On the (Rest of the) Net.

In one of HuffPo’s articles of the year, Jessica Valenti discusses likeability versus success. [The Nation]

The lesson to take away from the radio station prank turned suicide catalyst: it gets better. [MamaMia]

Maya Newell, the girl who asked what effect changing the marriage act would have on the children of same-sex partners on this year’s final episode of Q&A, talks about what it’s like growing up with two mums. [Daily Life]

Australia’s most influential female voices and feminist moments of 2012. [Daily Life]

It must be the week for it: Clem Ford on cultural appropriation. [TheVine]

Mia Freedman interviews Caitlin Moran. [MamaMia]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The “slut vote” is the reason why Mitt Romney didn’t win the presidency and instead Barack Obama was reelected to a second term. On a side note: WOO HOO! [Christian Men’s Defence Network]

And not only that, but the “black vote” kept that n-word in office. And some people have no shame in taking their racist views to Twitter to lament this supposed fact. [Jezebel]

Is Beauty & the Geek the most sexist show on TV? [MamaMia]

In defence of Caitlin Moran. [New Statesman]

Heterophobia in gay bars. [MamaMia]

Why Britney Spears needs a stylist. [TheVine]

The women of Friday Night Lights call out Mitt Romney for the unauthorized co-opting of the show’s “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” slogan. (Early Bird note: apparently you can lose, Mitt!) [USA Today]

In the spirit of Halloween just passed and, you know, the persecution of women and minorities since the dawn of time, take this quiz to find out whether you would have been accused of witchcraft in ye olden times. [BBC History Magazine]

Misogyny at St. John’s College. [Daily Life]

Why do people (namely black, female people) hate Nicki Minaj? [Jezebel]

Gala Darling’s account of surviving the Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy.

Mia Freedman’s News Ltd. column has been axed amid many other newspaper axings. She should have stayed at Fairfax, where they actually appreciate good journalism and authentic voices. Oh well, this means more of her at her namesake site, MamaMia! Yay!

A letter to conservative politicians from Just Another Rapist (*trigger warning*). [Whatever]

Image via Twitter.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Victoria’s Secret and Photoshop: first you see it, then you don’t. [Jezebel]

If you’re an anti-feminist woman maybe you should be evicted from the house that feminism built. [Dammit Janet]

The case against freedom of opinion. [The Conversation]

Why Beyonce is a phony. [TheVine]

“Top 10 Most Obvious Halloween Costumes”, with a special mention to option number two, which inevitably has an outing every year. But here’s an idea: how about combining Presidential politics and dogs in costumes to create Mitt Romney strapped into a cage on top of your canine? Already been done by the marvelous minds that enter the annual Tomkins Square Park Halloween dog parade, but nevermind: I’m still dressing my dog up as this! [TheVine,  HuffPo]

Why is the “colour” of Rihanna’s fragrance—called Nude—so white? [Sociological Images]

Surprise, surprise, Taylor Swift is not a feminist:

“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

As the article points out, not only does she not know what feminism is, but her music is purely about guys versus girls and how poor little innocent Taylor had her heart broken by a big bad boy. You know, when she’s not slut-shaming and perpetuating a heteronormative Romeo-chases-Juliet-in-a-castle ideal of relationships. [Jezebel]

Clem Bastow unpacks Caitlin Moran’s Twitter gaff about the racial diversity of Girls. [Daily Life]

Who knew Eva Longoria is more than just a “boring pretty person with bouncy hair”? In fact, she’s chair of the committee to re-elect Barack Obama and retweeted a controversial statement related to voting for Mitt Romney. You go, girl! [Jezebel]

Image via Jezebel.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Porn.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

This article didn’t garner as much controversy as I anticipated, which might just mean that porn is becoming more accepted in mainstream society, for all the right reasons, I would hope. The original post is here.

“Porn Wars” covered The Monthly in September. Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray just released Big Porn Inc., a compilation of anti-porn essays. Serendipitously, when I decided I would write this article over the weekend, controversial sex writer Bettina Arndt wrote about the porn debacle in The Sunday Age.

She said:

“The suggestion that porn changes men’s attitudes to sex is really questionable. While there’s a body of psychology research suggesting exposure to porn has that effect, Professor Catherine Lumby and colleagues in The Porn Report, published in 2008, found this laboratory-based research to be contradictory and unlikely to reflect real-life situations. ‘The entire tradition of social science research into pornography has started with the assumption that porn is a major cause of negative attitudes towards women and has set out to prove this,’ conclude these Australian academics.”

She goes on to write:

“… Arguably porn has nothing to do with the insensitivity causing men to behave in that way [with negative perceptions of women and sex], which stems from their cultural and social backgrounds.”

When society encourages the viewpoint of women as second-class citizens there for the appropriation of men’s desires and the male gaze, which—granted—porn does replicate in a lot of instances, I just don’t get what the big deal is surrounding it. While Tankard Reist and others go on about the “pornification of society”, shouldn’t we be looking at the society which spawned porn, not the other way around? Shouldn’t we be looking to, as Arndt suggests, porn consumers’ (of both sexes) backgrounds to determine their use and the effects of the medium?

Caitlin Moran says in her memoir, How to Be a Woman (which, keen-eyed Early Birds, has been referenced here a hell of a lot in the past week or so!), that “the idea that pornography is intrinsically exploitative and sexist is bizarre; pornography is just ‘some fucking’, after all. The act of having sex isn’t sexist, so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynist.”

She raises an interesting, left-of-centre notion that is not often discussed in (extremist?) feminist critique: if consensual sex isn’t sexist, how is consensual sex—that just happens to be filmed—in porn sexist?

I will argue that there are plenty of representations—in fact, most—in porn that are sexist. The lack of female orgasms, or the ejaculation of the male partner(s) into the face of his female partner(s), which seems to be how so many porn videos “finish” these days, come to mind. But, as Fine writes in The Monthly, “is degradation in the eye of the beholder, or is it just in the eye?”

As “facials” are really the only problem I have with heterosexual, seemingly consensual, two-(sometimes-three-)partner porn, I’d have to agree that “degradation is in the eye of the beholder.” In that case, you don’t have to watch it.

Not only that, but porn might be seen to have some positive effects.

Firstly, as have always argued, the existence of fetish porn is an outlet for those with said fetishes, who might otherwise have gone elsewhere to have their sexual desires fulfilled.

“… Some researchers suggest exposure to pornography might make some people less likely to commit sexual crimes,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in The Scientific American.

So long as we can educate young people—with an emphasis on young boys—about consent, the fantasy that porn survives and thrives on and expression of your own sexuality, whether it conforms to sexual stereotypes or no, porn is not harmful, in my opinion.

As a recent article on MamaMia opined: “We need better porn.” If we have access to porn in which everybody gets off, which is a major flaw in the current porn industry, what’s the problem?

As is a major focus of Arndt’s article, as well as The Sunny Side of Smut, men prefer to view women engaging in “enthusiastic consent” to sex, as opposed to the oft-mentioned concern that porn “incite[s] violence against women.” According to Wenner Moyer, the opposite is true, in fact:

“Perhaps the most serious accusation against pornography is that it incites sexual aggression. But not only do rape statistics suggest otherwise, some experts believe the consumption of pornography may actually reduce the desire to rape by offering a safe, private outlet for deviant sexual desires.”

In countries such as Japan, China and Denmark, and in certain states in America, which have increased access to online porn, rape statistics have receded significantly.

It’s not just porn that is changing attitudes (or our changing attitudes to porn) to sex, but prostitution, also.

In a Newsweek article a few months ago, Leslie Bennetts, profiled the idea of making soliciting prostitution illegal, instead of charging the women involved in prostitution. In countries that have started to bring in this legislation, such as Sweden, South Korea, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Mexico, sex trafficking has been “dramatically reduced”, whereas in countries where prostitution is legal, such as Australia, trafficking in other kinds of sex trade has increased. Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face?

There has been a lot of debate over the sex trade in Australia. I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to prostitution (for a more comprehensive look at this, see Feminaust), but I do know that it is still very much a grey area. Much greyer than porn, in my opinion. (Voice yours in the comments.)

And, back with porn, I do think it’s about education, in essence. Just as we educate young people about safe sex, we should be educating them about safe porn use, too. That the smorgasbord of sexual entrees (oral sex), main courses (vaginal intercourse) and just desserts (anal sex) on offer in porn can not always be expected of real life sexual relationships, and certainly not on the first date! (In porn, a first date amounts to come breast fondling and perhaps, in “feature” porn, a pizza delivery or plumbing [pardon the pun] fixed.)

Not to lessen the effect that porn can have on some users (again, harkening back to Arndt’s “cultural and social backgrounds” argument), but studies have shown that how a man responds to a woman in a porn clip is not how he’ll respond to her in a real-life sexual encounter. If anything, introducing porn into a sexual relationship can be the spice of life:

“… Variety in sexual experiences contributes to men’s sexual satisfaction—and other works support [Alan] McKee’s suggestion that pornography can help that along. But [Aleksandar] Stulhofer also found that intimacy is at least as, and probably more, important for sexual satisfaction and—contrary to stereotype—as much so for young men as women.” [The Monthly]

As is my understanding, if a porn consumer lets what they see on the computer screen (who uses DVDs these days? Although, I did hear a funny story from a friend about a porn DVD getting stuck in a DVD player. When I suggested throwing out the DVD player, the friend said it was part of the television. And that the DVD was borrowed from their partner’s Dad. A comedy of porn errors.) dictate their perception of sexual relationships, they’re probably not capable of real intimacy anyway.

So, what do you think? Is porn the hotbed of debauchery it’s made out to be? Or, like Moran suggests, is it “just some fucking”?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Porn.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Review.

Elsewhere: [Melinda Tankard Reist] Big Porn Inc.: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry.

[The Monthly] The Porn Ultimatum.

[Sydney Morning Herald] Porn is Not a Dirty Word.

[The Scientific American] The Sunny Side of Smut.

[MamaMia] Why We Need Better Porn.

[Newsweek] The Growing Demand for Prostitution.

12 Posts of Christmas: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

Despite how far I feel I’ve come as a feminist in the last year or two, I find most people have “a long long way to go” in terms of realising what feminism actually means. I wrote this post in response to Beyonce’s musings on the topic, as well as the release of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, “Sarah Palin feminism” and Tina Fey, amongst other things. The original version is here, and you can read an update here.

Recently, when asked in an interview with UK Harper’s Bazaar if she’s a feminist, Beyonce said she wanted to invent a new word for feminism, because she doesn’t feel it “necessary” to define whether she is one or not.

Why, in this day and age, do we still distance ourselves from the word “feminism”?

And it’s not just Beyonce. Keri Hilson, Lady Gaga, and even (kind of)Tina Fey, have been called a feminist in one instance, and tried tobacktrack on it in the next.

In response to all this, Jezebel ran a contest to come up with “a catchy new word for feminism”, like Beyonce suggested. Some suggestions were “FUCK PATRIARCHY”, “Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism” (seemingly appropriate given it has been the year of the SlutWalk, if you will), “Vaginist”, “Diva-is-a-female-version-of-a-hustla-ism” (how you like that, Beyonce?), but the one that came out on top was “Equalism” which, in my experience, is what young feminists today strive for.

Speaking of young feminists, I would probably only define a handful of my friends as this, and even they are hesitant to describe themselves this way.

One says she’s not a feminist because she wants to “cook for her boyfriend”. Since when did not cooking and feminism become mutually exclusive?

Another says he’s (yes, he’s) could never truly be a feminist because he doesn’t have a vagina, so therefore will never know what those who do have to go through on a daily basis in a patriarchal society, and have gone through for centuries in patriarchal societies.

I have another who, just by looking at her, screams feminism before she even opens her mouth. Yet sometimes, when she says things I morally disagree with, I think, “she’s not feminist enough”. (Abhorrent, I know, and something I strive not to think and say as a feminist. And, by my own admission, some might say I’m “not feminist enough” because of the way I talk and how I dress.)

It’s a far cry from Beyonce, Gaga et al., who try to distance themselves from feminism, while young feminists (and old!) bicker amongst themselves about who’s more feminist! And it perfectly illustrates the discrepancies between what self-described feminists project onto the movement, and what lay, non-feminist Generation Yers believes it to be about.

Camilla Peffer over at Girls Are Made From Pepsi writes:

“I think most women associate feminism with radicalism and the whole bra burning hulla-balloo. Which is RI-DUNK-U-LOUS. And a lot of people see the term feminist [as] biased towards females in the sense that the whole movement promotes this idea of women being better than men.”

Indeed, there is a far cry between the first wave suffragist movement, second wave “bra-burning” and the sexual revolution, and current third-wave feminism. Some would even say that we have passed third-wave feminism and are now living in a post-feminist society.

When I first started getting into feminism about two years ago, I subscribed to this notion. Now, having been exposed to all manner of blogs, academic articles, events etc. to put the sexism, discrimination and harassment I’ve experienced as a woman into perspective, I can see that we sure as hell aren’t living in a post-feminist world and that we still need feminism, perhaps more than ever with the rise of the Tea Party and Michele Bachmann and the closure of Planned Parenthoods in the U.S., the blatant harassment most women experience on the street and in their workplaces every day, theattacks on SlutWalk, and the atrocities facing Third World women, to name but a few.

Taking on these battles shouldn’t be seen as something “dirty”; it should be seen as something we can all get behind, if it leads to our daughters experiencing a world free from harassment and discrimination based on what genitals she possesses and what she looks like, no matter what part of the world she hails from.

Sadly, as Rachel Hills muses, “it can be a bit uncool to care. Feminism means caring and wanting to change things, ergo it makes people uncomfortable—especially people who are comfortable with the status quo.”

Are you comfortable with the status quo? Do you think feminism is still a dirty word?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: A Long, Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk: A Smokescreen of Lies, Misinformation & Those Old Myths About Males.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Let’s Invent a Catchy New Word for Feminism.

[Jezebel] The Catchy New Word for Feminism.

[Jezebel] Keri Hilson is a Feminist, Not That She Wants to Say So, Exactly.

[Jezebel] Tina Fey on the Message of 30 Rock’s “Joan of Snark” Episode.

[Feministe] Time to Check In With Tina Fey’s Feminism.

[The Frisky] Tina Fey: Not Feminist Enough?

[Girls Are Made From Pepsi] The Post in Which I Talk About Beyonce, Feminism & Equality For All.


In Defence of Porn.

“Porn Wars” covered The Monthly in September. Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray just released Big Porn Inc., a compilation of anti-porn essays. Serendipitously, when I decided I would write this article over the weekend, controversial sex writer Bettina Arndt wrote about the porn debacle in The Sunday Age.

She said:

“The suggestion that porn changes men’s attitudes to sex is really questionable. While there’s a body of psychology research suggesting exposure to porn has that effect, Professor Catherine Lumby and colleagues in The Porn Report, published in 2008, found this laboratory-based research to be contradictory and unlikely to reflect real-life situations. ‘The entire tradition of social science research into pornography has started with the assumption that porn is a major cause of negative attitudes towards women and has set out to prove this,’ conclude these Australian academics.”

She goes on to write:

“… Arguably porn has nothing to do with the insensitivity causing men to behave in that way [with negative perceptions of women and sex], which stems from their cultural and social backgrounds.”

When society encourages the viewpoint of women as second-class citizens there for the appropriation of men’s desires and the male gaze, which—granted—porn does replicate in a lot of instances, I just don’t get what the big deal is surrounding it. While Tankard Reist and others go on about the “pornification of society”, shouldn’t we be looking at the society which spawned porn, not the other way around? Shouldn’t we be looking to, as Arndt suggests, porn consumers’ (of both sexes) backgrounds to determine their use and the effects of the medium?

Caitlin Moran says in her memoir, How to Be a Woman (which, keen-eyed Early Birds, has been referenced here a hell of a lot in the past week or so!), that “the idea that pornography is intrinsically exploitative and sexist is bizarre; pornography is just ‘some fucking’, after all. The act of having sex isn’t sexist, so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynist.”

She raises an interesting, left-of-centre notion that is not often discussed in (extremist?) feminist critique: if consensual sex isn’t sexist, how is consensual sex—that just happens to be filmed—in porn sexist?

I will argue that there are plenty of representations—in fact, most—in porn that are sexist. The lack of female orgasms, or the ejaculation of the male partner(s) into the face of his female partner(s), which seems to be how so many porn videos “finish” these days, come to mind. But, as Fine writes in The Monthly, “is degradation in the eye of the beholder, or is it just in the eye?”

As “facials” are really the only problem I have with heterosexual, seemingly consensual, two-(sometimes-three-)partner porn, I’d have to agree that “degradation is in the eye of the beholder.” In that case, you don’t have to watch it.

Not only that, but porn might be seen to have some positive effects.

Firstly, as have always argued, the existence of fetish porn is an outlet for those with said fetishes, who might otherwise have gone elsewhere to have their sexual desires fulfilled.

“… Some researchers suggest exposure to pornography might make some people less likely to commit sexual crimes,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in The Scientific American.

So long as we can educate young people—with an emphasis on young boys—about consent, the fantasy that porn survives and thrives on and expression of your own sexuality, whether it conforms to sexual stereotypes or no, porn is not harmful, in my opinion.

As a recent article on MamaMia opined: “We need better porn.” If we have access to porn in which everybody gets off, which is a major flaw in the current porn industry, what’s the problem?

As is a major focus of Arndt’s article, as well as The Sunny Side of Smut, men prefer to view women engaging in “enthusiastic consent” to sex, as opposed to the oft-mentioned concern that porn “incite[s] violence against women.” According to Wenner Moyer, the opposite is true, in fact:

“Perhaps the most serious accusation against pornography is that it incites sexual aggression. But not only do rape statistics suggest otherwise, some experts believe the consumption of pornography may actually reduce the desire to rape by offering a safe, private outlet for deviant sexual desires.”

In countries such as Japan, China and Denmark, and in certain states in America, which have increased access to online porn, rape statistics have receded significantly.

It’s not just porn that is changing attitudes (or our changing attitudes to porn) to sex, but prostitution, also.

In a Newsweek article a few months ago, Leslie Bennetts, profiled the idea of making soliciting prostitution illegal, instead of charging the women involved in prostitution. In countries that have started to bring in this legislation, such as Sweden, South Korea, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Mexico, sex trafficking has been “dramatically reduced”, whereas in countries where prostitution is legal, such as Australia, trafficking in other kinds of sex trade has increased. Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face?

There has been a lot of debate over the sex trade in Australia. I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to prostitution (for a more comprehensive look at this, see Feminaust), but I do know that it is still very much a grey area. Much greyer than porn, in my opinion. (Voice yours in the comments.)

And, back with porn, I do think it’s about education, in essence. Just as we educate young people about safe sex, we should be educating them about safe porn use, too. That the smorgasbord of sexual entrees (oral sex), main courses (vaginal intercourse) and just desserts (anal sex) on offer in porn can not always be expected of real life sexual relationships, and certainly not on the first date! (In porn, a first date amounts to come breast fondling and perhaps, in “feature” porn, a pizza delivery or plumbing [pardon the pun] fixed.)

Not to lessen the effect that porn can have on some users (again, harkening back to Arndt’s “cultural and social backgrounds” argument), but studies have shown that how a man responds to a woman in a porn clip is not how he’ll respond to her in a real-life sexual encounter. If anything, introducing porn into a sexual relationship can be the spice of life:

“… Variety in sexual experiences contributes to men’s sexual satisfaction—and other works support [Alan] McKee’s suggestion that pornography can help that along. But [Aleksandar] Stulhofer also found that intimacy is at least as, and probably more, important for sexual satisfaction and—contrary to stereotype—as much so for young men as women.” [The Monthly]

As is my understanding, if a porn consumer lets what they see on the computer screen (who uses DVDs these days? Although, I did hear a funny story from a friend about a porn DVD getting stuck in a DVD player. When I suggested throwing out the DVD player, the friend said it was part of the television. And that the DVD was borrowed from their partner’s Dad. A comedy of porn errors.) dictate their perception of sexual relationships, they’re probably not capable of real intimacy anyway.

So, what do you think? Is porn the hotbed of debauchery it’s made out to be? Or, like Moran suggests, is it “just some fucking”?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Review.

Elsewhere: [Melinda Tankard Reist] Big Porn Inc.: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry.

[The Monthly] The Porn Ultimatum.

[Sydney Morning Herald] Porn is Not a Dirty Word.

[The Scientific American] The Sunny Side of Smut.

[MamaMia] Why We Need Better Porn.

[Newsweek] The Growing Demand for Prostitution.

Image via Film School Rejects.

UPDATED: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

From  Rachel Hills’ profile on Caitlin Moran in Sunday Life, 7th August 2011:

“Part of the problem… is that we just don’t agree on what it [feminism] means anymore. ‘I understand what I mean by feminism, and all my girlfriends—my girl Vikings—understand it. But if you say it to someone like a man or a younger person, they wouldn’t really understand what you meant.’”

“‘I want to reclaim the phrase “strident feminist” in the same way the black community has reclaimed the word “nigger”,’ she writes. ‘“Go, my strident feminist! You work that male/female dialectic dichotomy,” I will shout at my friends in bars, while everyone nods at how edgy and real we are.’

“Why do labels matter? Isn’t it enough to just take on the ideas? ‘Saying, “I’m a feminist” is just the quickest, shortest way of saying, “Get out of my face. I am not going to take your bullshit,”’ Moran retorts.”

*

Recently, when asked in an interview with UK Harper’s Bazaar, Beyonce said she wanted to invent a new word for feminism, because she doesn’t feel it “necessary” to define whether she is one or not.

Why, in this day and age, do we still distance ourselves from the word “feminism”?

And it’s not just Beyonce.

Keri Hilson, Lady Gaga, and even (kind of) Tina Fey, have been called a feminist in one instance, and tried to backtrack on it in the next.

In response to all this, Jezebel ran a contest to come up with “a catchy new word for feminism”, like Beyonce suggested she should do. Some suggestions were “FUCK PATRIARCHY”, “Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism” (seemingly appropriate given it has been the year of the SlutWalk, if you will), “Vaginist”, “Diva-is-a-female-version-of-a-hustla-ism” (how you like that, Beyonce?), but the one that came out on top was “Equalism” which, in my experience, is what young feminists today strive for.

Speaking of young feminists, I would probably only define a handful of my friends as this, and even they are hesitant to describe themselves this way.

One says she’s not a feminist because she wants to “cook for her boyfriend”. Since when did not cooking and feminism become mutually exclusive?

Another says he’s (yes, he’s) could never truly be a feminist because he doesn’t have a vagina, so therefore will never know what those who do have to go through on a daily basis in a patriarchal society, and have gone through for centuries in patriarchal societies.

I have another who, just by looking at her, screams feminism before she even opens her mouth. Yet sometimes, when she says things I morally disagree with, I think, “she’s not feminist enough”. (Abhorrent, I know, and something I strive not to think and say as a feminist. And, by my own admission, some might say I’m “not feminist enough” because of the way I talk and how I dress.)

It’s a far cry from Beyonce, Keri et al., who try to distance themselves from feminism, while young feminists (and old!) bicker amongst themselves about who’s more feminist! And it perfectly illustrates the discrepancies between what self-described feminists project onto the movement, and what lay, non-feminist Generation Y believes it to be about.

Camilla Peffer over at Girls Are Made From Pepsi writes:

“I think most women associate feminism with radicalism and the whole bra burning hulla-balloo. Which is RI-DUNK-U-LOUS. And a lot of people see the term feminist [as] biased towards females in the sense that the whole movement promotes this idea of women being better than men.”

Indeed, there is a far cry between the first wave suffragist movement, second wave “bra-burning” and the sexual revolution, and current third-wave feminism. Some would even say that we have passed third-wave feminism and are now living in a post-feminist society.

When I first started getting into feminism about two years ago, I subscribed to this notion. Now, having been exposed to all manner of blogs, academic articles, events etc. to put the sexism, discrimination and harassment I’ve experienced as a woman into perspective, I can see that we sure as hell aren’t living in a post-feminist world and that we still need feminism, perhaps more than ever with the rise of the Tea Party and Michele Bachmann and the closure of Planned Parenthoods in the U.S., the blatant harassment most women experience on the street and in their workplaces every day, the attacks on SlutWalk, and the atrocities facing Third World women, to name but a few.

Taking on these battles shouldn’t be seen as something “dirty”; it should be seen as something we can all get behind, if it leads to our daughters experiencing a world free from harassment and discrimination based on what genitals she possesses and what she looks like, no matter what part of the world she hails from.

Sadly, as Rachel Hills muses, “it can be a bit uncool to care. Feminism means caring and wanting to change things, ergo it makes people uncomfortable—especially people who are comfortable with the status quo.”

Are you comfortable with the status quo? Do you think feminism is still a dirty word?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: A Long, Long Way to Go—Why We Still Need Feminism.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk: A Smokescreen of Lies, Misinformation & Those Old Myths About Males.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Let’s Invent a Catchy New Word for Feminism.

[Jezebel] Keri Hilson is a Feminist, Not That She Wants to Say So, Exactly.

[Jezebel] Tina Fey on the Message of 30 Rock’s “Joan of Snark” Episode.

[Feministe] Time to Check In With Tina Fey’s Feminism.

[The Frisky] Tina Fey: Not Feminist Enough?

[Girls Are Made From Pepsi] The Post in Which I Talk About Beyonce, Feminism & Equality for All.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Caitlin Moran Cover Story Sunday Life.

Book Review: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.

When I first heard of this memoir some months back (probably on Musings of an Inappropriate Woman or some similarly feminist blog), I wasn’t really into it. I hadn’t been familiar with Caitlin Moran until I read a couple of reviews, particularly Rachel Hills’ in Sunday Life, and I knew I had to read it.

How to Be a Woman doesn’t disappoint. While it is a memoir of sorts, it’s also a poignant commentary of just what’s required of women in today’s society. Think Mia Freedman’s Mia Culpa and Mama Mia, but far less politically correct.

When I reviewed those books, I didn’t feel my words could do them justice, so I simply relayed my favourite parts and most funny moments, which is what I’m going to do here. But really, even these snippets don’t do How to be a Woman justice, and you need to get your grubby little mitts on it ASAP!

On Porn.

“Freely available, hardcore 21st-century pornography blasts through men and women’s sexual imaginations like antibiotics, and kills all mystery, uncertainty and doubt—good and bad.

“But in the meantime, I have found this thing. I have discovered this one good thing, so far, about being a woman, and it is coming” [p. 31].

“That single, unimaginative, billion-duplicated fuck is generally what we mean by ‘porn culture’—arguably the biggest cultural infiltration since the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s; certainly more pervasive that peer rivals, such as gay culture, multi-culturalism or feminism” [p. 33].

“… We needed more pornography, not less… free-range porn… Something in which—to put it simply—everyone comes.

“… Why can’t I see some actual sex? Some actual fucking from people who want to fuck each other? Some chick in an outfit I halfway respect, having the time of her life? I have MONEY. I am willing to PAY for this. I AM NOW A 35-YEAR-OLD WOMAN, AND I JUST WANT A MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR INTERNATIONAL PORN INDUSTRY WHERE I CAN SEE A WOMAN COME.

“I just want to see a good time” [p. 37, 39].

On Waxing.

“And all of this isn’t done to look scorchingly hot, or deathlessly beautiful, or ready for a nudey-shoot at the beach. It’s not to look like a model. It’s not to be Pamela Anderson. It’s just to be normal” [p. 46].

“Whilst some use the euphemism ‘Brazilian’ to describe this state of affairs, I prefer to call it what it is—‘a ruinously high-maintenance, itchy, cold-looking child’s fanny’” [p. 47].

On Puberty.

“Puberty us like a lion that has raked me with its claws as I try to outrun it” [p. 58].

On the C-Word.

“In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing, and/or weak—menstruation, menopause, just the sheer, simply act of calling someone ‘a girl’—I love that ‘cunt’ stands, on its own, as the supreme, unvanquishable word” [p. 62].

On Mansplaining.

“I am shouted down by a male editor, who dismissed everything I say out of hand, and concludes his argument with the statement, ‘You wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes.’

“At the time, I am a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes. I am rendered silent with astonishment that I a being lectured on a radical feminist youth movement by a middle-aged straight white man…

“‘Oh, I get it all the time,’ Charlie [Moran’s homosexual friend] says, cheerfully. ‘It’s mainly conversations about how difficult it is to be a gay man—explained to me by a straight man’” [p. 140–141].

On Getting Ahead of Yourself in Potential Future Relationships.

“I imagine possible relationships all the time” [p. 149].

On Pole-Dancing Classes.

“Just as pornography isn’t inherently wrong—it’s just some fucking—so pole-dancing, or lap-dancing, or stripping, aren’t inherently wrong—it’s just some dancing. So long as women are doing it for fun—because they want to, and they are in a place where they won’t be misunderstood, and because it seems ridiculous and amusing, and something that might very well end with you leaning against a wall, crying with laughter as your friends try to mend the crotch-split in your leggings with a safety pin—then it’s a simple open-and-shut case of carry, girls. Feminism is behind you.

“It’s the same deal with any ‘sexy dancing’ in a nightclub—any grinding, any teasing, any of those Jamaican dancehall moves, where the women are—not to put too fine a point on it—fucking the floor as if they need to be pregnant by some parquet tiles by midnight. Any action a woman engages in from a spirit of joy, and within a similarly safe and joyous environment, falls within the city-walls of feminism. A girl has a right to dance how she wants, when her favourite record comes on” [p. 174].

“I Am in Heels! I Am a Woman!”

“I have a whole box full of such shoes under my bed. Each pair was bought as a down payment on a new life I had seen in a magazine, and subsequently thought I would attain, now I had the ‘right’ shoes” [p. 199].

“WE CANNOT WALK IN THE DAMN THINGS… So why do we believe that wearing heels is an intrinsic part of being a woman, despite knowing it doesn’t work? Why do we fetishise these things that almost universally make us walk like mad ducks? Was Germaine Greer right? Is the heel just to catch the eyes of men, and get laid?” [p. 202–203].

On Ladymags.

“… Those women’s magazines… are making me feel genuinely bad about my life achievement. Because I don’t yet have an ‘investment handbag’” [p. 205].

Fashion: Turn to the Left.

“… Fashion is… a compulsory game… And you can’t get out of it by faking a period. I know. I’ve tried” [p. 210].

On Childbirth.

“Finally, I have met someone who realises what I have known all along. This bitch [midwife] sees me for what I truly am: incapable [of giving birth]” [p. 221].

“I haven’t told you the half of it. I haven’t told you about Pete [Moran’s husband] crying, or the shit, or vomiting three feet up a wall, or gasping ‘mouth!’ for the gas and air, as I’d forgotten all other words. Or the nerve that Lizzie [her firstborn daughter] damaged with her face and how, ten years later, my right leg is still numb and cold. Or the four failed epidurals, which left each vertebra smashed and bruised, and the fluid between them feeling like hot, rotting vinegar. And the most important thing—the shock, the shock that Lizzie’s birth would hurt me so much…” [p. 221–222].

“She [Lizzie, a couple of days after birth] still looks like an internal organ” [p. 223].

“You basically come out of that operating theatre like Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, but lactating” [p. 226].

On Feminism in General.

“… Again and again over the last few years, I turned to modern feminism to answer questions that I had but found that what had once been the most exciting, incendiary and effective revolution of all time had somehow shrunk down into a couple of increasingly small arguments, carried out among a couple of dozen feminist academics… Here’s my beef with this:

“1) Feminism is too important to only be discussed by academics. And, more pertinently:

“2) I’m not a feminist academic, but, by God, feminism is so serious, momentous and urgent, that now is really the time for it to be championed by a lighthearted broadsheet columnist and part-time TV critic, who has appalling spelling. If something’s thrilling and fun, I want to join in—not watch from the sidelines. I have stuff to say! Camille Paglia has Lady Gaga ALL WRONG! The feminist organization Object are nuts when it comes to pornography! Germaine Greer, my heroine, is crackers on the subject of transgender issues! And no one is tackling OK! Magazine, £600 handbags, tiny pants, Brazilians, stupid hen nights or Katie Price” [p. 12].

“I don’t know if we can talk about ‘waves’ of feminism anymore—by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it’s around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves, and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide.

“But if there is to be a fifth wave of feminism, I would hope that the main thing that distinguishes it from all that came before is that women counter the awkwardness, disconnect and bullshit of being a modern woman, not by shouting at it, internalising it or squabbling about it—but by simply pointing at it, and going ‘HA!’, instead” [p. 14].

“‘I AM A FEMINIST’… It’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say… Say it. SAY IT! SAY IT NOW! Because if you can’t, you’re basically bending over, saying, ‘Kick my arse and take my voice now, please, the patriarchy.’

“And do not think that you shouldn’t be standing on that chair shouting ‘I AM A FEMINIST!’ if you are a boy. A male feminist is one of the most glorious end-products of evolution” [p. 72].

“What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay?… It’s technically impossible for a woman to argue against feminism. Without feminism, you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate on a woman’s place in society. You’d be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor—biting down on a wooden spoon, so as not to disturb the men’s card game—before going back to quick-liming the dunny” [p. 80].

“I don’t see it as men vs woman as all. What I see, instead, is winner vs loser… For even the most ardent feminist historian, male or female… can’t conceal that women have basically done fuck all for the last 100,000 years. Come on—let’s admit it. Let’s stop exhaustingly pretending that there is a parallel history of women being victorious and creative, on an equal with men, that’s just been comprehensively covered up by The Man. There isn’t” [p. 134–135].

On “Having It All”.

“Batman doesn’t want a baby in order to feel he’s ‘done everything’. He’s just saved Gotham again! If this means that Batman must be a feminist role model above, say, Nicola Horlick [British investment fund manager], then so be it…

“In the 21st century, it can’t be about who we might make, and what they might do, anymore. It has to be about who we are, and what we’re going to do” [p. 245–246].

On Pop Music.

“Pop [music] is the cultural bellwether of social change” [p. 254].

On Abortion.

“I cannot stand anti-abortion arguments that centre on the sanctity of life. As a species, we’ve fairly comprehensively demonstrated that we don’t believe in the sanctity of life. The shrugging acceptance of war, famine, epidemic, pain and lifelong, grinding poverty show us that, whatever we tell ourselves, we’ve made only the most feeble of efforts to really treat human life as sacred.

“I don’t understand then, why, in the midst of all this, pregnant women… should be subject to more pressure about preserving human life than, say, Vladimir Putin, the World Bank, or the Catholic Church” [p. 275].

“For if a pregnant woman has dominion over life, who should she not also have dominion over not-life?… On a very elemental level, if women are, by biology, commanded to host, shelter, nurture and protect life, why should they not be empowered to end life, too?” [p. 273].

On Being a Muse to Men. 

“Men go out and do things—wage wars, discover new countries, conquer space, tour Use Your Illusion 1 and 11—whilst the women inspire them to greater things, then discuss afterwards, a length, what’s happened…” [p. 300].

 

 

 

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mama Mia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood by Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Feminism Respects Women More Than Anything, Including the Catholic Church!

Elsewhere: [Tiger Beatdown] Chronicles of Mansplaining: Professor Feminism & the Deleted Comments of Doom.  

Image via Metro.co.uk.

Books: Caitlin Moran on Princess Culture.

From How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran:

“The books; the Disney films; the most famous woman in the world being, when I was a child, Princess Diana: whilst there were other role models around, the sheer onslaught of princessalia every girl is subject to wedges its way into the heart, in a quietly pernicious way.

“In the last decade, the post-feminist reaction to princesses has been the creation of ‘alternative’ princesses: the spunky chicks in Shrek and the newer Disney films, who wear trousers, do kung-fu, and save the prince. Possibly a reaction to the life, and then death, of Diana, princesses have had to be reconfigured to acknowledge that we all now know that being a real princess isn’t all about wafting around in a castle, being beautiful and noble. It’s about eating disorders, loneliness, Wham! mix-tapes, shagging around, waging a pitched battle with the royal family, and, eventually, the incredible fascination that you hold over others conspiring to kill you.” [p. 300–301]

Sounds peachy! I certainly don’t envy Kate Middleton.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Poor Pippa.

Books: Lady Gaga is “For Us”.

From How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (review to come next week):

“‘Even though you wear very little clothing,’ I said slightly primly, gesturing to [Lady] Gaga’s bra and thong, ‘you’re not doing all this as a… prick-tease, are you?’

“‘No!’ Gaga replied, with a big, drunken beam. ‘It’s not what straight men masturbate over when they’re at home watching pornography. It’s not for them. It’s for… us.’

“And she gestured around the nightclub, filled to the brim with biker-boy lesbians and drag queens.

“Because Gaga is not there to be fucked. You don’t penetrate Gaga. In common with much of pop’s history, an particularly its women—she’s not singing these songs in order to get laid, or give the impression she wants to. She wishes to disrupt, and disturb: sunglasses made burning cigarettes, beds bursting into flame[s], dresses made of raw meat, calipers made of platinum, Gaga being water-boarded in a bathtub—eyes dilated with CGI so that she looks like her own manga cartoon. Her iconography is disconcerting, and disarranged what we are used to seeing.” [p. 260]

Image via Roccerka.