Vivienne Westwood Not A Feminist, Says Women In “The Privileged World” Can’t Be A “Victim Of Society”

Jemima Khan, writing for the New Statesman in the spring, asked [Vivienne Westwood] if she was an antifeminist, so I thought I’d check out how consistent her views are: is she a feminist? She says not, because she doesn’t see why women in ‘the privileged world’ need to be. She can’t see the point of fulminating and agitating in order to prove that you are as good as a man. ‘Another reason is because I live in the privileged world I would never accept the idea that somehow I am a victim of society. Just by being born a woman!’ But she definitely feels that ‘women in – other cultures, let’s call it – should be supported. And in our culture if they are somehow in the position of victims. But I think men are victims just as much really and I think in our society it would be really scary to be a man.’

This is an excerpt from writer Vicki Woods profile of designer Vivienne Westwood in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper. I definitely disagree with Westwood’s reasons for not calling herself a feminist; it’s almost as if she’s suggesting women in America or the UK don’t experience sexism. What about the amount of women and girls who are raped? What about old, white male politicians who try to make medical decisions for us? What about sexual harassment? What about equal pay? All those things still happen all the time in privileged cultures.

Of course, being from a privileged social class, race or sexual orientation makes a woman or a girl’s life easier. But those privileges don’t automatically erase other ways in  which a person can be oppressed. That makes about as much sense as suggesting that gays are never victimized by homophobia in the U.S.

All that being said, I very much agree with Westwood that feminism needs to be inclusive of men and the sexism they experience as well. Men are also oppressed by society pushing traditional gender roles on them, like telling them it’s not okay to talk about emotions or cry, or that men aren’t as good as women at parenting. “Masculinity” can be as much of a straightjacket as “femininity.”

But still, I wish Westwood saw that men don’t have it nearly as bad as women. As a septugenarian who has seen a lot of stuff in her life, I would have hoped she’d come to different conclusions about the continued need for women’s liberation.  [Telegraph UK via The Gloss]

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