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I don't know where to start...

(145 Posts)
StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 01:26:43

Please excuse this long, disjointed post. I'm sure everything I write here will be obvious, and old news to everyone here, but its a recent thing I'm struggling to deal with.

I've always considered myself a feminist, in that I believed in equal rights for women. I thought it was inherently wrong to discriminate based on gender, and I challenged it where I came across it. I have however, never been particularly active with regards to feminism. I've always known we live in a male dominated society, I've always known women can be discriminated against, I've always known women still face struggles based on simply being women and I've always challenged it where I can but for the most part I suppose I've been fairly passive. But for some reason, very recently, every small injustice has screamed out at me. I'm noticing, with increasing irritation, the unequal representation of the sexes in the media, the unequal opportunities presented to men vs women, the gaping inequality in family life.

A few weeks ago I was watching QI. It suddenly dawned on me the entire panel was male.
Just before Christmas we were watching Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, and about a quarter of the way into it I realised every performer had been male.
I recently read an article in the Guardian about female representation in film, and was introduced to the Bechdel test. I was astonished to read what a huge percentage of films don't pass this ridiculously simple test.
Last night I watched a Horizon programme on asteroids, and was saddened to notice that not a single female scientist was questioned in the programme at all.
Today we went to watch The Hobbit, which I noticed also did not pass the Bechdel test.

I commented on Facebook last night about the Horizon programme, and was absolutely expecting one or more people to make some lame sexist joke and I was proven right on the very first comment. Depressingly, out of all the comments in the discussion that followed, the one that got the most likes was that initial 'joke'.

Today after the film I commented to my brother about the Bechdel test, and was surprised to find he scoffed at me over applying this test to a book written so long ago. I tried to explain I wasn't thinking about The Hobbit in isolation, but as part of media in general. He scoffed some more, rolled his eyes, and made me feel like I was being a whiny bitch by bringing it up at all. My own brother! A man I have always considered intelligent, respectful, liberal and a feminist himself.

I think the thing that has saddened me most about my recent, well, epiphany I suppose, is the reactions from the males in my life when I raise the topic. Men I have up until now considered, like my brother, to be intelligent, respectful men who want an equal society. I guess my eyes are opening to how much that may not be true, how much they are indoctrinated themselves.

The only male who has shared my reactions has been my boyfriend. I have seriously never loved him so much as over these past few days.

I guess what I'm saying is, I need a place to discuss these issues, to understand them and speak to people who share the same beliefs. I need to find out more, and do more. Can anyone point me in the direction of some good feminist resources, or communities? Until now I've held a passive interest in feminism, and somehow suddenly that doesn't seem enough.

runningforthebusinheels Mon 31-Dec-12 01:50:57

Hi, I feel exactly the same as you. I have always thought of myself as a 'feminist' - ie men and women are equal - but in my younger life poo-pooed concepts like the Patriarchy.

Coming on MN really did open my eyes, in exactly the same way as you describe in your OP. Things like the Bechdel Test, Patriarchal Society, male privilege, abuse of women and children - once the scales had fallen from eyes, I saw it everywhere.

I'm extremely lucky with my husband - he is incredibly liberal and respectful to women. We have a fantastic and equal relationship. But even he has a few blind spots. For example, he cannot understand Male Privilege as a concept. I've tried my best to explain it to him - but he just will not acknowledge that he, as a white, middle class male, is in the most privileged section of society. Someone posted the link about playing the video game 'set to easy' recently, and I keep meaning to show it to him.

I'm not a bit surprised by your FB experience - I notice amongst my friends and relatives that these sorts of topics get eyerolls and jokes. People also say some really derogatory things about 'feminists' that I can't stand. The way this board has been invaded by trolls in the past, so much so that a lot of the radfems don't even post here anymore also speak volumes.

There's a book called the 'Equality Illusion' which is often recommended on here, and that is on my reading list. Also 'Living Dolls' - do an amazon search for them. I'm sure someone else will along soon with some better recommendations soon smile

tallwivglasses Mon 31-Dec-12 02:16:22

Books are great but I think you need the nourishment of real feminists! have a map that shows local groups. Conferences are good too.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:19:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zippey Mon 31-Dec-12 10:05:42

I think men do need to take feminist issues more seriously, especially if you want your daughters to have a better life. There was a poster I saw a while back that said "“Prepare your daughter for working life — give her less pocket money than your son”.

I also hate the gender sterotyping you get in shops when buying items for children.

I like the idea of the Bechdel test, thanks for bringing that to attension!

bigkidsdidit Mon 31-Dec-12 10:13:17

It's utterly depressing, isn't it.

But not surprising. My 22yo self would have scoffed too; as an extremely privileged middle class white woman with a posh accent I did not encounter any discrimination until I had a child. Then I came on mn, got interested, and as you say the scales fell from my eyes. Watching QI and noticing it was all male is something that happened to me too only recently. And I was brought up by a radical feminist mother!

These things take time.

The thing I tell myself to keep me going is that people have always been against change and change has always won. I think of eg the idea that you could be raped by your husband. This was a radical view once and only became law very recently. Now I would guess it is accepted by the vast majority of the population.

I also take action now. Every time a programme is all male I tweet he bbc to complain. Or dara o'braian or Stephen fry or whoever presented it. I have noticed more people doing so and I hope the message will get through.

Mrskbpw Mon 31-Dec-12 10:32:21

I agree. I've always been feminist, bit have been getting more and more angry about it lately. At first I though it was because I'm getting older but then I realised it's because genuinely things are getting worse.

I was v cross at the light-hearted thread about who should present Strictly. Pages and pages of suggestions and pretty much all men. Why shouldn't it be two women? Plenty of programmes are male dominated. I was pleased that Sports Personality of the Year was presented by two women and a man, though, and all above 40!

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 11:31:55

"I think the thing that has saddened me most about my recent, well, epiphany I suppose, is the reactions from the males in my life when I raise the topic"

I feel this way too OP. I don't raise anything feministy anymore because the male members of my family will just laugh and make fun. They cover it up as a joke, this making me feel humourless, but as they never say anything serious on the subject I have no idea what they believe.

What upsets me is that feminism is considered such a laughing point. Yet it is still deeply needed, from the male dominated media to the sexual violence to women worldwide, it's so needed but many men seem to think the battle's over or pull out that old line "but men and women are different" as if that justifies a whole range of inequalities.

Sometimes I feel so tired of it. I do my best to ignore it cos you have to enjoy life but sometimes it's a bit much. I'm feeling it bad recently after what happened in Delhi. It seems so big to tackle.

WRT the representation of women in the media may I recommend the two books by Susan Douglas: " where the girls are" and "the rise of enlightened sexism". They relate to the US but are still relevant and very well written.

Good luck OP, you're not alone!

grimbletart Mon 31-Dec-12 12:00:34

When there is so much imbalance seeing a programme that is not is especially gratifying. My husband and I usually watch Jeff Randall Live at 7pm on Sky for the news and business news. It is great to see how many female business experts he has on his programme - and, to my utter amazement, a couple of weeks ago he had two female experts that were probably in their late sixties or early seventies. So not just women, but (much) older women too. His whole attitude is one of taking equality and equal respect for granted.

He would not, I imagine, call himself a feminist, but he is a hell of a lot more of a feminist than many women, and he also proves you don't have to be a left winger to be a supporter of feminism or women. Kudos to you Jeff Randall.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 13:17:46

I'm right with you!

It always strikes me how rare it is to see even two women on a panel show. There was one of QI recently where it was all women and Stephen Fry and it interested me to see how the atmosphere really was different and the women were making the kind of in-jokes that we make on here (not comparing MN to professional commedians but you know what I mean).

It annoys me that having a token woman means that yes, technically, we've stopped giving women the impression that these shows (or indeed engineering as a career or being in the police or being an MP or whatever it happens to be) is totally barred to women. But it's still obvious that women will be expected to be the 'minority'. hmm

It pisses me off no end that so many people do internalize these visual cues and act almost as if they believe that there are three important men for everyone one woman, or that women should be heard a quarter of the time men are.

The annoying one I get from my otherwise-lovely brother is that he accepts feminism is necessary, etc. etc., but he will always jump in to insist that, as a middle-class white woman, I can't really talk about discrimination because everyone who's not middle class, not white, has it much harder.

It's not that I especially disagree but he is a white, middle-class man - how come he thinks he knows enough to lay the law down about that?!

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 13:57:19

LRD, I know exactly what you mean. The portrayal of feminism as middle-class has always been used against it.

Bit of an aside, but I also think that the over-representation of the middle upper class "ladies" in our obsession with period dramas really does little to show the reality of most women who were working class. (which is why Call The Midwife is so great.)

I'd be rich if I had a pound every time a man has pointed out the Titanic as an example of how women benefited from chivalry in the past, or the opening of doors, laying of cloaks, etc, when really those were privileges conferred on middle-class women, not on the majority of the population.

The accusation of feminism as middle class feels like a very clever form of divide and conquer, because really we are all members of the sex class one way or the other.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:04:18

I agree. I am a little sad with Call the Midwife on TV that they've not yet got much into Sister Evangelina, who I thought was one of the best characters in the books.

I'm absolutely aware that being middle-class is a very privileged position.

FromEsme Mon 31-Dec-12 14:06:18

I happily discovered over Christmas that my partner's mum has massively feminist views! We talked about the same issue you mentioned in your OP, that all the people on QI are men, abortion rights, DV, rape...I was not expecting it at all so I was really pleased.

Where is the female equivalent to Stephen Fry? There just isn't one. There isn't a single woman who everyone thinks is terribly witty and intelligent. Is that because women AREN'T witty? Bollocks. My female friends are immensely more hilarious than my male ones.

Posting on here has helped clarify my views a lot (was thrilled at how feminist MN is). Is there a feminist group in your city that you could join?

Lessthanaballpark Mon 31-Dec-12 14:25:16

I've come to the conclusion that one of the root causes of more men on tv panels is the traditional separation between the public/private domain rather than the innate abilities of men and women (eg. to be funny, to be scientific, etc)

Men occupied the public domain and were trained to feel comfortable in it, to not feel shy about putting themselves forward. Women on the other hand, for the private. Women who did venture out into the public domain were often accused of prostitution or exhibitionism.

Obviously that was a long time ago, but it's not hard to see that such ideas still continue in our collective psyche; just look at the woman who stormed University Challenge and the treatment she got for smiling when she got a question right - plus the offers from Nuts to pose for them! It was very telling..

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:31:50

Awww, that's so nice esme, about your partner's mum.

I think Sue Perkins is seen by many as witty and intelligent (as well she should be!), but you're right, there's no equivalent. It does get on my nerves because while I'm sure he is quite intelligent, it's not as if we don't know it's all researched beforehand, so I find it odd that his aura of intelligence is projected well beyond QI.

less - I agree.

I think there's still a huge difference in the way people see a woman who speaks up in public, and a man who does. So many times I'll hear someone tell me such-and-such a woman is 'aggressive' or 'moans on', where I cannot honestly see that she is doing anything different from the man who simply 'knows what he's talking about'.

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:39:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheMysteryCat Mon 31-Dec-12 14:39:46

Sandi toksvig is my female Stephen fry. She chairs a comedy panel show on channel 4 and news quiz on radio 4. I think she's brilliant. It is interesting that radio 4 comedy seems to have many more balanced shows, but they are playing to their demographic.

I love qi. But I do get pissed off with most other tv comedy panel games. Thinking back to shooting star; ulrika johnssen was an awful stereotype.

Sunnywithshowers Mon 31-Dec-12 14:45:26

I agree with you entirely OP.

I posted something on FB yesterday and my dad's wife posted that she thought feminism should be banned because it was destructive.

StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 14:46:08

Oh wow I wasn't expecting so many responses. Thank you so much to everyone who has replied, I am at work atm so will read all your responses properly later.

Thank you so much, it is such a relief to feel I am not alone!

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:26

sunny - what did you say?!

I love Sandi Toksvig, she is brilliant. But I don't think she has quite the same reputation for it as Stephen Fry.

Wasn't she (or someone female?) put forward as a possible replacement for Angus Deayton on HIGNFY?

kim147 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FromEsme Mon 31-Dec-12 14:59:16

I went to this End of the World thing hosted by Robert Ince and Brian Cox. It was mostly about science and scepticism and so on and it was really funny and informative.

However: there was a real dearth of women on stage. There was, I think, one female scientist and two musicians but there must have been at least 18 men. That really disappointed me.

Sunnywithshowers Mon 31-Dec-12 16:01:57

LRD I posted the New Statesman's 'Year in Sexism' article. In response she posted 'Down with feminism it is wrong and distructive' (spelling errors entirely her own).

We are polar opposites and I don't think she likes me. I don't like her overmuch.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 31-Dec-12 16:05:02


I think you won that one.

StuntGirl Mon 31-Dec-12 19:23:37

Ok, had time to read and digest everything!

running and lessthan thank you for the book recommendations, I shall check them out. Do you have a link to that video running? It sounds very interesting.

Ooh ldr I haven't seen that episode of QI, do you know which one it was? I'd be interested to see it. I do love QI but comedy is (like so many other industries I suppose) so male dominated so it seems by default all the guests are always male. But yes, I'm sure Stephen Fry is a very intelligent man but on QI especially it's all written down in front of him or one of the production team talking in his earpiece! Ah the magic of television grin

Thank you for the link tall, I will read that too.

Wow sunny, that seems crazy to me. How can equality be destructive?! To me it's much more about true equality, and that includes rallying against injustice to men too. I think its awful that men are looked down upon if they go into professions like teaching or nursing, I think its terrible that its assumed men will go to work and lose out on spending time with their family and raising their children. I think the current status quo is destructive, to both genders.

I like the idea of writing to/tweeting organisations for imbalanced programming. And I think this: "People have always been against change and change has always won" is going to become my new mantra! Thank you everyone for all your comments, I have some serious reading and thinking to do now I reckon! thanks

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