Having read minister Priti Patel’s recent article in The Daily Telegraph on how this Conservative government was helping all women thrive, I came to the same conclusion as Belinda Brown – these policies are focusing on a privileged minority at the expense of the values and aspirations of ordinary women.
The growing acknowledgment that modern feminism does not speak for all women and is arguably actually detrimental to them has been a long time coming. The retaliation against wayward sisters, the ones who don’t submit to the orthodoxy of career as the priority for women, has taken the form of shouting them down and belittling them (as the recent reaction to #womenagainstfeminism demonstrates). In conjunction with these aggressive tactics, feminists have turned to, ironically, men and government to silence their sisters’ voices with the recent, ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ campaign.
However, I’m not surprised aggressive tactics are being deployed – they have worked so well during the previous decades to suppress the rights of the most vulnerable in our society; those in the womb. Whether in the earliest stages of humanity, where technology is making us more and more aware of their human forms, or later in development when the sex of a child can be clearly Defined, their physical safety and welfare is secondary to that of the adult woman.
Let’s be clear here. The sex of an unborn child is likely to be accurately determined after 13 weeks at least, when sonographers determine 80 per cent of scans correctly. At this stage, these vulnerable human beings are so well developed that they have tiny fingerprints. As stated by Dr John Spencer, the medical director of Marie Stopes, after 12 weeks gestation the ‘product of conception’ has to be dismembered prior to its removal in an abortion.
These identifiable female infants are the victims of sex selective abortion, which is routinely practised in this country – a form of sexism unchallenged by feminists. No. There are far more important battles to fight like, I don’t know, the ‘sexist’ shirt worn by comet spacecraft scientists Matt Taylor.As I’m sure you know, this is not an unrepresentative example of the battles being fought by feminists today.It therefore came as no surprise to me that the rights of ‘vulnerable’ women override the rights of children outside of the womb too. Reading this recent article in The Independent I was aghast at the merchandise sold by online retailer Café Press that sells clothing for babies branded with messages such as “F*** like a porn star” and “Awesome masturbating” written across them.
Like feminist campaigner Caitlin Roper of women’s group Collective Shout, I too “can’t believe” we even have to argue “that sexualised or porn-inspired imagery and slogans on baby clothes and merchandise is unacceptable”. However this statement, according to The Independent, was an additional point; secondary apparently to the reasoning she has based her outrage on.
Ms Roper’s primary argument is that “This content serves to reinforce women’s second class status, as less than men, as mere objects for men’s entertainment and gratification.” Furthermore in her view Café Press¹s “pro-rape ‘humour” trivialises crimes of violence against women,” and reduces a global issue affecting millions of women every day to a “punch line of a joke”.
It seems that Ms Roper and I strongly disagree with who the vulnerable party is here and, unlike her, I think I am speaking on behalf of the 57 per cent of women who felt it was very important to have the time to take the lead role in their children’s upbringing and the 49 per cent of women who gave priority to their role as a mother than their career, as these activities and roles would see the child as more important.
This immature, self-centred, obsession wasn’t always how feminism collectively behaved. Early feminists like Jane Adams saw themselves as both struggling for women’s suffrage as well as the rights of children; for example working for the passage of laws to protect children through state and national child labour laws. Her thoughts that “the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” is relevant here. Ms Roper’s secondary concern for the infants risks the good she wants secured for women; after all if it’s acceptable to treat children who cannot defend themselves in this way why not women who have at least some ability to do so?
It was this concern for others that inspire me about early feminists; who would not have been silent about sex selective abortion as they saw believed that both women and children should be protected from abortion. In terms of the sexualised baby clothes I have no doubt that their concern and therefore their actions would have focused on the child first.
Emma Watson’s recent UN speech has demonstrated that some feminists are beginning to realise that it is not sufficient to focus on the equality of one gender only and as a result she has drawn into the narrative some of the concerns she believes men have. However her stated focus on gender is still too narrow as it only translates to adults, just as Patel’s focus encompasses only the interests of career women.
Watson’s solution, to ask men to speak on behalf of women, is not entirely without merit though. If she and others would look to her predecessors such as Adams to develop their vision they stand a greater chance of truly reach the hearts of her ‘left behind’ sisters. After all, as Adams’ quote suggests, it is only by laying down our self interest and securing those for the common good that we secure a more prosperous future.This means men putting their interests aside for women, yes. But also women doing the same for children and wealthy, career women for their more disadvantaged sisters. It also means actually listening to them!