Faux-Feminism at its Finest

2013-10-31 23:33

In the 'Style' supplement of The Sunday Times (UK Edition), Katie Glass wrote an article (‘Save His Soul’) which made me think of the hypocritical, faux feminism that we are all too often confronted with. Whereas chauvinists or bigots are easily identifiable as being dangerous to a progressive agenda, faux feminism is probably even more worrisome: it is narrow-mindedness disguised in the clothes of egalitarianism. It must be exposed and, more importantly, solidly refuted.

I admit, I do not think that Ms Glass intended her piece to have the consequence it had (for me at least). In satirically ridiculing Justin Bieber, I understand the point she was attempting to make: male nakedness and controversy is treated hypocritically differently to when the same is done by women. The case she was referring to was that of Miley Cyrus (especially after the VMA’s and Wrecking Ball). The good-girl-gone-bad, so Ms Glass’ thesis goes, is sanctimoniously judged, whereas the nice-boy-gone-bad routine is accepted and, in cases, praised.

Now, normally, I would agree with Ms Glass. The double-standards of what is publicly acceptable behaviour for men and women vexes me to no end. A man can walk around at the beach bare-chested but a woman can only do so in designated areas, otherwise she runs the risk of being charged with public indecency. Male leaders can be show emotion and are praised for their empathy, women do so and they are weak, if they don’t, they are unfeeling. Male leaders can be harsh towards colleagues and they are being praised for being tough, women do the same and they’re accused of all kinds of nastiness. The list goes on.

Then why do I disagree with Ms Glass?

Well, the placement of her article in a supplement of The Sunday Times, called ‘Style,’ but which, almost exclusively, is targeted at women is a start. ‘Style bears no qualification as being a women-only magazine. It is so nondescript that an unsuspecting male reader in need of sartorial assistance, like me, for example, could pick it up and try to read it on the assumption that it could provide such salvation. I did so. And to my consternation, especially after reading that ‘progressive’ article, that was huge mistake. The supplement runs to 74 pages but features articles that are ‘male-oriented’ on only 2.

Anyone see the problem?

It’s like a woman saying that other women deserve the right to wear whatever they want, provided they don’t wear too short a skirt. You cannot defend the rights of women to be judged equally to men when, at the same time, you allow yourself to perpetuate some of the worst prejudices about them.

It is a problem that the age-old stereotype that matters of ‘style,’ ‘fashion,’ and the home are advertised and sold as women-only things. Not only does it alienate men who may be interested in such things (by wording articles from a women’s perspective, for example), it is also equally oppressive to women. ‘Your’ section, ladies, isn’t the main newspaper, finance or sport. No. You just sit there and look pretty in a pretty house surrounded by pretty things. Important matters of state are not for you. What a crock of nonsense!

It is as faux feminist as when the ANC Women’s League say things like South Africa is not yet ready for a female president or when women (and men) seek to ridicule, diminish and subjugate women based on their appearance.

Some of you may think that it was my fault in the first place. What is a man doing looking through something called ‘Style?’ Surely he must know that is for women only. If that is what you think after reading this, you have emphasised, rather than refuted, my point.

We cannot seriously be thinking about things like this in a gendered way. That is not to say I have any issue with women-only magazines (and their opposites). But if that’s the case, d not pretend that you are anything otherwise. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t, if you are targeting a particular gender, craft an entire magazine on the worst stereotypes: cakes, clothes and make-up for women, women, cars and gadgets for men.

These kinds of stereotypes abound. They are, if they are left unchallenged, pernicious social constructions which rob people of the opportunity to be who they are. Let’s hope that society generally will start reflecting that principle more: identity created by the sense of self, not an identity forged on the prejudices of generations prior.

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