Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

World International Women’s Book Day

Thursday, March 15th, 2018 | Family & Parenting, Photos

Daycare closed on World Book Day because of the Beast from the East. They re-scheduled it for a week later, which meant it fell on International Women’s Day. So, we sent Venla as Offred.

Unfortunately, Venla had no interest in supporting her fellow women by representing the irrepressible spirit of a character who fought against the ultimate patriarchy. She only wore her cloak for two minutes and refused to wear her bonnet at all. Or, perhaps she was signalling her intention to attack the State of Gilead before it is even formed. Only time will tell.

Self-Made Man

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 | Books

In Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man, Norah Vincent disguises herself as man to experience what it is like living as the other agenda. Throughout the book she discusses her experiences, joining a bowling team, dating, having a job, going on a men’s retreat and even spending time in a monastery.

I would say that what she found was fairly predictable. However, I am aware that I probably think that because I am a man and thus have been in the male-culture she wanted to experience all my life. Of course, there is a degree of stereotype to what she finds, but there is probably a lot of truth that men are more emotionally distant from each other, and while women feel their rights and responsibilities are oppressed, men feel oppressed by the responsibilities of having those rights and responsibilities.

I struggled to fully identify with many of the characters in the book however. I do not think I have it has bad as those. If I have an emotional problem, I can talk about it with Elina, my parents or my friends. To an a limited extend perhaps, but a limit that far exceeds the emotionally-bottled-up characters that Norah’s alter ego Ned encounters during his research.

At the end of the book, Norah concludes that she is glad to be a woman. However, it is probably impossible to separate the strain of living in a man’s world from the strain of masking her own identity with that of Ned’s, so drawing much conclusion from that is difficult.

In the end, it comes down to what most sensible people know already. Both genders have problems. Both genders suffer inequality in different areas, some more than others. Working to reduce inequality across everyone will be mutually beneficial for everyone – fighting for women’s issues makes the world better for me, and fighting for men’s issues makes the world better for women. We can all win together.

Self-Made Man

Sisterhood of the Oppressed

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | Humanism, Religion & Politics

All I ever wanted to do was run a local free thinking group and stage lively though provoking events. It was a simple dream. Because of this, I don’t tend to read all the skeptics blogs. Fair play to you if you do, a lot of them are good, it’s just that I would rather go out and do something positive.

I compromised my principles along the way. Throughout my leadership at Leeds Atheist Society we operated a policy of positive discrimination to get more women involved in the society. All well and good put there is no such thing as positive discrimination, it’s just discrimination, and “positive” normally means that the flip side, and there is always a flip side, is directed at the majority, so it’s OK to discriminate. In fact, by our third year, six of the nine committee members were female.

I even launched a pro abortion campaign with the society, in conjunction with the then-not-even constituted feminist society, and ensured women were represented on the board of trustees of my charity and that women spoke at my conferences.

But none of this was enough to keep the wolves from the door. When Leeds Skeptics booked a speaker that we originally hoped would provide an empowering talk for women, discussing research suggesting gender stereotype threat wasn’t holding them back, we soon came in the firing line. Not a “hey, I’ve done some more research about this speaker, here it is, maybe you should reconsider”, but a you clearly hate women and want to “punch them in the mouth”. As Trystan Swale points out, I clearly deserve the stake.

Given all the discussions surrounding it however, I couldn’t help but to be dragged into what turns out to have been an on-going debate for several months regarding feminism and skepticism. It seems to be mostly making a mountain out of a mole hill – very serious issues but the resolution seems to be a) put a harassment policy in place and b) don’t bad mouth TAM, and everybody would be happy again. But go read about it for yourself, I haven’t read all the blog posts and I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.

However, now that I have been dragged into some of it, ended up reading one of the most controversial pieces of the whole debates – Paula Kirby’s open letter, Sisterhood of the Oppressed. It turns out to be an excellent read. Lest I not be called fair, you can read the rebuttals and background too.

In it, Paula suggests that a positive attitude of empowering women, it is a much more powerful too than constantly playing the victim card. This is exactly what feminism should be about in the modern day, and indeed, it is the fact that some branches of feminism don’t adopt this attitude that causes such a rift between equal rights campaigners and some of the feminist movement.

While everyone will have their own points of view on the issues raised, I think that Paula should be commended for having the courage to put topics into the public sphere for discussion.

P.S. It is issues similar these that Ken McLaughlin deals with in his new book “Surviving Identity: Vulnerabity and the Psychology of Recognition”, of which he will be discussing at the next meeting of Leeds Salon on Monday. An event I would highly recommend attending for anyone in the Leeds area.

Feminist guilt culture

Friday, July 6th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

One of the days that religions very effectively control their followers is through guilt culture. The idea is that just living your life, having natural thoughts and urges like who you want to go to bed with, is “sinful.” Of course we’re genetically wired to want to go to bed with people we find attractive and so just being a normal, well adjusted human being leads up to having thoughts, that The Church then tells you is as evil as having done the act itself and that you must repent in a financial way (and as luck would have it, they’re God’s official debt collectors).

It’s a fantastic way of keeping people under your control for making them feel guilty when they haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, it’s impossible not to think like that, so everyone feels the guilt and therefore stays under control.

As with many of religion’s best ideas (and it is one of their best from the stance of their insidious motives), people see how well it works and attempt to emulate it. Make a customer out of them while they’re young for example, has been a marketing technique that has proved hugely successful for McDonald’s – they’re the largest toy distributor in the world. In 2009, I blogged about how the green movement had also adopted a lot of Best Practice from religious institutions.

As an equal rights campaigner, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of cool people who are also interested in equality. As with any field though there are some people with good ideas and some people with not so good ideas. Indeed, most people probably have a mix of both, I’m sure many of my ideas would be classified by some people as being in the not so good pile.

So called Lads Mags are a good example of this. Some of my friends would frown on me buying a copy of FHM It objectifies women and is therefore degrading – even though they’re professional models who voluntarily choose to have photos of themselves in exchange of large amounts of cash. This view is entirely at odds with equality – everyone should be free to choose what they want to do, and imposing Feminist Ideals to prevent them from doing so no less oppressive than the Patriarchal Culture we’re trying to escape from. Rachel Barker sums the debate up very nicely on her blog. As she points out, there are instances where people are exploited – and we need to work together to stop such cases! But Katie Price’s £45,000,000 fortune does not fall under that banner.

More widely, I resent the attack on men who consume such content (I use the term men, because it’s mostly men who are attacked for it). If I buy an FHM, it is indeed for the sexually alluring content. But you know what – I like looking at tits. That is a perfectly healthy, natural, biological urge that most people have. Human beings, and indeed all reproductive animals, are wired to find others attractive. And I do.

So given I was born this way, I’m not going to apologise for enjoying such content any more than I’m going to apologise for the way I look or the colour of my skin. I shouldn’t feel any more guilty about it than a homosexual should feel guilty about their feelings when a conservative tells them that their feels are wrong or unnatural.

I mean, what I am supposed to do? Should I lie and pretend that I don’t enjoy looking at scantily clad women? Should I go to my GP, or perhaps a mental health provider, and tell them I appear to be suffering from attraction to other human beings? Or is it a case that “it’s fine to have these feelings, we understand you are born this way – as long as you don’t act on them.” Where have we heard that before?

Furthermore, I resent the idea that my entire gender is so simple-minded that just because one of us may look at such pictures, he is then unable to treat anyone with respect. I see my girlfriend as a sex object because I find her very attractive and enjoy having sex with her. I also deeply value her personality, her opinions and her kindness. I see her as a whole human being, sexuality included. Such suggestions of viewing women in a single dimension hold no more weight than the idea that someone who plays violent video games must be a violent criminal.

Attacks against such magazines, freely bought by consumers, featuring models who freely chose to appear in them, are not only an assault on freedom of expression and the right for women to choose their own career in life, but also an attempt to control the population through guilt culture, convincing them that just being who they are is somehow a violation of morality. Such action is bigoted, morally wrong and intellectually bankrupt. It also creates a diving line between Feminist Politics and those interested in equality.

Leeds Slutwalk

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Events, Religion & Politics

Last Saturday, the Leeds Slutwalk took place. Slutwalks are protest marches which assert a woman’s right to dress how she wants without being blamed for getting raped because she was somehow asking for it. Unfortunately, the Leeds event suffered from a somewhat poor turn out but was a worthwhile event in any case.

As usual, the red flags of Revolution also turned up to cloud the message too. Still, at least it added to the numbers.

From one troll to another

Friday, June 3rd, 2011 | Thoughts

Last week, Emma posted a link on her Facebook stream, linking to a blog post by The Honest Courtesan. While it’s interesting to see Emma’s reading choices ;), the point of the blog post was to rebut a post by someone calling themselves Eve’s Daughter who made a post entitled “A Man is a Rape-Supporter If.”

In this list, Eve’s Daughter sets out a list of things which, if apply to you, make you a rape supporter. However, it’s written in a way in which every adult man falls into the category, making every man alive a rape supporter.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, once or twice in the past I have been known to troll a little. A was particularly pleased with my pre-election night throw away comment “oh no! I’ve lost my polling card, now I can’t vote :(“, as dozens of people rushed to tell me I could still vote 😀 .

So when I read the post by Eve’s Daughter, the first thought that went through my mind wasn’t, “what a load of nonsense this is”, it was simple one word – troll.

Of course, I could be wrong. There are a lot of radical extremist feminists out there and some of them probably do believe this. But here is why I believe it could well be a troll:

1. It’s clearly designed to get people really angry. It makes the bold claim that every man ever is a rape supporter in a bold and uncompromising way, stereotyping an entire gender. And it’s works. Check out The Amazing Atheist going mental on YouTube.

Strip out the WordPress header and insert a logo for The Daily Mail and it suddenly seems a lot more in context. To me, it almost seems like a job application for The Mail Online.

2. It is designed to draw in as many people as possible. Everyone checks boxes on this list so everyone who reads the list can’t help but been drawn in to the debate.

Again, it works really well. Not only are people commenting on the subject matter across the internet, but even I am here blogging about whether it is a troll or not.

3. It’s obviously not true, but is written in a way to make it almost plausible. The author could have just written “all men are rape supporters” and everyone would have ignored it as obviously nonsense. Instead the piece leads you through a series of leading questions to slowly heat your blood, without setting it straight to boil. That way, you don’t switch off straight away, you begin reading and get hooked before the fire is really stoked.

4. The author shows some signs of intelligence and satirical humour. On May 25th of this year, they made a post entitled “Life, the Universe, and Everything”. While this could be a coincidence, it is almost certainly a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a fantastically clever piece of fiction that people like myself and you, my well educated yet probably bitterly sarcastic audience, enjoy.

Of course, I could be reading far too much into this, but if you accept the premise that the author of this blog is a Douglas Adams fan, and then ask the question “if a Douglas Adams fan published such a piece, is it serious or satirical trolling” the last option is suddenly a very appealing one.

5. There is no author information on the blog. If you were seriously campaigning on these kind of issues, surely you would put your name to it? Meanwhile if you were just doing it to get a rise out of people, you might as well publish anonymously, especially if you were a troll and people knew the real you didn’t actually believe any of this.

There was some mention of death threats somewhere on the blog, which could be a reason to publish anonymously, but I don’t think this is the case because who would actually make them? Surely anyone smart enough to rebut such arguments isn’t the kind of person that makes death threats so who would be so angry about this kind of writing to do that? Not to mention that if you believe in a cause strongly enough, which we’re supposed to believe the author does, that kind of thing won’t stop you.

As I said however, I could well be wrong. One of my points was going to be that it is simply too OTT, that reading the comments showed that this was clearly a comically absurd character created by the author and that clearly it was impossible to create a worldview so shielded from reality that truth was so utterly unable to penetrate. But I’ve been working in atheism for five years now, and from my experience, I know that this just isn’t true.

Still, so many of the techniques used in the article just seem to ring a little bit too true of the tried and tested strategy for a good troll post.