Tag Archives: women

Pride & Privilege: Why white men don’t need a parade.

“The notion that I should be fine with the status quo even if I am not wholly affected by the status quo is repulsive.” – Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist: Essays.

Apparently, all men are created equal.

Some old dead white guy said that once, or something close to it at least. Which is typical. Of course he’d think so, he’s an old white guy. One may even strive to say that all people are created equally, but that was a bit before women could, like, vote and stuff, so Tommy Jeff was probably just being realistic and true to the era.

Perhaps there’s some poetic truth to that statement. It’s nice to think that everyone on this earth is equal to everyone else at their core. We’re all human, we all bleed red, right?

But actually, we just really aren’t. We are not all equal and we never have been, we probably never will be. We are certainly not all treated equally and we are not all born into the same circumstances.

In America, they tell their school children that any of them can grow up to be the President of the United States one day. But before 2008, that was really only a theory. The people who grew up and became president were white, male, reasonably affluent, and openly (if not actually) heterosexual.

Of course, we liberals hailed the election of Barack Obama as a time of true change, that yes, a person of colour could be elected to the highest position in the land. The leader of the free world could be a biracial man born to an unwed teenage mother. It was Change and Hope and really great marketing and it was beautiful.

But he’s one anomaly in a long line of rich old white dudes who have held that office. He’s the exception, not the rule. It is progress, but one black president after a litany of white ones is not equality and it is certainly not justice.

Most people have some privilege. For one reason or another we value some people more than others because of an accident, a circumstance of their birth that they have no control over. Be it a Y chromosome, a lack of melanin pigment in the skin or an inherent attraction the sex opposite your own, your life will be just that bit easier because of it. It is what it is, society is weird. Life isn’t fair. But the problem occurs when we fail to recognise and accept the fact that inequality exists.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve seen a white person get upset when someone tells them you can’t be racist towards white people.

“NO! Racism is totally all the rage right now, and I WILL be included as a victim of it! REVERSE RACISM!!” they type furiously on social media.

It’s not strictly true that white people can’t have racist words thrown at them, though let’s be honest, when has a white person ever flinched at being called a ‘cracker’? It’s just so incredibly benign. There’s no history to back the word up, to make it painful.

Yes, technically, according to the dictionary definition anyone can experience racism. Oxford defines racism as, “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

But here’s the thing about dictionaries: they don’t understand the human condition.

What is perhaps more correct, is to say that white people are not truly affected by the experience of racism in the Western world. White, heterosexual males may individually have struggles in their lives but they aren’t marginalised by society. No one looks at a white guy and thinks twice about whether or not he’s right for the job, or might be about to steal that nice car over there based on his skin colour or gender alone. He’s not right for the job because he lacks the experience or someone else is more qualified. He’s a possible car thief because he’s been standing around that car for a while and looks jumpy. But it’s not because he’s a white man.

White men are judged on their merits and aptitudes and benefit from simply being male and white. People of colour don’t have that luxury, nor do gay people, trans people, women, disabled people (intellectually and physically) or people of a lower socio economic class or religious minority ie. Muslims. White, hetero, upper middle class, cis gendered, privately educated, able bodied males and frankly any mix of these circumstances hold privilege and they have advantages from birth that others never will.

“But I can’t help that I’m A, B and C and not X, Y and Z! Why are you bullying me, I can’t do anything about my privilege! And why don’t straight white men like me get a special day and a parade?!” said that one guy that doesn’t ever get it.

Every day is your day, white hetero male. Every damn day from the beginning of time has been your special day.

If you don’t want to be that guy then all you need to do is recognise your circumstances and maybe have some humility about it. Take responsibility for recognising what you have and not apologising for it, but understanding that your life will be easier than someone else’s for no reason other than the circumstances of your birth. Accept your privilege and understand that you lucked out. If you want, strive to close the gap by being decent and empathetic. You can’t change the world on your own but you have the power to reflect inwardly and start by looking at yourself when someone reacts to your actions negatively.

For example, when you’re a white guy, and a woman doesn’t seem to appreciate you opening the door for her, don’t turn around and call her a dumb feminazi bitch for rejecting your swarthy chivalry. Firstly, you should never use the term feminazi as it was popularised and perhaps coined by Rush Lambaugh, and you are better than that. Then, once you’ve erased that word from your vocabulary, keep in mind that all women are not a collective swarm of likeminded beasts, we are individuals and will react to situations differently. Women are complicated, because people are complicated and women are people.

Now, think about why you opened the door for her and take gender out of the equation.

If you opened the door for a stranger because she was struggling with a heavy bunch of boxes then you have nothing to worry about. You probably got a smile and a thank you. You treated her like a human, that action is genderless. A human was struggling and needed assistance. It’s a nice thing to do. Bravo, pat on the back for you.

If you opened that door for a woman you don’t know at all who is not encumbered with obstacles, and appears completely capable of opening said door themselves but you feel it necessary to step in anyway because she’s a woman, that is sexist. Maybe you didn’t even think about it and you meant no offence, but she can’t read your mind any more than you can read hers.

To her, your actions said: Hey little lady, allow me, a big strong capable male stranger, to assist you with a task as simple as opening a door because I don’t think you can manage it even though your hands are free and you are completely able bodied, you adorable little thing, you. Perhaps not those exact words, because as I said, we’re all different, but it’s definitely an option.

Maybe you’re a good, decent, non sexist guy but this woman perceived you differently because of her experiences. Maybe she was not flattered by your attempts at chivalry because in her lifetime, men have always treated her as incapable of simple tasks. A life that might include a time before the mere concept of equal pay for equal work was established (1972)* and when rape within marriage was still legal (pre-1976)*. Things that you as a white male have never had to think about due to your privilege, your lucky accident. She’s not treating you with contempt for holding a door open, you just reminded her of a different time, a time that treated her with contempt because of her gender.

Or, consider that it’s not even about you. Maybe she’s had a shitty day and doesn’t feel like throwing you a fucking parade because all you did was open a goddamn door.

And that’s fine, you don’t need a parade, because life is your parade.

*Stats relate to Australia.


#RIP Feminism?

by Tara Beckett

I love twitter. It’s just the right combination of serious news and semi-anonymous snark rolled up to make a pleasantly humourous cocoon of witty and bizarre entertainment. It’s also free, which is always a plus, because I hate having to pay for my daily dose social commentary (stop the threats, gullible Facebook users).

Having sung its praises, I fear that I must now highlight twitter’s downfall: there’s a lot of stupid out there and it’s having its voice heard. I weep for the future.

Sure, there’s funny, sometimes meme-creating stupid like 18-year-old American, Kristen Neel’s tweet that went viral, claiming that if Obama was re-elected she’d move to Australia because “their president is a Christian and actually supports what he says”. Of course, Australia’s Prime Minister is both female and a professed atheist so obviously the rest of the world laughed at the stupid American being all misinformed and stupid like a big stupid head.

But while Ms Neel was comically mistaken, she wasn’t really hurting anyone. She wasn’t spreading hate speech against President Obama, she didn’t say anything racist and in fact defended herself by clarifying that she was talking about the former Australian leader, Kevin Rudd who is indeed male and a staunch Christian. Perhaps she hadn’t heard about the leadership change; she does live on the other side of the world, it’s not totally out of the question. But why pick up on that factoid? It’s almost logical, just point and laugh at the foolish American girl, oh how fun!

The real problem I have with Twitter is the hash tags. Not the ones that lead you to helpful news or entertainment, but the ones that are sort of games. You know, finish-the-sentence type things like #endoftheworldconfessions that are usually harmless and then others like #LiesToldByGirls, which are bound to become sexist. I hate these tags; they’re pointless and boring and crop up every few months under a different guise but still spouting the same offensive and sexist rhetoric.

As I sorted through the #LiesToldByGirls tag, (because I’m a masochist), I wasn’t really surprised by what I saw: clichés and wildly stereotypical portraits of women as needy, insecure, man-obsessed, possessive bitches who pile on makeup and lie about it. Apparently, we are never fine, we always care and we are not okay with “our men” talking to other girls. But what was really disturbing were the more sexually explicit tweets that came from men, like these:

Cuddling means fingering, right?
Cuddling means fingering, right?
Well, it's actually "you're a whore" not "your", but you get the idea.
Well, it’s actually “you’re a whore” not “your”, but you get the idea.

Classy, right? But it’s also actually quite dangerous.

There were several tweets about “cuddling” being synonymous with “fingering” made by men as their interpretation of a woman’s “lie”. I guess we’re wasting our time on advertising campaigns that remind us that ‘no’, really does mean ‘NO’. If saying we want to cuddle basically means we’re begging to get penetrated by a few digits, then what constitutes conceding to penile rape? Sure, women just say they want a kiss goodnight at the door but actually it means they’re up for anal.

Oh wait; actually no, that’s not it at all.

Giving consent for one act is not tantamount for giving the okay for the whole smorgasbord. You’re wandering into rape territory, and you need to leave.

Equally as concerning is the notion that if a woman or girl prefers to spend her time with men or boys rather than other females, she’s just a whore and probably up for a gang bang.

Throughout my high school years, I hung out with the boys a lot more than I did girls. They were easier to deal with. I’m hardly the first person to say this but I’ll reiterate: teenage girls can be mean, especially if you don’t particularly fit in generally, which I did not. I was comfortable around boys, there were no guessing games, and they were to the point. Apparently, I was just a whore after all. I really hope that’s not what they thought of me and that I was just allowed to hang out with them as some sort of attainable, coquettish cock tease.

These tweets are disturbing and degrading, but those from other women are almost worse. Where has girl power and sisterhood gone? Why are we not only allowing and condoning men to spurt such awful and dangerous statements, but also confirming and promoting damaging clichés and stereotypes ourselves? The amount of women, or rather girls, on twitter that have participated in this demeaning hash tag and others like it, is really upsetting. These girls are young, still in their teens and they are our future. We owe feminists of the past for our freedoms today, but are we not doing a disservice to the Suffragettes of the early 20th century who fought for our right to vote, by indulging this behaviour rather than condemning it.

Why is our generation becoming complacent when it comes to feminism and rejecting these harmful stereotypes? Well, it’s just not very cool.

Feminism strikes up images of bra-burning, man-hating, hairy-legged hippies in younger women. During the recent US election, former American Idol winner and Republican Kelly Clarkson made news (somehow), by putting her support behind President Obama’s re-election, even though he is of course a Democrat. As well as supporting marriage equality, Clarkson supported the president on his pro-women efforts, which put her at odds with pro-life Republican nominee, Mitt Romney and was quoted as saying:

“I’m not a hardcore feminist but we can’t be going back to the 50s.”

Right. See the problem here?

Clarkson is 30 and has been in the public eye for the last decade after her Idol success. She’s been a positive role model to teenage girls, boasting a miriade of female-positive pop songs and not giving a damn about coping flack by the media for her fuller figure. But here she demonstrates what many women of generation Y and younger are buying into; standing up for women’s rights and rejecting a stereotype is equated to being a “hardcore” feminist, an extremist.

I’m guilty of buying into this too. When a male friend called me a feminist, because I was vocally annoyed over something I saw as sexist, I was quick to deny it and take offense. It wasn’t because I’m not a feminist; I am a feminist and I believe obtaining equality between the sexes, but it was because I didn’t want to labelled and lumped in with the image of the smelly, hairy, saggy man-hater, the ugly brush that the women we owe our freedoms to have been painted with. Younger women are afraid of coming across this way, so we don’t stand up and say, “Stop sanctioning rape on twitter, you moron” and “This hash tag is offensive and I’ll have no part of it”.

We stay silent, or we join in. And that is not okay.

Believe it or not, you can wear high heels and make up and dresses and still be a feminist and support women’s rights.

Even as I proof read this essay, there’s a niggling doubt left in my mind. Am I being too preachy? Am I sounding like some awful harpy, banging on about feminism? Am I somehow going to sound less credible by admitting that I’m happy to be a feminist?

All of these doubts are ridiculous, but they still exist because of the completely unfair and negative image of feminists that I’ve been fed over the years. This needs to stop.

I’m proud to be a feminist and I still love Twitter, I’m just a bit disappointed right now.

The Epiphany: Why I Won’t Shut Up About Lena Dunham’s Girls.

by Tara Beckett.

“Okay I don’t wanna split hairs here, but it’s not a journal, it’s a notebook. It’s notes for a book. I think journal implies a 13 year old girl who rides horses, and is obsessed with her mom and it’s not what I’m doing.” – Hannah Horvath, Girls.

Very occasionally, I can feel myself getting too invested in a fictional world. Actually, this has happened more often than I’d like it to, but I guess that’s a sad by-product of having been raised by television. I become drawn to a well written, smart piece of television or cinema and I dig my nails in so deep so that I can escape and pretend that their lives are my own. The latest of these longings is directed towards HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow have brought me the missing link between the teenage bickering and backstabbing of Gossip Girl and the 30-somethings with marriage and babies on the mind in Sex and the City. And I am so annoyingly in love. Girls is also the thing that made me sort my life out. A few months ago I was pretty close to breaking down. I wasn’t progressing with my course, I hated where I lived, I longed for more life experiences, but I was too broke to achieve them. Enter, Girls. The truth of it is, I was in a serious rut and quite depressed. Getting out of bed was hard most days. But Girls allowed me an epiphany of sorts; I was going to get to New York if it killed me.

Being born in 1990, I sort of missed the whole Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek thing, the original teen girl obsessions of the ’90s. During their heydays I was trying to avoid dying of embarrassment when my mother picked me up from primary school with Bosnian folk music blaring out of her Hyundai XL Sprint. Instead, I picked up Buffy, the Vampire Slayer from age 12. The girls I related to were not the boy-chasing, moon-eyed, indecisive Katie Holmeses or Jennifer Love Hewitts. They were lame. My girls were arse-kicking, barbed-witted, funny, overtly feminist-subtexty Joss Whedon creations. And I’m not talking about Buffy Summers herself here. Sure, maybe she was those things for the first 3 seasons, but my hero was Cordelia Chase. She was self centred, acid tongued, opinionated and downright mean. But she softened over the years and became a beloved character and a strong woman. Well, half-demon woman, but nevertheless, this was the girl that I liked and I’ll never quite forgive Joss Whedon for destroying her as he did. She deserved better.

When I hit 13 or 14, my focus shifted to the 1999 film Cruel Intentions. Thus begun my descent into wearing some seriously age inappropriate clothes. No, not boob tubes, halter necks and low rise flare jeans, (gotta love the early 2000s). It was an entirely more dangerous sort of inappropriate for an over-imaginative adolescent. I would wear nothing but black pinstriped trousers, fitted dark coloured blouses with deep vees, and this long trench style pin striped blazer jacket with shoulder pads I bought from Christopher Ari. It was my power suit and I loved it. What can I say, I was a weird kid. I had an array of high heels ranging from pointed kitten heeled Jane Debsters, to platform stiletto heeled knee high leather boots given to me by a 35 year old family friend. I topped this off with my mother’s jewelry and most shockingly, chopped my long straight waist length hair to my shoulders, complete with layers and a side fringe.

I was 14 going on 30 and it was all due to a film. I wanted to be Kathryn Merteuil and I altered my appearance and personality to do so. She was beautiful and sly and had power and money. It was everything I wanted and could only pretend to have. At this point, I was painfully shy at school. Mercilessly bullied in cruel ways that only girls can do to each other. At the end of year 7, my small group of 6 friends told me they no longer wanted to be friends with me. I couldn’t hang around with them anymore because I didn’t fit in. A few years later, one of my former friends re-befriended me. I reminded her that we once friends before and how it had ended, but she didn’t recall it at all. How funny, I had spent the last 3 weeks of my first year at high school, the whole summer and then beginning of year 8 in utter misery because according to 6 other girls, I didn’t ‘fit in’. And this girl who caused my despair, couldn’t remember it. I can never forget it.

So, I shook my old self away and acquired the wardrobe and attitude to match Kathryn’s. Every Sunday night, I’d watch Cruel Intentions and after an extensively pretentious ‘beauty’ routine, paint my nails the colour I’d mixed especially to match Kathryn’s. I was refreshing my character for the coming week. I was a serious bitch during that year of school, trying my best to emulate the manipulating seductress who bet her own body to her step brother in the hopes of winning his car and hurting a virginal Reese Witherspoon. Fortunately, I matured and found that after a some time my confidence had grown so much that I didn’t need my Kathryn persona anymore. Next came the goth phase, but I’ll spare you the account of that cliché. I did look a bit hot in black lipstick though so it wasn’t all bad.

During my later teens, after I’d mellowed a bit and began dressing my age, I jumped to the other side of the pond and found myself utterly and unequivocally obsessed with the British series, Skins. I was 17 when Skins debuted. It was raucous and raunchy, filled with sex, drugs and electro ska pop. I loved it. The first generation were my Skins, every other cast pales in comparison to Tony and Sid, Michelle and Jal and Effy, Chris and Maxxie and Anwar. And Cassie. Brilliant, airy, anorexic, aloof Cassie. I could watch her episodes again and again and still connect to that pain of being ignored, the way she can be happy and free as a teenager should be in fantasy to desolate and depressed as they so often are in reality. That first series of Skins is something I can watch on loop, and remember my final year of school and feel nothing but melancholy and nostalgia for the simplicities of my youth. For the trip to Bondi we took for Schoolies. For the incredible parties and underaged hangovers we nursed throughout our year 12 studies. For that beautiful, hot three month long summer between graduating high school until our first O Week of university. The final summer of seeing all my school friends together, as it turned out. Needless to say, I was desolate when Tony and his gang of Bristolian misfits moved on to college and the cast was replaced.

But Skins is in my past now and at 22 I’ve found my new love. Girls is about simply that. It’s the lives of four girls, who are not quite yet women. They are Hannah Horvath, who I definitely am, Marnie Michaels, who I definitely am not but who my parents would like me to be, Jessa Johansson, who I desperately wish I was but know I’ll never quite be, and Shoshanna Shapiro, who I could have been once if my parents were richer and sheltered me more. The series is about that time in our lives that’s never been covered so well on television. Felicity came close, but Girls is for that time after college or university. Those tricky in-between years after graduating from tertiary studies, but before landing that dream job you thought you always wanted. The bit when you’re trying to find your feet but you don’t know what you really want out of life yet; what you should or could or even want to become. It’s before the self assuredness I can only imagine that womanhood brings. It reminds me that I’m still just a girl, no matter what the law says I may be.

It’s no wonder I was depressed, really. I had such a desperate longing for New York and someone else’s life that I scared a few friends into thinking I might off myself. A note for all of you; don’t read Sylvia Plath if you’re having doubts about your life and definitely don’t drink a bottle of wine at 2am and then hit up Twitter and Facebook with your thoughts. You’ll get a lot of texts the next day.

The transition from Girl to Woman isn’t quite there yet. I’m still a little too disorganised, but I doubt that will change anytime soon. In terms of sorting my life out, I’m pretty close. One thing I know for sure is that I’m on my way to better things. Gone are the times that I would change myself to become some other girl, another Kathryn Merteuil. Gone are the frivolous days of my teens when the summer is what we lived for. But now I’ve entered the best of times, the game changing 20s. The time that will shape the rest of my life as a woman, the time I bid girlhood a fond goodbye and look forward instead of back. The first of my many solo travels abroad, to New York City. Perhaps my first romantic love. Sex without a side of nonchalance and indifference. There’s so much to look forward to and I almost can’t believe that my epiphany is due to the influence of a television series.

My advice to you, dear reader, is to never stop questioning yourself or what you are doing with your life. If you do, there’s the danger of becoming mediocre. Avoid that at all costs.

I am a writer, that’s what I do; but who I am is not yet fully determined, not even close.

I cannot wait to see who I become.