Allow me to retort

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Rape, objectification and misogyny - the price we silly women pay for embracing feminism and calling for equality, apparently.

Oz Conservative, a particularly charming anti-feminist blog, has used my post 'This Is What A Feminist Looks Like' to illustrate just how us women have let ourselves go over the past few decades. Allegedly I'm part of a scary group of women (I'll admit, I can be a pretty scary woman; this much is true) who are obsessed with 'sex liberation'. Since the 1970s, we've thrown out the idea of relationships which involve marriage and 'romance' to pursue relationsips based on SEX ALONE!

Before these brazen 70s hussies demanded fulfilling sexual relationships, blogger Mark Richardson claims, 'romantic love' ruled all and men tended to 'idolise women' and focus on 'feminine beauty and goodness'. He talks sadly of his dismay at going to university and encountering 'liberated women'.

I'm guessing that a lot of men were, like me, confused by what was happening. Uni women dressed in a plain, mannish way, cut their hair short and wore no jewellery or make up. They had started to drink heavily and to swear in public.

And the result of these shocking displays of behaviour?
...I found the women too unappealing to pursue.
I'm sure the feeling was mutual. God forbid that a woman should exist for some purpose other than looking appealing to men. Short hair?! No make-up?! I may have to have a lie-down. As a direct result of this, claims Richardson, men became more misogynist and obsessed with objectification. In short, that women wanting equality made men treat them with less respect. Reading this tale of woe, you'd think that women were revered and adored prior to the supposedly immoral decades following the 70s. As opposed to, you know, seen as intellectually inferior, denied control over their own lives, forced to stay in marriages they didn't want to be in and to carry babies they didn't want, abused, seen as little more than the property of their husbands, denied equal pay and rights to work and carted off to mental health institutions or outcast by society when they showed dissent. Not to worry, at least they still wore pretty clothes and got married, right?

What disgusts me, what actually angers me the most is the next part of the post (that's the part which mentions me!):
But at the very same time that [Hannah] objects to a culture of male sexual liberation, she also makes it clear that she thinks women should behave sexually as they want without consequences.
And what would those 'consequences' be? here we have a quote from my post (Richardson's emphasis):
...a culture that encourages women to do all they can in a neverending quest to appeal to men yet berates them for what they wear, how much they drink and how they behave if they become the victim of sexual assault or rape.
Do I think that women should behave as they want without 'consequences'. When you're saying that these 'consquences' are sexual assault and rape, then yes I do. What a disgusting example of victim-blaming. Men don't rape women because of the clothes they're wearing or the fact that they've been drinking or how they've been acting. Men who rape do it for the same reasons they've done it since the dawn of time. Yes, even when when women shut up, sat down, wore 'pretty' clothing and never strayed too far from the kitchen, there were men who raped women. Their girlfriends and their wives too, just in case you were convinced by that whole 'focus on romantic love' thing. Seeing as wanting a satisfying sex life - and talking about it - is apparently 'immodest' (here Richardson also lampoons Laurie Penny's brillant post 'Angry Feminist Tuesday'), why should we be surprised when men objectify, assault and rape us?

Incidentally, women covering up, playing up the meek factor, watching their language and giving up drinking doesn't stop men from raping them and treating them with disrespect. Why? Because it's not their fault in the first place. Men who rape are the ones at fault. It's been said a million times and it never gets through. When a man rapes a woman, the man is at fault because he's the rapist. The experiences of women the world over for thousands of years are surely testament to the fact that a rapist will attack a woman whatever she's wearing, however she's acting, whatever she looks like and yes, whether she's married or not.

Going back to a society where a woman's only aim is to get a man and married is not going to 'cure' men of misogyny and stop them from abusing us, Mr Richardson. Women will stop suffering rape when men stop raping.

Changing attitudes at Christmas: Advent Conspiracy

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

I had to make a trip into the city centre last Saturday, something I generally try to avoid on that particular day of the week at this particular time of year. The Christmas cards and decorations have already been on sale for weeks, but it's only this month that I've started to notice the explosion in the number of shoppers. You can tell they're shopping for Christmas because they're usually weighed down with armfuls of bags and look vaguely harrassed. Or they're carrying a list and wondering aloud just how many female relatives they can cross off it by taking advantage of several '3 for 2 at Boots' offers. Indeed, it's only a matter of time before stories about local authorities 'TRYING TO BAN CHRISTMAS!' are all over the tabloids like a rash. In Peterborough, residents have already been at war with the council over the Park and Ride bus services specially laid on for Christmas shoppers.

Since I got married we've tried to keep Christmas fairly low-budget and low-key. Admittedly the low-budget side of things isn't particularly out of choice so much as necessity. Christmas 2005 always sticks in my mind because that was the year I found myself out of a job on December 23rd. My then fiancé was in his final year of university and living off fish finger sandwiches (advertised fish content of 10% highly optimistic). In the pub that lunchtime, I was 'celebrating' my impending redundancy and chatting to a colleague about Christmas. I told him that Luke and I had decided to limit ourselves to a spend of £10 on each others' present that year. He was greatly amused and smugly informed me that he'd already blown £700 on presents for his girlfriend.

Everyone knows that Christmas has become 'an orgy of consumerism' for many. Whether you're a practicing Christian or not, I think the pressure to make Christmas about the buying, the presents, the eating and the Boxing Day sales gets worse every year. Last year I briefly came across the website for Advent Conspiracy and was interested by what it had to say. The organisation calls itself an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption and uses four points to illustrate its objective:

- Worship fully
- Spend less
- Give more
- Love all

Even if you don't celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas and therefore would prefer to focus on the second, third and fourth points I think a lot of people would admit that we could do with 'rethinking Christmas'. The way we focus on consumption. Spend money we don't have on presents for people out of nothing more than obligation. The rush for the sales after Christmas where we spend more money. There's nothing wrong with giving presents at Christmas, but Advent Conspiracy talks about the idea of 'giving relationally', loving our friends and family and giving them our time and our efforts instead, while remembering the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick by giving resources and time to those who need it the most. When the organisation was set up, it challenged the congregations of four churches to give one less gift at Christmas and donate the money they saved to those who needed it more - over half a million dollars was raised.

Advent Conspiracy seems to be US-centric although according to the website, people from the UK, the Philippines, Zambia, Liberia, Nicaragua and El Salvador are also supporting its work. As a Christian the side of its message relating to Jesus is important to me but whatever you think about my religion, I believe the concept of reassessing how we celebrate Christmas is relevant to everyone.

Things which have interested me this week:

Shakesville - Wow: discusses an article on which asserts that female actresses are only good for as long as they're 'hot'. Then it's ok to lampoon them for being 'chubby', 'too thin', the shape of their chin and how much of a 'ho' they are, at the same time as calling for the end of their careers because they're 'past it'. Awesome.
The Enemies of Reason - Hmm...Remember This?: certain tabloids expressed 'outrage' at Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time last week, but any other week of the year they can be seen echoing his views.
Jon Henley in The Guardian - The Berlin Wall: where are the remains?
Liberal Conspiracy - Right-wing attempts to legitimise BNP policies: on public opinion vs right-wing blogs folowing last week's Question Time.

Fun with search terms

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I keep track of how people reach my blog and so far I've been surprised that the majority of hits come from people searching for helpful and positive things. Last night however, someone found their way here via a search for

dogs drink from lesbian's mouth

So there you go. I'm quite intrigued that Google came up with my blog in response to this. Let's hope that the person in Springfield, Missouri who ended up clicking on my blog as a result found some food for thought here as opposed to, well, dogs drinking from lesbians' mouths.

Since When Is A Women's Enterprise Centre 'Sexist'?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Currently concerning Peterborough residents is the news that retail 'giant' Panasonic will not be opening a store in the city because it cannot rent the premises of its choice. The empty unit has been earmarked by the city council for the past six months as the site for a new Women's Enterprise Centre, but despite the fact that there are more than 70 empty units in the city centre, Panasonic claim it's 7 Bridge Street or nothing for them.

When the story broke, furious Peterborians left over 100 comments to the tune of "You could not make this up, sheer madness!" and "Words fail me!". I often get the feeling that 90 per cent of people who comment on the Evening Telegraph's website do so because they're against every single decision the council makes and really enjoy pointing this out (and when they're not doing this, they're furiously submitting outraged comments on the Daily Mail's website), but reading through the comments made me genuinely sad at the amount of sexism and patronising language on show. Many people commenting said that opening a Women's Enterprise Centre is 'sexist', 'discriminates against men' and ''; it was intimated on a couple of occasions that the council should be concentrating on creating jobs for men instead. As was pointed out at the Feminism In London conference last Saturday, recession poses a big threat to women's rights - equal pay and women's services are seen as less important as focus returns to men. Surely an organisation which offers support and advice and empowers women in business can only be a good thing? The centre, which is to be funded by the East of England Development Agency and based on the successful Women's Employment Enterprise and Training Unit in Norwich, could certainly help to drum up new employment opportunities and raise aspirations.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before people commenting in support of the enterprise initiative were accused of being 'feminist nutjobs' and someone even seemed to think they were being accused of being a 'raging lesbian' (I'm not quite sure where this came from either). I like to call it Jeremy Clarkson Syndrome - you know, when generally privileged members of society really enjoy railing against the 'attacks on their rights' as men and how Britain is the worst place to be right now if you're white, male and middle class? That's the one. Cue comments on how the council should start opening 'Polish, Lithuanian, Croation, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Afghanistan, Iraqi, Iranian, Gay, Lesbian etc etc etc Enterprise Centre[s]'.

Council leader Marco Cereste offered his opinions on the matter yesterday in an attempt to settle the matter:
"If we continue to be short-termist in Peterborough, we will end up as we are now with shopping centre shops empty, educational attainment only average and the aspirations of our community no higher than at the moment.

"Wouldn't that be really sad when this tremendous city really deserves the life and vibrancy that other cities have?"

Nevetheless, the debate rages on, with several readers writing outraged letters to the editor.

Many (less offensive) commenters felt that the enterprise centre is not the best use of a unit in a city centre in dire need of new and exciting retail attractions - but as Cllr Cereste has pointed out, there are many other empty shops that Panasonic could use. Peterborough certainly has some serious socioeconomic problems and efforts towards regeneration are being made, but we've been hit hard by the recession with many businesses closing down - from companies employing over a thousand to small branches of retail chains. There are already numerous specialist and department stores selling electrical goods both in the city centre and on retail parks further out of town which has made me wonder - do we even need yet another one, particularly a premium brand whose products retail for considerable sums of money? I know the council also wants to focus on bringing 'high end' shops to the city, but I'm inclined to think the Women's Enterprise Centre is a better use for the premises at present.

A central and conspicuous position will ensure the new Women's Enterprise Centre is better used. Peterborough already has a Women's Centre already which deals with many different areas of support, runs courses and helps a lot of women - but very few people I know actually know where it is or what it does. It's actually on the outskirts of the city centre, but easy to miss if you don't know where to go. Having the new centre on one of the Peterborough's main streets would encourage women to visit and make it more easily accessible. I genuinely hope that the initiative will bring success, independence and empowerment to women in my city - it's just so frustrating and saddening to see the sort of opposition ideas like this come up against.


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