Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Category

People’s minds tend to run a lot on patterns and associations. When someone says a word, we can generally summon up a bunch of connotations from our experiences and the messages we’ve imbibed from our culture. If I try this with a random word generator and get ‘chat,’ I think, ‘room, little, office, experience of the words ‘wanting a chat’ preceeding a lecture that I will squirm through and not dare speak up in.’ (I think this means that I never caught on to using the word ‘chat’ when talking about ringing someone up to talk…)

This gets really important when the words we use impact on people. Words and the way we use them are really influential when it comes to the way we think, especially as we are growing up and learning how to weave those words into expression. We learn them through communication and connotations, which means that the things we associate with a word will forever have an impact on how we perceive what that word is attached to. I had a slight negative reaction with ‘chat’ because it appears I’ve mostly come across it as a prelude to earnest conversation directed at me that I felt very uncomfortable being a part of. That’s what I associate it with; squirming in my seat and feeling silenced.

So what happens when people-words get bad connotations? Those connotations generalise to the people concerned, and negative, prejudiced attitudes creep under the carpet of people’s minds. Also impacted by negative presentations and cultural messages, these negative attitudes are generally at the root of discrimination. Where inequality is legislated, it comes from the underlying prejudices of the people who created the legislation, the people who passed it, the people who elected them and so on. Where inequality is tolerated, that comes from discriminatory behaviour striking a chord with those same underlying prejudices. Language, presentations, culture – they’re important. There is other stuff to fight for, big stuff, solid stuff – but these underlying currents are where they come from. When the big stuff gets fixed, it’s unlikely to stay fixed until the culture changes, as the underlying attitudes find new ways to mess the marginalised up or push the big stuff back to its original position.

It’s very uncomfortable to see people-words get bad connotations, and yet it happens all the time. ‘You throw like a girl,’ makes ‘girl’ the object of contempt, something to be avoided, something lesser. And negative attitudes towards women and girls and those perceived as such are reinforced. I… may be overstepping myself here, since I’m white, but ‘acting black’ troubles me since I’ve generally seen it used against people who act in a way seen as negative – thus enforcing racism. ‘That’s gay,’ one of my own little hobby-horses, associates gayness with something pathetic, contemptible, useless, bad – thus enforcing heterosexism. Slurs work this way. Longer messages, such as the many that enforce rape culture, work this way.

And the worst thing is, it looks like nothing. It’s hard to correct, because you’re seen as being pedantic and petty-minded. And to be honest, merely, ‘don’t say that word’ is unlikely to work. We need to examine the reasons why we’re saying what we’re saying, and the message that sends out, and consciously work on changing it. It’s definitely important to salvage the stuff floating out of reach, issues that have a concrete impact on our quality of life, but one can’t ignore the little eddies and swirls that show the current beneath the surface, the current that could eventually tear the solid stuff out of our reach.

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Trigger warning; cissexist/binarist erasure, sexist rhetoric, discussion of reproductive coercion

Oh now this is encouraging. Not. The Government caving in to plans to reduce abortion rates by adding another layer of counselling. A lot hinges on the word ‘offer’ – is it being used to mean a service that is there if wanted, a compulsory ‘service’ or one that may as well be due to the level of throat-shoving people receive? However, I’m going to post independently of that – my personal opinion is the latter option, but I don’t know. And anyway, it doesn’t sound like the extra counselling would be from anyone good. I’m not the biggest expert on abortion issues (I’m staunchly pro-choice but don’t follow the discussion as much as I should because there’s often an unfortunate degree of erasure of uterus-having non-women), so I will probably miss a facet or two. EDIT – such as the demonisation of abortion providers implicit in the idea of trying to stop them doing the counselling.

So basically, boil this down to the bones and we get the claim that abortion-seekers (of any gender/s/non-gender/s, although no doubt the introducers of this are thinking purely in terms of ‘women’, sigh) need extra counselling, need to have the process slowed down, because they can’t be trusted to know what they want for their own body. Great. That really shows dedication to people’s welfare, doesn’t it? Ha ha. As if most of these abortion restrictions are even about welfare. They’re about control. They’re about asserting the power of the kyriarchally-privileged over the marginalised, about restricting the marginalised’s agency, about controlling them.

There’s this delightful quote from Dorries on the issue; “The abortion process is so fast – seven to 14 days. Women who do have doubts or niggles are on the other side before they have a chance to think it through. The majority may feel it’s fine but there are a growing number thinking it wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it gets faster and faster more women are falling off the edge. This is a women’s rights issue.”

Translation; Women don’t know what they want and are too emotional and weak to deal with things happening at this pace, they need everything slowed down for their tiny little ladybrains. Abortion is wrong and I’ve pulled some vague stats out of nowhere, and now I’m going to use emotive language and completely ignore the fact that there is a kyriarchal component to who is most likely to be pressured into aborting. And besides this, I’m incredibly cis privileged and will continue to erase the selves of anyone who might need an abortion who isn’t a woman.

We’ve seen so much of this stuff from the USA, and these ‘additional counselling’ things so often end up being barely disguised attempts to discourage abortion. There are people who get pressured into abortion, but that sort of thing is not the way to help. As for the people who choose it – their choices are valid. It’s their body, their choice.

Now, there’s plenty about the stuff in this article (technology to ID online avatars) that worries me, but I’m neither tech-savvy nor feeling well enough to articulate most of it. However, there is one bit of it that I am going to tear a large hole in.

I notice that the main interviewee remarks that ‘Working out if [the avatar’s] controller is male or female has an obvious commercial benefit.’ What obvious commercial benefit? Oh yeah, so that an oversimplified binary view of humanity can be even more starkly entrenched. And how on earth can this stuff tell that anyway?

Tip – you cannot know a person’s gender (or the gender of a person’s online avatar) unless they tell you. There is no ‘male’ behaviour or ‘female’ behaviour, the binary system of sex/gender is far too simplistic and erases large sections of the population, the idea is a minefield when the fact that non-cis people exist is taken into consideration and this whole thing is gender essentialist pile of failure with the supposed ‘goal’ of further entrenching the kyriarchy and capitalism. Gendered ads should not be gendered; enforcing a strict division between ‘men’ and ‘women’ hurts everybody, binary or not. It enforces sexism, can easily contribute to cissexism and is binarist in its very nature.

Sooo, I’m back, very tired, and for some strange reason (if there’s weird typos here ignore them, I just wrote ‘straight’ for ‘strange’…) I’ve decided to write a post. Why? I’m sorry, I just can’t resist calling out one of the parties in coalition in our Government out on their bullshit.

Dear Mr Cameron and spokesman. Jokes are funny. Telling a woman to ‘calm down, dear’ when she points out inaccuracy is not. IT’S PURE SILENCING TECHNIQUES. I am fed up to the back teeth and beyond of the Tories’ and their ‘partners’ blatant contempt for anyone who is not a white straight cis conventionally able rich male who is neither too young nor too old. Fed up. Fed up.

Let’s see, now. David Willetts on feminism in its ‘first round effects.’ Clegg and Cameron claiming to have nothing to disagree on. The Government deciding that the rights of ‘women’ (not sure what their definition was, certainly fucked up anyway) were negotiable. Auctioning off internships for huge prices. Dominic Raab insisting that (cis) men were underprivileged. The rich having a proposal for their taxes to be cut while the rest of us get to keep VAT at 20%. And that’s just in 2011, on my blog, that I remember… Oh yes, and I remember that time Nick Griffin approved of what Cameron said about immigration, and that was this year. Then we see their contempt through their policies, and what looks like their sheer arrogance and lack of capacity to listen to others.

Why aren’t we utterly terrified? These people are in charge of our fucking country. And they hate us! Everyone who isn’t part of their absurdly privileged, pigheaded crowd! How did they get there? Who let them in?

Make no mistake, these are reactionary times for those parts of the world mistakenly styling themselves ‘developed,’ using their own societies as a tape with which to measure the rest of the world and find it wanting. Look at the burqa ban in France! Look at the efforts by many USians to control the bodies of those with uteri! It’s not just Britain, we’re part of a deeply frightening trend in Europe, in Australia, in North America and elsewhere as well.

And now comes the Royal Wedding. Come tomorrow, anyone reading this will be subjected to me ranting about it, about the monarchy, about the kyriarchy and various other concepts. Today, I will say, this is part of the trend. The adoring masses, forelocks a-tugging – propping up the kyriarchy, the reactionary, increasingly radical right-wing politics of the day, propping all this up with their blood and tears.

Fuck tolerance

There. I said it. Fuck it. Fuck tolerance. Fuck acceptance, too.

I don’t want to be tolerated in our broken world, our awful system, our terrible kyriarchy. I don’t want to be accepted into a structure that oppresses people, into a system of inbuilt oppression. Hell, I don’t even want to be welcomed with open arms there.

I want nothing less than the destruction of the kyriarchy. When the kyriarchy is destroyed, I won’t be ‘accepted’ or ‘tolerated’ – I will be human. I will be equal. We will all be equal. There will be no grudging ‘oh I guess you can live then,’ from the oppressors, because there will be no oppression.

Until then, I will fight for the destruction of the kyriarchy in each person’s individual head. That’s the only place it lives – inside our heads, feeding on our lives. The kyriarchy is a parasite. It is introduced to us from the first seconds of our lives by every human interaction we have, it crawls inside us, and it eats away at us and at every other person we know, so that it seems normal.

The kyriarchy’s in my head, right now. I’m grappling with it, but it’s there. It’s taking my potential and that of society within my influence and feeding me lies about myself and about others. It’s whispering to me that I am subhuman because I am not its privileged ideal, and it is whispering to me that other people, wonderful people, worthy people are subhuman because they are not its privileged ideals.

And I’m angry about that. I’m angry that it’s trying to tell me that my fellow human beings are less than. I’m angry that it succeeded for so long. I’m angry that it’s telling my fellow human beings that I am less than. I’m angry that it’s so hard to excise. I’m angry that my culture ushered it into my head, back when I was a tiny child with no defences or resistance or hatred. I’m angry that my culture is always ushering it into people’s heads, from the moment they’re born.

We are truly better than our kyriarchal prejudices. We all have them. We can fight them, but in this culture it’s impossible to ever be totally free of them. We can only work against them as actively as we can and hope that our minds will become poisonous for it.

Tolerance is useless as a way of working against it, mainly because it’s not working against it at all. It’s merely putting a veneer over the poison the kyriarchy is leaking into our minds. It’s better than hostility – but it’s never going to be a tool of anti-oppression, because it is passive. It doesn’t try to change anything about attitudes, only the person’s outward expression of those attitudes. And while those attitudes are there, the kyriarchy still has its claws dug deep into our mind and is still telling us all those lies, and we are still swallowing them.

If someone tells me they are tolerant of a group, warning bells start ringing. Because they’re not saying that they have stopped having negative attitudes to those people – only that they’ve stopped expressing them as hostility. That’s not right. And that’s certainly never going to end any oppressions.

Oh sure, it might seem to – but it won’t. Behind the scenes, the kyriarchy will still be spewing its lies into our heads, and those lies are going to make us treat the ‘tolerated’ ones differently. As the Other. As the Lesser. Even if we don’t notice, those lies are going to have their way.

So fuck tolerance.

We need resistance.

TW – violent metaphor.

The kyriarchy, by definition, is all-pervasive. There is no escape from it. If you have privilege on an axis, any misstep you make is not ‘regrettable’ or ‘a problem’ – it’s oppressive. If you lack privilege on that axis, that misstep is treading on you. Hard. And it hurts.

It’s not conducive to great understanding between oppressor and oppressed. If the oppressed person is yelling ‘OW SHIT YOU HURT ME!’ and the oppressing person is yelling, ‘SHIT MAN IT WAS ONLY [X]!’ no-one’s really listening to each other. In a vacuum, it would just be an argument between two people. They’d shout each other down, maybe neither would back down – maybe they’d agree to differ.

But in a kyriarchy, in that situation, it is all too likely to end up with the oppressed person being squelched. Because that’s the nature of oppression. When an oppressed person is justifiably angry or hurt and the oppressing person feels that the oppressed person has overreacted, who has the weight of society behind them? That’s right, the oppressing person. Whose view is legitimated? The oppressing person’s. That’s one reason why the tone argument is bullshit. You just invalidated me – you caused me pain – you denied my selfhood – you contributed to my oppression – it is not my job to tiptoe around your feelings. And the other thing is, mostly, if we talk quietly and politely, we’re not listened to. I have had conversations online where I have told people gently that something was out of order and had them continue doing it – then I’ve blown up in their faces and made sure they knew exactly what the problem was and that it was a big fucking deal. It’s a weapon. And it’s a weapon that, deployed in the right way, can be damn powerful. But it’s also an automatic response that we should not have to apologise for.

The kyriarchy surrounds us, so much that it’s hard to even see it. It’s everywhere. Once you’ve come to consciousness, you find yourself being slapped in the face with it in every situation – pop culture, activities you enjoy, people you love, subjects you are interested in. There’s no escape from it. And that feels awful, a lot of the time, even when you only have an academic knowledge of some of the oppressions involved, even when you have privilege along some axes (as we all do). It hurts when that stuff hits you.

Yeah, sometimes it can seem like people blow up over the little things. But how little are they, when a thousand of them shred our skin each day, hammering at the barriers, giving us no safe space? From the kyriarchy, there is no escape. And when you’re ripped raw from scores of microaggressions, each one hurts a hell of a lot more than it would falling on intact skin.

How little are they, when they actively contribute to oppression? How little are they, when they actively harm people?

I don’t think they’re little at all. And we have a right to our feelings.

Trigger warning for sexual harassment and apologism.

Just had the joy of listening to my mother rant for half an hour about today’s society and how we’ve all become ‘namby-pamby,’ because of the ‘nanny state.’ Oh, and sexual harassment. I hate these conversations. It started when I mentioned my earlier joy of sitting on a table with a bunch of peers in a ‘discussion’ of airbrushing, listening to the women saying, ‘I’d like to be airbrushed,’ and the men saying, ‘Doesn’t affect me, I’m not stupid.’ And then… my mother got onto her soapbox about the lack of robustness in today’s society, especially with regard to sexual harassment. So because I’m too passive-aggressive/anxious about our relationship/mindful of the cracks in it to say all this to her face, I’m going to deconstruct her arguments online.

‘I gave as good as I got.’ But why should you have got in the first place? Yes, it’s nice that you had a coping mechanism, but not everyone can do that – and why the hell should you have had to? You were in an environment where it was normal, so you learned to cope in a way you thought was normal. That doesn’t make the sexual harassment right.

‘These days, there’s no joking in workplaces and all the cameraderie is gone because people can’t take a joke!’ Erm – sexual harassment is a joke? WAIT NO. A JOKE IS FUNNY. SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS NEVER FUNNY. Sexual harassment promotes cameraderie? Well, this is a patriarchal kyriarchy, Mother, so yes – but that doesn’t make it right. And also, a lot of things have changed now. Consumer capitalism is a few stages further on. We’re all expendable servants of the machine, so that does tend to lower morale. Besides that, no joking? What, so it’s impossible to joke about things that aren’t sexual harassment? WAIT NO. There’s plenty of things that are ACTUALLY FUNNY and that don’t involve SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

‘There will always be creeps.’ There will always be creeps in a patriarchal kyriarchy. We don’t know about the post-kyriarchy because GUESS WHAT, people like you are ACTIVELY HINDERING the process of demolishing it.

‘There’s nothing wrong with a bit of joshing between consenting adults.’ Well, yeah. I agree with you. Personal autonomy, consent… yeah, if people want to say stuff like that to each other and make sure consent is enthusiastic and informed, fine. But do people go around saying, ‘Are you okay with me making comments and passes of a sexual nature that will be crude and possibly cruel?’ NO. They don’t. So it’s NOT between consenting adults because consent means KNOWING WHAT’S GOING ON AND SAYING ‘YES!’ TO IT. And consent would mean that it wouldn’t be harassment, either, because harassment is definitely not consensual. Someone being harassed may ‘josh’ back because that’s literally the only solution that doesn’t involve losing the job. Seriously, if you think that’s consent, that’s fucking terrifying.

Sometimes I really can’t stand my mother. I like her as long as we stay away from politics and social justice as topics of conversation, but if we start talking about that I get incoherent rage attack and just sit there digging my fingernails into my hands and wanting to leave. She’s sizeist, cissexist, binarist, classist, sexist and ableist at the least. This is why I can’t fucking talk to her about who I am. I’m just so glad I managed to escape those attitudes.