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En Route pour la pêche, 1878 (top) and Wharf Scene, c.1879 by John Singer Sargent. These works, painted during visits to Normandy and Brittany, reveal the artist’s early fascination with maritime themes. They are part of the Sargent and the Sea exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts until September 26, reviewed by Michael Prodger on page 72
tandpoint tandpoint Cou nter poi nts fathers, brothers and husbands. No slick poster campaign can hide the fact that countless women in this country today are being subjugated in the name of Muhammad. Instead of airbrushing women’s oppression we should join the likes of the inspirational Ayaan Hirsi Ali in exposing the truth about women’s oppression. I recently interviewed for this magazine a number of white Western women who had chosen to convert to Islam. Theirs were not happy stories. Many of them had been fed precisely the kind of guff peddled through this campaign. The aim of “Inspired by Muhammad” is to “improve the public understanding of Islam and Muslims”. A better use of money would be to educate the public about the human rights atrocities against women that occur every day in this country and elsewhere in the world in the name of Islam.
Mama grizzlies By Julia Pettengill
The recent release of Sex and the City II has inspired a wave of insipid think-pieces musing on the decline of feminism. How, these writers ask, could a programme—and now a film—which exalts the idea of autonomous womanhood promote characters with the emotional intelligence of 13-year-old girls? Yet in their own absurd way, these characters are a cultural expression of the bankruptcy of mainstream, politicised feminism—an authoritarian creed which has infantilised and ultimately alienated the women it purports to liberate.
For any woman who has tired of the enforced homogeneity of mainstream feminism, the emergence of a self-described “conservative feminism” in the US should come as a breath of fresh air. An increasingly vocal group of female voters, led by a record number of female Republicans standing in the summer primaries, are challenging popular assumptions of women as a voting bloc, modernising the Republican Party and provoking a long-overdue debate over the nature of feminism.
From former Hewlett Packard chief operating officer Carly Fiorina to South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, outsider female candidates are taking on the male establishment of their own party—or as Nikki Haley calls them, the “good ol’ boys”. These confident, self-made women neither apologise for their gender nor believe it should determine their politics. Rhetorically, they appeal to the American ideals of self-reliance, entrepreneurialism and a passion for pushing boundaries—a message to which women of various backgrounds can relate. Sarah Palin—whose weaknesses as a candidate are many and obvious—nevertheless astutely identified this trend and has thrown her rhetorical and financial support behind a number of these so-called “mama grizzlies”.
So why the sudden onslaught of conservative women? After the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, American women were statistically more inclined to sympathise with Democrats, who embraced Women’s Lib and made a legislative commitment to issues such as equal pay, sexual harassment and abortion rights. By stridently promoting “traditional family values”, many Republican politicians of the post-feminist era actively alienated the rising number of independent, working women by ignoring their particular challenges.
Today, nearly 60 per cent of American women work,
and while the Republican Party remains strongly socially conservative, mainstream Republicans are supportive of female social equality. So it shouldn’t be surprising that women voters, and particularly the professional women who tend to run for political office, would be attracted by the party’s emphasis on small government and entrepreneurialism. And although women remain statistically more likely to vote Democrat than Republican, the increasing presence of women at Tea Party demonstrations and Republican rallies indicates a rising trend of politically assertive conservative women.
Although a number of the high-profile Republican women running for national office oppose abortion, conservative feminists should not make the same mistake as mainstream feminist organisations such as the National Organisation for Women and treat this single issue as a deal-breaker. One of mainstream feminism’s greatest failures has been to deny women the right to hold their own opinions about abortion without being branded anti-feminist. Conservatives should differentiate themselves by eschewing demands for ideological conformity. Moreover, as social conservative issues are not predicted to be a significant factor in the 2010 elections, Republicans may risk alienating women swing voters by identifying too strongly with Sarah Palin’s agenda, which she has sought to equate with “conservative feminism” itself.
The Republican women standing for office would do their party, and their sex, a service by embracing the heterogeneity of American women, and arguing that the very best tradition of conservatism is one which embraces individual freedom for all people.
Is the North grim? By Nichi Hodgson
t’s a one-eyed ‘oil’,” (literal translation: a oneeyed hole, meaning: a lacklustre, parochial place) is one of the only Yorkshire dialect expressions you might still hear in suburban towns such as Wakefield and Dewsbury today. And while most national journalists would stare at you in Babelic confusion if you uttered it, unwittingly, the phrase malingers on in our demotic and their depictions of shoddy life in Yorkshire’s mill and mining graveyards, where crimes such as the recent murder of three drug-addicted female sex workers in Bradford take place.
In Pies and Prejudice (Ebury, 2007), Stuart Maconie’s book on Northern stereotyping, he points out that “the BBC has no South of England correspondent”, which speaks volumes about the latent media perception of the North as some Other world. Described by the Daily Mail recently as “the industrial heartland of the Yorkshire Ripper”, Bradford is a pretty notorious West Yorkshire town when it comes to matters of racial tension, social malaise and snicketty pockets of prostitution and drugs. Despite its international film festival, and European City of Culture bid, it’s still a reliable “grim oop North” favourite with the national press.
You only have to glance back through the lurid depictions of Dewsbury’s Moorside estate in 2008 where Shannon Matthews was duplicitously “snatched” to see how readily the press resorts to tabloid titillature when attempting to capture life in such towns. The Daily Mail and the Mirror crowned it the real-life Shameless, after the Channel 4 underclass drama about life on a sink estate (the Telegraph even surmising that Matthews’s mother had directly copied the kidnap plot from an epi-