Advanced search

Feminism and the Alienation of Women

(71 Posts)
Sausageeggbacon Fri 14-Feb-14 10:53:51

Reading the postings on here and discussing feminism elsewhere I am seeing large sections of women standing away from feminism. Or more particularly the vocal white middle class driven feminism.

There is a long article here that looks at the issues of why women of colour are moving away from feminism this is mainly though in the US/Canada. However some of the points remain relevant and show why inclusion needs to be worked at.

Also something that gets my goat in particular is this constant whinge about the glass ceiling. I hate this because in real terms how many women benefit? 200, 500, 1000? There are a limited number of top positions. I see so little in the fight for better conditions for women at the bottom end of the working spectrum. And those women look at feminism and see how little it seems to be for them and don't join in the battle.

3 million women supposedly read the Sun against the 300k or so who petitioned for no more page 3. Why are those 3 million not engaging with feminism? In my humble opinion feminism does not feel inclusive and the biggest chunk of people that could be engaged in the need for change are not being addressed.

MorrisZapp Fri 14-Feb-14 10:59:59

I dunno. I don't think it's feminism's job to be inclusive. I think it's up to people who think and who care to speak and be included.

I agree somewhat re the glass ceiling, I can't weep too much for millionaires missing out on obscene bonuses etc. But surely it's more about the overall message. Like gays in the military. I don't really identify with the military and I don't know why anybody would want to enlist. But if they do, their sexual orientation shouldn't be relevant.

Any movement will come be be defined by its strongest, most charismatic proponents.

SinisterSal Fri 14-Feb-14 11:00:15

I see the point you are making.

But what are people supposed to actually do?

Middle class people tend to be fairly articulate and this can be effective. Should they not tend to their own concerns? Speak for others? (I'm unlikely to be bothered by the glass ceiling myself)

So mc feminism is a victim of it's own success rather than deliberately exclusionary.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DuskAndShiver Fri 14-Feb-14 12:01:04

I know what you mean OP.
Although I am myself MC and pretty cushy in work, this emphasis on the glass ceiling bugs me too because a. a fraction of women's problems with the exploitation of their labour is to do with their paid labour at all, and b. even within paid labour, this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the problem. I will never worry about just getting pipped to the post by a man to being chairman of a FTSE company. My work issues are in themselves trivial and privileged and whiny (just a load of boring stuff about being patronised and belittled and not given opportunities and being given the boring shit to do and low grade sexual harrassment and being exploited if I am nice about it and bollocked or sacked if I complained about it - I could have done better, and goddamit I would have if I were a man - but I still have a job and it's an alright one) - and even those MC issues are still eschelons "below" the ones that are counted as "mattering".

I see Buffy's point in that if we had some kick-ass women representing us all in high places maybe it would be different. But I don't see evidence for this. Because the domestic sphere, for instance, which seems to be the primary locus of exploitation of women, seems to be beneath the notice of people like that. It would be an incredible revolution already if, without giving a single more penny to women in their pay packets, all women that lived with men were expected to do only a fair share of housework. If that happened tomorrow, women would in real terms be ££££££ better off overnight, because time is money, and hours of their own time would be restored to them. This effects virtually all women, I believe. And no one gives a shit about it.

Suppose women do roughly half an hour more work a day than men (I consider that a conservative estimate). That's 182 hours a year that would be restored to them, or:

£1,152 at minimum wage (not that I am suggesting that this work is unskilled)
roughly 4 weeks off work (assuming 8 hour, 5 day weeks)

Imagine that. Imagine being given 4 weeks a year of daytimes to read, learn a language, play with the kids, sew, drink coffee, sunbathe, whatever you like to do.
That is something men already have that we don't because they have it at our expense.


ArtetasSwollenAnkle Fri 14-Feb-14 12:38:41

In regard to pulling the ladder up behind them - I remember a programme on Radio 4 some time ago. Four women CEO's were discussing, amongst other things, positive discrimination and female quotas on company boards. All were dead set against these, as they had not required them. Is that pulling up the ladder, or expecting people to make their way in the world as best they can?

I don't know why expectations are higher for feminists than other political activists. If you are white and middle class, that is the environment you understand, and so that is what you talk about. It is self interest, the same as any other type of politics, and so what? Women are not saints. You do what you can, about what you know. Plenty of people have been shot down on here for appropriating the issues of groups that they do not belong to.

MothratheMighty Fri 14-Feb-14 12:46:33

Back in my yooff, the glass ceiling was much lower and all-encompassing.
Less about top positions in business and nore about not being allowed to study boys' subjects at school, like chemistry and physics, or the careers that were completely closed, not just the higher levels, the whole bloody field.
And the Sex Equality act.
There's enough space for everyone to have a particular aspect of a cause to fight for, that matters to them. And I do think that in order for people to be truly committed and interested and have the staying power to last decades, they need to be personally involved.
Very few people find altruism is enough for sustained input.

grimbletart Fri 14-Feb-14 12:47:14

I see so little in the fight for better conditions for women at the bottom end of the working spectrum. And those women look at feminism and see how little it seems to be for them and don't join in the battle.

I see where you are coming from Sausage, but sometimes people have to do things for themselves. There is nothing at all to stop women of any social class/job/situation combining to fight for better conditions/cultural change/more opportunities. In fact, they do e.g. the Dagenham Ford women's strike that led to the Equal Pay Act.

But I do concede I come from a 1950s/60s feminism background where we had an attitude of "don't like it? - change it then". Bugger waiting around for summat to happen or someone else to include us…..

MothratheMighty Fri 14-Feb-14 12:49:09

'Do you think that if the glass ceiling were to be smashed and women were 50% of the cabinet and Fortune 500 CEOs then things would get better for the rest of us? '

No, I don't think it would. I think the things that they fought about and over would be different, but that there would still be opression and marginalisation and the negative side, as well as positives.
Rather like communism. It only works perfectly on a small scale before becoming corrupted.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MothratheMighty Fri 14-Feb-14 13:13:43

Oh, I know Buffy. I'd love to see equality of power and opportunity, but it would also depend hugely on who those individuals in positions of power were. I'm certainly for the idea, but I think I'll keep the rose-tinted lenses in a drawer.
I think I'd probably still feel disgruntled on many occasions, but for different reasons.
Rather like when I went back to work ft after 6 months and OH was a SAHH. Yes it made sense in an equal partnership, but there were times when I craved a 50s housewife life with me whites whiter than white and a pinny and a baby and a salaryman. grin

WilsonFrickett Fri 14-Feb-14 13:34:46

I too find it hard to get worked up about the glass ceiling in an abstract sense, but when I worked in a FTSE 100 company it was something I was very engaged with - it was there, right in front of me, and it wasn't simply about the number of women on the board, it was about an insidious male-driven toxic culture which dismissed the contribution of women in innumerable ways. That felt very 'real' to me. I think often people fight the fight that is in front of them and I don't see anything wrong in that - it all counts.

And yes, in our present capitalist system I think it's important to see equal representation in the systems of power. Although overall it may be better to change the systems than just the people who lead them.

All that said, I do agree with morris that it's not feminism's job to be inclusive - how can it be? It isn't structured like that, imo.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WilsonFrickett Fri 14-Feb-14 13:51:15

I think often when people talk about it, yes, it's about lack of promotion. But when you work in a big organisation where it's all about the man (literally in this case, think of a big blue bank) it feels more like a cling film ceiling - it drapes down over all women at all levels. Some of them can push upwards but it never breaks, it only ever stretches further. Which means the women it covers have to change themselves to survive - ie develop male characteristics - stretching it at all.

<bizarrely pleased with that metaphor>

Grennie Fri 14-Feb-14 13:57:33

The media promote a certain kind of feminism that is easily understood and is not really challenging to patriarchy and male domination. This does not equate with what is happening on the ground. I see plenty of women who are black or asian involved in feminism and lots of campaigns to address injustices affecting black and asian women. The Million Women Rise march in London is organised mainly by black feminists.

Don't look to mainstream media to get a realistic idea of what a social justice movement is really like.

Grennie Fri 14-Feb-14 13:59:28

I also think mainstream feminism, in spite of its rhetoric, marginalises many of the most disadvantaged women in the country. It is no accident that radical feminism is full of women who have been prostituted, homeless and lived/living in dire poverty.

Viviennemary Fri 14-Feb-14 14:03:13

There was a time a good number of years ago when I actually supported the feminist cause. No longer. I don't like the way it has gone.

Quangle Fri 14-Feb-14 14:12:55

I don't think the glass ceiling is irrelevant. I think it affects all of us from top to bottom. It affects how power is used in our country and it affects how men see women and consequently how little boys see women and its impact is insidious.

I get the point you are making but I think we should all shout about everything. But actually the levers of power are really important.

I was at an event where Diane Abbott was speaking recently and it was interesting. She touched on the issues at the intersection of feminism and women of colour. She's an MP for a deprived constituency, representing lots of women of colour who were simply not in the room (it was a wealth management event for women so exclusively female purposely but accidentally also exclusively white - apart from her). I thought it was great that she stood up and talked about both issues - she actually gave the room permission to talk about issues for women of colour in our industry and for women without the careers that we have and to take ownership of the issue in our industry. This is not to say that a group of white, successful women can solve the issues for women of colour or women without access to money and power. But she subtly made it all of our problem - and that's really powerful. We've been talking about it a lot since and I've had very open conversations with the one or two black women I know in my industry (it really is very white upper middle class - makes Parliament look like the rainbow nation).

It's about the glass ceiling and the marginalisation and everything.

DuskAndShiver Fri 14-Feb-14 14:15:02

Vivienne - why not?

Buffy - I don't think it would be a bad thing per se for women to be equal to men in the top positions. But if we are talking about the very, very top positions - MPs, or boards of FTSE companies, etc - I think people like that aren't very cooperatively minded (gross generalisation alert) and whether they are men or women, they are very, very driven and not engaged with the issues of people who are not.

for example (not directly related to feminism, but just to draw an analogy): we hear a lot about social mobility. I think that if the child of a rubbish collector becomes a barrister, that can't help but be a great thing. But someone is still going to be a rubbish collector, and that person deserves a living wage and a decent life. Just because someone "failed" at the competition of life (I do not consider any job being a failure, by the way, but this is the sort of thing that is implied) doesn't mean that they don't deserve a place to live, or to have a family, which is the state of play for many in low waged jobs. I don't care how "fair" the competition is (well I do, but); I think everyone deserves an ok life.

Similarly, there are many women who are unsuitable for high office not because they are women, but because many people will never gain high office. And they deserve an alright life too. And almost by definition, the chairperson of an investment bank is the person least likely to have any interest in helping to deliver that to everyone.

ArtetasSwollenAnkle Fri 14-Feb-14 14:23:34

Wilson, I have a question about the big blue bank culture you describe. Is there a type of behaviour that the banking industry requires that is equally adoptable by men and women? What I mean is, is it possible for either gender to adopt a certain way of behaving within the organisation and have a successful career, regardless of gender? Or will a less successful man always get ahead of a more successful woman, simply because he is a man? You referred to developing 'male characteristics'. Do you mean the risk-taking culture of investment banks/the city?

I am wondering whether you have found that women shy away from adopting this behaviour, or whether they do it and still don't get anywhere. I have never worked in banking, but I assume you have.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scallopsrgreat Fri 14-Feb-14 14:27:28

I agrere with Quangle and Wilson. I like the cling film analogy. The glass ceiling affects all of us. I'm reading Cordelia Fine at the moment and she talks about how women entering a male dominated environment might take heart from other women in more senior positions. But there are so few of them that if they leave or you manage to rise up the ranks then there are less and less role models and that has an effect on how you view yourself and your prospects. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have never thought of the glass-ceiling as being limited to the boardroom, despite how the media portray it. Look at Primary School teaching for a start. Men are seen to rise to the top far quicker. And that's a female-dominated environment.

WilsonFrickett Fri 14-Feb-14 14:46:57

Arteas I can only speak to one particular bank and wouldn't be comfortable making too many generalisations from that experience. A big bank also employs thousands of people and, statistically, very few are in the risk-taking/casino/city areas and again, that's not an area I knew very well, but with those caveats I'll try and answer your question.

I shouldn't have said male characteristics, when I meant one particular man! The cultural norm was to lionise the CEO and behaving like him was pretty much necessary for all the senior bods. At C-level, you had to act a certain way or you did not survive. Some women were able to do this and rose very high in the organisation, but to be fair I think that many of the senior men were also behaving in a way that was natural to them.

Because that was the pattern, yes, I do think less successful men got ahead of more talented women. They had a head start, because they looked like the CEO as well as acting like him. But I do believe that once a woman clocked on to that, they could compete on a level playing field.

Of course, one element of this was workaholicism, so the minute a woman took a mat leave, or a bit of time off for a sick child, or went part-time, they weren't acting like the alpha man - this would then count against them. But when a man did it on the odd occasion it was proof our excellent diversity policies worked smile

(The company did have great policies actually. I cannot recall one single man who took advantage of things like flexible working though.)

To answer your question though I think most people would shy away from adopting this style of working. Where this company went wrong was letting it become a cultural norm. Men and women both did it, but once women had children it tended to become harder to maintain.

<sorry for length>

DuskAndShiver Fri 14-Feb-14 14:56:23

Artetas, there is research that shows that the same behaviour by men and women is perceived very differently.
You don't have to go as far down the "testosterone continuum" as risk-taking for certain more assertive traits (eg asking for a pay rise) to be penalised if you are a woman. The difficulty is, avoiding these behaviours (picking up on the social cues that they will be frowned upon) leaves you open to exploitation. So you lose either way. People don't promote you just because you deserve it (usually); you need to push, you need some hustle as well. But hustle is in itself penalised in women.

Eg: early in many careers it is common for young people to act as assistants or support staff. People who are flexible, positive, accommodating and helpful will do well.
At a certain point, it becomes appropriate to take on more responsibility (and more reward). At this point you can sometimes need to send messages to your seniors (who find it very comfortable having this nice, bright, accommodating person running around supporting them) that you need your own accounts. As well as asking for more of the good stuff you may need to separate yourself from the very junior people who are doing more of the support stuff.

If you don't, you will be doing other people's photocopying for ever.
If you do, and you are a woman, you are viewed as difficult, arrogant, a" prima donna", up yourself, etc.

The point at which you start thinking "I've paid my dues, what about my own accounts?" may come at a time when women are also starting to think about children. I think the two issues have become wrongly conflated just by virtue of occurring sometimes at roughly the same time. I hear a lot of people say " we were treated almost the same till I had children" but I had children late and so did a lot of women I know, and I would say " we were treated almost the same when we were all happy to be assistants"

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now