Watch Porn. Cure Breast Cancer

This rocked up on my FaceBook feed and I genuinely thought it was a joke. I couldn’t believe that the misogynists were now using breast cancer as a way to promote the use of porn. This is actually what Men’s Health writes about Pornhub’s campaign:

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means every man should do his part in helping to find a cure for the terrible disease that afflicts 1 in 8 U.S. women. And you can start by staring at hot, naked porn stars.

Yep, men can help cure breast cancer by participating in the degradation and objectification of women’s bodies. They can help cure breast cancer not by financially supporting cancer research but by financially supporting the rape and torture of women’s bodies. And, Pornhub is being totally generous with their campaign and are going to donate a whole penny for the  every thirty videos watched under the two channels “Big Tit’s” and “Small Tit’s”. That’s right 1 penny for every 30 videos. Call me cynical, but I’m guessing that that one penny won’t cut too much into their profit margins. Thankfully, the charity named on Pornhub’s media release, the Susan G Komen Foundation, have refused to take the donation.* 

As ever, I am behind the times since this campaign started on the first of October. I may have been aware of it then and just filed it under “shit that will make me incandescent with rage” and then thought of it no more. I probably would have missed it completely if the link to the article in Men’s Health wasn’t making the rounds of FB. I can safely say I have never perused that particular magazine before and won’t be doing so again. It is an appalling example of heteronormative misogyny. Men’s Health is quite clearly just another Lad’s mag. This is something I did not need to know. And, seriously in an article on raising money for breast cancer was it absolutely necessary to sneak in a reference to teaching your girlfriend to love porn? Really? In this context, “teaching” sounds a lot like brainwashing. And, calling the (extremely limited) donation “porn pennies” is freaking creepy. Really, really creepy. But, hey, if that doesn’t creep you out, this will:* 

Meanwhile, here’s one more awesome way to save breasts: Touch ‘em! Men’s Health partnered with the charity Fuck Cancer, and we want you to pledge to be a gentleman. If you find something fishy on your favorite pair of breasts, you could save a life—90 percent of cancers are curable if caught in stage one. Click the image below and take the pledge to touch some breasts now!**

And, if the above doesn’t depress you, Men’s Health seems to be running a campaign with a charity called Fuck Cancer called Fuck Cancer: Touch Some Breasts which calls for men to take a pledge on Facebook to touch some breasts to help identify breast cancer in its early stages. Because a bunch of creepy men are so much likely to help identify breast cancer by grabbing their partners breasts. Their is actually no information easily visible on how to check breasts effectively or what the other signs of breast cancer might be so mostly this is just a cheap trick to abuse women’s bodies and tell them it’s for their own good.

Having read Men’s Health’s sex tips, I think it is safe to say that none of the staff are having sexually satisfying relationships with their partners. Well, they may be. I suspect their partners might be balancing their cheque books during coitus instead.***

* I may be over-using the word creepy here. It’s becoming somewhat of a habit. I promise to invest in a thesaurus tomorrow.

*** There was a link here. I have taken it out. They don’t need anymore aattention.

** Men’s Health has an article on words not to use during sex. I’m reclaiming coitus because they are too weird for words.

UPDATE: FeministCurrent has written about the problematic breast cancer campaigns here, as has I Blame the Patriarchy here.

Flavor Flav is a member of the #DickheadDetox

Flavor Flav, one of the founding members of Public Enemy has been arrested, again, for domestic violence. I have to be honest here and say that I have been a fan of Public Enemy for years. I also had no idea that Flavor Flav has such a long history of domestic violence and assault. I did catch the ads for some TV show where he was “auditioning” girlfriends a few years back. At that point, I shoved all my Public Enemy CDs to the back of the cupboard since I’m opposed to all forms of reality television and that’s without the level of misogyny involved in “auditioning” girlfriends. I had no idea that Flavor Flav was  a violent misogynist. I just thought he was the garden-variety misogynist. I also never looked into it. I should have because his history is disgraceful. In 1991, he pled guilty to assaulting his partner Karen Ross and served 30 days in prison as well as losing custody of his children [a law the UK might want to look into]. In 1993, he was charged with attempted murder when he shot his neighbour but, apparently, he only spent 90 days in jail. He was also arrested that year for domestic violence as well as drug offences. He has also had his license and passport revoked for failing to pay child support; the sign of a real man. His arrest on October 17th, in Las Vegas, is for domestic assault and battery. 

Now, this might seem like the history of yet another violent man, but this article   , includes the lovely line: 

Flavor Flav became a well known as a personality by wearing big clocks like necklaces, yelling out “Flavor Flav” and Yeah Boy” during performances and dating beautiful women (such as Beverly Johnson in 2000 and Bridgette Nelson in 2004).  

Now, I may be confused but at what point does dating “beautiful women” make one a “personality”. And, what is the relevance in an article about a man who has just been arrested for assaulting his partner, scaring his young child and threatening to kill his stepson. Celebrating a man who dates “beautiful women” is just ridiculous, even if he hadn’t just assaulted a woman.

This is the problem with the Patriarchy. Flavor Flav has a serious history of domestic violence for which he has never really been held accountable. Yet, Public Enemy have been nominated for induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Their song was used by Channel 4 to advertise the ParaOlympics and an article about his history of domestic violence also has to discuss the fact that he “dates beautiful women”; as if this somehow mitigates the violence he perpetrates. Maybe if Flavor Flav had been held accountable the first time he assaulted a woman, rather just 30 days in prison, we wouldn’t be looking at such a long history of violence.

Chris Rock’s Good Hair

I genuinely like Chris Rock. He is incredibly funny and usually on the ball with things which are important. Okay, he frequently misses the whole issue of sexism with his tendency to reinforce it in the same breath as claiming to want a better future for his daughters. He is, however, not on my list of Dudes: the hypocrites who think that voting for Obama and claiming to be pro-choice cancels out any violence against women that they perpetrate. [I’m speaking to you here Zack Braff]. Chris Rock is one of those men who should be too intelligent to be debasing themselves with misogynistic jokes but do it anyways. Every time he opens his mouth, I twitch waiting for the inevitable Kim Kardashian joke. Now, I’ve never actually see the Kardashian show[s?] because I don’t do reality TV. I think it’s vile, nasty bullying of vulnerable people. Anyway, apparently, Chris has joined in with the Kim Kardashian bashing which disappoints me. And, pisses me off. I have no idea what Kim Kardashian has done to deserve such nasty bullying off everyone but unless she’s a serial killer or personally paying the entire costs of the War on Women, I’m going to guess she doesn’t deserve it. So, Chris, you need to stop hangin’ with misogynists. They are stupid and you, supposedly, are not.

Good Hair is classic Chris Rock. He is equally snarky and lovely. Plus, it has Maya Angelou and who doesn’t love Maya Angelou? I only have two real criticisms. The first is that Rock doesn’t ever really delve into the issue of men’s hair. It is referenced by Reverend Al Sharpton but many of the other men in the documentary had shaved heads which left me wondering about how much pressure men feel under to have “real” hair. But, that’s not a very fair criticism since the documentary was about African-American women’s hair and constructions of beauty. This is where I had a problem because I think Rock pulled his punches.

Rock should have been using the terms racism and misogyny but he didn’t. He talked about the construction of beauty being about white women with beautiful hair and how damaging it was to the self-esteem of young African-American women. He also talked a lot about how expensive it was for African-American women to buy weaves but, at $1000 minimum each, how many can actually afford to buy weaves for their hair? Or, can afford to buy the “relaxing” cream [which is effectively poison]? Again, I felt Rock skirted around the issue of poverty. He just didn’t make the clear correlation between race, poverty and the construction of beauty. Maybe I’m asking too much of Rock and expecting a feminist critique but I just felt he didn’t push hard enough. I don’t mean he should have questioned the women he interviewed harder. One of the nice things about Rock is that he genuinely seems to enjoy chatting to pretty much anyone and actually listens to what they say [rather than what he thinks they should be saying]. I just wanted Rock to go farther with his own political analysis. I wanted him to be bell hooks and Audre Lorde. 

I wanted Rock to talk about more than his daughters.

I wanted to hear a male celebrity talk about misogyny, racism and poverty.

I didn’t want him to subtle; I wanted to hear him say those words. 

I wanted him to call out the billion dollar industry which profits from racism and misogyny.

Most of all, I wanted to hear Chris Rock yelling “Fuck the Patriarchy” so I could mail it back to him and politely request that he stop being so rude about Kim Kardashian. Instead, he ended the documentary with a quote from Ice-T, a man who is not noted for his respect for women.

The Netmums Survey: Mark 2

I know I have already blogged about this but it has made me very, very cross. There is so much wrong with this survey. It’s poorly worded and deliberately and maliciously negative, as Salt and Caramel pointed out here. So, I’m going to break my complaints down by image. It’s not very exciting but, let’s be honest here, malicious smear campaigns about feminism aren’t very exciting either. Mostly, they are tedious and dull. So, to start with, that bit about this being a “new movement … to reflect women’s personal choice”, well that’s either some serious reinvention of history or extreme stupidity. I haven’t decided yet. Normally, we call this Third Wave Feminism. I’m not quite sure how Netmums managed to miss this but, apparently, they did. And, if 36% of youngsters (and WTF is a youngster on a parenting site? I was a teenage mother. The last thing you are is a “youngster”) can’t imagine a time when men and women were not equal, I would suggest they have never actually engaged with the media in any way, shape or form. Also, I’d be questioning their education. I’d be sending OFSTED in, pronto, for a quick inspection.

Now, I’m willing to concede that only 14% of respondents wanting to self-identify as feminists is a problem. If this were a real survey, I would be concerned but it’s not. It’s a group of self-selecting women on a specific internet site choosing to take the time to fill out the survey. It’s about as accurate as those fake surveys hair care and make-up companies are forever peddling in women’s magazines and then claim they are scientific. This only works if you are a dingbat. Even I, who effectively slept through high school math, can tell that this is a bad statistic. It just doesn’t work. 

I still don’t know what they mean by “old-fashioned” feminism and how “old-fashioned” is different from “traditional”. Or, how “old-fashioned” feminism is too “divisive” and that 39% of women “don’t want to be equal – women are different to men and we should celebrate the differences” whilst simultaneously claiming that it is “old-fashioned and not relevant to their generation”. Which old-fashioned is it? Because that is the same answer to two very different statements.

And, frankly, anyone who thinks feminism has gone “too far” when women still are paid less than men, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, and rape is still a daily occurrence is a nincompoop. 

This statistics in this chart make sense but how they are the downside to feminism is beyond me. Too much is expected of women. We are expected to hold full time jobs and do all the housework and all the childcare. That isn’t the fault of feminism. That is the fault of men who refuse to give up their privilege and act like adults. That is the fault of the patriarchy who insist that women pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test 10 minutes after giving birth. When all men are doing 50% of the childcare and 50% of the wifework, I might consider the question of the possible downsides of feminism success. 

And, for the love of Sappho, does no one know what “chivalric behaviour” really means? It’s not opening frigging doors. That’s basic kindness. Shutting doors in the face of the person behind you is a nasty thing to do. The sex of the person holding open the door is irrelevant. But, holding them open isn’t “chivalry” either. It’s a military code romanticised in literature where rape is a common theme. In fact, rape is practically a reward for being a knight.
I’ve already deconstructed the whole “my daughter isn’t aware of feminism” motif as highly suspect but I’m equally perturbed by the fact that 36% of their daughters couldn’t “imagine a time when men and women were not regarded as equal.” Either their daughters are very dense or their parents don’t ever talk to them because only someone deeply stupid could not imagine such a thing. Again, 20 minutes on the news looking at rape in warfare would make the point pretty obvious. Basic history lessons at primary school cover the issue of women not being allowed to “work outside the home”. If their daughters don’t know this, they need to watching Horrible Histories. Or, change schools. Probably both.
We’ve already established that their is, in many ways, more pressure on women now than 50 years ago. Again, this isn’t the fault of feminism. This is the fault of the capitalist-patriarchy who refuse to acknowledge their privilege. So, more than 69% think feminism’s biggest fight is to reinstate the “value of motherhood”. It’s a parenting website. Of course, they are going to worried about issues like this. Frankly, that’s just the stating the frigging obvious. We live in a society that consistently denigrates women’s roles, regardless of what that role is. It’s no wonder that women are worried about it. I am slightly perplexed that 58% want “New Feminism” to “ensure women have ‘real choice over their family, career and lives.” That’s the whole point of feminsm. It’s to liberate women from oppression so that we have real choices.
This section is so odd since it seems to contradict earlier sections. The only way this bit makes sense is if the 1300 women [and men? it doesn’t give a gender breakdown but I assume there are men on Netmums. They are all over the place on Mumsnet] is if they genuinely don’t have a clue what the word feminism actually means. Now, you don’t need to be au courant with feminist political theories. The basic dictionary definition covers all of the above. So, they have answered the question “what does feminism mean to you” with the dictionary definition but didn’t know that’s what it meant in previous sections? The piss-poor wording of this survey is just unbelievable.
I like this bit. Obviously, there are already feminist activists campaigning on all of the issues but I like to see what different feminists want to focus on themselves. There is so much to destroy within the patriarchy that we do need women tackling it from every angle. Yes, there are only 1300 respondents and it wasn’t a very well done survey but this is still interesting, particularly since many of the issues overlap.
This bit is just really, really sad. Modern women are required to look feminine and glamourous to be taken seriously. The Patriarchy immediately punishes any woman who doesn’t pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test by labelling them unfuckable and ugly and fat. Once you are unfuckable, you have no relevance. Just look at the way Harriet Harman and Hillary Clinton are treated. Yeah, a bunch of them claim marrying for money is wrong but what about the men who “buy” wives or who buy prostitutes? Why do they never get called on their behaviour in these surveys? Why is it always the women?
In conclusion, Netmums might want to check with their members because they don’t seem very happy with the way this survey was done or how the results were presented. Netmums have managed to make their members look stupid, which I have a problem with because I use Netmums and they aren’t stupid. Some of them are unpleasant and racist and disablist and homophobic, but, you know what, so are many people everywhere. But, using a minority of nincompoops to represent a dynamic group of women is just nasty. Dismissing an entire community in this manner just fuels the anti-woman rhetoric. 

I may mostly post on Mumsnet but I can see the same patriarchal arsehattery involved in deriding NMers for being stupid as I can when MNers are labelled vipers. I’m sick to death of women being misrepresented in this manner. 

Dear Pussy Riot Supporters,

Dear Pussy Riot Supporters,

Increasingly, I have become concerned about your inability to see the woods for the trees. Your desperate attempts at out-cooling each other as the Great Defenders of Free Speech seem to have come at the cost of your critical thinking skills. Frankly, I’m still disturbed by the articles which seemed to suggest that the only people who shouldn’t be deported to the Gulag are the women of Pussy Riot because they might be raped or killed. I know you can’t really mean that. No one deserves to be raped or killed because they committed a crime and, let’s be honest, Pussy Riot aren’t the only Russian citizens being deported for questioning the state. I have no idea what the statistics are for convictions and deportation but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Pussy Riot aren’t the only political prisoners. So why are they important and others not? Why is it important they not be raped or killed in prison?

This case is manifestly not about “free speech” or the right to protest. What this case has demonstrated, time and time again, is that we, as a society, are essentially a bunch of hypocrites. The ‘Western’ support of Pussy Riot is not because we are the great defenders of Free Speech. Anyone who believes that is, frankly, completely deluded. Pussy Riot has not garnered support because they are feminists who are critical of the power of the state and church. In fact, their feminism, which is actually a fairly patriarchy-approved brand of feminism, has been written out of much of the media coverage. They have gotten support because they are young women dancing in public. They have been supported because they don’t really challenge the status quo; although they do wear all their clothes which puts them ahead of Femen’s soft porn protests. If Pussy Riot were challenging the Patriarchy in any way, they would have been slaughtered in the Western Press. They certainly wouldn’t have Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and half of Hollywood lining up to support them. Personally, I think a lot of their support is because of their name. It appeals to the juvenile; those who haven’t progressed emotionally from being 5 and yelling penis in the playground. And, yeah, I sniggered the first time I heard a right-wing journalist say ‘pussy’ on air but that’s not a good enough reason to support Pussy Riot at the expense of others.

The UK has recently banned protest outside of Parliament. If there is any physical space in the UK where the right to protest should be paramount, it’s outside of Parliament. Yet, we let the government deny us this right with very little complaint. Trenton Oldfield was sentenced to 6 months in prison for jumping in water to disrupt a boat race. His crime: prejudice against prejudice. You literally couldn’t make it up. As Nina Power writes: “The message is blunt: if it’s on TV and aristocrats are involved, then the state can deprive you of your liberty for as long as it likes.” The correlations between Oldfield’s conviction and that of Pussy Riot are pretty clear, yet I doubt there will be any protests to have Oldfield’s sentence over-turned. Certainly, there was very little campaigning about the ridiculously harsh sentences given out in light of last years riots with people being sentenced for 6 months for, basically, shoplifting. If we incarcerated every shoplifter in the UK, prisons would be overflowing. We’d have to move all prisons to the Outer Hebrides and let them fend for themselves since no country can afford to imprison that many people. 

I think the Pussy Riot case matters. I think it matters a lot. These women do not deserve to be arrested or imprisoned for what was a political protest. Political protest against the government should be a fundamental human right but let’s not be hypocritical here. The right to political protest really exists nowhere. There are limits everywhere on the right to protest and Russia isn’t the only country guilty for imprisoning people for political reasons. Pussy Riot aren’t the only activists whose voices are being silenced by repressive regimes. Oldfield isn’t the only protestor being silenced in “democracies”. You only need to look at the 3 activists currently imprisoned in the US for refusing to testify in a grand jury case. Maya Evans was incarcerated in the UK for having the gall to read aloud the names of British soldiers who died in Iraq across from the Cenotaph in Whitehall. That garnered very little support. There has been very little media coverage of the attempted silencing of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho by drug cartels. In Cacho’s case, I suspect the almost total lack of media coverage has something to do with the fact that she deliberately targets the Patriarchy in her research into sex trafficking.  Yolanda Ordaz De la Cruz was murdered because of her activism as a journalist. The murder of journlaist Anna  Politkovskaya was covered by the media but she had no celebrity endorsements about her right to free speech [or the right to life for that matter].

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be protesting or standing up for Pussy Riot. I’m saying we don’t get to choose whose “free speech” we defend based on their relative attractiveness or the fact that their name inspires giggles. If we are defending the right to protest all political structures, then we damn well had better be defending everyones and not just a group of young girls in Russia.  We also need to ensure that our defence of “free speech” does not happen at the expense of harming vulnerable members of our society. The use of free speech to defend pornography and prostitution is basically the acceptance of state-sponsored rape. It’s the Patriarchy defending itself.

And, all those celebrities lining up to support Pussy Riot, how about you put your money where your mouth is and pay their legal representation. How about  you pay for the childcare of their children required whilst their mothers are in prison? How about you financially support the grassroots activists in Russia fighting to end the Gulag system? Why aren’t you financially supporting Sara Kruzan who was imprisoned for life as a teenager for killing the man who raped and trafficked her?


Some articles which need to be read:*

Why the Pussy Riot case still matters.

CeCe McDonald vs. Pussy Riot: Political Imprisonment and Perspective

Q&A: Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich on Their Fight for Freedom

Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith

From Pussy Riot to Todd Akin: The Claiming—and Silencing—of Language and Speech

Misogynisitic Advertising Walk of Shame: PETA Redux

I bet everyone’s shocked to read that PETA have yet another misogynistic advertising campaign out: this time featuring domestic violence. I know I was. After all, PETA have such a great history of working for the end to animal testing of make-up and preventing animal abuse within the mass farming industry without engaging in any kind of misogynistic nincompoopery. Or, erm, something like that anyway.

I genuinely don’t get how anyone with an ounce of empathy can take these misogynistic arseholes seriously. Make no mistake, PETA is a deeply misogynistic organisation. This isn’t them being sexist because we live in a patriarchal society and they don’t have the critical thinking skills to see they harm they are doing. PETA actively campaign for animal rights by romanticising and eroticising violence against women. They did it with their banned Superbowl ad featuring women having sex with vegetables [which they ripped off from the misogynists of Voina before they came up with Pussy Riot] and they did it by carving Pamela Anderson into a piece of meat. Their comparisons with slavery are crass and the use of the Holocaust to make a point just vile but criticism of the hurt caused by their campaigns has never stopped PETA. If anything, their level of violent, abusive nincompoopery has served only to encourage stupid celebrity after stupid celebrity to join them, proving once again that the best way to be famous is to be an arsehole. There is a PETITION HERE. This is the text of the petition:PETA launched a new campaign encouraging people to go Vegan by promoting violence against women. Violence in any form is never okay. In its latest ploy to correlate being vegan with sex, PETA has over stepped every line in a campaign that would make anyone cringe. The campaign is called: BWVAKTBOOM: “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me.” Appropriately titled for a series of advertisements that not only display [without any trigger warnings], but highlight and romanticize sexual violence against women. In its latest ad, PETA portrays a disheveled and physically & sexually battered woman who is the “latest victim” of a boyfriend who went vegan and then “knocked the bottom out of her”. She is seen with bruises all over her body and even has to wear a neck-brace. PETA further proves its ignorance around violence against women by boasting a new website for the BWVAKTBOOM campaign where videos can be readily viewed, and there is a [intended-to-be] humorous “call” to prevent BWVAKTBOOM-related injuries. Violent messages are sent, such as: “For years, women have been open to the physical, emotional, and karmic benefits of veganism. But now, more and more men are discovering the perks of a plant-based diet. More specifically, a dramatic increase in their wang power and sexual stamina. Unfortunately, the consequences of all this mind-blowing intercourse can often lead to sex injuries such as whiplash, pulled muscles, rug burn, and even a dislocated hip.” PETA has clearly overlooked any regard for survivors of sexual and domestic violence in this new campaign, while making a mockery out of the seriousness of violence against women. In taking a stand that there is NEVER an excuse to promote or diminish the real-life impact of violence, I demand the full termination of the BWVAKTBOOM campaign.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: It’s Boots. Again

I hate the Boots Here Come the Girls ads. I think they are misogynistic twaddle and glorify the objectification of women’s bodies, the fetishisation of “girls” and construct women as shallow, narcissists with serious addiction problems [notably shopping which can be self-destructive when compulsive]. I try not to let the kids watch ads so we record things before we watch them. Unfortunately, Boots has now taken to advertising before the Kids Club movie at Vue Cinema. And, they have surpassed themselves with the misogyny in their new campaign, although not with creativity since they have liberally “borrowed” from Galaxy’s “women have to hide chocolate bars around the house so no one knows they eat chocolate” twaddle. 

Boots’ pre-movie Here Come the Girls ad now features a woman staring with glee into a locked box full of chocolate bars. As I said with the Galaxy ads, 

Hiding food isn’t the sign of a woman with a healthy relationship to food. Its quite a serious red flag for eating disorders. This ad simply fetishises eating disorders as something that all women should aspire too. … I turn off the TV every time I see this ad because it makes me sad and utterly fucked off with a society that treats women eating as a social taboo.

The old Boots ads are bad enough. They feature women with compulsive behaviour problems and women trapped in marriages with men who are selfish and rude. They reinforce the idea that women’s bodies are inherently ugly and that we can not be seen in public without covering ourselves in make-up and expensive skin creams, all the while getting our daily vitamin intake from pills whilst we stop eating to desperately lose that extra 10 pounds so we won’t be fat too. But, now, we are not only ugly and fat, we are being encouraged to fetishise chocolate. No doubt, so that we will then be back at Boots buying weight loss products. The entire campaign is degrading to women. 

And, don’t get me started on the word “girls”. God forbid we get to be strong, intelligent, resourceful, and kind women with real needs and desires. Nope, we get to be infantilised and demeaned whilst hiding chocolate in locked boxes.

FeMEnism: Netmums Re-Invents “Choice” Feminism

Netmums, the other British parenting website, has undertaken a survey on feminism. In it, I have learned that I am aggressive, undermine motherhood, oppress men and I need to use Botox. Needless to say, this is not my feminism. My feminism is about the liberation of women as a class. It is about women’s rights legally recognized: our right to reproductive freedom, employment, and the freedom from violence. Feminism isn’t about individualism and personal choices. I am white, middle class and have 2 post-graduate degrees with several academic articles published. I have “choices” that many other women will never have. To pretend that racism, classism, homophobia, disablism and misogyny don’t limit the “choices” of other women is hypocritical. It is a lie perpetrated by the Patriarchy designed to isolate women. 

According to the Telegraph , that noted hotbed of Radical Feminism,

(s)ocial commentators have dubbed this new movement ‘FeMEnism’ as it gives women the right to live very varied lives without judgment from their peers – rather than be dictated to by the 70’s-style ‘sisterhood’ with a solitary viewpoint.

Now, I’ve had a quick google and I can’t see anything, which suggests that anyone is using the term feMEnism. And, really, who would? It sounds rather pretentious; although I’m not sure I’m a good judge on this since I use ‘FeMNist’ to denote my membership of the Mumsnet Feminist board. We are a collective. FeMEnist implies that the only person who counts is the individual woman, which is utterly silly. It is also disingenuous at best. Choice feminism has been around for more than 15 years. It is called Third Wave feminism. It is odd for both Netmums and the Telegraph to be buying into a discourse, which is false. However, since Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard also buys into the idea that “traditional” feminism is “aggressive, divisive and doesn’t take into account (women’s) personal circumstances”, it’s not surprising that they are trying to advertise themselves as a new form of feminism.

Freegard doesn’t understand Second Wave feminism; at least, I think she is referring to Second Wave Feminism with the word “traditional”. It’s entirely possible she means the Suffragettes. Either way, I don’t know any feminists who hate all men or who view them as the “enemy”. I know many who hate the men who have physically, sexually and emotionally abused them. I hate them too. I think that’s a rational response to being violated. There has never been “a battle of the sexes” on the part of feminists. That is a story spun by the media who are too invested in the Patriarchy to actively challenge the myths surrounding violence against women and feminist political theory. Heck, in the case of the Daily Mail, they actively perpetuate the myths in order to sell their own brand of woman-hating to those unwilling to give up their privilege. In fact, and I know some will find this truly shocking, feminists actually have fathers, brothers, and sons. If you find this a surprise, do feel free to take some deep breaths, because it gets worse: some feminists are even married. To men. Actual men. With penises and everything.

There are so many things wrong with this survey that I don’t know quite where to begin. Obviously, the refusal to acknowledge the political structures in which women live is, well, stupid. It is the failure to understand that other women’s lives, even in the UK, are fundamentally different from one another whilst at the same time recognising women’s oppression as a class. Feminists do both. We seek the liberation of *ALL* women whilst simultaneously supporting and campaigning for the specific needs of communities of women who are Othered within a white capitalist-Patriarchy.

Feminists also don’t judge women for their appearance. We are critical of the patriarchal constructions of beauty which force women to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test in order to be considered worthy of notice. Communities of women who reinforce patriarchal standards of beauty like assuming that being feminine and glamorous was once a barrier to being taken seriously aren’t challenging anything. The problem is that women aren’t taken seriously unless they are “feminine”. It is the performance of gender which is a barrier to women’s liberation. If an individual woman having breast implants is a “choice”, how can we assess women’s choices? We live in a society which privileges very young women who are thin, with fake breasts and long blonde hair. This is without even considering the issue of race which works on the presumption of white = beautiful. The number of creams designed to lighten the skin of Women of Colour is incredible. The pressure on Black women to have straight hair is immense. Hell, even Chris Rock noticed and made a documentary about it. If a man can see it, why can’t other women? This isn’t to say that women who have breast enlargements should be judged or bullied. You won’t find a feminist who actually argues that. You will find feminists who believe that “choice” is a word used to limit women’s ability to make decisions for themselves. It removes everything from the political context. Feminism is about the political context. It is about women as a class. 

I’m quite surprised that 82% of the women who filled in the survey “condemned prostitution”. What do they mean by that? Do they mean the men who believe they are entitled to access women’s bodies whenever they want and think nothing of buying another person’s body for their own sexual gratification. If that’s what they mean, then I’m with them. I think prostitution is nothing less than the state-sanctioned rape of vulnerable women; many of whom will have started prostituting themselves as children. Most women involved in prostitution have histories of child physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Many were victims of rape. Many are currently trapped in the self-harm of substance misuse. Many prostitute themselves because they have no other options to support their children. But, I suspect this isn’t what was meant by “condemning prostitution”. I suspect it is more to do with blaming the vulnerable women who are trapped than it is acknowledging the problem lies in a capitalist system which views women as commodities to be bought and sold. It’s notable that 77% also felt that marrying for money was wrong. I wonder who they were blaming there: the women trying to survive the best way they can? Or, the rich men who think they are entitled to buy women. 

The chart labelled “Which of these activities are acceptable for feminists” is just utterly pathetic. FFS, they have “baking cupcakes” down. I must have missed the part of the feminist movement which bans women from baking. I think they got confused there with the Patriarchy who don’t like women to eat because fat women are unfuckable. A lot of feminists have a problem with pole dancing. That’s because we view as part of the continuum of violence perpetrated by the “sex entertainment industy”; an oxymoron if I’ve heard one. Again, this isn’t about critiquing the women involved. It’s about questioning the entire industry and why men feel entitled to treat women like objects. That is what is missing from this survey: the men. The men who abuse and rape women. They are who feminists are fighting; not women who vajazzle.

And, if 51% of teenage girls have never heard of the feminist movement then their parents may want to check what else their daughters aren’t learning at school since feminism appears in both the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland and in numerous places in the English/Welsh curriculum. It’s also in the media ALL the time. I genuinely don’t know how anyone can’t have heard of it; even if it’s just to buy into the Daily Mail’s “feminists are all evil, man-hating lesbians” crap. I wouldn’t expect a 7 year old to have heard the word feminist, just as I wouldn’t expect a 14 year old to be up to date in feminist theory, but a 16 year old who has never heard the word, well, I find that really problematic. 
This is the problem with both the survey undertaken by Netmums and the discussion in the media. The survey itself has inverted feminist discourse to push for a very specific end point: namely that feminism is not relevant. Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions but I do think it’s quite telling that this survey came from Netmums and not Mumsnet, which has both a very active feminist community online, as well as grassroots activists. The Mumsnet “We Believe You campaign” and the Miscarriage Code of Practice campaign came directly from Mumsnet members. Not all would self-define as feminist, but they all understand the importance of sisterhood. If I were cynical, I might think that this is part of a policy to discredit Mumsnet, which has been much maligned in the press recently for daring to be political. The Netmums version of FeMEnism challenges nothing, but celebrates choice at the expensive of collective political action.

Also, Dudes, I can count. 1300 women took your survey. That’s not really represenative of anything but a self-selecting group of women who post on Netmums. Let’s not get over-excited about “representing the voice of young women”. 

Sesame Street Goes Porn

Well, it’s not actually Sesame Street who have joined the porn industry but some enterprising Dude, and it’s always a Dude, has decided that Halloween is not complete without women dressed up in pornified versions of Sesame Street characters.* Even creepier is the fact that these are ostensibly all male characters. I mean, I know, Sesame Street is a male-dominated show but they couldn’t think of a single female character to pornify. Not that I want any Sesame Street characters pornified. It is just way too creepy. And, yes, I am over-using the word creepy, but, come on, this is quintessentially creepy. There is no other word to describe this level of porn.
Also, whoever came up with this idea is pretty much a pervert. I don’t like making snap judgements about people’s sexual preferences but looking at Oscar the Grouch and thinking tits is perverted. And creepy. And, probably in need of some serious therapy. 
I do wonder about copyright laws. Don’t Sesame Street have to approve the use of their images for commercial purposes or does Yandy get around this by selling the masks separately? I really, really hope this isn’t something that Sesame Street approved but nothing would surprise me now.

* If you aren’t already following the Reel Girl blog you should be. It is brilliant.

“Underage Girls”: Victim-Blaming by Proxy

I always have these half-formed blogs posts that I never quite finish and then some journalist, in this case Deborah Orr, comes along and writes it. With this piece, it was partly my lack of confidence in my ability to explain what I meant but also the realisation that naming men, especially celebrities, would inevitably involve naming the young women they abused. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about child rape in a manner that would label another woman’s experience as part of the spectrum of sexualised violence. Do I have the right to do so without their consent? On the Relationships board of Mumsnet, there are frequently posts by women asking if their experience constitutes rape or some other form of sexualised violence. In those cases the answer is, inevitably, yes and the threads become both places of support and places to share stories safely. But, taking the story of someone famous (or identifiable in their own community) and labelling it as child rape without them using the term feels invasive. But, at the same time, is it not silencing to refrain from discussing these stories which leads to further normalisation of unhealthy relationships and sexualised violence? I’m loathe to label experiences for other women whilst simultaneously believing we need to. I’ve had these conversations before but I am never sure where the line should be drawn: insisting that we do not obfuscate or minimise sexualised violence whilst worrying about harming those who have not yet labelled their experiences.  

I’ve been thinking about the line between obfuscation and the power of labelling since the documentary on Jimmy Savile was first announced. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the use of language to label and define child sexual abuse since I’m increasingly concerned as to how language is being used to obfuscate both the sex of the children and their age in an attempt at victim-blaming-by-proxy. I think its important that we identify the sex of the victims. All to often the calls to remain gender neutral, designed to ensure that male victims of sexualised violence aren’t omitted, serve only to silence the fact that the vast majority of victims of sexualised violence are women and girls. It also elides the fact that the vast majority of sexual predators are male. Frankly, I’m getting more than slightly angered by the constant attempt to be gender neutral. No one disputes the fact that men are victims of rape. No one disputes the fact that male children are victims of rape. All we are asking is for the acknowledgement that the vast majority of victims of sexualised violence are women and children and that the vast majority of perpetrators are male. To argue otherwise, silences victims and lets perpetrators continue to get away with harming others. 

I’ve also become increasingly concerned by the the conflation terms of “paedophile” and “underage girls”. Now, I do believe that paedophilia is a psychiatric illness but I find it incredibly bizarre that every man who rapes a child is called a paedophile when it is simply not true. The term paedophilia is used indiscriminately to obscure the fact that many men, perhaps even most, who rape children do so because they want to without having any underlying psychiatric condition. In fact, men who are paedophiles also rape children because they choose too. A psychiatric illness does not always negate criminal responsibility. There are some which limit or restrict personal and criminal responsibility but paedophilia isn’t one of them and, technically, Savile wouldn’t be classed as a paedophile since the girls he raped were post-puberty. Conflating paedophilia with child rape allows rapists to elide and conceal responsibility for raping 15 year olds because they aren’t “children”.

The competing use of the term “underage girls” also feels like its obfuscating the fact that these are children. We can’t use the term “girl” anymore to label a female child since it now refers to adult women; effectively erasing the question of legality and the definition of child rape. The use of “girl” confuses the boundary between adulthood and childhood making it easier for male sexual predators to claim ignorance about the exact age of the child they are abusing. “Underage girls” puts the focus on the victim, not the abuser. The abuser makes it all their fault. It is not a compliment to be labeled a “girl”. It is a way of silencing criticism of male predatory behaviour towards teenage girls. If all women are “girls”, then there is no reason why an adult male can’t have sex with a 16 year old. 

The use of the term “underage girls” has simply evolved into victim-blaming. It is their fault an abusive man groomed and then raped them. It is their fault for looking 18 instead of 15. But, we never question why men who are 25 or 35 or 50 want to fuck 18 year olds. It is about power. It is about control. Why are these men worried about the very fine line between legal and not legal. A sexual relationship between a 15 year old girl and 35 year old man is illegal. A sexual relationship between an 18 year old and a 35 year old may not be illegal but it is still creepy.  The power dynamics are wrong. This isn’t about love relationships. It’s about fulfilling a desire for power and control. We should be criticising and questioning these men; not congratulating them for joining Hugh Hefner in the abuse of young women.

We need to stop obfuscating with language and start using words like child rape to refer to relationships between 15 year old girls and 35 year olds. We need to start asking men why they find an 18 year old sexually attractive because it isn’t just about women who pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. It’s about the real definition of the Patriarchal Fuckability test: being young, frequently malnourished, sexually available at any time but only to fulfil the male orgasm. The male orgasm is the only point that matters in sex. The sexual desires of adult women are eroded and subsumed into a rhetoric of domination. 

But, then we also pretend that teenage girls should be pleased that middle aged men find them sexually appealing rather than being utterly creeped out by it. We groom them into thinking that being desired by older men is something to aspire too; that their only value is in their sexual availability. We need to stop celebrating men who date young women barely out of childhood. We need to start asking these men why they can’t date women their own age. What is the difference between an 18 year old whose birthday has just passed and a 17 year old a week away from her 18th birthday? What makes adult men think this is reasonable behaviour? What are we teaching our girls if we are raising them to believe that having sex with a man old enough to be their father is all that they deserve. If women and girls were truly valued, we would not be obfuscating the line between consensual sex between two competent adults and the sexual abuse of young women and girls by older men.

And, let’s be clear here. The level of child rape in the Jimmy Savile case isn’t confined to the BBC. It’s everywhere. We’ve just been pretending it doesn’t matter for so long that we have completely silenced our childrenPretending that it was a problem for the BBC in the past is a vile lie which simply serves only to perpetuate and perpetrate rape culture. Our children deserve better than this.