In the last week, I’ve found two new things to be obsessed with reading on the internet. Neither of them is actually NEW, but you know. The first is the exceptional Mansplained (Academic Men Explain Things to Me) Tumblr, in which highly educated and professional women share their anecdotal experiences of having less qualified men explain their own field to them. Not every post is a gem, but so many are, and I ended up reading the whole thing back to the beginning (seriously, 50 pages) because there was something magical and empowering about seeing all that experience gathered together – an acknowledgement that no, you’re not imagining things, this happens ALL THE TIME.
The second revelation is Nimona, an excellent web comic with gorgeous art by Gingerhaze, about a rebellious teen shapechanger who volunteers herself as sidekick to an Evil Villain and forms an adorable filial relationship with him. I love it to bits, it’s funny and sweet and so nice to see a heroine who isn’t stick-thin or bothered about good manners or niceness.
Other than that, the last couple of days have been inspiring and horrible as far as women in politics go. The ramped up sexist bullshit in the Australian media over the last several months set the scene for a Labor spill, as even many of Prime Minister Gillard’s closest supporters lost faith that their party could win with her leading them.
The fall of Julia Gillard was not entirely about her being a woman, but as she said herself in her speech, “it didn’t explain everything, and it didn’t explain nothing.” This article by Katharine Murphy has a pretty good overview of some of our former Prime Ministers flaws and faults, and reasons why she put many of the Australian public offside, but also acknowledges the awful gender-based attacks, double-standards and criticisms against her on a near daily basis (though I think doesn’t go into that aspect in nearly enough depth). The whole experience has been, for me as an Australian woman, very demoralising, regardless of personal politics. I know many were disappointed in Gillard as a Prime Minister, and I can’t say I wasn’t one of them at times, but I am far more disappointed in what her time as our country’s leader has revealed about the ingrained misogyny still at play in politics and the media. Also very disappointed that we only started hearing solid, postitive coverage of her many achievements while in office ONCE she was safely gone.
Only a few weeks earlier, the public discussion of a gratuitous, vile joke about the Prime Minister’s body parts on a menu at an Opposition dinner led to her actually DROPPING approval points in the polls, among male voters. How can we fight that?
Twitter did a lot to make the night of the #spill bearable, though. Hoyden About Town also looked at some of the ramifications of losing Gillard as leader, with the comments continuing the discussion through the evening as the announcement came in. They also did a good job of summarising the bizarre media about-face whereby they all started talking about Julia Gillard with astounding respect and acknowledging of her achievements… once she was no longer in power.
I mean, it’s better than what I feared, which was Gillard going down in the history books as “She was the Prime Minister But (it didn’t count)” but it’s still frustrating to realise how much the media contributed to the distracting public perception of her as a woman who wasn’t feminine enough, or was too feminine, sometimes both at once, to be taken seriously as a political leader. The problem was NOT that she knows how to knit, people!
Speaking of Twitter and ingrained misogyny in politics, the other big story of Wednesday (OK Tuesday in the states but it was an afternoon thing for those of us playing along from Australia) was the filibuster of Senator Wendy Davis, who was attempting to prevent a new bill that would drastically limit abortions across Texas, closing most centres and preventing many women from getting desperately needed, life-saving healthcare. Senator Davis went viral as hundreds of thousands of people around the world tuned in to watch her deeply informative exploration of the ramifications of the bill, and abortion generally, and were thus watching when the Senate began using some pretty dirty tricks to stop her being heard.
Alisa has written a personal account of her observations of the filibuster and what the results tell us about the way women are held to different versions of the rules than men, in politics and indeed many other places. The Guardian also provided some solid coverage of the events that was a lot closer to my observations than MANY of the mainstream media interpretations of that night’s work. One of the most common tweets I saw from US citizens was a complaint at how little coverage Senator Davis’ filibuster was receiving in TV news that night, and indeed in many online newspapers until it was all over – and many of them got crucial details wrong when they did begin to report on it.
Salon hailed Wendy Davis as a feminist superhero, and Jezebel held a gif party of joy in her honour. Oh, and if you’re as sick as the rest of us about the constant reference to the clothing and style choices of women in politics, this Amazon page for the same brand of sneakers she wore in the Senate is full of marvellous feminist snark and commentary disguised as reviews. “I tried on a pair at the local mall and suddenly Texas Republicans started telling me what to do with my genitals.”
Meanwhile, more exceptions are being made to ensure that Senator Davis’ filibuster was in vain. Because, you know, literally one law for men and a different one for women.
Gah, okay, all that was depressing. What does pop culture have to offer us, to make it feel better?
How about the awesomeness of the Carol Corps, the female fandom that has sprung up around the character of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) currently written by Kelly-Sue Deconnick?
Liz Bourke at Sleeps With Monsters declares that the new Tomb Raider game is bloody awesome – and inclusive! Is this how men feel when they play games ALL THE TIME?
A high school student talks about why she set up a feminist society, and how people around her have reacted – yes that’s right, people, misogyny does start this early.
And oh yes, there’s this – a truly bewildering and self-involved article by a male writer on why the female characters he writes (omniscient breasts and all) are more realistic and simply better than the female characters that women write. Oh and he’s pretty sure women are doing so well in YA fiction because it’s not as hard to write, and because their ridiculous standards for characters fit better into works for that age group. Luckily for those of us likely to rise up in protest about such pure, close-minded, unexamined drivel, we don’t have to rageblog about it because Foz Meadows has your back. *High fives Foz*
I also wanted to draw attention to this fascinating piece by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the half-white, half-Korean writer/artist of the Scott Pilgrim comics, about his realisation through the movie adaption of his work that he had created a mostly white piece of pop culture, effectively whitewashing his own experience. He also discusses how whitewashing becomes more obvious on film than in comics/animation, because it’s easier to project yourself on to a drawing than to an actor – manga, for instance, often portrays characters that look white to Western eyes, and yet are clearly expected to be read as Japanese from the context.
I found the piece first through i09 and am linking to their take on it too, because I found the comments horribly compelling in how many people miss the point and are arguing/yelling at the author for something he has already taken responsibility for, and telling him how wrong he is about the movie industry being kinda whitewash-friendly.
Sure, the issue is kind of complicated, as O’Malley himself discusses, but it’s amazing how many people can read his words and still only take away ‘omg he’s bitching about that movie I love, make him stop talking about racial issues!’
Let’s finish up with an article I heard described as ‘nurturing’ – the Guardian on why your feminism is not beholden to anyone else’s definition.
If you all still need cheering up with some pro-women goodness I give you: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler!