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Why I am an egalitarian, not a feminist.

For quite a while now my facebook feed has been full of feminism. Feminist quotes, feminist videos, and memes showing why everyone regardless of whether they know it or not has to be a feminist if they believe in the equality of men and women. When you tell someone you’re not a feminist you are normally met with a bit of ridicule and a lot of patronising attitudes.

The Definition of Feminism

People will tell you that feminism means equality, so if you believe in equality you must be a feminist. If you deny this and  continue to say that whilst you do believe in equality you are not a feminist, the person you’re talking to either gives up on you entirely or just assumes that you don’t understand the definition of feminism in the first place. A lot of discussions don’t really go anywhere because the person you are talking to either assumes you don’t know the definition of feminism or they assume you have misinterpreted it. So just to clear something up let me bring up the definition of feminism as according to Google.

feminism

ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/
noun
 1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I am not saying feminists don’t believe in equality. The definition states that the aim of feminism is making women equal to men, not making them more powerful than men. The definition is not about taking away men’s rights, it is about giving rights to women. Some feminists do hate men and some feminists believe women should do away with them entirely, but crazy ideas and crazy people exist in all ideologies and the majority of people who identify as feminists do not believe that.

So why aren’t you a feminist?

You may be wondering at this point what the hell my problem is. If I know that the majority of feminists believe in equality and I believe in equality then why won’t I just identify as a feminist? Well the answer is in the definition, it’s just not the conclusion most people seem to come to. The definition above states that feminism is the advocacy of making women equal to men, so that implies that men are equal in all areas and women are not equal in all areas and so in order to achieve equality we need to bring women up to the level of equality enjoyed by men.
I believe that society in the present day is not as black and white as that definition assumes. I believe that women are at a disadvantage and do experience inequality in some areas of life, and I also believe that men experience inequality and are at a disadvantage in other areas of life. I do not believe men have the advantage in all areas and so I do not believe equality can be achieved by making women equal to men when in some areas they may actually be better off than men. Therefore I believe equality has to be achieved by looking at the issues that affect women and the issues that affect men.

Equality works both ways

I’m a little short on time at the moment and I will bring in detailed examples in a separate post a bit later on but some of the areas I am thinking about includes:
The disproportion rate of suicide in men, that fact that although male victims can make up as much as 40% of domestic abuse statistics they are still not taken seriously, the fact that men are often given harsher sentences for the same crimes whereas women tend to be treated more leniently, the fact that whether a man wanted a child or not he will have to pay child maintenance for the next 16+ years and still be called a deadbeat father.

The fact that men are more likely to be victims of physical violence and yet feminists claim men feel so much safer walking the streets at night. The fact that white working class males are now actually the social group that is least likely to succeed in school and go to university whereas female students up and down the country now outperform their male counterparts and yet white males are still constantly told they are the most privileged group in society. The fact that prostate cancer does not get anywhere near the same publicity or funding as breast cancer. The fact that there are far, far less men’s shelters than there are shelters for women and children even though men are more likely to become homeless in this country.

Feminists often say that they fight for men’s rights as well as women’s rights, and I am sure to some extent that is true. However what I tend to see is that when feminists talk about how feminism can help men it is still on female terms. Men will benefit because gender stereotypes will be pushed aside and men will be able to be emotional, these ideas of gender roles will be destroyed so that men can stay at home and take care of the children etc. This is certainly true for some men, but I do not believe all of men’s problems would be solved if they were allowed to be like women any more than I think the only way for women to succeed is if they act like men.

‘Toxic Masculinity’

A lot of the time there is this assumption that all of masculinity is in some way toxic and that femininity can cure society of all its problems. This idea exists because these days we see masculinity as a social construct rather than a biological fact. It is true that your upbringing, the society you live in, your parents, your friends and your childhood will influence your adult life, but when you talk about men and women you can’t just pretend biology doesn’t exist because if you do you are ignoring half the argument. The nature vs nurture debate is an old one and one that has never been fully proven either way,  yet now apparently sociological theories are no longer theories but more factual than biological science.
When you look into it it does appear that women and men  deal with emotions differently. Women are more likely to find comfort in talking about it and letting their emotions out, whereas men are more likely to do one of three things: try to solve the problem, get angry or try to avoid the situation if they don’t feel it can be solved. This is of course not 100% accurate and people do vary, but again and again I keep seeing evidence that men and women’s brains deal with emotions in different areas and women typically find it easier to verbalise their feelings whereas men are more likely to try to solve or avoid the issue at hand.
I am not a scientist but I have watched videos and read articles that keep saying the same things, and I am happy to provide links if anyone is interested.
If this is true, even if it is not true for everyone, the type of talking therapy that is currently available may not appeal to men as much as women because they don’t find talking about their feelings as helpful, in fact they may feel unable to and this may cause them greater distress.
It is all very well to say that men have been conditioned not to express themselves because of toxic masculinity, but if their brains are literally wired differently when it comes to communication and emotion then surely we should be focusing on finding mental health care that benefits both parties, not assuming that all mental health care that works for women would work for men if only they could get away from toxic masculinity and just open up.

Egalitarianism

The biggest problem I have with feminism as an ideology isn’t what it says or does. I agree with a lot of the things it says and some of the things it does. What I do have a problem with is this idea that you have to label yourself a feminist or you are automatically a bad person/a woman hater. When a woman says she is not a feminist she has ‘internalised the patriarchy’ and she is ‘hurting fellow women everywhere’ because she has chosen her own definition.

I don’t mind if you want to identify as a feminist as long as you are open to debate, so I don’t see why the same can’t apply to me or to other non-feminists.Time and time again I see people pushing this binary view of the world, this idea that you either have to be a feminist or you have to be a sexist and there is no way you could believe in equality without defining yourself as a feminist. This idea that ‘my group is all good and your group is all bad’ is a really simplistic and reductionist way of looking at the world, and it is not helpful for debate or any kind of progression.

Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning “equal”)—or equalitarianism—is a trend of thought that favours equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I am an egalitarian because the definition works for me. I am an egalitarian because I  don’t see the proof in this black and white all or nothing oppressor and oppressed way of thinking. And I am an egalitarian because I am not just concerned with male and female equality but equality across the board, and in some cases I feel other cases of inequality are simply more important at this time.

I fully support the first, second and third wave feminist movements that have taken place in the last 100 years because they did fight for inequality and at that time women were less equal than they are today. The right to vote, the right to control your own body and the move towards strong and interesting female characters in popular culture (i.e Buffy, Dark Angel, Xena etc) were all fantastic things that I fully support. But I feel fourth wave feminism often focuses on the wrong topics, goes about things the wrong way and alienates and denies anyone who disagrees with them regardless of what that person actually says. I feel that I can support equality between the sexes/genders without having to identify with a group I don’t feel comfortable with, and I don’t see why that should be a problem. That is why I am not a feminist, and in the next series of posts I’ll be looking at things like the gender pay gap, sexism, inequality and structural oppression and questioning if the progressives are as progressive as they think.

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Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Have any of you seen Pedigree Dogs Exposed? For anyone who doesn’t know this was a 2008 documentary that looked at the many health problems that plague pedigree dogs as a result of years of selective breeding for dog shows and a disturbing amount of incest. After reading a recent Guardian article about the health of pugs I was inspired to write something I’ve been meaning to write for over a year, which is an article on pedigree dogs and the issues brought up by the Exposed documentaries. You can read my full article by going here: https://mytrendingstories.com/article/the-truth-about-pedigree-dogs/

Dogs 100 years ago vs dogs today

All images were taken from https://dogbehaviorscience.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/100-years-of-breed-improvement/. To find out more about Pedigree Dogs Exposed and its aftermath refer to Jemima’s blog http://pedigreedogsexposed.blogspot.co.uk/

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Thoughts on victim blaming

As a writer who likes to focus on news/current events, I’ve been a little dubious about delving into feminist discourse and engaging with those ideas. As I don’t personally identify as a feminist (I’ll write more about that in another post) I’ve found discussing the issues that relate to feminism quite difficult because so many people will quickly become offended and angry if you disagree with them, even if you don’t actually disagree with them as much as they think. However, I’ve been thinking and reading about this stuff for a while now and I think it’s time to get involved.

This is the first of a few social issues topics I’m going to be looking into, and for this article, I’m going to be looking at the concept of victim blaming.

Victim blaming

I do believe the victim blaming does happen, but I think there’s a bit more to the concept than we tend to assume. As far as I’ve seen, a lot of people will automatically assume that if you were sexually assaulted you were drunk and provocative, and so some people think that not being drunk and provocative will ensure you’re not sexually harassed. And that’s just not the case.

One time I was coming home on a Sunday evening (around 7pm) after a shift at the Zoo. I was wearing a long red anorak type jumper and jeans, and I was tired and anti social as hell. And these dudes on the bus kept talking to me, and asking me where I was getting off and such, and then they tried to follow me home even though I barely engaged with them and told them multiple times I didn’t want to hang out with them. I’m not saying that is sexual assault because it’s not, but it is a form of harassment, and it’s not pleasant. Harassment happens a lot, and it can happen no matter what you’re wearing. People can also be assaulted in jeans, tracksuits, and conservative clothes.

Because of this, it can get really annoying when people assume every time you’re harassed it’s partly your fault. I understand the frustration behind it, but I do feel that to help people understand this a greater distinction needs to be made between the different situations that sexual harassment or assault could happen. People can be harassed and assaulted when they are drunk and semi-clothed, but that isn’t the only instance where it could happen. It can also happen in broad daylight, or on public transport, or when you are walking home from work. It can happen at random, it can happen to women regardless of their sexual history, and it is often not provoked or encouraged in any way.

I don’t feel the campaigns that went viral depicting acts of everyday sexual harassment went far enough because as far as I saw they didn’t mention young people under the age of 18, who are actually more likely to experience this kind of thing frequently, but I do believe that these campaigns were and are very important, and that is one part of feminism I could definitely get behind.

The backlash against safety precautions

The problem, as far as I can see, is that some people refuse to accept that there can be a difference between harassment or assault that occurs when the victim is drunk, unaware and vulnerable, and that which happens in other situations This difference doesn’t mean that one is worse or more justifiable than the other, but it is just a different discussion.  For the rest of this article, I’m going to to be talking about assaults and crimes as relating to drunk, unaware victims.

There’s been a backlash against so-called victim blaming for quite a long time, and I’ve seen it focus quite a lot on safety adverts and warnings telling girls not to get too drunk and wander off alone. Some people believe this is avoiding the problem, that it doesn’t matter how drunk a girl is because she has a right to do whatever she wants and not have to worry about people taking advantage. Some people say that the focus should be on teaching boys not to rape, not teaching girls how not to be raped. And of course  that’s true. People shouldn’t sexually assault other people, and people shouldn’t rape other people. Period. No ifs no buts.

The unfortunate truth is that some people do sexually harass, assault and even rape other people, and I don’t believe it’s something you can just educate away. I do believe they should include consent and when it is not possible for someone to consent in those obligatory ‘growing up’ classes they have at school. They should also talk about street harassment, and why boys should not harass girls who don’t want to interact with them. You can’t really teach social skills in a classroom, but perhaps some basics in body language and how to tell when someone is interested and when someone doesn’t want to be approached could help.

They should  also talk about male victims in abusive relationships (in both homosexual and heterosexual pairings) and how that does exist because there is still a lot of misunderstanding and understanding about this issue, and I believe they should also educate both men and women about the dangers of getting too drunk. Because when you get really drunk, you are vulnerable. And some people might take advantage of you. Some people might hurt you. You could also hurt yourself.

Rape culture?

Educating people about these issues is important, but I think this idea that you can ‘teach’ people not to be rapists, that all rapists are ‘confused’ as to what constitutes rape and what doesn’t, is quite naive. The consent lessons could help some people, but ultimately we are already taught as individuals within this society that crimes such as rape and sexual assault are bad. ‘Rape culture’ may refer to a society where rape victims find it hard to get justice because people will question their story and then a conviction is hard to come by, but by the reality of the crime, rape is not easy to prove in a lot of cases.

It often happens in secluded places without witnesses, if it is reported a few days, weeks, months or years after the event there will be little or no DNA evidence.  It doesn’t mean rape isn’t a terrible thing and rapists shouldn’t be punished, but by the nature of the crime it is often very hard to achieve a conviction without substantial evidence, whether the judge personally believes the victim or not. A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

A court of law has to remain unbiased until they receive enough evidence to tilt them one way or another whether they want to or not, and if they don’t get that evidence and there isn’t a confession it is very difficult for them to proceed. It is especially hard to make a conviction if the victim was intoxicated and therefore does not have a clear memory of the event, in the same way that it is harder to make a conviction several years after the event when the exact details may not be as clear.

I’m not saying it’s not a bad thing that so many rapists are never convicted, but I just don’t really know what the courts can change to make things better. They have to remain unbiased until they are given sufficient evidence, and if they don’t get that evidence whether they want to or not they can’t convict based on your version of events alone. I know it’s horrible, but I really don’t know what the solution is.

I have never been a fan of the term ‘rape culture’ because when people use it it seems to encompass anything from cat calling to penetrative rape. Whilst this isn’t always the case, I keep seeing people using examples of street harassment as examples of ‘rape culture’, and that doesn’t sit well. You cannot rape someone with your eyes or with your words. Catcalling and unwanted attention are not pleasant, it can be frightening and it has the potential to turn into an assault, but it in itself is not assault, and it is certainly not rape.

Sexual harassment is not pleasant. At best it is annoying, and at worse it is frightening. But someone trying to talk to you, whistle at you or get your phone number is NOT in the same category as penetrative or enveloping rape. The idea that a guy catcalling you is closely related to rape seems a bit ludicrous to me, and it definitely seems to undermine the experiences of rape survivors.Rape shouldn’t be a buzz word that’s thrown around to identify any form of sexual harassment or unwanted advances. Rape is rape, harassment is harassment. The distinction needs to be made.

You can’t just teach the problem away

It is common knowledge that theft, violence, murder, rape and pedophilia are all bad. We have laws against them, we have news stories about them which condemn the crimes and the perpetrators, and these crimes go against the ethics that most people at least pretend to live by in our society. This does not, however, stop some people from doing any of those things. To explain why any individual let alone multiple individuals murder, rape and abuse children is a job for trained psychologists and even then we may never fully understand, but I doubt the people who committed these heinous crimes wouldn’t have done so had they just had a consent class at a university or school that they may or may not have attended.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try, but I think it’s incredibly naive to say “well just teach them not to do bad things, don’t teach us to stop them.”. Because the world isn’t just magically going to ‘become nice’ someday. A lot of people are not going to do these things, but some will, and I don’t know if that will ever change. As we cannot read and police people’s minds, we don’t know what they are thinking. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are going to become a murderer, a thief, a child molester or a rapist. You can’t lock someone up before they have committed a crime. So whilst we can and should talk about these issues and spread awareness about them, I don’t think we can ever ‘fix’ the entire population so no one ever does anything terrible to another person.

The importance of safety

Whilst not all sexual assaults happen when women are drunk and unaware, it can happen. It does happen. You should follow simple safety measures when going out, such as not leaving your drink unattended and trying to stay in a group if you’re going to get wasted because it’s safer. It doesn’t mean something will happen to you, and it certainly doesn’t mean it should happen to you. It also doesn’t mean something may not happen to you at another time, in another situation. But whilst you can’t protect yourself from everything, you should at least try to protect yourself where you can, and not put yourself in unnecessary danger regardless of the fact that that danger shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Sexual assault isn’t the only thing that could happen either. If you’re drunk and unaware you’re an easier target for muggings, you might get in a fight, you might lose your belongings and get stranded, and you could also injure yourself. Sexual assault is something you should try to protect yourself against, but it’s not the only thing. To say that women have the right to wander around off their faces at night and not have to take any precautions because nothing should happen to them isn’t that helpful  because of course nothing should happen to them.

Of course it’s the attacker’s fault, not the woman’s. But something could still happen to them. Isn’t it better to not be alone or not be so drunk that you’re totally unaware in that situation? Of course you have the choice and the right to do what you want, but we do not live in a PG-rated violence free Utopia, and until such a fairy tale ending comes about we shouldn’t pretend that we do.

One could use this logic in other situations. What would you do if someone said it was wrong to tell children not to talk to or go off with strangers because the adult shouldn’t harm the child even if the child does engage with them, get into their car or go to their house. And no, of course they shouldn’t harm the child. But they might. Some people would. Of course it’s not a solution to the problem, and of course if something did happen it is never the child’s fault. But you’d still rather not risk anything happening to your child, and that is why you tell them to be careful or you don’t let them walk far on their own. Not because you’d blame them if something did happen to them, but because you want to prevent something happening to them in the first place.

As far as I can see, advising women to take simple safety precautions when they go out drinking isn’t an example of rape culture, it’s sensible advice.  I guess you could argue that it’s sexist to assume that women need to use these precautions when men don’t, and in some ways I’d agree. Men may be less likely (although it’s definitely not impossible) to be sexually assaulted on a night out, but all the rest of the issues above still apply. I’d say the fact women are reportedly more likely to experience sexual violence than men, the fact that women tend to be smaller than men and are perceived to be less physically strong, and the fact that many may perceive them as an ‘easy target’ is why these campaigns tend to focus on women, but maybe we should be targeting men as well.

Conclusion

I do believe a degree of victim-blaming does happen in our society, but I feel our collective efforts are focused on the wrong thing. Statements like “instead of teaching women not to be drunk, let’s teach men not to rape them” are true, but they are also a little pointless because you can’t just teach someone not to be a rapist in the same way you cannot teach someone not to be a murderer or a thief. We should teach consent, we should emphasize the legal implications and as a society we should condemn them, but we can’t assume that everyone who does a bad thing simply ‘needs to be educated’ and that crime will go away. We need to accept that even though we shouldn’t have to, we still need to protect ourselves as much as we can, not just from sexual assault but from all the bad things that people can do to each other.

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Book reviews

You might be wondering what the Book Club and Cheap Book banners are doing on my blog. I write book reviews on a novel blog platform, and these blogs are affiliated with Book Club and the Cheap Book listings. If an author has published a book but they aren’t getting enough recognition, they can pay a small fee to Book Club and in return Book Club will feature their book on The Book Club Reading List. Reviewers like me will then look through the reading lists and select the books we want to review.

Becoming a successful author is one of the hardest things you can try to do. You may have written the greatest book ever, but if it’s not discovered by the right people, it doesn’t get enough publicity and it’s not featured on any ‘best seller’ lists, you still might not get anywhere. It’s a shame because there are some fantastic books out there that people are missing out on simply because they will never see them, but that’s the sad reality of the industry. Book Club probably won’t make these authors into best-sellers, but it will try and find them a larger audience.

I just finished reviewing Leah, a well-written and engaging mystery/horror/romance novel that really should be more popular than it is. I read Leah in a few long sittings because I just couldn’t put it down, and I really wanted to know what happens at the end. The author of Leah is a very talented writer, and I really hope this book gets the recognition it deserves someday. In the mean time all I can do is shameless promote it on my blog, which is precisely what I’m going to do. So please take a look at my review of Leah by going to my book review blog: http://sophestry.novelblogs.com/book-review-leah-by-dana-k-haffar/, and if you’re looking for a new book to fall in love with why not buy Leah on Amazon?

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New trip: Europe by Bus!

theflyingvegetarian

Hello everyone,

I have some exciting news. I’ve been planning a trip through Europe ever since I got back from Amsterdam in June, but I’ve spent the last two months working on getting established as a freelance writer and finally getting into the gym. I think I’m now in a position where I could work whilst I travel, so I should be heading off sometime in September!

IMG_5723

My trip is going to be via buses and trains, hopefully without taking a single plane. I haven’t finalised all my locations, but so far my trips looking something like this:

London>Brussels>Amsterdam>Berlin>Prague>Vienna>Budapest and then either Bucharest>Sofia>Thessaloniki>Belgrade and make my way back via Italy and France, or if I get strapped for time/money/realise I hate travelling and want to go home it might go Budapest>Zegrab> Italy>Switzerland>Germany/France>Back to London.

Travelling normally costs a lot of money, but I’ve found that once you get into Prague…

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