My Feminism

My Feminism is a collection of blog entries written by Lilith which talks about thoughts, opinions and concerns in our daily lives. At times it is a compilation of randomness and at others a seething criticism of today’s social issues. Enjoy!

The Muff- Honest Thoughts on Pubic Hair

Article written for Wicked Wanda’s Adult Emporium, as Sexpert Lilith

The muff, bush, patch, forest, trimming and gift-wrap, to the carpet, happy trail, lady garden and pubes, pubic hair is a wonderfully strange aspect of one’s life and identity. For something which everyone thinks about at some point in their life, no one really wants to talk about it. From the historical roller-coaster of necessity and practicality, to the religiously informed aesthetics we see in pornography, pubic hair is complicated. My first vivid memory of pubic hair that I can remember was when I was some where around 12 years old and I was in the kiddy pool that my next door neighbour set up on the lawn in front of their house. It was a hot day and my best friend at the time and I were attempting to cool down in the sweltering heat when I look up at her, as she rose from the pool and I saw dark, curly hair peaking from around her bathing-suit bottoms. I remember being stunned at the time. What and why are there weird things… down there: As my parents called it sometimes: the no-no place. Yet, as I grew older the images I saw on screen and in the porno mags I stole a peak from, there was no hair down there. I remember feeling self-conscious about it, especially during the summer where swimsuits haunted me as I assessed the amount of body hair which was acceptable before going to the beach. Then romantic and sexual feeling arose for various individuals and my mild obsession with people’s opinions got me asking questions about if I could be desirable if I had pubic hair, and whether anyone else could sense that I did or didn’t have some, or worse, they could smell me. Like some women and men who have removed pubic hair in an effort to be clean, I worried that I was dirty for having pubic hair or was I dirty for having a vagina?

I realize now that pubic hair is kind of like the frog, it is an indicator species. Perceptions about pubic hair is a gateway into understanding culture, religion and social ideas/ practices through out time, much like how toys have been analyzed. Overtime, pubic hair and the expectations of grooming for both men and women have greatly changed, as pubic hair did not appear to matter greatly until Christian and religious ideas of morality and cleanliness became infused into law, society and culture. While it is arguable that this change to a more modest enjoyment of the human form is due to religious ideas of fully covering where pubic hair and leg hair (for women) simply wouldn’t be seen under all those layers of dresses, even art displays a turn away from the bush. Slowly but surely, pubic hair became embarrassing and obscene while alternatively the necessity of grooming further complicates that narrative. Some women in the 1450s got rid of pubic hair to help eradicate pubic lice but they then donned what is called the Merkin or pubic wig, some donned these wigs to cover syphilis later on. (Note: never shave to get rid of pubic lice, they dig in, go to your doctor, and yes, the use of Merkins to cover syphilis does not help the idea that pubic hair is unclean.) Then the introduction of the swimsuit which would reveal pubic hair in the 20th century drove more women to trim their muff. Arguably, the muff is a fading memory sacrificed to the gods of aesthetics.

Yet what does ideas and practices regarding pubic hair say about society? Another way to control women’s bodies? Is the shaming of pubic hair really the shaming of the vagina or of the abyss of untold wonder and turmoil? Some have argued that the disappearance of the carpet is an attempt to make women look more per-pubescent and some say it just makes them feel cleaner. For men, does it make the Johnson look bigger? Or does bush make them look manlier? Ultimately, it comes down to the individual person. Yes, culture has a huge effect on our ideas about pubic hair but people are not mindless consumers which absorb the latest trends without a thought, people negotiate with these trends and culture-based changes constantly. Some individuals choose to rebel against the totalitarian regime of the bikini wax, whereas other simply like the feel or look of a bare vulva or nutsack. In my informal research into what people think about pubic hair, the opinions ranged dramatically. Some indicated that they did not like any pubic hair on themselves or their partners, especially when oral sex was to be performed. Others said that they preferred a little bit of hair because it made them feel like they were with a mature adult. Many indicated that the maintenance of the bush was largely due to practicality; shave or wax totally and razor burn, rashes or ingrown hairs happen, don’t trim and underwear pinches and pubes sometimes gets in your lovers teeth. One friend noted that she picks out nice wrapping paper for gifts but its the contents that counts. Whereas others noted that they really didn’t care but if their partner did, then they would try to make an effort for the other person’s preference.

While the great pubes debate has been criticized by some for being very hetero in its approach, no matter sexuality or even gender preferences, we think about pubes and what to do with them. There are so many different approaches to analyzing pubic hair, such as a feminist critique of the patriarchy or a marxist criticism of capitalism, to a queer critical question of “who’s bush are we talking about”. That maintenance or lack-thereof can be a powerful personal statement of one’s own politics, one’s identity or just how someone feels most comfortable. Personally, I like a little turf above the house and I like my partners to have that too. Yet, really there isn’t a good or bad way to maintain your no-no place, male, female or otherwise. There is nothing unclean about pubic hair, and you can get that fact checked by your doctor. Some are arguing now that the bush is making a comeback in pop culture media, even saw bush on both the 50 Shades of Grey characters this past week at the movies. Ultimately, what almost everyone I’ve encountered has said about pubes is that is has to be comfortable, and that comes from being comfortable in your own body, whatever way it takes to achieve that. One can be sexy and playful with a full muff, trimmed bush, waxed mound or heart-shaped packaging.

Lilith Out!

What do you think about muff? Do you consciously make decisions towards grooming because of your own political views or does it depend entirely on the comfort of yourself and your partners?

50 Shades of… What? A Feminist Perspective

I had too. I felt I could not criticize 50 Shades of Grey properly if I did not personally watch the film, and after seeing it tonight, I have to say…. what? I realized quite early in my adventure that my pre-conceived notions of the film were highly influenced by the various posts on Facebook and various other blogs which painted the film in less than favorable colors, as even standing in line to see it… was slightly embarrassing. To begin, I have read the books and my perspective on them have always been rather complicated as the strange stalker/ control-freak Grey creeped me out, yet the topic of kink in mainstream society and social media culture excited me. As the theater was packed to the brim and everyone was more excitedly loud then one would usually find within a movie theater, I guarded myself against the worse affront seen on the big screen since Tom Green.

I can say honestly that the movie was not nearly as bad as I had expected. Yes, there were questionable aspects which mirrored events and dialogue in the original books, but the script and production team were brilliantly aware of themselves and the content they were portraying. A large criticism which I too take issue with is the creep factor of one Christian Grey as he is manipulative, controlling and staker-like. The movie is entirely aware of this and largely succeeds at turning those uncomfortable traits into comedic relief. Anna is wonderfully refreshing as an awkward yet quick-witted character which one personally did not see in the novels. I would not argue that the movie makes light of emotional and physical abuse within some relationships but I would argue that it is self-aware and therefore self-reflective. Don’t get me wrong, the horribly, un-savory “personality” of Grey is not magically gone but it seems they attempted to make some of his more rough edges consumer and big screen ready.

I also liked the fact that the movie ended on a note about consent. I won’t spoil anything for folks (because spoilers go to the 10th level of hell for that especially heinous crime) but Steele tells Grey to stop (which he doesn’t listen too), but then she very firmly said No and that stopped him in his tracks. This may be minor but I appreciate the intense and much needed note of consent at the end, especially in light of a lot of the criticism around the books. Though lets be honest, he should have stopped at Stop…

So obviously I had some issues with the movie because frankly there were problems on a lot of levels and fronts which are grievous.

1) The movie-makers may have tried to scan over the totally ridiculous contract, but we saw it and heard. Forcing your submissive or any partner into getting birth-control- Nope. Being available for any sexual activities the Dominant wants, at any time (regardless, of what the Submissive wants)- Nope.

2) There was some steamy sex but did anyone else notice that the BDSM aspects were only really implemented in the foreplay or the building up to the sex. The kinkiest thing they did during sex was doggy style. This is not to say that all BDSM is about sex or penetration but considering the hyper about all the kinky sex… not that kinky.

3) I have a huge issue with how one of the last scenes was handled. They portray Steele as trapping or baiting Grey into pushing her too far then she freaks out and its not fair to Grey. This is not correct in a plethora of ways. Firstly, in a Dominant/ Submissive relationship the Sub is not the only one who has limits that must be respected. The Dominant’s limits have to be a part of the equation. That is why it is especially scary when one comes across a Submissive who will not use the safeword out of pride, stubbornness or a want to prove something. While the Submissive must trust the Dominant to stop when the safeword is used, a Dominant must be able to trust a Submissive to use that safeword and to not push the Dominant past their own limits. Secondly, while BDSM can be used to exercise personal and emotional demons, that is not how all BDSM relationships are. The depiction of Grey’s pension for BDSM as a direct result of gruesome childhood physical, emotional and sexual trauma is harmful to the community at large. Yes, there are some who have been abused who are a part of the community and unfortunately, abuse in many forms is far more rampant than any of us would comfortably admit, but not everyone in the community is a victim or perpetrator. Being Kinky, whether that is BDSM or not, is just changing up the routine and exploring various aspects of one’s sexuality and sensuality.

I would not say that the 50 Shades movie is a total write-off but I would simply say, enjoy with a grain (or two) of salt. Enjoy the wonderful world of kink, go out and buy a blindfold, even a flogger but do it safely with research and communication. I really wish the movie had mentioned the cardinal rule of kink and BDSM: Safe, Sane, and Consensual.

Overall, I would rate this movie a:

1/ 5 on Kink Factor

3/5 For not being as bad as I expected

4/5 for being an example of the long way STILL left to tread on our road to safe, sane, consensual kink on the big screen.

0/5 For Being So Hetero!

Lilith Out!

Sexism in the Depiction of Female Superheroes

I love comics in a lot of ways. The beauty of story-telling is wonderfully alive within the medium and the art form continually gets more and more beautiful. Yet, there are problems with it. Sexism, racism, ableism, and homophobia have been issues in comics for a long time. This is not to say that all story lines, characters or publishing houses consistently struggle with these issues. Overtime there has been much progress in expanding who is represented in comics: from women, to disabled individuals, to racialized and sexually marginalized groups. Yet the issue of sexist depictions of female superheroes is still an issue, especially when looking at the angles and male gaze which objectify some characters. The gallery shown below is not a full representation of the progress eliminating sexism and the ways it still needs some work. There is arguably no way to compile a full list as comics have such a rich and full history that is continually growing. As a feminist, I will always love comics, which doesn’t mean I can’t critique them.

Lilith Out!

Feminism – an outsider’s perspective: Lilith’s Challenge

So while perusing various blog posts recently I came across this sexist gem. I’m sharing this not because these words have any truth in them but because the ludicrous “outsider’s perspective” is exactly why the fight for equality and equity is not over.
1) feminism is not just the rights of women but it also a fight for all to have access and rights around the world, regardless of sex, race, class, dis/ability, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and many other socially constructed factors.
2) feminism and women are not asking for “more than they should” and the fact that this person things we should be happy and grateful to make dinner for our partners and scrub the floors, is reminiscent of 1940/50s culture. News flash! We haven’t come that far if you are talking like a 1950s privileged male!
3) I think credit has to be given to the writer for allowing the space for women to have female partners to cook and clean for, regardless at how strange that is illustrated in the blog post.
4) ending with Bitch, really doesn’t help your case. You just seem like a sexist weasel when you use such gendered insults to point out that feminism is ruining everything.

So thank you to Adventures in Stupidity and opression (spelling mistake is their own) for truly illustrating what oppressive stupid arguments look like!

Lilith Out!

Papi Pacify- The Gaze, Consent and Kink and why I Love It

I first discovered this song when I searched up Top Feminist Songs of 2013 and it ranked very high on the list. By just looking at screen shots of the music video one sees an almost violent encounter between a man and woman, as he chokes her and forces fingers into her mouth. Yet upon closer investigation the video combined with the lyrics show a unique intersection between consent, kink and feminism. In fact, Twigs “tops from the bottom” in many ways as she expresses her desire to be dominated to the point where her tongue seeks his fingers to be put into her mouth.

What makes this video a visual representation of feminism and kink is her explicit use and awareness of The Gaze. Throughout the video, she is continually looking at the viewer in a purposefully and interactive kind of way. Women in popular culture mediums like music videos or advertisements are often the objects of the gaze and experience a dehumanizing objectification. Men are often portrayed as directly gazing back at the viewer, as if they are aware of the viewing relationship and they are refusing to be objectified by it. In Twigs’ video, this gendered dynamic is switched, where she is the active viewer/viewed and her male partner is objectified by the viewer’s gaze. He is, in a sense, a tool for her pleasure and she demands his and the viewer’s attention. This is not to say that in order to achieve equality, we must objectify men but I am in fact acknowledging the pattern of The Gaze within popular culture and how Twigs uses and challenges the conventional gaze.

This song and video also looks at the relationship between consent, kink and race. Both Twigs and her male pattern appear to be racialized persons and yet, their race doesn’t really matter. By no means does it appear that the video is relying on racist stereotypes of the sexual beastly black male. It instead looks to the sexual and sensual relationship between bodies. While still focusing on Twigs, as she is often in the centre of the frame or appears alone, the relationship between Twigs and her partner is powerfully real. With the aspect of kink involved, the cardinal rule within the community: Safe, Sane, and Consensual, is paramount within the video. While not everyone digs getting fingers put into their mouth, Twigs obviously wants it and expresses in multiple ways that she is consenting to this kind of play. The same goes for the breath play (or choking) involved in the video.

Note: Breath play is dangerous and is considered extreme within the kink community. Do not do this kind of play without researching techniques and does or don’ts (like never wrap rope around the neck). Safe is the first part of the cardinal rule, and make sure you discuss any kind of play you are interested in with your partner before the fun stuff.

In my opinion, FKA Twigs’ video Papi Pacify is a wonderful popular culture representation of the relationship between consent, kink and feminism. You don’t have to be into kink to be a feminist but it is a lot of fun!

Lilith Out!
Want more on Kink and Feminism check out another blog post here!

To check out the lyrics click here!

My Feminism Plays Nice with BDSM

As a feminist I struggle with what i feel is objectifying and counter to my feminist philosophies daily, as I encounter various television shows, movies, books and hashtag activism online. I’ve even struggled with how i interact with pornography. As a staunch sex-positive person, I feel that embracing pleasure as a right and exploring one’s body in whatever way (consensually and legally speaking) pleases oneself is healthy and wonderfully fulfilling. Yet, one cannot deny the truth, some pornography (I will not generalize and say that all or even most) is demeaning and perpetuates the very sexist patriarchal institutions that we (as a people) must negotiate for our very safety and equity everyday. This brings me to what type of porn can I personally watch which is less offensive and gets me off still. There is in fact feminist pornography which uses many sex-positive tactics and consent-based platforms to show conversation, expression of desires and needs, and the mutual fulfilment of both (or all) parties involved. What about if you just want to jerk it, quick and dirty so you can go to sleep quickly? Maybe watching porn with no volume, no English subtitles, what about Henti? That way you don’t have to worry about those people being real. The jury is still out for me about porn, but I don’t judge others (nor myself at times) for watching it.

As I mentioned, feminists have it hard sometimes because it seems like wherever you turn, there is something wrong. To be clear, I am not suggesting that feminists should stop being so easily offended or that being politically correct is really being overly sensitive and wanting to be offended. When you open your eyes to the world around us, you start to see a lot of ridiculous and wrong things around you, and just because you happen to not let your friend get away with that HILARIOUS racist joke, does not mean that you are intolerant of intolerance (in a bad way).

So what does a feminist do when they are into kink or BDSM? Well, the first step is research. In some ways, kink is a wonderful expression of core feminist ideology because the proper exploration and enjoyment of kink is dependent on trust, conversation and consent. A popular saying within the BDSM community is Safe, Sane, and Consensual. In a Dominant and Submissive relationship or a Master and Slave relationship, the conversation on what each person is hoping to get from the interaction, what each desires and the hard lines they do not enjoy nor they want to explore is key to a successful and fulfilling relationship. BDSM is honest and enjoys the power dynamics which exists between people in today’s society but instead of men dominating women (which some are into for kink), power dynamics are amazingly diverse within the community. Women dominate men, LGBTQ+ individuals dominant/submissive others, and everything else one can think of. Power in the BDSM community is not the privilege of a select few determined by the sex assigned at birth or the colour of one’s skin but rather it is earned, respected and given within a circle of trust and communication. Furthermore, power does not lie solely in the hands of the Dominant or Master but instead, much of the power is controlled by the Submissive or Slave. This is achieved by the use of a safe word, which if used properly, immediately stops whatever the individual is uncomfortable with or does not enjoy.

A true Dom or Master does not want to abuse (i use this word deliberately) their Sub or Slave, in fact, many of those kinds of relationships are ones of friendship, and love. Partially this is because BDSM and Kink are still viewed as deviant and undesirable sexualities within the larger mainstream culture and therefore, sharing part of one’s true sexual self and sexual culture can be intimate and wonderfully liberating. The image the mainstream society has of kink and BDSM as a Sub crying in the corner, beaten and bruised is not a true representation of the culture and community but is instead a horrible backlash to an alternative of the sexuality we are taught to have and the sex we are taught to participate in. The variety that one sees in the people around them can be seen in the kind of sex people have, kinky or otherwise. Furthermore, not all are into pain, and those who are, experiment in a safe and educated way.

It must be said that while I love kink and BDSM, there are those who abuse the culture and community and those who do not in essence, follow the rules. There are predators, just like anywhere you go (sadly), one must be careful when entering any new community with little knowledge and people to look out for you. There are abusers which say they are Dominants or Masters, just look at the Jian Ghomeshi. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that everyone respects the core ideology of BDSM but I will say that there are by far (by far far far) more wonderful, inclusive people in the community than there are predators (the male, female or otherwise kind). Because of the core ideology of BDSM the support within the community is overwhelming for newcomers or longtime practitioners. I love Kink and BDSM for that, it and its community members gives me a kind of power built on trust and communication and I give power back. The kind of feminism I believe in and practice everyday, feels totally great about kink because its what I enjoy and what many others do as well. You don’t have to be into kink to be a feminist, you don’t have to be into whips and chains (though they can be a lot of fun), but in my kind of feminism; you can’t hate or discriminate against someone who practices Safe, Sane, Consensual fun just because you don’t enjoy the same thing.

Lilith Out!

Nice Guys…. It Should Not be About “Finishing” Her

The other week I watched a fantastic performance by a Local Drag King: Master Cameron Eric Leon and he performed a new number about “nice guys”. This number was a satirical piece done to the song Sexy Bitch by David Guetta and Akon. So it got me thinking about this whole “Nice Guys Finish Last” shtick that some men rely on when cruising the single scene.

Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of nice guys out there but sadly there is a lot of “nice guys” out there too. These “Nice Guys” are self-entitled misogynist, heteronormative pigs. Yes, those are strong words and I will emphasize that I am not talking about every man. But those guys who rely on their “nice guy” boo-hoo act to make girls feel bad for not returning men’s affections or not sleeping with them, those are not nice guys but pigs. It comes down to the idea that if a man is “nice” to a woman she should return the “favor” and not only be nice back but sleep with him too.

This whole “nice guys finish last” thing is the sad ranting of an unsuccessful hetero male who feels slighted by women for not realizing how amazing he is and therefore won’t sleep with him. Women shouldn’t have to sleep with men because those guys are really “nice”, women may want to sleep with them if they are sexually attracted to the guy or the guy does not expect sex out of the casual conversation. Instead, these supposed “nice guys” are expecting some sort of exchange of sex for niceness and the ultimate goal is not a deep friendship or relationship but sex. The goal is to Finish Her.


Furthermore, whats so bad about the friendzone? Oh no, you’ve made another friend who may or may not want to pursue something more in the future. As if being friends is so bad because there is no sex involved? Women are not only good for sex! They are also good for conversation, debate and general human interaction which may or may not include sex. Now I know that some may argue that women also express frustration at being friendzoned or losing out on a guy because some chick stole him. 1) Wow, so hetero! 2) Guys are not necessarily expected to put out like women are expected too. Frankly, that’s how this whole dating thing works. There will be some people that you are interested in and that share that interest and there are some that it won’t work with. But shaming women who don’t put-out even though some guy was really “nice” is ridiculous and frankly sexist.

Lets stop being “nice guys” and start being nice people who enjoy conversation will each other and who accept that not everyone wants to have sex with you, nor you with them. Let the madness end!

Lilith Out!

Unwanted Male Attention: Catcalling, and Why I feel Uncomfortable with “Politeness”

By now, we have all seen the Catcalling video that went viral a few months back as a woman walked around New York for 10 hrs with a hidden camera. She received over one hundred instances of unwanted male attention. Yes, I am calling it unwanted male attention and not catcalling because one of the largest criticisms of the video is the idea that most of the men in it, were simply being “nice”. Some were most definitely instances of catcalling as I would define it: pointing out a woman’s features in a sexual or derogatory way “God Bless you mami… Damn!”. Catcalling can also mean an obvious attempt at objectifying: “I just saw a thousand dollars” (as she walks by). Others were simply a form of intimidation and possible minor stalking as one man followed her for more than 5 minutes.

Unwanted male attention is something which many women live with everyday and I do want to acknowledge the inherently cis-gendered and heteronormative aspects of this post and this subject. But what does unwanted male attention mean to me? Not only is it the obvious inappropriate comments, the catcalling out of cars but more commonly and some times more problematic is when these men are “nice” and “polite”. By no means do I believe that you cannot trust the actions of all men as they inherently bad or that all men are just acting polite to get laid. Furthermore, I want to stress that not all men participate and do unwanted male attention and that some women are just as guilty as some men for dis-empowering women and men around them through things like catcalling. What I am saying is, there is a difference between being polite and wishing someone a good morning when entering an elevator or what have you and ending with that, and when a stranger who happens to be a man goes out of their way to call attention to you (read: a woman) or be intrusive. The worst part of this kind of unwanted male attention is the thought that women should be grateful for it and that women ultimately want to be complimented. Our sexist world says it is okay to make a woman feel incredibly uncomfortable because of unwanted male attention then expect her to not only acknowledge your “compliment” but to say thank you. Even in the catcalling video, one man points this out clearly: “What’s up, beautiful. Somebodies acknowledging you for being beautiful, you should say thank you more!”. Thank you for further making a woman feel uncomfortable while just walking down the street? Of course, some critics of the video have voiced the prevailing thought that all women love to be called beautiful. Sure, women like to be called beautiful, also intelligent, independent, funny, charming but don’t men like to be called that too? Ohhh, sorry I mean handsome because guess what? Our gender system means that beautiful and handsome are highly gendered terms which mean very different things. Men do not get catcalled nearly as much as women because men enjoy a certain privilege within systems of patriarchy. Men don’t feel the need to catcall other men and most women don’t feel the need to catcall men. It’s a difference of power, not biological difference.

Catcalling is not the only instance of unwanted male attention that women experience daily. I myself experienced two different kinds of unwanted male attention in one night recently. I write these experiences in this post because I want to illustrate why women feel so uncomfortable with unwanted male attention in multiple ways and why being a “polite” man is simply not appropriate sometimes.

1) I was at a friend’s housewarming party and the night was going well. I didn’t know a lot of people there but I was making friends and all was well. Eventually, some people were starting to have a little too much to drink (as is their prerogative). I end up with a group of people in my friends bedroom just chatting and hanging out (read: there was nothing sexual at all happening) when a man I had just met that night grabbed my wrists and started to pull me to the bed. He was drunk. Yet, his vise-grip on my wrists and me saying no and resisting being pulled to the bed made him pull harder. There were people there and I was sober enough to be able to out maneuver him. His friend justified the action by simply saying he’s drunk… it happens. This level of unwanted male attention is rare but not as rare as we think and that is something which women are constantly reminded of. The fear of rape is huge because it happens all of the time.

2) At the end of the night I took a taxi home by myself. When the taxi arrived, the man driving took many opportunities to dis-empower me by consistently calling me Girl. Lets be clear, if you are in a friend group and there is an spoken or unspoken agreement that Girl is appropriate to call each other, cool, all the power to you. Between absolute strangers, who’s power imbalance is incredibly different, it’s not appropriate. The constant use of Girl made my vulnerability even more prominent as I was alone with a strange men, taking a taxi (which he was driving) alone at 3 am. Let alone he kept saying things like: “Hey Girl, it’s okay, trust me Girl, I’ll take care of you Girl”. At one point he called me sweetheart while he was asking some pretty invasive questions. I felt so dis-empowered and vulnerable that I was kinda afraid to tell him to stop calling me Girl and I was afraid of not answering his questions. This is an instance of “politeness” which is wrong because whether intentionally or not, this stranger made me feel incredibly powerless. He also forced me to take his number: “if you need anything at all, Girl”.

I bring up these examples to show how unwanted male attention is not about women being ungrateful or not know what they want but its a issue of power imbalance. It’s a way for women to feel more objectified, powerless and vulnerable in a world which already shoves in our faces that we could be raped or murdered any minute by a stranger or someone we know. There is a line between being polite and courteous in public, which does not include physical force, intimidation or unwanted male attention.

Lilith Out!

Stereotyping: “I’m not racist but…” Getting Away With Discrimination

In our North American society we rely so heavily on stereotypes to justify unpopular or what we know is discriminatory opinions because it is easy and widely acknowledged. Broadly speaking, stereotypes are a generalization about a person or group of people. We rely on stereotypes because “language constitutes reality” and therefore by saying something is a stereotype you are implying that it is mostly true for an entire group of people. We have all heard and probably used stereotypes in our daily lives to justify opinions or reactions to the people around us.
“All women love jewelry”
“All Jews are cheap”
“All black men are dangerous”
“All Muslims are terrorists”

and the list goes on. But really, what are we saying when we employ these stereotypes and where are they coming from? Firstly, stereotyping itself is justified by the statement that: “there is always a kernel of truth”, or “all my experience has shown me, this is true”. I call bullshit. The world is made up of roughly half female identified persons… and they all love jewelry? Firstly, what perspective are you coming from? A North American one, one of privilege and opportunity. Yet, what about all the men who love jewelry? What? Watches don’t count? The stereotype that all women love jewelry is entirely based on a North American, privileged and sexist idea that women are inherently shallow and materialistic. This stereotype extends very clearly all the way into Medieval Europe with Sumptuous Laws and later in the Renaissance as well. These laws sought to limit and regulate consumption. This very directly looked at clothing and jewelry. These laws were classed and sexed as fine clothing and jewelry were a sign of wealth and prestige but commoners who wanted to imitate by wearing these signs of the upper-class were unbalancing the class hierarchy. At the same time, dressing and ornamenting your property was a sign of wealth and throughout much of history (and even today), women were considered prize property. The stereotype that women could put their husbands out of house and home through their unchecked spending in order to obtain fine clothing and jewels was highly at play during times of sumptuous laws. Of course, that is partially because (high-class) women were forced to stay at home and were sheltered from the indecencies of the outside. This later in the Victorian Era was termed the Public/ Private divide. This gender system saw men as public figures, going outside for work and being public personalities and women remaining inside to tend to the house and home. Women were therefore required to maintain the household and everyone in it to the utmost respectability, including having fine and respectable clothing and jewels as appropriate to their class. Thus, just like today, women are forced into this lose- lose situation where they are expected to buy yet are demonized for doing so.

Historically speaking, Jews have been one of the most ostracized groups, based on religious beliefs, in the course of recorded human history. The stereotype that all Jews are cheap (financially) are based on two things: 1) Jews have historically been well-known for money-lending and 2) they have a history of being forced out of their countries of birth/ origin that they have been forced to be conscious of money and how to make do in difficult situations. In the Middle Ages, a group of Jews were well known as money-lenders to many in the towns around them (read mostly the area that will be called Europe). Even now, one of the most profitable enterprises is money-lending. Furthermore, as a group which has repeatedly been used as scapegoats for those in power, Jews and their role with money has been turned from thrifty, and money savvy to cheap and usurers. On the second point, Jews have been exiled from various countries around the world up to 109 times since 250 AD (seriously, I’ll include the list below in a link). Any immigrant, child of an immigrant or refugee knows how difficult it is to come to a new country, especially when exiled and it is especially hard when it comes to money. So historically speaking, Jews as a group of people have had to be very conscious of money and how to transport it. It’s not cheap to care about where ones money is and where it is going.

I could write forever about the stereotypes involved with the Scary Black Man and the Terrorist Muslim but these topics have been beaten over the head so often that they should be a non-issue… they still are…   The dangerous black man goes back to days of early slavery in various colonies around the world and the fact that often black slaves far out numbered white owners. Of course, it is far more complicated than that as the development of the racism we know today took centuries to build including ideas about the sexual black beast that rapes white women, and the resulting lynching in America. Guess what, it is RACISM to assume that every black man walking down the street is going to rob you, rape you, or murder you. Yes, there is a ridiculous amount of black men in the prison system in America… just like there is a ridiculous amount of aboriginal men in Canadian prisons… see a pattern? Some of the most marginalized and unappreciated individuals in our society are tossed into jails for the smallest crimes (like marijuana) because it is easier to lock them up than educate or treat them properly.

After 9/11 racism and racist stereotypes intensified surrounding Muslim people, but lets be honest, this stereotype involves anyone appearing to be brown in North America. Furthermore, lets not pretend that this racism against Muslims is new… IT’S NOT. This east/ west divide has existed all the way to at least Roman times when Constantine the Great wanted to bridge this apparent divide and capitalize on it by moving Rome’s metropolis to Constantinople in 324 AD. We constitute ourselves by what we are not, thus we must create and CONSTRUCT an Other which to create ourselves by. If we are progressive, enlightened, and democratic than our Other is oppressive, backwards and communist or ruled by a dictator or has a king or… etc etc. We have constructed ourselves as the opposite of Muslim/ Eastern culture and people, and thus use stereotypes to distance ourselves from what we view is wrong with that culture. In fact, the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists is in exact opposition to the stereotype that Canada and the United States are peace-keeps, and heroes.

By no means does this blog entry exhaust the complexity of the stereotypes discussed or of the thousands of others that exist. Yet, it is important to look at history and to challenge what is deemed normal to say and do because stereotyping is discriminatory in nature and ultimately creates a culture of mistrust and hatred. Free yourselves and be conscious of the language you use.

Lilith Out!