If shame has gone, why do we use secret abortions in England to preserve the myth of holy Ireland?

‘Most “fallen” women knew well enough that they were expected to create a narrative of disappearance, usually one that involved the boat to Holyhead.’ Photograph: HJ Allen/Evening Standard/Getty Images

‘Most “fallen” women knew well enough that they were expected to create a narrative of disappearance, usually one that involved the boat to Holyhead.’ Photograph: HJ Allen/Evening Standard/Getty Images

The Irish psychosis whose latest expression is thousands of dead babies in unmarked graves is a compound of four elements: superiority, shame, cruelty and exclusion. The Taoiseach last week called the deaths of those children “yet another element of our country’s past”. Are we so sure that these forces are not also our country’s present?

The superiority complex in Irish society came from the desperate need of an insecure middle class to have someone to look down on, an inferior Other against which to define its own respectability.

In 1943, the Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers compiled a well-meaning memorandum on children in institutions. It noted of those in mother-and-baby homes that “These illegitimate children start with a handicap. Owing to the circumstances of their birth, their heredity, the state of mind of the mother before birth, their liability to hereditary disease and mental weakness, we do not get, and we should not expect to get, the large percentage of healthy vigorous babies we get in normal circumstances. This was noticeable in the institutions we visited.”

These were humane and compassionate reformers. And it seemed obvious to them that children born out of wedlock would be physically and mentally weak and that “we should not expect” them to be normally healthy.

Rest: irishtimes.com.

Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance

Well, guess what? I don’t buy this. Patriarchy fucking well is one-sided. Misogyny is one-sided. I am sick of being told to play six of one, half a dozen of the other every single time women are devalued for being women. I’m sick of being told abortion is a “complex” issue. I’m sick of being told acquaintance rape is a “grey area”. I’ve had enough of hearing that the pay gap is about “women’s choices” and of being told that in terms of online abuse, “women give as good as they get”. I’m tired of hearing that male violence against women is “complicated” because “relationships are complicated”. I’m sick, above all, of being positioned as hysterical and extreme for pointing out that actually, there only is one side, the side that hates women. It is as clear as day and no one wants to say it even when, as is the case with Elliot Rodger, it couldn’t be made more obvious.

- glosswatch on Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance

The fear of reprisal: What happens if you stand up to harassment?

I marched – or waded – over and promptly informed the three men that I would rather sew myself up and remain sexless for the rest of my life than have relations with any of them. My fellow swimmers tittered, while I stood, trying to maintain as much dignity as possible in a late-90s Speedo swimsuit and a red face. Then the middle one came forward and hissed, menacingly: “You fucking bitch.” Fear began to set in and my heartbeat quickened. I could feel my pulse in the soles of my feet. I glanced up but the life guard was busy watching over the kids. As I turned to swim away, I could feel them watching me. After two more lengths, I got out.

Lydia Smith on Feminist Times.

Harassment is not harmless or a joke or a compliment or “just how it is” or “boys being boys”. It’s more often frightening, disabling and very damaging.

“A lot of people learn that men and women should have different roles in this world in order to create “balance”

A lot of people learn that men and women should have different roles in this world in order to create “balance” and, therefore, end up with this idea that feminism is not only “anti-man” but “anti-woman” because it’s “against” femininity (or masculinity). If you think that masculine and feminine gender roles are not only innate but good, then you’re likely to see critiques of those gender roles as attacking actual males and females, rather than attacking those socialized roles and behaviours, as well as the hierarchy that is attached to said roles. This leads women to say things like “No, I’m not a feminist, I love being a woman,” because they believe their womanhood is attached to a subordinate gender role which they have been told is not only natural, but empowering.

Meghan Murphy on feministcurrent.com: Should we stop asking celebrities about feminism?

Sunday feminist roundup (27th April 2014)

All else this week, then.

- Britain may have a sexist culture – but at least it’s British sexism, eh? (theguardian)

- Britain’s church and state should divorce: it would set them both free (theguardian)

- The 1% Wants to Ban Sleeping in Cars Because It Hurts Their ‘Quality of Life’ (alternet)

- One Girl Dares to Critique an Over Sexualized Comic Cover. Twitter Responds with Rape Threats. (bust)

- Rape and domestic violence brushed aside with eight easy words (everydayvictimblaming)

- Teaching Pretty: The Politics of Fashion for Women Instructors (aroomofourown)

- Game of Thrones: Someone explain to me what happened with Jaime and Cersei (feministe)

- It’s just not feminine: BBC buys into rape culture…again (scallopsrgreat)

Feminism: this is not as good as it gets

“It was like the maddest kind of falling in love.” This is how feminist activist and writer Beatrix Campbell began describing the women’s lib movement of the 1970s to a room of intergenerational feminists last Tuesday night.

Campbell was part of an impressive line up on a panel to discuss Fifty Years of Feminism, which also included Melissa Benn, Lesley Abdela, Nimko Ali, Laura Bates, and was chaired by Jude Kelly – the Paxman of feminist panel debates and artistic director of the Southbank Centre. The discussion was in tribute to the British Library’s brilliant feminist oral history and archive project, Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement and was hosted by the East London Fawcett Group.

More than most feminist panel debates I attend, there was a pervading sense of history. Perhaps it was the oppressively dark room mixed with the association of an institution such as the British Library, but it wouldn’t have felt out of place if Kelly was at a podium with a cap and gown. This was an occasion. (The gold lamé hoodie she was actually wearing did the job nicely though). It felt that, at last, feminism was entering the history books, as an official, real Thing. An air of ceremony hung about us as Kelly pointed out the importance of the British Library’s project as a destination where future generations could learn about the struggle for gender equality. Then, referring to the panel, Kelly told the packed audience: “This is history itself; you can say you were here.” [Rest.]

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)

Feminism and the expectation of martyrdom

Jan Dark on the challenge of overcoming female social conditioning and standing up to abuse from not just men, but other women. On the F-Word

Since time immemorial, women have been taught that male violence and abuse are inevitable; we are expected to learn to either avoid it or live with it. Male violence against women and girls is so normalised that decades on from the beginning of the second wave, feminists’ voices are still not being heard. When our voices are heard, rather than being listened to, we experience a backlash.

The first ‘speak out session’ within the anti-rape movement in the USA took place in New York in January 1971. Over 300 women attended and at least 30 courageously spoke of their experiences of male sexual violence in front of a mixed audience. Some were subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the men present (including being urinated on) when they disclosed. Not surprisingly, a consequence was the recognition for the need for women-only spaces. How much has changed? Very little. Fast forward to the digital age and the abuse also happens online. What has changed is that is our women-only spaces and services are constantly under threat from male intrusion. [Rest.]

“FYI, I Cannot “Demand” Respect From Men so Stop Telling Me That!

Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.

This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.

I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.

I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.

As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.

- excerpt from “FYI, I Cannot “Demand” Respect From Men so Stop Telling Me That!” @ One Black Girl. Many Words.  (via fajazodaniellemertina, padaviya)

‘Enough is enough’: the fight against everyday sexism

I thought about the night a group of teenage boys had casually walked up behind me in the street before one of them grabbed me, hard, between the legs. I recalled the boss who’d sent me emails about his sexual fantasies and terminated my freelance contract with no explanation almost immediately after learning I had a boyfriend. I remembered the men who cornered me late one night in a Cambridge street, shouting obscenities, and left me cowering against the wall as they strolled away.

[...]

At first, I wondered if they were right. I thought I’d take a look at the statistics. I found that in this supposedly “equal” society, with nothing left for women to want or fight for, they hold less than a quarter of seats in parliament, and only four out of 22 Cabinet positions. That just seven out of 38 Lord Justices of Appeal and 18 out of 108 High Court judges are female. That in 2010 it was reported that the National Gallery’s collection of some 2,300 works contained paintings by only 10 women. That our Royal Society has never had a female president and just 5% of the current fellowship is made up of women. That women write only a fifth of front-page newspaper articles. That women directed just 5% of the 250 major films of 2011, down by nearly half from a paltry 9% in 1998. I found that on average more than two women are killed every week by a current or former partner, that there is a call to the police every minute about domestic violence, and that a woman is raped every six minutes – adding up to more than 85,000 rapes and 400,000 sexual assaults per year.

- Laura Bates, The Guardian.

We can't ban pornography – but we do need to stop children accessing it

This is not about banning pornography, but protecting children from harmful and often degrading representations of sex and desire.

On the Guardian:

Today the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) published research telling us children as young as six are accessing hardcore pornography. If we were to apply their study of 45,000 households nationally, that is 44,000 primary school children and 200,000 under-16s accessing adult sexual material; 112,000 boys aged 12-17 had visited one site alone, Pornhub. These figures aren’t even a realistic assessment as mobiles and tablets do not feature in the research. We should be shocked by the scale of the problem before us and galvanised into action. This is not about banning pornography, but protecting children from harmful and often degrading representations of sex and desire.

[...]

Watching pornography does have real consequences for young people. In 2013, the children’s commissioner set academics from Middlesex University the task of reviewing research on how pornography affected adolescents. More than 276 submitted papers showed that: “Pornography has been linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, beliefs that women are sex objects, more frequent thoughts about sex, and [that] children and young people who view pornography tend to hold less progressive gender role attitudes.” [Rest.]

Why The Men’s Rights Movement Is Garbage

From The Belle Jar:

I need to take a moment here to talk about the Men’s Rights Movement, because there seems to be some confusion. Actually, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion.

Over the past little while, I’ve had a number of people challenge me on calling out men’s rights activists (hereafter referred to as MRAs). “But men are oppressed too,” people say. “Feminism is sexist, and it teaches men that masculinity is wrong.” “Straight, white men aren’t allowed to be proud of themselves anymore.” “If you believe in equality, then you should want men to have the same type of activism as women.” “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

First of all, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let’s not pretend that all opinions are created equal – some are based on fact, and some are total bullshit. Like, I could tell you that I believe that vaccines cause autism, and that would be my opinion, but it would also be demonstrably untrue. So let’s not pretend that all opinions should be given the same consideration, because we both know better than that.

Second of all, let’s get one thing straight: men, as a group, do not face systematic oppression because of their gender. Am I saying that literally no men out there are oppressed? No, I am for sure not saying that. Men can and do face oppression and marginalization for many reasons – because of race, class, sexuality, poverty, to name a few. Am I saying that every white cishet dude out there has an amazing life because of all his amassed privilege? Nope, I’m not saying that either. There are many circumstances that might lead to someone living a difficult life. But men do not face oppression because they are men. Misandry is not actually a thing, and pretending that it’s an oppressive force on par with or worse than misogyny is offensive, gross, and intellectually dishonest. [Rest.]

“What men mean when they talk about their “crazy” ex-girlfriiend…

What men mean when they talk about their “crazy” ex-girlfriend is often that she was someone who cried a lot, or texted too often, or had an eating disorder, or wanted too much/too little sex, or generally felt anything beyond the realm of emotionally undemanding agreement. That does not make these women crazy. That makes those women human beings, who have flaws, and emotional weak spots. However, deciding that any behavior that he does not like must be insane– well, that does make a man a jerk.

And when men do this on a regular basis, remember that, if you are a woman, you are not the exception. You are not so cool and fabulous and levelheaded that they will totally get where you are coming from when you show emotions other than “pleasant agreement.”

When men say “most women are crazy, but not you, you’re so cool” the subtext is not, “I love you, be the mother to my children.” The subtext is “do not step out of line, here.” If you get close enough to the men who say things like this, eventually, you will do something that they do not find pleasant. They will decide you are crazy, because this is something they have already decided about women in general.

- Lady, You Really Aren’t “Crazy” (via femalevillain)

Chianello: Rape culture can’t be addressed until we can talk about teen sexuality in a positive way

When news of two sexually charged — and deeply troubling — incidents at the University of Ottawa broke in the same week earlier this month, alarms over the prevalence of rape culture were raised, task forces on “respect and equality” were established.

These might be appropriate responses to these individual incidents. But according to Lara Karaian, there’s a major ingredient missing in the broader aim for gender respect: we don’t talk enough about teen sexuality in a positive way.

“It’s really through sex-positivity conversations that we can be best positioned to refute rape culture,” says Karaian, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “It’s through recognizing a girl’s ability to say Yes to being a desiring sexual subject, and not just a sexual object, that we potentially sow the seeds for a culture where we don’t have threats of rape, or threats of rape to the extent that we have right now.”

Karaian acknowledges that some of her views are considered controversial. For example, she argues (although she’s not alone) that child pornography laws are “too blunt an instrument” in dealing with teens who post photos of other teens online, even if the intent is malicious. Still, there should not be anything contentious about advocating for more open discussions on both the validity of teenage sexual desires and the appropriate ways to express those desires. [Rest.]

Chianello: Rape culture can’t be addressed until we can talk about teen sexuality in a positive way

“I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will

I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will, in fact, benefit them as well as women. I’m tired of trying to hawk gender equality like I’m some kind of car salesman showing off a shiny new sedan, explaining all of its bells and whistles. I’m tired of smiling through a thousand thoughtless microaggressions, tired of providing countless pieces of evidence, tired of being questioned on every. single. damn. thing. I’m tired of proving that microaggressions exist, tired of proving that I’m unfairly questioned asked for proof. For a movement that’s centered around the advancement and empowerment of women, why do I feel like I’m supposed to spend so damn much of my time carefully considering how what I say and do will be taken by men?

I’m tired of men who insert themselves into feminist spaces with claims of hurt feelings. I’m tired of men who somehow manage to make every issue about them. I’m tired of men like the one who recently stopped by a friend’s Facebook thread in order to call feminism “cunty,” then lecture the women involved for being too “hostile” in their responses to him. I’m tired of men telling me that my understanding of feminism and rape culture are wrong, as if these aren’t things that I have studied intensely. I’m tired of men who claim to be feminist allies, then abuse that position to their own advantage. I’m so fucking exhausted by the fact that I know that I will have to, at some point in this piece, mention that I understand that not all men are like that. I will have to note that some men are good allies. And all of those things are true! And all of you good allies get cookies! But honestly I’m tired of handing out cookies to people just because they’re being decent fucking human beings.

- The Belle Jar, Tired of Talking To Men

“Sluts are not “proper women” because a “proper woman” is not supposed…

Sluts are not “proper women” because a “proper woman” is not supposed to be a sexual being; she’s supposed to be prim, proper, and repressed, and have sex because it is her duty. In the Victorian era, when sex within marriage was considered a patriotic duty for a woman, women in loveless marriages and brides frightened of the wedding night hijinks were told, “close your eyes, open your legs, and think of England.” Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like to think they have. Women are, to some degree, still expected to passively accept the sexual advances of men… and fulfill their duty as hollow-eyed sex objects.

- The Slut Myth, Women’s Glib

“A man’s right to confer judgement on any woman’s beauty…

A man’s right to confer judgement on any woman’s beauty while remaining himself unjudged is beyond scrutiny because it is thought of as God-given. That right has become so urgently important for male culture to exercise because it is the last unexamined right remaining intact from the old list of masculine privilege. As such, it is daily exercised more harshly in compensation for the other rights over women, and the other ways to control them, now lost forever.

- Naomi Wolf, “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women

“What’s the worst possible thing you can call a…

What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? Don’t hold back, now. You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I’ve even heard the term “mangina.” Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.

- Jessica Valenti (Full Frontal Feminism)