Skip to content

Day: August 23, 2012

Why I am a feminist and support feminism – but struggle with radical feminism

Feminism is described on as thus, ‘the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.’ On the bastion that is modern day sourcing it is described as, ‘Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.”‘

So I think it is fair to say that feminism is mainly about equality and getting on an equal footing with men in social, economic and political way. Have I got that right?

Well I know I have but a lot of people think I don’t understand feminism so I thought I’d ask the question.

So in essence if you believe in equality then you are a feminist. Now I don’t think I’m stretching the envelope too much here to say that the vast majority of people actually believe in equality. Of course there are many who do not but if you asked 100 men whether they thought men and women should be treated differently around their friends then many would say that they should. If you asked 100 men that on twitter then some no doubt would say that they should. However if you asked 100 men that same question in front of their mothers then that number would significantly drop. Sadly playing up when no-one is around to call you on it is an issue some men have.

The difference in answering and acting does often depend who you are around. Your actual beliefs won’t change but what you say might. We all know men and women who act differently around their parents than they do around their friends. That is I think fair to say only natural. However acting different and being a different person with different core beliefs and values are two very different things. Personally I strongly believe that people don’t change – they just change the way they act to fit in with who they are around.

Hopefully I have now established my personal point of view that people are who they are but often they don’t give a true representation of themselves. This is of course a personal belief and not one that everyone may agree with but I certainly think it is a valid viewpoint and not one borne out from my naive male ideas.

So now we get back to the title of the blog. If feminism is solely about generating equality in all those circles then of course I am a feminist but of course it isn’t just that. Is feminism about equality or is it about generating equal opportunities? That is the big one for me. That is the sticking point and that is the place where I fall down.

As a firm believing that I couldn’t care less who my doctor was whether it was a he or a she or something in between. Whether they were white or black or Asian or African. I don’t care. If I get hit by a car I want the most qualified person to be operating on me on the operating table. The same goes for my stockbroker (if I had one) or my councillor or my MP or the PM I don’t care about their backgrounds I just want the best person for the job. This would also be true if my girlfriend/wife (should they ever exist) and if they got pregnant (that would I’m told involve ‘the sex’) and went into labour then I wouldn’t care if a man or a woman was the midwife. I wouldn’t care. Best person for the job. Same with female football referees. If they are good enough then I don’t care. Male refs make a tonne of mistakes as no doubt would female ones. As long as they got the majority right then I wouldn’t care.

At this point I’d like to link to a piece by Louise Shaw. Seemingly and crudely dolloped in the middle of a sentence here in the link.

Here is the opening paragraph:

Last Friday I wrote a post about how I thought feminism was becoming mainstream. Julian Assange, George Galloway, Todd Akin and others all combined to convince me it really wasn’t, or else it’s job was far from over.

Now I’ll respond to that. You have a guy that is deluded and living in his own wikileaks bubble and can’t see the wood for the trees. You have a person who actually won a landslide election victory despite being an idiot and a moron all making stupid comments. Do they alone speak for the mainstream? Those three people could all not like doughnuts or football but would that alone mean that doughnuts and football were not mainstream? To be fair to Louise she also says others but you will never find 100% uniformity behind anything. Heck there are millions of people around the world who still believe an omnipotent being created the universe. Millions also believe the moon landings were faked. You even have thousands who believe that the souls of billions of aliens live inside of all of us. You’ll even find some who think that George Osbourne is a competent Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not everyone will agree on everything and because three ‘high profile’ people are various reasons said/believe stupid things does that really change anything?

Speaking of changing anything I just want to briefly reference the #menagainstrape hashtag again on twitter. Just want to put the question of there of what did it actually do? I know I have blogged about it earlier in the week but really what did it do? With every man who tweeted that they were against rape did that mean that there is one fewer rapist out there? If someone has tweeted that they are against rape does this preclude them from ever being a rapist? It is a platinum plated take it to the bank guarantee? With every person that came out and on twitter proclaimed that they were against rape did it warm the cockles of women’s heart and make them have more faith in men one person at a time? If so that means that these people have the default belief that men are not against rape. I struggle to believe that anyone deep down actually thinks this. Anyone. So again what exactly did this hashtag do again?

It is time to step on to extremely dodgy ground. I recall one Lib Dem PPC telling me that if I ever wanted to get into politics to never talk about rape. Rape is not a subject where any debate is allowed. However I’m an eejit so I’m opening up that can of worms. A lot – and when I say a lot I really mean everyone pretty much – agrees that rape is rape. I do not. Let me explain.

All rape – whether it be in a marriage or whilst someone is asleep is despicable and disgusting. All rape pretty much will leave exactly the same physical scaring but not all rape with leave the same mental scaring. If a rapist breaks into your house and rapes you then it is an awful act and one that you will struggle to get over. If a rapist breaks into your house and rapes you whilst holding a knife to your throat telling you that he is going to kill you if you don’t do everything that they say then the mental scaring will not be the same. If someone breaks into your home, rounds up your children and ties them up in the basement and pours petrol over them and drags you down to the basement and keeps flicking their lighter telling you that they’ll burn them alive if you don’t let him do as they say then again surely that is going to produce a different set of mental scaring?

The physical act may be the same but rape is not just about the physical act – it is about everything else. I am not going to argue that one is less evil than the other (although I think that argument could be made) what I am saying is different rapes result in different mental scaring for the victims. Again I reiterate my point that all rape is despicable and disgusting but not all attacks are equal.

Ok that might be the most dodgy ground I walk over in this blog post. I’m glad it is out of the way. Next up one of my biggest issues with sexism/feminism is that many things that are not sexist are loudly declared as such by people always looking to find something to moan about. Take the Olympics closing ceremony. Twitter exploded when the Men’s Marathon Medal Ceremony was during the closing ceremony. It was ‘blatantly sexist’ because it happened. This wasn’t just one or two people saying this. This was a distinct calling of many people that I follow. I said I despaired that people thought it was sexist and got a lot of pretty vicious comments back saying I knew nothing.

Now my knowledge of sexism is that it is prejudicial or discrimination based on a person’s gender. So was having a medal ceremony in the closing ceremony prejudiced against women or does it discriminate against them? I just don’t see how it does. The Men’s Marathon was on the final day of the Games – as it traditionally has always been and that is why it is the one event that has its medal ceremony during the closing ceremony. In the winter games traditionally it is the Men’s 50KM cross-country ski that has its medal ceremony in the closing ceremony. Yet again a male event. Is it sexist or is it because it is the longest event in the games?

So what would make it better? Having two medal ceremonies – one for men and one for women in the closing ceremony? That would be equal but also would they want to hold the women’s marathon at the same time as the men’s instead of on another day? Maybe the discrimination is that women are not allowed to race in the men’s race and therefore are not given the opportunity to be on the medal podium at the closing ceremony. If that is the case then obviously the only way forward is to scrap the women’s marathon as well as the men’s and have just one marathon. The problem with that obvious is…

No woman would ever get near the medal podium. Never. End.

Oh noes that is sexist recoils the minds of those still bothering to read but something needs to be said. Men and women are physically different. They have different chromosomes that make up their DNA. Men and women use different sides to their brain predominately. Women on average have a slower heartbeat to men. The pelvises of both genders are at different angles. The muscle groupings are different. At some point people have to realise this. If you look down the list of athletics World Records of events both men and women compete in then you’ll find zero of the female World Records are actually better than the male inequivalent

Lets just look at the 100m at the World Record is held by Florence Griffith-Joyner at 10.49s. Now to put this into perspective 82 men have broken the 10s barrier. 82. So 82 people have gone at least half a second faster than the fastest woman in history over just 100m. At marathon distance then the difference between the fastest man and the fastest woman in history is twelve minutes. At the 2012 Olympic Games the fastest woman would have finished 64th in a ‘mixed marathon’ race if you look at the times.

So if having the Men’s Marathon Medal Ceremony during the closing ceremony is sexist then the most logical way to ensure there is no discrimination is to scrap female sports and scrap the men’s too and just have one mixed event for all the sports. I think that kills off all the discrimination. It will also mean the amount of women that make the medal podium will dramatically fall but it is the only fair way to ensure no-one is discriminated against. It will stop all these women getting inspired and motivated but that is a small price to pay for equality is it not?

Of course I’m being facetious. I believe that there should be different events for both sexes in events where the physical differences result in the men naturally having an unfair advantage. So for events like snooker, darts I see no need for the two sexes to have different World Championships. In things like athletics, swimming then of course these sports need a men’s and a women’s category.

So to clear up whether having that medal ceremony in the closing ceremony was sexist or not. No it wasn’t. It was just a thing. The only way it could be deemed as sexist would be because women were not allowed to participate in that event because of their gender and the only way to get around that is to have a mixed marathon. That is the only way that is could not be deemed as sexist. Is that what we want?

Just now I was speaking of inspiring people. This is another bugbear of mine. I have read many feminists say they need inspirational women to inspire them and the next generation. Why can’t men inspire people? Did Ian Thorpe inspire both young boys and girls to swim in Sydney 2000? Did Michael Phelps not inspire young boys and girls to swim in 2008? Does Usain Bolt not inspire people to take up sprinting whether they have reproductive organs on the outside or on the inside?

As a man I can (and regularly am inspired) by women. Can women only get inspiration from other women? Now of course it is fair to say if you see someone just like you then you are more likely to be inspired by them but it not a prerequisite. I see so many people who call themselves proudly feminist list all the time the inspiration women but they never speak about men that inspire them. Surely these people are inspired by men as well so why don’t they say as such? Really annoys me that.

I think it is time to move on to an issue that I agree firmly with feminists – not just ideological feminists but also the real world feminists – on. Society looks differently upon men who sleep around and women who sleep around. That is an issue that they rightly bang on about because it is wrong that this is the way it is. If a guy sleeps with 50 girls then who cares. If a woman sleeps with 50 guys then who cares. That is my PoV and that is how it should be seen. People are individual and should be seen as such. It doesn’t matter what people do in their private life. There is no way that you should look at or treat a woman differently to a man if they have had the same level of sexual partners.

Time to move on from sex to the human body. Page 3 girls had long been a bugbear of feminists all over the world. They say it is sexist and exploiting women. Well they are right on the first part but wrong on the second. Let me explain why. It is sexist because men are discriminated against because of their gender. A man cannot be a Page 3 girl because of his gender. That is discriminating against someone based on their gender. Is it exploiting women? Well as for exploitation it is less black and white as it were:

The dictionary describes exploitation as such:

1. The act of employing to the greatest possible advantage: exploitation of copper deposits.
2. Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes: exploitation of unwary consumers.
3. An advertising or a publicity program.

Well The Sun does employ Page 3 girls to the greatest possible advantage but surely all employers employ people that they deem would be to their greatest possible advantage? ITV didn’t hire Adrian Chiles for his smile – they hired him because they felt he would be a job for them better than anyone else they had on their books for example. Channel 4 have hired Clare Balding to front their Horse Racing coverage – are they exploiting the fact she’s very good at her job or are they hiring someone because they believe she’ll do the job well and potentially grow the audience?

So on that front I’m not sure.

Do The Sun utilise the Page 3 models for selfish purposes? Well yes but the Page 3 models also get something out of it. Basically money and exposure (excuse the pun). I don’t think the third description is applicable here. So basically the way I see it both parties get something that they want out of this arrangement. The girls get money and career exposure and the newspaper gets sales.

So yes it is sexist (but not for the reasons most believe) and as for exploitation – I can’t fall down on that side of the ledger because both parties make the deals with a free mind and no pressure. It is the same as grid-girls at the Formula 1. I remember a female cricket correspondent for the Daily Mirror blocking me on twitter when she tweeted of her despair that they exist and I replied that they chose to do it of their own free will. She not only blocked me but sent me some nice abuse afterwards. Classy.

Some women don’t like the fact that these opportunities are available and they feel they are demeaning to women yet other women enjoy these opportunities. Who am I or who is anyone to deny people all the opportunities that they desire? Surely that isn’t in the liberal spirit that many of us try to live by? If a woman wants to pose naked and someone wants to pay her what she wants for that then what is the problem? Should Page 3 girls be banned from selling their image in the newspaper for the greater good of women? That is a genuine question.

As for selling your body I’d just like it on the record that I am very much pro-prostitution for both men and women. I think street=prostitution should be made illegal but legal and licensed brothels are the way forward. These would be safe for both the person selling and buying. It would also make those pressured into prostitution less attractive to men as they know they can get it legally from another source. What man would risk arrest for buying a prostitute illegally when they could buy sex elsewhere legally? I think it should significantly slow down the illegal sex slave trade as these women being forced into it would not make as much money. That is an aside but it might also change people’s attitude towards sex. If a woman or a man wants to sell themselves for sex then I see no reason why they shouldn’t as long as their deeds to not interfere with anyone else.

I’d like to look at some of the differences in society that weigh against men. Now I won’t pretend that women have it a lot worse than men but there are certain things that do not scream out ‘equality’ to me. For example girls can join the scouts these days but boys cannot join the guides. Now the reason given for this is that young girls need the safety of the no-boy environment to blossom and grow but boys do not need that environment. Also Tomboy’s are accepted but Janegirl’s are not. If people are fine with girls that prefer more traditional male pursuits then why are boys in the opposite situation not assisted and allowed to explore their perceived feminine side?

Also many women want a female doctor and a female midwife even though their male counterparts are trained in exactly the same way. Just because a woman has a vagina doesn’t mean in a medical sense they are more or less qualified than their male counterparts. My sister when signing up for a new doctor was told that she should sign up with a female doctor because of the family history of breast cancer. She said she didn’t care as all doctors are trained the same way and she believed that a male doctor was just as likely to notice any issues.

Isn’t that sexist behaviour by the people who want a female doctor (or men who want a male doctor) or is it just a thing? Someone feels more comfortable with someone of the same gender. Most would say that but surely if you said that you didn’t want a black doctor because you are more comfortable with a white doctor then that would be racist would it not? So what is the difference here?

Just putting it out there. Now I want to talk about compliments. Last year I commented to a shop worker at her till as I liked her hair as it was different to how she usually had it and I thought that it looked nice. Is that sexist? I have said before that I like a guy’s shoes or clothes or even hair. Is saying someone’s hair is nice sexist or is it just a thing?

Louise Shaw in her piece I linked to earlier says of this, ‘First of all, if you are concerned you’re probably not crossing it – the sweetest guys can sometimes get all wrapped up in what they are saying and where they might be going wrong, and they are the ones most unlikely to be causing the issue.’ Result. I’m probably not crossing the line. Well there is very little chance that I am because I rarely hang around with women (or anyone in all honesty) and even if I do then the likelihood of me giving them a compliment is low because I am always afraid that they’ll take it in the wrong way (way to go self-confidence).

I say this but I must point something out. I have seen women say what I’d deem as harassing comments to guys on a night out. I have also seen women get what I’d call harassed but actually like the attention and I have seen them cop off and go home with guys who I’d say harassed them. Here is the problem. Not everyone is the same. Women say they don’t like being called darling’ or ‘babe’ but heck nor do I and I have been called those words on many occasions – mostly in shops by shop assistants. Do I think they are being sexist or do I think it is just the way they speak? I think the latter hence why I don’t worry too much about it.

Last thing I want to talk about is quotas before I get into rounding this thing up. I do not believe in quotas. It is an issue that splits people down the middle – certainly within the Liberal Democrat Party. Women have exactly the same opportunities to become MPs within the party. Is it fair to introduce quotas that would potentially stop better candidates becoming PPCs in the short-term so in the long-term the numbers are more equal? Would the diversity mean that also a certain percentage of PPCs need to be of different ethnicities or of different sexual persuasions? If 9% of people are gay then should 9% of PPCs be gay as well? At what point do you stop?

I think that as long as there are equal opportunities then the best candidate should win out. I always say the following which is taking things to the nth degree but still I do believe it is a valid point. People of a white background enslaved people of black backgrounds for far too long and treated them as second class citizens (if that). So would it therefore be fair for the people of black backgrounds to enslave the white people for the same amount to time to make everything even? I know it is a big stretch but when you look at it then you’ll see it is not too far apart.

As women were treated as second class citizens for the majority of the human race – should there be quotas that would discriminate against men in the short-term to get long-term equality or is having equal opportunities and letting things naturally evolve to parity? It is one that will always divide people and not necessarily along gender lines and not even all feminists agree on this.

Now to start rounding this epic off firstly women get it an awful lot worse overall. There is no argument from me but it does work both ways. I believe in both equality and equal opportunities. However I also think that people need to realise that not everything is sexist if it is pro one gender or the other. Some things are just things. This is why I often like to poke at those I call radical feminists because they pick up on issues that aren’t remotely sexist to sum up how sexist everything is. Some things as I said are just things. People need to realise that men are different to women in many situations. However men are different to other men and women are different to other women. No man speaks for all men and no woman – or group of women – should ever speak for all women.

We are all individuals and we are all different. If you disagree with everyone of the previous 4,291 words then please agree with the previous sentence. The fact is we are all different and we all find different things offensive. I for example don’t like South Park and find it crude and offensive. However I love Bottom. We are all different and that is something that I really think a lot of people struggle to understand. I got a sense the other day that some people truly believed that people tweeting using the #menagainstrape hashtag were heroes and those who didn’t clearly advocated rape in some form. I cannot tell you just how offensive I found this. I really did.

Just because the three men Louise quoted earlier made dumb comments and believe dumb things does that taint the whole of the male species or does it in fact just taint the three individuals involved? I must say for me it’s only the latter. If a woman comes up to me and pinches my bum and giggles and says ‘alright darling?’ do I think that all women invade my personal space and have eye problems? No I don’t. If a girl in a club grabs my balls and gives them a squeeze do her actions influence my thoughts on all women or just the person involved? Just the person involved.

So ideologically I’m a feminist as I advocate equal opportunities for women. As I quoted earlier a feminist is, ‘an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.’ Well to be blunt if there is a member of the Lib Dems who doesn’t believe that then I will be genuinely shocked. However I struggle when the radical feminists try to find issue with every little thing. There are just so many fights that women (and men) need to fight to gain parity in everything that they do that to find fights that aren’t really sexist in origin just seems like a waste.

There is a debate about how to gain equality without infringing on equal opportunities and that is ont something I have an answer to but I do firmly believe that any form of quota system would be unfair. Feminism is a force for good but the problem is there is no single voice. Feminists know their goal but they have no uniform idea of how to get there and that causes factions where most people believe that equality is the end goal, some say equal opportunities will result in this goal, some say that it won’t but some even want equality but only up to a certain point.

Some feminists believe that women deserve longer maternity leave to men and feel that they are the more important bond with the child compared to the father. Surely that is not the case? Surely a father and a mother should be equal but then of course they negates the ideal that the sexes are different. Women produce milk for the child whereas the man does not. Therefore they are different so should they be treated as such or should equality overrule the physical differences of lactation?

I’ll end with this. I saw on everydaysexism people saying they felt it was sexist for men to say ‘after you’ or to offer to carry their bags as they felt offended by this. After reading this I refused to carry my sisters bag today as I didn’t want to be accused of being sexist. Again I did this facetiously but the fact is what I’d call good manners some call sexist. Society has gone mad. Mad I tells ye.

So yes. Feminism ideologically I’m fully behind. In a practical sense though the only way I can assure I’m not potentially being sexist is to never even communicate or look at someone of the opposite gender. This is hard. It is really hard. I like leaving the apartment but in the real world outside these four walls there are women. If I look at the wrong one and smile I might be being sexist in their eyes. I might be being sexist in you – the reader’s – eyes. It is just a minefield out there.

There are some of my considered thoughts on sexism and feminism. I’m proud to want equality so therefore I am a proud feminist but in the literal sense of the word. What I cannot support or put my name to is the radical feminism which I’m afraid to say is the form that most people see. Those who see sexism in everything that they do and cannot see that it can work both ways. Those who think that a handful of people can speak for a whole gender. I just cannot abide such a thing.

Neil Monnery. Man. Liberal Democrat. Feminist. Has spent nearly four hours writing this. I hope a few people actually read the whole thing!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.