Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Feminism-these-days

Neil Lyndon is a brave man. Some might say he’s ‘foolish'; others might think he’s ‘wrong’. But whatever your views, it would be difficult to deny his courage. For over twenty years he’s been publicly questioning, challenging, and countering feminist dogma at some personal cost, and with very little support. No matter how much we are told the media is ‘sexist’ and dominated by ‘boys clubs’ or ‘laddism’, it is very difficult to find a single mainstream journalist who directly and consistently criticises ‘the sisterhood’. As an often lone voice in the wilderness, Lyndon is to be admired. In 2014 he self-published a collection of his writings since 1990: Sexual Impolitics: Heresies On Sex, Gender and Feminism. This kindle book is said to contain ‘the full unexpurgated, uncensored text’ of his 1992 publication: No More Sex War: The Failures Of Feminism. I can well imagine the extent to which editors in the early 90s might have altered and sanitised Lyndon’s original work in order to make it ‘safe’ for general consumption. But, having bought a hardback copy of No More Sex War in a second hand bookshop a couple of years ago, I thought I’d read it how it was first unleashed on the unsuspecting, unsympathetic world back in 1992.

My first observation is about how readable and clearly expressed the book is. As someone who has more recently attempted to write critically about feminism and to point out its flaws and failings, I know it is not easy to sum up exactly what it is that’s wrong with such an influential and seemingly ‘common sense’ way of looking at the world. I also know from my own experiences, that the ‘feminist critic’ has to be capable, rigorous and eloquent, because any weakness in argument will be pounced on and used to dismiss and belittle their positions. So it is a major strength of No More Sex War that it is accessible, always backed up by evidence and examples, and maintains clarity and reason throughout. If feminists and feminist allies have still ignored, dismissed or treated Lyndon’s book with contempt (which I believe they have) this is through no fault of the author. It is most likely that they just didn’t want to hear the valid and important points he makes.

fishbicycle

Lyndon begins by setting out his stall, and explaining why he cannot subscribe to a dogma which claims women and only women suffer disadvantage and discrimination in our society (the book mainly refers to western capitalist society). He cites examples some of you will be familiar with, such as the fact men do not have equal custody rights over their children as women, men have no say in whether or not a woman they’ve conceived with has an abortion, and men have little or, as was the case at the time the book was written, no paternity leave when their children are born. Therefore, Lyndon argues:

‘If any disadvantages apply to all men, if any individual man is denied a right by reason of his gender which is afforded to every individual woman, then it must follow that ours is not a society which is exclusively devised to advance and protect advantages for men over women. It is not a patriarchy’ (Lyndon 1992:9).

This simple statement, that seems so obvious and true, could put an end to the tiresome ‘oppression olympics’ currently being played out across the globe (including or predominantly online). If anyone would take heed, that is. For there’s a sadness that runs through No More Sex War, for me as a reader, and for the author, which stems from the fact that no amount of reasoned argument and critical thinking can quell the tide of feminism’s ‘righteous’ anger, prejudice and sometimes bile. It couldn’t in 1992 and it can’t now.  But that doesn’t make this treatise any less valuable. One of the strengths of the work is how fearlessly Lyndon looks feminism directly in the eye, asks it questions and analyses feminist viewpoints, in prominent feminists’ own words. Critics of the dogma constantly get accused of misunderstanding or misinterpreting feminist beliefs and stances. But Lyndon does no such thing. Rather he painstakingly, patiently dissects feminist texts, from serious tomes such as Greer’s The Female Eunuch and Firestones’ The Dialectic of Sex to throwaway remarks and interview responses in the mainstream media. It makes for grim reading at times. Some choice examples of ‘casual misandry’ Lyndon cites include:

Anna Raeburn, agony aunt: ‘I regard men as a pleasant pastime but no more dependable than the British weather’
Germaine Greer, author: ‘It always amazes me that women don’t understand how much men hate them’
Jane Mcloughlin, author: ‘We’ll wear you [men] like alligator handbags’.
Lapel badge: ‘the more men I meet the more I like my dog’

And of course, I hardly need to tell many of you that a reason No More Sex War is still relevant in the 21st century social media age, is that social media campaigns such as ‘Everydaysexism’ dedicated to noting and exposing sexist remarks and actions, never includes examples of sexism against men.

feministNeil Lyndon writes from the point of view, not of a ‘retro’, ‘chauvinist’ ‘neanderthal’ man who dislikes feminism because it challenges his power and dominance over women. Rather he tells a moving and interesting story of being a young, left/liberal hopeful man in the 1970s, ready for and keen on ‘liberation’ of men and women. But twenty years on when he wrote the book, he concluded disappointedly that he and the ‘radicals’ of his post-war ‘baby boomer’ generation had not quite delivered the new world they were hoping to create. In places I think he can be a bit heavy handed in his damning critique of the politics he encountered in the 70s and 80s,  as it was influenced by Marx and Freud in particular. But it is fascinating for me, a small child of Marxist/Freudian/Feminist parents in the 70s, to hear one person’s perspective on that period. In particular Lyndon astutely examines key socio-economic changes of the post-war era. He shows that feminists not only often take credit for developments they had no role in bringing about (such as women entering the workforce and the invention of the contraceptive pill) but that in many cases feminism reacted against social change and harked back to previous times when men and women had more ‘traditional’ roles. Because if there’s no Great Dark Patriarch anymore then there’s no target for most of feminism’s wrath.

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I’m posting this review later than promised, and meant it to coincide with a review of the same book (or rather the new Kindle edition) by Sarah Brown at Harry’s Place. In it she writes:

‘As I began to read No More Sex War, I was reminded of the arguments used by some counter-jihadists. Their implacable hostility to Islam arises (in part) because they only accept the most austere interpretations as truly Islamic. The book opens with an assurance that he fully supports the advances women have made over the last hundred years or so, but goes on to describe feminism as a form of ‘totalitarian intolerance’ comparable to Nazism or Stalinism. This suggests a ‘no true feminist’ fallacy is at work here – liberal feminists aren’t really on his radar.’

I don’t think this is true. I think Lyndon was open to a ‘liberal feminism’, when he was a young, politicised man in the 1970s. For me No More Sex War reads as a disappointed realisation that feminism is not what he and many others hoped it was and would be. Maybe I see it that way because I share his disappointment. In any case, he anticipates Sarah’s criticism in the original text:

‘feminism, they would probably say, has developed so far and has taken so many different but connected forms that it cannot be discussed as if it was a single body of belief and attitude which can be reduced to three cardinal propositions’.

And I share Lyndon’s response to that common refrain amongst liberal feminists, who don’t want to be associated with the actions and words of their more ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’ sisters. He writes:

‘Despite the evasions of the contemporary sisters, there must be a connecting characteristic between all the various forms and styles of feminism, otherwise they would not be grouped together under that umbrella term and the word ‘feminism’ could have no meaning.’

He goes on to identify that connecting characteristic  as ‘ the belief that women share interests which are distinct from men’s’,  that ‘those interests can best be advanced by women acting collectively’ and that ‘women’s particular interests are and always have been at odds with the interests of men’.

If, like Lyndon, and, better late than never, like me, you think that men and women’s interests (and the interests of people who eschew the binary altogether) are not at odds, then I fail to see how feminism has anything to offer you. No More Sex War is not exactly an optimistic book, but twenty years after it was first published, thanks in no small part to pioneers such as Lyndon, I think we can allow ourselves a little bit of hope.

The Princess Diaries Premiere

‘The ideas we give children to play with, tell them what we expect them to be.’ – Sarah Ditum

‘If, after over sixty years of a considerable amount of research effort, direct effects of media upon behaviour have not been clearly identified, then we should conclude that they are simply not there to be found.’ –David Gauntlett

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Earlier this week, born-again-radical-feminist Sarah Ditum took part in a heated radio debate with party planner Lisa Forbes about princesses. As little girls (and boys) across the globe eagerly await the arrival of  Frozen 2, the question of the role of princesses in the media in shaping real life femininity is a pressing one.

Ditum (unsurprisingly) took the view that princess films produce damaging aspirations for girls to follow, and Forbes who runs princess parties for girls (unsurprisingly) didn’t. Their discussion ended like this:

Sarah Ditum: ‘you as a female human are going to have to look like a cartoon character to belong in this world of imagination that we’re giving to you’

Lisa Forbes: ‘That’s your perception, that’s you putting your opinion onto a little four, five year old, they don’t see it like that’

SD: ‘You dressing a girl in a princess outfit is you putting your opinion on a four five year old. They do not pop out of the womb with an innate liking for sparkles and crowns. That is something that we give them. That is culture we make it and we give it to them and we have to be honest and responsible about the messages that we’re giving them’.

pitstop

Here, Ditum is reaffirming a popular feminist stance on the social construction of gender, and couples it with a crude media effects model. One is not born a princess, one is forced to want to be one by Disney films and party planners. But as David Gauntlett has explained, those who have concerned themselves seriously over many years with the issue of how far the media does effect people’s attitudes and behaviours have not found any direct cause and effect relationships.  Gauntlett’s article ’10 things wrong with the media effect’s model’ is well worth reading in full. He makes specific mention of how the media is said to affect children, and argues (as does Lisa Forbes briefly in the radio segment) that children are much more nuanced and critical in their consumption of media than ‘media effects’ psychologists give them credit for. He writes:

‘The same kinds of approach are readily observed in media effects studies, the production of which has undoubtedly been dominated by psychologically-oriented researchers, who – whilst, one imagines, having nothing other than benevolent intentions – have carefully exposed the full range of ways in which young media users can be seen as the inept victims of products which, whilst obviously puerile and transparent to adults, can trick children into all kinds of ill-advised behaviour.

This situation is clearly exposed by research which seeks to establish what children can and do understand about and from the mass media. Such projects have shown that children can talk intelligently and indeed cynically about the mass media (Buckingham, 1993, 1996), and that children as young as seven can make thoughtful, critical and ‘media literate’ video productions themselves (Gauntlett, 1997).’

As someone more fond of deconstruction than social construction I think the princess radio debate is worth revisiting in the context of its overflowing onto social media. This twitter exchange involving Ditum and two others is interesting, because it destabilises her position that media princesses have a negative effect on young girls development. In revealing that her own daughter was ‘a princess obsessive’ for a couple of years Ditum (as one tweeter implies) is admitting her role in ‘constructing’ gender as she sees it, via allowing her daughter to take part in the princess ideal. In adding that ‘it wears off if you have other stuff around’ she is suggesting that kids tend to have access to a range of media imagery and are not permanently scarred by early princess exposure.

Little-Princess-book-cover

Another blogger Ms Vanilla Rose, recently pointed out that Ditum’s new statesman byline describes her columns as “Politics for tired people”.  Rose says: ‘Too tired to question her, maybe.’ I’d add that if you look at them at all closely, most feminist claims within the mainstream media at least, lazily lack depth of thought, research and evidence to back them up*.

*Warning: pointing this out can result in spoilt ‘princess’ like tantrums!

It’s that time of year where my brain is not up to much for the ‘season’. 2014 hasn’t exactly been my most triumphant year for blogging. I am so grateful for everyone who’s stuck with QRGHQ and for your insightful comments as always. I’m sure 2015 will be more inspired!

But feminist internet land has not been suffering such self-doubt or reticence as I this year. I don’t know if it is just I’m tired of reading the dross or if there’s been more dross lately, but I think we’ve nearly reached saturation point for self-congratulatory, ‘othering’ of everyone else screed from (usually) young, white, respectable nice girls of feminist orientation. Two particularly self-congratulatory feminist bloggers/journalists Glosswitch and Sarah Ditum, both from the New Statesman stable of doom, have produced handy little cut-out-and-keep round ups of their year’s achievements and ‘targets’. Ditum lists her 10 ‘best’ articles and in doing so claims that 2014 was the year she discovered ‘proper’ (aka ‘radical’) feminism. This has given  her a higher calling and a deeper ‘pleasure in politics’ than ever before. But from what I know about ‘radical’ feminism I can only conclude it must be a sadistic form of pleasure indeed. And, as an eagle-eyed twitter pal of mine pointed out, Sarah’s newfound hierarchy of feminists contradicts her claim that she is not one to accuse other women of ‘doing feminism wrong':

Glosswitch’s 2014 ’round up’ also alludes to the notion that some people (not her) accuse feminists of ‘doing it wrong’ and she turns this idea into a satirical list of examples. I don’t get the joke really, because the things she lists in a defensive manner, as if they’ve been ‘falsely accused’ read to me like a list of PR disasters at the very least. From the ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt sweatshop debacle, to digs at trans women feminists such as Paris Lees, to unapologetic misandry (for once I feel like defending Ally Fogg here), Glosswitch simply illustrates why #womenagainstfeminism has been one of *the* twitter hashtags of the year, but remains absent from most feminist ’round ups’ of life in the gendersphere in 2014.

Meanwhile Rhiannon Lucy Coslett also of New Statesman (and ‘Vagenda’) ‘fame’ sent her feminist pals on twitter the Christmas image at the top of this post. It’s another attempt at a joke, I guess. But it’s based on the outdated belief, held onto desperately by feminists and their allies, that it’s women (and lady Christmas baubles) who get ‘objectified’ in society and who are expected to look pretty and not much else. Well, apart from the deluge of well-coiffed young men I’ve seen decorating London, Birmingham and elsewhere with their cute Christmas jumpers this year, here’s a Christmas bauble to beat them all. Have a very Metrosexy Christmas everyone! See you in 2015…

Jamie Palmer ( @jacobinism ) has written very eloquently about the ‘authoritarianism’ and censorious approach of many on the ‘left’. The examples he gives of attacks on freedom of speech from so-called ‘progressives’ include, surprise surprise, a few from feminist campaigners. Because as I have banged on about before, it’s hard to find any version of feminism that doesn’t exercise or endorse some kind of censorship. Here’s an extract from Jamie’s piece:

 

‘We are now reaping the harvest of liberalism’s agonising slow death on the Left. Consider the following recent examples:

  1. According to a report in The Guardian, the political director of Huffington Post UK, Mehdi Hasan, has just publicly recommended the introduction of what amounts to a de factoblasphemy law in order to combat what he calls ‘Islamophobia’. The press, he announced, has been “singularly unable or unwilling to change the discourse, the tone or the approach” of its coverage. Casually eliding matters of race, ethnicity, and belief, he continued: “We’re not going to get change unless there is some sanction, there is some penalty. This is not just about Muslims; it is about all minorities.” Similarly, on an American talkshow, a visibly distressed Ben Affleck responded to Sam Harris’s criticisms of Islam by denouncing them as “gross and racist”.
  2. Dr. Matt Taylor, one of the scientists responsible for the awe-inspiring Rosetta satellite mission, found himself vilified by incandescent feminists when he appeared on television wearing a bowling shirt adorned with images of scantily-clad young women. It later transpired that the shirt had been hand-made for him as a birthday gift by a female friend and, as a rather touching token of appreciation, he had worn it on his big day. But an article for Verge decided that it was a symptom of the misogyny allegedly endemic within the scientific community, and reported Dr. Taylor’s televised appearance beneath the headline “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing”.

    The most risible offering in this embarrassing row came from (supposedly) sex-positive feminist Greta Christina, who spent the first paragraph of her post on the subject itemising her own involvement in the production of pornography. This, she appeared to think, placed her in the unique position of being able to explain that “freedom for me does not mean freedom for thee” as she policed the clothing of another adult: “[D]oing an interview about your team’s big science achievement while wearing a shirt with scantily-clad pinup girls does not say, “Sex is awesome!” It says, “Women are for sex.”

    Christina seemed oblivious to those who would seize on this argument to call for the suppression of her own work, as well as all other kinds of pornography and erotica she defends in her writing. Nor was she moved by arguments that men, like women, should be judged on what they say and do, not on how they choose to dress themselves. Nonetheless, clearly shaken by the uproar, Dr. Taylor ended up offering a tearful and humiliating public apology to his critics. It will be an individual of uncommonly thick skin who dares to transgress in this way in the future.

  3. Last Wednesday, the Independent ran an article by an Oxford University student named Niamh McIntyre, in which she crowed defiantly about the success of her campaign to cancel a debate between two male speakers, organised by a pro-life group to debate abortion. She explained herself thus: “The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups”.

    Doubling down on her behalf, Tim Squirrell – the President of the Cambridge Union, no less! – took to twitter to declare that “shouting ‘free speech’ doesn’t help anyone without a more nuanced conception of its impacts + aspects”. He went on: “People have the right to feel…[s]afe from the expression of ideas which have historically been used to oppress them in very real ways.”

  4. Late last year, in response to long-disputed and empirically dubious claims of an omnipresent culture of rape besieging women on university campuses, activists campaigned to have Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines banned from their Student Unions. When UCL joined upwards of 20 other Unions in banning the song from its premises, its Women’s Officer Beth Sutton said: “UCLU have just passed motion to not play Blurred Lines in union spaces & events. Solidarity with all survivors!”

    [The same panic over ‘rape culture’ and anger over low prosecution rates for sex crimes has also led to unapologetic attacks from the Left, similarly advanced in the name of “solidarity with survivors”, on the presumption of innocence, the rule of law, and due process. An analysis of this disturbing facet of the effort to delegitimise liberalism lies beyond the scope of this post.]

  5. A few months ago, the New Statesman columnist Sarah Ditum wrote a rather good articleprotesting the illiberal use of ‘no-platforming’ to silence unpopular views held by those “deemed disagreeable”. However, her arguments were offered mainly in support of Julie Bindel, a radical feminist labelled ‘transphobic’ and ‘whorephobic’ for her views on trans rights and sex work. Ditum is, from what I can tell, largely sympathetic to Bindel’s positions on these issues, which made her defence of Bindel’s right to speak a relatively straightforward affair, causing her no significant ideological discomfort.

    But when it came to the no-platforming of a repellent male chauvinist and self-styled pick-up guru named Julien Blanc, Ditum’s principled defence of free expression evaporated, and she wrote a new blog post explaining that this was a very different matter. “There is no free speech defence for Julian Blanc” she concluded. (In response to the outcry, Blanc has since been denied a visa to enter the UK.)

  6. This is not to mention the recent fracas over the Exhibit B installation, deemed unacceptable by anti-racist campaigners (which I covered in an essay here), or the hounding of feminist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky for her opposition to the veil and the demonisation of ‘white feminists’ (which I covered in an essay here). The latter post, incidentally, led The Feminist Wire todescribe what I wrote as “racist and anti-Black specifically”, and an attempt “to maintain white supremacy”.
This handful of examples barely scratches the surface of the problem. Not one of the writers or campaigners above was detained by the need to establish a causal link between the expression of ideas they dislike and consequent harm. Censors never are, despite the fact that, in an open society, the burden of proof ought to rest with those who would restrict individual freedom. Instead, those inclined to defend free expression were variously tarred with the brush of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, or rape apologism (depending on what was at issue).

When taken together, these individual cases – niggling and petty in and of themselves – speak to the flowering of a deeply sinister and censorious tendency amongst self-identifying progressives, invariably justified in the name of protecting the weak, the vulnerable, and the voiceless. In their righteous zeal to place certain people, views, and ideas beyond the pale, and secure in the complacent belief that their own opinions are beyond reproach, not one of these well-meaning men and women appears to have considered that their own liberty will, in the end, fall victim to the very same arguments they advance to silence others.

It should hardly be a surprise that in the midst of this reckless and dangerous onslaught against liberal values and the belief in the axiomatic nobility of the oppressed, there should be no room for sympathy with the Middle East’s only functioning liberal democracy. A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaign, ostensibly mounted in support of Palestinian nationalism, but actually aimed at the disestablishment of the only Jewish State, has been slowly gathering mainstream support and legitimacy in the West.

Reprehensibly, the BDS movement seeks not simply the boycott of Israeli goods (which would be bad enough); it also explicitly attacks academic freedom. In the foreword to a recently released collection of essays entitled The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, the American political theorist Paul Berman argues that BDS activists are only able to make such arguments because they have convinced themselves of a misperception: they see what they are doing as “modern and progressive” when in fact it is “retrograde and disgraceful”.

The same must be said of the examples itemised above. Even as they thoughtlessly stigmatise those who defend free expression as “right wing”, these activists, writers, and campaigners have succumbed to the right’s most regressive autocratic tendencies. Dogmatic and unbending in their misanthropic view of human sexuality and race relations; unapologetic in their advocacy of an infantilising, separatist agenda of ‘safe spaces'; ferocious in their intolerance of views they deem unacceptable.

Gazing with mounting dismay at the escalating authoritarianism on the left of the political spectrum where my own political sympathies lie, I have been repeatedly reminded of a post published by the late Marxist theorist Norman Geras five months before his death. With a minimum of preamble, Geras quoted Chris Brown, Professor of International Relations at the LSE, as follows:

I think the biggest shift that has taken place in my thinking over the past 30 years is that I’m a lot less tolerant of relativist ideas, and multiculturalist ideas than I used to be. And that’s something that when you say it, it induces shock and horror sometimes. 25 years ago, I was writing material that, if it wasn’t poststructuralist, was at least ‘fellow traveling’ with the poststructuralists, arguing essentially anti-foundationalist ideas, arguing that the Western liberal tradition was just one tradition among other traditions, and so on. In a way, I think I was in bad faith over a lot of that. I believed that liberalism would always be there, and so one can afford to attack it. The events of the last 20 years have shown that that’s really not the case, that a lot of the traditional liberal values of freedom and tolerance are seriously under attack and need to be defended. So I’ve become a defender of the Enlightenment project in a way that I wasn’t maybe 30 years ago – that’s a big shift.

Unfortunately, there appears to be scant appetite for Professor Brown’s critical self-examination on the postmodern Left. Instead it clings to its metaphysical conspiracism, and disdains empiricism and a meritocracy of ideas derived from free and open debate in favour of the imposition of speech codes designed to stigmatise, shame, and silence.

In the name of a righteously-espoused ‘inclusivity’, such people have submitted to the worst kind of authoritarian elitism, and forgotten an elementary truism of Enlightenment thought. As the revolutionary 18th century pamphleteer and Dead White Male Thomas Paine observed in the short dedication with which he opened The Age of Reason:

You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.’

Read the whole of Jacobinism’s excellent post here

As has been widely publicised, mainly by people who’ve developed a sudden and very specifically focussed interest in football, Ched Evans has been training at his old club Shefffield Utd’s grounds . A Utd spokesman has said:

“The club acknowledges receipt of a request from the PFA to the effect that the club consider allowing Mr Evans, who is a PFA member, to train at the club’s facilities.

“According to the request, this training would be with a view to enabling Mr Evans to get back to a level of fitness, which might enable him to find employment in his chosen trade.

“This request has come to the club, because it is the last club at which Mr Evans was registered before his conviction.

“The club agrees with the recent statements of the PFA, to the effect that professional footballers should be treated as equals before the law, including in circumstances where they seek to return to work following periods of incarceration.

“There can be no place for ‘mob justice’.”

This sounds to me like an uncontroversial, sensible statement. The law is the law. Rehabilitation is a vital part of our justice system. A man is training to be fit to return to work after over two years in prison having been convicted of a crime. But if you read the response from many feminists this set of events is a travesty, and a personal attack on women the world over.

Today Sarah Ditum reminded us of a piece she wrote in the New Statesman back in August, where she said that Evans should not be allowed to just ‘get on with his life’ on release from prison. Ditum wrote:

‘If there were justice for women, rape would be a crime that makes us all turn in disgust from the perpetrator. We would see rapists as what they are – men who have committed one of the ultimate acts of denying female humanity, men who have performed an act of intimate savagery by penetrating the bounds of a woman’s body against her wishes. If there were justice for women, the shame, disbelief and misogyny that lead to the 6 per cent attrition rate for rape conviction would not exist. If there were justice for women, Richmond and Evans would be humbly recusing themselves from the world while they await forgiveness – they wouldn’t be gently settling back into the lives they had before.’

I find this paragraph symptomatic of a lot of feminist dogma. Whilst simultaneously stating that we should not ‘shame’ women for being victims of rape and sexual violence, Ditum employs graphic language to shame Evans, and men in general. She says we should ‘turn in disgust’ from people who are convicted of rape, calls rape ‘an act of intimate savagery’ and says that men convicted of rape should hide from the world whilst they ‘await forgiveness’. But as we know, this is a forgiveness that never comes, from feminists at least.

Ditum’s sister in arms, Caroline Criado-Perez also employs the ‘leper effect’ this time to ‘mark’ anyone (sorry, any *man*) who believes Ched Evans is not guilty of rape:

Sarah Ditum and other feminists’ shaming of Evans, his supporters and anyone who dares challenge their point of view reminds me of Foucault. He has argued that whilst leprosy is no longer a blight on the modern world (though is Ebola the new leprosy) the figure of the ‘leper’ who must be banished from society for being ‘unclean’ is alive and well. Or sick. Foucault writes:

‘Once leprosy had gone, and the figure of the leper was no more than a distant memory, these structures still remained. The game of exclusion would be played again, often in these same places, in an oddly similar fashion two or three centuries later. The role of the leper was to be played by the poor and by the vagrant, by prisoners and by the ‘alienated’, and the sort of salvation at stake for both parties in this game of exclusion is the matter of this study’

– Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation

Sarah Ditum doesn’t just shame ‘rapists’ and men in general. She tries to ‘shame’ me on a regular basis too, by telling anyone in her earshot about personal details of my life that she *thinks* are shameful. She also attempts to shame trans women and sex workers. My view is that feminism is a politics of shame it’s just quite cleverly implemented and hidden behind a  pretence of challenging the shaming of women.

I look forward to Ms Ditum’s articulate and civil response to my criticisms of her journalism and her dogma. Oh:

An article in the guardian this week cites  world economic forum research, showing the UK gender pay gap is widening.

Quoting the WEF the Graun say the UK has fallen to 26th in the world ‘global gender gap’ rankings, “with the country ranking 48th in terms of both labour force participation and wage equality, and 66th for estimated earned income”. This rhetoric of the ‘gender pay gap widening’ was repeated in the media and on social media. Further articles were published with scare-headlines like life for women in Britain getting tougher! And feminist organisations such as The Fawcett Society paused in their campaign to get male politicians to wear feminist t-shirts, to say ‘I told you so’.

But is the world economic forum report a trustworthy source of information about gender and pay?
In short, on looking over it and some related documents about its methodology I’d say: NO. The methodological problems with the research are not insignificant. Firstly, rather than providing ‘hard facts’ based on statistical data about salaries and wages, the findings from the wef are based on ‘opinions’ of ”business executives’.  Secondly only an average of 98 companies were surveyed in each country. Thirdly there is no mention in the report of random sampling :no reasons given as to why the selection of companies would be representative of a country as a whole.

So all we can really conclude from this report is that some business executives in the UK think that the gender pay gap has widened in the last twelve months.

The Fawcett Society reinforce their ‘gender pay gap widening’ assertion by providing stats from the office for national statistics survey of annual and hourly earnings. On first glance I would say that this data is more robust than that of the WEF. But the Fawcett cherry pick from the figures to back up their own viewpoint. For example the Fawcett Society quote the ONS as saying:

‘Men’s mean gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) were £16.91 in April 2013, up 2.3% from £16.52 in 2012. Women’s mean hourly earnings increased by 1.3% to £14.25 compared with £14.07 in 2012. This means that the gender pay difference for full-time employees widened to 15.7% from 14.8% in 2012.’

But if we take into account the differences in findings from identifying the mean v median results, the gender pay gap could be seen to be less stark. As the ONS point out:

‘Men’s median full-time weekly earnings increased by 1.8% to £556 between 2012 and 2013, compared with an increase of 2.2% for women to £459.’

and:

‘In April 2013 men’s median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) grew by 2.5% to £13.60, up from £13.27 in 2012. In comparison, women’s hourly earnings were £12.24, a 1.9% increase compared with £12.01 in 2012. The gender pay gap for full-time employees therefore increased to 10.0% from 9.5% in 2012.’

So by using median earnings the pay gap shrinks from over 15% to 10%.

Also, the WEF, the Fawcett Society and feminists in general fail to take into account the circumstances which contribute to the gender pay gap. The ONS are again more rigorous. They remind us that:

‘there is a difference in the proportion of male and female employees who work full- and part-time. For male employees, 88% worked full-time and 12% worked part-time in 2013 Q2, while the comparable figures for female employees were 58% and 42% respectively. This
highlights the fact that more women work part-time than men and consequently they are more likely to receive lower hourly rates of pay’.

And yet, even though the numbers of women working part time contributes to their lower earnings overall, women’s wages for part time work rose more than men’s between 2012-13.

‘For part-time employees, men’s median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) were £7.95 in April 2013, up 3.0% from £7.72 in 2012. In comparison, women’s hourly earnings were £8.40,an increase of 3.2% from £8.14. The gender pay difference for part-time employees was therefore in the opposite direction to that of full-time employees, widening to -5.7% compared with -5.5% in 2012′.

Another circumstance affecting wages is career breaks for having children. The WEF report stated that the UK ranked third highest in the world in terms of length of maternity leave and this will have an impact on women’s pay. As commenters under the first graun article on the topic said:

‘Women fall behind because of extended career breaks to have children ie they are being assessed in the same way as a man would be if they took extended career breaks.

To equalise the average on a population level we would have to encourage some women to return to work immediately after giving birth.

I doubt we will even get to the point where the majority of women will accept splitting those early months 50/50.’

And there’s the rub. If paternity leave was raised to match maternity leave, more men might take time out to care for young children, which would contribute to narrowing the gender pay  gap. But paternity leave is not high on the feminist agenda. Is this because women want to maintain their sovereignty over the domain of parenthood whilst also claiming discrimination in the workplace? Mother knows best after all.

I don’t want to think anymore than I have to about Nick Clegg modelling feminist t-shirts. But one thing that annoys me about him, Miliband and other pro-feminist men is they often spout feminist rhetoric  unthinkingly. I notice that ‘male allies’ repeat banal statements like ‘the gender pay gap is widening’ without consulting the data, or even thinking to look beyond the headlines made by feminist publications and campaign groups. To support feminist women because they are (feminist) women and to protect them from the scrutiny these men might apply to other dogmas and information sources seems patronising and paternalistic. Before we know it women could be out-earning men and then these cuddly feminist-friendly men might be out on their ears with only an unfashionable t-shirt for comfort.

The 'demonstration' during German designer Karl Lagerfeld's show for Chanel during Paris fashion wee

I knew there’d be a bit of a hoo-ha about Karl Lagerfeld’s staging of a ‘feminist demo’ on his latest (Paris) catwalk show. In the Guardian and various recesses of twitter, anyway. Hadley Freeman calls the display ‘flim flam feminism’ which I rather like as an additional sub-genre of the dogma. Sounds more fun than the serious holier than thou type you get in the Graun. Hadley also demonstrates the constant contradictions within feminist rhetoric, when she says the feminist themed catwalk show is apt, since feminism is currently ‘fashionable’. Because there remains a loud refrain amongst her sisters that feminism remains unfashionable, ‘taboo’ even , and so it is brave women of conscience who are able to come out and stand up with the sisterhood. The slipping between ‘we are strong! we are powerful! we are a mass movement’ and ‘we are weak, we are castigated, we must fight the power’ may not be consciously designed by feminists, but it is an important discursive weapon in their artillery. The weak, isolated image of feminism allows the myth of  big bad’patriarchy’ to be perpetuated, whilst  the ‘we are legion, we can /and have change(d) the world’ rhetoric allows feminists to galvanise the troops, and take credit for what some of us think is socio-economic change beyond the influence of Hadley Freeman, flim flam feminists, et al. Caroline Criado Perez embodies the dichotomy well – she plays poor weak victim of abuse, patriarchy, misunderstanding, and also powerful crusader and winner of feminist campaigns, set to take over the world. and, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did just that.

Whilst I’m not a keen follower of fashion I do find this catwalk show interesting. I think it is playing on, building, the ‘brand’ of feminism and probably especially on the feminism hadley dislikes. But I would say flim flam feminist/ ‘girl power’ fashion icons such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Victoria Beckham are more widely known and liked by girls/women than any Guardian columnist and more relevant influences to Lagerfeld’s show. But it is also playing on a favourite theme of fashion and 21st culture more broadly – nostalgia. Or faux-nostalgia. The Times described it as a ‘women’s lib’ themed show and that is what it looks like to me – a post-ironic nod to 70s bra-burning husband-leaving feminists. The models holding the placards are doing so with a nod and a wink, and a ‘this shit is O.V.E.R. we’re it now’.

In our current age, the past is continuously referenced, regurgitated, but not necessarily with any real valuing of its content, it is much shallower – more Baudrillard ‘surface’ than that. I do wonder though what the future holds for culture when our present is such a scrapbook of high resolution replications of previous eras, shown on catwalks, lap tops, iphone screens. I fear it will be just more of the same, on different more high tech screens. As a true Nostalgic I know that Blondie knew all this and saw the future back in the late 70s/early 80s:

‘ooh baby, I hear how you spend your time, wrapped like candy in a blue blue neon glow’

Feminism is a brand. Lagerfeld is profiting on it.  It’s a successful brand partly because it is nebulous, malleable, and in the end, can be all things to all women. From Hilary Clinton to Emily Watson to Hadley Freeman/The guardian. As a commenter under Hadley’s article pointed out, ‘flim flam’ feminism is no less real than Guardian hand-wringing variety. But not quite all women buy into any of it, thankfully. Whatever type is in this season.*

*I Loved how Hadley said that the show is as feminist as a ‘ fruitcake’ – when I coined the term ‘mumsy cupcake feminism’ https://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/mumsy-cupcake-feminism/ just for those power-women who love to bake in their cath kidston aprons in their spare time between writing angry articles on their laptops on the kitchen table. Fruitcakes are feminist too!