[T]he “confidence gap” is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured.

In girlhood, starkly-divided toy aisles teach us that engineering, electronics and science toys are for boys, that the futures for which we should be preparing are those of the Barbie Dream House variety. Adolescent girls – especially girls of color – are given less teacher attention in the classroom than their male peers. A full 56% of female students report being sexually harassed. Sexual assault on college campuses is rampant and goes largely unpunished, women can barely walk down the street without fear of harassment, and we make up the majority of American adults in poverty.

The truth is, if you’re not insecure, you’re not paying attention. Women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them.

Jessica Valenti’s first piece at the Guardian, The female ‘confidence gap’ is a sham.

Stop using criminal justice to solve social problems

More from downsizingcriminaljustice. This is something I’ve mentioned a few times recently – the extent to which we should use our legal and criminal justice system to regulate and/ or address social problems. Below is a discussion of how that manifests.

When faced by the challenge of identifying ‘what bit of the criminal justice’ I would give up I was tempted to refuse.  For me it is a bit like asking what methods of capital punishment would you abolish?  By focus on one aspect, and by identifying it as particularly problematic, other aspects are, unintentionally, legitimised. So my first reaction is that the whole criminal justice system is so toxic, (with its single solution – state inflicted blame and pain – offered to every single problem it confronts), that we should not pick and choose but abolish the whole system, lock stock and barrel.

But on reflection there is something specific I think we need to focus our energies on abolishing, what Joelandeuit Beijerse and Rene Kool have referred to as the ‘traitorous temptation of criminal justice’. In contemporary society it is clear we face a whole range of social problems which need solutions.  The common sense of our age has increasingly been to conceptualise these problems in a manner that makes criminal justice the obvious response. Homelessnesspovertypre-natal caresquattinghungerprotestpoor mental health, druguse and abuse and the failure to buy a TV Licence are all seen as problems best solved through criminal justice interventions leading in many cases to the infliction of punishment through imprisonment. Readers of this blog would most likely agree that these are all areas where criminal justice interventions could (and should) be rolled back, even possibly abolished, but what about killing and sexual violence?  Surely we need the criminal justice system to protect us from those serious harms? [Rest.]

Yarl’s Wood: Immigration is a Feminist Issue

Very good piece on tokenfeminist about what should be an issue of feminist concern.

Last week Rashida Manjoo, a special rapporteur for the UN, stated that the UK has an in-your-face boys’ club sexist culture that is unlike that of any other country. She made the comments after visiting the UK to investigate the issue of violence against women. Unsurprisingly, there was a highly defensive backlash to the notion that the UK is more sexist than other countries, as there often is when anyone points out the blatant misogyny that occurs in this country every day. This culminated in The Guardian hosting the most pointless internet poll of all time, as they asked UK citizens whether or not they thought their own country was more sexist than other countries, without even asking them their age, gender, ethnicity or whether they had ever visited another country.

The most worrying part of Manjoo’s report related to Yarl’s Wood, a detention centre for female asylum seekers in Bedfordshire. The pictures and quotations on their site might lead you to believe that Yarl’s Wood is a supportive, happy place that really cares about its inmates residents. However, the reality is quite different. According to a report by Women for Refugee Women, 93% of the women detained at Yarl’s Wood are depressed and over half have suicidal thoughts. They do not receive adequate health care, a shortcoming which undoubtedly contributed to the death of 40-year-old Christine Case last month. She died of a heart attack after complaining of chest pains for several days.

This appalling treatment is not only a feminist issue because it is women that are detained at Yarl’s Wood. It is also a feminist issue because of the experiences they have had before they arrive there. Over 85% of the women have been raped or tortured in their home countries and almost all are now guarded by male staff. The majority say that this makes them uncomfortable, which is understandable when you consider that some were raped by prison guards. One woman had fled Uganda after being raped by guards and was on suicide watch at Yarl’s Wood, where a male guard watched her even when she was on the toilet. [Rest.]

It’s not a one-way street. It’s a spaghetti junction. But while it is interesting and informative to digest Sandberg’s learning, we also need to broaden the perspective. Sandberg has already “made it”. Perhaps we should listen more attentively to those on the bottom rung, because they’re the ones who need the assistance. Our obsession with the Rising Star, or the Leader, sidelines the “others”. And it fosters a crude belief that if one woman can “make it” on the basis of their own individual initiative, then that is the case for all. But that’s an individualistic approach, not a collective one.

- Una Mullally on the Irish Times – Women at the top should not forget sisters lower down

Sexual aggression isn’t an expression of maleness

Navigating our social world can sometimes be like stumbling through fog: intuiting the impact of our actions on other people often involves a confusing haze of speculative guesses about what they are thinking and feeling. However, some actions are clear as daylight in their intent and impact. Sexual harassment falls into this latter category.

David Foster argued here that blurred definitions of harassment mean people should be wary of ever complimenting anyone, lest it be interpreted as an unwanted advance. However, as Laura Bates articulated in response, generally speaking, most men are capable of differentiating between a genuine act of friendliness or flirtation (an act that intends a positive social outcome), and a hostile act of sexual aggression (oblivious to the impact on its recipient, or even actively calculated to cause distress). So, if there is a grey area between the two, it is very small, and inhabited by few people.

However, given this, a troubling thought then occurs. Many men who engage in verbal or physical harassment are probably aware that it will render their victim distressed, or at least uncomfortable. And yet they do it anyway. The question then is why?

Social sciences are bedevilled by such a bewildering array of competing perspectives that one cannot hope to offer the reason for a given phenomenon. Nevertheless, at the risk of oversimplifying the issue, one explanation for harassment relates to societal power: the perpetrator feeling either a sense of power, or paradoxically, a lack of it. The first type – surfeit – is easier to comprehend. Some men allow the clamour of their libido to drown out the faltering voices of their conscience, and their social position means they can express these desires without concern for the feelings of the recipient, or fear of reprisal. For instance, Lord Rennard allegedly bestowed his advances on people whose relative powerlessness meant their complaints were hushed up or ignored.

From theguardian.com.

Why anonymity would be a green light to rapists

The outcome of the William Roache trial resulted in a flood of demands for there to be anonymity for defendants in rape cases and talk of women eager to make false allegations of rape against men.  I believe that these demands are not just misguided but extremely dangerous for women and for justice generally.

It is often argued that an allegation of rape carries such a stigma that the defendant can never be free of it even if found not guilty and therefore should be anonymous.  Many crimes carry a stigma: murder, an accountant accused of fraud, a teacher accused of hitting a child, a driving instructor accused of drink driving.  If we allow the stigma argument to run its course then most defendants would be included particularly if the defendant was well known or a professional which could lead to a middle class exemption and fail victims.

A not guilty verdict in the criminal court in England and Wales does not necessarily mean that the conduct did not happen it simply means that the CPS did not prove it beyond reasonable doubt.  As a civil lawyer I deal with cases every day where we obtain findings in the Civil Court about domestic violence and sexual abuse where the Criminal Court has produced not guilty verdicts.  The case of O J Simpson in the US is a gruesome illustration of the Criminal Court finding the perpetrator not guilty followed by  a Civil Court finding that he did in fact kill his ex partner and her boyfriend.

On Rachel Horman (podcast of BBC Radio Manc. also on link)

Society Is Starting to Wake Up to Rampant Street Harassment of Women

Some Facts About Street Harassment

Does a man asking a stranger on a date in a respectful manner without the expectation that he or she will say yes, constitute street harassment? No. Is a man asking a woman he encounters in public for directions to the nearest cologne store street harassment? No.

Here is what does count as street harassment: groping, stalking, sexist comments, and publicly masturbating in someone’s presence. These kinds of assaults happen with great frequency. According to a 2010 study conducted by the CDC, “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,” the category into which most instances of street harassment fall, is the most prevalent form of sexual assault: 70-99% of women worldwide have experienced street harassment.

The fact that victims of street harassment are usually unwilling to report their experiences also speaks to a culture that has deemed such actions appropriate. A 2007 study found that 63% of 1,790 surveyed New York City subway riders said they had been sexually harassed. Just as concerning was the discovery that a mere 4% of these respondents said they had contacted authorities in reference to the incident.

On Alternet.

The Sun doesn’t merely advise you to name your mammaries; you are also encouraged to tweet pictures of yourself checking your breasts.

But there’s more! The Sun doesn’t merely advise you to name your mammaries; you are also encouraged to tweet pictures of yourself checking your breasts. Jejune prude that I am, I always thought that checking your body for cancer symptoms was best done in private whilst listening to repeats of Gardener’s Question Time but, apparently, the best way to do it is in front of hundreds of thousands of complete strangers on the internet. A number of women duly shared images of themselves ‘checking’ their breasts and countless followers posted supportive comments, offering their assistance in the procedure. Model Jess Davies ‘copped a feel’ whilst sporting a tiny Chihuahua-sized T shirt pulled up above her breasts. ‘Want a hand?’ asked a helpful chap; ‘I’ll check the other one’ chirped in another cancer-battling gent. Jodie Marsh, referencing the enduring link between breast cancer and fetid, undead predators, tweeted a photograph of herself in a revealing vampire costume in honour of ‘Check ‘em Tuesday.’ A number of ‘fans’ then made heart-warming references to sexual assault, with one man stating ‘I’ll check yours Jode # cracking set.’

On My Tights Won’t Stay Up.

Sweet LORD! This is a great retort though. Satire is often the best response, I think.

“Class distinctions do not die; they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves.” This is as true now as it was 25 years ago, and 25 years before that. “Each decade,” he continued, “we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty.” Compare this with “We’re all middle class now” except we’re not; or “Playing by the rules” which are made by, and change at the whims of, the most privileged; or “We’re all in this together” unless you’re a scrounger.

From Richard Hoggart’s introduction to introduction to George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

On The Guardian.

The slippery slope of gender: why shaving and snacking are feminist issues

Gender policing is all about the little things – trying to limit women through rules about beauty and dress and behaviour. But little things become big things, and it’s vital we fight the battles that make a difference.

On New Statesman:

It’s always the little things. In the midst of a welter of unutterably depressing news about welfare and political turmoil, the great controversy of the week has been, yet again, the stunning fact that women are human beings with bodies that grow hair, eat, sweat and shit.

First, a spectacularly misogynist and homophobic (and now withdrawn) advert from Veet, manufacturers of hair-removing goo, claimed that failing to remove your leg-hair with the help of Veet products will turn you into an actual bloke. Then there was the equally repugnant site set up to shame “Women Eating on the Tube”, featuring non-consensual pictures of women doing just that, because there’s nothing worse a female person could possibly do than demonstrate in public that she has a body which gets hungry. There have already been some stellar pieces written about this round of gender policing, the best of which have been by Paris Lees and Ellie Mae O’Hagan respectively.

Now, in five years of feminist blogging I have avoided weighing in on the body hair debate, for two reasons, the first of which is political. I’ve always been faintly distrustful of the school of feminism that advocates a return to “natural” womanhood as a political statement, because as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing. There is something a tiny bit reactionary about the plea for nature as opposed to liberated modernity; it runs uncomfortably close to the rhetoric of those social conservatives who would prefer women to be “natural” when it comes to being submissive to a male provider and hogtied by their own reproductive capacities, but to continue the decidedly unnatural practices of bleaching, waxing and taking a bath more than once a year. [Rest.]

Sunday feminist roundup (13th April 2014)

And here’s what else I’ve been reading this week.

- The Government has a women problem – and its down to the feminist men to fix it (the guardian)

- Fox News Hails Doctor Who Said Gay Rights Lead to Child Molestation (mother jones). Sweet Lord.

- How the Cult of Internet Openness Enables Misogyny (mother jones)

- Equality for women isn’t an optional extra (observer)

- What Needs to be Done to End Corrective Rape by @not_alone_uk (aroomofourown)

- Vintage homophobia: Tips for when you meet a lesbian from 1988 (feministing). Can’t actually figure out if this is for realz or not.

- Stop telling survivors they must report to the police (feministing)

- Rape is only ever enjoyed by rapists (content note for rape) (everydayvictimblaming)

- The art of embellishing the histrionics of Pistorius (everydayvictimblaming)

- Good Intentions Don’t Make Sexism OK (lipmag)

- Feminism is not an extreme term, says Penny Wong (guardian)

- What would you do if you needed an abortion in a country where it’s outlawed? (feministe)

- Defining “Real” Feminism: A response to Natasha Devon (elegantgatheringofwhitesnows)

- The Hypocrisy of the Male Gaze (dietofbrokenbiscuits)

- Legal abortions – a case of women’s human rights (thefword)

A lack of mothers in the cabinet is bad for everyone – not just lefty feminists

In the tumultuous few days after Maria Miller had delivered her grudging apology to the House of Commons and before she realised she had no option but to resign as culture secretary, a number of people opined that Cameron was hanging on to her “because she was a woman”. Nonsense. He may have been hanging on to her because he was a man who was painfully aware that he did not have many women in his cabinet. But that’s quite a different point, in an important way.

“Because she is a woman” implies that it’s easy for women to get on in politics, simply by virtue of their gender. Such an idea is backed up neither by the entire history of parliamentary politics in Britain, which has been shaped by men, for men, nor by the current gender balance in the Commons, which stands at nearly four to one (in favour of men, in case you were wondering). Under these historical and contemporary circumstances, women can only succeed in parliamentary politics if men agree that it is important for them to be allowed to. Saying that Cameron supported Miller “because she was a woman” is a destructive way of acknowledging that Cameron realises that this is the case.

On The Guardian.

The working classes don’t want to be ‘hard-working families’

Do any of us really identify ourselves as members of “hard-working families”? As a rhetorical label used by Labour politicians, it is not winning votes, as critics have pointed out. In a country where 70% of us still identify as working class, most people would agree with Len McCluskey that “ordinary, working class” is a better description of the majority of voters.

“Hard-working families” implies we’re only entitled to citizenship (or, as the Tories would have it, the odd game of bingo) if we can prove we’re working our fingers to the bone. But no one can work all the time: if you’re a pensioner, a single parent, sick, or there is no work to be had, then you’re in trouble. And most of us know this, because we’re related to them. Sit my extended family around a table and you’d have white- and blue-collar workers, the sick, the old, people in council housing, and families with two cars and a nice house but large debts to pay for them. This is replicated all over Britain. There is no static “underclass” and neither is there a robust middle class: instead, there are a lot of people who have to work for a living and, because of that fact, choose to identify as working class.

There’s another reason why the appeal to “hard-working families” is an empty abstraction. Most people don’t see hard work as a virtue. They identify as working class because they have to work, not because they want to. Two recurring conversations within my family and among the people I spoke to for my book The People are what they’d do if they won the lottery, and how they can afford to spend less time at work and more with those they love. This is a sensible attitude. Hard work causes stress, poor health and early death. And hard work has never solved poverty. We work longer hours now than we’ve done for 50 years, yet the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider.

On the Guardian.

The new school detention, where kids make the rules and a prison pipeline ends

Destiny (picture)

Photograph: Picture Partners / Alamy

Destiny was in eighth grade when, in the middle of an altercation with another student, she grabbed a teacher’s jacket and threw it out of a classroom window.

She was enrolled at the Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, New York, where almost every kid is black or Latino and living in poverty. Only 5% are meeting standards in math and reading.

New federal data shows that across the United States, schools with demographics like these tend to respond to bad behavior with aggressive force. Principals put students as young as four years old into isolation rooms or suspension, kicking them off campus for days or even weeks at a time. School-based police officers – in New York City there are more of them than there are school psychologists or social workers – sometimes respond to offenses as trivial as talking back to a teacher with physical restraints or even arrest.

But Destiny was not isolated, suspended or arrested. She wasn’t even sent to detention. Instead, wearing gold hoop earrings and a t-shirt with a big pink heart, she appeared, a little jittery, before a “justice panel” of four teenage peers. They listened to Destiny’s side of the story (she didn’t know the jacket belonged to the teacher, she said) and determined her punishment: a face-to-face apology to the teacher, two days of community service cleaning up her classroom during lunch, and a follow-up conference with the peer panel to discuss what she had learned from the incident.

On Comment is free

Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.

Mehreen Kasana, from A Woman of War (via fantasyparade, padaviya). Source: pbnpineapples.

See also:

 

Be prepared to compromise or ‘feminism’ will be a dirty word once again

I worry that a movement chock-full of women who genuinely want to see change and are ready to negotiate to get it is being eclipsed by a militant minority who care not a jot about the day-to-day life of the average woman in the UK and simply want to sound-off. It’s harming our cause and the perception of the feminist movement and actively encouraging a reticence towards change in some sectors.

- Natasha Devon (Director of the Education Program at Body Gossip) – @NatashaDevonBG

[...]

As well as being criticised for writing for ‘non-feminist’ publications, in the same week I was told I’m both too fat and too thin to be a body image campaigner. I’ve been accused of being “too good looking” to truly understand the cause I’m fighting. I’ve been criticised for my tattoos, which are apparently a sign of conformity. I was even told off for not being a lesbian once. Every week I receive tweets making comment on my hair and makeup, suggesting they aren’t in line with ‘proper feminism’.

Every now and then I get abuse from men but it’s incredibly rare by comparison. Somehow, being told by a male social media user that they wouldn’t fuck me because I’m too fat hurts far less than the mindless barrage of bitchiness I receive from supposedly intelligent women. Luckily, for every one of those I get twenty saying “thank goodness! AT LAST a feminist we can relate to!”

All the hard graft undertaken by high profile women to present feminism in an easily digestible form slowly unravelled. The word ‘misogyny’ was being chucked about like it was going out of fashion – on Twitter, in boardrooms, down the pub. Feminist campaigners began metaphorically stamping their feet, huffily insisting they wanted anything that they considered demeaning to womankind BANNED with immediate effect. They would brook no argument. They would listen to no counter-stance. All reasoned debate had ended, with immediate effect.

On Feminist Times.

Sunday feminist roundup (6th April 2014)

- In Brief: American school district preaches sexually active girls are like ‘dirty chocolate’ (lipmag)

- “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”: The result of false narratives on women’s lives (everydayvictimblaming)

- Consent in Institutional Sexism (everydayvictimblaming)

- Study suggests police systematically undercount rape reports (feministing)

- A Bechdel Test for Philosophy Papers (feministphilosophers)

- Womb with a View: Bounty – I’ve got my best “fuck-off face” ready. (feministtimes)

- What Does a Feminist Art Show Look Like in Russia? (bitchmagazine)

- Is This The End of ‘Lads Mags’? (tokenfeminist)

- Sluts and geeks: ‘widespread’ sexism in student club promotion (theguardian)

- How Convenient (fanniesroom)

- Girls weigh in on “bossy” (feministe)

- Cultural Femincide?! What’s that? by @schoolsexism (aroomofourown)

And the best of the quickhits this week:

 

Feminism Means Men Will Have Less Power. Deal With It, Heritage Foundation

Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation held a panel in honor of Women’s History Month called “Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures, and Its Future.” At the front of the room, a slate of female conservative journalists and activists evaluated feminism, and concluded that it has not been so good for women. Not good at all. “Millions of women have taken feminist advice,” conservative columnist Mona Charen lamented. “And it’s led to unparalleled misery.”

But feminism had also made men miserable, the panelists were quick to note. Men are now less likely to graduate from high school than women (though both boys and girls are graduating at significantly higher rates than they were just five years ago). Women outnumber men on college campuses, Network for Enlightened Women president Karin Agness noted (though women have to reach a higher education level to match men’s earnings once they enter the workforce—female high school grads make about as much as male dropouts, for example). Male wages are falling, Charen said (but not so far that men are actually making less than women). “Women and girls are not failing to thrive,” Charen concluded. “We have a problem with men and boys. Men’s participation rates in the workforce are declining alarmingly.” They’re even “seeing declining percentages of supervisory and administrative posts.”

On Slate: Heritage Foundation feminism panel: Women’s History Month talk blames feminism for decline in male power..