Demo2010: policing and the philosophy of protest - last Thursday on Police State UK
- in which I talk about the tendency of the press to report the methods rather than the message of a protest; attempt to summarise the context of Demo 2010, and offer a comparison of the Millbank occupation and the G20 protest last year.
"Warning: may contain humour" - last Friday on Police State UK
- a round-up of the online response to the Twitter Joke Trial verdict, a brief discussion of bad taste and free speech, and a couple of awkward qustions.
Remember the Suffragettes: a Black Friday vigil in honour of direct action - yesterday on Open Democracy: Our Kingdom
- publicising the Black Friday vigil I'm going to tonight, and explaining why I think it's important to honour the methods, as well as the cause and sacrifice, of the suffragettes. This was a wee post thrown together after a chat with Anthony Barnett before the Open Democracy drugs policy talk on Tuesday ("can you quickly write what you just told me for Our Kingdom when you got home? Doesn't have to be long") and then it was on the front page of Open Democracy, and the most read post on the site for a brief while this morning.
Too much politics this week, not enough paying work. Which makes a difference from the previous five months' schedule of too much pub, not enough paying work. Will get there eventually!
Demo2010: policing and the philosophy of protest - last Thursday on Police State UK
At Women's Question Time last week the first question was about the lack of statues commemorating the achievements of women. The audience struggled to think of any. Boudicca, okay. Queen Victoria, yes, although the female figures around her representing abstract virtues don't really count. Queen Caroline. Florence Nightingale. Umm ... we ground to a halt as we realised how many of the commemorative statues in London, male or female, celebrate military achievement. The historical exclusion of women from this sphere (unless you're a Queen or Empress) obviously doesn't help the disproportionate lack of depictions of great women in our public streets and squares.
Many of those present felt that it would be more appropriate to celebrate non-military achievements. We started brainstorming female candidates. Ada Lovelace was one of the first; I had my hand up to name her when she was mentioned. She was the first computer programmer, a brilliant mind, one of the first female members of the Meteorological Society, and if you fangirl her as much as me, you'll love Sydney Padua's remarkable steamgeek webcomic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage:
( A gaping hole in your life of which you were hitherto unaware )
With a certain amount of irony, I don't have time to write a blogpost dedicated to a role model of women in tech, because this morning I was finishing an article about the role of online engagement and social media in the future of policing (please do read it, it took me nearly a week to write) and in about twenty minutes I am dashing out to the Stop Disconnection Demo against the Digital Economy Bill, in attempt to prove the Peer who allegedly said "it's not as if people will protest outside Parliament" wrong. My comment on the bill, The Chilling Effect, is rapidly becoming one of the most-read pieces on Police State, which feels weird when it was only my second piece of tech journalism - the first being Google Buzz opts out of privacy.
I come across this all the time: smart, geeky women who live online and have lots to say about politics and equality and education and civil rights and gender and sexuality, but who quail when confronted with a topic they consider too techy. It's the result of centuries of rejection and brainwashing and it's bollocks, of course. Law is way more complicated and difficult than technology, and we all cheerfully opine about that. But I sympathise.
Yesterday morning I went to a web marketing seminar at the British Library, organised by She's Ingenious. Alison Rothwell and Cally Robson spoke to a group of twenty entrepreneurs (all female but one - guess who talked the most) about developing their businesses for the web. As a webdesigner I was there in a somewhat sneaky capacity - I didn't expect to learn much from the talk, but I hoped to learn a lot from the responses to it, in working out what my clients need to know and how best to communicate with them. I managed to hand out some cards, answer some questions, and it was fascinating being one of the three women in a room considered to be tech-literate by an audience who, for the most part, considered themselves dumb amateurs. Alison Rothwell delighted me by encouraging them to build their own sites on wordpress.org, and I suggested some sites for downloading themes and plugins. Of course sometimes you need to hire the services of an expert, but WP is fantastically easy to use, and if I could teach myself how to make websites, so could these brilliant, inspired women launching their own products and services. But I couldn't help wonder if the proportion of attendees stating a complete lack of knowledge or confidence would have been the same at a male-dominated event.
That confidence, though - to stand up as a someone who knows what they're talking about - still comes hard, in politics, business and tech. I am aware throughout my performance how easier it would be if I'd been taught these modes of interaction from a young age. I don't see people of my own gender as keynote speakers; women make up nowhere near half of panellists and our representation in Parliament is shockingly low. Ada Lovelace Day is specifically about tech, but for me the terrifying, alienating process of pretending to be self-assured and confident, speaking up and sharing valid knowledge and experience with people who want to silence me, has been the same within tech as within all other male-dominated spheres. I still need to pretend to be confident half the time, but it's growing on me; I'm starting to get used to the idea that my opinion on technology and politics might be valid, to learn to state it with more flair and confidence, rather than hiding behind self-deprecation or deflecting the conversation onto my personal life.
My ambition is for my daughters and granddaughters not to have to go through this process - to grow up feeling at ease with technology, curious about the new and confident of their role in it. And that means turning ourselves into role-models for the future.
Tonight myself and many other women will be outside Parliament demanding the right to use technology freely. I can't really say it better than Penny Red:
As a woman and a feminist, I am appalled that laws are being tabled that threaten many of these women with disconnection from the source of energy and inspiration that has given me, along with so many millions of others, a renewed political awareness and a visceral sense of sisterhood and solidarity. I have no doubt that if Ada Lovelace were living today, she would be appalled, too.
A few weeks ago I joined my local library, the Marcus Gavey library in Tottenham Leisure Centre. It's a big building with a swimming pool (which I don't visit often enough) and gym classes (I keep meaning to investigate their beginners' yoga), and it also has a library which I'd managed to fail to visit in my two and a half years of living nearby. In the end it was Denny's good influence that persuaded me, with all his talk of having big piles of sci-fi books to read next to the bed in a tantalising, delicious stack. Like pancakes. Or sci-fi books.
I'm quite tired.
Anyway, I have a running list of sci-fi I want/need to read, which goes something like:
- everything by Charlie Stross except Glasshouse and Singularity Sky, which I've already read. (Glasshouse is one of the best science fiction books I've ever come across. Beautiful, thrilling, awesome book - also the most intelligently feminist work of post-humanist fiction I've read by a male author.)
- All the Culture books by Iain M Banks (which I haven't read any of, although I've read a couple of the Iain Banks novels)
- The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, about which I have heard great things from steerpikelet and cyrus_ii
- Everything good by Neal Stephenson (including the non sci-fi ones like Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle), probably starting with Snow Crash.
The library is quite nice, but the fiction seemed to all be jumbled up together. I couldn't find most of the stuff I was looking for, although I picked up The Family Trade by Charlie Stross and Anathem by Neal Stephenson - the only book they had by each author. I also grabbed The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (because I love most of her stuff and I think apart from her new one that's the only novel I haven't read) and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (which looked like cheesy girly fantasy and I figured I'd want to give my brain a rest after Anathem). Then I found Denny in the sci-fi section, which consisted of two columns of shelves - not much, but better than nothing. Still couldn't find any of the Bujolds, but I did grab both of the Philip K Dicks they had in - A Scanner Darkly (which I need to read so I can watch the film) and Valis (in case I like A Scanner Darkly and want more Dick. As it were). Denny got one out for him - Air by Geoff Ryman - and then it was closing so we hastily checked them all out with my shiny new library card and their shiny new digital system (probably not that new, but new since I last used public libraries).
Now I have a big tantalising pile of sci-fi and fantasy books to read, and it makes me feel happy in my happy place.
( reviews (and spoilers) so far - 'Air', 'The Family Trade' and 'Wildwood Dancing' )
One disadvantage of shiny digitised library systems: no datestamps in the front of the books. Instead there's a web address where you can login and check your account and renew books online. Which is pretty cool. I kept meaning to check the due date but didn't get round to it. Then I finished Wildwood Dancing today and it occurred to me I'd read nearly half of the books I'd got out, and I should probably find out before I started incurring fines. For some reason, it seemed easier to find the twitter I posted on the day I withdrew them and do some mental arithmetic than to actually find my card, register on the website and check there. Turns out they're due back Monday. Good job my subconscious is paying attention to the passing of time, even if I'm not organised enough to set reminders in my calendar.
- "Climate Change Casino" set up in the City - with at least one police officer joining in!
- Climate Camp Day 2 live blog
- Climate Camp in pictures
- Labour Mayor of Lewisham condemns the camp as "patronising and selfish" ...
- ... whereas the local Lib Dem and Green councillors are supportive.
(photo by denny!)
- Corporate lobbyists sow doubt about science in their clients' minds. Climate Camp is teaching the skills to expose them.
- Contrary to popular belief, Climate Camp is not about fighting the police – it's about fighting climate change - the article I would have written yesterday if I hadn't been distracted by trying to make this point in the comments on LibCon.
- Revolting Peasants - Whitechapel Anarchist Group's version of their clash with police in the camp on Wednesday night.
- As a result of this, the WAG were politely asked to leave the camp, and the camp decided it would be less disruptive to meet with police outside the camp in future, given how many of its members are victims of police brutality. Click here to read their press statement.
Feminism links, via various people, but most of them from gavagai. Sorry if I've posted any of these before; between IRC, facebook, twitter and here it's sometimes hard to keep track what goes where.
- A Few Things To Stop Doing When You Find a Feminist Blog by Fugitivus, whose writing I am devouring at the moment.
- Misogyny: up close and personal on CiF, originally posted as The terrible bargain we have regretfully struck" on Shakesville. Delighted to see it on the Guardian, but I'd recommend not reading the comments.
- No more Mr. Nice Guy - analysis of the Sodini shooting by Kate Harding.
- Standing Out in the Crowd: on women in open source; and in a related note, click here if you feel like explaining to a clueless open source dude what that's like.
- Women in fiction: why more awesome women in fiction makes for better fiction as well as gender equality.
- 18th Century humour by the inimitable cavalorn. E.g. "AMERICAN: Yonder House is Tiny & we have Thrice its size at Home ENGLISHMAN: No doubt Sir for 'tis the BEDLAM-HOUSE."
- A giggle-worthy tale of Dragons, Knights, and the cancellation of Big Brother by John Q Publican
- Men at their most masculine: a photo-essay
- Inspirational Blind Photographers and their Portfolios
I should know better than to open up this can of worms again on LJ, but there are two really worthwhile discussions going on which you should read:
On rape and men by cereta, challenging the non-sexist or non-sexist-identified men who always protest that "not all men are like that" to stop telling women they're wrong about their own experiences, and start actually challenging sexism where they encounter it.
You're the guy who would never rape a girl passed out on your bed (who, for that matter, knows that such an act would be rape), or the woman in the village your battalion/troop/whatever is overrunning. You're the guy who wouldn't do such a thing even when his buddies were heckling him, telling him he's a fag and a pussy if he doesn't. Even more, you're the guy who would stop his frat brother from raping that girl, and get her home. You're the guy who would stop his comrades, or at least report them.
Now, here's my question: where the fuck are you?
It's a challenging post, and the thread is full of heart-warming stories of men who didn't rape someone, which didn't particularly surprise me. I know an awful lot of men who are prepared to be decent when in a situation with a drunk or vulnerable woman; who will not only fail to rape her, but will look after her and make sure she gets home okay. That's not really the issue, for me. The issue is that I also know an awful lot of men who aren't prepared to be decent in those situations, and most of my friends have been raped or sexually assaulted once or multiple times, because no-one is prepared to challenge the sexist fuckwits. To tell them to shut up when they make rape jokes. To get them to chill out when they're drunk and yelling at strange women. To tell them to their face that they were out of order when they groped a woman in a club, or pestered someone for sex after they'd already said no, or carried on messing around with her after she passed out.
Before you join in the next conversation about rape protesting that "not all men are like that", think about how much you've done lately to challenge the idea that men are entitled to look at/comment on/touch/fuck women's bodies and if the woman objects or resists she's a stuck-up bitch; as cereta put it, "the idea that if a woman is not actively preventing a man from sticking his penis into her (and even then, if she's an enemy), he is doing nothing wrong, and hey, who can blame him?"
The second post I want to point you at is Perusing Penises in the Park (no, seriously) and some street harassment stories, khalinche's response to cereta. This is not so much about sexual violence or living in fear of rape, but the ubiquity of sexual harassment, especially if you live in the city:
I suppose the point of this long, long post is to do what I always try to do - tell a story. Today it's the story of what it's like to live with the constant possibility of having your appearance or person commented on, loudly, by strangers, and of being on your guard many times a day. It is not about my fear of being raped, because that doesn't figure in my life as much as in those of some of the commentators at the linked post. It is about men feeling that they have a right to talk and shout to me about what they want to do and what they think of my body. It is about trying to get through to the men who don't do this quite how common it is and how it affects the lives of most women.
I had limited success expressing this a year ago; and the number of men who told me then that I was wrong, that this was nothing to do with gender, that if I'd only been more sensible I could have avoided it, only proves how necessary this conversation continues to be. khalinche's post is excellent, and deserves a wide audience.
Edit: Talking about this in IRC, I ended uo looking up this post by Kate Harding, which has a lot of practical suggestions on how men who aren't like that can act to confront harassment and sexism where they encounter it, and why it's important that they do.
"Yes, you will grow to be a very, very, very, very lucky man who is able to express his nature out loud without fear of hatred or reprisal from any except the most deluded, demented and sad. But that is a small battle won. A whole theatre of war remains. This theatre of war is bigger than the simple issue of being gay, just as the question of love swamps the question of mere sexuality. For alongside sexual politics the entire achievement of the enlightenment (which led inter alia to gay liberation) is under threat like never before. The cruel, hypocritical and loveless hand of religion and absolutism has fallen on the world once more."
"A new magazine for women. I felt the world was in desperate need of one with:
- Intelligent, inspiring articles, and no fashion, celebrity gossip or diets
- Erotic photography of men based on research about what women think is sexy.
(Reviewed by Erotica Cover Watch and featuring photography by the talented Ara Maye McBay)
In lieu of actual content, here's some of the interesting stuff I've been looking at lately:
- Breastfeeding: radical, feminist and good for you by Kate Joester at the F Word (via ailbhe)
- "On a more sobering note, President Obama has killed his first civilians (that we know of) since taking office" by smhwpf.
- Is the Policing and Crime Bill 2008 a productive and reasonable compromise when it comes to legislating prostitution? - Penny Red argues that she thinks it might be, for all its flaws.
- Obama's LGBT agenda looks promising, although the I think the inclusion of HIV/AIDs policies in this list is problematic.
- The view across the bar - a new political leftie blog which I'm enjoying immensely.
- Calls to action regarding the BBC refusing to air an appeal for aid to Gaza - from smhwpf here and khalinche here
- An open letter to male humans on the subject of unwanted sexual attention. I don't fear rape as much as this essay suggests, but my awareness of the possibility of it makes me uncomfortable, angry, defensive and certainly colours my interactions with male strangers and acquaintances. The rest of what emmelinemay says is spot on.
- Minor Delays - a short story for every station on the London Underground.
- A Wordle illustration of Obama's inaugural address
- Call for submissions: Spilling Over: A Fat, Queer Anthology - might interest a few of you? The deadline is this Sunday.
- Obama reverses 'global gag rule' on family planning organisations
- From the No2ID Project: Privacy Invasion by the Back Door - via ms_katonic
- Obama issues executive orders to close Guantanamo, ban torture, and ensure transparent and open government.
- The Bush Years: All Circus, No Bread by pfarley - via ms_katonic
- "This is not culture, this is not custom, this is criminal" - Hillary Clinton on women's rights in the Middle East
- Racism! QED - an incisive social analysis by vito_excalibur
I've got a massive text file here of various links and thoughts that I've been wanting to post to this tag, but the epic thread a couple of weeks ago wore me out a bit. I've been slowly working up to returning to it, but my text file runneth over, so I've should probably start somewhere.
One thing I've been thinking about is the two opposing responses I've seen to inequality. One is to articulate it: to talk about it, to rant about it, to ask questions, to have debates, to try to convince others that it's happening and it shoudn't be. The other attitude is to accept that stuff is unfair and get on with living as fair and just a life as you can, with a strong spirit, fighting unequality with action rather than word.
I've been called a "shouty" or "angry" feminist by people who fit into the latter camp. Which made me blink a bit. I mean I didn't talk about this stuff at all until recently, and even now I am I'm trying very hard not to shout. I want to express my hurt and anger when I'm hurt and angry, and I want to talk clearly and powerfully about stuff that seems to make sense to me, but I don't want to shout, because that makes me too easy a target for people to tell me to shut up.
Shouty vs quiet activism? I think both are invaluable in different contexts, at different times and to achieve different ends.
( My ends, let me show you them. )
The other thing I've been thinking about is the tag itself: "Sexism: every little helps."
Several people pointed out that my usage of the word "sexism" in my first post was inappropriate. I don't, on balance, have any interest in a conversation that's defined as being about things that only happen to women. The world is full of exceptions and I do not want my interpretation to be derailed by someone piping up with one. And of course men suffer from gendered abuse and harassment as well.
So my subject matter is, I guess, the way in which gendered abuse and harassment directed at women by men is part of a wider pattern that makes the conversation different from how it would be if the genders were reversed. And the statistical slew of various sorts of rudeness, invasions of privacy, harassment, abuse, violence, inconvenience and disadvantages. When picking out examples from that pattern, whether it's a man or a woman being treated badly because of their gender or sex, I would call it sexism. I've been told this isn't the term other people would use. There's "misogyny", which I'm considering, but is there no gender-neutral word or phrase that can be used in the same way? This is a serious question, because there's no point setting myself up have my language torn apart every time I start talking. What word should I use?
I don't mind calling myself a feminist because I think feminism hasn't finished its very necessary work yet, but in general I prefer the term kyriarchy to patriarchy, and actually the term I'm happiest to describe myself is "gender activist". "Gender egalitarian" is another useful phrase, but I don't just think we need to equalise the genders, like some sort of binary balancing act on a pair of analogue scales, I think we need to break down the whole structure of gender and all the assumptions and restrictions and expectations attached to it.
So that's fine, but is there a better word for what I'm objecting to? Words are important: a lot of people (myself included) find it difficult to think clearly about something until they have the vocabulary to do so; and I certainly find that expanding my vocabulary helps me think more clearly and powerfully. Denny felt that I should avoid jargon when writing about this, because he finds the academese of a lot of feminism off-putting; he found my first post to be so convincing precisely because it took the talk back to the streets, back to day to day experiences, and away from abstract discussion of sociopolitical trends and invisible concepts like patriarchy and privilege. It made it visible. (Personally I think the visible stuff is only noticable once you contextualise it in the more conceptual stuff, but still, I see his point, especially given my intended audience.)
What word should I use, if not sexism, for gender-based incidents which reflect a more widespread and historically-rooted oppression? Bonus points for suggestions that fit into a catchy tag.
The comments expressing affirmation and solidarity on my previous entry are very much appreciated. Thankyou to the women who had the courage to post their own experiences of gendered harassment at risk of being told by others that those experiences are insignificant or other than you experienced them; it's a tough thing to do, and I'm grateful to everyone who's helped me demonstrate that incidents of this kind are not isolated, and do not exist in a vacuum.
Thankyou, too, to those men who have listened. I've been heartwarmed by some of the support and understanding you've showed - it's gone a long way to reassure me that I don't have to talk solely to my own gender if I want an ally, even if totally public fora are still unsafe. Your support doesn't fiix anything, of course, but before writing that post I was despairing of finding any male allies among my social circle other than cyrus_ii, and a handful of sympathetic ears is definitely better than one.
And even though the debate has been exhausting in places, thankyou to to those men who have been willing to listen and have your minds changed. I'm not expecting to convince anyone overnight. It's a slow reveal, and next time I bring this up, more groundwork will have been done, and that's valuable.
For the record, I had no intention when writing my previous post to make a commitment to chronicle every example of gendered discrimination I experience. As such I'd appreciate it if no-one holds me to one. This stuff is going on whether or not I notice it, or am offended by it, or post about it, and whether or not you believe me.
There are some fantastic bits of writing in the comments, several of which have got rather lost in the pages of debate. This comment by biascut is particularly worthy of attention:
Here's a question for the men on this thread:
Would it help if, instead of framing this as a discussion between women and men, we framed it as a discussion between experts and non-experts? Because that's what we are, when it comes to sexism and misogyny, for two reasons. Firstly, because the evidence for what we're talking about is the stuff of our daily lives. Secondly, because, this being libellum's friends' list, the overwhelming majority of women here are feminist-identified, and have spent years discussing and analysing this stuff.
I think many of the men here are getting defensive because they think this is something that we can debate, and they're being told that they're not allowed to. What you need to realise, guys, is that this is a discussion with different viewpoints allowed, but we've been having this debate for years, and basically, we're way ahead of you. You're on GCSE Feminism, and we've all got degrees in it and between three and thirty years' of professional experience. If you don't respect that, it comes off as patronising and superior – and, because of the dynamic of the discussion, as sexist, because you can't help sounding like you think you know better than us because you're men.
Let me give an example to show what I mean. Let's assume, because of the demographic that libellum tends to attract, that you're a programmer of ten years' experience, and I know nothing about programming. If you're trying to explain to me how it works, I'm not going to understand immediately, and I'm going to ask questions. If I phrase my questions as an attempt to catch you out, because I think I know more about programming, you're going to get pissed off. If I say, "But wait a minute! You've clearly contradicted yourself here! This can't possibly be true! Ha!" and look pleased with myself – you're going to roll your eyes, because honestly, you're just explaining the basics to me. You're explaining that two plus two equals four. OF COURSE you know how a stupidly basic bit of code works, because if you didn't none of the programs you've written which use far more complicated ideas would function. If I say dubiously, "Well, I guess you might be right about this bit, but I still think you're wrong about that" – ditto. I mean, you're laughing at me by now, aren't you? I just sound stupid. And you sure as hell don't want to bother trying to continue to educate such an obtuse and disrespectful student.
On the other hand, if I say, "Oh right, I see what you mean – but I still don't get that, so could you explain it again?", it's totally different. One assumes that you know what you're talking about, and the other is patronising as fuck, because it assumes that I must be twenty times cleverer than you to have spotted something that you haven't noticed in your ten years' of programming experience. Just occasionally, it is the case that someone can cast a fresh eye on a problem and solve it. But generally, experts are better at stuff than non-experts.
Think of it that way – it's not that this isn't up for debate, but the bits that are up for debate are the things that the people with ten years' experience disagree about, not the things that people at GCSE level disagree about. The things that the programmers are discussing when they're trying to resolve a particular technical difficulty, and it sounds like a foreign language to non-programmers. If you think that you can spot a logical flaw in my feminist philosophy that I haven't spotted and resolved to my satisfaction in ten years' experience of experiencing, studying and talking about sexism and patriarchy and misogyny and feminism and postfeminism, and you declare that triumphantly – it's really, really hard not to feel like you think you know better than me because you've got a cock.
libellum has explicitly said that her intention here is to educate you. Be grateful for this opportunity, because there are plenty of us who are totally over educating men who struggling with GCSE Feminism and yet think they know better than us, unless we're getting paid for it. You are not on an equal footing with me, not because you're men, but simply because I'm an expert and you're not, and the reverse would be true if we were talking about whatever your area of expertise is. You want to ask questions and learn, go ahead. Ultimately, you can decide you don't agree with me, and you'll have lost nothing and gained a more respectable intellectual basis for that disagreement. But don't disrespect mine or any other feminist woman's expertise and then complain because I'm not nice to you.
If anyone wants to highlight anything else as being Compulsory Reading for libellum's Friendslist, please let me know and, if I agree, I'll repost it here.
While I'm asking, a couple of people have expressed a vague interest in being better-educated when it comes to feminist theory, and honestly, I'm a bumbling amateur and have no idea where to start. If anyone has any favourite bookmarks which might be appropriate for beginners (particularly male ones) who are willing to learn, or suggestions for a basic Feminism 101 bibliography, could you post them in the comments? I'll appreciate the tips, if no-one else :)
I'll admit it: the main reason I repost links like these isn't because I think I need to check my own privilege (although I do); it's because I'm tired of having conversations about gender with people who don't believe that sexism is a problem for most women today. Usually well-meaning, smart, decent guys who live in the same queer-friendly alternative bubble as I do. Asking them to listen before they become defensive is an important part of that conversation. However, I've started to think it might be worth actually keeping notes on the sexism I experience.
One of the problems I have with feminist analysis is that I have no stomach for anger. I just don't have the energy for it. Sometimes something will offend me, but I'm much more inclined to shrug it off than dwell on it. Sometimes something that happens to me will strike me as intellectually offensive, but my emotional barriers stop me from being personally riled by it. This is a valuable self-defense mechanism and a political weakness. I'm much more interested in putting my time and energy into creating positive, beautiful, affirming artworks and experiences for people than I am in maintaining an anger at the injustice I perceive around me. Injustice is everywhere: being angry all the time would make me unhappy. I have a flash temper and it often doesn't take much to hurt or annoy me, but I don't stay angry easily.
I'm pretty sure I have no real concept of the scale of the sexism I've experienced in my life. Women are, let's face it, used to being victims of sexism - we rationalise it away, shrug it off, don't dwell on it. Which is all very well for short-term personal happiness, but not for revolutionising society. We go out of our way to avoid sexism, which is often self-defeating when our long-practised skills at avoiding abuse result in a lack of convincing examples to persuade anyone that there is, in fact, a problem.
I'm not interested in being angrier, really. But what I can do is observe, take notes, make a record. I think it might be interesting to start using this LJ to record examples of sexism when I notice it. And I won't notice everything; I'm not trained in this sort of analysis. But it would be useful for me to have a better idea of the scale of it, rather than having a transient, unsubstantiated, emotional sense that it's there, but never being able to think of good examples during relevant conversations. I don't want this to turn into a list of complaints; I certainly don't want anyone to start criticising me for not balancing this list with examples of female privilege. That's not what I'm focussing on, here. Nor am I trying to say that women are the only victims of sexism or oppression. I'm just trying to combat a very real belief among my (mostly male) friends that a feminist perspective is out-dated and inappropriate in our society.
I'd encourage anyone who's had similar experiences to comment, just because I know it's not just me, and I think it's important to notice the little things.
( recently )
That's all I can think of right now. I'll add more as and when they happen; I have no doubt that they will. Please feel free to contribute your own, whether or not they're related to the above. The more anecdotal evidence I have, the more chance we have of persuading the non-feminists reading this that we aren't imagining things.
Next question: what's the best way to respond to this kind of thing? The older and more confident I get, the more ready I am to stand up for myself in public, to make a fuss. I would dearly love to respond to these examples by loudly and clearly calling attention to the behaviour and making it clear that it's unacceptable. I don't; I keep my head down and hurry on. Occasionally I manage a contemptuous laugh or a withering look first. I'd love to have a clear, pointed comeback that called people who do this up on it without starting a confrontation that could get nasty, but sadly, I doubt it's possible. If anyone has any bright ideas, I'd love to hear them.
In the meantime I shall await the inevitable responses from male readers telling me that they're not like that; that I'm overreacting; that the above are neither indicative of endemic issues nor examples of sexism. G'wan, prove me wrong. :)
LJ has had some great writing lately on confronting one's own privilege, particularly in the context of conversation or debate. Here's two that I've bookmarked:
Don't be That Guy by synecdochic, writing in the aftermath of the Open Source Boob Project
Being an ally part 1: listening to anger by sophiaserpentia
The comments on the latter are particularly worthwhile. This, by sammaelhain struck me as summing it all up pretty well:
"If it's more important for me as a white hetero male to assert how i'm not "like that" than it is for me to shut the fuck up and consider the perspective of someone other than me, then functionally I'd rather have my privilege than work for a more fair society.
This doesn't mean you don't get an opinion if you're part of an oppressive social caste, it just means that you have to take things into consideration that are bigger and more important than your personal comfort when you address them."
The first sentence can be applied to any of us. My version would be, I guess, "If it's more important for me as a white, middle-class, able-bodied, straight-seeming bisexual female to assert how i'm not "like that" than it is for me to shut the fuck up and consider the perspective of someone other than me, then functionally I'd rather have my privilege than work for a more fair society."
I think I might write that out on a post-it note and stick it above my computer. I can think of lots of people I would want to see confront that. Which means, of course, I should start with myself. Easier said than done, but here's to trying.
A couple of weeks ago, dennyd linked me to http://www.helpwinmybet.com. This site is now down, but consisted of a guy (Jim) who'd made a bet with his girlfriend (Allison):
"I said to my girlfriend that any stupid website could get tons of hits, simply because people are bored all the time. She said that I was an idiot and couldn’t make a website that could get tons of hits if I wanted to. After a long argument (mostly centered around the fact that she called me an idiot) we made a bet: If I could not make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, I would agree that I was an idiot; however, if I could make a website to get 2,000,000 hits, she would have a menage a trois (that's a threesome to you non french-speakers) with me and another girl."
So! Spread the link, up the hit count, help Jim get his threesome. There was a picture of blonde Allison at the top of the page. The hit counter was very nearly at 2 million, and looked set to reach it that evening. As the hitcount got higher Jim updated more frequently, boggling at having created a net phenomenon, and started joining dating sites to try and find their third partner. "Wanna be our third? Click on the link!" It was tacky, but he also posted about having had to update his bandwidth and needing to cover his costs, and was upfront that if you joined this dating site he'd get a bit of cash, and the teasing tone meant that it didn't actually grate.
"Reckon it's genuine?" I asked. "Probably", Denny said, "it doesn't look like it's making a profit." It was written with a kind of appealing ironic humour, and raised a smirk and a giggle when I first looked at it. Denny commented that the girlfriend probably had someone in mind and this was just an excuse, and I thought that you know, more people being open-minded about group sex is a good thing, even if they do go about it in stupid ways, so yeah, trendies making free with the bisexuality and sexual experimentation, that's kinda cool.
I forgot about it, and then yesterday my friendslist was spammed with links to http://www.helpwinthisbet.com. The hit count had been reset to zero, the more recent updates had been deleted; it was started again from scratch. The url was slightly different and the picture of the girl (and names of the characters) were changed, but the text was exactly the same. The other difference was that the contract link is broken - both sites linked to a scanned, handwritten contract, but "This Bet" didn't have the image, which suggested it was a copycat site rather than the newest incarnation of an ongoing hoax. I posted a few comments on the relevant entries pointing out it was a fake, and zotz directed me to an article about the original "My Bet" site on The Register, which not only provides evidence for the previous version's existence, but revealed that the site was for profit after all:
"If you look at the link properties for his links to metrodate.com and gamefly.com (well, the gamefly link is gone, but it did the same thing yesterday), the actual href link takes you through a redirection website! I looked up the owner of the sites that the links redirect through and came across a company named: ValueClick.com, an online advertising firm.
Now, this was before the statements listed for April 5 were posted. He has since stated that he is getting a financial bonus for signing people up for metrodate.com. However, with a click-through redirection system, he's actually making money from people simply clicking on the link to metrodate (not from having them sign up!)."
Why copycat it, then? Is the new "This Bet" site planning to use the same redirection scam? I did some research.
( Which was interesting. )