Feminism this week

What an interesting week for feminism.

On the stage of national politics, one of the contenders for the Labour Party leadership has been touting himself as inclusive and popular yet dismissively stating “I’ve never been at the top of the hit parade with feminists”. Oblivious, it would seem, to how exclusionary this sounds.

It might be a misjudgement to dismiss feminism so thoughtlessly. Any reports of its death have certainly been greatly exaggerated. You don’t need to hang around for long in the blogosphere to find a whole community of witty and incisive feminism.

We might not need feminism anymore to espouse the ideal of women’s equality. Everyone is supposed to agree with that – right? But we do need it to shatter the illusion that we have achieved it.

Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project powerfully – and painfully – does just that. Started in April 2012, it has already amassed over 35,000 women’s experiences of mundane everyday sexism. The project has over 92,000 followers on Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, a lot of people are concerned at the moment about the virulent misogyny, which includes rape, death, and bomb threats, levered against women in the media. From Anita Sarkeesian, who has been addressing the sexism in video games, to Caroline Criado-Perez for lobbying for a woman to be on the British ten pound note, to Mary Beard for having the audacity to appear on TV not conforming to the usual beauty uniform, many women speaking out or bucking the status quo in 2012 and 2013 continue to face misogynist abuse. After several hours of searching I can’t find anything resembling this gender-based abuse towards cisgender men.

As the brilliant feminist writer Laurie Penny said a few years ago (herself having received rape and death threats for daring to criticize neoliberal economic policy):

An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.

But back to this week – and to end on a high note. The phenomenal global response to Auckland’s own Law Revue Girls feminist parody of Robin Thicke’s charming Blurred Lines! Their version, Defined Lines, called out the sexism in his lyrics and visual portrayal of gendered sexuality. Around two million views in a week…

Maybe there is a message here for blokey politicians and their fan club – feminism is not so uncool anymore. Retrosexism might not be the thing to flaunt right now.

Nicola Gavey