I really didn’t want to write this blog post, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I like to use writing as a means of focussing my attention on the good stuff in my life, and debates around marriage equality are undoubtedly “bad stuff”. Secondly, because it feels like a waste of my time; surely my reading audience is totally on board with the idea of me getting married.
But these days, every time I log onto social media, watch the news or turn on the radio, there are people debating whether or not I should be allowed to marry. Or more recently, debating whether they should personally have any say in my marriage. It is enough to make you question the logic of your own convictions. And so I realised writing down my thoughts and feelings may not be a waste of my time after all; I’m not expecting…
Hello lovely readers, I’m back after a whole MONTH of no new columns – I missed you! How was everyone’s October? It’s getting really hot down here in Melbourne (interspersed with the occasional day of torrential rain) so this comes to you from a SP decked out in a t shirt and shorts rather than my accustomed full-body writing getup of sweat pants and hoodie.
My second favourite holiday has just passed, Halloween, and I dressed as the inimitable Harley Quinn – it’s so much fun being a villain! If you feel so inclined, send or post pics of your costume! I LOVE costuming. Love. It. Literally any excuse will do. Oddly I don’t wear makeup or like getting dressed up classy – but when it comes to fully subsuming myself in another’s identity I’m gung ho. I’m sure there’s something in that for a therapist!
The Melbourne Cup also just happened (Australia’s richest horse race I believe, and one for which we get a public holiday because our country has messed up priorities). For the first time ever a woman rode the winning horse to victory!
Jockey Michelle Payne made a brilliant speech after she won, “It’s such a chauvinistic sport,” she commented, “I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off, “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because they think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world.”
I particularly love these words because all too often, once a woman is permitted into the inner sanctum, once we have something to lose, our fear gets the better of us and we tow the party line. No one likes a mouthy, ungrateful bitch. All of a sudden it’s not about gender at all, but hard work, and no, we shouldn’t be responsible for promoting the success of other women, and no of course I’m not a feminist, I believe everyone should be equal. *See glorious cartoon below.*
Post-win the papers down here are falling all over themselves to document this remarkable story of success: WINNING WHILST HAVING A VAGINA: HOW IS IT POSSIBLE? And the like. Annoyingly this has resulted in many articles congratulation the “female jockey.” NO.
I despise the word female being used to describe a woman, even more so when it is a precursor to her job title. “Female” is dehumanizing. It sounds like you’re talking about an animal, or classifying something to be studied. I am a woman, not a female or a girl. Why is that so hard for the media to grasp? I believe it’s because women is a powerful word. “Female” is used the same way “girl” is used; it puts us in our place.
When you call Payne a “female jockey” or preface any job with the word female (female doctor, female mechanic) it implies the essence of something, the original version, is male.
When writing about her victorious ride journalists could have just written “Jockey Michelle Payne is the first woman to ride a horse to victory in the Melbourne cup.” “Female jockey” implies that there is some kind of drawback or impediment to victory because the person is a woman. It’s a surprise that she succeeded while female.
Speaking of succeeding while female I saw this quote from the kick-arse Helen Mirren the other day and it got me thinking of all of the times I should have just said FUCK OFF.
Like it or not women are socialized to politeness. I hate to admit it but it requires a conscious effort on my part to remember to take up space, stop apologising and put myself forward. A woman who swears is still considered taboo and undesirable, and we all know that being described as bossy is an ultimate put down.
Swearing isn’t always appropriate either. Sometimes you want to convince people of your point of view, you’re willing to educate and instruct. Other times you’re placating people for no reason, because we are socialised to do so. Worse is when it’s absolutely not safe to stand up for yourself and you placate for fear of violence (walking alone at 4am when a guy starts following you for a chat ring any bells?)
There’s something so liberating as a woman about just being done with someone and telling them to fuck off. No preamble, no coddling, just fuck off. I am SO much better at standing up for myself now that I’m older and more confidant, but I do have some past regrets. Times when I didn’t stick up for myself like I felt I deserved.
for a bit of fun I thought I’d retroactively give some prejudiced people I have encountered the big F.
#1 To the super camp manager of The Body Shop, Bourke street store, maybe 8 or so years ago, whose name was Shane or Shaun. I was working there as a champion gift wrapper and I leaned over the counter for some reason. He came up and sneeringly told me not to lean over because *looking at my black pant ensconced butt like it was something revolting* “the view isn’t very nice.” Rather than explaining that being gay doesn’t exclude you from being a misogynistic cunt, or crying in the toilets, I’d just like to say FUCK OFF.
#2 To the Met cop (for non Aussies they are jumped up public transport ticket inspectors) who when I was 19 or so and standing at a tram stop with my girlfriend of the time, holding hands, came up to me and said the old ladies next to us found it disgusting and could I stop (being gay presumably) or leave: FUCK OFF. And FUCK OFF to those ladies as well. How dare you make me defend myself. How dare you waste my tears.
# 3 To the handsy volunteer teacher at the Russian language school I attended when I was a child. The one who was a parent of another student, and active in the adjoining church, and constantly ran his hands up and down my back and pulled the girls in for hugs even though we all resisted. I tried to tell people at the time, I even changed classes, but no one really took it all that seriously. To you I say FUCK OFF and I wish I’d said it at the time. Loudly, and in front of everyone. Because I’m going to have regrets in this life, I know that, but none of them from now on are going to be that I didn’t stand up for myself.
I encourage you, dear readers, to join me in this liberating practice. Post in the comments, or just alone, in your safe space, picture that person who deserves a big FUCK OFF and let rip.
When you decide to publicly live your feminist principles being labelled a killjoy is something you have to get used to. It’s unpleasant to have to acknowledge that we live in a patriarchal society seeped in misogyny, so people would often rather have a go at you for highlighting injustice, than engage the often depressing state of the world.
Similarly, it’s unpleasant to have your behaviour criticised, so you won’t often get a positive response when you “call someone out.” (For the record this phrase has moved into the realm of internet speak, which regular readers will know I don’t care for so I’ll try to avoid using it. If any of you have suggestions for another phrase to use in its place, I’m all ears).
Now I’m not backwards about coming forward (I LOVE this saying) and I LOVE SWEARS, so I’ve never had an issue dealing with people being openly offensive. I live near a main road and LITERALLY EVERY walk to the train station involves some mouth-breather leaning out of their car and yelling something along the lines of “I’m not confidant in my masculinity so I’m harassing you to shore up its fragile existence,” or something along those lines. I let my middle finger do the talking in these interactions and move on.
I’m also comfortable telling off people who touch or verbally harass me. One of my favourite comebacks is “touch me again and it’ll be the last thing you ever do” which is great because it’s illegal to threaten to kill someone, but this gets the same message across. You’ve got to be able to put your money where your mouth is so I do really recommend self-defense courses for women.
Now I totally understand that not everyone is comfortable reacting as I do, I’m just giving you some personal background for the upcoming story.
With this willingness to not put up with crap, comes a reputation for being ornery. I hate this because it’s not me who is being confrontational it’s the idiots who harass women. For whatever reason these interactions are often construed as a two-way fight rather than a response to abuse. As a result, I have to weigh up how to react in any given situation so as not to be seen as the person who ruins everyone’s night, which brings me to my story.
I attend a weekly trivia night with a mixed group of friends, male, female, straight, gay, at a local gay bar. Now I love this particular bar. The manager is the nicest person ever; it’s inclusive of everyone, generally an all-around nice place. The trivia host is a gay comedian and the trivia night patrons this week were almost exclusively male and gay; our table had the only women.
At the end of the night there is a “Price Is Right” style game where you have to rank prizes in order from least to most expensive and I got selected to go on stage in front of the bar and play. This week one of the prizes was a set of four tiny razors that you use to shave your bikini line. TJ, the host, held them up and announced that I could sticky tape them all together in order to shave my muff. Presumably the joke being that I have an excessively furry vagina and that’s hilarious. The room of gay men laughed and I started to get pissy. To be honest I felt really uncomfortable. The host made the same joke multiple times and a table in the front row laughed uproariously each time, so I turned to them and said “there’s nothing funny or gross about female pubic hair you dipshits.” I really wanted to walk out but I thought that would just invite more jeers, and cries of “it’s a joke, he’s a comedian.” So I played out the game and left thoroughly angry.
Now the issue I have here is context. I don’t necessarily think many things are not able to be joked about (rape victims being the obvious exception) but I also think that you punch up. A man in a room full of men making fun of a woman’s bush is not funny; it just felt a lot like being bullied.
Again, context is everything.
Had a female comedian made that joke at her own expense, or had I, to a room full of women, that would absolutely change things. The laughter wasn’t with me, it was at me, and it was sexist. TJ often jokes that we are the nerd table (because of our love of The Simpsons, LOTR, super heroes etc) and I take that in the jesting way it is meant. Another guy was being teased all night for his sexual exploits the night before – that he had volunteered because he was proud of them- and the joking was in the spirit of “what a legend he got laid.”
I have no insecurities about my excellent pants fur – let’s be real, those tiny razors wouldn’t have made a dent in my luxurious lady mane – but I absolutely objected to the sexism of this series of “jokes.” I wasn’t enjoying it, I wasn’t laughing and the laughs were at me not with me.
When I got back to the table one of my friends told me he had shut down a guy on the next table who had assumed I was a lesbian and said something along the lines of “what would dykes know about shaving their bikini lines.” This is my point, TJ made it okay for the men in the room to turn a welcoming space into a misogynist man bar.
The problem was, as I’ve said above, there was no real way to express my displeasure in that loud noisy environment without attracting more abuse. I was annoyed that I hadn’t told TJ off personally, but what would be the point? He doesn’t make a practice of sexism, but he did ruin my night and make a friendly space become unfriendly and hostile, and that’s something I’d like him to know. He literally had a room full of men laughing at my vag, and I hated it. However, I want to continue attending weekly trivia with my friends, and I don’t want to make it uncomfortable. EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T ME WHO DID ANYTHING WRONG. See the pickle I’m in!?
I’d love for you to post comments about a time when you called someone out, or felt that you couldn’t! If you have any strategies or favourite responses, let us know!
Australia’s new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball is going hard this week to sway the public towards a party in crisis. He’s pledged 100 million dollars to initiatives that work to eradicate violence against women and made a – what he no doubt thought was stirring – speech about the issue. (If I sound a pissy, I am. As a feminist you jump up and down screaming into the ether that we are a country in crisis and why will nobody do something about the 63 women murdered this year by their partners, and then Turnball comes along and announces we are in crisis and violence against women has been “overlooked for too long.” BY YOU! It’s hard not to be a little cynical).
Now in amongst this stirring revelry Turnball announced that “real men don’t hit women” and that it is “un-Australian” to do so. It is with these two ideas that I take issue.
Real men absolutely DO hit women, and it is very much part of Australian culture to do so. Domestic violence is an issue of social structure and cultural training. The toxic masculinity this country breeds, along with the deeply ingrained misogyny that forms the backbone of our cultural education are the very reasons men hit women.
Men verbally and mentally abuse women, they rape them, isolate and torture them and kill them. Offenders aren’t scary monsters who we don’t have to worry about coming into contact with. They are our husbands, sons, fathers, workmates and friends.
One more time MEN ABUSE WOMEN. (Don’t do it – person who wants to say “not all men,” I know you’re out there). It’s ugly and uncomfortable and people don’t want to acknowledge it. That’s why men get so defensive so quickly.
Saying “real men” others the topic of violence against women. It mitigates our responsibility and our culpability. Everyone I know is a real man, I’m a real man, and this isn’t my problem. As every woman knows it isn’t the stranger in a dark alley you have to watch out for, the threat will likely be much closer to home.
I am not going to get too deeply into a theoretical debate about notions of masculinity; however the idea that there is such a thing as a “real man” is at the heart of the problem. It implies there is indeed a way to be ideally masculine, to embody what it means to personify an ideal version of the male sex: powerful, successful, alpha. Men feeling like they fall short of these expectations lash out with violence against the people they perceive as weaker – women. (That’s not an excuse; by the way, if you’re looking for a poor men argument you’ve come to the wrong place. Men who beat women are sadistic arseholes). Australia’s culture of masculinity is the very thing that breeds wife beaters.
While I’m glad the new PM is bringing the countries’ attention to our epidemic of violence it’s important to keep in mind that the language we use is very much part of the problem.
Rapper Chris Brown is trying to get a visa to stage a concert in Australia and the minister for women has come out and said “People need to understand, if you are going to commit domestic violence and you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you: ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character that we expect in Australia’.”
Also some excellent person has gone around Melbourne affixing the sticker below to his tour posters:
Frankly I am all for banning him. DV, for reasons that boggle the mind, is still not being taken seriously enough. If you are an offender, or someone whose music promotes violence and misogyny, then I have no problem making it difficult for you to cash in. Beating women is serious, it should affect your life, the way it affects the life of your victim, long after you have issued a half-assed apology and got your high-priced lawyer to get you community service and a stint in counselling.
Most of the opposition I have seen has been along the lines “boo, censorship” and “but I like his music.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard putting your money where your mouth is. I grew up on the Sex Pistols. I adore them. They speak to every anti-establishment, disaffected, DIY, fuck you, fibre of my being. But Sid Vicious was not a good person. He murdered his girlfriend and then took his own life. On the one hand I’d give anything to see them in concert, on the other Sid was a classic abuser who I couldn’t possibly justify supporting.
If you are tempted to argue against artists who abuse women through their music or physically, being allowed to come to Australia and profit – particularly if you are going to us the free speech, censorship argument – really think about who YOU are censoring. The voices of women trying to raise awareness about an epidemic of violence that sees them unsafe in their own homes. There is no middle ground here. You cannot be for a man whose fame promotes misogyny and creates the very culture that domestic violence springs from, and claim to be against domestic violence.
It really gets to me when well-known abusers are given a pass because they have a talent people admire. Woody Allen has got to be the case in point here. Below is a link to an open letter by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow that eloquently sums up the effect on her of this hypocrisy, it really got me thinking. In it she calls Woody Allen “a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.” Please do read it!
This week I’ve been thinking about space. Not galaxy space, space-we-all-occupy-in-the-world space. These thoughts were prompted by an experience I had at the local pool.
Sadly, I’ve done myself a serious surgery requiring leg injury. It’s heartbreaking because I’ve gone from doing some form of sport six days a week to nothing, nothing at all. I can walk about a kilometre until the pain gets too much. For the foreseeable future (because the public waiting list for surgery is literally years long and I can’t afford the $8000 to get the surgery done privately) there’s no more roller derby, netball, futsal, yoga or running for me. It’s truly awful. On that note, what can you do at night aside from sports? How do people fill their time without developing unhealthy obsessions with reality TV ? (I’m all over that). I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Anyway, pity party aside, one of the few things I can do is swim; the worlds most pointless spot. It’s like being a depressed fish longing for freedom, swimming up and down the lanes. However, I’m making an effort to pick myself up and get back in the fight, so, armed with my brand new swimming cap, goggles and slightly too small in the boob region bathers I’m now a regular goldfish.
Swimming laps reminds me of the below Monty Python sketch. It’s akin to the excitement of marching up and down the square.
I was rocking the medium speed lane (30-45 second laps) at a respectable 32 seconds. A youngish dude – late teens early twenties – joined me and started hooning up and down at crazy speeds (he was an excellent swimmer) cutting me off, just generally trying to invade my space and get me to move out of the way. I ignored this and kept marching up and down the square. (To be honest I don’t think he was even actively trying to be a jerk, as much as he was so entitled and sure of his right to the lane that it didn’t occur to him to mind other people. Being a young, sporty male in Australian culture will give you that impression).
So I finish a lap and find the young female lifeguard waiting for me. She tells me to move to the slow lane to get out of this dudes way. What a load of bullshit. A look at the slow lane reveals two people attempting to walk the length of the pool, and one dude who holds his breath, freestyles as far as he can without having to breathe again, and then flounders like he’s drowning. Basically, either myself (in the appropriate lane) or the dude going super fast (not in the right lane) is going to be inconvenienced. Sadly being the one who didn’t flood her moat, the lifeguard decided that it would be me. I was so incensed! Shaking my fist and lecturing her on ingrained misogyny and the importance of supporting women taking up space in public didn’t seem like it would work on lady lifeguard so I just quietly seethed. NB *When the dude left the pool shortly after, he didn’t thank the lifeguard or even return her moony-eyed look. Men like that EXPECT the world to revolve around them; you will get no thanks my young friend.
The take away thought from this experience is who deserves to take up space? Who thinks it’s their right and who is constantly apologizing for it?
I make a real effort to take up space in public. We all know about man-spreading right? Where men on public transportation spread their legs like they have a serious prostate issue, or balls the size of basketballs while women shrink in their seats to accommodate them. There’s so much ingrained sexism behind this simple act. Men don’t worry about taking up more than their share of space because they truly believe in their right to corporeally exist in the world. They unconsciously spread out because they live in a society structured around men. Women shrink down for just the opposite reason. They fear taking up too much space – why? Lots’ of reasons. Firstly women’s bodies are policed in a way men can never understand. We feel under scrutiny every second we are out of the house because realistically, we are. What’s the worst thing a woman can do with her body? Get fat – take up more space. Fat IS a feminist issue. People are so disgusted that a woman would dare to defy the societal dictates of beauty by refusing to be super slim. Women’s flesh is threatening. Fat women who love themselves (and by fat women I mean anyone who isn’t model thing and dares to show some flesh) are threatening and they have to be humiliated and put back in their place. Women know this. Hence the shifting and shrugging to fit inside a single seat on the train, lest anyone thing we are fatter than we should be. Balls to that; I’ve taken to embracing some glorious man-spreading and I love it.
Space isn’t only physical. Women’s speech is equally policed. How often have you heard a man get told off for being too loud, too bossy, talking over people, talking too much, having an irritating pitch, talking too fast and the like? Anyone who has been in a University tutorial with ten women and two men will tell you it’s the two men who take up the lion’s share of the conversation*. *There are actual stats on this that you can look up if you’re interested.
The ideological space of discourse is also too often dominated by men. Criticising women for speaking too much or too loudly is just a way to limit their possible input. It’s unladylike and unappealing to be the “loud girl” who laughs too much and swears too much and talks too much, because she takes up space. Society teaches us the hard lesson that boys like it when you smile and nod and laugh politely at their jokes. The withdrawing of affection and approval by a dominant social group (men) is a powerful behavioural modifier. Girls are socialised into silence from a very young age, and it gets a lot worse if they go to a co-ed school. When I think of the amount of time I have wasted in educational institutions listening to men talk absolute gob shite while women nod and accommodate them it makes me want a refund. Just a quick note here, if you are tempted to respond to this article with a bit of “not all men, I always listen respectfully” please resist the urge.
I adore garrulous, bossy women. I could listen to them all day long. Full disclosure in case you hadn’t guessed, I am one. Women who refuse to laugh at men’s unfunny jokes, women who refuse to let men interrupt their conversations… there’s another example right there. Have you ever been out with the girls, involved in a conversation, and a man comes over to interrupt you and expects the attention of the group? And then gets stroppy or aggressive when he is ignored? It’s happened a lot to me. Worse is when I see that approach working, and a group of women stop what they are doing and accommodate some drunk idiot interrupting their night. To any guy who does this, be aware there is a good chance the women are being polite because they’re frightened of what might happen if they aren’t. You are being infantile and threatening. Stop it.
Men expect to be paid attention to when they demand it because that’s the way the world has always worked for them.
So, this week, let’s all make an effort to contravene these common practices. Ladies, spread out. Take up space, give your opinion, ignore interruptions, speak out in meetings. If someone is asked to lead a group don’t look to the men. Men, be aware of the space you take up, Are you doing it at the expense of someone else?
Let me know other ways you take up space in the world!
This week has confirmed something I’ve been ruminating over for a while now; I should indeed pursue a career in advertising. Lord knows writing won’t make me that paper (or plastic in Australia I think? What is our money made of?) and the advertising industry seems in desperate need of women with brains.
Have you guys seen the Sofy Befresh advertisements currently doing the prime-time TV rounds? The fine people at Unicharm are the latest in a long line of companies selling period gear to think that insulting women is the best way to secure our business.
Unicharm have employed every tired, unfunny, shaming trope about menstruation you can think of, as well as a good dose of fat shaming and sexism, and the result is the streaming pile of poo you’d expect.
I’ll start with their “new clean barrier technology.” I’m not loving the association of period = unclean. Look it’s a proud historical tradition, in many religions a woman can’t receive communion or confession if she has her period. There are countries where she can’t leave the house when she’s bleeding. Much like in this commercial. Women with periods should be confined to the home! There are other places, like Australia, where we acknowledge that bleeding from the hoo-ha is annoying, and then we get on with things. I suppose making women comfortable with their nether regions won’t sell your product as well as ensuring they feel unclean and gross without it.
The theme of the ad is “ugh” moments, the first being the arrival of a woman’s period. In the fine tradition of the ancient Greek poets and their personification of feelings and attributes, bravery, beauty etc, Unicharm have “ugh, periods” played by a woman. Why is she ugh? Well, she’s a few sizes heavier than her counterpart and has a shit attitude. The ad employs the charming idea that the heavier a woman is the more yuck she is so it makes sense to have the blah version of a woman be heavier. Well played Unicharm, you dip-shits. Don’t get me wrong, when I’ve got my period I absorb water like a sponge and it feels like there’s a beach ball under my top. Now that’s an effective way of signalling this feeling in an ad for sanitary products, see I’m already churning out ideas for my new career – hire me someone!
We continue on the fat-shaming theme as “ugh lady” sits on the couch grumping about everything and stuffing her face with food she doesn’t want – because fat women are lazy and eat too much, thanks Unicharm! I get she’s representing “periods” and the cravings that are associated with them. Visually however, we have a heavier version of the main character sitting on the couch and eating in a destructive way (she mentions she doesn’t like the chips she’s eating but feels compelled to do so). You’ll be hard pressed to sell me the idea that fat shaming isn’t a huge part of why the period character is intended to be unappealing.
Emotionally “ugh lady” is all over the place, because as we all know, women are slave to their hormone-driven emotions. This brings to mind the old “should a woman really be President because if she’s on her period she’ll be unable to make rational decisions?” argument – Unicharm responds with a resounding NO. “Ugh woman” is all over the place, crying hysterically one minute, furious the next.
Yes, I get super irritated when I’m PMSing, so I say to myself “damn, PMS” and then remember I’m a sentient being with control over my actions, so I get on with life. (At the same time you don’t want to get in the way of myself and a jar of Nutino – friendly warning.) We shouldn’t have to deny that cravings, mood swings, pain and horrible, horrible bodily changes (hot and sweaty for no reason anyone) are a part of periods. They are. But women aren’t rendered incapable of functioning because of them. It almost feels like this ad compels you to go the other way and claim periods have no ill effects, they do. Some women really suffer. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than sending an “it’s a crime scene in my pants” message to a friend. It’s all about context. It’s funny when I get a picture message from a friend buying tampons and a block of chocolate, because I know she’s a smart, functioning human being annoyed at having her period. It’s really distasteful when a multinational corporation perpetuates the myth that women are fat, irrational hell-beats who can’t be trusted for one week a month.
The women as irrational idea is taken to the nth degree when period lady threatens the pizza guy with “put the pizza in the basket or it gets the hose” lines I’m sure you remember from the BRILLIANT Silence of the Lambs, lines spoken by Buffalo Bill – the psychopathic serial killer making a “woman” outfit from the skin of his victims. I mean really!? Unicharm thinks women on their period turn into psychopaths; subtle AND classy, well played Unicharm.
While watching TV surrounded by her own filth, period woman sobs “men are awful – I want one.” Because obviously any woman who takes issue with a man must be irrational and ultimately all we want is a relationship.
I’ve seen people commenting along the lines of “it’s just a funny ad, stop being such a feminist killjoy” (I NEVER WILL) and I have to disagree. It’s not funny, first of all. More importantly, ads like these insidiously perpetuate negative stereotypes about periods that ultimately lead to shame and secrecy. Who wants to ask someone for a tampon if that lets everyone know you have your period and are, by extension, a maniac whose opinion can’t be trusted?
Unicharm should have a think about their target audience. Who gets periods? Women with brains. The exact people who won’t buy this product.
The idea for today’s blog came to me while I was team watching The Bachelor via the internet (a bunch of us watch it in our own homes and share our feelings in a group chat. I’ll thank you to avoid judging me.) One of the women (Emily) was on a picnic date with Sam – the bachie – who provided cheese and crackers. Cue ticker tape parade level gushing from Emily. With the amount of praise the picnic garnered you’d think he’d provided those thousand dollar chocolate covered coffee beans that are collected from South American jungles after they’ve passed through the digestive tract of an endangered bob cat. I mean honestly, how low are your expectations of men? He probably didn’t even buy the cheese.
This got me thinking about all of the behaviours that earn men untold amounts of adulation, yet are expected of women. Now there are plenty of men out there who just take care of business without expecting huge amounts of praise. It’s also nice to positively reinforce each other and thank someone when they offer you a kindness. But over-the-top praising of men for the smallest acts has to stop. It demeans us all, the giver of effusive praise and the praised. It pisses me off to see a dude lauded for behaviour so expected of a woman it passes without notice, let alone comment.
Let’s talk parenting. We’ve been here before faithful readers as this is a particular worm in my salad. Parents are the greatest, particularly primary caregivers, you are amazing and if I can help you in any way let me know; raising a child is harder than hard. However, the obsession with calling men who do the smallest amount of parenting the “greatest Dad ever” has to stop. Magazines go nuts over pictures of men with their kids, “it’s so cute,” “oh my ovaries,” whereas picture of women celebrities with kids tend to focus on the Mum’s post baby figure. Men being involved parents shouldn’t be so rare a thing it deserves excessive praise. Let’s not sell Dads and Mums short. I’m not going to coo all over you when you take your kid to the movies because I have faith that the Dads out there are just like the Mums, doing their best because they love their kids.
Housework is obviously the big one. The distribution of household labour is much as it has always been; women do the overwhelming amount. Statistics aside I cannot tell you the amount of ladies I know who will say something along the lines of “I came home from work the other day and my man had made me dinner. It was soooo nice, he’s so thoughtful etc.” BLERGH I say. If your man making you dinner is so rare it forms part of the narrative of your life you feel it necessary to share with me, something is rotten in the state of your domesticity. The longer we perpetuate the idea that men are doing something special when they cook or clean the longer we maintain the fiction that a man looking after himself is exceptional. Everyone can mop a floor; it’s just fucking boring so pretending you can’t is a good way to get out of it.
Showing an interest in something you like is another one. Women are expected to share their men’s interests. From teenage-hood we’re socialised to feign wide eyed fascination at things we couldn’t give a shit about. Dolly magazine loves to advise girls to show up at your crush’s local sporting club and cheer because lying about who you are will make boys like you. Those ads for Mitsubishi currently running on Australian TV – men are helped to escape spending time with their wives by the arrival of their bloke friends in said car – perpetuate how abnormal it is culturally and socially for men to want to do so called girly activities.
Emotional work like remembering anniversaries is a pretty common site of over-praise. It takes an almost pathological level of self-absorption to refuse to remember the date of your anniversary when you know it’s important to your partner that you do. Yet we persist in making a big deal over men who remember to buy flowers on Valentine’s Day. Again I think this sells us all short. That men celebrating love and emotion is considered special feeds into the idea that men are not in touch with their feelings, or indeed supposed to be. Much like the notion that spending time with your wife doing non-manly things makes you a pussy, it’s stupid and detrimental.
I vote we keep being polite and thanking each other for the efforts we make, but cease to fawn over men. Next time a dude does something you do all the time, and waits for the glitter canons to go off, just politely thank them and carry on like ALL NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS ARE EXPECTED TO HELP EACH OTHER OUT. Let’s see how that works out for us.
This week, from the think tank of one of my favourite unintentionally (I think) sexist marketing departments comes Bic’s empowering national Women’s Day campaign in South Africa. They really are the gift that keeps on giving.
Bic, for those of you who don’t remember earned my enduring love with the release of their hilariously sexist “for her” range of pens. Said pens are pink and purple – girl colours – and advertised as slim and silky, for her delicate hands I can only assume. The reason I loved this campaign was the opportunity it provided feminists for hilarious responses. The description of the “Bic for her” reads like an advertisement for a feminine hygiene product. I was tempted to write them an email complaining that it was the worst tampon I’ve ever used: “marginally better than a sieve, one star.”
Bic’s latest offering is even better/ worse depending on your capacity for mirth on any given day. I present to you their advice for women who want to get ahead:
I KNOW, RIGHT!? It’s so bad it’s unthreatening and I’m not even mad, just resigned. You know when your cat steals butter from the fridge and eats so much he runs around leaking poop and you’re super mad, but at the same time he’s so clueless and confused you struggle to tap into any real fury. That’s what Bic reminds me of, a cat with a leaky anus. (For those of you wondering, no this hasn’t happened to me… yet. I have three rescue cats and two foster cats, they are literally everywhere, there’s probably one in the fridge right now.)
My first thought is that this can’t be an accidentally sexist advert. SURELY more than one person is in charge of proof reading the campaigns. Do Bic want negative attention? Is the department run by Don Draper? Are they so clueless they think the gendered assumptions are legitimate and unquestionable? Is Stuart in the advertising department trying to get fired? That’s my current theory. The guy who runs it, let’s call him Stuart hates his job but can’t quit and risk losing a pay-out. So he’s doing everything he can to be so horrifyingly incompetent that the company is forced to let him go.
SO why does this add so grind my feminist gears? Firstly, looking like a girl. We all know women are prized for their youth and beauty hence the need to spend huge chunks of income on beauty products to help wage a war against the inevitable slide into decrepitude. It’s not about vanity either. Older women are invisible, staying youthful for as long as possible is a good career move. And one that Bic wholeheartedly supports.
I’m sure they meant to connote the unblemished beauty of youth – but surely the creepy paedophile connotations aren’t going unnoticed by anyone but me. Any time a man refers to a group of women as girls I get a revolted shiver. The word girl connotes a pre-pubescent child; to want grown women to appear like children is creepy in the extreme. It’s insulting that mature womanhood is presented as unattractive while immaturity and inexperience are valued. Grown women are powerful and threatening, girls are not. No prizes for guessing why our misogynistic society values one over the other.
Act like a lady – I got told this all the time as a child and it drove me freaking nuts. Ladies present a pristine and unruffled facade. Ladies don’t argue, they spend their time worrying about how they appear, have perfect makeup, keep their legs together, wear dresses. Ladies keep secrets and perpetuate shame. Ladies are embarrassed by the realities of womanhood like periods and sweating. They don’t wear pants or play sport. They don’t drink or swear or colour their hair purple. Being a lady is about repression and self-denial. The concept of ladylike is used to embarrass and silence women who exhibit behaviour that challenges male authority.
Every time you tell a girl or a woman to sit with her legs together you are perpetuating the idea that her vagina is secret and shameful and needs to be hidden and protected. Compare this to the sheer amount of men you see rearranging, scratching, gesticulating with or referencing their dicks and you have an example of the insidious way we condone male sexuality and inhibit female sexuality.
Think like a man. Piss off. This is an easy one; women are emotional not rational. They can’t think analytically or systematically. Women are empathetic and unable to make decisions based on facts. Being a woman is all about looks and surface. People are interested in more than a man’s surface. What men think is important, what women think is irrelevant. The way men view and arrange the world doesn’t seem to be going so great for anyone who is not a man, so perhaps it’s time we made room for women.
Work like a boss. I’m going to have to assume this means like a man because men represent the vast percentage of bosses in every country. Women do unpaid, underpaid and unappreciated labour. They are the carers and cleaners and receptionists and support workers. Men are the CEOs and rain makers. If you want to be a boss you might want to work on being a man, being a woman places a huge impediment before you, no matter how hard you work.
Bic have since removed the ad following a deluge of complaints. They write “the feedback you have given us will help us ensure that something like this will never happen again.” Let’s hope that’s not the case, I love me some misguided marketing.
Have a great week
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I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone to learn that I despise beauty pageants. In fact it’s part of the pledge us feminists sign at our indoctrination. We swear to adopt many cats, hate beauty pageants, wear Birkenstocks and ruin people’s fun as often as possible.
I struggle to think of a more archaic form of entertainment than parading women half naked on stage, like slabs of meat to be criticized and ridiculed. The question and answer section is particularly annoying. These women are entering a “competition” where the currency is beauty. We don’t expect them to be smart; quite the opposite. If you’re a woman who has grown up being entered in pageants, stopping your swimsuit riding up your ass, and achieving a smooth tan are going to be your specialties. In the classic “make women’s looks paramount then ridicule women who strive to fulfill the ridiculous standards set” move, contestants are asked questions most of us would struggle to coherently respond to on the fly – what would you do about the declining literacy rate among children in the west? – so we can all sit at home and laugh about the stupidity of beautiful women.
Earlier this week saw the advent of the Miss Plus-Sized America beauty pageant, whose stated aim is to “promote self-confidence” and widen the public’s perception of beauty. Surely this is a good thing? In spite of my objection to beauty pageants am I able to see a benefit in this one? Feminists, myself included, are always advocating for a wider representation of the female form in public space.*
(*That sentence was a bit artsy – I wanna see fat girls in the media, that’s what I’m saying. Have any of you seen the new “shaping” jeans by Jeans West? First of all, bite me JW, my shape is just fine, but seriously they’re got a size six model selling me jeans that will squish my fat into a more acceptable form. Honestly, if you want me to believe those jeans work, let’s see someone with some actual fat!)
To give you a simple answer – no, I don’t think this pageant is a good thing. Why? Because objectifying fat women is no more beneficial to womankind than objectifying thin women. I mean seriously. Pageants, no matter who they are for, perpetuate the fiction that a woman’s sum total value resides in her looks. The excellent, if recently nutty, Germaine Greer said it best:
“Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.”
Let’s sit with that for a minute and reflect on just how true a statement that remains.
The whole beauty industry reinforced this idea, beauty pageants especially; they focus on the way a woman looks as her ultimate achievement.
On the one hand, as Miss America (mouth vomit) isn’t going anywhere fast, it seems unfair to let skinny women be in pageants but prevent fat women doing it. Look, I can’t stop anyone doing anything, but I dislike that the plus-sized pageant is pretending to advocate confidence and happiness. You can be confidant and happy without believing that it’s your looks that define you.
Even if you do believe this pageant is a good thing (though to me it feels like society giving fat girls a drink of the poisonous kool aid skinny girls have been drinking for years) plus sized beauty pageants are far from a true arena of body positivity. Only certain types of fat enjoy a modicum of social acceptance. The plus-sized beauties need to have big tits and an hourglass shape, no dreaded belly fat. They are also expected to be hyper femme. Have you noticed that any positive comments about “curvy” women always focus on heavily made up and stylised examples? Thin celebrities are constantly snapped in cute yoga clothes, whereas heavy women wearing the same are construed as slobby and unkempt. Fat women need to police how they look. They can’t wear trackies or look relaxed. Ideally not pants or shorts either.
Just a note, you’ll see I use the word fat with impunity. Now I know a lot of people will say you have fat, you are not fat, and I agree. At the same time plus-sized implies a lot of judgement. Super skinny women aren’t called minus-sized. What then, is the ideal size? Are we expected to be a zero, taking up no physical space in the world? I don’t think fat is a bad word and I use it knowingly because it seems to be the best available option for what I’m talking about. Ideally we wouldn’t have the concept of fat and skinny as imbued with moral judgements, but we do, that’s the world we live in.
It’s worth noting that Miss Plus-Sized America has a formal / glam wear component, but no swim suit competition. The organizers claim it’s because they’re trying to class up the event. Is it? Or are they not willing to push their belief in heavy women being attractive that far? As I said above, heavily stylized and covered fat women are acceptable, those in bathers are not.
Ideally I’d like to see women’s bodies not being used to sell everything from toothpaste to shoes. I’d like women to be valued as human beings, like men are. Since that’s not going to happen, my second option is a wide range of female bodies, lovingly embraced by the community at large. Beauty pageants are archaic and do nothing to advance the “women as people” cause, no matter who they are for. Get rid of them!
You wanna stick it to the man this week? Work on not hating yourself!
Have a great week
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As a bonus enjoy the funniest parody of Toddlers and Tiaras you’ve ever seen: