Thursday, January 26, 2006

Still fighting the battle after it's won

Feminist Natasha Walter in the Guardian:

I am sitting on a platform at the ICA with Naomi Wolf, and a young woman speaks up from the audience. "Where has our women's movement gone?" she asks. I am struck by her impatience and the anger that is voiced by other young women in the room. ….

Although some advances were made [by feminism] and no ground has been lost, that optimism has now dissipated. This is not just about what has happened at Westminster, though part of the new cynicism is about that, since the promise that the beginning of the 21st century would see a more women-friendly politics has foundered in the macho, centralised culture of New Labour. It is symptomatic of these depressing times that people have stopped even drawing attention to the absence of women at Westminster. Now we can move from one leadership struggle to another in which women do not even come within touching distance of the robes of power and nobody seems to get angry about their absence.

But when I say political I'm not talking just about Westminster. The importance of political feminism is that it can take what women currently experience as personal, separate issues and join them up into the bigger picture - the persistent and outrageous inequality of women throughout society. Right now women writers, lawyers, politicians and campaigners go on working on single issues, such as childcare or rape law or equal pay, often with some success, but nobody is talking about how these things connect within a wider pattern of inequality, an inequality that persists through the generations and the classes.

Because this wider picture has got lost, the struggles women face in their daily lives are seen by and large as private, not collective. The language of choice - women choosing to get plastic surgery, women choosing to stay home with their kids - is spoken without any feminist analysis of the forces that drive these so-called choices. Even when people do recognise the economic, political and social inequality that still prevents women from making free choices, they tend to shrug their shoulders, to slip into cynicism and inertia. The language of biological determinism is often lazily used to excuse this inertia.

Strikes me that what really makes Ms Walter angry is the fact that not enough other people want to waste their short, precious lives being angry.


Hey Skipper said...

This is precisely the sort of analytically challenged spew that makes me move with all possible, but too often inadequage, haste for the sick sack.

What I am struck by is -- no surprise here -- the glaring irony perfusing this drivel from start to stop.

How so?

I'll bet serious money this woman takes Evolution for granted. Yet despite taking Evolution as a done deal, she proceeds as if it doesn't exist.

It is hard to imagine how the life circumstances facing men & women could be any more different without them becoming different species. Yet somehow this isn't supposed to leave a mark on what women and men respectively view as life goals.

Feminism, to its credit, gained for women control over their own lives.

Having done so, it is the height of hubris to demand those autonomous decisions conform to preconceived outcomes.

Susan's Husband said...

No, I think what she's really upset about is that those other women are getting on with their lives and their projects without making her important and central.

Brit said...

You're free to choose the rat race sisters! I said you're free to choose the rat race - so bloody well choose it, damn you!

Duck said...

During Victorian times many well-to-do women were absolutely opposed to the suffragette movement. Politics and industry was seen as dirty men's business, these women looked at their position in the home as the nurturer of children and the central glue of the family unit as the morally superior role.

It is interesting how the feminist movement starts from a diametrically opposite viewpoint. The dirty little open secret about feminism is that it denigrates traditional female roles as it exalts the traditional male role. Skipper's irony meter must be in the high red on that fact.