Five days. I have been stewing over an article I read for five days. Most unlike me, I am sure most will agree: after all I rattled off “Who IS the boss around here?” in the heat of the moment. This time, however, my immediate reaction was confusion and self-doubt.
I hear some readers thinking “Robyn? Self-doubt? There’s never much of that in her articles!” Those readers would be right. Usually there isn’t.
Elle Hardy wrote in The Guardian:
The fight for compassion, legal rights, and justice are not unique to feminism. There are no values that I can espouse as a humanist that are anti-female, but there are a number of values of feminism that are alien to me – such as the notion that equality is more important than opportunity and choice, and that it can be legislated.
I agreed with her. Until I read it again. In my view equality IS more important than opportunity and choice, because from equality comes opportunity and choice. Equality can be legislated. I do agree there are some aspects of modern feminism I disagree with, more on that later.
Elle went on to say “modern popular feminism is an entirely political movement.” What were the suffragettes about, if not seeking a political voice? It was a political movement.
Elle did make some very valid points though. It does seem these days as if everyone and their dog is an avowed feminist to avoid being labelled a misogynist. I’m not sure that does the movement any good at all.
I also agree with Elle when she says, “Feminism was a movement of profound importance, securing the extension of natural rights to women, but its modern incarnation is a concoction of socialist values.”
Claire Lehmann I pretty much agreed with. I might have voiced my thoughts differently, but I understood her stance.
Then came Trisha Jha!
Until all women can enjoy the rights and social freedoms of a truly liberal society, there is still work for feminists of all stripes to do.
Paula Matthewson told me as a conservative I can’t be an activist. I didn’t know this, so I learnt something new.
Activism is the antithesis of what it means to be conservative. Women “of the right” support the status quo, and when change is needed then it must be incremental. They see activists, and the revolutionary change they espouse, as anarchistic and alien.
I am a big fan of Paula’s work, but this was the bit that left me confused. Maybe because I was not born here, but I was never under the impression “women of the right” supported the status-quo unless we believed it correct. As a humanist I can’t support the status-quo if it doesn’t meet humanist values. Subjugation of women, or any group, is definitely not humanist. On the other hand, I’m really not very good at activism and maybe that is the blood of the right flowing in my veins.
I spent a bit of time contemplating my political leanings as a result of Paula’s writing, but as we are not here to debate my political affiliation (I actually don’t have one at the moment), I’ll leave that aside and move on.
Paula also said:
It’s important to remember that as liberals, conservative women think of individual responsibility. That’s why we tackle gender equality at the individual and not the societal level.
Elle said, “the insidious notion of reducing individuals to groups.”
Whether we like it or not, humans are wonderfully gifted at grouping and stereotyping people. Individuals do not have enough political clout to bring about social change. That is just a fact we have to accept, right wing or not.
I wasn’t the only one who read this article in The Guardian and felt flummoxed. So did Jen on No Place For Sheep.
Matthewson’s observations settled on my soul like a dank cloud. I took to my bed, where I embarked on a period of extended navel gazing that led to me discovering enough lint, as my good Twitter friend @newswithnipples put it, to felt a blue tie.
Nobody could accuse me of being quiet on the topic of feminism. Here’s a sample, which you may read or not.
- Feminism can be frivolous fun
- If this is feminism, you can keep it (trigger warning)
- Motherhood, sexism, feminism, rap and the whole damn thing
- What it is with religion and women
- Dear Max Tomlinson
- Independent woman “syndrome“
- The battle of feminist ideologies
- Grassroots women and gender equality
The general thrust, I agree, of several of those articles is expressing a disenchantment with the feminist movement as it exists today. After one particular round robin of articles Twitter ended up with a hashtag of #Iamnotaproperfeminist, started by Sleepless Nights and FrogPondsRock.
Jen closed her article, quoted above, with this observation.
When a movement degenerates into mental masturbation about who is entitled to be in it and who is not, and disingenuous political exhortations to the effect that everyone should be, it’s a sign the movement has ceased significant movement. Like the ALP, feminism has disappeared so far up its own fundament, it’s blinded by the shit in its eyes.
Thank goodness, I thought, I’m not the only one! OK, I admit I knew that already, as after all, Jen’s Convoy of Cleavage campaign triggered at least one of the above mentioned articles.
Edit: Since I published this, Betty has entered the fray with “I’m All Right Jill or Stuff the Sisterhood“. A damn good read!
I’ve prattled on about this before, but many of today’s “feminists” weren’t even born when I started work. This younger generation never had to resign if they got married (because they’d be pregnant within a few months, right?), they never had to fight to be allowed to wear trousers to work. The older ones of us know so many other, harsher examples.
I don’t particularly like aspects of today’s feminist movement myself. Paula might say I am desirous of hanging on to the old days (my status-quo) and she may well be right. Perhaps I am.
I believe in gender equality, very strongly. I see far too much of the lack of inclusiveness that triggered both the Convoy of Cleavage and #Iamnotaproperfeminist. I don’t see enough women in the current Cabinet. I do think affirmative action is appropriate to rectify entrenched, inter-generational inequalities, so I believe the Minister for Women should be a WOMAN. When I was a student at Monash University many years ago I refused to use the Women’s Room on the basis there wasn’t a specific Men’s Room. I was for equality, but didn’t then understand the impact of thousands of years of subjugation and what was needed to rectify the social and economic imbalance. I didn’t have Tony Abbott types smashing the wall beside my head. I’d been raised believing there was no gender inequality: until I witnessed and read and learned I thought we were OK. I could ride a motorbike, shoot and plough a field as well as any man – I thought the world was the same.
My nails have stayed painted over the years, I will wear heels if I want to and the next time I see a fight on Twitter about shaving certain anatomical regions I’ll scream.
To the extent I believe and work for gender equality, I’m a feminist. If being a feminist means burning my bra, tossing my makeup out or giving up my high heels, then I guess I fail. Because, fundamentally, I am an individual.
None of which resolves my right/left/centrist dilemma! 😀
In closing, I am going to share, yet again, two videos I find wonderfully applicable.
The first is Chimamanda Adichie on feminism. This woman says it all for me.
The second is my old favourite, Tim Wise, of the merits of affirmative action. His argument is just as applicable to women as it is to Black Americans.