Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A cut-out-and-keep guide to feminism for Louise Mensch


Normally I would roll my eyes at this non-linear procession of time as it would mean I have to put up with more people blathering about fairy lights and bows and other things I generally make it a rule not to give the tiniest atom of a flying fuck about. I mean, I'd welcome the general proliferation of hot booze (an essential part of any balanced diet), but it would also have to be balanced against the chance of snow and ice and hearing a Mariah Carey song and seriously, fuck that shit. Anyway, I digress. There has, to my knowledge, been neither a forwards nor backwards temporal shift. But I have a present! 

Oh... it's the non-festive equivalent of a shit in a box hastily wrapped in the Daily Star - it's Louise Mensch writing about how she totes is a feminist no matter what the mean feminists say.

Now, I generally make it a rule to not posit myself as the Queen Of Feminism and dictate who may, or may not label themselves as what. I mean, there's plenty of feminists I disagree with and who I would quite like to give a quick whisper to in order to steer them in the right path. But in this case I am going to make an exception, channel my inner Inigo Montoya and say:

"Louise - I do not think that word means what you think it means."

I'm going to take out my trusty red pen now and fisk Mensch's article, in order to illustrate why I feel this to be the case.

Until further notice, text in black will be Mensch's piece, text in red mine. All links and wording in Mensch's piece as they appear. Continue at your peril.

Tory women bring feminism out of the ghetto
WOAH HOLD ON. The fucking ghetto?! I'm not sure if Mensch wrote this or if it was one of those pesky subs, but misappropriation of oppression much? This does not bode well.

The latest ICM poll is good news for the blues. David Cameron enjoys a five-point lead over Labour at a time when it should be miles ahead, opposing a coalition government that has to make drastic spending cuts and keep our heads above water as Europe threatens financial implosion. Faced with these conditions, Mr (red rosette) Potato Head ought to manage a substantial lead in mid-term polling. That's... lovely Louise. I'm really glad you got a party brag into this piece (although I suspect maaaany more to come from the woman who hailed the deposition of Colonel Gaddafi as a 'genuine triumph for David Cameron'). There's a part of me concerned about how she refuses to even name the Leader of the (Bloody Joke of an) Opposition - instead dehumanising him and making fun of his appearance. I would think that a self-styled superfeminist such as Mensch would realise that judging people based on their physical appearance is actually a really nasty thing to do and that patriarchal expectations of female beauty are one of the main things used to keep women down - just look at the way the BBC have gotten rid of talented female presenters because they are considered 'too old' and 'not attractive' enough to be taken seriously. NOT COOL MENSCH. WE DO NOT USE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION TO SNEER AT OTHERS. IT JUST CONTINUES THEM BEING USED AGAINST US.
Details of the poll will be particularly concerning to the two Eds: Labour is nine points behind in the Midlands (good for me, in Corby). The Tories are also nine points clear with men and have a two-point lead among women. Translation: More women hate Tories than men do but it's not as bad as Labour so yah boo sucks! 
This last number is particularly cheering. For some time now the Labour party, led by Yvette Cooper, has made a sustained pitch to British women that the government is not on their side. They draw out selective research on the cuts and say it will particularly hurt women. They take Cameron's joking remark – "calm down dear", which ripped off a Michael Winner TV ad – and offer it as an example of sexism. They drop gender into every intervention and speech and have tried to claim feminism as their own, a thing of the left. This marks the first point where I lose my shit. Right. First up: the cuts FUCKING DO HURT WOMEN. Cutting corporation tax redistributes money from women to men. Cutting public sector jobs and freezing their pay hurts women. In-work conditionality hurts women. Stopping victims of intimate partner violence being eligible for legal aid hurts women. YOUR GOVERNMENT NOT JUST HURTS, BUT FUCKING KILLS WOMEN. Second up: patronising women and implying that they are too 'hysterical' to do their damn job is sexist. When I see Cameron smirking around men and making the same implications as he does to women, I will believe that he's actually just a giant scumfuck and not a giant misogynist scumfuck. Thirdly up: when you're oppressed in every part of society, you tend to see it in every part of society. Mainly because... well it's there. No, it might not be for Mensch, but it fucking is for the rest of us. If she had any idea what it was like to not be an over-privileged rich person, she might realise this, but no. She's toeing the party line as per usual and sticking her head, ostrich-like, in whatever stuff it is rich people would use instead of sand. Fourthly up: I'm not saying feminism is a thing of the left, solely, but I am saying there is no damn such thing as a feminism where you only help yourself - which is all Tory 'feminism' is.
Tory women aren't having it. A grassroots backbench movement of women MPs (with several sound male feminists who have our backs) determined that we would not give Labour the monopoly on women's issues. We sit behind a frontbench that we know to be relentlessly focused on social justice and women's issues. Who ARE these Tory grassroots backbench women? Who ARE these Tory male feminists? What do they DO? How is your front bench in ANY FUCKING WAY committed to social justice or women's issues? I mean REALLY. FUCK THIS. Look at the damn links above to see how damn committed this bunch are to 'women's issues'. Unless they actually think that what women are concerned about is "Oh, I just DON'T KNOW HOW I WILL GET BEATEN TO DEATH OR STARVE TODAY". I demand to see evidence of this 'movement'.
Tory feminism is holistic, not the ghetto feminism of the impact equalities assessment; it looks at women as a whole. Case in point: 80% of the lowest paid public sector workers exempt from the pay freeze are women. Changes to the state pension that will end penalties for women who take career breaks to care for their families are being put forward. Sustainable funding cycles for rape crisis centres and victim support have been proposed. Theresa May broke ground on flexible parental leave, thus helping to ensure that employers would no longer look askance at women of childbearing age (remember Labour peer Lord Sugar's remarks on pregnant employees?). The list goes on. Fucking 'ghetto feminism'? Does Mensch seriously think that we should be focusing less attention on women who are the most oppressed and more attention on women who are the least? Another thing - pointing out that 80% of the lowest paid public sector workers are women is a) admitting the need for feminism in the first damn place, b) admitting that there's a huge problem with women being underpaid, c) showing us which gender is seen as the more 'disposable' employee. Also, 'sustainable funding...for rape crisis centres'? Damn, if I wasn't so sure Mensch had private healthcare I'd ask for the number of her GP so I could get whatever she has. Because it ain't looking so damn rosy from where I'm sat. Also, when you read the part about women of childbearing age I'd like you to imagine the 'wrong answer' klaxon from Family Fortunes. It sounds like this. Because this became illegal way back in 1975 under the Labour government. Sorry Louise, you won't win the speedboat at this rate. (I will concede that Alan Sugar is a sexist arsehole, but would like to point out that he doesn't represent the whole party and even a clock as stopped as Mensch may be right once in a while. DAMMIT. This makes it sound like I'm defending Labour. Just to make it clear: I would never do that. I just dislike lies.)
Last week, Ed Balls capitulated and accepted the need for Tory cuts. The Conservatives' growing lead on economic credibility resonates with women, too. As mortgage holders – 70% of all women work outside the home – they benefit from George Osborne's low interest rates. They relate to restraint on council tax, a regressive tax that hits pensioners and those on fixed incomes hardest. Well hot-damn, this is an interesting use of statistics. Now, I do not work outside 'the home'. This is mainly because I don't have a 'home', per se. Or a 'job', per se. I am one of those poor unfortunate ONE MILLION young people who are on the dole. Anyway, I used to work outside 'the home'. However, I did not have a mortgage. My sister works outside 'the home'. She does not have a mortgage. In fact, of all my friends who have jobs, I can count a teeny-tiny number (one, off the top of my head) who have mortgages. So that's not 70% of women benefitting. That's 70% of women have jobs and if they happen to have been in a fortunate position and single quite a few years ago now they might have a mortgage. Also, since when did only women benefit from cheap interest rates caused by the fact that everyone is fucking skint instituted by our beloved Gideon? And, if I must say this again I will damn well scream it from the rooftops: WOMEN SUFFER MORE WHEN SERVICES ARE CUT WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU REDUCE THINGS LIKE COUNCIL TAX AND ONE WAY TO STOP THIS WOULD ACTUALLY BE TO TAX RICH PEOPLE MORE NOT FUCK POOR PEOPLE OVER. 
When speaking of the deficit, in magazines or on the airwaves, Tory feminists use the language of other women – the debt we pass on to our children, and our duty to lift that burden off their backs. The more we shift away from the bad old days of economic dependence on a wage-earning man, the more women notice the tax-and-spend policies that affect all wage earners. Well, not my language. I don't have children. In fact, around 20% of women choose to remain child-free - which is around 5.8 million women the Tories aren't speaking for. And, forgive my mistake, but surely having children isn't just something women spontaneously do? MEN ARE PARENTS TOO. See, this shit is Feminism 101 - PARENTHOOD IS NOT JUST FOR THE BEARER OF THE UTERUS. Also, I'm sure children would prefer to have an alive mother and more 'deficit' when they grow up rather than a mother who got beaten to death in front of them because she couldn't get a restraining order because she couldn't get legal aid. Just saying, like.
Most Conservatives would define feminism as supporting equal rights and opportunities for women. In that sense it is a movement of women, not of right or left. But I like to think that, somewhere at the margins of all this, the noisy reclamation of the feminist label from the left is having an impact. The problem is though, as I am nearly bashing my head against the keyboard while I am saying this a-fucking-gain - Tories do NOT support equal rights and opportunities for women. What they support is 'well us women are fine, I really don't know what the rest of you are fussing about!'. LOOK AT THE GODDAMN LINKS ABOVE. So, by her own definition, Mensch IS NOT a feminist.
Conservative women are having a moment: Gaby Hinsliff's wonderful Observer cover story was the culmination of months of Tory feminists advancing our case whenever a media opportunity arose. Last December, Jane Ellison launched an all-party parliamentary group on female genital mutilation. Claire Perry works on opt-in options for internet porn. Amber Rudd MP, who is pro-choice, looks at alternate ways to combat teenage pregnancy. I stood up on anonymity for rape suspects and wound up debating with a feminist hero of mine, Naomi Wolf, on Newsnight. I also debated Tory feminism with Labour's Stella Creasy MP on Radio 4's Woman's Hour – a chance to explode the myth that "Tory" and "feminist" are oxymoronic to millions of women. And I just chopped my own damn arm off, but it's totally cool because I have this sticking plaster I had to make myself out of reused gaffer tape and an old tissue BECAUSE OF TORY CUTS AFFECTING WOMEN SO BADLY.
As a Tory feminist, you want to play in front of Labour's goal, advancing the case for social justice, welfare reform and Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit (which should lift a million people and 350,000 children out of poverty). Yes, we anticipate the colourful comments under our articles, but that doesn't matter. Tory feminists are looking for your support, looking to convert you. I am an MP today only because in his very first speech as leader, David Cameron – the most feminist leader the Conservative party has ever had – made it his business to challenge dinosaur attitudes that led us to a 91% white male parliamentary party. His work in opposition continues in government. I'm actually bored of dissecting this horseshit now, so, here we go. 1. Party pointscoring. 2. Child poverty is predicted to increase under the universal credit scheme. 3. David Cameron is also the most 'likely to have grown up in the 70's' leader the Tories ever had. That does not make him John Travolta. 4. I couldn't give two glittery unicorn shits if the Tory party was 100% female, because it would mean 306 Louise Mensches and my poor laptop could not cope with the stress of debunking this tripe that many times.
While we all expect that this poll lead won't last, the fact that we have recovered our ground with women is immensely comforting this far out from a general election. After all, the Tories have never won without women – and never will. 
Fucking feminism, how does it work?

Back to me in black text now.


I shouldn't be surprised, ever. I've spoken to Louise Mensch once or twice on Twitter, and every damn time she's insisted she absolutely is a feminist, but when challenged on what she actually does to stop women being oppressed, or told how her party is oppressing women, she clams up. Funny that. So now, for her benefit - as I'm sure she actually would like to be a feminist, she's just not sure of the first things about it, I am going to put my Queen Feminist crown on (it's red leopard-print and decorated with the bollocks of men I have emasculated) and write up a quick cut-out-and-keep one do and five don'ts of being a feminist.

  1. Commit to fostering equality for all women
  1. Insist that because you're not oppressed, no woman ever is
  2. Think that all women are (or are even capable of being) mothers, and this is all they want/are good for
  3. Shut down services essential to women's livelihood, safety, economic power or wellbeing
  4. Insist that other women are too stupid to know what to do with their own bodies
  5. Write facile articles that purport to be about feminism that are actually just party-political broadcasts, cheap jibes about the opposition and actually fuck-all to do with any feminism ever

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Should feminists be vegetarian/vegan?

When I was growing up, my mum and dad were vegetarian. When I ate with my parents, I ate vegetarian food. When I was at my grandparents' houses, or at school, or out anywhere else, I ate meat. When I was eleven, I did a school project about battery farming and vivisection and promptly became vegetarian (halfway through a chicken curry). Over the past year I've been eating less and less dairy and eggs. This is a consequence of dating a vegan, dairy and eggs being really fucking expensive and a growing discomfort with eating them. A little while ago I decided to nail my colours to the mast and go vegan.

What does it mean to be a vegan? It's defined here by Vegan Action as:
someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.
That's a fairly accurate summary of what I do (or rather don't do). There's different ideas and feelings and loads of wonderful lefty infighting surrounding veganism - I've genuinely seen an argument about whether it's 'truly vegan' to have a wormery. But the main thing for most people is to avoid animal products wherever possible (no one expects you to starve to death or severely endanger your health rather than consume an animal product, and the little boundaries are yours to define for yourself).
He's a level 5 vegan. He won't eat anything that casts a shadow.

Why am I telling you this? Because yesterday my interest was piqued by a podcast titled "Should feminists be vegetarian?" (accompanying article here). I mentioned it on Twitter and lots of people seemed surprised that some people draw a connection, so I thought I'd write about the show and my reactions to it so people were aware about another branch of feminism they possibly hadn't heard of before.

The show was set up in (to my eyes) a very odd manner. The first half of the show was an interview with Kathryn Paxton George, author of Animal, Vegetable or Woman? (A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism), who does not just argue that no, feminists do not need to be vegetarian, but rather that feminists should not be vegetarian. This mainly consists of her knocking down strawmen (strawwomen? strawcows?) and exorcising what seems to be some unspoken personal issues. It is then followed by an interview with Sheri Lucas, who wrote a rebuttal to George's book titled A Defence of the Feminist-Vegetarian Connection, who spends most of her interview time rebutting George's (frankly odd) strawmen and about two minutes listing what some people seem to be the connection between feminism and vegetarianism/veganism. If I had done this, I would have interviewed someone who actually argues all feminists should be vegetarian/vegan (Lucas does not, she is a vegan for purely ethical reasons but is aware of the parallels drawn) and then interviewed someone arguing against them. But that's just me.

To make this article read a little better, I will list the main arguments in favour of the feminist-vegetarian connection with no comment, then will list George's arguments with Lucas' (and my own) rebuttals, and then offer an opinion of my own.

The feminist-vegetarian connection is usually illustrated using the following arguments:

  • Feminists should be against all oppression, not just one kind - especially as oppressions are so often interlinked
  • Women often speak about being treated 'like meat', and are often called names of animals to be degraded (cow, bitch etc.)
  • Animals, like women, are exploited for their bodies and what they can do
  • It's usually female animals who are exploited the most (male animals are studs or killed) - shown through the consumption of eggs, milk and so on
  • Women speak about being 'objectified' - when an animal is killed for food it is literally turned into an object
Carol J Adams wrote about some of these arguments in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat, which has been discussed by vegetarian feminists here and here.

Now before we can look at some of George's 'interesting' arguments, I want to quickly share the history she shares on the show. George turned vegetarian in 1986 after reading philosophical works on the matter (these seemed to be written by academics that she knew, she herself is a professor of philosophy). After a few years, she was reluctant to give her child a vegetarian/vegan diet (which is unclear), and had what appears to be a very messy split from the academic vegetarian community. Far be it from me to cast aspersions onto a respected academic, but one must wonder if the fervour with which George denounces the diets and the ludicrous and easily solved arguments she comes up with against them are the result of a personal vendetta against a community rather than the result of 'real' concerns.

The first argument George uses is that 'all the research' on the safety of vegetarian/vegan diets was originally conducted on men. Not only this, but because women and children have different dietary needs, this is positively anti-feminist as, she asserts, a vegan diet requires 'keeping up with men'. She then, for some reason, flat-out denies any environmental benefits to a vegan diet. As you may imagine, I have several problems with this. To start, lots of things were originally tested on men and excluded women. Medicine, for example. In fact, I'm fairly sure plenty of medicines require different doses for different people because of their fat:muscle ratios, height, body mass etc. I don't see anyone decrying that as 'anti-feminist' (oh and biological essentialism and binary gender theory much?). Also, I fail to see how women taking care of their bodies in different ways from men is 'keeping up with men'. It's just being healthy. Sheri Lucas points out that a well planned vegan diet can be suitable for all, and adds that slight nutrition problems in humans which can be rectified by a small change in diet or the use of supplements is trivial in comparison to animals suffering in factory farms and being killed. I'd like to further add to this that not only is it perfectly possible to have a healthy vegan diet, even a quite crappy vegan diet will be healthier than an average meat-eater's. *awaits flaming*

George then brings up the argument that because a vegan diet is not possible to everyone in the world it is somehow 'elitist' (although she does acknowledge at this point, and at several other points, that it is perfectly possible to have a healthy vegan diet 'in industrialised societies'). What, she asks, are we to say to Eskimos? They had to eat meat, you can't really grow vegetables on the Arctic tundra. Do vegans hate the Inuit people?!?!? Well, in a word: No. Lucas slays this straw-polar bear pretty easily (it's straw, straw is vegan, she can kill that), pointing out that just because some people can't afford to buy clothing that's not made in sweatshops doesn't mean those who can afford not to should buy it. The fact that some people are forced to make those choices is the issue we should be concerned with. She also points out that it's more 'elitist' to know that you could easily make an ethical choice but not do it because of your greed. When discussing Inuits specifically, and the fact that traditionally women have been involved with seal hunts, Lucas points out that not all traditions are inherently good by virtue of being 'traditional', and tradition has always been used as an excuse for sexism, racism, homophobia etc. For instance, 'traditional' circuses involve animals being abused, and that's not something people (even non-vegetarians) are prepared to put up with. Finally, a vegan diet is a personal choice about a person's own personal diet. It's not up to us to tell people (or cultures) what to put in their mouth, it's about what we want to put in our own, and no one is expected to starve in frozen wastelands rather than eat a bit of blubber.

At this point, the presenter asks George about one of the vegan-feminist arguments - that speciesism equals participating in oppression, and that feminists should be against all oppression. George brushes this off by talking about how the Animal Welfare Act means animals have to be killed humanely, therefore there's no oppression. Aside from the fact that adding the word 'humane' in front of it doesn't really change the definition of 'killing'. She says that women, on the contrary, are oppressed and have violence committed against them so men can enjoy greater social freedom. Yep, can't see any oppression or violence in a chicken being kept in a tiny cage and having its beak clipped off with burning tongs. 

George is then asked about another argument - that parallels may be drawn between the objectification of animals and the objectification of women. Apparently because morality is built around human interaction, you can't talk about morality with regard to animals. She says this after just mentioning the Animal Welfare Act, so excuse me if I just dismiss this out of hand on that basis. She also says that 'those who objectify women can satisfy their needs in other ways' - and then five seconds later admits that this is true for humans eating animal products.

She then talks for a while about some super-dogmatic vegan she once met who thought that big cats in Africa could be trained to eat grass. And I'm with her on this, that's fucking stupid. But it's also fucking stupid to think that one vegan saying something ridiculous means no one should be a vegan. By George's own logic no-one should eat meat because of all the ridiculous things she says - earlier in the programme (I can't remember where), she asserts that no one should ever be vegan because babies need breastmilk. The last time I checked, women were humans. Lucas does raise an interesting debate about what vegan pet-owners feed their carnivorous animals (spoiler: usually pet food, since being vegan is about your own diet and no one wants to hurt an animal who's dietary needs have not been fully studied for their own beliefs).  

Finally, the presenter asks George if there are ethical dietary choices to be made while rejecting vegetarianism/veganism. Her solution is for everyone to eat less, then erects another double-strawman about people having to put their own dietary needs before their ethical conscience. Well, no vegan is asking someone to risk their life to satisfy an ethical choice, and there's far more negative health impacts from eating meat than from not eating it. She makes vague allusions to other arguments during the interview, and I'd highly recommend reading the reviews for her book for a list of other reasons she is wrong.

After all this, Sheri Lucas is interviewed. As I mentioned above, she spends most of her time knocking down George's strawmen, but there were a couple of other things she discussed. Firstly, she discussed other arguments she's heard (from friends and family) against veganism, and a common one is what she terms 'the saint fallacy'. She illustrates this by talking about a relative who was challenging her on her diet who found out she hadn't yet registered as an organ donor, then tried to use this to say that because she wasn't perfect, she should just eat meat. All I can say to this is that no vegan is trying to be perfect. Not being the best at one issue doesn't mean that you should give up all your ethical convictions, you should just try to be better at the one issue! (Or not, depending on how strongly you feel about it - this is something we will return to)

She also points out, to people who want to try a vegetarian/vegan diet but are worried about the availability of substitutes and supplements etc. that the more people reject less compassionate options, the more ethical options become available - look at the boom of Fairtrade goods in the UK for one example of this.

Right, on to my opinions. 

Do I think all feminists should be vegetarian/vegan? No. I mean, it would be awesome if they were, but at the end of the day, you don't have to be a vegan to be a feminist, and you don't have to be a feminist to be a vegan (as I have found out to my chagrin).

I think that the vegetarian-feminist arguments are important, insofar as they highlight interesting parallels to be drawn between systems of oppression and make us realise that there is no 'one struggle', but rather a system of kyriarchy under which everything is interlinked.

The main problem I have with meat eaters isn't that they eat meat - that's their choice, but rather how angry and argumentative they get when they encounter a vegan or a vegetarian. It's another interesting parallel to draw with feminism - people who perpetuate these systems of oppression seem to be equally adamant that anyone who challenges them is 'stupid' and can be argued out of their ethical choice with 'cunning' questions ("What would we do with all the animals?" and "What if some women like being harassed on the street?" being two eye-roll-worthy examples). Put simply, it's my body, it's my damn mouth and I'm not taking your meat away from you.

One final comment I'd like to make about this whole thing is that I see veganism as analogous to not smoking. It's a choice that's healthier and undeniably more ethical - however, as a smoker, I don't harangue non-smokers about why they're not smoking whilst citing some mild benefit that may result (some studies show smoking slightly reduces the risk of Alzheimer's), especially when I know that the health risks of my choice are far greater. I have made the decision to smoke, and the only reason for that is because I like it. I would suggest that it's the only argument in favour of eating meat too. But that's cool, it's your body.

Bearing that in mind, I'd like to ask that if a comment you want to make contains anything you see in the image below, you just don't bother saying it:

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A small rant about agency and what's not your fucking business

Before I start this post, I'd just like to say: Mum - I'm sure there's something much better you could be doing than reading this. Go on, get lost. Nothing to see here.

Yesterday I wrote a post for the F Word about the problems with people telling women they are 'wrong' for liking sexual acts that the teller-offer thinks are inherently 'degrading'. It's called Your nose has no place in my bedroom (unless it's invited). It was meant to be a short, off the cuff post, but internet commenters are a funny old breed* and so I'd like to add a few things here.

  1. Even if you think I like something for the 'wrong' reasons (OH EHM GEE BRAINWASHED BY PATRIARCHY) - it's none of your fucking business if I'm enjoying myself.
  2. I don't spend my life psychoanalysing why anyone wants to have missionary sex under the covers with the lights off, because IT'S NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
  3. If someone DOES like something and you think (or fucking hell, even if they think) it's for the wrong reasons this does not make them doing that inherently bad.
  4. Handwringing men - please STOP trying to deny my sexual agency by saying that I *must* be brainwashed by the patriarchy. You are not so fucking big and bad that I do not know my own mind. 
  5. Not all men are evil sex-beasts determined to make women degrade themselves. Please trust me to identify these men and allow them appropriate access to my knickers if I so wish.
  6. There are SEVEN FUCKING BILLION people on the planet. Do you really think your rules apply to everyone and every sexual act ever?
  7. Can we just stop pretending that every person who likes some submissive acts is a supine individual who just can't say no to the big bad patriarchy? BOUNDARIES. THEY EXIST. WITH GOOD PARTNERS, THEY ARE ADHERED TO. IF THEY ARE NOT ADHERED TO, THE PARTNER MAY BE GOTTEN RID OF.
  8. Not every person who likes some submissive/degrading acts all the time. The facial is not an entire sex 'act', it is part of a sexual encounter. It is entirely possible for partners to switch roles DURING a sexual encounter, or to vary between sexual encounters. Put simply, how do you know that just before my partner came on my face I wasn't fucking him up the arse with a strap-on and calling him 'fucktoy'? Is he brainwashed by the patriarchy, or is that bit OK? 
I'll end this with part of what I said in the comments on Marina's blogpost response
 we have a hell of a way to go before we can find an unfettered-by-patriarchy-and-other-surroundings expression of sexuality, and the best way to go about that is to promote communication between sex partners, destigmatise female sexuality and keep educating people to talk about GOOD consent.
Not by sticking your nose in my knickers and telling me I 'just don't know any better', unless I explicitly invite you to do so. (HINT: The odds of this happening are not in your favour)

(*spunkwaffling dickwits)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Female Privilege Checklist-agogo!

Last night, a 'female privilege checklist' that was posted on Reddit/MensRights, (107 upvotes at time of publication) was doing the rounds on Twitter. Posted in a faux-concerned way (the OP just wants women to be aware of these things, you see), this list may as well be called 'Patriarchy hurts men too: A list', or possibly 'The MRA bingo card (what can we blame on eebil feminazis today?)'. Anyway, I took a bit of time to fisk it. I haven't included links (because most of these seemed pretty obvious, also I was working in a rush), but if you'd like me to explain my working or sources on anything, please just ask.

(DISCLAIMER: The list itself is heteronormative (to the point of homophobia) and completely cisnormative. It also only really applies to very western countries, and it helps to imagine that we're living in 1950. Also I got slightly bored towards the end.)

  1. On average I will get much lighter punishment for the same crime. - No. There is no disparity in the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guideline Council. Most defences are written from the 'male gaze' - i.e. Provocation requires a 'sudden or temporary loss of control'. Men and women usually (for various reasons, all of them societal) commit different 'types' of crimes - most women are in prison for drug and property-based crimes, more men for violent crimes. If women commit a 'male' crime, they are usually judged more harshly as they have transgressed the gender boundary as well as the criminal one.
  2. PMS is usually considered an extenuating circumstance. (Example) - Only if it's so severe as to give the defendant the defence of Diminished Responsibility - at which point it usually takes on the characteristics of a mental illness. It's not just 'oh, I was on my period. Can't be blamed for anything'.
  3. I am not expected to go to war or even drafted into the army. - One of the last countries to have a draft is Israel. Who draft both men and women. 40% of child soldiers are girls. Most countries now allow women to join the army. Women are more likely to suffer the consequences of war. Wars are usually started by men. Patriarchal pressures stop women serving on the front line.
  4. It's always ladies first. Perhaps also children first, but always girls before boys. - There have been lots of times this wasn't the case. Also, If you give up rape culture, we'd be more than happy to give up leaving sinking boats first or being the first to go through a door. Honestly.
  5. I have special protection from domestic violence and supposedly female-only issues, unlike my male counterparts. - Male domestic violence refuges and helplines exist. The way to get more of these is not to have fewer for women, as men's rights activists have campaigned to do in the past. Also, if women are so well protected, why do two of them die because of this a week in the UK alone?
  6. In a sex-related crime (e.g. groping), and in the absence of conflicting evidence, my word will have more weight than a man's. - Nope, sorry. You saw what happened with Herman Cain, right? 
  7. If I am raped I can safely report it and my report will be taken seriously because there is a legal provision for it. - Premise accepted, in cases of male victims v female victims but I do not accept that it's a privilege. This happens because women are more likely to be raped than men, so it is more common to deal with. In any case, there is still a shockingly low conviction rate, and lots of female victims are not taken 'seriously'.
  8. I can look at children for more than three seconds with no fear of being labelled a pedophile. - If there wasn't the women = childrearers, men = sexual beings dichotomy, this wouldn't be the case.
  9. Usually, cases of female adult on male children sexual abuse aren't even considered in court. - Yes they are. And seriously.
  10. Other cases of abuse are not given the same priority. Child abuse is only sexual in nature. (More) - I'm not sure what they mean by this.
  11. If I get a divorce, I will invariably get child custody. - Due to the idea of women = childrearers. Feminists would like to get rid of this too, and just have whichever parent is most suitable (if it must just be one) to raise the children, because it is another reason that women are harmed economically. 
  12. If I get a divorce, chances are I will get alimony, even if there are no children. - Women more likely to give up work or opportunities for career progression when married, and do more work in the marriage. Alimony is a way of compensating this.
  13. There is much more funding for breast cancer research than for prostate or testicle cancer research. - It's not a finite pot or a privilege. No one is stopping anyone raising money for research into these types of cancers. How about a male cancer equivalent of Race for Life?
  14. If I marry a rich man so that I don't have to work, people will say I'm successful. - Or a 'golddigging whore'. Also, men are not pressured to give up work, whereas women are.
  15. I am always protected from genital mutilation. Even in the few places where it is practised, genital mutilation is sometimes illegal, only for my gender though. - Although I do not agree with circumcision and consider it wrong, female genital mutilation is much, much more extreme and dangerous, and usually done at an older age. In countries where breast-ironing is done, it is usually done to make the woman less 'desirable' in order to lessen her chances of rape.
  16. I have a longer life expectancy. - due to societal factors like drinking less, smoking less, eating less fatty food (hello body shaming!) etc.
  17. There is a much lesser chance that I will be driven to suicide.- No, just a lower chance that women are successful in their attempts. Also to do with a culture in which men are seen as 'strong' and have to bottle emotions up.
  18. Retirement age for me is lower than for my male counterparts in most places. - Not any more. Also due to men = strong, women = weak dichotomy.
  19. The majority of the population in most of the western nations is the same gender as me. - We have a 1% majority and much fewer opportunities. No one is practicing gendercide on men in non-westernised countries though.
  20. I can fight for my gender's issues with no fear of being labelled a whiny sexist or a chauvinist pig. - Really, men can do this too. They just so often do it while doing the other things too.
  21. Everybody, from a very young age, is taught that they must not hit me. There is a Spanish saying, “a las damas no se las toca ni con el p├ętalo de una rosa”, which translates as “ladies cannot be touched, not even with a rose petal”. - that's not our fault, and very frequently a rule that's not adhered to. 
  22. Due to accusations of sexism, many places now hire preferentially or exclusively women (and that's even ignoring the sex industry). Such discrimination is, in some places, law. - Really, I can't say anything other than, no it's not, please show your working.
  23. I have a much lower chance of being injured or dying for work-related reasons. - Societal pressures making more dangerous industries apparently only suitable for 'men'. Also, could probably be solved by greater H&S legislation, but try telling Tories that.
  24. I have no pressure to be physically strong or to do most of the physically demanding work. - But we ARE labelled as 'abnormal' if we do.
  25. I have little pressure to be a breadwinner. - Except if you need to be (single mother). Also, men aren't pressured OUT of careers on marriage.
  26. I can live with someone my own gender with no fear of being labelled a faggot. - Why is homosexuality seen as such a bad thing?
  27. Even if I do like my own gender I'm at an advantage – lesbians are generally better treated than gay males. - No really, this is just not true. Gay men have a (comparatively) very strong economic position, are more widely accepted to be the 'definition' of homosexual and are more positively (and realistically) portrayed in the media.
  28. When I go to a bar, I get to decide whether or not to have sex tonight. Men are competitors; I am the judge. - Unless the men decide it's their 'right' to have sex with me. If I am raped it is my fault for being out at a bar. Also, bars do not equal sex. 
  29. I can get free entrances to bars and free drinks once I'm in. - Free entrance is to lure us into bars so men can try and sleep with us, free drinks usually the same reason. Again, not everyone goes out trying to get laid. 
  30. Even if I don't, a male is usually expected to pay for me. - I dispute this, however, if it is true, it's because men = strong protective breadwinning provider, women = economically stunted, need looking after. Also, I'll give up all free drinks if you give up rape culture.
  31. If there's a crime or some other wrong and I'm involved, chances are I will automatically considered a victim. - Good job courts work with what we like to call 'evidence' then, isn't it?
  32. If I don't like one of my (male) co-workers, I can ruin their reputation with a sexual harassment accusation. - for fuck's sake. Just no.
  33. If I am straight I have it easier when looking for a male. - How? Is this because women are supposed to be 'passive'? Have you seen how much effort women are supposed to put in to getting a man? They're supposed to change their whole damn appearance!
  34. If I am straight I will never be friendzoned. - Yeah, you might. Also, 'friendzoning' only means that the person likes your company but doesn't want to fuck you. It's not a great crime committed by them.
  35. If I get a promotion it's gender equality, even if I didn't deserve it. If a male does it's sexism and I can freely denounce it. - Unless you're accused of giving sexual favours to secure it or jumped all over by men who have decided they must be inherently better than you so you only got it because of affirmative action.
  36. I can show skin almost without fear of being arrested. - Just raped, and the chance to be blamed for it if it happens. Also, men can go topless in summer!
  37. Even in colleges where most of the students are male, chances are a larger fraction of female applications are accepted. - Only recently, and because women outperform men in most exams. In 35. they railed against affirmative action, now they want it. Baffling.
  38. I have a higher pain threshold. - Even if this is true (and there's no reliable way to test it), it's probably because of childbirth. We can swap if you want.
  39. Paradoxically I have much more protection from pain – I am never told to “woman up” or to “take it like a woman”. - Ha! We imply you're weak and sickly and this does not benefit us! STOP SAYING IT THEN.
  40. Maternity leave is much more common and has more benefits than paternity leave. - Yep, and this is another way women are pressured into giving up a career in order to raise children.
  41. I can freely show my emotions, including crying, with no fear of being labelled a pussy. - Patriarchy hurts men too, episode #83459 - Also another example of saying women (or normative female attributes) are weak and undesireable.
  42. If I get to retire and am still single, nobody will question my sexual orientation. - no, just called a wizened old hag if we try have a relationship with a man our own age, laughed at as a 'cougar' if we dare try to have sex with a man younger than us and constantly patronised and told we should be distraught that we never married or had children, even if we didn't want to. Also, lots of elderly childfree single women ARE labelled lesbians, and why the homophobia?
  43. Public restrooms for my gender are almost always spotless. - Oh god no, they're not. Also, you piss on the walls!
  44. I have virtually no chance of finding a janitor of the opposite sex on the public restrooms for my gender. And even if I do, I can speak to the manager who will make sure it doesn't happen again. - Not true.
  45. Chances are I will never have someone of the opposite sex searching me, and my searches will be less invasive. - Firstly, it's illegal in every opposite configuration. Secondly, you think vaginal cavity searches are not invasive?
  46. I can find sexist overtones in every negative situation, even if there aren't, and most people will believe me. - Trust me, even when I point to clear and concrete evidence of, say, higher instances of rape, someone will be waiting in the wings to argue with me.
  47. When it comes to sex, I'm not required to maintain an erection for a long time or have high levels of stamina; in fact, it is I who sets the bar and can humilliate men for underperforming. - And it is I who was told until 20 years ago that if I didn't want to have sex with my husband, he could just rape me, and still get told that men should be allowed to rape me if I have 'led them on' (usually by existing).
  48. Most of the best parts in choral music are written for my voice, whatever it may be. Such parts for males (usually tenors only) exist, but are much rarer. - Oh noes! 1) The Three Tenors. 2) Most old soprano pieces were written for castrati, because they didn't want women in choirs. Again, something I'm willing to trade for, let's say… an end to rape culture.
  49. I may verbally defuse or refuse to engage in physical altercation without it damaging my reputation or viability as a sex partner. (thanks Space_Pirate) - Most het women I know wouldn't want a partner who was a violent arsehole. Also, this is the men = strong, women = weak dichotomy AGAIN. Blame patriarchy!
  50. I have the privilege of being unaware of (or feigning ignorance about) my female privilege. After all, everybody knows the world is biased against females. - YAWN.

Here's the thing. I KNOW I have privilege. I know that I have privilege over people of colour, over trans* people, over people who don't pass as straight, over queer people, over non-western people, over disabled people, over people who don't pass as neurotypical, and probably a whole host more people I haven't mentioned here because of my privilege causing me to be an idiot. But not over white, straight, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical western men. Sorry, but the fact that the privileges MRAs seek (not seek for everyone, just themselves) sometimes bite them on the arse doesn't mean that they're actually benefitting women to a greater extent. Really, the best thing to do would be for people to see where we're *all* being fucked over, and work together to change it, but somehow I can't see that happening...