On the day Amnesty International and women’s organisations lobbied MPs for increased protection for all women facing violence in the UK, I re-read Janice Turner’s recent article on the silence of feminists in the face of casual sexism. Wondering where feminism went wrong Turner writes that of the half dozen twenty-somethings she met in a bid to find out only one identified themselves as a feminist and the rest didn’t identify with it at all:
The only feminist they can think of is Julie Bindel, the radical lesbian writer. Feminism means no fun or make-up, anger and hating men. It is a broken brand, not needed now. As one put it: “All the battles are won.”
Why is it, Turner asks, “that while America has a tradition of feminist writers and thinkers, including Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe, there are no young women “questioning the orthodoxy here”?
In a later article Turner sets out to rally feminists and stir up resistance to the “pornification” of culture. It’s time to challenge casual sexism she writes, inviting readers to send in examples of sexism.
The response to her first article she says was “thank God, someone is saying this — I thought I was alone”.
Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony argues it isn’t a case of feminists being silent, although she acknowledges those voices are rarely heard in the mainstream. She also criticises Turner for showing “a lack of knowledge or disregard of just what has been going on in the online world for the last decade” and picks up on the fact that feminists are often criticised for being silent on a variety of issues: “I’ve had it up to here with the “feminists have been silent about…” trope that springs up everywhere in the media both on line and off”.
So to an article by Clive James I recently re-read criticising feminists for their silence on the subject of so-called honour killings. He writes about Pamela Bone, an Australian journalist whose 2005 article in the Melbourne Age attacked Western feminists for failing to speak up against abuses in the Western world.
Reading around this issue, as with many others, it’s clear there are many vibrant feminist writers online.
If you are looking for authoritative voices speaking out in the mainstream media in the UK however, “silence” is what you’re likely to get.
Whether that’s important depends on how much weight you give to the mainstream. If you think it’s important that feminism is “heard” in the media then some of the questions Janice Turner raises about the pressures to keep quiet are important ones – but is it as much about deafness as about silence?