Rather disappointed by this article by Gemma Soames in the Sunday Times today.
The premise being a look at the new faces of feminism, which succeeds only in trashing previous waves of feminism, being patronising to the concept of feminists being young and engaging with culture, and being somewhat contemptuous of women who do not consider themselves feminist.
The contents page (not available online) has the headline "Pretty Equal", followed by "they're young, glamorous, and fighting for the cause". Most of the article focuses on the shocking news that some feminists wear dresses, heels and take an interest in their appearance. Cos, you know, we wouldn't want any ugmos to get involved. That would be embarrassing.
An info box to the side has the heading "New Girl Power." Say no more.
Within this info box, I am told that the new feminist agenda is "the right to do what the hell you like, however you like, in heels - if you like." Er, no, actually. Whilst I accept the basic premise of what is being said, I dislike it whenever feminism is used to justify whatever someone's actions are. I didn't do the washing-up last night. Was this a rejection of the domestic role for women? No. I was just lazy. Furthermore, this sort of utterly lax ideology means it is ok to be Sarah Palin. It means it is ok to be Cheryl Cole, one of the women cited as "icons", and beat up a toilet attendant because you were drunk and she wouldn't give you a free lollipop. Whilst I accept that she was cleared of racial intent, the fact is there was a major power imbalance in that situation. She is a successful celebrity and member of a girl group, whilst this woman was a Nigerian immigrant who worked as a toilet attendant. I don't care that Cheryl Cole is working-class and Northern; she is now in a position of privilege over others.
And she beat up a toilet attendant whilst she was drunk. God, how embarrassing.
The recent protests over the UCL beauty pageant are described as "retro" and "extreme feminism", organized by "angry young women in duffel coats". Actually I was planning to buy a duffel coat recently, but I couldn't find one. God forbid someone try to find some practical winter clothing.
I also saw one of the organizers of the protests on BBC breakfast news last week, and was rather embarrassed by her arguments. Having chosen to wear an t-shirt advocating the student union's anti-tuition fees campaign (because there's nothing like confusing people by having another agenda visible whilst advocating another), she matched this with a skirt which would barely be seen because she was sitting down, and a pair of tights. It looked like she was wearing a t-shirt and tights. It reminded me of an installment of Newsnight during the fuel protests, which had a roundtable discussion of men in suits, with a representative of the fuel protesters. Who was wearing a string vest. it was impossible to take him seriously. The fact is, appearances count.
She was against a poised, together contestant of the UCL pageant who was clearly both beautiful and intelligent. The feminist didn't have a change, particularly when she claimed that beauty pageants conform to a Western standard of beauty whilst sitting next to a woman who was clearly Asian. Naturally she made hay with this comment.
The most depressing part of both that interview and this article is that they miss the point. The beauty pageant is organized by an outside group who describe it as "empowering". It is clearly part of a wider trend in which all that is old is now new again, and "empowering" (Hi, Gok Wan!).
Soames’s interviewees include two models who are striving to form a union who are reluctant to identify themselves as feminists, and Marie Berry, founder of KnockBack magazine, which has headlines such as “The magazine for women who aren’t silly bitches on a diet”. But surely those “silly bitches” are the very ones who need feminism? I realize that feminists tend to be interested in things different to the average Cosmo reader, seeing as it’s easier to be contemptuous of gender roles when you don’t want to fit into them, but is this how we want to see women who aren’t feminists? Yet later Soames condemns the judgmental nature of feminism (which I agree with – feminism isn’t monolithic), using as evidence the Girl Guide Association’s views on the sexualisation of young women, something that is clearly excellent that the Girl Guides are identifying and trying to deal with. She also questions people’s disapproval of
Soames’s article seems to have stalled at the very concept that women can be feminists and like shoes. From then on in it becomes almost embarrassed by feminist ideology, concluding with Phoebe Frangoul saying “I do feel it’s time for those feminists to step aside [those who strident opinions that she disagrees of, and, let’s face it, are old and yucky]. It’s like, we’re grateful for what you did, but it’s time for you to hand over. We’ve got a different world-view, and we might have something different to say.” Because shoes are fun.
But really, what else can we except when articles about feminism are in the style section?