Thursday, 7 August 2008

So, the Conservatives think they have got it all solved...

The Conservative Party are currently arguing that 'lad's mags' portray "a very narrow conception of beauty and a shallow approach towards women. They celebrate thrill-seeking and instant gratification without ever allowing any thought of responsibility towards others, or commitment, to intrude" (read the whole article from the Independent here). Reading this, they are superficially right. Lad's magazines do portray women as there for the sole purpose of gratifying men without the notions of actually participating in a long-term relationship with women. But let's not fall into the trap of thinking that Conservatives are listening to what feminists have to say. They don't claim that men should not expect women to have sex with them, rather that when they do, if pregnancy results, they must 'do the right thing' and stay with the mother. Because, you know, well-rounded individuals only come from families which have a mother and father, regardless of how that mother and father get along with one another.

The Conservatives are merely playing into the recent question (which isn't new by any means) of whether a woman's place is in the home. Single mothers cannot always stay at home to look after the children full-time - they have to work to bring money into the household. But if the father of the child lived in the same house, he could go out to work and the mother could perhaps 'choose' to stay at home. Am I the only one who's noticed this implication? I'm not taking into account benefits here, because I think it's an unfair assumption that all single mothers live off benefits and are a drain on the economy (although the Conservatives would have us think so). If the father lived with the mother, the implication is, if benefits were taken into acount, that the mother could stay at home whilst the man works, because, you know, a woman can't support herself without a man present. There is a telling statement in this article by Sarah Churchwell - "Women without a family don't, of course, exist. Never have". And this is true - you very rarely (if at all) hear of women outside of a family environment, not a 'normal' woman anyway. They're traditionally termed 'spinsters' - even though we're not called that anymore, the implication is still there evidenced by the look on a friend's face when I answered his question of "you've been single for a while now so you'll be looking for a man" with "actually I'm fine being single". You hear of men all the time having left the 'embrace of the family unit' to create a life of their own, making a mark upon the world. It would seem that 'the powers that be' would prefer it if women instead chose 'family life' to leaving a mark on the world with their intellect.

It appears that the Conservatives are pandering to the framework of male-sexual privilege. They suggest that they don't want women to be viewed as sex-objects there for the gratification of men, but rather as mother-figures who have to shoulder responsibility for children when the father is absent (here's the cue to take pity on the poor, vulnerable, defenseless creatures that are women); because women who do not give up their whole self-hood to their children are horrible monsters. The Conservatives are still within the framework of patriarchy as the focus is still on how men create the image of the female rather than asking women how they would like to be perceived themselves.

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