Discussion: Feminism & Romantic Relationships

  • When: 8:00pm Weds 26th September
  • Where: Friends Meeting House, 12 Jesus Lane, CB5 8BA
Let’s have a meeting next week where we talk about feminism and romantic relationships. We can have a chat about feminism IN romantic relationships, or the lack of it, and and issues that have arisen for any of us when it comes to feminism and our relationships. We can chat about romantic relationships where sexism was a problem, and about amazing feminist romantic relationships. …
Please do feel free to come along and join in – everyone probably has SOME experience of feminism arising in the context of a romantic relationship, or at least has an opinion on the subject. I’m a big fan of feminism in romantic relationships, I’m looking forward to hearing everybody else’s experiences.

Kate Middleton and Closer magazine: It’s the Patriarchy, Stupid

Given that 1 in 4 women experience sexual violence at some point in their life, and that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood, there are clearly a lot of rapists and child rapists out there. Not as many rapists as rape survivors, because one rapists will almost always abuse multiple women and children during his lifetime, but still quite a lot – somewhere between 6-13%.

Now there’s a couple of ways to respond to that statistic. The feminist way – set up rape crisis centres, campaign for legal changes, raise awareness. And then there’s the patriarchy way – how can we make some money out of this and encourage it to flourish?

6-13% of men is a significant target market, after all. 5% of the population are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, and that’s enough to have ‘the pink pound’. Because being LGBT isn’t disgusting (whatever some people say), corporations can speak openly about ‘the pink pound’. But they have to keep quiet about another, much bigger group of consumers who they nevertheless knowingly target – rapists. A significant amount of products and advertisements are covertly targeting ‘the rape pound’.

It has been made very clear that the topless photos of Kate Middleton published in the French magazine Closer* today were taken without her knowledge or consent. She is said to be ‘saddened’, to consider the photos ‘grotesque and unjustifiable’. She and her husband are suing the magazine. And yet, Closer are expecting, and will no doubt see, “a big increase in sales”. Think about it. They know that large numbers of people will buy a magazine they don’t usually buy, for the pleasure of participating in the sexual humiliation of a young woman. That their readers will be fully aware that the photos were taken without her knowledge or consent, and that she does not wish for them to be published, and that this will only add to the titillation and fleeting sense of power they will gain from looking at them. This is the power of the rape pound.

Closer couldn’t resist also throwing in a dose of mansplaining. Their spokesman mansplained that the photos “are by no means degrading” and “show a beautiful, in love, modern holidaying young couple, in their normal life.” “I would love a photo of my bollocks to be taken in secret, printed in a magazine and viewed by thousands of women across the country,” he did not add. Women, let us not forget, do not get to define their own reality or have the last say on their own feelings or experiences. Kate making clear that she considers the photos degrading is not relevant if a man has decided that they are not. Closer’s female editor has also described the photos as “not in the least shocking”, using that classic tactic of wheeling out a woman to defend misogyny, a gay person to defend homophobia or a black person to defend racism, which is so unimaginative even the BNP are at it.

The same misogyny has carried over into the British press, who have been at pains to quote ‘royal officials’ that “the couple could not have chosen a more secluded spot in France for their private holiday.” Again, the fact that Kate does not want the photos published is not enough. There must be proof that she made sufficient effort to avoid being photographed, as women out in public are fair game for the male sexual gaze and it’s our responsibility to try to protect ourselves from it, not theirs to view us as people not prey. Of course the British media need to propagate this view in order to justify their own shitty treatment and regular sexual humiliation of countless other women.

The outrage over this incident is not feminist but nationalistic. We do not like to see foreigners humiliating and degrading our women. That is the job of British men. The French have their own women to use.

This is a privacy issue and a press ethics issue, but it is also a feminist issue. Kate Middleton is a royal and a celebrity, but whatever your opinion of the royal family and the system of class and race privilege it represents, she is also a woman, living in a patriarchy, being humiliated and controlled by that patriarchy. And no-one hurts our sister and gets away with it.


*And the owner of Closer magazine in France? None other than notorious misogynist Silvio Berlusconi.

Speaking out

Content warning: Discussion of rape and sexual violence.

There’s been a lot in the news recently about rape, and some truly horrific things have been said, and some truly horrific actions have been condoned. The prevalence of narratives which blame survivors for being raped and which limit rape to a vary narrow definition is a terrifying thing to behold. In this context, it is an incredibly brave thing to share one’s story of being raped or sexually assaulted. It is very hard to read or hear these accounts, but very important and very moving.

The new(ish) website Cambridge Speaks Out is a collection of people’s experiences of sexual violence. Having a space where survivor’s voices are prioritised, and where there are experiences are believed and taken seriously is so valuable. I think hearing about these issues from the survivor’s perspective is also really important in undermining a lot of the myths about rape.