Category Archives: Patriarchy
These are the kind of questions which arise when, through a series of unfortunate events, you find yourself in Benidorm. Watching a dolphin show, obviously. It’s not like Benidorm is full of dolphin-human couples copping off in darkened nightclubs. Even in Benidorm you have to go to a special place for that sort of thing.
Part of the show – which wasn’t my cup of tea in its entirety, in fairness; I’m not big on animal shows, too exploitative, too demeaning, too illustrative of the one-trick pony-ness of sea lions, whose skills compared to dolphins’ are extremely limited (don’t get me wrong, clapping is an amusing and important animal skill, but its appeal wanes considerably next to the sight of dolphins pulling children through the water on boats, before back-flipping over a high wire and then finishing off with a bit of synchronised swimming, not to mention doing some of the above whilst spinning a hoop on their snouts; what can I say? I felt the sea lions needed a better choreographer) – where was I?
Ah, yes, part of the show involved what can only be described as a bit of light romance. Two of the trainers, one female, one male, got their groove on with some slow dance music and some slow balletic movements (I hesitate to describe it as dancing but this, I fear, was what it was meant to be) with their dolphin of choice which, as the music ended, turned into a kind of heavy petting session. I didn’t mind my kids watching but I felt fairly certain that at least a portion of the audience were Sun and/or Daily Male readers who would lynch the dancing couples as soon as they realised what was going on. Cross-species love?? And weren’t those dolphins immigrants?? I feared for their lives, I really did.
But as they concluded with long drawn-out snogs with tongues, I couldn’t help but be aware – because did I mention feminism ruins your life? – that I found the man kiss even more disturbing than the woman kiss.
Which feeling of course involves two assumptions; 1. that all animals are male and 2. that everyone is heterosexual. Which, of course, if you’re not damned with an awareness of feminist analysis of such things, would both completely pass you by and you could just bask in the glory of a human-dolphin lip-smacker and maybe idly imagine what a human-dolphin hybrid would look like (large-nosed and with one thick leg, ending in feet but with webbed toes, if you’re interested).
Both of which would be preferable to the scraming inside your head that Patriarchy fucks everything up!
I mean, Jeez, if you can’t enjoy a bit of woman (or man) on dolphin action what is the fucking point?
In answer to the obvious questions, yes, I am on holiday and yes, I am going slightly sun-crazy.
God, it depresses me to even write that title. A specific, Yuletide anti-rape message is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the ‘festive’ time of year, is it? Y’know, cards, presents, eggnog, targetted posters reminding men that rape isn’t nice despite the presence of mistletoe. For shit.
Does rape become more prevalent around this time of year? I’ve no idea – and I couldn’t find any stats that suggested whether that was the case or not – but I suppose there’s just more instances of women going out, getting drunk, having fun, needing reigning in, needing jack-booting back to the kitchen…
Oh, I’m being curmudgeonly. Possibly. Well, see what you think:
[brought to my attention by Too Much to Say for Myself]
So, you see, the campaign has one, huge, huge, thing going for it.
It doesn’t victim blame. Even if only, specifically, for drinking.
It doesn’t victim blame. I find it difficult to be pissed at any rape campaign which doesn’t actively blame the victim. You know?
But there has been criticism. We, feminists, as the Daily Mail will tell you, are never fucking happy.
My own personal criticism is that whilst it holds the victims not to blame – my, how far we’ve come! – the campaign appears to uphold another, very important rape culture myth: that only young, attractive, patriarchal-compliant women get raped. Oh, and apparently, only white women get raped – who knew, right?
Ugly women – whether ‘ugly’ because they’re old, or fat, or hairy or disabled, or whatever – these women do not get raped. Right? I don’t even need to tell you the myth I’m talking about, right?
That rape happens because men can’t control their penis in the face of an attractive young piece of tail in a vest top. That one. That when ‘ugly’ women get raped, they don’t get raped, they get lucky. Because who would, otherwise, want to fuck that? More, that when ‘ugly’ women get raped, they don’t actually get raped, because who would want to fuck that at all?
That when ‘ugly’ women get raped, they don’t actually get raped, because they are fantasising, because who would want to fuck that?
So, am I being curmudgeonly? Or should I accept that a step forward is at least a fucking step forward?
That, my friends, is the essential dilemna of the feminist curmudgeon.
from Against All Evidence. Fucking priceless.
A Modern Sexual-Assault Tale
Man: Hello, I’d like to report a mugging.
Officer: A mugging, eh? Where did it take place?
Man: I was walking by 21st and Dundritch Street and a man pulled out a gun and said, “Give me all your money.”
Officer: And did you?
Man: Yes, I co-operated.
Officer: So you willingly gave the man your money without fighting back, calling for help or trying to escape?
Man: Well, yes, but I was terrified. I thought he was going to kill me!
Officer: Mmm. But you did co-operate with him. And I’ve been informed that you’re quite a philanthropist, too.
Man: I give to charity, yes.
Officer: So you like to give money away. You make a habit of giving money away.
Man: What does that have to do with this situation?
Officer: You knowingly walked down Dundritch Street in your suit when everyone knows you like to give away money, and then you didn’t fight back. It sounds like you gave money to someone, but now you’re having after-donation regret. Tell me, do you really want to ruin his life because of your mistake?
Man: This is ridiculous!
Officer: This is a rape analogy. This is what women face every single day when they try to bring their rapists to justice.
Man: Fuck the patriarchy.
I don’t know much about Bristol Palin (‘cept I heard she did something weird to her chin lately?), but I did read about her experience of losing her virginity, via Persephone.
I may not know much about Bristol Palin, but I do know about not rape.
I’m guessing I know as much about not rape as every other woman. You know, too.
Those incidents in which, whatever else may or may not be true, consent is not freely given by the woman, but neither is it expressly not given. Those situations where the equation is not ‘I want to = consent’ but is torn and complicated until the actual equation is twisted beyond all recognition, but can be read as ‘I didn’t want to = consent, because I couldn’t, didn’t know how to stop it and didn’t even know I should try‘.
As a child, as a teenager, I stumbled along the path to sexual maturity with as little knowledge about what consent really meant as any woman. Incident upon incident of utterly normal experiences that were more or less distasteful to me, sure, but which it never, not once, occured to me to object to, not even on an experience-by-experience basis never mind on a this-whole-thing-is-fucked-up basis.
Experiences which left me feeling weird and disconnected but which were entirely within what I had learnt – by cultural osmosis – were normal.
Experiences I wasn’t sure I wanted to have at that time, with that person, and which, some way through, I just wanted to end, all the while understanding that it wasn’t for me to end them.
Experiences which I had learnt were how sexual experiences were for girls. We weren’t supposed to want them, despite what may or may not have been stirring in our underwear. Our own stirrings were, according to the model taught, irrelevant.
Girls couldn’t want these experiences, that wasn’t allowed, but we had to have them if we thought it was necessary; necessary to avoid being frigid, but without being a slag. It was a fine line which was impossible to walk, but which girls had to walk nonetheless.
This – this pressure, this coersion, this mocking, this assault – was just the way it was for girls. Girls didn’t want sex, boys did. Girls did what boys wanted whilst trying to stay on the tightrope of what was necessary.
And still, this is just the way it is for girls. Still, still, still girls are taught only one thing: they are to resist sexual adventures otherwise they are sluts, but they have to accept sexual adventures otherwise they are frigid. The model is resistance, then collapse. But only in the right circumstances, tut tut.
It is the way of things, they are taught.
It took me until my early thirties – way after my full conversion to feminism – to finally see my early sexual incidents for what they were. They were acts inflicted upon me. Acts which I knew I had to resist just as I knew I had to capitulate to them. But object to this rock-and-a-hard-place shit? Well, that took me a long time to realise.
I forgive my slow realisation. Uncontested paradigms are fucking difficult things to see through. Fish live in water without once thinking, Fuck, I’m wet. Like the time I, aged five, stood on a wasp and my grandma, who just happened to be making Yorkshire pudding, lovingly applied the batter mix to the sole of my foot, having told me (and ergo convinced me totally) , that Yorkshire pudding batter healed wasp stings. Years and years and years after a time when, had I given it a moment’s thought, I would have realised instantly that she was fibbing, I still held the idea in my head that Yorkshire pudding batter healed wasp stings. You trust in something and you believe in it totally until someone calls it different and you actually think about it, connect the dots in your head, and the scales fall from your eyes.
These sexual experiences weren’t rape, not by any legal definition and not by my own definition and not by the definition of millions of women and girls who are having them still, and who still have no words to describe them. Whatever you are willing to call them, however, is almost less important than what they were not.
And what they were not was about me. They were not about my sexuality, not about my sexual blooming. My sexual journey began and ended with knowing when to say yes while trying to still say no. They were not about my desire, my emotions, my life.
They had nothing to do with me. What is really fucked up is that it never occured to me that they should.
In her review of (among others) Caitlin Moran’s new book, How to be a Woman , Zoe Williams, says:
‘It ought to be obvious, beyond remarking, that a woman should be able to sleep with whom she wants, when she wants, as often as she wants, without danger and without shame.’
Which is laughable given how non-obvious that idea currently is, but it is also a beautiful thought, simply expressed, isn’t it?
But here’s the kicker to what is such a simple and beautiful thought: girls and young women are not, either in our society or elsewhere, given the tools to understand the underlying basis of that concept. They are not taught to understand how to want.
Nothing in what they learn teaches girls to think through exactly what it means, in a sexual context, to want something. They are taught instead that ‘wanting sex’ is about wanting many things but it is not about wanting sex. She ‘wants sex’ because otherwise she’s the only virgin in her class, or because she knows having sex makes her look ‘hot’, or because her boyfriend will dump her if she doesn’t. Or she doesn’t ‘want sex’ because then she’s a sl*t (quite, quite different to looking ‘hot’), or because her father will kill her if she does, or because she may get pregnant.
Because of any of a million extraneous reasons, a girl’s want of sex is not about ‘want’ at all. It is about not wanting. Not wanting to be a sl*t, not wanting to be frigid, not wanting to be different. Not only is Williams’ idea not the way ‘people’ think, it’s not even the way girls themselves think. It especially isn’t the way girls think – nobody polices teenaged girls’ sexuality like other teenaged girls.
We give them no instruction in how to remove all these extraneous considerations from a desicion as to desire. How to boil it down, clarify what their actual desire is, when the impurities of cultural mores are removed. Hell, we don’t even teach them that they should desire. We resolutely do not teach them how to say, I want this sexual experience because I desire the experience – this act with this person at this time – and I shall be joyful in it and it will reward me with not only sexual pleasure but with a deeper understanding of both myself and my desire.
Teaching Boogie and (and L’il Boo), the basic in-and-outs of sex education concerns me not at all. I’ll teach them, they’ll learn. Fuck, it’s biology, they’ll learn that by themselves, whichever way their biology takes them. Teaching them about the whole fucked up mess of girls’ sexuality is where my teaching resources will be going. My daughter will not grow up accepting these experiences. She just won’t, goddammit. She’ll kick not rape in the fucking throat and go about her business.
Aah, summer! I love it, love it, love it! Only some vast cosmic mistake/conspiracy caused me to be born somewhere so far north as the UK, with its annoyingly unpredictable summers and yakky wet, cold winters (ack, damp feet? Kill me now!). I am sunshine, me. Delete said vast cosmic mistake/conspiracy and I would have been born in the south of France which is where we de-camp to every summer for long, hot days at the beach, midday naps, chilled vino and saying, Christ, it’s too hot to do anything…the utter impossibility of doing anything meaning doing nothing becomes, ipso facto, guilt-free.
Boogie loves it at the beach. She’s five. The beach is just one huge soft play area with surfing facilities. She does the whole shebang: splashing, boogie-boarding, swimming, sand-castling, rock-pooling, dune-rolling, beach tennis, sand football and occasional impressions of Olivia (the pig) when she lies down until she turns pink (curse that almost-translucent Scottish skin!). And she does it all in whatever swimsuit happened to be dry that morning, uncombed hair and (too often to really confess to), the remains of that morning’s pain au chocolat smeared around her cheeks and (god, OK, it happens sometimes – I did say it was too hot to do anything, OK?) unbrushed teeth.
It seems, however, that Boogie better get her shit together. Because in less than three years, she is apparently supposed to show up at the beach looking like this. She has, it’s safe to say, some way to go. She doesn’t even own a wig and her eyeliner skills are patchy at best, without the added trickiness of it being water-proof, and whilst she has plenty of ‘tude poses, she as yet has none that go anywhere near the come-hither stare and snog me pout that’ll be summer’s hot items when she’s all of seven or eight. Jesus, it takes her long enough to get ready in the mornings as it is. If she’s got to apply three shades of eyeshdow (and blend! blend! blend!), we’ll make it sea-side by about lunchtime.
Who does this? Who creates these images and thinks, goodness, what a lovely way to portray small children? Who? Who? Yes, yes, I know in this particular instance it was a swimwear manufacturer, but I mean, on a deeper level, who are these people? Lots of commenters on Pigtail Pals accuse the creators of paedophilia, but if only it was that simple. I shake my head and look away, but I confess, I don’t understand it at all. We live in a world where women everywhere are doing their damnedest to look like girls but we still can’t actually leave girls to look like girls because, well, that would be leaving some group of females in relative peace and we can’t have that, can we? Fuck no. We have to take girls and make ’em look like twenty year old Playboy covers.
What’s the betting the boy models weren’t treated to the addition of creeping back hair and a stick-on bald spot?
I’m incredibly clear about my views on abortion. I have absolute faith in the concept that a woman has full automony over her body and everything contained therein. A woman is therefore entilted to an abortion if she wants one. I don’t make any distinctions, either, between ‘good’ reasons and ‘bad’ reasons for not wanting to carry a child to term. Whether an abortion is had because of life-threatening illness or because she doesn’t want to ‘lose her figure’, it’s all the same to me. I support that decision because control over your own fertility is, for me, fundamental to women gaining full human rights. I don’t quibble about reasons.
Abortion is one of the few areas where I was happy to take a black/white view.
Couldn’t last, though, could it?
Because this introduces a distinct shade of grey by asking the very simple question: should a woman’s choice extend to aborting a foetus because it’s a girl?
Arrgh. You want to abort because it’s a girl? No, no, no!!
See? Grey areas all over my life.
This is not a choice I’ve ever really been confronted with. Here in my white-privileged bubble, women don’t abort because it’s a girl. Because here, whilst people may obsess over gender and may even get as close to the issue as obsessing over how ‘lovely’ it is to ‘have one of each’, my little patch of Patriarchy isn’t so overt in its hatred of women as to just kill them before they’re born as a matter of course. Oh, no, the Patriarchy round Boogieville is more snide than that: it likes to get the opportunity to kill a girl’s spirit rather than just the body.
There’s been quite a lot of coverage lately of the huge short-fall in females in India and the problems this is starting to cause (for example here, here, here, here, here – I could go on, but I think you get my point), and there doesn’t seem to be any doubt in any of it that this short-fall is due to sex-selective abortion (and the neglect and murder of new born girls – the only option if you’re too poor to afford ultrasound scans). And everything in me screams, No! But as the article points out:
‘Commenting on the Punjab, where selective abortion is all too common, legal scholar Mallika Kaur Sarkaria pointed out: “When the choice is between abuse and honour, ridicule and prestige, vulnerability and security, women will choose honour, prestige and security – and Punjabi women will have sons.”
‘But “When multiple choices are placed on the table – the choice to raise a daughter without a dowry; the choice to have a daughter to support her in old age without ridicule; the choice to have a daughter to carry forth the family name without shame; the choice to raise a daughter without fear that violence will be inflicted on her – the same Punjabi woman might not choose to abort her female foetus”.‘
Choice: Always complicated, never free.
It has come to my attention, via Truth Dig, that Weight Watchers, that most insidious and cruel of weight loss companies (public weigh-ins? thinness via humiliation?), has gotten hip to the fact that they’re not yet really at one with equlity principles. As Truth Dig puts it:
‘”Weight Watchers Picks a New Target: Men.” The story details how the nation’s biggest diet company is using the NBA playoffs to launch its first male-focused advertising campaign.'” Sounds great—except for one thing: Why only now?’
Why only now? Because, as the article rightly points out, in our society, men can be fat. And women can’t. Well, they can of course, but not without being assumed to be lonely, to-be-eaten-by-cats-when-they-die miserable and openly available for public abuse. Fat men, of course are allowed. They are imposing, jolly, fully paid up members of society. In fact it’s almost de rigeur for male MPs to run to fat very early on in their tenure, which proves my point. So, why only now? I’m guessing it’s the same reason I seem to be spying quite a few men on those puerile I’m-only-trying-to-help-you-Roland TV programmes about weight (sorry, a quite obscure reference there to an old children’s programme, Grange Hill – which I used to run home to see); maybe jolly just isn’t cutting it anymore for men? Maybe fat men are sensing they have to get with the programme, and start hating themselves as much as fat women are told to?
As Truth Dig says,
‘This is a significant question in a country [the US] whose debilitating weight problem is more male than female—and “more” means a heckuva lot more. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 70 percent of men are overweight, as compared with 52 percent of women. Yet, somehow, 90 percent of the commercial-weight-loss industry’s clients are female and, somehow, this industry hasn’t seen males as a viable business. How can that be?’
‘Market researchers typically explain the situation away in trite “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” platitudes, insisting that it’s only “because men tend to want to lose weight on their own by working out in a health club or designing their own exercise program, and they are less likely to join groups or seek counseling,” as one told Advertising Age. But such generalizations are, at best, truthy, and more likely, completely apocryphal. The real explanation for the gender disparity is found in a chauvinist culture whose double standards demand physical perfection from women while simultaneously celebrating male corpulence.’
So now men will be targetted by Weight Watchers and will be routinely subject to the same humiliating crap that women have had put up with for decades. It will, no doubt, gradually become less acceptable to be a ‘fat man’ and, one can only imagine, that the definition of what constitutes a ‘fat man’ will get thinner and thinner. There will be rumours (backed up by claims – naturellement – that it is feminism’s fault), that more fat men than fat women are *now* being consumed by their own cats after their obesity-related premature deaths and what about DA MENZ?.
It’ll be interesting to see how this marketing scheme plays out. Will men fall for it? With men following women in large numbers into plastic surgery and ‘miracle’ grooming products, one can only imagine they will. Which, on one hand (my Ner ner ner-ner ner hand), isn’t a shame (serves ’em right, let’s see how they like being judged solely on their appearance, eh? and fat shaming will be actually taken seriously), but on the other, it really is. Because, sheesh, now I have to put both my kids on strict diets, rather then just the female one and those milkshake thingys are expensive… And, more seriously, because I don’t actually want to move a step closer to a world where everybody in it in is just made to feel like shit about themselves. I was kind of hoping for a world where nobody was.
I know, I know. I live in LalaLand, right?
This, my friends, is where you get to when you think the word ‘equality’ exists in a cultural vacuum.