Feministy Shit

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ALL! Hope you’re making the most of the holiday period (we all need an excuse to take some time off work after all).
Fia x

Part 11 – Feminism VS families
CONTENT WARNING: racism, cultural appropriation, misogyny, trans misogyny.

Flicking through my newsfeed on Facebook today, I noticed a recurring theme. Whilst people were – on the whole – having a jolly time, their posts of festive delights were infiltrated with frustration at comments from family members. Whilst spending time with family members is amazing, there always tends to be that one family member you have to avoid for fear of attempting to murder them with a blunt spoon (I have that uncle, what can I say).

I’m not one for holding my tongue, so I’ve come up with a few examples to help you deal with those on the spectrum between misguided, ignorant and politically incorrect during the festive season, whilst hopefully avoiding those pesky family feuds.

1. “Someone put that Band Aid song on!”

Le sigh. Because only pop music will be able to stop the Ebola outbreak. Sure. I’m not saying it’s not a positive notion, but it’s pretty damn problematic. They lyrics are outdated, and perpetuate negative stereotypes, even though the BandAid30 (2014) version has had a lyric change or two, it is still misguided and patronizing, toeing the line of racism.

In terms of avoiding a family feud, this one is pretty easy. Just ignore their song request. You don’t even need to give a reason. Just put on a better song and they’ll soon forget!

Print

2. “Don’t play with that doll, that’s for your sister.”

The age old ‘toys are gendered’ argument. Sorry, but unless you operate them with your genitalia, that’s bull crap. Rather than laughing in Great Uncle Albert’s face and telling him that he’s a bigoted old fool, it may be better just to turn to the child in question and ask them if they are enjoying playing with the toy. Surely Great Uncle Albert will shut up when the child responds with “Yes, they’re an awesome superhero whose super power is abolishing ingrained misogyny in society.”

Gendered toy guide

3. Presents encompassing cultural appropriation, e.g, “I bought you a Native American Indian headdress for Christmas.”

At moments like this it’s paramount to remember  that presents are a privilege and it’s the thought that counts. I guess you could argue that they didn’t put enough thought into it if they didn’t recognise cultural appropriation and realise how problematic it can be but, at the same time, they probably spent a lot of time and effort into finding something they (misguidedly) thought you would like. The solution for this one will make you feel uncomfortable, but is quite simple: explain the problem. Best scenario is that they will accept your feelings and might be able to return the item for a gift voucher. Worst case scenario, they react badly, but at least it won’t be sat on your shelf gathering dust and making you feel guilty for all eternity.

cultural appropriation

4. “Who’s that person on OITNB? Why are they putting someone who isn’t a real woman on TV?”

Time to serve up the difference between gender and sex with a side order of cis privilege. The trick here is not to show quite how livid you are. Educate, don’t berate. Explain the leaps and bounds that Laverne Cox is making for the trans community and also that she’s an incredibly talented actress who deserves recognition as a person and as a woman. Why does gender matter if you’re an excellent person?

Transgender actress speaks at Tulane University

5. “Why is there a black person on TV? It’s bloody Christmas!”

Now we’ve moved on to the racist relative. No fun. Whilst, in this situation, losing your shit is totally understandable your argument will be more effective if you react towards the issue, not the person. By exposing their way of thinking and challenging the racist remark made you have a better chance of showing them the error of their ways and preventing these thoughts/behaviors in the future. At the end of the day, most human behavior (including racism) is learnt, and teaching people about equality is the best way to combat racism.

racism_is_taught

Feministy Shit

Again, I find myself apologising for the lack of activity on the page, but apparently teachers have NO TIME FOR ANYTHING. Seriously. Those who say “Those who can’t do, teach,” need to spend a week in my shoes. Broken up for Christmas now (YIPEE!) so that’s two weeks of me sat at home reading and writing feminist articles!
Hope the festive season treats you well, 
Fia x

Part 10: Getting away with murder
CONTENT WARNING: homophobia, transphobia, murder & violence

I’m warning you right now that if you’re hoping to have stumbled across a delightfully festive feminist article, you will be disappointed. In fact, you’re about to read something which has the potential to make your blood boil to the extent that your eyes will melt and fall out of their sockets (sorry for the gory imagery, I’ve been reading too much Stephen King).

Today was the first time I ever heard of ‘panic’ defense through a post on Facebook by That Transgender Chick. The original post came from hellboundhayden on Tumblr, generating nearly 100,000 notes. Panic defense is (according to 49 states in America) an acceptable excuse to offer up in a court of law  if you murder a trans or a homosexual individual. And it essentially means what it says: ‘Oh, I found out they weren’t straight/cis, I panicked and killed them. Please don’t punish me.’

trans defence

So by now, your blood is probably at about 99 degrees, right? But I haven’t even got to the worst part yet… Not only does this kind of defense exist, but it actually works. In numerous cases where the perpetrator should have been charged with murder (and probably would under any other circumstances), by using the gay or trans ‘panic’ defense, their charges have been significantly reduced, some even reduced to manslaughter as opposed to homicide.

And I don’t mean fifty years ago. I’m talking about Larry King who was murdered by a class mate in 2008 after his supposed ‘flirtation’ resulted in his death, his murderer pleaded the gay panic defense and was charged with a reduced sentence. Gwen Araujo was beaten to death in 2002 by a group of men upon their discovery that she was a trans individual – their sentences were reduced through the trans panic defense after claiming that she deceived them about her identity. The list goes on.

Back to hellboundhayden’s post. Forty nine states? What about number fifty?

California is the fiftieth state, and the only state to have banned gay and trans panic defenses – a move which only happened this year. In essence, the Californian state has officially said you can’t use someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a justification to murder them.

How has this taken so long?

So today I leave you with a thought. 1 in 12 trans individuals will be murdered (a huge proportion compared to the entire population) and 1 in 5 victims of hate crime are based on sexual orientation bias, and yet rather than trying to reduce these numbers, we are actually allowing the perpetrators to get away with murder (quite literally) because they ‘panicked’.  Do I really need to spell this out? There is no justification for violence and murder, let alone the fact that an individual who is not cis and straight panics you.  What kind of equality is that?

Several Weights Off My Chest

Being away from my father, boyfriend and my childhood friends has made me question my sexuality more openly to myself in safety. I do not have to feel threatened by my dad’s presence, or the possible responses my friends may blurt out if I accidentally confide in them. Even worse I fear hurting X – my much loved boyfriend of many years. X is the only reason I am unsure if I am a lesbian or bi or just curious, because I love him with all my heart and have for so long believed that all I want in life is a happy marriage and to bring my children up well with a nice man in a secure home: which X embodies.

Sex has never been a particularly enjoyable thing for me for many reasons, such as feeling threatened and belittled, and even though I trust X, it is probably due to being raped and then coerced into sex with boys I thought I liked, yet feared. Occasionally in the past I have enjoyed sex, but very rarely I feel happy and content afterwards. Recently my thoughts struck me when I could not get in the mood; however I played along as usual. I wanted to cry, I felt physically repulsed, like my body was a toy being played with. I did not feel the connection that I sometimes had felt in being with X. I am not going to deny that in the past it has felt good but, at this point, it is like I have realised that I only have sex to please him, feel normal and attempt to get over the feelings of disgust and vulnerability that sex evokes, as well as in the hope of experiencing an orgasm! When I told my friends I had never had an orgasm or truly enjoyed sex they said it is because X’s penis is not big enough and one of them even suggested she ‘lend’ me her boyfriend (something which horrified and disgusted me, but I let it slide as this is the kind of response I get from my friends generally anyway).

If I am being honest with myself I have always considered that perhaps I preferred girls, yet always dismissed it. As a child I idolised my friends I considered beautiful, such as a skinny blonde girl with her long golden hair and crystal blue eyes, or a small ginger girl with her thick red hair and freckles. However this may be linked to the beauty society presents as an ideal, and my own desire to fit in. I simply explained these feelings as friendship, but on reflection my feelings were pretty intense: could they be better explained by something deeper? Was I actually attracted to them?

This is my dilemma: I cannot imagine being in a relationship with a woman. I can imagine other things with a woman, but I cannot picture the mundane, yet secure, relationship I have with X. I also cannot imagine raising children with another woman; although this could be a perfect scenario as, in my experience, the men in my family have physically, sexually and or emotionally abused me, only evoking fear, loyalty and in some ways dependency on their approval. For example my father: I do not dress in certain ways, wear pyjamas, underwear or swimmers around my father as he makes me feel uneasy as he is a heterosexual man and at the end of the day I am a young female, not dissimilar to those he calls “take away”, to have sex with after a night out.

My deepest secret, thus the thing I am most ashamed of, is not the fact I that as an early teen I was raped by four older boys, but that I have had sex with a number of girls from a tender age. I have dismissed this from my mind for many reasons: for example the inability to understand how someone so young could be so sexually aware, let alone active. I suppose some of this could be ‘explained away’ by how my father brought me up: learning that I was a female and should not do certain things; understanding that my father was a man who could do what he liked and that he was ‘the man of the house’ who had the last, and most important say. Consequently, I was aware of my difference from boys at a young age. Yet, for a while, you could say I was a tomboy: dressing ‘like a boy’ and being obsessed with sports and building up muscle. For a long time pre and during puberty I saw myself as essentially a boy, as I was muscular with no hips and barley any boobs. I have always been hairy (probably due to my genes) and seem to develop incredible muscle definition after only a few weeks training; however so do my mum and sisters, so I soon came to accept my hairiness and muscle definition as inherited, and not that I was meant to be a boy. It did not help that I was bullied and called ‘she beast/man woman’ at school, causing me to wonder whether or not I was a boy and should get surgery, which I proposed to my mum who said she loves me as I am. At home with my mum I had always been comfortable to play with makeup, clothes and shoes and continue to when I feel like it. Sometimes I want to wear boy’s clothes or go for a masculine look and other times I want to be ‘girly’. The confusing thing is when I go out clubbing I want to be sexy (and I think it is sexy to men), yet it unnerves me if men compliment me but delights me when girls do; it feels more genuine when girls compliment me as, I guess, I believe most men only want sex.

In terms of my sexual encounters with girls which happened way before I even considered boys attractive; these were some of the most exciting, enjoyable and invigorating experiences I have ever had (perhaps the fact that we were so young and the secrecy added to it?). I wonder how I have pushed this aside to continue living the life of a heterosexual female.  I guess a lot had to do with the fact that all the girls never spoke about it to anyone, including me, as well as the embarrassment and shame we clearly felt – it was like we could not and should not admit it was happening.

Some of the girls have gone on to have as much sex with men and boys as possible, a couple have been abused by men, one has had a baby, and they are all in heterosexual relationships. I often wonder if they are really straight and if they are truly content that way; part of me thinks that, like me, they are too scared to admit the truth to themselves and that most of them will continue to live as straight women all their lives due to the way society is constructed. To us as children, being a lesbian meant that you were ugly, unattractive, could not get sex (with men), or just that there was something wrong with you. One of the bolder girls, attempted to have a homosexual relationship for a while with another lesbian our age, but she got so much stigma, bullying and threats that she gave it all up and went on to have a boyfriend. It only added to her struggles that she is seen as Asian and doesn’t believe in God, as the Pakistani and Indian boys at school would taunt her saying she is going to hell. My memories of her are that she was aggressive and dominating, much like a man: as if she wanted to take her frustration out on me. We moved on, forcing that skeleton into the closet. My overall experience of girls however, is that we seek to pleasure each other rather than take on dominant and submissive roles; is this felling of mutual respect something I want to give up for life?

I have realised lesbianism is like this untold secret held by many: a lady told me once that she had caught her young daughter kissing her female friend, but she laughed dismissing it as children exploring their curiosities. Which brings me to question whether a child can know their sexuality or whether it is simply exploring feelings and curiosities?

So far I have come across more lesbian women than I have gay men: many of whom were married with children but left their husbands for women. That was always a threat for my dad as he believed that ‘unnatural’ lesbians where synonmonus with ‘women’s lib’ as he called it, which both me and my mum are interested in. Despite this he refused to let me have boyfriends, whilst taunting me about my beliefs feminism; this was complicated due to my extremely close relationship to my father, my undying loyalty and desire to earn his pride/acceptance, since no matter what I did he never seemed truly pleased.

Several times I have toyed with the idea of ‘coming out,’ but never have since I am not sure myself. From the beginning I have always been honest with X, I have told him: I don’t enjoy sex, that I have had sex with girls in the past, and that I think I am bi- or gay. He never seems to take me seriously though, considering it for a moment saying he will always be my friend – the next day he is back to normal and so I do the same! I have a deep seated fear that I will never find another man that likes me, that I like back and who puts up with me and my baggage; if I leave X I am now also worried I will not find a woman either. I know if I do leave X because I am gay, it will break his heart, confuse and embarrass him.  At the same time I want him to be mine forever.

I have considered trying to having sex with women as an adult, to ‘test’ if I am gay, but I feel like a few simple questions leave me trapped: like who and how do I meet her? The thing is I don’t want to lose X or the future we could have together, but every day I want to explore what may be the true me more and more. Also the fear of stigma and people’s responses scares me since I know that if I come out, my paternal family (maybe even my dad), most of my maternal family and pretty much all my childhood friends will reject me. My friends will become uneasy around me thinking that I will try and have sex with them, even though I don’t fancy any of them and couldn’t even kiss them. I am surrounded by straight and gay people who are open and proud of their sexuality and have the freedom to express it, yet I am trapped in my closet of memories, confused feelings and fears.

Maybe I am a lesbian who cannot let go of her old life in a relationship with a man.  I have considered being best friends, but I do not know if it is possible having been in a relationship for years. I cannot cope with utter uncertainty, which is what coming out would entail. I would like to go to lesbian clubs to see how I feel and maybe meet people, but I have no friends who I trust enough to come with me and keep it secret. Nevertheless I think I now know why seeing girls holding hands or kissing on the street makes me so uneasy. While I say it is because I do not agree with public displays of affection, it is really because they have what I do not- the freedom and courage to openly be themselves.

Being a lesbian would be an added burden on top of being a physically different woman anyway, and I am not sure I can cope with that.  The confusion between my attraction to women, my love for X, mashed up with my desire to create a stable family through marriage for my children in the future, is my predicament; to which I do not seek advice but simply a platform to express and air my ‘dirty laundry’, which you have provided me with so many thanks.

Anonymous