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Discussion21 Comments

  1. avatar

    I don’t think Ms Schwarzer is doing it right…

    On a more serious note although this article makes some good points I feel it does miss the cultural element that exists in perceptions of and actions by the feminist movement.

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    “Our own feminist society here in Southampton has recently held a meeting centred on feminist pornography, a valid issue I am sure but in context of global feminism – trifling.”

    This is moot in my opinion – student societies are there to raise awareness of core beliefs and causes, yes, but also to introduce new people to the idea; one way in doing that is by having “off the wall” ideas like the pornography night. It was almost advertising – I doubt Chloe is going to take to the streets with her new found opinions on porn now…

    On a wider note – Feminists who make eye-catching remarks do not taint the Feminist message in my eyes; instead they’re just mostly ignored or mocked, much like any eccentric who makes over-the-top statements. Look at the “most hated family in America” Christian group – people don’t take them seriously, people don’t hear what they say and suddenly think Christianity is a crackpot idea.

    In terms of spreading the Christian/ Feminist/ whatever message, these people are not exactly ideal, but I don’t think people think less of the cause because of it. Life’s full of eccentrics, but people are smart enough to tell the difference between important and unimportant values and messages.

    And whilst I’ve disagreed with the general message you’ve portrayed, this is a good article in that its made me question and think about what you said; don’t take what I’ve said as an attack on your opinion, opinions are opinions, and hopefully it will lead to debate not slandering.

  3. avatar

    This is quite a biased article-surely a feminist organisation is still allowed to explore issues such a pornography and the pay gap without being accused of some kind of triviality? These are still important issues, and by addressing them we are not ignoring the world-wide feminist issues.

    We do indeed look at world issues, but the generalisations in this article that feminists in the developed world are tackling trifling issues is largely inaccurate. There are so many feminist individuals and organisations actively addressing issues of major concern such violence against women, sex trafficking and women’s health in poverty-stricken areas, etc, in the context of global feminism. We cannot be blamed for being trivial when we may choose to look at issues closer to home (domestic violence, pornography) -in the long term, addressing these helps us and others to improve our campaigns to greater, harder to tackle issues. Yes, perhaps more could be done for global feminism, but isn’t that always the case?

    We will continue to address these issues, but we won’t ignore those that affect our daily lives in the developed world, either.

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    I believe you under estimate feminists in the western world. I think you can be both concerned about equal pay in this country and care about the rights of suffering women in Africa. Surely the same idea could apply to other areas of life, why care about trivial things such as what brand of pasta sauce you should buy, when people are dying of starvation in the third world? The argument is not as black and white as you make it out to be. Also, it is the desire of feminists to strive for gender equality, therefore since we do not have complete equality in this society these arguments are still relevant.
    It seems to me you are constantly merging the many different branches of feminism into one small group. There is a big difference between the values of a liberal feminist (equal pay, maternity and paternity leave) and that of a radical feminist (belief in the male supremacy in society used to oppress women). You should make it clear to which branch you are criticizing of ignoring suffering women in Africa. It appears you are basing your knowledge on one blog you have read ‘One Man’s Musings About Various Things‘ as he sets out the same sort of argument as you have done.
    ‘Many refer to feminism as the domain of women who are either: ‘shrill and whiney and shrewish,’ or ‘angry, man eating, lesbian, bitch[es].’ This quote is misinterpreted as he actually said that it is what male chauvinists think, not the ‘many’ that you are referring to. Furthermore, you are referencing this apparent popular opinion from a blogger who makes the claim that ’I know a little about a lot’, hardly a reliable source.
    ‘Listening to feminists, you wouldn’t think so’, which feminists do you listen to exactly that say the prevention of rape, murder and oppression of women is more urgent than that of equal pay and benefits?

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    I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with feminist views who believes in fighting domestic issues whilst ignoring global ones. As you said yourself, women receive only 10% of the global income, and this also means that within the UK women do not have equality in the workplace or in society in general. They are not resolved issues.

    Personally, I feel that ignorance is the ‘real nemesis of feminism’. It is not the fault of feminists that some people see them as ‘shrill and whiney’ or ‘man eating, lesbian, bitch[es]’. You wouldn’t blame the civil rights movement for a racist’s views about non-white people, likewise it is not the fault of women for the existence of misogyny and gender inequality.

  6. avatar

    I imagine the feminist society would be heavy going if they only talked about poverty every week! They can explore other areas if they want, why not pornography? Just because something isn’t the biggest issue to be addressed doesn’t mean it isn’t worth addressing.

    As for your claims that pursuing more equal pay, better maternity leave and greater compatibility of domesticity and careers, how is it that these issues are not linked to property ownership and income? These are the areas you claim are most important, and they’re quite strongly linked, so the point you’re making is rather ludicrous.

  7. avatar

    Interesting article.

    Part of the difficulty with feminism engaging with important global issues is that so many people are local-thinking, (or at least local-acting, if global thinking-in-a-vauge-sort-of-way).

    In my experience, the main problem in generating and maintaining interest is that people don’t feel that feminist issues affect them personally- they see them as largely resolved and don’t want to engage with larger global issues which remain unresolved. FemSoc meetings on things that people perceive to be more relevant to them and their experience of being a man/woman help to bridge this gap. Feminism is about a lot more than changing things for other people- although this is hugely, hugely important, don’t get me wrong! Feminism for some people is just, or largely, about their own thought, and about addressing their internal perceptions and their actions.

    I suppose what I want to highlight is the difference between active feminism, (e.g. campaigning/raising awareness) and being a feminist, (i.e. believing in equal gender rights).

  8. avatar

    I don’t think you make a particularly cogent point at all with this article.
    You seem to be making three seperate statements: 1. feminists in the UK focus on gender issues within the UK. 2. There are more serious gender problems globally than issues within the UK. 3. The feminist movement is disliked and this is the fault of western feminists.
    In answer to your first point, of course feminists in the UK focus on domestic issues. Someone has to keep them on the radar. Its surprising that we need to be reminded of the massive gaps in gender equality that exist in this country; in social expectations, employment, the media etc. People are so used to them, they half forget about their existence, and without some kind of campaigning voice they won’t ever be challenged. To use your, perhaps convuluted, metaphor to do otherwise would be to ignore the fire in your house, in order to shout that the house across the street was burning.
    Then with the second point, violence against women happens everywhere in the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world, including the Uk and Western Europe. However developed we may think we are, we have still managed to create societies that rape, brutalise, traffic and murder thousands of women every month. I don’t think they are ignored by feminists. In fact, it doesn’t take a sociologist to tell you that tackling issues such as Western pornography go hand in hand with tackling these ones.
    Finally, you blame western feminists for the way feminism is portrayed. Is it really their fault? If you criticise society, you are going to annoy people, who are then going to moan about you. To look at it from a feminist viewpoint, maybe the act of standing up for their rights goes against the way our patriachal society expects women to be act, and that is what opens them up to a torrent of abuse. You only need to look at some of the language used (angry, man eating, lesbian, bitch[es]) to know that there is more than a little truth in this.
    Perhaps it is more those who portray western feminism who should take the blame. The old ‘heterosexual sex is rape’ argument is persistently used to show up feminists as mad man haters, but it is very frequently taken out of context. I’m not familiar with the work of Alice Schwarzer, but I’m sure she didn’t become Germany’s leading feminist campaigner just by talking about that. Its a very specific area to focus on. Mention Andrea Dworkin to most people, and that’s the only thing about her they know, despite her being one of the most important feminist commentators of our era and never having actually said it.
    Anyway… that’s what I think about it.

    Chloe
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    Bloody heck Peter Apps, you always say good things. I’m a fan

    Samuel Gilonis
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    The maltreatment of women in the UK is incomparable to other countries for a multitude of reasons: misogynistic practices are not endorsed and encouraged by the state as they are in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran etc. While there are tragic cases in Britain, they are on a scale which is dwarfed by the extreme and commonplace violence that women are subjected to, predominantly in the third-world but also in developed Islamic theocracies.

    We have not ‘managed to create societies that rape, brutalise, traffic and murder thousands of women every month’ these are an abhorrent product of the darker aspects of human nature and it is extremely improbable that they could be completely exorcised from any society – this is in stark contrast to countries that systematically oppress women.

    It also does take a sociologist to tell you that tackling pornography goes hand in hand with tackling violent sexual crimes, it will take you another sociologist to tell you the exact opposite. It is an extremely controversial field of research with much evidence that the increased increased availability of pornography corresponds to a decline in sexual offences in many places. This is a study I have previously posted on WS:

    http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/1961to1999/1999-effects-of-pornography.html

    lesbian bitch
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    It’s very depressing that you, as a man, think rape is ‘just one of those things’ that is basically inevitable and part of human nature.

    I am a western feminist, I dunno who you’ve been talking to but in my experience the most urgent and important issue facing women here, now, is male violence, and the social trends that enable and encourage that. No, we’re not talking about a few tragic cases, we’re talking about a constant. If you can dismiss that as inevitable and not worth getting upset about, good for you, you clearly don’t have to live with it in the same way we do. I just hope nothing bad ever happens to any of your female family members.

    Samuel Gilonis
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    I think you have trivialised my stance on rape, saying that rape is “an abhorrent product of the darker aspects of human nature and it is extremely improbable that they could be completely exorcised from any society”, is hardly equal to saying it is “just one of those things”. I did not, have not and never would say that rape is something to be dismissed or not worth getting upset about, this is a shameful misrepresentation or misunderstanding of my words. I think that rape is an extremely savage and barbaric crime and one that should be as aggressively combated as possible. I would also claim that murder and theft are products of human nature that would be impossible to completely eradicate from society but it would be a damn sight more than foolish to not combat these things. It also does not take the idea of the rape of my family members to think that rape is abominable.

    In fact I am having quite a lot of difficulty in seeing how you jumped from the comment that I wrote to your nasty and untenable claim that I think rape is OK.

  9. avatar

    Michael, when I read the title of this article I was expecting some kind of abusive tirade against feminists. And luckily (for both of us), this is not what I was met with. So, that’s a positive.
    Your article is interesting and I appreciate that you’re in support of the feminist cause. But you do make a few grand generalisations and perhaps condemn the wrong group. All the points I’d like to make have been very well articulated already, so I won’t bother saying it again.
    But it’s not fair to say that we aren’t as interested in global issues – have you ever attended a society meeting? This month at FemSoc we’re reading Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, a book about the hideous oppression of women in Afghanistan. Then we will be discussing female genital mutilation, rights of women in the Middle East, religious factors etc, in light of this. We even hope to have in a guest speaker. Plus, I tried to get Southampton to support me in boycotting Nestle, a company who manipulate vulnerable women in developing countries. Rather than consider this is a serious issue raised by a student, a fair few people of people merely shouted me down on the basis that I was a feminist. Great, how productive.
    So perhaps we should listen to one another’s opinions human being to human being, not [insert pigeonholed type of person here] to feminist. That would certainly be a step towards equality.

    Dhanesh Patel
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    The real nemesis of feminism is poorly thought out stereotypical articles like this. I’m not expert but this is clearly the kind of stuff you’d say to your mates as a light hearted joke (only dressed up in pseudo-intellectual language).

    Chloe
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    oops *’a fair number of people’, that should read. Silly me.

  10. avatar

    I would be fascinated to know what you think Feminism should, practically, be doing instead? Your article is well written and certainly thought-provoking, but it’s a little insulting to insinuate that feminists in the western world focus ONLY on their own issues, and ignore the wider world.

    As a western feminist, of course I recognise the fact that comparatively we live on far more equal ground here than in other areas of the world, and I would wholeheartedly encourage feminist movements in the UK and elsewhere do all they can to support change in the wider world. However we still have the right, and the obligation, to focus on issues of gender discrimination where we are. I suspect this has been covered in far greater detail elsewhere in the comments, (I’ve yet to read them thoroughly), but just thought I’d add my two cents.

    I can see your argument, and agree with a lot of your attitudes. However the concept of feminists themselves having a negative impact on feminism not only seems a little contradictory in terms, but very sad. Where do we go from here? (Also, out of curiosity, would you call yourself a feminist?)

  11. avatar

    A distinction should be made between those who adhere to the feminist movement and those who consider themselves feminist in the sense that they believe in the equality of genders. The feminist movement has historically become dragged down by other contaminating ideologies and political stances such as Schwarzer’s inane claim regarding heterosexual sex, although in fairness Schwarzer does represent a particularly radical branch of feminism. This article might not have been as well researched as it could have been as Schwarzer is not an example of a feminist bogged down in domestic issues as she is a fairly outspoken critic of Islam (Islam ist Undemokratisch).

    The feminist movement takes the position that the only differences (non-physical) between male and female arise through social conditioning. This is is a stance that is fairly incompatible with scientific research on the matter (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303120346.htm) as well as evolutionary biology and it is one that I have argued against else where on this site and have indeed been criticised for doing so.

    Why should people who believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such also have this extremely controversial biological claim forced down their throats? At risk of sounding cliché, equal does not mean the same.

    I think that the fact that one must be positively described as a feminist is a crucial factor in the unpopularity of the feminist movement that you have described. To support any other civil rights movement you do not become a homosexual-ist or an African-American-ist, you become not a racist and not a homophobe. The fact that feminism remains a highly politicised movement urges people to subscribe to views and opinions that are not their own. I believe this to be a reason why people who are not sexist and place value in equality may not identify with feminists and therefore make fun of them as ‘shrill, whiny and shrewish’.

    While I agree that there are much larger international issues, I wholly disagree that this undermines the need for discussion on domestic issues where they exists, of course to discuss resolved issues is valueless. Would you argue that the violent xenophobia in Russia or the execution of homosexuals in Iran makes discussion of racism and homophobia unimportant?

    Samuel Gilonis
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    sorry that should read: discussion of racism and homophobia in the UK unimportant?

  12. avatar
    Michael Sanni

    Yes this article is critical of feminists, but that is largely public opinion and the point is to question whether feminists and the perception of them are harmful to the public’s view of feminism. This is an opinion and whether you agree with it or not, the aim of the article is to evoke debate.

  13. avatar

    What an absolutely ridiculous assertion. Is the bulk of your argument honestly that “things might be bad, but things are realy, really bad elsewhere, so we should stop talking about the things that are bad”?

    Crime is far higher in the developing world, does that mean that actors in the UK should therefore stop trying to stop crime domestically? To those who lead anti-knife crime campaigns in London, should they simply reorganise their efforts to lead awareness about gun crime in Kingston, Jamaica, because it is worse there?

    Of course it is true that feminism seeks to tackle and organise against global inequalities for women. But if you honestly think the politics is about the ‘ignorance of the immediate’ then you don’t understand the reasons people get involved in politics. Opposition to injustice abroad begins when one takes a compassionate position on injustice at home.

    I’m sure many women will be insulted by the idea that equal pay, maternity benefits and balancing work and home are “fairly marginal and largely resolved”. Indeed, it is perhaps an attestation to the total obliviousness that you project around the debate you’re raising that you should marginalise these issues as resolved. The UK Government, for example, is repealing the Equality legislation that was introduced by the previous Government – abolishing a legal requirement to promote gender equality within ones organisation. The gender pay gap is still at around 20%. You may disregard these as “marginal”, I consider them outrageous.

    Finally, with regard to the perception of feminists. I don’t really know which feminists you’ve spoken to, if at all. Indeed, your article is mysteriously lacking any input from “Feminists” to provide some clarity to what you are referring. I think you’ve engaged in some fairly unconvincing rhetoric and hyperbole, unreferenced and uninformed.

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