Feminism today – talks by our colleagues

On Wednesday 6th March the Student Union’s Women’s Group hosted an ‘International Women’s Day’ party. Here is the first of our reports on the talks given by members of the Department of English Literature:

Karín talked about the way that feminism is often perceived to be ‘obviously’
necessary still in the developing world, for instance, where women are seen to
be still clearly oppressed by a lack of legal, judicial and property rights, but
that feminism is seen to be unnecessary or even antagonistic in the developed
world. Karín then referred, however, to the work of Professor Juliet Mitchell
(in her famous book Psychoanalysis and Feminism), who was originally a professor in the department of English Literature at the University of Reading, and the work of the therapist Susie Orbach (Fat is a Feminist Issue) who both consider the puzzle that even when women have been granted legal, judicial and property rights, and have been given full access to education, for instance, barriers to equality still seem to persist, both through social attitudes and actions, but also through women’s and men’s personal views and
beliefs about gender-roles. Karín pointed to a recent report, publicized in The
Guardian newspaper amongst other places, which noted that the representation of
women at higher levels in government, the law, and business has actually
regressed substantially in recent times, placing the UK in the lower ranks of
developed countries when it comes to equality of representation.

Karín also pointed to ongoing issues such as the increase in eating disorders and discussed
the increasing puzzlement of Susie Orbach (which can be tracked in her
introductions to the new editions of her book) that her ground-breaking work has
not helped, apparently, to stem this spread of eating disorders despite finding
a range of accounts for their causes and processes; the same might be thought
about the spread of cosmetic surgery and the ongoing strength of the
diet-industry and the issues around obesity. Finally, Karín mentioned how her
own (edited) book The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair took twenty years, and discussions with forty publishers, to be published because publishers called her either a ‘mad/ extreme feminist’ or ‘disgusting’ for writing about something so ‘trivial’. In short, Karín argued, these are the reasons that feminism remains relevant!

international women's day

About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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