Tag Archives: feminism

Equality and Equestrianism: some thoughts on my day at the Olympics

I was lucky enough to go to the Olympics this week. My family only applied for one event, which was really the only one we cared about enough to brave queues and public transport for – the cross-country section of the Equestrian eventing. We’re a horse-loving family (with the exception of my dad, who enjoys watching equestrianism but not on the same level as my sister, mum and me) so it was a no-brainer to apply for those tickets. It was a pretty great day out – despite Greenwich Park being far too overcrowded, and having to queue for forty minutes or so to get in, and then another half hour to fill up our water bottles.

However what really made the day special was the realisation, courtesy of the commentator, that the eventing is the only sport in the Olympic Games where men and women compete in the exact same event, under the same conditions, on an equal level. This made me incredibly happy, not just as a feminist, but as someone who has always loved riding (albeit I haven’t been on a horse in several years). Throughout my childhood and adolescence, when my sister and I were constantly riding at our local stables, in competitions and at Pony Club (yes, I know, I’m more upper class than a lobster bisque at a formal dinner), gender was never an issue. It was never “a girl’s sport” or “a boy’s sport”. When I learned to play football at my all-girls’ school, it was a different matter. I had it easy, by virtue of the fact that it was an all-girls’ school and so the girls who played football weren’t judged by our peers. But I still had this knowledge that womens’ football wasn’t really considered a “proper” sport for girls – it’s still the case in many schools that boys play football or rugby and girls do dance. Not that there’s anything wrong with dance – but you get my point.

So it was pretty awesome to see the eventing on Monday – not least because the GB team consists of one man and four women, one of whom, Mary King, is basically my hero: she’s a terrific rider and sportswoman, always keeps her cool and exhibits near perfect horsemanship at every event I’ve seen her at. The Olympics was no exception: she and the rest of the time rode exceptionally well and they deserve the silver team medal which they ended up winning.

Another thing which I loved about the Eventing was that, at the medal ceremony, Germany – who won the gold – invited England and New Zealand, the respective silver and bronze medal winners, up onto the podium. I don’t mean that they did this how many other champions do, inviting them to move closer for a token photo – they actively beckoned and helped the other teams squish onto the gold platform. It was a sight of genuine community and pride, something which has always characterised the equestrian community for me. Most of the large events I’ve seen (Badminton, Olympia and so on) have the same feeling. Regardless of the nationality of the riders, audiences at all equestrian events are surprisingly non-partisan. At the Olympics, it wasn’t really surprising that the British riders got the loudest cheers – but the spectators were unsparing in their applause for the other competitors. Ultimately, the sheer joy of watching someone exist in perfect harmony with a horse trumps patriotic instincts. The German team deserved their gold because their performances were superb, and I genuinely didn’t sense any hard feelings from the home crowd.

I wanted to write this because, in a week when Jan Moir (an utterly vile woman and a poor excuse for a journalist) called the cyclist who beat GB’s Lizzie Armistead “some bitch from Holland”, and the U.S.A swim coach’s knee-jerk response to the Ye Shinwen’s storming victory was to accuse her of drug abuse, it’s nice to remember that sometimes the Olympics – and sport in general – can genuinely focus on the sheer talent and grit of the athletes. My only wish on the equestrian side of things is that it will start to be seen as a sport that more people can access, as opposed to a pastime for the upper classes. Much of my childhood was spent on horseback and in stables, through which I developed independence, responsibility, respect, compassion, and the capacity for hard work. I was, and still am, economically privileged – and whilst there are some stable yards that will go the extra mile to include less privileged kids, more needs to be done. Riding is such an excellent sport and one which, as I mentioned, isn’t predicated on the perceived capabilities or strengths of different genders. If the Olympics is truly to “Inspire a Generation”, where better to start?

Note: I was going to write about feminism and the Olympics, but as per usual, The F Word has done so far more succinctly and effectively than I could have done with this lovely round-up. There is also an excellent article on women inspiring girls to take up sport here.

Another splendid lesson in “how to do liberation wrong”, courtesy of Julie Bindel

I was extremely dismayed, but not surprised, to read yet another bigoted and vitriolic article from Julie Bindel. Apparently dismissing and demeaning trans* folks is not enough for her, she feels the need to belittle and devalue the experiences – indeed the very existences – of bisexual women.

Bindel claims that lesbian politics and feminism are one and the same – and whilst lesbians are present throughout feminist history, and vice versa, it is both inaccurate and insulting to exclude bisexual and heterosexual women, as well as women who do not define their sexuality and/or gender from the feminist movement.

I think it’s completely accurate to blame the patriarchy for the fact that bisexuality, particularly in women, is seen as a phase, or a tantalising experiment to please a male partner. What Bindel does, however, is blame bisexual people – and those who engage in “bisexual behaviour” for the existence of this perception. Perhaps she needs to dust off her “Feminism 101” manual: women who consent to have sex with another consenting adult, of any gender or sexuality have every right to do so, and no one should tell them otherwise.

Bindel writes, “Lesbians having heterosexual sex are seen as transgressive, when in fact they are simply reverting to a traditional way of being a woman. For a straight woman, having a girlfriend on the side is almost like having the latest Prada handbag”. These statements (which are, incidentally, not backed up by anything remotely resembling fact) are incredibly reductive. A traditional way of being a woman? If Bindel is referring to the existence of women prior to the advent of sexual liberation, I think she’s missing the point. Before women had any grasp on what sexual liberation could or should look like, they had very little choice as to how, when and why they had sex of any kind. Now, if a lesbian chooses to have heterosexual sex, that’s her own damn business as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Bindel, in her typically transphobic style, reduces sexual acts to gendered performance, completely discounting trans* bodies and behaviours.

As for this idea that straight women reduce their girlfriends to trendy accessories, generalising isn’t going to help anyone here – Bindel not only discounts the sexual autonomy and choices of “straight” women, she completely denies their right to shift their sexuality and behaviour and instead lumps all straight women together as lying, shallow hussies. It’s exceptionally lazy journalism as well as being wildly unfair.

It is a real shame that Bindel is such a relentless bigot – not only because she has a significant platform in the feminist and LGBT media, but because in this article specifically (I’m not going to tackle her entire journalistic canon) she almost manages to make some sensible points. For instance, when she writes, “I personally feel that straight women are missing out on the best sex on the planet, but that is their choice”, I almost want to applaud. “Yes Julie!” I want to cry out. Yes, because she is stating her personal opinion without denying women the right to choose what kind of sex they want to have.

It’s a shame that the elation I feel when I read that sentence is so utterly crushed by her crass assumption that bisexual women who sleep with men are halting feminist progress and undermining sexual politics. I’ll say it again: sexual politics connotes the choice about who we sleep with – who, when and why. It is not in any way undermined by the genitalia or gender identity of the person (or people) who are lucky enough to have their world rocked by an awesome person (or people). However, because Bindel seems completely unable to grasp this, I would suggest that for the foreseeable future, you take the advice of my friend Lauren: “If lesbian women have an ounce of sexual politics, they will stop sleeping with Julie Bindel”. Couldn’t agree more.

At the beginning of her “article” Bindel asks, “what makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women?” I can answer that for you Julie: bigotry. Some people (including me) are bisexual. Get over it.

In between the lines, women are writing the revolution

Intelligent feminists are totally hot

Actually, I don’t think you can be a feminist without being intelligent (takes own tiny metaphorical trumpet out of equally metaphorical dungarees, because I’ve always wanted a pair, and blows it). But seriously, that would explain why the Daily Fail female readership aren’t feminists. That is SOLID LOGICAL REASONING.

The point is, feminist academics are the dream, and I am happy to once again be making an English essay about queer feminism, masculinity and other interesting shit that literature makes shiny.

“As a woman, I am a consumer of masculinities, but I am more so than men are; and, like men, I as a woman am also a producer of masculinities and a performer of them” – Eve K. Sedgwick, from ‘Gosh, Boy George, you must be awfully secure in your masculinity!’ (best. title. ever)

“The suppression of the homosexual component of human sexuality, and by corollary, the oppression of homosexuals, is…a product of the same system whose rules and relations oppress women” – Gayle Rubin (PREACH, GURRRL)

#fuckthepatriarchy

We’re in a war, and our bodies are the front line.

Hell yes I do. And I hit like one, and I kiss like one, and I love you like one.

It’s important to remember, how we fight, when shit like this is happening: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2011/jan/25/domestic-violence-charities-face-100-cuts?CMP=twt_gu

If these cuts are the tip of the iceberg, then what’s happening to women all over the world is the fucking titanic.

But we’ve got this image, and we’ve got Ani DiFranco, who I had the privilege of seeing live last night.What a woman she is. An incredible feminist who plays guitar and owns a tank top that says ‘Cunt’ on it. Basically she’s my heroine. And you can bet your bottom dollar that she fights like a girl, and you can bet she’ll win. We’ve all got to fight like girls. Roll with the punches, dodge the bullets. Survival’s a bitch, but living’s worth it. If only the goddamn government would realise that.