Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Left-Wing Call To Arms

It's time to start kicking arse and taking names. And this time, I mean all of you. I'm sick of being alienated from scenes I like, and I'm not the only one.

Here's the deal: Challenging one dominant ideal in society (patriarchy, theism, capitalism etc.), whilst displaying sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or any other discriminatory traits is not on, and I'm calling you all out on it.

It is not enough to simply say "well, our group doesn't discriminate" when patriarchal, white, cis-centric values are the norm.  

If you're not actively fighting oppression, you're propagating it.

I'm not asking for the moon on a stick, all I'm asking for is people to check their damn privilege and make sure their movement is not doing things to make people they should be allied with feel uncomfortable.

Kyriarchy. Smash it. 

Here's some examples of what I'm talking about:

Stavvers on Manarchy
Blaghag on sexist atheists
Feministe on racism in the LGBT community
CN Lester on cissexism at Pride
I Live Sweat on pretty much every problem in the punk scene

Actively fighting one lefty fight doesn't give you a free pass on all other lefty issues if you ignore them and hope they go away. Just remember - we're all in this together.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


So, SonniesEdge and I were talking last night about the frankly horrific state of affairs in mainstream women's magazines, and decided we'd quite like a bit of direct action against the body fascism, body shaming and crap sex advice they give. So, we're just testing the waters with this, but here's what we'd like to do:

Date: Mid-September

Target: National Magazines HQ - they own Cosmo, Company, Reveal etc.

Plan: We'd like to see people dressed as beauticians outside the HQ, offering "You look fucking great" cards out to all passers by, possibly a "free makeover" booth where we do nothing, because nothing needs to be done, and some placards mocking the cover splashes of the magazine ("What men find hot: Confidence and bodily autonomy", etc)

Inclusivity: This is an all inclusive event. These magazines do not only marginalise and shame women who don't want to buy into their "ideal women", but also women of colour, L/B women and all trans* people. Men are also encouraged to be there, because the magazines peddling of this fascistic ideal also reflects badly on them.

What to do: This is NOT a concrete plan. We are testing the waters. If enough people are up for it, it's all systems go. So, let me know if you're interested in the comments section, and also let me know any suggestions you might have. If there's enough interest we'll finalise all details and plans and create a FB event and so on.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Dick Privilege

Another week, another furore surrounds Richard Dawkins. The latest one, swiftly dubbed ‘Elevator-gate’ by those incapable of feeling revulsion at someone’s actions unless the word ‘gate’ is included in a sentence, really struck a chord with me, and a lot of other women.

Here’s what happened. Rebecca Watson, who writes Skepchick, delivered a talk in Dublin about sexism in the skeptic and atheist communities. After the talk, she was in the lift going to her hotel room, and an attendee of the talk cornered her and tried to chat her up. Later, she uploaded a vlog, where she said 

“Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don't do that. You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and—don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.” 

That’s all she said. She didn’t call for the bloke to be hung by the nether-regions or an end to all sexual activity between humans ever, she just asked for a little bit of common courtesy. Then Dick got involved.

Commenting on Pharyngula, his first comment was:

When he was called up by people asking whether he was arguing that because worse things happen in other areas of the world, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with bad things that happen, he replied with:

Then, he decided to make a third comment, saying:

Well, Dick, here’s what you don’t ‘get’. 

You don’t get obscenities shouted at you in public because you dare to be out of the house while in possession of a vagina. You don’t get men refusing to move out of your way at work so you have to rub up against them to get somewhere you need to be immediately. You don’t get forced to not wear a top you like because it’s a bit low cut and the last time you did a customer literally stared at your tits for two hours solid. You don’t get patronised because your reproductive organs are on the inside. You don’t get seen as a being that is only good for sex one minute and reviled the next if you dare to reveal yourself as a sexual being. You don’t get forced into choosing between a career and a family. You don’t get told that you won’t succeed because of those pockets of fat and muscle on your chest. You don’t get treated as a member of a minority group when you in fact, form the majority of the population. You don’t get accused of being a hysterical, over-emotional, boring bitch when you don’t want to fuck someone and you don’t want to be propositioned for sex at 4 in the morning in a hotel after you JUST SPOKE about how uncomfortable this made you feel. You also, and I can not make this clear enough, do NOT FUCKING GET to tell people who this stuff actually happens to on a daily basis how to feel.

It really is as simple as that. Dick, when you get all these things, or even engage your humongous brain to, for once, empathise with someone who’s not a rich white straight cis-gender bloke, you might realise why the culture we’re brought up in means that if we’re cornered by men, it makes us uncomfortable.

The thing about this is that Dawkins is the one that turned this into a huge shit-storm. He took one woman saying that a man who ignored her personal feelings and did the very thing she’d just publicly spoken about feeling uncomfortable about so he could try get his dick wet was insensitive and rude and turned it into “Oh, these awful women are so fucking touchy that we can’t even chat them up! It’s so unfair!” And do you know what? I could have happily have denounced Dawkins for being the out-of touch old git that he so clearly is, and moved on. But then other commenters got involved and twisted Watson’s statement into something it clearly wasn’t intended as. 

So for everyone who is whining “Well how are we supposed to chat women up if we can’t go near them?”, just put yourself in her shoes, and see if it could make her uncomfortable. If you even think that there’s a chance it might, don’t do it. If you can’t see any way to get a woman without creeping her out, I would prescribe a brief period of taking a good look at oneself to see why you think that’s the case.

I’ll tell you what I don’t get. Why do these men defending Dawkins think that their ‘right’ to tell us that they want a woman’s body trumps the woman’s right to feel safe or comfortable? Why do they think that ignoring women’s wishes will ever get them the shag they desire? Here’s the deal: Yes, you might not be a rapist, but we don’t know that. It’s like Russian Roulette. You might be the one that looks normal then feeds us to chinchillas from the feet up. This is how we are conditioned to feel by a society where rape and assault does happen, and they happen disproportionately to women. You can’t simply say that no western woman should ever feel uncomfortable because of what a man might do until he actually does it. I’m not saying all women are, or should, be scared when they’re in an enclosed space with a strange man who wants to fuck her, but some do, and saying “Well you shouldn’t be, and if you are, you’re a hysterical, overreacting bitch” is emphatically NOT a solution.

To end this, I’m going to quote PZ Meyers’ take on the whole thing, because he sums it up beautifully:

"Imagine that Richard Dawkins meets a particularly persistent fan who insists on standing uncomfortably close to him, and Richard asks him to stand back a little bit; when he continues, he says to the rest of the crowd that that is rather rude behavior, and could everyone give him a little breathing space? Which then leads to many members of the crowd loudly defending the rudeness by declaring that since the guy wasn't assaulting him, he should be allowed to keep doing that, and hey, how dare Richard Dawkins accuse everyone present of trying to mug him! That's exactly analogous to Rebecca Watson's situation. She did not make these hysterical accusations everyone is claiming, she did not compare herself to the oppressed women of the third world, she did not demonize the clumsy sap in the elevator — she asked for some simple common courtesy, and for that she gets pilloried.
Sorry, people, but that sends a very clear signal to women that calm requests for respect will be met with jeers by a significant subset of the atheist community, and that's not right."

This has also been covered by Watson herselfAmanda MarcotteJen McCreightDiscover and Almost Diamonds, to name but a few, and all are well worth a read.(PROTIP: Do not go beneath the line)