Bringing you regular rage against the patriarchy, drenched in sarcasm and capslocks #FEMINISTFRIDAY

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Stop being so hysterical

What reaction do you (women) get when someone says: “I think you’re being overly emotional”?

Rage? Confusion? A sudden violent streak that perhaps makes you look for nearby sharp objects? I get all of these and have done for a very long time. In fact, this happened just a few days ago, when a very condescending man told me to ‘not let my emotions get the better of me’ while I was debating the Assange case and the growing epidemic of rape apologism. If only he had known the consequences of that sentence. I like to imagine he is somewhere now, cowering and taking shelter from my rage. I doubt it. He was a bit of a tool.

But I’ve noticed, on many occasions, it’s been said to women to make them question their own argument or to make their argument sound irrational. Even when it is not. I’ve seen it used as a tool of manipulation in debates.

I get angry about it because it belittles not just a person’s feelings but it is directly associated with how women react and therefore an emotional response is considered extreme or less valuable. If someone is talking about rape, I’m not sure how that doesn’t evoke some form of emotional response.

In many cases when I discuss women’s issues whether the gender pay gap, violence against women, genital mutilation, austerity measures which adversely impact women, why wouldn’t I get emotional? I am being threatened or considered second class because of my identity, because of the person that I am. How is that not emotional?

It happens everywhere, everyday. Whether in the House of Commons whilst Davie tells a lass to ‘calm down dear’ or when the BBC interviews women from feminist organisations and pins them on each other, only for the male interviewer, to tell them not to be so ‘shrill.’ Many thanks, Radio 2 (unfortunately the podcast is no longer available).

But what I find most astonishing, is that the feminist movement is sometimes apologetic and keeps its emotions at bay. At times it feels like the movement is guilty of buying into the stereotype of women painted by society. That being emotional is not a good thing and is why women are not listened to.

In fact, many leadership studies have shown that emotional competence and intelligence is that mark of a good leader, manager or CEO. Shame more women don’t get the chance to illustrate this, or more men don’t leave the ‘angry successful man-in-charge routine’ for their lad mates.

I discussed this with my niece (the entire point of me writing!) and she said she had noticed this constantly, from her male friends, all the way through to her lecturers at University. One of which responded to her questions at the end of a class by saying “It’s always the girls that ask more questions, because they are always worried.” Excellent way to not only belittle all the women (not girls!) in your class, but also simultaneously, ensure no male puts is hand up in the future. Job well done.

But I should be honest, I criticise the movement because I am guilty of the same thing. For a long time (and at moments even now) I struggle with my emotional response. I used to think that showing my emotions in an argument (by that I don’t mean openly weeping, I mean becoming angry or more animated) would mean I would lose the argument (as if, I’m brilliant), or perhaps more importantly lose the respect of the other person. Foolishness.

But don’t men get emotional? Well of course they do, but it’s not called emotional, it’s called anger or assertiveness. More positive words. Grr, let’s all beat our chests.

I was having a debate (scratch that, total argument) with a man a few weeks ago, this was about the London riots. As you can imagine, my silly lefty ways, were irrational and emotional. What interested me, was that he too got emotional, but the emotional reaction just came out in a different way. He stood up and made his voice louder and angrier, in an attempt to intimidate me (he didn’t know me very well, clearly). This is an emotional, dare I say, overly emotional response. But it’s from a man, so it’s ok.

I don’t think we should scared of becoming emotional about issues that we care about. Equally, I don’t think we should argue cases without hard facts and evidence. But it’s ok to be both and it’s ok to be “a woman” about it.

A rather wonderful friends of mine said last week; “The most feminist thing I have ever done, is finding my own voice within my feelings and within my family. Feminism is about staying true to who you are, not conforming to who you are meant to be, even if it’s feminists telling you what that is” Quite.

I’ll leave you with this. How about while we fight for an equal place in politics, society and employment, let’s also fight for equality on an emotional platform.


Women aren’t funny

It’s August. It’s Edinburgh. The city is alive with the sound of festival go-ers. No, not the tent carrying kind, the ones with spare cash to fork out £3 for a pint of diet Coke. The cobbled streets of the Royal Mile are filled with tourists making it feel like one, never-ending, sweaty, tube ride through central London, with a tube stop mimicked by a tourist stopping to ask you directions (at which point you realise you have no clue about the city you have lived in for so many years. “Camera obscura you say? I think it’s somewhere near the upside down, giant, purple cow”), and the cherry on top? There is nowhere to sit. Anywhere. Ever.

I jest, I love Edinburgh at festival time. Honest.

To make the most of it, I asked my niece to come along to a show I had found out about. It was called ‘Activism is Fun’. This sounded ace to me, turns out it got an eye-roll from her. Which I read as “For the love of God, take a day off, I’ll get involved in my bloody Students’ Union when I’m back at Uni, lay off”. I’ve become very apt at reading these signs now. Since the beginning of our feminist conversations at the start of the year, I have had a variety of looks stretching from; ‘Oh my word, did you just try to rap?’ all the way to ‘Shoot me now’. I’ve still to get the “You’re still young and really cool” but I know I’m close.

So we walked along and found ourselves at a venue with free comedy. This is always a risk as it has the chance to be unfunny and puts you in an awkward place where you feel you need to laugh because the poor soul stopped for applause after a ‘knock knock’ joke. In this case, some of it was actually funny, but some of it really wasn’t. The male comedian decided to do a little ‘bit’ on women, and how we always mean the opposite of what we say. Aren’t we hilariously foolish, with our cryptic communication. Perhaps it’s your listening skills which are the problem.

The joke went something like this. “That’s the thing about women in clubs, especially in packs, they don’t mean what they say. No is actually yes. My pick up strategy is badger till they give in, they want it really” ah, harassment. LOL.

Comedians, especially men, have often used the topic of women, as part of the act. In return, female comedians have used men and their lack of hygiene or obsession with sports – everyone loves a stereotype. But a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and for me, it’s drawn at jokes made about sexual harassment or rape. Sure, take a stereotype of women’s careers or how long it takes us to get ready, or use an anecdote of your wife/girlfriend (I might just laugh and I am aware that is how observational comedy works) but a cheap shot which is purely sexist – isn’t funny, it’s offensive. Joking about rape makes it an issue not to take seriously. Would the same comedian make a joke about other criminal offenses, perhaps murder? If he did, I suspect fewer papers would have given him 4 stars…

This has sparked a twitter hashtag #bigotrybashing where Fringe go-ers are asked to ‘out’ sexists acts. Here’s are a few:

“Saw Ian D Montfort last week. Rohypnol and prison rape jokes, no thanks. http://bit.ly/NjTBsD #bigotrybashing #edfringe

“Dear #edfringe, shows about nazis are not original (and NOT funny). Please fix this. #bigotrybashing

I’d encourage you to use this hashtag, if you don’t people might still think this kind of comedy is funny.

But perhaps if there were more women performers at the Edinburgh Festival, this would be less of an issue? I picked up a festival guide today and sat for an hour going through it. There are many women performers in the Theatre and music section, particularly in cabaret…Great. But let’s flick through the comedy section, given it’s predominantly what the festival is about. I went through 594 shows (no, seriously, I did, with a red pen and everything) this was only half way through, because I got bored. Just over 14% (I even did the maths, I’m so proud of me) were performed by (or included) women comedians. Now, is that because women aren’t funny? I don’t think so. Some of the acts I’ve seen have made my face hurt from laughing. I, for one, am hilarious. I’m considering doing my debut next year…watch this space. So why is it? Why are women not on that stage? I’d like to see more of them and I’d like to see Edinburgh Festival pay more attention to that.

But there is something I have to admit, I’d like to see a different kind of woman comedian. Too often I’ve been to see a woman comedian’s gig and I get a bit of a tried sketch.

Que jokes and one liners about: PMS, Mothers, Children (or biological clocks), being crazy/possessive bunny boilers, clothing or our bodies. Some of this is in fact funny, and the point of observational comedy is to make the everyday amusing. But how is it made funny?  By laughing at women (ourselves). The comedy comes from being derogatory about our everyday as women. When you put it like that it’s not so funny.

Our everyday, just like men, also involves society, television, politics (in many ways a 24/7 sketch show of its own), media, sport, culture. I think I’d like to see more of that instead.

Society does a good enough job of taking the piss out of womenhood, I’m not sure why we’re still doing it to ourselves.

So men comedians – watch your comedy, rape isn’t funny, and if you try and make it funny, there is always a possibility I’m there with a bag full of rotten fruit.

And women comedians – there’s more to the everyday, my period isn’t all that funny, actually, it’s quite mundane.

Enjoy the rest of the festival. x

Going for Gold

It’s not the most inventive title, but you see, I’m not so good with the sports references. In fact, I’m not so good with anything remotely sports related. I figure, if I write that word enough, it’ll just sound like I know what I’m on about. Sports.

So, last week was the launch of the Olympics. I understand many articles have covered this, so I have no intention of going over every detail of what it involved, but before last Friday, I had avoided the Olympics like the plague. Sports plus patriotism is just asking too much of me. But then that launch happened. Aside from the obvious exclusion of the many black marks on the history of Britain, the launch was phenomenal. Suffragettes, Mary Poppins, the NHS and Harry Potter, all at the same time?! It’s like someone went into my head and took out the musical I had always secretly been trying to write. It was gorgeous. And the Daily Mail hated it, which is like the cherry on top of the already overly indulgent, ice cream sundae of joy. Well done Danny Boyle.

Although Danny Boyle was unable to orchestrate all of it. He can’t be held responsible for the speech by Jacques Rogge which lacked a certain charisma, however, one hugely important sentence in his speech, and the entire point of me writing, was this:

“For the first time in Olympic history, all participating teams will have female athletes. And this is a major boost for gender equality” Indeed.

But what was even more important that this sentence? The resounding cheer that followed from the stadium. A cheer which acknowledged the growing appetite and expectation of gender equality. Swoon.

This appetite, to see women in sport and to respect them, grew over the next few days as the first two medals won by Team GB were by women and the first Gold came from Women’s rowing. How exiting. Internationally, the historic moments continued, after the first female in the history of Saudi Arabia’s olympic participation took to the stage for Judo (let’s not forget however, she is returning home to a place where she can’t drive, vote or be taught physical education at school, but still, well done to her.)

One of the things I find most exciting about women in the Olympics, is the opportunity for young girls to see a different body image. One that doesn’t look like the cover of Cosmo (although perhaps they will appear there…) but one that focuses on physical wellbeing rather than aesthetics.

Unfortunately though, this wonderful feeling of change, of equality and of historic relevance was short-lived. It was washed away by a tidal wave of sexist media coverage and commentary.

First came the women’s beach volleyball. The commentary was awful, but what was even more disturbing was the way it was pitched by the Olympics organisers themselves. Yes, they are skimply dressed and prefectly shaved, but, quite frankly, that’s not my issue, (although I would have loved to have seen the shock of an unwaxed close up, if you know what I mean), what I’m referring to is how the show (I use the word “show” rather than competition or sport very purposefully) was put together. Music banging out the speakers which was sexist in itself and a montage for the audience of the athletes arses. Seriously, an edited montage. Unsurprisingly, the audience was majority male. Although, I’m sure, there were exceptions to what I can only assume was an oggling, offensive, male crowd. These women are athletes, representing their countries. How about a little more respect for them; not even from the audience, but from the organisers. The next day, the papers’ coverage was equally distasteful, to the point where articles were written about how bad fellow journalists and photographers were. The US Metro, does a good job of taking the piss out of it.

Then came Judo Wrestling. I have a lot of respect for these women. I mean, obviously, they can probably just look at me and do some damage. But that’s the entire point of the sport, it is aggressive, it is about physical strength and skill, and just like all other sports at the Olympics, it’s about winning over your opponent. A sentiment that seems to have gone entirely over the head of this Telegraph journalist who deemed women’s judo “disturbing to watch” and “like two drunken women bashing ten bells out of each other outside a Yates Wine Lodge on a Friday night” a phenomenally sexist (and weird, seriously, where do you drink?!) summary of a legitimate sport. A description that would never be used to summarise, men’s judo, men’s rugby, men’s football….etc.

But, it’s not just on the pitch, or the sand, or wherever people play sports, and it’s not just during the games. This sexist attitude towards women athletes has been unavoidable during the run up to the games too.

By now, I’m sure you’re aware, I’m not a huge fan of advertising and the lead up to the Olympics had me at a new level of advertising rage. Every 15 minutes my TV viewing or my radio listening was interrupted by the Olympics practically vomiting on me. From Union Jack nappies, to Olympics Tampax, it seems everything can have a link to the wonderous event. Ugh. But my outrage became directed to the way in which female athletes and male athletes were categorised in what they can sell. Obviously, Sir Chris Hoy telling me that Always Ultra will give me a happy period (side note: How f*cking annoying is that tagline?!), doesn’t really work. It’s not necessarily about what they are advertising but how they are doing it.

Take a look at this picture I was kindly able to steal from Facebook:

So he’s competing, she’s off for a night out with the girls….

Both of the people in this photo are athletes. One’s a real athlete though, because that sells for men, the other is pretty, because that’s what sells for women. Sigh.

On top of this, the fact that not all sports have a female equivalent, the fact that in 2011 only 0.5% of all UK sponsorship went to women’s sport and the enormous gender pay gap makes this all, a far cry from an equal playing field.

This may have been announced as the era of gender equality at the Olympics, but there is a long, long way to go. Getting female athletes there isn’t the job done. It’s about how they are treated once they get through those gates.

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