Thursday, 22 October 2009

Not Feminism for a change!

I'm just taking some time out from rushing to finish my MA dissertation and reading Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, to discuss some current affairs. The big news at the moment, other than the postal strike, seems to be the fact that Question Time are proposing to give racist bigot Nick Griffin some airtime.

Now, I happen to think that the BNP have almost certainly used up their allotted oxygen quotient, and I would be quite happy if they all took a collective long walk off a short pier, BUT, I don't think this excuses the rest of us sane individuals in this country to resort to censorship.

There's the obvious quote from Voltaire, that whilst one may disagree absolutely with everything someone says, one should defend to the death their right to say it, or whilst I could refer readers to a wonderful blog post by Neil Gaiman about freedom of speech sometimes meaning that one has to defend the indefensible, I'd rather not just be glib and let someone else write my argument for me.

The BBC has long held a reputation for impartiality. Up until the Hutton Report and that whole whitewashed mess, it was taken for granted that the BBC was free from ties of government and political bias. Now, that reputation has been tarnished, but not to my mind destroyed. Censorship on a program such as Question Time would be, for me, another blow to that reputation, another example of a media institution not willing to put itself in the line of fire, for fear of not being politically correct. And I mean that just as much in the sense of not ascribing to some notion of "correct" politics. It's the job of a free press to report everything, not just the bits of politics that we find acceptable. Otherwise, we're no better than a banana republic, trying to keep its citizens happy and complient, by only telling them the authorised truth. We're above that in this country, and despite total f*ckwits like Griffin, we ought to remain so.

And I don't like the idea of people saying "we don't have to give the BNP the same rights as we'd give anyone else, because they're not a "real" political party". That's one step away from saying "I don't have to listen to you because you're a member of this group, and therefore not a real person." Slippery slope, perhaps, that's how these things start. Plus, of course, we'd be behaving just like the people we ostensibly hate. How much of a validation would that be for the BNP if we adopted their own tactics of bullying and prejudice in order to combat them?

If we didn't invite idiots like this into our media, if we demonise them and refuse to listen, that gives them further "proof" of the liberal media pandering to the governement, excluding them, etc. It gives them the opportunity to act the martyr, and makes this a debate about freedom of speech, not about what it should be about - the unacceptability of casual racism in British politics. We're being distracted by the ephemera into arguing about tangenital subjects, where the BNP are on much stronger ground. We are giving the BNP more publicity and recognition as a result of the controversy than as a result of having them on the BBC in the first place, (where at the very least his views are engaged with, and not allowed to go unchallenged while we dance around talking about the freedom of the press). As Griffin said himself: "I thank the political class and their allies for being so stupid. The huge furore that the political class has created around it clearly gives us a whole new level of public recognition."

On the other hand, if we stop this debate being about issues such as freedom of speech, this could actually be a fantastic opportunity for all opponents of the BNP. Their policies are shit. Not just the casual racism (though that's horrific enough), but the fact that they haven't really got a political standpoint on anything other than immigration. Challenge him on this and other issues, and people will see that they really, really don't want him or his grubby little party anywhere near running the country. The people who are going to be enthused by this are the people who would have voted for the BNP anyway. The moderates, on the other hand, might very well be alienated once they've actually had a chance to hear what the party's got to say for itself. So yes, drag Griffin in front of the cameras, have David Dimbleby and the pannelists grill him within an inch of his life, and I promise you he will be exposed for the racist, bigoted, half-witted, spineless little demagog he really is. His policies cannot stand up to reasoned debate, and his appearance in any legitimate forum will, far from conferring its legitimacy on him, show up, by contrast, just how little he deserves to be taken seriously. As the saying goes, give him enough rope and he'll hang himself.

Not engaging with an issue may save us the risk of accidentally legitimising it, but it allows Griffin's views to go unchallenged. We shouldn't be ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away, we should be fighting back, providing the counter arguments that often people don't hear, because they're hearing the BNP's views in isolation. Distasteful as it might be, sometimes we need to parade shit around, so people can see for themselves how badly it smells.

And of course, if you still don't agree with me, then you can always take comfort in one of my favourite quotes from Ferdinand Mount:
"One of the unsung freedoms that go with a free press is the freedom not to read it...."

Monday, 12 October 2009

Men on the Internet

Harassment on the Internet is a women's issue.

Oh, and have a look at this one (warning, may make you feel sick to your stomach/ ashamed of any testicles you may posses)

But, also contained in that first post is another of these wonderful nuggets. It's one of those things that gets to me when I can SEE the problem, just can't see the solution. So when a summation of the problem occurs that inherently contains an obvious solution I want to jump for joy.
This, I believe is one such:

‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates womento the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on his side.

And On that Subject...

As I've said before, and will keep saying, here and elsewhere: Men can be feminists. Men are in fact some of the most important feminists, because they are the ones with the power, they are the ones who can most easily effect change. Bollocks to anyone who says that men can't understand (or can't be explained to enough so they do understand), or aren't allowed a say because of their lack of personal experience, or can't be "proper" feminists because they have a penis. That's being as patronizing to them as they have been to us. We need men to stamp out this misogynistic shit at the roots. Some men are the problem. The rest of men need to be part of the solution.
In essence:
Men! the Feminist Auxilliary Force needs YOU!

And if you want to join, start by reading This

And then This.

Spread the Word, people!

Follow Up on Schrodinger's Rapist, and Equality by Reduction

I think I already linked to the Schrodinger's rapist post previously, but looking back on the comments that have appeared on that blog and others subsequently has been almost as interesting as the post itself.
If you want to read the debate, go read it, but I'm just going to quote one small passage from this blog

I think discomfort in inevitable in dismantling privilege. Guys are used to a lot of advantages that they don’t think of as advantages — they got to talk more in meetings, get interrupted less, and their views are not as easily dismissed. If those advantages go away, it “feels” unfair to them because they thought their privileged state was “normal.” And the longer term advantages of dismantling an unequal system are harder to see in the immediate term.

What cis het men see is the loss of the privilege to intrude on women’s solitude, and I think all the whinging is simply rationalization around reflexive defense of the privilege.

In fact, I think guys only come to grips with the loss of male privilege when they take a broader view of what is to be gained and lost. IME, either because they have self-interested reasons for thinking patriarchy sucks for everyone; or because they come face to face with what it does to women and can’t tolerate it. The latter is probably the easier sell, and that’s why exercises like getting high school boys to list the steps they take to walk to their car in a dark parking lot (and then hearing women’s lists — I got that from the Shapely Prose thread) are effective.

Beautifully put. And one of the biggest problems that feminists in this day and age face.

I also want to add another long quotation from this wonderful post here, about why respecting women's boundaries in this way is SO important.

If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

  • it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (”mean bitch”)
  • it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (”crazy bitch”)
  • it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (”stuck-up bitch”)
  • it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (”angry bitch”)
  • it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (”bitch got daddy issues”)
  • it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (”dyke bitch”)
  • it is not okay to raise your voice (”shrill bitch”)
  • it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (”mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all.

Women who are taught that a display of their emotional state will have them labeled hysterical and crazy (which is how their perception of events will be discounted) will not be willing to run from a room disheveled and screaming and crying.

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.

Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid. [...]

She didn’t fight back because you told her not to. Ever. Ever. You told her that was okay, and necessary, and right.

Please, please go and read the whole article. It's Here, just so's you don't have to scroll back up.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Oh, and another thing....

I would also like to add:

What kind of a f***ed up precedent is THAT going to set, if a guy can GET AWAY WITH CHILD RAPE because he was rich and famous??

Thank-you to all of you wonderful writers, artists, actors, directors etc, etc, etc who have NOT signed these stupid petitions, or have come out opposed to the whole thing (Yet another reason for me to love Neil Gaiman, and a reason for me to overlook, on this occasion, Chris Rock's annoying voice. - Seriously, great dude, I just have to listen to him in small chunks.) and believe that the artistic community should be held to the same legal standard as anyone else.

Great Art does not give you a get-out-of-jail-free card. Would you have excused Hitler if he'd been a slightly better painter?*

*Actually, my theory on this one is that if he'd been a good painter, he might have got laid a bit more, and not had to go into politics and become a "mass-murdering f**khead" (in the words of Eddie Izzard) - but then I'm being a bit facetious at the moment...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Frothing at the mouth

I kid you not, my Dad actually referred to me as a "Rabid Feminist" the other day.
Rabid? Really? Must have missed that fox bite last time I was on the continent. And I was wondering why I seemed to be going insane and frothing at the mouth a lot.

Oh no wait, that last one must be because of all the stuff I'm reading.
I've just discovered the people at Feministing and The Sexist, and am having a big ol read. And because I'm female, when I read, my brain tends to overheat and explode*.

And in some cases this is a good thing - like when I suddenly discover that contributor "Courtney" is the same one who wrote the book I've just finished reading - Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters.

In other cases, it's more stuff that I wish I could include my PhD to cover (but can't because at this rate it'd never be done...) such as the idea of "Force Fantasy" and why women of today don't buy it.

Also a track-back (ish?) to my post of 17th August about men who get rejected and then decide that appropriate countermeasures include escalating the war-of-the-sexes to actual violence. Here's another collection of them. With a title that just wouldn't be the same without the exclamation point.

An interesting question (with responses, which are sound, accessible, and frankly essential reading if you're in this situation) about how to explain male privilage to an intelligent man. (Also why there's no such thing as "Female Privilage", at the wonderfully named Finally Feminism 101)
And a tongue in cheek article about how to teach your daughter about feminism.
And a post about why we still need feminism at all.

Also, until today I had not realised what this word literally means. Or rather, I knew what a douche was, but hadn't actually connected the dots. And on that note... another example of "But I WANNA Ice-cream!" logic (I will explain if anyone ever posts a comment what I mean by that last statement.)

And finally, because I think this has been quite a long enough round-up, I want this hat.

*As a consequence of the content of the reading material, not the quality of my brain. The management refuses to accept claims that female brains are more shoddily constructed, or are more prone to overheating, and instead suggest that the user is at fault for operating a female brain in close proximity to a patriarchal society. Such operational conditions can frequently cause female brains running at high levels to overheat, explode or start a blog.