Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Daughters in porn

This is a year past topical, as will many things be that I finally get around to blogging about, but it’s still relevant.

There are major problems and concerns with the porn industry, which better feminists than I continue to articulate all over the interwebs. People who work in that field but may not feel thrilled about it may need our support; it’s a riper area than many for exploitation, and the cultural context and gendered expectations should be borne in mind when considering the nature of anyone’s voluntary decision to be involved in sex work of any kind.

But fuck, if somebody likes their job, try being happy for them even if you find sex icky, and if somebody doesn’t like their job, maybe have some sympathy for them as an individual without generalising broadly about everyone working in the entire industry?

Be proud of your daughter even if she does porn. Be proud of your daughter because she does porn. Just love your kids and stop judging sex workers, dude.

(Incidentally, although it’s broadly not a bad article, a major oversight means that the headline is completely untrue. Many sex workers are not somebody’s daughter. Five bonus lateral thinking points if you can figure out how this is so. Wait, scratch that; negative ten basic reasoning points if you can’t.)

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So let’s recap our first lesson in “not totally sucking as a person”, which it seems like some folk missed.

Making friendly contact with strangers, and engaging pleasantly with people you don’t know, is an important skill to develop. You might use it to make new friends, or maybe it’ll simply help you get along smoothly with some of the many people you’ll briefly encounter in the world, even if no lasting relationships are formed. It’s good that so many of you want to work on this and get some real-world practice.

But let’s look at an example of how this can go wrong.

Let’s say that you offer an unsolicited compliment to a woman you don’t know. You’re putting a random act of kindness out into the world, with a hope of brightening a stranger’s day with some positive words to boost her esteem. But, even though you’re just being nice, this woman doesn’t seem grateful. She ignores you, turns coldly away, shuns your offering, refuses to even acknowledge how nice you were being to her.

Now, if your response to this involves lecturing, berating, chastising, shaming, criticising, blaming, or bringing any negativity to bear on this woman at all for being unappreciative and unfriendly, then… Well, what can we say about your behaviour in that case? Any guesses, class?

It’s not very nice of you? Well, that’s partly right, but you can go further. In fact, if you act like this, you were never being nice to her in the first place.

You might think you were being nice. In all likelihood that’s the story you’ve told yourself about what happened and your motivations. But you’re lying to yourself.

If you did something nice for a stranger, but then stopped being nice and indignantly complained about how unjustly you were being treated the second you didn’t get what you wanted out of the interaction, then you weren’t actually doing something nice. You were being an asshole from the start.

Because what you’ve done there, you see, is decided that your feelings are the only thing that really matters, and that you’re owed something by this woman whose path has only crossed with yours at all because you’ve actively and uninvitedly injected yourself into her life. You’ve demanded that your benevolent intent be recognised as the only admissible truth, and that a complete stranger reward you with precisely the kind of interaction you deem appropriate, at a time of your choosing. What this stranger might want from life, and how she might be feeling, hasn’t come into your calculations at all – which is mutually exclusive with actually being nice to someone.

“But where’s the harm in just offering a sincere compliment intended to brighten someone’s day?” I can hear one or two of the slower learners among you still asking. “Maybe some cat-callers shout abuse and other things women might not want to hear, but I don’t deserve to get lumped in with them when I’m saying something flattering and non-threatening and just trying to be nice.”

Well first of all, this person didn’t ask for your opinion, they didn’t invite you to get involved, they don’t owe you shit, you don’t deserve shit, so get the fuck over yourself.

But you know what, you raise a good point there. Some people do shout abusive, threatening, hateful things at strangers – most commonly women – and some even escalate this abuse to physical assaults and violence. And while it’s a good sign that you can at least recognise these as being bad things to do, you’re not actually as completely different from those violent assholes as you might like to think.

One thing that many of those abusive, threatening, rapey assholes have in common is that, before they turned so abusive that it’s obvious even to you how unacceptable their behaviour is, they started off by offering some unsolicited but positive assessments of some aspect of this woman’s appearance or character, which were intended to be interpreted as a compliment.

And guess what? This is something that you and those abusive assholes have in common too!

Yes, yes; I’m sure you know that you’re not going to take things any further, that you’d never try and grope a woman or call her a slut for shunning your advances, no matter how rude she is when you were just trying to be nice. But she doesn’t know that.

That thing you’re doing, where you offer her a “compliment” to be “nice”? You look exactly like a lot of guys who turned out to be abusive violent assholes when you do that. You may not be an abusive violent asshole yourself, but that doesn’t get you a whole lot of credit in this situation. Especially when, as discussed earlier, you’re not really being nice.

Offering unsolicited opinions on a woman’s appearance or character, then complaining about her conduct and the unfairness with which you’ve been treated, is what those abusive assholes do. If you don’t want to be unfairly compared to that sort of person, don’t act exactly like them.

And here’s some proactive advice on how you can achieve that: try directing more criticism toward men who shout abuse, or send rape and death threats online, than you do toward women who’ve received more threats and abuse than you could know (because – quick reminder – you don’t actually know a fucking thing about them) and who sometimes aren’t too keen to make friendly conversation with a stranger as a result.

I’m sure you all think you obviously do that anyway – but is it really reflected in the way you talk about it? You might find, in practice, that the behaviour you spend the most time policing is that of women who don’t give men what they feel entitled to, while the abusive assholes tend to get a brief “yes obviously BUT” before returning to the main story of what women are doing wrong.

If that’s the case, then you don’t need to look any further. Your journey is at an end. The shithead was you all along.

And there’s the bell. Class dismissed. Do try not to make complete tits of yourselves, or I’ll drag you back in here for a remedial session.

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Wait, immediately? Shit, dinner’s in like six minutes. Pick up the pace, everyone! We need answers, NOW!

1. Are Male feminists just trying to get laid? — Probably.
No! We are a complex and varied demographic with diverse motivations and goals! Shit, is that too long? Is a yes/no answer going to suffice for each of these, given the urgency and time constraints? There’s already an answer by the question, has someone else covered this one? Or should I just write mine in beneath it? Dammit, stop overthinking, we’re against the clock here.

2. Do male feminists actually read anything about #Feminism or do they just let themselves be whipped into submission? #WomenAgainstFeminism
I can’t speak for everyone but I read a few feminist blogs and also a lot of the speculative fiction I read is written from an implicitly feminist stance, also I’m not really into whipping or submission myself but I reject the dichotomy of the question, the kinky stuff is totally cool if that’s what you’re into, I don’t know if it’s more common in male feminists than anyone else though, oh god I’m rambling QUICKFIRE MOVING ON

3. “do male feminists want to be taken seriously by (…) other men as players of some intellectual game?” http://t.co/UnPWO2GJrx @ecumystic
probably some of them if they’re appearing on Only Connect or something, the rest of us are just trying not to be assholes and stuff

4. Male feminists. Why? Get a pair man.
okay look you said you needed answers IMMEDIATELY so I’m trying to be brief and hurry through this so when you throw out questions this broad and vague it really doesn’t help either of us

5. Dear male feminists, I have a legitimate question: Why do you support feminism? Further, why enable the feminists that proclaim to hate men?
so that’s two questions masquerading as one but I’m pretty sure I don’t do the second thing anyway so I guess that doesn’t count, also the answer to the first one is basically what most of the feminist literature ever written has been devoted to answering so I can’t help feeling that to demand an immediate answer from me in this context displays something of a lack of sincere intellectual curiosity on your part

6. While we’re at it, do male feminists get to pay half rent? (No mischief intended, I am just curious).
no that was never an option available to me in any of my lease agreements back when I was living in rented flats in London, they might do it differently elsewhere, I’ve heard of rent control but never really understood what it is so maybe it’s to do with that?

7. How much pussy do male feminists get (none)
well there’s quite a few of us so collectively it’s definitely more than you

8. Why do male feminists seem to have more privilege than female feminists? #DownTheRabbitHole
um because with all the obvious allowances and provisos regarding intersectionality and suchlike male is generally the privileged position, that’s kinda the whole point of all of this

9. Do feminists pay for their date’s meal? Do male feminists make the girl pay? #idontgetit #justwondering
it’s really more about deconstructing gender-based roles and expectations and encouraging compassionate human interaction based on individuality and personal respect rather than just reversing prejudice so that it’s equally shitty in the opposite direction

10. @PennyRed @sarahljaffe @thesamhita Do male feminists get free drinks too?
I don’t really go out to bars or nightclubs much so this may be a promotional thing that happens somewhere but I wouldn’t know, sorry, pretty sure it doesn’t work in supermarkets though
also wtf this tweet’s from 2012, this can’t possibly still need an immediate response right this minute like I was led to believe, it’s almost like someone decided one day on a theme around which to base a clickbait Buzzfeed article and just grabbed whatever near-matches a quick Google search turned up without caring much about context or relevance

11. Jesus Christ, why are male feminists so un-feminist?
you’re either contradicting your own question or equivocating on the word “feminist” so you might want to rephrase for clarity, especially if you want Jesus to answer you, that guy’s pretty busy and has no time for unnecessary ambiguity in conversation

12. What are the male versions of feminists called? I can see them roaming the TL
pretty sure we’re just feminists, you make us sound like we can only be spotted while out on safari or something which speaking personally makes me sound way cooler than I deserve

13. how can any of you sleep with the knowledge there are “male feminists” tho
um I just have a comfy bed and a fairly well regulated body clock so I manage to get to sleep pretty easily I guess, that feels like a non-sequitur, like how is it possible for you to eat a sandwich while Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, see, I’ve no idea why I picked that, it has no relation to anything, so yeah

Okay, emergency over. I think I’ve got you covered, frantic male-feminist-based-question-askers. I think we can all be slightly ashamed and embarrassed about what we’ve accomplished here today. And that’s the important thing.

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I was asked recently if I’d be interested in submitting some of my thoughts on feminism, from the perspective of A Bloke, to a feminist blog collective thing being sub-edited by a pseudonymous friend. So I did.

It begins thusly:

Greetings, internet feminists!

Hi, I’m a man. You might remember me from such heteronormative activities as “dating” and “sex”.

Read the whole thing over at Everything But The Kitchen Sink.

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I don’t really have the combined time, energy, and enthusiasm for the subject to analyse Jen McCreight’s latest post in much depth. It’d take hours I don’t have or could be spending on better things to fully lay out the interesting points she raises, the problems she highlights, the ways in which I take issue with how she sometimes addresses them, and so on.

If I were also to go into everything Rebecca Watson’s ever done which I’ve strongly agreed with, strongly disagreed with, or which has provoked a reaction from other people about which I have strong feelings, I’d be here all day. Ditto Ophelia Benson. They write a lot, and people write about them a lot, and it gets complicated and intricate. (Greta Christina’s still pretty much unqualifiedly awesome.)

So, since I don’t have the time, the energy, or the enthusiasm to hammer out all the fine details, I’m going to have to continue covering things with inadequately broad strokes, and acknowledging the shortcomings of my own approach.

Broad strokes time: There has been a lot of vicious, creepy, unpleasant, unnecessary verbiage on this part of the internet lately. The above named female skeptics have been the objects of direct and deliberate abuse – language intended to demean them, mock them, and cause them emotional pain – significantly more often than they have been the initiators of any such negativity towards others. It’s by no means been a one-sided issue, but it’s clear to me where the balance lies so far.

I can’t think of anyone else who’s spent as much time trying solely to make another specific person feel bad about themselves via insults and belittling, as that elevatorgate blog has with Rebecca Watson. She gets called a cunt a lot. Replacing her own name with a slur makes it easier for some people to dehumanise her, so that they don’t have to worry so much about how else they treat her. And I don’t even know what the hell this is. The most egregious stuff in this debacle has been the invective hurled at a number of women. So that’s where most of my anger and attention is.

There are, without question, numerous blogposts which could be written about occasions when Rebecca Watson has been overly harsh with someone, or snapped aggressively, or been curtly dismissive of a point which might have been valid. But to place all your emphasis on that, without comparing it against the hundreds of specific, personalised rape and death threats other people have sent her, would be like starting a site about male victims of rape without ever acknowledging that women can be sexually assaulted too. There are unquestionably real and important issues to be raised, but your emphasis can make you seem oblivious to the context into which you’re wading.

And if I had the time, energy, and enthusiasm, I might try raising those issues, and providing the context to them in such a way that I could bring these things up without being an ass. But I don’t. And, given how much downright hateful shit some of the above named have faced lately, they deserve some of that context before I go ladling on any more public criticism.

Thus, while Rebecca Watson et al. are certainly not blameless paragons of virtue, they have my general, conditional support, on the broad-strokes issues. If I had to “pick a side”, because I had so little time and energy that I wanted to really oversimplify things, it’d be theirs. I wouldn’t be entirely content with that solution, but it’d be the least repellent choice open to me.

My next post will be about something which really does interest me. And no, it’s not how all police are bastards.

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An interesting moment of clarity from QRG [Edit: It’s actually a guest post] at Graunwatch:

You’ve got nothing to worry about, son. I’d suggest going out on a rampage with the boys, getting on the booze and smashing anything that moves. Then, when some bird falls for you, you can turn the tables and break her heart. Of course, the other option is to cut your ex’s face, and then no one will want her.

I wouldn’t be above some impromptu castration, either. Last December German Helmut Seifert cut the knackers off the 57-year-old “boyfriend” of his 17-year-old daughter with a kitchen knife. That’s the way to do it, sir: grasp the issue at its root. Don’t telephone the man and sound him out. Just saw off his nuts. Sure as eggs is eggs, he won’t do it again, will he? See. Direct action. It works (almost) every time.”

Both of these atrocious, inhumane sentiments are quoted from the Guardian, but in entirely different contexts.

The first is an extract from an advice column by Danny Dyer, which the Guardian were reporting on after its appearance in Zoo magazine gained widespread criticism. (I blogged about this two years ago, almost to the day. It’s interesting, incidentally, to note the way my style of public engagement has changed since then – perhaps most notably in my approach to calling people cunts and telling them to fuck off.)

The second is from a straight-forward and apparently wholly irony-free column written by arch-feminist Bidisha, for which she was presumably paid by the Guardian and which is presented by them without comment.

I think Graunwatch over-simplifies the situation by suggesting that the Guardian’s varied coverage of these two opinions is the only difference between them. It’s an important difference, but the distinctions which render the one opinion more acceptable than the other – in at least some sub-editors’ eyes – are also worth examining. The reasons for the distinction are more interesting and complicated than simply a lefty broadsheet being fashionably sexist against men.

The victims of the proposed punishments are, respectively, a young woman who was in a relationship which ended some months ago (at whose instigation remains ambiguous), and a middle-aged man who was “involved with” a teenage girl. (Whether or not the relationship was sexual is also unclear, and Bidisha doesn’t seem too concerned either way; it at least seems to have been consensual.)

The notion that this latter victim deserves, not just retribution, but sexually violent retribution in particular, is, firstly, profoundly repugnant; but it also aligns neatly with the “women as victims” narrative common to the left. I realise that’s a dangerous phrase to use without clarification: it’s certainly true that some crimes exist in which the a significant majority of victims are female, and a gender disparity like this should always be taken into account when considering how to deal with these sorts of crimes. But a generalisation that women are “victims” are men are “aggressors” as a matter of course simply doesn’t follow.

And yet, such a generalisation is the only thing which can really explain the glee with which some feminists imagine violently assaulting men, even before those men have provably done anything to any women that might merit it. The idea that there might be any complexity or nuance or humanity to the above tale of castration isn’t even considered. He was some old perv leching after a teenage girl. Just saw his nuts off. Job done.

Another important difference is that, as best I can make out, Bidisha’s comments were the more sincere. Dyer (or whoever wrote that column) was, I suspect, not genuinely suggesting that the letter-writer to whom he was responding should take the specific violent action described. He was making a joke – a bad, tasteless, unfair joke, a joke which insensitively targets women who’ve suffered violence, a joke without even humour as a redeeming quality – but a joke all the same. Bidisha appears to be genuinely in favour of the “medieval justice” she writes about. There’s no detectable hint that she’s affected an extremist position for the purposes of lampooning it, in the way that more gifted satirists tend to make just obvious enough without overplaying it. I can only take her at her indefensible word.

But the similarities between the two pieces are also striking. In particular, they both assume that there’s no need to treat some segment of the population with any particular humanity or dignity, and that’s why what they’re saying is basically fine. With Dyer, that demographic was women, and I think he was fairly criticised for being callous. I suspect “women” didn’t occupy quite the same mental space as “people” for him, and so being blasé about violence against them went unremarked upon in his thought process.

In Bidisha’s case, on the other hand, that demographic is men – but not for the same reasons. She’s not callous about men because they’re not quite people, but because men are fine. They can take it. They’re all homogeneously lumped together in one big privileged group, full of people who never have to worry about any gender issues, and so don’t merit any consideration in matters like this. They’re entirely distinct from women, who are in a separate group of beleaguered victims. Dismembering men with a knife might be an appropriate way to bring them down a peg or two.

It’s dangerous, dehumanising nonsense in either case. Let’s try to remember that getting “revenge” on an entire gender, either because you’ve identified them as the “other” and they need to be put in their place, or because some of them might seem to be abusing their privilege, makes no more sense than any other form of sexism or racism ever has.

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– I support men’s rights. This is not what I mean by that.

– It’s not a Cracked list, but this summary of the 7 Worst International Aid Ideas is still pretty tragically funny in places. Where it isn’t just tragic.

– Turns out Facebook aren’t too thrilled about employers demanding your passwords either. You know it has to be pretty fucked up for Facebook to be unequivocally on the right side of a privacy issue.

– Man, some white people really love to get racially offended.

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The title of this post is one of those things we tell children (generally girls), but don’t tend to apply to adults. It’s like the idea that Santa’s the one person you’re not supposed to call the cops on for spying on you while you sleep, or that ridiculous prohibition against eating yellow snow.

There may be something to it, in some sense. I’ve heard it suggested that a cognitive dissonance often emerges in young boys’ brains, from finding themselves intrigued by girls but simultaneously knowing that their role as a boy requires them not to associate with those icky cooties-ridden creatures. This then leads them to harshly or aggressively shun and reject females who encroach and threaten their masculine identity.

I don’t remember where I’ve heard this being described, and I’m not going to research it because I’m not that interested and I’m sure I already sound like a pretentious dick from recounting it. But it seems like that some types of bullying in young boys does indeed translate to something like “I like you and I don’t know how to communicate that in a healthy way”.

So I was interested by this post, which asks just what we’re teaching our children of either gender by making excuses for it.

Because there comes a point where excuses are exactly what they are, and the behaviours that come naturally to children need a more deliberate response than to be shrugged at and indulged.

We can do this without ever demonising the children themselves, or assuming there’s any innate badness or wickedness to them because they behave in a way that seems unkind to us. But I don’t think there’s much difference between being old enough to hurt someone with your behaviour, and being old enough to learn better, if you have someone smart to teach you.

It’s not always going to be an easy thing for kids to learn. We start learning gender roles early, and many of us had friends growing up who made it very clear what was and wasn’t an acceptable way for our gender to behave. (Some of us still have friends who haven’t grown out of the habit and continue to reinforce the traditional stereotypes.) It can be hard to resist that kind of pressure, which is why this kid was so awesome, and if social acceptance is important to us then the easiest thing to do is sometimes going to be one that hurts other people.

But we’re supposed to be grown-ups. We don’t need to be complacent when we see children getting stuck with these identities. We owe them better than that. We owe them the chance to learn to avoid behaving in ways that hurt people and perpetuate damaging gender stereotypes, before they become adults who are already too familiar with the way things are to ever change.

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– Hey, remember that film from last year, Carry on Camping, about the crazy old man who convinced a bunch of people the world was ending? They made a sequel.

– I don’t want to minimise any woman’s traumatic and invasive experiences, but Kim Novak was not raped. This seems like an excellent example of that low redefinition thing I was talking about the other day.

“You’re a fucking feminist. Deal with it. Don’t do feminist shit if you don’t want to be called out.” These are among the things said by feminists which makes me not want to be one.

– And the detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay has now been holding captives outside of legal US jurisdiction for ten years. By this point, Gitmo is as much Obama’s thing as it ever was Bush’s.

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I blame Twitter for this.

There was a brief spate of laughter at the idea of men’s rights the other day. @Carachan1 quipped:

“For ‘men’s rights’, please turn to the page that describes our current & past governmental policies”

This was in a reply message to Tracy King, who later replied to somebody else’s point: “Men already have all the rights.”

I didn’t get involved with it at the time, but I did unhelpfully suggest to nobody in particular: “Twitter, if I have to start talking like a men’s rights activist, I’m blaming you.”

Well, shit.

I mean, come on. All the rights? Really? Do black men have all the rights that there are? Do gay men? Do men with disabilities?

I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s worth looking at exactly what people mean by “men’s rights” when they laugh at the concept. Very few people are sociopathically misandrist or misanthropic enough to insist that men don’t have rights, and Tracy King’s certainly not among them. Rather, what’s so funny is the idea that men’s rights might need to be defended.

After all, men have had all the power throughout history. We’ve made the decisions, we’ve overwhelmingly filled governments and boardrooms. We didn’t even let women vote until a couple of generations ago. Men are obviously ahead, and it’s women whose rights need to be supported and fought for.

Unfortunately, this non-starter of an idea is undermined by the simple fact that sexism/oppression/rights/privilege is not a one-dimensional sliding scale.

Pop quiz. Who’s more privileged: A rich black guy or a poor white guy? A black lesbian or a white man with no legs? Which mental condition is more in need of recognition and equality: Asperger’s or severe depression?

If you answered any of those questions with an actual answer, you fail. The Oppression Olympics are not helpful. In different situations, different people will find themselves at an advantage over others. It’s not necessary to collate all that data into a single ranking.

Here’s one example. Women appear to be consistently underrepresented in Hollywood, engineering, and business. Why is that? Are they generally less interested in being involved in these fields? Are they less capable? Are there social pressures based on our expectations of women which are unfairly keeping them out? I don’t know, although I suspect that last one is a significant factor. Either way, it seems like women might be facing unfair disadvantages based on their gender here, and if gender equality is something you give a shit about, these questions are worth asking.

Here’s another example. There are way more men in prison than women. Why is that? Are men generally less moral than women? Are they more innately or biologically prone to committing socially unacceptable acts? Are they just more stupid, so they get caught more often? Are there unhelpful expectations of male behaviour, which result in unjust social pressures on them to conform to a certain ideal of manly, macho masculinity? I don’t know the answer. These are difficult questions, but what I do know is that asking the questions at all is not laughable. They’re worth asking, if gender equality is something you still give a shit about.

Men are also more likely to commit suicide than women, which it’s thought may be to do with the pervasive notion that it’s not “manly” to talk about your feelings.

It’s much more socially acceptable to make jokes about men getting raped than women. Men are more likely to have trouble being taken seriously when they reported being sexually assaulted, either by other men or by women.

I’m not listing all these examples to imply that men have it “worse than” or “as bad as” women. I’m not denying or ignoring that women suffer unfairly because of sexual assault in all sorts of ways that I’m never likely to directly understand. I’m not in any way denying the virulence and abhorrence of misogyny, and the extent to which many aspects of sexism against women are casually woven into our language and society, to extremely damaging effect.

But the way some warriors against misogyny have to veer deep into misandry to make their point is profoundly inhumane and lacking in compassion. The types of social expectations and stereotypes which negatively affect men are exactly the kind of thing that feminists highlight as sexist when the victims are women. And they’re often correct to do so, but to claim that it’s entirely one-way, and men have all the rights, is ridiculous.

There definitely is a nasty segment of men’s rights activism, which has arisen as a hateful, frightened response to modern feminism, in the same way that “white pride” and “straight pride” are a reaction to minority groups demanding respect. But while many people rightly find these misogynistic extremists laughable, their disparagement too often stretches way beyond a just or tolerant remit.

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