Feminism. Freedom. Hitler. Banana. Spot the odd one out? Hint, it’s the one not commonly used in conversations involving feminism. A lot of terms are thrown around amongst feminist discussion. ‘Intersectionality’ and its importance is one. Fair enough. ‘Freedom’ is another, okay sure. ‘Nazis’. You’ve lost me. ‘Hitler’. Are we having the same conversation here?
For some time feminists have been given the charming name ‘Feminazis’ due to the opinions held by some, but let me stress not ALL, feminists on regulations on everything used to objectify a person. Porn, stripping, prostitution and most recently lads mags have all been subject to feminist scrutiny and with good cause, seeing as they can contribute to rape culture, (which obviously does not make a non-rapist into a rapist, but allows for rape apology and a skewed sense of the value of a person’s body). However there are also feminists who have fought for these very forms of expression, as a part of a progressive and empowered society, which does not slut-shame. Either way, these are topics worthy of discussion.
On the other hand radical feminists, who sure do not share the ‘empowerment’ view, have come to the party, albeit a little late, and are singing to the tune of the anti-feminists as soon as the ‘Hitler’ song comes on. Ah, that old classic. Except the second verse of their version goes something like ‘you won’t let us spout anti-Islamic, transphobic statements in front of your diverse range of members including trans* people and Muslims? You’re such fascists! Ohh la la.’
As somebody of German ancestry, whose family were actually in Germany during the Second World War and of which a large part still reside there, this argument is one of the only things which breaks my diplomatic barrier and hits hard. Differences of opinions happen and I consider feminism, although it has its flaws of course, to be a diverse group of people with every member as unique and as valuable as the next, a movement of which I am proud to be a part of. To associate it with such a dreadful time is inaccurate, incredibly insulting to and ignorant of the horror suffered by victims of the Nazi regime. To use this term in connection with a movement whose purpose is equal rights focused is trivialising.
To associate feminism with such a dreadful time is inaccurate, incredibly insulting to and ignorant of the horror suffered by victims of the Nazi regime. To use this term in connection with a movement whose purpose is equal rights focused is trivialising.
On top of all of this, as soon as somebody pipes up that perhaps lads mags are vile and suggests that we could respectfully stop selling pieces of paper containing potentially triggering statements claiming that consent is not all that essential, that ‘no’ means ‘I’m playing hard to get, please assault me’ and more of the same delightful material, the old ‘our grandfathers’ argument comes up. It goes something like this: ‘Those awful feminists are trying to get rid of the freedoms, that OUR GRANDFATHERS fought and died for.’ Now let me stop you right there, person who hasn’t done any kind of research on the matter and whose opinions are limited to the simplicity of what ‘freedom’ means in the most basic of terms grasped when you are five years old. There are so many things wrong with that argument.
Firstly the generalisation ‘our grandfathers’, which of course excludes anybody not of British heritage, or from countries of other Allied forces. Secondly, the idea that ‘freedom’ is as simple as ‘do what you want’ is at the best, naïve, at the worst, dangerous. But of course, I missed the history lesson on the ‘Battle of Lads Mags’ fighting for the freedom of the granddaughters of today to take their clothes off and their grandchildren to sell images of them next to words such as ‘look at Rosie’s great big melons, her mouth says no but her eyes say ‘yes’!’ It’s a fair enough argument if you say, want to fight against fascism, but not when raising the very real concern that sexual harassment is ever present, that rape apologists and slut-shaming influence the justice a rape victim can get and that society can still be backwards enough to judge a women purely based on her looks or outfit choices (see the ‘women’s’ section of the Mail online or the abuse women in academia experience at certain debating events).
It’s a fair enough argument if you say, want to fight against fascism, but not when raising the very real concern that sexual harassment is ever present, that rape apologists and slut-shaming influence the justice a rape victim can get and that society can still be backwards enough to judge a women purely based on her looks or outfit choices.
On top of this, this statement is symptomatic of a very simplified view of us ‘heroes’ and them ‘villains’ and just looks at one side of the story, when the story is so much more complex. The concept of freedom is also more than complex and to put it simply, the freedom one person enjoys can seriously shrink the freedom of another. For example the freedom of one person to sexually harass or objectify one woman can have a serious impact on said woman’s freedom to enjoy her rights as well.
Furthermore, there is more than just freedom ‘to’, but freedom ‘from’ as well. ‘Our grandfathers’ fought for freedom ‘to’ indeed, but also freedom ‘from’: freedom from discrimination, freedom from strict gender roles, freedom from a society in which a certain elite, in the minority, enjoy an unlimited amount of privilege while others are pushed into the mud. Just as feminism today fights for freedom from discrimination, from gender roles and the rest.
So while enjoying our own lovely freedoms, we do need to remember to respect other people’s sphere of liberty and see how what we do impacts on others. On top of this, perhaps we also need to learn to remember that those against lads mags are simply taking advantage of their freedom of expression and opinion in order to express their own opinion and see who is affected by the same issues.
Maybe we also need to remember the fight of those who also risked their lives over the past hundred years or so in order to gain equal rights. No, it’s no World War Two, but it’s worth taking up at least a tiny portion of our consciousness when we are scrabbling around for a good analogy to enhance our argument. Be for lads mags, be against them, but perhaps we need to respect one another’s freedom to debate the topic in a safe and secure space once in a while and take heed of the advice drilled into the heads of, for example, humanities students: Stop repeating yourself and come up with an original argument for once.