Feminism as an ideology is one which generally believes in the undervalued status of women in society. It has four main strands; Radical, Liberal, Marxist and Black Feminism. All of these strands of feminism provide a slightly different picture of how they believe society should be, and specifically the role of females in society. Joan Smith, whom is involved in the title of this essay, is a radical feminist; the title of her book ‘Mysogynes’ meaning ‘the fear and hatred of women’; identifies this to us.
Radical Feminists emphasize the patriarchal dominance of women by men in society.
They see this dominance as the attempt to prevent women advancing to higher status in society through the denial of privileges, opportunities and power, thus keeping women as a sub-class to men1. Radical Feminists are often military in their opposition, and displays of public disobedience during the era of the suffragettes, I believe display this point well. Radical Feminists oppose the current social and political framework as they see it as linked to the idea of patriarchy2.
They see particularly the House of Commons, as a true example of how men dominate politics and are the ‘real’ decision makers.
Radical Feminist groups such as the Fawcett Group, attempt to get an equal number of men and women representatives in the House of Commons where currently there are only 1193 out of a total of 569 MPs’ whom are women. Radical Feminists such as Shulamith Firestone, see a ‘sex class’ that predates social class. They see the ‘sex class’ as key to explaining their view of change.
As the ingrained nature of the Sex Class is as it is, it is invisible; thus the only way of abolishing the ‘sex class’ is through complete social revolution; by ‘transforming patriarchy and thus abolish[ing] it’4.
This can explain the militant nature of radical feminism. The essay titles asks us whether feminism presents an over simplistic view of the operation of power in modern societies. As this question can be interpreted many different ways, I have decided to base my essay on the power struggle that Joan Smith sees; the oppression of females, through examining some of the topics she brings up in three of the chapters of her book Mysogynes.
The first chapter I have chosen to discuss is ‘He knows he can make money out of you’, where Smith discusses the portrayal of the female in movies as an evil or helpless character and that the chauvinist directors such as Brian De Palma and Hitchcock impress this image on unsuspecting audiences. She refers to ‘slasher’ films in particular and describes a scene where a woman is helpless in the shower; (Blow Out5); where the male comes into the room without her knowing and violently murders her.
She claims that the fact that the woman is in the shower is a clear sexual reference and that the male, dressed normally in black, looks like an overbearing figure compared to the sleek, helpless, naked female. She also claims, far from being included for shock value, that the director has a ‘fully formed ideology’6 behind these scenes. She tries to show that the director is making clear reference to the female guilt, in short, that she deserves the punishment that she receives.
She even goes as far as to try and account for Hitchcock’s views, bringing in his childhood experiences as a justification for his mental abuse of females. This view I see as far too simplistic. Even though Smith brings up striking evidence and she even admits that audiences are used to violence, she focuses too heavily on films of a horror genre. Movies such as ‘a Beautiful Mind’, where the main character, John Nash, is sent into insanity through his own genius, is then supported through his whole life through the undying love of his wife.
She here is the strong character, and it is her strength that creates the emotional ending in which Nash admits that she is the only reason for him being alive. Smith would argue that the burden is placed on the woman in this example and that she is playing the role of the ‘wife that stands by her man’. This is not a full enough explanation. Clearly the female character feels a sense of obligation, but it is her conscious choice during parts of the movie, when she can leave, to stay. Joan Smith I believe does not look at these types of movies and thus only presents a one sided argument.
It is far too simplistic, and many other kinds of movies focus on the emotional strength of women (e. g. Little Women). Another topic Smith touches on is the law. In her chapter ‘M’learned Friends’, she describes the conservative nature of the judges in Britain and their deep need to keep the female population suppressed. She refers to rape & physical abuse cases; and focuses on the lenient sentences that the male abuser has received and argues that this demonstrates the chauvinist attitude that the male cannot be wrong.
She argues that the whole criminal justice system is against the female population; yet it is difficult to agree with this explanation of events. Although Smith brings up compelling evidence, and brings up many shocking cases of where men have been let off far too lightly, I do not believe it was the judges view that ‘[she] really seems of have been guilty of undermining her husband’s masculinity’7. This is an unfair appraisal and does not take into account the plethora of rape cases in Britain in which females have sought revenge on passed lovers by accusing them of rape.
In this case, the court has actually done the opposite of Smiths’ suggestion and has handed out harsh sentences based on false testimony8. Here the court has been mislead by emotional testimony from a female, which gains sympathy through the show of vulnerability and innocence, and thus uses this notion of females being emotional and frail to her advantage. Joan Smith also does not touch on the issue of parental custody, which is very prominent in today’s news. The law in Britain stands almost totally against the father in such cases and the court tends to give full maternal custody rights.
This does not take account for those mothers’ whom, based on their hatred of the father, will restrict access to their children. This clearly is a miscarriage of justice with many fathers turning increasing to extreme stunts (such as climbing onto Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman) because the courts see the sole right of custody historically as that of the mothers. Thus the discrimination in this case is not that of the male on the female, but that of the male on the male, based on the presumption of the females’ inalienable maternal right.
👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!
Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.get help with your assignment