Every year on March 8, feminism and feminist concerns are suddenly in the media in a happy and encouraging kind of way. To the extent that focus on world problems can be happy and encouraging. It almost gives you hope for mankind. And then there is the rest of the year. My plan is as follows. Every week (I hope) I'm going to update this post with some of what I come across (with an emphasis on the West), pretending that the days from March 9 to 7 are also days when feminist concerns are important. I'm interested to see how it will look on March 8 2014.
If you do not click on links, you will get little out of this. Also, feel free to add to it through the comments section.
March 8: It is fitting, I suppose that the final instalment of this March 9-7 post is published on March 8 (thought that strictly speaking falls outside its scope). And it is no surprise that it repeats the patterns of the earlier ones. I’m headed to town now in order to join in the demonstration against the new rightwing government’s chipping away at the right to abortion. It looks like I won’t be the only one (though I would like to have a word with the person who decided to place IWD right in the middle of the flu season). But first, let's have a look at the week's nuggets.
The major entertainment event of the week was of course the Oscars, where they managed to present a montage of heroes (whose “trials speak to our common struggle”) which was notably lacking in women. Someone claimed it has more robots than women, and where the hell was Hermione? I am well aware that I am not surprising anyone when noting that the Oscars are woefully behind the time when it comes to an awareness that the world is not white and male, but it is worth noting that 94% of them are white and 76% are male, and it does not look like that will change any time soon.
The Academy are not the only people struggling with equal representation, however. The campaign to get more women on conference panels and television debates (or at least try to not ignore us completely) finally hit Norway. I think the article makes an important point which deserves repetition, namely that failing to institute positive discrimination in favour of women in practice means continuing positive discrimination in favour of men. Norway has generally been quite good at working to get a higher percentage of women represented, but because of this our self-congratulations may have overshadowed the work that remains to be done.
There was also this rather spectacular screw-up by the BBC, who in a series on architects called The Brits Who Built The Modern World not only managed to completely ignore women, they used a photo from the tie-in exhibition in which the one woman (who is a RIBA gold medal winner) has been photoshopped out. Cue jokes on literally removing women from architectural history. No points for the BBC.
Iiiiin other news, Page 3 is still there, still outdated, still pointless, still offensive and still completely unrelated to news. But their latest moment of blah suggests that the No More Page 3 campaign may have rattled them a little, because in what appears to be a fairly desperate move, they have tied soft porn to breast cancer. This backfired. It inspired disgust and anger, and it inspired a bit of comedy (Twitter also had a field day with ideas for how the Sun would campaign against prostate and testicular cancer). In an interesting twist, The Sun then produced this, which really only served to highlight the discrepancy.
While we are on the subject of unrealistic body images, however, there was a bit of good news this week: Looks like the Lammily doll will be produced. This is the doll that is actually modelled on the body of an average American 19-year-old girl. Here are some cool pictures. Bye, bye, Barbie? (I can dream.)
Meanwhile, someone made female armour bingo, which is one way of keeping from tearing your hair out.
The astonishing combination of the perception that women's sexuality is both public property and shameful continues, moreover. There was this article in Salon on the effects of doxxing, and the same logic is central to street harassment (although it is worth noting that these exercises in abuse are tied up with other power structures based around for example race and sexual orientation).
Ask me again about how equal we are and how women in the West have arrived and how feminism is no longer necessary.
March 1: This week the largest study of violence in Norway was released, and it showed that almost 1 in 10 Norwegian women have been raped, that only 11% of these women reported it to the police and 86% of them knew their rapist (so much for the "immigrants hiding in bushes" theory). To make matters worse, the study failed to include rapes where women were unconscious or otherwise unable to give consent, having focused on rapes in which force or threats were a component. The number is therefore probably rather higher.
Let me stick with the 1 in 10 figure for a moment. Think about what that means; it is not just an abstract percentage. It means that if you know ten women, chances are you know a rape survivor. Keep it in mind before using the word casually to denote something other than actual rape (no, that English literature exam did not "rape" you; nor did you rape it); think about it before making off-hand comments about women ("I would so rape you" is not a compliment); think about it before making jokes about rape (how many people are in the audience of a stand-up comedy show?); think about it before making comments about survivors (should she have worn that short skirt, drunk that pint, walked home alone, been alone with a man, been promiscuous, flirted; is she too old, too ugly, too something for her claims to be believed). Chances are you are talking about the violent trauma of someone who can hear you, maybe even someone you love.
This is also one of the reasons why the use of rape as an easy plot and character device in popular culture is so problematic.
The Guardian reports that 10,000 women are at risk of death of serious injury from domestic violence in the UK. And the Republican party is blocking a vote on measures to combat military sexual assault in the US (maybe not so surprising considering some of the people who are elected representatives).
In not unrelated news (the common denominator (for a moment there I wrote demoninator, which is not too far off the truth) being the urge to control women's bodies), Spain just banned abortion. *sigh* You know that feeling when you have struggled your way up an icy, slippery hill, and then suddenly you feel yourself starting to slide backwards? That.
This year's VIDA count is out, showing a marked improvement in some literary journals. Notably, the Paris Review has reached parity! And I will probably be switching my subscription from London Review of Books, who I have now given up on (much as that breaks my heart).
Here is a piece on the related problem of how bookshops treat female science fiction and fantasy writers. I'm finding it a little tricky to take any sort of high ground here, as only about 20% of what I read is written by women and to my shame the historical science fiction course I constructed only has one female writer out of ten. I aim to do better in the future.
Meanwhile, the 2016 elections in the US are fast approaching, and Hilary Clinton is the obvious Democratic candidate, making some people rather worried. The star example, unsurprisingly, is Bill O'Reilly, who is absolutely convinced there must be a downside to having a female president. The baffled faces of the two women he is talking to are priceless. And of course there is the age question. Because everyone knows women don't get older than 35, so a female president at 69 is just not possible. Thankfully, there is Colbert to deal with this sort of thing. And to help some more, here is a handy list of how not to write about women in the public eye.
In fact, can we do an overhaul of how to write about women full stop? I have mentioned the No More Page 3 campaign (incidentally, read this), and I assume you have all signed it. Even more disturbing is Mail Online's treatment of women. And all the creepier, its treatment of young girls. And here is a petition to make them stop it. It is worth noting that while the petition asks them to stop sexualising children, there are very few young boys in the mix.
Oh, and Google are dusting off the "don't be evil" thing, vowing to have a more balanced number of men and women in their doodles next year.
February 22: Everyday sexism storified rape culture this week. And here's another case study from "God's Harvard" (though it is worth noting that this culture is not limited to the religious extremes.
Domestic violence has also been in the news this week, perhaps as an aftermath of the One Billion Rising campaign. The Guardian's women's blog had this piece, explaining why the falling number of domestic violence prosecutions is not a good thing. And then the police showed themselves in a less than flattering light.
Moreover, Helen Grant, who is the British minister for sports, equality and tourism (of all strange combinations), managed to thoroughly lodge her foot in her mouth this week, as she reacted to the gender gap in sports by taking the Lego Friends approach to problem solution. Never a good idea. Endorsing and reinforcing the very constrictive gender roles that help create the problem in the first place is not the way to go (though it may be the Tory way). There can be no doubt that ballet, cheerleading and gymnastics are athletically demanding, but statements like
"There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating."
Aaaaand speaking of sports and sexual harassment, this week saw a thoroughly disturbing development at (where else?) Reddit, as people banded together to stalk an Olympic volunteer. On that note, have a piece on the sexual harassment of flight attendants (as if being in a plane was not scary enough), and another on the sexual harassment of university students. Hermit is beginning to look like a good career option.
Which brings me to academia. A chemistry conference managed to include no women speakers (out of two dozen), and those who pointed out that this might be a problem were then accused of "trendy whining" (which is what women do, with their unmasculine, high pitched voices). Here is a good discussion of what is going on. And there is the good news that Cambridge at least is sitting up and taking notice.
This week there was also this interesting report from a trans woman working in construction who now earns less than she did as a man. One of the problems with the fight for equal pay is that it can quickly be derailed with claims about a difference in competence. Usually, the only way to counter that is through statistics. Of course, it is hard to tell to what extent this is due to sexism and how much is due to transphobia. While we are on the subject, here is a good piece on intersectionality.
Oooh, and Facebook apparently decided to open the gender identification. I had not expected that, and while the question of why you need to choose from preset choices to begin with is a legitimate one, I was pleasantly surprised by the news.
The pop culture section of the week includes this piece on the misguided arguments against more female characters in games, and Olivia Wilde's anecdote from a reading of a gender-swapped American Pie.
To round this off, may I wholeheartedly recommend Mary Beard's LRB lecture on The Public Voice of Women? I wish I could have seen the actual lecture, but all my love to LRB for putting the text online.
February 15: The Olympics have begun. I am of course staying as far away from it as is possible in a world in which every single newspaper is plastered with it. The Sun made a valiant effort to cut back on the Olympics coverage, though; strangely, it was only on the coverage of the medal won by Jenny Jones -- a woman doing well at sports clearly does not deserve the same amount of coverage as a woman taking her top off.
Speaking of the conspicuous absence of women, here is a piece on the historical inaccuracy of the game LA Noire and how we are trained not to expect to see women. Oh, and here is a overview of some games featuring the damsel in distress trope.
There was also this interesting article on the girl in the marvellous LEGO ad from 1981 (you know, before they decided that they would prefer to make the world just a little bit worse). She is confronted with the latest instalment of the LEGO Friends debacle.
Rape culture also became a topic this week. I am not sure what sparked it (possibly this French video, which swaps genders to highlight the problem or possibly because of the renewed accusations against Woody Allen and the reactions to them), but there have been quite an influx of discussions this week. First there was this Buzzfeed introduction to the topic, then this piece in the Guardian, followed by this illustration of the problem in the Huffington Post. Here is another depressing account, this time by a 17-yearold. And here is a story from Norway. Give me a moment, while I go get some chocolate (helps against the effect of dementors, so I'm hopeful it will help against this).
Here is a story about a woman who fought back, to cheer you up.
Also, can we please agree that this is a bad, bad idea? Not only is it problematic to offer money for information on the whereabouts of a woman who you have no connection to, putting her picture up without her consent is borderline, and there is something disturbing about this kind of obsession over someone you have only seen once.
And then there was the news that abortion make women child sex abusers and give them breast cancer. Well, I say "news". I mean complete fiction peddled by abortion counsellors in Britain.
This week's good news section features the BBC's decision to finally, finally do something about the lack of female comedians on its panel shows. QI is the only one which seems to have made an effort on that score in the last few years. And Britain has a lot of funny female comedians. As for anyone who suffers under the delusion that women aren't funny, let me point you in the direction of Sandi Toksvig. Here is a good piece by Helen Lewis on the subject.
February 8: Superbowl made a lot of people very excited, but the high point as far as I could tell was the new Goldieblox ad. So let's stick with children's toys for a bit: There was this lovely letter to LEGO by a 7-yearold girl, which made the rounds of the internet this week. If you want, you can have a look at LEGO's product line yourself.
LEGO are not the only offenders, of course. And interestingly, this seems to have been picked up by British politicians this week (bridging the political divide!). I recommend the article, which features a glorious comment by the Labour front bencher Chi Onwurah (who is also an engineer). Here is another piece on the absurdity of pink and blue labelling, which includes a reference to yet another James Delingpole moment of mindboggling gormlessness.
In other news, Britain reached a new high in cosmetic surgery in 2013, with over 50 000 operations, the most popular being breast enlargement, closely followed by anti-ageing treatments. Women had 45,365 operations, men had 4,757. That is a difference of one order of magnitude. I wonder what may have caused the discrepancy.
Oh, wait. Look. Ageing actresses make less money than ageing actors. And by "ageing", I mean past the age of 34. (And it is not as if they had a head start to begin with.)
And look! It looks like The Sun will not hold Page 3 Idol this year!. Which is good news, except apparently it is something they felt it would be ok to do in the first place! And that just about sums it up. For more, see the rest of this post about why women might be taught that their value lies in how they look rather than what they achieve.
In other news: What the hell is wrong with San Diego?
Good news? They are making a gender-bent comic book version of Star Trek The Original Series. That should be interesting.
And Toril Moi us giving a talk about Simone De Beauvoir on the 20th of March. Toril Moi! On de Beauvoir! I might actually have flown to London for it if I weren't giving a lecture on Ursula Le Guin that day. But if you are in or around London...
February 1: Sexual harassment was in the news a lot this week. For example on Newsnight, where Ann Leslie presented her credentials as a Daily Mail journalist by staunchly denying that sexual harassment was a problem because it used to be worse and what about the boys. I was disappointed and annoyed. Laura Bates, who spent most of the Newsnight interview being talked over by Leslie, wrote this Guardian piece on the topic, however. It is also worth noting that sexual harassment is not always as blatant and straight forward as this example from the games industry (as I have mentioned earlier in this post).
Now for some good news (in the middle of the week's recap? I like to live on the edge.): Obama, in the State of the Union address, declared that women deserve equal pay for equal work, should not lose their jobs if pregnant and that both men and women should be able to take time off work if their children fall ill. Fox news had trouble understanding it. And it remains, of course, to see whether they were just pretty words.
Also in America, there has been a series of attacks on Wendy Davies (remember the filibuster lady?), who is running for governor of Texas, declaring her a bad mother (look! she works!), a liar (claiming to have been divorced at 19, when she was only separated) and so on.
The treatment of Davies is also the starting point for this somewhat rambling but interesting piece on how women, and especially powerful women, are generally portrayed as friendless. Nothing altogether new, but it covers a lot of ground.
And because my brain is fuzzy from all the coughing I've done this week, I feel justified at leaving it at that and letting the world fend for itself for a while. In the meantime, have this Cate Blanchett moment of cool.
January 25: This week we got a new word: "girlfriendzoning". It was coined at Reddit in response to the trite old complaint that women "friendzone" "nice guys". The Internet rejoices, though not over the fact that we need it.
While we are on the subject of people who have a hard time taking women seriously outside of their sexual desirability: This is what happened when Beth Tweddle participated in a Twitter Q&A. It is a well known fact that women's sports receive much less attention than men's sports, and it is sad that an attempt to highlight it would end like this. Sad, not terribly surprising.
The British LibDems had a bad week of it, trying and failing to confront sexual harassment within the party. First, there was Lord Rennard and then Mike Hancock. According to the Telegraph, it may all be down to Nick Clegg's "angry wife". Suzanne Moore had more sensible take on it. And here is a piece by Laurie Penny on the same.
In other news, Norway let me down again: First, there was this piece on the police's and media's patronising and infantilising treatment of women hikers in trouble.
And then there was, a company which produced blue baby clothes with "adm. dir." (=CEO) written on the chest and pink ones with "hjerteknuser" (=heartbreaker). People complained, and their response was complete bafflement that anyone could be offended. After all: girls did not have to wear pink and boys did not have to wear blue. I just... I can't. And then I read the comments (and I know I should enter the debate but I just don't have the energy). We are of course once again dealing with the "ironic sexism" issue, founded on the idea that we are living in a post-sexist society. See below for a short discussion of this.
Oh, and can we please take a moment to properly look at this ad. I think it deserves its own paragraph.
As does this reply to James Dellingpole's vomit-inducing Mail piece. I'm not linking to him, as that sort of tripe quite frankly does not deserve to get any more attention.
America, apparently intent on making the rest of us look good, gave us a rather offensive and hilariously stupid speech by Mike Huckabee as well as this anti-abortion man admitting that women having reasons for having abortions had not crossed his mind.
Good news? Two of the harassers of Caroline Criado-Perez were sentenced this week. You can read the sentencing remarks here. Note how one of the harassers was a woman -- it illustrates how patriarchal oppression is not as simple as men oppressing women.
Moreover, today is Virginia Woolf's birthday, which I suppose is as good an occasion as any to mention the new #readwomen2014 campaign, which sets out to change our reading patterns. I know I need it: out of the 35 books I finished last year, only 8 were written by women. In fact, looking over previous years, I consistently read around 20% women and 80% men. I'm a little disgusted with myself.
January 18: Sweden disappointed me thoroughly this week, as a judge released a rape suspect in a case where the woman had been screaming no, because he did not believe that it had crossed the suspect's mind that she meant it. Here is the judge's defence of his position, which I find, frankly, baffling (and I am not the only one). So if you feel entitled enough or convinced enough about your seductive prowess, rape is not a crime of which you are capable? I hope I have misunderstood something.
In related news, a GOP congressional candidate does not think spousal rape should be a crime. Because of being in the same bed and nighties and all that. And it turns out half the US still requires 'use of force' for rape.
And the Counting Dead Women project announced that 140 women were killed as a result of suspected male violence in the UK in 2013. It would be interesting to see similar statistics for other countries.
Meanwhile, 4Chan declared war on feminism. Thankfully, their grasp of what it is is tenuous at best, and so they should be singularly ineffective. They also managed to introduce the term "bikini bridge" which we could have quite happily managed without. Read this article by the way: It is a good take on the conflicting pressures to conform to the insane body ideals and simultaneously to not care about them, so that we can be shamed either way -- and while we are on the subject of shaming...).
In a similar line, iTunes and Google both required an uproar on Twitter to tell them that a game app for 9-yearolds with the description
This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. In our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful. We'll need to make small cuts on problem areas and suck out the extra fat.was a very bad idea. Here is some context to go with that.
Hollywood was back in the news, with the announcement that there has been no progress in the last 16 years (although the thing that shocked me the most was that it has been 16 years since 1998). There was also this interesting titbit about how we talk about female characters.
In other news, another man tried being a woman online and had a nasty shock. Harassment comes in many shapes and sizes, though. A recent lawsuit in America has put the harassment of women seeking abortions back on the agenda, reminding us that a legal right is not the be-all end-all when people want to keep you from exercising that right. And this week also showed me this creative response to street harassment.
Oh, and if you want to know which lawyers to stay the hell away from, Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP are it.
January 11: Maybe they have taken Poe’s advice that "the death … of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world" a little too close to heart, I don’t know. At any rate, there does appear to be a disturbing trend towards fetishising dead women in advertisement.
And while we are on the subject of violence against women and its aftereffects (this lovely Saturday morning), the alleged rapist of then 14-yearold Daisy Coleman has pled guilty to lesser charges and will not be charged with rape because the only evidence was her testimony and a rape kit, not video (anymore). Right. Meanwhile, the girl apparently tried to kill herself this week. Ask me again why women don’t report rape.
Then there was The Sun, who simply cannot understand the difference between "have sex with" and "be raped". I cannot say I am altogether surprised by their lack of cognitive abilities, but one would think that actually grasping it would not be necessary in order to follow the goddamned guidelines, which clearly state "Name violence against women as violence against women (e.g. domestic violence is not a "volatile relationship"). Do not use the word sex when you mean rape." Instead, The Sun goes the way of snotty in their reply to criticism by framing themselves as the victim. Here is No More Page 3’s letter to The Sun.
Not to mention the statement made by one of the Steubenville rapists as he was released (yes, already), which continued the disturbing (although not altogether surprising) narrative of the plight of the rapists (while completely ignoring his victim).
And then (and then) there was the rather horrible revelation of the search terms that bring people to the Women Under Siege Project. A disturbing mix of rape fantasies and searches for videos, questions of how to go about it, and what may be women who have experienced rape looking for support. Trigger warnings galore.
Now, this is the context in which women try to be present and active on the internet. And why dismissing the targeted harassment of women online as something one should take in stride, or as a "Jane Austen Twitter row" as The Guardian surprisingly did in a headline this week is not helpful. Here is a good piece on how the harassment of women online has serious ramifications, affecting both their participation in work, social debates and democracy more generally. And here is a man’s perspective.
While we are on the subject of making women invisible online, by the way: Have you taken this Gender on Twitter test? I seem to retweet 61% men, and I actually thought I retweeted more women. This may have something to do with the fact that we are so used to seeing an underrepresentation of women that we perceive it as normal. Geena Davies claimed that Hollywood is teaching us that 17% women in a crowd scene is perceived as a 50/50 split, while 33% is seen as an overrepresentation of women (although I really want to see that study and I have been unable to find it).
On that note, here is a fun info graphic that breaks down which films make the most money: those that pass the Bechdel test, or those that don’t (although it is worth keeping in mind that the bar of the Bechdel test is so low you could trip over it).
There was a glorious Swedish blog demonstrating quite neatly how women are treated in the media by imagining a segment of "men’s news"
As if to illustrate this, the media showed that the Norwegian sports galla is all about what female athletes (and the PM) wear! And while we are on the subject of Norway, the unpleasant aftereffects of the mind numbingly stupid decision to allow GPs to reserve themselves from referring patients to abortion continue as women are told they can not necessarily easily drop doctors who have chosen to reserve themselves. Norway, Norway, what the hell happened?
As has been noted before, however, the media is not the only place affecting people’s perception of gender and the world. Horrible toy award of the week goes to this one: It's girl stuff! You should read this piece on how girls should not be taught that they need to prettify and make themselves sexy.
In other news, I am boycotting the Wall Street Journal. If this creep is on its editorial board, I cannot see how it can be trusted.
Good news? Ah, good news, I am sure I left them here somewhere. Ah, yes: The Project Guardian thing is producing results, as one creep was sentenced for filming up a schoolgirl’s skirt. Here’s to making public transport safe.
January 4: Let's start off easy in the first week of the year. The LA Times thought it would be a grand idea to start off an article about Keira Knightley's embracing feminism with the sentence "Keira Knightley may be married, but she's still sounding the feminist horn for women in Hollywood". Because normally, married women know their place.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Jane Howard died, and newspapers seemed to know her only as an ex-wife and step-mother of famous men.
In entirely other news, Norway is going to the dogs (no surprises there) after the wingnuts agreed with the religious minority that GPs should not have to refer patients to abortions (not actually do the abortions, mind -- just send them in the right direction). This came into effect with the new year (so much for my rabid optimism at ten past midnight New Year's Eve), and predictably the result is omnishambolic. Interestingly, not even the Conservatives agree with this policy, but somehow the desire for power won out over ethics, principles, ideology and all the rest. How am I not surprised (yet still disappointed)?
I am also grumpy because the PM wore a red dress during her New Year's speech, and as a result people are talking about that rather than the raging hypocrisy of a speech which seemed to say all the right things while meaning nothing whatsoever. Norway did not have a good start to the year.
There was, however, this interesting piece on rape and why so many do not report it to the police -- although like too many interesting things lately, it originated in a Swedish campaign.
And while we may be going slowly crazy, Italy wins this week's what the actual fuck award, as they overturn a conviction against a 60-yearold for having sex with an 11-yearold girl because they were in love.
December 28: As we near the end of 2013, here is Salon's overview of this year in feminism.
In other news, President Obama finally signed a bill that means military commanders can no longer overturn jury convictions for sexual assault along with a slew of other things that belong properly in the box marked "what the hell do you mean that was legal until now?". This would be in the good news section, but I am too appalled that this even had to be done.
There is a campaign to put an end to toys labelling by gender. It may surprise some retailers, but an interest in astronomy or dinosaurs isn't inherently male. Meanwhile, children's television does not want girls as an audience because they do not buy toys (the toys which are marketed expressly to boys).
If you live under a rock and thought this type of insane gendering of products was limited to children's toys and television, you should read this article on the cooties of marketing. In a classic example of how patriarchy limits men, it is acceptable for women to use "men's" products, but the taint of "women's" products make them anathema to the male market.
Here is a delightful flowchart for anyone setting out to design a "women's" tech product. It comes attached to a nifty article.
And with that, have a happy new year. Hopefully with a little less casual sexism.
December 21: Let's get properly into the holiday spirits with some disturbing photoshopping of Jennifer Lawrence -- I mean, she is about as close to the beauty ideal as you can possibly get in the real world, and they had to go move her bones about? And have some good satire with that.
While we are on the subject, here is a good article on women growing old on screen (to the extent that they are allowed on it at all). And here is a description of a new low in the judgements heaped on women who have used their pretty bodies to continue the human race rather than their true purpose of being ogled.
We are also nearing the end of the year, and here are some round-ups: from things said about women and rape to women and video games. The latest instalment in the latter saga is no less depressing as Depression Quest is targeted with a harassment campaign and the panic sparked by Mighty No. 9 fan art (feminists! women! Oh, the Taint!).
The Representation Project also made this video on How the Media Failed Women in 2013.
Also, the utterly depressing Men's Rights Movement is at it again: sabotaging rape statistics. Here is a good discussion of this particular type of asshattery.
And here is the completely unsurprising news that women get less science funding than men, and they get it more rarely.
To get you back into the "goodwill for all" spirit, however: Here is an excellent way to change the gender disparity in children's books: Just change the pronouns!
Also (just because), here is Helen Lewis' Buffy guide to feminism.
December 14: The Everyday Sexism Project hit 50 000 entries this week. If you had any doubt that this is a systemic, recurring problem, I encourage you to go read them. If you are prone to depression triggered by the state of the world, I do not.
With Christmas approaching, new Norwegian research shows that this is the period where the gender equality of the home is at its lowest: Women plan Christmas.
The major news this week, though, was the Mandela memorial. Or, well, not so much the Mandela part, as the picture of David Cameron, the Obamas and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, which created a perfect storm of sexist (and racist) commentary. Heaven knows, long-legged blonde women are "blonde bombshells", not state leaders; and black women are angry punishers of men. (This might be a good moment to include the discussion of Michelle Obama and how the narratives constructed around black women differ from that of white women.)
On a different, but related, note: Here is another reaction to a woman communicating science online.
And while it may be an easy mark, this is a good discussion of The Daily Caller, which in its defence of sexism (by comparing sexual harassment to skiing), perfectly illustrates Poe's Law. You want it to be satire, but it isn't. Because these people are real.
And in another instalment of "What the Actual Fuck, America?", Michigan has instituted a requirement for additional insurance if women are to get abortions after rape without having to pay for it themselves. Gretchen Whitmer's speech on the subject is well worth watching, but may be triggering.
But despair not! There are good news: The scary radical feminist that was blocked as a federal judge, Nina Pillard, has now been approved! Now to get her into the Supreme Court, hopefully before Ginsburg steps down.
Also, Geena Davies has provided the world's easiest recipe for gender equality in films. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for someone who follows it, and I promise I will buy two copies of any film that does.
Also, do not cry if your little girl wants to be a princess. You may, however, gently point her in the direction of kick-ass queens, rather than the blander variety.
And finally, feminism is coming back. I have been thinking about this fourth wave claim since I read it. At first I had some issues with it, especially as much online feminism strikes me as disturbingly oversimplifying complex matters, including a tendency toward gender essentialism. That said, it serves as a wonderful supplement; a pragmatic and practical approach which does what the more theoretical radical feminism struggles to accomplish.
December 7: Christmas is fast approaching, and I am writing while listening to Christmas songs, so if this sounds more mellow than it usually does, that would be why (although someone pointed out that "Baby, Its Cold Outside" is really, really creepy -- "hey, what's in this drink?").
Let's segue into the domestic violence section, as the Nigella Lawson case comes to a head. I say the Nigella Lawson case, because it is her life and mistakes, not that of the man who grabbed her by the throat in a public restaurant (or the people charged with fraud), which is apparently the topic. The media skirted right over description of "intimate terrorism" and a disturbing description of psychological abuse, to latch on to the mention on drug use, supporting a narrative crafted by the man who threatened to destroy her if she left. Very helpful, I'm sure.
Another dubious treatment of violence against women was celebrated with the Wooden Spoon award handed to (surprise, surprise) The Sun for its front page response to the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.
And here is the developments in the horrific story of Marissa Alexander, whoshot a warning shot to scare her abusive husband, and was sentenced to 20 years in jail, and is now set for a second trail (note the added dash of "oh, my goodness, the hypocrisy of Florida's stand your ground law is making my brain bleed").
I think we'll have to do the upbeat notes a bit earlier this week: The Everyday Sexism Project collected some witty responses to sexism which should tide you over to next week.
And! The editor of the Sunday Times (another title owned by Murdoch) has taken a stand against Page 3.
Back to our regular programming: I don't know whether you managed to miss the week's story of how different men and women's brains are. If you did, good on you; although I am sure another one will crop up soon. Here is a good discussion, by Cordella Fine, of what she calls "neurosexism" in that particular case. Be wary of Scientists bringing Proof of Inherent Gender Difference, people. They are way more dodgy than Greeks bearing gifts. Especially when filtered through the media's oversimplified and frequently downright inaccurate reporting on science.
If you want something reputable, this Qualitative Study of Children's Gender and Sexual Cultures (age 10-12) looks very interesting).
And here is a good overview of the history of game design and what the hell went wrong in the 90s. People really need to stop treating advertisement as some neutral component of society. If it were, it would not exist. It helps shape how we relate to the things being sold, for fuck's sake. That is the point.
And films do much the same. Hence my continued exasperation with Hollywood, who have now decided that they will use Wolverine rather than Kitty Pryde in their adaptation of what is her storyline, goddamnit. Like Wonder Woman, it just keeps returning us to the male protagonist and the female side-kick.
November 30: This week saw the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Twitter account @countdeadwomen marked the day by giving the year's diary of women killed in the UK (Here is more on counting dead women). We can discuss the importance of international days until the cows learn to jig on tables, but the statistics the day highlights are thoroughly disturbing.
The rarity of focusing on different types of men's violence against women, outside of the domestic violence/rape setting, also seems important to me. Have you thought about the fact that school shooters are predominantly white males and their student victims predominantly female? The Norwegian statistics are not full of bunnies and rainbows, either.
This week, we also got to hear about another Steubenville rape case covered up by officials. Or, I say "hear about"; did you?
In other news, things are going exactly in the wrong direction, as young women and girls are increasingly unhappy about their appearance, report that sexism affects every aspect of their lives, and generally have a dim outlook on life. Here is quite a good piece on the matter.
Here is a good piece on why feminism needs to get into the classroom. This seems entirely obvious to me: You cannot tackle discrimination if you do not have the conceptual tools to identify it, and you cannot stop discriminating unless you are made aware that your privilege is not something natural (as someone should inform Boris Johnson, but that is another matter). A good reason to support The Astell Project.
Of course, schools is one part of teaching young people how the world works. Advertising and pop culture is another. Microsoft decided it wanted to be part of the problem this week. Meanwhile, the reaction to Sweden's Bechdel decision keep coming.
Here is a nifty infographic on women and the film industry. Enjoy.
November 23: Let's start off with this wildly offensive piece of writing (because, keep in mind, the girl you may be dating is not a person in her own right; any life-threatening problems she may be struggling with are not a negative if they get you more sex). A lone nutter? There has been disturbing news out of Wales lately -- and what is with these university sports teams? On that note, Florida State seems set for a third? fourth? repeat of the Steubenville pattern just this year.
Meanwhile, new research suggests that the US Justice Department has been severely under-counting rape and sexual assault. This is why statistical method is important, children. That, and an understanding of the many ways in which people can fail to respect bodily autonomy. While we are on the subject of women and who gets to control their bodies, the US Supreme Court let the Texas abortion law stand.
Still, the scariest news this week was on abstinence speakers in American schools. Apart from the complete ignorance of science, the dominant topic seems to be to that women's sexuality makes them dirty (and makes their mum and any decent guy hate them). I am not sanguine about these people getting to "inform" anyone.
In related news (think about it), there was this criticism against Sarah Silverman, combining the "women should be pure" and the "women are not funny" arguments. Here is a wholesale rebuttal of the latter (although the reason for its existence kept it out of the upbeat section this week.
And while there is so much wrong with women's fashion, how can I ever put into words how utterly the fact that it does nothing for men is beside the point?
There were two articles this week on women and the workplace. First, this one, on the comic book industry, paints a fairly scary picture. Likewise, this one, on the gender bias in journalism, while not at all surprising, still leaves me fairly depressed. These cases are particularly egregious because both comic books and journalism help shape how we think; a serious lack of women in either will affect which stories we are told, and how. And so the pattern continues.
Finally, like a "best of sexism" potpourri, have a look at the responses to this girl who wants to wrestle with the boys.
Feminist Frequency also released a new video, this time on the Ms Male Character phenomenon.
And kudos to Debenhams, with their size 16 mannequins and ban on airbrushing. (With a corresponding "shame on you" to the rest of clothing stores everywhere.)
November 17: Oh, my. I plead overwork, so here we are: rather short and a little late.
The republicans threw a bit of a wobbly over the horror of a pro-choice feminist federal judge nominee. It would be amusing, but sadly, their wobblies have effects on the real world.
Meanwhile, Denmark had a truly embarrassing moment. I half expected this page to be taken down in shame before I had a chance to include it here, but there it is: The important thing about female politicians is of course that it provides the opportunity to judge them by their looks. THAT will bring women into politics.
Norway did not get any gold stars, either, what with reversing the mandatory paternity leave, counting this as saving money because women earn less. There is so much wrong with that I don't even know where to begin.
And now, imagine being a rape survivor on this bus. Or just being a woman alone on this bus.
And this man has made a career of telling women how to be dateable. Whatever they do, they must not ask anyone out.
Happy notes? Here is a less depressing take on the google search results.
And here is an interesting discussion on feminism, films and the Bechdel test.
November 9: This week saw "equal pay day" which celebrates (?) the fact that in Britain women are basically working for free the remainder of the year. I am not sure when the date would be in Norway -- would be interesting if someone could find out. On a more upbeat note, there are tiny tremors out there.
On to the most horrible news this week: a rape club in New Zealand. That's right. I lack words. And it just got worse (if possible). It is beginning to seem like a very familiar story. Privileged boys rape girls and film them to shame them; police and community cover it up and blame the girls.
And that was not the only story of power abusing the vulnerable this week.
Whywhywhy is anyone still listenning to Rush Limbaugh? Seriously, how does he get paid/time on air/anything? I am sure it is some sort of terrible indictment of the human race.
Oh and here is this week's fun thought experiement: What if Rand Paul were a woman?
Meanwhile, here is a good piece on how you do not get to wave the free speech flag around if you are harassing women online.
And if you are on an irony wave after the last one, this week's sidelong glance at academia reveals that stem fields are not the only ones which have a problem including women in conferences. (You have to click on the link to get your irony fix.)
Good news: Sweden wins! By which I mean, they are instituting the Bechdel test in cinemas -- part of the news media seem to be under the impression that films which pass are necessarily feminist films; this is not altogether true. The test is a bar so low you could trip over it: the two women could talk about shoes, baking or how useless they think feminism is. The point of the test is simply to gage the extent to which women are present on screen as characters, not just devices. They are not banning films that do not pass the test, they are just shaming them if they do not have a good reason. As they should. Norway ought to follow Sweden in this.
November 2: First of all: The documentary Miss Representation is now available on Netflix in Norway (at least). Watch it if at all possible. It offers a scathing indictment of the state of American media and how it is hurting both women and men with its outdated sexism. The phenomenon is not limited to America, of course. I have long avoided linking to Mail Online, not wanting to up their traffic even by one (this is why kittenblock is so wonderful), but they are one of the most egregiously sexist mainstream news sources. And marvellous hypocrites, as this tweet shows. And the Daily Star hit a new new low this week, with the ghost of Princess Diana joining in with the opinion-having on the Duchess of Cambridge's body.
And while we are on the subject of scary, scary things: Hallowe'en was this week. And, predictably, women had a choice between sexy and sexy. This is not at all new, of course. It has prompted the wonderful Take Back Halloween website. And this lovely, lovely performance. (Watch it! Or you will get no cookies.)
Meanwhile, a British shadow minister who has taken a stand against Page 3 is faced with the threat of newspapers printing underage topless photos of her (taken when she was 15). And it turns out less than half of the US wants more women in Congress (and only 22% of republican men think so). You'd assume that means they have achieved parity (ahahaha), right? The percentage has currently stalled at 18.3%. So, enough, clearly.
And here is a storified account of women's experiences of sexism, put together for BBC Newsnight by Everyday Sexism. Does anyone actually think any of the above are unrelated?
Ah, yes, MRAs are still at it. I just… I can't… Patriarchy hurts men, so you must desperately fight the people who fight it. What? The fuckwittery is overwhelming. A bit like this piece from Fox, in which two men are happily agreeing that the idea that men and women should pay the same for insurance coverage is absurd, since men do not have babies, and so should not have to pay for women doing so (cause, you know, they never benefitted from the continuation of the human race, say, by being born). Also, women are hypochondriacs. (This hilarity is also available in Congress, by the way.
I was also a little disappointed by Lady Gaga, this week (sorry Anja). She was in Glamour, apparently giving a very sensible interview; but the cover image is simply perpetuating the absurdly photoshopped beauty ideals she should be using her power to fight. Seriously: Where are her waist/hips/any blemishes whatsoever? (And this is not the first time this has happened, from what I can tell.)
Good news? There is hope for the world! (Even for North Carolina.) How cool is this 12-yearold suffragette? If we're lucky, she'll be president some day.
Also, I was oddly charmed by Alistair Campbell in No More Page 3 gear.
October 26: This week's peak of hilarity was reached when two men had a hysterical fit over girl scout cookies. Thankfully, the horrendous crime of promoting lesbianism, supporting a woman's right to choose and (horror of horrors) non-biblical womanhood can be solved with a big black magic marker if you really, really want those cookies.
UN Women have created a new, quite scary, campaign. It uses Google's suggested search terms in order to show how the world talks about women. The results are predictably depressing. Trying the same with "feminists" is even scarier.
Pembroke College at Oxford is in the news, after the social secretary of their rugby club sent round an e-mail telling the athletes to spike their dates' drinks. On that note, here is an interesting article on why there are so many rapes on US college campuses, and how it is not about women drinking. And while we are on the subject of entitlement, here is an article about Charles Saatchi claiming his attack on his wife was her fault because she made him angry. Classy. And so original.
I also find myself baffled by this report: A man (allegedly) drugs a woman without her knowing, takes her back to his hotel room and has sex with her, but is not charged with rape (only with the drugging) because "any relations were consensual". I'm sorry, what? You cannot consent if you have been drugged. Surely, if he is guilty of drugging her, he is guilty of rape; and so the two charges should go hand in hand?
In other news, the Everyday Sexism Project has been focusing on workplace harassment lately. On that note, the Scientific American debacle also hit the news properly. I recommend you take the time to read the relevant blog entries; note how insidious it is.
This week also saw this piece on the problem of women as full participants in a democracy, which I recommend. And, picking up the note about cyberbullying and -stalking, there was this bit of stupid sexism leaving women on Twitter named Clare, Anne and Natalie uncomfortable. And here is a piece on the police incompetence in dealing with online rape and death threats: Does the police normally leave the responsibility of evidence gathering to the traumatised victim in other crimes?
October 19: Norway's new minister for equality, Solveig Horne, has stated that women share an equal responsibility to avoid rape, in addition to her misplaced worry about having kindergardeners learn about homosexuality, her claim that financial support for LGBT organisations is a form of discrimination, her desire to shut down the ombudsman for equality and much, much more. I am not sure why she got the position (I am guessing they drew lots), but I am fairly sure she is one of the signs of the apocalypse. I'm not happy. As if the idea of having a minister of equality from FrP (The "Progress" Party) was not ridiculous enough to start with.
And, depressingly, this is not this week's only examples of rape culture. The handling of Øygarden in the national media is a classic. And here is a description of what Daisy Coleman was faced with after she was raped. Here is a commentary on the case by one of Horne's fellow offensive idiots.
Here is an interesting art project: A photographer who takes pictures of men who have harassed her on the street.
But Ada Lovelace day was fun. The Atlantic posted this series of essays on gender and technology, which are well worth a look. A lot remains to be done, though. And not just in the STEM fields (although, here is a Swedish op/ed on how women don't get the science Nobels): The gender survey of the UK professoriate revealed some very depressing numbers.
And while we are on the subject of technology and women: What the actual fuck? Really.
October 12: The Washington Post has an interesting Gender Gap Symposium in which it looks at possible reasons for the gender gap in academia. It is very interesting. As part of it, this piece by B.F. Walter discusses reasearch which shows that women's articles are cited significantly less than male researchers' when the gender is known.
Ada Lovelace Day is coming up, this Tuesday (the 15th of October). I assume you will celebrate it in some fashion. One group of scientists are organising a mass Wikipedia edit to deal with the invisibility of female scientists. Feel free to join in. At the very least, read Sydney Padua's outstanding comic, which I have linked you to before (and I will do it again). Or you could buy this marvellous book on women and science, which is published on the occasion.
A Disney executive managed to state that it is harder to animate female characters because they have to show such a range of emotion while staying pretty. This nugget of gold was presented in connection with their new film, Frozen, which is annoying for a host of other issues. Heaven knows, they have already done one cool, kickass princess who manages without help from a man; they cannot be expected to do it again. Silly internet.
I keep being surprised and saddened when I hear about Ireland and Northern Ireland and abortion. It is particularly strange, perhaps, that Northern Ireland, which is after all part of the UK, retains antiquated abortion laws. And then there is the US, again.
In other news, American colleges (this time Emerson) still have shocking rape policies -- why would anyone tell a student not to contact the police?
Twitter has no women on its board or among its investors, and reacted to criticism of this by saying "well, neither does anyone else". Good to know.
And female GPs are being harrassed by their patients.
Good news? Here's a link about an interesting film about the fetishisation of virginity.
October 5: Oh, what a week, what a week. The US government shut down. I know! What dire reasons could there be, you ask? Well, women, of course! (I really like senator Elizabeth Warren -- she is like righteous anger incarnate.) And as usual, because women are still disproportionately among the most vulnerable in society, they are getting most thoroughly doused in this giant vat of liquid shit (ignore the facetious comment about panda cams). Domestic violence programs have now been shut down, and programs that provide healthy nutrition to pregnant women living at the poverty line are in dire straits. Oh, and here is an asshole to top it all off.
But it is not just America. Norway, now burdened with its own special brand of idiots, has a new coalition who have promised to make it their priority to dismantle all the good things and steal candy from children. More or less. They are making it possible for doctors to refuse to refer patients seeking abortions (i.e. not performing said abortion, but simply doing their job and referring a woman in a difficult situation to a specialist). Feel free to sign this.
Norway also made me want to go drown myself in a puddle this week, as I realised this video is doing the rounds on the internet. A naked man in Oslo is hitting on women, filming it and putting it on youtube. I have no idea why he has not been arrested. In addition to what can only be described as cretinous behaviour, the man managed to produce the most asinine comment I have heard in a while (and keep in mind that this is a week when the US government is being shut down by far-right bunglers):
—Jeg mener det er umulig å trakassere når intensjonen er å spre glede. En kvinne sanser en manns intensjon øyeblikkelig. Det handler ofte ikke om hva man gjør, men hvorfor og på hvilken måte, sier Ligaard.(Allow me to translate: "—I think it is impossible to harass when the intention is to spread joy. A woman can feel a man's intention immediately. It is not about what you do, but why and how, says Ligaard.")
Norway has also had a week of discovering that taxis are not the safe places we want them to be. I hate that this is true, but it is of course good that it is being highlighted.
In further depressing news, we can add female musicians to the list of people being harassed online. We are clear by now that this is a silencing tactic, right? That as this is keeping women from participating in society on an equal level with men?
And while we are at it, there is the treatment of female politicians. The Guardian -- THE GUARDIAN -- managed to produce this piece of anal refuse about the most powerful woman in Britain on the occasion of the Conservative party conference. I am not a fan of Theresa May, but surely what she wears is not the main story?
And then there is academia. My favourite playground. Here is a good piece on the experience of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Good news? Well, the Project Guardian campaign to stop groping and sexual assaults on the London underground seems to be having results.
Oh, and someone answered one of Anita Sarkeesian's trolls.
September 28: This week, an asshat of impressive proportions, spoke: David Gilmoure, who lectures at the University of Toronto, won't teach women or gay male writers. I am happy to see that reports that he was a professor were rather exaggerated. Still, I am baffled that anyone would let this man teach my subject. And angry (and so are other people).
The teacher who raped his 14-yearold student (who later killed herself after a 3-year judicial process that left her shamed and shunned), confessed and was sentenced to an appalling 31 days in prison by an idiot judge in Montana this August (because it wasn't "violent, horrible, forcible rape" and the 14-yearold was "as much in control of the situation") is now back on the street.
Incidentally, if you are wondering which US states to just stay clear of, this document on The State of Women in America from the Center of American Progress gives a good indication -- Montana gets a D+, while Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Texas (no surprises there), Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah and Louisiana fail outright.
Jezebel also pointed me to a rather startling book by a reality show star, in which she and her husband give some very, very dodgy advice.
Rape is a theme this week, it seems. Here, have a satirical video by some Indian female comedians: It's your fault!
After that, I think we deserve some good news: The claim that girls will watch male characters on screen, but boys will not watch female characters turns out to be absolute tosh. Now, if only the industry would catch on, please.
September 21: While Norwegian students have been hard at work since August, Britian is only just doing Freshers' week. It seems to bring out the worst in people. On a much more upbeat, but related note, a group called FORCE teamed up with some students to set up a fake Playboy site to encourage a focus on consent in College parties.
Meanwhile, the horrid Tony Abbot, now Prime Minister of Australia, who you will remember as the target of Gillard's glorious rant on sexism a while back, has in a depressing ironic twist also become primarily responsible for women's issues. This, as many have pointed out, seems like a spectacularly bad idea. Meanwhile, the GOP has also embraced irony.
In other news, I was depressed to find yet more evidence that the idea Jane Austen was snide about in Northanger Abbey 200 fucking years ago still carries cultural weight:
I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance.
Excuse me while I go cry in the corner.
Good news of the week: The French are banning creepy beauty pageants for the under-16s.
September 14: Norway had an election, and nearly all the parties that won have female leaders. We will therefore have a female PM. Still, I cannot quite manage to summon up much enthusiasm. What has been interesting is following the way these women are portrayed in the media and by the left. Here is a good analysis. We have also failed to get more women into parliament, being stuck at 39,6%.
The idea that the left can be sexist is a bit painful. We are, after all, supposed to be the good guys; and we have been waving the feminist flag for decades. That may be part of the problem. I suspect the phenomenon is related to the ironic or "enlightened" sexism I mentioned below. Rebecca Kamm, in a discussion of the suddenly ubiquitous Thicke, calls it hipster sexism. In related news, there was another moment of (not-really-)glory from the Star Trek writing team, this time from Alex Kurtzmann.
Meanwhile, the topic of women and video games continues unabated. This time, it is about Metal Gear.
The week also saw its share of general creepiness, like this "experiment" which consists in men kissing women they do not know, the creation of an app designed to look at women's breasts (well done, tech, AGAIN), not to mention this utterly hilarious (albeit involuntarily) man trying to "fix the family" (watch the whole thing), and what a Business Insider CTO feels it is appropriate to say on Twitter.
For once, four out of the six authors on the Booker prize shortlist are women. The BBC twitter account chose to commemorate this by only mentioning the men.
Norway has disappointed me again, as the largest producer of eggs has decided to market surreptitiously towards children by reinforcing gender stereotypes of "pirate" or "princess". TV marketing towards children is not allowed in Norway, something I am ridiculously thankful for; but you can still do this sort of thing. I think the reply they made to the criticism, namely that "we do not want to have an opinion on this sort of thing", is what really makes me angry, though. I wonder how long I can go without eating eggs. Probably a while. I think I'll try.
The good news is that the stupid egg-people have been out-brained by a Swedish 10-yearold. Well done, Sweden.
Let's round this off with a blog on body language and power.
The week's good news is that America now, for the first time (yes, we are still talking about firsts for women in the West), has a female news anchor team. Well done, PBS!
September 7: In a case of generally world improvement, Saudia Arabia has now made domestic abuse a crime. Well done.
Meanwhile, it is still not a good time to be a woman accusing men of rape in the American military.
In the comments section last week, Anja linked to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", which contains so many naked women with no purpose I had to stop and check that someone actually had written feminist theory about the male gaze and the objectification of women, and that the world was aware of it. Meanwhile, a genderswapped feminist parody of this music video was removed from youtube for being "inappropriate".
The horrible temptation of feminine bodies was also the topic of this utterly hilarious letter from a mother to her sons' female acquaintances (note the particularly spectacular hypocrisy of the beach photos). This week, we also learned that Femen, the feminist group primarily famous for topless protests, was set up by a man. It all gets a bit iffy from there on out.
On a different note: Here is a good, if not entirely recent article on how stereotypes about gender shapes how we perform in science.
Happy note: This Australian Chief Commissioner is calling on men to help make violence against women shameful. It would of course have been more happy if his statistics were not so depressing. And here is another good piece: "A conversation between a father and son".
And finally, LEGO has made its first female scientist minifig. I would be applauding if it had not taken them so long. LEGO still has some way to go before they get back in my good books.
August 31: The great big story of the week taught some of us what "twerking" is. The Onion had the best piece, and therefore gets the gold star sticker. The big badge of hypocrisy goes, as usual, to The Sun. I noticed, in the avalanche of articles, not a single one saw fit to comment on the sartorial madness of or lack of dancing prowess in her male companion.
Now, you might get the impression, from all this outrage, that women should not be sexy. But that is just silly -- as the World Tae Kwon Do Federation aims to show. Sexy women are good if used to promote something else, be it martial arts or The Sun.
In the meantime, we are all on tenterhooks, waiting for Yale to clarify its position on sexual assault. There is a campaign, if you like signing things. Now, I would not think it is not primarily the job of the university to punish offenders (that is what the legal system is supposed to do, after all; though Yale seems to have missed the memo on that, too); but they really are doing an appalling job of taking care of their female students.
In other news, I am beginning to suspect it is a good thing that conductors don't generally speak because seriously, what the hell is Vasily Petrenko on (about)?
I suppose the good news of the week is that it helps to make noise when something is wrong: The lenient sentence of the rapist whose 13-yearold victim was described as a "sexual predator" (by the prosecutor and the judge) is being reviewed.
Also a woman talking about feminism won the top prize at the Edinburgh Fringe -- proving once again that women just aren't funny.
August 24: The No More Page 3 campaign celebrated its one-year anniversary yesterday. If you still haven't signed it, it is about bloody time you do. Laura Bates, who founded the Everyday Sexism Project, wrote this letter to the current editor of the Sun. Meanwhile, twitter once again decided female sexuality is shameful. And female students in Indonesia may be routinely sexually assaulted by authorities in the future.
The New York Times tried to write women out of computer history with a stroke of the keyboard this week. The internet responded with lists. In related news, Samsung, who are now on the list of people making stuff I will never, ever buy, made this amazingly sexist ad. Its premise? "So easy, even women with their technologically disadvantaged brains can do it -- because vaginas make them incapable of thinking about anything except children and housework!". In slightly happier news, feminist techies are trying to counter the gender-imbalance of Wikipedia.
Someone decided to try to insult Obama by calling him "the first female president". Oh, the wit! If nothing else, it highlights patriarchy's unhealthy ideas about what a man is.
Hollywood, it seems, is still suffering under the delusion that female action leads do not pay. But a bigger problem is highlighted in this very good piece in what is wrong with Strong Female Characters. Read it.
Happy news? This very cool lady, Antoinette Tuff, talked a gunman (with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition) out of a school shooting. The only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun, my arse. This contains a good summary of the conversation, and a link to the recording of the 911 call. How cool is that lady?
August 17: Intersectionality has sometimes been a topic here. On that note, this week saw the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag on twitter. It is worth a look, although as always on the internet there are various levels of good sense presented. The basic tenet is solid: Just as men are privileged above women in our culture, there are other forms of privilege that make white, western, ablebodied, heterosexual women privileged above other women. And it is often tricky to spot that privilege from within,leading to proclamations of what "women" want and what "women" should fight for, as if women's experience is uniform. Here is a nice, geeky illustration. I could instead have given you some statistics on murders of black women, but that would be very depressing and would lack Uhura. You can look it up yourselves.
In another segment on "things that do not really fall under my direct experience, but which are relevant", I came across an interesting meditation on tipping and sexual power, written by a guy who has been experimenting with tipless restaurants (I want to eat there).
Shock of the week: There are properly scary American politicians, see this guy (someone voted for a man who does not realise that it is not his right to control the body and/or beliefs of his daughters). Also, who the hell talked about Obama's diet when he ran for president?
American university populations sometimes appear scarier (and dimmer) than they probably are (god, I hope so). See this and this. Meanwhile, Wired thinks women are the brain-less ones. And while we are on the subject of the portrayal of women and education, can Britain please get over its incessant, repetitive, trite, studpid and clichéd pictures of young girls jumping for their A-levels? There used to be a blog about this but it self-euthanised.
Good news: There is a wonderful new resource that sets out to empower women, set to launch properly in September. It is being done by UN Women, and the goal is specifically economic empowerment.
August 10: Another week of annoying infighting in the feminist world. Not very toxic, but the campaign of #twittersilence was of course met with a counter-campaign of #inspiringwomen. Both are excellent ideas. Imagine if the same people could take part in both campaigns on different days, though. Possibly one day after another! We could have TWO feminist days. But no. Sometimes things are depressing.
Similarly depressing, it has been a week of victim-blaming: A 14-yearold in a prison in Louisiana was apparently asking for it; and Britain also saw the tale of the 13-yearold sexual predator (this claim was made by the prosecutor in the case against her rapist). Can we stop this now? Also, in a related case, the important thing is apparently not to teach people not to rape; it is to teach them how not to get caught.
In old/new news, women are not flooding to IT. Times Higher Education Supplement suggests that in order to fix this we must make IT less nerdy. I was rather miffed by this. Not only because they had this horrid quote:
"Look at all the computing that is used in…health and education…and social care – all things that women want to do and enjoy".Sydney Padua (author of the wonderful beyond belief 2D Goggles, or the Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage) said it best:
Maybe instead of telling girls it's not nerdy to like computers, we should tell them it's okay for girls to be nerds.Perhaps the fake geek girl problem could be a good place to start?
New Statesman had a good list of stupid arguments against opposition to "lads mags".
Happy note of the week: Someone made a game in which Princess Peach saves herself.
August 3: Let's start with some borderline absurd statistics from the States: One in three republicans regard "Feminist" as an insult. And it's not much better in the rest of the population. Thank goodness America doesn't have any problems that need fixing.
The rape threats against Caroline Criado-Perez have sparked quite the discussion on/about Twitter. In fact, tomorrow (August 4) generally decent people are expected to stay off Twitter in a show of solidarity/attempt to get Twitter to deal with its problems. I particularly like the irony of staying silent in protest against people who want to silence women. There are some who completely miss the point (and then there are some who seem to get it once their mothers are involved). But the central point of all this is that free speech isn't free if it keeps half the population silent.
Another major story of the week was that Ariel Castro, who held three women captive for a decade, who raped and beat them, was sentenced to nearly 1000 years in prison. Leaving aside the mild surrealism of American sentencing, this was also the occasion of what must be the most offensive speech I have ever heard. "Harmony in that home"? Also note the victim blaming, "I was never violent until I married my wife; she just wouldn't shut up", "these girls were not virgins" (how is that relevant?). Does this man not have lawyers to tell him what is and what is not acceptable? But everyone can see Ariel Castro is a sad, sad specimen, there have been more mainstream bad behaviour this week. Yale's handling of rape (or "nonconsensual sex") suggests that the university does not consider rape that much of a big deal (I am disappointed).
Meanwhile, here is a report on what happened when a woman reported rape and abuse threats in an online game (spoilers: she was told it was her fault for being female, her details were released (making it easier for the people who had harrassed and threatened to rape her if they wanted to act on said threats), and when she complained to the CEO she was banned from the game because he was "tired of hearing of it" -- the poor man). And here is an example of how important the slant of a story is (lovesick victim v scary stalker).
This week's happy note: Feminist Frequency video! -- the 3rd Damsels in Distress video covers some rather interesting points, including the dude in distress role reversal and the use of ironic sexism, which you may read more about in Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work Is Done by Susan J. Douglas (I'll lend it to you).
July 27: Helen Thomas died this week, which is rather sad as she was quite cool. However, the great news of the week was that a woman had a child (and not only a child, but a BOY child (which according to the brain trust of CNN makes her "brilliant"). In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy has done a stellar job of highlighting some very disturbing aspects of the world media (or, you know, people), and it did not get any better after the birth (seriously).
While "Jesus isn't a dick, so keep him out of my vagina" is one of the most cleverly phrased slogans I have seen, , stupid conservatives predictably did not react well. At all. Here is the 14-yearold's rather more articulate response to the abuse.
Meanwhile, here is all you need to know about Bitchy Resting Face (and why you have not heard about Resting Asshole Face). And here is a good reply to the Men's Rights Movement.
But the good news is that this week the happy notes abound (although, granted, not all of them should strictly speaking in an ideal world be worthy of note at all -- like the fact that CNN has four women discuss something not related to babies or weddings, and others are just happy against a sea of troubles): Foremost among the happy notes, a feminist who scares conservatives has been nominated as a federal judge in the US.
And the news that Jane Austen gets to appear on bank notes has been confirmed, meaning there will be a woman other than the Queen on English bank notes (this, if there was any doubt, goes under the heading of "things that in an ideal world would not make too much of a headline", but there are no women on American bank notes, for example). On the predictably sad side, again, Caroline Criado-Perez, who headed a campaign to ensure there were women on English bank notes, is now receiving rape threats and various other disgusting attention (do click on those links, and tell me again feminism has won in the West) from the trolling depths of the internet (although, sensibly, she seems to have called the cops). In a related happy note, the British Transport Police have teamed up with the Everyday Sexism project and others to prosecute the creeps on public transport, in what is called Project Guardian.
Also, how cool is Nada al-Ahdal? (Although, again, the happy note is made rather less so by the downright disturbing background.) Meanwhile, Iran seems like it may turn more woman-friendly (although the extent is still unclear).
In other news, geek girls have nothing to prove. Although, again, some areas of the internet have DEFINITELY missed the memo. There is this amazing app that can help you fix the gender imbalance of the advertising world. And, finally, there is this wonderful resource for women who do not want to look like a sexy cat or a sexy nurse or a sexy witch on Halloween (or any other costume party, I assume).
July 20: This week, I have been floating in a cocoon of Sherlock Holmes, Tour de France and all kinds of jazzy things, meaning the bad in the world has had to work to get to me. I did vaguely notice that none of the four concerts I went to earlier in the week had as single woman playing, but that may have been down to my choices. While we are on the subject of music, though: Amanda Palmer had a stellar response to the Daily Mail's boob obsession.
The story of the week, though, was that of Trayvon Martin's killer getting off scott free, and the outrage that followed (not strictly a feminist issue, although some of the same structures are definitely in play in this story). What is a feminist issue, though, is the "what if Trayvon Martin had been female" question (which, incidentally, neatly highlights the necessity for an intersectional approach to feminism). And it does throw into high relief this story of a Florida woman sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to scare away her abusive husband. Florida has joined the list of places I will never visit.
Another place I am never setting foot is Dubai. A Norwegian woman was raped and, when she told the police, convicted of sex outside of marriage and sentenced to a 16 months in prison (her attacker got three months less). That is not terribly surprising, coming from the United Arab Emirates, whose record on women's rights is not altogether stellar (and it is noteworthy, and again unsurprising, that this is in the news because it happened to a Western woman). What did surprise me, though, was the Norwegian state broadcaster's coverage: the article states that while Dubai is a place of some strange laws seen from the Norwegian perspective, "tourists and travellers are safe as long as they follow the law". In a piece about how a woman was raped and then imprisoned. Well done, NRK. (Brazil is also not doing very well, incidentally.)
This glorious list of dubious wisdom, meanwhile, warns that feminism will ruin any relationship in your early 20s (I am glad nobody told Tor, so that I got him safely past it and into his early 30s); note that the problem is feminism, not idiots. Perhaps this is why women are going crazy? Or it could be this.
In other news a baby is being created in a woman's body, and apparently it will take over the world. The happy news of the week is that the No More Page 3 campaign hijacked the creepy Sun live babycam and used it to explain why The Sun is creepy as fuck.
Also, here is a good rant.
July 13: A large part of the news media has been cheering Andy Murray as the first British Wimbledon champion in 70-something years, effortlessly ignoring Virginia Wade and three other women. The BBC's John Inverdale somehow managed to make tennis about looks, and the internet erupted in shock and horror that a woman could win without being a blonde. It is tempting to point out that Bertoli looks lovely, but I won't. Because that is REALLY NOT RELEVANT. She is there to play tennis well. And she did.
In related news, Dustin Hoffman spoke about the epiphany he had, that unattractive women can be interesting (well done for realising).
Boris Johnson is still suffering from foot-in-mouth (having single-handedly killed the appeal of the bumbling fool character), this time suggesting that the reason why Malaysia has 68% women in universities is that they are looking for husbands -- it is unclear what particular mix of racism and sexism made that seem a funny thing to say. This CNN person has a similar problem, apparently completely missing the point of the Barbie vs real girl thing I mentioned last week.
Here, meanwhile, is an interesting meditation on the concept of the "working mother", and you should remember that when a female CEO spends $1 billion on the acquisition of companies, it is called a "shopping spree" (cause that is what women do).
There was also a couple of good op/ed pieces this week: This one on the tendency to "other" sexual abuse; and this one on what a society without legalised abortion looks like (like Chile; and this is how Ireland is faring).
Also, this news makes me want to learn necromancy so that I can raise Jane Austen from the dead and make her eat a selection of brains. Then again, who needs female comedians when we have the Texas Senate?
This week there IS a happy note, and it is about as cool as they get: the best ad you'll see in a while (and to make it even better, the thing it is advertising is itself very cool)!
And in yet another pleasant surprise, the Norwegian state broadcaster, NRK, has made a handy page about cool women pioneers. AND here is a Kickstarter which serves as a reminder that men are also victims of patriarchy, as they are socialised into the structures of thought that belong to it.
July 6: Let's start with a misogyny mash-up in this video of the abuse Julia Gillard received during her tenure as Prime Minister in Australia. The abuse is not only directed at living women, but also long dead ones when they venture onto Twitter. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Pirate Party feels that the fact that they have next to no women is not a problem, according to the party foreman, Øystein Jakobsen, because gender, race and continent does not matter on the internet (spoken like a true oblivious white male from the West).
I feel like there should be a natural segue here to the discussion of female representation in video games. I was mildly pleased by this article, that is until I read the bit about giving the games with women characters a pink theme and "feminine fonts" (which fonts are the feminine ones? Please tell me we get courier). And in 2013, Apple iOS action games still do not have female protagonists (the one that does disguises her gender until the very end). And while we are at it, can we talk about women characters and armour? (Here is the right way to do it.
In fact, this week has provided a plethora of examples of absurd beauty ideals. Baby girls should not be bald, there was this discussion of the requirement to always be chirpy (or a Manic Pixie Dream Girl), and the ever glorious Barbie vs real girls.
June 29: Starting with the happy news of the week: The utterly despicable News in Briefs (with its suggestion that women cannot be naked, pretty and smart at the same time) is now gone. Good riddance and a hearty "fuck you" to Dominic Mohan. Of course, Page 3 remains.
Meanwhile, the LRB has been making placatory noises about their lack of female writers, but unless they do something significant over the next year, I will not renew my subscription again. Of corse, the LRB are by no means alone in this. As my updates here should demonstrate, this is systemic. That does not mean it should not be fixed, however.
In a weird moment of surrealism, Texas became the focus of feminist hero worship this week, as Wendy Davis gave a 10-hour filibuster against some very dodgy lawmaking on abortion. I must confess I am torn on the subject. Filibustering (while a wonderful word) does not seem like the best way to resolve an issue; however, I am giddy that someone kept the profoundly disturbing Rick Perry from getting what he wants. Of course, once again, the icky people showed up on the internet. Seriously, it is overdue a spring cleaning. Or two.
Beginning AND ending on a happy note this week, however: Someone made a Tumblr page dedicated to the wonder that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Oh, and it looks like there will be a woman on the next £10 note: Jane Austen (not, alas, Mary Wollstonecraft; but I'll take Austen; Austen is lovely). Maybe Mary Wollstonecraft will follow. Or Ada Lovelace.
June 22: The great story of the week is that Nigella Lawson's husband decided it would be a good idea to choke her in public (not the first public display of controlling behaviour). He dismissed it as a "playful tiff", but accepted a police caution (which means officially admitting guilt). Domestic violence is not playful fun times. And while I am sure the choking could have been part of a perfectly consensual s/m moment, the fact that Lawson was crying and later moved out seems to suggest otherwise. A recent global survey shows that 3 in 10 women experience it, and is comparative to smoking in its impact on women's health. As Juliet E. McKenna observes, it is too simplistic to simply tell women to fight back; and here is a story which deals with the "why doesn't she just speak up/leave" reaction.
Part of the disturbing aspect of this story, however, is probably that it happened in a crowded restaurant without anyone intervening. There are also of course those who consider the preservation of the marriage the top priority. And, unsurprisingly, Nick Griffin leapt at the opportunity to show that he is a creep. (On that note, here is a piece on how creeps are often criminals; someone should tell the arsehole who made this kickstarter).
There is also the running topic of women in the movies (when there are any). The reaction to the casting in the Spiderman reboot (there is a Spiderman reboot?) is telling. They are also rather underrepresented in the LRB (who are currently asking me to renew my subscription, leaving me wondering what to do -- as they simultaneously give me this).
Facebook is still disgusting, and while that is because it is a depressing reflection of society, it remains true that it has a made itself accountable by taking on the job of monitoring and deleting breast-feeding pictures. In a similar vein, The Sun's disgusting Page 3 is now 40 years old. And it is not, of course, the only disgusting thing about that paper.
Finally, while it might be tempting to believe that the idea that a woman should "know her place" is limited to Fox News and their oddities, this is what happened when a 17-year-old started a feminist society at school in Britain.
May 15: One hundred years ago this week, Norwegian women go the vote (all of them, that is; not just the well-to-do). Here is a good article on the development of the Norwegian battle for universal suffrage. In a neat coincidence (or not?), Norway also got universal conscription to military service this week. I must confess I have wanted this since I was a kid (ever the contrarian, I was angry that men were allowed to refuse military service, and I would not have the opportunity to flaunt my pacifist credentials).
However, while women can vote and defend the country (and the first woman went into space 50 years ago), we must not attempt to review man-films like Despicable Me. In fact, according to this Republican politician, we should not use our pretty little female brains for thinking at all (it is bound to fail, what with the world being all complicated).
The Australian PM, Julia Gillard, who a little while back had a very satisfying rant in the Australian Parliament, has had another run-in with ridiculous sexists (it boggles the mind). (But to be fair to Australia, it also has some cool cookies.)
Britain, in another mind-boggling move, voted against teaching children about consent and healthy relationships. I cannot help thinking that the battle should have been to get this to Parliament in the first place, not getting it through once it got there.
And in another example of the "spectacularly rude people" section, which is becoming a thing, Anita Sarkeesian got "feedback". I think it is important to not see these things as unrelated. Here is a piece (not as coherent as it could be, but with valid points) on how objectification is not always sexual. Gillard, Sarkeesian, the approach to female characters in entertainment, keeping women to impossible standards of beauty... it is all about seeing women as women, not people.
June 8: Short and sweet today (I have Master's theses to read). In a historical interlude, this week saw the 100 years since Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King's horse in the Epsom Derby. And while we can now vote, the degrading treatment of women continues, as shown in part by the video made by The Everyday Sexism Project (you can now also donate to help fund the project).
There was also the very strange piece by Judith Woods in the Telegraph, in which Kate Winslet is berated for having three children with three different husbands (oh, the horror). Can you imagine that being written about male celebrities? I don't know what is worse, the stupidity of writing it or the commenters that see no problem with it.
But the really big question of the week is of course whether there can be a female Doctor. I am generally not in favour, especially if Moffat is writing it (although I must say I enjoyed Joanna Lumley in The Curse of Fatal Death), but I have been a little baffled by the shock and horror at the idea (most beloved aspect of the Doctor = penis?). Seriously, wouldn't Helen Mirren be perfect?
June 1: In the early parts of this week, Facebook was still going strong with the crazy. They seemed to take a particularly dastardly turn by deleting people's reporting history and publishing statements that there was no problem whatsoever and could we all just go away now please. But then, on Tuesday, someone with a bit more sense clearly came back to the office (and I have mental images of a fit being thrown), because Facebook made a complete about-turn. I am somewhat impressed (less so with what preceded it).
This week also saw the Cannes film festival, with its Palme d'Or, which offered five times as many filmes about female prostitutes as filmes by female directors. It also gave Roman Polanski the opportunity to say stupid things about how women's control over their reproductive system has killed romance, and how it is apparently indecent to give women flowers.
Unsurprisingly, the proudly politically incorrect crawled out of the woodwork when a study showed that mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner in four out of ten households with children (and that women increasingly like to work full-time). There was the The Bible sez that the wife outearning her husband will make him sad argument, and of course Fox news thinks it means society is dissolving, because science. People are actually saying this, as if it is an acceptable thing to say.
Happy news of the week: Anita Sarkeesian published her second Damsel in Distress video. It was of course quickly taken down again, as the dredges of the internet came out to report it (incidentally, I imagine these are the same people as those who argued against taking down the Facebook rape and domestic violence pages because of "free speech"). This was not surprising. What surprised me a little was that not only was the video automatically taken down (apparently, if enough people flag it, that is done as a precaution), but someone with a human brain and eyes then confirmed this take-down; the video was restored when Sarkeesian appealed this first decision. Can we stop with the stupid now, please? Also, go watch the video. And you could also do worse than read this on how women have been fighters, too.
May 25: This week my boycott list suddenly got rather longer. I bring you the campaign to end gender-based hate speech on Facebook (I have never been happier to be without a Facebook account). Facebook, as I am sure you are aware, has had a long history of banning breastfeeding pictures, photos of breast cancer survivors and their mastectomy scars, feminist campaigns and more feminist campaigns. This is because they have user guidelines against "obscenity" and "pornography"(something which itself does not seem to function optimally).
What they do not have guidelines against is graphic content that encourages violence against women. Have a look at these examples of the atrocious things they allow (trigger warnings galore). Reporting these pages yourself will therefore often not get you anything beyond a polite note that Facebook has looked at it and found nothing that contravenes the guidelines.
The problem with Facebook is that as users you are not really their customers (as people have often observed, you are the product); they therefore have little incentive to listen. Once logic and human decency fails, the only way to get a company like Facebook to change its mind is therefore to target its advertising revenue (although I am sure cancelling your Facebook account wouldn't hurt). The campaign has therefore centered on trying to get the advertisers to put pressure on Facebook. With some, but depressingly limited, success.
I would, for example, have expected Dove, whose brand identity revolves around supporting women against sexism, to take this seriously. They haven't (thereby losing about a million points and any and all good will they may have accumulated with their semi-sensible advertisements). Audible has taken it even further, deleting any criticism from its Facebook page (and according to reports, blocking people who mention it). A number of others are making sympathetic noises, but hiding behind what appears to be deliberately obtuse talk of not being able to control what content their ads end up next to. Which is such an extreme example of missing the point that I am seriously concerned for the minds that run businesses these days. Here and here and here is some further reading.
Argh. So, I am angry and in a boycotting mood. Who's with me?
The good news? Someone made a nifty set of snarky fake ads that should be spread around the internet as soon as possible.
Has anything else happened this week, you ask? Well, there was the deeply silly handling of the criticism against Star Trek, and some odd ESC stuff in Norwegian papers. More interestingly, perhaps, a new study on men who rape was released in Norway. I haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting.
May 18: This week, Disney lost all the "not entirely evil" points they had accumulated by proxy through Pixar's Brave by turning Merida into a fucking princess. And by "princess" I mean unnaturally skinny and well groomed (complete with orderly curls and make-up), without those pesky weapons. Shame on Disney. Brenda Chapman, the woman who made Merida, is not happy with them, either.
Wouldn't it be great if little girls could be told that they could be Disney princesses (which, while not my life goal, does seem to have a strange appeal for some) without having to conform to such an absurdly narrow and unhealthy feminine ideal? There is enough of that elsewhere. And yes, "elsewhere" includes the film industry (seriously: it is actually moving down-hill, and they are left to pass off the same-old damsel in distress as empowerment).
The reactions to Angelina Jolie's announcement that she is having a double mastectomy (which, incidentally: well done!) illustrate the problem of the film industry's way of treating women. The Gist made this hi-larious headline (because this is all about her being a sex object). And the internet showed itself from its usual charming side as men came out sympathising with the plight of Brad Pitt. Because women are not people.
This is not limited to Hollywood culture. Reddit is as good an illustration as any. And if you had any doubts that UKIP should go in the nutty pile, one of their donors confirmed it recently with his statement that women should not wear trousers, because
So, yes. It has been a depressing week. Not helped by more same-old rape culture from a Hong Kong official. We've been over this before. Amnesty has recently done some research on Norwegian attitudes to rape, however; it seems to suggest that the Norwegian education system is failing women quite spectacularly. P3 had a documentary on the most common form of rape (which not done by the stranger lurking in the bushes). I confess I am a little shocked to learn that according to Amnesty's research, 1 in 4 Norwegians consider a women partially responsible for the rape if they joined the man at a nachspiel. And that 28% of Norwegian men consider a woman partially responsible if she flirted with the man. Seriously? Who are these people? What is wrong with them?
Um, yeah. So I guess Angelina Jolie talking about her double mastectomy was this week's happy note. You can comfort yourself with some science fiction written by women, if you like.
May 11: First off: wow. Yes, that links you to the horror film in which feminists will kill you. There are also people in the real world who think Women have the magic power to affect tectonic plates with their clothes.
Moreover, this week gave us a very strange piece by Barbara Hewson, a lawyer who thinks the age of consent should be lowered to 13 so that the post-Savile round-up can stop hurting the poor old lechers. It is kicked around a bit here. Seriously.
In other news, the world should band together to make sure Eddie Cuffin never procreates. It shouldn't be too hard.
This week notably saw the rescue of three women who had been held captive, beaten and raped for a decade. Here is an article on the link to domestic violence. Here is an article on the perception of female purity, which contains some interesting observations from Elizabeth Smart, who was also kidnapped and held for a long time. And here is one on the practice of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan.
On another happy note: Here is a song about The Princess Who Saved Herself (will provide happy mental images of a dragon drinking tea).
May 4: In honour of May the 4th (be with you) I thought I'd start on a sci fi note: Here is a blog asking why women are always in tubes in the future. Seriously, have a look at these old sci fi illustrations. Is this still going on? I do not know, but I know that Uhura is a liability beacuase she loves too much. That is right: they seem be taking her character in precisely the direction I was afraid of. She holds the crew together with her compassion? She is supposed to be a kick-ass linguist, not an embodiment of femininity!
In other news, the Times Higher Education Gender Index was interesting. I would still have liked to see some graphic representation of the difference between temporary staff, mid-level lecturers and full professors, though. At any rate, Norway is behind Turkey (so is everyone else).
Norway has also been scaring me lately, as Høyre have decided they are all in favour of freedom of choice, except where women's bodies are concerned: they are attempting to limit abortion. That KrF is taking the loony path should not be a surprise, but I had expected different things from Høyre.
The loony fringe is at it in Britain as well: One of UKIP's men has declared that businesses should not employ women of childbearing age. UKIP had a bit of a scary election this week (scaring me, that is). Political nutters are fine, but they have an uncanny tendency to seep into majority politics.
On a happier note: One of the US colleges finally decied to do something about its rape problem, rather than ignore it and assign book reports as punishment for the offenders.
April 27: I am in Berlin and have been blissfully oblivious (without internet) most of this past week, hence the sparsity of this entry. I have learnt, however, that there is a War on Men, according to some (positively disturbing) concerned citizens. I have heard of these guys before (notably Eivind Berge, who famously endorsed rape), and it never ceases to amaze me. The Men's Rights Movement also pops up in less violent ways, like seeing attempts to create women-only spaces in traditionally male dominated areas (like the gym or a poker tournament) as an attack on men. It always makes me a little sad, mainly because there are a lot of ways in which men are also oppressed by the structures of a patriarchal society, and it would therefore benefit them to join feminism in the fight against them, rather than to try to create yet another binary opposition. I suspect the problem is that many of these people find thinking a little difficult, though.
I am also rather dismayed that Wikipedia has decided to join the Dark Side. I guess it was inevitable: if you have people who are not trained in questioning problematic structures of thought in a society doing the editing, the edited result will reflect those structures of thought. Until someone points out how stupid it is. Which someone has now done. I guess that is today's happy note.
April 20: Sometimes my eternal optimism takes a beating. This has been one of those weeks. This is in part because it has been a week of in-fighting in the feminist world, and if there is one thing that depresses me beyond any other, it is feminists using silencing tactics on each other (as if there weren't enough other people out to do just that to us). This week, Helen Lewis was the target, but not too long ago the same thing happened to Suzanne Moore (who had inarticulately been trying to make this point), and before that there was someone else. Here are the particulars of one such "conversation".
As Zoe Williams points out in this comment piece, the importance of intersectionality to feminism is obvious (you cannot be against one type of structural discrimination without opposing them all), and there is no doubt that feminism has had a problem of privileging a white, middle-class female experience as "universal womanhood" (which is often unhelpful, becuase prejudices like to band together). But the idea that you cannot speak except about your own particular experience would shut down the feminist movement as a movement all too quickly. And we cannot afford that, because we need to kick Facebook somewhere where it hurts, and gape in open-mouthed astonishment at people like this.
This week also saw the one-year anniversary of The Everyday Sexism Project, which has been a great combination of depressing and uplifting. Depressing because of the stories it highlights (and the repetitive nature of these stories); uplifting because it actually manages to highlight them, and to show why experiences which on their own are often dismissed as a joke or even a compliment are insidious, overwhelming and downright bad.
There have also been one or two comments about the unhealthily thin beauty ideal this week (with reports that model agencies are using anorexia clinics as a hunting ground). I have a horrible feeling, however, that "the beauty ideal is unhealthy" and "models are too thin" has become meaningless phrases because they have been repeated so often. Like "bottle neck", we no longer stop to think about what the words mean -- it is just how it is. And I am left want to kick something.
This, however, is also the subject of this week's happy note: Dove has made it the central point of their latest ad, in which women describe themselves to a forensic artist, and are then in turn described by others. It is a nifty way of highlighting the sometimes crippling self-criticism that the beauty ideals of our society force on women. This, LEGO, is what you should do in advertisements.
April 13: Margaret Thatcher died. This is feminist news, how? you may ask. After all, the woman famously declared feminism "poison" and claimed she had received no help from women's liberation (glorious expression of the absurdity of her belief in the independence of the individual). Feminism has, to a large extent, cordially returned the feeling. But it really is interesting to see the glee with which her death has been celebrated, despite the fact that she has not been a force in British politics for decades. (Not to mentioned the gendered quality of the words used about her on places like Twitter -- as someone observed, calling Thatcher a "slut" seems a little beside the point.)
I was also intrigued by assertions like "The first prime minister of female gender, OK. But a woman? Not on my terms", which raises the question of what exactly makes someone a woman. But I think on of the best comments was actually made by Russel Brand (I know!): "Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had 'broken the glass ceiling for other women'. Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism."
This week also saw Equal Pay Day celebrated in America. According to this piece women in 2013 earned what men did in 2011. While not as dire as America, there is a definitely gendered pay discrepancy in Norway as well.
The Everyday Sexism Project has been pointing out that while Facebook bans images of women breastfeeding (the horror), they happily display pages endorsing rape and domestic violence. Ask me again why I'm not on Facebook. Everyday Sexism also had a campaign this week, on the sexual harassment of women on public transport. You can find some harrowing stories under #endsh on Twitter.
If you had a look at that, you will be very ready for some good news right about now. And here it is: change is possible. Mariam Chamberlain, one of the pioneers in gender studies, died last week, and this lovely article looks at how much things have changed in academia with the advent of this approach. It makes me happy.
April 6: While you may be a pioneering rocket scientist, your main asset will still be cooking if you are female (or so the first version of New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill would seem to suggest). Explore offered this photo as a corrective.
Syria, as our very own foreign minister has observed, is fast becoming the new Balkan in terms of rape as a weapon of war (the aftermath of which has been a topic here before). I am not suggesting this is a weapon which only affects women, but it does so disproportionally (like hunger). And it is not limited to Syria.
In more upbeat news: There is a Women in the World summit going on (organised by the Women in the World Foundation), which seems to have gathered together all the big hitters, and which is covering a plethora of interesting issues. Of course, it must come as no surprise that part of the media coverage has taken care of more vital issues, like whether Angelina Jolie is Stylish or Sloppy in her sartorial choices at the event.
March 30: After last week, I shied away from the news a bit. As a result, I am now more well balanced. Somewhat. As a side effect, I have less to show the class; I have, however, managed to gather a few observations.
Bleeding over from the depressing depths that were last week, Public Shaming had a good commentary on the 40 hottest women in tech debacle and the desperate attempt to make it appear acceptable ("we used normal looking women!"). Sexism is always more fun with a side of snide comments.
In happier news: The news broke that the BBC launched a database on "expert women" in order to help their journalists diversify their sources. It has been a bit of a problem. It will be interesting to see if the database has any effect on their actual output, but it is good that they are trying. In a world where women are not socialised to put themselves forward as experts, and where the word still too often means "white middleclass man", a public broadcaster like the BBC has a special responsibility to help change perceptions.
Oh, and President Obama has nominated the first female head of the Secret Service.
It helps take the edge off the realisation that there has not been a single female writer in the last 60 episodes of Doctor Who, and only one since the show's reboot in 2005.
March 23: The world can be a depressing place to wake up to, and social media is making the idiots I have spent much of my life shielding myself from all the more accessible. I cannot tell whether that is good or bad. At any rate: The rapists of the Steubenville case were convicted and sentenced, and all the maggots crawled out of their lairs and onto Twitter.
The Public Shaming Tumblr page (which will be very useful when the revolution comes) has gathered some of the atrocious fuckwits in four posts so far: Read this, this and this (and this on how it is not limited to the Steubenville case). Can we just get this out of the way and into the open in case there was ANY DOUBT? If you see a girl (or, you know, a boy) passed out drunk, you DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH HER (or, indeed, him) or stick things into the openings of their body. I'd have thought that was clear. The phenomenon you are encountering here is called rape culture, in its current incarnation of victim blaming ("if you go down a dark street/drink/wear X it is really your own fault if you get raped") and slut shaming ("this woman is not pure enough to be raped"), with a dash of "men cannot help themselves" (were I a man, I would be horribly insulted by the assumptions of rape culture).
If you are dismissing this as a simple case of "idiots online", you would be wrong. CNN (in)famously did a horrendous job of it, with their reporter going off on a rant about the poor boys and how the verdict had ruined their lives (not, you know, that fact that they chose to rape). (If you feel inspired to tell CNN to go fuck themselves, signing this may help.) The CNN story is indicative of a wider pattern. And here's another piece on all of this for good measure.
Give me a moment to breathe. I get angry.
Now. Today's dose of "boys can't be expected to play a girl in a game". Never mind the fact that girls have somehow survived playing boys for years.
I don't have happy news to end on. In fact, this week just kept getting more and more depressing. Lucy Meadows, who was an innocent caught up in the tabloid monstering of trans men and women, probably killed herself this week. If you have time, I recommend you read the TransMediaWatch's submission to the Leveson inquiry.
On a more upbeat note, I Fucking Love Science came out as a woman (not having Facebook, I had never heard of it and couldn't take part in the shock and outrage). Actually, that is not quite what happened, but going by the responses you'd have thought it was some shameful secret she had sneakily kept quiet in order to spring it on the unsuspecting public at the right moment.
Even my upbeat notes are depressing. It's been that kind of week in feminismland.
March 17: (Yes, I was supposed to do this yesterday; I plead marking).
This was always going to be about highlighting tendencies, and here is the first one: Epad femme has finally arrived (how did we do without it; oh, yes, that's right; just like everyone else). See also, from earlier years, this Ellen video on Bic for her. Not the end of the world? Not as insidious as LEGO Friends? Maybe not; but damned annoying and insulting.
In other news, there was a good article on rape in literature and films in The New Statesman. And meanwhile, the rest of the world is going steadily to hell in a handbasket -- especially if you are a woman in a conflict zone, but also elsewhere.
And ending on the upbeat note again (because it is good for mental health): the Veronica Mars kickstarter is looking very healthy, demonstrating once again (to those who doubt it) that kick-ass women as protagonists is not a way to lose an audience.
March 9: To get us started: Amazon.co.uk once again showed itself to thrive at the nadir of human decency last week, helping to sell "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot" t-shirts (produced by Solid Gold Bomb), as well as "Keep calm and Hit Her" and variations thereof, accidentally demonstrating that algorithms hate women, too. Except, while the claim is that the t-shirts were automatically generated by matching an inane slogan with random verbs, "keep calm and +verb" does not give any result for a number of other verbs. Moreover, according to reports, "her" (not "him") was added at the end of a number of these t-shirts. I am no computer expert, so for all I know there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this.
In a more upbeat segment: Feminist Frequency has finally published the first video in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series, which caused such consternation and misogynistic dimwittery (yes, I made up that word) when it was launched. Please watch it.