I wonder why you think this article was about attacking white middle-class men, when it was actually about white feminists, most of which are women.
As for your second point, you’re making such a sweeping generalisation that it’s hard to even respond to. Which Muslim woman? Which community? Muslim communities are as diverse as any other. I am not saying that Muslim women are not oppressed or that non-Muslims should turn a blind eye towards it, but there is a difference between the colonialist stance of white non-Muslim feminists thinking it is their mission to ‘save the Muslim women’ and working with Muslim women, in solidarity and coalitions (which is what I was calling for in my article). There are lots of Muslim women working and speaking out against oppression. The way you put it, you make it sound like all Muslim women are complete victims of ‘their community’, with no agency of their own, and that is not a helpful attitude, as Muslim women activists have said over and over and over.
Anyway, you really should head over to some sites by Muslim women, you’d not do badly to start with Muslimah Media Watch’s post How to Write about Muslims. They’ve also got links to 100+ other blogs by Muslim activists. If you want to do something for Muslim women, start by listening to what their saying.
Terese Jonsson, author of the article, replies
Thanks for the comment! I’m glad that you liked it. I think it’s true that we base our world view on ourselves – but it’s only easy to not have to think outside of that view if your perspective is the majority, dominant one. Like you say, you have to think about race almost every day, and most white people don’t. But if we dig deeper into that – why should it be any different? White people have an ethnicity as much as Asian people do. I think this is a problem generally, but also within a lot of feminism. When someone mentions ‘race’, people immediately think ‘black’ or ‘Asian’ or ‘ethnic minority’. I was at a feminist event last autumn (and this seems to happen all the time) and there were a number of panels, including one titled ‘feminism and race’. The majority of the other panelists were white, but on the ‘feminism and race’ panel all of them were non-white. And the majority-white audience went so silent during the open discussion after that panel. Like white women didn’t think they had anything to do with ‘race’. Because there’s this understanding underpinned by racism that white is not a racial/ethnic identity.
I think if feminism is to have any relevance, we have to remind ourselves constantly to think about all oppressions, whether we benefit from them or are at a disadvantage because of them. I like to think that feminism is part of a movement to end all oppression, but unless we are attentive to all the intersections of oppressions and identity it never truly can be.
Anyway – a bit of a ramble, but this is what your comment made me think about!
Terese Jonsson, author of the article, replies
Maybe I should have clarified. Of course I don’t mean that only white people are prejudiced, all people are. But there is a difference between prejudice against people of a different colour and racism, and that difference is power, cultural dominance, and institutional backing of those prejudiced beliefs. This definition (racism = prejudice + power) is commonly used within a lot of anti-racist movements. But even if you don’t use/accept that definition, I didn’t actually say that non-white people aren’t racist, I only said that all white people are. And that’s what I was addressing in my article – white racism. Because even if you argue that all people, no matter what race, are racist, that doesn’t negate the fact that only white people in Britain have the institutional support & hundreds of years of colonial domination and violence as backing for their racist actions/words.
I agree totally that class needs to be discussed much more within a lot of UK feminism. That’s why I said at the start of my piece that Annika’s article brought up a lot of important strands, but in this particular piece I was going to focus on just one of those. But don’t imply that I don’t think class is important because I focused on race in this one article – that seems to me a way of evading actually talking about race. I also don’t agree that class is necessarily the decisive factor in modern society – it is one of several decisive factors, and also intimately linked and connected with others.
I don’t want to go into lenghty details of the Afghanistan invasion either, but as you’ve brought it up, a couple of points….
You have ignored the fact that the Afghanistan invasion in actuality had nothing to do with liberating women, but was about retaliation for 9/11 and a strategic move in the ‘war on terror’. The ‘liberating women’ argument was just very convenient at the time for getting popular support (the Taliban as you will be aware had been in power since 1996), and that’s what I mean about white feminist positions on Muslim women – they need to be grounded in an anti-racist historically based perspective – otherwise they can easily be coopted for whatever ends politicians find appropriate. There are many other parts of the world where intense women hating occurs, yet US/UK imperialist governments are of course not interested in invading unless there are other interests at stake.
I don’t think you can look at the situation in Afghanistan and the rise to power of the Taliban without looking at the history of USSR and US basically using Afghan people and their country as a pawn in the cold war
The invasion was not actually successful in eradicating the Taliban, and it is once again gaining in strength. The underlying problems were not solved, just bulldozed over for a while. War doesn’t work either. And now how many Afghan men, women and children are dead? How many US and British soldiers? There are no easy answers, of course. I’m not saying that marches in London or petitions will ever work. But I am never going to agree with you that war/invasion is the answer either.
Thanks for the suggestions I look into secularist and anti-clericalist movements, I will do. I hope you will equally take up my suggestion and spend some time reading the authors I linked to in my article.
A couple of telling points in this email, about being a male feminist/pro-feminist man/ally – most clearly, the fact that you were ejected from a meeting because you were a man, suggests that you were forcing yourself into a meeting that you knew was meant to be women-only. It suggests that you need to do a bit of Feminism 101 work on why trans-inclusive women-only spaces are needed, and what function they serve, and consider what might be behind your determination to force your way into one.
I agree with you point in part, Alison, and of course if you really do like pink then I wouldn’t dream of forcing you into filling your life with what you see as dull electrical products. I’ve painted my bedroom green, blue & gold and blood red in my time, and passed a year in a rented house with a lilac bedroom which wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable. Vibrant colours improve my mood, but only because there are enough colours to match the full spectrum of my moods. Pink has it’s place, but its feminine connotations, which you enjoy, experienced alone can and do feel stifling for many women. If you’re going to treat colour in this way, why not be more open to a variety of colours, treating them as joyful visual experiences rather than something ‘feminine’ that’s in some mysterious way connected to your personal life? As the 12-year-old Marcel Proust replied when asked what was his favourite colour, “Beauty is not in colours, but in their harmony.”
You say you could only find pink products as an alternative to the dull tones, but isn’t that rather telling? Why weren’t green, red or blue products on offer to suit a range of interior designs and tastes? I do think that when we start talking in these terms, feminism and the problem with pink begins to sound rather trite, as if it’s just a question of politicising our accessories. I think the problem goes much deeper, as some other readers, especially those with young children, have pointed out.
‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’, by Samara Ginsberg
Kit’s feature was an opinion piece, which is why there’s no counter-argument. However, I would certainly not have published the uncited claims you’ve made here.
When the FDA says “most infections (by HPV) are short-lived and not associated with cervical cancer”, that does not mean “HPV does not cause cervical cancer”, it means “HPV does not cause cancer every time”. According to Cancer Research UK: “Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, particularly types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45. They are called high risk types. Almost all women with cervical cancer have at least one of these types of HPV in the cells of their cervix.
“Of the different types of HPV, types 16 and 18 cause about 7 out of 10 (70%) cancers of the cervix. The other types cause most of the remaining 30% of cervical cancers.”
However, HPV is one of the most common types of viruses around, and the vast majority of people will get it at some point in their lives – again, according to Cancer Research UK. There are more than 100 strains. Along with cervical cancer, HPV causes veruccas, genital warts, etc.
Although it’s true that in the grand scheme of things, cervical cancer is deadly only in a small number of cases, it’s hard to see that the families and friends of the 1,000 women who die every year from the disease would be so sanguine about that fact.
Victoria Dutchman-Smith, author of the article, replies
Many thanks for your response to my article. I think the way most men cope in this confusing world is by just not raping women, something which tends to mean women don’t then accuse them of rape. If you want to faff about asking for signatures, though, that’s your privilege (given the likelihood of being falsely accused of rape, it seems to me the equivalent of never leaving the house in order to avoid being hit by a passing meteor, but as long as your paranoias don’t harm anyone else, I guess you’re welcome to them).
Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies
I’d just add to Victoria’s response, that the idea that getting someone to sign a contract saying they consent to sex blithely ignores the fact that consent is not a one-time thing, it’s ongoing.
Erm, well. Where to start?! 1) ‘Natural’ versus ‘unnatural’ – women don’t become ‘unnatural’ or ‘fake’ by shaving a bit of hair off. 2) What’s your basis for arguing that gay men came up with this idea? It’s surely most clearly perpetuated by porn, made by straight men for straight men. 3) In any case, women don’t actually exist in order to please men, that’s not women’s purpose on Earth, even, funnily enough, women who are attracted to men.
Confusing: isn’t that an argument for why feminism would benefit men? Anyway, I agree with a lot of this, but the facts do suggest that men are falling behind economically, if you consider women on average are still paid 17% less than men, and if you just consider ethnic minority women, the pay gap is 20%. I’d agree that men are harmed by our patriarchal, kyriarchal society, but still they are cushioned, economically at least, by male privilege.
Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies
There sure are a lot of comments I need to refer to Feminism 101 this month.
Peter says that there’s no reason that “the female counterpart is equally capable, equally intelligent and equally human”. Why, then, does he think that the corridors of power are so male-dominated? Why is it than one in 10 women will be sexually assaulted each year in the UK? I could keep on going with statistics, but I can’t help but feel a trip to Feminism 101 and the male privilege check list would be more helpful.
I’m afraid to say that I’d probably have to rewatch the film in order to respond in detail, as it’s been nearly four years since I wrote the review! But I’d just point out that Ginger Snaps does share one thing with The Descent: it’s about fear of menstruation and female puberty. It’s surely a metaphor for how ‘monsterous’ girls coming into their sexuality are? That said, I like it a lot more than The Descent, and it is a rare film centred on two girls, sisterhood, etc.