A gaudy shirt and feminism

Ok, I promise not to write about this topic again after this post but I have to get this off my chest one more time. I got some thought-provoking comments on my last post about the gaudy shirt worn by scientist Matt Taylor on international television. Thank you. I appreciate all the comments. I even changed my views slightly. I’m a little less sympathetic than I was to those who find his shirt offensive than I was before. The shirt was a gift made by a friend, a female friend, for his birthday. Matt Taylor was apparently called an arsehole by people who have never met him on the basis of something he was wearing and by the same people who – I would have thought – ought to argue against judging others on their appearance or the clothes they wear. He’s apologised publicly and when I saw his apology I couldn’t help thinking we’re a bunch of bullies and I say we not because I took any part in the vilification but because I also call myself a feminist.

Some people say this shirt is one big step backwards for women’s equality but I would say the response to the shirt is one big step backwards for feminism. I mostly agree with Julie Bindel, the founder of Justice for Women in her Guardian article, Feminism is in danger of becoming toxic. She writes,

Instead of attacking the root cause of women’s inequality, we’ve moved towards the vilification of individuals …. Feminism, a great social movement, is in danger of becoming toxic and repressive…Moral superiority and “call out” culture has trumped political activism. Feminists have a proud history of taking state institutions and corporations to task. It would seem this is being lost in a sea of vitriol. We built this movement on a desire and willingness to question and challenge old assumptions and truisms. We are in danger of becoming autocrats who would rather organise a pile-on than try to change systems. The life blood of feminism is in danger of becoming bile.

If anyone is interested, here’s the shirt:

Yes, there are cartoon images of sexy women on it. Some of them have guns. Probably the best word to describe it is gaudy. It’s not pornographic and there’s no nudity. Sure, it wasn’t appropriate for international television but it doesn’t warrant the cries of misogyny directed at its wearer. A lack of women in the physical sciences is not an excuse for verbal abuse. There are lots of reasons why women are under-represented in physical science, one of them being that men do most of the hiring, simply because there are more of them, and people tend to hire others like themselves. I think men are also more confident in their abilities and so they are more likely to apply for the top jobs than women are. I’m sure there are ways we can address these things without unfairly labelling people misogynistic.

Boris Johnson has also waded in with,

What are we all – a bunch of Islamist maniacs who think any representation of the human form is an offence against God? This is the 21st century, for goodness sake.

Let it be known that I have a painting of a naked woman hanging in my bedroom (or I will have once the boat arrives with all our stuff). I’ve never viewed the painting as anything other than beautiful. This is not to say that I think the objectification of women is a good thing. Of course I don’t. Women are not objects. Animals are not objects either as far as I’m concerned but perhaps I’ll leave that for a different post. One controversy at a time 🙂