Tag Archive: sexism

Hi again, folks.
It’s been that kind of a week.
My first link isn’t actually about C-36. It’s about street harassment and the policing of women’s bodies, sexuality, and freedom of movement. It Matters. I appreciate the author’s recognition that, when “hooker” is used to police a woman’s… existence outside of a home or outside of the accompaniment of a man… it reinforces the societal position that hookers are shameful and disposable. I also appreciate that the author, who is in the UK (I think), added links to the bottom of her post so that her readers could find out about C-36 and what it means.
The next one is from the CBC, discussing the lack of clarity within the proposed bill itself.
Third up, we have this article from the Globe and Mail pertaining to the lack of any response from the rest of the Conservative Party when Gauguen asked his appalling question about “freedom of expression”.
The last one comes from Impact Ethics, and offers a critical assesment of the proposed bill from the PoV of both former sex worker Kerry Porth and policy expert Genevieve Fuji Johnson.

So, you may have come across news of this situation in Nigeria already. The situation is that 234 girls were kidnapped from their school, where they were sitting their physics exam, and their government is doing fuck-all to even look for them.
There’s a petition to be signed, here, in the hopes of internationally embarassing the Nigerian government into trying to find them.
You can sign that petition, tweet about the situation using hashtags like #helpthegirls and #bringbackourdaughters, and contacting Joy Uche Angela Ogwu (Permanent Secretary of Nigeria to the UN) – I think your best bet for that is to write to ogwu [at] un [dot] org, but I’m not sure. CCing your letter to womenwatch [at] unwomen [dot] org isn’t going to hurt and you could also try CCing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at civilsociety [at] ohchr [dot] org, nationalinstitutions [at] ohchr [dot] org and vstefanov [at] ohchr [dot] org (that last is for Vladlen Stefanov, Chief of the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section).
All that being said, I’m writing this in Canada, and we have a pretty awful track record, over the past 20 years or so, with regards to not looking for missing women in our own country. To that end, I’m also directing to you this petition calling for a national Inquiry into missing and murdered Indiginous women and girls here because we really freaking need one.
In addition to signing that petition, you can also contact the Ministers for Status of Women and Aboriginal Affairs and Nothern Development directly (links go to contact information, including email), and/or get in touch with Guillermo Enrique Rishchynski Oller (either Rishchynski-Oller [at] un [dot] org OR possibly oller [at] un [dot] org) witha CC to the same folks at the UN office of Human Rights (see above). You can also tweet about using hastags like #mmiw, #nationalinquiry, and #canpoli.
Thanks folks,
Ms Syren.

So maybe this is going to be a little weird.
A while back (long while back, now) I wrote a post about some of the stuff that came up during “Slutriot” (a twitter-chat that I participated in, back in August). I wrote most of the post on the subject of whorestigma and how “whore” is a threat (of stigma, but also of violence, of “you’ll get what you deserve”) used specifically to police specifically women’s sexuality, even as it’s also a job description that applies to people of numerous genders. I wrote about how I don’t want to throw the gender diversity of sexworkers under the bus in order to address the sexism and misogyny that deeply tangled in the roots of whorestigma, but that I also don’t want to lose sight of those roots by saying things like “men, women, and non-binary people involved in the sex industry” when, disproportionally, it is cis women and trans women who work in the industry and, disproportionately, it is cis women and trans women who bear the brunt of whorestigma and whorephobia, and who get murdered on the job.
And I feel a little bit like that about Day of Action on Violence Against Women. Because I know women who have been seriously fucked up due to their female abusers’ actions. Hell, I’m married to one of them. I’m aware of how “sisterhood is powerful” can be twisted up with fears of rape-you-straight dyke-bashing and an over-arching cultural assumption that “women are passive” (and therefore not violent) to result in both a huge amount of under-reporting and, I suspect, a huge amount of dismissal of reports (see also “How we teach our kids that women are liars” although that doesn’t just apply to queer women), with regards to queer women’s violence against other queer women.
And yet.
Incidents of violence against women do not occur in a vacuum.
When the polytechnique masacre happened (in 1989 – 24 years ago this December 6th), there was a lot of talk about how it was a “lone madman”, of how the shooter was “crazy”. And very little about how this event was an extreme manifestation of a systematic problem.
A man murdering women because they had something that he felt entitled to and resented them for having and not giving up?
That happens all the time.
We live in a culture that says women are worth less than men, that our needs should take a back seat to their wants.
Of the 230 domestic homicides in Ontario between 2002 and 2007, 92% were committed by men and only 8% by women, according to the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.[1]
83% of all police-reported domestic assaults are against women. This pattern is consistent for every province and territory across Canada. (emphasis mine)
…There’s a derailing technique where the derailer basically says “But _____________ gets done to X, too!”[2]
It’s not “derailing” to point out that violence against women is sometimes committed by other women. But, as much as women’s violence against women needs to be recognized as a real thing, I think that part of the point of marking December 6th as a day of rememberance and action on violence against women, is to be aware of – and to work against – the systemic gender-based inequalities that make murdering us a viable option for “conflict resolution” by the almost-always-men who claim to love us.
Just some thoughts.
Ms Syren.
[1] Click that link for a discussion of how intersecting marginalizations further increase women’s vulnerability to domestic violence.
[2] You see it made fun of by people mock-wailing “But what about teh menz???!”, for example.

Slutriot – August 2013

So I just participated in the #slutriot tweetchat.
It was… interesting. Speaking 140 characters is a bit like speaking to a news reporter in that you sort of have to cut your thoughts down to a sound-bite.
It felt a bit like I wast getting my Activist Buzz Word on a little too heavily, at times.
Anway. Things that came up while I was tweet-chatting:
Is “slut” a white-people word (yes, by the sounds of things) and does that effect who participates in discussions around “slut” (the word, the potential re-claiming of that word, the concepts woven into that word, etc)?
Agency & autonomy being critical concepts when dealing with, and overcoming, ideas around illusions of control within the context of a rape culture that sets women up as sexual gatekeepers and says it’s our duty to prevent rape (from being done to us)
Sexwork (I’m going to exapand on this one, below. Sit tight).
The power of reclaiming (or, alternatively, refusing to claim) words used by one’s oppressors
Whose bodies do and do not get treated like (a) public property and/or (b) controlled substances (see sexwork, but also a whole hell of a lot more)
How “slut” works as a term of oppression (i.e.: It’s a threat, as much as it’s a label)
How does “slut” (which – 600 years ago – originally meant “messy” or “untidy”) relate to “home-maker” (“home-wrecker”?) in terms of how “real/proper woman” is defined? On how many different levels?
NOTE: If you want to talk about any of those in the comments, do go ahead. 🙂
As for sexwork.
Being a sexworker’s rights activist means that one regularly comes up against opponents who look as sexwork, at the laws around sexwork, at sexworkers themselves, as theory. This is maybe not all that surprising when many people – like many people you might run into in a given day who are not directly involved in sexwork or sexworkers’ rights activism – don’t actually think that they know anyone who does sexwork[1]. But it means that we – or at leas I – have to deal with a bit of a mental split.
Mental split. What does that mean.
What I mean is that, when I think about, say, the word “whore”, I am both thinking of it as (a) a job title held by numerous real, actual people, of various genders, with-whom I’m acquainted, AND (b) a concept that, like “slut”, is used in an extremely specific way within my culture.
And that makes things tricky.
Because I *want* to talk about the real, actual people[2] who do this work. I *want* to talk about agency and options; about how the people who choose body-work, stripping, massage, car-dates, go-go-dancing, street hustling, escorting, pro-fetish work, erotic modeling, and all those other jobs, are choosing to do that work, even when they are choosing from a very limited number of options; how the current legal and social climate can make leaving at least some of those really difficult. I want to talk about how talking about sexwork using fictional/theoretical “straw-hookers” as examples means actively choosing to render real, actual people invisible and to silence the people who most need to be part of these discussions for them to be real ones; and how shaving down the whole discussion around sexwork until you have an overly simplistic annalysis that goes “All women are victims, all men are preditors[2]” not only does a massive disservice to 100% of the people you *are* talking about, but also does a massive disservice to all those inconvenient men and non-binarily-gendered people who do sexwork and who, by their very existence, flip that simplistic theory on its head.
I want to talk about those things.
But I also want to talk about the “theory” side of it. About how, if Emily White is right (in her book, Fast Girls), and “fag” is to boys what “slut” is to girls – a tool used to police sexuality – then the people who make anti-sexwork laws, the people who go on anti-“trafficking” campaigns, none of them give a shit about the men and non-binarily-gendered people who do sexwork becuase “whore”, like “slut”, exists “purely” as a term (a tool) to police women’s sexuality[3].
And I want to be able to talk about that, too. About how anti-sexwork laws & attitudes (like anti-abortion laws and attitudes) are, at their roots, about sexism & mysogyny and the tacitly approved cultural belief that women’s bodies can and should be under the control of men (or at least man) at all times, by whatever means necessary… even though those laws and attitudes also effect people who aren’t women[4].
I’m serious. It feel like that, in order to serve real, actual people who do sexwork, in order to combat that overly-simplistic worldview that posits “all women are victims, all men are preditors”, in order to do the work that needs doing, I also have to throw most of those real, actual people under the goddamn bus when it comes to recognizing (and combatting) the motivation at the roots of those laws and attitudes.
I don’t even know what to do.
I’m serious. If you have a suggestion for how to merge these two things so that I can talk about all of them at once? Throw it up here, because I need the help.
Thank you.
Ms Syren.
[1] The combination of whorestigma and anti-sexwork laws means that a LOT of sexworkers aren’t out about their jobs. Which means that a LOT of people who are friends or relatives of sexworkers don’t know that their buddy, team-mate, sister, brother, daughter, uncle, mother, TA, co-worker, coach, you-name-it, is a sexworker. Which means that they don’t think that anti-sexwork laws (or Dead Hooker Jokes, or slut-shaming along the specific lines of “So and So is *such* a ho“, or whatever) are going to effect anyone they know, one way or the other. Which means that it’s a LOT harder to sway Public Opinion toward decriminalizing sexwork… which means that we basically have a bit of a vicious cycle on our hands. 😦
[2] An annalysis that is strangely in line with the dominant cultural paradigm that posits women as sexual gate-keeprs and men as (dangerously) sexually insatiable. Funny, that…
[3] I’m pretty sure this is why all those (same) people who want to ban gay marriage and bum-sex are so focused on “Adamn and Steve” (rather than “Lilith and Eve” which, seriously, was at least an option). Because “fag” is how you police male sexuality and, if “fag” becomes okay, then the tool doesn’t work anymore, does it?
[4] Although, disproportionately, they do effect women, and I’d rather not lose sight of that.

Hi all,
So it’s been eight million years since I last posted. I’ve got a story submission due… now (but it’s ready!), I’ve been doing a bunch of modeling lately (YAY!), and the poetry festival I co-run starts on Tuesday (come to VERSeFest if you’re in town!).
None the less, there’s been stuff going on that isn’t directly related to me, so I’m bringing you a small heap of links. Hope you enjoy.
March 3rd, of course, was International Sex Workers’ Rights Day. There’s a really great article here that talks about the anti-porn/anti-prostitution movement within feminism and has this particularly relevant thing to say:
“Hatred of prostitutes has implications for all women who desire to determine their sexual existences. These obviously stigmatised targets allow a kind of thin-end-of-the-wedge, sanctioned misogyny. It is a small step from being able to dismiss some women as stupid sluts to dismissing all women as stupid sluts, the former operating as some sort of entry level for the latter.”
Worth the read.
You can also check out this wee entry on the World Charter for Prostitutes’ Rights.
Lastly, you might enjoy The Whorecast ft Siouxsie Q. I certainly do.
More recently (today), it’s International Women’s Day. Suzanne Moore has this article about why the whole thing feels kind of meaningless from where she’s standing. It’s not the best article in the world, but it raises a few good points, so I’m sending it your way.
Beyond that we have a post on IWD’s origins in the labour movement; Glitter Politic deconstructs a transmisogynist IWD video; and here’s a post from Trans Griot (from last year at this time).
Ms Syren.

About a month ago (maybe… it’s been a while), I was walking down the street, a list of errands running through my head consisting of everything I needed to get done in the next two hours. Behind me, some guy started exclaiming about my height.
This is not unusual. I’m a woman, and I’m over six feet tall by a significant margin. For a lot of people, those two categories are mutually exclusive, so seeing me – or someone like me – is slightly weird. Or world-expanding. Depending on how you want to look at it.
I’m used to adults forgetting to use their Inside Voices when it comes to me and The Tall.
That doesn’t mean I always welcome this behaviour.
So, yeah. When it came to this particular person? I did what women tend to do when random dudes start hollering at them in the street. I ignored him, kept walking, didn’t slow down, and so-on. You know the drill. And, after a few meters and a few exclamations about “Woah, you’re so tall,” he backed off, saying “Okay. I get it. I’m not hitting on you.”
I’m not hitting on you.
Yeah. That’s the trick right there.
Because, while the wretched reality that is Rape Culture positions me as a sexual gate-keeper and holds me responsible for crimes perpetrated against me, and positions him as the kind of “Stranger Danger” that “responsible women” watch out for… Despite that, I wasn’t ignoring him because I thought he might be hitting on me.
I knew he wasn’t hitting on me[1].
What bothered me – and what bothers me in general – about random guys (or whoever, since it’s not just guys who do this to me) hollering inane comments about my body at me isn’t just that they’re making inane comments about my body. Within earshot. With the intention of being heard.
(Although seriously. Really?)
What bothers me is the expectation of a response. The expectation that I treat inane comments about my body as some kind of a conversational opener. It’s the assumption that the person doing the hollering is entitled to my attention, time, and energy (and frequently gratitude) just because, ZOMG, they’ve never seen a human like me before. It’s the probably-not-even-conscious belief, held by the hollerer, that their inane comment about my body trumps one hundred percent of everything else that I might be thinking about, or focusing on, at the time.
When little kids do this? That’s fine. A four-year-old has barely differentiated between “self” and “other”, and is pretty new to the finer points of social interaction or Inside Voices. When little kids remark, loudly, to their parents that “Wow, that lady is so tall“… I’m just as likely to smile and wave and play the non-threatening giant as I am to ignore the whole thing.
But when an adult does it?
For. Fuck’s. Sake.
Adults are supposed to know better than that.
Just because you’ve never seen a human like me before, doesn’t mean that the rules of Polite Human Interaction stop applying.
This rant has been brought to you by rude strangers on Somerset. YAY!
Ms S.
[1] Although given how street harrassment works, it did cross my mind that there was (ballpark) a 60/40 chance that he’d start hitting on me if I was friendly rather than hostile.

M-312 Defeated! YAY! :-D

Good thing: Motion M-312 was defeated today. YAY! 😀
The Radical Handmaids were there, and live-tweeted the whole thing.
Dismayed, though not actually surprised, that – based on her vote today – Status of Women Minister, Rona Ambrose, does not actually have women’s best interests at heart.
Also: I like the idea of Status of Uppity Women as a separate portfolio.

For the Femmes

Yet another fly-by re-post of something I think is cool. Real content will return when I’ve finished Dark Moon Rising.

Dismissing those who are feminine is just another way to bolster the patriarchy.

A while back, I wrote a post about rape culture within, and not-so-within, fandom-geek world.

Well, Felicity Shoulders, over at Faerye.net, has a related post. May I just say: THIS.

When a woman senses a man sees her as a puzzle box, she does not know if he is a harmless guy with some stupid notions, or a self-taught pickup artist steeped in internet misogyny but who has a rudimentary ethical compass, or a guy who will rape her if he has plausible deniability but not otherwise, or that self-aware serial rapist who posted on Reddit.

She doesn’t know whether he’s just going to annoy her with a constant attempt to load his save-game and retry with a bunch of corny lines and pushy suggestions; or stalk her on the internet trying to figure out the cheat code to open her pants; or grope her in an attempt to break her boundaries; or rape her. She does not know what he’s willing to do to get the treat. All she knows is that he sees her as an obstacle and her sex as an object. And why the fuck would she want to spend any time with him, even if he’s harmless, knowing that?

Go have a read. It’s a good one.

This Post got me Thinking. Because I recognize a whole lot of what the letter-writing is talking about with regards to feeling guilt-ridden and undeserving of support while being an as-yet-unpublished writer.

I’m a work-at-home artist. I make my living (“living”) through modeling; occasional sales of essays, poems, and other stuff; being a craft show vendor; and doing a small, set number of local-outreach hours for a province-wide health organization. Sometimes I do temp work – which is a financial boost to be certain, but also tends to mess with my ability to get most of my other work done at the same time.
What I’m getting at is that I’m financially supported in a very real way by my partner, who makes something in the neighbourhood of ten times what I make every month, money-wise.

And I struggle with this.

I struggle with this because I love that I don’t need to work a time-consuming, frustrating, soul-eating day-job and can, instead, spend my days pursuing my various arts and doing things that actually make me happy… but feel like I shouldn’t love it, should, instead, be consumed with self-loathing for being a worthless freeloader and should be working my ass off at a paid job (that I hate) in order to not need that support even – maybe most of all – at the expense of living the life I want and doing the things I love and getting really good at all of my trades.

It’s messed up.

I am… probably dealing with a lot of 2nd-wave (and 3rd-wave) feminist indoctrination that I got from both (a) my mother, and (b) my peer group and (c) my mom’s peer group and/or cohort of white, middle-class feminists regarding both:
A) The middle-class[2] and also Protestant[3] idea that “working hard” = “making money”
B) The feminist idea that women can, and should, make the same kind of money for the same kind of work which, while true, has wound up having a shadow-side that says “women should (as opposed to just can) do the kind of work that is valued by The Patriarchy because that’s the kind of work that makes good money”… which is not good and continues the Patriarchal Pattern of devaluing that which is read as feminine/female/girly or otherwise socially situated in the realm of Women’s Work.
BOTH OF WHICH contribute to:
C) The idea that men, or people of whatever gender but who are working in “men’s fields”, work harder than women (or people of whatever gender who are working in “women’s fields”) do. See, well, everything.
See the male CEO of a small business being the CEO of “Urban Jungle Office Plant Care Services”, but the female CEO of a small business is “just a cleaning lady”.
See the assumption that a man working, or hustling for work, from home is Working From Home and doesn’t have time to do the laundry and prep dinner on top of that; but a woman working, or hustling for work, from home is expected to do all the domestic work while she’s at it.
See phrases like “My mom stays home and makes cookies” as a way of totally dismissing the endless, and typically thankless, unpaid work of putting food on the table, raising kids, caring for elderly relatives, managing multiple calendars, and all the other stuff that a stay-at-home mother does.
The list goes on.

So there’s that.

There’s also a lot of stuff tied into this that comes from my being my partner’s Owner, and the stuff that the kink community has inherited from the over-culture about how money = power. Specifically:
(A) I feel, sometimes, on some level, that I’m not being “dommely” enough if I’m not the one Making The Money.
But also:
(B) Because our Dynamic includes Ghost doing the vast majority of the domestic labour[4] – AND we don’t (and won’t) have kids – which means I don’t get to say “but I do all the ____________, thus fulfilling my Duties as a Productive[7] Stay-At-Home Wife/Mom” the way, say, Erica (North West Edible Life) can, or the way my own mother did when I was a kid.

Accepting Service is hard. It’s one of the reasons why there are so few (apparently) people who can do it for a sustained period of time. It’s hard to remember all the intangible stuff that you do every day to earn that Service.
It can be extremely difficult to fend off the social conditioning that leaves you – especially if you’re a chick – feeling like you’re being monumentally selfish to even want, let alone have, someone at your beck and call to just do what you tell them to do in order to make your life easier.

Being a working artist is like that, too.
We get fed all this stuff where either:
A) You’re Stephen King (or Angelina Jolie, or Feist, or whoever), and are therefore Successful and A Real Artist (or, potentially, a Total Sell-Out) because your work is valued-in-your-lifetime and you are making huge pots of money by Doing Your Thing
B) You’re a starving artist who is surviving on once-a-day Kraft Dinner and is probably emotionally broken and is living in an unheated bachelor apartment, but who is DAMMIT earning their right to call themselves an Artist[8]
C) You’re a freeloading perpetual child who is Just Playing and needs to grow the fuck up and get a Real Job, already, instead of abusing the kindness, patience, and generosity of people who actually (for some reason) believe in you

See what I mean?

It’s a mess.

I used to write recipes and blog posts for an online cooking magazine[9] that paid me a couple of hundred dollars every month for my product. It was great. I was Making My Living as a Writer. When people asked me “So, what do you do…?” I could tell them “I’m a freelance writer. I write for a cooking magazine and have published a couple of poems!” and they would nod and go “that’s so cool” because I was a “real” (read: paid) writer for realz.

Now I write… blog posts (prolifically), poetry (sporadically), a novel-in-progress[10], and occasional essays or stories as they come into my head. Sometimes I get paid for this stuff. I’ll sell a poem to a publication and get paid to read at the launch party, or I’ll write an essay and manage to sell it to a magazine. But mostly my writing is unpaid and, well, labour-intensive. I’ve talked a bit about this over at The Bleedings of My Heart so I’m going to spare you the repetition here. The short version is:
It’s my job to create my art.
If I create my art, I’m doing my job.
If I’m getting paid to do my job, then so much the better.

And it’s getting easier to remember that.
I feel good – not just “better” but good – about myself when I put in my 1000 words/day. I can tell twitter that “Today I made peach chutney, a phone call to a figure-drawing class that was looking for models, and one thousand words. Booyah! I’m doin’ my job!”
But I still get twitchy – even knowing that Ghost has my back 100% of the time – when it comes to Needing Her Help. E.G.: “Due to it being The Intersession, there’s been a lack of modeling work over the past two months and, on top of that, my recipe-writing job just dried up with no notice. As such, I need you to cover all of the July Rent, and possibly August’s as well”. That happened in 2011, not that long after we’d set up house together, and it suuuuuuuuuuucked. Not because she was grudging or gloating or otherwise nasty about it (she very emphatically was anything but nasty about it) but because is really, REALLY felt like I was letting her down (even through situations beyond my control. Yeah, I know).

… And I’ve been rambling about this stuff for three solid pages at this point, so let me see if I can gather everything together into some kind of concluding point…

Being a service-receptive domme, and being a financially-supported adult, both involve dealing with a lot of cultural crap about “laziness” and “worthiness”, about “independence” and “bootstraps” and similar. Accepting either (or, in my case, both at the same time) requires a lot of grace.

When my Ghost talks about doing things with grace, she doesn’t mean “doing things elegantly” or “doing things in an aesthetically pleasing way”. She means, I think, what Captain Awkward says about “[Accepting support/care] with thanks and love [..] Rather than with an exhausting shame dance of unworthiness”.
That’s what I mean here.

There’s a lot of Cultural Indoctrination that says:
“People who need help aren’t worthy of receiving it”
“Adults who need help aren’t really adults”
“People whose work is neither lucrative[11] nor familiar to [me] as work[12] are… lazy people who have never done an ‘honest day’s work’ in their lives”.

Those are all big obstacles to receiving any support, as an adult, regardless of the context.

To receive something with grace is to say thank you (not “I’m not worthy” but “Thank you”), and to hold up your end of the bargain.
Put words on the page
State your desires
Shape your creation, shape your charge.

Ms Syren.

[1] Actually a word! (According to my spell-checker, at least).

[2] No really. Check out The Commerce of Everyday Life: Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator. It’s all about that stuff!

[3] See Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for details.

[4] I do most of the cooking[5] and frequently fold the clean laundry, but only do the laundry, or the cleaning, tidying, or washing up, once in a blue moon[6].

[5] Because I like cooking, and canning, and puttering in the kitchen… but also because I like to eat earlier in the evening than we would be able to if Ghost were also required to get dinner on the table after work.

[6] Oh, hey, tonight’s a Blue Moon… 😉

[7] As opposed to lazy…

[8] I so bought this one, hardcore, for years. It’s still hanging around inside my brain, but it has marginally less of a hold on me, thank freaking goodness…

[9] Until it went belly-up. That’s online start-ups for you.

[10] Which I’m seriously in the muddy middle of, which is Not Helping.

[11] Because, like it or not, money is how we set the value of things in this society.

[12] E.G.: Pro Sports = [something a lot of people do for a hobby] + pots of money. Pro Art = [something a lot of people do for a hobby] + …uhm…
Guess which one is the one that gets valued in Ye Olde Mainstream Culture?