Friday, 26 October 2012

Yes, i do look lush. No, you don't need to tell me.

On my way to work this morning, headphones in, umbrella up, this young man walked out of his house, looked at me and said ‘you look lush!’

He then fell into step with me, looking at me under my umbrella and said ‘are you deaf or something?’ He then laughed and said ‘you must be’, and walked along his merry way down the next street.

Throughout this interaction I was completely silent. I kept walking, looking straight ahead of me, hoping my headphones would lend credence to me not ‘being able to hear him’. My stomach was knotting, as I tried to assess how this one-way interaction would end. Then, as soon as he left, I felt guilty. Guilty for not acknowledging, for not thanking him for the compliment, for taking too seriously what he meant as something nice. And then I remembered that I have no reason to feel guilty, because there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to walk down the street without a man commenting on what I look like, or my presence there. 

The thing is. I’m pretty sure that this guy genuinely wanted to pay me a compliment. He wasn’t being aggressive, or rude, he clearly did think I just looked nice (which, I must say, in my mini knitted dress and knee-high boots, I do!). But what he didn’t understand, what he didn’t know, is that as soon as a strange man starts shouting things at me on the street, I feel scared. 

I feel scared because since I was 15 I haven’t known whether that shout will be safe or not. Will it be someone just saying I look nice? Or will it be someone screaming that I’m a fucking bitch for ignoring them, or someone yelling that they’re going to follow me and rape me in the ass, or that I’m a cunt, or that I’m a bitch who needs to drop her knickers, or that I need to stop walking and give him a fucking blowie. I don’t know and so as soon as that voice is raised I can’t take the chance that it’s going to be a well-meaning compliment. 

He doesn’t know that, of course. Men don’t really get it. They don’t understand how quickly that compliment can turn to violence. They don’t see the context – they don’t have the echoes of every single shout or threat in their heads when that voice is raised on the street. They don’t see it because it rarely happens in front of them. And, of course, compliment or not, that man would never have said a word to me if I was walking with another man. 

I keep saying that I feel confident he was genuinely being nice, that he wasn’t trying to be rude and he certainly wasn’t trying to scare me. But the fact is, there really was no need for him to say anything to me this morning. 

I don’t know why some men think it’s so important to express their opinion on how I look as I walk down the street, or occupy public space (online, as another example). I don’t know whether they genuinely do think that it must be pretty great to be told you look nice by a total stranger (of course, the rest of the time I'm being told I'm ugly!) I think it might have something to do with the fact that society as a whole places a lot of value on women successfully fitting the male-defined beauty ideal, so, in their eyes, to be told I meet approval must be a good thing. But it doesn’t make me feel great. As I say before, any man shouting anything at me on the street instantly makes me feel nervous, and exposed, and triggered. And then, weirdly, guilty. For not fulfilling my feminine role of supporting a man’s ego. 

There’s something here too about the role women occupy in public space. Particularly a woman on her own. When men shout at me, even something seemingly nice and innocuous, I’m reminded that as a woman, I'm an object of the gaze. When women are out on the street, the gaz-ee to the male gazer. It’s a set-up where men have the right to comment, to make judgement. It’s about who has power over the space. There’s a difference in the violence of language, but there’s not really a difference as to why words are shouted at me in the first place. 

So, guys. If you see a lady walking down the street, and you think she’s looking pretty fitty mcfitson, you don’t need to tell her so. It might not make her day. It might remind her of the hundreds of times when hundreds of men have called her names, and made her feel small, and afraid, and like she has no right to walk on the streets alone. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

It’s not in-fighting to call each other out

Ok, so this is a post that’s been stewing in my head all day, and it’s probably going to be a bit garbled and confused because I’m basically throwing down those circulating thoughts after a long day at work, as my casserole cooks in the oven. But, here goes…

It feels like over the last couple of weeks there have been a lot of accusations flying around within the feminist movement about ‘in-fighting’. But in my experience, this accusation only flies around when someone has said something stupid, and then said person wants to make sure no-one blames her, and accuses critics of ‘in-fighting’. See the Elly Levenson article on the F Word as a case in point – we weren’t in-fighting, we were just questioning her statement that rape is just a penis.

This recent round began with a tweet Caitlin Moran said in response to a question as to why she didn’t ask the writer Lena Dunham’s lack of women of colour in her hit show ‘Girls’.  Moran tweeted that she couldn’t give a shit. Women who were angry with Moran’s tweet (which I was, although in general I don't have strong feelings about Caitlin Moran either way. Her book was funny.) called her up on her privilege. Defenders of Caitlin Moran accused her critics of in-fighting and said we should focus on the “big” issues such as fighting patriarchy – as if the marginalisation of black women’s voices isn’t one of the big issues and part of patriarchy.

I believe it's wrong to characterise this as ‘in-fighting’. Because calling out any woman for saying she doesn’t ‘give a shit’ about the representation (or lack thereof) of black women in popular culture is simply that – calling her out. It’s saying that one of the issues in feminism has been and still is a lack of intersectionality and the prioritising of white, cis, straight, non-disabled, middle class women’s voices and needs – both in the media and in the movement. And saying that this is a problem. And therefore it’s a problem when it’s ignored, or side-lined, or considered ‘not as important as, like, fighting patriarchy’ (again, as if patriarchy only effects the lives of white, cis, straight, non-disabled, middle class women? I don’t get it!). We need to be able to criticise each other without being accused of cattiness or bitchiness.

There seems to be a real anger or fear about being called out for having privilege. Which is quite concerning, in my opinion. Having privilege isn’t a fault. It’s only a bad thing if you refuse to recognise it, and that refusal leads to you being rude, or un-inclusive. But understanding we have privilege, and understanding intersectionality, is a really important aspect of moving the feminist movement forward. And it’s ok to be called out on it when you get it wrong. I saw a commenter on the Bim Adewunmi piece on the Girls row say that being called a racist was ‘almost as bad’ as being the victim of racism. That’s such bullshit. If you get called out for saying something offensive, then take responsibility and apologise and make sure you don’t make the same mistake. Listen! Don’t try and make out you’re the victim all of a sudden.

I’m a white, cis, non-disabled, middle-class (with working class roots) woman. I’ve got a helluva lot of privilege. In my time, that privilege has led me to say some stupid things and I’ve been called out on it. For example, when planning the first Bristol Reclaim the Night, I tried to explain on the poster that all self-identifying women were welcome to march in the women only section. I messed up and phrased it in a way that wasn’t very trans-inclusive. A trans woman emailed me, and asked if I could change it. I didn’t throw a tantrum and say ‘how dare you, I’m not transphobic, I’m TRYING!’ I apologised, accepted I had made a mistake, took her advice and tried not to make the same mistake again. It wasn’t hard. I have cis privilege and I didn’t know, so when someone called me out, corrected me, I was happy to be better informed (similarly, please call me out on any fuck ups in this post).

Another occasion – on the receiving end this time. I’ve had straight people online try to tell me about bi-phobia and homophobia, with no knowledge of my sexuality and family history, and of course I’ve had men trying to tell me about sexism. Mansplaining, if you will. I would call them out and hope that they would listen to me, and respect my lived experience. I wouldn’t expect them to refuse to listen and instead lecture me on how they’re not bi-phobic, homophobic or sexist. As feminists we expect this of men all the time. For example, when a man called me hysterical after I wrote for Liberal Conspiracy, and we called him out for sexism, he insisted he wasn’t being sexist. He didn’t want to check his privilege that meant for him hysterical isn’t a word loaded with gendered meaning.

I can understand why people might feel embarrassed or awkward when people call them out, why they might get defensive. But seriously? It’s not that bad. It’s not as bad as centuries of oppression. I get it wrong all the time. We all do. So we have to listen, to make sure we get it right next time.


So anyway, the main reason this post has been floating around my head like a bee all day was because of an article in the New Statesman written by the Vagenda women that frustrated me and plenty of women on Twitter. It was a piece defending Caitlin Moran and ‘populist feminism’.

The article rightly argued that feminism needs to be accessible, but then seemed to take issue with the word ‘intersectionality’, saying that mainstream feminism was too intellectual and not relevant to women’s real lives.

Of course, in many respects this is true, hence why intersectionality is an issue in the first place. This isn’t helped by documentaries purporting to tell the history of women’s movement that feature no black women working class women, or trans women, or disabled women. Or articles about how ‘feminism’s back’ in the newspapers that are so excited about featuring men that they don’t feature black women, or working class women, or trans women, or LGBQ women, or disabled women.

Vagenda criticise the feminist movement for not relating to women’s lives, with the idea that feminists are sitting around talking about how many women are on boards, at the expense of the impact of the cuts on single mums. But I don’t believe this is true of the feminist movement on the ground. It’s true of how the feminist movement is portrayed in the media.

One of the issues I have with the Vagenda article is that whilst they are rightly talking about intersectionality, they’re also failing to acknowledge the vast number of feminist voices out there who don’t fit their portrayal of a feminist as someone privately educated, white and doesn’t understand poverty. It's also a failture to acknowledge that intersectionality means that women can have all sorts of different privileges. And in doing that they are joining the mainstream media who also never bother to mention the hundreds if not thousands of women who don’t get featured in their headline articles.

I should say that I mentioned this on Twitter and Vagenda said to email them with info about grassroots activism so they can publicise it. Which is great, and I did.

The article is right to criticise when the feminist movement is not accessible, but we must not do this at the expense of the voices that are truly fighting for an intersectional feminist movement that includes all women’s voices. Like this group, for example.

Making feminism comprehensible and accessible is not at odds with intersectionality. If the feminist movement is going to develop we must be intersectional and not be afraid to call out privilege. Even when calling out that privilege means we have to criticise each other.

The article says

 ‘Moran at least speaks a language that we all understand. And how many other feminists can you credit with that?

I can credit many, many feminists who speak a language we can all understand.

They’re in the grassroots, discussing, talking, activist-ing, making speeches, running workshops, running rape crisis centres, doing and talking and making change happen. And yes we make mistakes and yes many, many of us need to do better at being intersectional (me included). And no, we don’t get many articles written about us.

I don’t think we get better at being intersectional by joining in with the silencing of many activist women’s voices. We do it by recognising them. What’s more, we don’t succeed at being intersectional when we refuse to call out successful, privileged women for saying offensive things because to do so ‘would distract from bigger issues like patriarchy’. It's ok to call out each other out. It's not infighting, it's something we need to do if we want to be a better, stronger, more open movement.

Right, my casserole is ready. Sorry it’s so garbled. Please call me out if I am guilty of anything I am criticising. I won’t be offended.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Can you donate and support Bristol Women's Literature Festival?

Dear blog readers,

As some of you may know, I am putting on the brand spanking new never been done before Bristol Women's Literature Festival next year. It's going to be a weekend of inspiring talks and panels all focused on discovering more about women's writing, past and present.

The main programme will take place at the Watershed on the 16th and 17th March and will be chaired by Bidisha. The programme so far includes:

Women’s Writing today: contemporary women writers discuss their fiction

Feat: Stella Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Kate Williams, Beatrice Hitchman (more TBC)

Out of the Ivory Tower: writing feminism for a non-academic audience

Kat Banyard, Kristin Aune, Debi Withers and Josephine Tsui

Bluestockings and Muses: a history of women’s writing

Prof Helen Hackett, Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Dr Charlotte Crofts (more TBC)

Bringing women’s issues to a mainstream TV audience + film

Emilia di Girolamo plus film

As you can see it's a fascinating programme with a whole host of amazing speakers.

BUT. Putting on any event like this costs money. Venue hire, expenses - it adds up. And that's why I'm hoping you, my lovely readers and commenters, will help me today and make a donation to support this important and fascinating event. If everyone donated £2, or whatever you can afford, then that could go towards covering the costs and ensuring that any profit is split equally between the speakers and a women's rights charity. I should stress here that I won't keep any money from this event. All the money raised will be spent on venue, publicity, speakers' expenses, and any leftover will be split equally between the speakers and a women's charity.

You can donate to support the festival using paypal here

Tickets for the festival aren't free, so donations wouldn't mean you could have free tickets if you want to attend. But your donation will help so much in making sure this event is as amazing as it should be.

Thank you so so much for your generosity.

Please donate today.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Men talking about women's right to choose

In his controversial New Statesman article on Sunday, Mehdi Hasan wrote that he believed you could still be lefty and anti-choice (I refuse to use the term ‘pro life’ as it’s a lie). He wrote:

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.’

He argued, like Christopher Hitchens before him, that the pro-choice stance of ‘my body, my choice’ is individualistic and more akin to right wing notions about the importance of individual choice, than the left wing aims of equality and giving a voice to those who are silenced. He goes on to clarify this with:

Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?

The decision to have an abortion is an individual decision. But that doesn’t make it a selfish one. In fact, I believe that Hasan has made a huge mistake in his argument in that he has conveniently forgotten that being anti-choice is an individual decision too, and it’s a decision that’s inherently selfish. Because it’s that decision, if taken to the anti-choice aim of no abortion (Hasan doesn’t actually call for a ban on abortion, I should make that clear), that has an impact on the lives of half the world’s population, silencing women’s voices and denying women the basic right to bodily autonomy. Isn’t that more selfish? To think an individual, personal belief is more important than the human rights of 3.5 billion living women and girls? 

In my view, the decision to be anti-choice is to make the decision that an individual, personal belief on abortion is more important than the universal human right to bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to have control over her own body. Therefore deciding to call women’s bodily autonomy ‘selfish’ only makes sense if you don’t think women’s rights over their body matter, if you don’t think that women’s rights count.  

Since the article was published, Hasan has complained that he has been the victim of sexism, as women reacted with anger and upset over his words. He bemoaned that it showed how men aren’t allowed to talk about abortion, that the reaction wasn’t fair. He seemed to not understand that the anger arose because once again, men are telling women what they should and shouldn’t be allowed to do with their bodies. And I for one am sick of men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies – from telling us we can’t walk outside at night, to telling us we can’t drink, to telling us we can’t decide for ourselves whether to have a baby or not.  

And anyway, despite both Hasan and Dominic Lawson complaining about the fact that men aren’t allowed to talk about abortion, they seem to be doing a jolly good job of getting their views aired. Men are so much allowed to talk about abortion that the Today show even had two men and no women debating the subject a couple of months ago. As it stands, I don’t mind men talking about abortion per se. What I do mind is having women’s voices erased from the conversation. 

What I object to is the lack of consideration taken for our bodies, our rights and our views on the subject. I’m sick of abortion being reduced to an ethical debate as left and right wing men treat our bodies as a ping pong ball to score points off. I’m fed up of our bodies being talked about in abstract terms, as ethical battlegrounds that deny us our voice and humanity. And I’m pretty pissed off that our right to our bodies is being framed as a selfish choice, and not as a basic human right. 

Men can talk about abortion if they want to. But to be honest, I’d rather they just listened. Because, fundamentally, it’s selfish for anyone to tell anyone what we can and can’t do with our bodies based on a personal opinion. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Men like Jimmy Saville will get away with it until we listen to women and girls

Trigger warning – discussion of rape and child abuse

Yesterday I caught a little bit of Newsnight talking about the Jimmy Savile horror, and they showed a clip of Nick Clegg, asking in disbelief how Saville was able to get away with abusing girls for so long, without it coming out. To quote:

I just keep asking myself why did this remain buried for so long…There must have been just so many people who knew what was going on in hospitals, the BBC, maybe in the police. The only explanation I can come up with is what we are seeing is the dark side of the culture of celebrity, and actually in this case it wasn't a culture of celebrity it was the cult of celebrity. I get the impression people felt that with all that glitter and shine there can't be a dark side, there can't be a seedy side”

It’s a question many people have been asking over the last week and a half since the revelations came out. It’s a question that has evolved from “why are the women only speaking out now” (answer, they weren’t) to “why did the BBC/police/hospitals/government do nothing?”

Maybe, as Clegg seems to think, it was something to do with the cult of celebrity.

But I think it’s a lot, lot simpler than that.

It’s to do with the fact that when women and girls come forward with allegations of rape and abuse, the default position in a rape culture is to not believe them.

When the revelations first broke, it felt a little bit like screaming into an echo chamber, as commenters on CIF etc. demanded to know why the women were only speaking out now, when Saville was dead.
‘They didn’t!’ we who had bothered to listen to the women shouted back. ‘They told at the time and no-one believed them!’ In fact, in some cases the then girls were punished for “telling lies” about Saville. And once you’ve been called a liar once, and seen the power and respect your abuser commands from everyone, then it would be hard to speak out again, I imagine. It would be hard to go against the huge tide of public opinion, when you know that speaking out again means more punishment, more disbelief. When you’re a child, and no-one believes you, no-one listens, and everyone calls you a liar.

It’s becoming increasingly clear since last week that it was the silence of his victims that Saville counted on. And in this, he is like every other abuser. But he was also counting on a rape culture that doesn’t listen to women and girls. And again, in this way he is like every other abuser.

There’s been a lot of comforting talk about how this culture was just something about the seventies, when we had a ‘Life on Mars’ attitudes towards sexual politics, and harassment and violence simply wasn’t taken seriously. Thanks to our sisters in the Women’s Liberation Movement, our society now at least pays lip service to the idea that violence against women and girls should be taken seriously. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think we have moved on so much that sexual abuse on this scale could not happen today, that today we’re more enlightened and would listen to girls, and would make sure the violence stopped.

Because a couple of weeks before the Saville story broke, the Guardian gave a comprehensive report on the failings of multiple services to protect girls in Rochdale, where girls as young as 13 were repeatedly raped and abused for profit by a vicious gang of men who hate women. The right wing press tried to push the notion that the gang remained unchallenged for so long because of ‘political correctness gone mad’. But I find this hard to believe. I believe, and the Guardian report reveals, that this was nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with rape culture, where we simply don’t believe girls who come forward to report violence. Suzi, the fifteen year old who was brave enough to tell the police what had happened to her, was deemed ‘unreliable’, and the rape and violence continued for four more years. ‘Unreliable’ is the ‘liar’ branded on Saville’s victims by the authorities back then. Just as Saville was able to get away with it for so long because no one believed the accusations made against him, so the Rochdale gang, the Derby gang, and the hundreds and thousands of rapists that never get caught, were able to get away with it because as a society we simply fail to believe women and girls when they tell us that men are violent towards them.

Even when we do listen to the women, and a rapist is found guilty in a court of law and fails any appeal to have his rape conviction over turned, too many people still don’t really believe the women. The case of Ched Evans earlier this year proves that. With a conviction rate of 6.5% (that rises to a higher number when the case reaches court), proving anyone guilty of rape still seems to be pretty hard, so when someone is found guilty I tend to believe that yes, they’re guilty. But that guilty conviction wasn’t enough for the thousands of men, and some women, that came out in support of Evans. Even when the evidence was there to convict, they still held strong to the idea that the woman was lying, that she was a liar, and he was a wronged hero. So hard it is for our society to accept that men rape, and women tell the truth, that even when there seems to realistically be no other conclusion to draw, the conclusion is still that she lies.

Across the channel, and again we see another case where women are simply not believed when they report the violence committed against them. In the tragic and horrifying case of Nina and Stephanie, who were repeatedly gang raped and terrorised in the Parisian banlieues, they have seen their attackers get away with it. In the case of Nina she was gang raped every day for six months by between 6 and 25 men, who would cue up to abuse her. Her rapists threatened to kill her family if she reported them. But she found the courage to, taking her abusers to court. Unfortunately the French Justice System did not share Nina’s courage, they did not have the courage to believe what the two young women were telling them. They instead chose to believe the men who told the court that the girls wanted it, that they consented, that they were lying. The court acquitted six of the accused, four were given a suspended sentence and one went to jail for one year. One year between 11 men for terrorising and repeatedly raping a 16-year old girl.

Nina and Stephanie now have to live in the banlieues with the men who raped them. The men who threatened them with more and more violence if they ever told.

So when Nick Clegg and his fellow politicians and his fellow commentators wring their hands and ask how, how, HOW did Saville get away with it for SO long, he doesn’t need to look into the past for his answers.

The answer is because in the seventies, eighties, nineties, noughties and today, our society didn't and doesn’t believe women and girls who report rape. The Met are launching their investigation into the Saville case, at the same time as they wrap up the investigation into an officer who repeatedly falsified rape reports because he chose not to believe the women who came to him. That’s how ingrained this culture is.

Until we start believing women and girls, really, really believe them, then we’ll still continue to ask the same question over the next Saville, the next Worboys, the next Huntley, the next gang.

Because to me, living in a rape culture means living in a culture where we find the reality that men rape and abuse women and girls so hard to cope with, so hard to accept, that we will do anything to make it not seem true. And that results in us refusing to listen to women and girls when they tell us that truth.

So, Clegg, and everyone else. Start listening. It’s our refusal to listen that lets abusers get away with it. Stop hand wringing and start listening.

Rape Crisis Number: 0808 802 9999

Friday, 12 October 2012

Pimps, hoes and the university campus

On Tuesday, I had the always dubious pleasure of being invited on to BBC Bristol to discuss with their Breakfast Show team the forthcoming ‘Pimps and Hoes’ party organised for the city’s students by Carnage. 

Anyone with a glancing familiarity with this blog can imagine my reaction to Pimps and Hoes parties, a frankly pathetic attempt to glamorise an “industry” that, globally, is responsible for the trafficking, rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of women (a claim that Steve LeFevre disputed but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and deciding that he didn’t understand I was talking global figures). If we just take trafficking into the sex industry as one example, according to Stop the Traffik up to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked over international borders each year – 80% of which are women and girls – and many of whom will be trafficked into the sex industry. These men, women and children will be raped every day.  Further, a study quoted in The Equality Illusion found that of a survey 1500-ish deaths of women in prostitution in the US, 50% were as a result of homicide. A study quoted in the same book in Canada found that 79% of women asked had been raped. 

So yes, my argument on the radio was that Pimps and Hoes parties glamorise an industry that fundamentally hurts all women and gender equality. An industry where, in my own city where this party will take place, a woman was gang raped by ‘punters’, chucked off a building and left for dead, and she still had a fight on her hands to get criminal compensation because she was seen as just a prostitute, and juries don’t understand that women in prostitution have the right to consent and bodily autonomy too. The right to live free from violence. 

I had a lot I wanted to say on the radio about pimps and their often violent attitudes towards women, but the discussion veered more into whether it was the party-goers’ choice to wear skimpy clothes on a night out. Which of course it is. I couldn’t care less about what women wear when they go partying. What I care about is the normalisation of sex industry, which the bandying around of words like pimps and hoes as something fun and glam does.

But it did make me think a little bit about what exactly the attendees would be wearing – particularly the men. What do they think pimps wear? Because, the reality? Those gangs in Rochdale and Derby? They’re pimps. It’s not sharp suits and trilby hats. It’s ill-fitting jeans and anoraks, worn by men who sexually exploit women and girls for profit. There’s nothing cool here. There’s nothing aspirational and desirable. There’s that guy from Punternet, complaining because the woman he bought didn’t seem to find him attractive, didn’t seem to want to have sex with him. Is that really who you want to identify with, to dress up as on a night out? 

The Pimps and Hoes party seem to be part of increasingly sexist and misogynistic entertainment on university campuses. 

Now, I was at university in London between 2003-2006 and I honestly don’t know if it was the same back then. My university social life consisted of three-day long house parties, drinking in the local pub and going clubbing at drum n bass nights. Me and my friends drank at the union but being a bit of a party snob, I would never go to the Union Party Nights which seemed to be boring people dressing up and doing belly-button shots. I know there was a ‘chav’ party which outraged me and my friends, and I think there might have been a Playboy night. I did go to a party in Oxford where men and women were dressed in their underwear (not a pleasant experience, I left when a bloke in just y-fronts started trying to grind-dance with me) (FTR I didn’t just wear my underwear, I wore a short knitted black dress). 

So perhaps it was the same back then, I just wasn’t interested to see it. 

But whether it’s new or old, Pimps and Hoes parties are just one aspect of campus social life misogyny. This week I’ve also been reading about Slags and Drags parties, and CEO and Corporate Hoes gatherings. All of these parties use sexist and degrading language to identify the women who attend. All of them rely on men keeping their clothes on, whilst their women counterparts have to take theirs off. 

There’s something I find particularly chilling about the CEOs and Corporate Hoes party. Because the message is clear – despite girls doing great at school, despite young women doing well at university, the men still get to be bosses. It doesn’t matter how fantastic her analysis of Milton’s depiction of God, the woman shouldn’t aspire to CEO, she should just be a hoe. 

And when you consider how unequal gender representation is on company boards, and the prevalence of business deals done in strip clubs, this kind of party sets a depressing tone for how women aspiring to be big in business will be treated. We don’t have the power. The man will be the boss, and keep his clothes on. The women will be the hoe, and take her clothes off. 

I find it unutterably depressing that in 2012 student parties are upholding and strengthening the idea of sexism in the city in the guise of “fun”. 

Another uni-life phenomena doing the rounds at the moment is known as ‘slut dropping’. Now, to be clear, there’s only one example of this actually known, so it might not be a phenomena so much as a group of total dickstands who hate women being allowed driving licenses. But one thing I noticed about slut dropping, that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, is that it’s an abuse taken straight from a strand of porn, where men pick up a woman, have sex with her and then dump her miles from no-where. I don’t think the slut dropping incident involved sex, but it does involve the humiliation and cruelty that makes that porn series so popular. 

And at its core, that’s what so much of this horrible, misogynistic behaviour is about. It’s humiliating and shaming women, characterising us as hoes and sluts whilst men get to emulate those with power. It’s the lads at Unilad writing hideous little articles about why you should try and have sex with a ‘slut’ because she’ll be good, but don’t forget she’s a ‘slut’ and so is therefore disgusting and dirty. 

All of this disturbing misogyny is existing in the context of young men growing up thinking that no doesn’t mean no, and neither does being pushed away, or a girl crying, or a girl being asleep.  It’s existing in a world where 1 in 7 women students report experiencing sexual assault and violence. 

So, hoes, slags, sluts and more hoes. It isn’t a pretty picture is it? 

University is a wonderful time of life. It’s a time when you learn a lot about yourself, and the world, and that six pints on no food isn’t the best diet for getting to a 10am lecture the following day. But this awful misogyny and violence is not what university should be about. It’s not acceptable that university life teaches women that whilst her male housemates can aspire to be CEOs, she can only aspire to be a corporate hoe. It’s not acceptable to pretend that a pimp is a cool thing to want to be, when the reality is that a pimp beats up women in order to intimidate them into making him more money. It’s not acceptable to tell young women that the best thing they can be is a hoe. 

And it’s not acceptable to silence the millions of women in the so-called sex industry, the women who are treated violently by pimps and clients, by making-believe that the way they are treated is something cool. It is, quite frankly, pathetic.