Friday, January 08, 2016

"Suddenly, just as it seemed we women were about to have it all, a new wave of feminists has begun to portray us as feeble-minded — unable to withstand a bad date, let alone negotiate a pay rise."

Feminism is over, the battle is won. Time to move on » The Spectator: "It should be celebrating its triumphs. Instead it has descended into pointless attention-seeking...

It would be easy to believe from the papers these days that women have never been more oppressed. From the columnist Caitlin Moran to the comedian Bridget Christie, a new creed is preached: that we are the victims, not the victors, of the sex war. Feminists claim we are objectified by the builder’s whistle, that a strange man attempting to flirt with us is tantamount to sexual assault. Suddenly, just as it seemed we women were about to have it all, a new wave of feminists has begun to portray us as feeble-minded — unable to withstand a bad date, let alone negotiate a pay rise. Worse still, they are ditching what was best about the feminist tradition: solidarity with the sisterhood and the freedom of every woman to do as she pleased. Feminism 4.0 consists of freely attacking other women over, erm, crucial issues such as bikini waxing, wearing stilettos and page three of the Sun. Moran writes that it is childbirth that ‘turns you from a girl into a woman’ (causing every woman in my office to snort involuntarily) and that feminism will only triumph ‘when a woman goes up to collect the Oscar for Best Actress in shoes that aren’t killing her’. The revolution will be televised, with ‘Nicole Kidman in flip-flops’. Well, if this is feminism, then feminism is dead, and the triviality of the fights feminists pick is the surest proof of its demise. What started as a genuine crusade against genuine prejudice has become a form of pointless attention-seeking...

Today, girls outperform boys at school — and have done since the mid-1970s. They are more likely to get five good GCSEs. A third of them go to university, compared with just a quarter of men. Once in university, they do better and are significantly more likely to graduate with a first or 2:1 degree. And equality? In many courses, it has gone a bit beyond that. Last year, women constituted 55 per cent of those enrolling in courses in medicine and dentistry and 62 per cent of those enrolling in law."

Since the suffragettes won us the vote, women have made greater strides than men have made in millennia. In fact, the demographic doing worst in schools is white boys on free school meals — only a quarter of whom gained five decent GCSE grades. So yes, there are gender equality issues — but they are deeply unfashionable. Who will wave placards, or lie on the carpet of film premieres, for the cause of under-performing boys?

Most self-styled feminists argue that we still struggle in the workplace. On close inspection this isn’t borne out either. Women in their twenties have out-earned men in for the last few years; now the under-40s are doing so as well. The speed of our trajectory is startling. Across Europe and America, and particularly in Scandinavia, women are pushing their way on to executive boards and into the seats of power. The French government has passed a law which will require that two in five executive board members of the largest public companies are women. Feminists argue we need quotas in this country, too, but isn’t there a sweeter triumph in the sisters doing it for themselves?

So the next generation have everything to play for — if only they aren’t encouraged to view themselves as helpless victims at the mercy of an insuperable patriarchy. Only 19 per cent identify as feminist nowadays, which perhaps isn’t surprising since it’s become so dull. In the 1970s, feminists were ball-breaking, ass-kicking, devil-may-care thinkers — the likes of Greer, Gloria Steinem and Susan Sontag. Now the ‘voice of a generation’ is Harry Potter star Emma Watson, who delivered a highly praised speech to the UN, lamenting that her girlfriends had given up competitive sport because they were worried it might make their arms look ‘muscly’.

But while Watson frets about the tyranny of the male gaze, it’s being eyeballed by a feminist which is truly terrifying. These middle–class aesthetes love to boss other — particularly working-class — women around, sneering at how they dress and behave. They disapprove of Beyoncé and Rihanna flaunting their beautiful -bodies in pop videos with a vehemence you might expect from the Taleban. In April, an advert featuring a busty model appeared on the Tube, with the tagline: ‘Are you beach body ready?’ Within hours it had been defaced; within days 44,000 signatures had been appended to a petition demanding it be removed. Making sure women are covered up in public, so their bare flesh doesn’t offend anyone, is something you’d expect in Saudi Arabia, not here, where we should be free to dress as provocatively as we please.

Why shouldn’t we wear make-up, stockings and suspenders if we like? From Elizabeth I to Bette Davis, women have considered lipstick, high heels and killer hairdos to be legitimate weapons in our arsenal, as effective, in their own way, as crossbows and bazookas. But new feminists are determined to drain the fun from life, and illustrate how awful it is to be a woman in the UK.

Another challenge girls apparently quail at is trolling on the internet. So let’s say you have received threats from some maladjusted loser who disagrees with something you’ve said. Should you call the police? Abandon Twitter? Or perhaps relish the insults, in the manner of Maggie, who said: ‘I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding. It means they have not a single political argument left.’

Alternatively, you could remain impervious to insult entirely, like rock goddess Chrissie Hynde, who last month was trolled by feminists after confessing that she had suffered a sex attack aged 21 and took ‘full responsibility’ for it. Twitter lit up with the unedifying spectacle of hundreds of women attacking her for expressing her honest opinion, until even the Guardian’s Julie Bindel felt moved to point out that Hynde herself was ‘not a rapist’. Hynde’s magisterial response? ‘If you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask for it.’

But when it comes to sex, new feminists are excessively squeamish, so much so that one timid male, Samuel Fishwick (24, 6ft 3in, GSOH) has compiled a guide to romance in the age of equality. Approaching the -Vagenda blog for advice, he was roundly informed that a man must never ask a woman to meet him for a drink at a location near his abode: ‘It makes women think you’re going to turn their skin into a lampshade.’

Does it, though? Or are feminists exaggerating ridiculously — spending so much time dwelling on their own vaginas that they fail to use their brains? Surely we should be revelling in the fact we’re the ‘second sex’ no longer, and teaching our girls how to rely on what Emily Bronte called our ‘no coward’ souls."

"Today's feminists are so out of touch with how most women live they might as well be on another planet." - The Telegraph: "I spent most of the evening being lectured on how to be a proper feminist by a 17 year old fellow panellist.

If only I could have met her before I became the third ever female political editor of a national newspaper in Britain! If only my mother had been able to seek her advice when, as a divorced mum of two, she decided to become a doctor in the 1970s! If only we had known then what that 17 year old knows now!

She was, to be fair, a very bright, articulate and sincere 17 year old but, nevertheless, a teenager. Luckily that didn't stop her knowing that women only become the main carers for their children because they are forced to be, by their limited life choices, dominated as they are by the patriarchy.

It definitely isn’t because women, by and large, really quite like being mothers and enjoy spending time with their kids. No, that would be silly – despite the fact that poll after poll has shown that most women would prefer to work part-time and take a pay cut precisely so they can see more of their children. But what do they know?

According to some of the angrier audience members, women are also being forced to do all the housework. Presumably, all of these women's husbands are standing over them, threatening them with violence if they don't do the laundry. My suggestion that they either choose to marry different men or simply stop doing the housework was met with utter incredulity...

All in all, I learned a lot from the evening, mostly to remember to turn down invitations to future such events. But I also learned that the women who are leading the feminist cause in 21st century Britain are so out of touch with how most ordinary women live and think about their lives that they may as well be on another planet.

I'm not saying there isn't further to go for women's equality, but I just don’t see a lot of the key feminist cause celebres as “women’s issues”. Childcare, for instance, is a parents’ issue, and rape and domestic violence aren’t crimes against women, they’re simply crimes.

And, yes, of course there are vital concerns like FGM, forced marriage and access to education for many girls and women in developing countries. But are we really pretending that a woman's lot in life in 21st century Britain is so bad?

I'd have thought that when feminists are spending their time complaining about pictures of women on banknotes and having to pay 75p a year in VAT on their tampons, then life is probably pretty good.
Frankly, after an evening debating the role of feminism in today’s Britain, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry (but that's female hormones for you).

Either way, I have a funny feeling that my nine year old daughter will choose to live her life the way she wants to live it, whether the Patriarchy or the Sisterhood likes it or not."

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