Wednesday 13 November 2019

Comment: Men - if you've never heard of champagne feminists, you probably are one

"It's time to cut the faux feminist rhetoric and practice what you preach"

Sharon Ní Bheoláin on RTE
Sharon Ní Bheoláin on RTE
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Within the space of two days, so many men I know have performed the most beautifully choreographed 180 degree flip.

An 'Armstand Forward Two Somersaults in the Pike Position' sort of dramatic vault that Olympic divers Laura Wilkinson or Tom Daly would be proud of.

They have moved from a reluctance to acknowledge a stark gender pay disparity even existed, to acceptance about it.

From there, it was a short step to assuming the position of self appointed expert on the subject matter, to preaching about it, and to slapping other men on the back for also being prepared to discuss it.

On Twitter and in casual conversation, I watched and listened to men congratulate male journalists, male cartoonists, and male politicians for rallying behind or highlighting the issue.

Male presenters were asked what they thought about Sharon Ni Bheolain getting paid €80K less than Bryan Dobson, as if their opinion gave the issue that added sense of gravity.

All this was done without a modicum of self awareness, or irony.

I found it a little difficult to take, especially given that some of those who now appear passionately in favour of female equality expressed antediluvian attitudes just a few days ago.

Earlier this year, Saturday Night Live released a sketch titled ‘Girl at Bar’ that took the proverbial out of this sort of faux feminism.

In the sketch, comedian Beck Bennett plays a seemingly liberal minded guy who approaches a woman and asks if he can sit next to her.

“Don’t worry. I’m not some gross guy trying to hit on you, I just can’t find a seat,” he reassures her with a smile.

He then makes a joke about Trump being a sexist, compliments her ‘The Future is Female’ tee-shirt and reveals he’s wearing a matching one.

He then sheepishly asks her if she wants to go on a date. When she refuses, he shouts ‘OK bitch! I wore this shirt and you won’t even let me ****? I followed all the rules!”

I feel like everyone has encountered people like this - theoretical liberals, who perhaps even went on the occasional women’s march.

They definitely think Sharon should be on the same pay scale as Dobbo.

Woke on paper and online, but in reality — what are they actually doing to help women?

Feminism is a broad church, so here are some pointers to know if you're practising properly.

If you are stay quiet when you know, or suspect that, you make more than your female colleague doing the same work, you are not a feminist.

If you patronise or belittle a woman when she expresses her opinion, you are not a feminist.

If you are a woman, and only support women you are not threatened by, you are not a feminist.

If you cut across, and don’t value what women say, you are not a feminist.

If your feminist stand point is purely self serving with the primary intention of improving or advancing your own image or career - you are not a feminist.

And if you are not a feminist – can you really admonish others for not advocating equality?

I don’t think so. After all this week's chastising, I think it’s time to ditch the sanctimonious sermonising and start practising what you preach.

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