Standing on my soap box about women’s rights…

Happy Sunday Everyone!

This blog may seem a bit heavy for a Sunday but this research is really helping me inform me about the world we live in.  There is still so much to learn. I have been reading Angela McRobbie’s book, “The Aftermath of Feminism” and have found myself getting so frustrated and angered by the things that I am learning.  As mentioned before in an earlier blog post, I find it alarming at how many women are somewhat ashamed at calling themselves feminist and and/or think that feminism is something that belongs in the past.

McRobbie calls this the “undoing of feminism”.   The media along with our capitalist and consumer led government has contributed to brainwashing society to associate feminism with an image of the hard, single, bitter woman who in order to succeed has to forgo a happy marriage and children – a man hater who is out for herself,  a type of vilification of the term ‘Feminism’.  It has become lost in translation to younger generations – instead it is almost as though by allowing feminism to develop, true equality to exist for women, feminism is seen as a threat to patriarchal society. To ensure society remains in a patriarchal led state, the media is infiltrated to reinforce negative images of feminism. Yes, women can vote, yes we can now work, yes we are free to choose, yes we can prove we can be like men and behave like men, but has anybody really considered why we still are not paid equally, why women’s reproductive rights are still being challenged, why there are more men in parliament and why some women feel they have to act like men to get further in life?

By endorsing hierarchy (class, gender, race, sexuality) the process where women, regardless of their backgrounds can collectively come together to find common ground is unforeseeable presently. By looking closer and reading between the lines, women’s rights and empowerment is far from over.  We need an equal society that embraces change. As Mc Robbie states “women are currently being disempowered through the very discourses of empowerment they are being offered as substitutes for feminism”. I find that statement shocking and it makes me feel angered that we as a society seem to just accept and put up with inequality (and outlandish policies across other social spheres) – what happened to our sense of fighting for what is right?  We need to reignite that passion that has been seen throughout history – the suffragettes for example.  Why do we not stand up for what is right?

There appears to be a blur between the term ‘feminism’ and ‘feminininty’. To demand equality and to believe in your rights as a human being regardless of gender does not mean you have to dislike men, not get married, not be ‘feminine’, be career driven and not have children, you can enjoy baking, sewing, shopping (why should it mean you can’t) – it should mean you can choose your own life choices without being discriminated against, help create a better or improved society for future generations, take the teachings of past feminists but look to a modern way of interpreting and reinventing it..  We all live in this world together, wouldn’t it be good to have an equal society that embraced all members of society?

Let us not undo all of the hard work past and present feminists have created, let us continue it!

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7 thoughts on “Standing on my soap box about women’s rights…

  1. Feminists fought so hard only for this generation to throw it away thinking the work is done and they really do seem to associate being a feminist with a man hating, angry lesbian. I identify as a feminist and always have and I got married and had kids. My husband even identifies as a feminist (in fact he blogs a lot about feminism) even more so since having kids (we have four daughters). He is constantly put down by people who think men can’t be feminists. Which leads me to what I think is one of the main problems – women fighting against other women (or in this case men). Trying to make some sort of ownership over who is the better woman – a traditional one or a “feminist”.

    I chose to work and my husband was more than happy to stay at home with the kids. He LOVED it. We had 4 kids under 5 years old (including 1yo twins) when he stopped working so it’s not lie he had it easy. He did playgroups and canteen and took the girls every where. I LOVED working. But sure enough I was constantly told (by other women) that I was doing the wrong thing. That a “real woman” would want to stay at home with her children. That a “real mother” would be devastated leaving the girls each morning. My mother in law vilified both of us for the choice we made. I was told how terrible I was for leaving the kids and not being home to cook for my family and my husband was told he wasn’t a real man because his wife “had to” work and he wasn’t “looking after us”.

    Feminism is about the choice. The choice for a woman to go to work (and get paid equal compensation) if she wants and to stay at home if she wants. The choice to use birth control to plan her babies or to not use it. The choice to have an abortion if she has found herself in the horrible position of needing one. The choice to get married. The choice to shave or not shave her arm pits.The ability to hold property, and not be property.

    We are currently being hassled as we let our daughters choose what they do with their bodies in order for them to know it really is their body and no one elses. Three of them keep their hair cut short and the hair dressers always try to talk them out of it saying they will look like boys (because of course girls only look like girls when they fit the disney princess mould complete with flowing locks), Our 8yo twins have just decided they want to shave their heads as they think being bald is awesome. Having to defend an 8yo girls choice to cut her own hair from adults telling them they will not fit the right social mould is painful. But listening to their dad tell them if anyone questions them to say “It is my body and my hair and I can do what I want with it” was awesome. It’s sad that it is necessary.

    Girls have learnt that being meek and mild is what a “real woman” is. So they struggle to speak out for themselves.

    And the phrase “real women xxx” is ridiculous. We are all real women – small or large, white or coloured, shy or bold, gay or straight.

    We need to stop the infighting and join together, but as you said the existing social hierarchy makes it nearly impossible for that to happen.

    Ok I totally wrote an essay in the comments (sorry!), it’s just something I am super passionate about too and the older my daughters get the more important it becomes.

  2. I hoped you would comment on this. I love a long essay reply, don’t you worry. I find it heartwarming that you are raising your daughters in this way, our children are the future and how they are informed and raised is crucial for creating confident and intelligent members of our society. I tire endlessly of hearing the way society and tradition dictates how we should live our lives.

    We get one shot at living on this planet and each person should live their life how without discrimination. My fiance is also a feminist, he believes in women’s rights and it is refreshing to hear that your husband is too. He encourages me to continually better myself (like doing this course), not settle for second best, see myself as beautiful, to believe in myself and not be dictated to by anybody. This is how we will one day raise our children. There are plenty of other men out there that believe in women’s rights and I think you have hit the nail on the head when you question if this is half the problem. The term gender, I feel, automatically creates a segregation. Of course, biologically we are different but you cannot have a world without both female and male. Because we are biologically different, this should not determine that we should be treated differently. Having the freedom to CHOOSE what kind of woman we want to be is a personal choice and one that should not be condemned by anybody else. Equally, if a man decides that he would like to “stay at home”, why on earth shouldn’t he? Why, if it suits the partnership to adopt those alternative roles, who is anybody else to judge? Similarly, single mums are still looked down upon – if a woman chooses to raise her child alone, why is this a bad thing. Why are we villifying our fellow human’s?

    I think past and present feminists, if all alive today, would recoil in how we are in society. I do feel that the social hieracrchy that exists, capitalism, our consumer driven society and the media should take a lot of reponsibility for this. If one day I am lucky enough to have a daughter, I would want her to feel equal, have the right to choose how she wants to live, not to be discriminated against, is confident, well informed and a all round good person. At this point, I think back to Betty Friedan’s, ‘The Feminine Mystique’, where she talks of how women years ago would almost sigh with regret of having given birth to a child as they would have to endure such hardshipsthrough because of their gender. Astonishing.

    I hope that one day, people are able to unite together through their simlar struggles regardless of their background and look to a way of improving their situations. It is a shame many women dismiss feminism, it is almost ironic how so many women think they have it all… it is far from the truth.

    Now that is an essay for a response!

    • I am with you there. Australia has recently been debating gay marriage and one of the thing that keeps coming up is wanting to keep the “traditional marriage” alive. I want to ask, in all seriousness, how many people still have a “traditional marriage”. Women are no longer property of their husband, they have the right to vote, to work, to leave their husbands, to put their kids in childcare so they can work, they can own their own property while still in the marriage and can report their husband for spousal rape. Very few, if any, of those things were possible in a “traditional” marriage. I am over “tradition” and people only ever fall back on that excuse when they don’t have a genuine reason for denying someone their rights, instead they claim that somehow other people having rights is infringing on their rights. GGRRRR!

      Choosing to live outside the box has opened us up to criticism from every man and his dog (I worked, he stayed at home + we got married AFTER our second child + giving our girls the ability to make choices for themselves at a young age and now homeschooling), and yet we are constantly told how great our daughters are. That they are confident, polite, well spoken ect. We can take them any where and they are really lovely and kind. Yet our parenting is consistently questioned by people whose children are none of those things. We have upset the status quo even more by choosing to live extremely simply (no car, no mortgage, husband only works part time from home and I am home full time now homeschooling) and just enjoy being a family. We don’t have a giant tv or the latest gadgets and yet we are all happier than we have ever been.

      We both hate that gender is used to push people into a certain mould and would love it if gender was purely used to describe whether or not a person had male or female parts. Especially as three of our daughters well and truly have stepped out of the box that girls are suppose to be in. We brainwash our kids from day one with pink and blue used along side the words girls and boys. Pink bottles for girls, blue bottles for boys. Unfortunately it is just as bad for men. My husband really struggled in a family that insisted boys don’t cry and he had to be the man of the family when his step dad went to jail. then his mum made him feel like a fraction of a man for staying at home and not making money like a “real man”. A fascinating book that I read recently was “Self Made Man” by Norah Vincent. She lived as a man for 12-18 months and it is a really fascinating insight to just how toxic and damaging gender roles can be.

      We need to all get together and admit that we are all different. There is no such thing as a normal boy or girl, australian or asian person, christian or muslim person ect. We may all identify with many different things but put two people in the same room who on the surface appear to have the same “traits” and see how quickly the small differences come to the surface and instead just decide that everyone should have access to the same rights as everyone else. A girl can dream right?

      But I still think a massive part is women vs. women. Australia currently has our first female prime minister. She isn’t anything fantastic (no politician we have had recently in power is) but she does her job. BUT the second she was elected the news articles stopped talking about our prime ministers policies (like they had with men previously) and started reporting on her looks and the fact that she is unmarried without children (she does have a long term boyfriend, but they have no interest in marriage at the moment). But for me this point of women vs. women were highlight when our own feminist icon Germaine Greer chose to go on tv and talk about how our female prime ministers ass looked in her suits. It was just horrifying.

      I now need to get a hold of some of these feminist books as I went straight from high school to the land of babies, babies, babies. I feel terribly inadequate in talking about this from such an uneducated stand point. But I feel like it is something that transcends education…most women have strong feelings about these issues even if they do she away from the word “feminist”.

      eek…another essay reply!

  3. Loving the essay replies!

    I think you raise really good points. I view things how you do… I strongly agree that at the end of the day human beings regardless of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, religion are just that – human beings. Discrimination is terrible and it is worrying how prevelant it is in every culture and society. Why should any human being have more rights over another? Like I have said before, this world seems obsessed with social hierarchy, the older I am getting the more left wing and socialist I am becoming. If everybody helped one another, discrimination would cease to exist.

    I agree with you saying about brainwashing children from birth – pink for a girl, blue for a boy, dolls for girls, cars for boys… so silly. From a young age in the playground there are cliques, others putting others down because of their glasses, way they dress, because they like to read… I was bullied througout school becuase I was not one of the skinny girls. Women, in particular, grow up to judge others by their appearance instead of what is inside. The media objectifies and crticizes women for how they look, celebrity culture. I wonder if part of the problem is because there are no identifiable feminists that young women can look to – when you say the word feminist, the term conjures up the image of an old, mean woman. More positive role models are needed that transcend age, race, religion, sexuality to prove to women that it is not a bad thing to have your voice heard. Like you say, whether people admit it or not, women do share common experiences and beliefs. Hopefully, in the future I will be able to write from a feminist point of view in magazines, making it relatable, comprehendable and something that will inspire young and old women.

    I am only still at the beginning in my studies of feminist writings, I think I will never stop learning about it, I don’t think it requires you to be an “academic” merely an interest in humans and the world we live in. Sounds like you have all that covered already 🙂

    • The world is obsessed with social heirachy. Everything from the clothes you wear to the place you buy your groceries tells others where you fit in “the pack”. It’s really quite bizarre when you step back and look at it.

      I’m sorry to hear of your experience in school – unfortunately mine was the same. I was chronically bullied throughout school. I have been told it was just “luck of the draw” but I went to 13 different schools in 12 years and it was the same at every single school. I didn’t fit the “mould” and I actively avoided fitting the mould. I enjoyed learning, had little interest in teenage boys (they were morons), had no desire to smoke or do drugs…not to mention the red hair, freckles and glasses.

      You are so right with needing better role models. We are bombarded with media about what “real girls” are and celebrities backing away from the word feminism. I purchased a womens fitness magazine recently as I started running a few months ago and I was interested in health and fitness and I swear it was like I purchased cosmo or some other girls magazine. Most of it was “how to get xxx celebrities butt” and 31 diet short cuts (which was all dangerous/disordered eating type things).

      I wish you loads of luck in your study of feminist writing and look forward to seeing more feminist view points in media – even better if it’s your writing!

  4. Thank you Miss F and thank you for your post that you wrote the other day, that made me smile! 🙂

    I am sorry to hear about your experiences too, children can be so cruel and it seems they just grow into big kids. I will keep you informed of my ever growing learning of feminism and look forward to hearing what you think. Just this morning there was this news article in The Guardian newspaper…i despair! http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/27/why-women-fight-women

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