Tag Archives: sexism

On misogyny in the gay community

[Content note: mention of anti-blackness slur, misogyny and homophobia]

Sometimes I get asked to go on BBC World Have Your Say, an awesome international service radio program that seeks to cover news and opinions around the world. Right before the World Cup I got asked to speak on the ridiculous World Cup song (and video) by J-Lo, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte.

Predictably, the video was full of damaging images of Brazilian women which I have no doubt encouraged foreign men to harass Brazilian women during the event. Brazil has been capitalizing on the bodies of Brazilian women for decades, particularly marketing the image of the ‘mulata’ as sexual, welcoming and easy. This stereotype is damaging in many ways that I won’t go into right now.

During the BBC segment that discussed the video, I was clear about my position: the cheap, lazy representation of Brazilian culture was extremely damaging, especially for women, who are routinely street harassed by both local and foreign men. After a lot of searching for a person who enjoyed the song to stimulate both sides of the debate, the producers of the show were able to find one guy.

After presenting my case, based on real life experiences of harassment (and again, I repeat: both from local and foreign men) and self-censorship because of my nationality’s sexualized stereotype, the guy broke in and said I was exaggerating. The exchange that followed went something like this:

Me: “As a man, you can`t speak on my experiences.”

Dude: “Bitch, I’m gay.”

Yep, this guy was so entitled that he thought it would be a good idea to call me a bitch on international radio. He had to assert his maleness with his oppression, because his sexual orientation somehow means that he can’t silence women (spoiler: he can, because he has male privilege).

This is why, when Rose McGowan said that “gay men are more misogynistic than straight men,” I didn’t bat an eyelash to defend gay men. It was wrong to quantify misogyny in such terms – I can’t do that, to go as far as to say that one is worse than the other. But this is something I have come into direct contact with.

Even if I could say which group is worse, that’s not the point (and it will never be the point). Misogyny in the gay community exists and it has to be addressed. The worst way to go about it is to say: “Wah! But straight guys are even worse!” That’s just shifting blame and denying that, even though you are oppressed in one instance, you were still raised in a patriarchal society that teaches hatred of women and femininity.

This is not, in any way, to deny that gay men suffer homophobia, prejudice and oppression daily. Part of this is perpetuated by straight women, as well – and that’s something we need to work on. We are all complicit to micro and macro aggression in everyday life but dismissing a genuine piece of criticism as ‘homophobia’ (thanks Stonewall) is not helpful to the deconstruction of these prejudices.

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The Dismissal of Womanly Pain and Pressure to be the Strong Woman

When I was thirteen, my fellow classmates made fun of my moustache and bushy eyebrows. The feminist woman I have become would like to say I ignored them and wore my facial hair with pride, but that is not what happened. I started waxing off the hairs on my upper lip and shaping my eyebrows – two things I continue to do today.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that. Women all over the world wax, shave, bleach and laser body hair to look smoother and more feminine. As a feminist, I have nothing against women who choose to remove body hair – after all, I do it myself – but it’s important for me to think about why I submit to the pain of waxing every month.

As I grew up from my moustached thirteen-year-old self, I started waxing other places too: my legs, my bikini line and even my toes. And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. Why do I have to do this every month?

When I recently complained about this, someone told me: “Just don’t do it anymore, then.” That sounds pretty simple right? Just don’t obey the patriarchy. Just go to the beach with a hairy bikini line. Just look unprofessional with your bushy eyebrows. Just wear shorts and let your hairy legs show. Just make your body into a political statement.

The simplicity of that statement made me wonder about female pain and how it is often dismissed as unimportant. Both sides of this situation would bring me pain. If I own up to my body hair, I will be judged by a sexist, misogynist society. If I continue to remove it, I will have to deal with the pain of waxing and shaving and the medical issues that come with it.

This dismissal happens when going through pain to achieve smooth legs is considered normal and even required.

It happens when women are told street harassment is something they have to accept, even though women who are victims of it say they feel uncomfortable, objectified and afraid.

It happens when nine women accuse a man of abusing them, but we are still told to ‘hear both sides’.

It happens when nine out of ten women feel pain when their uterus is contracting to get rid of its lining but talking about periods and period pain is considered gross or ‘making a fuss’.

It happens when women are told they should’ve thought about the consequences of their actions when seeking abortion, even though all kinds of birth control can fail.

It happens when women are paid less but people argue that the wage gap is actually a myth.

It happens all the goddamn time.

While men are taught not to show their pain, women are routinely told their pain is not important. Women’s pain is normal because women are more emotional and hormonal, so why pay any attention to it? Often, women hide their pain away so as to not be annoying or be perceived as weak or too feminine.

We are asked to be the Strong Woman, which is an image I truly resent. No one ever says “He is a strong man” because men are presumed to be strong because of their masculinity – or the societal enforcement of said masculinity. This necessity to be a Strong Woman reinforces the idea that not being feminine and being more like men is better.

And let’s not forget that being the Strong Woman can be dangerous, speaking your mind, as a woman, can be life-threatening – on the internet or otherwise (Mary Spears was definitely strong when she told a man “no” and was killed for it). I see women who are perceived as Strong Women being harassed on the internet every day. Not to mention that a Strong Woman is often mistaken for a Bitch.

Women cannot win either way.

The Brazilian media, Representation and ‘bullying’ of foreigners

Last week, the Brazilian Human Rights Commission approved a request by Congressman Marcos Rogério to remove a Guaraná commercial featuring Neymar that allegedly ‘promotes bullying against foreigners in Brazil’. Watch the video above.

In the commercial, foreigners ask Neymar how to order Guaraná, a Brazilian soda made from an Amazonian fruit. Neymar then writes the translation on a piece of paper. But he doesn’t write what they asked him – he writes common Brazilian sayings that make zero sense in the context of ordering a drink. And so the ‘gringos’ go off to Rio and embarrass themselves by saying things like “I am a dog sucking on a mango, please” (which is a phrase that means ‘ugly’).

Maybe it is a little bit offensive, but if someone is travelling to a place where they don’t know the language they should expect some confusion and ridicule. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being lost in translation – no one expects someone to speak all the languages. And if you are hung up on going places where the language is unknown to you… well, just stay at home.

In any case, the complaint was not made by any gringo (that I know of) but by Brazilian congressmen who are responsible for human rights in this country (it’s important to note that the former president of this human rights commission was largely homophobic, racist and sexist). From this I can only assume they a) have nothing better to do and b) have no idea what human rights actually are.

It’s very difficult to agree that this little prank qualifies as bullying and that this commercial somehow, as the request document put it, ‘violates the values of human dignity’ when so much of the media representation in Brazil is incredibly harmful to its own population.

For example, black women are notably either portrayed in soap operas as maids or sexual objects. The first ‘gay kiss’ on national television was aired a few months ago but comedy shows still largely rely on homophobia to make jokes. Women in general are told they are token prizes in commercials, or are regularly asked by yogurt adverts whether they are thin enough for summer.

If the issue really is ‘human dignity’ and not ‘don’t bully the gringos, they’re bringing us cash’, then why is the image of the Brazilian woman, for example, so warped? A study published by Avon in 2013 shows how women in particular have their ‘human dignity’ violated by the Brazilian media: half of Brazilian men think women are responsible for the house and 89% of them find it inadmissible when women do not keep the house clean. Around 50% of Brazilian men also think women don’t feel the need for sex and 69% of them will not allow their wives to go out without them.

Judging by the commission’s complaint against the Guaraná commercial, we can assume that these congressmen know the importance of media representation. And yet, the Brazilian media is sexist, misogynist, transphobic, racist and does not correctly portray our people – in fact they are regularly oppressed by it.

Slavery is constantly erased, and made into a joke – despite the ugly fact that Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, after bringing 3 million Africans to the country. Women are belittled and represented as sex objects. The history of native people is also constantly made fun of and the genocide of native peoples is erased by the mainstream colonialist rhetoric.

And this pathetic complaint, that uses ‘human dignity’ as an argument, is coming from a human rights commission that spent the larger part of 2013 trying to pass a bill of law called ‘Gay Cure’ that would allow doctors to treat homosexuality as a psychological disease.

When the population’s ‘human dignity’ is violated every day by harmful stereotypes and oppressive representation, it is really hard to care about Neymar laughing at a few tourists who are fortunate enough to be able to travel to Brazil to (presumably) watch the World Cup.

Consent 101

[TW: sexual assault, coercion and psychological abuse]

This post was inspired by accounts of sexual assault and abuse by ex-partners of famous YouTubers. Once the first complaint came out, many other girls reported similarly traumatizing experiences with these men. The most shocking accounts (to me) were that of the abuse of Tom Milson towards a 15 year old girl when he was 22 (a horrifying personal account of these events can be found here) and the rampant sexual and emotional manipulation of Alex Day which has been reported by five women so far (one / two / three / four / five). Although Alex Day has admitted to how much of an abusive, manipulative, objectifying person he is, he has not admitted to any sexual abuse/manipulation that led to sexual assault and actions that led to traumatic sexual experiences for his partners.

Although Tom Milsom’s relationship with a minor who is not old enough to consent is shocking, I feel that Day’s actions are equally, if not more, worrying, considering the amount of women who have written accounts of his behaviour and the type of concealed abuse and sexual coercion that is widely accepted in society. This behaviour is a common one, where men feel entitled to sex with a woman and assume sexual interest because of the woman’s previous interactions, behaviour and other factors. It could be true that in Alex’s mind he simply assumed, because he is a famous YouTube star who is often fawned over, every girl ever would want to sleep with him.

The line ‘Can we skip the bit where you say no before anything happens?’ was reportedly regularly used by him. He has written a response denying allegations however it is my opinion that he does not understand what consent is, how sexual politics should work in a landscape where both sexes are equal, and that his fame, gender and (supposed) good looks do not entitle him to anything.

This is what led me to write a handy guide to sexual consent and inter-partner communication. Feel free to comment and suggest additions to the post. I sincerely hope this post reaches the YouTube community, most importantly young women who are only just entering into their sexual lives. I was once a young(er) woman who let myself be led on, feel guilty for not engaging in sexual activity and give in when I wasn’t ready or up to it.

I also hope Alex Day reads this and further questions his own behaviour so that this does not happen with any other girl that happens to be around him.

What sexual consent is

– The enthusiastic, preferably verbal, manifestation of “Yes, I accept this sexual act”. However, consent can also be given by body language – if the person is kissing enthusiastically one could assume they want sexual contact. However, to avoid misunderstandings it is always recommended that you (a) Ask if they are OK to continue (b) Pay close attention to their body language and do not ignore the signs they are giving you because you really want to get laid and they are not explicitly saying no.

– A retractable factor of a sexual relationship. Once given, it can be taken away whenever the person feels uncomfortable with the act they are performing. A “NO” in the middle of an act that was previously consensual should result in the end of the sexual act. If the other party does not stop, this is sexual assault.

What sexual consent is not:

– The absence of a “no”. Consent is only clearly given when both parties enthusiastically want to have sex. If your partner is visibly giving in to you because they feel guilty or pressured this is sexual assault and you are, in the least, a huge jerk. At the most, you’re an abuser.

– A person who is drunk saying yes. If a person is very inebriated they are not able to consent.

– A relationship between a person under the age of consent with an older person  who is above the age of consent. People under the age of consent (children) are not able to give consent because they are susceptible to manipulation and grooming.

– A person who is passed out/asleep/incoherently inebriated cannot give consent. If a person is touched sexually while unconscious they are being sexually assaulted. Even if someone is on the couch, passed out, with their legs splayed open this is not an invitation. The only invitation that allows furthering sexual relations is an explicit one from a conscious person who is able to give consent.

– The assumption that a person wants sexual contact despite repeated rejections because of previous interactions between the two parties. Previous actions done by survivors that are typically used to victim blame: (a) flirting, (b) the fact you are in a relationship, (c) ‘provocative’ clothes, (d) making out a few minutes ago (a YES is always retractable) (e) gossip that calls your partner a ‘whore/slut/hoe’ or any bullsh*t names of the sort. What matters is the person’s wants at that moment and time, nothing that happened previously counts as a reason to force sexual intercourse.

Do not

– Insist on a sexual act after you are rejected. More often than not they are not playing hard to get. Respect their abilities as a human being to make mature, thought out decisions that do not benefit your wants for sexual contact. The world doesn’t revolve around you and not everyone wants to sleep with you.

– Assume anyone owes you sex because you paid for dinner, bought them a drink, gave them flowers, made a huge romantic gesture, etc, etc.

– Think you are entitled to sex in ANY WAY. Nobody owes you anything regardless of gender identity, race, sexual orientation and previous behaviours.

– Push your partner toward your crotch. Ask them. And respect them if the answer is no.

Do

– Ask if your partner is OK to proceed.

– Be aware of and try to read body language.  Many times people feel uncomfortable and guilty about stopping sexual contact because of previous ‘promises’, acts, behaviour and the belief that one party (mostly heterosexual women in relation to men, due to the patriarchal, sexist society we live in) owe their partner sex.

– Talk to your partner even if it is a one night stand. Always ask if a particular sexual act is acceptable. Do not, under any circumstance, spring a sexual act on them – communication is key. Communication is the only way to make sure both parties are protected from sexual abuse/coercion/manipulation.

Statistics & facts

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network):

Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. (…) According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey –there is an average of 237,868 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

On the reality of who rapists actually are (not a man in a dark alley way):

Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.1
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.1
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.1
28% are an intimate.1
7% are a relative (source)

On harassment:

“31% of female employees report being harassed at work.

70-90% of harassers repeat their conduct.

About 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years. (source)”

On sexual coercion:

Verbal Sexual Coercion: often words are used by someone using sexual coercion in an attempt to achieve sexual relations out of someone who has previously said no to sexual advances. The words that are used may be flattering, outright begging, calling names, arguing, lying or deliberately misleading. Examples of verbal sexual coercion may include the following: (a) “You know you want it.” (b) “I’m so hot for you.” (c) “Don’t make me stop now.” (d) “Don’t be a prude.”

Emotional Sexual Coercion: In this type of sexual coercion, a person takes advantage of trust, intimacy, or emotional instability to garner sexual favors. Emotional sexual coercion may include the following: (a) Exploitation of emotions of the other person, (a) Using emotional pressure, (c) Threatening that if sexual encounters do not occur, the friendship will be lost. (d) Using guilt for not being involved in a sexual activity, (e) Wearing one down through constant, emotional-laden phrases, (f) Saying things like, “If I don’t get sex from you, I’ll find it elsewhere.”, (g) Saying things like, “If you LOVE me, you’ll have sex with me.”, (h) Saying things like, “You’re not a virgin – why not have sex with me?” (I recommend you read this page thoroughly as it is an excellent definition of sexual coercion)

I hope this post has clears up any doubts about consent. In our present society sexism, rape culture, male entitlement and misogyny often interfere in sexual relationships that should be built on a landscape where both genders are 100% equal.

As to men who act like Alex Day has reportedly acted, I hope this post has educated you. I like to believe that all humans are capable of changing and acting in good faith. However if you have acted this way in the past do not expect forgiveness or sympathy from anyone. Even if you were previously uneducated about the above mandatory consent etiquette, you were still a jerk in the past and probably traumatized someone who trusted you with sexual intimacy.

And to all victims/survivors who have reported this kind of abuse, stay brave and thank you.

UPDATE(14/03/2014):

my response to an ‘admission’ of guilt from Alex Day
ways Alex Day ignored ‘NO’

If you have been sexually assaulted please contact RAINN for help and guidance.

A feminist look at the Anchorman movies

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Anchorman has become a cult movie because of its inexhaustible quotability and impossible silliness. But there is something else about this cult that has not been tapped on enough: its feminist social commentary.

Read more.

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Men, you’ve got the power

smash it

A year and a half ago a Brazilian comedian tweeted comments about a woman’s way of dress. He said that if women took photos showing off their asses they should expect to be treated as objects and shouldn’t complain. He concluded ‘They say women are influenced to turn into these sh*ts’.

A few months ago someone posted on Facebook how much they liked a female journalist’s work. The first comment, quite off topic, was written by a man and it said ‘She’d get it’.

There are two things that connect these situations: the blatant objectification of women and the weak justifications that came after. When he was called out on it, the comedian, YouTube star Felipe Neto, defended himself with the ol’ censorship excuse: ‘repressing criticism generates the true discrimination’, he said, after claiming he would have said the same about a shirtless man.

The guy who commented on Facebook never explained himself because I never called him out. But I mentioned it to someone else and he said he didn’t find it offensive because if the status had been about a man and a woman had commented the same thing he wouldn’t feel offended. Ergo, if it’s not offensive to a man, it cannot possibly be offensive to a woman.

Despite the two women having two completely different images, they were both dehumanized. And the explanations for this kind of behaviour reeks of ‘What about the menz?’. Neto, instead of trying to understand why women would be offended by his ‘criticism’, went on about how he was being repressed and why he is allowed to say what he wants. His response was facetious and it pretty much minimized the work and writing of feminists who had, rightly, pointed fingers at him.

As for the Facebook status, instead of trying to think with a woman’s perspective, the question to identify offense was ‘Would a man be offended by this?’, which is never the right question to ask because the man is the oppressor. It would be like pondering on something that offended a black person and asking ‘Would this offend a white person?’ – no, it probably wouldn’t because white people have not been oppressed for centuries. Just like men have not been sexually oppressed and dehumanized for centuries.

Whether you like it or not a history of oppression defines today’s society. ‘Equality’ doesn’t mean being able to equally dehumanize each other, but rather an effort to treat all people the same and not demean them to their sexuality.

The first example is classic slut-shaming and dictating what women should or should not wear. Neto is judging women for what they wear and assuming that they want to be treated as objects because of the length of their skirts. Obviously there is no other reason why they would take photos wearing thongs, showing off their butts, right? Actually, there are several reasons: they want to, they like their butt, they feel empowered or they are self-objectifying.

In her book ‘The Equality Illusion’ Kat Banyard speculates that the pressure of being attractive is so strong that women end up self-objectifying, only finding their worth in their own bodies and nowhere else. Banyard says that women often take photos like that because they are affected by the media, pop culture and other outside factors. She suggests that it is impossible to ignore and not discuss the factors and expectations of society that force women to make the obvious choice of measuring their worth according to their attractiveness.

Maybe Neto has an inkling of what’s going on, since he said women might be influenced into being ‘these sh*ts’ but he is still treating them as objects. He is blaming women for being objectified. He is part of the problem, and he will continue to be part of the problem if he keeps telling women they will be treated like objects because of what they wear because that’s not even true.

Women will be treated as objects regardless, just like that man who commented on the Facebook status proved. A woman can be a good professional, a successful journalists, an intelligent human being – but there will always be a man who says something as gross and as demeaning as ‘She’d get it’.

It’s disheartening for me, a female writer and journalist, to think that if someone praises my work one day someone else will respond with ‘She’d get it’. Yes, it was done on a private Facebook status but I still saw it. I saw with what eyes some men will look at my work and my career and it made me sad. And yeah, maybe ‘She’d get it’ and ‘She’s asking for it’ seems harmless enough, but a recent University of Surrey and Middlesex University study has revealed that very similar statements are made both by lads’ mags and rapists.

“A lot of these stereotypes — that women say no when they really mean yes, or are “asking for it” by going out with a man or wearing a short skirt — have indeed been normalized,” writes Anna North of Jezebel. “and it’s sad but not surprising that they appear in a lot of lad mags. Defenders of such statements like to frame them as innocent, or even helpful, observations. But perhaps the news that they sound just like rapists will make people — and magazines — rethink their words.”

It doesn’t matter if the woman went to Harvard or if she has naked photos being exchanged around the internet: women will always be objectified. Neto’s comment is just one excuse men use to do so. And an excuse to objectify women shouldn’t dictate what she wears because people deserve to be respected regardless of what they wear or where they went to school or what they look like.

If a man says a woman is ‘asking’ to be objectified they’re just trying to make themselves feel better because deep inside they know that they could stop that – but they don’t want to stop, so they deflect the blame. The power to not objectify and dehumanize women is with the oppressor.

Men, the power is, as always, with you.

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Why don’t we call out Justin Timberlake on his rape culture songs?

justin-timberlake-the-2020-experience-photo-shoot-tom-munro-main

Let me preface this blog by saying that I love Justin Timberlake’s songs. He headlined the third day of the Rock in Rio festival and he oozes with talent and charisma. It’s truly incredible to see him on stage with his band, The Tennessee Kids – who are marvellous by the way, and looked to be having a blast dancing and playing.

But during a very challenging conversation today I realized that Justin doesn’t get nearly as much criticism as Robin Thicke when he sings songs that perpetuate rape culture. Of course Blurred Lines was designed to demean woman (as it was admitted by the lovely singer of the song) – as a woman I was deeply disturbed by the music video. I have never been offended by any of Justin’s videos but after thinking about it – though still admitting I love his music – it’s clear to me that he is another artist that has to be called out for being misogynistic and sexist.

Don’t be so quick to walk away, dance with me
I wanna rock your body, please stay, dance with me
You don’t have to admit you wanna play, dance with me
Just let me rock you ’til the break of day, dance with me

Rock Your Body, by Justin Timberlake

Though this song is about ten years old it seems it has a tone that is similar to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines – a man insisting on harassing a woman who has made clear she doesn’t ‘want it’. It’s the sense of entitlement men feel, that women are there to dance with them, to entertain them and if they don’t want to it’s okay to insist. And that’s really not okay.

Talk to me boy
Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song

Rock Your Body, by Justin Timberlake

That’s always the end game, isn’t it? It sounds like Justin is saying ‘I’ll have you naked after exhausting you with my attempts to seduce you and pressure you into bed with me’. This is where men get that if you’re pushy and if you believe that woman wants you, she will actually want you. That’s not how it works, pushy men are sexual harassers. I hate pushy men. Learn how to take no for an answer for God’s sake.

Once in a nightclub a man came up to me with one of the most awful lines I have ever heard. He said ‘Would you rather die or save yourself by farting?’

What does that even mean? I didn’t answer and walked away, but he followed me. And he tried again with a similar question to which I responded with an awkward, uncomfortable expression. I finally had to say I didn’t want to talk to him.

His response to this was call me a frigid bitch and pull down his trouser to show me his bottom. At the time my friends and I laughed it off – it’s pretty funny to be fair – but in hindsight that wasn’t only out of order but a show of complete male entitlement, which is something that is often present in Justin Timberlake’s lyrics.

I know you like it, I know you like it.

– Tunnel Vision, Justin Timberlake

I know you want it, I know you want it.

– Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke

These two lines are incredibly alike, which is a real shame because I really like Tunnel Vision and I don’t feel that the rest of the lyrics are in any way problematic. But similarities go beyond the intro of the song; JT’s video for the song is also full of naked women being sexy for him. Unlike Thicke’s video for Blurred Lines, this was considered art, but why? How are naked women in a video different than naked women in another video?

Perhaps it is because in Thicke’s video the women look completely submissive, dancing with toys, humping stuffed horses, dancing like clowns. It’s deeply disturbing to me, it’s creepy, and the intention of it wasn’t art it was to literally demean women. So maybe that’s why JT gets a pass in this instance – after all, what is the real difference between objectification and artistic nudity?

Or maybe Justin gets a pass because he is more talented and very good-looking. If a good-looking  male singer talks about objectifying women  and that’s allowed, isn’t that society proving that men are entitled to this behaviour by not calling him out on it? Isn’t that saying he can objectify women as long as he looks good?

Justin has also been slammed for calling one of his songs Take Back The Night, which is also the name of an anti-rape non-profit. As the song has sexual connotations and as a mainstream tune it has stolen the name of what has been, for 40 years, a campaign against sexual harassment.

Katie Koestner, executive director of the organisation, told Radar: “The lyrics are definitely very sexual and not at all clearly anti-sexual violence. ‘Use me,’  for example, is not a great phrase for anyone affiliated with [this] organisation.”

Of course it could be that Justin didn’t know that Take Back The Night was anything but a phrase – which I do think is the case as I had never heard of the organisation before. But even so he has kept his silence on the matter.

In 2003 though he made pretty clear what he thought about sexual harassment.

“The Mirror reports *NSYNC star Justin Timberlake looked in sheer ecstasy on stage at last night’s Brit Awards as he got to grab the behind of Kylie Minogue. “I didn’t just touch it, I copped a feel,” Justin said after the show. “On a scale of one to 10, it was like a 58.” Justin explained the pairing saying, “I met her when I did a radio show with her and thought she was gorgeous but we didn’t get a chance to talk. I was then told I could choose someone to duet with and I knew it had to be Kylie. I’ve heard people in Britain are obsessed with Kylie’s bum and I can totally see why. I’m pretty obsessed with it now, too.” “– popdirt.com

So he basically asked her to do a duet with him because he wanted to feel her up? That’s not creepy at all.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t listen to Justin Timberlake’s music because that would be hypocritical of me. But I shouldn’t ignore the fact that, like Robin Thicke, he is someone who supports the culture of harassment and rape.

I don’t think Justin does these things to hurt or because he likes demeaning women and the reason for this is the video below. He was part of a campaign against sexual slavery along with Sean Penn, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and others. He has credit for that, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have to call him out on his sexist, misogynistic mistakes.

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Miley’s warped logic

Unless you live under a rock you will know by now that Miley Cyrus danced half naked on the stage of the VMAs, twerked all over the place, motorboated a black woman’s rear end and rubbed her own rear end on creepy rapist-eyes Robin Thicke’s crotch.

It is practically a ritual to have pop stars who are ‘all grown up’ perform provocatively in the VMAs. Britney did it, Christina did it, Rihanna did it. It’s really no surprise that Miley wanted to do it now that she is free from Disney’s claws. But she got it all wrong and ended up endorsing a culture of expectations and oppression women have to live with every day.

Many feminist bloggers hurried to defend Miley’s performance as an onslaught of slut-shaming was coming her way. It is wrong to shame a woman for being sexual and having control of her own body, but this isn’t what Miley was doing at all. As opposed to taking control, empowering her body, it looked as though she was giving her body away to the patriarchy.

“But the moment you use a man, who is fully dressed, as something to pole dance on… you are making him the focus of attention. You are there to please HIM. If she wanted to do something really radical, she would have demanded Robin Thicke also wear latex pants, and he could drop it to the floor once or twice for her perhaps… That’s fair. It’s a little close to porn, but it’s fair. But that would never happen would it? Why? Because Robin Thicke doesn’t feel the need to. The greatest performance of the night went to Justin Timberlake, who wore a hat and scarf over a full suit. A man who is a bonifide sex symbol, without ever having to demonstrate his “oral” skills. I’m yet to see Jay Z, Snoop Dogg or Kanye slut drop in a gold thong, shaking their testes against Katy Perry, Rihanna or Ellie Goulding… though, believe me, it would make my bloody day. The mere idea of it is preposterous, because we are a world unaccustomed to men selling sex to be noticed, quite the way women traditionally are known to. And who’s to say women wouldn’t do the same were the tables turned?” – Sexpression, by Jameela Jamil.

Another issue has been that the backlash has only focused on Miley when Robin Thicke was also onstage as the dominating male, singing a song that he admitted was written for the purpose of demeaning women. Let’s not forget that Thicke should feel ashamed of this and that Miley’s behaviour onstage was a direct, clear response to his song. The song that perpetuates rape culture, the song that implies ‘I know you want it’ is a good excuse for rape.

In a society where ‘Blurred Lines’ is the song of the summer it is unsurprising that Miley thinks she is expected to be sexual to get rid of her Disney kid reputation, that she is expected to give away her body and sexuality to the public. Her performance wasn’t shocking because she was half-naked, it was shocking because she doesn’t seem to understand what sexual empowerment is and is making a poor example of it to millions of young girls who admire her.

“Everything about Cyrus’ performance was as try-hard as a 14-year-old in the mall with tissues in her bra, rouge on her cheeks, and lipstick on her teeth,” – In Defence of Miley Cyrus, by Rich Juzwiak from Gawker.

Yes, this might be mean but it is true; and she is pretty much passing on the idea that you need to do this kind of thing to be taken seriously by society.

Another huge issue with Miley’s performance and music of late is her misappropriation of black culture. As The Belle Jar pointed out white feminists rushed to defend Miley’s right to be sexual but completely ignored the fact that she has a warped, stereotypical idea of what being a woman of colour actually means.

“Miley is doing her best to promote herself as a part of rachet culture, which Jody Rosen describes as “the potent sexual symbolism of black female bodies,” while simultaneously treating the black women in her videos and performances as props. She is taking elements of black culture and using them to give her the patina of street cred that she wants so badly. She is playing at being black without even trying to understand what the lived experience of being black really is. She is appropriating cultural elements without taking any time to reflect on her position of privilege and how her use of the term “ratchet” or her twerking are contributing to the oppression of black people.” – On Miley Cyrus and Racism, The Belle Jar.

I wrote about the idea that women of colour should be sexual yesterday. I can’t speak for them but if I was one of them I would be offended by the fact that Miley has appropriated black culture to give her more sexual credibility – enforcing the idea that women of colour should be sexual and that white women should be pure. And if you want to see how angry women of colour are I suggest you read the following quoted post.

“Here’s the thing: historically, black women have had very little agency over their bodies. From being raped by white slave masters to the ever-enduring stereotype that black women can’t be raped, black women have been told over and over and over again, that their bodies are not their own. By bringing these “homegirls with the big butts” out onto the stage with her and engaging in a one-sided interaction with her ass, (not even her actual person!) Miley has contributed to that rhetoric. She made that woman’s body a literal spectacle to be enjoyed by her legions of loyal fans.” – Solidarity is for Miley, Face Down Asgard Up.

Miley Cyrus’s attempt to show that she is a grown, sexually mature woman has failed in so many ways. Her understanding of black culture, sexuality, being a woman, rape culture, objectification, empowerment and emancipation is all wrong. Going back to Gawker’s mean words about her attitude on stage it is clear that she is still immature, with a poor understanding of the world around her. And that’s not her fault.

#MileyPuns just to lighten the tone

 

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Freedom to offend versus freedom to harass

silencing

Harassment on Twitter is a part of being a female online writer. The culture of silencing women has existed for centuries but now it is fuelled by the anonymity and artificial courage provided by the mask of the internet. Though the usual rolling of the eye and ‘you are a woman and don’t know what you’re talking about’ attitude still exists in real life (come on, darling, you know it happens every day) harassment on Twitter is worrying because anonymity brings out the true character and beliefs of thousands of masked users.

Rolling your eyes at a feminist isn’t nice but threatening her with rape, bombs or murder is out of line. This sentence shouldn’t even be written, this should be common knowledge but somehow this kind of harassment is now allowed because it is an expression of ‘freedom’. Considering that the NRA’s biggest argument for the right to bear arms is ‘freedom’ internet stalkers and creeps aren’t in the best of companies.

It is not as if freedom hasn’t brought humankind amazing things. Many of our rights depend on it, but the word is being used to defend actions that threaten others’ freedom of just being. In that, the meaning of the word freedom is lost and we are left with a broken world of hostile people who think freedom is the right to be a complete arsehole.

#Twittersilence is not about freedom of speech. It’s is not about shutting down people with ideas opposing that of the female community online. It is not about taking away the freedom to offend like journalist James Delingpole has written in a piece that completely ignores the point of the whole campaign (besides it being a personal attack to Caitlin Moran, which quite frankly doesn’t prove anything).

“(..) if you genuinely believe in freedom of speech, then an inevitable part of that freedom is the freedom to offend,” he writes.

Yes, we can offend people by tweeting our views.

I am extremely pro-LGBT rights and I’ve gotten tweets off straight men saying that offends them because they are proud to be straight and feel silenced because everyone is so pro-LGBT. Well, tough because I have a right to tweet my opinions and that might offend hundreds but I still defend the right to do so. I am extremely pro-immigration rights and I’ve lost followers because of it. This is completely within the rights of both parties.

But threatening people online with rape, murder, bombs and God knows what else, calling feminists lesbians (as if it’s some kind of insult. Grow up, people) who haven’t been ‘fucked properly’ is not and will never, ever be classed under ‘freedom to offend’. It’s called harassment and it’s against the law. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech. If anything it is the opposite of it because aggressive, threatening tweets like this are meant to silence, not contribute to rich debates between opposing points of view.

Delingpole points out the Caitlin Moran, the brain behind #twittersilence, has also offended people. Who hasn’t? Everyone makes mistakes, it’s completely unavoidable. She can offend people if she likes, I can offend people if I like because aside from the obvious no-no’s online who knows what people will take offense at?

But the problem is when people start harassing – women in particular as they seem to be the ones who receive this intimidating kind of response more often. Offend me all you like but harassment is a completely different deal.

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Let’s see you pose like this, boys.

AFTER A HARD day of reading the newspaper with my legs in the air, wearing hold-up tights, a lacy corset and a grandiose hair-do, I can finally sit down in front of the computer and try to breathe through the tight garment squashing my breasts into two perfectly round balloons. What a relief! I was almost suffocated by my own internal organs right there, but there’s nothing like up keeping the ideal of feminity and sexiness in society.

But let’s come back to reality: it would be such hard work to follow the very vague idea of sexy in society. In reality, I usually read my morning newspaper wearing loose, old, cosy pyjamas, with tangled hair and probably some remain of yesterday’s make up smeared all over my face. As I read the news, I stuff myself with pancakes, full of fat that will go straight to my thighs. And I love it.

Women have conquered much in the history of feminism, and we don’t take our rights for granted because we had to fight for them. But there is something that just hasn’t budged since pin-up girls pulled on their hold up tights and pretended to rip them when holding a hammer and holding up their skirts. As much as I love to build a desk in my underwear and a full face of make-up, pin-up was, undoubtedly, the start of the outlandish, idiosyncratic poses women are photographed in.

The debate around pin-up and feminism are divided into two particularly persuasive schools of thought. The first one is that pin-up brought about sexual empowerment, the end of bodily shame, and respect for the female form. The second is that by being sexualized, women were lowering themselves, setting a bad example to younger women.

So what is the difference between empowerment and objectification?

It’s the same difference between being able to choose between having babies or having a career – or doing both at the same time: choice. Choice is something women have grabbed at with triumph, but all these choices are always tightly bound with the double standards that are rooted in patriarchy.

These double standards cause people to say things like ‘Can she have it all?!?” or ‘She’s just bitter’ or ‘She is such a bitch’ or ‘Calm down, dear’. These sentences stand for one thing: you have rights now, but please shut up.

Magazine covers and photo shoots rules also change with gender. I have defended Beyoncé and her thong before, and I still maintain she had the right to pose as she did – as it was her choice. She’s a grown woman who has been in the business since she was 17. She just had a baby, she’s launched a new tour and is coming out with a new album – this cover was not about seduction of men, but about power.

But why is it that power to woman means wearing less clothes and posing with a sensual expression, and to men it means wearing a tuxedo and standing with hands in their pockets like they mean business? Beyoncé is enforcing this double standard by posing like this. My question is, why do men get to be photographed in a normal, gala-worthy position with lovely clothes and women have to pose.

The idea of successful isn’t the only one that is represented by ‘sexiness’ and sexualized images. When teen stars become adults and are ‘all grown up’ their bums seem to morph into attention-seeking pets. Look at Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Lana Del Rey – they all must have felt compelled to show they have a sexual side to their persona to show they are ‘real’ women.

This is another vague idea that follows both genders in a Tom & Jerry-like situation. Pink for girls, blue for boys. If you think I am reading too much into it, this will prove me right – why are there no ‘sexy’ male magazine covers in this selection of sexiest magazine photos ever? Why can’t we have more men holding their modesty, or holding their chest like it’s about to fall out just for some equality?

Even ‘naughty’ magazines that feature naked men are also designed for other men, gay men. That’ all fine and dandy, but they still don’t have to pose as a damsel in distress. An exercise is needed, inspired by Caitlin Moran – if you please imagine Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling, or any other man you find attractive in the following poses.

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Don’t we all stand around holding our boobs like that? If you don’t you’re just not sexy. Let’s compare, shall we?

gq_dec_page_4_hi gq-james-corden-cover-man-of-the-year GQ-Men-Of-The-Year

Men, looking dapper, of course, even sexy perhaps, in suits – exuding their success, right? One last comparison to Rihanna’s GQ Woman of the Year Cover.

rihanna-moty-5Men= glorified for success, sometimes looks – this is undeniable. Women= glorified for looks and body.

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