Confusion over feminism....?
by Louise Livesey // 10 August 2008, 11:01
The Daily Mail seems to have excelled itself in confusion this week. First was Anna Pasternak's pity-party article about how she thinks responding to life's events quite well has left her single (her argument seems to be because she didn't fall apart over being a single parent no-one wants to date her - of course I might suggest that it has more to do with the patriarchally inspired resistance to looking after other people's kids and wanting female partners to be able to be totally devoted to just you, as the man, and not some other group of more deserving emotional dependents). I'm not going to spend too long on this as our lovely Kate Smurthwaite over at Cruella has already done a fantastic (and way better than I could) disassembling of it. Kate warns readers not to read the original article whilst eating breakfast because of the chance of food/computer monitor interaction as you spit with rage - I'd warn the same about Kate's article as you may find laughing hard as the same outcome! However just to give you a taste, Pasternak quotes a "friend" who, after her husband walked out, feels she has no idea "how to be a woman any more" (one might suggest breathing kind of guarantees that for her or that perhaps the problem is not her being a "woman" but the idiot husband who seems to have destroyed her self-confidence during or before walking out).
But yesterday the Daily Mail (and others) were reporting that Dr Jessica Ringrose from the Institute of Education has called for feminism to be taught to girls in school to help with their self-esteem. Ringrose's research has found teenage girls are increasingly likely to rely on sexual attractiveness as the main measure of self-worth and are increasingly using sexual insults in all-female conversations.
'It's important for girls to have a forum for discussing these issues so "feminism" isn't such a dirty word,' said Dr Ringrose. Lessons in feminism could also help overcome the myth that men and women are now equal. Dr Ringrose said most schools see gender equality in terms of exam results, where girls now outshine boys in most subjects. But in the adult world, women are still paid far less and face dilemmas trying to balance work and family life. Feminism needs to be 'reinvigorated', said Dr Ringrose."
From The Daily Mail
It's only her suggestions as to who might be role models which make me roll my eyes somewhat. I love first wave feminists as much as the next person but does a 13 year old necessarily see their relevance - after all the 1900's were a very different time where most of these girls would have been either in service or working in factories and agricultural settings, some would have been prostituted, or, the eldest amongst them, married. Why not flag up women achieving stuff now, and recently, who have made a difference - I can think of a few, Margaret Cho for example or Anita Roddick or Eve Ensler? What about mixing in Inga Muscio along with Virginia Woolf? The issue of feminist heroines or role models is a vexed one, I know. Both Elaine Showalter in the Guardian and Natasha Walter on our very own site have alluded to those who can and should be included who are contemporary figures as well as historical ones. Thing is by flagging only the historical and the fictional (Ringrose also mentioned Lisa Simpson) we make feminism appear either dead or illusory - and it is neither. Lets focus on the vibrancy of the movement(s) and see what we can compile.... So, dear readers, who would you nominate for the top 50 feminist heroines/role models?