International Women’s Day: Why I’m a Bad Feminist, or Women Can Be Misogynists, Too.

In honour of International Women’s Day and Roxane Gay’s book, Bad Feminist, which I’m going to hear her speak about tonight, I wonder whether I’m a “bad feminist” for asserting that women can be misogynists, too. 

I could be accused of being a “bad feminist” for the assertion I’m about to make. After all, feminists are supposed to support all women, right? Even women doing unfeminist things, like Sarah Palin, or women in traditionally male dominated industries, like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and who throw feminism under the bus.

But in my experience women can be misogynists, too. And as I write this I’m thinking of one woman in particular.

A few years ago, one of my closest male friends started dating someone new. My friend later relayed to me that upon stalking his Facebook, as you do, said new paramour stumbled upon several photos of the two of us. Most of them were taken at costume parties or clubs, so my feminine façade was amplified perhaps more than usual. We were probably standing pretty close together in the photos, too, and our natural affection for each other would be evident. This led her to ask about me, “Who’s that slut?”

At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I wrote on my blog at the time that I could see where she was coming from: her insecurity at her date’s close relationship with a woman she didn’t know manifested itself as slut-shaming. It was slut-shaming as a defense mechanism, if you will.

Presently, that woman has now become a colleague; not someone I work with directly, but who has contact with many people I do both professionally and outside of work. Through this network I’ve come to find that it isn’t just me she’s made libelous comments about but many a female coworker who happens to fit the conventionally feminine and attractive mould.

I don’t know exactly what was said about these other women, but I’m pretty sure it was as unwarranted as what she said about me (although I am loathe to defend myself against her name-calling as that implies that some women are sluts and others aren’t). One of the women is ditzily endearing and while I don’t really know the other, she seems pleasant despite her bitchy resting face.

The first comment about me could be chalked up to the green-eyed monster rearing its head, but when such behavior begins to occur on a regular basis, it’s hard not to wonder whether this woman is actually a misogynist.

It could be that she thinks she’s “not like other girls”, which is inherently misogynistic; she doesn’t buy into feminine conventions that she implies other women do, and she’s “one of the boys”. Like Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s Cool Girl screed, or as Reign actress Caitlin Stasey tweeted, being “‘One of the guys’ implies that to resemble any kind of man is better than actually being any kind of woman.” But the very fact that she’s engaging in the stereotypical feminine act of “backstabbing” makes her just like these “other” women, no?

Whatever the case, though, this woman has serious other-women-problems. And if we can accept that men can be feminists, it would stand to reason that women can be misogynists, right?

Related: Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [Feministing] Once More, with Feeling: Sarah Palin is Not a Feminist.

[Jezebel] Does it Matter if Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think She’s a Feminist?

[Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

The Worst Time I Was Street Harassed.

As a woman in the world, I’ve been harassed in public many times. Called a cunt by my next door neighbour, followed into shops, touched on public transport, you name it.

Perhaps the worst time I was street harassed was when I was jogging early one summer morning to escape the heat that would surface later in the day. I was residing with my mum at the time who lived near a lake. As I was rounding the imaginary finish line in my mind I encountered a flock of ducks waddling across the road. Further ahead, I also passed a motorhead who revved his gears (at 6am? Seriously dude, people are still sleeping.) and sped up when he saw me bounding along. Remembering the duck family moments before, I glanced back to make sure the driver saw them. Of course he a) didn’t and b) thought I was looking back at him, impressed by his hooliganism, and sped up even more… right into the flock!

Wanting to make sure the birds escaped unscathed, I jogged back to the scene of the crime where I saw that one of the ducks’ numbers had been up that day with its innards spread across the road, having bottomed out of its feathery body on impact.

And that’s the worst time I was street harassed.

Related: The Year of the Stalker.

To Live & Die in Brunswick.

The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in Cleo.

There Are Far Worse Words in the World Than “Fuck”.

Yesterday a video of girls dressed as princesses saying the word “fuck” went viral. While the apparent point of the video was to spread awareness of the inequalities and atrocities women and girls face in the world, it was actually made by for-profit t-shirt company FCKH8 who would donate $5 from each t-shirt sold to unspecified charities (presumably charities benefiting women). Capitalism aside, the video begs the question, what’s worse: little girls swearing or facing the likelihood that they’ll be raped or paid less than the men doing the same job?

If popular opinion is any indication it’s the former.

I was just thinking about this a few days ago. Why do we have to “watch our language” around elders or in professional settings when the same respect isn’t shown when it comes to sexism, racism and just generally being a decent person?

I swear “like a sailor” and have since I was the age of the girls in the video and even younger. At a third birthday party I yelled “fuck” while the guests were singing happy birthday. I got kicked out of kindergarten for swearing. My colleagues devised a swear jar to be mostly filled up by me. (I’ve never put a cent in it.)

What I want to know, though, is where’s the “problematic ideologies jar” that the same people who are offended by a word that has essentially lost all meaning other than to punctuate something or as a less formal way to say “make love” should be making deposits into? The same people who are offended by my refusal to burp under my breath or curb my fondness for the f-word but bang on about women who get raped shouldn’t get so drunk or go out with so little clothing, calling Adam Goodes a monkey isn’t racism because he does look like a monkey, when a man cheats on his wife it’s the other woman’s responsibility, and girls being inherently catty and bitchy.

Why should I have to watch what I say less an f-word pop out when people will freely volunteer that they think being gay is wrong, or that it’s not wrong, but at the very least it should be harder for them to have children as they “chose” that lifestyle.

What it comes down to is that women and girls should be seen and not heard. We don’t want little girls to say “bad” words because it offends the collective sensibility. We don’t want to know that women are more likely to face gender-based violence as long as they sit there, shut up and look pretty. The made-up princess aesthetic of the video is certainly fulfilling that aspect, but once the girls open their mouths they’re shamed for saying something that we’d rather not think about. Nay, saying anything.

It could be said that FCKH8 is only interested in making a profit from the t-shirts this video aims to sell. That may be the case but they have certainly got people talking. Just as the company has co-opted feminism for their own purposes feminism can appropriate their money-making ways in an effort to change the attitudes of the same people that are oh-so-offended by an f-bomb but are happy to espouse even more harmful ideologies.

Elsewhere: [The Belle Jar] FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls in Order to Sell T-Shirts.

Bad Feminist: All of My Favourite Songs Are By Men.

Roxane Gay writes in the feminist tome of 2014, Bad Feminist, about how her love for problematic music such as “Blurred Lines” makes her, well, a bad feminist:

“As much as it pains me to admit, I like these songs. They make me want to dance. I want to sing along. They are delightful pop confections. But. I enjoy the songs the way I have to enjoy most music—I have to forget I am a sentient being. I have to lighten up.”

Ahh, the catch cry of offensive joke tellers and sexist comment makers everywhere: lighten up.

I recently compiled a list of my favourite songs for personal purposes and while the list is only small it does consist solely of male artists, and not wholly unproblematic ones at that: INXS, Fine Young Cannibals, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams.

I’ve written here before about having to detach yourself from the more troublesome aspects of pop culture in order to consume it lest you become a hermit. Like Gay, this is the same attitude I have to take when it comes to music, especially the kind you want to get down to in the club (which I do when it comes to all of the above. To be more specific, they are “Need You Tonight”, “She Drives Me Crazy”, “Chop Me Up” and “Beautiful” respectively. The fact that they focus primarily on the sexual attraction of women or a particular woman is fodder for a whole ’nother blog post.). It’s unfortunate that the music that has the sickest beats also had the sickest attitude to women. And other minorities. And crime. And violence… The list goes on.

Related: Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Pop Culture as a Feminist.

On Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I have a stalker.

I write that partly in jest, but I do have someone that has expressed an unwanted interest in me of late, despite no indications from me that I would be remotely interested in this person apart from being cordial when he asked me a work-related question, that could potentially turn into full blown stalking.

When I relayed this to a male friend, offhandedly saying that if I go raped in the near future he would be the most likely culprit, he initially expressed MRA-levels of outrage.

“It’s a bit unfair to automatically assume that this seemingly nice guy who probably just has a crush on you could be a rapist,” he offered.

This is not the first time I’ve received a similar response when bemoaning the unwanted male attention thrown my—and many other women’s—way.

“But what if a guy thinks you’re cute and just wants to come up and say hi and ask you out for a coffee?” one male friend asked.

There have been a few instances where that has happened, and when I’ve said thanks but no thanks, they’ve accepted that and let me go on my merry way. But we have to ask why men feel entitled to women’s bodies and time as they’re going about their business with no indication that they’re interested in being interrupted so some NiceGuy™ can air his feelings to you in the first place. Why is women’s privacy and right to be left alone less important than men’s? Patriarchal conditioning would be my best guess: boys and men are taught that they’re the gatekeepers of not only women’s bodies, but women’s happiness, too. Go out and get it/provide it, essentially.

Back to my friend who questioned my use of the stalker moniker. I agree that it is unfair to assume he’s going to rape me, but at some point, deep down, most women have to assume that all men are going to—or at the very least, can—rape them. Enter Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I’ve written about the fact that for the most part I personally don’t let fear prevent me from going out at night and, if it comes down to it, I won’t be afraid to tell my stalker where to go. But I also avoid certain areas where I know harassment is rife. Again, deep down, I know there’s always a chance I can be taken by surprise when my guard’s down because women can be harassed and raped and treated as second class citizens at any time or place.

And not only are women never truly physically safe, they’re not ideologically safe. Thankfully I’ve never been in the position to have to report a sexual assault to the police or take a sexual harassment claim further than nipping it in the bud in the first instance, but if I was, I’d surely be blamed for inciting it; abused all over again, as it were. I’m not trying to insinuate that my friend is a bad person for automatically jumping to my stalker’s defence, but even the fact that he didn’t believe my descriptions of his stalkerish ways illustrates that it takes a bit of convincing for a woman to have her claims believed.

As the husband of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher, Tom Meagher, wrote for the White Ribbon blog, the myth of the rapist being a monster hiding in the bushes, as Meagher’s rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was, blinds us to the fact that many rapes are carried out by people known to the victim. Partners, family members, friends, colleagues. So my deduction that my stalker could certainly become my rapist is not that far of a reach.

Related: The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

Walking While Female.

To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

On Stalking.

Elsewhere: [TheVine] Feeling Like a Stalker.

[Shapely Prose] Schrödinger’s Rapist: Or A Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced.

[White Ribbon] The Danger of the Monster Myth.

Robin Thicke’s “Paula”: He Still Hates Those “Blurred Lines”.

Robin Thicke, along with Pharrell and T.I., came out with arguably 2013’s most controversial song, “Blurred Lines”, about this time last year.

Now the son of Growing Pains actor Alan Thicke is back with a whole new album about his estranged wife, Paula Patton, entitled simply, Paula.

Thicke was caught with his hand on a female fan’s bottom and allegedly followed this up by cheating on his high-school sweetheart Patton, with whom he’d been involved for 21 years and has a son. The unflappable Patton seemed to take the split in her stride, at least compared to Thicke, who’s taken to social media and radio waves in an attempt to win his former ladylove back.

The fact that his forthcoming album’s tracklist consists entirely of breakup-and-makeup songs is supposed to be romantic, but to the discerning eye, Thicke’s predation that was front and centre in “Blurred Lines” has come to the fore yet again.

Not only does his public begging read as more desperate than romantic, it publicly shames the other party who’s chosen to deal with the dissolution of their marriage in private.

But we all know Thicke’s favourite pastime is to “degrade a woman” and that’s exactly what he’s doing with this ill thought out album. For some perspective, the titular woman filed for divorce from Thicke in February this year, and the album’s first single, “Get Her Back” was released in May, giving Paula a lead-time of three months. And it has only been a year since Thicke’s previous album, Blurred Lines, featuring the rape anthem of the same name, came out.

The actual Marvin Gaye medleys that Thicke has become so well known—and taken to court—for and that make up Paula aren’t the worst in the world, but it’s when listeners pay mind to Thicke’s lyrics that the album really starts to run into trouble. The calypso rhythm of “You’re My Fantasy”, for example, can’t rescue it from this little ditty: “Your legs on my walls/Your body’s on my ceiling”; while Thicke makes reference to the cheating rumours on the Motown-y “Black Tar Cloud”, crooning “I thought everyone was gonna eat the chips/Turns out I’m the only one who double dipped”. (Thanks for that visual.) The mumbly “Forever Love” is luckily accompanied by a lyric video because Thicke’s enunciation is so poor it’s hard to sing along like the 14-year-old sung along in Patton’s ear to Stevie Wonder’s “Jungle Fever” upon their first meeting as teens in early ’90s Los Angeles.

“Get Her Back”, the earwormy lead single is arguably the album’s only redeeming one however its problematic video, featuring scrolling text messages that we’re to believe were sent between Thicke and Patton atop close-up shots of a fake-bloodied and allegedly crying Thicke being groped by masked women who look marginally like Patton before they plunge head-first into cavities of water, references intimate partner violence, like much of the album.

Thicke carried out a thick (so to speak) and fast social media campaign for Paula, including the hashtags #GetHerBack and #AskThicke, which ultimately backfired in a flurry of negative feminist press. Thicke even went so far as to engage in a cross-promotion with 1800-Flowers, for which the “Get Her Back” bouquet will set you back a cool $350—but it comes with a free digital download of Paula, so you’re actually saving money. But it would seem that many music consumers are holding on to their pennies this time around: just 530 fans in the UK and a dismal 54 in Australia forked out for Paula.

Thicke might not be a one-hit wonder (remember his 2002 debut, the equally as rapey as “Blurred Lines”, come to think of it, “When I Get You Alone”?), he proves that perhaps sex was the only thing that sold “Blurred Lines”.

The Hollywood that Thicke grew up in would have us believe that male persistence is the way to a girl’s heart: “the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes,” writes Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. “You need to look no further than the outrageously popular Twilight series—books and movies—to know that the stalker-as-romantic lead looms large in our cultural imagination.” Real life headlines about intimate partner violence suggest that stalking is more deadly than romantic.

Further to that, Alyssa Rosenberg writes over at The Washington Post that “the simple fact of male persistence ought to be enough to bring a woman around to loving him”, while Clem Bastow asserted on Daily Life that Thicke’s quest to “Get Her Back” is “about the feelings of the man in question, not the woman he is searching for or seeking to reconcile with”.

But that’s Thicke’s pattern (pardon the pun); he’s crafting a pop cultural narrative where he’s the ultimate NiceGuy™ and if Patton continues to reject him she’s a cold-hearted bitch. And if Thicke was hoping for a deluge of sales to help him convince Patton to take him back, he’s sorely underestimated the public’s keen nose for desperation.

Elsewhere: [HuffPo] Robin Thicke Cheated on His Wife, Claims Socialite Lana Scolaro.

[HuffPo] Marvin Gaye’s Family & Robin Thicke’s Label Settle in “Blurred Lines” Dispute.

[Time] Robin Thicke’s #AskThicke Hashtag Completely Backfired.

[1800-Flowers] Robin Thicke Flowers & Music Download.

[Vulture] Which Country Hates Robin Thicke the Most?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke’s Video: Further Evidence That We’re Romancing the Stalker-Esque.

[WaPo] The Real Problem with Robin Thicke’s Creepy Attempts to Win His Wife Back? They’re Boring.

[Daily Life] The False Romance of “Winning Her Back”.

Leaning In to Grey’s Anatomy*.

ELLEN POMPEO, PATRICK DEMPSEY

Grey’s Anatomy is one of the more feminist shows currently on the air. Hell, it’s created by Shonda Rhimes (she of Scandal and Grey’s spin-off, Private Practice, fame), a big champion of woman-centric storytelling on TV.

Across its ten season run, Grey’s has dealt with parenting, childlessness, abortion, romantic relationships—both heterosexual and otherwise, illness, loss, friendship and career mostly through the eyes of its female protagonist, Meredith Grey, and her colleagues, friends and family: Cristina, Izzie, Lexie, Callie, Arizona, April, Addison, Bailey and so on. This season, though, seemed to really tap into the oft-mentioned feminist issue of “having it all” (meaning kids and career) and what happens when a woman shuns that path.

Early on this season tensions were brewing between Meredith and Cristina when Meredith gave birth to her second child, Bailey, named after Dr. Miranda Bailey who helped deliver him, and leant out of the surgery game. As Meredith’s life became increasingly family oriented, Cristina felt alienated from “her person”, with whom she used to compete for surgeries and get drunk on tequila at Joe’s bar. This is not to suggest that just because Cristina doesn’t want children (a character consistency since season one) she’s not involved in that part of Meredith’s life: Cristina is often shown caring for and engaging with Meredith’s daughter Zola. But this story arc illustrates that having two children is a lot different than parenting just one (cue Elizabeth Banks-style outrage over mothers of one child being less than mothers of more) and Meredith’s redirected attention certainly takes its toll on her friendship with Cristina.

This comes to a head in episode six of this season when Meredith chooses to continue her mother’s portal vein research using 3D printers (which Cristina later co-ops for one of her groundbreaking medical coups). This is partly because of Cristina’s recriminations in the previous episode, “I Bet It Stung”, that Meredith doesn’t do as many surgeries or as much research as Cristina because she chose to lean in to her children. There is much talk about “choosing valid choices” but ultimately Meredith identifies an impasse between the two friends and surgeons because Cristina doesn’t “have time for people who want things” that she doesn’t want.

meredith cristina april's wedding grey's anatomy

Business continues much this way until April’s wedding, in the episode “Get Up, Stand Up”, in which Meredith and Cristina are both featured as bridesmaids. During a dress fitting, Cristina takes issue with Meredith calling her “a horrible person, over and over… because I don’t want a baby”. Harkening back to their very first day on the job, Meredith accuses Cristina of sleeping her way to the top, while Cristina retorts that in her struggle to maintain work/life balance, Meredith’s “become the thing we laughed at.” By episode’s end, Meredith acknowledges her envy of Cristina’s surgical trial successes:

“I’m so jealous of you I want to set things on fire. You did what I tried to do and I couldn’t… I don’t want to compete with you… but I do.”

Come the shows’ mid-season return, Meredith and Cristina’s friendship is back on track, with them bonding over Meredith’s anger at her husband Derek reneging on their agreement to focus more on Meredith’s career upon her realisation that she doesn’t want it to slip by the wayside in the wake of motherhood. They do this while drinking wine and looking after the kids at Mere’s place while Derek’s out of town.

Derek’s absence throughout the season, in Washington D.C. on business at the behest of the President (I know!), is juxtaposed with Meredith’s desire to be an attentive mother, which she didn’t have growing up and was the cause of many of her ills, whilst balancing her first love of medicine. In last season’s “Beautiful Doom”, Meredith worries about leaving Zola in the care of others while she operates. Callie, a working mother herself, assures Meredith that “it’s good for Zola to see you work. It’s good for her to see you achieve. That’s how she becomes you.” The season finale sees Meredith decide to stay in Seattle despite Derek accepting a job in Washington D.C. She doesn’t want to become her father, who was a “trailing spouse” to her abovementioned mother.

grey's anatomy do you know cristina yang

As far as Cristina’s concerned, though, her ex-husband Owen’s desire for a family is what’s kept them in flux from on-again to off-again for the better part of the past three seasons. In the Sliding Doors-esque episode “Do You Know?” Cristina is given the option of two life paths: one in which she has children, whilst in the other she continues her focus on her career; both involve Owen, and both see Cristina becoming miserable. The married-with-children scenario elicits a certain empathetic desperation as it’s made clear Cristina’s only succumbing to it for her lover. And when Owen meets maternal-fetal surgeon, Emma, whom Cristina described as “picket fence; a dozen kids; fresh-baked goods,” it seems he’s found his happy ending. But Owen’s desire for Cristina, despite his better judgment, causes him to cheat on and subsequently end things with Emma who is befuddled at how her boyfriend went from house hunting to breaking up with her in the space of a day. Owen asserts it’s because Emma wanted to stay home with their kids when they had them and he wanted someone who is “as passionate about her work as I am.” Make up your mind, Owen!

While Owen’s indecisiveness is annoying, it’s refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t want children framed as desirable over the traditional portrait of womanhood. This is not to mention Cristina’s hardheaded drive. On the other hand, Emma represents the losing battle women face in the fight to “have it all” perpetually highlighted by the concern-trolling media: you’d better want to be a mother, but you’ve also got to be driven in your career; you have to be around to raise your children, but you’d also better be leaning in in the workplace.

Grey’s has always been a staunchly pro-choice show. Upon April and Jackson’s shotgun wedding, Jackson’s mother brings up the issue of April’s faith when it comes to raising their future children who will be on the board of the Harper Avery Foundation, but no pressure! Catherine Avery asks whether April believes in limiting reproductive rights, and whether she’ll raise her children with those views. If so, will that colour their judgment in providing funding to hospitals that perform abortions, like Seattle Grace/Seattle Grace Mercy West/Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital/whatever it’s called now?! And what about stem cell research?

Grey’s certainly doesn’t sweep these issues under the rug because it’s convenient for a storyline or for the show to remain politically unbiased. Rhimes has spoken about Cristina’s unintended pregnancy in a season one/two crossover storyline in which she was scheduled for an abortion but miscarried before she could have the procedure due to an ectopic pregnancy:

“… [T]he network freaked out a little bit. No one told me I couldn’t do it, but they could not point to an instance in which anyone had. And I sort of panicked a little bit in that moment and thought maybe this isn’t the right time for the character, we barely know her… I didn’t want it to become like what the show was about… And [Cristina’s miscarriage] bugged me. It bugged me for years.”

Come 2010/2011’s seventh season, Cristina again finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy to Owen. Rhimes said:

“I felt like we had earned all of the credentials with the audience. The audience knew these characters. The audience loved these characters. The audience stood by these characters. You know, we were in a very different place even politically, socially. Nobody blinked at the studio or the network when I wrote the storyline this time. Nobody even brought it up except to say, that was a really well written episode.”

With no signs of slowing down, but with perhaps one of TV’s most feminist characters departing, Grey’s Anatomy is sure to continue presenting women, work and the myriad choices in between in a positive and realistic way.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

Grey’s Anatomy: “You Killed Our Baby”.

Grey’s Anatomy: You’re Abnormal If You Don’t Want Children.

Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Elsewhere: [HuffPo] Elizabeth Banks Angers Parents of “Onlies”, Says She is “Really a Mom” After Having Two Kids.

[Time] Why 2014 Should Be the Year We Talk About Abortion on TV.

[Cosmopolitan] Why Cristina Yang Leaving Grey’s Anatomy Is So Devastating.

Images via TV.com, Grey’s Reviews.