Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade! By Meghan Murphy

Accessed 27th August 2013

August 26, 2013

This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade!

Sunday was, apparently, “Go Topless Day.” According to media coverage of the event in Vancouver, the purpose of the march is to “stand up for women’s right to go topless in public.”
CBC’s headline read: “Topless women march in Vancouver for gender equality,” which naturally led me to wonder what, exactly, about fighting for our “right” to bare our breasts in public had to do with gender equality.
First things first. In Canada, women won the right to bare their breasts in public in 1996, so the claims that this march is about gaining rights is a little misleading. Spokesperson, Denise Belisle, said the women participating in the event in Vancouver were fighting for women in other places where going topless isn’t legal:  “For the women who do want to go topless, they should have that option. They do here in Vancouver, that’s great, but not everywhere.” How, exactly, women parading topless down Robson Street, in Vancouver, where it is already legal, impacts the law in other places is unclear.
Second, it seems relevant to mention that Go Topless Day is, as The National Postreported, “organized and promoted by the Raelians, a UFO cult founded by former French journalist Claude Vorlihan (i.e. a dude), author of ‘Extraterrestrials Took Me to Their Planet.’” The National Post seems to stand out as an exception, calling the event “a publicity stunt,” unlike the many other media outlets who placed it under the banner of “gender rights.” Though this information should be cause for skepticism, in terms of the credibility or relevance to feminism, the media seems to be taking it quite seriously. It’s no strange coincidence that news outlets seem most interested in covering “gender rights” when we’re dealing with either Slutwalk or female nudity.
It is true that there is a double-standard. Aside from the douche-factor, people tend not to pay much attention to men who go shirtless in public places. Women, on the other hand, are likely to be gawked at, harassed, cat-called, or treated as though they are doing something socially inappropriate.
Now, as far as “gender rights” go, near the bottom of the list of concerns I have about inequality is my “right” to go topless. There are very few moments in my life wherein I feel I would be freer or cooler if only I could bare my breasts. That said, the reasons behind the fact that women don’t go topless in public places as casually as men, do matter.
Breasts are sexualized in our culture. In general, women’s bodies and body parts are fetishized in a way that men’s are not. This is why people get so worked up when women breastfeed in public. Because breasts are, we’ve been made to believe, reserved for male sexual fantasies. Feeding babies with sexy sex toys doesn’t fit very well with that notion.
It is for this same reason that The Province covered Sunday’s march with the headline: “Everyone’s a photographer on Go Topless Day in Vancouver.” Because,obviously,  a bunch of disgusting pieces of shit felt that a march that (were we not so terribly simple-minded and misguided) could have been about women’s right not to be objectified should actually be about objectifying women.

The National Post reported that “at least one participant had to hold the crowds back shouting ‘You’re too close,’” because, of course, female nudity is an invitation to men to behave rapily. Men think they have the right to access women in public spaces regardless of how clothed we are, but they particularly believe that women’s naked bodies exist for them. What else could they possibly be for?
Of course, the message that this double-standard is sexist (I actually don’t think that was the message, or really that there was any message at all — but let’s pretend for argument’s sake) failed because those behind the march don’t quite get it. The chant, “free your breasts, free your mind,” tells me that the GoTopless folks have avoided looking at the root of the issue. There is little that can be changed at the surface, particularly when we we don’t understand why the inequality exists in the first place. There is also little that can be changed, with regard to the objectification of women, simply by “freeing one’s mind.”
Belisle, said: “It’s an education for men. Men are learning and they’re learning to be more respectful.” Of course, as demonstrated by the behaviour of the men witnessing the event, the exact opposite was achieved. Men did not learn to be more respectful, nor did they learn anything about women’s rights or “gender equality.” The march merely reinforced their belief that women’s naked bodies equate to pornography — they are to be looked at for the purposes of male pleasure.

I find it consistently sad and lazy (many days I simply don’t have the energy to feel angry and am certainly not surprised) that the media and the general public refuses to engage with  “gender rights” unless it can somehow be pornified.

Gender stereotyping is unhelpful and counter-productive – whoever's doing it by Deborah Orr

Accessed 27th August 2013



Gender stereotyping is unhelpful and counter-productive – whoever's doing it

Assuming that men are not responsible for their actions harms them just as much as it harms women

The Guardian, Friday 23 August 2013 15.45 BST
How much do the reactions of a particular and self-selecting group to an unusual and disturbing incident tell us about our culture generally? Photographs of a teenage girl seemingly performing a public sex act on a young man at a festival in Ireland last weekend were published by a third party on the internet, where they were quickly shared on social networks. Other people offered their opinions. Many condemned the female as "disgusting", while the male not only escaped censure but was even described as a "hero" or a "legend".
This, it is now being said, is a "typical" example of age-old sexist double-standards, whereby women are condemned for flamboyant expressions of their sexuality while men are admired. What rubbish. This may be the view of an ignorant, immature and vocal minority with more technology than sense. But otherwise, there is nothing typical about any part of this episode, and it should not be seen as an invitation to bang on a feminist drum any more than it should be seen as an opportunity to jeer at and judge a young woman. Far more telling, and far more cheering, is the fact that the mainstream media has been low-key in its reporting of the incident and its aftermath, realising that witch-hunts are not any longer something that responsible adults should indulge in or encourage.
It's true that a female has been subjected to vicious criticism, while, as my colleague Sarah Ditum put it in the New Statesman, "in the world of popular sexual mores, public oral sex is apparently seen as pretty much neutral for men". But is that true? Am I that out of touch? My impression is that the vast majority of men wouldn't in fact give or receive oral sex in public, wouldn't stand around taking snaps if they saw others doing so, wouldn't put those pictures on the internet and wouldn't go online to offer their uncharitable view on the matter. I just don't believe that it's useful to insist that general truths about contemporary sexual mores can be extrapolated from deliberate humiliation and cruelty by an almost universally condemned minority.
It has been made known that the girl is deeply distressed. It's reported that she was hospitalised and sedated and that her blood is being tested, to see if her drink was spiked, not least because other photographs have emerged, of sexual harassment by a group of men, in an earlier incident that she had complained about. There is talk of designating all of the people who shared the images, especially the Belfast man who is accused of creating them, as publishers of child pornography, since the girl is under 18. The suspicion is that she has been manipulated, exploited, taken advantage of, because something made her vulnerable. Perhaps it was alcohol, taken by her knowingly. Perhaps alcohol or drugs were given to her without her knowledge, and with malicious intent. Either way, the man involved is no hero. He behaved appallingly.
Yet there is no suggestion that his outrageous actions are anything other than self-explanatory. Maybe that's right. Maybe he has no excuse. Maybe he's pleased with himself. But the idea seems to be that he was just doing what all men would do, given the "opportunity". He wasn't though, was he? To suggest that he was is a grotesque caricature, insulting to most men. Reaction to this case, unfortunately, reeks of misandry as well as misogyny.
Of course, it's unfair that the man involved in the incident has not been showered with online disapprobation – no one denies that misogynists can express themselves online in a way that they can't in real life, and for obvious reasons. However, he nevertheless doesn't seem to be keen to capitalise on all of the "neutral" publicity. Instead, he is lying low. This suggests that he either knows that his behaviour is inexcusable, or understands at least that most people, far from seeing him as a hero or a legend, would be disgusted by him.
Can I be so bold as to suggest the unthinkable – that he might have regrets, might be appalled by his own behaviour, might be frightened for the consequences that may yet come, and be miserable at home with a family who are horrified by his appalling lapse? Maybe he was also drunk, or on drugs. Maybe he finds the people who call him "legend" repulsive. Who knows? There's been a distinct lack of curiosity about any of that.
Because that's the trouble with gender blaming. All misogynists are also misandrists. All misandrists are also misogynists. Saving your misanthropy for only one gender is just a not-so-fine distinction that leaves you stereotyping half of all people and archetyping the other half. Elevating individuals to archetypes may be less negative and nasty than reducing them to stereotypes. But it's still a refusal to see people for who they are, insisting instead that we are all identical microcosms representing all of our sex.
The type of sexual misogyny that has been meted out to this unlucky woman has come to be known as "slut-shaming". But slut-shaming is a prima facie example of the Janus-faced nature of woman-hating. Slut-shaming, by implication, doesn't just unfairly and negatively stereotype women. It portrays men as unwilling and unable to control their sexual impulses, reliant on women to take responsibility for policing their sexualrelationships, therefore making them blameless when sexual acts or sexual relationships are unsatisfying or abusive.
Anyone who indulges in "slut-shaming", somewhat paradoxically, has an unhelpfully and unfeasibly low opinion of what should be expected of men, and an unhelpfully and unfeasibly high opinion of what should be expected of women. This is not to say that it isn't important to identify and challenge this kind of reductive and biased name-calling. On the contrary, the debate is skewed and divisive, precisely because it concentrates far too much on exonerating all women and condemning all men. It does exactly what the thing it professes to hate does, and insists women are always hapless victims and men are always ruthless aggressors.
And as for the fact that women "slut-shame" too, often with great enthusiasm? Well, that's the fault of "the patriarchy", whose greatest triumph as an oppressor of women, as a destroyer of female agency, seems at present to be its ability to reassure susceptible women that men are always to blame.
There's a querulous passivity to some feminist debate; an endless search to put misogyny up on a podium of shame, rather than just drown it in the majority's common-sense attitude. Common sense tells us that misogynistic people are insecure. Cultural noise – broadly feminist – tells us that misogynistic people are powerful and dominating. But it's a bit silly really, a bit counterproductive, telling insecure men with feelings of inadequacy that there's this way of thinking about women that will make them feel powerful. The worst of men – and women – sign up to active misogyny and misandry, and they are then the people whose behaviour increasingly fuels debate. It's a downward, negative, abject spiral, that risks always seeking difference instead of similarity.
Common sense also tells us that public oral sex is not to be encouraged, that public embarrassment of people who make mistakes is horrible, that drinking or drugging yourself or others into insensibility, or taking advantage of those who do, is vile and that young people, male or female, sometimes behave in a confused or immature fashion. There is no great divide in opinion between men and women on these matters. So what on earth is the benefit to anyone of making out that there is?

Tits, out - The Economist

Accessed 27th August 2013



Tits, out

What a row about tabloid nudity says about sex and society

Aug 17th 2013 |From the print edition

AN ENGLISHMAN likes a routine: Marmite on his toast, warm beer in his glass, bad teeth in his mouth and, for a couple of million readers of the Sun, a squint at Kelly from Daventry’s boobs on Page 3. Such is the claim made by Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid: that since its topless photos were introduced in 1970 under the new proprietor of the day, Rupert Murdoch, they have become a harmless fixture of national life. Yet, cheekily venerable though it may be, Page 3’s days could be numbered. Its fate casts light on evolving attitudes to sex, feminism and the media; on what has changed in Britain since 1970, and what hasn’t.
People have always complained that Page 3 demeans and objectifies women. But the impetus for a rethink now is new. A year ago Lucy-Anne Holmes, an actor and writer, began an online campaign, No More Page 3, and a petition that has since attracted 114,000 signatures. Her success is salutary. Death threats made recently against female MPs and journalists highlighted the use that deranged misogynists make of Twitter and Facebook; Ms Holmes’s efforts demonstrate how valuable the internet has been for feminists, too. Suddenly women and girls no longer feel like the only person in the office or classroom who cares.
Previous opponents of Page 3 have been dismissed as puritanical killjoys. With the especial venom the tabloids reserve for those who threaten their own interests, the Sunlabelled Clare Short, a former Labour minister who advocated a ban, “fat”, “ugly” and “jealous”. Wisely, today’s campaign is not calling for legislation, nor even for the Sun’s banishment to the top shelf or a minimum age for buyers (the print equivalents of a television watershed). It is politely requesting that Page 3 be discontinued. The Irish version of the Sunrecently did just that. The word is that a revamp may be coming in the British paper, too.
But meanwhile fans of Page 3 are marshalling their arguments, as familiar as the new activism is nimble. One is that critics’ real concern is not sex but class: that the underlying anxiety is not for the women on the page but the (largely) working-class men who ogle them. The snooty prosecutor at the obscenity trial of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”—who asked if the jury would want their servants to read the book—sometimes gets a look in. This defence is itself a form of snobbery—as if Sun readers would not cope without a daily dose of nipples, or are irredeemably sexist.
Then there is the lazy appeal to the sovereignty of the market. That is the line taken by David Cameron and other senior politicians (though 138 other MPs support Ms Holmes). This is a matter for consumers, they say, sometimes proceeding to reject the idea of a ban, even though no one is proposing one. Like most papers, the Sun’s circulation has declined; it has been tarnished by a scandal over phone-hacking and the bribery of public officials, in which dozens of journalists have been arrested. Evidently, however, bigwigs still prefer not to alienate it, or Mr Murdoch. The prime minister’s blasé approach sits uncomfortably with his alarm at the spread of salacious images online.
That is something that definitely has changed. These days, raunch is everywhere—not only on the internet and television, but on advertising hoardings and the sides of buses. Another online campaign is aimed at sanitising the covers of sub-pornographic “lads’ mags”. In this context, Page 3 can scarcely be titillating for anyone over the age of 13. Like the saucy “Carry On” films of the 1960s-70s, or Benny Hill’s puerile comedy sketches, it is more cartoonish than erotic. Britons seem to have an enduring taste for coy, almost evasive smut.
Which is not to say that it is harmless. As with much nastier material, only more so, linking Page 3 to violence is highly speculative. But, given its brand and (despite the falling circulation) its ubiquity, it is silly to deny that the Sun plays a role in shaping views on women. In particular, the attitudes of boys to girls and girls to their own bodies: Page 3 supplies invidious comparators and narrow, retrograde stereotypes.
The paper itself seems to understand that tits are not for kids, and drops them in its family-friendly weekend editions. But children pick up the Sun at bus stops or kitchen tables during the week. In a way, the new, hypersexual environment strengthens the case against Page 3. In the emerging, rough-and-ready rules of the pornofied world, adults can look at what they choose, but children should be shielded where possible.
Turn the page
Besides the issue of whether Page 3 should be scrapped (it should, but voluntarily), there is the question why, in this age of wall-to-wall filth, readers might remain attached to it. Here the fallback plea of the Sun’s editors—that the boobs have become a tradition—may be helpful. Page 3 has been going about as long as the Super Bowl in America: not very, but long enough to become a staple for a couple of generations of men. It has spanned decades in which much of British life has been transformed, not least in off-the-page relations between men and women.
Tough. Traditions can die, and many are unlamented when they do. The time-honoured tradition of displaying girlie calendars in motor garages and other workplaces is now defunct. Even Page 3 itself is not immutable. It ditched surgically enhanced breasts and swore off girls younger than 18; ironic jokes at the models’ expense have gone the way of all flesh. Too prim to arouse yet too lewd for a modern newspaper, the flesh itself is a throwback to a cruder, simpler past.
Encouragingly, in February Mr Murdoch hinted in a tweet that the topless shots might be replaced by pictures of “glamorous fashionistas”. On occasion he has seemed ruthlessly aware that institutions have a half-life. The phone-hacking furore began in 2011 when theNews of the World, the Sun’s much older Sunday complement, was accused of raiding the messages of a murdered schoolgirl. Mr Murdoch closed the paper in a heartbeat.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Are vulvas so obscene that we have to censor them?

Accessed 22nd August 2013



Are vulvas so obscene that we have to censor them?

Our student newspaper was taken off the shelves for showing vulvas. But what is offensive about a body part that over half of the world have? 
Hannah Ryan, Avani Dias, Mariana Podesta-Diverio and Lucy Watson
theguardian.com, Thursday 22 August 2013 04.50 BST

Honi Soit's censored cover - the issue was still pulled off shelves as the black bars were 'too transparent'. An uncensored version of the cover can be seen below. Photograph: Honi Soit. Photograph: Jennifer Yiu/Honi Soit
Eighteen vulvas. All belong to women of Sydney University, and feature on the cover of Honi Soit, the university's student newspaper. We were told to cover them with ugly black bars before publishing. Why, even after complying with this, were the issues taken off the stands?
We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (porn) or stigmatised (censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual. 
The vaginas on the cover are not sexual. We are not always sexual. The vagina should and can be depicted in a non-sexual way – it’s just another body part. “Look at your hand, then look at your vagina,” said one participant in the project. “Can we really be so naïve to believe our vaginas the dirtiest, sexiest parts of our body?” 
We refuse to manipulate our bodies to conform to your expectations of beauty. How often do you see an ungroomed vulva in an advertisement, a sex scene, or in a porno? Depictions of female genitalia in culture provide unrealistic images that most women are unable to live up to. “Beautiful vaginas are depicted as soft, hairless, and white. The reality is that my vagina is dark and hairy, and when it isn’t it is pinkish and prickly,” said one of the participants in the project. We believe that the fact that more than 1,200 Australian women a year get labioplasty is a symptom of a serious problem. How can society both refuse to look at our body part, call it offensive, and then demand it look a certain way? 
We want to feel normal; we don’t want to feel fearful when we have a first sexual encounter with a partner who may judge us because of our vaginas. That fear was replicated during the photo shoot. “Just before getting the picture taken the little voice in my head was doing the whole ‘why didn’t you landscape?’ thing,” said one participant. This sentiment was shared by most people in the project – they felt a pressure to present our vaginas to the world in a way that the audience would be "comfortable" with. But this cover is intended to reassure other women. Take comfort from the fact that everyone’s vagina is different, and normal.
All the women on the cover have been unified through their experience, but so is every other person that is able to defeat any negative feelings they have towards their own or another vagina. As one participant put it: “When it comes down to it, my vagina is just another part of my body, which can be viewed in a number of different ways, but the majority of the time is completely neutral, just like my mouth or my hands. It is not something to be ashamed of; it is not my dirty secret.”
It’s telling that the women who participated in the creation of this cover found the experience to be liberating. It’s because we need liberation. Just before we went to print, we were told that our cover was illegal, possibly criminal. But why? According to the Student Representative Council’s legal advice, this publication might be “obscene” or “indecent”, likely to cause offence to a “reasonable adult”. But what is offensive or obscene about a body part that over half of the Australian population have? Why can’t we talk about it – why can’t we see it? Why is that penises are scrawled in graffiti all around the world, but we can’t bear to look at vulvas?
In 1993, the Honi Soit editors ran an uncensored photograph of a flaccid penis on the front cover, as a response to another university newspaper's decision to do the same. Neither newspaper received any complaints. Our cover was not a comment on nudity generally, but instead an exercise in female empowerment. 
Even after complying, the paper was pulled off stands yesterday. Why? Due to a printing error, the black bars which we were made to use to hide the "offensive" parts and avoid prosecution came back from the printers ever so slightly transparent.
Art exhibitions over the last few decades have attempted to break down the stigma attached to the vagina by bringing its realistic depiction into the public sphere, most recently in Redfern. But the audience must first choose to go to the exhibition. By distributing this cover about the university, we have given our audience no choice. Either accept vaginas as normal, non-threatening, and not disgusting, or explain why you can’t. 
Censorship laws in Australia state that the publishing of "indecent articles" without classification is illegal. Indecent is supposed to be something that will "offend" a "reasonable person". If deemed indecent, items must be classified before publication. Pornography is classified, and deemed suitable for publication in places that only adults can access. Our publication risked being classified as more extreme than that, available only from behind a counter, something that should be hidden away from view, something that should be shamed.
That in 2013, vulvas can still be considered something that should be shunned and hidden, or offensive, is absurd.

Dalai Lama: Women Better Leaders Because Of Potential For Compassion; Next Dalai Lama May Be Female

Accessed 22nd August 2013

Dalai Lama: Women Better Leaders Because Of Potential For Compassion; Next Dalai Lama May Be Female

Posted: 06/14/2013 7:23 am EDT  |  Updated: 06/14/2013 3:13 pm EDT

The Dalai Lama weighed in on the debate around women leadership and came out firmly on the side of the female.
Talking to reporters during a visit to Australia, the Buddhist leader was asked to weigh in on gender during a race for Prime Minister that has included charges of sexism.
Speaking generally, the Dalai Lama suggested that the crisis of suffering and inequality in the world requires a compassionate approach to leadership:
"In that respect, biologically, females have more potential... Females have more sensitivity about others' wellbeing. In my own case, my father, very short temper. On a few occasions I also got some beatings. But my mother was so wonderfully compassionate."
The exiled Tibeten Buddhist leader then applied the same logic to his eventual successor; reaffirming that a female Dalai Lama is possible.

"If the circumstances are such that a female Dalai Lama is more useful, then automatically a female Dalai Lama will come."


Accessed 22nd August 2013

Rape Culture At Work: Five Examples Of How Employers Turn Women Into Sex Objects

It’s no secret that women face a disproportionate amount of discrimination in the workplace. One-third of women say they have been subject to some type of workplace discrimination at some point in their careers — which can range from being paid less for the same type of work, to being denied a promotion, to being scrutinized more carefully than their male colleagues.
But the issues that women encounter on the job can run deeper than being unfairly assumed to be less competent or less valuable than their male counterparts. In many cases, women are up against very specific assumptions about their sexuality, their role as “objects” intended to be attractive to men, and their responsibility to prevent men from desiring them.
That attitude toward women’s bodies becomes entrenched at an early age, as girls are told what type of clothing is or isn’t appropriate to wear at school so they don’t “distract” the male students. And it carries over into the workplace, too, as adult women repeatedly receive the message that they are responsible for both obscuring and leveraging their sexuality for men’s purposes. Here are just five recent examples:

A New Jersey judge ruled that casino waitresses can be fired for gaining weight.

Twenty two former cocktail servers sued a popular casino in Atlantic City over a policy that forbids waitresses from gaining more than seven percent of their original body weight. The women were subject to regular weigh-ins, and the policy meant that a 130-pound woman was not allowed to gain more than 9.1 pounds. They alleged it was weight discrimination — but an Atlantic County Superior Court Judge disagreed. In July, the judge ruled that casino waitresses are essentially “sex objects,” and it’s okay to fire them for gaining weight because they are no longer fulfilling their contractual obligations.

A widely-used employee training manual tells women how to make sure they don’t lead men on.

Earlier this week, Jezebel reported that a popular manager training guide — used as companies like Google, Groupon, and Modcloth — essentially tells women that they’re responsible for preventing advances from their male co-workers. The manual tells women who are “touchy-feely or flirtatious by nature” to “dial it back,” suggests women socialize in groups, and advises women to avoid “revealing clothing” or “ending statements with an upward inflection.”

Women at Merrill Lynch have been instructed to seduce their way to the top.

Other employee trainings have similarly gone off the rails when it comes to guidance on women’s behavior in the workplace. Female employees at Merrill Lynch allege they were made to read a book called “Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top” and to make use of its advice to get ahead. To get men to do their work, the book suggested “play[ing] on their masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex.” To diffuse tense situations, it pointed out that men “puff up” at being told, “Wow, you look great. Been working out?” The women also allege that they were pressured to attend female-only events on “dressing for success” and were told to be more “perky” and “bubbly.”

The Iowa Supreme Court decided it’s okay to fire attractive women if they pose a risk to men’s marriages.

James Knight, a dentist in Iowa, didn’t fire his female assistant Melissa Nelson after 10 years of working for him because of performance reasons. Instead, Nelson alleges that Knight’s wife told him to do it because “she was a big threat to our marriage” given that he was sexually attracted to her. Yet in July, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court stood by an earlier decision that she wasn’t improperly fired because it wasn’t gender discrimination. Instead, her firing was found permissible because of the facts surrounding her relationship with Knight, such as several comments he made about her clothing and the fact that they texted each other after work hours.

Two hotel employees were fired after they complained about being photoshopped onto bikini-clad bodies.

Two sisters, Martha and Lorena Reyes, say they were fired from the Hyatt Hotel in Santa Clara, CA after they complained about photoshopped images of them. In the photos, the women’s heads were photoshopped onto the bodies of women wearing bikinis. Lorena told Jezebel that they were “extremely humiliating and shameful for me” and also said she has never worn a bikini, even at home. While the company says it fired them two days after they complained about the images because they took overly long breaks, the sisters feel it was related to the incident. The Reyes sisters have filed a retaliation charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Just like when it comes to school dress codes, the issues at play in the above scenarios are ultimately a manifestation of rape culture. Many Americans think of “rape culture” specifically in the context of incidences of sexual assault, but it’s actually a pervasive societal attitude about women’s sexuality that runs much deeper and influences a much broader range of interactions. When women in the workplace are sexualized in these ways, they’re receiving the message that their bodies have everything to do with men’s reactions to them and nothing to do with their own autonomy or consent. This approach to gender roles assumes that men can’t control themselves around women, and it’s women’s responsibility to figure out how to handle that. And ultimately, this culture contributes to high rates of sexual harassment in the workplace: One in four women report having experienced such abuse.
But once women and men internalize those messages about women’s bodies, it’s not hard to see why many of them may assume that women who are subject to that sexual harassment — or other types of sexual violence — probably did something to “deserve it.”

Monday, 19 August 2013

Study finds huge gender imbalance in children's literature - Alison Flood

Accessed 20th August 2013



Study finds huge gender imbalance in children's literature

New research reveals male characters far outnumber females, pointing to 'symbolic annihilation of women and girls'
theguardian.com, Friday 6 May 2011 14.21 BST

From The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the Cat in the Hat, Peter Rabbit to Babar, children's books are dominated by male central characters, new research has found, with the gender disparity sending children a message that "women and girls occupy a less important role in society than men or boys".
Looking at almost 6,000 children's books published between 1900 and 2000, the study, led by Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, found that males are central characters in 57% of children's books published each year, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, the study found, while female animals star in only 7.5%.
Published in the April issue of Gender & Society, the study, Gender in Twentieth-Century Children's Books, looked at Caldecott award-winning books, the well-known US book series Little Golden Books and extensive book listing the Children's Catalog. Just one Caldecott winner (1985's Have You Seen My Duckling? following a mother duck on a search for her baby) has had a standalone female character since the award was established in 1938. Books with male animals were more than two-and-a-half times more common across the century than those with female animals, the authors said.
Although the gender disparity came close to disappearing by the 1990s for human characters in children's books, with a ration of 0.9 to 1 for child characters and 1.2 to 1 for adult characters, it remained for animal characters, with a "significant disparity" of nearly two to one. The study found that the 1930s to 1960s, the period between waves of feminist activism, "exhibits greater disparities than earlier and later periods".
"The messages conveyed through representation of males and females in books contribute to children's ideas of what it means to be a boy, girl, man, or woman. The disparities we find point to the symbolic annihilation of women and girls, and particularly female animals, in 20th-century children's literature, suggesting to children that these characters are less important than their male counterparts," write the authors. "The disproportionate numbers of males in central roles may encourage children to accept the invisibility of women and girls and to believe they are less important than men and boys, thereby reinforcing the gender system."
The authors of the study said that even gender-neutral animal characters are frequently labelled as male by mothers reading to their children, which only "exaggerates the pattern of female underrepresentation". "These characters could be particularly powerful, and potentially overlooked, conduits for gendered messages," they said. "The persistent pattern of disparity among animal characters may reveal a subtle kind of symbolic annihilation of women disguised through animal imagery."
The Carnegie medal-winning children's author Melvin Burgess, whose own novels regularly feature female central characters, pointed to the "truism in publishing that girls will read books that have boy heroes, whereas boys won't read books that have girl heroes".
"Boys are far more gender-specific," he said. "I guess the challenge is to write books for boys that have female characters in, that the boys will relate to. It's a sad fact that books written for boys do tend to fall rapidly into the old stereotypes, and the action figures, baddies etc are generally male, and very straightforward males as well. I try to get away from that. It's a been a while since I wrote an action-type book, but I am working on one now and it does involve four young people – two girls, two boys – and I always try to make my girls really stand out."
But it's not only an absence of female central characters which is a problem in children's books, believes former children's laureate Anne Fine: it's how the women are represented when they do appear. "Publishers rightly take care to put in positive images of a mix of races, but seem not to even notice when they use stereotypical and way out-of-date images of women," she said. "In modern classics such as Owl Babies and Hooray for Fish! it's always the mother, never the dad, whom the child ends up wanting and needing. God forbid each book should try to cover all the 'issues'; but we do need a bit of balance. Children's authors should make an effort to do a bit of role widening. I try. You wouldn't notice, but in every single one of my books, the male can cook. In The Country Pancake, my farmer just happens to be a female. And on and on."
The notion, meanwhile, that boys only read books by and about males does "become a self-fulfilling prophecy", Fine said. "More worryingly, in these new lists of recommended books for boys, there's a heap of fantasy and violence, very little humour (except for the poo and bum sort), and almost no family novels at all. If you offer boys such a narrow view of the world, and don't offer them novels that show them dealing with normal family feelings, they will begin to think this sort of stuff is not for them."
Fine believes that "women should be giving a much beadier eye to the books they share with children ... It's important to balance much loved old-fashioned classics with stuff that evens things up a bit and reflects women's current role in the world," she said.
But Carnegie medal winner Frank Cottrell Boyce feels that "women have an influence in children's literature that belies the numbers".
"I'm sure this is because brilliant women like Edith Nesbitt, who in a fairer society might have gone into politics or science, have instead poured all their brilliance into writing. The result is that over several years, women have produced really important – really, really important – children's fiction that has helped define eras and people," he said. "I'm thinking right back to Little Women – which has provided women with a roadmap of identity for generations– and Anne of Green Gables. But also of the way women from Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton – incomparably our best prose stylist and paradoxically the writer who defined boyhood – to JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Stephenie Meyer, have totally dominated popular narrative culture. So never mind the quantity, feel the quality."

Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies - BY YOLO AKILI

Accessed 19th August 2013


article mentioned in John Stoltenberg’s talk in this post:


Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies

Yolo Akili explores how gay men’s sexism and male privilege shows up in relationship to women.
At a recent presentation, I asked all of the gay male students in the room to raise their hand if in the past week they touched a woman’s body without her consent. After a moment of hesitation, all of the hands of the gay men in the room went up. I then asked the same gay men to raise their hand if in the past week they offered a woman unsolicited advice about how to “improve” her body or her fashion. Once again, after a moment of hesitation, all of the hands in the room went up.
These questions came after a brief exploration of gay men’s relationship to American fashion and women’s bodies. That dialogue included recognizing that gay men in the United States are often hailed as the experts of women’s fashion and by proxy women’s bodies. In addition to this there is a dominant logic that suggests that because gay men have no conscious desire to be sexually intimate with women, our uninvited touching and groping (physical assault) is benign.
These attitudes have led many gay men to feel curiously comfortable critiquing and touching women’s bodies at whim.  What’s unique about this is not the male sense of ownership to women’s bodies—that is somewhat common.  What’s curious is the minimization of these acts by gay men and many women because the male perpetuating the act is or is perceived to be gay.
An example: I was at a gay club in Atlanta with a good friend of mine who is a heterosexual black woman. While dancing in the club, a white gay male reached out and grabbed both her breasts aggressively. Shocked, she pushed him away immediately. When we both confronted him he told us:  “It’s no big deal, I’m gay, I don’t want her– I was just having fun.” We expressed our frustrations to him and demanded he apologize, but he simply refused. He clearly felt entitled to touch her body and could not even acknowledge the fact that he had assaulted her.
I have experienced this attitude as being very common amongst gay men. It should also be noted that in this case, she was a black woman and he a white gay male, which makes this an eyebrow-raising dynamic as it invokes the psychological history of white men’s entitlement to black women’s bodies. However it has been my experience that this dynamic of assault with gay men and women also persists within racial groups.
At another presentation, I told this same story to the audience. Almost instantly, several young women raised up their hands to be called upon. Each of them recounted a different story with a similar theme. One young woman told a story that stuck with me:
“I was feeling really cute in this outfit I put together. Then I see this gay guy I knew from class, but not very well. I had barely said hi before he began telling me what was wrong with how I looked, how I needed to lose weight, and how if I wanted to get a man I needed to do certain things… In the midst of this, he grabbed my breasts and pushed them together, to tell me how my breasts should look as opposed to how they did.  It really brought me down. I didn’t know how to respond… I was so shocked.”
Her story invoked rage amongst many other women in the audience, and an obvious silence amongst the gay men present. Their silence spoke volumes.  What also seemed to speak volumes, though not ever articulated verbally, was the sense that many of the heterosexual women had not responded (aggressively or otherwise) out of fear of being perceived as homophobic. (Or that their own homophobia, in an aggressive response, would reveal itself.) This, curiously to me, did not seem to be a concern for the lesbian and queer-identified women in the room at all.
Acts like these are apart of the everyday psychological warfare against women and girls that pits them against unrealistic beauty standards and ideals. It is also a part of the culture’s constant message to women that their bodies are not their own.
It’s very disturbing, but in a culture that doesn’t  see gay men who are perceived as “queer” as “men” or as having male privilege, our misogyny and sexist acts are instead read as “diva worship” or “celebrating women”, even when in reality they are objectification, assault and dehumanization.
The unique way our entitlement to women’s physical bodies plays itself out is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gay cisgender men’s sexism and privilege. This privilege does not make one a bad person any more than straight privilege makes heterosexuals bad people. It does mean that gay men can sometimes be just as unthinkingly hurtful, and unthinkingly a part of a system that participates in the oppression of others, an experience most of us can relate to. Exploration of these dynamics can lead us to query institutional systems and policies that reflect this privilege, nuanced as it is by other identities and social locations.
At the end of my last workshop on gay men’s sexism, I extended a number of questions to the gay men in the audience. I think it’s relevant to extend these same questions now:
How is your sexism and misogyny showing up in your own life, and in your relationships with your female friends, trans, lesbian, queer or heterosexual? How is it showing up in your relationship to your mothers, aunts and sisters?  Is it showing up in your expectations of how they should treat you? How you talk to them? What steps can you take to address the inequitable representation of gay cisgender men in your community as leaders? How do you see that privilege showing up in your organizations and policy, and what can you do to circumvent it? How will you talk to other gay men in your community about their choices and interactions with women, and how will you work to hold them and yourself accountable?
These are just some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves so that we can help create communities where sexual or physical assault, no matter who is doing it, is deemed unacceptable. These are the kinds of questions we as gay men need to be asking ourselves so that we can continue (or for some begin) the work of addressing gender/sex inequity in our own communities, as well as in our own hearts and minds. This is a part of our healing work. This is a part of our transformation. This is a part of our accountability.