When we proposed this a few weeks ago, taking inspiration from QUB’s Literific, we got a great response.
The Yes and No arguments are both included in this post. Comments are not only welcome, but are encouraged.
NO: Feminism is Irrelevant
BY JAMES MCALISTER
Is feminism relevant in today’s society? This is a question which I have argued over with many different people. Through these many arguments, I have noticed that feminists have a tendency to draw a line in the sand, saying that you’re either with us, or against us. Those who don’t agree with the bigoted ideal of the modern feminist movement’s leaders are automatically assigned the labels of being a chauvinistic, sexist bastard, by the grass-root feminists, indoctrinated by the tripe written by such feminist writers as Germaine Greer, or the late Mary Daly.
I write this, rather harsh critique of feminism as I have experienced exactly what I described above. I’m sure we all remember the highly controversial debate held by the Queen’s Literific with the motion “This House Believes Feminism is Irrelevant”. I had the pleasure of being one of the debaters speaking for the motion, as it is my opinion that feminism is as relevant as Katie Price’s opinion on anything, really.
However, around four days before the debate, after a harmless Facebook post, where I declared my excitement for speaking at the debate, I was subjected to four days of abuse from the Feminists of QUB, in which I was called a chauvinist, a sexist, a misogynist and my personal favourite, “a typical man”. Dear reader, I am by no means any of these things, and I am by all definitions, pro-equality. The sooner all women of the world achieve equality the better, and I would fight to my dying breath to make such a thing possible, but I refuse to be referred to as a “feminist” simply because, I feel that the modern leaders have strayed much too far from the noble intentions held by Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragette movement, or indeed Betty Freidan and her work to achieve equal rights. But I’m afraid the feminist movement of today is led by bigoted, angry women who are not advocating equality, but rather gender superiority. I feel that feminists of today are out to say the most outrageous thing, in order to sell books or fill out lecture halls, or land a lecturing job. I find their works to be laced with bigotry and sexism, for example, I believe it was Mary Daly who said “the only way for a woman to enjoy a non-exploitative relationship is if it is with another woman”, personally, as a man I find this to be a ridiculous statement, to tarnish all men and heterosexual relationships to be exploitative is frankly a stupid statement to make.
I will conclude by stating that equality for the most part in today’s society or at least in the western world, has been achieved, yet the leaders of today are holding onto their relevancy for dear life by making mountains out of molehills out of every little thing that they find “offensive” and unfortunately, their following is large enough to keep their bank balances large and their work afloat.
YES: Feminism is Still Relevant
Amalgamated from submissions BY SEANÍN Ní CONNALLÁIN, AMOS GIDEON GRIEG, and RÓISÍN JACKMAN*
It is commonly argued that feminism today is irrelevant as women have gained legal and formal equality with men. Feminism is thus portrayed as the pursuit of man hating bores. These arguments are premised on fundamental misconceptions about what feminism is. Feminsts of all genders recognise the detriment of unequal society; the pressure to conform to macho stereotypes and fulfill roles set out for males are both harmful for the male striving to achieve them and for those who fail to conform in the same way as it would for females. Gender equality benefits everyone, it is not about one against the other. A more equal society is happier society and this is what everyone should strive for.
Since the suffragettes fought for the vote, feminists have campaigned for those legal rights denied to women. But legislation alone is not enough; it is necessary to change the structures that reinforce these inequalities. Equality legislation is superficial if women are still treated as inferior in everyday life, in the workplace, and in public discourse. This link between wider gender cultures and violence (sexual and non-sexual), bullying, and harrassment (for example, through slut-shaming, think Holylands LAD), the continuing economic inequalities women face and so on, are obvious. Men also experience these phenomena, but disproportionately compared to women.
Who then is afraid of feminism? Primarily the main opposition to feminism and equality are the perceived powerbases in a societal structure which has grown stagnant. Feminism is about change and many are afraid of change. Certain viewpoints hold women back and many of them grow from the patriarchal ideologies of religion and old school politics. In some countries religious dogma sees women and young girls attacked for not dressing ‘appropriately’ or for seeking to further their knowledge. These attacks are not limited to just Middle Eastern countries but happen in the Western world. Women are often paid less than men and are seen as weaker or in need of protection. During both World Wars it was women who revitalised the work force and in many ways paved the way for changes in the work place that made life easier for all employees.
There are many inequalities in our society, women have little to no say over their own bodies and this fact is made clear in the media. Take birth control, abortion and rape for instance. Women are routinely objectified in a way that is entirely normalised by society, normalised to the extent that women themselves learn to believe that they should expect to be groped in bars and clubs and where influential public figures claim that women should expect to have sex with men if they enter their bedroom or if they’re dressed ‘provocatively’. Victim blaming is too common. Arguably the madonna/whore line of thinking is more prevalent now in the social media age than ever. The sad fact is that we are not an equal society and as long as these inadequacies continue there will be a continued demand for feminism.
Regular subjection to sexual harassment on the street is a problem. Constant objectification is a problem. Having one’s opinion demeaned by being referred to as “little lady” is a problem. The PSNI’s records of last year’s rapes being record high is a problem. Their subsequent victim-blaming campaign telling women how not to get raped is a problem. The struggle, or death, of women who are denied life-saving abortions is a problem. Having to listen to rape jokes when you have be told it’s just ‘banter’ when you object is a problem. And having the guts to say all of that and then be told you hate men and need to shut up is a problem. Feminism combats these problems and aims for equality. To argue that feminism is irrelevant is to say that you don’t respect the right of women to their own autonomy and framing feminism as a bunch of crazed women who seek to power over men is akin to equating all Christians with the Westboro Baptist Church. Equality is always relevant, therefore feminism is always relevant.
* CORRECTION – The credit to this article has been amended. Áine Jackman was originally credited as the writer, when in actual fact, it was Róisín Jackman. Apologies to the both of you.