Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘feminist men’

Whitechapel: Murder, Masculinity and Mental Health

Whitechapel: Murder, Masculinity and Mental Health

Warning: this contains some spoilers for all four series of Whitechapel, although I’ve tried to avoid any major plot twists and I haven’t named any of the killers.

I watched Series 1 – 4 of Whitechapel quite recently. I’m four years late to the party, so all the fanfiction, forums and fan phenomena are long dead. Nonetheless, I’m glad I sat down and watched each series consecutively, because it enabled me to spot certain recurring themes and to watch character arcs develop.

For the uninitiated, Whitechapel is a British crime drama, which aired on ITV from 2009 to 2013 and consists of four series. The first two series focus on modern “copycat killers” replicating historical crimes. From Series 3 onwards, the focus shifts slightly – rather than the crimes being directly lifted from history, the team use historical accounts in order to help them solve each case. It was described in The Times thus: “It is all in the worst possible taste and bloody good fun.” It stars Rupert Penry-Jones as DI Joseph Chandler, Phil Davis as DS Ray Miles and Steve Pemberton as Edward Buchan, an author and “Ripperologist” (expert on Jack The Ripper).

I was initially put off by the lack of female characters in Whitechapel – the women in Series 1 with the most screentime are the ones who end up brutally murdered, aside from the pathologist Dr Caroline Llewellyn. The killer in the first series finds his inspiration in Jack The Ripper, and the modern murders are clearly sexually motivated. It can be difficult to pull off a narrative like that without vindicating the sexual element and objectifying the women involved, but Whitechapel handles it very well in my opinion. Having watched the later series, I found that this motif of women being mutilated was ditched by the narrative. Although representation did steadily improve with the introduction of DC Meg Riley, DI Mina Norroy and Morgan Lamb in Series 3, I don’t actually mind the lack of women so much, mostly because I think Whitechapel just happens to be better at handling themes of masculinity.

You could accuse me of reading too deeply into it and analysing something that’s not there, but Whitechapel showcases the broadening spectrum of masculinity in our modern society, as well as depicting toxic masculinity and its abusive, repressive nature. This is crucial, especially as we live in a society in which the biggest killer of men between the ages of 18 and 50 is suicide. The series neatly covers that spectrum, with each of the main male characters representing a facet of masculinity. All of its main characters inhabit their roles as men in varying ways, and it’s both interesting and poignant that the series never condemns any of them for it.

On one end of the spectrum, we have DC Emerson Kent, who is the baby of the team (all of the other officers play a parental role for him to some extent). I like to think of Kent as representing a kind of “new” masculinity – a masculinity characterised by openness, acceptance and emotion. In Series 1, DS Miles convinces Chandler – whose confidence is wavering – that he’s strong enough to remain with the team. He discusses how everyone on the team has a different way of coping, and he mentions to Chandler that Kent copes with emotionally challenging cases by having a good cry in the toilets or out on the car park. We see this onscreen in Series 2, Episode 2. It’s heartbreaking and a moment of character development for Kent in terms of how we as viewers react to him, but more interesting is how the other characters respond. Edward Buchan sees him and tells Chandler. They don’t laugh, they don’t mock him; it’s just accepted that that’s what he does.  Edward Buchan is another example of this. In S3, Ed is struggling to cope with the weight of expectation in his new role as police researcher. As Chandler relies on him to find historical precedents for the crimes, Ed often finds himself under pressure to hunt down the right case file in his newly-constructed archive. He has to learn to deal with the fact that he can’t save everyone – he feels enormously guilty for having unwittingly aided The Ripper in Series 1 and for discovering the truth too late in Series 3, resulting in the deaths of two young women. We see him seeking counselling with Morgan Lamb in Series 3 and he asks Chandler for advice too. Ed is a great example of a man who isn’t afraid to admit when he feels vulnerable.

DS Ray Miles is more emblematic of what we might consider “traditional” masculinity. He’s a father figure for the team, especially for DI Chandler, although as a character he even subverts that successfully. There’s no doubt that he’s the patriarch of the team, but he’s a very nurturing character; he just appears gruff when expressing it. He takes his anger about his father’s absence (partially resolved in Series 2, Episode 3 when he discovers what really happened to his dad) and converts it into caring for others. Despite being a more traditional male, he never ridicules the others for their personal coping mechanisms and is happy to share his own with Chandler (he likes to sit by his fish pond and think, FYI).

At the opposite end of the spectrum is where we find The Ripper (whose name I won’t reveal to avoid spoiling it for you!). He’s representative of toxic masculinity, or masculinity to the extreme. This is reflected in his absolute misogyny. Through him, women are objectified in the most extreme way possible. They become his tools, his paint palette, as he recreates the crimes of Jack The Ripper. They lose any autonomy – his mutilation of their bodies means (metaphorically speaking) that he owns them, he possesses them. It’s a pretty terrifying way to interpret it, but it’s not outlandish.

Aside from my own interpretations regarding masculinity in Whitechapel, it also deals openly with mental illness. DI Joseph Chandler, the protagonist, has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). What I really love about Whitechapel is how it approaches his mental health. It’s never dismissed as a quirk or manipulated as a plot device. It is just part of his reality and, as the stakes grow ever higher with each passing series, Joe’s compulsive behaviours become increasingly difficult for him to manage. He starts with compulsive handwashing in Series 1, but by Series 3 he changes his shirt several times a day in order to feel clean enough. I think the writers deal with it in a very frank manner – it’s upsetting to watch him break down or struggle with his compulsive behaviours (i.e. Series 2, Episode 2, when he can’t leave his office because he keeps flicking the lights on and off), but (speaking as a neurotypical person) I’d rather be made uncomfortable than have mental illness sugarcoated.

I think it’s necessary – if not essential – that the series has a mentally ill character who isn’t a “baddie”. The series has several killers who are either implied to be or are described as mentally ill, and it would have been easy for a series like Whitechapel to reinforce stereotypes about mentally ill people. We see it all the time in the “haunted asylum”/“mad axe murderer” additions to the horror genre. In reality, mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.

In conclusion, Whitechapel is well worth a watch. It’s witty, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it doesn’t shy away from symbolism.

“What does a Feminist Society even do?”

Short answer: a lot. 

I got this question loads when I first told people that I was going to run a feminist society. I still get asked and I’ve already presented a third of my planned sessions (we finish next March). You might be wondering too – or, potentially, you want to run your own feminist group and don’t know what to talk about!

A point in my previous article about running a feminist society was that you should start by deciding what type of group you want to be. This is true of all good collectives – you should have an ultimate goal. Our group’s goal is simply to broaden our horizons as much as possible and to discover, together, what feminism means in today’s global society. Sometimes, that means we have to look back at the work of our foremothers, examining how they shaped the feminist movement we know and love, as well as acknowledging their failings and faults. Other times, it means that we must consider what our personal activism has to look like in order to create the future we want and need. We are a group rooted in the past, the present and the future.

But that might not be what you want. The feminist society you envision might not have many debates or discussions (like mine does – we do talk a lot!). It might be an action group, in which you organise protests, demonstrations, fundraisers and awareness events. That’s important and valid too, and you might like to incorporate those things even if yours will be a discussion group. For example, in honour of International Women’s Day next year, we’re planning to raise money for a women’s shelter and organise a showing of a feminist film in our college’s lecture theatre.

Another concern I’ve seen in forums and message boards is this: how do I come up with ideas for my sessions? A challenge indeed! I got started early, as soon as I was given the go-ahead to run the club. Sessions started in September, but I had planned all my allotted sessions by the end of June. This is definitely advisable; it gives you ample time to research (and design any PowerPoint presentations you might want!).

For our debates, I tried to stick to a “theme” for each half-term. The first half-term has been all about the history of the women’s movement and its foundations, as well as exploring intersectionality and diversity. We discussed the “waves” system, separatist and cultural strains of feminism (i.e. womanism, chicanisma), TERFs and early radical feminism. That made sense to me – it meant that everyone was on the same level and had the same grounding in feminist history. Our second set of sessions will focus more on politics and human rights, and how feminism supports and intersects with these.

Pro-tip: Google a ton of human rights awareness days and create your discussions based on these! There’s International Women’s Day (8th March), International Men’s Day (19th November), International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November), Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May), Human Rights Day (10th December) and many, many more! If there’s an existing day of recognition, you’ll usually find it easier to discover resources online. IWD has an official website with downloadable information and activities, as do many of the others in the previous list.

You might also want to shake it up and show documentaries in your sessions (if you have access to a computer, screen and projector). Documentaries can be a fantastic way to engage your group in challenging discussions, especially if they are a little bit quiet to start with! It gives them (and you!) something to respond to, rather than forcing you to come up with an amazing point under pressure! If you want to incorporate this, YouTube is your best friend. I already had a few documentaries that I desperately wanted to show, but it’s quick and easy to type “feminist documentary” into YouTube if you need ideas. I’d recommend watching them first though!!! (There will soon be a “resources” page in the top-right corner of my blog, where I’ll link to documentaries we’ve shown/will show in the group.) You could also play music from feminist artists – we’re going to have a session on the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s. Maybe you could try craft activities, like handmade zines or posters.

Really, the best thing you can do is ask. What issues are your members passionate about? What do they want to talk about? What do they want to learn?

That’s all my advice for today, folks! Best of luck if you’re researching for and planning a feminist group. If not, why not? 😉

Please like and share if you enjoyed this post!

How To Run A Feminist Society

I’m running a feminist society at college this year (we’ve got just over 20 members), and I wanted to share some tips. When I was researching over the summer and planning our sessions, I couldn’t find a lot of information – so I decided to gather together my own advice (plus some Drag Race gifs) for other people!

  1. Plan, plan, plan!

This is a general tip, really, for anyone who wants to start a club or society. It’s worth starting early – if I hadn’t got started in advance, I might not have got into contact with my fab co-leader. Obviously, the nature of feminism is very collaborative and opinion-based, so I knew the direction of our sessions would be dependent on the group, rather than on my plan! But you can never be too prepared and it’s worth keeping your notes and ideas in one place, whether that’s a file on your computer or a physical folder. A particularly important point is to decide what type of group your society will be. Ours is very much a discussion group, but you might want your society to be more action-based (i.e. your meetings will essentially be for planning protests, etc.).

Planning at least some of your meetings will also help with creating posters and promoting your feminist society.

rpdr-awkwaard

Then you won’t go blank when people ask what it’s all about!

2. Promote the hell out of your society!

If you’re running your feminist society as an after-school club or as an enrichment activity (like me), then your school or college will usually have open events, booklets/leaflets and display boards to help you advertise your group. Make sure you take advantage of these! My college has an enrichment sign-up at the start of term, and every society has a table in the hall where students come to register with us. I made a sign to stick on the front of our stall, printed off plenty of funky feminist stickers and brought some chocolate along too. You don’t have to go quite that far, but it’s important to think about how best to sell your society.

Social media also played a huge role in the success of the group. As soon as I knew the society was going ahead, I posted on Facebook and invited my peers along. I got a great response. Our group is primarily targeted at Year 12s (students aged 16 – 17, if you’re not from the UK!), but about a third of our members are Year 13s (my year group – 17 – 18). I kept people up to date with proceedings by posting statuses on Facebook throughout the planning process, and it worked out really well.

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And, just like that, you have a gazillion members.

3. Be prepared to learn from your new members!

As the leader/president/mob boss, it’s your job to facilitate discussions, debates and activities. In some cases, you will have to be the expert. But often, you’ll learn a major amount from the people in your group if you ensure they’re heard. Make sure your group is an open platform and give them the chance to be the expert too.

In fact, it’s worth making this clear in your very first session. My co-leader and I used the introductory session to help our members get to grips with how things were going to work, and one of the things we highlighted was that they should feel free to call us out on anything problematic or anything they disagreed with. Our logic was that if they felt confident enough to challenge us, then our debates would be more effective and open.

drag race - reaction gif

It’s actually a good thing if they make this face, okayyy.

4. Change it up!

Do something different in every single session! The way I’ve gone about this is to alternate between watching documentaries or short films and debating. Essentially, we never have two debates in a row. This might sound odd for a feminist society, but, believe me, it’s especially helpful in your first few sessions when everyone is still getting to know one another. This might surprise you, but sometimes even feminists are shy and quiet, and consecutive sessions of awkward silence quickly sets an uncomfortable tone for your group. Watching a video (followed by a discussion) gives them a break and lets them socialise, whilst still engaging them in a challenging theme, and it’s a fantastic way of letting them bond organically.

rpdr-yaaas-gawd

5. Do. Not. Let. Anything. Stop. You.

This is the most important point. Starting your own society, on any topic and for any interest, is hugely challenging but so, so, so rewarding. There were lots of times during the planning process when I wanted to give up. People told me I wouldn’t get any members; people told me to prepare for the worst.

I sat at my desk on the day of the sign-up and, to start with, no-one came over. That was terrifying. The club next to me had a huge queue and I felt like all eyes were on me, sat there with no takers. During those few minutes, I wanted to run off and cry in the toilets and give up on the whole thing, like everyone told me I should.

But I sat there, resolutely, with my stickers and a big smile and then, gradually, people started to sign up. To my surprise, whole groups of students walked over and all of them signed up. That made me so happy – the idea that entire groups of friends had seen my little poster and decided to join together.

katya-snap-fingers

Take that, everyone who said I wouldn’t have any members.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful! A lot of this applies to all sorts of clubs and societies, so I’ll be writing a separate article shortly to recommend some useful resources and provide a few ideas for activities. 

Please consider liking and sharing! Start your own FemSoc today!

Agathon and the Women: Effeminacy and Femininity

There is a definite prejudice towards men who use femininity as part of their palate; their emotional palate, their physical palate. Is that changing? I’m not talking frilly-laced pink things or Hello Kitty stuff. I’m talking about goddess energy, intuition and feelings. That is still under attack, and it has gotten worse.

– RuPaul

I want to talk to you about Agathon.

Agathon was an Athenian tragic poet and playwright, who lived from (roughly) 448BCE to 400BCE. None of his own works have survived in their entirety – we know of six titles and we have 31 textual fragments – although he appears as a character in Plato’s Symposium and in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae (Women at the Thesmophoria). Neither of these depictions are very flattering. He appears in the first act of Thesmophoriazusae. In the play, the tragedian Euripides is accused of misogyny, and the women of Athens have had it up to here with him. At the Thesmophoria, a women-only festival, they plot their revenge. Euripides plans to have Agathon – a man notorious for dressing as a woman and for his submissive sexual exploits – infiltrate the festival for him (although this doesn’t work out and Euripides’ relative Mnesilochus goes instead).

Agathon is mocked pretty ruthlessly throughout his appearance in the play, although you could argue that he gives as good as he gets; honestly, I wish he was in the play more. He’s heavily coded by the narrative as gay, he dresses as a woman (for writing purposes) and it’s implied that he works as a prostitute, but it’s the latter two of these qualities that seem to qualify him for mockery. Nobody would have had a problem with him being gay; the Greeks didn’t really have a concept of homosexual or heterosexual. You were either dominant (penetrator) or you were submissive (penetrated). Agathon falls into that second category – the category reserved for pubescent boys and women.

The reason I bring up Agathon (aside from his general brilliance) is because he exemplifies how masculinity and femininity intersected in ancient times, and there’s a lot we can learn from his portrayal about how the ancients – and how we – approach femininity and also what we might call effeminacy. Homophobia and sexism are both social justice issues. We don’t necessarily lump them in together or deal with them in the same way, but I often find that people who are passionate about fighting one of those causes feel some affinity for the other too. I also think many homophobic stereotypes and cliches which accompany depictions of gay men in media have their roots in misogyny and anti-femininity. That’s not to say the LGBT+ rights movement owes anything at all to feminists or to straight, cis women, but I do think there are some similarities to be acknowledged.

I’ve often argued that plenty of men’s issues are a direct result of our society’s demonisation of femininity. Men don’t have the opportunity to access domestic violence services and, even when they do, they don’t feel as though they can and still retain their masculinity. There’s a high suicide rate among young males, another result of constant social pressure to conform. This is when masculinity becomes toxic, something men have to labour under all their lives rather than something they settle into comfortably.

Perhaps this contributes to homophobia, particularly to femmephobia (discrimination towards feminine-presenting individuals, something that is perpetrated by gay men too, not just heterosexuals). Perhaps this insecurity manifests as resentment towards men who confidently, comfortably inhabit the space (a gap which is rapidly closing) between masculinity and femininity.

You might have seen an image that did the rounds on the internet recently, of a man wearing a “No fats, no fems” shirt.

no fats no fems

Yeah, okay, it’s a hella cute shirt. Yeah, it was meant to be ironic. But it highlights a massive problem in the gay community, this idea that “twinks” – feminine gay men – are letting the side down and giving in to stereotyping. In a way, it contributes to both homophobia and misogyny in one fell swoop. You can read a gay man’s perspective on “anti-campness” here, from Guardian columnist Owen Jones. In the article, Owen states: “This anti-camp hostility partly comes from a desire to conform to traditional gender roles, which gay men have already subverted whether they want to or not.” It’s all part of “internalised homophobia”, in which gay men (and gay women!) perpetuate harmful stereotypes out of fear and insecurity. However, this is steadily improving. I quoted RuPaul earlier. He’s a prime example; his series RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a smash hit with eight seasons (and two seasons of its spin-off All Stars) under its belt. As drag has entered the mainstream consciousness – via the accessible “talent show” format that RPDR employs – so has the idea that mixing masculine and feminine gender expression is totally acceptable.

On a broader level – beyond just the gay community – I think we’d solve a lot of men’s issues far more quickly if we stopped enforcing this idea that feelings = femininity = weakness. Even now, being called “a girl” is a grave insult for many boys and men.

Feminists have always had a complicated relationship with both masculinity and femininity. When feminists critique masculinity, generally what they mean is more along the lines of machismo – a word of Spanish origin that denotes hypersexual manhood, denigration of women and adherence to a strict set of “masculine” traits. Men also put up with some pretty hellish expectations regarding their bodies and their lives. I – and most other feminists I know – give a whoop and a cheer when a plus size man is hailed as a modelling icon or when the internet’s latest sweetheart is “unconventionally attractive” (whatever that even means).

Owen Jones – I know, him again! – also wrote a piece for New Statesman about masculinity. I used a quote from that particular post in my Quotes series. He wrote in that article: “…the point is this. Being a man is not static: it can change and be redefined.” I think that’s the crucial thing. The more we encourage people, especially young people, to see masculinity and femininity as fluid, the better our society as a whole will be. The pressure to conform to a rigid gender role can be so damaging and dehumanising, and it causes a massive disconnect between a young person’s inner identity and their outward expression. Imagine a world without that self-sabotage.

Really, we should see gender as a painter’s palette. Blend. Experiment. Why use just one colour for the masterpiece that is your life?

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Thesmophoriazusae, spoken by Agathon. He has a lot of good dialogue in the play, but, after studying the play for my AS Level, this line stuck with me. I think it’s apt for what I do.

What you write depends so much on what you are.

People I mentioned/cited:

Owen Jones, How To Be A Man, New Statesman (x)

Owen Jones, What Alan Carr Taught Me About Gay Men’s HomophobiaThe Guardian (x)

RuPaul, RuPaul speaks about society and the state of drag as performance artWikiNews (x)

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6, Section 2 (x)

A little more about Agathon:

Agathon is credited with being an innovator in the world of Greek tragedy. Athenian plays were almost always based upon mythology, although they occasionally had their origins in history. Agathon is thought to have been the first playwright to have written an entirely original play, Anthos (“Flower”). The reason we know about him – aside from his roles in Symposium and Thesmophoriazusae – is because he won at the Lenaean Festival in 417BC. Greek playwrights competed at these festivals, showcasing their latest works, and it was a great honour to be awarded first place. I was especially surprised to learn that, as, in Thesmophoriazusae, Aristophanes depicts him as being an incompetent writer.

For more about him, go here, here and here. You can find PDFs of Thesmophoriazusae online, although a published translation is generally a better bet (we used this edition at college).

Women and the Left

Alternative title: I’ve Got Tits And I’m In Your Trade Union.

I saw a comic earlier on Facebook, by an artist called Suzy X, which perfectly encapsulated something I’ve been pondering for a while.

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If you’re a fan of Vice or its sister site Broadly, you might have seen the article they published on the “brocialism” phenomenon (x). Essentially, a brocialist is a man with right-on leftist politics but a dodgy set of morals when it comes to women. It might sound silly and, to be fair, I laughed at the article while reading it.

I stopped laughing when I realised that it was all too familiar. It’s often difficult for people who are fighting a cause – such as resisting class-based oppression – to recognise oppressive actions in themselves and their activism. As they focus on one area of privilege, they may lose sight of others. We see this in “white feminism”, which erases the nuanced experiences of women of colour and fails to address intersectionality. If you bring up issues of intersectionality in certain circles, you may be accused of pandering to “identity politics”. In this same way, leftists who also happen to be feminists, like myself, get a lot of flack for “dividing” the movement.

Obviously class is an important indicator of social privilege – I’m not suggesting that we should abandon it altogether – but women and DFAB people have an important role to play within the left. In fact, I’m of the opinion that class should be incorporated more into feminism. Women’s experiences, particularly if they are wives and mothers with families to support, are intimately connected with working-class issues or disadvantages associated with a low income background. For example, as shown in a study by UNESCO in Ethiopia and others by UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, poverty is the main barrier to girls’ and women’s education. Girls are traditionally entrusted with domestic tasks such as fetching water. If the only source of water is far away and requires a time-consuming journey, this results in more girls being late to or absent from school. There is also a stark lack of “gender-sensitive” teaching; therefore, girls grow into women who don’t know how to protect themselves from STDs. UNICEF have stated: “Educated girls can better protect themselves against HIV, trafficking and abuse. Educating a girl also means that as a woman, she is empowered and more likely to participate in development efforts and in political and economic decision-making. Women who went to school usually manage to increase the household income.” When women are educated and empowered, it holds benefits for their families and even for whole communities.

An example closer to home (at least for me!) is the impact de-industrialisation has had on family life for working-class people, right here in the UK. Historically, men from predominantly working-class have participated in “skilled” work, i.e. they learned a trade or took on a job manufacturing a specific material/product. In my area, our main industry throughout the nineteenth century and much of the early twentieth century was chain-making. However, in the latter part of the 20th century, our industries and the communities that had grown around them suffered. There are lots of reasons for this, but the actions of Margaret Thatcher and the war her government waged on trade unions were primarily responsible. For people outside the UK, you probably won’t be aware of the major turmoil that occurred during Thatcher’s stint as Prime Minister, when thousands of miners (mining being a job rooted in the working class) participated in strikes during the 70s and 80s. In an article for New Statesman, Owen Jones specifically linked de-industrialisation with the changing status of masculinity in our society: “…what it means to be a man is in a state of flux. Deindustrialisation, undoubtedly, is a fundamental reason. Britain’s economy has been increasingly emptied of skilled industrial jobs. Take manufacturing: while 5.6 million people worked in the sector in 1982, only 2.6 million did last year.” When men lost their jobs as a result of mass de-industrialisation under Thatcher and the legacy of privatisation that followed her, it placed greater pressure on women to provide for their families, and areas of England, Scotland and Wales remain poverty-stricken. You’ll find that the poorest areas are those that historically thrived due to industry.

Women are not just passive victims in class war. Our foremothers have fought to find a voice and a platform within the left, which is why it angers me so much that we should have to reaffirm our place in the movement. In 1930s Spain, the anarchist organisation Las Mujeres Libres fought to empower working-class women.  The women of the Spanish anarchist movement felt marginalised. They were laughed at when they tried to contribute during meetings and this made women hesitant to speak up. This angered Mujeres Libres because the movement was supposed to oppose and ultimately abolish all forms of oppression and social hierarchy. They put an emphasis on a “double struggle”, in which they could pursue both women’s liberation and social revolution. In order to give working-class women the best opportunities to participate, they organised childcare services and schools. They also developed literacy courses, social studies classes and medical training. I love the story of Mujeres Libres, purely because of how brilliant they were at meeting the specific needs of the working women they supported. The scenario was similar for Clara Zetkin, a German socialist activist and an advocate for women’s rights. She too held the opinion that women were not allowed to participate equally within the left. She presided over the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic party from 1907 onwards and she founded International Women’s Day in 1911, although she had been involved with the women’s movement in Germany since 1874. Becoming a cultural icon in the former German Democratic Republic, streets and parks bearing her name can still be found there.

And the women of the left are still fighting. Even within feminism, there are leftist movements: socialist feminism, Marxist feminism, labor/labour feminism. There is even a movement called transnational feminism, exploring how capitalism and the patriarchy intersect in order to exploit women.

I refer to The Left a lot in this article, although I don’t mean to suggest that everyone with a left-wing viewpoint is part of some homogeneous mass. What I generally mean when I use the term The Left is leftist activism and the platforms where this takes place. When I say “women struggle to find a platform in the left”, I mean that very few of today’s prominent socialist thinkers are women. That’s a problem. We’re not lacking in vocal socialist women because women don’t understand politics, nor is it because women are politically apathetic. In fact, we’re not lacking socialist women at all. Speaking as a feminist, I know what it’s like to get shouted down, on the internet and in real life. Therefore, I can confidently say that the issue is that so many men continue to exclude women from conversations about class or refuse to acknowledge sexist bias in their own actions.

This is not to suggest that we are somehow worse than the right (FYI: that’s not the case). But it is more hypocritical of us if we’re seeking equality of the classes whilst remaining blind to other struggles.

Corbyn and the Coup: A Socialist Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a far-away kingdom, alone on an island.

The kingdom’s rulers did not care much for their people and theirs was a world of bloodshed and betrayal, so the people relied upon a court of mages for guidance, led by an old wizard chosen by the people. He and the king sought to restore balance between them. (This is a magical democracy, children. Now shut tf up and listen.)

Of late, the kingdom had isolated itself further still. Their former king had abdicated. He was not the best king, but the alternative was much worse… and now it had come to pass. The king’s courtiers bickered and quarreled over who would take the throne, and the people looked to their royal wizards for comfort.

However, it seemed that the wizards had forgotten their code of magical honour. All of them, except for that wise old wizard. Although he was the people’s choice (Which? Magazine winner), the courtiers and other wizards had long mocked him for his unkempt beard and tattered robes. The truth was, the wise old wizard found no pleasure in expensive wands and fine garments. What he loved was good magic, done for the benefit of his people. He wanted to protect them and to ensure everyone got their share.

But their mockery was deeper and darker than that. The other wizards feared the new and different magic that the wise old wizard had, and they had only one solution: to overthrow him.

You’ve probably guessed by now, but I’m not actually talking about an old sorcerer, an absentee king and a wizardly code of honour.

I’m talking, of course, about the EU referendum and its consequences, namely the underhand, unfair campaign against the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. I won’t pretend this “coup” – if you can call it that – is anything new. Ever since he became leader, there have been detractors and naysayers within the party itself. It’s been brewing in the cauldrons of the centre left (and if you think Corbyn is too far left, you probably shouldn’t be in the Labour Party) for quite some time; it’s just that the country is in convenient turmoil at present. Our prime minister has resigned, our government are battling it out for the top job, and nobody knows where to look for leadership or guidance. Those in the Labour Party who want Corbyn out have made their opinions known – opinions which have been ad hominem at best, downright character assassination at worst. This was an opportune moment to do so.

That’s what politics is about in this country at the moment: opportunity. That’s what we are to most politicians – us peasants, the serfs on their land – we are opportunities. They’re vultures, picking at the carcass of this country and squabbling over the last scraps of meat that remain. Jeremy Corbyn’s only crime was to see us for what we are. We are people who have already been taken advantage of. We are people who do not need any more cuts, any more austerity, any more lies.

Jeremy Corbyn is not, to the best of my knowledge, a liar. That’s the key difference between him and many other politicians I’ve seen. He does not mince his words, he does not avoid the question. He does not hide behind flashy cars and sharp suits and an Etonian education. He cycles, appeared on television in 1984 in a jumper knitted by his mother, and is the son of a maths teacher and an engineer. He has fought all his life to make the world a better place, often at great personal cost regarding his career. This is a man who has won awards for his human rights activism and he has openly opposed the Labour whip on several occasions. Precisely when kindness and compassion became radical qualities, I don’t know, but these are the things that have made him so popular among young people. He sticks it to the man, sure, but he does it in a way that is fair and just.

We should be ashamed of the bullying that has been perpetrated against Corbyn. He has been subjected to the most inane, the most insulting media depiction of recent times. He’s been a victim of biased media. We have all been victims of that same biased media. It’s unfair for people to label him uncharismatic or unelectable, when they’re the same people who would never give him a chance and gave him so little room to manouevre. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

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Even his side-eye does not discriminate. It sees all.

He is honourable. He is decent. He is principled.

Of course I’m a little predisposed to like him. His politics align very closely with my own, and he is the kind of person for whom I have always had the utmost respect. Regardless, I have been proud to call him our Leader of the Opposition, and I hope I can continue to refer to him as such.

Thank you, Jez. Whatever may happen in the coming months, thank you.

And to the wise old wizard on the lonely island: your good magic is strong enough. Keep the faith.

Quote #15

There is nothing inevitable about men oppressing women, being full of aggression, or clamping down on other men who don’t conform to a rigid concept of masculinity. Being a man can mean being inclusive, open and accepting. Masculinity is fluid and its future is up for grabs.

– Owen Jones, left-wing journalist and Guardian columnist, writing for The New Statesman, 2nd June 2016 (x).