Inspired by The Fawcett Society‘s campaign, Scarlet magazine’s September 2007 issue (not the one pictured) includes a feature called This is What a Feminist Looks Like, in which four women are interviewed. Scarlet‘s take on this is kinda interesting:
Forget the dungaree-wearing stereotype – a feminist can be a housewife, a ‘working girl’ or even a man. As part of Scarlet’s campaign to make feminism fashionable again, we let four Scarlet feminists state their case…
The women featured included Katherine Griffiths, a ‘former book publisher, now housewife and mother’, Alexandra Dymock, an ‘SM activist and sexual submissive’, Anna Span, a ‘porn producer and director’ and Letitcia, who has ‘worked as an escort most of her adult life’.
For me, the interviews raise the question of what feminism is and how Scarlet is choosing to represent it. In answer to the question ‘what makes you a feminist’ Letiticia answers:
It is all about choice. I skip to the beat of my own drum; I’m true to my own self and I listen to me inner voice, which let’s me know when something sits comfortably with me. I’m free to be me, and not some watered down version of myself.
That’s certainly part of my definition of feminism, for sure, but surely there needs to be something more than that to make it feminism and not just a general statement?
In answer to the same question, Katherine Griffiths says:
My husband and I have very traditional roles, but that doesn’t stop me being a feminist. I have a young daughter and I work hard to provide a strong female role model for her and to make her feel she can achieve anything.
I have always been of the opinion that no-one should stop anyone calling yourself a feminist, but this article, with it’s rather vague definitions of feminism, made me wonder what sort of impression Scarlet is giving its readers. I know the pieces were short and soundbite-y and I’m sure the interviewees would have had a lot more to say given the chance, but in some of them there wasn’t really any discussion of discrimination or sexism, or collective gains for women, or why anyone should call themself a feminist, apart from a couple of comments made by Alexandra Dymock and Anna Span. For example when discussing her decision to stay at home with the children, Griffiths isn’t quoted talking about whether her choice was made more difficult by sexist social attitudes or discriminatory policies towards fathers versus mothers, or how her male partner contributes; she simply talks about not feeling able to put her child in childcare, hence giving up her job. Fine – but where does the feminism come in?
It’ll be interesting to see how Scarlet‘s campaign ‘to make feminism fashionable again’ progresses. I know Scarlet is a sex mag and so they want to include interviews with women who have something to do with sex; hence the choice of three of the four interviewees. But if anyone was in any doubt of Scarlet‘s stance on sex work and the porn industry, it’s becoming increasingly clearer. There doesn’t seem to be a place in Scarlet‘s world for those women who have different viewpoints on these issues (admittedly, that’s certainly true of many in the opposing camp too).
Is Scarlet‘s definition of feminism wide enough to incorporate women who feel differently about sex work and pornography? Or are they just lumping those women in with the ‘dungunree-wearing stereotypes’? Just for balance I’d like to see them interview a feminist who works with trafficked women, who’s organising a protest about rape, who’s trying to reclaim sexuality from the Playboy model, or who disagrees with Scarlet‘s stance on prostitution, pornography and sex work.
Somehow I have the feeling they won’t.
Go on, Scarlet. Prove me wrong.