The thing is chap……

What follows is inspired by an exchange I had at work with a male senior manager recently about the relevance of feminism, initiated by a discussion about the Robin Thicke video that was playing in one of our centres. We work in a multi-disciplined targeted youth support environment somewhere in the South West of England.

I thought that I heard you say…

  • Doesn’t Robin Thicke have the right to express himself?

And I wish I’d said …

  • Of course he does but with rights come responsibilities. Offering to: 

    give a ‘good girl (you know you want it)…something that’ll split your ass in two,                                                  

    whilst visually cavorting with naked supermodels (in his  video) & with half naked woman child (at the MTV Awards with Miley Cyrus – young enough to be his daughter) shouldn’t, in my opinion, be an acceptable form of expression fed into young people’s mainstream culture. I appreciate that maybe they are yet to hear about James Savile OBE in the U.S. of A but they surely heard about Steubenville, Ohio? Extreme examples, I know, but all show a fundamental disrespect for women, particularly their bodies and sexualities.

  I thought that I heard you say…

  • Oh so you propose censorship?

And  I wish I’d said …

  • I’m not sure, how far do you want to go with that argument? Does a paedophile have the right to view sexual images of children? Does a racist have the right to express their hatred of peoples of a different race? Should we protect our children from sexual & violent media?

I thought that I heard you say..

  • It should be about fairness NOT striving for equality. Equality necessarily denies difference.

And I wish I’d said …

  • Fairness is a value laden concept and judgement of it would depend largely on your social position as well as your beliefs, values, needs and desires. Ideological fairness would surely need real parity in how girls & boys, women & men are perceived, nurtured and valued in the world.
  • I am not aware of any part of the world or recent history where women are not denied the same rights, privileges and opportunities as men without having had to fight very hard for it.
  • In fact in some parts of the world girls don’t even get to be born; or they are sold as wives to men old enough to be their father’s grandfather; or are not allowed a basic education; or are bought (by men) to traffic for a whole host of chilling reasons (usually involving the sexual objectification of women by and for men); or their genitals are cut to ensure their marriage & dowry; or are otherwise unequally represented in the statistics on domestic & sexual violence; or are largely represented in media as one dimensional, sexually objectified, others; or are not equally represented in the top most powerful & influential positions in the areas of religion, science, economics, law, politics, media & industry – despite being at least as equal in numbers and proving to be at least as capable as men wherever they get a fair chance.
  • And these things are often accepted by the communities they take place in, or else are afforded a blind eye by the ones who might have the power and influence to change things
  • And why…oh yeah, I know… we’re back at that ‘biology’ and ‘differences’ dichotomy again. The one where women are reduced to mere body parts to explain the clear disparity and unfairness of the world

I thought that I heard you say…

  • We should be able to just celebrate our ‘biological?!’ differences instead of arguing for a place on the board

And  I wish I’d said …

  • I agree but I also believe that women should have a place on the board if she deserves it on merit and wants it. Oh OK, let’s talk biology…does the tenuous fact that I am physically capable of carrying a foetus and feeding it ( and  that I might have certain balance of hormones to help me with all that), really disqualify me from operating in positions of power and influence. Can it really be the root cause of the misogyny in the world? And is it fair that it is only the women who seem to get reduced to their body parts in this discussion? Never men, oh unless they rape people, then we are likely to judge his level of responsibility in relation to what extent we judge the female was ‘asking for it’.
  • It’s also yet another ‘entitled’ point of view posed from the ‘privileged’ position of being a successful white man living in a relatively affluent part of the world. It also serves to be (deliberately?) provocative and divisive so successfully evades any real dialogue that might further the discussion in any useful way

I thought that I heard you say…

  • Some women say they don’t want what the men have, they are happy as they are

And I wish I’d said …

  • It is true that ignorance can often be blissful & my personal experience of enlightenment has often been painful but I have never wished to go backwards. I also believe that true feminism is about equality of opportunity based on differences where relevant, call it fairness if you will. It’s also about personal choice so good on those women who feel they are happy with their status quo. But I also feel strongly that it’s only really fair if people are able to make choices and decisions that are well informed .

If you at any time had stopped offering your opinion long enough to allow me to process my thoughts.. I might have said those things. Instead, you went home holding the same opinions you started with which was your intention all along and, of course, your absolute right.

At least we didn’t have a discussion about how the word feminist makes you feel…


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