Tag Archives: women

Hey, Matt Damon: Shut up and listen.

If there’s one thing that #metoo has taught us, it’s that listening to women is important. Essential, even. Like any problem, we need to understand the scope and scale of sexual assault/harassment before we work out how to fix it. But Matt Damon, it seems, is done listening. He’s using his platform and celebrity to tell us that:

 “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” Damon said. “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

Wrong, Matt. Firstly, let’s look at the perpetrators of all of the above acts: they’re overwhelmingly male. That doesn’t mean, obviously, that all men are sexual harassers and rapists, but it does mean that the vast majority of people doing the sexual assaulting and raping are male. Surely that warrants a discussion in itself – why do men do this? Shouldn’t we try to find out? It infuriates me that this line of questioning, however tentatively and reasonably you frame it, always falls flat on its face – because of men being defensive. ‘Nice’ guys, like Matt, don’t want  lumped in with the abusers out there. Earlier in the same interview, Matt says that:

  “there are a whole s—load of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing”.

Not all men, in other words. The problem with this kind of response is the iron door it slams in the face of any discussion into the ‘why’ of sexual assault and rape. Why do men behave like this? There are two possibilities – either hurting women is hardwired into the male psyche, or society is conditioning men to treat women like shit. Can’t we have a frank discussion about which it is? And if it’s the latter, maybe think about how we change society for the better? No?

The rapey common denominator

 The other thing Matt is wrong about, is his view that sexual assault/rape/”patting someone on the butt” shouldn’t be conflated. They absolutely should be conflated, because they spring from the same source. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a clue  – what do the following three guys have in common?

The random who touches you on a night out

Two weeks ago, I spent Saturday night in a bar in Glasgow city centre. I was standing with friends by a pillar near the bar, and I lost count of the times I had to prize men’s hands off my waist – men who felt entitled to put their hands on me, on their way past. Would they have touched a man in this way? No, they touched me because I was a woman in a public place, there for the touching. They felt entitled to touch me.

The rapist

Tom Stranger is a self-confessed rapist. He raped his 16-year-old girlfriend when she was drunk, on their second date. Asked why he committed rape, he said “ The notion that you’re in a relationship, you go out, there’s drinking involved, you go home, you’re entitled to sex – I took that to a horrible place. The ‘why’ is that I took what I wanted without any regard for her and I thought I was entitled to it”.

Harvey Weinstein

At least 50 women have accused Harvey Weinstein of varying kinds of sexual assault. Matt Damon would hate for me to conflate these acts, but I kind of have to, because they come from the same place: one man’s bulletproof sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Or, as the writer Margaret Gardiner put it, “Harvey Weinstein is a symptom. The issue is entitlement and power. It’s the branding of women and minorities as ‘less’ that makes it safe for predatory behaviour without consequences.”

Male entitlement is at the root of all of this. Instead of trying to put different kinds of sexual abuse on a spectrum, Matt would do better to think about what the perpetrators – whatever line of work they’re in – have in common.


And while he’s at it, he could maybe have a word with his buddy Ben Affleck, whose sense of entitlement was such that he grabbed a woman’s breasts. On fucking camera.




Why I’m a radical feminist

I recently decided that I don’t have the luxury to be a liberal feminist. I honestly don’t understand how any woman does. Because liberal feminism has lost sight of simple fact that male violence against women is global, and endemic. Other women have written about this, so I’m not going to rehash their arguments here. But, if I had to pick a defining characteristic of the people committing violence against women, I’d say they are male humans. With penises. If I were to define the victims, I’d mention the fact that they all possess a vagina. Some people seem to think these facts are unimportant. I don’t: here’s why.

In case you missed it, women are dying

In November 2013, I spent a month volunteering in Rajasthan. At that time, I worked for a big financial company that offered bursaries to people who wished to undertake voluntary work. I wanted go armed with as much knowledge as possible, so I undertook a research project and learned about India. I learnt about the huge numbers of menstruating girls who have no access to sanitary products. I learnt that menstruation is such a source of taboo and shame that girls are kept from school. I learnt that the value placed on female lives is so low, that the population demographic is skewed. I learnt that, since 1985, selection abortion and infanticide has meant that there are 10 million missing girls in India.

Seriously, let’s think about that for a moment. There are currently 8.8 million people living in London. Imagine the whole city, deserted and devoid of life, like a scene in 28 Days Later. That’s how many female lives have been lost. Why? Because they were female, and Indian society culture places a lower value on female lives.

Before we get too smug, and assert that not valuing female lives is an Indian problem, let’s think about Brock Turner. Lest we forget, he’s the unanimously convicted US rapist reported in the media as a champion swimmer, accompanied by a cherubic photo. His victim writes that:

“At the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming”.

Why does this matter? Because the media framed this crime as “look, he did a bad thing but seriously, a man’s LIFE could be ruined!” The impact on the woman’s life is minimised, because a man’s life is deemed more valuable. And while it’s fucked up, this view is rampant. The oppressions I’ve outlined happen to women, because they ARE women. The reality of being a woman is not something they can opt out of. Liberal feminism has lost sight of that. So I’ve lost all time for it. feminism-295245_1280

How to define a woman?

feminism-295245_1280As I sat cosied up with my coffee this morning, I came across this article by Gaby Hinsliff. Remarking that “if there ever was a universal consensus on How to Be a Woman, it’s dissolving fast”,  she discusses the changing notions of femininity and womanhood. It made me a little uneasy to see various mentions of gender in her article, but none of sex. Because while I support trans rights, I’m really concerned at the erasure of biological sex in the definition of women.

Female biology is important. I was on a volunteer placement in India a while back – where I learned that huge numbers of menstruating girls have no access to sanitary products and where the topic is such a source of taboo and shame that they are kept from school. Where female foeticide (aborting unborn female babies) is so widespread that it has skewed the population demographic. The International Development Research Centre estimates that selective abortion is responsibility for 10 million missing girls in India since 1985.

These are sex-based oppressions: girls and women literally dying because of being female. In the US, the sex-based oppressions are different: a lack of affordable contraception, maternity care and abortion. But if you remove any mention of biological sex from the idea of being a woman, you are in effect saying that these sex-based oppressions don’t matter. You’re also stymying efforts to tackle these problems, because you’re removing the very language that articulates them.

Woman – a loaded word

Living rurally as I do, I couldn’t make the recent women’s marches protesting Donald Trump. But I did buy a knitted pussy hat, and have been strutting about it in ever since. Upon reading that various transactivists were calling pussy hats transphobic (because they represent vaginas), I was really pissed off. I want to be good trans ally, but as someone who has been grabbed by the vagina, twice, I’d say it’s up to me how I respond to those assaults, and what I wear to protest them.

I’ve seen transactivists affirming that the mere mention of female biology is “literally violence”, while Planned Parenthood now refers to women as ”menstruators”. The British Medical Association is also removing the words ‘woman’ and ‘mothers’. To any guys reading this – how would you feel if the word ‘man’ became politically loaded and you were to be referred to as ‘ejaculators’? Would you be cool with that, or would you find it a tad dehumanising?

It goes without saying that trans people need to be actively included when medical providers outline their services, but there’s no logical line from there to erasing the word ‘woman’ and any mention of female biology. There is, there has to be a way of supporting our trans sisters without policing the language that lets us describe the realities of being female.