Feminism?

This is the first time I’ve ever written a blog, so I did a bit of research on the internet to find out what sort of thing people usually write about, let’s say for inspiration.

I enjoyed most of the fashion and style blogs I read, and I have a feeling that come Halloween I’ll be utilising some of the tips I’ve picked up.  Youtube tutorials also get a huge thumbs up.

However… A lot of blogs seemed to have some fairly radical opinions about feminism.  I’m no expert on feminism but I am glad and grateful that as a woman in this country I have the same rights as any man – the opportunity to vote, to study at higher education and to choose whether to work or not.  I know this certainly isn’t the case in many other countries and cultures around the world and I hope this does change, but maybe I feel that change should come from within.

I have read statistics about inequality in pay and promotion between men and women, but I also tend to take these with a pinch of salt.  Having studied statistics in the final year of my degree I understand that they can be very misleading, interpreted incorrectly and without knowledge of the sample type and size etc I’m very reluctant to draw any conclusions.  (Eg 99% of people sampled agreed with fox-hunting… In a fox-hunting club – For anyone interested in statistics there are lots of amazing books out there, I’ve read a few and found them really helpful, especially The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow.)   I also think that individuals should be paid and promoted depending upon their skills and ability to do the job, not because of their sex, gender or any other factor.

But the issue that I have with the feminist blogs was some of the comparisons that were made, for example between housewives in the 1920s and today’s ‘housewives’ (the desperate type and those on reality TV).  I think that the authors were missing one important factor, that in the 1920s, women really didn’t have the choice whether or not to work.  Using today’s reality TV housewives as a indication of female oppression and male superiority really doesn’t seem to ring true with me.  Reality TV is not something that I watch regularly (maybe because I live in probably the only street in Dundee where you can’t get Freeview or Virgin), but I’ve seen snippets.  I don’t admire the women in these shows, but they certainly come across as confident, powerful and used to getting exactly what they want.  I would like to see any man try and oppress them.

I think I would much rather read a well researched article about the lives’ of women in parts of the world where oppression really is a factor, rather than a provocative piece on how men really rule the world.  I find it frustrating!

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    6 Responses to “Feminism?”

    1. Fiona Curran

      Hi Kayleigh! I’m one of the other student bloggers on here, and upon seeing your post here decided that as a raving angry feminist I should probably put my two cents in. 😛

      While, yes, the United Kingdom does have excellent equality legislation and freedom for women compared to how Afghanistan women’s lives were controlled under the Taliban or in Britain 200 years ago, there is still a lot of inequality in how the law treats women. For example, the law was only changed in the 90s to make nonconsensual sex in marriage illegal; the logic was that you can’t be raped by your own partner. Even on seemingly less serious issues it enforces cultural stereotypes, such as maternity leave; men get a shorter paternity leave than women’s maternity leave, which encourages stereotyping of women as the natural born caretakers and men as the less caring bread winners.

      Yes, pay and promotion should be based on a meritocracy, and we shouldn’t treat people differently because of their sex/gender/class/race/orientation/opinion of the colour blue – I’m really glad you think so! But the truth is this happens, and we can’t ignore that. While men don’t, in the strictest sense, rule the world, they do make up the majority in the media (which controls how we see the world), the parliament and the legal system (those who make and apply our laws), shown in the fawcett society’s report Sexism and the City (http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=519 ). While most of these men probably aren’t women hating, there’s a lot of ingrained sexism in our society and bias to men that is usually completely unintentional.

      One of the main issues in media is the objectification of women – from the smurfette principle to how women are treated in pornography. Women aren’t treated as characters equal to men in a lot of film and literature; there’s only one female avenger in the new film, the gypsy girls in big fat gypsy wedding (an economically deprived group itself) are mocked and derided, Amy from Doctor Who isn’t allowed to grieve or express any human reactions to the horrifying experience of being reduced to her biological functions as a container for a baby raised to be a weapon, etc etc etc.

      In Cosmo and in advertising, we’re taught that we need to have this narrow, digitally altered, unattainable beauty, that we need to be up to date on this trend, that we need to focus all our efforts into attracting and keeping men. At the same time, we’re being slammed for trying to hard, for expressing our sexuality – only the other day I saw a facebook page entitled ‘that one girl who acts all innocent but is totally a slut’. Jean Kilbourne’s ‘Killing Us Softly’ films are an excellent look at the treatment of women in advertising and how it affects our attitudes (found here – http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1993368502337678412 ).

      One of the issues I focus a lot on is rape culture – how rape is treated in society. The sad truth is that it’s often ignored, excused for or blamed on the victim. ‘you shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt’, ‘you we’re clearly asking for it’ and ‘you shouldn’t have been drinking so much’ are all examples of victim blaming. Heck, I’ve heard some of these from my own family members! It would do everyone well to remember that the rapist is the only one responsible for their actions, and should not be excused.

      Arg, this turned into far more of a text block than I’d intended. :L But yeah, women in the UK are fairly liberated, but there’s a heck of a lot of issues that still need tackled!

      • Kayleigh Wood

        Hey

        Yes, appointing blame to a victim for ‘encouraging’ rape is completely wrong and an attitude that should be addressed on all levels. I do believe though, that things such as gender stereotyping, media influence and rape aren’t specific to women; male rape is still treated as taboo and what man wouldn’t feel inadequate compared to Batman? Equality for everyone!

        Kayleigh

        PS HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT OUR MYDUNDEE MEDICINE STUFF IS UP WITH 1ST YEAR INFO!!!!! Saw the site was updating today, hopefully it will be fully updated by tomorrow! There are lots of links on the medblog sections with matriculation dates, recommended textbooks, welcomes from the dean of medicine and head of anatomy. There are also links to medical societies etc etc!

        Very excited, found the surgical society and apparently there is a conference in London in October for medical students. I think if I start saving now I might be able to afford the train fare!

        • Fiona Curran

          I definitely agree that men (as well as trans and non binary gendered people) suffer from stereotyping and poor treatment in media – the pressure for hypermasculinity in West of Scotland Culture has been linked to the higher suicide rate in WoS men as opposed to women, as they feel they cannot express or discuss their emotions and problems – but I would argue that a lot of male gender stereotypes are far more positive for men than they are for women; men are portrayed as strong, sensible, assertive and ruled by reason, whereas women are supposed to be nurturing (which is tied into the ye olde but still appropriated ideal of being entirely focused on men), indecisive and ruled by their emotions, which is all in all a more damaging stereotype. In the Killing Us Softly films (yup, I am plugging this again!), it does look at how the media treats men, but also points out how massively unequal the portrayal is. Batman is not meant for men to compare their own actions to – he acts as a representation of male justice and strength, and has excellent character development and agency. By contrast, comics treat women appallingly; The Amazing Spiderman had four named female parts – one of those was Peter’s unamed mother, and the other one was Gwen’s mother. Women are either mothers or love interests, and when they are heroes they are also sexually objectified and aren’t allowed the same agency and rights as male characters (an excellent example of this is the ‘Women in refrigerators’ trope – for more see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DInYaHVSLr8&feature=relmfu )

          Fee

          P.S. OOOOH, no I hadn’t! I was on only the other day and hadn’t noticed anything, but I’ve checked it and it looks really interesting! I think I might get the recommended books while I’m there, so I can try for second hand.

          I’m not sure what med societies I might join yet – there’s loads of non medical ones I want to join too! – but maybe some of the charity ones would be good. I’ll see about the London conference!

          • Kayleigh Wood

            Hey

            While I think that glossy magazines can make women feel insecure about unattainable bodies etc, I do disagree with some of your points.

            I strongly believe in creative freedom, if an author wants to have strong or weak characters, male or female, alien, mythical, magical or animal (I am thinking of Puss in Boots here 🙂 ), I believe that is entirely their choice. If Martin Goodman wants strong masculine heroes and weak women that is fine by me; it is his imagination and if I don’t like it I have the choice not to watch/ read/ listen to it.

            I don’t believe that stereotypes of women being nuturing or even emotional are unfair. I think that a mother is a strong character, empathetic, an excellent listener and not to mention the pain of childbirth that they endure.

            I have to argue that biologically and biochemically men and women are different. I have never come home to find my boyfriend crying and upset for absolutely no reason other than hormones…

            I won’t watch the films as I suspect they will have a strong bias and agenda. I am probably a sceptic – I tend not to believe anything I’m told – and I always try to see things neutrally and objectively. I think that things ultimately change with perspective.

            Kayleigh

            PS 9 days to go! 🙂

    2. Fiona Curran

      Hi Kayleigh!

      Yes, on the simplest level authors and scriptwriters have a right to create whatever art they wish, and if that art is sexist I do not have to support that work. However, they are human just the same as the rest of us, and are victim to the same conscious and unconscious stereotyping as the rest of us – yes, authors can have weak characters, but it is not okay to remove a character’s agency and fail to develop them because they are not male. Furthermore, this is an industry wide problem; I can’t say ‘I don’t like how this scriptwriter tokenises women and PoCs; I will go see whatever other action thriller is on in the cinema’ – nearly ALL of them are like that.

      When we are fed almost purely the same image of women, it’s going to leave an imprint in our associative memory. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts tested two groups of women starting college with identical stated views regarding attitudes to women, one group at a women’s college and one at a coed, on an Implicit Associations Test (IAT), which shows the effect of external influences such as the media and culture on the implicit beliefs. Both groups were slow to associate women with leadership, but a year later the women’s college students had improved, while the coed students had slowed even further. Despite this, neither group had changed their stated views. This, the researchers hypothesised, was due to the women’s college students being more exposed to examples of women in leadership roles, which shaped their implicit attitudes to women. (For more on how the media shapes our attitudes, check this blog post http://feministdisney.tumblr.com/post/13250073610/privilege-in-the-happily-ever-after )

      The same shaping of the subconscious is happening to all of us with portrayals of women in media – we may not think we pay attention to sexism, or may not even see the stereotypes, but the prevalence of the same stereotypes repeated over and over are going to change how we view women.

      No, the stereotypes of women being intuitive or nurturing are not obviously negative, but they are incorrect. William Ickes developed what is widely considered to be the most accurate test for estimating the empathising ability of an individual (google this – his work is fascinating!), and found that regardless of location and culture, women and men scored the same in the first seven studies; the only studies in which they didn’t was, he pointed out, when women were reminded that they were supposed to be better at this, thus giving them an incentive. The idea that women are better at dealing with emotions and families, unlike the ‘obsessed with shopping’ and ‘can’t make decisions’ stereotypes, aren’t directly harmful, but they perpetuate the idea that women are intrinsically better suited to being stay at home mums rather than bread winners. Men are just as good as women at parenting, and have the same skillset – men too go through hormonal changes before birth and right through parenthood, and the idea that women are better suited to parenting is damaging to them too.

      As a mad nut who loves reading scientific research on this stuff, I must disagree and say that there are remarkably less differences between the two sexes than is made out. I can’t back this up at the moment because nearly all my gender studies books are packed away, but a lot of psychologists argue that the psychological symptoms of hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle such as mood swings are subconsciously exaggerated, as we attempt to fit into society’s image of what a woman on a period acts like. I personally dislike the ‘you’re just acting this way because you’re on your period’ comment (though I know that you weren’t suggesting this in the slightest!), because it suggests that my temperament is based on my bodily functions, and basically my sex – though I won’t deny that cramps do make me a bit grouchy. 😛

      Fee

      P.S. I know! I can’t believe it’s only four days till I’m leaving home! Scared and nervy, but also really looking forward to it!

      • Kayleigh Wood

        Hi

        Yes, female characters in action films do all seem to be pretty useless (or pretty and useless). Particularly the Transformers movies; I felt the female character was so weak that after the movie I left the cinema disappointed and confused about the purpose of whatever-her-name-was.

        …But I do think that the media effect is grossly exaggerated. Some movies may have weak female characters, but I think people are much more exposed to the public around them. Everyday I interact with, friends, family, colleagues, customers, patients, shop assistants, people in the street… I might spend 2 hours watching a movie but the rest of the day is spent interacting with real people.

        I think my point is about bias and perception. If I set out looking for female oppression then it’s quite easy to find, but when I am objective and rational it is far less obvious.

        Eg WonderWoman – a body-confident, powerful female superhero vs a lycra clad male sexual fantasy

        or… Batman – a heroic icon of male strength vs a rubber clad female sexual fantasy

        (I use terms very loosely here – I’m sure that a gay/bisexual man could be very much attracted to batman, and many females may not be, and so on…)

        I think it is wrong to assume that the portrayal of weak female characters is solely patriarchal, because sometimes women can really damage themselves. The female protagonist in the Twilight series seems above and beyond the stereotype of a woman whose life revolves around a man, which I do find depressing. On the other hand many of Shakespeare’s plays have strong female roles such as Rosalind and Beatrice.

        There are really very few studies that stand up to any degree of statistical scrutiny; many of the methodologies are flawed, non-repeatable and non-falsifiable. For example the college study you mention – the results may be slightly suggestive, but are certainly not conclusive. There are so many other factors such as quality of teaching at the respective college, the courses that the students are studying, their academic capabilities…

        My main concern was the number of angry ‘men rule the world’ type blogs that used misleading claims, poor science and incompatible comparisons to support their arguments. I think that these strengthen the ‘silly emotional woman’ stereotype that they are trying so hard to dispute.

        Men and women are biologically different, not just hormonally. Men may have the same skills but their bodies don’t produce milk and they don’t give birth or experience the physical effects of pregnancy. A man can’t force a woman to have an abortion as it is her body, even though it may be his child. I would argue that personality and temperament are based entirely upon genetics and environment (and the interaction between these); sex is a part of that, but again, so are many other things.

        I consider myself a feminist in that I believe women should have equal rights – I think that all people are different but equal. I do disagree with unfair treatment, for example when women are asked their marital status at interview. On the other hand I don’t object to some generalisations as they can be useful; rationally, it’s highly unlikely that any person will be able to get to know everybody else individually. As female rights have only been legally recognised within the last century I think that society as a whole will need time for the changes to become fully established.

        Kayleigh

        PS EEEEEEEEE FRESHERS’ WEEK!

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