Why am I a feminist? Weirdly enough, I get asked this a lot. I get told ‘why bother? men and women are basically equal, right?’ I have had people argue with me and say they aren’t a feminist because they like dresses/baking/bras/dick/shaving/being married/compliments/being a housewife/children etc and all this demonstrates to me is that ‘feminism’ is massively misunderstood and misrepresented.

I am a feminist because it’s 2014 and we still have slut shaming, body policing, victim blaming, marginalisation and exclusion of women in positions of authority, fat phobia, transphobia, heteronormative ideals shaping our policies and perceptions of morality and relationships. I am a feminist because society is patriarchal and women are shot down in a variety of ways. I am a feminist because I support the rights of women to do what they want with their bodies and don’t believe that anyone has the right to dictate what kind of body/sex/style/ a person has. Below I have listed other reasons why feminism is a vital as breathing to me. What do you think? Let me know.

 

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1. Because Emma Watson went on stage and made feminism male centred, with the primary focus on their inclusion and feelings thus eradicating and marginalising the fact that women have been systematically oppressed and symbolically annihilated from history by men for decades. Men should not need a campaign called ‘he for she’ to stop treating women like shit. That stuff is basic decency 101 and the fact that EW has been practically canonised for her contribution is insulting to those women who have been speaking out for years. To those women of colour, or trans women or women without the privileged platform she does who have been fighting for women’s rights for years with nowhere near the recognition that a well educated, white woman has garnered from going on stage and saying ‘hi men, we love you.’

2. Because Sam Pepper sexually harassed women in the streets in an apparent bid to highlight the problem of street harassment. Logic, where are you? Also, and more importantly, because Sam Pepper is an abusive, manipulative rapist who has hurt young girls and treated them like shit because he felt entitled to their time and bodies and knew that as a white man with power, he would be protected by societal practices that see 97% of rapists going about their lives with no repercussions.

3. Because there are countless people on twitter telling the girls who have been brave enough to come forward that they are whores, liars and deserved it. When I shared a video link of a brave woman sharing her experience of being anally raped by Pepper, a young girl said ‘I don’t care, he’s still my hero.’

4. Because when I asked a man not to call me ‘babe’ on twitter, he called me an idiot, said that women are lying, fat and disgusting social climbing whores but then said I was foul mouthed.

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5. Because when I was harassed by three men recently and scared to death, a male friend told me I should have been flattered. Women everywhere are told that they should be flattered by street harassment, cat calling and objectification.

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6. Because when I complained that a shop assistant had charged me ‘£10 and a hug’ for a phone charger, another man said ‘id have asked for a blow job.’

7. Because those things are not rare, or one offs but happen to women every day.

8. Because when a women is raped, society asks what she was wearing/drinking or doing first.

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9. Because majority of rapists will never spend a day in prison or even be cautioned for behaviour that leaves victims traumatised for life. This contributes to rape culture and a society where victims feel helpless and see no point in reporting as assault is so trivialised. Because celebrities contribute to rape culture by implying that sexual assault is inevitable.

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10. Because there is a hashtag on twitter called ‘women against feminism’ full of men spewing vitriol about feminists and women who can’t see the irony in that.

11. Because ‘you are ugly’ or ‘I wouldn’t fuck you’ are supposed to be insulting to us, thus reinforcing idea that as women we are a) primarily interested in appealing to men, b) our value and worth are intrinsically linked to our appearance, which is c) ranked based on narrow, unrealistic beauty ideals that are exclusive and marginalising to many women.

12. Because men still get paid more, still represent the majority in senior positions, still hold a disproportionate amount of seats in parliament and still control power structures and labour markets yet when you mention the word ‘patriarchy,’ men the world over start throwing Andrea Dworkin memes around and calling you a bitch.

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13. Because transphobia is rife and trans women are treated appallingly by society; fetishised, marginalised, excluded altogether, demonised and invalidated.

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14. Because the Daily Mail exists

15. Because women still don’t have full bodily autonomy and pro life campaigners are constantly trying to limit or deny access to abortion even though this just makes the process incredibly unsafe for women who feel that they have no alternative but to seek out dangerous methods.

16. Because ‘leaked’ (stolen and distributed without permission, a violation of trust and privacy, yet termed as ‘leaked’ thus undermining the severity of situation) nudes were a trending topic, a 4Chan wank fest and proof that female sexuality is shamed and held in low regard.

17. Because those women whose nudes were leaked were blamed and called sluts, whores and told they deserved it.

18. Because men constantly derail discussion about domestic violence and rape online by intervening with ‘not all men’ or ‘what about male victims?’

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19. Because we celebrated a nail varnish that detects date rape drugs and lauded it as revolutionary rather than tackle male entitlement, objectification and rape culture.

20. Because Beyonce stood in front of a giant ‘feminist’ sign but people questioned her commitment to the movement, yet EW stood up and talked about men for fifteen minutes and is feminist icon 2k14. Intersectional feminism is life.

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21. Because women who own and control their sexuality are so threatening to men, that they are shamed and torn apart

22. Because when a man cheats, society asks well what did you do to make him?

23. Because rape jokes are hilarious but say ‘male tears’ and watch grown men throw a tantrum.

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24. Because it’s fine to demand proof of lived experience, demand debate, discussion and attention on line but when a feminist obliges, everything is dismissed and undermined immediately as ‘nonsense’ ‘bullshit’ and counteracted with a Paul Elam quote.

25. Because women shouldn’t be branded as ‘emotional’ ‘bossy’ ‘ranty’ or ‘highly strung’ when they display similar behaviours to ‘assertive’ ‘confident’ men

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26. Because if you do, you’re a slut but if you don’t you are a frigid prude.

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27. Because female relationships are displayed as either competitive bitch fests or entirely centred around men and fashion.

28. Because when I started a PhD a man told me I shouldn’t be showing off.

29. Because when a man rubbed against me on a bus, I got thrown off for shouting at him to stop.

30. Because we teach girls that their bodies are suggestive and sexual and that it is their responsibility to avoid attack

What do you think? Tweet me and follow @anygirlfriday

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This week,  ‘leaked’ photos of celebrities ended up on 4Chan and Reddit – those pseudo cool sites where desperate men go for wank-bank material – and then continued being circulated around other social media sites. I say ‘leaked’ because that term implies an oops situation, a somehow accidental occurrence with limited fallout – that isn’t what this was. Calling them ‘leaked’ trivialises the situation, undermines the validity of the victims in feeling outraged and abused and suggests that this was an inevitable consequence to be expected. Hacking into people’s private accounts, stealing private photographs and ransoming them out for bitcoins, kudos or whatever isn’t an accident – it’s abuse. It’s a violation of privacy. It is a violation of consent. Worryingly though, I think that is what some people are enjoying the most. The humiliation; the embarrassment. Tearing apart women and then proclaiming that patriarchy doesn’t exist.

These photographs weren’t meant for us. They weren’t meant to be seen by dry dick dudes desperately refreshing their twitter feeds in hopes of an ass shot. They weren’t meant to be seen by detached, faceless observers who casually download an image and then instantly forget it, thus further reinforcing the idea that female bodies are objects to be used, disposable and easily tossed aside. Viewing them from whatever angle you’re using to justify it, isn’t okay. Unless those photos were personally sent to you by the person involved, they weren’t meant for you.

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Somehow, the issue of consent seems to blow the minds of some people. I have heard countless excuses as to why the photos are fair game; they shouldn’t have taken them in the first place; they are celebrities so it’s fine; Kate Upton poses nude anyway! What’s the difference?! They should have been more careful with deleting or storing the images… My answer to all of this is stop with the victim blaming bullshit. That includes you Ricky Gervais – we all saw your tweet. Being a celebrity does not mean you sign away the rights to your private life; it shouldn’t. Choosing to act or sing or model shouldn’t bring with it conditions such as your naked body, vulnerable, sexual, posing for your partner, being public property. It is NOT the same as posing for a photo shoot, where you consent to the images being seen, where you choose which images are used and included in a magazine spread, where you are in control of the situation. It is not the same as appearing topless in a movie where you consent and context is your friend and you have a discussion about what can and can’t be shown on screen etc. Just because a woman chooses to pose nude in certain situations, does not mean that her body is yours whenever you feel like it. She has the right to dictate the conditions of her exposure.

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Blaming women for this by saying they shouldn’t take nude photos is just another symptom of a society which would rather focus on blaming the victim, than on tackling entitlement to our bodies, privilege, objectification of women and the routine way in which we dehumanise celebrities. It is the modern media equivalent of saying don’t go out in a low cut top. Sites like The Spectator who say that ‘women are being let down by their ignorance of the pitfalls of technology’ and ‘ girls must learn to protect themselves on-line by taking meticulous precautions against digital theft’ miss the point completely and play into the idea that it’s somehow the victims fault. If only those silly girls knew about technology, this would have all been alright, yeah?! In addition, no one seems to care that somewhere behind these images are people requesting them. No one seems to challenge memes like these, that encourage men to view women as objects and public property – who seem unable to understand the difference between consensual behaviour and privacy. 

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We have become so adjusted to defending the rights of men to control and objectify women, that rather than challenge the hacking, the posting and the subsequent refusal of sites like Reddit or Perez Hilton to take the images down, we lay the blame on the women for taking the photos in the first place. Instead of protecting the women, we defend the hacker and poster;

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We shame them for their actions, judge them. The way in which society treats female celebrities is misogyny in practice; we build them up; elevate them to giddy heights and then get off on the subsequent fall from grace. Look at Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears. It is terrifying how quickly society turns against women and feels duty bound and justified in tearing them apart. 

One of the celebrities released a statement saying the images were for her husband and the collective sigh of relief from certain areas of Twitter were palpable – this was ‘acceptable,’ the images were for her husband! Of course! This complies with the heteronormative relationship focus we fall back on and people felt able to ‘justify’ these much more quickly than they could others that had no obvious recipient. Those women were ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ for their behaviour obviously and people frothed at the mouth; one hand typing viscous insults, the other jerking off. 

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Taking nude photos is not a crime, not bad, not the issue. Hacking and stealing and violating trust is. That’s the problem. People feeling entitled to see the images, who believe that these women’s bodies are public property and there to be lusted over, that is is the problem. It’s interesting to me that we have a culture where women are sexualised, told to be sexual, sexed up and yet when they conform to this ideal, when they are acting in a sexual manner they are shamed for it anyway. If anything screams we can’t win, it’s this situation. Women being blamed for being sexual by a society that damn near demands it of them.

 

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Cunt; pussy; flaps; vag; fanjita; vajajay; box; cooch; gash; beaver; clap trap; clunge; hoo hoo… whatever you want to call it, your vagina is a work of art. Literally. British artist Jamie McCartney made the sculpture above; in total he made moulds of 400 different lady gardens, including the parts of twins, transgender women and those in that invisible category in society; women over the age of 30. His aim was to make vaginas more ‘understandable’ and to stop the increasing number of ‘designer vagina’ operations taking place each year by demonstrating that pussies come in all shapes and sizes. 

There are so many myths about vaginas, it almost makes my head spin: They smell, they are all the same, too much sex makes them loose, virgin vaginas are the holy grail of tightness etc. It’s all bullshit – your vagina is awesome as it is and you don’t need special feminine wash or to worry about how you taste when your partner heads south. Our vaginas are self cleaning, stretchy marvels and an orgasm is better for a headache than paracetamol. That doesn’t quite make up for monthly cramps but it’s a start, you know?

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There is a scene in Sex and The City where Charlotte has to keep a vagina journal because hers is depressed; she claims that she thinks they are ‘ugly’ and this down there despair is echoed by lots of women who aren’t on BFF terms with their bits. It’s no surprise really, when you think of the ways that our vajajays are portrayed; weak, passive. How the ultimate insult to a man’s masculinity is to call him a pussy. How we say ‘fuck you’ in an argument, implying that being fucked, the receiver, the vagina is bad and worthy of derision.

I asked twitter what names they like/loathe for their lady gardens and the response was amazing – terms like ‘pussy’ and ‘cunt’ were favoured whereas anything that infantalises (‘minnie’ ‘hoohoo’) or implies something disgusting/deviant were out (‘gash’ ‘wound’ ‘whore hole’) Turns out women don’t like it when you suggest that their vaginas are childlike or nasty; who’d have thought it?

As a feminist, it is interesting to see the ways in which female bodies and sexuality is policed or shamed in society and the linguistics surrounding this most ‘feminine’ of female parts is fascinating. Men want to control it at any cost; either by claiming it, naming it, reducing it down to a childlike entity that they have power over or by shaming it with terms like ‘whore hole’ or ‘gash.’

insultsTo me, it’s as if guys spend so much time talking/rapping about sex and trying to get into our knickers, only to then turn around and use what they find as the ultimate insult – your vagina is both the best and worst thing to happen to a guy apparently. Let him in and it’s good times a go-go and judging by a bunch of rap lyrics, ‘poppin that pussy’ is on every guys to do list and yet despite this, calling a guy a cunt or some other gendered insult is as bad as it gets. Colour me confused by this 180; are vaginas good or bad? WHO KNOWS? We could argue that this sums up many perspectives on women; objectified, good for sex but ultimately inferior.

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Vaginas are subject to so much hate in society; from a linguistic point of view in the language that we use to describe them; our harshest words to hurl as insults are gendered which imply that being a woman is somehow the worst thing ever. Even more worrying, vaginas are seen as passive penis purses – the assumption that we exist as little more than holes for men to claim as demonstrated by violent porn, video games or the majority of films where female characters are throw in as male gaze fodder or as a sassy sidekick for the man to fuck at some point before he heads off in a shiny car to be broody and aloof elsewhere #mencantbetamed2k14. There is no real development of character in any of these scenarios, just a body, a hole.

In addition, insults like ‘fuck you’ as I mentioned above, are rooted in gender shaming; the idea that being fucked is shameful; that cissexist, hetero assumption that sex is only sex when its PIV further supports the shaming of female sexuality and the policing of our bodies, The overwhelming message seems to be ‘BE SEXY, BE SEXUAL, OOPS TOO MUCH, SLUT.’

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Women are taught to fear their vaginas – to see them as something separate from themselves almost. Consider abortion arguments where women are seen as little more than rent a wombs by pro lifers who can’t see a woman as an independent agency with her own rights and validity. We are taught to fear masturbation, to ignore our own desires by a patriarchal society that is scared shitless by female sexuality. The majority of sex scenes in movies focus on the primacy of the male orgasm and his pleasure; porn mirrors this on a bigger scale and sexually confident women are often torn apart in the media; see how the world reacted to Beyonce’s VMA’s performance and the backlash against Nicki’s Anaconda video which subverts traditional ideas about sexual dominance. A lot of men just can’t seem to get on board with confident women who are comfortable with their sexuality – we throw them off and resist their understanding of how women should behave. This is usually the point on twitter where a guy starts insulting my appearance or saying I am a slut because I have ‘that kind of face.’ Not really helping yourself there, mate but carry on proving my point.

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The biggest myths or outright lies surrounding our cherry pies are that they smell or taste bad – this is absolute bullshit. Vaginas smell and taste great. Sweet, metallic at times, musky. The scent is heady. The majority of guys I know LOVE giving head; they just worry that the girl won’t enjoy it or let them head on down. This could be a chicken and egg situation; what came first? The fear and confusion about our vaginas or the reluctance to let ourselves relax and enjoy oral sex? Companies make BIG MONEY by cashing in on the fears we might have about our vaginas;  ‘fem fresh’ and other feminine hygiene products promise to leave a pleasing aroma and you can buy special knickers and wipes to keep you fresh as a daisy. YOU DO NOT NEED THIS SHIT. Your vagina smells the way it should do; unless you have an infection, discharge and a soft, musky smell are perfectly normal and GOOD. I have written about oral sex before; some women don’t like it and that’s cool whereas others love it but worry about what their partner will think when he’s down there; if they are decent, they will just be thinking ‘I really hope she likes this.’

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Another myth peddled by scaremongers (or trashboys)  is that too much sex can make us super loose. BULLSHIT. Your vagina is a muscle.  Now, most of my muscles don’t really do a lot unless napping and pouring cereal counts as a workout, but I am reliably informed that muscles are clever things. Your vag can stretch out and then snap right back; even after having a baby. He won’t get lost inside you even if you’ve slept with half of Hull; it’s a vagina, not the Bermuda Triangle. Side note – so tempting to explain this idea of loose lala’s away by saying it’s a response from insecure guys who worry about the size of their manhood…

Finally, we are told that our vaginas are ugly. Boobs are sexualised to such an extent that we get a daily dose with our breakfast in The Sun and breastfeeding is considered unnatural by teen girls who are convinced that their tits are toys for the men in their lives but vaginas? No one mentions them unless it’s when hurling an insult or lamenting their appearance a la Charlotte and her depressed hoo ha. This cloak and daggers approach to our pussies presents them as shameful secrets to be kept hidden at all times lest we knock out the boys around us with the scent of fish (where did this come from by the way? Playgrounds the world over can be found by following the chanting of ‘something smells fishy’ by young boys as they chase girls around)

My advice would be to ignore everything bad you have heard or are told about your vagina. Get to know it; its yours so you can do what you want with it. Shave, wax, grow your pubes long enough to create a dragon shape or dye it purple, up to you. Learn what you like and what it takes to get you off so that sex is more pleasurable for you. Look, really look at yourself; vaginas are beautiful. Just like dicks come in all shapes and sizes, so do vaginas so if yours doesn’t look like Barbies, it’s cool. Don’t worry. It’s still gorgeous. Women are a powerful force to be reckoned with; why else do men the world over go to great lengths to subdue and shame us? Sexually confident and fearless women who don’t need validation are terrifying. Be one of them.

samantha

 

 

 

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