Thursday, 20 October 2011

Renaissance: The New Feminism

How many times have you heard that there is no need for feminism in the modern world?  Women have the right to vote, financial independence, (almost) equal job opportunities and powerful positions in the government and other institutions.  The Suffragette’s have won all they fought for, and a line has been drawn through ‘feminism’ as a done and dealt-with cured ill of our society.  So is feminism dead?

I challenge this claim with the proposal that feminism is very much alive, and an essential tool for building a great society even today.  Yes, changes have been made.  Yes, goals have been met.  Yes, norms have been broken and women have been raised up to be more strong, powerful and influential than ever before in the history of gender politics.  But, when we look at the content and context of the most powerful women today, is this what those first feminists really wanted?

Sex: that three-letter word that has more power than the likes of words such as ‘peace’, ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’.  Sex: that weapon that women have used to manipulate the predatory male into a position of passivity and reliance.  Were women really onto something when they discovered the one thing that makes any man weak?  Or have they been lulled into a false sense of security, where once again, men have got women exactly where they want them; driving and fulfilling their sexual fantasies?

Let us take a quick look at a few powerful respected women.  Carla Bruni, Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, Lady Macbeth, Margaret Thatcher (wait, how did that one get in there…).  What do they all have in common?  Sexual provocation.  These wily women have all used their gorgeous bodies and alluring intimations to get them to the top.  But although they’re in the highest places, the men are still looking up their skirts.

Beyoncé is a fantastic example of feminism gone wrong.  Feel free to cringe as I quote some lyrics here: ‘if you like it then you should’a put a ring on it’, ‘my persuasion can build a nation, endless power, the love we can devour’ and the entire theme of the song ‘Independent Women’.  All of these signify all kinds of independence for women, emphasising the power and strength they supposedly manifest in todays society.  These lyrics alone represent the passion behind those very first feminists and the ideals they strived toward.  But the reality found in other lyrics such as ‘tonight I’ll be your naughty girl’, ‘I know you want my body’ and ‘ladies let him check up on it’ reveals that women are only powerful when using their sexuality as a manipulative tool. 

Feminist fought for freedom, and women having gained this freedom were so bewildered that they didn’t quite know what to do with it.  With this newfound freedom of expression, mixed together with male expectations, women easily fell into the bitter cocktail that we are still drowning in today.  We have a narrow choice: use sexual appeal to gain a cheated upper hand, or remain a weak, prudish, dehumanised existence.  Feminism needs to change this metanarrative, to reconstruct ideologies into realities.  Sexualising women is dehumanising.  Respecting women for their intellect, passion, and inner beauty, is the first step to bringing true equality.

The power of women needs to be reassessed. 
The reality of inequality needs to be reinterpreted. 
Feminism needs to be reborn. 
This is a call for Renaissance for today’s generation.


  1. Was this in Artemis? I have a strong sense of deja vu :)

    Anyway, it's very well written. Well done!

    I learnt about gender earlier this week, and one of the things they mentioned was different segregations:

    horizontal segregation in terms of men and women choosing different jobs still (2/3 of primary school teachers are female)
    and vertical segregation, otherwise known as the glass ceiling, where women are finding it difficult to access to higher levels of companies (50% of head teachers are male).
    Also women still earn a lot less than men, so I agree, feminism isn't dead yet :)

  2. Great piece Annie, and I agree that much needs to be done, the sexualisation of women and how women often use that for their own benefit is far from what the original feminist movement desired or understood.

    I would put it to you though that the ten women who are probably the most powerful in the world, all but possibly two, did not in any way get their influence and power from sex. The top ten world's most powerful women in 2011 according to Forbes were:

    1) Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany the worlds fourth largest economy and power bastion of the EU. Pretty much a lady carved out of the rock of German efficiency.

    2) Hilary Clinton - pretty yeah, but her rise to prominence, world influence, and power came much after her younger years where she held 'sex appeal'and I don't think claiming she has the job she does because of her husband holds water.

    3) Dilma Rousseff president of Brazil the largest economy in South America and one of the worlds up and coming superpowers - again no sex appeal or manipulation of feminine beauty which got her to power.

    4) Indra Nooyi chair'person' and CEO of Pepsi one of the largest multinational corporations in the world

    5)Sheryl Sandberg, ok she is rather beautiful, though not really my type I can't see someone saying she used that somehow to get her masters and degrees of Harvard and become second in command at Facebook

    6) Melinda Gates, yes she is married to Bill Gates, but she is the one who largely runs one of the worlds most generous and influential charities, and being married isn't the same as using sex appeal.

    7) Sonia Gandhi a MAJOR player in Indian Politics

    8) Michelle Obama - ok this I can see feminists being miffed at and as it only being because she is the wife of the worlds most influential and powerful man, a secondary role tagging on to a male lead, and who is seen as a fashion and to an extent 'sex' icon.

    9) Chrintine Lagarde the new head of the International Monetary Fund which is what is keeping the world economy afloat - she didn't get the job because she was a woman, in fact her getting it was a shock to the world as she was yet another European.

    10) Irene Rosenfeld Chair'person' and CEO of Kraft Foods the worlds largest food chain, 100% did not use her looks to manipulate her way into that job, when I saw her picture in Forbes I thought it was a man at first (yes that is horrible and sexist, but we all gender stereotype on looks, just look at Visual Kei in Japan if you didn't know they were men you would say they were women).

    So I guess what I am saying is, that whilst I think feminism has much, much, much, more to do and achieve, and so agree with what you say and often the sexual manipulation is very very present in the 'pop' sphere, feminism may have done more than this article fully reveals, and achieved most of the worlds preeminent examples of female success against the odds of the 'mans world' of politics, finance, and business management, without sex or manipulation by using those 'womanly wiles'.

  3. Interesting piece. I have to confess, I've restarted this comment about thrice now, mostly over fear of being branded a sexist, chauvinist, female-oppressing bastard, for the crime of disagreeing with a feminist whilst being in possession of a penis. However, the equation of feminism with militancy is perhaps a discussion for another time!

    So, let me play devil's advocate in two ways for a moment. Firstly, suppose that actually feminists were fighting for the wrong thing. The examples you give are of women breaking into typically male-dominated roles and assessing success by typically 'male' criteria. Who has the most people under them? Who earns the most? Who sells the most records? By accepting those 'male' metrics of success, feminism sells itself short. What does it matter who wins the match, if the very nature of the game is controlled by other parties? Who always wins in the casino? The casino owner, of course. How do you truly win at the casino? Go spend your money somewhere else. How do feminists, Christians, or anyone truly change society? Change the rules.

    That kinda leads on to the second point - suppose that feminism sets itself up to only be successful to a certain degree, because it can't bear to let itself be irrelevant? Surely the final aim of feminism is for it to come, change the world, and no longer be needed? But, for all the people who know nothing other than fighting, it's such a huge part of their identity that they couldn't accept the end result. Plus, it's a powerful movement, and people are loathed to give up power.

    Finally, I completely disagree with your assertion that "Sexualising women is dehumanising". Abusively sexualising? Yes. Subversively sexualising? Yes. Sexualising beyond the bounds of consent? Yes. Sexually objectifying? Yes. But to attribute women sexual qualities as qualities among others is what makes them human.

    I dream of a society where women don't feel the need to be feminists, where questions of equality are resolved and where everyone, regardless of their sex or gender, can fulfill their potential. But, that's only going to happen if we start playing another game.

  4. Well put Rob.

    The 70's feminist revolutionary Shulamith Firestone wrote:
    "..the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital difference between human beings would no longer matter culturally.”

    I think these revolutionaries have all ready largely achieved their goal. I think now-a-days we are all feminists to some degree. We see moves about kick-butt female Tomb Raiders and Teminatrixes who aggressively kill and destroy as much as their male counterparts and don't blink an eye.