6 Apr 2007, Comments Off on Latest: Jim Schembri still expert on feminism!

Latest: Jim Schembri still expert on feminism!

Author: Helen

Jim’s at it again — giving us chicks the benefit of his wisdom. He’s passionate about feminism — it just frustrates him so much that as a movement focused on gender issues, it necessarily involves so many impressionable chicks. Who, of course, are incapable of recognising the bullshittery of popular concepts like “empowerment” through pole dancing and the pornulation of western culture in general. If only they’d leave it up to blokes like him, it would have given everyone gender equality and a pony by now.

The “hot pussy” hardcore porn reference is just a bit of cheekiness. It’s nothing to take seriously. Not any more.

Time was when this would have been a five-alarm example of “objectification”, an archaic term from the 1970s referring to the demeaning practice of portraying women as mere sex objects. But today “hot pussy” doesn’t raise a murmur. Three reasons: (1) we’ve loosened up; (2) “objectification” has been rebadged “empowerment”; and (3) women are complicit in much of this “empowering”.

The fact that these unpleasant phenomena survive and thrive in our electronic and dead-tree media is, of course, all the feminists’ fault. Why? well, it was because they made too much of a fuss about being groped:

Feminism began to falter in the late-1980s when the media-driven hysteria over sexual harassment bolstered the fallacy of sexual empowerment. Fuelled by the landmark Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill case in 1991, which Hill lost, it shifted the focus of women’s place in the work environment from where it belonged — equal opportunity, professional respect, recognition of merit — to where it didn’t — sex.

The issue ushered in long-overdue legislation protecting women from office wolves. The downside, however, was that it lodged into the culture the notion that a woman was empowered, there’s that word again, more by her sexuality than her ability.

That’s right: the social phenomena portrayed in Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs happened because of feminist opposition to workplace sexual harassment. If men had only been allowed to go on harassin’, this would never have occurred and women would be on the road to full personhood right now.

As nutty theories go, this is right up there with David Horowitz and the Conservapedia crew Ann Althouse.

Then he mentions Greer, Dworkin and Steinem (presumably, they never bothered their heads with trivia like workplace harassment). Because, you see, there has been no feminism since these three. That’s it. Finished.

Yet women are so compliant. Why? Where are the firebrands? I don’t want to hear Pink or the Spice Girls yabber on about “girl power”. I want to see it. Why aren’t workplace child-care centres mandated by law? Why don’t they build enough toilets for women at concert venues? Why do women wait patiently in line? Why aren’t they stomping on the venue manager’s head?

Well, Suki and others might have something to say about that.

Not to diffuse the argument too much, but whoa on the workplace childcare centres. This kind of throwaway comment shows a writer who’s keen to make motherhood statements but hasn’t really considered the issues. If Schembri was really interested in the problem of accessible and high quality childcare, he would know that most people would want a centre with a healthy environment, outside play areas, qualified staff and a kindergarten element for the four-year-olds. So except for some particular circumstances, nix to the workplace childcare centres.

That example shows why this article is, yet again, more concerned with “I’m smarter than all of you” than with giving serious consideration to the issues, or bothering to find out who’s actually writing about feminist issues– and reading about them. The grain of truth in the swill is that the US feminist writers, in general, seem to be more active in writing about the kind of “empowerment / exploitation” issues that Schembri is complaining about. One reason for this is that in Australia, there is a powerful cultural pressure to brand all such thinking as anti-fun, “wowserish”, “purse-lipped” and all the other epithets which would humiliate and discourage young women. And this cultural pressure ain’t from feminists. The other reason is that Australian feminists– this is just my impression, folks, I haven’t done a PhD on it or anything– seem to be more into getting down and dirty with discussions about, well, child care, work and family, violence against women, while the US feminists (feminist bloggers, anyway) are working harder on teasing out the cultural and philosophical issues. But I’m under no illusion that Australian feminists are blissfully unaware of the continuing exploitation of girls and women via highly sexualised media images and laddish culture, that is, until it’s helpfully pointed out by Mr Schembri.

For a more nuanced and thought-out take on the same subject, see Chris Clarke on Why I am Not a Feminist. (Consensus in the feminist blogosphere seemed to be: Yes, you are.)

For more good stuff written by blokes, Elizabeth at Half Changed World has posted a link-rich look at an American Prospect article on work and family and gender nonconformity, and the responses to it by interested dads. And Luke, who closed down Real Men Are Not a while ago, has reappeared as The Old School Lunch. If you haven’t read them before, check out Ampersand and Hugo Schwyzer, too.

Comments (0)

  • tigtog says:

    If only they’d leave it up to blokes like him, it would have given everyone gender equality and a pony by now.


    I haven’t had time to read all your links here yet, but what a fabulous takedown of Schmuck Schembri. Most enjoyable.

  • Desert Pea says:

    Good god – he’s an ass!

    Daycare centres in the workplace indeed – obviously his deep commitment to feminism helped him to overlook the fact that working mothers are continously under attack about using childcare centres in this country, and we might be feeling a little gun-shy right now.

    I can’t help wondering how the 16 year old young woman gang-raped by a group of male peers, who have subsequently transmitted video footage of their attack on her would be feeling about the whole hot pussy/porn and empowerment references. I should have thought these actions go the very heart of disempowerment and the deliberate desensitising of our society. Academic fringe dwelling all dressed up with nowhere to go!!!

    Great post Helen – give him a good boot up the jacksi!

  • Helen says:

    Yes, I saw that news item, Desert Pea. There was something about a scuffle outside the court as one of the boys’ father or grandfather was claiming it was the girls fault. Stand by as the “she asked for it” meme comes out for another good airing.

    I confess I liked the idea of workplace creches when I was young and idealistic, until someone gently pointed out to me the lack of… er, grass, air, that kind of thing. If you’re at a university or something like that with an actual campus with outdoor space and a proper system for employing qualified staff, then it’s probably a goer, but not in a regular cubicle farm like where I work.

  • […] Cast-Iron Helen dismembers the latest offering from gender theorist Jim Schembri, who accuses women of hijacking feminism. ‘A fabulous takedown of Schmuck Schembri’, as tigtog puts it in the comments box. Fabulous also describes the latter’s own pen sketch of sexism visted on an eleven-month-old girl in the park, worth reading just for the writing: […]

  • kate says:

    my sister was cared for at a workplace creche – it was in a big old house across the road from the hospital so it had outside, grass etc, but was also close enough to pop over to breastfeed at lunchtime. that was the 80s, now the creche is closed and was turned into apartments… I agree though, there are limited circumstances where such arrangements are possible.

  • Brilliant post, Helen. (Just read “Why I am not a feminist” and was disappointed to find comments thread closed…)

    Schembri is a knob.

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