Sunday, January 14, 2018

It's completely feminist to "silence" Katie Roiphe or anyone else

Fear not, women. If you've been worried whether you're doing feminism right, there's plenty of men willing to evaluate your performance. Why, here's Brendan O'Neill, editor of the British libertarian site Spiked, here to generously offer a critique of modern feminism in the guise of the #MeToo movement:

If you want to see misogyny – real, visceral, woman-shaming misogyny, the kind that views women as incapable of thinking for themselves, or as possessors of such foul thoughts that they shouldn’t think for themselves – look no further than #MeToo.

That's not what misogyny means, dude. In fact, a lot of what the #MeToo movement is fighting against is the ingrained notion that women are not capable of thinking for themselves about their bodies and sexuality; that said bodies and sexualities should be available to men at all times.

But O'Neill's primary concern here is the attacks on writer Katie Roiphe, after Roiphe wrote an article, due for publication in the March issue of Harper's, that was potentially going to publicly identify the author of the Shitty Media Men's List, a spreadsheet originally intended for private consumption that named men in the entertainment industry accused of predatory behaviour. There's a good background on the List here, including the ethics of the list itself and whether Roiphe was going to name the list's originator (a claim Roiphe herself now denies).

If Roiphe was intending to name the creator of the list, that would be pretty indefensible; even so, drawing from Ms Roiphe's history as a critic of feminism and bemoaning the fate of the modern man, the article would surely not have been laudatory of the #MeToo movement.

Brendan O'Neill, however, is furious that Roiphe is being attacked, for, as he sees it, thinking for herself, and has decided that feminists have called Roiphe pro-rape merely to indicate that she is "evil, witch-like". No, I've a feeling that Roiphe is being called pro-rape because she's made a career out of explaining away, minimising, and excusing rape, as in this excerpt from her 1993 career launcher, The Morning After:


We all agree that rape is a terrible thing, but we no longer agree on what rape is. Today's definition has stretched beyond bruises and knives, threats of death or violence to include emotional pressure and the influence of alcohol. The lines between rape and sex begin to blur. The one-in-four statistic on those purple posters is measuring something elusive. It is measuring her word against his in a realm where words barely exist. There is a gray area in which one person's rape may be another's bad night. Definitions become entangled in passionate ideological battles. There hasn't been a remarkable change in the number of women being raped; just a change in how receptive the political climate is to those numbers.

[ . . . ]

Feminist prophets of the rape crisis are talking about something more than forced penetration. They are talking about what they define as a "rape culture." Rape is a natural trump card for feminism.

[ . . . ]

The idea of "consent" has been redefined beyond the simple assertion that "no means no." Politically correct sex involves a yes, and a specific yes at that.

Italics mine.

I could, of course, be accused of cherry picking quotes out of context, so please feel free to read the full extract at the link above; but it's clear that Roiphe distinguishes between what she sees as real rape - guns, knives, victims of war crimes - and date rape, which Roiphe sees as a concept conjured up by modern feminists to give the movement moral authority.


I'm sometimes asked what I mean when I call myself a moderate radical feminist. I do it to distinguish myself from liberal feminism, the notion that women can and should do exactly what they want, and that feminism is obliged to support her. I mean, women can do exactly what they want, but that does not make every choice a woman makes a feminist choice.

Radical feminism sees feminism as a movement not of individual choice, but of collective liberation from the patriarchy and misogyny which still oppress all women. And if another women is siding with the patriarchy, is harming our liberation through her choices, then we aren't obliged to support those choices.

In the case of Kate Roiphe, it's not about the double standards of a movement that claims it wants women's voices to be heard but then silencing a woman. Roiphe is tone deaf to the realities of sexual assault, starting with the fact that a list such as Shitty Men might be anonymous because women are afraid of coming forward. Roiphe sees sexual harassment and assaults that don't fit her definition of real rape as a product of feminist hysteria, a group think to give individual women victim status and the feminist movement legitimacy and authority. Her intended outing of the author of the list was meant to strip legitimacy from the #MeToo movement and tell women there's no safe place to hide.
 
There will always be those who want to discredit and derail feminism as a movement; Roiphe is happy in this case to do so, ably abetted by the usual faux outrage from the right demanding to know why feminism doesn't support this woman. The backlash against #MeToo and speaking out against sexual harassment is well underway, and there will be many women taking part in the backlash, and many, many men eager to use their arguments to justify their own sexism. And as feminists, we are allowed to "silence" them, or tell them to shut up anyway.

Feminism isn't a feel good lifestyle movement of selfies and squad goals and affirmations and empowering every woman. It's a political movement, a revolutionary movement even, to dismantle the systems of oppression women still face. We owe no support to Katie Roiphe or any other woman who has made a career out of shitting on rape victims to get ahead.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Is public transport pushing up the road toll?

Australia's road toll is rising again. The number of people killed in road accidents has been declining for decades - with seat belt laws, random breath testing, improvements in motor vehicle technology - but now it's climbing again, seen particularly over the recent Christmas New Year period, with 66 people dying in car crashes. Road experts and police are blaming the usual main causes of crashes - speed, fatigue and alcohol - and the more recent cause of dangerous driving, mobile phone use behind the wheel. 

But there could be another factor, an aspect of modern life causing an increase in distracted and dangerous driving, as touched on in this Facebook post: 



People are turning more and more to public transport in larger cities in Australia, and that's a great thing, but could it be contributing to the increase in the road toll? People spending less time during the year behind the wheel, polishing their skills. They're instead on buses, trams and trains, where they don't bear responsiblity and can use their phones all they want. 

But then it's Christmas, and they're getting out the car they usually only use to drop their partner at the station when it's raining and for weekend trips to Bunnings, and they're driving hundreds of kilometres on motorways and highways they're not used to. Could the lack of practice be a factor in crashes? Are these out of sorts drivers and their rusty skills causing accidents? 

I don't know if it is true or not. I don't know if people doing the sensible thing and using public transport during the year is causing a decrease in sensible driving during the holidays. But I do hope the boffins who research such things are looking in to it, and if so what to do about it to make things safer for everyone. 

Just don't be this guy. Not only from my hometown of Newcastle, but the very suburb we lived in when last up there; and I saw this and thought I bet the late night comedy shows pick this up: 



Don't be this guy. And I sincerely hope I never, ever find out what sort of disgusting video he was watching.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge

I've always been a voracious reader, mostly non fiction - I'm only sorta joking when I say I read most of the non fiction books at my local library before I moved to Sydney - but with the advent of smart phones, my phone replaced a book in my bag, and I've been reading fewer actual books. It's been worse since I started university, and was studying what I enjoyed - but I had quite enough of politics, crime and policy as my "day job", and it cut back my reading for pleasure even more. I scroll social media, I read long form articles (so many long form articles), but not actual books.

Since last year, I've been trying to rectify that. I tried uploading the books I was reading to this blog, but it was annoying and I stopped bothering, and then I finally joined Good Reads. And now, I'm doing the 2018 Reading Challenge.


I'm hoping to read 80 books this year, tough but doable (I notice I've slowed down a lot, and I no longer have a big commute to read on). There were people on Goodreads noted as having completed their 2018 challenges already; I don't know, if you've already read all the books you hoped to read in a year on day one, maybe you should aim a little higher. As for me, I've no reading plan; there's a couple of books I really want to, or feel I should, get to reading (Infinite Jest?) but apart from that I'll see where the mood and library selections take me.

If you're on Goodreads, please add me as a friend so we can track each others' progress - and if not, do sign up; it's fun and we should all be reading more.

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Violet has read 0 books toward their goal of 80 books.
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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

New Year, New Republic? Maybe it's time for a new idea

Oh dear. It seems the "success" of blowing $100 million dollars on a survey to tell us what we already knew about same sex marriage has rather gone to Malcolm Turnbull's head. I suppose you can't blame him, after all - success isn't something he's had a lot of in recent years; we haven't seen a Prime Ministership that started in hope collapse into a chaotic heap like this since Kevin Rudd.

But having a taste for postal surveys now, he's proposed we have another one, this time on his pet subject - that Australia should become a republic. Now, it seems to me a no brainer, and not just because of course I'd think so, I'm Irish. Surely it is time that we took our destiny into our own hands. Surely both logic and national pride states that we should have an Australian head of state, rather than the offspring of a minor branch of German nobility who happened to be on the British throne when the music stopped on a convoluted European game of musical chairs two hundred years ago? Surely looking to mother England is a bit ridiculous still, in modern, multicultural Australia, where you can't sit in the Australian parliament if you're a dual British citizen but can't be Australian head of state if you're Australian and not British? 

But it's all even more complicated than that last sentence. A republic isn't a done deal. Remember the last time an Australian republic was a thing, with the Constitutional Convention back in 1998 and the resulting referendum in 1999? The republican movement, headed by a then dashing young(ish) Malcolm Turnbull, lost. Most blamed the model of Republic presented to voters, and that definitely played a big part - not just that Australians were asked to vote for a prospective head of state elected by the parliament not the people, but also the fact that there was debate over the model all at allowed the monarchist movement to wedge the electorate to their success.

That a referendum on a republic lost at all in the year of 1999 is a thing of wonder. It's difficult to envision just how unpopular the monarchy was, back in the Nineties. You had the Queen seeming like a dour old toad watching her unattractive children have ghastly sex scandals and messy divorces, then Princess Diana was killed in a Parisian car crash and in the ensuing Royal silence, half of Britain and the world was baying for their blood, with not a small number convinced the Royal Family engineered the crash themselves. 

Yep, we were supposed to be loyal to this lot.

So we hated the Royals then, and still voted to keep them. Now, good grief, if love for the Royal family makes us hold on to the monarchy then a republic would have no chance. The Queen, through successive gold and diamond jubilees, has been transformed in public sentiment from a grumpy and expensive old biddy to a beloved and revered figure, adored for nine decades of public service and not nine decades of life in unimaginable luxury due to a quirk of genetics. Throw in Will and Kate, and now good grief Harry and Meghan Markle, and the popularity of the royals looks assured, at least until the gap between this lot hitting middle age spread and their children attaining adulthood and gossip column status. (They'd want to watch it, William is really balding there).


I'm not excited so much as just grateful British royals can no
longer pretend India is theirs. Photo: Popsugar. 

Any new campaign for an Australian republic will have to compete not only against the tired old arguments of Monarchists - that the Queen is really Australian, that the governor general is our head of state, stability, security, we can't change the name of the RSPCA because it will confuse the puppies - but against the popularity of the young royals. It's understandable that people get excited about them (although some of them are very defensive about it) but it doesn't mean any of them should be head of our country.

In fact, celebrity is a good reason to get rid of the constitutional monarchy. America is doing just fine without a monarchy (Trump government notwithstanding); they have a royal family to admire, read about, gossip about and mark life's milestones with. It's the Kardashians.

The Kardashians offer all the benefits of a royal family, and many more. Yes, they're famous for being famous - and so, basically, are the Windsors. But there's no taxpayer subsidies for the Kardashians; they pay for themselves. They're not restrained by protocols of royal decorum, so if they want to pour champagne through the air into a glass on their butts, have a baby with their sister's boyfriend's ex girlfriend, and torment us with a 25 day Christmas card that WAS SUPPOSED TO REVEAL A PREGNANT KYLIE AND IT DIDN'T AND I'M FURIOUS, they can.



But then there was this:




You can't tell me seeing that happiness after seeing the struggles up close isn't better than the British royal family.

And the Kardashians? Wedding after wedding after wedding.

But there's the biggest advantage of all that the Kardashians have over the royals. When we get bored, we can just move on. No one needs to mint new coins or have referenda or anything; we can all just find a new family to obsess over, the staff at JB HiFi can move all the Kardashians DVDs to the $6.99 bin, and that's it. Quick and simple.

We need to become a republic. We can still watch Wills and Kate and Harry and Meghan; they might even visit sometimes. We can have parliament choose a president, which seems a safer option, or go for the direct election model, which is more likely to win public support and means more chances for democracy sausage, if we do run the risk of President Shane Warne. And we can choose our own families to vicariously share life's journey with.

Let's make it a point of the republican campaign - you can like the young new royals without letting them rule us (someone else can figure out the wording - I can do the sociology, not the soundbites). It's time to mark our country's maturity in becoming a republic, even if we have to admit our own immaturity and celebrity obsession to do so.