Monday, 22 November 2010

Feminism's work is not done

Allow me to tell you what some now believe to constitute a “joke”: what have you done wrong when your wife comes out of the kitchen and starts nagging you? Answer: made the chain too long. I heard this a few weeks ago and it is, sadly, a commonplace, youth culture “gag”. There are many more where that came from, and a lot of them are more extreme.

After coming across such large multitudes of so-called “jokes” like these, which quite blatantly have no comedic merit, I began to wonder why on earth such “humour” was still acceptable in modern day society.  One may have thought that chauvinistic bile like this was a thing of the past, long dead along with vulgar, offensive jokes about race. As dated as Davidson’s “Chalkie White”.  But this is not the case.

I am a teenage boy, I come from a middle-class background and go to a well-respected state school. What is more, my school is also Church of England-based. For the most part, the students are normal, middle-class teenagers, a lot of them Christian (or rather, they’ve been baptised into the Church). Would it surprise you if I said that sexism was widespread in my school, and most others for that matter? That such “jokes” as the one I used to open this article are found to be very funny?  

As a feminist, someone who actively believes in gender equality, who does not support male superiority and female submission, I was aghast when it dawned on me that misogyny is still largely alive in teenage society. What happened to feminism? Where are the feminists? Why are there no rallies, no outcries of rage and disgust amongst young people against such barbaric bigotry?

People laugh it off, say it’s “only a joke”. It may well be now, but that “joke” grows and embeds itself in the psyche of the impressionable young, it translates into living, breathing prejudice, it gives male teenagers a clear message: women are your tools, do with them what you will; women are not worthy of your respect; women are your cleaners and your cooks. And perhaps even more horrifically, it gives female teenagers the same message. Its inexplicable prevalence and popularity makes misogyny acceptable, even humorous.

And I wish I could say that the youth-based popularity of sexist “jokes” is ironic, that the teenagers who share these gags with each other don’t actually believe them. To an extent, this is partly true. I don’t think most of the students who tell these bigoted quips think that actually chaining a woman to a stove is justifiable.  But when it comes to roles in society, teenage misogyny is a very real thing indeed. There is a common belief that women are meant to be home-makers, that it’s a woman’s job to cook and care and be submissive to her husband’s will. Indeed, many teenage boys would like a meek, acquiescent wife who does just that. A literal chaining of a woman is considered extreme, but a more subtle, metaphoric one is largely accepted.

Again, I ask myself why. Why is this the case and why is there no longer a generation of gender egalitarians ready to combat it? And a worry nags at me - misogyny is growing amongst the young; I fear it is also thriving in the adult population, in a society where sexism is still at work and found to be funny and acceptable.

So if you thought feminism’s work was done, you’re very much mistaken. If you thought misogyny was in the past, than you are living in a sheltered naivety. This is not the time for complacency, this is a time for action. Feminism and feminists alike have a lot to do yet if we wish to tackle the casual sexism still prevalent in in 21st Century Britain and the world. 


Linda said...

Very well written and quite insightful. Would that more think like you do in this regard.

The Bug said...

As a person working in the corporate world in the US I can say that while women have come a long way, sexism is still rampant in the corporate world. And a lot of other worlds too. It seems like most men (other than you & Dr. M, obviously) just really basically believe that women are inferior & see nothing wrong with that belief. It's maddening!

It's funny - I just read an article in More magazine (a magazine for women like me - over 40) about the new generation of feminists & how they're different from their hard-line mothers. I don't care if they're different - I just want to make sure they're still out there trying to make a difference!

Pat Tillett said...

Hi Sam, glad to see you back at. of course I had to tag along to your new blog.
To me, the problem with these jokes (and many others), is the bystander who is offended but doesn't react in a negative manner to the joke teller. I'm pretty famous for being the person who says things like, "I don't think that's funny" or "What does telling a joke like that say about you?" I've lost a few friends (so called) with my comments, but I'm better off without them.
Great post Sam! Nice to see you...

Cheeseboy said...

Hey Sam. Decided to make the move with you. Glad I did.

Amity said...

Hi Sam;

Now am here...:-) Just would like to ask you one question...are you a victim of a misogynist or rather a misogynist? Peace...just asking dear!

Your post is very good subject for debate...young and old alike! Count me in, I would surely defend the feminist group...lols... :-)

Good night Sam, please find time to grace my blogoversary which culminates today... :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for identifying as a feminist. I wish more people would, and stop staying things like, "I'm not a feminist, but....(insert political commentary hear.)" There is nothing wrong with being a feminist, and I think if most people really understood feminist politics they would realize that many of the values (freedom of choice, equality, respect for differences) are things that they hold also dear.

Although I am a bit sad that your other blog isn't going to be active anymore, I'm so glad you will still be writing and sharing your insights and perspectives with us. Glad to be here and glad to have you back. - G

Linda Medrano said...

Although situations have improved for women in the last 40 years, sadly there's still a lot to be done. Maybe it will take the dying out of the older generation who have passed their attitudes on to the younger generation. I don't know the answer.