In the West, throughout my own lifetime and certainly over the last century, we have made great strides towards gender equality. Women are now better represented in politics, academia, and a multitude of industries than ever before, and we benefit from legal protections that were simply unthinkable when my own grandmother was born in 1900. Times have certainly changed.
Jenson & De Castell (2016) write of the “widespread cultural, academic and political repudiation of the term “feminist”, often seen as a divisive and indeed adversarial label more likely to lose than engender support” (pg. 190) and I had to admit that I have similar gut reaction – if not an intellectual one – against calling myself a feminist. The authors acknowledge “that many of the younger people in attendance [at a FiG workshop] would not necessarily have experience with feminist organizations nor would the more junior academics identify as “feminist” in their approaches, ethos, theories or methodologies” (pg. 191). I’m quite interested in questioning why that is and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. For me at least, it seems to be a result of the culture in which I was raised and the effects of growing up surrounded by good men.
And yet, misogyny is a tricky bastard in polite society.
I’ve never felt personally oppressed by any man, not really. When I”ve experienced some man’s attempt to think himself better than me simply because of his maleness (I”m thinking here of an old boss who tried endlessly to get me to make him coffee but never succeeded; and also of a very recent interview in which the head of a school told me that ‘the pay isn’t much but you’ll have enough to buy yourself a little something without asking your husband for pocket money’), those attempts were met with the utter contempt they deserved. And yet, like many other women, I’ve learned to navigate the world in a manner that keeps me safe from male aggression and I’ve been shaped by a stream of images about how I should look and behave.
I watched, when senate majority leader Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren – in fact silenced the words of Coretta Scott King – by forcing Warren to sit down and be quiet, and I think women all over North America felt it as a personal affront. Particularly, later, when one man after another stood up and read parts of King’s speech on Warren’s behalf, it was painfully clear how even powerful, well-spoken, educated women like Elizabeth Warren still have to fight to be heard in a male-dominated world. Mary Beard’s (2014) lecture, “Oh Do Shut Up, Dear!” reminds us that “It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it” (as quoted in Jenson & De Castell, 2016, pg. 189).
Of course, I am well aware of many of the gender inequalities in the world at large and that we still have such a long, long road ahead before we may one day arrive at a place where feminism isn’t a desperately needed force. It was interesting that Dr. Paula MacDowell said in her talk this morning that the World Economic Forum puts that number at 170 years. I’d like to know more about that (here’s today’s Globe & Mail piece on the subject).
I know that I have concentrated here on my reaction to the term “feminism” and yet there were so many other intriguing paths to explore in these two articles. I read with interest about #Gamergate and how it is a “part of a larger, systemic problem in games industry and culture, and whose history is far longer than either” (Jenson & De Castell, 2016, pg. 190). This issue clearly connects to Bray’s (2007) statement that “Men are viewed as having a natural affinity with technology, whereas women supposedly fear or dislike it. Men actively engage with machines, making, using, tinkering with, and loving them. Women may have to use machines, in the workplace or in the home, but they neither love nor seek to understand them” (pg. 38). I also think that if “The ultimate goal of feminist technology studies” is, as Bray writes, “the translation of scholarship into feminist praxis” (pg. 40) then we can see this praxis in the many projects pursued by participants of the Feminist in Games workshops.