I see Paul Sheehan is blah-blah-blahing about one his favourite topics: feminism. And not in the same way that it’s one of my favourite topics, because I actually know what I’m talking about.
You want the Louboutin power strut? Don’t expect any change out of $800. Millions of women pay, or would like to pay, to join this cargo cult. They see that flash of red as a flash of power.
Really? And tell me, Sheehan, you know this how? I don’t know any woman who thinks shoes give her power. Exta height, defined calf muscles, a feeling of sexiness that comes from within because you’re “dressed up”. But power? Puh-lease.
Christian Louboutin is as big a commodity-maker as Manolo Blahnik was before his wave crested with the tacky embrace of Sex and the City. The red flash is as big as the Jimmy Choo fad, which peaked a decade ago, and sexually more potent. Louboutin is even suing Yves Saint Laurent for trademark infringement after the YSL fashion house introduced red-soled stilettos in its last collection. Red soles are hot.
Wow, old white guy sure knows a lot about women’s shoes. He must have wet his pants a little when he saw that Louboutin story on the weekend, knowing that he’d be able to manipulate it into an anti-feminism rant. (For once, it’s worth checking out the comments. I particularly like the one from Citizen P about how Sheehan has lifted his ideas from the New Yorker.)
The pervasive power display of women wearing stilettos, despite the style’s innate and obvious potential to damage the wearer, is not an evolution that feminists of the 1970s might have expected.
And here’s the first problem: believing that a modern social movement that comprises many different feminisms is still exactly the same as it was four decades ago. The second problem is everything he says next. It’s pretty sad that the Sydney Morning Herald has a 60-year-old conservative white man write about something which he was never a part of and clearly does not understand.
But the world is an infinitely more complex place than the one laid out by Jurassic Feminism. Anyone who still wants to see the world through the prism of gender fixation, where women are structural victims and men are structural oppressors, is locked into a fusty bigotry that the stiletto generations are walking away from.
All the great recent advances made for women have been made by people – men and women working together.
See? All men are good people.
Most of the legislation that seeks to advance the progress of women has been passed by legislatures dominated by men.
See? It’s men and not women who are making things better for women. Oh, and by the way, men have all the power and don’t you forget it.
And no amount of government social engineering is going to stop women behaving badly to women, which happens all the time. Women bully women. Women block women in the workforce.
See? Women are all bitches.
Firstly, “women behaving badly to women” does not happen all the time. Secondly, in my experience, being sexually harassed at work by old white men, and being paid less than my male co-workers who are doing the same job, and being ignored for two weeks by my male boss because I tried to argue for the basic CPI pay rise, and having male publishers talk to my boobs, and having male co-workers stand behind me when I’m at my desk and try to look down my top, and having a male co-worker push me against a bar at the Christmas party and say “hey baby, where have you been all my life” (yes, seriously, he actually used such a pathetic line. And this was a guy in his mid-twenties and when I mentioned it at work he pushed me against the wall and said “it’s flattering that you’d like to think I’d do that, but you’re just not attractive”), and having all the promotions and pay rises go to the group of guys who drink with the boss, and having a male boss threaten me with my job because I wouldn’t pass on office gossip, all far outweigh – in number and in seriousness – anything a female co-worker has done. Sure, I’ve worked with some horrible women, but there’s only been a few of them and they’re horrible because they’re horrible, not because they’re women.
But Sheehan is playing the predictable card. By pointing to bad behaviour done by a very small group of women, he is excusing the bad behaviour done by a larger group of men.
He then goes on about how teenage girls are brutal creatures and ridicules tall women.
That’s the foundation lie fed to women, largely by women, via the Great Insecurity Machine, the commercial fashion industry.
I call bullshit. Big piles of intellectually dishonest steaming bullshit. The fashion industry is dominated by men. The most influential designers are men. The designs that require a grown woman to have the body of a pre-pubescent boy are created by men. The stilettos that Sheehan thinks render feminism irrelevant and prove that women are silly are designed by men: Christian and Manolo. Sheehan is judging women by their bodies (“giraffes”) and their clothing, and he’s playing the Sam de Brito game of assuming that all women are the same.
Sheehan’s piece is all over the shop. He’s gone from Louboutin suing Yves Saint Laurent to how women hurt women at work to teenagers to fashion week to “academic feminism” to the Greens to how Betty Friedan shouldn’t be taken seriously because she was a journalist, not an academic, and she wasn’t oppressed so she wouldn’t know what she was talking about. I’d be careful there Sheehan – you are a journalist and not an academic and you are writing about something you very clearly know fuck-all about.
Above all, Friedan was a navel gazer. Her feminism was about middle-class, middle-brow white women.
These flaws were not hers alone. They can still be found embedded in feminist ideology. We are living in the middle of a massive global struggle over the rights and freedoms of women, a life-and-death matter for a billion women and girls, and secular middle-class Western feminism is proving irrelevant.
Ah, that old chestnut. Because women in other parts of the world aren’t as privileged as white Western women, then we should just shut the fuck up and consider ourselves lucky.