The Denounced

Originally posted on One Woman's Thoughts:

Sat in a pod
Or at a desk
A sofa
A lawn
Lying in bed
You scan with your code
And your algorithms of shame

Eyeballing for the sleights
The choice keywords
Juicy tidbits to wave under
The noses of your allies
Tracking
The allegiances formed
Through shared experiences

And you frighten
Condemn and denounce
These keyboard “aggressors”
You are known to us
You scream
From a page backlit
And we are watching you

Looking at your language
Looking for your hate
Avoid these scum
You warn
While actively searching them out
These women
With voices

These questioning
Inquisitive women
These thinking
Breathing
Challenging
Women
Reducing them to sound bites

Stereotypes
Privileged and hated
Ostracised
For expressing opinions
For naming their oppression
For questioning
For speaking

View original

Connecting the attacks on abortion access and the attacks on our bodies

Speech given at Reclaim the Night Perth 2013

The connection between domestic violence and the attacks on women’s crisis services and on abortion access is something the organising committee wanted to draw out, and it’s linked to why we are having a women-only march tonight.

 

It’s become more forbidden for women to do anything by ourselves. (Have you noticed that even in feminism, any rare, female-only activities are seen as unfair to men?) And this has been accompanied by physical attacks on us, attacks on our legal rights to bodily autonomy, attacks on our crisis services, and fewer accessible abortion services. If we do anything by ourselves or press for rights for ourselves, this is increasingly treated as an imposition on others’ rights, even though a central part of our oppression is the denial of autonomy over our own bodies and lives. So the organising committee feels that standing up for women’s rights to be and act by ourselves is an important part of this event.

 

In New South Wales, politicians are trying to push through a law giving rights to foetuses of at least 20 weeks’ gestation. ‘Foetal personhood’ stands in opposition to women’s rights, because either a woman’s bodily integrity is all that matters, and women have rights over ourselves which aren’t contradicted by others’ so-called rights, or we don’t. The bill is ostensibly in response to a tragic case in which a woman in a road accident lost her pregnancy, although some legal experts say that the current laws already deal sufficiently with such cases. Certainly there are other ways in which women’s reproductive freedoms aren’t supported, but it’s possible to support women’s rights to not have our pregnancy interfered with by enhancing the rights of women – it’s the only way.

 

In fact what we need to do is continue the pro-choice battle so that no-one is considered to have the right to interfere with our pregnancy against our will, whether it be an abuser we know or the state which denies us either terminations or support with our pregnancies. That’s the framing we need – that no-one should interfere with our pregnancy against our will. Not that foetuses should have rights.

 

Right now we mostly lack the full legal or technical right to choose – a lot of Australians think that abortion has been fully decriminalised here and that it’s readily accessible. In fact, you’d be lucky to find anywhere in Australia where there aren’t impediments of some kind to accessing abortion – in some cases it’s the cost, but in many, there are simply no abortion services that women can access in their area.

 

Now we’re seeing this further attack, which arbitrarily declares that a foetus past 20 weeks’ gestation becomes a person. It’s unscientific and purely ideological – will certainly make life much harder for women, especially since New South Wales law still has abortion on the criminal code – but we’re being asked to swallow this as being for women’s benefit.

 

This move to open up the ‘foetal rights’ issue gives the green light to other reactionary elements to try policing women’s reproductive decisions. It reinforces misogyny and male control over women’s bodies generally, including the domestic violence and sexual abuse we’re protesting against, where most perpetrators are males (at least 93% of rapists are male), and most victims are women and girls.

 

What are some of the direct connections between domestic violence and the removal of women’s reproductive autonomy?

 

A California study done a few years ago on 16-29-year-old women, found that when women “experienced both reproductive coercion and male partner violence, the risk of unintended pregnancy doubled”. Other findings included:

  • “Approximately one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion”
  • “More than a third of the women who reported partner violence — 35 percent — also reported either pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.”

 

In 31 states in the US, rapists can have custody rights over children that are a product of their rape. This means an additional way in which raping a woman gives that man power over her for life. Imagine the impact on a woman, of being forced to maintain ties, and engage in periodic negotiations, with your rapist, for the next few decades at least while your child matures.

 

US women have faced continual attacks on their rights and safety in most states, including the intimidation of having Tea Party representatives drumming up aggression against women by declaring that impregnated rape victims who abort should be jailed for as long as their rapists.

 

In Ecuador, the criminal sanctions on abortion make it so unsafe that abortion has become the leading cause of death or injury to women there. It is illegal for anyone without a mental disability to access it, even girls. As a demonstration of the link here between this prohibition and the enforced subjugation of women within the male-female sexual relations, President Rafael Correa has said he will veto any moves to allow even raped women to get abortions, and threatened to resign if his allies in the National Assembly decriminalised abortion.

 

Determining women’s reproductive and parenting decisions is a key way in which many women experience both our society, and our male partners, benefitting themselves at women’s expense.

 

There’s a reason why we’ve seen the recent increases in attacks on both funding for women’s crisis services – and these have been global attacks, not restricted to Australia – and on abortion access.

 

Wherever we are in the world, the stronger the systemic reliance on sex roles in which the woman is the chief domestic worker and child-rearer, the more we will be denied autonomy over our bodies, whether that be rape and other abuse by males close to us, or birth control sabotage, or the refusal of the state to provide affordable, legal and accessible abortion.

 

These issues are closely linked and we need to address both male entitlement to and control over our bodies, and the economic system of capitalism which relies on these gendered power structures. And the more crises capitalism experiences, the more it relies on the hierarchy of the sexes.

 

Capitalism has increasingly relied on the subjugation of women within the hetero family unit to ensure free provision of welfare, and free child-rearing – free reproduction of the next generation of workers. So it’s always in its interests to encourage male power over women, and to give only tokenistic support to addressing male-pattern violence against us.

 

When religious interests try boosting the idea of ‘foetal rights’, this ties in with the conservative view of motherhood as divine/natural. It casts women’s domestic drudgery as also being divine and natural, rather than a product of our oppression. It also creates an ahistorical view of abortion as a product of late capitalism and secularism, whereas late capitalism has in fact seen greater restrictions on abortion than used to exist in many countries, including those which were predominantly Christian.[1]

 

When looking at how we fight this, we need to remember these structural reasons for the continued attacks on our bodily autonomy, because it’s not just about fighting conservative views; it also needs to be about ending a system that props itself up by oppressing women. And political parties that represent the capitalist class can’t be looked to as a solution – the Australian Labor Party, for instance, has been in government so many times in its existence, but continually refuses to make abortion fully decriminalised and accessible. It’s important that we don’t let it off the hook by describing it as ‘gutless’ – the fact is that it’s just not designed to represent women, but instead the capitalist class. It’s not our saviour; we need to look to ourselves as an organised group. The oppressed, organising by ourselves on mass, are the only agents that have ever forced real change, and we’re the only ones that can create a new system.


Reclaim the Night! Reclaim our lives!

[1] ‘Scarlet Letters: Getting the History of Abortion and Contraception Right’, by Ranana Dine, is a fascinating account of abortion accessibility and attitudes in the USA in early and middle-capitalism. It indicates various factors as leading to the restrictions on abortion, citing:

changing social, class, and family dynamics in the early 19th century. Americans in the Victorian era thought abortion was a problem brought on by upper-class white women, who were choosing to start their families later and limit their size. Increased female independence was also perceived as a threat to male power and patriarchy, especially as Victorian women increasingly volunteered outside the home for religious and charitable causes.

During the mid-19th century, American physicians also began to battle “irregular” doctors, such as homeopaths and midwives, in an attempt to assert the authority and legitimacy of male-dominated scientific medicine. To tackle these irregular doctors, the “scientific” physicians attacked legal abortion because it was midwives and other “unscientific” medical practitioners who safely performed the procedure. White men were also concerned by shifting ethnic and racial dynamics in the United States, worrying that the low birthrate of the white upper class would lead to racial inferiors and un-American immigrants overrunning the country.

Together, a coalition of male doctors backed by the American Medical Association, the Catholic Church, and sensationalist newspapers began to campaign for the criminalization of abortion. By the turn of the century, this coalition had largely succeeded in limiting women’s medical choices.

Leftist men are not born to lead radical struggles [A response to John Pilger and the sex hierarchy trivialisers]

A piece I recently wrote touching on some problematic responses to female oppression and feminism on the political Left, the recent discussions about an alleged ‘crisis of masculinity’ and the importance of a solid materialist analysis of female oppression.

Previously published at The Left Side of Feminism, The North Star, Information Clearing House and ZNet.

Ginny Brown

What do women hit by the latest austerity and misogynist attacks need? Not another reminder by men that feminists are white with middle-class politics, as John Pilger’s recent piece seemed to imply. Nor do women need being set up as aloof, proletariat-dividing essentialists who think men are inherently violent.

We don’t need a chip-on-the-shoulderish, misplaced complaint that ‘there is a war on ordinary people and feminists are needed at the front’, as Pilger’s response went to the recent media commentary – ranging from misogynist violence, to greater male suicidality and criminality, to derision of TV dads – about a ‘crisis of masculinity‘. Any generals worth their salt see the entire terrain of war and don’t dismiss half of it as either privileged or nonexistent. Nor do they reduce specific attacks – waged on half ‘their own side’ and participated in by others ‘on their side’ – to the general conditions experienced by all soldiers.

Women worldwide lack sexual and reproductive autonomy and perform most unpaid care tasks, despite neoliberal rhetoric about ‘choice’ and ‘empowerment’.

The current social and political attacks we face are not simply the attacks borne by male workers, but attacks that exacerbate this female-specific pattern of oppression – centered on the family unit – so vital to capitalism.

This is not helped by a leftist man stepping in to write off global rape culture as ‘a rash of dreadful murder and kidnap cases’, even with the dismissive addendum that ‘simultaneous war and “austerity” policies have exacerbated all kinds of abuse, including domestic violence’ and the racial impoverishment of women. It is not good enough to mention that women have it bad, while failing to say why these attacks target and impact women the most, as if women were simply unlucky.

As Indian marxist feminist Kavita Krishnan recently wrote:

Sexual violence cannot be attributed simply to some men behaving in ‘anti-social’ or ‘inhuman’ ways: it has everything to do with the way society is structured: i.e., the way in which our society organizes production and accordingly structures social relationships.

While Pilger protests at class analysis being suppressed in ‘media-run “conversations” on gender’, the reality is that his economic reductionism feeds into men’s blinkers about their privilege. Privilege that tends to make them more supportive of female oppression, and more inclined to ignore its inter-relations with class.

Capitalism inherited and expanded the system of male dominance that’s achieved at female expense, in which females are considered at least partly men’s property. If you think this is inaccurate, consider the endurance of rape jokes and of sexual harassment – and who has the power in these scenarios. Consider the infrequency of rapists ever being punished, even by their social circles. (Typically, the man accused of rape is considered the victim who has had his life ruined, and the real victim receives social punishment in addition to trauma.) More than four out of five victims of sexual assault are women and girls, and 93% of their attackers are male, mostly known to the victims. 98% of sexual trafficking victims are female. The social pressure on women to birth and rear is added to by direct reproductive coercion by male partners and the state. The World Health Organization reported in 2002 that up to 70% of ‘female murder victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends‘, whereas studies show killings by female current or former spouses to be less than 10% of all male murders. In Australia, a 2008 report explained, ‘intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 …. Four out of five [intimate partner homicides] involve a man killing his female partner’.

This massive tally doesn’t need to implicate all men in order for it to play an important role in giving males power and privilege over us, especially via hetero relations, making them more satisfied with the status quo.

While Pilger sneeringly disparages any mention of the very different efforts that men and women put into opposing female oppression as being about who sounds most outraged on Twitter, one wishes he would pay attention to what most feminists are saying and doing before offering us advice.

As Krishnan further explained, the recent attacks on women are reducible to neither gender-neutral austerity measures nor happenstance:

we are witnessing a global cutback in [] social spending. Any State that pursues such policies, needs to persuade women to accept the burden of housework as ‘women’s work’, and to dissuade women from rejecting traditional roles. It is notable that some of the worst rape culture remarks by US Republican Senators (who could compete with India’s patriarchal lawmakers in misogyny) have been made recently to promote arguments against the right to abortion.

The enormous resistance to,and organized reaction against conceding the right to abortion or same-sex marriage in the US is an instance of how much the capitalist class still invests in the family institution and the control of women’s sexuality and reproduction within it ….

primitive accumulation by multi-national corporations that grab land, minerals and other resources in India, is not only, as Prabhat Patnaik correctly notes, a source of corruption, it also unleashes state repression and sexual violence against women who are the forefronts of movements against corporate land grab.

The global upswing in gender violence (including sexual violence and domestic violence) and misogynistic rape culture, ought then to be traced at least in part to the imperatives of global capitalism and imperialism and their local agents, to justify an increased burden of social reproduction for women, the availability of women from the former colonies as pliant labour, and rape as a weapon against people’s movements resisting primitive accumulation.

The fear of violence contributes to disciplining women into suitable labourers, both for global production as well as reproduction. That is why the abusive husband and the rapist cannot be understood as isolated perpetrators who are ‘anti-social’ aberrations that pose a threat to the system. It is no coincidence that perpetrators of gender violence find powerful advocates (not just in India but across the world) in the misogynistic and rape culture statements by the custodians of the political, religious, and law-and-order institutions.

It is also no mark of support for women that Pilger’s article wrongly blames three individual women for attributing sexual violence to all men. The contexts of the quotations chosen by Pilger make his claims seem inexcusable. Suzanne Moore specified that she doesn’t think all men are rapists, and Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley’s May 12 Guardian Letters formulation of ‘male sexual violence’ was immediately followed by their comment ‘gendered behaviour is culturally shaped. It could be addressed by many social measures, if only policy-makers willed it’.

So although Pilger presumably doesn’t think ‘trade union bureaucracy’(another phrase from his article) means all unionists are bureaucrats, he nonetheless thinks ‘male sexual violence’ is intended to describe all males, even where feminists explicitly say otherwise.

Importantly, Pilger is not displaying eccentricity here, but is echoing a growing habit amongst left sexists for deploying different criteria for political assessments of feminism than other radical struggles. Feminist women constantly find ourselves held to a different standard – by men who appear not to understand female oppression – than other activists. This includes ‘mishearing’ our analyses, as Jennie Ruby describes in her Off Our Backs article ‘Male Pattern Violence’:

There seems to be a kind of statistical dyslexia that people get when feminists start talking about male violence. The statement ‘Most violent crimes are committed by men’ is often misheard as ‘most men are violent,’ or even with a kind of gender dyslexia, as ‘women are never violent.’

It is also too common for anti-feminists (in or out of the closet) to characterize all feminism – but not other anti-oppression struggles – by its sections which are most beholden to the interests of the capitalist class. And to invisibilize feminist critics of capitalist-serving female politicians, as Pilger does. (Many of us have not just criticized but also organized against such ‘leaders’, who do indeed falsely portray capitalist interests as beneficial to women.) His apparent pitting of workers’ rights against feminism is in ignorance of the best radical class struggle traditions of opposing such false divisions. And his selective highlighting of a small segment of feminism echoes the longstanding invisibilization of the majority of feminists – who are working class and women of color.

While Pilger’s hurt at feminists daring to discuss male-pattern sexual violence somehow reminds him – because it helps denigrate all feminists, I assume – ‘of the elevation of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to feminist hero following a speech she gave last October attacking Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, for his misogyny’, his criticism of the politics of prominent female Labour MPs is not off-base. They, like their party’s men, are acting for the capitalist class, and women’s liberation requires that we combat illusions in them.

However, persuading women to discard misplaced hopes in pro-capitalist politicians is not a task best undertaken by a rape myth promoter, a role for which Pilger has received increasing feminist criticism. The sexism of left men in fact has a history of exacerbating a tragic antagonism between gender and class analyses, and I have not seen Pilger’s latest article alter this.

how can left men solidarize with women?

You want to help women? Signal-boost grassroots struggle and anti-capitalist leadership by us. Serious attempts to boost struggles of the most oppressed women don’t ignore some of the most inspiring recent struggles led by women – the Indian movement against rape culture and the Canadian Indigenous-led Idle No More. Actively support feminist campaigns. Don’t act as though we’re waiting for a man to direct us. Ignoring genuine leadership in order to pose as the general is unfitting for a leftist man.

Don’t employ sexist myths about us. The main myth used to undermine feminism is that women who consciously struggle for the rights of girls and women as a sex (sometimes known as ‘feminists’) are motivated either by the view that male-pattern violence is biologically determined, or by a simple antipathy to men which preceded our own experiences and analysis.

This seems to be a habit of Pilger’s. In addition to his repetition of rape myths, he has not only just begun portraying feminists as simply opposed to men. Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley have now been unfortunate enough to be twice misrepresented by Pilger. In December 2011, Pilger claimed that a Guardian article by them on the costs of masculinity (a little too pro-capitalist for me, but deserving of being discussed accurately) argued that ‘testosterone was the problem’. Compare this charge with what they wrote:

As the British Medical Journal recently pointed out, this life-damaging gender difference must be challenged by addressing the culture of masculinity that sustains them. How men and women behave is socially shaped. Popular understandings of masculine characteristics play up biology. Testosterone, the male hormone, the “metaphor of manhood”, is portrayed as driving men inexorably towards aggressive behaviour. Yet studies show that testosterone is related to status-seeking but not directly to aggression. Many other factors are influential. Testosterone levels are increased or diminished in both males and females by diet, activity and circumstance. The opportunity to interact with guns, for instance, appears to increase testosterone, while men’s testosterone levels fall when they are involved with the care of children.

The case we are making is that certain widespread masculine traits and behaviours are dangerous and costly both to individuals and society. They are amenable to purposeful change. The culture of masculinity can be, and should be, addressed as a policy issue.

This does not read as a genuine misinterpretation. In addition to its sexism, it is terrible journalism.

whataboutery

Another tactic used by some left sexists is colloquially known amongst feminists as ‘whataboutery’. Deriding activism and even discussion about issues particularly affecting females, whatabouterists chest-beat about the matters that feminists should instead concern ourselves with. (Pilger, for instance, trivializes the long silence about the sexual abuse of children – often girls – by UK men in powerful positions, including in popular entertainment, by implying that any feminist commentary on this and recent rape and murder cases is indicative of a failure to care about class or imperialism.)

This ‘whataboutery’ usually displays an embarrassing ignorance about which issues are already feminist concerns, and fails as an argument against feminist involvement in the issues targeted by the ‘whataboutery’. The impossibility of achieving female liberation under capitalism does not alter the urgency of addressing sex-specific female needs, like reproductive justice. Organizing around female oppression frequently makes for more effective anti-capitalist struggle, and lack of said organizing maintains the shackles and hierarchical divisions that support capitalism. As the Cuban experience shows, feminist organizing remains necessary post-capitalism. Feminist history includes both support for capitalist misleaders and support for workers’ revolution. Targeting only those oppressive dynamics which affect both men and women is not only undermining to the working class, it is trivializing the oppression experienced by over half of this class.

These common problems on the left partly explain Pilger’s dismissal of male-pattern sexual violence and his portrayal of austerity policies as the problem. (‘Austerity’ is a policy of big capital to adjust to the post-60s decline in the average rate of profit, and to make the working class pay for the latest capitalist-created crises.) Even where Pilger has to acknowledge that war and austerity policies have made ‘domestic violence’ worse, he fails to explain why this problem is worst for women. If he listened to the women who began the women’s crisis services now being increasingly defunded, and to women experiencing the sharper end of the imperialist sword, he would know that it is not about gender-neutral ‘domestic violence’ which is exacerbated by very current conditions, but male-pattern violent reinforcement of the sex hierarchy. A pattern in which working women may be especially impacted, as Krishnan comments:

For the men, insecure education and jobs do lead to cracks in the secure foundations of masculinity. One response to this crisis of masculinity is of course in the display of masculine protectionism, aggression, the ‘Save Family’ type of patriarchal backlash, and outright sexual violence.

But also a pattern which, she reminds us, exists across economic classes.

Given the longstanding problems on the left of (mostly) male workers failing to see female oppression as important, suggesting that feminists are not ‘ordinary people’ is regrettable. As is any suggestion that feminists need to be told that many common capitalist conditions affect women more – whether that be minimum-wage work (with nearly two-thirds of US workers on this being women) or scantily paid parental and sick leave.

Crude assumptions that colluding in oppression requires consciousness of this also helps explain a difficulty in recognizing sexism even on the left, where analysis can stop too soon after blaming the capitalists. Australian political writer Tad Tietze recently wrote that:

there is no clear indication that huge numbers of voters think that sexism in society is acceptable. Essential Research, for example, found earlier this month that 52 percent of voters polled thought that sexism was a large or moderate problem, up from 45 percent last September (before Gillard’s misogyny speech); only 11 percent said it was ‘not a problem at all’.

That a slight majority of voters are troubled by the sexism they are aware of does not mean that there is not yet more sexism of which they are unaware, and do not oppose. Additional poll questions to distinguish concern for women from the growing concern about sexism against men by women (the increasingly believed-in ‘misandry‘) might also have been illuminating.

‘media feminism’

As a socialist I also dislike the mainstream media’s suppression of worker-based political analysis. But Pilger’s swift shift from blaming ‘media feminists’ to pro-capitalist MPs, in a way that makes them seem of equal politics and power, does not help.

We should not wholly write off ‘media feminism’, as Pilger does, as divisive conservatism. Those feminists who have managed to get a column or so in popular news media, often in the tokenistic women’s section, are writing for publications where news is male-centric in content and political alignment, as this 2013 ‘Status of Women in the U.S. Media’ report shows. Its standard practice is to divide men and women in a far realer sense.

It is dismaying that it’s in the context of growing feminist campaigns against the sexist objectification of women in media (for instance, against Page 3 ads), and against other aspects of rape culture, that Pilger has decided to cast ‘media feminism’ as the perp. And that he asserts men have been left out of these debates about gender, when the recent discussions have been quite notable for male commentary on how men are doing, including by Male Privilege Agitators (MPAs – sometimes known as ‘men’s rights’ advocates).

fightback terrain of capitalist individualism

We cannot fully understand the context of this discussion – about masculinity, feminism and the absent class fightback which Pilger bemoans – without looking at how the ideology of the capitalist class continues to impact on any radical opposition. Individualized responses prevail. Liberation marketed as a commodity, as accessed via identity, and as lifestylism, impedes even the more organized responses from the left.

Pilger jumped into a debate where both male-privilege and feminist spokespeople were using ‘masculinity’ in ways that minimized the centrality of the sex hierarchy to social organization. ‘Gender’, formerly describing the ideology that reinforces this hierarchy and its impact on women, has become essentialized and privatized into sex-based characteristics that are now said to be either inherent to individuals, or a matter of performance, identification or ‘gender expression’.

The social enforcement of the sex roles is trivialized. Gender’s reality of assigned dominance and subordination (‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’) is now viewed in a curiously gender-neutral and apolitical way. A far cry from the ‘second wave’ approaches which dealt with women’s oppression being assigned at birth, on the basis of our perceived sex, and continuing regardless of our subjective identification or ‘gender performance’ (compliance with stereotypes about one of the sexes).

US materialist radical feminist Kathy Miriam tells me that:

The limitations of “masculinity” are seen in too much discussion relevant to female oppression, including commentary by both mainstream and some radical feminists. The problem of “masculinity” has displaced a systemic, structural analysis of male power. And has displaced what I follow Dworkin in describing as the problem of men possessing women, which any battered or prostituted woman would understand.

There are sex/class antagonisms where men derive a range of benefits from their usages of women – via women’s extended domestic labor under neoliberalism, and sexually and reproductively. These benefits shift between race and class status groups, but are always relative to women’s subordination.

“Masculinity” is a term that papers over the problem by treating it as an issue of subjectivity. It implicitly or explicitly psychologizes and re-presents the main issue as how to re-educate boys, and casts violence as a health issue rather than one of power.

The less structuralist ‘third wave’ approaches to gender, which treat ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as commodities that should either receive health treatments or be made more widely accessible, have smoothed the path for the the increased acceptance, not just amongst conservatives, of ‘men’s rights’ (Male Privilege Agitator) arguments.

An apolitical focus on ‘masculinity’, even if from an intentionally feminist angle, still gives rise to recent MPA claims such as this by Glen Poole:

The best way to tackle the problems that men face is to follow the example of the women’s sector and build a men’s sector filled with independent organisations that are positive advocates for men and boys. Tackling men’s issues in this way requires the women’s sector to share the gender equality pie.

‘Gender equality’ pie, huh? Let’s share the apartheid around to all ethnicities, too.

Where these ‘men’s rights’ rhetoric agitators go wrong is not merely in ignoring the reality that many of their accusations against feminism should be attributed instead to class oppression. (It is ironic that Pilger’s response to this debate is apparently to attribute this distortion to feminism.) These Male Privilege Agitators (MPAs) also err in assuming that because maintaining male privilege involves a level of risk (although not nearly as much as it does to girls and women), men are just differently oppressed than women. (If not, indeed, oppressed because of women, as the MPA discourse increasingly holds.) Higher rates of male criminality and suicidality, and disinclination to consult the doctor, as this media discussion has lately agitated about, do not alter the fact that men retain more power than women in politics, media, government, home ownership, business, the workforce, workers’ organizations, medicine, academic tenure, the sexual and reproductive spheres and, especially, in who performs domestic labor.

Anyone wanting to unite the oppressed in struggle against the rich needs to prioritize understanding these issues. Misrepresenting feminism reinforces male power over women and acts very much in the interests of capitalist elites.

Leftist men who denigrate feminism need to ask themselves whose side they are on.

 

With thanks to Kim Doss-Cortes, Kathy Miriam and Claire Sambell.

How to be the perfect victim – a how-to guide for good girls.

Originally posted on Week Woman:

TW for victim-blaming, sexism and racism – many direct quotations included.

Don’t feed the trolls
If you react in any way other than with silence to people threatening you, you deserve the threats. It is really very simple. Shut up and be a good Victimgirl.

Don’t be silent
If someone sets up a day of silence, this is your fault and you are stupid for suggesting it – although don’t forget you should have shut up in the first place. But given you haven’t, you must now not shut up. When you don’t shut up however, you will be ungrateful. Don’t consider suggesting that it is unfair and you can’t win either way. You brought this on yourself by making yourself public property. You asked for this, remember?

Maintain good humour throughout
In the midst of receiving up to a threat a minute, it is absolutely imperative that you not swear…

View original 794 more words

How much does society accept sexism? the numbers

I was recently concerned to see Tad Tietze – an Australian socialist writer whose stuff I often enjoy reading – write at Overland that:

there is no clear indication that huge numbers of voters think that sexism in society is acceptable. Essential Research, for example, found earlier this month that 52 percent of voters polled thought that sexism was a large or moderate problem

That a slight majority of voters is troubled by the sexism they are aware of does not mean that there is not yet more sexism which they do not recognise as sexism, and do not oppose. Additional poll questions to distinguish concern for women from the growing concern about sexism against men by women (the increasingly believed-in ‘misandry’) might also have been illuminating.

But let’s look at some other recent research to see what the deal is:

Eliana Suarez and Tahany M. Gadalla report on a 2010 meta-analysis they did of 37 studies of rape-myths acceptance, where:

Overall, the findings indicated that men displayed a significantly higher endorsement of RMA than women. RMA was also strongly associated with hostile attitudes and behaviors toward women, thus supporting feminist premise that sexism perpetuates RMA. RMA was also found to be correlated with other “isms,” such as racism, heterosexism, classism, and ageism. …. a renewed awareness of how RMA shapes societal perceptions of rape victims, including perceptions of service providers, could also reduce victims’ re-victimization and enhance their coping mechanisms.

A 2010 report found that

56% of those surveyed ‘think that there are some circumstances where a person should accept responsibility’ for being raped:

Of those people the circumstances are:

Performing another sexual act on them (73%)

Getting into bed with a person (66%)

Drinking to excess / blackout (64%)

Going back to theirs for a drink (29%)

Dressing provocatively (28%)

Dancing in a sexy way with a man at a night club or bar (22%)

Acting flirtatiously (21%)

Kissing them (14%)

Accepting a drink and engaging in a conversation at a bar (13%)

In this Daily Mail article, an ICM opinion poll, commissioned by Amnesty International, found that

the vast majority of the British population has no idea how many women are raped every year in the UK.
Almost all, 96 per cent, of respondents said they either did not know the true extent of rape or thought it was far lower than the true figure.
Only 4 per cent even thought the number of women raped exceeded 10,000. The number of recorded rapes in 2004/5 was more than 12,000 and the 2001 British Crime Survey estimated that just 15 per cent of rapes come to the attention of the police.

The Conversation reports that academic scientists are biased against recruiting women into their profession. The article author, Helen Maynard-Casely, writes

The authors suggest the male bias is “unintentional” and is “generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious intention to harm women”.

So, there is no apparent reason to think the bias is particular to the field of science, which is unsurprising since what scientists tell us helps form our beliefs about society.

[Her caveat is: ‘The study specifically focused on positions before a PhD and so it would be wrong to assume the findings can be transposed further up the academic ladder. The implication of the paper was that this slight, societal effect could be having an undue influence on the number of women in science before doctoral level.’]

A 2012 study of 600 Victorians found that:

a third of the people surveyed witnessed sexism in the past 12 months, but fewer than half acted.
Of those who did not act, the majority thought it was not their place to step in.
Thirteen per cent wanted to, but did not know how.
The most tolerated forms of sexism were jokes in social settings.
VicHealth’s Renee Imbesi says those most willing to act were other women and people aged between 35 and 54.

The majority believing it was not their place to step in even when witnessing sexist behaviour shows that the attitude of sexism being ‘a private matter’ between a man and a woman is still strong.

A 2010 Socialism Today article, reviewing Natasha Walter’s ‘Living Dolls: the return of sexism’, comments that:

In the 1990s, only a handful of lap-dancing clubs existed in the UK. By 2008, there were around 300, and many of these are situated not in ‘seedy’ backstreets but in the high streets of towns and cities. Pole-dancing courses are on the rise, and the Tesco supermarket chain even had a lap-dancing pole in its toy section (later removed after protests). A survey carried out in 2006 reported that one in four girls were considering plastic surgery by the age of 16. An analysis of popular music videos found that sexual imagery appeared in 84% of them, with women wearing provocative clothes or no clothes in 71% compared to 35% of men.

And misogynist attitudes and victim-blaming predominate:

At the same time, sexist images of women in popular culture are not just a bit of harmless fun, they influence and impact on men’s attitudes and behaviour towards women, and on women’s own view of themselves. Tender, an educational charity working with 13-18 year olds in schools in greater London, surveyed 288 young people and found that 29% of male and female students felt it was sometimes OK for a man to hit a woman if she slept with someone else. Eighty per cent thought that girls and women sometimes encourage violence and abuse by the way they dress, and 76% thought that a woman encourages violence by not treating men with respect. Walter cites examples of sexual bullying (harassment) in schools which, according to Kidscape, is on the increase: from one to two calls a year four or five years ago, to two or three a week now.

A 2012 article by Rebecca Dana described:

a multiyear survey of business-school graduates by the nonprofit research group Catalyst, finds that women are far more likely to help women advance than men are. Debunking the queen bee stereotype, in which female bosses are especially hard on their female subordinates, the study found that 73 percent of women who mentored colleagues helped other women, while only 30 percent of men did. “The biggest surprise for me was that men are doing so little for women, says Catalyst chief Ilene Lang. “I really thought that there were more men speaking up.”

Dana also mentioned a ‘second study, conducted by social scientists at Harvard, NYU, and the University of North Carolina’:

It found that those whose home lives are most traditional—married men with stay-at-home wives—were more likely to have retrograde attitudes toward women at the office. These men were more likely than their peers to deny women promotions, to be distrustful of female leaders, and to have negative views of workplaces with many female employees. One of the study’s authors calls this attitude “benevolent sexism,” where men see women as delicate creatures to be cared for and protected, not fierce professionals to be respected and obeyed.

A 2010 care2 article reports on a survey released by Esquire Magazine on the attitudes of American men born in 1960 and 1990:

more 20 year-olds self-identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” Only 19% consider themselves “prochoice, without qualification” while 38% consider themselves against the right to legal abortion, but with exceptions for rape and incest. Their father’s generation is more likely on all counts to support a woman’s right to abortion, an indication the backslide in political reproductive rights on the state and national level during the past two decades has seeped into the minds of the younger cohort.