Tag Archives: sexism

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…


Why bloody shouldn’t I?

I have called myself a feminist since I was about 13 years old, introducing the role of sexism in job roles in a GCSE English lesson.

Most of my adult life I feel I’ve been banging on about some feminist, sexist or downright misogynistic issue or other, happy to debate the plight between the sexes or women’s place in society with anyone who would engage.

This was fine within the confines of the lecture theatres. It was fine introducing the concepts to the young women groups I ran at the beginning of my career in youth work. It was fine during my four year involvement in V-Day activities.

But now I am a 40 year old, educated, white women living in the UK with a salary and the means to be financially independent. This sometimes makes it hard to justify my feminism on an individual level – what do I have to moan about, huh?

I see many of my friends and colleagues look askance, roll their eyes, get defensive when I start to talk about what I’ve read, heard or think – and that’s just the women.

My simple response to this is, despite living in a capitalist, consumerist, ‘I’ culture, I still feel the ‘we’ and don’t need to look very far to see the injustices towards women and girls around me.

Here’s a few examples:

  • barely dressed women on the cover of magazines aimed at men

  • women’s magazines financed by ad after ad after ad calling us to be obsessed with our looks

  • the Twitter response to a recent rape case involving footballer, Ched Evans

  • the implicit limited expectations in the toys, books, TV, films and clothes marketed at girls

  • girls not participating in activities to avoid ridicule about their looks

  • young women in care more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation

…and that’s just in our privileged society…..don’t even get me started on the plight of women and girls in other parts of the world. It makes me upset. It makes me angry. It makes me rant….and I won’t apologise.

So I’m 40 and educated and financially independent; I can make sense of the conflicting messages fed to me on a daily basis; I can avoid what I don’t like and embrace what I do… but then I had a daughter and have had to re-evaluate all I think, feel, say and do about my personal feminism.

I now need to find a discourse which helps me to raise her believing that her life chances are not limited by her sex; that she doesn’t need to use her sexuality to get what she wants; that her body is her own and capable of amazing things. She will also need to learn how to be resilient and the confidence to reject the rest of our culture which is already telling her that the opposite is true.

At the same time I don’t want her to develop a complex, I don’t want her to feel guilty for enjoying the odd Disney princess or dressing up like one from time to time, I don’t want her to feel like the odd one out. I want her to be who she is, to like what she likes, to grow up with an inquisitive and challenging mind that isn’t limited by choice or her gender.

Which is one of the reasons I started to write this blog. I needed a space, a forum, to explore my angsts. I feel like a lot of the time I am a lone voice, that people look at me like I’ve gone slightly mad and are bored with my rantings. Or they get defensive, believing my rants to be a personal attack – I just want to change the world with some support to do it, to talk to like minded people so we can move these very old issues forward.

I can’t pretend that things are all better now, the goal posts may have changed slightly – a glossing over of some of the issues to make them less explicit, a subtle cultural campaign that has all but succeeded in making Feminism a dirty word and pitched women against each other.

This puts me in mind of Germaine Greer’s acid response to Eve Ensler’s play,The Vagina Monologues. Amongst some of the criticism she throws towards it came her claim that:

.. there are serious and important points to be made about women’s attitudes to their own bodies, but feminists were making these points 30 years before Ensler clambered on the bandwagon.

If they are still relevant 30 years on, surely we should still be discussing them?

Greer concludes her article with the following statement:

Misogyny is real and pervasive….Our whole culture needs to acknowledge its deep ambivalence about femaleness and take aggressive measures to raise women in their own and others’ estimation but the way to go about it is not to replicate a much-hyped and fundamentally unchallenging piece of buffoonish American hoop-la.”

She seems to be missing the point that the play continues to engage women, and men, throughout the world in a way that is accessible to the masses than a more intellectual kind of feminist discourse.

She also fails to mention that Ensler has been using the success of the play to empower women and raise money at grass roots level for many charities and organisations who work with women and girls who are victims of the misogyny Greer talks about.

So there it is, a bit of a rant on the state of my feminism. I needed to do it, to clear my head, to stop feeling angry with the people around me for shaking their heads and rolling their eyes because I bring it up whenever I come face to face with the perpetuation of damaging myths and stereotypes.

I ask one question back…. why bloody shouldn’t I?