I have covered prior campaigns to rebrand feminism before here; and here are more of my thoughts on the issue at a Stream event hosted by Bitch Magazine. I just came across this other rebranding effort, featured at Fastcompany last month. This one is driven by Elle Magazine and it involves three different ad agencies and Vagenda Mag. From the post:
For its November Issue, Elle UK decided to “Rebrand Feminism,” treating the advancement of women’s rights like a dated product that needs to be dusted off and made cool again. The magazine paired three award-winning ad agencies—Brave, Mother, and Wieden+Kennedy—with three feminist organizations and had them create a series of advertisements aimed at fixing feminism’s supposed image problem.
Usually I wouldn’t bother writing about something that is weeks old and involves a topic I have already said my part about. However, this is one of the posters they are using to “rebrand feminism” and this does merit some commentary:
Again, from the post:
“We wanted to create an ad that made you feel empowered to do something about the pay gap. Thinking about asking someone what they earned made me physically wince. I liked that. It wasn’t another statistic to gloss over; I had to think about whether my male colleagues earned more than me. It also gave people a simple action to do.”
Depending on where you live in the Western world, this “simple action” as she calls it, can get you fired. Now, let me be clear, in the US and in the European Union it is forbidden by law to prevent employees from discussing their salaries with one another. And yet, this prohibition is in many Human Resources’ Employees Manuals and Codes of Conduct. For years I worked at a corporation where, even though I was in The Netherlands, where such clause is not allowed, it was still in our Code of Conduct. Our local Dutch managers knew that they weren’t allowed to enforce it and yet, they used it to threaten us if we complained about pay issues. I knew that, had I been fired for talking about my salary, I could eventually go to court and have them either reinstate me at the job or indemnify me accordingly. However, going to court is not within the realm of possibility for everyone. It costs money and time, two options that are not necessarily available to people who need to pay bills right this moment. Going to court is also cumbersome and requires knowledge of the law and one’s rights, something that not everyone has access to. A poster like the above is likely to hurt working class women the most, who are, in a great number of cases, in lower paid positions depending on their paycheck to support themselves and their families. It again places the onus on individuals to go out and put themselves in harms ways rather than demand corporate wide disclosure through legal action. Rather than promote safety in numbers (to give one such example, through organizing a legal challenge that would force corporations to disclose salaries divided by function and gender to compare the resulting figures), this campaign makes individual women responsible for their own situation. Again, a neoliberal solution based on bootstrapping ourselves out of the pay gap.
Another point worth mentioning: this campaign says nothing about the pay gap faced by Women of Color in regards to White women. “Ask him”? I’d also ask her so that we clearly establish how the corporate game is set up.
When a campaign to “rebrand feminism” is constructed in a way that can potentially hurt the most vulnerable among us, I have to ask the obvious, who needs this rebranding and who is supposed to benefit from it?
It’s silly isn’t it? When Richard Cohen writes something dumb at WaPo (frequently) people are allowed to express anger at WaPo … it’s called an editorial process & it, as much as the writer, needs to be held accountable.
Exactly this. And to extrapolate it to any other area of cultural critique, if, any corporation is engaged in practices that we deem worthy of analysis, we wouldn’t publish a list of every employee we consider exempt from the critique. We talk about “Coca Cola” or “Nestle” or “Bank of America” not about “Joe at the accountancy department” or “Mary in logistics”. In corporate owned media, the Editor in Chief is responsible for what is published. And so is the corporation that owns said media.
Gawker Media has more readers than the top-circulation U.S. magazines-
Last week when Jezebel published the piece about selfies (a topic I won’t get to because more valuable opinions than mine have already been written), people took to Twitter to discuss the issue and further express their stance on selfies. Several former and current Jezebel contributors pointed out that we shouldn’t talk about “Jezebel” but its individual writers (the old “but we are not like that” applied to media analysis). Examples of this calls to engage only with the writer rather than with Jezebel as a whole can be found on this Storify here.
At the link above, a Washington Post analysis of page views and reach for American mainstream media. This volume is far from the implication that we should engage Jezebel in the same way we engage an independent collective blog where there is no editorial policy or corporate overview of the content. Given the volume of page views, you cannot get more mainstream than Gawker owned properties.
I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday cooking these badass Christmas breads. I wanted to do something that closely follows the Dutch kerststol that are usually shared on Christmas day breakfasts but with a twist: I wanted to try how they would come out with sourdough rather than with regular yeast. The answer is wonderful and delicious and OMG I want to stuff my face into them.
Since there are very few Dutch sites documenting this process (something that kinda surprised me given how this is a staple of Dutch cuisine), I am throwing some photos and commentary under a cut so as not to clog with my terrible food photography. My photos are beyond awful but that’s mostly because I don’t bother with proper photo technique, which is an art in itself. I live with a professional photographer and there’s enough with one of us for this entire household. I love to take photos just for the immediacy of sharing them (either with my family, friends or social media) and just want to capture a moment rather than focus on making things nice. As I said, food photography (or better said, photography in general) is an art. What you are about to see is not. My Christmas bread is also not art. It’s a face stuffing worthy wonder that I wish I could slice and share with all of the internet.
Now this is the part where being who I am, I write about food and cooking but I need to insert a few disclaimers and commentary. I read a lot about food on the internet. I read not only about restaurants or places to eat but mostly, cooking blogs. And there is one constant that peeves me in the culture of cooking blogs: how they rarely mention that cooking is expensive. I cook a lot, I’d say. I bake as well. However, I do not view home cooking as a viable alternative to industrially/ mass produced food. It is impossible to compete with the costs. Do not get me wrong, I love doing it but the claim that making a pasta dish at home, from scratch is always the best option is a myth and I’d go as far as saying a lie. It can be incredibly rewarding but it is expensive, time consuming and it takes a huge amount of resources both in terms of cooking equipment but also physical demands outside the scope of many, many people with different (dis)abilities. It also requires cultural capital. Cultural capital is not only about education. Sure, anyone who can read and write can see a recipe. However, following a recipe, even for beginners’ level dishes, requires more than reading and writing. It requires following instructions and having a basic grasp of how to create food. Home cooking culture (and yes, I do consider it a subculture in the political sense), more often than not erases all these intersections of ability, class, race, education, access to resources, ingredients and above all, the time required to make all of this happen.
All of this is a long winded way of saying that I really dislike the way that home cooking has been pushed as a viable and healthy alternative without a mere peep about all the different ways in which it remains out of reach for a vast sector of the population. Moreover, I deeply loath how home cooking has been gendered in a way that all of the above (which is not even a complete picture) falls into the laps of women who are subsequently blamed for obesity rates, children’s health issues, school performance problems for their children, etc etc. And, again, because we owe it to ourselves to look at all these issues from a multifaceted lens rather than the flattened view afforded by home cooking culture, hardly any of these food writers address how the access to resources and time disproportionately affect Women of Color, already burdened by institutionalized practices of employment discrimination and a pay gap that puts us at a disadvantage not only with white men and men of color but with white women as well. I might go out on a stretch here but, I see a lot of home cooking culture ideas as they are pushed in the mainstream (think Michael Pollan, Jamie Olivier -unsurprisingly, two white cis men, blaming women for the demise of society, etc) to be very closely tied to the raise of neoliberalism pushing individual solutions to systemic problems. Rather than demand a community wide solution, this subculture pushes for personal engagement, further burdening individual women with what should be a deep and systemic challenge to corporate practices in mass food production and how communities are left with hardly any alternatives between these two extremes.
Is self-styled revolutionary Russell Brand really just a ‘Brocialist’? Is Lily Allen’s feminist pop-video racist? Is lesbian activist Julie Bindel a ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’ Is Respect MP George Galloway a ‘rape apologist’? Welcome to the world of ‘intersectionalism’ – or what we used to call sectarianism.
‘My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit’. This was Flavia Dzodan’s angry challenge to a feminist slogan on a placard on a ‘slutwalk’ march, ‘woman is the nigger of the world’. Dzodan did not like the ‘white feminist’ laying claim to her the oppression suffered by women of colour. ‘Am I supposed to ignore the violence that ensued in the N* word discussion?’ Dzodan asked: ‘Am I supposed to overlook its blatant violence in the name of sisterhood?’
Dzodan’s meme ‘intersectional’ was widely taken up amongst radical campaigners and bloggers. Intersectionality seemed to be a way to balance the different claims of oppressed groups. None would be ignored, or folded into the other. Intersectional feminism would not ignore the special problems faced by black women. Nor would anti-racist campaigners ignore sexism. The watchword of intersectionality was that you should ‘check your privilege’ before making any claims.-
James Heartfield’s mischaracterization of my work is not the most offensive part of this piece. That’s just a LOL inducing moment. Truly offensive moments include the wilful ignorance regarding the history behind intersectionality (i.e. the works of the actual feminists and womanists -mostly Black women, who actually created and developed the theories, like Patricia Hill-Collins, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, etc etc etc). Another offensive moment here:
One radical feminist Emma Brandt complained in turn that ‘liberal feminists “weaponize” trans women against radicals’ – meaning that transsexuals were being used by less resolute feminists to undermine the radical feminists’ authority, which was an interesting counter, but a bridge too far along the intersectionality road.
On second thought, the entire thing is one offensive, mind blowing mansplaining clusterfuck.
I’ll now go back to my work “creating memes”. I’m a cat away from changing the world.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. According to a 2013 WHO global study, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner.
To raise awareness and trigger action to end this global scourge, the UN observes International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. The date marks the brutal assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic.
The women known as “the Mirabal sisters” were Patricia, Maria and Minerva. They gave their lives resisting the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. On November 25th, 1960, they were tortured and executed by the regime’s henchmen on Trujillo’s orders. To read more about their lives and histories, check this site.
As a feminist organization, Secular Woman promotes gender equality. We stand against and combat sexism, hate, intolerance, and misogyny. Transgender women are women. Cisgender women are women. We do not, in any way, view the existence of transgender women, genderqueer individuals or transgender men as a threat to the safety of women, female identity, or the goals of feminism. As intersectional feminists we acknowledge the privilege that cisgender people experience. We aim to dismantle the axis of oppression that this represents. Unfortunately, not all who claim the label “feminist” agree with us. They do not represent us and we reject their actions and views as unethical and devoid of reason. We stand in opposition.-
From the petition:
We invite fellow feminists and secularists, as well as others concerned, to proactively affirm the inclusion of all women as women. Condemn the toxic ideologies used to rationalize hate, fear, and discrimination based on gender.
Stand with us in petitioning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track the activities of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch as a hate group in accordance with SPLC’s stated mission.
If it is safe and possible for you to do, please sign this petition. Brennan will not necessarily stop her terror campaign against trans* women but, at least, if the Southern Poverty Law Center starts monitoring her, her deeds would be much more exposed and counteracted.
We’re fed up with reading the names of so many young trans* women and sadly a few trans* men this year who will never get to experience another birthday. Far too many of them who were killed this year were under the age of 35.
We’re fed up with contemplating the disturbing fact some of the names we’ll be reading during these TDOR memorials hadn’t even made it to age 21 yet.
We’re fed up in the African-American and Latin@ trans* communities of far too many of our people dying and our politicians, clergy and media pundits being cricket chirping silent about it.
We’re fed up with legislative inaction on the human rights laws it’s painfully obvious trans* people need at the local, state and federal levels as a wide range of people from trans exclusionary radical feminists to right-wing politicians gleefully spread disinformation and lies to roll back or retard our progress.
We’re fed up with our people dying and our people choosing suicide over life because you transphobic cisgender haters have made it so hostile and uncomfortable for them to live.
But sadly we’ll probably be gathering next November 20 at locations around the globe to read another 200 plus names of people killed because of anti-transgender violence.
Please click the link to read her post in its entirety. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Monica Roberts spells out clearly and eloquently why this day exists and it is necessary.
I’m just going to leave this here and slowly, slowly back away.
I am on record as saying that I dislike many of the uses of the expression “rape culture”. Mostly what I dislike is how it’s overused to the point of trivialization and dilution of meaning. I deeply (and I mean, deeply) dislike words like “rapey”. It simultaneously dissolves the gravity of rape and turns the word into a “cutified” neologism that trivializes it. Sexist and/ or misogynist actions can be part of how rape culture asserts itself within our communities but they are not “rapey”. Songs are not “rapey”. They can be offensive. They can advance the normalization of rape culture but your ears or your politics cannot be raped. An email can be threatening and even illegal (if it contains threats, for instance) but your computer will not live with PTSD after receiving it. What I am trying to say is, language evolves and I fully understand the need to come up with new words to describe our realities. However, I am not on board with language use that trivializes the severity of rape.
I am also not onboard with whitewashed and non intersectional approaches to rape culture. Case at hand: London School of Economics (LSE for short). Now, LSE has a long standing history of being awful. Let’s review some of their worst contributions to social science of the past couple of years:
- LSE researcher writes a disgusting diatribe about how Black women are “ugly”
- LSE students play a drinking game called “Nazi Ring of Fire” that required them to “salute the Fuhrer”
- LSE publishes a study about the “myth” of Women’s ‘double shift’ of work and domestic duties claiming women “prefer” low paid jobs to actual careers. Also, women want to “marry up”.
So now, this stronghold of intersectional feminism is back at it again, this time with LSE Law’s Inaugural Event in its ‘Debating Law’ series. The event featured four panelists and if I have to sum it up based on this account published on Feminists @ Law website, it was a victim blaming extravaganza. There were calls to “study the behaviors of victims”; Barbara Hewson, one of the panelists, referred to rape as “an ideology of sexual victimization”; and this gem:
In response to a question about the importance of consent, Hewson said the feminist idea of active or enthusiastic consent turns consent into a failure to take care, and therefore makes rape more about negligence than criminal law.
Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West England, Nazir Afzal was also part of the panel. According to the account, he disagreed with the above remarks and had this to say:
Afzal argued that rape is about control and power rather than sex.
This, this is at the core of my problems with many white feminist analysis of rape culture. This idea that rape is not about sex. The statement above comes from a man so I won’t even engage that context. However, this is a common idea I’ve often seen pushed as an explanation of rape culture. I agree wholeheartedly that rape is about control and power but it is also about sex. It is about sex especially, specifically in how often Women of Color are victims of rape. For the past five hundred years, Women of Color have been seen as simultaneously oversexualized and not human. Black and Latina women have been stereotyped as sexually available and “eager temptresses” whose bodies were supposed to be at the service of male sexuality. When a Latina child like Cherice Morales was denied justice, even in death, it was all about sex (and of course, sex supported by the power afforded by a white supremacist, heteronormative patriarchy). However, to say that rape is never about sex is a disservice to centuries of our histories and the ways our bodies have been commodified and made sexually available. It is a white washed erasure of the normalization of the sexual violence that the women in our communities have had (and continue) to endure on a daily basis. I will not argue that rape is about control and power but we cannot deny the way white supremacy has sexualized our bodies while pushing the idea that we “want it”. During slavery, Black women could not be raped. During the conquista (and in certain parts of South America, even now), indigenous Latin American women could not be raped. The sexual violence was not considered rape because only white women were acknowledged as “human” and hence, only white women could be raped. The sexual violence suffered by Women of Color was merely “sexual availability”. Those rapes were about male sexual gratification; power and control were just the tools to achieve it. That is the history we have to contend with. To deny us the way our bodies have always been at the service of this male gratification is to deny us the possibility of liberation.
Tomorrow is the “arrival of Sinterklaas” in The Netherlands and Belgium. The arrival marks the beginning of the festive season that ends with children receiving presents on December 5th. In time, December 5th officially opens the Christmas season in The Netherlands and Belgium. What this means, in practical terms is that we have reached peak racism on Dutch social media. The racists are loud and proud because “they won” (meaning, the character of Zwarte Piet has remained unchanged for another year).
However, I am more interested in the self proclaimed “non racists” than I am in the vocal trolls (really, how many times can I hear a slur before the impulse to analyze it dies off?). The self proclaimed “non racists” are the biggest hindrance to dismantling any white supremacist institution in this country; even more so than the loud vocal ones because for them, there is no problem to fix. “This is a non racist country”, they claim. The gaslighting is maddening (and I do not use this word lightly, I truly believe this gaslighting is at the root of many mental health issues experienced by People of Color).
In order to understand this sad state of affairs and the vehement refusal for change, I think it is important to go back in Dutch history. Namely, to point at two institutions that are at the root of present day problems: “pillarisation” and the polder model. Since mid 19th century, politics in The Netherlands were ruled by a rigid system of “pillars”. These “pillars” represented the different ideologies and their subsequent political representation. Basically, there were Protestants, Catholics, Socialists and “freethinkers”. Abdulkader Tayob writes:
The Modern history of The Netherlands is characterized by a pillarization (verzuiling) of society around confessional religious groups. This meant that the modern social institutions (schools, political parties, hospitals and even newspapers) were founded around a particular confessional group. Such institutions played a central role in the further development of the society and its individuals. They assisted the group and the individuals to achieve their rights and take their responsible positions in society. The pillarization of the society has broken down since the 1960s, but their remnants and symbols remain.
It should be noted that this is a very simplified definition of what pillarization meant and how it deeply shaped Dutch society. For a more in depth analysis, read the whole article. As Abdulkader Tayob notes, pillarization started to die off (at least at institutional level) around the late 1960s. In turn, it was replaced by another political framework known as “the polder model”. The polder model is (to define it in, yet again, simple terms) a consensus-based economic and social policy making system. Within the polder model, union representatives, political parties and the government agreed on the terms of social welfare policies and legislation. Within this model, everything was debatable and had to be discussed widely in order to reach consensus with the majority. This required negotiation skills and a class based representation that included vast sectors of Dutch society. The polder model is still somewhat alive, though it reached its peak in the late 90s and early 2000s during the Labor Party/ VVD coalition government of Wim Kok.
These two models (pillarization and the polder model) had one thing in common: they were white only institutions. Pillarization came to be right at the time when Black enslaved people were granted their freedom. At the time, “the former subjects of the Empire” were not even considered fully acknowledged human beings so, needless to say, there was no “pillar” for representation of their rights or interests (same applies to Indonesians who were still “subjects of the Empire” at the time). Later on, when the “polder model” came to be, the implicit agreement was that it was “for Dutch citizens and by Dutch citizens” which excluded not only the “subjects of the Empire” but also the so called “guest workers”. To quote myself:
Guest workers came from countries located in the eastern and southern regions of Europe as well as those from North Africa and Turkey. Originally, they were supposed to be temporary workers who would fill in positions deemed as “too low” for Dutch natives or to assist in reconstruction and renovation efforts after the World War II. Up to that point, nobody had seen a need for these workers to integrate as they were supposed to pack and go home as soon as the work was over. No provisions were made for them to learn the language in a proper setting, no integration into civic and/ or political life was expected from them. They were, after all, only meant to provide low cost labor. Until they weren’t anymore because they had families and children with dreams of upwards social mobility. Suddenly, they were a threat to Dutch national identity. Their cultures and habits too different. Their outfits not Western enough. Their idiosyncrasies too conservative for the mainstream idea of a Dutch liberal and tolerant society. Suddenly, politicians could appeal to a voter base increasingly fearful of this new “Other”.
For the past 150 years Dutch white people have been “debating” with one another on the best way to run the country. Everything, from social policies to media has been open for discussions where it’s been whites only deciding what constitutes and does not constitute inequality. The present day refusal of the white majority to even consider the racist nature of Zwarte Piet can be traced directly to these two models of engagement. Two models that, I must insist, never included any meaningful political representation of “the Other”. The stubborn refusal to consider racism within Dutch society, paired with the “myth of tolerance” (a myth created and perpetuated by a white only political system) is at the very root of the lack of change. Now we have to hear again and again how “there is no racism in The Netherlands” and, more to the point, the character of Zwarte Piet is “not racist”. White people still see themselves as the sole arbiters of racism and, if they feel particularly generous, they will grant us humanity by acknowledging a historical wrong. Until we have full political representation and a media that is not complicit in the perpetuation of these ideas, this is yet another reason why I do not debate.
My other writings on Zwarte Piet and racism in The Netherlands from this year:
1. On White Dutch people’s “feelings”, blackface, racism, lives worth cherishing
2. An intersectional feminist approximation to aesthetics around Zwarte Piet
3. Zwarte Piet, racism and gaslighting as a culture wide phenomenon in The Netherlands
4. And here’s the interview I did yesterday with The Morning Amp