Friday, October 15, 2010

That old chestnut

I see the addiction to alliteration persists when people are trying to dream up catchy titles. The meeja seems particularly addicted to putting the words 'feminism' and 'failed' together, as indicated by the title of this forum, 'Has Feminism Failed?' I suppose we should all be grateful that there's a question mark.

But 'Has feminism failed?' is a completely meaningless question. Has feminism failed what? 'Feminism' is not a person with agency and volition. Feminism is the name of a set of strategies for viewing, analysing and dealing with the world. Strategies don't 'fail', only the people trying to use them to achieve some stated goal. And that's usually because some actively anti-feminist entity or force has intervened, whether it's John Howard quietly dismantling the government programs for women, or some single-digit IQ footballing nuff nuff who thinks any woman who's come home with one of his mates must be fair game for whoever happens to be passing, or a rabidly reactionary female journalist explaining how awful it is for the poor menz to be accused of sexual assault, or some blogger explaining how women just don't understand that men have Urges.

Putting the words 'feminism' and 'failed' together in this manner is nothing more than a fairly transparent strategy, complete with begged question (as in 'When did you stop beating your wife?), for bagging feminism and trying to make women turn away from its principles.

But if people feel they just absolutely must put those two words together in a title or a headline, here's an alternative suggestion. Instead of asking whether feminism has failed us, how about a feature article or public debate called 'Have we failed feminism?'


lucytartan said...

I haven't been terribly impressed with the organisation that hosted that event. I follow their Twitter feed and there's a lot of opportunistic jumping onto bandwagons. It doesn't bode that well when a literary-oriented org is practicing soundbite-style community engagement.

fmark said...

I heard (part of) the "debate" and too thought it was ridiculous. All the debaters agreed that yes, the women’s movement has achieved great things, and yes, there is more to do. The introduction of a question as nonsensical as "has feminism failed" simply meant that those drafted on the affirmative said because there is more to do, feminism has failed, while those speaking for the negative said no, because the women’s movement has achieved great things, feminism has not failed.
All this time spent trying to frame arguments around this question could have been much more profitably spent speaking about gender issues today.

Link said...

Well we can't let 'feminsim' have anything other than a bit of a 'go'. and now that we've reverted back to more sensible, conservative, 'naturalistic', Darwininan ways of negotiating through the dark ages, feminism is obviously an anachronism. Experiment is over everyone. Nice try girls.


Frances said...

Before equal pay, a woman's wages alone were not enough to buy a house and keep a family. But a man's were.
Today, a man's/woman's wages alone are generally not enough to buy a house and keep a family.
We have equal pay, but it's equal to what woman's pay once was. It does not have the buying power that a man's wages once had.
We have, in my opinion, all been outsmarted.

Andrew Elder said...

Has feminism failed whom, more to the point.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Well, it's also to the point. I dunno that it's more to the point.