Laura Bates Boards the UN Women Gravy Train #EverydaySexism

Posted: March 16, 2014 in class, Elly Tams, Feminism, misandry
Tags: , , , ,

The above video – by celebrity-endorsed campaign Chime For Change– features Laura Bates, founder and proprietor of the @EverydaySexism project, talking about her work. Earlier this month, Laura made a speech to the United Nations Commission On the Status Of Women in New York. A transcript of the speech was published in the New Statesman but with no narrative attached about the context of her visit.

Well what is the context? Why did a frightfully nice, posh, white English woman, with an MA from Cambridge university, travel all the way to New York (paid for by whom?) to talk to a global organisation charged with tackling poverty, war and disease? All because women on twitter tell her about their experiences of ‘street harassment’ that blights their (otherwise comfortable, western, plentiful) lives?

Feminists often present their movement as being neglected, dismissed by the ‘patriarchy’, treated with the same  ‘misogyny’ and sexism they claim to suffer as individual women. But the UN is positively enthusiastic about feminist dogma, even if it doesn’t always name it as such. The UN commission on women is very well funded and staffed. It produces annual reports called The Worlds Women dedicated to examining and supporting women around the globe. Before I say it, you know I’m going to say it (what about the….men?) this excellent article by Philip Cohen at The Atlantic echoes some of my worries about the rigour of UN research and statistics, that are wheeled out to justify all the money and attention it gives to women. Questioning the famous feminist claim, which references UN research,  that women do the majority of the work in the world, but own only 1% of its property, Philip writes:

‘These things are hard to measure, hard to know, and hard to explain. Setting aside the problem that the data didn’t (and still don’t, completely) exist to fill in the numbers in this famous sequence of facts—the first and perhaps greatest problem is that we can’t easily define the concepts, which is part of the feminist problem. Even in 1970, how could women own only 1 percent of property, when most women were married and in many countries had at least some legal claim to their families’ property?’

He goes on to say:

‘consider one of the facts. With a combination of arithmetic and basic knowledge of a few demographic orders of magnitude, it’s straightforward to conclude that, whether or not women only received 10 percent of the world’s income in the 1970s, they receive more than that now.

Here: In the U.S. in 2009, the 106 million women who had incomes averaged $29,700 each. I think that’s $3.2 trillion. The whole world’s gross domestic product—a rough measure of total income—is $58.1 trillion. So, it looks to me like U.S. women alone earn 5.4 percent of world income today. Ballpark, but you see the point.

One of the potential negative consequences of this is also one of its attractions: The claim that, for all women do, they own virtually nothing, is a call to global unity for women. But it is undermined by the fact that a large number of women are—let’s face it—rich. So if global feminist unity is to be had, it won’t be built on a shared poverty experience.’

Exactly. One of the main reasons I find Laura Bates and her Everyday Sexism campaign offensive, is that it seems to be an attempt to put wealthy western women’s ‘suffering’ at the hands of ‘patriarchy’ on a par with that of women living in poverty and terrible conditions including in war-torn countries across the globe. And she seems to be convincing the UN of that parity of ‘victimhood’ too. The problem with poverty, war and disease, for both Laura and the UN Commission on Women, is that they affect women and men. In very large numbers. And they put into question the ethical and statistical justifications for all the resources that go into women.

Even apart from poverty, the focus by British and American feminists in the (social) media sphere on street harassment, online ‘abuse’ etc, ignores real suffering of women elsewhere. I watched the Channel 4 news item recently about the Saudi princesses who are kept in captivity and severe discomfort by their father, the Saudi King. Even I see that as a situation that could be described as ‘patriarchal’ and ‘oppressive’ to a group of young women. But the twittersphere, the guardian-type feminists and the UN remained eerily silent about the story. I think they were too busy staring at their navels, and applauding the brave actions of the lovely Laura, as she flew back from the states following her whine about catcalls and wolf whistles. 

Comments
  1. Will the silencing of feminist women never stop?

  2. Here’s my twopence, I agree with your sentiments and occasionally I have expressed similar opinions but with a girl who’s just turned thirteen and whom my wife and I are raising to be a strong-minded individual regardless of her gender, I see women Laura as immediate role models. I would like my daughter to also look at my mother (in Cuba) and the rest of the women in my family as role models, but they are far away and Laura is here. Now. Also, I don’t know whether the fact that my mum, auntie, late nan, female cousin (sister really, we grew up together), niece, etc, have sucked up to a man who stayed in power for 49 years and condescended to women so much, is in the end more detrimental than retweeting one of Laura’s comments.

    Much to ponder. Good post. I like your writing a lot. Thanks.

    • hi – interesting points. I think your points relate to mine, about feminists like Laura not taking into account cultural difference/global issues. Does she care or know anything about societies like Cuba? Her feminism seems very white western. There are positives to being a white western woman with the potential for autonomy and self-expression that brings. But I think we should try and understand other perspectives too.

  3. Henry says:

    I saw a video of the well-named Bates* talking about EverydaySexism. Apart from noting that she is precisely the kind of unpleasant feminist I dislike, I noticed that, though she occasionally mentioned that men might be recipients, she kept ever-so-implicitly talking about “these women”, or “*the* women involved”.

    The problem with the Everyday sexism project is this: they assume that all the stories on the site MUST be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There could be no exaggeration or omission of pertinent facts, no other side of the story that might explain the events outlined.

    One wonders how many of the contributors initially behaved in quite an annoying way towards a man – say perhaps they adopted a slightly superior attitude (a laughable scenario, I know) – and the unimpressed male searched his brain cells for what would really get under the skin of this aloof young lady who was patronising them.

    Little were they to know that their words will appear as yet another example of “attitudes” on the scrupulously impartial Everyday Sexism project.

    * Mistress Bates?

    • hi Henry good points.
      yes I was thinking too about the context of some of those tweets that Everyday sexism RT unquestioningly. It’s easy to present your side as right/the victim when the other person isnt there to tell their version!

    • redpesto says:

      Henry:

      The problem with the Everyday sexism project is this: they assume that all the stories on the site MUST be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There could be no exaggeration or omission of pertinent facts, no other side of the story that might explain the events outlined.

      Don’t go there. Just don’t. Not unless you can prove it, because otherwise it gets taken to be some kind of ‘misogyny klaxon’ and means you will most likely be accused of being a ‘rape apologist’ or worse. The over-reliance on ‘testimony’ means that such stories cannot be challenged with evidence, logic or factual counter-arguments.

      The issue isn’t whether the stories are true or not: it’s what stories get told, used or highlighted, along with who’s telling them and why. One reason why the ‘Everyday’ format has been used by other identity groups such as transgender people and sex workers is partly because of the repeated transphobia and whorephobia (as well as sexism) of some self-declared feminists (e.g. Bindel, Moore, Burchill) towards women whose stories and experiences don’t ‘fit’.

      PS: In the light of the above, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘EverydayMisandry’ exists.

      • innegative says:

        “In the light of the above, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘EverydayMisandry’ exists”

        The day it does, I’m shooting myself…

        That said, they’d be within their rights to say they were misandrists insofar as they hate the current configuration of men. If their assumption is that today’s man is a product of cultural patriarchy and that there is a better configuration of men (Jack Whitehall?) elsewhere, then being held as misandrists shouldn’t bother them too much.

        (I need to stop ripping on Jack Whitehall)

  4. elissa says:

    No kidding. Took a brief look at the EveryDay Sexism complaints submission blog and dear Lordy Lord – what a collection of banal grievances.

    Let’s completely disregard human psychology and perception for the new science of “believe the victim because it’s posted on a Tumblr”.

    And now we have the COO of Facebook with the new campaign to “Ban Bossy”.

    They have become a parody of a parody. Very few political movements achieve 2nd order parody status. Well done Western feminism!

    • hi elissa. yes I am sometimes amazed at how much of a parody of itself western feminism has become. I almost expect Amanda Marcotte to crack a smile and say ‘only joking!!’ but alas no

  5. innegative says:

    In the West, there’s been a near collapse of macro-power regarding males and females – i.e., males and females are no longer structurally funnelled into independent categories with their own exclusive roles, duties and symbolic meanings (unlike say, in Saudi).

    Men and women, in the West, are pretty much seen as identical insofar as they are ‘free’ to choose from an infinite number of fragmentary ‘identities’. Or that’s the phantasy of the West anyways – everyone must be strong, ‘self-confident’, self-determining, liberated, forever in some sort of perpetual escape from their own perceived oppression. Nonsense of course, but it sells identity.

    As such, micro-power has replaced macro-power as the central problem, where micro-power is essentially a power of expression, agency, desire etc. Foucault’s knowledge-power is an example of micro-power. Desire, power and agency are all intermingled in the West into pretty much the same thing. Active desire, for the western middle-class, is an act of power and in desire activated, someone is always at risk of being oppressed.

    That’s your explanation of EverydaySexism. Touching someone up on a bus or cumming down the back of her neck without permission is not perceived as an impolite act of lust. It’s perceived as an extension of ‘patriarchy’. The vid above even gives the impression they are trying to attach ‘trauma’ to it – “I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards… I can’t stop telling people about it on the internet…” The horror.

    The endgame is probably a complete impotence. That, and the shifting of sex away from bodies and into information spheres like chatrooms. Another consequence is that some well-heeled, sex in the city wannabes make important names for themselves in a land of artificial identities and denatured screen-lives.

    • QRG says:

      I think it is related of course to the internet. But not sure sex is shifted away from bodies entirely. Maybe some of the women are telling their stories to remind us they have a (desirable) body? One of the ironies of the whining about street harassment is that one of its subtexts is to say ‘but look I am attractive! I get attention from men on the street!’

  6. fusako says:

    what I don’t like most is the whining and passivity: the described situations are often banal and not dangerous at all. In the old days I can hardly remember anymore feminism encouraged women to deal with that kind of things themselves directly, not on twitter

    • QRG says:

      hi I agree. I think the phrase ‘victim blaming’ is relevant here. If women take matters into their own hands, or encourage other women to do so, that can be framed as ‘victim blaming’. It is seen to be making out the woman could have or should have done something to stop the ‘incident’ from happening. But why can’t we learn strategies for dealing with situations?

      • innegative says:

        They would probably argue that having to form strategies to deal with such situations is a sign of power imbalance. The fact they have to ‘deal with’ the active male who, unsolicited, has felt so self-assured as to (sometimes obnoxiously) impinge on their sense of security. Suggesting they should develop coping strategies leaves this active, often aggressive, world of the male intact and I suspect that’s the problem for them. They want to destroy this aspect of maleness whereas dealing with it accepts it and shows some willingness to play with or interact with it.

        I think they want a kind of world full of Jack Whitealls. Masculinity for the age of the e-cigarette.

  7. This is actually pretty disturbing. Not the things in the video, but this view that somehow all men feel they have the right to molest women. I could find 10k people to talk about how people have had their face smashed in for no reason – myself included. It doesn’t mean that there is a societal tendency to beat people up or people think it’s acceptable.

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