Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fuck You, Julie Bindel

Sorry, I know that is a little rude, considering we have never met. However, you wrote an article in the New Statesman that made me really angry, so here we are.

Your article was a damning invective on 'Fun Feminism' which is, in your words, a movement 'about personal liberty and matter how destructive or harmful it may be to the individual or to women as a class' and quite frankly, it made me want to spit. I know that things aren't how they were in your day but thats because um...well things actually AREN'T how they were in your day. Thats sort of how time works, you see. Unless you are Doctor Who. And I looked you up on wikipedia and that's a big thing to miss out. 

Don't get me wrong, me and my 'fun feminist' friends are eternally and deeply grateful to past generations of feminists. Due to your efforts, I have the vote, the right to equal pay, the right not to be passed over for a job, the right not to be raped by my husband and the right to pee standing up if I want to. (Overrated) Thanks for that. I can also wear trousers, access contraception and have an abortion without resorting to the ol' coathanger up the vagina trick. I also could have taken metalwork instead of textiles for GCSE but hey, I prefer embroidery to hacksaws. You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it make a wine rack. 

You compared the feminist struggle to the abolition of apartheid in South Africa and I love a good extended metaphor, so I'm going to run with it.  

'Did anyone notice white people, who were by definition responsible for the introduction and maintenance of apartheid in South Africa, being placated and excused by black civil rights activists?' 

This is an interesting point. I particularly like how 'white people' were ALL responsible for the introduction and maintenance of apartheid in South Africa. Not just the corrupt and racist  South African government but ALL WHITE PEOPLE. Presumably even you, as you were alive during this time. Shame on you Julie Bindel, shame. 

I kid of course, but as you demonstrated in your article, the use of hyperbole to hammer home a point is a powerful tool. In your comparison of the two, you missed out all the white people who aided the ANC, even though it wasn't in their best interests. They were a little slow and a little reluctant, sure, but eventually they levied the necessary sanctions and apartheid was abolished. Of course, without the initial radical, brave and unpopular actions of the oppressed people in question, probably no-one would have gotten around to it for AGES. 

Action was taken, and things got changed. On paper, equal rights were restored. Everyone could eat in the same restaurants and drink from the same water fountains but SOME IDIOT forgot to mention that solving complex social issues, particularly those with strong vested interests for those in power is a bit more complicated than passing a couple of new laws and-Shock! Horror!-racism is still a problem in South Africa. 

Coming back on to the whole feminism issue (which is a shame, I was all ready to go fight racism in South Africa, maybe record a benefit album) radical action was necessary to secure the basic rights of women to be treated the same as men. They still need some fine tuning, but we essentially have the same legal rights as men. I'm twenty-two years old and I was born into a world with women doctors, female firemen and the option to play with tractors rather than dolls. I was told I could grow up to be pretty much anything and so I chose to be a sarky feminist blogger. The webs we weave. 

Sexism is irrefutably still an issue but (forgive me if I am wrong) I'm pretty sure the whole point of fighting it in the first place was so that women (ALL women) could be free to make the choices they wanted about their lives. We have those basic freedoms and now oops, it looks like some women are making choices you don't like. Sorry Julie (can I call you Julie?) but that isn't how it works. You can't release a bird from captivity and then whinge because it didn't fly to the right tree or immediately turn round and start trying to free it's fellow birds. 

Another thing I LOVED about your article (and there were so many) was the way you felt you could speak for and patronise heterosexual women. Poor old us, we have to 'love our oppressor'. Would't the world be so much easier if we could, I don't know-kill all men? Keep them all as pets and milk them for their sperm? I'm sure you'd be pissed if I presumed to speak for all lesbian women so please dont presume to speak for me. I love men, despite their occasional abuses of power and privilege. I see myself as a disappointed parent-I know men can do better and I just want to see them reach their potential. 

Finding points of compromise and difference is part of being human. Feminism cant continue to be a force of hatred that excludes men. In order to have a recognisable voice in modern society, you have to be accessible. If, every time I was asked by one of my male friends (sorry, that's so anti-feminist of me: I obviously mean 'my oppressors') I turned round and said 'FUCK YOU MALE CHAUVINIST PIG! HOW DARE YOU TRY TO UNDERSTAND MY SUFFERING!' no one would ever want to talk to me. Feel free to stand on the fringes screaming at people, but if I want to be an involved and participatory member of society, I will. 

And if my choosing to do that in a skirt with a pink bow in my hair and my (male) hamster in my apron pocket displeases you, tough. Be careful what you wish for. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Kittens #1

I promised kittens. Here are some sleepy kittens waking up from a nap. :)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why Slut-Shaming Matters.

For the purposes of this post I am going to focus on insults and pejorative language and for the purposes of simplicity 'slut' will represent a range of insults including whore, slag, tramp, hussy, tart and any other commonly thrown aspersion, though you do get points if you can come up with any interesting, inventive or historical synonyms. My current favourite is the rhyming slang 'Brass Flute'.

1. 'Why does it matter?'
The language we use when choosing to insult someone is important because insults fall under two categories; general insults such as 'arsehole' 'cockspanker' and 'cunt' and insults that identify the insultee as a member of a group that the insulter thinks makes them fair game for ridicule and humiliation. Examples include 'spazz' 'nigger' and 'gay'.

'Slut' is a particularly problematic example as it degrades women who are promiscuous, dress provocatively or who are flirtatious in their behaviour. Calling someone a slut indicates that you think that their behaviour places them outside the social safe space we reserve for Ladies and into the risky hinterland reserved for Prostitutes and Loose Women (another thorny topic for another time) and if anything happens, well it was your fault for dressing like a slag or 'putting it about'.

2. 'But we have free speech, surely I can use whatever language I want?'
I'm not saying you can't use these words, I'm just saying you shouldn't. Giving up these words costs you nothing and it does much to reduce tolerance of the attitude that some women (sluts) deserve to be raped and some women (ladies) don't.

This attitude contributes to some pretty horrific statistics. The most recent study shows that one in four women experience rape or attempted rape during their lifetime. Think of twenty women you know. The chances are, five of those women will be victims of sexual assault. Hurling derogatory and pejorative terms around contributes to the cultural attitude that says 'Don't Get Raped' rather than saying 'Don't Rape'.

3. 'Feminism is about equality, placing some insults off limits seems pretty unequal'
I would like nothing better than for everyone to be able to insult each other however they want. I have a dream where black people and white, male, female and other can all throw whatever insults they like.

The problem is power. The power differential is stacked hugely in the favor of straight, white, western men. It's not their fault, it was handed to them at birth by a fluke of geography, history and biology. Feminism is the new kid on the block, comparatively speaking. Votes for women have been around just under 100 years and marital rape was only recognised as a crime in the UK in 1991. Practical feminism as we would recognise it has only been a visible force in public life for around sixty years. A lot has been done, but we are not there yet. Until everyone is equal, the age old rule of comedy applies; Attacking people in power is funny, attacking those without is not. Which is why Marcus Brigstocke is funny and Jim Davidson is not.

4. 'But I didn't mean anything by it'

Just because you didn't mean it, doesn't mean you aren't still casually perpetrating misogynistic attitudes. Slut, hussy and whore are insults that are aimed specifically at women. There is no similar pejorative for men, as society doesn't deem it necessary to demonise male sexuality. Let's all aim for the day when we can all be sluts, whores, studs and players together, without undermining the safety and respect due to 50% of the population.

Think of this as an opportunity to be more inventive with your insults; why call someone a slut when you can call them a 'fetid pool of donkey semen'? Just Sayin'.

This post turned out way more serious than I intended, turns out rape-permissive-attitudes are a solemn subject. Who knew?

If anyone has a minute, I'd love some eccentric synonyms for 'slut' ( was depressingly limited) and imaginative alternate insults. Answers on a postcard/in the comments section.