Tag Archives: women

Morning ritual

naked goddesses –
maiden, mother, crone – rinsing
chlorine from their hair

Sisterhood is for bitches

I tumbled across a this on FtM Doctor’s blog today, and have been choking on my reaction ever since.

The story is about a feminist music festival in Michigan which is explicitly for “womyn-born womyn” and explicitly excludes trans women. Presumably they also explicitly excludes trans men. In fact, it is not actually a story, it is a press release, explaining the organisers’ point of view.

The language is interesting, veering between the hate-filled and the overly emotive. At one point the organiser of the “womyn-born womyn” sends the following email to the leader of “camp trans”.

I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space — as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.

The self-righteous emotional manipulation of this is nauseating, with its talk of “deeply desire[ing] healing”, “respect” and “deeply needed space”s.

We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female.

Is it unkind of me to consider the spaces and places that I have spent with “womyn-born womyn” this past week, which include a women-only gym and the WI? It is not hard to find women-only groups, if that’s what you need for a while. I’ve been on women-only holidays and women-only retreats. I was educated in part at an all girls’ school.

Of course the gym, and the WI aren’t full of radical feminists or …

womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). … gender variant womyn …. ” or women who ” … consider themselves differently gendered

… so far as I know.

I find myself wondering why the organisers exclude trans women if the spread of women at the festival is so broad, (yes, I know, the “deeply-needed space” thing) and also whether or not there are any straight married mothers there, or whether monogamous heterosexuals are not welcome either.

Rather than rant on and on about this, I will conclude with three final comments.

Firstly, it would be acceptable for the “womyn” of Michigan to create an activity exclusivly for “womyn-born women” if, on other occasions, they created events which were exclusively for other sub-sets of women, for example women who have been abused, or widowed, or who are lesbians, or indeed trans. But to exclude trans women and only trans women smacks of the “all men are rapists” school of separatist radical feminism which de-personalises half of the human race in a way which is as unjust and unacceptable as the de-personalising of women by men which went on for centuries before.

Secondly, I wonder if this is actually personal. If it isn’t about all trans women, but about one particular trans woman, if the organisers lacked the balls to exclude her and if they therefore decided to exclude them all. I find this theory rather compelling, given how petty, emotional and factional groups of women can become. See quotes above.

Finally, I put the press release through Gender Genie, and it scored 30% female and 70% male. Which made me snigger. Bitch that I am.

Mary Kay II

When I came to my rather frightening conclusions about Mary Kay, I did so in the course of other musings about multi-level-marketing in general as well as Mary Kay in particular. While neither as big nor as hairy, they are still substantial and hirsuit.

The first and obvious thing is that multi-level-marketing simply does not work. I’m not sure if it ever did, but the internet has blown it out of the water altogether. Lovers of irony are delighted that Mary Kay’s mansion is available on ebay. One of the fascinations of Mary Kay Sucks (now moved to www.pinktruth.com) is that it gives such insights into an imploding world. Train crash. Slow motion. Cannot take my eyes away.

The second thing is that there is an unresolvable tension in the business. The consultant wants to sell retail, but every single other person higher up in the organisation wants her to buy wholesale. The business model is not about selling retail: the reward model is based on wholesale sales. If the reward model was changed so that retail sales were rewarded the great big lies about how easy or hard it is would be exposed. Yes, the schpiel is that it is about selling retail, but it seems that the only person who benefits from retail sales is the consultant herself. It is no surprise that the consultants are at odds with the rest of the organisation, the rest of the organisation really is out to get them.

This also means that the true customers for MK Corporation are not the public at large. The true customers are the consultants. Most business models are based on fair exchange: I get softer skin, you get money. However this business model is based on exploitation: I use my credit cards to buy wholesale and you get money. The product is irrelevant, to be honest.

This highlights what is so deeply shocking and exploitative about the MK model. People are encouraged to go into personal debt to finance inventory. It really is a scam. Some friends of mine who were involved in the multi-level-marketing of water filters in the 1990s invited me to join them on the basis that I could make umpty thousand a year. Fortunately at that time I had just started a real business which actually was netting the sort of money they were talking about, so I passed on that ‘opportunity‘. Hustlers and con-artists say that you can only con a greedy person. Well, the situation I was in meant that I did not need to feel greedy and so I was protected. But MK are working a con. Some of the women they draw in may be greedy, but I suspect that most are just aspirational. The schpiel about ‘executive level incomes’ simply does not work when people are ok with their situation in life. Not only is it a con. It is worked like a con, and I keep on coming back in horror to the thought of tens of thousands of women who are in poor financial circumstances to start with who then take on debt to finance inventory. Doing that to people is wrong. The hypocrisy of doing that and claiming to be doing it in a Christian way sticks in my throat so badly that I cannot bring myself to discuss it.

MK’s use of cult techniques has already been discussed extensively so I won’t add to it other than to say “what she said” and point you at the original.

As I said, I find the whole thing deeply shocking. I was relieved not to be involved in the MLMing of water filters in the 1990s, but far more relieved that my ex husband did not become involved in the selling of fake perfumes in the 1980s. I was desperate that he should not. It felt seedy. My skin itched. The reason he did not was pure chance. At about this time we threw a 75th birthday party for my father who was a particularly clear and honest man. Talking to my father’s friends, my ex realised what a greedy-seedy world MLMing is, and decided not to plunge into it. I was grateful for that throughout my marriage

Mary Kay: an abusive business model?

Like most people on WordPress I’m sure, I’ve become an addicted reader of Mary Kay Sucks (now moved to www.pinktruth.com), and originally this post was a series of musings on multi-level-marketing in general and MK in particular. However, it morphed half way though into one single Great Big unaMusing on the subject which, to be honest, has spooked me. I’d welcome any thoughts from any ex MKers, or anyone else for that matter.

You see, it seems to me that the dynamic of Mary Kay is very similar to the dynamic of abusive relationships.

I’m reminded of the character in Terry Pratchett’s book Guards! Guards! who ends up enslaved to a mind-reading dragon. All he can do is mouth “help me” in silent desperation to the head of the Assassin’s Guild. And what sort of help can an assassin provide? Quite.

Taken as a whole, posts and comments and all, it would appear that the entire organisation is made up of just such people; women who know that they are destroying their own lives and who are actively destroying the lives of others, but who are caught so deep they dare not think for themselves and cannot escape.

This is so like an abusive relationship that there is a doctorate in sociology or psychology right there, waiting to be done.

  • Testimony from women who were in too deep to leave? – Check
  • The realisation that their thought processes were not their own? – Check
  • The experience of being lied to?
  • The conclusion that they had been brainwashed?
  • A history of being alternately praised and damaged and praised again? Check, check, check.

In an abusive relationship, the abuser isolates the abused person from friends and family members and strips away the abused person’s sense of self and their sense of self-preservation. Once the abused person is stuck in the situation, then the abuser creates and fosters guilt and duty and, more than anything else, creates and feeds a fear of leaving. Meanwhile somewhere in the back of the abused person’s brain there is one part which whispers “help me”, but it has to whisper it silently in case the other part of the brain hears.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the people currently still involved in MK realise that this is the dynamic that they are presenting to the world, and everything I have said here is my opinion only. However, the more I consider my own experience of relationships and of MLM, and compare it with what I read on MKS and on the internet, the more the thing chimes in my head.

Really nasty, isn’t it?

I’ve got other thoughts on MK, but this was the Great Big Hairy one.

I’m no prude, but Debbie… pastels?

It fascinates me how most of the times that someone starts a sentence with the phrase “I’m no prude, but….” they then go on to demonstrate that yes, indeed, they are a prude. (My two favourite responses in a party-game were “I’m no prude, but unfortunately my sheep is” and “I’m no prude, but I think that’s illegal in Texas” – make of those what you will).

Anyway. I am no prude. Obviously. No-one ever is. However, three things recently worried me.

The first was an advertisement for a lap-dancing and pole-dancing club which I saw on the back of a mini-bus contracted as a school bus. The juxtaposition made me uneasy, though the fact I only saw it once suggests that I was not the only one to raise a disturbed eyebrow.

The second was a joke and party shop which sold “naughty” maids outfits, pink fluffy handcuffs, “naughty” uniforms and other joke bondage gear and next to them there were little-girl fairy wings and children’s Halloween costumes. I found using infantile words like “naughty” disturbing when combined with blurred boundaries between fetish gear for adults and fancy dress for children.Playboy Stationery

The one that worries me most recently, however, is playboy stationery marketed at little girls. I’m obviously not the only person who finds this disturbing: Brand Republic reported protestors as saying:

Jennifer Drew, chair of Object, said: “We are challenging the normalisation of porn into mainstream media. We feel that … WH Smith … is giving out the message that it is acceptable to have girls as sex objects. Object is not against sexuality, but it is against exploitation.”

They also report WH Smith’s breathtakingly disingenuous reply:

WH Smith is claiming that the stationery is being sold as a popular fashion range and that the image is not inappropriate in any way. The group also argues that many youngsters do not know what the image stands for.

I don’t even know where to start with those remarks.

I’m trailing way behind the zeitgeist here, since all of the stories I found are so-o-o-o-o last year darling, but the fact that I came across the stuff about 10 days ago in WH Smith troubles me, as does their spokesperson’s comment, reported in the Guardian last year.

“Playboy is probably one of the most popular ranges we’ve ever sold,” says head of media relations for WH Smith, Louise Evans. “It outsells all the other big brands in stationery … by a staggering amount … We offer customers choice. We’re not here to act as a moral censor.”

playboy_punch.jpgWhat? I mean WHAT? “Not here to act as a moral censor”. Is Ms Evans disengaged and morally unimaginative? Is she naively innocent? Is she just stupid? There is a category error so large you can drive a horse and cart through the middle of it. The issue is not about censorship, it is about what is appropriate. It’s about what has become a very old fashioned word: it is about propriety. In an age where the Internet and mobile phones enable adults to obtain unsupervised access to young children in a way which they have never had before, is it wise to normalise erotica in the presence of children, or to infantalise sexuality in the presence of adults?

Mohair Fetish Gear
Perhaps it takes a deviant and dirty mind to think these deviant and dirty thoughts. Although we live in a very knowing age, it can still be a surprisingly innocent one. Certainly, I was astonished by the naivete of the conversation about this particular piece of what is obviously fetish-gear. (If the link from that image does not work, then try the knitter’s main page instead). It seems that the darker aspects of human sexuality are being re-wrapped in ways which are cute, fluffy and frequently pink. I am reminded of Anjelica Huston’s line in Addams Family Values:

“You have gone too far. You have married Fester, you have destroyed his spirit, you have taken him from us. All that I could forgive. But Debbie… pastels?”

I don’t think that the pastelisation of what used to be called perversion is a bad thing: it’s just a thing. BDSM gear spent a long time being black rubber, black leather and studs. A lot of it still is, though recent goth imagery is bringing purple and red into play too. Previously, in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was all mahogany furniture, and crimson satin and velvet-wrapped ropes and, from von Sasher-Masoch to Elinor Glyn, 19th and early 20th century kinkiness was frequently surrounded by fur. Fashions change. Now BDSM is made safe with fluffy handcuffs and angora home-knits. So what?

However, I do find myself asking what sort of society is it which will happily market pornographic brand icons to little girls, and appears to have no qualms about placing strongly sexual imagery and products in the same space as products marketed to young children?

What sort of society makes sex a pink and sparkly thing for little girls to appreciate?

Golden lads and lasses

I went to a couple of parties recently, both on the same day.

Some friends of my older sister have an annual bash, lunch in the garden (the weather has always been kind) with everyone kicked out at 6.00pm. They invite their cohort from university. They were an ambitious generation, maybe even a greedy one, at one of England’s two oldest universities so it’s a pretty smart cohort.

It used to be smarter. There are few creatures on the planet as sleek and enviable as ambitious, well educated professionals in their thirties when the education was Oxbridge or Ivy League, and the professions are politics, money, ‘business’ or the law. In those days an understated and very English competitiveness floated in the air like the smell of oil seed rape.

Now most of them have celebrated their 50th birthdays. The successful ones are looking back on their decision to retire early and feeling smug, and the less successful ones are aware that retirement is more likely than promotion. Mind you, none of them are what you would call unsuccessful. The fact that the cars are Volvos and Beemers rather than Jags and Mercs is a symptom of maturity, not poverty.

There are still flashes of the old competitiveness. They swap stories of when they were in Hong Kong, buying companies or closing them down or whatever, but it’s a much gentler group now than it was a while back. Interestingly, and to their credit, they all seemed to be with their original partners, their engagements celebrated almost 30 summers ago with champagne picnics while punting. The women were successful in jobs which are academically demanding and which may have some status but which are not excessively paid, they are neither social climbers nor professional leaders. The men have had more material success than the women, but then they have not had a glass-ceiling or motherhood to contend with.

The second party later that evening was a group of young medics, mainly junior doctors, some 25 years younger. Newer to each other, with less history and experience, looking at their ambitions from the blunt end, but still they were fabulous creatures: sexy, good looking, intelligent, talented, witty and hard-working.

However, one of the young men commented on the compulsion that the young women have to be brilliant AND physically fit AND beautiful AT ALL COSTS. They are indeed young goddesses, lovely and talented, but they seem much more driven than their mothers and aunts. The generation in between are smashing the glass ceiling, and these young amazons will be running the medical profession in twenty years time.

I don’t know. What do I know? Looking back myself, I see that my main ambition in life has been to avoid boredom. Most of the time I’ve achieved it.