Defining feminism and destroying the joint (recovered)

This is a recovered copy of a post lost in our server meltdown. Sadly we don’t have the comments.

Helen Razer has written a post on how she thinks that Destroying the Joint may be in danger of destroying the point. I agree with some of what she says. Kings Tribune has an opposing view here. I agree with what Jane Gilmore has to say as well. This is the article Razer refers to as suggesting women would bring something ‘special’ to media leadership roles.

I agree with Razer that having women in management positions doesn’t equal Utopia. Women can and are just as capable of making bad decisions, behaving unethically and being selfish and self involved. What I don’t agree with is that she chooses three women: Rebekah Brooks, Marissa Mayer, and Gina Rinehart to represent all possible women in leadership positions. You can’t judge how an entire gender would act based on these three women and based on your opinions of these three women. Razer also ignores the figures that suggest that business productivity benefits from having women in leadership positions. There are still plenty of places that don’t have women in leadership positions to be contrasted with places that do. The figures speak for themselves, having women on board is good for business. So women are doing something different and that’s good.

I find any work that even considers the idea that privileged white women do things in any way that is markedly superior or different to the things done by privileged white men so ineffably deluded I want to take ALL of the Alanis Morissette CDs purchased in the 1990s and make a sculpture of an enormous plastic masturbating woman and win the Turner Prize with a piece I have called Enormous Plastic Masturbating Woman Wins the Turner Prize. (Helen Razer)

Privileged white women and privileged white men do have a lot in common and I would personally love to see a sculpture called Enormous Plastic Masturbating Woman Wins the Turner Prize. But just because Destroy the Joint is being run by, as far as I know, privileged white women doesn’t mean that PWW (like me) are the only ones to benefit. I don’t believe in trickle down economies but I do think that movement like this can get enough momentum for women to carry some of that into their own lives regardless of their privilege or colour.

I’m doing some cherry picking here, but this is where our views really start to diverge:

the average comedy of Daniel Tosh, the dressing of children in inappropriate clothing, the naming of a racehorse as a woman

For a start I don’t call what Daniel Tosh did comedy, he harrassed a woman and suggested that she be raped. That isn’t funny or comedy. If this is your idea of comedy I suggest you stop reading here. The children’s clothing issue is one that has feminists of every stripe at each other’s throats often but that doesn’t make it any less an issue, and if we accept a horse being named Woman of the Year doesn’t that belittle the efforts of actual human women? We see little enough of women’s sport as it is. Sure, in and of themselves each of these issues is a small thing. Just as one beesting (for people not allergic to bees) is a smallish thing. But many small things, like beestings, adds up to something dangerous and I would argue that ignoring the ‘small stuff’ that undermines and belittles women adds up to a big thing. Like rape culture.

Feminism is the struggle against masculinsed violence and feminised poverty. Or, the acknowledgement that physical violence is enacted disproportionately by men and poverty is experienced disproportionately by women. That’s it, really.

I’m going to leave the arguing of this point to the book learning feminists because I don’t have an answer for this. I think it is incomplete but can’t say why.

Razer believes that the calling out of sexism can become reflexive and lead to calling out situations that aren’t actually sexist. I can get on board with that, but I think that, like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.

I recall, for example, this moment in which DTJ ally Anne Summers called a urinal shaped like a mouth “misogynist”.

That the mouth urinals were very clearly referencing the famous John Pasche Rolling Stones male mouth logo was immaterial. That they had been present for years in the lavatory of a club for homosexual men was not deemed relevant.

Speaking as someone without any knowledge of the famous John Pasche Rolling Stones male mouth logo I always assumed it was a woman’s mouth and I don’t think I’d be Robinson Crusoe in that. So yes, if people think that they are pissing into a woman’s mouth then yes I do believe that it is sexist. Did all those hetero dudes pissing into those urinals believe that they were male lips? Does anyone wonder if there woud have been more pushback to remove them sooner if they did? Why should their presence in a homosexual men’s club bathroom make them any less sexist? I don’t know much at all about gay male culture being neither but can anyone guarantee me that no gay man ever thought of those lips as female when draining the main vein?

I do think that Razer has misjudged the point of Destroy the Joint, it won’t have failed if it doesn’t bring down the Patriarchy. That is a big ask for one organisation where three waves of feminism have failed to do that before. The same with Everyday Sexism – it is less about destroying the Patriarchy in one big gulp and more about pointing out how everyday things we often take for granted are sexist. Will it change the world, probably not, will it open a few eyes and start a few minds working – yes and that is a success right there.

For mine this comes down to a fundamental difference in how we do feminism.

You don’t need some ridiculous spin about inappropriate plumbing or sexist wallpaper or whatever the fuck it is this week to apprentice folk to The Struggle. You need to read some macroeconomics, bitches, and spread the fucking word.

Hey. I’m right. I was, in fact, appointed feminism’s door bitch. And, no, you can’t come in if all you have to talk about is The Need For More Women CEOs and Less Sexism in Ads.

Let me be one of many to wish Razer all the best in being feminism’s door bitch. It would be a thankless job and if she is willing to take it on then more power to her. But I’m going to have to disagree with her notion that DtJ and Everyday Sexism are just about the need for more women CEOs and less sexism in ads.

ETA: Another perspective from Team Oyeniyi.

Categories: gender & feminism, media, social justice


9 replies

  1. Good grief, I’d hate to have Gina Rinehart used as an example of anything but Obscenely Rich Wingnuts.

  2. Feminism is the struggle against masculinsed violence and feminised poverty. Or, the acknowledgement that physical violence is enacted disproportionately by men and poverty is experienced disproportionately by women. That’s it, really.

    I’m going to leave the arguing of this point to the book learning feminists because I don’t have an answer for this. I think it is incomplete but can’t say why.

    Well the reason my Feminism 101 blog only does Feminism 101 and not further is because I’m not a book learning feminist either, but it strikes me as a crucial omission to overlook the role of microaggressions and double standards in perpetuating masculinised violence and feminised poverty.

  3. I thought that definition was a bit narrow, but then I look at the feminism I usually identify with arguing about changing surnames again and I kind of see her point too.
    ETA: I should point out that I’m not including bluemilk in the surnames argument – hosting a discussion is different and from the popularity of the post apparently something we still need to thrash out.

    • I do understand how the surname debate can be seen as something trivial, but for me what I see in surname-changing conventions is the systemic constraint of what is considered “acceptable” in women’s choices, and I’m pretty sure that constraining women’s choices is a HUGE part of how poverty is feminised.

      • BTW, some valid criticism of the limits of the Bechdel-Wallace test (as one of the micro-matters versus the macro-matters) has been mentioned on LP, and I responded there with some thoughts:

        Re the Bechdel/Bechdel-Wallace test, I do agree that it’s been widely misapplied/overextended but I still contend that it holds up a spotlight on a narrative imbalance – it’s a low bar to hurdle to have female characters talk about aspects of their lives which don’t involve being reliant upon men or male approval, and that’s still a bar which a whole lot of films just don’t manage. It’s very possible to have films with wonderful female parts that do not pass Bechdel-Wallace, but it’s still a huge part of the human experience which is being erased.

        P.S. as part of a totally unrelated (to this post) discussion with spouse, I have come to hypothesise that part of the popularity of slash-fiction amongst heterosexual women is at least partially an inverted aspect of Bechdel-Wallace – some of the appeal lies in how male characters are narratively more fully rounded characters, whereas women so often are narratively adjuncts/objects.

  4. We waste enough energy already explaining to trolls that it’s possible to care about more than one thing at the same time, without having to say it to other feminists, too.

  5. Orlando, may I swipe your comment as the title for my next post? I’ll attribute.
    Unfortunately it’s rife at the moment. The Tumblr bloggers who are somewhat to the left of me do this constantly. Then they’ll do a post about some pop artist or whatever. HEY MOTE BEAM THING.

  6. Sure, go for your life. I really should sit down and write a proper response myself.

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