|The Brighton Salon||
How Sexist is Britain?
Report and summary of discussion
Luke Gittos opened the discussion by telling a roomful of young women that the most sexist thing about Britain today is contemporary feminism, because it is the thing in society that underestimates women’s capabilities the most. Then almost everybody else in the room started an argument with him. Outstanding!
Sarah Gibbons eloquently explained the thinking behind student union attempts to make women feel safer on campuses and how ‘ladism’ was a dangerous response to young males having poor opportunities compared with women.
Becky Clarke cited numbers on rape and sexual assault, taking both every-day common-sense and statistical approaches to oppose what Luke had said.
Emma Mitchell charted her own relationship with feminism and the many kinds of people she had met and worked with. None of them accepted Luke’s argument that the attack on ladism was more anti-working class than pro-women.
A young woman who works at a trans charity won much support in the room for telling Luke he should not speak about trans people without using the approved terms, despite him not even knowing what they are. She said that if he didn’t know any trans people then he should not talk about them.
The floor was angry with him on a number of levels, as were his fellow panellists, as people said they were offended, insulted and variously uncomfortable with what he said. He was scathing of the methodology used in the examples of statistics quoted. A couple of maths enthusiasts accepted the technical criticisms but there seemed thin support in the room for contemporary feminism being sexist.
The response to Luke’s clear and carefully argued case quite justified what he said, I thought. People are used to saying how they feel and these feelings being taken as an important component of reality, when they are not. Facts are less important than that the form of discussion is regarded as valid. This validity can only be won by accepting terms of debate which actually shut down discussion by preventing opposing views being expressed. Very recently invented expressions and terms that have little currency beyond a small group of specialists are the only approved language. As Orwell said: “We are now at war with Oceania; we have always been at war with Oceania” (1984).
The discussion showed a marked tendency of interpreting disagreement with approved views and terms as rudeness, transphobia, condescension or ignorance. As I tried to say at the meeting, if we want some day to get to a point where gender really no longer matters, the changes in society required to achieve that need massive discussion. You can’t discuss anything with someone if you tell them you are only prepared to do so in your own vocabulary.
Sarah, Emma and Becky were great, and were clapped and cheered for every blow they landed on Luke. It was becoming very lively by the end and the usual method of continuing the discussion at the nearby pub failed due to the youth of much of the audience. Thomas Soud, Chair of Brighton Left, chaired the meeting excellently.
This is a personal and thoroughly biased account of the event by Sean Bell of the Brighton Salon.
A sound recording of the whole discussion will be uploaded on the event page soon as.How sexist is Britain?
In today’s Britain, ideas that women are naturally unequal to men live only on the very fringes of mainstream society and are mostly ignored. All argue for equality between the sexes and all seem anxious not to be labelled in any way a sexist. Feminism has, some argue, become the ideology of the elites.
However, projects like Everyday Sexism point out the harassment that many women suffer simply walking down the streets. Some feminist groups argue that women are now unable to walk through the town at night without fear of assault. It is believed we have a rising tide of Rape Culture that songs such as Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines epitomises. Is a new and updated patriarchy back in charge or we watching the last dregs of sexist society wither away?
For the best part of history women have found themselves subjugated to men, consistently marginalised politically, economically and socially. It was only in the latter half of the 19th century that feminist movements became an active political force in British Society and began to change this situation.
For more than a hundred years women won more and more rights, such as abortion, equality under much of the law, sexual liberation and the closing of the wage gap. All would agree huge progress has been made, so is the job now done and, if not, can it ever be?
Wednesday the 28th of October - 7:30pm