While replying to a tweet of @msvindicta, I dug up 2 articles from 1997 which make you wonder what (if anything) has changed in 13 years:
Wimmin are from Mars, women are from Venus
"In Britain and continental Europe cracks began to appear in the feminist movement. Scandinavian feminists argued about whether a quota for women in parliament was an innovation or an insult; in Britain, feminists had similar worries about women’s-only book prizes. But it is in the United States, where feminists took their ideas to the most absurd limits, that the movement is most deeply divided. So this article will concentrate on the fierce, indeed bitchy, arguments in America about the future of feminism.
The turning point in America was the defeat in 1982 of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made equality of the sexes a constitutional principle. The fight for the ERA had had the effect of keeping the women’s movement together, and when it faltered, splits developed. At a conference on the politics of sexuality at Barnard College in New York a week before the ERA finally died, for instance, things turned ugly when feminists who saw heterosexuality as a form of collusion with the “patriarchy” (in this view, clitoral orgasm is the only authentic expression of “gynocentric sexuality”) had a well-publicised fight with those who did not see orgasm as a political issue.
It was the shape of things to come. In the 1980s feminism became preoccupied with “identity politics”. This meant a woman identifying herself according to certain categories—straight, lesbian, sado-masochist, Marxist, disabled, fat, and so on—as if such labels were sufficient to define a person’s identity, social role and rights. In a not untypical example of the genre, Gloria Anzaldua is described in a collection of essays as “a Chicana tejana dyke-feminist poet, fiction writer, teacher and culture theorist.” Well, fine, but what is this supposed to tell us about Ms Anzaldua?
The most intellectually audacious of the feminist “isms” is “difference feminism”, which argues that women have a different, and better, way of thinking, acting and being than men. Difference feminists reckon that women are equal to men (thus the relative shortage of female physicists and auditors is held to be evidence of sexism) except when they are superior (thus the relative shortage of female muggers).
Moreover, according to the difference feminists, men are much worse than is generally recognised. Rape, they say, is the central metaphor for male-female relations and men’s relationship with society, while pornography is a social weapon to subordinate women. Such reasoning led the National Organisation for Women (NOW), America’s largest women’s group, to proclaim in 1992 that American society regarded sexual assault as a cultural norm...
An unwittingly humorous account of the establishment of Rag, a feminist journal at Harvard, reported that the founders “proposed a method of consensus for decision-making and suggested that the positions of facilitator, time keeper and vibes watcher (whose job it was to monitor the tension in the room and notice if people were being silenced) should rotate on a voluntary basis.” In a result that could surprise only an Ivy League-educated radical feminist, this proved an unworkable basis on which to run a publication. Rag was shortly to close.
American women notched up many achievements in the 1980s... A reader would hardly know that from feminist literature, which came to be defined by its excesses. The movement’s least appealing adherents grabbed the most attention, and the feminist establishment—institutions like the National Women’s Studies Association, NOW, Ms magazine, the Fund for a Feminist Majority and various state-funded commissions—failed to restrain them. Supposedly serious feminists argued, to audiences which did not snigger, that Newton’s “Principles of Mechanics” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony were rape fantasies.
As feminism became associated with humourlessness and hairy legs, the term became a pejorative one. By the early 1990s only a third of college women called themselves feminists—and this at a time when there were more than 600 women’s studies programmes on American campuses. While feminist scholars were producing strikingly creative work in history, medicine, Bible studies and other fields, many women’s studies programmes were explicitly ideological and intellectually vapid.
One syllabus explained a course in feminist theory this way: “We will begin with feminist challenges to the inadequacy of Eurocentric male epistemologies, analytic categories and the masculinist world views which have structured the public world We will initiate our inquiry by demystifying malestream (this is not a misspelling) ‘theory’, ‘reason’, and ‘science’.”
The backlash against backlash
Many feminists attributed the failure of so many women to embrace feminism to base ingratitude or to “backlash”. This is the idea broached in 1991 by Susan Faludi, a favourite theorist of the feminist establishment, that a host of American industries, from lingerie-makers to television producers, were trying to undermine women’s rights. Though the evidence for the backlash hypothesis is dubious—women, remember, had advanced on all fronts—the idea has become a shorthand way for the feminist establishment to dismiss criticism. Anyone who dares to challenge the reality of backlash is accused of participating in it.
In fact, a real backlash is under way, not so much against feminism as against its excesses. The challengers call themselves power feminists, equity feminists or liberal feminists. They are often young, sassy and successful. Ms Faludi dismissively calls them “pod feminists”, suggesting that, like alien pods in a science-fiction film, they are evil invaders of the women’s movement...
Wouldn’t the women’s movement be strengthened if it didn’t shut out the 37% of women who voted for the Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole?
In the past, the answer from the feminist establishment has been no. Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms, once referred to Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate conservative, as a “female impersonator”. Women’s studies departments tend to be Republican-free. This ideological intolerance, say the pods, is a large part of the reason why many women who are sympathetic to feminism are nevertheless unwilling to describe themselves as feminists. The point of feminism, they argue, should not be to impose a set of policy preferences but to broaden the choices that women are able to make. Too bad if some of these choices—to read pornography, for example, or to enter the Miss America pageant—may not meet with NOW’s approval...
Finally, the pods take issue with what they see as the importance of victimhood in much feminist thinking. Emphasising victimisation, they say, makes women appear permanently inferior. For example, broadening the definition of date rape to include any sex act which the woman later regrets—a definition of which many feminists approve—means that the man becomes responsible for determining whether his lover means “no” even if she is apparently enthusiastic at the time. The implication is that women are not capable of making a sexual choice, communicating it and accepting the consequences—hardly an assertion of equality"
LAUGHING MATTERS: You think that’s funny?
"In general, the less democratic the government, the less developed its leaders’ sense of humour. In North Korea, for example, any kind of satire is banned because everything is perfect in the people’s paradise, so there is nothing to mock. The only person allowed to make jokes is the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, who is, according to officials, “a priceless master of witty remarks”. A news release provides a taste of his wit: “To expect victory in the revolution without the leader is as good as to expect a flower to bloom without the sun.” Another of his Wildean rib-ticklers: “Trust produces loyal subjects but doubt produces traitors.” In a way, perhaps that is funny...
Political correctness is a subtler matter. In most rich countries there is a feeling that it has limited the range of permissible gags. Up to a point, this is true. Stanford University—in, note well, California, the world’s capital of unconscious self-parody—shut down a comedy website for containing too many sexist and racist jokes. The editors of “Kamui Gaiden”, a Japanese comic book for adults set in the 19th century, insisted that the gruff samurai hero refer to a blind person as “me no fujiyu na hito” (visually inconvenienced).
All around the world, jokes that might upset oppressed minorities are being told less often, and in less public places. But this is not necessarily because comedians are afraid of the PC police. The real reason for the change in jokesters’ targets, according to William Cook, a comedy writer, is that audiences’ tastes have changed. Punters are bored of stale anti-immigrant gags. The most popular jokes these days tend to lampoon the strong, rather than the weak...
The legal profession has always attracted its share of derision, but the level of hostile humour has increased noticeably since racist jokes went out of fashion. The sorts of jokes which, in less enlightened times, were directed at ethnic groups are now more commonly aimed at lawyers, particularly in America...
Certain Californian lawyers have tried to have jokes like these restricted as hate speech, and they have a point. Most lawyers—well, some—are splendid people, so it is perhaps unfair to suggest that scientists have decided to experiment on lawyers instead of rats because there are some things even a rat won’t do.
Jokes at the expense of women, notably mothers-in-law, were not so long ago a staple, but today ridiculing men is far safer...
Tell such a joke about women, and you will instantly become a pariah. This is not fair. On the other hand, men do less than half of the work in the world, own 90% of the property, and can wear the same suit every day, which is not fair either.
What to do about jokes at the expense of the stupid? Many avenues have been blocked off by sensitivity. The sorts of jokes that the English used to tell about the Irish, the Americans about the Poles, the Ibos about the Hausas and the Tajiks about the Uzbeks, are now often told about blonds (or, more usually, blondes)...
This anti-blond humour may limp along for a few years more. But no doubt someone, somewhere, is already forming a group with a name like People Opposed to the Oppression of Persons with Hair of European-Aryan Descent...
In the Middle East, where the words “peace process” will reliably raise a wry laugh, the hopeless illogic of the two sides is ever a source of black humour:
A scorpion wanted to cross a river, but could not swim. So he asked a frog to ferry him across on his back. “Certainly not,” said the frog, “If I take you on my back, you’ll sting me.” “No I won’t,” said the scorpion, “because if I do, we’ll both drown.” The frog saw the logic in this, so he let the scorpion hop on, and struck out across the water. Half way across, he felt a terrible pain. The scorpion had stung him. As the two of them sank below the ripples, the frog asked the scorpion: “Why on earth did you do that?” Replied the drowning scorpion, “Because this is the Middle East.”
Like many jokes, that one contains more truth than one would wish. The travails of the Sesame Street gang suggest that organising even light entertainment in this fraught part of the world is not easy. Producers of the beloved American children’s programme were planning to launch an Israeli version that would promote mutual understanding between young Palestinians and Jews. The idea was to have Palestinian and Jewish “muppet” puppets appear in the same show, chatting amiably using a limited vocabulary of words that sound similar in Hebrew and Arabic.
Alas, the Palestinian muppeteers did not want their muppets to live on the same street as the Jewish muppets. Americans tried to act as mediators. If Jewish and Palestinian muppets could not live on the same street, should there not at least be a park where they could play together, they suggested? The Palestinians asked: “Who owns the park, Jews or Arabs?”"