Yesterday Libby Brooks started what was to become an interesting introduction to a debate that is well overdue in the world of feminist politics: that being, what is feminism?
I got myself involved, and instead of making any new contributions to my blog on a Friday night, I’m instead going to spoon out what I replied to the other debaters.
Brooks in the main body wrote;
“In a blog about initial responses to her book, Levenson says “infighting” harms feminism. But does it? The women I meet, of every generation, are desperate for debate, especially if it can be conducted under the unflattering lights of the mainstream and take in Katie Price as well as crappy rape conviction rates.”
To which on the subject of the “debate”, I replied about how this was a good set of building blocks for that debate, but what will the debate actually entail? Will we find that many of the demands that feminism has fought for have been met, and thus feminists have been vindicated, or will we find that postmodernism has bred new ways to define inequality in society. My money is on a cross between the two, but it should be important to remind ourselves, during this debate, that feminism has been successful for the most part – remit for those who have fought for women’s rights should now extend further to combat ills at all levels.
The deputy editor of Comment is Free, Natalie Hanman, took issue with me on the subject of postmodernism, when she noted;
“I agree that postmodernism has helped us define inequality in new and important ways (see my previous comment) [which I did do], and that feminism has to address those shifts. But I’m not sure that “feminism has been successful for the most part”, as you argue. The gender pay gap still stubbornly exists; violence against women and girls still exists at shocking levels; representation is still an issue in many walks of life; gender roles still force women and men into constrained ways of living. The struggle is ongoing, not least because as Libby illustrates who would agree on what a feminist utopia is even is?!”
On the subject of the success of feminism I replied that I don’t think there is anything incongruous about saying that feminism has achieved a shift of attitudes and “raised consciousnesses” whilst also, agreeing with Natalie Hanman, pointing out that there is plenty to fight for; pay inequality etc. So the former is where I feel a lot of feminist demands have been met, attitudes have been changed and government tackles these issues.
These problems are still likely to occur in the workplace or in the home because often they are places out of reach by institutions that police inequality. Which is why feminism does still have a corner to fight. But identity politics emerges when ones identity is in jeopardy or vulnerable (in an official, governmental context, quite often), so it should be an indicator that progress is being made when the need for id politics starts to lay low. If we fail to vindicate the victories of feminism we risk obscuring those indicators that tell us we won, when this time comes.
To which Natalie Hanman replied;
If we fail to vindicate the victories of feminism we risk obscuring those indicators that tell us we won, when this time comes.
Yes! 100% agree with that.
Elsewhere, the commentator JayReilly replied to the comment “Yes, violence against men and boys exists. Not at the same shocking levels, but it still exists” with this;
You are aware, surely, that men make up the vast majority of murder victims, assault victims, muggings, and crime and violence in general? The majority of violence in this society is against men, its a fact and has been since the dawn of time. Look at home office figures. For any year. Ever.
I replied to this point with the issue that no violence against men has ever put into jeopardy their identity, which means that violence towards women has at least a shred of the domineering underhand. The shocking levels, in this instance, I take to mean violence on a symbolic level, which is why it is an political issue. This is not to suggest the severity of male violence, and Natalie has correctly pointed out that feminists, too, often raise voices over such issues, but a focus point for feminism is the form with which violence against women takes? Often women are used as fodder to calculate a man’s strength over her weaknesses, and this would be idle speculation, were it not for the fact that the feminist cause is almost entirely kept alive in this country (along with low pay levels) by the fact that violence towards them puts into jeopardy their identity and dignity, something that men (and male identity) has narrowly avoided.
I wasn’t the only one who commented on JayReilly’s comment so I left it there. In spite of my crazy belief that identity politics is a mere metanarrative in politics, I can still swagger my own feminist credentials every once in a while. Cif; perfect place to do so!