Archive for category Feminism

Beyond the Bechdel Test: seeing ourselves on screen

Women in Hollywood.  Women wearing black to the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, wearing Time’s Up badges, white flowers at the Grammys, standing up at the Oscars, women saying #MeToo.

tdy_radford_180127.today-vid-canonical-featured-desktopMuch has been said about the way in which the voices of women, silenced for a long time by fear of retaliation or of lawsuits, of humiliation and denigration, of career suicide, are now being raised, and amplified, and the way in which this has given courage to women in other professions and environments, to speak up not only for themselves but for women who have even more to lose.

I’m not going to be directly addressing these events.  But I am talking about the culture of Hollywood – a culture in which women are marginalised and isolated on screen as they are off-screen.  And it’s all connected.

I’m going to look at ways in which we can assess the movies we watch, and analyse their portrayal of women,  and think about what change might look like on the screen.  I will touch on other aspects of diversity but I can’t do justice to it all!

The Bechdel Test has been around since 1985.  But the essential idea actually goes back a lot further than that:

All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. … And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. … They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that …  (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929)

There are actually only three requirements for passing the test:

.Dykes_to_Watch_Out_For_(Bechdel_test_origin)

(Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For)

It’s been developed slightly since then, and the usual formulation now is that the film must:

  • feature at least two named women
  • who talk to each other
  • about something other than a man.

The first thing to say about these criteria is that they set the bar pretty damn low.   (Just think for a moment about how many films would fail if you reversed the genders here.  Er, no, me neither).  Indeed, Alison Bechdel never intended the test to do anything other than to draw attention ‘to the severity of the problem by showing how low you could set the bar and still watch Hollywood executives trip over it’.  Because an awful lot of films still fail, and a surprising number only scrape through with a bit of special pleading.

Does this matter?  Well, yes it really does.  When we – girls and women – go to the cinema, do we see ourselves on screen?  Do we see the kind of women we are, and that we work and live with, that we encounter in all aspects of our lives – women who make decisions and have opinions, women who act and change things in their lives and in the world around them?  If we don’t, that doesn’t stop us being that kind of woman, but it makes it harder, given that it’s already hard, to keep on keeping on in the face of everyday sexism.

Given the howls of horror from some men when a rare film does feature lots of women doing stuff, or when the Ghostbusters or Doctor Who are reimagined as women, it’s clear that the status quo is comforting to those men who would much rather we didn’t make decisions and have opinions, that we didn’t act and change things in our lives and the world around us.  And it is very relevant to note that when we get one – ONE – superhero movie with an overwhelmingly black cast, there are trolls on Twitter ready to call it racist.   Dear lord, one could so easily despair.  But one won’t.

If I ever doubted that it’s powerful to see ourselves on screen, I had two reminders last year.  Firstly, I went to see Wonder Woman.

themoscira

It passes the test.  It’s a while before we see a bloke at all, and when we do, he needs rescuing.  By a woman.  I’d underestimated how intensely exhilarating and moving it would be to see those scenes of the Amazonian women on Themyscira, and to see Diana Prince sorting out all the blokes who tried to tell her to ‘just wait there’.  I wanted to weep and punch the air.

And then, not long after, we heard that the Doctor would be a woman, and at Christmas I watched as he regenerated into she, and she said, oh, brilliant.  And it was.

DR7PEBzX4AEpuLw

But back to the test.  It’s important to recognise that passing the test doesn’t make a film a good film, or a feminist film.  Elle passes the test, as does Fifty Shades of Grey, apparently, but both are intensely problematic in their sexual politics.  And Dunkirk unequivocally fails but is a brilliant film that would not have been enhanced in any way by shoehorning in some Bechdel-conforming female characters to supplement the unnamed WRENs and nurses.

It’s also important to remember that – once you’ve achieved the ‘two named women’ criterion – it’s not primarily about how many women there are on screen.  If there are only one or two significant female characters, then the female characters may have to carry the burden of representing their whole gender, something male characters are rarely required to do. But the most important thing is not the number of women but, as Neda Ulaby put it,  ‘the depth of their stories, and the range of their concerns’,  women as characters rather than as cliches.  If there are loads of women on screen but they say very little (an analysis of Oscar winning films shows that men have the vast majority of words, even in films that pass the Bechdel test) then we cannot really see and hear them as rounded characters.  And if the women that are there on screen, however  well-written they are individually, are disconnected from one another, connected only to the men, we’re still not getting what we need.

I had a look at the films that I’ve seen over the last year or so, to see how they measure up.

FAIL – Baby Driver, Thor: Ragnarok, War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk

Maybe just about scrape a pass if you’re very indulgent – Spiderman: Homecoming, Logan, Rogue One, It.  (NB my inclusion of Rogue One in this category is disputed…)

PASS – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, Twentieth-Century Women, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Elle, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther, Lady Bird, Annihilation

Now, obviously my movie list is a personal one and reflects my particular preferences.  Nonetheless, the balance isn’t so far out of kilter with wider ranging surveys.  A recent analysis showed that one-third of 50 movies from 2016 failed.  Between a quarter and a half of my list fail.

However, of those that pass, several pass gloriously.

I’ve already spoken about Wonder Woman.  And The Last Jedi features

a scene … that’s both revolutionary and dead simple: a circle of women, soldiers and warriors all, … handily discussing how they’re going to tackle their latest military offensive. While Star Wars has always featured strong women … Johnson’s film integrates them into all aspects of the story.

jedi

Twentieth Century Women lives up to its title, with women front and centre in the movie and on the poster.  Hidden Figures similarly features three women at the forefront – and those women are black.

224076-L-LOhidden figures

Hidden Figures is a reminder that the Bechdel test addresses only one aspect of diversity.  Which is one of the reasons that a variety of alternative or supplementary tests have been proposed.

Some of these look behind the camera to the involvement of women (currently around 18%) and/or people of colour in the writing, direction, production of the film. Clearly this is crucial.  When the vast, overwhelming majority of films are written and directed by white men, this will skew the presentation of women.  Not necessarily through conscious sexism, but because a male writer will inevitably identify more with the characters on screen who are most like him (the I-guys, as Stephen King calls them), and will then think of the other characters in relation to the I guy.  They may well not even notice that the women are under-represented, under-developed, under-used.

There’s another reason too why these things are important.  The endemic sexual harassment of women in the movie industry is aided and abetted when a woman on a film set is very much in a minority, and when few of the women who are there have the clout to challenge undermining, belittling and humiliating behaviour – let alone predatory abuse.

There are tests that directly address ethnicity AND gender.  If white women find it difficult to see themselves on screen, it’s so much more the case for women of colour.  One test asks that a film features a black women who’s in a position of power and is in a healthy relationship. Another that there is a non-white, female-identifying person in the film who speaks in five or more scenes and speaks English.  Against the first of these, most films fail.  The second does better.  We could apply the same kind of methodology to the portrayal of gay characters, transgender characters, disabled characters.  But I suspect we know what the outcome would be (and we’d have to address the issue of straight actors playing gay, cis actors playing trans, actors without disabilities playing disabled).

A more qualitative approach is to focus on how women are portrayed on screen. Do films show

women as characters who have needs and desires and who take actions stemming from those desires over the course of the film. (You know, they act like real people.) A surprising number of films fail to do even that much basic character development work with women. Often, women are reduced to stereotypes or tropes as soon as they’re introduced and then don’t get developed any further. And female characters frequently serve little purpose beyond causing plot problems for male protagonists, or having a baby with a male protagonist, or dying to raise the stakes for a male protagonist.

Some of these tests are quite subjective.  Whether we can identify and empathise with a character on screen may vary according to our own experiences, our age, ethnicity, sexuality, etc etc.  But whilst these more complex tests may not be as easy to apply, they reflect what we’re actually responding to. That niggling dissatisfaction we feel may well be because the women we are watching don’t have needs and desires that they pursue through dramatic action, because we see them as stereotypes, because what they do matters only in relation to the male protagonists.

Another way of looking at it is the proportion of women in supporting roles or even in crowd scenes.  What if half of all one-scene roles go to women, if the first crowd scene features at least 50 per cent women (currently it averages 17%), and/or the supporting cast is 50 per cent women?

You’ll note that none of the tests involve counting the number of ‘strong women’ on screen.  Not all women are strong, and no women are strong all of the time.  As Helen Lewis put it, ‘nowadays the princesses all know kung fu, and yet they’re still the same princesses’. You can’t solve the problems of the representation of women just by inserting a strong woman into the plot and thinking, there, job done.  We want women characters who are rounded human beings, fallible and flawed, but not dependent on men to make decisions or to solve problems.   Some of these women may indeed kick ass, but they don’t all have to. We want a variety of women characters – not all beautiful, not all clever, not all strong, but, well, like real people.  Just imagine!

Actually we don’t have to just imagine because if you watch TV these days things are very different.  It’s fairly unusual to see a crime drama without a woman in a lead role (e.g. Spiral, Scott & Bailey, The Bridge, No Offence, Unforgotten, Marcella, Line of Duty, Broadchurch, Witnesses, Fargo, Vera).  And in the realm of fantasy, just think of Orphan Black, Agents of Shield, Star Trek: Discovery, The Walking Dead and, of course, Doctor Who.  These shows smash the Bechdel test, and many of the alternative tests noted above, without apparent effort.

TV’s not perfect, obviously, but writers for that medium don’t seem to have been getting the message that aspiring screenwriters in Hollywood were not very long ago.

had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. …“The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.” … According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something that didn’t pertain to the story. Only if they heard the name of a man in the story would they tune back in. By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.

https://thehathorlegacy.com/why-film-schools-teach-screenwriters-not-to-pass-the-bechdel-test/

This may have been the belief, but even if it was true then,  it no longer is.  Some recent stats from IMDB show that:
  • Oscar-nominated films with a woman in the starring role are more profitable than their male-led counterparts.
  • Female-led films (defined as films where the female actor had the first starring name on Internet Movie Database) earn higher box office returns – despite usually lower production budgets, according to BBC analysis.
  • On average, every dollar invested in a female-led film earns back $2.12 (£1.53). For male-led films this figure is $1.59 (£1.15).
  • Just 28% of films nominated for an Oscar since 2013 have had an actress taking top billing.
In 2017, for the first time since the 1950s, the top three highest-grossing US films all had female leads: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman.   Meanwhile, Hidden Figures made back at the box office over 6.5 times what it cost to make.  We can also consider the success of Black Panther, the response of audiences worldwide to a film whose protagonists are almost all black, and many are black women – to quote a review in The Daily Telegraph, of all places:

The film walks into the multiplex like it’s insane that it hasn’t been allowed in there all along. And it is.  For one thing, an entire subset of younger cinema-goers are only just about to experience the dizzy uplift of watching a title character in a superhero movie who looks like them under the costume.

I should say, not all films have to be about women, or even to include women.  It would be entirely unreasonable to demand that every film carry the burden of representing the diversity of the human race.  For example,  there is no reason on earth why a film should not be set in an environment where, for given reasons of historical accuracy or realism there are no, or almost no women present (I refer you again to Dunkirk).  It’s just that when no such reasons apply, we should expect to see ourselves on screen, in the crowd scenes, in supporting roles, AND in key speaking roles that play a part in the action and that relate to each other as well as to men.

It is particularly disappointing when realism is ditched in favour of a science fiction/fantasy universe, but things don’t change as much as they could have done.  Why be constrained by gender and racial stereotypes when you could tear the whole thing up and start again?   I suspect that one reason is that this genre is traditionally assumed to be the white boys’ province.  You create whole new universes, and want to run them all?  Well, I don’t think much to that.

Things are changing.  We’ve got Wonder Woman and Black Widow and Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel and Valkyrie and Gamora and Nebula and the Doctor.  And in Black Panther alone we’ve got Shuri and Okoye and Nakia and, as The Daily Telegraph (yes, really, again), says:

Black Panther seems to overcome the genre’s long-standing neuroses around creating rounded, exciting roles for women by just getting on with it.

And Frances McDormand (my hero!) had two words for us at the Oscars.  Inclusion rider

This refers to a proposal by Stacy Smith, director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative:

“What if A-list actors amended every contract with an equity rider? The clause would state that tertiary speaking characters should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot,” Smith wrote. “If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls. It wouldn’t necessarily mean more lead roles for females, but it would create a diverse onscreen demography reflecting a population comprised of 50 percent women and girls. In other words, reality.”

I may be being naive, but it seems to me this could be huge.     Already,  Brie Larson, Michael B Jordan and John Boyega, among others,  have said they’ll use this as a way to bring about change, on and off screen.  Let’s hope.

We’re half the human race.  We’re all races and religions, all shapes and sizes, all political persuasions. We have disabilities and we have none, we are healthy and we suffer pain and indignity, we are independent and we need help to get by. We have money to burn and we have nothing at all.  We are mothers and we are daughters and sisters, we are friends and wives and lovers.  We are beautiful and we are ordinary.  We are gay, straight, bi, cis, trans, and every variant or combination of the above.   We are feminists, and we are ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ and we are most decidedly not feminists.  We believe in our right to choose, and we believe that women’s fertility should be controlled by the state, by the church, by men.  We wear pussy hats, and ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

That should provide the screenwriters of Hollywood plenty of scope.

And just to make the point, that I don’t, I really don’t, want to see nothing but white middle-aged middle-class short bespectacled women when I go to the movies, I had the same emotional response to Black Panther as I did to Wonder Woman.  I wanted to weep, and to punch the air.

636499246365485042-Black-Panther

Because ultimately, it’s not Me me I want to see there.  It’s all of us. The human race in all its wild and ridiculous and glorious diversity.  And if some straight white guys have to hutch up a bit to make room, well, Time’s Up, dudes.

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Nevertheless, she persisted #IWD2018

 

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

I’ve just finished reading Hannah Jewell’s 100 Nasty Women of History and that phrase came to mind pretty much on every page.  Just as women around the world have turned Senator McConnell’s rebuke to Senator Warren into a rallying cry, so Jewell turns Donald Trump’s insult to Hillary Clinton around, and uses it to celebrate women in history who were ‘brilliant, badass and absolutely fearless’, and in many cases, pretty much unknown.

Some of these nasty women were indeed pretty nasty.  None of this is about saying that women are good, or do good (#notallwomen).  It’s saying that women can’t, won’t, never did, never will, fit into the restrictive little boxes that centuries of patriarchy have tried to confine them to.

Men keep on  warning us.  They keep on explaining why we need to leave things to them, to stop being so pushy, so strident.  And nevertheless we persist.

We always have.  The women that Jewell celebrates all had to deal with men telling them that they couldn’t do things simply because they were women, because their brains weren’t sharp enough, they weren’t rational enough, they were too emotional, too fluffy, because trying to be otherwise would make them poorly, shrivel their ovaries or something, stop them getting a man, or being able to bear children.  We’ve been told we’re too pushy or not ambitious enough to succeed, too plain or too pretty to be taken seriously, that our choices are all wrong (have babies/not have babies, go back to work/stay at home).

And nevertheless we persist.

Women throughout the centuries, across the continents.  In cultures far more restrictive than our own women have nevertheless become warriors, monarchs, visionaries, writers, leaders, artists, scientists, inventors.  And we go on, pushing at the barriers, cracking the glass ceilings.  We carry on speaking out when they interrupt or talk over us.  We carry on campaigning in the face of internet abuse and threats, or worse.

We’re half the human race.  We’re all races and religions, all shapes and sizes, all political persuasions. We have disabilities and we have none, we are healthy and we suffer pain and indignity, we are independent and we need help to get by. We have money to burn and we have nothing at all.  We are mothers and we are daughters and sisters, we are friends and wives and lovers.  We are beautiful and we are ordinary.  We are gay, straight, bi, cis, trans, and every variant or combination of the above.   We are feminists, and we are ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ and we are most decidedly not feminists.  We believe in our right to choose, and we believe that women’s fertility should be controlled by the state, by the church, by men.  We wear pussy hats, and ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

We don’t agree with each other, we don’t always understand each other.  There’s no unifying glorious, supportive and empowering sisterhood – how could there be, when we’re half the human race?  But we can choose to support each other, to celebrate achievements that otherwise might be dismissed or forgotten, to amplify voices that might not otherwise be heard, to bring into the light wrongs that otherwise might be hidden.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but not yet far enough, no way.  We still lack anything resembling proportionate power, resources, influence.  We still face horrific violence, on the streets and in our homes.  We still carry disproportionate burdens when it comes to feeding and raising our families.

But we will persist.

 

 

 

PS – Oh, and BTW, International Men’s Day is on 19 November.  Just in case anyone was about to ask.  Richard Herring is doing a sterling job on Twitter (@Herring1967) for what he calls International “When’s International Men’s Day?” Day, encouraging anyone who asks the question (and each of them seems to think they’re the first person to do so.  Bless.) to contribute to Refuge.

IWD

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Shutting Up

‘Finally the tables are starting to turn…’

Listening to Jumoke Fashola singing Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution’ as I write, and it almost feels like we could be at one of those moments when things do change, when the weight of our fury, unexpressed or suppressed for so long, can bring about real and lasting change.

Ask me in a few months or a year, and I may have to acknowledge that, despite my 60 years, I am still hopelessly naive and idealistic.  But today it feels like the tables are starting to turn.

There are of course plenty of voices raised against us.  There’s talk of witch hunts.  There’s talk of how of course this sort of thing was fine 15 years ago.  There’s talk of how this is all down to the collapse of the established moral order (because feminism) in which men and women could mix happily (it’s unclear whether the argument is that such things didn’t happen then, or that women knew their place and didn’t make a fuss about it). The women who speak up are labelled as pushy, ruthlessly ambitious, or as having a political agenda (derailing Brexit, undermining the Party, whatever).  Or we’re just belittled as ‘squawking and flapping‘.

Let’s remind ourselves of what a witch hunt was. It was when the powerful in society attempted to pin the blame for bad things on to someone who was isolated, who was weak, often old, and almost always female.  Not quite what’s going on here.  Some are invoking McCarthyism (always linked to the witch hunt since Arthur Miller’s The Crucible) but again that’s not really what’s happening.  In the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities investigations and trials, powerful people were encouraging the denunciation and punishment of those who were rumoured to or indeed actually did have links to left-wing politics.

Now the anonymous spreadsheet does have a whiff of injustice about it – the inclusion of extramarital affairs suggests a ‘moral’ agenda which is really not relevant to the issue of sexual harassment.  This is likely to be more of a distraction than anything else.  Its cowardly anonymity is in sharp contrast to the accounts we are hearing daily now, where women are going public about their own experiences, their own hurt and humiliation and damage, and about exactly who did that to them.

These women aren’t plotting with each other to overthrow the patriarchy, or to revenge themselves against men who’ve done them wrong.  They’re only linked to each other by that common experience, and they’re only powerful now because they have given each other the courage to speak about that experience, and because there are so many of them that they can’t be silenced or ridiculed into shutting up.  Not any more.

And let’s nail this nonsense about how ‘a hand on the knee’ was perfectly fine 15 or 20 years ago.  My working life goes back to the late 1970s, and although such behaviour was very much more common then, we weren’t ok with it.  Really, we weren’t.  If we didn’t say anything it was for the same reason that people don’t speak out now – because we were less powerful than the people who were harassing us.  In the mid-’80s people did talk about sexual harassment in the workplace.  It was most definitely a thing.  From the very early ’90s I was a harassment officer at a University, dealing with complaints of sexual and racial harassment and of bullying, so I’ve heard all the excuses.

‘It’s just banter’.  ‘It was a compliment.’  ‘She’s so over-sensitive.’  ‘Yes I said that, but that wasn’t harassment.’  ‘It’s all a fuss about nothing.’  ‘It was all consensual.’

It happened, and we had policies to deal with it, and people to support the complainants, and we ran training sessions for line managers so they were aware of those policies and support structures.

Workplace harassment is about power – always.  Whether that power rests in seniority, in majority, in gender, age or ethnicity, the harasser holds power and uses it to get what they want, to silence, and to punish if they don’t get what they want.

As is the case in other types of violence against women, sexual harassment is
inextricably linked with power. Whether the perpetrator is abusing a position
of power by harassing someone they see as less powerful, or whether the
perpetrator feels powerless and is using sexual harassment as a means to
disempower the target of their harassment and thus increase their own
power and status in the workplace. Several studies have found that
perpetrators of sexual harassment tend to be in a position of power over the
target of the harassment. The disempowering impact of sexual harassment
was a recurrent theme in union members’ responses to a TUC survey on
sexual harassment. Shame, humiliation, and a sense of being undermined
professionally were all cited by respondents.

(https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/SexualHarassmentreport2016.pdf)

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the stories which are coming out now are for the most part stories of workplace harassment.  They are stories about actors auditioning for film roles, writers meeting with TV executives to talk about a script, journalists meeting with politicians.  Even if the place where it happened is not a workplace per se (a bar or a restaurant or a hotel room) the context is that of someone doing their job, or trying to get a job.

None of us are really surprised that the women who are finally telling their stories – stories they may never have told anyone before, or only shared with a few close friends – are labelled as pushy.  Any woman who speaks out, any woman who disagrees publicly with a man, any woman who challenges a man is pushy, strident, aggressive.  I know this.  In my almost forty years in the workplace, I’ve often been the only woman on a committee, and I rapidly discovered that if I wanted to be heard, I had to be determined, I had to not be deterred by being interrupted or talked over, I had to raise my voice (increased volume rather than higher pitch – heavens, mustn’t be shrill…).  So I’ve been told, over and over, that I’m pushy, strident, aggressive.

If we stand up for ourselves, that’s what we get.  If we don’t, we are assumed to be compliant and complicit.   In reality we are engaging in a constant process of evaluating and avoiding risk.  Looking for escape routes, for allies, for witnesses.  Warning each other.  Assessing at what point and how loudly we protest or refuse.  Wondering what that protest or refusal may cost us.

There’s a clip circulating on Twitter of the magnificent Jo Brand on HIGNFY telling the blokes about how we feel under siege, how the constant, if low-level pattern of harassment wears us down.  From the looks on their faces, I’m not sure they really got it.

jo-brand

I suspect very few men do and that’s because their experience of life is likely to be so different to ours, but also because we don’t often tell them what it’s like for us.  We don’t tell them because we’re embarrassed, because we fear we may be blamed (what were you wearing?  were you drunk?  why did you share a taxi with him?), or because ‘our’ man might feel obliged to go and be manly and challenge our harasser to some kind of duel…  And it’s no good asking them to imagine it happening to them, unless we make it clear we’re not asking them to fantasise about Lupita N’yongo or Romola Garai stroking their knee without asking permission first – we’re asking them to imagine someone they don’t fancy, someone they’re intimidated by, someone who has power over them – someone like Weinstein, trapping them in a hotel room and pinning them down, using physical as well as social power against them.  We’ve been telling each other, for years (watch out for that one, a bit handsy, NSIT, etc) but now we’re telling men.  Some of them are listening.

Some of them, of course are worried.  Worried because they know damn well that even if they’re not and never have been as monstrous as Weinstein, they have crossed the line in their behaviour towards women, and they are wondering whether and when those women might speak out.

Charles Moore is worried for a different reason.  He acknowledges that this is all about power.  And he sees this as a moment when power has shifted.

This scandal shows that women are now on top. I pray they share power with men, not crush us

I think he’s being over optimistic (or pessimistic, depending on your point of view).  I don’t think the patriarchy is history.  It’s pretty resilient, and I think it will survive, overall.  But I do think something has shifted.  Some men are questioning their own behaviour, and some are questioning their own failure to challenge the behaviour of others.

What we’re asking for, really, isn’t so very radical or scary.  It’s that men treat us as if – just imagine! – we are real people, as real as them, whose wishes and intentions, whose fears and hopes, are as real as theirs, and who can make choices, even choices that don’t suit those men.  If over half of the world’s people are being subjected to varying degrees of harassment, abuse and assault because of their gender, isn’t that something about which we all ought to care?  And if all this is happening in the context of equality legislation and harassment policies and so on, one can guarantee things will be so so much tougher for women in countries where there are fewer protections and a culture that reinforces prejudices against them.

The thing about speaking out, when you’ve spent so long not doing it, is that it can be exhilarating, liberating, intoxicating.  We’re not going to be shutting up any time soon.  And that has to mean that we – the privileged, who have access to power and the means of communication – speak out for the many girls and women who can’t.

Cause finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ bout a revolution
Yes, finally

 

 

http://www.thesecondsource.co.uk/who-we-are/

http://theweeklychallenger.com/aint-i-a-woman-are-black-women-more-prone-to-endure-workplace-sexual-harassment/

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/nov/04/royal-court-theatre-issues-behaviour-code-to-tackle-sexual-harassment

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/04/tory-mp-roger-gale-warns-of-sexual-harassment-witch-hunt

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/05/dsk-sexual-assault-feminism-weinstein-casting-couch

https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/SexualHarassmentreport2016.pdf

 

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Me Too

It would be difficult to find a girl or a woman who couldn’t say, yes, me too.  As someone said on Twitter, those of us who are referring only to harassment rather than to assault or rape are the fortunate ones – often we barely even recognise what we’ve experienced as being what it is, it’s just the way things are, it’s just what being a girl or a woman means.

me too

Of course, it happens to boys and men too and some are using the #MeToo hashtag to share their experiences.   I know that we find it easier to tell each other about the things that happen to us than men do.  We may make a bit of a joke of it, or frame it as a warning about a colleague who’s all hands after a few drinks or whatever, and we may not be able to talk to anyone ever at all.  But one burden that men carry that we don’t is the need to be strong, and to be seen to be strong.

Nonetheless, primarily I am talking about girls and women.  About the fact that we learn to expect a degree of harassment, verbal or physical. And the fact that whatever our age, size, however we dress, wherever we go, we must learn to always be aware that there are predators – predators in dark alleys, predators in smart suits, predators in our homes and workplaces.  There are men who think that what they want they can have, and that what they want is all that matters.  There are men who will punish with violence or in subtler ways someone who says no.

I’ve got no heartrending stories to tell.  My experiences of sexual harassment have been so very ordinary, which is a story in itself, I guess.  The guy on the bus, the group of lads in town, the pushy sales rep with his sleazy comments, all normal, all ordinary.  I have been made to feel afraid.  I have, when cornered on a train by leery groups of lads drinking Special Brew, been thinking furiously about how to get away, whether there’s anyone else around who might be an ally, whether I should be friendly and risk them thinking I’m up for it, or cold and risk triggering overt hostility.

But that’s all normal and ordinary, and a long time ago.  Something happened a few weeks back, though, which reminded me of some of those earlier ordinary, normal incidents.  Sitting having a drink with my friend, catching up, enjoying each others company, when two very drunk middle-aged blokes come in and try to engage people in conversation.  We avoid eye contact but to no avail.  One of the blokes comes over and asks if he can join us.  We say no, very politely and with smiles because we’re nice people, but we say no.  He carries on talking to us, we continue to (politely) assert that we are fine as we are, and that we don’t want him to join us.  And quite suddenly he makes some remark about our size.  That’s our punishment for saying no.   It reminded me of the man at a party (decades ago) who when I turned him down (despite his incredibly seductive promise to ‘destroy’ me) gave me unsolicited feedback on my weight.  They felt entitled – whether to sex or just to attention – and when that entitlement is denied, they hit back, physically or verbally.

What can we do?  We can stop blaming ourselves for someone else’s vileness.  We – women and men – can stop implying that someone asked for it, or was stupid or naive to find themselves in that situation, or was cowardly to not speak out sooner.  We can challenge the entitled mindset whenever we encounter it, we can not join in with the comments or laugh at the jokes, we can stand with someone in a difficult situation and back up their account when they’re being called a liar.

Remember that every time a man commits a violent act it only takes one or two steps to figure out how it’s a woman’s fault, and that these dance steps are widely known and practiced and quite a bit of fun. There are things men do that are the fault of women who are too sexy, and other things men do that are the fault of women who are not sexy enough, but women only come in those two flavors: not enough, too much, and it is the fate of heterosexual men to endure this affliction.

Rebecca Solnit

And what’s happening to me as I write this is that incidents I had forgotten – not suppressed because they were traumatic, just forgotten because they were ordinary and normal – are coming back to me.  I hadn’t realised that there were so many.

Yes, me too.

What “me too” does is bring it back into the home, the school, the shop, the street, the office where women have been harassed. It makes it small screen not big screen. It makes it ordinary and everyday and seen. … Many have waited a long time for this. Don’t let it go now. Keep saying “me too” because we are fighting not one guy here, but a system that can only be challenged by collective rage, not individual shame.  Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

 

DMNLOpdU8AENxzi

 

https://www.rachelmariner.com/harvey-weinstein/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/12/challenge-extreme-masculinity-harvey-weinstein-degrading-women

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/10/16/men-side-metoo/

 

 

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“Change, my dear… and it seems not a moment too soon.”

JW Who 2

Master: Is the future going to be all girl?

Doctor: We can only hope.

With hindsight it was obvious this regeneration was going to be the one.  The one that brought us a woman Doctor.

We’d seen it established that Time Lord regenerations can involve a change of gender as well as of height, hair colour, apparent age and so on. We’d engaged with the Master/Missy conundrum.

missy

DOCTOR: She was my first friend, always so brilliant, from the first day at the Academy. So fast, so funny. She was my man crush.
BILL: I’m sorry?
DOCTOR: Yeah, I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure that I was, too. It was a long time ago, though.
BILL: So, the Time Lords, bit flexible on the whole man-woman thing, then, yeah?
DOCTOR: We’re the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.
BILL: But you still call yourselves Time Lords?
DOCTOR: Yeah. Shut up.
BILL: Okay.

With lines like the above, we were being set up to welcome (or not) a woman to the role.  Still, at some level, at least until a couple of days before the announcement, I really thought they might row back from that and say no, not yet, not this time.  I really wasn’t sure they had the bottle to do this.

There’s been a lot of rather predictable frothing at the mouth, harrumphing and incipient apoplexy, with claims that this is the BBC surrendering to some mysterious all-powerful Political Correctness lobby (‘Murdered a part of our culture for feminazi political correctness ideology!’  ‘Doctor Who … didn’t die nobly as you might expect.  He was murdered by Political Correctness’).  That’s best ignored, by and large.  I fear that Jodie Whitaker will have to contend with worse than that, and with personalised unpleasantness, but I’m sure she’s well aware and will be ready for the haters.

Not everyone who dislikes the change is of this breed, of course.  There has to be a core of Doctorness with each regeneration, and some feel that maleness is a part of that.  I disagree, but I suspect that many of those people, if they genuinely love the programme, will continue to watch and will be won over.  Another response was that whilst of course boys have far more heroic role models in popular culture to emulate and be inspired by than girls do, the Doctor is different, and valuable because of the ways in which he is different.  I do see the need for boys to have role models who aren’t all about action and fighting (even fighting for Good against Evil), but part of what makes the Doctor different, for me, is that gender roles and stereotypes simply aren’t (or shouldn’t be) relevant.

A plethora of girls and women have regarded the Doctor as a role model, and identified with him, over Doctor Who’s 50 year span, whilst he’s regenerated, repeatedly, as a man. The Doctor is still, no doubt, going to be the Doctor as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker – alien, two hearts, both of gold, funny, witty, snarky, capricious, kind, adventurous. (Juniper Fish, Doctor Who Forum)

The Doctor can and should be a role model for both boys and girls,  in a way that Captain America or Batman can’t quite be – and probably Wonder Woman and Buffy can’t quite be role models for boys either.  So, the Doctor can continue to inspire boys whilst giving girls and women a whole new image of how to be wise, and brave, how to save the world, to do what’s right, to be kind.  Girls need to develop the confidence to take the lead roles,  not to assume that a hero/a protector is by default male.

Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand, is where I fall. Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help, a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?

Funnily enough, whilst the Outraged/Betrayed/Will Never Watch Again lobby were as loud and silly as one might have expected, overall what I found on Twitter was a mix of sheer delight, excited anticipation – and a different kind of silliness.  See the #TardisFullOfBras hashtag, for example – someone took a hostile Daily Mail comment and turned it around, so that it’s full of fan art and daft jokes (and bras).  That’s the way to go, I think.

There’s little point in trying to engage with someone who throws ‘feminazi’ into the conversation simply because someone gives a job to a woman that has been previously held by a man.  There’s little point in trying to unpack the hotchpotch of false analogies and fake news and mythology that is evoked whenever the term ‘political correctness’ is used.  And if someone believes that ‘social justice warrior’ is an insult, we don’t really have a lot to talk about.

What matters here, to me, is the delight that this news has brought to so many of us.  It’s only a story, but stories are the most powerful things in the world.

Stories can make us fly.

We need stories, and we need heroes.  And if we can’t immediately see around us the heroes we need, we build them.  It seems that we are having a real moment here.

gal gadot 2

When I wrote about Wonder Woman, only a week or so ago, I did not know – though I hoped – that the 13th Doctor would be a woman.   They’re quite different of course, but what is so glorious is that now, right now, there are two more in the pantheon of women who can, women who can stand up, will stand up.  We have a woman (OK,  a demi-god) who uses superhuman physical strength,  courage and a fierce sense of what is right, in the service of humanity, and another (OK, a Gallifreyan Time Lord) who uses the wisdom of centuries and galaxies,  wit and invention and intellect, courage and a fierce sense of what is right, in the service of humanity.

without hope, without reward, without witness

I felt when I was watching Wonder Woman like punching the air and having a bit of a cry at the same time, and when I think about the Doctor’s next regeneration, I feel much the same.  Of course it is vital that the stories are well written, that the wit and humour is there, as well as the thrills and chills.  Of course it is vital that the gender thing is dealt with intelligently, that stereotypes are undermined or dismissed with humour and that the Doctor is and remains Doctorly, demonstrating both difference and continuity as each new incumbent has done over the last 50 years.

It is perhaps even more vital that the stories are strong because there are those who (even though they may have vowed never to watch it again) will be waiting for it to fail, wanting to say that they told us so, that it could never work, that the Doctor can’t be a woman.  If Jodie kicks it out of the park, as we hope and believe she will, then each regen that follows can be whoever seems right at the time and whoever takes it on will be critiqued for their ability and not for their gender.

Meantime, we’re loving this moment.  Loving it for ourselves  and for our daughters, nieces, granddaughters, all the young women who can now enjoy Doctor Who in a different way, who can take on the lead role in playground games.  Not just companions or assistants but The Doctor.

My love for Doctor Who is, I realise, a bit ridiculous but I don’t bloody care because we all need escapism sometimes and, as my often tested loyalty to lost causes show, my love is nothing if not tenacious. At primary school I distinctly remember the humiliation of a school assembly where some of us were asked to share our pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. A Timelord was not an appropriate aspiration for a girl apparently and the piss was duly ripped. Not the first, worst or only time youngling (or indeed “grown-up” me) encountered sexism and ridiculous gender stereotypes but, because as a troubled kid my fantasy life was a refuge and a solace, one of the hardest stings. Anyway, fuck that nonsense because anything can happen with a Tardis and hooray for progress and little girls being allowed imaginations. And no, that does not come at the expense of little boys at all, and yes, I am really sorry Capaldi and Bill are gone because when they got the scripts they were brilliant and that, actually, is the heart of what I want. Good writing, please, please, please (and obviously for me to get a ride in there somewhere with them, because what is the Doctor if not an intergalactic anarcho-flaneuse who needs a bit more glitter?)  (Morag Rose)

 

Doctor Who is a different sort of hero. The Doctor solves problems not by being the strongest, the fastest or the one with the biggest army, but by outthinking everyone else in the room. Far too many female characters are two-dimensional. I’m ready for one that can travel in four. I’m ready to watch a woman save the world again and again by being very, very clever and very, very moral, without having to have a man sort anything out or come and save her. I’m ready for a woman hero who’s older than recorded history and weirder than a three-day bender in the BBC props cupboard. I’m ready for a female super nerd. And so is the rest of the world.  (Laurie Penny, The New Statesman)

JW Who 1

http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2017/07/16/doctor-jodie-whittaker-13th-doctor-favourite-20-responses-online/

http://doctorwhogeneral.wikia.com/wiki/Times_Doctor_Who_Was_Ruined_Forever

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Wonder Woman – the Man who Can

MASTER: Is the future going to be all girl?
DOCTOR: We can only hope.

Steve: “This war is a great big mess, and there’s not a whole lot you and I can do about that. I mean, we can get back to London and try to get to the men who can.”

Diana: “I am the man who can.”

NB What follows contains some spoilers…  Caveat lector.

gal gadot 2

It mattered a great deal that Wonder Woman was, well, wonderful.  I can cope with Batman v Superman being a bit meh, or the odd entry in the Avengers cycle being less than stellar.  But she needed to kick it out of the damn park.

And she did.

It’s not that she’s the first or the only.  She herself has been around since 1941, and there have, of course, been other women superheroes (and supervillains) in the comics and on TV and in the movies.  But it’s very rare for the one who carries the whole movie, the centre and focus, the one on whom everything depends, to be a woman.

 

 

And as much as I love the current Marvel series, a lot of the time they are really quite blokey.  The blokes are great – funny and noble (mostly) and gorgeous, so I’m not complaining, not really.  But there’s not enough of Black Widow and Scarlet Witch to balance things out.  There’s a fine tradition of women heroes – think Ripley, Sarah Connor, Katniss Everdene – human, but with outstanding courage and strength.  And there’s always and forever Buffy.

 

 

Wonder Woman is different.  First off, she’s a half-god.  Not an alien, or an inhuman, not technically enhanced, but a straight-up, bona fide, god-almighty daughter of a god. Second, her upbringing on Themyscira sets her in a context where women are powerful, strong, brave, not exceptionally but as a norm.

 

 

The opening sequences of Amazonian women training, and then fighting on the beach made me want to weep and cheer at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit of a pacifist on the whole, but the simple fact that this small army was comprised of glorious women was somehow very moving.

wonder-woman-dceu-origin-story-amazons-themyscira-236572Of course all these women are beautiful.  But they’re beautiful athletes, not beautiful models. They’re magnificent in the way that Serena and Venus Williams are magnificent.  Their bodies are toned and lean and powerful and they are in control of them.

Gal Gadot herself is mesmerisingly gorgeous.  That Chris Pine spends much of the movie just gazing at her in awe is perfectly understandable – when she is on screen one would need a damn good reason to look elsewhere.  (Of course, the men in the movie also spend a lot of time saying variants of ‘just wait here’, ‘leave it to us’ and so on, and Diana doesn’t bother to argue, she just gives them a bit of a look and then does what she has to do.  The phrase ‘nevertheless she persisted‘ came inevitably to mind.)

She’s presented, in some ways, as naive.  That’s justified by what we know of her origins – what she’s been told, and not told, about the world beyond Themyscira.  That doesn’t diminish her – she is rocked by the realisation that things are not as straightforwardly binary as she’d believed, but she recovers from that, regroups her forces and fights on.

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know, that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.”

I wrote a while ago about the Marvel universe and why I love it so:

It’s the flawed and fragile beauty of humanity that the Avengers fight for:

“Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. … A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. It is a privilege to be among them.”

Echoes of the Doctor there, I think. Amongst all of the forces that see the weakness of human beings and want to destroy, some stand with us. The Doctor said that in 900 years of space and time he’d never met anyone who wasn’t important. He tells us again and again that we are in our very ordinariness extraordinary, in our bloody-minded going where angels fear to tread, our curiosity and our moments of courage.

Diana Prince, like the Doctor, like Captain America and all the other heroes, does what’s right because it’s right.

 without hope, without reward, without witness

What we see in the movie is her first encounter with the world beyond Themyscira.  It baffles her (to comic effect as she struggles to comprehend why a woman should tolerate clothing that hobbles and constrains her), and it troubles her as she begins to realise that the people she encounters cannot be divided simply into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. She is not yet weary as Buffy is, so often, saving the world yet again. She has not yet lost battles, has not got centuries, aeons, of attempting to protect humanity from the forces that would destroy it.  But nonetheless she would understand the Doctor.

Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because, because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun and God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do, because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point in any of this at all, but it’s the best I can do, so I’m going to do it. And I will stand here doing it till it kills me. You’re going to die too, some day. How will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand, is where I fall. Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help, a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?

 

I was surprised at first at the choice to set Diana’s first encounter with the messy, murky world of humans in the first, rather than the second World War.  But I think actually that’s right.  The second is too simply a confrontation with evil, with the absolute worst that human beings could be.  The first portrays more effectively the messiness and murkiness of it all – the moral questions about who started it and why, who joined in when and why are complex and still generate heated debate today (as was seen in the recent centenaries of the start of that war and of the Battle of the Somme).  So the great evil that Diana confronts is not the Kaiser’s forces but war itself.  Steve refers to ‘the war to end all wars’ but that description acquires layers of ambiguity, as it becomes clear that it is potentially also the war that never ends.

Interestingly,  whilst the humans who represent that evil – chemical weapons scientist Isabel Maru (aka Doctor Poison), and General Ludendorff – are on the German side, the God of War himself is introduced to us as Sir Patrick Morgan, a British politician who is, it appears, attempting to negotiate an armistice.  Murky, messy, or what…

We need Diana’s fierce kindness, her innocent clarity, to cut through all of this.  We can’t aspire to her physical perfection, her power and strength.  But we can be inspired by her moral strength.  That kind of integrity is easy to dismiss as naive or po-faced – Captain America is its embodiment in the Avengers, and of course he is mocked by Iron Man, who himself embodies a more complex and troubled morality (Rick Blaine to Cap’s Victor Laszlo?).

But the simple fact that it is a woman who represents all of this – physical power, moral integrity, compassion – takes us to different places.  That those men looking both for direction and guidance and for the power to follow through look to a woman still rocks our world a little bit. We’ve come a long way, baby, but not far enough, not so far that we can see the Amazons fighting on Themyscira, and Diana taking on the patriarchy and the God of War without a thrill, a shiver down the spine, a lump in the throat.

And whilst we cannot aspire to Amazonian strength, we can still draw strength from the Amazons.  From Diana, Buffy, Katniss, Ripley, and all of the women who stand up when it’s right to stand up.

From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer will be a slayer.  Every girl who could have the power will have the power … can stand up, will stand up.  … Are you ready to be strong?

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/05/why-wonder-woman-is-a-masterpiece-of-subversive-feminism

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jun/04/wonder-woman-review-gloriously-badass-breath-fresh-air-gal-gadot

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International Women’s Day 2017

20th century women – three generations in my family exploring what it means to be a woman.  My mum, who believed that it was for men to lead and inspire, but who led and inspired, nonetheless, despite herself.  I grew up wondering why I was so crap at being a girl (the endless Christmas and birthday gifts of cookery books and embroidery sets and dolls, all rebuking me for my ineptitude and lack of interest), but finding a way to be the kind of woman I wanted to be without the trappings that irritated and puzzled me.   My daughter managing to be so good at being a girl (all that pink, the Barbies and Bratz, the make-up and handbags) and being a fierce and clever and brave woman at the same time.

I thought of us all whilst watching the film 20th Century Women.  Annette Bening’s Dorothea was my age in the film, but Mum’s generation.  Dorothea died in 1999, five years after my Mum.  Their lives and experiences were so very different but there was something about her – the fact that she gathered around her people who needed shelter, nurture, companionship, the way she invited anyone she encountered to come to dinner, her desire and real effort to understand what mattered to her son and the younger women who were part of her life.

I managed not to weep, until the very end.  When Jamie says that he can’t explain his mother to his son, that’s when it got me.  Because I would have loved to see my Mum, watching my children grow up, and to see them turning to her for the love and pride and support that would have always been theirs.  And all I can do is to tell them about her.

If the women in 20th Century Women are all white, straight and comfortably situated, the young women in Girlhood (Bande de filles) certainly are not.  They inhabit the banlieue, their home lives are chaotic, their choices limited (by economics, by expectations).  The opening sequence is possibly the most powerful cinematic expression of the challenges so many young women face that I can recall – a girls’ American football team on the pitch, physically powerful and fearless, jubilant in victory, they pour out of the stadium a babble of raised voices, laughter, solidarity and shared experience.  And then they approach the apartment blocks, with the young men almost seeming to be on guard there, in ones and twos, and their voices are quietened.  One by one they slip away from the group and into their own lives.  But whilst the film gives us no cosy reassurances about what they face, it gives us along the way other moments of joyous girlhood – for example as they dance and pose and mime (in shoplifted frocks) in a hotel room to Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’:

So shine bright tonight,
You and I
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Eye to eye,
So alive
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Shine bright like a diamond
Shine bright like a diamond
Shining bright like a diamond
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky

And they do shine, they are so alive, they are beautiful.

We’re half the world.  We’re all races and religions, all shapes and sizes, all political persuasions. We have disabilities and we have none, we are healthy and we suffer pain and indignity, we are independent and we need help to get by. We have money to burn and nothing at all.  We are mothers and we are daughters and sisters, we are friends and wives and lovers.  We are gay, straight, bi, trans, and every variant or combination of the above.   We are feminists, and we are ‘I’m not a feminist but…’ and we are most decidedly not feminists.  We believe in our right to choose, and we believe that women’s fertility should be controlled by the state, by the church, by men.  We wear pussy hats, and ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.

I can’t speak for Women.  I’m middle aged (at least…), straight, cis-gendered, without disabilities, white, university educated, comfortably off.   I am as baffled and dismayed by what many other women believe and fight for as I am about what many men believe and fight for.  I can’t claim to have experienced direct discrimination, I’ve never experienced sexual violence or domestic violence.  Everyday sexism, yes, of course, over the years I’ve clocked up a fair number of examples of that, in the workplace, on public transport, on the streets.  But the fact that, say, FGM doesn’t affect me or mine doesn’t mean I don’t give a damn about it, or that I shouldn’t campaign about it.  The fact that my career has encountered no overt obstacles due to my  gender, that I live in a society with laws to protect my rights to equal pay and equal treatment, doesn’t mean I have nothing to say about the women around the world for whom this is not true.  I can’t speak for Women, but I can and do and will speak about the experiences, the threats, the challenges, the obstacles that so many women share (even if I haven’t and don’t).

I check my privilege, I acknowledge it, but it doesn’t have to limit what or who I care about.  And I know that in most countries, most of the time, women have to face a whole lot of extra crap that men don’t – they share the burdens of poverty, persecution and oppression, natural and man-made hazards and disasters but with the additional burdens that arise from the way they are viewed in too many societies, by too many men.  That their choices are deemed irrelevant, their aspirations ridiculous, their personal integrity always violable.  Whether these oppressions are enforced by law or merely by convention, they do oppress, and it takes immense courage to challenge them.

To all those who do, thank you.

And to my Mum, who would never have called herself a feminist, but who inspired me in that aspect of my life, as in so many others,  thank you.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/08/feminist-battle-women-activists-campaigns

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/08/feminist-stickers-china-backash-women-activists

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/08/im-proud-of-my-sin-the-criminal-stars-of-iranian-tv-promoting-womens-rights

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