I was interviewed by BBC Radio Tees this morning on whether feminism is necessary following Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. I spoke with a male journalist (who clearly doesn’t like feminists) and Angela Epstein who has made a career out of belittling feminism. These are the notes I wrote just before the interview:
Reasons for Feminism:
- 2 women a week are murdered by current or former partners – this does not include homicides perpetrated by extended family members including fathers and brothers.
- 40 women an hour are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Women and children are the vast majority of victims and refugees of war yet are very rarely represented at national and international peace agreements.
- 150 women a day are turned away from refuges in the UK due to lack of space.
- Women are more likely to suffer ill health and death due to male violence than they are to die from cancer, heart disease and car accidents.
- Women still earn less than men for the same work – this gap is wider for Women of Colour.
- Last year, a 13 year old girl was labelled “sexually predatory” in all her actions by the attorney responsible for prosecuting her perpetrator of sexual assault – an appalling breach of her human rights which only got national attention due to the work of Ending Victimisation and Blame
- 1400 girls were sexually abused, raped and trafficked in Rotherham whilst the police, social services, CPS, and schools did nothing. The media has reported this as if it was a one-off event rather than simply an exemplar of what is happening to girls across the UK every day in places like Nottingham, York and Sheffield
- Jimmy Savile was allowed to continue sexually assaulting and raping hundreds of young girls and boys whilst working for the BBC and engaged in “charity work”. He was given his own rooms in hospitals. Staff everywhere knew and no one stepped up to support the children.
More obviously, feminism is important because a young woman stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. For this, she has had threats of sexual violence through the theft and release of private images and all manner of abuse. This is why feminism is necessary – because women have no right to an opinion in the public sphere.
Reasons for feminism pertaining directly to Emma Watson:
- The threat to release of photos of Watson nude which have been stolen and then released publicly: this is sexual violence
- Count down clock to Watson being “legal”
- the fact that the Daily Mail published an article on her outfit rather than the speech
My issues with Watson’s speech:
- no practical advise on how to change,
- very little structural analysis: remains embedded in neoliberal discourse on choice
- the word feminism is important. There is a reason why that word is derided and insulted – it’s because the word has power. It makes it clear why women are trapped in continuing cycles of poverty, male violence and child-bearing and rearing,
- Watson calls for men’s inclusion but ignores why men do not want to support women’s rights as it challenges their power,
- real male allies do not need to be coaxed into clicking a button on a website. They are already doing the work by reading and listening to feminists and then putting their knowledge into practise by supporting women’s liberation,
- We need to stop stroking men’s egos and worrying about their feelings. We’ve had 10 000 years of human history where women have been raped, tortured and murdered. Men have the power to change this and have chosen not too. We need to stop focusing on being inclusive to men and start actively challenging them,
- This statement is odd: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled”
- Women aren’t compelled to be submissive, they have no choice. Men do have a choice to be controlling and they make the choice to engage in this behaviour within the home and within the public sphere. Men absolutely do suffer because of gendered stereotypes but we need to be clear that men who use violence are making a choice to do so – if we think otherwise, we insult all the men who make the choice to act like a decent human being.
I do have criticisms of Watson’s speech but more importantly, I am dancing with joy that she stood up in front of an international audience and said women are equal to men. As a mother of members of the Harry Potter generation, I am ecstatic by this speech. As a feminist, I am happy that Watson stood up and defended women. I do have concerns about her speech, particularly the idea that we don’t need the word feminism, but I am so fucking glad she made it.
Here’s a great post from Clementine Ford on Watson’s speech.