Three faces of feminism: Louise Mensch, Laurie Penny, and Jodie Marsh

Last night, two white middle-class women – Conservative MP Louise Mensch, and left-wing activist Laurie Penny – sat on BBC Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman, discussing Louise Mensch’s article in the Guardian, about whether you could be a feminist and also a Tory. Exciting stuff, I think you’ll agree. Roughly 765.94 watched these two feminists fighting over who represents women the best, which, by the standards of programs-about-feminism, is not bad going.

Jodie Marsh was not on Newsnight, of course. She was on Channel 5. And if it’s controversial to call a Tory a feminist (which it shouldn’t be, really, seeing as how Emmeline Pankhurst joined the Conservative party in the end, but never mind), then, let’s face it, a glamour model, mainly famous for reality television shows, and sleeping with one of Jordan’s boyfriends (so I’m told), has to be pretty far down the list of people that get named as top feminists. The uncomfortable truth is, Jodie Marsh is the sort of woman that a lot of feminists like me – geeky, Newsnight-watching ones – usually talk about. We don’t watch her programs. (I don’t even know if she has other programs.) I mean, it’s not that we’re not interested. We have theories about the Jodie Marshes of the world. Is she exploiting the patriarchy? Is the controlled by it? Just an inevitable product of it? Is she actually a feminist; a liberated sexual woman just doing what men have done for centuries? Is she a dangerous role model for young girls? Can feminists help her, or should we ignore her? We analyse Jodie Marsh. Or rather, let’s be honest, we judge her. Then switch back to Newsnight for intelligent discussion. Or at least, I usually do.

But last night, as it turns out, millions of people did watch her, all over the world. While a handful of people were tweeting bland, predictable comments about Louise Mensch and Laurie Penny, #JodieAgainstBullying was trending worldwide on Twitter. Friends of mine – also from around the world – started posting on Facebook that they were in tears. So tonight, I got home from work, and for what I think is the first time ever, went to the channel 5 website, then watched it.

And Jodie Marsh, as it turns out, is pretty amazing. She was a straight A-student at school, and wanted to be a vet. She was smart enough, hard-working enough, certainly ambitious enough. Then she went to secondary school. And was bullied. For being “ugly.” 

“I know if I hadn’t been bullied, I’d be a vet,” she says, to the camera. “And I’d be a really good vet. I let the bullies change my whole career path.”

While Newsnight is showing the now infamous clips of Louise Mensch posing in a £485 Dolce & Gabbana leather skirt (which, just to clarify, she doesn’t actually own), ‘Jodie Marsh Bullied: My Secret Past’ is showing pictures of a sweet, pretty young girl which gradually change into pictures of a young girl with her shirt tied up around her breasts, pictures of a girl posing and pouting. And we watch as the ambitions to have a successful career as a vet were slowly, painfully, turned into ambitions to be attractive. Not attractive to women, but desired by men. Because that’s what makes us all worth something, don’t you know. 

Fed up of seeing her bright, ambitious daughter miserable and tormented – on the verge of suicide, according to Marsh herself, in tears on the This Morning interview she did ahead of the program – Jodie Marsh’s mother bought her a nose job. 

Her mother breaks down into tears on camera at this point, and says she’s sorry “for putting you through it,” and Marsh tells us how she was then bullied for having had surgery. But Jodie cheerfully tells us, “The bullying didn’t stop. But at least I wasn’t ugly.”

And it’s not just Jodie. Zoe, another woman interviewed on the program (by Marsh herself, who it turns out, incidentally, is also a good interviewer, with a real sensitive ability to get people to speak, to know when to shut up and listen, and a genuine interest in what they’re saying to her) says she was bullied for being too clever and into her studies. Kids put hair removal crème on her hair, she says, making it fall out. They threw urine on her.

And now we come to the point, because here’s the bit of the program that made me cry: Zoe says quietly to Marsh that she “feels embarrassment” telling us what they did to her. She feels embarrassment. She does. 

This isn’t just a random channel 5 program anymore. Suddenly, this is feminism and misogyny in microcosym.  

Less than 800 people could be bothered watching Louise Mensch and Laurie Penny argue about the role of the state and the speed of the government’s cuts (important issues though they are), but all around the world, women and men were watching ‘Jodie Marsh Bullied: My Secret Life’, and learning something terrifying: that as children, girls like Zoe are taught never to be clever, and then, later in life, women are blamed and mocked for acting dumb. Women like Jodie Marsh are taught they are ugly and deserve abuse for it, and then, later in life, get taught that they deserve abuse for being too into their looks or for having plastic surgery. It goes on and on. Girls get taught to be permanently sexually available in order to be respected or loved – then, later in life, we get told we don’t deserve respect or love because we are sluts and whores.

Perhaps it’s just me, but this is the stuff that’s actually important. Politics should be about power, and its uses and abuses. How did it become about political activists having circle jerks over Sunny Hundal making a typo on Twitter?

That’s not to say that we should forget the discussions about Tory feminism versus left-wing feminism, or discussions about whether the state has replaced the patriarchal powers of the husband and father, because of course we shouldn’t. And after all, this is me. I’m interested in that stuff. It’s just that I’m also already a feminist.

The paradox of feminism is that it’s not just about feminists: it’s not about us, it’s about all women. Feminism is useless if it’s only interesting to the women who are on Newsnight, or watching and tweeting about it. It’s useless if it’s only about people who know they deserve to be treated with respect, and to feel safe. Feminism is, ultimately, about girls like Jodie Marsh. It’s about the girl wants to be a vet but learns that she will get more respect by taking her top off. It’s about the girl who drops out of school at seventeen because she’s pregnant. It’s about the girl who thinks she doesn’t deserve love because she enjoys casual sex. It’s about the girl who thinks she doesn’t deserve good consensual sex because she’s in love. It’s about the girl who says there’s nothing wrong with giving her boyfriend sex when she’s in pain, because boys and girls think differently about sex anyway, and she’s in a relationship with him, and that’s what girlfriends do. It’s about the boy who gets beaten up for acting gay and leaves school at seventeen because he doesn’t feel safe there. Feminism is no use if it’s just about the girls and women reading the Guardian. Who’s going to listen to the girls who grow up reading the Sun?

Louise Mensch wants to bring feminism “out of the ghetto.” I wish, sometimes, that it would get out the… well, whatever the of whatever the opposite of a ghetto is. Because the best trick of everyone who wants liberals to all calm down and shut up is to pretend that liberalism is all a load of complicated, middle-class, waffling rubbish, that real, ordinary people don’t have time for. Feminism isn’t complicated. It is about treating individuals with respect. That’s it. Mensch tweeted this morning that feminism starts with Emmeline Pankhurst, but doesn’t end there. Well historically, maybe so, but in the here and now? Perhaps should start with things like not calling the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition Mr Potatohead for a cheap laugh, from a position of privilege, in a national newspaper.

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91 Comments

  1. Pingback: 2012: The Year I Blog More, Worship at the Dance Altar of Tom Jones « Nugget of Truth

  2. I can’t tell you how much I agree with this article. This year(and I know its not about Jodie Marsh) equality was quite literally rolled back for workingf class women. Literally, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, had their ability to work and support their children taken away, while benefits were turned into a weapon- this government even tried to ensure that women would have to pay money to apply for maintenance to feed their kids. Middle class feminists were worried about whether we had inauthentic sexuality with slutwalk, or whether we were vajazzling. It’s been disgusting. While they are talking about feminism the rest of us have lost equality. But we deserve it for being more akin to Jodie Marsh than Louise Mensch. Astounding article, lovely bit of writing. Thanks.

  3. I’m impressed. As a middle-class feminist who tries to pretend she doesn’t have a body half the time, I’m impressed. I really like the last two paras. Will link to your blog.I walked out of the room while Mensch and Penny were having the discussion. Didn’t think of Channel 5.

  4. Great post, covering both a person & something that feminists, and educated ABC1 women often disregard & sneer at, something I’ve certainly been guilty of in the past. This covered it well and gave an interesting perspective on how we need to reasses our own ideas of feminism & how we judge other women.

  5. Feminism isn’t about “treating people with respect”. It’s about ending gender oppression.

    It’s nice that Jodie Marsh has good interviewing skills and supports victims of bullying, but the chief reason she is famous is because she’s a patriarchy-compliant sexbot. Without that, she would not be on television interviewing anybody. Identifying her oppression is not “judging” her – it is calling out the oppressor.

    It is sadly ironic that someone who stands up against bullying can only do so because she has collaborated with the biggest bully of all – our deeply woman-hating culture and its sick standards of “beauty”.

    As for the question, “Is it possible to be a Tory and a feminist?” my answer is, “Anybody can call themselves a feminist, but feminism is as feminism does.” Those who work to end gender oppression are feminists. Those who do not, are not, no matter how they self-identify.

    I don’t think anybody should be designated as a “representative” of women. Women need to represent themselves. The attempt to “represent” is so often an attempt to neutralize and control.

    • Thanks so much for reading 🙂

      Gender oppression is surely about treating people with disrespect, surely? Dehumanising a group of people (women) so they aren’t respected as individuals is what facilitates gender oppression. Well that’s my view on it anyway.

      Yes well hopefully I’ve identified the oppressor in this blog post, but I was specifically referring to people who DO judge Jodie Marsh and others, or worse, treat these women as abstract statistics, or a problem to be solved, rather than human beings to be listened to and helped.

      I reckon she actually could still stand up to bullying without being famous for being a glamour model, because loads of other people do it, but the point is, women who have been subject to and hurt by the culture of patriarchy have as much to say about it, if not more to say about it, than women who already know how to resist and/or ignore it.

      Yes totally agree about representation.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

    • I didn’t watch the program, but this post gets across that she’s stepping outside the bounds of compliance with the patriarchy. I’d say she’s done a lot for feminism by identifying and talking in public about the way it destroyed her ambitions and replaced them with the need to objectify herself for public approval: a lot more women are going to recognise and empathise with that story than will with ‘I’ve blamed the patriarchy since I learnt to talk’. She’s just given all the people who admire her for fitting in to those fucked up beauty norms a reason to question them; I’d say that makes her a feminist on your own terms.

  6. I thought this was absolutely brilliant. The penultimate paragraph really struck home for me but I loved all of this. Poor Jodie! You’re totally right when you point out the hypocrisy of girls being told that they’re ugly then being derided when they focus on their appearance.

    And poor Zoe. She really couldn’t win, could she? She still feels that she deserved that treatment for being clever, for wanting to make something of herself.

    Also this:

    “It’s about the girl who says there’s nothing wrong with giving her boyfriend sex when she’s in pain, because boys and girls think differently about sex anyway, and she’s in a relationship with him, and that’s what girlfriends do.”

    Yes!

  7. Excellent article and such a breath of fresh air from the usual “feminist” writings; recognising that while middle-class feminism is right to discuss the issues it does, the need for active feminism on the ground is growing.

    Too many feminists look down their noses at women like Jodie Marsh and Katie Price, simply because of what they do. Or rather what they “choose” to do. Instead of questioning how society’s expectations and bigotry may have led them to making that choice, a number of feminists instead just blame the woman herself for being “stupid” and “gullible”. I say that as a feminist who made that mistake for far longer than I’m willing to admit. And it’s that very snobbery that, imo, has made feminism a dirty word to some, and why so few young women or girls will define themselves as feminists.

    I particularly love this from your piece, “Feminism isn’t complicated. It is about treating individuals with respect.” Spot on.

    • Yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself, too. It’s very easy, especially when a lot of people like me who intellectualise and engross ourselves in political theory and so on do it for very similar reasons – escaping from a painful past or a society we don’t feel we fit into very well – as girls who turn to glamour modelling and porn. I can only speak for myself, but I am pretty sure that’s where the instinctive aversion to many aspects of pop culture etc can come from for me. But ultimately, we’re all on the same side.

      Thanks for reading and for the excellent comment!

  8. Couldn’t agree more, I watched the show myself after having a very dim view of Marsh’s publicity nonsense and was surprised at what the effects of bullying have done to a smart ambitious young girl. Dreadful shame but well done Jodie.

  9. “The paradox of feminism is that it’s not just about feminists: it’s not about us, it’s about all women.”

    I bloody love that line. I’m not sure if it doesn’t go further than that though. Louise Mensch said something on Newsnight about feminism needing to do more than just address so-called women’s issues.

    As someone who has always felt more at home on the “left” I found myself agreeing more with her than with Laurie Penny, who – sadly – reminded me of so many other prominent figures from the left of British politics who will probably do more to alienate the people they hope to address.

    But I watched Channel5 that night too. Like, I am sure, many others I felt my opinions (preconceptions…?) of Jodie Marsh altering while I watched the “Secret Life..” documentary.

    She needn’t have made that documentary. But I’m glad she did.

    Your piece has excellently drawn all of these things together. I loved reading it.

    • Yes, you’re right, it’s a good point. I think sexism hurts everybody, male, female, trans, and in ways that aren’t always immediately obvious. In fact I suspect you’d actually be hard pushed to find anyone who hasn’t in some way been harmed by sexism whether they realise it or not. So it really does go beyond “obviously” women’s issues.

      Thanks very much indeed for you comment 🙂

  10. I thought that Laurie Penny and Louise Mensch were right to go on Newsnight – to me, any reminder in the mainstream media that feminism still exists is helpful at this point! But I think you’re completely right to worry that it can be painted as, or even become, a chattering class concern which seems to ignore huge swathes of women’s everyday concerns.

    The New Statesman has been writing a bit about the disproportionate effect of the cuts on women (and the effect that’s had on the coalition’s support):

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/07/budget-cuts-women-revenue

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/gavin-kelly/2011/09/women-support-coalition

    It’s something that’s definitely worth covering more…

    • Yes, I agree they were right to go on. It was refreshing to see feminism talked about in seriousness, with no eye-rolling or silly jokes. It really struck me during the Leveson inquiry when sexism was being discussed just how rare it is to hear people talking about feminism is such a mainstream context, being allowed to finish their sentences, and not being derided or told to shut up/calm down.

      And thank you very much for commenting; deeply flattered as I read your New Statesman column often and really enjoy it!

    • I found that programme really interesting, and terrifying. Can’t imagine what working (eg as a photographer or editor) in an industry like that does to your perceptions. Why do we have to sell such a narrowly defined ideal?

      I think that slutwalks are relevant to this question (the desire to be seen as attractive vs being yourself) – I think one of the main challenge us feminists face is one of engagement and communication. I think on the whole we do care and talk about the issues that matter, but we may not get through because of how we approach things, or rather how we are presented by media with an agenda.

      I’m often shocked at how much people will ignore bullying, especially in schools but also workplaces. I really don’t understand why people are bullied for being bright and interested in learning – how do you combat that kind of attitude?

      • Thanks for this comment.

        People often say it’s jealousy but I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. I think it’s about feeling threatened by someone, very often. So if a person is extremely bright and the bully doesn’t feel bright, and builds the foundations of their self-esteem on something else, they will feel the need to bring the bright kid down, by finding vulnerabilities. Boys are of course bullied for being bright and studious as well, and can go down the same route, instead of becoming hyper sexualised they are more likely to become hyper masculine – join a gang, become violent, become extremely misogynistic, join the military, etc. These are generalisations of course.

        It’s all very painful to see and sadly so many adults are still so trapped in it all themselves that it’s not easy to teach kids they don’t need to be this way.

  11. I just want to say how much I enjoyed your article, and how much I agree with you. Feminism (like a lot of activism, actually) struggles with classism, as those who have the time and resources to make a difference often are middle class or higher, and fail to recognise their own prejudices.

  12. I remember seeing Jodie Marsh being savagely bullied in a disgusting sexist manner by that old creep George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother. Changed my perception of both individuals. I love this article, will catch the documentary. Thanks.

  13. This is probably the best article that touches on the failures of the debate regarding the state of modern feminism I have read in years. Too much time is spent on politicians, and not enough time on real people, explaining real problems. Good stuff.

  14. From my point of view (As a man raising three girls while my wife works fulltime) it’s the perception of Feminism that’s the problem. Too often it’s seen as something dreadfully aggressive, that wants to whip men and make them subservient. Well, that would be as wrong as treating women as lesser beings is now. There is no logical, moral or ethical reason for women not to be treated the same as men. In the home, in the workplace, in the boardroom, in parliament. Why there still exists the need to cling to such outmoded ideas of what is ‘right’ in terms of sex – “That’s a MAN’S job, can’t have a woman doing that…” I just can’t understand.

    I hope my daughters inherit a saner world.

  15. Oh god, it WAS well written it WAS well argued, but is there even a place for ‘feminism’ as an idea any more? I was so close to agreeing with everything said, but there is a certain amount of blame here laden on men and that’s not progressive, that’s not going to gain too much inter-gender support; it’s ultimately retrograde.
    At the risk of sounding pretentious what’s wrong with some sort of ‘androgynism’ or something? It is not wholly (or i’d argue dominantly) men who impose gender stereotypes when we’re younger. I wholly believe pressures on our sexuality and how we behave in relationships as young people all derive from naivety and not some male-led conspiracy against ugly or female intelligence.
    I dunno if i’ve misrepresented the thrust of the article a bit, it’s just some of the more subtle assertions about gender i disagree with. Why is there an assumption that as a straight white male i haven’t got gender stereotypes to deal with?
    there is no malevolence inherent in any gender, but there are gender constructs and surely that’s more a product of a sort of secondary social class system (of which we are all to blame) rather than a product of my cock.

    • Which bit did you feel was blaming men?

      Of course everyone experiences stereotypes but there’s a difference between stereotypes which are institutionalised and part of everyone’s culture to the point that people don’t always even recognise them as stereotypes so they get excused as “how things just are.”

      Anyway I would love to see more male feminists talking about sexism and how it affects everyone, so go for it – feel free to link me whatever you’re writing about it all here, I’d be interested 🙂

  16. You article is absolutely spot on. I would like to make three points though. One, I am surprised that someone professing to be liberal would have made such shameful assumptions about someone like Jodie in the first place. While I am pleased you seem to have opened your eyes It’s blatantly obvious that some girls are forced into extracting what they can from society as they find it and as a feminist you should be supporting of them not dismissive. Second, the assumption that you can’t be a Tory and a feminist is a very limited view. Some might say that capitalism is naturally non-biased as it is only based on capital and resources – the issue is the systems springing up around it. It took 300 years to get where we are and it will take another 50 – 100 to to get parliament into a place that is largely non gender/race biased. But we are getting there and Louise Mensch is definitely an independent person who has used her talents to their fullest. Thirdly, men get horribly bullied at school too. Horribly so. To the point where we live with it to the end of our days and some express it through violence to others. If a boy is in in any way non conformist they are bullied as a matter of routine.

    • Thanks for reading.

      I don’t think I said that I made “assumptions” about Jodie Marsh in the first place, hope I didn’t give that impression! What assumptions did you think I’d made? I didn’t mean that I thought badly of her before, just that I wouldn’t usually have personally chosen to watch the shows she’s on and stuff because it’s not my cup of tea.

      I agree you can be a Tory and a feminist.

      And I agree about men being bullied, often also from sexism as well. In fact I did give one example of how sexism causes men to be bullied for being seen as gay (for example) at the end.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment!

  17. What a wonderful piece, it just goes to show the extent of damage that a patriarchal society can have on a bright intelligent young girl.

    I firmly believe that anybody can be a feminist regardless of age, faith, class gender or political leanings.

    I recently read an amazing book called Reclaiming The F Word which argues exactly that.

    This article has certainly opened my eyes to the world that Jodie Marsh lives in – something I have always seen as oppressive to women; in light of this article though, one can only wonder at how many of those glamour models are there through ‘choice’?

    Feminism is about respect as through respect gender oppression will end – M.K Hajdin, while your comment is valid, remember that Feminism does so much more than helping women, we fight for an end to oppression and equality FULL STOP.
    🙂

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  19. Oh my God. Stop the press, you can be intelligent and have big tits. Shocking.

    I found this article patronising. Some of us don’t need to be told that feminism is for everyone (irrespective of class, intelligence, race and yes, even gender).

    • Good for you, I didn’t mean to imply that every single person in the world needs to be told this, I don’t think anyone else took it that way though!

      It’s not about YOU, as I say in the article. It’s about the people who DON’T realise feminism IS about THEM, and deserve to know that it is.

      It sounds like what you’re actually saying is that you agree with what I wrote?

      (Incidentally, that you can be intelligent and have big tits is NOT the point of what I wrote. So perhaps you misunderstood a bit and that’s why you feel patronised.)

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  21. I doubt there are many young women who know who Laurie Penny or Louise Mensch are, let alone see them as role models – Jodie Marsh, however is a household name. I dont think you can put a price on the value of someone like Jodie Marsh being brave enough to talk about her struggle and honest enough to be able to see the consequences that it’s had.

    You’re article is brilliant for many reasons, not least for connecting Penny, Mensch and Marsh. But mostly, for me, its brilliant because in a few hundred words you’ve managed to unearth the very different shaped nuts and bolts of contemporary feminist struggle that lots of people have been trying to articulate for a while.

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  24. Thanks for linking this – I work with a group of very vulnerable young women in a secondary school who are likely to have been both the bully and the person on the receiving end of bullying, often at the same time. I plan on using this show in their session to aid discussion, as Jodie Marsh is someone they can look at and relate to – it’s someone in their sphere of knowledge and it means they might actually be able to learn something from it!

  25. Interesting article. However I would say tha feminism isn’t about gender equality or respect as otherwise how do you explain the sexist comments made by well known feminists towards men, and sometimes towards other women? Feminism has generally been a necessary force for good – however it seems to me to interested in gender equality insofar where women have the raw end of the deal. In other areas where men are discriminated against (and some may even believe there are no such areas!) then there is little, if anything say. Of course feminists can be right wing. And there are plenty of feminists who discriminate against the likes of Jodie Marsh. But surely the point of feminism is to give women their own choices to do what they wish to do rather than be lectured what they should do. So if someone like Jodie Marsh wants to show her body or if someone wants to wear make up or participate in a slut-walk then let them. I would prefer if we moved towards being campaigners for equal gender rights for all rather than feminists. Finally not sure what Louise Mensch calling Ed Milliband ‘Mr.potatohead’ has any relevance to this? It’s a cheap shot but is it sexist? Well I guess he called her ‘Mrs.Potatohead’ then I’m sure there would be plenty screaming sexism. But overall it seems a mild insult which isnt unusual in politics.

    • Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

      Which sexist comments about men are you referring to, and by which feminists? I am sure there are some feminists who are sexist against men just like there are plenty of “non feminists” who are also sexist. It makes no more sense to not be a feminist because some feminists are sexist than it does to not be a non-feminist because some non-feminists are sexist. (There are a lot more non feminists who are sexist towards women than there are feminists towards men in my experience!)

      Of course women (and everyone) should be able to choose what they want for themselves. The point is that this Jodie Marsh documentary showed some insight into the reasons why some women do choose certain paths, and how that can be influenced enormously by misogyny.

      I agree personal insults are not unusual in politics, which is something I find deeply depressing. I don’t think leaders who are trying to get people to treat each other with respect should be adopting name-calling playground tactics. This nasty culture does not help anybody.

      • Hi Lou

        Which of the below isn’t sexist and which of these women aren’t celebrated by feminists?

        “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.” Robin Morgan

        “To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” Valerie Solana

        “I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” Andrea Dworkin

        “When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression.” Sheila Jeffrys

        “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Catherine MacKinnon

        “The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race.” Sally Miller Gearhart

        “If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.” Mary Daly

        “All men are rapists and that’s all they are” Marilyn French

        “Satan-like, men possess women, making their wicked fantasies and desires women’s own. A woman who has sex with a man, therefore, does so against her will, ‘even if she does not feel forced.'” Juith Levine

        “The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist.” Ti-Grace Atkinson

        “Men are freaks of nature… full of queer obsessions about fetishistic activities and fantasy goals.” Germaine Greer

        “Seriously, being a woman in a man’s world has been really, really difficult. And I would just love to shove this [award] up any man’s arse tonight” Tracey Emin

        “When I first entered the house of commons I found it hard to take the men seriously sometimes” Oona King

        The list goes on. So whilst there are still many remaining important issues which need fighting for to improve womens lives – e.g. pay differences – there are plenty of prominent feminists today and those particularly from the not so long ago second wave (who are still celebrated) who poison the well by being misandrous. There is no global conspiracy which is patriarchal where ALL men are misogynists who have all the privileges. If it was why did so many men in the past have miserables lives being sent in their millions to die in pointless wars etc.

        If feminism is about respect and gender equality does that mean those above who made those comments aren’t feminists? Of course they don’t represent all feminists but my point being is that plenty of feminists are hypocritical and are clearly sexist. Hence why you hear so many men and women start with ‘I’m not a feminist but…’. Even today we shouldn’t use sexism (e.g. all women shortlists) to fight sexism. And let’s think wider – e.g. if pornography is sexist and oppressive towards women (as victims of the male gaze) then where does gay porn and bdsm fit into that? Instead rather than being labeled apparently an oppressor (as a man) I would rather men and women worked together to solve gender issues for women AND men so we can all have better lives. It should be about equal choice and opportunity whatever gender you are.

      • Well I’m not sure if these people are heralded by feminists (I don’t think Tracy Emin is for a start, nor Oona King, although I bet there’s context to her quote!) but look, the questions to ask yourself are these:

        – Do you think women have a right to be treated equally to men, be equal under the law, be given the same respect, the same pay for the same work, be treated as individuals on their own terms, feel safe, etc?
        – Do you think that all around the world this is the situation?

        If you answer “yes” to the first and “no” to the second then you’re a feminist.

        How you go about achieving or arguing for an end to sexism is obviously up to you.

        To be honest I think it’s extremely depressing that you’re asking me about other “feminists” who have said nasty things about men rather than actually commenting on the issues in the article. I am not responsible for those people or what they’ve said, any more than you are responsible for ALL THE SEXISM that comes from people who define themselves the same way you do (i.e. “not a feminist.”)

        I haven’t made any comment about porn so not sure why you think I have a view on that one way or the other?

        I have not labelled you as an oppressor not all men as oppressors. Even if people believe women in this country are oppressed by patriarchy (and oppressed may be too strong a word for this country) then “patriarchy” is not the same as “men.” There are men who fight against patriarchy and women who uphold and benefit from it.

        Feminism does not equal women against men. Feminism equals anti-sexists against sexists.

        ” would rather men and women worked together to solve gender issues for women AND men so we can all have better lives. It should be about equal choice and opportunity whatever gender you are.”

        That’s feminism.

  26. Pingback: Third Grade Feminism » At A Kinky House

  27. Wasn’t it the point of ‘Womanism’ to take the focus away from the white middle class woman who had the money and leisure to be able to debate endlessly about feminism and the place of woman in society, and to shift focus on those women who were working the so-called menial jobs and who were from lower-class and poorer sections of society – these women were/are more often than not BME?

    • Yes I believe it was. But I don’t think the language or semantics is the point to be honest. I think it’s about the people actually spoken to about feminism, the media of communication, the issues involved, etc. I don’t think many fifteen year old girls declare themselves against feminism while being upset for being tormented as a slag because they don’t like the word “feminism” and prefer “womanism.” It’s because they simply don’t recognise what is happening as a) sexism, which is the opposite of feminism, or b) actually wrong, and something they don’t have to put up with.

      Thanks very much for your comment Abby.

  28. “Lou

    – Do I think women have a right to be treated equally to men, be equal under the law, be given the same respect, the same pay for the same work, be treated as individuals on their own terms, feel safe, etc?
    Absolutely

    – Do I think that all around the world this is the situation?
    Nope

    Does that make me a male feminist? Not really – probably as much as I can label you a ‘masculist’ if you believe men have a right to be treated equally to women, be equal under the law, be given the same respect, the same pay & benefits for the same work, be treated as individuals on their own terms, feel safe, etc. Note – men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women. Do you ever refer to yourself as a masculist? I don’t. So even the term feminist in this context is sexist if the presumption that feminism is focused on gender equality for women and men.

    I would be wary about labels. E.g – I believe in less government intrusion, more open markets and less tax – but I don’t believe that makes me a ‘conservative’ because I think too many of them are selfish and do want to intrude in our lives with their pro-christian, anti-gay social values etc. I believe in a minimum wage and even in some circumstances a maximum wage, having workers on company boards, progressive tax on the rich but that doesn’t make me a ‘socialist’ either because I don’t believe in wholesale nationalisation, class envy politics etc.

    I quoted those women as you asked me to give examples which directly links to your article when you say feminism is about treating individuals with respect. Yes if it’s about women. And unfortunately not even then (e.g. Jodie Marsh). Nor is it about gender equality per se. It’s about getting a better deal for women. It’s quite possible to be a feminist and to want a better deal for women and equality for women in areas where women aren’t treated equal and still be sexist (i.e. to that other half of the population, men). As ‘some’ feminists are. Not you and not all. I’m saying how you can say feminism equates to non-sexism when so many famous feminists use sexist language (and although Emin & King see themselves as feminist I agree I wouldn’t class them as famous feminists rather they are more recent quotes – try turning the quotes around and imagine if they were said by a man about women).

    As for pornography I didn’t attritbute you with any views. I think porn is relevant as Jodie Marsh has appeared in soft porn titles such as Nuts, Loaded, Zoo etc and many feminists (not all -because it is a broad church) have a problem with porn. Btw isn’t bullying on looks in the playground effect boys a lot as well as girls – e.g. spots, bide nose, ginger hair, specs, skin colour, indeed anything which is different from the norm? Sorry you found my views depressive and that you feel doesn’t comment on your article. I’m interested in your views and how feminism can be sexist.

    • But men already have equal rights and have done for centuries! I would call myself an anti-sexist however. However “feminism” is the word in the English language which means “feminism,” if you accept that sexism does happen against women and shouldn’t happen against women the semantics of the word are hardly the most important point to quibble over IMHO.

      Do you have evidence that men are more likely to be victims of domestic violence than women? I’ve only ever heard this claim bandied about by Tom Martin, that women are more likely to initiate (so not even clearly more likely to be victims of) domestic violence in an article he wrote for the Guardian, but all he had to back it up was a YouTube video. What conclusive research has been done on this, and at what point was it conclusively proven that this is the case?

      I don’t know about “labels”. I fit the accepted dictionary definition of feminist. Therefore I’m a feminist.

      Yes but I don’t think those women are necessarily the big names of feminism, and those comments certainly are not typical of any of the (many) different feminists, male, female and trans, that I know and read.

      What do you mean “Not even then (eg Jodie Marsh)”? I don’t understand that comment.

      I don’t need to turn the quotes around, they are mostly clearly sexist and horrible, especially Emin’s quote, (and I am taking your word that these are all accurate and not taken out of any relevant context even though you haven’t linked any of them) but what is your point? Sorry but the idea that the most important thing to you about this whole discussion is that some random women who choose to define themselves as feminists have said some sexist things in the past just seems very odd to me. It’s as if you are more interested in being anti-feminist than discussing the actual issues, whatever we call them – yet you are the one claiming not to be interested in labels. Does it matter whether I call myself a feminist or not? What do you think of the pressures put on girls to be sexual then the way girls are judged for being sexual? What do you think about boys being beaten up and bullied for acting “gay” or “effeminate”? What do you think of girls feeling they have no choice but to have sex with their boyfriends no matter what the circumstances, because of how they’ve been taught to feel gender roles work? Seeing as how the whole post is actually criticising many aspects of feminism in the first place, for you to respond to it by asking me to explain things other people who call themselves feminists have said suggests you have an agenda against feminism not an interest in gender (or any kind of) equality.

      Yes bullying happens to everyone. I’ve blogged about it quite a lot on here and written about it elsewhere. It is often gendered, and as I mentioned in the article, sexism leads to a lot of boys being bullied. It is not always gendered. In the case of Jodie Marsh, she was made to feel her looks were the most important thing about her, and that the best way to get respect and escape from the hurt was to massively sexualise herself. That is a result of misogynistic culture, IMHO. That does not mean all bullying only ever happens to girls and is always about sexism. If you read an article about racist bullying would you respond by saying that white people get bullied too and it’s not always about race? Or would you think, this particular instance of racist bullying is horrible, racism is horrible, and I am an anti-racist?

      • Hi Lou

        You raise a lot of interesting points –so apologies for my long reply….

        Firstly who have men had equal rights with during these centuries? Each other? Not quite – just take voting rights for example – universal suffrage for all men didn’t happen until 1918. And if we agree women haven’t had equal rights with men for most things until relatively recently in history – then men weren’t equal with women. But those ‘advantages’ weren’t always attractive – being sent to war etc. I’m absolutely thankful we have had female suffrage, equal pay act, far more opportunities for women in terms of work etc in the west that we have now compared to before and compared to other places in the world today. It’s an outrage that it took so long. And it’s thanks to feminism that these things changed. Indeed if it wasn’t for feminism (despite her comments otherwise) we wouldn’t of had Thatcher as PM.

        To be fair – I didn’t mention domestic violence – but victims of violence. An adult male is almost twice (1.8) as likely to be a victim of a violence crime than an adult female. See page 6 of the following report…
        http://crowan-scat.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/mirror/CIS302%20Lectures/background/typologies/standards/uk/home_office/counting_rules/rdsolr1804.pdf

        However on domestic violence I was surprised to see how high it was compared to what we perceive. More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

        But how much work goes into protecting these men? Where does are the equality opportunity and feminist campaigns against that?

        Dictionary definitions –

        Feminist: a person who advocates equal rights for women
        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/feminist

        Masculinist (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Masculist)
        “an advocate of the rights of men”

        Again – and I think it’s a fair question to ask (and goes beyond semantics) – would you call yourself a masculinist? And do you ever call yourself one? Or do you think men already have all the advantages and don’t have significant issues? I’m not presuming here – just asking.

        I think the likes of Greer, Dworkin and French are significant feminists. With the Jodie Marsh comment – I meant that there are feminists who advocate the rights of women to make their own choices and then condemn the likes of Jodie Marsh.

        As for the Tracey Emin quote – http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/article-24007558-its-a-mans-world-says-tracey-emin.do Note the word ‘ANY’ man. Not those who were sexist towards her. So men as a gender – all of us – are to blame. So fight sexism with sexism?

        My point is that feminism for all its necessary and long overdue victories is unfortunately riddled with sexism itself – in its literature and so forth. Again not all but enough can be easily found. The battle of the sexes has now got to a point where it is counterproductive and a common cause should be created against all sexism. I don’t think it matters if you call yourself a feminist or not – that’s up to you but I’m engaging you in a debate that men’s issues can be overlooked by that very terminology and ideology.

        As for the Jodie Marsh program – it is telling that nowhere in the program does she mention sexism, feminism or misogyny. Indeed the only time do we have an inkling of the gender of her bullies is when a friend tells a story of the spiteful attack by girls against her in the bathroom. Now no doubts boys also called her ugly etc. But do really believe she was being attacked for being a girl by misogynistic teenage girls? In your interesting piece you did not mention that Jodie also talked to a boy who got picked on for his looks – for being overweight. Therefore do you think this was sexist and due to a man-hating culture? There was also the tragic story about the teenage boy who committed suicide due to bullying. Too many young men attempt and actually commit suicide. Now young girls and women do get more pressure than boys over their looks in our culture through media etc and of course there are negative gender roles. However boys are equally susceptible to bullying. And the programme was about bullying and not misogyny per se. If a kid (whatever colour) is bullied for his colour then yes that’s racist bullying. But if he or she is bullied over another aspect not connected by their colour by a range of different race kids – then chances are it’s bullying not racist.

        With respect – I see that you criticize feminism but I wouldn’t therefore assume you are anti-feminist. I am pro-democracy and if I or someone criticized aspects of democracy then I wouldn’t assume we must therefore be anti-democracy. I think feminism is strong enough to be able to have certain criticisms leveled at it by a man without it being said that it suggests he has an agenda against feminism, is being disingenuous and not interested in gender equality and therefore a sexist. Quite the opposite – I’m for true gender equality for women AND men. I don’t see what controversial about that:)

        In looking at the dictionary I came across this useful passage which neatly sums up my point and belief…

        Gender Equality
        http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Gender+equality

        “Some equalists believe that certain feminists have abandoned notions of equality, and instead focus only on females’ rights to the point of excluding/promoting the subjugation of the rights of other sexes/genders. Equalists seek to promote the rights of females, males, and everything in between.

        “Gender equity”, “gender equality”, “sexual equality”, or gender egalitarianism is the belief in the equality of the gender or the sexes. Many followers of this philosophy would like to see this term come to replace feminism or masculism, when used to describe a belief in basic equal rights and opportunities for members of both sexes within legal, social, or corporate establishments. They strive for ultimate fairness, and seek cooperative solutions so as to make things better for both males, females and everything in between. They are opposed both to misogyny and misandry, pointing to a gender transformative perspective and the need for a rejection of all forms of gender oppression and stereotypes. They are also equally opposed to sexism.

        While they may share a number of critiques and analyses with self-described feminists and/or masculists, they feel that egalitarianism is the best word to describe a belief in equality without implying a phenomenological focus on any particular gendered experience.”

      • No, what I (I think obviously, but sorry if not) mean is that men have not been discriminated against because they were men, on a sexist basis.

        I am a feminist because I believe in equal rights for women and men.

        I have never heard the word masculinist before. Feel free to go into detail about the way men are oppressed or under-represented in the major institutions of power (judiciary? police? parliament? executive? or the business world or media perhaps?) or examples of misandry destroying people’s lives, or female on male violence being treated regularly as a joke in popular magazines, or… I am not saying there is no sexism against men, I just wonder why you’re not actively campaigning against it, and why you expect feminists to do so? It’s not like there are no men in positions of power, or vocal in the media, to raise these massive examples of discrimination, prejudice, sexism and hatred against men.

        Men can be victims of violence. Is that an argument against feminism? White people are victims of violence. Is that an argument against anti-racism activists?

        I am not condemning Jodie Marsh, THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT OF MY BLOG POST. Sorry to caps and embolden it, I don’t want to be rude, but did you read it? And understand it? If you think I’m “condemning the likes of Marsh” then you probably didn’t. Sorry.

        Again, THE POINT OF MY BLOG IS THAT VICTIMS OF MISOGYNY DO NOT ALWAYS KNOW THEY ARE VICTIMS OF MISOGYNY. Jodie Marsh was made to feel her looks were the most important thing about her, and escaped through the pain, got respect for herself as an adult, by becoming a glamour model, not a vet. SHE was the one who said this, that this was what informed her choice. She WANTED to be a vet. That people get more respect for being a glamour model then get condemned for being a glamour model IS misogyny and THAT IS WHAT THE WHOLE BLOG IS ABOUT.

        If a bullied boy decided his looks or notions of masculinity were the most important thing about him and in adult life decided to get respect by joining a gang or the armed forces or something then yes I would absolutely consider that sexism. THIS PARTICULAR BLOG POST IS ABOUT FEMINISM, AND WOMEN, AND MISOGYNY, THAT DOES NOT MEAN I THINK MEN NEVER EVER EVER SUFFER ANYTHING, EVER.

        I am not calling you anti feminist for criticising aspects of feminism. I am wondering why the main thing you choose to take issue with is the concept of feminism itself, and quote random women who call themselves feminists, and challenge me – nothing to do with them – on their comments, instead of being concerned about the way misogyny hurts young people and adults.

        I have no problem with “equalism” or “anti sexism” it’s just that the actual current definition IS feminism. I’m afraid that this issue of what we call the position of being against sexism is simply not as important as the actual issues and actual people’s lives being affected by those issues. Yet it seems to be your main point of concern.

        Does it matter what word we use?

  29. I’m not really one for the “me too” comment, but, hey, exceptions, rules, y’know?

    Exactly. Exactly that. What you done said there. The ‘problem’ (if we want to think in that way) with any ‘ism’ or, generally, a (loosely) political belief is that it demands we treat groups of people, and member of those groups, merely as a member of that group, rather than as an individual. Simply, it’s too ‘hard’, or it’s ‘necessary’, to lump people (those wonderful, eccentric, crazy, undefinable, unique, outrageous, …) things into simple descriptions because that’s the only way we can talk about them ‘en masse’. But at the end of the day it’s a no more a true picture than suggesting all snowflakes are the same “cos it’s only snow” (so it’s cold and white, even though two are never completely the same).

    But as any good politician knows, well if you’re going to war, a key victory is to convince your followers that each of the people you’re against, is merely one of a group; a mote amongst the many; a number; “nothing personal”. For if you win that battle, you can start to suggest actions against the group that would be abhorrent against individuals.

    It’s a simple answer, and thus, persuasive.

    And once we examine closer, of course, completely false. So, yeah, me too. I saw Jodie March, that garish, fake, publicity seeking pair of boobs, and she was just “one of those”; a Jordan wannabe. Not real. Not human. Not worthy. Not me. But then I saw her on some shows, and you know, she seemed smart, astute, not a bimbo. Like “Posh Spice” (an epithet is a decent de-humaniser in the right hands) who from all evidence I’ve observed, is a loving mother and smart business-woman, with a decent sense of self-mocking humour – the annoying thing about ‘women’ is that they’re too much like snow-flakes for their own darn good. Like ‘people’ too of course.

    Politics and ‘isms’ are all about grouping, classifying, simplifying, but it’s an effort we could well do with avoiding. All Americans are fat, loud-mouthed, and stupid – like Benjamin Franklin, Harper Lee, Thomas Edison, Martin Sheen. It’s all just barmy, and largely irrelevant rubbish. I don’t *need* to have an opinion about ‘women’ (or Americans, or Italians, or ginger-haired people) because I never meet ‘women’. I meet Sally, or Sarah, or Glenn, or Karen. I meet individuals, people, one-offs, never whole classes in some huge homogeneous soup. Despite what we’re constantly fed, we should never forget that.

    So, me too. Let’s treat people like people. They deserve it.

    (darn … a reply that went nowhere near where I meant it to … I was really mostly struck by the excellence of your closing sentiment … oh well …)

  30. Pingback: Feminist Friday and the week in beards « Me and the Girl from Clapham

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  34. D’ailleurs, a propos d’immortel, ll se dit que le fameux libraire Gérard Collard, qui a fondé la librairie Griffe Noire, postule pour être à l’Académie !!!. Je trouve que cela donnerait un deuxième élan à l’Académie, foi de Saint Maurien. Qu’en penser ?

  35. Pingback: Definitions of ‘Feminist’ | Lynley Stace

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