News and Views
Louise Livesey // 27 November 2008
Here’s a really powerful reminder that, in the words of bell hooks, feminism is for everyone:
The definition of feminism does not require a diploma or other proof of graduation. It is not reserved for those who teach women’s studies classes, or to those who majored in women’s studies, or to those who graduated from college, or to those who graduated from high school, or to those who graduated from Brownie to Girl Scout. It doesn’t care if you went to Princeton or the school of hard knocks. You can have a PhD, or a GED, or a degree in mixology, or a library card, or all of the above, or none of the above. You don’t have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas’s use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don’t have to get better than a C-plus on it. You can really believe math is hard, or you can teach math. You don’t have to take a test to get in. You don’t have to speak English. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
We do not know the true number of victims, but we do know that there are far more crimes than ever get reported, and far fewer lead to arrests. In too many places, rape still carries a stigma that forces women to avoid the courts that should exist to protect them. In some countries, victims are brutalized twice: first during the crime itself, and then by the justice system…Even when perpetrators are identified, they often go unpunished, especially if they are working in the police or military…Even more disturbing is the age of many victims. In certain violent areas of Haiti, 50 per cent of the young women have been raped or sexually assaulted. Of the handful of courageous victims who do seek justice, one in three is under 13. During one particularly violent month earlier this year in Liberia, the majority of reported rapes were committed against girls under the age of 12, some of whom were not even 5 years old.
But should be read against an international background where Turkey stopped an anti-violence against women march with barricades and violence; where China is blaming isolated cases of sexual violence against women by other women on women becoming “unfeminine” and emulating male superiority rather than their apparently innate “weak and tender” attributes (the crimes are horrific, the explanations are also horrific) and where Black Women’s Rape Action Project points out that the UK still doesn’t recognise sexual violence and rape as acts of torture for women seeking asylum.
Santa has been sacked for inappropriate behaviour. I have to say the excuses of Andrew Mondia (the Santa in question) are just banal assertions of male privilege – “I am innocent it’s other people with dirty minds misconstruing it”, “My “elf” told me it was wrong but she’s a woman so what does she know” and “Damn those codes of behaviour now I’m a victim because I won’t get given money for propositioning women”.
Meanwhile a lesbian soldier has had the sexual harassment she experienced acknowledged by an Employment Tribunal who have ordered the Ministry of Defence to pay almost £190,000 in compensation.
Carol Sarler has a take on the “Gordon Ramsey has an affair” story by telling off Sarah Symonds (the “other” woman) for not playing the rules? Those rules are classist in the extreme relying on old upper and middle class notions of “mistresses” as routine but are also venomously anti-woman. Mistresses are apparently “sorry little bits on the side” who are now getting “uppity” because of feminism, instead Sarler argues a mistress should accept that she “gets the sex and, if she’s lucky, a bauble or two…[but] she may…do nothing whatsoever to bring misery to the people he really loves….She has no status at all – not as wife, widow or even proper friend.” And the title of this delightful piece? Why don’t trollops know their place any more?
Finally researchers from Bristol University are doing a survey about women and violence funded by the Women’s Institute. It has the potential to be the biggest such survey ever undertaken. Follow the link to take part.