Campus Carry is not a Feminist Policy

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Campus Carry is not a Feminist Policy – A blog by Aya Seidemann

 

 

 

 

On August 1st, 1966, a student at the University of Texas at Austin walked to the top of the university’s highest building and began sniping people walking below, killing sixteen and injuring thirty-two. This incident became the first mass college shooting in United States history (Kingkade). On August 1st, 2016, fifty years to the day after that first shooting, a law allowing guns to be taken into college buildings will go into effect across the state. As a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I find this dark irony revolting. And as a feminist, I find the policy misogynistic and that it reinforces the hegemonic masculinity already in place in the Texas political system.

First of all, some background information: In June of this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill S.B. 11 into law. This law, also called campus carry, made it legal for license holders to have their concealed handguns on their persons in public places on all university campuses (Prazan). This includes classrooms, lecture halls, private offices, on-campus dorms, and more. While all public universities are forced to be compliant with this law, it is up to the discretion of the university to decide specific “reasonable” rules on how to implement it (Fenves). The passing of the law has been met with very strong feeling from people on either side of the campus carry debate.

Students and faculty alike have come together to protest S.B. 11. Petitions have been signed, protest and public hearings have been held, a Gun-Free UT (University of Texas) group has been formed, and people have taken to social media to show their discontent with the new policy. One of the main concerns of the gun control lobbyists is that allowing guns in classrooms will prohibit free speech. The classroom is supposed to be a zone where students from all different ranks of life who may have never been in the same room otherwise can meet and discuss opinions and sometimes controversial issues. Professors work hard to create an environment where students feel safe to talk freely and openly, yet the introduction of guns into classrooms could raise fear among students. They might become less willing to debate and disagree with other students, since if another other student had a gun and was angry enough, he or she could literally pull out the gun and shoot someone. While this may sound ridiculous, if you take the track record the United States has for campus shootings this does not seem so implausible anymore. This insertion of fear into the classroom would especially apply to people who may not be of the same political alignment as the majority, or people who are of a different race, religion, sexuality, et cetera, as most other people in the class. In a southern, Republican, mostly white state of Texas, these people would include people of racial minorities, feminist, people in the LGBT community, and people on the political left (Ura and Daniel). Lisa Moore, a Women’s and Gender Studies professor at the University of Texas, spoke of her fear that “students, after witnessing an emotionally charged disruption in class, would [not] return knowing one of their classmates might be armed” (Kingkade). As the sign held by a woman at a campus carry protest said, she supports Gun-Free UT because “as a queer teacher I need to create a space where my queer students and I feel safe“ (Facebook). Flicking through the pictures on the Gun-Free UT Facebook page, it warms my heart to see such a large array of people from all walks of life coming together to stand for something they all believe in. The intersectionality is unbelievable – there are people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and more, all wearing the bright orange “Gun-Free UT” shirts. The choice of the color orange is also gendered in itself, as it is a color not normally associated with male nor female. Therefore I find the anti-campus carry movement to be a feminist one.

Some campus carry proponents, however, believe that the law is especially good for women. In a blog post by a student at Texas Chrisian University, she explains that

The female body is incredible, but the physical make-up… is not designed to fight off a male perpetrator. This is where firearms become the great equalizer. Until… women’s physical capabilities drastically evolve, gun ownership among women fills the void of physical inequalities between genders. Revoking this right turns it into a gender issue, and not giving women tools that could equalize them during an attack could even be described as discrimination (Longoria).

Where do I begin. Her assumption that women are not “designed” to fight off men is sexist and assumes that all women are built the same way and all men are built the same way, which is simply not true. And even if it were, Longoria’s words are hypocritical. If a woman truly is weaker and is caught by surprise at an attack, having a gun on her increases the chance that the attacker will be able to take said gun from her and use it against her. What I feel like pro-campus carry people neglect to remember is that while the law makes it easier for a potential victim to be protected, it also makes it easier for the potential offender to be armed. Not having guns on campus in the first place increases the chance of keeping them both “potential” victims and offenders instead of actual victims and offenders.

In addition, the thing with surprise attacks is that the attacker knows the attack is coming. The person attacked does not. If both people can easily access guns, the one prepared will have a faster reaction time to pull out the gun than the one caught off guard. Or an attacker could even walk up with a gun already pulled out, in which case having a handgun in a bag would be useless as the attacker would be watching the other person’s moves and see them reaching into their bag. It is not “evening the playing field” when both sides are given the same benefit, it is simply making matters more dangerous. Being allowed to carry a gun on campus would be useless in this case.

But this is only in regard to the most commonly thought of stranger-lurking-for-unsuspecting-girl-in-the-bushes type of attack, when in fact “over 80% of sexual assault perpetrators are known to their victims” (Schorn). In this case, would a girl always be expected to take a gun with her on dates, where over half of college rapes take place, expecting that the person whom she agreed to go on a date with may rape her? And what if the date includes drinking alcohol? Even a licensed handgun owner is not allowed to carry a firearm while intoxicated, so even if she had a gun she would not be allowed to take it with her anyhow, creating a contradiction in Longoria’s reasoning. Once again, having more lax gun restrictions would be useless.

This same argument can be applied to homicide of men killing women. In a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, it was noted that in 2013 “fifteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers” in the United States, and most of these involved an argument between the victim and the offender (VPC). Also, firearms were the weapon used more commonly than all other methods of killing combined (VPC). If restrictions on who can own guns were stronger, these fights may have ended in something other than the murder of the woman.

What Longoria and other “feminist” anti-gun-control people are saying is that guns will help raise women to the level of men. I find this extremely sexist. It makes the woman sound weak and vulnerable to guns, when in fact all bodies are vulnerable to guns, no matter the gender. Research has shown that “you have a better chance of stepping on an attacker’s instep, swinging your head back and breaking their nose, than swiveling around, pulling a gun out of a holster and shooting someone ” (Talamo). So women actually have a higher chance of surviving a surprise attack without a gun.

The marketing of guns is gendered in itself. Guns are portrayed as masculine, powerful, violent objects meant to protect the poor, helpless woman. People that are pro-guns feel threatened by gun regulations on firearms because it challenges the gun-wielding notions “of hyper-masculinity with the elements… of control, domination over others and the environment, competitiveness, autonomy, rugged individualism, strength, toughness, forcefulness, decisiveness, and, of course, never having to ask for help or assistance” (Blumenfeld). People who are against gun regulations are therefore simply reinforcing the patriarchal society of the United States.

Though some pro-gun and pro-campus carry people may like to call themselves feminists, I think their beliefs are contradictory with the fundamental belief of feminism: that all people are equal regardless of gender. So in conclusion, I believe that restricting the campus carry law across the universities in Texas would not only keep women more safe but all people more free and safe.

Works Cited:

Kingkade, Tyler. “Guns On Campus Bill Passes In Texas, But Gun Activists Are Not Happy.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

Prazan, Phil. “Anti-campus Carry Protesters Rally at UT-Austin.” KXANcom. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Fenves, Gregory L. “Campus Carry Working Group Announced.” 20 Aug. 2015. E-mail.

Ura, Alexa, and Annie Daniel. “See Demographics Shift by Texas County, by Alexa Ura and Annie Daniel.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 25 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

“Gun-Free UT.” Facebook. N.p., 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Longoria, Lydia. “Campus Carry Is a Feminist Issue, by Lydia Longoria.”TribTalk. The Texas Tribune, 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Schorn, Susan. “Bitchslap: A Column About Women and Fighting.”McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data. Publication. N.p.: Violence Policy Center, 2015. Print.

Talamo, Alexa Lex. “Are Women Safer With Guns Around.” Shreveport Times. N.p., 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Blumenfeld, Warren. “Patriarchy, Toxic Hyper-Masculinity, & Firearms -.” The Good Men Project. N.p., 08 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

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My name is Aya Seidemann and I am a fourth year student pursuing a B.S. in Maths and a B.A. in Theatre. While I am a student at the University of Texas, I spent the first semester of my final year studying abroad at University College Dublin. I had an amazing semester in Ireland and especially enjoyed the community at UCD. I love nature, hiking, theatre, books, and a good cup of tea.

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Germaine Greer’s Essentialist Transphobia

10945643_10153352116116070_6904749484852049936_n (1)Germaine Greer’s Essentialist Transphobia – A Blog by Rosa Torr (rosa.torr@ucdconnect.ie)

It came about last month that Germaine Greer, second-wave feminist and author of the feminist handbook ‘The Female Eunuch’, had a petition created by Cardiff University’s Women’s Officer against her doing a speech there (Edwards, 2015). According to the petition, her recent comments about trans people “demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually ‘misgendering’ trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether” (Edwards, 2015). But what exactly could this activist of women’s rights have said to offend so many women? What were the implications of what she said? And are there any more reasonable alternatives to her point of view? I will aim to answer these questions.

The video that caused such a stir can be found here. (Greer, 2015).

On ‘M to F’ trans women she says ‘they do not look like, sound like or behave like women’ (Greer, 2015). Furthermore, in a statement to Victoria Live on the BBC she said “Just because you lop off your d*** and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f*****g woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a f****** cocker spaniel,” (Saul, 2015). And these are just some of the ‘grossly offensive’ (Saul, 2015) things she said.

What it seems as though Greer is saying is that because trans people haven’t been born with female genitalia and therefore experienced the implications of having a female body and thus been treated as a woman, they cannot simply alter their bodies and claim to be part of that gender. She seems to take the exceptionally essentialist view that men and women have innate and natural qualities that dictate their gender based on their biology.

This essentialist view however is somewhat outdated in modern feminist thought. It fails to take into account an intersectionality that has been much needed throughout the feminist movement and is being more frequently included in third wave feminism.

Judith Butler’s argument is that ‘gender is performative’ (Butler, 2015). That is to say, not some inherent quality or way of acting, but something fluid and ever changing given the context. She argues that ‘we act and walk and speak and talk in ways that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.’ (Butler, 2015). Our gender is therefore defined by the society around us and our actions are read in such a way that they are interpreted as ‘male’ or ‘female’. For example, we now consider the colour pink to be associated with girls and blue to be associated with boys. Without enforcing this preference, would a child really be drawn to one colour over the other?

One of the most interesting studies in gender normative behaviour was based on the essentialist claim that men are better at maths and science than women. In the study they got a group of men and women to perform a simple logic task. The first outcome was that the men did in general much better than the women. They then told the women to think of themselves as stereotypical men before doing the task again and the mental gap disappeared (Weiss, 2015).

What studies like these tell us is that society’s expectations of what and how a person who identifies as a certain gender are, are not biological but societal and thus conditioned. Women can adopt what we consider to be ‘male qualities’ such as being more mathematical, which proves this idea that it’s associated to your biology as mythical.

Moreover, Greer seems to be claiming that because transwomen experience the world differently from birth they are not women (Greer, 2015). But this view is also too narrow. This concept of ‘woman’ does not come with a specific and necessary check list of experience. Black women have very different experiences to white women, straight women have very different experiences to lesbian women and trans women have different experiences to all of the above. And of course within all these diversities of ‘woman’ we see crossover, and differing individual experiences. The comments made by Greer refused to reevaluate such a limited and dated view as the essentialist idea of ‘woman’ and were thus cissexist and non-intersectional.

Given that every person experiences society differently, the vast nuances of life and the varying degrees to which we all come into contact with certain norms it is only reasonable to consider that people can experience gender in very individual ways. To see the world in such binary categories as ‘male’ and ‘female’ is too reductive, too black and white, gender is far more diverse. This is why for Butler gender is ‘a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time, so to say gender is performative is to say that nobody really is a gender from the start’.

Therefore, Greer’s essentialist views are not only too narrow and prescriptive when considering gender, but also deny each human an individual right to their own identity.

There is some argument however into whether trans people actually reinforce this essentialist view in some way given that a very common claim by trans people is that they were ‘born into the wrong body’. It could be argued that feeling such a strong connections between the body you are in and the gender you identify with is alluding to some necessary biological connection to gender. If gender is merely behavioural as the theory of gender performativity seems to suggest, does having a sex change to feel more of an affiliation to that gender actually confirm it is something more?

However, I would argue that in fact the act of having transitioning couldn’t be further from essentialist. Altering your body in order to feel freer in the physical agent in which you inhabit is saying that you have never conformed to gender normative behaviour that society expects of you. You identify as the opposite gender to your sex and wish to live more outwardly in a body that will allow society to accept you as ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Perhaps if it weren’t for essentialist theorists such as Germaine Greer, the need for an operation wouldn’t be as great. But the person’s natural biology and personal identity do not fit the binary necessary categories posited by the essentialists. Someone who is born a male may behave with what society considers mostly female qualities and thus feels freer in the body that is expected to come with their gender. They are reclaiming themselves. As one commentator put it, ‘striving to become one’s true self is not the same thing as the popular misconception that trans men or trans women are working to “become the opposite sex.’ (Jakubowski, 2015).

Judith Butler spoke about this saying ‘gender is culturally formed, but it’s also a domain of agency or freedom and that it is most important to resist the violence that is imposed by ideal gender norms, especially against those who are gender different, who are nonconforming in their gender presentation.’ (Butler, 2014). What Butler is adding here is that the fluidity of gender is necessary to the freedom of some individuals and therefore necessary to their rights. In order to accept trans people as the gender they feel they are, we need to accept a non-essentialist understanding of gender. Trans people do not therefore reinforce gender essentialism.

When Germaine Greer claims that trans gender people do not ‘look like, sound like or behave like women’ (Greer, 2015). What she is implying is that there is some fixed way that women should do these things. Does she mean they don’t have vaginas? Because post-op transsexuals may. Does she mean they don’t have high pitched voices? Because some cisgender women do not? Is it that they don’t behave subordinately or bake cakes? Because a very large number of cisgendered women do not. Greer’s argument even reaffirms stereotypes that work against the personal freedom to choose of cisgendered women. Essentialism is too prescriptive and narrow a scope to deal with such a multifaceted world in which every person experiences society differently. This is surprising given that Germaine Greer is considered a pioneer of second wave feminist theory. Perhaps she is evidence that the third wave has progressed into a new more inclusive and intersectional feminism that takes into account the evidentially fluid and performative nature of gender, and also different experiences of a more diverse range of women.

Given this, what she said was extremely offensive and actually works against the liberation of women. By perpetuating an essentialist view she even limits the cisgendered women she wishes to emancipate in her feminist practise. The irony being that the writer of ‘The Female Eunuch’ has some part to play in the ‘castration’ of transgendered and ciswomen alike. Regardless of whether Germaine Greer felt she was demonstrating as she says in the video ‘tact’ (Greer, 2015), she uses an aggressive and discriminatory rhetoric on national television and this is not acceptable.

To harp back to one of Greer’s own influences on her own work, Transgender women are beautiful and very literal examples Simone DeBeuvoir’s idea that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’

Bibliography:

Butler, J. (2014). Gender Performance: The TransAdvocate interviews Judith Butler. [online] The TransAdvocate. Available at: http://www.transadvocate.com/gender-performance-the-transadvocate-interviews-judith-butler_n_13652.htm#sthash.uehARHf8.dpuf [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].

Butler, J. (2015). Judith Butler: Your Behavior Creates Your Gender. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo7o2LYATDc [Accessed 12 Nov. 2015].

Edwards, S. (2015). Germaine Greer Says Caitlyn Jenner, Transgender Women Are Not ‘Real Women’. [online] Jezebel. Available at: http://jezebel.com/germaine-greer-says-caitlyn-jenner-transgender-women-a-1738550360 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].

Greer, G. (2015). Germaine Greer: Transgender women are ‘not women’ – Newsnight. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B8Q6D4a6TM [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].

Jakubowski, K. (2015). No, The Existence of Trans People Doesn’t Validate Gender Essentialism. [online] Everyday Feminism. Available at: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/03/trans-people-gender-essentialism/ [Accessed 8 Nov. 2015].

Saul, H. (2015). Germaine Greer defends ‘offensive’ comments about transgender women. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/germaine-greer-defends-grossly-offensive-comments-about-transgender-women-just-because-you-lop-off-a6709061.html [Accessed 9 Nov. 2015].

Weiss, S. (2015). 3 Reasons to Doubt the Most Widely Believed Biology-Based Gender Myths. [online] Everyday Feminism. Available at: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/biology-based-gender-myths/ [Accessed 8 Nov. 2015].

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Rosa Torr is a second year Politics and Philosophy BA student from London studying at UCD. She has a great interest in Gender Politics and wishes to continue it into her Masters.

Politics and Periods

 

photo (11)Politics and Periods – A Blog by Charlotte Amrouche

 

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I launch this discussion on menstrual activism with these new vagina emoji’s (Figure 1) to illustrate the existing liberal conversation women are having about their bodies. In this text we will see how this conversation contrasts with existing patriarchal gender orders (Connell, 2009: p.72). These vagina emoji’s also express the essence of the women’s movement: for all women to have the freedom to do what we want with our bodies. In this blog I will apply the feminist lens to a traditional ‘women’s issue’. I will focus on current menstrual activism[1] and question whether periods have been hijacked by patriarchal regimes. In considering the male-domination of periods I stumble upon difficulties and contradictions in my own feminist understanding. How can we discuss a ‘woman’s issue’ without falling into an essentialist view of ‘woman’? This personal reflection is written under the limitation of a Western perspective, omitting some inspiring menstrual activism that is taking around the globe, such as Japanese design student Mariko Higaki award winning invention ‘Flo’ (Slavin, 2015). I will conclude this blog with a discussion of the need for an intersectional approach to menstrual rights.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 18.47.34.png2015 has seen an unprecedented focus on periods in social media: Instagram was criticised for removing photographs of artist Rupi Kaur on her period (Tsjeng, 2015), Donald Trump’s obnoxious comments of Fox News debate moderator Megan Fox invited a storm of live-period-tweets and a portrait of the tycoon himself painted in period blood (Figure 2), the debates on tampon-tax even made it into British parliament (Channel 4 News, 2015). These structural and political discourses continue to censor periods and label them as a taboo subject. However, a strong backlash is simultaneously taking place through the activism of individuals such as Kiran Gandhi, who ran the London marathon as a ‘free-bleeder’ (McGraa, 2015), and students Charlie Edge and Ruth Howarth (Howarth, 2015) who stood outside the House of Parliaments last week and freely bled in white trousers in protest against the ‘tampon-tax’. Periods have undoubtedly become politically topical in 2015. However, beyond the clickbait quality of these stories there are pressing issues and concerns which require attention in order to address the oppression women experience; whether it is Instagram censorship or being banned from your family kitchen while menstruating (Greenlagh, 2015). At the core of menstrual activism is the belief that menstruators’[2] bodies are their own: the essential feminist aim of bodily autonomy. However, how can this topic, which is cloaked in centuries of patriarchal oppression, yet simultaneously seen as the most personal, become autonomous without political intervention?

Facts don’t lie. Tampons are taxed as luxury items in the UK (BBC News, 2015). Menstrual pads are often withheld from women in prisons as a humiliation tactic (Bozelko, 2015). Acquiring sanitary pads and tampons is a continuous difficulty for homeless women. British women spend on average £18,450 on their periods over their lifetimes (Moss, 2015). And the 4.3 billion disposable sanitary products used in the UK every year end up in our seas and landfills, creating mounting environmental concerns. This evidence leads to two conclusions. Firstly, governments do not want to pay for women and their ‘luxury needs’. Secondly, the media, advertising corporations and mainstream women’s magazines continue to profit from menstruation, by fuelling a capitalist need for more disposable, taxable and throwaway products. Women are continuously encouraged to buy expensive and harmful –to the environment and to our bodies- products, while alternative remain unknown and unadvertised. As long as menstrual hygiene products are taxed, as long as it is taboo for menstrual blood to be red in adverts, as long as advertisements for Thinx are deemed too racy because of their suggestive photography and use of the word ‘period’ (Kutner, 2015), and as long as education continues to exclude the alternative reusable products such as menstrual cups and reusable pads: then periods are not solely a personal concern. Periods have been hijacked and controlled by capitalist tycoons and male-dominated politics.

 

As illustrated, the discussion of this ‘women’s issue’ takes place under patriarchal dictations of gender norms and the misogynistic gender regime[3] that politics, governments, budgeting, media and education follow. Despite this gender order, we have seen above the encouraging moments of resistance and liberated discourse of women. However, today’s menstrual activism takes place in a context of continuous feminist debate. This is clearly illustrated by the two strands of menstrual activists: feminist-spiritualists centre on the celebration of what they see as the uniqueness of womanhood, and contrast with radical menstruation activists who “deploy a gender-neutral discourse of menstruation as they resist corporate control of bodies” (Bobel, 2010: p.12). The discussion and activism surrounding menstrual rights therefore takes place in its own politically challenging arena. The difficulty lies in how to discuss a bodily function which is described as purely a woman’s issue, one which is loaded with cultural and historical taboo, without depending on essentialist accounts of womanhood.

 

This discussion of menstrual rights required me to self-reflect on my own feminism. In exploring this topic and the distinct, yet similar, difficulties women encounter worldwide, deep divisions emerged in my feminist epistemology. The performative description of a gender continuum of post-structuralists such as Judith Butler speak volumes to me. While overall in order to achieve gender justice I believe in the need for a radical reconstruction of society. This part post-structuralist, part radical feminist approach encounters clear problems with the essentialist ideas of womanhood which menstruation inspires in me. Menstrual health has been commandeered by political and corporate institutions. The male-dominated regimes of these structures have silenced women’s voices and experiences of menstruation, allowing the medical (male-prescribed) epistemology of menstruation to be the only authorised position (Martin, 1990: p.79-80). This silencing of women’s experience echoes the oppression patriarchy exudes across the globe. Under this injustice and silence I long to find platforms for expression more thrilling than the woman’s magazine. I personally recognise the experience of menstruation as part of my becoming a woman. This recognition has led to a perplexing understanding of how gender justice can be attainted, and what equilibrium of feminist knowledge I must utilise in order to achieve the goals of menstrual rights and dignity.

 

The experience of womanhood is greatly influenced by nationality, biologically (medically) assigned sex category, class, education, race, (dis)ability: and this list is not exhaustive. My journey to womanhood takes place under the privilege of an excellent Western education. An advantage too many girls do not have access to, and an advantage which is further hindered by the difficulty girls have in gaining access to sanitary products and private washrooms (Girl Effect Team, 2015). However, my Irish education never taught me about periods in the one sexual education class I had. Experiences intersect and are not consistent in privilege. These intersections create identities that require an intersectional approach in order to be fully understood and explored. In the discussion of the politicisation of periods, both through gendered political structures and informal political resistance, we must retain a focus on the multitudes of people who identify as ‘woman’ and their individually different experiences of womanhood. An intersectional approach is essential in order to understand how the development of identity categories can be used to negotiate fields of power (Lykke, 2010: p.50), while it also presents the feminist discussion of a biologically determined issue with clear complications.

 

The aims of menstrual activism goes beyond the tired old phrase that ‘all women want is to be equal to men’. To echo a feminist saying “if you think equality is the goal, then your standards are too low”. The topic of menstruation illustrates the vast dispersity among woman and a key struggle of third wave feminism: how to fight for women’s rights when the category ‘women’ is no longer uniform. Today’s feminist concerns go beyond equalising the dichotomy to creating societies that instead accommodate for our individually different bodily experiences. Women are different, not only from men, but from each other. Periods happen to most women for large proportions of their lives. However, it is the politicisation of periods and the influence of the gender regimes of our societies that have negative and damaging effects on the lives of women.

 

Menstruation is a source of power which can be converted into political activism: one must only look to the barrage of live tweets Irish women sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny this week (Phipps, 2015). Such acts of informal politics illustrate the power woman have when they own their bodies. The examples of oppression and activism throughout this text have a common link: politics. Therefore, can this personal issue be resolved through a state-adoption of feminism or can positive change in attitudes only come from grassroots movements? In conclusion I believe that the mainstreaming of periods is essential: we need more comedians like Amy Schumer making tampon jokes, we need more menstrual health education and more politicians like Stella Creasy who stand up in masculine institutions and speak for women’s rights.

  

Bibliography

BBC News (2015) ‘‘Tampon Tax’ paid around the world’, BBC News, 21 August. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-32883153. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Bobel, C. (2010) New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation. Rutgers University Press.

Bozelko, C. (2015) ‘Prisons that withhold menstrual pads humiliate women and violate basic rights’, The Guardian, 12 June. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/12/prisons-menstrual-pads-humiliate-women-violate-rights. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Channel 4 News. (2015) Tampons and sanitary towels have always been considered a luxury. [Video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=php82e_z7kY. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Connell, R. (2009) Gender: Short Introductions. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Flirtoji. (2015) The blue, the green and the stubbly. [Illustration] Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26966/1/all-hail-the-vagina-emoji. [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Girl Effect Team. (2015) ‘That time of the month shouldn’t mean missing school – period’, Girl Effect, 21 May. Available at: http://www.girleffect.org/what-girls-need/articles/2015/05/that-time-of-the-month-shouldn-t-mean-missing-school-period/. [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Greenhalgh, J. (2015) ‘A girl gets her period and is banished to the shed: #15Girls’, NPR, 17 October. Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/10/17/449176709/horrible-things-happen-to-nepali-girls-when-they-menstruate-15girls. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Howarth, R. (2015) @EdgeOTI and I protesting! @UCLanSH @UKParliament @EUparliament. [Twitter Photograph] Available at: https://twitter.com/VeganInTheAir/status/662603410991144960/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Kantola, J., and Squires, J. (2012) ‘From state feminism to market feminism?’. In: International Political Science Review, 33(4), pp. 382-400.

Kutner, J. (2015) ‘Will the New York city subway band these ads for using the word “period”?’, Connections. Mic, 20 October. Available at: http://mic.com/articles/127022/will-the-new-york-city-subway-ban-these-thinx-ads-for-using-the-word-period#.XAI2yaXIL. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Levy, S. (2015) Whatever. [Painting] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-period-painting_55f6eedee4b042295e36eee4. [Accessed 11 November 2015].

Lykke, N. (2010) A Guide to Intersectional Theory, Methodology and Writing. New York: Routledge.

Martin, E. (1990) ‘Science and Women’s Bodies: Forms of Anthropological Knowledge’, in: Body/Politics: Women and the Discourses of Science, Jacobus, M., Fox Keller, E., and Shuttleworth S. (eds). London: Routledge.

McGraa, T. (2015). ‘Why I ran for 26 miles on my period’, Dazed, September. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/25908/1/why-i-ran-for-26-miles-on-my-period. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Moss, R. (2015). ‘Women spend more than £18,000 on having periods in their lifetime, study reveals’, Huffpost Women, 3 September. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/03/women-spend-thousands-on-periods-tampon-tax_n_8082526.html. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Phipps, C. (2015) ‘#repealthe8th: Irish women tweet their periods to prime minister Enda Kenny’, The Guardian, 6 November. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/irish-women-live-tweet-periods-enda-kenny-repeal-the-eighth. [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Schofield, T. and Goodwin, S. (2005) ‘Gender Politics and Public Policy Making: Prospects for Advancing Gender Equality’, in Policy and Society, 24(4), pp.25-44

Shepard, L. J. (2010) ‘Sex or Gender? Bodies in World Politics and Why Gender Matters’. In: Gender Matters in Global Politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations, Shepard, L. J. (ed). Routledge.

Slavin, T. (2015) ‘The invention that aims to make periods less of a pain’, The Guardian, 2 October. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/oct/02/menstruation-flo-periods-less-of-a-pain-for-girls-asia-africa. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

Tsjeng, Z. (2015) ‘Why Instagram censored this image of an artist on her period’, Dazed, April. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/24258/1/why-instagram-censored-this-image-of-an-artist-on-her-period. [Accessed 12 November 2015].

 

 

[1] Menstrual activism: a third-wave protest aiming to free women’s bodies from government control, corporations and cultural taboos.

[2] Menstruation activists refer to “menstruators” instead of “women”, this makes menstruation everyone’s issues and expands menstruation beyond the confines of gender (Bobel, 2010: p.12).

[3] Gender regimes presents the “variously configured gender dynamics prevailing in different parts of the state at the same time” (Schofield and Goodwin, 2005: p.2)

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I am currently in my final semester at UCD, studying Sociology and Politics & International Relations -with a feminist lens! I have a keen interest in gender studies, along with social justice studies and human rights. After graduating I will be pursuing a master’s in Gender Studies.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t: The Scrutiny of the Female Body in Today’s Media

12436371_10154372683567004_2099157285_oDamned if we do, damned if we don’t: The Scrutiny of the Female Body in Today’s Media – A Blog by Chloé Grier

The representation of women in the public sphere has always been an issue of concern, dating back to the 1920s when suffragettes argued that women deserved the right to take part in the making of laws and demanded the right to vote. While these days we see increased numbers of women in politics, there is still an outrageous double standard set for how they are expected to behave and present themselves. All my life (while I admit twenty-one years is not a particularly long time) I have been criticised for my loquacity. I have never been good at keeping my opinions to myself. So it is safe to assume that the way in which women are represented by the media would be of particular interest to me, especially since as a child, I had often dreamed of being in the public eye. I wish now to discuss how professional women are represented in the media, by considering some prominent women such as Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey, as well as the all-woman astronaut team from Russia. These women are often held at a double standard to their male counterparts; they are expected to be the best at what they do, while at the same time maintaining their feminine charm.

Within the topic of the media representation of women, it is important to maintain an understanding of intersectionality within the feminist discourse. While all the women I wish to discuss face the same biases pertaining to their biological sex, some of them face other types of discrimination based on their race, class background, religion, etc. For now, I want to focus more on body-related issues that I feel affect all women. I come from a privileged background, never having to worry about my race, sexuality or religion, and therefore do not wish to pretend to know how marginalised women feel about their representation in the media.

I have always been interested in the way women are treated by the media. Being an avid film-lover, I pay close attention to the types of questions female actors and their male counterparts are asked. I finally chose to research it after reading about the six female Russian astronauts who were interviewed a couple weeks ago in regard to their upcoming mission into space. In the last week of October, they were embarking on an eight-day isolation experiment to run psychological tests and were asked some questions beforehand. Most of the reporters wanted to know how the women would survive without men and without make up, or even how they would manage their hair; Yelena Serova, one of the female astronauts, argued that male cosmonauts were not subject to same types of irrelevant questions (AFP 2015). The director of the space institute, Igor Ushakov, where the experiment is taking place, even said: “I’d like to wish you a lack of conflicts, even though they say that in one kitchen, two housewives find it hard to live together” (AFP 2015). Somehow, even committing yourself to space travel for however many years is not enough for you to be respected as a scientist; Ushakov’s use of this phrase is way to undermine the achievements and bravery of these women, by diminishing their abilities to cooperate as a team based on their gender.

I won’t lie, I love reality television. I think it is incredibly addictive and I could honestly spend a whole day in bed watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”. And like Kaiser (2013) who said: “Kim’s empire is a house of cards built on attention, famewhoring and pandering to the least common denominator”, I too, spent many years thinking Kim Kardashian was a no-talent slut. I was, and many still are, wrong. It takes an unimaginable amount of courage and talent to turn a leaked sex-tape into a multi-billion dollar industry and long-running television programme. The Kardashian’s are accomplished models and entrepreneurs, with their own clothing store, on top of two of them being mothers. But the real question is, why should we care what people say about Kim Kardashian? Who cares if she’s called fat on every magazine while she’s pregnant? The answer is: everyone should care, because in Western society we eat the media up. Adolescent girls, like my younger self, will read these tabloids and will consume the representation of women’s bodies and the negative representation will soon reflect on their own choices. Gloria Steinem told US Weekly that: “criticising people’s bodies […] devalues both their brains and ours” (Takeda, 2013). It’s easy to criticise Kim Kardashian for her selfies or for her sex tape and then completely disregard her prowess in business and marketing. In regard to Kim Kardashian, she seems to be completely aware of power and politics. Her sex tape was leaked without her consent; there was a moment when Kardashian had a complete lack of power, but I am impressed with the way she took that power back and turned it into an empire. As a body-positive feminist, I have come to admire Kardashian, especially when she explains why she is eager to overshare on social media, explaining that: “there’s power in that and I think I have control to put out what I want so even if I’m objectifying myself, I feel good about it.” (Foley, 2015). Not all women in the media are as overtly sexual as Kim Kardashian though, yet they are still criticised in the same way by the media.

The world of sports has been largely male-dominated, through socialisation of young boys and media persistence. Because of this, Creedon (1994) argues that there has been a process of ‘gatekeeping’ against women from becoming heavily involved in the athletic sphere. Gatekeeping, Creedon explains, is a process in which information is selected, produced, transmitted and shaped (1994). This process is what influences girls to become cheerleaders and boys to become football players. It’s what protects footballers who are accused of sexual violence and what punishes girls for being “too masculine”.

Serena Williams has been cited as being the best female tennis player, ever. She holds the record for second most Grand Slam wins at 21. In the same vein, Ronda Rousey has become a prominent and impressive figure in the world of UFC fighting, being known for her quick take down of opponents. Aside from them both being female athletes, these women are also connected in how they affected by media representation of them. While they are hailed for their athletic accomplishments, they are also bombarded with the same types of questions interviewers might ask say… Kim Kardashian (not exactly known for her athletic prowess). Rousey, who has admitted to suffering from eating disorders in the past, has been harassed by the media in regard to her weight. She is regularly called fat, despite her weight being composed mainly of muscle, which she uses to continue to be an undefeated bantamweight champion. However, like Kim Kardashian, Rousey has turned media discrimination against itself, posing provocatively for magazines, such as Sports Illustrated. She told Fortune magazine: “If I can represent that body type of women that isn’t represented so much in media, then I’d be happy to do that” (Zarya, 2015). As I mentioned before, it is not my intention to discuss a certain type of woman; the homely woman, the model, etc. What I find appealing about Rousey is that she represents a more uncommon female body type which has long been associated with men, the muscle.

Serena Williams has faced similar body-related scrutiny. Recently Twitter-users have been criticising her manly physique; one user @diegtristan8 commented saying: “ironic then that main reason for her success is that she built like a man” (2015). In other words, Williams’s accomplishments have nothing to do with her dedication, but rather because she’s built like the hegemonic male idea of a man; furthermore assuming that the only way to be an accomplished athlete is to disregard femininity. Blogger Teresa Jusino (2015) summed it up well when she exclaimed: “THE WOMAN WON WIMBLEDON SIX TIMES! Praise her freaking achievements […] or start writing articles about how her male Wimbledon counterpart, Novak Djokovic, looked like a freaking Disney Prince at the Wimbledon Ball”. The point Jusino is trying to make is that it shouldn’t even matter what Williams’s looks like; Neither Williams nor Rousey need their body type validated in order for them to be accomplished athletes.

The tabloid has a section in which female celebrities are criticised for their bodies: photos depicting cellulite, dark circles under eyes, unflattering poses. It’s not conducive to society for people to dismiss these horrendous reports, by saying that these women deserve to be scrutinised because they allow themselves to be in the public eye. We need to realise that both men and women are in the public eye, but men are not nearly as scrutinised for their fashion choices, their physique or even how much sleep they’re getting. The problem is the more media dwindles a woman’s accomplishments down to being just about her looks, the less likely young girls are going to see themselves as anything more than just a pretty face. By all means, wear lipstick and a false lashes on your days off, but don’t let the media stop you from wiping it off and getting dirty in your professional life.

Bibliography

I. AFP (2015) ‘All-female Russian Crew Starts Moon Mission’, Bangkok Post, 29 October. Available at: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/746764/all-female-russian-crew-startsmoon-mission-test [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

II. Creedon, P. J. (Ed.). (1994) Women, Media and Sport: Challenging Gender Values. Sage Publications.

III. Foley, L. (2015) ‘Kim Kardashian on how Women are Treated in the Media: ‘By Objectifying Myself as a Woman, I Hold the Power’, Sugarscape, 1 July. Available at: http:// http://www.sugarscape.com/celebs/news/a1079450/kim-kardashian-sexism-objectification/ [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

IV. Jusino, T. (2015) ‘Women’s Sports and Sexism: Isn’t Serena Williams Winning Wimbledon Enough?’ The Mary Sue, 13 July. Available at: http://www.themarysue.com/sports-sexismserena-williams-wimbledon/ [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

V. Kaiser (2006/2015) ‘Should We Feel Any Feminist Outrage with the Media’s Treatment of Kim Kardashian?’, Celebitchy, April 12. Available at: http://www.celebitchy.com/291510/ should_we_feel_any_feminist_outrage_with_the_medias_treatment_of_kim_kardashian/ [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

VI. Rob, @diegtristan8 (2015) 11 July 2015. Available at: https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/ 619886370081869824?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

VII.Takeda, A. (2013) ‘Gloria Steinem Says Criticism of Kim Kardashian’s Pregnant Body is Wrong ‘Under Any Circumstance’’, US Weekly, 11 April. Available at: http:// http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/gloria-steinem-says-criticism-of-kim-kardashianspregnant-body-is-wrong-under-any-circumstance-2013114#ixzz2QAdmRguQ [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

VIII.Zarya, V. (2015) ‘Ronda Rousey’s Biggest Fight is Against Body Shamers’, Fortune, 9 October. Available at: http://fortune.com/2015/10/09/ronda-rouseys-body-shaming/ [Accessed on: 9 November 2015].

 

 

 

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My name is Chloé Grier and I’m 21 years old. I was born and raised in New York City to a French-Armenian mother and American father. I attended the United Nations International School until 2012 when I moved to Ireland to begin studying at UCD. In college, I’m majoring in Politics and Sociology, with a keen interest in feminism and intersectionality in politics. After college I hope to continue my studies at graduate school in pursuit of a Masters degree in conflict resolution. My main academic interests include women in conflict, as well as women in peace-keeping operation.

More generally, I’m interested in the study of violence and terrorism and security measures. On a less academic note, I enjoy cooking, watching films and exercising.

#NiUnaMenos; standing up to femicides and ‘machismo’ in Argentina

FullSizeRender.jpg#NiUnaMenos; standing up to femicides and ‘machismo’ in Argentina – A blog by Natasha Gamboa

In 2008, it was estimated that every 40 hours a woman in Argentina was killed for reasons pertaining to her gender. In 2014, that number had risen to every 31 hours. Between these years, over 1,800 women have lost their life to femicide (Heguy, 2015). However, these figures are only those that had been reported in the news, as there does not exist official statistics, so it is likely that this number is a lot higher.

So what explains these deaths?

In Argentina, and even more so in other parts of Latin America, there is a strong ‘machismo’, or ‘macho’ culture. Having lived there during the summer by myself, I can attest to this. It is a culture that sees women getting catcalled in busy streets, one that sees women being groped out in public, and one where a huge sense of male entitlement exists. I recall in particular one of my first days over there, when I was walking through one of the most famous street markets in Buenos Aires. I was alone and incredibly out of my comfort zone, when a man at least 20 years my senior approached me. He asked me to go out for ‘a few beers’ with him later that night, and would not accept ‘no’ for an answer. He continued to pester me for around 15 minutes despite my rejecting him and having made very clear the fact that I felt incredibly uncomfortable.

This machismo culture is something that is so deeply embedded into Argentine society that nobody seems to bat an eyelid when they see this blatant objectification of women out in public, even to the point where it could potentially be threatening.

For this reason, it is easy to see why these horrific femicides are so prevalent in this kind of society. According to the WHO (2012), femicide can be defined as the “intentional murder of women because they are women… Most cases of femicide are committed by partners/ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.”

In fact, in Argentina, statistics have shown that 9 out of 10 victims of femicide were killed by either a partner or ex-partner (Amaya and Rubio, 2015). Take, for example, the case of 14 year old Chiara Paez, who was eight weeks pregnant when she was beaten by her boyfriend (16) and buried alive in his grandparent’s garden with the help of his mother and stepfather. Three days later, authorities found her body. An autopsy found that she had been given abortion-inducing drugs, (which prosecutors suspect were likely administered against her will) and had been killed in an ensuing fight. Or, the example of 44-year-old Maria Eugenia Lanzetti, who was in the middle of teaching her kindergarten class when her soon to be ex-husband (against whom she had a restraining order) came into the classroom and slit her throat in front of her young students. Or, the case of Daiana García, who had left her house for a job interview, and never came home. Her body was found the next morning on the side of a motorway in a rubbish bag, half naked, after having been suffocated with a sock.

Despite horrific cases like these that receive significant media attention and backlash, not much is really done. Can something so deeply ingrained into an entire society change anytime soon? How many more women will have to lose their lives while we wait for this change?

Surprisingly, Argentina’s gender violence laws are actually quite comprehensive. In 1994, the first law (Ley Nacional 24.417) relating to gender violence was enacted, which specifically addressed domestic violence. A few years later, a law that was much broader in its contents was then enacted (Ley Nacional 26.485), and in 2012, a law was introduced that changed the sentencing of a convicted perpetrator of femicide to life in prison. Despite all of these changes, femicides continue to rise. This shows that simply enacting a piece of legislation doesn’t (and hasn’t) solved this deeply rooted societal problem. However, it has been suggested that these laws are not being fully implemented in the first place. According to a piece that Pomeraniec wrote for The Guardian (2015), this may be because “budgets need to be assigned”, and “security forces and justice officials need to be trained in how to deal with women who wish to report violent partners.” Another major issue that arises when trying to understand how best to tackle the issue, is the fact that the true scope of this problem cannot be known. As I mentioned above, no official statistics exist on femicides, and people only have mainstream media sources to rely on to try to understand the problem.

Gender equality in Argentina, and in Latin America, has always been disappointing at best. Women are seen as objects that can be owned, and who are inferior. They’re seen as people who must always answer to a man in their life, be it a husband, boyfriend, or father. It is often these men in their lives who commit such atrocious crimes against them.

There also exists major gender inequalities in the work force. According to Sebastián Lacunza (2010), 9 out of 10 working mothers that have 4 children or more are employed as cleaners in private homes. They also sometimes receive abysmal pay. I remember earlier this year reading a post in a Facebook group for expats in Buenos Aires, an advertisement that somebody had posted for their maid. They were moving back to America, and didn’t want to leave her unemployed. When asked in the comments how much she charged, the original poster replied ’50 pesos an hour’ – the equivalent of about €3. To put this into perspective, renting a very small studio apartment in a disadvantaged area of Argentina can cost 4000 pesos a month. It is no surprise then that women in Argentina earn half of what men earn – according to Lacunza, in 2010 men were earning on average “17,710 dollars a year against only 8,958 dollars [for women]”.

It is no surprise then, after all of the recent high-profile cases of femicide, that a movement was launched – under the banner of #NiUnaMenos [Not one less]. A well-known Argentine journalist, Marcela Ojeda, sent out the following tweet:

This translates to: “Actresses, female politicians, artists, businesswomen, opinion makers … [sic] women, everyone.. Aren’t we going to raise our voice? They’re killing us!”

This tweet caught the attention of other female journalists, intellectuals, and activists in Argentina, who all gathered together to discuss what must be done. They acknowledged the already existing gender violence laws, and how they were not working. They realised that what had to be changed was how people think about gender equality. A real discussion needed to begin. And so, they came up with the idea of holding protests around the country, with the main one being outside of the congress building in Buenos Aires. It was to be held on the 3rd of June 2015.

What then happened, was one of the biggest feminist marches to have ever taken place. Thousands showed up in cities around the country: “45,000 in Córdoba, 20,000 in Rosario, 12,000 in Santa Fe, La Plata and Mendoza, 10,000 in Mar del Plata, and thousands more in smaller towns.” (Adamovsky, 2015). However, the biggest march that took place was the one outside of the national congress building – where estimates of attendees vary from 150,000 from police, to 300,000 from the event organisers.

The response to this was great. Within 24 hours, “Supreme court Justice Elena Highton announced a registry of femicides would be set up at the court” (Pomeraniec, 2015), as did the Human Rights Secretariat. It also opened up a much needed discussion on these femicides and the treatment of women under the ‘machismo’ society between men and women alike.

However, one wonders if much will be done by the new government. The presidential elections that were held at the end of November 2015 saw two presidential hopefuls, the ex-president backed candidate Daniel Scioli, and opposition leader Mauricio Macri fight for the presidency. The ex-president, Kristina Fernández de Kircher, had a disappointing response to the protests – she just sent out a few tweets. She has also been known to disregard feminism in the media, and was criticised in July when in a speech that was transmitted live to all state television and radio broadcasters, she said that “you cannot be a great woman if you don’t have a great man by your side” (Adamovsky, 2015).

The other side of the presidential campaign isn’t one that inspires much hope either. Mauricio Macri, the new president of Argentina, who was previously the mayor of Buenos Aires, last year decided to shut down an important program for the Assistance of Victims of Sexual Violence that the city had run until then. An apparent ‘lack of funds’ was given as the reason, despite a steadily growing budget (Adamovsky, 2015).

All of this paints quite a bleak picture of what may be to come for Argentina. However, the most important thing has already happened – a nation-wide discussion. People must become educated to realise the deep flaws that exist within the society, and by talking to each other, they will become more educated. People will start to become more aware of how the things they say or do perpetuate this culture, and hopefully help stop it and speak up. Of course, Rome was not built in a day, and it will take a long time for a significant change in the public psyche to occur. But it is certainly not hopeless. There are already measures in place on getting femicide statistics together, so that the true scope of the problem can be realised, and hopefully something more can be done from there. I’d suggest mandatory sex education and gender equality classes for children in school, as this is something currently lacking in the Argentine education system. It is a problem which manifests itself in many ways. Domestic violence for example is one such issue, which according to the Refugee and Immigration board of Canada in 2008, one in three Argentinean women suffer from physical, psychological, sexual or economic abuse in her home. It also results in high teenage pregnancy rates which according to the World Bank in 2014, 64 out of every 1,000 births in Argentina were from mothers that are aged between 15 and 19-years-old. And of course, as we know, it also results in high numbers of femicides.

So, we have to hope that this dialogue continues, that activists continue to push for change, and that the state implements new measures to facilitate this. We can keep the conversation alive on social media – just search the hashtag #NiUnaMenos on twitter (there is a fair amount of response in English also).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Heguy, S. (2015) Machismo: Impunidad y violencia contra las mujeres [Machoism: Unpunishment and violence against women]. Clarín May 31. Available at: http://www.clarin.com/opinion/Femcidios-Ni_una_menos-Niunamenos-Argentina_0_1367263372.html

 

World Health Organisation (2012) Femicide. Understanding and addressing violence against women. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77421/1/WHO_RHR_12.38_eng.pdf

 

Rubio, M. and Amaya, S. (2015) El mapa de los femicidios en la Argentina [The map of femicides in Argentina] La Nacion 20 May. Available at: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1794148-el-mapa-de-los-femicidios-en-la-argentina

 

Ley Nacional (1994). Protección contra la violencia familiar [Protection against domestic violence] Available at: http://www.notivida.com.ar/legnacional/Ley%20NACIONAL%2024.417%20PROTECCION%20CONTRA%20LA%20VIOLENCIA%20FAMILIAR.html

 

Pomeraniec, H. (2015) How Argentina rose up against the murder of women. The Guardian 8 June. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/08/argentina-murder-women-gender-violence-protest

 

Lacunza, S. (2010) ARGENTINA: The Gender Roots of Labour Inequality. Global Issues 5 August. Available at: http://www.globalissues.org/news/2010/08/05/6519

 

Adamovsky, E. (2015) ‘NiUna Menos: Feminism and Politics in Argentina. TeleSur TV 6 July. Available at: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Ni-una-menos-Feminism-and-Politics-in-Argentina-20150706-0011.html

 

Research Directorate: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (2008). Argentina: Women victims of domestic violence; state protection and resources available to victims. Immigraton and Refugee Board of Canada 17 January. Available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47ce6d7ca.html

 

World Bank (2014) Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19) Data at the World Bank Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.ADO.TFRT

 

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Natasha Gamboa is an Argentine/Irish citizen. She is currently a second-year student, doing a BA in Politics and International Relations at UCD. She identifies as a feminist, and has a strong interest in matters relating to current global gender issues.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Not Want Gender Equality Too?

Do You Not Want Gender Equality Too? A Blog by Kerrie Maunsell

Sometimes I find it difficult to express the ideas and feelings I have in my head verbally out to others. I am quite opinionated, but I find it much easier to talk openly and freely with people I know well. I wouldn’t call myself shy, but there’s usually someone else in the room that’s louder, more confident and more comfortable expressing their opinions.

I like pop culture, but it doesn’t consume my life. I admire strong influential people of our time and those who use their influence for good.

The first concert I ever attended was Beyoncé’s world tour in May 2009 and at just thirteen her all-female band struck me. She said in a statement “I just wanted to do something which would inspire other young females”. It was soon after this that I was first introduced to the concept of feminism. I didn’t look too much into the definition and ideologies associated with the term, but I could tell from my older sisters hesitation around the word that there was perhaps a lot of negative baggage attached to it.

In Beyoncé’s new album she incorporates a lot of references about feminism and empowering women. Most significant of which was a passage of speech in her song flawless. At the start of the Gender and Politics module I became aware that this was in fact the voice from a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I soon bought the little book adapted from her much-loved speech ‘we should all be feminists’.

A little over two weeks ago my friend’s boyfriend came across the book in my room. Aggressively he questioned the word ‘feminism’, asking why does ‘it’ have to be centred around women? He asked why couldn’t we focus more on humanity? Caught off guard, and not knowing him very well, I fell silent. His rant soon ended. I was ashamed at myself for not speaking up. I had that burning sensation in the pit of my stomach.

During this semester my understanding of feminism has grown and my belief in it has only gotten stronger. I’ve since thought a lot about what I wish I had said.

I don’t believe that the term feminism is only related to women and women’s rights. It’s important to note that both men and women can be feminists. Its aim is to establish political, economic and social equality of the sexes. In a western country like Ireland the challenges and inequalities women face are different to those of the rest of the world.

The 1918 general election was the first time women were allowed to cast a vote in Ireland; however there were a number of clauses attached and these restrictions weren’t lifted until 1928. Up to 1976, women in Ireland were unable to own their own homes (Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission). Blatant inequalities that we find almost humorous today were still in place only a few decades ago.

Today, an issue that is at the forefront of politics and the media is that of the gender pay gap. In Ireland women are paid over 14% less than men for the same work. This issue is being addressed across a number of other western countries, with influential people beginning to speak up on the topic. This leads to the question: Are women historically less powerful due to the fact that money is closely linked to power? It’s true that the further up you go the fewer women can be seen. In Ireland we are now tackling the issue head on and the introduction of gender quotas is bringing light to the issue. Gender equality in Ireland would have long-term ethical and economic benefits that would be unparalleled.

Where does the gender inequality stem from? It’s deep-rooted into the foundations of society. People often can’t see the strangeness of it because its ‘woven into the fabric’ of our culture (Lewis H. 2015). Our constitution mirrors our society and the culture in Ireland. We regard working and bread-winning to be the man’s responsibility and the home the woman’s duty. I love my parents but they’re a prime example of this backward mentality, my own father being unable to turn on an oven. This is how people were brought up, adopting their home surroundings and passing them on to future generations to come. However culture does not make people; people make culture (Ngozi Adichie C. 2012).

Cultural pressure is engrained deep in gender. A lot of the population see gender as a rigid binary and not as the vast spectrum, which it truly is. I have a lot of sympathy for the cultural pressures men face, and likewise with the pressures we women face. Hegemonic masculinity is creating a narrow constraint, which individuals feel they should fit into. It restricts the complex possibilities of masculinity. From September 2016, men in Ireland will be entitled to take paternity leave. Perhaps now women won’t always ‘know more about children because they spend more time with them’ as once said by Ruairi Quinn. I see this as a huge leap forward for the culture of Ireland. No longer will women solely be responsible for their children, Irish law will finally recognise fathers care from the beginning. I believe this will have positive affects crossing over to many other issues as they are all intrinsically linked.

When we hear ‘gender issues’, we think female, ‘race’, black and ‘sexuality’, gay. Would veering away from the word ‘feminism’ help with moving forward with the cause? Would adopting a gender-neutral term stop guys, like the one who found my book, from being put off by the cause? I’ve thought a lot about this and I believe that as long as inequalities remain, ‘whitewashing’ them with neutral terms isn’t going to help the situation. A startling 1 in 5 think that being called a feminist is an “insult” (Eleftheriou-Smith L. 2015). “Society and the media have played a role in painting feminists in an unflattering light, depicting them as unattractive, hysterical women or women who possess radical thoughts” (Minori Kitahara, Japan Times). Was I afraid that speaking up passionately about feminism I’d be seen as an angry man hater? Passionate women are used to being told that they’re angry (Lind D. 2015)

‘HeForShe’ is a new UN campaign aimed at ending gender inequality. With Emma Watson as its spokesperson, is it perhaps a regal attempt at rebranding feminism? Creating a new, more palatable modern-day feminist image. As she said in her UN speech in September 2014 “it’s not the word that is important, it’s this idea and the ambition behind it”.

The UN deals with gender inequalities on a global scale. In developing countries the goals and aims are what we in western society often take for granted. The gender gaps favouring males in developing countries are much wider then that of the richer countries. One of the most urgent appeals is to create and facilitate the means for these girls to be able to attend school. Humans have the right to an education. In the poorest regions of the world girls face extra discrimination and barriers simply because they were born female. The UN has tried to implement gender mainstreaming as a strategy to achieve gender equality. When looking at any policy they will regard the implications faced by women and men.

I am a feminist because I believe in equality for humanity. I won’t carry forward the negative attachments and perceptions around the word. I believe what there needs to be awareness around the topic of gender equality in order to see any real progress. There are virtually no differences in the ideologies between humanists and feminists; both strive for a just and equal society. After all it is the cause that matters most.

 

De Luca I., (2013), ‘Ireland has a long way to go in terms of gender equality’, May 9th.

Available at: http://www.europeanmovement.ie/ymip-ireland-has-a-long-way-to-go-in-terms-of-gender-equality/

Eleftheriou-Smith L. (2015). ‘Nearly 1 in 5 people in the uk think being called a feminist is an insult’, The Guardian. November 10th

Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nearly-1-in-5-people-in-the-uk-think-being-called-a-feminist-is-an-insult-a6728446.html

Emma Watson’s Speech at the HeForShe campaign launch

Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkjW9PZBRfk

Ito M. (2015), ‘Women of Japan unite: Examining the contemporary state of feminism’, the Japan Times. October 3rd

Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2015/10/03/lifestyle/women-japan-unite-examining-contemporary-state-feminism/#.VkYBwt_hCb_

Leuptow K. (2014). Feminism Now: What the Third Wave is Really About. January 10

Available at: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/feminism-now/

Lewis H. (2015), ‘The Myth of a feminist ‘end of history’, The Guardian, September 30th

Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/30/feminists-end-of-history-women-rights

Lind D. (2015), Focus groups democratic debate, Vox Policy and Politics

Available at: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/14/9530799/focus-groups-democratic-debate

Udorie J.E, (2015), Seven priorities of young feminists today. The Guardian. 29th September

Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/29/seven-priorities-young-feminists-suffragette

UN gender mainstreaming

Available at:http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/gendermainstreaming.htm

 

 

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My name is Kerrie Maunsell. I’m in my 2nd year of an Economics Major. I undertook the Gender and Politics module as my elective.

Why Gender Equality and Abortion are Two Sides of the Same Coin

image1Why Gender Equality and Abortion are Two Sides of the Same Coin – A Blog by Meabh Butler

Abortion is a word which has a lot of baggage attached to it. Decision, choice, necessity. Murder, shame, expenses. Stigma, boats, aeroplanes. Criminal. Human right. Whatever name you give it, it is something that will continue to effect women worldwide. There is a whisper going through Irish media at the moment that is slowly beginning to rise in volume. Whether through a letter to the editor of The Irish Times, a debate on the television or a simple sharing of a post on Facebook, the conversation on abortion is happening in Ireland, and it is time that we all start listening.

There is a problem with the abortion debate in Ireland, and it is that the government are refusing to take a clear position on the matter. As someone who actively engages with the radio, newspapers and social media, the only person in government I have heard take a side on abortion, is Tánaiste Joan Burton. I am sure, or at least I would hope, that there are certainly many other members of government who have an opinion on abortion. Yet, to an average member of the public, this does not seem to be the case. There has been a deafening silence from all other parties.

Why is it, then, the political parties, that were so quick to celebrate and to encourage the people of Ireland to accept marriage equality, are shying away from the abortion discussion? This is where the issue of gender equality in Ireland comes right to the forefront of Irish politics, without our even realising it. There has been a spate of changes in the last 25 years or so in Ireland that has seen the country make leaps and bounds into a more liberal and accepting society: the change in Family Planning Laws in 1979, the law recognising marital rape in 1990, the divorce referendum in 1995, the marriage equality referendum in 2015. Many argue the changes reflect the separation between state and church in Ireland. The same can be said about abortion, but what differs with this issue is that it is solely to do with women.

Abortion is not at the forefront of Irish politics, because it is not deemed a ‘serious’ issue. The debate is not worth the political risk. Abortion, in its simplest terms, is about a woman’s ownership of her body. As it stands in Ireland, a woman’s body is no more than the property of the state. In a government which has consisted of an overwhelming majority of men since its establishment, it is no wonder that abortion is not considered an urgent matter.

In her introduction to Politics and Feminism, Anne Phillips (1998) makes note of the fact that, although we are moving forward globally in terms of equality between the sexes, this is not conveyed within the world of politics. Politics is, as she says, “business as usual”. Fiona Buckley (2013) also points out the harsh reality of gender inequality in her article Women and Politics in Ireland: The Road to Sex Quotas. She highlights that since the Irish government was established in 1922, only 92 women have ever been elected to Dáil Éireann. In 2013, a mere 26 women accounted for the make-up of Teachtaí Dála. Politically in Ireland, there has not been equal representation of women.

Without representation, it is incredibly difficult for anyone to feel equal within their society. If we look at our political representatives, it would appear that Ireland is only inhabited by middle-class, suit wearing, white males. The Dáil depicts an environment that is hostile towards women. It is undoubtedly a male sphere, an ‘old boys’ club’. We only have to think of two infamous incidents which epitomise how the Dáil engages with issues of what should be of utmost concern. The ‘LapGate’ incident in 2013, in which TD Tom Barry pulled Aine Collins onto his lap during a late night debate on abortion is one such example. Not only was this inappropriate, but Barry admitted to having been under the influence of alcohol. The matter of having a bar in the Dáil is a concern for another day, but the sheer light-heartedness and inappropriateness of the situation speaks miles about the government’s priorities.

Another example of the trivialisation of women’s issues occurred in 2011, when Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis proposed the question of how gender quotas would be appropriated to Independents. He was answered by an uproar of laughter, proving gender equality is clearly not taken seriously by the Irish government. In October 2015 Speaking on an abortion debate on Tonight With Vincent Browne, TD Ruth Coppinger made the point that our incredibly restrictive and harmful abortion laws correlate with our male dominated government. We must ask ourselves in earnest, if the debate was over what men could do with their bodies, would we really be having the same discussion?

Coppinger’s point is an important one to take note of. Ireland is not viewing abortion as what it is- a woman’s right and choice to do what she wants with her own body. Meryl Kenny (2007) makes the point that by viewing political institutions, such as the Dáil, through a gendered lens, it opens up the opportunity to see how gender norms are considered in these institutions, and makes way for an understanding as to why the government makes the decisions that it does. By understanding this, we can realise that gender is an important aspect that needs to be taken into account in all aspects of regulations, legislations, budgets and laws.

It is clear that there is a relationship between gender equality and the issue of abortion in Ireland. The fact of the matter, though, is that, despite being considered anything but urgent, Irish women are demonstrating their sheer desperation over the fact that they cannot access safe abortion methods. The silence within the media from the politicians, is being taken over by ordinary and everyday women who are sharing their ‘coming-out’ abortion stories. Something which they should not have to feel the need to do, but sadly find themselves with no other choice.

The recent attention surrounding the Abortion Pill buses only emphasises this. There has been much criticism from the Pro-Life Campaign, and Cora Sherlock, the deputy chairwoman of the Pro Life Campaign, was quoted as calling them “dangerous” and “inappropriate” (Kelleher, 2015). Whether these pills are dangerous or safe, is beside the point in this debate. Women are crying out for their right to their bodies. This only adds to the reason why the government need to repeal the eight amendment, and at the same time, why they are so terrified to do so. The constant shaming of ‘murderer’ and ‘criminal’ weigh a lot heavier on one’s conscience than words such as ‘choice’ and ‘right’. Alongside the fact that the issue of women’s bodies is not top of the list on Dáil priorities, it is no surprise why no one is dealing with this issue.

The Irish Family Planning Association state on their website (ifpa, 2014) that in 2014, 3,735 women were said to have left Ireland to have an abortion in the United Kingdom. Quite terrifyingly, 21 of these women were under 16 and so are legally considered children. These women and children are your friends, family, neighbours, doctors, shop assistants, dentists, girlfriends. In Ireland, these women and children are criminals. We need to bring them back from the periphery of society where the abortion shaming and stigma has pushed them. We need to allow them the right to a safe abortion, whatever their circumstances. So, in the words of The Simpsons’ Helen Lovejoy, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” How on earth can we convince ourselves as a country that it is okay to call a 15 year old girl, the victim of rape or incest, a criminal and a murderer because she does not want to become a mother in this horrible, horrible circumstance. The argument of ‘protecting the life of the unborn child’ seems petty and futile in this circumstance especially when the person herself is only a child.

Let’s not, however, strip away the rights of Irish women with the arguments of specific circumstances, because at the end of the day, a woman’s body belongs to only her. No one else should be in charge of it. It is one of the most precious things she owns. There is a fault with the ‘Pro-Life’ argument simply in the name alone. Being ‘Pro-Life’ should mean wanting to protect and respect all life, including the life of the woman who is pregnant, the woman who has an established life for herself already, and who is fully capable of deciding whether she is ready to be a mother or not. Do not dictate her right on the basis of the possibility of life. Repealing the eight amendment will not affect you in anyway if you do not wish to have an abortion, something which will continue to happen whether you agree with it or not. We cannot continue to ignore our country’s issues by sending them on to England in the hope that it will go away. It will be one step further in viewing women as equal in Irish society. But how can this be achieved, when women are nowhere to be seen in Ireland’s political forefront? Until the Irish people are represented equally by their government, an issue such as abortion, will never be dealt with adequately. Do not take away the choice. Let’s give Irish women back their bodies.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Buckley, F. (2013) Women and Politics in Ireland: The Road to Sex Quotas, Irish Political Studies. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07907184.2013.818537 [Downloaded: 01 September 2015].

Irish Family Planning Association (2014). Abortion in Ireland: Statistics. Available at: https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Statistics [Accessed 7 November 2015].

Kelleher, O. (2015) ‘Abortion pill bus greeted with ‘abortion is murder’ placards in Cork’, The Irish Times, 25 Oct. Available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/abortion-pill-bus-greeted-with-abortion-is-murder-placards-in-cork-1.2405328. [07 Nov 2015].

Kenny, M. (2007) ‘Gender Institutions and Power’, The Author Journal Compilation Politics: 27(2), pp. 91-100.

Phillips, A. (1998) Feminism and Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

 

 

 

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I am a final year student from Dublin, studying English in UCD. Although writing and reading have always been at the heart of my interests, my time in college has helped me to become more aware of social issues of inequality and injustice. This is an area I hope to become more involved with after my degree.