Discussing feminist issues on other forums - does it get you down?

(107 Posts)
kim147 Sun 17-Feb-13 09:22:36

Been discussing the Reeva Steenkamp case on another forum and it's led to discussion of the sex based industries such as lap dancing. It really gets me down trying to put forward arguments and then being accused of being out of touch, "what about the men" and it's all about female empowerment - without the wider effect on women being considered.

Sometimes it feels like you're going nowhere. It can be really hard when you're discussing this stuff and it seems like you're on your own against the masses.

whatisafeministanyway Sat 09-Mar-13 02:11:21

I feel like it's societies that have changed.

Yes. Probably the main way Western societies have changed wrt attitudes towards religious minorities is that religion is not anything like as significant as a social force or cornerstone of identity. The bog-standard white British person is more likely to have no religion, or to be non-practising than in the past. If your own religion is no longer important to you, then nor is anybody else's.

Where religion has more social significance and people strongly associate themselves with particular religious groups (eg the Middle East or the red states in the US) intolerance and discrimination persist. Groups in the UK (Muslims, for example) that still see religion as central to their identities have religious leaders in their communities that they listen to and respect - and a certain amount of suspicion or intolerance of outsiders.

Something as irrational as religious faith is hard to justify so there is safety in numbers - another reason for suspicion of members of different religions and proselytising. Both of which are predicated on believing that your own POV, beliefs etc are superior and more valid than those of others. If you don't have those beliefs any more, others' are not such an affront and do not bother you or make you feel you need to put them down.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 09-Mar-13 00:41:46

...A hundred years ago, anti-Semitism was pretty entrenched in a lot of places, obviously spilling over into ghettoisation and violence in WW2. Now I believe it is a much less widespread and fierce issue in much of the Western world. I feel like it's societies that have changed.

The other point is that women are not a minority. We are 50% of the population. Most formd of discrimination seem to be against minorities. Why is sexism different, I wonder?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 09-Mar-13 00:28:18

Sorry, I still meant soft porn actress, I just wanted to be clear it wasn't just about RS.

I agree with you that religious discrimination is often more frowned on than sexism. Do you think that those following religions that were discriminated against changed their behaviour and that was the source of the reduced discrimination?

whatisafeministanyway Fri 08-Mar-13 20:26:58

Snatch that's another not-very-good comparison really.

To use your example of the Jewish stereotype, while Jewish communities have suffered some of the worst oppression seen in European history (pogroms, ghettoisation, the Holocaust) there isn't currently an epidemic of unaddressed violence towards Jewish people as there is towards women.

Worshipping Allah or being careful with money are not negative stereotypes that in themselves that permit one social group to think they are justified in misusing another. While a woman presenting herself as a sex object for men does allow men to persist in reducing women to their sexual value. It is an inherently demeaning stereotype while being careful with money, or going to the Mosque, is not.

Also, to put this into context, anyone discriminating against a racial or cultural group is dealt with far more robustly by the justice system than someone who abuses a woman.

If I used mere words against a Jewish or Muslim person I would almost certainly be charged with an offence and very likely prosecuted (quite right too). And if I were, the victim of my criminal behaviour would not be interrogated in court and forced to explain why their being attacked was my fault rather than their own.

But a man could use his fists or penis against a woman and the chances of him being charged, or the offence even coming to court would be slim. If it did come to court the victim could take it for granted she would be subjected to the ordeal of having to explain how she had not invited the violence by her own actions (wearing a revealing top, inviting a man into her home after a night out). And even if it did come to court there is a good chance he wouldn't be convicted and punished. It's an outrage, isn't it?

Cultural sensitivities and the rights of religious groups trump women's rights in this country every time.

An example: female genital mutilation - 66 000 victims in the UK, 30 000 girls at risk, one conviction to date. You can get away with removing the body parts of a female child (without anaesthesia) because oppression of women and girls is taken less seriously than the rights of cultural/religious groups.

Another example: 'honour' killings and forced marriages (thankfully there have been some convictions here but plenty of cases where it is still being ignored or was ignored - until it erupted into murderous violence).

Another example: the Bradford paedophile ring - young (Western) girls groomed and gang-raped, passed around like junk by organised groups of Pakistani men. Convictions here, but local people had talked about this problem for a long time and were dismissed as racist. Even when the convictions came, there was still insistence by the police and press that there were no cultural factors involved (fear of being racist preventing acknowledgement that for these men white girls were seen as 'fair game', trash).

My point in giving these examples is not to deny the reality of racism or religious prejudice. It still exists and is still a problem. But it is seen as much 'worse' than acts of terrible violence against women - the examples above show that protecting vulnerable women from sexual abuse, mutilation, even death has taken a back seat to not offending cultural sensitivities. The law will act to protect Muslims and Jews; when women are being abused a blind eye is turned. The victims in the examples I have given are from different social and religious groups - African, Muslim, white. What they have in common, in their failure to be protected or to receive legal reddress for offences against them is their gender.

This is a terrible situation that is not improving. Whereas the victimisation of other sections of society - religious groups, cultural groups, racial groups - is diminishing and the letter and practice of the law supports this progress.

And your 'making it general' and talking about 'actresses' of any kind moves the goalposts completely, doesn't it? Because actresses are not the same as women in FHM shoots. Judi Dench is not the same as a soft porn 'model'. She is not giving any men any excuses to persist in viewing women as sexual objects, as trash.

The main point I was making in my original post was that to hold a soft porn actress, model whatever you want to call someone who poses for those kinds of images as an icon and role model for women is ridiculous. And that is what some women on here, who consider themselves feminists, were doing.

That broadened into a wider discussion about whether women have a responsibility to present themselves in ways that don't reinforce stereotypes that underpin the male view that women are worthless apart from their sexual value. I think they do, but others don't. I think women can improve their position in society by the choices they make in life, others don't. Some seem resigned to women having no control, and claim that women will always be subjugated until men change their minds and ways.

I disagree with this, I find it passive and defeatist. I also think it denies women what Dazzled calls agency, and if we do not think we have agency we can never make a meaningful argument for equality as we have subjugated ourselves already.

All the examples I gave above, where women are seen as worthless and offered no protection show that society is in crisis when it comes to women's rights.

Things are moving backwards for women, not forwards. Not acting in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes is important if we want this situation to change. I don't really understand why some women are so hostile to this view. It is not the same as saying that women shouldn't be allowed to do what they want. Yes, women have the right to participate in soft porn that reinforces negative stereotypes - women are there for male pleasure, women's looks are all that matter etc. But why would an intelligent woman, who is aware of and concerned about the culture of violence against women, want to exercise that right?

And why on earth would other women want to hold her up as an example of someone who fought against the subjugation of women?

BigSpork Fri 08-Mar-13 12:50:32

kim - only if you think women need to act a certain way or they deserve their oppression. Or that trans* people need to act a certain way or deserve their oppression. As the quote goes, in patriarchy, woman aren't on the opposing team, we're the ball. Backing up the bashing of the bal is working for patriarchy regardless of how "the ball" behaves. We need to attack the system, not the oppressed.

To answer the original question, I find discussing feminism and other intersecting issues in my Tumblr groups very uplifting, enjoyable, and has given me a far larger experience with points of view and topics than I would get on normal forums like this one.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 08-Mar-13 12:06:39

Are they showing themselves in a particular way, or is the media looking at a group with a variety of behaviours and picking the ones they want to report, Kim?

kim147 Fri 08-Mar-13 09:21:12

Do her actions (posing for FHM or any other male magazine) help or hinder feminism?

I get pissed off at members of the trans community who show themselves in certain ways in the media as it seems to reinforce a stereotype to other people about how trans people are. Their actions do not help members of the trans community and I have no problem saying it.

I also get pissed off at the media reporting of trans issues.

Is it possible to get pissed off at women whose actions "don't help the cause of feminism?"

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 08-Mar-13 01:37:27

I see where you are coming from, whatis, but I can't agree.

Let's take a different example. Lots of people hold views about followers of various religions. But I don't think a Jewish person in public life should not feel able to describe how they are careful with money, or a Muslim not feel able to mention their commitment to Allah, simply because to do so might reinforce some other people's prejudiced views.

It's not that I don't think an actress (keeping it general) has agency, it's just that I don't hold her responsible for generalisations that others might make. The actress could be of a religious group, or a sexuality group, or an ethnic group that could equally be the basis of a generalisation (eg "ah, all Seventh Day Adventists are sex objects") but the generalisation is not within her agency.

whatisafeministanyway Fri 08-Mar-13 00:49:24

I still don't see that a soft porn actress is responsible for certain men who see her going on to objectify all women. Generalising from examples is one of the key facets of "-isms" (sexism, anti-Semitism etc) and the generalisation is in the mind of the certain man, in this case.

You are absolutely right.

The 'soft porn actress' is not not responsible for the men who look at her and what they think. She is responsible for how she presents herself though and should be aware of what men might project on to that.

You are right that generalising is a characteristic of -isms and it is the man's fault if he has these prejudices. But if he is inclined to think that way already - if he objectifies women anyway, as so many men do - then those kinds of images support his view.

And if we want men to rethink these views, it doesn't help in changing them; rather it reinforces them.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 07-Mar-13 23:10:27

Ok, scratch underwear model from my post and replace with soft porn actress if that's a better description.

I still don't see that a soft porn actress is responsible for certain men who see her going on to objectify all women. Generalising from examples is one of the key facets of "-isms" (sexism, anti-Semitism etc) and the generalisation is in the mind of the certain man, in this case.

I agree that being a soft porn actress is not a feminist action.

whatisafeministanyway Thu 07-Mar-13 20:56:01

your position holds underwear models equally (?) As responsible for certain men generalising about women as the men themselves.

No, Snatch it doesn't. I did explain this in previous posts (though they are so long I wouldn't blame you if you didn't have the patience to read them!)

I don't think modelling underwear is the same as posing for lads' mags. I don't think that the guy modelling for A&F is the same. Modelling underwear is selling a product; the purpose is not to titillate and tease and the shots are not presented in the same way.

All the people on here defending Reeva Steenkamp posing for FHM, or saying that doesn't matter because she tweeted about rape; I wonder how many actually watched the video clip on Youtube I pasted into my first post? Looking seductively into the camera wearing a bikini and putting a phallic object in your mouth or holding a melting ice cream (the whole purpose of which is to have an image of dripping white fluid, obviously you understand what it represents) is very different from wearing clothes to sell them to customers. Ditto looking into the camera and pulling down the zip of a bikini top.

FHM shoots are soft porn. I don't really believe anyone would seriously dispute that (but let's hear about it if they do).

If FHM is soft porn (and it undoubtedly is IMO) then I don't understand why women who consider themselves feminists would defend a woman's choice to be part of that, let alone set her up as a heroine of the cause because she also tweeted about rape. I somehow think it is quite cheapening and insulting to the idea of feminism that someone can be admired and held up as an opponent of the patriarchy because of something as trivial and disposable as tweeting, when that person has anyway made a life choice to pursue celebrity and participate in soft porn - things that can only feed into a culture of misogyny and denigration.

To me this attitude fails to empower women but enslaves them further. It sets women up to believe that their failures and poor life choices can be laid exclusively at the feet of men.

Dazzler I agree totally with all you have said. You have managed to sum up so succinctly and articulately the points I have tried to make (so long-windedly) in my posts. I wish I was able to express myself so effectively.

Saying that women merely 'absorb the messages society is giving them' and that their choices are not their own is very disempowering. Women own their own choices and can take responsibility for them. If we are not prepared to accept this, we consign ourselves to perpetual victimhood. And if someone whose life choices ought to disqualify them from being considered in any way a role model for feminism is granted that status when they become a victim of male violence, then this also plays into a culture of perpetual victimhood.

Without taking responsibility for the choices we make, owning them and accepting the consequences, or thinking it's fair enough to expect other women to also, we may as well give up and accept that we are just barking at the moon.

Dazzler159 Thu 07-Mar-13 10:04:32

whatisafeministanyway

In my mind, the crux of many such discussions comes down to whether or not people believe women to have some sort of agency (in philisophical sense). Hence my question a few posts up about dummad's assertion that, "no matter what women do, it'll never be enough".

You seem to think so, others don't. Who's right? I have no idea but one thing's for sure, the psychological outcomes are very different and so I know what I'll be teaching my kids!

I'm not suggesting that women should be blamed for rape etc. as there are many things that are out of a woman's control. But it seems to me that an aversion to taking any form of ownership for one's actions implies a deterministic society. Thus an action will not result in outcomes, x, y or z but always one that is out of your control i.e. predetermined by men.

To me this attitude fails to empower women but enslaves them further. It sets women up to believe that their failures and poor life choices can be laid exclusively at the feet of men. Conversely, if this is genuinely true then a woman's successes must also be due to men and us allowing women to succeed. I don't believe this to be the case at all.

There are many instances where women have control over their successes/failures and taking full ownership enables women to shoulder the responsibility (or part of). That means sometimes taking the blame when things go wrong but it also means taking the credit when things go right. None of us can have it both ways. We simply cannot blame our oppressors when we fail but then pat ourselves on the back when we succeed.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 07-Mar-13 08:05:40

Whatis, why should a man looking at a woman presenting herself in a sexual way make any kind of generalisation about all women?.

It seems that your position holds underwear models equally (?) As responsible for certain men generalising about women as the men themselves.

When I see a male model on an Abercrombie and Fitch poster, I think "oh, there's a model. He's fit." But I make no generalisation about all men.

Just as When I see the MP for Surrey on the cover of Politics Today, I don't generalise that all men are political objects. I think "there's a politician"

whatisafeministanyway Thu 07-Mar-13 02:25:28

Only because a few men choose to strip for women's entertainment, people are not turning around saying 'ugh, stupid men - they just want to be objectified.'

dummad no one is saying that because some women show their bodies off it means all women want to be objectified. No way. In fact that is the absolute opposite of what people are saying, which is that women don't want to be objectified and that women who let themselves be objectified play into the hands of men who don't want to take women seriously and want to reduce them to sexual playthings.

The point is that there is a lot of objectification of women by MEN who want to trivialise women and to use a phrase that has been used upthread 'reduce them to their sexual value'. And there is a minority of women who collude with this, for example, preferring to pose for FHM than do something a bit more, well, admirable.

And that doesn't really help women to be taken more seriously, or do away with the culture that judges women on the basis of their looks, their bodies, rather than their brains, or all the 'good things' that they do.

And no, no one is saying 'stupid men' about say, the Chippendales, because they are more of a comedy act than anything else - when women go and see men like this, it's all for a bit of a laugh. If a man looks sexually available it's very different, because a woman isn't going to rape him and then accuse him of 'asking for it'.

There aren't many men who get raped by women and then find, if it actually gets to court, that if they've had any flesh on show, or even had nice underwear on under their clothes they have to justify this as if it somehow gave the rapist a good reason to attack them or assume they were 'up for it'. But this is what happens to women who get raped. Even young girls.

This is the social context for this discussion, isn't it?

If men were being raped and getting no legal redress I think I would consider them posing in photographs that make them look sexually available rather unhelpful too. But they are not.

You can't compare the two at all and your argument is totally specious. No one is saying all women are trivial and want to be objectified here. I certainly don't. Most of us are just living ordinary, hard working lives like the ones you describe.

But there is no doubt that in our society less value is put on the lives and bodies of women than on those of men. Hence the massive problem of domestic violence that is often treated as if it were just something unimportant. Or of appalling conviction rates for sex crime against women. The derisory sentences for men who kill their wives, especially if they claim she 'nagged him'. And despite women's achievements them still feeling that being attractive or sexy is the most important thing because that is the pressure on them.

It's not about women selling their bodies, yes some will always do this because they are coerced, either directly because they are controlled by violent men or drug addiction, or out of sheer economic necessity.

That is very different from an educated woman choosing to be a trivial celebrity, one of the 'top 100 sexiest women' as a job - when she had plenty of other options. It just doesn't help much, does it?

And Abigail I think it's just as well you've decided to give up because despite all the words I have written trying to explain my original post you quote from it again in a way that suggests you still don't really understand what it meant. Or as if you haven't read or understood all the words I have written since. This is why I'm actually starting to feel a bit sorry for you despite the personal attacks. If anyone is going round it circles it is you really, because you still haven't managed to explain why you don't think it's a shame a woman would choose to become an FHM girl when she could have become a lawyer.

I was not telling anyone to STFU, but if someone poses for FHM then they do present themself in those pictures as a sex object for male pleasure, and they do trivialise themself in doing so, and this is at odds with trying to address in any serious way the problem of sexual violence against women. Why? Because by posing like that, they have obviously missed the point.

Oh, and FWIW, I think if a man with a law degree decided to oil himself up and pose by a swimming pool simulating oral sex with some object to titilate women instead of qualifying in his profession I'm guessing most men would think he was, well, a bit of a loser. That he'd kind of, you know, let himself down a bit. They'd expect a bit more of him, wouldn't they?

And if also the women looking at the pictures of the oiled-up man might go out and sexually assault one of the normal, responsible men, and if they did they'd probably escape any kind of justice then I think the normal men doing normal 'good things' might be well, a bit annoyed with Mr Oiled-Up.

But there are women on here who will not only defend a woman's career choice to be a sex object, they will actually try to argue that she was some kind of heroine for women after she's become a victim herself of the epidemic of male subjugation of women.

And why do they consider her a heroine? Er, because she tweeted about domestic violence.

Mad, isn't it? Or maybe just sad sad

whatisafeministanyway Thu 07-Mar-13 00:24:55

don't believe it's victim or women blaming.

Thanks smile

Dazzler159 Wed 06-Mar-13 13:39:36

dummad Tue 05-Mar-13 17:10:57

To me this fact just proves that no matter what women do, it'll never be enough. And the change, therefore, has to come from male attitudes and society itself, who at the moment will do any amount of women-blaming or fact-dodging in order to avoid actually thinking about the issue head on.

I have no idea about road deaths (so will take your word for it) but other than this, the only FACT is that your misintepretation of discussions with men as they do not represent the diversity of the male population. But I digress.

Are you actually suggesting that women have no cause to take any ownership for anything that they experience in life?

I have to say that I found whatisafeministanyway's POV to be more in line with mine and don't believe it's victim or women blaming.

AbigailAdams Wed 06-Mar-13 07:40:21

I am leaving this thread now as the arguments are getting circular and we are never going to agree.

AbigailAdams Wed 06-Mar-13 07:29:54

"To me this fact just proves that no matter what women do, it'll never be enough. And the change, therefore, has to come from male attitudes and society itself, who at the moment will do any amount of women-blaming or fact-dodging in order to avoid actually thinking about the issue head on." Thank you dummad you have explained in one paragraph what has taken me about 42 to do grin

Whatis, I have never objected to you criticising someone's actions (although haven't agreed with that criticism) but I have objected to the patriarchal, women-blaming term you used to inflict that criticism in that first post.

"Wtf? I was not in the least bit criticising Reeva Steenkamp for standing up to the patriarchy by speaking out about rape."
Don't bemoan abuse of women at men's hands when you've trivialised yourself as a mere sex object for their pleasure.. That is pretty critical and telling her to STFU.

dummad Tue 05-Mar-13 17:10:57

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that Rosa was just one woman who changed society for the good of the black population by not colluding to oppression. But there are millions if not BILLIONS of women in the world who choose not to collude to objectification on a daily basis, but it's the ones who DO - the sex workers - who 'represent' women and keep us repressed. How fair is that?

There will always be women who are willing to sell their bodies. There will always be women who don't. However, despite the fact the latter by far make up the majority, we are still oppressed.

You see, if our behaviour is the thing that will change attitudes, it would be happening already. Most women go to work - or contribute in some way - do good things, use their minds and not sell their bodies. Isn't that enough 'good' behaviour to warrent equality? If we had power in our hands, it'd already be happening, but it's not.

There are also men who sell their bodies, but men are not oppressed. Only because a few men choose to strip for women's entertainment, people are not turning around saying 'ugh, stupid men - they just want to be objectified.' It's absurd to think that. Just the same for any male role: 'all men are football hooligans', 'all men are rapists', 'all men are clever'. No one thinks like this because of a minority acts in a ceratin way, so why the double standards? I just want to see women enjoying the same rules.

Also this: It is a fact - A FACT - that women kill and harm fewer people on the roads than men. something ridiculous like 80% of deaths on the road are caused by male drivers. Is this recognised in society? Hardly. If you bring this up with a man (like I have done on a few occassions when accused of being a 'typical woman driver') he will say all manner of excuses such as 'yes but we have more skill', 'yes but slow drivers cause more accidents'. It is just bizarre to watch a man try and squirm at this fact rather than accept the fact that there is one rule of driving - don't crash, don't hurt anyone. Imagine if it was the other way around. I reckon women would actually be banned from driving or regulated in some way if the statistics showed the opposite. But it's hardly ever mentioned is it? Funny that.

To me this fact just proves that no matter what women do, it'll never be enough. And the change, therefore, has to come from male attitudes and society itself, who at the moment will do any amount of women-blaming or fact-dodging in order to avoid actually thinking about the issue head on.

dummad Tue 05-Mar-13 15:18:41

But why should what the models have to say or do carry any more clout than other women? Why do we all have to comply to get over oppression? The vast majority of women do not sell their bodies, so why do men still prefer to focus on the sex workers and their habits rather than the women they come into contact with on a daily basis? Many men are happy to continue objectifying women despite the 'evidence' under their noses from their co-workers, mothers, sisters, friends and partners, that women are diverse and wanting to be taken as individuals and not by certain roles imposed by our gender.
Why is it that a boy in my DDs class (year 4) who comes from a lovely family where the parents are both intelligent people with careers was going around doing an impression 'of what girls are like' which mocked women doing their nails and going around going La-di-da. He's nine. I bet he didn't get that from home. How come he thinks that way? His mother and of course classmates don't do that at all.????

DrinkFeckArseGirls Tue 05-Mar-13 09:37:42

Can I just add I'm amazed the youtube let those comments stand? shock

namechangeguy Tue 05-Mar-13 08:46:22

I will ask again, since it seems to have been skipped, deliberately or otherwise - What risk would a group of lads mag models be running to their personal well-being if they stood together and said, 'Enough, this has gone on too long. We wont do it any more!'?

rosabud Mon 04-Mar-13 23:41:07

Yes, thank you, I'm aware of the background to the civil rights movement. I'm also aware that the circumstances were different, which is why it was a ridiculous analogy for you to come up with in the first place. However, since you have come up with it, the argument remains the same:

If Rosa Parks was taking the non-collusion action "in her particular time", then, by impication, all the other black people who had NOT taken the non-collusion action "in her particular time" were therefore colluding with their oppression. A silly argument. Oppressed people are not responsible for the behaviour of the oppressors. Black people who went along with sitting on certain allocated seats in Alabama in the mid twentieth century were not "colluding" with their opressors but part of an unfair system that was oppressing them. Models who pose for FHM are not "colluding" with their opressors but part of an unfair system that oppresses women. The reasons why black people are oppressed and the ways in which they are oppressed are neither straight-forward nor simple. Similarly, the reasons why and the ways in which women are oppressed are neither straight-forward nor simple. But the argument is the same, the oppressors are the culpable party, not the oppressed.

namechangeguy Mon 04-Mar-13 21:34:59

Rosabud, the circumstances were different. For many hundreds of years, black people who did not collude with white oppressors could legally be severely punished, possibly put to death. I see this as self-preservation rather than collusion, as they were completely powerless and had no rights in law. They were truly seen as less than human - a charge I sadly see too often on here.

By Rosa Parks' time, she risked being taken to court rather than be hanged, but she still stood her ground, and society was such that she stood a chance of being listened to.

What risk would a group of lads mag models be running to their personal well-being if they stood together and said, 'Enough, this has gone on too long. We wont do it any more!'?

kim147 Mon 04-Mar-13 20:00:51

Do you think women posing for men's magazines is a good thing or a bad thing for feminism?

If women said they weren't going to pose anymore, what effect would that have?

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