Feminism is a feminist issue
I have been quite quiet for a while on lovemakecreate, this is down to a number of factors (mostly family related) but now I am back with what at first may appear a quite controversial post. It doesn’t mean to be but I worry some may take it that way.
Feminism and the way women are treated in a male dominated society has become a hot topic of late:
First there was the Oldham case where we discovered that certain men of Pakistani origin had been grooming young white women and using them as sex slaves, prostituting them and plying them with drink and drugs. This sadly caused racial arguments when really the question should have been why and how do we go about changing this perception?
Afterall we now live in a multi-cultural and multi-racial society where we are still learning the barriers and how to all best get along.
Then came the “No to Page 3” campaign launched on change UK via twitter, where a young woman decided it was time for the Sun for be rid of it’s wantonly sexist but possibly harmless (in some eyes) daily dose of surgically enhanced young women with their boobs out. Instead of a blanket ban on page 3 I think it more important to question why society thinks this is ok? It is also a worrying indictment of how women have long been sexualised from an early age in our society (pre 2003 young, barely legal girls of 16 and 17 were regularly featured in the Sun with their breasts out). If young men in their late twenties and thirties have grown up seeing girls of such tender ages with their bodies on display in national papers then is it any wonder some men of this age, in positions of power in schools go on to seduce pupils? Do they become fair game in the eyes of a man who has been led to believe it’s not really an abuse of power? Also does this raise questions for society as a whole? Surely we are all answerable?
Then came the news about how a young woman had been brutally gang raped in India and then died of her injuries (this we were to soon find out was not as rare an occurrence as one would hope in modern India) and the brave women and some men who wanted to change this way of seeing women in some quarters of Indian society (as disposable sex objects and not women) held vigils in Delhi.
Next we had Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign about women on banknotes in UK.
Then Australia’s first female PM was ousted by her old boss (she was Deputy PM to Kevin Rudd) in a leadership vote and questions arose over whether this was sexism in action started to arise (though commentators have pointed to the fact she was still a woman when she was popular) and remarks over her treatment by her cabinet when she was PM surfaced.
Now we have the giant furore over questions of twitter and whether a “report abuse” button should be installed after Criado-Perez’s death and rape threats on twitter surfaced.
This ignited a national and International debate when on defending her various other women of note (in particular MPs) received similar threats. It should be noted that various other members of society often marginalised (those with learning disabilities, those with autism, etc) have weighed into the debate asserting that it is not just women who suffer this torrent of abuse, indeed Kevin Healey an aspergic autism campaigner has been trying (though I question how it could work) to have anti autism-bullying laws implemented regarding cyber bullying (he has been seeking to do this on an International level, something I question could ever really work).
However many women have asserted that they are not questioning whether other groups are abused on the internet, but merely the manner which that abuse takes: i.e. the threat of sexual violence against women, sometimes for no other reason than they are women who stuck their head above the parapet of invisible oppression.
My question does not concern these areas though. There is no denying that women do suffer at the hands of men around the world. That rape is often used as a form of control and that things need to change. However I do not think that the label “feminist” helps this cause in real terms. So it is not feminism I have the problem with, merely the label feminist and how it is used by some to alienate and impress upon people a kind of intellectual liberalism and superiority that the rest of us who choose not to use that label are merely too weak willed or blind or unintelligent to understand.
I am not a feminist, in that I do not label myself as one. Although women are still oppressed in the UK I think it is far better than it has been for many generations and I also believe there are many other groups in society who suffer worse: the disabled for one (I am disabled by illness and my son has quite severe autism).
However by my actions and beliefs I would probably be labelled as a feminist by others.
I refused to take my husband’s name. For those who don’t understand why, it is thus, you traditionally took your new spouse’s name as your father was transferring ownership of you to your new husband. Thus you took his name as his property. Now I am nobody’s property and so I made my husband change his name by deed-poll to a compound name of us both.
I do not believe in traditional roles, that being that I think it should be an equal division of labour in the house and parental duties (of course if people prefer other ways that’s fine but I just don’t think it should be taken as read that a man is the breadwinner).
I do not view myself as subordinate to any man and to be honest actually think I am far more intelligent than many men.
I abhor the treatment of women as objects of fantasy and derision. However I feel women are commonly as guilty as men for perpetuating this myth e.g the hairless woman.
So why am I not a feminist?
Well my problem with feminism is that despite the well meaning rhetoric. I know of “feminists” who allow themselves to be treated in ways I would never stand, by men.
Feminists who have taken the name of their spouses, sometimes long before it is even typical.
I know feminists who put up with men who cheat on them constantly and have been guilty of abuse (the men they choose to stay with, I am not talking about rape here as that is of course a different matter to a choice to stay with someone who subjects you to abuse) (though they would never admit this publicly to their peers). It is important to note here that I am not talking about women who find themselves in an abusive relationship and cannot for whatever reason, leave. The point is women who wax lyrical about female empowerment but choose to stay in relationships where they are in fact oppressed by a man.
I know feminists who spend large amounts of money to beautify themselves and who constantly bemoan their singledom: waving the flag for a women’s movement with the one hand, whilst twirling their hair in the other whilst giggling at some unfunny joke by some sleaze. Now it could be argued by them that this is because they are a product of misogyny, that they have felt compelled to do this to exist. But surely it is a truly feminist act to throw off these shackles and do as some women have done and go au naturel for at least a period of time?
There are of course those “feminists” who would assert that it is their right to dress how they want. Which of course it is, but why do they feel the need to beautify themselves? I think most of us are guilty of this, my point is merely that women now perpetuate this myth of what “women” look like as much as men.
These same women (in this particular context, I am not talking about all feminists), most who do not have children, let alone girls; have derided me for allowing my daughter to play with dolls and heaven forbid, for buying them for her. Well truth is my daughter loves dolls. Long before I ever bought her a doll she would go for them in shops, at playgroups and start acting in a motherly fashion so I bought them for her. I am also a bit of an attachment parent and a lactivist so will be buying her the breastfeeding doll this Christmas. She is however into trains and cars too and so we buy those for her also. She can choose her own path and I will help facilitate that.
As I mentioned before I am a lactivist. Despite the real trouble I had doing it (I was so misguided and conflicted with my first that we landed up in hospital; it was only when I started to ignore the “experts” and bought a SNS that he really started to thrive (SNS, find link here (seriously best purchase I ever made)). I breastfed him until he was 21 months and only stopped due to a long stay in hospital, when my daughter came along I decided to ignore experts to begin with. When at 3 days old we were rushed back to hospital as she had bronchiolitis and then contracted pneumonia, I woke up and expressed milk every 2 hours night and day to try and help her recovery. She was so weak this had to then be fed through an NG tube and for a while her lungs were too severely affected to do this, still I expressed. I even landed up donating milk to sick babies in a milk bank for 5 months. I’m still breastfeeding now.
Now I know some feminists who would argue their right to go out to work as soon as they’ve had a child and who would not contemplate breastfeeding. Even though this is proven by far to be the best thing for a child. Instead they choose to formula feed their child: how unnatural is it to give your child the dried, modified milk of another species? Crazy in my mind, but that is their choice and they are entitled to that choice. My point is I do not view that as empowering.
So this leaves me to my final question. What is feminism in the modern age? Is it really valid? Are women who call themselves feminists but allow themselves to be at the whim of a man really feminists? Is feminism itself a feminist issue?
I do not know. What I do know is that I find it offensive that I have been lambasted for not being a Feminist by some women who view themselves as feminist whilst allowing men to oppress them in the private sphere.