Rebranding feminism: distortion and inclusion

After taking part in a debate on feminism, the Great British Bake Off’s Ruby Tandoh has found herself accused of elitism. According to the Daily Mail, Tandoh “has admitted she thinks The Great British Bake Off is ‘crap TV’ and that the women who watch it are ‘silly’”. Of course, that isn’t anything like the message she was trying to convey while taking part in the Elle debate on whether feminism needs a rebrand. While I’m still not sure I agree with her point, I think this distinction is important. Feminists should be able to state their beliefs without everything being sent through the anti-feminist distortion machine, in which certain key words (in this case “crap TV” and “silly”) are matched to the most appropriate off-the-peg parody of feminist belief and then thrown back in the speaker’s face. Continue reading


The Telegraph, the niqab and pseudo-feminism in action

Last week the Telegraph had a white, male journalist telling “pro-choice feminists” that they should be “more appalled than anyone by the sex-selection abortion story”. This week there’s a different one letting us know that “It is not necessary to be a militant feminist to understand that the niqab is deeply demeaning of women”. Thanks guys! Any other Rules of Feminism you’d like to pass on? I’m hoping this will become a weekly feature, leading up to the formal appointment of Boris Johnson and Toby Young as the UK’s Lead Feminists, always on hand to advise women what to wear, what to do with their bodies, what does and doesn’t constitute misogyny etc. Otherwise, how will we know?

As a movement, feminism might be flawed, but there’s nothing I hate more than Telegraph pseudo-feminism. At least when feminists are self-critical – or engaging in cat fights, as our male feminist superiors no doubt see it – the goal in sight remains a better feminism. With Telegraph or Tory feminism (I’m not sure what to really call it, as it’s restricted to neither one newspaper nor one political party) what we’re getting is feminist rhetoric as a means to anti-feminists ends. It’s manipulative, reactionary crap and no one who believes in equality should feel pressured into buying it.

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Feminism and the art of not giving a shit

For all its flaws, the internet has been great at giving a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise be heard. Indeed, in recent times there’s been one group who, silent for far too long, have finally been finding their voice. I’m referring, of course, to those who don’t give a shit about things.

In the old days if there was something about which you didn’t give a shit – sexist language, size zero models, the Sun’s page three, images on banknotes – you’d have to just suffer in silence. Obviously you could get on with other things in the meantime, albeit in a purely abstract, imaginary way (the economic downturn and female genital mutilation are, hypothetically, no longer problems due to all of this not-shit-giving). In real life and in public, however, there weren’t that many outlets for ostentatiously demonstrating just how totally not arsed you were about minor, usually feminism-related tussles. Thank god, therefore, for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. From now on silently feeling furious that other people are feeling furious about things about which you wouldn’t be furious except you are now but only in a meta way in response to these other furious people – anyhow, that thing is a thing no more. Continue reading

This is what a feminist looks like

Today I am wearing my Fawcett Society This is what a feminist looks like T-shirt. I don’t wear it often, mainly because I fear it makes a hostage to fortune of both feminism and me. While wearing the damn thing I feel doubly sure I’ll be unable to park my car, or perhaps I’ll fail miserably to laugh a joke which was, by all objective standards, hilarious. I just can’t risk inadvertently confirming a whole range of anti-feminist stereotypes so generally the T-shirt stays in the drawer. Today, though, I’ve been staying in so it’s felt reasonably safe to give it a go (hence this is what a feminist looks like: someone who spends a Saturday afternoon cleaning the bathroom while listening to a That’s Christmas! double CD).

The best thing about my feminist T-shirt is that it makes my tits look ace. No, seriously. I look hot in this thing!* Perhaps I should wear it in public, just to mess with the heads of sexists, who will be extra-specially inclined to objectify me and yet be simultaneously repelled by the words emblazened across my ample bosoms. Ha! That’d show them! (I’m not sure what, but it would.) They would learn, if nothing else, that feminists, given the right T-shirt, can have ace tits. Then perhaps they wouldn’t notice me failing to park my car or being unable to laugh at hilarious jokes.
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Feminine power and age-old misogyny: The timeless duo

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?).
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Feminism resources for schools: I’m not cross, just very disappointed

Many feminists are very NEGATIVE about the society we live in and always see the BAD in everything. […] They want to generalise their ideas about males and females to the whole of society.

AS Sociology resource website

I am a feminist. I am also a miserable sod. Usually I assume these two things to be only loosely related, but perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, I’m blaming the menz.

I’m not a sociology teacher. I don’t know how you’d teach a Key Stage 5 sociology course. I am, however, quite surprised to learn that in some places it is being done through the medium of 1970s stereotypes (my own specialism is in languages, hence I eagerly await the day when intercultural understanding is covered by “French people wear ONIONS round their NECKS” and “TWO world wars AND one world cup” – no idea what’s going on with the capitals there, but if it’s THE latest thing in pedagogy, I’m going WITH the FLOW). Continue reading

Woman On: Redefining equality for “the normal person”

Charlotte Vere is not a feminist, thank you very much. The former Conservative candidate and mother-of-two last shaved her armpits “this morning” and she’s definitely wearing a bra.

Huffington Post, 1972  2012

As I write this, not only I am wearing a bra –  a Debenhams “age-defying” uplift one, no less – but I am sporting a recently shaved area far more intimate than the mere underarm. Does this make me more of non-feminist than Charlotte Vere? Or is it not just what you do but what you don’t do?

Here are some things which I suspect Charlotte Vere, founder of the Woman On think-tank – which “campaigns for women, but not at the expense of men” – does not do: wear dungarees, shave her head, live in a commune, eat lentils for breakfast, act as muse for the Millie Tant strip in Viz. In addition, I’ve a feeling she also avoids the following: having principles, showing compassion, thinking “hard” thoughts. Continue reading