Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do we have to let the men speak for us?

This morning my colleague Polly handed me the S supplement from Sunday's Sun Herald. "Thought you would agree with this", she understated.

I have tried to find the article online because it so perfectly sums up my thoughts on feminism, but for some very strange reason the Sun Herald's site not only has no search facility, they also don't upload all their print content.

So you can't read it in full, unless you dig out your print copy from Sunday 12th April and turn to page 31 of S. But I wanted you to see it so much that I have typed out three sections from the piece. Yes, I know, a tremendous time waste, but trust me - this is worth repeating.

Sorry Sam de Brito, for not hyperlinking to your original work. Have a word with your bosses and get your content online. But thank you, for putting it so clearly.

Ladies - do we really need a man to point out to us where 51% of the world's population is going wrong??


There can be nothing more sobering for an old-school dinosaur than watching his darling daughter grow into a young woman, assured she's gonna meet a generation of narrow-minded creeps just like Daddy, who'll treat her like a brainless piece of meat.

Its a pity the same perception shift doesn't occur in so many women, with huge numbers of mothers continuing to transmit the trivial obsessions of shoe shopping, beauty products and gossip magazines to their baby girls.

As I've written before in this column, it's a bit much to expect men to take the insoluble issues of Western gender equality seriously - things like abortion rights, equal pay and sexual discrimination in the workplace - when millions of intelligent women spend their days consumed with what Gwyneth Paltrow is wearing.


We now live in a country where a generation of Australian women don't even consider themselves feminists, having rejected the term because they think they'll be labelled a lesbian and won't get a boyfriend if they even utter the word.


I could walk into any bar, supermarket or fashion boutique in this country and I guarantee I would know more about feminist issues than 90 per cent of women there.

Ask a woman under 30 to even define what feminism is and I bet you'll get a pea soup of misconceptions about hairy armpits, man-hating and rabid activism instead of this: feminism is the belief that women should have equal political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights to men.

Update: The full article is now online here.


pollyemj said...

I could not agree more! When I read this it was like he was nodding along to a conversation you and I had had not long ago - about the fact that we must take control of, own and promote that "true" definition of feminism! Because it's truly marvellous - and has absolutely nought to do with the length of your armpit hair!

Katy Ludditt said...

I think I may have missed the point, but what was wrong with shoes?

Em's mum said...

Whew! Thank goodness I have never bought a gossip magazine in my life, shoe shopping reduces me to tears (shouldn't have worn those winkle-picker stilettos in my youth!) and Oil of Ulay (yes, I know it's not called that now, but it is in my brain) suits me just fine.
I was beginning to feel condemned by my own daughter there!

@EmVicW said...

Katy if you weren't such a high powered professional woman setting a great example for younger females I would be disappointed.

There is nothing wrong with shoes. You can appreciate them and be feminist, but its about priorities. I think yours are pretty spot on though so your love of shoes doesn't have to be held against you.

@EmVicW said...

And mum, you and dad were a great example (I think so anyway). The point is women with an understanding and appreciation for feminism don't spring from nowhere. They need educating, and to be raised with expectations of equality.

You obviously did this. Many women did not and still do not, and their children - my peers and younger - disappoint me in their apathy.

Felicity said...

Oh dear.

Is there nothing in there about choice? I like make up and Heat magazine, and I don't think that stops me from being a feminist. A choice to read a magazine once a week doesn't cancel out the other choices and decisions I make every day, and I don't like the idea of a journalist judging me on that basis.
I have a degree, can speak two languages other than English, like to think I am reasonably well read and have a job in a 'male' department at the company where I work, and I think I am pretty good at it. I also paint my nails and read trash when I feel like it. I hope to have children some day, and when I do, I am pretty sure that they will take a slightly more balanced view of how I choose to live my life than this writer has-trivial activities they may be, but I think that's my choice to make, not his.
This article seems like a stereotype in itself-women are stupid, they waste their time with gossip, shoes and shopping trips etc, and I'm not comfortable with the criticisms it contains, because it just doesn't ring true for me.

Loz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loz said...

I agree with you completely Em, Feminism has been derailed from its origins of equality and is no longer seen as a movement for positive change but a codeword for complaint and 'dangerous' ideas.

I do have a problem with the piece (and Felicity beat me to the punch on this) the article doesn't really paint a fair picture of either sex. Boiling down the problems of equality into bite-size, reader friendly bullet points, Women are vacuous heat-readers, men are brainless misogynists. The author steps on his own point claiming feminism has been trivialised by making trivial assumptions.

Trivialising the aims of feminism or any form of equality only serves to trivialises the cause.

It should be education all the way, for both young women who need to lead the changes and young men so they don't grow up as 'a generation of narrow-minded creeps just like Daddy'

Though it's not for me to say ;)

@EmVicW said...

Hey Felicity and Loz thanks for adding your tuppence worth here.

I agree with you both, the article does make sweeping generalisations which could be seen as self-defeating, but I didn't read them that way. I don't know whether just the paragraphs I posted here, out of context of the rest of the piece, changed the perception.

I took his powerful language and generalist examples as simply a way to make his point clear.

Liking 'girlie' things does not make you an anti-feminist. However as women we have a responsibility to each other to represent our sex in a manner we can all be proud of.

Gossip and nail varnish don't kill feminism. But too much of anything is a bad thing.

Felicity you summed it up perfectly by defining yourself through your extensive intellectual and professional qualifications before you mentioned nail varnish. I think his point is that women who would define themselves the other way around (and lets face it, we see these women all the time) are the ones letting the side down.

Elissa said...

If we are having a debate about whether feminists can like 'girlie' things and still be considered feminists, then we've really lost our way. It's about equality, and that is all.

The problem is not that we are letting men speak for us, it's that when women say these things to each other, no one wants to print them (at least not in the Sunday papers). If we pull the knives out, however, it's easy to get into print (Miranda Devine is a case in point).

Katy Ludditt said...

Having put a bit more effort into thinking about this, I conclude that feminism needs repositioning, rebranding and relaunching. I know just the person...haha :-)

Seriously, it's a tired, abused, outdated, misplaced and misunderstood concept that has been taken over by extremists and turned into a negative by women that are about as close to being feminine as Arnie Schwartzenigger.

That is why I don't ever want to be one. I'm happy in my gossip magazine, shoe shopping, make up wearing bliss and intend to stay that way. A pair of pretty kitten heels didn't stop me getting called a tough cookie by the half brother of the world's most notorious terrorist!

Basically the whole concept needs a makeover and reclaiming by those that will treat it with some genuine respect. How ironic is that?!

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