mayakittenreads: (GirlReading)
I was part of it.

The news broke, at least for me, on Sunday Australian time. A young man had gone on a shooting spree in the USA. You can read about it on any news site, but try this article for an overview. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-25/elliot-rodger-confirmed-as-gunman-in-california-shootings/5476256

Before this, he had uploaded vile and mysoginistic rants and manifestos to the internet. Yet the media blames the fact that he had Aspergers Syndrome, calling him crazy. This ignores the evidence that he himself left plenty of.

By Sunday afternoon the rage and fear of women all over the world had built to the point that it exploded all over Twitter using the hastag #YesAllWomen.

Flicking through my twitter feed, I saw multiple people tweeting a quote from Margaret Atwood. A quick google indicates that it is a slightly adjust quote based on a paragraph from her lecture Writing the Male Character (1982)

All men are afraid that women will laugh at them. All women are afraid that men will kill them.

I wondered at the implication that went with #YesAllWomen. Could I really say that all women had experienced some form of harrasment. Had felt threatened by men. I've lived a fairly privileged life. Had I experienced this?

30 seconds later I remembered the incident from 7 or 8 years ago when three teenage boys burned my hair with a lighter while I was sat towards the back of a base. I remembered the fear because while younger than me, they were bigger, stronger and there were more of them. The paralysing fear that prevented me from telling the bus driver what happened when she came to the back of the bus to investigate the smell. The feeling of ickiness when they got off the bus an one turned and smirked at me. The shakiness when I finally got home and called the police to belatedly report it.

Even now, years later and in a different city, I don't sit at the back of the bus unless the front is full.

So I joined the rage on Twitter. I tweeted.

Elanor MattonJohnson @ImpyMJ May 24

I've been incredibly lucky, but even I've had my hair set on fire on a bus for male amusement.


[livejournal.com profile] fluffmittenhad to point out to me that the patriachy had trained me so well that I was basically accepting a physical assault because thank goodness it was a sexual assault.

This is the way we bring up our girls. To expect violence and be grateful that it wasn't worse. To expect to have to take security precautions for ourselves rather than rely on men to be good people.

All we're asking is to be treated as human beings.

Since then, with the rage simmering in my head, I've realised that while I can probably count the times I've been clubbing on my fingers, I can also recall multiple experiences while clubbing where I had to remove myself from unwanted wandering hands.

Friends ask me if I'm sure I want to walk home after dark, even if it's only 20 minutes away in a quiet neighbourhood.

A lift full of men puts me on the defensive immeadiately.

Why do I have to live like this? With fears that are so ingrained that half the time I don't realise that they're there?

Ruby Hamad outlines the issues and the reasons that the anger of so many women was triggered by this example of what evil our society has wrought for The Drum - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-27/hamad-elliot-rodger-and-hate-crime-hypocrisy/5478820 She's a wee bit more eloquent than I feel capable of right now.

I flounder a lot, wondering what on earth I can do against a problem so ingrained in society. But as I said on Twitter on Sunday night, I need to have hope, even if it's just a small flicker. I can't change society, but I can make myself aware. I can retweet and blog links to people who write sensible, thought provoking blogs covering a myriad of issues regarding sexism, racism, ablism... anything that means people are being treated as 'lesser'. I can recognise and work to change my own prejudices and position of privilege. I can focus on spreading awareness of women in speculative fiction, because I may not be able to change the world, but I can try and have an impact on my little corner of it.

If we all try and change our own little corners, maybe we will get somewhere.

I can only hope.

Politics

Jun. 30th, 2013 08:05 pm
mayakittenreads: (Tim Minchin brain)
I think I'm much calmer regarding much of last weeks kerfuffling now, though whether I can articulate my thoughts is a completely different question.

Let's start with Australian politics, shall we? Oh hell...

Roughly 3 years ago, Julia Gillard deposed the sitting Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, as leader of the Labor Party before his first term as PM was up. She the proceeded to call an election, which ended up with her being able to form a minority government. Not the most elegant way to rise to be the first female Prime Minister of Australia, but she did it, and on the back of a highly competent stint as deputy and Minister for Education and Workplace Relations.

While I have not always agreed with her policies (her stance on gay marriage is bizarre considering that she is not at all religious), I have respected her as an intelligent, highly competent woman. Her question time speech regarding the misogyny of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was a truly awesome moment in Australian politics. So awesome I'm going to repost it.



Seriously awesome.

What is in no way awesome is the treatment that she has had to put up with over her 3 years as leader of this country. Would a male PM be told he wasn't qualified because he chose to not have children? No. Would a male PM be judged on what he wore? No. Would a male politician have his girlfriend asked on public radio if she were gay? No. This treatment has been constant and appalling.

On top of this, the media and memebers of her own party have been constantly fanning talk of leadership challenges. FOR THREE YEARS. Kevin Rudd did not quietly fade into the background.

All of this led to what happened on Wednesday. A petition for a challenge was circulated. Julia Gillard decided enough was enough and called a spill. The vote occurred and once more Kevin Rudd is the Australian Prime Minister.

I said it on facebook at the time. I have never had particular problems with either Rudd of Gillard, beyond not always agreeing on politics. What appalls me is the sexist filth that has been flung at her over three years. I'm appalled at the blatant disloyalty she's had to face as the most powerful woman in Australia.

Most of all, I am appalled that we are in a situation where Tony Abbott is most likely to win the election this year. Yes, Kevin Rudd is the prefered PM according the polls, although the liberals are ahead on two party preferred. Quite frankly, the idea of Tony Abbott as PM frightens me. He has no visible policies and no matter what he says to the contrary, he has a 15 year record of mysongynistic statements. And I won't even start on his plans for the public service which are impractical and would make me fear for my job.

So I will be voting for Kevin Rudd. He may have behaved appallingly, but I am not willing to risk a Tony Abbott government.

Huh. I don't think I have the energy to discuss Wendy Davis and the DOMA decision after that. Yay to both, though.
mayakittenreads: (Jelena Dokic Fist Pump)
I'm not entirely sure where this post is going, but I have deep thoughts swirling in my head, so maybe this will help me clarify some of them.

I've been listening to a whole lot of Galactic Suburbia recently, as I work my way through their back catalogue of podcasts. I'm not sure if I have mentioned them in previous posts, but in case I haven't, they are an Australian podcast that discusses speculative fiction and publishing news, as well as some more general chat. And it's pretty much all from a feminist perspective, even when they are not outright trying to be.

Anyway, not only do I now have an ever growing list of books and short stories to read, I'm hearing a lot of opinions about fandom and feminism in particular. In an episode I listened to today (from April last year) there was a comment made about a blogpost by a woman named Kirstyn McDermott (http://kirstynmcdermott.com/2012/04/08/bad-feminist-an-unexpected-case-study/ about being a 'bad' feminist online. Just the off the cuff comment that I heard, even before reading the article, made me wonder.

What kind of a feminist am I? Am I even really a feminist?

It's not something I talk about a lot. I'm not particularly analytically minded, something of which I am well aware (and secretly kind of embrace at times - the indirect boast of Charles Bingley in Pride & Prejudice). But do I consider myself a feminist?

In a way, I think the label 'feminist' is too narrow. I believe in equal rights and treatment for women, most definitely. But I also believe in equal rights and treatment for ALL PEOPLE. Regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion... everybody deserves to be treated with respect and with equality under the law.

Then I started thinking about my favourite books and authors. After all, this train of thought started while listening to a podcast dedicated to discussing fiction. I noticed something. Almost all of my favourite books are about women. They generally have strong female protaganists, who have agency or strength of some sort.

My favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. While it is certainly a book of it's time, it is about a woman who makes her own choices. Yes, she makes mistakes. She completely misjudges both Darcy and Wickham to start with. But she has decided opinions. Despite the precarious situation of her family, she rejects not one, but TWO proposals of marraige because she believes in marrying for love, and not to 'secure her own comfort' as Charlotte Lucas does. Many of my other favourite Jane Austen novels are the same. The women in them make their own choices. Fanny Price holds fast to her beliefs and refuses Crawford's proposals despite the pressue of her relatives, because she does not trust him. Elinor Dashwood holds her head up and is herself, despite her hopes being dashed. Marianne is fooloish, yes, but she is following her heart and making her own choices. Anne Elliot, submits to someone else's advice, but comes to realise her mistake and then follows her heart when the opportunity arrives.

If we go into the world of fantasy, my favourite author is Tamora Pierce, who made her career on characters who are both female and strong. In science fiction, going back to my teens, one of my favourite characters is Mara Jade - a woman who was stubbornly independent, who threw off the commands of her dead master once she realised that he lied to her and forged her way as the second in command to the smuggler Talon Karrde, as well as later becoming a trader in her own right. Yes, she married Luke, but for her own reasons, because she wanted to.

The other books that spring to mind as much loved favourites are the Anne of Green Gables series and Little Women. Both Anne and Jo are writers, forging their own way and using their intelligence while still being feminine. In fact, that is the basis of Jo's struggle. She's not Meg, a housewife, she's not Amy, a grand lady in waiting, though those are perfectly valid people to be. She's Jo and she wants independence. She refuses Laurie, because while it is a grand match by society's standards and he is her best friend, she knows that they would make an awful couple. She stands by her decision, even though Laurie runs from her and it breaks her heart to hurt him.

So I guess my conclusion is that my reading habits suggest that I am at least subconciously a feminist, but I am so much more than that, even if I am not always vocal about my opinions.

Huh.

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