What’s Current: Women join male-only swim as part of #ManFriday campaign

What’s Current is Feminist Current’s daily news roundup.

  • Two women went for a topless swim at a male-only swimming event as part of #ManFriday, a campaign formed on Mumsnet that encourages women to “self-identify” as men every Friday in protest of proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.
  • The Labour Party has delayed its decision on allowing self-identification to determine eligibility for all-women shortlists, after hundreds of women threaten to resign over opening the lists to male applicants.
  • In a new Channel 4 report, Cambridge Analytica executives are on video describing how they traffick Ukrainian women to collect dirt on their clients’ election opponents.
  • In advance of a UK summit on violence against women in politics, a global survey finds that 44 per cent of respondents had faced violence or abuse while pursuing a career in politics.
  • John Bailey, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is under investigation for allegations of sexual harassment.
Natasha Chart
Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.

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  • Rachael

    I’m still torn on the swim. I think it’s amazing women are taking action, and I think infiltrating the swimming session was a great idea. Going topless not so much. Sure, it’s attracting media attention, but how many people are actually paying attention to the message? I can’t help but think those who would seriously pay attention to self-id will roll their eyes at the headlines and move on, and those that wouldn’t are going to get stuck on the topless part anyway. I guess I’m trying to say it’s a rather heavy handed tactic, and any woman going topless for media attention is giving the patriarchy want they want anyway.

    • therealcie

      That’s what I always think when I see women “protesting” by going topless. The message gets lost in all the drooling by men who think with their dicks.

      • Rachael

        Yeah…if I hadn’t been on the inside of this, so to speak, I would have seen the headlines, rolled my eyes and moved on. I suppose it boils down to: do they want the issue underneath the display to be taken seriously? Will the display change that?

        I don’t pretend I have the answers but I’m not sure this sort of action is something I can get behind.

      • -Jane Don’t-

        Don’t all men think with their dicks? :-/

        • ohffs

          No. But they would like us to use that excuse for their grotesque and violent behaviours.

    • FierceMild

      I hear you, but in this instance it appears to me as a true act of insurrection. This is specifically a no boobs allowed space in which men have asked to be without women and they’re being denied their reasonable request for privacy. This is exactly what happens to women all the time. It also highlights the absurdity of self-identification.

      • Rachael

        But I don’t see what being topless in these circumstances, when we know boobs = sexualisation (as proven by the headlines highlighting this part specifically) achieves that going in there wearing fake hairy bloke tops wouldn’t have. Other than maybe the media may not have been as interested. Which you could argue is the entire point – to gain media attention. But then to what ends?

  • therealcie

    The comments on the piece about the women going to the men’s swim night show that most people are either willfully ignorant or simply ignorant.

  • Rachael

    I don’t agree. Women are sexualised and objectified. That doesn’t change simply because they’re making a political point.

    • Blazing Fire

      Yes they are objectified no matter what they do..
      I (and many of us) can see what is in these two women’s heart – I can see their blood boiling. Because, _we_ know that it take hell a lot of pushing, violation & injustice to drive a woman to this extreme. But most folks – especially men, and those women who need to be educated on the GRA – will either laugh & ogle & claim that “feminists are exhibiting.. this is what they do” or will turn their heads and won’t see beyond the women’s costume..

      • Rachael

        Exactly. This was my take on it too. They are so brave for doing what they did, and they are still doing (other) things now that I do stand behind – mass swarming of men’s changing rooms to try on clothes, joining speed dating for gay men etc. I’m really glad they feel strongly about it. God knows we need women willing to stick their necks out.

        • Omzig Online

          I love all of these ideas! Especially the speed dating with gay men. It’s a great way to sit down with individual men to discuss the harms of the GRA. Our U.K. sisters are on a roll!

  • Rachael

    Is it extreme action, to go topless?

  • Rachael

    I can’t say I agree. It would only become non-sexualised if we managed to eradicate the patriarchal society we live under.

    I do agree it’s amazing action is taking place, and we need more action! But I pretty much see this as similar to SlutWalk – proving a political point by getting your tits out simply covers over the message.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Agree.

  • corvid

    True. Maybe part of this strategy should be numbers: organizing great gangs of women to suddenly flood men’s events such that men themselves are pushed out of attendance. While it might not inspire fear, it would be a step up from mere amusement or annoyance.

    • Omzig Online

      I guess that could work better than just a couple of topless ladies. If men’s resources were eaten up and they were displaced by women, it would at least inconvenience them. Males hate being inconvenienced by unsexy women.

      However, I do think that swimming topless is a mistake, no matter how “unsexy” their bodies are. Regardless of how the female body presents itself, it will be objectified. Hairy women, MILFs, women with big “bushes,” all of them have been fetishized by men. I’m afraid that this protest will be seen as absurd, and will be about as helpful as the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign if the focus is on women swimming topless.

      • corvid

        Great points!

  • OldPolarBear

    I was thinking about this and reading all the comments and I had the same thoughts that it might be kind of dubious in a counterproductive way because of the sexualization of breasts. But I’m wondering if this might be a bit different. I am thinking of, for example, the PETA protests. That’s one of the most well-known of these things that comes to mind. And their nearly-naked-women-in-cages “protests” always seem to have young, “hot” women doing it, hence all the drooling and press sensationalism. At least all the ones I have heard of.

    The article said there were two women who actually showed up at the swim, although they said there are 91 members involved in doing this at various “men-only” Friday activities around the nation. I don’t know if the woman in the front-page photo with the pink bathing cap is the same one who did the tweet or not, but perhaps they are older and/or heavier women who would not be considered conventionally “hot-looking.” It’s hard to tell for sure from the tweet photo because of the angle of perspective, but she does make a point of how she has hairy legs. And maybe these two particular women decided that they would be good for this particular event for this very reason. Anyway, I’m thinking that the men who would go to this thing really would be annoyed and angry, not titillated.

    Not really my place to say, of course; it’s just some thoughts and maybe I shouldn’t have weighed in. I can’t imagine wanting to be caught dead at such an event. I don’t really care to hang out with people very much, and certainly not with any group of only men.

  • Rachael

    You’re right – I made a heavy handed comparison without clarifying. And I agree the specifics are very different from slutwalk, in the sense the women were not deliberately sexualising themselves here. You made some really good points.

    However I do believe the outcome is similar in the sense that the focus will be (and has been) on the minor detail of being topless. I was watching some crime show last night, and there was a female heroin addict who, physically, had completely deteriorated (an understatement). She was still regularly objectified by those in her circle, and in addition worked as a prostitute. Men objectify and sexualise women for control, and hairy legs or a mum tum won’t lessen this imo.

    But I do agree the intention behind the actions here are not the same at all, and I do think they were with great intention.

    • FierceMild

      It’s true that the focus will likely be on the boobs and not on the message. I agree that it would probably be more effective without the topless bit. I still think it’s awesome.

      Do you think women in Britain hearing about this protest will focus on the boobs or do you think it will help women reach peak trans?

      • Rachael

        I imagine most women who haven’t already come down hard on either the pro self-id side or the (mostly) radfems fighting it will pretty much ignore it entirely. Our media is full of titilation – it’s practically a British tradition in that sense. So I don’t think they will focus on the boobs, and I don’t think they will “hear” the message behind it either. It’s a complicated issue to understand for someone who hasn’t been following it from the start, and most women won’t have any real life experience of knowing a trans person. They won’t, therefore, have any money in the fight to make them pay much attention to begin with.

        I think the above is a problem generally btw – most people won’t pay attention to the main issue no matter how it’s portrayed, because they can’t see a direct impact on their lives (without really digging into the issue). I fear they will mostly only pay attention once it’s too late.

        Where I’m seeing an increase in women waking up to this issue is mostly through two places: those who have been long-time labour supporters, because labour is being very vocal on the issue, and posters on Mumsnet. There’s a very large, vocal feminist board there, and posters on the other boards have seen the uproar and come over to the board to read the threads. Then they peak trans. The reason the board is so large and vocal is because it’s one of the only British-heavy online forums that is allowing open discussion on the issue of self-id – if you try it on most others you get banned. I’m not a mother myself but I joined there specifically to speak with other local women. The vast majority of women who have come to me to ask about what I’m doing have also been from Mumsnet.

  • Blazing Fire

    Exxxaactly – I was really worried about exactly the same things, I was worried some of the men there might have been mocking & snorting secretly at the two lone women who had nothing to protect themselves. Perhaps since this is the first time it happened, they might have been confused or cautious (like, “may be these women are from the police & are testing us?”), but when they get to know that these are just normal demonstrators, they won’t fear any longer to do any nasty things to them. I guess they won’t do this demonstration again, hopefully. ALSO the men might actually LIKE the idea of confused females (who were tricked into thinking they are men) coming alone, unguarded, right into their picnic spot (the swimming pool) and giving them a good show or more. So, they may not even step up against this self-id stuff and may welcome it secretly or openly.
    I really appreciate the sacrifice that those two brave women made to raise their voice on behalf of women, but I’m worried their actions might be twisted by the majority of the people, and that they might be seen as attention-seeking or vulgar or something like that. The Dailymail comments clearly showed that a lot of them hadn’t read beyond the headline to find what they were trying to convey.

    • ohffs

      The whiny misogynist above who is absolutely enraged and horrified about women ruining his boy time proves what we already knew – men absolutely LOATHE it when women invade male spaces the way men invade women’s.

      What we need to be doing is turning up in great numbers to ensure safety and doing this regularly. Vulgar doesn’t mean anything so we can absolutely dismiss aything the Daily Fail wankers think, they’re do nothing blowhards who enjoy saying “as a man I feel that” and absolutely nothing beyond that, they’d have to stop wanking to rape porn and get off the couch to actually matter.

      And making sure the police know these women are coming would be good to as would ensuring the media were there. Presumably the law says I can pretend to be a chimpanzee if I want to so long as I identify with my inner chimpiness so the police would be oblibged to at least pretend to give a fuck, and having lots of eyes on the protests would ensure women’s safety.

  • Blazing Fire

    …(continuing) And may be the men-only golf clubs would have been a safer place to demonstrate, and they’d be less likely to be mistaken for pusy-riot types. But again, these women have been very brave and have made a huge sacrifice for the sake of the safety of other women – except that I’d hate for their efforts to get so easily projected in a very poor light.

  • Blazing Fire

    I was thinking the golf clubs would be a good place..

  • -Jane Don’t-

    I have used the male restroom at concerts when the womens’ was full, but I have always asked/announced if it’s okay if I can use it, & most of them say, “Sure,” as they’re pissing in a urinal. No way in hell they were afraid of me b/c I’m petite. Granted, my last experience of doing this was at a Tori Amos concert, so they most likely had no interest in me. Lol

  • Meghan Murphy

    Sounds like the point they were trying to make worked?

  • Omzig Online

    Seems to me you give enough fucks about this issue to leave whiny, passive-aggressive comments on a Feminist website, though.

    Perhaps your time would be better spent contacting your local MP to voice your concerns regarding the Gender Recognition Act. That way, you can support your right to an all-male swim session without those pesky women intruding!

  • Hanakai

    I have actually spent time in cultures where women going topless was normal and breasts were not sexualized and were instead seen as what they are: mammary glands with the function of nourishing and nurturing infants and babies.

    So, the fetishization and sexualization of breasts is not universal among cultures and men. But the hatred of women and sexualization of mammary glands is rampant in cultures informed by militarism and the sexist monotheistic male-god religions. And the patriarchal cultures are so twisted, so sick, so ugly, so pathological, it is difficult to envision what will bring change in the hearts and minds of men. Indeed, things seem to be getting worse, with the Internet making porn the sexual ideology and sex education of the the millennials and upcoming generations. My tendency is to think that adults are hopeless, their minds are formed and do not change; and if change is to be made it will be by raising a generation with the right views —- but how is that to happen when the adults are sexist and misogynistic to the core and when most women have bought into the patriarchal mindset? And when the dominant patriarchal culture determinedly wipes out and destroys all the small native cultures where women are seen as fully human?

    • ohffs

      Porn has certainly normalised degradation and abuse of women, in that one way I do agree things are worse. Overall however, I do not believe the world is any worse and I do not believe that men are behaving any more disgustingly than they always did, we simply know what’s going on behind closed doors now. There is nothing new under the sun.

      Studies have shown we do change over a life span. I don’t believe a person who retains neuroplasticity is beyond change. I was actually surprised to learn this as I thought once you reached adulthood you were more or less set in stone. Apparently, not true.

      “Many studies, including some of my own, show that most adults become more agreeable, conscientious and emotionally resilient as they age. But these changes tend to unfold across years or decades, rather than days or weeks. Sudden, dramatic changes in personality are rare.”

      http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2008.00543.x

      https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/30/484053435/personality-can-change-over-a-lifetime-and-usually-for-the-better

  • Ada

    I think these two women should go for a swim wearing burqas. These days nothing pisses off men more than a woman they can’t objectify.

    • FierceMild

      The burqa is objectifying.

  • ohffs was namesareirrelevant

    This.

  • Ada

    Burqa is harmful when women are forced to wear it and are punished if they don’t. In Muslim world it can be a tool for control and objectification but Western men absolutely hate burqa, not because they would care so much for these womens rights, they don’t give a shit about them, but because they see it as a direct violation of THEIR right to ogle, comment, abuse…. womens bodies.

    I am not suggesting we start wearing burqas on a daily basis or to stop critisizing them, what I’m saying is that in this case wearing a burqa would be more effective and subversive than going for a swim topless.

    • ohffs was namesareirrelevant

      You’re completely wrong from start to finish. For one thing you’ve arbitrarily decreed on their behalf that slaves should wear their chains as a form of protest because you think it will keep them safe from their slave masters.

      The mere fact that you are trying to allude to burqas ever being anything but a grotesque form of and symbol of oppression, the fact that you do not understand that burqas do nothing at all to decrease the sexual allure of the slaves wearing them to their rapist masters, the fact that you think for one second that men as a sex everywhere wouldn’t be delighted at their property being forced to wear a sweating oppressive tent says you have no understanding at all of the topic, and I’m not discussing anything with someone who requires me to reinvent the wheel for them.

      Instead of digging in on a false position you could learn, but you probably won’t. Either way I’m not discussing it further.