Saturday, 7 February 2009

Women as receivers...

Patriarchy socialises men into thinking that when they enter into a heterosexual relationship there will be penetrative sex. And if there is not they consider it not to be a proper relationship and thus look for a 'better' relationship elsewhere - i.e. they look for a woman they can have sex with. Thus, men expect sex - many feel they are entitled to it. After all, without penetrative sex in a relationship they are not conforming to notions of what 'real men' do.

Patriarchy socialises women that the only way to keep a man they particularly like within a relationship is to submit to sex with them. Don't get me wrong, much of the time women would like to have sex with their partner - however, it is considered such an integral part of relationships that women often feel they have to have penetrative sex at least on a regular basis to keep their man interested.

I wouldn't write that without some kind of evidence. Take a look at this and the 'treatments' offered.

"Peter T. Pacik MD FACS cures vaginismus with Botox injected directly into the old vadge. The Botox prevents the pelvic muscles from contracting, and voilĂ ! The natural order of the conjugal universe is restored! Best of all, the treatment is on sale! Through May 31, your Nigel can get back in the saddle without you puking for as little as $2400! That’s a $500 savings! No word on whether your pelvic muscles’ newfound inability to contract will have a negative impact on your gratification."

There are women who suffer pain when anything penetrates them. And instead of considering whether they think any kind of treatment (not the botox one, for Christ's sake) could benefit them as people, they feel guilty. Guilty! They feel they are not made correctly. That they are not functioning correctly. I would have to agree with the blogger's sentiments and say that if penetrative sex hurts, don't do it. But I also understand that within the current structure of society, which the media perpetuates, women are considered prudes if they do not submit to their boyfriend's advances (remember though that women should not submit to too many men's sexual advances because that would make them sluts). So now I come to the notion that perhaps the word 'sex' should be expanded to include non-penetrative activities. Both men and women can orgasm through means other than penetration. So why is penetration so important? I'll tell you why - because men are made to feel guilty for not doing it. So women are made to feel guilty for not wanting penetrative sex and men are made to feel guilty for not penetrating them.

Women are supposed to be on the receiving end of actions rather than doing the actions themselves. They are supposed to be child-bearers and the primary care-givers to those children; they are supposed to have a family (defined as being in a partnership with a man and hoping to have children in the future - if they do not, then they are selfish); if they do not want children they are treated as lepers, social pariahs, and told that they "will change their mind when they're older". If they have a career they are expected to not put that ahead of their responsibilities to their family, or if they don't have a family they should not put a career in the way of obtaining one. Does this sound familiar to anyone? These are the kinds of messages that women receive everyday. Whether subtly or direct they are all pervasive. And even worse, women are socialised into believing that such things are in their best interests; that if they try and subvert those ideas they will be punished and socially rejected. But you know what? If enough women rebel at the same time; if enough women say "no!" and mean it and aim for something beyond the cheery infantalisation that is levied our way, things can change.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

What the...

There I was, thinking I had finished my blogging for the day, when I opened up the Independent and saw 'Bank tells staff: Don't forget the lipstick, girls'. You can see the internet article of it here.

The Bank of England held a meeting for its female staff telling them an assortment of things on how to dress to work. These things included always wearing heels and make-up. Apparently, women who do not wear heels and make-up and have their skirts a different colour from their shoes do not look professional and by implication cannot do their job properly. I wish this was a joke. I really do. The idea that the heads of a company are dictating to their female staff to wear items of clothing that are conspicuously parts of the current standard of female beauty is terrifying. This is not the 1950s, for goodness sake. I would like to point out that the male staff did not have a meeting like this, that an independent corporate image consultancy was called in to comment only on how female staff should dress. Sounds to me like they want women to be eye-candy for the men in the office. However, a member of the Federation of Image Consultants argues that advice given on how a woman should dress will make those women look more professional. She said that it could add to a woman's credibility, and further implies that as women struggle to command authority in male-dominated corporations they need to look the part, i.e. eye-candy for the men. This suggests that the only way a woman is going to be noticed in a corporation is by looking attractive. That a woman says this is extremely disturbing, but not entirely surprising considering what I wrote in my previous posts about some women perpetuating patriarchy as much as men.

Thankfully, there has been uproar about this. I mean, how dare they dictate to women that they have to wear make-up and high heels to go to work. High heels are damaging to the feet and they restrict movement (women cannot run for the bus in them), rendering women tottering about and appearing weak and vulnerable. Make-up is merely a way for women to look more attractive in the eyes of men to the extent that women who do not wear make-up are deemed unattractive and lazy because they have not put 'effort' into their appearance. Equal opportunities solicitors say that there is a case for sexual discrimination here, and I think the opportunity to sue them should be grabbed. Of course, there is a possibility, as I said in my previous post, that the female employees who sue them could be punished (they are challenging the mainstream and not conforming to the view that women should remain mute in the face of discrimination against them). In this case it could be in the way they are treated afterwards, perhaps forcing them to leave their jobs, and, of course, if they leave their jobs willingly, there would not be a case for unfair dismissal. This could make some employees reticent about kicking up a fuss.

The fact that this is in the paper is not enough. Institutional sexism should not be tolerated.

George Bush Senior's Anti-Feminist Joke

Take a look at this. Harrumph!

How can anyone possibly find George Bush Senior's joke funny?! And why, for Goodness Sake, was footage of it shown on CNN? I'll tell you why, because jokes against women are considered hilarious, but jokes against anyone else are deemed offensive and not for public consumption. Case in point - there was an uproar about Jade Goody making racist remarks on Celebrity Big Brother. At no point were her comments actually broadcast on the news - we were just told about it. Presumably so that no gullible individual could hear the remarks and think 'this is going to be my new world-view'. However, when there was the whole Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross uproar, footage was shown of the jokes on the news with just the swearing bleeped out. Why? Racism is not funny and should not be broadcast in any form. Sexism is controversial, yet hilarious, and therefore should be broadcast. Afterall, who cares if some little child sees it and thinks to themself that women are to be the butt of jokes and thus structures their world-view upon that (seemingly, news companies would prefer children to not swear than take part in the subjugation of women). Bear in mind that at no point was the butt of Brand and Ross' joke seriously considered - it was supposed to be considered offensive by her uncle (was it her uncle?)!

These double standards really annoy me. Why are sexist jokes so funny? It reminds me of this which I saw earlier. Mental health problems are treated by the general public as a big joke. Emos are categorised by the facet of their subculture of self-harming and laughed at for it (by no means am I suggesting that Emos have mental health issues - what I am suggesting is that for a person to cut themselves there has to be a certain mind-set), and in the example in the article people even try to take pictures of a person behaving 'oddly'. I've even seen things like this happen. In Wolverhampton about a year ago there was a man ripping his clothes off in the street and shouting nonsensically. No one stopped to ask if he was alright. They stood at a 'safe distance' and took pictures and videos of him on their phone. One only has to look at the way Amy Winehouse is treated by the popular press as well to see that behaviour associated with mental health problems is considered funny.

No one stops to think any more. Quite often I wonder if people want to think any more. They just act without considering what they are laughing at. It's emotivism gone mad - I feel like laughing at that distressed person today. They do not stop and think to themselves, "do I want to be the type of person who laughs at someone in pain?" Similarly, people, and this includes women (because I know very well that there would have been women who laughed at George Bush Senior's joke, because quite often women perpetuate patriarchy as well), do not think what exactly they are laughing at when they laugh at a sexist joke. They are laughing at the situation of women in this society, they are laughing at the wage-gap between males and females, they are laughing at the fact that women are still expected to do the majority of child-raising themselves, they are laughing at the way women are represented in the media (the new Lynx advert is a good example), they are laughing at the objectification of women in the media, they are laughing at how women are socialised into being in competition with one another in terms of their looks and ability to get a man, they are laughing at how women are infantilised, they are laughing at how women are socialised to get upset in emotional situations (hysteria) whereas men are socialised to remain stoic and assertive, and they are laughing at the fact that women will never be taken as seriously as men. This is what the people in the crowd listening to George Bush Senior were laughing at.

People need to think more. They need to evoke change instead of going along with the flow. To quote something I heard the other day whilst on a field trip to a company's corporate headquarters - "you get prizes for conforming". People want those prizes. It is exactly how Nietzsche outlined in Thus Spoke Zarathustra - people are rewarded for conforming, for not thinking for themselves, for going along with the ideas that mainstream society places before them. Those ideas are naturalised, and people cannot imagine a world without them - they are deemed to be an inherent part of the world we live in. Quite often there is punishment for not conforming - feminists are punished, as demonstrated by George Bush Senior's joke, for not being attractive in the eyes of men. They protest for something they believe in, but as that something is outside the mainstream it is derided. People, in general, prefer to be rewarded rather than punished, and thus it is no surprise that there are so many ignorant individuals in the world. But staying the course will yield rewards in the end. This culture of instant gratification is working against people who work for change - when changes are not made immediately, some individuals cannot see the point in continuing. It is easier to conform. And this I find sad.

Would Nietzsche help?

I was just taking a look at the Crazy Like Us? blog and I found this, which I feel is a testament to the strength that some people suffering from depression can have to continue living. However, I was left thinking that in the long term to just continue living, which in the context and implication of the blog means to continue 'existing', may not be the best way to consider your life. To just exist is not a good way to live. And I was thinking that taking on a Nietzschean approach to life might help.

Nietzsche argued that we should live our lives as if it is going to repeat eternally, over and over again, exactly the same each time. It would repeat exactly the same because otherwise the repetition would not be of 'our' life - it would be the life of another 'I'. Every action we take we are creating ourselves anew, and thus we have complete control, complete creative power, over the direction which our lives will take. If we create a fantastic future for ourselves then we can will that all the bad things that have happened in the past should repeat over again because we will get to this fantastic future. All actions are linked - the past leads to the future. So if we just allow ourselves to merely 'exist' we are not creating a future that could 'justify' those bad moments in our lives.

Now I understand that this may sound a little simplistic. Some things can happen to a person, such as rape, that no future creating could possible make them wish that it would repeat over and over again, no matter how great the future is. However, the Nietzschean view of the world can help individuals get over past events and stop dwelling on them. The past cannot be changed, but the future can. And if, for example, an individual has been raped, the best thing they can do is start creating a future for themselves that does not mean 'existing' within those past events.

To get back to the situation at hand, I sincerely believe that a Nietzschean perspective on life can help people through depression. Depression causes individuals to think they have no control over their own lives, but the Nietzschean perspective is the complete opposite - humans have control over their lives and they should use it by not just 'existing' but striving for change.

The Pope's views on gender

Ok, I know this is about two months late, but I did not know about it until I read the article on A Sceptical I.

Basically, the loveable guy which is Pope Benedict XVI claims that "blurring distinctions between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race." (see here for full story). The BBC article seems to focus on the implications for homosexual and transgender individuals, but when I first read it I immediately thought of the implications for all women and men. Presumably the Pope believes that men should be men and women should be women (i.e. men or women who have sex changes are a corrupting influence on God's creation); but what about men who shun traditional notions of masculinity and women who shun femininity. The Pope seems to have rolled the word 'gender' into meaning 'sex', and the implication is that individuals who are physically women should behave in a feminine way because if they did not they would not be 'true' women.

Surely one of the Pope's personal advisers (I assume he has some) could have advised him against making such ridiculous claims. He is perpetuating the notion of there being a strict gender divide between males and females and then justifying it with the name of religion. This gender divide is something which needs to be addressed, because during the past couple of months I have been seeing the perpetuation of it everywhere. Perhaps this is a bit of an inane, innocuous example, but there is a new style of coat out for women - it is deemed to be a 'military' style, and from the front it looks a bit Russian or German. When I first saw it, from the front, I thought "That's quite nice", because for a woman's coat it looked quite non-feminine - it gave a rather assertive appearance. But then I saw the back. At the bottom it had been made into frills, and the description on the label of the coat said 'military style women's coat with feminine accents'. I kid you not. It was almost as if without those frills the coat would have been deemed too masculine for a woman to comfortably wear - women must not look assertive. And we cannot have a woman looking overly masculine, can we? Because then that would not be attractive. Since seeing that coat in a catalogue I have actually seen women wearing it, and it looks ridiculous with those frills on the back. It is so incongruous with the style of the rest of the coat that they may have well put a big pink bow on the back!

Even though that is a bit of an innocuous example, it shows that the gender divide is being perpetuated in even the smallest of things. On a field trip I went on in my computer course last week, we were given a talk by a young man who told us all about the different methods of target setting they use within the company (interesting stuff *cough*). Afterwards, the women in my class were debating whether he was attractive, and the majority said that he was too "feminine-looking" to be attractive. Interested in this, I asked what they meant, and they said that they preferred men who looked like men. So I thought back to the talk he had given us - he was soft-spoken and a little nervous - and it dawned on me that those qualities are not traditionally male. Perhaps if he'd had a beard that would have made all the difference. But this suggests a gender divide as well - there is a standard of attractiveness for men (although not quite as strongly perpetuated as that for women) as well as women, and it is not only men interested in keeping that gender divide intact. I got stared at like I was a leper when I said the other day to my 'class mates' that I have no interest in having children.

So the Pope's comments are not one-off occurences by a religious nutter, although the BBC article would have you think so. It is not surprising that the BBC would give this impression - women are supposed to believe that they are equal to men so they think that the world we currently live in is the best possible world for them. I am not suggesting that the BBC are purposely trying to quell a women's uprising, but what I am saying is that anyone who suggests vehemently that women are subjugated in our society is treated as a nutter on par with the Pope. Sexism and the gender divide is so deeply ingrained within the structure of society that it is going to be difficult to tear apart.