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Deborah Orr article in Guardian

(40 Posts)
MooncupGoddess Thu 16-Jun-11 09:27:53

www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/15/feminism-afraid-of-its-flaws

'But feminism forbids women from admitting too many self-evident truths, for fear that the utterance of them will encourage discrimination.'

Hmm. I really like Deborah Orr, and am rather disheartened that she feels 'uncommitted' and has 'reasonable doubts' about describing herself as a feminist.

Irksome Thu 16-Jun-11 09:31:44

'the archetypal feminist of the 80s and 90s had a fulfilling and dynamic career, wonderful children, a lovely home and fabulous grooming', says Deborah.

Something not quite right about that, I think?

I can't bear Deborah bloody Orr.

VictorGollancz Thu 16-Jun-11 09:40:54

Who was it that said we should call this sort of thing 'doing a Wolf'? Cos that's what dear old Deborah has done.

She's entitled to her views, of course, but I've never known her to write such ill-informed rot. Presuming that most women are in 'professional' careers? Ignoring the underpaid nature of many 'jobs for women'? Uncritically writing that 'more often than not, women want to be the primary carer for their children', without pointing out that every single socio-economic structure that we have encourages women to think this way?

Lazy, lazy writing, and it's a damn shame that it's coming from her.

malinois Thu 16-Jun-11 09:45:12

This para is interesting:

"The stock response is that the state has, and should have, a duty to support parents and their children, and that's true up to a point. But it is hard to foster dependence without fostering vulnerability as well. Feminism, in truth, is entirely concerned with limiting female vulnerability, real as well as perceived.

Is she arguing that the improvements in state support for women and children have simply replaced dependence on a partner with dependence on the state? I wonder if she has a point there.

vesuvia Thu 16-Jun-11 12:18:08

"feminism forbids women from admitting too many self-evident truths"

No, that's what the patriarchy does.

CognitiveDissident Thu 16-Jun-11 13:06:16

There have been a few 'off' articles from Deborah recently.

I'm not sure whether she's trying (ineptly) to broaden the debate, or is playing to the CIF gallery.

sunshineandbooks Thu 16-Jun-11 13:11:17

Damn it vesuvia - you beat me to it with that response. grin

PrinceHumperdink Thu 16-Jun-11 13:16:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Thu 16-Jun-11 13:18:09

I love "doing a Wolf" and use it, mentally, ALL the time. grin

dittany Thu 16-Jun-11 13:21:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrinceHumperdink Thu 16-Jun-11 13:36:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sunshineandbooks Thu 16-Jun-11 13:45:42

A T-shirt campaign launched ... by the ... Fawcett Society urged people to display the slogan: "This is what a feminist looks like". The campaign's very existence confirmed that feminism is still worried about "branding". ... The very fact that some feminists are so willing to accept that women don't want the label for such superficial reasons, rather than crediting women with more profound intellectual discomfort, is an indication that even feminist attitudes can sometimes be dismissive of women and their legitimate concerns.

Unless the Fawcett Society is saying "this is what feminism is and if you don't agree to all of it you cannot be a feminist" how can she make a sweeping statement like that? You can't agree or disagree with anything until you know what it is you're agreeing/disagreeing with. IME all the women who've said "I'm not a feminist but" tend to be very feminist in their attitudes toward equality - they've just fallen for the patriarchal "branding" as " as man-hating, crop-haired harridans in ill-fitting dungarees" as Orr puts it.

Feminists (and I'm generalising here) tend towards the conclusion that women who don't sign up are simply hostages to the tyranny of the patriarchy, whose feeble personal consciousnesses have refused to be raised.

I would say that if a women refuses to believe in the principle of equality, then yes, she has indeed failed to have her consciousness raised. There is a lot of disagreement within feminism, especially about things like dress style and the institution of marriage, but we all agree we're feminists and after equality.

The mass entry of women into the workplace in the latter half of the last century was claimed too unequivocally as a purely feminist achievement. Yet the door opened so easily when pushed because the needs of capitalism had undone the bolt. The exigencies of economic growth left little room for the wilful oppression of people with powerful intellectual potential on the grounds of their sex

True up to a point, but capitalism is also responsible for keeping women at home looking after the DC because - someone has to. Post industrial revolution there is very little work that women can do that allows them to take their children with them, and those that do are usually poorly paid. This means childcare is important and childcare is very much considered a woman's issue because men don't care - they leave it to women to organise and when it is paid for it is mentally deducted out of her salary ("it costs more than I'd earn").

Furthermore, in the scenario Orr gives, women only entered the workforce when men were unable to fill the gap - they weren't freely invited and were very much 'allowed'. They were very much (and still often are) the second choice. And in many cases the right for women to enter a specific career has been fought for long and hard, not granted by capitalism.

But equal opportunity in the workplace has not resulted in equal achievement, and not all of this is the fault of continuing chauvinism. Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.

Agreed, but the key word here is mistaken. I can think of notable exceptions even on this board, but the vast majority of feminists I talk to very much respect a woman's choice to stay at home and certainly don't see it as wrong - far from it; they are trying to improve the status of it by pointing out its social value. But the point is, there is no one attitude that fits all feminists, so she cannot go around saying "feminism is this and not that".

Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it's pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place.

Rubbish. Feminism IME is all about the fact that it is STILL far harder for a woman to work and be a mother than it is for a man.

Feminism is paranoid about its most-feared enemy, the wedge, with its bayonet-thin edge. (This can be best seen in the abortion debate. Pro-choice minds have to be closed to the idea that science can alter the age of foetal viability, because such acknowledgement, even in theory, might offer succour to pro-lifers.)

I know, let's seize on one of the most hotly contentious issues facing feminism and use it to debunk everything else. Why is feminism, unlike any other school of thought, not allowed disagreement within it's broader framework?

Sorry for long post. Just couldn't resist temptation to dissect this. I could do a better job given more time but this is just my first thoughts.

This is anti-feminism masquerading as a thought-provoking 'critique'.

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Thu 16-Jun-11 14:57:22

Well, at least she's made the men like her.

ISTM she's one of those people that recognises the need for feminism in Afghanistan and places like that, but not in the UK. We've gone too far in the UK and feminists are out of touch with what the average woman wants - that sort of thing.

The one thing that really stands out as being particularly stupid is the whole feminists saying it would be easy to combine career and motherhood with the right support. Apparently we are dead wrong about that and now other women are suspicious of us. I'd argue that we're still waiting for the right support. Childcare is expensive and not usually round the clock and it's women who usually pay for the childcare out of their pay and adjust their work hours.

Women are still burdened with the majority of housework and childcare even when she has a partner and they both work full time.

This is a fault of feminism how exactly?

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Thu 16-Jun-11 14:58:02

Fake ETA - if she'd added a bit about feminist victim mentality, that would have finished the article off nicely.

Bennifer Thu 16-Jun-11 15:47:11

I thought it was a pretty well balanced article personally. Well done Deborah

VictorGollancz Thu 16-Jun-11 16:12:20

You might want to check below the line of Orr's article to see what illustrious company you're keeping before you call it 'well-balanced'.

Bennifer Thu 16-Jun-11 16:17:06

I did, it seems like a quite a lot agreed with me. I can't see if they have any convictions, so I have no idea how illustrious they are. Anyway, I just took the article on its own merits and like it.

BBBLLLMMM Thu 16-Jun-11 17:01:44

From one comment: Although it may be the case that, personally, a feminist may wish to debate certain feminist issues, the fear of ridicule from a more popular dogmatic feminist keeps them silent on the issue

Much as we frequently hear from regular posters on here the sigh that others are "telling you how to be a good feminist" or "how feminists should think" I think that there is an element of the core of regulars alienating women who are interested in feminism and would like to consider themselves feminists but don't necessarily agree with the consensus of the group.

Not purposely of course, but I know I've personally felt (on here) that there's a right way to be a feminist and if I wasn't conforming to it then I should basically bugger off to somwhere else.

Can't say I agree with Orr's whole article but I think she does have a point about being open to debate within the ranks of feminism. Inclusive feminism where disagreements are accepted? Grey areas don't seem to be particularly acceptable.

VictorGollancz Thu 16-Jun-11 17:11:59

I think disagreements are accepted in feminism. This board in particular is a great example of rigorous debate with input from all conceivable perspectives. Sometimes it gets heated, but this is often people's lives we're debating and so grey areas don't exist quite as peacefully as they may do in other areas. It can be thorny and messy, yes - but also informative and illuminating.

Calling someone 'dogmatic' - as Orr does rather than you - puts a very negative slant on the tenacity required to campaign on issues that the patriarchy simply does not want raised. I've recently been discussing SlutWalk on a male-dominated forum and oh my god, they HATE me for raising issues that on this board are as familiar and everyday as breathing. Oh well.

sunshineandbooks Thu 16-Jun-11 17:25:11

I think feminism is inclusive. There are divisions between types of feminism (e.g. liberal or radical) but Orr is referring to feminism generically. So she's wrong and deliberately misleading people. The only universal really is that we're all after equality and stopping the mistreatment of women because of their gender. Everything else is up for discussion and is discussed, though there tends to be broad agreement in certain areas certainly.

I think for me, when I first came to feminism, I was very sceptical about the attitude some feminists had about makeup etc. I couldn't see why I had 'bought into the patriarchy' simply because I shaved my legs or because I wasn't about to censure a man who looked at porn. I am now one of 'those' feminists though as I have completely changed my mind after reading more about these particular areas. I strongly suspect that a lot of women would change their minds too if they read up on it, but I wouldn't dream of telling another woman what to think just because my own views differ. I will make my case however, just to see if getting her thinking about it may lead her to change her mind of her own volition. But isn't that how every cause is furthered, be it joining a political party or telling people about a great new band you've discovered?

It's hard to realise that you've been manipulated by a male-dominated culture that disadvantages you at every turn. Even if your own DH/DP is a lovely man who treats you perfectly and respects you wholly, none of it takes away from the fact that you are still living in a male-dominated society that actively benefits men and actively penalises women. Mant people try to resist the realisation because it hurts and I think that's why we often get extreme reactions when we point out ways in which women may be upholding the patriarchy without even realising it.

Hope that doesn't sound incredibly patronising. I am writing very much from a personal viewpoint.

madwomanintheattic Thu 16-Jun-11 17:34:51

it did a tad, tbh. grin

i do see a lot of anti lib bitching on rad sites though. i know it's v naive to want everyone to get along, but it's really obvious of late and has to be quite damaging. sometimes i'm nodding along, thinking 'yes, oh, yes, agree with that' and then bam a really barbed and deliberately targeted comment. i'm sure it happens the other way around too.

sometimes 'we're all after equality' (and we haven't got it) really doesn't seem to be enough to call yourself a feminist. you can self identify as one, obv.

tehre's no particular answer to the internal wrangling i don't think. he who shouts loudest, or something.

aliceliddell Thu 16-Jun-11 18:06:04

So the economic system we live in - oh, sod it, let's call it capitalism - developed to need more professional white collar workers but still needed all those pesky next generation of workers adorable little kiddywinks brought up, preferably for free, out of sight, at home with mummy. Since mummy couldn't be in two sodding places at once, and not all the mummies could afford an eastern European au-pair, the govt decided to smooth things over by providing some childcare, not enough, obviously because that would create a sense of entitlement. And this has cased female dependency and feebleness. Doing virtually all the housework, virtually all the childcare and exercising her 'equal' opportunities to do the same job as a man. Ha! Deborah bloody Orr.

Takver Thu 16-Jun-11 18:09:40

Came on here to fume, but I think you've probably said it all between you . . .

I notice not one mention of how fathers might give up a bit of their economic freedom.

Nor of the point that since women are systematically paid a third less than men, their economic freedom is pretty constrained from the start.

TadlowDogIncident Thu 16-Jun-11 19:51:56

Glad someone has started this thread - I read the article this morning and was furious. Between that and the "rape isn't always rape" one a couple of weeks ago I'm feeling really unimpressed with her. I dimly remember liking her a few years ago. Heigh ho.

LurcioLovesFrankie Thu 16-Jun-11 21:35:18

JUst wanted to add my voice to the "she's a tool" consensus. I too read the article about rape last week - in an odd sort of way I'm almost relieved that at least she's saying publically she's not a feminist, after her rape defending pile of shite.

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