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Feminism has gained a reputation as a dirty word, like panties or paedophilia. And it’s not surprising, considering some of the actions that have been carried out under the feminist flag.
Today, the face of feminism is visible in organisations such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and its so-called campus equivalent, VUWSA’s Women’s Rights Officer. Recent attacks by female media columnists have made claim to MWA’s redundancy, while similar opinions have likewise been voiced about Victoria’s own WRO. Indeed, they’ve come straight from the mouth of the very woman currently holding the position.
Such attacks, some would say, must hold at least an ounce of validity. After all, it’s women (as opposed to men) that appear to be putting them forward – and not even ordinary females, but women chosen to represent women’s interests. Surely, if these women (selected directly or otherwise by ‘the people’) are saying that they don’t require a ‘special’ ministry or a ‘special’ position on the students’ association executive, then it would seem in the interests of fairness to listen and give them (ie. women) what they want.
Which would all be well and good if what women want (or more basically, require) was adequately reflected in the words and actions of those that claim to represent us as women.
A fundamental problem of the women’s movement today – indeed, of feminism throughout history – is that what’s held to be the ‘real issue’ for women has, and does, generally consist of what’s important to a very select group of women.
Although all feminists are likely to claim that their aim is to achieve some sort of gender equality, feminists differ in what they see as the ‘problem’ in need of rectification, and in what they see as the ‘solution’ in order to achieve the liberation of women.
The liberal feminist approach, for example, perhaps most influential in this country and throughout much of the West, has clung to a theory of equality via reformation of the ‘system’, where proponents have helped to eliminate discriminatory practices in three key areas: education, the law, and the economy. And the practice hasn’t been altogether shabby. The achievements of liberal feminism are both important and numerous. But that is not to suggest that its accomplishments haven’t been narrowly self-serving. Though it is to highlight the staggering gaps in mainstream feminist thinking and applications.
While the seventies feminist slogan ‘Sisterhood is Powerful’ may ring true for some (the liberals, for instance), perhaps the likes of early nineties mandate, ‘Jenny Shipley is not my Sister’ may fare slightly more adequately for others.