Tag Archives: women’s suffrage

We’re Fighting For Our Rights, Not Yours: Suffragette and the Persistence of White Feminism

This month I got to go out and cast my vote in the Canadian federal election. I owe this privilege to women who came before me. Women who sacrificed their time, energy, and sometimes their lives because they believed that we deserved the same privileges as men. Because I’m thankful for the sacrifices those women made, I’m ecstatic to see a film coming out this month that celebrates those women and explores what they went through in order to win us the freedoms we have today.

However, if you have been paying attention to the way the film has been publicized, you may have heard about the controversy surrounding one of its marketing campaigns:

By wearing this particular quote on their shirts, these successful white actresses have demonstrated another instance of what many activists and bloggers have begun to call “white feminism”.  In her article, “This is What I Mean When I Say ‘White Feminism'”, Cate Young explains that

“White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is “one size-fits all” feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit.  It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always.”

We have seen several recent examples of white feminism play out in our pop culture, like the recent “feud” between Taylor Swift and Nicky Minaj or Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech. However, white feminism has negatively affected the lives of women of colour in more than just the pop culture arena. Consider our right to vote, for example. Continue reading

Sexism, Reductionism, and Stepping on Women’s Heads

So Retronaut has a page of “Vintage Ad Sexism” – hilariously sexist ads, many of them aimed at men’s pride (“brand new man-talking, power packed patterns that tell her it’s a man’s world”) or women’s insecurities (“Would YOUR husband marry you again?”). There are some gems in there, like these:

source: retronaut.co

I'm just gonna let these speak for themselves.

source: retronaut.co

source: retronaut.co

Read some of this one for the full effect

source: retronaut.co

And this one might be my favorite…source: retronaut.co

Aren’t some of them kind of frighteningly recent-looking?

So yeah, we remember sexism, 1919 and women’s suffrage and bra-burning and all that. Being shocked that women couldn’t vote, etc. But seeing advertisements make it more harrowing. Serious political oppression at least treats women with enough dignity to be oppressed – advertisements make light of women as entities. I am less concerned with the essential sexism in these than I am the reduction.

Violence and political oppression are horrid, yes, but reduction is more insidious because it tends to keep hanging around long after voting rights have been own and salaries have been evened out.

The advertisements here, of course, appear ludicrous to us. “Is a wife to blame if she doesn’t know [to use a douche]? Yes! She’s decidedly to blame.” The one with the rug with a woman’s head, the man standing with one foot on her head Captain-Morgan-style. Some of them are just ridiculous.

But it is good to remember that as insane as they may seem, these are real, and they are recent. People who saw these ads and accepted them as a relevant way to advertise a product – people who made the ads, laughed at them, nodded in agreement – still make up a large part of our society today. Even after that generation dies, the fact is that American culture (it’s what I’m talking about here; can’t speak to other places) has been steeped in the reduction of women – and this is not an influence easily shed.

Now, establishing a double standard to “make up” for lost time is not the answer. Ensuring that all males are instilled with a sense of guilt about the past will not help society. Only by awareness of our ideological roots, and the flaws and violence therein, can we stay – or at least slow – regression.