Feminism evolves yet the essential format of misogyny remains the same. At least, that’s what I think when reading this piece by Anne Lloyd, entitled Feminism is Dead, Long Live Femininity. Here is an article that ticks all the anti-feminist boxes (great for a drinking game – you’d be off your feminist face in no time). Seek and ye shall find each of the following familiar assertions:
- feminism is too “outdated” and “aggressive”
- women in the West don’t need feminism (compared to, you’ve guessed it, Afghanistan, where they do sexism properly)
- feminism involves a woman “masquerading as a man in a man’s world” (no idea whether this applies to Afghanistan, though – let’s just forget that bit was ever mentioned)
- yes, there are some crappy things happening here (i.e. not in weird places like Afghanistan), but change is already happening in and of itself (“albeit slowly”)
- feminism is making women lose touch with their femininity (“because they have been cultivating a masculine version of power”, whatever the hell that means)
- women need to go back to using the skills that are hard-wired in their nature (“accordingly to Julia Margo, a British authority on female skills, emotional intelligence and communication are far more important than brawn”)
- women are in fact taking over (“today, in the West, we are moving into a woman’s world” – but not thanks to feminism, it would appear)
Blah blah blah blah blah (btw, I haven’t literally been having a drinking game with this – I’m irate enough on camomile tea). I have read this and heard this a million times before and still it gets to me. Indeed, my response is profoundly unfeminine; stupid ideas have a tendency to make me lose sight of those womanly qualities I need to hold dear (“compassion, intuition, multi-tasking, collaboration, receptivity, and creativity”, where are you now?).
You may be reading this and thinking “well, yes, this is anti-feminism, but it’s not exactly misogyny. It’s just a different – and admittedly rubbish – view of what women are”. That’s what I used to think, but something about this piece has made me think “actually, no”. It is misogyny. This myth of female power and essentially feminine skills has fueled the hatred of women for millennia. It’s the same old story – women are dominating the world on the sly thanks to their sneaky superior skills in stuff like “intuiting” and “communicating”. It might look like they’re not ruling over everything, but sod what appearances tell you. That’s just what the women want you to think, but well-known authorities on “female skills” would beg to differ.
I am not sure how “compassion, intuition, multi-tasking” etc. help you if you’re being denied an abortion, or find yourself sexually harassed in the workplace, or can’t get your ex to pay child support, or are being held responsible for the sexual assault of which you were a victim, or are starving yourself to death because your body feels unacceptable to the world, or are being beaten by your partner and have no money and nowhere to go. Presumably you’re meant to intuit your way out of such situations but personally I’d like to feel that society as a whole was on the side of women who are suffering discrimination in such a wide variety of ways. Still, what the heck. It’s not as though female skills – or womanly wiles, as they’re also known – don’t come in useful at some point, at least as far as history, literature, religion and mythology are concerned. Eve, ever “receptive” to the arguments of others (serpents included), used her communication skills to make Adam eat the apple. Delilah’s “erotic capital” brought Samson to his knees. Lady Macbeth’s emotional intelligence and intuition provided her with the language to drive her husband to murder. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world (and yes, deep down, all women have the power to be exactly like that Rebecca de Mornay character).
The myth of secretive, manipulative feminine power is constantly used to justify the collective punishment of womankind. With our communication skills, our nurturing capacity and our natural beauty, we women could control everything (except that, Pandora-like, we’d fuck it up). Hence it’s best for men – the ones with the brawn – to bat us down while they still have the chance, although not without first giving a nod to our “superior” womanly skills (thanks, Simon Baron-Cohen, Steve Pinker and every religious belief I have ever encountered). I’ve seriously had enough of it. It’s not just that patriarchal religion – or evolutionary psychology as it’s often called these days – is reductive and oppressive. It’s dishonest and manipulative in a way that goes far beyond what the average cunning woman, with her apparent string of GCSE A*s and genius capacity for influencing others, could ever achieve in-between dirty nappies and low-paid split shifts.
Anyhow, that’s what I’m thinking right now. How sodding unoriginal all this is, and how untrue, this random collection of double-edged “female skills” that is called on both to pacify women and to crush them underfoot. I’m really pissed off with it. And yeah, that’s not a very “collaborative” or “creative” response, but it’s an honest one. And do you know what I think? If real, I bet Eve, Pandora and Delilah weren’t being “womanly” – I bet they were just seriously pissed off too.