Consumerism ain’t feminism’s fault

I have to preface this by saying I didn’t read Louis Nowra’s piece on the anniversary of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (this explains it best: Louis Nowra needs a good vajazzling), nor did I read Charles Waterstreet’s response to it (simply because I never read his column). But I did read Elizabeth Farrelly’s piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Feminism’s gains are due to, not despite, its spiky icon:

As Nowra points out, feminism has its disappointments, not least in women’s evident aptitude for consumerism, their clear preference for shoes without high ideals.

No no no. You can’t blame feminism for causing consumerism – if f caused c, then only women would shop. And we all know there are as many men who like shopping as there are women who don’t.

What I wish Nowra’s opening paragraph had said – instead of ridiculing Greer’s 71 larrikin years – is this. Isn’t it wonderful even in the nethers of life she remains as feisty and unafraid as ever? Isn’t it fabulous to have a loud, brainy, articulate, unbashful, f-you old female in the world?

Isn’t it thrilling her intellect is still distinguished by its belligerence as much as its acuity, and her face by its outright refusal to paint, tighten and smooth as the television gods require? Shouldn’t we be proud that although she finds Australia too small to inhabit, we can nevertheless claim her as ours? Isn’t she someone to be both grateful to and grateful for?

Ah, that’s better.

Harm to women is too often now self-harm: witness the resurgence of young female smoking (thinness despite cancer) and of stilettos (elegance despite musculoskeletal ravages). Witness, also, nanotech cosmetics, smoothing as flattery, and as sinister.

No no no. For starters, the makers of cosmetics and sunscreens don’t have to say whether they’ve got nanoparticles in them, despite growing evidence that they are baaaad. Tobacco companies spend enormous amounts of money on psychological research and using this in advertising to get young people to smoke. As for stilettos, you can’t blame young women for what the international fashion industry decides is “on trend”. And women wore heels waaay before feminism. Besides, one of the defining characteristics of being young is feeling invincible. That cancer is something that happens to old people. This ain’t feminism’s fault.

Commenter Lou Robson said on Bad Hostess (the vajazzling link above) that the “best way to mark the anniversary of The Female Eunuch would be to go out and buy brand new copies (to supplement Germaine’s retirement fund) and give them to impressionable young women of your acquaintance”.

I’m going to the bookshop after work.

16 responses to “Consumerism ain’t feminism’s fault

  1. Oh fabulous topic…well I did read the article by Nowra as you know and thought it was a very strange thing indeed, really scathing and blasé. He clearly can’t stand her, but this is no reason to add some sweeping and incorrect generalisations about women to unnecessary criticism about her. what I realised after reading it was despite my self professed feminist leanings and reading I have NEVER (audible gasp) read The female Eunuch – I have read critiques, excerpts, articles and quotes etc but not the actual book. I decided that I would go and buy me a copy too. I also want to read her Shakespeare’s wife book as well – I heard a good review of it about 12 months ago on 2SER – v different to Nowra’s review.

  2. this was one of the comments on Farellys article. What an arse hat!

    “Perhaps we should also consider the downside of radical feminism preached by Greer, a self-acknowledged Marxist: high divorce levels, one-parent families, money lost in divorce proceeedings, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, hundreds of thousands of abortions annually, Universities given over to ‘gender studies’, post-modernism and other nonsense, women believing they can ‘have it all’ but still finding they are not as happy as they think they should be, good male candidates being passed over for promotion because of quota systems…. and more. Greer is one of the people responsible for the stagnation of Western civilization”

    • I love how people use the divorce rate as a reason feminism is bad. Um, the marriage is bad. Feminism has allowed the woman to choose to leave it. If people want to get out of a marriage, then we can safely assume there’s something wrong with that particular marriage.

      Although, having bitched to Man Friend last night about the stupid cultural and gender studies class I have to take for my doctorate… (to be fair, it’s not the class, it’s the clash between my journalistic training – clear writing – and the language of academia: “heteronormative performativity discourse” anyone?)

  3. I remember the word phallo-centric being used a lot in my undergrad feminism and politics course.

  4. I read The Female Eunuch when I was thirteen and re-read it at 27. I am feminist nerd but someone stole my copy… and my copy of The Second Sex… and how is feminism responsible for the rise in consumer culture? Modern advertising, which creates a need for products we don’t actually need, began before the Second Wave got rolling and is the product of male minds…

    • I am shamed. Bad bad feminist.

      Call me crazy, but I think blaming consumerism on feminism is just the latest way to discredit feminism. But what does that mean? Are we going back to the days when women weren’t allowed to work once they got married, or we weren’t allowed to vote? Or is it simply about wages – discredit the women pushing for equal pay for equal work, and companies can blatantly pay half their workforce less than the other half? Less money on wages means greater profits (or bonuses).

  5. well it is never going to be in a profit based organisation’s interest to increase their wage outlay or support paid parental leave (especially Abbott’s version)

  6. no no basic economics rather than business ethics, nothing conspiratorial about it. I may disagree but I understand why potential employers would chose a man over a 30 something woman who has no kids yet – there is always that strong risk that she will go off and have babies. You are right anyway, if companies can get away with not paying women equally then why would they? Unless they have good company ethics and that sad fact is that most companies don’t.

  7. maybe I should say many companies dont rather than most

  8. Greer I cannot stand regardless of how brilliant everyone thinks she is. To be clever is a good thing, to need to constantly shove that fact down everyones throats is boorish and arrogant. Also The Beautiful Boy was sickening and frankly if written by a middle aged man he would rightly be labelled a paedophile.

    • You don’t have to like her. Just like I don’t have to like Louis Nowra. Although to be fair, she doesn’t shove it down people’s throats – editors love her because she creates controversy, so everything she says gets reported. Just like Tony Abbott. And Lara Bingle. Editors love that shit. There were journos seriously reporting that Lara Bingle may have thrown a ring down a toilet. How the fuck is that newsworthy?

      I haven’t read The Beautiful Boy so I can’t comment on that.

      • I would have to wholeheartedly agree with you on the bingle thing, I couldn’t believe they were grilling the plumber as to what exactly he was looking for. Rubbish.

  9. Wow that Farrelly article ticks all the boxes for anti-feminist backlash hysteria. And we invented penile erectile dysfunction too I guess! Wah wah!

    • Nah, we didn’t invent it as such – we’re just not hot enough for Dude Nation* to sustain an erection.

      * Dude Nation refers to a particular type of dude that most would call a douchebag. I am not referring to men in general.

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