Women of the world unite? No thanks. My response to the Blogfest feminism debate.

I don’t know what I expected from Blogfest yesterday.  But it certainly wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I arrived at King’s place to a room packed full of influential women (and some men).  Women who have a voice and are not afraid to use it.  Intelligent women, strong women.  The high profile panelists and sponsors were a symbol of how far women have come and it was empowering to see the power that ‘Mummy-bloggers’ (but let’s not restart that discussion) have online.

Every session I attended was thought-provoking, insightful, useful.  The day ran seamlessly from start to finish.  From the debate about online abuse, to the most effective way to harness social media.  The delicious food and sumptuous cocktails, to the blog clinic and the writing tips from possibly the most informed panel of writers anyone could have hoped to see.

But we let ourselves down at the end.

The question ‘Can you be a mummy-blogger and still be a feminist?’ was always going to be controversial.  I think it’s safe to say, it was designed to be and yes, a lot of what the panel had to say was insulting – at best, but it was our response that I thought was most disappointing.  The twitter feed had to be taken down because it was too distracting for an audience of the intelligent women I mentioned earlier.  Eventually the whole thing descended almost into anarchy and the panel essentially shuffled off the stage before Jo Brand came on to rescue things. 

Everyone has a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice.  Whatever sector we work in, whatever we choose to do, we have a responsibility.  It could be teaching our children that they can make a difference and that what they say really matters.  It could be arguing with the council that we need more parks; influencing multi-national corporations; even convincing the person to whom you’ve been on hold for 45 minutes that actually you are a valued customer and you do have the right to be heard. 

The point is it doesn’t matter. 

We are all influential in our own circle.  And if we’re not, we need to make sure we are.  I know it isn’t as simple as that, I’m ignoring many complex issues obviously.  I know there are glass ceilings and, to paraphrase a wonderful blogger in the audience at feminism debate , we live in a country where success is measured by wealth and earnings.  When you give up work to have and stay with your children, you necessarily lose that and it can be very difficult to find your voice let alone have it be respected. 

But we still can drive change.  We can teach our children to be good online and “real-world” citizens; we can show our children that women are equal to men; we are raising the next generation of world leaders.  If we sit and complain about how women have it tough and that they’re not taken seriously, that’s the message we’re giving out. 

In business, if our only concern is to get to the top, if we trample over everyone with our very non-feminist (ha!) high-heels, then we are perpetuating the view that career women are heartless bitches.  But what we really need to do is this.  If we want women to be (as they should be) thought of as equal to men then we need to stop this bickering, this judging, this petty-girly-back-stabbing because the ones who are holding women back in their fight for equality isn’t the men we complain about.  It’s us.  The women.

And to me that’s the issue.    I can’t work out whether Sarah Ditum was suggesting women can’t be “competent mothers” if they don’t go to university or not – I have heard there was a problem with the sound.  The sound of a shouting audience perhaps?  But so what if she thinks that?  If she does, she’s a pillock.  End of.  It isn’t insulting to women who didn’t go to university, it shouldn’t be taken as a step-back to women generally.  It’s her opinion.  As an individual. 

And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that was the whole point of feminism in the first place?  For women not to be pigeon-holed and forced into one role or another.  For them to have a right to choose.  And by saying they can’t wear high-heels, they must not make jam (God-forbid) and absolutely must go to University and hate men is just forcing them into another box.

Feminism should be about women having the right to do what they want and choose to do. To have children and not be made to feel worthless; to be high-flying at work; to look like shit one day but a totally glamorous babe the next.  Every decision we make, whether good or bad, shouldn’t be affecting other women.  If a man does something wrong, whether heinously or not, we call him for what he is.  As an individual.  If a woman does, she’s doing woman-kind a massive disservice.  Whatever her point, Sarah Ditum was expressing her right to free-speech.  As an individual.  And our screeching, hysterical response was, quite frankly, a joke.   Women can’t park, women can’t drive, women can’t play football, play poker, have an intelligent conversation or heated debate without becoming emotional. Judge, judge, judge.  Blah-bah-blah.

Do you know what though?  I’ve very rarely heard this said by a man.  I know there are misogynists out there, too many of them, and I know that they seem to be the ones in power.  We cite David Cameron’s ‘Calm-down dear’ line  all the time as a prime example of this but having heard a lot of what else he has to say (regardless of his political agenda) I genuinely don’t think he is.  It was a stupid thing to say, certainly.  A very misjudged comment that has got him into a lot of hot water, at least as far as our perception of him is concerned.  But was it really an example of misogyny?  I don’t think so. 

It’s women who are more damaging.  We can’t do anything without fear of what our ‘sisters’ will think of us.  And it isn’t even just about giving women the right to be as, and I use this term very loosely, powerful as men.  Our friend looks nice, we tell her so.  But then comes the judgement.  She’s lost weight because she fannies around with herself instead of looking after her children.  Her hair has obviously been highlighted by a top stylist.  Shouldn’t she have been playing with her toddler?  She’s been promoted.  Bitch must be sleeping with the boss. She doesn’t spend any time with her family anyway, why does she bother having them? 

It’s pathetic ladies.

So I say this.  I’m not a feminist and I’m proud of it.

The feminists can shoot me down and quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.  I will continue to do what I think is best, for me and for my family. Not for the feminists, not for the women who scream and shout, not for the friend who will criticise me or my choices for being against woman-kind.  In the words of Jo Brand in her key-note speech, I will go forth “with a sense of righteous indignation.”but as myself.  As an individual. 





27 responses to “Women of the world unite? No thanks. My response to the Blogfest feminism debate.

  1. I must say I was in shock! I think that although it was a provoking discussion (maybe it was meant to cause hysteria) I didn’t expect the wraith, pain and horror that followed.

    I really don’t think that Sarah even mean’t to imply that you could not be competent mother without a degree. I believe she was saying that at the time of having her child it was important to her to complete the degree that she had already working towards as she felt that once she had completed it she would be in a better position to be able to provide for her family. I don’t see anything wrong with this. If I had spent a few years on working towards a Degree I think I would want to see it through to the end especially as I see employees with Degrees earning more than I do even though I do more work than they do and some of them have no idea what they are doing let alone any common sense (but that’s a whole different issue maybe I am Degreeist) I suppose its similar for all of us mum’s who have no option than to go back to work full time. I would have loved to become a stay at home mum but I could not afford to as my husband could not pay the mortgage and bills alone. So if you are a stay at home mum I take my hat off to you and if your one that can earn and stay at home too I bow and must admit I little bit jealous of you.

    • I agree entirely. To be honest, I don’t know what Sarah did or didn’t mean to imply. I was near the back and it was a little difficult to hear with all the gasps of horror and shouting!
      I think we all do what we want to or have to do for our families. No one has a right to judge us on the choices we make or to try to make us feel badly about that. Whether we stay at home, work at home, work outside the home -it’s our choice to make and of course, as you rightly say, not all of us have the luxury of being able to make that choice. We have to do what it necessary.
      For me the problem yesterday wasn’t what the panelists were saying (some of which I agreed with, some of which I didn’t), it was the fact that as an audience we responded in judgement, so outraged we were, but it just reeked of hypocrisy. We criticised the women on stage for judging us and yet shouted with judgment right back.
      Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and to comment.

  2. Thank you for such a thoughtful piece. I do think it’s a pity that we can’t have a sensible conversation about the subject without descending into open warfare. It was an interesting debated, particularly as Charlotte Raven seemed to soften her hard line after listening to the others. And I do think that the questioner who got so upset was being rather hypersensitive. Sarah was only talking about what was right for her at that particular time, but the questioner seemed to take it as some kind of attack (and then seemed to feel even more attacked when Sarah mentioned breastfeeding).

  3. A fantatic response! Absolutely agree with your point that most of the time, the only people that come in the way of successful women are other women! Don’t judge unless you can put yourself in another person’s shoes (or high heels)! 😉

  4. Fantastic article. I don’t want to label myself either. The most powerful women, and men, in the world are those who just get on with their lives to the very best of their ability. I don’t see Angela Merkel as a flag bearer for feminism – she is someone who’s quietly, intelligently, and with extremely hard work risen to a position of making a difference. As a sex, we are indeed our own worst enemy and I saw this in my school playground 40 years ago.

  5. I agree with a lot of what you say, though I am proud (if that’s the right word) to call myself a feminist (and a jam maker and lover of all things fluffy). It was a sad end (well almost end) to the day…had penned a longer response but it got lost in the ether! Perhaps the “real” sign of equality is when we can enjoy informed debate and accept it as just that!

    • Thanks for reading my thoughts and for commenting. I think you’re spot on; we don’t all have to agree with each other, it is all about enjoying informed debate, agreeing to disagree and respecting other people’s views. Thanks again

  6. I quite agree. Fantastically written and Im so with you. We can each have our own opinions and everyone does not have to agree with them. I shall continue to fight for equal rights for males as I have 4 sons and things aren’t as biased in their favour as people like to think.

    • You are so right. I think companies and individuals are often quite prejudice towards men, young men in particular. Whether this, in terms of employment at least, is to do with employment quota laws I don’t know but I do find that there seems to be a backlash in society in general towards men. I have a young son and I hope that by the time that he grows up, equality is what its name suggests. An equal world for all people. Sadly, I fear we are a long way from this.

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  9. What *really* annoyed me in this debate was (one of) the panel’s and (one of) the audience’s spoken assumption that ‘mummy blogs’ were only read by other ‘mummies’… It seems we haven’t progressed much further than George Eliot deciding to adopt a male pseudonym one and a half centuries ago!

    • Yes, I do agree with you about that. It was a shame that one of the panel wasn’t very well informed. However, I do think that largely the panel were prepared to change their views or at least listen to others. Charlotte Raven I thought started very clearly from one position but was prepared to be open-minded. As I said in the post though, I didn’t feel the reaction of the audience was appropriate for a debate even if some of the panel were misinformed. It was a shame because I think there was potential for a good discussion. I was expecting it to be more of a ‘How can we use the power of our voices online’ rather than ‘Can you be a feminist a still make jam.’ I don’t call myself a feminist though, I want to be recognised (for want of a better word) and judged for being me, not simply a member of woman-kind. Thanks for reading

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