QotD: “Menstrual seclusion was once about giving women a safe space – hunter gatherer cultures can teach us how women’s blood is potent, not polluting”
Among many hunter-gatherers to this day, menstrual blood connotes potency, not pollution. Menstruating women and girls have privileged shamanic access to the spirit world, often imagined as connection to the Moon, “women’s biggest husband”. This potency demands such respect that women are inviolable and no man dares infringe these taboos for fear of destroying his hunting luck.
Could menstruation and its observances in fact be experienced as empowering for women? Take the menstrual traditions of the Yurok Indians who live in north-western California. Here, a woman would go on strike once a month for 10 whole days, declaring herself “on her Moontime”. It was her time off. She didn’t cook for her husband or do household chores. It was believed that a woman should seclude herself during her flow because “she is at the height of her powers”. Such time should not be wasted in mundane tasks, distractions or worries about the opposite sex. Rather, all her energies should be applied in concentrated meditation “to find out the purpose of your life”.
In the old days, menstruating Yurok women would communally bathe and perform rituals in a “sacred Moontime pond” up in the nearby mountains. In belief, all the fertile women in a household who were not pregnant menstruated “at the same time, a time dictated by the Moon”, when they practised their bathing rituals together. If a woman fell out of phase with the Moon, breaking synchrony with her sisters, she could “get back in by sitting in the moonlight and talking to the Moon asking it to balance her”.
Anthropologists have described how withdrawal of sexual and domestic services was in many cultures on women’s terms. Far from being oppressive, so-called “seclusion” could be experienced as special time. In 2001, Wynne Maggi described what happens regularly to this day inside the bashali, a communal menstrual house used by women among the Kalasha people of north-west Pakistan.
In this community, there are no isolated menstrual huts. Instead, there is a large sacred building serving as a communal meeting house for the women, who see it as the physical centre for their solidarity and freedom. Women congregate here when menstruating or giving birth, so that at any one time there may be as many as 20 women inside, gossiping, laughing and singing together, many with babies and toddlers. During their stay in what they call their “most holy place”, women compare notes on the duration of their menstrual flows.
The men express pride that in this society, “our women are free”, despite the fact that the bashali building is off-limits to them. Women who want to escape their husbands for a few days can use it as a refuge. Maggi describes graphically how women enjoy the intimacy of sleeping overnight in the bashali, arms and legs wrapped closely together. What happens in the bashali is women’s secret, so much so that men don’t even have the words to ask what happens there. The special house for women is the biggest building in the village. Like so many men’s houses or temples in patriarchal societies, but the other way round, it is one from which half the population is excluded.
Among African hunter-gatherers, where gender egalitarianism is strong, a girl’s first menstruation triggers special celebrations embracing the entire community. For hunter-gatherers of the Ituri Forest in the eastern part of the Congo, the elima ritual is a collective and joyous affair. Lasting several moons, activities centre on an elima hut, which is in fact the most impressive structure ever used – more like a temple at the centre of the community.
Girls who have recently begun menstruating go inside with older women to be given practical lessons about boys and sex, but mainly to learn ancient, polyphonic songs and the hut resounds with their singing. The girls emerge “on the warpath” to playfully hunt out boys with big whippy sticks. Festivities revolve around this sexual wargame of girls laughingly chasing boys and the boys countering and teasing back. If any boy gets whipped, he must try to enter the elima hut, assuming he can get past the mums and aunties guarding the entrance. In this way elima becomes a type of initiation for both sexes, very much on the girls’ terms.
In Blood Relations, his classic work on the anthropology of menstruation, Chris Knight argues that women invented culture. He traces the origins of sexual morality to female self-organisation and collective resistance toward bad behaviour in males. Knight argues convincingly that women could not command respect if they allowed men to take sexual access to them for granted. The way to get men to be helpful was to make clear that sex was conditional on good behaviour. To make this work, women had to establish, at least periodically, the most fundamental rule of all, that “No means No”. As Knight puts it: “If the body is not sacred, nothing is.”
Hawaii lawmakers are considering decriminalizing prostitution in the state after the speaker of the House introduced a bill that would also legalize buying sex and acting as a pimp.
The proposal also would end a state law that says police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations.
Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she is trying to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women are overrepresented in the sex trade and therefore disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.
House Speaker Joseph Souki said in an interview that he does not have a position on the bill and he introduced it as a favor for Ryan.
“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.
But long-time anti-sex trafficking advocate Kathryn Xian said legalizing the selling, promoting or buying of sex would make it harder to police the industry.
“If this bill passes and everything was no crime whatsoever, then abuses against women and children would just shoot through the freaking roof,” Xian said. “It would be exponentially harder to prove violence in the industry. It would be almost impossible to prove any sort of labor abuse.”
Asked about the part of the bill that strikes language preventing police from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Souki said: “No, again I have nothing to say about the bill.”
Hawaii has an unusual history with prostitution investigations. Until 2014, it was legal for police officers to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations, but state lawmakers changed that after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole in a story.
The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment about the bill.
Ryan wants to preserve the law preventing police from having sex with prostitutes to arrest them if the bill does not pass, but “if they can’t arrest them anyway because it’s no longer illegal, it’s a moot point,” she said.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said the bill would make it harder to address global sex trafficking because “it would be more difficult to find the bad actors, more difficult to get witnesses to make cases.”
Michael Golojuch Jr., chairman of the LGBT caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said transgender women are overrepresented compared with other women in the sex trade because the discrimination they face leads some to feel it’s the only kind of work they can get.
Golojuch personally supports the idea of decriminalizing prostitution, but he said he and the caucus had not yet taken an official position on the bill.
“My dream job would be union organizer for consensual sex workers,” Golojuch said. “It would be great for people who want to do that work to unionize them and empower them so that they are taken care of.”
Not everyone thinks legalizing prostitution would benefit sex workers.
“By normalizing sexual exploitation and recasting it as a career choice that has no harms attached, we’re creating a setting and a system where we are OK with objectifying women, where we’re OK with buying other human beings’ bodies, and that has effects that are far-reaching in terms of how women are treated,” said Khara Jabola, chapter coordinator of Af3irm Hawaii, a feminist group.
The bill and another to decriminalize marijuana may be part of a push to reduce the prison population, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said.
But any decriminalization bills are unlikely to pass before the Legislature gets a report from a working group that has been meeting on the topic. That report isn’t expected before the session ends, Saiki said.
i hope you hit your limit yesterday.
yesterday, male people told you precisely how pathetic, worthless, & contemptible they find the female experience.
to them, any attempt to organise as female people is laughable & shameful. no matter how abstract your slogans (“no uterus no opinion” makes no attempt to exclude anyone from womanhood), no matter how obfuscatory your circumlocutions (”dfab”, “dmab” in reference to unambiguous sex). any solidarity between female people will be ridiculed as the enterprise of “cis women”, i.e. members of the female sex who have not dissociated from it.
i hope you listened to them & i hope you saw their tantrum for what it was: the same entitlement, the same ego, the same contempt for female people, the same ignorance of female experience.
engels said that: The first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamian marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male.
patriarchy, male supremacy, institutional sexism, whatever you want to call it: it is the sex-class system through which male people subjugate female people, first & foremost to assert control over reproduction.
bell hooks said that: “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
feminism is the movement to dismantle that sex-class system. feminists must speak lucidly about sex, sex-class, socialisation, & reproduction.
& yet that speech & movement is condemned as oppressive, exclusionary, & cruel to male people, because sexist male people will never be happy with feminism. never. it’s not worth it to try to appease them.
the whole “abortion is too exclusionary to bring up at a women’s march” thing makes no sense regardless of how you define woman (i.e. “female people” vs. “anyone who identifies as a woman”).
is rape an appropriate topic for a women’s march? not all women are raped. not all rape victims are women. is bringing up rape at a women’s march oppressive to women who haven’t been raped? if never-been-raped women protested that anti-rape activism “excluded” them & hurt their feelings, would we take them seriously? if never-been-raped women proclaimed that anti-rape activism “reduced women to rape victims”, would you take their side?
so is female reproductive autonomy an appropriate topic for a women’s march? every person that suffers under the exploitation of female reproductive capacity – denied abortion, forced abortion, forced impregnation, etc. – is a member of the female sex. the vast majority of those people consider themselves “women” (or the equivalent word in their language).
so what if members of the male sex feel offended & excluded by discussions of male exploitation of female people? their bruised egos don’t need to be assuaged by women.
if rape can be discussed at a women’s march, why not female reproductive autonomy?
it would actually be great to discuss white feminism with respect to white women uncritically expecting black women to take over their domestic roles when white women “empowered” themselves in the workplace in the 60s and 70s or, like, white women CEOs exploiting women of color globally in sweatshops so they could join the boy’s club of millionaires, but no…. alas……. it’s not to be……… instead we get to say that referencing menstruation is the pinnacle of white feminism
Those on the frontline of this rage know it is there. Millions of us marched last Saturday. This has rattled Trump, who is obsessed with size, with ratings and with reviews. But let us now pursue clarity and strategy, and name what is happening.
Patriarchy is the sea in which these sharks gather. I am glad to see that people are using this word again. It went out of fashion for a bit when feminism was portrayed as a series of tedious personal choices over shoes, shopping and sex toys. But the concept of patriarchy is essential to understanding what is happening right now. It is a system by which men hold power over political leadership, moral authority and every kind of social privilege, over women and children.
Patriarchy is not some men-only affair. Many women play a role in sustaining it. The far right, by the way, is not afraid of using this word. It claims it as the basis for all that is good in western civilisation. The elevation of Trump is absolutely patriarchal fundamentalism. He has swept up a lot of the Christian vote because of it. The adulation of Putin is the worship of another white power based on patriarchal rule: unapologetically anti-women, anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Muslim. It is obsessed with displays of masculinity to the point of fascist camp. The right promises the restoration of a time when men were men and women were sanctified mothers or whores. Such authoritarianism may be delivered by both men and women. As the American author and feminist bell hooks says, patriarchy has no gender. It is not situated only within the individual – which is why screaming “Sexist!” at someone only gets you so far. Were the women who voted for Trump furthering patriarchy? Yes, obviously. They may believe it can protect them.
The dismantling of this power cannot possibly come from those who won’t name it and spend the entire time shoring it up, largely reaping its benefits: that is, much of the liberal establishment. By assuming the culture war had been won, the myths of impartiality and neutrality have allowed far–right voices to go unchallenged. The assumption that we all believe in equality, are anti-racist, love an art gallery and some heated debate turned out to be wrong.
Patriarchal power asserts itself through cultural as well as economic resentment. And that is everywhere. The oft-repeated sentiment that feminism is itself an extreme movement is evidence of how liberalism bows down to authoritarianism.
So much more important now than whether dullards profess their allegiance to women’s rights while refusing to listen to women is understanding who will get down on their knees to service the new man-child patriarchy. And those of us who won’t. The power of telling it like it is is ours.
QotD: “No law gives men the right to rape women. This has not been necessary, since no rape law has ever seriously undermined the terms of men’s entitlement to sexual access to women”
No law gives men the right to rape women. This has not been necessary, since no rape law has ever seriously undermined the terms of men’s entitlement to sexual access to women.
Catharine A. MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 239.
“you can’t have sex unless you have sexual attraction (to the person)” this sounds very sex shamy and swerf flavored. Also with a hint of gaslighting.
Found at Appropriately Inappropriate, who responds:
So you support having sex you don’t want?
Two brothers who trafficked vulnerable men from Poland to work in a Sports Direct warehouse have been jailed for six years each under the Modern Slavery Act.
Erwin Markowski, 38, and his brother Krystian, 35, lured 18 men from Poland to work at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse, Nottingham crown court heard.
Poor working conditions at the factory, including body searches and pay below the legal minimum were exposed by an undercover Guardian investigation in 2015.
The duo employed a “spotter” in Poland to identify vulnerable people who could be sent to the UK on the promise of work. When the men arrived, the Markowski brothers opened bank accounts on their behalf and withdrew most of their income from working at Shirebrook.
The workers, who had their passports taken from them, were left with about £90 from weekly takehome pay that should have been £265, the court heard. The brothers, who made £35,000 from the scheme, were caught after one of the victims tipped off police, triggering a raid on a home in the city.
The victim said he had been living in the house with 10 other men, who were also working at Sports Direct. Judge Steven Coupland said the men were “filled with false promises of a good life in the UK where they would be assisted […] to receive a decent job, pay and decent accommodation”.
He said the arrangement “became a planned and systematic scheme to traffic human beings into the UK in order for you to control them and benefit from their hard work, making substantial sums of money, living in good conditions while they received very little and lived in poorer conditions”.
DC Sarah Fearn of Nottinghamshire police said victims were left feeling “used, distressed and manipulated”.
Eventually you get to a point in mid-adulthood, having digested a few newspapers and muted a few politicians, when you start to wonder: do cities actually want their women to die? Otherwise, why take these backward steps, cutting services so that more and more women’s refuges are forced to close? Backward steps – no, it’s more like being dragged through shrubland into a dimmer, darker place.
Sunderland is about to become the first UK city without a single domestic violence refuge. The bleakness of this is exhausting. The knowledge that even if a woman in Sunderland finds the courage, cash and energy to leave the partner that hits her, soon there will be nowhere for her to go. The chances are she will end up on the streets (St Mungo’s reports a third of the women they work with say domestic violence contributed to their homelessness) or in a B&B, floundering with no support, no advice on how to begin a life alone, and of course that itch, that feeling that she will always be listening for steps behind her, that she is never safe. Or else, of course, like the two women murdered by their partners in England and Wales every week, she’ll return to a man that kills her.
And the irony is that – apart from at this very sharpest end of the issue, where hundreds of women are being turned away from refuges, due in part to almost a fifth closing since 2010 – elsewhere hard work is paying off. Police now know how to talk to victims of abuse, how to deal with the shadowy cases, the crimes that happen in family homes. Schools now teach pupils the acceptable boundaries of relationships, due to charities working tirelessly to research and fight dating abuse, and expose the horrors of being 14 and terrified. Yet still, if a woman runs, cuts in funding mean she’ll have nowhere to go.
It took a long time to get here, to a place where we could talk about domestic violence, and then acknowledge the many forms it can take, and then the difficulties of escaping it. It took a long time before refuges opened across the country, offering beds and safety to women whose black eyes had been politely ignored by their bosses, at home their children silently watching the ads.
A couple of years ago, Jenny Smith wrote The Refuge, a book about finding sanctuary in the world’s first safe house for women. It was May 1973, when women weren’t allowed to apply for a mortgage without a man, and there was no such thing as marital rape. After two years of being kicked around, people turning away when her husband hit her on the street, she happened upon a piece in the Daily Mirror which read: “Victims of domestic violence? Need help?”
She hid the article under the carpet so he wouldn’t find it. He had beaten her, stabbed her, burned and bitten her – once he tried to drown her. When Smith arrived at the refuge – a terraced house on the other side of London – with her two babies, they welcomed her in, telling her she was safe.
Forty-four years later, two out of every three women that approach a refuge for help are being turned away. When we hear about Sunderland losing its last refuge, it’s as if another brick has been removed from that first safe house in London – it’s not safe. At it’s foundation, it’s not safe. It sounds flippant to wonder whether cities care about the lives of their vulnerable women, whether they want them to die, but all evidence points in that direction. The places those women go to stay alive are disappearing. It’s dreadful to revisit Smith’s book – those 1970s campaigners feeling they had achieved so much, only for the 2000s government to dismantle their efforts with shrugs and cuts.
QotD: “Men often kill wives after lengthy periods of prolonged physical violence accompanied by other forms of abuse and coercion”
Men often kill wives after lengthy periods of prolonged physical violence accompanied by other forms of abuse and coercion; the roles in such cases are seldom if ever reversed. Men perpetrate familial massacres, killing spouse and children together; women do not. Men commonly hunt down and kill wives who have left them; women hardly ever behave similarly. Men kill wives as part of planned murder-suicides; analogous acts by women are almost unheard of. Men kill in response to revelations of wifely infidelity; women almost never respond similarly, though their mates are more often adulterous.
R. Emerson and Russell Dobash, quoted in Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel
QotD: “If you don’t agree with the central aims of a political movement, you aren’t part of that political movement”
All this nonsense about whether prolife women can be feminist is such liberal identity bullshit. Feminism is a political movement, not an identity. If you don’t agree with the central aims of a political movement, you aren’t part of that political movement. I don’t go around calling myself a conservative and then getting offended when people point out that I don’t actually support the goals of conservatism. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but you’re not entitled to lay claim to a political descriptor that doesn’t accurately describe you and then throw a fit when someone points this out.