Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘internet’

What’s the point?

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a proper article for a little while, but I’ve been busy revising for my exams (all done now!) and, honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. Since my exams finished, I’ve posted quite a lot on my other blog which is about the paranormal and things like that. I find that quite easy to write about because it’s generally lighthearted and it’s more reflective of my “sillier” side. Personally, it’s not a silly subject for me, but I’m aware that other people do think it’s a little bit weird and we can have a laugh about it. At the end of the day, my writing about ghosts has no impact on anyone else.

But this blog does have an impact. It deals with a lot of serious subject matter – women’s rights issues are no joke – and I have to be careful about the topics I choose to discuss and the manner in which I discuss them. Loyal readers might remember that, when I first started this blog aeons ago in 2015, I published articles frequently. It was pretty distinctly quantity over quality, and there are lots of posts from the early stages of this blog that I’m not overly fond of. I’m leaving them up for now though – I think you have a right to know what my journey within feminism has been like. I’ve chosen to make that journey public; I have to accept that two years of reading and writing about feminism has changed my perspective on lots of issues.

It has made me wonder if there’s any point to continuing this blog. I’m at a point where my ideas about feminism go a lot deeper than writing an article about my Top 5 Female Artists. Of course posts like that are important and I’m glad I showcased as many interesting women from the world of art, from history and from popular culture as I could, but I’m now dealing with feminism’s place in culture (and in my life) in a way which is much more complex. It’s not really the stuff of a cute rainbow blog with witty GIFs and my special brand of humour. It’s the stuff of proper feminist activists, proper feminist academics and proper feminist authors. And I am none of those things. It’s difficult not to feel a bit inadequate and insignificant.

But whenever I think about giving up this blog for good – never writing a post again, never updating the FAQ again, never adding to the feminist playlist again – something in me pitches a fit. How dare you just give up, it says. You can never carry on with anything, you always give up on your ideas after five minutes! And that’s true: I’m a terminal quitter. (Side note: I used to do creative writing, I had ambitions of being an author. Have I ever finished a novel? No. There’s at least half a dozen separate stories rotting on one of my old USB sticks.)

This blog is perhaps the longest running personal hobby I’ve ever had. Two years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s around 11% of my lifetime so far (11.111111…% to be exact). And despite most of the people in my life telling me it’s pointless and treating it like it’s a stupid quirky thing I do rather than a really important part of my identity, I’ve managed to keep a sense of purpose. Even if that purpose does insist on drifting away from me at present.

I’ll let you in on a secret – I didn’t know how this post would end when I started it. All of what you just read was a blow-by-blow stream of consciousness. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll write up a few “Top 5”-style articles – which do make me happy – and post those as often as I can. Maybe I’ll keep this blog as a more cheerful arena for that kind of thing, for the celebratory girl power posts, and save the more serious stuff for when I go to university (the one I’m hoping to go to has a respected feminist society that’s been running for a while). Maybe I’ll start writing an extended essay about feminism after all – a piece of writing that I actually finish this time.

Either way, this blog isn’t dead. It matters a lot to me, which is why I’m now so picky about what gets published here. It was different when it was being run by a 16-year-old girl who had never picked up a book on gender theory. Now it’s being run by an adult with 100 followers and 10,000 blog views who has led a feminist society and developed strong opinions on the great social issues of our time – opinions that go beyond “Maybe we should be kinder to each other”, although that is still a mantra I hold close to my heart.

To answer the question I posited in the title of this post: the point is that this blog is significant to me. It matters. Of course there’s a point. I should never allow there to be a time in my life where I am not filled to the bursting with purpose.

Dolly Dastardly x

(What the hell, have another gif)

katya-snap-fingers

 

The Curse: Womanhood and Horror

While I wasted my obligatory horror film post back in May, I realised that I hadn’t really gone into depth about the underlying theme that links most (if not all) of the films on that list together – the way the horror genre exoticises and demonises puberty, sex and womanhood. Slasher films are particularly guilty of this. In many slasher films, especially in early examples, the “final girl” survives to the end of the film and defeats the killer. Usually, she survives because she is a virgin and the other female characters – normally sexually active women – are punished by the narrative for their promiscuity.

It’s true that women are often the victims in horror films that treat puberty as a cause for alarm, as a step into a world of violence and fear. However, there’s certainly no shortage of women who commit violence within the genre and, equally often, such violence is presented as a coming-of-age ritual for the female protagonist. Either as a victim or as a perpetrator, her experiences with fear and with conflict are integral to her “growing up”.

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“It’s corn syrup, Daddy. Want some?”

Themes that crop up a lot are menarche and menstruation; it’s easy to see why. It’s cyclical, linking it to curses and prophecies within horror – you know the one, “Every 20 years, the great god Cthulhu demands a virgin sacrifice.” It also appears predominantly in films that explore lycanthropy (werewolfism!), which in most myths is dependent on the lunar cycle. Furthermore, menstruation is the only entirely natural process in which blood is excreted from the body. Despite being an absolutely normal and non-threatening experience, it lends itself to narratives that treat menstrual bleeding as equivalent to violent injury like stabbing or mutilation. The point of the horror genre is to unsettle and unnerve us. What better way to scare us than to convince us (at least for roughly 90 minutes) that our own body might turn against us?

A good example is the film Ginger Snaps (2000). In the film, Ginger Fitzgerald, a 16-year-old girl, starts her period. On the same day that she receives “the curse”, as she refers to it, she is attacked and bitten by a werewolf. Her younger sister Brigitte must find a way to cure her before Ginger is completely transformed into a monstrous creature. There’s very much a conflict between the girls’ mother’s romanticised idea of menarche, the school nurse’s calm explanations and Ginger’s own experiences. Her transformation is marked by exaggerated indications of puberty – we see her struggling to shave off thick hair, her period seems to go on for weeks and her sexual awakening results in a near-death experience for her boyfriend, who contracts lycanthropy like an STD and has a period of his own. Of course, the film is hyperbolic, but when you go through menarche as a teenager, these new and often painful experiences can feel very much like a nightmare.

At its heart, Ginger Snaps is a film about sisterhood. It explores the complex bond between young women, related by blood or not, by candidly depicting internalised misogyny. The Fitzgerald sisters frequently denounce their arch-enemy Trina Sinclair as a “slut” and she responds in kind, but all the teenage girls in the film are a united front when it comes to boys and their tenuous, uncertain interactions with them. In fact, Trina’s death scene and her conversation with Brigitte prior to her death is particularly fascinating. In reference to seeing Brigitte hanging out with Trina’s ex-boyfriend, Sam (who helps Brigitte find the cure), Trina says to her: “If you’re so f*cking smart, you won’t give him the satisfaction. Somebody, just once, shouldn’t give that f*cker the satisfaction!” That doesn’t strike me as something a nemesis would say. To me, that sounds like Trina trying – if haphazardly – to protect Brigitte from earning a reputation like hers. The girls show awareness of the sexual double standard earlier in the film. Lamenting her bad experience with her boyfriend, Ginger remarks to Brigitte that “A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease or the virgin next door.”

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Along those same lines, menarche is undoubtedly linked with the onset of fertility and sex. It’s fairly archaic symbolism and bears less relevance in the modern era, as obviously not all women want to or are able to have children. In addition, not everyone who experiences the menstrual cycle identifies as a woman and trans women may not experience it either.

However, I still find it interesting. Take the film  The Company of Wolves (1984), for example, based on the short story of the same name from the anthology The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. All the stories in the anthology deal with womanhood in some way – whether it’s through menarche, marriage or sex. The film is no different. While it is admittedly not an easy film to understand, due to heavy use of surrealism, ambiguous symbolism and a blurred boundary between the real world and the “dream” world, it is essentially a coming-of-age story. It’s a beautiful film, but it does take a few repeat viewings to take in everything. There’s so much symbolism in every frame and it can be a bit perplexing initially. The Company of Wolves also features werewolves, although they are portrayed differently to the lycanthropes of Ginger Snaps. Here, although the film makes it clear that anyone can become a wolf, the werewolves serve primarily as an allegory for men. This stems from the morals of early fairy tales, which Carter extrapolates in The Bloody Chamber. The original tale Red Riding Hood, which inspired several stories in the anthology and also the film, can be interpreted as a treatise on virginity. The wolf is a predator, out to steal away Red Riding Hood’s innocence and “devour” her, but she must be vigilant and stick to the path. Carter’s retelling is far more feminist. At the culmination of the short story and the film, the Red Riding Hood character – named Rosaleen in the film – chooses to stay with the wolf who has tricked her and eaten her grandmother. Leaving behind her parents, the village and the expectations that they had for her life, she transforms into a wolf herself and they flee into the forest together.

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“They say the Prince of Darkness is gentleman… they’re right, a fine gentleman.”

Perhaps that’s the secret to making a horror film that treats women’s experiences sensitively while still being, well, horrifying. Strip the protagonist of her autonomy, stop her from being the focus of her own narrative, and you’re guaranteed to make a shitty, sexist film. Giving agency and a voice to women in horror doesn’t reduce the terror, but it does stop the film from contributing to real life attitudes and stigma.

Please like and share if you enjoyed this article! This is a subject about which I’m passionate, and I’d really appreciate it.

Is Ross Poldark A Hero?

If you’ve read the novels or seen the original series (I have done neither), then you probably saw the events of last week’s episode of Poldark coming. In Series 2, Episode 8, we saw the tension between Ross and his former lover Elizabeth come to a head… and it was less than romantic. Let’s be real: it was a rape scene. There is no getting around that, there was nothing consensual about it. No matter how the BBC or the fans dress it up, Ross was firmly in the wrong. He was aggressive (he had the air of a fairly dastardly Bond villain when he entered the room). He ignored her wishes (she asked him to leave her bedroom and he refused). Finally, damningly, she plainly and repeatedly said “no”. It was rape. But the handling of the scene seems to suggest that those involved think otherwise. The BBC haven’t bothered to try and contextualise it, the author’s son has praised their faithful attitude to his father’s text – written in 1953, I might add – and even Aidan Turner, Cap’n Poldark himself, has weighed in on the issue. He said of the scene in a statement made to the Sun newspaper: “It seems consensual, and it just seems right. He goes to talk. He doesn’t go to commit a crime. They talk and it seems like there is still this spark between them, this unfinished business emotionally. Certainly, that’s how Ross feels. He doesn’t force himself upon her. He is emotionally quite inarticulate. I don’t think he quite understands himself.” He elaborated: “It would be boring to play a character who’s just a do-gooder”, which I think is in somewhat poor taste. This isn’t the excusable behaviour of a rogueish ne’er-do-well. It was a calculated attempt by a male protagonist to intimidate and control a leading female character. In a popular TV series, to cast that man as a hero is unacceptable.

The response from the cast, the crew and the fans begs the question: why are we so willing to excuse the flaws of our heroes? Furthermore, is Ross Poldark a hero at all?

The answer lies both in how the narrative unique to Poldark treats its protagonist and in how fiction at large treats rape and sexual violence.

First and foremost, Ross is not a nice character. He is a terrible person dressed up by the narrative and the cinematography to seem like a lovely ray of sunshine. Oh wow, look at his Adonis-like bod… whoops, you missed him being an abusive, unfaithful shitbag. At this point, he is as bad as the series’ villain George Warleggan. George is violent, emotionally manipulative and arrogant, and we as viewers are encouraged to hate him for it. All those qualities could be said of Ross too. We are not, however, expected to hate Ross, because he doesn’t know he’s doing wrong, poor boy. I think this ties in with the comments Aidan made – that Ross didn’t intend to commit a crime. The implication there is that, because he didn’t really mean to violate both her body and her autonomy, it isn’t actually that bad. 

This is the same thing survivors of rape are told in real life. Rapists are constantly leaving court without a conviction. They didn’t mean to, you see, they didn’t know. They thought they had the victim’s consent, because “no” really means “yes” in the throes of passion, doesn’t it? That’s my real issue with this scene. I get why it happened. Ross Poldark, a desperate, angry man with a big, control-freak ego, feels betrayed and confused. Elizabeth is torn, caught between the man she really loves and the man she must marry to secure her son’s future. Something catastrophic and ugly needed to occur at this point in the plot – as a writer, I know that. I’m also aware that the BBC are adapting a book series from over 50 years ago which is set in the 1790s; of course there will be iffy ethics and dodgy morals. However, there are ways to present this scene without condoning what happens. They needed to pick a point on the spectrum, frankly – either she consented enthusiastically or Ross forced himself on her. Yes, there might have been a grey area; perhaps Elizabeth was simply overcome with her long held passion. But, unfortunately, there is a long history in cinema of what amounts to a rape fantasy, in which the victim will eventually enjoy an unwanted encounter if the perpetrator is pushy enough. Poldark, unwittingly or not, has signed its name on that list.

We’re at a point in the evolution of pop culture that, by now, we should have grasped that you can enjoy something and still be deeply critical of it. Poldark is not a bad TV series, nor am I crediting it with being some kind of moral touchstone for the masses. The cast are fantastic; the plot is (generally) well-crafted and engaging. The Cornish coast is the real star of the show, obviously.

However, my enjoyment of it doesn’t diminish the discomfort I feel. We excuse the faults of fictional men – and often those of real ones too – all the time. In a way, that “Oh, but he didn’t know” (which we’re all so fond of) is rather infantilising to men and it’s deeply violent towards women. Our media and our visual culture is saturated with this idea that all can be forgiven because he’s the hero. Ross, in my opinion, is very much a Homeric hero – an Achilles or an Odysseus. In ancient Greek culture, a “hero” achieved incredible feats, but always for personal gain. Our modern heroic qualities are normally more along the lines of selflessness and compassion. There’s a real clash of ethics there. We’ve blurred that line, I think, and now we don’t really know what we want or deserve from our fictional protagonists. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t portray bad people on screen. I’m also not saying that the main character of a film or book should always be a saint. Real people are flawed and they do terrible things.

We just need to be honest about that.

Still thought Demelza was justified, tho

Please like and share if you enjoyed! 

Dateline London, 17/09/2016

Just catching up on Dateline London (Owen Jones appeared on it on Saturday), and the panel are having a fascinating discussion about the presidential election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The consensus is that Trump, while lacking in ideals and policies, is very good at galvanising and “inspiring” (for want of a better word) his particular demographic. Conversely, Clinton has the ideals and the political gravitas, but she hasn’t managed to garner support in quite the same way.

You can find the episode on BBC iPlayer here, although it’s only available for the next month.

“Women Transform Into Their Idols” – BuzzFeed

I just watched this super cute video from Ladylike, a series by BuzzFeed. In this episode, the team get to dress up as their female role-models. It’s amazing. I loved all their reasons for choosing these women as their role-models, and their choices said a lot about what each Ladylike member finds important in their own identity.

 

Let’s Get Critical

This will probably be a bit of a long’un, but Owen Jones’ post was no little’un either. It’s his fault. (It’s not, it’s not. It’s mine for having such long conversations with myself about the state of the left and then wanting to write them down.)

Also, I’ve called him “Owen” a lot in this, which is not very professional. Referring to him as simply “Jones” felt clunky and patronising, like I’m his Maths teacher.

Guardian columnist and political commentator Owen Jones published a blog post last month regarding the current turmoil within the Labour Party (which you can read here). The blog post you’re reading right now (significantly less articulate than his) was supposed to be published some weeks ago. The problem was: I kept changing it. In the end, I thought: “Eh, other people have tweeted him better responses in under 140 characters. Get over yourself, girl.” Yesterday, however, Owen treated us all to a video concerning the same issue, in a nice manageable eight-minute chunk, and I thought: Do it. Write it. Go on. Double donkey dare you.

The post (and the new accompanying video) simply asks Jeremy Corbyn supporters (Corbynites? Corbynions?) to consider nine questions concerning Corbyn’s next move and the next move of the Labour Party generally. These questions concerned policies, strategies to win over particular voting demographics (e.g. Conservative voters, over-44s) and also the party’s “vision” or ultimate goal.

Fair play, I thought. I’ve wondered that myself, and I even have a Corbyn shrine.

As for the fine folk of Twitter? Not so much. Their stance after the blog post’s release was more along the lines of “Blairite careerist sellout”. Which was rude. Funny, undoubtedly, but rude. As a result, my own response started off as a “Leave Owen Jones alone” petition, directed at the aforementioned barrage of irate Twitter users who took offense at the blog post on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn/Labour/Karl Marx’s pet goldfish.

Then this post mutated into a musing on how difficult it is to hold an even slightly controversial opinion in any movement. I’ve considered the whole fiasco (it was a bit of a fiasco) over the past month and came to the conclusion that, actually, I could empathise quite a bit with Owen (just without the powerful political mind, numerous television appearances, bestselling books and gorgeous cat*). The pressure to avoid divisive opinions is far from exclusive to the left, and I think about it a lot within the context of feminism. You might recognise my dilemma too. You see someone speaking out about feminism and you want to support them – you really, really do – but they’re just so problematic. You can’t say “No, you’re representative of neither me nor feminism”, because then that divides the movement and sets us against each other (in the same way that the Labour Party feels – and, to a large extent, is – divided right now). I always feel especially guilty having these thoughts if the public figure in question is a woman.

Furthermore, you can’t be left-wing and live in a bubble, just like I can’t be a feminist and do so. I can protest that I don’t want to dilute feminism and make it palatable to men and anti-feminists, but that’s really not very helpful.  To paraphrase Owen’s point about knocking on doors in the video: the whole point of a movement, political or social, is to persuade. Acknowledging and engaging with the people who don’t agree with you is never very fun, but, within the context of any kind of campaign or cause, it is necessary. There’s no point if all the people already on board are just going to stand around drinking squash and saying: “Well, I think Jezza Corbz is a top lad and I don’t give a rat’s arse if nobody else does.”

He is indeed a top lad, but Tories, the over-65 bracket, most of the (former) Shadow Cabinet and also my stepdad aren’t convinced. (Truthfully, my stepdad just does not like Corbyn. Thankfully, he likes Owen Smith, the alternative, even less.) Owen is totally right (not that he needs my approval); that’s definitely where we’re** going wrong. All his suggestions for how Labour ought to continue were justified and implementing them would meet the needs of the vulnerable people that Labour are meant to protect and would provide what others are seeking.

I’d add – if I were anywhere near qualified enough to comment – that, alongside support for older people, Labour should be encouraging a rethink regarding how the NHS budget (what little there is) is distributed. Mental health is still not given parity with physical health. I know it’s a cliche at this point, which disturbs me deeply. Many of my close friends and my relatives had or have mental health problems. Through their experiences and my own perspective as an ally to them, the lack of appropriate support and education is frankly bewildering. I remember Nick Clegg promising better mental health services when the coalition formed. Look how that one turned out. Don’t be the Lib Dems, Labour.

(As a side-note: it’d be nice if we could stop treating socialism like the plague too. I’d like to say I’m a leftie without getting either the pitying “sit down and shut up, you scrounger” look or the outraged “omg you think Stalin was right” glare. We are entirely too comfortable with the right and with capitalism. Not to be the Trot in the room, Britain, but “bourgeois” just isn’t a good look on you.)

Honestly, I’d love for the Labour Party to reaffirm everything I’ve come to love about it. I’m too young to remember a pre-Blair Labour. I remember writing to Tony Blair, not long before he was succeeded by Gordon Brown, and asking him to save the polar bears. I got a letter back – admittedly it was not personal correspondence from our disgraced former Prime Minister, but it was all very official nonetheless. It’s framed, lost somewhere up in our loft.

It struck me while writing this that a New Labour government, as it was under Blair and Brown, remains the only kind of Labour government I’ve ever known. That makes the flicker of hope in my heart all the more exciting. It started with Corbyn, on that day in September last year. I knew, listening to him and following his work, that this was the politician I’d waited for. The polar bear set-up is quite a good metaphor, actually, for the approach Owen Jones suggested in that fateful blog post. What we’re doing is not enough. We need a new strategy.

The polar ice caps are melting and there’s a good chance they’ll fracture and splinter. We can’t let them split, though, for the sake of the polar bears.

Blair and Brown never saved them. Cameron or May would probably shoot the poor things for sport.

Knock on some doors, Labour, and tell ’em what you’re about. Leave Twitter alone for two seconds. Minimum selfies, please.

And, maybe,  just maybe, you can save those bloody polar bears.


Notes:

* That’s actually a lie; I have two cats and they’re beautiful and flawless. But the rest still stands.

** “We”, she says with utter seriousness, as though she has ever done anything except give a Ukipper a stern and meaningful look in the street.

For more pure unadulterated Owen Jones, from concentrate, you can follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook as @OwenJones84. He has a regular column in the Guardian and a YouTube channel. He is also (surprise, surprise) the author of two bestselling books, Chavs and The Establishment. They will make you angry, but you’ll be happy about the fact that you’re angry. Trust me.

On Feminist Art

Sorry I’ve been so inactive! I’ve been focusing on college work, mostly. However, during the summer holidays, I’ve tried to branch out in terms of the feminist material I’m reading and creating. I’ve followed lots of great feminist artists on Instagram (like Paloma Smith/@octoplum), as well as some zine-makers and writers. I really like the DIY vibe I get from most feminist art, the idea that these are women making incredible things with the most ordinary of tools.

Art has been an integral part of feminism for a long time, starting with the original feminist art movement in the 1960s. For me, it marks how feminism has expanded from the realm of academia. It’s not something contained in statistics and studies and essays; it’s real, tangible and present in the lives and imaginations of women. There’s something inherently radical about the act of expression through creation, the very making of art that has come from your own heart and your own brain.

I’d definitely like to try my hand at producing a zine (there’s a “how-to” from Rookie magazine here), but for now I thought I’d stick to something simple and familiar. I was in a creative writing club at school and since then I haven’t had much chance to do any writing. I thought I’d have a go at something similar to the “found poetry” or the “cut up” techniques. I’m not sure my version strictly fits into either genre, but I enjoyed making them and I’m pleased with the results. It’s very therapeutic and cheap – all you need are scissors, glue and a few unwanted magazines and newspapers – but it can be quite time-consuming, especially as I’m pretty picky and I kept rearranging the lines!

FYI: these are my intellectual property, so please don’t nick them or share them without crediting me!

It’s up to you to interpret these, but the two short ones on the top right were specifically about feminism and how it’s perceived. The top left was inspired by all the writers I love right now who are fighting for social justice with the pen, not the sword. The bottom left was meant to be more evocative of the disconnect between the polished exterior of British society and the colonialism and corruption we like to gloss over. The bottom right is about the area I’m from, the Black Country, which you can learn more about here if you’re not local!

You can read more about feminist zines and self-publishing here.