“I’m a man interested in learning about feminism – now what?”

After the fallout from the #YesAllWomen hashtag, I had a number of men come up to me wanting to talk about feminism. Specifically, they wanted to know how to get involved, or what they could do day-to-day.

After having a good, long think about it – and doing a tonne of Google searching – I’ve come up with a list of things. As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that anyone is capable of a good Google search, but I’ve selected the material that I’ve posted here because I feel that it comes from reasonably reputable feminist sources (and not, say, WikiAsk.com).

It’s also worth pointing out to all men that the term “male feminist” can be reasonably controversial. Some women will not accept you as a feminist. Some women will say you are an “ally”. Some women will welcome you with open arms. You’re going to get mixed reactions – and that’s okay! The point is not to argue, but to listen. If a woman doesn’t accept you as a feminist, it’s your job to understand why (and not necessarily by asking her, because heck, she might’ve just had 27 other guys ask her the same thing. Do some research for yourself).

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get on with my list of Things To Know:

Articles on the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen hashtags (and why the ‘Not All Men’ claim needs to stop):

A woman’s perspective on #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen:

While there is no conspiracy, no organised mission to shut down the feminist front, there is still unchecked sexism at play. A knee-jerk defense mechanism to shut down discussion before anyone has to face the fact every single person lives with the dreadful impact that is sexual and physical violence against women.

Via Amy Gray

A man’s perspective on #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen (with a women’s input):

Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them.

Via Phil Plait

A guide to mansplaining (and why women don’t need to be told that it’s “not all men”):

Women are tired of having subjects that they are highly educated in explained to them like they’re children, and they sometimes react in emotional ways. If you’re having a reasoned, intelligent debate with a woman and all of a sudden she throws her hands up and says “OK! Stop talking to me like I’m an idiot,” you’re likely a mansplainer.

Via Amy McCarthy

On male privilege:

Male privilege is a set of privileges that are given to men as a class due to their institutional power in relation to women as a class. While every man experiences privilege differently due to his own individual position in the social hierarchy, every man, by virtue of being read as male by society, benefits from male privilege.

Via Finally Feminism 101

Now that you’ve learnt a little bit about male privilege and mansplaining, let’s talk about men’s roles within feminism. There’s an excellent page over here called “Can men be feminists” that provides links to further views (both for and against). Head over there and follow some of the links.

The place of men in feminism:

Where we try to jump into women’s groups and work with women we often have problems. Most men have a lot to work out within ourselves related to our masculinity and how we relate to women as well as other men. When we try to work out our issues within women’s groups we repeat the pattern of women needing to educate men about our feelings and many other related issues.

Via Feminist Allies

And another takes on men’s roles in feminism and how men can ‘help’:

For a lot of people just starting to come to a feminist identification, listening may be a lot more productive and clarifying. “Listening” might mean attending talks or lectures, or it might mean reading blog comment sections or Twitter hashtags without feeling like you have to contribute. Everyone, no matter where they are in their feminist life, can benefit from listening, so I heartily encourage this activity. It’s not only a great way to learn the shorthand and memes and key phrases and all that, but it’s a good way to find people—especially other men—whom you might want to reach out to in your own future conversations.

Via Bitch Magazine

In terms of what you, as man interested in feminism, can actually do (and this is by far one the best articles I’ve found):

You probably have a lot of insights that you want to share. You want to tell us why men act the way they do and how you think we can change that behavior. And there’s room for that in feminism… to an extent. But for the most part, what we need men to do is just to listen.

I want you to think about all the women who are denied a chance to speak by men around the world — women who are barred from obtaining an education, women who are subjected to genital mutilation, women who aren’t allowed to work, women who are survivors of sexual abuse, women of color, trans and queer women, sex workers. Don’t they deserve a chance to be heard? Wouldn’t you like to be the person to give them that chance?

Via Aaminah Khan

And finally, my own set of suggestions:

  • Get to reading! There’s a tonne of amazing feminist books out there – read some of them! The Bitch magazine article I linked to above provided a pretty substantial list.
  • Show up at pro choice rallies (just make sure that men are welcome first)
  • Show up at events like Slut Walk (again, just make sure that it’s male inclusive first)
  • Speak up when you hear someone misusing the term “rape”, or spot other forms of sexism in action (and be prepared to get shot down for it)
  • Get involved in your local femmo scene. Here in Melbourne we have a pretty awesome set of events – things like Cher Chez La FemmeWomen’s Melbourne Network, and Melbourne Feminist Action. These groups aren’t going to invite you along – you have to hunt them down yourself.
  • Do some further research yourself. It took me about an hour to put this post together – imagine what you could find out yourself in that time. Women don’t always have the time or inclination to do your research. So, do some for yourself (and be prepared for a very wide variety of views! Feminism is not unanimous on a lot of issues).

Women as public property

Three separate things have happened to me in the last few weeks that have basically lead me to believe that I’m operating as a form of public property – you know, something that anyone can feel free to comment on. And, quite frankly, it pisses me off. Above and beyond the fact that everyone reading can probably say things along the lines of ‘BOO HOO’, and ‘welcome to the real world’, I’ve reached a point of absolute frustration with this shit. A point at which I’ve start side-eyeing random strangers, suspicious of that the fact that they may be poised to make some stupid, crude or idiotic remark to me when I DIDN’T EVEN ASK THEM.

Case number one: About a week ago, I ventured out for one of my standard morning runs. I’d just hit the 7km mark, and was sweating up a storm. Earlier, I had run past an older man. He had waved his hand at me, and said something – but as I was running past him and had my earphones in, I didn’t catch. I didn’t really think anything of it, because people often nod and say ‘good morning’ to me.

Anyway, at the 7km mark, I ran back past this man (I had turned around at this point, and so was running towards him). He waved at me again, and so I slowed down (I thought he might have been lost or confused).

The man carried on to tell me that he has “often seen me out running” (which is correct, I have seen him before, and he has similarly waved at me then) and that I “frighten him” because I am “so sweaty”.

At this point in time, the expression on my face was rather like this cat’s:

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My response to this guy was something along the lines of, “well, yes, I’m running, of course I’m sweaty”. I then turned around and kept running. The thing is, this isn’t the first time someone has felt the need to tell me how my body/my clothes/the books I’m carrying are “funny”, “frightening”, or “dirty”.

Case number two: Three days prior to the running incident, I’d swung by my local university coffee shop after visiting the library. I was loaded up academic-type books with titles such as “Feminism Methodologies” and “Qualitative-Based Methodologies for Feminists” – you know, standard fare for anyone doing a PhD in feminism (which, coincidentally, I am). I proceeded to dump these books on the counter next to me as I fished my wallet out of my bag, only to hear the young guy in front of me start laughing. I asked him what was funny (I had suspected it was something to do with the barista, who tends to come up with ridiculous nicknames for his customers. My nickname is usually Jessica Simpson or Jessica Alba, for example…). He then proceeded to tell me that those books looked very “interesting”, whilst, well, sniggering.

ewLook, I’d like to think that this guy had a genuine interest in feminist methodologies, but somehow, I suspect that this wasn’t the case. This guy’s main interest appeared to be commenting on how much ‘feminism’ I was literally carrying.

Case number three: Two to three weeks prior to this happening, I was walking to university to have a meeting with my supervisors about my PhD. I’d put on a brand new, pale pink dress for the occasion. On the way in, I walk past a guy in his mid to late 20′s, who says to me, “you’re looking good today, Miss”. To which I said, “What?”, because he-half mumbled it. He then says, “You’re showing your pink bits, you dirty bitch!”. Because you know, GET IT, I was wearing a pink dress.

420-julia-gillard-420x0

 

(Even Julia Gillard is unimpressed by this one).

Street harassment isn’t exactly uncommon. It happens all the time, everywhere, to woman (and men!) all around the globe. And whenever it happens to me, I’m reminded of the fact that I’m not just a ‘citizen of the world’ (so to speak) but I’m also a woman. Which of course, means I’m up for objectification and harassment. I don’t have a solution to street harassment – and if I did, I’d bottle it and distribute it to every woman on the planet. What I hope and wish for is some form of witty comeback for each situation. As it stands, I tend to be struck dumb by common sense, and end up replying with the obvious: “I’m sweating because I’m running”, “I have feminist books because I’m studying feminism”, or “I AM wearing a pink dress…”.

What I would LIKE, what I wish I COULD do, is completely lose my shit. I’d like to go completely and utterly bat-shit crazy on these men. I’d like to screech, scream, and holler at them. I’d like to tell them that their behaviour is disgusting, and that they don’t have the goddamn right to comment on me, my body, or even the bloody books that I am carrying around university. But then, of course, I’d just be conforming to the stereotype of the “crazy paranoid women”, when of course these men were just trying to “be polite”, or “make conversation” – except that they weren’t. And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m too polite to confront men in this manner in public (even though I shouldn’t be).

See the bind that women are in?

Safety Tips For Ladies: A brief overview

Today, I participated in what could readily be described as one of the at times funniest, and at time most depressing, hash tag threads on Twitter this year. The #safetytipsforladies hash tag stemmed from a reaction to this article from The Punch, and the credit for starting the entire Twitter-based landslide goes to one @hilaryjfb.

As Twitter is wont to do, the hash tag took off before you could say “angry women fed up with the patriarchy” three times in a row. I, like many other people, jumped on board and contributed my own insights into how women could keep themselves safe in public:

And again, as Twitter is wont to do, things got misinterpreted. At this point in time, it’s worthwhile noting that I speak only for me here. The idea for contributing to these tweets was not to ‘poke fun’ at real, lived experiences of rape or assault. Nor was it to try to say that methods of preventation against these crimes are utterly useless. And for anyone who was triggered or offended by my tweets (or retweets through me) I am sorry. That was never the intention, and the tweets were made in good faith.

What the tweets were (and still are!) all about is the opportunity to highlight the ridiculous, sometimes seemingly insane measures women take in their day-to-day life to prevent assault or rape. Women actually are told to practice jumping under cars in case they need to hide. They are told to never go jogging alone. They are told to not tie their hair in a pony tail, or to have long hair at all. They are told to always “be aware of their surroundings” and to “shout ‘fire!’ not ‘help!’ if they are attacked” (presumably because people care more about a fire than an attack on a woman?). We are told all of these things in order to ‘protect’ us. And yet, when these (sometimes ridiculous) methods fail, we are then told that it is STILL our fault.

If you ask a woman (any woman!) what her preventative measures are to protect herself from harm whilst she is out alone are, she could tell you in an instant. Here are mine:

  • Never wear heels when alone, always wear or carry flats so you can switch into them to run away
  • Carry keys ready in your hand, always check the back seat as you get into the car, and lock the doors straight away
  • Never check your phone or listen to music when you’re walking down a street at night
  • Make eye contact with anyone who walks past you
  • Always ask for identification before opening the front door to a delivery or service person
  • Always have an escape route. Know precisely where the nearest safe, well-lit place is, and know that you can run to it.
  • ‘Follow your instincts’ (whatever that means)

There are many more, but these are just the ones I personally have and use in my day-to-day life. As many women have noted before me, if I tried to list them all we could be here for hours.

As a side note, one of the truly ironic undertones to these sort of ‘safety tips’ (which I still follow, regardless!) is the fact that many crimes against women such as assault and rape are committed by people known to them. And hence, these tips are largely rendered useless in the majority of actual crimes.

And yet another solution presents itself. One in which we switch the focus from the victims (who are, after all, blameless) to the perpetrators.  Quite simply, the solution is partly resolved by society forcing the actual perpetrators to take responsibility for crime they committed. The courts, the media, and society at large don’t excuse the perpetrator’s behaviour on the woman’s level of intoxication, or the fact that she was wearing ‘slutty’ clothing, or that she must have been asking for it because she was out late, walking through an abandoned car park. Additionally, another large chunk of the solution is, as always, telling men not to rape. Of course, ‘telling’ is different to actually achieving. But  one of the most important methods to addressing this ‘telling men not to rape’ criteria is, I believe, education programs on consent.

And finally, by not simply ‘telling’ men not rape (because, as I’ve just said, ‘telling’ often isn’t good enough). But by giving the crime of rape the attention, and severity, it deserves. By not claiming that being convicted of rape will ruin the perpetrator’s future. By not blaming the victim, but instead giving her the support she needs. By not wasting time on telling women what to do or what not to do, but by instead focusing on the perpetrators of the crime.

I’m sick of being told how to keep myself safe. When do we stop focusing on me, and start focusing on the actual criminals?

When is enough enough?

Today, the veteran Liberal Party strategist Grahame Morris called ABC journalist, and ’7:30 Report’ presenter Leigh Sales, a “cow”. On national radio.

In addition to this, in May Grahame Morris suggested on Sky News that Australians “ought to be kicking [Julia Gillard] to death”.

Last week, a 52-year-old man threatened to kill Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and state Labor MP Hill Hennessy at a public function.

Last year, the prominent talkback radio host Alan Jones suggested on no less than 5 occasions that Julia Gillard should be “put in a chaff bag” and dumped at sea.

These are just the latest in a string of misogynistic comments directed towards prominent Australian women. And my question is, as the title of this blog suggests, when is enough enough? When do we, as a nation, stop and acknowledge that things have gone too far, and that the vitriolic comments directed towards these women (amongst others) is threatening, dangerous, and incredibly inappropriate?

It is, quite frankly, unacceptable. Whatever your personal opinion of a certain journalist, or a certain politician is, you do not – repeat, you do NOT – call for them to be thrown in ocean, or threaten to kill them.

I have been guilty, in my time, of calling quite a few people and advertising agencies ‘idiots’ and ‘dick heads’. Mostly on this blog. But the current discourse surrounding national politics is disturbing. The hateful, idiotic comments being made both by journalists and politicians leaves very little room for intelligent, meaningful dialogue. I am sick of the mindless tit-for-tat, ‘he said, she said’ reactionary articles being published in every single mainstream media outlet I read.

So therefore, I promise to do my part. I shall stop calling Tony Abbott and his cronies ‘idiots’. Now if only someone could stop calling every single powerful woman in this country ‘cows’, we’d be quits. Then we can sit down over a cup of tea and get to the bottom of what this carbon tax actually means for everyday citizens.

Cheating, and the Opinions of Bettina Arndt

On Sunday, Bettina Arndt stirred the relationship and gender stereotypes pot. Albeit, she’s been stirring that particular pot for quite some time, and her articles usually read along the same, relatively simple, line: “Woe is men”. This one was no exception.

It was a cracker. Arndt claimed that rugby league star Andrew Ettinghausen’s decision to go public with his affair was ‘brave’ (as a sidenote: who IS this man? I live in Melbourne. I have no idea what rugby league even is).

Far be it from me to agree with Sam de Brito, but, well, yes, I do – Ettinghausen’s decision was not ‘brave’. Nor was it, as Arndt claimed a “decision [the couple made] to try to put this issue behind them and remain committed to the marriage”.

If they actually HAD put it behind them, they would not have had the story run in the Australian Women’s Weekly. Nay, or yay?

Andrew Ettinghausen ... breaks his silence in The Australian Women's Weekly.What bothers me the most about Arndt’s article was her defense of the men who cheat:

“We shouldn’t forget there are many who resist – politicians, sportsmen, public figures – who manage to stay on the straight and narrow. The determination of such men to resist such temptation is rarely discussed nor given any credit. But inevitably some of these high-flying men do succumb.”

Allow me to take the time to discuss this issue, and give men the credit Ardnt says they deserve:

Men! Congratulations on keeping it in your pants! Props to you, for “resisting” the urge to cheat, and staying on the “straight and narrow”. You have my utmost sympathies – I understand it must be truly TERRIBLE for you, trying to tame your tiger. As Ardnt says, the “determination” you have must be formidable! Why, every time an attractive lady walks past, you must consciously think, “straight and narrow, straight and narrow”, whilst all the time that manly testosterone courses through your veins. How incredibly AWFUL for you.

Additionally, as Arndt points out, it is clear that the cheating men-folk “just want to feel wanted”. These men weren’t getting sex at home,and they did not have a “regular, harmonious sex life”! Of course! All these men wanted was a CUDDLE. And their wives weren’t even doing this! It was not that they were, as Ardnt says, “sexually voracious gluttons” – it was just that their wives and themselves had not reached “sexual harmony”. Let us feel sorry for the men, the poor darlings! It was not their fault that they were not sexually satisfied, and then had to seek out this satisfaction elsewhere.

I find it exceedingly hard to empathise with people who cheat. Perhaps that is because I have been the victim of a cheater myself, or perhaps it is just because my logical conclusion to being sexually frustrated would be to TALK IT OUT WITH MY PARTNER. You know, as opposed to seeking satisfaction elsewhere. Regardless, I do not see the statement  “I just wanted to feel wanted” as an adequate justification for one’s behaviour. An explanation, yes – but as far as excuses go, this one does not suffice.

To me, Arndt’s column reeks of excuses: “Men are doomed to live out their lives in a state of chronic frustration”; “We are dealing with sex-starved men..[and] married men simply tempted by some gorgeous option”; “Sexual frustration is thus almost inevitable for the majority of men and not just occasionally either” – these are just some of the statements thrown at the reader in an attempt to prove that cheating can be justified.

And, quite frankly, it can’t. The act itself cannot be justified. If there are agreements made between a couple, then fine, great, wonderful – and it is no one else’s business. But cheating – no holds barred, caught with your pants down cheating – cannot be excused. I don’t mean excused in the sense that a woman needs to get rid of a partner that has cheated (this is another whole discussion) – I mean that the act itself cannot be excused on ‘sexual frustration’, or ‘not being able to resist temptation’. Because funnily enough, men and women are both equipped with this thing. It’s called a mouth, and you open it and words come out. You can do this thing called ‘communication’ with it. And then you can communicate openly and honestly with your partner about your desires and needs in a relationship. Which is what every person who has cheated should have done in the first place, before they actually committed the act.

Lingerie Football League Australia

The Lingerie Football League of Australia. Or, as I like to call it, “the car crash produced when post-feminism crashes into sporting fanatics”, aka “The Glorification of the Female Body AND the Divine Act of Competitive Sport – all conveniently wrapped up with an Objectification Ribbon”.

What IS the Lingerie Football League (or the LFL)? It is women playing sport in their underwear. But, of course, it’s ‘lingerie’ – to give it that classy, exotic edge. It is, according to Wikipedia, a “women’s 7-on-7 tackle American Football League, created in 2009″. It was created in America. Of course. Duh.

It looks a little like this:

Some idiot in America clearly had the ‘brain wave’ that in order to entice men to watch women’s sport, they needed to put the women in underwear. Because this is obviously the only way to get MEN to watch WOMEN doing something other than giving oral sex (because, let’s face it, dudes will watch THAT all day*).

I have several problems with the LFL, which I shall now lay out for you in full, glorious detail:

- How does this sport actually benefit women?

Other women are playing sport (yes, gosh darn, real SPORT) and they do not do it in their underwear, last time I checked. Sure, various people have TRIED to put them in their underwear (see this great article on Olympic uniforms for Australian sportswomen) but the women have, for the most part, got their way. So how does the LFL ACTUALLY BENEFIT benefit professional sportswomen? By providing an opportunity for women to play sport? But wait, don’t they already have that?

Yes. Yes, they do.

- Does this actually harm women?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes – yes, it goddamn motherf****** well does. And if you think otherwise you need to reestablish what you actually define as sexism.

How does it harm women? BECAUSE WOMEN ARE PLAYING IN THEIR UNDERWEAR. BECAUSE IT IS OBJECTIFICATION AND SEXISM AND AN AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL EXAMPLE OF POST FEMINISM AND LOOK I JUST LOST MY TEMPER EXCUSE ME.

Ahem.

Does this sport not simply invite rampant sexism and objectification? If you took these sportswomen seriously, you would not be watching them play sport IN THEIR UNDERWEAR. If you took female sport as a whole seriously, you would not be watching this – you would be watching actual sport, on another channel. You would be watching women playing American football IN THEIR CLOTHES. The main attraction of this sporting ‘event’ IS THE LACK OF CLOTHES. It is not called the ‘Women’s Football League’. It is called the ‘LINGERIE Football League’. Because it is all about the LINGERIE, and the breasts, and the butts. It is about seeing breasts and butts IN ACTION, all from the comfort of your own couch.

And how does this harm women? Sportswomen – real, honest to god sportswomen – are losing air time, and exposure (pardon the pun), and potential sponsors to this steaming pile of horse manure. Sportswomen already have to battle day to day crap about how they are just ‘naturally worse at sport than men’ – they do not need to also be told that the only way they will make it in the world is if they strip down to their lingerie and THEN try to attempt a high jump, or play a game of basketball, or shoot a bow and arrow.**

I am not calling the women who participate in this sport ‘unathletic’, or less of an athlete than other women. I just think they should be able to play this sport without having to prance around in their lingerie.

- Are the men doing it?

I shall now apply the Caitlin Moran Rule of Feminism, aka the question ‘Are the men doing it?’. This is Moran’s rule of thumb with a few things, and it is aptly applied here. ‘Are the men dressing up (or down) in teeny tiny underwear, and then running around a football field?’.

No. No, the men aren’t. Instead, they are gawping on the sidelines, having the time of their lives (okay, fine, not all men. Some men).

The men are NOT parading around in their itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis because they are the serious athletes, the ones who get paid the BIG BUCKS to play in MAJOR EVENTS. Meanwhile, these women have to pay for their own goddamn health insurance just to play in this ‘league’ (yes, I looked that up).

The final part of this entire affair that simultaneously amuses and sickens me? The denial by the founder of the LFL that the sport is nothing more than a “sick, degrading perv”.

I mean, for god’s sake. You called it the ‘Lingerie Football League’, not the ‘Women’s Football League’. To repeat: the LINGERIE FOOTBALL LEAGUE. Why not just call it “Tits and Ass Football League’ and be done with it, for god’s sake?

The final thing I am going to say on this matter? Why don’t we simply put the chairman and founder of the LFL, one Mitchell S. Mortaza, in some leather underwear, and then send him out onto a football field? I promise I’ll be on the opposing team, fully clothed and ready to take him down.

Just imagine how Mitchell S. Mortaza would look in some frilly lingerie:

I bet he’d look good in red.

*Clearly, sarcasm.

*And yes, I realise that many sportswomen’s outfits are this revealing. Sometimes it is by choice, sometimes it is not. The difference here is that they do NOT bill themselves as participating in the Lingerie Football League. They are serious athletes, and they are there to compete.

Heartbreak and healing

Remember when I went through a break up? It was just under a year ago now, and let me assure you, I haven’t forgotten about it. I don’t mean to say that I sit in a dark room all day and night, rocking back and forward and crying out my ex boyfriend’s name. No. In fact, I tended to do quite the opposite. I’ve completed an Honours degree, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, and I have a new beloved (who brings me flowers and cups of tea regularly).

My point here, dear readers, is that a break up is not an instant thing. It’s not a cut-and-run situation (even when it actually is). If you truly loved a person, then you cannot simply never think of them again. There are a million tiny things that remind you of the other person.

A break up is not instant. It is a slow extraction from where you once where, and how you once felt. It is slowly, but surely, removing yourself and your feelings, from the other person’s psyche. Slowly, but surely, you exit that room that is labelled ‘their heart’. You stop speaking as regularly, you give them back their things, you may even delete them from whatever online social network you use. You stop thinking about them, and instead start thinking more about you.

And as you exit that room that was ‘their heart’, you realise that all that time, you were still in your very own room. Forgive the Feminist Theory 101 here, but I truly did realise that I had a room of my own. And I can never leave that. I’ve slowly rediscovered things about me that I had forgotten. It’s taken just under a year for this to occur, but inevitably, occur it did. In short, I really did grow up. And that is a wonderful and terrible thing.

If you’re going through a break up, fear not. Joanna Newsom knows your pain: