finds women attractive. Guess what? Lots of people find other people attractive. Lots of people also dicuss it with their friends, or have a joke about it. But this isn’t a guy calling Liz Hurley a hottie over a beer with his mate; this is our Prime Minister discussing the hotness of celebs on a public radio show that he was taking part in in his role as Prime Minister.

The sexist thing is not that he finds a woman attractive- as a feminist I’m certainly not trying to ban men from being attracted to women, or any one person from being attracted to another- the sexist thing is that we have this kind of culture where it’s being framed as blokey and normal to go on public radio in your role as head of the country and talk about the appearance of women you don’t even know. A culture where women’s looks are a legitimate topic of general conversation, and a culture where trying to portray oneself as a typical, average guy involves talking about the appearance of women. What he did was sexist becuse he was creating a image of what it is to be a “normal” guy, and this revolved around rating the hotness of various women. If he had said “what does this have to do with anything?”, that would be opting out of participating in a sexist culture. But he opted in.

Barry herself also engages in some delightful sexist judgement while defending Key’s “non-sexism”: she says that Angelina Jolie has used her sexuality to advance her career, and uses this as an excuse for being able to judge her on her looks.

She also says “the s word” to refer to sexism, implying somehow that allegations of sexism are gigantic and damaging, and that saying something is sexism is a massive call to make.

She also reinforces this idea that the comments were all in harmless fun: Key chatted about his celeb crushes in a “casual, blokesy setting”. This again reminds us that chatting about women is a way to be a man, to perform masculinity and to show people you’re a typical down-to-earth bloke.

She also talks about the Anna Faris/street harrassment situation in this charming way

Then there was the case of actress Anna Faris, who told a US chat show host that two separate carloads of Kiwi men yelled sexual obscenities at her while she was in New Zealand.Most Kiwis are polite but it didn’t surprise me that a pretty blonde, walking alone along the street, experienced such charming hospitality.

Am I the only one who hears “well, she’s super hot, is anyone surprised she was cat-called??” in that statement? Because that’s what it sounds like.

Rebecca Barry also describes the world now as “post-feminist”, which I have an issue with, because clearly -given the size and strength of the feminist movement that I’m a part of, at least- feminism is still alive and kicking.

And, to round it all off, she gives us some examples of the big, bad real sexism to make the point that those things sound a lot more sexist than John Key calling some actress hot. Well, the thing about sexism is that it can manifest in lots of ways -big or small-, and more than one indicent of it can happen  at any given time. Shocking, I know. Just because there is other sexism happening, and some of it is bigger and more obvious, does not mean we get to give the small things a free pass. And the thing about the John Key situation that Barry seems not to have grasped is that it isn’t just about “calling some actress hot”: it’s about bigger and more harmful things, and a bigger and more harmful sexist culture.

Kerre Woodham says Sue should’ve kept quiet, PM just having fun

Posted in New Zealand on February 7th, 2011 by steph – 13 Comments

Once again, Kerre Woodham has caused me to headdesk; this time it’s because of her interpretation of the “John Key thinks Liz Hurley is hot, Sue Kedgley calls him on it” incident.

Apparently Sue shouldn’t be allowed to complain about his sexism because she once entered a beauty pageant (coming in second) as an undergraduate at university: see, because these two events are in the same spirit -the spirit of fun!- Sue looks like a bad-tempered hypocrite for complaining when John Key made his comments.

Ok, firstly let’s tackle the point that entering a beauty pageant as a student and making comments rating the hotness of various celebs while one is the Prime Minister are  actually the same thing. They aren’t. There are many, many things about those two situations that are different; maybe a brief, non-comprehensive list might help:

1)John Key =/= Sue Kedgeley. I think we can all agree on this one.

2)A beauty pageant =/= a radio show with a man who violently assulated his domestic partner.

3)A student =/= the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Oh, but apparently these things were both done in the spirit of fun, so surely they are the same thing. Except no explanation is provided as to why Kedgely entered the contest (and there are plenty of possible reasons if you even begin to think about it), and the thing about Key’s comments being in the “spirit of fun” is that the fun has it’s roots in sexism. It’s unlikely that Key would say “I said those things because I’m sexist”, and he probably didn’t think that as he was saying them, but that doesn’t mean the comments weren’t sexist.

I also appreicated how Kerre said that if ever there was a time for a “no comment”, this would’ve been the best time for it. I feel the same way, except she’s talking about how Sue Kedgely should’ve kept her mouth shut when the PM said some stupid stuff, and I’m talking about what the PM should’ve said when he was asked the question, thus avoiding saying the stupid stuff in the first place.

Finally, it’s a cheap low-blow to say that presumably Sue (and her twin sister, Helen) entered the pageant because they wanted people to think they were hot. Maybe there was a freakin’ sweet prize involved. You couldn’t tempt me into entering a beauty pageant very easily, but I know some people who would do almost anything for a joke and $50, or some free food, or whatever. And we are talking about students here… (I say with toungue-in-cheek, as a student myself). Maybe she was making a point, maybe she did want to win and have people think she was hot; who cares? As Kerre herself points out, times and people change. Even if Sue were absolutely gaggingly desperate for some form of sexist approval as a young woman and then later slammed someone for something sexist, this doesn’t make her a hypocrite and therefore the sexist thing is actually not sexist. Rather, the sexism has always been there it has just taken the person’s realization of this for them to start denouncing it. Maybe Kerre would think I’m a mean spirited hypocrite for this, but I have in my life participated in sexist acts and also put myself in the position of being objectified and victimized by sexism. Now I realise that those things were bad, and work to fight sexism. The things haven’t changed, but I have. That doesn’t mean that the stuff happening now isn’t sexist and I’m just shrilly overreacting, it just means that now I have the tools to deal with it.

To sum up: thumbs up to Sue Kedgely, thumbs down to Kerre and her sexism-endorsing, stereotype-reinforcing missing-the-point stance.

Another phrase I hate

Posted in lady-hate on February 4th, 2011 by steph – 6 Comments

In an article about the average BMI for Italian women dropping, counter to the trend seen in the US and UK, there was this gem of nasty little snark by Pietro Migliaccio, head of the Italian Society of Food Sciences, who says that now he can’t tell the difference between a 30-year-old and a 45-year-old or between a 40-year-old and a 65-year-old in the streets of Rome or Milan

“If you look at Scandinavian, German or Ukrainian women, they’re magnificent when they’re 18-20 years old but after that they let themselves go and by the time they’re 35 they’re already flabby,”

“Let themselves go” is one of those shitty little sayings about women that is used to imply that certain women (who no longer perform certain behaviours, or never did in the frist place) are not good enough and don’t meet the ridiculous standards laid down by society about how women should look. I hate the phrase “let themselves go”; it’s used purely to shame and guilt women, and I’m not having any of that, thanks.

Photoshop disaster?

Posted in New Zealand on February 4th, 2011 by steph – 4 Comments

One of my secret shames is how much I enjoy reading the free newspapers that are delivered every week: The Star, and D Scene – although, to be fair, D Scene is a “magapaper”. D Scene is awful, and The Star is mostly community stuff, but I love the inadvertently funny headlines, and I love how bad D Scene is. Just straight up terrible. I also have a soft spot for the ads in both papers: cheesy, and often sounding like they are stretching the boundaries of truth to the limit. The last few issues of The Star I’ve read have featured an ad for Configure Express, including some promotion of their new “Visual Transformation Software”

This new three-dimensional technology visually demonstrates a virtual body transformation.  This software shows both prospective and current members how their body has the potential to be transformed over time through nutrition and exercise programmes.

I can only hope that the image in the ad is not representative of the virtual body transformation shown to members

(larger version here)

If it is, I guess the software is showing members how their body has the potential to be transformed over time through a regimen of having their head squashed between two wooden planks. Or, you know, overzealously compressed horizontally with a punishing photoshop programme…

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!

Setting a good example from the top down

Posted in New Zealand on February 1st, 2011 by steph – 2 Comments

This morning The Herald asks “Are Kiwi Men Vulgar?”.

Well, given that the only a few days ago the Prime Minister, top man in the country, was on a breakfast radio show talking about how hot certain female celebrities are with a well-known domestic abuser -a man who violently assaulted his female partner- well, what an apt time for such a headline to appear, huh? I imagine there will be plenty of people who don’t see a connection between those two things.

Pick me, John Key

Posted in gender stereotypes, New Zealand, What the what? on February 1st, 2011 by steph – 26 Comments

I am so upset, folks. I found something out on Sunday- something that crushed my self-esteem and left me feeling jealous and rejected. Folks, I am not on John Key’s fuck list. I was truly shocked to hear this, and am so very, very jealous of Liz Hurley and Jessica Alba, because I wish that a slimy, disingenuous man who does a piss-poor job of running our country thought that I was “not too bad”.


I laughed long and loud at Dean Lonergan’s total brain fart of a comment that because I find Key’s comments to be awful that I must just be jealous

“Those women who might be upset at his comments are obviously just disappointed they never made John Key’s list and never will.”

Wait, you mean not only do I not make the list now, but I never will? Never??? Surely there’s something I can do, something I can change..I can change John, I can!

Yeah. The idea that I’m angry because I’m jealous? Ridiculous. In reality, the idea of ever being called “pretty hot” by John Key makes me feel ill. I feel glad not to be on that list, not jealous, because any dude who behaves like such a cliche of what masculinity sounds like is not a dude I want to be complimented by. I like my men to not describe me as a “benefit that comes with the job”, kthnx.

What was additionally gross was the comment made by Lonergan attempting to explain why there’s nothing wrong with what Key said

“He’s a normal man who expresses normal manly sentiments from time to time.”

Shit, how much do I hate people spouting ideas about masculinity and femininity and the normal ways of showing performing those things and being male or female. Come on ladies! He’s just being a guy! That lovable scamp! What a charmer! A smooth-talker! He’s just an aficionado of women, ya know? Just expressing normal, everyday, totally red-blooded heterosexual dudely thoughts.  Don’t hate the player, hate the game!

I hate the word manly (unless used with a supremely sarcastic tone by someone mocking gender stereotypes). You know what I think when I hear someone use the word manly?

Yep, when Dean Lonergan defends John Key’s stupid comments by calling them “normal manly sentiments”, the sounds of Tim Allen’s ‘manly’ grunting fills my head. That’s the first thing I think of when I hear the word manly, the association I have with the word. A pathetic caricature of a man grunting enthusiastically to express his manliness. I guess my view is a little different to those who would consider this descriptor as some sort of legitimate defense of reasonable actions.

“Just don’t have kids” is not the answer.

Posted in doin' it wrong, New Zealand on February 1st, 2011 by steph – 8 Comments

This morning I read the news that further cuts to Early Childhood Education haven’t been ruled out yet. While many people are horrified by the idea of even more possible slashing, an unnervingly common response has been to say that if people can’t afford to have children, they shouldn’t have them. That’s right; stop bitching about the price of a service, just blame the people complaining for getting themselves into the situation where they need it. And people who aren’t already in that situation; if you can’t afford to raise a kid, you should probably never have kids. Never mind that the price is problematic; don’t resolve that issue, just don’t ever get to a place where it’s an issue for you personally. Never mind the fact that it will still be a problem for other people. And never mind the fact that if we really only limited parenting to people who could “afford” the ever-rising price of it we would probably end up heading down a road where half the country couldn’t afford kids and suddenly there would be a mass panic about population levels.

People who say “if you can afford it, don’t have kids” make me incredibly angry, because they have obviously never, ever, ever, for even one single second, thought about even one single issue relating to privilege or discrimination. Let’s think for a second: we’re working from the “no cash, no kids” viewpoint. So a couple decide no kids for them: too pricey, whatever. So they take some sort of contraceptive precaution; BUT! As anyone who has ever thought for one second about this issue could tell you, contraception can fail. People who never think about these issues hear about “undesirable” women (young, or single, or <cough>financially unstable <cough>)getting preggo and they think “what an irresponsible slapper, not even trying to stop herself getting pregnant”. Guess what? Contraception is not foolproof. The assumption that every accidental pregnancy is a result of some sort of sexual Russian Roulette is incorrect.

But, I hear you say, getting pregnant doesn’t mean having kids. And you are correct. However, if you said to the ignorant thickos that a possible way to deal with an accidental pregnancy you can’t afford is to have an abortion, I imagine plenty would say that abortion is not ok, and only for slutty ho bags who weren’t careful enough. Sorry, did I say abortion? I meant shooting a spear gun through your fully-grown in-utero baby who screams “Mama, why are you killing me??”. Abortion is not a palatable option for a lot of people who believe they get to tell women how to make their reproductive choices.

But! Say these people, how about adoption? That way even if all your baby-thwarting attempts were in vain but you know you can’t afford a kid, you won’t actually have to be the one raising it and paying for it. Perfect solution! Except: the situation isn’t like a piece of paper with conception written on one end and birth one the other where you can just concertina it in the middle and have this unaffordable kid appear immediately and then find someone to adpot it. Stuff happens in between. Stuff that some people have never even thought to consider. While you’re growing this future Prime Minister of New Zealand inside you you’ve got to keep yourself in good condition. Doctor visits, ultrasounds, healthy eating, all of that Elevit you need to make sure you aren’t one of those disgusting mothers who harms her unborn child through her own neglectful actions. As well as that, being pregnant can affect the earning potential of that woman: maybe she has to work less, or can’t work at all. Maybe she’s lucky enough to continue with her pre-pregnant life, but maybe her life has to adapt a little because her needs and limits are different – and rightly so, because pregnancy is an awesome but complex thing. But all this adds up to one thing: being pregnant isn’t free. So adoption as an “affordable” option for someone who can’t afford kids is not exactly the magic bullet that some people might think. And this woman shouldn’t be allowed to have this child because she can’t afford to raise it! Can’t afford ridiculous, exorbitant costs, and can’t afford to cope with any possible price rises that could happen at any time in the future life of that child while they’re financially responsible (18 years or so). Fix the broken system? Apparently that’s not an option. Just don’t have kids. And tell your friends too, because having kids is only for the rich, and are they really rich enough?

I get so mad at the “so just don’t have kids” attitude. People who say that have never thought about one single of the issues I’ve mentioned, or any of the other issues that are tangled up in this topic: access to contraception, knowledge of how to properly use contraception, the stigma of abortion, access to abortion, price of abortion services, the social and financial costs of being pregnant, workplace policies and attitudes that affect pregnant women, the effect of pregnancy on the body, and societal attitudes to women who choose to not have children.

These people who have never had to think about these things are so deep in their privilege it makes me angry. They’ve never had to think about these things, they don’t want to know about them, and they’ve never imagined a life where their own privilege was gone and they HAD to think about these issues. They don’t believe that these issues are even real issues, because that isn’t their own experience.

I don’t know how to convey these ideas to people who’s privilege prevents them from wanting to know about this stuff or from grasping the fact that all of these issues and more are very real and they have a huge effect on many people.

Seriously, if your response to increasing Early Childhood Costs is “just don’t have kids”, and not “what is wrong with our system and where our priorities lie?”, I don’t know how to change your mind.