Tag Archives: Sexism

In the Company of Men, by Ben Kritikos

Ger and I loaded the van and started off. Another weekend, another job. It’s late afternoon and the prospect of a three-hour drive gets us giddy. He’s driving the van and we pass a woman — a girl, more like — probably on her way home from work or college. Ger honks the horn of the white van and whoops like a hillbilly in a pickup truck, and shouts something “complimentary” at the girl. I die inwardly of embarrassment, protesting feebly while he chortles like a boner in a waistcoat.

Ger is not normally a dickbag. He is a caring, funny and clever guy. A nice guy. He probably never thinks how rapey it seems for a guy, no matter how nice, to be honking and shouting from a white van at a woman he doesn’t know. He probably never suspects that I’m ashamed to be with him in what now looks like the Rape-mobile. He pats me on the knee, still chuckling. Thick as thieves. He wouldn’t do this in front of his girlfriend, of course. Just with the boys. Bit of a laugh. With the boys. The Boys’ Club. Every man is a member of the Boys’ Club. Membership is free and involuntary.

But what if I don’t want to be part of the Boy’s Club? In fact, what if I think it’s really shitty? “Just say something,” cries the peanut gallery. Obviously. But I’m too busy cringing myself to death. Calling your mate out for being sexist, and most likely alienating yourself from him and creating bad feeling in the room, maybe even at work — that’s not in my interests at all. Better to keep my mouth shut, later telling my partner what a shmuck he acted like, then getting into a debate on Twitter with a proper Neanderthal, and privately congratulating myself for not being a knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights fuckwit.

Dyed in the wool chauvinists will argue that sexist banter is harmless. They’ll even say it’s a compliment and should be taken as such — and anybody who disagrees is taking it, and themselves, too seriously. But this behavior is aggressive and abusive, and women telling us so should be all the proof we need. If women can’t get this notion through some men’s thick skulls, then it’s paramount for unwilling members of the Boys’ Club to get on board and start drilling.

So how do you go about telling your mates to shut their pie-holes when they spout this kind of cock-wielding imbecility? It’s worth considering what it accomplishes. Margaret Atwood comes to mind: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” My friend Ger had recently been through a nasty break-up. His girlfriend got together with another guy before the ink had a chance to dry. Ger felt like a total zero, he told me. She’d rejected him, then she expected them to be friends. Almost like she was laughing up her sleeve. “I’ve had it with birds,” he would say. It wasn’t just her, it was Women. As well as breaking his heart, she hurt his pride.

A perverted victim complex is profoundly obvious in expressions like “the friendzone,” which suggests that guys are punished by women for being “nice”, as if it lowers their sexual credit rating. (For the record, I’ve never gotten laid by being anything other than “nice”, i.e. not acting like a dick.) To this “nice” guy, women are a code to be cracked, a prize to be won, some tantalizing treat that you need to reach out and decidedly grab with both hands. When women respond to this like any sane person would respond to a maniac, it only proves his point. The soundtrack of low male self-esteem is not “Creep” but “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.

Some guys with low self-esteem turn to books like The Game, or to pick up artists like Julien Blanc to “build their confidence” or learn “the art of seduction” because it’s easier to think of their failure to form meaningful (or even sexual) relationships with women as a matter of technique. It’s even more appealing to join a group of like-minded guys — a literal Boys’ Club. Taking a really good look at yourself and deciding you want to confront your insecurities is so much more complicated than following a step-by-step initiation into the Order of the Slayers of the Pussy Dragon.

I very much doubt my mate Ger would ever read The Game or think Julien Blanc was anything more than an asshat. But shouting from a moving van has a similar purpose. Ger’s sexist banter was symptomatic of the anxiety that some men have about women, and to shield himself from this anxiety, he made me complicit. What’s a Fat Girl joke among friends, hey? Answer: a Masonic handshake, but with more ball grabbing. The Boys’ Club is some men’s way of feeling less vulnerable to the Inscrutable Otherness of women by banding together, by creating an Us and Them. To these men, it’s easier to drag women down in the same hole as them, rather than trying to get themselves out of it. The ugly logical extension of this is the Sun’s recent Page 3 prank: juvenile sniggering at the expense of everyone not stupid enough to want a pair of tits in their newspaper. It’s insulting, awkward and ridiculous — like Eric Idle’s “wink wink, nudge nudge” character in And Now For Something Completely Different.

So what do you do when your otherwise perfectly reasonable friend goes all shit-for-brains? My answer is: take the fucking piss out of him. Let him know what a gobshite he’s being, and how embarrassed you are to be seen with him, through the socially acceptable veil of contemptuous laughter. After all, he would say that it’s all just a bit of fun. And so it is — but the joke is on him for being a daft twat.

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The danger of labels by Meri Wills

I recently watched the French short film reversing men’s and women’s roles in “everyday sexism”.  When I got to the end, I have to say it got me thinking about the everyday things that I experience and that I don’t even really notice anymore let alone complain about: The woman often in front of me in the line at the coffee shop who will try and flirt her way out of paying if a man is serving, but will be downright rude if it’s a woman. The bus driver who, if he’s stopping for a cigarette while parked and I walk past him on my way into the office, will always make a comment along the lines of “Hello again, beautiful.” The van which beeps as it drives past. The women shaking their heads and tutting at the woman with her stockings slightly showing through the slit of her pencil skirt as she walks to work.

 

We’re coded to judge people when we first meet them, it’s an evolutionary trait which helped us not get eaten. But making that first mental judgement doesn’t mean you need to act on it, much less comment to a friend. With International Women’s Day recently passed for this year, I started thinking about why certain groups deserve special mention for their achievements, while it’s assumed that for the majorities, every day is special. I recently had a heated debate at work with a colleague about whether a white, Caucasian, heterosexual male could be ‘harmed’ by something someone said to him. I pointed out that offence can be caused for any number of reasons, and being in the majority doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings, or that you are inherently racist, sexist, homophobic or anything else. I also pointed out that while he is constantly preaching ‘don’t judge someone on how they look’, isn’t that exactly what he was doing? I suddenly realised that the difficulty I was having wasn’t with the judgements themselves, it was with the labels being slapped all over them.

 

There comes a point when frantically putting labels all over your social interactions and acquaintances just starts hampering your vision of the world. It’s probably an incredibly naive and idealistic notion but wouldn’t it be better to just talk to someone? Maybe find out a thing or two about them before you start shaming them for being a “Slut – in that skirt”, or a “Toff” or a “Hipster”. We all know that when you say you’re a feminist, it’s a dirty word for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should judge them for being ignorant. Educate them, don’t preach, don’t talk down, just ask them if they think that people should be equal. If they answer yes, they’re on the same page as you.

 

Labels help us categorise the world around us and particularly the vast amount of information now available to us through the internet. It’s tempting and very easy to start labelling everything around us in a mental chart of our personal slice of the world. I know I do it, but the key is keeping those mental labels adaptable and ready to change. Discrimination happens for any number of reasons and in an intelligent species, there’s really no need for it.

 

NB: Just as an aside, while reading through the comments afterwards I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who jumped on the term everyday and were criticising the film because the really aggressive physical abuse doesn’t happen to most women on a daily basis. No, you’re right, it doesn’t. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen every day in every city in every country, and that doesn’t make it any less horrific. It is everyday sexism in that these are acts committed in ‘civilised’ society to thousands of women each week, often at the hands of people close to them let alone from strangers. The message of the film was what was important not the title.

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Oppressed Majority tackles everyday sexism

French actress, writer, and director Eleonoré Pourriat made a short satirical film, Majorité Opprimée (Oppressed Majority), in 2010 about everyday sexism experienced by women in modern-day France. By cleverly twisting around stereotypical gender roles, it follows the life of a normal man as he moves through his day and becomes tormented by violent and dismissive women. The video exploded and went viral this week on Youtube, striking a chord with its gritty portrayal of urban life. Pourriat told The Independent this week, “Obviously, I have touched a nerve. Women in France, but not just in France, feel that everyday sexism has been allowed to go on for too long.”

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Dial A Hubby by Susie Taylor

Having been sat in a dark (cheers winter weather) room for the past one and a half weeks typing up essay plans on subject as diverse and cheery as instances of rape in India and colonial attitudes towards prostitution, I have found myself reading a lot of feminist literature. This has led to me becoming very aware of cases of sexism all around me. This is not to say that this rant is in fact solely due to reading feminist literature, many of the writers are quite happy people. However,mixing Laura Mulvey with my argumentative and sometimes aggressive nature has led me down the path of rant.

And so I present to you this abomination of a website I discovered the other day as I was waiting to enter a roundabout. I was already feeling a bit, let’s say strained, due to my car Arthur deciding that today was the day he was going to make his way slowly to his car grave, and I see a pink van coming towards me. I don’t like the colour pink. Not the point but it adds to the impending sense of annoyance that I felt. Then I saw the name of the company on the side….Dial a Hubby.

Yes, that’s right ladies there is a company devoted to all of the porn based fantasies where your husband’s unsatisfactory DIY skills lead you to be frustrated, especially if you need a light bulb changed, and in comes a hunky DIY handyman with whom “you will be amazed at what can be achieved by one of our handymen in a one hour booking”. I’m not sure that I’m even going to address how ridiculous this company is. Yes I understand that fitting on to the van “Dial a person who is infinitely more competent than you at DIY” would be hard and is not nearly as catchy but seriously, SERIOUSLY, if something in my house breaks do I really have to dial a company that provides me with a husband, as such, to rescue me from my trials and tribulations? I can’t fix  my oven when it’s broken and I also don’t deal very well when there’s a spider in my bathtub but I will persevere and face my arachnophobia before dialing a company that tells me that one I cannot do it due to my gender and two because of my marital status. And for the cooker….I’ll call the repair person.

dial a hubby 2

The van that started it all

Susie Taylor

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In Which Some Sexual Harassment Occurs and I Become Annoyed by Meg Hogg

I went out on Saturday night, braving the mean streets of Leeds to find a space of solace in which I could dance like my mother and nobody would judge me. Something happened on Saturday that I would like to tell you about. Let me paint you a picture. I am at the Vox Warehouse with my housemates plus some spares, there’s eight of us in all, a group of guys and girls, dancing, laughing, generally being carefree and young. We pause briefly to head to the bar to grab a casual Becks as students on a night out are wont to do. As we make our way across the dance floor, a guy I have never met grabs my arse. Now this does not shock me. It pisses me off, but I’m not shocked. It has happened to me before and it will happen again. Over my many years of encountering arseholes like this in clubs I have honed my technique for dealing with them. Ignoring it offends my feminist sensibilities, but hitting them in the face has led to some dubious results. My logic is if you think it’s ok to slap my arse I reserve the right to slap you back in the body area of my choice. Unfortunately, most people I’ve tried this on don’t really see my point of view so recently I’ve been opting for something nice and simple, direct, clear, that gets my point across without having to physically assault anyone. I turned around, looked him straight in the eye and said “don’t fucking touch me”.
The gentleman in question, although I use that term extremely loosely, was hugely offended by this. His response was to scream in my face that I was rude and say I should have asked nicely and said please when I asked him to stop sexually assaulting me. Resisting the urge to just mash my face into the keyboard until someone puts me in a padded room, I’m going to just run through the implications of this for anyone who hasn’t already decided that this is a hugely douche-baggy thing to do. By saying that I should have said please when asking him to stop touching me, he implied that not touching me was the equivalent of him doing me a massive favour. That, far from me being completely within my rights for being annoyed that someone that I had no interest in ever even speaking to, let alone having sex with, that I had never met, grabbing me in a sexually aggressive manner, I should probably have promptly fainted at the excitement of the huge compliment he had just paid me, before recomposing myself, batting my eyelashes a bit and gone home with him to forever be his personal concubine. By saying I should have “asked nicely” when telling him not to completely violate my physical autonomy, he is basically suggesting that all men should, and do, have free access rights to my body.
Well you can go fuck yourself for starters Mr. Grabby. I mean seriously. I don’t even really know how I’m meant to respond to this sort of behaviour. If somebody walked up to you in the street and punched you in the face, yelling at them to stop would be a fairly appropriate response by most people’s standards. If the person who had just punched you in the face then demanded that you say please, you would probably think you had a) walked into a scene from the poorly written barrage of literary faeces that is 50 Shades of Grey, and b) want to leave immediately. What it all comes down to, is that there are plenty of people out there who think that simply by leaving her house, a woman is consenting to all kinds of shit. By entering the public arena she is asking to be harassed, assaulted and generally dicked about.
Serious question, what are you getting out of this arse grab? Is it a serious attempt to initiate some sort of sexual liaison? If it is, you need to brush up on your flirting sonny boy. If it isn’t then the option we are left with is, you saw an arse you liked, and you grabbed it. You just stole a bit of sexual gratification from me! If you had asked me, I would have said no, but you didn’t ask, you just went ahead and violated me in that small but emphatic way that seems to have got through so many people’s social filters. Do you know what this is starting to sound like? Yeah, it’s starting to sound a tiny little bit like rape isn’t it? Now, I’m not saying that an arse-grab in any way amounts to the emotional and physical trauma of rape. After about five minutes of screaming at my housemates about why we still need feminism and all of them nodding and looking sympathetic and hoping I would stop, I went back to dancing and the night turned out rather well. But the logic that goes into a thought process that concludes “I don’t know that girl but I should probably touch her in a fairly intimate way because I can” is fairly similar to the logic that says “I don’t know that girl but she is wearing a skirt so I should probably rape her because I can”. It is the same logic that doesn’t think about a woman’s input into the decision making process, that doesn’t care that she is a human being with thoughts and feelings and not just a body that walks around waiting to fulfil male sexual needs. It is the logic that disregards a woman’s right to choose. This can also be applied to guys being sexually harassed, which is justified with different, but equally shitty logic, that because he is a guy all he is thinking about right now is sex anyway so he won’t care if I sexually assault him. In general, let’s just agree not to touch strangers inappropriately.
Not all guys do this, nor do all girls. There is a small minority, walking around fucking it up for the rest of us. This has happened to me a handful of times, I know it has happened to a lot of my female friends. It’s a shitty thing but I don’t know how to stop it from happening. Short of changing the way that I dress, and I think we all know from Slutwalk, what a bad idea it is to ask a feminist to do that to avoid sexual harassment/abuse, I don’t know what it is that I can do to stop men from assuming that they have a right to my body and that I don’t have a say in the matter. I don’t know how to stop guys from assuming that because I went out to a club in a skirt, I am open for business for anyone and everyone. I can’t change societal attitudes because I am just one person. But I like to think that together we can do something about this. Let’s assume that the average arse-slapper/breast-grabber/dick-on-butt-grinder is a repeat offender. Imagine how quickly he’ll get bored of doing this is every time he does, he gets an angry feminist rant in the face. Imagine if every time he crosses that line of personal space, he gets a girl yelling about rape-culture and feminist theory and why Germaine Greer was right about the societal construction of women as passive sexual beings. I like to think that even your most committed dickhead is going to start thinking twice about pinching people’s arses when he thinks he’s going to get an earful from an angry feminist.
Let’s use our words.
By Meg Hogg, author on Consider the Seahorse:  
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Lynx- you still smell really really really bad by Ruth-Eloise Lewis

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that y’know, shock horror, Lynx have produced another sickeningly sexist advert. Oh, how the years have passed with their delightful gifts to society such as Sophie Monk offering to clean men’s ‘balls’ and wild-eyed, lust-crazed ladies running after a man on the beach. And I know, I’ve fallen right into the trap. I’m providing them with free publicity. I’m practically promoting the notion that sexism sells.

But I thought that maybe, just perhaps, some things might have changed. How optimistic. I mean it’s 2012- aren’t we all just a little bit aware that misogyny is not desirable? Did the wonderful documentary Miss Representation not infiltrate into mass culture? Reminding all of us naughty consumers of the harmful and dangerous potential of the media, how it seeps into our minds and distils our thoughts? Maybe some things have changed, but it appears others have not. And there’s nothing wrong with a gentle reminder.

Lynx’s new ‘Type of Woman’ campaign has really pissed me off. I’m forced to watch it every time I go on Youtube, and I do not appreciate this one little bit. ‘Keep Up With Your Girl’ poses five different ‘types’ of girl- sporty, brainy, party, high-maintenance, flirty. Five different tired stereotypes. Blindingly obvious and deductive. The viewer (supposedly male) is asked to pick his type and ‘find out how to keep up.’ This means giving a list of how to impress said girl in order to receive suggested sexual gratification. Basically, lie to women and you will get laid. And as a young woman, this just makes me feel a bit shit. The media makes me feel shit about a lot of things, how I look, how shiny my hair is etc and now it seems our personalities are under attack too.  It’s not just bodies being commodified anymore.

The girl is seen as a problem, as a challenge, as a game to be played in order to receive a prize.

I am aware that Lynx have a gendered market that aims to appeal to young men, but is this latest campaign not a little bit insulting to that market also? Men are portrayed as clueless idiots, like they don’t have the intellect or personalities to form competent human relationships to these new superwomen. Furthermore, the idea that men feel they now have to ‘keep up’ with women disturbs me. As if all these leaps and bounds in modern feminism that were made to ensure women have choices, feel independent and are confident in themselves, can be dismissed entirely by a little bit of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour.

I don’t really expect a shower gel advert to fully depict women as the complex and diverse people we truly are but this latest stunt just smells pretty cheap, puerile and quite frankly, boring.

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“AT LEAST YOU’RE ONE UP FROM IMMIGRANTS”: A GUIDE TO THE LIFE OF AN INTERN PT. 1 by Leighann Morris

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So naive

Finishing university is a massive anti-climax. It’s kind of like waiting all your teenage life to FINALLY lose your virginity, having built up expectations of an otherworldly out-of-body experience, and in reality getting 3 awkward minutes of some idiot with acne trying to fuck you with his socks on. It’s disappointing all-round.

This guide is for those of you who have a good degree in something useless and unemployable, and, from this depressing outcome, have saved up some money with the vague hope that doing an internship will shower you with knowledge, contacts, and the opportunity of a job.

Anger has repressed my memories of interning at [nameless] newspapers for exactly a year now, so I feel it my duty to warn the newest batch of hopefuls what may be in store for them. So I’ve broken my guide down into 3 accessible categories, filled with anecdotal nightmares and advice.

1)      SEXUAL HARRASSMENT

The level of understanding of male/female equality at [nameless] newspapers had not progressed from the 1950’s. In fact, the whole time I was there, I felt like I was in an episode of mad men, apart from no one was cool or suave, just really fucking sexist.

The horrendous thing about the level of sexism and sexual harassment that went on at [nameless] newspapers was that I WARNED about it on arrival. It was a commonly known fact at [nameless] newspapers, AND EVERYONE CHOSE TO IGNORE IT.  It was like everyone got the office version of Stockholm Syndrome, and eventually learned to love the pervy office dictator the more they worked there.  My warning went something like this:

“Thing is about [nameless managing director of nameless newspapers], he’s really touchy feely, but he means no harm, you just have to take it or leave it. You’ll get used to it, he’s got a really good heart”. ALWAYS CHOOSE “LEAVE IT”. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR ‘GOOD HEART’ WHEN YOU’RE MASSAGING MY SHOULDERS AT MY DESK YOU FUCKING PERVERT.

The awful thing about being a young graduate is that you feel in a position of vulnerability and immense pressure. I put up with anything because I was worried about missing out on opportunities at a time when they were scarce and unemployment was at its record low. But it goes past the point of being ok when you’re told that if you hitch your skirt up, you may one day make it to the top of the chain. (Yes that actually happened, in real life, even though it sounds like a line from a low budget 80’s porno). You didn’t work your arse off for three years to get treated like a sex object, so don’t allow yourself to be.

My [nameless] boss at [nameless] newspapers was the kind of guy that fucks his secretaries, makes his wife get a boob job, and drives a Bentley. If your boss is also this guy, get out of there; especially since you’re doing it for free. Which brings us to…

2)      FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION

According to my understanding, an internship is an exchange of free labour (be it intellectual/physical) on the part of the intern, for experience, generously given to the intern by the place they choose to intern at. During my time at [nameless] newspapers, I found out that I was replacing a junior PA, who was paid a wage, whilst she was in hospital for 6 weeks. Therefore, this does not qualify as an internship, but rather EXPLOITATION. The six weeks entailed sitting opposite an unbearable nail filing digestive eating moron, who constantly referred to herself and her boyfriend as a “we”. Daily topics of conversation began with sentences such as: “we’re having casserole for dinner tonight”, “we might just go to the cinema you know? Have a chilled one”, and “we’re just gonna stay at home for Christmas this year”. Times when I was getting harassed by [nameless managing director] actually turned out to be a relief after a while, because I no longer had to continue conjuring up believable responses and calculating strategic head nods.

I made sure I bought loads of food for lunch to file through expenses as my own personal revenge. It did nothing apart from make me fat AND miserable.

So, hopefuls, often “internship” = filing stuff for free. Make very careful decisions about the kind of internship you want to apply for, and do lots of research.

3)      YOUR BOSS IS DAVID BRENT X1000000000000

As well as regular desk massages, sexist comments, and nicknaming me ‘beautiful little blonde’, [nameless managing director] was also acted like a hormonal bi polar lunatic on regular occasions. However, because of his position of authority, EVERYONE was scared of him (including me). This meant he could get away with whatever he wanted. When he wasn’t inappropriately touching me, he was flinging elastic bands at my head from the other side of the office for a “laugh”. It was like spending six weeks with David Brent, but without any of the funny bits.

When I didn’t fear the perverse invasion of my personal space, I feared one of [nameless managing director’s) famous mood swings. On one occasion, after learning that there was no brown bread left in the café upstairs (he eats the same sandwich every day, specially made), he made his PA call the poor boy running the café, put him on the line, and shouted at him furiously for being a “useless cunt.” One of the biggest regrets of my life thus far (there have been loads) was laughing along nervously whilst this happened, rather than telling him that this was an unacceptable way to speak to any member of staff, and storming out. I felt like that evil guy in titanic that gets on the boat before the women and children. I WAS A TRAITOR, I SAVED MYSELF. Don’t let this happen to you.

[Nameless managing director] really took a liking to me. He phoned me a couple of weeks ago and offered me a job. I really needed a job, and i thought about taking it. But i phoned back and declined the offer. Because frankly, i’m better than that. Never settle.

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Jay is my new hero.

Margaret Mead: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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The proof: how one person can make a difference…

This article on Jezebel explains how just ONE person can make a huge difference to the norm’s of society. It explains how one set of sexist beliefs impact on others.

“This study provides the first evidence that sexist ideologies can create gender inequality within societies, and this finding suggests that sexism not only legitimizes the societal status quo, but also actively enhances the severity of the gender hierarchy.” 

So next time you hear a sexist comment from just one person, don’t dismiss that person as a bigot and simply move on…  that sexism is seeping slowly into our culture, becoming normalised and acceptable and that’s a pretty disappointing thought. But as Jezebel points out, let’s reverse the situation and consider the positive aspect of these findings, if an individual voice can make a difference for the worse, let’s raise it louder for the better.

http://jezebel.com/5855158/all-it-takes-is-one-sexist-jerk-to-set-everyone-back-a-few-years

 

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