Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Men and feminism: comment is fraught.

Write about female objectification in the comment pages of any major paper and you're in for a pasting. No matter how reasonably you put your arguments variously for or against ladies' tits in public places, you will be instantly, brutally and often personally attacked in the comments, on other websites and in the living rooms of the right-thinking. Oh, unless you're David Mitchell, in which case you get a 500-comment thread all about how fantastic you are, and a storm of gushy agreement on Twitter and in the feminist blogosphere.

It's more than a little annoying that when a man decides to write something positive about feminism - for once - he is rewarded with attention and praised for originality of thought, when lady feminists have been saying exactly the same things for years and have been lampooned for it. Mitchell's article about Cambridge university's pole-dancing classes for Comment Is Free is absolutely fantastic, but it doesn't cover any new territory. On the same site in October, Rowenna Davis wrote a brilliant, witty piece about institutional sexism at Cambridge - and was called a silly little woman in the comments. Any lady feminist on Comment Is Free gets the same treatment, no matter how funny they try to be - look at what happens to Bidisha. Or Bea Campbell. Or, for that matter, to me.

It's bloody enervating. No, it's infuriating. And yes, it says a lot about the barriers of mistrust and prejudice that women face - from men and from other women - when they attempt to say something meaningful in public. But I can't help it. The article -'Actually, you won't find female empowerment halfway up a pole' - still fills me with joy, and makes me want to whisk David Mitchell away to my secret socialist-feminist volcano lair and seduce him (I'm anticipating a dazzling swordfight when Robert Webb comes to his rescue).

Men like Mitchell have a role to play in feminist dialectic. Quite specifically, they have a role to play in educating other men about what feminism means and why it's important. Because feminism must address men, as well as attacking patriarchy. We are long past the point where we can make our arguments only to one another.

And when you're addressing men, it's nice to have a man on side. Because like it or not, men are much more willing to listen to other men than to scary scary women. Like it or not- and I don't - what sounds like a bitchy attack coming out of the mouth of a female feminist often sounds like brotherly advice when it comes from a bloke.

On every liberation front - and make no mistake, feminism is still very much a liberation front - defectors from the other side have a vital role to play. When what you want is to actually share a society with the oppressors in the long-term, when your options for liberation do not reasonably include the total annihilation of all ball-swingin' manpersons, then you have to get men onside sooner or later. And it helps if they can crack a joke.

David Mitchell is one of a growing trend for male comedians who understand that they don't need to fall back on misogynist jokes as part of their repertoire, that lazy misogyny actually dates their work and alienates half of their audiences. Bill Bailey and Charlie Brooker would be other examples of public funnymen who realise that sexism is stupid - so stupid, in fact, that a lot of material can be mined from pointing out the various ways in which patriarchal capitalism is bloody ridiculous. The Daily Mail's feature spread on the toes of the party leaders' wives, for example.

Too often, it's only the men with ugly views who comment on feminist articles. Sexist commentators are a self-selecting bunch, because unlike the silent majority of blokes who don't sit in their pants hating women on the internet all afternoon, they just don't care who they hurt. In fact, the silent majority of blokes are usually quite anxious not to hurt or offend the women in their lives, and their silence doesn't denote absence - it denotes a trepidation about getting involved in feminist discussions, for fear of making a mistake and being lumped in with the greasy-keyboard misogynists.

The trouble is that this process is self-selecting: feminists are so used to being attacked that it's sometimes hard to listen to what a man might have to say without assuming he's going to make horrific, bullying, unhelpful comments. When you're far too used to hearing tiresome internet and debate-room whiners squealing 'what about the meeeenz?', it's sometimes hard to pick up on men who are genuinely interested in women. It's hard to spot those blokes who aren't just out to score cheap points or question your right to speak, because really, there are so few of them. And only more male feminist allies will break this stalemate.

Feminism needs to enlist more men brave enough to admit to having feminist ideas. Like Mitchell, it might be a struggle to get them to actually use the word 'feminist', but 'empowerment' is a good temporary substitute for those still too delicate to handle the f-word. The silent majority of men, particularly younger men, are sympathetic to feminist aims. We need them to be brave enough to speak.

51 comments:

  1. It's a good piece Laurie. More men need to write about this sort of thing, in order to remove the notion that somehow these type of things are 'women's issues' that don't concern us. They do. They affect our partners, our daughters, our mothers, our female friends, and they affect us as well and the way in which we see the world.

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  2. You should probably link to Mitchell's article somewhere, by the way. :p

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  3. Good points and it's certainly true on both a conscious and unconscious level that there's a fear of 'putting your foot in it' that it can be easier to plump for safe but ultimately unhelpful sarcastic mysogony in social settings. Getting reason and balls (pardon the pun) into both the public and private spheres of empowerment issues is something men ought to help with if they can though

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  4. Cambridge anecdote: while there I went on a blind date that degenerated into a debate (read: blazing row) when my date sarcastically dismissed feminists. I am a charmer.


    That said, I must confess to at least pausing before getting involved in discussions about feminism. That's because I agree with the overarching principles but not always with a specific point and it's all too easy to sound like an apologist for misogyny.

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  5. It’s not David Mitchell’s fault that everyone is fawning over him, but I do think he has some responsibility to call folks out on the double standard you so excellently point out here. As a male-bodied ally I’m always happy to pitch in where I can. [And I have absolutely no qualms about calling myself a radical feminist]. Sure, sometimes I can make the pitch more effectively to a “fellow” man. But I always try to look around and make sure I’m not railroading anyone and reproducing patriarchy by being patronizing. I’d rather use my male-privileged to say “STFU and listen to this smart lady here!” than imply “feminism is cool because I — a man — said so”.

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  6. Until the last sentence of paragraph three, I thought you were angry at Mitchell. I like the piece, in the end, but . . . lady feminists?

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  7. I am, or at least I like to think I am, one of the men that you have got onside. Furthermore like Ben I have often the most feminist person in a conversation with women which can often be a rather depressing experience.

    However I have often declared myself as a pro-feminist because I believe that liberation campaigns should not be run by those outside of the oppressed group, this is something that I know something about within the field of disability politics which was a movement that has shifted to be controlled by disabled people and this has made it much stronger. Therefore I would not attempt to claim that I was a feminist because as a man I can only support feminist ideals.

    I think that the core point of your case Laurie has much to support it but I also think that some of the criticism should fall on the heads of the poor sub-editors at Comment is Free. Who can choose a more prov active headlines that can often be the only thing that some of the more prehistoric commenters.

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  8. Actually, as a male, whenever I've tried to talk to feminists about feminism they've generally looked at me slightly patronisingly like 'oh, how sweet, you care' with a knowing glance at one another a la 'what does he know'.

    However, I have persuaded a number of previously non-feminist women that they, without even knowing it, may well be feminists too...

    So there, from the shadows or something...good piece though. Tell the sisters...

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  9. I used to read Comment is Free regularly. The worst example of what you're referring to was the comment thread for an article on prostitution and the law. Anyone (male or female) who dared to suggest prostitution might be, y'know, problematic was vilified by numerous male commenters. They were obsessed with the idea that 'real' women are completely at ease with prostitution, and that female sex workers are the only women who are entitled to express an opinion about the issue ('real' women being juxtaposed to 'feminists'). I couldn't help thinking that what we'll politely call self-interest lay behind most of the comments.

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  10. I expressed joyous relief at DM in the comments for being one of the few men who 'gets it' - but I try to reward you with attention too. :-D What he was saying was not original, but it was just a relief to hear a man speak out (as you say, because there's so few of them!) against the so-called 'silent majority' of conservative misogynists that dog Cif and other web forums.

    Thanks for flagging up that glorious piece by Rowenna. I agree with everything you say here, but BY GOD it's hard to get men to pay attention to their own sexism, largely because they're not conscious of it, and dealing with various evasive tactics can lead to you becoming weary and wanting to just give it up.

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  11. RE:David Mitchell article

    It is more than a little ironic that the discussion in response to a feminist article about pole dancing,female politicians and the female partners of politicians was almost exclusively about the poll dancing.

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  12. As a pro-feminist man, I think it's very important to stand up to misogyny whenever we see it. This must include boycotting products with sexist ads and objecting to sexist jokes and street harassment. I think it's wrong to call myself a feminist or a feminist ally because being an ally is not something you can call yourself. Men that support feminism have got to avoid speaking for women and reject the all-too-rare offers from the media to discuss feminist issues, that should rightly go to women. At all times pro-feminist men need to check our privilege and presume when called out by women that we are in the wrong. We have to stop looking for cookies for doing what's right and stop thinking our ideas are so original that we should lead feminist groups or dominate discussions. We must never entertain the idea that we are more objective about sexism. We must support self-identified women-only spaces and speak against myths like 'reverse sexism'.

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  13. Eric the Enlightened IV22 April 2010 08:56

    I think feminists had the right idea when they used to throw themselves under horses! I imagine now I'll be dubbed a male chauvinist or similar, but what the heck. The truth is the truth, unpalatable or not.

    If more feminists were curvy blondes with big tits and arses I'd be more inclined to pay attention to them. If women have to be uppity and shrewish why can't they at least have the decency to try to be ornamental? I've never understood why so many feminazis are ugly, lesbian, sexually confused and miserable. I've yet to meet a feminist who has enjoyed a happy day and boy do they moan and complain, complain and moan. They're warped. It's very sad really.

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  14. Is it definitely a case of male readers feeling less threatened by a male feminist, though? It could be the case that Mitchell is a celebrated and likeable professional male wit, causing his opinions to assume a weight that commands respect*.

    I've not done my research, admittedly. I can't think of any other male CiF writers who have made a coherent feminist/womanist case, so I don't know how they get treated. Equally I don't know of any celebrated female wit who has written such a thing. Every Marina Hyde comment thread is a love-in too, but I can't remember her writing explicitly about sexism.

    Not that I can read CiF much anymore. It's not just the sexism, but also the generally broad spectrum of ignorance, disrespect, and selfishness that thrives there. They're all complete bastards, and because they're on the internet they think that's a complement.

    *This is problematic of course, given that Mock the Week passes for wit at the moment, and HIGNFY puts on 10 Jez Clarksons for every 1 Victoria Coren.

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  15. Among those I'd identify as feminists in my peer group it's probably more common for the women to wince at the F-word than the men. I think/hope that's thawing though, on both sides.

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  16. Great post - although DM's piece does fill me with the ecstatic feeling of right-on alliance, I was completely gobsmacked by how ugly the comments were in response to Rowenna's article.

    Redjives - "I’d rather use my male-privileged to say “STFU and listen to this smart lady here!” than imply “feminism is cool because I — a man — said so”."

    That's the best, but also sad that you have to wield your male privilege just to get people to listen to the smart lady at all.

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  17. What was wrong with my post? Oh well, ignored again I suppose.

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  18. I wanted to let you know that I recently read one of your old posts http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2007/10/daily-feminist-activities-for-boys.html and found it to be enlightening (Though I'm overlooking being addressed as "boy" given the circumstances. :p). Strangely enough this post here is the second of yours I happened to have read. I want to let you know that your efforts to reach out a bit to men are not being wasted and are having (I believe) a positive impact.

    Regarding some of the comments and reactions which you (as well as other Feminists) see from men in response to Feminism, please know that many of us do not agree and think nothing like them. In fact, often when I read some of the more viscous comments it makes me very angry as well. I believe part of the problems is much the same as it is for many other issues in our world (such as religious conflicts, racism, etc). Fear. Keep in mind that often the people doing this are much like frightened children. It doesn't make it any less wrong and I certainly will not be their apologist but perhaps keeping this in mind will help us to create positive change?

    I will definitely be reading your blog regularly (it will be going into my rss reader) and will also try to assist and do my part. Please keep up your work and I wish you success with your efforts.

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  19. I am so happy to see that 'men are from mars, women are from venus'-based comedy is DYING. I've been to a few comedy nights where that kind of comedian comes on and it goes down with the audience like a cup of cold sick, either because people reject it or it's simply become boring and predictable. The people booking that crap will catch up soon.

    Get some Ed Byrne, Wil Hodgson and Tanya Edwards in yer too! They rock.

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  20. Really nice article, well said.
    Too frequently angered by people saying 'a feminist?? Why?!' - men or otherwise.

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  21. I'm not a feminist. To be honest, I'm not even sure what a 'feminist' is. I am, however, an 'equalitist', which is a word I just made up, but what I'm trying to say is I really do believe in equal treatment for both sexes (and for that matter for all races and all sexualities).

    And by equal treatment, I do mean *equal*. Sorry, but positive discrimination is still discrimination.

    Many (many, many) years ago - okay, about 13 years ago - when I was applying for my first teaching job, I went for a post in Norfolk. There were 4 candidates, 3 young men and 1 young woman going for a Physics post. The young woman got the job. And afterwards, in my debrief with the headteacher, I was told I'd have got the job but they were looking to appoint a woman to encourage more girls to take Physics A Level. My reaction at the time was "WTF??? That's not fair!"

    But looking back on this from an older, wiser point in my life, I think the school made the right decision for them and what they wanted to achieve.

    I'm no longer a teacher, I'm a manager in a law firm. One of two managers. The other is a woman - her desk faces mine and we spend a lot of time pulling faces at each other.

    She is very good at her job. I'm good at mine too. But we manage different aspects of the business. I would be rubbish at her job (I know, cause I tried to cover for her maternity leave and couldn't cope) and she wouldn't be any good at mine(as she confesses when I have a day off).

    She got her job because she was the best choice for it. Same with me. THAT is quality in action. She didn't get the job because she was a woman - it was because the directors thought she'd be good at it.

    Penny, you are right. Many, many men feel like I do, but they are scared to express these views because too many 'feminists' react badly whenever a man speaks. They don't listen to what he says - why should they, it's only his penis speaking after all.

    To be honest, I think some feminists do themselves and their cause more harm than good. But not as much harm as some of the women we see in the media and in the streets of our towns and cities.

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  22. "Write about female objectification in the comment pages of any major paper and you're in for a pasting"

    Come now, Laurie.
    It's not Dave Mitchell's fault you received 691 posts mainly criticizing your article in the Guardian last week. To clock up that reaction in such a short space of time is no mean feat - why, they even had to close the conversation within a few hours not days.

    Better luck next time.

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  23. "defectors from the other side" makes it sound a little bit like men all start out as sexist monsters and then have some sort of epiphany, which isn't necessarily true.

    Besides that small nit-pick, an excellent and perceptive explaination of why men are scared to comment, and has inspired to to start when I've been reading sans-comment for a while.

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  24. "I agree with everything you say here, but BY GOD it's hard to get men to pay attention to their own sexism"

    In many cases, it's like trying to get fish to pay attention to water...

    Unfortunately, it's not always the case that men will listen to other men. I've tried many times, and (perhaps because I'm not David Mitchell) I always seem to run into as much, if not more, resistance than the women I'm trying to support. As a bloke, if you point out to other blokes that (for example) many women do not appreciate comments on their attractiveness (or otherwise) in professional settings, you usually get some variant of "How do you know what women like?" Usually from the same prat who's just being claiming that it must be OK because it's a "compliment". I get quite discouraged sometimes...

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  25. great post laurie. i too am sick of the sexism on CIF and was surprised that the DM article had so many positive comments (now it makes sense!). it's such a relief that male comedians are making a stand against sexist comedy. i just wish that people would listen to women as attentively and respectfully when they talk about feminist issues. just had to explain to a colleague that no, i don't feel repressend, but i am angry at gender equality. it seems so simple to me!

    have written about the bloke-o-sphere on my own blog and the UK Feminista site if you're interested.

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  26. Penny Red:

    In fact, the silent majority of blokes are usually quite anxious not to hurt or offend the women in their lives, and their silence doesn't denote absence - it denotes a trepidation about getting involved in feminist discussions, for fear of making a mistake and being lumped in with the greasy-keyboard misogynists.

    ...or it denotes that they are just trying to get by without being an arsehole rather than being 'scared'. Moreover, it would be hard for men to get involved in feminist discussions and disagree (rather than make a 'mistake') without them 'being lumped in with the greasy-keyboard misogynists'. Feminism needs allies, not a male fan club.

    As for Mitchell, 'Man Bites Dog = News' perhaps best summarises the significance of his piece.

    [redpesto]

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  27. Good points!

    Interestingly i've seen a completely different reaction to DM's piece in a feminist community on Livejournal - the general consensus being 'how dare a man tell women what is and what isn't empowering and good for them!'

    The feeling against the piece was in such contrast to the general reaction to it which I observed on Twitter and in the blogosphere.

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  28. sinister agent24 April 2010 02:03

    David Mitchell seems to be one of those people who come up now and then. You know the ones - they imrpess you somehow, and you find yourself liking and respecting them, and most every time you see or hear from them, you find yourself agreeing, or simply being very interested in them.

    After several months, if not longer, of this, it gets to the point where you just know that one day they're suddenly going to come out, apropros of nothing, with the revelation that yes actually, they really do think old people should be shot, or killing and deep frying your neighbour's cats is perfectly fine, or Pol Pot had the right idea, or whatever.

    ... so anyway, yes. When it comes to talking about feminism, or some related principle regarding women, there is definitely some element of knowing that as a man, you'll likely have to first prove you're not a tosser (or at least, are a tosser for reasons unrelated to chauvinism et al) before you can get a good exchange going.

    I say this not in an accusatory fashion - it's simply the natural result of the extremely vocal dickheads getting women's defenses up by default. Certainly online, anyway. Defusing these things is a lot easier in person I've found. Although having a debate while swinging round a pole does get a bit socially awkward quite quickly.

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  29. Agree with the general argument - namely that men get credit for saying certain things in left-liberal circles where the same statements by women get attacked if not as completely wrong, then at least as the statements of those who need to 'loosen up' and/or 'chill out' (see, for example, the general response/misrepresentation of thinkers like Dworkin).

    But...I think there is still a tension here. Perhaps a necessary one, given the centrality of the category 'woman' to feminist analysis and the simultaneous desire to move beyond it, but a tension nevertheless. In your post, you still seem to be treating 'boy feminism' in pretty much instrumental terms. So it is *strategically* beneficial for feminists to have men on their side and it is good to have men who are not misogynists.

    What doesn't seem to be a possibility is for men themselves to be fully-fledged feminists. The most important dividing line doesn't appear to be feminists/misogynists but women/men. In fact, some of the phrasing seems to suggest that men can have 'feminist ideas', but overall 'feminists' and 'men' do not mean on the political Venn diagram. I wouldn't for a second want to adopt some decontextualised stand which saw feminist politics as equally applicable across the whole population. In fact, I would quite strongly want to stress that there are distinctive standpoints that go with being a woman under patriarchy, and that no amount of David Mitchell saying that poll-dancing is exploitative is going to change that. Instead, I want merely to argue that feminism is, *and always has been*, about abolishing gender hierarchy and distinctions and that that goes for masculinity as much as it does for femininity, at least if we are to maintain at least some kind of universalism. I am not an 'ally' of feminism. I am a feminist.

    I really do want to stress that this is *not* 'what about the meeeeenz?'. If anything, I think the rhetoric about the normal, silent majority of men is misplaced. Misogyny is not pathology and it is not an exception. I realise that this is a lot to pile on to such a straight-forward and unproblematic post, but I want to say it anyway.

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  30. Woman may have been created from Adam's rib, but this article tickles no funny bone of mine. Why are you feministas so determinedly miserable? Bless.

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  31. Ah, the weight of the White Male Voice. Everybody knows it, very few will acknowledge it.

    Someone above the line on CiF recently said that everyone involved with it - editors, subs, contributors - have been amazed by the levels of misogyny displayed on it since its inception. It used to surprise me too, until I read Twisty and co; now, it fits into her worldview. Also, to be fair, into your slightly more optimistic one; I do think such Internet Warriors tend more towards the stereotype of lonely, bitter men blaming women for not finding them attractive, than your average Joe on the street.

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  32. I know exactly whre your coming from. Most of the ideas put forwards by the father's rights movement are dismissed as the entitled whining of bitter misoginists until a woman steps forward and makes the same point.....

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  33. I think that perhaps the point of this article was not to make you, "Frank Field", laugh, you stupid, stupid, STUPID bastard.

    Also, "feministas". Yersss. Very good. You must be hilarious company.

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  34. Thousands will lose benefits as harsher medical approved: tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.

    The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps. Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.

    Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.

    Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points. And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.

    In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.

    There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group. But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA.

    If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised. But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election.

    We know that many people will find this news deeply upsetting and even frightening and we know that some people will condemn us for publicising the planned changes or for the language that we are using to do so. But we also believe that it’s not too late to stop these ugly plans in their tracks if claimants and the organisations that represent them act now.

    With 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants waiting to be assessed using the work capability assessment in the next few years and tens of thousands of people already on ESA and set to be reviewed annually, these changes will be of great concern to many voters – if they find out about them before polling day.

    So, please spread the word in forums and blogs and to people you know who may be affected. Ask any disability charity you have a connection with to speak out now, before election day, against these plans. You might also want to contact local newspapers and radio to warn people about the proposals.

    And above all, contact not just your MP, but the other candidates in your constituency, and let them know you will not be voting for anyone who does not loudly condemn this shameful attack on sick and disabled claimants.

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  35. Still not got the gig as a weekly columnist ont The Guardian (hard copy) as is yours by right, having gone to Oxford 'n that?

    Have you thought of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights??

    BTW Beatrix Campbell has a voluminous past history of witch hunting & getting it wrong every single fucking time. Admission she was wrong? Apology?? You're joking....That & statements like the 9/11 victims 'had it coming' have left her a discredited loon.

    As for Bidisha, yeah went to Oxford too! Quel surprise!! And despite her private education and Oxford she can't save write to save her life. At least your CiF pieces are vaguely intelligible some of the time....

    vinny

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  36. Here is something grim from Haiti ...

    http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/04/23/we-are-not-your-weapons-we-are-women/

    ... the comments are interesting

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  37. While Ms. Laurie's article afforded me neither thrills or amusement Daniel's strident comment, above, did make me smile. Thank you for that young man. Appreciated.

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  38. My partner supports my feminism and holds with a lot of my beliefs... However according to some, many of those being our male friends, he is 'whipped'.

    This in itself frustrates the living daylights out of me, being that he is one of the strongest and most intelligent men I've ever met.

    Why must men that identify with feminist values consistantly be put down as weak or brainwashed by other men?!

    I just don't understand this resistance and ridicule towards those few men that do support feminist women... *sigh*

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  39. 'We are long past the point where we can make our arguement only to one another'Am surprised that yer talent has been left alone.

    Dont collect autographs.

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  40. I aboslutely, positively, 100% agree with you. Well said.

    Really, at the end of the day, feminism covers so much important ground for both men and women: the oppression, objectification and commodification of women also robs men of having healhty, fulfilling relationships with half the population of the earth. Which is shit.

    Men with moronic ideas about women, that stop them from treating women as equal human beings, often never have the kind of friendships (or partnerships) that they really want.

    Imagine how much more connected we'd be with each other as a society if there weren't the hindrance of sexism dividing us!

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  41. gender, like nearly everything, is a social construct.

    i don't have feminist sympathies for the same reason i am not misogynistic.

    anything one says after "i am" is self-destruction.

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  42. Oh, that Haiti comment thread is maybe the worst thing I ever read. Almost non-stop racism and victim-blaming. Avoid.

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  43. I half-agree with you on this issue. On the one hand, Mitchell is a terrific columnist (he's made me forget Ianucci, who used to pen the same column a few years ago). David adopts a more down-to-earth, facetious tone with the better outcome of getting under the skin of people who otherwise think pole-dancing was just a bit of harmless fun. You're right that many women have been making the same comments and they don't get their due. But then the media is made up of mainly white, middle-class, middle-aged men, so, what do you expect?

    Great post, though.

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  44. Wow. I'm not really clear on how you plan to ease men who are sympathetic to feminism out into the open by framing the whole thing as a "war against ball-swinging men". But, I do hear what you are saying and yes, it's infuriating that a man gets kudos for saying the same thing that a woman says, while she gets told to pipe down and stop causing a ruckus.
    That aside, I completely disagree with what Mitchell says with regards to pole dancing. The man has clearly never set foot in a pole dancing studio, nor talked to any woman who has pole danced. As someone who wrote their MA in Psychology on how pole dancing can help women to reconnect with their sexuality, I can assure you that there is a great deal of merit to this practice. Athletics aside, pole dancing provides women with a community in which to safely explore and experience their sensual, sexual side without fear of judgement and without feeling threatened. Sexuality is primarily experienced in the body, as is desire. Dance and movement then, can be an excellent vehicle for exploring the body, and sexuality. I have seen women of all shapes, sizes and ages in my classes and many of them develop a great deal of confidence, strength and joy from learning this movement. The empowerment part comes from women learning to reconnect with the erotic, the sensate, their living bodies. It comes from creating communities and businesses where women support one another, share with each other, and network. What I don't understand is why you, another women, and a self-proclaimed feminist would shit on that? Because these women like to play around with a hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized version of themselves? Because they possibly take it home to their partners? So what? Are you actually going to tell me that it's wrong to enjoy dancing for a man? Or that if I do enjoy it , it's only because I am brainwashed by the media or the patriarchy? Please, that's patronizing as hell. Moreover, I would argue that the women who pole dance are actually deeply aware of what they want and don't want and what arouses them because they spend so much time exploring the sensation of desire in their bodies. If part of the feminist argument is that a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body, then I'm not really clear on why that doesn't extend to her sexuality. As Jack Holland says in his book Misogyny. "It is one of the characteristics of cultures where misogyny is part of society's 'common sense' that they seek to repress that right." But maybe I'll just let him do the rest of the talking:
    "A deep ambivalence towards women's beauty remains in our own culture as part of our inheritance of the Judeo-Christian hostility towards the body. When Mary Wollstone-craft famously called on women to ''resign the arbitrary power of beauty' or they would 'prove they have less mind than man' she was echoing that hostility. As the psychologist Nancy Etcoff observed, the solution cannot be to give up the realm of pleasure and power that has been with us since the beginning of time.' The solution is not to reject beauty, but to reject misogyny."

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  45. "And when you're addressing men, it's nice to have a man on side. Because like it or not, men are much more willing to listen to other men than to scary scary women."

    But there is one important context in which this is NOT true: psychoanalysis. Freudians know from their daily practice that men, especially those who identify as heterosexual, usually have a very difficult time accepting help from other men. This is down to homophobia, a fear of assuming a supposedly submissive position in relation to another man.

    Of what relevance is this? I would put it to you that it is highly relevant, for psychoanalysis addresses questions of the highest importance for feminism: the formation of gender identity and sexuality. In a sense, I think the problem of 'men and feminism' is wrongly put. Men and women should be forced to question at least the presumed stability, if not the entire concept, of gender identity. Thus, if men begin to (really) engage with feminism, they should already be becoming something other than men.

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  46. Great article. I can definetly relate to it. I believe these aren't just woman's issues like the media would have you believe. I mean, what got me into feminism is having to watch my mother suffer from abuse from my father. For most of my life my mum was left to bring me, my brother and sister up on my own.

    It definetly annoys me when people associate feminsm with 'boooo hisss down with the male race'. Feminism to me is about equality and currently we definetly do not live in an equal world.

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  47. I personally never made that bad comments. But I do get it. Yah it's not cool. I am a blogger on Cheltenham Gold Cup

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  48. Usually I am not regular to read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice article.

    jason
    rescue my pension

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