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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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Tuesday morning update

I have two announcements to make this fine Tuesday morning.

    1. Take a look at my published article on why we need more video campaigns for male domestic abuse victims
    2. I’m doing book reviews now! Take a look at my new and shiny book review website, and if you are an author or looking for new books to read this summer click on the ‘book club’ banner for lists of cheap books and the opportunity to list your own book and gain a wider audience.

For more information on Alter Ego by Tory Allyn (the book I’m currently reviewing) check out it’s Amazon listing here.

I’ve been quite busy writing about weird topics for minimal pay (latest includes sewing machine sergers, karaoke machines, and milk frothers) but I promise to update again soon with a longer and very exciting post.

Book Club Reading List

Cheap eBooks

Cheap eBooks

Cheap Kindle Books

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Same sex marriage is finally legal in every US state

The 26th of June 2015 (yesterday!) will go down in history as the day that the whole of America officially legalized same sex marriage, couples in every state in America will now be able to enjoy equal marriage regardless of their sexual orientation. It seems incredible now to think that fifty-sixty years ago you could go to jail if you were in a gay relationship, that so many people were jailed and suffered for something so ridiculous as being in love (or just having sex). It sucks that our societies made such a big fuss for so long about people being gay or bisexual, and its terrible how many gay and bisexual men and women suffered for their feelings and were thought ‘unnatural’ for their love and consensual sexual actions. However, it’s also fantastic and exciting that it is within our lifetimes that this is changing, and that decades and centuries of oppression in America and the West over homosexuality are (mostly and sometimes slowly) coming to an end. Homophobia still exists, but I genuinely think now that in another fifty-sixty years it will be almost completely a thing of the past. You can’t change every single individuals mind, but equality in the eyes of the law is an important milestone, and one that should be celebrated.

This is such a simple and obvious thing that its hard to understand why it has ever been (and continues to be for some people and some entire countries) an issue. Same sex relations is not, and never has been, unnatural. It has happened throughout human history from the earliest civilisations, some people have always been and always will be gay or bisexual, and it occurs frequently in other animals (none of whom seem to mind or have homophobic reactions). Love is love, and a relationship can be good or bad regardless of the sex of those in question, but if a relationship is good and if someone has found a person who they love and trust enough to spend their lives with, that should be celebrated regardless of (barring children and animals) who is in love with who. Finding someone you really truly love doesn’t happen often in a persons life, and when it does those people have the right to have it recognised by their country and law regardless of who has (or hasn’t) got a penis. It sucks that its taken so long to get to this point, but I am ecstatic its happened now. Happy pride day, and enjoy your marriages whoever you are. You all deserve it. ❤

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Tim Hunt

The response to Tim Hunt’s ‘trouble with girls’ comments went too far. It is one thing to be angry about the comments he made, and he definitely needed to apologize for them, but his being forced to resign, kicked out of various organisations and basically being shunned from the scientific community for the rest of his life seems a bit of an over-reaction. Not an over-reaction to job inequality itself, but to what Tim Hunt actually said himself. Doesn’t it seem a little extreme that someone was fired and his reputation ruined for saying girls cry, something that you’d get a telling off and be made to apologize for in school or the work place? I would say yes, it is very extreme and actually a little unnerving. It has been taken out of context and used to highlight issues that are important, but are not the fault of Tim Hunt.

What he said was insulting. His exact words (as has been quoted everywhere and that will probably now haunt him forever) were: “Three things happen when they are in the lab, you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

This was a really stupid thing to say. Men and women can work together and not fall in love, and a lot of women are not going to cry if you insult their work (although I did find Boris’s comments on male and female tears quite interesting) . To suggest women cry whenever you criticise them has a lot of sexist connotation to ideas of women being infantile and emotional. Suggesting labs should be segregated is also a stupid thing to say (and not a good thing to imagine). However, it is important to remember at this stage that 1: there is a lot of evidence to suggest he was supportive towards female scientists, 2: He fell in love with a female scientist and may have had her in mind for the first part of his statement, falling in love at work doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and 3: He never said women made bad scientists. He implied that they were emotional, and that men and women may be better suited working separately, but he did not say women could not or should not be scientists.

It is understandable that this spurred frustration. A lot of STEM related jobs are dominated by men. Women are still less likely to be in positions of influence (partly because there are less women in the professions so the stats are going to be lower, but they may also find it harder to be promoted) and some are still insulted and stereotyped by their male co-workers. There are still gaps in pay, pregnancy is still being used as a reason not to further women’s careers, and some men are still misogynists.  A lot of this is probably because as there are less women in STEM careers (I saw a figure that said around 15%) there are less women to fight for equal rights and discourage sexist behaviour (not to suggest men won’t also discourage it, or that all men will be sexist as they really won’t). Female equality in the work place has still not been around that long, and its still not perfect. It’s far better than it would’ve been forty years ago, but in some areas it still has a while to go. Attitudes towards women have also greatly improved, but some men still see female co-workers as lesser than male co-workers and will treat them as such. Women can also be sexually harassed by make co-workers, and may feel in danger. All these things are true and should change.

Less girls on average will study certain STEM subjects at A-Level and degree than boys (I remember at my university there were far less girls in the engineering department than boys) and this is partly because we do encourage girls and boys to be good at different things (you will find more girls studying history and english than boys most of the time).  We need to encourage children to pursue what they are interested in regardless of their sex, and do more to help girls that are science and engineering pursue their ambitions.  We also need unions and points of contact if anyone in the workplace does feel mistreated.

There are also of course wider issues of sexism and unwanted sexual advances in everyday life which I won’t go into now as I wouldn’t say its relevant to the Tim Hunt argument itself, but it is an issue that almost every woman will have experienced at some point (often frequently) in her life, it is disturbing, it is not at all pleasant, it can result in sexual violence and rape and people need to know about it and know that it’s not okay. This article does not address these issues, but don’t think for a second that I don’t take them seriously.

However, we don’t need to use individual men who said stupid things one time as a scape goat for all the injustices that women face in today’s society,. Tim Hunt is an old guy (72) and belongs to a different generation. From what I can gather (as I don’t know the guy) he has a good relationship with his wife, he doesn’t advocate violence towards women (or practice it) and he has supported male and female scientists. Nowhere in his interview did he say women should be murdered, raped, hurt, or that (apart from being emotional) they were any lesser than men, and he didn’t even say women couldn’t or shouldn’t be scientists. I won’t deny that his comments suggest he has stereotypical and outdated views of women, but in light of his age and from what we know of his typical behaviour towards women (that we can know of based on newspaper interviews) he was not an abusive man or a terrible colleague who tormented women in his daily life, in fact it appears he encouraged female scientists and was in favour of women being in the field.

As he has caused a lot of offence he should have been forced to issue a public apology, UCL, The Royal Society and other organizations associated with him should have issued statements along the lines of “nothing Hunt said represents our views, we are committed to diversity” and they may even have used some of the bad press to promote women in science. I understand why they fired him in view of public opinion, but I don’t believe they should have.  In the grand scheme of things, he is an old man who said some stupid un PC things (not unlike a lot of our grandparents) and who got told off by his wife for it. If he had suggested that women shouldn’t be scientists than the response would have been more understandable, but he didn’t. It does appear to have been a bad joke that severely backfired and has been read into too much. People are bringing up real issues that need to be taken seriously, they are just blaming the wrong guy for it.

These attitudes may make it harder to work in this field, but I find it extremely hard to believe that someone who really wanted to be a scientist would be put off by some dated remarks like this. To suggest that women are so timid and easily swayed that something this small could put them off a career they wanted to pursue is as insulting as what Hunt said in the first place, in my opinion anyway.  His dated views are luckily not the norm any more, but should he be that severely punished for what he said? Hunt is not the reason for unequal employment experiences between men and women, he may remind us of it but he is not responsible for it. You can’t blame this one old man for your own experiences of inequality, and it isn’t fair to suggest he is responsible for or even advocating inequality. Please take a moment to read what he actually said, and feel free to be annoyed at the dated stereotypes, but don’t take it for anything more than it was. There are serious issues here that need to be improved, but these issues are not because of Tim Hunt and it seems unfair and quite cruel to blame him for them.

Reading

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/11/nobel-laureate-sir-tim-hunt-resigns-trouble-with-girls-comments

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/12/tim-hunt-trouble-with-girls-in-science-comment

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/society/11674257/Male-and-female-are-different-hardly-earth-shattering-news.html

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Equality for boobs

Today,  I would like to talk about bras.

pink-bra-640x353

Now, my boobs are quite big (32-24 F’s to be exact depending on the shop). From a quick google search (I’m not pretending to be a boob expert here) it shows that the average bra size appears to have increased from a B to a DD-E in the last few decades (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/bra-size-survey_n_3645267.html for example), which is attriubted partly to weight gain and breast implants but far more to more women wearing the correct bra size, which suggests the average was always in the DD-E region and people just didn’t know it. Despite of this, even though I am sure there are more options for women with larger breasts than there were 20 years ago, I and many other women with breasts above a DD-E find that most stores do not cater for us, and that our bras cost twice as much as a bra for a A-D cup.  In my personal experience at least 50% of women that I have met wear a D or larger cup, many of whom are rather slim with around a 32-34 band. Again this is not to suggest that all or even most of women with large breasts are slim, but it is simply untrue to assume everyone with larger breasts are also larger women and that large breasts necessarily have anything to do with weight. Breasts grow naturally, and many of us naturally happen to have big ones.

Now there are a couple of reasons why people may think more people have smaller breasts than actually do. Whilst more people are getting measured than used to, not everyone is. This could be due to embarrassment, lack of knowledge or simply because you may assume you know your own size. Now, without being properly measured it can be hard to tell what is giving you support and what isn’t, especially if your bra is too small in the cup and too big in the band. It may look like it fits, but it may also be making your boobs sag and be putting unnecessary pressure on your back, and also giving you the dreaded four boob effect (I know, I’ve been there). If you never get measured, you might never know so get measured people!

A lot of women also have been measured and are way above a DD, which for some reason appears to be the highest size a lot of company’s will sell. Whilst places like Primark sell a D-F range, you will often find if you look that the E-F sizes are mostly sold out and hard to find, which in my mind suggests there is quite a big demand for them, especially as there appears to be an abundance of A-D bras. Whilst that is because there are far more of them I have to ask why there are far more bras of a smaller size and far less in a larger size in the first place.
With places like La Senza for some reason deciding they won’t sell anything larger than an E up size, buying bras can often be quite hard.   Anne Summers, Bravissimo or specialist bra shops sell very nice bras but are very expensive (the best deal I currently know of is from Anne Summers 2 bras for £30, when considering it is very easy to buy an A-C bra for as little as £3 and that you should be buying new bras every six months ends up making things rather expensive). There are also quite a lot of women (more than you would think, and more than you would know just by looking at them) who wear a G or bigger cup, which is a size that can be quite hard to find. From my knowledge Anne Summers only sells up to a G cup, so if you are any larger you do have to go to places like Bravissimo which, whilst cheaper than a specialist taylormade bra really aren’t cheap. If you happen to have a narrow chest but a large cup, you pretty much have to go to a specialist bra store. Whilst I accept its probably quite uncommon and therefore might not generate enough money to sell bras that are, for example, a 28 band and a G cup in a main stream shop, I do think there should be some attempt to broaden the sizes that are on offer and at least start catering for those who wear a 30 band and a larger cup, and indeed also start catering more for women with narrow bands in general.

DH5GDH Women's bras at Primark, Oxford Street, London, England, UK

Now, I personally cannot see why larger bras are so much more expensive than smaller bras. It does not appear to me any reason why a larger bra should cost so much more to make than a larger top/jeans/skirt etc. Clothes can go from a size 6 to a size 22 and be the exact same price, I see nowhere that charges more for larger clothes and I in no way suggest people should pay more for larger sizes, but then why should we pay more for larger bras? Does it cost so much more to make a bigger bra cup but not to use more material for a dress? If we can cater for size 22’s why can’t we cater for people with L cup sizes? I see no reason why that would be more expensive, and just from talking to other women and going into clothes and bra shops and seeing the sizes that get sold out, I believe there is a much larger demand for large bra sizes at affordable prices than is currently being met, and it appears to be the one branch of clothing that seems to have direct discrimination  in what they sell against people with a particular physical feature. Whilst I’m not saying there is a conspiracy against women with large boobs, I simply fail to see why clothes shops do not represent us. You can be skinny or large and tall or short, so why is it not the same in bras?

This is definitely not intended to offend anyone with small boobs, it is simply to vent my frustration and confusion as to why there are a lot of people who really do have to pay a stupid amount to have a supported chest. As we are the ones with bigger chests, surely we need more support. Surely we are the ideal consumers for bras, and surely these companies should be doing more for us. I want to live in a world where most if not all shops that sell underwear will sell at least up to a G cup for the same price as an A cup. I want equality for boobs. I want young girls to be encouraged to get measured and made to feel comfortable with their bra size, rather than feeling if they are too big she is somehow abnormal as no where appears to cater for her, and I want the days of only being able to afford 1-2 bras a year to be over.

I’m going to go back to watching the ITV leaders Debate now,

Happy Easter