Posts Tagged 'feminism'

I went to Magaluf and all I got was this rubbish black eye. (TW for VAWG)

(TW for VAWG)

So, I went to Magaluf in September. It was fabulous and loud, as were the girlfriends I went with. However, I was assaulted whilst I was there, and although I almost immediately had the idea to write about and deconstruct the conditions that were in place that made it possible for this to happen to me while I was there, I only now feel able to do so clearly and fairly.

ImageNow, I don’t know how many of you have been to Magaluf, but it is one of the trashier places I’ve visited. It seems to be a tourist destination almost entirely funded by men, or boys, in their late teens or early twenties, which in turn means that sex is on the agenda at every occasion. (Here, as ever, selling “sex” seems to pretty much translate into selling the female body.) Pretty girls stand at the entrances to every bar and club, flirting with potential male customers, and groups of women are ushered into bars by male staff members seemingly in the hopes that they too will attract more men. Get the women there, and the men will swarm, apparently. Luckily, I clearly do not fit in in such places, so I was treated more as a novelty than a sexual commodity.

As you might imagine, the place is also littered with strip clubs and in general has a large and varied population of sex workers. Again, these facilities seem to exist exclusively for the male tourists. However, in a place nicknamed “Shagaluf” this is to be expected, and as I visited the destination in full knowledge of what I would encounter there, I treated it as an anthropological exercise, learning the ways of the horny teenage male.

I would like to point out that a few bars did employ pretty men to stand outside and attract women, and there was the odd male-gymnast performance for the straight ladyfolk to enjoy, but in general, these men were accompanied by the usual sexy women and were allowed to keep their clothes on; besides, we all know how privilege and sexual entitlement works anyway.

It was actually upon my exit from one of these gymnastic shows that I was assaulted. I was walking alone (shock horror!) — as I always dare to do, as I refuse to let myself be frightened into thinking I need a chaperone to keep me safe — when a sunburnt, British, presumably teenage man put his hand up my dress. I was sickeningly reminded that I was wearing a thong and no leggings or tights. In hindsight, I’m assuming this was meant as “a laugh” and my consequent actions were “uncalled for” but I gave the man a swift and indignant shove. (Really, I’m curious what reaction I was expected to have?) As you might expect, one thing led to another and pretty soon I’m on the floor with a black eye.

As usual, even lesbians aren’t free from becoming sexual objects.

I’d like to entertain the possibility that, had the location been different, this man perhaps wouldn’t have behaved as he did, or at least would have received my reaction with something more polite than criminal battery. In a place that genuinely has printed adverts for “girls”, as if we, as a gender, are offering a commercial service, is it any wonder that our bodily autonomy is disregarded even more than usual? Even in the day time, every establishment screams to male customers “Spend your money here and we will promise you women!” After exposure to this kind of culture, these predominantly young, arguably impressionable men are basically told that they have even more entitlement to women and their bodies when in Magaluf than back in Britain.

Needless to say, my holiday was kinda-sorta ruined, and I’m pretty sure I was suffering from shock for the rest of it. I was really angry, but weirdly at myself for ruining my holiday, as well as impairing my friends’ holiday. I don’t have any lesson that I learned from the incident, except maybe that assault isn’t something that just happens to other people, and I know that in a way I’m lucky that it wasn’t more serious. I’m not going to say that I won’t drink in public again, or that I won’t walk alone in a strange place again, I won’t urge you to watch your drinks or warn you not to go home with strange men. I won’t even tell you not to go to Magaluf, or other boozy holiday destinations. I’ll live my life, and I’ll enjoy my freedoms, and I’ll despair and rage if and when people take that away from me, but it’s not me who needs to adjust my day-to-day activities to stop things like this from happening again.

Badass Women & Soothing the Male Ego

                Since the (relatively) recent Lara Croft “attempted rape” fiasco at last year’s E3, I’ve been in a permanent state of rage. They’re taking a well-established, strong, wealthy, educated, sexy-but-owns-it female videogame character and insinuating that an (assumed male) audience wouldn’t want to play as her unless they felt protective of her after an attempted sexual assault.  Even if that wasn’t what Crystal Dynamics really meant; that’s sure what it looks like. So it’s taken me close to a year to be able to write anything about it.

                Not taking into account the fact that the entire games industry all but ignores female gamers, making Lara Croft into a vulnerable character basically just serves to ignite the “White Knight” syndrome in the (again, male) audience. As a female playing the game, I’d feel a lot more empathetic than sympathetic, and honestly it’ll just make me feel uncomfortable. Not to mention, do we really need to see the story of how Lara Croft became Tomb Raider? We’re not about to get a heartfelt and insightful prequel to the Duke Nukem franchise, are we?

                This representation of women isn’t isolated to this one instance, nor just the games industry. It’s the kind of attitude you get in comic books, films and even television to some extent, in which strong, formidable women have to be vulnerable in some way related to their gender in order for the ever-coveted male audience to accept their “masculine” traits of badass-ery. “In Batman: Year One”, for example, Catwoman is a somewhat damaged prostitute — so her mental and physical strength obviously come from years of having to stand up for herself on the streets. In “Kill Bill: Vol 1”, The Bride is both raped (whilst unconscious — passive female much?) and believes she has lost her unborn baby. These are obviously very exclusive experiences to the female experience. (I don’t know of any male equivalent who is a prostitute and/or gets raped and then just turns into a badass because of it — perhaps we need an “I Spit on Your Grave” spinoff?)

                Weirdly, even when male characters need a heartfelt backstory, it’s still the women who suffer. Frequently it is the character’s daughter/wife who is in some sort of peril and serves to provide the male character with some semblance of a plot. Take Max Payne’s back story for example, his wife and child are murdered, and it falls on his hypermasculine pride to “avenge” them and himself. This particular story is used a LOT in action movies as well — “Taken”, for example. Couldn’t Liam Neeson have been the victim of a sexual assault and then gone after the perpetrators? (The short answer here is no, because after “allowing” that violation to happen to him, other males wouldn’t want to empathise, nor would they take him seriously as a “strong” lead male character, as he has been “feminised” by the act. See how it works with the ladies now?)

                It basically boils down to either providing a male character with a reason to go up against other male characters and prove himself as the alpha, or reducing a strong female character to her most vulnerable moment in order to assure male viewers/players/readers that she is still definitely female, and their patriarchal power has never really been threatened. On top of that, these kinds of narratives imply that these women have been forced out of their femininity, and that had they been given the choice, they’d be back in the pink glitter default the rest of us apparently exist within. (No-one can just decide to take on some traditionally masculine traits apparently.)

                So I ask, where is our Duke Nukem? Where is our Jason Statham? WHERE THE FUCK IS OUR JUDGE DREDD?! It is a sad world we live in that after 19 years, one of the strongest women in new media just can’t be accepted until she lives in fear of male sexual violence like the rest of us.

Play Nice: The world of the Female Gamer

So I wanted to write about the abuse that female gamers get when playing videogames online, but there is honestly enough maddening information on that subject on the blogosphere already, so I’ll leave it — for now. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to the wholly more positive world of women playing videogames together, in the absence of men (or at least with them muted!)

Firstly, I don’t want to, nor can I, write of all female gamers’ experiences of playing in a group of women. I can only document my own exclusive and limited exploits in the matter, although these do range from MMORPGs, RPG co-op campaigns and FPS online multiplayer, right on through to XBOX arcade puzzle and Nintendo DS games. I’ve also never had the good fortune of cooperatively playing with a group of women I have not previously met. I have next to no experience of the PS3 community, so for all I know it’s completely different.

There’s definitely a huge market for female gamers (as opposed to “girl gamers”, an already established demographic of gamers who relish playing with the boys and accept the rules of the “boys club”) especially in games which can be played cooperatively, seeing as we are generally the more social gender of our species. XBOX “parties” for starters can be seen as an social, online, women-only safe space, if the players so wish; at the very least, the parties can be policed by kicking people from the group or switching it to an “invite only” gathering. When this kind of online gaming is compared to other online social spaces such as social media sites or forums, women definitely have more control over who gets involved.

When switching from playing XBOX with a group where I was the sole female, to a group of all-females, vast changes present themselves. I have found that female gamers are more patient and will wait for their friends to be available (finish work, install updates, etc) rather than start playing without them, especially in a campaign situation. Female gamers in cooperative gameplay are also more likely to be just that: cooperative. In some online games (notably the Borderlands games, but also games such as Gears of War and World of Warcraft) players have the opportunity to help a fallen teammate, but often only by putting themselves at risk. Feminist gamer twitter account @GamerFems recollects instances where male players have “left [a female player] to die. As long as they got what they needed, [they] didn’t have to care”, whereas female players are more likely to help and less likely to get angry at a fallen teammate.

blands5

One of the most interesting differences I’ve observed is that male groups appoint a “leader” figure, or they’ll all fight for it at least, as well as appointing a “runt” figure, who will be teased throughout. When a male player joined one of my all-fem groups a few weeks back, his first question to the group was “so who’s like the ringleader here then?” which shows just how ingrained this type of mentality is with male players. In comparison, female groups will discuss tactics and everyone usually gets listened to. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair share of teasing and fun within female groups, just that it is more evenly distributed.

Similarly, when there is a “loot” element in an RPG, male players have a tendency to smash and grab the best items for their character, whereas women are more likely to decide amongst themselves what works best for the group, which incidentally is something psychologists and sociologists already know about women in real life situations anyway. Whilst I’m sure a lot of men (and probably a lot of women) enjoy this cut-throat type of competitive gaming, this is an element which I have yet to come across in an all-girls team. For inexperienced players, sharing and helping each other really works as a welcome into the gaming community, as it means their items will be just as good as everyone else’s regardless of who got there first. The game also becomes a lot less frustrating if you are not constantly being left behind to die, which encourages you to stay with the game even when it starts to get tough.

Possibly one outcome of this relaxed approach to gaming is that the entire team has a more light-hearted way of tackling the actual narrative of an RPG. My Borderlands 2 group have been criticised more than once for “messing about” (read: crashing into each other in our cars in the desert for 40 minutes) rather than getting on with the story. In the even more serious world of online FPS such as Halo and CoD, I think this laid-back attitude is also somewhat of a defence mechanism, as we’re all pretty aware that we do not “belong” nor have we “earned” the right to be playing online with the male characters. (A friend told me of time when she had been repeatedly killed in a game by her fellow teammates and called a “bitch” in order to force her to quit.) By playing seriously, any failures would definitely be contributed to our genitals, and the abuse would be horrific, but when you’re comfortable with being shite you can laugh it all off when it goes badly, and celebrate a good game.

The gaming community privileges white boys and men, from teenage through to adult years, and the relative anonymity and lax regulation of the online services on games means they can police their domain however they see fit – usually by alienating women and girls, or at least the women and girls who don’t fit their idea of how females should behave. Some more serious female gamers feel they have to prove themselves when playing online, and these seem to become the elitist and bitchy almost stereotypical “gamer girls” I mentioned earlier. Another friend told me of incidents where females on the same team or on opposite teams have become competitive in the presence of a second woman, and have been encouraged (by the men) to start “cat fights”. A lot of this behaviour I would imagine stems from the idea that female gamers cannot be “real” gamers, and thus the two females both attempt to reveal the other as a “poser”, and themselves as worthy in the hypermasculine world of online gaming. (Sadly, you get a lot of girl-on-girl abuse online, saying that someone isn’t “really” into the culture, or doing it for male attention etc.)

Hitting it up, "girlfriend-mode"

Hitting it up, “girlfriend-mode”

For the women, by the women.

I’ve recently been watching a lot of films and TV made for women, but more importantly, made BY women. I always thought I couldn’t stand “womens tv” but I’ve realised that’s mostly when it’s made by men, or made to reinforce some sort of ideology for the benefit of men. The show that really caught me on this is BBC’s Call the Midwife, of which the second season is premiering with a Christmas Special next month on the 24th.

The creative team behind the TV show boasts a number of women at every stage of production. So although women are behind costume & makeup as usual, they are also responsible for editing, visual effects, camera and sound, as well as the majority female directors and producers. So although the show is by no means produced by an all-female workforce, it is definitely female-centric. Especially when you consider the subject matter, cast, and the fact that pretty much all other film and television is controlled by a very male-dominated population.

It’s so refreshing to watch a television show that is genuinely made FOR women, a TV show in which you are not made to feel uncomfortable because the narrative doesn’t stop every 10 minutes in order to showcase a bit of female flesh to reassure any men watching that although these women seem strong, they do still have their place. Although the women are midwives or housewives or prostitutes, the show manages to not stereotype them, and show them in an impartial light, that displays them as people rather than madonnas or whores. There’s also very few accounts of a woman sacrificing herself for “love”, which is usually the point at which I just turn off whatever it is I’m watching. The dismissal of any men in the audience also lets the humour run freely, allowing the female spectators to laugh at toilet humour, and treat men as playthings or sex objects, as so many of us do in reality – shock horror.

Speaking of crude humour, the 2011 film Hysteria by Tanya Wexler pretty much focuses on it. The story of how the first vibrator came to be invented is a pretty brilliant one, and personally, I think they should be screening this film in schools. The entire film is a wink and a nudge to the “myth” of female sexual pleasure, and I genuinely believe that aside from the love story the film centres around, there is nothing of women that men in general would recognise in this film. As the film industry tends to cater more towards men, the film doesn’t necessarily exclude men, but rather invites them to join protagonist Mortimer Granville on his journey to learn more about what it means to be a woman. Also, Maggie Gyllenhaal is amazing throughout.

Another industry that focuses pretty much wholly on men is that of stand-up comedy. Last night I watched Sarah Millican’s Chatterbox and she managed to really make me laugh as well as just generally cheering me up and making me feel better about myself. Woop. A lot of her comedy comes from acknowledging that a male audience is watching, but not really caring that they’re present. One male in the audience audibly recoils from the word “fanny” during her show, and she’s quick to pick up on it, asking “is it my fanny in particular that offends you, or is it all fannies?”

Really, I don’t know why there isn’t more media doing this. It’s not like the texts I’ve mentioned so far haven’t been popular or made a shitload of moolah, and it’s not like their corresponding industries don’t have plenty of women trying to break through. As far as I can tell, it’s the same old masculine hold on power that they really don’t feel like letting go of, and passing it off as avoiding risk.

You do also have to take into account the difference between the American film industry and the British television industry. Something so commercial as Hollywood is always going to play it safe, whereas the BBC is less reliant on attracting that apparently ever-lucrative male film audience. Plus it’s well known that if you want big numbers in television, you have to aim for the women. (Although I’m sure that’s the kind of thinking which has led to the X-Factor and How to Look Good Naked.)

I do have to mention that Hollywood is looking slightly better these days after the release of Bridesmaids in 2011, but with the What to Expect when you’re Expecting, Friends With Kids, The Five-Year Engagement etc bandwagon that followed I’m really not seeing anything that progressive. When films are made with a predominantly male crew, for a patriarchal industry, you’re still going to see women who look a certain way (with “comedic” tokenism, see Melissa McCarthy’s character in Bridesmaids) and are primarily concerned with (heterosexual) romance and being in constant competition with each other. Which really, is what they’d want us to be doing. Rather than owning the night like the women from Midwife, or finding our own sexual gratification as in Hysteria. Really, does the industry think men’s egos are that fragile?

P.S. This post was originally 7,000 words long. So it might seem a bit disjointed. Maybe I’ll do a thesis on it one day instead.

The worst thing on facebook.

Disclaimer: I’m not hiding the names of any of the people who commented on the page. Firstly, they don’t deserve that seeing as they’re being so cruel over obviously private photographs of women, and secondly, it’s a public facebook page with over 200,000 likes anyway, it’s not like they’re doing this shit in secret.

Now, there’s a lot of bullshit on facebook, but, alerted by people on my friends list* who actually “like” it, I came across this heartwarming page. It’s called “Sluts embarrassing themselves”. Because what the internet needed, really, if anything, was just a few extra people judging women on how they look, calling them “sluts”, and some more examples of how we all love teaching women to hate on each other. Yeah, fuck sisterhood. Woohoo patriarchy.

So, the very first thing on the page says:

“Definition of the term ‘slut’ – A person, especially a woman, considered sexually promiscuous…

Firstly, you can’t just define something yourself with no citations and then just say “oh this isn’t offensive, it’s the proper definition that I JUST CAME UP WITH JUST NOW BY MYSELF.” (It’s basically as sound as using Hitler to prove your argument, or simply shouting “NER NERNI NER NER I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”)

…All of you saying you are reporting this page as a hate speech page, you are wrong,…

Oh I’m wrong? Nevermind then. Continue. (Seeing as you backed that up so fucking perfectly.)

… and all of you girls saying that the girls on here aren’t ‘sluts’, read the first few sentences again! ^”

To illustrate:

Also, I really hope it isn’t just “girls” saying that the “girls” on the page aren’t sluts, but it probably is. The most progressive thing any male has said on there so far as I can tell is:

Really, I’m partly justifying this page by concentrating on its lack of concrete evidence and poor academic skills, whereas I should just let it fall apart all by itself. It’s just one of the many similar sites that have managed to use the word “banter” to disguise all of their shameless misogyny. Like, in addition to the fact they’re all doing this from behind a screen, they’ve got their little shield that they can all hide behind whenever anyone comes in and totally harshes their harmless bantery man-buzz, man. Geez, why can’t I just have some fun? IT’S JUST BANTER. I must have problems. Sideways sadface.

What’s really happening here is that people are attacking people (read “women”) that dare go out and express themselves without conforming to a narrow standard of femininity and beauty (omg her tan is too dark! THAT TEENAGE GIRL HAS HAIRY ARMS AND IS YET TO DEVELOP A COMPLEX ABOUT IT!) in western culture who I dunno, LEAVE THE FUCKING HOUSE! (You know, rather than sitting indoors all night saying you’d like to rape some womenfolk, like this chap.)

It’s sickening that if you’re a woman on the internet, this is the sort of violence that you have to become accustomed to. One of the pictures on the page shows a group of women all squatting for a wee in a street on a night out. If you reverse the genders here and you had a row of men pissing up a wall on a night out, no-one would be attacking them. Funnily enough, when a group of women are shown doing something that is supposed to be “masculine”, they are threatened with rape, as if to prove their female-ness and thus place them right back where they’re “supposed to be”. (Like how women in the military are a bazillion times more likely to get raped, or like that rape scene in Boys Don’t Cry, seeing as this is supposed to be a film blog.)

At the end of the day, the women at the brunt of these threats and jokes are mostly to blame, as this virginal picture of sobriety and morals manages to point out.

So, if only they’d stop trying to “sleep with our boyfriends” and “put some clothes on” they probably wouldn’t be getting all these rape threats from perfect strangers. I mean, I’m probably not exactly qualified to make this assumption, but that sounds a lot like that pesky victim-blaming we’ve been having a lot of lately. And as for all those prostitutes and porn stars, well we all know people get into those industries by choice, right? It’s just because they love cock, right? Right?

…?

And just in case you aren’t shaking with rage, here’s some more five-star comments:

this is a gem

*not for long

P.S. If you are one of the people who “like” this page, I would just like to let you know that it’s NOT banter, it’s NOT funny, it’s horrendously sexist and — especially if you’re a woman — you’re really letting the side down. We’re supposed to be fighting the patriarchy. So pleaseee, report it as a hate-speech page, “unlike” it, and scrawl PATRIARCHY all over its wall before you go.


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