In part two of our feminist bonfire, we cross the pond to find out if feminism means anything different for the Brits (fish and chips?). And ruin the gene pool with a dude.
So. This "feminism" is a big broad issue. Almost makes me want to start a sister-gawker-weekend-offshoot to hit it from all angles.
But in lieu of that bit of destimulation, I got the provocative Jess McCabe — who recently had her words manhandled by The Observer — to share her thoughts on the differences between the feminism scene here in the states, versus the UK.
Jess edits The F Word and enjoys the shit out of punk rock and 18th century literature:
First off, this is a really important to include: I'm just an individual. I get an overview of feminist activism in the UK to an extent, as editor of The F-Word, but I'm not in a position (as if anyone is) to make any definitive statements about what UK feminism is. As I said in my response to the Observer, it's inaccurate to talk about feminism as though it's this one specific ideology, it's a multitude of threads, of feminisms.
That said, I do think there are differences between feminisms in the UK and feminisms in the US.
Just as one example: rape conviction rate in England and Wales is about 6.5%, and in Scotland it's 2.9% - the lowest in the European Union and, as I understand it, much worse than the US, so trying to turn that around and advocating for reform of how the criminal justice system and police deal with sexual violence, and tackling myths about rape, is a high priority for many feminists here - I think that's one reason that feminists have rallied around Reclaim the Night marches and Million Women Rise.
Another sort of difference: the controversy over the WAM! conference charging so much for entry seems strange from a UK perspective, given that feminist events and conferences here are either free or charge a few pounds entry at most. It doesn't result in the conferences being 100% accessible or perfect by any means, but I do think it points to a difference.
In terms of feminist media, the biggest difference is just that there is so much more of it in the US. That's partly because the US is a much bigger country, I'm guessing, but in the US there's make/shift and Bitch magazine, and lots of very large feminist blogs, as well as a huge number of smaller blogs. We have Subtext Magazine, and a lot of feminist blogs, but still.
I wouldn't call US feminist media superficial at all (ed note: I asked); Jezebel has more of an emphasis on celebrities, but I don't think that's true of wider US feminist media.
Matt Ufford will serve as our shot of testosterone. His dudely credentials include being the founding editor of With Leather, and current writer of television blog Warming Glow:
Here's the problem with Double X so far: it has yet to make feminism more inclusive. By adopting Slate's technique of dressing up illogical contrarian ideas in fancy words, it serves only to further cloud the goals of feminism, a movement that already has enough trouble speaking its own name, much less providing a unified front.
Feminism doesn't need an offshoot of Slate magazine; it needs a simple, coherent definition like Anna Holmes's that appeals to common sense (and maybe an ad campaign to remove the brand of the "f-word"). What feminism needs is honesty. And that, I think, is why Jezebel has attained success with both women and men: the writers are smart and independent, but more importantly, they're honest. Like many others, I found Moe Tkakic's and Tracie Egan's glib attitudes towards sex and rape last June saddening, but I couldn't fault their honesty. And to use that as a foundation of an argument for why Jezebel isn't feminist is to call me a misogynist for saying I'd like to have unprotected sex with Scarlett Johansson (I would. Very much).
The infighting that stems from feminists saying that other feminists are hurting feminism doesn't help the cause of women's rights, it merely reinforces the tired stereotype that all women are catty. How can a movement grow supporters in the middle if it's caught up in arguments on the fringes? If, for example, a man such as myself – registered Democrat, pro-choice voter, ERA supporter, bikini proponent, porn watcher – gets discouraged from identifying with the feminist movement because he admires and desires the female form, then feminism is hopelessly disconnected from the mainstream acceptance it deserves.
Stop fighting about what feminism is, and start recruiting more feminists.
We are all feminists! Hear us roar!!!