Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘misconceptions’

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

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Matthew Santoro – “My Abuse Story”

Matthew Santoro is a Youtuber, active since 2010, who makes educational and informational videos. He has over 5 million subscribers and over 500 million views, and – as of writing this – he has posted 248 videos.

On 11th January, he did an incredibly brave thing by publishing a video in which he discusses an abusive relationship which ended recently. I won’t name the woman involved, as he chooses not to, although if you’re a Santorian (like me) you probably know her name anyway.

Matt is unlikely to ever see this, but I’d like to express how proud this makes me. He makes videos to spread a little sunshine, to brighten up other people’s lives. Sharing an immensely personal experience opens him up to such vulnerability, so there’s really no greater act of courage for a Youtube entertainer than this.

The points he makes are very valid, though. This isn’t just a starkly emotive video; it’s actually a poignant and topical one too. He’s right – we don’t talk about male abuse victims enough. We don’t fully discuss the sheer range of people who can be affected by IPV (intimate partner violence) or domestic abuse. Cis women aren’t always the victims; cis men aren’t always the perpetrators. Anybody of any gender can fit into either of those categories, but stigma still surrounds men who report abuse. You only have to look at some of the comments on the video (“Man up”, “You’re pathetic”, “Fight back”) in order to see the scale of the problem.

So, please, work your absolute hardest to be the most approachable and compassionate person you can. You never know who might need to confide in you one day.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, then that’s a viable reason to call the police (on whichever number is relevant in your country). I’m including a list of helplines.

English National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Welsh Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 80 10 800

Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

Women’s Aid Federation (Northern Ireland): 0800 917 1414

Scottish Women’s Aid: 0800 027 1234

Broken Rainbow (for LGBTQ+): 0800 999 5428

These are all 0800 numbers, so they should be free of charge in the UK.

“Girl DESTROYS Feminism in 3 minutes”

Warning: this is a long’un.

Stumbled across this absolute gem today. I was drawn in by the idea that this young Canadian woman – a Political Science student, libertarian and Youtuber by the name of Lauren Southern – might be about to shatter my illusions, that she would “destroy” feminism. Did she? No, not really. Is it even remotely convincing? Absolutely not.

Firstly, some early observations from me – it’s interesting that the original copy of this video that I saw (this one is from Rebel Media) was posted by a channel named after that giant of gender equality Playboy. I have no idea if the channel is officially endorsed by Playboy, but, judging by the channel art of a busty woman and the description “Watch this hot blonde girl explain why third wave feminism is a load of horse shit”, I’m going to assume it has much the same motivations. That is, the objectification and systematic dehumanisation of women. How nice for those viewers. Hey, here’s a pretty girl to tell you why you shouldn’t feel bad about all the shitty things society does to women. Keep it classy, gentlemen. Maybe she didn’t anticipate that her video would end up on the channel, but potentially she knowingly allowed them to use the footage. The patriarchy might be benefiting you now, my dear. It’s not doing a lot for the rest of us.


This is the sign she referred to.

Her first point is that she believes in “equality, not entitlement or supremacy”. Not to sound like Bianca del Rio, but really, queen? Ms Southern just happens to be a writer for the right-wing media outlet Rebel Media, and she’s suggesting she doesn’t tolerate supremacy? I’m sure she’s worked out by now that “right-wing” means “accepting of social inequality”. Besides, the people coming from a privileged position –  in which they think they are entitled to something – are men: entitlement to women’s bodies, entitlement to spaces where women should feel safe, entitlement to women’s opinions and voices and autonomy. Perhaps what you mean , ma’am, is “deserving”, not “entitled”. Every feminist in the world thinks women deserve the same opportunities and the same rights as their male counterparts. I don’t think that’s a negative thing at all.

She later states that “… third wave feminism is NOT, in fact, a movement for equality”. This always baffles me. Does she think people like me just call ourselves “feminists” for the banter? Everybody who says “I’m a feminist” does it because the word means something to them. They’re dissatisfied with the current state of society and they want to do something to change it. How can a movement in which every participant wants a better and fairer world not be “for equality”? Utterly bizarre.

She then asks (what I accept as) a valid question: “If feminism is a movement for equality, why do we not see equal representation of both genders’ issues?” (For someone who’s so interested in social equality, she invalidates trans people in spectacular fashion.) The answer is, my dear Lauren, that there is fair representation of men within the feminist movement – you just choose not to see it. Feminists are aware that men experience violence and rape, and that their traumatic experiences are ignored. The people who believe that men cannot be raped or refuse to allow men to show emotions very rarely identify as feminists. She also states that “feminists remain silent on the issue (of sexual assault against males)”, which is patently untrue. The stigma surrounding men speaking up about rape and sexual assault comes from patriarchal ideas about femininity. To show emotion is to be feminine; to be feminine is to be weak. Feminism is all about challenging those ideas.

I find it particularly interesting that she was also embroiled in controversy for holding up a sign that said: “There is no rape culture in the West.” This took place at a SlutWalk in Vancouver, a protest against victim-blaming in rape trials. She was also seen holding a microphone up to the faces of victims and openly harassing them. Contrary to what Lauren seems to think, comparatively few rape cases, even involving women, actually result in a trial and a subsequent conviction. I wrote a speech about the issue for an English Language exam, condemning the inadequacy of the law in rape trials. Women are still stigmatised even when they are the victim; if they were dressed “provocatively”, then the rapist could not control himself. This is something feminists firmly disagree with – we don’t think men are unable to control their urges. We don’t believe that “boys will be boys”.


There is room for men in feminism; they’re just not the focus. Meninists, MRAs and anti-feminists have one stance and one stance only – that they hate feminists. They don’t really care about men’s issues, they don’t campaign to raise awareness of violence against men or of high suicide rates among young males.

I’m not saying men don’t face struggles or every man has an easy life. But it’s undeniable that, historically, men have held power over women. I will never perceive someone preventing women from reclaiming that power as anything but a sexist.

Lauren Southern’s fallacy here is to blame the lack of social support for men on feminists, as though we are the governing body. That is the fault of our society. Personally, I care very much about men’s issues. I want my three younger brothers to grow into healthy, happy young men who are comfortable talking about how they feel. We lost three grandparents this year and I am immeasurably proud of how the boys handled such a terrible situation. All three showed sensitivity and a willingness to talk about how the sad passing of our grandparents made them feel, even the youngest who is only five.

Lauren doesn’t really take issue with feminism- at least, I don’t think she does. Having looked at her work on Rebel Media, she’s concerned about a “politically correct” society. She just doesn’t want to get called out for being bigoted. Guess who can spot a bigot a mile off? Ooh yeah, us feminists. Her bibliography includes: “Be offensive in the defence of free speech on university campuses“, “”#GamerGate: is sexist games marketing a real problem- or feminist propaganda?” and “Is diversity really our strength?” (in which she argues that a diverse society is useless because it doesn’t have an economic benefit). She’s just privileged and reactionary, as most right-wing politicians are.

Lauren Southern hasn’t “destroyed” third wave feminism, not by a long shot. Every example she gave was an issue that I have heard countless feminists bring up. So to summarise: feminists know that boys do cry and that it’s healthy and normal for them to do so. Sorry, Lauren. Try again another time.


Problematic Feminists – From Tumblr

A really excellent piece from Tumblr, via thedatingfeminist

Please stop ending your critiques of bigoted self-identified feminists with “then you’re not really a feminist.” That’s not a useful statement to make. It’s more useful to say “then you’re a bad feminist, and you are using feminism in a harmful way.”

Feminists can be racist. Feminists can be classist, ableist, transmisogynist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, whorephobic, homophobic, intersexist, terrible people and still be feminists. It makes their feminism tainted and flawed and oppressive and not very useful, but it doesn’t erase it.

Pretending that only people completely free from bigotry are “actual” feminists gives us an excuse to not address the very real problems happening in our movement, by people who are very much a part of it, or even leading parts of it.

To say bigots “aren’t really feminists” allows us to ignore the white supremacist and transmisogynist histories of Western feminist movements, allows us to be self-congratulatory about our own imaginary lack of ingrained prejudice, and neatly absolves us of taking responsibility as a movement for bigotry happening within that movement.

So yes, let’s acknowledge that people can be shitty feminists. But to imply that their shittiness neatly removes them from the movement is to deny the harm that they’re able to do as part of it. And that’s not helpful.

I see a lot of this – people seem to pull this particular tactic with Lena Dunham, a self-identified but deeply problematic feminist. Yeah, she’s a white feminist. Yeah, her brand of feminism is a bit shit. But we can’t just ignore problems in the movement; we need to talk about them, explore them and iron them out.

Quote #3

“Don’t allow men who hate women to define feminism as women who hate men.”

– John Marcotte, founder of Heroic Girls

Misconceptions and “Manginas”: why don’t people identify as feminists?

One of the joys of being a feminist is having your stance attacked by literally everyone. The bad press that the movement receives in the media stops people from identifying as feminists, even when their opinions directly correlate with the feminist school of thought. All kinds of misconceptions exist about the movement; I’ve found that this is why people are often reluctant to listen when a feminist challenges something they’ve said – they think we have some sort of ulterior motive. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times when someone who challenged me about feminism said: “Oh, I see! I agree with that.” when I actually explained it.

People often choose to describe themselves as an “egalitarian” or “equalist” instead. I’m not suggesting that these aren’t valid movements – of course they are, and people have a right to select a label that they feel describes them best. What annoys me is when people reject feminism due to stereotypes. “Feminists are man-haters”/“Feminists don’t care about men” tend to be the main arguments. It’s a movement to empower women, but feminists are not anti-men – the patriarchy is a damaging social structure for everybody. I say it a lot and I’ll say it again: feminism does benefit men too.

A lot of men are encouraged to perceive feminism as a threat. This is indicated by the rise of the term “mangina” – a portmanteau of “man” and “vagina”, which is cissexist anyway… The idea inherent in it is that they will be made to submit to the vastly superior women of the world and their masculinity will be forcibly taken from them. Obviously, that is about as far from the truth as you can get. “Masculinity” and “femininity” don’t need to be mutually exclusive; anybody of any gender should feel free to express themselves as they want without fear of humiliation.

Me when I see a man, obvs.

Me when I see a man, obvs.

The real difficulty comes from the absurd idea that feminists are some kind of hive-mind. We all choose the same label, therefore we must all be the same. This is blatantly false. Every feminist experiences the world differently and, consequently, their views & priorities will vary. We each advocate for the social, political and economic equality of women; how we decide to do this will be unique to every individual.

Anti-feminists tend to latch onto specific feminists and then assume that we are all exactly like them. If one of them makes a mistake, the entire movement is evidently flawed. If one of them presents a problematic viewpoint, we all must hold that view.

drag race - reaction gif

The stereotypes – mostly enforcing the idea that feminists are always angry, will twist your words, refuse to listen to other perspectives – persist and this prevents people from actively involving themselves in the movement. That’s why I’m so vocal about being a feminist. I want to set an example and encourage people to do some research. Plenty of my friends have engaged themselves in feminism – I’m seeing the word more frequently on their Tumblr blogs and on their Instagram posts, and it makes me incredibly proud to see the young women I’ve grown up with take a stand. Some of the best experiences are seeing my male friends condemn a sexist trend or hearing them debate.

“Feminist” isn’t a slur. It’s not an insult. It’s not shameful. Your stance is as valid as anybody else’s.

Spiderman 3 gif

Dance for equality, Peter.

Please like and share this on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you enjoyed the article! I know it’s a bit rambling and incoherent, but the misconceptions surrounding feminism really grind my gears.