Allow me to retort

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Rape, objectification and misogyny - the price we silly women pay for embracing feminism and calling for equality, apparently.

Oz Conservative, a particularly charming anti-feminist blog, has used my post 'This Is What A Feminist Looks Like' to illustrate just how us women have let ourselves go over the past few decades. Allegedly I'm part of a scary group of women (I'll admit, I can be a pretty scary woman; this much is true) who are obsessed with 'sex liberation'. Since the 1970s, we've thrown out the idea of relationships which involve marriage and 'romance' to pursue relationsips based on SEX ALONE!

Before these brazen 70s hussies demanded fulfilling sexual relationships, blogger Mark Richardson claims, 'romantic love' ruled all and men tended to 'idolise women' and focus on 'feminine beauty and goodness'. He talks sadly of his dismay at going to university and encountering 'liberated women'.

I'm guessing that a lot of men were, like me, confused by what was happening. Uni women dressed in a plain, mannish way, cut their hair short and wore no jewellery or make up. They had started to drink heavily and to swear in public.

And the result of these shocking displays of behaviour?
...I found the women too unappealing to pursue.
I'm sure the feeling was mutual. God forbid that a woman should exist for some purpose other than looking appealing to men. Short hair?! No make-up?! I may have to have a lie-down. As a direct result of this, claims Richardson, men became more misogynist and obsessed with objectification. In short, that women wanting equality made men treat them with less respect. Reading this tale of woe, you'd think that women were revered and adored prior to the supposedly immoral decades following the 70s. As opposed to, you know, seen as intellectually inferior, denied control over their own lives, forced to stay in marriages they didn't want to be in and to carry babies they didn't want, abused, seen as little more than the property of their husbands, denied equal pay and rights to work and carted off to mental health institutions or outcast by society when they showed dissent. Not to worry, at least they still wore pretty clothes and got married, right?

What disgusts me, what actually angers me the most is the next part of the post (that's the part which mentions me!):
But at the very same time that [Hannah] objects to a culture of male sexual liberation, she also makes it clear that she thinks women should behave sexually as they want without consequences.
And what would those 'consequences' be? here we have a quote from my post (Richardson's emphasis):
...a culture that encourages women to do all they can in a neverending quest to appeal to men yet berates them for what they wear, how much they drink and how they behave if they become the victim of sexual assault or rape.
Do I think that women should behave as they want without 'consequences'. When you're saying that these 'consquences' are sexual assault and rape, then yes I do. What a disgusting example of victim-blaming. Men don't rape women because of the clothes they're wearing or the fact that they've been drinking or how they've been acting. Men who rape do it for the same reasons they've done it since the dawn of time. Yes, even when when women shut up, sat down, wore 'pretty' clothing and never strayed too far from the kitchen, there were men who raped women. Their girlfriends and their wives too, just in case you were convinced by that whole 'focus on romantic love' thing. Seeing as wanting a satisfying sex life - and talking about it - is apparently 'immodest' (here Richardson also lampoons Laurie Penny's brillant post 'Angry Feminist Tuesday'), why should we be surprised when men objectify, assault and rape us?

Incidentally, women covering up, playing up the meek factor, watching their language and giving up drinking doesn't stop men from raping them and treating them with disrespect. Why? Because it's not their fault in the first place. Men who rape are the ones at fault. It's been said a million times and it never gets through. When a man rapes a woman, the man is at fault because he's the rapist. The experiences of women the world over for thousands of years are surely testament to the fact that a rapist will attack a woman whatever she's wearing, however she's acting, whatever she looks like and yes, whether she's married or not.

Going back to a society where a woman's only aim is to get a man and married is not going to 'cure' men of misogyny and stop them from abusing us, Mr Richardson. Women will stop suffering rape when men stop raping.


Anonymous said...

Have you read his other posts? There's one where he, in his infinite wisdom, expounds that women 'should' get married and have babies in their early 20s rather than their 30s, because clearly that's their only goal in life (how could it not be?) and any women who don't are being very silly for having careers and concentrating on their own interests rather than the interests he has decided that they must have.

Well, I'm convinced. I'll go and suggest to my boyfriend right now that we stop spending the money we have on things we want and enjoy and instead spend it all on a baby while we can't afford it because, being in our 20s, I'm a recent graduate and he's a student. It's clearly a flawless plan!

PhilH said...

Wow. I might have to draw him a picture...

Mark Richardson said...

Hannah, I don't think you've responded to the larger argument I made in my post.

What men and women look for in each other changes depending on whether they are more oriented to marriage, to romantic love or to sex.

This is a two-way street. A woman who is acting from sexual impulse alone will select a much different man than one who is influenced by a culture of marriage and who is looking for husband material.

It's the same with men. A man who is primarily oriented to finding a wife will want a woman he can spend a life with and create a family with, so he will want someone of similar values and background; someone committed to family life; someone compatible intellectually and emotionally and so on.

A man who is more influenced by a culture of romantic love will act more impulsively and is more likely to follow an idealised vision of women, particularly of a woman's beauty and goodness.

A man who just wants sex, and is little influenced by a culture of marriage or love, will be looking for one thing: sexiness.

If feminist women create a culture of sexual liberation, in which relationships are pursued for sex alone, then logically the end result will be that men value women primarily for sexiness.

But feminists seem to intensely dislike this result. You yourself wrote that it was what first got you angry.

But what are you going to do? Personally, I think there needs to be a balance between marriage, love and sex within a culture of relationships. But many feminists are committed to sex liberation so they can't accept such an integration of the three primary influences on relationships.

PhilH said...

Mark, you argument seems to be, "It's women's fault. They created the culture in which pornography and sexual deviancy thrive."

Do you really believe that mainstream feminism pre-dates those things? That lad-mags are somehow feminism's fault? That feminism's main aim is loose sex?

That's hilarious.

Mark Richardson said...

Phil, there will always be an influence of love, sex and marriage, so no society is entirely different to another.

Still, the balance changes. I came of age in the mid-1980s. Back then, in the social milieu I grew up in, there was no hook-up culture (rather a kind of serial monogamy among young people was the norm). There were no mainstream lads' mags like FHM - there was only straight out porn that wasn't read in public. Pop music was dominated by love ballads with (mostly) classy looking women in the video clips, rather than by the more direct references to sex that you get in so much modern pop music.

Nor is there any doubt that male culture has been reactive to female culture. The changes came first amongst women, men then adapted.

As for feminism's main aim, I think it's individual autonomy, which is campaigned for on various fronts.

One of these fronts is sexual liberation, thought it is often younger and more radical feminists who are most oriented to this.

PhilH said...

The change in the style of pop music and their videos has been driven by commercialism. Sex sells. It has nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with sexism. It is misogynistic and part of the modern media message that in order to be talented and successful, women must first be able to squeeze themselves into a size six hankie.

I'll use one of our newspapers, the Daily Mail, as an example. It frequently makes exactly the same sort of points as you do, complaining about feminists and loose young women.

Yet look at the website. It's full of celebrity stories, using any excuse to plaster bikini shots of slender women all over the site, and at the same time bullying soap actresses who don't live up to the ideal.

That's not driven by feminism, but mysogyny. Sexual liberation has nothing to do with it - its premise is based entirely in the objectification of women for the benefit of men. Where's the liberation in that?

Hannah M said...

Kirsty, the whole blog is almost laughable in its obsession with a return to 'values'. Being happily married myself I *do* believe in marriage but it's so naïve to long for a time when more people were married and less people single and divorced as a cure-all for society's problems and misogyny. It's ridiculous to assume that a traditional marriage set-up, having children etc means 'happiness'. It's well-documented that this has never been the case for many people and that marriage as an institution has been extremely damaging, limiting and has masked abuse for lots of people. Regarding having children, I'm sure that would make me selfish as well because like you, I'm choosing to be childless at the moment because my economic situation wouldn't allow me to have kids.

Mark, I think you're wrong to paint a picture of women today as out for little more than sex. Many people are looking for a long-term or committed relationship or even marriage. And if a woman does prioritise sex, why shouldn't she? It's only in the past few decades that a woman has had more sexual freedom. It was not so long ago that the idea of women having desire, enjoying sex and wanting a fulfilled sex life was considered taboo and shameful. The same could not be said for men. When feminists talk about sexual freedom, this is a major point. I think you're mistaken in thinking that in the past, men idolised women and just looked for marriage and commitment. Outwardly it may have seemed this way because that's what society's conventions dictated, but it doesn't mean there wasn't infidelity, domestic abuse, misogyny, men taking their wives for granted and treating them like children. It's naïve to think otherwise.

I don't wish to denigrate marriage - as I said earlier I'm married - but I don't think we should hold up the attitudes of decades gone by as an ideal when it's clear things were not ideal. Most of the young Christian men I know are focused on finding a partner to marry, rather than casual sex. They idolise women and appreciate their beauty, yet still I have seen hints of misogyny, of putting women down and treating them like children. Being focused on marriage doesn't cancel out misogyny.

Totally agree Phil, the assertion that feminism pre-dates misogyny is beyond ridiculous. Objectification has always been around. The modern media messages about diet, appearance and sexual appeal are just another way patriarchy tries to keep women 'in their place', by hammering it home again and again that the only thing which matters is how much they appeal to men. It's part of the backlash against gains made by women in recent decades. As you say, even institutions which claim to be standard bearers for 'family values' and 'decency' (the DM, of course) have a hand in it with their constant focus on women's size, shape, looks and clothes.

Hannah M said...

Also, Mark, on your blog you speak of

Instead, the focus is on date an aspect of an oppressive male society.

Would you care to explain then, what you think rape is if not an example of that?

Mark Richardson said...

Hannah, the argument that concerns me most right now is this:

I'm choosing to be childless at the moment because my economic situation wouldn't allow me to have kids.

Previous generations had children when they had little money and then gradually built up their financial position. They didn't wait until some (unlikely) moment when everything was in place.

If you leave things to your 30s, then you lose reproductive choice. Yes, you might be one of those women who can have the number of children of your choice in the last few years of fertility. Yes, you might be one of those women who can be helped by IVF. But then again you might not. It all becomes a gamble over which you have little control.

I don't know how old you are, but the wise thing is to begin your family whilst you are still in your 20s (late 20s even), even if your financial position isn't yet secure.

Anonymous said...

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 'biologically, the optimum period for childbearing is between 20 – 35 years of age. Most women will get pregnant. Within a year, 75% of women aged 30 and 66% of women aged 35 will conceive naturally and have a baby.' So the idea that you MUST HAVE A BABY IN YOUR 20s or else you're taking a huge gamble is ridiculous.

Hannah M said...

That's great Mark. Not content to make assumptions about the way i live my life, you seem to know all about my finances too. In case you missed it we're currently going through a recession in the UK. My husband lost his job last year and currently works for almost half his previous salary. We could afford neither to live on one wage while one of us cared for a child, or to pay for childcare while we both worked. Furthermore, we don't have enough disposable income to get together much in the way of savings.

Aside from financial issues, it's completely up to me and my husband to make decisions about having a child. So don't you DARE to try to dictate to me what choices i should make about giving birth and when.

I don't think this discussion needs to go any further. You seem to be hell-bent on being as offensive and presumptive as possible.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, even after Mr Richardson's half-baked 'medical' theory, I still don't want kids. Thanks for your time.

Mark Richardson said...

Spritely-Ariel, we seem to have a disagreement about what constitutes a gamble.

For me, taking a 1 in 4 or a 1 in 3 risk of not ever being able to have children is a big gamble. You don't seem to think so for reasons I don't understand.

Let's take a sample of 100,000 women. Ordinarily about 10,000 would be infertile. If they decide to leave motherhood to age 30 then 25,000 will miss out on motherhood. If they decide to leave motherhood to age 35 then 33,000 will miss out.

That's a lot of extra sadness and heartbreak. Surely feminists wouldn't want such an outcome for these women.

Anonymous said...

Mark, your comments imply that when women hit thirty very few of them are able to have children sans IVF (e.g. 'If you leave things to your 30s, then you lose reproductive choice.'). In reality, the majority of women aged 30 - 35 will be able to conceive naturally. Therefore you are being alarmist.


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