Louise Livesey // 17 September 2008
Welcome to another whirlwind whizz through news and views….
First off a cartoon from Slowpoke which neatly sums up, for me, some of the debates around Sarah Palin’s presumed feminism.
That said it’s important to say misogynistic portrayals of Palin are not OK. As a feminist even if I don’t like her politics doesn’t mean I believe it’s OK to be sexist. For example the cartoon on the right isn’t OK and rather makes me want to turn into the woman from the last frame of the previous cartoon. As Feministing points out (and hat tip to them for the cartoon to the right):
A sadly perfect illustration of the Catch-22 women face. You’re either a scary, ugly, old, mannish harpy. Or a ditzy, perky, fuckable bimbo. You’re either cracking nuts between your thighs or dressed up like Britney Spears. The sexist remarks about Clinton and Palin are like our hate mail (“you ugly man-hater!” followed by “gimme a blow job!”) writ large. It doesn’t matter that, in reality, neither Hillary Clinton nor Sarah Palin fits these stereotypes. Both are attractive women who have made their fair share of political enemies. But reality doesn’t matter much in terms of how they’re portrayed.
Further to this Feature calling for a dialogue between entrenched pro/anti porn and prostitution feminists around other issues, this is a timely reminder that it’s not always that simple. First off the biography of Somaly Mam, a Cambodian girl who was sold into sexual slavery and prostitution, tortured and beaten, eventually escaped and who has returned to the brothels to help other girls escape and provide a safer working environment for those who stay. Set against a poster from the Empower Centre in Chang Mai, Thailand which reminds us that sometimes there is no other option with these words:
- We lose our savings and our belongings.
- We are locked up.
- We are interrogated by many people.
- They force us to be witnesses.
- We are held until the court case.
- We are held till deportation.
- We are forced re-training.
- We are not given compensation by anybody.
- Our family must borrow money to survive while we wait.
- We are anxious for our family.
- Strangers visit our village telling people about us.
- The village and the soldiers cause our family problems.
- My family has a debt.
Our family is in a panic.
Our family has to pay ‘fines’ or bribes to the soldiers.We are sent home.
Military abuses and no work continues at home.
We must find a way back to Thailand to start again.
Somewhere the system really isn’t working….(you can see a copy of the original poster here)
Meanwhile the UK government has published new ideas on the classification of heavy drinkers. Which is great and might, as Dawn Primola claims, help drinkers understand their behaviour better. But, then, why was it so gendered? Some categories, like Destress Drinker or the Community Drinker are studiously ungendered – but the Boredom Drinker is described as “typically single mums” and the Comformist Drinker, Macho Drinker and Border Dependents are all described as male. Thing is that back in May a national treatment organisation warned that the numbers of women seeking rehab from alcohol misuse would by 2010 equal those of men and we’ve known since 2001 that alcohol dependency has a bigger impact on women’s internal organs than on men’s. We also know that treatment models tend to privilege men’s experiences/patterns of drinking and ignore women’s and (I’m reliably informed) services for women with alcohol dependency issues are woefully under-resourced.
Over at the Guardian there is a piece about people becoming “choice mothers” – that is single women having children through donor insemination. Now I find the language here rather odd – it presumes all other mothers (including ones in relationships) aren’t having children by choice, for example, and that other single women who keep a non-insemination baby aren’t choice mothers either. How odd. And indeed the way some of these women talk about children of single mothers conceived through intercourse is rather disturbing. One talks about her daughter knowing she wasn’t the result of a “drunken fumble” which hopelessly misrepresents the way most women become single parents (i.e. from what they thought was a committed relationship where the father then walks out).
There is a piece here encouraging men to stop living passively in a “rape culture” and to accept that all men, through disassaociating from the sexual violence, allow it to continue. Nick Arntsen points out that in acting just like men who do commit sexual violence (for example in the macho “ownership” of public spaces) men create a situation in which they, like the next man, might be a threat and therefore they cannot complain when women are wary of them.
Until men stop using a language of inequality, stop objectifying women, stop patronising our sisters and start speaking openly about the collective pain inflicted on women, the torture will live on”
From Daily Campus
And to conclude, Amnesty International has condemned the Nordic countries (Finland, Norwary, Denmark and Sweden), usually associated with their strong track records on gender issues, for failing to tackle sexual violence. Singling out Finland for criticism, Amnesty International points out that Finland lacks a national action plan on violence against women, it has high domestic violence rates, low rape reporting rates, low rape conviction rates (at around 14% which is almost three times higher than the UK), and a national survey that found 15,000 women (18-74) in the previous year had been coerced into a sexual act in the previous year (out of a 5.3 million population). Amnesty was also critical of the categorisation of rape by severity of physical violence used by the perpetrator which means that coercion without violence is classified as “lesser degree rape”.