FEMINISM IS STILL IMPORTANT

Featured image: suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest in 1914

On Monday 3rd March, The Tab Exeter posted an article by student Tor Mackarness entitled ‘I need feminism because I’m a bit average’. Being a sensationalist denunciation of feminism published just in time for International Women’s Day, the piece was a successful exercise in hit-mongering. Already, a host of commenters have diligently critiqued Mackarness’ argument as the contradictory, under-researched, offensive mess that it is. For this reason, I was unsure whether to post my own response: am I simply giving the article in question the attention that it is so clearly designed to generate?

The answer is, emphatically, yes. However, continued attention is exactly what the cause of feminism needs in order to maintain its power and progress, and the brash dismissal of it should not go unchallenged. The dismissal in question revolves around the rejection of so-called ‘aggressive feminism’ and a preference for ‘an open-minded approach to life’. This binary is, of course, nonsensical. Mackarness seems to miss the point of feminism entirely, ignoring that its ultimate goal is gender equality, and that its very foundation is the phenomenon which she calls open-mindedness – pointedly not aggression.

Her disagreement seems to lie with women who use gender inequality as an excuse for their failures (‘The hilarious thing about feminism these days is that by pushing the case for feminism they create a glass ceiling that gets harder and harder to break.’). These people are not good feminists. Like Mackarness, they have not put in the brain power or done the reading. Furthermore, I have yet to come across any women who play the sexism card in the way that Mackarness suggests.

By making the assumption that all feminists think in this manner is a tell-tale sign of the writer’s internalised misogyny: patriarchal structures traditionally operate on the assumption that all women are alike, just how Mackarness asserts that all feminists are alike. Perhaps she has had a bad experience with a particularly bad feminist, and jumped to the conclusion that all other feminists resemble her. (Let me draw your attention to the world’s bad experiences with bad terrorists, and the resultant assumption by many that all Muslims were capable of terrorism.)

Having said all of this, the article – which purports to prove feminism’s inefficacy – inadvertently proves the movement’s continuing legacy. Mackarness heralds her mother as ‘a woman with no official qualifications’ who is ‘intelligent and confident enough to work her way up from a secretary to head of a trading desk at a major city bank in the 1980s’. Does she believe that this sort of mobility was available to women before the feminist movement began to make real headway in the early 20th Century? Does she believe that she would even be studying at University without it? Women could not legally vote in the UK until 1918; now they can, and that is just one of many, many legal changes which feminism has made happen, all in the cause of gender equality.

Mackarness’ argument is not really with feminism, but with a small group of people, with small-minded views and a tendency to self-deprecate, who happen to annoy her, and who may or may not identify as feminists. The feminist movement includes a huge spectrum of people (including males such as myself), and a huge spectrum of views. Feminists can, believe it or not, disagree with each other.

Here, Tor Mackarness, is exactly why feminism is necessary: your article has reached number 1 on The Tab’s most-read list, in close proximity to an article by one Archie Lockwood (who may or may not be a fictional writer created by The Tab) demanding that all female students adopt the leggings-and-trainers trend in order to provide the ‘common bloke’ with ‘something to look at in the library’. Lockwood is the kind of person who decorates his Twitter profile with a photograph of back-lit champagne bottles and Tweets, ‘There are some terrifying looking women on tinder [sic]’, shortly after denouncing our Feminist Society with the very concise hashtag ‘#noonegivesashitotherthanthem’.

When Mr. Lockwood is glugging Moet to celebrate the enforcement of a leggings-only dress code for the females in his City office (where those with penises may well be paid considerably more than those without), I hope Ms Mackarness doesn’t feel the need to complain. After all, feminism is nothing but bossy nonsense, isn’t it, and you’re better off without it, aren’t you?

Happy International Women’s Day, everybody. It is important, it is necessary, and it is there to educate the kind of people who believe that women must provide lascivious men with ‘something to look at in the library’ and that feminism is the reserve of extremist excuse-makers.