Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Feminism is for Lovers, but Sexism Sells Papers

The Guardian tells all: a survey of college students and older adults, all in heterosexual relationships, men paired with feminist partners reported greater relationship stability and sexual satisfaction. In addition, there was consistent evidence that male feminist partners were healthier for women's relationships, while there was scant evidence that women's feminism created conflict in liaisons.

It is nice to see a study that acknowledges one of the practical benefits of feminism. Relationships where both partners feel empowered and valued make for more stable, and more fulfilling, partnerships. Seems simple enough, no?

Yet, the Guardian still manages to botch the story, falling into the trap of presenting feminism through the eyes of the men who fear it. Immediately after cheering the study's findings, columnist Libby Brooks writes "This will doubtless do little to dispel the popular myth that the majority of feminists are man-hating lesbians." Golly, Libby, why wouldn't more evidence to the contrary dispel myths about feminism? (Oh, and I must also jeer the juxtaposing of 'man-hating' and 'lesbians' - none of the lesbians I know hate men and the continual linking of the two terms is a subtle form of gay-bashing, as it seeks to merge the meanings of the two unrelated expressions). Well, presenting evidence that feminism is healthy and good for men as well as women won't help feminism's reputation if journalists insist on dedicating twice as much space to discussing (and sometimes promoting) the sexists myths as they do to presenting actual facts. But, you wouldn't do that to us - would you, Libby?

Oh, but she would, and does, writing "some of the truest of feminist believers have attested to a suspicion that there is something, well, unfeminist about the pursuit of romantic love," and "...not to say that men don't fret about their relationships too. But, from the highly unscientific sample of the men I've known as friends and lovers, they don't to the same degree."

Yup - a columnist has got to redefine 'true feminism' as being anti-love and use their own anecdotal evidence to paint women as being naturally more needy and men as naturally less so - even in a piece that started out as ostensibly pro-feminism. Why the bait and switch? See rules 2, 3 and 4 of the Journalistic Style Guide for Sexist Spin Doctoring.


Casmall said...

Does she really equate the female pursuit of romantic love with sitting around fretting about relationships?

La Pobre Habladora said...

She starts out well, saying "It's only anti-feminist if women believe those private needs underpin everything at all times of our lives, including the parallel needs for education, say, or economic independence or job satisfaction."

But from there it goes down hill - "true feminists" apparently think of love as getting in the way of their other pursuits - there are some quotes out of context to back this idea up. Then she the fretting about relationships bit, which she says women do more (based on what she's seen from her buddies), then to desire for male approval is debilitating. I am sure she meant to write a pro-woman piece that merely pointed out some of the difficulties that feminists face. Yet, she repeats stereotypes more than refuting them... and we all know what that does - repeating the myth just supports it.