Tuesday

Let's Call it Sexual Politics 3.0

A well-informed and I suspect a rather wise female writer said recently that if you want to publish an article about feminism, repackage it as sexual politics to make it more palatable.  Taking this rather sensible advice I've re-packaged Feminism 3.0 and given it a new title, just in case I can entice the unwary reader to read on.
Entrance to Brighton Dome

Read on about what?  Why does Feminism matter anyway?  A study has shown that when people look at a group of politicians, if it is composed of 30% women then it is perceived that the group is made up of a majority of women, whereas if the group is made up of 17% women, then it is perceived that the group has an equal number of men and women in it.  1 in 5 UK women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime and this year, 2013, a Judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court referred to a 13 year old girl as predatory in a rape case.  These are just a few of the facts that highlight the reason change is needed and Feminism can play its part in this.

Feminism 3.0 panel

Feminism 3.0, was a one-off event to discuss how social media is being used to both support and attack women and took place as part of the Brighton Digital Festival 2013.  The panel included Lucy-Ann Holmes who started the campaign to ban Page 3 because she had so many reasons for objecting to it, not least in the way in which it is such a strong visual indicator about how our society values women.  For Lucy the web has enabled her to find free, quick and easy tools to build support around the campaign she began.  In fact she has even found it to help unintentionally, with Murdock's tweet inadvertently generating another 20,000 signatures, (the current figure runs at around 120,000).  The other members of the panel ranged from the experienced Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, to fresh-faced 15-year-old blogger Lilinaz Evans (Lilipop), as well as winner of this year’s Foster’s Comedy Award, comedian Bridget Christie and was chaired by Deputy Editor of The New Statesman, Helen Lewis.

Feminism 3.0 audience
This very female-centric event followed ideas as they flowed along through a meandering river of experience, camaraderie and difference.  There was no final resolution as to whether social media was good or bad, there were no black or white answers, there was however a sharing of information and an agreement that yes some men can sometimes be dicks.  For instance when a journo writing for the Telegraph asked, Is there no end to Feminists nagging about Page 3?, or the slightly comical troll tweets that are sent to the Page 3 campaign like, F@ck off you've got sh1t tits.

The topics covered were wide-ranging and touched upon how language has an invisible effect on how women are valued by society.  As deep-rooted as the fairy tales we are told as children - men play an active role, slaying dragons and defeating villains while women are beautiful, passive, mute and given away as a prize.  This led me to consider that my desire for a more active female role model must have started early as my favourite nursery rhyme was about the milkmaid stopped by an admirer, "where are you going to, my pretty maid" and ends with a riposte equal to her admirer's fickle rejection, "then I can't marry you, my pretty maid", with the line, "nobody asked you, sir she said."  However, this forward thinking lass is an exception in a sea of compliant, passive heroines.  A role that society still seems to prefer as evidenced by the fact that high profile women with opinions receive a higher degree of abuse as a consequence.  Bridget Christie shared her own experience of abuse and after a very long while began to deal with it by thinking, "some of the rape threats were so ambitious, so imaginative you could see some real effort had gone into them."  This, she adds was after ten years of sexual threats.  "Even legitimate published reviews that presumably had gone through editors had some incredible stuff written about me, so you do become immune to it." 

Is there something inherent in the male psyche that manifests itself in taunts, snide remarks, bullying and downright defamation that will always exist?  These are definitely some of the tactics used against women as part of the power politics that rage on in public and private spheres.  Is it therefore the role of women to navigate these mind tricks and become immune to them in order to succeed?  My own anecdotal experience has included witnessing men's behaviour in male dominated work environments where I have heard a lot of unflattering comments made by men about women that would be considered 'bitching' if they were said by women.  What is the male equivalent?  No, there isn't a word for it.  

It may also be inherently true that women have a natural inclination to seek approval and to have approval is to avoid having opinions.  Suzanne Moore, Queen of the laconic comment put it like this, "women are socialised to be likeable, but I think we should do what we like because people don't like us anyway."  The comment triggered laughter but by this point it also resonated deeply.

Another point that resonated with me was about how few female correspondents there are, which gave me renewed admiration for a female foreign correspondent called Elizabeth Donnelly who I once had the honour of knowing.  It has also inspired me to keep going with the story I have been researching and writing, about possibly the first ever female correspondent; a celebrated writer while producing sentimental poetry who became vilified when she entered the male world of opinions.  Helen Maria Williams had the courage of her political convictions that revolved around building a fairer society and has now become a postscript in history and is very little known.  What about the well informed female writer whose advice I followed? It was from Suzanne Moore at Feminism 3.0 of course.

Get involved:

No More Page 3  http://nomorepage3.org/

Lilinaz Evans blog and Twitter @lilinaz_evans

Suzanne Moore at the Guardian

Helen Lewis at the New Statesman

Bridget Christie's website

Million Women Rise http://www.millionwomenrise.com/

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