I reserve judgement so far, but this makes things seem…different
Over the past few months I have attended a number of job interviews, training days and courses, and it’s got me thinking about what my ambitions and passions really are. There’s nothing like being unemployed to force you into considering what it is you actually want to do with your life. When someone asked me recently on a training day for volunteers at a local charity, “what’s your dream?” it made me realise that when you start to think about your dreams and ambitions for the future - however crazy they seem - you begin to solidify even more in your mind the things that are important to you.
When I started my first anthropology degree, five years ago, I never contemplated what might come afterwards. I began to learn about different people and cultures, different social and political systems, conflicting ideologies and hefty academic debates. One broad topic that always excited me was gender, and the region I found most interesting for scrutinising the reality of gender construction, conceptualisation and inequality, was within Asia-Pacific cultures, in particular, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country with an incredible history and astonishing linguistic and cultural diversity. It also has some of the worst rates of rape and sexual violence in the world, with two thirds of women experiencing domestic violence and 50% experiencing rape [not over-egging to serve my ‘feminist agenda’, the stats are readily available all over the internet, just search ‘PNG rape stats’]. With this in mind, I have, over time, become more and more intrigued and frankly, outraged, by the lack of coverage this problem receives in UK press. If such shocking figures came out of a country closer to home, wouldn’t there be a national and even international outcry?
With this in mind, I was pleased to see that today in the Guardian there is an interesting and thoroughly terrifying article [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/10/asia-pacific-rape-survey?CMP=twt_gu] about the prevalence of rape across the Asia-Pacific region, with 25% of men questioned in certain areas [beware sketchy extrapolations of small-scale studies] admitting to raping women from a young age, either due to a sense of ‘sexual entitlement’ or simply in pursuit of ‘entertainment’. This, along with the video I have posted above – previously posted on my facebook page, apologies for posting again – serve to highlight what a deep-rooted, worrying problem this really is.
The fact is that in PNG and across the Pacific, women, children and vulnerable males are being raped, beaten and killed as standard practice in many communities. Looking towards anthropological literature you might like to reflect on Gilbert Herdt’s work on ritualised homosexuality in Melanesia [http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520080966] among countless others, to see how the society-wide indoctrination and institutionalised rape has historically served to underpin the kind of stories we hear coming out of the Pacific today.
So back to my dream, however naive: I want to promote awareness of these issues, I want to educate and empower, and I want to fight for gender equality and the end of sexual and gender-based violence; and I feel passionate about doing that in Papua New Guinea. When we condemn rape, we must condemn it everywhere, and be alert to the people and places it affects most.
“It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and do everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions”
I thought I’d post some interesting figures to reflect on today, instead of resorting to hysterical hourly updates on a certain royal womb.
According to the World Health Organisation, at least one woman dies as a result of problems in pregnancy or childbirth per minute. In Somalia - formerly colonised in the name of our great British monarchy - there are approximately 1000 female deaths per 100000 live births every year. There are similarly high maternal mortality rates in some of our other ex-colonies. Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria all feature in a list of the top 10 highest maternal mortality rates, compiled in the CIA world factbook.
Certainly, these countries were colonised at a very different time by a very different Britain. But it’s worth bearing in mind where our monarchy has come from, the crimes it has committed, and the legacy it has left in the societies it sought to ‘civilise’. I don’t care about the royal baby, and neither should you.
We wanted to challenge sexist behaviour but we unleashed a flood of abuse from our male peers
This article shows perfectly why feminism is still necessary and why - contrary to what a lot of people will tell you - the battle still hasn’t been won. I remember being at university and signing up to the Feminist Society for the first time after agonising for months about what people might think of me. For a long time I was ashamed, in a totally perverse way, to ‘admit’ that I was a feminist. I was worried that male peers would ridicule me and label me a ‘man-hater’, concerned that female peers would assume I was jealous or resentful of them. It took me a while to fully embrace feminism, and to be knowledgeable, opinionated and comfortable enough to talk about it with pride and conviction. That shouldn’t be the case: we need schools to build an inclusive, open and equal environment; to educate children of all genders that all genders are equal. I wouldn’t have dreamed of signing up to a FemSoc at the age of 16 for fear of the negative connotations and inevitable backlash. I have even been advised recently to remove details of my membership of feminist societies from my CV, in case employers think I’m an ‘angry lesbian’. What these girls have done is really admirable, but the story as a whole is thoroughly depressing.
Tweeted today through the fantastic Eva Wiseman.
Q:I've always wondered, what do whores plan to do when they hit 28 years old and are no longer attractive anymore?
I imagine as soon as they reach the ripe old age of 28 and immediately become ugly and repulsive they are cast out of the Secret Society for Sluts and forced to make a living selling used car parts
I am a 23 year old jobseeker who wishes to voice my disappointment and disgust at a session I was encouraged to attend at the Kettering Jobcentre Plus this morning (16th May). I have been unemployed and actively seeking work for over two months now and whilst I am thankful for the friendly,…
Feminism and Sex Work
This post is a little late, but I’ve been thinking for a long time about how exactly to approach this topic. Since listening to this interesting section on Woman’s Hour [http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b01s0djx/] I’ve been thinking a lot about the politics of sex work, and how to think about sex work in a way that empowers the people who work in that industry. I’m fairly new to this subject, but I’ve attended a few seminars on the issue and have carried out a little research online and I feel like I have some valid points.
To hear Andrea Matolcsi arguing that sex work isn’t ‘proper work’ really enraged me, and made me wonder how someone who calls themselves a feminist could completely devalue the work of an entire group of women* and reduce their choices and ambitions down to mere coercion and exploitation. If we are going to get upset about the violence and exploitation of the sex industry, we must be prepared to get equally upset by the violence and exploitation of any industry. As Molly points out with the deep-sea fishing example, any basic capitalist system survives and grows through a perpetuation of exploitation, explicit or otherwise. If you are offended by people selling sex, you must, in my view, be offended by any oppressed class selling any goods or services. It is the same issue. (I understand that the very fact that sex is involved makes the issue more emotive, but I think we need to get past this very narrow-minded view that people selling sex are necessarily exploited).
So exploitation is one thing. Consent and individual agency is another. The crime that many so-called feminists commit - denial of agency - when they talk of all sex workers as ‘victims’, is shameful. Many sex workers consent to their work. Admittedly, many sex workers don’t. I can’t deny that there is often very real violence and risk involved in sex work. But this is still work that many people actively choose. There’s very real violence and risk involved in being a police officer, or a professional boxer, or a security guard. The difference is that these people are protected and represented fully without being marginalised. All of these people are respected – and it’s worth noting that in these examples, the workers are stereotypically assumed as male. By arguing that all women involved in sex work are exploited no matter what their choices are, many ‘feminists’ make the mistake of actually backing up a view of women’s bodies and minds as weaker and more vulnerable.
Sex work is a means of survival which, just like anybody in any role, its workers must submit to. Sex workers deserve the same rights and privileges as we would afford any other group of workers, and they deserve not to be ‘rescued’, patronised, or given a ‘proper job’; but rather, respected and supported.
This is Molly’s blog, which is thoroughly readable and engaging, and she makes so many brilliant points from the perspective of a sex worker: [http://glasgowsexworker.wordpress.com/]
* And men, obviously. But feminists against sex work prefer not to talk about that…
Beautiful, vicious poetry from Rachel Rostad. She makes an excellent point. Actually she makes several excellent points that I wouldn’t have even known how to begin to address in under 4 minutes.
I’m getting increasingly irritated by the sexist coverage of Thatcher’s death. If only ‘that hairstyle’ was all she had contributed to British politics.
See ‘Maggie and Me’, the documentary shown by Channel 4 on the night of her death, which focuses almost exclusively on Thatcher’s style and frequently referenced “sex appeal” with barely a passing mention of her policies.
A number of photo galleries have also sprung up in newspaper after newspaper citing Thatcher’s feminine style and ‘power-dressing’ appearance.
Thankfully one interesting article by Caroline Pennock quite eloquently pinpoints some of these issues in the recent media coverage, but I can’t help but feel this issue has been more or less ignored overall.
When David Cameron dies, will we be poring over his shirt-and-tie combos and obsessing over his hair? No. We’ll be engaging in a far more intelligent debate about his policy decisions, failures, and overall contribution to politics.
She may have been the first female PM, but that doesn’t mean all she had to contribute was shoulder pads and hairspray. This woman led the deregulation of the stock exchange, destroyed the Northern industries, led us into the Falklands - to mention but a few much more significant contributions than simply ‘sex appeal’.
Note: I made the collage, I don’t mind if anyone else uses it.
Was Philpott’s preceding day – of idleness subsidised by taxpayers – a contributing factor to his later crime? How Mick Philpott had spent the day – either working or not working – cannot logically be said to have a bearing on the terrible things he did that evening. If people who had spent years without employ were more likely to burn six children alive, then every pensioner in Britain would be a ticking time bomb; likewise every stay-at-home mother and carefree man-about-Mayfair with a private income. Philpott’s lifetime on benefits did not make him stupidly, accidentally kill his children.
Caitlin Moran, ‘I am a product of welfare UK’
I know this has been covered a lot already and I’m jumping on the bandwagon a bit late, but the constant scape-goating of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in this country has got to stop.
In reference to the Philpott case, this article demonstrates with perfect eloquence that a person’s profession (or lack thereof) does not influence their ability to kill their family members. That might sound obvious, but the Daily Fail (and others) coverage of this whole disaster is shocking. The idea that the welfare state has actually actively produced such a nasty human being through constant handouts is repulsive. As Moran argues, the fact that his children were fed and clothed in the first place is a direct success of ‘Welfare Britain’, and without such a safety net one can only imagine how their lives could have been.
Dismissing, through Philpott, an entire group of people in receipt of benefits, as murderous scroungers and misogynistic layabouts, is not only incredibly ignorant but seriously damaging.
[apologies for not being able to link the full article, apparently you need a Times subscription in order to read the full text]
Every move she made was charged by negativity; she destroyed the British manufacturing industry, she hated the miners, she hated the arts, she hated the Irish Freedom Fighters and allowed them to die, she hated the English poor and did nothing at all to help them, she hated Greenpeace and environmental protectionists, she was the only European political leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit and no warmth and even her own cabinet booted her out. She gave the order to blow up The Belgrano even though it was outside of the Malvinas Exclusion Zone—and was sailing AWAY from the islands! When the young Argentinean boys aboard The Belgrano had suffered a most appalling and unjust death, Thatcher gave the thumbs-up sign for the British press. Iron? No. Barbaric? Yes. She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women’s movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a prime minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it. Thatcher will only be fondly remembered by sentimentalists who did not suffer under her leadership, but the majority of British working people have forgotten her already, and the people of Argentina will be celebrating her death. As a matter of recorded fact, Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity.
As much as it pains me to agree with Morrissey, who is an outspoken nasty bastard a lot of the time, this is too good not to reblog.
There will always be porn on the internet and elsewhere, I think that’s an unavoidable given, and not necessarily a bad thing. My somewhat naive wishy-washy liberal view is that we all have the right to access whatever kind of content we want to see, providing that the content in question is not infringing the rights of another human being.
Porn is fine. Porn is normal and, to some extent, natural. It exists because we want it, and we make it. Human beings are voyeuristic creatures. If someone voluntarily enters the porn industry, has consensual sex, in front of a camera, for money, with full knowledge of the context for, and distribution of, that video - then so be it. We sell our bodies and our minds every day no matter what we do, because we work to live, and we work within a frequently exploitative capitalist market. (I’m not saying that it’s ‘right’ or ‘perfect’).
Violent pornography is an entirely different matter, however, and the idea of children accessing it on a frequent basis is terrifying. What becomes clear in the article linked in the title is that violent porn not only destroys the lives of those involved with it directly - the actors/rapists and their dehumanised, abused victims - but it also significantly damages the young minds of those who just so happen to find it. I have seen unsettling images online whilst researching my MSc dissertation, whilst looking things up for the benefit of this blog, whilst browsing the net in my free time, and I am very occasionally haunted by those images. But I know where to place them, how to understand them, and I also have the ability to speak out about them. To be a child accessing those images and videos at a stage when what they see is simply beyond comprehension? I think the true fallout from our irresponsibility in this area still remains to be seen.
I don’t have a solution - it’s the classic ‘something has to be done about this’. ‘Something has to be done’ about the ease with which we are able to access violent pornography, and of course, we need to find a way to prevent it being made in the first place. I’m not offering any solutions, I wouldn’t know where to begin, but I know that the damage caused by easy access to sexually violent images is irreparable and will, in all likelihood, haunt a generation.