Brushing off the dust

So it has been an awfully long time since I have written here. Sorry about that. Life happened. I left Thailand, travelled Asia, moved back to New Zealand and got a new job in case you are interested.  I will try and re-gather the momentum I had and try to write frequently.

In the mean time you should go read this : http://ahumanstory.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/stop-it/

 

Talking about rape

I have been struggling lately with how to talk about the issue of rape in a manner that both is representative of the gendered nature of rape and its use as a weapon against women but also does not silence or erase the experience of men who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

I strongly believe in the gendered nature of rape – particularly the ways in which women victims are treated compared to other crimes, the lack of prosecutions that occur for rape and rape apologia in general but I also strongly detest the idea that men can never be raped.  I believe this notion is part of a patriarchal social structure that views men as insatiable sexually and unable to control their sexual impulses meaning they always want to have sex no matter what. This both feeds in to rape culture – ideas around “well he couldn’t help it if she was dressed like that”, “She was coming on to him all night what did she expect” and also makes male victims either invisible or targets for ridicule as people question their masculinity.

How do I talk about rape in a way that is true to the social and political fact of rape and the threat of rape being a gendered experience without silencing or erasing other experience.  I would love to know what you think.

Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus

Astroturfing News | ACT on Campus.

From the link:
“At some point during the debate a group of left-wingers, most of whom Cameron didn’t know, joined in the debate.

They proceeded to call him:

An Idiot
Fucked Up
A Marxist
A Fatuous, self-serving, carpetbagger
Uneducated
A Wanker
A skinhead
A Neo-nazi
A member of the KKK
An Aryan
A Genocide supporter
And a white supremist”

 

The gist of the article implies that people calling Mr. Browne these names was sufficient justification for Mr. Browne to tell a woman he disagreed with – who did not call him any of these names – to “get raped”

One of these things is not like the other. Telling anyone but particularly a woman who you are disagreeing with to “get raped” is not a slur it is the implicit threat of gender based violence. It is permeated in the idea that ‘uppity women’ who get above themselves need to be put back in their place. Mr. Browne clearly used this particular phrase against a woman with the specific intent of silencing her indicating he knows and understands the power and context of it. Nowhere has Mr. Browne apologised for using this phrase.

This is rape culture in action. Using the implicit threat of rape to silence a woman then pretending it is nothing. Do me a favour and if Cameron Browne ever stands for election don’t vote for him – because this is clear evidence of man who is a misogynist and is no ally to women.

MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News

MPs reject employers’ chief’s ‘sexist’ comment – Business – NZ Herald News.

So these comments of the head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand are so full of fail I barely know where to begin.

“Mr Thompson today admitted there was a gender pay gap in New Zealand.

He told Newstalk ZB it was partly explained by some women needing sick days every month, along with extra time off to care for children.

“Let me get down to tin tacks. The fact is women have babies. They take time out of their careers.

“Looks at who takes the most sick leave. Women do, in general, why? Because once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do they have children they have to take time off to go home and take leave of…

“I don’t like saying this because it sounds like I’m sexist but it’s a fact of life.”

I find it deeply humorous that a man of Mr. Thompson’s age and stature cannot openly refer to menstruation and refers to it as “monthly sick problems”. I suppose points should go to Mr. Thompson for admitting there is a gender pay gap in New Zealand, but the rest of his analysis suffers from a severe lack of structural analysis.

Firstly the fallacies, Mr. Thompson implies that all women suffer from “monthly sick problems” and have children. Of course this is not true many women either cannot or do not menstruate for a wide variety of reasons and the same applies to procreation.

Even if what Mr. Thompson said is true of all women he would still be wrong. He is implying that women should rightly be paid less because of their biology.  This should not sit well with anyone with even a slightly developed sense of justice. Women are paid less because of a society that systematically devalues their work on every level. From the care work that they do within their homes to the career work they do outside of it. The gender pay gap exists because women are expected to do the lions share of  care-giving and unpaid house work while also managing to have a career.  The gender pay gap exists because women are consistently seen as less than their male counterparts,

I almost wish that every woman could/would go on strike from having children to see whether that would close the gender pay gap.  I don’t imagine it would but it would make people fear for the future of the human race quick smart.

 

The Generation Gap

It can be hard sometimes being a young woman in the international women’s movement. Sometimes I feel there is a sense that my commitment will never be enough because I know what I am worth. There is an idea that to truly be committed you need to work in the movement for nothing or next to nothing, you have forgo comfort and struggle so that you are hard and tough and can relate to the women you intend to serve. Older women in the movement seem to have an idea that you need to pay your dues in the harshest way possible before you are worth anything to the movement.

I believe strongly that there is value in experiencing how people other than myself live. However I do not believe that not being to work in an NGO for next to nothing for the rest of my life means I am any less committed to the international women’s movement.  Women’s work is devalued over an over again by the various societies we live in. What is the point of re-creating this pattern within our own organisations? If you want committed, strong and capable staff you cannot expect them to sustain themselves purely on passion forever.

This work is valuable to society and the world and balance needs to be found in providing services and advocacy and looking after staff  in whatever small ways we can so that they know their contribution means something, that their work is valued and so that their passion and commitment are not questioned every time they have to beg for just a little bit more so they can keep going a little bit further.

I remember quite clearly the moment I truly became a feminist and put myself on this lifelong journey of learning and activism.  I was taking a paper at my university called social justice. It was a political theory paper and looked at the different theories of social justice. Whether wealth should be redistributed in society, how it should be done that kind of thing.  Some of the theorists we covered were feminist theorists. Before this point I had been kind of sceptical  about a gendered analysis within political studies. It had seemed kind of isolationist and awkward. Lectures which looked at a gendered analysis were almost universally the least attended and no one really seemed to take it seriously.

People in New Zealand (and I suppose in many places but I shall speak to my own experiences) have a tendency to believe that gender equality has been achieved, that the fight is over and anyone who doesn’t think this is just silly. So gender equality was something I thought that we were fighting for in the ‘developing world’.

What my lecturer did for me in this particular paper was to remove the blinkers from my eyes and let me see the many small and large ways in which gender inequality has not been achieved in my home country. Where balances of power lie. How the ways in which we critique women are different from men, how women’s work has always been devalued.  It spoke to all the things I had seen that I had not had the language to articulate. It gave voice and legitimacy to the rage I felt about many things which seemed so impotent.

I see the many problems with feminism. How it fails over and over again to serve the needs of all women, yet I can’t stop calling myself a feminist because of all the tools it has given me.

Confessions

TW for disordered behaviours regarding food.

Sometimes relapse is a part of recovery. Last week I found myself after having consumed a mars bar and some lollies feeling angry and disgusted with myself. Despite the fact I strongly believe that I can eat anything I want whenever I want and not feel bad or guilty about it. Despite the fact that I have made peace with my shape in the mirror. Despite the fact I have promised myself to show my body love and not hate.   I got down on my knees and thought about how disgusting I was and vomited up my dinner and desert.

Afterwards there was no feeling of relief. No satisfaction from not letting those calories attach themselves to my belly in the form of adipose tissue. All I felt was sad and angry. Sad that I still struggle with these thoughts, that my eating disorder bubbles away under the surface of my brain, and that not succumbing to it is a conscious decision I have to make every day. Angry because I had come so far only to take such a huge step back like this. Angry because I had let the little stabs that my co-workers and friends make about their own bodies get to me.

I am not going to beat myself up over it. I am going to pick myself up and just take it one day at a time. As I have learnt in the last little while life is far to fragile for me to waste any more time freaking out about the size of my waist.  it is also to fragile for me to be furious with myself when I live in a world which places so much importance on these stupid little things.

Recovery is a process and day by day my resilience grows.

Commitment

To The Other Side of Dreaming.  Go read this first.

Today I am stating my commitment to be a good ally, a fierce comrade to join you in your fight for social justice no matter who you may be. I promise to never stop educating myself. I promise to apologise sincerely when I fuck up. I promise to never make my support conditional upon your tone, on making yourself less than. I promise to truly listen to what you need and not to provide what I think you need.  I promise to never act as though you should be grateful for my support.

This is my commitment to every social justice movement that I am involved in which I do not personally identify as being a part of. I will strive each day to make sure that this remains true.

Sexual Awakenings

I came of age when the internet was bright and shiny and people said things like ASL(age sex location) in IRC chatrooms and you could ‘meet’ strange and interesting people by using the random button on ICQ.

Fear of girls and young women meeting up with aged men who they found on the internet pretending to be young and turning out to  be sexual predators was starting to run high. At the same time as all of this I was discovering both the power of the internet and my own sexuality.

Parents often fear the things adolescents might find on the internet, pornography, creeps, and all the other stuff conspiring to sexualise children before their time.  I agree that media objectification and sexualisation of children particularly girls is deeply problematic, however at the same time the free availability of information and titillation on the internet can be really helpful in the exploration of sexuality in a physically safe manner.

My first sexual experiences consisted of chatting with people on the internet, sometimes strangers sometimes friends. It allowed me to discover what turned me on and what didn’t, how to relate to people sexually and also discover what people actually DID when they were having sex.

I have no doubt that if my parents had known about this my one avenue for risk free sexual discovery would have been taken away from me, and it was risk free for me, there were no webcams or pictures involved, I didn’t give away my contact details or even my real name to strangers. It was simply a way of dealing with the feelings and thoughts I was having.

I would love to know your thoughts on this!

Looking Backward to Look Forward

One of my pet peeves is how often people with privilege say things like: “well that happened in the past it has nothing to do with me ” or “we need to stop looking at the past and move forward” or even, “how long can I be blamed for something my great great great great great grandfather did? ”

The thing is when we are talking about historical events such as colonisation or slavery they have far reaching social consequences that are still felt today. Just because you personally did not steal land from an indigenous person or profit off the backbreaking labour done by a slave does not mean you did not and are still not benefiting from the system that allowed these things to happen. Claiming that we can just move forward from these deeply traumatic parts of our history without actually addressing the wrongs that went on is just ludicrous.

Do people really think that entire communities who had their lands and livelihoods taken away and were treated as second class citizens suffer no ill affects? That these ill effects do not reverberate for generations?

I think of every small injustice I have suffered and how these small acts have shaped me irrevocably and cannot help but think of the destruction injustice on a large scale causes.  You cannot pretend that evil has not happened. You cannot act as though those who are rightfully choked with rage because of everything that happened to their mothers and grandmothers are in the wrong and should ‘just let it go’ and stop living in the past. You cannot claim that your wealth has nothing to do with their poverty. It doesn’t work like that.

There is perhaps not enough money in the world that could ever redress the wrongs of slavery, colonisation, genocide, apartheid  and the myriad other deeply wrong events, policies and projects that have occurred. That shouldn’t matter. What there should be is a surfeit of compassion and empathy for peoples and communities who have suffered like this and yet there is not. There is anger, discrimination and hate, which perpetuate further victimisation. Life isn’t a zero sum gain and reparations and admitting wrong does not take away from what you have.

How can society ever move forward if we do not openly and honestly address the foundation of what it is built on?

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