feminism · opinion piece

Michael Moore and the Purity of Women

 

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I guess I’m just really cynical of this mentality that promotes the idea of women as a collective being pure, wonderful creatures of grace who can do no wrong. It strikes me as something very, very backwards – an old-fashioned view of femininity and how women are delicate, sensitive bastions of purity that must be protected, or who are kind and nurturing by their inherent nature that they cannot possibly be as terrible as men.

Here’s the thing. Women did play an important role in inventing the atomic bomb, and no single person can ‘initiate’ a Holocaust. The Holocaust happened because of a series of cultural and social antisemitic attitudes that pre-existed within the German society, and I assure everyone here that German women played very active roles in Nazi Germany. (See here, and here for examples.)

The reason women ‘usually don’t’ commit the same crimes as men do, on a systematic level, is because they haven’t had the chance to. Michael Moore’s belief that women are somehow more delicate and inherently nurturing and kinder than men are is an antiquated notion of what it means to be a woman. This is a terribly Victorian attitude – the belief that women are so delicate and pure that they are incapable of the same things as men.

I don’t believe that. I think that the only reason women haven’t had more of an active role in world leadership (both Western and non-Western) is because they’ve simply not had the opportunities. But those opportunities are happening. We’re getting there. The UK has had Margaret Thatcher; Israel has had Golda Meir. The USA could be getting Hillary Clinton. Women are senators, politicians, foreign ambassadors, heads of states, lawyers, scientists, doctors, mathematicians, astronauts, soldiers, intelligence officers, award-winning authors, teachers, leaders. Women played active roles in the World Wars, in the Holocaust, in other genocides in world history. They can be both as inspiring and as evil as men, and it’s imperative that we don’t mistake praising women for breaking the glass ceiling for putting them on pedestals of false puritanical standards.

Feminism isn’t and shouldn’t be about lifting women up onto this unreachable pedestal. For me, feminism has always been the idea that we are equal to men in every single way. That means acknowledging the ugly side, too. That means acknowledging that women can be incredible, inspiring people, like Queen Elizabeth II, or that women can be some of the most disgusting specimens of humanity, like Irma Grese who was a Senior Supervisor at Auschwitz, the 2nd highest ranking female in camp who relished her job.

In this mad rush to assure everyone that being a feminist doesn’t mean stripping women of their femininity (‘it’s okay to like pink and be gentle and sweet!’), we’ve convinced ourselves of something just as damaging as the old view that women were unsuited to work outside of the kitchen, in my opinion. We’ve convinced ourselves that women are pure and need to be protected from everything, or that we’re inherently kinder by virtue of our DNA that we can’t be worse than men have historically been.

One of the reasons I was drawn so strongly to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was because it introduced a new idea in psychological crime-thrillers – that women can be just as horrible, just as manipulative, just as evil, just as depraved as men can be.

I remember there was a huge debate when the book and the film came out about whether it was feminist or anti-feminist. For me, it was 100% feminist. I’d never seen a character like Amy Dunne before, in novels or in cinema. She is, to me, one of the most terrifying villains of all time. She is malevolent, she is petty, she is proud, arrogant, hateful, manipulative, and so very, very clever. I don’t care that it’s not a ‘positive’ portrayal of a woman in literature – I just love the fact that she is powerful. She is unapologetic about the destruction she causes. I’m not saying I condone it – far from. I’m saying that she represents the idea that women aren’t just the innocent special-snowflake Bella Swans or the woman-scorned seen so often in media. Women are complex, and women do not have to be victims of society just because we are told we are. (People should read Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive. It’s very good and it may readjust your perspective on certain issues.)

Women are not magical creatures who will make the world a better place simply for being charge more often because we’re fighting toxic patriarchal values. The world at large needs to accept that women are not delicate little flowers who need to be protected. I’m not advocating for all women to stand up and act like men, nor am I suggesting that women who commit terrible crimes are to be adulated. The radical notion I’m suggesting is that some women are incredibly kind and nurturing; some women are firm and intense; some women are cold and hard; some women are outright monsters. What we are at the end of the day is human, and we come in every single shape and form. We cannot be bundled up into a neat little package taken straight out of the Victorian Era for people like Generation Snowflake feminists and Michael Moore to slap a ‘modernised’ bow on top. Once we were too delicate to leave the house; now we’re so delicate in positions of power that we won’t start any wars because wars are a thing of men and toxic patriarchy.

Maybe. Or maybe, we’ve just never been given the same chances and opportunities as men to express our inherent humanity. Even for the World Wars, which were based on the decisions of men, women were there behind the scenes, influencing men, providing opinions, being active participants of society and contributing, often with fervent patriotism. Maybe not everything is toxic patriarchal values; maybe, just maybe, women are human.

In short, shut the fuck up Michael Moore.

opinion piece · politics

peace is not a zero-sum game

On 13th October, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks made a speech in the UK House of Lords, about the passing of Shimon Peres and the controversial UNESCO vote that denies links between Judaism and the holy site of Temple Mount. One quote in particular struck a deep chord with me.

Shimon Peres knew that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not a zero sum game, because from peace, both sides gain; from violence, both sides lose.

Historical revisionism helps no one – least of all the Palestinians. By accepting a resolution that identifies Jerusalem and Temple Mount as a purely Muslim site, UNESCO – at the behest of Muslim countries – has turned a site that is holy to the three Abrahamic religions from a religious center to a politicised issue. Referring to Temple Mount only by its Muslim name doesn’t help the Palestinians. Why must the Jewish (and Christian) people, both Israeli and non-Israeli, be punished for the ‘crimes’ of the Israeli government?

This resolution was not designed to aid the Palestinian cause. This resolution was designed and passed with one objective only: to delegitimise the State of Israel and deny Jews historical links to their homeland. This is not pro-Palestinians; this is plain and simple anti-Semitism. For thousands of years we were told to get out of Europe and Arab countries and go back to Judea; now that we have, people deny we ever came from the Middle East at all.

Ultimately, it will not just be Israelis and Jews of the Diaspora who pay the price for this resolution. The Palestinians themselves will suffer for it, down the path. Choosing to indoctrinate rather than educate robs the next generation of fundamental tools to build a fair-minded, functioning society with strong roots. If they believe that denying Jews have any historical ties to Judaism’s holiest site, where does the line get drawn? What other historical facts and events will be rewritten for political propaganda? Choosing to indoctrinate rather than to educate sends the tacit message that historic truth is something to be feared and avoided rather than confronted, and robs the next generation of the fundamental tools to build a strong and functioning society.

The path to peace requires cooperation, communication and a willingness to listen on both sides. Peace is not a zero-sum game. Taking the Western Wall away from Jews, even if it’s just on a piece of paper belonging to a corrupt, insidious organisation like UNESCO, is not an act of peace and it doesn’t help the Two-State Solution. There is no benefit to this – not to UNESCO which has become openly anti-Semitic. Not to the Palestinians who will damage their future generations with political propaganda. Not to the Israelis and the Jews of the Diaspora who once again are disproportionately targeted, and will suffer on a worldwide stage at the hands of historical revisionism which has, in the past, been used against them.

From violence – in whatever form – all sides lose.

opinion piece · politics

much ado about auspol

In particular, the campaigning.

Australia has had five prime ministers in five years – Kevin, Julia, Kevin again, Tony, and now Malcolm. With both the ALP and the Liberals churning out disappointing leader after disappointing leader, it surely isn’t too much of an imagination stretch to say that Australians think the circus has overstayed its welcome.

The party campaigning leading up to the July 2 2016 election has been lacklustre, to say the least. On television, we are treated to Labor’s DUN-DUNNing impending doom ads that list former Liberal PMs “broken promises” (conveniently ignoring Julia “There will be no Carbon Tax under the government I lead” Gillard). The Liberals go for a more positive attempt, with Malcolm Turnbull lazily reciting his promises to the Australian people as he awkwardly strolls through a corridor and talks to a camera while bullet points appear beside him.

In the last three or four weeks, the only party making any effort to campaign in the North Sydney area has been the Liberal Party, thanks to Trent Zimmerman’s dedication and overall open and friendly personality. I have about 10 of his flyers at home – not out of any personal attention, but it seems like whenever I pass his enthusiastic team at Wollstonecraft station I find they’ve somehow stuffed several flyers into my hands without my knowledge. I don’t even know who the local Labor candidate is.

Something about this campaign period just seems very tired. Perhaps the parties know Australians are tired of catchy-but-meaningless slogans, like “Kevin 07” and “Stop the boats”. (Seriously, have you noticed that there aren’t campaign slogans this year? Malcolm dropped his Veep-inspired “Continuity and Change” slogan like a hot potato back in March.) It could be that the Liberals simply know that Bill Shorten and Richard di Natale are not serious enough threats to waste their efforts on campaigning against. Perhaps the ALP and Greens are trying to save money now so that they have a few dollars to contribute to their billion-dollar budgets in the event they are elected (ha).

Whatever the reason, the people campaigning the hardest are in fact members of the public, who promote their preferred parties by Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.  It’s hard to say what the effect of this lack of official campaigning will have. Scare campaign advertisements on television don’t tend to have the same impact as your friends on Facebook making their own impassioned cases for their preferred party; but then again, social media posts are often riddled with inaccuracies and hateful towards their non-supporting party.

Anyway. Don’t forget to vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t have any right to criticise the outcome – right, Britain?

Fingers crossed that we don’t go for six prime ministers in six years. How embarrassing would that be?