I hope you won’t think from my rant on Friday night that I think feminism in and of itself is dangerous, or that all feminists are as bad as the “Feminazis” (to use a term created by a thoroughly unpleasant right-wing talk radio host in American named Rush Limbaugh, though probably not in the same context he did) who say all men are vile and call for them to be oppressed or “bred out”.
Okay, you’re reading this blog, so you must be reasonably intelligent (or clinically insane — don’t worry, the men in white coats tell me they have a strait-jacket in your size), but still, I want to make it clear that I despise male chauvinists as well. There are idiots who say things like “but you can’t buy that, you’re a girl!”, in many stories at Not Always Right and Not Always Working, and there are also powerful men like Italian
dictator leader Silvio “Bunga-Bunga” Berlusconi, and Express and Star proprietor (and porn baron) Richard Desmond, who are gracious enough to also be homophobic, nationalistic, empire-building “I’m better than you, that’s what gives me the right” bullies. I say “gracious” because it’s easier to spot truly worthless excuses for H. sapiens when they do so much to show themselves up, isn’t it?
(Aside: yes, I think the Daily Express is a worthless paper, and more so than the Sun — even when they’re not printing conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana, or scare stories about immigration, they’re out-and-out lying on their front page to sell copies. I remember “BABY IS CLONED”, when it was a couple of cells, rather than the precursor to an army of evil human replicas, and “TSUNAMI RADIATION HITS BRITAIN”, which was actually a couple of particles from Fukushima in the upper atmosphere, rather than a glowing green cloud of radioactive death that will KILL US ALL!)
I haven’t always been such a fair-minded person who thinks males and females are equal, but fortunately (like most stupid teenagers) I grew out of that phase, and as an adult I try to say what I really mean, instead of what I hope will get people’s backs up. Don’t, however, assume that I’ve been “well trained” in my life, or that “right-thinking” feminists have “cured” me of my barbarian ways (whether you’re a woman and think would be a good thing, or a man and think that would be “letting the side down”). I stand for gender equality because I believe it’s the right thing to do, the same as my opposition to homophobia, racism and class warfare.
It seems ludicrous to me that any man would want to keep women out of jobs if they’ve got the skills to do the work, and even as a teenager I thought one jerky loudmouth in my class was stupid for vehemently claiming that “women belong in the kitchen” (my mother certainly doesn’t, as I’m sure she’d be the first to admit… sorry, Mumsy!). Then again, he was just an obnoxious thug who enjoyed soccer violence and often acted as my own personal demon, so doubtless he was just trying to hold a controversial viewpoint and — as I said above — get the girls’ backs up.
(Me, hold a grudge against someone I haven’t seen since 1996? Perish the thought!)
However, I’m not comfortable with positive discrimination and “all-wimmin shortlists” for the same reason: if a woman shouldn’t be denied a job just because of her gender, I think she also shouldn’t get it just because of her gender. This especially applies in public sector jobs, because they actually matter (they affect everyone’s lives, after all, unlike private companies whose services you can take or leave), and genuinely need the best people in them, regardless of any philosophy. Yes, I know I’m dreaming if I expect the top jobs to be decided by anything other than nepotism and back-scratching, but I’m talking about the jobs in the middle and at the bottom, where people actually, you know, do some work instead of voting for their own pay rises!
In addition, that kind of thing also builds resentment, and I for one would be upset at becoming “collateral damage” in the “war of the sexes”. Hopefully it won’t happen for real, though, and there’s no sense getting upset about something like this if it’s only ever going to come into play where two candidates are of equal worth. But I don’t think we can ever be truly equal while this artificial adjustment is in effect, so I hope it would only ever be a temporary measure to be used in special circumstances, and never become a way of life that men (or for that matter, white people) are told they just have to “put up with”.
Perhaps the issue of gender politics is like one of those doors that can open both ways: pull it one way and release it, and watch as it swings through the doorway and out the other side, perhaps all the way, then back through almost to you again, then back the other way again, and so on and so on until finally friction brings it to a halt (hopefully) in the middle. What we need to do is fit a damper so it “closes” properly, and stop “pushing” it so it swings away from us — whoever we are: this goes equally for old-fashioned chauvinists who think women should be subservient, and ultra-feminists who think men are “all the same”. If feminism aims not to push the door to the centre (which was its worthy original aim), but just to “push it as hard as possible the other way”, it will only create something like “masculinism” for disaffected men who want to “take back” some of the rights they feel they’ve lost compared to women. As a result the madness will continue, and no-one will be happy.
I stand by my claim that there is genuine anti-men sexism out there, because there’s something that bugs me almost as much as the Bertolli advert: ever heard of TubeCrush (don’t worry, that’s a link to the Wikipedia article)? It’s a website where women (and gay men) can upload pictures they took of men they fancied on the London Underground, but the men don’t have to consent, or even know about it. Such a thing focusing on women would be roundly condemned, and I have doubts that even a unisex version would be tolerated, but this men-only version is referred to as “just a bit of fun” by its defenders.
(No, I’m not jealous because I haven’t been featured on it, or worse, featured and given a low mark — not that even I’d know if I had; I’d happily consider it (but not automatically consent) if a woman had the decency to ask, since I’m entirely in favour of women being confident enough to break the ice, perhaps due to my innate shyness. Possibly not if a gay man asked, but hey, bring on my hero George Takei with his cameraphone and we’ll discuss it… oh myyy!)
It’s not enough to say that men have been ogling women like they’re sex objects for thousands of years: that continues to go on, and I’m sure plenty of women do it to men as well; only the most puritannical government would try to restrict our thoughts and desires. It’s a totally different situation from that: this is taking people’s photographs and uploading them to the Internet, for everyone to see and judge, without their consent, and if it would be abhorrent to do this to women, it’s abhorrent to do it to men. End of.
I’m gratified to know that there are women who object to this site as well as men (I certainly hope “female best friend” agrees, as she’s a very fair-minded person, as is my own mother). Most feminists (I hope!) do want equality, not to be “more equal than men”, and just as I don’t want to suffer for the crimes of other blokes, so I don’t want all feminists, or indeed all women, to be derided for the actions of their worst examples, or to feel they have to make an extra effort to prove they’re not like them. No-one should be compelled to “make up” for what someone else did of their own free will, or to prove they’re “not as bad” as them; we’re all individuals, and “sins of the father” really is old-fashioned and barbaric.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we certainly have to criticise any men who still behave like chavinists (like Hunter Moore and his obscene “revenge porn” website) — as soon as one person is oppressed, none of us are truly free. However, this goes equally for men being demeaned, and I mean it’s important for both genders: hypocrisy and “evening the score” doesn’t help the cause of feminism at all, it just ups the stakes and starts the door swinging again. Everyone matters, and we need to put a stop to this stupid “war of the sexes” and oneupmanship (or oneupwomanship), and find ways to live together in true equality!
Now, don’t you wish I’d stick to going on about Kenny Everett and climbing in this blog…? Well, tough tortillas! (Think how I feel: entries like this take me hours to write, when I should be playing/writing vidya gamez!)