When women attack feminists – self-hate in a woman hating culture

As feminists, when we stand together to challenge the misogyny embedded in our culture we have learned to expect to face the patriarchs, the MRAs and the violence and ignorance of men. However sometimes we find ourselves confronted on such issues by other women who will side with the sexism of men. Women who will vehemently uphold, for example,  rape myths, to the detriment of every female victim of rape and actually – all women.

In a culture of misogyny in which they too are intrinsically and literally greatly harmed, this can be shocking to us all.

So why?

Women of course can and do internalise the misogyny inherent in the world.

Firstly, females are socialised from birth to act in accordance with their subjugation according to the hierarchy of gender. ‘Femininity’,  so the dictionary tells us,  is simply ‘the quality of being female; womanliness’, yet gender roles still teach us that ‘good little girls’ = quiet, polite, obedient and dutiful care givers.

In opposition boys can be and will be…..well ‘boys’ – a back slapping, lauded term often applied to loud, anti-social, violent displays of masculinity.

Such socialisation, in turn, enables an incredibly easy route to social and cultural subjugation of women, including potential and actual female victim-hood at the whims of individual men and men as a class. Our own everyday experience as women tells us we are lesser than men.
Secondly, we are also surrounded by a culture which not only bombards us with the ideals of a gendered hierarchy but also enacts such oppression. From the law to the media and advertising, the narrative and reality of misogyny is constant…..

…..and so misogyny is normalised.

And as ‘good, little girls’ it is not our place to upset the status quo…. we must in fact …..comply.

In turn, women’s self-hate is perpetuated in a woman hating culture.

Misogyny plays a central role in patriarchy. It enables the violence of men to woman. It is the basis of the idea of the superiority of one sex over another.

Misogyny is especially powerful at teaching women to hate their own femaleness and to support the much more applauded values of masculinity.
bell hooks describes internalized sexism as “the enemy within” and explains that women have been socialised by the patriarchy to “judge [themselves and each] other without compassion and punish one another harshly.”

The more women internalise misogynistic imagery and viewpoints, the more we are embedded in patriarchal structures, the harder it is to challenge male privilege and patriarchy as a destructive system. Misogyny also teaches women to appease men as an act of survival.

If we don’t comply and are not obeying the rules of the ‘good girl’ however, as feminists we are often faced with anything from non-acceptance, to harassment and male violence.

We are often labelled as trouble makers (even ‘mobs’!).  So why do such judgments sometimes come from other women, women our campaigns are designed to support and protect?

This is a complex issue and depends very much on the circumstances.

However, for women seeking status, working in male dominated industries for example, putting other women down can be an act of self-enhancement, within the limited confines of female ‘control’. To actually achieve a form of ‘acceptance’ in a patriarchal world, it may be perceived as ‘a wise move’ to comply with the ideals of those who wield the power. This may be pivotal in terms of many forms of social acceptance and career ‘success’- from promotion to economic gain for women.

But the question is when women attack and judge other women, who are challenging misogyny, rape culture and male violence etc…

who actually gains from this?

Partly from my zine ‘Women-Hating Culture’

Advertisements
Posted in feminism | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What’s wrong with men like Ally Fogg?

Ally Fogg is a journalist who often writes articles in the Guardian and Independent. His profile highlights his interests in ‘social issues, environmentalism, politics, music, arts and culture’. He writes about poverty and men in floral shirts. He may be described as a ‘lefty’ politically.

So far so good…..?

He also has a preoccupation with appearing to want to demonize and discredit both feminists and feminism. Mr Fogg seems to spend an awful lot of his time trawling through feminist blogs and twitter timelines for quotes and articles he can brandish under the banner of ‘man hate’.

So here we are…… back to that old chestnut… pesky ‘man haters’.

So what’s wrong with that?

He’s being an ‘equalist’, simply pointing out the injustices men face in an unjust world – apparently overrun with a focus on women. How unfair. How unequal. How dare feminists willfully spend their time challenging the oppression of females to the apparent detriment of males? How absolutely awful, how lacking in ‘concern’ and ‘decency’.

Well, perhaps we can start by defining what feminism is.

Firstly, there’s a clue in the name. It’s a movement primarily concerned with the rights of women while challenging the cultural, social, historical, structural, systematic oppression of females as a class – globally.

So why should feminists make an apology for this?

Do gay activists primarily promoting the idea of gay rights need to apologise for highlighting violence again the gay community? Are they berated for ‘a lack of concern’ for heterosexuals, who may also be the victims of violence, even from gay people?

As a white person, I could spend some time trawling through the blogs and tweets of black rights activists….. and I’m sure I’d find some pretty anti-white sentiments posted. I could be an ‘equalist’. I could take this personally, be defensive, sad, angry….I could tweet this as ‘white hate’.

So why don’t I? Not because I claim to fully understand the effects of racism …..but because I do at least try to understand I’d be viewing the world as if privilege and power didn’t exist and basing my views totally through my experience as a white person and white perspective. I’d be dismissing and ignoring a whole context of racism and racist cultural, social, historical, structural, systematic oppression.

So why are feminists particularly, and not others activists, so often the target of this sort of demonizing by ‘lefty’ men like Alley Fogg?

So why not, for example, target the many trans activists/allies who regularly post extreme abuse on blogs and twitter, such as threatening to burn, rape, stab, torture, murder women they disagree with….? Could it be that violence towards women is more acceptable than an unwillingness for women to accept their subordination?

Could it be that female oppression isn’t really ‘a thing’ or certainly not a priority?

Could it be that most other activism involves males/those socialised as male, and therefore is more deserving of empathy and understanding – even if threatening and/or abusive?

Could it be that feminists are daring not to fulfill male expectations?

Could it be the assumption that women who don’t show absolute compassion for all are not actually fulfilling their ‘caring, self-disregarding’ gender roles?

Could it be that the focus is somehow not in the place it has ‘rightfully’ always been and always should be…..?

Or could it be that it’s always simply easier to attack feminists for problems largely caused by men………..??

So what of the issues men like Ally Fog raise? Fogg himself has, for example, used one blog post about one apparent male victim of female sexual violence, to highlight the utter condemnation of all radical feminists. (Whatever opinion has been posted, the phrase ‘Not all men’ certainly comes to mind here……)

As a feminist, do I personally mind the highlighting of male victims of sexual violence ?

– No.

But what I do mind is a common lack of context within the promotion of this issue.

That this isn’t usually viewed within the wider context of male violence, as the vast majority of male victims are the result of violence from other males (-as are female victims).The fact that when women do commit acts of extreme violence and sexual violence this is often given disproportionate coverage. The fact that this is usually highlighted by men who do little themselves to challenge such issues or indeed who get their own hands dirty in actual prevention, campaigns, support etc. The fact that most particular problems for men have their roots in patriarchy, an oppressive system men themselves as a class both endorse and encourage because of the privileges it affords them.

Should male victims be my priority or that of feminism?

-No. And without apology.

Feminism has to deal with these facts : The fact that male violence, such as homicide in domestic violence, hugely disproportionally results in a female victim at the hands of a male perpetrator………..the fact that nearly ALL women will have suffered from some form of male sexual harassment-sexual violence etc in their lifetime…………….. etc etc etc etc etc etc

Considering the oppression women face, the focus for feminists is already overwhelming.

Part of being ‘a decent human being’ means at least trying to understand that oppressed people have a right to anger and a particular focus of their own. Oppressed people who have themselves suffered greatly at the hands of their oppressors have a right to be angry at their oppressors . ….And people with power and privilege should at least try to understand that arrogantly assuming they know better is simply ……wrong.

In this light,  the demonizing of feminists says much more about the oppressive arrogance and ignorance of those doing the demonizing.

Finally….

Ally Fogg. Please stop dressing up your ant-feminist agenda in the guise of ‘concern’ and ‘human decency’….

…..we see you.

“Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”
― Dworkin

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Women-Only Space…..Fundamental to Feminism and All Women.

There have been many recent attacks on women-only space and there is a real threat to its very existence.

The right to women-only space is however fundamental to feminism and to all women.

Why…..?

Women-only space has been utilised historically as a direct response to and consequence of the cultural, political and economic exclusion of women within wider society and culture.
It was also a space where women could meet and define themselves, to bond together, to feel safe, to gain strength and build confidence and in turn could become more political – from which subsequent action our generation is hugely benefiting in terms of our present gained freedoms.

There are many historical examples of women-only spaces which have had an extremely powerful effect on building autonomy for women as a class and changing the cultural view of women as individuals…..

The struggle against sexism, sexual oppression and sexual violence however, is  still ongoing…..

The allocation of space is not ‘gender neutral’ as it is. Throughout history spaces have been culturally, religiously, racially and politically marked. Even though women won access to a limited amount of space in the 20th century, both symbolically and structurally, space continues to be largely defined as male (and likewise…as heterosexual, able-bodied, white …..).

Women have been traditionally allotted to “private” spaces characterised by child rearing and family care. Men’s spaces are public spaces where social and political decisions are made. Women’s assignment to the home had and still has both economic and social implications.

The first and most basic woman-only space is her body. Historically, women’s bodies have belonged to a man or men (e.g. daughters to fathers, wives to husbands, and within the history of WOC the ownership of female bodies has a particular and horrific meaning to acknowledge). Issues surrounding women’s bodies, health and well being have also been controlled by the male controlled state.

Such oppression has allowed many gendered abuses to persist – rape within marriage was only criminalised in the UK in the 1990’s for example.

”….When those who control access have made you totally accessible, your first acts of control must be denying access” Marilyn Frye

A cultural landscape of sexual violence, structural oppression (etc) still denies women’s access to equitable, safe space.

Despite being representative of over fifty percent of the global population, within mixed-sex groups, women’s issues are often considered a specialist, secondary, or minority concern, which are almost always forced to compete for consideration.

Women–only space challenges the damage of such culturally deep rooted and institutionalised misogyny, allowing women the autonomy they have been systematically denied.

Consciously organized space is a tool to confront and dismantle culturally accepted misogynist norms…. not an end in itself nor are women-only spaces the solution to all women’s oppression. However, as one tool of affirmative action, women-only spaces are an indispensable means of empowering women.

However, women-only spaces are often criticised as examples of reverse discrimination. This, for example, closely resembles the reaction against the civil rights movement, as it too selectively used the tactic of white exclusion at times. This criticism ignores or denies the reality of existing relationships of power. Understanding the need for women-only space means educating ourselves about the nature of sexual oppression and gendered privilege.

Women-only space has always been and continues to be an important vehicle for the politicisation and radicalisation of women, enabling our voices, skills and talents in a world where, through sexist socialisation coupled with gendered oppression, women still face many difficulties being heard, valued or recognised in mixed space.

Women-only space is not about men or those socialized as male, which in itself is perceived as a subversive act. If men are not included and prioritised, both sexes are made to feel uncomfortable and wrong, which is part of how sexism works.

Women-only space is not intended for anyone socialised as male and for good reasons. For example, there is an absolute and clear connection between male socialization and violence towards women. Therefore any space that includes those socailaised as male cannot be regarded as providing safe space for women. Anyone promoting the idea of this form of inclusion is doing so at the expense of the many, many women who (perfectly rationally) fear and/or have been the victim of male violence. In women-only space their rights should be prioritised. In a wider culture which often treats female victims of male violence so poorly, this is fundamental.

“The issue is not between ‘old’ and ‘new’ feminism..The issue is between feminism…and that which is not feminism” Elizabeth Abbot (1927)

On this and many other grounds……

women-only space should make no apology for existing for women.

Opposition to women-only space is nothing new for feminists, emerging in different guises over the ages. In recent times the inclusion of transwomen has become a major issue.

No matter where you stand on ‘the trans issue’, the experience of being a transwoman is very different from that of women born women (…..biology, socialisation, health, social and political history etc, etc)

This simply cannot be ignored or denied…..

…..and for this reason many women both support and acknowledge the idea of transwomen-only space. Many also recognise transwomen face particular and (importantly) different forms of oppression.

This needs to be reciprocated…….

Of course there are differences between women (born women), such as ethnicity, class and sexuality and the need for women to define themselves on these terms is both necessary and logical. Oppression of women (born women) as a class, however, is universal. Female gender socialisation, for example, is fundamental to what shapes female identity and the oppression women face. This is just one of many experiences unique to all women (born women) .

In an ideal world there would be no barriers between people, no oppression would exist – and therefore no need for the strength and autonomy defined space helps to create.

Until then, women-only space remains vital for feminism and all women.

“It is nothing extraordinary for a master to bar his slaves from the manor………..but it is a revolutionary act for slaves to bar their master from their hut.”
Marilyn Frye (Johnson URL)
Party from http://www.kicks4women.com/formeism.shtml

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Why I don’t do activism with men any more…

How radical are you??? For the ‘lefty’ male!

1. Do you ascribe to either:
A) Passive-Aggressive Patriarchy:” (often come across as a victim/helpless/in need/dependent and get women in your life to be your physical and emotional caretakers? to buy you things? to take care of your responsibilities? pick up your slack? use guilt or manipulation to get out of your responsibilities and equal share of the work? do you treat your female partner/female friends/fellow female activists like a “mum” or your secretary?)
B) “Aggressive Patriarchy:” (Do you often take charge? Assume that a woman can’t do something right so you do it for her? Believe that only you can take care of things? Think that you always have the right answer? Treat your female partner/female friends/fellow female activists like they’re helpless, fragile, or weak? Do you put down such women or minimize their feelings? Do you belittle their opinions?)
c) None of the above??

(In my experience  as a female activist who has worked with men, these 2 types of male behaviours were not uncommon…..)

2. Would you put sexism on a par with racism, for example?

(Certainly many men I’ve worked with would stand up for issues of racism, even if they didn’t fully understand the issue or the context…. but not join the dots to issues of sexism and would not treat these subjects of oppression with equal relevance and seriousness.)

3. Do you think sexism is something others do and never check yourself to see if you behave in similar ways?

(One of the main ideas I found was that sexism was somehow viewed as something that just happens ‘in other cultures’ – (a somewhat imperialist/racist assumption!) and certainly not something that these men looked at in their own behaviour)

4. How many of the following activities do you contribute to in your home (this is a partial list of what it takes to run a household) :
A: Sweep and mop floors and clean carpets
B: Wash and put away dishes
C: Clean the cooker, countertops, sink and appliances if they are messy and after you have prepared food
D: Collect money, do food shopping, put away food and make meals for people you live with.
E: Do house laundry (kitchen towels, bathroom hand towels, washable rugs, etc.)
F: Clean up common room spaces, even if it’s not your mess.
G: Pick up others slack
H: Deal with rubbish, recycling, and compost
I: Take care of bills, rent, utilities, personal admin.
j: Clean bathrooms and make sure bathroom is clean after you use it
K: Feed, clean up after kids and take care of household pets.

(hmmmmm….)

5. Is feminism a priority to you? Do you see anti sexism as part of your politics?

(Again, not many men I’ve done activism with viewed sexism as important, many viewing women as somehow equal now, despite a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. Basically many didn’t want to know that evidence anyway. When raising issues of sexism common responses were how these issues related to men too, even when they didn’t, or how feminism ‘excluded’ them even when they were welcome to get involved in anti-sexism activism. When a women only group was set up in my town to look at consciousness raising many men complained (including bullying women) because they weren’t included and so they set up a men’s group. It was later revealed that they played poker here……. )

6.When organising an event what do you take on (e.g. Cooking. cleaning. set up, clean up phone calls, email lists, taking notes, doing support work, sending mailings, providing childcare?) Or do you only do the ‘high kudos jobs’ – dealing with the media, being visibly on the front line of activism etc…..?

(Many men did not take on the huge amount of ‘background work’ . Many seemed oblivious to this hugely important part of activism, basically leaving female activists to pick up the slack. However, even on events mainly organised by women, men would often lead marches (even at Reclaim the Night events I’ve been to, and would have to be challenged to step back! Which they weren’t happy with…), talk to the media etc and then suddenly disappear for any clean up!)

7. Do you ever find yourself monitoring and limiting your behavior and speech in meetings and activist settings because you don’t want to take up too much space or dominate the group?

(whether they realise it or not, men do tend to dominate mixed meetings space. They are used to being given space for their views and opinions and any challenge to this was viewed as some sort of female treachery! Female activists who raised this were the problem, not them, and often labelled as ‘trouble makers’)

8. Do you pay attention to group process and consensus building in groups or do you tend to dominate and take charge?

(see above)

9. If a woman discusses with you or criticises sexism (including yours), do you make an effort to: a) Listen? b) Not get defensive? c) Think about what she said? d) Take responsibility? e) Not instantly reply ‘not me’ and/or ‘not all men…..?’

(In my experience, again, many men didn’t ever take these issues seriously and often gave the usual negative responses to those noted above……)

10. When was the last time you asked a woman to show you how to do a task?

(Men tend to assume they know best and activism, like so many other parts of society, can become an exclusive ‘boys club’. Either not including women in tasks or criticising women who do get involved and then men would take over)

11. How do you react when women around you name something or someone as patriarchal or sexist? Do you think they’re ‘too PC’ or ‘over sensitive’ or ‘no fun’?

(This again has been a common reaction, women who highlight sexism are often labelled as kinds of ‘killjoys’)

12. Do you take on sexism and patriarchy as a personal struggle working to fight against it in yourself, in your relationships, in society, work, culture, subcultures, and institutions?

(Not the men I’ve worked with. The assumption was that they already felt they were ‘clued up’ and fine themselves regardless of the situation, but they were often either indifferent to or ignorant of sexism)

13. Do you say anything when other men make sexist or patriarchal comments? Do you help your sexist friends to make changes and help educate them? Or do you continue friendships with patriarchal and sexist men and act like there is no problem?

(I’ve put on feminist events with mixed audiences. This has certainly included men making misogynistic/homophobic remarks which were never challenged by other men-only by women who were then later demonized and bullied)

14. Do you repeatedly ask or plead with women for what you want in sexual situations? Are you aware that this is a form of coercion – e.g. sexual abuse?

(So many men seem unaware of consent issues, it is actually really frightening. Yet also see no need for education on the subject for themselves, and other men and boys)

15. Are you aware of the fact that all women, even women in mixed activist spaces, suffer from issues of oppression due to patriarchy and often face sexism and violence from men (and activist men) including domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape?

(I’ve known women who have suffered from the above, including from activist men in activist spaces. This includes rape. Male violence and male sexual violence is still a huge and horrific concern)

16. If you have kids, or live with kids, or when you’re organising a get together or event-do you make childcare your priority?

(Another issue at which many men don’t seem to get the relevance or step up to take part in, despite many being parents themselves!)

17. Do the women in your life (mothers, sisters, partners, housemates,
friends, etc.) have to “remind” you or “nag” you or “yell” at you in
order for you to get off your arse and take care of your
responsibilities?

(seen this, yep…..)

18. Do you get emotional needs met by other women, whether or not you
are in a relationship with them?

(seen this too, again yep…..)

19. Do you use intimidation, yelling, getting in someone’s physical
space,threats or violence to get your point across? Do you create an
atmosphere of violence around women or others to threaten them (e.g. throw
things,break things, yell and scream, threaten, attack?). Do you use abusive/offensive terms like ‘cunt’, ‘bitch’, ‘terf’… etc for women who disagree with you?

(I’m very aware of so called ‘right on’ men using intimidation of women as well as abusive and offensive name calling. Its very common)

20. Do you see feminism as non-heroic, a waste of time, trouble making, or divisive?

(This sort of attitude is certainly very apparent)

21. Does the statement below describe you????

(From a woman no longer working with men for the above reasons).

Partly from http://www.anarcha.org/sallydarity/AreyouaManarchist.htm

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

‘Choice’ for women remains a loaded term.

Choice is a complex term, on one hand we feel as though we are independently directing our choices, but on the other our choices, both manipulated and restrained, are to a large extent directing us as women.

Choice is clearly linked to many factors, such as ethnicity, sexuality, class, access to resources etc and this is imperative to acknowledge.

All women however suffer particular manipulation due to patriarchal society which benefits and privileges men.

Feminists over the ages have worked collectively and individually to challenge many misogynistic views and practices.

However people do not always see the ways in which societal institutions or assumptions [still] interfere with their choices and hurt them or hurt the class of people to which they belong.

‘This is particularly true of women because our culture is rife with all sorts of assumptions about women which inure to our detriment – assumptions about our essential nature (including the assumption that there even is an essential feminine nature), our capabilities, our proper role, and our relationships with men.

Often assumptions [due to socialisation into the gender roles] are so ingrained and so much a part of the fabric of our culture that we simply take them for granted without questioning whether these assumptions are correct or whether these assumptions hurt us.

In the very recent past for example a western women would perhaps not have questioned her family’s assumption that she did not need a college education like her brother; nor would she question societal expectations that the only appropriate careers for women were teaching, nursing, and secretarial work.

Motherhood and Housework

Today, many women [in heterosexual relationships] have never questioned the assumption that parenting – at least its day-to-day nuts and bolts aspect — is primarily a female responsibility. There are numerous other examples.

A lot of women may say, “It was my choice to do x or y.” But sometimes women don’t recognize constraints or limitations that don’t apply to men and that may drive, at least in part, the decisions they make.

So one woman’s choice to stay at home with her kids may have been her preference and her decision, but she may not be recognizing the fact that her decision was driven in many ways by societal factors that affect her differently than a male partner.
Like the fact that everyone around her expects her and not a male partner to be the children’s primary caretaker. Or the fact that mothers often face doubts among bosses and colleagues about their commitment to their work in a way that men and childless women do not. Or the fact that a woman is likely to make less money than a male partner.

No matter how much we may question and critique our cultural assumptions they may continue to have an emotional hold on us that may be hard to shake. On one level a woman might recognize that her inherent worth does not hinge on her dress size or the shape of her figure– but on another level that woman might have trouble shaking the feeling that she is less than worthy as a human being if she is anything but model-thin. Our rational thinking alone may not be sufficient to overcome beliefs with which we have lived since birth. We aren’t stupid of course, but the ‘choices’ we make are therefore not necessarily our own choices at all….’

http://happyfeminist.typepad.com/happyfeminist/feminism_/index.html

ad 4

Society offers women certain awards for certain behaviours as it affords punishments too. The ‘good mother’ for example, who plays with her kids, educates her kids, keeps her kids healthy, keeps her house clean, keeps a career going, does all the admin, all the emotional services, keeps thin, has hobbies and friends, does all the shopping, exercises, looks after the family pets, keeps herself smart, decorates, vacuums, washes, cooks, organizes, looks after relatives……and so onis an image/idea which surrounds us. All of which is kept in place by the ‘reward’ of guilt to perpetuate an unobtainable perfection. Whatever mothers do it is never going to be enough.

In recent history feminists  have gathered together to demand wages for house work/mothers, both highlighting the value such work is offering our culture while also emphasizing that the lack of economic rewards for women, an unpaid workforce, reflects the little status and worth such activities command.

Women still do twice as much housework as men.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4227752.ece?CMP=SOC-Twitter-thetimes-28_07_2014-468-0-0-0

DIGITAL CAMERA

Within capitalism women provide an unpaid workforce at home in order to keep the family unit together. This obviously frees men to advance in their careers. This renders women ultimately reliant on men who earn more even if women can work. The idea of the perfect wife/mother is, in turn, kept in place by patriarchal attitudes despite women now for the most part working outside the home as well, to keep women subjugated……

…..and capitalism aims to keep women as dutiful consumers too….

Consumer Choice for Women

‘Two Cunts in a Kitchen’, or sometimes ‘2CK’, is a term used within the advertising industry for a type of television commercial. YES! This is a real term! Generally the advert shows two women in a domestic scene, discussing, using, or otherwise portraying the advertiser’s product in a positive manner.
This characterizes the culture and assumptions behind such advertisements as showing “contempt … for women both as consumers and as females”:

“This charming phrase first gained usage in the early 1980s and is still widely used today in the advertising industry. It is a useful phrase to be aware of, in that it serves as a reminder of the level of contempt in which that industry holds its intended targets.”

(via feministindianmanifesto)

http://sexistads.tumblr.com/post/2812824560/two-cunts-in-a-kitchen-or-sometimes-less

Construction of a meaningful identity for a product reflects on our female identity – a cleaning product which cleans is not enough, a cleaning product which will help produce a perfect relationship, or a cleaning product which will make you have amazing children or lifestyle, or a cleaning product that is ethically sourced from Outer Mongolia, is what creates our commodity fetishism… and subsequently drives our consumer ‘choices’…

We are constantly bombarded with how these choices and roles will fulfil us and enhance our lives.

Patriarchal capitalism creates these standards on a whim. It invents ‘needs’ to steal your cash while objectifying and subjugating you…

“ok, what can we get them worrying about in order to buy our next product?” One day it’s fashionable to have no breasts: the next day breasts are all the rage. One day it’s fashionable to have body hair: the next day everyone is meant to thinks that’s disgusting on women.’

http://witchywoo.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/radical-feminism-and-body-image/

Choice became a key word in policy and political rhetoric during the 1980s where ‘private ownership, markets and freedom of choice’ were equated. This was achieved so that selecting from a range of items and the freedom to determine one’s fate became elided in a kind of consumer heaven: ‘To connect closely shopping and existential freedom’.

But does Next, Ikea, the Bodyshop or H&M offer the ultimate form of personal autonomy to any woman?

Understanding “false consciousness” as a concept in terms of what we think our choices are and the manipulation involved in making those choices has helped women gain a different perspective. “Consciousness raising” sessions among feminists in the ’60s and ’70s were a valuable exercise for women working through the many ways in which they had taken for granted their own subordination or failed to recognize ways in which the values and institutions with which they lived were operating contrary to their best interests.
This is an ongoing process as society remains as sexist as ever and capitalism as greedy.

Sexuality and Choice

Ideas of female sexuality are constructed by imagery constantly all around us, in adverts, in newspapers, fashion…..we live in a world of porn culture, rape culture etc…. This bombardment of ideas and images must affect our perception of ourselves.

Sexual compliance and sexual intimidation is often a part of women’s lives. And this is often normalised within a sexist culture, often by such imagery and the attitudes this provokes.

A quarter of women have experienced rape and many more had either suffered some form of sexual abuse, harassment and/or coercive male behaviour. Attitudes toward women, beliefs about sexual behavior, including rape-supporting beliefs and values still abound.

In this climate of violence and willful misrepresentation, what choice do women really have about expressing their sexuality?

ad 2

Economics/Work Choices 

‘Boy or girl, equal opportunities?

Boy or girl, equal opportunities?….educational and career expectations for boys and girls are different. If nothing has changed by the time they grow up, the boy will be earning on average 16 % more than the girl.

Is our work valued the same?

Is our work valued the same?Women have as good or better qualifications than men, but often their skills are not valued the same as men’s and their career progression is slower. This results in an average gender pay gap of 16 % in the EU.

Will having a child harm my career?

Will having a child harm my career?Family responsibilities are not equally shared. As a result, women have more frequent career breaks and often do not go back to a full time job. As a result, women earn on average 16 % less per hour than men; and even 31% less per year, given the higher proportion of female part-timers.

Same job, same pension?

The combined effect of lower hourly wages for women with women working fewer hours than men over their lifetime, results in lower pensions. This leads to more women than men experiencing poverty in old age.’

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-pay-gap/index_en.htm

In the UK- women make up 77% of admin posts, men make up 88% of science, engineering, tech jobs. 63% of workers paid at or below the living wage are female.

Office of National statistics.

There is no country in the world where female wages are equal to those of males.

Body Choices

In the 19th century and early part of the 20th century, a succession of laws were brought in to reduce access to legal abortion. These laws effectively controlled women’s lives until 1967. But they did not, of course, prevent unwanted pregnancy, or the need for abortion. Thousands of women resorted to back-street abortionists, permanently damaging their health or dying. Newspapers advertised cures for ‘menstrual blockages’, but women knew they were abortifacients. Many of these were ineffective and were also poisonous; one of the cheapest, a lead-based potion, poisoned and blinded many women. Since its passage in 1967 the Abortion Act has been unsuccessfully challenged several times by anti-choice (“pro-life”) organisations which aim to restrict access to abortion. In 1990, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act introduced controls over new techniques which had been developed to help infertile couples and to monitor experiments on embryos. Despite attempts to use this law to restrict abortion rights, the 1990 Act lowered the legal time limit from 28 to 24 weeks, which is the currently accepted point of viability. It also clarified the circumstances under which abortion could be obtained. http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/index.php/media-and-resource-centre/abortion-law/275
Worldwide safe access to abortion is still for the most part non existent in many countries and certainly globally womens reproductive health remains poor, not invested in or prioritized. Abortion is still shrouded in often secrecy, shame, guilt due to religious pressures, negative press coverage and societal attitudes. It is still a feminist issue and safe access to abortion is still something which comes under attack and needs to be protected.
Choice and control over our bodies..
Body politics involves the fight against objectification of the female body, and violence against women and girls, and the campaign for reproductive rights for women.
“The personal is the political” became a slogan that captured the sense that domestic contests for equal rights in the home and within sexual relationships are crucial to the struggle for equal rights in the public. This form of body politics emphasized a woman’s power and authority over her own body.

Feminists promoted breaking the silence about rape, sexual abuse, and violence against women and girls, which many interpreted as extreme examples of socially sanctioned male power and the invasion of female choice.
Women’s bodies are still a political battleground…… choice over our bodies is routinely held by to the state….. Debates about laws and women’s bodies such as abortion rights, female contraceptive upon without the involvement or proper representation from women prompting feminist action. Women often feel that government or institutional power has unfairly exercised control over our bodies and that society should take greater responsibility for the care and protection of women and children.

http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/index.php/media-and-resource-centre/abortion-law/275

Choice about Space

Throughout history spaces have been culturally, religiously, racially and politically marked. Even though women won access to a limited amount of space in the 20th century, both symbolically and structurally, space continues to be largely defined as male.

Many institutions and work places remain as ‘boys clubs’.

Women who are victims of male sexual violence are still blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Such institutionalised and cultural sexism limit all women’s access to the world.

A culture of rape, institutionalised sexism, sexist socialisation and gendered cultural devaluation all still restrict women’s access to equitable space.

———————–

(Taken from a ‘Choice’ zine created collectively a few years ago and including material from a variety of sources).

Posted in feminism, gender | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Prostitution, an interview with two survivors.

An interview with two ex-prostitutes. ‘Kelly’ is a friend of mine and ‘Sasha’ is a friend of hers. These women asked if their names could be changed for the interview.

How did you get involved in prostitution Kelly?

“I was an 18 year old student and living in Manchester working behind a bar – I had to wear a bikini and I got paid £10 an hour for wearing it. Originally I just went for normal bar work and they offered me the job at £5 an hour but they had another bar where the staff wore swimwear and offered me £10 an hour to work there……that was the first time I realised I could use my body to make money.

However, I was interested in performing arts and really wanted to go to drama school, I thought that being a kiss-o-gram might be a way to make it in this area.I figured wearing a bikini in a bar wasn’t much different than being a kiss-o-gram.

I looked into it and discovered I could make more money being a kiss-o-gram so it seemed to be a good idea, after all I didn’t know anyone in Manchester because it wasn’t my home town so I thought it would be relatively anonymous, and it would ultimately lead to me getting an equity card and becoming an actress.

Meanwhile I had fallen in love with a guy who had no money and he was living at my house with me, but I was having difficulty paying for everything. We were smoking loads of weed and with all the bills and everything I was becoming overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing my finances away from home. I tried to talk to my boyfriend about this but he was not interested in finding a job and hinted he would leave me if I couldn’t support him. The guy who I worked for as a kiss-o-gram, also had an escort agency and for some reason I thought this would be a better/more confidential way of making money that would provide me with enough funds to support me and my boyfriend. I did escorts for a year and during this time I dropped out of college.

Then I worked in a brothel and from flats. Escort work was usually one to one, such as me going to a hotel room or house for an hour. This could be scary because you never knew if you would come out alive! When I worked from a flat I was often on my own or sometimes with another girl or two. The biggest threat working from flats was being raided by the police, also violence/threats from gangsters.

The brothel or “massage parlour” that I worked in was massive. There would be up to 30 girls (on a Saturday night) working there at any one time and maybe 15 girls during the week when it was quieter. On the ground floor there was a bar, a pool table, some gambling machines, a sauna, Jacuzzi and changing rooms for the men. There was also loud club type music playing. In the basement there were two VIP rooms that men could hire for £70 for half an hour or £110 for the hour – per girl – some men would pick two or three girls at a time. Each room had a massive bath that could fit up to five people in, a shower, toilet and sink. There was also a double bed with mirrored ceilings overhead and a TV showing porn. In addition, there were also two basic rooms in the basement that had a massage table, mirrored walls a shower, sink and toilet, these rooms were £60 for half an hour. The first floor had a laundry for all the towels to be washed and dried, and eight more basic rooms. On the top floor there were 2 more VIP rooms and a bedroom for the working girls to crash in if they got tired. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The shifts were 12 hours, from 9am – 9pm, or 9pm – 9am, but often I would work one 24 hour shift per week all in one go. To get me through the grueling shift I would take E’s and coke. It was stressful because there was a lot of competition between the girls to make money.” Kelly

And how did you get involved in prostitution Sasha?

“I got involved through friends who were already doing it, I found that amongst my peers it was quite evident that women were making a living in this way I feel that one of the main reasons I got involved was due to my own low self esteem and self worth. I had also been in a difficult (violent) relationship and became a single parent! I started working as a receptionist at a massage parlour that my friend worked in, met some other girls and was encouraged to give it a try.

I would never walk the streets due to the safety element, and funny as it may seem I always felt myself a class bit than that- very snobby in such a seedy world. In some ways I feel I kept some morals and that is why I may have been able to get out of it as I didn’t let it totally consume the person I was. I realised for some people their options were limited due to the way they had damaged their bodies/looks through drug addiction and sheer abuse etc…” Sasha

What did you think of the clients?

“Some of the clients were dead friendly, like lonely men who were shy and desperately wanted a girlfriend. They would book me for an hour, chat to me for half an hour and offer me drinks, have sex for 15mins, and then I would get dressed and say our goodbyes.

Yet many clients were alcoholic, druggies, aggressive, rude, piss-taking, disrespectful misogynists! These sorts of guys were typically married and would take you to their marital home and want sex in the bed they shared with their wife! They would want rough hard sex and this was very uncomfortable for me and stressful – especially with the chance their wife could come home at any moment.

Others were into weird stuff like water sports, bondage or humiliation.
I tried not to judge the clients because I didn’t want them to judge me, yet sometimes they were just absolute bastards who said unkind things about my body, made unwanted comments about my breasts, screamed insults at me whilst shagging me, and some even physically hurt me like pulling my hair and biting me……’ Kelly

And you Sasha?

“Some clients I didn’t like as they made me realise what I was doing, and they held very little regard for my welfare! This was to be expected from some but not all. It didn’t just involve sex, many clients wanted some one to talk to, make them feel valued, of help to support them through a difficult time in which they needed some comfort. In turn some made me feel that way too- some didn’t! I found that eventually I had to have drink or drugs to be able to carry through the job and this was dangerous.” Sasha

If its not too personal to ask….What goes through your mind when having sex with clients?

“Ha ha! Loads of things… money money money! What will I buy with
my money? Which bill am I going to pay? Often “when will he come so I can go?” or “the expression on his face is so funny I want to burst out laughing but I better not cause he won’t be amused” or “oh my god I wish he would hurry up I’m not enjoying this at all”. I would often detach myself from my body……Kelly

How did you get on with other women working as prostitutes?

‘We became intimate in a way I hadn’t experienced before. We went through a lot together.” Kelly

Did you ever experience violence and did you report it?

“Yes I experienced violence on many occasions but I never once reported it. Once when I was working in a flat on my own I got robbed of a full day’s money, about £400. I was devastated but I never reported it because I didn’t want the police to know what I was doing.” Kelly

Have your experiences had an impact on your everyday life now? Have your experiences changed you?

“The experiences I’ve had through sex work have definitely impacted upon me, mostly in a negative way but some in a positive way. It gave me a very low opinion of men and it impacted upon my self esteem and personality badly. I ended up taking a lot of drugs to get through the working day/night, and I saw myself as a sex object. This means I have difficulty trusting people and being in a relationship now. It has also made me paranoid and I suppose you could say that I’m scarred for life. Furthermore, because I’m such an open honest person, when I stopped doing it I told people (friends, boyfriends) what I used to do in an attempt to “get it off my chest” and now I have a bad reputation. Living with stigma is not nice, I know people talk about me behind my back but no one asks me to my face.
Yet at the same time it sort of made me a woman of the world and gave me an interesting perspective and an insight into a secretive part of our society and culture. I also learned a lot about myself.” Kelly

Do you think prostitution should be legal?

‘Yes, I think the minimum age for doing it should be 25 years. This would help to stop young girls from being exploited.” Kelly

“I’m not sure whether I feel that it should be legal” Sasha

Why did you stop Sasha?

“I stopped working because although I had tried to keep myself safe I was frightened of people finding out and what could happen to me. I choose to work in a different area in a massage parlour, and I stayed there for 3 years. During that time I saw many girls come and go, some were lovely, however some had no regard for themselves or any one else . I found this difficult and become to realise that if I didn’t get away from the situation my life could take a very different track. I did not want to end up like some of the girls that I met. Now I have completed a degree and have worked with young people for 10 years, I still find it difficult being intimate with someone but I am working on that. Overall it is down to the individual person how it will/can affect them and why they are doing it.” Sasha

And you Kelly?

“I stopped doing sex work because I got really sick of it. I was crying before and after work and I was an emotional wreck. When I was 19 I got pregnant and worked till I was 5 months pregnant. I went back to work 3 weeks after my son was born. That was a very low point for me. My boyfriend still didn’t work and he had started abusing me, verbally, physically and sexually during my pregnancy. We split up when my son was 6 months old and I moved back home. I tried to give up the work but found it hard financially because I was used to smoking lots of weed and having money. I stayed working till I was about 25. Then I got ill and nearly died. I had anorexia and bulimia since my teens and all the peculiar eating/purging habits wrecked my digestive system.

During this time I was hospitalised but they couldn’t operate because I was so ill, I was on a drip and was nil by mouth for 2 weeks. This made me re-assess my lifestyle and realise that money was not so important. For the first time in my life I actually wanted to live. I wanted to live for my son and be a good mum. Although I was always a good mum anyway, being a prostitute was making me ill and causing me to live an isolated, secretive lifestyle. Prostitution urged me to make the wrong decisions about the person I really was, I felt it was becoming all consuming and eating me up. The adjustment period was very hard, to go from making on average £600 a week, to living off £100 a week on benefits, so I relapsed a couple of times. Luckily I had confided in two amazing friends who really helped and encouraged me to stop. If it wasn’t for them I might be dead by now.

Some girls I worked with are dead. The recent serial killer known as the “crossbow cannibal” murdered my friend –  I knew her as “Holly”. When I heard about it on the news I felt devastated. I hadn’t seen her for years but apparently she was still working. When I knew her she worked in the massage parlour but on the news it said she was a street girl who was addicted to heroin.
Now I’m in my early 30’s and have made a “decent” career for myself. I’m also doing a degree at university. When I look back I realise I was groomed for prostitution. My father sexually, physically and emotionally abused me. This abuse provided the perfect conditions for me to become a prostitute. Because of what he did I had a miserable childhood. I was never happy. I did not know what trust, respect or intimacy was. I was socialised into being sexual – in my body language, use of language and behaviour – but I didn’t realise until I stopped working. So Ive had to relearn how to portray myself in order to function appropriately in mainstream society.

I felt like dying all my life – until I got out of sex work, then I really started to live” Kelly

 

pro pic 5 1

(compiled from a zine on prostitution, a collective work created by myself, two friends and the women interviewed)

 

Posted in culture, feminism, gender, politics, Uncategorized, women | Tagged | 4 Comments

Poet Madiha Bhatti on misogyny in music

Listen up Jay-Z, this Muslim woman’s got something to say to you.

Poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “Music is the language of the spirit”—but what happens when that language tears our spirit down?Muslim spoken word poet Madiha Bhatti didn’t like the objectifying lyrics she heard in contemporary music. Rather than simply switching off the radio, she wrote some of her own. Watch as she warms up, then tears it up at the :30 mark. There are so many snap-worthy moments in this, our fingers hurt.
Poet Madiha Bhatti


Posted in feminism, gender, poetry, politics, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments