A last minute swap to gender equality issues proved to be a good decision as I became more and more engrossed in articles and opinion pieces about this very relevant issue. With so many opinions, ideas, forms, waves, disagreements and agreements that surround the concept of feminism, I immediately knew from my initial research that this very extensive social issue would lead me into many ideas and possibilities for thought and reflection. Meagan Tyler’s article “No, Feminism is Not About Choice” is an argument against the idea of “choice feminism”; the idea that a woman’s freedom to choose trumps her right equality, that anything is a feminist choice so long as a feminist chooses it (within religion, family, career, dieting, sex, aesthetics, surgery, etc). Tyler is a research fellow at RMIT university with a particular interest in the social construction of gender and sexuality, and she regularly contributes to online news outlet The Conversation. She completed a PHD and went on to be a lecturer in sociology, before taking on the role of research fellow, making her a voice to be listened to within feminist discussion. Tyler recently co-edited and contributed to a book called “Freedom Fallacy: the limits of liberal feminism”, a collection of essays critiquing the idea that “choice should be the ultimate arbiter of women’s freedom”. In the article that I read, she follows on from this theme and challenges the notion of “choice feminism”, arguing that this form of “pop feminism” is causing the fight for equality to stall and is “hampering our ability to challenge the very institutions that hold women back”. While this article has a passionate bias towards feminism and women’s rights, it has been formulated from her research in gender and equality issues, therefore making it worth consideration. Tyler ultimately claims that “choice feminism” is a “largely unchallenging version of feminism” which has entered the popular consciousness, and to a certain extent, I agree that it is quite possible that women who do have the ability to “choose” their choices and accept this as feminism succeeding could in fact be hindering the fight for the equality of all women, regardless of geography, age, ethnicity, economic state, sexuality; particularly those who are yet to achieve that freedom of choice. It is entirely possible that “choice feminism” has placated our society, reassuring men and women that the feminist fight has succeeded and can now be forgotten about, when the reality is quite the opposite.
The second article I looked at was found on ABC news online (with no author cited) which was written in response to the recent new advertisement for British feminine hygiene company Bodyform, titled “Blood”. The ABC article “No Blood Should Hold Us Back: New Ad Aims to Power Past Period Stigma” is clearly supportive of the new Bodyform ad, which aims to challenge the stigmas and misrepresentation of menstruation which is commonly seen in the media. I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s support, and with the message of Bodyform’s new ad. The article discusses the very positive reaction that the wider community has had to the ad which is wonderful to see, as I believe breaking down social stigmas and stereotypes about women’s bodies is incredibly important.
Following on from this, I read an article on online Australian news outlet news.com.au reporting on non-profit The Parsemus Foundation’s recent innovation of a non-hormonal form of male contraceptive, currently being developed and to be approved for sale in the US within the next couple of years. It will be the first male contraceptive since the condom, an exciting scientific achievement as, excluding the use of condoms, birth control has up until now mainly been the responsibility of women. The idea of being able to share the responsibility is appealing to many, and important in the quest for equality. I definitely agree that this is a great innovation; the pill was so revolutionary in terms of women’s sexual liberation, so it’s great to see these frontiers being pushed further.
“Equality means a loss to those in privilege, and that’s okay” is a passionate opinion piece by Clementine Ford, a well known Australian journalist and prominent voice in regards to feminist issues and social equality. As a self proclaimed angry feminist who “twice weekly shares her man-hating screeds in the sulphuric depths of Fairfax’s resident witch coven, Daily Life” Ford, in her article, makes a passionate outcry for the dismantling of privilege and power in order to achieve true equality. The title of the article explains the tone of Ford’s writing, as she explores the idea that the reason the notion of equality is a hard one to get used to for many is because they perceive it as a loss, as a slight on them and the privilege they’ve been born into. For her, true equality means a loss to those in privilege, and that is more than okay. I definitely agree that those who refuse to adopt feminism, or are scared of the idea of feminism, do so probably because they’re afraid of the perceived negative effects that the rebalance of power and privilege will have on their own lives, and this would definitely be an interesting idea to look further into.
My final and favourite article that I looked at was written by American writer and activist Rebecca Solnit titled “Feminism, Now With Men”; a favourite for the eloquence with which Solnit outlines such a huge subject. Solnit regularly writes articles (and books) about feminism and women’s rights, and in this particular article she explores the recent wave of men actively engaging with feminism and how crucial this is. She also, on the opposing side, addresses the huge issues that surround rape culture, which are being kept alive by the many men who don’t engage with feminism, and rather do the opposite. In her article, she speaks of celebrating the men who take action against gender inequality, celebrating those who care enough about the well being of other human beings to speak up, “without thought about whether it confers advantages on them too”, a position which I definitely agree with. Solnit is clearly passionate about feminism and women’s rights, and states that until the world is “fully inhabitable by women who can walk freely down the street without the constant fear of trouble and danger, we will labour under practical and psychological burdens that impair our full powers”. I appreciate this statement as someone who is actively aware of feminism, but also of other social issues such as climate and environmental issues, and animal rights; while we are being held back in a patriarchal world, our full powers in dealing with the big issues of our planet are indeed being impaired.
From my readings, a few key ideas stood out to me. The ideas of “pop feminism” and “choice feminism” which Meagan Tyler challenged in her article were concepts I hadn’t heard of before, but which intrigued me. “Choice feminism” has definitely grown in popularity in recent times, and I think Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist” could be an interesting starting point from which to further explore this concept and how it is effecting us socially. I also began thinking about how men relate to feminism; how we can possibly find a space in feminism within which men feel able to fully commit to gender equality, while still maintaining women as the central and most important aspect of the movement (i.e. no mansplaining). Solnit’s example about women’s claims not being heard and listened to and acted upon properly within rape cases, and the horrible “she said, he said” and false-rape allegations which are held against victims, also raised the idea that often the issues that men can have with feminism are created by the men themselves (possibly as a subconscious, or conscious, way of justifying their rejection of feminism and maintaining societal dominance). I was also really drawn to the idea, which Solnit touches on, that achieving a truly equal society will free up energy and passion and time for tackling other big world issues, which made me begin to consider how feminism relates to other social issues such as environmental issues and animal rights.
Madeleine Lumley Prince
Meagan Tyler. 2016. No, feminism is not about choice. [ONLINE] Available at: http://theconversation.com/no-feminism-is-not-about-choice-40896. [Accessed 2 August 2016].
ABC News. 2016. ‘No blood should hold us back’: New ad aims to power past period stigma – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-06/no-blood-should-hold-us-back-ad/7480408. [Accessed 2 August 2016].
news.com.au. 2015. Vasalgel: male pill is almost ready for sale. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/sex/a-new-male-pill-is-being-developed-that-could-change-the-contraception-game-for-good/news-story/4d87c1e28fa983d82c45d1532841c672. [Accessed 2 August 2016].
Clementine Ford. 2015. Equality means a loss to those in privilege, and that’s okay. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/equality-means-a-loss-to-those-in-privilege-and-thats-okay-20150527-ghambb.html. [Accessed 4 August 2016].
Rebecca Solnit. 2014. Feminism, Now with Men. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.guernicamag.com/daily/rebecca-solnit-feminism-now-with-men/. [Accessed 4 August 2016].