Making the Political Personal

crunktastic asks a great question:

Can I feel safe in the softness of your touch if you don’t feel led to question a culture where other men routinely touch other women violently?

Its a great question, and one worth considering beyond gender politics as well.

ps – Note to crunktastic, throwing in a historically inaccurate cheap shot doesn’t bolster your arguments:

In addition to accompanying their men to the polls to monitor their votes, Black women banded together and encouraged each other to withhold sex from any man who voted against the community’s interests. These sisters knew how personal the political was long before white women said it.

Using sex to influence politics has been around as a tool for ages across world cultures.

UPDATE: I totally goofed the ps note due to utterly missing the historical reference!  Oops.  So please disregard the post script above.

Dear Less Famous Feminists: Language Miss!

Harriet J has a largely brilliant post over at RH Reality Check.  In it she makes a passionate plea for famous feminists to stand up to Naomi Wolf’s execrable defense of Julian Assange.  (Before we get started, I want to make clear that there is a difference between believing the charges against Julian are politically motivated – which I do – and failing to take the issue of rape seriously).  The issue at hand is how we talk about consent, and that is a very important conversation to have.  However on reading her post I was jarred by running into the unfamiliar terms “Zhe” and “Hir”. Had Harriet become a lolcat? No, it turns out she was simply using gender neutral terms.

This is a problem.

The English language badly needs gender neutral pronouns, this is true.  However Harriet’s use of them in her post were counterproductive for a few reasons:

  1. She does not use them consistently.  This is confusing for the reader.
  2. To the uninformed they are obstacles to understanding.

The consistency issue is self explanatory.  If you are going to make use of new pronouns you need to do so consistently, not haphazardly.

It is the obstacle they create that is crucial.  The issues of consent and the Assange case specifically are both hot button issues.  Communicating clearly is essential.  Given the relative obscureness of gender neutral pronouns (and lacking any introduction), they appear as typos and function as the sort of specialized language one might find in a term paper – jargon.  Jargon serves a useful purpose – it can form a mental shortcut of sorts – a method for passing larger amounts of information in a shorter amount of space.  However technically specific language is the domain of the specialist – not the layperson.  The use of such language alienates potential supporters.

As for her point, it is well made.  Naomi Wolf’s comments on rape need to be answered by someone who can concisely convey that there is more to rape than overt physical violence.

Movie Idea! A Proposal

Movie idea!  A man is about to be deported to Canada, and to keep his high powered job, orders his assistant to marry him, or he’ll fire her.  Afraid of losing her job, she complies, and through a series of endearing mishaps falls in love with her boss.

Switch the roles and its an instant romantic comedy staring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

There’s no way a movie where a man forces a woman into marriage would sail through the sea of public opinion unscathed.  Strangely I doubt that  “The Proposal” is going to offer a revealing deconstruction of gender stereotypes and the role power in social and professional relationships.  Its become vaguely acceptable in mainstream culture to write in jokes about rape, assault, and harrasment as long as the its a woman doing it to a man.

What do you think of this?  I wonder to what degree it forms an overton window.  If female on male abuse of power/sexual crime moves past acceptable discourse into mainstream culture, does male on female abuse/crime tag along into acceptable discourse?

Bullshitting Against Feminism

In an otherwise sharp post (a professor suing students?  wtf?), hairybeast let’s loose some really smelly bull:

Back in the 1980’s, feminists ran into a scientific wall. Their assertion that the genders were equal in all things (aside from certain surface physical abilities) began springing leaks when science departments on campus (who had originally been recruited to prove the truth of this) started collecting data that belied this article of feminist faith. Like a series of underground A-Bomb tests, the controversy rumbled below the surface for years. The controversy pitted geeky science profs against hairy-legged feminists (neither likely to get laid by the opposite sex) and became so toxic that womens studies departments even picketed their own science departments. But most of the battle was conducted in faculty meetings, with feminists flexing their political muscle to squelch research projects they now knew were likely to produce results inimical to their faith, or throw heretics out of the bunker (*Cough! Larry Summers!). But the truth eventually leaked out.

Gah.

The sexes (sex being physiological, gender being pyschological) do have differences.  Women have a slightly larger corpus callousum.  They don’t have a smaller forebrain.  They don’t have a shriveled husk of a hippocampus.  In short, the idea of a biological basis for any observable differences in the performance of men and women in particular fields isn’t supported.  Not by science anyway.  But pop science might have a few pointers for desperate anti-feminists.  Speaking of desperate, what’s with the hairy legged feminist stereotype?  Seriously, you’re breaking that out hairybeast?  And they have trouble getting laid?  Nice.  Way to imply this professor just needs to get laid.  Haven’t heard misogynistic tripe like that before.  Very original sir.

The only truth about differences between the sexes is the very real barriers our society constructs and heavily reinforces.  And that is a truth far too many people refuse to acknowledge, let alone tackle.

Having taken classes where a professor considered disagreement with his politics evidence of lack of effort on the part of the student, I think what this professor did was incredibly stupid and shitty.  Why couldn’t hairybeast have pointed that out without trotting out an irrational hatred of women and liberals?  (all while accusing the same of irrationality with a deeply seated irony.  Bonus.)

Sexual Violence: Candidates and the Media

Dear Presidential Candidates:

Why aren’t you talking about rape? (Bob Herbert in the NYTimes via Feministing):

The sexual mistreatment of women in the military is widespread. The Defense Department financed a study in 2003 of female veterans seeking health assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their service.

That was in 2003.  You all support the troops, right?  Are you including Rape survivors when you say that?  How will you help?

Of note, only two candidates have a specific issues section dedicated to women.  Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.  Of the two, only Edwards’ mentions violence against women:

Ending Violence Against Women

Achieving full equal rights for women includes the right to be free of violence everywhere. Edwards supports efforts to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act, which provides resources for crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and continuing education to law enforcement and the courts. Edwards will also aggressively support political and economic rights for women where they do not exist and supports efforts to reduce violence against women and children around the world.

To our conglomerated media companies:

Why do you treat cases of Rape, Abuse and Murder as crime thrillers?  (Feministing):

What (shockingly) seems to be missing from the coverage of both of these cases is a discussion of violence against women. In Henry’s case, it’s been difficult to find a lot news coverage at all about her disappearance–wonder why that is. In the coverage of Lauterbach’s murder, we’ve heard nary a word on violence against pregnant women, sexual assault in the military or the silencing of rape survivors.

We have an important opportunity to make problem of gender based violence a top issue now, and one we commit to fight.  To do this we need awareness and we need fighters.  We need the media to step up to their social responsibility and take a clear eyed and hard look at their own reporting, and politicians who are willing to both talk about the issues, and take immediate action.  And both need to keep the other honest.  We need politicians who will take the media to task for their coverage, and news organizations that will bring this up at news conferences and debates.

And candidates, if you’re listening, you don’t need to be elected to start.  Start now.  In the debates, in your campaign stops: make this your fight.