Posts Tagged: feminism

My Chariot Does Not Await

chariot

Bibbety Bobbety No.

 

 

I often feel that I am a bit of a grinch when it comes to feminsim. I spend a lot of my time thinking that although things are progressing, they are not progressing well enough or fast enough for my liking. I have to remind myself on a regular basis that these things take time, more time than they should take, that I must be patient, that equality does not serve everyone’s agenda equally (even though I think those agendas are often terrible and don’t deserve to be served at all). So it is with a heavy sigh and a weary feeling that I write this piece.

Buzzfeed  reported that Uber had an alarmingly high number of sexual assault and rape complaints registered, in an exposé written about internal data and customer safety. The numbers in the below quote from the article are disturbing and scary and no doubt lead to justified fears for female safety.

“In one screenshot, a search query for “sexual assault” returns 6,160 Uber customer support tickets. A search for “rape” returns 5,827 individual tickets. Other variations of the terms yield similarly high returns: A search for “assaulted” shows 3,524 tickets, while “sexually assaulted” returns 382 results.” 

 

So far nothing seems too grinch-like from me right? Buckle up. I’m just getting started.

Michael Pelletz from Boston used to be an Uber driver and was so horrified by the notion that women wouldn’t be safe in Uber that he blew a massive whistle and started a nationwide investigation into each and every claim against drivers for sexual assault and rape.

 

Oh.

No.

Sorry.

My mistake.

He didn’t do that at all.

 

What he has done is created an app called Chariots for Women, a taxi service app that only women and boys under the age of 13 are allowed to use to ensure they get home safely, because all the drivers are female.

 

“What’s wrong with that?” I hear you wondering.

“I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED LET ME TELL YOU,” I would reply if I weren’t imagining this exchange.

 

1 – Segregation is not the answer. If anything it may make the situation worse. What if I want to or have to or choose to use uber after Chariots for Women is available? What happens if I use uber, and I am assaulted or raped? There is suddenly a narrative created where it’s very easy to say “well, you could have used the ladies one where you wouldn’t have been raped.” Doesn’t that sound disturbingly similar to the classic victim blaming “Here are all the things you could do to not get raped” line of thought? By giving women the choice to use “the dangerous rapey Uber” or “the safe and friendly ladies only one” you put the onus on the women to choose and you condone the behaviour of the people who are raping. Because what is their punishment? Also can you just imagine if someone segregated cabs based on race? Or sexuality? How would we all react to that I wonder?

2- Women also commit crimes. Michael Peletz said that an incident where he thought a shady passenger might be about to pull a gun on him made him wonder if he’s this scared how a woman might feel. And in this Dose article, he is thanked. Why are we thanking him for assuming a man will handle a gun being pulled on him better than a woman? If someone pulls a gun on you while you’re driving, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, you’re probably screwed. It is sexist nonsense to think that a) a woman won’t ever carry a gun IN AMERICA WHERE YOUR GUN LAWS ARE LUDICROUS, and b) that a woman would be more afraid than a man finding out that a passenger has pulled out said gun. Sexist. Nonsense.

3 – Segregation is still not the answer. Taking women away from men wraps us in mystery, like placing us in a tower and calling us princesses. I am not mysterious and I do not want to be held apart from men as some kind of mystifying creature. I do not need to be shut away in a separate room / building / car and protected. I need people to be taught that they must treat women with respect. I need people to have better education on what it means to consent to sex. I need people to stop buying into a narrative where I am, and all women are a temptation that must be removed. I don’t need to be hidden. Women do not need to be removed so a man doesn’t rape us. Men need to control their urges and respect us more and so they don’t rape women. Don’t punish us and call it protection.

 

We still have such a long way to go with acknowledging women’s rights. In the UK, in Northern Ireland, where a woman can be prosecuted for having an abortion. Still. In 2016. We have a 25% pay gap. Still. In 2016. The latest NHS junior doctor contract has basically just decided to make it harder for women to become doctors or at the very least has ensured that sneaky pay gap won’t be going anywhere any time soon in the medical industry.  And don’t even get me started on places like Saudi Arabia – where a woman may not drive, try on clothes in a store or apparently go into an un-segregated Starbucks herself to buy her coffee. Lest she be seen. Lest she be heard. Lest a man cannot control his urges and desires upon knowing a woman is behind a closed, locked door, removing clothes or upon hearing the dulcet tones of a female voice ordering a grande skinny mocha iced latte, extra cream, double blended. They’re right of course. That is just too sexually arousing. I wouldn’t know how to contain myself either.

 

I am so tired of feeling frustrated with a world that does not want to catch up. I am so tired of hearing stories of women who are pushed to the back, who are concealed, who are separated and segregated and told that we must not be seen because if we are, we’ll be in danger. And we’re supposed to be grateful. I’m supposed to be delighted by the fact that I can be separated from men and have my own special woman car service. Am I grateful? Am I fuck.

 

Stop punishing us for being women and start punishing the men who are perpetrating these crimes for being criminals. To draw the racial comparison again – if a white person beats the crap out of a black person, is the black person asked to stay indoors? Or hide? Or somehow make themselves look less black? No. Of course not. And yet with women….

There is no such thing as non-consensual sex. That is called rape. There is consensual sex and there is rape. Sexual assault is a crime. Rape is a crime.  Stop telling the story that women are to blame by hiding us away. Giving us our own special app is not a gift – it’s a cop out that allows rapists to get away with raping. I am not a temptation that just needs to be removed. So can we just stop pretending that we’re doing something good every time we perpetuate the problem of sexual assault and rape being a socially acceptable crime that we pussy foot around and repeatedly don’t deal with?

Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1973 and there was a discussion in parliament about a number of rapes and sexual crimes occurring. There was a suggestion that a curfew should be enforced for women, that to keep them safe they should be indoors by nightfall. Golda Meir famously replied,

 “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

 

Stop punishing women for the crimes that men commit.

 

princess castle

And what the shitting hell is with that name? Chariots for Women? Please.

 

Why The #HeForShe Campaign Is Positive

 

 

 images

 

Background:

Initial reactions to Emma Watson’s #HeForShe launch speech at the UN Conference last week were fairly positive. Then a bunch of 4chan lowlives threatened to leak naked photos of her and made a countdown to her death (whether that was meant as a metaphorical death like the death of her reputation or as a real thing is unclear. Either way it was shamefully horrible, creepy and nasty) and support for Watson and the campaign soared.

 

Caveat:

For the record, I support the campaign and think it is a positive step in the right direction for achieving gender equality.

 

Main Point / Argument:

A friend of mine told me she was disappointed because she watched the speech after seeing it hyped up and shared a lot on Facebook but expected more from it. I agree with her assessment – the speech was good but not the most rousing, amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But here’s why I think that’s ok: it didn’t need to be. It wasn’t meant for me. It wasn’t meant for my friend either. It wasn’t a speech for the interested and engaged feminist. It wasn’t really a speech meant for women at all. It was relatively mild and it was measured and it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It wasn’t that inspiring to us female-women-lady-folk because it wasn’t aimed at us in the first place. It was a speech for men. It was an introduction to feminism for men, particularly men who are afraid or ignorant of it. It was a baby step for those who cannot yet confidently walk in feminism’s equality based corridors. And it was exactly right to be so.

A lot of people seem to think the campaign sends the wrong message, but we’re painfully naïve if we think everything will change in a day or with one campaign. The message the #HeForShe campaign sends is not that it’s a boys’ club at all, rather that it’s a boy’s way in to a girls’ club – very much a reversal of the stereotypes we’re used to (also check out my navigation of that complex, correct apostrophe usage. All hail good grammar! God I hope I got it right.) Historically, the boy version of a club comes first and the girls are allowed in later via a sometimes patronising, watered down version, e.g. scouts and brownies. This campaign is a magnificent idea. It’s providing an entry point (snigger) for men into feminism.

This is not about giving feminism legitimacy by asking the men to be in it. This is about demystifying feminism so they stop being afraid of it. It’s not a perfect version of the message nor a perfect message, but hey, guys? News just in: it’s not a perfect world. The same aforementioned intelligent, feminist, woman friend of mine who was disappointed by the speech said:

“It shouldn’t be about their mothers and daughters and wives and sisters. They should just understand that we’re equal humans and that should be enough to make them feminists.”

And she’s right.  It should be enough that we’re people, and to treat us with anything but equality is mistreatment. But it’s not like that. It has been demonstrated time and again throughout history across the world that it is not enough. And all the “but it should be” in the world doesn’t seem to change that.

So we have to take our strategy back a few steps and think practically.

Perceived gripes / problems / some true things:

*Yes. The campaign is a fair bit behind where a lot of thinking women are today.

*Yes. The campaign is being marketed for men – something that seems counterintuitive for a movement that is about equality for women.

*Yes. It absolutely sucks that we apparently cannot effect the change we want on our own, that for there to be progression we must have male support.

Or we could look at it this way:

*If you’re one of those thinking women then, yay and congratulations, not everyone is as smart as you. You’re a progressive thinker, ahead of the curve, you’re correct and the bloody UN says so! Hooray for you!! You believe we should all be equal because we’re human regardless of gender, race, religion or culture – and so with this knowledge and human understanding and international support, you have the power to educate and do good things. So be active, make a difference and use it wisely.

*The campaign is being marketed for men because they’re behind. They’re the ones who need to catch up. The male marketing isn’t a negative, it’s a positive. We’re making it accessible. It’s being marketed to the feminist minority. Isn’t that kind of amazing? Plus I remember reading about a psychological study years ago (apology for lack of reference – it was in a psychology magazine from maybe 2009, so literally years ago) that posited that if a woman tells her friend that she thinks a man is good looking, the friend won’t necessarily also think this man is attractive. But if a man tells his friend that a woman is good looking, his friend is likely to agree with him and they all go “yeah mate she’s well fit” together. The upshot of this was a conclusion about group mentality and how men are more likely to agree with each other about good ideas and attractive people. So if men are more likely to do that, doesn’t it make sense to get a big group of them into feminism so more of them see it as a good idea and follow suit?

*Political campaigns know full well they need the female vote as well as the male vote to win. This is like that. Feminism is the presidential candidate and so we have to get the male vote as well as the female vote, because men are also people and we need and want them on our side because we’re the good guys and why would we not welcome more good guys? We want to win. So let’s get more good guys on board.

Feminism is not about isolating ourselves or elevating ourselves to so far above men that they feel they cannot reach us. Feminism is about equality. For women. And, by definition of equality, also for men. It’s about equality between the genders / sexes. And we need both of those binary bastards to be on board if it’s going to work.

 

Conclusion:

This is a campaign to raise awareness. It’s not for you – the one who is already aware. It’s not for you because you’re already there. You’re already involved by the virtue of being female and thinking and feminist and we’re not just preaching to the choir now. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be the minority asking for equality but then complain when we’re treated like the majority. We started this club. And now we’re opening the doors to new members. If you’re already a member there’s no need to reapply.

I’m terrible at maths and I’m slightly scared of it. I couldn’t attend a degree level maths class and I wouldn’t want to. Furthermore, if someone invited me into a beginners maths class and I saw on the sign up sheet that loads of experts were going to be there I’d be terrified and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge and would probably be put off signing up. We learn gradually. We don’t jump in at the deep end of knowledge. We can’t expect to effect change and teach people about feminism if we’re not willing to give them the time to learn. It’s not patronising, it’s understanding. And yes, we may be impatient for them to catch up but we have only just properly, publicly asked them to join. We’re trying to overturn an ingrained mentality that has been present for most of humanity’s existence. Old habits die hard and this – prejudice – is one of the oldest habits around. Give the newbies a chance. Because sadly, it’s not enough that we’re all human and deserve equality.

 

Final Thought

So here’s what I suggest to my fellow wonderful, intelligent, feminist women: be happy that we’re on an internationally, publicly supported road to achieving gender equality. Realign your expectations of this campaign. Stop thinking about it in terms of what belongs to you. Feminism / equality is for everyone. And in lieu of being able to sign up on the website for yourself, ask a man you know to sign up (link provided below) and educate him. Open the door, welcome a new member to the club, share the knowledge and help the world change to be better.

Gentlemen! Sign up here:

http://www.heforshe.org

 

Get up, work, get sexually harassed on my way home. Just another normal day.

 

3966219-a-pretty-business-woman-walking-to-work-at-the-office-building

 

 

 

While walking the 10 minutes from work to the station today, a man began following me. At first, I didn’t notice he was talking to me. Why would I? I was on my own. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be talking to me.

I realised I was being spoken to and ignored it.
“Excuse me. Hello? Can I talk to you for a second? Hello? Excuse me. Darlin can I talk to you? Stop and talk to me for a second.”
No. I don’t want to talk to you. Don’t call me darlin. You can’t talk to me. I don’t want to stop for a number of reasons. I’m tutoring tonight so I have very little time anyway and even if I weren’t I wouldn’t want to talk to you. Please take the hint. Please stop. Please don’t follow me any further.
Then I felt a hand on my arm.
I turned around and looked at the man standing too close, violating my personal space and holding on to my arm.  Too tight.
“I want to talk to you.”
This, a little menacing.
“I’m sorry,” I finally said. “I don’t want to talk to you. Please let go of my arm. Now.”
He squeezed a bit tighter. I looked over his shoulder as if there was someone there. He turned away to look too and I pulled my arm free and began walking again.
“Hey!” He yelled, obviously affronted that he’d fallen for a child’s trick. Pissed off with himself that he’d been outsmarted by a woman. He decided to try a different tack.
“You want to come work for me?”
Erm. What? No. Aside from anything else, I’m quite clearly on my way home from work. And I don’t want whatever work is on offer – I somehow doubt he wants me to write for him and I strongly suspect he means prostitution. Funnily enough, that’s not my dream job but thanks for the offer.
“Why don’t you wanna talk me? Come on! Just talk to me!”
I continued walking, torn between wishing myself into the station already and questioning whether that is the safest option. What if he follows me in there? Then I’m trapped. I’m in central London. Where are all the people? Why is there no one else around? Why on earth did I wear heels?
I kept walking, confident steps. Head up, remain calm, do not panic.
I am not a paranoid person. I like people. I like new people. I do not shy away from strangers and I talk to pretty much anyone. Every instinct I have is screaming “DANGER” at me. This is not a nice man. This man is not leaving. He is not listening. He is still following me.
“I got some work for you darlin. Just stop and talk to me. Ain’t you gonna tell me your name?”
I shook my head and kept walking.
He made for my arm again, but this time I’m wise to it and side stepped him. His finger tips brushed my sleeve.
“Bitch!” He hissed at me.
I finally, finally see a person coming towards me, another man with headphones in. I make eye contact. I let the fear in my head show on my face for the first time and try to communicate one word to this man a few feet away from me.
“Help”
I angled myself towards this man. He saw, took out a headphone and I began to speak incredibly fast.
“Hi, this man won’t leave me alone. Please will you talk to me for a moment? I know you don’t know me. I just need you to stand and talk to me just for a minute please?”
He was calm and immediately put himself between the other man and me.
He asked
“Has this man been following you?”
“Yes”
I replied.
The man who has definitely been following me makes an ugly face and immediately says.
“I ain’t been following you. What you talking about you stupid bitch, what the fuck are you talking about? I ain’t following you! Bitch!”
At last he walks away, snippets of insults drifting back to me on the wind.
The man who I have stopped on the street asked me again if he had been following me and how far/long for. He asked me if I knew him, if I had seen him before and repeatedly checked that I was ok. He then told me he’s a policeman. I couldn’t quite believe the one person I’d found to stop was a policeman. He showed me his ID and asked me if I wanted him to walk me to the station.
I am not a jittery person. I don’t believe in living a life in fear. I don’t believe in walking around London feeling afraid of all the bad things that could happen. I accepted his offer because I am also not an idiot and at this point, I was afraid. It’s hard to run in heels, even chunky ones that aren’t that high.
We chatted on the way to the station and he made me feel much calmer. I wasn’t crying or hysterical or anything like that. I was slightly shaky from adrenaline and my stomach felt weird. He made sure the other guy was a way ahead of us and not in the station. I thanked him profusely and left.
I am writing this on my tube journey home. I am not wearing anything particularly provocative – a black smart skirt that stops just above my knees, an office smart, green top that is not tight, a scarf, tights, a jacket – and even if I were, I wouldn’t hold that as an excuse.
I love the fact that strangers talk to each other sometimes. But there is something about the way that some people approach others that lacks even the most basic respect. It might be a misogyny thing, I can’t say for certain. I know I’ve never made a man feel unsafe or violated. The most threatening thing I’ve ever said when initiating conversation with a stranger is “Sorry, I know this is probably weird but I wanted to tell you, you’ve got lovely eyes”. I have to say, the rare, lovely and smile-inducing occasions that I do receive a compliment from a stranger pale in comparison to the number of times I’ve been followed, cat called, harassed, touched inappropriately.
That’s not OK whatever your gender, whatever mine.
If I say I don’t want to talk to you, back off. Listen to what I’m saying. The answer is no. I shouldn’t have to say it more than once. I don’t need or want convincing. This isn’t a game. I am not presenting a challenge for you to wear me down. Don’t touch me. I shouldn’t have to break free from your grip. I shouldn’t ever have to feel afraid. I am a human being just like you. I shouldn’t feel like I need to write this to feel better this evening.
Perspective time: I wasn’t molested, or raped or hurt beyond a squeeze to my arm which may bruise. This won’t psychologically damage me. By tomorrow morning I will be fine (except if my arm bruises I’ll be peeved for a few days).
But what if Matthew the policeman hadn’t been there? What if there hadn’t been anyone around? What if it had been a bit later or a bit darker or the guy had been even a bit angrier? What then?
When men make comments about the size of my breasts I give them shit back so they don’t do it again. It’s funny to watch if you’re not the man who just made that comment. Because I am not going to silently ignore the total lack of respect any more.  I don’t want to keep quiet and take it.  My grandma tells me “silence means assent”.  I do not want to give mine any more to that kind of treatment.
We are all human. We need to be better to each other. We need to make each other feel safe. We need more people like PC Matthew, who listen, who offer to turn around and go back the way they’ve come to make sure you’re safe. We need fewer people who harass and follow and intimidate and when those people start up, we need to speak out to show them that we are better than that.
If you find yourself being followed and it is difficult or impossible to run away:
  • Pick someone and speak to him or her directly.  People respond much more when it’s directed at them than when they are allowed to be a general passer-by.
  • Do not panic.
  • If you scream, use words – shout them loud and clear, something like “THIS MAN IS FOLLOWING ME, I DON’T KNOW HIM, HELP ME.”  Shout the situation, not just noise.
  • Do not be afraid of other people. Not everyone is like that. There are really good people out there, people you don’t know yet, who deserve to be trusted.
I am extremely grateful to PC Matthew for being in that place at that time, for being a policeman, for being kind and good and helping me.  I hope that anyone reading this would do what he did in that situation.

When is casual sex too casual?

I went to a friend’s wedding and, aside from all the genuine joy and love in the room, I had a not so pleasant experience. I was sitting next to someone who I have only met a maximum of three times in life. I can actually only recall meeting him twice, but I like to leave room for human error with vagueness.

He had also recently got married and at this wedding, sitting next to me with his wife on the other side of him, he got steadily drunker throughout the evening. By midway through dinner, his wife was telling him to stop mucking around with a bottle of water and looked really quite embarrassed.  I asked for the bottle, as I was actually thirsty, and he responded by not giving me the water…kind of like a child…or a dickhead.

His wife, having rearranged her facial expression from embarrassed to exasperated, passed me the water behind his back. While my arm was lifted to pour the water, this man groped the area under my arm that also happens to connect with boob.

I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing and told him he had no right to touch me in that way, that it was incredibly inappropriate, that he does not know me and should not ever touch me like that again. He laughed. Because he is not a child, but is a dickhead. This really made me angry and I may have over reacted by threatening him with a punch to the face if he ever touched me again.  I was doubly irritated that his wife did nothing. If it were my husband, apologies would have been made and some serious words would have been exchanged later at home.  For numerous reasons.

 

I’ve noticed a trend in the way that certain men in my social circle behave.  There is a casual and total lack of respect when it comes to women. I know feminism exists, but it feels like it’s been warped to mean something different to men compared to what it means to women.  Is this just for my age group or is it the age in which we live?

In the last 10 days I’ve been sexually propositioned by no fewer than 4 different men.  (Yes I know, woe is me, some men want to have sex with me, first world problems yada yada yada).

I don’t have a problem with men wanting to have sex with me – it’s more the way these propositions were made.

One of them came completely out of the blue – “Hi, this may seem a bit weird but I wanted you to know that if you ever want to have sex with me (tonight? This weekend maybe?) the answer would be yes. Definitely. I’m just putting it out there”.

Erm, wow, thanks I’m flattered but you’re not really my type, good on you for having the balls to express yourself, I suppose if you don’t ask you don’t get.  I politely declined and heard no more on the subject.

 

The second was from a guy who regularly propositions me and whom I regularly ignore because he’s creepy. He even acknowledged the fact that I ignore him by saying “I think you’ll get bored with this before I do”.

No. No I don’t think I will. You should stop thinking that.

 

The third was someone I met last week – essentially went straight in with the classic approach of “I think you’re really hot, we should hook up.”

“Should” is a strong word and your logic is flawed. The attraction has to be two way. Or I’d have to not care about who my sexual partner is.

 

And the fourth was a friend who started with a cheeky bit of flirting a couple of weeks ago (ok, good so far) and then invited me over at 3am on Saturday night. Oh, fell at that hurdle.

 

What do all these things have in common? All these men did the same thing – they missed out some fundamental steps, that frankly count as courtesy in my opinion. When did it become ok to just jump straight in and ask a girl for sex?  What happened to asking her out? Am I supposed to be flattered that you want to have sex with me but you don’t want to spend any actual time in my company?  Am I supposed to revel and delight in secret late night trysts? (Ok that last one is actually quite hot, but only with a person you really fancy when you’ve got an established thing going on).

I don’t find it flattering if you just ask to have sex with me.  I find it disrespectful and at times, downright insulting. I said to one of these guys that if he wants to go for a drink and see what happens, that’s one thing but I’m not really down with the super casual super secret just sex thing right now. He declined. So to clarify – you want me to come over, pleasure you in all the ways you can think of, you’ll generously offer your bed to me for the whole night (“you can even stay over if you can’t be bothered to go home after!”) but you won’t spend a couple of hours in my company first? Are you shitting me? I don’t even think that’s such a lot to ask.

I’m obviously biased, but I don’t think I’m that repulsive. If I’m honest, I probably talk too much, especially if I’m nervous, and if I like someone, chances are I’m a bit nervous. So, as one guy recently put it, yeah “I’m a talker”.   But if you want the privilege of access to my body, you should at least do the gentlemanly thing and earn it with some kind time spent with me. That’s not to say you’ll get the body at the end of the night – a date is no guarantee – but you’ll have earned brownie points and increased your chances.  I find things like intelligence, wit, laughter and good conversation attractive. Those are the things that will get me into bed – not a late night text demanding my presence. Frankly, if I’m not in your bed by 3am, I’ll be in mine and I won’t be leaving it.

And what is this assumption that I’ll say yes? I don’t ask people for things if I think I have no chance of getting them, so these guys must think I’m the kind of girl who might well say yes to a quick shag. Don’t get me wrong – I actually have no problem with casual sex.  But to me casual sex means there are no strings attached, there’s no emotional commitment, and if one of you finds someone you want to have an actual relationship with, you don’t do it any more. It doesn’t mean there’s a total disregard for what one person wants, thinks and feels.  It should be entered into (yes, that was deliberate) with a mutual feeling of respect.  Sex is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated and enjoyed by consenting adults.  I believe we should go forth and…use a condom so you don’t accidentally multiply or spread disease.

Just respect your partner, casual or otherwise, and have the courtesy to at least approach with decency. However indecent the acts that follow may be.