Fighting for Equality

This article has also been published as part of Wom*news #6.

I was on YouTube during my exam preparation period (one of my routine procrastination rituals) after being linked to a men’s rights website I had never come across before by a friend and the site eventually lead me to a video discussing the opinion that men should not have to pay for abortions, as the abortions were a result of ‘sluts who can’t keep their legs closed’ and because such treatment was discriminatory of men. I was shocked to learn that no feminists had commented on the video and every single comment seemed to be in support of such an argument. Perhaps the most disturbing of the rather misogynistic comments that plagued the video was one saying that women should finance abortion because men had enough troubles being killed in wars, when all the women did was cook food behind the scenes. In support of my opinion that this sort of thinking is bred purely from in-education, the user said the same applied for the Cold War (no formal military combat occurred during this war) and even though countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and now Australia have implemented plans to engage women in proper Combat Units. Despite this, the truth is that women even today are tragically limited and underrepresented in the defence forces on a global stage.

Women are rarely given the opportunity to participate in the military. When the opportunity does arise, ridiculous restrictions on the roles these women can participate in are maintained. In fact, only 13 out of the total 196 countries in the world harbor female frontline soldiers. Women have reportedly been drafted into the Israeli Defence Forces at a consistent rate of 1, 500 women per annum since its very beginnings. Sadly, these women are conscripted for numbers alone, not out of respect for the women or for acknowledgement of their abilities. Figures such as Joan of Arc have shone through herstory as flickering candles of light on this subject, but her canonization only indicates how this was considered unusual and her ability only a reflection of God (who was thought of as masculine), suggesting a woman would be incapable of such endeavours without God’s aid. The Royal Norwegian Navy was the first force to legally allow women to serve on submarines in 1985, and Britain’s Royal Women Pilots’ Association has been effect since 1955. However, these women are regarded as extraordinary; masculine; abnormal.

Australia has put into effect a five-year program to fully incorporate women in the Australian Defence Force as of late 2011, including a new conscription policy fully encompassing the Australian female population. This legislation has not been passed without debate by any means. Australian Defence Association’s executive director Neil James possesses the same false information that has held women back from this kind of process in the past; women are not biologically capable to be as competent as men in the field. As was aptly discussed in the 2012 GoMA Talks series ‘Sex and Science’ session, “science is political” says Christina Lee, discussing how the discretion of research is subject to funding, political, cultural or social public interests and how conclusions drawn from research are tainted with personal interpretation, particularly where psychology and gender are involved. Does anyone really fully understand the differences between females and males? This idea that women and men are fundamentally different not only causes false reason to deny women combat positions, but also the perceived impractical need to segregate the genders in bathing and sleeping quarters, further limiting the chance for women to participate fully in the military by creating unnecessary financial difficulties.

What else is holding women back from the frontline? I have a school friend who wants to be a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force and she, like 84 percent of American women according to a study done in 2008 by Jennifer M. Silva, is reluctant to commence her military career because of the certain barriers such a career constructs for a woman to get married and have a family. The question I have is: are these concerns practical and reflect the time military personnel invests in their career, the inconvenient placement of such individuals in various locations for military purpose, or is there some part of this reluctance that is cultural? Are women worried that they won’t be fulfilling their traditional roles looking after the children and the household, or even that no one would want to marry a strong, powerful woman in such a ‘butch’ profession? Every individual perhaps has a little bit of each of these holding her back from a defence force profession. Even the reality that society has perhaps moulded the female into such a gendered, feminine being by the time she is an age to make her career choices may indirectly construct a barrier for women’s involvement in the military.

We must also consider the traditional belief that women achieve success in any form through manipulation and use their sexual allure to persuade their male counterparts to do things they otherwise wouldn’t regard. Of course, this sort of behaviour would be dangerous in a combat scenario, and such ideas could be in the back of the minds of those who do not support the issue. Other practical complications such as romantic relationships could also distract an individual of the military duty they possess. This is again a cultural issue that plays on stereotypes (that all people are heterosexual) and also again touches on the idea of women as being very sexual creatures who are not only capable of but are willing to be deceitful and promiscuous. This is very much an underlying assumption of the debate against women being a part of the front lines, echoed in the fear that women could accidentally or even deceitfully either become pregnant, preventing themselves from being an able candidate for the frontline. Herstorically, I believe this has been the most crucial pointer against women along with the idea that women are fragile and require protection. The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka use this notion to their advantage by inserting women, particularly very young women, into the rebel group for the purpose of deterring their opponents from attack. In addition, there is a dotted record of women participating in war disguised as men, particularly in the American Civil War (despite both the Union and Confederate armies disallowed female participation), some of whom have stories we shall never be aware of. The way these women have fought alongside men without being discovered just shows the female ability and potential.

The frontline has traditionally been a place for men alone; a truth dictated entirely by the stereotypical view of femininity as a weak, dependent, manipulative, deceitful and physically incapable gendered personage. These false characteristics are defined by perceived biological differences and universality of feminine stereotypes. The more interest women present in being participants in the military, the more likely the attitude to women serving in the military and frontline will be, which in turn will help break down the gender stereotypes that prevented women from taking part in the military in the first place.

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‘Don’t Date Muscular Guys’, folks!

This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say that science is political. Just look at this article published by Yahoo! (not a very reliable source, I know, but still very popular).

From the first sentence, I was skeptical. “Stronger men make awful boyfriends”? How can a scientific study prove this? Many people have very different view on what they want in a relationship. Anti-feminist women may actually enjoy being in a heterosexual relationship with someone who feels he is greater than her in every possible way bar in the kitchen and laundry just because he is a ‘man’. Although I’m all for plugs like this being in mainstream journalism just to bring the idea of questioning gender roles into social media, this whole idea of using science to validate such conclusions is really non-sense. As a scientist, I think science is purely Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Archaeology, Psychology, Engineering and the like are only applications of science, I suppose I have to say ‘according to my opinion’ here.

I absolutely loathe the idea that people seem to have when it comes to dating that your partner has to comply to some kind of dating shopping list. My own criteria for who I should date has become rather simple over the years: I will date someone simple because I want to date them. Not because they’re ‘hot’ (basically meaning that society will approve of your relationship), or that they are wealthy or popular or any other stupid and absolutely ridiculous ideas that people  seem to have for the people they date. I do remember after dumping my first boyfriend and showing a picture of him to a friend who exclaimed: “you know, you could do better Izzy”. What does “do better” even mean? If I want to date a person then I’m going to damn well go ahead and do it and not try to rate people on how attractive or successful they are, and I don’t want to have to worry about if they’re muscly or not! But I may be brushing the surface for the constructs of our entire society. It’s like our entire lives are built to make us the most attractive, most loved, most successful, most talked about people we can possibly be even if it kills us in the process. Does anyone even care if we’re happy? Are we making objects out of ourselves for some impossible relationship ideal, just like the target men in this article who try to fit a masculine stereotype just so they can find their feminine other? Lady Gaga’s meat dress is starting to make a bit more sense.

The article does not discuss how muscular men may have sexist attitude because they themselves feel like they have to work to fit inside a gendered role that may not necessarily suit them. Muscular men may think that if they have to make changes and sacrifices in their life to be masculine, women should have to do the same to be feminine. I know that the phrase ‘muscular men are sexist’ is way, way to generalised and certainly does not assess the underlying and sometimes subtle cultural influences that would have influenced this proposal.  I suppose bad journalism will be bad journalism and I would prefer it be an article with a subversion of negative attention on the issue such as this.

I

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Two Pinks Defying A Feminists’ Stink

…A response to the response on my article ‘Porn and Oral Sex’…

The Response (copied below):

My Response to the Response:

When a friend alerted me to the response to my article that was ‘on the wall’, I can’t say I wasn’t flabbergasted (people actually read my stuff?). Naturally, I had no idea where this supposed wall was; I initially thought it was the University of Queensland’s Women’s Collective Facebook Wall, but after some browsing I realized I had no idea which wall my friend was taking about. It wasn’t until today when I was in the Women’s Room at UQ did I realize what she meant. Someone had written two sheets worth of pink paper responding to my interpretation of the porn industry. Although thrilled to receive a response and initially thrilled to learn she thoroughly enjoyed sex, I became rather agitated particularly towards the end of the piece. Her response is pictured and also retyped below. The following passage is written in second person and it is directed to the responder as a reaction to her submission.

There are questions you have to ask yourself. I don’t know you and I have absolutely no intention to offend you in any way, I am simply raising questions for you and basically am trying to get you on my side of the fence because I’m a stubborn son of a bitch. Firstly, I would like to comment that you make a series of assumptions in order to reach your conclusion. First of all your assumption that I have only watched a ‘tiny’ amount of porn (I’ll ignore the blatant ad hominem) and that your, would you regard it as an obsession?, with porn puts you at a higher authority on the topic than me; which is probably correct. But, as you admit yourself, you watch a lot more porn than most people. This means most people are not exposed to the breadth of diverse material as you, which would mean that someone like me who has been exposed to ‘tiny’ amounts of the porn available to the world actually represent the majority of the populace. One could even suggest that where you are the authority on porn, I am the authority on what people can take from porn.

Of course when an absolutely heterosexual male looks at a video for his sexual pleasure, he wants to see women. But then you must acknowledge your assumption that men are the people looking at such material. Where is the heterosexual porn with the focus on the male? Even if it does exist, it is definitely more difficult to find that the previously discussed videos which makes all the difference in the world for the younger, older or committed members of the population who feel as if they shouldn’t be watching porn and want a quick fix and a swift removal from their history tab when they’ve finished their business. You are a female and you like porn and you are certainly not alone in that matter; why should heterosexual women only have the opportunity to view other women? If porn was a true reflection of sexual fantasy then there would be a more equal representation of both scenarios. You say that there is a lot of porn that focuses on the man’s body or both women and men, but are there any heterosexual videos that exclusively focus on the male like there are of women? Some videos you see nothing but the woman’s face! I have never witnessed such a video with the same scenario but with the opposite sex.

I know that what I regard as ‘mainstream porn’ is a very limited selection of the entire spectrum of porn available, but frankly I don’t care. Such a fact is irrelevant. What matters most for my argument is what the majority of people within our society will or have taken from the porn they have been exposed to. By nearly all of what I have called mainstream heterosexual porn focusing on the female, not only are you encouraging men to watch and regard women as sexual objects, but women who watch it may be influenced by the content and start feeling the only way they can be as turned on as they get by watching porn is to behave in the manner of the porn stars. I want to ask you a serious question: how likely do you think it is that your extensive knowledge and viewing of porn has lead you to feel the way you do about giving oral sex? Do you feel there is any chance that your appreciation for this type of sex is just a gradual grind of porn/society against your mind, subconsciously encouraging you to enjoy something that you may or may not have otherwise enjoyed? Or perhaps you feel your love of sex is your stand against the idea that women only exist to serve men in their pursuit of pleasure, sexually or otherwise? Keep in mind that I am also a great lover (forget the pun) of sex. I do believe that my own attractions stem from these issues.

From my own experience, I find it obvious when men have viewed porn. Their requests, expectations and attitudes towards oral sex in particular alter in the bedroom according to how much porn they claim to have witnessed. I see a relationship occurring. There is sometimes an attitude that when I don’t consent to oral sex, I am letting my partner down; suddenly I lose several brownie points in his eyes. If you spend your young, virgin or almost-virgin years looking at footage of sex, perhaps the only perspective on sex a virgin may encounter, that incorporates women constantly providing for the men, how are they going to treat their future partners? I feel that porn, although perhaps of innocent intent (by innocent I mean purely to seek sexual satisfaction), can be used by inexperienced or younger people to shape their perspective and expectations in future sex. Suddenly if a woman is uncomfortable giving oral sex, doesn’t have three layers of make-up on or a double-D cup size, she becomes unable to completely satisfy their partners. Another point I would like to raise concerns orgasms. The vast majority of porn videos end with the male ejaculation; irregardless of whether the female has also come. How does this not show that women are only in existence in porn to satisfy their partners? Is there any footage where any kind of female stimulation continues after this point? So basically the woman is just left hanging. A woman is considered bad in bed if her partner doesn’t come. A man is considered good in bed if his partner DOES come. This is a common conception of sex in society. I sense direct links to exactly the same ideas in mainstream porn! Your pledge that ‘sex isn’t just about your own orgasm’ seems unrepresented for a male viewer of mainstream heterosexual porn.

I refute your proposal that mainstream porn is ‘catering for different sexual desires’. You mean men who like to shove it up the arse and others who like a good old fashioned blow job? Men who like women in sexy nurse outfits or who prefer the sexy schoolgirl? From what I’ve seen there is an extremely limited range of sexual desires on display in mainstream porn and I repeat: the majority of these are in fact for the pleasure of the man! The woman is featured in the visuals, the woman makes the most noise, the woman is always has the least amount of sexual contact (i.e. vaginal or clitoris stimulation) and the video ends with the male ejaculation, sometimes spread uncomfortably over the woman’s face.

I can read how much you enjoy sex which is absolutely fantastic. I am not criticizing this fact. I intend to only explore the reasons behind your particular experiences and research how your attitudes apply to my version of the broader community. I believe subtleties are the absolutely crucial underpinnings of society and when people become used to the image of a woman on her knees, they know what it’s about and you really can’t deny the image of the submissive woman doesn’t carry though into ideals for the perfect woman. Let’s put it this way, how would you argue that mainstream porn is an outlet for female supremacy and male oppression? The point is significantly more difficult to argue in comparison to the opposite.

Thank you for your response and for giving me an outlet to express my opinions on the matter one more time. 🙂

I
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The Response (copied out from image):

Caution: The following passage contains very explicit content.

Regarding “Porn and Oral Sex: Sexual Liberation? Or ideological nutrients for Sexism?” (in Wom*news)

I love the sensation of my partner’s cock, lubricated with precum & saliva, sliding along my soft palate and uvula then pressing hard against the back of my throat. Although physically he isn’t stimulating me, it makes me wet and my nipples hard (if they aren’t already). Whether you’re male/female/gay/straight/somewhere in between or none of the above, sex isn’t just about your own orgasm. It can be just as exciting getting some one else off. And not only do I love it when my partner is looking down on me while I’m on my knees and holding the back of my head/hair so he can physically push his cock against the back of my throat with the perfect amount of pressure. I also love looking down on him when he is cheek deep in my cunt and I grab the back of his head and push him and his tongue against my clit with just the right pressure. I also love watching porn and have never encountered a male that watches as much porn as me (I’m sure there are plenty but you get my point). And if you were a straight male that experienced no sexual attraction or excitement by seeing other naked fornicating males, then wouldn’t you prefer your porn to have a primary focus on the female? (assuming it’s hetero porn). But there is plenty of hereto porn that focuses on the man’s actions and body or both the females and males. Then if you think of queer porn, if the camera focuses on one of the actors more than the other/s… what’s it implying? Abso-fucking-lutely nothing. It’s just catering for different sexual desires. It’s not telling people what to desire, the porn industry simple meets demand. You can’t label the entire porn industry as sexist because the TINY bit you were exposed to COULD be read as reinforcing this ideology. As a pro equal rights, sex loving female, this article made me cringe.