Feminism

An open letter to men who discuss Feminism

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feminist-symbol-keylaThere’s nothing wrong in not knowing much about feminism. Everyone isn’t interested, I get that. But if you’re trying to come off as interested and/or knowing, and discuss feminism with other people, then not knowing what feminism is about becomes a problem.

Discussing with/against feminists with the result that these women have to explain feminism for you is just another way in which you exert your male privilege. Instead of learning more about feminism from the countless sources that are available to you, you just lean back and expect a woman to do the work for you.

And I’m tired of hearing how we as feminists are condescending and angry when discussing with you. We’re not here to make the world even softer for you. Being a feminist sadly means being called different derogatory words, having people trying to silence us, being threatened with rape and murder. So when one of you comes along with your preconceived notions about what feminism is, when you try to tell us how to do feminism, when you expect to have everything served or talk about how hard it is for you as men, how you are discriminated against because of being men – then we get really tired. And some of us (myself included) get condescending when you don’t think we see through your condescending attitude and acting as victims of discrimination.  Because part of our awakening as feminists mean we won’t take any more shit.

“But I’m genuinely interested and want to learn!” you say. Pick up a book, search the Internet, take a course. But Making_History_pink-300x246stop asking us to explain it for you – again. In doing so you’re asking us to give you of our time, our knowledge and our energy – totally free of charge! Because of your male prvilege (google it, but be critical of your sources), you’re expecting to have everything served. You’re expecting your voice to be worth more than mine.

“See, you won’t let us join in!” Sure we do. We think it’s great when men show an interest in feminism or proudly proclaim to be feminists. The more people who learn and enjoy feminism, the better a world this will be. But you won’t get applauded for joining simply because you’re a man. You won’t get special treatment or privileges because of it. You left all of that on the patriarchal side when you stepped trough our door.

You see, feminism is for you too. But it means that you have to give up the privileges you’ve enjoyed on the expense of women, non-white and queer people. There’s no fun in acknowledging our privileges, we know. We who enjoy them constantly have to work at being consious of and challenging them. But if  you’re not willing to get your hands dirty and get the job done, please don’t stand in the way of us who do.

Det är synd om Marcus Birro

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 Det är synd om Marcus Birro. Nej, jag är inte ironisk. Jag menar verkligen att det är synd om honom. Han beskriver i sin senaste krönika hur han känner sig attackerad, anklagad och hopklumpad med våldtäktsmän. Och det är ju inte alls kul. Men det är inte därför det är synd om honom. Låt mig börja från början…

Marcus Birro är, enligt honom själv, en jämställdhetskämpe. Han och flera andra män som han känner, alla goda Marcus Birrofäder, blir attackerade och diskriminerade av feminister. ”Rasismen mot män tar inte hänsyn till verkligheten”, menar Birro, och fortsätter med att säga att: ”Den värsta sortens människa är en vit, medelålders heterosexuell man.”

 Eftersom Birro själv inte förstått detta, så känner jag att det är min plikt som medmänniska att knacka på hans dörr med en bukett blommor, à la Postkodmiljonären, och glatt utbrista: DU HAR VUNNIT PÅ LIVETS LOTTERI! medan Birros ögon glittrar av lyckotårar och en orkester hoppar fram bakom bilar och vita husknutar för att spela fanfarer. Som vit, medelålders man, heterosexuell och – gissar jag – medelklass, är Birro den BÄSTA sortens människa i hela världen! Jo det är sant! Vart Birro än väljer att gå i denna värld så kommer han att vara välkomnad och anses vara på toppen av den mänskliga hierarkin.

 Ingen kommer misstänka honom för att vara terrorist p.g.a. hans utseende eller religion.

 Ingen kommer att förutsätta att de har rätt till hans kropp för att han är man. Ingen kommer att sexuellt utnyttja eller förnedra honom för att han anses vara ett sexuellt objekt som finns till för andras njutning.

 Ingen kommer att tysta honom, misshandla honom, förfölja honom eller försöka fängsla honom p.g.a. hans hudfärg, etnicitet, kön, tro, sexuella läggning eller sexuella identitet.

Listan är lång över vilka former av diskriminering som Marcus Birro aldrig kommer att behöva utstå p.g.a. de kategorier han själv erkänt sig tillhöra. Birro som vit, medelålders, heterosexuell man har givetvis tolkningsföreträde när det gäller hur han uppfattar sin vardag och sitt liv. Precis som han själv säger i sin krönika. Men han har inte tolkningsföreträde vad gäller någon annan grupp; de grupper som dagligen utstår faktisk diskriminering.

Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för att han vill kämpa för jämställdhet, men vet varken vad rasism eller feminism är. ”Väldigt många uttalar sig tvärsäkert och argsint om något de vet rätt lite om” har Birro sagt i en artikel i Expressen i juli år. Ändå slänger han sig med uttryck som ”Rasism mot män”.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han vill vara en hjälte, men istället tystar de som förtjänar att få sina historier hörda, som förtjänar vår empati, som förtjänar att vi kämpar för dem.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han har inte förstått vilken makt han har att faktiskt göra skillnad. Att han som vit, medelålders, heterosexuell man har alla chanser att vara en grym allierad och kämpa sida vid sida med dem som ständigt blir diskriminerade. Som krönikör har han chansen att skriva om de där svåra historierna, de där svåra kamperna som han själv säger blir bortglömda. Det skulle Marcus Birro kunna göra istället för att skriva en artikel där han attackerar och trycker ned dem som dagligen kämpar emot orättvisor.

 Det är synd om Marcus Birro, för han förstår inte hur bra han har det. 

Why the Women in the Middle Discussion still matters…

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Mikki Kendall‘s #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hash tag sparked a great deal of controversy. I’m sure many in the feminist movement didn’t get why the hash tag was needed, and most who aren’t in the feminist and/or anti-racist movement def. didn’t . And they have some catching up to do,to say the least…

But what it also sparked was a discussion about the position of those in the middle – those  who don’t fit into the White Women or Women of Color-box. I thought it was great, that now we could also discuss what a narrow category whiteness is in the world, and how few people that get a membership into that club.

One of my paintings from 2011 - Frida.
One of my paintings from 2011 – Frida.

A video chat about that, mostly featuring white Latinas, showed how so many people just don’t fit into either group. But it also sparked another discussion about yet again excluding and silencing WoC (Women of Color).

I’m not a US citizen, have never lived there and don’t know enough about the country to talk about how Whiteness works there. And so I shouldn’t have opened my mouth, not even to try to explain how it works in Sweden, which is what I tried to do. And I apologize for that. I never want to silence anyone, it hurts me so whenever someone does that to me, especially when it’s something that happens over and over again – which is what is constantly happening to WoC. I thought (still do) that the chat was a result of the many blog posts about being a “White Latina” (check the bottom of this post for links) and being in the middle that started a short time after Kendall’s hash tag. A separate discussion springing from the first.

The #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion is such an important one and I hope it sparks more discussions, more understanding, and more actions. I dont join in on those conversations because I have the privilege of my skin that means I need to listen, not talk.

But I also don’t join in on the White Women discussions because my voice isn’t heard there. I don’t fit in.

And that’s hard to say without it sounding like a white girl whining about not always being white. But I think that’s exactly why this discussion is needed. Not to take away from an important discussion, but to have an entirely different one. Because I think there are a few perspectives in Intersectional Feminism that are lacking (well, several actually, but their not mine to voice). That Whiteness is both fluid and narrow, much more so than what we are talking about now. And it’s also lacking a global perspective; are we truly intersectional if we’re only talking about US feminism, North European feminism, Latin American feminism, in different corners of the world?

I have heard several light-skinned Latinas say they don’t face “blatant racism” in the US, and several who say they do. Whatever perspective is true – or if they all are – they do face exotification. They do face discrimination. They do face sexism that cannot be separated from their supposed otherness. Thing is, whiteness can’t always be measured by how it works in the US (if there really is even only one fixed way to do it).

I didn’t grow up watching women like me on tv, in government positions, as

One of my paintings from 2011 - Volver
One of my paintings from 2011 – Volver

educators, as professionals. Neither did most of the girls like me, those with backgrounds more colorful than the stereotypical Swedish one. We’re mostly lumped together into one group, as political correct as “women of another background than entirely Swedish” – isn’t that a tongue twister? Many girls like me turned to movies from the US to get to watch other girls of latin background – however stereotypical and misinformed that representation was. But – I have a Swedish citizenship. And no matter what they think I am, no matter if they think I’m white or not, that gives me yet another privilege in the world. I can travel almost anywhere without any problems.  Very few countries, if any, will demand that someone vouch for me to be allowed to enter.  I will not be denied simply for being born in the wrong country. And neither will you. Your US citizenship allows you to move freely as well.

You have a bigger platform to discuss than most – I couldn’t find a platform in Sweden, it’s all too new and all too white. In a country with so many different cultures, a country that is considered the center of the world and gets to define others, isn’t it time to get in some more perspectives?

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Women In the Middle/White Women of Color posts that inspired this one:

Juliana Britto – Solidarity Isn’t for women in the middle

Ana Cecilia Alvarez – I’m a White Woman of Color

Daniela Ramirez – What It’s Like to Be a White Woman of Color

Men who hate women…

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I often talk about Women’s Rights, violence against women and girls, the struggles of women of color. I read a lot about it, I try to learn a lot about it. I share the information with my friends (female and male), whether it’s information that can educate us further or that can empower us.

 I have no idea what it is that provokes certain men so much about women who try to end gender violence and/or empower women, who try to make a space for ourselves and each other. But I can’t even count the times that I’ve been called sexist and anti-male. It’s always “masked” under the pretense that they are indeed for gender equality – the problem is that women have taken up such a big space that we are now oppressing the men (even though males, especially white males, are the least oppressed throughout history). It reminds me of Debra Leigh’s list of 28 common racist attitudes and behaviors, where she quotes Rush Limbaugh:

The civil rights movement, when it began, was appropriate, valuable, needed. But it’s gone to the extreme. The playing field is now level. Now the civil rights movement is no longer working for equality but for revenge.

Leigh explains that his comments “are loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained “control.” Embedded here is also the assumption that to be “pro-black” (or any other color) is to be anti-white. (A similar illogical accusation is directed at women who work for an end to violence against women and girls. Women who work to better the lives of women are regularly accused of being “anti-male.”).

 Limbaugh’s comment is very similar to what these guys are doing – they often say that the feminist movement was a good idea when it began, because of course women should be allowed to vote!, but that now it’s mostly just about teaching each other to withhold sex from their men, or being sexually promiscuous (do you see the logic here, because it keeps eluding me?) …

 That they present themselves as supportive of our cause, at the same time as they are bullying us and diminishing our efforts creeps me out.  Violence against women and girls is becoming worse every day – all over the world. If this, in itself, isn’t enough proof that women are still discriminated against, then I don’t know what is. If this, instead of making you want to join us in ending this injustice, makes you want to discriminate us further, then that’s on you. But you are wrong, and YOU are on the side of the oppressor you claim that you are working against.

sexual harasment is a form of violence - profamilia.org.do
sexual harasment is a form of violence – profamilia.org.do
  •  Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death.
  • Violence against women has been called “the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world.”
  • Gender-based violence also serves – by intention or effect – to perpetuate male power and control. It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse. In addition to the harm they exact on the individual level, these consequences also exact a social toll and place a heavy and unnecessary burden on health services.

You can read more information here and read about what you as a man could actually do to help

Is Beyonce’s panties really your business?

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With an article published last Tuesday about how Beyonce’s posing in her panties on a GQ-cover supposedly isn’t helping feminism, and another article about how Michelle Obama’s work as a first lady is making her a victim I just had to rant a little….

The problem with the GQ-cover isn’t that Beyonce posed in little more than her underwear and something that once was a jersey – the problem is more complex than that.

Beyonce's GQ cover
Beyonce’s GQ cover

The problem is that patriarchy has decided what is sexy.

The problem is that in our society and in pop culture it seems that it’s a requirement, part of the job description actually, that female artists drop their clothes now and again.

The problem is that a woman is coming down on another woman for the way she dresses. Really? Is that our number one problem today? When women still are paid less than men, if paid at all for their labor. When women are being raped, objectified, ridiculed, harassed, stripped of their rights to their own bodies and minds. Is Beyonce’s panties really your business?

Beyonce’s panties aren’t helping feminism, I agree, but I don’t see how they are hurting it either. If Beyonce feels empowered in her panties, that’s aweseome. That’s not the issue. The issue is that women are told HOW they should demonstrate their sexuality (or not amit to being sexual being at all). Freeman somehow seems to think that because Beyonce is an A-list celebrity she shouldn’t fall for “this attention-seeking nonsense”, as if somehow Beyonce’s fame would protect her from the pressure that society puts on all women. Actually, Beyonce gives strength to many non-white girls and women over the world. Isn’t that feminist power?

And the problem isn’t Michelle Obama “giving up her career to be a stay-at-home-mom”, I suspect she has money of her own and a career to fall back on if something should happen.

The problem is that the media is trying to fool all of us into believing that there is one type of feminist/feminism; the one that hates men, doesn’t shave, and tells you what you should be doing. That’s bullshit. Feminism is about choice, and a million other things. But while we’re on the subject, some other ideologies that tells you what to do comes to mind – ever heard about the militant pro-life movement?

The problem is that most women can’t choose if they want a career, stay home with the kids, or do both.

The problem is that everyone is coming down on a woman of color for doing something that white women can do without getting as much bs, hell they’re even congratulated for “owning their sexuality”.

The problem, is patriarchy. Not Beyonce’s panties.

The body shaming of pregnant women

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I recently read an article about how skinny, pregnant celebrities in Canada are being blamed for eating disorders (pregorexia) among pregnant Canadian women. I can’t help but compare my body to those of other pregnant women and think; “did I gain too much, she is not as heavy”, and celebrities are of course part of the women I compare myself to. But my question is; why do they feel the need to be skinny? Could it maybe, just maybe, be because they get bullied otherwise?

The media is to blame for the body shaming of pregnant women, not the celebrities themselves. Even though I think that celebrities need to take responsibility as well, we are still talking about women who are constantly being judged by their looks in public, and the media have bullied them – pregnant, post-pregnant, or not – for being too fat while pregnant, for not losing weight fast enough after they’ve given birth, and so on.

Me, about 7 months pregnant.
Me, about 7 months pregnant.

On Jessica Simpson: “While every woman is expected to gain weight during pregnancy, the question still remains: How much is too much?” 

and:  During yesterday’s episode of The View, Joy Behar referred to Jessica as “fat,” saying, “Most women who are pregnant are not supposed to gain more than 25 pounds. She looks like she gained a lot more than that.”

About Aishwarya Rai: “Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World and one of India’s most beloved Bollywood stars, is getting slammed for taking too long to lose her post-pregnancy baby weight. “SHOCKING! Fat Aishwarya Rai!” and “Aishwarya’s Baby Fat Woes!” are just two examples of the headlines that have triggered an international debate over India’s perception of women and fame.”

Women who lose weight fast, on the other hand, are quickly rewarded:

 about Kate Hudson: “Kate Hudson switched her eating plan from her previous eating plan to a higher protein diet. And Kate did it!”

about Nicole Richie: “She looked absolutely amazing — anyone who didn’t know would never have guessed she had given birth just a week ago.  She even looked well-rested!”

At the same time as these women are being bullied for gaining too much weight and rewarded for losing it as fast as possible, “we” then turn around and punish them once again when “we” think that the weight loss is excessive, which is what happened to Angelina Jolie .

When we’re pregnant, everybody is an expert and seems to feel the need to tell you about what you should and should not do with your body. People aren’t shying away from telling you how big you are or how tiny you are. Suddenly your body and what you do with it is everybody’s business. And it’s hard, if not impossible at times, to just shake that of. Pregnancy is hard enough as it is, without the constant pressure on how our bodies look. The constant media-obsession on how fast celebrities lose the baby weight is then a big problem, and the thing is that whether they like it or not -whether they want it or not – celebrities are role models and should own up to that. But they are not the source of evil when it comes to the body shaming of women – the media and their bullying is.

Enough with the good girls – bring on the Villainesses!

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Princesses are among the worst offenders when it comes to “teaching” our girls about being a girl and growing up to become a woman. What princesses care most about is being pretty, kind and finding a husband/prince. They’re passive and rarely in charge of their lives.

Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman

I’ve had enough of princesses, please bring on the Villainesses! So much pressure is put on our girls to be “the good girl”. Girls should be nice, girls should be good, girls should be sexy but not give it away, girls should be nurturing, girls shouldn’t be too loud… There are just so many (bad and conflicting)  messages being pushed on them without allowing them to live out their whole self. Not one of us is entirely good, or entirely evil, and it’s time we let our girls know that, and that it is ok! Girls need to at times be able to symphatize with charachters who aren’t just “good”. This doesn’t mean that I believe we should “teach our children to be evil” (I’ve actually heard this comment), but to just expose them to “good” characters isn’t doing them any favors either! It’s good for children to see that sometimes, who is good and who is evil depends on from what side you are viewing the story…

I have high, and maybe vain, hopes for the 2013-premiere of the movie Maleficent – told from the perspective of Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis; Maleficent. I’m hoping we will get to see why she behaves the way she does, what makes her “evil” or appear “evil” in our eyes?

This might be a way to read Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman, according to Alyssa Rosenberg who writes that she is intrigued by the character since she “speaks of giving her fallen world the ruler it deserves, who commands armies and welcomes challenges” – hearing this as the description of a fairy tale king wouldn’t make you raise an eyebrow, but the portrayal of a queen behaving the same way might.  A queen might have a bigger challenge in keeping with being good and at the same time ruling with an iron fist than her male counterpart…

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

Although not a villain, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is a good example of a more real, complex female character (at least in the books). She is brave and she is scared, she is a hunter and a nurturer, a daughter forced to act as a mother for her younger sister. She isn’t preoccupied by her looks or finding a husband – she is fighting to survive even before she enters the Hunger Games. And Katniss is filled with different, sometimes conflicting, thoughts and emotions – just like any other girl. Katniss inhabits more than one role at a time, instead of being reduced to the sweet princess-type (this is discussed better here).

We need more complex female characters in literature and on the screen!  Because our kids, sons and daughters, need to know that the world isn’t black and white. More complex characters is a way of conveying that message  to them; that sometimes people make choices that make them look bad for reasons we can actually understand, and sometimes they seem evil because they are inhabiting the wrong gender for our society to allow them to act in certain ways; to show them that there is more than just good or bad; that there is more to people than their surface; and that they have more choices than they might think.