Issuu on Google+


That’s What She Said Men in Feminism Magazine edited by Edward Orlik & Chloe Maughan. Additional design by Dolly Montgomery.

We’re very pleased to welcome you to the first ever themed edition of That’s What She Said. Perhaps that’s misleading, though: at the first interest-meeting for this issue we had no idea what kind of articles we would eventually receive, and optimistically suggested that people write about whatever they want. The end product is merely the product of a coincidence of interest in the articles we were sent. In a time when the role of men in feminism is so uncertain, and when several feminist groups we can name actually ban them from meetings, it wasn’t actually that surprising to find that the subject of men in feminism was picked up by several writers. We’ve printed three that we think tease out some of the key issues associated with what feminism means to men, and whether they should even be allowed to describe themselves as feminists. You may be surprised by how much they disagree. For us, the variety of the submissions - those on men, and all the rest - was actually pretty heartening. There was interest in several topics, and within each of those was a range of opinion. To us this highlighted the broad diversity of feminist opinion in the University society, and it is discussion between these differing opinions that we hope to foster with this magazine. Ed (Ed.) & Chloe (Ed.)


bust a myth Emily McMullin The issue of rape culture seems to create some confusion - it seems that a lot of people don’t know what it is, and others deny that it exists or that it is a problem. Fem FM presenters Lucy Shaughnessy and Hattie Stamp defined rape culture as ‘a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate and even condone rape’. Rape-related issues have recently received immense international media coverage, from the condemning and subsequent ban of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ in several Student Unions to the removal of Australian taxi company 13cabs’ controversial ad campaign, following a petition. These instances fall within a wider climate of victim blaming and rape apologism, proving that rape culture is a very real threat. This highlights the importance of educating people about consent, as well as what kind of sexual behaviour is appropriate and when. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the ways in which people view and understand sexual violence and rape, particularly within the media and the music and nightclub industries.

flickr:missionverdana

In light of this need for change, Bristol students recently launched their own ‘Bust A Myth’ campaign, as part of a wider agenda to end rape culture. On Thursday 21st of November UBU Officers and other supporters donned ‘Myth Buster’ costumes, and encouraged passers by to write down rape myths or pledges on how they were going to challenge rape culture. Through this campaign they hope to raise awareness of rape culture and challenge myths that are regularly circulated among student populations, as well as in the media and wider society. There were some really encouraging responses during the rally, and not just from students; one man who was on campus promoting a law firm to post-grads claimed that he’s a bigger feminist than his wife, and a woman walking expressed how pleased she was to see this kind of activism. The rally coincided with the launch of Bristol City Council’s ‘No Excuse’ campaign which, like the Bust A Myth initiative, is aiming to challenge excuses for rape. Posters and flyers from their hard-hitting campaign have been placed across campus. Using the slogan “this is not an excuse to rape me” under a series of images, the campaign aims to challenge views by showing that the victim is never to blame for rape. Alessandra Berti, VP Welfare and Equality, said that ‘the silence around rape is hindering people from talking about it’. We can only hope that these campaigns will enable people to speak out and chal- lenge these issues more freely.

11


Interview

Lennie Goodings As the boss at Virago Press, Lennie Goodings has been been putting good feminist fiction at the forefront of new writing for 35 years. The company has been celebrated by the likes of Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood, and remains at the vanguard of women’s publishing even now, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Edward Orlik got in touch to ask a few questions.

2


Since working at Virago what kind of changes have you seen for women in publishing and writing?

There have always been an enormous number of women in publishing, but when I entered the industry in the 1980s women, on the whole, were not making the decisions. I remember Carmen Callil who founded Virago in 1973 saying that the pleasure was because ‘the power to publish is a wonderful thing’. I also remember that a group of women got together to form Women In Publishing and at least one male boss was furious that one of his (female) editors joined up. Now women hold the top jobs. However, it is still noticeable that men dominate the Publishing Boards. Early Virago editions stated inside the cover that ‘Virago is a feminist publishing company’. The slogan has gone now, but is Virago still a feminist publisher first and foremost and if so what is it doing for feminism?

What Virago does for feminism is publish a range of books about women’s lives, history and politics. And we illustrate a female literary tradition through our Virago Modern Classics and frontlist fiction.What Virago also does, by being a successful, important, high-profile and stylish imprint is to inspire. And how do you reconcile profits and principles?

We have always made a profit publishing quality books. It doesn’t have to be in conflict. You publish writing almost exclusively by women. Do you think there’s such a thing as gendered writing or reading? Why don’t men

write feminist books?

It’s complicated. I definitely think there is gendered reading: we bring ourselves and our preconceptions to our books. Men, for example, do not, on the whole seek out novels written by women. The reverse is not true: Why? Are they not curious about women? As to gendered writing... I am not sure you can definitely tell if a book is written by a man or woman, but what is fascinating is that what we think of as writing associated with women (domestic, emotionally-intelligent) is written by men - Ian McEwan, Colm Tóibín - and praised for its humanity rather than belittled for its small canvas. And ‘masculine’ writing is found in books by women - Linda Grant, Hilary Mantel. So it’s probably as complicated as the variety within the human race, I guess. I do think men can write feminist books, yes. Feminism is about allowing one (male or female) to be validated for oneself. It’s not about being anti-men. How have feminist publishers affected the publishing community? Has Virago changed at all?

I think what the feminist publishing houses of the 1970s and 80s did was to show the larger houses that there was a new market for women’s voices, for books about women’s experiences and for politics. Interestingly, I think the tide has turned again and, in response to sexism, there is a new generation of young women once again wanting books on feminism. At Virago we try and reflect what’s happening in the world, but the original philosophy: to celebrate women’s talents, to publish the best in fiction and to put women centre stage, remains the same.

7

3


IS THERE ROOM FOR MEN IN FEMINISM? racist! High Five me!” We are more than likely to be met with some odd looks and a fair amount of scepticism. Quite rightly too.

In a world where men hold 83% of So we’ve recognised patriarchy and its outrageous dominance the power, it prob- over pretty much the whole world. We know that non-males are ably seems a little people too and therefore deserve to be treated like human beodd that feminism, ings. Go us! Now what? Let’s not go shouting about how brilliant whose core ideolo- it is that we have ‘freed’ ourselves from the prison guards and gy is the overthrow joined the inmates, because that simply isn’t the case and in of patriarchy might reality belittles everyone actually wearing the shackles. Nor be discussing the should we develop a saviour complex (‘I’m trying to free you, role of the oppressor don’t you get it?!’) which might result in a well-deserved slap within its movement. in the face. So where do we go from here - how do we conduct ourselves? Unfortunately to most people we are still Are men who identify wearing the same uniform and still get to sit comfortas feminists merely wolves ably in the guards’ room, even if we do feel uncomin sheep’s clothing? Are we fortable with the others guards’ behaviour. merely those who feel jilted and closed off from society’s ideals of masculinity? One major criticism of men who identify as feminists, pro-feminist, feminist-sympathisers, feminist allies, or advocators of feminist principles is that they seek praise for their recognition of and choice to battle the against oppression of women. To many that’s pretty much like wearing a badge saying “Applause please! I am not a dickhead!” It’s a very unwise move to ask for special status amongst the group you are trying to defend. In much the same way that no white person should, and I hope would never, go up to a black person and outwardly declare “I am not a

4

“ CAN MEN


The conclusion that I have drawn from my experience as a whole is that trying to play second fiddle, let alone first, is just not going to happen. We must consciously rid ourselves of the belief that any ideas of ours are automatically better than those of women. As participants in the movement, active supporters and propagators of its principles, male attempts to spearhead a movement built around fighting for equality by removing the long-standing male-dominated hierarchy are patently self-defeating, however well-intentioned it might seem. This, I have learnt from personal experience, is merely mansplaining and achieves nothing more than continuation of subjugation to which we are apparently so opposed. Something else I have learned is my own very real and ever present fallibility. I am, like most, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I make mistakes, say things I shouldn’t and am ignorant to many things. There is always more to learn, and maintaining an open

Yet, actively self-identifying as one is not something I would advocate per se. Certainly, when asked by my friends who wouldn’t consider themselves as feminists for whatever reason, I accept the moniker, but within feminist circles and the intricacies of feminist discussions, I have come to prefer identifying as a feminist ally. What reason do I give for this? Unsurprisingly, many women in the movement are uncomfortable with a man identifying as a feminist for some of the reasons raised earlier. Self-aggrandisement is not an attractive quality, nor one expected from an exponent of equality. We must accept our passive complicity within a patriarchal society. Being outwardly male affords us the gift of privilege, and accepting this is a step towards tackling the system which perpetuates inequality. One specific role we can take is to approach male-spaces and introduce feminist principles to those who might not outwardly realise their role in oppression. We can, and indeed ought to, apply critique to our friends; call them out on their ignorance, slurs and behaviour, in the same way that we welcome those who would do the same for us. For the time being, the idea of male feminism is somewhat paradoxical. There is a wall in the way of equality. Despite no longer having our backs turned to it in ignorance, or even being those who would tear it down, we still stand behind it. Perhaps most importantly, however willing we are to rebuild, we must recognise that as men we cannot be the architects.

EVER BE FEMINISTS? ” perspective has allowed me to change and form my own opinions in a positive and progressive manner. So can I call myself a feminist? Can men ever be ‘feminists’? To all intents and purposes, in denouncing patriarchy and both vocally and actively acting against oppression and believing in equality, most would say I am exactly that - a feminist.

Oliver Carter-Esdale

5


If you’re an avid participant of feminist discourse, then you’re more than likely to have come across the work of the MRAs at some point or another. If you do not know what I am talking about, MRA stands for ‘Men’s Rights Activists’. The group was created in an attempt to protect men from the discrimination that they say they have become subject to in modern society as a result of feminist movements. Terrible? Perhaps not. Admittedly a lot of the actions from MRAs that gain media attention are extreme and anti-feminist, but let’s call these people the “Westboro Baptist Church” of men’s rights activism. The Oxford English dictionary definition of feminism reads “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. If equality of the sexes is both of our aims, then why shouldn’t feminists and MRAs be able to find solidarity with one another? Many of us would nod our heads and have no need to think twice when asked this question. Although, just as many MRAs have no time for feminism, many feminists refuse to entertain the thought that discrimination against men even exists. Certain feminist groups, notably in London, have begun to omit men for part or all of their meetings. We must remember, though, that it’s the very same societal construct of masculinity that harms both men and women. Men are supposed to be strong and powerful. So what happens when a man does not fit this stereotype? There are certain things that are seen as typically ‘feminine’, and when a man partakes in them he is ridiculed. We are all too familiar with the normalised ‘gay’ jokes intended to ridicule men who choose stereotypically female professions; teaching, nursing and

66

Making FOR nannying being just a few of the careers not deemed ‘masculine enough’ by our modern society. What’s more, although an estimated 9,000 men are victims of rape every year in the UK, they are often unable to seek help from standard rape clinics and are expected to seek specialist help. Rape myths such as ‘women cannot rape’ or ‘men raped by women are lucky to have avoided penile penetration’ continue to alienate many male, and often female victims of sexual assault. What’s even more disturbing is that current legislation in the UK recognises perpetrators of rape as being only male, and acts of rape only as those including penile penetration of some sort. This is one issue which MRAs are keen to tackle. Some feminists, however, are concerned that a change in legislation would fail to highlight the physical differentiation of the acts; while both incite the


room MEN same type of emotional trauma, male rapists can cause consequences such as pregnancy which can be more life-altering than purely emotional stress. Without a change, however, there is a danger that the ignorance around female-perpetrated rape may continue, and many victims of it will continue to be afraid to come forward. Admitting the equal severity of female rapists by changing legislation would be a good start to informing public opinion on the matter. In addition it would help to protect not only men, but also women who are victims of female sexual assault. It would of course be naive to think that a simple change in legislation would be enough to instigate true social change immediately. Paternity leave has been legally man-

datory in the United Kingdom for ten years, but other than the initial statutory two weeks off, further time away from work is often frowned upon by work establishments. While it is legal for men to utilise any of their partern’s unused maternity leave, this is often ignored by men due to their own or others’ perception of what is in the company’s best interest. Many men feel pressured, in a way that women aren’t, to stay at the workplace for fear that they will be seen as taking advantage of the establishment. Of course, changing attitudes toward additional paternity leave would not only ease their partner’s guilt at returning to work (if they are not a stay-at-home mother), but also help to make the conflicting interests of family and work a non-female-specific issue. The work place plays host to many more examples of gender inequality. In a bid to increase the numbers of female and minority workers, many larger companies have introduced various gender and race percentage targets in order to minimise discrimination. While some see this as a means to an end, in some organisations it has created a damaging environment where people question whether their colleagues are there due to their merit, or simply by positive discrimination. Admittedly these are just a few of the issues that men today are faced with, and they are in no way a reason to bring any activity against the oppression of women to a halt. However, it’s high time we realised that the road to gender equality has got to be a two-way street. Let’s not forget that men have a gender too, and when it comes to gender discourse, we are all affected.

Emily Stoker 77


Does the crisis of men in feminism point to a wider issue? We’ve already seen two pieces that disagree on the place of men in the feminist movement. Emily Stoker seems keen that men’s issues should occupy a place in feminist discourse, whereas Oliver Carter-Esdale queries whether men should call themselves feminists at all. There is some sense in this argument. After all, Laura Bates (of the Everyday Sexism Project) speaks of the importance of “converting the bystanders” – with the view to making sexism fall outside of the realm of what is seen as acceptable. From this viewpoint it seems logical that men should avoid calling themselves feminists, as it almost has the effect of turning them into something ‘remarkable’. Yet in the words of Jonathan Cooper: “The pursuit of equality is to be truly unremarkable”. Even with this aim, however, excluding men from feminism seems problematic. Jessica Puplett, Carys Daniels and Cameron Kleinberger explore some of the issues in more detail:

Compiled by Chloe Maughan

1. Placing emphasis on women perpetuates difference. Jessica Puplett writes of her experience attending the Feminist Freshers’ Fayre, held at the Feminist Library in October 2013. “The term ‘gender-neutrality’ was thrown around a lot, but it struck me that this was something merely paid lip-service to. In reality, the word ‘woman’ and the importance of identifying as a woman was used much more frequently. Does this discourse not perpetuate the difference that feminists

8

seek to overcome? If we truly want to reach a stage of gender neutrality, then it may be useful to start by referring to women and men collectively as ‘people’, where gender is secondary to their common humanity. I absolutely accept that women experience oppression in a unique way, in the same way that every disadvantaged group does. And while we should focus on this, does this mean that we therefore must exclude anyone who doesn’t identify as a woman and suggest they can only be peripheral to feminism? This relies on a notion of women as the only true feminists, and everyone else is a bystander who can legitimately be ex-


cluded. However, as Laura Bates brilliantly highlighted: Patriarchy is systematic. It filters into the lives of all and, consequentially, we should seek to educate all on the effects of patriarchy and band together to tackle it.”

2. Feminist issues are gender issues Cameron and Carys attended ‘Is Sisterhood Powerful’ as part of the Festival of Social Sciences and Law. During the discussion Cameron posed a question about role of male feminists within sisterhood. He was met with a disparaging response: “While you can participate in feminist discourses you have to accept that there are certain spaces not for you”. Cameron has the following to say: “It is easy to assume men do not need a voice in movement that wishes to dismantle the privilege they get from patriarchy. To this point, I want to argue that men do not purely get privilege from patriarchy, but also are forced to deal with constraints placed onto their body by patriarchy. Men are continually subjected to a vast array of cultural images that links masculinity to an unattainable body emphasizing a detachment from emotions, muscularity, and aggressive or violent behaviour. Our society throws up barriers, not privileges, when men express themselves outside of this image of masculinity. We need to remember that feminist issues are not just “women’s issues”, but issues of gender. I therefore disagree with conclusions that suggest there must be some level of segregation to combat privilege.This line of reasoning seeks to exclude and downplay the experience of one group while favouring another, and this is a problem. Rather, the concept of intersectionality would serve as better way to approach this difference of experience and identity.”

Similarly, Carys felt that this Sisterhood model ignored wider gender issues: “Patriarchal practices and institutions don’t only affect women. Men, too, are restricted: the prevalence of militant heterosexuality, an expectation to suppress certain emotions, and linguistic structures all perpetuate gender ‘norms’. Such processes can be seen in commonly used phrases such as ‘man up’ and ‘grow a pair’. This terminology possesses an undertone of gendered expectation: that to be a man is to be powerful. Consequently. subversion from this expectation (i.e. possessing traits considered ‘feminine’) is weak and, in some social spaces, may be met with hostility. These factors not only produce rigid discourses for what is ‘appropriate’ behaviour for men (and women) but also continue actively to disregard individuals who fall outside of heteronormative, cisgender, or binary structures, that seem to dictate how to be a man or a woman.” Women-centred feminism may therefore have the consequence of excluding individuals who have also met oppression in a society that prescribes “gender norms”. At the Feminist Freshers’ Fayre this became particular apparent in a discussion about ‘women-only’ spaces. Whilst these spaces provide an important function in allowing women to discuss issues that they may not feel comfortable raising in front of men, they can also have the consequence of excluding individuals who don’t identify with binary structures. During the conference somebody raised this very issue. - the guideline that these spaces were exclusively for “self-identifying women” pushed them out of their reach as an person who does not identify with binary concepts of gender.This has the, perhaps inadvertent, consequence of putting women’s issues above those of other groups who’ve suffered under the same patriarchal system. Is this the equality feminism claims to seek?

9


In early October, a 19-year-old woman and Bristol student was sexually assaulted on Belgrave Road in Clifton. The news was particularly shocking for local residents not just because of the nature of the crime, but for its location in a gentrified university area. The rape was widely reported, partly in an effort to trace the perpetrator, and rightly so. Naturally, with these reports came some safety advice. What was surprising about this, however, was how the advice varied for different genders.

were “ If women banned from

can make them vulnerable.” And here lies the core issue – in the aftermath of male violence, it is wrong to respond by controlling women’s behaviour. The advice itself is not wrong – people should be vigilant when out at night. That’s people. Not just women. Haskins’ message suggests that because a man is choosing to assault a woman, women should change their behaviour. You may think the same advice would be broadcast regardless of the gender of the victim, but think again. Here’s a full article, again from The Post, about a ‘sexual assault on man, 20, in Queen Square Bristol’, published on the 7th November: “A 20-year-old man was sexually assaulted in Queen Square last night. Police are looking for three possible male suspects after the incident which occurred at 3.45am. Officers have started collecting CCTV images from businesses around the city centre square and are appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information is asked to contact Avon and Somerset Police on 101.” That’s it. No safety advice for men to walk home with other people, to stick to well-lit areas, to not drink because it will make them ‘vulnerable’. What makes this advice unjust is its unspoken link to victim blaming. Women cannot be expected to ‘not walk home alone’ if they have to work late, or not to visit a friend who doesn’t live in a ‘well-lit area’ or to ‘let friends and family know where they are’ if they forget to charge their phone, or to ‘not drink alcohol’ if they want to go clubbing. Walking home alone, darkness and alcohol do not

drinking tomorrow rape would still exist

Local newspaper, The Post, quotes Senior Investigation Officer Gary Haskins after the event, who urged “women in particular to be vigilant when out at night [...], not to walk home alone if possible, to stick to well-lit areas, always let friends and family know where they are and to remember that drinking alcohol

10


cause rapes. A rapist causes rapes. If women were banned from drinking tomorrow, rape would still exist.

walk anywhere alone! Let your family and friends know where you are all the time!’ is asking women to stop their normal lives as a way of preventing sexual assault. Following police advice isn’t going to prevent sexual assaults from happening, dealing We’re glad that the police care with the root cause of the problem and tackling enough to put out safety advice, the cause of the violence is. but there needs to be a greater focus on men, who are almost alWe can no longer live in a world where people ways the attackers. It is not right to say, or even think, ‘hmm, well, she was walking throw this advice around and leave home alone…and she had been drinking…and it to fuel a victim-blaming rape-culher skirt was rather short’. Women should be ture. The more focus that is placed able to walk where they want, drink what they on the victim, the less is placed on want and wear what they want without being the rapist. The more we tell women subjected to victim blaming if a man decides to hide away, the less we tell potential to rape. So please, don’t tell a woman not to rapists to adjust their behaviour. live their life because a man is making the choice to be violent. The fact that safety advice is so one-sided is symptomatic of a deeper problem. Advising women to be vigilant wouldn’t be so harmful if this advice was accompanied by messages to men about respecting boundaries, or protecting women from aggressive men. Or how about talking about sexual assault before it happens? Where are the citywide campaigns to raise awareness on the lines of consent? This advice to women, and women only, without any messages to perpetrators, portrays avoiding sexual assault as a woman’s responsibility. For the most part, people are vigilant. People do look out for themselves and their friends on a night out, and it’s almost insulting to act like women don’t know the ‘correct’ way to behave, when safety tips like these have always been a part of their lives, even from childhood. Following police advice as it is simply isn’t always straightforward, though, as it makes leading a normal life virtually impossible. Taking reasonable steps to make yourself safer is a given, but to say ‘Don’t drink! Don’t go out after dark! Don’t

Helena Wadia

Illustration by Alex Norris

11


HEALTH BENEFITS of a feminist perspective Allie Tyler discusses the new wave of feminism and its effect on combating body dissatisfaction. The recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image found that two-thirds of adults are unhappy with the way they look, with girls developing appearance anxieties as young as five years old. Psychology has linked body dissatisfaction with poor self-esteem, stress, disordered eating, and impaired academic and professional achievement, amongst others. Positive body image, on the other hand, tends to go with physical and mental wellbeing. There is, however, a small body of research showing that one of the most effective ways to foster positive body image among women is to encourage them to look at the issue from a sociocultural, feminist viewpoint. I sought to investigate whether feminist movements could, therefore, offer any protection against the pernicious effects of advertising. I created a survey which I hoped would draw out links between women’s experience of appearance-related pressures within our culture, and their identification or otherwise with the feminist movement. The questions that dealt with appearance asked respondents to indicate how far they agreed with a set of statements, such as ‘I’ve felt pressure from TV or magazines to lose weight’ and ‘I would like my body to look like the models who appear in magazines’. Body dissatisfaction

12

is sold to us relentlessly by multinational pharmaceutical companies, beamed at us from billboards at every turn, and used to underpin marketing strategies for everything from swimwear to yoghurt; I hoped that by converting real women’s attitudes into statistical data, I could get some idea of whether body dissatisfaction has indeed become part of everyday life. I also included a section looking at respondents’ levels of social insecurity; by examining the relationships between these factors, I hoped that I could shed some light on whether feminists tend to be more generally self-confident, and whether insecurities about appearance are part of a broader sense of social inferiority. The section concerned with feminism involved statements like ‘I want to work to improve women’s status’ and, at the opposite extreme, ‘I like being a traditional female’. The link I was trying to assess, between sexism and body image, is one that feminist writers and activists made a long time ago. They ask how it is that, despite steps forwards in the struggle for equal pay and against employment discrimination, female politicians from Louise Mensch to Julia Gillard can still be routinely evaluated on the basis of their sex appeal alongside – or instead of – their political achievements. And similarly, how a BBC sports commentator could openly ponder whether Marion Bartoli (winner of the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Final) perhaps fought so hard to perfect her skills after realising that she was never


destined to be a “looker”. Western celebrity culture is indeed saturated with narrow – and often digitally enhanced – ideals, that will remain completely unattainable for the vast majority of the population. Tentative moves to embrace diversity are crushed by the astronomical profits to be made from exploiting body dissatisfaction, in the form of cosmetics and cosmetic surgery. Having said all this, we’re gradually gathering the tools we need to deal with our collective body image problem. In 2011 Caitlin Moran’s gloriously feminist book, ‘How to Be a Woman’, was voted ‘Galaxy Book of the Year’ by public vote. Her book pokes fun at the expectations placed upon women by society and the media, asking questions such as “Why are we supposed to get Brazilians?”. Campaigns such as ‘No More Page 3’ and the Everyday Sexism Project have also played a significant role in challenging the objectification of women in the media, and wider society. The former met some success in June 2013, when The Sun

finally agreed to remove its nasty ‘News in Briefs’ feature. This feature contained commentary on current affairs superimposed on photos of conventionally attractive, near-naked women. Social media is also awash with spin-offs from the ‘Who Needs Feminism?’ campaign, launched by female students at Duke University. The project asked individuals to submit photos of themselves holding placards completing the phrase ‘I need feminism because…’. Numerous examples show individuals championing feminism as a means for combatting issues with body image - this is perhaps best exemplified in my favourite image, which showed a girl holding a placard over her face, which read ‘I need feminism because I don’t want my photo taken because I’m not wearing makeup’. These are just a handful of examples of how modern feminism - with its zeitgeisty, efficient and media-savvy nature - is fuelling the fight against body dissatisfaction and its effects. This same notion was reflected in the results of my survey. Analysis suggested, perhaps unsurprisingly, that body dissatisfaction and general feelings of inferiority are strongly linked. But reassuringly the results suggested heightened awareness of appearance-based pressures among strongly feminist women, and a reduced tendency to self-objectify or perceive oneself as socially inferior.While my study was limited in scope, the fact remains that there is persuasive research suggesting that we can empower girls and women to resist social pressures to hate their bodies. By employing social media to educate women about their rights, and by insisting, loudly and for as long as it takes, that women have more to offer than their bodies, we can hopefully put a stop to this cycle of self-loathing.

13


#CENSORED Is censorship ever a victory for Feminism? Corey Sutch thinks it’s a Recently, as most are by now aware, the song ‘Blurred Lines’ was banned from being played in the Student Union building, and subsequently, many feminists were delighted at this victory. I was not one of them. Rather than feeling overjoyed, I was disappointed, feeling as such because this is not the feminism which should be pursued in the modern day gender-divide: the move risks making feminism seem increasingly out of touch with reality, and it’s likely to alienate potential members of the movement. Rather than being content police for anything that can be deemed sexist, feminism’s efforts are better spent shifting core attitudes. What use is this brand of feminism when it preaches liberation on one hand, and takes away with the other? This is hardly different from the tactics used by some far-right Christian groups in America who seek to curb anything

14

related to intercourse for pleasure, rather than teaching more core principles of brotherly love. Perhaps for a small, hardened group, there may be a great feeling of victory, but this will not encourage further membership. We may ask cthe crucial question of what gets banned. ‘Blurred lines’ is a fair starting point, but what of the music by Chris Brown, a highly anti-feminist figure given his domestic violence against Rihanna? What of Lily Allen’s new song, ‘Hard out here’, which whilst being a feminist anthem, has a highly racially insensitive video? Censoring one aspect turns the whole idea into something wholly farcical, and debate will then primarily surround what should and should not be banned. This is not


where feminism should be going to make a difference. We are fighting for equality for all, not for the power to veto disagreeable media content. In regards to the above-mentioned songs, I choose not to listen to each of them personally because of their associated criticisms, and want to encourage others to do the same. Rather than campaigning for them to be banned, however, it is surely much better to educate others so they can make personal informed decisions. There are more important issues to address, and in doing so, misogynistic songs will be addressed by individuals as a by-product. Banning a song simply doesn’t tackle the underlying issues, such as raising the status of women in society and addressing some terrible attitudes which are held by both men and women. Dealing with these issues head-on creates a better long-term solution. I noted on the ‘Spotted: Sexism in Bristol’ page the instance of one member who had tried out LeRoc Society, and following the playing of ‘Blurred Lines’ raised their concern, and subsequently left. In this instance, doing so was a good course of ac-

tion. An individual highlighting a source of offense in this way says a lot more than blanket silence. The main reasons for wanting to ban this type of content is to avoid an environment where women might feel uncomfortable. I understand this, and to get rid of such an environment is why I’m in the feminist movement. However much censorship may seem like a victory, it really is a case of winning a battle, not a war. To remove a song is a temporary fix, to tackle the underlying root problems is to create long-lasting influence and change which will lead to a much better future. It may be more difficult, it may take longer, but we can’t take shortcuts in creating a better society. Going forward, let’s unite under a new, evolved, feminism. If we leave university and look back on our activism, I can assure you that more pride will come from knowing you were part of something bigger - helping to change attitudes and get people involved - than the rigid silencing of a particular song, which only serves to disenfranchise the very people you want to attract.

Illustration by Bash Mead

15


By 2016, Germany will require at least 30% of the supervisory boards of every company registered on their stock exchange to consist of women. Britain has no plans to follow suit, but who has the right idea? Quotas have been a contentious issue since the Affirmative Action Act was introduced in America in the 1960s, in an attempt to combat racial discrimination in employment, and was expanded to include women in 1967. The risk with this apparently progressive measure is that those hired with a quota in mind may find that their position is taken less seriously; that they are merely a token representative of a minority rather than a valued individual. Resentment can grow on both sides. This could also send negative messages about feminism itself if a better qualified man is overlooked for a woman simply due to a quota. On the other hand, how often have men been promoted over equally or better qualified women? A friend of mine is the longest standing member of bar staff, at a well-known Bristol pub. When a managerial position opened up she was the obvious choice.The owners have never hired a female manager,

16

however, preferring to keep girls front-ofhouse.While this pub is probably in breach of the 2010 Equality Act, any transgression could be hard to prove and in so doing my friend would risk her job. A quota instead, with positive incentives, could help reduce this type of discrimination with more carrot than stick. There are ways to promote the rise of women while avoiding outright quotas. For example, a method favoured for internal Labour elections is to have a quota for the shortlist rather than the final selection. This means everyone is assessed equally but there is more encouragement at the point of application. All Souls College Oxford has no quota system but wants to remove its reputation as an ‘old boys club.’ On principle the college will only appoint fellows based on academic merit, so to improve their female ratio they instead try to attract more female applicants with specific open days and adverts targeted at women, thus trying to create a more welcoming environment for people previously put-off. This is a gradual process but is yielding some success. These methods can only work, however,


when the business or institution actively wants to change their image, and this is not always the case. An enforced quota, on the other hand, could tackle unfair representation in those sectors which have little interest in improving their equality standards. By increasing the number of women in high level positions, young people are more likely to see these roles as attainable, regardless of their sex.These young people will therefore have a source of encouragement, making them more likely to seek the appropriate education and qualifications that will provide them with an equal platform to apply. In terms of gender equality in the workplace we are still largely in the dark ages. Quotas should only be seen as a stepping stone towards an eventual natural equality. In certain fields, particularly in those that are traditionally male-dominated, a quota can help to redress the historical imbalance. Student writer Kuba Shand Baptiste summarises: ‘When society continuously fails to recognise the merits of various marginalised groups, quotas become necessary. If these are the measures that we need to take in order to smash an other-

Amber Segal

wise impenetrable glass ceiling, then so be it.’ Germany, I feel is heading in the right direction. The government taking an active role in attempting to improve representation of women on boards, and aid equality in general, is preferable to denying the existence of the problem. They have acknowledged, like several countries before them, that although asking for 30% will cause upheaval in the short term, it should set the bar for a more equal future.

17


From the first day their gap-toothed grins light up our screens, to their tumble through puberty and final crash-landing at the feet of hungry media vultures, both female and male starlets are the victims of public scrutiny. At some point most of us will consider what the ‘kid from that film’ is doing now, and a plethora of websites will readily answer our queries with extensive ‘Where are they now?’ lists - lists that seem too ready to condemn the child star, reinforcing a bizarre sense of public ownership over

them. If we’re to find the star of our favourite kids’ TV show is now unsuccessful or unruly we feel strangely let down, as though the nostalgic bubble has vanished with an anticlimactic pop. Perhaps this is why it is such a hard cycle to break. As child stars lose their chubby-faced appeal, they are increasingly objectified, transformed into figures of intrigue or ridicule, whom we can judge with emotional distance. This objectification and harassment is a problem for all young people in the public eye. However, there is something particularly sinister about the way the press documents the adolescence of young women. As Daniel Radcliffe has said, “Poor Emma [Watson],

18

when she turned eighteen, the paparazzi just became criminals […] In what other context could five men chase a woman down an alley, and it be ok?” But persistent hounding is only part of the problem. Although no child star can escape articles which consider the eternally important question: ‘who grew up hottest?’, it seems most prominently used in relation to female stars. Matilda’s Mara Wilson ducked out of Hollywood early on, yet

over a decade since she made her last film, she still can’t avoid the cruel voices of the internet. In an interview for youtube channel SEX+, she told Laci Green: “any time I do any kind of appearance [people say] ‘she should do her hair differently, […] she’s really ugly now’ [but] my appearance is not for you.” Despite being a successful writer and blogger, her physical appearance seems to be considered as a more important measure of her value. Wilson has had the time and space to reach a point where she feels like her body is her own, but many are less fortunate. The supposed flaws that most young girls have to cope with are, literally and figuratively, magnified to an excruciating


extent. A female child star has to cope with her first spots being zoomed in on and plastered all over the front page of a magazine, or the first time she stumbles out of a party into the path of eagerly flashing cameras being branded a disgrace. Demi Lovato, for example, found herself having to defend her weight gain by pointing out that she’s recovering from an eating disorder. After all of this scrutiny, these girls are expected to emerge as well-adjusted young adults. It’s no wonder that so many girls rebel, ditch the modest clothing, cut off the neatly styled hair and try to remould themselves into something of their own design. Many, though, will be forced to conform to a mould of what society considers attractive. Their progression into adolescence often forms part of a disturbing documentation of sexualisation - whether it’s 13-year old, Elle Fanning,

being styled for a fashion shoot in the style of a model twice her age, or the current frenzy about 17-year-old Abigail Breslin’s topless photo shoot. Mara Wilson points to the fact that “a lot of female child stars will think that to grow

up is to be sexy”, leading to dangerous links between being sexually attractive and the supposed respect and validation that comes with adulthood. Britney might defiantly call herself “Mrs. She’s Too Big, Now She’s Too Thin” and Miley can declare that she “can’t be tamed”, but both try to emphasise their defiance with stereotypical music videos that make them the object of desire, their bodies and clothes conforming to a standardised beauty ideal for the viewer to enjoy. That’s not to say that these girls and women are mindless puppets, or that any sense of empowerment they draw from it is wrong. However, the fact that they feel the need to be physically attractive to gain power, and to remove themselves from the child star image that haunts them, is harmful. This attitude of girls growing up in the public eye becomes normalised, and forces these ideals onto girls everywhere. These talented young women are constantly confronted with a distorted image of their bodies. Any attempt they make to have agency over their own image is often used to drag them further down, and their success seems to diminish depending on how physically attractive they are considered. They’re stuck in a cycle of being sexualised and simultaneously receiving criticism for trying to define their own sexuality. Until this chain can be broken, new waves of Lindsay Lohans and Miley Cyruses will continue to be churned out, like nothing more than junk food for tabloids to gorge themselves on.

Josephine Harwood 19


book review

When young Cécile returns to Paris after the end of the Second World War, she expects to be reunited with her missing parents. Instead, she ends up in the care of one of her father’s friends, Maurice Henry, older than her by over twenty years. She reluctantly enters a physical relationship with her guardian. Soon after, she has become Mrs Cécile Henry. But Cécile’s urbane life in Paris rapidly turns into a nightmare, and she finds herself utterly lonesome; imprisoned in a marriage she never truly wanted, with an adulterous husband to whom she is little more than a trophy wife. And yet, Cécile loves him. Or she thinks, she hopes she does. And so she clenches her teeth and waits.

20 20

Out of boredom first, then pressed by her husband, Cécile begins to write. Her manuscripts are soon published, but not under her own name; she is condemned to live in the shadow of her husband, who receives praise in her place. So be it; once more, the submissive Cécile bites her lip, yet

says nothing. If she can’t have ownership over her novels, she can at least have her husband’s mistress, Henriette, and she revels in this sapphic relationship, more than she ever has in years of marriage with Maurice. Something keeps gnawing at her, though: a desire for a freedom she’s always desired but never been given a chance to truly experience. Written in 1963 by Tereska Torrès, French writer and author of the celebrated Women Barracks (1952), By Cécile depicts and romanticises the early years of an author’s life in Paris. However, By Cécile is far more than just another lesbian pulp novel; it is a tale of struggle against a deeply-rooted patriarchal society, a story of slow self-empowerment, and of sexual, romantic and ideological liberation. Thus, By Cécile is, above all, a deeply feminist novel, where Torrès tackles numerous pressing issues regarding gender equality, and identity in general. Through the eyes of Cécile, she indeed denounces the overwhelming misogyny of the French post-war society where, despite claims of education and modernity, women are still solely defined by their appearance, their sexuality, and their marital behaviour. Indeed, though traditional concepts of womanhood had arguably already begun to alter by that time, women were still systematically discouraged from embracing numerous aspects of their identities. For example, throughout the novel, Cécile is spurred by Maurice to indulge her artistic and creative vibe, but not through writing- for writing still remains, in the mind of the society, a solely masculine discipline.


Consequently, if Cécile wants to write, she has no choice but to do so through her husband. As for Cécile’s coming to terms with her homosexual impulses, they are, at first, encouraged by her husband, except to sate the latter’s fantasies. As soon as he realises Cécile’s growing feelings for Henriette, her first and only lover, might begin to threaten the remains of the love she still feels for him, he steals Henriette from her, making sure to cruelly remind her she will only ever belong to him. These double-standards regarding sapphic relationships were, in fact, greatly widespread at that time, and Torrès is one of the few to dare denounce them so blatantly. In a way, Cécile’s character development in this novel is reminiscent of her contemporary, Simone de Beauvoir, who came to embody the most striking image of French feminism through her writings. Thus,

Cécile’s coming to terms with her sexuality, as well as her twisted marital relationship, unmistakably mirror Beauvoir’s personal life, as well as her ‘open’ relationship with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and his plethora of lovers. The only problematic issue with calling Torrès’ By Cécile a feminist novel, is that its protagonist only appears capable of loving and embracing herself as a person once her former husband eventually acknowledges her talent as a writer. This lingering need for masculine validation remains troublesome in the light of modern feminism, creating a debatable point in the moral of Torrès’ otherwise excellent novel.

by Appoline Weibel

All in all, it is undeniable that By Cécile carries a fundamentally feminist message, by depicting the realistic journey of a woman in search of her own identity, who goes from unspoken consent to the norms of a patriarchal society, to a slow uprising against them, only to end up with a complete liberation, where Cécile finally decides to leave her husband and lovers behind, in order to start afresh and embrace her new-found self through her writing. This final metamorphosis comes both as a relief and as an inspiring lesson of emancipation for readers, whoever they may be.

21



That's What She Said #6