Uniting the Masculine and Feminine

Today in “the patriarchy hurts men too” (on the Belle Jar):

We currently live in a patriarchal society, whereby the leading drum beats in time with masculine systems. Every single person, whether they define themselves as man, woman, un-gendered, transgendered or any other form of self-identification, is affected by patriarchy to varying degrees. In order to bring about real change in the world, we need to balance the scales between the masculine and feminine. There are many issues to tackle, from putting an end to violence against women, creating a more sustainable future alongside nature to protecting a child’s human right to water. Whatever we’re facing, we need to work together.

Ideologies surrounding gender can be experienced before a child is even born, with the stereotypical blue for a boy and pink for a girl. Toys are gendered from a young age with active hero action figures for boys and sexualised passive Barbie dolls for girls. Something this simple points to the wider problem across society that affects boys and girls as they grow into men and women. How we begin to address such deep rooted inequalities between the sexes, and the varying expectations of either gender, is an important issue that young people face today when navigating a path through the rocky terrain of gender constructs.

[…] First, the women sat in a circle to share, with the men sat in a circle on the outside, to listen. Then we swapped and the women listened to the men. It felt liberating to be able to open up to men about the issues women face today in society, and have faced throughout history, and to have them really listen. The women spoke about being tired of taking responsibility for the damage of patriarchy. But by the end of the witnessing circles, it felt as though we were not carrying the burden alone and were actually sharing it with the men, who were there to take some of the weight and walk alongside us.

Other themes that came up for the women were validation lying in the body which we are so often taught belongs to male society where women’s bodies are policed. Some expressed the feeling of being treated ‘like a piece of meat’ in a night club, of being fearful or finding it difficult to trust men. Most experienced a sense of body shame or insecurity growing up and frustration at being made to feel objectified as a female. We discussed pornography and how it has affected us all, whether explicitly or inexplicitly. We expressed the need for humanities collective wounds to be healed together and the importance of educating young people and teenagers about sex, sexuality and gender constructs.

When the men spoke, it also felt liberating, as we discovered just how many problems are faced by men as they try to become a man in such a confused, damaging society that teaches boys ‘real men don’t cry’. The men discussed a feeling of it being easier to open up around women and feeling able to express themselves more freely with women than with men. There was a shared sense of insecurity growing up, about failing to fit society’s stereotypical masculine qualities (strong/serious/unemotional). They spoke of ‘lad’ culture shaping boys into less confident humans unsure of what it means to be a man.

Because of the destruction that has come from men abusing their power, some expressed a feeling of disconnect from their own empowerment as men. Others felt ashamed of being a man or feelings of self-loathing. They talked about bearing a huge responsibility of being a man but there being no certain guidelines that come with it. Some felt a deep longing for supportive men’s spaces where they are able to engage with their authentic masculinity and honour the feminine together.

Rest on the Belle Jar.

Has "Feminist" Become a Bankrupt Term?

I first gave attention to the word “feminism” during college. I’d been brimming for a while with what I’ll describe as indignation in response to confrontations I’d had with men, and with misogyny, and with violence. I went to a small liberal arts college where probably most people would identify as feminists, where I learned that there were many women I could identify with, who had experienced trauma, who were angry and sad and ready to work together in the interests of women.

But I also learned in college that the definition of feminism at work in the “activism” happening around me, calling itself “radical,” “subversive,” “transgressive,” and even “revolutionary,” was more often than not an affirmation of conventional femininity as defined by heterosexuality. Instead of being critical of gender, of heterosexuality, this feminism insisted that femininity is radical, and that anything a woman does can be feminist–especially sex. Lots and lots of (hetero) sex. Free condoms. “Slutwalks.” Nudity. Underwear that says “consent is sexy.”

The notion that a woman is the most feminist when she gets naked is a reaction to the “puritanism” many people point to as the problem for feminist women today. These feminists defend Miley Cyrus, glossing over the racism of her performances to defend her right to “express her sexuality.” But the problem is that one of the most important issues feminists claim to address is sexual violence, an issue that cannot be effectively examined alongside the rallying cry for “more sex!” because the imperative to have sex, and to love it, derails attempts to think and talk about sexual violence in meaningful ways.

On: Has “Feminist” Become a Bankrupt Term? (feminspire)

Too Many of Nigeria’s Women Are Targets—Not Just the Kidnapped Girls

When Nigerian states adopt sharia laws that are in their application blatantly unfavorable to women, it creates an environment in which a terrorist group like Boko Haram believes it has a right to do as it pleases with girls without prosecution.

Boko Haram’s recent kidnappings of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state, Nigeria, at least in its explosive aftermath, is reminiscent of the legal cases of two northern Nigerian women, Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal, who were sentenced to death by stoning under sharia law in 2002. Though unrelated – the stoning sentences were state-sanctioned punishments that were later overturned, and the kidnappings are a criminal act by a terrorist group – these cases illustrate how the legal climate in northern Nigeria has reached a point where girls can be seen as chattels to be taken, held, sold and, according to the latest video purportedly released by Boko Haram, indoctrinated and bartered.

On time.com.

How Well-Intentioned Public Health Campaigns Can Wind Up Shaming Women

We can all agree that fetal alcohol syndrome is a tragedy. But although American public awareness campaigns about the dangers of drinking while pregnant have good intentions at heart, recent media initiatives have deployed tactics that shame moms while ignoring bigger issues. Instead of helping improve the lives of women and kids, these public action campaigns veer into borderline Handmaid’s Tale territory.

Because addressing each and every fetal alcohol syndrome awareness organization state by state would be a book-length endeavor, for the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on a nationwide group, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and the organization in my own state, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

For a good example of these campaigns’ paternalistic rhetoric, there is this post from the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. which repeatedly refers to “women of child-bearing age,” be they “pregnant or not-yet-pregnant.” Being not and never-will-be is not an option, apparently. The organization advises healthcare providers to ask “all women of childbearing age… every woman, every time” about their drinking habits. This is the type of attitude that leads to the sorry scenario in which a non-pregnant patient goes to the doctor for an issue concerning her own health and ends up getting grilled about her lifestyle over the prospective well-being of a hypothetical fetus, regardless of how likely or willing she would be to conceive one and carry it to term. (It has happened to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has happened to you, too.)

Rest: Bitch Media.

Last week I gave up buying a bottle of Coke because I didn’t have the heart to carry one that asked those around me to share a glass with “Siobhan”. This, the name I have been called (even written to me in email with the spelling of mine clearly above it) by those who rather can’t be bothered to learn my “strange” name.

Last week I spent an afternoon responding to the familiar questioning of casual-racists, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” – only this time from the passport office, when renewing my British passport.

Last week I read sixteen articles in national newspapers that were xenophobic, Islamaphobic or both. I filled a doctors’ form stating my ethnicity as “other” and was consequently reminded that it’s not worth sparing an identity simply because it’s not the preferred one. Last week I moved train carriages when a man stared at my Arabic necklace and shook his head with a scowl.

All this time my experiences of sexism were present, but they paled in comparison to the racism. Last week as a woman of colour, the focus rested itself – much like the practices that had occurred around me – on the “colour” part.

'Pushy' Is Used to Describe Women Twice as Often as Men

During her three-year tenure, former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was described (anonymously, of course), as many things, including “brusque,” “condescending,” and of course, “very, very unpopular.”

But none of these attributes seemed to sting women as a whole quite like the one used by another anonymous source in an interview with the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta.

After Abramson was fired last week, Auletta wrote that Abramson had long believed she was being paid less than her male predecessor, Bill Keller, and that she had both asked for a raise and hired a lawyer to look into the disparity:

“She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.

In the ensuing media storm, writers (including me) seized on the word “pushy,” arguing that it’s unlikely a man would have been thus described for his aggressive tendencies.

On theatlantic.

America's prison population: Who, what, where and why

But it also underscores something we’ve written about before: America locks up too many people for too many things. The number of federal laws has risen from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008.

On the economist:

THE United States not only incarcerates a lot of people, it also has a bewildering array of places to put them. There are, of course, jails and prisons: jails are usually run by local jurisdictions (cities or counties) and house either convicted criminals serving short sentences or people awaiting trial. Prisons, or penitentiaries, are run by states or the federal government, and house convicts serving longer sentences. But there are also juvenile-detention facilities, military prisons, immigration-detention and civil-commitment centres (used for court-ordered treatment of the mentally ill; they can be inpatient or outpatient) as well as jails and prisons in Indian and overseas territories, most of which are administered by different government entities. This keeps data on the overall size of America’s incarcerated population, as well as information about their crimes, quite fragmented.

Yesterday the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, released a report and chart that draws on various data sources to present a fuller picture of precisely who is behind bars, and for what reason. It’s not happy reading. PPI reckons the United States has roughly 2.4m people locked up, with most of those (1.36m) in state prisons. That is more than the International Centre for Prison Studies estimates, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Rest: The Economist.

In recent months, it’s been hard to escape the spectacle of other men talking about what they deserve – and what women have supposedly taken from them. In May there were the grisly Isla Vista killings, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who called his violence a “day of retribution” for the women who had rejected him. There is increased talk of “men’s rights” forums, websites predicated on the serious belief that men are greatly disadvantaged by women’s empowerment. Last month, a speaker at a men’s rights conference in Michigan postulated that feminism was leading to a future without love.

, via Men aren’t entitled to women’s time or affection. But it’s a hard lesson to learn

Elsewhere, there’s the less ominous and more omnipresent discussion, online and in pop culture at large, of things like the “friendzone”, a term coined a decade ago on Friends to describe a scenario in which a man is attracted to a woman who only seeks a platonic relationship with him. Women tend to call that kind of partnering “friendship” – but, to many men, “friendship” doesn’t capture the degradation they apparently feel at the prospect of spending time or being emotionally intimate with women who are uninterested in having romantic relationships with them.

The sexism of China's love and dating scene - "leftover women"

For many of today’s Chinese youth looking for a partner, love takes second place to parental pressure, moving up the social ladder and a heavy dose of fear drummed into women that they will end up as “leftover.”

These aspects and others relating to love, dating and women’s status in the Middle Kingdom will be examined on Saturday in a China-inspired version of “The Vagina Monologues,” a Broadway hit exploring womanhood that got actresses voicing women’s most intimate feelings to packed theaters.

In “The Leftover Monologues,” Chinese and foreign women — and a few men — will tell their own stories of searching for a partner, their observations of love and sex, and the panic aroused by the thought of becoming a “leftover woman” — defined by a women’s agency linked to the Communist Party as a single urban female over 27.

Rest: bigstory.

Whiteguymageddon? Calm down, dears

This is actually beautifully funny.

Quite rightly, the appearance of the rampaging hordes of women whom David Cameron has promoted has been criticised. They do not look like men. They are not in navy suits. What are these “new girls” thinking while strutting their stuff on the Downing Street catwalk? Why have they not done away with their own bodies and hair and all their awkward woman-type things? What are they thinking? Well certainly not about policies. They are there to smooth over and sell what has already been decided. Maybe that is why I don’t much care about the painted nails of the handmaidens of privatisation.

But, really, we were led to believe there would be more of this monstrous regiment, hordes of these devil women. Actually, two and a half were promoted to cabinet. I count Esther McVey as half because she kept the same job but can now attend cabinet. Cameron’s 2010 cabinet had four women; four years later, we have seven. And a half. I ask you, can this feminist madness ever stop?

Rest: The Guardian.

pinterest: feimineach


pinterest: feimineach

pinterest: feimineach


pinterest: feimineach

While Ireland may no longer be such a harsh place for unmarried pregnant women, the stigma persists

Agnes always assumed that her mother would be supportive if she got pregnant, but just as she was working up the courage to break the news, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there is so much stress at home that she knows there will never be a good time to drop the bombshell and so she refuses even to think about it.

Eileen sometimes wishes that people would stop talking about the mother and babies scandal because she is in a black hole and the constant handwringing and recrimination on the radio is making her feel overwhelmed.

Her recently laid-off husband has stopped opening the bills, her teenage son has stopped asking if he can go to college, and she can’t face the prospect of another baby at 42.

Every so often, Ireland is transfixed by revelations and reminders of the mothers and babies so cruelly treated by a society with no place for women who got pregnant outside marriage.

But amid all the tut-tutting, hundreds of Irish women continue to hide pregnancies. “Concealed pregnancy has not gone away: it just has another face,” according to Sylvia Murphy Tighe, a former midwife and public health nurse who has been told stories similar to those of Agnes and Eileen.

On The Irish Times.

How Germany fought human trafficking by empowering sex workers

Whether you think such sexual transactions are a good thing or a bad thing, the fact remains that criminalization makes things more expensive. And price drives pimps to find new ways to satisfy demand. Prices matter for trafficking because it costs a lot to kidnap someone and hold them against their will.

Legalising sex work and protecting workers seems to be a solid argument. It does nothing to diminish the buying of a woman’s body for cash, and all of the patriarchal misogynistic trappings that go along with that, but it might protect women. As such, it becomes a battle between principles and practicality.

On the last day of my recent trip to Germany, I’d wanted to check out Deutschland’s brothels. The focus of my writing on sex work has been U.S.-centric thus far. So I wanted to speak to someone participating in sex work in a country where it’s legal. I was running out of time and euros, but it just so happened that the quickest route to my hotel after drinks with locals included an area known for its ladies of the night.

As we walked down a hookah-bar-lined street, the sex workers looked more empowered than any I’ve seen stateside. Tall and healthy-looking, with thick hair and thin waists, beautiful corsets shaping hourglasses, they certainly didn’t look oppressed—except perhaps by four-inch platform Lucite heels. (Those oppress any wearer.)

On our walk I learned that Germany’s decision to legalize prostitution not only helped sex workers, but actually decreased the number of human trafficking victims in the country. But on our stroll, one of my companions told me that German feminists are trying to recriminalize sex work. This is a mistake, she argued. Legalization has improved sex workers’ lives.

Turns out, she was right. According to the data, violence against sex workers is down, while sex workers’ quality of life is up. And after testing began, post-legalization, researchers discovered no difference in sexually transmitted infection rates between sex workers and the general population.

Opponents claim legalizing prostitution has actually increased human trafficking in the country. But the data don’t support that claim. In fact, they show the opposite. From 2001, the year the law legalizing sex work in Germany was passed, to 2011, cases of sex-based human trafficking shrank by 10 percent.

On The Freeman, Foundation for Economic Education.