Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

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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.

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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!

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Fandom Fatale

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on the internet, you’ve probably stumbled across the fandom community – and promptly retreated, hands raised in submission. A fandom is, according to Urban Dictionary, “The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. Fanfiction writers, artists, poets, and cosplayers are all members of that fandom. Fandoms often consist of message boards, livejournal communities, and people.” It’s essentially a microcosm of people who are all fans of the same piece of media.

The rough concept of fandom is far older than the internet. You could argue that the first organised fan following was that of Sherlock Holmes. When Arthur Conan Doyle killed him off in the short story The Final Problem, he received enormous pressure from avid readers who were – shall we say – less than content at the loss of their favourite fictional detective. When I say “enormous pressure”, I mean “so much pressure that he brought Holmes back to life just so he could get some peace”. Sweet, isn’t it?

Engaging in the fandom community can be a very valuable experience. It feels immensely validating, and it certainly enhanced my love of certain TV programmes. It also enabled me to become more critical of the media I was consuming, but also of fandom itself. This article is about that.

Being in a fandom is a very personal thing. It’s totally reasonable to see it as part of your identity and it can help people to find likeminded friends. However, there’s a tendency for fans to perceive non-fans in a sort of “us and them” light. Their participation in fandom is seen by some people as a mark of their “otherness” and, whilst that’s fine, it sometimes culminates in something much more problematic. I’ve often come across people who compare being in a fandom to having a mental illness, which is A) ridiculous and B) incredibly ableist. Take this image, for example, from a Facebook fanpage for a well-known sci-fi series (I won’t name and shame them):

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I get the sentiment – fans support other fans. But there are ways to go about it without invoking the demonic rites of casual ableism. Images and statements like this perpetuate the idea that people with mental health problems are violent/aggressive/dangerous and that they deserve to be locked up. They’re not and they don’t. Mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than to be the perpetrators. Plenty of people find fandom life a source of great comfort if they’re dealing with depression or other mental health problems, and it saddens me to think that there are large parts of the community appropriating their struggles.

Another concern of mine is how fetishized same-sex relationships are in fandom. You may have heard of “slash” – the act of producing art and fiction featuring characters from various forms of media in gay relationships – or its female equivalent “femslash”. You do find male-female pairings, or “ships”, but the majority of “shipping” is directed at same-sex male relationships. It may not be indicated that the characters involved are interested in the same gender.

I firmly believe that fans should be able to interpret characters as they wish. I also believe that there is NOWHERE NEAR enough representation of LGBTQ+ people in mainstream media. However, if you’re choosing to interpret a character a certain way for your own sexual satisfaction and then you claim it’s “representation”, you can piss right off. You’re no better than heterosexual blokes who “love lesbians, because girl-on-girl is totally hot” or radical conservatives who want to involve themselves in the lives and futures of LGBTQ+ people. The worst kind of shippers are the pseudo-intellectuals who think man-on-man sex is “symbolic” and “meaningful”. It’s not. You sound like a straight actor trying to rationalise his gay sex scene in a talk show interview. Chill out.

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My final problem – and this is the one that really effin’ bugs me – is the erasure of female characters. Now, this links to my previous point. If there’s a canon heterosexual relationship that interferes with a gay ship, you can bet your boots that the fandom at large will loathe the lady in question. The example that springs to mind for me is Mary Watson, John’s wife in Sherlock. It’s truly horrendous how many people hate her for “getting in the way of Johnlock”.

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This had better be a joke.

Sherlock in general does its female characters a great disservice. I’ve resolved to adore and value every single one of them in retaliation. Molly Hooper is reduced to a doormat, despite being an INCREDIBLY INTELLIGENT AND TALENTED young woman. Irene Adler has her identity as a gay woman erased and fetishised, because she’s a woman and the only reason women like watching Sherlock is because they fancy Benedict Cumberbatch, riiiiiiight ladies??? Kitty Riley is verbally abused by Holmes. Mrs Hudson is an absolute legend and deserves far more than an occasional background appearance. Sally Donovan is a woman of colour in a demanding job who has her affair with Anderson outed and is humiliated in front of her colleagues by Holmes. And we’re supposed to root for Sherlock, who is – let’s be real – a right arsehole.

Yet the fandom lap this shit up.

Sorry, folks, but I think we can do ten times better than this. Sort it out.

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Claudia Boleyn on “Man Caves”

From the fantastic Claudia Boleyn:

So I’ve been thinking about the idea of the ‘man cave’. Weird, I know, but hear me out.

A tv show I’m watching has a man cave as a prize for winning a quiz. A couple, a man and a woman, are on this show together, and this is the prize offered to the man. It’s basically a converted garage with a bar, a football table, a pin-ball machine, and some cool tables and chairs to sit at.

There’s nothing wrong with this as a prize, but the fact it’s been presented as inherently male bothered me. It should be very non gender specific. It’s a room with games to play and alcohol to drink. It’s a swanky place to sit. Why the gendering???

Right, to my next irritation. The way this ‘man cave’ is being presented as a concept.

The entire vibe is that the man needs a place to escape his wife and three children sometimes. That the house is too stressful and hectic. That he needs a break.

Which is fine, because I imagine most parents need a break every so often.

But why do you never hear of the alternative for women? Why is it not assumed that they might need an escape from their husband and kids? In fact, if a wife kept on acting like her husband was someone she struggled to be around and needed to constantly escape from, I am pretty sure that would not be met with positively by most people. Certainly a lot of male egos would be bruised by that. (Not all, I hasten to add, but let’s be honest, a lot of husbands would be quite offended if wives spoke about their husbands and children as though they were shackles of some kind. And with good reason, actually.)

The idea of the nagging wife has been touched on, although this man seems very clearly to be the more dominant of the couple. It is also clear from their conversations with the host that the woman is or at least feels more responsible for bringing up the kids.

Maybe I’m thinking too far into this, but this idea of the nagging wife, the woman having to care for the children, and the man being somehow tied down or trapped and needing an escape, although fairly commonplace in our society, is actually quite horrifically devious and sexist a landscape to exist within.

It’s toxic. Men shouldn’t need an escape from marriage. We shouldn’t be acting like women are ‘supposed’ to appreciate marriage and household chores and childcare and like men are ‘supposed’ to act like this is some huge sacrifice they’ve made that makes them fairly unhappy.

Even men and women who don’t feel this way are often forced into acting these parts. I see it all the time.

The men must act like they put up with marriage. The women must play the parts of the ‘nagging’ wives and drag their husbands back. When really that’s not nagging. That’s just saying: ‘please darling, can you pull your weight?’

Basically I hate gender roles. I hate how sexism is so ingrained in our society that this is taking place on a Saturday night game show and everyone is smiling and laughing like this is normal. Which sadly, I think maybe it is.

I thought this was really interesting and a very valid critique. The idea that men are “sacrificing” something when they marry has always bothered me. Seriously, if it’s that much trouble, don’t bother, mate.

Claudia writes some brilliant posts, so you should definitely check out her blog.

Ellen Murray

You may remember me mentioning the Northern Irish trans advocate Ellen Murray in my Five Awesome Women on the Internet post. She’s an activist and the chair of GenderJam NI, campaigning for better access to healthcare for transgender youth. Recently, her work has risen to a more widespread public level – she is also a consultant on trans issues for several statutory sectors and she’s passionate about sustainable transport (or, as she puts it, “gay for bikes”).

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Loves bikes, this lass does.

But now, as a member of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, she’s the very first trans election candidate in Northern Irish history. I am RIDICULOUSLY excited and proud on her behalf; she’s a wonderful woman. I’ve submitted questions anonymously on her Tumblr blog from time to time, and she’s never been anything less than kind, compassionate and candid.

If you’re eligible to vote in the Northern Irish Assembly Poll, I’d urge you to check out her work and see for yourself the kind of things she stands for. This is her official blog and the GenderJam website.

Best of luck, Ellen! Keep reppin’!

Quote #9

Anne was that rare phenomenon, a self-made woman. But then, this became her demise. The machinations of court were an absolute minefield for women. And she was a challenging personality, who wouldn’t be quiet and shut up when she had something to say. This was a woman who wasn’t raised in the English court, but in the Hapsburg and French courts. And she was quite a fiery woman and incredibly intelligent. So she stood out — fire and intelligence and boldness — in comparison to the English roses that were flopping around court. And Henry noticed that. So all the reasons that attracted [Henry] to her, and made her queen and a mother, were all the things that then undermined her position. What she had that was so unique for a woman at that time was also her undoing.

~ Natalie Dormer on Anne Boleyn

From Tumblr – Political Correctness

From Claudia Boleyn:

The ‘political correctness gone mad’ crowd are actually hilarious because they are the ones who kick up a self-righteous stink or start protesting or think you’re somehow infringing their human rights for asking them not to use racist words. 

“You’re asking me to be polite and respectful to people? How dare you! The cheek of it! It’s my human right to be just as racist as I want and you can’t stop me! To prove I’m not a racist and that you are the villains here, I’m going to be more racist than ever!!!” 

Another thing about the ‘political correctness gone mad’ lot is that they characterise anybody who asks them, however politely or delicately, to change their vocabulary when talking about certain social issues to be more inclusive or respectful, as completely radical and unreasonable. They act like you take a wrong step and the ‘SJWs’ will eat you alive!

The reality, in my experience, is actually that the people that will eat you alive in the grossest way are those selfish, privileged jerks who want to shut you down and imply you are being unreasonable, attention-seeking, and asking too much when you simply want to talk about the reality and struggles of your existence or point out a way in which others could help/be more understanding towards your community. 

Culturally Appropriative Arseholes

Cultural appropriation is a hot topic among the internet masses. I’m willing to bet any money (exactly no money, because I don’t have any) that you’ve come across the term at least once. So what is it? Why is it so damaging? And how can you avoid becoming a culturally appropriative arsehole?

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture adopts/uses elements of a different culture in a negative, exploitative and damaging way. You’ve probably seen it floating around – so-called spiritual folk with “Namaste, b*tches” in their Instagram bios, that one friend who has a plastic Buddha in every room (including the bathroom), that one time your main man Gary went to a fancy-dress party as a “Red Indian” and made everyone there super uncomfortable.

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Seriously, brother, what was up with that?

This is damaging for a number of reasons – the main one being that people from these cultures are shamed and mocked for “standing out”, but the practice suddenly becomes acceptable and cool when a white person does it (and, unfortunately, it is usually white people). It also exoticises customs and traditions which are a part of everyday life in their home culture. It’s incredibly degrading for a non-Native person to dress up in a traditional Native American warbonnet for Halloween because it’s “weird” and “funny” – the feathered headdress is a highly symbolic item of ceremonial importance, not a fashion accessory. I accept that we do share our culture; however, the non-consensual claiming of traditions, customs and practices – without thought for the meaning and significance of such concepts – is not sharing.

So how can you avoid appropriating other cultures? It’s not wrong to appreciate another culture, but, first and foremost, think about why you like it. If you think it’s pretty/cute/exotic/mysterious or you think you’ll have some kind of life-changing spiritual experience driving past native people living in poverty, then basically don’t do the thing. But if you’re genuinely interested in the history, the architecture, or even the language, that’s positive. Here are some ways you can immerse yourself in a culture without denigrating the people it belongs to.

  1. Learn the languageRather than gracing us with your ability to get a wildly incorrect tattoo in Chinese, why don’t you try and learn the language? If you’re so into Indian culture, you’ve got your choice of 447 languages and dialects, according to Ethnologue. Personally, I’m fascinated by the Basque Country (Euskal Herria). Guess what my intention is? To learn the language, with a nifty little website called Memrise. Google it.
  2. Give something back to the places you visit. Avoid businesses/products that exploit the local people. Sponsor a family so they can adopt a goat and start a business. Get yo’self some local art.
  3. Make sure you understand a tradition/custom before you engage in it. Cultures are far more complex and nuanced than you think they are. No matter how much reading you do, remember that you are not the expert.
  4. Don’t wear/use sacred symbols unless you have explicit permission and you are in an acceptable social context. I know, I know – I’m not your mother and I can’t tell you what to do. But I’ve seen enough Christians getting tense about the inverted cross (of my old pal St Peter) being associated with Satanism; I don’t see why the symbols of other religions shouldn’t be perceived in exactly the same way – as too valuable and sacred to be used in such a manner. (Not that Satanism is wrong or bad in any way. You do you, babes.)
  5. Most importantly: STUDY THE CULTURE. Make sure you do so from firsthand accounts and original sources. Ensure that you are knowledgeable, open-minded and respectful when you discuss the culture.

Ultimately, enjoy! It’s a wild, wide world out there and it’s so diverse. Experiencing other cultures is a good thing, as it can widen your scope and give you a new perspective on your own life. But your exploration of another culture should not be at the expense of the people it belongs to.

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‘Tis all, for this evening.

For other articles on the subject (far better than mine), go to (x) (x) (x)