Friday, December 14, 2018

10 Ways Feminism is About Much More than Equality

I was recently asked how I defined feminism, and, like a robot, I regurgitated the tried and test "equal rights for men and women." That's a scant response at best. Feminism is about so much more than equal rights. Here's how (written off the cuff, so no linked studies or articles, and a bit of jargon here and there, but, its Friday!):

1. Feminism is also about equal value
Its difficult to have equality if we still believe that men are just, somehow, 'better.' If, somehow, we think they're more truthful, more reliable, better as leaders, as decision-makers, at making money, at being powerful, at saying stuff on stages, at being smart, at just... everything? Equal rights are one thing, but if we still kill the girl babies because their value brings nothing to a family, if we still believe men over women about sexual violence and rape, or we still choose John over Amina because he just 'looks more like a leader', we're not going to be able to realize any of those equal rights any time soon. This comes down to value propositions: value is the foundation on which the house of equality is built. Without equal value between girls and boys, men and women, there's not much else to hope for. Equal value then translates into girls attending school in the same number as boys, and having the same opportunities afterward. It translates into maternity leave. It translates to equal pay. It translates to reduction in sexual violence, street harassment, rape. It translates to women as leaders, decision-makers and influencers in a normalized fashion. When women and men, boys and girls have the same value, dehumanizing, disrespectful, degrading and discriminatory practices make no sense. 

2. It has interesectionality at its core
If someone is white, gay, a teacher, from Spain and likes to play soccer, those are all different identify groups that intersect in one human being. Some of those identities give this person benefits/privileges, others may lead the person to receive unequal treatment or access to services or power, suffer disrespect or indignities.  Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that various social identities intersect or overlap and contribute to the oppression or discrimination that a particular person experiences. Feminism has a pretty crappy track record of understanding this: 1960s American feminists were all about their whiteness, often leaving every other woman behind. Not only did white feminists believe that black women had less value but also that their compounding racial oppression was not a feminist issue. Its 2018 now, and feminism is woke af and has learned from and made actionable reparations for her mistakes. You can't be a racist and be feminist. You can't be anti-semitic, homophobic, transphobic, basically you can't be an asshole or wield power in a discriminatory manner and be feminist. (You also should be very aware of the power you hold, and not steal the spotlight because of your whiteness, or your power. Give space. Use your privilege to make space for others. Raise other people's voices who aren't as loud as yours. Give them the megaphone. Don't think you have all the solutions, just because you have a degree. Ask women for their ideas and their solutions. They may not have the means you do, but they probably know what needs to be done.) This brings us nicely to Point 3, shining together.


3. Shine on, my sister!
If you don't shine, I don't shine. Men have loved to believe that women should fight among themselves for the spoils of getting the guy. That message has been reinforced through movies, songs, and historical context which really did mean, and still does in many places, including the American Midwest, that men continue to hold the center of power and access to resources and opportunities, so if women are 'back stabbing and gold diggers' its truly because they have no power themselves. This has been reinforce when women were allowed into the workplace, because it was made quite clear that there was a one-woman only slot in the boardroom, so naturally women fought over that one spot - to the benefit of everyone else in the room. To this social and economic system of competition, feminism says: f off. I'm going to hold the door open for you my sister, because if you're not succeeding, neither am I. The strongest bonds and friendships I've ever known or seen are between women. And times, they are a changing. Divorce rates are skyrocketing (why is this always decried as a bad thing? It would seem to me that the rising number of women initiating the divorce is a sign of shifts of power, where women have the means and are empowered to leave what used to be the power source: the man), women are choosing to get married later because now they've got degrees and jobs, and they're far more picky in choosing their mate, basic standards of decency, anti-discrimination policies and positive impacts on the bottom line also mean there are more spaces availed to women in the top ranks of companies. This gives space for women to see other women, and to see the lack of other women in all spheres of life, and especially in decision-making roles. And so women come together, help each other, lift each other up. There's nothing more beautiful than watching women come together, surmounting history and odds. Female friendship and support is possibly the best thing in the world.

4. It flattens hierarchies and destroys power imbalances
This one is tricky tricky because, capitalism. Capitalism thrives off hierarchies. If there are no poor people or no underdeveloped nations or no institutional racism, then there is no cheap or slave labour. Since inception, capitalist, read industrial, 'revolutions', have been on the backs of slave/cheap/child labour. "But look where are now," some Matt or John will cry out gleefully. First, slow your roll. 'We' is basically a tiny minutiae have everything and the rest of us having a little more than we did. And if you're going to talk about the middle class, I'll remind you that 2008 wiped that funny term out, and the recovery has been about that tiny minutiae again and a new economy with little job security, tons of temp work and a policy mandated breakdown of unions. Not exactly a recovery, John.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Women, Peace and No Security: How Climate Change could be a Solution

The UN's Security Council held open debates recently on the issue of Women, Peace and Security, inviting members and member states, as well as special representatives to address current issues, challenges and continued gaps. Above all, it highlighted the continued hypocrisy of nations, committing to equality and peace while trafficking in capitalism and an arms trade that is destroying lives and driving migration at unprecedented levels. Despite overwhelming data on the value added of women and gender equality to the social development, economic prosperity and sustainability of peace within and between nations, women continue to be excluded from even the most basic levels of decision-making power. Can there be a change? Can we use another global catastrophe to motivate it?

The situation remains dire. The groundbreaking resolution in 2000 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Resolution 1325, was followed by a litany of additional resolutions known colloquially under the helm of 'the WPS umbrella.' These Resolutions seek to rectify the understanding that conflict differently and disproportionately affects women and that global  statutes and norms on conflict resolutions continued to exclude women's particular needs or representation in centers of decision-making power. 

The Resolutions equally recognized the perverse and rampant use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and provided that international alliances, both military and political, must put in place measures of prevention, protection and response against sexual violence and that peace processes must include measures of access to justice and end impunity for perpetrators. The Resolutions have known global recognition and support, and spawned the creation of accountability mechanisms in the shape of National Action Plans for implementation into government processes and actions, special representatives that collect, analyze and report on data and progress, and countless forums and high-level working groups that work closely with governments, military and civil society to bring the Resolutions to life in all cycles of conflict prevention, resolution and peace building. 

"We know, so we now need to act."
-Representative from The Netherlands

It remains an enormous and daunting task. Women are not the ones who are starting conflicts - in Libya, in Syria, in Yemen, Sudan, Columbia - and yet they bear the brunt of violence on their bodies, their families and livelihoods, they bear the burden of displacement, the loss of resources and opportunities, and are continuously excluded from peace processes. All this despite the widespread evidence that including women in peace processes results in a 35% increased chance of peace lasting at least 15 years. As was made clear from the contributions from Sweden, the Netherlands and the Head of UNWomen, enough with the justifications. Women must move beyond justifying their presence in traditionally male dominated domains, especially when men continue to fail at peace negotiations and sustainable nation-building. Women belong at the peace negotiations because it is their right.

"No one needs to be given a voice, we all have a voice, what we need is more listening."
-Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden

The data on women's inclusion in peace processes is especially dismal in an era of unprecedented conflict and number of internally displaced persons and refugees. Of the more than 1500 peace agreements that have come to pass since the year 2000, only 25% specifically recognize women's participation and contributions. Women make up only approximately 2% of mediators and 8% of negotiators and continue to be relegated to observer status or advisory bodies within peace processes, with no representation or influence over actual decision-making. 

Gender inequality and dis-empowerment of women continues to be both a cause and effect of conflict, even as research shows that countries with the highest indexes of gender equality also have the most cohesive and peaceful societies. Donor funding remains low, with only 5% of global funds going specifically to women's participation within peace processes. Women constitute only about 4% of peacekeepers and 10% of police units in conflict or post-crisis areas where gender justice is crucial to tackle prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence. National investment in mainstreaming gender in  own military and security forces would mean countries could contribute more gender equal forces to peacekeeping operations Meanwhile, despite the minuscule numbers hiding behind the great big public commitments governments make on women, peace and security, the era of a new arms race is well underway. At 1.57 trillion dollars for military spending, the spread and easy access to arms and military equipment continues to fuel never-ending conflict that destroys communities, shatters societies and spreads like wildfire across borders. The era of hypocrisy continues, unabated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why Won't She Just Shut Up? Hearing and Seeing Women through the Eyes of the Patriarchy

A few months ago, Kesha sang at the 2018 Grammys. Dressed in white and surrounded by women in a tribute to Time's Up on Sexual Assault, her song, "Praying” was an ode to women coming together, overcoming the horrors of sexual violence and inequality in their lives and moving on. And, feminist that I am, all I could do was recoil and think: Why won’t she just stop?

It is the same feeling that I had, if only fleetingly, these last weeks, during the Kavanaugh hearings. When I heard recordings of the innumerable protestors, heard the women screaming at Senator Flake in that elevator, saw videos of women confronting senators and demanding to be heard, a part of me still recoiled and thought: Why won’t these women lower their voices? Not my best moment.

But, if you're being honest with yourselves, how many of you were so much more comforted by Dr. Blasey Ford? Her embodiment of gender norms during her testimony was astounding, and we all sat, mesmerized and so relieved that here was a woman that knew her place, even if we didn’t want to admit how relieved we were. By place, I mean that Dr. Blasey Ford knew the proper way to express her pain without offending anyone. She was white and blonde and pretty. She dressed conservatively, but with some style. She was smart but did not exhibit it so much that she would pose a threat to anyone else’s intelligence, and she also laughed and apologized and showed immense deference to the male senators in front of her. She was demure. She was emotional, but only a little, and never with anger, only with sadness. She made us all feel okay with her pain, like every woman has learned that they must do. 

Seeing women through the eyes of the patriarchy is easy because it is the lens with which we view the world. It is the removal of this lens that is difficult, that forces us to confront our own beliefs, judgements and those snap reactions that are so stubbornly ingrained. This also goes for the ways in which we hear people. Inevitably, we judge what we hear, and that judgement is often deeply injected with lessons learned from a patriarchy built on keeping women in roles and norms where they do not affect or challenge male authority.

Take the sound of a woman’s voice. We are uncomfortable with women’s voices. It is men’s voices that we hear most often, especially as bearers of news and truth. Think of the news, think of the voice-overs in movies, think of the visible people at all echelons of power. Up until very recently, those voices have largely been the voices of older white men. Their tone and cadence project a seriousness that we associate with righteousness and truth. We are comfortable with men's voices. We trust them implicitly.

Women’s voices have long been excluded from these same realms, and instead, insomuch as they have been allowed, have been portrayed as emblematic of the tropes we pile on women’s shoulders: gossiping neighbours, nagging wives, crying girlfriends. Women’s voices are bearers of negative news, wrapped in negative emotions, and we view them with deep suspicion. Does this woman even belong here? And we look around: who gave her the authority to speak in this domain, on this subject? Since the time of the Romans, women have barely been allowed to speak at all, not for themselves and certainly not for others, lest it disrupt the power structures that gave men the voice, and thus the audience and influence, at all levels of social structures, especially in legislative and executive power.

Women who are now entering roles in which speaking is a priority (I don’t know, like life, perhaps?), are finding that of all the gender and racial barriers they are confronted with, their voice is yet another to overcome. Women in politics, women on TV, women on podcasts, women calling sports games, women speaking in boardrooms – we are all subject to the confines of having to overcome our sex in order to be heard. If we don’t manage to speak in perfect tones that seem impossible to define, the patriarchy has an entire dictionary of words that code us as unreasonable, emotional, angry. The lexicon is vast: Shrill. Loudmouth. Sexual. Grating. Shrieking. Emotional. Crazy. Ranting. Nagging. Dramatic. Women’s voices are too much of something, and since getting the perfect voice is nearly impossible, with margins of error that are dismally thin, it is incredibly difficult for us to be heard. For our ideas to land. For our emotions to be seen. For us not to be dismissed.

In all these ways, we keep understanding that men (white men, let’s be precise) are superior communicators, and have established a norm that women cannot meet. Is it any wonder that women are hiring voice coaches to make their voices lower? (Or that black men going into television are hiring voice coaches to make them sound more white?)

Interestingly, or depressingly, men exhibit the same speech patterns and tics (‘like’, ‘um’) as women do, sometimes even more, but because we hear men speak and associate their voices with authority, we recognize those patterns less in men than we do in women. We also punish women for using these same tics and speech patterns that men do, and they code as making women sound submissive, weak, and hesitant – even dumb. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The High Cost of Women's Anger in the Personal and the Professional

Women learn from a young age that they will need to be shape-shifters. According to different expectations, norms and values they will have to identify and learn over the course of a lifetime, young girls understand they will need to be contortionists: molding themselves into the proper cookie-cutter shapes lest they face severe repercussions. Beyond the demands placed on girls to shape their physical selves, it is their emotions that are the most policed: the basic expression of their selves.

While girls are taught many things about emotions, the feeling and expression of anger is not one of them. Yet we propel girls into a world where, as a women, there is so much to be angry about: from unequal pay to men raping women and girls at catastrophic rates, from our reproductive rights still being debated in courts of law to the unequal access of women to positions of power, decision-making and control of powerful resources: media, finance, executive power. The daily gendered injustices, in many ways crosscut by race, add to the levels of sustained anxiety and anger that women have. From interpersonal relationships, to the professional and political playing fields, women’s anger is seen as ugly and unacceptable. Societal norms and expectations intersect these fields and inform how we respond to expressions of anger – and these responses are especially gendered.

Men, on the other hand, remain unaware.* Indeed, men exist in a society (here, I speak mainly of Western worlds) where their anger is seen as powerful, and where they feel and benefit from that power. It is in this same world in which the same expressions of anger in women are punished. This is recipe for men to feign ignorance and express shock when women step outside of bounds and display anger in non-conforming ways. Men’s shock and repulsion contributes to women being taught to retain, contain and solve their ‘anger issues’ on their own. While this is evident in all interactions that I have noted, it is within the professional sphere where they have been most researched.

Within professional spheres where anger is, by definition, part of the equation, men benefit and women suffer. In the courtroom, when men and women lawyers expressed assertiveness to defend their clients, it benefits the clients of the male lawyers and punishes the clients of the female lawyers. When political men express anger to support their points of view, it makes voters more likely believe their reasoning, the same does not hold true for women politicians (Think of both Trump and Sanders). In the workplace, men’s anger is seen as justified and powerful with co-workers responding positively, while the same expressions in women are seen as unjustified, with co-workers punishing ‘angry’ women and branding them unlikable (more on likeability further down). This turns into a vicious cycle: men are rewarded with more power by demonstrating anger that is associated with them seeming powerful, while women who seek to obtain power and do so by exhibiting the same assertive behaviours are punished for it, further cementing power imbalances throughout professional landscapes. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

There are No Women in Pakistan: Reporting on the Election

Pakistan recently held an election. Out of a population of more than 207 million people, there are 106 million registered voters, and about 44.1% of those are women.

Unfortunately, you'd never know that women participated in Pakistan's civil society, never mind in the democratic process. Taking a look at the sprawling coverage on global media giants such as Al Jazeerah, BBC, The New York Times, or The Guardian, and apart from the stray image of fully veiled women lining a sandy street, presumably on the way to the ballot box, women's voices and their participation in what is heralded as only the second democratic transition of power in 70 years - is largely absent. And that's an abhorrent mess. 

 In 2018, global media firms have an obligation to two unbelievably simple, yet consistently missed objectives: targeted reporting on issues of women's empowerment and gender equality, and mainstreaming gender throughout all aspects of their business and journalism at large: from workplace policies to visual representation of women in media coverage. It's not difficult. It's adhering to principles of basic human rights and equality. And yet, out of 207 million people in Pakistan, the global coverage reinforced the traditional stereotype of women absent from political life or influence in the country.

This matters more than you think. Sure, there are more women newscasters and writers, but coverage of national and global events remains, predominantly all male. Media giants can do a few key things to right these wrongs - and, yes,  there are even some who have.

1. Stop making it a women's issue.  

Yes, there are key issues that are predominantly women and girl's issues (sexual and gender-based violence, both in the developed and developing worlds - lest we forget, we've not solved that one, women's absence from spheres of decision-making and power, that seemingly unshatterable glass ceiling, sparse access to sexual and reproductive health and rights - including abortion and issues of access to abortion, the cost of sexual and gender-based violence on women's economic empowerment, unequal access to opportunities and resources, the undervaluing of women's work in the home and the burden of care, persisting lax laws on rape and sexual violence, structural discrimination and sexism, the gendered aspect of women in conflict zones ... you get it?). And by the way, the word issues is not the problem here - its the dominant violence, value systems and patriarchal structures that are of concern. But media giants can choose two approaches to reporting: they can conduct reporting as if women are a subset of humanity, second-class citizens, or they can report with the understanding that women have equal value, are holders of human rights and have particular needs and, thus, particular rights because of their sex. 

Continuously minimizing and degrading this type of reporting reinforces the idea that women's issues are unimportant, and that men have no role to play nor do they benefit from women realizing their rights or having their needs addressed. This is lazy reporting. Global data sets reveal that the more equal societies are, the less likely conflict is to erupt. The more women participate in peacebuilding, the more sustainable peace will be. Countries with the most gender equal and empowering policies on rights, family leave and child care are also the ones with the highest levels of happiness and social cohesion. Media must begin reporting with the understanding that women's issues are issues that affect communities, economies, development, global systems.

2. If its broken, stop whining and fix it. 

Yes, any change is difficult. But structural change from within should not only break down the old ways of doing, but build up the new. So it takes a little longer to find the women's organizations in Pakistan who can provide you with data on registered voters - find them. Establish relationships. So you're not acquainted with the Women's Commissions that can point out the key women's issues at stake in the elections or why registering women in particular regions has been difficult, or which feminist grassroots movements have had the most success - so what? Do the work. Factor in a few more days. Women are equal beings of value that participate in the political process, and this is especially true to represent in countries that devalue women. The democratic arena is not just reserved for men, no matter how conservative some parts of Pakistan and other countries might be.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mainstream Misogyny is a Death Sentence : What cultural anxiety and Alek Minassian have in common

A few days ago the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a national study on  the 2016 presidential election. In it, the authors sought to understand the reasons behind the decisions of a prominent group of mostly white Christian male voters that had voted Democratic in 2012, but then switched to Republican in 2016. The mainstream media narrative has largely been that this group was motivated by economic anxiety, anger at the past, and felt that Hillary Clinton did not address their economic woes and needs. The study debunks that narrative. Using several national survey data sets, the authors showed the following:

"[The study found that] losing a job or income between 2012 and 2016 did not make a person any more likely to support Mr. Trump... neither did the mere perception that one's financial situation had worsened. A person's opinion on how trade affected personal finances had little bearing on political preferences. Neither did unemployment or the density of manufacturing jobs in one's area.... [further data study] showed that anxieties about retirement, education and medical bills also had little impact on whether a person supported Mr. Trump."

"White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Mr. Trump because they felt their status was at risk. It's not a threat to their own economic well-being; it's a threat to their group's dominance in our country over all." This is the second national study of its kind, the first found the top reasons for support for Mr. Trump were adherence to the Republican party, fear of cultural displacement and supporting deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. 

And a few days later, Alek Minassian drove a van onto a sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring around 14 more - the Toronto Police has confirmed that those killed and injured were predominantly women. Minutes before the deadly attack, Mr. Minassian posted on Facebook about his hatred of women and praised Elliot Rodger, who, in 2014, declared he wanted to 'punish women for rejecting him' and did so by going on a murderous rampage, killing 3 women and 3 men and wounding 13 more. Mr. Minassian seemingly identifies as an involuntary celibate, or 'incel' - groups of young men who rail against feminism and promote hate towards women (especially the ones who refuse them sexually) and see themselves as victims of a society moving toward equality. Since the attack in Toronto, online communities of young men have praised Mr. Minassian, calling him a hero, a saint, and celebrated with beers every woman he murdered. 

If only women had paid him attention, dated him, had sex with him, given him what he was owed, none of this might have happened. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Representation Matters - And there's Data to Prove it.

It must have been groundbreaking when little girls in Saudi Arabia saw themselves represented for the first time in the realm of international sports competition at the 2016 Olympic Games. Imagine seeing someone that looks just like you at the highest echelon of sport, with crowds cheering for you, and your lookalike is smiling wildly, bearing all your country's colours. Imagine all that excitement in the growing mind and heart of an 11-year old Saudi girl, watching this unfold for the very first time.

A few years later, this happened. 

For a long time, representation was a squishy notion, lauded by social-justice advocates and decried by economists in favour of 'hard data'. Scores of new studies are demonstrating its importance and how effective a tool it can be in combatting sexism and racism and empowering young people to push past traditional and stereotypical boxes and into new roles. Although representation is slowly getting the recognition it deserves, it remains only barely included in broad social policy outside of gender quotas on boards or within political representation and in some areas of the military, depending on the country. 

Representation is the simple idea that when little boys and girls see themselves at different levels of society, in different roles and with different skillsets, it raises their awareness that they too can become President, a scientist, a lawyer, a software developer. This is especially true of youth, women and people from minority groups, who have historically been disadvantaged and blocked from entering into more prestigious fields.

The idea that we are influenced by what we see, even at a superfluous level, is no longer a mystery: we see around 4 000 ads per day, and these distort how we think of ourselves, affect our beauty standards, our sexual preferences, and shape our views on race, ethnicity and sex. Socially, we remain deeply influenced by signs and symbols, where our flags, national anthems, style of dress, our cars, our addresses and our credit cards are symbols of class and denote and promote adherence to different social groups with changing levels of power and prestige. Facebook and Instagram are perfecting the algorithms that have us acting against our best interests, all because of what we see and how this activates the varying impulses in our brains - something the sugar industry has been doing for decades.

That representation matters and can motivate behaviour, therefore, should not be a shock. A recent 2018 groundbreaking study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the US Census Bureau on class, race and mobility in the United States has shown that despite the finding that "black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighbourhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds," the few neighbourhoods (tragically, only about 1%) where lower-income black boys did do well, also held a high presence of black fathers in the community. This buoys parts of a 2015 study from Harvard that found that the 1990's Clinton initiative "Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing", which gave low-income families living in public housing vouchers to move to middle-income neighborhoods, resulted in children from those families growing up to earn higher incomes and attend college at higher rates than their peers in public housing. Twenty years later, it mattered that low-income children were given the opportunity to see that life could be better, their aims could be higher - and the younger these children were moved, the higher they achieved. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Little Girls Don't Stay Little Forever: The Complicity of USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University in the Sexual Abuse of More Than 160 Girls

Over 150 women gymnasts and athletes say that Larry Nassar sexually assaulted them over a 20 year period. That is to say, they are women now. The sexual assaults took place when these women were girls, some as young as 6. The staggering scale of the sexual abuse in both numbers and time  should nauseate you. The sentencing hearing of Nassar is currently ongoing, one where young women have come forward to speak their truths, their experiences, and show their determination in the face of a system that collectively sought to disempower and silence them. They have found an advocate in Judge Aquilina who has opened the court to all the young women, should they so choose.  Olympic medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas are among those who have accused Nassar of sexual abuse. 

"It's your turn to listen to me," said Aly Raisman,"I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I've regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor. I am no longer that little girl you met in Australia where you first began grooming and manipulating."

It is through their testimony that we are uncovering the complex web of complicity in which medals, sponsorships dollars and name recognition hold higher value than the young girls who collect them. It is becoming brutally clear that there has been an array of actors, from universities to coaches, training camps to Olympic associations who chose the bottom dollar and the preservation of a system inherently abusive and exploitative of female bodies and labour, and that this is the truly shocking, yet undeniably normalized, truth of our time. 

It is not simply USA Gymnastics or Michigan State University that are grossly negligent and complicit players, but all systems of power that seek to protect themselves while ignoring the lowest common denominator, often women, and often the most vulnerable among them: the young, the disabled, minorities, the poor. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How to Deal with Aziz Ansari and all His Friends

This is not really about Aziz Ansari - its about him and all his friends, even the nice ones. You can read the original account here. Then, lets talk about a few key questions that arise out of that account of a date night and:

1. Why many men (and some women) think this is a normal date;
2. Why 'no means no' is of no help in these situations (and by extension, why we seem to disregard non-verbal cues when it comes to sex, but we see and notice and give them importance in every other part of our lives);
3. What can we do better so that these accounts are fewer and fewer. 

Aziz Ansari didn't rape anyone. But this one statement misses the bigger picture. We are a generation of women who no longer want to be faced with this  kind of situation. And we want men never to want that kind of sex. The kind of sex that is taken by a man. The kind of sex that allows for Ms. Deneuve's 'persistent bothering.' The kind of sex that women don't want, but after enough unrelenting and coercive behaviour, we 'consent' to, just to get it all done and over with. Maybe that's not rape, but is that the goal of sex? Is that the environment we want to say is acceptable for ourselves and our future generations?

1. Imagine a world where sex is not something women hold and men take. That's the world I try to live in, but do you? Do any women? A world where sex is a not violent pursuit with notches on a belt to be had, sex to be 'given up', and men to be taking it where they can get it. And yet, here we are. What men find normal about the Ansari situation is that men are taught to pursue sex unrelentingly, persuaded that women should be reluctant, or at least not overly willing to engage in sexual activity, and that its going to take some time, effort and insistence to get her into bed. Given this 'understanding', men play the role of the taker, the aggressor, the closer. Women play the role of the gatekeeper, with innumerable analogies to closed/open legs as measures of her willingness. We see this played out for us all across the media spectrum: from romantic movies to thrillers, porn (oh, and especially porn) to daily show banter. When Donald Trump says you can grab women by the pussy, he's simply making it known that this is what men do: men grab women whether they like it or not. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Takedown of Catherine Deneuve's Assault on #MeToo in Four Parts

It's not every day that I feel moved to respond to the last cries of a dying generation of women who belong ardently to first and second waves of feminism, but then Catherine Deneuve had to go and raise a cry from the dead, so here we are. 

The backlash against the global #MeToo movement was imminent. Every single woman who participated, recognized it, understood it, or know even the tiniest thing about feminism knew it was coming. Every single time there has been a movement for a cultural shift toward equality, the backlash can be written into the footnotes. That this backlash is spearheaded in part by women is testament to the ferocity and treacherous nature of the patriarchy, and of some women as its blind defenders.

Catherine Deneuve and her friends say a whole slew of ridiculous statements in their open letter, including that women who speak out against sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape in the work place are puritanical and that we shouldn't admonish men for a few stolen glances, stolen kisses and persistent touching/flirtation/etc. Once I managed to un-roll my eyes and swallow the disgust, this is what I thought.

1. Ms. Deneuve and her fellow french women are part of an elite group of mainly white, upper class women who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo. They benefit tremendously from embodying the trope of a sexually free woman who holds and wields power in the work place while simultaneously being the sexual object of the men she works with (that is an actual quote, if you can believe it). This is how Ms. Deneuve and her friends may have acceded to their powerful positions, and this is the 'normal behaviour' of the powerful men with whom they interact. In their view, the #MeToo women should just accept this 'fraternization' as the normalized consequence of being a woman. Men will be men, after all, and any disruption of this state, or pushback against this behaviour will jeopardize their positions, the circles and benefits Ms. Deneuve and her friends have accessed. Ms. Deneuve has no wish for equality for all women, just the women who can play the game of patriarchy properly. What Ms. Deneuve fails to understand is that there is a new generation of women who no longer want any of this crap, and who do not want to go through it in order to access power, or access resources, or to simply do their jobs. And these women will never tell other women to suffer in silence, will never accuse women who speak up of being 'perpetual victims' (again, repurposing feminist terminology for upholding the status quo is such a brilliant move if it weren't so transparent), and will recognize the strength it takes to speak truth to power when the repercussions are so dire.