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Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

On Feminism and Sexism: 2013 In Review

From my perspective 2013 felt like an onslaught of issues related to gender inequality. Throughout the year I had been collecting stories to write about but in many cases I just didn't act quickly enough. With the year coming to a close it now seems appropriate to take a broad look at the variety of stories at the forefront. I've already taken some time this year to write about "Blurred Lines" and rape culture. I also posted about the eliteness of "leaning in". Beyond this, I haven't really had the opportunity to address the myriad other issues that have in many cases exploded in local and international media.

The first is all the buzz about Snapchat. Hailed as the greatest consumer product of 2013 by many in the tech sector, it has attracted tens of millions of users. Snapchat is essentially a photo messaging application developed to allow users to send photos that disappear after a brief window. Naturally, it was intended to allow people to draw pictures share images with friends with the novelty of the image not being permanent.

It has been used, however, by teenagers predominately and sexting has been a key purpose of the product as a result. This is problematic largely because adolescents generally have misconceptions about consent as well as about the technology. Teenagers are often forced into behaviours due to peer pressure, and this is exacerbated by having limited access to information. It is generally acknowledged that the images do not disappear and can in fact be recalled by someone with rather minimal technical ability.

Next, this summer saw the rise of the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. For decades feminism as a movement has been dominated by white women. As such women in Western democracies have benefited from policy changes advocated for by interest groups formed by white women. Feminists have not only failed to meet the needs of so-called women of colour, many have defended the exclusion for a variety of reasons. The hashtag resulted in a spillover of sentiment around race politics. The infighting served to damage femisism both from within and from without.

Sadly, the theme was powerful throughout this year. 2013 saw the introduction of Qu├ębec's secular charter which, by virtually all accounts, was the most controversial pieces of legislation created this year. In many respects it was white feminism manifest, espouses values of uniformity over cultural diversity. The cultural artefacts of Islam, particularly the niqab, are political hot buttons in the West. These issues are inexplicably complicated and rest on huge value judgments about identity politics and issues such as gender, religion, and culture. Society is largely divided around wedge issues like these and they frame the discourse around equality.

Lastly and most recently famed male feminist and filmmaker Joss Whedon made comments that mainstream feminism took issue with. Whedon's opinion that the word "feminist" is inaccurate and needs an update was very offensive, with good reason, to most feminists. Among his other statements were that equality should be a natural state. I can see where feminists take issue with his comments; each seems to gloss over a history of systemic oppression. It doesn't appear that Whedon's intent was to remark on oppression but on the intrinsic equality between the sexes.

Regardless of intent, the question of what place men can and should take within feminism is critical. As a male feminist, I feel that there should be a space for me to participate. However, I also recognise that it's a privilege for me to be included, not a right. I've been turned away from feminism before many times, though I've been lucky to have been included more than excluded. Feminists have pointed out that Whedon's male privilege has allowed him a soapbox from which to discuss his ideas on feminism. It's my opinion that he should be able to speak about it as much as he likes. There are far too few men talking about feminism, not the least of which being those who have the wherewithal to create change. Traditionally, this had led many feminists to bristle suggesting that it takes away from attention that would otherwise go to feminist women. I can see the temptation to think this way, but there is no finite amount of attention to devote to gender issues. Moreover, many prominent women don't use their positions of power or prestige to highlight issues or call themselves feminist.

All said, 2013 didn't seem like such a great year for gender equality. A lot will need to change, and quickly, for progress to be made in the coming years. In my opinion, the most important shift that will need to occur is a greater recognition that we are further away from equality than we as a society think we are. How this will happen is anyone's guess, but I hope that everyone continues to agitate for greater equality for everyone.

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