First ever Girlpoems blogaround! 26/5/11

20101104 - NEX-5 Week #4 - Vittesse

Some stuff I’ve been perusing this past week…

My last post was about Carmen Callil, the Booker debacle and Robert McCrum being a total asshole. The saga continues:

First, Callil wrote a strong defence of her actions in Saturday’s Guardian Review (because, you know, she was accused of being rash, eccentric and attention-grabbing — there was no way she was going to be allowed to get away with this undignified behaviour!). Although she’s too classy to say this explicitly, it’s pretty obvious that her views were sidelined by the other two judges (both men. Just sayin’):

I have judged many prizes, and compromise has always been necessary. There is a form of compromise when a second choice, acceptable to all judges, is agreed on. This was not the procedure followed and under these circumstances I could not lend my name to the choice of Roth, so I retired from the judging panel.

Alison Flood, who has also been covering the kerfuffle and doing it in a much more balanced and admirable fashion than most, took to the Guardian books blog to note Callil’s reaction to McCrum’s snotty and borderline sexist attack:

Callil told the Guardian her dislike of the author was based on what she sees as his literary shortcomings. “Feminism had absolutely nothing to do with my criticism of Philip Roth’s work, or with my retirement from the judging panel,” she said.

“This kerfuffle is an ad feminam attack from the boys and, of course, the odd girl, but mainly it’s a boyzones attack. Take Robert McCrum, for instance, who certainly has his critics, but they, unlike him, do not have instant access to the media. Yet he feels free to badmouth me as a human being, rather than discuss the ideas and issues involved.” Callil “never thought of feminism for one second” when she was considering Roth’s work.

There was also a damn sensible response to the whole thing from a female Guardian reader in the Saturday letters page:

the literary world is still heavily dominated by what appeals to men. Recent controversy in the US about who might be the current “great American novelist” has reinforced the idea that this position can be occupied, if at all, only by a man.
[…] More women than men read fiction; at least as many women as men write fiction. Yet our opinions are still under-represented and undervalued in the world of serious literature.

This all leaves fellow judge Rick Gekoski looking a little bit silly. So what does he do? Writes a piece on why writing in translation is nice and all, but it’s, you know, not quite real writing, now is it? (excuse me while I just FACEPALM):

I grew up in a literary culture that insisted on the primacy of close textual analysis: after all, a writer chooses a word, a phrase, a sentence, because none of the millions of alternatives will do the job. To find an apt transposition into another language, as a translator must, is a frustrating process, like “kissing a bride through her veil,” as Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik put it.

But finally, the piece de resistance of the whole debacle: Robert McCrum, determined to have the last word, goes back in for another self-important bout of nasty pokes and prods in Callil’s direction.

And one thing was quite certain, said Callil: no one would read him in 20 years’ time. From a farrago of post-feminist disdain, that last judgment was the most eccentric of all.

What a fucking pro. Anyway, in other news…

It’s not often I feel ashamed of the great city I live in, but this really takes the cake:

…[I]n May a group of people began to organise SlutWalk in Edinburgh, a protest during which people march for the right of women to dress how they please without the threat of intimidation, harrassment, or sexual assualt. […] However, despite applying for permission to hold a similar event in Edinburgh, and more than 660 people set to show their support for the cause, Edinburgh City Council denied the request to demonstrate, instead suggesting that they re-apply sometime in June.

Two months previously, a similar application was made to the City of Edinburgh Council, this time by a group organising under the name of Reclaim the Night. […] Last year, Reclaim the Night was cancelled in Edinburgh, to the great disappointment of all planning to attend, due to the Council’s refusal to grant the a go-ahead for the application to demonstrate. This year, the group purposefully submitted their application to march with more than the required 28 days advance notice that Lothian and Borders Police and Edinburgh Council Events Planning Team require.

Despite this, with one and a half weeks to go until the event, Reclaim the Night Edinburgh have only recently been contacted by Edinburgh City Council and told that, unless they “change the day, route, and/or time of the event.” it will not be able to go ahead.

I’m currently reading Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, and in light of this, was interested to hear about parents who have chosen not to disclose the gender of their child. I can’t decide whether or not I agree with blue milk’s perspective:

I am starting to think that there is something about knowing how to perform your gender that is valuable knowledge for a child, too. I see it as almost akin to cultural tradition. Something that is passed on and potentially even ceremonial. You learn it with the opportunity to reject it, if you choose, and it shouldn’t prevent you from exploring other cultural traditions (ie. performances of gender) should they interest you.. but that it is still kind of important that this knowledge be passed on to you

I was fascinated by this interview with sex worker Charlotte Shane:

In our culture, the majority of messages directed at women or created using women say: You’re valuable for how you look. So of course you want to feel like you have value in the world. I think it’s natural for most women to say, “I want to know how much I’m worth in this world”—and that means, “I want to know how much my looks are worth.” There aren’t as many messages that are like, “We need you right now to be curing our diseases and protecting our environment. We need you for defense.” I think a lot of men join the military not just for money for college but because they feel like they need to contribute something, and that’s where they’ve been told their value might be. So for women, we’re told we contribute by being attractive. How attractive am I? Am I attractive enough? Should I be more? Could I be more? There’s a desire to quantify your appeal.

I’m back on board with the Edinburgh Slutwalk organising team and have been following the ongoing blogchat and media coverage with great interest. Catching my eye in particular:

Does Slutwalk exclude some women? If so, does it mean we should back away, or keep marching?

I can call myself a slut and, chances are, people won’t even believe me. They’ll think “Oh, she’s just saying it for attention.” or “Maybe she was slutty in college.” Whereas, if a woman of color calls herself a slut in a racist society, people are more likely to conjure up some lurid assumption about what that means, and file her declaration away as “evidence” for their racist theories.

This argument cuts both way. The label “slut” hurts everyone, but it is disproportionately harmful and painful for women who are trying to cultivate a positive sexual self-image in a racist society. So, any movement that attempts to defang or deflate the concept of “slut” is at least potentially beneficial for all women.

And it was interesting to find that I’m not the only one who’s got into trouble for distancing themselves from the ‘reclaim the word slut’ argument

Obviously, I shouldn’t have said categorically that the SlutWalk isn’t about reclaiming the word “slut,” because, in part, it is (although, as the organizers of SlutWalk Seattle point out, wanting to reclaim the word isn’t a prerequisite for agreeing with or being involved with the SlutWalk Action).

What I was trying to do in my answer to that question was to put the word “slut” and its cultural power into context. I was trying to explain that, firstly, there is a history of attempting to reclaim the word “slut,” and secondly, that people who object to the SlutWalk action based on its embrace of the word “slut” are missing a larger point. That larger point, of course, is that slut-shaming and victim blaming are unacceptable and need to stop. So, what I should have said is that the Slut Walk is not just about reclaiming the word; it’s also about fighting the worldview that the word represents in its most common usage.

Laurie Penny says some really damn sensible things about Ken Clarke:

The terrible truth is that rape is a quotidian, everyday part of life; it happens on a daily basis to thousands of people, most of whom are known to their rapist, who may be a partner, family member or close friend. The culture of rape is so ingrained, and successful punishment of rapists so infrequent (conviction rates remain stubbornly low at 6 per cent) that many throwbacks will drum up any sexist stereotype to avoid facing the truth. Date rape isn’t serious, they say. Women are asking for it. Women lie. They especially lie about rape. All those tens of thousands of rape survivors who have been denied justice are obviously making the whole thing up – after all, if it were true, something more would be done, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?

Like hell it would.

And finally — Michelle Obama just continues to be my total fucking heroine.

The First Lady also had some excellent relationship advice for the girls to whom she was speaking about her husband: “Reach for partners that make you better. Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts. Good relationships feel good, they feel right.”

Ten million points for the use of the gender nonspecific “partners.”

Have a great weekend, all.


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