31 Dec 2010

The Footsteps of Feminism in 2011

The footsteps of feminism in 2011 seem to be based around the VSO Campaign to watch UN Women.

On this morning's Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4, they had a usual "lacking in teeth" debate about the rebranding of UniFem and how women could be empowered by the new marketing of rights of women.

And I wanted to scream at the radio - FEMINISM IS NOT ABOUT MARKETING!

One thing that we discuss at great length at Kent Feminista is the book that the One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power.

"contemporary female achievement ...culminate[s] in the ownership of expensive handbags, a vibrator, a job, a flat and a man - probably in that order"

This sums up the great definition of feminism in the 21st century. And it is abhorrent.

While the 1980s presented feminism and female equality as women working to become men, embracing aggression, consumerism and the phallus; the 90s embrace the Playboy Bunny and Ann Summers.

It appears that VSO, alongside UN Women, is intending to combine the 90s representation with a great feminist stereotype I abhore, the "Eostre" or "Earth mother" image.

[Eostre refers to to female stereotypes of submissive, fertile, mumsy and other ubiquitous hegemonic femininity that helps sustain repression of women by demanding they adhere to these stereotypes as it is allegedly natural and desirable.]

The first thing that irritated me with their Godmother campaign is that firstly I am a humanist and secondly I am not, nor do I choose to be a, mother.

The second thing is that the website is in pink .

[Dear VSO; to fully empower women I would suggest that you initiated a campaign by removing all references to ubiquitous and hegemonic femininity, denominations of faith and myths around biological destiny]

The third thing is that the website talks about women "fulfilling their potential" without actually defining what that potential may be.

Some people would suggest that a woman fulfilling their potential is obeying the materialistic, sexually promiscuous and emasculated stereotype as referred to by Nina Power.

Others may suggest that because a woman has a womb she must therefore be fixated on and obsessed with reproducing at every opportunity; as the great Bridget Jones has led us to believe. Perhaps this is the potential that the VSO would like women to fulfil?

Or perhaps women should all take the form of Jordan a.k.a. Katie Price, an apparently ruthless businesswoman who owes all of her success to plastic surgery and the lust of men, and of course, undermining female sexuality, normalising pornification and the objectification of women.

Some may suggest that for a woman to fully fulfil her potential, she should refer to the relationships within her life that define her. Is she a mother? Is she a daughter? Is she a sister? Is she a lover? Is she a wife? These relationships provide a precursor for how women behave that they seem unable to escape from.

But at no point is there a classification of what a woman should be or could be.

There is much discussion of choice, of opportunity and of potential; but what all campaigns for equality for women seem to miss or failed to articulate is that equality for women should be about being equal to equality for men.

When I lambasted the Advertising Standards Association for the Dove advert on how wonderful it is be a man, I was angry over the definition between the sexes.

Men and women are still raised differently, no matter what part of the world they are in, and it appears to come down to the presence of the womb. Because a woman can bear children, she should bear children. This will therefore limit her potential in achieving in careers and in life unless she obeys the Superwoman mentality that is prevalent in Western society.

Therefore, a woman's right to have children is translated into an obligation. Any potential that UN women hope to empower is based around the presence of this organ, and the inability of women to fight for the right not to have children will continue to repress women and define them by their relationships with other people for years to come.

Religion plays a crucial and pivotal role in maintaining the metaphorical and symbiotic presence of the womb. Which ever religion presents in a developing country will control and influence that woman's potential and ability to achieve. If she is in the Muslim or Catholic country, she will be obliged to continue to have children to perpetuate the human race. If she is in a country that has a religion that condones the use of contraception, she will be made to feel guilty for not perpetuating the human race. That is, if she can get hold of that contraception in the first place.

I would suggest that religion is as detrimental to women's opportunities as their physiology, where persistent structural ideologies of "mother" persist.

The VSO and UN Women campaign would go far if they were to challenge hegemonic roles of women in society and provide them with the freedom to not adhere to tradition.

However, when working with developing countries, when condoning persecution of homosexuals and capital punishment, the VSO nor the UN can never hope to achieve this.

Therefore, I am at a loss as to how the VSO can truly empower women to reach their potential with the methodology of The Godmother.


  1. Feminism: the radical notion that women should be considered human beings.

    Great post. I wish I had any faith that they'd listen.

  2. Very interesting and important post. However as a cut and bleeding survivor of the 1980s, I disagree eighties feminism was ever about women becoming men. That was what Gloria Steinem and Ms Magazine said it was, but the truth on the ground was far different.

    In fact the US intelligence role played America's feminist poster girl Gloria Steinem is still largely invisible to most Americans, even progressives and feminists. In 1976 Steinem blocked Random House from publishing details about her CIA past (see http://www.mail-archive.com/ctrl@listserv.aol.com/msg02217.html). Betty Friedan, the founder of NOW, publicly confronted Steinem for deliberately sowing dissension to try to break up the organization. Steinem also very effectively used Ms Magazine to create massive divisions between professional and working class feminists and between feminists and progressive men.

    More recently evidence has surfaced about an FBI operation she ran to plant so-called "black feminists" in grassroots African American groups to break them up (see http://rah.posterous.com/black-feminism-the-cia-and-gloria-steinem-fwd). I ran across some of these nasties in Seattle, while working to set up an African American Museum. I write about it in my recent memoir: THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (www.stuartbramhall.com). I currently live in exile in New Zealand.


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