Has “Feminist” Become a Bankrupt Term? [#quickhit: link]

I first gave attention to the word “feminism” during college. I’d been brimming for a while with what I’ll describe as indignation in response to confrontations I’d had with men, and with misogyny, and with violence. I went to a small liberal arts college where probably most people would identify as feminists, where I learned that there were many women I could identify with, who had experienced trauma, who were angry and sad and ready to work together in the interests of women.

But I also learned in college that the definition of feminism at work in the “activism” happening around me, calling itself “radical,” “subversive,” “transgressive,” and even “revolutionary,” was more often than not an affirmation of conventional femininity as defined by heterosexuality. Instead of being critical of gender, of heterosexuality, this feminism insisted that femininity is radical, and that anything a woman does can be feminist–especially sex. Lots and lots of (hetero) sex. Free condoms. “Slutwalks.” Nudity. Underwear that says “consent is sexy.”

The notion that a woman is the most feminist when she gets naked is a reaction to the “puritanism” many people point to as the problem for feminist women today. These feminists defend Miley Cyrus, glossing over the racism of her performances to defend her right to “express her sexuality.” But the problem is that one of the most important issues feminists claim to address is sexual violence, an issue that cannot be effectively examined alongside the rallying cry for “more sex!” because the imperative to have sex, and to love it, derails attempts to think and talk about sexual violence in meaningful ways.

On: Has “Feminist” Become a Bankrupt Term? (feminspire)

Too Many of Nigeria’s Women Are Targets—Not Just the Kidnapped Girls [#quickhit: link]

When Nigerian states adopt sharia laws that are in their application blatantly unfavorable to women, it creates an environment in which a terrorist group like Boko Haram believes it has a right to do as it pleases with girls without prosecution.

Boko Haram’s recent kidnappings of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state, Nigeria, at least in its explosive aftermath, is reminiscent of the legal cases of two northern Nigerian women, Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal, who were sentenced to death by stoning under sharia law in 2002. Though unrelated – the stoning sentences were state-sanctioned punishments that were later overturned, and the kidnappings are a criminal act by a terrorist group – these cases illustrate how the legal climate in northern Nigeria has reached a point where girls can be seen as chattels to be taken, held, sold and, according to the latest video purportedly released by Boko Haram, indoctrinated and bartered.

On time.com.

Racism cannot be separated from feminism [#quickhit: quote]

Last week I gave up buying a bottle of Coke because I didn’t have the heart to carry one that asked those around me to share a glass with “Siobhan”. This, the name I have been called (even written to me in email with the spelling of mine clearly above it) by those who rather can’t be bothered to learn my “strange” name.

Last week I spent an afternoon responding to the familiar questioning of casual-racists, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” – only this time from the passport office, when renewing my British passport.

Last week I read sixteen articles in national newspapers that were xenophobic, Islamaphobic or both. I filled a doctors’ form stating my ethnicity as “other” and was consequently reminded that it’s not worth sparing an identity simply because it’s not the preferred one. Last week I moved train carriages when a man stared at my Arabic necklace and shook his head with a scowl.

All this time my experiences of sexism were present, but they paled in comparison to the racism. Last week as a woman of colour, the focus rested itself – much like the practices that had occurred around me – on the “colour” part.

On: Racism cannot be separated from feminism, The Independent.

‘Pushy’ Is Used to Describe Women Twice as Often as Men [#quickhit: link]

During her three-year tenure, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was described (anonymously, of course), as many things, including “brusque,” “condescending,” and of course, “very, very unpopular.”

But none of these attributes seemed to sting women as a whole quite like the one used by another anonymous source in an interview with the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta.

After Abramson was fired last week, Auletta wrote that Abramson had long believed she was being paid less than her male predecessor, Bill Keller, and that she had both asked for a raise and hired a lawyer to look into the disparity:

“She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.

In the ensuing media storm, writers (including me) seized on the word “pushy,” arguing that it’s unlikely a man would have been thus described for his aggressive tendencies.

On theatlantic.

Men aren’t entitled to women’s time or affection. But it’s a hard lesson to learn [#quickhit: quote]

In recent months, it’s been hard to escape the spectacle of other men talking about what they deserve – and what women have supposedly taken from them. In May there were the grisly Isla Vista killings, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who called his violence a “day of retribution” for the women who had rejected him. There is increased talk of “men’s rights” forums, websites predicated on the serious belief that men are greatly disadvantaged by women’s empowerment. Last month, a speaker at a men’s rights conference in Michigan postulated that feminism was leading to a future without love.

- , via Men aren’t entitled to women’s time or affection. But it’s a hard lesson to learn

Elsewhere, there’s the less ominous and more omnipresent discussion, online and in pop culture at large, of things like the “friendzone”, a term coined a decade ago on Friends to describe a scenario in which a man is attracted to a woman who only seeks a platonic relationship with him. Women tend to call that kind of partnering “friendship” – but, to many men, “friendship” doesn’t capture the degradation they apparently feel at the prospect of spending time or being emotionally intimate with women who are uninterested in having romantic relationships with them.

The sexism of China’s love and dating scene – “leftover women” [#quickhit: link]

For many of today’s Chinese youth looking for a partner, love takes second place to parental pressure, moving up the social ladder and a heavy dose of fear drummed into women that they will end up as “leftover.”

These aspects and others relating to love, dating and women’s status in the Middle Kingdom will be examined on Saturday in a China-inspired version of “The Vagina Monologues,” a Broadway hit exploring womanhood that got actresses voicing women’s most intimate feelings to packed theaters.

In “The Leftover Monologues,” Chinese and foreign women — and a few men — will tell their own stories of searching for a partner, their observations of love and sex, and the panic aroused by the thought of becoming a “leftover woman” — defined by a women’s agency linked to the Communist Party as a single urban female over 27.

Rest: bigstory.

Sunday feminist roundup (27th July 2014)

The Issues With Conservative Feminists (bust): If there’s one thing I love to hate, it’s right-wingers trying to make women sound delusional. Apparently, the conservative “feminist” group Independent Women’s Forum seems to think that democratic and liberal women often play the “victim” in regards to challenging gender equity. The non-profit believes that non-conservative feminism is synonymous with big government, and that seeking gender parity across the board is impossible, since there are fundamental differences between genders.

Is sexual assault the same as rape? (feministphilosophers): In a ruling earlier this week, an Illinois Cook County Circuit Court Judge, Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan, dismissed Peter Ludlow’s defamation case against Sun-Times Media LLC and two other media defendants, arguing that the terms “rape” and “sexual assault” are interchangeable. Ludlow’s case was based not on the accuracy of the news reports in question, but rather on the use of “rape” in the headline as a fair representation of the complaint, which was described in both the news reports and the student’s complaint as “sexual assault.” In other words, Ludlow’s attorneys attempted to argue that, while he may have sexually assaulted a student, he did not rape a student.

Women Don’t Owe Sex to Anyone. Ever. (bust): The entire thing was creepily intricate and completely abusive. I assume the point of this dude’s spreadsheet was to document how little his wife wants to engage in sexual relations with him, but honestly, all I see is abuser dynamics. Mainly, since women don’t really owe men anything. Even if they are married. 

On ‘Choice’ Feminism and Internalized Misogyny: Why We Participate in Patriarchal Oppression — Everyday Feminism (everydayfeminism): Have you ever criticized a woman for the way she looks? wished you could look like the models that you see in fashion magazines? gone on a diet? shaved off any of your body hair? If you’re a woman (or even if you’re not!), you’ve probably done at least one — if not all — of these things at some point in your life. But have you ever done any of these things after finding feminism? even when you knew that you were practicing sexism or giving in to the pressures of our patriarchal society? My guess is that your answer is still yes.

Put your money where your mouth is: why the pay gap is widening (theguardian): The depressing thing is that we know the reasons for this. We know that women are less likely to ask for a payrise or negotiate their salary at the early stages of their career, resulting in an increasing gap as they become more senior. We know that men are more likely to move employers resulting in quicker pay increases and companies paying out bigger bonuses to keep them. And we know that unconscious bias within organisations leads to men being over-promoted and women overlooked. Yet despite knowing all of this, the move to pay equality is glacial.

Why feminists need to demand a more diverse Twitter (feministing): Yet another day, yet another reveal that the demographics of a large tech company are, well, pretty much what we thought they were — heavily male, mostly white. Yesterday, Twitter announced that its workforce is 70 percent men to 30 percent women, as well as 59 percent white, 29 percent Asian, 2 percent Black, and 3 percent Latin.

Anti-Choice Protests Target New Orleans Clinics, Homes, Churches (rhrealitycheck): In the first few days of planned protests in New Orleans, anti-choice activists have disrupted the community by targeting reproductive health-care clinics, personal residences, and even houses of worship in the hopes of intimidating abortion providers and reproductive rights supporters. Operation Save America protesters have focused primarily on harassing the staff, volunteers, and patients of reproductive health-care clinics.

Fannie’s Room: Dude Writers Pissy About Newfangled Non-Male, Non-Straight Characters (fanniesroom): Where many feminists rightly critique the media for producing content that excludes female characters or that excludes female audiences, some men of privilege critique the media for producing content that features female characters or that was created to appeal to audiences members who are people other than straight white men.The latter instance, judging by some men’s reactions to being de-centered,  is interpreted as an appalling attack on straight white men, morally equal to (and probably worse than) women being systemically excluded from representation. Because they are used to being the default protagonists of life, TV shows, movies, comic books, and video games, they snark, mock, and ridicule representations that do not center them, their life experiences, and their desires.

Patriarchy allows child marriage and female genital mutilation to flourish (theguardian): As young feminists, we often hear that the rights of girls need to be recognised, their voices amplified and their needs met. We are told that when girls are empowered, they can change their communities and the world. That is a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of girls. This raises the question: why, with all this interest in girls, are their rights violated in every country? The Girl Summit in London, UK, this week has generated momentum and opportunities for funding to end child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). While that is commendable, if we look beyond the pledges and outcome of the summit, it is evident that these harmful practices are connected to other injustices girls endure.

How Big of a Problem is Harassment at Comic Conventions? Very Big. (bitchmagazine): It’s hard for comic conventions to shake the idea that they’re the sole domain of people who look like the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. In reality, comic conventions are attended by an ever-growing number of female fans: Female attendance at New York Comic-Con has grown 62 percent over the last three years alone, making women to 41 percent of total attendees. As the number of female fans attending cons has grown, so have conversations about harassment in the comics industry and at conventions specifically. [...] Out of all respondents, 59 percent said they felt sexual harassment was a problem in comics and 25 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the industry. The harassment varied: while in the workplace or at work events, respondents were more likely to suffer disparaging comments about their gender, sexual orientation, or race. At conventions, respondents were more likely to be photographed against their wishes. Thirteen percent reported having unwanted comments of a sexual nature made about them at conventions—and eight percent of people of all genders reported they had been groped, assaulted, or raped at a comic convention.

The Irish and Northern Irish Feminist Judgments Project (fwsablog): The Irish and Northern Irish Feminist Judgments Project begins today with the launch of a new website: www.feministjudging.ie. A collective of academics and practitioners based in Ireland and abroad will rewrite 30 important legal judgments, which they believe would have been decided differently if a feminist perspective had been brought to bear on the case. The cases selected will cover constitutional law, child and family law, reproductive rights, property law, criminal law, immigration law and religious freedom. By rethinking the process of judgment, the project will demonstrate the influence which judges have had on women’s lives, and on the politics of identity in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project will run from October 2014 to September 2015. A series of workshops will be held throughout Ireland in the autumn and in the spring, at which draft judgments will be presented for discussion by academics, practitioners and activists. A book, collating the feminist judgments produced during the project, will be published by Hart in 2016.

PETA Sexualizes Women and Uses Rape Culture Imagery to Raise Awareness For… What? (feminspire): As the car heats up, Elisabetta experiences the agonizing symptoms of heatstroke. As panic and anxiety set in, Elisabetta’s condition deteriorates rapidly with the addition of excessive thirst, lethargy, lack of coordination, and a rapid heartbeat. Scared and alone, she desperately attempts to escape the car, which is quickly heating up like an oven. Essentially, the video shows a scantily clad Italian supermodel locked in a car against her will where she suffers and dies. PETA exclaims: “Italian supermodel Elisabetta Canalis knows what it means to be hot!”

California Prison Sterilization Attacks Reproductive Justice of Female Inmates (feminspire): Not only is the prison system one that disproportionately cycles people of color into impoverishment and crime, but these practices are also specifically being used to eradicate “unwanted” communities. And forced sterilization is a form of eugenics. Eugenics … which is the extermination of the “inferior.” Sound familiar? It’s genocide tactics. Strong language, but true. These tactics are that of gene cleansing, and they’re occurring right in your backyard. These sterilization techniques are not new and affect women of color here and abroad. It’s important to be aware that the reproductive justice debate needs to be opened up to include capitalistic procedures that fall under eugenics.

Research: new study finds girls view sexual violence as normal [#quickhit: link]

Citation: Hlavka, H. (2014). Normalizing Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse. Gender & Society, 28(3), pp.337-358.

Abstract:

Despite high rates of gendered violence among youth, very few young women report these incidents to authority figures. This study moves the discussion from the question of why young women do not report them toward how violence is produced, maintained, and normalized among youth. The girls in this study often did not name what law, researchers, and educators commonly identify as sexual harassment and abuse. How then, do girls name and make sense of victimization? Exploring violence via the lens of compulsory heterosexuality highlights the relational dynamics at play in this naming process. Forensic interviews with youth revealed patterns of heteronormative scripts appropriated to make sense of everyday harassment, violence, coercion, and consent. Findings inform discussions about the links between dominant discourses and sexual subjectivities as we try to better understand why many regard violence a normal part of life.

Link to full article page on Sage.

HT to lipmag:

A new study titled ‘Normalising Sexual Violence: Young Women Account for Harrassment and Abuse’, published in Gender & Society, has found that girls and young women will rarely report incidents of sexual violence because they view them as ‘normal.’

The study analysed interviews conducted by the Children’s Advocacy Center with 100 young women between the ages of three and seventeen, who may have been sexually assaulted.

According to the findings of the research, it was common for the young women to trivialise their experiences of sexual harassment or assault, and that ‘objectification, sexual harassment, and abuse appear to be part of the fabric of young women’s lives.’

Incidences of assault or harassment appeared to be so ingrained into their experiences that they didn’t see them as particularly unacceptable or inappropriate.

The study concludes that ‘young women often held themselves and their peers responsible for acting as gatekeepers of men’s behaviours; they were responsible for being coerced, for accepting gifts and other resources, for not fending off or resisting men’s sexual advances…’

While the results of the study are disgusting and eye opening, they are unfortunately not very surprising for those who continue to speak out about and struggle against the rape culture that exists in Western society. (lip magazine)

While Ireland may no longer be such a harsh place for unmarried pregnant women, the stigma persists [#quickhit: link]

Agnes always assumed that her mother would be supportive if she got pregnant, but just as she was working up the courage to break the news, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there is so much stress at home that she knows there will never be a good time to drop the bombshell and so she refuses even to think about it.

Eileen sometimes wishes that people would stop talking about the mother and babies scandal because she is in a black hole and the constant handwringing and recrimination on the radio is making her feel overwhelmed.

Her recently laid-off husband has stopped opening the bills, her teenage son has stopped asking if he can go to college, and she can’t face the prospect of another baby at 42.

Every so often, Ireland is transfixed by revelations and reminders of the mothers and babies so cruelly treated by a society with no place for women who got pregnant outside marriage.

But amid all the tut-tutting, hundreds of Irish women continue to hide pregnancies. “Concealed pregnancy has not gone away: it just has another face,” according to Sylvia Murphy Tighe, a former midwife and public health nurse who has been told stories similar to those of Agnes and Eileen.

On The Irish Times.

#WomenAgainstFeminism, Feminist Critique and the Replication of Patriarchal Abuse [#quickhit: quote]

Critiquing the #WomenAgainstFeminism tag doesn’t require insulting the appearance & intelligence of the women posting on it. It doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, reproductive freedoms and the ability to have your own bank account. It is feminism that one these rights for women. Feminism didn’t achieve any of these goals by being obnoxious to other women.

Feminists should understand that systemic misogyny within the capitalist-patriarchy makes it very difficult for women to see the reality of our oppression. Even naming male violence as an oppression results in women being belittled, abused and harassed online and off. Our education system is designed to teach children to pass exams – not to question authority. Our media is owned and dominated by white men who have a vested interest in preventing women from accessing knowledge.

This isn’t to say that the women who started this tag aren’t causing harm to other women. Of course they are but we don’t need to replicate patriarchal patterns of silencing against women who are blinded by their privilege or too afraid to speak out. This is the true demonstration of the power of the capitalist-patriarchy: using women to silence and control other women. We can challenge these women with kindness or with anger. but we do not need to engage in abusive language.

Louise Pennington, My Elegant Gathering of White Snows.

Sunday feminist roundup (20th July 2014)

All else on another busy week with work and play.

  • See How This Feminist Artist Brings Women’s Struggles to Life (feminspire): “When I started really getting into my painting and wasn’t doing just simple still lifes, I had no idea that I was a feminist painter or that I was going to become one, even though feminist paintings are exactly what I was creating from the beginning. I had no idea that that’s what was going on, it just kind of happened,” she says, “I mean, like, what percentage of people in the world are women? There are so many of us going through similar situations. Though I want to send a message to everybody, not just women, that these things affect us, and a lot of people don’t fully realize just how difficult certain aspects of being a woman are.
  • 6 Reasons Why We Should Stop Telling Each Other it’s “OK” to Be Single (feminspire): Why aren’t there reasons for why it’s “OK” to be in a relationship as well? The implication is that being in a relationship is some kind of ideal for women, or default. And that’s simply not the case.
  • Many women scientists sexually harassed during fieldwork (nature): Working in the field sounds like a scientist’s dream, but for some, it can turn into a nightmare. The largest survey yet to examine the prevalence of sexual harassment among scientists doing field work suggests that it is an overlooked problem— and that female trainees may be disproportionately vulnerable.
  • | 6 Female Creations Attributed to Dudes by @elizabethethird (aroomofourown): Back in the day when it was pretty much unheard of for women to be recognized as producers of creative or intellectual worth (specifically the 1800s…ish) Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Magie invented a board game called The Landlord’s Game (Monopoly).
  • 6 Tips for Working in Solidarity with Muslim Women (everydayfeminism): For many, due to media portrayals, a Muslim feminist may seem like a contradiction. Media portrayals of Muslim women regularly oppress, fetishize, and politicize our bodies, and it is important to know that these portrayals of the oppressed Muslim women are often in stark contrast to our lived realities.
  • ‘All the worlds a prison’ – 19th century career girls (fwsablog): If Victorian working women are represented at all in today’s culture, it is usually an image of poor women working in factories or mills, struggling to make ends meet. (For example, the recent Channel 4 historical drama The Mill.) As Author Wanda Neff says ‘The mill women have come to stand, in popular opinion, for the Victorian working woman.’ [i] The experiences of upper and middle class women who worked to give themselves financial independence or women who dedicated their lives to philanthropy outside the home, have not been as widely portrayed.
  • Tackling the gender gap is simple: pay women more money. End of story. (theguardian): Here it is: we simply pay women more money. Whether we do this by reducing women’s tax burden, providing them with an income supplement, or allowing women to personally shake down their male colleagues until an appropriate amount of change falls from their pockets, I don’t mind. But it’s clear that sitting around furrowing our brows isn’t working, so it’s time to make some changes.
  • States Prescribe Bad Medicine for Women Seeking Abortions (msmagazine):Days before senators testified on behalf of a bill to protect women’s health services, the National Partnership for Women and Families released a report detailing just how threatened these services are. Aptly titled “Bad Medicine,” the report focuses on a specific threat to women’s healthcare: laws restricting doctors’ professional discretion and mandating how abortions are performed. Such laws require doctors to choose between adhering to a one-size-fits-all law or doing what they know is best for the individual patient.
  • Immigration is a feminist issue (msmagazine): [...] immigration laws are inherently sexist. The way the family visa system is set up, and the fact that men are still likely to earn more and have the “lead career” in a relationship, makes many women immigrants completely dependent on their husbands. This can trap women in poverty and abusive relationships. And of course if you happen to have brown skin, the system only gets more horrifically oppressive.
  • More women in cabinet means better policy but greater conflict, research shows (theconversation): Having more women in cabinet is likely to lead to issues which are important to women being further up the political agenda. Yet commentators have pointed out that many of the females appointed to the cabinet have values and interests which might be considered as antithetical to the interests of women. So perhaps in this instance, the impact will be lessened. However, the government’s opponents might take comfort in another piece of research. A systematic review of the literature shows that Conservative women tend to have more left-leaning economic policies than their male counterparts. The big question now is how this more diverse cabinet will perform, not so much in terms of ideology but as a group able to take the best decisions. We know Conservative cabinets have traditionally been dominated by old white males; what now? Evidence from studies of diverse groups suggest a more diverse cabinet is likely to have more conflict, take longer to come to a decision, but come up with better solutions. Also we should expect members of the cabinet to be less satisfied with the group process.
  • ‘I Don’t Need Feminism Because’: The Women Who Fight Equality (tokenfeminist): I have seen this happen too many times. It is a case of women refusing to acknowledge the significance of other women’s experiences, simply because they have not had similar ones. It is a blatant denial of facts and it takes away from those women any power that they had to begin with. Now, obviously I am not saying that all women need to constantly back each other up and never argue or disagree. Everyone is entitled to their opinions about individual issues, but no one is entitled to belittle the personal experiences of others or to suggest that the violence inflicted on women the world over does not matter simply because they themselves are doing fine.

Young Women Trading Blow Jobs for Cheap Booze? The Truth About Sexploitative Party Games [#quickhit: quote]

And I couldn’t help but think, how long have young women been doing sexual things for free drinks — or even lame swag? Wet T-shirt contests. Mud wrestling. The entire “Girls Gone Wild” franchise. Mardi Gras. It’s practically built into college culture, the attempt to get women to compromise themselves — and I say “compromise” because that is what is eroticized, rather than the idea of a woman’s authentic, enthusiastic expression of her sexuality — whether it’s for a string of plastic beads or a “Girls Gone Wild” trucker hat.

But there’s a big difference between wet T-shirt contests and two dozen blow jobs. There’s long been a thrill in getting “good” girls to go “bad,” but thanks in part to the mainstreaming of hardcore porn and Spring Break raunch, pouring water on your boobs is no longer that provocative. A boob flash is passé, even quaint. Now, perhaps, it takes 24 blow jobs. OK, that’s hyperbole — but the bar for titillation and trespass has been raised.

The Truth About Sexploitative Party Games – alternet.

Dear MRAs: No, Feminists Don’t Want to Make You Our Man Slaves [#quickhit: link]

Dear MRAs: No, Feminists Don't Want to Make You Our Man Slaves
On feminspire:

Not once did I say feminism isn’t for everybody. In fact, I expressly said that patriarchy hurts all of us. What Mr. James and others seem to not understand is that the aim of feminism is to secure political social equality for all genders. Last time I checked, it was men who had almost complete social and political freedom. I remember very clearly that men just made the decision to regulate women’s healthcare decisions when it comes to birth control and safe access to abortion services. Don’t forget the fact that men make more money than women in almost every industry, that men still dominate politics, and when a woman runs for office, more attention is given to her wardrobe than her policies. Oh, also remember that women are repeatedly called sluts and shamed across the media when they are assaulted or raped. Feminism is for everybody, as long as this “everybody”is working towards equal rights.

Rest: Dear MRAs: No, Feminists Don’t Want to Make You Our Man Slaves.

Seven studies on mansplaining. Conclusion: it definitely exists [#quickhit: link]

Below are summaries of studies into the idea of “mansplaining”, which describes the act of a man speaking to a woman with the assumption that she knows less than he does about the topic being discussed on the basis of her gender. 1

1. Women get interrupted more than men. Both men and women interrupt women more often than they interrupt men, according to a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. In that study, two researchers at George Washington University reported on an experiment where they put 20 women and 20 men in pairs, then recorded and transcribed their conversations. The result: Over the course of each three-minute conversation, women interrupted men just once, on average, but interrupted other women 2.8 times. Men interrupted their male conversation partner twice, on average, and interrupted the woman 2.6 times.

2. Men interrupt women to assert power. Not all interruptions are the same, of course—sometimes we interrupt people to be encouraging about what they’re saying. But a 1998 meta-analysis of 43 studies by two researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz from 1998 found that men were more likely to interrupt women with the intent to assert dominance in the conversation, meaning men were interrupting to take over the conversation floor.  In mixed groups rather than a one-on-one conversation, men interrupted even more frequently.

Rest: Bitch Media.

1 ThinkProgress.

Sunday feminist roundup (13th July 2014)

All else this week.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: TV’S SHAME. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

I’ve just finished watching True Detective. I started watching it, twice, but left it both times because of the ways in which violence against women, and women characters, were being portrayed.* In terms of the violence, I could see (I think) that they were trying to offer a disturbing portrayal of the often extreme misogyny-based violence that women suffer. I got that. I could also see that they were, perhaps, offering a critical commentary on a gendered world order which allows that violence to happen. That’s a possibility.

This critique becomes less convincing, though, when we examine the dismissive treatment of the main female characters on the show. Maggie, Marty’s long-suffering wife, whose only agentic act during eight episodes (to sleep with Rust) was, first, explained away as a play to destroy her marriage and, second, reduced to a conversation between Rust and Marty about their friendship. In other words, Maggie’s actions were all about them.

Lisa, Marty’s once affair, was naked for the most part (Marty, on the other hand, was fully clothed) and reduced to a way to explore Marty’s moral compass and, then, some of the stresses on his relationship with Rust. Her last scene in the series – where she literally caused a scene by being a hysterical, screaming woman – was difficult to watch. The agency that she had showed earlier in leaving Marty was removed when she was portrayed as an out-of-control haranguer. Indeed, the violence that Marty had perpetrated on both her and her date was forgotten as it became all about Marty again and his inner struggle.

Two other female characters stand out. First, there is Beth, the young woman with whom Marty has an affair later on. Beth and Marty first met when he and Rust visited a camp that was being used to sell under-age sex to men (a rape camp, in other words). Later on, Marty visits the shop in which Beth now works and they start an affair. Marty (or should I say, the writers) have such little care for the violence that this young woman had endured – testament I’m sure to their view of such violence in general – that she is nothing more but the next naked pawn in Marty’s story. Incidentally, when Marty is later violent towards Maggie when they fight about Beth (and her one infidelity, Rust, see above), it is never mentioned again. It is forgiveable in the story because he was scattered and confused and lost and messy back then and together and “better” now. So that’s OK then. Second, the unnamed half-sister of Errol Childress, who he is abusing, is last seen crouched down and crying when she hears the police sirens. She defended and adored her abuser to the last. Purpose served.

Finally, all of the young children – mostly girls, I gather – who were at the centre of the criminal case throughout the series were secondary in the finale when it became all about Rust and Marty’s futures and their renewed and strengthened friendship. Indeed, with the intensity of the finale, we barely had time to give them a second thought.

So, what does all of this mean? First, it means that women, and violence against women, are nothing more than plot points to drive a story about men forward. Second, the women who are subject to this portrayal are not given any of their own, meaningful agency because to do so would distract from the central story of male struggle and identity. Third, in using the women in the show as drivers for a story about the two men, they are reduced to insignificance (note that as Marty and Rust’s stories are developed, the women in their lives get less and less screen time) and the violence that they endured is nullified because it becomes a secondary, instrumental consideration for the viewer. There is simply too much else going on to give these women and that violence much thought.

The effects of these portrayals should not be underestimated – they make violence against women expected, unimportant, frequent, dramatic (even titillating) and inevitable. This piece in the New Statesman discusses the normalisation of violence against women on TV. The author – Doon Mackichan – remarks:

“I would argue that TV and film are exacerbating this issue with increasingly hardcore elements. Once seen, you can’t unsee it, and like abuse, it’s insidious, attacking women’s confidence and self-esteem. […] Mainstream TV drama centres on plots involving female bodies in varying degrees of manipulation, often like meat on a slab. It then proceeds to reveal how it happened in gruesome, titillating detail. Whether the woman gets retribution is not the argument – it is the main part, often, of the stories that focus on a woman’s torture, pain, fear and suffering and I am SICK, SICK SICK to the death of it.”

She also asks the question at the start of the piece:

“I wondered about starting this off with me entering with a face covered in made-up bruises. I wondered what your reaction might be. Would this be a more entertaining way of opening my talk. Would it grab your attention right from the beginning? Would you be intrigued? Or repulsed? Or would you be indifferent?”

We need to address the ubiquity of violence against women on our televisions and, at the very least, question the way it is being used to create a drama that then ignores its effects on women (or, indeed, reduces them to a driver for a larger, male-dominated story) and is irresponsible about the impact of dramatised violence on attitudes towards women.

Responsible television and story-telling would not use violence as a plot point and would centre any story that does have violence around women’s experience and that violence that they have suffered. Instead, we’re bombarded by portrayals that ask us to accept that this is a woman’s lot, that it allows men to be MEN, and that we, as women, should really be enjoying watching it.

 

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* I returned to it because of the very reasons that I left it – I was sickened by the violence but I had to see what such a popular programme would do with everything that it introduced. In the end, as you can see, I was very, very disappointed.

Most rapists and murderers aren’t ill. Don’t call misogynists “mad” [#quickhit: link]

Swapping misogyny for mental illness in explanations for violence against women (particularly when the explanations are a clear-cut as the Elliot Rodger case) is nothing more than excuse-making. It’s inaccurate and it prevents a criminal justice system from dealing with violence. It also covers up the extreme misogyny that women experience every day and that they’re taught to re-frame (“it was my fault”), ignore (“he says he won’t do it again”), and forgive (“he’s really sorry”). We need to call this spade a spade. On Feminist Times:

An actor called him a lunatic, and newspapers and magazines called him a madman and deranged. And while it may have been tempting to use these words to describe the young man who killed six people because of his arrogant attitude of entitlement to women, Elliott Rodger’s videos and manifesto made clear that his problem was not his mental health, but rather his unbridled misogyny.

Using mental health slurs to describe people who are violent or objectionable is not only inaccurate, it also promotes stigma and damaging attitudes towards people with mental health problems. This is why describing rapists and murderers as crazy, psychos or nutters is dangerous as well as lazy.

It is these attitudes that prevent people with mental health diagnoses from getting on with their lives. They cause people in a leafy Sheffield suburb to actively object to a charity-run crisis housein their backyard on their street. The resulting prejudice prevents us from getting jobs and causes people to fear and loathe us. It makes people avoid seeking treatment because they are so afraid of the stigma that comes alongside the ‘mentally ill’ label. As an anonymous contributor to Fementalists wrote:

“For those of us who are mentally ill, however, it stays with us, stabs at us. Whenever we hear this kind of thing we’re getting the message we’re not to be accepted as we are, that we’re bad, wrong, to be mocked, or worse, dangerous. To me, it’s a constant message sent by society that we are unwelcome in it.”

Rest: Feminist Times.

From Gin Lane to Magaluf, the press has always shamed women for profit [#quickhit: link]

Here’s an an excellent piece from Laurie Penny on the media shaming of “Magaluf Girl” and the intersection between class and misogyny in that shaming.

Sex sells, but sexism sells even better. Last week the Sun saw no contradiction in slut-shaming an unknown teenager on its front page for “performing sex acts” on more than 20 men in Magaluf, while featuring softcore pornography on page 3. According to witnesses, the teenage girl was promised an exotic holiday which later turned out to be the name of a cocktail. This is exploitation in anyone’s book, and yet the only story being told in the press is the story of a young girl’s shame.

This analysis is particularly accurate:

If there’s one thing the tabloid press hates more than women, it’s welfare recipients, but it saves up special stocks of loathing for people who are both. “White Dee” from the Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street has featured in much of the “Magaluf girl” coverage, for no other reason than the fact she once visited Magaluf. Readers were reminded of the precise amount White Dee claims in benefits, next to pictures of the single mother having fun on holiday, which is obviously not allowed. Poor people, and particularly poor women, are expected to be abject at all times.

The logic of misogyny is routinely used to undermine the social basis of welfare provision. The only way to ensure favourable coverage as a female in the public eye is to be young, white, rich and married to a member of the royal family. The antics of aristocrats and wealthy models, from Kate Middleton to Cara Delevingne, are covered by the same papers that profit from the sexual humiliation of working-class women – revering “good women” while demonising “bad women” and inviting readers to place themselves, their partners, relatives and friends, on that tired old scale.

Rest: theguardian.com.

Sunday feminist roundup (6th July 2014)

All else on my radar this week.

- Income is a Poor Measure of American Inequality (thesocietypages)

- Newsflash: Facebook has Always Manipulated Your Emotions (thesocietypages)

- Yarl’s Wood women win chance to have their voices heard (downsizingcriminaljustice)

- The horror of Tuam’s missing babies is not diminished by misreported details (theguardian)

- Rape and reputation (thefword)

- The “Magaluf Girl”: Consent, Alcohol and Coercion (elegantgatheringofwhitesnows)

- ‘Lads Mags’ Now Less Sexist Than Newspapers (tokenfeminist)

- Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me: The Scourge of Mansplaining (newrepublic)

- Magaluf Girl: Consent and Sexuality (everydayvictimblaming)

- “Papa Don’t Preach”: TED-like Talks at Malmo Nordic Women’s Forum May 2014 (feminismandreligion)

- Men’s Rights Activists are at It Again, This Time at an International Conference on Men’s Issues (bust)

- Why “like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult (feministing)

- Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me: The Scourge of Mansplaining (newrepublic)

- Magaluf Girl: Consent and Sexuality (everydayvictimblaming)

We’re back to Loaded-style ironic sexism, then. Only without the irony. [#quickhit: quote]

Sexism clearly hasn’t gone away, and – guess what? – it never will. Sexism is when a woman is videoed giving what tabloids call “sexual favours” to men in a bar in a Magaluf and she is called “a slag” but the men are called “lads”, as happened this week (and as happened to a woman who went to an Eminem concert near Dublin last year, and as will happen again). We all know this is sexist – hell, even the Daily Mail admitted it knows this is A Bit Off. Awareness of what sexism is has never been greater, thanks to the return of feminism and call-outs of sexist acts on social media.

Ironic sexism is when someone deliberately exploits this awareness for attention. (You think you trolled Thicke on Twitter this week with the #AskThicke hashtag? He trolled you, my friends.) They believe a vague awareness of that offensive nature means anyone who finds their antics pathetic, stupid and indeed sexist is Just Not Getting the Joke. We saw this before, in the 90s with idiotic laddish culture, and we are seeing it again now. Back then, it was treated as a kind of release; now it is attention-seeking lechery dressed up as art (Bugg claims that his video is “a reference to the Electric Ladyland cover”, as though cultural referencing is some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card as opposed to an admission of a total lack of originality.)

The biggest irony about ironic sexism is that it’s not ironic at all. Irony is the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think. Like it’s bro-in-arms, hipster racism, ironic sexism isn’t the opposite of sexism; it’s an open admission of sexism, with the bonus confession of being quite thick. Or, indeed, Thicke.

Hadley Freeman on We’re back to Loaded-style ironic sexism, then. Only without the irony.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Loaded’s new plans.

Related:

The demise of lads’ mags, the rise of feminism
Loaded relaunches with ‘zero-nipple’ policy – and unveils Julie Burchill as a columnist