Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feminism in London 09

Saturday 10th October saw Feminism in London 2009 take place at Conway Hall. Though I cannot speak for the range of panels and workshops on the day, I just wanted to discuss my own experience of the day and welcome discussion/further insights.

Opening speakers this year were Beatrice Campbell and Susie Orbach ('Fat is a Feminist Issue'). This was my first encounter of Beatrice Campbell but I thought she was absolutely marvelous. A real character and what she spoke about really hit home with me. Beatrice spoke of 'neo-patriarchy' and the suggestion that whilst in society we now have knowledge (even acknowledgement) of gender issues, we have seen no change (for instance the gender pay gap still exists though we have increased awareness of this issue). Another example was of the working mother; the fact we can now be included in full-time employment but this is coupled with childcare. Beatrice spoke of the narrative of the 'work-life balance' in society which assigns this problem to us rather than tackling the problem. Beatrice talked also about the link between masculinity and violence which is never tackled as society masks the link under the disguise of youth violence and so forth. I found her talk really interesting and refreshing. It was intriguing that on my way out after, however, I overheard two women commenting that they disliked its complexity and academic nature so it didn't appear to be to everyone's taste.

When Susie Orbach spoke I really felt wanting more. It was a shame that it seemed time ran out, it would have been good to have heard more from her. But again, the issue of violence emerged and she linked the interalisation of women's oppression though body insecurities. I definitly want to read her latest book now to find out more.

During the day I went to a slide show/talk, a workshop and one panel. The slide-show was on anti-porn and namely the pornification of culture and the 'grooming' of young children by such culture. A lot of concepts were covered like the idea of the pseudo-child in pornography, the sexualisation of father-daughter incest, the model of normalization, sexualisation of disney and compliant victimization. It pretty much confirmed feelings I had already regarding the sexualisation of culture and how it targets children but I think it really made clear my thoughts on pornography as a whole. The workshop I attended after followed a similar theme "Raising Children in the Age of Porn". I hoped to come away from this with an idea of maybe strategies for dealing with such an issue but I don't think I got as much from it that I would have liked. One idea positioned by a fellow attendee did really get me thinking though and that was the stress now, it seems, in society on childrens' physical safety (worrying about kidnapping, pregnancy, perhaps even obesity) whilst other areas they aren't as protected (exposure to tv, internet and such).

The panel was 'Motherhood and Poverty' which was good and covered quite a bit of ground. After this was the closing speakers: Mawete vo Teka Sala, Hannana Siddiqui and Finn Mackay. I must admit that by this time my eyes were getting quite droppy (I had had to get up at 4am that morning for my train to London afterall!) so though I enjoyed the first two speakers I did not make any notes nor do I have any further comements. Finn Mackay's closing speech truly perked me back up again with the sheer emotion and enthuasiasm involved, it was such a shame it had to be cut short. But it was an excellent note to close on, especially the comments on the recession and women's part in this state in response to which I ranted to my friend later that evening - "No, we didn't make the decisions that got us where we are! But look at what cost we're paying for someone else's choices!" Food for thought indeed.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Subtext Blog has Moved

Please update your rss feeds, or take your regular eyes away from here and back to www.subtextmagazine.co.uk where the blog is now based in a beautiful redesigned, remodeled, rediculously good website.

Alright. See you there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Media Backlash: Keeping things the way they used to be

My awareness of the backlash against feminism has become acute, particularly when in the mainstream media, particularly in misrepresentation of facts, figures and even words. As newspapers are my preferred medium, let me use headlines to make my point.

Today's Observer carries the headline

Up to 64,000 women in UK 'are child-sex offenders'
After Plymouth case shocked the nation, police say number of women abusing children is rising

The ilk of the story is that women are growing in numbers as abusers. But, I would suggest awareness of women being abusers is increasing - that there has been no change in the behaviour of women, that we are not becoming this evil out of control gender but it's just impossible to continue to tie us down to wishy washy delicate lady stereotypes.

Added to this, the coverage of working mums supposedly failing their kids - I griped about that previously, but this time rather than the evil sexual deviant, women who work are simply tutted at for deserting their proper place in the home.

Both stories in their own way begin to paint a picture of women out of control, that their behaviour, now masculine and undesirable, is the cause of all social ills.

Coupled with the fact the real winning articles in women's interest are arts and crafts, it's ok to wear make-up, bat your eyes, femininity is feminism and we can see a clear remodelling of women's place in society.

There is room to remind the mainstream audience that feminism isn't at odds with femininity but to do so often comes at the cost of reinforcing the idea of old, hairy, women's libbers, the "undesirables". And to do so, creates a bigger crevice between all women and feminists, and calls for a pat on the back to the reclaimation of something which remains a want of the patriarchy. And every day I see a little more how damaging this is to us all.

We should leave open the ability to criticize, to discuss certain parts of life - but the work/life balance is the problem, not women's behaviour if working mothers have no choice but to sacrafice time at home. Mainstream medias inability to see men in the picture of the family and childcare is another block in the road of progression. And as long as we allow ourselves to feed and condone a media system which thrives on supporting trad and damaging stereotypes, we continue to hold back the change we're fighting for.