Some reflections on the 100 Women Event

Im having had a hectic week so I’m afraid this is the earliest opportunity I have had to write a post regarding my experiences last Friday at the BBC’s 100 Women event.  I was really pleased to be invited and even more pleased to see two other sex industry women there too; Brooke Magnanti and Sarah Walker who runs the English Collective of Prostitutes. Three per cent sex workers, that’s a good start…

The event was very well organised and the people running it were lovely if a little knackered. I attended all of the debates and spoke in many of them including on whether feminism can include religion. My answer to this was yes, as ultimately even though religion is necessarily sexist due to the writings supporting misogynistic behaviour (ten sections encouraging rape in the bible alone) and of homophobic ideas, as a pornographer I knew how it felt to be excluded from ‘real feminism’ so I wasn’t about to make the same mistake myself. After all just because some women are religious doesn’t mean they don’t have valid ideas about other areas of the gender debate. I also spoke in the debate of female representation asking people to keep up the hope as the music industry used to be dire until Amy Winehouse came along, now more women than men have hits.

I took part in a debate on the future of feminism, which was way too short but I got one of my two main points across, that we need to focus on incorporating men’s views on gender into our debates. After all, how can we know male behaviour deemed offensive isn’t in fact men reacting defensively to power women have if we don’t interview them?  I received a number of tweets on the subject, some saying that feminism already talks to men (which I don’t even think is largely true) to which I replied that we don’t just need to talk to men, we need to listen to them, which definitely isn’t happening right now. I also called myself a post structuralist, rather than a feminist, which I then described as someone who believes that gender is a performance, something that is done, rather than just a biological reality (although of course the body exists).

The other point I wanted to make, which I didn’t get a chance to was personified throughout many of the debates that day, and was my only frustration with the event.  I often get annoyed that feminism is equated with socialism (which I am using as short hand for the many left wing forms of feminism).  It is assumed that women are naturally socialist, that we value the role of a large, prescriptive State that ‘saves’ women.  I’m a liberal, so this is not a belief I share, neither do Conservatives and I find it is seen as very unpopular, often anti-feminist, to argue for other means apart from structural change to help towards gender equality. Try saying that neo-liberalism isn’t a) all bad, and b) realistically doesnt exist outside of us because we willed it to be and we all enjoy the fruits of it every day.  The argument against capitalism/neo-liberalism (which share many traits and often get blurred into one debate) always ignores the positives of capitalism in my experience, like access to education (porn paid for two of my degrees so far), travel, technology, fashion, nice food etc…

I really feel that socialist feminism has the hegemony, the powerful position within feminism and when I once said this to my supervisor she said that the whole point of feminism was that there was no hegemony; oh how you speak from the position of privilege, I thought, privilege being invisible to those that have it and very visible to those that dont…

Anyway, the debates in the morning were often very left wing which left me feeling rather oppressed, being supposedly out numbered, however a nice chat with one lady at lunch soon restored my mood. The highlights of the day have to be the one on one conversations I had with some of the attendees, especially Gurinder Chadha (director of Bend it like Beckham) on film making and my PhD; Paris Lees (transgender activist) whom I had many conversations around how feminism is not as inclusive of dissenting voices as it ought to be; Barbara Hewson (lawyer that specialises in fighting for women’s reproductive rights) on being on the receiving end of moral panics around sexuality; Marianne Pearl (international journalist who runs Chime for Change) on my PhD and how writing from the first person is often enlightening, and Comedian Kate Smurthwaite on defending atheism.

I have to say the event was great, I saw some fantastically famous women, Martina Navratilova, Cherie Blair, Gurinder Chadha, former New Zealand PM Helen Clark, Ann Leslie, Susie Orbach and Jacqui Smith among others. I learned an awful lot, especially about the international state of women’s rights. I do hope they do it again next year…

About annaarrowsmith

I am Britain's first and most acclaimed female adult film director, with lots of scenes written, directed and produced by myself and several awards under my belt. After 2 decades of production and distribution experience, I recently completed a PhD in Gender Studies that focuses on men's experiences of women's power in dating relationships. I know an awful lot about film-making and about gender. You might have seen me in the British media...
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