This programme screened 08/05/2014 on BBC2 is a gut wrenching synopsis of the misogyny that is now explicitly being expressed in the UK. However, it is the type of sexism that a woman can avoid and ignore if she does not venture into the virtual world or (very worryingly) school. It would be easy to assume there is little overt sexism in this country. The comments of the UN’s special rapporteur, describing Britain as one of the most sexist countries in the world, elicited a skeptical backlash; we don’t stone women here and they are allowed to drive so what’s get problem?
‘The problem’ was succinctly and calmly described by Kirsty Wark in this programme, drawing back the curtain of wilful blindness to show us a vile, seedy and downright misogynistic side to our culture. As the programme points out, the internet hasn’t invented a new misogyny (my goodness, no. This is the exact same misogyny that comes straight from the ancient civilisations). However, the internet has amplified sexism and feeds the print press with the extremism it propagates. The sickening tweets received by Prof Mary Beard just for expressing an opinion are the tip of the iceberg and we may never know how many intelligent, talented women are diverted away from a public voice because of the extreme backlash the internet facilitates. Who are these people who use threats of death and sexual violence as a response to a woman’s opinion being expressed?
The most insidious aspect of modern misogyny is within the world our young people inhabit. A quick survey of the responses to the programme reveals shock from parents and a shrug from their teenage children; this is how life is for them. Rape culture is endemic and the influence of porn is rife. A cursory look at the popular game Grand Theft Auto reveals staggering misogyny and there is a suggestion that the concept of consent needs to be taught in school to boys. Imagine that!
We are left with a grim picture of age-old misogyny expressed in new forms. The rise of feminism needs to match it blow for blow or we risk losing ground that has been slowly and painfully gained over centuries.
This is a pithy article from the newly established Feminist Times. It picks up on the backlash from the recent UN rapporteur’s criticism of the UK being, in her opinion, one of the most sexist countries in the world. Tabloids such as the Daily Mail are often criticised for sexist content, but we’ve shrugged and avoided the paper if it offends. This latest debate has, however, brought out the latent anger against the paper’s attitude towards women in particular and social media is beginning to reflect this.
It comes as no surprise to many that Britain has been labelled as sexist. It seems that projects such as Everyday Sexism is providing empirical evidence for this. Equally, the open misogyny is becoming louder as people begin to speak out about cultural sexism – propagated by, amongst others, the Daily Mail. Our legislation may on the surface be progressing equality, but it appears clear that women and right thinking men are entirely fed up with the chronic low-level sexism that permeates large swathes of our society.
‘All the Rebel Women’ by Kira Cochrane (Guardian Shorts) is a concise discussion about the current 4th wave of feminism. This is a fascinating reminder of recent history – Everyday Sexism and the No More Page Three campaign are noteworthy high profile activities.
This accessible book has pinpointed a modern feminism that is battling old prejudices. Social media particularly seems to magnify both misogyny and feminist campaigns. Those who are behind movements that quickly gain a wide currency are also subjected to online abuse to a degree that is more shockingly woman- hating than perhaps we in the UK are used to, because of its anonymous nature. But what these campaigners and public figures are telling us is that ‘vile’ misogyny is alive and well! Mary Beard has spoken publicly about this and how shocking it was the first time she discovered such enmity following an appearance on Question Time.
This book is grist to the mill for those seeking to become more active in feminist consciousness raising and campaigning. It points us to current high profile movements of women who are seeking to practically influence the world. Yes. We still need feminism and a fourth wave of activism is upon us.
Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.
This sums up the need for women to write. To ensure the very notion of an ‘oppressed majority’ is consigned to the history of bad ideas, women should write and communicate how misogyny, subtle and outrageous, diminishes us and the entire world.