29 Apr 2009

Let's All Talk About Feminism

Well, considering that recently I've had multiple conversations and read about Feminism and what it means, I suppose I could write something about what it means to me.

As far as I'm concerned, describing yourself as an 'ist' suggests closing your mind around one view of the world. Saying that, I believe myself to be quite feminist in my outlook, in that I view feminism (and other 'ism's) as lenses in which to view the world. Some would argue about the period we live in being a 'post-feminist' age. Rubbish. Look at the pay differential between men and women, look how pornography has become mainstream (I'll return to that later because I know there's quite a bit to write on it), and look at the support offered to victims of rape and domestic abuse.

One of the worst aspects of the 'post-feminist' age is people trying to convince you that misogyny and sexism are somehow empowering. At the risk of ridicule, I thus bring to you the case of the Spice Girls.

In many ways, the Spice Girls had more of an impact on their generation than feminist writers of earlier ones. Now I say 'impact' rather than suggesting that they espoused a coherent philosophy. Their sophisticated and less-than-sophisticated marketing centered on women (specifically tweens and early teens) feeling in control of their lives, and to a certain extent, nurturing some female solidarity. This 'solidarity' being remarkably profitable as well (cf. Selling Dreams, Disney Corporation, 1923-Present). As much as I would like to write them off as a commercial operation designed to empty the purses of little girls, when there's such a mass uptake of something in popular culture, it can't really be ignored.

Any hope of a great feminist moment from the Spice Girls was immediately dashed when they opened their mouths to give an opinion. I quote the Independent from 1996:

"Huddled around the columnist in their "desolate" changing-room, the women, Geri, Victoria and Emma on the right of the political spectrum, and Mel B and Mel C left of centre, the task proved refreshingly easy.

On Lady Thatcher: "Thatcher had ideals all right," said Geri, to a chorus of approval and chants of "We love Maggie!"

"Even if her policies were hard-hearted, socialism is bad - you work for your living and you deserve to keep what you've earned, Thatcher believed. But her legacy was a mixture: dealing with the unions good; destroying the GLC bad."

Hmm. Anyway - on to porn!

From what I understand, Andrea Dworkin was the big anti-porn writer. Initially, I was too simplistic in my disagreement with her, as it seemed that she was extremely stubborn about it always being absolutely terrible. I now understand a lot more of her points, the majority being valid in my view, and I think my initial dislike was down to an instinctual distrust of people 'on a crusade'.
Without wanting to write bucketloads... surely the problem with pornography is not its intrinsic explicitness, but the fact that its pretty much all made by men, and the fact that there exists an industry in it, commercialises something that by most accounts, is pretty cool. Pornography is essentially quite honest in that it does not pretend to give you an overview of the conflict of the human condition, it gives you close-ups of filthy rutting. Saying that though, its generally about as erotic as seeing stripped down Barbie dolls being pushed on each other, and yes, its choc-full of exploitation (see 'its run by men' above).

I have more of a problem with 'lifestyle' magazines.

If any magazines were worthy of censorship (I don't abide censorship by the way) then I would suggest lifestyle ones. Both wimmin's and mens' magazine are based around a fake set of assumptions on what each sex is supposed to enjoy. The post-feminist era that spawned the Spice Girls' modern 'take' on feminism also created the lad's mag culture, where "HAHAHAHA isn't it funny to return to misogyny" was the order of the day, objectifying women is fine again ("Just a bit of fun, love") contributing to body fascism we still experience in popular culture. What irks me most is how these publications have such a narrow world view. I wouldn't give a shit if so many people didn't buy them. Gah. Still, perhaps I would be a bit happier if I switched my brain off, and allowed myself to be told how to dress, how to act, what my favourite music, films are etc.

This is where my unorthodox modern male feminism comes in. Brothers, Sisters, lets have mutual respect for each other, recognise that inequalities exists, and stop allowing broadcasters, magazines and our day to day interactions to reinforce the stereotypes that are both self-perpetuating, and ultimately profitable for a minority of twats.

I've missed so much out that I meant to put in, but its nearly lunchtime.


vickytoria said...

“describing yourself as an 'ist' suggests closing your mind around one view of the world”

Possibly that’s true for a lot of “ists” but I think the term feminist is one of the few that means exactly the opposite. I don’t think anyone can exactly define it but what it boils down to is simply not allowing yourself or anyone else to be defined by their gender… whether that be female, male or anything else.

Yeah, there are those who think you’re not a feminist if you stay at home and have babies, there are those who think you’re not a feminist if you wear makeup and high heels. Hell, there were even those who thought you couldn’t be a feminist if you lived heterosexually. But the truth is it’s all about having the choice to do or not to do.

So re the spice girls, yeah, you can be right-wing and still be a feminist (though I’d find that quite hard to reconcile personally). You can even be a bit stupid and still be a feminist. That’s sort of the point of it. You can be anything and still be a feminist because you can be anything and still be a “proper” woman. As long as you let everyone else do their own particular thing, y-chromosome or no y-chromosome.

But tricking people into thinking misogyny’s fine because it’s “empowering” is just manipulative.

That’s what I think. So there.

Beth said...

What is one industry where women out-earn their male counterparts by massive, massive margins? Porn.

I've always found that something to think about.

Oh, and feminisim is ridiculous. Somebody bring back Home Economics lessons in schools, before we end up a nation with no macaroons and no one to do the mending.

vickytoria said...

I mended Iain's jeans the other day.

But my macaroons are terrible.

silince said...

Welcome to my home cooking and darning forum. Swearing encouraged.