Paul Sheehan gets it wrong, again

When Paul Sheehan writes about feminism, I know there’s going to be a blog post in it. Today in the Sydney Morning Herald: Feminism’s failure to lend a hand.

I already know how this is going to go: Western feminists haven’t toppled governments around the world that make women’s lives very difficult, so we should discredit them.

He’s writing about gender stereotypes and Natasha Walter’s book, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. I blogged about an exercpt of this book in January. My main criticism is that Walter blames raunch culture, and the consumerism that goes with it, on feminism. Since I haven’t read the book, my criticism can only be about what was published in British tabloid, The Daily Mail, so I know it’s not the whole picture.

Anyway, we’re here for Sheehan:

You could drive a truck through what’s missing from Living Dolls as Walter fixates on men’s raunch magazines, like Nuts, or Zoo or FHM, and reality TV shows, ascribing to them a great deal of blame for the obsession among so many young women with glamour, modelling and highly sexualised self-packaging.

Walter largely skates over the damage done to the self-image of women by other women, the ones who dominate the vastly bigger fashion industry, via the air-brushing of bodies in fashion magazines, the selection of absurdly unreal body types as the ideal, the use of extremely young women as models, and the obsession with air-brushed female celebrities. All this is driven by women, to exploit women.

See? Men’s mags aren’t to blame for body image problems, it’s other women! The conversation in Australia on this issue is solely about the air-brushing in women’s magazines, and there’s no mention whatsoever of the role of men’s mags in creating unrealistic ideals of what women should look like. (That was also my criticism directed at The Punch’s woeful attempt to be a part of this conversation.)

Sheehan then goes on to stick the boot into the Feminism Matters conference last week – one that Lexy and I attended and rather enjoyed.

Why is much of the most corrosive pressure on women coming from other women? Why is the rise of militant Islam so intent on curbing the freedoms of women? What has happened to nearly 100 million ”missing” girls in Asia?

Ah, because Western feminists met in a Western city to discuss issues relevant to women in that country, we’re irrelevant because we’re not saving our sisters in Muslim countries. Gotcha. I think I’m going to have to revise my policy of no name-calling.

For me the low point was provided by Dr Sue Goodwin, a senior lecturer in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, who said: ”We’ve just come through a very conservative, repressive 15 years in Australia.”

Oh, now fuck off.

I found the gaps in Living Dolls, like those of ”Feminism Matters”, a metaphor for contemporary ”feminism”, which is proving largely irrelevant to the great struggle being waged by women beyond the bubble of Western progressive secularism.

Paul Sheehan, I award to you the Sam de Brito Award for Excellence in the field of Missing the Point.

25 responses to “Paul Sheehan gets it wrong, again

  1. Thank you, NwN. I read that pile of dreck in the SMH, and hoped that someone would take on the dirty work of dealing with it. It wasn’t even headdesk stuff; it was just… vapid.

    • I am sick to fucking death of people blaming Western feminists for foreign cultural attitudes towards women. The combined force of hundreds of thousands of troops from the US, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, Norway, Romania, Poland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Sweden, Germany, Estonia and Denmark haven’t been able to improve women’s lot in Afghanistan, but a bunch of Western feminists are expected to?

  2. But my NWN sister – you haven’t been paying attention….do you not recall all those articles and comments on how powerful feminism is? Feminists are responsible for venereal diseases, failed marriages and the divorce rate, abortion rates, erectile dysfunction, consumerism, liberalism, socialism, over eating, under eating, pole dancing, getting footy stars kicked off TV shows, the GFC and gay marriage etc etc etc

    So given the almighty power of the feminist (if only I had a super hero costume to match…the uniform at the lecture the other day was sensible shoes and chunky jewellery and that isn’t going to install fear into the heats of the patriarchy) then we DO HAVE SUPER POWERS AND WE SHOULD use them to overthrow millennia of repression for our Muslim and African sisters…….after all we did cause the downfall of western civilisation (apparently).

  3. Check out this comment on the Sheehan article. he wins arsehat award:

    “The reason women use their sexuality as their product is because they found out that to be a successful investment banker or top corporate lawyer or CEO of a Top 100 company requires decades of hard work and sacrifice. Most women don’t like hard work and sacrifice and don’t like the idea of doing it for 40 years. So they market their sexuality instead. This doesn’t apply to all women as there are some in the fields I mentioned, but they are the minority”

    Ah, I see. So its not the glass ceiling then, women are just lazy and its easier taking your gear off than getting an MBA I guess. I dunno – I have this Westwood corset and it takes me bloody hours to get and out of it – I reckon I could knock up a briefing note in half teh time it takes me to adjust my wobbly bits in that thing!!

    • I saw that comment and stopped reading. I’m surprised it got published actually.

      I didn’t know you had a Westwood corset? Next time I’m at your place I want to see you wearing it!

  4. The Sheehan article was a fine bit of mansplaining I thought.

  5. I have to admit I’ve been waiting to use it. I just love how it encapsulates the need to be right about everything, while getting it so wrong. I just wish that I’d come up with it.

  6. I’m fairly sure Germaine Greer et al weren’t involved in writing the Q’uran or in shaping centuries old cultural attitudes in the Middle East and Asia so I’m not sure where Mr Sheahan was going with that.
    From a male perspective, I’m pretty sure he was just trying to justify his subscription to Zoo.

  7. This made me so fucking angry, Kim. Sheehan has been misappropriating feminism as a vehicle to promote his anti-arab racism, for years now. At the same time as he’s bashing feminists he’s actually hiding behind them. Seeing as the name-calling policy is suspended, he’s a gutless, cretinous pig.

  8. I’m wondering now, and Kim you would have more insight into this than I do, has smh not breached any code or policy by publishing this sort of shit? It could definitely be argued to be sexist hate speech and it appears, from the comment quoted, to have incited hate speech.

    • It is shit, and it’s offensive and incoherent, but I think the worst that will happen is Media Watch will point out that they shouldn’t have published some of the comments. It would be hard to prove that saying women sleep their way to the top is hate speech. Will check with a media lawyer friend and get back to you.

  9. Pingback: Linkages: virginity, victorians, targeting women & more « Pondering Postfeminism

  10. Pingback: The revolution will be televised | the news with nipples

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