Biddulph discovers something that I think we’ve been calling feminism

Parenting expert, Steve Biddulph, who I am not a fan of for various reasons, is best known for his book, Raising Boys. Now Biddulph has begun calling attention to the plight of girls with the launch of his new book, Raising Girls. That’s nice, except man oh man, does this guy do some fabulous mansplaining.

Check out these examples from this Sydney Morning Herald article:

“I’m about to retire [but] I want to light a fire under the girl question,” Biddulph said. “People are waking up to this around the world. There is a movement to save girls.”

That movement would be feminism, right? But further on in the piece you get the picture that Biddulph thinks he might be inventing the movement.

Now he quotes alarming statistics to emphasise his point – anxiety and depression has doubled among girls, self-harm has increased 60 per cent, and 13 per cent suffer an eating disorder. One-fifth of girls are now having their first sexual experience at 14, and in the last year girls overtook boys in the binge-drinking stakes.

One of these statistics is not like the other one because one of them might be about girls’ pleasure. Exactly what concerns Biddulph about girl sexuality? Because sexually active teenage girls don’t trouble me, but sexually active teenagers with significantly older partners do, and sexually active teenagers who do not feel in control of the decision to be sexually active trouble me greatly, and sexually active teenagers who are not enjoying the activity concern me a huge amount. So, I’d like to see statistics for those kinds of questions rather than one simply examining whether some fourteen year old girls are having sex, which seems a rather patriarchal preoccupation to me.

Biddulph said aunts need to become more involved in their nieces’ lives as confidantes, and mothers should model positive behaviours like healthy body image.

Except, perhaps Biddulph should ask some mothers about their body image? He might find this problem of misogyny, where women are raised to hate their bodies and to feel pressure to fit into an incredibly narrow definition of beauty, predates his own awareness of the problem and his decision to write a book about it.

“I want to start a more active feminism, to help girls see what their options are,” Biddulph said, noting the original feminist mantra of ”girls can do anything” has been reduced to a choice between supermodel, movie star or pop singer.

Thanks Steve, can’t wait for you to “start” our feminism for us.

Cross-posted at blue milk.

Categories: gender & feminism, parenting, Sociology

Tags: , , ,

14 replies

  1. Thank-you for this post! I’d seen posters advertising a Steve Biddulph lecture on ‘raising girls’ and expressed my discomfort with it. I’d be more comfortable if it was girls and women talking about raising girls, or at least a feminist man.

  2. Jebus.
    I remember the last time I saw an article by Biddulph in the AGE. It was all about how WRONG child care is. He was walking around some suburb and chanced to go past some low budget day care. Without going in or bothering to find out anything about this day care centre, he went on and on about the extential despair the kids were doubtless experiencing.
    I expect he’ll come to the conclusion that girls can be saved by stopping their selfish mothers from using daycare.

  3. Nice to know that he’s going to be saving us all. I’ll look out for his white steed and suit of armour at a pre-primary centre near me, shall I?

  4. Ha, ha, he thinks women don’t talk about this stuff with other women. And also that modern feminism is about giving young women the choice of being a supermodel, movie star or pop singer. So clueless.
    I’d also like to criticise the journalist, Cosima Marriner – a senior writer at the Sun Herald – for publishing an article with just one voice. Sure, it’s a story about a speech he gave, but that doesn’t mean she can’t get another voice in there.

  5. *sigh* He had these two good ideas – that many teenagers need adults other than their parents in their lives, and that school isn’t for everyone. They are good ideas, but he’s not the only one to have them.
    I wouldn’t have thought it was the basis of a career, but that just goes to show how wrong I can be. I’ll be sure to let my sister know she has Steve’s stamp of approval to be in my daughter’s life.

  6. “Biddulph said he assumed girls were doing fine”
    And then he had his head forcibly removed from his arse, and assumed the rest of us have also been living in colon-induced darkness.
    What has made me furious about this guy all along is his refusal to admit that there might be children who don’t want to conform to his rigid gender stereotypes, and that it is probably the very assumption that those stereotypes apply that is causing those kids harm. He’s all for letting boys be themselves, just as long as those selves don’t deviate from what he expects to see in a boy.

  7. mothers should model positive behaviours like healthy body image.
    Because it’s not like mothers might find that difficult. Women are all about their ~feelings~ so obviously we can just snap our fingers and change a lifetime of pressure from beauty standards and patriarchy and ~magically~ love our bodies unconditionally.

  8. @NWN, for example, they could have asked Maggie Hamilton about what she published on this matter back in 2008.

  9. It looks like I was right in my instinct to avoid reading his books. Essentialism makes me so angry…
    And of course no one has ever been thinking about girls, not here or here

  10. Nice to know that he’s going to be saving us all.
    Though his saving largely seems to consist of dispensing advice about what mothers, aunts, and other women need to do. I’m sure you’re shocked by this unexpected development.

  11. Along with all the other stuff he screwed up, I love the assumption that all girls have aunts and that said aunts are involved in their lives in any way.

  12. Eh,Nick, sounds no different to “saving boys” where he admonished “overly-attached” and single mothers to seek out male rolemodels, because otherwise they’d screw their sons over.

  13. I know I’m relieved we’re going to be saved and that a chap is going to start a new unstoppable brand of feminism. Oh yay! Fairy claps! *gags on rising bile* Retiring, is he? Sad.

  14. @Alphie – don’t forget, female teachers are screwing the boy students over too!


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