Justin Trudeau is not a Feminist Superhero: Part II

French President Emmanuel Macron has fulfilled an election pledge for gender parity in his cabinet. Obviously, this is a good thing. Unless you read the Huffington Post who credit Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, with the phrase ‘pulls a Trudeau’ in the headline. Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 13.33.49

Because no one ever thought about gender parity before Justin Trudeau. Who is now a God among men: what with his constant photo ops with pandas and taking his kid to work. Obviously, Trudeau clearly spent the entire day balancing childcare and being Prime Minister. And, had no help whatsoever from anyone.

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The Huffington Post cleverly forgets to mention that the previous French President, Francois Hollande, also had a cabinet that was 50% women.* Or, the years of feminist activism and policy development on the importance of gender parity. Because only men count.

The constant referencing of Justin Trudeau as a feminist superhero is so beyond tedious that I can’t quite understand how many people believe this. For the record, having gender parity in your cabinet does not make you a feminist; nor does taking your kid to work when you are the boss in a building full of staff capable of caring for your kid.

Before you start banging on about how feminist Trudeau is, it’s worth checking out his environmental record. After all, Trudeau wouldn’t have joined the protestors at Standing Rock, he’d be with Trump signing off on yet another environmental disaster that is destroying the lands of Indigenous Peoples.

Using Trudeau’s name as a signifier for feminism erases the real work of women globally to end the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. It ignores his sale of arms to the Saudi government and his full support of pipelines and the Tar Sands. Trudeau is a hypocrite. Not a feminist.

*  Clearly, I always knew this. And, did not come across this information in a comment on twitter.

 

Part One is here.

#womenwrites: on disability, gender, and women writers

Black British writing: a tribute to Buchi Emecheta by Eashani Chavda 

… Whilst black writing had soared overseas in conjunction with the civil rights movement in America, its progress in Britain was much more gradual and largely lead by men. Despite this, Buchi Emecheta is up there with Samuel Selvon, Stuart Hall, Joan Riley (to name just a few) as a great pioneer of black British writing. While male writers covered topics of class and racism in mid-20th Century Britain, Buchi highlighted the plight of black women in Britain and the double-colonisation they faced. While intersectionality has become a buzzword for feminists today, Buchi approached the topic of misogynoir back in the 1970s. The struggle of black migrant women following the Windrush era, and the layers of oppression they faced were fluently articulated in Buchi’s writing. The social realities she depicted in her novels were felt by a large community of women, who being isolated in their own homes, workplaces and on the bleak streets of London, could finally feel some relief in knowing that they were not alone. Not only did she expose the racial, gendered and classist discrimination of 20th Century Britain, Buchi defied patriarchal structures within the Nigerian community, all whilst taking great pride in her culture and her blackness. …

Why I’m raising my kids to know their sex, not their gender by J.J Barnes  via @FeministCurrent

In January 2017, the BBC aired a controversial documentary called, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” which explored the doctrine that children know best when it comes to their “gender identity,” and that we should accept their beliefs without question. Following the airing of this documentary, the BBC came under fire from trans activists, who claimed the documentary would spark prejudice and lead to the social rejection of “trans kids.”

As the mother of a four-year-old girl and a 10-month-old girl, and step-mother to a four-year-old boy, I find the limited discourse around “trans kids” troubling. As I watch my children growing, learning, changing, and exploring, the idea of allowing them to make such a life-changing choice, so young, without question, is abhorrent. …

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a high-street shop, asking it to dress her by @salihughes

Dear British high-street retailers,

I am a 42-year-old woman with an upcoming awards ceremony, three weddings (one my own), several important work engagements, a holiday in the unreliable British climate and some pottering about, doing bugger all. I have spent weeks browsing your wares, both online and in your bricks-and-mortar stores. My question for you is this: where, in the past five years, have all the clothes gone?

Let’s begin with sleeves, for these cast a shadow over my entire shopping experience. Despite your apparent belief that my life is one long high-school prom, I would always like to cover my arms, at least to just beyond the elbow. I would not like capped sleeves to highlight the fact that I’ve lifted one kettlebell in my life, nor a bandeau top that precludes me from wearing a bra. I don’t want to pick up any more nice-seeming dresses, only to find the entire back of it missing. …

How I Got My Agent & Why You Should Never Give Up The Dream  via @Sabina_Writer

It’s been over a year since I last posted and what a year it’s been. There have been moments of despair, but more importantly there have been triumphs and those have made all the other stuff seem insignificant.

So, I want to share the journey that brought me here, mainly because I found some much-needed encouragement in reading about the journeys of others and I hope that someone might find that same kind of hope from reading about mine. …

Fleshing Out a Narrative of Illness: Notes on the Flesh  by Shahd Alshammari

… As someone who was struggled with Multiple Sclerosis for more than a decade, l chose to take up the task of writing the illness narrative. This began with my introduction to the works of Nancy Mairs and Audre Lorde. Mairs gave me a beacon of hope. She had written about her transition from English professor to a writer dealing with Multiple Sclerosis. She had George, though, her partner, who remained witness to her journey with Multiple Sclerosis. I was alone. I realised that being alone in the face of a brutal illness is not where I wanted to be. I picked up Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals. I read her work and found myself dwelling in her insistence on intersectionality, and on writing the effects of race, gender, sexuality, and disability in one (or even multiple) voices. Writing Notes on the Flesh proved to be a daunting task. I was writing based on my imagination, but also on and through my own bodily experiences. The distinction between fiction and nonfiction, real or imagined, past and present, no longer phased me. What I wanted was a collection of voices that expressed what it was like to be ill, in love, and vulnerable. …

Gender Hurts by Sheila Jeffreys

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.39.53Whilst there is much to commend this book in addressing the political implications and regressive policies surrounding the social construction of transgenderism, it suffers from poor writing technique, such as the unnecessary use of the word conclusion at the end of chapters and a constant repetition of statements made in the introduction in various chapters – sometimes every chapter. Each chapter was sub-divided into sections that are constructed as mini-essays and divided by headings. Frequently, these mini-sections end in a sentence repeated immediately in the first sentence of the next part. This is simply poor editing, as seen elsewhere in the repetition of phrases:

“ The men who engage in upskirting are a varied group, including male tennis fans at the Australian Open …, male school students who uploaded film of a teacher onto the Internet …, and even a male urologist. In a case in New York in August 2012, a respected urologist extended his professional interest into a new direction, and was arrested for filming up a woman’s skirt on a station platform” (p. 154-155)

As a one-off this sentence would not have bothered me, however this level of repetition did get tedious in a 200 page book. It’s not like there’s a dearth of research into the trend of ‘upskirting’ and the types of men who commit this criminal act (which can be reduced to all men are capable of doing so regardless of class, race, faith, access to education etc).

Another issue is the failure to engage with a wider variety of primary sources, academic research and media coverage. There is simply far too much evidence and theory dependent on Jeffreys own work. This would be acceptable if she were the only person engaged in this type of research, but she isn’t and hasn’t been for several decades. That the work of other women into the impact of transgenderism on women’s rights has been silenced by academic publications and a media obsessed with being ‘right’ as opposed to being truthful is something that Jeffreys could have challenged by referencing all of these works. Instead, there are places that resemble a university reading list by male academics with tenure that list only themselves in the ‘required reading’ section. Perhaps this is unfair, but I do expect more from feminist writers and activists.

When Jeffreys does engage critically with sources, especially whilst reading ‘pro-trans’ testimonies, her insight is excellent. It is unfortunate that more of the text was not given over to such analysis. As it is, careful editing would have knocked the text down to 120-140 pages rather than a 190 giving space for more direct evidence and critical engagement. Chapter 4 – ‘A gravy stain on the table’: women in the lives of men who transgender – written with Lorene Gottschalk is the strongest section in the book as it involves a close reading of supposedly positive testimonies of the lives of women whose male partner are transgender. It is very clear from these testimonies that the emotional, psychological, and financial impact on women is dismissed or erased by academics and writers.

Chapter three entitled ‘Doing transgender: really hurting’, also written with Lorene Gottschalk, and chapter 6 ‘Gender eugenics: the transgendering of children” are equally powerful. I am always shocked by people who ascribe the medical and pharmaceutical industries with concern for the health of transgender people without any discussion of the motive of profit. Or, the theory that the medical establishment is somehow truly honest in their approach to treatments, such as puberty blockers in children, despite the lack of long-term research on the effects or their well-documented history of prioritizing profit over people (development of birth control being a case in point!). I wish Jeffreys had gone further in deconstructing the lack of evidence-based research into treatment, the statistics on suicide post-transition, and the histories of those researchers and scientists pushing transition of children.

There is quite important research and theory in Gender Hurts. It’s unfortunate that Jeffreys spent more time congratulating herself rather than on the research itself. In this poorly written text, there are some incredibly important discussions and questions that simply did not get the space they deserved.

#womenwrites: on feminism, gender, sexism, and women’s health

If this is feminism… by Kelly Oliver

Bill C-16 misunderstands what gender is and how it harms women under patriarchy via @FeministCurrent

Women in Labor Stop Pushing, See Amazing Results by Kama Lee Jackson

A very British sexism  by @wordspinster

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged (French translation here. )

Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men by 

You aren’t imagining it, #WonderWoman really isn’t being well promoted by Donna Dickens  via @UPROXX

 

My article Radical Feminism and the Accusation of Gender Essentialism has been translated into French. Thank you to TradFem for the translation.

And, my daughter’s art on her blog Generation Why (named for the first book of the new Ms Marvel featuring Kamila Khan).

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Le féminisme radical et l’accusation d’essentialisme.

My article Radical Feminism and the Accusation of Gender Essentialism has been translated into French. Thank you to TradFem for the translation.

(Première version d’un article qui a été publié dans la revue Feminist Times en avril 2014)

La critique la plus courante adressée à la théorie féministe radicale veut que nous soyons « essentialistes » parce que nous croyons que l’oppression des femmes, en tant que classe, se fonde sur les réalités biologiques de nos corps. L’hypothèse selon laquelle les féministes radicales seraient essentialistes est basée sur une incompréhension de la théorie féministe radicale, issue de la définition du mot « radicale » lui-même. Le terme « radicale » désigne la racine ou l’origine. Notre féminisme est radical dans la mesure où il situe la racine de l’oppression des femmes dans les réalités biologiques de nos corps (le sexe) et vise à libérer les femmes en éradiquant les structures sociales, les pratiques culturelles et les lois basées sur l’infériorité des femmes aux hommes. Le féminisme radical conteste toutes les relations de pouvoir qui existent dans le patriarcat, y compris le capitalisme, l’impérialisme, le racisme, l’oppression de classe, l’homophobie et même l’institution de la mode et de la beauté.

Les féministes radicales ne croient pas en l’existence de caractéristiques qui soient exclusivement masculines ou exclusivement féminines. Les femmes ne sont pas naturellement plus nourrissantes que les hommes, et eux ne sont pas meilleurs en mathématiques. Le genre n’est pas fonction de notre biologie. C’est une construction sociale créée pour maintenir des hiérarchies de pouvoir inégal. L’amalgame entre le sexe et le genre est un autre malentendu commun au sujet de la théorie féministe radicale. Le sexe est la réalité de votre corps sans qu’y soient liées des caractéristiques négatives ou positives. Le genre est une construction sociale qui privilégie les hommes/la masculinité en regard des femmes/de la féminité. Le féminisme radical est accusé d’essentialisme parce que nous reconnaissons ces hiérarchies de pouvoir et cherchons à les détruire. Nous ne croyons pas, comme on le suggère souvent, que ces hiérarchies sont naturelles. Il faut voir là une tactique de censure à notre égard. …

 

You can find the full text in French here. 

Edinburgh Evening News: When a Perpetrators’ Career is more important than Sexual Assault

This article was first published by Everyday Victim Blaming. 

Sebastian Trotter was pled guilty to sexual assault and was placed on the sex register for six months, given a six-month offender’s supervision order, and ordered to pay the victim £500. The Edinburgh Evening News used this headline: “Newly-wed accountant’s career in ruins after sex attack”. Following complaints on twitter, the article heading was switched to “man on sex offenders register after groping women in nightclub”. You will note that Edinburgh Evening News chose to change the term “Sex attack” for “groping” – a word that is frequently used to minimise the criminal act of sexual assault. Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 11.02.10

This is still the subheading:

 A CHARTERED accountant’s career is in ruins after he was placed on the sex offenders register.

This suggests that the perpetrator’s career is more important than his criminal convictions for sexual assault.

Our campaign focuses on victim blaming within the criminal justice system and the media. We believe that mandatory specialist training, from outside organisations, is a basic requirement for police, judges, juries and journalists. This article, written by Alexander Lawrie, demonstrates all the failures of the media in reporting violence against women and girls. It has focused on the perpetrator’s career rather than his criminal act. It has minimised the criminal act. It has also published this statement by the defence attorney:

This lady had her night ruined but I don’t think there has been any lasting damage, if I can put it that way.

Quite frankly, the defence attorney needs a new job. There is no need to use such offensive language. Equally, it is utterly irresponsible of the Edinburgh Evening News to publish such a statement without comment. Rather than covering the hearings of a man who pled guilty to sexual assault accurately, the Edinburgh Evening News have simply published a defence for all men: “your career is more important than any criminal act, it wasn’t that bad and the victim is whining if she suggests otherwise”. This is what rape culture looks like: a man guilty of sexual assault having his hand held by a local newspaper as though he were a small child getting a vaccination. This is what bad journalism looks like.

Zero Tolerance, an organisation based in Scotland, have created an easy-to-read media guide on accurate reporting of violence against women and girls. The National Union of Journalists have a very short document on how media should report these crimes.That mainstream media continue with inaccurate, misleading and victim blaming coverage of male violence against women and girls is not through a lack of awareness. The research on the impact of inappropriate media coverage is well-evidenced. The negative impact on victims abilities to access justice is clear. The excuses for male violence so obvious. Yet, mainstream media continue to publish such reprehensible articles regardless of their impact.

#womenwrites

The Sex Delusion by Jeni Harvey  (@GappyTales

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ offers a terrifying warning, but the hijacking of feminism is just as dangerous  by Gail Dines

The Overlooked Black Women Who Altered the Course of Feminist Art by Yelena Keller  via @artsy

When Motherhood Wasn’t in the Cards  by Stephanie Gates

Police told to ‘stop pushing responsibility’ for domestic violence prosecutions onto victims by Harriet Agerholm

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged

News media still protect powerful men accused of sexual misconduct by Lindsey Bluebell  via @ConversationUK

Let’s not kid ourselves that ‘stealthing’ is a trend. It is rape by Vonny Moyes

Media reporting and violence against women: why we need to talk about the Navy  via @WritetoENDVAW

#womenwrites – abortion, pregnancy, anxiety & women’s health

MP accuses BAME book prize of discrimination by @sunnysingh_n6  via @WritersofColour

In the Oppression Olympics, women always lose by Jo Bartosch via @FeministCurrent

The Amateur Abortionists – The Story of Jane by Kate Manning in New York Times

Pregnant women are being legally pimped out for sex – this is the lowest form of capitalism by Julie Bindel

Why We Need to Take ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety Seriously by Erica Chau  via @TheMightySite

An Example of Capitalism Literally Milking the Poor: Julie Bindel

The last story you will ever need to read about Rachel Dolezal. by Ijeoma Oluo

If you think “sex work is work”, how can you be against sex for rent? by @glosswitch

We know abuse when we see it, unless it’s women who are being hurt by Gail Dines via @FeministCurrent

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History By Terri Kapsalis  via @lithub

The final battle in the Wars of Best Parenting:

Slides.

Genuinely.

Slides.

Like this one:

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http://kinchinplaysystems.weebly.com/slides.html

I know this sounds utterly ridiculous. They are slides for children, but somehow they make the list of ‘The Great Parenting Battles’ (breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, working, disposable vs reusable nappies, Tom Hardy vs Chris Evans on CBeebies Bedtime Story*) on Mumsnet. There is the side who think any child who dares to try to climb up a slide is on a short road to juvenile delinquency, an ASBO, and a lifetime of petty crime. And, those who think that slides are meant for imaginative play. Not queuing in a line.

I genuinely had no idea that climbing slides was ‘bad’ behaviour in the UK until I joined Mumsnet. There are always threads by mothers complaining about other people’s children using slides in ways which are deemed ‘rude’. Obviously, there are differences between preschoolers on a slide and school age children. I’m just not convinced that 7 year olds need to queue to climb steps to use a slide. Or, that 10 year olds are incapable of being aware of their surroundings and sharing.

 

Helter 6I spent a good chunk of my childhood climbing up slides. There was a helter-skelter slide like this in my elementary school playground. There were also multiple areas with play park equipment that had slides (also, 2 basketball courts, a football field, a rocky hill for climbing in summer and sliding in winter, a nice chunk of rocky Canadian shield for fort building – there are benefits to primaries with 800 plus students and not living in a medieval city). We all climbed the helter-skelter and the slides on the larger play equipment.

UnknownWe made them into pirate ships and raided one another for treasure. They became Star Destroyers and secret rebel bases. We even played tag on them.

Neither of my girls were lucky enough to go to schools that had proper park equipment – and never will since Edinburgh council sold off all the old playing fields to housing developers. Our local parks aren’t fit for purpose – and they certainly don’t have equipment for school age children. I just find it mind boggling that a 7 year old wouldn’t be allowed to climb a slide or that multiple children can’t be expected to share a slide with some using the steps and some climbing up the slide.

Climbing slides isn’t dangerous (or anymore dangerous than climbing regular playground equipment) if children learn to share and are aware of those around them. Yes, a 3 year old might kick off about not being able to climb a slide but that doesn’t mean other children shouldn’t be allowed to climb. In my experience, most school aged children would notice and assist the 3 year old going up the stairs and wait until they slid down. If they don’t, a quick word from a parent nearby pointing out the small child would change things.

And, yes, there are some (but a small minority) of children who have 0 boundaries and no understanding of sharing due to poor parenting. In those cases, other children are usually quite capable of telling them where to go. If they aren’t, then a parent steps in. Kids are also perfectly capable of understanding that different parents have different rules and neither is ‘righter’ than the other; just different (see: mobile phones for 10 year olds). And, that different venues have different rules: you can climb a slide in a play park but not at a soft play.

Climbing slides doesn’t make a child an out of control brat. And, its unlikely to end in an episode of Casualty. Kids should be allowed to play imaginatively, pushing boundaries and learning new skills.

Slides aren’t churches. They don’t genuflecting and hard hats to use.

And, there is nothing greater than re-enacting the Battle of Hoth on play equipment in the middle of winter.

 

*Not currently a battle but a prophecy for May 10.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 09.16.07Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is part of Vintage Hogarth Shakespeare 400th anniversary series, which sees modern writers reinterpreting Shakespeare. Generally, I’m not a fan of Shakespeare finding the desperation to name him the greatest writer ever deeply tedious with an unpleasant under current of nationalism, racism, misogyny and classism. I only came across the series when I read Jeannette Winterson’s retelling of a Winter’s Tale (Gap of Time), which is excellent. I had never read Tyler, but had high hopes based on this description: 

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?”

It was a complete let-down.

Vinegar Girl a competent book and rather funny in places, but it suffers from the boring sexism that even Shakespeare questioned occasionally. Having Kate pushed into a green card marriage so her father (an academic with tenure) can keep his foreign exchange student in the US is clever. Keeping the ending in line with the original is less so, particularly when we’re meant to feel that Kate’s father truly loves his girls – despite working 7 days a week in his lab and leaving Kate responsible for everything from making dinner, caring for her younger sister and doing his tax returns. He has no idea about the lives of his daughters but somehow Kate’s meant to give up even more of her life to placate her father’s desires and questionable research. He even has a sulky tantrum when his eldest daughter moves out to make her green card marriage more realistic for Immigration services. As fathers go, Kate’s is useless and selfish.

Pyort seems a decent guy, but marrying the only man she actually knows is dull. Growing up isolated with a mentally ill mother and father more concerned with his mice than his daughters (and who was utterly uninterested in their mother’s illness) isn’t healthy. But we’re meant to believe the marriage is a love match in the end because they have a child and Kate becomes a botanist. ?This is without the ending which is all about how bad men’s lives are – that speech wouldn’t go amiss at an MRA rally.

Frankly, 10 Things I hate about you was a far more successful adaptation – at least the daughters were more realistic and their father genuinely cared for them (despite being a tool).

I’ve never read Anne Tyler before and this book isn’t making me want to rush out to read more.