In passing.

Mar. 7th, 2010 11:38 am
slemslempike: (nemi: Angry Pike)
It really is intensely annoying to have done the grown-up thing and refrained from responding in anger because of the possibility of saying things that you would come to regret, only to realise that you wouldn't have regretted it in the slightest, indeed it's possible you would not have gone far enough, and it is now too late to say even some of the things that would be so satisfying because the moment has most definitely passed.
slemslempike: (Default)
People putting punctuation inside quotation marks. I know it's the rule for North Americans, but it's wrong and people should be better.

Having to count how many "r"s different writers use for "grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl" (it's usually substantially fewer than that) because this easy-flowing, self-defining, reclaiming thing is ALL WELL AND GOOD, but I am all about consistency and standards and blanket rules that stifle all creative expression.

I'm HUNGRY and all my food is in my office.
slemslempike: (nemi: Angry Pike)
"My husband has a badge that he picked up from the Fawcett Society, an organisation that promotes equality between men and women. It says 'real men are feminists'. I love him for having it - maybe that's why he got it in the first place - but I'd probably be embarrassed if he wore it in public."

I hated this book.

Some of you may have seen Ellie Levenson's post on the f-word, where she says that in-fighting harms feminism, and we should all just get along. (She also says that she's deliberately baited other feminists with whom she disagrees in order to get publicity for her book, but apparently we shouldn't let that bother us.) Someone in the comments (the comments are great, you should read them if you haven't yet) pointed out that her entire post reads like an attempt to pre-emptively stall any criticism of her book. If I'd written this book I'd be frantically trying to raise the shields too - if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be "facile". But I don't have to sum it up in one word, so I've written five thousand. (Don't judge me - I've had a lot of work to not do this week.)

The Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism is written to try and make all women call themselves feminists. However, I don't know why Levenson wants women to call themselves feminists - in order to make feminism palatable to her imagined audience, she strips it of all meaning. Feminism is "what you want it to be", and any choice is a feminist choice as long as you think it's okay. She does have some understanding of material inequalities, talking about the pay gap and a few other things, but she doesn't really talk about how these come to be, so there's no analysis of what might be the causes. It's a bit like the cargo cult*1 thing - she sees the problems, but misses out large stages, so she thinks it will be solved if everyone calls themselves feminist. She is at great pains to say that you don't have to think anything in particular to be a feminist, you don't, in fact, have to think at all *2.

Long. Ranty. Some swearing. )

I should point out that the very last chapter of the book is "Forward Feminism", where activism is actually suggested. These are mostly, again, very individualistic options (and, in some cases, contradict what she's been saying in the rest of the book). But, in fairness, she does try to suggest somewhere to go with feminism once she's redefined it almost out of existence. And that's what most frustrates me with this book. It's the first UK based popular feminist book of its kind since 1999 (when Natasha Walter's The New Feminism was published), and it covers important topics, and could have been used to help young women work out what they want from life, and how and if feminism was something that could be a useful tool. But it doesn't. And I feel, somewhat irrationally, perhaps, betrayed.

The standard response to any criticism is "well, why don't you do better". For a start, I don't think that I could write a particularly good book about feminism for young women, and in any case, I procrastinate enough already. But more than that, I think that this is the only sort of book about feminism that would get published and marketed widely (it seems to be in a promotion in Waterstones). I do not think that there is a huge secret conspiracy against feminism (I think it's out in the open), but, as I understand it, people publish books that will make them money. It is easier to sell a book that is utterly unchallenging, that dismisses a political position that the media already finds distasteful, that promotes rather than dismantles stereotypes, and that may as well be a generic women's magazine. I won't quite go as far as saying that I would rather give a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid, but I do think that this book is not helping anyone.

*1 I was concerned about using this as a reference, because I think it gets brought into discussions in ways that are distinctly dodgy, but then I realised that as if I, as a feminist, decide that the choice I want is to use it, then it is ergo a feminist choice!!!
*2 I think that there is a great deal of pressure on young women to work on themselves, to act in certain ways and to achieve (there's lots about this in girlhood studies - Anita Harris's work is excellent), and that feminism can be a contributing factor to these pressures. But there is ALSO pressure not to criticise things, especially as a feminist, and Levenson pays no attention to this.
slemslempike: (nemi: Angry Pike)
Dear Aunt Sally:

"I have a self-harming issue. I’ve hurt myself in the past when I’ve been upset with myself or others — or angry about anything at all. Recently, I’ve done it for no reason — just because it makes me feel alive, I guess. My friend has a similar problem. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to. I feel alone and isolated and have withdrawn from friends and family. Because I’m only 15, people don’t realise I feel this way. I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my parents, particularly my mum, as I seem to get blamed for pretty much everything and told I’m wrong (I am bisexual)."

Poor child, seeking help for self-harm. At least Sally Brompton knows how to respond to this this:

"As for feeling you’re bisexual, that’s a normal stage of adolescent development. I’m not trying to minimise your feelings, but I have a 17-year-old daughter and, at exactly your age, many of her group decided they were bisexual and some experimented with self-harming. Right now, you’re trying to feel your way into an identity, and part of that identity is your sexuality. It’s a really difficult age (and not because you’re difficult), because all the big issues about who you are come together with a mix of unsettling hormones. Two years on, my daughter’s group of friends are dating boys and have stopped self-harming."

Oh good! I think the letter-writer was worried that she might have to keep liking girls, and now she knows that everyone else was right and she really is just showing off to get attention, and she ONLY likes boys, just like EVERYONE ELSE. I am glad that Sally saw through the letter that purported to be about self-harm and managed to focus on the really pressing issue of reassuring her that she's probably straight. YAY.
slemslempike: (feminism: body is a battleground)
Last night Jen and I watched The Sex Education Show, mostly because it was there. As a result I've just emailed a complaint in to Channel 4, because the show featured a panellist saying that a young woman was "laying herself open to sexual assault" because she had multiple partners*. And no-one challenged it, in fact it was presented as known fact that this was some sort of side-effect that naturally arose from sexual contact. I hate making comments/complaints about sexual assault to programmes because every time I've done it so far I get a response saying that I am clearly over-reacting. Which I am not. I had half thought that I might avoid this by just mentioning it on the TV questionnaire thing I do for GfK, but they didn't give me a write-in box.

Other things that were bad:
The presenter was unbelievably annoying. I realise that she's attempting to go for the pal-y, everywoman thing and is therefore asking questions of the family planning nurses etc that she knows are obvious, but she sounded like an absolute moron. SHE PRETENDED NEVER TO HAVE HEARD OF KEGEL EXERCISES. And then she tested them by wearing high heels for a few days and claiming that it was a lie because she hadn't noticed any benefits. Even I know that exercise doesn't work that quickly.

When they did a run-down of contraceptive options for women, they said that there were 13 (? can't remember the exact number) possibilities, but only told us about the top five (by usage), which were implant, injection, coil, condoms, and pill. Then the presenter idiot said that because the vast majority of women used the pill and condoms, they clearly didn't know about things like the diaphragm, rather than, say, HAVING MADE AN INFORMED CHOICE NOT TO USE IT. Also - condoms are likely to be so high because they prevent STIs. They also didn't discuss any of the side effects and problems of hormonal contraception even a little bit.

When the aforementioned young woman was talking about her sexual history, they never once asked her if she'd enjoyed herself. Because that's IMMATERIAL. They did, however, bring in a friend of hers to judge her on television, and the friend bought along a boy who explained to us that obviously men would sleep with a woman who was promiscuous, but they'd never go out with her, because those are the unassailable, unchangeable, FACTS. The best way to stop girls being called slags is by them not being sexually active, not by changing attitudes.

It was, predictably, incredibly heteronormative. Still, next week they apparently have a young woman discussing her bisexuality. Unfortunately, I suspect the presenter may well use it for a discussion about "ooh, do you think you really can like boys and girls".

Things that were good:
There was a woman from the family planning association who was quite great about abortion. THAT WAS IT. THE REST OF IT WAS TERRIBLE.


*The young woman herself was not happy about her sexual history, and I am not saying that she should have been fine about it. But the whole discussion around it centred on multiple partners as the problem, rather than her emotional issues or lack of condom use. As we all know, only having sex with one man is a sure-fire route to emotional security and sexual well-being!

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