Everyone Knew: The Harvey Weinstein Allegations – my new project

https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/latest-news/2017/43/a-comprehensive-list-of-every-weinstein-allegation-so-far (via @amysoandso)

Everyone knew.

We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.

Somehow ‘everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour. Even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.

 

Continue reading Everyone Knew: The Harvey Weinstein Allegations – my new project

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.

 

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

16 ways to End Violence against Women and Girls

These are just a few of the ways that you can support women’s services during the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Male Violence against Women and Girls.

  1. Donate £1 to a different specialist women’s service like the national organisations Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, or Refuge every day.
  2. Donate £1 to your local service providers supporting women who are living with domestic and sexual violence and abuse. BME women’s services have been disproportionately impacted by so-called ‘austerity’ so please don’t forget them.
  3. Share fundraisers for women’s services across social media. We understand that many women can not afford to donate £1. Sharing fundraisers is just as essential as being able to donate £1.
  4. Host a coffee morning for your friends to raise money.
  5. Bring some baked goods into work and ask for donations to a service of your choice from your co-workers.
  6. Collect clothing, bedding and any other unused household items to donate to your local refuge or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc.
  7. Donate toys to a local refuge for children who will be living in them at Christmas or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc..
  8. Donate new toiletries and another nice gifts for teenage girls and women living in refuges.
  9. Make a donation to your local food bank. All women are disproportionately impacted by poverty and austerity measures. Women living with violence are disproportionately impacted by cuts to housing benefits and women’s services. 
  10. Donate sanitary products to food banks. These are essential for women and teenage girl’s access to education and work. 
  11. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP to demand ring-fenced funding for women’s specialist services, including those for BME women or those with disabilities.
  12. Write to local councillors, MP, MEP, or MSP and ask them to undergo specialist training on domestic and sexual violence and abuse from specialist organisations.
  13. Write to your MP and MSP demanding they support the campaigns to end the detention of refugee women and children.
  14. Write to your MP and MSP demanding mandatory sex and healthy relationships education in schools, as well as campaigns to make schools safer for girls.
  15. File complaints with media about inappropriate, misleading and offensive coverage of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  16. And, if you’re a man, stand up for women’s rights. Challenge men who make rape jokes. Call out male friends who refuse to financially support their children. Insist your employer implement the equal pay legislation. Donate money to rape crisis centres and refuges. Wearing a white ribbon isn’t enough. Your need to do the work to end violence against women and girls.

You can find the address and contact details of your local councillor via  WriteToThem.

 

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

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.

£4 BILLION – the current outstanding child maintenance bill

£4 billion.

This is the outstanding arrears of child maintenance owed in England and Wales. According to a report by the charity Gingerbread called Missing Maintenance, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) estimates that only £467 million will ever be recovered.This leaves nearly one half of single parent families, the vast majority headed by women, living in poverty.

The current Conservative government is in the process of closing the Child Support Agency (CSA) to replace it with the Child Maintenance Service, which charges women £20 for the privilege of opening a file and then a sum each month if some semblance of the maintenance is actually paid. The new vaunted system has seen only 53% of the families registered receiving maintenance with 90 000 people having not paid during one three month period. There is already nearly £53 million in unpaid maintenance. Many of the families will receive only negligible amounts of money, as the DWP does not require the full maintenance to be paid in order for the account to be registered as compliant. Realistically, a father of 4 earning £70 000 a year can pay only £5 a month and still be included within the 53% statistic.

Equally problematic is the fact that the Child Maintenances Service is actively writing to the primary caregivers to request they ‘forgive’ the debt owed by non-paying fathers – as though the primary caregivers of children, who are overwhelmingly women, can neglect to pay rent, council tax and the credit card debts they rack up buying groceries knowing these debts will be ‘forgiven’. As Polly Toynbee makes clear,

Some 90% of CSA cases have now been transferred over to the CMS, but only 13% of mothers affected have decided to pay the new fees and apply to the CMS: the DWP must be pleased, as it had publicly estimated that 63% would pursue their claims. All the pressure in official letters is to deter mothers. The £20 fee may be a mild block, along with charging fathers 4%, but the evidence suggests mothers just give up when prodded by these letters.

Charging mothers to use the Child Maintenance Service is simply a way for the government to abdicate responsibility. They are very clear that the sole purpose is to force more parents into dealing with child maintenance themselves. In doing so, they have refused to recognise the reason why men, and it is overwhelmingly men, refuse to pay maintenance: it is both a punishment and a form of control over their former partners. This is male entitlement writ large by men who do not care about the welfare of their children.

We need to start calling the refusal to pay maintenance what it really is: financial child abuse. Forcing your children to live in poverty because you cannot be bothered to support them or refusing to punish the mother are not the signs of ‘good fathers’. It is the hallmark of an abusive father.

It is not difficult to implement child maintenance policies that are effective and ensure that men cannot hide their assets. Placing the Child Maintenance Service under the heading of HM Revenue & Customs so that child maintenance is garnished directly from the salary of the non-resident parent. This coupled with actual punitive policies for those who refuse to pay, such as a fee for every missed payment, interest accrued on outstanding payments, and the use of enforcement agents (bailiffs) to confiscate personal property, and, potentially, criminal proceedings would see an immediate increase in the number of men who start to pay their maintenance. Canada’s maintenance enforcement program has the right to suspend the driver’s licenses and passports of men who are in arrears recognising that the legal obligation to pay maintenance being higher than the desire to vacation in Hawaii.

There is a quote bandied about in discussions of child contact and child maintenance that says ‘children aren’t pay per view’, as though children were nothing more than a possession to be passed about. As with Women’s Aid campaign, Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives, we need to stop talking about children as possessions and start talking about children’s rights.[7] Children have the right to live free from violence. Children also have the right to live outwith poverty.

The erasure of men’s financial responsibility for their children, supported by government policy, is an absolute disgrace. It is, simply, state sanctioned child abuse.

 

Gingerbread’s Missing Maintenance Report

Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives Petition

 

 

This is rape culture: That ‘tired mum and quickies’ meme.

This rolled up on my Facebook feed this morning – one of those ‘suggested posts’. Usually, these posts are just dire. This one is heart-breaking. The website someecards.com have shared the text below with the photo and name of the woman who wrote it. I have redacted both because what is below isn’t the story of a ‘good marriage’ as someecards.com suggests but a story of emotional blackmail, male entitlement, sexual harassment and coercion within marriage. This is what rape culture looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.30.41

Making space to have sex when you have small children, jobs and other caring responsibilities can be difficult. That is no excuse for whining and sexually harassing your wife. Being put in a position where you have to ‘trade’ sex in order to eat what you want or listen to your music isn’t a healthy relationship. It’s a coercive relationship. Passive aggressive ‘dry humping your leg’ and asking if you want ‘sausage’ is gross behaviour. Jabbing his dick into your back to push you into sex isn’t romantic. No woman should ‘feel bad’ because they don’t want to have sex and a man who makes you feel that way should be divorced.

This is male entitlement writ large – the belief that he is entitled to sex whenever he wants regardless of his wife’s desires. It’s sexual coercion at best.

Rape culture isn’t just the stranger who sexually harasses you in the street or the man on public transport who touches you without permission. It is men who believe that marriage entitles them to sex and that women should be bullied and harassed into it for daring to say no. It is conducive context in which men ‘pestering’ for sex are seen as somehow romantic. It is the context in which a woman’s right to say no is erased. It is the context in which controlling behaviours (eating chocolate/ listening to music) are deemed ‘normal’ rather than evidence of domestic violence.

I’ve redacted the woman’s name because I believe victims of sexualised violence have the right to anonymity. This woman is a victim of sexualised violence. She deserves anonymity. And a life without a man who thinks fucking her is his inalienable right by dint of marriage.

Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid – male entitlement in literature and laundry

Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid by Rufi Thorpe is beautiful, heart-breaking and enraging on how mothering impacts women’s abilities to become a published author recognising the selfish and narcissistic behaviour of male writers is rewarded whilst women are held to impossible standards. Yet, buried within this incredible piece of writing are the following two paragraphs:

“I have never worried that the mundane world would muddy my celestial paws; I’ve always been perfectly able to lick my stamps myself. In fact, I have been far, far too able. The older I get, the more I recognize the leveraging power of ineptitude. My husband can’t cook well; I do the cooking. My husband accidentally shrinks a few sweaters; I do the laundry. My husband can’t lactate; the baby comes to New York. In his inability to do things, he is excused from labor. In my rush to excel, to shine, to be a good wife and mother, I have done nothing but ensure my labor will be lengthy and unpaid.” …

There are other ways too in which I am invisible. I often feel that the work I do around the house is the work of an invisible person. How else could my husband consistently leave his underwear tucked behind the bathroom door? His wet towel on the bed? Surely, he does not imagine me, swearing, swooping to pick up his damp, crumpled briefs with a child on one hip as I listen to a podcast and ponder going gluten free. He is not making a statement with his actions, saying, “Here, wife, pick up after me.” Instead, I think that on some level he believes that he lives in an enchanted castle where the broom comes to life and sweeps, and the teapot pours itself.

Women are expected to do all the unpaid caring work. That Thorpe recognises this but gives her husband a pass on being lazy, thoughtless and inconsiderate is just too distressing.

It would be nice if we all lived in a house where a cooked from scratch, nutritious meal was served three times a day. But this isn’t the Victorian era and servants aren’t a mandatory statement of social acceptability. You don’t need to be a great cook to make dinner for a family – pasta and soup aren’t hard to do (and I say this as someone with dyspraxia where following instructions and accurate measuring aren’t actual skills, as my children can attest).

Men do not believe they live in ‘enchanted castles’. They believe that other people (read wife or mother) are going to do the shit work. Men who consistently leave dirty underwear lying around are making a point about who actually matters in the relationship.  It takes 30 seconds to put your pants in the laundry basket. It takes 30 seconds to turn the washing machine on and 15 minutes (max) to put away clean laundry. Working long hours is not an excuse for being unable to pick up your own dirty underwear – unless you think childcare and housework are not real work.  A man who can operate a smart phone can read the instructions on the label of clothes and the manual for a washing machine.

Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid isn’t heart-breaking simply because it evidences the extreme inequality between women and men, but because Thorpe sees this as inevitable in her own relationship. Thorpe thanks her mother for sacrificing so much, including never writing her own book, in order for Thorpe to succeed. That her husband is unwilling to put his own dirty underwear in the laundry basket to help support Thorpe is male entitlement writ large.

Men, there is no such thing as reverse sexism.

(Originally published at Feminist Times)

Mumsnet is sexist. At least, that seems to be the rationale behind the founding of Mumsanddadsnet, set up by Duncan Fisher and Jeszemma Garratt because parenting sites “exclude” dads – which conveniently ignores the fact that parenting sites already have male members and have done since the beginning.

The main problem with the idea that Mumsnet needs more men or that men are deliberately being excluded from parenting websites is that it fails to acknowledge the gendered reality of childrearing in the UK. It is women who do the majority of childcare, childrearing and family organisation, regardless of whether or not they work outside the home (a euphemistic phrase which implies that childcare and housework aren’t really work).

But marriage and childrearing is more than just a “second shift” for women. As Susan Maushart argues in her seminal text Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, “becoming a wife will erode your mental health, reduce your leisure, decimate your libido, and increase the odds that you will be physically assaulted or murdered in your own home.”

Wifework isn’t just doing a couple of extra loads of laundry a week. Being a wife means taking on responsibility for the emotional and physical care of the needs of the husband at the expense of one’s own emotional and physical health.

Feminists have long since recognised the fact that marriage has a detrimental effect on women’s health and emotional wellbeing. Yet we are replicating the exact same structures within the feminist movement without recognising it. Feminism has stopped being about the liberation of women and has instead become about not alienating men.

We can’t simply talk about rape culture and strategize how to destroy it without every single statement requiring the caveat “we don’t mean all men”. We can’t hold conferences without including men. We can’t even hold Reclaim the Night marches without men demanding to be included, irrespective of the fact that the men who demand the right to attend rarely show up. Or that the inclusion of men means that many women don’t feel safe attending.

Excluding women from Reclaim the Night marches in order to include men is an anti-feminist position, but it is one that women are pushed into making because excluding men is somehow seen as unkind. Frankly, in the unkind sweepstakes, the reality of male sexual, physical and emotional violence against women and children is slightly worse than not being invited on a march. Liberating women from these structures should be the goal of feminism, not worrying about whether or nor men’s feelings are hurt.

We cannot fight for liberation if our physical and emotional time is spent placating men or worrying about their feelings. Our emotional health and our time are very precious resources that need to be allocated to other women. We need to allocate it to ourselves.

This is why I worry about feminist organisations like The Everyday Sexism Project praising men with their #everydayallies hashtag on twitter. We are praising them for behaving like human beings; not for doing anything to support women’s liberation or to end male violence, but for acting like human beings. This should be a basic requirement of humanity, not a cause for celebration.

This isn’t to say that men should not take responsibility for ending male violence against women and girls but that they need to take on this work themselves. More men need to support women’s liberation, rather than demanding to be included in work women are doing (and then trying to take credit just for rocking up).

Critiquing The Everyday Sexism Project for taking out a few hours from the brilliant work they do for women to thank men may seem churlish, but it is part of larger pattern of women caring for men’s feelings above their own. This is just another way women have to expand energy caring for men more than themselves.

Demanding inclusion of men, within the feminist movement and on parenting websites, also ignores the importance of women-only spaces. There is a tremendous amount of research, from Dale Spender to Margaret Atwood, into how men dominate public spaces and public communication. More recently, Ruth Lewis and Elizabeth Sharp’s research into the importance of women-only spaces, conducted following the North East Feminist Gathering in 2012 and published on Feminist Times, has documented numerous positive outcomes for women including a surge in confidence and reflexivity, as well as a safe place for debate and to challenge stereotypes.

The incursion of men into women-only spaces has a detrimental effect on women’s abilities to communicate and engage with one another safely. This should be something of concern to feminists rather than the feelings of men who feel excluded. Women-only spaces are important for women’s cognitive and emotional safety. We need to make sure that every single woman has this space.

This is why parenting sites like Mumsnet and Netmums are so popular. They are sites by women, for women, talking about every single issue that women are concerned about – from caring for a child to radical feminist politics to football. Men who demand to be part of these spaces aren’t engaging with the reality of women’s lives. They are demanding the right to speak over and for women. They are demanding the right to be the most important concern in the room. This is inherently anti-feminist.

Men who understand feminism don’t need our praise. They just get on with the work needed to undo the patriarchy. Feminism needs more men like this. We also need to reflect more on why feminism is starting to replicate the harmful gendered stereotypes on which the institution of marriage is based when it is feminism that recognised the harm in the first place.

Why has feminism become so concerned with ensuring men aren’t excluded rather than focusing on women’s exclusion from public life? Why are the feelings of a few men upset because a parenting website doesn’t include the word “dad”, when the reality is that women do the vast majority of parenting at the expense of our health?

Putting the needs of men, as a class, to feel included above the safety of women is an anti-feminist position. Feminism should be by women, for women, because women are important too – and our feelings of exclusion are grounded in reality.

– See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/men-know-your-place/#sthash.ZArZxXyy.dpuf

The problem is the capitalist-patriarchy socialising boys to be aggressive

(Originally published at Feminist Times)

The most common criticism of radical feminist theory is that we are gender essentialist because we believe that women’s oppression, as a class, is because of the biological realities of our bodies. Radical feminists define sex as the physical body, whilst gender is a social construct. It is not a function of our biology. It is the consequence of being labelled male/female at birth and assigned to the oppressor/sex class. The minute genetic differences are not reflected in the reality of women’s lived experiences. Gender is the coercive process of socialisation built upon a material reality that constructs women as a subordinate class to men. As such, radical feminists do not want to queer gender or create a spectrum of gendered identities; we want to end the hierarchical power structure that privileges men as a class at the expense of women’s health and safety.

This assumption is based on a misunderstanding of radical feminist theory, that starts from the definition of “radical” itself, which refers to the root or the origin: that is to say, the oppression of women by men (The Patriarchy). It is radical insofar as it contextualises the root of women’s oppression in the biological realities of our bodies (sex) and seeks the liberation of women through the eradication of social structures, cultural practises and laws that are predicated on women’s inferiority to men (gender).

Radical feminism challenges all relationships of power that exist within the Patriarchy including capitalism, imperialism, racism, classism, homophobia and even the fashion-beauty complex because they are harmful to everyone: female, male, intersex and trans*. As with all social justice movements, radical feminism is far from perfect. No movement can exist within a White Supremacist culture without (re)creating racist, homophobic, disablist, colonialist and classist power structures. What makes radical feminism different is its focus on women as a class.

Radical feminists do not believe there are any innate gender differences, or in the existence of male/female brains. Women are not naturally more nurturing than men and men are not better at maths and reading maps. Men are only “men” insofar as male humans are socialised into specific characteristics that we label male, such as intelligence, aggression, and violence and woman are “woman” because we are socialised into believing that we are more nurturing, empathetic, and caring than men.

Women’s oppression as a class is built on two interconnected constructs: reproductive capability and sexual capability. In the words of Gerda Lerner in The Creation of Patriarchy, the commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is the foundation of the creation of private property and a class-based society. Without the commodification of women’s labour there would be no unequal hierarchy of power between men and women, fundamental to the creation and continuation of the Capitalist-Patriarchy, and, therefore, no need for gender as a social construct.

Radical feminism recognises the multiple oppressions of individual women, whilst recognising the oppression of women as a class in the Marxist sense of the term. Rape does not require every woman to be raped to function as a punishment and a deterrent from speaking out. The threat therein is enough. Equally, the infertility of an individual woman does not negate the fact that her oppression is based on the assumed potential (and desire) for pregnancy, which is best seen in discussions of women’s employmentand men’s refusal to hire women during “child-bearing” years due to the potential for pregnancy, which is used as a way of controlling women’s labour: keeping women in low-paying jobs and maintaining the glass ceiling. Constructing women as “nurturers” maintains the systemic oppression of women and retains wealth and power within men as a class.

Even something as basic as a company dress code is gendered to mark women as other. Women working in the service industry are frequently required to wear clothing and high heels that accentuate external markers of sex. Sexual harassment is endemic, particularly in the workplace, yet women are punished if they do not attend work in clothing that is considered “acceptable” for the male gaze. The use of women’s bodies to sell products further institutionalises the construction of women as object.

There is a shared girlhood in a culture that privileges boys, coercively constructs women’s sexuality and punishes girls who try to live outside gendered norms. The research of Dale Spender, and even Margaret Atwood, dating back to the 1980s has made it very clear that young girls are socialised to be quiet, meek and unconfident. Boys, on the other hand, are socialised to believe that everything they say and do is important: by parents and teachers, by a culture which believes that no young boy would ever want to watch a film or read a book about girls or written by a woman. Shared girlhood is differentiated by race, class, faith and sexuality, but, fundamentally, all girls are raised in a culture which actively harms them.

Radical feminists are accused of gender essentialism because we recognise the oppressive structures of our world and seek to dismantle them. We acknowledge the sex of the vast majority of perpetrators of violence. We do so by creating women-only spaces so that women can share stories in the knowledge that other women will listen. This is in direct contrast to every other public and private space that women and young girls live in. Sometimes these spaces are trans-inclusive, like A Room of our Own the blogging network I created for feminists and womanists. Sometimes these spaces will need to be for women who are FAAB only or trans* women only, just as it is absolutely necessary to have black-women only spaces and lesbian women-only spaces.

There is a need for all of these spaces because socialisation is a very powerful tool. Being raised male in a patriarchal white supremacist culture is very different to being raised female with the accompanying sexual harassment, trauma and oppression. The exclusion of trans* women from some spaces is to support traumatised women who can be triggered by being in the same space as someone who was socialised male growing up. This does not mean that an individual trans* woman is a danger, but rather a recognition that gendered violence exists and that trauma is complicated.

It is our direct challenge to hegemonic masculinity and control of the world’s resources (including human) that makes radical feminism a target of accusations like gender essentialism. We recognise the importance in biological sex because of the way girls and boys are socialised to believe that boys are better than girls. As long as we live in a capitalist-patriarchy where boys are socialised to believe that aggression and anger are acceptable behaviour, women and girls will need the right to access women-only spaces however they define them.

– See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/the-problem-is-capitalist-patriarchy-socialising-boys-to-be-aggressive-not-radical-feminism/#sthash.dTFaIOjm.dpuf

November 25 is the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women – not White Ribbon Day

November 25th was first chosen as the date for an annual day of protest of male violence in 1981. This occurred at the first Feminist Conference for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Bogota. It was chosen in memory of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel.

The Mirabel sisters were political activists who fought the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They stood up to a genocidal regime that used torture, rape and kidnapping and they were murdered for it. This is why November 25th was chosen as an international day of activism that “denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.”

November 25th received official recognition as an international day to raise awareness of violence against women from United Nations on December 17, 1999.

None of this information is out with the public realm. Even Wikipedia, not known for its accuracy, manages to get the facts right. Yet, November 25th is rarely referred to as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women anymore. Instead, it is called White Ribbon day after a campaign started by men in Canada.

The origins of the White Ribbon campaign are important. It was created by pro-feminist men in 1991 in response to the massacre of women at the Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6 1989. A man killed 14 women because they were women. Men stood up to take responsibility for men’s violence. We need men to take responsibility for the violence they perpetuate and perpetrate.

Yet, somehow, White Ribbon no longer occurs on December 6th (although still recognised in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women). Now, White Ribbon day is November 25th – a day started by women of colour in Latin American and the Caribbean about the murder of 3 women in the Dominican Republic.

As Karen Ingala Smith points out, there is something extremely questionable about an event created by white men eclipsing a day of action and remembrance created by women of colour. It is quite surprising just how many men involved in the White Ribbon campaign don’t know the origins or the actual date of their own campaign. One even ran a panel at Feminism in London and looked shocked that no women’s organisation had raised the issue before. The fact that men just hadn’t been listening (or bothered to google) didn’t seem to occur to him.

White Ribbon Day is December 6th. Co-opting a day celebrating the activism and work of women to make it all about the men – and check out this comment from a white ribbon ‘supporter’ – isn’t about men taking responsibility for their role in supporting a global war against women. It’s about being seen to be doing something.

These are the names of the women murdered at the Polytechnique:

  • Geneviève Bergeron
  • Hélène Colgan
  • Nathalie Croteau
  • Barbara Daigneault
  • Anne-Marie Edward
  • Maud Haviernick
  • Maryse Laganière
  • Maryse Leclair
  • Anne-Marie Lemay
  • Sonia Pelletier
  • Michèle Richard
  • Annie St-Arneault
  • Annie Turcotte
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

The anniversary of their massacre deserves to be remembered. Their names deserve to be remembered – as do the names of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel. We need to remember all the women who are raped, tortured, abused, and killed by men. And, we need to remember all the women who stood up and said enough.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women isn’t about men. Speaking over and erasing women’s activism isn’t proof that men are committed to ending violence against women and girls. It’s just the opposite.