Weird Feminism: Conversations in Modern Feminism that Make Me Uncomfortable – Part 1

As a single girl, if a man couldn’t show me his two penises, he was going to have to explain to me in words of two syllables or less why he needed two women. It was as simple as that – not about female solidarity or empowerment.

Beauty Privilege

I’m always tempted to dismiss pretentious-sounding phrases that I see on social media and don’t quite understand like ‘beauty privilege’ and ‘sexual capital’. However, attempting to write dismissive articles about said phrases has forced me to consider if I’m being 100% honest with myself.

Take beauty politics for instance; it’s okay to like being attractive. It’s equally okay not to care about being attractive. The value placed on women being attractive is ridiculous. It’s unfair and quite frankly, in some cases, plain racist that some groups of people are considered, by default, to be more attractive than others (God gave each race different physical virtues and humans, in their perversity, relegated those virtues to a league table). But if as feminists, we don’t care if we are considered attractive and fight for opportunities not to be dependent on our physical appearances, then beauty politics loses its power over us. Right? Wrong (apparently).

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Why? Beauty privilege. Society doesn’t just label us attractive or not and leave us to nurse our smug/hurt feelings in peace. It rewards and punishes us accordingly. One big way is in the area of employment and therefore money. From people who want to pursue careers in show business to opportunities within more mundane career paths – attractive people and especially attractive women seemingly win.

I say seemingly win because they are made to pay a price for that victory. There is definitely some resentment and hostility towards attractive women as men and society in general exert themselves in the vital task of ensuring that pretty women don’t get too big for their boots and remain humble. As demonstrated by the Weinstein débâcle, sexually harassed attractive women seem to receive less sympathy from certain elements of society.

Another example is in the area of romantic love, partnership and marriage. Marriage is not an achievement in that lack of marriage is not a failure to achieve or be a complete woman. However, many people eventually hope to find that one person they can partner up with in life (and building a relationship can seem like hard work!). Women especially are simultaneously rejected for not being attractive enough to boost a man’s status or if they are attractive are made to prove that they have a brain (what living mammal doesn’t have a br..never mind) and are generally regarded with high suspicion.

Beauty privilege and, to some extent, sexual capital (not this nonsense about how ‘sex is power’ and how great it is to have a man brought to his knees by your sheer sexual force which is just regressive and a false victory) means that failing to be attractive, which you may not have a lot of control over, can have some influence over getting the basics in life.

Black women moan about white women’s beauty privilege causing me (along with our constant bothering of anyone who dares to write anything critical about Beyoncé) to despair a little. I would love for us to concentrate on what, to my mind, are the real issues and I hate the fact that we look so damn needy for validation. However, I can’t say that I don’t see their point. A white friend of mine eschews beauty politics. If you tell her that  her young daughter is beautiful, she will give you a blank stare. If you try to talk to her about losing weight after a pregnancy, you will get the same reaction. She once blasted me on Facebook (the shame!) for praising Kim Kardashian for her post-pregnancy figure (North not Saint).

That is her absolute right and I would give anything to reach her level of nonchalance about beauty. The luxury of not despairing for at least 15 minutes ( to 15 hours) a day because I can’t shift that stone! However as a white woman in the UK, she already has a certain amount of beauty privilege that she is perhaps oblivious to. People see her as default femininity and whether she accepts it or not she gets whatever privilege (and disadvantages) that derive from that. In light of that, I’m a little kinder to my sisters who get hung up on beauty politics. Rightly or wrongly (wrongly), sex and beauty sells and not only has someone decided women have to be the ones to predominantly sell it; they’ve decided that a sizeable majority of black women can’t even have access to whatever financial or other advantages flow from this flawed system.

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Feminism and Capitalism

Speaking of beauty and money, when people say we have to dismantle capitalism in order for feminism to be established what the *&^% are they on about? This came up in this segment (https://twitter.com/AJUpFront/status/923231917406687232) of an Al-Jazeera interview where Meghan Murphy and Jamia Wilson were asked whether they think Beyonce is a feminist icon.

Having read a lot of Murphy’s work, I starting feeling tense even before she opened her mouth as she had the twitchy, unsmiling demeanour of someone who was getting ready to announce that Beyonce’s brand of feminism was pure BS. However, she surprised me when she simply said, to summarise, that Beyonce’s feminism was suspect because it was entrenched in capitalism and that it was not possible to be a feminist and a capitalist at the same time. Wilson, a self-confessed Beyoncé fan, responded that she agrees with the need to dismantle capitalism.

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If I actually stop to think about it, I can understand how capitalism props up sexism, in particular, and a lot of other inequalities. There’s money to be made in pressurising women to obsess about beauty, youth and sex appeal, getting people to think that men and women are so radically different that we need books, seminars and retreats to decipher each other, teaching women how to keep your man or on the darker side, the sex industry which is based on the idea that women can be bought, sold and consumed. In fact, if the choice, beauty obsessed, sex positive type of feminism is not an invention of capitalism, it definitely is a gold mine for consumerism as aspiring to look like your favourite pop/film/instagram star is now not only girly idolising but also apparently empowering. In parts of the world where capitalism results in abject poverty, it’s often the women who are the most vulnerable to the worst of the suffering.

So, I’m not confused when people link inequality to capitalism; I’m confused because despite this apparent need to ‘dismantle capitalism’ I can’t see any effort, which is sufficient to make the slightest dent in capitalism anywhere in the Western world (or does dismantle not mean what I think it does?) to do so.  Sure, people like me would rather a more socialist form of capitalism but I haven’t really noticed people doing anything other than talking about how bad it is and attending the odd rally. Neither Murphy or Wilson looked entirely untouched by capitalism in that interview; if I may make a judgment based on their physical appearance.

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Take me for example; I don’t consider myself to be a leader in the capitalist system. I don’t own my own business or any shares. I merrily collect a salary and continue to consume. Now that I have kids, the endless consumption doesn’t even seem that pleasurable. I may remember to question the ethical origins of the thing I’m consuming but that doesn’t happen very often. I don’t work as hard as some (take Kevin Hart for instance whose aggressively capitalised and comprehensive Twitter bio states “My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!! That pretty much sums me up!!! Everybody Wants To Be Famous But Nobody Wants To Do The Work”) but I think I’m making a small contribution to society, through my employment.

I know lots of feminists. I haven’t seen any evidence that they are fighting capitalism in any kind of organised way that has any chance of succeeding. The most I can say is that some of them oppose (or mildly disapprove of) the worst excesses of capitalism. I don’t even really know of any truly non-capitalist country that has been a success story. I’ve always thought feminism is a doctrine that should be promoted in any context but perhaps naivete like mine has bred the kind of thinking that says the obtaining of money and power by a woman is in itself a feminist act, even if that money and power was obtained by sexist and patriarchal means. That would make the female owner of a brothel a feminist because she has found a way of making lots of money.

Watch this space. I’ve already started gathering intel on the issue.

Feminism and the Other Woman

One of the most fantastically stupid threads by a feminist I saw was in response to a nutter threatening to display a woman’s naked pictures on Twitter because the woman allegedly sent them to her husband. There is a significant risk that the first woman was unhinged as the second woman denied everything. The first woman’s account was eventually reported and shut down by Twitter and that was that. Storm in a tea-cup.

The thread contained such a  perfect mixture of stupidity, feminist-speak and truth that as I stared at it blankly and blinking, the only response I could muster was not to press the like button. Imagine that. A few weeks later I’ve figured out what my response should have been and I live for the day when she retweets the thread.

Firstly, the thread. It regarded the situation – which would have been trying to instigate a sexual relationship with a married man by sending him naked photographs if the whole thing hadn’t been a figment of Woman 1’s over-fertile imagination – as an example of how married women expect society in general to take responsibility for and protect their marriages and labelled that expectation as entitlement. Basically expecting people not to try and sleep with your husband is patriarchal entitlement.

I did agree with the part that said the solution was to address your husband and not to attack the ‘other woman’ but apart from this the message in the thread is cobblers. It was a disgrace even to the flakiest choice feminist and essentially shores up the false idea that feminism means doing anything you want and the consequences are always someone else’s fault. It doesn’t fight patriarchy; it plays into the idea that women are illogical creatures incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.

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It is not unreasonable for women to expect people to respect their relationships or marriages by not pursuing relationships with their other halves. The line comes when, if an affair happens, they go after the other women instead of addressing their husbands or partners, often under the guise that men can’t help themselves.

It is disrespectful to pursue a relationship with a ‘taken’ man but ultimately it is the man’s responsibility to reject the offer. I could imagine having a word (even jokingly) with both of them or finding another way to assert my presence if someone was openly flirting with my husband at a party but I would never take her aside and warn her not to mess with my man. That’s my husband’s job.

Sadly it is probably more common for married men to do the chasing. The narrative that has single women ‘stealing’ husbands, when not only do husbands allow themselves to be ‘stolen’ they are often the ones offering themselves up and attempting to break down the resistance of single women, is dishonest.

Another underlying issue is the divide between married and single woman in some cultures and societies. In these societies, the former automatically receive a higher status while the reaction to the latter ranges from pity to suspicion. Whether or not a woman wants to be single, there is pressure on her to feel like a failure when in reality finding a life partner is often just a matter of luck, especially with the high expectations that come with romantic relationships in terms of compatibility, overwhelming love, endless spells of uninterrupted happiness and fabulous social media photographs and updates.

In that situation, which can lead to bizarre behaviour like avoiding single friends once you get married, isn’t it incredibly naïve to expect loyalty from that single woman in the name of some contrived feminine solidarity which you yourself have failed to show to her? Wouldn’t, in fact, a more natural survivalist response of a single woman striving to meet society’s expectations be either to try and aspire to your marital status, by obtaining any man she can, including your husband (we’re still in the alternate universe where men are powerless in the face of even the slightest sexual advance) or the level the playing field by doing all she can to interfere in your relationship?

I think this is the frustration the author of the thread was projecting, rather than, as she implied, saving feminists from marriage which she described as the last tool in toolbox of oppression against women. Or perhaps she was angrily married and in love and frustrated that she was denied the opportunity to fight the good fight within what she thinks is the appropriate relationship status. I joke but I often torture myself with similar thoughts. Am I only a continuing to be a feminist because I’m happily married and ‘safe’? If, at 42, I wasn’t married, would I abandon all feminist ideals in my hunt to the death for someone who was willing to marry me?

Having said the above, if you are too evolved to accept that it’s immoral to sleep with a married man, then please understand that it is one of the least feminist things you can do. However woke your tweets are or sexually graphic your blog is, you are still operating on the basis that a man deserves the attention of two women – a modern day version of polygamy which includes dragging one man between two women and often fighting, resenting and hating the other woman simply because of a gutless codpiece that can’t make up his mind.  And guess who is the beneficiary of all this moral mind-bending?  Yup!  You guessed it!  The man again….

As a single girl, if a man couldn’t show me his two penises, he was going to have to explain to me in words of two syllables or less why he needed two women. It was as simple as that – not about female solidarity or empowerment. I was just too much of an angry, mouthy bitch to endure a man whining about how even though he was in a relationship with someone “he was weelly weelly unhappy because she didn’t understand him or tweat him wight”. In the interest of full and fair disclosure, it’s not like many married men approached me when I was single.

In part 2 of ‘Weird Feminism’: Tracy Treads Trepidatiously Into The Terrifying And Treacherous Terrain Between Terfs And Trans (If she dares. ONLY IF SHE DARES…..!). Before that,  some comic relief (still on about feminism though) in ‘Simi vs Third Wave Feminism’.

Friday 13th Spooky and Grim Worldviews Round-up: Everything’s Connected, the Dove Ad and Weinstein and Our Inability To Directly Address the Male Wrongdoer

Everything’s Connected

I think we all get irritated by mass surprise at bad things which should be blatantly obvious.  I’m just beginning to figure out that sometimes the surprise isn’t genuine – it’s supposed to show that what they are surprised at is so clearly wrong that, rather than being angry at the person doing it, they are astonished that the person had the bad judgment to do or support it. It’s what is encompassed in the expression “I’m surprised and disappointed in you for so and so.”

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This piece is partly about the surprise at Tiwa Savage’s views on gender politics – firstly saying that yes women are discriminated against in various industries, but if women want something badly enough, they should be prepared to work harder than men and not waste time complaining. I initially found it difficult to comprehend that point of view but I suppose she means everyone knows that gender bias exists so if you choose to go after something, why bend everyone’s ear about how unfair it is? Just accept the reality or do something else with your life.

I don’t want to waste too much time setting out why I find the above advice wrong. A big part of feminism and equalities is about not simply accepting institutional unfairness or, as it’s more commonly known, prejudice (why don’t, for instance, black people simply accept that they make policemen and women nervous and just be still when they are apprehended for goodness’ sake!?). Her statement also ignores the fact that people can’t just choose not to work or earn money.

Incidentally, what happens to women who don’t want to work or who may find it hard for the very reason she mentioned (and also things like sexual harassment)? They are labelled lazy, gold diggers who deserve everything that men dish out to them and their contribution to the home is simultaneously ignored and taken for granted. Follow a popular radio host who goes by the Twitter name of Cinderella Man if you have the similar views to mine and want to spend an evening tearing out your hair in this order – head, armpit, pubic – and you’ll see what I mean.

She went on to say that while it is okay for women to pursue successful careers, they need to realise men are the heads of the family and submit to them accordingly as men and women are not equal at least not “in the household”. I also disagree with this fundamentally but I find myself more annoyed at the outraged surprised tweets about what she said.

Firstly, if you’ve read any of Tiwa’s interviews about gender, you would know on what side of the equality fence she stands by now. I wouldn’t describe myself as a Tiwa fan but I admire her music, singing and song writing skills enough to read the odd article about her (and, really, who didn’t fall in love with her at the UK X-Factor auditions, apart from apparently her husband who spent quite a bit of time taunting her about her appearance at the auditions).

When asked about sexual harassment in the music industry, she acknowledged it existed but said she was able to avoid it because her manager, who was also her partner, essentially protected her from it (https://www.bellanaija.com/2016/04/tiwa-savage-reveals-how-she-overcame-sexual-temptations-in-the-nigerian-music-industry/).

Not a word about how unjust it is that women have to suffer it. Basically, just get yourself a man who is willing to protect you and you won’t have to worry.

I recall reading an interview (which I can’t now find), prior to her sensational separation and apparent reconciliation, where she states that she considers her husband to be the head of her home. The difference in the recent interview is that she applied the principle to women generally and not just herself. I’m not particularly bothered by that aspect of her statement. I think a lot of my feminist principles should apply to all women not just me. I don’t think feminism is just about supporting women’s rights to make choices (although that freedom to choose is a central tenet of feminism) especially if that choice is steeped in and borne out of centuries of sexist indoctrination. I think that’s how a lot of people feel about their values – however pro-choice they may try to sound to avoid appearing illiberal and inflexible.

During Tiwa’s infamous post-separation interview, where she cited all the terrible things her husband did, she was asked whether he was physically abusive. She said he wasn’t. She also said something like ‘I’m not going to sit here and play the victim and claim that he beat me’. To me, this almost implies that someone who does recount her experience of domestic violence is angling for sympathy and milking her victim status (or just simply lying).

In fact, Tiwa’s views on marriage could be detected throughout the entire interview.   She appeared less outraged that her husband was chronically and openly unfaithful to her than she was that he was unwilling to contribute financially to their home and the upbringing of their son. This demonstrates how important his role as breadwinner (even though she was earning far more than he was) and head of the family is to her. Also not only did she go back to him, majority of Nigerians advised that she should do just that or expressed hope that God would heal their marriage as if his infidelity and appalling behaviour was inflicted on them by some unconnected third party.

In the light of the above, I think it’s disingenuous for people to pretend to be shocked at her views especially when we know how many Nigerians view marriage in this way. It’s everywhere – from the pastor preaching about disqualifying a future wife because she can’t cook to the fact that many future wives will be expected to kneel before their husbands, in their traditional marriage ceremony, to show that they will serve and obey him.

I think because Tiwa has spent some time living in the US and the UK people expect her to be more liberal about women and wives’ roles. She most certainly isn’t but there are numerous Pentecostal churches in the UK that teach what she said in that interview and even in the good old Church of England, you can still choose, as a woman, to vow to obey your husband. I fundamentally disagree with her but I am not shocked. I don’t even think she’s mad or bad for these commonly held views.

However, another type of surprise that irritates me more intensely is from people who hold these sexist views and then are shocked when bad things happen to women. You know, people who practice the big 4 anti-feminism pillars – Devaluation, Demonisation, Dehumanisation and Objectification of women (throw in Stereotyping for good measure) – then are shocked when the natural consequences of these are played out in society.

Those who think a woman is inherently worth less than a man and are surprised when Boko Haram buy, sell and use young school girls as if they were disposeable property. People who write entire catalogues of music demonising women as unreasonable witch like creatures who will suck you dry just for the heck of it and wonder why they have to appeal for support for domestic violence charities. People who sing/rap/joke that you are entitled to reject a woman’s ‘no’ if you (a) buy her food (b) flirt with her more than once at a party and she flirts back (c) see her wearing a short skirt (d) tell her in a reality show that you like her and then she has the temerity to fall asleep while you are in possession of an erect penis and are shocked when young teenage girls are subject to extreme and horrific sexual violence. People who state that domestic violence is bad but if a woman provokes her husband, she shouldn’t be surprised if he reacts then are themselves surprised when a girl is burnt to death by her boyfriend.

Terrible things start with questionable mindsets. Just a word of warning. Everything’s connected.

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Missing Something With Dove

Dove recently had to apologise for an advert. I was aware of the social media outcry before I ever got a chance to see the advert which has no doubt now been withdrawn. It showed a black woman lifting off her shirt to reveal a white woman. Further investigation has shown that the white woman lifts off her shirt to reveal a Latina or Asian woman. The advert was for hydrating cream.

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Twitter – from prominent celebrities to my favourite tweeps (I’ve definitely decided that ‘tweeps’ is a word) –  descended on Dove with some energy. Ava Duvernay and Gabrielle Union (otherwise known as people a lot brighter than me) asked what Dove could possibly have been thinking of when they approved the advert. Gospel artist Lecrae fired off a snippy tweet which said something like ‘I know you don’t need my 2 cents, but guess what? You’re never getting it again’. The advert was compared to racist posters from the bad old days for bleaching creams, soaps and potions showing black kids getting rid of their ‘dirty’ skin by bleaching themselves into lighter, happier, foolishly grinning children.

One singer tweeted ‘What bothers me is that the black woman agreed to this. Am I missing something?’  Well, plainly, yes. Although I find it difficult to explain how odd it is (and why) that her first reaction would be not against the institutional and corporate racism the advert apparently represented (if you agree that the advert was racist) but against the black woman who modelled in the advert and whose knowledge, circumstances and control of the final product she knows nothing of.

I however might be guilty of missing something bigger. I am not sure I fully accept that the advert was as racist as has been suggested. The outcry was about the implication that the black woman shed her undesirable skin to become a white woman. Then came the revelation of the Latina woman.

I’m not sure what the intention was but I find it hard to believe that in 2017 (even with all the white supremacy horror stories emerging from  Europe and the US ) Dove, or whoever manages their advertising campaigns, really intended to show that black was bad and white was you got after the improvement that came from using their product. No doubt someone in the company should have anticipated the response  that would be evoked by the image of a person removing black skin to become white but I think this shows more than anything else not only a lack of diversity at the company but of any kind of ability to judge the impact of their campaigns especially in light of complaints about their recent adverts.

So the advert was possibly ill-thought out in that someone failed to see all the possible angles but would the outrage have been avoided if the order of the models were reversed? Or is that what I’m missing – the subconscious arranging of the models? Also, even if you leave out the third model, what were they advertising that would change black skin to white? Was it bleaching cream? Or was it about feeling so unattractive that you may as well be black?

So the initial reason for my scepticism is the idea that any company who wants to make money in this day and age would show an advert with such a blatantly racist message. But then, Dove’s apology confused me. Why not just say what I’ve said above – ‘Didn’t you see the other model, dummy? What you are accusing us of doesn’t make sense as we clearly don’t sell any kind of skin lightening product? And by the way, how stupid do you think we are?’ Are they completely clueless and scrambling around even now trying to find out what was wrong with the advert? Is someone at this moment, in a late night meeting, tentatively putting up his hand to ask “Do you think they are angry because we pulled her hair back too tight?”.

Their vague reference to ‘missing the mark’ makes me think they either don’t take any race complaint seriously and simply patronise with apologies or there is something more offensive about the advert that I’ve completely failed to grasp. Perhaps I have a cooned-out blind spot when it comes to Dove. I didn’t even notice the ‘normal to dark skin’ gaffe until someone pointed it out in a blog post.

Why can’t we address the male criminal?

The recounting of sexual harassment committed by Harvey Weinstein is scary and depressing. Although we all know about ‘the casting couch’ and the fact that Hollywood and all of showbiz, a highly desired career destination for a lot of people, has the power and privilege to hold on to its sexist and sexually violent heritage more tightly than other industries. That heritage is evident with every creepy criminal that gets exposed, the fact that gratuitous nudity is required of actresses like an added tax,  that often times the only acceptable ‘fierceness’ from female pop stars is the sex positive, male-gaze benefitting, half naked, completely non-threatening kind from a woman or quite often teenage girl who ‘owns her own sexuality’ (whatever that means), it’s there when Rick Ross says that if he spends too much money on an upcoming star, he’ll be tempted to expect sex in return.

There are several imaginative reactions to it the Weinsten scandal and I was distressed by a tweet that blamed actresses, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, for not coming forward earlier and preventing the same abuse being repeated with younger women working in Hollywood. I shared the quick, strong disagreement with the tweet but it made me wonder, why we are so reluctant to directly address the male criminal or perpetrator when it comes to sexual crimes or just generally horrible things that are done to women? We discuss the women who are victims, the women who are not, the criminals’ significant others, look for ways to prevent the situation happening again, we theorise and hypothesise about sexist systems that allow these people to thrive but we rarely face the man squarely.

I have mad theories! Firstly, perhaps there’s almost not a lot to say to someone who’s been caught or admitted to doing something terrible. Even the most well-reasoned and articulated rant runs the risk of eliciting the response “Thanks very much for that. Can you now tell us something we don’t know?”.

I think the focus on what the victims did, did not and could have done comes not just from sexism but from the need to distinguish the circumstances of these crimes as a way of assuring ourselves that it couldn’t happen to us.   I’m not saying there’s no point taking in ever taking precautions or recognising signs but bad things, especially when they are propped up by institutional sexism, racism or any kind of prejudice or unfair system, can happen to anyone. The most effective protection is changing society. By immediately focusing on the victim, we are sticking our fingers in ears, shutting our eyes tightly and saying “It can’t happen to me! I don’t care! I don’t care! It can’t happen to me if I….”

This delusion that victims are somehow to blame or scrutinise for not protecting themselves and others and internalised sexism is perhaps what makes it much easier for me to focus on the female victims instead of the male wrongdoer – in this essay on Tiwa Savage and not Tee Billz and in previous pieces on Tina instead of Teddy Campbell, Hilary instead of Bill Clinton, Beyonce instead of Jay Z.

Everything’s connected. I told you.

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Worldviews Round-up: 6 October 2017: How Not to Be A Boy, How Tina Got Trumped, Divorce and the Real Head of the Marital Home

The head structure [for marriages] falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs.

Tina and Trump

A lot of people are being horrible about Tina Campbell and it’s all because of President Trump! The rumblings started when she posted a Facebook message shortly after the inauguration of the President earlier this year. It was an open letter which essentially said, although she hadn’t always agreed with Trump up until then, now that he’s president, she chooses to have faith that God can use him for the good of the United States. A simplistic approach, perhaps an infuriating one both for those who were vehemently opposed to Trump or for those who don’t have faith – we’re stuck with him now, lads, no point moaning, let’s hope for the best!

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What people objected to most was her declaration that she has chosen to “stand with Trump” but I understood this to mean despite his shortcomings and not to be an endorsement of those shortcomings. Yes, from a faith point of view, Christians ultimately rely on God and not on human beings. However, I do think we should try our damnedest to make sure the best and most just human structures are in place – for instance, try a lot harder than voting for Trump and hoping for the best.

In an interview last month with theRoot.com, she confirmed that she did indeed vote for Trump. She didn’t really like Clinton or Trump but she chose the latter because of some of his Christian views. Now that he’s in office (and cocking everything up massively – she didn’t say that!), she still chooses to pray for him rather than bash him.

Like I say, she’s receiving a lot of abuse and criticism on social media. The fairest basis of this abuse would appear to be that it is irresponsible to vote for someone who appears to be both incompetent and objectionable and say “But don’t worry, God will sort it out!”. Other people question her understanding of Christianity if she was convinced by Trump’s apparent faith . Still others think she has more sinister reasons for choosing Trump – which involve supporting some of his more controversial illiberal polices.

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Trump’s campaign from the start when I dismissed the idea of enough people being stupid enough to vote him in to when it became apparent that he had a fighting chance and it was too distressing for me to watch. It seemed obvious to me that he lacked the experience, competency and something else which some American politicians have labelled ‘statemanship’ to be a president. The latter relates to a certain lack of integrity and tact combined with an unhealthy vanity that made me think people would avoid voting for him to prevent the United States becoming a international joke. However, I obviously didn’t spend too much time researching this point and accepted my lack of understanding as to why he had a big following among the American people.

I wouldn’t have voted for him if I was American and I couldn’t at the time imagine anyone voting for him but it’s also true that I never imagined he would be as bad as he appears to be now. I thought a lot of his ‘eccentricities’ was posturing to make himself stand out from the average politician and that when he was elected, he would do things I didn’t approve of but not in such blundering ways. I also didn’t think he would follow through on some of his more controversial policies.

I can’t understand why Tina Campbell would vote for him but I can understand why she or anyone who voted for him would be surprised that he has carried out certain policies or sometimes behaved as bizarrely as he has. I suppose people also thought that if he was bad, the ‘system’ would protect most citizens. Clearly, he still has his supporters so some people must think he’s doing a good job.

I think the media (including the leftist media and social media) has to bear some of the blame for the success of Donald Trump. The problem is they villify anyone they don’t like with the same level of hysteria – from George Bush, to Mitt Romney and even Hilary Clinton herself when she was up against President Obama. It’s easy to see why Clinton wasn’t popular during the elections– her political career had taken a major bashing at least 3 separate times. First, due to irrational sexism, when it transpired that her husband was serially unfaithful to her and when she stood against Obama and then Bernie Sanders in the democratic primaries. Like the boy who cried wolf, when the press is justifiably outraged about someone, previous concerted attacks will mean that not enough people pay attention . They are now memes comparing Trump to Hitler. I still have hope that Trump won’t get as bad as Hitler but what will happen if an actual Hitler arrives (assuming such a person can sit side by side with a free press), what are they going to compare him or her to then?

As for Tina Campbell, if she did have to admit she voted for Trump (and that’s a big if. I have a few friends who voted for Brexit and their secret is safe with me), her best bet would have been to say ‘Look, I didn’t think he would be this bad. I’m now sorry I did it. I pray God helps out of this mess that we got ourselves into’ instead of tying herself into knots trying to defend her decision. Anyway she voted in California, I think, and Clinton took California so none of this is her fault. Anyway, I don’t care what none of y’all say I still love her (in my Kanye voice).

How Not To Be A Boy and the ‘D’ word

I’ve recently finished reading Rob Webb’s memoir/manifesto ‘How Not to Be A Boy’. It really is excellent and contains genius insights on the negative effects of the gender stereotyping on society. One of my favourite passages, discussing relationship self-help book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that exploded into our consciousness over 20 years ago, is this:

The slight downside to popular books about relationships is that all of them are wrong. Wrong because they all start from the premise of difference: that men and women are so fundamentally, innately, mentally and culturally different that they might as well be considered as two different species from two different planets. If you start from there, you give yourself permission to accept every stereotype you’ve ever heard about men and women. So books like the one mentioned – ….are there not to question the different expectations placed on men and women: they’re there to excuse and reinforce them, usually with a truckload of hokey metaphors and dodgy-looking science”(page 295)

I knew (even without reading it) that Men are from Mars book was crap! Now I have a well-articulated reason why (and why I’m stubbornly recalcitrant when someone starts a conversation or point with “Well what you have to understand, Tracy, is that men and women are different in that….” I bloody well do not have to understand anything of the sort! )

This article, however, is about something else in the book – how divorce changed Webb’s dad for the better. To summarise, Robert Webb’s father was not an atypical working class man in small town (well village really), 1970s and 80s England. Maybe he drank more or was more promiscuous than some but one gets the feeling that the town was not flooded with “New Man” types as they were termed in the 1980s. He was a working class hero who showed little regard for his home, wife and kids, often terrifying the latter.

Had Webb’s dad stayed married, would he have continued to violently discipline his sons and be completely useless around his home? Would he have turned his wife into a nervous mental wreck and drank himself to an early death? Instead he became this self-sufficient man who not only possessed physical domestic skills; he took on mental and emotional tasks domestic tasks. He could run a home! As feminists have been telling us for…well since that woman did that clever cartoon in the Guardian (just kidding forever!), running a home is so much more than handling one or two jobs around the house a day.

Personally I found the fact that he had put in place house rules when 17-year old Webb moved in a heart warming sign that he was a changed man. Also, later in life, he actually had the emotional intelligence and confidence to have a conversation with Webb about his sexuality.

Some Christian leaders, particularly in Nigeria, often denounce divorce as Satan’s plan for your marriage. Anything should be endured to avoid that colossal failure. This is not even about the adultery loophole – something which some Christians either ignore or view as a last resort (presumably after both of your legs have rotted away with gonorrhoea, otherwise you’re just not trying.).

I’ve heard the same sentiment repeated in the West. Fewer people will say to me that a woman or man should stay in a horrendous marriage or relationship but when they start citing the ills they blame on divorce or single motherhood (not on the underlying reasons for the same) – gang culture, violent or sociopathic youth, the drain on public funds – I can’t help but wonder what they are advocating the woman (or man) does in those circumstances.

It seems to me that marriage (and divorce) are not magic words or formulas. Clearly, the ideal that marriages should last forever can’t refer to marriages where one spouse is beating the other to a pulp, humiliating them with continuous infidelity, passing on STDs or abusing the kids. Clearly God didn’t mean for us to stick around through that.

Funnily enough, when I was younger and people told me repeatedly that marriage was hard, required compromise and sacrifice and I would have to be TOUGH and focused for my marriage to survive, I thought they were talking about the regular stuff. That is, two different people, most likely different personalities, coming together with their life experiences and baggage, struggling through life with its ups and downs – jobs, money or lack of, illnesses, kids, caring for elderly parents, the lot.

I knew how often my close friends pissed me off (and how often I annoyed them – something that I can’t really understand even today if I’m honest). I imagined that if you had to live with the same person for 30 to 50 years, you’re bound to take a deep breath once or three hundred times during that time period. I thought the ‘struggle’ was learning to handle conflict and hard times with love, patience and kindness.

Imagine my shock when I realised that what these fools were hinting at was that as a woman I should be prepared put up with my husband’s deliberate and calculated efforts to hurt me. I think, for me, that may be taking Christian literalism to the limit and beyond. Incidentally, the converse way these people found to irritate me was to tell me (with what my paranoid mind thinks is a hint of a threat in their voices) that, because my husband is not a dick, that I am very lucky indeed that I found a ‘good’ man. I find this additionally annoying because I think my husband is wonderful, BUT NOT BECAUSE HE MANAGES TO RESTRAIN HIMSELF FROM CHEATING ON AND BEATING ME. And not even because he shares the domestic load in the home that he lives in. This is no less than what is expected of me. But I’m lucky because Men are from Mars.

Marriage (in Nigeria): Head, shoulders, knees and toes

The issue of submission in marriage has come up again, this time in response to a singer stating that, while it’s acceptable for women to pursue success in their careers,  they need to realise that the man is the head of the home. The usual derision, via Twitter, has ensued. There is also a lot of support for her point of view with people asserting that no organisation or institution can function without a ruling head or quoting ‘God’s word’ (or Biblical text twisted and misinterpreted by patriarchal society – article loading on that one).

submissive

Feminists have expressed dismay questioning what makes a man qualified by default to be the head of the family and stating that a lot of men aren’t fit to head anything, much less a home. Of course, I’ve been in people’s mentions like a social disease and of course said people have been ignoring me like said social disease. Hmmph!

I have so many questions starting with why does anyone have to be the head? What decision is so important in a marriage that it requires someone to surrender their status as an equal adult human being and not just as a one-off – the idea is to maintain the woman’s inferior status at all times to be ready for that critical decision which will be the making and breaking of the marriage and which has to be made by the head of the home? In fact, what decision or indeed any process of marriage is made better or more efficient by this blatant inequality?

I’m not sure why marriage is being compared to a business model, but it should be obvious to anyone that the head/neck business structure is not the only structure in the world. In fact now that I think of it, I’ve heard of partnerships, companies and directors, employer and employer but I haven’t heard of the head and neck structure. I suppose it’s comparable to senior manager and junior manager if I’m to avoid being obtuse about it.

People keep saying ‘you can’t have two captains in one ship’ but no one explains why. There is no reason for or logic to the head/neck structure and the only consequence seems to be gross unfairness, equality and the reduction of the woman’s humanity. It provides an excuse for the man’s rage when a woman – who is also an adult and has comparable qualifications and life experience as him and in fact often times does the practical job of running the home – dares to defy him. It creates a situation where a man is waited on head and foot because of arbitrary biological reasons; it allows us human beings to indulge our dark side that derives pleasure from treating fellow human beings as if they are less than us. It also allows women to irrationally blame men for circumstances beyond both their control because as the ‘head of the family’ they are somehow magically supposed to fix things.

There has to be above all love, respect and kindness in any marriage. If you don’t have that, the marriage is probably going to be knackered no matter how many Fortune500 business models you put in place. The head structure falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs. How you can know that they fundamentally disagree with something or have deep concerns about it but ‘put your foot down’ because it’s your right.

Respect comes in because you value and trust your partner’s judgment. Incidentally, the whole head thing starts to unravel at an intellectual level when people start saying things like, choose a good ‘head’ but even if you don’t remember he’s still the head. Therefore if your husband is prone to making bad decisions, you should submit to him driving you and your family into rack and ruin because he’s the head. Oh I forgot! If all else fails, pray. Pray that he starts making good decisions. In the meantime, watch your children suffer. This rarely happens, doesn’t work and is the reason why this head thing is a crock of crap.

If it’s compromise and sacrifice is required, I still don’t understand why people have to add that extra layer of discourse and oppression which is involved in labelling the male partner ‘the head’. I don’t always agree with my husband’s viewpoint but I consider him to be inherently sensible and to be acting in good faith. He feels the same about me. We always manage to resolve our differences in a way that we can both live with – sometimes I convince him; sometimes he convinces me; sometimes one of us gives in. Neither of us would be comfortable doing something that the other has a major problem with. Not many decisions are worth overriding someone’s concerns and esteem. If we can’t agree, the priority is our relationship and not the decision.