Saturday, 9 August 2008

I'll do the dirty work

Cross post

I had hoped that one of my sisters in THM had already dealt with this, but alas, they are busy on various causes, Anna caring for her children but still finding the time to write about some of the difficulties that women in China might face and that we might be complicit in, Julie caring for her wee lad and organising a debate she's hoping to run (more on that later, we hope), Anjum caring for her children and getting posts up on THM and at her own place and finding the time to drive for 3 hours to a provincial town to talk to people about how to help migrant women, Steph doing whatever it is she does with the Suit (and Steph, I really don't want to know any more), and so on. I'm not sure what Maia and Ms Enid Tak-Entity are up to today, but no doubt it's interesting, and worthwhile, and feminist. Not necessarily feminist in the sense of burning bras, waving placards, and protesting, but feminist - making choices for ourselves, being busy, independent, active - doing our best to be successful women, in a very well rounded sense of success. Me? I've been caring for my children and my partner, getting up to date on paid work, keeping in touch with a friend who needs a bit of extra support at the moment ( a very small return for the support she has given me over the years), cooking, cleaning, sorting our finances. We're all busy women. But someone's got to take out the rubbish, and I think it's my turn. So sisters, relax! I've got the time to step up today.


The rubbish in question being this nonsense from Noelle McCarthy, who has tossed her pretty head and decided that because she gets to make choices for herself, because she is independent, then clearly, there's no need for feminism anymore. Feminism is past its use-by date, and no woman of any sense calls herself feminist anymore, and certainly there's no sisterhood amongst women anymore.

Well, that's very nice for Ms McCarthy. But I have some news for her. Sisterhood is alive and well. Women do gather and support each other, both on-line, and in person. Witness The Hand Mirror, and the tremendous community of women blogging in New Zealand, on feminism. Witness the women working in Rape Crisis and Women's Refuge. Witness Anjum's tremendous work with migrant women. Witness the women who supported Louise Nicholas.

More than that, we still need feminism. Women are still raped, aren't they. Women still get pressured to conform to just one preferred body type, don't they? Women still work the second shift, don't they? Women still can't guarantee that they can decide what happens to their own bodies - the abortion compromise is after all, threatened yet again in New Zealand. Women still feel that they are not portrayed as equals, and this harms their prospects at work, don't they? Actually, that last one was reported in the newspaper for which Ms McCarthy writes.

I think that Ms McCarthy has fallen into the trap of thinking that because she has no need of feminism, despite the tremendous freedoms that feminism has brought her, then there's no need for feminism at all. That's a special kind of wilful blindness, to take one's own position, and ascribe it to everyone else. Surely, the most basic form of journalism training is to get both, or all, sides of a story, and not to assume that just one person saying that x, y and z have occurred means that x, y and z really have occurred. What can't people trained in journalism apply that basic scepticism to their own opinions?

I get tired of obviously successful women, who have acheived their success because of the freedoms that feminism has given them, opining that feminism is a dirty word that no one uses any more, and I get tired of newspaper editors giving them the space to do so. But I suppose it's an easy-write, and editors know that it will sell, so out it goes. And it's even better if you can get a pretty woman to say it.

13 comments:

Anna McM said...

There's also a really fine line between saying that feminism is redundant and taking the Margaret Thatcher route of actively sneering at other women for not being individually successful/strong/whatever enough. It's the idea that women who advocate collective action do so because they love being victims and aren't individually tough enough to just suck it up and make successes of themselves. Irk.

The Bewildering Case of Ms Enid Tak-Entity said...

Takin' out the traaaashh....

Thanks for the vote of confidence Deborah; I'm lying in bed hung over and eating chips. But I think only feminism can save me now.

It's pretty lame of Noelle to be 'too ironic' to be a feminist. This point she made however, is not intended to be ironic; it just smacks of a profound ignorance of how equality in socioeconomic development planning is achieved:

"It is the women who work in sweatshops and the women who harvest the crops and the women who are trying to feed families in Sierra Leone. But improving the lot of women like that is a question of global economics, rather than feminist dogma in action."

Actually, only feminist 'dogma' - or, uh, ideology or perspectives in action, mainstreamed into development policies, can make a change for those women. 'A question of global economics'? Global economics being divorced from gender distribution of labour? Sounds like Noelle is now too ironic to understand the words she uses - a pity. Isn't she meant to be the thinking-man's unthreatening non-partisan woman?

homepaddock said...

"Only feminist dogma"

How about peopleism rather than feminism? I've given a slighter longer response on The Hand Mirror and I hope you won't be offended by a link because I've given a much longer response here: http://homepaddock.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/peopleism-next-step-for-post-feminist-progress/

Danielle said...

That piece is so profoundly irritating that my main reaction is 'BAH!' and nothing else. Not so helpful. :)

Deborah said...

That's why I think dealing with it is just like taking out the rubbish, Danielle. Someone's gotta do the dirty work...

The Bewildering Case of Ms Enid Tak-Entity said...

exactly ladies - I mean, I'm a postmodern 3rd wave feminist; hey, I'm even about to watch some porn. But to say that feminism is irrelevant to the 'big picture' of women's suffering/status in the global economy is to fall into the retarded fashionable trap of conflating feminist politics with 'privileged 1st world radical feminist identity politics'. And that, 'ironically', is something that only privileged first world women do.

stargazer said...

absolutely agree with the above comment. noelle fails to take into account the reality of lower class women many of whom are not able to take advantage of the gains made by feminism. being uneducated or having to work more than one job makes it can be quite limiting to choices. there is a growth of religious conservatism in this country that is limiting choices for women, under the guise of "family values". women of colour face barriers, that are presented as "traditional" cultural values/practices. deborah, you're point about taking one's own experience, an experience that get the benefits of privilege, and extrapolating from that is pretty sad. oh, and thanx for the nice comments.

The Bewildering Case of Ms Enid Tak-Entity said...

Glad to see your endorsement of my porn-watching, Anjum...

stargazer said...

nice try! but no, i was agreeing to the second part of your comment. you'll have to work a lot harder to convert me into being pro-porn, or even porn-neutral. knowing that you totally don't give a damn what i (or anyone else, for that matter!) think, i'll safely send waves of disapproval in your direction, through the ether...

Julie said...

I got halfway through and I had a moment of sweet relief. It's satire, I thought, a parody, it has to be! Then I realised that I was being far far too optimistic.

But surely Noelle must realise the inanity of her argument, because she contradicts herself several times in the column. At the same time that she extrapolates her personal experience to every woman she also acknowledges that there are many women in the world, even in hers, who don't enjoy equality, and that there is work still to be done.

And homepaddock, thanks for the link, we strongly encourage commenters to share their links (even when they are disagreeing with us) as long as they are polite about it :-)

Megan said...

My favourite part:

"How many women of my generation would consider themselves feminists? Very few, I'd wager. It's a hopelessly dated term, and also, really, a given. Most of the women I know work, talk, and live in a state of equality with men.

They're paid as much, or more, and are just as ambitious, if not more."


Really?
Who are these women?

Megan said...

Aaargh! How about i use the right
link

Tania said...

I became so enraged by this piece I decided to base my entire Womens Issue Editorial for Salient around it!

As you can see here: http://www.salient.org.nz/columns/editorial/editorial-20