Saturday, 15 January 2011

Suzanne Moore calling all Angry Birds

Today Suzanne Moore published an excellent piece entitled 'It's time to get angry, all this polite and smiley feminism is getting us nowhere' in the Guardian telling us there is a need for women to start getting angry about inequality. Moore, like me, has long since been irritated by the term 'post feminism'. All the women I know who have been active within the feminist movement struggle to recognise any development that would allow us to consider that job done and the emergence of a subsequent, distinct reconstructed era. Moore's piece takes a deliberately controversial stab at unpicking what has happened there and as such is really worth a read, but its the comments that followed that were really heart stopping.

As soon as I had sunk my first cup of tea at around 9am, watched the fab Campbell Robb, ceo at Shelter tell us on BBC Breakfast to be concerned about the crisis in housing shortages, the stream of bile was well under way. From mostly men but some women as well, the feed tells you everything you need to know about the current status of feminism in the UK. Read it and weep. It is quite clear from the comments that the truth is feminism isn't unnecessary because we have achieved equal pay, have equal access to senior jobs or are anything other than a risible minority of FTSE 100 board members or MPs. No we have not 'arrived' and not for the want of trying, but because some men really, really don't want us to have those positions and aren't going to 'give' them to us or indeed tolerate any position that describes the current state of inequality as even unfair.

My own comment on the piece, left a few moments ago was as follows:

If anyone was puzzled about the context of this piece they only have to read the majority of the comments that followed it, spiteful, defensive miopic sexism dressed up as counter balance. To put her thoughts in the context of my own week I got involved in an interesting twitter dialogue earlier on when I tweeted my surprise during Monday's Panorama, that the ceo of the Mother's Union was a man. Several women picked up this point and agreed, the next day the Mother's Union tweeted me back to point out that they have an equal opportunities policy and my comments were sexist. Really? In establishing the selection criteria for the job of representing the Mother's Union, clearly being a mother didn't even make it onto the essential list. Now every point made to emphasise the most important job in society, that of being a mother, is made by a man. Which other special interest groups do that? Would Fathers for Justice have a woman as their figurehead? The Muslim Defence League elect to be run by a non-Muslim, the NAACP select a white spokesperson? When the gauntlet of equality is laid down it seems only women are scrupulous enough to pick it up, everyone else steps over it and carries on shouting. So maybe we should stop being so reasonable, so measured and take a leaf out of Moore's book? In my own world of social enterprise the majority of my members are women led companies and yet the vast majority of our spokespeople are men, white men to boot. Day after day I go to meetings that are dominated by men, attend conferences where all male panels discuss the issues and key note after key note is a white man, often of a certain age, all offered up and passed out without comment. There are exceptions to this silence though, recently I attended a good conference on the future of public services at the RSA where, sadly, the plenary was all male even though the audience contained some of the country's leading female experts on the subject. After the coffee break, and without even discussing it, those women returned early to the auditorium and occupied the entire front row and then the rows immediately behind, causing raised eyebrows from almost every man who entered the room and eventually leading to a comment from the panel. I think we do have to make an effort to avoid invisibility, especially the most senior of us, as economic austerity gives those in authority every excuse not to do what they didn't want to do anyway. We should assert ourselves as women, not just for our sake, not just for our daughter's but our son's too. A peaceful, powerful, careful society is a fair one and women have so much to contribute to that, to call it a job done without them is illusionary.

We shall see if anyone picks that up, but in any case my point is we all need to be vigilant. Girls are getting distracted by media, the cult of celebrity, and terms like 'post feminism' and in the great scramble for the few remaining jobs and the female economic independence a civilised society is predicated on, they are, almost inevitably, missing out. Suzanne wants to recruit an army of 'Angry Birds', she can count me in.    


  1. I've seen that kind of anger Allison where it's been misdirected. Not long ago, in a social situation I recall being targeted for what I appeared to represent - the symbolic enemy that could be identified as a member of the "boomer" generation. In my defense, I'd explain that my work was leveraging opportunity for women to create business in the developing world, 4 times as many women as men. It made no difference, I wasn't helping her directly.

    Far worse was the experience of a group of female journalist who I'd asked to help with our efforts to raise awareness of conditions where children had been abandoned to the state and horrific neglect. My cause the women and children who suffer, was of no relevance, they would not help because they only supported causes championed by women.

    Get angry by all means about poverty, injustice and violence which affect women most, but hold in mind that judgement on the basis of gender and generation is no less prejudice than that based on the colour of one's skin.

  2. Dear Jeff, my take on Moore's article is that it was meant to be put into context. If you take into consideration the responsive minority it is hard to achieve a call to arms, so whilst she is angry about 'men' it is not all men, her bile is, for my money directed towards those who are obstructive. From what you have said I'm sure you would agree that for those of us who support the cause of equality we need to be secure enough to allow a critique, at least that would be my interpretation as a mother of sons who I hope can be confident, unapologetic young men who support the cause of equality without feeing 'got at'. But maybe I'm being overly generous?

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