Today I saw a tweet giving significant credit to an article about feminism on The Telegraph, written by Natasha Devon. I don’t know Devon, but her bio at the end of the piece seems pretty spectacular so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s probably very intelligent, successful and I’d probably agree with her on a lot of things.
It was thoughtfully written, and an honest account of one woman’s life experiences. But there were a number of fundamental arguments contained within where I feel that a little wider reading and research would potentially sway Devon’s opinions, as well as examples where it seems that an unfortunate run-in with someone who represents a niche faction of feminism has affected her opinions.
A couple of examples of my issues:
- “But cultural “feminist” changes, the types that insist lads mags, Page 3 and wolf-whistling are automatically offensive and should therefore be scrapped from the public consciousness, I have always struggled to comprehend.” This argument bugs me because (as anyone who saw the BBC’s Blurred Lines recently could parrot as well as me), although this content does not make people who do not hold sexist views suddenly turn sexist, it DOES (along with rape jokes, Essex girl jokes etc) help those who already hold sexist views believe that their view is acceptable and shared. This is why it is important that we do not tolerate a culture of sexism (whether that’s media representation, pub banter, or emails from the head of large sports organisations).
- “At the end of the session, one of the Society’s senior members said: “It’s great that you don’t think there’s any misogyny in your world, but I think if you talked to these men for long enough you’d find there were some pretty sinister ideas about women buried somewhere beneath the surface.” All I can say here is that an anecdote is not a statistic. If it is not OK for one woman to say “I encounter sexism therefore all women do”, and it is not ok for another to say “I don’t encounter sexism so we are all liberated”, it is also not OK to say “I met a very opinionated feminist who thought all men are sexist, therefore all feminists think all men are sexist”. Indeed the vast majority of serious feminist discussion that I have been involved in always involves a feminist male participant. One recently started two separate fights with my mother and sister on Facebook. Another is my husband who has been known to text me from the pub to get statistics and facts because he’s single handedly defending a moral high ground and in need of back up.
- “During the subsequent inevitable Twitter storm (during which “feminists” threatened to “rip me apart”, called me a “piece of s—” and a “brainless bimbo” in an incredibly sisterly fashion)”. This one is pretty simple and builds on the above. If not all men are sexist, then we can’t expect all women (or even all feminists) to not be arseholes. I promise not to rail against men in general because of a few very specific dicks I have met. I’d ask that the author extend the same courtesy to the many thoughtful and careful feminists out there. I can say without doubt that feminists are a pretty tight self-policing bunch. The overly aggressive and nasty in social media get called out pretty quickly, without a need to jettison the entire ideology and social movement as the author appears to do here.
- “The Everyday Sexism movement is a fantastic idea – an opportunity for an open debate on the ways in which genders mindlessly form prejudices against each other. So why have its followers largely excluded men from the conversation? “You can’t be sexist towards men!” was a university student’s response to this question at another debate I attended (she was studying feminism, by the way). Which is a bit like saying black people can’t be racist.” Yes clearly, not a logical argument at all. So let me have another go at the question; let’s look at the twitter account for Everyday Sexism. A bio that reads “Documenting experiences of sexism, harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is & create solidarity”. So no explicit closed door to men. As one of the 144,000 followers I’d assert that this sweeping statement about followers largely excluding men is unfair and unprovable. I’d suggest a contrasting and equally unproven hypothesis: perhaps men have significantly fewer experiences of sexism to share, and/or are less interested in following the experiences of those who do experience sexism.
- “In Britain in 2014, girls are entitled to the same education as boys, they can then go on to get any job they want and be paid the same as a man.” Not really. I’d just refer you to Fawcett for this one, and their excellent sustained campaign for equal pay. http://fawcettsociety.org.uk/equal-pay/
To counter Devon’s conclusion that “I’d like to see today’s feminists give men a bit more credit – they might just be surprised.”, I’d like to suggest that I’d like to see some of today’s feminists give other feminists (or just women, if they don’t associate with the F badge) a bit more credit. They too might be surprised that we are not the man-hating stereotype that the media paints us as. Indeed, my two favourite human beings are of the male variety.