The ‘slut walk’ brouhaha has certainly refocused us all on feminism and its meaning. For the most part, until recently, British feminism had become bogged down in bourgeois whining about representation on corporate boards of directors. Latterly however, the behaviour of some continental heads of state and – nearer home – footballers, gave renewed life to the ‘men are beasts’ school of ‘wimmin’s’ discourse.
If there has been a sexual revolution many earnest protagonists are now clearly in some doubt as to its outcome. As I (a mere male) understand it, our slut walkers thesis is that they should be free to dress in a way that arouses the male animal, but that doesn’t mean they were sexually available to any old Tom, Dick or Harry; especially Dick. Well, that’s fair enough. Girls have always enjoyed being girls, flirting is part of the mating process and what used to be called ‘cock-teasing’ is a standard weapon in many a girl’s armoury.
Consensus has it that the 1960s and the advent of The Pill created a sexual revolution. To an extent this has to be true, insofar as it allowed girls to enjoy sex with considerably greater freedom: this was a lucky break for men. Surrounding the breakthrough in science were of course all the other liberalisations of growing affluence and technical competence: erosion of hierarchy and deference, expansion of communications media and so forth. In the present, the fruits of progress include the general (if incomplete and at times over-proselytised) tolerance for diverse sexuality and the exceptional cultural reach of pornography.
Insofar as the term ‘revolution’ can be applied to any transition from a repressive regime to one more populist and permissive, the last 40 years may seem to have been fairly revolutionary. For those of us who lived through them and remember pre-revolutionary conditions the word is a fair description of the impact. But in truth every age and society has its cycles of inhibition and exhibition. Myth, art and history itself iterate and reiterate humankind’s struggle with our sexual nature.
Except that it is less that we, the average Joe and Joanna, have a struggle – although we do at our own personal level – than our political, social and religious leaders who seek to define or control the conditions under which our sexual instincts are given expression. Unsurprisingly, the freedoms over which we rejoiced or into which we were born have not resulted in universal happiness. STDs, single parenthood and an apparently increasingly instrumental and mechanistic view of sex are presented as heavy problems facing educators and other managers of our social system.
Women seem always to have borne the heavier burden in their experience of the sexual dysfunctions of our society. So one has to be glad for them as much as for oneself that they can enjoy showing off their physical attractions and fucking anyone they fancy. That said, one of the burdens women have had to bear is that the roles ascribed to them by biological and social evolution have tended to overwhelm other non-gender based attributes of intellect and accomplishment.
As the chanteuse known as Blondie replied when asked if she were a feminist ‘I’m a woman, how can I not be a feminist?’ The understandable desire of women to deal on equal and asexual terms with the ruling elite – men – is the core and indisputably justified text of the feminist argument.
The Married Women’s Property Act, the universal franchise and the legislation on discrimination and equal pay have all been ground-levelling and near revolutionary enactments for women – though two world wars helped their cause. There may be a few loose ends to be tidied and some hearts and minds to be won, but in general, the only barriers to female advancement and self-realisation in the Western world are about gender culture drag and female determination.
This is what makes our slut walkers (a North American import by the way), so entertaining. They have brought us back to the good old days when feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem consigned men to hell and the author of The Female Eunuch gleefully bared her hairy fanny to the readers of Screw newspaper. No doubt Germaine Greer was being ironic, albeit a bit of a cock teaser, but she made explicit the ideological divide between the sisters on the place of men and sex in society whilst placing the vagina centre view alongside the penis. This, for one thing, enabled tampon ads to be shown on TV – which was quite revolutionary at the time.
How lucky then that we still have feministas like Viv Groskop (Observer, 3 July) to keep the war going. She does of course have fuel for her fiery resentments. In this instance Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a paradigm for all ‘powerful male predators’ whom she analogises (pace Woody Allen) as foxes ‘ferreting [sic] up women’s skirts’. That powerful men have strong sex drives and women can be responsive cuts us no slack with Ms Groskop. Even if the rape allegation is false, his reputation as a womaniser condemns him. The penalty for randy foxes is apparently ‘to cut off their tails’ – and how do you like that Dr Freud?
In the same newspaper’s glossy magazine a pair of lesbian mothers ask how they can continue their permanent student lifestyle. The eminently sane and thoughtful Mariella Frostrup rightly reminds them it may be time to grow up. She would be a good choice for any board of directors. In writing this I am conscious that Ms Frostrup also looks infinitely more attractive than Ms Groskop. This has in no way affected my judgement of their intellectual position, but I think it proper to declare in a spirit of openness and in relation to the problems of making non-subjective gender based judgements. Readers may wish to consider the etymology of those patronymics by the way, given their curious affinity.
Speaking of which, the long-running moan about board representation keeps surfacing. Britain has disgracefully few women directors it seems. Norway has a compulsory equality quota. Curiously, most appointments are to non-executive posts. In the UK, the Guardian (1 July) cited 23 female appointments to FTSE 100 boards. All but 2 were non-executive. It is possible of course that this is a cunning piece of tokenism. It may also be that all the women seem to be high achievers with a solid executive pedigree and so are a practical choice. Maybe too, given all the role juggling women claim to do the position of a full time hands on director would be just too onerous. The same is true for men non-execs of course. The position is really one of getting cash for saying helpful things now and again without being too accountable.
In any case such preoccupations are ludicrously elitist – as are those related to quotas for female MPs. But it is that narrow band of usually left wing chattering class women who pursue the myth that men are unfitted for governance – at least as a power group and that gender equality will solve our problems. Their solution is invariably to make it compulsory.
One notices that they do not extend this draconian remedy to ethnic minorities, gays or the socially disadvantaged. Own up babes, you want the limos and the power. Well it’s up to you to go and get it, just like that Mme Lagarde who is going to take over the IMF from DSK. Just don’t keep trying to rig the deck.
Meanwhile, in the same newspaper, on the same page above Ms Groskop’s jeremiads was an article describing the truly appalling and scary experiences of a female Somali journalist in her own country. The courageous (and personable) Fatuma Noor was concerned not with whether she had an equal chance of getting on some cushy executive gravy train, but her ability to do her job without being killed. There should only be one topic for feminists and that is about violence to women. Men are not beasts but we can, and sadly do, too often behave in a beastly way. This may be unfair to beasts but we all know what it means. Violence against women is all too prevalent even on our own sheltered society and in too many manifestations psychologically, physically and in both domestic and sex industry contexts. Women can behave horribly too, or conspire in their own subjugation, but this is no defence of male culpability.
Fatuma Noor faces an infinitely greater challenge. This is the institutionalised, religiously sanctioned and brutal oppression of women who are indeed man’s essential other and equal half. Ultimately it is up to the peoples of countries where women are still in chains, relegated to limited social and biological functions, to have their much needed revolution. But we can help, by never ceasing to express our intolerance for gender persecution – whether it be through genital mutilation, enslavement or limitation of the ability to flourish as intellectual co-equal beings.
The blinkered, empty headed and self-serving girlies, who weekly twitter on about their personal hang-ups and feeble inability to cut it in the (free) world on the basis that those nasty men all pee standing up in a line and plotting together should be ashamed of themselves. Get out to Somalia or Saudi Arabia or anywhere except metroville UK (wherein we have communities of medieval oppression) and find out how real women live and write about that. Leave the sex war to the stand-up comics. And on the assumption that if a good man is one thing he’s a stiff cock with a nice line in conversation and an eagerness to take care of you, enjoy yourselves with us and be a bit kinder. By the way ladies, cunnilingus is particularly tasty with Brazilians – but of course we love you however you come and we truly hope you do.
Bruno Phillips’s The Main Point: The Life and Work of a Porno Film Maker is available to buy as a Kindle eBook on Amazon