I don’t often write about events the United States of America. This is a conscious choice. It’s too easy to slip into a completely US-centric worldview. I rarely feel a pressing urge to add my point of view to the endless, echoing din of thinkpieces and hot takes. My own small country, despite its relative insignificance on the international stage, has its own host of social and economic problem that could use my time and energy. The USA is not the centre of the universe, even though it sometimes feels that way.
But sometimes something happens and you have to mark it, even if you have nothing new to say.
Sometimes you just have to howl.
2. To be clear
I’m not here to discuss the various merits and/or failings of Clinton and Trump. I’m not interested in Clinton’s emails or her lack of charisma and all the ways she wasn’t perfect enough to secure a precarious victory. I’m not going to write a lament for an alternate timeline in which Sanders trounced Trump. I’m certainly not here to rehash every single racist, sexist, selfish, underhand, outrageous thing that Donald Trump has done or said in his career, because you’ve heard it all before and you’ve already made up your mind. And because I’m fucking tired, and anyway, it’s over. She lost and Donald Trump is President-Elect.
3. The world turned upside down
I’ve been drowning in the deluge of opinion pieces, each pundit scrabbling around for a narrative that answers the terrible question: How could this happen? It was misogyny! It was racism! It was a white working class revolt! The last gasp of neoliberalism! The end of the establishment! Except the establishment is now a woman who worked too hard to get what she wanted and the saviour of the working class is a billionaire bully who only cares about the working class as long as they’re screaming his name in adulation and baying for the blood of his opponents.
I don’t have coherent opinion. I don’t have a pithy analysis or satisfying explanation for what the fuck is going on. Sorry. And because of that, I almost decided not to write anything.
But you know what? Neat narratives about why things happen the way they do are part of the problem. Things are too fractured for neatness, too cracked for coherence. All I can offer is shards.Read More »
It’s a tale as old as the internet. A piece of male douchery surfaces, one that perfectly epitomizes the harassment and male entitlement that women must navigate in their daily lives. The women gather together to gaze upon douchery and nod and say, “Yes, indeed, this really does sum up the problem.”
Cue the trolls, cue the misogynists, cue the willfully obtuse assholes. But also, cue Nice Guy™, who is hurt and confused by these women and their hostility, for he is sweet and gentle and thinks you really need to know how beautifully your eyes match your scarf today.
This guy will leave a long blathering comment (what is it about sexism that makes dudes so long-winded?) that boils down to: “Let’s make this entire conversation about educating me on how best to approach women in public. I would like a foolproof formula that doesn’t involve me actually thinking about women’s experiences or expending any empathy. Please and thank you.”
And more and more frequently, women reply with a simple “Yeah, maybe just…don’t?”
“Just don’t approach women in public? Like, why do you feel the need to talk to strange women? Maybe just don’t do it.”
Cue the rage.
“Fine, so I’m just not allowed to TALK to ANY WOMEN EVER!? HUFF PUFF FOOT STOMP.”
Or, sometimes, the wounded self-pity.
“But but but if I can’t talk to women in public places, I will be FOREVER ALONE WOE IS ME.”
There’s a lot of stupid in this argument, but I’d like to talk about the main stupid, which is the idea that modern romance – and consequently the human race – will somehow grind to a halt if men are not “allowed” to talk to women in public. You see, by not “allowing” men to talk to them in public, women are thwarting casual encounters, which are the only way people ever end up going on dates ever. If women are not actively seeking a meet-cute, Nice Guy™ is doomed to a life of impotently lusting after potential soulmates on every train platform, in every elevator, across the dusty vinyl sleeves in every quirky secondhand record shop in every city in the world.
Ted: I just gotta bump into her somewhere. Now if only I knew her schedule, I could arrange a chance encounter.
This idea is, obviously, ridiculous and has no bearing on reality outside of romantic comedies. (You know, those things that women purportedly base their lives around.) However, not only does it have no bearing on the reality of dating, it also actively clashes with the reality of being a woman in public.
Earlier this year, I read an essay called Shining a Light on Cutoff Culture. It’s almost four thousand words long and before I was halfway through, my shoulders were drawn up around my ears and my head was vibrating with ill-defined rage. Fortunately, Captain Awkward chose to tackle it on her blog and helped me pinpoint exactly why this essay made me so deeply uncomfortable. It took me a long time to sort my thoughts out on this one, but here is my letter to the man who wrote that essay.
You claim to be trying to shine on a light the dangers of cutoff culture. But here is the thing.
Most women do not live in a cutoff culture. Far from it. Let me tell you a bit about the kind of culture women live in when it comes to dating, relationships and sex. Your essay extrapolated from an example from your own personal experience, so I’ll give you one from mine:
First off, apologies for my long and undoubtedly keenly felt absence. In the last month, I have been busy completing a Masters, moving country again, starting a new job, finding somewhere to live and trying to revive my French. Many of these activities necessitated extended periods of being away from my beloved Internet.
BUT I AM BACK NOW. Here is a list of links from the past few weeks. Above, watch Lily Myers use beautiful words to express some sad things about the way women are socialised to apologise for taking up both physical and intellectual space.
This is a heavy link farm. There’s been a lot of crappy stuff in the news, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and I have not had much time for Feminism Lite recently. Most of this is link farm is articles and most of them are angry and important or both. Emphasis on the important.
NIRBHAYA: Human Rights Theatre (Kickstater, content note for graphic theatrical depictions of rape) Nirbhaya means “fearless one” and it is the pseudonym that the press gave to Delhi student Jyoti Singh Pandey, the young woman who was violently raped on a bus and subsequently died of her wounds last December. It “tackles the issue of sexual violence by exploring the true stories of sexual violence endured by each of the performers who use Jyoti’s death as a catalyst to break their silence.” It won multiple awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Watching the trailer made me go cold and start shivering. The company now want to take the show on tour in India. Theatre can change things and this is important. If you can afford to throw some money their way to help achieve this goal, you definitely should.
Neo-liberalism and the Defanging of Feminism (video) This lecture is an hour long, but it’s essential viewing for anyone who takes their feminism seriously. Professor Gail Dines on how modern feminism has lost its way by focusing on “the individual rights of a small group of elite white women” instead of functioning as vehicle for radical social change. She absolutely annihilates I-choose-my-choice individualist feminism; the idea of feminism as a personal philosophy that’s different for every woman, a customisable set of beliefs that can be altered and decorated just like fun hat! It’s all grounded in historical context, economics, critical and political theory and… seriously, just go watch the whole thing.
Rebranding Feminism(article) The ever excellent Laurie Penny explains why the idea of “rebranding” feminism is and always will be a massive crock of shit, especially when the charge is being led by a “fashion and beauty magazine, not a historically notable manual for gender revolution.”
African women blazing feminist trails (article) Did you know women form the majority in the parliament of Rwanda? Did you know Malawi, Liberia and Senegal all have female heads of state? Because I sure as hell didn’t. Minna Salami asks why these achievements have been met with loud silence from western feminists and why we aren’t taking more cues from the African women who have actually made real progress in the arena of political equality.
I Am So Very Tired (article) – For any woman, nerd or otherwise, who is sick and tired of having to state her case for being allowed to exist in traditional male-dominated spaces without being harassed or objectified, over and over again, online and offline, patiently wading through the same fucking prosaic, flawed and harmful arguments from gender essentialists, harassment defenders and fucking devil’s advocates, please have this cathartic rant from Foz Meadows. I love all of it, but especially this: “I am tired of assholes who think that playing Devil’s advocate about an issue alien to their experience but of deep personal significance to their interlocutor makes them both intellectually superior and more rationally objective on the specious basis that being dispassionate is the same as being right (because if they can stay calm while savagely kicking your open wound, then clearly, you have no excuse for screaming)”
And finally, last week Emily Yoffe (of the Slate’s Dear Prudence) wrote a long article imaginatively entitled “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” which is, shock horror, about how young ladies should never have more than two drinks – and certainly no shots! – if they don’t want to be raped by horny college boys. On the one hand, snore, because there is literally nothing in the entire article that has not been addressed, deconstructed and roundly and rigorously critiqued by feminists, in multiple forums, from multiple backgrounds, approximately one million thousand times. On the other, FUCK SAKE, because Yoffe has an extremely popular advice column, which implies that people actually take her views on this shit seriously. So yes, here are the two best takedowns of her harmful victim-blaming rape apologia.
College Men: Stop Getting Drunk(article) The litmus test of sexist bullshit: do the same standards and rules apply to men? As Anna Friedman effectively illustrates, it’s drunk men doing all the raping, so why is it the ladies who have reign in their partying and forego tequila shots?
And on that note, I am going to lie down and watch some cartoons. Something resembling a regular blogging schedule should resume now that I have an apartment with an internet connection and a reliable source of tea.