Aux armes, citoyennes


The other day a storm erupted on Twitter and in blogs about an article in a magazine. The argument was about little*, really, a storm in a teacup, but it raged for several days. The even odder thing was that it didn’t pit right against left, but consisted of feminists, female and male, arguing with each other as if enemies.

The popular mythology is that feminism has triumphed, men and women equal in society. A great symbolic photo in November showed President Obama being greeted on arrival by female Governor-General, Prime Minister, ACT Chief Minister. Women head major corporations, institutions, public service departments; succeed in all professions (including the military).

But underneath the neat symbolic photos and the few excellent women at the top, things are not quite so rosy. A woman prime minister? She is the subject of misogyny, often really nasty (with threats to kill her), every day. Women’s pay is still much lower; while one or two make it to the top, most of the next management levels are still men; the battle for paid maternity leave revealed many politicians who want women back in the 1950s; equal opportunity legislation is attacked; sexist jokes flourish in “anti-pc” times; adverts openly portray women as either dumb or harridans; many women proudly say “oh no, I’m not a feminist”.

In Australia and elsewhere, gender equality, taking off like a rocket in the 60s and 70s, is falling back to Earth as the last booster fails.

The bad guys are winning, and the rocket falls with gathering speed, back to where it started. Many of us I think sense this, but don’t quite know what to do about it. Which is why, I think, the storm erupted the other day. Nerves are edgy, opinions are varied, approaches are debated, solutions hotly contested. The heat is on and temperatures are fraying.

Much the same in other areas, most notably conservation, gay rights, education, social services. Everywhere you look it seems, conservative, religious, business, political operators, with the active help of large sections of the media, are pushing back successfully against the social and environmental advances of the 60s and 70s. The political scene is like the aftermath of a battle, a battlefield where small groups are trying to fight a conservation battle here, a childcare battle there, a battle for gay marriage on the other side, support for unemployed being challenged on one hand, glass ceilings are replaced with concrete ones over the road. If we fight these battles singly we’ll lose them all.

Time I think, not just for all women to work together to change views from “I’m not a feminist” to “I’m not a feminist, but …”, to “of course I’m a feminist, want to make something of it?”, but for all progressive groups to work together. It was hard coming out of the fifties, when the conservatives were taken by surprise by the progressive movement. This time they are ready for us and have the weapons.

Progressives united can never be defeated.

* this is not to say the issue, the use of the word “hysterical” to describe a woman writer’s tv appearance, was not of interest/importance, just that by any measure it was a small issue in relation to the reaction. Although that reaction was compounded, rather like a nuclear chain reaction, by the vehemence of the opinions expressed and the increased personalising of the debate.

The original article by Justin Shaw is here
Three of the major subsequent debaters have also posted on the topic (as have many others apparently):
Tammi Jonas
Ben Pobjie
Jennifer Wilson

If there are any blog readers who like what I have been doing on the blog it would be good if you could put in a vote for me in the “Shorty Awards” blogger category. Really good! You have to say, in a few words, why you are voting for me (@watermelon_man) in the blogger category. And that’s it really.