Situations where it’s OK for men to talk to women they don’t know

Content note: this post discusses a form of street harassment

The tantrum crops up time and time again. This time it’s because there was backlash from women towards an article teaching men how to chat up women who are wearing headphones. When women say they’d rather be left alone, men tend to completely lose their shit. Apparently it will cause the poor babies anxiety:

It’s funny how it’s almost always men pushing this nobody-ever-talks-to-each-other dystopia, while for women it actually sounds like it might alleviate anxiety somewhat, what with not having to worry about whether the latest man coming up to us wants to murder us, or merely rape us.

This is the thing men never understand, in pushing their imaginary world wherein men striking up conversation with strange women is polite, romantic, or otherwise not unpleasant: maybe you’re not a rapist murderer, but you could be. And even if a woman isn’t afraid, your advances may still be unwelcome, because sometimes people just want to ride the tube in peace, walk home in peace, drink a cup of mediocre coffee in peace.

So, men, let’s start from the assumption that your attempt to start a conversation with a complete stranger is more likely to be unwelcome than it is to be welcome. Yes, even if she does respond to you, that’s pretty likely to be out of a conditioned sense of politeness rather than any genuine desire to hear about your opinion of the book she’s trying to read.

Going from this assumption, there are few scenarios wherein it is acceptable for men to talk to women they don’t know in public places:

  • If she’s in mortal peril and you need to rescue her. Maybe a time-travelling robot is trying to kill her. Or maybe the peril is more banal, and she has a long trail of bog roll stuck to her shoe, or she dropped her keys. At these points, it’s perfectly polite to say “You dropped this,” or “Come with me if you want to live.”
  • If you’re a benefactor who is bestowing a completely non-conditional gift on her, such as handing her £50, or a gigantic diamond. It is then socially acceptable to say “excuse me, have this money,” hand it over, and then let her be on her way.
  • If she’s doing a job, wearing a t-shirt saying “Ask me about mortgages”, or something similar. Please note, in this scenario, it is only acceptable to ask her about mortgages.
  • Literally no other reason.

If you’re concerned that this might lead to you never getting to speak to a woman again, consider this: you’re probably an obnoxious tit. Get out and meet women in situations where you’re likely to have something in common with them: develop a hobby, get a bloody job in a non-misogynistic industry, &c., &c.

And meanwhile, leave women alone to just move about in the world without being bothered.

 

Owen Smith is a misogynist masterpost

Content note: this post discusses misogyny and domestic violence

I am going to start this post with some disclaimers:

  • I’m writing this because dudes keep asking me for “evidence” that Owen Smith is a misogynist
  • Just because I think Owen Smith is a bellend doesn’t mean I support Jeremy Corbyn
  • Just because I’m pointing out the misogyny of Owen Smith doesn’t mean some of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t misogynists
  • I didn’t think Angela Eagle was all that either
  • Basically, the Labour Party is a wretched hive of scum and villainy
  • This is not an invitation to honk like a sea lion “debating” whether this stuff is misogyny or not. It’s misogyny. If you don’t think so, you don’t care. And also, I don’t care what you think.
  • I cannot believe The Discourse™ has got so puerile that I need to say any of this

Right, all that out of the way, let’s get on with why Owen Smith is a misogynist.

He opposes mandatory all-woman shortlists

All-woman shortlists are the weak, milky tea of feminism. If your feminism wants women in elected positions (as opposed to the abolition of this hierarchical system), they’re a way of addressing the structural misogyny and ensure a woman ends up in place. Recently, Owen Smith committed to using all-woman shortlists in targeted seats. The qualifier “targeted” here is potentially pretty important, in the context of his previous comments on all-woman shortlists. See, Owen believes (and as far as I can see, has not retracted), that local Labour parties should be able to veto all-woman shortlists if they want to. If a local party doesn’t want an all-woman shortlist, Owen reckons, they shouldn’t have to have one.

Let’s assume that the misogynist Momentum CLP infiltrators exist for the purpose of this. Under Owen Smith’s own assertions, if such woman-hating entryists take against the idea of an all-woman shortlist and kick up a stink, they don’t have to have one. 

His “normal” life

Let’s remember that within the last fortnight, Owen Smith wasn’t just running against Corbyn, but also Angela Eagle, who is a lesbian. When asked if he was normal, Owen decided to explain that of course he’s normal, he has a wife and three children. Perhaps he was taking aim at Corbyn with this comment, simply forgetting about Eagle’s own domestic situation (a wife, no children). However, under patriarchy, it’s women who are hit hardest by this suggestion that they’re weird for not having children. Hell, just a week before Owen Smith made these comments, Theresa May’s leadership contender Andrea Leadsom was rightly called up on her internalised misogyny for having a pop at May for never having had children.

It’s 2016. Some women aren’t just ambulatory baby factories. Deal with it, Owen. It’s the new normal.

The leader of a political party only gets on TV because she’s a woman

Plaid Cymru is one of the major political parties in Wales. It’s led by a woman called Leanne Wood, who is, being the leader of a major political party in her country, on telly a fair amount. Owen Smith felt a little bit bitter about this, and was recorded sulkily saying she got on Question Time instead of him. Wood rather fairly pointed out that maybe this was to do with party balance, to which Owen Smith replied “I think your gender helps as well.

This is a pretty classic case of sexist sulking. When women get more visible, men feel like the women are only getting these opportunities because of political correctness gorn mad, not because of, say, the kind of merit that got you elected leader of your party. Mediocre men think the sun shines out of their special snowflake bottoms, and do not realise that a lot of the time, there is a better woman there.

I recommend watching the short 30 second video in the link above, and listening to the tone he adopts as he says “I think your gender helps as well”. It oozes bitterness, and he spits the word “gender” as though it tastes bad to him.

“That was called a joke, Susanna”

Apologies for another video, but I find watching a man interact with women is one of the greatest indications of how he feels about women. In Owen Smith’s case, his behaviour appears to communicate disdain and contempt. This short video features Owen on a breakfast TV show recently, being asked if he ever took Viagra while working at Pfizer (let’s be honest, you don’t exactly go into the hard-hitting stuff at 6.30 in the morning). After giving an evasive first answer, the woman host, Susanna Reid suggests a more straightforward answer would have been “no”. Once again, Owen’s mask slips, as his tone goes from attempting to get people to like him, to your bog standard sexist creep. “That was called a joke, Susanna,” he says coldly, then immediately slips back into warmer tones as co-host Piers Morgan takes over in the questioning.

Again, this video is worth a watch, even as the dismissive “it’s a joke” defence, as though women have never heard of the concept of humour, will be painfully familiar to all of us.

The domestic violence reference

Owen Smith reckoned the Coalition government was like an abusive relationship, and decided to articulate this in the most flippantly insensitive way he could: “Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

At the time, women’s groups called him up on it, and he backed away from his comments. However, he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson as just this week, he decided to bring out imagery involving violence against women once again.

Smashing Theresa May on her heels

I’ve seen defences of the phrase “smash her back on her heels”, and none of them sufficient. Some say it’s a common turn of phrase, but it sounds like something someone says on Catchphrase just before being told “it’s good, but it’s not quite right”. Apparently it’s so common that a google of it simply brings you Owen Smith’s comments. Here’s the thing: Theresa May is pretty famous for wearing heels (and her choice of footwear is an endless source of fascination for misogynists). Here’s another thing: it’s generally not considered good form to express a desire to “smash” a woman. And here’s one more thing: this wasn’t an off-the-cuff malapropism. This was a phrase in a prepared speech Owen Smith gave. A speech about equality. Evoking images of violence against women.

But don’t worry! Owen has an excuse. It’s just rhetoricIs this the new political “just banter”?

He downplays the achievements of Black women (added 4th August)

Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes in the world, full stop. Her achievements resonate even more among Black women, because Serena is a shining example of Black women’s excellence.

What does Owen Smith think about her achievements? He reckons it’s unpatriotic to celebrate the sucess of this outstanding black woman athlete, especially because it detracted from giving cookies to a white man. He reckons it’s ~metropolitan~ to celebrate a Black woman dominating at a sport historically dominated by white people and men. Well, Owen, maybe if you stay away from any city ever, or indeed anywhere with a population of more than one, you too might avoid ever meeting anyone who is inspired by a Black woman sporting idol.

A gobstopper for Nicola Sturgeon (added 2nd September)

Continuing with his theme of wanting women leaders to just shut up, Owen himself tweeted this back in April:

Owen’s defence? The misogo classic of “just a joke”.

 

I also query just what in the name of fuck he means by “slice”.

He uses classic sexist defences (added 5th September; updated 6th September)

It’s finally hitting the point where Owen Smith’s misogyny is attracting attention. As well as using the “just banter” defence for his Sturgeon comments, Owen’s pulled the old “I’m not sexist, I hire women.” Yes, really. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Donald Trump say similar, and it was just as fucking feeble and pathetic then.

Thankfully, Owen seems to be being taken to task about his general sexism problem, with a woman challenging him on it publicly at a hustings event. His response was basically a checklist of the classic misogynist’s responses to being called out:

-Focusing on his own feelings, rather than the feelings of those who may have been hurt. Smith described his own experience of hearing the accusations as “the most mortifying experience for me”.
-Mansplaining how his comments aren’t sexist at all.
-“I’ve never suggested that women should be seen and not heard, which is how some of the other things I’ve said have been interpreted,”. This excuse puts the blame on women for misinterpreting, rather than him for screwing up.
-“painted as sexist” “portray me as being a sexist”: this is related to the above, except has started to imply some sort of murky ulterior motive as opposed to just being all hysterical.
-“decontextualised”. There is pretty much one situation in which words can be taken out of context to sound misogynistic, and that is in sentences such as “Alan said Bertha is a bitch, so I punched Alan,” being trimmed to “Bertha is a bitch”. Having the receipts for Owen’s misogynistic comments, they were not decontextualised in this way.
-“repeatedly apologised”. So fucking what? Saying sorry doesn’t magically undo the fact you made these comments. You need to win back trust by not keeping on bloody well doing it. Which seems like a big ask for Owen, and certainly not one he’s doing well at. Also, he hasn’t exactly apologised adequately: a textbook sorry-you-got-offended: “All I can do is apologise for any offence that’s been caused by any of the things I’ve said.”

He just clearly, obviously doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get why women are pissed off at him, and he doesn’t seem to want to get it. Owen Smith’s reaction here is a perfect guide in How Not To Respond To Being Challenged And Apologise.

He won his wife in a playground fight?! (added 10th September)

In a Mirror interview where Owen Smith was attempting to make people like him, and also go on like he’s credible, Smith claimed to have “fought off” hundreds of “lads”, saying, “1,200 boys, three girls and I pulled Liz. So I must have something going on. That must be leadership.”

Ignoring the possible improbabilities with their being any girls at his school while he was there, since the sixth form only became coeducational in 1993 (when Owen would have been 22), this is yet another comment which is just skin-crawlingly sexist. As @keewa put it: “Owen Smith won his wife in a playground fight like she’s a fucking conker”.

Once again, we see him putting his virility front and centre. From the 29 inch penis comments to his insistence on not needing viagra, Owen Smith is pretty keen to show off that he is the manliest of all men. 

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I’ll likely add examples to this post as I see them. Also, heed the disclaimer. This really isn’t an invitation for debate.

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Shit I cannot believe needs saying: Your mate might be nice, but is an abuser

Content note: this post discusses domestic violence and abuse, and apologism

When a rich, powerful white man is accused of perpetrating violence against women, a dance begins. It is the world’s worst dance, making Agadoo look like the Bolshoi Ballet. In this well-choreographed dance, everybody rallies around the abuser. They support the abuser, claiming that he is the best guy in the world, and couldn’t have possibly done it. They leap over the evidence presented by the survivor, all in step. Nothing can dent their pal’s Nice Guy status.

It probably doesn’t even matter who the abuser is, or how well they truly know him. This dance is political: it is a way of protecting all abusers across the globe by showing survivors what happens if they speak out.

Let us pretend, for a moment, that some of what is being said is true. Let’s imagine a chap called Johnny Blepp, who has been accused of beating up his wife. Let’s imagine some washed-up pals of his, who we’ll call Paul Gettany and Dickey Rourke and Vanessa Cara–oh fuck it, we all know who we’re talking about here, don’t we?

I believe that Johnny Depp beat Amber Heard. I would believe this even without the sheer level of evidence that Amber Heard showed, the sheer level of evidence which was sufficient to get a restraining order granted.

And, to be perfectly honest, I’d believe Amber Heard even if I was BFFs with Johnny Depp, because I know something which has apparently escaped the notice of those who are seeking attention by leaping to his defence: even if a man is nice to you that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of harming anyone. 

If Paul Bettany had given things a moment’s thought, perhaps he would consider how he has never shared a house, a room, a bed with Johnny Depp, so probably can’t have the first clue what his pal’s like behind closed doors. If Mickey Rourke had had a little think before opening his gob, maybe he would have considered that just because he had never been hit by his mate, doesn’t mean his mate has never hit anyone. If Vanessa Paradis had taken a few seconds, maybe she would have remembered she hasn’t lived with her ex husband in at least four years, and a lot has happened in those four years, so perhaps so has her ex’s temper.

All of these people are outsiders. None of them are party to the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors. So why on earth do they presume that they know so much that they can confidently accuse a woman of perjury?  That is, after all, what they are doing when a woman has gone to court, told her story (and been granted a restraining order), and they accuse her of having made it up.

I understand that it can sometimes feel implausible that your friend might do horrible things, but this is why it is important to remember that you have no way of knowing how they treat others. You have no way of knowing what it’s like when they go home. Abusers are manipulative people, and have you considered that you are being played?

Again, I get why people may be resistant to that question: nobody likes to feel like a fool. Nonetheless, Depp’s friends, coming out in support of him, are serving not just their mate, but abusers everywhere. They’re helpful little pawns, parroting a line which keeps survivors silent, showing survivors that nobody will believe them. Their intervention isn’t even particularly helpful to their friend: after all, nothing happens to rich white abusers. Look at Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, for example.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. You’re not being objective in the slightest when you knee-jerk defend your friend based on your complete lack of knowledge. You don’t need to say anything at all: if you don’t believe the survivor, keep your gob shut, because you’re mostly basing your disbelief on misogynistic tropes you’ve been fed since birth. If you truly want to keep an open mind, you need to keep your mouth shut, and give what a survivor has said equal weighting to your pal’s denial.

All we know about our friends is they are nice to us. It is peculiarly childish to extend their niceness to us into an assumption that they are nice to everyone.

One day, I hope the dance will falter. I admire the courage of every woman who comes forward despite the power of the man who abused her, and despite the fact that surely she must know that everyone will close ranks with tedious predictability.

I believe Amber Heard. I cannot believe I need to say this, when it ought to go without saying. I believe that Johnny Depp attacked and beat his wife, and I believe Amber Heard.

Shit I cannot believe needs saying: don’t blame women for men being crap at sex.

Content note: this post discusses sex and sex shaming

It’s a fashionable linkbait topic which comes up every now and then, and so I shan’t be actually linking to the latest incarnation of this terrible trope. Here is its title–and yes, that completely adequately reflects the content:

A screenshot of a headline from the Huffington Post, reading: "Here’s What Happens When Women Refuse to Be Masturbation Sleeves" by Jenny Block.

Women who consent to penis-in-vagina sex are “masturbation sleeves”, apparently. Take a moment to consider just how profoundly misogynistic that statement is. “Masturbation sleeve” sounds like something a pickup artist might call a woman. Surely Jenny Block is just saying what men think? Nope. She makes it abundantly clear that she thinks that of women who consent to PiV, and blames them for everyone else having shit sex.

"The language might sound harsh. But the message couldn’t be any more important. Woman have to stop allowing themselves to be penetrated by men who think that putting their penises into a vagina constitutes sex, let alone pleasurable sex for both parties."

Yes. We need to stop “allowing” it. Like a cock in your cunt? Tough titties, that makes you a sex scab. You’re making sex terrible for everyone else.

The reason I’m not linking to the article is it’s a blatant play for clicks, and it’s also cissexist as all hell. Jenny Block does not understand that vagina does not equal woman: again, much like a misogynist.

What follows in Jenny Block’s article is a peculiar mash of a complete failure to understand basic biology.

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What Block describes here is, quite literally, a vaginal orgasm. An orgasm which comes from stimulating the vagina. Yes, it involves the clitoris, but, specifically, the bits of the clitoris which hang out in the vagina. Going unmentioned are the other bits packed up a vagina which are also incredibly fun to poke and prod, such as the vaginal prostate (g-spot). The vaginal prostate and the internal clitoris can only be accessed by stimulating the vagina, and some people with vaginas can orgasm from this type of stimulation alone, because it’s not just an empty tube, but stuffed with bits and bobs which would have had a reproductive function had the in-utero hormone balance been different, and without a purpose purely exist for funsies.

Do you know who thinks vaginas are simply unpleasurable masturbation sleeves? Misogynists.

Block seems to think it’s a lesbian thing, this rejection of any vaginal pleasure. I beg to differ.

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Ultimately, it’s absurd to be so prescriptive about sex, and what women should and should not do in the bedroom, because we are all built differently and into different things. For example, this thread, from a friend with syringomyelia, who experiences both hypersensitivity and a lack of sensitivity which can affect sex, explains exactly where Jenny Block is going wrong. Likewise, some people choose to have sex for others’ pleasure:

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And, of course, sex shouldn’t just be about orgasms, and framing it as being simply a matter of chasing the orgasm, like Jenny Block does, does no good for people who cannot orgasms, do not orgasm, and enjoy sex nonetheless. Sex is about a lot more than orgasms: it can be about intimacy, about scratching an itch, about working yourself until you’re exhausted. The orgasm is nice, but not essential.

Does Jenny Block think I should stop eating pussy, for example? After all, my mouth contains fewer nerve endings than a clitoris, and I’m not going to orgasm from it. Exactly what sex does Jenny Block recommend, from which everyone can orgasm at once, but nothing goes into a vagina? I can think of maybe three things: 69s, circlejerking and scissoring–none of which I’d really include on my desert island sex list (the first two, I find throw me off my game in both giving and receiving pleasure; the latter I find comically awkward and distinctly Not For Me). So, no thanks, Jenny. I’ll stick with what works for me.

Ultimately, what works for some people in the bedroom doesn’t work for others, and it does nobody any good to stick with the positively medieval notion that the vagina is some empty vessel that is incapable of pleasure. I know for a fact that my own vagina is capable of producing an orgasm with the right stimulation, and that these orgasms are qualitatively different from external clitoral stimulation alone–and I also know that I’m not the only person with a pussy who feels this.

There is no right or wrong way to have sex as long as everyone involved is consenting, and being prescriptive about it does nobody any favours.

Yes, there is undeniably a problem among cis men that too many of them seem to believe a cock in a cunt is enough for pleasure (or the many who don’t even care at all about their partner’s pleasure). However, this is not the fault of those who consent to penis-in-vagina sex: it’s the fault of men being shit at sex, and nobody telling them otherwise. Blaming women for this, as Jenny Block does, gives men a pass. It exacerbates the problem. It does nothing to teach men that every woman they have sex with is going to enjoy different things, and they must learn what’s good for their partner if they are to be passable lovers.

And this goes for everyone–including Jenny Block herself.

Advance knowledge is power: A trip to the dentist

This is the first post in a short series on engagement and trigger warnings/content notes.
Part 2: The banality of trigger warnings
Part 3: Exposing the true nature of exposure therapy
Part 4: A strange hill to die on

Content note: this post talks about dentists and dental procedures in detail, as well as PTSD and rape.

“It’s going to have to come out,” the dentist said, and my brain squawked fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

One of my wisdom teeth had done what wisdom teeth tend to do, and grown in at a decidedly funny angle, meaning that whenever I chewed, talked or smiled, it would scrape against the inside of my mouth, causing regular mouth ulcers. I’d sucked it up and dealt with the pain, because, to be quite blunt, I was quite terrified of having to have the thing taken out. I’d heard horror stories about wisdom tooth extractions, and had hoped against hope that maybe my own gob would behave itself.

The dentist couldn’t just yank it there and then, because he didn’t have his instruments of torture to hand, so I had a week to prepare myself.

I read everything I could on wisdom tooth extraction in that week. I learned about exactly what the procedure would entail, what each step would feel like. I swotted up on aftercare, and what I might end up doing wrong and how to do it right. I looked at pictures of all the tools that would be used and where exactly they would be rammed into my poor fucked-up mouth, because I knew there was no way I’d be able to ask the questions I had during the procedure itself.

When the day came, I was prepared, and I went through with something I’d thought I might not be able to. I wasn’t even particularly scared. It all went exactly to the script. Afterwards, it healed perfectly, because I knew what I needed to do–and more importantly, why.

It’s not an experience I’d care to repeat, and I hope anything else that decides to grow in my mouth has the decency to point in the right direction. But it wasn’t traumatic.

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When I was old enough to have my adult teeth, but still young enough to think strange things, I had my first scale and polish at the dentist. I’d had no idea he was going to do that to me, and I assumed it was some sort of punishment for me not flossing diligently enough.

The scale and polish was a huge factor in me going to the dentist as infrequently as possible, just about often enough to maintain my NHS patient status.

A few years ago, my old dentist–the uncommunicative grump who pulled my wonky wisdom tooth–retired and I got a new one. He was about my age, so must have been quite recently-qualified, with his patient sensitivity training still fresh in his mind. Every single thing he did throughout the dental checkup, he told me in advance what he was going to do, and how it might feel. He told me that if I wanted him to stop, I should raise my hand.

Just the knowledge that I could ask him to stop if it hurt, and knowing what he was going to do and when, was enough. I’m a little less dentist-avoidant now. It’s not exactly something I relish, but it’s not traumatic.

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I’ve spent 500 words talking about dentists because people find the principles of giving a warning in advance far easier to agree with when one talks about matters of the body–even the body as it interacts with the mind. There’s no objections when you talk about getting a week to prepare yourself before you have a tooth pulled. So why are there objections over giving people who have survived trauma a little bit of a heads-up so they can better ready themselves?

Ultimately, that is all the trigger warning/content note is. It’s a flag which says, be prepared. There’s an asteroid field ahead, captain, engage coping mechanisms!

For me, when I see a trigger warning, sometimes it’s not particularly relevant to me, so I ignore it. Sometimes it is relevant to me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll disengage completely: I’ll make sure I’m in a place to engage. For me, this involves making sure I’m not caffeinated, because a kick of anxiety in combination with caffeine easily translates into a full-blown panic response. If I’ve had a coffee, I might wait an hour before engaging.

That’s the thing with trigger warnings: most survivors don’t simply avoid–they have the advance knowledge to do what they have to do. One survivor might open up a tab with a game they find distracting to play after they’ve read a blog post with a trigger warning. Another survivor might make sure she watches a television show in the strong, comforting arms of her girlfriend after hearing it contains a rape scene. One survivor might start practicing the resilience building affirmations he learned in therapy on a daily basis once again before throwing himself into the rape scene in the set text. Another survivor might steel zerself by taking a beta blocker before ze goes to a class that ze has been warned will be discussing rape.

Each survivor has a unique set of coping mechanisms, but each can only do these things with a bit of advance knowledge. It’s more than a simple choice of engaging or disengaging: it empowers people to choose how they engage.

The debate on trigger warnings has been absent of decent evidence: this is because there’s little to show they’re either helpful or harmful–instead, what we mostly have is anecdotes. Therefore, the question becomes mostly a political one.

Over the next few days, I’ll be looking a little bit more at both the politics and the extant evidence with trigger warnings, particularly looking at the conflation of random exposure with controlled exposure. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at if it’s really so simple, why does everyone lose their shit?

Part 2: The banality of trigger warnings

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Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: trans women are not shutting down discussion of vagina

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny and genitals

Today, I would like to talk about a particular transmisogynyistic trope which shows up with alarming frequency: apparently, trans women are trying to prevent cis women from talking about our genitalia.

As a cis woman, I’d like to take a moment to say it’s complete and patent bollocks. I have no idea of the origin of this meme, but it seems to be spouted mostly by transmisogynists–for example, non-Lambda-Award-nominee Alice Dreger perpetuated the trope while saying how one could be an ally to cis women (!).

Apparently, cis women are unable to talk about vulvas, vaginas, periods and so forth without being shut down by trans women. Except, er, no.

I initiated a project of writing to an anti-abortion MP with gory details about reproductive systems. If it were true that trans women were silencing fanny-talk, presumably they’d’ve sided with Nadine Dorries and declared the whole thing evil. Actually, trans women participated. And boys with wombs. And basically, women with all genital configurations and men with uteruses all kind of have a vested interest in reproductive health because the struggles of reproductive justice, bodily autonomy and transgender struggles are intrinsically related.

I have a tattoo, at the top of my spine, of an anatomically-correct, roughly life-sized clitoris. To me, it signifies two things. The first is that that’s a really sweet spot on me. The second is that medical science really fucking sucks, in that they didn’t discover that the clit was bloody enormous and pretty much anatomically indistinguishable from the penis under the skin–that they wanted to believe there was some sort of big difference between whether your genitals were an inny or an outy, beyond whether they were an inny or an outy. There’s a bonus third thing: it looks fucking cool, it’s a really nice shape.

Guess what? No trans woman has ever tried to flay that tattoo off my skin.

I livetweeted a fanny injury on twitter, and not a single trans woman told me to stfu. Instead, I got nothing but sympathy because ultimately any woman who’s had SRS, or is considering it, will have nothing but sympathy for a sore pussy.

Oh, and then there’s the whole bread thing. You know what I mean. If the TRANS WOMEN ARE SHUTTING DOWN FANNY TALK thing were true, one would expect that trans women would’ve been leading the charge in the bizarre anti-stavvers-bread fandom which seems to have sprung up. Except they… didn’t. There might have been an eyeroll or two, but to be quite honest, I’m pretty inured to eyerolls (especially regarding that) and it was nothing–nothing–compared to the outright hate and disgust which poured mostly from cis men, with a supporting wave of cis women.

I actually got a lot of support from trans women, and the demographic of people who have actually eaten the goddamn bread has included trans women and transfeminine people represented at way above population level (around 40% of people who have eaten it).

One can also add that if there is this huge conspiracy against cis women being able to talk about their minges, I should’ve had a lot of support from the cisterhood, and yet bizarrely there were precisely no lucrative New Statesman opportunities for me to talk about how silenced I’d been. To be honest, I expect that the cis media feminists were wholly grossed out, and not expressing how squicked they were was about as supportive as they’d get. They should probably get over their internalised misogyny there 😇

So, basically, I’ve blathered on about my cunt and never once been silenced by trans women. There’s a chance, maybe, that it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with trans women who are sycophants, although I doubt that it’s possible that literally every trans woman I have ever spoken to has received some memo to allow stavvers. Instead, I suggest that what’s going on here is that there is no grand pussy-censorship conspiracy. It’s just that those who perpetuate the meme are intellectually dishonest transmisogynists.

Actually, scratch that. They’re plain old misogynists, viewing women as just vaginas.

I talk about my cunt in purely personal terms because ultimately it’s purely personal to me. It might resonate with other women: some things do, some things don’t. That was probably the most important thing the Dear Nadine Dorries project taught me: that no two experiences are alike, that we’re diverse as people. Talking about a vaginal experience as though it would apply to everyone is an absolute nonsense. If you do that, I’ll fucking shout you down, too.

There’s no trans conspiracy to shut down general fanny talk, just acting as though owning a vagina is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though having periods is a universal experience of womanhood. Just acting as though getting pregnant is a universal experience of womanhood.

Is it uncomfortable talking about your genitalia as your own genitalia, rather than a generalisable thing that all women share? Absofuckinglutely.  But it’s also the only honest way to do it. It’s so much easier if you pretend it’s a general thing that all women share that your cunt kind of smells like feet around your period, or that your pubes can grow to easily over two inches long is a universal female experience, or that one of your flaps is a different colour to the other and about three times bigger is totally something all women have: hell, it was easier typing these sentences with “your” rather than “my”. However, none of this is universal, generalisable or in any way pertinent to all, most, or even some women.

Talking about vaginas has its place, but let’s not pretend that experiences are generalisable across women or that the fanny itself if a thing which all women share.

So please, please, fellow cis women, let’s shout down the trans-women-are-shutting-down-pussy-talk meme wherever we see it. It does nobody any favours.

Don’t publish women’s sexual details: An open letter to @RHRealityCheck

Content note: This post discusses misogyny, attacks on reproductive rights, harassment and sex shaming.

Dear RH Reality Check,

Let me start by saying, I broadly support your aims. It’s important to provide news about reproductive justice, especially when our rights to safe control over our own bodies are so constantly under attack. Now that I’ve got your attention by being nice, let me tell you to go and fuck yourselves because you’ve done something practically unforgivably dickish.

Yesterday, you ran a piece by Sharona Coutts about Holly O’Donnell, an anti-choice scummer. I’m not going to link to the piece because of the personal details it contains, but this picture of the headline should remind you what it is:

Untitled

Coutts’s hot journalism was in fact just a misogynistic attack on O’Donnell. Coutts had decided her time was best spent not discrediting the anti-choice bile O’Donnell was spouting to discredit her, but rather choosing to discredit O’Donnell based on her sex life.

Coutts identified O’Donnell on dating websites through her pictures. This is pretty much the kind of creepy stalkerish behaviour we expect from the anti-choice lobby, that we pro-choicers are above.

Coutts then decided to publish details of O’Donnell’s sex life that she had posted about. Again, this is pretty much the kind of creepy stalkerish behaviour we expect from the anti-choice lobby, that we pro-choicers are above.

Coutts even published the usernames O’Donnell was using on various dating websites, exposing her to online harassment. Guess what? That’s the kind of creepy stalkerish behaviour we expect from the anti-choice lobby, that I would have thought we were above.

Coutts even kind of attacked her for supporting LGBT equality, acting as though that’s some kind of thing her peers should be horrified by. Yeeep, smacks of anti-choice lobby bullshit.

RH Reality Check, you thought it was a good idea to publish 1700 words of salacious attacks on a woman for her sexual behaviour and sexual preferences, outing her and exposing her to a high amount of harassment. You claim that you’re exposing hypocrisy, but it is you who are the hypocrites here. You’re sex-shaming a woman. You know that some of the religious types she organises with might attack her for it, and you’ve decided to open her up to that attack.

I fail to see how you could not know what you were doing with this, so I can only conclude you’ve done this on purpose. You’ve decided to act like the anti-choicers you claim to despise, to out a woman and declare open season on her. It’s no coincidence you’ve put it on your front page, you want everyone to join in the puritanical shaming of a fallen woman.

What you’ve done is not OK, it’s never OK. It’s the very opposite of OK. You’ve proved yourselves as gross and misogynistic as those you’re ostensibly opposing.

Get fucked,

stavvers

Update 14.45 21/8/15: It appears that RH Reality Check have taken down the post, although they so far have not mentioned why. This is not good enough. They need to address the issue and apologise to Ms O’Donnell for their misogynistic, sex-shaming harassment. 

Update 18.00 21/8/15: RH Reality Check have run a piece taking responsibility for running the piece, and saying it was wrong. The words “sorry” or “apologise” don’t factor in, and neither do they appear to understand that they basically used the exact same tactics as the anti-choicers. I also remain concerned about RHRC’s management, considering it doesn’t address the fact their fucking Vice President wrote the original hit piece.

Update 20.50: RH Reality Check have added the phrase “apologise unequivocally” to the above post. Also, I see this post has been linked through a right-wing opinion site. If you’re coming from there, hello, you’re mangy, poxy shitcanoes, and I hope you all die alone in pain. 

Why criticising no platforms is rooted in misogyny

Once again, liberal feminism is up in arms about a no-platform, and according to abuse apologist liberal feminism, if a woman gets no-platformed, that’s sexism.

This is one of those lines which focuses largely on the feelings of the oppressor rather than who has actually made no-platforming decisions. And who does make no-platforming decisions? A lot of the case it’s women: feminist societies, feminist collectives, groups of women collectively organising towards a goal.

These women are working hard to carve out a little safe space in an unsafe world, which is difficult where there is so much social violence going on. They’re doing their best and have few tools at their disposal. No-platforming is one of those, and it’s a powerful one. It’s a statement of what women think is helpful, and what is harmful. It’s a statement and an enforcement of boundaries. It’s a gesture of free speech, and one of the few freedoms we have.

Under patriarchy, women are expected not to have boundaries. We’re expected to allow anyone access to our spaces, both personal and physical. We’re expected to accept it even when it hurts us. So when we actually state what we will allow near us and what we will not, when we band together in solidarity against the few women who do like attacking women, it’s considered an outrage. Women are not supposed to do that. We’re behaving like bad girls by having and showing our boundaries, by exercising one of the meagre instruments available to us.

Women are not above bigotry, and are not above actively harming other women. It can be seen in transmisogynistic stances, in anti-sex-worker stances, in racism and disablism. Many of us now band together in solidarity around marginalised women, and this is the position from which no-platforms come. This increased solidarity and sisterhood is only a positive thing, building an ever-stronger movement. Unfortunately, this still meets resistance, because the idea of all women united is an idea which terrifies those who benefit most from patriarchy.

I support no-platforming. I support women’s collective organising. I am opposed to the misogynistic beliefs that underpin the anti-no-platforming stance. I am appalled by the level of obfuscation which always surrounds no-platforming decisions, and furious that once again I have to explain something which should be absolutely basic.

Related: Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: no platforming and censorship are different

I am cis

So, there seems to be a lot of wilful misunderstanding about what the word “cis” means, with a complete lack of will to listen to what trans women are saying, so I figured now is the time for me to come out as cis.

When I’m downing pints in the pub, watching the football and making whoooargh football noises, I’m a cis woman.

When I’m climbing trees and skinning knees, I’m a cis woman.

When I’m wearing a gigantic strap-on dildo and feeling the thing like a phantom limb, I’m a cis woman.

When I’m shoving the boys aside to explain to them how badly they’ve fucked up the barbecue and how to do it right, I’m a cis woman.

When I’m wiping out space armies on the tabletop or computer screen, guess what, I’m a fucking cis woman.

But wait! Those who deliberately refuse to understand the word “cis” cry. Surely I cannot be cis if I do these things, because I’m subverting gender roles.

Nope.

See, when I was born, the doctors looked at my junk and went, “it’s a girl”. I grew up a cis girl, and I blossomed into a cis woman. I have never in my life been a trans woman, or a trans man. I have never experienced transphobia or transmisogyny. I have never transitioned. I’m also not non-binary.

And that’s all “cis” means.

That is all it means. 

Cis is not trans.

Got it? Good.

Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: I don’t dwell on your genitals

Content note: This post discusses transmisogyny

At the age of about three, I used to go around asking every person I met the same question: “Do you have a willy or a vagina?” This, I learned very quickly, was not a polite thing to say to people, so I stopped. In an ideal world, everyone would have grown out of wondering what other people’s genitals look like at around that age. We do not live in an ideal world.

See, there’s two broad groups of people who are still fascinated with what other people have under their clothes: misogynists and transmisogynists. Among misogynists, it’s a classic male entitlement to sex: they believe our bodies to be public property and they are therefore allowed access to every inch of them. Among transmisogynists, it can be a bit more complicated, as many of them happen to be women. They make a litany of excuses, conveniently forgetting that rape isn’t just about penis to attempt to excuse their obsession with other people’s genitals. However, ultimately, it’s all about entitlement nonetheless. They genuinely feel entitled to know the precise configuration of everyone else’s private parts.

It seems so alien to me. When I’m out and about, I’m generally not dwelling on what sort of genitals everyone around me might have. When I spend time with women, I’m not sitting there constructing a mental map of what their genitals might look like. When I shower or swim with women, I’m not gawping at their genitals, because frankly, that’s just rude.

I’ve known for a long time that men are often thinking about my cunt, and that’s why I don’t really enjoy the company of men that much. Knowing that there are women who do this too makes me feel less safe in women’s spaces, like they might just suddenly ask me about my cunt or grab at my crotch to make sure I have correctly-shaped equipment.

This feeling that I have pales into insignificance compared to what trans women go through. If you think trans women don’t get sexually assaulted in order to verify what their genitals look like, you’re wrong. This is a very real threat that women face due to societal fascination with something which should be completely private and up to the owner of said genitals to share or not.

There are precisely two times in live when someone else’s genitals are really relevant. The first is if you are a medical professional and someone needs some medical assistance with their genitals, something which, for the vast majority of us, is never going to be the case. The other is during sex, and even then it really doesn’t matter exactly which way they point. People say “oh, but I just don’t like penises/vulvas”, but that, too, is rooted in cissexism and general poor sex education. You can have sex–great sex–with someone with a penis without any penetration whatsoever. You can have brilliant sex with someone with a vulva with plenty of penetration. I instinctively distrust anyone who professes a dislike for a certain type of genitals: it usually means they’re either cissexist, or completely lack imagination in bed, or both of those things.

I cannot believe I’ve just had to write a blog about how generally disinterested I am in what your genitals look like, but I feel it’s necessary to punch through what risks becoming a dominant discourse. Returning to dwelling on what someone’s genitals look like does not help feminism one little bit: in fact, it sets us way, way back. It can be hard, unlearning the fascination with genitals in a generally genital-fascinated society, but for the sake of a feminism which does not equate women to walking vaginas, it’s utterly essential.