Tag Archives: patriarchy

So our Convoy wasn’t feminist? Bite me, baby.

20 Jun

See here, Convoy critics. I will do whatever I like with my breasts. If I want them in a montage of cleavage, I will put them there. I don’t care if you think this is an ineffective feminist action, or that I am not a feminist if I make it. Who are you to tell me what to do with my body?  Who are you to decide if I’m a feminist or not?

I don’t care if you think our convoy of cleavage was an ineffective protest. I never framed it as a protest. I said it was a frivolity that would achieve nothing. You imposed your own values on it, and then complained because it didn’t meet them.

We had no obligation to fulfil your expectations. Get off your arse and do it the way you want, instead of bitching and moaning that we didn’t do it for you.

I don’t care if you are angry because looking at our breasts will give guys a hard on. If you are angry about guys getting hard ons, take it up with them. Don’t tell me I can’t do what I like with my breasts because it will disturb “men.” Don’t tell me I can’t do what I like with my breasts because I’m playing into the hands of the patriarchy. Don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m doing cos brainwashed by the menz.

Actually, I think it’s the other way round. You are buying into patriarchy’s fear of women, and the myth of the power of our bodies to make men uncontrollably wild.

Personally, I have no problem with heterosexual men enjoying images of the female body. It seems pretty damn natural to me.

Years of patriarchy telling me what to do with my body, now Grace Collier and the feminists as well?

You find it sad that I can’t make a political point without using the “money [ie cum] shot?” It was my cleavage. I didn’t post an image of a man ejaculating on my face. Check this blog. See how many political points I can make. Wanna read my doctoral thesis and see how many political points I made in that? How about I send you any one of the many international conference papers I’ve presented, all of which make political points? Book chapters? Lectures? Articles? How very patriarchal of you to judge me by one shot of my cleavage, not my body of work.

I don’t know why you want to put me and all the other women involved down, for an innocuous display of our cleavage. I don’t care really, though I am an analyst  & I could give you a few theories. Suffice to say that your need to do this is your problem, not ours, and we’re not carrying it for you.

The Convoy of Cleavage was initiated and executed with an enormous amount of good will, joy, friendship, co-operation and laughter. A bunch of women, many of whom have never met, had a damn good time together, and made a point about sexism. It was a moment. It was never intended to be anything else.

UPDATE: WE ARE NOW IN THE HUFFINGTON POST WORLD SECTION.

Also in the UK Telegraph.

The Convoy featured in the UK Daily Mail, a Dutch paper and the Indian Deccan Chronicle.  Yes, we went global, and we find that very satisfying. Because of us, the sexist attacks on PM Gillard, and all women, got international coverage as part of our story. That was the icing on the cake for us.

We didn’t do it in a manner that met with your feminist approval?

Tough titty.

Convoy of Cleavage

This montage of images sent in by Twitter women who formed the Convoy of Cleavage was created and distributed by Destroy the Joint

All about women

9 Apr

“All About Women” was the title given to a day of feminist conversation and debate between women about women, at the Sydney Opera House on April 7.

Aside: I understand Bob Ellis inveigled his way onto some panel or other, on the topic of whether or not men can be feminists. He took the opportunity to reveal that he has not had sex with his wife since 1966. (CORRECTION. APPARENTLY ELLIS SAID HE HAS NOT SLEPT WITH HIS WIFE SINCE 1966) In either case, whether he believes this makes him a feminist or not I don’t care to contemplate.

I’m all for women gathering to discuss ideas and exchange views, however I did get more than a little infuriated by the title of this event.

For as long as I’ve been a feminist (or an anti-feminist as some would have it) I’ve complained, and the women I associate with have complained, about what I will term “the patriarchy” and its offensive tendency to refer to us as “women” much as one refers to “cows” or “chickens” or “fish.” That is, as if we are an homogenous group with no individual characteristics, who all think the same, desire the same, and act the same because we have breasts and vaginas.

Take, for example, Freud’s infamous question “What do women want?” asked as if we are not individual women but Woman, the planet’s largest hive mind, and there really is one thing, if only Dr Freud could have found it, that would solve Man’s problems with us.

My feminist friends and I have expended much energy over the years in an effort to educate the patriarchy in the unacceptability of dehumanising half the human race by referring to us as one being.

So understandably, I was enraged when I learned that a feminist wordfest had been given the title “All About Women.”

There must be an inherent and entirely unexamined sense of privilege and entitlement  at work, to allow any woman to consider that anything she has to say can be extrapolated to all women.

What the title does is refer us yet again to an elite feminism that claims these days to be feminism. And it seems to me this kind of feminism has taken an unfortunate turn in its abandonment of first principles. We are not a hive mind. We are not “women” or “Woman.” We are complex and individualised human beings with an infinite number of concerns,ambitions, desires, sorrows and griefs. If leading feminists have become so damn lazy they’ve forgotten that, then we need new leaders.

“All about some women” is admittedly not quite as catchy as is the universal, but it is a good deal more honest.

woman

I’m Kevin and I’m here to…..Plus, this week in feminism

16 Feb

Is Kevin Rudd planning a come-back? Are there enough supporters now to return him to the job he so ignominiously lost?  Will Julia Gillard get her comeuppance? Will Kevin get the ALP across the line again like he did in 2007? Is Michelle Grattan making it all up?

Personally,  I’d back anyone with a chance of keeping the government the government  when Tea Party Tony is our only alternative, so who’s it going to be, Julia or Kevin? As we now know, we don’t have to keep the leader who wins the election, we can get another right after, so all we need is the one who can decisively win, and out of the two of them, history tells us that’s Kev. Who is still the most popular Labor politician in the country.

Let us hope that the ALP will use their heads and throw their weight behind whoever is most likely to win, because the alternative is simply too abhorrent to contemplate.

Of course much of this could be avoided if punters would do as I do and vote for the local member who does the best job, in my case the ALP member, instead of imagining we’re in some kind of presidential system in which only the leader matters.

Should women keep their own names when they marry, rather than taking their husbands’? This was one of the more profound questions posed by feminists for consideration last week.

For a start, what woman has her “own” name to keep? Most of us have our father’s names. If we have our mother’s names they are usually our grandfather’s names. The only way a woman has her own name is if she changes it herself. I’ve had my father’s name, my stepfather’s name, my first husband’s name and then I chucked them all and changed my name by deed poll to my grandfather’s name. When I married again I kept that name instead of changing it to my husband’s, mostly because I was sick of the paperwork.

Now I’m considering taking a last name that has nothing to do with anybody, like Peony, or Seagrass, or Waterlily or Dugong. Also I’m not Miss, Ms, or Mrs anymore, I’m Dr. So I have thrown off all the naming shackles of patriarchy, or will when I tackle the paperwork.

Unfortunately it’s too late to give my children my name instead of their father’s. This is a pity, because then all my grandchildren would have my name instead of their grandfather’s. There would be generations of Dugongs, Waterlilys, Peonys or Seagrasses instead of boring old whatevers. These generations would be shackled by the matriarchal instead of the patriarchal, and it’s about time.

I could continue in this querulous vein, explaining how in my opinion sacking Kevin in the manner they chose was the dumbest decision ever, and bound to seriously taint Ms Gillard’s Prime Ministership and the entire party for a long, long time, however, I have to go to the dentist. So have a good Saturday, and may all your troubles be very very small.

Yours, as ever, Dr Dugong.

What is this “IT” that women should want all of?

8 Jul

The other day I tweeted that if I heard one more discussion about women having it all, there would be blood spatter. I take that back because I want to say a thing or two.

There are two quite separate issues here that are being misleadingly conflated. One is the real need for adequate affordable child care for all women, and a non-discriminatory workplace in which we are treated with respect and equality, properly paid and not penalised for creating the next generation who will keep the country going. I wholeheartedly support those aspirations.

But while some of us weren’t looking it seems that a particular strand of feminism has declared that Woman’s highest and most noble aspiration is To Have IT all. This has recently drowned out the real struggle for equality for all women, and focused the debate on a privileged few.

As far as I can ascertain, the IT holy grail involves building and maintaining a highly successful career while shaping your body to fit into designer suits and stilettos that create a complex ambience of sexy yet capable. When you’ve got a sure foothold in your profession you then take time to partner up, get pregnant, gestate, and give birth. Then you get back to work looking as untouched by these experiences as possible.

You then have it all. Career, partner, family, money. You will need the support of other women to enable your lifestyle. Child care workers, nannies, cleaners, the majority of whom are female, are paid far less than you, but that’s all right, you are creating jobs in your efforts to succeed at everything except the boring, unglamorous stuff other women will do for you.

Sustaining and promoting the patriarchal paradigm, the “be born, get everything until you die because you are entitled” ethic so beloved by hegemonic masculinity, is apparently the only way a woman can achieve real power in the Western world. While there may be the occasional inroad into better conditions for women who are caught up in the various levels on which this paradigm operates,  the paradigm itself is not subject to real interrogation and real change. This is still a world that in the West at least, is founded on the principle of entitlement to everything, just because.  That is not feminism as I understand it:

I would like to blame the patriarchy for  the IT women should suddenly want all of. It looks to me like an attempt at counter insurgency operational propaganda, using collaborating women they’ve turned as agents. If ever you wanted to set up a disruptive enemy for a catastrophic fall, this is the way to go about it. Use the media to build unrealistic expectations in the female population and persuade the target audience to introject them. Bombard with images of glamorous women who have brilliant jobs, dishy supportive husbands often with their own high-powered professional lives, and adorable children and pets. Make the audience crave this, for because who wouldn’t want a life like that? If you aren’t having it, there’s something wrong with you. If you don’t want it, there’s something even more wrong with you.

 

The propaganda won’t work on everybody because not all women are susceptible, but it will probably work on enough of us to redirect anger away from the system where it belongs, and onto the self where it doesn’t. Mission accomplished. Feminism co-opted in the service of capitalism. System safe. Oh yeah.

What surprises me about high achieving women who are given as examples of having IT all, is that despite all their obvious intelligence and talent, they seem universally disinclined to question the IT. This is disappointing. Imagine if they  got in there and started up a ruckus.IT? What is this IT of which you speak? Happiness? Contentment? A lifestyle, as opposed to a life? DEFINE THE IT!

Of course, that would be biting the hand that feeds them, and women who want it all know before they know anything else that if you can’t fight them you join them and once you’ve joined them, that’s IT.

In a bizarre sense, these women do achieve a kind of equality but I have to ask the question, who wants to be equal to that? I mean can’t we aspire to something better than “I want it all?”

There was a time when thinking you could have everything was a sign of immaturity. Adults accepted that choices had to be made. Only the greedy narcissist, frozen in the mindset of a two-year-old, thought they were entitled to everything and everyone else had to help them get it.

What seems important to me is that we keep the complaints of privileged women quite separate from the real issues facing the majority of us. They are not the same thing, they do not have anything like the same urgency, and besides, the “I want it all” creed is not going to work for the planet. I don’t believe feminism was ever about having it all. It was, and remains about equality, not matching excessive male privilege. Privilege, I might add, that the majority of males don’t enjoy either.

Feminism isn’t about “wanting it all.” Nobody has that right. The ideology is about creating a world in which everyone has a better chance at decent survival, not just a greedy few of either sex whose sense of entitlement is in danger of raging out of control, to everybody’s cost.

Fundamentalist sexual propaganda dominates at the ABC’s Drum

1 Mar
Masturbation by Klimt, drawing 1913

Gustav Klimt 1913. Masturbation. via Wikimedia

Lately The Drum seems to have been co-opted as an advocate for right wing fundamentalist Christian propaganda about the “pornification” and “sexification” of women.

Commentator Melinda Tankard Reist, sometimes supported by observations from journalist and researcher Nina Funnell, has published three pieces in the last three weeks, peddling her views on the “proper” expression and representation of female sexuality in the media and popular culture.

Given that some of her opinions can only be read as extremist (her war on Victoria’s Secret underwear, for example; her unrelenting insistence that women are doomed to be the hapless victims of men) it is astonishing that the Drum hasn’t come up with anything that directly contests these views, and gives voice to the opinions and feelings of the millions of women who find Victoria’s Secret fun to wear, and consider ourselves anything but victims.

If this right wing agenda manifested in any other subject area on the Drum, we would all be astonished, and a challenge would immediately be published. But not when it’s about controlling how women express our sexuality, apparently.

Tankard Reist’s grim visions of the inevitable baseness of men, the fear of and contempt for female sexuality revealed in her propaganda, continue to dominate the Drum’s pages.

It’s left to a handful of determined commenters to take her on.

Perhaps the Drum doesn’t consider the representation and expression of female sexuality a topic worthy of defense, even on the eve of International Women’s Day.

This is not on, our  ABC. There’s no balance here. You should be putting up articles that celebrate female sexuality, and support a woman’s right to decide how she’ll express it. Centuries of patriarchy have tried to control our sexuality, and now we’ve got the Christians at it again. Enough, already.

Why are you assisting the fundamentalists in this project, Jonathan Green, and why aren’t you giving a voice to women who love their sexuality, don’t see any reason to hide it and have no quarrel with underwear companies and stupid songs?

Women who revel in taking responsibility for ourselves, and don’t need MTR and Nina Funnell to do it for us, thanks all the same.

For those of you dissatisfied with the Drum’s promotion (by omission) of a right wing sexual agenda, On Line Opinion will fight back on Friday.

At least there’s still someplace where a woman can say she doesn’t mind a lacy thong and cleavage.

The “adultification” of childhood: the questions some feminists will not ask

3 Feb

Slow Down, Children. By Steve Voght via flickr

Being a Disney princess doesn’t cut it anymore for some little girls and their mothers. Being “hot” does. This means mini adult clothes, high-heeled slippers, the raunchy swing of the infant bum, bras long before there’s the least need for them, lip gloss and worse, and the emulation of adult sexual behaviour in the pursuit of being “cute.”

All of this is currently known as the “adultification” of children.

It’s horrible. Anybody who’s seen footage of the two year old girl toddling down the catwalk in full make-up and wearing a mini sized version of Madonna’s iconic cone shaped bra, can judge for themselves how horrible it really is.

You’ll find this and other nasty images on Melinda Tankard Reist’s website, where there are examples of “adultification” that make wet hair stand on end.

I do have serious disagreements with some of MTR’s positions, but there’s no denying she is certainly doing a thorough job of raising awareness of this particular cultural development, and somebody must. I acknowledge her vigilance in this.

The weaknesses in the arguments.

I don’t agree with her analysis, however. Reist and other feminist commentators hold the media, and the apparently perverted sexual appetites of adult men, responsible for this situation.

They take a swipe at men in general in the mistaken belief that “the patriarchy” is a term applicable to anyone with a penis, plus their collaborators, that is, women with a pr*ck in their heads. Or “pro male women,” as the Reist people prefer to put it.

As sociology Professor Raewyn Connell described it in her book, Masculinities, (1995, Allen & Unwin) hegemonic patriarchal masculinity is but one expression of the masculine in Western culture. Men who do not identify with that dominant expression are frequently vilified or ignored by the mainstream group. Connell’s work exposes the weakness of any argument that depends on male stereotypes.

Tarring all men with one brush is as offensive as stereotyping women. I wish the feminists engaged in this process would stop it, because it isn’t helping anyone and it doesn’t add anything to the debate. Indeed, it puts so many people off side the debate is at risk of losing what would otherwise be a sympathetic audience.

Let’s go deeper than claiming all men are the same. We’re capable of that.

Capitalism, the market and the media

Hegemonic masculinity is a category generally well represented in the pursuit of profit. Captains of industry, masters of the universe, dominant alpha males, and their female cohorts, tend to set the tone in popular culture when they perceive that there is money to be made from it.

I would go so far as to argue that the entire “adultification of childhood” process is driven by a market in search of more and more ways to increase profits, as fashions and fads quickly fall by the wayside and offer less returns.

Then there’s the media. The media has a complex role to play in the game. They simultaneously promote and critique cultural trends, sometimes in the same couple of pages. The media bears its fair share of responsibility for the creation of our desires, and the fact that those desires are so frequently deliberately contradictory and unattainable.

Even MTR throws up unacceptable contradictions. How many more people have seen the appalling French Vogue photo shoot featuring five and six year olds in adult clothes, and blatantly sexually posed, since she put those very same photos up on her website, complete with sharing facilities?

Not, however, with a link to French Vogue so we could dash off a condemnatory email.

I’ll never understand that move. Protest, by all means but perpetuate the children’s abuse? Non, merci.

The elephant in the room

In the frantic outpouring of blame for the sexualization and adultification of little children, and the tortuous self-questioning about “how did this happen?” one thing seems to be consistently overlooked. Perhaps the most important thing of all, and that is the market.

The market is mothers. It is overwhelmingly mothers who buy this merchandise for their little girls. It is mothers who dress their little girls in these inappropriate ways. It is mothers who train these little girls to pout, and strut, and wiggle. It is mothers who paint the little faces, highlight the infant hair, and whiten the baby teeth.

Mothers are the market. If they weren’t interested, if they didn’t buy the merchandise, if no mothers thought it was good for their little ones to look “hot,” there would be no market. Last time I looked infants weren’t out there in droves buying make up and tiny sexy clothes. And neither were blokes, patriarchal or not.

Some women, an increasing number it would seem from the unease that’s around, are acting out their own fantasies and desires through their little girls. The market has sussed out this development and pounced, because that’s its job. Once making kids look like little big girls was confined to those crazy American moms and their children’s beauty pageants. Now, apparently, it’s pre-schoolers all over the place.

The sexualization of children is becoming normalised at an earlier and earlier age. Little boys come home from kindergarten and tell their sisters they’ve got “sexy butts.”  Where does that come from?

The mother in that instance explained that “sexy” wasn’t an appropriate descriptor for a little girl, or for a little boy to use about a little girl. It was adult language, she said.

Children start to apply pressure as more of their peers show up to school in inappropriate clothes, and nobody wants to stand out as different. The market rubs its hands, and sees only profit. It’s a vicious cycle.

Almost everyone thought French Vogue went way too far. But it can’t be denied that the magazine operates within a general climate in which it is increasingly acceptable for little girls to be sexualised.

Don’t blame the mothers

Because that won’t help anyone. Rather, we need to look at what is driving more women to sexualise and “adultify” their very young daughters.

How has the concept of “beautiful little girl” become transmogrified into “hot little girl” in some women’s minds?

Who do they believe these tarted-up little girls really appeal to?

Without any evidence to substantiate my gut feeling, I strongly suspect it is the mothers themselves. I have enough faith left in humanity in general to recoil from the notion that these women are actually thinking of their little ones as sexual fodder and sexual eye candy for adult males.

I suspect there is considerable dissonance between how some feminists perceive this tragic form of theatre, and how the women involved perceive it.

The exploitation of these little girls, intentional or otherwise, is perpetrated primarily by the mothers. The market both caters to, and promotes this exploitation.

And I’m really at a loss to see how railing against the stereotyped and supposedly perverted sexual appetites of adult males, and railing against the media, will on its own do anything much to address the situation.

As long as there is a profit to be made from it, all forms of the commodification of childhood, including the sexualisation and “adultification” of young children will continue, and the media will not take a stand against it. If there is no market, interest will very quickly fade away.

Mothers are the key. Go to the source. Don’t blame, but do hold responsible.

Adult women can be held responsible for our choices, and we should be. Nothing will deeply change for us until we accept that.

One of my lasting memories of my grandmother is her scolding me for turning cartwheels without my knickers on. I don’t know what she would make of the way some of the little girls I’ve seen out and about lately are dressed.

There are so many years when we have to be grown up, and so few years to be a happily grotty kid.

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