Category Archives: Feminism/Gender

Chrissie Hynde

Original article here.

Hynde’s clean living also extends to her having been a vegetarian since she was 16. “Back then, I was living on what the English called ‘cheese salad’,” she laughs. “I can eat in thousands of places now!” So many good social changes have happened in her lifetime, she says, not that you’d notice this today. “The ongoing discussion about how shitty things are now annoys me – come on. Obviously, there’s some bad shit in the world, but there always has been.” Positive changes get forgotten far too quickly, she continues. “Smoking killed more people than two world wars and nobody’s said since the ban that it’s great that so many people have stopped. Stop fucking moaning about things! Do something about it or shut it!”

This extends to her feelings about women in music. “The idea that women couldn’t be in the music industry 40 years ago – not only did I prove that wrong, but I just disagree. In music, you can do whatever you want. The only person who ever tried to stop me was me.” Surely she was treated differently to men in the industry in the 70s? “I was a chick and it was a novelty, sure – but this is showbusiness. Novelties are what showbusiness runs on. Jimi Hendrix didn’t have to set his guitar on fire. He played pretty fucking good without the theatrics. But people liked it.”

She was never discriminated against either, she says, then pauses. “I think a lot of guys didn’t want me in their band because I was a girl. Maybe. But so what?” As for the controversy about the gang-rape in her book: “It was just total bullshit. All of a sudden, I became this rape apologist. I thought, ‘Fuck you all!’ I don’t talk about it [feminism]: I am it. I fucking do it.” She’s never “taken a penny from a man”, she adds. “I’ve never had anyone help me get to the top, so to be suddenly this anti-feminist…” She shakes her head. “Go fuck yourselves.”

She wants to move on, but doesn’t quite yet. “I wasn’t saying I was a victim, but I was saying I was a bit of a fucking idiot. I mean, you don’t walk into a bikers’ clubhouse, with a sack full of Quaaludes, all padlocked up and you find out you’re the only person there. Surprise, surprise!” We talk for a while longer and she asks me not to include a few of the things we discuss: she worries about some of her tamer, topical statements becoming the only things people ask her about in the future.

And this worries her today. “We’ve now got to a point where even people who are very outspoken, know their own mind, who aren’t afraid to be criticised, who don’t care what people think, are putting a sock in it because it’s not fucking worth it any more.” She went to see Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse on tour recently, she says, and noticed how they were restricting themselves. She’s not advocating general rudeness, along the lines of people who troll – she doesn’t like that – “but the idea of doing it anonymously, it means most people can dish it out, but they can’t take it”.

Hynde can take it, clearly. “Anyway, I told my story [about the rape]. That was my story. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the book. Let’s move on. I don’t give a fuck.”

I ask to see Hynde’s studio. “Yeah, sure!” She’s bouncy after her rants, which never seem directed at me personally, despite my questions. Hundreds of canvases lean against each other on shelves and teeter against the wall. Some lovely abstracts sit drying, full of colour, light and noise. By the door, there’s a black-and-white photograph of her parents, Bud and Delores, in front of the house her father built. “We didn’t get along,” she explains. “It was during that time in the 60s when no one got along with their parents. Mine were very conservative and the only way I could deal with it was just to split.”

Did she feel guilty? “No! I never thought about it. I kind of feel guilty now. I think, ‘What did my mother think? I just disappeared.’” Even after she got famous, she didn’t stay in touch beyond the call of duty; they came to see her on tour “eventually”. “I just needed to go to another continent to do what I wanted to do,” she says, all matter-of-fact. “I could be bitter about that or see it in another way – that’s how I fulfilled my destiny. So now I can actually say, ‘Thank you, Mom and Dad, for making it so hard on me that I just pissed off!’” She smiles, a little sadly. “I know they’d be offended by that. I don’t want to offend them. But that’s what it was.”

Hynde likes being 67. “I find it really interesting, getting older, because life starts to make sense. I didn’t get famous until I was quite old – 27 – so maybe that’s part of it too.” She also thinks being alone gives her perspective – she’s been single for a long time. Her last marriage, to artist Lucho Brieva, broke down in 2002; she also points to a painting of a man in her room – “some arsehole I don’t hang out with any more”. “You have to have a very strong sense of yourself to be alone,” she says. “It’s hard work and I don’t recommend it. It’s not like you can have a lovely moment sitting over a cup of coffee discussing the ordinary pleasures of everyday life.” She picks up a paintbrush. “You’ve got to find an outlet. And if I was in a happy relationship, you wouldn’t be looking at these paintings.”

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Glasgow strike

If the council thinks that equal pay for female workers struggling on a basic wage is not an issue to strike over, then let’s see what happens when there are no women doing the lowest status jobs.

Original article here

Susan Aitken said the two-day strike by more than 8,000 mostly female employees, thought to be the largest ever in the UK over pay inequality, would “have a devastating impact and there is no need for it”.

The strike began at 7am on Tuesday after years of legal disputes between unions and Glasgow council over the underpayment of staff in female-dominated roles such as cleaning, with employees earning up to £3 an hour less than those in male-dominated roles such as bin collections.

Thousands of women are pursuing equal pay claims against the council after the court of session, Scotland’s civil court, ruled in their favour last year. GMB and Unison picket lines were set up outside the city chambers on George Square and other sites, including refuse depots.

 

“Equal pay is not a gift to be given, it is a right for our members to demand. At the moment, 8,000 of our members have gone on strike today because they have lost faith that that demand is going to be met.”

Quote: Madness

There is no running away from this problem. In the last century, doctors called it housewife neurasthenia and recommended lots of bed rest. Sheila Rowbotham has called it the problem of being “oppressed by an overwhelming sense of not being there.” Betty Friedan saw it in the tired, empty women of the Feminine Mystique – and called it “the problem that has no name.” It is the problem of Woman as Body: of suffering from an overexposure of physical visibility as a body combined with an impoverishment of genuine recognition as a person… Whatever one calls this problem of feminine identity, it is the stuff of which female symptomatology, nervous breakdowns, and madness are made. 

— Miriam Greenspan

Football-Mad Girl Fame Boys Refused to Shake Hand

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/13/football-mad-girl-fame-boys-refused-to-shake-hand

What an uplifting story 🙂

This reminds me of going to a local pub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and how the bartender shook my Dad’s hand. I (naturally) went to shake his hand also, but was stared blankly at, while they talked hunting.

Subtle, insidious.

It reminds me of being 10 or so and a younger boy spitting in my face when we tried to play football with them at the local park.

It reminds me that my mother, with the best of intentions, would often tell me “not to compete with the boys” in any way and to generally “stay away from them”. She tried to follow all the strict, Catholic, conservative “rules” that she was brought up with, but, even after making all that effort, she still seemed to get chewed up by the patriarchy anyway.

They were painful experiences, but I have decided to believe that things are really changing. I hope we can support women and men and move forward together, and that  if this girl keeps playing mixed sports, that she is protected from sexual violence and threats therein at a later stage in her sporting career.

I have to remind myself that, despite my experiences and that of people I love, it is a small proportion of men who actively do bad things, and many men do support women, and speak up when they see injustice, like my work husband in Bilbao. Time and again he has helped me out of difficult situations, and spoken up when he sees creepy dudes being creepy. He doesn’t call himself a “feminist”, and he’s had difficult and hurtful experiences with women that he’s shared with me, but he just tries his best to do the right thing on a daily basis.  Knowing men like that gives me hope.

 

Why tech’s gender problem is nothing new

Original article here.

Today, jobs in computing, if advertised on Facebook, would probably be targeted to men because these jobs are located in an already male-dominated field. In the early days of electronic computing, however, the work was strongly associated with women. It was feminized because it was seen as deskilled and unimportant. This quickly began to change as computers became indispensable in all areas of government and industry. Once it became clear that those who knew how to use them would have great power and influence, female programmers lost out despite having all the requisite skills. Britain’s computerization is a cautionary tale: women were repeatedly and progressively denied promotions or boxed out of their jobs, particularly when they married or had children. When they left, they were replaced by men. This created disastrous labor shortages that ultimately forced Britain’s decline as a computing superpower.

Women continued to program, but they had to do it without the support of major institutions. One example was the entrepreneur Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, who used a masculine nickname to sidestep sexism. Shirley started a freelance programming company with an explicitly feminist business model after finding herself unable to advance in government and industry. She employed hundreds of other women who had similarly had to leave the workforce. Shirley gave these women an opportunity to use their skills in the service of the nation’s economy by giving them the option to work from home, filling some of the gaps left by this exodus of trained computer professionals from full-time computing work.

The irony is that this shortage had been intentionally engineered by the refusal to continue to employ female technologists in these newly prestigious jobs. Throughout history, when jobs are seen as more important, or are better paid, women are squeezed out – hence the need for protective legislation that ensures equality of opportunity in hiring and job advertisements.

Stephanie “Steve” Shirley

Completely flabbergastingly amazing woman.

Moving to and from “Spain”

I haven’t lived in the UK in almost 8 years. I left in 2011, scared that the economic crisis left me minimal job options. I watched the people on my course moan about going home to parents, or listened to their plans to study a masters, do law conversion, or a teaching post grad, and I knew that I wasn’t ready to get another loan, a “real” bank loan, to stumble into a profession that I hadn’t a clue whether I’d like or not. My degree had been more of a way to get a loan to move cities, rather than about studying; in the end, against my parents’ wishes, I had chosen my favourite subject, and studied English Literature. It was an expensive way to heal, to escape my own destructive patterns and being mired in the world of drugs, but I think it was all I could handle mentally at the time and something more practical, more maths based, might have frustrated me too much and caused me to quit mid year again, as I did with the Engineering course.

Time flies. I worked in one school for two years. It took me a long time to realise that the teachers were fascist. I should have twigged when one of my pupils had a family member who was a judge and had been targeted by ETA. I joked that the school had been built on an indian burial ground; I see now I was right in a way. The unresolved conflicts of the violence of the civil war and the retribution doled out by the victors flows beneath the modern façade throughout “Spain”.

My third year, I was going to go freelance, but my mother became seriously ill so I took a job where I could take time off and get paid if I needed to. By the time she was stabilised, I had saved money and went travelling (something she always told me was a waste of time and never to do), helping a friend with a documentary project, seeing the world, and feeling the freedom and loneliness of the open road. Although I went to so-called “dangerous” countries, people were kind and helpful, and apart from my camera breaking or its own accord, getting lost in a dodgy part of town, and unwanted advances from men who “just wanted to share their bed with me”, none of the things they tell you to be afraid of as a lone female traveller came to pass. Thank god.

I moved to Bilbao, and my world was soon on fire, and not in a good way. My mother’s cancer came back and I spent months living two weeks with my partner in Bilbao, two weeks “taking care” of her. I put that in quotes as “taking care” of a woman as independent, strong, and proud as my mother was kind of like trying to take care of a wolf, lion, or other large animal that doesn’t need or want your help at all. I cooked her eggs, as they were the only things she could eat. I watched TV with her. I chatted to her.

Her death is an event that destroyed my life as I knew it, and that marks a before and an after. We had a very, very difficult relationship. When she became seriously ill I had been in therapy for 5 years, when she was dying, 6 years. I’m very grateful for the work that I did that meant that I could forgive her and spend time with her before she died, and show her completely unconditional love, despite a violent argument we had.

I thought that, once she was dead, I would be free, but I felt like I had been literally shot in the head. I had lost everything. My mother, who although for many years had been my nemesis, was someone who had been a constant every year of my life. My home, that I had always run from. My country, the place where I had grown up. My family (as people go absolutely chicken oriental after a death and have stupid arguments that seem very important at the time. This is called “secondary losses” in grief books).

I did a masters, all in Spanish, in Feminism and Gender. It was amazing, and it was terrible. It was like putting your whole life experience into a framework, both historical, sociological, legal, political, with a bunch of dates and stats. I learnt that violence against women goes on a scale, and the more points you have (being poor, black, lesbian, trans…) then the more of a target you are by violent bullies.

It opened my eyes to a million things, and once I had taken a bite of that apple, I couldn’t go back to the garden. It was too much for my then boyfriend. We broke up. I moved out.

I wrote my dissertation. I defended it. And all the while, the people from my uni course who weren’t from the Basque Country left, one by one, even those whose parents were paying for their rent, their uni fees, their food, AND BASQUE CLASS ON TOP (I have a big chip on my shoulder about this. Can you tell? :P). They went home to work as journalists, or social workers; they went back to their parental home to regroup and look for other opportunities in a place where they had the language, the contacts, and certificates.

It took me around 6 months of therapy to realise that, although I love the Basque Country, I had grown all I could grow there. I had done my best to put down roots, but they had encountered rocks, and could only be shallow. The Basque language must be protected, but seeing as I’d worked my arse off to learn Spanish for 8 years and still had to think quite a lot about it before I opened my big gob, I thought that my chances of being able to invest thousands of hours in a language, day after day of being the “lemon” at the party who no one wants to speak to, and not becoming even more insane than I already am, were quite low. Having a foreign accent and making small errors in Spanish makes me basically kind of linguistically disabled in Spanish, and Spain isn’t an economy like the UK that relies on the brain drain of other countries to feed it with bargain skilled labour. Also the güiri stereotype was really getting me down, as my butt had been fondled non-consensually by one to many an old sleaze bag.

It was time to sell, give away, throw away, and generally let go of all my possessions, in order to take the leap of faith back to the UK.

Hannah Gadsby

Original article here.

 

We only have an existing narrative framework for a stranger doing violence to you.”

 

The idea of “stranger danger” persists in the collective psyche, but we now know that sexual offences against children are the crimes least likely to involve strangers. Most children will be abused by opportunists in adult relationships: the married relatives, the family friends, the pillars of the community, the good blokes. “A lot of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of people they’ve trusted take responsibility, and that is what’s toxic,” Gadsby says.

“Shame has its place,” she says. “Shame is what you do to a kid to stop them running on the road. And then you take the shame away and immediately they’re back in the fold. You should never soak anybody in shame. It’s the prolonged existence of shame that then flips out into destructive rage. We can’t exist in that. It’s like treacle.”

The burden of talking about complex issues usually comes down to the most marginalised people. On the rare occasions that a white, heterosexual man steps up – Louis CK pointing out, for example, that “there is no greater threat to women than men” – they are hailed as heroes.

“A joke is a wank, but a story is intimacy,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was in her late 20s, around 2006, that she tried her hand at comedy, and she credits the newfound creativity with saving her life. “Comedy is great in that it’s accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.”

“He’s obviously an unwell kid and there’s a lot of that in comedy,” says Gadsby. “It’s often young men trialling their philosophies on life, and we’ve got a generation of young men who believe that they are victimised, because they’ve been promised the world. That’s a poisoned chalice, because now there’s a gap between what the cultural narrative is and what their experience is. Looking back, I think it’s done me more good than harm to be promised absolutely nothing. I was always told I didn’t matter to the world, but the world still matters to me. That’s why I haven’t responded to the more brutal aspects of my life with violence or bitterness.”