Friday, March 12, 2010

Feminism now - reviews in The Guardian - where to now?

I know I'm always referencing The Guardian, but the truth is I don't read regular discussions about feminism in the Australian media. This article is long, so be warned. What surprised me was mention of the momoirs, which I read, and intend to review. I've included the paragraphs here. It has given me something to think about.

The piece is mostly about the influence of raunch culture - Katie Price, Madonna, young girls who aspire to be glamour models, and women working in the sex industry believing they are empowered. What a big fat mess.

Anyway, this Friday I am attending a conference called Growing up Fast and Furious - about how media affects the development of children. I'm guessing the experts will say the influence is detrimental and will be preaching to the converted. Any ideas for ways forward? My best hope is positive role modelling - showing children women who care about more than their own sexual attractiveness - women who work in NGOs, women who are professionals in their creative fields (and it would help if the judges on So You Think You Can Dance stopped talking about the girls being 'hot' and 'sexy' to the extent that it becomes totally meaningless - do they mean attractive or appealing or what? and that they didn't present women as sexual in contexts where it just isn't appropriate), women who do what they love rather than do in order in order to be desired (Hello Lara Bingle - ever heard of feminism??), and for the people who care about these issues to keep speaking out and offering real alternatives to the mainstream culture.

The conference:

How the 'new feminism' went wrong

"Completely sold on the myth of "self-invention", today's woman believes herself in control of her life, from birth to the present day. There's no governing philosophy, just an urge to assert her will. She doesn't know what she's doing, but she's damn well doing it.

Anyone who challenges or questions her will get short shrift, even our own children. A slew of motherhood memoirs portray the baby as a "rival consciousness". This memorable phrase was coined in Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work. Cusk's nuanced portrayal of maternal ambivalence was read one way by those seeking support for their perception of motherhood as an endless bad hair day.

Mothers are now more able to portray themselves as victims of their children. Brett Paesel says she was prompted to write her memoir Mommies Who Drink by the silence around motherhood and women's unwillingness to bear witness to their subjugation, "which feels like complaining". No one dares convey the rage evoked by the maternal requirement to put someone else's needs above their own? None except Stephanie Calman, author of Confessions of a Bad Mother; Kate Long, author of The Bad Mother's Handbook; Mel Giedroyc, author of Going Ga Ga – Is There Life After Birth? and so on and on. These controlling mothers seem to feel wronged by the autonomy of the people in their orbit. The fact that their children are separate beings with their own beliefs and habits seems like a dreadful affront. Female confessional writers seldom pay much mind to how it feels to be them. Far from being a golden age of female self-expression, this is the opposite. Real self-expression requires dialogue. With the other point of view excluded, candid authors are communicating nothing.'

I'd better start with that in looking at the momoirs, but that is for another day.

The books mentioned in the article are also reviewed here:

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