“You made me do it.”

It’s an idea that you get used to. Your wrongness will always be measured by the degree of the response. There’s no definition in actions or words, nor any great amassing of evidence.  Just a number of bruises to count, each one showing the world how utterly wrong you are.

After the blows there will be silence. Then follows sadness and shame at what you drove a good person to do. There will be sighing, and those who stood to one side, wringing their hands, will tell you not to do “anything else to provoke him” (they mean to be helpful). There will be a few days – I can’t remember how many it used to be – when the good person won’t acknowledge you at all. You will feel hard done to (a little), but soon you see there is no point in having such feelings. People will not pity you when you are merely the cause of their shame. (more…)

Women online — they’re always whinging about abuse, aren’t they? And yet it’s so hard to stop abusing them! You might even think they deserve it. After all, a thousand twitter mobs can’t be wrong, can they?

Well, here’s problem. People who abuse women always think they have a good reason for doing it. That’s how abuse works. It’s a function of widespread ignorance and fear. And since when did an abuser really see themselves as such? They always think they are doing it for the victim’s own good, so that she will learn to be better and not make the same “mistakes” again. Corrective abuse, one might call it. Find a space with women in it and trust me, thinks the abuser, some of them will need to be tamed.

You might be a woman yourself, a feminist even, but still find it hard to approach other women as though they are human beings. Perhaps you’ve found some distancing strategy that makes you feel less of a “basic” female. That’s okay. After all, it’s hard to remain a decent person in a highly abusive environment. Tapping into a special vein of misogyny that you’ve decided doesn’t apply to you is a natural reaction. It’s not right but there’s still time to change.

To help you get back on track, I’ve written this handy, deeply patronising checklist for abusive feminists everywhere. Please make the time to read it. After all, what harm can one more passive-aggressive, “stop being such a shit feminist” list do when there are so many out there already?

So, let’s begin:

1. According to the most up-to-date scientific research, women are human beings. And yes, that includes all women, even the ones you don’t like. I know this will make some of you feel a bit icky. That’s fine. It often takes people time to get used to this idea. Give yourself the space to work on your internalised prejudice (it’s hard, I know *sends solidarihugs*).

2. All women have things called “ideas” and “opinions”. It can be difficult when you first encounter this online, at least if a woman’s ideas and opinions differ to yours. A common impulse is to call her a bigot, accuse her of various phobias and invite the rest of the internet to shame her into submission. Don’t panic if that’s what you’ve been doing. You simply need to get to grips with the idea that a person not agreeing with you is okay, even if that person is a woman (I know, a woman! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But trust me, letting women have opinions won’t be any worse than letting men have them. You just need to overcome your fear of this).

3. For a long time it was believed that only men could have what we call “real emotions”. Nowadays it’s recognised that women have them, too, but it’s still felt that a woman can forfeit them if she steps out of line. For instance, while we know that “die in a fire” or “STFU you shit-for-brains cunt” would upset the average man, a recalcitrant woman is widely held to respond only with “sadfeelz”. This is, alas, bad science. All current indications suggest that even women who lack the #twitterfeminism seal of approval have actual emotional responses to threats and abuse. That’s something to bear in mind next time you start putting a dot before the @ in your tweet.

4. Lots of us believe that older women exist only to make us feel important, stroke our bruised egos and occasionally do the housework. Hence if you encounter an older woman online, it can be terribly disappointing if she doesn’t seem utterly bowled over by your edgy sexual exploits, or has the temerity not to think your self-centred view of gender overwrites her more critical one. The thing to remember is: older women are not your mum. They’re not going to cut you some slack just because they love you. They have their own shit to deal with and don’t owe you approval. It comes back to the “women being people” thing. Keep repeating that to yourself until one day you believe it.

5. One of the oldest forms of misogyny comes in the belief that the female body is corruptive, sinful and repulsive. You might think you have ideas about sex and gender which make you immune to this reaction and if so, that’s cool. However, if your immediate response to someone mentioning words such as period and vagina (but not penis or testes) is to tweet “fuck off, cissexist scum!” it may be that you still have issues.

6. These days most cultures allow women to manage their own relationships and interact socially without the presence of a chaperone, partner or male relative. That’s something to bear in mind if you find yourself regularly checking up on whom a woman is following on twitter, quizzing her over her online “associations,” warning people not to talk to X because she’s been seen talking to Y etc..

7. Making women feel uncertain about themselves — that their views are not authoritative, their thought processes tainted by bigotry, their suffering unverified, their “lived experiences” neither real nor raw enough to count — is a common abuser’s tactic. This may be something you do without even meaning to. You might think you have the lived experiences against which all other women must measure theirs (and that theirs will invariably be found wanting). You might secretly enjoy spreading uncertainty and acquiring obedient followers, desperate not to offend you with their silly woman ideas. All this means is that you are acting like an entitled prick. But don’t worry! There’s always time to change. Read and re-read this list, then resolve to do better.

8. Being a woman isn’t meant to feel modern or cutting edge. Womanhood doesn’t need repackaging or pruning, leaving the embarrassing “waste” behind. All women who speak are women whom, as a feminist, you should feel some responsibility towards. That’s really annoying, isn’t it? But that’s people for you.

It’s okay if all this is new to you. Take your time. In the meantime, here’s a shit, babyish cartoon to help you on your journey:

Am I abusive

Still feeling uncomfortable? Patronised? Offended? Don’t worry. This is how most women feel online all the time. Terrified of saying the wrong thing. Judged simply for existing. Frightened that if they call out abuse, they’ll just be accused of bigotry. Patronised by passive-aggressive lists which outline all of the ways in which they are to blame for all social ills. Blamed for all the bad things that happen to them, tortured by the thought that those accusing them could be right.

If you feel even a tiny bit of that right now, think carefully before you launch in to your next attack. If, on the other hand, you’ve already composed a tweet in which you describe how I’ve written a post all about defending privilege, you’re nothing if not predictable and hopelessly, determinedly wrong.

Here are some things which even the most reactionary branches of the news media might set within the broader context of a sexist culture:

  • the under-representation of women in politics
  • female genital mutilation
  • sexual objectification and harassment

And here is one thing which they don’t:

  • the imprisonment, rape and fertility control of women by men who decide they can “own” them

The first three things are misogyny in action; the latter is just pure evil, badness, whatever you want to call it, providing you don’t use words like “sexist” and “patriarchal”, because that just wouldn’t be playing fair. (more…)

Writing in Saturday’s Guardian, Deborah Orr is a bit mean about feminism, suggesting that its “influence [...] on contemporary society is overstated”. Obviously this upsets me. Feminism is my fwend. I don’t like people being mean about it. So there. She also proposes that when faced with misogyny “we need to say a great deal more than: ‘This is horrible. Poor us'”. Sod that. I just like saying “this is horrible. Poor us”. There’s nothing like undirected bitterness to fuel the feminist fire. (more…)

Women have always had to deal with misogyny, therefore it is ridiculous for individuals to kick up a fuss about it now. This appears to be the argument made by Cristina Odone in her latest Telegraph blog, in which she expresses her sadness at “clever Mary [Beard] […] being stupid” for responding to vicious online attacks:

Come on, Mary. Women in public arenas get a lot of flak – they always have. Think of Livia and Julia back in the time of Augustus. They were attacked for everything they did, simply because they refused to stay in the background and fawn on men. The same is true today. A woman who sticks her head above the parapet – whether it be to present a history programme on the BBC or debate issues on Question Time – is asking for brickbats and (some) bouquets. If she doesn’t have the stomach for it, she should stick to lecturing undergraduates.

So that’s Mary put in her place, although only if you believe that standing up for yourself is the same as not having “the stomach” to deal with aggressive bullying and threats of sexual violence. Odone is convinced these things are indeed the same, claiming that  “Mary Beard’s defensiveness is widespread among women of stature”. Silly Mary Beard, and silly women in general, for lacking the bravery to behave like good girls and suck up whatever nastiness comes their way.  (more…)

In 1983 I met Paul Daniels in a department store in Blackpool. He signed books for both me and my brother. At first I was annoyed because my brother had picked up Paul’s “Magic Book” whereas I had “More Magic”, quite obviously the less impressive sequel. Still, when we reached the front of the queue, I got a kiss off Paul and my brother didn’t. Plus my book says “love Paul” whereas his just has “Paul”  (I suppose anything more would have considered been a bit gay).

I didn’t get anything more than a kiss from Paul, mind. This is probably because 1) I was with my grandma in a public place, 2) I wasn’t wearing a “super-short mini-skirt[.], teetering high heels and slap”, and 3) I’m quite possibly just not his type (I look nothing like Debbie McGee – more of a Courtney Cox, I am). The fact that I was also eight is probably neither here nor there. After all, I was an early developer and when girls aren’t in school uniform, who can tell? As Paul allegedly wrote in a recent blog post, with “groupies” it’s sometimes “impossible”. Anyhow, it’s just as well nothing more happened between me and Paul. Apart from anything else, he’d have forgotten the entire thing and would probably now say I was making it up, just like those Jimmy Savile accusers. (more…)

Domestic abusers! You know that thing when you’re having a massive row with your partner over something entirely trivial – it could be, say, Christmas presents – and it reaches the point where you suddenly feel the need to head to the garage, arm yourself with white spirits and a lighter, douse your partner in flammable liquid and then wave a naked flame around, just to give him or her a fright?  Well, last Christmas Stephen Eastwood did just that and something entirely unexpected happened – he managed to set his wife on fire and she died! And now he’s got to go to prison!

I imagine a story such as this strikes fear into the hearts of respectable, behind-closed-doors attackers everywhere. Hence it may be of some consolation for them to learn that Eastwood wasn’t convicted of murder. Despite Eastwood lying to the police (he originally blamed his wife for the incident, claiming she’d started the fire with a cigarette, something which was later demonstrated to have been impossible), the judge who sentenced Eastwood to eight years for manslaughter declared himself “sure that [the defendant] did not intend [his wife] to catch fire and did not intend the result”: (more…)

So feminists don’t do chivalry? Frankly, I find the very suggestion reveals a complete lack of politesse. I’m a feminist yet I’ve always been a friend of courtoisie. Indeed, I’ve read whole books that seek to define appropriate ritterliches Benehmen (I didn’t study medieval literature for nothing  – well, actually, it’s starting to look like I did. But still …).

The debate on chivalry has been “restarted” by an article in the Atlantic (a publication which I sometimes feel was set up with the sole purpose of rewriting Femail in Pseud’s Corner-friendly language). You know all that stuff about how feminists get really mad if men hold doors open, so then men get told off for holding doors open, then women – who are not the same as feminists – get pissed because the told-off men have stopped holding doors open etc. etc.? Well, it’s that. Again. “The breakdown in the old rules, which at one extreme has given rise to the hookup culture, has killed dating and is leaving a lot of well-meaning men and women at a loss.” Blah blah blah – you know the drill. Except – except! – there’s a sort-of social sciencey bit.

According to Emily Esfahani Smith, a recent study has shown that “chivalry is associated with greater life satisfaction and the sense that the world is fair, well-ordered, and a good place” – so a world not unlike the end of an episode of Mike the Knight. Who could possibly be unhappy with that? Well, the authors of the study to which Esfahani Smith refers, for starters. What Kathleen Connelly and Martin Heesacker actually observe is that benevolent sexism – a term which the Atlantic piece immediately dismisses as a kind of Orwellian doublespeak – “is indirectly associated with life satisfaction for both women and men through diffuse system justification”. This isn’t quite the cause and effect scenario that Esfahani Smith would like to suggest. Still, never mind – where made-up social science stumbles, let’s throw in some made-up history instead! (more…)

Four years ago, when my eldest son was still a few months short of his first birthday, his father decided to take him to a new baby group. But not just any new baby group – rather than go to the local Sure Start centre, man and boy ventured across to the other side of town, to the place that we call Poshville. As far as baby groups went, it was not in fact different from any other, except that when it came to coffee time, there weren’t any biscuits. My partner commented on this, and mentioned that you got them at the Sure Start Centre in Scumsville. “Well, you would”, said one of the posh mummies, “you need to bribe those lot with biscuits or they’d never get away from the TV.” My partner responded by saying that in fact, we lived in Scumsville and had seven Oxbridge degrees between us. Whereupon everyone was very apologetic for misjudging the scummers and their relationship with custard creams. (more…)

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