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  • Who's afraid of the bigger questions about feminism?
Who's afraid of the bigger questions about feminism?
Written by
Kate Barker
January 2012
Written by
Kate Barker
January 2012

What is one to do when a neighbor starts mowing their lawns at a disgustingly early hour on a Saturday morning? The answer: try to write a blog post for their long neglected blog.


Last Sunday in the Sunday Life magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mel Tankard-Reist was the lead story for the magazine. For those who may not know, Mel Tankard-Reist is an energetic and courageous (I say courageous given some of the responses she receives) campaigner for the rights of children in highlighting how the sexualisation of children is ever present. Linked with this is also her work on pornography and the harmful effects not only for women but also the connection it has with the sexualisation of childhood.


The title of the story was ‘Who’s afraid of Mel Tankard-Reist?’, no doubt a playful, if ironic use of the childrens’ fairy tail title ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?‘ The first line of the article identified her feminist and pro-life position which, in the eyes of some feminists does not entitle her to use the word feminist. Anyone who knows anything about feminist activism from the 1960s and 1970s will acknowledge the uneasy position of those who identify as feminist, yet for various reasons do not agree with abortion.


Mel Tankard-Reist’s feminism combined with her anti-abortion stance means she probably received criticism from feminists for not supporting abortion and criticism from anti-feminists for identifying as a feminist. This article also highlights the present day interplay between feminism and anti-feminism and the way in which the term has been and continues to be stretched and moulded into a thousand different definitions. This is included by people, who many feminists would define as an anti-feminist, but who identify as feminist, such as Sarah Palin. I’m not suggesting that the politics of Palin and Tankard-Reist are the same or similar, what I am asking is how do we, as feminists, incorporate such diversity within a social movement that has always had difference? Can a basic, fundamental belief underlie all these definitions of feminism? Or is it simply that the definition of feminism has been so misunderstood that the only definition has been taken over by anti-feminists who benefit from warping the meaning of feminism?


If only I knew the answers to these tricky questions. What do you think?

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