Friday, 2 August 2013

Modern Feminism And Its Discontents

Dan Hodges is not impressed with Modern Feminism . He takes "Modern Feminism" as defined by campaigns to get women on banknotes and scantily clad women off newsagents shelves as being superficial and ultimately pointless - "tweaking men's agenda" rather than writing our own.

In part, he has a point. 

I've not been supportive of the No More Page 3 campaign or the Lose The Lads Mags campaign. This is partly due to a dash of liberalism - I'm as much defending a women's right to pose naked if she wants to as her right not to listen to abuse. I don't like either Page 3 or Lads Mags, and actually some of the misogynistic language in the latter is quite troubling, but it's mostly down to taste.

Domestic violence, killing two women every week in the UK, is a far bigger issue facing women. 

But I think he's wrong about Modern Feminism. The EveryDay Sexism Project has been of earth-shattering importance for me - mostly down to it's work on women being sexually harrassed in public space.

To realise that I didn't have to put up with being sexually harrassed in the street, names and  "flirtations" called out to me in the street, was a dramatic wake up call. Nobody had ever told me this. In fact I'd never really discussed it, even with other women, it before the EveryDay Sexism Project - but when I began to, many of my friends had had similar experiences. 

Feminism is needed, and twitter has brought us, in EveryDay Sexism, at least one campaign that is very valuable, to me personally, to other women and to our society as a whole. There are tangible outcomes - British Transport police are using this campaign to reach out to victims to explain the very real assistance they can offer - as this is a crime. 

This is perhaps small beer to some, but as a part of this new environment, I felt able to complain to a mechanic's boss when he used "darling" as a put-down due to an altercation over a refund, last week. Two years ago, I wouldn't have felt able to do that. Not that I'm backwards in coming forwards, but that I thought such insults were just "par for the course", and you had to put up with them, part of being a women yadda yadda.

The other question we need to ask is we, as Modern Feminists, do have long running campaigns to cut out domestic and sexual abuse / harrassment. So, why do the Lose the Lads Mags campaigns get more coverage? Could it be because it's a chance to get a pretty glamour model on the TV, defending her profession? In which case even the rise of the Page 3 et all campaigns maybe symptomatic of the problem, rather than a fight against them.

Ultimately Dan argues that we should be standing for more things. I agree, but when I put forward the facts of Diane Abbott's candidature for Labour leadership he dismissed her as a "token candidate". When I put forward Sharon Bowles standing for Bank of England Governor  another journalist dismissed her as an "outsider".  

So it's not that women aren't standing for high profile roles, it's that they apparently aren't good enough, or, that the wrong women are standing. That is a problem. And that's going to take a lot longer than one article to solve. 

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