Friday, April 13, 2007

Women: Know Your Place!

Ranty Claire had gone away for a few weeks there. I was feeling much calmer generally with the world (despite the lack of chocolate), but today she is back. Let me explain. Traditionally on a Wednesday morning I have what is known as a “What the blazes am I going to write ‘Skirting the Issue’ about this week?” panic. This involves pleading with my colleagues for inspiration, emailing friends and family for ideas and mulling over the ups and downs of the last week Chez Allan. It generally also involves a a quick surf of the web to see what is making the news locally, nationally and globally.
While wandering through cyberspace this fine Wednesday morning I fell upon several very interesting debates. If I outline them here, in basic terms, perhaps you will pick up that the one recurring theme and that is we women- well, we’re a bit rubbish really, aren’t we? And if we were to listen to all the studies, social observers and so-called intellectuals churning out their opinions in the wider media then we really would know our place and scuttle back off to the kitchen where we belong. (Which is fine, if you happen to be Nigella Lawson and want to be in a kitchen.)
And it’s not just us working mothers who get it in the neck.
It seems, according to the press this week that everyone born with a uterus is a legitimate target. Single mothers? Devil incarnates. Working mothers? Worse than Hitler. Women who choose not to be mothers? Selfish freaks of nature. Women who read books by the likes of Marian Keyes? Intellectually subnormal. I’ve never really thought myself to be a staunch feminist but there are times when it all just gets a little bit much.
There just seems to be such a pronounced anti-women agenda out there at the moment which I’m finding increasingly hard to ignore. A quick glance of a certain well read news website brings up a study about lone parents. (Which to the average reactionary right-wing reader translates as ‘single mothers’.) Almost half of all children are now born out of wedlock, the article states, and many of those will live in single parent families. There is a distinct lack of comment from organisations which support lone parents such as Gingerbread, but instead reams of twaddle from experts who state that children growing up with one parent are more likely to suffer from depression, commit suicide, not do well at school and take drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol. Underlying these ‘facts’ is a message that women simply cannot parent alone. And there was me foolishly thinking the days of blaming single parents for the roots of all evil where long gone.
I was obviously wrong. Then there was the study which stated that children who spend significant amount of times in childcare, at any age, will suffer in terms of social development. (We’ll ignore the fact that school could technically be classed as childcare). The reporter responsible for the article said such findings were due to cause concern to working mothers. There was no mention of working fathers, which once again enforces the message that it is the mother’s responsibility to care for her children regardless of whether or not there is a father involved. And admittedly the majority of us women are better at rearing children (because we are better at everything, naturally!), but why should be the only people to feel guilty for working? It is enough to make the vein on my temple explode with fury. Reading on I saw that more women these days are choosing not have children. Fair play to them. I appreciate that dealing with colic, toilet training and endless snotters is not something everyone wants to do. But the ‘experts’ and the ‘commentators’ were out in force again.
It’s not natural, they said. It’s selfish, they said- but these are the same people who say Natalie Evans is selfish for not wanting the embryos she had frozen before her cancer treatment destroyed. One delightful creature even went so far to as to say that Ms. Evans appeal in the Grand Chamber of the European Court equated to her trying to ‘rape’ her ex-partner. All this has been backed up with an interesting article from Marian Keyes who won the Popular Fiction Award at the British Book Awards. Delighted as she is with her success (and rightly so), she is a little disgusted that it has been marred by a plethora of attacks in the press about the state of literature today. You see, Chick Lit as it is known can’t possible be taken seriously because it is written for women- and it has pretty covers. Never mind that it deals with some pretty serious issues. (Ms. Keyes’ own books dealing with drug abuse, cancer, depression, bereavement, infertility to name but a few). In her article she wrote: “I have nothing but contempt for those men and sometimes women (I call them collaborators) who write articles undermining what women like and enjoy, intending to unsettle women enough that they won’t ask for things. Like equal pay. And decent child-care. And money for refuges for victims of domestic violence. And an end to joke sentences for convicted rapists.” And there is the crux of the matter. So I’m very ranty and generally fed up this week because for years while I was at school I studied the feminist movement as if it were a thing of the past and I was led to believe that I was equal to anyone else. Perhaps it is about time we set about burning our bras again? (But then again, I need the support these days) or maybe we should just stop listening to the nonsense that is being peddled to us by so-called experts claiming to speak for us.


Keris said...

"I’ve never really thought myself to be a staunch feminist"

Why not? It just means believing women to be equal to and have the same rights as men. Surely we can all get on board with that?

Claire said...

It might just mean that, but it has been interpreted in so many negative ways.
I studied feminism at college- stretching to believing women were BETTER than men.
Jokingly, yes I would say of course we are, but I do believe in equality.

Keris said...

Yes, it has (I can't imagine why!), but women refusing to call themselves feminists doesn't help the cause.

(God, "the cause", listen to me...)

"I studied feminism at college- stretching to believing women were BETTER than men." I don't doubt it, but equality is still a distant dream, isn't it?

Hey, you've reminded me. I knew a girl who studied feminism, but she gave it up because her boyfriend didn't like it. Really. :(

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