Friday, July 04, 2008

Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman

I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I am a woman, therefore I am in favour of the promotion of equal rights for women. It seems very much like a no-brainer for me.
Now I know there is a view out there that us feminists are scary creatures who don’t shave our armpits and wander about bra-less plotting ways to do away with the male sex. The truth is really quite different. For one, I do shave my arm pits and I need the structure of and support of a good bra. I’m not getting any younger and gravity is taking its toll.
And secondly I don’t hate all men - a select few drive me to distraction - but then again so do a select few women.
What feminism, to me, is about is women having rights to make choices. If we want to work, we work - but we get paid the same as our male colleagues for it. If we want to stay at home, we are supported to do so and our role as a mother is valued. It’s also about the most basic of human rights.
Without the feminist movement it would still be legal for rape to occur within a marriage. A woman would not be able to apply for a mortgage or credit without a male relative’s signature. We would not be able to control our fertility on our terms. We would not have access to education in the way we do now and it would still be acceptable for a male colleague to act inappropriately towards us and get away with it.
Again, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a no brainer that women - all women - should be in support of such rights. I don’t think it makes any of us hairy legged hippies who are expecting the unreasonable.
But still there are a lot of people who don’t like the word. There are also a scary amount of people out there who think that feminism won its battle in the 60s and 70s. An article I read this week showed that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Are you a fan of Dragon’s Den? Do you admire the great minds who dole out the money and business advice week in and week out? I have to admit I quite like it - it’s a bit of entertainment but when I read the comments of one of the judges, Theo Paphitis, this week the red mist descended. He commented that women "get themselves bloody pregnant and ... they always argue that they'll be working until the day before, have the baby, go down to the river, wash it off, give it to the nanny and be back at work the following day, but sure enough, their brains turn to mush, and then after the birth the maternal instincts kick in, they take three months off, get it out of their system and are back to normal".
Worse still is Sir Alan Sugar - you know that man we are all supposed to look up to who commented on legislation regarding asking women about their marital status or plans to have children saying: "You're not allowed to ask, so it's easy," said Sugar, "just don't employ them."
And they say the feminist cause is old hat? If you ask me it’s more relevant now than it ever was.
Further on in the article, which appeared in this week’s Guardian, it reported that rape convictions in Britain have plummeted from 33% in the 70s to just 5.7% today, and that the 14,000 rapes reported each year are thought to be the tip of the iceberg.
Women’s bodies are objectified now more than ever - and what is most worrying is that it seems we women are the one’s doing the objectifying. Each and every one of us, I imagine, has poured over the gossip mags commenting on how fat one celeb is and how thin another is. We comment on what they wear, if their tan is over done, their latest hair styles and the cellulite on their bodies as if it actually our business. It’s not, of course, but somehow we think it is.
We don’t do the same with men and there is not the same interest in the media in a man who has piled on the pounds or worn a less than flattering outfit. And while all this happening, the feminist movement is being pilloried or ridiculed or just pushed to one side not only by men but also by women. There is a real apathy out there to women’s rights which worries me and which should worry. I’m not suggesting we run out and burn our bras (as I’ve said, I need the support) but perhaps it is time we starting making our voice heard.
If Theo Paphitis and Alan Sugar have such an obvious anti-women attititude then do we really want them on our TV? Do we really consider that brand of mysgonist oafishness entertainment? Is it about time we started asking questions regarding the successful prosecution of rapists and abusers? Surely there is a reason numbers have dropped so dramatically and surely we have a right to know what that reason is. We also have an obligation to question a media which puts so much focus on a woman’s physical appearance.
Feminism isn’t done and dusted - not by a long shot. If anything, it is only just beginning.


Fionnuala said...

Are you going to hate me even more htan you did when you found out I had been talking to your arch nemesis???!! But....I like Alan Sugar. I dont like the fact that he made those comments but he has run successful businesses with women and Margaret (okay shes past child bearing years) seems to be a respected 'right hand woman'? Fx

Anonymous said...

Bloody well said Claire!!!
That was an extremely powerful post and all I can say is BRAVO!

Mum'sTheWord said...

Totally agree about the apathy, and it baffles me that some people think it's no longer an issue. I was aghast at a comment made by my child's nursery teacher recently - she commented to a daddy dropping off his daughter "Aren't you cold just in your shirt sleeves?" (it's winter here...) and when he said no she said - in front of several young girls - "Goodness, look at these brave businessmen going out to work in just a shirt, and us women are here wearing cardigans..." And she was serious. Brave businessmen? Big brave men in their shirts going out to work? Poor cold shivering women in their woollies, *not* going out to work? Great attitude to hand down to the children.

Donna said...

I don't think the battle well end any time soon, and I think a new type of stigma is being created for men in this little shift.
Let me explain:
For generations it was the women who stayed home with the babies while the man was the one who went to work, the provider, the breadwinner.
Due to some sucesses in the concept of equality, some families find the mom sometimes making more money, working more, or being the breadwinner. With this shift, there's often a question as to why the husband/dad isn't working: is he lazy? is he a 'moocher'? etc; which, is sad.
My husband's job is very 'lax' and he's often home when I'm not. In the winter time, he's home by twelve because he's usually done plowing.
When people ask who takes care of my kids while I'm working, I always feel the need to explain why my husband is able to be home - so no one thinks he's a lazy-arse, moocher who is forcing me to work while he's at home, drinking beer and watching TV - because he's not that way.

So, I guess I'm saying I feel just as much for the fathers who have to 'prove themselves' as much as the women during the attempt to reach equality.

Oh, and what you said? very well put!

Tony said...

Great article. I definitely agree that women should be treated as equals with men. We do have our differences, that's only natural, but it's time that things were equal.

The company I work for has quite a few women bosses. I have no problem with that, as long as they aren't man haters of course...

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