Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Women Deserve Respect Not Quotas.

What right does a man in his mid twenties have to comment on issues affecting women? Probably none. But males should also celebrate today’s International Womens' Day. Today is a day when all should recognise how far women have come to achieve equity in the past century or so, while still recognizing that they have a long way to go. Notice how I said ‘equity’ and not ‘equality’? Equality is bullshit. All humans are not created equal, so why treat them as such? However equity should be accessible for all those who are underprivileged in society, so that they can gain access to opportunity. Equity is not equality. International Womens' Day should represent an opportunity to promote equity and justice for women.

Popular culture seems to go out of its way to vilify women who are determined to push boundaries, in favour of identifying them as purely sexual beings. Feminism has its place to a degree; its origins highlighted discrimination against women based on their sex, and allowed women access to basic social and civil rights: in other words to achieve equity. As an outsider, modern feminism seems to me to have gone astray somewhere along the line.

Feminism should not be about promoting quotas to ensure one section of society gets represented in business or in politics in some sort of sexual gerrymander. It should promote topics of discussion, create debate and develop policies that are too often overlooked by the mainstream media. In some ways feminists have done an excellent job of this, almost too good to the point of cannibalizing women in the media for having contrarian viewpoints. In other issues, it seems that society’s attitude towards the sexual expression of women has taken a backward step, mainly due to feminist hegemony.

One issue that highlights these two dichotomies is the public’s and the media’s mistreatment of the so called ‘St Kilda Schoolgirl’. This 17 year old supposedly embarked upon a relationship with an AFL footballer when she was still in high school, and was then discarded by said footballer like a cheap piece of meat. The girl became angry, lied about being pregnant, stole naked photos of the footballer’s team mates and distributed them on the internet for revenge. Still not satisfied with leaking these photos, the girl then entrapped the footballer’s manager, only then to claim that she fell in love with him. All of this gets reported and exploited by the tabloid media, and a commercial current affairs program buys her story for several thousands of dollars, so the abused girl can share her story with the Australian public. There’s something drastically wrong with this picture as the world seeks to celebrate the achievements of women’s rights.

The thing that completely staggers me is that this girl has been vilified, and not the high profile institutions that continually seek to exploit her on a daily basis. By no means am I suggesting the girl is totally innocent, but given the circumstances I believe that the majority of her actions should be applauded and not condemned. In fact she is following in the tradition of her feminist ancestors by being willing to speak up, and refusing to be oppressed by male dominated institutions. The primary issue at hand is not whether she lied about her pregnancy, nor how or why she distributed the photos. It is the fact that her story is emblematic of the way the AFL treats Generation Y women in general: as sexual playthings for the organisation’s entertainment. Of course this attitude does not reside exclusively with the AFL, but in all sports and media.

This is why I am at odds with the current feminist agenda. Quotas and equality are rather meaningless at the best of times. This is especially true if the contributions of women to public debate are not respected and highly valued. Women may have won the right to vote, but when will they win society’s respect?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Todd for this thought provoking piece of work. I agree that feminism has lost the plot,largely through trying to compete with blokes in the flash jobs and corporate boards world. That is part of the reason that I refuse to be named a feminist.

    I am a Women's Liberationist.

    I agree also that the issue is not about quotas. However I disagree that this is the agenda of IWD or all feminists. It is certainly not the agenda of the Liberation of Women.

    The agenda for quotas is championed by wealthy women who wish to achieve the same status, power and wealth as their male counterparts.

    The IWD agenda has historically and consistently been about dismantling the oppressive nature of the work place, valuing the work that women do appropriately, stopping violence against women, controlling our bodies ourselves and destroying the values and beliefs underpinning the patriarchal nature of this society. These values and beliefs are clearly demonstrated in your example.

    Having women in positions of power over others, be they corporations or government or the public service, has done little to advance any of these agendas. I use as my examples the abject failure of the women in the Parliament of Queensland who continue to refuse to fight for the decriminalisation of abortion, the almost complete managerial control of women's services and the support of church organisations to run them and the failure to recognise the value of "women's work" (caring for children) by removing the Supporting Parents Benefit from women (they constitute the majority of recipients) once their last child has turned 7.

    Women I might add who claim/ed to be feminists Perhaps they were/are... but their actions suggest that they are not for the Liberation of Women.