Gemma Styles: Sexist Commenters - You Can't Have It Both Ways
Gemma Styles talks life, feminism and what's in the news in her brand new MTV.co.uk column. This week she discusses sexism and hypocrisy around the women only venue at Glastonbury and the Standford rape.
Ladies can I get a hell yeah? Whether you consider your self a staunch feminist, a womanist, a humanist or whatever, there are plenty of people in the world who think, within their own system of beliefs, that we are not up to scratch on equality. Anyone who debates this must frankly have been living under a very cushy, privileged rock, because it doesn’t take more than a glance to spot it lurking.
Not a day goes by without new stories hitting headlines – I’m a member of a feminist Facebook group and every day there are new things posted to discuss, or horrible personal experiences of the women to be commiserated on together. I’m not a ‘militant’ feminist or a ‘feminazi’ or any of these words people like to sling at feminists to play down what they’re saying as women’s hysteria; I enjoy being part of this group because I find it genuinely educates me very quickly on a wide variety of issues affecting women.
One of the stories posted this week concerns the news that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will, for the first time, feature a women-only venue. This “revolutionary clubhouse” called The Sisterhood will be hidden within the Shangri La zone of the festival and is described as an “intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space open to all people who identify as women”. There are to be discussions, dance classes and... DIY power tools workshops – all in all sounds like a pretty interesting place. I for one feel equally drawn to a shimmy or a screwdriver.
Sadly, as is with most things, this women-only area has been met with scepticism by some.
‘If you want things to be equal then why do you need a space just for women?’
‘You wouldn’t like it if there was a space just for men.’
‘Feminism is just women wanting better treatment than us.’
Also this week, the news has been saturated by the Stanford rape case, in which Brock Turner was given a disgustingly lenient six month prison sentence for the rape of a young woman on the college campus. In the dirt, behind a dumpster.
The statement read out by the victim in court has been shared in full online and has been met with devastation, empathy and heartbreak by people the world over. But sadly, again, the online community hasn't been 100% on her side.
'Well she can't remember it so how does she know it wasn't consensual?'
'She was so drunk she could have been safer and prevented this.'
'Young women should be responsible and think of the consequences.'
So women are supposed to know that there are bad men, bad people, out there and take necessary precautions to protect themselves. Bad things happen all the time so they should carefully evaluate where they place themselves to minimise the risk of danger. Rather than men not raping, women should be careful to avoid the rapists. Perhaps by placing themselves in a women-only safe place...?
But then people will say tha- oh right. Stalemate. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Obnoxious commenters of the Internet: YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.
And I know, I know. Not all men are rapists. And you aren't. And your friends aren't. But if you're suggesting that this isn't a problem then you need to open your eyes. The fact of it is that women are forming these spaces of safety to protect themselves, as society has taught them to, so that if something horrible happens (and the likelihood is high) they'll have less blame placed on them for being the victim of a crime. This is how we live.
Whether you'd use a women-only space or not, the fact that it exists will be a good thing for a lot of women and make them feel safe. And you can't blame them for that.
- By Gemma Styles.