Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

As has been widely publicised, mainly by people who’ve developed a sudden and very specifically focussed interest in football, Ched Evans has been training at his old club Shefffield Utd’s grounds . A Utd spokesman has said:

“The club acknowledges receipt of a request from the PFA to the effect that the club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the club’s facilities.

“According to the request, this training would be with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade.

“This request has come to the club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction.

“The club agrees with the recent statements of the PFA, to the effect that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to return to work following periods of incarceration.

“There can be no place for ‘mob justice’.”

This sounds to me like an uncontroversial, sensible statement. The law is the law. Rehabilitation is a vital part of our justice system. A man is training to be fit to return to work after over two years in prison having been convicted of a crime. But if you read the response from many feminists this set of events is a travesty, and a personal attack on women the world over.

Today Sarah Ditum reminded us of a piece she wrote in the New Statesman back in August, where she said that Evans should not be allowed to just ‘get on with his life’ on release from prison. Ditum wrote:

‘If there were justice for women, rape would be a crime that makes us all turn in disgust from the perpetrator. We would see rapists as what they are – men who have committed one of the ultimate acts of denying female humanity, men who have performed an act of intimate savagery by penetrating the bounds of a woman’s body against her wishes. If there were justice for women, the shame, disbelief and misogyny that lead to the 6 per cent attrition rate for rape conviction would not exist. If there were justice for women, Richmond and Evans would be humbly recusing themselves from the world while they await forgiveness – they wouldn’t be gently settling back into the lives they had before.’

I find this paragraph symptomatic of a lot of feminist dogma. Whilst simultaneously stating that we should not ‘shame’ women for being victims of rape and sexual violence, Ditum employs graphic language to shame Evans, and men in general. She says we should ‘turn in disgust’ from people who are convicted of rape, calls rape ‘an act of intimate savagery’ and says that men convicted of rape should hide from the world whilst they ‘await forgiveness’. But as we know, this is a forgiveness that never comes, from feminists at least.

Ditum’s sister in arms, Caroline Criado-Perez also employs the ‘leper effect’ this time to ‘mark’ anyone (sorry, any *man*) who believes Ched Evans is not guilty of rape:

Sarah Ditum and other feminists’ shaming of Evans, his supporters and anyone who dares challenge their point of view reminds me of Foucault. He has argued that whilst leprosy is no longer a blight on the modern world (though is Ebola the new leprosy) the figure of the ‘leper’ who must be banished from society for being ‘unclean’ is alive and well. Or sick. Foucault writes:

‘Once leprosy had gone, and the figure of the leper was no more than a distant memory, these structures still remained. The game of exclusion would be played again, often in these same places, in an oddly similar fashion two or three centuries later. The role of the leper was to be played by the poor and by the vagrant, by prisoners and by the ‘alienated’, and the sort of salvation at stake for both parties in this game of exclusion is the matter of this study’

- Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation

Sarah Ditum doesn’t just shame ‘rapists’ and men in general. She tries to ‘shame’ me on a regular basis too, by telling anyone in her earshot about personal details of my life that she *thinks* are shameful. She also attempts to shame trans women and sex workers. My view is that feminism is a politics of shame it’s just quite cleverly implemented and hidden behind a  pretence of challenging the shaming of women.

I look forward to Ms Ditum’s articulate and civil response to my criticisms of her journalism and her dogma. Oh:

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I’ve not been publishing online much lately,  I have been working on my novel, so to speak. :D But I am moved to respond to something in the Observer today.

Lauren Laverne is a fantastic radio DJ and more. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for popular music and her ability to communicate that to the masses puts her up there with some of the great musos of our time. Im not saying she’s quite a Peel but yes even I think that should she be a man she’d be more lauded than she is for her talents and expertise in the field.

But Lauren’s forays into feminist oriented journalism are not quite so laudable in my view. Her latest piece, in the Observer, calls for ‘coercive control’ in (romantic? heterosexual?) relationships to be criminalised. The title of her piece uses the term ‘emotional abuse’ and the standfirst calls it ‘psychological violence’. These slips in terminology reflect the confusion of the article and of the calls to criminalise not physical but psychological harm in relationships. If those calling for new legislation cannot specify clearly what it should cover it is not a good sign for that proposed legislation. Indeed, the term ‘coercive control’ itself is a bit of a tautology. With ‘coercion’ and ‘control’ having very similar/overlapping meanings and synonyms. I can’t help but wonder how Foucault would translate the phrase – ‘powerful power’?

Whilst Laverne acknowledges  men can suffer emotional abuse in relationships her line on  criminalising this abuse is part of a wider feminist campaign led by organisations such as Women’s Aid (http://www.womensaid.org) which focusses  on emotional abuse by men of women in romantic /sexual relationships. When in fact there is plenty of abuse in the other direction. Laverne references a statistic of 30% of women having reported (to the national crime survey) suffering domestic abuse at some point in their lives, which further puts the emphasis on women being harmed – by men. It is not clear how this statistic was reached and what the questions were in the survey. Would men be less likely to report incidences of being hurt emotionally or physically by their women partners?

It is interesting to note in relation to women’s ‘emotional abuse’ of men in romantic relationships that the recent feminist Ban Bossy campaign seems to be saying we should not ever describe women’s behaviour in negative terms. I dont support  old- fashioned stereotypes of ‘nagging wives’ but on the other hand, I do know some domineering women who ‘control’ their male partners in some ways. And I am not even arguing against this as a phenomenon per se. I would go so far as to say some men consciously or unconsciously, like some women, enjoy being dominated! But (especially heterosexual) men’s submissive  tendencies are still unacknowledged to a large degree.

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And there’s the rub. As I have said before, I think any understanding of, and commitment to tackle domestic violence and abuse should take into account many people’s masochism. This is not to defend non-consensual harm – like Lauren I have experienced it myself – but rather to try and understand what drives people in sexual/emotional relationships and how they might be more happy in their power relations. Because a sexual relationship without power probably wouldnt have much/any sex in either.

I also think that when it comes to domestic abuse, one of the problems is the privatised couple formation of traditional heterosexual relationships. If we were more open to our neighbours and friends about our relationships then ‘coercive control’ might not go undetected and unchallenged as it does. I am not saying nobody should be monogamous, but I don’t think monogamy, marriage and coupledom as an ideal help protect people from harm by that one ‘true love’ we are encouraged to find and keep behind closed doors.

One of the key arguments in Laverne’s piece is that people suffering domestic abuse stay in relationships due to fear and ‘self doubt’ imposed by their abuser. I agree to an extent. But I do not think the question ‘why don’t they just leave them?’ should be dismissed altogether. I have asked this question to friends telling me of the domestic abuse they suffer, and have got short shrift. And yet as Laverne herself found, leaving is the solution to the problem. In most cases except for a horrendous minority of extreme ones* the ‘coercion’ does not stretch to preventing someone physically from leaving their abusive partner. And rather than criminalising the emotional hold that abusive partner has on someone, as Laverne is suggesting we should, maybe we could focus on trying to increase people’s confidence, support networks and opportunities to leave and start a new life.

*and I know of at least a few very extreme cases where people have taken great risks/made great sacrifices to leave an abusive/violent partner and of course, have not regretted it.

This week I’ve seen two videos that ‘turn the tables’ on gender roles, and specifically in the realm of ‘street harassment’ of women by men, the brutes. One (above) is an advert for Snickers, the other an Everyday Sexism project featured in The Guardian

The snickers ad has generated some commentary, including two posts with differing viewpoints in Sociological Images and a not very complimentary piece in Time Magazine.

I was going to write something myself but realised I don’t have much to say about either, really. I actually found them hard to watch, cringeworthy and annoying, especially the Everyday Sexism one. I think what’s most irritating about both is their heavy-handed use of ‘irony’ or what passes for it in our oh so knowing, clever-assed post-ironic world. Perhaps the Everyday Sexism/graun effort seems particularly crass because suddenly, feminists are using ‘humour’ to cover a topic they have previously had zero sense of humour about. My pal Ben who first showed me the Everyday Sexism vid had his comments about it deleted at Graun/Cif HQ, along with those by some other commenters. Maybe that ‘humour’ doesn’t run very deep then?

What do you think of these videos? Do they ‘turn the tables’ on gender norms or do they spectacularly miss the point?

 

If you follow feminist discourse online, in the western liberal hemosphere, you won’t have failed to notice there’s been some trouble at t’ mill  lately.

A recent piece in US publication The Nation commented on Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars, suggesting that infighting and conflict in feminism is a contemporary phenomenon, linked in some way to social media.

There followed articles by UK feminists Helen LewisJulie BurchillJane Clare Jones and others, all variations on a theme, identifying feminism’s problems as being caused by or worsened by ‘identity politics’, ‘call out culture’, certain forms of  ‘intersectionality’ etc.

Burchill was her usual screechy, belligerent self, only matched in tone by @redlightvoices whose  diatribe entitled ‘I hate you all, media vultures‘ has caused Laurie Penny to drink gin and feel sad or something.
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As you can see I’m not quoting from these articles or commenting specifically on the content of the fall out.  Because theatrical conflict amongst feminists has been going on for decades. There have always been different schools of feminism, including Liberal, Marxist and Radical varieties. Feminists have always disagreed on issues such as sex work, domestic labour, heterosexuality (some feminists are against it, you know) etc. Social media provides a bigger, more visible stage for the performance of diversity within feminism. But, how diverse is it, really?

As I’ve written before, e.g. in my post Against Feminisms, feminists have much more in common than they do separating them. Speak to even the most intersectional of intersectional feminists for five minutes, and you’ll realise that they are united with their radfem and ‘white media’ sisters by misandry, a dogmatic belief that non-feminists are ‘misogynists’, a refusal to engage in research and writings that challenge their views, the ‘identity politcs’ of women v men, etc etc. Sometimes I wonder if the infighting and ‘divisions’ in feminism might be elaborate ‘ploys’ to present the movement as complex and diverse, when really its very simple, and united in its politics.

Even the great feminist philosopher Judith Butler, whose work has probably been one of the influences on my flight from feminism  –  what is gender anyway? why do we rely on binaries of ‘male’ v ‘female’, ‘man’ v ‘woman’? how is identity performed and contested? – falls back on the identity politics of womanhood. In a talk I attended last year, Butler grappled with some of the questions I’ve listed above, only to return to rhetoric about women across the globe lacking educational opportunities, political representation and economic power  ( to rapturous applause from her student fangirls).  So men are the problem after all? It’s the patriarchy, stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, watching a bunch of feminist women tear each other’s hair out on the internet is entertaining. But that’s all it is.  The real ‘debate’ to be had in gender politics in my view,  is over the value and purpose of feminism, any feminism, in the 21st century world.  And the fact that some of us are having that debate, and coming to uncomfortable conclusions, is probably what is upsetting those nice ladies from feminism.inc the most.

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Happy New Year!  I hope to introduce you to more writers, thinkers and do-ers  in 2014. Maybe I’m a bit tired of the cut of my own jib, or maybe I’ve suddenly gone shy(!). Either way, I think engaging with a variety of perspectives is always a good thing.

An independent-minded UK-based blogger/tweeter I like is Jacobinism. He has begun the year with a thought-provoking post entitled Racism; Censorship; Disunity. He puts forward the view that the ‘Left’, and ‘intersectional’ activists and writers within the Left, can be blind to oppression and violence unless it comes from white people. To illustrate his point he uses a case study from within the feminist blogosphere, where a young feminist woman was attacked and then censored by ‘intersectional’ feminism, for her views.  Jacobinism writes:

‘There is a damaging idea fast gathering influence on the Left that – like a lot of contemporary postmodern Leftist thought – urgently needs dismantling. This idea holds that racism is only possible when prejudice is married with power.

The corollary of this premise is that racism may only travel in one direction – from the powerful to the powerless – and it is therefore nonsensical to discuss, still less condemn, racist attitudes expressed by ethnic minorities. In the West, racism is the preserve of the white majority who use it – often, it is claimed, unconsciously – to sustain their advantage and to oppress those they deem to be ‘other’. In the geopolitical sphere, meanwhile, this racism is the preserve of the world’s wealthy democracies and is expressed as Orientalism, Military and Cultural Imperialism, and Neoliberalism, all of which are used to dominate and subjugate the Global South.’

Jacobin’s discussion of the feminist ‘storm’ that illustrates his points is probably best read in full. To give a flavour of the ‘case study’ here’s some extracts from his post:

‘On 20 December, the feminist writer and activist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky published an article in the Huffington Post entitled Stop Bashing White Women in the Name of Beyonce: We Need Unity Not Division. Wilde-Blavatsky’s post was a rebuke to those – on what she described as the post-colonial or intersectional feminist Left – who use identity politics and arguments from privilege to delegitimise the voices of white feminists speaking out about the abuse of women in the Global South and within minority communities in the West…

The response to this argument from the bien pensant Left ranged from the incredulous to the vitriolic.

In the comment thread below her article and in a storm which overwhelmed her twitter handle and her hashtag, Wilde-Blavatsky (who tweets as @lionfaceddakini) was derided with accusations of arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, racism and cultural supremacism. She was advised that she had not listened sufficiently closely to authentic voices of women of colour.  Others declared her to be beneath contempt and an object example of white feminism’s irrelevance. She was accused of using a fraudulent call for unity as a way of advancing an argument from white victimhood. It was demanded that she immediately re-educate herself by reading various academic texts on the subject. Her “white woman’s tears” were repeatedly mocked, as were her protestations that her own family is mixed-race. And, of course, there were the predictable demands for retraction, penitence and prostration…

To accept that one’s unalterable characteristics can play any part in the validity of an opinion is to submit to the tyranny of identity politics and endorse an affront to reason. Arguments about rights and ethics must be advanced and defended on their merits, irrespective of who is making them. There is no other way.’

I applaud Jacobin for taking on this thorny subject, and for referring to feminism in doing so. Not only do feminists find it difficult to have aspects of their dogma questioned, they find it particularly hard to stomach coming from a man. But I have a couple of points to make that disagree with his argument.

1) All feminism suggests men are ‘innately’ powerful and women not.  I agree with Jacobin  that actions should not be protected from criticism simply due to the identity of those taking them. But I am wary of Wilde-Blavatsky’s  allusions to patriarchal culture and behaviour in her criticisms of violence against women in ‘the Global South’. Isn’t the term ‘patriarchy’ a way of playing ‘identity politics’ too? Don’t men get dismissed by feminism in general for having views on gender because of their ‘unalterable characteristics’?

2) All feminism reinforces the gender binary There have always been tensions within feminism and different schools of thought within the ‘movement’. However as I have said in my ‘controversial’ piece Against Feminisms, all feminists rely on the binary of man v woman with ‘man’ being found powerful, oppressive and so not worth listening to. And so

‘ feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Julia Serano and Beverly Skeggs, even when they are referring to other divisions such as ethnicity, class and transgender identities, are still relying on the reification of the man v woman binary to support all their arguments about gender.’

3) Feminism is more ‘united’ than it seems I will write more on this another time, but my view is a lot of the ‘conflicts’ in feminism are not exactly fabricated, but they’re superficial.  Feminism does have common characteristics.  I find this ‘flowchart’ that was doing the rounds online recently, laughable. But it does indicate a basic worldview that I would suggest all feminists share to a large degree. It also illustrates clearly how not being a feminist is unacceptable and derided by feminists of all stripes (click image to enlarge):

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I don’t want a young woman writer to be censored for having the ‘wrong’ outlook. But I think young men are ‘censored’ from expressing their views on gender before they even begin. Gender studies and media output on gender are dominated by versions of Wilde-Blavatsky. I don’t privilege (‘white people’s’) racism over gender but I don’t think gender inequalities function how any feminist presents them. If that makes me persona non grata at some dinner parties who cares? I can have my own party (and the booze is always great)!

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Ally Fogg is not a feminist, allegedly. But maybe he is worse than that. His apparent attempts to be ‘reasonable’ and ‘balanced’ and separate from the battling factions in the gender wars are increasingly unconvincing. I can see the benefits, to Ally, and to feminism, of his fence-sitting stance. He avoids the personal cost of being a ‘male feminist’ and never pleasing the sisterhood enough (see Hugo Schwyzer). And the feminists get an – um- ‘ally’ who speaks feminism, acts feminism, supports feminism, but lets the girls rule the roost. The Guardian** (as an outpost of feminism) also benefits, as they have a man writing about gender to wave around as an example of their ‘diversity’. But a man who says exactly what any feminist woman journalist would say.

Fogg’s latest offering to the feminist goddesses is particularly awful. He starts by anticipating and undermining any criticism, and implies it will come from unthinking, crass individuals. I guess he’ll file my response as a ‘hit blog’. He writes:

‘ This is an article about angry white men and their galloping sense of aggrieved entitlement. It is at least partly inspired by feminist theory and analysis of structural racial supremacy. Before I’ve finished my third sentence, I’ve probably already contributed to a minor epidemic of hypertension among a certain section of Comment is free readers. I can anticipate the comments, the hit-blogs and the hate-mail already: by even mentioning white men, I am the real racist. I am the real sexist. Why doesn’t the Guardian take a pop at the angry brown men over here or the angry black women over there instead?’

Ostensibly, Ally is reviewing a book by someone who does own his identity as a ‘male feminist’ – Michael Kimmel. I am not a fan but what I think is troubling is how Fogg hides behind Kimmel’s brand of misandry. Fogg doesn’t say he supports everything Kimmel says but quotes him uncritically. So Kimmel’s comment that

‘the penis should carry a sticker saying: “Warning: operating this instrument can be dangerous to yours and others’ health.”‘

is given ‘airtime’, not challenged, and is a juicy bone thrown to Graun feminist editors and readers.

The article gets a little confusing as it progresses. Fogg mentions Kimmel’s criticism of ‘angry white men’ and puts the examples of ‘the men’s rights activists of cyberspace’ and ‘the high school spree shooters of parental nightmares’ next to each other in the same sentence. He then says ‘the thesis can only really be made to work by means of tortuous logic’ , but adds ‘nonetheless there is more than a jingling ring of truth to his argument’ and goes on to agree with Kimmel enthusiastically. Fogg supports Kimmel’s notion that white men are responding badly to social change and growing gender equality, due to their sense of ‘entitlement’ and an inability to move with the times.

This is a clever ploy in a way. If men’s rights activists, for example respond angrily to Fogg’s article, he can say ‘I told you so’ and cite their sense of ‘entitlement’ again. Fogg’s article also ignores the ‘angry white women’ of feminism, who  don’t like it up ‘em. He fails to mention how feminism has always celebrated ‘female’ anger. Sometimes that anger gets violent:

I don’t think I am angry with Fogg. I have got to the point of being jaded and a bit depressed by his collusion with a politics that belittles and demonises men, their problems and their opinions. Ally is a ‘white man’ too. I don’t like the implication that he is somehow ‘better’ than the men he derides, more ‘enlightened’, ‘nicer’.

It’s business at usual at the Graun. But it’s a rather nasty business. And any challenges to this type of misandry are in my view, more than needed.

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* ‘going native’ observation by my twitter pal Ben

** I’m putting this at QRG Blog rather than Graunwatch which is on a brief hiatus.

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The Liberal, Feminist, Chattering ‘Twitterati’ love to have a bete noire. It’s quite easy to see why people such as Michael Gove, Liz Jones, Ricky Gervais or Melanie Phillips have become monsters ‘right thinking’ people love to hate. Those individuals can be justifiably called ‘reactionary’ or ‘offensive’ or racist sexist whatever ist is important to the liberals at the time. But sometimes the mob goes for somebody a bit closer to home, and that can be quite an interesting spectacle.

Brendan O’Neill is a favoured target of ‘lefty’ bile. The Telegraph blogger, and Spiked editor is regularly wheeled out for the ‘good guys’ to make an example of and to throw metaphorical rotten fruit at. A few choice phrases have been used to describe Mr O’Neill on twitter: ‘cunt’, ‘idiot’ and ‘nutjob’ all feature quite heavily in the twitter ‘criticism’ of Brendan and his work (click on images to enlarge):

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What has the writer and commentator done to deserve such opprobium? Well, something that I’ve learned from bitter experience is unforgiveable, and even more so coming from a man. Brendan’s crime is simple: he consistently and coherently challenges feminist dogma.

Back in 2011, Brendan’s Telegraph piece questioning campaigns against ‘Online Misogyny‘  gained the wrath of feminists across the internet. He wrote:

‘Leaving aside the question of who exactly is supposed to do all this “stamping out” of heated speech – The state? Well, who else could do it? – the most striking thing about these fragile feminists’ campaign is the way it elides very different forms of speech. So the Guardian report lumps together “threats of rape”, which are of course serious, with “crude insults” and “unstinting ridicule”, which are not that serious.’

In the light of recent events and recent arrests for tweets his words are as relevant now as ever. At the time I agreed with his observations, adding that I thought feminists’ ‘fragile’ response to nastiness online is accompanied by hypocrisy whereby they dole it out as much as anyone. That too has been borne out in the last couple of weeks. And O’Neill’s most recent piece about the current moral panic over ‘twitter trolls’ is as good as anything I’ve read on the topic.

Not unlike me, O’Neill has been met with as much if not more fire and brimstone than any ‘right winger’. Because, having been involved in ‘left wing’ Politics ( leaving aside what any of us from that background may think of the RCP) Brendan and I know of what we speak. His comments on feminism don’t come from a ‘women should get back in the kitchen’ ignorant and out of date point of view, but from an educated informed position of mixing with feminists over a period of years.

When he went head to head against one of the feminist women at the heart of the recent furore over ‘online abuse’ on R4s The World Tonight, Brendan destroyed the opposition and won the argument. Before going on the show his debating  partner and screecher extraordinaire, Caroline Perez was gung ho, branding O’Neill an ‘idiot':
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After the show had aired, and she’d lost the battle, she admitted her performance was ‘pretty rubbish’.
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But feminism is a powerful dogma not due to the logic of its premises or the articulacy of its followers. Victim Feminism, that O’Neill has successfully pulled apart is fuelled by identity politics and presenting women as ‘weak’ and ‘oppressed’ by men. Therefore, criticising feminist women is perceived as ‘oppression’ or ‘misogyny’. Caroline Perez has used the same terminology, and a number of times on twitter blocked or even threatened to have her (‘misogynist’ men) detractors arrested! Whilst I agree with those who’ve pointed out men can be on the receiving end of nastiness online, the men are victims too line employs ‘victim feminism’ s faulty positions, just applied to men.

I don’t agree with everything O’Neill writes. I do identify with him and admire him for his refusal to play any kind of ‘victim card’, and for his willingness to take on one of the most sacred of sacred cows in the milieux in which he moves – feminism. By having and winning arguments with feminist women he’s not likely to lose his bete noire status. But he’s impressed this ‘troll’. Kudos.