// 18 July 2008

Post-feminism?  Not yetIn Surviving Sexual Violence Liz Kelly talks about the Woozle Effect – the notion that something repeated often enough will attain the status of a common-sense “fact” whether it has any truth to it or not. I start with this vague ramble because it’s so inherent in discussions of post-feminism, which lately have happened because of Joanna Murray-Smith’s play The Female of the Species opening in the West End.

The play, loosely based of the incident where Germaine Greer was held captive by a student for several hours, has been broadly discussed by the press. Not least after Greer dismissed the writer as “an insane reactionary” who “holds feminism in contempt” and the play as “threadbare” and “unfit for the West End” (The Telegraph and (also) The Telegraph).

The Guardian, however (who really should know better), begins their review by asserting that the play is clearly about “the confusion faced by men and women in the post-feminist age.” (The Guardian). Confusion? Post-patriarchy? I don’t know where to start. As this piece from Cath Fletcher points out maybe for the privilege wielding readers of the Guardian (myself included) this might appear to be true – it only works if we ignore empirical evidence about women’s lived experiences and presume it’s OK to gain equality by exploiting other women (behind almost every successful woman there is a cleaner, nanny, au pair or other less wealthy women propping up the achievements). As Fletcher says “The post-feminists point to the new super women of the bourgeoisie” as “proof” that we have it all.

So what’s been said about the play – well the Stage has an interesting, dare I say insightful, argument to make:

to make her thesis work – that everyone is confused by the outcomes of feminism – Murray-Smith’s characters have to elect themselves as stereotypes. The dim, often-absent husband who spouts correct “new man jargon”, the wife longing for the excitement of caveman maleness, the deserted husband reverting to pre-feminist type. Feminism can take a joke, but the arguments here don’t do it justice.

The Stage

To this the Guardian adds:

I also think feminism is big enough to take her satire, especially the notion some proponents enjoy intellectual provocation for its own sake and are unaware of the impact of their contradictory arguments on ardent disciples.

The Guardian

It’s also noted that whilst claiming to be in the style of Shaw’s farces, Murray-Smith never allows a dialogue between viewpoints, relying instead on sequential narratives. And therein lies one problem because feminism isn’t about a claim to the single truth, it’s, as Ailbhe Smyth has said, an interruptive strategy – something which talks to and with (i.e. dialogues) mainstream and non-mainstream views. Feminism has always been about challenging and you can’t do that without conversations. To claim post-feminism is, again, a claim to a single narrative. “We” have it all can only exist if “we” are a clearly defined group because it’s so obvious that not all women do have it all – rape victims who are disbelieved by the Police or never see the rapist brought to trial; women in the sweatshops and EPZs of the developing world; the women of Darfur and so on. “We” have it all is totally predicated on the notion that we only need to look at the advantaged – because obviously we judge societies on how we treat the strongest, not the weakest, don’t we?

Murray-Smith argues she is a feminist but I have to wonder of what sort? Of the sort only concerned by the experiences of similarly privileged women maybe? Have we really returned to the blinkeredness of some writers from the 1960s and 1970s so soon?

By the way The Telegraph‘s view was the much less insightful, “It’s hugely entertaining, unless of course you happen to be a humourless radical feminist”. Par for the course I suppose and from someone who I guess might find this distasteful comment on political “satire” from the Washington Post, funny.

Hillary Clinton too weak cartoon

Hat Tip to The Curvature for the latter.

Comments From You

Leigh // Posted 18 July 2008 at 2:05 pm

Where does the image at the top of this entry come from? There’s no credit. I would very much like to use it as an LJ icon.

Rachel // Posted 18 July 2008 at 6:06 pm

Re: the cartoon

There is not a chance in hell that Hillary Clinton would react that way to “the bad guys”. Not a frakking chance. If Osama bin Laden walked in to Clinton’s office, she’d kick his jaundiced ass and have him arrested, tried, and put away for the rest of his miserable life. Sorry, jerk-who-made-that-cartoon, you don’t know Hilrod. *mad*

Anne Onne // Posted 18 July 2008 at 8:58 pm

Yes, I love that image. And the quote. I should start using it sometime. Anybody know who to credit it to?

I hate hate HATE the current obsession with the idea we’re in some sort fo post-feminist age. Hate it, because people use simple freedoms that women DESERVE, such as, say, being ‘allowed’ to work, or vote as a reason for the groundless suggestion we are in some amazing age of freedom for women. Yes, we can have legal abortions and, but that’s not the point. That’s not the end of it.

We still have so many things to sort ot, as the stories here are daily proof. I have to say that reading feminist sites is the ultimate reminder that we’re not in a post-feminist world.

And as for the idea that women can wear lipstick/buy expensive woman-related goods/use vibrators/become playboy models and therefore everything’s all good and dandy is simpyl ridiculous. At best, these are choices that women can make, but they are rarely free, and our sexuality is always taken as something that ultimately belongs to men, or is ultimately about them.

Rachel, I know what you’re trying to get at, but I do think the use of the owrd ‘jaundiced’ is rather unfortunate. Unless you’re privy to information that he has a liver problem, it’s probably best not to refer to an Asian as being ‘jaundiced’.

Cara // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:26 pm

Yeah, post-feminism *snort*.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 18 July 2008 at 10:37 pm

I’m happy to be a humourless feminist. I love it.


ha ha ha

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 July 2008 at 11:24 am

im no hilary fan but as if she would act like that! why even bother to jump on gender stereotypes that dont represent her in the slightest? it just makes them look sexist and stupid without making any point except for their own ignorance. its proof in itself that we arent post patriarchy, as if we needed any!

Mystery Dyke Squadron (Bombing Division) // Posted 31 August 2008 at 3:16 pm

I’m a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.

If we’re going to get internationalist about this issue (which is always valuable) then there remains a lot of work to be done, but British culture is far from Patriarchal.

I need not point to any “super women of the bourgeoisie” to demonstrate as much.

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