Am I a feminist? Or why a woman without a label is like a fish on a bicycle

15 Apr

FishOnBicycleAnd we have yet another article on feminism, this one titled “Am I a feminist?” prompted, it appears, by Senator Penny Wong’s call to all Australian women to identify ourselves by that label, because a woman without a label is like a fish on bicycle or something something something politics.

The most interesting comments in this latest feminist selfie come from Paula Matthewson, who points out that Senator Wong’s real intention in exhorting us to proudly embrace feminism  is likely to be entirely politically motivated, rather than springing from warm fuzzy feelings of sisterhood strong enough to cross the political divide. That is, the good Senator doesn’t really want ALL women to be feminists, because if Liberal women identify as such, Labor loses the high moral feminist ground. Matthewson also rightly reminds us that it is not in a conservative’s nature to be an activist, therefore feminism would seem an anathema to Liberal women, something Wong must be aware of, making her call for feminist unity somewhat disingenuous.

Matthewson’s observations settled on my soul like a dank cloud. I took to my bed, where I embarked on a period of extended navel gazing that led to me discovering enough lint, as my good Twitter friend @newswithnipples put it, to felt a blue tie.

I have long suspected that feminism has been so thoroughly co-opted by capitalism and politics as to be rendered utterly meaningless. To understand as well that Penny Wong has now become the Alain de Botton of feminism is, frankly, more than I can stomach, and confirms my worst suspicions.

As de Botton dumbs down complex philosophical concepts into mere self-help twaddle, so forces beyond my control have dumbed-down feminism to “issues” of having IT all, self-actualisation by way of cosmetic surgery, and the freedom to be who we want to be, whatever the hell that means, ask Alain de Botton.

When a movement degenerates into mental masturbation about who is entitled to be in it and who is not, and disingenuous political exhortations to the effect that everyone should be, it’s a sign the movement has ceased significant movement. Like the ALP, feminism has disappeared so far up its own fundament, it’s blinded by the shit in its eyes.

19 Responses to “Am I a feminist? Or why a woman without a label is like a fish on a bicycle”

  1. voradams April 15, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    I am more an equalist than feminist. I believe women should do everything a man does, but not fall back on “but I am a woman” defense. You fail or succeed on your merits and not because you identify as a subset of humanity.


  2. stewarthase April 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Is it possible that you may be over thinking this? If I suggest that we should all do something about climate change am I being disingenuous because I know in saying it that it is an impossible ask. There are certain people who cannot do this for myriad reasons. This all reminds me of the horizontal violence I found in nursing where they eat their young because they weren’t able to eat anyone else.

    Is ejecting Wong because she cannot be a true member of the club because of apparent, but not proven, disingenuousness at all useful to feminism? Is being an ideologue better than being pragmatic?


  3. silkworm April 15, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Paula Matthewson, aka Dragonista, is an LNP hack, and a traitor to womankind. If I were you, Jennifer, I’d disregard everything she says.


  4. paul walter April 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Jennifer, what would be your considered response to Silky’s charge?


    • helvityni April 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      Isn’t she one of the Howard’s advisors…Dragonista, I mean..

      Penny Wong on the other hand is a wonderful role-model to any young woman, being lesbian and of Chinese background in South Australia could not have been easy, yet look at her now. She is one of our most honourable politicians, she ought be our PM one day.


      • paul walter April 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

        I actually re-read Dragonista’s comments and even they aren’t that much help- its a tough, dry old bird as to the reading itself.
        Wong has overcome being a gay person of Chinese background, but maybe being South Australian was a bridge too far… was very disappointed in her last comment on QA, where she commented dishonestly as to Bob Carr’s revelations- featured else where- on cabinet deliberations re the zio lobby.


  5. megpie71 April 15, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    I tend to believe it’s possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons. For example, in the USA at present, McDonalds is giving away two toys with their kids Happy Meals – one “My Little Pony” toy, and another toy whose name escapes me at present. They’ve recently changed their policy from asking whether people want the “girl’s toy” or the “boy’s toy” in these meals to asking whether people want the MLP toy or the other one.

    Why? Well, it actually has to do with the bronies – the adult male fans of My Little Pony – who were incensed that their pwecious fandom could be described as being for girls. How dare someone (even the pimply faced teenager at the local Maccas) insinuate there was something wrong with their masculinity by saying they liked something girly.

    So, on the upside, toys in McDonalds Happy Meals in the USA are being offered to purchasers without gender roles attached, which is a Good Thing, and something a lot of feminists and parents would approve of. On the downside, it’s being driven by the sort of toxic masculinity which has made googling My Little Pony something of a minefield in recent years, and led to young girls being put off the fandom altogether, which is not a good thing. Hopefully, the practice of referring to the toys sans gender roles will continue even after the MLP toy has been removed from supply, thus salvaging a good thing out of an evil circumstance.

    A good thing has happened for poor reasons. In the same way, if Penny Wong’s call for more women to openly identify as feminist actually succeeds in making more women openly identify as feminist (or better yet, leads to more younger women reading up on what feminism has meant over the past century or so, and what’s been achieved, as well as what’s left to achieve) then that will be a Good Thing as well. That it might come from the bad place of partisan politics is beside the point.

    (Incidentally: I identify as a feminist who tries for intersectionality in her feminism).


    • paul walter April 16, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

      “Give me the child, I will give you the adult”- old quote, not verbatim.


  6. hudsongodfrey April 16, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    What if you were to treat the question of who claims to be a feminist as a freedom of speech issue?

    If the goals of the movement are as broad and egalitarian as are often claimed then why would anyone NOT either belong or take an interest in it. So that if everyone either actually or potentially does belong then it simply makes no sense to suppose they all agree about everything even if they do mainly sign up for the core values. Thus as a matter for this marketplace of ideas of ours it’d make reasonable sense to argue that some of the things we know people claim in the name of feminism, or of any other political movement, are demonstrably inaccurate, which view we can hopefully articulate and should if we want to make a more positive contribution.

    The one thing I’ve learned over the past few years of trying to be a better listener is that there is seldom, if ever, a complete lack of common ground on every single aspect of our politics between any two people. Even Paula Matthewson with whom I rarely agree, but nevertheless respect for her ability to generally tackle issues rather than personalities, can teach us something about how to think towards feminists with whom we disagree; granted that she’s occasionally one of them.

    Where I’d differentiate is against saying that this person or that isn’t a feminist and in favour of saying some ideas they may hold are inconsistent with a more broadly feminist perspective as I define it. So if I were to say that Mathewson’s views as to how Wong’s supposedly partisan politics impact upon feminism are to be taken at all seriously then she must be missing the point herself at least as much as she supposes that Wong is. If anything Matthewson herself is the one contributing to Balkanising a movement that comes from a mainly non-partisan intuitively egalitarian impulse. I would say that isn’t a particularly feminist contribution to the discourse, but one that could perhaps only have been rejected by eschewing the Guardian’s premise* which in turn might mean not doing her erstwhile masters’ bidding. Better otherwise to simply have argued that there are different kinds of activism than those Wong and her political persuasion would favour, or that despite being largely the brain child of a lot of old Lefties and avowed Marxists such as Greer there’s she’s persuaded to some cohesively conservative vision of feminism she’s dying to articulate and here it is… [Fill in the blanks in 500 words or less]!

    At least if the latter were the case I’d be keen to discover what differences between supposedly progressive and conservative feminism ,if any, emerged. Because if as I suspect the answer is precious few then my original point as to why anyone claiming to support feminism would write divisively about it seems proven for reasons that nonetheless elude me. Otherwise I, seeing feminism as very much a progressive issue anyway, lack her perspective on things, but merely note in occasional moments of fair mindedness that despite some considerable evidence to the contrary on other issues not all conservatives are impervious to some of our better ideas when it suits them. 😉

    *I assumed it was the Guardian piece with four conservative women talking about feminism that we were meant to look at…..


  7. paul walter April 16, 2014 at 2:11 am #

    Again thanks to HG for unpacking the thing..I was at sea until he offered his reorientation; now what its about seems clear enough.

    Of the four quotes from the grauniad, Paula Matthewson’s seems to be the sole one with a basis in rationality and reality; I found little to quarrel with, as to it.

    The others were cupcakes, but in the clarification I can recognise that the issue that resonates with me would be the carping aggression of some radfems.
    I know I’m not a woman and have not suffered many of the wrongs that many women suffer, but from past experience, I recognise the complaint.. no matter what you say or how sympathetic or constructive you try to be, you are subjected either to abuse or sulking.


    • paul walter April 16, 2014 at 5:00 am #

      Plagued by insomnia… grrr.

      Now we have visited the Dragonista site.

      The article I checked out was the Drum one on Labor and the unions and she has made the usual error of confusing/conflating “the unions” with the factions and white collar careerist who never did a day’s work or understood why workers sometimes have had to take up cudgels in self defence in the past ( Holdens/Toyota the most recent example?).
      I’m not saying it was Judith Sloan, but…

      She nailed it as to Bullock, but couldn’t spare a second’s pity for the worthwhile Louise Pratt, for example… to some extent, Silkworm’s claim is reestablished.

      I may go back to Dragonista: I look forward to articles on Abbott’s decimation of the auto industry, tens of thousands of public sector workers sacked, particularly in social infrastructure ministries, FTA’s, wastage on defence and asylum seeker policing and detention (a racket) and the brutal attack on pensioners and other welfare beneficiaries that, along with the War on Women, comprise the Rightist attack on Australians.


  8. zerograv1 April 16, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    The term feminism lost all meaning to me when the successful ones turned on their younger and started imposing the same talking down, putting down of women that previously patriachy had been accussed of, at that point it lost its soul and the ship was steered towards unrelenting power base building and pretty much lost sight of its original goals….a new term is needed….one that has a clear view of what its about and doesnt embrace all women simply based on their gender in such a One Nation-like way (taking on board all comers regardless of views). What ever this new group is called it also needs to clearly stand for something instead of “everything” (which is after all nothing as the counter arguments, schisms, factions and forces succeed to negate each other out)


    • hudsongodfrey April 16, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve actually seen Greer give a reasonable facsimile of the Life of Brian’s “You are all individuals” speech then I’d agree with you. I don’t think ponification always occurs as part of a purely one sided exchange, there have to be the willing acolytes to do some of the fawning. Blame the sheep?

      Yes, there’s a problem with treating the word patriarchy as if it were little more than an abstract noun to have a “war” against like the one’s on “terror” and “drugs”. The fact as I see it is that patriarchy is a verb, its something done, often subconsciously as the default position of the status quo within a society that assigns gender roles. You’re right to say that we’ve our work cut out to persuade this species of ours not to impose prefigured so called “normative” conditions upon one another. Indeed it would be hypocritical to reject one set of norms for another no less imposed one, but then joining them in missing the point in any way liable to represent abandoning the goal of a more egalitarian society is not a better position, its just another position.


  9. Marilyn April 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Trouble is the younger ones who didn’t fight the revolution don’t know what it means in the first place.

    I tweeted yesterday I would not want to stoop low enough to be equal to any man, but I will add I have met many men with more compassion and care and belief in equality and I have met many women.

    But I am just me and anyone who doesn’t like that can go and fuck themselves.


    • paul walter April 16, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      THAT’S the spirit!!
      The only thing, they are creatures or products of their time, perhaps.


  10. doug quixote April 18, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”

    George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937).

    Nothing much has changed.



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