Bringing you regular rage against the patriarchy, drenched in sarcasm and capslocks #FEMINISTFRIDAY

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Feminist Fridays – Pop v Academic

Today we’ve decided to do this through email because we’re both busy. Particularly because she has to revise for her exams. Which, I can only imagine means any discussion on feminism and personal politics provides the ideal procrastination, along with of course, Facebook, YouTube and all the rest of that jazz.

If I remember correctly, I started using Facebook around about the time my dissertation was due, which meant around 200 words out of 20,000 were being written per day, but I was however, getting 10 out of 10 on the ‘How well do you know Chandler from Friends?’ quiz and poking people left, right and centre (sounds like something you could catch an STI from, well, I was young, I was careless, we all do things we regret…). 

Anyway on to why we are here, or more accurately, what you have stumbled upon. I generally emailed my niece to find out what she wanted to talk about and see how she is and she mentioned listening to angry music to get her through the revision period and we started talking about ‘girl power’ music. The likes of Pixie Lott and Kelly Clarkson (apparently this is music now, you see it was all about En Vogue and early Destiny’s Child in my day), so we had a discussion about girl groups and female singers as feminists and whether this is really feminism.

I recall around x-factor time and the love/hate that surrounded LittleMix (not that either lasted long, the minute the show was done, so was the support, Britain you’re so fickle). They were pitched as ‘just normal girls, who won’t steal your boyfriends’ (gees) or ‘role models for young women’. Some people loved it and others hated it. And, so started the debate of pop vs academic feminism all over my twitter feed. Admittedly it is difficult to vision LittleMix as the third wave of feminism, but is that actually what we are asking of them? No. Too much of the commentary around this debate are extremes of both ends and both are unhelpful.

Pop culture is what modern feminism needs to be

Well, no it’s not. If it was, then women would be even more confused of their identities than they are now. Mixed messages of ‘I don’t need a man’ lyrics alongside a video that appeals only to stereotyped male heterosexuals as a new wave of feminism is just offensive.

Pop culture is derogatory to feminism, women should focus on radical feminism and feminist research

Again, no. When women and young girls are bombarded with pop culture images and pressures, at what point do you think they will stop and think ‘Hey, I’m going to switch MTV off and read this book on feminist theory.’ Oh please, get off your high horse. 

But there is a middle ground, one I firmly believe in. There is little point in arguing amongst ourselves about what type of feminism  is best, when the window of opportunity to positively influence and create feminist activism is so narrow. We should instead be focusing on using all methods and every avenue. If a young women listens to a ‘girl power/spice girls-esq’ track (although, I hope, without any patriotic, flag related wardrobe) and feels empowered and starts to think about women as strong and not defined through a relationship with a man (music being shamefully centred around straight relationships) why can’t we embrace that rather than belittling it? I’m pretty sure, that’s where my feminism started. By saying it isn’t ‘real feminism’ we bring this back to being something only intellects can discuss, and bring it back to the issue I wrote about last week; confidence and young women feeling they don’t know enough or aren’t clever enough to talk about such things. 

What we need is the bridge. The link that connects pop culture girl power to feminist debate and activism. The way we get that young women to listen to a bit of Beyonce, feel strong, but know that allowing herself to be referred to as a ‘ho’ is not ok and then make a placard and join a pro choice demo….ok, maybe I’m over reaching.

What I would love to see is feminism using pop culture for all it’s worth and this being an accepted beginning of a feminist journey; leading to the debates and leading to campaigning to make change.

I know that this appeals to my niece and probably many of her friends. It’s current, it’s simple, and it’s relatable. The hope being, that next time they are getting ready for a night out and they hear the latest single by LittleMix, they remember some of these discussions and think about it in a slightly different way, perhaps even critiquing it themselves, and feel genuinely empowered to learn more about ‘woman power’.


Feminist Fridays – Confidence

So the first, of what I hope will be many, Feminist Fridays begins with my niece. (If this is news to you I’d suggest reading the previous blog, or not, it’s not rocket science, I’m sure you’ll follow). We’ve decided that when we can, we will meet, if not we will have phone conversations. This was a compromise of her doing. I take no solace in the knowledge that she could, and probably would, put me on mute or make crackling noises and pretend she’s going through a tunnel when I say something she doesn’t like. (Side note: I do this to my mother, which means I am doing something similar to someone else as she does to me. But that is most definitely a blog in itself *shudder*)

So we meet at a coffee shop, I order a regular tea, she orders some skinny decaf mocka-latte chat and there is some generic jazz playing in the background, whilst our orders get repeated several times to several different people behind the counter. This is my attempt at imagery; we’re in a standard, chain, coffee shop, work the rest out yourself. The reason I highlight it though, is because I like this. It’s a modern setting for what, I hope, will be a modern discussion.

I come with no agenda, part of me considered putting together a weekly curriculum and my narcotic side wanted to, badly, it also wanted to make a Gantt chart, but I resisted. I call that growth (it’s been long overdue). You see, that would utterly disempower her, and the whole point is the opposite. I need her to feel that these conversations are her’s to control and take where she wants. Whilst having an element of control myself, obviously, God knows where it would go if I didn’t…

So we started the discussion about what she had seen on the news/online, since this was why she wanted to chat in the first place; this went through the saddening flaws of our justice system, when racism is actually racism, Iraq and pensions. Of course, again, I am no scholar and was essentially giving her bits I’ve picked up in press and personal, sometimes naive, opinion (perhaps not the best, but will do for now). The point is actually just encouraging this as conversation. We talked for a while and she had opinions, was articulate in expressing them and, most of the time, was quite accurate.

I then asked her why she even felt she needed to have these conversation, when she is perfectly able to as I do; watch, read, listen, discuss and form an opinion. What it came down to was confidence.

And maybe that’s where we need to start; giving young woman confidence. We’ve worked on women’s self-esteem before, many a time, but it’s always been about appearance. Now we need to make it about intellectual confidence, leadership confidence, confidence in themselves and in their capacity to make change. But this isn’t easy. A lot of effort and resource has gone into pushing healthy dieting and fighting size zero etc and still we’ve got a long way to go. The percentage of teenage girls who believe they would be happier if they were thinner is, sadly, astonishingly high -60% in a BBC survey in 2009.

Asking them to be confident, especially about their intellectual capacity, is even harder because we are asking them to do is not conform, we are asking them to not follow perceived stereotypes – and that’s not easy, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and say: “No, I don’t think that’s right, all of you around me have it wrong”, especially when you’re a young girl, between the ages of say 10-14, whose priority (rightly so) is to make friends and have fun. But, to make feminism relevant it’s at this age that we need to begin a re-education and an introduction to political confidence.

It must have taken an amazing amount of courage for a woman to stand up in the 1870’s and deduce:

  • Society and British law is wrong
  • I should be entitled to vote
  • I am going to voice this against a majority that don’t agree

What today’s feminism needs is for much younger women to stand up and do the same (not for the vote, obviously, though I would like more young people to use it…I’ve just noticed my use of ‘young people’…I’d like to now point out I am not that old) But, it takes courage, it takes confidence. And that is where it needs to begin. A movement of confidence for young women, especially teenage girls, to be able to feel competent and secure in having opinions, questioning the world around them and debating how they want their world to be.

And then what will happen? Feminism will naturally blossom.

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