The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Category Archives: Sexism

How to illustrate a story about falling sperm counts

So how should one illustrate a story about falling sperm counts?

Headless pregnant woman

Headless pregnant woman

With a headless pregnant woman, of course!

Well done, New Zealand Herald. Well done.

Tick the tropes: men’s illness = women’s problem, women as bearers of fetuses, women responsible for the human race, women reduced to a state of pregnancy, women reduced to body parts. Any more?

Cross posted

On Geeks and Privilege

So yeah, another tech conference, more problems with racism and sexism. BritRuby has been cancelled. (And yes, I’m as startled as you are that it’s a Jezebel article that gives the best run-down of the issues. You can also read here, but please, for the love of bunnies and sanity, don’t read the comments.)

You may at this point be idly wondering, “Why should I, weighing everything up here, bother giving a fuck?” Because the otherwise pointless fuckuporama produced this: Geeks and Privilege.

The reason we’re seeing such vicious anti-equality bullshit in the geek community over the BritRuby situation and other conference type stuff is because the very existence of societal inequalities (against women, racial minorities, gender/sexual minorities) threatens the whole idea that hackers got where they are because they are super-fucking-smart.

That piece is a really good run-down of unacknowledged privilege in the geek community. What I want to add to it is basically, “Because Intersectionality.”

Intersectionality is a long word, but not a difficult concept, at all. One day I might strip it back to its bare bones for Public Address, but here I’m going to assume people have a grasp of it.

One of the reasons that geek men are resistant to having their privilege pointed out to them is that they perceive themselves as outsiders. Not so much for geeks my son’s age, but for my cohort, people who were interested in (or, more accurately, obsessed with) science and computers and role-playing were not the Cool Kids. Part of the whole Freaks and Geeks stereotype is being the socially-awkward outcast. Hardly the recipients of social privilege in the adolescent hierarchy.

So like Pakeha women and gay men, if you’ve been on the receiving end of social bigotry and put-downs and people making life hard for you, it’s much harder to recognise that not only do you have privilege over other people you’re not aware of, but you might actually be exercising it against them.

And no, privilege is not luck. Finding ten bucks on the ground is luck. Having a family with money is privilege.

I don’t feel guilty about being a man but I do realise that it has certain benefits that women don’t get and certain opportunities I get that women have to fight much harder for. This doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. But denying that this is the case in order to preserve my illusions makes me an ignorant person.

Now, I’ve seen conference organisers, and other people too, try very hard to find willing female voices, and fail. But they’re not pretending that diversity and privilege aren’t problems. These guys really were. And, y’know, fuck those guys. Don’t be those guys.

A Primer

Last night, I was innocently walking home, and came across a group of young women handing out pamphlets. This being Courtenay Place, you would be right to assume that it wasn’t the local Temperance League they were promoting, but the opening of the capital’s latest strip club.

Just as I was about to open my mouth to tell one of them I liked her (sparkly!) dress, around the corner came a group of men. Significantly older than said young women, and quite a lot drunker, they seemed delighted to come across such friendly and welcoming Wellingtonians.

Because the encounter I then witnessed made me angry, I feel the need to offer some reminders to…well, people in general I guess, but I suspect drunk, white, middle-aged men might benefit from this the most.

  • The length of a woman’s skirt does not imply anything about a woman’s sexual availability, marital status, intellectual capacity, or strength of will.
  • Even if it did, that doesn’t mean she is sexually available to you and/or your friends.
  • No, seriously, the short skirt and bedazzled boobs does not give you license to harass her.
  • Even if we are to assume these young women are sex workers of a sort, that also doesn’t mean they’re fair game for harassment.
  • It also doesn’t mean that they are automatically going to fuck you. Quite the opposite actually.
  • Attempting to grope a woman who doesn’t want you to is assault. No matter what you think of her legs. Oh, and that goes for “hugs” too.
  •  Seriously, you’re disgusting, and I don’t care how many rum and cokes you’ve had, calling a young woman a bitch is only acceptable in very specific circumstances. And it has nothing to do with the length of her skirt or her employment.
  • It’s pretty easy to tell when women have ceased to find you entertaining. When they’re backing away, when they’re no longer laughing, and when they’re looking at their friends, worried and rolling their eyes, you’ve crossed a line.
  • The woman glaring at you and calling you a cock under her breath? She doesn’t give a shit what you think of her, and holds you in disdain. She’s also not going to sleep with you. (And had there not been six of you and one of her, she wouldn’t have been “muttering”.)
  • How about I come to your office and comment on the size of your “hard drive”, getting all up in your personal space, and making you uncomfortable?
  • Is it really so hard to treat women, no matter what they’re wearing, no matter how they make their living, no matter what their size or hair colour or the height of their heels, with basic respect? You may disapprove of her career choice, and there are certainly reasonable arguments for that – but why does that give you the right to insult her? Why make her day worse?  That woman you just demeaned? She’s someone’s daughter, someone’s lover, someone’s friend. She could, in fact, be your daughter, your lover, or your friend. And you’ll always be just some asshole who is horrible to women.

My Saturday Night

I’ve been thinking a lot about Constance’s post, and how it actually relates directly to my last Saturday night. And I’ve mulled whether or not I should talk about this, because it’s personal. Repeatedly, though, I’ve found that I’ve managed to get through to people from different backgrounds and mindsets by relating personal experience. It bridges the gap in a way detached theory can’t. I’m going to take the risk. You don’t have to take it with me.

See, I want to go further than Constance.

But when we default to yelling “sexism!” at images of women in submissive sexual positions, I would argue that we are actually being oppressive ourselves.

I agree with this, completely. But I’ll go further. It’s not just oppressive, and erasive, it’s dangerous. Reading BDSM as abuse is dangerous. And to explain why I think that, I’m going to tell you something about my experience of being a female sub in public. And to do that, I’m going to have to reveal what might be the worst-kept secret on the internet.

For the last while, I have been in a Male/female (M/f) Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationship. The scope might be referred to as “in the bedroom”, but that would be misleading. It extends beyond the infliction of pain and the use of restraint in conventionally “sexual” situations, and into psychological submission. When we are together, I am always his sub, and he is always my Dom.

In this relationship, it’s actually never occurred to me to wonder if I am respected or valued or seen as an equal. I know I am. In the past I’ve been sexually and physically abused, and I’ve been in relationships that were psychologically abusive. I know when I’m being abused, and when I’m not. Anyone who wants to suggest I don’t, go right ahead. I have no problem with other people coming across as patronising ignorant fuckwits.

What fascinates me is how other people react to me when they realise I’m a sub. Oddly, there’s significant cross-over with how people react to my bisexuality.

I’m talking about fairly liberal, open-minded, licentious people who are (for the most part) not kinky. People who have spoken to me for the couple of minutes it takes to realise that I know my own mind and speak it. (I don’t really understand why so many vanilla people think subs are weak, and are surprised when they turn out to be strong. You don’t think this takes strength?) On Saturday night, I openly subbed for my Dom at a party. I wore my collar. There was enough “behaviour” for people to realise what I was. Overall, this was an enormous amount of fun for everyone, and something I was massively glad to be allowed to do. And I know some people would be disturbed by the sight of a woman being undressed by a circle of her lover’s friends, but that unease fails to take into account how I felt about it, which should be the most important thing.

There were a couple of times during the night, though, when the reactions were interesting.

Sometimes, just like when I tell people I’m bi, there’s the Jaded Disbelief. My sexuality isn’t real, it’s a put-on, a desperate attention-getting device. (My Dom gets this too, the whole “Oh yeah right” thing.) I’m acting, and if pushed far enough, I will crack, and react like a Normal Person. And that? The urge to make me Prove It? Is dangerous. If people in general both knew and accepted more about BDSM, for a start I wouldn’t have this pain where someone hit me in the small of the back. You know, over my kidney, right next to my spine. Something my Dom would never, ever do because it’s stupid and dangerous. A good Dom knows how to inflict pain without causing damage. He has no desire to cause serious injury, because BDSM is not abuse.

And then, just like when I tell people I’m bi, there’s the Salacious Fetishisation. This guy (it’s almost always a guy) simply can’t believe his eyes. He’s come into this believing it’s not real, and when it turns out to be genuine? He thinks it’s Christmas. The woman is doing what she’s told. She’s enjoying being beaten. He can, therefore, do anything he wants to her. Because he can’t tell BDSM from abuse. And he’s dangerous. If you read BDSM as abuse, you can’t read a boundary between the two, so you’re going to cross it.

Those are the more obvious and serious dangers. But let’s not forget about the quiet sneering, the concern-trolling, the fake pity. The theoretical discussions that erase my experience to my face. The things that ensure I won’t be coming to them for help.

I’m proud of my Dom, who kept me safe in difficult circumstances, who read little shifts in facial expression or small touches to realise when I was uncomfortable and needed rescuing. The nature of our relationship means he shows more active care for me than a vanilla lover would have to, not less.

I’m proud of what I am. It brings me peace and surety: the opposite of the effect of abuse. The nature of our relationship means I need to be stronger than a conventional lover, not weaker.

There are photos of me that perhaps resemble some of those White Ribbon ones. The idea of anyone seeing those as sexist, as abusive, makes me feel sick.

Someone else’s inability to tell the difference between a M/f D/s relationship and a sexist abusive one should be their problem, not mine. Yet that’s not how it works in practise. My life would be easier if more people were at least aware of the possibility that what they’re seeing might be consensual. In the meantime, if you’re really worried, can I suggest quietly coming to me and saying, “Are you all right?” In BDSM circles, we call this a check-in. We do it all the time. And when I say yes? Believe me.

Today in What The Actual Fuck news

FOTLG Boganette linked to this article on Tumblr last night. I have been mulling it over, and while it’s not the cause, it is definitely not helping this headache I have. So let’s, shall we, take this apart piece by piece. It is brilliant in it’s absurdity. As always, Don’t read the comments.

Is the pursuit for gender equality sucking life out of relationships?

Not mine, but you carry on.

Instead of harnessing the different qualities of men and women to energise us, we are striving to make men and women equal.

More women are joining the battle for the CEO’s chair and pursuing dominance in their homes and communities. But in the process they’re becoming more like men. And men are becoming… well, less like men.

Um, yeah, no. “Striving for equality” isn’t “making women more like men. And cutting off the men’s balls and turning them into namby-pamby apron wearing pantywaists. It means women having equal rights and opportunities and access to services and healthcare, and bodily autonomy, and freedom from fear of violence, and teh right to work or not work. It’s the choice. And if a woman has to “become more like a man” to do that, that’s a sad indictment on this apparently “post-feminist” world we live in. If she does that because she chooses to, fantastic. But let’s none of us fool ourselves into thinking that women wearing boxy pantsuits and drinking beer with the boys after a 14 hour day at the executive table is what every feminist wants.

Renowned Australian neurosurgeon Charlie Teo believes men and women have different roles “set not only by society but set by physiology”.

“The current trend is for dads to be more hands on. But for all we know it may be proven in a hundred years time that that may be a negative thing for the upbringing of children,” he said recently on Seven’s Sunday Night program.

Yes. Parental involvement is such a terribly bad thing. That’s why I just spent ten minutes googling and couldn’t find any study ever saying that. (I’m positive someone will come along to prove me wrong). But what do I know? For all we know, in one hundred years, it may be proven that cigarettes are good for you, lettuce causes heart disease, and bourbon is an elixir. (I can live in hope)

Feminism has achieved victories for women, but could it be at the expense of femininity, chivalry and attributes of the opposite sex that instinctively attract us to each other?

No. Have you not seen the recent retro-crafty-uber-feminine-apron-and-gingham movement.  Or feminist embracing stilettos and lipstick. And I, as a card-carrying feminist (seriously, we need cards, ladies), have never once kicked a man for holding a door open for me. Chivalry is nothing more than politeness, and I expect that from everyone.

“This force of attraction is the dynamism that often disappears in modern relationships. If you want real passion, you need a ravisher and a ravishee. Otherwise you just have two buddies who decide to rub genitals in bed,” he writes.

*snort*. I just…can’t even. Hey, I liked to be ravished as much as any girl, but why is that to say women can’t be the ravisher? Oh. Because he wrote a book called “The Way of the Superior Man”, so he’s clearly the ideal person to quote in an article about feminism.

Earlier this month, TopGear presenter James May…

Noted without comment.

Well into the last century the husband provided his family with a home and food and this sole responsibility gave him a sense of power and purpose. And women didn’t feel pressure to justify their existence with a career. They were proud home makers and mothers.

Until feminism.

That’s right, blame the bitches. We ruined _everything_. Just out of interest, this right you have to express your opinion, to be heard in a publication, that just came to you, did it? No one fought for that right, no one suffered so you could spout your “traditionalist views”? And also, you know there are women who are still proud homemakers and mothers? And the fact that some women feel pressured to stay in the workforce or not stay in the workforce, or wear heels or not wear heels or put our when they don’t want to, is exactly the reason you need to be a feminist.

However, a British survey of 2000 men revealed one-third of men would prefer to be the sole breadwinning traditional father while another quarter would like to be the main breadwinner with their spouse working only part-time.

Instead, men are sporting aprons, doing their own ironing and pushing trolleys down supermarket aisles – roles that don’t exactly exude manliness.

You know, one of the most “manly” men I know does his own ironing. In fact, I’ve asked him on occasion to do mine. Do you know what? Sporting aprons and doing the supermarket shopping is providing for a family. Challenging society’s vision of what makes a “real man” is extremely manly, and if you can’t see that, you are part of the problem.

“Kids, turn off the TV, Buster outside, Dave, the dishes aren’t going to clean themselves.” Dave feels like he’s surrendered his balls.

When a man is stripped of his sense of purpose, it’s more difficult to satisfy that instinctive hunger for power and purpose. Could this be part of the reason why one in eight Australian men experiences severe depression in their lifetime?

Deida describes it as a “weakened impotent existence”.

“Without a conscious life purpose, a man is totally lost, drifting, adapting to events rather than creating events,” he said.

Dave should probably talk to his wife. Of course, his wife is probably working a full time job, and doing the lion’s share of the caring at home, because our society continues to  not value “women’s work”. He might feel like he’s surrendered his balls. She’s probably exhausted.

And you know what? I could care less that the poor delicate flowers that are men are lost, adrift, and confused and impotent. OK, I probably care about that last one. However. I expect everyone – of whatever gender – to treat me like a human being. Frankly, I don’t give a shit if you’ve been taught to hate my gender. Man up, and do the decent thing.

I don’t think that women should surrender their careers all together. But if we allow men to reclaim some power, we women could do more to embrace our femininity.

Would we be happier if more of us accept that men and women are not equal?

Aside from the fact that the first sentence makes no grammatical sense, um, what? I think you mean men and women aren’t the same. I’d argue that people aren’t the same, but actually, I will never, ever, not in a million years, not if you paid me a billion dollars, or gave me 100 puppies, accept that men and women are not equal.

And even if in your privileged life, men and women are equal, it might be worth thinking about the fact that that in a lot of places, women live horrible lives of poverty and violence and fear. And we need to do something about that. With or without aprons.

Mars, Venus, stupid research, seeing what we want to see

For your Tuesday morning reading pleasure, two headdeskers, and a rational response.

The dead tree version of the Dom Post has an article about how men are naturally aggressive , and this has helped man [sic] to progress through history. You can read the on-line version at the Telegraph, where the subbing is marginally less tendentious: Male sex drive to blame for world’s conflicts.

It goes nicely with a piece from Psychology Today: Gender differences in personality are larger than previously thought.

There’s a response to the latter piece of “research” at Scientific American: Get over it: men and women are from the same planet.

Dammit, Twitter!

Twitter has been down for me for nearly an hour. This is problematic for me, because it means I go and look at other things on the internet. And because I am stupid and unable to control myself, that ends up with me looking at Garth George’s latest piece of editorial excellence.

First of all, to George’s imaginary “pro-life” friend. The New Zealand Green Party is not the Victorian Green Party. You understand we don’t actually live in Australia, right? I mean, feel free to go live there, we’d all be happier, I think. You can make friends with Tony Abbott, and leave New Zealand women the fuck alone.

Second, that “sinister hidden agenda”? Pretty comprehensively spelled out on the Greens’ website. The Greens have had well signposted private members bills on all kinds of things reprehensible to you, Garth. Have you not been paying attention?

And you know, they increased their portion of the vote markedly in this election. Has it occurred to you that a bunch of people agree with them? And that New Zealand First, your supposed foil for the Greens might too? Possibly not Richard “Ban the Burqa” Prosser, but certainly the delightful Ben Craven who appeared on behalf of NZF at Ladies In The House, was pro-choice.

And lastly, what they have in Victoria:

It provides that any woman can demand an abortion for any reason. The Greens in Australia also support same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, and an education system which teaches that homosexuality is normal.

sounds like FUCKING PARADISE. You don’t like the “murderously liberal humanism”? I can not stand your fucking creepy interest in the contents of my vagina and womb. I can not stand the way you think you have the right to control what I do with my body. The way you think your right to a legal union is more important than my friends’. You say

Improvements to the economy, health, education, infrastructure and communication are all very well. But it is decisions on these humanitarian issues which will ultimately dictate the shape of our future society.

And you know what? I will fight until I am as old and out of touch as you are, so that those things you hate – you know, equity, tolerance, acceptance, BASIC FUCKING HUMAN RIGHTS – are part of that future society.

Slutty slutty sluts

Shameless Google baiting aside, let’s talk about sluts. Again. Yes, again. I have written about this so many times.Yes, I am annoyed that I am still having to. Yes, there will be some ALL CAPS SENTENCES in this post. Will that make the fuckknuckles of the world listen? (Probably not.)

Here’s what it comes down to. Like all re-claimable words, it’s not a word you should use lightly. And with slut, here’s an easy rule of thumb: Unless someone has told you it’s OK to call them that, how about you just don’t?

So, when I see a comedian I follow tweet something like this, I get mad.

A club sluts vagina has a complex heating system that blows warm air on the legs allowing miniskirts to be worn in subzero temps

(I was going to screenshot it, but the comedian in question has deleted the tweets. I would also complain about the incorrect apostrophe, but I can no longer tell if that’s his fault, or the person who retweeted it)

He has since apologised, but not before people to go and expend their rage on “actual causes”.

I have news for you, Mr Hardwick. Getting angry at people referring to women as sluts is an actual cause. You might even have heard of it. IT’S CALLED FEMINISM. It’s been an “actual cause” for a few centuries now.

Because defining a woman by what she wears, what club she frequents, and what she does to get her rocks off isn’t any of your fucking business. And calling her a slut, a judgey, abusive, hate-filled word, because of any of those things is FLAT OUT DOUCHEY SEXISM. And when you have a platform with 1.5 million followers, people are going to get fucked off when you use it to belittle women. Even if you were “making a joke.” Because there’s no way you could have made that joke without the word sluts, is there? There’s no way that your paternalistic little “gosh they must be cold” concern-trolling could possibly have been put in a different context.

Yes, he apologised. Shame his many followers thought he shouldn’t have. That the problem was just that “sluts don’t like being called sluts”, or that people need to lighten up.

Darlings, I can tell you one thing. I get pretty mellow after a couple of old-fashioneds. But the one thing I will never “lighten up” about is slut-shaming. We all own our bodies. What we do with them is up to us, it’s none of your fucking business, and if that scares you, you have bigger problems than your prurient interest in the length of my skirt.


The pay gap

I have an article about the pay gap in the Dominion Post this morning.

Isn’t it time to fix the pay gap?

Instead of thinking what might be the best way to assess and reward work, we assume that the way that work is structured and paid right now is the way that work ought to be structured and paid. The real solution to the pay equity gap is not to make women behave like men, or men to behave like women, but to engage in a serious discussion about better ways of working, and better ways of understanding and valuing all work.

Friends of TLG might prefer to comment on it here rather than entering the fray at Stuff…

Boo, you whore

OK. Let’s just get the irony of someone complaining that women liking porn turns men into rapists calling said women “whores” out of the way, shall we? HAH! Don’t like violence against women? How about you don’t commit it yourself.

Want to know what I’m talking about? Well. Let me take you on a little journey. But first, a warning. A number of us here at TLG are short of spoons this week. And patience. A number of the things discussed in this post might be triggering. I’m not going to put up with any bullshit in the comments, and that includes rape-apologism, concern trolling, and flat out misogyny. Per the comments policy, don’t be a dick.

So. Here we go. On Saturday, someone tweeted the Garden Ladies to warn us about this article. Rightly. I read the headline, thought, yeah, nah, I’m not reading that. Emma did, and pronounced it bollocks. So did FOTLG Constance. And that’s where all this gets interesting. Constance posted her column on the WYFC Facebook page. To be met with this comment.

Are you fucking serious. If these are the thoughts of the “feminist collective” (what a joke) I am unfollowing you guys right now. Constance i am lost for words. You enjoy your rapey, choking sex, and while you’re at it try to spare a thought for the millions of women (and children) around the world who have actually been raped or choked to death by a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer, because of whores like you make them think its acceptable, fun and sexually stimulating. But, you know, as long as YOU get off, that’s all that matters right? Because the world revolves around your vagina, you selfish bitch.

Well, you know what, love? The world actually does revolve around my vagina. (Though, I’m not Constance.) It’s awesome. There’s entire solar systems in there, also, unicorns and glitter. It’s fucking magic.

And one of the things about my vagina? I only allow the people into it that I want. Anyone touching it, or any other part of me, without my permission, that’s assault. My partner hurting me because I ask him to? That’s not. So when you say

How do we hold the power? A few years ago, men were lucky if they were getting any and there was no judgement about the way your vagina looked, they just thanked their lucky stars to be in your pants in the first place. THAT was when we held the power.

Actually, I hold the power because I know what I want and I ask for it. Also, because I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I know that people watch porn for various reasons, and few of those reasons are as a guidebook for How To Do It. I’ve been assaulted, and I’ve been hurt in the context of consensual sex, and I know what the difference is. One is about someone doing something to me I want, one is about someone doing something to me I don’t want. It’s that simple. And porn isn’t the thing that blurs that line. It’s people like you who do that. Because you’re telling women it’s not OK to ask for what gets them off. It’s not OK to like what you like. What you like is getting other women raped. No. I’ve said this so many time. On the internet. On TV, and in my life. The only thing that causes rape is rapists.

I am not going to link to the studies, because a) not a 101 blog, and b) Emma is significantly more knowledgable about this stuff than me. But porn doesn’t cause violence against women.

Futhermore, when you say this:

Rapists come from all demographics. The one thing they have in common is they don’t respect women. They treat women like objects. Pornography does not portray the act of sex as a loving consentual act between a man and a woman. It most often portrays sex as an act done to a woman by a man, or several woman at once, or an act done by two or more men to a woman, or encourages violence against women. I think women who participate in pornography, and those who condone it are disrespecting themselves.

Actually, you are the one being disrespectful to those women. You’re assuming they are not there consensually, of their own free will. You’re assuming they don’t know better. You’re assuming they don’t like it. Well, frankly, fuck you. You don’t know their lives. I’m not going to say every woman in pron or sex work is there consensually, but a good number are. Oh, and when you say porn portrays sex as something done by a man to a woman (Hi! someone remind the gays they don’t get porn. Ahem), actually, again, that’s you doing it. Because that other quote up there, when you talked about our “power? That was you saying that women’s sexuality is something that is to be taken away from us, something we give to men. That’s you giving all the power to men. When frankly, that’s bullshit.

Men are never going to put a stop to it, they are sitting back with dicks in hand while women are handed to them on a silver platter – brothels, strip clubs, internet porn. Where are the men parading for us? It’s up to women to stand together and say enough is enough. Sadly that is never going to happen.

Yeah. Again, um, bullshit. Emma and I walked with two people on slutwalk. They were both men. But no, you assume that men are all drooling rapey monsters, and it’s just the porn that makes them cross the line. I assume you’re also against women wearing short skirts, because presumably all those men can’t cope with that, either. Nah. Most of the men I know can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Also, as you were told over on Facebook, and we’ve written about here, one of the great things about BDSM sex is that the people involved (sensibly) in it are really good about negotiating boundaries, having safe words. And I would never let someone I haven’t had that conversation with tie me up and hurt me.

So, this morning, you asked why is it OK to simulate rape? Because, between two (or more) consenting adults, everything is OK. Because “consensual rape” is an oxymoron. Because what I do in my bedroom (and my living room, and my backyard) is none of your fucking business.

I see this woman is now off to find some “actual feminists”. Cool. Those ones who love to judge other women for what they do, who assume all men are evil, and who think it is completely OK to call other women whores and bitches. They’ll embrace her.