Victim Blaming: A Global Problem

TW: Discussion of rape, blame culture and victim blaming

Earlier today, a good friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook while I was on the bus home. The messaged contained a link to this article in the Independent. I struggled, with my shitty mobile internet, to open the link; when I did manage I immediately regretted it. The compulsion to swear uncontrollably at my phone became to much and I started almost convulsing with rage. The poor man next to me! I don’t blame him for starting to shuffle away. Unluckily for him, he is my long term partner; I grabbed him, shoving the phone in his face. “Read this!” I hissed. “We’re moving to a fucking commune babe, I can’t deal with this shit any more!” He read it and sighed. “Horrible babe but please stop swearing. We’re on public transport at 3.30 pm.” Sighing, I conceded and vented my obscenities on Twitter. The article in question tells of a Swiss tourist being gang raped in front of her husband in a rural area of India. Six men were arrested. The police inspector claimed that the victim – the woman who was attacked by up to 8 men in an area she knew little about, while her husband was tied up and forced to watched – was partially responsible for the attack. Why? Because she should never have been camping in the area. It was tempting fate.

Let’s just stop and let that sink in for a second. Tourist on cycling holiday with her husband. Heading for Taj Mahal but stops and camps en route. Camp is attacked by up to 8 men. She is gang raped and robbed, her husband tied up and forced to watch. She is told she must share responsibility because she was camping in the wrong place. It was bound to happen; she was tempting fate. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!

This is victim blaming to a hideous degree. The victim is held partially responsible for her own attack – as if it’s her fault that 8 men attacked her and forcibly had sex with her against her will. There is outrage of course, completely justifiably, but let’s not pretend this a problem exclusive to India. Yes, I’m going to talk about Steubenville.

For those of you who have been living under a rock recently – or depend on the BBC for your news, as I notice this story was not really covered – two young men have just been jailed for the rape of a 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio. This poor young woman was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted while she was too drunk to protest, taken from party to party like some sort of play thing and even urinated on. Steubenville is a town with a thriving football team – the rapists were successful young athletes. When the victim pressed charges she became the victim of a character assassination. Apparently it was her own fault: she was drunk, she was a “slut”, she was asking for it. She never actually said no. She received death threats for bringing the town and their footballing legacy in to disrepute. This poor, scared young woman who had had terrible things done to her against her will then had to deal with some of the worst victim blaming I have ever seen. Even after her attackers were convicted: CNN covered the story, claiming that it was a tragic loss of two promising young athletes who’s careers had been destroyed by the conviction. No CNN. Their careers were destroyed when they had sex with a young woman repeatedly against her will while she was too drunk to protest.

I don’t care if she was drunk. I don’t care if she was wearing a short skirt. I don’t care if she had a history of sexual promiscuity. No means no. If a woman is too drunk to say no, DO NOT ASSUME IT IS A YES. A short skirt is not an invitation. No matter HOW the woman is dressed, no matter what she is drinking, rape is NEVER the victims fault – unless you assume that all men are led purely by their balls and are incapable of controlling their urges, which of course is not true. The fault lies solely with the rapist. Even if she seemed up for it but changed her mind. Even if she’s walking alone at night. I’m not going to list all the times when rape is unacceptable because RAPE IS ALWAYS UNACCEPTABLE. It is ALWAYS the rapists fault. Now for fucks sake get your heads around that CNN because I don’t think my nerves can take a repeat of this. Oh, and let’s not pretend that victim blaming and blame culture is a problem exclusive to India. Let’s get off our privileged pedestals  stop gasping in abject horror at the inhumane actions of these exotic others on the other side of the world. Don’t flatter yourself. Wake up. This sort of thing happens everywhere; right under our noses. It’s unacceptable.

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What am I? On being “upper working class”

I don’t particularly believe in the class system and I’ll tell you why: I don’t really have a place in it. I was brought up just outside Croydon, South London. My mum didn’t work during my childhood and my dad worked hard to support us – my mum, my brother and I. When I was about 10 my dad lost his job and we struggled. It sounds so daft but although I had a very happy, idyllic childhood with two loving parents, we didn’t have much. I never had Pokemon cards, they were a waste of money. We waited to find a Tracey Island in a charity shop. Most of my clothes were from the charity shop actually, that or George of Asda. I know it sounds silly but I always felt different from my friends: they all watched Cartoon Network on their digital TVs (this was the 90s remember, no Freeview boxes in those days), played with their Gameboys at break time and went on holiday to “abroad” – I didn’t leave the UK til I was 15. That’s not to say I wasn’t happy: I was. It’s just that I got free school meals at a school full of kids with their Dexters Lab lunchboxes full of Mini Cheddars. Before you all sneer “oh woe is you, no Gameboy? How did you ever survive?” let me reiterate that I am grateful for what I had and I know there are plenty of others with far less than I had. Anyway, I digress.

My parents got me in to a comprehensive high school 3 miles from home in central Croydon. My dad was working for a big company up in town and my mum became a dinner lady at the local primary. I thrived at high school. I made great friends and had a wonderful time but although it was highly selective on the grounds of Christian belief, the school went downhill once they were forced to admit community places. I left with average GCSEs. At A level I worked my arse off. My boyfriend was extremely supportive and I excelled all expectations, gaining a place at Royal Holloway, University of London against all the odds.

Upon arriving at RHUL I became acutely aware that I sounded different from my peers. I made a conscious effort to enunciate and not drop my t’s. I was in receipt of a full maintenance grant and bursary as by this point my mum had stopped work to battle the cancer that eventually claimed her life. It was at this point that I noticed a rhetoric that only the supposed middle classes went to university. You must be middle class Laura, you’re here aren’t you?

Am I middle class because I worked my ass off to get here? Do you immediately become middle class the second you graduate? Am I middle class because I blog and have done well in education? I don’t know. This is why I struggle with the class system. I don’t feel like I have a place in it anymore.

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What I’ve Learnt: Coping with and Preventing Migraines

I’ve suffered from migraines for a very long time – the earliest I can remember being told I was having a migraine as I lay writhing in agony in bed was at the age of 11 but when I think about it, I was having them for many years before that but they didn’t have a name. My migraines are particularly severe – they start with the aura and progress to blinding headaches, aching muscles, numbness down my left hand side, nausea and light sensitivity. They can last for up to four days. Until I eventually went to the doctors many many years later and was prescribed Zomitriptan, migraines were a seemingly unavoidable part of my life. They happened on average once a week and normally manifested themselves as first the aura, then the nagging headache behind the eyes and sometime (about once a month) they would then progress.

I have learned since then that a lot of migraine prevention comes down to lifestyle. Below I’ve compiled a list of things of things I do every day that have worked for me in controlling my migraines; although they may not work for everybody. Since implimenting these basic lifestyle changes that everybody can do I have been getting markedly less migraines so I thought I would share my experiences; I am not a doctor, I am a Geography undergraduate and Women’s Empowerment blogger so of course, consult a physician if your symptoms are making life very very difficult!

When I wake up I drink two big glasses of water.
This is an important one: dehydration is a very common cause of migraines and is one that is often overlooked. Simply by drinking plenty of liquids when I wake up, I have found that my migraines happen far far less often. I use my dads pint glass, so I drink around 2 pints in the morning and then repeat before I go to bed.

Carrying a bottle of water in my handbag at all times
Same as above really. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. I buy one of the 500ml bottles of Evian on my way to the train station in the morning and refill it during my lunch break.

Regulating my sleep pattern
I know, I know. Easier said than done and all that. For just one week, try to make sure you get a reasonable number of hours sleep every night. I find that when I’m particularly exhausted, they strike!

Avoiding the Three C’s
Another one that’s easier said than done. The Three C’s of migraine prevention are Chocolate, Cheese and Citrus. It’s not fun and it’s not easy but the big one for me is chocolate, particular chocolates with high cocoa content. Dark chocolate can give me a migraine with 10 minutes of eating it.

Try not to stare at a screen all day
I have no reasoning for this. I just don’t think it helps. Maybe because your eyes get tired? I dunno, I’m not a doctor. When I stare at my screen all day I get migraines.

Alcohol.
This is a tough one. Basically, alcohol dehydrates you. Dehydration causes migraines. If you really want to get hammered, I suggest that old trick of having one boozy beverage followed by one glass of water. I used to think I just got hideously awful hangovers or that I was allergic to alcohol. Turns out they just cause enormous, world haltingly awful migraines. Try to stay hydrated, especially if “drink goes straight through you” as they say.

Carry painkillers with me!
This seems like a no brainer. If you’re prone to headaches, carry some pain killers. I tend to go for the “easy on the tummy” ones as migraines often make me nauseous.

Avoid too much sugar
This is another one I have no reasonable basis for. I used to eat a hella lot of chocolate digestives, have  2 sugars in my tea and have a real penchant for flapjacks. I also got a hell of a lot of migraines. Since cutting down on sugar, they have dramatically reduced. I think it’s something to do with heightened blood sugar levels, but as I say I’m not a doctor; just sharing my personal experience.

Regulating my body temperature
I know humans are warm blooded but sometimes when the temperature changes very quickly from hot to cold or vice versa people can get migraines – something to do with changes in air pressure or something. Not much we can do about that but I found when I went on safari that by ensuring I stayed hydrated (I know, I’m repeating myself) and kept cool during the day I avoided anything to horrible.

Stress
This is a tricky one. Nobody wants to be stressed so you’d like to think we all actively avoid it anyway. I go swimming when I’m stressed to help me chill out. I also shout at misogynists online, but that’s besides the point.

I hope that this has been instructive and that at least one person is helped by this post. As I say, these are just tips that worked for me; everybody has different triggers and it may be a case of cutting things out and trying different things until you find yours. I have also been prescribed Zomitriptan for when they DO strike and if you feel that nothing is working, speak to your doctor. There is a plethora of options. Good luck!

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This is not okay.

MASSIVE TW: CONTAINS SCREEN GRABS OF RAPE CONDONING MISOGYNISTIC ASSHOLERY OF THE HIGHEST DEGREE.

Okay Internet, I’ve had enough. I’ve tried to be polite, I’ve signed my fair share of petitions and I’ve written a great deal of letters of complaint but tonight has really taken the biscuit. Over the course of the last few hours I have been made aware of two very similar horrors: both involve online shopping, both involve slogan T-shirts and both involve disgusting levels of horrible being on display.

The first was this:

keep calm and rape t shirts

These T-shirts (and many others like them) were produced and approved for sale by a company called Solid Gold Bomb. They were for sale on Amazon UK and, rightly so, my Twitter feed exploded with rage. Amazon UK apologised and promised to remove the items within 24 hours (although we’re still waiting) and Solid Gold Bomb… well, they claimed they were computer generated, it wasn’t their fault, please go away and stop shouting at us. They then deleted their Facebook account and haven’t been heard from since. The fact that even if they were computer generated they should still have been checked before being put in to the public sphere and on sale to the millions of Amazon shoppers seems inconsequential to them. “It wasn’t me it, it was the computer” was the very clear response from the Solid Gold Bomb camp and I felt smug in our victory.

Having successfully slain Solid Gold Bomb, I put the kettle on and settled down to watch Armageddon with my boyfriend. I checked my Twitter again about an hour later and was made aware of this:

tonight im gonna get my rape on tshirt

This has made me feel sick to my very core. Produced by a company called Foul Mouth Shirts, they claim to specialise in offensive clothing. When you click to make a complaint, a loud voice booms “LEAVE AND TAKE YOUR BIG FAT PUSSY WITH YOU.” Their FAQ page makes it very clear that they do not care if they offend, they consider you to be a politically correct hypocrit that should “fuck off”.

Just to make clear, the text next to the image says
“The weatherman says the night is going to be extremely nice outside. It’s going to be a new moon so it’ll be very, very dark. You know what that means, don’t you? Rape weather.”

Am I missing something here? Since when did bragging about wanting to have non consensual sex with somebody ON A T SHIRT become okay? Since when did claiming that you are going to rape somebody in the dark become okay?! Am I really such a humourless bitch that I’ve just missed some massive joke?! I’m sure that’s what they’ll claim.

I do not object to this because it is not politically correct: I object to this because it is trivialising rape. This is not funny Foul Mouth Shirts! There are not enough expletives in the world. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is not okay – I’m sure the vast majority of people know that this is not okay. Claiming you’re going to rape somebody tonight is not “banter” and it certainly is not a joke. This is why so many rapes go unreported. This is why so few rapists are convicted. Rape has been trivialised and normalised by our society to the point where people feel ashamed to admit they’ve been raped in case they’re accused of lying or stigmatised because of it. Rape has been trivialised to the point where T-shirts like this are produced. I take comfort in the fact that I doubt very many people would actually wear this shit – it is a very tiny minority of people who think that condoning, trivialising and even actively encouraging rape is okay. It’s not okay. It is disgusting.

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Hey, Beauty Industry! I am not a cash cow!

Hey there Beauty Industry! Just thought I’d let you know, Milk Chocolate Hobnobs are currently half price in Sainsburys. 87p. I know this because yesterday I bought some. About half way through the packet, my boyfriend turned to me and asked “don’t you think we should stop now? This is not good for us.” I paused, mid mouthful. That fleeting comment, said out of care rather than out of malice, ripped open a barely healed wound. I am not overweight by any standard but like many women I am incredibly concious of my tummy. Through the tears and hysterical cries of “Why would you say that?! Do you think I’m fat?!” I realised how completely ridiculous I was being – how completely ridiculous the whole situation was.

Bliss magazine ran a survey in 2004 that looked at teenage body image amongst its readers. In 2004 I was 12 years old. Their findings were damning – of the 2000 girls they surveyed only 19% were clinically overweight. However, 67% thought they needed to lose weight. 2 out of 3 of those under 13 years old had already put themselves on a diet. I was one of those girls. It has become clear to me that my generation (and probably the generation before us, although of course I have no first hand experience of this) have a massively warped self image problem. This video, entitled Onslaught, perfectly summarises the issue.

Although the fact this is produced by Unilever (also responsible for those heinous Lynx adverts that do nothing but perpetuate the problem they claim to highlight here) is hypocritical at best, the point I’m making stands. I can very clearly remember sitting in my primary school canteen deliberating whether or not to eat the Jam Roly Poly in front of me. The dinner lady asked me whether I was finished. I sighed in that way that only a 10 year old girl can and said “Yes. I’m on a diet.” It was years until I realised how completely fucking ridiculous that was – not only of the 10 year old me to say no to Jam Roly Poly – the fact that the 10 year old me was already conditioned to feel that she was too fat. I also felt I was too tall (I was the second tallest in my year), that my hair was too curly, that my feet were too small. Of course it transpired I was just an early bloomer. I’m still slightly taller than average but of course, the problem does not lie with my 10 year old form. It lies with an industry that systematically pulls apart the confidence of young women by making them feel they are inferior before they’ve even stopped growing.

To this very day, what with Hobnobgate this morning and the squeezing in to size 10 jeans so I don’t have to admit I’m a 12, I am plagued by a chronic sense of inadequacy. Why is this? It is because from the word go, young people are plagued by advertising and media that paints being fat as a hideously terrible thing, aging as a sign of weakness, imperfections as disgusting. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bit of make up and have been dying my hair for years. But I know and acknowledge that the beauty industry is an evil one where companies point out women’s imperfections and make them feel like shit about them in order to sell a product. Let’s not delude ourselves. Women are being treated like cash cows. Stupid ones too. I for one have had enough of it. Beauty is a social construction, women need to learn to love ourselves a little more and care what others think a little less. You, beauty industry, need to give us a break. Go and bother the blokes for a while. How about a ridiculously patronising campaign for them, full of male stereotypes and buzzwords. Fatigue smashing super energizer quattro stab sex cream or something along those lines. I am off to have another Hobnob. Laters, you fucking arseholes.

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YOLO.

This story starts on my 21st birthday – 1st September 2012. I had a little shindig round my parents place, about 20 of my nearest and dearest in my back garden on a sunny late summer evening (dressed as Harry Potter, obviously). My dad popped champagne, we ate cake and drank irresponsible amounts of cider. My mum was shy but she always was since the surgery – she had had a malignancy behind her left eyeball and in order to remove it she had to lose her eye. We are all very thankful; she was facially deformed but she was fine. She was clear. The prosthesis was very convincing and we had finished that harrowing chapter of all our lives! We toasted to good health and happiness.

Then one day she didn’t go to work – her memory had been lapsing but my dad received a phone call from the nursery she worked at saying they were very concerned. She had sent them a very jumbled message that made no sense at all and had simply not arrived. My dad rushed home to find my mum in a state of total confusion.

Without going in to too much detail, it transpired my mother was ill again. Seriously. She had tumours on her lungs, her lymph nodes and – crucially – her brain. The situation quickly deteriorated it became clear to her doctors that this was going to kill her. Quickly. The tumour in her brain was completely inoperable, it was extremely aggressive and it was terminal. My world crash landed.

On February 4th 2013 – 5 months and 4 days since my birthday – my mum passed peacefully in her sleep. It is now February 22nd. It’s a funny thing, grief. I knew she was going to die. Life was cruel, and it was cruel to have her lingering. I know it would be completely selfish of me to say I wished she was still here; although of course I do wish she was still here. She was an extraordinary woman, renowned for her sharp wit and dry humour. She always had a twinkle in her eye, there was always tea in the pot and there was always gossip to be had. It has become glaringly obvious to me through the course of this experience that life is a very fragile and temporary thing; we never know when it could end. I had spent my days worrying about things that seem so trivial to me in retrospect. I panicked about what I would do when I graduate. I fretted and worried about my lack of extracurriculars – how would I possibly get a job when I had no idea what I wanted to do and have zero experience anyway. I have to laugh now – such little worries. A few months ago, an intensely irritating internet fad spread around; the acronym YOLO, meaning You Only Live Once. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve had a bit of a YOLO realisation. There are so many evils in the world. Life is temporary, fragile and you really do only get one shot at it. I am not going to worry about trivialities any more. I’m planning to make a difference, travel the world and have a cracker. Here’s to my mum. I hope I do you proud.

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A Beginners Guide to Feminism – Can Men Be Feminists?

The debate surrounding whether men can identify themselves as feminists has raged for many years and there are many different view points surrounding it. So, can men be feminists? Does their inherent privilege make them unable to describe themselves as feminists? Should feminism be all inclusive? I think this depends on your definition of feminism and should consider the notion of male privilege as an obstacle to calling yourself a feminist.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” I like this definition – it’s simple, it’s not convoluted and it’s inclusive of everybody, regardless of gender. Surely, by this definition everybody can be a feminist provided they advocate women’s rights and equality of the sexes? Georgia Luckhurst believes so, telling me that

“I believe men can and should be feminists: feminism is about improving the world for everyone, a benefit that is directly connected to furthering the advancement of women in society, and men should care about that. It’s important that those who have suffered from racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or any discriminatory diatribe are able to discuss their experiences with others who have shared the same problem. It’s important that these people have spaces to discuss amongst one another how they feel. However, for any movement to succeed, it must include anyone who is truly passionate about the cause, no matter what – and men who support and campaign feminist issues are quite honestly my personal heroes.”
When I posed the question on Twitter, the overwhelming response from a great number of people was that yes of course men can be feminists! We should encourage and welcome male feminists as progressive and helpful to the cause! However, others disagree. Indeed, the head of National Organisation of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) claims in this article that
“Although I believe that men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe we can be feminists in the strictest sense of the word in today’s society. Men, in this patriarchal system, cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women. To be a feminist one must be a member of the targeted group (i.e a woman) not only as a matter of classification but as having one’s directly-lived experience inform one’s theory and praxis.”
Brian Kloke (the writer of the quote above and head of NOMAS) claims that as men are intrinsically privileged, they cannot be feminists as they have no “directly-lived experience”. Within the article, Brian claims that
A clear analogy can be made between male profeminism and anti-racism. Men cannot really be feminists anymore than whites can be black nationalists. However, men can be pro-feminist and whites can be pro-black nationalists. 
Thomas Wales agrees, tweeting me regarding the article that he agrees with Klokes analogy.
tomwales
The point made by Kloke is that due to male privilege and lack of lived experience of the oppression feminism strives to hault, men cannot truly describe themselves as feminists. We all know what privilege is – a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. The London Feminist describes privilege as
 “defin[ing] the tussocks and rabbit-holes in the lumpy playing field we’re all on, and where we are on the tilt of it.  (Not very curiously, the people who are most insistent that the playing field is level are the most privileged.)  If there is to be levelling of it, then those of us on the tussocks of privilege need to be leaning over to those falling down the rabbit holes and hauling them up, and likewise when we realise we’re on the way down a rabbit hole, we want to extend a hand and have someone grab it and help us.  And that could be something as major as equalities legislation or something as minor as changing your repertoire of insults to try to remove the ablist ones.”
So does male privilege prohibit men from identifying as a feminist? John Palethorpe says not, in this wonderful piece on intersectionality, privilege and male feminism (set against the backdrop of the Suzanna Moore fiasco). He claims that

Its about inclusive debate, shared experience and sharing experience. The ‘well you’re x so you can’t talk about y’ thing is the antithesis of it. It should be, ‘if you’re x and you talk about y, be prepared for y to set you right on the things you don’t know about, and don’t get in a strop about it’. Yes there’ll be anger, reacting to percieved intentional baiting is – but if you want to do intersectionality and talk outside of your experiences, you’ve got to accept you’ll get it wrong AND you’ll get called on it. And then have a constructive dialogue about it.

So if men want to identify as feminist, they have to bare in mind their intrinsic privilege. Or should they simply not use the term “feminist”, favouring anti-sexist, pro-feminist or feminist ally? The term feminist ally is one that is championed by men and women that feel that men can or should not describe themselves as feminist. I asked fellow feminist Niz Bennett what she thought on the topic and she told me:

“Men can definitely be feminists. Feminism is about equality – if you’re for it, you’re a feminist (congratulations!) It’s true they have inherent privilege and some prefer ‘feminist ally’ or other but privilege-checking is more important. Just as white, cis, able-bodied straight woman can be feminist but may need to check their privilege on occasions, men can be.”

Niz draws the point that although their is certainly the point of argument that as men have inherent male privilege they are in no position to hold opinion on something that they have no experience of, privilege takes many different forms. Niz believes (as I do too, incidentally) that men can be feminists – as long as they understand their privilege and keep a check on it. Lyndsey Gormley agrees, telling me that

“Feminism can only work if privilege is acknowledged and used to benefit the masses, not the individual. It is about acceptance of all minorities, and unlike Julie Burchill in recent weeks, does not discriminate or ‘simply decide’ who is a feminist and who is not.

So, why do I believe that men can be feminists? Because those who are fighting patriarchy, stereotyping, homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual assault, the glass ceiling, misogyny, body shaming, pornography, domestic violence, sexual harassment, reproductive rights and inequality do so, not because of their gender binary, but because of their ability to see the difference between right and wrong. Feminism is humanism.”

However, a great number of people disagreed. I was lucky enough to witness a great discussion surrounding this topic and was struck by the number of feminists who claimed that they prefer the word ally, for exactly the reasons discussed above: intrinsic male privilege and lack of lived experience of oppression. Ben Pike claimed that he describes himself as a feminist when in the company of men/non feminists, but is happy to use the word ally when in feminist company. He says that

 I think people’s problem comes from that some have had bad experiences with men who self identified feminist which I completely understand and am happy to count myself as ally with these people. It saves pointless and unproductive arguing or hurt over semantics. I’ve found it puts people more at ease, some people aren’t comfortable with men identifying as feminist for whatever reason, I’m ok with that.

with @planetpavs remarking that any true ally would have no problem at all with describing themselves as such. Angela Towers emailed me her thoughts on the matter, saying:

When asked this question I am reminded of Natasha Walters description of current feminism; a stalled revolution. The revolution did stall, and not only that it began barking up the wrong tree. I think it’s time we climbed out of the tree. Feminism needs to be all-inclusive, it needs to be; understanding, but not complacent, powerful but not aggressive. In short; it needs to rise above and unite the many.

[…] For me Feminism is not about women or men, it’s about all of us. We really are in this together. I think we should not be fighting one another, but holding up a collective mirror to the face of society, and the more people to lift the weight the better.

Another side of the arguement that one must also consider that sexism does in fact work both ways – although I personally would argue that it’s more of a one way street than it appears. Katie Sinclair messaged me her view on the subject, saying

One point that [is] interesting to consider is the concept of “egalitarianism” vs. “feminism”, as some men agree with the concept of gender equality but take issue with the word (as do some women, of course). I would say it’s necessary to use the word “feminism” because most instances of male discrimination come about as a result of men expressing traits/occupations/interests that the gender binary dictates as exclusively “feminine” and therefore “lesser” e.g. a man who wants to go into hairdressing might be patronised/bullied for choosing a career trivialised because it’s seen as a woman’s work. Socially constructed terms “masculine” = good, “feminine” = bad. Feminism therefore concerns all genders, as all are affected by patriarchal concepts.

This is an excellent point and one that I have to admit I hadn’t really considered until Katie messaged me. Although I personally disagree with the notion and feel that the patriarchy is far more harmful to women than to men by its very nature, male discrimination does exist as a result of the patriarchy and for some men it is in their personal interest to end this gender binary. Perhaps then, as Katie points out, the term egalitarian may be more apt?

What have we learnt? Well, to start of we have learnt that this is a far more complicated issue that it appears on its surface – although ideally we’d like to think that everybody can and should identify as feminists, there are those in the feminist community who simply do not believe this to be the case. This is something that everybody needs to decide on themselves. Personally, I feel that if somebody is sincerely dedicated to women’s liberation and empowerment then of course they’re a feminist, regardless of their gender – although for arguments sake, identifying as a feminist ally is a-okay by me too. Will Brooker, a Twitter friend of mine, tweeted me his contribution saying:

“Men can certainly identify as feminist and be part of feminism but I think that is for women to decide. In any case, men’s principle role within feminism is to shut up and listen.”

I tend to agree. I’d like to end on another quote from the wonderful Lyndsey Gormley:

The biggest myth concerning feminism is the notion that we hate men and that all men in return, hate us. Feminism, to me, is the fight against patriarchy towards the equality of both genders. It is the acknowledgment of privilege and oppression in order to campaign towards the liberation of straight, LGBTQ, cis-gendered, gender queer, able bodied, disabled, white, WoC, working class, middle class and upper class women.

That concludes our whistle stop tour of the issue surrounding male feminists, male privilege and feminist allies – I don’t pertain to have covered everything here and if it is a subject that interests you there is a plethora of articles, opinion pieces and blog posts out there on the internet on the topic. I hope to have outlined all the major talking points. If you have anything to add, feel free to post a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@nitramarual). I will be publicising the next Beginners Guide on Well Behaved Women and on Twitter if you’d like to be involved.
Twitter handles of the contributors
:

Laura Martin: @nitramarual (author and editor)

Angela Towers: @MissesTea
Ben Pike: @BenCPike
Georgia Luckhurst: @secretactivist
John Palethorpe: @JohnPalethorpe
Katie Sinclair: @katiemsinclair
Lyndsey Gormley: @LyndseyMG_
Nick: @NickehBee
Niz Bennett: @NotASquib
Terica Adams: @danceTEAdance
Thomas Wales: @tomwales_
Tilly Grove: @tillyjean_
Will Brooker: @willbrooker

For general support and definitions:

Little Tweets: @stfumisogynists
Pavs: @PlanetPavs
Stilli: @Stillicides

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Filed under A Beginners Guide to Feminism, Feminism, Feminist Allies, Intersectionality, Male Feminism, Privilege