Feminism, to me and to most I know, is an optimistic outlook. The dour sourpusses of popular mythology are just not creatures I recognise from my involvement with feminism. As far as I can see, feminism is just one of the movements associated with social progress, and that social progress is happening – slowly, but it’s moving. You don’t need to be a history professor to look back at minority rights throughout the centuries and to look at the two-steps-forward-one-step-back pattern that has occurred for women, for workers, for BME people, for QUILTBAG people… the list goes on. People who are engaged in social movements, whether that’s feminism or whether that’s the struggle for workers’ rights, are optimists. We see a society that is, yes, progressing, and we say – there can be more. We’re not done yet. Equality for all people is possible, and we won’t be satisfied with less.
So I was surprised, to put it mildly, to see how feminism is being taught at Oldham Sixth Form College. A little Twoutrage has led to the pages being taken offline – super – but here’s the cached image:
Much of this is Just Plain Wrong (their definitions of patriarchy and separatism, for a start), but it was the tone that appalled. Many feminists are NEGATIVE and see the BAD in things? Really, no. If we saw only the bad in things, if we saw only the negative, we wouldn’t bother, because it would be howling into a pointless void of unchangeable negativity. It’s because we see the unbounded potential for improvement – an inherently optimistic outlook – that we don’t just jack it all in and content ourselves with our allocated woman’s lot.
That’s not to say that a good A level sociology course would look at feminist theory uncritically. Of course there is room to analyse the successes and failures of the feminist movement, as there is of any social progress movement, from the Chartists to Occupy. But the snippet above doesn’t attempt any meaningful analysis, it’s not well written, and it doesn’t provide an unbiased basis on which the student can build research and form their own opinion. It looks more like the ramblings of a disgruntled internet commenter, designed not to foment debate or inspire research but to put young people off feminism altogether.
Sixth formers should expect better than this from those who teach them. If any sixth form aspiring sociologists would like to know more about feminist theory or the feminist movement, the sort that might actually help them with their coursework, I will happily recommend books and sites.