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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.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Tue 01-Jan-13 16:46:59

Stephen Fry is a man with a posh voice and a more than averagely large vocabulary. Because of this he is lionised as some sort of great public intellectual. This isn't true even of women TV broadcasters who genuinely are intellectuals, like Mary Beard. And look at the contrast between how, say, Mary Beard and Brian Cox, who are both academics, engage with and are treated by the media. Brian Cox is all over the place - on panel shows, chat shows, being voted world's sexiest man etc. - while Mary is only heard of outside her programmes and blog when AA Gill says that she is too ugly to be on TV. Now there is a generational difference and it might be that Mary has better things to do than go on Graham Norton anyway, but this must in part be a reflection of them being viewed, and treated differently.

I have only ever seen one celeb panel type show which didn't have a horrendous bias towards male participants. It was called The Bubble, and was presented by David Mitchell. It had <drum roll> dead on 50:50 male: female participants, which I don't think can have been an accident. Someone in the production team put a lot of thought and effort into getting a real balance. Sadly it only ran for one series.

And it's not just factual programmes that this applies to: the bias is all over drama, sitcom, etc. Tropes has a nice page on it, which includes panel shows. Even when you think there are a lot of women in a cast, it usually turns out that there aren't actually that many. The Simpsons is notoriously one of the worst offenders, as are children's TV and films, which almost always have male leads.

then this kind of thing filters into real life, with real economic consequences for women. There's an often quoted statistic that whenever women speak for more than about one third of the time in a male/female setting, they are perceived as talking too much.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Tue 01-Jan-13 16:48:29

Sorry, messed up the links.

TV Tropes
Yale study

kim147 Tue 01-Jan-13 16:51:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rosabud Tue 01-Jan-13 19:51:07

I'd like to add that I've really enjoyed finding this section of Mumsnet, being able to talk/discuss things. Also, whoever posted earlier about the whole "female priviledge" of being saved first on the Titanic - this argument is beautifully referred to by Virgina Woolf in To the Lighthouse. It's years since I've read it (so someone may have to come on and correct this comment!) but, essentially, there is a dinner party and a young female character is having a dull time as she tries to help a more awkward male guest out with social chit-chat, and she acknowledges to herself that this is the price she must pay for the tacit understanding that should they ever be in a sinking ship together he will let her into the lifeboat first! Woolf leaves the reader to decide whether the price is worth it!

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 09:41:25

Hmm, sitting next to a boring bloke whilst eating dinner, or dying inside 10 minutes in the freezing ocean........can I come back to you on that one? grin

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 09:44:17

Or dying spiritually, every time you have to perform such a social function every day of your, on the ship option, it would be over and done with in 10 mins, you say?

CaseyShraeger Wed 02-Jan-13 09:59:22

Dara O Briain's Science Club features a lot of scientists who are female (possibly even the majority of its scientists?).

Brian Cox's wife is a TV producer and I think that's a big part of why he got the exposure early on. She actually wrote an interesting piece a couple of years back on how his success has negatively impacted her own career and social standing - I'll see if I can find it.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:00:51

I know it's a slightly facetious point, but couldn't Ms Woolf have chosen a slightly more serious example than a tedious dinner guest? But don't let me burst the balloon of middle-class melodramatics and angst...'dying spiritually'...

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:05:57

One thing that I do wonder, is how good a scientist is Brian Cox? Is he just a pretty poster-boy, or has he done some serious work? Are there any physicists on here that have an inside view?

Dara O'Briain's wife is a surgeon, so I doubt you'll find him underestimating women within the science community. Wasn't he considering an academic career in maths prior to going all showbiz?

CaseyShraeger Wed 02-Jan-13 10:06:13

Here it is... The Lady Vanishes

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 10:54:03

Well how rude! I came on here, agreed with lots of things people were saying and mentioned an amusing aside in which the subject is mentioned in a book I once read. The author, book and particular passaged mentioned are now being criticised and analysed by someone who has clearly never read it and, on top of that, feels qualified to accuse me of middle class angst! As I am not middle class, I am free to assure the poster that such a social function is required of working class women too. Facilitating social chit-chat is another feature of the main idea on this thread that women are there to facilitate male opinion which leads ultimately to more male voices in the media. However, dismiss it as middle-class, spiritual angst if you wish, but many on here seem to find it very annoying and depressing indeed.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:55:22

It's an interesting article, thanks Casey.

Two things stand out. The first one is her husband's lack of awareness of how she is treated in business meetings. Perhaps she could be talking to him, rather than pouring it out to the press. The second one is people's - mostly women in this case - obsession with celebrity, rather than achievement. Do any of these giggly middle-aged women know or care about the academic side of his life? Or do they just like the idea of fame for it's own sake? Because I imagine there are plenty of beardy, sandalled, baldy physicists in student bars around the country who would love some gushing female attention.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 10:55:59

Oh, crikey, not this again.

Yes, let's all pile in to have a go at Virginia Woolf, why on earth didn't she just sort everything out single-handed, I mean, was she lazy or something?!


namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 10:58:48

I was accusing Ms Woolf of middle-class angst and melodramatics, as she wrote it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 10:59:19

namechange - how do you know she doesn't talk to him? I didn't get that from the article.

Oh, and of course, women couldn't possibly be interested in academics ... especially not <gasp!> middle-aged women.

Did you mean to sound quite so patronizing in the cause of getting some more 'attention' for poor middle-aged male physicists everywhere?

WeeWeeWeeAllTheWayHome Wed 02-Jan-13 10:59:58

I hope it's ok to post this here (it's from but reading your OP made me think of this terrible bargain

I luffs Shakesville, I've learnt so much there (although I'm still too green to actually post on there as I know I've got much more learning to do first).

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 11:00:11

namechange - I did realize what you were accusing her of. I was wondering why you think she should be perfect, exactly?

Could you have done better?

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 11:01:18

Oh silly of me! I thought manechangeguy was being personally rude to me. Then, in his following post, on a feminist disussion board, I noticed he used the words "giggly middle-aged women" and realised he is just a rude aggravating man IN GENERAL! Oh, goodness, I feel much better now smile

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 11:02:49


I'm sure it were irony or summat, rosa. No doubt all will be revealed in time.

Let's go off and swoon over Stephen Hawking while we wait.

rosabud Wed 02-Jan-13 11:05:23

Good idea LRD but, although I am not middleclass, I am most certainly middle-aged - so as long as there's no giggling involved!

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 11:08:04

I am middle-class but not yet middle-aged. Together we'll do fine!

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 11:08:57

'Giggly middle-aged women' is a direct quote from Gia Milinovich's article - it's in the 4th paragraph down, for those who wish to find it. Try getting angry at her for that, rather than me.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 11:11:33

We saw that, dear, we're all reading the same article, believe it or not.

My objection was to you quoting it.

Sorry that wasn't clear, what with me objecting to you quoting it.

namechangeguy Wed 02-Jan-13 11:20:09

So why are you objecting to me quoting it? That is not clear - dear...

My take on her article is that most people are obsessed with Cox's celebrity, rather than his achievements, as it occurred as soon as he had presented Wonders of the Solar System. I don't see how or why this is so controversial. Rosa, too, seems upset that I have quoted her.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 02-Jan-13 11:22:55

It's not clear? Oh dear.

Never mind, I'm sure it's just one of those things.

I struggle with things too - particle physics is a closed book to me - so I do sympathize.

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