It appears MTR (also the acronym for the right-wing Melbourne Talk Radio, which is funny, in a way) is the Feminist of the Moment for the mainstream media. And a large part of her appeal, it seems to me, is that feminism, as she defines it, is a conservative, bourgeois feminism, threatening to specified corporate interests – she’s done good work with Collective Shout and her opposition to the pornification of little girls in general – but generally unthreatening to entrenched patriarchal systems.
This was illustrated by this nauseating letter from Neville Wright in last Sunday’s AGE – “All power to Melinda Tankard Reist. I have long wondered when the feminists would wake up…” (scroll down to “Feminism Reevaluated”). Gag.
She has just issued a legal threat to another blogger, No Place for Sheep, for speculating on this interview by Rachel Hills, and asking why MTR’s religious affiliations weren’t given prominence. For those unfamiliar with Tankard Reist, she’s a “pro-life feminist”, that is, anti-abortion.
I don’t really care what Tankard Reist’s religious affiliations are. What matters to me is that she was employed as a bioethics advisor to the ultraconservative, anti-choice senator Brian Harradine for twelve years. Twelve years. That’s not just a brief stint in a job to pay the rent. That’s a longstanding association with the Australian equivalent of, say, Pat Buchanan. Brian Harradine used his position in the Senate to further a “traditionalist” and antifeminist agenda, such as banning RU-486 and the imposition of Australia’s version of the Global Gag Rule.
With the still-widespread notion of feminism as a monolithic hivemind, with a spokeswoman (used to be Germaine Greer, remember – anything she uttered was assumed to be written in some Feminist bible somewhere), I’m afraid MTR will become (has already become) the next “spokeswoman” in the popular imagination.
Feminism is a broad movement and has some eccentric offshoots. MTR, despite her sometimes valuable role in speaking up for little girls, is one of them. Anyone who identifies as feminist should be able to do so, but it doesn’t automatically validate every part of their ideology as feminist. Melinda Tankard Reist doesn’t speak for me.