Lisa Hilton’s Athenais: When spite is mistaken for women’s history

I came across this book in a charity shop. I’m glad it only cost 50p, otherwise I’d have to write to the publisher demanding my money back for mis-selling a deeply spiteful text as a “biography” of Athenais, mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

Whilst the premise is ostensibly biographical, it’s mostly a treatise on how ugly women deserve to be treated like pieces of shit. And, any man who cheats on his ‘ugly’ wife has every right to; especially if you are the King of France and like pretty things. Then you get to be as abusive, cruel, and selfish as you like. You can humiliate and insult your wife, pretend she doesn’t’ exist, and still be considered a good guy, Because, hey, you’re the king, And, even the ugliest guy doesn’t deserve an ugly wife. Even if they are violent and hateful and cruel.

Even Athenais is dismissed as irrelevant once she stops being beautiful. Her beauty gone because she got fat. After giving birth to 9 children and being in a relationship with a man who forced all of those around him to eat too much.

Below are three images of the snide way in which women are treated. Hilton’s misogyny was accompanied by the usual classism and racism, but I have just picked examples of her loathing of women.

Here we have the theory that Queen Marie-Therese was so ugly that King Louis XIV was required to cheat on her repeatedly.

The Dauphin’s choice of an ‘ugly’ woman was clearly because he was insane. As no proper king would choose such an ugly woman (except, obviously, his father who was also trapped in a marriage with an ugly woman). 

And, women are stupid. Therefore, completely deserving of being described as hysterical.

No one should bother reading this book, and I am now stuck between burning the copy I have, keeping it so no one else is forced to read it, or returning it to the charity shop I bought it from.

Burning it is my current default position.

Donald Trump, Male Violence and Misogyny

Despite a clear history of misogyny, racismclassism, homophobia and being the poster boy for toxic hyper-masculinity and male entitlement in a rape culture, a large segment of people seem somewhat shocked by the release of a video from 2005 in which Donald Trump brags about committing sexualised violence. Even more people seem shocked that the Washington Post, and other mainstream publications, refer to this as a “lewd conversation”. Our only response to this “shock” is: have you ever read mainstream media? It is full of misogyny and racism and homophobia and classism. It is full of victim blaming and the erasure of perpetrators from their own crimes. If perpetrators are named, as with family annihilators, it is solely to paint them as ‘good fathers’ driven by jealousy and rage. It’s just a ‘domestic incident” and, therefore, not really a problem. They have “mental health problems” (and no one ever mentions that women who experience mental illnesses are very, very unlikely to commit violence against other people. If they do, it’s not because they are mentally ill. Or that the men who actually live with mental illnesses are more likely to injure themselves than anyone else). Their victims are erased. Their crimes deemed less important than their careers.

We’ve collected some of the best articles and blogs we’ve read on Donald Trump this weekend. Unfortunately, a lot of MSM which purports to be critical of Trump’s language simply failed to engage in a meaningful way with rape culture and systemic misogyny, rather they focused on “not all men” as though offending men were more problematic than holding Trump, and the millions of men who believe they are entitled to perpetrate violence against women and girls, accountable for their language and their crimes. #Notallmen is a useful way to derail conversations about the ubiquity of male violence against women and girls. It ignores the power differential between men and women as a class and the specific experiences of individual women within the white supremacist capitalist-patriarchy.

Trump’s comments, which have been dismissed as ‘banter’ are not an anomaly. We see similar comments submitted to this website. We’ve heard similar comments in pubs, restaurants and bus stops. We’ve see these men every single day in media coverage of male violence – in mainstream media articles desperate to mitigate men’s responsibility for violence. We hear it in discussions amongst politicians about the welfare system, reproductive justice, and immigration (which fail to address the intersection of race and sex for Black women). What Donald Trump has been caught saying on video might be considered an outlier by some but it is no different than much of the language used to define women in pornography; as one of the largest and most commercially successful industries in the world, it’s fairly obvious that millions of men watch it.

The lessons from responses to Donald Trump is that still far too many people believe this level of misogyny is an aberration rather than reality for the majority of women. Men standing up to denounce Trump in this specific incident but nothing else are still part of the problem. Saying Trump ‘crossed a line’, as former presidential candidate John McCain has suggested, misses the point. The misogyny of Trump is institutionalised, systemic and ubiquitous. And, it is certainly not limited to the US when the British media is giving Nigel Farage a platform to defend Trump’s history of sexualised violence (like they do in giving Farage a platform in which to espouse racism. Daily.).

We need to stop talking about being ‘shocked’ by Trump’s language (and Billy Bush encouraging him) and start talking about how normal it is. Only that will lead to a real change.

Why Donald Trump and Billy Bush’s leaked conversation is so awful by Alexandra Petri

… A repellent, but remarkably unexamined, idea that we carry around in society with us is the notion that somehow this is okay. That this is just boys being boys. That we must give boys a safe, unpolluted, secret space where they can stop the exhausting charade of acting as though women contain the same internal worlds that they do themselves.

This is what it gets back to: the idea that men are people, and women are just women.

Of course what Donald Trump said is awful. But, as Kelly Oxford noted on Twitter, it’s the fact that Billy Bush just nodded along that gives us rape culture.

It’s the idea that boys will be boys, and it does not matter what you leave in your wake, because you are the protagonist of this story, and the girl is just … an appealing body, to be discussed and dissected at leisure when you are back in one of the myriad locker rooms of daily life. If that.

This is egregious, but it is not isolated. It’s every time the Serious Concern is that a young man’s life might theoretically be ruined — by the act of punishing him for what he did to ruin someone else’s life. It’s every time someone talks about how awful something would be if it happened to your wife or your daughter or your mother — instead of just to you, to a person. Every time women’s existence is limited to their relationship to men. Every time women are treated merely as gatekeepers of sex, a resource that is somehow obtainable without the enthusiastic participation of another person who might have opinions on the matter. Every time men don’t read books by women, every time boys can’t find it in themselves to identify with a female protagonist. Every time people look at a movie with one woman in it and nine men and say “yes, this seems fine.” Every time we say to little girls in countless ways that what matters is how you look, not what you think. …

Donald and Billy on the Bus by Lindy West

… Mr. Trump is rape culture’s blathering id, and Sunday night Hillary Clinton (who, no doubt, has just as many man-made scars as the rest of us) has to stand next to him on a stage, and remain unflappable as she’s held to an astronomically higher standard, and pretend that he is her equal while his followers persist in howling that sexism is a feminist myth. While Mr. Trump boasts about sexual assault and vows to suppress disobedient media, cable news pundits spend their time taking a protractor to Mrs. Clinton’s smile — a constant, churning, microanalysis of nothing. …

Meanwhile, right-wing lawmakers are scrambling, sanctimonious and pathetic, to distance themselves from their own hideous progeny, clearly hoping to salvage some personal credibility and perhaps even save their party. But here is the thing, the big thing, that Paul D. Ryan and Reince Priebus and Mike Pence and all the spineless Billy Bushes of the world (and plenty of progressive men too, for that matter) don’t understand: Most of you are no better than Mr. Trump; you are just more subtle.

If you have spent your career brutalizing and dehumanizing women legislatively rather than personally, you are no better. If you were happy to overlook months of violent racism, xenophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia from the Trump campaign, but now you’re mad that he used a bad word and tried to sleep with another man’s wife, you are no better. If you have derided and stigmatized identity politics in an effort to keep the marginalized from organizing, you are no better. If you snicker or say nothing while your fellow men behave like Donald Trump, you are no better. …

We grew up with this by @sianushka 

 … So while desperate Republicans are trying to persuade us they care about women because they have female relatives, other commentators are trying to tell us that grabbing women by the vulva isn’t sexual assault at all. 

And that’s rape culture too, right? 

To say that violating a woman’s personal boundaries is a clumsy attempt at seduction. To say the comments are lewd – as if speaking the word pussy is beyond the pale but sticking your hand on one is a-ok. Let’s pretend it’s not sexual assault, it’s just what guys do. Boys will be boys. Top bantz.

Women know this. We know what it’s like to be told not to complain. To keep quiet. Not to make a big deal out of it. We wouldn’t want to upset him, after all. We wouldn’t want to get him into trouble over just a bit of sexual assault. We wouldn’t want to make a fuss. It’s just a slap on the ass, a pinch of your tits, a hand on your thigh, a hand up your skirt. He didn’t mean it. He didn’t mean it. It was just a joke. It was just a clumsy attempt at seduction. What, are you going to criminalise flirting now? …

So Trump has crossed a line? His views are as old as misogyny itself by Suzanne Moore

… His campaign is an anxiety performance. Machismo by its nature is always an exaggeration, an overcompensation. It works for losers precisely because it covers loss. Look, he says to the disempowered, white male, look at me and my phallic boasting. I will make you hard again.

His hatred of women, his refusal of their bodily autonomy, whether over sex or reproductive rights, is not suddenly being revealed. This is his lifestyle. Now he has crossed a line apparently. Well, the line is a moveable feast when you can hint at assassinating your opponent, at the black vote being rigged, at interviewers menstruating. Multiple choice offence is his USP. Suck it up, bitches. …

Trump’s latest comments about women are rape culture in a nutshell by Emma Gray

… In Trump’s world, women are objects ― objects that only hold a value based on how physically attractive he personally finds them to be. And if women are objects, rather than whole human beings, it follows that Trump must deserve them. Women are things. And when he wants them, he wants them.

As he says to Bush: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

This is what rape culture looks like.  …

Rape culture is why victims of rape and sexual assault feel unsafe reporting their assaults to law enforcement.

Rape culture is why even when these crimes are reported and prosecuted, the perpetrators rarely see the inside of a jail cell.

Rape culture is why the vast majority of women have experienced street harassment.

Rape culture is why many female victims of sexual violence are still asked what they were wearing and drinking when the assaults occurred.

Rape culture is what allows famous men like Bill Cosby to remain untarnished in the public eye until more than 50 women publicly accused him of sexual assault.  …

The Violence of Donald Trump by @bridgettedunlap

… As Harry Hurt III reported in his 1993 book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, Ivana Trump, the real estate tycoon’s first wife, testified in a sworn deposition during their divorce proceedings that Trump was angry with her for recommending a plastic surgeon he believed had “ruined” him with a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot. Ivana testified that Trump held back her arms and pulled out fistfuls of her hair from her scalp before forcibly penetrating her. Trump denies that the attack or the surgery ever happened.

Trump was never tried or sued, so we’ll never know if he is guilty of raping his wife. But the way Trump and his legal team reacted to the allegations tells us they do not believe the law applies to him.

Prior to Hurt’s book being published, Trump and his lawyers got a statement from Ivana saying she felt “violated” by the events of that night but that she didn’t mean that she’d been raped “in a literal or criminal sense” – even though what she described in her deposition amounted to rape as a legal matter. She’s since said the story of Trump raping her is “without merit.” …

Trump’s leaked comments aren’t just “lewd.” They describe sexual assault. by @emilycrockett

… Whether or not Trump is bragging for effect or machismo, he is saying that he thinks it’s no big deal to grab or kiss a woman in a sexual manner — either by moving too fast for her to consent or resist or by exploiting his power until “they let you do it.”

It is sexual assault to “just start kissing” a woman, much less “grab” her “pussy,” and not “even wait” — in other words, to act without warning or consent.

It is sexual assault to exploit your power over a woman for the purpose of sexual favors.

This isn’t a joke. This isn’t even just a much worse version of the usual sleaze or insults that we’re used to on Trump and women. This is serious.

It’s serious because this kind of cavalier treatment of sexual assault is the definition of rape culture. When men see sexual assault as a punchline, or even something to brag about, they take it less seriously when they see or hear about it happening, and they take women less seriously who talk about it. …

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

#WomenWrites – an archive for women’s writing (August/15)

https://storify.com/LeStewpot/womenwrites-august-16

Justin Trudeau is not a feminist superhero.

Justinjustin-trudeau-yoga_650x400_71459338988 Trudeau is a feminist. We all know this since he says it every single time he’s interviewed. The media is obsessed with this narrative and Trudeau is regularly accused of ‘trolling the internet’ for posting pictures which revel in hyper-masculinity.

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Much of Trudeau’s appeal is that he is a conventionally attractive white male who does yoga, charity boxing and loves kids. Almost as much as Barack Obama does. This is not ‘trolling the internet’. It is part of a deliberate campaign of image management – just like every other politician on the planet. David Cameron taking up yoga would not make him a better prime minister – nothing can compensate for the destructive and deeply misogynistic and racist policies that the Tory party has developed. Likewise, an attractive prime minister who enjoys a photo opportunities with babies – of the human and panda varieties – does not automatically guarantee good policies or even a commitment to feminism.

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It is a failing of our culture and lack if critical consumption of media that we are infatuated with a prime minister who is under the age of 60 and has all his hair. We’ve learned nothing from the debacle of Tony Blair and ‘Blair’s Babes’.

 

justin-trudeau-sophie-children-family-pool

Trudeau grew up in the public eye. He knows the value of a carefully cultivated media construction, which is both serious and playful. It’s clear he is willing to be silly in the public eye but posing in a pool with his family isn’t a policy document. Before he gets acclaimed as the greatest prime minister ever, it’s best to have a passing acquaintance with his policies before we repeat the embarrassment of Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize for promising nuclear non-proliferation only 9 months after being inaugurated – what with Obama’s record of military intervention in the following years not being exactly on the side of ensuring World Peace. At the rate the media is going with it’s coverage of Trudeau: Feminist Superhero, he’ll win Women of the Year 2016, which is only slightly less embarrassing than Glamour voting Caitlyn Jenner despite the fact that Jenner is a republican who does not support a single right of women, including reproductive justice,  and the feting of Kellie Maloney erasing pesky issues like homophobia, racism and domestic violence (it’s worth noting here that attempted strangulation is a huge risk factor for fatal intimate partner violence).

The fact that a Trudeau has gone on record claiming to be a feminist is a good thing. It is essential that world leaders understand that women are oppressed as a class, but saying the words ‘I’m a feminist’ aren’t enough. They have to be followed through with actions and Justin Trudeau has simply not done enough for women for him to celebrated yet. A commitment to access to abortion for all women should be a basic requirement in a politician – not a cause for celebration. I have yet to read any statements from Trudeau on reproductive justice – something Aboriginal women are consistently denied.

His tax breaks are currently aimed at middle class families with a commitment to increasing contributions from the wealthy 1% and not those living in poverty, which isn’t exactly a Brave New World in political promises. The 2014 Liberal conference pledged to research a basic minimum income for all residents with the promise of Ontario trialling it. There are also promises around prescription charges, which are incredibly expensive particularly if you have disabilities or a long-term illness and no health insurance. This is all under discussion with some of Trudeau’s tax reforms conflicting with the research proposals on a universal basic income. A universal basic income is an inherently feminist policy. If Trudeau’s government follows through with these recommendations it will have an immediate impact on poverty, which disproportionately impacts women and all Aboriginal Peoples (First Nation, Inuit, and Metis).

Aboriginal communities across Canada experience systemic poverty and the consequences of Colonial practises which continue to this day, with the final residential school not closing until 1996. Access to healthcare, education, employment, and support services are sub-standard in many communities. Aboriginal women experience domestic and sexual violence and abuse at much higher rates than other Canadian women – including that perpetrated by white men. Aboriginal women are more likely to have their children taken into foster care if they exhibit trauma-symptoms caused by male violence. They are less likely to be given access to support services and are far more likely to be blamed for their experiences of violence.

Substance use is common in Aboriginal communities and is directly linked to trauma and poverty.  Many communities have taken extreme measures to support young people, particularly alcohol consumption and huffing. It’s not unusual to hear of RCMP officers stationed in remote communities dealing in illegal substances, including alcohol in those where it is banned. Racist and misogynistic violence against Aboriginal peoples by police is common at the national, provincial and local levels. “Starlight tours”, the practise of dumping Aboriginal peoples outside of the city limits by Saskatoon police was common in the 1990s – there is little documented evidence of it happening at other times but even the chief of police in Saskatoon believes it happened(s). These “starlight tours” resulted in the deaths by hypothermia of a number of people including Rodney Naistus, Lawrence Wegner and Neil Stonechild. I’ve yet to have heard any policies from Trudeau which will deal with these issues.

One promise Trudeau has already instituted is holding an inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Estimates suggest more than 4000 women disappeared during the last 30 years – the police, of course, have a lower number of 1200. The police of Canada aren’t exactly trustworthy when it comes to recording crimes against Aboriginal people – and aren’t exactly free of perpetrators either. This inquiry is absolutely essential to address Canada’s current racist and misogynist polices which have resulted in the abuse, trauma, disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women. However, this is not Trudeau’s policy but the consequence of decades of activism by Aboriginal women and their families culminating in a very distressing report written by Human Rights Watch on the disappearance and murder of Aboriginal women along highway 16, or Highway of Tears, in British Columbia.

If this inquiry is undertaken appropriately, and avoids the incompetence and possibilities of corruption seen in the UK’s Chilcot Inquiry into the war in Iraq, it will fundamentally change the way we understand Canada both historically and currently. However, Trudeau announcing that an inquiry will take place is not a sign of his commitment to feminism. His commitment will be demonstrated by ensuring that the voices of Aboriginal peoples are given priority during it and when any recommendations are put into place.

The inquiry will also need to address the disproportionate number of Aboriginal women forced into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation due to poverty, misogyny and racism. Trudeau supports the decriminalisation of the ‘sex industry’. This is not just the women, children and men forced into selling their bodies but includes decriminalising those who profit from the sexual exploitation of women.  There is nothing feminist about decriminalising pimps and there is nothing feminist about ignoring the fact that many of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women were vulnerable because they had no options other than prostitution. A decriminalisation policy which ignores systemic racism and misogyny within Canada is not feminist.

Before lauding Trudeau a feminist superhero, we need to see the following:

  • immediate investment in education and healthcare
  • a real commitment to reproductive justice ensuring that abortion and birth control are easily available across Canada, as well as recognition that poverty and racism impact on how women access reproductive justice. This requires an overhaul of the welfare system, foster care, and access to free prescriptions, dental, eyesore etc for all who need it.
  • Universal basic income
  • Federal control over child maintenance so that it is not a lottery sweepstakes for mothers
  • Fundamental overhaul of child contact to recognise the ways in which abusive fathers harm their children and former partners through contact starting with recognising that a man who abuses his partner is committing child abuse.
  • massive investment in women’s services including refuges, homeless accommodation, and rape crisis centres
  • Exiting services
  • massive investment in housing, particularly on reservations some of which still do not have access to appropriate clean water and energy.
  • Ensuring that his commitment to action on climate change recognises how it disproportionately impacts Aboriginal communities and that support for the Keystone XL pipeline does not address this.

As it stands, Trudeau has the potential to be a transformative prime minister dedicated to instituting feminist policies, but he isn’t there yet and the obsession with his looks is simply demeaning to us all.

 

 

Further reading:

 “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada,” – Human Rights Watch

Red River Women – BBC

No more Stolen Sisters – Amnesty Canada

Missing and Murder Aboriginal Girls and Women – Native Women’s Association of Canada

Canada’s Missing: Thousands of Murdered or Missing Women – Al Jazeera

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Images:

Image 1: Justin Trudeau – twitter

Image 2: Bespoke Films/ Daily Mail

Image 3:  Rachel J./Twitter

Image 4: Maude Chauvin

Children banned from school fair for being poor

A primary school in Flushing, Queens has prevented 100 of their students from attending a school carnival hosted by the PTA because the kids’ parents did not pay the $10 fee. Instead of spending 45 minutes playing on bouncy castles and inflatable slides and eating popcorn, the 100 kids were stuck inside the school auditorium watching Disney movies.

The New York Post claims that the carnival was a fundraising activity hosted by the PTA during school hours but the decision to include children was made by the school principal. The PTA raised $2000 – £3000.

Even if these were the children of millionaires who were too lazy to pay, these children didn’t deserve to be isolated and humiliated the way they were. No child deserves to be treated this way.

The fact is, though, that these children were mostly from migrant Chinese families living in extreme poverty. They didn’t pay because $10 was needed for groceries and rent. And, any adult with an ounce of compassion should know that. None of the adults in this situation behaved appropriately. Even if the decision was the principals, the teachers and members of the PTA should have stood up to her. Other parents should have stepped in and raised a stink.

All schools are chronically underfunded and the situation for poor neighbourhoods in the US is catastrophic. Fundraising for schools is absolutely necessary but putting fundraising above the emotional wellbeing of children is just disgusting.

I’ve been thinking about this since I first read the article this morning and I just can’t get the image of 100 kids shoved in an auditorium being punished for being poor out of my head. The distress and the heartbreak of children too young to understand why they were being punished. I just don’t understand how any professional or parent could sit back and watch this without standing up for those kids.

I have to ask if those children would have been excluded if they were mostly white.

 

 

 

 

BEEM: We’re no longer allowed to talk about poor people in social housing because it hurts other people’s feelings.

BEEM is the umbrella group registered tenants associations in Edinburgh & Lothians, which forms part of the tenant participation strategy of  the Scottish Government. I hadn’t ever heard of  them before but they were offering free lunch to members. And, seriously, who turns down free lunch?

It was tedious.

Free lunch did not even remotely compensate for the tediousness, despite being excellent and involving cake.

The first two hours were presentations on why the Scottish government came to develop a national strategy on tenant participation and the achievements therein. The information was interesting but not what I had expected from the blurb in the email. I wanted more information on how BEEM could support local tenants’ organisations; not a history of Scottish government legislation.

There were lots of complaints about how few tenants organisations showed up to this meeting. But, it was on a Thursday. The fact that people in social housing might have actual jobs that they can’t take time off for free lunch events seemed to have been missed by a number of people paid to be there. And, we won’t even go into the issue of caring for children or family members with disabilities. That being a barrier to people (read women) participating seem to have missed everyone completely. Yes, there is some funding for childcare for these events but BEEM didn’t include any suggestion of potential childcare in their email invite. And, really, when was the last time a local authority paid for a carer so that a person (read woman) could attend these meetings safe in the knowledge that appropriate support had been covered for those they care for?

There was also no real discussion of literacy or language issues being a barrier to tenant participation in their community organisations, at the city, regional and national level. When I raised it, everyone pooh-poohed the suggestions saying that all Edinburgh council documents were available for translation. How this is meant to help people who are functionally illiterate went unanswered; as did my point that not everyone was comfortable accessing translation service via the council for numerous and valid reasons (and as someone who speaks English as a first language but with a ‘foreign’ accent, I can’t imagine how much patronising “support” those who speak English as a second language get from local employees. More than one has heard my accent and done the whole talking in a loud voice very slowly routine.)

The lack of recognition of just how severe these barriers can be for tenant participation was evidenced by an employee of a local housing association who thought that tenant at community level could be increased by holding meetings on evenings and weekends. My hand shot straight up in the air and I went straight through the “working/caring” commitment roll call. This was met by blinking.

The final note was a discussion on a desire for a major cultural shift to get people into renting properties rather than home owning. Because too many people equal social housing with poverty and that is just too embarrassing for some social housing tenants. After all, who wants to be poor? Granted, people who are poor don’t really get a choice in this but BEEM weren’t overly concerned with this somewhat large section of social housing tenants. There was no discussion of fact that places like Germany and Canada with huge rental markets also invest in pension funds negating the need to depend on a house to fund old age.

Personally, I’ve never understood the logic of home owning as a retirement fund. If your house is your investment for your old age, then surely you need to sell it when retired? Having no pension but a house you want to pass on to your children as an inheritance makes no financial sense to me. But, heh, I’m poor and will never own a home. so what the hell do I know?

It’s safe to say I scurried out as soon as it was over and won’t be going back. There may be a huge stigma attached to being poor and living in social housing in this country but that isn’t the fault of the people living in those conditions. It’s the fault of government policy, media coverage and people who think it’s more important to pretend that poor people don’t live in social housing . So that other people living in social housing don’t get their feelings hurt by having to recognise poverty in their neighbours.

Between this and the fucking appalling presentation by Police Scotland on internet safety for children this week, the revolution can’t come soon enough. And, I’m not having Police Scotland or BEEM along to mine.

These 17 parents should have their kids taken away.

In the continuing theme of people wearing judgey-pants in response to others pretty much breathing in public, we also have “These 17 parents should have their kids taken away” which rocked up in my FB feed today. I absolutely agree that the parents in the first image whose child has a gun in their mouth aren’t going to win Parents of the Year. Frankly, I can think of a whole lot of nasty names I’d like to call them because its fucking stupid to let a toddler play with a gun. The parents who put their kids in carseats in the back of a pick-up truck are also fucking stupid and the dude skiing with a kid on his back is equally an ass. The father with the rope around his kids neck in Walmart is also an ass/

Many of the other pictures aren’t of serious child safety concerns though. They are images chosen with the sole purpose of deliberately humiliating either the child or the adult in the image. I’ve deliberately not linked the article because the images are nothing more than online bullying, alternating between abuse and harassment.

I opened the article because the image showing on FB was of the child with a gun in its mouth. I assumed the title was hyperbolic, but it was actually mean. One of the images is of a woman cycling with a child in seat at the back. The woman is overweight and the image is implying she will smother the child because she is so fat. Another is of a child who is obese and too big for the buggy. Cue jokes about fat kids. Because nothing says hilarious like an overweight toddler. We couldn’t possibly have a discussion as to why a toddler might be overweight without posting images of that child -who is identifiable – in order to make sure everyone gets to take 5 minutes to make abusive comments.

The rest of the photos are the same. It includes Peaches Geldof with a buggy tipped over – something that has happened to me and is terrifying even without paparazzi chasing you about. Geldof is the only mother (and they are almost all images of mothers to continue today’s theme of blaming mothers for everything) who is identifiable as wealthy. Because we can’t just insult mothers – we have to toss in some classism. Just because.

Trashing Boxing Day sales ignores structural poverty within the capitalist-patriarchy

My FB and twitter feed are full of people commenting that they wouldn’t dream of going to the Boxing Day sales – just as it was on Black Friday. I can understand the desire to comment on rampant consumerism that our capitalist-patriarchy is predicated on, but targeting the people buying in these sales is not appropriate because it completely ignores the issue of poverty.

I believe that the patriarchy will not be smashed unless we also destroy capitalism. There is no way to make capitalism ‘fair’ – it will always be predicated on the exploitation of the unwaged labour of women as carers for children and family and the the labour of people who live in “non-industrialised/non-Western” (or whatever othering term is being used this week).

Advertising makes us believe we are shit parents for not buying our kids the must-have toys of the season. We know it’s a scam to make rich men richer and that our kids won’t be scarred for life if we don’t buy them the toy, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t buy the toys because we don’t want our kid to be the one missing. As a single parent, I’ve always shopped in the sales. This is why we have the entire first edition of the Lego Harry Potter castle (75% off at Tescos), Playmobil school (50% off), pink micro-t scooter (25% off plus free delivery but only if you get the pink one) and numerous Barbies, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies (both the branded and non-branded ones). Did I need to buy these for my daughters as a single parent? No. Did I still line up on Boxing Day, first day of the annual Playmobil sale at Toys’R’Us ( 40% off & if you spend £40, you get a ‘super’ set worth £20 free!) and Black Friday. You betcha.

They didn’t make me a better mother and they didn’t compensate for my eldest daughter’s father being a dick and either failing to even make contact at Christmas (having not paid child support all year) or sending her a puzzle for 18 month olds when she was 6. I still shopped on those big sales day because I didn’t want my kid to be the one at school who didn’t have a gazillion presents to talk about. And, I know most of these are made by people, including children, who are making less than a pound a day and frequently live without clean water and sanitation. It feels shit being in this position but I’m very lucky compared to many single parent households as I never lived under the poverty level.

So many women, and it almost always women, live in poverty because men refuse to financially support their children and the state colludes with these men by allowing them to perpetuate financial child abuse. The state, and increasingly NGOs, collude with multi-national corporations forcing huge swathes of the population of the planet into poverty with farm subsidies in ‘industrialised’ countries, commodifying water, running a “war on drugs” when we have a worldwide shortage of medicinal morphine & have destroyed the cash crops of indigenous famers, and denying workers a living wage (whether they be living in a slum in India or in London).

Capitalism requires people to live in poverty in order to continue. We need to challenge the corporations like Apple (I say typing on my new Apple computer bought on credit card as my old one was dying) who build their products in inhumane conditions or Nestle, who continues to promote their formula in areas with no access to clean water despite the fact that this actively kills babies, or any company who participate in the arms trade – all of whom are culpable in mass genocide.

Yes, there are many people buying in the sales who are ‘middle class’ but let’s talk about why they feel the need to line up at Next at 4 in the morning  for sales. Are they buying work clothes that they can’t afford at normal prices? Buying bags to make them look ‘professional’ at job interviews? Clothes for the kids to wear on weekends (since school uniforms are more expensive because it forces you to buy two sets of clothes)? School shoes which are grossly over-priced and completely impractical for girls to play in? Are they buying that TV because it’s the only form of entertainment they have?

Instead of denigrating people who buy at these sales, let’s talk about the capitalist-patriarchy, consumerism and poverty. Let’s examine why it’s considered acceptable to denigrate those who shop on Boxing Day but not those who line up in the week before Christmas spending thousands to have the Perfect Christmas. After all, spending hundreds on one toy the week before Christmas is as damaging to the planet as it is to spend 1/2 on the same toy on Boxing Day.

Feminism, Race, Class and The Lament of Meanie Feminists

The comments below were posted on a recent blog, which I’m not going to link to, but which was the usual complaint about feminists being rude, swearing too much and not supporting the rights of one woman regardless of whether or not her choices are actively harming other women. It is the lament of “if only feminists were nicer”, yet it is the blog itself which is unkind. It pretends that all women are middle class, well-educated with great jobs. It insinuates that women who are not within this cohort are failures. It ignores the structural barriers to women’s lives by pretending misogyny does not exist – nor, apparently, racism, classism, or homophobia. Feminists are mean for not supporting every single “choice” a woman makes – regardless of the consequences for women as a class.

The comments below are why feminist analysis must examine women as a class. Erasing the multiple oppressions of women is antifeminist – pretending misogyny isn’t real is anti-woman. Women face oppression as a class. It is not mean for feminists to point out that white, middle class women have more options than many other women. Its not mean for feminists to point out that women who do experience violence, whether from a partner or because of the community they live in, have less choices than women who live without the constant consequences of violence. It is not mean for feminists to point out that women who succeed in business, law, medicine or the civil service who are white and well-educate aren’t just succeeding because of their personal qualities or ambition. It is not mean to recognise that a Black woman, regardless of how ambitious, well-educated and talented, will struggle more than a white woman in the public sphere.

It’s not mean for feminists to point out that one woman insisting on wearing a tiara during a professional event isn’t exactly fighting a battle women need to win.

Suggesting that feminists are being mean for holding women accountable for the consequences of their choices, words and actions is, frankly, infantile and ridiculous. If you want to advocate for the liberation of women through kindness, by all means, go right ahead. But, you need to start by actually being kind to women who aren’t exactly like you. It’s hardly advocating love to heal the world if you are shitting all over other women.

This was my original comment on the blog:

There is a massive difference between women supporting other women and women never, ever challenging another woman for fear of being ‘rude’. It absolutely okay to challenge a woman who has written a post which ignores the reality of the lives of the vast majority of women who aren’t middle class, well-educated and white. It’s not rude to point out that Black women are grossly under-represented in every field because of structural racism and misogyny. It’s okay to point out that white middle class women who have 3 children are ‘good mothers’ whilst a Black woman in a low-income job with three kids would be treated as shit in the media.

Confusing kindness with never holding a woman accountable for expressing opinions which actively harm other women is not acceptable. It’s not mean or rude or aggressive to point it out. Feminism is about helping ALL women – not just individuals.

X’s response: Call me psychic or intuitive but I am just throwing a guess out there that you yourself Louise may be “middle class, well-educated and white” – Hhhhhmmm why do you have an issue with that?

I don’t, which is why my son is half Nigerian. Have you actually ever been to Africa?
Please don’t raise the race card here, when it is wholly unwarranted…….. and irrelevant.
What is as you say “mean or rude or aggressive ” is some of the things I have seen written above, in recent comments.

MeYep, I’m white and middle class and well educated and I know that my options have been greater since birth because I was born white to a middle class family with access to a good education. Suggesting that race doesn’t limit women’s options is an asinine position to take and one which flies in the face of several hundreds of years of history.

X’s ResponseSorry but I don’t feel the need to compensate or be apologetic for being white, middle classed or educated. My friends, peers and relatives many of whom are of colour, from several continents, are more enriched physically, mentally, spiritually and financially than the white people I know. A child in Africa often experiences more joy with one toy than our children do with 30. Women in Africa often do not get PND or such things, because they adhere to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child”. It’s never worked out well when I have fought other people’s battles for them, so whilst I will battle against discrimination and obliterate it from the elements of my life I can control, I will not apologise for my sex, colour, creed, nationality, class or standing. Too many people think women for example are made to cover up, yet I know many hijab/turban wearing women, none of whom have been asked to don it by a man. It’s sometimes best to battle the things you experience and can understand and not those you don’t

Response from Another Poster (Y):  sorry but that is nonsense. Have you ever been to Africa? I can’t speak for the entire continent, but I will speak from my experience visiting Kenya – the women aren’t getting PND because they are DYING in childbirth. They aren’t getting PND because they are being ‘married’ (ie raped) when they are 13 years old. They are bearing several children before they are in their twenties, and if they survive that, they are very lucky.

It is not about being apologetic for being middle-class, but about looking beyond your front door and seeing that not everyone is so lucky.

X’s response: Of course I have which is why I asked the question of her, which interestingly she did not answer.

Y: If you have been to Africa, why are you spouting nonsense about children there being happy with just one toy?

I am sorry, but this makes me so angry. I saw a child whose head was swollen with encephalitis, he was very ill but his mother couldn’t afford to take him to the doctor. I met young girls who stopped going to school when they started menstruating because they would then be seen as ‘sexually ripe’ and be at risk of rape. I met women who lost their babies in a hospital that had been found to have been selling children. A hospital that the taxi driver told us that he wouldn’t take his wife to because of that and other previous scandals.

How can you perpetuate the myth of the happy African children, who just need one toy? And women not having PND. They don’t have PND because they are DYING in childbirth. They don’t have PND because they are too busy fighting HIV and TB.

You don’t have to go to Africa to see this, it is reported daily in the media, if you take a look.

ME: I didn’t answer it because your assumption of Black -women = living in Africa is crass and completely lacking in understanding that, oddly, Black people happen to live all over the world. Not just in Africa.

X: No, what IS crass is someone upthread taking the time and effort to assume that EVERYONE on this thread was white + middle class + educated (thanks for the compliment in the latter, as it is never a word I feel when talking to you guys). Sorry but I have no time for people who live in homogeneous places, yet escape to other worlds via their bookshelves and campaigns. The only thing white about me is my skin, and I say again, I am not going to apologise for it. I will change the world via the means I have at my disposal and not adhere to a prescription of what being good looks like to you. Still have NO idea how colour was brought into this. It was a way of putting down, the ladies on this thread, in a cheap misguided way, that lacked grace, thought and compassion, yet we are expected to feel those for women all over the world who desperately need our help. How about charity begins at home, get good at it, and then branch out

Me: I can’t tell if you mean that comment genuinely or not Liska because I have actually never read a comment as so stupid as “women in Africa don’t get PND”. Firstly, Africa is a continent – not a country and the lives of women differ greatly from Egypt to Nigeria to Sierra Leone to Rwanda and to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Parts of Africa have vast wealth and others are war zones. 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. They are raped to force pregnancy and they are raped to cause miscarriages. 6 month old babies are raped – as 65 year old women.

Many women have no access to clean water and the maternal and infant mortality rate in such areas is astronomical. Do you seriously believe a mother whose infant dies at birth from a preventable disease won’t have PND? Or, a 12 year old girl sold, raped and forced to give birth to a stillborn child won;t develop PND? Or, a mother who gives birth prematurely having seen her whole family slaughtered? Or, a child raped by a family member who gives birth in private desperate to hide the baby lest they kicked out of their community? You don’t think these women will develop PND? Or, that women living in wealthy families are somehow exempt because they live in “Africa”?

What about young girls who have experienced FGM which, at its most severe stage, inhibits the bodies ability to urinate and menstruate. Do you think these girls, who have to be cut open to have sex or deliver a child, are somehow magically exempt from PND because they live in Africa?

I’m hoping you were being ironic with this comment.

 

 

 

 

Ed Miliband’s Youth Apprenticeship program is a fucking joke

I’m at a conference called Mothers of Innovation, which, I have to admit I was rather prejudiced about since the word ‘mumpreneur’ is in the advertising. I can’t think of anything more patronising for women’s work than minimising it with the word ‘mum’. If Bill Gates isn’t a ‘dadpreneur’ then women aren’t ‘mumpreneurs’. They are talented, intelligent and brilliant women. What these women all have in common is that they are more than functionally literate and numerate.

And, this is why Ed Miliband’s policy is a bunch of toght-wing billshit. Even if we were to pretend that apprenticeship programs exist, which they don’t, this is still a stupid idea. I live in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland and every single year the local authority and Scottish government babble on about training programs, so the kids sign up and then the training is canceled. My neighbour’s son has had no less than four separate training program’s canceled within a two year period as the LA decides it can’t afford to run them. I refuse to believe that labour plans on investing millions into training program’s when this is clearly a way of trying to attract right-wing voters.

If Ed Miliband were actually serious about encouraging youth employment, he’d make sure kids could actually READ and WRITE before threatening to take away their benefits. He’d invest millions and millions of pounds into the education system to do the following:

1. Fix the buildings, many of which are falling down around the children (literally in Edinburgh’s case where a child was recently killed by a falling wall).
2. Smaller class sizes
3. Trained TAs for every classroom
4. Specialist literacy & numeracy teachers
5. Specialist maths teachers
6. Specialist language teachers
7. Proper playgrounds
8. More ed psychs based in schools
9. Childcare with real government financial support
10. Trained nursery teachers
11. Better resources in schools including for art, music and drama
12. Real inclusion in schools
13. More books
14. Young mothers units in schools
15. On site daycares
16. Better pay for teachers & other staff
17. More support staff
18. Libraries in school
19. More funding for school trips including residential trips

But, most importantly, 1 to 1 teaching for any child who needs it for a few hours or every single day if they need it.

This is what youth apprenticeships should look like: support for students who’ve left school with confidence in themselves and their abilities in reading and writing.

Anything less is just noise created to entice the right wing arseholes who don’t actually give a shit about our children.

I’m in a room full of amazing women. We have a generation of children leaving schools who aren’t functionally literate. They need these skills so that they too can become brilliant women.