Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nightmares

When one is a believer in any cause, it is sometimes instructive to see your particular belief from the outside, from an observer who weighs your belief as equal with many others, not positioning it as primary. It is an uncomfortable feeling because sometimes it makes your beliefs seem more trivial than you feel they are, and for a moment you think "am I too blinded by my beliefs to be rational and logical about the importance of these ideas?" Sometimes, however, seeing your beliefs listed with other universally accepted conditions makes for a similarly uncomfortable experience, despite its ratification of what you believe. Because when your particular passion project starts being acknowledged as a legitimate position or condition, one fight is over, and another begins.

Today I attended a talk hosted by the Institute of Advanced Studies given by Professor Burdett Loomis, Fulbright Flinders University Distinguished Chair in American Political Science entitled Stalemate in American Politics: Sorting Out the Culprits. It was pretty uneventful, an accessible explanation of the American Constitution and the results for modern American politics of the separation of powers between American governing bodies. It became a dry assessment of the Republicans spiralling into radical conservatism via Tea Parties, and the Democrats only able to defeat Republicans because of the extreme candidates fielded after aforementioned Tea Parties. So far, so standard, and I put away my pen because notes were not necessary.

And then, on one of the last slides in an otherwise politically passionless presentation, the 'War on Women' made its appearance. The slide was discussing the Republican Party and their journey back towards being electable and not obstructionist in Congress and the Senate. There it was, sandwiched between fiscal mismanagement and immigration policies, the political problem that makes me see red, right there, listed as one of those boring points you need to know for the exam. The war on women is a thing in America.



I felt weird seeing it there. Which is why I took a photo, because it really, truly made me feel weird. You see, when I read the feminist blogs, when I read the news of the situation of women around the world, when I really listen to what people joke about with me, when I find myself feeling uncomfortable because I know I just experienced something that was misogynist, I may get angry, I may get argumentative, but in one corner of my heart I am always hoping all that this ‘War on Women’ bullshit is a nightmare I am going to wake from.

Except it isn’t. The war on women is losing its quotation marks. It’s no longer mentioned only on the activist blogs and in the Women’s Studies and Feminist units in Universities. The Fulbright Distinguished Chair is listing the war on women as a key political condition in America along with immigration, the war on terror, the gun lobby and the ‘first past the post’ system keeping third parties out of the political environment. Frankly, it makes everything worse.

It makes everything worse because now when I get all ‘I need to write 2,000 words immediately in protest about this’ I am not writing about something still hidden, still needing to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light, but about something that is entrenched and getting bigger. I am writing about an idea that is now an acknowledged political concept, an idea that is going to be mentioned in textbooks and become a term that doesn’t shock because it is so familiar.

It makes everything worse because it means that we not waking up from this nightmare any time soon. There is no nightmare, just reality, and changing reality is a very different job to banishing nightmares.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Feasts

Cooking is a great love of mine, but I usually only cook dishes that fall into one of two categories:

1. The recipe was cooked for me or given to me by someone I know, or
2. The recipe is from a book that was bought for me

Many of my favorite recipes are known by the people who taught them to me - I cook three recipes known as Jen's Recipe, three from Ariel, one each from Kristen and Kathryn, my Bolognese sauce is from my Mother, and I have two dishes that are my own invention, one inspired directly by a technique I learnt from Kevin.

I have a growing collection of beloved dishes that come from cookbooks given to me for birthdays and Christmas by the fabulous Vivian and Natalie and with any book vouchers I buy enormous multicolored tomes from Australian Cooking Legends from which I gather delicious dishes.



When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

My star recipes are family recipes however. I cook my Grandmere's Creole pilau, Ariel, Tegan and I cooked an entire feast around a family couscous recipe from Jaye's family and I have learnt two Korean soup recipes from my aunt Helena, although none of her Mongolian or Russian recipes yet!

Today I went into the Korean store to buy kimchi, tofu, toasted seaweed and dried anchovies for the two delicious Korean soups. Tyanjan chike and the kimchi soup, for which I don't know the Korean name, were described to me by my uncle as "the soups you had on Sunday nights" in Korea. I loved them the moment I tasted them, they were spicy and fishy and they made my heart warm with pleasure.

As I put the ingredients on the counter the lady serving me told me approvingly that I was buying the favorite food of Koreans, and it was with a quiet delight that I could tell her I was cooking tyanjan chike. She, in turn, looked pleased that others loved the dishes she loved. I walked out of that shop with a smile, bearing the happiness of a cook who finds a recipe honors many things to the people who cook it and eat it.

The first giant cookbook I owned was Culinaria Italia, bought for me by Kristen, and for one family dinner I picked out two recipes and went to the now sadly closed Antonios in Mt Lawley to get the ingredients. As I gave my list of ingredients to my friends behind the counter, the mother exclaimed with delight that I was cooking frico con patate and jota, and I was thrilled at the instant recognition.

When Jaye very kindly gave me the couscous de familie recipe from her husband's Algerian French family, she told me the most wonderful anecdote. The matriarch cooked this recipe for all family gatherings, and whenever she was asked for the recipe, she would give it, but leave out one or two essential ingredients or techniques so her dish was always the best. Because Jaye was taking the recipe back to Australia and would not compete at family dinners, Jaye got the full recipe.





Once she had told me that story I knew why my grandmere's pilau was not working for me after six months of cooking it every fortnight trying to get it right. Like Jaye's mother-in-law, Grandmere cooked pilau for family occasions, and it was the dish that we all adored, so I suspected she had left out some spices. I made some educated guesses from what I knew from my own cooking and how my mother put together her spices, and I adjusted the spice mix. For three blessed weeks I cooked pilau as good as my Grandmere! And just in time for a family Christening too, at which one of the Aunts tasted it, took me aside and told me "Never tell your Grandmere this, but you have cooked the pilau as well as she does."

I was walking on air. Until Christmas a few months later, when Grandmere unveiled a pilau with a new spice mix that was even better than the family favorite. And I was left with the old pilau, as my Grandmere's new pilau delighted our taste buds and put me firmly back in my place. Matriarchs don't get to be matriarchs without being able to show people who is boss!

My newest recipes are Persian recipes, from a book given to me for my thirtieth by my sisters Ozy and Ely. The year before they had come out to Australia and in the course of the holiday they had cooked me three dishes from which I learnt the extraordinary combination of citrus, herbs, spiced rice and light stews that made up the Persian cuisine, some of the most delicious tastes I had experienced in home cooking.

There are still a few ingredients like pomegranate syrup which even the Persians here can't get; I ask every Persian I meet if they have been able to find it. After two years I finally have freshly grown saffron in my kitchen and I have started cooking Persian dishes, hoping to have a few of them in my repertoire very soon.

And then today I read about The Gaza Kitchen and all my experimental cooking genes danced a little faster in me. The dishes look as challenging in combination as the Persian cooking, as heart-warmingly chilli hot as the Korean soups and they are family recipes like Grandmere's pilau. They appeal to everything that I like in cooking, and I think I am going to enjoy trying them out.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ladyparts

Due to discussions, I wanted to grab some 'Top 100' lists from various arbiters of taste for books, stage, TV and film and do a quick survey of lady writers and lead roles for ladies.

Then I thought fuck it, my readers are clever and knowledgeable, they'll be able to come up with a positive, let's look forward, not backwards list of the popular culture I am looking for.

So, knowledgeable people that read my nattering, lend me your ears and your ideas.

In the following categories of popular culture:

Fiction Prose or Graphic Novels (original)
TV Drama scripts (original)
Film scripts (original)
Stage plays (original)

I am looking for submissions of one, five, ten or fifty characters and authors that in your opinion are:

1. Best lead female character written by a male.
2. Best lead male character written by a female.

For the lists as they expanded after this post, please go to alternative Top 100 and feminist Top 100.

STAGE PLAYS

The eponymous heroine of Shirley Valentine
by Willy Russell [JH]

CLEA in Black Comedy
by Peter Shaffer [GH]

JOSIE in A Moon for the Misbegotten
by Eugene O'Neill [GH]

JOAN OF ARC in Saint Joan
by George Bernard Shaw [GH]

FICTION PROSE OR GRAPHIC NOVELS

RHETT BUTLER in Gone With The Wind
by Margaret Mitchell [JH]

HEATHCLIFF in Wuthering Heights
by Ellis Bell, I mean, Emily Bronte [SR]

The eponymous hero of Harry Potter series
by JK Rowling, I mean, Joanne Rowling [TW]

DEATH in The High Cost of Living series
by Neil Gaiman [TW]

JIM LINTON, WALLY MEADOWS and DAVID LINTON in The Billabong series
by Mary Grant Bruce [AAM]

LORD PETER DEATH BREDON WIMSEY in the series
by Dorothy L Sayer [AAM]

ANGELA in Seven Types of Ambiguity
by Eliot Perlman [GH]

LARISSA in Doctor Zhivago
by Boris Pasternak [GH]

ELIZABETH HUNTER in The Eye of the Storm
by Patrick White [GH]

Honorable mention to Iris Murdoch and Nancy Mitford for their male characters [GH]

FILM SCRIPTS

ELLEN RIPLEY in Aliens
by James Cameron [SR]

SARAH CONNER in Terminator
by James Cameron [SR]

TRACY SAMANTHA LORD in The Philadelphia Story
by Donald Ogden Stewart and Waldo Salt [AAM]

ALICE HYATT in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
by Robert Getchell [GH]

ERICA BENTON in An Unmarried Woman
by Paul Mazursky [GH]

TV DRAMA

BUFFY SUMMERS in Buffy
by Joss Whedon [AH] [the whole world]

ALICIA FLORRICK, KALINDA SHARMA and DIANE LOCKHART in The Good Wife
by Robert King and Michelle King [CM][TW]

JUDITH FITZGERALD and JANE PENHALIGON in Cracker
by Jimmy McGovern [GH]

PHYLLIDA ERSKINE-BROWN and LIZ PROBERT in Rumpole of the Bailey
by John Mortimer [GH]

VERY SPECIAL LADYPARTS

In other news, I am keeping a list also of awesome female characters written by women in the same areas. Submissions welcome, naturally.

STAGE PLAYS

The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl
I enjoyed the portrayal of all the female characters.
I saw this play in Perth, with Brooke Satchwell, Vivienne Garrett, Sarah McNeill and Carol Burns.

FICTION NOVELS

LUCY SNOWE in Villette
by Currier Bell, I mean, Charlotte Bronte

CHRISTABEL LA MOTTE in Possession
by AS Byatt, I mean, Antonia Susan Duffy

ELLEN OLENSKA in The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton

FILM SCRIPTS

This is hard because all my favorite movies with female leads are from books or history. From Elisabeth to The Devil Wears Prada.

TV DRAMA

Friday, May 10, 2013

Missing out

I am really fond of asking newly met people in pubs or at parties questions like

‘how old are you inside?’

‘does your mother understand what you do for a job?’ and

‘what do you do when you are not earning money?

These questions receive a variety of answers, some unique, some boring, but hopefully even with the boring answers, I work with the person to think more deeply and a little sidewise about the question, and we will get to a new and interesting answer for both of us.

I came up with a new one last year, which I was very proud of

‘who are your role models or people you find inspirational who are not of your gender?’

This is now my favourite question because so many people just don’t bother crossing gender lines when it comes to the people that inspire them.

I actually came up with the question because a group of women and I had been discussing our favourite films with female leads and realised that most of them were films based on books written by women. Very few original and classic movie scripts had unforgettable lead female characters unless a woman wrote the script, the movie was directed by a woman, or the actress was allowed to let her talent off the leash.

As a result of that discussion I asked a lot of women the following questions

1. Who are your favourite lead female characters in a book written by a woman? I'd be interested especially in modern characters as well as those in the classics.

2. Who are your favourite lead female characters in a film/TV show written/directed by a woman? If not written or directed by a woman, a character that has been well-acted and elevated by the talent of the actress.

3. Who are your favourite male characters in a book written by a man?

Once I got to question three of course I had my new pub/party question – who are your heroes/influences/inspirations of the opposite gender? – and I had my new and slightly disturbing insight into gender bias in popular culture. The question was designed to get past, for both men and women, the gender bias of men choosing or being directed towards 'men's stories' and women choosing or being directed towards 'women's stories' when they are developing their taste in literature and popular culture.

Ariel posted the article The Gender Coverup by Maureen Johnson at The Huffington Post to my Facebook Wall this morning and I read it with a growing sense of déjà vu.

Here, a rueful admission that female readers, especially in English Literature classes across the English-speaking world, are studying reading lists of male authors.

"Do you know how much I read about aging men and their penises and their lust for younger women and their hatred of their castrating wives? I read enough stories about male writing professors having midlife crises and lusting after young students to last me seven lifetimes. Can you imagine the reverse? Can you imagine classes in which guys read nothing but Germaine Greer, Eve Ensler, and Caryl Churchill? Can you imagine whole semesters of reading about vaginas? Again, I mean outside of a specialized class in women's literature or anything about the human reproductive system. I seriously doubt you can."

Maureen Johnson, The Gender Coverup

I may have talked about female heroes in Hollywood Films, but to reluctantly agree that my favorite part of life, the world of books, is completely gender biased, is a sad day.

I even had to have a little giggle when I read this passage, which reminded me of some of my own conclusions on women being ideologically bilingual.

"So, we're thinking about boys and girls and what they read. The assumption, as I understand it, is that females are flexible and accepting creatures who can read absolutely anything. We're like acrobats. We can tie our legs over our heads. Bring it on. There is nothing we cannot handle.

Boys, on the other hand, are much more delicately balanced. To ask them to read "girl" stories (whatever those might be) will cause the whole venture to fall apart. They are finely tuned, like Formula One cars, which require preheated fluids and warmed tires in order to operate -- as opposed to girls, who are like pickup trucks or big, family-style SUVs. We can go anywhere, through anything, on any old literary fuel you put in us."


Maureen Johnson, The Gender Coverup

This article is challenging to read as a writer who is also female, because it sets out the illogical threats to our success that our gender presents, in an already difficult area of endeavour. It also shows how shallow the experience of reading can be made for men. While women can read books by both genders about both genders, men are held back from doing the same? It’s a tragedy for male readers for sure, this strange action to keep them from meeting some of the great women of literature.

Last year, as I was asking questions of the women around me, I was pleased to be given lists and lists of beloved books with strong female characters written by wonderful female authors. I remember going home and holding my own favourite book Villette, thankful for the literary world of women who do not have to go through a midlife crisis to be lead characters. And I remember a rather smug feeling of holding a great secret in that book. No matter how important those boring, sex-obsessed men on the syllabus think they are, they can’t actually get inside my heart and displace the cool logic, heated intelligence and steely resolve of Lucy Snowe, Christabel La Motte, Lizzie Bennett and Sara Liwellan. Not a chance. Being a woman in literature is about being tough, and most men just aren’t that tough.

Great female characters written by great male authors and great male characters written by great female authors are found here.

Great female characters written by great female authors are found here.

Female characters in popular culture in review are found here.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

universal feminism

Why isn’t every man I meet a feminist?

I believe that it is because of a perceived difference between objective ideology and subjective experience.

I know a lot of different types of feminists because basic ideas of inequality and feminism are encapsulated in political, social and religious laws, rules and beliefs that are applied objectively to women. But everyone’s awareness and experience of inequality, everyone’s reaction to and interaction with inequality is personal, specific and subjective.

I will, as always, start with a personal story. I wrote what I now think of as my first two proto-feminist essays in Year Twelve Religious Education as one of the Liturgy Prefects of a Catholic all girls school. I call these essays proto-feminist now, but at the time I remember that I was just following a line of logic to its conclusion.

The first essay was on abortion, and I still remember the comfort I felt with the argument I made because I was in love with God at that time, and he was in love with me. Love was, literally, all around, and my logic was all about love.

In the essay I agreed that the statistics seemed to indicate that abortion was a terrible thing for most women to have to go through, but it was clear to me that it was an option that was absolutely necessary for women because of the conditional love of the society they belonged to.

I didn’t even touch on the contraception debate and rape was a word, not a concept I knew anything about. I had been brought up in a Catholic household and in Catholic schools, so sex was only for procreation, between people who loved each other, and sometimes only within marriage.

Instead I made an impassioned and utterly naïve call for society, law and religion to treat each child as precious no matter the circumstances of their birth, to ensure all the decisions made, religious views held, politics presumed and history claimed by the parents never rested on their innocent heads. As soon as children were born society would view them as untouched and would provide equitable funding, education, love and support under the law, religion and society. I was arguing for the concept of the village raising the child, which would negate the need for abortions in all but the most serious circumstances, by destroying discrimination that may otherwise make abortion a viable option.

I was told to rewrite the essay because I was not regurgitating Church teachings, those illogical teachings that everyone must be judged by the actions of those related to them. I was cross that, as a Liturgy Prefect who knew more of the Bible, Church history and Church tradition than my teachers, I had been told to stop thinking. I am pretty sure I just dismissed the criticism as one from a bored and ignorant teacher, and went my merry way.

Until our second assignment, which was about abuse. 149 girls wrote their assignments on domestic violence, and I wrote mine of the failure of the Australian Education system to teach boys effectively.

It was an uncomplicated argument, ably backed up with research from Steve Biddulph’s defining book, and again I remember a great feeling of happiness while putting forward my arguments, because I cared greatly about my two brothers and how they were being educated.

I finally woke up from my innocence when I was told, again, to rewrite my essay because

‘men were not victims of abuse’

(and believe me, the irony of that phrase used in a Catholic school was lost on me then, but is not lost on me now)

I was aghast at this second instance of being told not to exercise the Christian values of love, social responsibility, compassion and activism in my essays for Religious Education.

They had asked me to write on abortion and I had argued that if a Christian society loved each child and never discriminated against them because of their parents, abortion would only be necessary due to abuse, rape, health circumstances or the choice of a woman who made her decision genuinely unaffected by the potential for a negative social view of her decision. What more did they want? I was applying Christian principles of love and forgiveness to the topic and I was … wrong?

They had asked me to write on abuse and I had written about the waste of the educative years of young men’s lives through policies that were not giving them what they needed to be men. Again, what more did they want? I was applying Christian principles of equality (I know, irony warning again, but I was clearly naïve enough to think that because I considered myself equal to all, others thought me equal as well) and social conscience to the topic and I was … wrong?

Six months later I studied Anthropology and Politics at University and my political awareness arrived at last. It became clear to me that the individual and collective experience of laws, rules and beliefs come in a minimum of four permutations:

1. How you apply them objectively
2. How you apply them subjectively
3. How they apply to you objectively
4. How they apply to you subjectively

The great pity is that these four aspects are still argued as if a difference between them impedes progress rather than informs progress.

If you were to look at my youthful beliefs on abortion for instance:

1. Abortion would become less necessary if all children are loved and cared for by society as discrete individuals free from any association with their parents.
2. Abortion is the right of every woman who is free in a society to act according to her own conscience without having to consider possible social reactions to her decision.
3. I could carry a child to term at any point in my life and my society would guarantee equitable funding, education, support and opportunities to all children, including mine, as the situation of myself or other parents would be irrelevant to the rights of the child.
4. I could carry a child to term at any point in my life and my society would never judge that child by the social, political or religious decisions I made before they were born.

One illogical ruling in any of these areas and inequality is entrenched. In the case of the Catholic view on abortion, all these areas are inequitable. Funding, support and opportunities for children is based on the social, economic, political and religious decisions of parents, rather than the rights of the child. This is wrong; no matter what the parents do, children should never pay for it.

Eliminate all discrimination of children for the actions of the parents, and the flow on effect for the potential of all life will be, I suggest, profound. And there would incidentally have been no need for my second essay, because children would be equally treasured by society, and all abuse of and inequality for either gender would be swiftly punished.

Despite my teachers, I felt my job as Liturgy Prefect was done, Christian values had been defended, Humanist principles had been applied, it was time to graduate to University and encounter more than just Christian values and Humanist principles.

So what has this to do with men not being feminists, women being feminists, and the lack of what should be a logical uptake of the fight for equality by both genders?

I suggest it is because, useful as it would be to be able to see inequality from all four aspects so it can be identified and rectified, we cannot. Injustice between the genders is currently half invisible to half of the population.

How many men have had the discrimination women experience each day applied to them objectively?

Men mostly experience the discrimination women experience each day subjectively, through the specific experience of the women they know.

How many men then take the laws, rules and beliefs that formed the basis of the discrimination communicated to them and act decisively to change them so discrimination does not happen again?

How many men then take the personal experience of the woman they know and change their behaviour permanently so they never perpetuate that discrimination, or let that discrimination be tolerated in their presence?

Men cannot be expected to experience gender discrimination themselves, but they can be expected to listen to experiences of it and act accordingly to prevent it happening again through their actions or the actions of others they can influence.

Women cannot and should not be expected to tolerate objective policies that are discriminatory towards them.

Women cannot and should not be expected not to communicate subjectively and repeatedly each time they are discriminated against. To witness is not our only obligation however, education is essential so those who have not experienced discrimination still act to change the situation.

Women can listen to the subjective experiences of discrimination from other people and identify the underlying policies that encourage discrimination and act to change those policies.

Women can ensure that their understanding of the objective policies that enable discrimination are identified and challenged each time they are used in their presence, and they can encourage those around them to do the same.

If men can only see half the picture, it is our job to communicate the other half of the picture, to educate them to be aware of objective and subjective experiences, to show the logic of universal understanding and the universal drive for equality.

Women are the only ones who can communicate fully the experience of gender discrimination, we are ideologically bilingual after all, and we are the only ones who can fully communicate the changes that need to be made.

And we owe it to our children to start educating their fathers and listening to their mothers right now.

feminism

I have met a lot of feminists in my life, because I have been lucky enough to have a lot of women in my life. And just to be clear, the number of feminists I have met in my life is the same number as the number of women I have met.

I have never met a woman who did not know, who did not fully understand, that being a woman is awesome, but for some illogical reason, also really difficult. It is each woman’s experience of the illogical difficulty of their gender that makes them the feminist they are.

I know radically conservative feminists who rule otherwise patriarchal families with iron fists. I know comfortably conservative feminists who effortlessly support Marxist and Utilitarian ideas. I know Republican feminists, I know rabid feminists. I know feminists who grew up with equality in their bones and who have never uttered the word feminist because there was no other right ideology. I know feminists who fought to exhaustion every day for decades against family and workmates to be recognised for their work. I know feminists who have absorbed every misogyny levelled against them as right and true, and can’t work out why they are so very, very unhappy.

Feminism as a term is debated because there is a concept that it is taught, that it is a political action, that it is something that excludes, that it is different for some due to race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. All of these things are the different flavours of feminism, sure, because feminism covers the human rights of half the population of the world. Half the population of the world, like the full population of the world, is not of one monolithic race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, politics or education.

I regard all the women I meet as feminists, no matter how they choose to express it, because human rights for men are universal, but human rights for women are not. Feminism is the conviction that men and women must have equal rights in law and in society. So any woman who acknowledges that even ONE universal human right for women still needs to be secured, and speaks out for that universal human right, is a feminist.

Let’s start with a no-brainer – education. If you are reading this, chances are you were taught to read because of the concept that both males and females had the right to education. Unfortunately, that is not a universal human right for females yet, and I think every woman who can read knows that, has questioned that and donated towards an organization working to change that.

My question is, why is feminism a debated term when it is still so very necessary, relevant and useful in the fight for universal education rights? Every human has the right to education. Gender should not preclude one human from receiving education, and gender should not determine if one human is ‘allowed’ to be educated, when another human is educated as the status quo.

Further, if gender divisions on access to education are removed, and all humans are to be educated, then any discrimination to do with the political leanings of children’s parents, religious upbringing of children, the racial profiles of children’s parents or the children’s emerging gender or sexual identity will fail as the universal human right to education will be … wait for it … universal. Allow one universal discriminatory right that excludes half the population and you open the door for all other discrimination, which will impact on the full population, no matter how you slice it.

The universal human right to an education then logically allows all humans to contribute to society through their education, innovation and participation. This is, I think you would agree, a true and noble idea. The spread of education over the last millennia from a happy few men, to all men and a happy few women, still has a way to go. But we can all agreed that it must and will finally be a universal right for every child, no matter the situation of the child's country of birth, the decisions of the child's parents or the skills that the child is discovering as it grows, to be educated.

I think another example may be called for then – sexual security. There are no universal human rights for women not to have their genitals sliced off, not to be forcibly married, to be safe from marital rape, domestic violence or honour killings, not to be sold into sexual slavery, not to be harassed on the street or not to be blamed for sexual harassment or sexual assault.

Wow, that escalated fast hey? And I’ll tell you why it escalated fast. Because once you find one universal human right is true and noble – the idea that all humans are equally able to be educated, which means all humans are equally able to contribute to society, which means all humans are equal – all others must then follow.

It is one thing to acknowledge all children have a right to education, and quite another to then decide that one gender does not, however, have the right to sexual security, right to health care, right to employment opportunities and conditions.

Once again, no universal human right is inviolable until it is truly universal. When a human right to sexual security, health care or employment conditions is applied to one gender and not another, it means that those human rights can also be selectively applied to someone brought up in one religion rather than another, applied to someone of one racial profile than another, one political identity than another, one sexual identity than another. While there are still no universal human rights for both genders, universal human rights can be withheld from both genders. That needs to change, and everyone needs to speak up.

The basic ideological framework and discipline of feminism allows everyone, no matter what gender, race, politics or religion, to be able to see past the status quo and into the dark cracks of inequality we still have to find and change. Closing all the inequalities in the gender divide will allow for a clear platform of ALL HUMANS HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS from which to eradicate discrimination on grounds of race, sexuality, religion, politics, skills, interests … you get the picture. There is no universal platform for humans when half the population in the world still does not have equal rights.

So while I know that every woman I meet is a feminist, because she knows very well that her rights are not equal, nor universal, I do have one more question, a question that every outspoken feminist has asked, in many different forms.

Why isn’t every man I meet a feminist?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Little Cakes, Big Trouble

I started a crazy project last year that I called Proust's Pepys.

I tweeted the best bits of my diaries and emails from the last 15 years each day. And I had a companion blog with some of the writing that I found that was publishable, but hadn’t been posted on here.

It was loosely inspired by Real Time WWII, but unlike Real Time WWII, which is exponentially more worthy and going strong for three years, I barely made two and a half months.

I didn't let anyone know about the twitter feed or the blog, because I had not created it for an audience so much as to enforce a deadline each day. I had to collate the information, curate it and post it before midnight each day.

Sometimes I made the deadline, sometimes I posted a week in one day. But the set deadline was very, very useful for keeping me on track. Mostly because historically, deadlines and I do NOT see eye to eye.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams

Stressed as I was for those fateful weeks, I did develop an appreciation for just how much writing I have done in my lifetime - in emails alone I (and my best friends, as replies from them are included) clocked up:

June: 27,679 words
July: 56,867 words
August: 32,525 words

I never got to September, thanks to a little stage play that I then started writing, and that is probably a good thing as the December to February period was going to include a year in which a correspondent and I regularly wrote 2,000 words a day to each other at a minimum.

I am looking forward to going back in the next few years to doing all the other months, but somehow I think I will be doing them in more manageable chunks of a month at a time.

Which brings me to my new, naughty challenge for this year.

I just signed up to National Novel Writing Month: a 50,000 word book in November, and, if my writing group is up for it, a script in July with Camp NaNoWriMo.

I hope that this years projects, with the addition of friends doing the same task and a more public deadline, will propel me to more original work in greater volumes.

The less said about public failure the better. Although I am not too worried, I just read the story of NaNoWriMo and it was so charmingly full of terrible obstacles, I just know everything will work out okay.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Bloody eyes

I’m sure no one had noticed, but I have been at home for five days straight now. I have a virus that turned my eyes a wet, shining blood red. I looked like a Vampire extra from Twilight, but, like, my blood red eyes were five times worse than theirs. A cross between a Vampire from Twilight and a Vampire from the movies of Anne Rice’s novels actually, because I would periodically shed tears of pain from those glowing red eyes.

I scared the good people of the Western Suburbs with my eyes of pain when I was out buying supplies two days into my vampire existence, so I ended up confined to my humble garret, to write more words in less days than I have ever done in my entire life. If I keep the 8,000 words in 4 days habit up I’d have a book on my personal views on gender equality in no time.

Maybe I should consider writing a Novel in a Month?

Anyhow, when I wasn’t writing about stuff that makes steam come out of my ears, I was watching, oh, TV shows and movies. And sometimes I’d cry, sometimes tears from the pain of the blood red eyes, sometimes tears from the excruciatingly awful films I was watching. I watched Immortals and Clash of the Titans and I would like to personally flay the makers of both movies. There was so little of merit in either film that I wonder if anyone who had ever made a film had been on set, let alone anyone who actually knew two sentences of Greek Mythology.

Shhhhh Claire, your eyes are glowing right now, and if you cried again, they’d probably be tears of blood.

I just watched Midnight in Paris so as to end my weekend with a fabulous dream. The dream of travelling back to a time in the past that you are sure was the Golden Age of whatever timeless love lives in your heart.

I am lucky because both time periods in the movie, Paris in the Twenties and Belle Époque Paris, are favourites eras of mine as well for literature and art.

But if I were allowed only one era to time travel to, it would be the London of Shakespeare’s Globe for sure. And the Rome of Marcus Aurelius. And Istanbul of the Varangian Guard. The Eygpt of the Library at Alexandria. Baghdad and Tehran in any time BC. Athens of Socrates. Perth of the Wagyl. Any time when the ideas that would become legends were simply walking the earth, enjoying the sun.

Sigh.

There is a reason I have a soft spot for Anne Rice’s vampires – she wrote them to witness many eras, and shed tears of blood in each one.

The good news is my eyes are getting better. I can see some white returning. The bad news is I am still not an immortal, or a time traveller. Worst luck.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Bilingual

I first articulated the concept of women being ideologically bilingual in this world during an eventful conversation with one of my pet misogynists at The Moon last year.

The sentence sprung into my head as I decided to steer the conversation towards an area of interest to me that was a debatably female-centric topic. My interlocutor, a young man who until then had been able to maintain eight-hour conversations with me on every topic we approached together, became suddenly angry and uncooperative. The uncharacteristic anger he showed a few minutes into the exchange at first did not alarm me, I merely decided to expand on the new ideas needed to approach the subject, but that appeared to incense him out of proportion to the completely mundane topic of conversation.

As I continued to stick to my topic I began to be verbally battered by a very angry man with some surprising points of argument. He said that I had started a conversation for which he had no 'language' to enter the discussion, because he was not a woman. His discomfort meant that he started leveling some pretty interesting charges at me:

- I was using another language, one he did not know, and that was isolating him from the discussion
- I was using ideas that were not ones that he had encountered before, and I was not explaining them well enough so he could understand them, and that was isolating him from the discussion
- I was insisting on talking about something in a language he didn't understand, with concepts that needed to be explained to him, which was condescending in its expectations that he had to learn to talk in 'my language'
- My behavior in seeking to explain the concepts and language I was using was akin to 'America invading Iraq and forcing democracy and English on the Iraqis'

You can probably imagine that I was adrift myself at this point, astounded at how easily a discussion of the lack of female heroes in mainstream Hollywood movies had degenerated into something likened to the Iraq War. With each attack he made on me for discussing a topic that was 'disrespectful to him because it had nothing to do with him' I was fast losing whatever respect I had developed for him over our friendship.

It was when he started to physically shake, his voice getting more and more pained, that I actually realized that I was hurting the poor man, and keeping an eye on the girls next to us who were watching us very closely indeed, I decided to see just how truly bilingual I was.

Over the course of almost forty minutes, without moving from my chair or raising my voice, I talked pure 'man' to him and managed to get the shake out of his tense frame, the almost hysterical edge from his voice, and I was able to finish the evening with the man I had started it with. Well, almost. I haven't talked to him since, so I do not know how he felt the evening went, but I certainly felt a strong sense of shock and awe at the conversation.

I was shocked that simply hinting at an ideology that was not male-centric could unleash such venom in a man who was educated, traveled and otherwise very intelligent. And I was privately awarding myself awesome points for being better at talking 'man' then I had ever imagined. Whether he calmed down to keep the peace, or whether he calmed down because he thought I was back on his side, I will never know. But either way, I had talked good 'man', and discovered that talking 'woman' was something that was going to get me the best writing material ever.

The entire affair was pathetic though I have to admit. The mental anguish he went through when he was displaced for a few hours from being the Master of the Universe was laughable. The tortured logic he called upon to argue that I was disrespecting him by not discussing him alone was excruciating. The ease with which I turned him against me by a simple observation was ridiculous. And the speed with which his ego could be assuaged by the words of the person who had started the mental torture was, well, pathetic.

And it was pathetic that I had had to endure such self-centered bullshit, that I had continued the conversation, and that I had actually gone back to talking ‘man’ instead of slapping him soundly and leaving. I let the friendship we had urge me to forgiveness and repair, in the face of him telling me that my night of disrespect to him had wiped out the respect he had developed for me over that same friendship.

Being ideologically bilingual is both a strength and a weakness I think. It is a strength because it means that women are smarter, tougher and better able to survive in challenging ideological circumstances. We can approach things from a minimum of two different points of view every time, and this makes us adaptable and innovative. I am deadly serious when I feel sorry for men as a whole every time I look the War on Women in the face. They are hopelessly ill-equipped for the challenging times ahead, times that will require serious renegotiations of social contracts and world views, because they never have to fight for a place in the social contract or world view.

Being bilingual is a weakness because it means that women are too smart, too strong and less able to triumph in challenging ideological circumstances. We do not approach things with the fervent belief of those raised in a hegemonic and protected position, we approach things with the infinite shades of understanding and experience of resistance. We do not admit defeat in the face of inconceivable oppression because we understand that there is hope for everyone, not matter how brainwashed. We will do anything to survive for people that need us, which means we are not ready to sacrifice anyone for a greater cause.

But being bilingual is going to be the secret to our survival. Those raised in hegemonic privilege will lose everything, because they have had to fight for nothing. Those who cannot see the mixture of good and evil in everyone will always misuse and misjudge the potential in the humans around them. And those that will sacrifice anyone for their own power will not be sacrificed for when the world learns to survive in new ways.

I found my own path to being specifically bilingual, and it has allowed me to sit and write for years about ideas and concepts that changed my very being in the writing and reading.

For those interested in becoming specifically bilingual, I personally recommend adding Rabid Feminist, brought to my attention by the marvelous Siân Roberts, or Destroy the Joint, brought to my attention by her friend Matthew Langfield, to your news feed on Facebook, and reading every link they put up. And each time you read something in one of those articles that shocks you or enrages you, for whatever reason, research it, talk about it, write about it … talk about it again.

The articles on Rabid Feminist and Destroy the Joint are current news, current theory, current ideas, and they are overwhelming in their exposure of countless areas of conflict. Readers will not be able to hide from the world once they have read about it. They may all be feminist views, but the politics will be nuanced and varied enough to hold ideas you agree with, and ideas that you really don't agree with. And this will be the challenge, reading things that are NOT in your language.

But once you have read one article that directly confirms an experience of your own, and you are able to see that experience in a completely different light, you will be on your way to being bilingual. And the world will be brighter for all the dark that you would have let into it, because you will be better equipped to deal with the dark.

Part time Philanthropy

The personal discrimination that women experience in their private lives is a matter of great worry, but there is no escape for them in the wider community. Once out of their home, misogyny is so entrenched in the culture they interact with, the fight for equality and respect becomes exponentially more difficult.

While the behavior of male role models is an important influence on young women and young men as they grow up, young people are soon exposed to popular culture, public knowledge and sex in the adult world. Examples of how the men outside the home manifest equality and respect for all genders is equally important to young people and how they are begin to think about the world.

Celluloid Dreams

I remember sitting in the movie cinema watching Brave and trying to work out why my brain was struggling with the narrative. It wasn’t unamusing, I was entertained, as were all the ten year old children in the cinema with me, but I wasn’t really comfortable with it for some reason. And then, in the space of a breath in and out my mind switched tracks and became utterly absorbed in the movie.

The moment of change was when I suddenly realized that I was watching a truly female coming of age story, and I was not going to be ambushed at some point by it becoming a male one. Indeed, the skilful rendering of the madness of being a girl in her teenaged years was so good I immediately recommended it to a friend with a daughter hitting the dreaded teenaged years.

He went to see it, and on the way to watch The Amazing Spiderman together the next week, he admitted that he hadn’t liked it at all, finding it reassuring to watch because it was proof that bad movies were still being made by good studios. I was disappointed in his taste, but there is nothing I can do about that, it is his choice.

And then I suffered through the utter boredom that was The Amazing Spiderman. And again, I tried very hard to find something to connect with in the story, but there simply wasn’t any way for me to access the film. It was wall-to-wall men and men’s stories and I was an interloper, a woman. As the credits rolled I panned the film with the same casual disregard as Brave had gotten a few hours before.

But this time, there was a discussion, because I was able to articulate why I had started watching the wall instead of the screen during the movie. Brave had woken me up to the incredible number of films made that did not have a single female character, let alone more than one female character, that was written as an equal in screen time, story arc and independent agency as each male lead in the film.

I had become so used to being required to identify with more males on screen than females that I had been participating in popular culture in a dream state of constantly trying to identify as a man. To watch a movie like Brave, where all the action, agency, change and inspiration came from females, and females of different ages, with no male shouldering them aside to claim the narrative drive, had shown me what the future could be.

The subversive idea that every piece of popular culture should have stories involving men and women in equal measure, to reflect the state of the world, was the legacy of that discussion. And now I make a point of watching the numbers and development of the genders in all manifestations of popular culture, because I don’t want to close my eyes again, and dream away my entertainment by pretending that the male way is the only way.

I very much hope men soon get used to watching a movie and identifying with the female leads as women have had to identify with male leads for decades now. Because identifying with someone different than yourself, no matter what their difference is, is the first step to real acceptance and equality in your actions.

Honorable News

Another friend was the unwilling subject of another political discovery that I made about the relative visibility in the news and in society of the War on Women to men. He had walked me to my car in the middle of the day to continue a conversation, and as he prepared to leave for his own car, across the car park, I started an off-the-cuff and rather black comedy routine.

I told him that I would watch to make sure he reached his car safely as he was uncovered and any woman could see him and take advantage of him in his uncovered state. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind and pointed out that he had clothes on. Ah, I replied, but I can clearly see your shape through those clothes and if I could see your shape, so could other women, who may be incited to presume ownership over what they could see, incited to claim rights over what was being flaunted in their face as he walked across the car park.

For a universally acknowledged funny man, my friend did not appear to be understanding the black comedy inherent in the reversal of the ‘she-was-asking-for-it-and-rape-is-the-victims-fault’ narrative, despite my faux-leering delivery and the patent absurdity of the suggested situation. Unfortunately for him, I took his silence as consent. After all, he never asked me to stop, or told me that he was uncomfortable being objectified, even in jest. And I must admit that I kept going because it was both an exercise for me in imagining a different political landscape, and it was intriguing for me to see him so silent.

He was traveling the next day and I asked him if he would be traveling with a female chaperone. I assured him with mock-sincerity that my honor, and that of the women of his family, was encompassed in his conduct when we were not around, and especially when he was traveling and interacting with people without us. I was hitting my stride, taking great delight in turning the tables, but my enjoyment of this subversion of the norm was dampened a little bit by the now clear indications that my friend did not actually understand what I was doing.

I will freely admit that it was pretty black humor, making clear links between a person and their objectification, implying that they were encouraging sexual predation by simply being present and an idea that how other people viewed them reflected on their family and friends, who had a right to act upon dishonorable behavior. But it was funny, because a woman was saying it about a man. That’s funny, right? The flip, it’s funny …

He walked across the car park to his car without being sexually harassed, and as I drove away I was trying to work out why he had looked so confused. After some thought I decided that the routine had been awesome, if only the audience had understood the references. Because I had been referencing concepts that were well known to anyone who had read more than three articles in the media about women being raped, women being murdered, women being deprived of political and social rights, Street Harassment, Rape Culture or domestic violence.

I am just not sure if men are reading these articles, being exposed to and thinking about the social, political and legal concepts that arise from the culture of victim-blaming, slut-shaming and honor killing that are present in every culture in the world. Because these social stigmas apply to me as a woman, I know about them. And because I read about examples of women dying because of them and the political discussions around these deaths in the media, I assume everyone, men and women, are reading them, thinking about them.

I wish my friend had opened his mouth once to acknowledge that he was hard to miss, very sexy, and would provoke women to act only on their lust when they saw him, because all the blood would rush from their head and they could not control how he made them feel.

I wish he had made even the smallest joke about how he hoped he would always bring honor to me by his virtue, and that he was looking forward to meeting a wife, settling down and looking after the kids at home.

I wish he had opened his mouth to say anything. I would have loved a joke in the same style, but I would have accepted any of the following:

- I don’t think what you are saying is funny because every concept you have mentioned is unfair and oppressive
- I don’t think what you are saying is funny because I had a friend that suffered under those concepts and got hurt and they are seriously dangerous concepts
- I don’t think what you are saying is funny because joking about injustice by simply flipping it as if it is a straight forward gender-based application of inequality is too simplistic for genuine political discussion
- I don’t understand what you are saying
- I don’t think that applying the rules for women to men is funny, because men and women are not the same

I wish he had opened his mouth, because silence in the face of the attitudes that I was articulating was the most dangerous answer of all. Only speaking up, only discussion challenges those concepts. Keeping silent is wrong. And if you don’t understand what is going on, ask!

Pornography

I know a young man who, before the age of twenty-five, had to take steps to cure himself of using pornography and masturbation because it was depriving him of a fulfilling sex life. The conversation we had when he told me this fact was spiritually exhausting and intellectually terrifying for me because I had no idea of the extent to which Porn Culture was crippling the sex lives of the young men and women around me.

I used to be quite concerned about the generation gap and use of condoms. My generation of men grew up being able to have sex using condoms, but when my girlfriends and I started dating much older than us, we encountered men who could not use condoms, as they had not grown up using them. This was a serious health concern to us, and it has caused no end of sad consequences for relationships.

However, my generation were developing their sexual awareness and habits merely a few years away from the advent of genuinely fast and easy access to internet pornography, and I suspect a few of us have dodged the very worst of what the younger generation are putting up with right now. Because a few years after I hit my twenties, after I had experienced years of sex with real live men, an entire generation of young men were forming their sexual tastes with only porn stars for company.

The personal stories of pornography accessed from the ages of seven and ten that you find on NO FAP are disturbing enough just for the corruption of sexual development at such a young age. That is quite apart from the stories of young men who formed niche sexual tastes because their young brains attached sexual feeling and masturbation to the first type of pornography they found, rather than finding out in real life what turned them on.

These young men went on to finally become, well, not sexually active, but pornographically active. They were expressing pornographic desires for multiple partners, no emotions, exploitative and dangerous techniques and a complete isolation from communication, connection and even consciousness of the woman they were engaging in sex with. And very, very soon they began to realise that they weren’t happy, not even remotely. So they got on the internet, the very place all the corruption came from, and they decided on a solution, of which NO FAP is one of the manifestations.

It was somewhere around the two hours mark of this simultaneously disheartening and reassuring conversation that the young man saw that I was on the verge of crying and he assured me that he had found the science to explain what pornography and masturbation did to a man, was well on the way to reprogramming himself, and it would all be fine. And I have to say, the quest that these young men set themselves to self-diagnose sexual dysfunction caused by pornography, decide on a solution and support each other through it gives me hope that men are looking at themselves and changing themselves of their own volition.

I explained, however, that it was not the young men that I was holding tears back for. Well, it was, because pornography is clearly ruining the lives of countless men across the world. But I was actually shocked and teary at the thought of all those young women who loved those young men, who were learning about their own sexual tastes with those young men, who were in relationships with young men who were not conscious of the harm that pornography and masturbation was doing to both of their sex lives. No woman needs any portion of her sex life to be one of pornographic sex. No woman needs to experience a partner that is not having sex with her, but with his own choice of porn stars.

The conversation about Porn Culture that has exploded over the last few years is devastating and urgently needs to be addressed. For me, however, it is the perfect storm to trigger a renewed discussion on why treating women with respect and equality is key to the health of every human. The pornographic treatment of women is poisoning the men who consume it. Only seeing each woman for the important human she is, with a heart, head and soul that you need to acknowledge as equal to your own, can cure these poisoned men. Extrapolate this discovery out to all other discrimination – gender, race, education, religion – and you will find the logic in respect and equality.

Consuming pornography is never right, street harassment is never right, victim-blaming and slut-shaming is never right. It is someone’s mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife or lover you are consuming, harassing, blaming or shaming without acknowledgement that she is human. And while you would never allow that to happen to the women you love, you are doing it to a woman that someone else loves. So let’s stop mincing our words shall we? Until you treat every woman the same as the women you love, you are only a part time philogynist, a part time philanthropist, and only a part time human.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Part time Philogyny

Most of the men I meet are only really part time philogynists, and sometimes only really part time philanthropists.

They have a finite number of women that they think should be treated equally under the law, and the rest can fend for themselves. Of course they choose the women that deserve equality, and that inclusion in the protected few can be changed at any time.

This selective equality in everyday life means that selective equality for anyone not identifying or identified as male in law, religion and society is not widely acknowledged, or worse, it is openly tolerated when it is made visible.

Expecting equality and respect for the people you love, and not granting it to everyone else, is a key reason inequality is still rampant in our world. And this applies to everyone, regardless of gender identity.

I am going to start with a discussion of young women and their male role models, because I think this is an important area of collision between philogyny, misogyny and the effect misguided love has on setting the tone of an entire life. How male role models treat girls growing into women is very important.

Item One: An uncle who took the opportunity of catching his niece studying at her house to speak for an hour over the cups of tea she made him on the disgust he felt at her choosing the useless Arts Units she was studying with great delight and success at University. The particular History unit that, once mentioned mid-rant, provoked his ire, sharpened his attack and left an otherwise cheerful 19 year old crying? Women in the Middle Ages.

As a Historian myself, I have many problems with this attitude that HIStory is not also HERstory or THEIRstory. But beyond my interest in History escaping the Great Man History model, this man attacked History as a subject that was not worth studying despite his niece’s skill and interest in the topic.

I find the idea of an adult belittling the study interests and growing skills of young people to be an insidious act anyway. But to explicitly state they were doing it along gender grounds to someone of that gender’s face? Not an awesome lesson to give your niece and goddaughter about her right to expect equality in the world.

Item Two: A father who after an otherwise sterling two decades of treating all his children equally when it came to intellectual pursuits, telling his mid-twenties daughter that although she was now schooled and traveled and living out of his house, it was time for her to get a job until she got married and then stay home and look after her children.

It must have been a strange moment for her to be given the same respect and support as her brothers for so long, and then to have it suddenly withdrawn and her life reduced to fulfilling expectations only placed on her because she could give birth children and her brothers could not.

Having being raised the same as her brothers, she respected their skills, and presumed they too could get married, stay home and look after their children. She agreed with her father that children benefited from a parent at home, and it was clearly a very important job because he respected her mother immensely for staying home herself, but surely his sons had been raised to be able to do it also?

Item Three: A father who had spent an hour discussing his mentors and who he mentored (all men, all wonderful, all teaching him so much about being a man), was then asked who were his daughter’s mentors. He looked surprised and his first reply was ‘Me, I hope’, followed up, to his credit, by ‘I don’t know who her female mentors are’ as it dawned on him that his daughter was not a son.

For a man who spent his whole life leading and mentoring and supporting and speaking out for men’s mental health, it must have been quite a moment to realize that he was uniquely ill-equipped to lead, mentor, support and speak to his daughter because he had concentrated so much on his own gender to the detriment of working with hers, or anyone who was not identifying as male.

The lessons I take from these examples?

Lesson one: Knowledge and Inquiry, Achievement and Teaching is not gendered. Standing in front of anyone and valuing them for interest in one subject because you approve, and dismissing them because you don’t approve of another subject, is only being a part time Philanthropist. Surely their skills and interests are not yours to use for conditional equality and respect?

Lesson two: Partnership and Love, Children and Family is not gendered. It should not be gendered. Standing in front of a woman and expecting that her potential to successfully complete the dangerous task of carrying and birthing a child means she will change the path of her life is only being a part time Philogynist. Surely her reproductive potential is not yours to use for conditional equality and respect?

Lesson three: Connection and Understanding, Support and Acceptance is not gendered. It should not be gendered. As humans we interact with seven or more gender identities all the time. Concentrating on understanding one (especially if it is your own) and treating all others as the same is only being a part time Philanthropist. Surely how people identify is their decision only, and cannot be used for conditional equality and respect?

Witnessing selective equality in the home, from people you love and who love you is destructive for both young men and young women.

Part time Philogyny teaches young men to value women differently to men, to value their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, wives and lovers as lesser than other men. Part time Philanthrophy teaches them to accept injustice towards other people, including men, without challenge, discussion or protest.

Part time Philogyny from men towards the women of their family negates any claim to love they want to make. You don’t love someone if you willfully discriminate against them, or if you willfully discriminate against someone like them. Once you discriminate against someone else’s mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife and lover, you are showing tolerance towards the same injustice being shown towards the women of your family.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Misandry

It is a terrible sin to waste good fortune.

And today I woke up to exercise, for another day, my supreme good fortune. I woke up in a house that I pay for with money from a bank account in my name. I woke up alone, both in my bed and in my house. I woke up to a job that is mine no matter what the condition of my health is at any given point. I woke up to incredible freedom to wear what I wish, travel where I wish, see whom I wish and say what I wish. I also woke up to find a piece of opinion that I posted on the internet with no censorship or moderation had gathered comments and those comments were as reasoned, well explained and as carefully written as any opinionated writer could wish.

Today I woke up to an embarrassment of riches that the majority of women alive on this planet do not have and do not have the freedom to ask for, hope for and in some benighted corners of the world even have the right or information to imagine.

I would like to start with the gift of waking up alone. I am the head of my household. This is not a household ruled over by a male figure. I pay for this household, with money that I earn from an education that was of equal standing as my brothers’ education. I control the money of the household, I make the decisions, I decide who enters it and I decide when I leave it.

These simple rights that I enjoy as a human are not extended to the majority of my gender around the world. For those unlucky enough to be of my gender elsewhere in the world, one or all of the incredible freedoms above are curtailed or denied by law, religion or custom. Millions of women in the world at this moment are enduring child marriage, polygamy, restrictions on clothing, travel outside the house and restricted access to education and jobs because of marital status or children. And that includes millions of women in Australia, the USA, Europe and the UK.

I should not be wasting my independence by not talking about all those women who do not enjoy the same independence.

I would also like to add that my general good fortune to legally live as I wish without recourse to the authority of a male figure is also coupled with the personal good fortune of having always been bodily secure in all my social domestic situations. I have never had the control and security of my body compromised or even threatened in my bed, my bedroom, my living room, or on the street. I am one of the happy few, the band of sisters that are not the one in three women that experience violence in their lifetime. Millions of women in the world at this moment are enduring sex slavery, marital rape, domestic violence, honour killings and rape, rape and murder in war and female genital mutilation. And that includes millions of women in Australia, the USA, Europe and the UK.

I should not be wasting my uncompromised sense of self and safety by not talking about all those women who do not enjoy the same security.

As a side note, a discussion of the harassment in the workplace that I have experienced and witnessed will have to wait for another time - because there is something scary about acknowledging that you could, in fact, be one of those women, simply by having worked in mainstream jobs for one’s own independent income.

Today I woke up to use medicine that I had prescribed to me by a female doctor who was able to explain three vastly different, complicated and important health issues to me without recourse to governmental, societal or religious misinformation and manipulation. I was able to exercise my rights to employment security without questions about my marital status or gender. Millions of women in the world at this moment are enduring no or heavily restricted access to contraception and reproductive health care and bearing the terrible strains of selective abortion by gender and its results. And that includes millions of women in Australia, the USA, Europe and the UK.

I should not waste my good health by not talking about all those women who do not enjoy the same rights to medical care.

Today I woke up to the pleasure of seeing my thoughts, uncensored and unmoderated, on the internet for all to read. I read respectful comments in reply to those thoughts that engaged with the ideas in the arguments I made, and graciously avoided the personal framing of the debate. I got to read two opposite, but equally disappointing attitudes male readers are wont to develop when they are asked to read about the War on Women. I find the strategy of defensiveness, justification and identification as a fellow victim, as used by male opponents of Feminism, to be disingenuous and lazy thinking.

From the liberal artistic left I received the uncontested arguments that the meme I spent half the post critiquing was a result of capitalism turning objectified humans into consumables. These ideas have been used extensively by Feminists to illustrate the unequal treatment of women in Western Democracies, so we were on the same page. But this argument was then followed with an assertion that misogyny was a concept that was losing its power by being applied to all men on the actions of some men, and that misandry was alive and well and causing my interlocutor some discomfort because he was not being respected for his gender or point of view.

I have no problem with the concept of misandry existing as a counterpoint to the concept of misogyny – discrimination on account of gender is perpetrated by both genders and there needs to be a word to describe both. As a political expression misandry just isn’t a cause of institutionalised injustice in the world. I struggle to imagine a list that held even one misandrist society, religion or body of laws. Gender discrimination on this earth is not equal in power, reach, horror or violence.

There is not opposing Matriarchy to the Patriarchy, a Matriarchy that governs a powerful country, universal religion and international capitalist system with only women in the parliaments, clergy and boardrooms. There is no international trade in male sex slaves, young men married by force to older women, young men raped and killed to preserve the honour of their female relatives, no systemic selective abortion of male foetuses, no restrictions on the clothing, education, jobs and travel possibilities for men, no restriction of contraception and reproductive care for men (oh, that’s right, the patriarchy doesn’t have that either, only women need that kind of care, but don’t get it) … do I need to go on?

Misandry is always going to be a quaint idea, the linguistic balance of a feather against the brick that is misogyny. Don’t insult your mother, your sister and your daughter by claiming that not accepting a male point of view without argument is misandry. And don’t ever insult anyone else’s mother, sister or daughter by thinking that they owe you the respect of accepting your views without argument and accuse them of misandry if they do not.

Men need to start earning the respect they think they deserve. They need to stop wondering what their place is in the world when they realise that it is not handed to them, when they realised they have to fight for it. They need to start fighting to prove that they are logical humans, with brains and hearts. And I have just the fight for them.

I suggest they start fighting for the rights of their mothers, sisters and daughters, their wives, friends and lovers. I suggest they end:

- the international sex trade of girls and women
- the international Porn industry marketing girls and women
- Street Harassment of girls and women
- Rape Culture perpetuating Victim Blaming and Slut Shaming of girls and women
- Honour Killings of girls and women
- Restrictions on education, job security and health access for girls and women
- Restrictions on contraception and reproductive technology for girls and women
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Selective Abortion of female foetuses

and, oh, anything else that comes to mind as something men are allowed, but women are not. I’m sure you are clever enough to think of some more.

And as for the other reaction I got to my post last night, from the little misogynist himself, well, I guess I have to include it, disappointing and toothless as it was. His first reaction was to tell me that my post was too long, but he got the idea. I told him to read it all. He then asked me if I had ever discussed my issues with these ‘according to you’ misogynist men.

That was all he had - too busy to read, and then wondering if I had discussed things face to face with him or the other two. Little does he know that the three separate instances of having to deal with his offensive comments by the ‘polite reply on Facebook / private message to ask him to be polite on Facebook / deletion of his offending Facebook comments’ routine that culminated in the post last night were the least intellectually taxing and physically dangerous of the confrontations I have had with my pet misogynists.

One of my pets got so offended that I wanted to discuss exclusively female issues while dining at The Moon that he became threatening towards me. His barely contained contempt for me and my topic of conversation became so obvious that the table of girls next to us seemed to be ready to leap to my defence should he turn his physical shaking and angry voice into action. Nothing like freaking out unless we are talking about his topics of interest exclusively to make a woman respect a man.

My other pet misogynist regularly calls me sexist and chauvinist in the workplace as soon as I do not accept his taste in popular culture as mine. It’s quite insulting to be told I am chauvinist because I chose not to force myself to respect movies that don’t pass the bare minimums of the Bechdel Test. I should learn to identify with the male heroes presented to me on screen or perish it seems … how boring can one get?

Together these three men are the Unholy Trinity that keep my feminist eye sharp, my feminist jokes rolling and my feminist pity warm. These men are wrong, angry, threatened, lost and frightened. And they deserve to be, frankly, unless they woman the hell up and start learning about the world from a position other than their point of view.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Misogyny

I have a problem. In the last eighteen months I have added quite a few male friends and workmates to my life. In those twelve months three of those males have brought tremendous misogyny into my life. Unfortunately for me, I tried to tolerate this misogyny for the sake of good working relations and the potential I saw in each male. Unfortunately for me, also, this willingness to tolerate their ancient ideas for the sake of their excellent ideas meant that they thought they could escalate their misogyny towards me.

Today was the third unprovoked misogynist action from one of these males, and I am tired of forgiving someone who takes forgiveness as a sign of consent.

It all started last year when my sister was sent this story by a ... male.

Once upon a time, a pilot asked a beautiful princess "Will you marry me?" The princess said, "No!"

And the pilot lived happily ever after and flew jets all over the world and drove hot cars and chased skinny long-legged big-breasted flight attendants and hunted and fished and went to topless bars and dated women half his age and drank Weihenstephaner German beer and Captain Morgan and never heard bitching and never paid child support or alimony and kept his house and guns and ate cold leftover meals, potato chips and beans and blew enormous farts and never got cheated on while he was at work and all his friends and family thought he was frickin' cool as hell and he had tons of money in the bank and left the toilet seat up.

Recently I saw the image below, which is similar enough that I presume it is the same meme.



This bizarre little meme proves to me that there really is nothing like the micro aggression of a victimized majority!

I think the logic of a man asking a woman to marry him, and then aggressively enunciating all the things he was free to do because she said no - and such shallow things too for that matter - is completely weird.

Firstly, the male (Pilot/Prince) is clearly very stupid. Despite actually wishing to indulge in the activities listed, he asked a woman (Princess) to marry him, clearly presuming that she would curtail such activities. I grow tired of the modern idea of the hapless male, unable to control his penis or his childish urges, unable to be an adult, unable to take responsibility for his actions. This stupid male (Prince/Pilot) then follows up an insincere marriage proposal with a lifetime of speed, blood sports, alcoholism, hedonism, materialism and, well, a whole lot of misogyny.

- fucked with cute skinny girls
- naked bars
(I'm presuming naked cute skinny girls in those bars)
- dated women (?) half his age
(I think this is a typo, right? It's supposed to be little girls, because until you are sixty, someone half your age is somewhat ... immature)
- never heard bitching
- never paid child support or alimony
(I hope this means he didn't have children, not that he abandoned any children he had)
- never got cheated on while working

He really was very stupid to propose marriage to one woman. Thank god he saved himself from stupidity and opted for dangerous hyper-masculinity, rampant misogyny and tragic mid-life crises! He also wisely steered clear of women who did not meet his taste in female bodies, were clothed, were his equal in maturity, who talked or who expected to be treated equally in a relationship.

Because those kind of women are awful. You want to stay away from them.

I actually wrote a rebuttal to the Pilot story and sent it to my sister, because the ridiculous logic of the story needed a reply.

And the Princess went on to keep dating younger men her whole life because being a Princess is always cool. She never had to cook because she got taken out to dinner all the time, and when she wasn't at a restaurant she was at a party. She never had to drive because she got driven and flown everywhere. She never had to marry or have children so she kept her figure and got to wear the best clothes for free. She was able to spend lots of time with her friends and she took her friend’s kids on cool holidays, and when they were old enough, to the cool parties. She was the most sought after conversationalist and guest at the parties of her friends and family and she knew all the gossip and the heartaches of her friends. She had seen or heard it all and was able to be the one whom everyone turned to when things got rough. When she died they named a street after her, because she was a Princess.

Looking at it now my rebuttal starts off equally shallow, materialistic, hedonistic and full of the exploitation of youth. Are we ALL obsessed with dating younger than us? But I hope the ending of mine is more indicative of what I believe is the key reasons for living; friends and family, getting to know the new generations (not dating them) and not conforming to gender stereotypes if they are not your thing.



Then, a year later, I found a hack of the original meme and posted it to my sister's Facebook Wall. This hack had the Princess traveling, learning, not making sandwiches for people unless she wanted to and living independently with her own footwear and income.

Alas, she also felt the need to remind us that she would have sex with whomsoever she chose, and refused to be judged as a 'slut'. Because we are still operating within Rape Culture, with its logical fallacies of Slut Shaming and Victim Blaming, as is evidenced from the Pilot/Prince story.

But it is a roughly equal hack, and I thought my sister would get a laugh out of it.



And then, despite the fact it had nothing to do with him, it wasn't on his Facebook Wall, nor was he tagged in the post, one of my pet misogynists decided that my sister and I needed to know his thoughts. And he wrote two perfectly poisonous sentences that encapsulated the misogynist culture he was brought up in and the paucity of his engagement with any ideas besides his own.



The first line was simple, but effective.

Firstly, he decided the hack was silly. I'll grant it wasn't presented in context for a reader other than my sister, i.e. next to the male version. But I am struck by the idea that alone it is not funny. Because trust me little misogynist, it's funny, in context or out of context. It's just not funny to anyone who identifies as someone oppressed by any relationship with a woman.

Secondly, he decided to make specific mention of my exact age as being old, and an age that the Prince was wise to avoid in a wife. I'm just not sure if that also means the Prince should always get a new, younger wife once they get past 31? And, simultaneously, if I am now ineligible to be considered marriageable by the misogynists of the world?

So there I was, forwarding on a personal joke to my sister and suddenly my sense of humour sucks and I am too old to be ... whatever. This little misogynist's two other strikes were both personal attacks on Facebook using my age and his opinions on my attractiveness to men in completely unfunny and vicious attempts at humour. But both also included similar attacks on a mutual friend and my sister, both of whom he wrongly presumed were his to date whenever he wished. And this time was no exception. My poor sister bore the brunt of his sense of entitlement, backed up by all the weight of the primacy of the male gaze.

Despite my sister being in a relationship, and never having knowingly expressed a wish to get married to my little misogynist or anyone else for that matter, she was assured he would marry her. Well now, that is a weight (not felt before, but clearly there) off her shoulders!

AND, even better, he would marry her when he decided to ... in six and a half years time! Lordy, she is a lucky girl, to be able to be squeezed into his busy schedule.

AND, there would be a house with two toilets. I'm sure he would find her speechless with delight at his wealth and generosity!

AND, he will do it because of her bones (sic) white girl arse. I think he meant bony. Still, thank goodness for misogynist, racist and just plain incorrect backhand compliments that are only about him, and not about her!

What a catch. What a friend. Keep your enemies real close girls, you never know when one of your friends or family needs to be attacked on Facebook.

I think I kept a tight reign on my words in my reply, I was trying to be the woman I swore to be the moment I started reading Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman that fought injustice with well-argued humour. I succeeded, I think.

Ah, but there was no apology. No, just a sad attempt at placation and backpedaling that blamed other males for being shallow and not himself.

If there was ever a time to unfriend someone on Facebook, I feel that being compelled to write a piece of nigh on 1,500 words about his repeated misogyny is that point. But, enemies must be kept close. Enemies are inspirational when they cannot even hope to argue one sentence effectively with you, for they remind you of the existence of venomous ideas and attitudes in the people closest to you.

And they remind me that my positive feminism and hopefully well-argued humour is utterly essential to combat the badly spelled, badly argued, badly justified and just plain bad thinking of the misogynist males we tolerate.

I must admit that I keep misogynist males around because I secretly feel sorry for them. They have chosen the route of the hapless oppressed majority who scream like stuck pigs when they see their rights being applied to everyone. They have everything to lose. And I, my sister and my friends have everything to gain, because we have something to fight for.

Some light reading on some of the concepts I mentioned, all links from Rabid Feminist (the best kind):

What Facebook Continues To Tell Us About Violence Against Women

What Men Can Do To Stop Rape Culture

The Vatican, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Syria - the Unholy Alliance in the War on Women