Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bring Back Feminism

The call has gone out - feminism should be taught in schools - again! Why - to counter the images that young women today are subjected to from the likes of pop-poppets and social-vacants.

When girls today use online usernames that were once considered the epitome denigration; when "tweenies" are subjected to the raucous cavorting of former "Mousekateers" (and I don't mean Annette Funicello) - its time to instill a little bit of female pride back into their lives.

From a Times Online article by Joan Smith "Why Feminism should be taught in schools":
"The research of Dr Ringrose - who works at the Institute of Education in London and whose conclusions have just appeared in the Times Educational Supplement - could hardly be more timely, coming at a moment when there is growing anxiety about the sexualisation of girls and women. Schoolgirls, she says, increasingly link their personal worth to being sexually attractive. She is calling for young women to be offered alternative role models to the ubiquitous celebrities - such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera - who embody the must-have look for young women in the 21st century.

...feminism needs to reinvent itself as much as any other political movement. It needs to address teenage girls in a modern language that doesn't reinforce the worst stereotypes about feminism ...

Indeed, I worry that there has been a generational slip - that a generation of teenage girls has missed out on feminist ideas and is having to deal with an increasingly exploitative culture without the tools to look beyond the surface glitter. Few of them realise, when they jokingly call themselves “sluts” and “whores”, that they are using male words that have always reflected contempt for women. It may be cool to talk about “hos” and “bitches”, using a vocabulary lifted from rap music, but I'm not surprised to discover from Dr Ringrose's research that teenage girls still fret about being seen as “slutty” if they go “too far” sexually.

That's the trouble with this kind of faux-liberation. I've seen it all before, as have most women of my generation. But it's no good talking to teenage girls about objectification and patriarchy when they have grown up with the casual vocabulary of teen magazines and the internet. In fact, I'd go farther than Dr Ringrose and argue that it's no good teaching feminism only to girls when their male contemporaries are just as vulnerable to the ghastly messages of lads' culture.

We need feminism more than ever, not just to address all the myths that have grown up - we're still a long way from living in an equal society, despite girls' much-vaunted success over boys in exams - but to counter the pervasive influence of the commercial sex industry on young women."

Over at Mail Online, Laura Clark has taken up the theme:
Dr Ringrose "... called for teachers to discuss feminism and suggest positive role models, who could include figures such as Virginia Woolf, suffragettes' leader Emmeline Pankhurst and even the cartoon character Lisa Simpson.

But the study also found that while girls rely on their sex appeal to create their identities, they tend to see themselves - and others - as 'slutty' if their behaviour goes too far.

Dr Ringrose's research, published in the Times Educational Supplement, comes at a time of growing concern over the sexualisation of childhood through teen magazines, advertising, films and music videos.

Ministers have launched an inquiry into the commercialisation of childhood and teachers' leaders have warned that highly sexualised clothes and toys are being marketed at primary school children."

Further reading: "The End of Women's Studies" (March 2008)

No comments: