Well, I'll go to the foot of my stairs...

Often startled, frequently amused, sometimes scared; rarely speechless. Can be found at witchywoo22@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Witchy-Woo's Wednesday Wow this week...

...is a two parter. The first part comes from Putting the "Fist" in "Pacifist" and is such a wonderful expression of the anger and frustration that we've all felt at one time or another - a huge "grrrrrrrr" that's quite funny to read because we can identify with the feelings that caused it.

The second part, from The Primary Contradiction, asks us how we would deal with rather more essential affronts to our dignity or way of being - could you kill or maim?
She could have chosen to walk away from this egregious violation and process it with caring loved ones later. Instead, she chose to slake her rage with violence.

For those of us who face the psychic assault of oppression, this is a choice that most of [us] will face at some point in our lives.
And haven't 'most of us' been there at some point - so raging we're ripe for violence? But most of us either submit or take our violent impulse out on ourselves/innocent others at a later time.

As little girls, we're taught that anger is 'bad' and we shouldn't feel it let alone express it. So we keep it all in until we explode like Kimberly Arnold did. Like all the women on the Justice for Women books did. Like countless women the world over do, in one socially unacceptable way or another.

Because 'society' has this expectation that the oppressed - and women in particular, no matter which other oppressed group they may also represent - will just accept our place and take it. Our anger is somehow invisible. It doesn't count. It doesn't have the same importance that the anger of, say, your average hooligan has in the great scheme of things. But it's there. I'd hazzard a guess that, if you're reading this blog, you're angry - because I'm angry. That's partly why I write this thing!

My impulse, when I'm yelled at in the street, felt up in a crowd, intimidated, belittled or threatened by the assumed power of the Great God Penis or in any way made to feel 'less than' is to say "fuck off and die" - and I really mean it. Question is, could I do it? I don't actually want to go around killing people but I can understand how those who have reached the limits of their endurance of their oppression can just snap.

I can identify with that but, so far, I'm able to choose.

On a housekeeping note: I've updated the blogroll. There are so many fab blogs out there, it's hard to keep up.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I comment a fair bit...

...on other feminist blogs. I try to say what I think in a polite way - I'm all for feminist discourse, me; I believe feminists have a lot to say to one another - but, I confess, sometimes I can get a bit stroppy. But, hey, just because I'm a feminist that doesn't mean I'm perfect, right? It doesn't mean I can't get stroppy? I apologise if I've stropped out on you - especially if your post triggered my troll-bells when you posted as 'anonymous' and you're someone who just can't be bothered to check 'other' and put your initials or something in the reply box. But, hey, I apologise. No harm intended.

Something I've noticed: there is a lot of (often media driven) stereotypical thinking about various feminist ideologies that simply aren't true.

"No shit, Sherlock!" I hear you cry.

These stereotypes are seriously pissing me off. They're confusing me. They're helping me to assume the views of other women without actually hearing them. They're creating differences and divergencies where, actually, there are none. They're also putting me into a box so that, when I identify as a radical feminist, I'm getting all kinds of shit thrown at me for stuff I don't think or believe and ways of being that have nothing to do with my reality - particularly with regard to the sex thing..

I've had enough of being misrepresented by the way I choose to define myself so I'm going to spell it out.

Sex is fab. Real, human, touchy-feely, non-commercial sex. I don't care who does it or how they do it - just as long as they both/all want it that way. There is no shame, no judgement, no requirement for public whipping/approval.

Sex is fab but not as essential as breathing...or water....or food.

Does that clear it up? I'm a radical feminist and I think sex is fab.

Are there any stereotypical notions about how you identify as a feminist that you'd like to clear up? Go for it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Witchy-Woo's Wednesday Wow comes to you this week...

...on Thursday. And it isn't a singular post, nor is it a collection of posts - it's an entire blog.

See any of this type of thing happening where you go? Use the camera in your mobile to record what you see and mail it to Charlie.

We're evidence gathering...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This post is dedicated to:

My Mother…


…was born in a tiny seaside village in Normandy, France, in 1927. She was the second child of ten and the oldest girl. Her father died when she was eleven years old leaving my grandmother only just pregnant with her tenth child just before the outbreak of World War Two. My mother was devastated by her father’s death and I don’t think she ever quite got over it.

Her adolescent and early teen years were spent under Nazi occupation, never quite knowing where the next meal was coming from. Sometimes the soldiers were helpful and allowed them food. Other times, they weren’t. My mother told me about a raging gun battle going on behind her one time as she ran home from school through a field at dusk and there was a sexually abusive uncle around at that time too – though she didn’t say that he ever abused her. Mind you, she never left us alone with him whenever we visited as children.

When she wasn’t at school my mother was helping her mother care for her younger siblings. She didn’t have much of a life, really. Her ‘teenage rebellion’ amounts to one night when, after the Nazi imposed curfew, she and a couple of her brothers goose-stepped down a sleepy village lane shouting anti-nazi slogans. Pretty daring really, when you consider what could’ve happened to them if they’d been caught.

The Allies landed and the war ended. My mother became a typist in the nearest town. She found the work mind-numbingly boring and was totally hacked off because her mother took all her wages and still expected her to skivvy around the house. Her older brother kept all his wages and was allowed to do as he pleased. Not fair.

My mother was a vibrant young woman. She was full of passion for life. After years of occupation and oppression she seriously wanted to live a bit. So she responded to an advert for student nurses she saw in the local paper. The job was in the burgeoning ‘mental health belt’ just north of London, England. My mum’s English at that time was the pre-war French school variety – all ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and not exactly English like wot it is spoke – but she got a position and came over here for her big adventure in 1948. She was 21 years old.

The tales she told about the sexually predatory nature of English men towards all those young, foreign, non-english speaking nurses that had been recruited from all corners of a devastated Europe would feed your feminist fury but that was just ‘how things were’ for my mum and millions of women just like her. Luckily for her, my mum was a bright young woman who learned fast and wasn’t easily taken in. Till she met my father, that is.

1950 - and the male nurse from an impoverished background in Liverpool fell deeply, deeply in love with the bright French girl with the endless legs and that twinkle in her eyes. I believe he did love her then – I’ve seen the letters he wrote to her after they were married and she went back to France to give birth to my sister. He most certainly loved her then. He couldn’t wait for her to come home with their firstborn.

I was next, then my brother and then my other brother. My mother, obviously, couldn’t work and nurse’s wages were as poor then as they are now. I really don’t know how she did it but, despite being abjectly poor, we were well fed and well clothed - she made all our clothes and could create a meal from the most ridiculous ingredients. I guess it was a re-enactment of her teenage years during the war – all that traditional ‘women’s work’ - but my mother never stopped. Even in the evenings after a day of cooking and cleaning she’d be knitting, sewing, darning or mending. She was a drudge and her life was non-existent. Seriously, we didn’t have a bean. There were no labour saving devices and my mum had no social life whatsoever.

But, mysteriously, my father did have money for whisky…and women. When my mum became pregnant with my oldest younger brother my father didn’t speak to her for months - like it was her fault, or something. We children were just ‘links in the chain’ to him; evidence that my mother was conspiring against him having a life. But my mother loved the very bones of him and would’ve sacrificed just about anything if it made him ok. She loved us too – and it’s quite paradoxical really because I remember her saying when I was quite young that it was especially important that my sister and I work hard at our studies so that we would have a better life than hers.

He beat her. Sometimes, she’d be so bruised she was painful to look at. It was terrifying to be lying in bed hearing my father hurting my mother and to see her in the morning, all bruised and bloody. (Anyone who ever says of children and domestic violence “oh, they’re ok, they don’t know what’s happening”; believe me, they do.) My mother wasn’t allowed, you see? Whatever it was, she wasn’t allowed. She was his property and he was very controlling.

As I grew older, some nights my mum and I would lock ourselves in the bathroom in the small hours while waiting for my father’s drunken rage to subside and she’d brush my hair while we talked feminism. Isn’t it strange how mixed your feelings can be? I loved those talks – even though the world was falling out of my bottom with the fear I felt.

This was the late sixties/early seventies - the time of the rise of feminism in England. My mum rose with it. She grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. In feminism, my mum found a counter argument to ‘well, you made your bed, you lie in it’; she found a counter argument to ‘well, that’s what women are supposed to do’. She never actually met another woman who identified as feminist but she read everything that was going. And she passed it on to me – all the books, all the ideas, all the theories and the evidence. She made me know that no man has the right. She taught me that women are people too. She showed me how patriarchal capitalism is intrinsically oppressive – not just of women, but of everything. She sewed the seeds of radicalism in me.

After my mum divorced my father she qualified as a college lecturer and was an active feminist until old age did something to her capacity for reason. I think she was quite proud of me and my radical stance but she never fully understood my take on pornography. She thought I objected to the naked female body – huh? I live in one, don’t I? – and never quite grasped the atrocity that is modern pornography. Well, she’d never really seen anything apart from Health and Efficiency…. but she always supported me in my work with abused women. She was always interested in what I was doing; how I was helping, what I thought. And she always had her own particular take on women’s issues that I found extremely helpful. We had many a heated discussion about ‘things’ and generally found that we had similar beliefs but just reached them from different angles. I guess that’s the generation gap at work but her experience informs my views and, coupled with my own experience, deepens my understanding of the historical impact of ‘women’s place’.

She had a shit life, my mum, all in all, and mine is better. But mine is only better because of her strength, her resilience, her insight, her support and her love. It would probably have taken years for me to relate to radical feminism without her input. My sister doesn’t understand it…but then, she didn’t have those hours in the bathroom.

My mum died three years ago – a cantankerous and belligerent old French woman. And I don’t half miss her.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Witchy-Woo's Wednedsay Wow...

...is responsible for articulating something that's been rumbling around in my head for years and years but that I've never actually had the courage to verbalise. Maybe I was too scared to say it because the implications are terrifying but Biting Beaver is blowing apart the myths in her usual, inimitable fashion and, yes, the implications really are terrifying.

BB addresses the often delusional aspect of sexual fantasy in relation to masturbation. As she puts it:
People seriously believe that we masturbate to things that we don't really want. Things we wouldn't really enjoy or that we don't think we'd enjoy. I call bullshit here.
She makes a convincing argument...
When masturbation exists purely as a pleasure seeking Pavlovian response we would choose to sully our pleasurable experience with images of things that turn us off? Things that disgust us?
...and reminds women that...
a man who is masturbating to violent rape is a man who enjoys violent rape. Don't let him feed you a line of bullshit saying, "I would never want to do this to you" because he's lying, he may NOT do this to you, but he absolutely WANTS to.
...and he needs to take responsibility for that.

It's an excellent post. Go read.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I've just formulated a theory...

...and it's not scientifically researched or proven - nothing quite as academic as that - but it is based on a vast amount of anecdotal evidence and so it probably does hold water. (Huh? Who called me Alison?) (sorry....in-joke.)

My theory? Selective humanisation.

Laura's most recent post has crystalised my theory although it's been lying around in my brain for quite some time. I've wondered for years how men (generic) are able to selfishly deny the humanity of some women for their own pleasure? gratification? sense of 'power over'? gods...I don't know why they do it... but then they jealously guard the humanity of other women who, they say, are their friends, or lovers, or relatives, or mothers.

Laura posted about some men she knows who she thought were friends of hers. They went to Spearmint Rhino - a veritable palace of female dehumanisation; a place where women are reduced to sexualised, vulnerable nakedness so that men can experience that powerful sense of faked sexual desirability. Men can sit around drinking beers with conventionally attractive half naked women pretending they like them offering them their entirely naked and gyrating bodies to make them feel even more powerful and sexually wanted - for a fee.

Now, Laura cares about the lives of women and she's wondering how her male friends are able to separate her, their friend - a woman - from the women they're sexually subjugating with their quids. She's understandably confused by their duplicity and says:

How do I know that you actually give a crap about me? Because you sure as hell don't seem to give a crap about all the women that are being exploited and abused in the industry that you are supporting.
And it was those words "actually give a crap about..." that made everything crystal clear to me. As far as men (generic) are concerned, women are the 'other' and, actually, they couldn't give a crap about any of us. Until, of course, we become 'human' in their eyes through some kind of connection/ownership thing....one of us happens to be their mother/sister/lover/friend/cousin/aunt/significant other/baby-mother etc. etc. - they have some vested interest in our being alive... You get the picture...

Men (generic) are unable to see women as people in their own right, separate from them. Men (generic) are only able to see women as human beings in relation to their own existence - and selectively, at that.

I have no doubt that those male friends of Laura's love her to bits but their privilege and entitlement enables them to somehow make her humanity distinct from the humanity of the women they dehumanise. Laura doesn't see it that way but then she doesn't practice selective humanisation.

That men (generic) have the power and privilege to practise selective humanisation - and that they actually access that privilege - is evidence of patriarchy in action. We must all - each and every one of us - call the men in our lives on it whenever they exhibit it for the sake of our sisters (generic) because, quite frankly, if we don't, we're all selectively unhumanised - one way or another.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Witchy-woo's Wednesday Wow this week...

...is inspired by two posts. The first one comes from Kiki at Saucebox whose wonderfully insightful exploration of the conflict between men's (accepted) biological and their culturally defined sexual response to women raises some interesting and thought provoking issues. There is stuff in Kiki's post that could be used over and over to counter those tired old arguments about men, women, sex, pornstitution and the general sexual oppression of women.

Truly, it's a fab post and I've had a hard time hanging on to it for a whole week! A taster:
If men are hardwired to want to mate with as many women as possible as often as possible, why is it that they are so picky about the weight or breast size or stature or proportions of the women they fuck?
Another....
Hence, I can only conclude that sexual response and sexual drives are at least as influenced by culture and socialization as they are by biology, if not more so.
And yet another....
Once you start accepting that the demonstration of desire, in whatever form it takes, is as inevitable as the desire itself, well you’re basically saying that men are not in fact rational and sentient beings capable of consciously choosing to treat women as people rather than sexual objects in spite of any uncontrollable sexual desire they may feel towards them. So which is it? Because if I were a man, I’d be incredibly insulted by the notion that I’m nothing but a slave to my penis and all the other inner sexual biological workings that my penis represents.
Ooooh... go read the whole thing... Really, it's fab. I really wish Kiki would post more often - she's so good.

The second wow comes from Spotted Elephant at The Bipolar View

There has been a lot of discourse of late amongst radfem bloggers about the 'beauty rituals' thing. Lots of my favourite bloggers (look right to spot the links ---->) have been arguing - yes, arguing - about the radfeminess or otherwise of complying, or not, with patriarchial 'beauty' values.

Some say pure rad-feminism demands a total rejection of 'beauty' procedures. Some say 'poo' to that; they're aware of the patriarchial nature of such procedures for patriarchially defined ends but that's not why they participate - and some say they understand both points of view but they're just not 'there' yet.

Some might consider that, by dividing us the way it seems to have over the issue of 'beauty' rituals, the patriarchy has scored another goal against the feminist movement. And some might say, yeah.... they might have.

Spotted Elephant says:
Are we only willing to fight alongside one another when we’re in full agreement? Don’t we have more important enemies than each other? The last thing any woman needs is other women as her enemies. Our numbers aren’t that strong. We’re far stronger together than we are apart. Can our community survive this? I think it’s worth fighting for.
And I totally agree. Our community is so worth fighting for.

For what it's worth: I do wear make up sometimes and, sometimes, I shave my legs and underarms - when I want to. I never feel 'less than human' when I don't. (Isn't that what patriarchy demands....that we don't feel like 'real' women unless we look like fake ones? That we feel 'sub-human' if we don't look like something from the cover - or centre-fold - of some 'men's magazine?) And when I shave/wear make up, it isn't the occasion that demands it - it's me. It's what I feel like. For whatever reason.

I identify as a radical feminist because I believe that patriarchial ideology is the root of the oppression of women and that we (collective) need to overthrow the patriarchy in order to achieve human status for women and girls. I also believe that is a huge journey for individual women to make. It's not easy and it's not quick. And, let's face it, there aren't that many of us to support one another along the way.

So; while I might feel quite ok going hairy-armpitted to a House of Commons Select Committee meeting but just might fancy shaving my pits for a village hall quiz night - just because it's all about what I want - I'm not about to diss another woman for wanting to do anything differently.

We're all just at different places on the same journey, surely?

Please... read Spotted Elephant's post.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Women hating...

...women.

I got so cross earlier this week. We were watching 'Room 101' and Sarah Cox was in the hot seat. For those outside the UK; Room 101 is a BBC TV programme hosted by Paul Merton - a (usually) funny comedian - where minor celebs appear and list half a dozen or so 'things that irritate them beyond belief' in an effort to get them consigned to oblivion by convincing Mr Merton and the audience that their particular bugbears are too difficult for anyone to live with/shouldn't be allowed in civilised society...you get the drift...

Sarah Cox is an ex model now DJ-ing a mainstream BBC breakfast radio show and, if I remember rightly, was in the press sometime last year bemoaning the fact that men no longer whistle at her in the street now she's pushing a pram. She's known in the Brit media as a 'ladette' (not a good label) but she refuted that on the show.

One of the 'things' she wanted to be consigned to Room 101 was '19 year old girls'. Her rationale was that they're young and have 'fit' bodies and men, including her partner (the father of her child) lust after them. Apparently, on more than one occasion she's had cause to dig him in the ribs when a 'fit bird' was walking by and say something to the tune of "Oi! I saw that."

Like that's the girl's fault?

Seems to me that we are all so socially entrenched in cultural-normative patriarchal hatred of women that even some women are unaware that they're complicit in the denegration of their own sex. Rather than question her partner's privilege and sense of entitlement to reduce any old nineteen year old [only-just-a] woman who walks past him to the status of his current fantasy fuck, Ms Cox prefers to berate the high scoring 'object' of her partner's fuckability rating. Why?

The whole world revolves around the phallus (one way or another) it seems.

We have women saying that "pornography for women" is a 'good' thing - even if the images of women that it contains are not, intrinsically, any different to those depicted in the mainstream, made-for-men porn that distorts and defines women's sexuality into something that is so totally alien to most women it actually scares us. Whether it's lesbian pornography or pornography supposedly made for straight women it's still about the supposed availability of women's genitalia; it's still about women getting fucked; and it's still about women getting fucked over - only it's women doing the fucking over! Like that makes a 'feminist' difference? Most viewers are still going to be men anyway: men getting off on the 'feminist' corner they've forced women into because men, more than women, pay to see women's bodies being fucked; men, more than women get off on sexualised visuals of the current power dynamic. Most women regard our bodies as just the vehicle that we walk around in - the thing that enables us to live our lives.

A couple of points.

If this 'pornography for women' actually is for women, why on Earth would women want to be getting off on images of other women's bodies being degraded, hurt and abused? Why on Earth would women who call themselves feminists find images of other women conforming to patriarchal definitions of their sexuality sexually titillating?

Oh, sorry, I forgot. That patriarcial cultural norm - women hating. It really is so ingrained and pervasive that some women actually believe it's true!

Like the prostitution thing.

Some women actually believe they made a 'free' choice to become a prostitute - yunno, so they could get their kids through school and all that jazz. And that that somehow makes them 'different' from the drug addicted woman who has to prostitute herself to fund her addiction or the woman trapped and trafficked into prostitution to make wonga for her pimp.

I say 'don't kid yourself, baby', the patriarchy is forcing you to fund whatever it is you need on its own terms. Children, rent, drugs, a loan, food, a roof over your head, protection from the next beating/rape, school fees, a lifestyle ... whatever - keep women in poverty and there's an endless supply of cunt on which to perpetrate the ideology and act out the hatred. It might make you feel better to say you 'chose' prostitution but, in all honesty hon, you're the only one who cares about this aspect of you - the rest of us are caring about womenkind.

Some women actually defend sexual slavery. Some women don't care to look past their own personal situation. Some women say "I've been there, honey" with absolutely no acknowledgement at all of how all women are somehow placed in a similar situation - how we're all placed, as women, in patriarchy; as though defending the dearth of women's free choice is tantamount to denying women's free choice full stop. Well have I got news for you, honey...women do not posess the human right to 'free' choice' because (and it only takes two seconds to examine it) women are not considered to be human beings under patriarchy.

I don't want to believe that there are women who hate women. I'm a woman - and I work with and for women - but I do believe that there are women who are more prepared to believe and go along with the lies that are told about women by the patriarchy than what is said about their lives by real women themselves. I understand all that 'identifying with the dominant ideology' stuff that Sarah Cox does but I really, really wonder how women who claim to be feminists can promote it without even a pang of "Oh shit, my sisters" - with no acknowledgement at all of those women whose bodies and lives are being sacrificed in order that they can be totally mainstream, hip, right on, patriarchial feminists.

Seems a tad arse about face to me.