Is Feminism Doomed?

Today's Guardian has an interesting, epic piece penned by Kira Cochrane, detailing the "all-out assault" on feminism. Claims Cochrane, "The rights we thought were settled are suddenly under threat." She points out that a UK businessman named Alan Sugar recently discussed the law - passed in the '70s - which prevents employers from asking women whether they plan to have children. "You're not allowed to ask, so it's easy," said Sugar, "just don't employ them." Meaning: Don't hire women. And guess what? A survey shows that 68% of employers agree with Sugar. And it's not just on the job front that feminist issues are in jeopardy: Cochrane notes that the rape conviction rate in Britain has plummeted from 33% in the '70s to just 5.7% today. Plus, according to a 2005 Amnesty International poll, 26% of respondents thought that a woman was totally or partially responsible for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing. Thirty percent thought she was totally or partially responsible if she was drunk. And then, of course there's the celebrity culture.

We're living in a time in which, it often seems, stars rule. They grace magazine covers, shill products, draw attention to charities, make headlines by getting divorced, giving birth or entering rehab. And yet, as Cochrane writes:

We've seen scrutiny of women reach unprecedented levels. In gossip magazines, women's bodies are pored over - a pound gained provoking headlines that they're fat, a pound lost leading to headlines that they're too thin. Circles are drawn around a spot on their ankle where they've failed to apply fake tan, around a bitten nail or a tiny, incipient wrinkle beside their eye - which could just be a stray lash. What is implicit but unsaid is that there is no objective standard of beauty, no level of perfection that a woman could reach at which her body would be perceived as acceptable and in control… The constant message is that women's bodies are not our own. They belong to everyone but us, and are there to be picked apart.

Here's a fun exercise: Think of 5 celebrities you love, and 5 celebs you hate. Now: Are all of the stars you despise women? Meanwhile, abortion rights are in trouble, recorded rapes are at an all-time high (though the number rape crisis centers has declined) and the sex industry - hookers, strippers and internet porn - is booming. As long as you're a woman marketing yourself to or serving a man, you're A-OK. So. Are we experiencing a feminism backlash? Does our culture hate, degrade and vilify women? Do we, as women, hate ourselves? And if the answers are all yes, what can we do about it?

Now, The Backlash [Guardian]