Thanks very much. The point you make about the Home Office ignoring
the problem is what frustrated me most about the whole thing: here we
had a chance to have some real dialogue around *why* it is that women
are scared to be out alone at night, and all we see is some political
mud-slinging on crime stats…
When formal political structures make policy in accordance with the
pervasive patriarchal attitudes that place the onus on women to alter
their behaviour as a ‘cure’ for the ill of violence, we can bet the
situation isn’t going to get any better. It’s not a question of more
protection for women, nor prevention by restricting our freedom of
movement, but they’re never going to come to that conclusion if we
don’t challenge the structures that tell us to lock ourselves away.
Would that it were possible to give the Home Office a citizen’s ASBO
for its misogyny… Not helpful in the long-run I realise, but still…
Alex Gibson, author of the article, replies
Thank you for your comments, I think we agree on most of what you said. You
raise an interesting point about wage differences, and I agree that giving up
that extra bit of power in return for more time with friends and family, and
considerably less stress, is a great bargain. I’m not, of course, a person
motivated by the kind of high-power business job that your comments brought to
mind so it’s easy for me to make that choice. In accepting gender equality men
don’t really have much to lose: it’s not like feminism is advocating female
dominance. Sharing the responsibility is beneficial to both genders like you say.
I also agree with you totally on your last point: I believe very strongly that
it’s important that feminism reaches out to men because, perhaps naively, I
think that most guys would find feminism quite agreeable once they realise that
it isn’t about male inferiority. I’m beginning to appreciate the irony that the
stereotypes that have been produced from a male-dominated society have done just
that in making us out to be brutish dullards, but it still makes me sad. Despite
this, when I was writing the article I felt I should add the caveat that this
isn’t a necessary part of feminism: feminists who don’t want to take on men’s
issues as well as their own are perfectly entitled to do that, but as a feminist
myself I intend to do as much as is in my power to advertise these ideas to men.
If we want to change our own image in society we have to do it ourselves, by
fighting the stereotypes whenever we see them.
The culture of gender equality is achingly slow to change, but the more men you
get on board then ideally the less “us vs. them” feminism appears to be, and
that should definitely help. Here’s hoping, anyway!
Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies
It appears you have not read my article correctly. My article was aimed at men who believe in the sexual double standard. Myths such as your claim “it is easy for women to get sex so that’s why they are slags if they’re after it all the time etc”. This comment clearly shows you believe certain women are slags whereas men who are obsessed with sex are supposedly not slags. Another example of the male sexual double standard.
An ability for men to engage in sexual activity is not a designation of superiority since animals and birds engage in mating activity but that does not prove they are superior. Intelligence is the deciding factor not sexual activity but unfortunately superiority has been defined on one’s biological sex and this has been accorded to men as a group. Yet another example of rampant misogynistic myths.
Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies
Many thanks for taking the time to comment on my article in The F-Word.
Yes, I know the sexually insulting terms such as ‘slut, whore etc.’ are
common and designed to keep women firmly in their subordinated place.
I have a suggestion, the next time you hear a friend/acquaintance call a
woman a ‘slut,whore etc.’ you might just want to say something like ‘oh
yes and men who are sexually active or have had more than one sexual
partner are also sluts in my view.’ No need to explain just say those
very highly charged words. Men as a group do not want any sexual slur
against their names. It is acceptable for women to be judged solely
from their presumed promiscuity but men – no it is their supposed right
to be ‘players or studs.’
I do know this has worked very well when challenging such misogynstic
views and it does make men stop and think. At the very least it makes
Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies
Thank you for your comments concerning my most recent article. Actually
I did touch on the fact women do sexually insult other women by calling
them ‘sluts etc’ but of course this is still from the male-defined
aspect. It also serves to divide women into either ‘good’ or ‘bad’
women, with the result male sexual behaviour is invisibilised. The
result is that women are constantly having to be aware of their ‘sexual
reputations’ because once they have supposedly transgressed they are
‘bad.’ Female sexuality supposes define women’s character whereas men’s
sexuality does not because men not women are individuals.
Yes, I have read Leora Tannenbaum’s book ‘Slut: Growing Up Female With A
Bad Reputation.’ I read it when it was first published and was
horrified to see how young women were attacking each other egged on of
course by young men.
Sadly the situation here in the UK is just as bad as in the US and it
has been well documented that young women within our educational system
continue to be called ‘sluts, whores, ho’s etc.’ This situation has
been occurring for decades.
Good that you too are challenging the routine sexual insults so many
women irrespective of age, ethnicity etc. are being subjected to. Yes,
when a man is called a slut it does make him think or rather react and
it is a very effective way of challenging the male sexual double
Ruthie Samuel, author of the article, replies
I’m glad you liked the article and that you care about this stuff and want to help (gives me hope because so many people seem not to care enough to actually put empathy into action). I’m still figuring out what to do, but joining amnesty international and linking to their campaigns all over facebook is my current tactic. And of course letter-writing to responsible countries complaining, which seems to have worked in some cases in the past. Also, http://www.savedarfur.org is the website for a charity trying to help people in Darfur. In terms of encouraging coverage in the mainstream media, maybe contacting newspapers and tv channels would help? I’m so sick of news only covering things that are either sensational and rare to cater for the public’s appetite for excitement (e.g. look, a pretty woman murdered a man), or things that help to fuel a political argument (e.g. women are oppressed in Iran, look how rubbish muslims are, maybe we should invade them). The prevalence of those articles partly originates from the existance of apathetic people who only read the news for entertainment or to confirm their existing opinions, rather than actually wanting to know what goes on in the world, so it’s not entirely the fault of journalists, and maybe if they were made aware that some people want real news they’d cover it more.
Ruthie Samuel, author of the article, replies
I definitely don’t believe that feminists are selfish or that priorities of focus are misguided. Pushing on issues like equal pay and rape conviction rates is obviously important, and didn’t mean to belittle those struggles. What annoys me though is when focus is pushed onto words and definitions when there are so many other struggles to fight. Sexism is alive and well but at least we’ve got a legal system in place that in theory supports us, and when it lets us down, this is the exception rather than the rule. In the case of Yorkie Chocolate bars with the slogan “not for girls”…I think that is subtlely offensive rather than actually an issue to fight over, in the sense that it’s a just a boneheaded advertising gimmick that doesn’t really affect people, it doesn’t restrict anything I say or do. It was intended as joke along the same lines as the crisps marketed as “posh” (classist?). A much better reason not to buy Yorkie chocolate bars is that they’re made by Nestle who are partly responsible for the deaths of millions of babies in developing countries who drink their dishonestly marketed babymilk formula against World Health Organisation guidelines.
I also agree that feminists give much more attention to women’s rights abroad than the mainstream media. I thought that I put that point across in the article but I might not have as much as I intended. My main point was meant to be that if sexist attitudes are got rid of in the general population, the mainstream media might cover urgent women’s issues that they currently ignore.
I do agree that there is room for feminist men in feminist groups, if that is what that particular group wants. However, I firmly believe that it is more important to make women feel welcome than men, and some women have categorically stated that they will no longer be a part of women’s committee because they do not feel comfortable with the group being mixed, for all the reasons I stated. These women should come before men, every time.
And I think if a rapist turned up he’d get more than a kick in the balls!
Helen G, author of the blog post, replies
Thank you for your message, and my apologies for the delay in replying.
I agree with you that, because the theft of my cellphone was accompanied by transphobic comments, this modified it from ‘simple’ theft to include a hate crime and I also agree with you that harassment is not acceptable.
But the theft was also an opportunistic crime and, although the two men obviously had a very well choreographed routine, that routine was based on distracting their target to the point where the theft goes unnoticed, at least for long enough for them to make their escape. So the hate crime was a component of the theft, not vice versa. And I was very much distracted. I certainly wasn’t thinking about being helpless, or answering back, or resorting to physical violence. I’m not very good at thinking on my feet and if I was thinking anything at all, it would have been something cowardly along the lines of “I just hope I get out of this in one piece” – but the truth is that it all happened so fast, in a dark and confined public space on a London bus, that I would defy anyone to react like Charles Bronson in ‘Death Wish’.
Subsequently, I have had several discussions with friends and colleagues and the general reaction has been how lucky I was that the phone was all that the thieves took. Your message has been on my mind a lot since I received it and I’ve carried out a very limited straw poll amongst my friends and colleagues about defending oneself in such a situation. The overwhelming response was that if I had, I’d most likely have been knifed.
Also, and I’m sorry to keep on about it, I am a trans woman and consequently I am subject to many hurtful and upsetting comments like this, pretty much every time I stick my nose outside the door. Whatever one’s views on transitioning and the gender binary, my situation is that, although I identify as a woman, I do not ‘pass’ particularly well – hence the endless comments I receive. I am slowly – very slowly – learning not to let it hurt and upset me, but it’s not easy (and yes, I know – no-one said it would be!)
I have this irrational sense of somehow ‘letting the side down’ with what may seem like passive acceptance of a potentially violent situation in which I felt completely out of my depth, and that perhaps I should have done the Wonder Woman twirl instead of just standing there like a lemon, but please remember that transitioning is not a matter of choice for me. It’s a matter of survival, and I do what I have to do to survive. If part of that price is transphobic harassment, well then so be it. At least I’m still here to tell the tale. As I said in the blog post, “I’d rather be a live dog than a dead lion“.
Charlotte Cooper, author of the blog post, replies
I think that in the context of an argument for and against breastfeeding – and that is what I’m discussing – that using the term health benefits rather than the norm is acceptable. I do see your argument for phrasing entirely, and enjoyed the links so I will probably consider this if I ever write about breastmilk again.
Personally I couldn’t be more for raising children au natural but I find the amount of press aimed at mothers/women of a certain age disturbing in its conflicting information and insistence that women are somehow bad if they cannot perform as is expected. Not all women see it as a lifestyle choice, for various reasons as I’m sure you know, women can feel inadequate post birth and if they have trouble initially getting the child to feed from the breast they will stop there and then, there is very little consistent support to help women to try again or inform them that even natural processes can take time. And I think that while the constant barrage of information trying to prove to women that this is the healthiest way to raise there child I think it has a debilitating affect of making women feel even more isolated and less of a mother because they cannot ‘perform’.
Points in the article I read further emphasized for me the pressure on women surrounding their bodies and child birth, something that increasingly is defined by people around us rather than our own experience. My article was a reaction to that.
Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies
I refer you to the blurb we quoted from the M&S website: “And with the hangers included she can keep them neat and tidy too”