Monday, 15 March 2010

This is not what a feminist looks like

Michele Hewitson's Weekend Herald interview on Saturday was with Act's Deputy Leader, and Cabinet Minister, Heather Roy. This quote stood out to me, and I thought it might be of interest to readers here:
[Roy] says her Territorial stint has done her tough-girl pollie image no harm. She agrees there is still an idea that women in politics have to be even tougher than the men. "Yes, I do. You struggle. If you're female and you're younger and you're blonde then you've got barriers to jump over. Those six-foot walls that I'd try and jump over in the Army, you've got to jump over in politics every day." But she "really dislikes" the word feminist and says she isn't one because it "implies people who go right out on an extreme. Just to put their stamp on the ground purely because they are female. I'm a great believer in people getting somewhere because they deserve to". Which is what I'd have thought feminism was about, but perhaps not to Super Moms.
Were I in a position to waste a Question for Oral Answer for no good reason but my own curiosity I might ask Roy is she considered Sonya Davies was an extremist. Or, in hindsight, the suffragettes of the 19th century. Or Ashley Judd, Kate Walsh, Emma Watson, all of whom are pretty mainstream modern actresses who have proudly identifed as feminists. There's no shame in being called a feminist now.

Yes there are streams of feminism that are more radical than others. All you need to do is read this blog for a while, with its different authors and different perspectives on feminism, to see that there is a wide variety of views within the broad church of feminism in general. The radicalness, the extremism, is more often in the eye of the beholder than the writer, may I humbly suggest.

As a leftie, I tend to see Act as pretty extreme. It seemed somehow fitting to me that the current Deputy Leader would somehow be unaware that her party might be seen as ticking that box, whilst rejecting the word, the concept, and the possibility of being "feminist," because it is too radical. Even though she had just identified that in her political life she faces extra barriers because of her gender (and her appearance, which is usually not a problem identified by male MPs). *cough* false consciousness *cough*

Anyway, it seems timely to include another quote to round this post off. No prizes for guessing ahead which one it will be...
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.


Hugh said...

What irks me about this, and it goes way beyond feminism, is the idea that ideas that are 'radical' and 'extreme' are somehow wrong or illegitimate. I'm proud to identify as a political extremist.

Surely ideas should be judged on their own merits, not simply consigned as wrong because of their relative place on some comparative political spectrum? What is and isn't radical, after all, is a factor based purely on who doesn't hold the idea, which seems to be a terrible basis for evaluating it.

So when you state that feminism is not radical or extreme, you are, in my opinion, playing into this notion, which saddens me.

(PS: Did the suffragettes identify themselves as feminists? I kind of think they didn't. And I would suggest that the idea that Heather Roy might think of Ashley Judd or Emma Watson as extremists is not that unlikely)

Julie said...

Actually I didn't say feminism isn't radical or extreme. I pointed out that feminism is so broad that it's silly to call the whole of it extreme, and that generally something seems extreme, or radical, in relation to where you sit, rather than on any objective scale.

And I put "in hindsight" in for the suffragettes for exactly the reason you state Hugh.

Country Lane said...

I don't expect much more from the likes of her but it always amazes me when people like her say I'm not a "feminist" but happily dine on the advantages created by the feminist movement. A though SHE is solely responsible for the fact she CAN go into politics, or join the Terros or an number of other basic rights for which feminists fought. All of which at soke stage were "radical".

Hugh said...

Julie, my point is not that you denied that feminism can be extreme, but when faced with the criticism that 'feminism is bad because it's extreme' you chose, rather than asking why extremism is a bad thing, to say that the extremism of feminism was 'often in the eye of the beholder'. So you have not really mounted a very strong defense of the idea that extreme ideas can be legitimate.

Grace Dalley said...

What Country Lane said.

And H Roy doesn't want to be seen as an extremist? ROTFL!

Julie said...

Hugh, given your argument in another thread on this blog recently was "dislike" I'm not sure you are coming from a strong position.

You made the argument that extremism isn't a bad thing, why do I need to make it too?