Natasha Walter: ‘I believed sexism would wither away. I was entirely wrong’

// 25 January 2010

Look this way for Kira Cochrane’s interview with Natasha Walter in the Guardian, whose new book is Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism.

Its an intriguing interview that covers peer pressure, pornography, sleaze and gender assumptions in popular culture. Hopefully it will be more engaging than her first book, The New Feminism. I just wish Cochrane wasn’t desperate to use the “angry feminist” cliche as a hook for her article, despite Walter reiterating: “I’m not the raging sort.” Still, I liked the article, and of course the mention of Catherine Redfern‘s upcoming book. Here’s to feminist reading!

Comments From You

Cath Elliott // Posted 25 January 2010 at 9:47 am

Not sure Kira Cochrane (the interviewer) will appreciate being mistaken for Tanya Gold……

Syma Tariq // Posted 25 January 2010 at 10:12 am

Sorry, it has been changed!

Horry // Posted 25 January 2010 at 10:49 am

The comments to the Guardian article are already getting familiarly depressing (see the third one down – it’s almost laughable what is seen to constitute “men as the real victims of sexism” compared to what Walter is discussing).

On the topic itself, I wasn’t a fan of The New Feminism but this book sounds more hopeful, not just the first half (which seems to be the main area on which it’s marketed), but also the second (gender stereotypes as endorsed by “science”). Following on from Deborah Cameron’s brilliant “The Myth of Mars and Venus”, let’s hope as many people as possible to publish material on the rise of pseudo-biological determinism as the main excuse for sexism. I look forward to reading Natasha’s take on it.

Hannah // Posted 25 January 2010 at 11:27 am

I’m really looking forward to reading this book. It’s interesting to contrast the Guardian piece with the piece on the same book in the Daily Mail.

sianmarie // Posted 25 January 2010 at 1:40 pm

i’m really looking forward to this book! the stuff on lap dancing and media really ties in to a lot of the work we’ve been doing in bristol, as is the bio determinancy stuff.

man hannah i just flicked on to the daily mail page! i just love how they’ve taken the excuse that by writing an article about women bein sexually objectified, they can sexually objectify women by cramming the article fill of images of scantily clad women.

and the headline…well!

Kate // Posted 25 January 2010 at 3:36 pm

Just seen this in the Telegraph, it’s interesting they’ve decided to view the book as an indictment of the “failures” of feminism. I obviously haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet but I was assuming/hoping it’s more of a rebust to the school of thought that tries to claim boob job = choice = liberated innit.

maggie // Posted 25 January 2010 at 4:31 pm

I agree that the Mail and the Telegraph have used this excellent article as an excuse to map the failures of feminism, when it obviously isn’t about that. The comments in the Guardian, while containing some of the same old, same old, have some great responses in favour of empowering women. I too look foward to reading this book.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 25 January 2010 at 6:54 pm

Interesting that Natasha Walter has changed her mind and publicly stated ‘sexism did not die – it simply went underground’ only to resurface as a central part of the backlash against the tiny amount of rights women achieved.

However, mainstream media always trashes feminism because mainstream continues to be male-dominated. Hence media’s consistent refusal to analyse just how neo-liberalism and capitalism co-opted feminism and then used feminist words such as ’empowerment’ to re-sell patriarchal misogyny as supposedly ‘female empowerment.’

The only phrase popular culture constantly uses now is ’empowerment’ particularly in relation to representing/promoting women and girls as men’s sexualised disposable commodities.

Hopefully Natasha Walter provides a detailed critique of how neo-patriarchal claims are being ‘sold to women and girls as empowerment.’ But having read an extract from Ms. Walter’s new book – unfortunately once again Mrs. Walter has shied away from confronting and challenging this issue. Naming the issue is one thing, but it means nothing if the writer does not provide an analysis of how neo-patriarchal ideas are being sold to women and girls.

Next time Ms. Walters ‘bite the bullet’ and show how patriarchy and promotion of individualism works to negate and trivialise feminism. Feminism was never just about ‘individual empowerment’ – rather feminism has consistently critiqued how individual women’s and girls’ lives and experiences do not exist outside of mainstream male-centered social and economic beliefs. In other words how the patriarchal system operates and which is reinforced by myths claiming women are from venus and men are from venus. Biological reductionism is the latest propaganda tool used to reinforce male supremacist society.

polly // Posted 25 January 2010 at 8:52 pm

It’s hard to judge a book you haven’t read, but I don’t know why the excerpts I HAVE read seem so curiously woman blaming. The Mail piece (ok it was the Mail and they took an angle they wanted, but Walter must have agreed to it), seemed determined to make out that the entire boom in the (broader) sex industry was down to women wanting ’empowerment’ as opposed to the slightly more realistic idea that it maybe something to do with Stringfellow, Murdoch and yer local lap dancing emporium owner (usually male) wanting to make shedloads of money.

I am left wondering if Walter is just a bit thick. Susan Faludi’s book ‘backlash’ was published 7 years before Walter’s “the new feminism” yet in 1998 Walter still thought sexism was going to spontaneously disappear? Really?

gadgetgal // Posted 26 January 2010 at 8:46 am

I’m looking forward to this – I thought her first book was way off the mark (and a bit of a snoozefest, if I’m honest). This one sounds a little more relevant and interesting, I’m especially interested in how she handles the new biological determinism pseudo-science – I was glad when some people mentioned she’d be covering this, the acceptance of it by the masses in general is disheartening. Did anyone see that episode of QI on gender a few weeks ago? I love that show but there were a fair few myths flying around there, and (even worse) from the mouths of female comedians!!

Orlanda Ward // Posted 26 January 2010 at 4:49 pm

I haven’t read Living Dolls yet, but it looks like the premise for Walter’s latest is pretty similar to Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs”. Just wondered if anyone had already read both and was able to compare…

gadgetgal // Posted 26 January 2010 at 6:36 pm

@Orlanda Ward – Living Dolls won’t be released until the first week of February, but I have read Female Chauvinist Pigs and it was pretty good. I won’t go crazy over it because it’s very US-centric, and I haven’t lived there in years so a lot of the cultural references I’d only heard of but hadn’t experienced. That’s why I’m quite excited about this one – it’ll be interesting to read something UK specific. We’ll all have to come back on here after we’ve read it and do little reviews – ooh, it’ll be like a school book report!

Is it sad that that’s probably the most interesting thing I have to look forward to at the moment? Yeah, probably…

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds