In one respect I think I must be a really bad feminist..or am I?

(73 Posts)
grimbletart Fri 11-Jul-14 15:15:45

Just that. I need a) someone to tell me I am being utterly unreasonable or b) confess they have felt the same way on occasions.

Please excuse length, but bear with me.

I'm an old gimmer, one of the second wave feminists who fought through the 60s and 70s for equal ops, equal pay, end to sex discrimination etc…

In that respect, and others, I feel that I have earned my stripes as a fully paid up member of the awkward feminist squad grin. Plus, as I've said before as well as having a feminist mum and grandmother (suffragette) I have been a feminist since before I even understood the word i.e. from kindergarten.

And yet I find myself getting irritated (Jeez I have to be careful how I phrase this or I am going to get jumped on from a great height) by what I feel is an attitude (acceptance?) by some that one should never ever criticise a woman or girl for their actions because socialisation and societal attitudes mean that they are never really responsible i.e. they are acting the way they do because they are pressured or vulnerable or lack self esteem or whatever. It is never their fault.

One of things I fought for as a second waver was that equal opportunities and rights would also mean equal responsibility for one's actions, so if a woman is being a twat she is being a twat and should be called on it and not given a get out of jail free card just because she is female.

Otherwise are we not playing into the meme that females are, by definition, vulnerable weak and in need of special protection?

I've been aware of my uncomfortable feelings about this for a while now over a number of issues on and off MN. But I think it is the Maguluf thread that finally prompted me to stick my head over the parapet. Yes, the media (especially) the holiday reps, the 24 idiot men are all nasty knobs and the double standards are diabolical and utterly wrong. But the reluctance by some (most?) to attribute any personal responsibility whatsoever to the girl I found really irritating.

That was a recent example only and my views are not drawn to apply to that situation particularly so am not prompting another discussion about that: I simply found it illustrative of the notion that females are helpless, vulnerable and cannot be held accountable for their actions - it's nearly always someone's else's (or society's) fault.

This is not what I fought for, the notion that we are fragile flowers - the woman as victim idea ironically seems to be more prevalent now when liberation/equality has never been stronger - at least legally.

I'm baffled and disturbed by a) what I appear to see happening or b) that maybe that after entering my 8th decade as a feminist, I am not really a feminist, merely someone who wanted equality, and that what I saw as feminism was not feminism at all.

Or maybe it's simply that I am just a "get a grip" sort of person at heart as a result of having to spend a lifetime fighting the corner for women.

I feel like shouting "come on women you're better than that".

I actually hate myself for feeling this way, but what is going on with so many things this last decade or so, whether it's porn, pinkification, woman as victim, girl as decorative accessory to boy, is leaving me disillusioned and wondering whether all our struggles of my generation and my parents' and grandparents' generation of the 20th century were worth it.

OK, I'm Aunt Sally - shoot me down. sad

Sorry for the somewhat inchoate ramblings.

andmyunpopularopionis Fri 11-Jul-14 15:29:28

Oh thank god for that. Someone else who sees this how I see it. Personally. I think this is doing more damage to feminism than good.

This is exactly how I felt about it. She is responsible and by saying she was not implies she's weak minded and so gullible and easily led... that the poor woman couldn't make a decision for herself so it must be someone else's fault. If men must be responsible for their actions while drunk why would woman be not have to be.. I don't get it either.

And I think this attitude is getting more extreme in the name of feminism but I think it is the opposite of what I understand feminism to be. I have seen it many times and the example you have given was just the most recent.

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 15:36:42

I don't know the answer to this and I haven't really read much of the Magaluf thread.

I did read the comments of the rep in the paper today. He ( who had a large part in orchestrating the whole thing) now claims to be disgusted by her behaviour and blames her family for bringing her up in such a way.

Surely if somebody is brought up to believe certain things about women, and they have these things reinforced about them as a human being (or maybe they're not seen as even fully human as a woman to some extent) in their own family, and in society at large, and are young, and are trying to make sense of the world, and are told something is the right thing to do by other people at the time, then in some sense you are a victim of that whole process? And I know nothing about the woman in question, but I have known people who I could well imagine ending up in that situation and they are really, really vulnerable. And while even in that context she perhaps chose sexual activity, the whole other context of how people behaved around that were not chosen, and essentially she had a very mocking and cruel joke played on her in a highly sexist way. She did not choose that.

I don't think that is comparable to the experiences of someone with a feminist mother and grandmother, or my experiences where a lot about gender roles were not enforced at home.

I think where I do feel blame towards women is when they do things that they claim to have a particular social meaning that somehow improves the life of other women, when other women don't feel that way at all. Burlesque, for example. I feel far more judgemental about Burlesque than generic stripping, as generic strippers don't generally claim that they are somehow liberating me through their removal of clothing.

StackALee Fri 11-Jul-14 15:37:01

the problem with the Magalluf thing though was that in the press ALL the blame was being put on teh woman. So in that case many women were/are shouting very loud about the unfairness of that.

Would I be disappointed in a daughter behaving like that, sure thing.
But I would equally be disappointed in my son behaving like those men and I would expect other people to be too.

She was not just a victim of the situation she was a victim of the press and the public's reaction which was totally unfair. At the same time she was infantilised.

Does she have a personal responsibility to not behave like that? Personal to her? I don't know. I guess if she wants to suck 24 cocks in a row that is entirely her decision but I would have thought that any of those 24 men could have stopped and said 'hang on a minute now - this girl is really drunk. Do we know if she is really giving informed consent for this'... unless of course those 24 penises fell into her mouth as she passed by?

it's really tricky.

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 15:40:40

Unpopular, I don't think feminists are claiming men are responsible if people make rather mean jokes at their expense either. I feel sorry for men who get chained up to things, have their eyebrows removed, their faces drawn on with a sharpie while they were drunk.

I do feel sorry for them. They're not responsible for that.

andmyunpopularopionis Fri 11-Jul-14 15:46:34

Almond, read the post before yours, what does that imply if not that the men were responsible?

Quote

'....but I would have thought that any of those 24 men could have stopped and said 'hang on a minute now - this girl is really drunk. Do we know if she is really giving informed consent for this'... unless of course those 24 penises fell into her mouth as she passed by?....'

So whose responsibility was it?

FidelineAndBombazine Fri 11-Jul-14 15:48:46

Marking place as was wondering about this (personal responsibility) just yesterday.

mumtosome61 Fri 11-Jul-14 15:55:20

I agree that the reaction to this woman in the media was abhorrent and equal responsibility and 'shame' (or whatever it was) should have been placed on the people involved.

But I do agree, to an extent with you OP - I have seen (not on MN, although it may exist) a lot of bandied around phrases that somehow seems to take some of the responsibility away from individuals based on gender. As a woman, I do not want someone to think "I must behave a certain manner because she is a WOMAN" - I'd want someone to think "I should behave justly and equally" - regardless of what or who I am or identify with. I could say a lot more about it but I've had a back breaking shift and need a cigarette grin

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 15:58:46

Unpopular, I think the point is that if I was in a large crowd of people and a mocking joke/entertainment moment was being played on somebody at their expense, I would be concerned about whether or not I was behaving badly, and the more directly I was involved with it, the more I would feel responsible. I think being the person mocked in that situation and how far you should go along with it is very difficult and I don't hold that person as responsible, because you are very much on the spot and your reaction is being judged. It is much easier to turn the crowd if you are part of the crowd and not the person the joke is being played on.

So far, so gender neutral.

When that joke/entertainment becomes sexual in nature and is played on a woman, and then she is blamed/ sexually moralised about for being the focus of the joke instigated and though up by others, and where at least 24 people participated in playing it as well as many onlookers being there who are being judged less, I do think that is sexist.

The person most responsible for creating that situation is the person who instigated it, thought it up, kept momentum going and delivered the punchline.

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 16:03:54

Unpopular, I also think that quote isn't blaming every single one of those men. It is just the thought that none of them were willing and able to say, hang on, this doesn't seem right.

And it fits in with the whole group psychology thing of how hard it can be to dissent, especially if something is just a 'joke.' I find that far easier to believe and more worrying than believing each and every person involved is just a bit mean. Because any of us can end up in that situation where we just go along with stuff and don't want to dissent.

I agree that women should take responsibility for their choices. Plenty of women make choices that are actively anti-feminist, and those should be challenged.

I don't think you give enough credit to the power of socialisation as a driver of women's choices though.

In that specific case, you don't have to view the woman as a victim / not responsible for her actions to deplore (a) the sexist media response and (b) the awful behaviour of the reps who set the game up to humiliate a woman and then shared the video.

Whatever her motivations, she did not sign up for public humiliation, and she has been treated differently to the men involved.

IMO, whatever magaluf girl's motivations, she did nothing wrong. She didn't set out to trick, shame, judge or humiliate anyone. Other people did that.

cailindana Fri 11-Jul-14 16:17:54

Ok, maybe I'm being obtuse, but I don't get the "responsibility" and "morality" angle in this story at all. "Responsible" for what? No crimes were committed (were they?) and nothing "immoral" happened (whatever that might mean). A woman did something while drunk. Eh, so what? Now, if she was coerced or some of the men were coerced then there's a question of sexual assault but I haven't seen anything about that. It was very mean of them to mislead her into thinking she was winning a holiday, but people are mean all the time and it's not exactly news is it?

She made a choice, one that many of us might not make, but there was nothing inherently wrong with it. Given that it was her choice, she is responsible for it, as is every adult for every choice they make. And yet there is a huge furore over it.
The issue is that a big deal is being made of this, for no other reason than that a woman openly did something sexual. How dare she. She must be this that and the other. Her parents must be this that and the other. Because women don't do that sort of thing. It's "immoral" (I honestly have no idea what this means).
A young woman did something silly. The only remarkable thing is that people are actually worried and offended by it.

Bifauxnen Fri 11-Jul-14 16:29:31

I agree with your argument, but not as applied to the magaluf girl. I think in that instance, people just don't like seeing her unfairly singled out. However I don't really agree with some of the excuses made for not standing up to sexism. I don't blame those that go along but I do feel disappointed in them, and I think that's fair.

cailindana Fri 11-Jul-14 16:33:43

To address your OP more directly grimble, you say you're irritated by the idea that we must never criticise a woman for her actions because society means they're never really responsible. I would say, why criticise her at all? You might not agree with what she did, but she didn't hurt anyone (as far as we know) or break any laws (did she?) so why is it even any of our business?

She may have broken a public indecency law (disclaimer - I don't know the law in magaluf), but that applies to everyone else involved too.

Otherwise, she did nothing wrong. And the media response was grossly sexist. Why would a feminist join in with all the (baseless, in my view) judging and shaming?

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 16:42:19

I don't think it is about sexual assault or people behaving illegally at all.

I think it is about joining in with a crowd mentality to something mean to somebody and make them a joke.

I also think it is about being the instigator of that mean behaviour, and then spreading what happened to people beyond those present to make the person even more of a joke.

I also think it is about being the company who employed somebody who did something really mean at work.

The fact that people do judge women for doing something sexual is what makes the rep's actions so mean. He knew she would be judged and himself (the rep) found her actions disgusting. That is part of why he did it. He wasn't standing around thinking, this is very sexually liberating like some kind of free loving hippie commune and I wouldn't judge this woman; other people who find this bad behaviour are merely reactionary and sexist. He wanted a woman to be sexually humiliated and set out to create that situation, finding her disgusting in the process.

Don't we have a responsibility not to be mean? Can't we judge other people for being mean, even if they were mean within the context of what is legally allowed?

Being mean spirited is pretty much the main thing I judge people for and consider them responsible for.

cailindana Fri 11-Jul-14 16:44:23

Yes, the rep was mean. But that's not what grimble is talking about, she's talking about the woman and her "responsibility."

grimbletart Fri 11-Jul-14 17:20:18

Thanks for your considered replies everyone and for trying to see what I was, rather clumsily, trying to get at.

May I repeat one of my paragraphs:

That was a recent example only and my views are NOT drawn to apply to THAT situation particularly so am not prompting another discussion about that: I simply found it illustrative of the notion that females are helpless, vulnerable and cannot be held accountable for their actions - it's nearly always someone's else's (or society's) fault.

I tried to emphasise that this was not intended to be a discussion about the Magaluf incident per se, which may or may not have been unsavoury depending on one's views, or to continue that now moribund discussion. That was only the most recent example of what I meant - infantilising women by being inclined not to place any responsibility for a possibly unwise incident/activity on them. The incident itself is actually irrelevant and discussing that, rather than the wider issue of never seemingly to criticise women and girls for their actions in many different situations is what I was getting at.

Sorry if I did not make it clear enough.

I am really feeling that I have deluded myself all these years that I was a feminist as I am ready to criticise other women as much as men in a given situation because I think women are big enough and strong enough to be responsible. Now, I am wondering if that view means I am not a feminist by current definitions.

I do understand societal pressures. Believe me, my generation was under a whole host of them that were really fundamental to our identity as individuals. It is difficult sometimes, but that to me is what feminism is about - resisting these societal pressures.

grimbletart Fri 11-Jul-14 17:24:26

I should have added to clarify further: my discussion was not designed to apply to sex particularly, just to the reluctance by some feminists to ever criticise a member of their own gender in any given situation.

Greythorne Fri 11-Jul-14 17:34:02

Do you think she's morally reprehensible, OP?

cailindana Fri 11-Jul-14 17:34:30

Could you give another example grimble?

almondcakes Fri 11-Jul-14 17:38:03

Grimble, I'm not sure if them being women comes into it. I just think people are not that bothered about doing things are 'unwise,' beyond a bit of eye rolling.

It is surely okay to criticise women if they are actually doing something that can be seen as wrong and harmful, or dangerous to themselves, or disingenuous?

So somebody removing their pubic hair and saying that they are doing it because of social pressure - not really going to judge them.

Somebody removing it on the grounds 'that they just like it better that way' - judging them for being disingenuous.

Somebody removing it on the grounds that it is 'cleaner.' Judging them for claiming something that is untrue, contrary to good health and therefore promoting damaging stereotypes to other women.

So yes, I will judge, although usually silently offline. Is that the kind of thing you mean?

TortoiseUpATreeAgain Fri 11-Jul-14 17:39:50

But responsibility for what?

One person involved in all this (I have no idea whether that person was male or female) put significant thought into it and decided to attempt to trick a drunk person into doing something that person wouldn't have done if they were in possession of all the facts.

Twenty-five people involved engaged in public sexual behaviour while they were drunk.

Leaving aside for the moment issues of drunkenness and consent (because I don't know how they apply to this specific incident), personally I don't think any of those twenty-six people made great choices. However, I'd say that morally the one in a position of authority who deliberately set out to dupe and embarrass one of the people for whom he/she was responsible is more culpable. I'd not be thrilled to find a child of mine occupying any of the roles in this drama, but I'd be heartbroken to discover that they'd done that.

However, most media sources in the immediate aftermath decided that the one individual out of the twenty-six people involved who was most morally culpable -- the one who needed opinion pieces writing about her behaviour, the one who needed "DO YOU KNOW HER NAME? LET US KNOW NOW SO WE CAN PUBLISH IT!!!" appeals in the tabloids -- was the young woman who was tricked into participating.

And I can't help feeling that that's because she has a vagina.

And that bothers me, as a feminist.

grimbletart Fri 11-Jul-14 19:01:29

Tortoise: I agree with you say about the woman being picked on as I made clear.

For what it's worth Greythorne, as most posters seem determined to miss the point and fixate on the one specific example instead of the wider issue, had any one of parties involved in that incident been my child my reaction would have been the same about all of them whether I approved and thought good for you, have fun, it's what being young is for or (more likely in my case) stupid brats, what on earth possessed you? For God's sake, if you can't hold your drink, don't drink. Oh, and get yourself checked for herpes. As far as I was concerned it was not a question of morality at all – more of immature stupidity on all their parts and prurience on the part of the press.

Cailin, you asked for another example? Well, I could trawl over threads and newspaper articles to find them, but just off the top of my head looking for a recent one from these threads, the furore over Blurred Lines. Now Robin Thicke is a revolting sexist misogynist pig and deserves all the flak that came his way from feminists (and others). But what about the women/girls who writhed around on his video? Did they think it was OK to have their sex insulted in such way and rape insinuations made? If so, they either lacked insight, or they did it for money. But there was no criticism of them. If they didn’t think it was OK, why did they take part? Where was their backbone? Again no criticism of them. I think Thicke was a knob but I also have no hesitation in saying I think those dancers let women down by colluding in Thicke’s successful effort to produce a demeaning and insulting piece of “art” and I am wondering why no feminists said "what the fuck were you women thinking of, colluding in that shit?"

Now, I maybe am a bad victim-blaming feminist or no feminist because I call it as see where women are concerned just as I would with men? And please, can someone believe me when I said Magaluf was just a recent example that finally prompted me to express my concerns about women seeming to be bombproof where any possible criticism is concerned? It was not the point of the debate, which was meant to be one of principle.

I was trying to open a serious debate about whether with modern feminism it's similar to "my country right or wrong" i.e. women can do no wrong - if there is wrong they are always coerced, vulnerable, pressured, drunk, but never personally responsible. If there is even 5 percent of truth in what I say I think feminism is letting women down by colluding with the idea that they are weak, easily influenced and unable to stand up for themselves.

I happen to believe women are better than this.

I think there has to be a middle ground between the two positions. If possible. If women are never thought to be responsible for their actions, then yes that makes us seem weak willed and vulnerable.

But if individuals are always held completely accountable for what happens to them, then leads to conclusions like women choose low paid part time jobs. We choose to be sexualised.

The analysis of the situation has to encompass elements of both. But like structure / agency and nature / nurture, each situation is different and the two forces are nigh on impossible to disentangle.

Maybe the answer lies in pointing out that a particular choice of action isn't helpful to women overall, but acknowledging just how hard it can be for one individual to go against the grain sometimes. What I think I am arguing for is compassionate critique?

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