My problem with feminism

I’d like to just emphasize, this is my problem, not a problem with feminism, but my own personal issues with being a feminist.

I’ve always been a feminist but I did the blog challenge in April and tried to continue blogging in May, but by June I had reached a dead end. I found that all the research and reading and blogging that I was doing, actually only lead down a black hole where I was noticing sexism in all areas of life, which was making me both sad and angry, until I became a bitter old hag.

I learned so much about feminism and body image that rather than admitting to myself that I would like to lose a little weight to get myself from the overweight into the healthy range; I had decided to steel myself and accept my body for what it is. Surely, not doing so would be un-feminist.

Another sphere where my new focus on feminism profoundly affected me was at work. I started noticing every little thing, every sexist remark and every slight (whether real or imagined) made me more and more dissatisfied. Taking a step back I realise that some of it is real hard-core sexism, and some of it was harmless banter. I am not, however, in a position to do anything about it. I can’t speak out, I refuse to let that be the thing that defines me in my career. I don’t want to be a victim. I know that no matter how it is phrased it will be glaringly obvious that it came from me, as sad and wrong as that is, I refuse to be the one. And this is perhaps the thing that eats away at me. I feel like I am being a hypocrite, I feel like I am letting the whole female side down. But I am not in a position to be an activist, not now. There is too much at stake.

I think that feminism is hard to live by, it’s difficult to be activist and put yourself out there. I know that I can’t do that but at the same time, I don’t feel that someone else needs to carry that burden for me. I think the best I can do is to live up to my own moral code, and as long as my actions are congruent with what I believe, then that is enough. At least for now.

Must Read of the Week: Five photos that sparked body image debates

Every week hopefully) I post a link to an article/book/comment I read during the week. It’s sort of a rough collection of interesting things found all over the internet.

I found this article today which is an interesting look at 5 photos that sparked body image debates from the BBC News site.

This is an interesting look at the images that over the years have sparked debate about body image. What struck me about this is that 4 out of 5 images are women. But not only that, the message for women is different to the message for men. The images aimed at women are about accepting your body for what it is; whatever the size, shape, stretch marks or flabby tummy. It’s about accepting who you are, whereas the image for men is that no matter who you are you can make your body better. I don’t think this is good, I just think it’s interesting to note.

Something that is more aggravating is the sidebar linked to the image of Isabelle Caro (who was involved in a campaign against anorexia in 2007, the sidebar has stats about eating disorders and links to related articles, one of which is What are the health risks of obesity?. Not really the same thing BBC.

Aside from this, the article is worth the read.

Must Read of the Week: The Bloggess

Every Friday I post a link to an article/book/comment I read during the week. It’s sort of a rough collection of interesting things found all over the internet.

This week’s must read of the week is the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, on the book Lean In. But more than that, you need to add her to your list of must read all the time, also, for context, you may also want to read her book, Let’s pretend this never happened.

And just for the record, this is NOT a sponsored post, I’m just a really big fan.

Emily Wilding Davison: Wicked Women Wednesday

Wicked Women Wednesdays (or WWW) is a feature where I highlight a woman who I think is wicked (not in the bad way, wicked meaning excellent, or amazing) on a Wednesday. I’ll try to be as broad in the definition as possible and am planning to give kudos to women who are awesome.

On the 4th June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Let me just take a moment and let that sink, in 1913 (when women wore corsets and stuff) she stepped in front of a horse, which was owned by the king, in the middle of a horse race. The image I always had of her was that she stepped in front of the king on his way somewhere (I know, it seems really silly now). But this stepping out in front of the King’s horse wasn’t the only thing she did to highlight the plight of women, she was truly a women of principles. She is an example of how women can be just as militant and violent when protesting as men, she was jailed 9 times for a number of offenses including arson and assault on a man that she mistook for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. While in prison she went on hunger strike and was force fed 49 times. At one point she threw herself down a 10 meter iron staircase (with a number of other suffragettes).

There is some dispute however about her intentions the day at the Derby, as there is some speculation that she was intending to attach a women’s suffrage flag to the horse before it crossed the finish line. Irrespective of her intentions, she died 4 days later from her injuries.

I think the question that I have is, ‘why do we not know who she is?’ I am far from a history buff, but I do think that she should be acknowledged. MP’s are looking to have a statue of her erected at Westminster (source). I particularly loved this blog post which I couldn’t possibly do justice to, you really need to read it.

I think that we do need to take a step back, and first of all acknowledge how much the suffragettes and suffragists did for women and the lengths that they went to get equal rights for women, but I can’t help wondering if we’re squandering their legacy by not fighting harder for ourselves. It’s not okay that women are underrepresented in positions of power, women earn less than men, women are still expected to do more housework and somehow misogyny is still rife in parts of society. It’s not okay. I don’t suggest you throw yourself in front of the Queen’s horse, or down a flight of stairs, but don’t stay silent. Speak up. Don’t say nothing.

Must Read of the Week: Clare Balding row

Every Friday I post a link to an article/book/comment I read during the week. It’s sort of a rough collection of interesting things found all over the internet.

There is a row going on in the UK about a woman, Clare Balding, who is a successful sports presenter, a TV presenter, journalist as well as a lesbian. The BBC broadcast a satirical debate about turning her straight. Along the same kind of lines as she just needs a good seeing to. Julie Bindel’s blog post about it is this week’s must read of the week. Some extracts:

“Lesbianism is a significant threat to men. After all, we are rejecting them sexually and, more importantly, making it clear we do not need to be desired by or betrothed to a man in order to have an identity. Clare Balding needs to be put in her place, according to the sexists, because she has no right to be a successful professional, a well-loved public figure and an out-and-proud lezzer.

The treatment of Balding’s sexuality comes straight out of misogyny, of which anti-lesbianism is a part. All women are negatively affected by men’s hostility to lesbianism as it is, as I have argued here before, a tactic to keep us in our place and to make us feel the need for male approval.

Men of the sexist variety can recoil in horror at being told that some women actively choose lesbianism over heterosexuality because it is altogether preferable. Being unable to get their heads around how anyone would have sex without a penis being present, they ask who does what in bed and how. These men know full well what lesbianism has to offer women, but still need to keep up the charade that any time they want they could get us back in line. So long as we are doing perfectly fine, if not a damn sight better without them, we will continue to hear the croaky, faltering battle cry from the old patriarchs. What they need is a bloody good lesson in keeping their opinions to themselves.”

In look at this article I’ve trawled back through some of the recent articles by Julie Bindel and she has been added to my must read every week list.

Baroness Barker: Wicked Women Wednesdays

Wicked Women Wednesdays (or WWW) is a new feature where I highlight a woman who I think is wicked (not in the bad way, wicked meaning excellent, or amazing) on a Wednesday. I’ll try to be as broad in the definition as possible and am planning to give kudos to women who are awesome.

Last night was the vote in the House of Lords regarding the legalisation of gay marriage and in the lead up to the vote, in what I think is an incredibly brave move; Baroness Barker came out not just in support of gay marriage, but actually came out as gay. An extract from her speech:

“My Lords, I declare an interest. Many years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet someone. She and I have loved each other ever since—that is, apart from the occasional spectacular argument, usually about driving or DIY.”

I’ve picked out my favourite parts of her speech, but the whole thing can be found on Pink News:

“There have been many changes to what constitutes marriage over the years. In 1836, there was the change that allowed civil marriage. In 1949, there was the change that made 16 the minimum age for marriage. Those changes came about because of campaigns that were run by minorities and resisted by majorities for a very long time, but they are not changes that would now be overturned.

What we are doing today does not undermine any existing or future marriage. It extends the status of marriage to gay men and lesbians who want to make a public commitment in the presence of their families and friends, and sometimes their co-religionists. It reflects the wishes of those people who today do not want just to tolerate lesbians and gay men; they want to celebrate and support them as people in their own right.

A great deal has been made about the issue of a conscience clause for registrars and other public servants. I grew up in a time and a place when discrimination in public services on the grounds of religion was not uncommon. It caused resentment and divided communities. The idea that public servants should decide, according to their personal beliefs, who does and does not receive a public service is just wrong. Taxes are levied on a non-discriminatory basis and services should be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.”

And yes, it was passed through the House of Lords (390 votes in favour to 148 against), but there is still a way to go. It goes to a committee of the House of Lords who will scrutinise the bill before they report back to the House of Lords. Once this is done, it will go through the third reading, a considering of amendments by the House of Commons (to look at what changes the House of Lords made) and then get royal assent (and is therefore law). All of this means that although it is closer, it is by no means a done deal. I’m confident however, given the support that has been shown so far, I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see equal marriage in the UK. And all thanks to people Baroness Barker, you’re wicked!

Is gay marriage only a male issue?

I’ve spoken about oppositional sexism and about femmephobia on my blog before, but over the last few weeks I’ve been watching an irritating trend in the coverage of gay marriage. The lack of women.

As a lesbian and the partner of a trans person who is transitioning, the issue of gay marriage affects me in a more profound way than most straightforward lesbian couples. The legal situation is just so much more complicated. My partner and I aren’t married although we would like to be. But because we have not yet applied for her gender recognition certificate (GRC) which allows her birth certificate to be changed from her assigned gender to her current gender we cannot get married, or get a civil partnership. If she gets a GRC, we can get a civil partnership (which although similar to marriage is not quite equal) but she doesn’t have one (which I’m not getting into) and because she is no longer her assigned gender we cannot get married as a opposite sex couple. If we did get married, to apply for her GRC, we would need to get an interim GRC, have the marriage dissolved, get the full GRC and then get a civil partnership. See? It’s complicated, but I digress.

I have been watching the coverage of equal marriage very closely, because it would mean that we could get married and it would not matter if she got a GRC now or ever. It’s just simpler that way. But in many of the articles, opinion pieces, news coverage etc. all focuses predominantly on gay men. Take a look at some examples:

The BBC

From the BBC’s Q&A on gay marriage

From the BBC’s article on Gay marriage bill: Lords to debate ‘wrecking amendment’

The Telegraph

From the Telegraph’s We must not reject the gay marriage Bill article

The Daily Mail (did we expect any different?)

Then there is the Daily Mail:

From the Daily Mail: Queen’s holy oath at her coronation would be broken by gay marriage law, says senior clergyman

The only exception was on the Guardian’s article by Michael Bloomberg, who showed this lovely pair

The Guardian’s: Gay marriage: it’s only fair

It just highlights how no matter how far we come, there is still so much more work to be done to educate people that it’s not okay to just ignore 50% of the population. We are people too, yes the ladies who like ladies. A relationship that is entirely devoid of men is just as valid as any other relationship.

Must Read of the Week: Explosion review of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games

Every Friday I post a link to an article/book/comment I read during the week. It’s sort of a rough collection of interesting things found all over the internet.

Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist who released Tropes vs Women in video Games (Damsels in Distress (Part 1) was released on the 7th March and Part 2 was released on 28th May 2013. If you are interested (which I am sure you are) you can find her on her page (source).

I am of course always interested in what other feminists have to say, and the portrayal of women in games has long since been a bug bear of mine. Women are often side characters and lack any substance whatsoever, or they are shown as victims. It’s seldom that you find a strong woman lead character, and when you do find them they’re often dressed in impractically revealing clothing (Lara Craft comes to mind).

The gaming world is inhabited by mainly men and a direct confrontation of feminist views and ideology in this masculine domain which makes the reaction to this sort of thing particularly interesting. This article on explosion.com gives a fair analysis and review of the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. In it the author says:

“The documentary takes an unflinching look at the role women are forced to play in video games and how they are often relegated to objects or motivations. Sarkeesian definitely feels free to connect her own dots in portrayal of women, and one could argue that she makes her own elaborate jumps without much explanation to the viewer, but it is not how she draws these insinuations, it is the sheer volume of games the industry has given Sarkeesian with which to make them.

This is why whether you agree with Sarkeesian’s views of sexism in video games or not, you still should find value in her message. As its audience continues to mature, as the medium continues to evolve with new hardware, video games must find a way to become more than the stereotypical male power fantasy. It has become embarrassing to explain the plots of AAA video games that are riddled in contrived stereotypes and boring scenarios. Sarkeesian ends her documentary saying that she does not view the video game industry has inherently sexist or bigoted, but that the problem comes from cookie cutter design that is used to skip over a game’s thematic message and get to the part where they start making things blow up. Sarkeesian’s message may not be perfectly constructed or universally accurate, but that doesn’t stop her from pointing out an inconvenient truth about the present world of gaming.”
 

I think that that is the whole point, we need to take a mature and realistic view of the world and criticise what doesn’t work. I am a girl gamer, and I refuse to buy or play games where I cannot play as a female charachter, or where the female charachters are little more than eye candy. I even go so far as to support  games that allow same sex relationships (for example my current favourite Dragon Age 2). If I’m entering a game world as a form of escapism, what is the point if I have to face the same bigotry that I do in real life?

Autumn Sandeen – Wicked Women Wednesdays

Wicked Women Wednesdays (or WWW) is a feature where I highlight a woman who I think is wicked (not in the bad way, wicked meaning excellent, or amazing) on a Wednesday. I’ll try to be as broad in the definition as possible and I give kudos to women who are awesome.

Image from http://pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com/2013/05/21/changing-my-recorded-gender-with-dod/Earlier this month, Autumn Sandeen got her gender marker changed by the US military. I found this via a rather obscure route and I was disappointed that the only article in the UK was by the Daily Mail. They did the usual wrong when reporting trans issues by publishing before and after photographs, but seemed to do a reasonably fair piece. Enough about bad media practices.

If you are interested, you can read her full account here. In a similar stance to “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, which was the military policy to gay and lesbian people serving in the military from 1993 to 2011, trans people cannot openly serve in the military. Getting the gender marker changed marks a historic step towards equality. On her blog she says that she’s not the first to get her gender marker changed, but it is important to open up the conversation, she says:

“For me, moving the dialogue forward towards trans people being able to change their DD214s; streamlining the policy for changing one’s recorded gender at the DOD; and helping open the dialogue towards open military service for trans servicemembers are goals I believe are well worth going public about my story to achieve those goals.

Simply put, I’m publicly joining the struggle for trans servicemembers’ and veterans’ ordinary equality, and I hope I’ve played a small part in the eventual achievement of that ordinary equality for trans people.”

I think that trans activists that are willing to ‘out’ themselves to open up the discussion are incredibly brave. It must be difficult to put yourself out there and admit that you have a trans past, because you open yourself up for abuse. I think that given how many people feel about the sacredness of their military (not just in the US), it must be incredible scary to put yourself out there and challenge the status quo. Hats off to you Autumn!

Must Read of the Week: Women and Money

This is a new feature where every Friday I post a link to an article/book/comment I read during the week. It’s sort of a rough collection of interesting things found all over the internet, but didn’t seem to fit into a full blog post.

Just the other day my partner and I were discussing how much of the great capitalist machine is relies on women. Consumer goods are mainly a female arena, with some arguments about whether women buy more consumer electronics than men do. Stereotypically women buy more clothes, children’s toys, groceries and goods for the home. Women are also more likely to pay more because products specifically aimed at women are priced higher than the non-feminine counterparts (source).

“Being a woman in this country [the USA] has become an increasingly expensive proposition. It’s not just dry cleaning and haircuts where women get socked: We pay more for home mortgages, health insurance, and cars and car repairs (even when we mind our credit, eat right and exercise, and do our homework), not to mention everyday items like deodorant and disposable razors. “

“Though few retailers will cop to it, gender pricing is standard industry practice. It’s especially pronounced at the drugstore, where bathroom staples like shampoo, soap, and razors marketed to women (invariably packaged in pretty pastels) routinely cost more than near-identical products for men. A recent study by researchers at the University of Central Florida examined some 200 sticks of deodorant sold at major drugstore chains and found that sticks for women cost, on average, 30 cents more per ounce than those for men, even when the only discernible difference was scent.”

There is also this article about the hidden costs of being a woman (source) which says:

“Women… pay higher interest rates on credit cards than men do…The study also finds that women with low levels of financial literacy are particularly vulnerable to credit card mismanagement. They are more likely to carry a balance on their cards, pay only the minimum, and pay late fees than men with low levels of financial literacy. At the same time, low-financial literacy women are also less likely to embrace positive credit card behaviours, such as comparison shopping for cards.”

So what does it all mean? Perhaps we should do some research and start learning how to manage our finances, and take a look at the items branded specifically at women and boycott those that charge you more for the pink packaging (or just buy the blue one instead).

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