Research

The Truth About Growing Up A Woman

A Poem by Michelle K.

As women, we are taught to be tiny. To have small bodies, to never be imposing. The ideal of our gender are thin and childlike, hairless and dainty. We are defined by our bodies; defined by our control over them. We are taught to obsess over our physicality and to be repulsed by our desires and intelligences. We are taught to walk scared late at night. We cradle our keys between our perfectly manicured fingers, walking gracefully like a baby antelope in a herd of lions. That our virginity defines our character. That I am a frigid bitch if I do not fuck him, and a dirty slut if I do.

Advertisements
Research

The Art Of No

From the Captain Awkward blog:

Imagine you’re at a party. A guy offers you a drink. You say no. He says “Come on, one drink!” You say “no thanks.” Later, he brings you a soda. “I know you said you didn’t want a drink, but I was getting one for myself and you looked thirsty.” For you to refuse at this point makes you the asshole. He’s just being nice, right? Predators use the social contract and our own good hearts and fear of being rude against us. If you drink the drink, you’re teaching him that it just takes a little persistence on his part to overcome your “no.” If you say“Really, I appreciate it, but no thanks” and put the drink down and walk away from it, you’re the one who looks rude in that moment. But the fact is, you didn’t ask for the drink and you don’t want the drink and you don’t have to drink it just to make some guy feel validated.

Women are socialized to make men feel good.  We’re socialized to “let you down easy.”  We’re not socialized to say a clear and direct “no.”  We’re socialized to speak in hints and boost egos and let people save face. People who don’t respect the social contract (rapists, predators, assholes, pickup artists) are good at taking advantage of this.

“No” is a complete sentence.  If you say “no,” and the other person keeps talking and trying to convince you to go along with whatever it is they want, do what you can to extract yourself from the situation. This person is trying to manipulate you, and you don’t have to let yourself be manipulated.

I can’t remember where or when I heard this particular quote but it’s something that has really stuck with me: “”No” is the end of a conversation, not the beginning of a negotiation”

Also, “All men benefit from women’s reinforced fear of being hurt for saying no.”

 

Research

The Dictionary and Marginalised People

An interesting perspective on the Womanist Musings blog to rebutt the arguments of those who like to “play devil’s advocate” or throw around the term “reverse sexism/racism” while leaning heavily on their “dictionary definitions” as if it is the ultimate authority.

If I look up “carrot” in the dictionary, most people will acknowledge I do not know all there is to know about carrots and if I truly want to understand carrots, I should probably pick up a horticultural text book. We know that legal and medical terms are going to be, at best, simplistically represented and know we need to find a lawyer or a doctor if we want to know more. Anyone deciding to base their argument on, say, a philosophical concept or term using the dictionary is going to be laughed at at best, or automatically lose whatever argument they’re trying to make at least.

Yet the minute we move into a social justice framework, the ultimate authority changes. We don’t need lived experience, we don’t need experts who have examined centuries of social disparities and discrimination, we don’t need societal context. We don’t need sociology or history – no, we have THE DICTIONARY! That ultimate tome of oracular insight, the last word on any debate!

It’s patently ridiculous and you can see that by applying it to any other field of knowledge. But the privileged will continually trot out simplistic, twitter-style dictionary definitions as if they are the last word and the ultimate authority. No-one would drag out the dictionary to debate science with a scientist. But they’re more than willing to trot out a dictionary definition of racism over any sociological analysis. A dictionary is not the ultimate authority – they’re a rough guide for you to discover the simple meaning of words you’ve never heard before – not an ultimate definition of what the word means and all its contexts.

 

Research

Portrayal of Sex in Media – Foz Meadows

A  series of tweets by Scottish blogger Foz Meadows about how female desire/sexuality is perceived via heterosexual porn, and how this affects hegemonic notions of sexual equality.

A selection:

Research

The Danger of the Monster Myth – Tom Meagher

Tom Meagher is the husband of Jill Meagher, an Australian women who was raped and murdered by a complete stranger, Adrian Bayley on her way home from the pub in Melbourne in 2012.

He wrote an insightful essay about the assumptions we make about men like Bayley, who violate women in horrible ways.

By insulating myself with the intellectually evasive dismissal of violent men as psychotic or sociopathic aberrations, I self-comforted by avoiding the more terrifying concept that violent men are socialised by the ingrained sexism and entrenched masculinity that permeates everything from our daily interactions all the way up to our highest institutions.

Three days after Jill’s body was found, 30,000 people marched respectfully down Sydney Road. I watched on T.V as the long parade of people reacted to their anger at what happened to Jill with love and compassion, the very opposite of everything Bayley represents… People did care about this, and for whatever reason people identified with this particular case, it was something that I hoped could be universalised… for every instance of men’s violence against women. The major difficulties in mobilising this kind of outrage on a regular basis is that most cases of men’s violence against women:
1)     Lack the ingredients of an archetypal villain and a relatable victim,
2)     Are perpetrated and suffered in silence and
3)    Are perpetrated by somebody known to the victim.

While the vast majority of men abhor violence against women, those dissenting male voices are rarely heard in our public discourse, outside of the monster-rapist narrative. Indeed, the agency of male perpetrators disappears from the discussion, discouraging male involvement and even knowledge of the prevalence and diversity of male violence against women. Even the term ‘violence against women’ sounds like a standalone force of nature, with no subject, whereas ‘men’s violence against women’ is used far less frequently… male invisibility in the language of the conversation can be compounded by masculine posturing, various ‘bro-codes’ of silence, and a belief, through the monster myth, in the intrinsic otherness of violent men.

The monster myth allows us to see public infractions on women’s sovereignty as minor, because the man committing the infraction is not a monster like Bayley. We see instances of this occur in bars when men become furious and verbally abusive to, or about, women who decline their attention. We see it on the street as groups of men shout comments, grab, grope and intimidate women with friends either ignoring or getting involved in the activity. We see it in male peer groups where rape-jokes and disrespectful attitudes towards women go uncontested.  The monster myth creates the illusion that this is simply banter, and sexist horseplay.

The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on ‘how not to get raped’, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naïve because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym,  cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing x or drinking y well then of course the monster is going to attack – didn’t she read the rules? I have often come up against people on this point who claim that they’re just being ‘realistic’. While it may come from a place of concern, if we’re being realistic we need to look at how and where rape and violence actually occur, and how troubling it is that we use a nebulous term like ‘reality’ to condone the imposition of dress codes, acceptable behaviours, and living spaces on women to avoid a mythical rape-monster.

He makes it excellent point about “didn’t you read the rules?” – someone somewhere will always find a reason to suggest a woman’s complicity in her own attack. Like The Guardian report Melissa Davey says, “Darkness, clothing, or walking alone can not kill women. But men can, and do. It is up to men not to harm, not women to change their behaviour. The still pervasive attitude is that there are certain times of day and places where women should not go, because men may not be able to control their behaviour.”

It’s a narrative that we hear again and again – if women just did good things, men wouldn’t do bad things, therefore women are responsible for the bad things men do.

Research

A Dress A Day

From Erin McKean’s blog A Dress A Day:

[There is a] pervasive idea that women owe it to onlookers to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

I’m not saying that you SHOULDN’T be pretty if you want to. (You don’t owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy… you don’t have to apologize for wearing things that are held to be “unflattering” or “unfashionable” — especially if, in fact, they make you happy on some level deeper than just being pretty does.