Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Arguments I Will No Longer Have

This post was inspired by the shit  the amazing @sianushka has been seeing on her blog this week. She is an inspiration, and I don't know how she copes with some of the drivel on her comment threads, but she does, and she has my utmost admiration and respect for it.

I'm bored of arguing with anti-feminists. I'm bored of seeing the same shit in comments that I see all day, every day, everywhere. There are certain arguments that are as predictable as the rising of the sun, the passage of time, or Nadine Dorries being an evil stain on humanity, and I'm so utterly, utterly bored of them that I find myself not wanting to write, because I know I'll encounter them. So I have decided to write a list of the most common ones, and why I will not be having them any more, so I can just point people to it and say "Look, sunshine, here's why you're being an unproductive, derailing wanker".

1. "Prove it"

Some things are so commonly written about and cited that not every feminist blogger feels the need to link to them all the time. They are common knowledge. Women are paid 22.6% less than men. Only 6.5% of reported rapes will result in a conviction of the attacker. So if you come blustering in, demanding proof of something that's widely available on Google (where do you think I get my stats from? Some magical database only feminists can access?), you will be given a citation, and I expect it to be left there. Don't tell me that my argument is completely ruined by not including a link that you could have found yourself by typing three words into a search engine.

2. "Stop being so angry, sweary and rude"

In a word, no. In slightly more words, don't dare tell me how I can speak about the awful things I see every day. Like it or not, I am angry. I have to be. I don't see how anyone could not be hideously angry all the time by all the injustice in the world. It's not up to me to put something in terms that are palatable for you. As this brilliant post points out:

The tone argument – essentially “I’m more right because you weren’t nice about my being wrong” – is absurd and a means of derailing in the first place. However, when men use it against women it is especially pernicious. Women are expected, socially, to not get angry. They are expected to remain calm and emotionally available at all times. Thus, when men use the tone argument on women they are essentially relying on patriarchal gender constructs to help them win an argument and to undermine that woman’s message. They are using their privilege to their advantage to silence women, and there will never ever be anything feminist about that.

3. "You're using ad hominem arguments, so I'm not going to listen to you!"

I swear to fuck, if I never see the words 'ad hominem' on the internet again, I will know I have died and gone to heaven. This surely is the most over-used, and mis-used accusation in all of cyberspace. Let me explain. An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy whereby an irrelevant personal characteristic of the ad hominee is used by the ad hominer to disregard their entire argument. For example, "You can't talk about economics, because you don't even have a job" is an example of an ad hominem attack. "You're a mansplaining wanker with the social graces of a particularly unpleasant strain of norovirus, and here's why you're wrong..." is not. It is an insult. You may feel that this insult is unduly rude, at which point I would refer you to argument 2. Oh, and "You use ad hominem attacks, so I won't listen to you talk about feminist issues" is an ad hominem attack.

4. "What about men?"

Ah, the fabled "whatabouttehmenz?" argument. Surely you know how it goes by now, but here's some examples:

  1. Feminist writes about problem of female rape victims being disbelieved unless they are blonde nuns who have never even seen alcohol and were wearing a suit of armour at the time of the attack and have a signed confession from the rapist saying "Yes, I did it". A comment appears saying "but men get raped too!". Yes - and this is obviously disgusting, but if they are brave enough to come forward, they're not asked what they were wearing like it ever made a difference. That's the problem we're discussing. HINT: We know all rape is bad. You don't have to explain it to us.
  2. Feminst discusses problems of Intimate Partner Violence from a gender neutral perspective. A comment appears saying "Well men suffer IPV too, and they don't have refuges so you're all evil". This type is particularly interesting, as what they are really saying is "I am aware of a problem, yet I personally refuse to do anything about it, and instead I expect you to drop whatever you're doing and FIX IT IMMEDIATELY".
This one has always baffled me. If these people are so concerned about men's issues, why not fight for them themselves, instead of telling me I have to spend 50% of my time and energy doing it for them, otherwise I'm a misandrist? These are the people who would rather close down women's shelters than fight for men's shelters. 

5. "Well X isn't a feminist and she doesn't notice the things that piss you off"

No, I doubt she does. Probably because she's preconditioned by a patriarchal society to see things like street harrassment and rape culture as an expected inconvenience in her day to day life, and something she doesn't vocally complain about. If you asked her to think about the times she'd been treated badly because of her gender, chances are she'd come up with a few examples. Try it. You'll be surprised by how much women will put up with until they start to really think about things. Here's a story for you - I used to read a lot of women's magazines at work. Heat, Company, Cosmopolitan to name but a few. One day, I stopped, purely because I realised they were boring and full of adverts to sell me clothes I would never buy in a million years. Do you know what? The disordered eating and self-loathing of my own body that had plagued me since I was 11 stopped almost immediately. I genuinely hadn't even noticed that these magazines were designed to make me hate my own body in order to sell me things until I stopped and looked.

6. "She's a woman, you should support her"

Newsflash: I don't choose who I like based on the fact that we share the same reproductive organs! Radical, I know, but hear me out - just because a woman is a woman does not mean she is a feminist. If all she is doing opposes everything I stand for, I will not support her. Much like I wouldn't not support someone purely because he is male. It's completely idiotic. "HEY LADIES. I know Michelle Bachmann wants you to be submissive to your husbands, take away your right to bodily autonomy, demonise you if you end up as a single mother and doesn't even believe in homosexuality, you should totes support her, because she has a vagina! That makes her a feminist!". Just... NO.

7. "You're censoring free speech!"

Last time I checked, free speech was still a thing, and one feminist blogger calling someone out for being a misogynist didn't stop them speaking. Here's the deal - I will defend to the death your right to free speech, but I will also defend my right to call you out on being a bigoted dickhead. If you're stopping me doing that because of your (or X's) 'free speech', guess who's denying who free speech?

8. "Here's a link to the Daily Mail that shows you why you're wrong!" 

Oh, just fuck off.

N.B. I am aware that I have approached this post from a cis-normative point of view, and I'm sorry. This is because these arguments are usually approached this way. I have also seen these arguments used on trans* activist blogs, and feel they may be read similarly from both approaches. I haven't forgotten.

Friday, 26 August 2011

An Open Letter To A Stranger

Dear Man Who Stopped Me In The Supermarket Today To Demand That I Smile,

Fuck you. No, seriously, fuck you. Sorry if that seems a bit harsh, but I'm sick of men doing this. 

Here's the deal - you don't get to tell me how to feel. Not even if, as has been asserted to me by other men policing my facial expressions, you think I'm "too pretty" not to smile. When you stop a woman and demand that she smiles, you're taking away her right to feel feelings just because you don't fancy seeing someone look a bit narky. 

Why didn't you stop my boyfriend and say the same thing? He wasn't walking around wearing a shit-eating grin either. Why pick on me? Is it because I have tits I'm supposed to be all sweetness and light*? 

You looked pretty horrified at the look I gave you, (although, in fairness, if you heard what I said about you when I'd walked away you'd probably look a bit more horrified) but why was that? What did you actually expect? That I'd break into a beatific grin because you, a man, demanded it? 

Did you even think about why I might not be smiling? Today I'd had an argument with my sister, was worrying about money and moving house in a week, was very hungry and had period pains so bad that I was half convinced my uterus was trying to break out of my body a la Alien. Also, I fucking hate the supermarket. As it happens, I wasn't thinking about any of those things at the time. It's just - NEWSFLASH, DICKHEAD - I don't walk around grinning like an idiot all the time because of the wonders of femininity**. That's just how my face looks, and if it offends you, tough fucking shit. Mind your own damn business, and if you can't possibly do that, why not ask me why I apparently look so down, rather than just demanding I hide my feelings to avoid upsetting you?


The Scowly Girl At The Co-op.

*I know tits do not a woman make, but I doubt this guy did.
**This is not a real thing.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Yes, Apparently I Am This Shameless...

Hello, dear readers.

I try not to talk about my personal life too much on this blog, because I know that people aren't really interested in the ins and outs of my life. Twitter is, of course, a different story.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might be aware that my professional life is somewhat of a shambles, and I've had a pretty shit time of it since I graduated last year. I wrote about the difficulties of trying to get into law here a few months ago, and since then it's not gone much better. I left my job as a barmaid a couple of weeks ago to start a job at a legal publishers, and was then promptly fired without reason two days into my contract.

So, now I join the ever-growing ranks of the unemployed. Cheers for that, Shinyface*. To cut a long story short, I can't claim Housing Benefit for the place where I'm living now, so I have to move. I've been offered a great place in Bristol, which is somewhere I really want to go, as it's full of brilliant feminist projects such as this.

Now, the problem is, because I haven't quite succeeded in smashing capitalism yet (much to my chagrin), this is going to cost money for deposits and things like that, which is something I don't have a lot of at the moment. So I've stuck a 'donate' button at the side of the blog, and just ask that if you enjoy the blog, or my tweets, you consider chucking in a couple of quid to help me get my new life sorted out, and I'd be eternally grateful. On the plus side, unemployment means there'll be a lot more time for this blog to be updated and I will hopefully be able to work on improving my writing!


P.S. Before you start looking at me like that, just remember - it worked for Liz Jones...

(*Yes, I am blaming the Tories for this, because as far as I'm concerned, everything is their bloody fault)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

I Will No Longer Have Anything To Do With The Pod Delusion

Firstly, quick apology for lack of posting recently - real life has been getting in the way somewhat, for good reasons and bad.

Anyway, for those of you who do not know, the Pod Delusion is a weekly podcast "about interesting things". It's usually a good mixture of science, skepticism, atheism and current affairs, and I've been listening to it for a while now. I've also contributed this, this and an amended version of this to it.

The Pod Delusion enjoys somewhere in the region of 10,000-12,000 downloads a week, and has recently featured interviews with Richard Dawkins, Polly Toynbee, PZ Meyers and other such luminaries. However, it's got a nasty habit, which is one I can no longer ignore. It is not a safe space for anyone other than privileged white men.

I've taken umbrage in the past to contributions that the editors have allowed on unchecked. The most notable of these was Pete Hague's contribution in episode 92, which reduced feminism to a monolithic, misandrist movement (for a great takedown of this trope, see Pervocracy's theory of Imaginary Feminism). The editors allowed me to respond to this in episode 93. In episode 94, a contributor used the horribly ableist phrase 'window lickers'. He was picked up on this in the comments and subsequently apologised for not thinking about how insensitive his words were. A response to this was done by Phillipa Willetts in episode 96. However, episode 96 also featured the editor saying that if Morrissey is a vegetarian, not a vegan, he guessed his attitude was "Meat is murder, dairy is rape, but sometimes rape's OK".


OK, I really can't improve on this post about why 'rape jokes' are bad, so I'll leave you to look at that and then come back. You back?

So, here's my problem. The Pod Delusion seem to allow their contributors free rein to say whatever they like (however, my response piece to Pete Hague was vetted after he raised concerns that 'teh feminazis' would make personal attacks on him. Because he is a man and he is THAT SPECIAL and you see, these womens libbers really have no argument other than to resort to ad homs about teh menz). In the spirit of free speech and all that, this is ostensibly a good thing. However, surely someone using their right of free speech to be a bigoted dickhead isn't as important as the right of people to be welcomed into a space without feeling discriminated against? All it would take is for the editors to say to the contributors "you can talk about whatever you want, and we have no political affiliations, but can you please refrain from using language that will alienate a good chunk of our audience?". It's really not that hard. However, they seem incapable of this. So not only will I not be contributing to the Pod Delusion again, I will not be listening to it either. I will miss it, because it genuinely is 99% good, interesting stuff, but the refusal to even consider minority views and feelings is too offputting. They seem to only want to consider themselves, and then if they are called up on it, apologise later. It's not good enough. Awareness of privilege is all it takes, and it's not bloody difficult.