Tess Daly: TV is sexist, but I’m not a feminist

// 28 September 2010

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800px-Tess_Daly_at_the_BAFTA%27s.jpgAs you may know, I’m a big Strictly Come Dancing fan, but this interview with co-host Tess Daly made me want to kick in my TV screen and never watch it again.

Has she ever encountered ageism or sexism? “Erm, not yet, but there’s still time. Ask me in a few years.” She gives a dry little laugh. “Obvious sexism? No, I haven’t. I mean, obviously, this is a business that favours men as hosts without a doubt and they’re often paid more for the same job so I guess you could call that sexism but, personally, I haven’t come across it yet. Nothing that’s damaged me or left a lasting impression. I’m the sort of person that just believes in getting on and making the most of the opportunity you’ve been given, you know: buckle down, work hard and hopefully you’ll prove your worth. I’ve been working ever since I was 17 years old.” All of which is very admirable, but hasn’t she ever stopped to consider why men in the industry are paid more for doing the same job? “I’ve no idea, it’s just a fact,” she continues, breezily. “I’m not complaining about that, I’m not making myself a martyr.”

Apart from anything else, she obviously has a short memory – she HAS encountered men being favoured as hosts, because when Bruce Forsyth was off sick last year, she was the obvious choice to “act up” and take over his lead presenting role. Instead, they brought in Ronnie Corbett – Ronnie Corbett! – to stand by her side, just to make sure there was a grown-up chap there to give the show its proper light-entertainment gravitas.

And then, having made it clear she’s not going to fight for the rights of 50 per cent of the world’s population, in particular their economic rights, she makes her political and moral views very plain in this little section:

When, in a roundabout way, we start talking about inheritance tax, she turns out to have outspoken opinions on the matter. “It’s disgraceful. It’s effectively triple taxation because you’ve paid tax on your earnings, you then buy a property, you pay stamp duty for the privilege of buying it, and then you pay for it for 25 years; you want to pass it on to your kids, but you can’t because they have to sell it immediately to pay 40% death duty. To pay taxes on a property that’s been paid for with money that’s been taxed!” Blimey! Does she consider herself political? “No, not really but there are things that I do feel quite strongly about and that is one of them.”

I also read an interview with Fern Britton earlier this week in which she says she doesn’t consider herself a feminist though she’s very grateful for all the battles feminists have fought and won to give her rights she’s benefited from. Are TV people really all this shallow and thoughtless, or are they just trying not to offend?

Image by Damien Everett from Wikimedia, shared under Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Josie // Posted 28 September 2010 at 11:52 am

I completely agree Carrie – this interview made me furious too. Daly’s denial of sexism is just pathetic and frankly I find it quite insulting. It seems like these women are petrified of seeming too strident and are afraid of being seen as ‘martyrs’, so they would rather toe the patriarchy line instead. Not a feminist, eh? You LIKE being legally entitled to vote, don’t you? You LIKE being able to do paid work as well as being a mother, don’t you? You DO believe that women should be able to control their fertility and their own sexuality, don’t you? Hate to break it to you ladies – seems like you ARE the dreaded F-word after all! Maybe doesn’t sound so awful after all….

Stace Harman // Posted 28 September 2010 at 12:12 pm

I think perhaps it’s a fear of labelling. Certain celebrities thinking too much about the appearance of a headline like ‘XYZ admits: “I’m a feminist”‘ and the supposed nonsensical negative connotations that might go with that. Heaven forbid they rock the boat or that something, anything, even down to a legitimate political or principled point of view, be held over them in the future.

Tristan Verran // Posted 28 September 2010 at 1:29 pm

Interesting points well made.

Elmo // Posted 28 September 2010 at 2:59 pm

It would be nice if one mainstream celeb were to come out and say “Im a feminist because i believe this and this-see, not scary! Perfectly normal!” Although it would be quite a brave celeb who did so.

I can’t stand it when people like Fern Britton say “Im grateful to feminists, but I’m not one myself”-gaah! what?? WHAT?

People shouldnt be afraid of being something radical, of coming out and saying “yeah, im a human, ive got opinions” I imagine Tess Daly would be insulted if someone called her “just another dumb blonde presenter” but then for her to say she doesnt have any opinions or thoughts-how is she proving them wrong??

Jennifer Drew // Posted 28 September 2010 at 3:24 pm

Clearly being identified as a ‘feminist’ (horrors) means one automatically hates the minor section of the human race – namely men. However, one can’t have one’s cake and eat it despite claims to the contrary. Either one is for women’s rights aka a feminist or else one is for male supremacy aka an anti-feminist. See wasn’t too bad was it? And no I wasn’t hit by any thunderbolts from those MRAS!

Joanna Burigo // Posted 28 September 2010 at 3:38 pm

The sad reality is that these girls represent a vast majority. A LOT of women I know have that exact same answer. They are grateful for what feminism has done to them, but place feminism as this far, far away group of angry women who wanted to vote and find better jobs, back in the day. The problem is that most women don’t seem to put two and two together and still see feminism as just another “ism” – and we know how associated with danger most of the famous “isms” are… Being a feminist is (still) not cool. And that, my friends, is a real shame.

marie // Posted 28 September 2010 at 7:22 pm

Everyone that believes in equality does not have to identify as a feminist. I do not understand why feminists want to take credit for everything every woman achieves. Why should I, as a young black woman be part of a movement that is mainly for white middle class women ( i know this has been said before by many black women but it is true)

Those feminists who were fighting for their rights to vote were not fighting for my great grandmother in Africa to be able to vote. Although I am grateful for those feminists i do not think i owe them anything. Although i am not a feminist i do not hate it, i have my many many reasons why i disagree with the movement. I do not want to be part of a movement that empowers women by making them feel disempowered.

polly // Posted 28 September 2010 at 7:28 pm

Oh dear, the poor love.

The current inheritance tax threshold (I had to google) is £325,000.

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/rates/iht-thresholds.htm

The current average UK property value is £224,064

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/uk_house_prices/html/houses.stm

So people leaving an average priced house to their kids will not have to pay inheritance tax. (or their kids won’t). In fact they can leave over another £100,000 tax free on top. And you can of course leave a property to a spouse or civil partner without any IHT being payable.

There are also some other tax dodges Tess could do if she got a good lawyer/accountant, but let’s hope she doesn’t decide to enter politics eh?

Shea // Posted 28 September 2010 at 7:37 pm

I’m more cynical I’m afraid.

She doesn’t want to harm her “populist” appeal by being associated with a movement that puts women first. Or that criticises men and male supremacy.

Its laziness and self interest and nothing more.

Oh well, give it a few years, when the sexism and ageism will be even more palpable and she may yet find her inner feminist.

periwinkle // Posted 28 September 2010 at 8:11 pm

“Either one is for women’s rights aka a feminist or else one is for male supremacy aka an anti-feminist.”

Is this supposed to be ironic?

Shinila // Posted 28 September 2010 at 10:07 pm

She probably has similar bosses to Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail. Knows exactly what would happen to her job if she came out as a feminist. Anyway the once young beautiful Daly got her job in the first place because of sexism and ageism, so she’s not gonna call these things out!

She’s paid to be an anti-feminist icon, the younger hot bit standing next to her superior in the form of Bruce Forseith (barf!), she’s supposed to know nothing about dancing but how to smile nicely and speak in that low sexy voice. She’s paid to support the patriarchy in her work, hence the nonsensical comments about feminism. Similar to how the female writers at the daily mail are paid, given bonuses and promotions for being misogynist.

As for the vast majority of women denying feminism – sad, but is it just me that’s starting to see a very slight improvement?

Ever the hypocrite, in public I deny being a feminist or give an ‘I’m a feminist… but…’ answer because it’s a 1000 times easier than getting the grief that ensues. Admitting to being a feminist is like wearing an ‘attack me’ sign. Putting yourself a rung lower in the conversation. Just like appeasing the patriarchy as a woman will always entitle you to a ‘safe’ sign. One that Daly wears while she’s denying the existence of sexism.

Sad…

dan // Posted 28 September 2010 at 10:12 pm

Here are a few loosely related comments:

1. The answer is a quote, but the question is not. In that situation you can usually assume the interviewer is asking slightly different questions to those that are printed & that therefore the words take on a slightly different meaning.

2. It’s also interesting the interviewer points out that she spoke an average of 116 words per minute, and that she was visibly relieved at the end of the interview. In other words, much of this may have been nervous chatter & not necessarily firm, thought-out opinions.

3. The interviewer also says she spoke a total of 7,000 words. That article is a 2,500ish word article & I’d guess only about 1,000 of that is made up of quotes. Meaning whatever is in there is removed from a lot of context.

4. Following all of the ageism/sexism typhoons surrounding TV dance shows, this was an awful question to answer.

5. She’s obviously had a mess of a year (thanks to her fool of a husband). Her book fell apart because of him, her homelife fell apart because of him, she had yards of painful press because of him.

In other words – I’m surprised she came off as well as she did & am happy to share some benefit of he doubt.

saranga // Posted 28 September 2010 at 10:55 pm

I’ve mentioned this on twitter but i’ll mention it here. Could we compile a list of celebrities/famous people who do call themselves feminists? Include those of the glossy blond brigade (like Tess Daly) who do dare to call themselves feminists.

I’m thinking of Ellen deGeneres and Portia Rossi (now degeneres). I’m assuming Ellen calls herself a feminist, don’t know about Portia.

Then there’s Beth Ditto, Louise Wener (from 90s band Sleeper), Mo Mowlam.

Show folk who snub feminism those cool kids who do self identify as feminist.

Elmo // Posted 28 September 2010 at 11:32 pm

Bill Bailey identifies as a feminist :)

Josie Long too

Emma Watson calls herself ” a bit of a feminist” but I’m not sure if thats cos she is, or because she wants to look clever and edgy (why not go the whole way and say you are a complete feminist?)

KJB // Posted 29 September 2010 at 12:50 am

Kate Nash is a feminist!

http://jezebel.com/5584071/kate-nash-yes-im-a-feminist

Joanna // Posted 29 September 2010 at 1:19 am

Hi Marie,

I thoroughly understand your point of view – I have even shared some of your thoughts in the past (I’m from Brazil and feminism used to be something that happened in a land far, far away).

You’re right to say that everyone that believes in equality does not have to identify as a feminist – fair enough. But feminism is, essentially, about equality. No more, no less than that. Because if you take a closer look, there are few forms of prejudice that are present in e-v-e-r-y society – and prejudice against women is, if not ‘the’, at least one of them.

I do not think that feminists want to, or even do take credit for everything every woman achieves. The achievement of anything is always the result of an individual’s or a collective’s efforts – I think what feminists do is actually celebrate and rejoice on women’s achievements.

And feminism is definitely NOT about middle class white women, but about how unfairly treated women are – whatever class, colour, religion. If those feminists who were fighting for their rights to vote were not fighting for your grandmother in Africa to be able to vote it’s only because, at the time, they couldn’t – any revolution starts where it starts, and it spreads afterwards. If they hadn’t started the fight, I’m sure some other group eventually would have – there’s so much oppression we can take. But that’s how and where it happened. And if we’re now discussing this on this very blog, it is only because they have helped pave the way.

What I would really like to understand, though is what are your many reasons to disagree with the movement, or why is it that you think it “empowers women by making them feel disempowered” – and I ask because I didn’t use to relate, I used to have a very distorted view of what feminism really was and, honestly, I used to firmly believe that we do live in a ‘post-feminist’ world, like most people (Tess Daly?) do. And it turns out I was really wrong.

I really do want to know your thoughts, though, hope you have the patience to share them with me!

:)

Jen // Posted 29 September 2010 at 7:06 am

I’m a feminist, but there are places I won’t call myself one, there are contexts where I would completely disown the term: academia would be one, anything to do with white, middle-class feminism would be another. Here you are giving a shit that a bunch of female celebrities don’t consider themselves feminists. You start compiling a list of ones who do, and they’re mostly these white midle-class chick, although frankly, that just scratches the surface of why not every woman necessarily wants to see them as something they could ally themselves with, let alone look up to. Beth Ditto? Ellen deFucking Generes? Besides, would you rather Daly come out with that stuff and call herself a feminist? Personally, I don’t see why I should give two fucks about any of them. Or why anyone else should. I feel that way about most big feminist names in the 60s and 70s. Not all, clearly, but for a start they were far from the only or the first ones to fight for equality. You have to realise, feminism belongs to a specific western bourgeois cultural tradition. There is plenty about it that’s fantastic, but demanding that all women be grateful to movements of white middle-class women and certainly a very bourgeois movement is more than a bit problematic.

Also, consider why, exactly, you’re demanding this allegiance only of women. Does Forsyth have to justify himself? Of course not. Unlike Daly, no one would ever even ask him. It comes off like you think bitchez who won’t recognise your and your predecessors’ work are ungrateful for all the good you guys have done and should ge. Heck, that’s not a philosophy I can get behind, or a club I want into.

Jen // Posted 29 September 2010 at 8:18 am

I should add that Tess Daly doesn’t even seem to have mentioned feminism at all in that interview, so she didn’t even say she wasn’t a feminist. She does say a bunch of things that aren’t particularly compatible with feminism, but that doesn’t mean that if asked directly, she wouldn’t call herself feminist. Although, I mean, surely claiming the word while having those views is something we should be grateful she didn’t do.

Sometimes with all these celebrities being asked if they’re feminists, it almost seems like being feminist is synonymous with having breasts, and before you know it you’ve just got an updated version of the Eternal Feminine. That’s another reason not to demand that all women call themselves feminists on grounds that we all benefit from some feminist groups’ activities in the past. We don’t call ourselves chartists either. I don’t see anything wrong with holding the view that the work of certain groups in the past should be recognised, but you don’t especially like what’s being done with the whole concept right now. Particularly if you’re a celebrity and a representative of whatever programme and channel you’re working for, and it’s either going to be part of the femininity you embody in public to call yourself a feminist, or not. I don’t think it’s particularly cynical to say that with celebrities, someone is doing the job of PR advisor, whether it’s the celebrity herself or her staff or entourage.

Also, Jennifer Drew, I’ve been meaning to ask you – I’m not arguing that men aren’t the minor section of the human race (roughly 49%, something like that?), but I’m not entirely sure why you bring it up here or think it’s relevant at all. Perhaps you could elaborate.

saranga // Posted 29 September 2010 at 8:40 am

Thanks Elmo!

Emma Watson counts, i think.

I’ve got a hashtag on twitter for this:

#namemefeminists

childerowland // Posted 29 September 2010 at 12:37 pm

For me, it’s not so much her refusal to identify as a feminist that annoys me (although, yes, it is annoying when there is no good reason for her doing so), it’s her completely dismissive attitude towards sexism. I mean, she’s prepared to admit that there *is* sexism in the TV industry, she just doesn’t give a shit about it. And she’s completely open about that. I think she would’ve looked better if she had categorically denied the existence of sexism.

Joanne // Posted 29 September 2010 at 12:42 pm

There are lots of people who believe in equality, examine the roots of oppression and so on who do not call themselves feminist, as Marie says, because they consider the history of feminism to be white and middle class. One group of such people calls themselves womanist instead. A good place to look for info on womanism is the blog Womanist Musings. Sorry I can’t provide a link as I’m typing from my phone.

So womanists have thought about what feminism means and reject it for what or who they believe it has stood for. Or reject the label at least. This is different to people like Tess Daly who IMO haven’t thought really about what feminism means and stands for, nor analysed what feminism has done for them. That’s pretty sad to me.

Going to put on my This Is What A Feminist Looks Like t-shirt now!

lisa // Posted 29 September 2010 at 1:58 pm

“feminism is definitely NOT about middle class white women, but about how unfairly treated women are – whatever class, colour, religion.”

I think that the argument is that while in theory you are correct, ‘actually-existing-feminism’ is/has been dominated/represented externally by a self appointed leadership of white middle class women. This has meant that their priorities have come first.

Rose // Posted 29 September 2010 at 3:42 pm

I kinda have to disagree that feminism in itself is middle class.

Sure the middle class feminists are louder – greater internet/media access, being able to afford to travel to protests, buy books, buy conference tickets, better educated better self-publicity… etc.

But don’t write off the working classes.

I’m not feminist because of something I got into at uni – I never went to uni, I’m feminist because of my experiences of being female in this society. It’s not ‘middle class’ to want to live in safety, with dignity.

I was taught to demand equality by working class feminists, we went through alot that we shouldn’t have had to. We don’t want others to suffer it.

From what I have seen the middle classes can be spiteful, hateful, and cold towards the working class – but middle class feminism as a movement seems to me to be an exception to this. And I’m grateful for that.

So no middle class feminist came to rescue us working class kids from our problems – but in raising our problems as ‘problems in society’ they showed solidarity, and an intention for change.

Middle class feminists loudly rock a boat that seriously needs rocking – thats great. Women like the celebrity above deny that sexism is a problem, which delays social change, and is a slap in the face to those suffering under sexism.

@marie – when I was 14 I was helping some of my English friends through childhood prostitution. But I didn’t end child prostitution in Rajasthan. It’s not just a question of will, it’s a question of capacity.

Women without the vote cannot stand in parliment and call for women in a different continent to be given the vote.

Now that ‘white middle-class’ feminism can work, vote, divorce, abort, etc, it is also concerned with issues such as FGM and Sharia law, etc.

Diana Yeboah // Posted 29 September 2010 at 5:21 pm

@marie

A few things.

As a young black women I consider myself a strong feminist and I am very proud of the fact. I am because I believe in equality and of course equality is effected by race AND class but it also effected by gender too. I understand why the feminist movement feels like it’s a home for white middle class women but I think that it’s wrong to wholly discount the opinions of others that don’t look like you….(sounds familiar doesn’t it). The women I’ve read about in my history class may not have fought for my grandmother in Northern Ghana to vote but someone did. And they were, are, feminists through and through. Feminism is about wanting equality between men and women everywhere. No one owns the term. It’s mine and yours and every person who thinks that I should get the same rights as my male counterpart. I find it strange when women pooh pooh feminism and give mealy mouth replies when even in shiny ‘advance’ Britain women are still (STILL!) being paid less them their male counterparts and women in countries like South Africa are subjected to horrifying acts of sexual ‘corrective’ violence. Don’t be naive. Only when women have full equality can you say you don’t believe in feminism. Until that day I’m (metaphorically) going to keep burning my bra, thanks.

marie // Posted 29 September 2010 at 5:47 pm

Diana Yeboah i have said that i have nothing against feminism. i, like many women have experienced sexism and i notice it on a daily basis so believe me when i say that i did not just dismiss feminism. it took a while for me to actually say that it is not for me, i want to help women and men without callling myself a feminist. my argument over here has been that someone who hates sexism and wants equality between men and women does not have to identify as a feminist. i guess what i am trying to say is that i want to be part of a movement that benefits men and women equally. i just do not like the “us and them” attitude towards men within the movement. the other reason why it is hard for me to identify as a feminist is because the women in my life are not that great, when i lived in Afrca i was sexually abused by a woman, my mum left me and my dad when i was little, i was bullied mostly by girls so i find it hard for me to call those women my “sisters” or to care at all for them. i noticed my last comment was not added probably because it was not very nice so i would like to apologise

polly // Posted 29 September 2010 at 8:28 pm

I think Lisa is partly right in that middle class women are the ones who know how to get the publicity, the book deals etc. So they are the ones who get media attention.

But there are a lot of working class feminists who’ve been written out of history. Like working class suffragettes for example

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dora-thewlis-the-lost-suffragette-477315.html

And what about the women trade unionists who led the strike for equal pay at the Ford plant in Dagenham?

I’m interested btw in why we should assume Ellen de Generes calls herself a feminist, but not make the same assumption about Portia de Generes? Since apparently she is indeed a ‘self described staunch feminist’.

http://jake-weird.blogspot.com/2010/02/portia-de-rossi-gay-staunch-feminist.html

Josie // Posted 29 September 2010 at 8:51 pm

Famous feminists – Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren (I think), Ellen Page, Dita von Teese, Mark Kermode, Morrissey (I think!).

Kate Winslet recently said she was ‘a bit of a feminist, but not in a bra-burning way’ which is quite pathetic but probably qualifies in the same way that Emma Watson qualifies.

Elmo, thank you so much for the info that Bill Bailey is a feminist – I had long suspected it as he’s one of the few male comedians whose comedy is entirely free of misogyny. Love him.

Elmo // Posted 30 September 2010 at 12:52 am

Josie, I took it from the fact he wears (and is on the website) the fawcett “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt :)

He’s just great, not only is he sexism free, he doesnt swear, use knob jokes or anything. Im not saying comedians cant swear of use knob jokes, but they are much much cleverer when they dont need to.

Hazel // Posted 30 September 2010 at 1:03 am

Lots of lovely feminists on the Fawcett Society website with the t-shirts to prove it.

Also Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, KT Tunstall, Jane Fonda, Shirley Williams, Tori Amos, and…

maggie // Posted 30 September 2010 at 8:39 am

It seems to me that calling yourself a feminist in some circles amounts to announcing you’re a member of a trade union and support strike action when all other avenues have failed. There is no doubt that feminists are perceived to be members of the loony left.

It’s time to move on and become part of a new generation of thinkers who are anything but small minded.

saranga // Posted 30 September 2010 at 8:48 am

@polly: I knew I’d read that Ellen describes herself a s a feminist (I read this a long time ago), but I did not know if Portia had, as I didn’t want to put words in her mouth I wrote that I didn’t know about her.

My post was poorly worded, apologies.

Jen // Posted 30 September 2010 at 9:16 am

Diana and Rose – I think the problem is that the kind of white middle-class feminism that is dominant comes as part of a flurry of blows, or kind of a steamroller. First, it historically has white, middle-class origins. Then, it mainly has a bourgeois agenda (that’s why I like to refer to ‘western bourgeois feminism’ rather than ‘white, middle-class’, to address the ideas themselves and not the folks involved). Then, it comes with this agenda and goes ‘Hi there, I’m feminism!’. Then, it sees itself as an identity rather than a theory (I don’t mean an academic theory in this case), hence it being important for women to say they’re feminists, and there’s a certain erosion of the importance of the ideas behind that word – I mean, when we’re bringing up Emma Thompson and Emma Watson and Kate Winslett. And I mean you’ll notice something about those three women, not so much that they’re white and middle-class, but they’re movie stars, we mainly know them as 2-D images, as brandnames rather than women. So, you know, that’s the kind of feminism I can get from Superdrug telling me real beauty’s on the inside.

So, absolutely, my own opinion isn’t about ignoring that a vast majority of black and working-class women are involved in women’s liberation, a number of whom are also feminists. On the contrary: even if such a feminism historically has white middle-class origins (I’m not certain here), if white middle-class folks used those privileges for something good, then it’s fine.

But look, even, at this site. In this thread, we’re discussing overwhelmingly white, extremely rich celebrities. In the post above (if I remember correctly) there is a competition to win a subscription to feminist history magazine Herstoria, and what do you notice about the topics of that magazine? And so what if ‘other’ women are often the object of articles by women who adhere to that kind of feminism?

That is also the only kind of feminism where members of the Feminist Majority Foundation waltz into women’s studies classes and tell everyone they’re already feminists and don’t know it. There’s a double sucker punch here: ‘THIS is feminism!’ and ‘You’re all feminists!’ (plus there are a number of journalistic and third sector careers involved, we shouldn’t discount that part). In a way, I can see why half this thread is about deciding which big names in the media are feminist and which deserve a slap: if the ladies aren’t engaging with their peers (I mean, in this case it’s patently not the case), they’re engaging with their aspirations. And if it’s about watching TV and aspiring to be a beautiful female celebrity, I’m not sure how, exactly, it’s different to any other kind of celebrity worship.

I also find it striking how the first half of this thread is full of posts putting one specific woman through so much sneering if she googles herself and finds this she could be pretty damn upset. I don’t know how that’s feminist, for her, or for women who apparently can’t tell the difference between a woman and her ideas. But there again, we’re attacking her identity and her image, not what she said (I mean, she didn’t mention feminism once).

In short, where feminism is forcibly defined as this thing that makes me feel like I have to go to finishing school before I can pipe up cause I don’t embody the right kind of femininity, then I am NOT going to call myself a feminist. In a context where ‘feminist’ can be used precisely and meaningfully, then yes, I will call myself one. I don’t think Closer magazine is such a context.

Diana Yeboah // Posted 30 September 2010 at 10:11 am

@Jen and Marie

Maybe I’m being naive but I like to think of feminism like cultural identity. Being of African descent but also growing up in inner city London I found it telling that some of my counterparts from different ethnic minorities would baulk at calling themselves English – indeed some even felt better saying British (see: I’m British but… http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/502124/index.html) but because of the connotations of Englishness that had been flaunted by the likes of the BNP it felt odd in the late 80s and 90s to also drape about my shoulders the very same flag that was held up as a beacon of pureness by racists thugs.

This is completely different in America where minorities are happy to shout about their ethnic backgrounds but still hold proud and fast to being all American. Maybe it’s because it is a land built by immigrants so all feel they have a equal right to what is seen as American?

This slightly tangent reply is trying to say that only recently have I felt comfortable in saying that I’m English. And I’ve seen it some of my other friends from ethnic minorities too. We have taken the identity of Englishness from the BNP and said, “hang on I can call myself what I like” and this is the same with feminism. Anyone can be a feminist. And I think that I own the term for myself wholeheartedly. And it can have any definitions attached to it of course but I can’t demise what I see as the central foundation of feminism (that of not special treatment but EQUAL treatment) from my definition of it. So with this as that my guiding light I’m proud to stand by it. I understand for others the definitions of feminism is skewed or seems to not fit and I shouldn’t call others naive (sorry) but I feel so strongly about this.

Jen // Posted 30 September 2010 at 12:06 pm

Diana, it’s interesting, and very relevant, that you bring up nationalism and cultural identity, because that’s another example of the problem we have here. The feminism I would reject – and I don’t say ‘notion of feminism’, because it is very much a part of feminism – is very much akin to nationalism, in fact there are parts of it that are very much akin to fascism, and they’re not that far from the mainstream, just taking the mainstream’s conclusions that little bit further. For instance, Jennifer Drew’s comment on majorities and minorities, on for and against, made me quite uncomfortable, in that I got a sense from it that, because men are by a small margin a minority, it wouldn’t be that absurd to hate them, also the idea that you’re for or against feminism. She’s seemingly alone in drawing that conclusion in this thread – seemingly, but it does seem in the fluffy arena of female celebrity that the ones who call themselves feminists are good, whereas the ones who don’t are silly bitches, cowards, poltroons, profiteers, and so on. Nationalism creates a cause it’s possible to be a traitor to. Your feminist belonging is a personal and individual identity, you have a personal responsibility to uphold it, and I mean – talk about ‘national character’ – by this definition feminism is more or less the same as femininity. It’s a kind of femininity, in any case.

Whereas cultural identity is seeing your place in history, culture, in geography. It’s about placing humanity above the individual, and seeing people, not as souls or as personalities or individuals, but as ever-changing coordinates, every change leaving its mark. To me this would be more in phase with the idea of a ‘movement’, less with an ‘activist’ individual identity. So, each change is something that is a part of you, and you can’t deny it or get rid of it. So in that sense, yes, feminism is a cultural identity. But surely, in that case, it makes sense not to be sweeping about claiming it’s part of everyone’s, necessarily.

And, I mean, yes, there are lots of feminists who aren’t white, western and middle-class and there’s no denying it (even if you wanted to). But, in the kind of environment where they only get enumerated when there’s a need to prove feminism is diverse, and no one gives a crap for them the rest of the time -i.e. they’re reduced to their identity – I’m not interested in calling myself feminist, or anything else that will get me a pat on the back and unequivocal acceptance.

Actually, something a friend mentioned recently, if you think of war memorials, you have all those names and ranks carved on them as heroes that died for a cause, Private Smith, Private Jones, and so on, and that is all that remains of them: no one knows anything about these people, whether they liked their coffee with milk, whether they liked nudie calendars and their mums’ jam tarts, and no one will ever know: the people are lost, and what remains is an identity, that they are army ranks and died for a cause. The feminism I’m not interested in is the kind that carves women’s names into that kind of memorial, whether they’re still alive or not. It’s a small thing, but even if a celebrity calls herself a feminist – or is asked if she is – during an interview, it’s not fair to reduce her in this way.

And then there’s the fact that it’s an personal identity and quite a specific cultural one, with ties to hipster culture and fucking electro performance art from 2002 and also art galleries and a whole bunch of stuff… and I’ve heard things from all parts of that particular culture that come down to ‘we don’t listen to brown people’s music’, more or less, not quite in so many words but almost. So, on those grounds alone I’d be tempted to take the whole thing and seal it in a box and toss it in the river.

But you’re quite right, there’s no need to disown feminism. On the contrary, I think using it precisely and when it means something, and not trying to apply it to absolutely everything, is the only way to go. And it doesn’t mean ‘women getting to do what they like’ or ‘women being individuals’ or any of the things celebs usually come out with. To be honest, when it comes to celebs, I’m more interested in the ones who say they’re not feminists and can articulate why.

I mean, if you are then say you are. But it’s a problem when we start thinking the proposition ‘I’m not a feminist’ is inherently absurd and dismiss women (specifically) who say it as not making sense. In fact I’ve been on the receiving end of that myself, and it is no fucking fun whatsoever. Apart from anything else – previous generations of feminists fought for women to be able to speak up in public on equal terms, and this wasn’t so we can then only lend a respectful ear to the ones we agree with.

Diana Yeboah // Posted 30 September 2010 at 12:53 pm

@Jen

Wow, that was so well written and well argued (I’m not being sarcastic), thanks. I agree with you in regards as feminism being used as a sort of baton to hit other people with. Though I have to say that I DO get annoyed when I read about celebrities like Posh Spice dismissing feminism because it’s not needed or is not an important movement anymore (for them at least). What delicious privilege you have! How lucky you are!

What then gets to me is that for some women especially those in the ‘developed’ world they may not think they need feminism (equality) anymore because, well they can vote and damnit, they LIKE having a man buy them dinner/open doors for them/buy the expensive gifts etc. Okay well that’s all well and good but I guess because I always link equality in regards to how it affects women from all backgrounds especially those from the ‘developing’ world (ie: my mother, grandmother etc) sadly equality is not the ‘done’ thing and cultural stereotypes are reinforced perhaps more strongly (or at least more blatantly) then in the ‘developed’ world.

I just can’t feel comfortable saying I’m not a feminist when there is so much visceral suffering going on around the world which is primarily faced by women. Suffering which doesn’t just end at the pay gap and maternity leave (though believe me, I’m not belittling it!).

Maybe what I’m railing against (and this is something that you clearly don’t embody) is the very blasé attitude that Tess Daley has (through the prism of the journalists obviously) which I have seen repeated through peers and it just seems to really play into that whole privilege ‘western’ ideology which makes me clench my fists.

Rose // Posted 30 September 2010 at 3:05 pm

I find the assumption that feminsim is some ‘white’ movement to be really disrespectful, and really unhelpful.

Domestic violence and rape do not only exist among white people, and they should not only be ended among white people, (as with (child)prostitution, etc).

I wouldn’t shun buddhism as something from India, that is therefore somehow for ethincally Indian people alone. Dispite the fact that the great buddhists through history have not been white, I consider buddhism to have race equality in the concepts being taught.

But while travelling in India, I got the feeling that feminism was considered ‘white’ and ‘western’, and therefore ethically lesser, and to be distained etc. I got the impression that for fear of seeming to have ‘white western’

behaviours/leanings some women were given less respect/freedom/education, to guard against ‘westernisation’ and all the spiritual degeneration that would, (off course), come will it.

Don’t just complain that the suffragettes were white, tell me what women in Africa were doing at the time, maybe not hitting headlines, but I bet they were trying to improve their quality of life, as women.

Surely feminism is one cultures word for what must be a global feeling. I bet there are other words, in other cultures, for the same feeling.

If feminsim is just white, western, and middle class – than it’s just a couple of crazies, who, on the global scale, can be safely ignored. If women all around the world express the same feeling, change will come.

But not if they’re too busy arguing about which country which word came from.

Jen // Posted 30 September 2010 at 3:17 pm

Diana,

Well, I’d have a problem with anyone saying that there’s no need for any concern regarding women’s equality anymore, in the same way as I’d start swinging punches at anyone who told me that poverty no longer exists.

If someone is speaking in terms of concerns that are, to say the least, a little frivolous, like we don’t need feminism because women get to buy lovely clothes on an equal basis to men these days, I’m basically going to blank them or wither them with a stare. That’s not even something I want to engage with. I don’t even have any sympathy towards campaigns like ‘sexism in the city’, or anything telling me that all mums are badass professionals these days and hire nannies (and the nannies are also badass professionals… right? No? Oh well, they meant the ‘important’ people). Or anyone complaining that women have less chance than men when getting favours from utter fucking exploitative bastards. Anything like that, I have no time for.

What Tess Daly was clearly saying is that any inequality in broadcasting is down to the women not working hard enough and they need to basically get over it. That’s consistent with her political direction generally, so you know, I’m not going to get pissed off over that in particular.

Then again, one thing I have a big problem with is taking stuff that celebrities say at face value. I’m not assuming their strings are being pulled by their management or PR, even though that is often the case. Sometimes they do their own management and PR. But when we look at their words, we’re not looking at something to be taken at face value, we’re looking at the script of an advert for their personal brand, or whichever other brands they represent. In no way do we EVER want to see ‘feminism’ in there. I don’t know if Daly’s personal views are any different, they may be worse, or they might just be completely different, or she might have done some incredibly cool things and not told anyone about it (after all, there are conscientious conservatives out there). Her personal views are also irrelevant to her brand. We won’t know what she thinks. Same with Victoria Beckam. So, it’s really a bit of a waste of time and energy to go over their words. What’s relevant is what they’re selling.

But you’re right about that blasé attitude, although I would argue it’s as present within feminist circles too, whether you think women are or aren’t equal, if it’s solely on the basis of frivolous shit, it still involves ignoring the vast majority of issues involved, and worse, it still involves approaching the whole deal as a kind of customer complaint: ‘we women have/want customer power and we’re gonna use it / it’s not right that we don’t have it’. Reading sites like this, I can see what provokes the most visceral anger, it’s consumer issues or stuff like celebs not calling themselves feminists. Plenty of women are on their feet twelve hours a day handing different sized clothes to customers or operating five automatic checkouts at once, and never see their kids, but I’m still seeing a feminism that’s more likely to go and complain to them that there are sexist magazines on the shelves or that the bananas are way phallic and threatening.

Jen // Posted 30 September 2010 at 3:25 pm

Rose,

“Don’t just complain that the suffragettes were white, tell me what women in Africa were doing at the time, maybe not hitting headlines, but I bet they were trying to improve their quality of life, as women.

Surely feminism is one cultures word for what must be a global feeling. I bet there are other words, in other cultures, for the same feeling.

If feminsim is just white, western, and middle class – than it’s just a couple of crazies, who, on the global scale, can be safely ignored. If women all around the world express the same feeling, change will come.

But not if they’re too busy arguing about which country which word came from.”

a/ I don’t think anyone is complaining that the suffragettes were white; as a matter of fact I don’t think Haile Selassie minded Sylvia Pankhurst being white.

b/as a matter of fact there were, and they were very much hitting the headlines. The information is there, if you’re interested, you can find it, look for Funmilayo Ransome Kuti and work from there.

c/ feminism isn’t a feeling, it’s a theory. There are struggles for women’s equality the world over, that is certain, hence it’s crap for a bunch of western feminists to be claiming the credit for all of it and for inventing the whole notion.

d/maybe, as long as that feeling isn’t ‘damn, I wish women could also be executives for the DeBeers corporation too! Oh wait, they can! But there are fewer!’

e/ well damn, if we can’t discuss our language and history but can discuss the minute comings and goings of the celebs we’re going to be a little bit fucked, which brings me back to the point that in that case we may as well stfu and get on with reading Heat magazine. Besides, arguing is awesome and keeps your brain nimble: you should try it!

Diana Yeboah // Posted 30 September 2010 at 5:16 pm

@Jen

Arguing *is* awesome! And I think at this point I will bow out. Well played Jen…well played.

Shinila // Posted 30 September 2010 at 6:20 pm

I have a friend who is so deadset against feminism and argues everything from ‘there’s more important things than sexist mags’ to race to ‘some girls were bitchy to me once.’ If feminism doesn’t sit right, there’s no obligation to call yourself a feminist. Or for feminists to argue against these anti-feminist cliches time again and again.

I don’t usually debate with people against feminism in real life, they can usually get heated quickly (about essentially women’s rights – this is honestly continually a problem for everyone). Hence, why, despite my feminist leanings, it’s only on certain feminist blogs I let these loose.

People get angry about women’s objectification etc, because it’s something Western women have to endure and it’s ridiculously in people’s faces 24/7. The extent of it, a lot of times unnecessary, is like we’re in some topsy turvy land… unlike the pay gap which is behind closed doors. Women are allowed to be angry. Women are allowed to call themselves feminists in wanting change – whatever that change may be. They don’t have to be threatened into feeling ashamed for things constantly, or that there are *more important things* to be concerned about.

If a person doesn’t want rights for women across the globe because they knew bitchy girls, that’s about as anti-feminst as it gets. Worse than your standard MRA’s gimmick – is a person that feels 5 billion women don’t *deserve* a fair deal. (And I’ve heard this a lot from women – like 5 billion women deserve to be in the throes of sexism because a girl bitched about them once). A lot of anti- feminist sentiments from people I know boil down to one thing: the hatred of women. Yawn.

Rose // Posted 30 September 2010 at 8:46 pm

@Jen

Looking at the online dictionaries, we’ve got that feminism is a movement, a belief, a doctrine, etc. we even have one saying it is ‘ influence of women, belief in or advocacy of it’.

I would say that there is a sentiment or feeling, (notable, one of injustice), that is the inspiration for giving a crap.

The ‘theory’, (whichever one you fancy), is far more ‘semantics’, which comes later.

In my opinion, it’s the semantics that divides. Sure, semantics in and of itself is an interesting study. But to me, feminism, in and off itself, is not semanitcs.

And yes, I said that women generally were doing stuff all over – but they’re not household names here. White feminists from english history are (sometimes) mentioned, if I want to know about black feminists, thats something that would take research.

(c/f, everybody knows Florence Nightingale, fewer people know about Mary Seacole).

Who claimed feminism started in the west? The word is western – it’s in a western language. I think that trying to export ‘that’ word can cause problems as a result. So, I’d like to hear the other words used for it in different parts of the world – I’ve already said that I think they’re out there.

Every group of people developed medicine – different styles, different names, same intention.

For the record, I have no idea who ANY of the ‘celebs’ named above are. (Apart from Bill Bailey). I have certainly never ‘celebrated’ them. I don’t know what the DeBeers corporation is. The only magazine I read is the new internationalist. I don’t were make-up, or high heels.

But I realise that ‘celebs’ hold alot of sway with alot of poeple, especially younger people. The voices of ‘popular culture’ have an effect on the culture.

I would rather it was a compassionate and beneficial one.

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