Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘religion’

Happy International Women’s Day!

This time last year, I set myself a challenge. From that day onward, I would focus less on the negatives – on my own shortcomings as an activist and on the difficulties we face as a movement – and more on the positives. I challenged myself to spend more time uplifting my fellow women than trying to argue with naysayers.

And (hesitantly), I think I’ve achieved it. I’ve run Feminist Society since last September, which has been a hugely positive experience. My co-leader is wonderful and the members are all amazing, and the whole initiative has been an incredible opportunity to grow in confidence. I feel as though I’ve empowered myself and hopefully empowered others too. I’ve tried to do things that challenge social standards (and that damn patriarchy!) but also make me feel happy too, like making feminist and body-positive stickers, devoting more time to my spiritual wellbeing (something I’ve been tentatively dabbling in since I left school) and trying to be more open and honest about what I believe. Sometimes that’s difficult – people don’t always like it! – but it’s important.

I want to set myself a new task, though. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Be Bold For Change, so my plan is to do just that – to go forth boldly and to be the change I want to see in the world. Obviously I’m pretty open about my politics; I wouldn’t write this blog if I wasn’t! However, I don’t discuss all aspects of my beliefs, especially the relationship between my politics and my faith, due to fear of being ridiculed. So that  insecurity is something I want to well and truly bin.

On a broader level, this has been a pivotal year for women’s activism. After the election of Donald Trump, people have protested on an astonishing scale. The Women’s March on Washington in January – 100 years after the Women’s March on Petrograd and 228 years after the Women’s March on Versailles – demonstrates how integral women are to protest and to revolution. It was incredibly moving to see so many  women, literally in their thousands, on the streets, raising their voices. As Karl Marx once put it, in a letter to Ludwig Kugelmann: “Everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment.” Women are the world’s greatest catalyst, and the future is female.

Have a fabulous Women’s Day and Women’s Month!

Love,

Dolly xx

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.

The F Word 2: The Second One

“I understand feminism to be a social saviour because it liberates everyone without exclusion.” – Morrissey

After I published my FAQ page, my cousin reminded me that I hadn’t answered his question: why I call myself a feminist, rather than just saying I’m committed to gender equality. (That’s not to say my cousin isn’t in favour of gender equality; he’s a very smart, progressive dude and I admire him very much.) I suppose I roughly addressed this in my article The F Word, although I’ve re-read that particular post and found that it wasn’t as well-structured as I had once thought it was. It wasn’t a strong argument. I was annoyed at the time (I spent a good portion of 2015 being annoyed – last year was an awful year, for many reasons) and it was a very emotive piece. I always think my articles are better when they come from a place of emotion and a place of knowledge.

It came off as bitter, frankly, a child’s tirade at not having their opinion immediately accepted and held as gospel. And that’s the opposite of what I had wanted and planned.

I’m going to build on my original idea but, hopefully, this will turn out to be far superior to that first specimen. Like how Toy Story 2 is way better than Toy Story (harsh but true).

In that original post, I stated in response to the question “Why are you a feminist?”:

The simple answer is: I’m a woman. It would be foolish not to be on my own side. It would be foolish not to participate in a movement that directly seeks to put me on a level playing field with men.

All that is accurate insofar that it’s what I feel to be true. But it’s not what I know to be true.

know that, of the two main players in the Gender Games (although I’m aware that the gender spectrum stretches far beyond male and female), women have always been the worst off. That’s just historical fact. We were the first to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden; for the longest time, womankind has not only been the origin of the population (shoutout to all my uteri-having folks) but the origin of sin. For the last 2000 years (if we consider that the Book of Genesis probably arrived in its original form between 500 BCE and 70 ACE), women have been by turns depicted as morally corrupt, emotionally stunted and biologically flawed. We have been pseudo-men; we have been men lacking something. Born of Adam’s rib, we are lesser.

I’m getting philosophical here, but the implications of this characterisation of women are far-reaching. Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with 2.2 billion followers, but I can’t lay the blame at the feet of Christians. That would be unfair and unfounded. Throughout history, women have been depicted in practically every culture as stupid and inherently servile, and if we’re not stupid and submissive, then we’re dangerous. I’ve discussed before how the ancient Athenians seemed to consider women childlike and in need of guidance. Without proper control, they would inevitably become liars, adulterers and murderers. It’s this pervasive virgin-whore complex that has invaded our whole ethos. Men get to decide who is pure and who isn’t, even today, and I think that’s vile. Spend ten minutes on social media and witness as women are condemned for being “sluts” and “hoes” by the same men who buy Playboy or watch porn. You can be sexual, is the message, but only on our terms. As my good friend once put it, “you jack off with your left hand and point with your right.” 2000 years on and we’re stillstill seen as morally bankrupt. Take your clothes off – boom, you’ve clearly no self-respect, young lady.

The main issue (after all that waffle) is: why feminist? Why pick something so polarising, something that opens you up to so many misinterpretations and misconceptions? Why not humanist or egalitarian or equalist?

I use feminist – take note of the fem– part – because I  believe, legitimately, that women still have it harder on a social and an economic level. The wage gap is something I lament a lot and I don’t particularly want to reiterate it here, but the sites/articles to which I like to refer people are here, here and here. Better paternity leave and equal caring responsibilities would clear that up nicely (yet another way feminism helps men that MRAs enjoy ignoring). A lot of men’s issues are rooted deeply in our bias against femininity. There’s a high suicide rate among young males and men don’t feel they can access domestic violence services; much of that originates in social pressures surrounding expression of emotion or vulnerability. In a society where being “like a girl” is still an insult – why oh why aren’t we past that yet?! – we keep on enforcing this idea of women being almost a different class of people altogether. And for many men, it’s not a class they want to be associated with.

To explain it briefly:

Feminists: Look, there’s this social theory called the patriarchy and it’s a huge problem which results in all these derivative problems, like the wage gap and FGM and loss of abortion rights! If we solved it, everybody would be better off!

Anti-fems: Ummmm… everybody else has problems too, y’know… look at this stack of problems that men have! Less paternity leave, high suicide rates, no support after intimate partner violence. You don’t care about those, do you?!

Feminists: But if you’d help us solve this problem, we could-

Anti-fems: No.

Feminists: But the patriarchy ultimately contributes to your issues-

Anti-fems: No.

Feminists: You’re benefiting from oppression now, but sooner or later-

Anti-fems: LALALA I’M NOT LISTENING YOU HATE MEN

Feminists:  

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And so forth.

I know that wasn’t very concise, but I hope it clarified the point at least a little bit. Honestly, I think saying you’re committed to gender equality is amazing, but it’s too generalised. That doesn’t say anything about what you’re planning to do. Feminism – of all the “social justice” movements out there – is the most dynamic; it’s the one that gets stuff done. It’s about women, but under that umbrella of womanhood is a whole range of experiences. Women are in every walk of life, which gives feminists room to explore the impact of racism, sexual discrimination (specifically lesbophobia, but also biphobia), transphobia and classism. There are people who might have DFAB/AFAB experiences who still deal with sexism, despite not being female – a double whammy of misgendering and misogyny. Not pleasant.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care if you identify yourself as a feminist or not. For me, it’s part of my life. I love being a feminist. I love the sense of community, I love the sisterhood, I love that I’m never, ever alone – there’s always a woman (or man, or non-binary person!) out there who feels the same way.

I also think there’s a little bit of my soul that really, really enjoys being contrary. Feminism is the internet’s favourite punching bag, so why wouldn’t I – underdog extraordinaire – align myself with that?

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This is the kind of girl I am.

Dolly xxx

 

“Marriage can never be feminist” – Julie Bindel

This is a response to a Guardian-produced video I saw on Facebook earlier. I thought it was an interesting (if somewhat flawed) perspective. My analysis and thoughts on this video and on this perception of marriage as a whole are below.

Firstly, some context: Julie Bindel is a notable feminist activist with a very particular brand of activism. While she’s a vocal opponent of violence against women and the co-founder of the law-reform organisation Justice for Women, it’s worth noting that her approach to feminism makes it, on a hypothetical level, very easy for her to uphold this “non-marriage” standard. She is a lesbian who opposes same-sex marriage and has previously made it clear that she advocates for the abolition of heterosexuality. I’d like to strongly emphasise that I totally respect her right to feel that way – goddess knows, lesbians have never been treated very well by heterosexual men and there is a persistent idea that “the right man” could “turn” a lesbian at any opportune moment.

Secondly, a confession – I used to think this too. When I first started considering myself a feminist, I was determined that marriage was oppressive. I’ve since changed my mind, although I’m still not convinced I will ever get married. Not because I believe it subjugates women, but because I believe it’s pointless and it invalidates unmarried but committed couples who won’t see the same legal privileges afforded to those in wedlock. My own parents are divorced and I know so many divorced couples that I can’t really see the benefit of it.

We should stop teaching girls to aspire to marriage and not telling boys that same fairy story; I can agree with that much. However, I don’t think abolishing marriage altogether as a concept is the answer. Her reducing of marriage to “this is a tool of patriarchy, stop pretending it’s anything but” is a little bit simplistic. I get what she’s saying, but the whole point of feminism is giving women freedom of choice in all aspects of life. It’s enough for us to say “don’t get married if it isn’t right for you”. Taking the argument further than that is counterintuitive and means that we’d remove that crucial element of choice – in exactly the same way the patriarchy does!

I think marriage has evolved enough that for her to link the age-old symbolism with our modern traditions is reaching, frankly. Marriage traditions – or, more accurately, wedding traditions – have changed so much: brides can wear black, they can keep their maiden name, it doesn’t have to be conducted in a church, there doesn’t have to be a bride/groom there at all, etc., etc. Our modern marriages are so far from their origin that it’s silly to suggest it’s inherently problematic. Even as far back as the Middle Ages, weddings weren’t all alike. The custom of “jumping the broom” is thought to relate back to non-church marriages, conducted by travelling “priests” (men of a somewhat-questionable cloth) in which the couple jumped over a besom holding hands. Boom, married. No giving away, no businesslike transaction.

We could delve even deeper into this argument over what constitutes a feminist or empowering act, a common dilemma among us feminists. It depends on what you think the root of inequality is. For me, stating “the patriarchy”, this faceless Eldritch horror, just isn’t enough. As far as I’m concerned, it is a feminist act to enter into marriage and then subvert expectations. For example, you can marry without becoming financially or socially codependent, which avoids the messy business of gender-based economic inequality and ensures neither party is being stripped of autonomy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree! Please consider liking and sharing . xxx

 

 

Chibok – 2 years on

Although there has been some confusion as to the identity of the second girl, it has been reported that two of the 219 abducted schoolgirls of Chibok, Nigeria have been found by the Nigerian army. The first girl, Amina Ali Nkeki, has been reunited – along with her child – with her parents and recently met the Nigerian president. I say “confusion” because, whilst the second schoolgirl, Serah Luka, was a student at the school, she was actually kidnapped from her home. There’s some dispute among Chibok campaigners regarding the exact number of hostages who have been rescued by the army.

You can read more about it at BBC News. An important point was raised by their Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo: “… army records show (the Nigerian army) freed 11,595 people between February and April this year. That has barely been publicised… unlike the schoolgirls whose disappearance raised concern around the world. As important as the Chibok girls are, it appears their fate is being used as a measure of success in the fight against Boko Haram.”

The campaign for the return of Chibok’s girls has garnered the support of human rights activist Malala Yousafzai and even the First Lady of the US Michelle Obama.

I’m so pleased that they’re finally home, safe and well. I can only hope that more hostages are found and freed. It has been two years since the abduction of the girls and, still, 218 girls remain missing in the hands of terrorist group Boko Haram. Love and light and solidarity, sisters, always.

More information: (x) (x) (x)

“The Witch”

I went to see The Witch yesterday with my stepdad and, holy hell, it was spectacular. Like, seriously, go and see it if you can. You won’t regret it. As a horror film, it worked brilliantly – I’m never going near a goat ever again! – but it worked even better as an exploration into the paranoid psyche of Puritans in the New World and as an allegory for burgeoning womanhood. Really powerful, really beautiful. But also f*cking scary.

La Brujería: Las Implicaciones Feministas

Este es una traducción (¡aproximadamente!) de un mensaje de blog anterior.

Después del estreno de la película nueva La Bruja, una película de terror del director Robert Eggers, más y más gente está notando los matices feministas. Podría argumentar que sea una historia de hacerse maduro en vez de una película de terror.

Aunque durante la historia muchas de las víctimas inocentes que fueron acusados de la brujería han sido hombres, en las imágenes de cultura popular la mayoría de las brujas son mujeres.
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(Lisa: Cuando una mujer es segura de sí misma y poderosa, ¿por qué la llaman una bruja?)

La evolución de la bruja en mitología está conectado íntimamente con las percepciones sociales de las mujeres. Depende del tipo de cultura también. En el norte de España, en el País Vasco, la palabra para la bruja es sorgina (plural: sorginak). Sorginak son las sirvientas de la diosa principal, Mari, y las descripciones en la lectura y en el folclore normalmente fueron positivas – hasta el Cristianismo llegué. La religión vasca – y la primera sociedad – fue matriarcal, así que falta las figuras femeninas que son engañosas y manipuladoras. Encontramos estas figuras en la mitología cristiana y judía (mira a aquí, aquí y aquí). Las mujeres en las primeras comunidades vascas podían controlar sus propias propiedades y heredar la fortuna de la familia. Tenían más poder que las mujeres de otros países europeos.

En la mitología griega, había dos figuras muy famosas que eran brujas. La primera se llamaba Medea, la esposa de Jasón (Jasón y los Argonautas). En la obra Medea de Euripides, Medea mata a sus hijos después Jasón se casa con una otra mujer. En los mitos, Medea generalmente es una sacerdotisa de la diosa Hécate – una diosa que estaba asociada con temas oscuros tales como la muerte, las fantasmas, la necromancia y – ¡qué sorpresa! – la brujería. La segunda se llamaba Circe, una diosa y bruja que figuraba en La Odisea de Homero, la historia de la vuelta a casa del héroe griego Odiseo. En la epopeya, Circe transforma en animales a sus enemigos y intenta a seducir a Odiseo, aunque – con el ayudamiento del dios Hermes – la resiste. Aquí, tenemos una otra bruja mítica que controla a los hombres usando la manipulación y la sexualidad. Los griegos antiguos pensaban que las mujeres inteligentes fueron peligrosas. Las brujas en los mitos de Antigua Grecia representaban los temores que los hombres griegos tenían sobre sus esposas. Si piensas que aparece ridículo, hay un ejemplo interesante en un discurso del juzgado, que Antiphon escribío en 420a.C. En el discurso, un hombre acusó a su madrastra de matar a su padre. Se la llama “Clitemnestra”, que fue una reina mitologíca que mató a su esposo Agamenón. Hoy en día, no podría decirlo en un juzgado, pero en la sociedad patriarcal de Atenas, fue totalmente aceptable.

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Clitemnestra de John Collier

Es posible que la bruja es casi emblemática del feminismo. Las brujas de la mitología eran en contraste con los sistemas sociales patriarcales, subvirtiendo el concepto de la mujer ideal. No es un secreto que mujeres poderosas asustaron a las sociedades del mundo antiguo (y moderno) y los hombres trataron a la sexualidad femenina como un arma. Tal vez la brujería es una manera para manejar este arma.

¡Gracias para leer! Por favor, “like” y comparte si te gusta el artículo.

Debo decir:

No intentaría a sugerir que las brujas realmente existían en estas culturas. Habían indudablemente sacerdotisas paganas, pero no hay nada evidencia para una religión de brujas. Hay la tradición de Stregheria (strega es la palabra italiana para “bruja”), que está basado en el libro Aradia, o el Evangelio de Las Brujas. Quisiera a creer que había un culto matriarcal de brujas con una mesías femenina, sin embargo es improbable que el libro sea más que una ficción. La gente que sufría durante las cazas de brujas no realizó la brujería en realidad, y pienso que es insultante llamar a esa gente “brujas”.

Tenemos poca evidencia que las tradiciones de la religión moderna neopagana de Wicca tienen alguna conección con las curanderas del pasado. No es una crítica de Wicca. De hecho, creo que Wicca es tal vez la religión más emancipadora del mundo (¡una opinión polemica, lo sé!). Puede aprender más sobre Wicca aquí (el texto es en inglés).