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.