Saturday, 29 June 2019

Red Hearts, Razors, and Emotional Labor: Untangling Men’s Issues From Feminism






I not only believe there is a place in the gender equality minefield for men’s liberation, but that, in such a politically charged society, this movement is sorely needed.

I know this is an odd statement to make in a space that by and large houses Feminist thought and action. But I’m certain that encouraging such a movement is the only way to preserve the integrity of Feminist spaces. I’m absolutely not suggesting we contact our local MRA’s and ask them out to lunch. I’m not of the mind that the bridge trolls that comprise such a movement are capable of any action that would complement, or even run remotely parallel to, the outcomes Feminism works to achieve. What I have in mind is more of a safe space for men seeking to combat the toxic masculinity so pervasive in our culture.

The fact of the matter is, toxic masculinity is not and should not be a Feminist issue. But it impacts women so deeply, many Feminists bear the burden of trying to combat it. The very act of assuming this task is a form of emotional labor painfully blatant. And yet, we don’t seem to address it in such terms. Rather, it almost seems like a duty we’ve decided is a key component of discussions about Feminism.

I don’t know about any of you, but I for one am sick of doing men’s work for them.

In 2016, a document started circulating factions of the internet concerned with women’s interests. It was pulled from this thread, which was inspired by Jess Zimmerman’s article on The Toast that addressed the unpaid emotional labor women shouldered on men’s behalf. For those not already familiar with what the term Emotional Labor means, the short version is basically “shit we do that nobody notices, but takes an emotional (and sometimes physical) toll on us”. Unfortunately,  this unrecognised workload is usually lumped on women.

Emotional labor is a simple way to discuss a broad range of issues. I urge you to take a look at the above links if you haven’t already because the scope of what emotional labor involves is vast. It covers all manner of things, from remembering and taking charge of housework or the birthdays of your partner’s relatives, to providing ongoing and taxing emotional support with minimal reciprocation. It’s hard work, it’s exhausting, and worst of all, it’s so expected of women, men often don’t realise the sheer weight of it.

Despite most Feminists being aware of what it means to bear the brunt of emotional labor and taking steps to actively resist it, we have still allowed this labor to occur for an obscenely long period of time. It occurs in a variety of ways, and while some of these actions are called out for the bullshit they are, others seem almost permanently entrenched in Feminist discussion.

One such burden is regularly experienced by Sherele Moody, an Australian journalist who, since 2015, has granted voices to those who have lost their lives to violence through her Red Heart Campaign. Moody’sstatistics encompass not only the gender of the victim, but also the gender of the perpetrator, and whether or not this information is known. The numbers themselves are unbiased, and sources are provided on the Red Heart Campaign website for these murders. Her extensive and (unfortunately) regularly updated catalogue of casualties paints an alarming picture of what it means to be a woman in Australian society.

Though Moody has collated the data relevant to sex and age category without bias, on her Facebook page, her emphasis is on women who are victims of men’s violence. Her Facebook page falls in line with her wish to advocate on behalf of women who are no longer able to speak. Sadly, it is this advocacy that many men wish to focus on, ignoring her clear passion for providing information regarding a wide scope of violence in Australia.

A quick browse of both Moody’s personal Facebook page and the page specifically devoted to the Red Heart Campaign confirms what we as Feminists are already acutely aware of: no matter what platform we build for ourselves to address violence against women, there will always be a swarm of detractors that demand to know why this platform is not also being used to shed light on violence experienced by men (as though they’re entirely incapable of speaking on their own behalf). Some even straight-up claim any focus on violence suffered by women is a direct attack on men.








The sad irony in these demands is that Moody actually does use her pages to address violence experienced by men. These posts experience little to no engagement – the men who are so insistent she speaks on their behalf are nowhere to be seen.

Because the comment sections of Moody’s posts are often populated with women sharing their stories of trauma and survival, the female victims of violence often become responsible not only for defending their right to this platform, but for carving out a space designed to satisfy yet another aggressive man.

None of this is to say that men’s issues aren’t worthy of attention. There are plenty of areas affecting men that would benefit from being addressed. And they should be. It’s just that it shouldn’t be on women and Feminism to do it for men.

There have been some brilliant steps in this direction so far. The r/menslib community is a great example of what positive, inclusive action should look like when initiated and maintained by men. Their subreddit hosts links that answer the majority of questions belligerent men put to Feminists on a regular basis. But, more than that, they are supportive, loving, and validating of each other, and make no hesitation to call out any toxic behaviours that occur within their community. While not always perfect, r/menslib is proof that men taking charge of their own issues and experiences is something that should be further encouraged.

Unfortunately, attempts to address the ways in which men are socialised and interact with each other are not always met favourably, as witnessed by the backlash popular shaving brand Gilette experienced in their marketing campaign, “The Best Men Can Be”.  The campaign sought to address toxic ideas and behaviours prevalent in male social circles. Rather than view it as a positive action  by a multi-national company with the interests of men clearly at heart, many chose to see the campaign as an act intended to emasculate or (god forbid) feminise men. The double whammy to these detractors seemed to be the ad’s connection to the #MeToo movement, and the ways in which it implored men to hold themselves responsible for male-initiated violence. Because #notallmen, right?

As can be expected from the unwashed miscreants that so often inhabit the internet, much of the backlash was aggressive, vile, often incoherent, and unfortunately, largely missed the point of the message altogether.

Still, there were many who praised the message in the campaign, and who were not ignorant to the overall point. If nothing else, this should indicate to Feminists that there are plenty of men who are receptive to the messages we’re trying to get across. For something of this nature to gain such traction, it’s obvious that, despite the many pushbacks against attempts to address male socialisation, there are just as many, if not more, people with whom these attempts resonate.

All of this is well and good. But how can we, as Feminists, begin to reduce our emotional workload of fighting for our own issues, and push back against assuming men’s issues?

1.      Rather than attempt to show how Feminism benefits men (as we often seem to do), double down on your point and ask how men seek to further their own causes.

2.      Feel free to direct said men who aim to detract from your point to any male-focused Feminist-friendly communities that are known to you. r/menslib is honestly a great place to start.

3.      Remember, “no” is always a complete sentence. You are not obligated to show how you are being considerate of men’s issues (whether you are or not). In most cases, when you’re being asked to answer the question “what about men?” it’s usually by someone who couldn’t give a shit about what you’re saying anyway. Why is it up to you to appease these people?

.     It’s not. You don’t have to justify your cause to someone who seeks to derail it. Just keep doing your thing and fighting your fight. Their inability to fight for their own interests is not your problem.


Ultimately, none of this is about hating men, as we as Feminists are so often accused of. In the same way we are unhappy with men taking it upon themselves to represent our interests (and often missing the mark), we should not be expected to adequately represent the interests and needs of men. This expectation is just additional labour that compounds with the stack we’ve already accumulated over centuries. If we want to truly do our best work and target the areas that need our attention, it’s time we start shrugging off all of the issues that, by all rights, should never have belonged to us in the first place.

By: Roxie Gray

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here: https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/a



Thursday, 20 June 2019

The Battleground of Women’s Bodies


The United States’ recent, draconian legislation on abortion has once again brought the topic of female bodily autonomy to the foreground. Once again, it seems that everyone, regardless of whether or not they actually own a uterus or identify as a woman, has an opinion.

It is an understandably terrifying time for women in the United States, whether they happen to live in the states affected by the laws or not. Women are justifiably afraid this slow dismantling of the tenets of Roe v Wade will have only one outcome, and it's a dire one for women all around the world.



Australian women have been keeping a close eye on the proceedings. As we’re all too aware on this side of the pond, when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world tends to catch cold. This decision by the US is particularly worrying here in New South Wales and also in Queensland, where we have our own issues with bodily autonomy - though thankfully, at this point, they are nowhere near as dangerous.

Still, astonishingly and inexplicably, abortion remains explicitly listed as a criminal act in New South Wales and Queensland. Though subsequent interpretations hold abortion to be legal at the doctor’s discretion in due consideration of negative impacts on the physical and mental health of the mothers, it’s still technically a crime. In 2016, Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi introduced a bill to reform the legislation, but it was struck off the running list in Parliament. Three years later, abortion remains a crime.

You might think since it is still possible to get an abortion, it’s a law essentially without teeth, a crime in name only. However, it’s a law that still has real-world consequences, as 27-year-old woman Anna Groth learned all too well. She lay in sepsis for five days because her doctor was unable to perform the abortion that would cure her of her deteriorating condition, which nearly placed her in intensive care. “I was at the core of a political stalemate...” Groth told the Sydney Morning Herald. “...No one should have their physical health put at risk because of this.”(https://www.smh.com.au/healthcare/my-body-was-a-political-stalemate-nsw-has-the-abortion-law-debate-it-has-been-avoiding-for-100-years-20160622-gpp2ns.html).

But it’s not only the right to a timely abortion that women in New South Wales have to contend with. It's also their reproductive freedom in terms of preventative contraception. It’s a problem that extends beyond the borders of this state and is, in fact, nation-wide. Lack of contraception places women’s choices about their own bodies in the hands of others - including, shockingly often, the hands of their husbands or partners.


For example, it is notoriously difficult for women in their twenties to obtain a tubal ligation in this country, despite their personal needs, wants, and childbearing history. This issue also came to the forefront of public debate in 2016, when 22-year-old Holly Maitland, who already had three unplanned children, was unable to find a specialist to perform the tubal ligation her own doctor had recommended for her. The specialists declared Maitland was “too young” to make this decision about her own body. Not, apparently, too young to be responsible for three other human beings, it should be noted.

This paternalistic need to control women’s bodies is hardly new. And it's much more widespread than many people imagine. Maitland’s case was further highlighted in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Clementine Ford. In the aftermath of the story going national, she called for stories from women who had attempted to obtain a tubal ligation procedure on her Facebook page. The results were appalling. All told, there were nearly 400 responses from women. Some were told they were too young to decide the fate of their own bodies (unless that decision resulted in children), others that their partner or future partners might want children (in which case it was obviously their responsibility to provide them). Most disturbingly, some women told tales about being refused tubal litigation unless their husband gave them explicit written permission to undergo the procedure.

As Ford points out, it’s horrifying that women who wish to have something as simple as the right to control what happens to their own bodies should face so many obstacles. As women, it seems our bodies are considered so much more than our own. They're political footballs, to be passed around at will, fought over and legislated and controlled. Indeed, the only thing it seems we have a right to do whenever and in whatever circumstance we please is to reproduce.



From the sexualisation of young girls and women, to controls placed on fertile women, pregnant women, and women who don’t want to become mothers at all, one message is overwhelmingly clear - our bodies are not our own. At least, not solely ours. This fact is clear every time someone asks a girl to cover up to make the boys or men around her more comfortable, every time someone touches a pregnant woman without her consent or strangers publicly question her choices (“shouldn't we make that decaf?”), every time a medical professional refuses a grown woman is refused a procedure because of the impact it might have on the men (or potential men) and children (or potential children) she might one day have in her life.

All these people, even the hypothetical ones, merit scrutiny along with the wants and needs of the women whose bodies are being considered. It is exhausting and dehumanizing to be reduced to your most basic parts - to a walking, talking vessel for a vagina or a uterus. It is infuriating other people can have as much control over your own body as you do. It is 2019. This kind of tyrannical behavior is unacceptable.

By: Siri Williams 

Sources: 

https://www.smh.com.au/healthcare/my-body-was-a-political-stalemate-nsw-has-the-abortion-law-debate-it-has-been-avoiding-for-100-years-20160622-gpp2ns.html

https://www.cairnspost.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/cairns-mum-22-launches-petition-after-doctors-refuse-procedure/news-story/de2a277ff7a0b8ee413c09a2d4e5c139

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/28/why-wont-nhs-let-me-be-sterilised

https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/its-2016-and-women-in-australia-still-arent-allowed-control-of-their-bodies-20160724-gqcs6l.html


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here: https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/a

Friday, 14 June 2019

Ask Auntie Kate: Everybody’s Auntie, Nobody’s Fool …




Dear Auntie,

What’s a good comeback for someone who says, “only women who are raped deserve to have an abortion”? 

Thanks,
M

Well for starters, that’s a horrible thing to say. That’s like saying “only people who have their nose broken from an assault deserve to have it fixed” or “car accident victims only warrant medical help if another driver smashes into them on purpose”. A woman shouldn’t need to be degraded and violated to warrant a termination.

People have accidents. Sometimes they’re freak accidents. Others are accidents waiting to happen. Or worse yet, people hurt other people on purpose. The reason behind someone’s need for medical care shouldn’t dictate their right to it. 


I could go on and on about people’s right to safe abortion ... and I will.

People against abortion often disregard the lack of sex education, access to contraception, pathetic support for single mothers, children in foster care, basic human rights, etc. If ‘pro-lifers’ were truly ‘pro-life,’ they’d include those already living.


Women deserve control over their own bodies, as they are the ones to bear the hardships of pregnancy, breastfeeding and childcare.

And before the ‘Not-all Daves’ open their man-holes about the non-deadbeat, single dads caring for their own children, women are statistically waaaaaaayyyyy more likely to be primary carers of their kids. But thanks for pointing that out Dave.

I saw a tweet recently about how if we could automatically transfer unwanted pregnancies to the fathers, abortion laws would change overnight.

Women have a right to a sex life without pregnancy. We live in a society where babies have a huge, life changing impact on mental and physical health, finances, mobility, and careers. Not to mention social services andchild support are utterly inadequate and difficult to access.

Uteruses are only impregnatable a few days a month, for a few decades. In comparison, testicles create like a gajillion sperm daily, for a person's entire life. If the spermanators can fund Viagra research, they can fund better contraception options. AND, they can make them free and easily available.


One love,
Auntie K8


Dear Auntie,

Recently, one of my best male friends stopped talking to me because I wouldn’t go out with him. He said I was leading him on and that I ‘friend zoned’ him. I didn’t even know he liked me, and I don’t think of him like that anyway. I’ve tried to apologise, but he refuses to look at me. It’s awkward and I feel bad cos he’s a nice guy.

What do I do?

From,
Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,
         
I’m so sorry you lost what you thought was a good friend. It’s never nice when someone drops out of your life for a confusing and unfair reason. But, rest assured, this dude has done you a massive favour.

Whenever someone I cared about shows me they are actually a massive douche canoe, I think about Keanu Reeves’ character in the Matrix dodging bullets. Think of those bullets as chauvinistic constructs, and you are Keanu.


Text Box: youText Box: Horrible RelationshipText Box: Low self-esteem

For starters, (deeeeeep breath)

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS THE FRIEND ZONE!!!

I have been salty about this topic for years! The ‘Friendzone’ is just another concept the ‘menz’ have invented to protect their precious, fragile egos. This ridiculous notion that so many men seem to think women owe them sex is hard evidence of how toxic the patriarchy is. It also proves men truly think everything we do is about them. We wear make-up to impress them, we get dressed up for them. If we are friendly or polite or showing skin we must want to have disappointing sex with them.

All roads lead to Sexland, and the ‘fake friend’ route, is an indirect, disheartening one. It is objectification on yet another creepy level, and also where ‘soft boys’ (men who are not outwardly or aggressively abusive or physical) justify the phantasmagorical ‘nice guys finish last’ phenomena.

I’m sorry (not sorry) to say, Alyssa, your “nice guy” was feigning friendship because his conditioned man-brain can’t comprehend the simple notion that you are a human being who is worthy of a platonic relationship. He has lurked around, pretending to value you as a person, thinking it will eventuate in sex.

This covert behaviour is almost worse than men who are directly abusive or sleezy, as it is so manipulative and underhanded it makes me want to vomit on their man-buns.

I know someone can develop genuine feelings for a friend, and if they truly respect and like you, they won’t hold it against you for not reciprocating. Rejection and feeling vulnerable is never great, but it does help you grow as a person. Engaging in a fabricated ‘friendship’ with someone you secretly want to bone in the hope they will too, only to act like an atomic dookie loaf when they don’t, is covert, predatory and reeks of misogyny. This situation is not your fault. You owe no apology.

Another underwhelming aspect of this shitastic scenario is how many men seem to be unable to separate platonic, emotionally supportive relationships with sexual relationships.

Let me mansplain …

Due to our culture of toxic masculinity, blokes are often shamed for crying, being sentimental, or showing angerless emotion. This mindset can lead to men feeling comfortable being vulnerable only in the safe spaces women create for them.

More often than not, this role is almost exclusively held by wives/girlfriends. So,  fellas struggle to comprehend how a woman can maintain emotional connection and support but not want a bit of afternoon delight. I believe men are getting better at talking about their "icky" feelings with each other, and that will relieve some of the burden of emotional labour we’ve been charged with.

All people reserve the right to personal preference to flirt without anything further, or to act friendly and affectionate without it being misinterpreted. Hell, we even deserve the free-will to feel initial attraction and then change our feelings! Inconceivable I know.

Etiquette surrounding flirting has become so confusing, we often struggle to decode if it’s even happening. There’s a simple solution: open your word hole and communicate. Make your intent clear in a respectful way, hopefully ascertain if it’s mutual, try not to take it personally if it’s not, and flirting is only flirting if it’s reciprocated. One-sided flirting is called ‘harassment’.

To conclude, there’s no such thing as ‘the friend-zone’. It’s called ‘being friends’, and you deserve good ones.


One love,
Auntie Kate




Kate Beth, our resident ranter here at TSF, has been a successful and inspiring role model for young people throughout her extensive, international, dance-teaching career.
Now a passionate eco-feminist, writer, activist, and lecturer, (and ex-professional dancer turned artist), Kate is currently completing her honours degree in sociology exploring art therapy, ‘bully culture’, and intersectionalism.
Kate is honoured to help empower young feminists with brilliant advice, facts, 
sass, and effective rebuttals to help unravel all the mansplaining, gaslighting, hair splitting, sealioning, red herrings, and entitlement, that is the patriarchy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here: https://www.sydneyfeminists.org/a


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