Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘racism’

What the US election should teach us

You’ll probably be aware by now that Donald Trump is now president elect of the United States. Here in the UK, we found out in the early hours of Wednesday morning and, believe me, it ruined my day.

It seems almost impossible. Days later, I have to remind myself every few minutes that, yes, this is actually happening. The US have managed to elect an unqualified bigot, who stands accused of sexual assault and only picked up politics as a hobby last year. There’s a huge disparity between Trump and the Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton –  Clinton is vastly more qualified, has 30 years of experience in politics and handled her campaign (and ultimate defeat) with dignity and calm. She failed to win over voters in the electoral college – although she did, in fact, win most of the popular vote – and this is largely because people simply don’t trust her. She will forever be linked to Bill Clinton’s scandals; she will always be associated with the disastrous handling of Benghazi. She is overshadowed by a political dynasty and that is extremely difficult to shake off. There’s some staggering sexism to be found in her treatment. Throughout the long, tumultuous campaign, it seemed Trump could get away with just about anything under the guise of “business sense” or “locker room talk”. Clinton couldn’t.

On the one hand, of course, this is wildly unfair, it does Clinton (and powerful women everywhere) a disservice and we must fight it. However, her party and the moderate/centrist movement as a whole should have seen this coming a mile off. It should not have been a surprise. She was not, in far too many ways, an ideal candidate. She should have been everything Trump was not, wrapped up in a progressive, trustworthy package. Instead, the Democrats put forward a candidate that is practically emblematic of corporate America. They lost because of racism, because of misogyny, because of the irresistible potential of a new license to hate under Trump, but also because of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of habitual Democrat voters. They just couldn’t get behind Clinton, so they voted for a third party, they voted for an independent candidate, or they didn’t vote at all.

I understand why the American electorate might have opted for someone different. I see the allure of that. But the truth is: Trump is not different. He is not a politician – something many Trump supporters seemed to revel in, bizarrely – and is therefore unqualified. He is not anti-establishment, which also seemed to draw voters in. If anything, Trump will run the country like a business, moreso than any past president ever has done.

Bigotry and prejudice have been vindicated. People have challenged me about saying this and accused me of being anti-democracy, because Trump was elected democratically. If thinking a vile, prejudiced rapist should be barred from holding any kind of office makes me “anti-democracy”, then fine – I’ll wear the label with pride. Brexit was also chosen in a democratic, public referendum and it too was characterised by propaganda and prejudice. In the wake of Brexit, the rate of hate crimes in the UK increased by 41% and it’s not an overreaction to protect yourself or to fear for your safety now. We should see this as a warning sign that people are being mis-sold extremist politics that actively damage communities under the guise of cheerful populism. In the same way that the right here in the UK can cultivate this blame game (e.g. “the immigrants are taking your jobs”, “scroungers are fiddling benefits”), Trump and the US alt-right can masquerade as annoying internet trolls – which is largely accurate! – but also promote something much more sinister.

Finally, I wanted to conclude by reminding anyone reading this, American or otherwise, that this is not the end. We can mourn, and I don’t blame you – particularly if you are part of a minority group – for mourning and for being very scared indeed.

The main thing we should all take away from this is that we should still fight. We have a responsibility to make our society a better, fairer one. We have a duty to those who came before us and those who will follow us to make equality our priority. However, we also have a right to safety from violence and discrimination. We can expect to see that right abused and taken away if the surge of support for far-right politics continues.

Liberals, progressives and the left have to mobilise. Right now.

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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.

#LoveForLeslieJ

Leslie Jones has been forced off Twitter, and the reason for it has made me – and will probably make you – very angry indeed.

As you may be aware, Leslie Jones has recently come to prominence since starring in the new all-female installment of the Ghostbusters franchise. You might recall the backlash after the film was announced, with most people arguing that the film would “ruin” the original for them and that it was a blatant attempt to pander to a more PC audience.

I’ve always supported the “girl Ghostbusters”, because I think the film is undoubtedly a force for good. It showcases the talents of four immensely funny actresses and it has the potential to inspire so many little girls. I love the whole concept of it. My best friend (who has ambitions of becoming a film director) went to see it and utterly adored it, which is saying something because she is incredibly picky about the media she’s willing to watch.

But since the film’s release, the abuse directed at the cast and crew has only intensified, mostly targeted at Leslie. Milo Yiannopoulos – a man notorious for inciting his mob of fans to hurl abuse at those who displease him – kickstarted a seemingly endless wave of trolling and racist harassment. People have photoshopped tweets, ostensibly from Leslie, with anti-Semitic slurs in them, in order to make it appear that she is abusing Yiannopoulos. When she reacted to such misrepresentation, she was condemned as “too sensitive”. It all became too much for Leslie, who has sadly left Twitter – possibly for good. It genuinely upset me; she tweeted that the onslaught of online abuse was a “personal nightmare”. I can’t imagine what it must feel like.

The bigotry directed at her was vile, but it is nothing compared to the surge of love and support that has emerged in its wake. I myself have used the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ, and you’re welcome to do so as well if you want to show your support. A second hashtag, #BanNero, has also developed as an attempt to have Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned from Twitter. He’s already had his blue tick, the mark of verification, taken from him, but it’s not enough. Yiannopoulos is a professional troll. That’s what he does, and we as Internet users shouldn’t put up with it.

Yiannopoulos often espouses his belief in a right to “free speech” – in his case, his right to spread bigotry and hatred. However, his actions and those of the people who take their inspiration from him have denied Leslie Jones her platform and her voice. It’s indicative of a growing online trend of attempts to silence women, especially women of colour.

The Guardian have already published an article about these events.

Much love to Leslie, a talented, funny, smart woman. And what’s more: she’s strong too. I have no doubt that she’ll beat the haters.

“Lefties: Angry Wimmin” – BBC

I just watched the documentary Lefties: Angry Wimmin (BBC, 2006), exploring the world of the revolutionary feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. This episode is from a three-part series about left-wing politics, and it’s a fascinating look at the “boom”, if you like, of radical feminism.

I think it’s important we look back at the work that these women did. Some of it might seem shocking – it certainly shocked me! I knew that some lesbian/separatist feminists advocated for “political lesbianism” and for the excision of men from women’s social circles, but I never realised how many women actually put it into practice. Please consider it in its social and historical context, though; these women were living in a dramatically different society to the one we live in now. Feminists of my generation don’t push for the abolition of heterosexuality because we don’t need to – these ladies paved the way for us and made the statement that desperately needed to be made at the time. At that point in time, we had only just begun describing the unequal social hierarchy as patriarchy, and its looming presence in their lives forced the revolutionary feminists into much more radical activism.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Linda Bellos, especially the frank discussion about how mainstream white feminism treated her. That highlighted what third-wave feminists and intersectional feminists have always asserted: that second-wave feminism wasn’t very inclusive. The dismissive attitudes of the white, cis, able-bodied feminists who were interviewed demonstrates just how reluctant they were to address issues of accessibility and discrimination within their own movement. The repercussions of that lack of insight into diversity is something with which we are still dealing today.

I also found it pretty startling that these women – some of whom, like Julie Bindel, are lesbians – seemed to believe that homosexuality is a choice. One could accuse them almost of appropriating and misrepresenting the gay rights movement. I understand why they opted for “political lesbianism”, but really, this kind of rhetoric just played into the hands of homophobes. For years, the LGBTQ+ community has fought to assert that sexualities are not arbitrarily “chosen”.

The Tide

I don’t know if we can talk about ‘waves’ of feminism anymore – by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it’s around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves, and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide.

– Caitlin Moran, How To Be A Woman

With the establishment of my Instagram (@dollydastardly, if you’re interested!), I’ve connected with so many different activist accounts – some of them dedicated to feminism, some of them to womanism, some of them to equalism… and some of them to anti-feminism.

Or, more specifically, anti third wave feminism.

Often, in their Instagram bios, activist accounts will list the things they are “pro-” and “anti-“. “Anti third wave feminism” occurs frequently. Sometimes they will even specify that they “respect” first and second wave feminism, but they hate third wave feminism. This statement troubles me for several reasons. (Mostly, it’s because I am 99.9% certain that they don’t actually know what “third wave feminism” means.)

Sooo, let’s make sure we’re all starting on an equal playing field and begin with a crash course in the three(ish) waves of feminism:

First-wave feminism usually refers both to activity that occurred prior to any organised feminist activism and to the fight for voting and legal rights (i.e. ownership of property, financial independence). By some definitions (including by that of Simone de Beauvoir), it can stretch back to Christine de Pizan, writing in the 15th century. Much of her work focused on practical advice for women and on the role women ought to play in society. The works of Mary Wollstonecraft also belong to this era of feminism; she penned treatises on the social and moral equality of the sexes. First-wave feminism is generally accepted to have culminated in women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, at least by Western standards – see, we’re already having trouble with this wave system, right?

Second-wave feminism began in the early 1960s and “ended” (yes, those quotation marks are deliberate – another problem with these bloody waves!) in the 1980s. It differed from the first wave in terms of purpose. It still retained the basic tenets of gender equality, but the second wave was characterised by activism based upon reproductive rights, relationships and sexuality. It drew attention to domestic violence and sexual assault. In 1961, the contraceptive pill became commercially available in the USA, leading to greater autonomy for women. Feminists in this period began to critique the social expectations of women and their role in the family. Authors like Betty Friedan, in her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, argued that the idealised familial structure was in fact degrading to women.

But there were problems with this second wave of feminism, and who better to solve them than…

Third-wave feminism is generally accepted to have originated in the 1990s. This is an entirely different kind of feminism. There is no cohesive goal, instead replaced by a strong sense of individuality and identity. Amid the riot grrrl scene (think Bikini Kill) and the rebirth of radical feminism, third-wave feminists have sought to build upon second-wave feminism. They have acknowledged that their foremothers cultivated a movement that was exclusively white, straight and cisgender, leading to the inception of intersectional feminism and more celebration of the beauty in diversity. This has led to conflict between the ideals of second-wave feminism – which still exists, living and breathing in the realm of academia – and those of the newer movement.

Class dismissed.

Some people argue that the third wave has ended and we’re now in the fourth or possibly even fifth wave of feminism. Personally, I like Caitlin Moran’s analogy more – a truly feminist society sometimes feels like an oncoming inevitability for me, as though one day the straw will break the camel’s back (i.e. we’ll break the patriarchy) and we’ll be free. I know that’s idealistic and downright silly, so, on other occasions, I feel as though we’ll never achieve that.

This is why I object to condemnation of so-called third-wave feminism. Third-wave feminism is improving the movement. Imagine that the first wave of feminists have planted a seed, the second wave have cultivated and felled the tree for their daughters and granddaughters to make use of, and the third wave are whittling the wood into something beautiful – a chair or a table or a massive wooden vulva.

H&M - sculpture

Spot the vulva, babes.

To be honest, with all the overlap and uncertainty in the waves system, I think a more accurate way of dividing up feminism is to look at the different strains that have emerged. From womanism to chicanisma, from lesbian feminism  to ecofeminism, there’s a branch on the feminist tree for everyone to sit on (yes, I’m sticking with this metaphor, shut up). If you – assuming you are an anti-feminist – have beef with a particular aspect of feminism, why not take it up with the group within the wider feminist community who actually uphold that belief? We’re not a hive mind; we don’t all think the same way.

I don’t describe myself as a third-wave feminist, by the way, although I probably technically am. At some point, I want to write another article talking about the labels I apply to myself and why, as well as a bit of musing about which feminist variant fits most closely with my own activism.

If you’re curious about how we analyse the waves of feminism, this article from Pacific University, Oregon, was really interesting. The PSA (Political Studies Association) also have a great article exploring whether we have entered a fourth wave, due to the influence of the internet on feminist activism. The quote from Caitlin Moran came from her fabulous book How To Be A Woman, which you can peruse on Amazon here, should you wish to! It’s naughty, but it’s utterly hilarious and I adored it. My copy is thoroughly thumbed to pieces.

So there you go, that’s all my thoughts on this particular issue – hope you enjoyed! Please like and share on Facebook/Twitter/Google+, and help me to spread the word about feminism!

Quote #16

Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals the fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

– Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

5 Best Female Police Officers from UK TV

The UK has a proud history of cop dramas. We love ’em. It feels like there’s a new one being released every fortnight; we can’t get enough. However, with all those car chases and shoot-ups, the genre has a tendency to be a bit of a testosterone disaster zone (yes, that rhyme was intentional).

So, just to prove a point, here are my top 5 female police officers who just kick ass constantly.

DC Kate Fleming, Line of Duty (Vicky McClure)

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Line of Duty is probably one of the best dramas I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. It’s so good, and I’m praying a fourth series will be produced. It would be criminal (ha, get it?) not to include Kate on this list, because she’s such a brilliant character. She’s dedicated; she’ll put her life on the line (of duty) to serve the cause of justice. Also, she starred in the most tense car chase in the history of British television. She chased armed criminals down on foot  having hitched a ride on the side of a lorry – and then managed to shoot out the car tyres from the top of a bridgeKudos.

DC Janet Scott and DS Rachel Bailey, Scott and Bailey (Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones)

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I got your sisterhood of the travelling bulletproof vest right here. Scott and Bailey has some truly inspiring and awesome ladies, who are all exceptional and the forerunners in their respective fields, but these two are the protagonists and deserve a mention. They’re courageous, they’re tough, they’re bloody brilliant, and they’re taking exactly 0% of your bullshit. They’re very different – Janet is a no-nonsense mum to two teenage children, whereas Rachel’s a bit more of a party-girl – but their friendship is what really makes the series. I love ’em. Suranne Jones 5eva, tbh.

DI Alex Drake, Ashes to Ashes (Keeley Hawes)

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Alex deals with being sent back in time pretty well, all told. She’s super sassy – she can give true drama queen Gene Hunt a run for his money – and I think her fashion sense is awesome too! She brings her 21st century knowledge with her when she finds herself stuck in the 1980s, and she takes it all in her stride. She’s one lady you definitely don’t want to mess with. Keeley also played another police officer in Line of Duty, DI Lindsay Denton, who is implicated in the work of corrupt officers. She’s somewhat less friendly there, although Lindsay is still a complete and utter badass.

DS Sally Donovan, Sherlock (Vinette Robinson)

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I love Sally, but my love for her is nothing compared to my abject hatred for the way 99% of the Sherlock fandom chooses to treat her. Sherlock’s an arsehole. She calls him out for being an arsehole. I don’t know why they struggle to grasp that (well, I do – it’s the fact that she’s a WOC calling out a white dude with millions of fangirls benefiting from the rose-tinted “quirky white guy” glasses), because I think she’s super cool and really inspiring. Honestly, I think she’s probably the most well-balanced (emotionally speaking) character on the show. Obviously, calling Sherlock a “freak” wasn’t very nice, but it’s not really in the same ballpark as Sherlock outing her affair with Anderson and doing his level best to humiliate her. Nice double standard you got there, Sherlock fans.

(Also, Vinette is my major woman-crush. *heart eyes*)

WPC Rachel Coles, Inspector George Gently (Lisa McGrillis)

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I’ve chosen Rachel mainly for the episode Gently With The Women, which deals with the treatment of sex workers by the police force during the 1960s, when the series takes place. How were they treated? Not very well, but Rachel (along with feminist ally Inspector Gently, goddess bless him) sets out to challenge perceptions. She faces opposition from her male colleagues – all of whom see rape allegations by prostitutes as inherently laughable – but she perseveres, and it’s a really powerful episode. By the end of it, her colleague John Bacchus, initially sceptical, realises that she’s right and that the police force is flawed as long as it allows such injustice to continue.

Thank you for reading! I hope you liked this article – if so, please consider liking and sharing it!