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.

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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.

Singapose?

Thanks to a combination of working from home and the omnipresent heat, I have joined the cult of Ceebs. Short for CBF, which is short for Can’t Be Fucked. Ceebs: when you’re too lazy to even use a three-letter abbreviation. The Ceebs garb consists of whatever is on the floor, today it’s a pyjama singlet and a hand-me-down skirt from a former housemate. The cult of Ceebs is non-committal on issues of hair. Long hair, don’t care. Short hair, don’t care. Hair, don’t care. Proper bras? I’m sorry but you’re not an ideal candidate for this religious movement. Deodorant? Well, actually yes because it’s 32 degrees and 95% humidity, show a little consideration!

My cult of Ceebs has had little uptake here in Singapore though. It appears to be limited to me and elderly Chinese grandpas. They rock the knee socks and sandals combo, often paired with no shirt and safari shorts, like no one’s business.

No, appearances are a big thing here. Labels, designers, malls at every train station. The constant, relentless pursuit of what is new and trendy. Do people still say trendy? Anyway, as Barney Stinson would say, “New is always better”. He could have been talking about Singapore rather than boobs.

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I think I have cracked it though. The reason for the constant shopping and reflection-checking. The holy grail of “New is always better”. Bow down, sinners, and drink from the sacred, everlasting cup of Selfie. The Selfie reigns supreme and we are its mere followers. Repent your invisible, undocumented, offline existence, and you too can be saved! Testify, Tweet and praise the name of the Almighty Selfie. Blessed is thy profile, Facebook be thy name. Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is on FourSquare. Forgive us our daily down-votes, as we forgive those who have down-voted against us. That was fun, but I’ll stop now.

Case in point:

A friend was visiting so we went to a hawker centre on Marina Bay for dinner last night. It was a beautiful spot, looking out over Marina Bay Sands (boat hotel), the Singapore Flyer (Ferris wheel), and the merlion (still not sure what it is). The group on the table next to us were taking photos. Fair enough, it was a touristy spot and very photogenic. But they weren’t capturing the bustle and colour of the hawker stalls, or the city lights reflecting off the water in Marina Bay, they weren’t even Instagramming their food. Selfies. A girl whipped out her telescopic selfie stick, extended it to a good metre in length and snapped flattering, high-angle shots for most of their meal. Not capturing candid moments of friends sharing a meal, or even the beautiful view in the background. Just themselves. It was deeply weird. It makes you wonder about the barrage of images their online friends and followers must be battered with. To quote Facebook: “I don’t want to see this”, “Hiding post…”.

Selfies are epidemic here. In the strangest places: in front of billboards, waiting for and riding on public transport, in the bathrooms of shopping centres, everywhere. Trying to think of a word to describe is it difficult, vain seems too callous, as does self-obsessed (maybe selfie-obsessed?). It’s almost an national youth identity crisis. The classic case of if a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, photographs it, uploads it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, hashtagged #tree #nature #goingdownyellingtimber #fail, and used three different Emojis in the caption, did the tree really fall? The lesson being that the tree is the real winner, especially when you’re too busy looking at your phone to notice said tree looming in front of you. Don’t worry, the girl was fine, she didn’t even drop her phone.