delve a little deeper....
How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?
The above is to be taken tongue in cheek, but I think it says something about how feminism is viewed.
I think as a woman I am supposed to be a feminist. It's one of those things that most women want to be, but sometimes don't want to say they are because to them it (not me) conjours up images of shaven haired, man hating lesbians who shout at men who politely hold doors open for them. We all know that's bollocks (although I am sure such stereotypes exist!), but I do believe that feminism gets a bad press.
When I was at school, I had an art teacher who insisted on referring to a walkman (OK, that's just dated me somewhat) a walkperson. She proudly called herself a feminist, but I didn't and still don't think this was helpful in any way. Mind you I never even get upset about the generic assumption/use of policeman or chairman so maybe I am a bit rubbish. I suppose I just think that there are better things to get wound up about.
In simple terms, and according to he Oxford English Dictionary Feminism is defined as
"an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women"
This seems fairly straightforward and of course the nitty gritty will depend on the time and place of the feminist or feminist movement.
Often cited as 'the first feminist' Christine de Pizan was born in Venice in 1363, but was relocated to France where her father was appointed as court astrologer to King Charles V. As a noble women she was given an education, but it seems she was also educated in
Latin, philosophy, literature and the sciences, subjects usually reserved for boys.
She married at 15 and had three children in what appears to be a happy marriage. When she was widowed at 25 and had lost her father four years previously she turned to writing to support herself. She did well at this, writing ballads, poems and prose for the French court and thus supported herself, her children and her mother which in itself was unusual for noble women of the time.
Much of her work challenged stereotypes and misogyny in the works of male writers and most famously critisised Jean de Meun’s allegorical poem "Querelle du Roman de la Rose" (The Romance of the Rose) which depicted women as nothing more than seducers. She argued that the poem denigrated the proper and natural function of sexuality, and that such language was inappropriate for female characters. Her critique primarily stems from her belief that Jean de Meun was purposely slandering women through the debated text. She continued to write in defense of the way women were portrayed and about women's rights. Simone de Beauvoir wrote of her, "...the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex"
So, whilst Pizan wasn't writing about equality in the same way that the suffragette movement was fighting for the vote, she was probably an early Dorothy Parker or Virginia Woolf, giving women a voice and using her wit on paper.
Other feminist icons include Amelia Earhart, who proved that women could do anything men could do as well as encouraging other women to do the same. She said “Now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done — occasionally what men have not done — thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action.”
The first organised movement for British women's suffrage was the Langham Place Circle of the 1850s, led by Barbara Bodichon (née Leigh-Smith) and Bessie Rayner Parkes They also campaigned for improved female rights in the law, employment, education, and marriage. They had something specific to fight about, but now that women are equal in terms of the law, although it could be argued that we are still not truly treated equally despite of legislation what is feminism today about?
On a personal level I get cross at the fact women are judged in the media by what they wear. Stupid article to make point. Famous women get asked about their relationships, desires to have a family and what they are wearing over questions about their career. Newspapers and magazines still over analyse women's bodies, pointing out whether she is too fat or too thin and how much cellulite she has.
A woman's looks are used against her. When Hilary Mantel made her superb speech about the monarchy all hell broke loose as the media turned it into a bitch fight, with Mantel insulting The Duchess of Cambridge. I won't go into the fact that the stupid people missed the point of what Mantel was saying (but this says it pretty well) but many of the outraged were too blinkered to actually read and understand the speech and instead critisised Mantel's physical appearance and dismissing her educated, intelligent words as sour grapes because she wasn't as young and thin and Kate. *sigh*
The brilliant classicist Mary Beard has also been repeatedly attacked for her looks, most famously by AA Gill, who said in 2012 she 'should be kept away from cameras altogether', this was after in 2010 writing about her "corpses' teeth", describing her hair as a "disaster", and her outfit as an "embarrassment". Oh and this is the same man who dismissed Clare Balding as 'A dyke on a bike'.
So, whist women can now be educated to a high level, chose to live alone, have careers and so on they are still attacked for not wanting to be dumb, pretty and breed. Ask any childless woman in her 30's how many times she has been asked when she have babies and any single man in his 30's the same question the chances are the woman will have been asked a thousand times more!
I could rattle on for much longer about the more subtle (and not so subtle) inequalities that do still exist in society, but I would be here all day and I want to get back onto what feminism means to me personally.
I was fortunate enough to work for a company for ten years that treated women well, the ratio of men to women in the senior head of department positions was very equal and included women at the head of 'traditionally' masculine departments (IT, accounts, and maintenance). My family have never pressured me to get married and have babies and I have a good mix of friends who are career women and stay at home mums, I know stay at home dads and couples where the women earn more than the men. My relationships have been equal in terms of who does the cooking and cleaning (ie if they don't do it, nothing would get done!). So you could say I have skipped through life not needing to be outraged by the way me or my peers have been treated.
I get cross at the whole notion women are judged on by their looks, but I myself feel better wearing make up, love clothes shopping and am forever in search of a foundation that will make me look ten years younger. I wear heels because they makes my legs look better and I shave my pussy because not only do clients tend to prefer it, but so does my man.
I don't have traditionally male interests such as rugby, cars and maths, although I know plenty of women who do. I never wanted to do 'boy' subjects at schools and chose Home EC over metalwork.I quite like the traditional that men propose to women, I'm afraid I have used my feminine wiles to get my own way and I'm so rubbish at DIY and techie type things I do often ask a man to help out (although to be fair I have also asked female friends). Does this make me a lousy feminist?
Maybe I'm not a feminist, maybe I don't want to be a feminist. The notion that the word feminist is still in use kind of annoys me. Is there a male alternative? Some would argue that we don't need an alternative because the whole world is male orientated anyway. I do think however, that men do have a different set of expectations and pressures though.
Why can't we all just be striving to be able to do what we want (within the realms of legality and morality, I obviously don't mean if you want to punch someone in the head or rob a bank you should be free to do so)?
This brings me to the issue of feminism that most effects me. A wave of feminism who are anti prostitution. Many of those who shout the loudest about the need to end prostitution are 'feminists'. Those who see prostitution as a form of violence against and exploitation of women, and a sign of male dominance over women.
The current battle (and yes, it has turned into some kind of war) regarding the legislation around the criminalisation of paying for sex in Scotland and Ireland is packed full of examples of how some women (and men) feel that all forms of prostitution are wrong, and that all women involved are exploited and the only way to 'save' us is to criminalise our clients. Now, you know my views on this well enough. If not read my previous entries here, here and here.
Many of the anti brigade are known as feminists or are 'Women's Groups'. The kind of feminism that tells me I am exploited pisses me off, what pisses me off more is the use of skewed statistics, anecdotes from badly treated, forced women to portray an entire industry and the implication that those who are 'happy hookers' are damaging the fight to save the abused.
I don't want to sit alongside these feminists thank you very much.
My ideal is that people (whether male or female) should be allowed to do and be what they want. That noone is exploited or at a disadvantage based on their gender (or race or sexual persuasion or, well, anything).
My version of feminism, if I had to sit in a feminist camp is that is means that women are free to make the choices they want to make.
As a quick aside, this blog from Coin operated girl is great!