Is feminism sexist? Umm…. no

On my way back from work I found the first part of this blog title on a tweet from the New Statesman. It led me to this article about Tom Martin, who is suing the London School of Economics (LSE) because he believes that their Gender Studies course is sexist. It’s interesting to read Jonathan Dean’s account, who was a Researcher at the LSE about his thoughts about the course. As the article in the New Statesman says, “it seems obvious that liberating women from gender-based discrimination would help men”, but I’m not sure that selling “house husbandry” is the motivation! But although I’d already blogged today, it really made me want to examine this.

The first feminist book that my feminist girlfriend lent me was Natasha Walter’s “Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism“. One of the things that the book picks up on fantastically is the gender roles we’re made to fit. Interestingly, both my girlfriend and I got irate on the same topic, but for different reasons – stereotypes and biological determinism. Walter says:

Instead of the unpredictable men and women we meet every day, who might be aggressive or nurturing, who might be solitary or gregarious, we are being asked to believe that all men and all women should fit templates modelled more on a pink doll or a blue robot than a real man or a real woman.

I was upset as according to some research “men are more interested in things, women in people.” Great. Perfect to know that I don’t relate well to people because of my gender. Fortunately Walter goes on to examine this theory and to discredit it to a large extent (I definitely suggest you read more!).

Jessica Valenti dedicates a chapter of her book “Full Frontal Feminism” to this. I bought it for Francesca for Christmas, little realising it was already on her book shelf – proof that a feminist boyfriend isn’t a perfect boyfriend! I then read it, pretty epic stuff. She says “Without dissecting how masculinity standards affect men, we’ll never be able to comprehensively address sexism and how it affects women.”

Which brings me back to the above topic. Stereotypes don’t benefit anybody, which is why Feminism isn’t sexist. Ally Fogg wrote a great piece on Dean Windass, who is an ex-footballer, on what this negative perception can lead to for some men.

Ally Fogg’s just tweeted that Tom Martin’s case was thrown out too.

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4 thoughts on “Is feminism sexist? Umm…. no

  1. sexuality says:

    Stereotypes benefit those who embody them. Feminists are rather more harsh to the majority of men who are steretypically masculine. If you happen to be more interested in things than people you’re rather screwed at school since feminists decided to make them a lot more female friendly. Project learning is pretty big now, literature is skewed towards social issues (no more war or strong male protagonists for you), science emphasises process over facts. A lot more guys than girls burn out in school because they find learning about people and emotions boring as they are stereotypically male and need stereotypically male teaching.

    Not that feminists care that much about helping men cry or be more feminine, referring to your explanation about why it’s not sexist. They talk about it a little but they don’t tend to spend any serious time helping men. They don’t tend to run campaigns to help men or push it with anywhere near the strength they push defending women or stopping stereotypes about women. They’re never gonna spend a fraction of the time they spend campaigning for breast cancer awareness campaigning for prostate cancer awareness. If feminists actually cared about equality people would know because they would run public campaigns about men which didn’t demonize them. Can you name one major effort by feminists to help men? I can’t.

  2. Thanks very much for commenting, you’ve raised some really interesting points.

    You are right that stereotypes have a place. They are often stereotypes for a reason – that they do reflect the way a lot of people are. But I think it’s dangerous to work in the context that only deal with stereotypes and that ignore outside factors. A stereotype in terms of employment is the ‘working man’, but then should we not question why women are being marginalised in terms of economic policy making in the UK. In terms of dealing with stereotypes there is no need to deal with this issue, but The Fawcett Society have highlighted figures that show recent rise in female unemployment but not male, why is this happening? http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1266.

    I’m intrigued to learn more about your point on eductaion, do you have more information on this?

    I can think of a few issues where Feminists have actively campaigned for laws that will benefit men, including increased paternity leave http://news.change.org/stories/paternity-leave-is-a-feminist-issue. Also some issues that Feminist organisations campaign on such as fair pay has a knock on effect for men on low incomes (including this campaign that the Fawcett Society are running against the cuts in UK Government spending – http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1208).

    I don’t agree that Breast Cancer is a Feminist issue, I think it’s an issue of gender with charities in the UK at least really targetting fundraising marketing to women. I’m not aware of any campaigns here around health spending, but I’m happy to be corrected if you have examples. Personally I would describe myself as a Feminist and I have fundraised and raised awareness for Prostate Cancer for the last 4 years. There are silly photos of me only with a moustache to prove it!

    The marketing campaigns I’m aware of don’t focus on denigrating men, but on equality gaps. I’m not personally aware of any that meet the criteria you mention, but I would personally condemn any demonise anybody from any gender, colour, race or sexuality.

    Thanks again for taking teh time to respond!

  3. thesecond says:

    “A stereotype in terms of employment is the ‘working man’, but then should we not question why women are being marginalised in terms of economic policy making in the UK. In terms of dealing with stereotypes there is no need to deal with this issue, but The Fawcett Society have highlighted figures that show recent rise in female unemployment but not male, why is this happening? ”

    Public sector cuts, I guess. Most government jobs are held by women and local councils have shed a lot of jobs because of budget cuts. I can see why the government is doing it- to tackle the debt spending has to be reduced and since most government spending is on women they’ll be affected more. I can see why women would be annoyed at this too.

    Surely this is a place where stereotypes are accurate and helpful. Men work in business jobs because they pay better, women work in feel good social government jobs, because those jobs let them raise a family and have a job. Stereotypes help you understand the issue.

    “I’m intrigued to learn more about your point on eductaion, do you have more information on this?

    http://roehampton.openrepository.com/roehampton/bitstream/10142/31811/2/From%2520Heroes%2520to%2520Zeroes.pdf

    This talks about it from a feminist perspective.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8085011.stm

    This talks about how women are ahead of men in pretty much every category for universities.

    “I can think of a few issues where Feminists have actively campaigned for laws that will benefit men, including increased paternity leave”

    That’s the only one I’ve ever seen pushed, thinking about it. Rarely though, mostly only in heavily socialist countries which speak different languages, making it hard to confirm the feminists being behind it. You cited a blog where a lady talked about it- have you ever seen a feminist organisation actually actively push it in england though, not just talk about it? Google turns up nothing for me.

    “Also some issues that Feminist organisations campaign on such as fair pay has a knock on effect for men on low incomes (including this campaign that the Fawcett Society are running against the cuts in UK Government spending ”

    The point of their post was that many women were paid low wages, and it was implied that since the public sector pays women better they could get higher wages through stopping cuts. It won’t effect low income men much, though I suppose some would gain jobs. Low income men often work in private sector things like construction or office jobs.

    “I don’t agree that Breast Cancer is a Feminist issue, I think it’s an issue of gender with charities in the UK at least really targetting fundraising marketing to women. ”

    Feminist organisations frequently do fund raisers for breast cancer. It’s a very obvious thing that anyone can see to test the sexism or lack in feminists. In general breast cancer gets more government money for research, and more money from charities, so it hardly has a paucity of cash.

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2007/tc20070612_953676.htm

    If feminism wasn’t sexist, you’d expect women to campaign to reduce female and male deaths. It’s something you can easily observe if you are friends with a feminist, whether they care more about males or females dying.

    “Personally I would describe myself as a Feminist and I have fundraised and raised awareness for Prostate Cancer for the last 4 years. There are silly photos of me only with a moustache to prove it!”

    While you and your moustache are inspiring, it’s fairly normal for males to be concerned about males and females to be concerned about females. It’s only really surprising when someone cares about both. Did any female feminists join you?

    “The marketing campaigns I’m aware of don’t focus on denigrating men, but on equality gaps. I’m not personally aware of any that meet the criteria you mention, but I would personally condemn any demonise anybody from any gender, colour, race or sexuality.”

    I’ve often seen posters which put the blame on men for most problems without distinguishing between those who commit crimes and those who don’t.

    Something like this.

    Most men don’t do any of the above so they can’t stop it. And those who can stop it mostly don’t care what feminists say.

  4. Lots of info here, thanks for this! No argument on more women working in the public sector, but I think factors such as flexible working come into it as much as a desire to do good. I don’t like the idea that either sex intrinsically has more morals.

    Public sector cuts are due to the deficit, no doubt about that, but a fairer examination in how those cuts are implemented would be good. Hard to get into this without getting party political as well, but vows to protect frontline services haven’t quite materialised from my experience in the voluntary sector.

    I agree that Feminist campaigns don’t run male-centric issues, but I think this would be mission-drift in terms of gender equality. I don’t think its a level playing field for women (and hasn’t been in my experience), so these issues have tended to be the focus. What I do think is that issues that they have campaigned on do benefit men (family friendly policies, Scandinavian style childcare that you mention).

    I agree that many men do work lower paid private sector jobs, but in Wales where 28% of employment is public sector because our private sector is so week, Feminist policies are actually having a positive effect on many men’s employment in the country, whether it’s their primary aim or not.

    Thanks for saying my moustache is inspiring (though you may not think so if you saw it!). I did have 3 female Feminist friends with me wearing novelty moustaches during the campaign (known as mo-sistas!). That’s my personal experience, whether that actually reflects general opinion is open to debate. The Feminists I know would be saddened by any death, no matter whose it was. I agree that there is a gender gap though, and I hope that more campaigning can increase the awareness amongst men.

    I see your point about that sign – it could be seen as blaming men for such things. But equally you might see it as empowering regarding domestic violence – that men are in control of these issues and can change them. Some tagged on to the end are a bit much though, war etc. are a human issue and not down to any gender.

    Apologies if I haven’t answered all of your points, it’s a bit late so I’m crashing out. I just wanted to blog about the new Plaid Cymru leader and wanted to answer you – I didn’t want you to think I was purposely ignoring your comments or keeping them from public view.

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