Those who know me know that I am a strong supporter of women's rights. I come out of an abusive marriage. I am exposed to 'domestic violence' through a Conduct Disorder child. I live in a country where rape is a concern for every woman, whether privileged or poor. Having in the last year been exposed to our courts through Maintenance, Domestic Violence and Childrens Court I have a good understanding of how the system is not protecting women (or children).
But does this make me a feminist?
First off let me be clear here. If I was living 100 years ago when women didn't have the right to vote, or 50 years ago when women couldn't contract without their husbands, had little or no rights to their bodies, marital rape was not a crime, I too would be one of the 'burn the bra' and demand my rights, in the forefront of the movement. I appreciate what all those women did for future generations. The sacrifices they made. Their determination to bring equality between the sexes or at least narrow the gap. They were brave and strong women and their roles should never be diminished or forgotten.
I think the 'movement' as such has lost track of its roots and meanings since what is termed the 3rd wave of feminism started around 1990. From what I read online and pick up in articles there is so much disagreement between the various sections that it has become really difficult to understand exactly what it is you are standing for.
- Is it equality for women or equality for the sexes
- Is it a closure of the wage gap
- Is it to stop violence against women
- The disparity of what are issues in the West as opposed to issues in the East
- The fight against sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography
Just reading through the Wikipedia site shows how many different aspect there are in the this whole feminist debate.
Some of my thoughts on the various issues :
West vs East :
This is the biggest disparity regardless of what anybody says. The latest articles online highlight 2 extremely different mindsets. In Saudi Arabia 2 women face possible terror charges for driving a car. Why - because it is illegal for a women to drive. On the New York subway trains women have been going around with a tape measure in order to measure how wide open a mans legs are when sitting... and now apparently there will be some kind of law passed citing the maximum width. London ladies have called for a similar law on the London tubes. So in London & New York - where you can drive in the comfort of your own car if you so wish, we have crazy women running around the train with a tape measure while in Saudi Arabia we have 2 women who have sat in jail for nearly a month because they dared to drive.
2 things strike me here :
- What would have happened if one of those Saudi women had a desperately ill child and had to get the child to the hospital but there was no male relative available? Or in fact had to get any family member somewhere in an emergency. Her life is dictated to by her by the whims of a man.
- If I was a man sitting on a train in New York or London I would feel seriously violated by some women measuring how far apart my legs were. And it begs the question, by winning the right to vote did we lose the ability to articulate a request to our neighbour to make some space? Come on ladies - get real about this.
These are just 2 simple issues but when I see women in the East being stoned to death for assumed adultery, acid attacks, marital rape, child brides and no say in their futures then surely the women of the West, who have successfully fought against such prejudice, could do more to help their sisters there.
This is also a tricky one for me. Do I want to be a beer guzzling, ball scratching, sport watching male... just joking guys. I'm not trying to stereotype but at the same time I'm also not the bimbo, big tits, wiggling her arse, happy to do your bidding women you looking for either.
I don't see men and women 'equal' in that conventional sense (sorry ladies). Women have the privilege of bringing new life into this world, breastfeeding (no I didn't), and being mothers. While fathers play as an important role in the lives of their children there is no doubt that it is different. It is that simple. Again no stereotype but a lot of men have found it easier to walk away from their children than what it is for a woman.
There are certain careers that suit the different sexes better. Yes you have male and female nurses and there are some male nurses who have a lot of empathy but in general women fill the role better. Perhaps men make better doctors as they are able to deal with the emotions of losing patients better. I'm making assumptions here but this is just my take on watching human dynamics.
I work in the field of Law and have done now for 20 years next year. Yes there are plenty of BRILLIANT female attorneys out there and I myself was three quarters of the way through my degree before being a mother forced me to make a judgement call. BUT when I look at Male vs Female Attorneys the men have it easier. Generally you are looking at some kind of Associate position in your 30s and depending on the size of the firm Partner in 40s/50s. Flat bang in the middle of any woman's child bearing and raising children years - when not only will she be juggling a career but also school plays, galas, sports days, parent/teacher meetings, art evenings, projects, homework, sport matches, extra-murals... and you can almost bet the onus will fall largely on her to attend as Daddy will be too busy working (been there done that). She's in all likelihood already delayed marriage and babies in favour of completing her degree and articles and getting into a decent firm. Now just as she is preparing to climb up the ladder she needs to make another choice and make no mistake, having worked at the big firms, the 'BIG BOYS' take note of who is getting married and likely to go off and have babies and who is not. It might not be made obvious but it is there.
The most successful women attorneys I know have to be cut-throat. They known as being hard as nail bitches. As most of them generally work in the field of Family Law and end up having a fair amount of female clients they get a reputation for hating men and working to take every divorced man to the cleaners, whether it is true or not. They work long hours, take on massive case loads, fight tooth and nail to bring in the fees, just to prove their value. And 9/10 times they aren't invited to those 'all boys' golf days and drinks at the 19th hole. So often they sacrifice the family life for the family life. Until they burn out and realise they may have lost it all in the race to the top.
When deciding to pull out of my degree I took a long hard look at all of this. Besides having Kyle to deal with and knowing that he would take up vast amounts of my time, energy and concentration I also decided I didn't want to have to fight for equality in a system where it wasn't going to exist. It really doesn't matter what the feminists have to say about it. Some things you can't change. Old Boys Clubs are Old Boys Clubs and they shall exist no matter what anybody says or does.
Please don't get me wrong. I am also not at home tending the children and preparing lavish dinners for the family with the house all polished and decor up to scratch. I work and in fact I go back to full day in February and I love my work in Law as a Paralegal. It is challenging and demanding and fulfilling. I have hobbies, friends and a life outside of my home. My boys are able to cook a meal so that I don't have to cook every night. They are able to cope without me during the day if I have functions on.
My point on equality is that it does not exist. It isn't ever likely to. That is why boys have bits between their legs and girls don't. Because we are different. The differences should be celebrated. I don't have the answers to the wage gap and property ownership and those kinds of questions. Perhaps women should forge ahead and open more of their own businesses where they can set their own salaries. Save to get into the property market sooner instead of buying all those shoes. For me I don't want to be EQUAL in terms of me and a man are the same. I am NOT the same and I celebrate being a woman. I would rather compliment my partner than be the same as him. If that makes me a non-feminist well then I suppose so be it. Rather that than constant competition to be something I am not. I know can look after myself, physically, financially and emotionally, having been a single mom for a long time, and now with a husband who works away, so it isn't a debate of having a man about the house to look after me. I enjoy knowing I can do things for myself. I just don't see myself as a man and I never want to.
Ladies celebrate your womeness for heaven's sake!!!
Sexism in the media, pornography, prostitution and trafficking
Oh this could be an interesting debate could it not but I am going to keep it brief :
- Sexism (and I'm talking mainly about the objectification of a woman's body) : If a woman takes money for a company to pose in a bikini while draped over a car and that advert goes into a magazine to sell said vehicle who is at fault? The advertiser. the car manufacture, the model, the person buying the magazine? She accepted the terms of the contract and the payment into her account. She was happy to use HER body to sell a product. Unless women STOP agreeing to allow the use of their bodies for adverts like that, and actresses take magazines and newspapers to task for sexist headlines it won't stop. However it is all media attention for them. The sad fact is the more you allow it the more you set the precedent. It is that simple. Give your screaming child the sweet in the checkout queue and sure as nuts he's going to scream the next time you take him to the shops.
- Pornography : The Kama Sutra would probably be the earliest form of 'pornography' displayed in art form. With the advancement of the internet obviously it is more readily come by and PARENTS need to be vigilant in what their children are accessing. You cannot blame the internet if you don't put the proper filters in place. But just like Little Johnny would hijack Dad's Scope in the 70's so Little Billy is going to find a way to get it in a digital format today. So put precautions in place. That being said if you have an open healthy policy with your children then 'pornography' will not be viewed as dirty and they will also view it as a natural appreciation of the human form. Being a photographer and having done both self shot boudoir and others it can be tasteful and sensual and not dirty and cheap. If you teach your children from a young age to appreciate the human form you won't have a problem later on. But is is here to stay as it has been for centuries. Anything depicting depravity, children, beasiality is completely out.
- Prostitution / Trafficking : 2 schools of thought here for me. Forced prostitution where children are involved or women have been caught up in trafficking rings needs to be rooted and stamped out. It is a sad reminder of the world we live in but it does exists. The proper authorities need to do their jobs. Too often though I think, and in particular in 3rd world countries, they receive kickbacks and privileges which is why so little is done. I am also very aware that there are women who get involved in prostitution as a means to feed their children. They have no other choice. Do not condemn them. They are doing what they can. If I was ever in that position and it meant my children starving or going to be with full tummies there would be no debate about it. A mother does what a mother must. Then there are those at the high end of the scale who do it for the money. It is purely a business transaction for them. Each to their own I guess.
So where do I stand as a feminist?
I believe the focus has to shift to equality of both sexes rather than just women. Men face as many acts of discrimination, in different forms, as what women do. From not being good enough as fathers, to not being able to fulfil certain career types, eg nursing. It is assumed they are rapists, domestic abusers and bad fathers before they are even able to voice their side of the story. Equality shouldn't be about everything being EQUAL, it should be about everything being FAIR. Treat everyone as humans and fairly.
There needs to be more focus on the real issues. Violence against women, women being stoned to death, women not having the right to decide what happens to their bodies. Quit worrying about how much leg space is taken up on the train - it is simply not important and detracts from the real message and makes the whole movement look simple. The movement needs to go back to its roots and look at where it started - the right for women to vote, own property, say no to their husband's sexual demands and not be subjected to marital rape - those were strong and important issues. The strong and important issue of today need to be rooted out. And the focus needs to shift to those issues so that meaningful change can be made.
Allow people to live their lives in private. If they choose to watch pornography, be a sex worker or use their body to advertise a product then that is their right. As long as it is legal nobody has the right to comment. I often wonder how the feminists would feel if somebody had to say to them they weren't allowed to be a feminist the way they tell people they shouldn't watch pornography. What you do in the personal confines of your own home, as long as it is legal, is your business, not mine.
So am I true feminist. It would seem to be an unequivocal no. I looking at it now I don't want to be. I do enjoy being a women. I have no wish to be equal to any of the men in my life and truth be told none of the men in my life now have never made me feel less just because I am a woman. My opinion is valued. Myself as a person and a woman is valued. Really that is what it is about. I in turn value the contribution they make to my life as men. The protection and strength they are able to offer me when I need it. Perhaps it sounds simple but there is nothing more comforting than the arms of a strong man wrapped around a woman in protection. It's a place to feel safe and sometimes we all need that. I'm not ashamed to admit it but it certainly does not make me a weak woman unable to take care of myself.
I will continue to support feminism in the way I feel comfortable. There is a genuine need in South Africa for voices to speak out against domestic violence. Unfortunately in this country we fight a battle against cultural issues so it is a case of having to change a mindset of generations. I feel a contribution towards that is stronger than worrying about whether Attorney Male and Attorney Female are earning the same income. They have degrees and are educated and able to slog that one out themselves.
It will be sad if the true meaning of feminism is lost in the manic million voices clamoring to be heard and not standing united under one banner. Until the world learns to fight the battles that really matter, real change will never be achieved.