The feminism debate: Sexuality, ‘fancy little knickers’, and #MeToo

The Feminism debate: Sexuality, ‘fancy little knickers’, and #MeToo

Monday, December 10, 2018

A debate on the Matthew Wright show this week tackled feminism, including whether women can be both sexy and feminist, and if the #MeToo movement has had the impact women hoped for.

Joining Matthew Wright was stand-up comedienne Paula Wright, The F-Word’s features writer, Genevieve Richardson, and female empowerment activist, Paola Diana.



The topic of feminism has become increasingly debated following the #MeToo movement, which saw women openly sharing their experiences of sexual harassment within the film and media industry on social media.

The movement gained momentum following the claims by a number of celebrities that film producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed them. He was accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than 70 women, but has denied the allegations.


'Fancy little knickers'                                                  

Last month, high-street clothing chain Marks & Spencer was accused of sexism after a window display suggested that women must have “fancy little knickers” for Christmas.

The display was in a Nottingham store and also suggested that men wore suits to “impress”.

Activist Ms Diana described the window display as “horrifying”.

“It is not because I don’t like lingerie – of course I love it, and being sexy – and I don’t think you should be ‘non-sexy’ to be feminist,” she said.

“There is no connection between the two things. What was horrifying to me was on the fact that on the same window, you were seeing the men completely dressed up in suits. It is a bad message.”

She added: “If we want to empower women, we have to disconnect them from the idea that they have to be sexy in order to be self-confident.”



Ms Richardson also agreed that the window was sexist.

She said: “What was sexist about the window was this old-fashioned idea that the only thing women can offer is their sex appeal.

“The ‘essentials’ or ‘must-haves’ for the women was lingerie and for the men was a suit. The suit has connotations of work and business.”

Ms Wright - who does not describe herself as a feminist - argued that people need to “get a life” if they were offended by the display.

“If you are going to be offended by that, just walk a bit further down and you will see there is an M&S window there with women in suits,” she added.

“I have been in M&S and there are men’s mannequins in pants in there.”


'A celebration of human sexuality' 

Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square after the Women's March on January 21, 2017 in London.

Talking about her twitter handle - @SexyIsntSexist - Ms Wright said she wanted to celebrate human sexuality. 

"I wanted to create something that was a celebration of human sexuality, rather than a critique," she said. 

“Human sexuality is a wonderful thing and we are a sexually-reproducing species. Increasingly these days, we are not allowed to celebrate it. We are not allowed to celebrate differences.”

 Matthew Wright argued that was because "in the celebration", we miss elements that we should be concerned about. 

He added: "There are those that are not being celebrated. There are those who are not having a party - the downtrodden, the exploited, and so on."



Ms Wright argued that she saw it "the opposite way", adding that patriarchy was an "unproven premise".

"I feel that we are getting too much of that," she said. "Feminists want to go into schools and talk to young women before they have even had sexual relationships - before they even understand their own sexuality.

"Teach them about patriarchy, which is an unproven, unfalsifiable premise. It is an idea, it is not a fact."

Ms Diana disagreed saying that "patriarchy is not a theory". 

She added: "It is not a theory that men hold 99 per cent of the power - financial power, political power and economic power - not only in developign countries but also in western ones. 

"I come from Italy, which is the worst country in the European community related for gender pay gaps and women's rights."



WATCH: Matthew Wright asks if the #MeToo movement is the right way to get justice.

Ms Richardson described the #MeToo movement as being important for "highlighting sexual violence". 

She said: "It has been an important movement for highlighting sexual violence against predominantly women in a way that wasn't brought up before."

Talking about convictions of sexual harassment and related crimes, Ms Wright argued that the data is often misrepresented. 

"There was a report that came out a few years ago that actually said the misrepresentation of the conviction rate was stopping women coming forward. because they did not think they would get justice," she said. 

"That was the moment I just thought that feminism is not about helping women, it is about helping feminism itself."



Talking about the proportion of men to women who come forward about sexual violence, Ms Diana said that women still remain the majority. 

She said: "There is a social emergency with domestic violence, and women are the majority of the victims."

Ms Wright disagreed saying: "That is not true."

Ms Richardson added: "What is key is that men tend to be the perpetrators."

According to the Office of National Statistics, 70 per cent of domestic homicide victims recorded between April 2013 and March 2016 were females.