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Feminism

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.

Gloria Steinem

Flower

If the word that I wrote about on the third day of this challenge should be known as “the C-word”, then today’s topic, often approached with similar embarrassment and trepidation, can only be described as “the F-word”.

I was shocked recently to hear a woman in her thirties say, “I’m not a feminist, but I don’t understand why, when my husband and I work the same number of hours, it’s me who’s expected to do anything involved with childcare or housework.”

Why the hell isn’t she a feminist?!

I discussed this with a group of women shortly after, and one of them suggested that it’s the fault of radical feminists throughout the ages. They’ve given feminism a bad name.

I must admit that that’s true. We have so much to blame on those radical feminists of the past.

Like those insufferable Suffragettes and their insistence on chaining themselves to railings. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have to go out and vote, but could just sit at home and concentrate on our embroidery while our trusted menfolk went out to make those troubling political decisions for us.

And what about Amelia Bloomer and her early Victorian cohorts, who promoted the idea that trousers might be more practical for women than long, heavy skirts that impeded any sort of rapid movement? They obviously didn’t spare a moment’s thought for the women who’d live 130 years after they were comfortably in their graves, who might have liked to be spared the daily choice between jeans and skirts.

And don’t even get me started on those pesky women who first fought for the right to birth control. If they hadn’t been so insistent we could all still be rewarded for our desire for a quickie on a Sunday afternoon with our fourth, fifth or sixth baby.

I must also give brief mention to a radical feminist called Eve Ensler, who 15 years ago wrote a play that made it possible for a group of women to stand on a stage in Geneva and talk about vaginas to an audience of men and women of a wide range of backgrounds, ages and nationalities. Didn’t she consider that we might have preferred to quietly acquiesce to sex without having to, you know, talk about it?

When I was younger I was grateful to the extreme feminists of the generations that preceded mine. It was their extremism that allowed me not to be extreme. But what are the generations that follow ours going to thank us for? Perhaps our radicalism might make it possible for boys to express their emotions and to view girls as equals. With any luck – and some expedient action – we might ensure that, for our daughters and granddaughters, equal pay for equal work is an obvious and accepted fact. Or maybe they’ll doff their imaginary caps to us when they realise that our radicalism resulted in affordable childcare for all.

The F-word? Fuck that. I’m a feminist. Fullstop.

7 thoughts on “Feminism

  1. I think having equal pay for equal work is vital, access to trousers, childcare and the pill allow woman more choices than their predecessors had, but I am often saddened that our CHOICE to be breast feeding stay at home hand that rocks the cradle mothers is diminished by it all. Women who choose to stay home and be the primary caregivers are looked down on and have to hear “Oh so you don’t work’ as if their choice is less important. It too should be a feminist goal. THE CHOICE. not the outcome of the choice but the actual ability to choose should be the fundamental goal of feminism. The push to work and share the ‘bread winning’ has over shadowed the fundamental beauty of parenting as a viable choice in our consumer driven society. My life has been victimised by so called feminists who were just bra burning bullies and not looking at supporting their sisters in choice. Thankfully that is not what the majority of feminists (male or female) are fighting for. I guess I am a feminist but for a long time that word tasted bile on my tongue until my third decade of life.

    • I’m really sorry that that’s been your experience, Cecilia, and yes, I absolutely take your point. I thank you, in fact, for articulating some of the thoughts that I didn’t have space for, given my self-imposed 500-word limit for each post in this challenge! I think the consumer-driven society of which you speak has a very great deal to answer for, this lack of choice being one of those things, and I see affordable childcare as a step in the right direction to providing parents with a genuine choice. I suspect that most “bra burning bullies” are in some way reacting to the extreme nature of the oppression that they themselves have suffered. You’re right – there’s always more room for sympathy and support. We need not to judge each other, but to allow every woman – every person – to choose whatever works best for them. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

  2. “When I was younger I was grateful to the extreme feminists of the generations that preceded mine. It was their extremism that allowed me not to be extreme. But what are the generations that follow ours going to thank us for?” I think about this all the time. Powerful piece. Thanks for putting it out there.

  3. Thanks so much for reading, Lisa. This topic is so very much greater than any number of short blog posts could begin to tackle but I hope every little bit helps!

  4. I love this post…I wrote something similar on IWD this year. I too fail to understand those women who say they want equal rights but are quick to jump up and say they aren’t feminists. If you want equality, you are! So glad I found you via the A to Z challenge as you seem to share similar views on women’s issues. 🙂

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