Saturday, 22 December 2007

Girlpower; The pseudo-feminism that ends at 30...

... and only then if you are good looking.

It was a welcome change listening to Today this morning to Germaine Greer being interviewed. The problem with Germaine Greer is that she often becomes the story herself, but in this case it was her opinions that I want to consider.
There are plenty of women who are enthusiatic about the "girlpower" of the Spice girls which surfaced many years ago. The way in which this "power" works is that if you dress in a sexy way, you can get men to do what you like. Well maybe if you are good looking anyway. And maybe you have to spend lots of money on clothes and make up, generating nice big profits for the companies that make these things. Girlpower comes at a cost. And if you are not sure you are good looking, then you may instead become anorexic and die. A rather different kind of girl power I would suggest.
Then of course what do you do as you get older? Girlpower, if it ever helped you before is no longer on your side. The senior jobs are occupied more by men, and at the top almost entirely by men.
Germaine Greer lamented the passing of socialism. In the past, feminists hoped that socialism would put the exploitation and inequality of women to an end.
The question now is how to acheive greater equality in a capatalist system. The problem is that capitalism has a dynamic of it's own that is hard to tame. Even Mrs Thatcher was on the receiving end of her own policies that supported capitalism. She wanted a return to "Victorian Values" - and she admired the Conservative Christain pro-censorship lobby personified by Mary Whitehouse. In fact Mary Whitehouse was mounted a rearguard campaign not only against the BBC but also against the forces of capitalism. In this endeavor she totally failed, the corporate world was more interested in profits than "morals" and has largely got it's way.
Liberals will no doubt raise a cheer for this, we never liked "Victorian Values". However the porn industry is not on balance a feature of a Liberal society to get proud about.
From my point of view, pornography that shows men and women enjoying having sex with each other is fine. More often it shows a more mechanical kind of sex, people who do not care about each other, often being exploited and coerced, and depicting rape scenes. A lot of porn today comes from the Third World, where women can be exploited.
Just as there is an anxiety about men who fantasise about having sex with children, then likewise the same applies to rape. If pornography makes these fantasies more vivid, then the concern should be greater still.
Yet pornography is so popular it is entering the mainstream of our culture. More comodification, plastic surgery and unrealistic depictions of women.
What can be done about it is hard to specifiy. In my opinion the values of untamed capitalism do not match the values of a liberal society, and sometimes they are very illiberal. Many liberals today are reluctant to agree to this, but a clear cut example would be that Liberals cannot support the racism of the fashion industry where Noami Campbell notwithstanding, very few models are black.
As Germaine Greer pointed out, she is getting on a bit now. She is still the feminist of choice as far as the media is concerned, I wonder who will be next?


Tristan said...

It depends what you mean by feminism.

The socialist version treats women as a group and seeks to impose ideals upon them, which is just as bad as the state of affairs they wish to overcome. It replaces one enslavement with another.

The liberal version is that women are individuals in their own right - they should be allowed to develop their talents and pursue the opportunities they wish.

Now, given that men and women are different, we will often use different attributes to pursue the ends which we choose.

The question which then needs to be answered is whether women who actually want to be in the position they want to be, who have the necessary abilities, are being rejected based on their gender and their gender alone - unfortunately I believe this happens, which is wrong.
The other problem to look at comes in politics - we want to have approximately equal representation of women in politics - on the grounds of democracy and fair representation. In that case, the problem appears to be that women don't wish to enter politics as much - so we look at why and change the institutions and processes to try and bring more in.

Seeking to lay the blame at the foot of 'capitalism' is rubbish. It is in capitalist countries where pornography is made to high standards, where exploitation is greatly reduced. It is in those countries which still have feudalistic, totalitarian, corporatist* or socialist governments where the exploitation occurs.

* okay, so the west is still largely corporatist, but its freer than the less developed corporatist countries.

Left Lib said...

What a strange argument. Just look on the net. Most porn is exploitation. It shows mechanical sex. It often comes from the third world, where culturally women would not dream in bahaving in such a fashion, but do so as the only way to survive. It is pure market forces that determines that so much porn is produced in the third world. Most of the porn produced in the UK or US is rubbish as well.