Getting out of the Kitchen

6266501949_84c2faabe1_bFinger hovering over the ‘send’ button, I can’t count the number of times I have been almost confident enough to offer an article for publication. At that moment, the piece stands on a cliff edge, waiting to be prodded gently into the ‘real’ world to be shared, interpreted and criticised on a bumpy nosedive into the abyss of online commentary. I hesitate, not because I lack confidence in my own capacities, but because the consequences of opining loom large in my mind.

The past few weeks have seen more than a stramash in the womenosphere of Planet Scotland.

The #GlasgowEffect saw a female artist lose days of sleep because of the abusive language on her Facebook page, while a regional newspaper published a picture of her home with no thoughts to her safety. A high profile twitter spat between J.K. Rowling and Natalie McGarry MP have seen both the object of twitter vilification. Scotland’s ever-shrinking mainstream media lost respect in sacking Angela Haggerty at the behest of the Rangers’ board—ironically less than a week after her article detailing the systematic misogyny and abuse she continues to receive from Rangers supporters as a result of her journalism. And in the latest instalment of why being a woman with a profile needs a health and safety protocol, anti-feminist supporters of Roosh V were encouraged to document details of women vocally opposing their network, in order to ‘exact furious retribution’ after an uproar about the ‘gathering’ of his supporters in Glasgow and Edinburgh this weekend.

For many women, publishing their work is a radical act. Barely a week goes by without a story about the alienation of women in media, whether in the reification of their role in society as sex objects who are only important insofar as the label or makeup they wear, or in more extreme cases of sexual harassment online. If we are to take equality seriously, our response needs to take account of the implicit and explicit mechanisms of this inequality.

For many women, publishing their work is a radical act. Barely a week goes by without a story about the alienation of women in media, whether in the reification of their role in society as sex objects who are only important insofar as the label or makeup they wear, or in more extreme cases of sexual harassment online. If we are to take equality seriously, our response needs to take account of the implicit and explicit mechanisms of this inequality.

I am immensely proud of every woman and man who has rebuked the ideology of Roosh V this week. However, I fear that in congratulating ourselves, we risk losing the opportunity to widen the net of discussion on the reality of everyday sexism in Scotland. While contentious figures like Roosh V can cause an isolated bubble of populist furore, it doesn’t take very long for old habits to return. Just as a brief example, on one public Facebook page which declared it was ‘never prouder’ to be Glaswegian after Roosh V’s tweet about vehement opposition to him in Glasgow, it only takes a few scrolls down to see previous posts which belittle and objectify women. Rape is easy to oppose, but what about body shaming?

This is not indeed to shame the admin of this page, since they too are victim and audience to the infrastructure of inequality hard-wired into our system, but instead to recognise the gulf between the silos of self-identified feminists and the everyday experience of sexism which many are numb to. Sexism is insidious; the capacity to discern it is itself a privilege. All too often, possible allies are locked out of the discussion because they don’t have the ‘appropriate’ vocabulary to bestow authority on their contribution.

This isn’t helped by the popular expression of feminism as isolated crusades against a series of male antagonists. Daniel O’ReillyChed Evans, Julien Blanc, Tim Hunt—names whose banality conceal the heated and impassioned debate these personalities have initiated. In such circumstances, feminism gains recognition as people connect over the spectrum of stupidities uttered by these men, while simultaneously, the singular determination to crucify them leaves those who empathise with the men defensive.

Though some may bemoan the advertising the protests will afford Roosh V, perhaps inadvertently pushing more troubled men towards his ideology thusly, I believe he’s also unwittingly handed feminists in Scotland an incredible opportunity—if we have the confidence and empathy to grasp it. This awareness raising campaign could be the gateway drug many need to connect a rape-apologist ideology with the everyday experiences of sexist subjugation. And while my patience for hand-holding men through the rationalisation of feminism wears thinner by the day, I want to match the fire in my belly with the radical strength of empathy and care.

Without the tools to perceive and translate structural inequality and its consequences, ‘get back in the kitchen’ jokes and ‘stand against Roosh V’ events will continue to coexist in the same warped timeline. What if we took this opportunity not to police one another, as we too often do, but to encourage more people to extend their passionate support of this protest to, for example, opposing the monstering and misogyny which stymies female voices? Thanks to Daryush Valizadeh, activists this week have propelled feminism into the timelines, feeds, and news pages of citizens across Scotland. The challenge is now in keeping it there.

Comments (8)

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  1. Doug says:

    I am proud of Scots women. They look after each other, are help-meets to their partners, treat their friends without judgement on their body shape; (although sense of humour might be a deal breaker). Most Scots men I knew understood that the ‘wimmin’ needed each other’s support as well as theirs. Say no to Roosh and his idiocy, but know that he gets laughed at, much more than he is feared here.

    And Scots women arenae feared o this idiot.. I got engaged to a South African on the high seas; in our first port of call in New Zealand, a crofters daughter offered to make her a nice purse from an intimate part of my anatomy – a good laugh- but she, and all her sisters would have ripped Roosh and his friends many new and interesting orifices.

    So let’s not stop the man talking – just have the Steamie laughng at him, Scots men declining to listen, and Scots women running him out of town because he’s feart of a real woman, a real relationship, and anyone that doesn’t treat him like he has enough money to be’special’.

  2. colin says:

    There are smoke and mirrors at work here, nothing is what it seems, the ‘suicidal celebrity who is so because her ex husband’s new partner insulted her on twitter by saying that one of her boobs is smaller than the other

    Who is interested in that story? well the fact is that some media entities will pay good money for that sort of information, useless as it is.

    Most of what you read about perceived discrimination, bullying or hurtful comments is nothing of the sort, it is merely someone writing rubbish for financial reward and for that we can blame the idiots (Daily Mail readers?) who read that sort of trash. My view is quite simple, it involves kitchens and heat

  3. Jim Bennett says:

    Thank you, Katie, for an interesting and challenging article. Your decision to press the send button is much appreciated.

    You say
    “The #GlasgowEffect saw a female artist lose days of sleep because of the abusive language on her Facebook page”.
    Indeed. The attacks on her were often outrageous and a strong minority of them involved threats of violence and misogynist comment. However, what was really refreshing for me was the way that virtually every time a misogynist or violent comment was made, many, many men took the perpetrators to task. I regularly defended the artistic merit of what she was planning but the defence of the artist against misogyny primarily came from men who were taking the artist to task based on their disagreement on what the artist was doing. Perhaps that might be worthy of highlighting?

    You also say:
    “while my patience for hand-holding men through the rationalisation of feminism wears thinner by the day, I want to match the fire in my belly with the radical strength of empathy and care.”
    I’m not sure what to think about this. I’ll freely confess that I’ve been guilty of asking for hand holding through a rationalisation of feminism. I’m also aware that some people have found this tiresome. Perhaps it reminds me of the repeated cinematic cliché found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KoKWf6pLs8
    There’s something uncomfortable about any philosophy whose adherents are initiates into the one truth which is often misunderstood and misconstrued. A philosophy where the initiates can sit, talking with each other about how “others” just don’t get it. What that does is create a self perpetuating exclusion of the initiates from understanding by others. However, I have met plenty of single truth adherents for whom that is exactly the point; an enjoyment of their understanding which elevates them above others. So, Katie, I do sincerely hope that your patience for individuals like me can be strengthened by your empathy and care rather than fall victim to ennui.

    On a lighter note, when I was asking an educationalist friend about some aspects of the sociology of feminism, she advised that I should utilise the FOFO method of learning. Obviously, I asked what the FOFO method was because I was unfamiliar with it. She said to me: “Fuck off and find out”! Perhaps I’d better take her advice.

  4. Fran says:

    Great article. Best way to learn is to listen to the women. And support them.

  5. Heather says:

    This is absolutely fantastic. Thanks Katie for hitting send and thanks Bella for being part of the safe context around this essential discussion.

  6. Erskine Bridge says:

    Nobody seems super interested in the fact that this “militant pick up artist and rape advocate” (what kind of society is it where journalists can bolt a phrase like that together with a straight face, I ask?) claims the views imputed to him were based on the misconstruing of his words. Satire, he claims. It seems his critics are unable or unwilling to simply make the case that *what* he was satirizing is a distasteful or impolitic topic for satire, and instead proceed to deliberately misrepresent what he actually thinks. And what he actually thinks, while in many ways isn’t very nice, probably isn’t all that different from what your grampa might have thought about gender politics. So what next – shall we ban OAPs returning on Ryanair from Benidorm? But no-one can be surprised by the sheer illiberal rage of the postmodern Left. It’s a fantastic – and symbiotically constructed with their “opponents'” – clickbaiting, brand-building, virtue signalling to your pals on social media, tactic.

  7. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Thanks for having the courage to publish and be criticised.

    “while my patience for hand-holding men through the rationalisation of feminism wears thinner by the day, I want to match the fire in my belly with the radical strength of empathy and care.”

    Really? I applaud anyone’s attempt to engage in discourse in a rational, caring way… but that’s not a good start. Whatever you meant by it, here’s how it reads…

    “patience for hand-holding men through the rationalisation of feminism” =
    1) Men are infants, or at least I choose to infantilise them.
    2) Their inability (en masse) to immediately comprehend and accept my version of ‘feminism’, is down to their stupidity and immaturity, rather than any weakness in my views or how I explain them.
    3) My views are correct and incontestable. If I choose to engage in discussions with men at all, it’s an act of maternalistic patience – and not just what anybody with an opinion has to do in an open society, when communicating with another adult!
    4) My feminism depends on an elaborate rationalisation. It’s not grounded in anything self-explanatory… like equality, human rights, non-violence, the good of the whole community?

    “I want to match the fire in my belly with the radical strength of empathy and care” =
    1) I’m angry, and impatient… but I can do that in a kind and caring way.

    No you can’t. You can’t be offensive or aversive about a person or an opinion, and empathic and caring about them at the same time. Those feelings are polar opposites.

    I doubt there’s a single reader of this website who doesn’t support women’s rights and elimination of hate speech. Don’t make enemies of potential friends by insulting our intelligence.

    The horrible intimidation that Angela Haggerty received was primarily racist and sectarian. She was attacked for being an Irish Scot from an RC background, who dared to speak the truth about the racism. The misogyny was just a tactic to maximise the harm and fear. By focussing on the sexist aspect, and not mentioning the rest, you misdirect, and you act as a cover for racial hatred.

    ” J.K. Rowling and Natalie McGarry MP … both the object of twitter vilification”. That’s all you can say about this? A billionaire, with powerful friends in the media establishment, threatens to sue an elected rep who had the temerity to point out the fact that the billionaire is best twitter friends with a misogynist who jokes about FGM. You say they’re both the object of vilification? What, equally? This is a symmetrical thing, is it? The billionaire with her 6,000,000 twitter followers and her island of lawyers, against one MP, who doesn’t even have a party at the moment?

    You article is an unwitting cover for racism, and for the abuse of power and wealth… if feminism really wants to engage in a non-defensive way with fellow travellers, it may have to accept that it exists within a whole eco-system of progressive opinion.

  8. greatbighoo says:

    “The past few weeks have seen more than a stramash in the womenosphere of Planet Scotland.”

    I am now £10 up via Pseuds Corner in Private Eye.

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