Do we still need modern feminism?
The social issue of feminism is something that will always be talked about and seen as controversial particularly in the world media. In the current scape of the media, it is quite difficult to imply which side of the argument receives more coverage. From researching the media scape, usually there is an overwhelming amount of feminist coverage, however more recently because of this fairly large anti-feminist movement burgeoning online, there has been a lot more material published more inclined towards the anti-feminist views.
It can be quite overwhelming the amount of material and articles available on the ideals of feminism altogether. For the purpose of this assignment I have decided to look at recent issues/events that have occurred in the media and their subsequent coverage. Things like Emma Watson’s UN speech, Julie Bishop’s ‘Women in Media’ address, FCKH8’s Potty Mouth Princess Video, and the recent release of the controversial David Fincher film Gone Girl are all genuine examples of how the media attempts to portray a certain angle when it suits.
The dictionary definition of feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ yet many people seem to incorrectly interpret this notion and go on to say the wrong thing. There is no doubt that we can interpret feminist values in a number of ways and it is through the exploration of these articles that conclusions can be made in which they offer differing yet intriguing perspectives into the often forbidden ‘F’ word of feminism.
In analysing both a combination of news and views journalistic articles published across a multitude of publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald, TIME, The Guardian, The New York Times,etc., it is clear that the media stand to represent the social issue of feminism in predominately one of two ways – either positively or negatively whilst positioning their audience to adhere to that of the implied view. to However, because of the current anti-feminist movement burgeoning online, it is also possible to find articles containing ambiguity and unusual perspectives such as males writing about feminism. The fundamental trend/issue that is being put at stake is the ultimate idea of gender equality.
Last month, British actress of Harry Potter fame Emma Watson who is a goodwill ambassador for the Unite Nations, gave a speech about feminism as part of a new campaign aimed at getting men involved in preventing violence against women. Watson advocated a new initiative called HeForShe, a campaign that attempts to enlist men in the fight for women’s rights.
Andrea Peyser wrote an article for The New York Post entitled ‘Emma Watson has the wrong idea about Feminism’ in which she primarily disagrees with Watson’s feminist views and essentially explains with factual, argumentative support as to why Watson has got it all wrong.
Peyser’s article is definitely a combination of an evaluative and interpretative argument as she positions her audience to agree with her particular stance regarding Watson’s speech. The opening of the article: “Sorry to disappoint you Emma Watson, but I’m no feminist” immediately highlights the tone and perspective that the author is going to take. From the outset and throughout, her style of language and writing manner is quite patronising and belittling as she quashes some of the points that Watson suggests. Although not overtly personal, the tone is quite attacking in nature which therefore characterises Watson as a feminist and reiterates Peyser’s perspective and underlying worldview that modern feminist notions are outdated and unnecessary. With this particular views journalism piece, there are no alternative viewpoints dealt with which creates for a stronger opinion article.
“Oh, I believe gals should be paid the same as guys for doing the same work. I also believe that at the end of a long work day, a lady deserves her feet rubbed by a hot man (or woman)”
“But I believe women should enjoy equal rights as men while – and this is critical – bearing equal responsibilities. Watson apparently does not.”
“Watson said she believes women should have ‘equal rights and opportunities.’ Not ‘responsibilities’. Did she misspeak? I don’t think so.”
The central issue being brought to consideration with this article is that her celebrity status should ultimately not allow her influence and actions to be any greater than that of a regular campaigner. People magazine called her speech ‘powerful’ and Vanity Fair ‘game changing’. In relation to this issue, The New York Post also published an article with a counter-argument entitled “Hermione doesn’t hate men” in which it stated –
“These are refreshing words, with the emphasis on expanding opportunity rather than waging gender war. But let’s also give credit where is due: Our good friends over at the Independent Women’s Forum have been pushing the same message for years.
Thanks to Emma Watson, it may now get a much wider audience.”
Another issue brought to light is to whether the content of Watson’s speech was actually factual or politically correct. Peyser’s attempts to convince her audience via argumentative support in which she quashes the statistic that women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
“Today in the US, as well as much of the rest of the Western world, including Watson’s Britain, women are already treated equally to men under law. And yet, the women’s movement, led in this country by the leftists of the National Organization for Women, deals in the notion that females are, by definition victims of the wicked patriarchy. Rubbish.”
Peyser’s underlying world view is that Watson is making over generalisations in regards to the social norms and feminist standards. Similarly, because Peyser does not associate or agree with the issues brought to light by Watson, it can be classified as an ad hominem informal fallacy.
“Watson moaned that she was called ‘bossy’ at the age of 8 and was sexualised by ‘certain elements of the media’ at 14. At 15, her girlfriends started dropping out of sports because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscly’. Not exactly oppression.”
“Emma Watson is harmless. But she’ll never get me to declare myself a feminist.”
Overall, Peyser is attempting to appeal to the social and ethical norms of modern society in which she believes that women can be empowered and successful without having the need to self-identify as a feminist. She successfully emphasises the idea of equal ‘responsibility’ rather than ‘opportunity’ as a primary argumentative point. Essentially, Peyser is seeking to annoy people who are favourably disposed towards Watson’s views.
The article entitled “I’m no feminist: Julie Bishop” written by Judith Ireland for the Sydney Morning Herald brings to light the issue of feminist values in the Australian government. This news journalism piece highlights how Julie Bishop, Australia’s only female cabinet member does not self-describe herself as a feminist.
In an address to the National Press Club in Canberra late last month to launch a ‘Women in Media’ group, Bishop spoke about how she does not find the term ‘feminist’ useful today and said she was “first and foremost” a parliamentarian and minister.
“It’s not because I have some sort of pathological dislike of the term. I just don’t use it….It’s not part of my lexicon.”
Ireland also makes note how Bishop stressed that people should not be offended or over analyse her stance.
“I’m a female foreign minister… get over it.”(Bishop)
In her address, Bishop also mentioned the often controversial ‘glass ceiling’.
“Ms Bishop noted that she was not arguing that it didn’t exist for others, but that she would never ‘blame the fact that I’m a woman’ if something did not work out in her career.
A central issue presented in this article could be based on the idea that ‘does Julie Bishop not identifying herself as a feminist cause potential harm to women in society?’ Ultimately, no, it should not and Ireland’s stance makes for a reasonable and just article.
The opposing viewpoint on the issue is dealt with in the article as Ireland mentions a number of reactions in which Bishop was quickly criticised by a number of people.
“Feminist and commentator Jane Caro, who posted on Twitter: ‘women who benefit from feminism and then refuse to embrace the term…not a position I have much respect for
…Greens spokesperson for women Larissa Waters described Ms Bishop’s stance as ‘disappointing’.”
Furthermore, the inclusion of an opposing viewpoint only strengthens the article and essentially highlights the nature of the entire social problem surrounding feminist arguments, which can be reduced to things like people who disassociate themselves with the term are criticised and by other people in the media.
Just like a hard news journalistic piece should, the perspective and angle taken by Ireland remains objective and because of this, we are not inclined to favour one viewpoint over another. Her tone is impartial yet effective as Ireland provides a supportive and positive insight into Bishop’s address without being entirely biased. The low angle shot used in the main image gives power to the subject, therefore creating a positive, powerful and influential representation of Bishop.
Take the recent controversial David Fincher film Gone Girl in which many people asked whether it was considered a feminist masterpiece or supremely damaging to all women everywhere? The article “Is Gone Girl Feminist or Misogynist?” written by Eliana Dockterman for TIME magazine brings into consideration a number of feminist ideals as well as debate over the nature of the film.
The opening lines set the tone of the article and overall it brings into consideration the potential issues to society such as sexual abuse and misogyny.
“The highly anticipated film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is out, and nobody can agree if it’s a sexist portrayal of a crazy woman or a feminist manifesto. The answer is it’s both, and that’s what makes it so interesting.”
Dockterman’s article consists of evaluative and interpretative argument techniques as she pulls apart the film via her own standards and makes value judgements based on her individual interpretation. The structure of the article is interesting in itself as it is more than your regular film critique as she incorporates the social issues of feminist standards and gender stereotypes that made the film so controversial in the first place.
“While some argue that a convincing character like Amy only gives women a bad name, ultimately Flynn (author) and director David Fincher created a female role more complex than the women usually seen in blockbuster films.”
Dockterman attempts to appeal to popular opinion and recommendation as she inadvertently states that the film itself is excellent and recommends her audience to see it. She attempts to position the reader in an ambiguous state and her use of language sets up intrigue as you cannot really come to a definite conclusion.
“What Gillian Flynn is doing is also extremely feminist. Because there are so few strong women in literature (or TV shows or movies) the burden falls on the writers who do write about women to make them represent all of womanhood. And that’s simply not fair. We should have all sorts of women in our novels — just as we have all sorts of men. Very few writers are creating complex, evil female characters with interesting motivations. Gillian Flynn is. It seems sexist to assert that female characters ought to be, at their core, loving and good.”
This views journalism piece’s strengths lie in its ability to cause intrigue and indecision within the audience as well as its ability to bring light to relevant social issues. The fundamental viewpoint being advanced is that the way you choose to view the film is with the power of the individual, much like the subjective nature of choosing to identify as a feminist.
“I think Flynn likes that complication: she and Fincher have constructed a movie that forces the audience to debate and pick apart its gender dynamics.”
Another similarly controversial issue in recent media is FCKH8’s Potty Mouth Princess video. FCKH8 is a for-profit T-shirt company with ‘an activist heart and a passion for social change mission’. (FCKH8 About Page) Essentially, they build viral campaigns concerning social issues such as pro LGBT equality, anti-racism and anti-sexism to name just a few.
“The many, many problems with FCKH8’s ‘Potty Mouth Princess’ video” written by Caitlin Dewey forThe Washington Post is a strongly opinionated views journalism piece which highlights a badly represented campaign aimed at promoting women yet how it essentially does not add up to feminist standards.
“Most people would agree that the gender wage-gap is bad. But is it more or less bad than profit-motivated adults instructing little girls to curse for a viral video?”
The video entitled ‘F-bombs for feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses use bad words for a good cause’ went viral worldwide earning thousands of views online. However the backlash was quite intense and rightfully so. Dewey’s opinionated article is a combination of a causal and evaluative argument. She positions the reader to allow them to see everything that is socially and ethically wrong with having young girls as young as 6 frequently dropping the f-bomb for ‘a good cause’. It can be classified as casual as Dewey is attempting to convince readers that this particular video is likely to cause more bad than good if taken the wrong way.
“What’s more offensive?” FCKH8 tries to ask. “A little girl saying f***, or the sexist way society treats girls and women?
But what they’re actually asking, of course, is this: What’s more offensive: The way society treats girls and women, or a little girl dropping f-bombs according to a script, written by adults to sell T-shirts?”
The article is an appeal to customary practice, precedence and popular opinion as it is not deemed entirely acceptable in today’s society to condone swearing in young children. Through the use of evaluative language, Dewey successfully highlights the notion that FCKH8’s intentions are not what they seem. The company has built an empire by “throwing a veil of social good over more capitalist ambitions. Just don’t expect us to laud your grand stand for feminism – been there, done that, will not buy the T-shirt.” Dewey demonstrates throughout her accusatory tone that this is the perfect example of a campaign attempting to contribute to the message but going about it in all the wrong ways. This is definitely not an effective method and there are more genuine and creative ways of promoting an authentic feminist message.
“So regardless of your feelings on f-bombs, feminism, and the viral-industrial complex more generally, nobody wins here. Except for FCKH8, of course, which is kind of the whole idea.”
Antony Loewenstein, writing for The Guardian wrote a very interesting and relevant article concerning a male’s perspective on feminism. Entitled ‘Feminism lite’ is letting down the women who need it most’, Loewenstein produces a much needed male perspective and it offers a very intriguing angle compared to all other articles previously mentioned.
“I’ve hesitated to write about gender, worried that I’ll be slammed for daring to speak out. But we all benefit from gender equality, and therefore must give feminism some tough love.”
Loewenstein’s tone is precise and straight to the point and his realist views are very refreshing and much needed in a debate that constantly depicts the women as victims and unaccountable. The views journalism piece is very effective in terms of evaluative and interpretative arguments as he feels that “Ultimately, I realise I’ve been too cautious for too long, not daring to add my voice to the debate.”
There are number of substantial issues raised and even though his overall view is substantially impartial, his tone is harsh yet acceptable when it needs to be.
“But to win this battle, we have to remember that the debates about celebrity red carpet dresses and celeb-feminism are designed to distract us. This is feminism lite, and is little more than white noise.
Gender equality will only be achieved by hard work and uncomfortable questions.”
Loewenstein’s primary concern and claim throughout is that gender equality is not something that can be achieved overnight and it is ultimately something that takes hard work. The subsequent justification and warrants are quite explicitly stated towards the end of the article.
“The bottom line is that writing about feminism when male is like gatecrashing a party – and I’m concerned I’ll be slammed for daring to arrive without an invitation. But the responsibility to advocate for half the population falls of everyone’s shoulders, not just women. To do it meaningfully, however, we need to focus on the issues that truly need our help the most urgently.”
The last article of significance to be discussed is “Who is a feminist now?” written for the New York Times by Maria Meltzer which highlights the always talked about feminism in celebrity culture and why it is such a debated issue in today’s media. The opening lines of the article sets up the debate-like tone and nature of the article as a number of diverse viewpoints are expressed from the outset and throughout. This, like most of the aforementioned articles, emphasises the evaluative and interpretative nature and characterises each individual mentioned in an interesting light.
‘In a recent interview with Time magazine, the actress Shailene Woodley was asked if she considered herself a feminist.
“No,” said Ms. Woodley, 22. “Because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
Inevitably, the online backlash to her comment came quickly, and this ideal is a common theme throughout majority of the articles mentioned. The act of publicising your personal views and ideals on feminism is inevitably going to cause negative backlash and critique which just seems sad and unecessary.
“Jennifer Weiner, 44, a novelist, took to Twitter to write, “Dear Young Actresses: Before you sound off on feminists and how you’re not one, please figure out what feminism is.” Zerlina Maxwell, 32, a political analyst, chimed in with, “Here’s another actress rejecting a feminist label she can’t define properly.”
Although it initially seems like a views journalism piece, the ambiguity in tone and style is evident which means the author has successfully interpreted and brought into consideration more than one view point, in this case she has dealt with the viewpoints both in favour and in opposition to feminists. This creates for an interesting article and emphasises its evaluative and interpretative nature as well as highlighting its either-or argument nature which could be classified as an informal fallacy.
Overall, the articles alone or in comparison to each other make for a very interesting argument concerning modern day feminism and what it represents. From the in-depth analysis and evaluation of these articles, the fundamental issue to be interpreted is that there really is nothing wrong with identifying yourself, or not, as a feminist. Every individual has the right to their own opinions, values and beliefs, and if there is to be any real, meaningful change, it has to start with being able to learn how to respect one another’s views without causing unnecessary debate and drama. The media have an incredible amount of power in regards to pushing and promoting certain views, and from researching this topic, It was pleasing to see a greater amount of equality and diversity in terms of opinions and values regarding feminist issues in the media. The social stigma surrounding the word itself is something that needs to be improved upon and although major change seems unrealistic in the near future, it is encouraging to see some form of development.
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