FEMINISTS DOING FEMINISM ALL WRONG (OR SO WE’RE TOLD)
ETA: despite the several hateful and humiliating machinations by The Sun this week, this is all still very relevant.
Small victories, right? There’s nothing so controversial as a small victory for feminism. They’re good, sort of, but then why did feminists bother doing this and not that? In fact, why didn’t the lazy fuckers do both? And why didn’t they sort out ALL social justice gripes while they were at it?
The demise of Page 3 yesterday (praise the gods) didn’t please everyone. There were complaints from Page 3 fans whose every day from now until the end of time will never be the same, and there were accusations of censorship, and there were quite a lot of “clever” arguments about how the #NoMorePage3 campaign had put 100s of women out of work. (That’ll get ’em, lads!) All of those are obvious though. What was less predictable – and all the more insidious for it – was the criticism that in campaigning for #NoMorePage3, feminists (for it is they who did it) were neglecting all of the much more important and pressing social issues which need their attention. This is something we hear a lot. The “devil’s advocate” is always full of ideas for what we should be doing.
- Feminists: There is a wage gap between men and women. Criticism: There are people who can’t even get a job at all, you know! What about doing something about that?
- Feminists: Women have been socialised to be so fearful of attack that they are too frightened to walk down the street. Criticism: There are women in [insert place] who aren’t even *allowed* to walk down the street, you know! What about doing something about that?
The intention (I think) behind these criticisms is to remind us that there are numerous important social issues and inequalities that need to be addressed. (At least that’s what I hope, when I’m feeling generous.) The implications of the criticism, however, is that whatever battle we are fighting at any one time, it isn’t, ever, the right one.
- Feminists: Austerity-era unemployment rates are constantly increasing. Criticism: Well, what about the wage gap between people who do have jobs?! What about doing something about that?
- Feminists: The treatment of women in some parts of [insert place] is worsening. Criticisms: Never mind about that, what about the women here who are too frightened to walk down the street? What about doing something about that?
There’s always a criticism, you see, if you choose to spin one out.
But here’s the thing. Feminists can fight more than one battle at a time. Heck, just yesterday I turned my mind to the three (3, THREE) social issues of poverty, class inequality, and gender inequality, all at the one time! But more importantly, the issues at the centre of the many recent feminist campaigns and movements are being challenged because they are part of a pervasive and complex social system that favours the male gender and oppresses the female gender.
Take, for example, the five pound note campaign, which ran to ensure that at least one woman would be retained on the national currency, and challenged a system that erases and dismisses women. Or, the # campaign indeed, which ran to bring about an end to daily photographs of naked women in a leading national publication, and challenged a system that routinely objectifies women and reduces them to their physicality and attractiveness. Or maybe the Slutwalk movement, which began as protest against a Toronto Police officer who suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to reduce the chances of them being raped, then became a global movement, and challenged a system which blames women, rather than perpetrators, for rape.
These are just some recent feminist campaigns and there are many more. The point is this: the issues at the centre of feminist campaigns do not exist in some sort of existential vacuum. They are all concerned with gender inequality, the treatment of women, the dismissal of women, and the harm to which women are considerably more likely to be victim, within the patriarchal social order. All of the campaigns that we have chip away at that system and it is that that is their merit.
I’m sure that even the devil’s top “advocates” can see how that works.