In the wake of Jemma O’Leary’s interesting column ‘Ultra-Feminism is Eroding Our Values’ on the university times website, a lot of people asked the question just what is an Ultra-feminist? Well I’d like to take up this mantel and proudly declare myself an ultra feminist. I claim it not because I think all the lowly men-folk in this world ought to be made slaves that carry me around like Cleopatra and feed me grapes for the rest of my life, but because I am a screaming, raving, hardcore fan of feminist theory. I’d just like in the spirit of sisterly debate to rebut a few points Ms. O’Leary made in her piece. I promise that I’ll try not to oppress anyone too hard under the hard sole of my Doc Martens and sexual liberation.
I just really like critical theories that point at the world we live in and go ‘hey, here’s some stuff that seems RIDDLED with problems. Can we get some maintenance guys in to look at this? There’s a light bulb gone in the gender relations department.’ Feminism is essentially a strand of critical theory- It was created, generally, by people looking around, seeing that there is a whole world of stuff to examine through the prism of gender (or class, or race, or whatever) and went with it. That’s all. Much as I would love to think that feminism has become so influential in the corridors of power that it could even approach being an oppressive force, I don’t think that’s true sadly. In a country that doesn’t even have free right to choice for it’s citizens and less than 10% of the parliament is represented by women, I don’t think Ms O’Leary has a strong case.
Ms O’Leary also talks about how she, in her personal opinion, thinks feminism has gone ‘far enough.’ Well, I think I can agree with her in so far as it’s done wonders for women like us- both university students, both from presumably comfortable backgrounds. She’s right that generally speaking, we’re doing okay. We get to sit around in seminar rooms and read about all this stuff and decide for ourselves what we’d like. We have protection in employment, pretty good maternity leave ahead of us and anything that we need that our country doesn’t offer to us, we can pay to travel out of Ireland to get it (we also have the freedom to travel wherever we like without suspicion, as western ladies) Yeah, We white middle class western ladies have it pretty sweet.
It’s like Lucinda Creighton when she spoke of how proud she was to be an Irish woman, and how she thinks it’s a grand county to be a lady in. Well, it’s great if you’re university educated, middle class, in a well paying job and don’t have to look beyond your own experiences for things. If my and Jemma’s experiences were the sole barometer by which we measured how all 3.5 billion odd women in the world were getting on, I might agree that we ought to tone the feminism down a tad. Perhaps.
But it’s not. We live in a world where class, gender, sexuality and race all intersect in fascinating ways to create the accepted structures of power. That’s how you get cases like Slanegirl- Variously described by the delightfuls on twitter as a ‘skanger’, a ‘knacker’, a ‘dirtbird’ and a good old fashioned slut. It’s not that all the feminists were crowding around to defend this girl to the hilt; it’s that in the face of a torrent of online abuse and mirth at the picture of a public sex act, it was the girl getting all these names thrown at her. The man in this story was ‘a pure lad’ a ‘lucky bastard’ or a ‘dirty fucker’- but there was still a sort of shrugging ‘eh… fair play’ reaction to his part in the act. The girl was the dirt bird. It goes back to all these double standards we have about sexuality, and the roles we give people in sex. Which while we’re at it, sucks for everyone.
Women are told by society that sex is a chore and something that needs to be endured to please men. Men are also told this and that reinforces the idea that women need to be sort of coaxed into the act. Like they’re an easily spooked pony, you must always approach a lady from the side. I’ll also point out that the entire field of masculinities is a feminist critique of the expectations placed on men by a gender binary and how deeply screwed up it is. Just look at the absolute goldmine of essays on breaking bad and masculinities recently. The expectations placed on dude by the patriarchy are crushing for the men who don’t easily fit into them. Personally, I strive for a feminism that allows us all to shag without shame and with respect for each other.
I just question what ‘values’ Ultra Feminism is eroding and why they’re such a great idea anyway. Why is that value that sex is basically dirty and gross and people are gross for doing it something that needs to be protected from erosion by the sea walls of patriarchy? Why does the value that women ought not to criticise or speak up but rather elegantly and gracefully take it on the chin something that ought to be preserved? Ms. O’Leary doesn’t make a decent case for this at all. The entire idea of Critical theory is that it challenges these norms and forces us to examine them. It’s the similar to Marxist critique of capitalism- just because you have a few problems with the way the world works doesn’t mean every single Marxist is out there tearing it down. Feminists simply point out inconsistencies in our social world. That can be uncomfortable for us all- being forced to acknowledge our own privileges and biases- but it’s important work and it certainly doesn’t need to tone it down.
Let’s call a spade a spade here- O’Leary isn’t talking about the erosion of ‘values.’ She’s talking about the erosion of norms, and not making such a hot case for why they’re so great in the first place.
Really at the end of the day, Ms. O’Leary is saying people are ‘ultra fems’ (I do love this term, and hope that she won’t mind me nicking it for my own purposes in future) are out of control because they dare to criticise. ‘Critical’ is a very loaded word when it comes to women. All their lives women are cautioned against being a shrew or a nag, or being too loud. Being ‘Critical’ is kind of code for ‘being a bitch’ or ‘thinking too much into these things.’ But when you really examine feminist theory- And I mean get a cup of tea, a pack of biscuits and really sit down to get to grips with it- you’ll find a multitude of voices.
It’s not a monolithic structure with ONE opinion, that opinion being CRUSH THE MEN. There are actually lots of ideas and opinions about lots of things- about body image and policing, about gender roles, about Trans women, about race, about class- and yes, some of these theses don’t include a disclaimer that says ‘by the way we recognise that men aren’t all pigs, some of them are rad.’ That goes without saying. You’re not going to get much out of feminism if you just read The Second Sex and How to be a woman then dust off your hands and declare it all a bit of a faff (although I do recommend reading both as an excellent articulation of basic theory and a silly but enjoyable memoir respectively). If you look at the wealth of feminist literature out there- From the big guns of the 70s like Greer and Dworkin right through to the bloggers and activists of today, you’ll see a lot of variety and lot of discussion.
So yeah, I don’t think Ms O’Leary is, as she so elegantly put it ‘a cold-hearted bitch.’ I think she’s a little blinkered, possibly a bit sheltered to the wider field of feminist theory and activism. I think she probably forgets that she, like me, grew up in the age immediately prior to camera phones being carried by every person in Ireland connected constantly to twitter and Facebook. We both had our teens played out in relative, blissful privacy and all our moments of ill judgement or drunken revelry were carried out away from social media and only the stuff of mere rumour. I think in short that she’s being a little judgemental in writing a piece that writes off an entire field of critical thought as going ‘a bit too far’.
Sorry if you were expecting me to smash a table or scream ‘INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY’ at you for a few paragraphs. That’s not how the Ultra Femmo rolls.
Niamh ‘Battle cry of the Ultra Femmo’ Keoghan
Okay, here is part 1 of all the things that I am able to remember from 2012. Either I remembered it, or was reminded of it by reading my old tweets. I tried to pick things that had a deeper cultural relevance that I noticed, rather than just being a list of stuff that came out or happened. Also a lot of shit happened so I’m not going to get everything in. But here is what Bank Holiday Tuesday remembers
Everyone dressed as Slenderman for Halloween. 2012 will go down in history as a very difficult year and you could see echoes of this all through pop culture. Our collective consciousness was fixated on the approaching Mayan Apocalypse date with a kind of gallows humour. Slenderman became a widely known character in 2012, after spending time building up steam on message boards, youtube and in general internet counter culture.
I think this surge in popularity can be attributed to two things- our approaching sense of dread, uncertainty and doom, and THAT FUCKING GAME. I don’t think there is a university aged person in Ireland now who hasn’t played that game while wankered at a house party with all your friends around you screaming DON’T GO IN THE BUILDING! He’ll sneak up behind you OH MY GOD THE CHAIR’S BEEN MOVED.
In all seriousness, I do think the Slender man’s popularity as the horror mascot of the 2010s is telling of our anxieties and fears as a generation, and perhaps also of the stagnation of the horror film industry. The next iconic horror character after Samara from the Ring movies (remember when Samara from the ring movies was a ‘thing?’ remember throwing all your hair in front of your face and whispering ‘seven daaaaays’? good times) Doesn’t come from a schlock slasher horror or a remake of Japanese suspense- Slenderman didn’t come from any work at all; he originated on a horror message board (Slendy is page 3,hilariously) and was then adopted into various works such a Marble Hornets and… that fucking game. It’s a public domain, open source free shared horror template!
So with all this in mind, a million tall skinny guys went as Slendy for Halloween, with mixed results. My top award goes to Danny who honestly scared the bejesus out of me with his costume. Everyone else, I will offer the wisdom; a morph suit does not a cosmic horror make.
Barrack Obama was re-elected but do I really need to include it on my review in detail? It all played out like a really forced media game, with people insisting ‘ooooh no it’s gonna be really close, seriously!!!’ when the stats really showed otherwise. Bouncing back from what I personally think was a voodoo magic sabotaged performance in the first debate, Obama pretty much stormed it beyond Fox News and conservative talk radio in the states, mostly because Paul Ryan and Mittens are just so. fucking. WEIRD. No really, Paul Ryan is really scary looking and I would not have wanted him to be the vice Prez. Now with a looming debt crisis and without the idealism of change behind him, Obama has a very rough second term to ride out.
It was a good year for feminism in a strange way, considering we had so much complete and utter fucking bullshit to contend with. The GOP candidate Todd Akin started off with some incredibly bone headed comments about rape and how rape victims rarely get pregnant because the body has magic rape detection powers that repel the evil sperm- if only this were true. Cue more comments from other GOP candidates about how ‘some girls rape easy’ and the shitstorm caused by health insurance providers possibly being made to include birth control as part of their healthcare plans. Apparently sex is now a lifestyle choice, and avoiding pregnancy for medical reasons can ONLY be done via no sex. Weird. Also weird is the idea that the pill is solely birth control when often it’s used for regulation of hormones.
Chris Brown Left twitter, leaving in his wake the need for another terrible celebrity to lol at, and a shitload of misogynistic abuse leveled at the female comic whose sparring with Brown seemed to be what fucked him off Twitter. I will confess to never wading into the Chris Brown pool because I’d feel like a hypocrite and an elitist, because I listen to Ike turner, John lennon, Phil Spektor and many others who have done terrible, terrible things to women without much sign of remorse. I would say I don’t take much stock in Chris Brown as an artist and in his music, he is absolutely hideous both with general misogynistic bullshit and with constant backhanded references to his violence and all it paints for me is the picture of an entirely unapologetic guy. I will never ever like Chris brown. What a jerk.
Online bullying is the sad new way people are terrible to one another now, with several heavily reported young deaths by suicide linked to online harassment. To throw my hat into the ring on what is a very sad and controversial topic, I have to say that I’ve always argued it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the attitudes prevailing in society. The big problem people have with the internet is that it is essentially anonymous, and it is claimed that this encourages downright sadistic and unpleasant things to be said and done to people. I have to argue that people talked shit and said horrible things to me when I was 12, before facebook and even before bebo. back then, they got to me by sending text messages and making phone calls- teenagers will always utilize technology to be brutal to one another, and in the adult word we seem to have entirely forgotten harassing phone calls and letters. This isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t going to be solved by censorship or legislation.
In a broader sense, I’m kind of disturbed by this obsession we all have with understanding why someone took their life- the media seems determined to connect it with one single influence when in reality the victims of suicide have many different reasons and factors effecting their ability to think straight and seek help. It’s a terrible complicated mental health crisis and we can’t keep catching our heels on scapegoats.
The Olympics and Paralympics blew everybody’s minds mostly because I don’t think people were expecting much. It had some pretty bad pre talk, but the thunderous opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle let you know this was the real fucking deal. Mostly due to Tom Daley representing team GB the diving events had a lot of popularity (and now there’s a celebrity diving competition on ITV1 next year!). I took great personal pleasure from the extensive coverage of the men’s gymnastics. (Team GB Gymnastics squad, I’ll see you in my dreams)
Katie Taylor inspiration-bombed all of Ireland with her amazing Gold Medal performance (I watched her final fight through my fingers) and the rest of the Irish team put in a fucking fantastic Olympics, our best performance since 1956. Cian O’Connor redeemed himself after the stripping of his 2004 gold by claiming bronze here and Rob Heffernan came agonizingly close to a bronze for Ireland in the bafflingly intense and amusing spot of race walking. Ireland’s Paralympians continued the inspiration-parade, being fucking fantastic setting world records and the like. I’m still a bit sad that it’s gone, tbh.
The question ‘You don’t agree with abortion, do you?’ Made dinners in older relatives homes excruciatingly awkward for many this year, as the mother of all throw downs sparked off again. led most visibly by Clare Daly of the ULA and Sinead Redmond, a righteously pissed off pregnant woman the campaign for action on the X case was launched this year. Youth Defence reared their charming heads again with a billboard campaign around Irish cities that showed torn stolen istock photos and 18 week scans reading ‘Abortion tears her life apart.’ Following this, the posters were vandalized, criticized and generally just written off as the sort of bullshit YD like to go on with.
When Savita Halappanavar died the game seemed to change. Previously on the fence onlookers marched on government buildings, the Catholic church made statements, people squabbled over the numbers attending rallies and in the midst of all this the media had no idea where to turn.
Interesting to me was the reaction to the story that asked people to give Praveem Halappanavar, Savita’s widower, his privacy. Enda Kenny was quoted as saying ‘we must remember that a man’s wife has died.’ The political set seemed confounded by what to do when Mr. Halappanavar made it clear he wasn’t going away and doesn’t want a respectful silence over this issue. They got really confused when Mr. Halappanavar Insisted he wouldn’t co-operate with a HSE led investigation that included several Galway based doctors on it’s panel.
Pro Choice groups called for the X case to finally be legislated for, while Pro Life groups wrung their hands over things like the ‘suicide clause’ not being included in any legislation (Although I do wonder why any woman would fake being suicidal to get an abortion as opposed to the much easier option of, oh I don’t know, GETTING THE BOAT TO ENGLAND). Now as the year closes it does so with the news that legislation for abortion in line with the X case ruling will be introduced, governed by regulations.
The age of X Factor seems to be ending, as James Arthur only managed to squeak number 2 for Christmas. Overall it seems we’re getting a bit tired of the polished pop reality star- even X Factor USA was won by a 40 year old country singer, and Britain’s Got Talent by a teenage girl with a dancing dog. Glee popularized ‘Somebody that I used to know’ to the point where it became the smash indie hit of the summer, along with fun’s ‘we are young’ and Adele continuing her charts dominance. Glee has slipped from cultural juggernaunt with some modicum of critical acclaim into the realm of the cheesy melodrama it used to parody.
Whew, way too much happened this year, fucking hell. I’ll see you in part 2
Niamh ‘There will be awards at the end of all this’ Keoghan
I am so hot for feminist men.
God, it’s ridiculous.
There is just something about a guy who actually sees your views as something not to be eye rolled out, or made fun of outright. It is dead sexy to be considered as an actual intellectual equal. It makes me do a little ‘hnnnnnnngh’ sound when I think about it. I am so hot for any man who understands that there is a relevance to what I have to say and what I think about the experiences I’ve had. It is so devastating attractive when I am viewed as a partner in crime (‘crime’ here meaning ‘sexy things’) and not as an object.
It makes me hot for them. I want to shag guys who apply the Bedchel test to films.
In that age old (i.e. from about 2009) debate, ‘can men be feminists?’ All I can ever say is OF COURSE. OF COURSE men of this generation are feminists. They are the sons of working women- the telephonists and receptionists and university lecturers and all the rest. They are the product of an age transformed by the women’s movement- not even the organised movement, just the basic idea that WOMEN ARE NOT PROPERTY. I am big on that.
I am hot on men who do not consider me to be their property.
I am hot for men who are pro choice, and agree that in the abortion debate, the two genders are coming at it from very different perspectives and that, in the end, it is me who has to actually *have* an abortion. I am very pleased when men say that women have more of a say in abortion policy. I like men who don’t think it’s silly that I want to keep my name if I ever get married and don’t bullshit me about it being ‘nice for a family to have the same name!’ I am hot for men who understand that it’s not a battle and it’s not man VS woman.
I am very hot for it not being a battle.
I am hot for men who understand that periods are just a fact of my existence, and are nothing to be grossed out by. I am attracted to sympathetic nods of solidarity when a week is lost to cramps and hysterical sobbing. I am turned on by guys who don’t think women are just naturally ‘more emotional’ when debating. I am very, very hot for men who know women can be just as funny as other men.
I am hot for men who accept that they can’t tell me what to do with my uterus.
I am also very hot indeed on men who aren’t just saying things to impress me. I am very into the idea of debating, of discussing and in being talked to like a grown up. I don’t like guys who roll their eyes when I say ‘I’m a feminist’. It does not make me hot for them when they scoff and go ‘of course I think women are equal- I’m just not a feminist.’ This is okay for them to say- There is hope for them. In a culture of free speech, it is okay with being critical of feminism- heck, I have my own problems with some aspects of feminist theory under the big umberella of ideas that is ‘FEMINISM’ with a captial F. It is okay for them to not call themselves feminist.
I am hot for respect. I am well hot for good humour.
But I am so hot for men who say they are feminists.
I am so hot for feminist men.
Niamh ‘I am also hot for cardigans’ Keoghan
Oh London 2012. You have yet to officially begin and already you provide me with this splendor. I’m still going to be very disappointed if David Tennant dressed as the tenth doctor doesn’t light the Olympic flame.
Woke up at about 12 noon, as summer holidaying students are wont to do
Checked twitter on phone, only to find this lovely article surmising how Republican Party Presidential candidate is getting on with his campaign’s trip to London. Supposedly manufactured to showcase the candidate’s diplomatic relation skillz, all it’s been so far is an utter and complete shambles. A HILARIOUS shambles. Imagine if you will a guest coming into your home and very loudly proclaiming your dinner is a badly planned disaster and they’re unsure how dessert is going to turn out. That’s pretty much how Romney’s been conducting himself. I don’t think it’s very wise to sass your hosts about their big huge international sporting event the day before it starts, as if anyone gives a shit what you think about it…
‘There are a few things that were disconcerting… The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials – that obviously is not something which is encouraging.’
My immediate reaction to this was ‘what a cunt.’ This sort of bullshit goes beyond any of my personal beef with Romney’s policies- He just sounds like an ignorant, self important arsehole. Doing the rounds today is an extract from his 2010 book (Mitt Romney has a book, Katie Price has a book… I feel so sub par) Where Romney basically says England isn’t really very important and nobody likes it much. Oh and it only escaped the Nazis because it’s an Island. Sneaking fucking England, riding on the glory of being an island…
At this point (Around 12:07 PM) I’m still lying in bed with a massive grin on my face. It’s the sort of grin you get when somebody is being self important and nobody is buying it. I cheered in triumph when I heard David Cameron’s back-Sass to Romney
We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.
Take THAT, Salt Lake City!
I never thought I’d be rooting for Cameron in anything but compared to Romney he’s a socialist icon. When you are more elitist and arsey than David fucking Cameron, you need to stop at once and reassess your goals. Romney seems to have staggered into the UK on a great wave of self important arrogance, one that he has no real power to back up with. Say what you want about George W Bush and his many gaffes, at least he was an actual head of state with nukes and an army and some reason for people to listen to him. Romney’s just a rich idiot running for election- it’s like Dana popping over on a state visit to the Olympics OH GOD I want to see Dana on a state visit right now.
When you seem more pompous and silly than Borris Johnson you REALLY have to reassess your goals, and even the fluffy haired mayor of London got his tuppence ha’penny in against Romney slagging off London. But really I have to ask, what on earth was Rom nom thinking? He was a key organising force behind the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City Utah, but are the two things comparable? Beyond the two events being major international sporting events under the olympic banner, I can’t see them having much in common logistically- At least not enough to justify Romney getting on his high horse about it. Extra points for getting Londoners riled up about the Olympics at last.
My favourite thing about this isn’t actually the reveal that he met with the head of MI6 (something he’s not supposed to say), but his clumsy naming of EVERY SINGLE CONFLICT ZONE around the world. That must have been a very long chat, to have discussed the problems and challenges faced by each of those regions- To even begin explaining about most of them in the most scant details would take a while. I know he’s sound biting but it’s just so false and smarmy.
I don’t know why, I just like seeing arrogant idiots flapping in and making tits of themselves. There’s a sort of Schadenfreude at work here. I don’t think it’ll be particularly damaging to Rom Nom’s presidential aspirations- Casually brushing off the gaffes one of his advisers basically told they don’t give a crap what the UK thinks, they only care about voters back in America so THERE, we’re taking our ball and going HOME. At every turn Romney seems to make a faux paus- Forgetting Ed Milliband’s name and calling him ‘Mister Leader’ as if he’s the despotic head of some backwater communist dictatorship, or revealing he met with the head of MI6, a meeting that was supposed to be kept secret. He’s like a small child bumbling through an adults carefully planned dinner party.
My new fave quote is from another of Rom Nom’s advisers, speaking of US-British ties-
‘We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.’
All I can say is that by half past noon, I was a very entertained girl indeed.
Niamh ‘I’m trying to make Rom Nom happen’ Keoghan