Tags: girls schools

25 Oct 2007, Comments Off on Feminism Failed according to AGE op-ed page (again)

Feminism Failed according to AGE op-ed page (again)

Author: Helen

What a steaming pile of dingoes’ kidneys we found on the opinion page of the AGE today. “Ja’mie [of We can be Heroes and Summer Heights High] is an unintended consequence of feminism.” Because, like, my go-ad, no WAY could she, or any of the other characters in these series, be an overblown caricature!

Image from I can haz cheezburger, of course

Furthermore, there were never any selfish, egotistical, controlling alpha-bitches before twentieth-century feminism. (By now, you can hear the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Thackeray rolling in tears of laughter on their cloud.) Jennifer Sinclair is billed as a lecturer in sociology but she doesn’t offer any hard evidence to back up her thesis that selfish, overprivileged youngsters are worse behaved when they are brought up feminist. That’s probably because she hasn’t got any. Evidence, that is, not youngsters.

She also shows a depresssing (given her academic status) lack of understanding of what feminism is about.

The problem of Ja’mie is not because the wealthier classes and private schools have somehow been shielded from or stubbornly resisted feminist ideals and principles. On the contrary, many private girls schools, in particular, have taken up feminist principles with gusto. Girls are encouraged and trained to be independent, assertive leaders and have instilled in them a conviction that they are able to do and be whatever they want. Ja’mie certainly demonstrates this aspect of feminism — the “I can do whatever I want” aspect — albeit in a mutant form, which makes one wonder if Ja’mie isn’t feminism’s Frankenstein.
Feminism has challenged the idea that women should be quiet, docile and nice.
On that score, Ja’mie could be feminism’s poster girl. The gung-ho “you go girl” kind of feminism that swells the chests of principals of private girls schools when their students outgun the boys at whatever endeavour is on the go is just what the feminist doctor ordered.
The idea that girls should ever take a moment to consider other people in their quest to be and do whatever they want is simply not on the radar.

In her appeal for a “nicer”, more feminine feminism, Sinclair falls right into the trap of saying that the same faults – thoughtless egotism, controlling behaviour, and the rest of the Ja’mie trainwreck – are somehow less acceptable in girls than in their male peers. I’m all for niceness and nurturing qualities, but as second-wave feminism has taught us, it’s a crock to put all the responsibility for nice behaviour on our daughters and to raise them as a civilising influence on the barbaric boys. I’d also point out that schoolchildren (gasp!) are often immature! (It’s true!)

I don’t quite know where Sinclair got the idea that feminism is about riding roughshod over everyone in your path. Feminism is about the idea that women are are fully realised human beings, exactly as men are. That means we are going to get some wonderful, well-behaved specimens, and we are going to get some mediocrities, but the rules of good behaviour apply to men and women equally.

Rather than self-assured, Ja’mie is egotistical and insensitive but in a nastier way than that other famous egotistical and insensitive TV character, David Brent from The Office. Perhaps it has something to do with my age, but for an image of women behaving badly I’m much more attracted to Eddie and Pats of Absolutely Fabulous fame — at least there’s some sign of vulnerability and humanity underneath their self-indulgence and irresponsibility.

And with Brent you’re in no doubt that those around him recognise him for the total loser he is, despite the fact that he is (inexplicably) the manager.

It’s a common practice in tabloids and womens’ glossies to make out that feminism is about women having to be perfect superbeings, either professionally or morally. Actually, that has nothing to do with it, and we would expect better from an academic. Sinclair thinks that Ja’mie is “nastier” than David Brent (another overblown caricature); but she really can’t give a convincing explanation as to why that should be so. Is Ja’mie’s cynical faux-adoption of an African girl, for instance, worse than David’s sadistic game-playing with Dawn, when he tells her as a prank that she’s been sacked for stealing? Is there an Insensitivometer by which we can calibrate their badness, and is Sinclair giving extra weight to Ja’mie’s insensitivity? Who, out of these two fictional characters, has more power over others?

And this:

For the likes of Ja’mie, however, it’s a no-brainer. Along with sugar and spice, a soul seems to have been deleted from the new, improved girl formula.

(Bangs head on desk)- maybe because she’s a cartoon character?…

As a sociologist, refusing to look at any other cultural developments to explain why a privileged white western teenager might have internalised an ideal of ruthless competition and self-actualisation, well… I don’t think Sinclair’s really doing her job.

Ja’mie is only one idiot – and she’s a fictional idiot. I really think this is a flimsy scaffolding to hang your moral panic on. The question I leave you with is: why must the AGE trot out these pieces of strawfeminist bashing every week or two? Was the editor once frightened by a feminist in his pram, or something?