Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The percieved failure of New Feminism

Charlotte Raven - How the 'new feminism' went wrong

Raven makes a critical mistake here - one she seems to acknowledge late in the piece but then dismisses. She notes the narcissism of modern women, ignores the exact same narcissism in modern men, and bemoans the failure of New Feminism as a result.

She says that most women would want to become glamour models and that many would consider lap dancing, and sees these as signs that women are regressing in their fight for equality. The perceived 'problem' is that women are vapid and shallow, not institutionally or socially unequal to men - they can choose what they want to do with their lives, and their choices aren't what Raven wants them to be, so apparently feminism has failed. I am not the first to point out that feminists like these are misogynists. They want feminism to succeed because they feel downtrodden by men, but now that they have the freedom to do what men do (occupation-wise), they can't handle that most women still want to do the same kinds of 'girly' things they always wanted to (albeit within a more overtly sexual society) and so despise them for it.

The point isn't to have every woman be a CEO, a doctor or a lawyer - it's to allow every woman to be able to choose what they want to do. It's to allow the women who want to become CEOs or lawyers to do so, and for the rest to keep doing the same kind of jobs they always have.

This is partly a symptom of focusing too narrowly - if you only focus your attention on what women are doing, you will struggle to see what men are doing, and your comparisons between the two will be accordingly one-sided. Okay, so a large percentage of women say they'd want to be glamour models or lap dancers. What percentage of men do you think would say they wanted to be movie stars or porn stars? I'd wager they'd be pretty much the same. The defining issue isn't the gender of the person, it's the perceived glamour, fun, and sexual power of the job. Generation Y as a whole wants fame, glamour, money, leisure, and to get their rocks off on a regular basis - gender does not come into it.

It's also worth noting that nowhere near that percentage actually become models, or even make any real attempt at it. This is because people will say, "Take a few photos, get to do whatever I want the rest of the time? Be famous, be adored? Get paid heaps and get to travel to exotic locations? That would be my dream job! But yeah, I like kids and I'm good at maths, so I think I'm gonna be a teacher." It's all a (slightly narcissistic) fantasy, but it doesn't really reflect reality in any serious way. Even if you could legitimately say that women leading shallow, appearance-based lives are anti-feminist, use some real job statistics, not a self-reporting test of vague what-if scenarios.

Raven also speaks endlessly as though wanting to wear pretty dresses or "fabulous face creams" is anti-feminist. Again, all she needs to do is take a step back and look at all of humanity instead of solely her gender. Is it anti-masculine for us men, with all our social power and freedom and blah, blah, blah, to want to wear nice suits or get manicures? You could call it shallow. You could call it narcissistic. But you can't legitimately call it any name that has anything to do with gender. The hilarious part is that she then talks about women sitting around in pants-suits talking about their careers as though that would be any different from them doing so in pretty dresses. What, so being shallow and obsessed with clothes is okay when the clothes in question are shaped like men's clothes? Let me give you a tip - if you think that being equal to men is being (dressing, acting) the same as men, and you therefore copy men in attempt to become their equals, you are both completely delusional and doomed to fail. When you are equal you will still be different - you will still be women and we will still be men. But neither will come into consideration when you're applying for a job.

This whole line of criticism can be solved if you just remove one little virus that has infested feminist thought - the idea that a gender-equal society is a perfect one. On the sliding scale of gender relations, with chauvinism at one end and Amazonian feminism at the other, gender equality is indeed perfection. But when you fix one problem in society you don't fix them all - even in a perfectly gender-equal society you will still have laziness, narcissism, vanity, arrogance, stupidity, racism, and a whole host of other problems.

What these women see as symptoms of their failure - vain, shallow women - are symptoms of other problems entirely. Women aren't idiots - people are idiots. You haven't failed - you're so close to succeeding. So let's hurry up so we can move onto the next problem.


  1. I think your dead-on with this entry. She seems to be missing the whole issue at hand. Even if her statistics could show that the majority of women work in jobs defined by vanity, glamor, or what have you, it wouldn't say anything about equality. I could be wrong, but equality exists in terms of opportunity, not actuality.

    I think you're also right in noting that her ideal feminism seems to be misogynistic.

    I think this feminist perspective stems from the thinking that this desire to be glamorous, pretty, sexual etc. is a result of male influence and expectation.

    The whole thing seems confused, however. Even if this were the case, it doesn't appear to be that different for men. Men do just as many things to make themselves desirable to women. This is more of a product of evolution than it is social standards.

  2. Great article! I agree on all points! It could be taken so much further if you (or anyone) could be bothered.