Feminism, Still Relevant 217 Years Later

// 12 May 2009

The Independent has a rather poorly thought-out piece about how hip reading left-wing books is this season…? I guess since the realms of history is the only place you see any real socialism any more. One thing that annoyed me though was their dismissive remark about Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. They say “Her central argument that women are as capable of reasoning as men, and have the same right to be educated is not controversial any more”.

Now this riles me no end because not a week goes by that some idiot at a comedy club decides fourteen pints is about the right level of inebriation he needs to stumble over and treat me to a fifteen minute discourse on why women just aren’t funny. On a good night he’s just the member of the audience who loudly left announcing “It’s a bird, good time to go to the bar” as I walked onstage. On a bad night, he’s the promoter. Either way it feels to me as though that’s my powers of reasoning being called into question on the basis of my gender.

Meanwhile in other news a Saudi Arabian Judge has just said women are partly to blame for domestic violence if they are rude to their husbands or frivolous when shopping for a full-length black abaya (which they are obliged to wear at all times under the draconian Saudi laws).

Maybe someone should mention to Andy McSmith, author of the piece in The Independent, that the battle for the vindication of the rights of women isn’t actually over yet. In some places it has hardly begun.

Comments From You

Anne Onne // Posted 12 May 2009 at 12:55 pm

“Her central argument that women are as capable of reasoning as men, and have the same right to be educated is not controversial any more”.

Tell that to Shamsia Husseini and her class, who had acid poured on them for daring to attend class in Afghanistan. The idea that women deserve an education isn’t uncontroversial, or the massacre at L’ecole Polytechnique in Montreal would never have happened. We wouldn’t still have people, even in the West, who believe that women don’t deserve an education, or who take issue at feminists taking issue at these situations. If it was no longer controversial, then every single person would believe that women are no less capable than men, and that ability is not something that one can relate to gender.

The idea that women already have equality, are basically seen as equal and capable, around the world and here in the UK, is dependent on ignorance and on wilfully ignoring evidence to the contrary. This is a dangerous assumption because it allows people to set up the backlash by suggesting that women have ‘too much equality’, that we’ve no reason to complain any more and that actually we should give back some of our rights.

Besides, the media here does an excellent job of insisting that if girls are doing well at school, it must be because the education system is feminised , and therefore disadvantaging boys.

One would be forgiven from the alarmist headlines that schools have introduced mandatory pink uniforms and cookery lessons . All the education system does is award a certain percentage of a final grade in most subjects, as coursework taken throughout the year. The percentage differs between subjects and exam boards, but it is always less than half. Exams still exist, and still contribute the majority of the marks.

Apparently, it’s when ‘boys are suffering’ that it suddenly makes sense to suggest that cramming for a week before an exam is a much more acceptable method of learning to teach our kids than working through one deadline at a time, through the course of the year. Despite the fact that most jobs require pacing oneself and learning discipline to work through the year. Cramming last minute is an irresponsible strategy to teach anyone, regardless of gender. But apparently, schools are apparently failing boys because coursework means pupils have to put some actual effort into their work through the year.

Many of us young people live in a culture that does not value education, that paints learning as ‘uncool’, particularly for boys. I don’t believe either approach is inherent to boys or girls, and many boys do very well under the education system as it is. The ones that don’t have much more serious problems that need to be addressed, much more serious ways in which the system is failing them, just like it fails the girls who fail to achieve. What is failing the boys who fail to thrive is society’s obsession with machismo, a youth culture that lets poor boys down, and entitlement that teaches boys to be overconfident, that they are bound to do well because boys are naturally better at everything. None of this means that teaching children how to work responsibly is a bad thing, unless one believes that boys can only do well if we pander to them. As insulting to boys as it is to girls.

Because even when girls are succeeding at something, it’s because they’re inherently different, and their girliness is being advanaged by the system, something that needs to be rectified. It can’t be because they, like many boys succeeding, put a lot of time or effort into their work.

It’s apparently so ‘uncontroversial’ that women are equally able, that we’ve apparently gone ‘too far’ and need to make sure men get back some of their privileges in case women outperform men in anything. Uh, no.

I keep hearing the ‘women aren’t funny’ thing, too, and I keep wondering why. I mean, there’s no shortage of women joking around just like men in everyday life, yet people still believe that something inherent to not having a penis makes women less funny when they get on stage. How can someone live amongst women who they laugh with on an everyday basis then stand up and say they think women can’t be funny?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 13 May 2009 at 1:38 pm

Journalist Andy Smith obviously subscribes to the patriarchal myth that feminism is now irrelevant since news flash – women have achieved their human status and are now accorded full human rights. Just like men have been accorded since time immemorial!

Perhaps Mr. Smith fails to actually read and digest mainstream media and culture which is obsessed with telling women and girls their sole value lies in being portrayed as men’s sexualised commodities, because female intelligence is irrelevant but ‘being hot and sexy’ for men’s approval is apparently appropriate!

KJB // Posted 13 May 2009 at 7:06 pm

Grrrrrrrrrr.

‘Women aren’t funny’, eh?

Those f-turds might want to consider Ruth Jones (the less self-publicising but equally if not more talented CO-WRITER of Gavin and Stacey), Julia Davis (God, I love her!), the ladies of Smack The Pony, Tina Fey…

I love the way people keep posing that BS question, as a way to slow down and, they no doubt hope, freeze altogether, the movement of women into comedy. How can women even hope to prove themselves when sexist assumptions are there, just WAITING to be levelled at them?

KJB // Posted 13 May 2009 at 7:07 pm

I meant to say ‘the movement of MORE women into comedy,’ sorry. Aaargh, the lack of sleep, it bites!

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 13 May 2009 at 7:34 pm

Yes. Welcome to my life!

Sam Rico // Posted 21 May 2009 at 1:52 am

There is still real socialism, you just have to look for it in its different forms, from Cuba and Venezuela to Sweden.

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