Posts Tagged 'women'

Rape: A Short Review

Sigh.

How many times do we have to go through this?

Let’s review:

1. There is only one cause of rape: rapists

2. The only way to prevent rape is to address the (would-be) attacker, not the victim.

3. Therefore, all statements suggesting that women should not dress like ‘sluts’ (dammit Toronto, first Rob Ford, now this), get drunk, be a journalist in a war zone, be a soldier, in or out of a war zone, etcetera, because they might get raped is illogical, offensive victim-blaming.

In summary, everyone stop looking for ‘reasons’ and ’causes’ in the victims clothing/behaviour/location/physical attributes/job description, and start looking at the individual who actually did the attacking.

(image via mencanstoprape.org)

Blog for Choice Day

Yesterday was NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day.

I don’t currently live in the US. However, I have a lot of friends who happen to have uteruses who live there, and the right to abortion is not solely an issue for citizens and residents of the US.

As the owner and operator of a uterus myself, I think it’s important to review why abortion is important, and so contentious.

Roe v. Wade was 38 years ago. According to Wikipedia, the US Supreme Court concluded that the woman’s constitutional right to privacy covered pregnancy termination until the fetus is viable (viability tends to depend on size rather that strict developmental age, between 24 – 28 weeks), wherein the state’s right/obligation to protect the fetus’ life begins to supersede.

The philosophical difficulty is the question of when a fertilized egg becomes an individual with rights, rather than a part of the woman’s body.

This is not a person

The critical elements here are the woman’s autonomy over her person, and the medical condition or pregnancy. People opposed to abortion object to the termination of what they see as a human life, often assuming that abortion is being used as a form of birth control, and a reflection of extreme selfishness.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

Pregnancy takes nearly 10 months. In a healthy, normal pregnancy, one can expect several weeks of vomiting, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, structural changes to the body (skin stretches, hips widen, etc), headaches, cramps, swelling in the legs and feet, and changes in eyesight.

Here are some possible complications of pregnancy:
– Anemia
– High blood pressure
– Pre-eclampsia (persistent headaches, flashing light, blurred vision and seeing spots, upper abdominal pain and sudden excessive lower leg swelling)
– Eclampsia (seizures and coma)
– Ectopic pregnancy (life-threatening)
– Fibroids

Here are some possible complications that can happen to the fetus:
– Downs syndrome
– Sickle cell anemia
– Tay-Sachs disease
– Phenylketonuria

(read more about these exciting conditions here)

Choosing to become pregnant is probably the biggest decision a woman can make. If a man chooses to get a woman pregnant, he may support the woman throughout the process, or be held legally responsible for some financial support, but it is physically impossible for a man to experience the same intense physical and emotional changes that result from pregnancy and birth.

A woman’s body is changed permanently, and she puts herself medically and psychologically at risk. Choosing to have children can make this process delightful and exciting. To have it forced upon you is torture.

The state has no right to force anyone to go through the process of pregnancy.

Here are some statistics on abortion rates from Guttmacher.org:

– Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.

– Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.

– 18% percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are teenagers

– Women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25-29 obtain 24%.

– 54% percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.

– About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.

The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.

Sexism and misogyny make life hard enough for women. It affects how we are educated, how we work, how much we’re paid, how we feel about ourselves, and how others treat us.

The idea that something as intimate and drastic as pregnancy has anything to do with the state is obscene. Laws that hinder and prevent abortion arise from a notion that the woman cannot be allowed complete autonomy over her body.

Such laws are inspired by a ‘morality’ that determines that a fetus has a right to life at the expense of the person carrying it. This kind of morality would not be possible in a world where women were perceived as equal to men in value and capability.

Lie back and think of England

I cannot buy the Times today. Jezebel found this stunning piece of advice from Suzi Godson in yesterday’s paper.

Godson answers the query of a recent divorcee back in the dating scene, whose current beau expressed shock that she had pubic hair. It being so uncommon in grown women and all. This woman, rather sensibly, has no interest in ripping the hair from her genitals, and wonders if it is expected.

Rather than the obvious reply – your boyfriend is clearly an insensitive chauvinist for a) expressing anything other than delight when you drop your panties and b) suggesting that you do anything you find painful/uncomfortable for his viewing pleasure, Gordon, supporting her answer with a brief history of pornography, says that men are now ‘instinctively’ attracted to bare pudenda and must therefore be gratified, preferably by waxing, since shaving can leave unsightly stubble.

Aside from revealing a complete misunderstanding of the word ‘instinct’, Godson reveals herself to be a useless advice columnist, particularly for women. If she can justify bikini waxing exclusively with the prevalence of porn, what would she make of anything else? This is taking the idea of general grooming to a point of absurdity.

Does her beau look like a porn star? Does his grooming involve waxing, fake-tanning, and bull-like penile dimensions?

Any man who expects real sex to be like porn has, probably, never actually had real sex.

In a rather asinine final line, Godson says ‘at least’ the Sicilian is the latest trend, so ”you are left with a neat little Sicily-shaped triangle, which at least means that you still look like a woman.” Yes, that little triangle makes all the difference. No way do you look like an adolescent.

Godson should be ashamed of herself, and I hope the letter-writer has the good sense to ignore her stupid advice (advice which I suspect comes from Godson’s own decisions as regards her pubic hair, which may in turn have come from a similar scenario to the letter writer’s), and either tell her young man to appreciate her body or get the hell out of Dodge.

The Times should be heartily embarrassed.

Un-GLAMOUR-ous

this is the previous issue, I couldnt find the latest one

this is the previous issue, I couldn't find the latest one

In this month’s Glamour (UK), which I bought in hopes of some mindless entertainment before dinner (the perils of unemployment are for another day), I stumbled across some surprising sizeism.

A fashion magazine being judgmental about size is no surprise; in this case, though, it’s a case of denigrating people of thinner build.

On page 40, there is a picture of five women (all save one, the smallest, white) in white bras and panties. They each represent a different size – from 6 to 14.

Under each woman, there are a couple of comments, and a percentage indicating which of the women appealed (the most, one assumes) to a hundred men sampled for this poll. The pull quotes are all positive except for the size 6 and 8 women.

The size 6 woman (and I hate having to refer to her this way instead of being able to say ‘Charlene’ or ‘Mary or something) has four comments, two of which are negative – one implying that she is somehow unwomanly, and the other presuming that she must spend her life obsessing about exercise and low-calorie foodstuffs. The size 8 gets two positive comments, and one suggesting that she seems uncomfortable and unhealthy.

This is disingenuous at best, as all of the women have between 10-30% of the vote, leaving no particular size the runaway favourite, and one could therefore assume each woman would have at least three positive ‘quotes’ (assuming they are not all made up by an editorial assistant).

I leave aside the very pertinent questions of how four white, blond women with shoulder length hair and one black woman with short hair, can be considered sufficiently representative of all women of a particular size, and whether ‘appeal’ has anything to do with dress size, especially since most women are size 14 and higher anyway, and therefore only marginally represented in any case.

Obviously, it would have been easy for the editors to decide to print only positive comments about each size – which would of course be the most body-positive option. In choosing to berate the smaller sizes by proxy, and omit larger sizes all together, what is surely (hopefully) intended as a positive ‘let’s all be healthy but not obsessively so’ message becomes rather more complicated and frankly judgmental.

It is not necessary to insult skinny women to make larger women feel better about themselves. To do so is to create a false competitiveness and encourage the act of judging people of size.

Naturally, there are plenty of skinny women in the later fashion segments and in all the advertising.

There is also an article (to become a regular segment) about how the yo-yo dieting, size 18 beauty director is determined, once and for all, to ‘get healthy’. Her inspiration, incidentally, was a segment last month that revealed the eating habits of Glamour staffers.

It is possible that this segment may, probably unintentionally, reveal how all dieting is yo-yo dieting. While the beauty director may indeed lose some weight, and perhaps develop a different relationship with food and a healthy exercise regimen, it is unlikely that she will find the magic bullet that eludes so many other people.

People are the size they are for all sorts of reasons, and while it is healthy to exercise and eat wholesome food, to suggest that body size is a simple indicator of health (not to mention femininity or eating habits) is scientifically fallacious and perpetuates a misogynistic, critical view of the human body that should really have had it’s day.

Let’s look at these pictures instead.

image from magxone.com

Against Polanski Relativism

There’s already ample posting about this all over every blog, but I have to chime in. I posted the following in response to this post at the Shakespearean Rag (written by a friend of mine), who addresses what he thinks is the insufficiently empathetic response of writers to Polanski’s crime, flight, and eventual arrest. Not that it is excusable, but more effort should be made to understand the psychology involved.


The psychology is ‘I want something I can’t have, will take.’ That’s what rape is, paedophillic or otherwise. It’s illegal, he confessed, he’s had thirty-five years of not paying for his crime, there’s no call for moral relativism or compassion at this point. If we, as a society, can’t be horrified by this, if there are respected writers and thinkers saying it’s understandable, that gives tacit permission for it to happen again.

Rape is already grossly under-reported and under-punished (if you’ll permit the term); it’s not the rapists who require empathy, from writers or anyone else, it’s the people who have been raped and have to live in a world where there’s actually a discussion about whether or not a rapist deserves to be brought to justice.

Slacker Feminists?

After reading this article by Clive James on the BBC (a transcription of a radio piece, I believe), I wondered if, as he posits, there was indeed a disinclination among Western feminists to acknowledge the average difference in physical strength between men and women. His article speaks of the new female elected MPs in Kuwait, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and criticizes the absence of support for these women from feminist pundits in the news, which he supposes to be the result of this disinclination.

While I dislike considering the physical advantage that, on average, men possess, since there is still something within our culture that makes domestic violence and rape feasible and thinkable where it should be the rare act of a sociopath, I don’t think any feminist is naïve enough to state that the biological difference in muscle mass has anything to do with social conditioning.

When he claims that “Women, on the whole, would naturally like to do something else, whereas an army, for too many men, is a home away from home, and often their only home.” That seems to fall prey to the idea that feminism does critique, being that men are somehow inherently more violent, whereas if there is a preference it is more likely to be the result of a culture that emphasizes the value of power in men, and submission to a strict hierarchy, rather than some innate enjoyment of killing people in large numbers, and that women are naturally squeamish about violence, which is perhaps the idea he means to critique.

Stating:

And since many western feminists are still convinced that the social stereotyping of the West is the product of fundamental flaws within liberal democracy itself, they have a tendency to believe that undemocratic societies are somehow valuable in the opposition they offer to the free countries which the feminists are so keen to characterise as not free enough.

is surprising – I know of no feminist who suggests that oppressive regimes in various countries around the world are somehow superior to the Western democracies simply because their culture is misogynistic in a different way. In the US, and I’m sure in the UK, activist women were alerting Congress to the oppression of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan for years before 9/11.

Without knowing to whom, exactly, James is speaking, (beyond a mention of ‘pundits’) and having never seen evidence of such casual dismissal of the accomplishments of women fighting for safety, let alone equal rights, in countries where stoning or beating or murder is common punishment for anything that, in Women’s Studies 101 terms, challenges the patriarchy, I conclude that he has created a straw woman of sorts – is there a feminist pundit who, in criticizing the remaining levels of misogyny or patriarchal structures within a Western liberal democracy, suggests that some exotic regime based on a yet-more hierarchical and patriarchal model might be a superior form?

Perhaps someone made a comment about Communism.

One hopes that James knows that feminism is, at the heart, about equal rights and equal treatment. Any physical difference (including strength) between the sexes does not reflect inherent tendencies towards or away from violence or anything else, and should not, therefore, determine the career or lifestyle of any individual, and society should be such that systematic violence towards women is non-existent, and any that does occur be met with swift justice, not silenced by a cultural shame or fear.

image from newsweek.com

Get Pregnant, Ladies!


Carol Sarler wrote this bizarre piece in the Daily Mail yesterday.

The gist of the article is that all capable, appropriately aged women should make babies, because it a) completes them and b) makes them better employees, and if they don’t they are a) weird and b) selfish.

“Much as I like to trumpet the importance of a woman’s right to choose all things at all times, there’s one choice I simply cannot understand: the choice of an otherwise sane and healthy woman not to have children.”

Wow, thanks for the support. Sarler ‘understands’ all the freak show women (like lesbians and those over 35) who want to make with the babies, but those with operational wombs who opt out are apparently incomprehensible.

Sarler writes on the subject now because ‘research’ (the source remains undocumented in the article) has shown that bosses/execs (male?) prefer to hire/work with women who are mothers rather than not. Because, see, the single ladies “lack humanity”. Whether single men or fathers also lack humanity is not mentioned. Perhaps it isn’t relevant for male employees – it’s just the women the bosses have to worry about being inhumane.

The article is full of similar offensive remarks and rather bizarre generalizations – “They’re [mothers are] not there to compete for the attentions of the male executives; they’re there to get out of the house; they’re there because they genuinely enjoy some adult company; and they’re there because they have mouths to feed other than their own and shoes to buy for someone else’s feet.”

Yes, as we all know mothers don’t have jobs because they are satisfied by work, it’s because they are tired of speaking in baby-talk and need the funds to purchase more Lego. And those single women in the office, drawing the attention of the male execs – wait, why are the execs male? Is this point moot when there is a female boss? Are the non-mothers trying to find attention for their work, or is Sarler implying that single women work so they have a selection of wealthy guys in offices to seduce? And, of course, non-mothers don’t also genuinely enjoy adult company.

“You cannot be a mother without knowing something about selflessness, compassion, generosity, commitment, fierce loyalty and plain hard work. You cannot – surely – be a boss and not value assets such as those in your staff.”

You cannot, surely, assume that these traits are exclusive to mothers. Nor can you assume that all mothers have these traits – not every mother is a ‘good’ mother. To think about it for a moment is to realize how illogical that statement is.

And perhaps the most offensive phrase: “we actually need our children; they complete us as women” – Bull. Shit.

Those women who are barren are incomplete? Single women are incomplete? How about high schoolers or university students? Is that senior thesis just filler until the true meaning of life is revealed in the eyes of your child?

Sarler’s illogical and frankly misogynistic article baffles. It is an attack on working women – the mothers don’t come across much better than the inhumane non-mothers, as it seems that what their job is doesn’t matter as long as they can talk to some grown-ups and get home in time to make dinner.

I have to wonder in cases like these if writers seriously believe what they put forward or are engaging in a little ‘Modest Proposal’-like mockery, looking at the underlying logic and implications of studies that even bother to ask ‘bosses’ whether they prefer hiring women with or without children; if you think about it, the study itself was designed either to say ‘all women should make babies’ or ‘you can’t have children and a successful career’.

image from bbc.co.uk


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