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Fourth Wave?
February 26, 2013 4:35 PM   Subscribe

'I'm sick of being ashamed." Three days ago, an anti-harassment activist said those words to me in a flat above Cairo's Tahrir square, as she pulled on her makeshift uniform ready to protect women on the protest lines from being raped in the street. Only days before, I'd heard exactly the same words from pro-choice organisers in Dublin, where I travelled to report on the feminist fight to legalise abortion in Ireland. I had thought that I was covering two separate stories – so why were two women from different countries and backgrounds repeating the same mantra against fear, and against shame?
The mood of hope that so recently swept Europe, America, the Middle East and cyberspace is collapsing into confusion and social tension, and social tension is being channelled, in part, into suspicion of minorities, immigrants, people of colour, and women and girls. Sexism often functions as a pressure-release valve in times of social unrest – and when it does, it takes different forms, depending on local values. Right now, in Egypt, it's groping, heckling and mob attacks; in Ireland, it's rape apologism and a backlash against abortion and sexual equality; on the internet, it's vicious slut-shaming and "revenge porn". But this time, women are refusing to take it any more.
posted by eviemath (19 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sexism often functions as a pressure-release valve in times of social unrest – and when it does, it takes different forms, depending on local values.

Is there a word or phrase for the feeling I get when I realize that the lowest common denominator of base behavior in difficult times is going to be something abhorrent to me, and that it's going to manifest across far more people than I'd ever fear possible? I swear, I have to fight down feelings of complete despair when I read stuff like this.

I'm glad to see women of the world fighting back, and I know that's an immensely positive story in its own right. But I have a hard time rationalizing the fact that women and minorities have to go through these fights at all.
posted by Brak at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was no "secret signal" for women to express their "lack of faith in governments and police forces". Anybody paying any attention got that message loud and clear, well actually they've been sitting on it for ages. Is there any realistic chance for abortion in Ireland though?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:02 PM on February 26, 2013


Is there any realistic chance for abortion in Ireland though?

A new schism within the Catholic church resulting from a Pope and an Anti-Pope Pope Emeritus fighting a secret war of psy-ops and blackmail against each other?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2013


There was a story on NPR recently about a group called Women Under Siege that is using crowd sourcing to track and document rapes in Syria. I thought about making an fpp but couldn't bring myself to do it. I could barely listen to the story on NPR.
posted by rtha at 5:20 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


After the death of Savita Halappanavar, there is a growing push for legislation to clarify and expand access to abortion in Ireland. It almost certainly won't go so far as to permit abortion for *any* reason, but will certainly constitute a progressive step.

Public opinion also seems to have shifted:
A February 2013 Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews in all constituencies found that 84% felt that abortion should be allowed when the woman's life is at risk, 79% felt that abortion should be allowed whenever the foetus cannot survive outside the womb, 78% felt that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, 71% felt that abortion should be allowed where the woman is suicidal as a result of the pregnancy (the X case result), 70% felt that abortion should be allowed when the woman's health is at risk, and 37% felt that abortion should be provided when a woman deems it to be in her best interest (Wikipedia)
posted by knapah at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Women have always fought back; the constant drumbeat of laws designed to keep them down is a testament to the fact that at least some women somewhere refused to go along. If meekness was our nature, the laws would be unnecessary.

Upheaval and new tools for organizing are giving lots of women a place to direct the rebelliousness they were already carrying around.
posted by emjaybee at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Fuck yeah Laurie Penny. She's becoming my favorite journalist.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:55 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]




The article proposes that we're seeing a fourth wave of feminism which consists of responding to sexism with rage and direct action. Another data point: this recent comment from MeFi's phunniemee.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:10 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(To be accurate, the fourth wave phrasing is from my positioning of the article, not the article itself.)
posted by eviemath at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2013


The article proposes that we're seeing a fourth wave of feminism which consists of responding to sexism with rage and direct action.

The thing is, though, there are women who never stopped responding that way. It's just that for a long time they were being written off as "radical" and an embarrassment; you know, the kind of women who are the reason why plenty of women today say things like "I'm not a feminist, but...." or "I'm a feminist but not like that".

But the Internet did help. Probably because the overwhelming weight of women talking about the kind of stuff that happened to them being met with a lot of pushback over "but what about men's rights" or "you must be mistaken, I've never seen that" is making more and more women realize that dammit, they are feminists after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


Himself & I were just watching Makers: Women Who Make America and as we headed deeper into the second hour, I got frothy and wild-eyed and started swearing at the TV.
"Do you want to keep watching this?" he asked.
"Oh no," I replied, "Please no. It's beautiful and inspiring to see all of the early women again. But then we get closer to the present and I see how much we've lost, and I just can't bear it. I remember what it felt like, I remember the promise and the hope and here we are THIRTY FUCKING YEARS LATER and we're still fighting on the same hill."

And he looked at me like he'd never seen me before.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:17 PM on February 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


The wold needs a world wide mass of agitated, mobilized and radicalized women. I harbor no illusions that women are more moral than men, but the back of systematic oppression and massive, massive levels of rape and sexual harassment deserves to be broken, buried at the cross road and a stake driven through the heart . Be it America, or Afghanistan or anywhere in-between. And that means the freedom of choice is exactly that. Topless or burqa, president of the United States or 'homemaker' in Lima, Mormon or atheist as long as it is freely chosen, there is no 'one size fits all' except freedom from harm.
posted by edgeways at 8:08 PM on February 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have a lot of female friends and a lot of things they tell me about how they are perceived, regarded, and treated astound me. There's a very long way to go around the world. That most of us live in a system that has little regard for human life anyway isn't going to help.
posted by juiceCake at 5:55 AM on February 27, 2013


The wold needs a world wide mass of agitated, mobilized and radicalized women.

It has them. Just like others have said here, many, if not most of them, are written off because they are agitated, mobilized, and radicalized.

What the world needs, is to value women as human beings. Which means, for instance, recognizing that we (women) already have experiences and values that we are already expressing. And, for instance, not saying "hurf durf wimmin have no sense of humor" or "yeah right, XYZ can't have happened to you because it never happened to me and anyway if it did I would react totally differently and so your reaction to it is teh wrong" [to that theoretical thing they have never experienced... yuh-huh].

Seriously, if more people would just sit and think, "is my immediate/automatic reaction compassionate?" for a few seconds when faced with experiences that are different from theirs, we'd have a good head start. Instead, very often, the first thing out of the gate is that programmed reaction to deny experiences that you've been taught can be denigrated without serious consequences (other than hurt feelings on the part of a group of people, but there's the rub too, you've been taught to discount their feelings so it's not a "consequence" until you consciously recognize it as one). Then the default is also your ego-centric experience as the valid one. It's damned hard to admit that it's programmed until you ask yourself if you're being entirely compassionate. That's when you start to go, "oh, hey, wow... I didn't realize what cruddy assumptions that's based on... good thing I took time to think about it..." If you're compassionate, anyhow.

The world could do with valuing compassion a bit more over WOOT I AM RIGHT AND U R WRONG.
posted by fraula at 6:26 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there a word or phrase for the feeling I get when I realize that the lowest common denominator of base behavior in difficult times is going to be something abhorrent to me, and that it's going to manifest across far more people than I'd ever fear possible?

The Banality of Evil?
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2013


The world could do with valuing compassion a bit more over WOOT I AM RIGHT AND U R WRONG.

I dunno. I mean, I'm a guy here. But I think sometimes you have to threaten to stick a knife in someone's ribs to really get their attention. Or, from the piece:
"On the internet, where until recently misogynist abuse has often been accepted, vigilantes are systematically exposing bullies and harassers and publishing their names."

There are some things in some feminist movements that I disagree with. But I can't think of too many radical positions I empathize with, so any radical fanaticism is pretty much equal to all radical fanaticism in it's unreason no matter the cause or individual proponent.

But the pissed off thing, yeah, the rebelliousness, even were I not sympathetic it stands to reason that it benefits us to be united and the people who are divisive do that for selfish if not outright evil reasons.

Far as I'm concerned women's rights are men's rights because it's human rights that are being denied by the forces that seek to divide and conquer.

People who deny that are just shitheads. Perhaps redeemable shitheads, I mean, you're told something over and over and over all your life you tend to parrot it.
But there are people who have an interest in division and oppression. That pissing someone right the hell off, I completely empathize. Compassion is important, but that can come with confrontation.

"The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." - Steven Biko
posted by Smedleyman at 9:42 AM on February 27, 2013


Is there a word or phrase for the feeling I get when I realize that the lowest common denominator of base behavior in difficult times is going to be something abhorrent to me

I don't know, but I often have a horrible feeling of fragility, realizing that it is a mere accident of birth timing and geography that allows me to walk outside of a house that is mine, walk in public with my face exposed or not (as I choose), to control my own money, to pursue the career I want, etc. It's like that creeping realization I had when reading "The Handmaid's Tale" that all those descriptions of places seemed familiar because they *were* familiar - it was set in a place I knew and loved and hung out.

I am sometimes afraid, watching the more frothingly crazy edges of society in the US, realizing that we don't need alien intervention to go mad - we're capable of it all on our own.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:44 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Uhhh... Not to make that all about me as a complacent upper middle class white chick living in the liberal state of MA. Just, it scares me - I'm in one of the better places, and sometimes I'm just so aware that I'm, like, one bad year of craziness away from insane-to-me levels of oppression. And that that sort of thing is happening everywhere all the time while I sit in my complacency.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2013


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