Each woman must be assessed

This thing that’s going on lately, where women in public roles are assessed one by one and declared Feminist or Not Feminist, is a bit shit.

Gina Rinehart, Julia Gillard (many articles in The Australian which I’m not linking to), Taylor Swift, Marissa Mayer, Beyonce. And now, Margaret Thatcher (in a piece that fails to explain why being a bad-ass Prime Minister makes her a feminist, but if you’re going to read it, make sure you read this Hadley Freeman one afterwards).

Don’t get me wrong, it is important for feminism to be a natural part of our public discussion. And it’s important that our public discussion includes rad fems and lib fems, because feminism isn’t a monolithic beast. There is still so much to fix and I think we benefit from having different voices focus on reproductive rights, violence, everyday sexism, women in management, equal pay, women’s voices in the media, parenting, and poverty. For one person to fight on every issue would be exhausting. Attack from all sides! But I just think that whether or not individual women identify as feminist is less important than talking about the other shit we have to fix. Besides, holding women up, one by one, for the public to assess them isn’t all that different to the “who wore it better” and “stars without make-up” sections in celebrity magazines.

The thing is, while we’re discussing whether or not Gina Rinehart is a feminist, who’s writing articles about how women account for only 13 per cent of managers in the mining industry, and what can be done to fix that?

While we’re talking about whether or not Julia Gillard is a feminist, who’s writing about the fact that the LNP and ALP support so few female candidates in winnable seats that in federal parliament, women make up 24.7 per cent of the House of Reps and 38.2 per cent of the Senate.

While we’re talking about whether Marissa Mayer is a feminist, or criticising Sheryl Sandberg because her book is for some women and not all women, there’s less space to talk about sexism and misogyny in the tech industry. Yes, these things are talked about on twitter and on blogs, but I mean in the mainstream media so it reaches a wider audience. There is precious little room there so we shouldn’t waste it by judging women who are at the top of male-dominated industries, rather than looking at those industries and why so few women make it to the top.

Over the last 18 months, feminism has become mainstream – largely thanks to the middle-class feminists who are now being mocked for their efforts because apparently, in the she-pee contest about who is doin’ it right and who is doin’ it wrong, being middle-class means your opinion doesn’t count. Are we really going to use income levels to judge who has a right to speak and who doesn’t?

We have a great opportunity here. Feminism isn’t going to be mainstream forever, but while it is, we need to get in there and fix shit.

(There’ll be a delay in pubishing comments this evening – I’ll be at the very first Tipsy Rabbit, a panel discussion with Sevana Ohandjanian, Caitlin Park, and Richard Cartwright talking about music and writing about music. Doors at 7pm for a 7.30pm start, Red Rattler, Marrickville.)

32 responses to “Each woman must be assessed

  1. Couldn’t agree more – well said.

  2. Nice one Kim! Don’t forget fighting for equal pay too! Good luck with Tipsy Rabbit!

  3. Speaking of women taking action, while I was in Scotland last year I saw an interview with one of The Elders http://www.theelders.org/

    Worth checking out http://www.theelders.org/mary-robinson
    If you haven’t already 🙂

  4. Julie-Anne Moore

    Once again,bravo for pointing out what should be obvious but is far from being so i.e. what’s with picking on middle-class educated women all of a sudden? I am middle-class, well educated, a wife and a mother and as the years go by feel the need more and more strongly to voice my opinion – it must be hitting the 50s that did it to me,lol – and I consider that women of my “class” and age should be able to speak. You don’t have to be poor, third-world and/or tortured to have a valid opinion and women my age are helping to save what feminism has done for us over the years. Some days it feels like we are heading back into the Dark Ages of women and we need to stick together.

    • I really don’t think we want to get to the place where we say “if you earn more than this, you’re not allowed to speak in public”. And who gets to decide which opinions are worthy and which opinions are not?

      (Sorry it took so long to publish your comment – I’ve been rather sick. Spent the weekend out of it on oxycodone. Only thing that gave me some pain relief.)

  5. I have noticed how dumbed down a lot of articles are today with their main line bringing up who is in a good marriage (apparently, no one) and who is catching others at cheating (apparently, everyone). There is so much hoopla over who’s the fussiest, in the most trouble, and so much other (excuse me) pissy crap that I, for the most part, just scan news articles just to read, mostly, the titles to see what the world cares about right now.
    You are right: many good things whose time has come are being swept under the rug and let go so all the little dumpy things can be talked about.

    • I saw an interesting study the other day – and I think I’ve mentioned it here before – looking at the impression conveyed in the headline compared to what is actually in the story. I really should dig it out. It found that the headlines usually can’t be backed up by the content of the story. Think about all those “GILLARD IN TROUBLE WITH STATES” headlines, for stories about one or two LNP Premiers disagreeing with the Labor Govt, as though that’s something new or unexpected. Which means people who just scan headlines – and that’s all of us, because that’s how we see if we want to read the story – get incorrect information.

      (Sorry I took so long to publish your comment. I’ve been sick for a few days.)

  6. C`mon Nipples, we all know Gina`s a poet, and her hobbies include `digging` and pocketing about $600 bucks per second. Let`s face it, Gina is very capable of looking after herself.
    But your quote,
    ” women account for only 13 per cent of managers in the mining industry,”
    really make `Feminism mainstream` or speak to ALL women generally. We always hear about the `metrics` of boardrooms, management, media and political parties. Why aren`t we hearing women only account for X-percent of mine-truck drivers or any other coal-face, non-sexy position.

    • From my experience as a journalist, and when you look at articles to see where the info has come from, most stories are driven by media releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it means journalists can get info they’d never have time to dig up themselves. For example, in NSW most education stories (about funding quirks, conflicts of interest, anything to do with policy analysis) come from Greens MP John Kaye. He’s very good at doing the digging and handing the results to the MSM. As for stories about truck drivers versus boardrooms, Women on Boards and similar groups are better at getting their info in front of journalists than other groups. Also, in the case of the SMH, stories about boardrooms are better suited to their audience.

      (You get an apology too, for taking so long to publish your comment. I’ve been very sick for a few days, just getting back to things now.)

  7. Part 2
    l only say this coz many yaers ago, probably about two decades, the construction industry had some `affirmative-action` applied to it. There was much hysteric-male-wailing, but eventually the companies and unions were all clubbed into acceptance. Women will now be `trades-people` they declared(thru gritted teeth)
    While there is `some` female trades-people, its very few. But it isn`t really `sexism` or similar for the poor results. Around this time there was also a push to get as many kids university educated as possible. Many young females chose Uni, as did young males, so what `actually` happened was kids didn`t choose trades-work. Another big factor was young females don`t `choose` to crawl around in dirt and filth on construction sites, but prefer cleaner work environments.

    • I think we need to be careful when talking about choice. From about 14 or 15, many young women have to deal with tradies being dickheads or creeps. You get wolf whistles and fuckwits calling out “hey baby, suck my dick” when you walk past a building site. You get crotch-thrusting and leering when you walk past a group of tradies having lunch, and so it’s not surprising that young women are not particularly keen to work in that environment.

      Plus you also need to look at whether young women are being discouraged from taking tradie-style school subjects, like wood work and metal work, because I know when I was in school, teachers talked you out of doing those subjects. Even in the early years when we had to do them, teachers treated the female students as dumb, and laughed at them when they didn’t know how to do things, and instead of teaching them how to use the machines, just did it for them. That’s not teaching at all and would no doubt discourage teenage girls from doing these subjects.

      So I think when we talk about the choices young women make, we need to consider what is informing those choices.

      • I know of a relative of a friend who became an apprentice in a trade that one would think was not excessively blokey by nature – upholstery – and the bullying and hazing was incredible and very badly affected her.

  8. l read both the Thatcher items you linked to up top of your post. The `slate` item is pure poppy-cock, trying to paint a Torie as a Feminist.
    The `guardian` item is bang-on in my book. l particularly agree that it is the mindset of the powerful/rich that plays more on the direction a nation goes or how well off the rest of the citizens are. When a position becomes available, they lower a ladder down to whom they want, then pull the ladder back up again.

  9. Russell Brand wrote an interesting piece about Thatcher:

    Interestingly, one mate of mine, a proper leftie, in his heyday all Red Wedge and right-on punch-ups, was melancholy. “I thought I’d be overjoyed, but really it’s just … another one bites the dust …” This demonstrates, I suppose, that if you opposed Thatcher’s ideas it was likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish, it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one’s enemies.

  10. I remember the first time someone asked me “you’re not a feminist, are you?” It was clear to me that saying “yes” was the wrong answer. That was thirty years ago. 30 years and women still know that feminism isn’t the default political position. 30 years and they’re still asking like feminist is some loony fringe position. “Oh I tried becoming an unfeminist, but they wouldn’t take my vote back.”
    Feminism has advanced through the combined efforts of radical feminists who stood up and said “yes, I bloody am” and women who quietly negotiated their way through hostile environments like Sheryl Sandberg.
    It has taken me hours to formulate this post: and it doesn’t say half of what I want it to.

    • And because so many of my friends are Feminists In Public, I forget that it isn’t the default position.

      (Feel free to leave longer comments, eilish1. Your comments are always informative.)

    • Eilish, this:
      “Oh I tried becoming an unfeminist, but they wouldn’t take my vote back.”
      is absolutely fantastic. I want a tshirt

  11. Hi Nipples, I hope you`re feeling better, l enjoyed the Brand write-up on Thatcher too.
    What I was trying to get at above, (without making trouble) is the `mouth-pieces` of Feminism are often very capable in general and have the `ear` of the embedded media, but the same women are often damaging to the `sisterhood` and/or general public.
    EG1. Albrechtsen goes on qandaLand and makes all the correct Feminism noises, but she isn`t really challenged on her `daily` nonsense that is often distorted to the point of, dishonesty to the general public, half of whom are women. (did she get an `appearence` fee.?)
    EG2. Gina gets plenty of `coverage` as a poet, but who is challenging Gina on if she is training women to be 50% of her workforce, AT ALL LEVELS, not just the sexy stuff.
    EG3. Joolya got a great reception for rightfully spanking Mr-Rabbit on `misogyny`, they then both united to cut womens welfare.
    EG4. The Lady Westpac director goes on qandaLand and makes the correct Feminism noises, and we learn she isn`t quite as greedy as the men, but she still gets paid tens of millions, boo-hoo. But she wasn`t tackled on the low-rung jobs, like Tellers, who have been sacked from full-time and re-hired as casual or part-time. More women than men are Tellers l think.
    I think the Feminists need to get a lot more of the non-sexy stuff, that effects the daily life of women, particularly `working-class` women, as they still often ignored by the embedded media, and some of the bullshit the `power-women` needs to be called out.

    • But none of those women publicly identify as feminist, so they are not “mouthpieces of feminism” at all.

      You also have to keep in mind that feminists don’t control the mainstream media, so they can’t control what topics get coverage. For example, the issue of women on boards. It gets poo-pooed by some feminists as not being important. I think it is important, because I think it’s important to have women at every level of society, but that doesn’t mean I think it is more important than domestic violence or poverty. Anyway, stories about women on boards fit into Fairfax’s demographic, so Fairfax editors give the issue coverage. Likewise, stories about super and how women are fucked, and childcare problems for women east of Marrickville. Unless there’s a nice photo op, stories about women in poverty, or clothing outworkers being fucked over – unless it’s by a big name designer – are not going to get a run in Fairfax papers.

      And lastly, plenty of feminists are fighting for the “non-sexy” stuff. Just because it’s not in the mainstream media, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

      • Albrechtsen in particular constantly talks down feminism, Western feminism in particular, so despite clearly benefiting from both feminism and the class system, she doesn’t actually speak for it or talk it up as a ‘thing’ that is admirable in itself.

  12. Where have you gone? I need to think about something else. Please give me an else.

  13. Pingback: The 60th Down Under Feminists Carnival | the news with nipples

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