What We Talk About When We Talk About Revenge Porn: My Two Cents on #UCD200

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Sometimes, it is really difficult to believe in Ireland. A country where the woman’s special place in the home is enshrined in our constitution, alongside the eighth amendment, which disallows those capable of birth bodily autonomy. It is even harder to love Ireland when case after case of sexual abuse gets acquitted or a reduced sentence is sought out and achieved by perpetrators. It becomes impossible to endure when a crime is committed against you and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it; and no one to listen to you either.

When the reports of #UCD200 came out, my heart sank but simultaneously, I felt like we had a chance at change. I hoped for justice – finally we could have a serious discussion about revenge porn and momentum to introduce legislation to combat online sexual abuse. But in fact, once again, women were shut down and no punitive measures were taken, let alone legal action.

This is the reality for women. ‘Lad Culture’ is inescapable in 21st century Ireland. The Lad Bible, UniLad et al. are all male-dominated (I would even go as far to say male-designated) online spaces that encompass some misogynistic features which are shielded by news, sports and ‘bants’. I have written before on The Lad Bible’s “Something To Cure The Hangover” thread, which was, to me, the first instance of widespread revenge porn. The thread was set up for guys to post their exes’ nudes for the pleasure of other men suffering after a night out. So. Much. Bants.

You can #NotAllMen all you like, The Lad Bible et al. boast millions of followers, who are not just men. This is a problem that we have come to normalise in society, and critique on the matter is not welcomed at all. Objectification and misogyny are alive and well, and #UCD200 was shut down due to “no hard evidence”, despite people admitting to being a part of the group, sharing stories and sharing nude photos without the women’s consent.

Do you know how easy it is to delete Facebook messages? Very easy. Two seconds – poof. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Facebook’s help community states that you cannot retrieve deleted messages. The misogyny is no more to the outside world. Because that is what people think will happen – problem solved right?

Think of all the photos that were saved and that can be recirculated at anytime

In October 2012, I discovered that several nude pictures I had sent in confidence were circulated on the internet. They were shared on 4chan’s /b/ thread which refreshes itself every 24 hours, so by the time I could get on to this message board all comments were gone. I found out because dozens of men I wasn’t friends with on Facebook sent my nudes back to me – all saved on their computer, with one of the files named “lol.png”.

I received threats of reposting online elsewhere, demands of more pictures “or else”, called every name under the sun. Two of the guys who messaged me were nice, one telling me not to accepting anyone because I was “about to be screwed” and one letting me know that the pictures were on 9gag. The reason that these guys found me was because my Facebook profile was included in the share of these photos. Men from all around the world had access to my private photos. The photos resurfaced on another thread in 2015.

When we think about #UCD200, it is from a much closer community – women probably in their late teens and early twenties, all known to a specific group of lads.These women probably attend UCD or live in the surrounding area. Unbeknownst to them, their images have been shared, critiqued and saved on the basis of malicious intent and male pleasure.

These women will never get justice because the negligence of the investigation and the failure of the Irish government to acknowledge revenge porn as a sexual offence. These women will never get their privacy back – they may always live in fear that someone somewhere has a private photo of them.

Revenge porn has serious psychological affects on people – depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, self-harm; the list goes on. Ireland’s poor mental health services and high cost of treatment/medication for these mental illnesses often causes people to avoid seeking help. The first emotion you feel when you realise you are a victim of revenge porn is pure shame and embarrassment. If you are humiliated online through revenge porn – who can you talk to about it? You’re a whore if you are a woman who is comfortable is sharing her private photos with a partner. But you’re a frigid if you were reluctant to send them in the first place.

#UCD200 has taught us a lot of things, but the main thing for me is that we need to talk about consent. Consent classes are Public Enemy #1 to many people, as we have seen from the uproar recently with TCD trying to introduce mandatory consent classes to students. But this is amazing – for once Ireland is easy to love because Ireland wants to care about the emotional and psychological impact that sexual relationships have on people. Many people are pressured into having sex/sending nudes/etc. because “everyone is doing it” or “if I don’t he/she/they won’t like me”. But the reality is their is a massive gap between what people think is okay and what people are uncomfortable with. Ireland’s sex education is piss-poor and doesn’t teach children and teenagers about consent. To many people, consent is a new word.

We need to have these conversations in public discourse. Online sexual offences are becoming epidemic. More and more young people engage in sexual acts without a mature discussion about consent. Many young people feel like they have to lose their virginity or at the very least participate in sending nudes for their relationship to be ‘real’. There needs to be more of an engagement with sexual education, consent and safety in Ireland and worldwide. Because sex and nudes can be really positive experiences, as long as boundaries are set.

The solution cannot be “don’t have sex” or “don’t send nudes”. The conclusion to #UCD200 cannot be “women are hysterical” or “there’s no need for consent classes”. Socialisation has caused us to normalise behaviour and attitudes towards non-consensual acts. Taking advantage of someone when their really drunk is the new end to a night out. Sharing/taking non-consensual photos of someone you slept with on snapchat or in a group chat is just for the craic. Because people don’t think about the consequences of their actions because it’s “just sex” or “just a photo”.

#UCD200 made women seem like liars. When UCD announced that no action was to be taken, all the rape apologists came out of the woodwork, denouncing the evidence and seeking out the “feminazis”so that the ‘truth’ can be mansplained on every social media platform.

#UCD200 is something we need to learn from, not silence. We cannot act like it is hearsay, because this happens to women every day of their lives. Every day, in the private and public sphere, online and in real life, women are subjected to misogyny from all angles. Women are threatened, degraded, shamed, ridiculed, jeered at, beaten, killed, left to die all because they are women.

Use your voice and speak out about why #UCD200 is damaging. The battle cannot be lost and misogyny must be obliterated. Not just for ourselves, but for future generations to come.

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I Am Marla’s Withered Facial Expression: Rethinking My Media Consumption

Having just returned from six months of Salford living, I am slowly but surely sinking back into Irish university life. On my first week back at university, we were already assigned to start drafting our final year research projects.

Naturally, I shit myself at the thought of it.

I decided to take it upon myself to research into the minds of university students. My secondary school English teacher told me to always write what I know about. But unfortunately, this comes with some consequences. I was going to have to be be A LOT more critical of what media I consume on a daily basis. And it made me think about all the problematic films and books that I loved and entertained me and inspired me – and how ultimately, they were harmful depictions of women and girls and the trans community worldwide.

I remember walking outside of the cinema after seeing Selma two weeks ago. No one seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. No one seemed to feel the mix of white guilt, anger and compassion that I was feeling. A film like that should do that, right? Little time was spent on discussing what we had just watched. We began to talk about Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and David Fincher’s cinematic representation of it. I was quick to praise this work. I had always loved it – psychological texts hold a special place in my heart. But when I thought about Palahniuk’s work as a whole: who is this cunt? Especially seeing as he believes white men are a marginalised group. And I feel like I fucked up by putting this man on a pedestal and scrawling “The things you own end up owning you” on the back of every cubicle door I could find.

And the next part isn’t as easy to admit. I love Woody Allen movies. I have spent hours watching documentaries about his film making and reading books about his creative process. But this man has hurt and abused so many women, including his own adopted daughter. When I feel sad now, I can’t just sit in bed and watch Everyone Say I Love You without feeling disgusting.

And I feel even worse when I have allowed myself to be influenced by the photography of Terry Richardson. And that I know all the words to more than a handful of R Kelly songs. And I start to think to myself: “Is there anything positive I consume? Am I just breeding this discourse and flushing out more poison into society?”

I do not know if being critical of what I enjoy is enough. I know it’s wrong. I am looking around my room now as I write this. Paper eyes are staring back and nearly all of them are men. Have I let myself fall in too deep?

I am not saying that men can’t be good influences.

What I am trying to say – explain to myself, even – is that I have let myself be far too influenced by patriarchal discourse. And I am feeling the exact inferiority complex that Sandra Gilbert And Susan Gubar talked about in The Madwoman in the AtticBecause I am researching a demographic that I am a part of, I have to take myself out of it and look at the content I consume on a new level. And it hurts.

I recently watched Prozac Nation, the film version of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s autobiographical text. I cried. Hard.

It was difficult to watch on many different levels because I identified with her character so much. I am a privileged white girl who experiences bouts of depression, and I have penchant for my pen. As I watched Lizzie’s character devolve more and more into a total medicated numbness, I wondered what other people thought when they watched this. I could see my truth in it. But it is so easy for people to call bullshit on females who have depression, as this common stereotype of women being over-emotional pervades through every aspect of media we consume daily and has existed through the ages. This produced a domino effect upon me – I can’t remember the last time I saw physical disability being portrayed in a film.

I recently had a discussion with a friend about Jared Leto’s character Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club. His role pissed me off to no end. A man playing a transwoman in a multi-award winning film is going to send out a bad message. I don’t care that it was fiction. I am not taking it with a pinch of salt. It’s perpetuating a notion that transwomen are not “women” at all. And misgendering someone is an act of violence. I began to think of how whitewashed the media I consume is. David Lynch is one of my favourite directors and he shows no representation of people of colour in his work. I read Nabokov. I loved it. And all it has done is promoted the fetishisation of young girls and branded them as sex objects.

It is impossible to say that we live in a postracial and/or a postfeminist Western world if these depictions permeate through film and television and literature. The only thing that we can all do is continue to examine closely what we see and hear and read. Really fucking tear it to shreds. Because even if things seem to be okay; they probably are not. It is important to stay critical, no matter how much things improve.

I am guilty of assimilating without question. And feeding this relentless machine that never seems to stop churning no matter how hard I kick or how loud I yell and scream. I’m sitting here trying to think of the point I’m trying to make by writing this. And I’m already thinking of what I will be judged by when it comes to publishing this.

And as I said before – I am privileged. Media representation affects me a whole lot but fuck; does it depress me when I think of how white, cis supremacy kicks everyone to the curb EXCEPT white, cis, heterosexual people. And I want to do as much as I can to remedy this. So here goes nothing. Let the research begin.

30 Trends Women Hate

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Rape jokes, catcalling, slut-shaming: I know you’ve enthused one of the three, guys. And they are hilarious, right? But do you often get the feeling that women just don’t get it when you let your comedic genius shine? And don’t you just hate when girls do not appreciate your advances and leave you “friend-zoned”? Devastating, I know.

I asked a number of women online about what really grinds their gears about men. Some spoke of the social problems that men deem totally okay. Other women believe you need to look in the mirror before you comment on how a woman looks. Or learn to speak when spoken to. It seems that they don’t appreciate things in exactly the same way as men do. Sorry, boys.

  1. Misogyny.
  2. Not being able to do simple tasks.

    “Not being able to keep on top of laundry or change their bedding or wash dishes. Because they never needed to learn that. Because they assumed Mammy would do it forever.”

    “Not washing their hands after they pee. DISEASE PREVENTION 102: if you touch your genitals, wash hands immediately.”

  3. Not liking condoms.

    “Not every woman has the privilege of being on the pill. Women are at a greater risk when they have unprotected sex.”

    “I’ve had guys tell me that they “Just don’t carry condoms”. Because that makes me feel safe having sex with you for the first time.”

  4. Combovers.

    “I’ve seen some boys with combovers so bad that their hairline is parted wider than Moses did with the sea.”

  5. Wearing clothes their mother obviously bought them, i.e. Primark Family Guy t-shirts and straight leg jeans.

    “Because they are adult man babies and can’t buy their own fucking clothes.”

  6. Brown slip-on formal shoes.
    No quote needed; just burn them all.
  7. Urinating anywhere but into the toilet.
    “Like, you even lift the seat up to make it easier, how do you still miss?”
  8. Patronising women when they stand up to you because you think they are being “cute”.
  9. Calling women “slut” or “whore” during sex.

    “I don’t care if it turns you on; it’s degrading and disgusting and you don’t deserve to orgasm if you think that I shouldn’t be treated with respect.”

  10. Calling women “sluts” or “whores” at any given moment, at any given time, ever.
  11. Breathing.
  12. Telling women that have no sense of humour when they say something that isn’t funny.

    “Rape is not, was not and never will be funny so stop telling me I’m an “uptight bitch” if I don’t laugh at your horrific, indecent comments.”

    “TELL LESS DAD JOKES.”

  13. Out of context dick pics.

    “I got a dick pic when they guy was on the toilet. He was doing that weird pointy toe thing like you do when you’re about to take a shit. And his knob was flaccid, resting on the toilet seat.”

  14. Dick pics.
  15. Not believing women when they talk about oppressions they face that don’t apply to men.

    “It is so degrading hearing a man say that the problems I face don’t exist. It goes straight back to the timeless notion that women are insane and over-emotional.”

  16. Passing comment about your interest in sport.

    “Like if you don’t follow rugby it’s ‘Well of course not, you’re a girl!” Eh no, I grew up in a rural village we watched hurling. Shut the fuck up.”

  17. Using the term “friendzone”.
  18. Justifying objectification as “a compliment”.

    “I hate the trend that exists that because a man compliments us on our physical appearance, we’ve been taught to just ‘take the compliment’ or be grateful about it, regardless of if it makes us uncomfortable or not. We’re taught to sometimes even THANK them, and smile and nod, because god forbid we might piss them off if we challenge them on how wrong it is, our how uncomfortable they’re making us. Some women do not like attention being drawn to their physical appearance, be that just passing in the street, on public transport, or my personal favourite, when it’s roared out a passing car window. A simple genuine ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ would suffice, lads.”

  19. Public ball-scratching.

    “Saying “Balls get really itchy, you wouldn’t understand”, BECAUSE I HAVE NO GENITALS THAT EVER ITCH.”

  20. Making comments on womens’ appearances letting them know what men like.

    “Telling you men like women with short hair/long hair/ a bit of meat on their bones/ certain style of clothes. YEA COZ THATS EXACTLY WHY I WAS DOING IT FOR THE MENZ.”

  21. Not leaving women alone when they ask you to, after many previous more subtle attempts to ask/make you leave.
  22. Telling women that they look ill or tired without make-up on.
  23. Telling women they are wearing too much make up.
  24. Blaming PMS for EVERYTHING.

    “Men have literally said to me that I “must be on my period” when I get legitimately aggravated by something they’ve done.”

  25. Not being sympathetic towards women when they are on their period.
  26. Mansplaining.
  27. Not getting that women like cars and “men things” too, and shocker may know more than they do.
  28. Asking “How many people have you slept with?” or setting a limit on how many guys a girl can have slept with to be potential girlfriend material.
  29. Telling women they need to put on or lose weight.
  30. Misogyny.

So there you have it, boys. The top 30 trends women hate. If you can tell us how to act, dress and behave; we can do the same for you.

Ain’t You A Woman?: Stand Up For All Your Sisters

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Maybe we have not all been that woman. But we have all had a scent of it; maybe even just a glimmer. We have all; each and every one of us women, no matter where we hail from or what we believe, have felt fear under a patriarchal force. We have felt violated, used, torn, exploited, wasted, bruised, beaten, forgotten about, lost at least once in our lives because of the society we live in. And each and everyone one of us has picked ourselves up (often with the help of others) on more than one occasion and said we would not let it happen again. And maybe it will not happen to us again, or our friends and our sisters again; but it will happen to many other girls, women and transwomen around the world. We cannot leave anyone behind any longer.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a young woman who immigrated to Ireland was denied an abortion, despite being traumatised, scared and suicidal. Not only that, but she was led to believe that should would receive an abortion on the grounds of The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013); which states that abortion is justifiable when the pregnancy in question endangers a woman’s life, including the risk of suicide.This law came into effect on the 1st of January this year, and still the State is acting as if it does not exist.

Irish Times correspondent Kitty Holland interviewed the young girl, who had been raped in her home country before arriving to Ireland. She was unaware that she was pregnant. She was lost in a new place. She was turned away and betrayed by the IFPA, who delayed her in seeking an abortion. She attempted to take her own life. The young woman told Ms. Holland what she told the nurse:

“I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself.”

The interview only becomes more harrowing as the young woman depicts the moment she was refused an abortion after fighting so long for her right to one:

“You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.”

This becomes more than just a pregnancy issue. This is destroying someone’s mental health, their psyche, their life. Abandoned by the State, the young girl also said that she feels like she has been “left by everybody” and she is enshrouded with shame. But none of this is her fault; and yet still this place we call home can make one vulnerable young woman look like a monster because she wanted justice for herself.

I, along with many others, have been criticised and condemned for adopting a pro-choice stance. I have been called a murderer, disgusting, immoral; and on more than one occasion, a Nazi. All because I believe that pregnancy is a choice (which it is) and I believe that a woman should have the right to her own body (which each and every woman does). And still, these people do not put themselves in the situation of any woman who has been betrayed their rights over the years in this country and worldwide. Just because something does not affect you directly and/or your circumstances allow you to have a different outcome to another person does not mean their rights are non-existent. We can no longer pretend that these injustices are the moral thing to do because Ireland has “always been that way”. The UN are right: the Irish state treats women like vessels. All of us. And it does not matter if you wanted to have a baby or not, or you want to ever have one for that matter. We are still expected to be incubators; every last one of us.

And this denial of health care and reproductive rights is not the only thing Irish society has done to reduce women to dust. Think of the young woman at Slane in 2013 who was hospitalised after she was a victim of extreme abuse and harassment online. Think of the transmisogyny of Irish society which led to mass online bullying of a transwoman in Limerick city. Think of the women at the Magdalene Laundries, one of which is not far from my front door. Think of all the Mother & Baby homes. Think of the unrepresented and disrespected sex workers that have no one to protect them. Feminist writer Bell Hooks once said: “Being oppressed means the absence of choices”. That is exactly what we all are in this society: oppressed. And you may not want to acknowledge it; you may not even realise it. But you have less choices than any man does if you are a woman or identify as a woman in this State.

You know what? We are all that woman. We are the women staring at themselves in the mirror — crying — wishing it was all different. We are the girls that sit on the curb outside the nightclubs waiting for friends because some creepy guy molested them on the dancefloor. We are the girls filled with shame because that is what we are told how to feel. We are the women who are catcalled and beeped at; and we are told: “It is a compliment”. We are the girls who wake up every morning feeling successful and happy and somewhere along the way we are shut down by a “higher” male power. We are the lonely girls. We are the girls who don’t want to be boys. We are the sad girls. We are the women making ourselves sick with worry, scrambling on cold bathroom floors. We are the the broken girls. We are the “Want You To Make Me Feel Like I’m The Only Girl In The World” girls; but they will never give us that. We are the college dropout girls. We are the single mothers. We are the girls who lay victim to revenge porn.  We are the X Case. We are Migrant X.

But most of all, we are the girls that should not; that will not back down. Support your sisters; and not just your cis-ters. We cannot lose the battle.

 

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism”, to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.”

– Bell Hooks

When The Hills Are Alive With Celibate Cries: Embracing Masturbation For Females

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There has been many conversations that I have either overheard or been involved with that have denounced the existence of female pleasure. I have heard lines like: “Well if a lad is bored, he can just wank; what do girls do in their spare time?”. The myth of the female orgasm seems to have gone on far too long for my liking and I am sick and tired of the act of masturbation being purely about a boy cumming. And I know I’m not alone on this.

The feeling of being sexually unsatisfied is one that is all too familiar to me.  Whether that once off thing didn’t quite get you off or you’re having a dry spell, it’s not particularly nice at all. At the end of the day, you can always come home and practise self-love. You know exactly what you want, you are in control of all movements and you can enjoy whatever stimulus that helps you get off without your partner’s judgement.

Just like sex, however, safe masturbation does need to be enforced. One barely learns about contraception and safe sex in the Irish education system, let alone a mention of masturbation.

And as women, we are made feel guilty for having sex. There is always that pang of doubt that sets in with one million questions racing through your mind: “Was it too soon?”, “Will everyone talk about the fact I went home with him/her?”. This onslaught seems to be common with every girl; but why should it be that way?

  1. Invest in some toys; because you’re worth it: No offence to any of the men I know, but sometimes penetration just isn’t enough. In fact, only 7% of women can orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Everyone deserves to climax, not just the boys. So if your significant other doesn’t go down on you to your liking or you’re a single babe, check out Lovehoney for cheap, high quality vibrators! Shipping is fast, free over £10 (it is so easy to over-indulge) and their products come is unmarked, discreet packages; should you feel a bit embarrassed about the whole thing.
  2. Please wash your sex toys (correctly!): I know this is total common sense, but it is easy to dismiss cleaning! Making sure your toys are clean is imperative, especially if you decide to involve them in sex with your partner(s). Be sensible; not everyone wants your body fluids on/in them. Babeland have an amazingly thorough guide on how to clean each specific material (x).
  3. Clean up any excess lubricant: Remember, many toys are electric and although lubricant is safe on them, it is still a liquid. Plus lube is gross and disgusting when it’s in places it shouldn’t be.
  4. Remove batteries from your vibrator for longer lasting life: I never knew about this tip and believe me; it’s no fun at all when you’re enjoying yourself and suddenly everything dies on you. If you plan on masturbating only a couple of times a week, take out the batteries and let your buzz take a breather. It’s also nice to go back to your roots once in a while.
  5. Do not be afraid to try something new: Make of this what you will.

Because at the end of the day, in the words of our lady and saviour RuPaul:

“If you can’t love yourself; how in the hell you gon’ love anybody else?!”

In honour of National Orgasm Day, I’d like to make some recommendations so that every babe will have the best day. Treat yourself to a bullet vibrator or a wand. You can get them in Anne Summers, but I prefer the following brands:

  • Smoothie vibrator for all your internal and external needs.  Loads of fun.
  • Bullet vibrator, because it looks cute and small and it’s very powerful.
  • My all time favourite magic wand. It is truly magical and if you try it, you’ll never go back. It’s aesthetically pleasing too.
  • Top it all off with some lubricant and you’ll have a banging day.

I will leave you all with one final question: Is masturbation the most sincere form of flattery?

After the Hibernation

I do not know whether to apologise for my absence or not; this blog was never created to entertain others. I suppose I can only apologise to those who always believed that my writing was something of worth, and not just word vomit.

It has been a long six months of severe creative drain, and all I had wanted to write about was frustration and sadness (which was all I had the capacity to feel). I believe that my experience over the past few months has definitely changed me; for better or for worse, you decide. I have learned a lot about myself, about people, about politics. And I intend to start writing about them immediately.

This is not a post to be bursting with excuses; I had time to write and I chose not to. It was out of fear that I had run my course and that I could not inspire anyone anymore. How could I do that if I could not inspire myself?

After weeks of terrible independent films and drinking instant coffee like water, I feel like I might have come full circle. I do not feel much better, but I certainly do not feel worse. I feel like I am ready to take the plunge all over again and spark some discussions along the way.

You can expect posts about being an intern, gendered aspects of language and a whole lot of other ramblings dedicated to guilt, masturbation and poetry.

I hope you will stick around to read them all.

 

 

The Danger of the Monster Myth

White Ribbon Campaign

Tom Meagher

One of the most disturbing moments of the past eighteen months of my life was hearing my wife’s killer form a coherent sentence in court. Jill had been murdered almost six months earlier, and Adrian Bayley’s defence team were presenting a rather feeble case for a four-week adjournment of his committal hearing. Bayley appeared via video-link as I sat flanked by two friends and a detective. The screen was to my right, mounted high up and tilted slightly towards the bench. It was uncomfortably silent apart from the occasional paper shuffle or short flurry of keyboard clicks. I anticipated, and prepared for the most difficult moment of the day when Bayley’s face appeared on the big-screen TV, looming over the seat I then occupied. When that moment arrived, a jolt of nausea came and went, but the worst was to come, made all the more horrifying because it was…

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Tired of Talking To Men

The Belle Jar

I am tired of talking about feminism to men.

I know that I’m not supposed to say this. I know that as a good little third-wave feminist I’m supposed to sweetly explain to you how much I love and value men. I’m supposed to trot out my husband of nearly five years, my son, all of my male friends and relatives and display them as a sort of badge of honour, proof that I am not a man-hater. I’m supposed to hold out my own open palms, prove to you how harmless I am, how nice I am. Above all, I’m supposed to butter you up, you men, stroke your egos, tell you how very important you are in the fight for equality. This is the right way to go about it, or so I’ve been told. As my mother would say, you catch more flies with honey.

But still…

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Dissecting The Dirty Word: Feminism

Many people when they hear the word “feminist”, the image of RadFem activists come to mind. For example: 

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The majority of people tend to ignore the intersectionality and complexity of feminism, and undermine it completely. It is deemed stereotypically by most as a collective of “man-hating lesbians”. In reality, this is not the case. I do not claim to be an expert on feminism, but I hope to enlighten people through this article on why the stereotypes and misconceptions hurt everyone; not just women.

The radicality of Feminism is not what you think it is:

Radical feminism, in theory, is great. It does not imply militancy, or violence (which it is stereotypically seen). This use of the word “radical” pertains to finding the “root” of the problem. Radical feminists try to dismantle the oppressive patriarchal forces in society (most notably sexism) to try and create a equal society. However, radical feminists tend to be trans* exclusionary (TERFs) and sex worker exclusionary (SWERFs). This is a horrible and hurtful take on a movement; one which is meant to establish and defend the rights of ALL women, despite race, sexuality or whether they are cisgendered or transgendered.

Groups such as FEMEN, whom society thinks of when they hear “radical feminism”, are a different story. As well as their questionable policy of “sextremism”, FEMEN is run by a tyrannical misogynist: check here, here and here. There is nothing wrong with men being part of the feminist movement in my eyes, but Svyatski is the furthest thing from it. Another problem with this group is their attacks of religious orders, especially Islam, which many Muslim women have spoken out about.

Movements within feminism that hurt the cause seem to be the only movements which gain any recognition. The extreme always makes an impression but in this case, I am thoroughly and wholeheartedly against it. This should not be the face of feminism. We learned with first and second wave feminism that white, middle-class women were not meant to be at the heart and sole cause of feminism, so why should groups still adhere to these ideas?

Man-hating, hairy lesbians make up the majority of Feminism:

WRONG. Everyone is different. So who cares if you have hairy armpits or if you’re a girl who likes to kiss girls? Bodily integrity and freedom of sexuality are human rights and no one has the right to shame someone for what they do with their body. No one should ever use a term of someone’s sexuality as a shaming term. It’s something I have been guilty of in the past and which I have decided to eradicate from my vocabulary. Maybe you won’t listen to me, but maybe you’ll listen to Hilary Duff . As well as body shaming and using homophobic slurs to attack the movement, society has also adopted the extremely critical and hurtful portmanteau, “feminazi”.

This harassment of feminists is outright misogyny, and it comes from both sexes. How are we supposed to obtain equality if there is still rampant discrimination of people? This is also the problem with feminism which is exclusionary, which I mentioned previously. People are highly critical of anything which they find to be “other”. This takes us back to patriarchal values of gender and race; and so cisgendered, heterosexual, white males are the dominant, whereas everything else is other. Here are two examples of this:

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We have been socialized to think that this is the norm and have become almost blinded to this dominance. This misrepresentation has been damaging the the world as a whole, as minorities (PoC, trans* people and women) are undermined and overlooked in the face of this oppressive system. So the point I am trying to make is that feminism is not about misandry and hating men, it’s about the intrinsically Western male values upheld by society today that need to be eradicated for society to move forward and evolve for the better.

The Problem with White Feminists:

Many people believe that Western feminism is unnecessary because “women and men are equal in the Western World”. As a cisgendered, heterosexual white female, I understand and acknowledge my privilege in the world. I have had a better life than the majority of the women, be they WoC or trans*. Even though I have been a victim of sexism in the Western World, I would never place my female experience as higher or more important than others. Sexism coupled with racism, homophobia and/or transphobia is far worse than what I (and what many other women of a similar background to mine) have faced or continue to face.

The problem with white feminism is that a lot of them tend to ignore the troubles that WoC face. I thoroughly support what is mentioned in this blog here. Feminism began as a movement to create a sisterhood which would stand together against patriarchal forces. It began exclusionary and it is still exclusionary. We cannot even begin to understand the hardship faced by WoC, but it is necessary that we acknowledge our privilege, stand by them and support them.

White feminists are especially problematic if they are people in power. A good example of this is Miley Cyrus. She claims to be a feminist, but in actually fact she is commodifying black female sexuality and culture, as well as performing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, also known as “No Means Yes”.

Feminism is just as much a race issue as it is a gender one; as well as economics, politics and social issues are important in this movement. It’s important for us to work together on a worldwide scale to revert the problems we face today. Two good projects which have aimed to do so are Everyday Sexism, which joins women globally against sexual harassment and abuse, and One Billion Rising.

Rape culture, LAD culture and MRAs:

All of the above go hand in hand, and are extremely detrimental to ever achieving equality. Rape culture involves victim blaming and sexual objectification and LAD culture also encapsulates sexual objectification as well as slut-shaming. Girls are brought up and taught that they can only have sex for the purpose of pro-creation. Having sex with someone who isn’t your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner makes you a slut. Having too much sex makes you a slut, enjoying sex makes you a slut. But on the other hand, in the face of LAD culture, not having enough sex or refusing sex makes you a prude or a tease. Either way, the victim of sexual objectification is blamed.

MRAs indulge in much of the same behaviour, and seem to have this idea of “compulsory heterosexuality” , which Adrienne Rich has talked about previously.  The majority of MRAs are white, cishet males, you can see a definitive link between all the problems I have addressed previously. It all comes down to patriarchal values.

MRAs may not be at a booming level, but LAD culture is at an all time high, with “Bird of the Day” pages cropping up in almost every university and IT in Ireland this year as well as pages such as The Lad Bible, Ultimate LAD and more gaining followers in the millions for their misogynistic and discriminative posts (albeit, the comments by the members are almost worse).

All of these cultures have this idea of “restoring” masculinity to society, and condemn homosexuals (especially the MRAs), no matter how subtle it may be. Males which like to adhere to this culture often feel the need to inflate their male identities by indulging in sexual objectification, slut-shaming and by calling out any stereotypical feminine behaviour by a male as “gay”.

To conclude, I think that the most important thing to do to implement feminism and equality is to eradicate the defaults our society lives by: white, cisgendered, heterosexual. But to do so, we must try to dismantle western patriarchal values and LAD culture from the norm. It is our mothers, our daughters, sisters, cousins and friends who are being damaged in the long run and we cannot keep passing down this recurrent oppression that has been in place for years.

To see more, here are a few of my favourite talks:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists

Jackson Katz – Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue

Caroline Heldman – The Sexy Lie

Joss Whedon at Make Equality Reality