a better way to be anti-abortion

letusdecide
Schoolchildren protest outside Leinster House in 1992 supporting the right of X, a 14 year-old rape victim, to travel for an abortion. Photograph: Eric Luke, via The Irish Times

The evidence is clear and plentiful: making abortion illegal does not reduce abortion rates. In countries where abortion is severely restricted or completely illegal, the procedure is usually unsafe, traumatic and sometimes fatal for the women who seek it, but they seek it all the same, despite risks to their health and threats of prosecution and imprisonment.

Of course, if you live in Ireland, you don’t need a peer-reviewed study to tell you this. Our country is a live illustration of the trend. Every year, at least 3,500 Irish women (that’s an average of nine women per day) spend time, energy and money travelling to the UK to obtain a safe, legal abortion. Those who are unable to travel continue to turn to illegal “abortion pills” or even more drastic measures to end unwanted pregnancy – we’re not sure about their numbers, but it’s safe to assume they are not negligible.

For those of you who call yourselves “pro-life”, your one and only campaign point seems to be preserving our Constitution’s 8th Amendment at all costs. I’m sorry to inform you that your time and effort is sadly misplaced. Ireland is not and has never been “abortion-free”. Our blanket ban on abortion does little, if anything, to deter women from ending unwanted pregnancy. All the evidence suggests that repealing our 8th Amendment and replacing it with clear and humane legislation on reproductive rights will not increase abortion rates among Irish women.*

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this culture you speak of

"You heinous bitch."
“You heinous bitch.”

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.

Dear Jeff,

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:

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elliot rodger and the logical conclusion

Let's just get this out the way now, yeah?
Let’s just get this out the way now, shall we?

Right. Elliot Rodger and the Isla Vista shootings. Within hours of the story breaking, a number of friends and readers got in touch asking if I was going to write a reaction piece. After five minutes on my newsfeed and on Twitter, I was overwhelmed by exhaustion. That was my dominant emotion. Not anger, not frustration, not sorrow. Just numbing here-we-go-again exhaustion. After half an hour, I did not want to write about this. And watching the conversations pick up speed and the comments roll in – the justifications, the derails, the rationalizations, the outright defenses – made it all feel even more hopeless.

But then I spoke to my sister, who reminded me why it’s important to keep writing and that even if it feels repetitive, these things can’t be said too many times. So thanks, Lars. Also, many of these points are hers or riffing on hers.

And now, in no particular order, my thoughts:

1. There exists a sub-section of men who literally cannot sit through a discussion of structural misogyny without receiving constant and emphatic reassurance that no one is accusing them personally of being a misogynist. This is a derail and an attempt to shut down debate. Because, to quote Sometimes, it’s just a cigar:

“Suppose you disagree with women about whether rape is part of the structure of our society, used to reinforce patriarchy. Do you make that debate possible by standing on your wounded pride, and just insisting that the debate must start with a disclaimer that says you’re not a rapist? Forgive me, but that’s nothing more than narcissism.”

The conviction that you have never participated or been complicit in structural misogyny is dubious to say the least, no matter what your gender. But even if you are resolute that you, personally, have managed to transcend the system you were born and raised in and now stand as a shining beacon of gender equity outside the mire of patriarchy? Good for you, but structural misogyny still exists and we still need to have a conversation about it. If you think you have nothing to learn, go play elsewhere on the internet.

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link farm #7: oh yeah, pop culture!

Someone recently reminded me that this blog is supposed to be about pop culture as well as feminism and I was like CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. So have some cartoons and videogames with a healthy side of gender analysis, hand picked from the lush gardens of the Internet by an overworked intern who needs to do some yoga or something.

Above, Errant Signal breaks down the idiotic assertion that reviewers who critique videogames in a social and cultural context are failing to be “objective” or imposing their “agenda” on an otherwise apolitical medium.

On Videogame Reviews (essay) And on that note, if Errant Signal breaks down the myth of the objective reviewer, Tevis Thompson ANNIHILATES it in this brilliant essay. What starts off as a review of the much-lauded Bioshock Infinite expands into something much broader and deeper. Even if you haven’t played Bioshock Infinite (I haven’t), this is mandatory reading if you give even a cursory shit about gaming culture, or even more generally about the nature of reviewing. It’s 8000 articulate, passionate, probing words and not a single one of them is wasted. Go read. (Also, I seriously got a little misty over Saving Zelda in work the other day.)

So What If It’s Satire? (article) I’ve been reading a lot of good stuff on D.A. White recently, but particularly enjoyed this post about the nature of satire. It’s a word that gets thrown around an awful lot, and to a downright alarming degree directly after someone suggests that a piece of media might be offensive. Using videogames, comics and of course A Modest Proposal as a point of reference, White explains why “offensive” and “funny” are not actually defining features of satire as a form.

The strange prudishness of Channel 4’s Sex Box (article) I don’t fully agree with Martin Robbins’ assessment of Sex Box, but he does manage to articulate a lot of the niggling problems I had with the first episode. I think the show has potential overall, but seriously, this: “Weirder still, given the obvious focus on diversity, was that it seemed each mate had to be paired with someone who looked the same – black with black, white with white, disabled with disabled, gay with gay, old with old – as if God had told Noah to run a sex cruise.

Why I’m Not Supporting Disney’s Frozen (article) Oh, Disney. It always seems to be one step forward, two steps back with you guys. This post by The Feminist Fangirl delves into source material for FrozenThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, an “epic, melancholy, emotionally complex, and fantastically feminist” fairytale and then explains how Disney decided to just fuck all that out the window – stripping it of all its unique elements and decimating its diverse cast of female characters – in favour of serving up another bland offering of “feisty princess surrounded by male helpers.” Sigh Disney. Just sigh.

Disney, Frozen and the (un)Importance of Prettiness (article) And as if that wasn’t disappointing enough, when it was pointed out that the character design for Frozen‘s Anna looks remarkable to Tangled‘s Rapunzel, the head animator decided to set us straight by explaining that “historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty…” Yeah. I mean, if “pretty” exclusively means “impossibly huge eyes and almost non-existent nose and mouth”, I can see why that might be a problem.

Adventure Time also gets points for nuanced portrayals of female friendship! source: nkq0rs
Adventure Time also gets points for nuanced portrayals of female friendship! source: nkq0rs

Is BMO from Adventure Time Expressive of Feminism? (video) This guy is awesome because he interprets the character of BMO (a sentient videogame console) as an embodiment of the deconstructed gender binary, and therefore expressive of the ideals of third wave feminism. He also gives a very succinct explanation of the broad differences between first, second and third wave feminism. Also, he uses uses the French language (which I am currently trying to relearn) to make a point. It would be quite difficult for me to like this video more.

Pokémorality: Black and White (article) This article is not about feminism, but is in fact a SHAMELESS PLUG. This is an essay I wrote about Pokémon Black and White, originally published on a now-defunct videogame analysis site. I found it the other day and discovered I’m surprisingly fond of it, so now I’m giving it a home on Massive Hassle.

link farm #6: important and angry

HELLO INTERNET.

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.

Emily Yoffe: A Further Catalogue of the Ways She is Wrong (article) Thomas of Yes Means Yes is thorough, exacting and endlessly articulate on depth and breadth of Yoffe’s wrongness. Essential reading for anyone who is somehow STILL confused about this issue.

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.

link farm #4

Hello! Here’s some stuff I’ve been enjoying on the Internet this week. Firstly, watch Friend Zone by Dylan Garity. Slam poetry at its finest and a cutting summation of why the concept of the “Friend Zone” is bullshit and also vaguely misogynistic.

And then!

New videogame “The Novelist” doesn’t involve guns – Despite the somewhat redundant title of this article (a videogame without guns? Unheard of!), this game looks like exactly the kind of slow-paced story-driven offering I love. The concept is intriguing and the plot looks like the sort of thing that might make me cry.

Man creates very first Website for Women ever – AT LAST. A man who understands me and the fact my online media consumption needs are directly dictated by my vagina. Hair tips and worldwide news coverage on the SAME website? Inspired!

Hookup culture is officially not a thing – Good news! A proper study has officially proved that the young folk of today are not fornicating at a particularly alarming rate compared to previous generations! Well, good news if you’re not the sort of person who enjoys wringing their hands over the sex choices of strangers and something something moral degradation blah blah something.

I hate Strong Female Characters “The Strong Female Character has something to prove. She’s on the defensive before she even starts. She’s George from The Famous Five all grown up and still bleating with the same desperate lack of conviction that she’s “Every Bit As Good as a Boy”.”

Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan on the Hairpin – The debate around #solidarityisforwhitewomen continues, and this interview with Mikki Kendall (who started the hashtag) and Flavia Dzodan of Tiger Beatdown expands on a lot of the key issues and what is needed from white feminists going forward.

How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body – Short, sweet, beautifully solid advice from skoppelkam on Hope Avenue.

Hilda, America's forgotten and beautifully buxom pin-up girl
Hilda the forgotten and beautifully buxom pin-up girl.

The Problem with Male Feminists –  “The “retirement” of Hugo Schwyzer from his self-appointed position as “Professor Feminism” highlights some of the issues men have with feminism.” And consequently, according to Jem Bloomfield, some of the issues women have with men who have issues with feminism. Come on, get involved.

America’s Forgotten Pin-Up Girl – “Meet Hilda, the creation of illustrator Duane Bryers and pin-up art’s best kept secret. Voluptuous in all the right places, a little clumsy but not at all shy about her figure, Hilda was one of the only atypical plus-sized pin-up queens to grace the pages of American calendars from the 1950s up until the early 1980s…

woman’s hour

woman's hourI have an exciting announcement! This coming Wednesday August 7th, I will be giving a short interview on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 about my sex ed post.

The focus of the interview is going to be why I wrote my wishlist and what kind of responses I’ve had. Woman’s Hour will be tweeting and inviting live listener response. I will also undoubtedly be having a bit of a tweet, so do follow me @tinyorc if you want to yell at me directly!

You can tune in from 10am on Wednesday on 92-95 FM or 103-105 FM (with some local variations apparently)  or you can listen on BBC Radio 4 iPlayer. For more information on your various listening options, go to Radio 4’s helpful help page.

Also, if you are busy at 10am on Wednesday (as many people frequently are), you can always listen to it later on the Woman’s Hour page.

I am (understandably) madly excited that someone liked my opinions enough to invite me to come and talk about them on a national platform, and even more so that the someone is the BBC and Woman’s Hour. Sex ed is a subject that literally everyone seems to have opinions about, so I’d love it if you guys could tune in and get involved in the conversation. Plus, those of you who have never met me get to hear what I sound like!

Hope to hear from you all on Wednesday!

MASSIVE HASSLE OUT