I read this interesting article on Buzzfeed  “The 1970s Feminist Who Warned Against Leaning In” promoting a reissue of Sheila Rowbotham’s book ‘Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World’.

Whilst I found it interesting with some excellent points made I couldn’t help but feel the lack of any discussion about disability was a glaring omission. The issue of work, what is work and who is valued for working are important feminist issues, they are also important disability issues. Just as feminism has  highlighted the repression of women as their unpaid labour is undervalued and exploited under capitalism we need to highlight how disabled people are written off as ‘scroungers’ as we are often unable to work and become ‘economically productive’ (and therefore ‘productive members of society’) in an abled society that makes no or little adaptations to our needs. Feminism has highlighted the importance of women doing the vast majority of care work, such as looking after children and elderly and disabled relatives. But what about those of us who are the ‘looked after’? After all so many of us are women too.

For feminism to be truly intersectional we must consider disability issues, disability is a feminist issue. Many women are disabled. Many chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities affect greater numbers of women and are not taken seriously because of this. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to suffer domestic abuse and violence, disabled people are routinely ‘desexualised’ and this has effects on issues such as pregnancy and parenthood. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on, the way disabled people are expected to be passive, grateful and mostly silent in a role that echoes the restrictive ‘feminine’ role pushed onto women for example.

But back to work, in a climate where benefit ‘reforms’  and spending cuts are disproportionally harming both women and disabled people, disabled women are at high risk. When our very humanity and right to access basic support is debated every day, when we are cast as scroungers for accessing the support we are entitled to, when we are assumed to be faking it and have to jump through an ever increasing number of hoops to prove we aren’t the issue of work and disability is really important. When all this causes a massive rise in disability hate crime, It’s a matter of life and death, yet I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw a general or feminist discussion on capitalism and work which included disability as anything more than a footnote, if that.

I have written previously on how ‘leaning in’ in impossible for many women, including disabled women, and I still remain pretty much constantly disappointed by the lack of inclusion of disabled voices within feminism, even supposedly ‘intersectional’ feminism. Feminism is about giving women a voice, yet why are we leaving disabled women voiceless? We are rightly critical of the idea that women be ‘looked after’ by their husbands and not afforded any independence but where are the loud, critical voices when disabled women are becoming ever more reliant on being ‘looked after’ when our support allowing us independence is being cut? Where are the voices of those who cannot work in this society when we are discussing work, labour and class analysis? If the ability to get out the house and work has been so important to feminism and women’s ‘freedom’ then what about those of us who can’t ? I am a young woman who is intelligent, well educated and capable yet I am far from independent, I rely so much on my family because with chronic illness I am unable to work enough to support myself.

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Some vague, messy thoughts in response to some shit being thrown around the twitter and blogosphere.

In the original blog post by Glosswatch (which has been edited to remove some remarks but no apology or note that it’s been edited has been posted) White women who identify as disabled, especially those with mental illness, were accused of using their disabilities and MH problems to ‘score points’ in some sort of oppression bingo,  of leverage in a battle to become ‘the best intersectional white feminist’. This is reminiscent of the ‘queerio’ bullshit spouted by TERFs on twitter . The ‘smugsexual’ stuff.  How Women of Colour have been accused of ‘not looking like a WoC’ and ‘making it up to further your agenda’.  All these examples use women’s identities against them in an attempt to discredit their arguments. They are prejudiced bullshit. They attempt to tell women that their lived experience isn’t valid or that it’s only worth is to be used as some sort of cheat code in an argument or game of oppression olympics.

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This has been an awakening, realising I am nothing, that I have to beg , to plead my case for existence, it hurts, it fucking hurts. To see your right to access society on an equal basis, or even to access it at all, debated as a money saving issue by people who remain unaffected by any of the changes they wreak on others lives. This a barely coherent rant taking on disability, feminism, intersectionality and the festering pile of bullshit that is neo-liberal capitalist society.

My thoughts are still somewhat muddled, I am not well versed in political writings, I cannot quote any great thinkers on these matters but I have seen  how those of us who are ‘economically inactive’, or who cost more than we earn are portrayed, how we are demonised.

To say I have ‘no value’ or even a ‘negative value’ may seem harsh, but it is true. It’s a realisation thats been rather painful, after all we’re all fed this bullshit that we’re   all kind and caring and we aren’t like those barbaric other places we bomb. We’re fed this individualist bullshit from our youth, this ‘work hard and you’ll prosper’ nonsense. That if you are a good person you will be treated well, that only those who do wrong or ‘have something to hide’ will be punished.

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This excellent article   by Helen Lewis about the continued harassment and vile hate speech directed towards the fabulous Anita Sarkeesian of the brilliant Feminist Frequency has angered me so much. I have been following this saga for a while but this article has illustrated some hideously vile comments, images and an overriding ideology of pure misogynist  hatred that dwarfs everything I read previously I just had to write about it.

TRIGGER WARNING for the whole post and links.

I’m a woman and I play video games. I love playing video games. I have played games since half these misogynist wankoids were in nappies. As much as I love video games and geeky things in general I know the culture that surrounds them is SEXIST AS SHIT.I am sick of people telling me I should ignore things that belittle my very identity and ‘stop being so sensitive’ just so I can feel a part of a culture surrounding a form of entertainment I enjoy and indulge in to RELAX and HAVE FUN. They are called ‘GAMES’ FFS not ‘ENDURANCE TESTS’, ‘ FESTIVALS OF HATRED’ or ‘WITCH HUNTS’. It says a lot about our society that women are expected to put up with, and indeed to anticipate and accept as an integral part of the whole thing,  hate speech just to play a game. This is not an isolated incident,  Bioware (a games company) writer Jennifer Helper was subject to a campaign of hatred and feminist blogger Laurie Penny has been subject to similar too, I could go on. Getting insulted online if you’re a woman is normal. I haven’t been but I imagine it’s because I largely hang out in ‘safe spaces’ onlineand I am not popular enough to attract any attention, it is also why I largely do not comment on many sites and engage in conversation, I and many other women effectively silence themselves because we know indulging in mainstream internet debate and conversation will often result in being insulted just for being a woman. Note this is not being respectfully disagreed with or having your points argued with, this is being subject to insults PURELY BECAUSE OF YOUR GENDER. There is a huge difference, I expect people to disagree with me, I accept that but I do not and should not have to, accept this disagreement to be combined with sexist insults and harassment that would NOT be used against a male using the same arguments. To quote Anita Sarkeesian;

 

“The image based harassment I’m discussing here is not part of any legitimate discourse but instead falls squarely into the category of misogynist abuse. It’s a critical distinction and is evidenced by the fact that all of the images are attacking my gender or presumed sexuality and rely heavily on pre-existing sexist stereotypes.”

 

 

Not Feeding the trolls and tacit acceptance

As much as the outright hatred disgusts me so too does the tacit acceptance of it by the ‘don’t feed the trolls just ignore it’ brigade. What this effectively amounts to is the silencing of women’s voices. It is telling us to shut up and put up with horrific abuse from people who would wish extreme violence upon us just because of gender. It is telling us to accept hate. Yes it’s the internet, but the internet is populated by real people behind the keyboards and those real people accept these views even if they ‘exaggerate’ it for online use an attention, there is still an acceptance of misogyny  and racism and just about every form of hatred you can imagine. Anything that threatens the dominance of the straight white male. Asking us to ‘ignore them’ in relation to the trolls is to ignore the fact that misogyny like this is rife, that shit like this is experienced by women on a regular basis, on-line and off. To ignore is is to silence the voices of millions of women who have been saying for years ‘this shit happens to us and it needs to stop’. It is to ignore the fact that rape ‘jokes’ online and sexual violence in the real world are related and are part of the same ideology. It is to ignore the fact that the people who post this violent shit online are real people who are out there in the real world, along with the attitudes that they display online even if they are ‘watered down’. The ‘joke’ excuse is void too; if anyone genuinely respected women they would not use such offensive stuff as bait for ‘humour’, they would know that in a culture where woman are regularly subject to sexual abuse, violence and harassment this shit is NOT SOMETHING YOU JOKE ABOUT, THIS SHIT IS REAL. THIS SHIT LEADS TO WOMEN BEING KILLED. The ‘humour’ excuse does not hold water when all it does is prop up disgusting attitudes towards women, when it does nothing to challenge them when all it does is enforce a status quo of hatred.

The same attitude that wishes rape on a woman online for ‘lulz’ is the same attitude that says a woman was ‘asking for it’ if she was dressed in a certain way, if she knew the guy, if she kissed the guy, uf she was drinking and a million and one other victim blaming tactics designed to shit the blame away from the rapist and on to the woman. It is the same attitude that allows rapists to walk free, that allows police officers to abuse women who came to them for safety and get away with it for so long.

Jay Smooth has a great video on why you should ‘feed the trolls’ (as well as another video on sexist gamer dudes, specifically about the Sarkeesian incident, imploring guys to speak out about this stuff). As he points out this type of ‘trolling’ happens a lot more often to people in marginalised groups, such as LGBT, women, people of colour etc and this is EXACTLY why it is an issue and we should not shut up. It’s aim is to uphold straight white male dominance of the internet, which is becoming an essential part of life and communication. It’s aim is to SHUT US UP, and it’s precisely because of that that we will NOT SHUT UP. Throughout history marginalised groups have been silenced by the patriarchal, kyriarchal society and we have been told to ‘just get on with it’ or that we ‘complain too much’ and ‘take offence too easily’ (because taking offence when you’re whole identity and existence is belitted and despised is you know being ‘too sensitive’). This is no different.  Tiger Beatdown also has an excellent post on the matter from back in 2011, proving this is not a ‘new’ thing which uses the author’s own horrific experiences to  explain exactly why this stuff is serious and needs to be challenged. To put is succinctly s.e smith of Tiger Beatdown says “This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it”

It strikes me that perhaps the vast majority of the ‘don’t feed the trolls’ brigade are people coming from a place of privilege who have never had torrents of abuse directed towards them for being who they are. People whose identity is not belittled and maligned every day of their lives by trolls and in subtler forms by a mainstream media that is more subtle about it’s misogyny, racism, homophobia, disablism, transphobia etc. To say ‘don’t feed to trolls’ is to deny that many of us are expert witnesses in this because it is our lives, we can’t just switch off the computer and ignore stuff ‘online’ because ‘online’ does not exist in a vacuum and the kind of extreme attitudes expressed by trolls are expressed in much more subtle ways all over the ‘real world’.

It is not ‘our’ fault for being offended by offensive shit it is the attitudes of the people who seek toe demean us that is offensive. How can I not be offended by a world that tacitly accepts that it’s OK to hate me because I am a woman? That my voice and opinions are worth less because of the random allocation of chromosomes at my conception?

I will not shut up and I will continue to be angry because there is a lot of shit to be angry about. In short:

WOMEN WILL NOT SILENCED BY SOME SEXIST ARSEHOLES ONLINE AND I WILL KEEP PLAYING GAMES

I am playing Deus Ex: Human revolution atm which is brilliant and just so happens to be written by a woman, and perhaps not so coincidentally, is the only game I have seen with a human, respectable and realistic portrayal of sex workers.

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It’s a disease that spreads throughout our language and culture, if you throw badly you throw ‘like a girl’, we tell men to pull themselves together to ‘be a man’ and to ‘stop being pathetic, stop acting like such a girl’. ‘Girly’ , ‘Womanly’;  these are used to imply things and people that are weak, insubstantial, fluffy, throw away and inconsequential.  It’s been said that the worst thing a man can be called is a woman, and the worst thing a woman can be called is a woman. I would argue that the worst thing a woman can be called is ‘un-feminine’. To decry a woman as ‘not feminine’ , an insult often applied to feminist or any women who dares speak up for herself or challenge the narrow confines of what a woman should be. This goes beyond a negative perception of femaleness to imply weakness and flaw, it seeks to deny us an identity, it not only seeks to belittle women but denies us any association with our womanhood. It goes so deep into misogyny and touches the very core of it; it is something that seeks to divorce us from what we are, the deny us to ability to be ourselves. Female. Feminine. Women. By calling us ‘un-feminine’ someone not only implies we are ‘wrong’ for breaking the mould of ‘acceptable’ womanhood but seeks to deny us any association with our gender and identity as women.
Women sometimes don’t want to identify as feminist because ‘I like to be feminine’. Female sports stars get ridiculed for their ‘un-feminine’ appearance. Their broad shoulders strong thighs; things which makes them so amazing at what they do, features earned as the result of head work and dedication, they get poured over and insulted. We have this paradoxical pressure upon us to be both feminine whilst the very idea of ‘feminine’ seeks to deny us the reality of being female.
This myth of the ‘feminine ideal’ that is wheeled out every so often in these sorts of arguments is all pervading and poisonous. It seems to be less about celebrating what is wonderful about femininity and womanhood and more about presenting some airbrushed vacuous ideal of ‘femininity’ that has nothing to do with reality. It’s an ideal imposed upon us from outside, it’s impractical and stifling. It implies a weakness and submissiveness, things which are implied as an ideal that should be looked up to and replicated.
It presents women as ‘Female Eunuchs'; cutting us off from our essence, from what we are and making us void shells. The idea of the ‘female eunuch’, sterilised and sanitised to the point of being ‘Stepford’ women is an image that is so strong and so resonant. It illustrates the idea that this ideal is depriving us of something vital and real; It’s trying to destroy us by divorcing us from our very essence, cutting off what makes us women.
This is what ‘feminine’ has come to mean; a paradoxical image of femininity that is nothing but smoke, mirrors and a hollow core.  The words we associate with ‘feminine’: weak, passive, dependent, fragile, superficial. What is implied by this is submissiveness, a ‘seen and not heard’ a sit down look pretty don’t bother your brain. It’s the passivity that’s implied that irks me; physical and mental. ‘Feminine’ women and girls don’t get sweaty playing sports, don’t dirty themselves playing in the mud, don’t tax their ‘delicate’ brains with ‘difficult’ books. They stay inside, they play home or make home. It’s a passivity that has constrained and sent so many women to madness and misery. A Barbie doll with plastic tits with no nipples and plastic pants with no cunt. That’s what we ‘should’ be if we’re ‘feminine’. A mannequin. A vacuous void, but one that looks pretty on someone’s arm like a status handbag made of living breathing flesh. It is sold to us as ‘feminine hygiene’ products which are designed more to mkae us ashamed of our bodies than for hygiene, most in fact the are downright unhygienic with their chemical scents triggering irritation and infection.

Maybe we should reclaim the word? ‘Feminine’ should not be about passivity and superficial vacuous ‘beauty’ feminine should be redolent of strength; the blood sweat and tears we emit our whole lives, the scars we gain from puberty, pregnancy and life in general. A sharp mind and a quick intellect. The strength we have in endurance, to endure hardships; the women throughout history who have had to endure endure endure, the women who still do, the women who are belittled for the colour of their skin, their social status and for the fact they are women. It is no coincidence that women of colour, women of lower social status, women who do not appear to fit the stereotypical appearance of ‘female’  and those who do not fit in the painfully narrow ‘norms’ of rich able bodied heterosexual whiteness are vilified and seen as ‘un-feminine’  a lot more.They keep going, they endure, the create wonderful things, they are so goddamn strong, a strength that is used against them when it should be celebrated. They are the ‘true feminine’. Strong. Enduring. Intelligent. Challenging. Headstrong. Bold. Courageous. Heroic. These words describe the women I know, these words describe what is really feminine, not some scented waxed and airbrushed simulacra woman.
Insulting women who do not fit this mould by decrying us a ‘not feminine’ is denying us our womanhood, our gender, our whole identity as women, as females as ‘feminine’. It is casting us out as aliens, as unnatural and as ‘wrong’. It seeks to undermine us and deny us the very thing we are.
I wish to reclaim the word and celebrate femininity for what it really is, not celebrate a white washed, bleached out restrained and damaging fantasy. I’m feminine and proud.

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