It’s 2014 and there are still women on Twitter creating bizarre anti-Feminist trending topics. It’s 2014 and there are still men out there who refuse to take no for an answer when a woman declines their advances. It’s 2014 and a woman’s sexual agency is still deemed a crime and she remains subject to gender-specific criticism and condemnation. It’s 2014, and there are still men out there who go to great lengths to exercise their supposed authority over women and humiliate them should this supposed authority be challenged. It’s 2014 and unfortunately we *still* have to remind the masses of the importance of Feminism in a world of Patriarchy. It’s 2014 and we must *still* defend our belief that Feminism is an important and fundamental movement in our long crawl towards equality for all. Well in this post, Naomi Maxwell – No Fly on the WALL’s Assistant Editor, an original Fly Girl, and one of our original line-up of writers – returns with a much-needed piece on privilege, frustration, ‘The Friend Zone’, and that awful, awful man… Robin Thicke.
A lot of people still haven’t made their minds up on feminism. They’ll whisper feminist sounding ideals in convert voices, whilst stating time and time again, that they are NOT a feminist; lest they be lumped in with hairy, bra-burning caricatures of women. Because apparently men aren’t feminists(!) Whilst a great deal of this is of course down to ignorance, I can’t help but wonder if people also fear this almost conspiracy-theory-like gravity of a doctrine that rests on the premise that universally, society is ruled by a set of hegemonic masculine rules, norms and power. So essentially, the male who best fits this model is the only one who stands to benefit or be in a position of privilege. For those of us who who didn’t do AS/BA/MA Social Sciences, the term “hegemonic masculinity” coined by Connell, derived from Gramsci, alludes to characteristics, cycles of power, socialisation and numerous other ways by which women appear to be greatly disadvantaged in all areas of society, solely, because of their gender.
“A lot of people still haven’t made their minds up on feminism. They’ll whisper feminist sounding ideals in convert voices, whilst stating time and time again, that they are NOT a feminist.” – Naomi Maxwell.
The scariest thing about feminism, is that it is right.
It is harrowing to explore the realities with which women are harassed, persecuted and ignored. It is disturbing to observe how young girls are undermined by their teachers as being “too bossy” and “too much of a know-it-all”, how they are denied, or seen as possessing a lesser right to education in poorer parts of the world. Gender inequality filters down to every level, to every subculture, to every ethnic group. And as with much of society’s problem, if we’re honest, it is much easier to turn a blind eye to it or shrug it off as misandrist spiel.
I find myself writing this piece, as I often do, because I find myself increasingly frustrated with the stack of cards I’ve been dealt. My life is great, don’t get me wrong, but the frustration is a just reaction to what I see more and more in my own age group as gender inequality.
I have a boyfriend. I’m quite fond of him. I should not have however have to invoke his existence because some guy refuses to take my ‘no’ as enough of an answer when I don’t want to give him my number. I find it utterly deplorable, that for you to leave me alone, because by now you have crossed every boundary that there is to cross, I have to call on a male saviour. The fact that more often than not, this still doesn’t work, is not the point. The point is – why is my voice, my lack of consent, my autonomy NOT ENOUGH?
Some people may mock this as not a real problem when across the globe girls are subjected to FGM and forced marriage. A lesser evil, is still very much an evil. Some would put this down to male immaturity or the sub cultures that I interact with. But I don’t buy it. You see twenty-somethings on nights out shouting swear words after women who’ve rejected them, drunk or sober. You hear jokes ridiculing the middle aged man in a long-term relationship who’s going through a sexual dry spell, reeking strongly of that ever-present male assumption. There are expectations and generalised thought patterns that run deep in the male psyche, rather than understanding individual relationships with women, and it is these issues with which I hold my qualms.
Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s put aside wage inequality, employment discrimination, and increased likelihood of poverty and look at something many of us come into in the everyday. If you’re between ten and sixty, the chances are that you’ve come across the formidable term that is “the friend zone”. For those of you who still live in a wonderful world outside of childish labels I shall only too happily burst your bubble. “The friend zone” is the term applied to a male or female being “relegated” to being friends with a person. For some reason people appear to use it a lot more with “nice” males being thanked for being such good friends, or never quite seeming to “score” with females. The blatant linguistic issue there of “scoring” comes fit with wailing sirens and flashing red lights, but I can only touch on it because that would be an entire series of articles – suffice to say gaining my attention, affection and openness is not a game, it is not a competition, it is not yours to win. When you look at the more sinister background of this term. *ducks feminist killjoy jibe* and read between the lines, the assertion is ‘I’m a nice guy, how could you not sleep with me?’ For anyone to feel affronted that they are “nice”, but being called a friend, places us right back at this disturbing position of entitlement. As if your kindness means I should sleep with you, ‘oh you sat with me through a film?’ I’m now normatively required to hook up with you(!)
No one sums it up quite so well as Mr. Robin Thicke. I’m getting awfully tired of Robin. Whilst I’m sure his face is on the dartboard of many a feminist, I don’t follow showbiz news, I have no interest in the lives of the celebrity, I couldn’t care less. And somehow Mr. Thicke has got onto my radar, which is quite an impressive feat.
So here’s my thing – he released a song containing lyrics so insulting that I almost hurled my laptop onto the floor in reaction, if you somehow missed the gift that keeps on giving “Blurred Lines”.
Purportedly since then he has been unfaithful to his wife; she has chosen to separate from him and they’ve not seen each other in five months. His wife did not leave him for another man, she did not walk out one day, but in reaction, at the very least, to increasing displays of a disrespect to the female gender, herself included, she got tired of his blatant disregard. How did Mr. Thicke respond? He named an album after her, released songs detailing their private conversations, accompanied by a video to “Get Her Back” with their personal texts in it !
I mean if you’re repairing a damaged relationship that’s exactly how you go about it…
He publicly humiliated his wife, purportedly engaging in public and private lewd displays, hardly acting like the man you’d want go home to and cuddle up in bed. So then he took it upon himself to ignore those messages which she sent to him detailing her distrust, her need for space and her hurt, sharing it on a platform that has now been viewed over five million times. Let’s not forget singing about how it’s “so hard, but it doesn’t have to be” – Nothing quite says “I understand the depth of distress I’ve caused you”, as trivialising your partner’s hurt. Reading through the lyrics of this song, you have to wonder if he even knows why she’s upset. I mean this so sincerely, you’ve got to question it, because had my partner been unfaithful to me, like heck would “I should have kissed you longer” soothed that wound.
It would be both incredulous and amusing if this didn’t put a face to the symptomatic attitude of a number of men towards women. She has said give me space, he has ignored it. She has said I am hurt, he keeps on attracting PUBLIC attention. It’s just a larger platform for the same narrative to play out on, and I’m getting more than a little bit tired of it.