Nadine’s not a feminist, but….


3:31 pm - February 26th 2010

by Cath Elliott    


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I found myself in the unenviable position this week of actually agreeing with Nadine Dorries about something. But don’t worry, it was a short lived affair.

Now despite the fact that I appear to be one of the few lefties she hasn’t yet blocked on Twitter, I’m not renowned for holding Dorries in any high esteem (see here for example), so you can imagine my surprise when she tweeted this:

…and I found myself nodding along.

Yes she’s right, the political new media is dominated by men – in fact it’s something I’ve been intending to write about for a while now.

Jennie Rigg wrote a great piece about it last year: Where are all the female bloggers, where she explained how part of the reason men dominate, or at least are seen to dominate the blogosphere, is that “men link to men” on their blogs as well as “recommend posts by men to other men.”

She also argued, and this is where I think she hits the nail on the head, that part of the problem is a definitional one, that unless you’re writing about party or Westminster politics, if you’re writing about feminism for example, you’re not regarded as a political blogger. Says Jenni:

“Dan Dan the Wikio Man and I had a similar discussion about The F-Word and various other feminist blogs. Wikio had them listed under General, because feminism isn’t politics. The narrow definition of politics to include only geekery about party politics and the Westminster Bubble excludes women.”

Exactly. I regard myself as very much a political blogger, and feminism as an integral part of my politics, but I only get linked to from the big boys’ blogs when I write about party political issues. And search for my blog on Wikio and, just like the F-Word and other feminist blogs, you’ll find it categorised under the “General” heading.

Liberal Conspiracy on the other hand, is firmly listed there under ‘Politics’. So does that mean that when I write at my place I’m just a feminist blogger and when I write for LC I’m a political blogger? Even though often-times it’s the same blog post in both places? Hmmm, perhaps someone from Wikio could explain to me how that works…

Laurie Penny has also written about this recently, and I have to say I completely agree with her criticism of the What Difference Does Political Blogging Make? debate, hosted by the Westminster Skeptics, in which the panellists, Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale, Nick Cohen, Sunny Hundal and Mick Fealty, were all men.

In fact I had actually planned on going to the debate to make exactly that point, that having an all male panel at an event like that really doesn’t help, especially when we’re all busy bemoaning the invisibility of women in both politics and political blogging. But in the end I had to pass, ‘cos I was off that day doing other, more girly, less political things, like presenting a workshop on trafficking and prostitution at the National Rape Crisis conference. And yes that is a snark, because if anyone really does think there’s nothing political about that, then sorry, but I beg to differ.

But anyway, back to Nadine and me, and our momentary, all too brief, meeting of minds. It wasn’t long after posting her tweet that some Tory came back to her with this:

And her response?

No, dear me no. I mean Jeez, God forbid no, perish the thought. Nadine’s not a feminist, there’s not an ounce of feminism in her body, no no no. Not even a hint of it. But….

Why do women do this? Why? And, let’s be more specific in this case, why do women in politics do this?

Nadine, just on the off chance you’re reading this. I don’t mean to shout or anything, but

You’re a woman ffs! A woman MP! You wouldn’t even be in Westminster if it wasn’t for feminism and the feminists who fought bloody hard for your right to be there! Now go and learn some sodding history!

Still, I may have retreated back to the other side of the barricades, but at least Marshal still loves her:

Awwww.

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About the author
Cath Elliott is a regular contributor. She is a feminist, a trade union activist, and a freelance writer and blogger. Also at: Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Nadine Dorries ,Sex equality ,Westminster

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Reader comments


I could list dozens of reasons not to vote Tory, but the fact that Nadine Dorries is one of their MPs would be pretty near the top.

Wish she was her PPC or MP? Seems Dorries has been downgraded, no?

I had a conversation with my sister recently that went approximately along the lines of “I don’t understand why you keep banging on at me about this feminism stuff. All I’m asking for is for someone who will respect my bodily autonomy and do their fair share around the house. Why does that mean I have to be all feminist and that?”.

Luckily for her, this was over the phone, and it was only my commitment to the environment that stopped me hopping on a plane then and there to smack her round the back of the head in person.

Of course the reason women do this is that there are penalties to pay for openly speaking out against oppression or challenging the status quo. And there are benefits that accrue to those who play along and collaborate with the opressors. Not everybody is Rosa Parks, and, having faced some of the music that comes with self identifying as a feminist, I’m not sure I have it in me to blame them too much.

4. Economist girl

Argh, feminism as a dirty word, this pisses me off more than I can explain!

I don’t know whether this is interesting or not, but I consider the feminist and queer blogs I read to be more important than the party political stuff (and also more important than the economics blogs I read). I suppose that’s not surprising given the amount of pointless petty crap that goes on in party politics. Sure the feminist and queer blogs have their own share of infighting but I think overall they cover more fundamental and profound topics, particularly the blogs that spend a lot of time on trans issues, because our society really has so much progress to make there and until we do it’s costing lives.

5. J Alfred Prufrock

“Feminism”, like other “-isms”, has become something of a tainted word unfortunately. I know plenty of women who hold “feminist” principles yet recoil from self-identifying as such. I think it’s an example of the political Right/anti-feminists using the word negatively so much and for so long that people automatically dismiss it as a valid philosophy.
Time for reclaiming? Or rebranding?

I suspect the reason the word “feminist” attracts such suspicion is because it is confused with a particular brand of humourless puritannical left-wing militant feminism – dungarees etc.

“I suspect the reason the word “feminist” attracts such suspicion is because it is confused with a particular brand of humourless puritannical left-wing militant feminism – dungarees etc.”

Only by morons who think the media accurately report political philosophy.

Only by morons who think the misogynist media accurately report political philosophy.

There, fixed it for you. =)

I’m a feminist and I’m a boy and to be fair sometimes I have difficulty convincing women that there’s anything wrong with society, or right with feminism. Its a bit annoying.

I’m not sure why the blogosphere is so male dominated; I don’t like your linking argument particularly. I mean, men link to men, but that is largely because most bloggers are men, it is perhaps slightly self-reinforcing but I don’t think its the sole reason.

Maybe men are just more prone to spending more time staying in on computers than women do?

Of course Elliott could agree with Dorries about the under-representation of women. However, more women in parliament does not equal more feminists – Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s horse so women could have the vote – it didn’t follow that women would all vote the same way once they got it. So when Elliott asks:

Why do women do this? Why? And, let’s be more specific in this case, why do women in politics do this?

The inevitable answer is (to misquote the Bill Clinton campaign): ‘It’s the ideology, stupid’. I thought that lesson had been learnt from when Thatcher was in power, and been reinforced by Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential campaign (oh, and there’s always Angela Merkel…), but clearly the erroneous assumption that being female and being a feminist are interchangeable lives on.

Nothing funnier than watching Conservative woman wriggle like a maggot on a hook over the dreaded feminism. (Except capitalists complaining about capitalism)

Every bone in their political body hates the very idea of feminism, but….and it is an enormous but, deep down they know that without some sort of woman’s rights they would still be writing poetry, and wearing bonnets while they desperately search for a wealthy husband.

One of their most often used phrase is “I am not a feminist , but……..”

Nadine But we will have to call her.

Left Outside:

men link to men, but that is largely because most bloggers are men

Not true, not according to both the ONS and a study commissioned from within industry (the links are on the dead desktop, sorry).

More women than men blog. More women have at least one blog. However, of the men that blog, while there are less of them than women, they
a) tend to have more than one blog on different subjects
b) tend to write more
c) are much more likely to submit themselves to aggregators and rating systems

I read a large number of blogs written by women, and my chosen blog platform is an open source project where 70% of code contributors, 75% of users and 66% of staff are female. I’m of the opinion that it’s the best commercial blog platform out there, and it’s still in beta.

More women have a blog. Many of them are exceptional writers. But most of them don’t indulge in the willy waving competitions of Wikio and similar (go read Jennie’s post linked above for more on this). So most men that do blog tend to ignore them.

And many overtly political female bloggers don’t even consider themselves to be political. I loath the idea that partisan blogging, or blogging about institutional frameworks, is the only form of political blogging. Everything’s (fucking) political.

I think LO was referring to political blogs as such.

I was being asked some questions on this, this afternoon by a student looking to research this.

First, I think there is a tight definition of what is ‘political’ blogging as such – and it’s not just feminists who suffer. I blogged about terrorism and identity politics on PP and that never became one of the ‘mainstream politics’ blogs because the agenda was slightly different.

Most women blogs generally avoid Westminster national politics blogging: fact. Sadie Smith was one of the few. Cath has started moving towards it. Alix and Charlotte Gore have sorta stopped. But the F Word doesn’t do Westminster as much as we do, for example. Which means if you’re going to link to other bloggers on politics, they inevitably happened to be men.

Everything’s (fucking) political.

Not necessarily. I’m not a big fan of reading about people’s personal lives on blogs. In fact I generally avoid following people on Twitter who do their personal lives too. It’s just, I find that too voyeuristic, when I want to know about friends I know personally and for years. But a lot of personal one-person blogging includes personal lives.

Everything’s (fucking) political.

Too much skunk (anansie)?

redpesto

clearly the erroneous assumption that being female and being a feminist are interchangeable lives on.

Not at all. However, and this may be controversial for some, I do think that being a female politician in such a still predominantly male institution as Parliament, is in and of itself a feminist act. Female politicians, even Tory ones like Dorries, aren’t sticking to proscribed gender roles, they’re not doing the traditional woman thing and staying at home with the kids or whatever. I may disagree with Dorries on just about every issue, just as I disagreed with Thatcher, but at the same time I would maintain that even now, in today’s allegedly progressive society, what she’s doing, just being a female MP, is fairly radical.

Sunny

“I’m not a big fan of reading about people’s personal lives on blogs.”

But the personal is political Sunny!

Perhaps Dorries is the most feminist, under a crippling bout of false consciousness

Cath Elliott:

I do think that being a female politician in such a still predominantly male institution as Parliament, is in and of itself a feminist act.

Yes, it can be seen as a positive development – except that it leads to the interesting situation of, say, women in the military (especially in frontline combat), let alone the legacy of Margaret Thatcher: it is part of process that one day might lead to full equality, but that’s a headcount issue rather than an ideological one. If the Tories are too stupid to realise that a gender-balanced Tory government would still be a Tory government, that’s their problem. Equality box – ticked; ideological box – empty. Also, of course, the fact that a woman works for a living could be seen as a feminist act, simply because there are those who think she shouldn’t, and even if the women does it out of economic necessity or basic ability than a desire to stuff the patriarchy. Maybe Freud’s adage ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’ might apply here: perhaps not everything a woman does is a ‘feminist act’ (and no, I’m not talking about the ones a eminist might not approve of).

‘But the personal is political Sunny!’

But the personal is still more *personal* than political, just as the political is more *political* than it is personal.

The dogmatic assertion that ‘the personal is political’ gives some bloggers an excuse to wash their heads out in public but self-dramatism (mentioning no names here…) doesn’t help feminism one jot.

“I’m not a big fan of reading about people’s personal lives on blogs.”

Yes yes, but there’s a difference between writing about your personal stuggles and pointing out what your kids were doing, or your cat was doing or the state of your flat!

Careful Sunny, I was planning on blogging about my cat tomorrow….

“I’m not a big fan of reading about people’s personal lives on blogs.”

I half agree, but it needs to be added to with some honesty – people that write about “what your kids were doing, or your cat was doing or the state of your flat” are boring, and I imagine it is that fact, more than personal life blogs per se, that inform this turn of conversation.

Plus, I wish we could take the personal out of the political, which is why I’m shitting myself at the prospect of parent-run schools. The cracking thing about state-run schools is by and large emotional proximity is removed, whereas with parents, good heavens it’ll be bloodshed. Now then, Nadine who?

Left Outside:

men link to men, but that is largely because most bloggers are men

Not true, not according to both the ONS and a study commissioned from within industry (the links are on the dead desktop, sorry).

More women than men blog. More women have at least one blog. However, of the men that blog, while there are less of them than women, they
a) tend to have more than one blog on different subjects
b) tend to write more
c) are much more likely to submit themselves to aggregators and rating systems

I read a large number of blogs written by women, and my chosen blog platform is an open source project where 70% of code contributors, 75% of users and 66% of staff are female. I’m of the opinion that it’s the best commercial blog platform out there, and it’s still in beta.

More women have a blog. Many of them are exceptional writers. But most of them don’t indulge in the willy waving competitions of Wikio and similar (go read Jennie’s post linked above for more on this). So most men that do blog tend to ignore them.

And many overtly political female bloggers don’t even consider themselves to be political. I loath the idea that partisan blogging, or blogging about institutional frameworks, is the only form of political blogging. Everything’s (fucking) political.

Pwned there, but thank’s a lot. That’s a lot of information I never knew about blogging and gender. In fairness I was referring more to “poltical blogging” than blogging, but I was still proved wrong.

Although the personal is political I don’t class a lot of it as such, well some of it, it doesn’t interest me too much and so I don’t read it.

If they don’t willy wave enough then they will have less readers. (yes yes they don’t have willies haha) Self promotion is quite important to blogging.

The personal is often political, but doesn’t necessarily matter politically. On the other hand, anything’s more significant than the tedious pantomime that Wesminster-centric bloggers gape at daily. Think I’ll go and write a post about the hole in my sock.

Really good post Cath.

I’d previously wondered why F-Word and Penny Red were not ranked as “Politics” by Wikio. I assumed it was a mistake, or they’d not asked to be so ranked.

Unbelievable that it’s an actual decision. What the hell is feminism if it’s not politics?

That’s like saying “oh sorry, you argue for racial equality. That’s not politics. Why not go and hang out with Mr Griffin and his sort. They’re interested in race issues, and aren’t political at all”.

Dumb analogy, but you get my point.

@15

“However, and this may be controversial for some, I do think that being a female politician in such a still predominantly male institution as Parliament, is in and of itself a feminist act.

Whilst it may be “a feminist act”, I have difficulty seeing it that way when the women in question then work against other women. They may not personally stick to gender proscribed roles for themselves, but they work to push gender proscribed roles on other women. So the misogynist camp has women in it, that’s nothing new.

Being radical isn’t the same as being feminist.

Redpeston

Everything’s (fucking) political.

Too much skunk (anansie)?

Is this possible? Admittedly only one good album, but, y’know, what an album.

@Sunny: part of the point is that a lot of female bloggers write about personal stuff, but some of those personal experiences are, in and of themselves, political. It took me a lot of effort to, for example, persuade Debi (Innerbrat) that the writing she did about her experience with rape and therapy was, without doubt, political blogging. What else can it possibly be?

I’d write a lot more about our experience with the local school, except, well, y’know a) I don’t write much currently and b) I now work in it.

I do agree, completely, with BenSix when he says :

The personal is often political, but doesn’t necessarily matter politically. On the other hand, anything’s more significant than the tedious pantomime that Wesminster-centric bloggers gape at daily.

Our restricted choice of schools (high church anglican, low church anglican, evangelical or muslim) is political, and although all are good schools, we’d rather have a secular school thankee muchly.

But most of the parents affected by this, while annoyed by it, would never even consider this to be an actual issue to bug candidates about.

A huge number of local pubs have closed recently, mostly as a result of govt action or inaction (extortionate taxes on beer combined with refusal to break up the pubco oligopoly)–this is definitely a political issue, but persuading people that they could do something about it?

By concentrating our attention on “westminster” blogs as being “political”, we actually weaken the strengths of ordinary people and perpetuate the myth that politics doesn’t matter and doesn’t affect normal real people. And the myth that normal real people can’t affect politics.

And, of course, the majority (just) of real, normal people are female. Although, while she is unfortunately real, I doubt Ms Dorries will ever be normal.

===

Meh–for a very long time, I refused the label feminist, as did a large number of my female friends, my old sidebar still, I think, calls me an “equalist”. Because feminists are all ranting lunatics, like what the media portrays them as.

Then I met, and talked online, with real actual feminists. Oh, and fell in love with one.

So now I know what the word actually means, instead of what elements within the media think it ought to mean.

Dorries, on the other hand, appears to know nothing about anything. How safe is her seat, again?

Whilst it may be “a feminist act”, I have difficulty seeing it that way when the women in question then work against other women. They may not personally stick to gender proscribed roles for themselves, but they work to push gender proscribed roles on other women.

That is undeniably true, and I don’t think Margaret Thatcher for example can be called a feminist (I don’t really know anything about Nadine Dorries, her antics kind of bore me). But it’s not unlikely that what they do has more of a lasting impact than what they say, and in that sense they are just as likely to be positive role models (inspiring young women to go into politics) as negative ones (indoctrinating them with the idea that they shouldn’t). Anne Widdecombe is actually a good example of this: she’s is definitely not a feminist, and holds many views that I would not like to see anyone inherit, but she is a dedicated and serious career politician, and who’s to say young Tory women are not inspired by her longevity?

Women on the right suffer from the same warped thinking that the men on the right suffer from: the “I’ve got mine, so fuck you” syndrome. Self made millionnaires trying to make sure no other young people from poor backgrounds have the opportunity to repeat their achievemnts are not that different from female politicians agitating against human rights. The latter is no more of a feminism issue than the former is a capitalism issue. It’s just the mean spirited paranoia that is hte basic and necessary condition for right-wing ideology.

I’m not sure I have anything to contribute, but I’m following with interest. That said…

I’m never sure how to react to feminist posts, perhaps because I read the wrong stuff. I’m sure there’s a selection bias that means the more distasteful content sticks in the mind. Certainly the things that put me off were the one that were accusatory, hurtful (hateful?) and SHOUTY.

Secondly, and I can only speak for myself here, in terms of blogging I must confess I am on of those who haven’t really associated feminism with politics. The political stuff I read seems to mostly concern itself with the nuts and bolts of say Westminster or local affairs (eg Holyrood, local council stuff), whereas feminist posts seem to be more concerned with ideology. I mean that in the sense of information, debate, provoking of thought and generally trying to sway viewpoints rather than the nitty-gritty of “Speakers X, Y and Z presented talks at today”, “there are problems with this piece of legislation in terms of equality”, etc. Again, perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places.

Even at that, I’m not sure why this should make a big difference to how the concept is received; I mean the green/eco movement is an ideology and yet those topics are surely politically-related. Of course, having a party helps…

(actually, MatGB covers this with the first part of his comment above, which I really should have read… although that brings me to my next point:)

Thirdly, mostly directed at MatGB, what *is* feminism, if it doesn’t mean equalism? I am both genuinely curious and prepared to be set right/have my views shaken up! Perhaps my problem is a lack of formally covering a lot of politics in education, and I’m still unsure about certain things in relation to feminism*.

Lastly, I’m not sure how much “willy-waving” comes into it really. Admittedly yes, I do know that Guido loves to say things like “if you weren’t one of the XX,000 people who visited the site in the last week” and comparing traffic stats and popularity is something most (popular) blogs do at some point; but on the other hand as others have pointed out you have to promote to become popular. My blog[s] have visitor figures that would literally be lost in the margin of error of a site like LC, but then !1) I don’t promote and (less relevantly) 2) I don’t write much. Gotta be in it to win it!

(* Putting this here as I don’t want to drag things *too* off-topic…

Eg we still have positive discrimination in a few places. I suppose this is down to how the individual views it, as it can be argued that it is either ‘necessary to create equality’; or ‘demeaning to whichever minority it favours’. Both can be persuasive!

I was going to make a comment about the f:m ratio in the likes of medical/veterinary schools (I’ve seen estimates vary from 7:5 to 2:1!), but I’m not sure that: 1) this is the right place 2) I have fully thought out my position, nevermind its implications. Going to go away and think about it.
)

Agree with some bits of what Robert said above.

MatGB: that the writing she did about her experience with rape and therapy was, without doubt, political blogging. What else can it possibly be?

Hey, not denying that, but I’m actually talking about people who write abotu their cats, their kids or what they ate during the day. Sorry but that ain’t politics no matter how personal it is.

Bensix: On the other hand, anything’s more significant than the tedious pantomime that Wesminster-centric bloggers gape at daily.

This is too crude. The pantomime at PMQs is to be ignored, but looking out for pieces of legislation, what narratives the parties are running, highlighting their gaffes etc – that’s part of the process and that’s not insignificant. It has impact. Though it has little impact on voting allegiances.

In America they have similar discussions on what it means to be within or outside the Beltway. I’m not unaware that most people don’t care about the daily grind of Westminster politics. I say that all the time. But then most people don’t actually care much for politics either.

MarinaS: Women on the right suffer from the same warped thinking that the men on the right suffer from: the “I’ve got mine, so fuck you” syndrome

Yup!

Dale wasn’t at that event.

Loads of women blog, just not so much about politics. Political blogging isn’t that interesting in the most.

Certainly the things that put me off were the one that were accusatory, hurtful (hateful?) and SHOUTY.

The reason that feminist spaces are so intimidating and unpleasant to (some) men is that they are spaces where male privilege is not pandered to[1], and that can be an unpleasant experience. But hurtful != hateful. Having your assumptions, expectations, privilege and entitlment challenged can indeed be hurtful, but it’s not necessarily motivated by a desire to wound you or any personal antipathy.

Being shouty is actually an inherent part of it. Women are socialised to be quiet, acquiescent, pleasant – made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Female rage is very invisible in a patriarchy. I did a Google image search for “angry woman” for a lark once. There were remarkably few results, and after about the fist page they were mostly cartoons as opposed to real angry women – after about the third page a lot of them were from articles complaining about those angry feminazis. Actual real life angry women were hardly to be seen. Expressing our (more than natural, considering the ongoing oppression) anger in blogs is inherent in feminism. As Melissa McEwan wrote once, “I’m not angry because I’m a feminist, I’m a feminist because I’m angry”.

[1] That’s not actually always true – oftentimes a man popping up in a comments thread on a feminist blog will get real kid glove treatment compared to what he’d face for comments of equal ignorance/insensitivity on a not all-woman forum – the conditioning to please and placate men runs deep.

Thanks for the quotes and linkage, Cath.

Oh yes, and this:

I do agree, completely, with BenSix when he says :

“The personal is often political, but doesn’t necessarily matter politically. On the other hand, anything’s more significant than the tedious pantomime that Wesminster-centric bloggers gape at daily.”

Our restricted choice of schools (high church anglican, low church anglican, evangelical or muslim) is political, and although all are good schools, we’d rather have a secular school thankee muchly.

But most of the parents affected by this, while annoyed by it, would never even consider this to be an actual issue to bug candidates about.

A huge number of local pubs have closed recently, mostly as a result of govt action or inaction (extortionate taxes on beer combined with refusal to break up the pubco oligopoly)–this is definitely a political issue, but persuading people that they could do something about it?

By concentrating our attention on “westminster” blogs as being “political”, we actually weaken the strengths of ordinary people and perpetuate the myth that politics doesn’t matter and doesn’t affect normal real people. And the myth that normal real people can’t affect politics.

is spot on. Well said, my love.

More women than men blog. More women have at least one blog. However, of the men that blog, while there are less of them than women, they
a) tend to have more than one blog on different subjects
b) tend to write more
c) are much more likely to submit themselves to aggregators and rating systems

I have to wonder whether
a) separating out each topic under the assumption that they can’t fit into one larger framework is a way of compartmentalising political thought
b) ‘tending to write more’ could have something to do with social conditioning that tells males that what they have to say is important and asserting oneself is good
c) men may be blogging more for approval from others than interaction with them

I also disagree with the notion put forth by some that personal blogging is not inherently interesting or political. Blogging about the realities and consequences of social inequalities and the very real effects they have on people’s lives is intensely political, in my view. A post about how tough I find it staying at home with my children and my search for meaningful part-time work might be deemed insignificant by some but it plays into how I view and react to serious feminist issues like childcare provisions, the gendered pay gap, the lack of female representation in Parliament and at the CEO level in corporations, health care, education, employment law, etc..Failure to connect more ‘serious’ political causes with the minutiae of everyday life is a blind spot in male-dominated blogging, in my experience of reading them. Insisting on having separate blogs for each topic one wants to dissect is not helpful in figuring out how to make all the parts work in one big political machine.

MarinaS, I appreciate the comments, but that hasn’t quite nailed why I find certain bits of feminist writing a bit put-offish. I don’t know what male privilege being pandered to specifically means or refers to; perhaps I’m still blind to it? Even using that phrase is a bit odd. I’m not a lord who has traded places with a servant for a day. It certainly doesn’t feel like I’m being pandered to, and I don’t expect to be. On that note, the reason I read things I don’t necessarily agree with is to have my viewpoint and assumptions challenged – so someone doing that hopefully shouldn’t bother me!

I guess I don’t like the sometimes/mostly unwritten statement that “if you’re a man, it’s your fault”. Perhaps I’m projecting, and like I say in my other comment perhaps equally I’ve been reading the wrong stuff, but that’s the vibe I get. I don’t mind a feminist being angry and shouty, I do mind them being angry and shouty at [a group that includes] *me* because I happen to have a Y chromosome. Because basically, what the hell did I do that’s so wrong? I know you say it’s essentially nothing personal, but I’ve seen a lot of broad brushes used*. The word hateful was a silly suggestion, really; I’ve seen hateful feminist blogs, but then there’s a hate blog for every -ism, so I’ll leave that to the side.

I guess it’s the ‘us/them’ adversarial position that bugs me. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not worried because my delicate sensibilities have been offended, nor do I particularly want anyone to change what they write; I just feel like I’m missing the point and I want to know what is what.

Bleh, I need to be more eloquent and do more thinking.

( * And yeah, I guess I’m using one now. I don’t mean to say all feminist blogs do this, just whenever I do read something it comes off this way.)

I’m surprised that people could have such a narrow definition of politics that it means what goes on in Parliament or your local council or what might be called “formal politics”. Politics is about the allocation of power, whether across wealth, class, gender, racial or religious lines.

I can write about cycling on my blog from the personal or aesthetic point of view – I went for a strenuous cycle, and there was a nice view etc. I can also write cycling from the political point of view eg how much is spent on cycle transport as compared to car transport, the power of the car lobby, the increase in the number of cycle routes via pressure from cycling campaigning groups and a rise in Green politics. So women might write about their babies and how cute they are, or they might write about the difficulties of getting affordable child care or flexible working and then it becomes political.

MarinaS wrote:

The reason that feminist spaces are so intimidating and unpleasant to (some) men is that they are spaces where male privilege is not pandered to[1], and that can be an unpleasant experience. But hurtful != hateful. Having your assumptions, expectations, privilege and entitlment challenged can indeed be hurtful, but it’s not necessarily motivated by a desire to wound you or any personal antipathy.

This is, on the face of it, all true. Sometimes men really should come away from a blog post feeling hurt and confused – so should we all, every now and then. However, I think sometimes feminists don’t do a great job of explaining to those men why they feel hurt and confused and, more importantly, how they can make the feeling of hurt and confusion stop. In and of itself, it’s not the duty of feminists to help men to understand. But if you want to achieve political change, the 48% or so of the electorate that consists of men needs to be brought along. Many people react badly to feelings of being hurt, and I think some of the comments on this thread demonstrate that this includes perfectly well-meaning men.

Secondarily, men tend to be unaware of their own privilege. I’m not (though it’s almost always assumed that I am) unaware of it, but (predictably, I guess) I tend to focus more on other privileges. I might worry more about class, or regional imbalances, or other ways in which my identity is disadvantaged. If I believe that a) the political settlement is unfair and b) that I suffer as a consequence of this, being told that I’m actually a privileged individual who deserves a relatively lower status in comparison to women isn’t going to make me feel great. It might be fair, but it’s a pretty tough sell unless it can be placed in a context in which other grievances are addressed. “Feminist spaces”, however, are not always geared towards addressing those, hence will not appeal to men (who will, most likely, stick to political sites that don’t regard gender privilege as the greatest iniquity in modern society). This is one area where the distinction between “feminist spaces” and “political spaces” is actively harmful, because it prevents attempts to put feminism in a context of broader social change.

Being shouty is actually an inherent part of it. Women are socialised to be quiet, acquiescent, pleasant – made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Female rage is very invisible in a patriarchy. I did a Google image search for “angry woman” for a lark once. There were remarkably few results, and after about the fist page they were mostly cartoons as opposed to real angry women – after about the third page a lot of them were from articles complaining about those angry feminazis. Actual real life angry women were hardly to be seen. Expressing our (more than natural, considering the ongoing oppression) anger in blogs is inherent in feminism. As Melissa McEwan wrote once, “I’m not angry because I’m a feminist, I’m a feminist because I’m angry”.

Fair point. The capacity for anger and the belief in one’s moral right to express anger when it’s appropriate is important. I think there’s a difference between anger and ‘shoutyness’ though.

Being pleasant, generally, is a good way of persuading others of the merits of your argument and has little to do with gender stereotypes. For example, in a typical comment thread there will be shouty types and quiet, reasonable types. Who is more likely to be persuasive? I’d bet on the latter. Being shouty is fine so long as you don’t expect anyone to be impressed by it. (Now, of course, the response may be “I don’t blog for your [male] approval!”. But politics is all about getting people to approve of your opinions, so that they might adopt them for themselves. Men have to do this just as much as women).

@ Robert

It’s all about communication.

Don’t be fooled into going into that black and white world-as a woman who is black to boot, one would expect things to be different in ‘those’ blogs but it isn’t. I agree with this article. But I also agree with the way some ‘femenists’ treat other folk in blogs, like myself.

Bottom Line: Women are a 2nd class citizen. Look @ stats. What are WE doing about it?

Rob, a good response and eloquently put. Out of interest, how long did it take you to write..?

rantersparadise, I agree it’s all about communication, which is why I ask: what do you mean? I couldn’t make head nor tail of your comment. I’d also appreciate pointing to the stats of which you speak; I do love examining statistics.

I don’t mean to offend – my own comments are far from the well-constructed wit I’d like them to be – but I don’t know what you mean by ‘those’ blogs, nor why you use quote marks for ‘feminists’, nor what you agree with.

40. cuffleyburgers

Shoes off and get back in the bloody kitchen, and leave men’s work to to those of us better equipped by mother nature

Rob: Apparently somebody ran an experiment recently for one of te BBC’s science magazines, and discovered that you don’t, as it happens, catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Just sayin’.

As for the rest of it – RTFF, people. This is the age of Google. If you don’t want people to shout angrily at you when you barge into their fora, expecting them to refocus their attention on tenderly re-educating you while carefully not upsetting your delicate feelings, do your homework first. Respect breeds respect. Is simple.

MarinaS

An experiment that contradicts an aphorism has little bearing on being pleasant to people, so I’m not sure what you’re getting at there.

Yes this is the age of Google, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much trouble to give a précis of the relevant points being asked about. It’s certainly more straightforward than spending hours researching what is obviously a nuanced subject. While looking into complex subjects is something that everyone should of course do for themselves, including a few salient points for the purposes of discussion would be handy.

Also you’re making a lot of assumptions here. I don’t think anyone is “barging in” anywhere, expecting anything tender or otherwise, and I’m not sure anyone has “delicate feelings” to hurt; so let’s not put words in other people’s mouths, eh?

Like you say, it comes down to respect; so I’m curious – why the caustic response?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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