Whether we like it or not, feminism is something that touches all of our lives in the Western world. Frequently misunderstood, it’s a fascinating topic of discussion and a label for a starting point from which opinions can be formed. I discovered feminism when my disillusionment with women’s magazines in my 20s sparked an internet search for more interesting reading material, thus leading me to fantastic feminist website The F-Word. I loved how they discussed many different subjects and how they affect our lives, but they never told us that you needed to look/act in a specific way to be a ‘real’ feminist. Sadly, some people still don’t know that’s the case and many discussions about feminism in the media these days are often about how someone or other is doin’ it wrong.
I have discussed feminism so much in the last couple of weeks and, now I’m sat down to write about it, I sadly can’t remember much of what was said at all! There was a wonderful impromptu panel at women’s blogger conference Cybher where Cat Turner, Ryan Wenstrup-Moore and I were just getting started on the slightly less superficial subjects as our time ran out. The audience raised some great points and I couldn’t help but think we needed two hours in a cozy room with sofas and tea in order to really get going! The following weekend I was part of another panel discussion on feminism, this time at burlesque convention BurlyCamp. (Rubyyy Jones recorded the whole thing so I shall share a link to any excerpts she uses in her radio show.) Again, we ran out of time surprisingly quickly, but one thing that stuck with me was a point from the audience. Lady Cheek made a good point that feminism is all about choices… which reminded me of what Zoe Williams wrote in the Guardian on International Women’s Day:
“You cannot say that, because women suffer injustices far more severe in other parts of the world, a woman who’s had to give up work in Harlesden because her tax credits were cut is not a feminist issue. You cannot hope that a belief in equality will lead everybody to the same conclusions about body shapes, or all-women shortlists, or gender essentialism. When we try to present a united front, we’re not asking too much of ourselves, we’re asking too little: waiting for an unattainable unity is just another way of doing nothing. When we divide, we can burn more brightly in many places.”
We don’t all need to look the same way, care about the same issues, or be a feminist in the same way. If we all focus on our strengths and concentrate on spreading the word wherever we can, then the world will surely be a better place? These two panel discussions drew an interested and vocal audience of people keen to join in, which was encouraging. However, this week the subject of feminism popped up again and this time the context wasn’t nearly so friendly. On Wednesday, Clementine Ford tweeted that: “Sexism against males transpires in the ways they are ‘expected’ to be men. It doesn’t transpire because women fight for liberation.” A very valid point, but I’d completely missed the start of the thread so the ever helpful Sianuska alerted me to a fantastic article (by the authors of The Vagenda) called The men’s rights zeitgeist. Apparently some men think that all the problems they face are entirely due to feminism. Because, of course, women rule the world now and are really keen to make life awful for everyone.
Sianuska correctly pointed out that there are indeed gender issues faced by men, but they are products of constructions of masculinity. They are not a result of women fighting for liberation from gender constructs and patriarchy! Feminism affects us all, but it isn’t necessarily to blame for any of the bad stuff. Rather than sitting around pointing the finger, surely we’d be better off asking what we need to do in order to fix things?