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Netmums Reinvents Choice Feminism

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Netmums, the other British parenting website, has undertaken a survey on feminism. In it, I have learned that I am aggressive, undermine motherhood, oppress men and I need to use Botox. Needless to say, this is not my feminism. My feminism is about the liberation of women as a class. It is about women's rights legally recognized: our right to reproductive freedom, employment, and the freedom from violence. Feminism isn't about individualism and personal choices. Feminists seek the liberation of *ALL* women whilst simultaneously supporting and campaigning for vulnerable and exploited women. To pretend that racism, classism, homophobia, disablism and misogyny don't limit the "choices" of other women is hypocritical. It is a lie perpetrated by the Patriarchy designed to isolate women.

According to the Telegraph , that noted hotbed of Radical Feminism, "(s)ocial commentators have dubbed this new movement 'FeMEnism' as it gives women the right to live very varied lives without judgment from their peers - rather than be dictated to by the 70's-style 'sisterhood' with a solitary viewpoint." Now, I've had a quick google and I can't see anything, which suggests that anyone is using the term feMEnism. And, really, who would? It sounds rather pretentious. FeMEnist implies that the only person who counts is the individual woman, which is utterly silly. It is also disingenuous at best. "Choice feminism" has been around for more than 15 years. It is called Third Wave feminism. It is odd for both Netmums and the Telegraph to be buying into a discourse, which is false. However, since Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard also buys into the idea that "traditional" feminism is "aggressive, divisive and doesn't take into account (women's) personal circumstances", it's not surprising that they are trying to advertise themselves as a new form of feminism.

Freegard doesn't understand Second Wave feminism; at least, I think she is referring to Second Wave Feminism with the word "traditional". It's entirely possible she means the Suffragettes. Either way, I don't know any feminists who hate all men or who view them as the "enemy". I know many who hate the men who have physically, sexually and emotionally abused them. I hate them too. I think that's a rational response to being violated. There has never been "a battle of the sexes" on the part of feminists. That is a story spun by the media who are too invested in the Patriarchy to actively challenge the myths surrounding violence against women and feminist political theory. Heck, in the case of the Daily Mail, they actively perpetuate the myths in order to sell their own brand of woman-hating to those unwilling to give up their privilege. In fact, and I know some will find this truly shocking, feminists actually have fathers, brothers, and sons. If you find this a surprise, do feel free to take some deep breaths, because it gets worse: some feminists are even married. To men. Actual men. With penises and everything.

Feminists also don't judge women for their appearance. We are critical of the patriarchal constructions of beauty that force women to pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test in order to be considered worthy of notice. Communities of women who reinforce patriarchal standards of beauty like assuming that being feminine and glamorous was once a barrier to being taken seriously aren't challenging anything. The problem is that women aren't taken seriously unless they are "feminine". It is the performance of gender that is a barrier to women's liberation. We live in a society which privileges very young women who are very thin, with fake breasts and long blonde hair. This is without even considering the issue of race which works on the presumption of white = beautiful. You will find feminists who believe that "choice" is a word used to limit women's ability to make decisions for themselves. It removes everything from the political context. Feminism is about the political context. It is about women as a class.

This is the problem with both the survey undertaken by Netmums and the discussion in the media. The survey itself has inverted feminist discourse to push for a very specific end point: namely that feminism is not relevant. Now, I don't want to cast aspersions but I do think it's quite telling that this survey came from Netmums and not Mumsnet, which has both a very active feminist community online, as well as grassroots activists. The Mumsnet "We Believe You campaign" and the Miscarriage Code of Practice campaign came directly from Mumsnet members. If I were cynical, I might think that this is part of a policy to discredit Mumsnet, which has been much maligned in the press recently for daring to be political. The Netmums version of FeMEnism challenges nothing, but celebrates choice at the expensive of collective political action.