Feminism: global perspectives and conservative obfuscation

Mariella Frostrup, of The Observer, on why feminism is still relevant and what it means in the global perspective:

In the western world the greatest triumph of spin in the last century is reflected in attitudes to feminism. Our struggle for emancipation and equality has been surreptitiously rewritten as a harpy bra-burning contest while elsewhere, in less affluent parts of the world, the response is altogether different. From Mozambique to Chad, South Africa and Liberia, Sierra Leone to Burkina Faso, feminism is the buzzword for a generation of women determined to change the course of the future for themselves and their families. At female gatherings all over sub-Saharan Africa you’ll find enthusiasm and eager signatories to the cause.

After contrasting the achievements of international grass-roots women’s movements with continuing inequalities in women in upper levels of English government, Frostrup enumerates the social reasons feminism is still a necessity:

These are staggering statistics, and yet not powerful enough to make arguing for women’s rights a respectable pursuit, rather than the aggressive histrionics of popular perception. International Women’s Day, the one day a year when we’re encouraged to celebrate what we’ve achieved and highlight what still needs to be done, conjures less bile than the F word, but also more apathy. When women are allowed to vote, work, choose when to have babies and dress in whatever fashion pleases them, what on earth do they need their own day for as well?

The fact that 700,000 people will experience domestic violence in the UK, and 90% of them are white British females, that there are sex slaves imported daily to this country who live lives of abject terror, that equal pay is still not a reality nearly four decades after the act enshrining it was passed, that the conviction rate in rape cases still hovers around 6.5%, that only 12% of the UK’s boardroom seats (as compared to Norway’s 32%) are occupied by women, are just a small smattering of reasons why women’s rights should remain a priority even here in the UK.

Further afield, the positive impact that gender equality can and is beginning to make in the developing world can’t be underestimated. Recent research from the International Food Policy Research Unit finds that equalising women’s status would lower child malnutrition by 13% – that’s 13.4 million children – in South Asia and by 3% (1.7 million children) in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s a lot of lives to save by just doing what’s right.

Check out the entire article at The Observer.

I think I'd have chosen someone who looks a bit happier with her fate for the image of conservative femininity. This chick looks like April from Revolutionary Road.

And to provide the bat-shit crazy counterpoint, Phyllis Schafly, via US News and World Report, on the Five Ways Feminism has Ruined America, from her latest ode to nostalgic fantasy: The Flipside of Feminism.

Five Ways That Feminism Has Ruined America

1. It hurt marriage. Women want to wait so that they can keep their identities longer and men are finding easy sex, taking away a big reason for marriage.

(*silly little lady, identities are for men! and rushing into marriage to gratify those nasty sexual urges–now that’s a good, solid foundation for a relationship, right there. Kudos on the logic, Ms. Schafly)

2. Undermines child rearing. More kids are in childcare where discipline is lax resulting in a “epidemic” of bad kids, childhood obesity, and bullies.

(This item and the next are actually conflated; the foundation beneath the childcare panic is really about women working outside the home. By misdirecting the focus of the argument to those poor neglected chilluns at daycare, we can blame feminism for everything: childhood obesity, future crime rates, teen-age bullying. It’s a shell game: focus on the children, ignore what we’re doing to that woman in the corner.)

3. Two-income trap. With both husband and wife working it’s hard to live without life’s luxuries.

(Again, it’s a diversionary tactic to blame the reason women work on feminism. This argument invokes a picture of a very privileged two-income family, as opposed to showing most of America’s reality.  Have you checked out the economy lately? Most families need two incomes just to pay the ever-increasing bills,  not to fund so-called luxuries. But feminism is an easier target than the economy–blame the harpies, and never mind anything else. Apparently logic, based on its scarcity, is also a luxury.)

4. Undermines college sports. Title IX has ended many male-only sports at some colleges.

(Oh dear god. Not the end of sports. You know, I hear the end of slavery was rough on the cotton industry. And child labor laws were rough on the factories. I’m not hatin’ on college sports, far from it. But this seems rather irrelevant. I am not implying that a girl not being allowed to play football is equivalent to slavery or child labor. I am actually just articulating an uncomfortable fact: power, privilege, position–these are all zero-sum games. If any previously unpowered, unpriviliged, unpositioned group of power begins edging towards a position of equality, their opposite also has to begin edging (down) towards that place of equality.

If there are five of us, and only the opinions of three of us matter, ok, we each get a third of the pie. Or a third of the top jobs. Or a third of the promotions. Or a third of the scholarships. But wait! Now the other two want something! So for their advancement, from voiceless to voiced, from un-equal to equal, those of us that were holding a huge slice of the pie have to set it down and trim it down. Equality isn’t an advancement if you are already on top.  Equality is only an advancement for those that were on the bottom.)

5. Emasculates men. It’s better to be a wuss than speak up or mouth off and face charges of harassment or chauvinism.

(Er, is there another option here? Maybe learn to speak up without harassing women? Or being a chauvinist? Again, a common picture is being painted: the poor put-upon male, beset on all sides by over-bearing women in his life that won’t let him get a word out or make a move without criticism. Ha, ha, I saw the comic strip too. But Schafly’s actually giving an extremely undeserved criticism of men’s abilities. Apparently she believes that a.) all men are harassers/chauvinists, and b.) they’re all too dumb to change.)

The only flip-side here is what has been done to the facts: instead of presenting them, as Phyllis Schafly pretends to do so very openly, she mis-directs and obfuscates and blames the ills of society on the strides toward equality made by half of its members. It would be more infuriating if it weren’t so fundamentally illogical.

*Obviously, the parenthetical remarks are my own.

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