S/He? Blog posts by Reiss-René Niles and Megan Haycock

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A true reflection of self?  By Reiss-René Niles

 

If you were to look in a mirror right now, what image of yourself would you see?  And if I were to look at your reflection in the mirror, would I see the same image? Would you be happy with the image that I would see of you? Without going too far into the science of how mirrors work, I would hope you all agree in saying that I wouldn’t. This is not only for the fact that I would be literally standing at a different angle, but simply because what you might think or feel about yourself would alter how you depict yourself in the mirror.  And this perception may not even actually be what is physically there! For some, this disparity between images can be problematic in ones sense of identity as Anne Hollander states it crates a ‘self-deception- or at the very worst, perhaps a path to death and damnation.’ Marjane Satrapi illustrates this in Persepolis as the reflection of female characters in the mirror shows them to be unhappy or frowning, perhaps in seeing how they may physically be portrayed in society. What comes to mind when analysing this theory in a modern day society is the struggles that many transgender people may face when looking in the mirror as how they identify themselves challenges society’s stereotypical views of how a gender should look/act etc.

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“He for She” – Really? By Megan Haycock

 

Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us – Andrea Dworkin

 

Emma Watson’s speech on behalf of the “He For She” campaign had men at its front and centre, outlining the ways that they would be benefitted should they become ‘feminists’. In 2014 the campaign went viral. Celebrity after celebrity was spotted sporting a “He For She” or “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt or holding up a sign scribbled with “#heforshe”. As if that was all the effort it took to become a feminist. One photo, one scribbled bit of paper, and droves of media attention and fan support were headed their way. However, as with most celebrity feminism it all felt a bit hollow. As a self-described radical feminist, it does nothing to hear the words ‘if you believe in equality, you’re a feminist’. I’m sure plenty of men, when asked, will answer that they believe men and women should be equal. However I’m not sure that many of them would go away from that interaction and examine their own behaviour and the ways in which they commit misogynistic acts in their everyday life.

This brand of celebrity led feminism is simply a veneer, drumming up publicity about whichever buzzword is fashionable, without really making change. The “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” shirts that were popular amongst (mostly, but not entirely) white celebrities in the same year were made by women in factories in Mauritius earning $190 a month, $17 beneath what the National Empowerment Fund claims represents the minimum poverty income level.[1]

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Having visited Bangladesh, Zambia, and more recently Uruguay it was disappointing to listen to a speech full of the pitfalls of White Feminism™. Meaning, she speaks entirely from a place of privilege ignoring women from racial minorities (or other minorities) that will not find her campaign accessible or empowering. How a woman can visit places where women have no access to education, are subjected to FGM and child marriages and then go on to dedicate an entire speech to the struggles of white men is beyond me.

Whilst she may have had good intentions, I would rather focus my time and effort on actually empowering women and assisting those in true need as opposed to trying to convert men who will only ultimately exploit our movement for their own gain. Many men may now call themselves feminist, but go home at the end on the day and watch porn, and industry founded on the backs of raped, trafficked and exploited women. On their way home they may try to talk to a woman on the train who isn’t at all interested, and persist, but exempt themselves from criticism and analysis because they of course believe in equality of the sexes.

She briefly mentions at the end of the speech the fifteen million girls that will be married as children in the next 16 years, however, I struggle to see how her speech does anything to change that fact. I find it hard to imagine a man in rural Africa seeing her speech and having a revelation about his soon to be child bride. Her speech could only ever really reach an already privileged group, and why would a privileged group rally behind someone trying to strip them of their privilege to level the playing field?

I find it impossible to wholeheartedly believe in a branch of feminism (a movement founded for the liberation of females) that quite literally puts ‘he’ before ‘she’.

[1] Eleanor Goldberg (2016). ‘Feminist’ T-Shirt Backed by Women’s Group Made In Sweatshop: Report. Huffington Post. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/03/feminist-t-shirt-sweatshop_n_6094722.html [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].

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6 responses to this post.

  1. What’s most fascinating to me about Reiss-René’s blog is it makes me wonder if there is one ‘true’ image, and we lay our individual experiences and beliefs over it to create an altered, narrower picture. I do believe that when each of us look at an image, we see something slightly different because of where we focus our attention, our biases, and maybe even just how we feel that day. I think the characters in Persepolis are looking in the mirror FOR something, perhaps searching for that ‘true’ image and seeing how it matches up with the political ideal of ‘woman’ as it changes over time.

    Megan’s blog was extremely powerful and really highlights the contradictions of self-proclaiming feminists. I agree that new ‘He For She’ feminists probably aren’t supporting the same type of feminism Emma Watson does, if they can’t link their unconscious bias and everyday behaviour to how that may be a problem for the feminist cause. Even though celebrity activism can empower and reach far more people than your average person speaking in a Youtube video, I certainly see Megan’s point in that the danger is how it can be misinterpreted to suit personal agendas and media trends.

    However Megan says that she would ‘rather focus [her] time and effort on actually empowering women and assisting those in true need as opposed to trying to convert men who will only ultimately exploit our movement for their own gain.’ That brings the question of exactly how she would propose to empower women; a speech may not be putting money in their pockets and food in their mouths, but does it not have the potential to cause a shift in cultural attitude? Also, I find it problematic to make a sweeping statement about male feminists having a low level of integrity; ie. It can be seen as reversal of many men’s beliefs about female feminists, and removing to possibility of men becoming helpful, progressive feminists seems counter-productive.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Ashley Foley on November 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    In Reiss-René’s blog, I think it is very true and something we can all connect to as women. How we almost hate our mirrored image because we are women and what we see in the mirror is not what is projected at us by society and the media. What we see are white model like women who, still do need equal rights but, are more privileged then other almost ‘sub’ cultures of feminism, which I say ‘sub cultures’ because that is how feminist it is projected by the media. As Megan states, what is projected about feminism comes from white feminist leaders who ask for gender rules to be abolished for men, as well but, forget that we still have not won the fight for ALL women yet, as Reiss-René’s states about transgender women and how Megan goes on to explain how these ‘sub cultures’ are ignored by the media because they do not represent societies idea of ‘feminist’. The definition of feminist should change so that women of different races and cultures are not looked at as ‘sub cultures’ of the word but fit into the definition women are fighting for.

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  3. Posted by Anna on November 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    I agree with all of Megan’s comments as there are a lot of contradictions with men who say they are feminists only to conduct themselves in a way that contradicts what is actually means to be a feminist.

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  4. Posted by Afshan on November 9, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I found Megan’s blogpost most inspiring and extremely thought-provoking. I admire her for questioning the hugely popular HeForShe campaign and the foundations which it has built itself upon. I also believe that it is important to carefully consider one’s feminist beliefs and try to avoid celebrity influence, as is common these days.

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  5. Posted by Kristine Aasland on November 10, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I found Reiss-René’s blog post and her comments about our reflections in the mirror very interesting. Babak Elahi writes in her essay about how the narrator is trying to ‘piece together a divided identity, a fragmented subjectivity’ (p. 318). This struck me when I read Persepolis, and so did Marjane’s curiosity and willingness to listen and to reflect. She seems to continually try to challenge and better herself. At one point she says: ‘I realized that I didn’t understand anything. I read all the books I could.’ (p. 32) One of her problems is that the knowledge and the instructions she receives differ substantially. She is only fourteen at the end of ‘The story of a Childhood’, and it must be very hard for her, in all that has happened to her, her family, and her country, to find footing and stability for the creation of an identity.

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  6. Posted by Neeti Rao on November 11, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    The concept of paradigm was most interesting in Reiss-Rene’s blog as it opened a new window for me to look at the theory of mirror image differently. What I see, is not what you see but that does not mean that whatever we both see is not present in the same mirror. Standing at a different angle of the mirror shows us a different image, just like the story exhibited in ‘Persepolis’. We see a story within a story. We see the story of a young girl from the outer most dimension and the story told to us is from the inner most. The experience of reading ‘Persepolis’ enlightened me to agree on the fact that it is important to turn our eyes in a different angle to experience the other side of the comic strip.

    Megan’s blog was equally interesting as it presented a great argument on the celebrity endorsements on feminism. Feminism has to be endorsed, and it has to be endorsed by celebrities for people to stop and take notice of it. Are celebrities the only way to get the attention of men and teach them about women rights which has fought its way and reached 21st century. I have to say that in order to reach a larger audience, it is important for people who have access to that publicity to take control and bring the motive to justice, however, then I am presented with a contradiction of whether it is right for ‘someone’ to talk about ‘someone’ without being in their place or understanding their plight. But then what is empathy? Is the question ‘who stands for who?’ standing between us and the empathy?

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