Purported American feminists who like to declare feminism dead have company overseas.
Writer Penny Vincenzi, recently denounced British Equality Minister Harriet Harman's proposed Equalities Bill as "crack-handed," insisting that women are better off butting heads with the Old Boys' Club on their own -- essentially calling the glass ceiling a myth.
Harman's Equalities Bill proposes affirmative-action-type guidelines that encourage employers to choose a woman or minority candidate of equal qualifications over a white man of the same. It also seeks to ban all age discrimination and force public sector employers to disclose the gender pay gap in their organization, a move that could out the starkly unfair differences in pay between men and women.
Such legislation is certainly fair game for critics who think forced equality isn't quite the same as fairness. But Vincenzi seizes the opportunity to pick on women in the workforce who bitch and moan about things like sexual harassment, unfair maternity leave policies, and the very-real wage gap. It's the type of sexist rant I'd expect on this side of the pond from someone like Ann Coulter, perhaps feminism's biggest same-gendered foe.
"I am completely baffled by these women who win zillions of pounds' compensation because the men on the trading floor make sexist remarks to and about them, and supposedly ruin their lives," Vincenzi writes. "Either grow a thick skin and fight your way to the top on talent and hard work, or don't bother going there in the first place... nobody forces you to go into an environment that is male-oriented."
So -- wait -- women should avoid going into any male-dominated career field, including law, military, government, finance, medicine, journalism (unless it's the "rather rarefied area of women's journalism" Vincenzi blatantly mocks, despite spending most of her career doing it), and just about any other professional industry unless they're willing to take it like a man? Sounds like a terrible case of "blame the victim" mentality to me.
Vincenzi even describes her own experience with sexual harassment as no big deal: "I was also subjected to a fair bit of sexist comment, especially about my appearance, which didn't seem to me the end of the world; complaining certainly wasn't an option and common sense would have told me it would be absurd. It was the era of the mini skirt and I could perfectly well have worn something longer, but I just didn't want to."
What I can't figure out is Vincenzi's motive. I'm with her on the miniskirt defense, but not the inherent objectification that she says comes along with it. She almost comes off as pro-women with attempts to celebrate those who did succeed despite the odds -- Barbara Castle! Shirley Williams! Margaret Thatcher! But three female success stories don't fix the societal wrong. That's like arguing that racism is dead because America elected its first black president. (FYI, it's not.)
Vincenzi seems mostly mad at babies, or women's insistence on having them and then not being able to be a Margaret Thatcher and a mom at the same time: "There has been a lot of similar whining from the sisterhood about the small number of women (still) in Parliament. Lots of excuses about the reason: a male-dominated culture, anti-family hours, no facilities for breastfeeding."
There's no doubt that women have to choose between family and a certain career tier. Adequate workplace policies just don't exist to give women the opportunity to do both. But taking issue with that fact isn't whining, it's advocating for progress. That's sort of what feminism is about, a fact lost on so many who argue about its irrelevance in a time when it's so clearly still needed.
You see, women do want to work hard, rise in ranks and dominate their career fields jut like Thatcher (and how about Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama, to cite some modern American examples). They also would rather not be promoted based on the activity of their reproductive organs.
Vincenzi thinks she's giving women a pep talk: "If you want to succeed in whatever field you choose, you can -- and you always could." But it feels more like a slap in the face.
Where do you stand on the "need it, kill it" feminism debate?
Heather Wood Rudúlph is co-founder and editor of SirensMag.com. To read the original post, click here.