Of interest today…

// 7 December 2008

I’m fairly sure we must have done this one before, but in case we didn’t, here’s 12 helpful suggestions for men in feminist settings (including this one, by the way). And, y’know, they are really worth reprinting here:

1. Realize it’s not all about you. No, really! Shocked? This is because:

Girls, ladies, females, grrrrlz, womyn, wimmin, whatever you call them, it’s about us. It’s for us, by us. Not how you feel harmed or threatened by feminism or women, or about how you are oppressed as a man. We know that patriarchy affects all people negatively – but this isn’t the space to draw attention to how men suffer. I strongly encourage you to form your own men’s group to discuss those issues.

2. Check your privilege. Yes, you have it. We all have different kinds of privilege, but you, as a man, have male privilege. Just because you don’t feel privileged doesn’t mean you don’t have it. Recognizing that you have privilege does not mean that you have never suffered. Being told to check your privilege is not a personal insult or attack. It also doesn’t indicate that someone is trying to cop out of an argument or silence anybody – we just get tired of having to explain it constantly. See Rule 6 for more info.

Corollary to Rule 2: There is no such thing as “reverse sexism.” Don’t even think of trying that one on us. The fact that an individual man can be harmed by an individual woman does not override an entire misogynistic social system.

3. Listen.Corollary to Rule 3: When in doubt, shut the hell up. If you’re not sure you’re “getting it” take a step back, resist the urge to hit that “respond” button, and try to think about what women are saying – before you act.

4. Resist the unconscious urge to dominate. It’s what you’ve been programmed to do, but this is not the place for it. See Rule 1 and Corollary. If you find that you’re posting more than the rest of the community combined, think about why. If you feel the need to constantly draw attention to your maleness, examine that dynamic – it’s often a subconscious method of exercising control.

5. Try not to get defensive. Remember that women expressing frustration with the patriarchy is not a personal attack on you, and there’s no need to respond as such. If you do so, you’re likely to violate rules 1-5. Remember: If you’re feeling attacked by feminism, it’s probably a counter-attack

For the rest head here.

Meanwhile over at Womanist Musings (and reposted at Feministing), Renee has words of warning for colluders and pearl-clutchers on their white privilege.

The oppressor does not get to tell the oppressed what is and isn’t oppression. I know that the victor traditionally writes history, but just for shits and giggles, how about you pretend that the subaltern can speak. I don’t want to hear about the ways that you identify with me, because you cannot. I don’t want to hear your comparisons of my life to yours, because they are not the same. My struggle will never be the same as yours, and your attempts to diminish it by trying to find a reference point in your life, only makes the degree of privilege with which you function even more obvious.

So-called “honour” killings hit a new low – a Jordanian man killed his niece on his suspicion she had had pre-marital sex with the man she then married. Yep, read that right – woman and man ready to get hitched, have sex, apparently that offends some random relative shoots her six times. “The family” dropped the charges against him and his sentence was commuted from fifteen years to seven – the victims brothers and father were also charged but acquitted of her murder two weeks after the wedding. The Jordanian Parliament refuses to make the punishment of such crimes harsher despite, in the same week two other sentences for similar crimes.

And before we get too complacent in the UK, misogyny is just as apparent here – for example this HIV man who purposefully risked the lives of women he met in clubs in Leicester. Health Protection staff fear the numbers of women at risk could by in the 100+ realm.

Meanwhile in the US is this great piece about gendered bodies in public spaces and, more particularly, how men take up space on underground/metro systems. I’d say it’s actually applicable to any form of public transport having seen the same on buses, trains and trams around the country.

Beatrix Campbell wrote a really good piece for Comment is Free about the Queen’s Speech, as usual it’s come in for the rabid woman-hating we expect from CiF but there you go – too many misogynist men with too much time on their hands…

And our very own Kate Smurthwaite, over at her Cruella blog has a brilliant reflection on how the murders of Jill and Kirstie Foster by Chris Foster (husband/father respectively) is being covered. By the way, anyone else notice how Jill and Kirstie are now unnamed appendages to “The Chris Foster Tragedy”? Everywhere writes about him murdering “his wife and daughter” as if he owned them, but doesn’t mention their names.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 7 December 2008 at 11:41 pm

12 helpful suggestions for men in feminist settings needs to be repeated ad naseum and these suggestions apply to anyone who claims ‘but we have reverse sexism too.’ See collorary to rule 2 because reverse sexism does not exist. Just another myth used to demonise feminists.

Re: gendered bodies in public space – so true and I’ve lost count of the innumerable times I have observed men take up two or even three seats because of their so-called male privilege. Yet when I refuse to shrink myself into a midget just so that a male sitting alongside me can take up two seats I am perceived as ‘taking up too much space.’

Rest ‘Of Interest Today’ is all about male power and of course we must not forget the misogynists who immediately attacked Beatrix Campbell’s excellent article. Reason? Why if legislation is passed concerning lap dancing clubs this will directly affect men’s perceived right of viewing naked women and reducing them to men’s sexual commodities. Honour killings is the same side of the old coin – women being subjected to male control and male-defined morals, which of course always benefit men. Man who is HIV positive – likewise he has deliberately attempted to infect innumerable women but no guesses the focus will once again be on the women’s perceived ‘promiscuity’ not the male’s accountability. Of course murderer Chris Foster is far more important than Jill and Kirstie Foster who he murdered. We do not refer to possessions by name, likewise Jill and Kirstie Foster were a man’s possessions. It happens all the time in media reporting of male violence against women, the female victims are either invisibilised or else ‘murder’ itself killed the woman or women, never the man or men.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 7 December 2008 at 11:52 pm

12 helpful suggestions for men in feminist settings needs to be repeated ad naseum and these suggestions apply to anyone who claims ‘but we have reverse sexism too.’ See collorary to rule 2 because reverse sexism does not exist. Just another myth used to demonise feminists.

Re: gendered bodies in public space – so true and I’ve lost count of the innumerable times I have observed men take up two or even three seats because of their so-called male privilege. Yet when I refuse to shrink myself into a midget just so that a male sitting alongside me can take up two seats I am perceived as ‘taking up too much space.’

Rest ‘Of Interest Today’ is all about male power and of course we must not forget the misogynists who immediately attacked Beatrix Campbell’s excellent article. Reason? Why if legislation is passed concerning lap dancing clubs this will directly affect men’s perceived right of viewing naked women and reducing them to men’s sexual commodities. Honour killings is the same side of the old coin – women being subjected to male control and male-defined morals, which of course always benefit men. Man who is HIV positive – likewise he has deliberately attempted to infect innumerable women but no guesses the focus will once again be on the women’s perceived ‘promiscuity’ not the male’s accountability. Of course murderer Chris Foster is far more important than Jill and Kirstie Foster who he murdered. We do not refer to possessions by name, likewise Jill and Kirstie Foster were a man’s possessions. It happens all the time in media reporting of male violence against women, the female victims are either invisibilised or else ‘murder’ itself killed the woman or women, never the man or men.

Kath // Posted 8 December 2008 at 1:54 am

Everyone had to take responsibility for their own sexual health. If someone has consensual unprotected sex with someone they are putting themselves at some risk, however large or small, and must take responsibility for that risk. Vilifying people who pass on HIV to their sexual partners does nothing to remove the stigma surrounding AIDS. An HIV positive person will most likely have contracted the virus in much the same manner as they pass it on to anyone else.

As for the case you mention of the man in Leicester, I do not understand where your accusation that this man deliberately put women’s lives at risk comes from. The report you link to (and other reports I found) do not state that the man was aware of his HIV positive status at the time of sleeping with the women, or that he pressured them into having unprotected sex. It is normal for someone to be encouraged to contact their former sexual partners after being diagnosed HIV positive and the only exceptional aspect of this story is the number of women involved. The report does not state how many women this man has claimed to have slept with and the number of women calling in is not necessarily indicative since the appeal was to all women who had slept with a man they met at the clubs named. It is probable that most of them have not slept with the man in question.

I would not deny that anyone does indulge in this kind of behaviour (knowingly putting partners at risk of HIV or pressuring someone into having unprotected sex) and it is certainly a feminist issue, but this man may be as innocent as the women who chose to have sex with him.

Rachael // Posted 8 December 2008 at 12:05 pm

Re: article ‘Gendered Bodies in Public Spaces’. Great article and it says what I have thought for ages. I get so tired of men denying my rights to space on my local bus route.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to take action. Once again – one seat left. Next to a bloke spreading his legs out so much across the vacant seat next to him that no one else seemed to have attempted to move him!

So I thought – I will then. I did not say anything. I just roughly pushed my way onto the seat next to him. He looked a little taken aback. I smiled sweetly as I did this. And just as he had finally got the point and moved because I was obviously not gonna move for him, I deliberately laid my left arm over the seat-heads as though I had my arm around my boyfriend! Perhaps excessive you may think – but many, MANY men that I do not know, have done this to me!

You should have seen his face all through the fifteen minute journey. Almost a look of – “hmmm…there’s something not quite right here”, “what’s going on?” I wasn’t touching him – I never would.

All I was doing was sat right up close to him (while keeping body contact minimal) and had my arm resting over both chairs. Essentially, it made HIM feel like he was “owned” I guess (the way I do when men do this to me).

And he never once attempted to leer at my legs, or even tried to control me by satring at me – again the way many men have.

All I did was act exactly the way that some abusive men do on public transport and it worked! Taste of your own medicine?!

Kate // Posted 9 December 2008 at 6:16 pm

Hmm. . . men exploiting their privelege in a public space. . .I was on a First Great Western train to London just last Friday and a male member of staff invaded my privacy and touched me not once, not twice, but three times within the space of ten minutes.

I was standing in a crowded carriage next to the buffet and it was a rocky ride so I thought nothing of it when an apparently off-duty ticket collector swayed into me, touched me lightly on the waist, and murmured an apology before moving on down the train.

A few minutes later, he came back, and did it again when passing through to first class. Bit of a coincidence? I returned to my book, relatively unperturbed. Only when the same man repeated this for a third time, in a more prolongued and deliberate fashion, did I look him square in the eye with a sneer of contempt.

What could I have done? His action was so subtle, and it could be reasonably argued that it was unavoidable, him being a large man trying to squeeze past in a narrow space. But why me every time? Clearly because I was the only lone female there at the time. And why my waist? If he was genuinely having problems in getting past, I would have had no issue with his shoulder accidentally brushing mine, or anything else- it was this purposeful reaching out and claiming ownership of the space, and of me, that really rankled.

We all know these kind of things happen to girls and women every day. The fact that this man was in the uniform of the company supposed to be offering me ‘a pleasant, safe and comfortable journey’ would be funny if it wasn’t so sick.

Maggie // Posted 10 December 2008 at 12:22 pm

Kate,

I know exactly what you mean. It’s the subtlety of the action that is so disconcerting and creepy. I would go with your instincts on this.

Once on the tube (many years ago), when the trained jerked, I was poked in my bottom. I turned round and observed a woman with a child, a young couple, a bloke reading the newspaper, and another bloke, slightly sweating who fleetingly glanced nervously at me. He was smartly dressed. I stood looking at him for what seemed a long time (though it was probably no longer than 30 seconds). My anger was bubbling up and of course I wanted to shout ‘This man touched me up’. However, I walked away and stood on another spot.

I hate the way on trains some men sit down opposite you, legs splayed apart. This happen while I was bringing some teenage girls to Manchester. I spoke to them about it after and they noticed it too. They thought it was rude and it made them feel uncomfortable.

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