We don’t need your approval, mate

Often when I’m on Twitter I simply push the mute button to get the sexist tropes of surfing out of my feed. It’s not that I don’t want to hear what people have to say, but so often it is a tired cliche where men feel enlightened and yet are completely unaware of being offensive.

It’s uncomfortable and scary to call people out on Twitter.

What’s also uncomfortable and scary is reading this stuff all the damn time. YouTube comments on surfing, commentary during the competition and magazine articles all contribute to a situation where often women don’t even bother to stand up and speak up. Why put yourself out there when you know that nothing is going to change?

It’s embarrassing.

When I first started reading critical surf literature I felt like I could breathe. Suddenly I could put a name to the irritating moments that I couldn’t quite explain before. I could see why I felt uncomfortable with the way the WSL conducted itself. I could understand more about how the myth of surfing seems to permit people to continue to be racist, homophobic, sexist and ignorant.

Recently I called out a popular twitter account for being patronising to Carissa Moore. Carissa doesn’t need me riding in on my horse to rescue her, but I’m so sick of men thinking their approval is needed for  women to be considered great or successful.

Carissa Moore is an amazing surfer. That men should finally recognise this is not a cause for celebration. We should be asking why they’ve allowed women’s surfing to be minimised and degraded for so long, but we aren’t allowed to do that while the men are congratulating themselves for noticing something amazing about female athletes.

They’re allies, you understand. They appreciate women. How dare women not take their appreciation seriously.

If you posted a tweet about how, wow, that brown guy is surfing as well as that white guy, would you feel uncomfortable? Would you then say, well, only in comparison to white guys can a brown guy be a great surfer? Is that true? Is it only through the lens of a white male that we declare a surfer to be great?

There are gay surfers, and there are trans surfers, and there are indigenous surfers, and there are female surfers, and there are all sorts of masculinity not represented in mainstream surfing.

I don’t represent minorities or speak for them, but it would be nice if, for a change, when someone spoke up against sexist behaviour, that the status quo listened. God only knows we hear their voice often enough.

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What is political?

The personal is political. When I first heard this phrase I had to stop and catch my breath. What is political? How does it fit? If you’ve clicked the link then no doubt you’ve found Carol Hanisch explaining this very idea, in 2006, discussed in a paper she published in 1969.

What this phrase means, according to Carol, is that the inequality that happens to women in their daily lives, and to oppressed minorities, is not their personal fault or blame, but a political symptom.

One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution. I went, and I continue to go to these meetings because I have gotten a political understanding which all my reading, all my “political discussions,” all my “political action,” all my four odd years in the movement never gave me. I’ve been forced to take off the rose colored glasses and face the awful truth about how grim my life really is as a woman.

We can apply this in modern day situations because sadly, these issues that affected women and minorities in 1969 continue to this day. Childcare, lower salaries, myths about our competency, insistence on behaving a certain way are still issues that are political for women. And they are still issues deemed unworthy of the title political, by men.

I say they are deemed unworthy but we see people all over the world taking the time to berate women and minorities for the impact society has on their personal lives. How dare women in America have abortions! How dare people state Black Lives Matter. How dare you think your trans existence be acknowledged and protected in our prisons. How dare you come to our country with your domestic violence conviction adding a weight to your lyrics that sinks into our lives and suggests this problem is everyone’s.

Politicians have power over education, over funding for parents, over laws that protect women and children and equity/equality, laws and procedures over ethnicity and immigration- all factors that personally affect people from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and genders. These powers are reflected in the daily struggles that women, children, minorities and diverse genders deal with every damned day.

So it is with sadness that I see the voices of women, of minorities, of diverse genders or even of indigenous people remain unacknowledged by ‘political’ blogs. They are not the ‘top’ political blogs, by way of statistics, by way of content, by way of a complete lack of knowledge of what being oppressed and demeaned really is.

It is not the sly banter of infamous men that attracts me to politics. I am not destined to lead. I am not statistically significant in the blogosphere. No. What attracts me to politics is seeing parents struggle with educational change and expectations that have been inexpertly demonised by successive governments. What attracts me is the idea that we have the capacity to change inequity, and to become more successful as a society, but men-and women, thanks Aunty Helen- in power decline to make the changes necessary to do it.

In a world where history makes light of the contributions of women, it is embarrassing to see the potential of social media and its influence on politics reduced to an ellipses- a continuation of power imbalances that have for centuries already existed. Surely a political blog is one that challenges the status quo’s idea of politics and amplifies minority voice rather than giving power continuously to those who are well used to it.