Slacker Feminists?

After reading this article by Clive James on the BBC (a transcription of a radio piece, I believe), I wondered if, as he posits, there was indeed a disinclination among Western feminists to acknowledge the average difference in physical strength between men and women. His article speaks of the new female elected MPs in Kuwait, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and criticizes the absence of support for these women from feminist pundits in the news, which he supposes to be the result of this disinclination.

While I dislike considering the physical advantage that, on average, men possess, since there is still something within our culture that makes domestic violence and rape feasible and thinkable where it should be the rare act of a sociopath, I don’t think any feminist is naïve enough to state that the biological difference in muscle mass has anything to do with social conditioning.

When he claims that “Women, on the whole, would naturally like to do something else, whereas an army, for too many men, is a home away from home, and often their only home.” That seems to fall prey to the idea that feminism does critique, being that men are somehow inherently more violent, whereas if there is a preference it is more likely to be the result of a culture that emphasizes the value of power in men, and submission to a strict hierarchy, rather than some innate enjoyment of killing people in large numbers, and that women are naturally squeamish about violence, which is perhaps the idea he means to critique.

Stating:

And since many western feminists are still convinced that the social stereotyping of the West is the product of fundamental flaws within liberal democracy itself, they have a tendency to believe that undemocratic societies are somehow valuable in the opposition they offer to the free countries which the feminists are so keen to characterise as not free enough.

is surprising – I know of no feminist who suggests that oppressive regimes in various countries around the world are somehow superior to the Western democracies simply because their culture is misogynistic in a different way. In the US, and I’m sure in the UK, activist women were alerting Congress to the oppression of women under the Taliban in Afghanistan for years before 9/11.

Without knowing to whom, exactly, James is speaking, (beyond a mention of ‘pundits’) and having never seen evidence of such casual dismissal of the accomplishments of women fighting for safety, let alone equal rights, in countries where stoning or beating or murder is common punishment for anything that, in Women’s Studies 101 terms, challenges the patriarchy, I conclude that he has created a straw woman of sorts – is there a feminist pundit who, in criticizing the remaining levels of misogyny or patriarchal structures within a Western liberal democracy, suggests that some exotic regime based on a yet-more hierarchical and patriarchal model might be a superior form?

Perhaps someone made a comment about Communism.

One hopes that James knows that feminism is, at the heart, about equal rights and equal treatment. Any physical difference (including strength) between the sexes does not reflect inherent tendencies towards or away from violence or anything else, and should not, therefore, determine the career or lifestyle of any individual, and society should be such that systematic violence towards women is non-existent, and any that does occur be met with swift justice, not silenced by a cultural shame or fear.

image from newsweek.com

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