Now is the time, now is the time, for your friendship to end.
I just read a report on a local Lingerie Football League “game”; as you can imagine, it is a total cluster-fuck of misogyny, and it’s hard to understand why such an activity is being presented as either sport or entertainment, let alone by a mainstream media organisation (Channel 7). As I was exchanging comments with the person who wrote the report, I was reminded again that gone are the heady days of campaigns from previous decades and the world is being sold feminism-lite where the ability to buy the pretty things of your choice, rather than someone else’s choice, is all the power a woman needs. I’ve seen an article on Melinda Tankard Reist’s blog about LFL, but there needs to be much more outrage about this than it appears is currently the case.
Joss Whedon gave a good talk where he argues that we don’t see discrimination against people of other races as acceptable anymore and that there isn’t a word for a person who believes that all races are equal but we still have “feminist” as the name for someone who believe that the sexes are equal. His standpoint is that we should instead have sexual equality as the invisible medium in which we live, and that there should be a special word designating – marking out – people who believe in sexual inequality; that if you don’t believe women are equal you’re “the plague”. I think there is one, although it doesn’t roll off the tongue in the way that feminist does – misogynist. However, I think the descriptive term “sexist” is still more apt, and if some people are going to try and treat feminist/feminism as some sort of badge of shame, or irrelevant, then I’m quite happy to call those people sexist and do so loudly.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I haven’t read the classics of feminist literature and have no formal grounding in gender studies – maybe this is already a thing – but I like the idea of starting a campaign around reworking the message from The Specials’ “Racist Friend”; some sort of popular culture hook with which we can lambast blatantly misogynist behavior. If your friends are stupidly sexist, call them on it; tell them that you’ll walk away from that friendship if they persist in behaving towards women in the way that society wouldn’t tolerate if it were towards another race (and if those people are also racist, you have two reasons to walk). Make it clear that sexual equality is the only acceptable position and that your friends should be ashamed of their behavior. Let’s target the obviously stupid things first – LFL being a good candidate – and change the world one friend at a time.