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It’s complicated …

Hands up all bog-standard average guys born before 1965 like me – sports loving, liberal with a small ‘L’, tolerant (‘live and let live’), likes a drink down the pub on a Friday night and the odd bet on the gee-gees, grew up in the days when men and women behaved like men and women – who, with the best will in the world, sometimes finds modern feminism somewhat baffling despite trying their best to keep up.

Look, I ‘get’ that society never stands still and that – whomever or whatever you are – most often things don’t ever change for the better by themselves, i.e. without groundswell support, activism and sometimes political campaigning by people who are prepared to stand up for what they believe in.

I’d guess that most ‘advancements’ in the way human society conducts itself have been originated and/or eventually adopted by dint of the efforts and examples of hundreds of committed enlightened individuals from William Wilberforce onwards.

Crickey, irrespective of whether your social and political views are closer to those of Alf Garnett or Jeremy Corbyn, you’ve got to admit that – for example, looking back from the perspective of today’s newspaper, billboard or television advertisements, the equivalents of the 1970s and 1980s look not just laughably but actually unhealthily sexist.

Not that all change is good, nor all change for the better, of course.


Even if I make the sweeping statement that all women are feminists, there’d probably be women challenging that as a proposition.

Take religion. There are women – under the guise of advancing equality – who campaign for more women priests, women bishops, even perhaps the appointment of a female Archbishop of Canterbury … plus the liberalisation of laws on abortion, same-sex marriage and so on.

But then there are other women (perhaps those with a more literal interpretation of the Bible and/or other religious texts) who take an equally strong the line that only men can be priests, abortion is fundamentally wrong and that homosexuality is not to be encouraged. Both groups might call themselves feminists – but then again some of the latter might stridently decry the very idea that this was the case.

My point is [and here I’m conscious there’s a danger that if I keep going I am going to begin contradicting, or arguing against, myself] that there’s a slim but significant difference between identifying as a feminist and having different views on society and politics. And that’s where it begins to get complicated.

Take transgender issues.

There are feminists who are right behind the advancement of LBGT issues – ‘let people decide whether they identify as male or female, let’s get rid of separate male & female toilets …’.

Similarly there are those who, whilst they might go some of that way in theory, still balk at the idea of doing away with separate gender toilets and/or who feel uncomfortable at the prospect of sharing a public one with some six foot three (pre-gender alignment op) fifteen-stone chap wearing a dress, two-day growth of beard, high heels & make-up.

Then you’ve got the issue of ‘equality’ generally.

Is it a good thing to have an institution awarding a ‘women only’ book prize? Or is it simply a condescending conceit, implying that women are not equal and therefore need their own prize?

Surely a better way to advance true equality would be to do away with all ‘female only’ prizes, tournaments and competitions?

In sport, for example, surely true equality would be to abandon all ‘female only’ sport and let women compete side-by-side with men … if they’re good enough?

They’re talking at the moment about a new elite golf tournament in which ladies with pair up with men, albeit playing off the ‘ladies’ tees.

Why in tennis do women have their own competitions – shouldn’t Serena Williams and her ilk just play in a joint-gender tournaments?

On this theme you could argue the toss both ways.

However, whichever side of the argument you stand, the aspect I’m uncomfortable with is ‘equal pay’.

Some women want it both ways. They want to retain ‘female only’ tournaments, but they also want the same TV exposure and pay as the men.

I think it’s in one of the Scandanavian countries (Norway? Sweden?) that the men’s international soccer team has just accepted the female equivalent should be paid the same. To me, that’s crackers. Spectators and TV audiences – the drivers of commercial rights money – depends upon numbers.

The idea that the England women’s soccer team, playing to say a crowd of 10,000 if they’re lucky, should be paid the same as the England men’s team playing routinely to 75,000 or 80,000 at Wembley is illogical. And getting ‘same TV exposure’ would be as well – any terrestrial TV channel blocking out two hours of their prime-time evening schedule to live coverage of a female England soccer team game would know in advance that it was condemning itself to losing the ratings war by a power of ten.

I was moved to address this topic today after spotting the following article by Stacey Smith today upon the website of The Independent.

Would your average feminist celebrate this development … or attack it as tokenism and disrespectful to women, on the basis that it’s not whether you’re one gender or another, it’s just a matter of whether you’re any bloody good or not?

You decide – see this link to – THE INDEPENDENT





About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts