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Kat Banyard in the Guardian

(16 Posts)
TeiTetua Mon 15-Oct-12 18:30:28

Interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead.

She is so insightful, and she presents everything in such a reasonable way! In fact people apparently sometimes say to her, or about her: Banyard just didn't sound angry enough to stand a chance of making much impact. I wondered if that had made her angry, but she just shrugs. "Yeah, the very notion of anger crops up again and again in feminist discussions; either you're too angry, or you're not angry enough. If you're angry, you're irrational; if you're not angry, you don't care enough." She pauses and smiles. "But I've always found feminism incredibly inspiring."

Definitely someone from the liberal side. But I can't believe anyone would disagree with much that she says.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 15-Oct-12 19:45:33

I find her like Bindel white, middle class and university educated whose understanding of suffering and strife women face daily comes from a text book. Has she ever had an abusive ex? Has she had to struggle on benefits to feed and clothe 2 children? Or has she just sat on her high horse passing judgements? Sorry my reality is not going to be guided by someone who hasn't got a clue about the real world.

SmashingTurnips Mon 15-Oct-12 20:28:14

Except her understanding doesn't come from a textbook.

It comes from her lived experience as a woman and talking to other women about their lived experiences. And I think she is very unjudgemental. Bindel also does a massive amount of work seeking out women in prostitution and giving them a voice through research work (and I think as a lesbian growing up in the 70s knows a fair bit about discrimination and struggling).

I thought it was a great article.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 16-Oct-12 07:41:39

Good article, thank you.

Sausage, where did you feel that she was passing judgements?

summerflower Tue 16-Oct-12 21:39:16

Interesting article and all credit to her. I’m confused by her position on ‘choice’ though. She says, as regards recent debates on lowering the abortion limit:

“suddenly we see these attacks, and it brings home how important it is that we maintain a really strong pro choice movement. We need to speak out openly about our own experiences, because these ministers' statements are creating a hostile environment. One in three women have an abortion in their lifetime. The majority of the UK population support a woman's right to choose”.

But, in relation to prostitution and pornography, she says:

"This neo-liberal ideology of choice being the ultimate test of whether or not something's OK did influence feminism itself, and really threatened to derail the movement. And the consequences are felt by absolutely everyone in society."

Now, is it just me or is there a contradiction here – pro-abortion rhetoric is all about choice too. The litmus test of whether abortion is okay is whether the woman wants it (for many pro-choice people). Whereas in actuality, these choices are constrained by economic factors, and gender inequalities, which perpetuate society, a point which Banyard completely sidesteps. So, does she not see that access to abortion supports neoliberal ideals too? There are many, many feminist issues which lead women to seek an abortion, which result from completely the opposite of ‘choice’, issues which are more costly to redress, and which would involve systemic change. Thus, it seems to be that feminism has bought into the rhetoric of ‘choice’ as regards abortion too, and this misses the bigger arguments about why women seek abortions and the need to redress those factors.

solidgoldbrass Wed 17-Oct-12 13:59:02

Oh I've got very little time for her: clueless, smug middle class and narrow-minded.

Lottapianos Wed 17-Oct-12 14:08:22

I really enjoyed reading 'The Equality Illusion'. I agree with OP that she presents information in a very reasonable, accessible way. She's right that you cant' win when it comes to anger - you're either too angry or not angry enough. Best just to be how you feel most comfortable.

I don't think you have to have lived through something personally in order to feel empathy with other people who have experienced it. Being white, middle class and university educated does of course mean that there are a whole load or problems you are less likely to have experienced, but it doesn't necessarily mean your life has been a bed of roses either. Not everyone who has come from a life of relative privilege is a money-grabbing self-interested Tory.

grimbletart Wed 17-Oct-12 16:17:26

And not all Tories are money grabbing self-interested people who come from a life of relative privilege....

All policemen may be over 6ft tall (as the old saying goes) but not everyone over 6ft tall is a policeman.

I don't think generalisations are helpful, whichever way round they are made and even when they involved Tories.

Lottapianos Wed 17-Oct-12 16:42:12

That's a fair point grimbletart. A good mate of mine is a Tory which horrifies me if I'm honest but I love her anyway! It's not fair to tar all with the same brush.

MooncupGoddess Wed 17-Oct-12 17:47:30

That is an interesting point actually about choice, summerflower. The point being, presumably, why do feminists care so much that women have a choice over whether they have an abortion, but not about whether they have a choice to become prostitutes or take part in pornography.

I think that in the abortion case, 'choice' is a shorthand for the view that no woman should be forced to go through with a pregnancy they don't want (which is what a lack of choice would imply).

Whereas, prostitution and pornography are both exploitative systems run primarily for male financial and sexual gratification, so reducing this to a 'choice' issue ignores the wider context: that the whole system is (or seems to me) damaging to women. Most of the feminists I know argue for banning/criminalising the men who use and run these systems rather than the women at the sharp end.

However, from a moral philosophy point of view I can see the problem, and would be interested to hear the views of anyone who is better at these abstract arguments than I am!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 17-Oct-12 19:48:35

Well quite re Tory voters. They got somewhere between 30 and 40% of the vote, not all people who voted for them can be evil...

summerflower Wed 17-Oct-12 22:03:02

Thanks for your reply, Mooncupgoddess. I think the point is that reducing abortion to ‘choice’ also ignores the wider context. For example, women argued for better access to abortion (and indeed contraception) in the interwar period, but they did so with language that referred to the need to provide for existing children, poverty and the inability physically and financially, to care for any more children, spousal demands for sex, lack of support and childcare if they needed to work and so on. In other words, the social, cultural and economic reasons they sought abortion were explicit. Whereas the rhetoric of choice (and it is a neoliberal concept) makes abortion a single issue, a matter for the individual woman, and completely clouds the cultural, economic and gendered context of inequality that decision takes place in.

In other words, the focus on choice as regards abortion is arguably equally damaging, because it detracts from the exploitative systems in which women make those ‘choices’ (and pushing the argument further, means that women, rather than society or the state, bear the brunt of providing the solution to unwanted pregnancy – abortion, an invasive procedure, is ‘easier’ at a societal level, than changing attitudes towards PIV sex, inequalities in childcare and the workplace for mothers, providing for single mothers etc – abortion furthers men’s financial and sexual gratification because they (as the majority tax-payers in the country and as potential fathers) do not have to pay to support mothers who have unwanted pregnancies, but they can still have sex.

I don’t know, I was just struck by the contradiction in her argument and I think the problem is seeing the issues as separate, when actually, they are linked in terms of women’s financial, social, cultural and sexual inequality and what you nicely term systems of exploitation. But those are just my musings on the subject!

MooncupGoddess Wed 17-Oct-12 22:43:13

Well, I agree with a lot of that, summerflower - but most feminists do very much campaign on the issues you talk of and others too (rape is an obvious example). The reason the argument always gets dragged back to abortion choice is that the opponents of abortion are not actually interested in reducing abortions by means of enabling women to refuse sex, access contraception and return to the workplace after childbirth. Their aim is to control women's bodies and 'punish' them for having recreational sex.

And in the final analysis, it is all very valuable to raise the wider issues around abortion and work towards reducing the need for abortion - but there is a point at which one has to say, do you or do you not support forcing women to continue pregnancies they don't want? And I don't.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 17-Oct-12 23:46:01

Summer, wasn't the practical driver for UK abortion law at least partly that women were seeking unofficial procedures which were sometimes damaging or lethal? So restricting this option had "more awful" consequences, from a purely pragmatic perspective, than not restricting it.

solidgoldbrass Thu 18-Oct-12 01:10:48

Summer: Whiile I think your argument is well-intentioned and not anti-feminist, there is a massively antifeminist line of argument which equates abortion with porn and prostitution and basically boils down to the concept that sex is awful and that no 'decent' woman would ever have it for fun ie there is no room in that worldview for women who enjoy sex, seek it out, don't view it as purely for procreation and are not, actually, completely horrified by the idea of engaging in it for money.

While Banyard may give some sex workers 'a voice' there are a lot of other sex workers who find that she (and people like her) are more invested in ignoring, patronizing and silencing them if they won't obediently fit into the 'victim' box.

summerflower Thu 18-Oct-12 22:28:20

Mooncupgoddess and TheDoctrineofSnatch, I don't disagree with you - my question is really about the rhetoric of choice and what purpose that serves, i.e. to mask the wider issues, and whose agenda is driving the debate. I don't think you can criticise the concept of choice in one context and then support it in another, as Kat banyard does, without considering the bigger picture.

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