Tag Archives: feminism

What’s going on?!

A lot has changed in the world since I was writing about the Maidan revolution, Putin’s Invasion of Crimea and hadn’t heard of George Soros. From where I’m standing, everything looks very very different now, so I thought I’d say a word about some of the biggest things to come out of the last 5 years.

Fake News

Politicians, as we all know, have been lying since the dawn of time. Blair and Bush both knew there were no WMDs in Iraq, Clinton definitely did “have sexual relations with that woman” and Hitler’s Lieutenant Göring probably burned the Riechstag.

Believe it or not, although it’s an easy segue, I’m not just talking about Trump. The list of lies he’s told isn’t getting any shorter, but there’s plenty of alternative facts flying around from elsewhere too. Here’s an example of NBC News apparently doing a bit of “sexing up” of their own; framing George Zimmerman (who shot an unarmed black man) as racially motivated. Later they claimed it was a “mistake” or, as the Washington Post – themselves no strangers to a bit of post-hoc editing – called it, a “screw up“. Come on guys, no-one believes you.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to make of it. On the one hand, the mess we’re in is a great incentive for people like you and me to start taking deep, personal responsibility for what we believe, and what we say about it. On the other, does anyone actually know what’s real anymore? Is anything ‘actually real’?! Even science’s peer review process is apparently corrupt. Are we descending into some kind of relativistic hell where I can not only identify as a cat, but also force people to let me pee in their gardens?

Speaking of which:

Identity Politics

Identity is a complex issue

I feel like in 2014, people knew how to disagree with each other without it getting cringy. Today, though, you only have to mention something like “maybe too much immigration isn’t such a great thing” or “maybe we should treat paedophilia as an illness not a crime” and, depending on who you roll with, all hell breaks loose.

In the wake of #meToo it’s become somehow personal and I now get accused of “speaking from privilege” when I talk about subjects like feminism, gender, race and equality. I get it: In the Global North, white men have occupied positions of power for a long long time. Many aspects of the culture are very difficult for people who are not white, male or straight. But let me put it like this:

The world we’re living in right now is tough for everyone. You think all those white, male CEOs are happy? Tell that to Martin Senn, former boss of Zurich Insurance who shot himself at his family home after leaving a note addressed “to Whom it May Concern”. Or any of the hundreds of others each year who do the same. Yes there are difficulties that affect one group more than another: each group, each person, in fact, has a story.

To all the people out there already formulating objections, let me ask you a question: Are you saying that certain groups of people have it worse than others? If yes, how do you know that it’s worse for your chosen group(s)?

I can’t put it better than Georgia Democrat and 2020 Vice-Presidential hopeful Stacey Abrams when she says:

…what we often refer to as “identity politics” simply acknowledges that people who do not share that ‘normative’ identity of white maleness have entered the political fray and have brought with them the complexity of their experiences…

I’m a straight woman who believes in the identity politics of the LGBTQ community because they have different experiences than I do… my responsibility is to say “I understand the constraints that you face…”

If you’re not doing this, even for someone you perceive as “privileged”, I think you’re part of the problem.


You know, maybe it started with Obama. He was someone we could relate to… True, in the end he dropped more bombs than Bush, oversaw the biggest assault on privacy the world has ever known (much of it illegal), broke his promise to close Guantanamo Bay and carried out thousands of extra-judicial killings (yes, thousands). But he spoke so beautifully

In the UK – a little earlier in fact, we had New Labour, then… well… a gap… then Brexit, and now… err… this:

In the rest of Europe there was Pim Fortuyn, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Unidas Podemos in Spain and AfD in Germany. Then, suddenly, it was everywhere. Yes this is populism alright, albeit racist, charismatic, radical and/or speaking latin depending on your preference. Welcome to the future.

What I don’t really understand is why the bureaucrats, technocrats, neocons etc, don’t get it. All of this is coming from the same place: we’re fed up with numbers, targets, trickle-down economics and all. We want to talk to a human!

People on the Move

In 2017 the number of people estimated to be living outside their country of birth was 258 million, with 40 million more internally displaced. These are record highs.

Migration and immigration are facts of life for all of us in Europe now, and a key political issue almost everywhere in the Global North. It’s a complex situation. There are a lot of ‘push’ factors: Climate change, poverty, persecution, injustice, war; and pull factors too, mostly around hope for a better life. In a lot of cases, traffickers are involved: the global economy profits some $150 billion a year from forced labour, and privately funded NGOs are now wading in as well.

Resistance to immigration sits on a continuum from the outright racist, to more nuanced arguments about values, culture and economy, which won’t go away unless they’re acknowledged and addressed directly.

In a different way, and for different, but related reasons, people are getting out on to the streets in protest, too, even in England. In most places, they’re not getting a warm reception:

Have a look at the second video if you want a shock…

…often to the extent that the police themselves are breaking the law. This is the first time I’ve seen mobilisation of so many people all over the world for so many disparate reasons. Climate change, too, has never looked like such an important issue as it does now.

The Rise of AI

In October 2015, AlphaGo, a computer program created by DeepMind beat a world-class human player at the board game Go. It marked a turning point in the history of AI technology, showing that software might be able to perform better than humans, even in areas where we use intuition. It was the first major triumph of an emerging technology known as deep learning.

Since then, there’s been a deluge of speculation along the lines of WHAT IF MACHINES TAKE OVER THE WORLD!! Which usually ends in discussions about the “technological singularity” – the point where we lose control of our machine creations:

Robot abuse is not cool guys. Machines have feelings too.

The signs are it’s a not that close, but then again, that’s probably what we would think, even if it was just around the corner.

Ok that’s it for now. See you next time!

Cover image by Ilovetheeu 1896 via Wikipedia

Girl Power-Cut

Has anybody seen that piece doing the rounds on facebook: “Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels”? Someone sent it to my girlfriend recently saying how much it reminded them of her. They were kind to say so… I think. (For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a link to the original text, and the blog of the author Adi Zarsadias, here)

That said, of all the dubious post-feminist writing that I’ve seen, it’s exactly this kind of swaggering, narrow-minded, sexist hypocrisy-as-cultural-comment that I find the most dissapointing; I’ll tell you why:

The biggest myth surrounding modern feminism, the easiest defence against it proffered by every beer-swilling ‘man’s man’ in the local pub and the one that true devotees to its cause have the most work to overcome in the arena of our cultural understanding is the myth that so-called feminists are nothing more than bra-burning man-haters, and should be treated as such, especially if they refuse to shave their armpits. What a lot of rubbish. Feminism is not, or should not be, about bringing men down to the level of oppression from which every generation of women since pre-Hellenic times has been trying to escape. No. Feminism is about equality of women with men. Not sameness, not superiority, equality. Freedom of choice, freedom of action, freedom of thought. Freedoms that men have enjoyed for millennia. It has very little to do with a greater or lesser quantity of underarm hair.

Yemeni women burn their veils in an anti-government protest

To highlight this, insofar as a message can be disentangled from the alternating layers of saccharine-sweetness and sheer brutality of the piece in question, and others of its type, is, I think, one of the intentions of its author. Since she is not specific, I make the assumption that Zarsadias intends to talk about heterosexual relationships, I think it’s reasonably clear that she does. As such, despite what I see as her strong feminist intentions, there are several turns of phrase that, particularly as a man dating a ‘girl who travels’, leave me cold:

Firstly there’s the villian of the piece, the prospective boyfriend who, representing all mankind has nothing to offer but material wealth, self-centred conversation and a yoke. No wonder she wants to get away from him. I don’t really feel I need to state the obvious and say that there are plenty of us out there with more ideas than money and more time for others than for ourselves, so much as to highlight what a terrible own goal for feminist objectives this portrayal of man is. What Zarsadias has done here is to restate the age-old stereotype of man-as-provider and rule-maker, woman as passive consumer. To do so as part of an analysis of the bias in gender-roles is powerful. To do so unconsciously, as a simple statement of ‘how things really are’, is merely to re-enforce the myth. Furthermore, to the man in the pub, this empty caracature of masculinity is solid gold. The author sounds just like a man-hater.

Further grist to the anti-feminist mill is the suggestion that “[She] won’t care whether you travel with her or not. She will forget to check in with you when she arrives at her destination.” Blimey. What a bitch. Maybe I’ve missed something. Maybe, for the travelling generation at least, actual real love is finally dead. Perhaps the best any of us can expect now is to be tolerated by our partners for the sake of what we offer them, to be dropped, of course, like a discarded cellphone when something better, more exciting comes along. Is this what we mean by freedom? Is this what women fought and died for in the 20’s? I hope not. And consider, finally, how we would view a man who behaved in this way. With scorn, no doubt, and pity for the girl who waits for him.


“She will never need you.” We are told. This is the saddest thing of all. What a cold and miserable life. How lonely it must be never to need another person. To be so goddam independent that no intimacy, no support whatsoever is necessary! Not only is this a myth – the number of times that my own strong, beautiful, capable independent travelling girl has called me from thousands of miles away in tears because something has gone wrong is equalled only by the number of times I’ve done the same thing to her- it’s an extremely destructive myth.  The young women who, judging by some of the comments it receives, identify strongly with this piece, aspire to be percieved as strong, free and independent as, no doubt they already are. But Zarsadias allows no room for weakness in her descriptions. Her heroine is perfect, flawless even in her flaws -nothing wrong with that of course- but (here’s the rub) she is completely self contained. An ice-queen if you will. Many role models for women in popular culture are portrayed in this way: Jennifer Anniston, Angelina Jolie, even J.K. Rowling are self-made super mums who need noone. What’s a real girl to do then, if, god forbid, she actually feels something? Actually comes up against a situation that she can’t handle by herself? Craves intimacy, understanding, love from another, dare I even say it, from a man? This piece, and all the thousands of words in a similar vein produced every day in magazines, blogs and gossip columns presents yet another hurdle, in fact, for women, and men for that matter,  in expressing vulnerablility (a perfectly natural experience) in a world that is increasingly chaotic and increasingly confused about what it expects from them. Perhaps though, as a man, I speak out of turn.

As a man, however, I am finally and self-righteously enraged by the closing statement which exhorts me, in tones I well remember from my (not very) errant childhood, “… and if you should unintentionally fall in love with one,” (this rare species of ‘travelling girl’) “don’t you dare keep her. Let her go.” What -an’ it please you ma’am- if I want to come too?!

In short, I think this piece is well intentioned but has gone badly awry. Above all else it reflects confusion amongst (particularly young, heterosexual) women and within ‘feminine culture’ as a whole about their relationships with men, and with themselves. Cultural objects of this kind are full of images that paint women as impossibly perfect, unbearably isolated and men as money-grabbing infants. Whilst you could argue that some kind of payback is necessary for the years of oppression that women have suffered, whilst you could say that to gain true equality it’s necessary somewhat to overstate your case, I think this is short-sighted. Not only does this portrayal of women create unrealistic expectations amongst women themselves, it provides easy ammunition for would-be saboteurs of the feminist cause. In order to succeed, we should stand for equality alone, and leave the squabbling for the kids in the playground.