Clementine Ford and modern feminism

In Australia, there has been a lot of talk about feminist writer Clementine Ford in the news lately. Personally, I think she’s great! She calls people and organisations out on their bullshit. Her language is colourful but compelling and she is, to me, the epitome of modern, unapologetic, in-your-face, riotgrrl feminism. She also has great style and I love her tattoos. Am I fangirling too much? Meh, don’t care.

Anyway, Clementine is in the news for calling out a man who wrote crude things and threats on her Facebook page and reporting him to his employer. The employer promptly sacked this shining beacon of humanity. A win! But instead of a national bout of fist-pumping, the response has been one of butt-hurt from those who believe he shouldn’t have lost his job for being a twat.

I suppose there are plenty of twats who are gainfully employed but as an employer, would you really want an employee who doesn’t respect 50 percent of your workforce? Would you want to employ someone who threatens people with violence for simply airing their views? Would you really want an employee who doesn’t understand that Facebook is a public platform and that they are, in fact, accountable for their actions?

The critics justify their opposition by pointing out Clem’s use of foul language. The argument is that Clem herself is prone to colourful language therefore she should not object to being harassed and threatened. Wow, writing down makes the argument seem even more obscure. Anyway, the example provided was that Clem called Australian right-wing journalist Miranda Devine a f*cking c*nt on Twitter. Regardless of what you think of that kind of language and of Miranda Devine (I’m kinda with Clem on this one), calling someone names is very different to graphic threats of violence. And is anyone really offended by being called names anymore? Really? If someone called me a bitch I could shrug and move on pretty quickly, potentially with the help of a single-finger gesture. But if someone said they were going to follow me home and rape me? That’s next level name-calling, the kind that has you looking over your shoulder and wondering if you should call the police. Neither is ideal but one is a hell of a lot worse than the other. Apples and oranges.

There are other flimsy, apologist counter-arguments too. “Oh, he lost his job, what about his family?” You expect me to feel sorry for this hate-spewing misogynist? Nope. But maybe they’re right, we need some sort of place where these ignorant, angry people can be rehabilitated while undertaking meaningful work to earn a wage. Perhaps in a secure facility where they can reflect on their actions and undergo counselling to figure out where all this hateful bile is coming from. Between sessions they can make up care packages for women who are homeless due to domestic violence, they can arrange flowers to send to the families of women who have been killed as a result of their gender, they can write thank-you letters to women’s rights activists, particularly to those tackling intersectionality, they can make “Check your privilege” business cards to hand out when necessary. They’d earn a wage for these tasks, one that they could send to whatever family they help support, and when they are suitably rehabilitated, as assessed by a panel of independent experts, they are free to return to the community.

In the course of my reading, I came across a quote by T. Eriksen that goes: “In a truly dialogic democracy, participants would have to demonstrate knowledge of others before moving on to critical or condescending statements about them”. It’s talking about democracy but I think it’s relevant it most cases. The example TE uses is the (vocal; why are they always so vocal?) criticism of Islam but those who have never so much as picked up a Quran. The same is true here. Unless you know what it’s like to be a woman, or at least make a concerted effort at empathy, you don’t have the right to criticise, particularly criticisms along the lines of what Clem cops on a daily basis. Of course, the experiences of women are by no means universal, I would never even suggest that. What I experience as a straight, white woman is a world away from the experiences of women of colour, women with disabilities and trans women. But being discriminated against, intimidated, bullied, threatened, excluded or made uncomfortable on account of your gender is experienced by women across the board. If you can’t be empathetic and try to understand what that is like, you don’t get an opinion. You straight-up don’t. That’s not ruling out the participation of men. There are plenty of dudes that are fellow feminists-in-arms and engage in meaningful dialogue about how change can happen. It’s just unfortunate that they’re not the ones doing the majority of posting on Clem’s Facebook.

Good things

 

There’s a lot of pretty average things going on in the world at the moment, to say the least. Mass shootings, terrorist attacks, wars and bombings. It takes a lot of stomach to read the news without wanting to rest your head on the kitchen table and sob. Adding to that, we’ve reached the back paddock of the year. We can see the end, we can see holidays, but we’ve still got a field’s worth of shit to wade through before we get out.

In an effort to circumvent all of this unpleasantness, I’ve been thinking about the little things that are good. Not in a cheesey “a child’s smile” kind of way, but just those every day, mundane things that make life just a little bit brighter. I am, of course, extremely wary of coming across as one of those Instagram positivity banshees who post pictures of sunsets or the ocean with a vague quote plastered over the top of it.

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I think it’s time to aim for a middle point between the reality of this messed up world and the proliferation of overly filtered portrayals of how great everything is. We need to tone down the Everything is Awesome!/#blessed/#soblessed/500 days of gratitude and tune out some of the barrage of terrible news we’re faced with every day. That’s not to say it isn’t important to be informed and engaged with the issues facing us as a society. It is. Now more than ever. But I think there’s scope for a little corner of our minds, or in my case the internet, for appreciating the everyday things in all their mundane excellence.

So here it is, my three average things that are absolutely nothing special. They don’t make me #soblessed or #grateful enough to post about on Instagram, but they are also not highly contagious diseases with high mortality rates or radical militant movements. They’re just good things. And sometimes that’s enough.

So here we go:

3: Singaporean carrot cake

You’re not really a carrot cake! Where’s the cream cheese icing? Where’s the walnuts? You’re not even sweet! Is there even any carrot in you? You are more like an omelette than anything else. Cake? Pfft. No, you’re a savoury, sneaky bastard but dammit, I love you.

2: Cats.

Shocker, I know. It seems like every day I creep a little bit closer to crazy cat lady territory. I’m embracing it though. I am unashamedly grateful for cats. For my own cat who has a huge attitude problem and is responsible for the cat hair tumbleweeds bouncing down the hall. I am also thankful for our community cat, affectionately known as Catniss Neverclean. She is always so happy to see me and runs down the street to say hello. She is, however, only available between the hours of 6am-9am and 4pm-8pm, otherwise it’s too hot. Even though I’ve stopped carrying cat food in my handbag, much to the relief of FS, Catniss doesn’t hold it against me and is always up for a pat.

1: Binge-watching TV series

Gone are the days of waiting a whole week for the next episode of a great TV show. What a time to be alive. I’m currently working my way through The Office, the American version, and it is pretty excellent. Being able to watch a full season of a TV show in one sitting is an absolute privilege for which I am so very #grateful.

They’re not much, only tiny stupid things, but watching my cat chase a tuft of her own fur and ordering a cheap plate of delicious hawker food are all it takes to put me in a good mood. And that’s all I need.

 

The Sydney siege

They say no news is good news and that is absolutely the case in my house. A good day is speckled with opinion pieces and social media, with just a dash of current affairs and events. A bad day is one where the news rolls all day long.

Today was one of those days. When the TV is on all day. A day when Twitter is constantly refreshed and news sites are minimised, not closed.

I thought long and hard about what to write about the Sydney siege. I wanted to write something. There’s a lot that can be said about the media’s handling of this, about the dangers of social media and speculation during police manoeuvres, about how the Australian public will react to these events, about what effects this will have on the Muslim community, about terrorism in the Western world, and if this means Australia is no longer safe.

The journalist in me considers these angles and implications, potential sources of comment and analysis, but it’s not the right time. There will be time for these discussions but it’s not now. Not while the situation is still unresolved. Not while there are still people whose average Monday morning became a waking nightmare. Not while lives are still in danger.

There will be time to figure out what went wrong, there will be time for explanations, but first everyone needs to get home safely.

Stay strong, Sydney.

Just a joke

I recently received some feedback that I should write more ‘funny’ posts. So here’s a post about jokes. It’s not funny. Sorry.

What’s grinding my gears today? People that do or say offensive things and then tell other people that it was “just a joke”. Lighten up. Get a sense of humour.

I consider myself to have a pretty decent sense of humour, I think everyone says that though. (Sidebar: I heard a cracking joke last night about canoes and American beer!*)

The rule should be: it’s only a joke if everyone is laughing or rolling their eyes (lame jokes are jokes too). If anyone is offended, it’s not a joke and it’s certainly not a funny one.

Wicked Campers is in the news today for being stupidly offensive and then being stupidly defiant about their right to be stupid and offensive. I won’t republish what’s painted on the van in question, it’s repulsive. It’s the kind of rubbish that you’d expect to be in a Robin Thicke song or a slowly dying men’s magazine. The rubbish in those two things is fine because you can choose not to listen to them or buy them quite easily. The problem with the Wicked Camper situation is that they are in your face whether you like it or not. You can’t swerve off the road or shut your eyes while driving when one comes in your direction, as much as you may want to. In my books, anything that prompts an 11-year-old girl to ask if she’s a slut is not something that should be visible in public. There’s a petition and a number of articles doing the rounds. The main defence is that it’s “just a joke”. *Sigh*.

I can kind of see it from the Wicked Campers point of view. I get it’s a tough market. When you have a shitty product that similar to a whole lot of other much better products, you have to differentiate yourself in some way. Some of the vans are beautifully decorated and some are actually funny. Not all of them though. Instead of just using art and colour to differentiate themselves (which probably would have been enough in itself), they resort to racist, homophobic, sexist, headline-grabbing, slogans. Their boss told the Wall Street Journal that all publicity is good publicity. It reeks of desperation and sad old people trying to appeal to a youth market they don’t understand.

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LOOK HOW EDGY/FUNNY WE ARE, WE ARE NOT A BORING RENT-A-CAR COMPANY. LOOK: COUNTER CULTURE.

Yeah, no.

Do and say whatever the hell you want behind closed doors, inside the covers of a sticky magazine no one buys, or in a song on an album that also is bought by no one. Just don’t shove it in my face.

Or as the internet would say: religion/politics/offensive slogans are like a penis – it’s fine to have one and be proud of it, but when you take it out and wave it in my face, we’re going to have a problem.

 *What’s the difference between two people doing it in a canoe and American beer? They’re both fucking close to water. 🙂