Everyone has mummy issues these days – including climate scientists. A recent study made headlines by suggesting that the number-one thing a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint is to have fewer children. Right on cue, a neo-Malthusian chorus seized on the study as another opportunity to shame women for their reproductive choices. Averting climate catastrophe is a collective responsibility – but it’s far more comfortable to blame your mother, or someone else’s, for every social ill.I’ve just crossed the invisible rubicon between the age when you’re shamed and terrified out of the very idea of breeding and the age when you’re coerced and cajoled into it – if you have a uterus, of course. If you don’t, you can pretty much sit back and wait for some woman to do the donkey work of organising your genetic legacy, safe in the knowledge that you’re unlikely to be judged on your reproductive choices. I’m consistently taken aback by the number of men my age and older who speak offhandedly about their “future children”, without having planned in the slightest for the arrival of these notional sprogs – simply assuming that it’ll happen someday, when they’ve had time to dedicate themselves to their life’s work.
Tag Archives: Women Rights
One morning, as I walked on the quiet, mostly wooded King Mountain trail above San Francisco Bay, a dog not much smaller than I and possessed of much sharper teeth made straight for me, growling. I tried to get away; it butted me roughly. When its owner came around the bend with a second dog, I said, the snot from the first still gleaming on my pants, “You need to keep your dogs under control.” “My dogs are under perfect control,” the woman replied with asperity. The point was clear: She could control them but didn’t care to. She didn’t share my belief that a person should have exclusive jurisdiction over her body.
Patriarchy, across the globe, plagues humankind. In some regions female fetuses often are aborted because they are considered less valuable than male fetuses. Girls are sometimes smothered in infancy. Many women and girls are sold to men as rape and breeding slaves. Many endure genital mutilation. Many are trafficked and forced into prostitution. Many are denied abortions and access to birth control. Many, to survive economically, sell their eggs to donors or hire their wombs out to couples who cannot produce babies. In some countries, including Saudi Arabia and parts of India, women are considered the property of male guardians. There are villages in India where women have only one kidney because their husbands have sold their other one. Women are often denied education and, even in industrial countries, are paid less for carrying out the same work as men.How, in an age in which some born with male bodies self-identify as women, can those born female define their unique oppression based on their experience? As laws in Europe, Canada and the United States are rewritten to broaden the definition of what it means to be female or male, how will such change affect the struggle for equality by those born as females?The debate over gender identity pits the trans narrative against radical feminists. It is one of the most bitter and acrimonious battles on the left. Radical feminists are castigated by many on the left as reactionary for their insistence that those born female hold a unique and separate identity as an oppressed group, one that requires them to form protected spaces and organizations.“Freedom of association is especially important to the oppressed,” Alice Lee, a co-founder of Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, said when I reached her in Vancouver by phone. “It is absolutely necessary for oppressed people to be able to group together. It allows us to dare to identify and vocalize our shared experiences and find ways to effectively strategize to overthrow our oppressors. The formation of such civil rights groups, anti-racism groups, women rape crisis centers and shelters, caucuses, clubs, associations and religious organizations is a hallmark of a democratic civil society. Decisions about group membership must be a process of self-determination. Having the criteria dictated to us by the state, or by those who belong to the oppressor groups, means defeat at the outset.”
There is a simple and surprisingly durable myth about what causes men to rape women. It goes like this: if a man is too horny, from sexual deprivation or from being constitutionally oversexed, he will lose control in the presence of an unguarded woman. Through the early days of psychology as a science, this basic assumption remained the same. When Richard von Krafft-Ebing wrote Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), he assumed that rapists suffered from either ‘priapism and conditions approaching satyriasis’ or a ‘mental weakness’ that allowed lustful urges to escape their control. It was a simple matter of hydraulics. If the pressure was too great, or the vessel too weak, a horrifying crime would burst forth.
In 1915 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a funny but unsettling story called Herland. As the title hints, it’s a fantasy about a nation of women – and women only – that has existed for two thousand years in some remote, still unexplored part of the globe. A magnificent utopia: clean and tidy, collaborative, peaceful (even the cats have stopped killing the birds), brilliantly organised in everything from its sustainable agriculture and delicious food to its social services and education. And it all depends on one miraculous innovation. At the very beginning of its history, the founding mothers had somehow perfected the technique of parthenogenesis. The practical details are a bit unclear, but the women somehow just gave birth to baby girls, with no intervention from men at all. There was no sex in Herland.
The story is all about the disruption of this world when three American males discover it: Vandyck Jennings, the nice-guy narrator; Jeff Margrave, a man whose gallantry is almost the undoing of him in the face of all these ladies; and the truly appalling Terry Nicholson. When they first arrive, Terry refuses to believe that there aren’t some men around somewhere, pulling the strings – because how, after all, could you imagine women running anything? When eventually he has to accept that this is exactly what they are doing, he decides that what Herland needs is a bit of sex and a bit of male mastery. The story ends with Terry unceremoniously deported after one of his bids for mastery, in the bedroom, goes horribly wrong.
There are all kinds of irony to this tale. One joke that Perkins Gilman plays throughout is that the women simply don’t recognise their own achievements. They have independently created an exemplary state, one to be proud of, but when confronted by their three uninvited male visitors, who lie somewhere on the spectrum between spineless and scumbag, they tend to defer to the men’s competence, knowledge and expertise; and they are slightly in awe of the male world outside. Although they have made a utopia, they think they have messed it all up.
If women can’t win, everyone loses. That, at least, is the conclusion of several new studies into how gender attitudes are changing. One team of academics from Wharton, looking into how men and women negotiate, observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women”. In lab sessions, young men were more inclined than previously to fight young women for a small amount of money that had to be split between them – and the net result was that everyone went home poorer.This sounds like a neat modern morality tale, as do most psychological studies into sex and behaviour – at least the ones that get press attention. We tend to interpret such studies as we want to see them, which makes this sort of research only slightly more useful than reading palms or animal entrails – albeit a lot less fun, because after generations of painstaking psychological research, the one thing academics have conclusively proven is that students are endlessly willing to humiliate themselves for beer money.
Sunday evening saw the conclusion of Big Little Lies, HBO’s wonderful seven-episode limited series that wasted no time sweeping up scores of captivated viewers. What could have been a tiresome outing—a group of affluent, caterwauling helicopter moms grappling with scandal in the ranks—proved to be a deeply felt, expertly paced puzzle that only grew more compelling with each hour-long installment. Last night, the show ended with a degree of feminist catharsis that feels uncommon in an era defined by political drudgery.
Mentre Donald Trump, e con lui i suoi fan di destra e purtroppo anche di sinistra, fantasticano su un’improbabile de-globalizzazione, spunta (o rispunta) un movimento femminista che ha tutte le caratteristiche di un movimento globale. Mentre i mezzi d’informazione mainstream capovolgono l’elezione di Trump nella sconfitta del femminismo perché il famoso tetto di vetro non è stato infranto neanche stavolta, spunta (o rispunta) un movimento femminista che mette il suddetto tetto di vetro all’ultimo posto della sua agenda, e al primo la vita. Mentre l’egemonia del capitalismo neoliberale vacilla ovunque sotto i colpi di una crisi ormai decennale, e ovunque ripropone per tutta risposta le sue ricette fallimentari senza trovare a sinistra ostacoli rilevanti e aprendo a destra vie di fuga razziste e fascistoidi, spunta (o rispunta) un movimento femminista che si riappropria della centralità femminile nella produzione e nella riproduzione sociale, ne fa una leva sovversiva e chiama tutti, donne uomini e altri generi di ogni paese e di ogni colore, a unirsi a questa spinta sovversiva. Sono i colpi d’ala che solo la politica delle donne è capace periodicamente di inventarsi, gli scarti imprevisti dall’agenda politica e giornalistica del presente che solo la politica delle donne è capace periodicamente di produrre. E che fanno dell’8 marzo di quest’anno una giornata diversa dal solito, inedita, irrituale, inaugurale.
Silence is golden, or so I was told when I was young. Later, everything changed. Silence equals death, the queer activists fighting the neglect and repression around Aids shouted in the streets. Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard. It surrounds the scattered islands made up of those allowed to speak and of what can be said and who listens.Silence occurs in many ways for many reasons; each of us has his or her own sea of unspoken words. English is full of overlapping words, but for the purposes of this essay, regard silence as what is imposed, and quiet as what is sought. The tranquillity of a quiet place, of quieting one’s own mind, of a retreat from words and bustle is acoustically the same as the silence of intimidation or repression, but psychically and politically something entirely different. What is unsaid because serenity and introspection are sought and what is not said because the threats are high or the barriers are great are as different as swimming is from drowning. Quiet is to noise as silence is to communication.
Buenos Aires — Last month, three women in a coastal Argentine town decided to sunbathe sans bikini tops. It could have been inconsequential, but a tourist complaint drew 20 police officers and six patrol cars to the beach to threaten the women with arrest unless they covered up. The episode quickly incited a national debate leading to demonstrations called “tetazos,” or “boob uprisings.” In early February, nearly 2,000 women gathered in different places around the country — topless or covered — to demand their right to bare their breasts.