Posts Tagged ‘being a woman’

  1. Utilising Our Vaginas To Change the World

    June 3, 2013 by Laura

    Painting from Georgia O'Keefe's 'Flower of Life' series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    Painting from Georgia O’Keefe’s ‘Flower of Life’ series. Image from wikipaintings.org

    We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to every vagina in Uganda that’s had her clitoris lobbed off in the name of tradition. For every vagina in China that gets left on a roadside to die as a baby because she isn’t a boy. To every vagina in India that gets raped with an iron rod for riding the bus after dusk, to every hijab-wearing vagina in Saudi Arabia that is forbidden to drive a car, and every vagina in the world that has ever experienced being told no because she isn’t male.

    The way we change the world for every vagina out there starts with our jobs. We need more women in power.

    The battle isn’t won. There are still more men than women in the top spots of almost every profession. The further up the career ladder we look, the fewer ladies are playing the game. This often- not always, but sometimes, which is often enough- means two things: one, we see it’s near impossible to do, so don’t try. Two, when we do try it’s at the cost of other women because one female boss is rare enough. More than that is mythical. Well- at least outside of the major cities anyway.

    Both choices come from mentalities engineered by the rich old white men who recognise the radical potential we have to upset their comfortable status quo of owning the ways we make money, and who know that should we shrug off the shackles of their surprisingly methodical career oppression and demand a presence in their boardrooms we’d make stuff really difficult for them.

    I know a bunch of women who see what it takes to be considered leaders in their field, to secure the chief position- long hours normally at the sacrifice of a life, in-house politics, gender stereotypes to dispel daily- and so decide to opt-out, choosing instead to build an existence that doesn’t begin and end with the office. That includes me.

    For the women who do play the game, we’re fed a myth that “success” is finite, like a cheesecake, and so we can’t afford to truly help one another lest we lessen our piece of the pie. This ridiculousness is perpetuated by the rich old white men who hold the key to the bank, who treat the workplace like The Hunger Games- at my first internship I was pitched against another young writer, told on the first day of work that there was only the one opening at the company and so may the best woman win. Teamwork was not encouraged.

    But, what the rich old white men don’t tell you is that if I light my candle from yours then the whole world is brighter. If everyone has their piece of “success” it doesn’t then mean that there is less “success” for everyone else.

    We’re making progress, but at the same time also continue to work in environments where a pregnant woman is asked not to give the client pitch, since their dedication to the account might be questioned. A workplace where Sally, not Simon, is asked to make the tea. Once, as the only female in an all-male company, I was pulled off my duties to help with the décor of the new office; obviously as a woman I’m genetically pre-disposed towards giving a shit what colour the walls are.

    In order to combat this everyday sexism, we need to stick together to alter the value system set for us by dudes who don’t know what it means to live now. Because here’s another thing: the men of our generation don’t want to play by the rules their grandfathers set either.

    As a culture, our principles are changing. “Success” in life isn’t the most money, biggest house, and fanciest holidays. For my generation success is less time at work, more time learning and travelling and just being. It’s turning a passion into a lifestyle that supports itself, not saving it for two days of every seven. The metrics we use to quantify “success” aren’t what they once were. I really believe that.

    As long as it’s these rich old white dudes running the companies at the very top levels and signing the paychecks, we’re all- male and female- going to be held to their standards. We operate in a form of modern-day slavery where we’re bound to our jobs because we need the house that is mortgaged by the bank our boss’s boss sits on the board of. It’s insane.

    Our choices- don’t bother to strive for the top jobs, or do so at the cost of other women- are derived to keep things as they always have been: the choice few in control of the rest of us who work for them. That’s made much easier when essentially 50% of the world’s population don’t have a voice. But. If women are as accountable as men in genuinely influential positions, and 100% of the population demands change, we all get heard.

    We need to support each other at work in the same way we support each other at cocktail hour, because we’re stronger as a team than we are divided. Together we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the men of our generation, the men who want to overthrow the outdated value set of their predecessors so that they can stay at home with their kids if they want, or not have to run the company to be respected in it, and their partners, of either gender, can go out to work in jobs they love and are truly valued in.

    We as women will then be free to work in positions of power and influence alongside men, equal in number, making not only the lives of us and our partners more fulfilling, but also making a real difference to the role women play across the globe. This isn’t only about us.

    There’s so much more to living than a job title, but we need to help each other fill those titles in order to change what they mean. And when we do that I reckon we’ll change the world.

    AWOT1.png

    This post is an excerpt from Laura’s ebook I’m Fat (and Still Get Laid). Laura blogs about vagina, a surprising foray into spiritualism, and being brave every Monday and Thursday at Superlatively Rude. Also food: there’s a lot of fat bitch talk. All necessary stalking materials are found here. You can follow her on Twitter here.


  2. Heels That Are Made For Walking

    November 30, 2012 by J9London

    Image from ASOS.com

    I’m sure you’ve all read about or seen pictures of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign in Toronto. If you haven’t, it’s a campaign in which men step on up into a pair of heels and stride around to raise awareness for violence against women. Obviously, walking in someone’s literal shoes is nothing like walking in their figurative ones, but that’s not the point, and it’s not what I want to talk about. My mind is on shallower things: the heels themselves.

    When I first saw a picture of the event, someone had commented that mean being forced to wear heels was a good thing, not because of the cause it was for, but actually so they would know how we women feel all the time. Because we are forced to wear heels. All the time.

    My initial reaction was the heartiest of scoffs. After all, I don’t wear heels because I’m forced to. I like them. They make my legs look nice. The ones I wear most are comfortable (obviously well worn in) and often complimented. But if I ever feel like wearing flats or sneakers or jandals (flip flops,  if you insist) you can be damn sure I will, and I had assumed most women felt the same.

    But not two hours ago, as I walked through the bitter London air, my feet protected from the cold concrete by solid, heeled boots and woolen tights, I saw two women standing in stockinged feet as they changed from ballet flats to shiny and new looking four inchers.

    Now, if you want to go to parties or meetings or lunch in shoes that shoot you up to the sky while sucking the life from your feet that is absolutely your choice. And if you want to carry around a pair of normal shoes so you can actually walk, you are sensible. I just hope that all the people that do this (and I know there are a lot) do it because they do actually want to, and not because it’s just become the social norm.

    I will be wearing comfortable boots for the next few months, whatever the occasion. I am driven in this by the desperate desire to have warm feet.

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.


  3. Abortion: Don’t be afraid to say it

    November 22, 2012 by SarahH

    PRO-CHOICE. Potential trigger warning,

    Image credit: BPAS

    For those who do not follow the pro-choice movement, the events of last week proved to be a bit of a shocker. And, rightly so. For those of us who do follow the pro-choice movement, Savita’s story is not such an anomaly. The biggest, most distinguishing factor about this tragedy is that this happened in Ireland, in a ‘developed country’, our neighbours, incredibly close to home. As one of my closest friends (who is Irish) said to me in an email earlier this week ‘I’m in shock and utter rage about what’s happened in Ireland. This is my country, it’s the first world and this happens?’

    Abortion is a subject which warrants a dialogue and engagement not avoidance. Abortion is a social issue and abortion is a feminist issue. Acknowledgment, understanding, and awareness of abortion is vital if we are to break down the negative labeling associated with it. When it comes to personal experiences of abortion, why is it that women only disclose this information to their nearest and dearest and most trusted? Why is it that, in 2012, women do not feel confident enough to stand up and admit to being a woman who has had an abortion? My answer to this would be because of an unwarranted, widespread, and insidious judgment powered by silence, by shaming, by avoidance, and ignorance. Contrary to what the heavy regulations and controversy surrounding abortion suggest, it is a not scarcely performed medical procedure: in 2009, 21% of UK conceptions ended in abortion, yet women still feel the need to be silent about their experiences for fear of being judged or tarnished with a label which is not, and should never be, applicable to them. There are so many myths and negative connotations surrounding abortion that, for many women, speaking out about it is a daunting and frightening prospect.

    So, here’s a bit of myth busting:

    1. Abortion is faced by married women, by single women, by mothers with children, by women in long-term relationships. Statistics show that approximately one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. ONE IN THREE.

    2. Abortions occur at all reproduction life stages: 9% of abortions are for girls under 18; 41% ages 18-24; 36% ages 25-34; and 14% age 35+.

    4. Abortion is very safe in Britain. It is one of the most commonly performed gynaecological procedures.

    4. Internationally, each year, 20 million abortions take place in unsafe, unhygienic, and downright grotty conditions. Because of this an estimated 80,000 women die.

    (stats taken from www.dh.gov.uk and www.statistics.gov.uk)

    Why is this still a taboo subject? Why is this still something which society teaches us to be ashamed of or be made guilty for doing? Why is this still an issue which is subject to restrictive, and down right shaming, legislation which makes women jumps through hoops, stand on their heads, and do a tap-dance?

    At present, British abortion legislation is based on the Abortion Act (1967) and the Section 37 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990). In Britain, abortion is not legally available at the request of the woman. The ultimate decision resides with not one but two GPs. This gets even more scary when you take into account that 10% of British GPs consider themselves to be actively anti- abortion and have or would refuse to grant a woman an abortion because of this. The situation for our sisters in Northern Ireland is positively medieval: British abortion laws are not applicable in Northern Ireland, therefore women do not have access to safe legal abortion.

    So, what are the repercussions of this? What does this really mean? In Britain, it means that women are side-lined and marginalized. It means women have little choice and no voice. It means that women are subjects not citizens. Furthermore, for women in Northern Ireland, it means trauma and emotional distress brought about by having to surreptitiously seek an illegal abortion.  It means serious complications and health repercussions caused by back street abortion methods.  It means death. How can we expect abortion to break free from social stigma if the people who seek it are treated as though they are criminals, offered up to and bound by the decisions of others.

    Where is the autonomy in this? As far as I can see, there is none. It is a humiliating and paternalistic attitude, perpetuated by a government who so cleverly appointed an anti-abortion health minister (a man, no less!) who wants to reduce the upper limit to 12 weeks. A bizarre move given that only 8% of abortions are carried out over the 12 week period anyway. Who exactly is being protected here? Not the women facing abortion, that’s for sure. These attitudes need to stop.

    Abortion is not a dirty word.
    Abortion is not a crime.
    Abortion is not something to be ashamed of.
    Abortion should not be an ‘issue’ which is pushed under the proverbial carpet and only discussed/ acknowledged at time of crisis (i.e. now)
    Abortion is a real and tangible factor of everyday life.

    Abortion. Don’t be afraid to say it.

    One in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. One in three. Look around you….
    For honest, reliable, and unbiased information or advice see:

    Education for Choice: http://www.efc.org.uk/
    British Pregnancy advice http://www.bpas.org/bpaswoman
    Abortion Rights http://www.abortionrights.org.uk
    Abortion Help (Marie Stopes) http://www.abortion-help.co.uk/

    (Please Note: “LIFE” and “Crisis” centres are religiously motivated abortion advice centres. Please be aware that the information they offer may not be unbiased.)

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO  which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.


  4. Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

    November 16, 2012 by Jenni

    Image from sheknows.com.au

    It’s been a while since I last got any action in the bedroom department and I am definitely starting to feel like I’m missing out. I worked out recently that this is the longest period of time I’ve gone without since I lost my virginity aged 16 and a bit (about 5 and a bit years ago) due to two extremely long term relationships which have stretched over the last 6 years or so. I’ve been single for 7 months now and my heart seems to have gotten over that whole being broken thing quite nicely and has let me start functioning again as an actual human.

    My brain, meanwhile, seems to be living out its own little romantic fiction novel, especially whenever I see a particularly attractive gentleman. (I actually had this thought the other day when a guy dropped his keys in front of me: “Ooh, bend down and pick them up so you can have a romantic moment when your hands meet above them.” It was followed swiftly by the thought “Shut up brain, you wally.”). My vagina though seems to be having a little party of its own. I must be the horniest person in the world at the moment, anything and everything seems to set me off – I feel a bit like a teenage boy who’s just discovered the internet. And while me-parties (‘a party just for one’… alright I might have just made the Muppets Movie horrible there. I’m not sorry.) are fun and all, it’s just really not the same.

    It’s not just the release of orgasm that I’m missing though, it’s the whole sharing the physical intimacy with another person-allowing yourself to be that vulnerable in front of someone and feeling completely comfortable with it is a big part of what makes sex an enjoyable thing for me. I love that sensation of being completely contented with each other and with yourself so that you just lie there naked together and no-one feels compelled to put any clothes on at all, sometimes for days.

    And here’s the thing – I think I’m fairly good at relationship sex. The sex where you know exactly what each other wants and no longer need to tell each other where to put what bit and what to do with it when it’s there, but you just do it automatically, hitting all their buttons because you know what they like and they know what you like. That’s all fine and dandy.

    It’s the thought of getting down and dirty with an unknown person that kinda scares the pants off me a little. It’s the getting naked in front of someone for the first time, knowing they’ll see every little part of you and can never go back to not seeing that. It’s the awkward moments of not quite working in synch with each other and potentially ending up generally sweaty and unsatisfied at the end. It’s the reaction to the first fanny fart (Always an awkward moment. I reckon if they laugh about it with you then you’re all good to carry on!). It’s the fear of telling someone your slightly weirder, less vanilla quirks and having them react by scarpering faster than you can blink, or worse, going all 50 Shades of Grey on you. I’ve never had to tell someone how to get me going before because my previous boyfriends just kinda figured it out, but I would have no idea where to start that conversation. It’s a whole minefield of potentially awkward moments and horrible embarrassment just waiting there for me to put my foot into it. Maybe literally.

    And when exactly do you tell someone you’re a bit of a novice and somewhat nervous about the whole thing? On a first date, casually over dinner, “Oh by the way, I’ve only ever slept with two people before but I’m a keen student and a quick learner.” *over-exaggerated wink*

    I think I might just show my next potential lover this blog post and tell him this is all the things I’m worried about, just so he knows, and hope he doesn’t run for the hills. That’s definitely not weird right?

    I guess when the time comes around to it I’ll just have to jump in with both feet at the deep end (I need to stop making weird feet-sex analogies and over using parentheses) like everyone else does. But fuck me, it’s a scary prospect. No, really; it’s been a while.

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here (where this post first appeared) and you can find her on Twitter right here.

     


  5. Three’s A Crowd

    September 28, 2012 by The Kraken

    Image from http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

    You know what? I’m still thinking about tits. Even though I’ve splashed my bile over the whole Kate Middleton debacle I still have baps on the brain. God knows why because I’ve had my very own pair for the last 41 years. Then again, it’s precisely because I have funbags of my own that I am obsessing over the subject. That and the No More Page Three campaign that’s making me want to lob burning tyres into any given newsagents.

    What is with The Sun’s page three? I’m comforted by the fact that thousands of other people have spluttered the same question as they signed the campaign petition, yet I get the raging vapours when I realise that right now, in 21st Century Britain, I can actually show my four year old daughter pictures of tits in a national newspaper. A newspaper. Not a wank mag. Not an anatomy text book. A newspaper.

    I just don’t get it, the whole notion of checking a paper for the news, a crossword or TV listsings just to be confronted by the norks of Chantelle from Chelmsford. In fact it makes me sick up into the back of my throat. The whole thing leaves me so bewildered that I swear to fuck someone’s been feeding me rohipnol. Quite possibly the type of someone who leers over page three in the first place.

    And as much as this offends me as a woman it sends my rage into space when I view it as the mother of a little girl. There I am showing four year old Kraken Junior that she’s strong, determined, intelligent, inventive and capable of changing the world while page three shows her that her value lies solely in the tits that she hasn’t even grown yet. What a delightful start to any little girl’s life. And there I was fretting over her wanting to be a princess. What I should be worrying about is whether she one day compares herself to these laughable examples of femininity and starts slashing at her own body with a knife just to relief herself of her thundering lack of belief and self-esteem. I’ll send the bill for her psychiatric treatment to editor Dominic Mohan shall I?

    Yet even if I never expected better of The Sun, you’d have thought that it would expect better of its own readers. You see, even though the paper thinks of itself as a rag that stands up for the common man it’s happy to piss all over the other half of the population. It’s also happy for the common man to one day see his own daughter gurning back at him from page three. What a lovely thought for all of those page three supporters, that one day their daughter may get her kit off and submissively stare out of a newspaper while some stranger gets a stiffy and splashes his spooge all over her picture before balling up the sodden page and chucking it into the bin. How’s that for respect for women? But then again I really don’t expect page three supporters to think that far ahead in the first place. Not when there’s a quick woody to hand.

    More than that, is this really what a newspaper wants to look like in modern Britain? Opening The Sun to page three is like setting a flux capacitor to 88 mph and finding yourself back in a workingmen’s club in 1971. It’s such a dated notion from such a dated age that you’d think that any decent editor would back off faster than David Cameron from a benefits claimant. So exactly what is The Sun trying to achieve by clinging onto it? Perhaps it’s actively trying to die out which it will when the last leering, 70′s-stuck, daughterless reader finally kicks the bucket and takes the entire paper’s readership with him.

    Which is why the NMPT campaign isn’t just women defending women. It’s also about women defending the daughters and wives and grandaughters and nieces of any given tit-ogler, although it’s a big shame that we’re having to do this for them. If you fancy being generous, though, you can sign the petition here or you can tweet or you can nip over to Facebook. Go on. Even if your day’s been a bastard here’s your chance to turn it around.


     The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here


  6. Feminism: No longer needed, right? Erm, wrong

    July 11, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    In my life, I could view gender struggle as something that ‘happens to other people’. So why do I feel such a strong need to view the world from a fighting, ‘feminist’ point of view? Because it’s only by understanding what happens when gender equality is not upheld that I can appreciate just how lucky I am, and therefore how important feminism still is

    Feminist doormat

    Sound familiar?

    You know the scene. A few glasses of wine have been had, and a discussion starts. And yet again, I take a feminist viewpoint on something, and see the issue irrevocably coloured by its gender politics. And yet again, I find myself having to justify my stance, to women as often as to men. I find myself having to justify why feminism is still relevant to someone like me.

    ‘Why are you a ‘feminist’, anyway? Isn’t that all about bra burning and stuff? Why do you even need it, it’s so outdated?! You’ve got the vote and equal pay, haven’t you/we? Women go out to work nowadays, you/we can get divorced, have access to the Pill, get abortions, men do housework, look after the kids, I mean, what more do you/we want? How often do you/we get cat-called in the street? Maybe other women do, but you/we hardly ever do, right? And didn’t you hear that story a while back about how even builders don’t think shouting out at women is OK anymore? Think how much better you have it than women around the world! I mean, honestly. Are you just looking for something to get angry about?’

    And despite the seriously frustrating nature of these questions, it’s not always that easy to give a proper answer.

    It’s all very well engaging in feminist discussion on ‘women’s blogs’ where everyone agrees more or less with where you’re coming from, but in the ‘real world’, around the pub table, people who take on feminist stances can see themselves being looked at strangely, given distance as that crazy, angry woman in the corner, getting pissed off about stuff that doesn’t even apply anymore.

    It’s all very well being seen as akin to the ‘madwoman in the attic’ when the law says you’re legally your husband’s property, but hey, we’ve all moved on since then, so what are you still whinging about?

    • It’s not a question easily answered, if you consider it from my own personal point of view.
    Vindication

    A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft

    Quite often I do find myself wondering why I personally feel the need to assume such a ‘feminist’ viewpoint on life. I gravitate towards ‘feminist’ blogs and ‘women’s’ take on the news; feel strongly about women’s independence, am deeply interested in discourses surrounding and between men and women, the ‘confounding’ of gender stereotypes (to paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft) and derogatory language used by either sex, and generally am drawn towards individuals and media groups that bravely, intelligently and passionately argue for a more equal, more accepting, more tolerant and more liberal society, particularly where men and women’s gender ‘roles’ are concerned.

    • But, beyond the obvious, I sometimes wonder why I feel this way. On the face of it, I don’t have any real personal motivation for seeing the world through this kind of lens.

    Controversial statement, perhaps, but despite being an opinionated git; interested in news, debates, philosophical discussions and other things that would come under that rather horrible umbrella term ‘current affairs’; stubborn and outspoken, I’m not hugely political, and often feel myself assuming the rather non-triumphant role of observer rather than activist when it comes to these issues in real life.

    I’ve never marched for anything, and in my everyday life have been lucky enough to never have experienced first-hand any real sexist or sexual abuse, comments or problems (of which more below).

    I’ve had a great education, got a job, earned my own money, shared a flat on my own terms, and walked around London at night without feeling in any way especially discriminated against or at any disadvantage simply for being a woman (unlike in other countries I’ve visited, namely in India, where I sometimes felt threatened and stared at just for daring to appear on the street ‒ I can only imagine what would happen in other, even more conservative countries).

    Unlike women in other countries or cultures, I’ve not been denied contraception or been sneered at for having sex before marriage; I’ve been given just as good an education and chance at a career as my brother, I’ve never cooked a meal or ironed a shirt that I’ve not wanted to (being tired and wanting to watch the latest episode of Girls doesn’t count), I’ve not been pressured into marriage, or felt forced to have, or give up, a child, felt at any real risk of sexual violence, suffered domestic abuse or felt the glass ceiling pressing down on my head.

    I have barely even been ‘cat-called’ in the street – to which, stupidly and completely absurdly, my initial reaction is to feel offended and convinced of my own unattractiveness as a result, before I remember that such idiocy completely flies in the face of my own more considered convictions that women (and men; everyone) should have the right to walk down a road undisturbed.

    That I’ve not suffered this seems purely a case of luck; I know many of my friends have had explicit comments whispered at them while on public transport, and lewd comments shouted at them humiliatingly across the street. The internet is rife with women speaking out, quite rightly, about the verbal harassment they receive. But personally? It’s never been a big problem, to be honest.

    • On a wider level, compared to many other countries, in Britain we are streaks ahead in terms of legislation regarding women and equality of the sexes.

    Ignoring, for the moment, all the ways in which things still aren’t perfect in the UK, women are – in theory, anyway ‒ able to be educated, to claim the right to live without sexual harassment or fear, not legally able to be forced into marriage; able to have abortions, get free contraception, and entitled to be paid as much as a man doing the same job. Discrimination and lack of opportunity in this country is rife, but arguably far more as a result of socio-economic inequalities than gender ones.

    Of course, for each of those points I could (and probably should) enter into heated debate about why that’s not true, how this state of affairs only applies to white, heterosexual, middle class, privileged women. I could talk about the exceptions; the statistics that claim that these rights are far from universal, and why just because it’s the law, doesn’t mean it actually happens.

    But the fact that these laws and conditions exist, de jure at least, if not de facto, for many, already puts our nation far, far ahead of what women in other countries have to live with (or not, as the case may be). In some ways, women’s positions in this country are far from dire – or at least, legally they have the potential not to be.

    I can barely believe how lucky I am, and yet – if I am so lucky, and living in a country where such laws are in my favour, and where I personally am rarely made to feel threatened or limited because of my gender, then why do I still find myself feeling strongly about ‘women’s issues’, gender politics, and other debates that come under the heading ‘feminism’?

    • Why do I persist in seeing things through that ‘gendered lens’? Well, perhaps because, in reality, most of what I’ve written above is bollocks.
    Feminism people

    Radical, huh?

    While the legal ins and outs of what I’ve written are true, such as, for example, that women have a right to vote, a right to equal pay, and to live without harassment ‒ and that I myself haven’t suffered any real gender inequality ‒ that doesn’t mean that this state of affairs applies to all women, or that I don’t need to care.

    Even though, critics say, many of the key feminist battles have been won, that doesn’t mean that we no longer need to regard society from a feminist viewpoint, or defend the lines along which the original, old battles were fought.

    Women may have won the vote a while back, and bra-burning may (one might argue) belong in the faded days of Germaine Greer’s first-edition The Female Eunuch, but that doesn’t mean that feminist viewpoints aren’t needed. For so many reasons I barely know where to begin – in fact, so many reasons that a website called just that – A Thousand Reasons – was set up to highlight misogyny on the Internet, and, in its own words, to ‘discuss the continuing necessity of feminism’.

    • Because, yes, I realise I may be preaching to the converted here, and saying the obvious. Except, to me, it doesn’t always seem hugely obvious, because – as I’ve said above – I pretty much have never felt side-lined because of my gender.

    Beyond getting irate at some very-slightly off-colour ‘banter’ in my office, I’ve never obviously been at the receiving end of any real discrimination because of my sex. I’m a privileged white girl without much cause for complaint at the moment – certainly not from a gendered point of view, anyway. Lucky bloody me.

    But why, then, do I need to espouse a feminist viewpoint on the world, and get irate about such issues? Hasn’t all the hard work been done for me by women far stronger and more politically engaged than myself?

    • Yes, and yet, understanding one’s own motivations for taking a feminist stand on the world is something that I don’t think people talk about enough.

    It’s not enough to say ‘well, I’m a woman so obviously that’s why.’ It’s not enough to simply jump on the feminist bandwagon and get angry and excited about an issue just because I can. It’s not enough to mindlessly follow something without examining, in some way, why you’re doing so.

    • Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but it is to my serious embarrassment that sometimes I could find myself agreeing, at least from a personal point of view – that on the face of it, ‘the big’ feminist debates don’t really apply to my life, so why, personally, do I care?

    Of course, the answers to these questions have the potential to be as huge as they are debatable. Why, for instance, do we care about others at all? Why should we engage socially or politically in issues that don’t necessarily affect us directly? It’s about why we pay taxes, why we build a civilised society at all.

    This issue is also part of the whole ‘mansplaining’ debate on the Internet, which asks whether people who haven’t experienced prejudice can still own the struggle against it – specifically whether men can really be feminist, or ‘explain’ to women what ‘real feminism is’. Can I, even as a woman, justifiably care about feminism, and identify with its arguments, when I’m not on the receiving end of the worst of it? It’s a thorny question.

    But then, I don’t have to be non-white to understand that racism is completely wrong; I don’t have to be gay to want equal rights for gay people.

    • But all that aside (because this post is long enough as it is, and ‘mansplaining‘ is a huge issue in itself), on this particular issue, for me it’s basically very simple. It’s about appreciating what I (and millions like me) have, and recognising how easily, and apparently without too much fanfare, those gains could be lost.

    It’s about recognising that feminism isn’t just making a lot of noise about ‘women’s issues’, but understanding that it’s a fundamental part of who we are as a society – that not too long ago, women had to leave work when they got married; had to have a man’s permission before opening a bank account; couldn’t control their own fertility and were side-lined and marginalised and controlled as a result.

    I think for me, it basically comes down to the fact that a knowledge and continued debate on women’s rights, what they mean, and instances in which they are not upheld, simply informs my gratitude and understanding of just how privileged I am, but also, by extension, how far there is still to go when it comes to gender equality, and how easily such rights can be subverted.

    It’s only by seeing the ways in which apparent equality is letting other women down, of ways in which legal conditions can be subverted, of examples where woman are NOT given what I could so easily take for granted, of understanding just how vile people can be to each other on the basis of sexuality, sex and gender, and of looking – both historically and currently – of what happens when gender equality is NOT fought for, that I can see how lucky I am.

    And, therefore, in doing so, in my own, tiny way, try and work against prejudices that could flush away everything from which women like me have benefitted. At the risk of sounding like a character in Harry Potter, the phrase ‘constant vigilance!’ comes to mind.

    • Because gender inequality, especially today, when on the surface things look so much better than they historically have been, can be insidious.

    The privileges and rights that women have fought to claim, the moves that have been made against the patriarchy (which, I will add, at the risk of pursuing a positively scarlet herring, can harm men almost as much, if not just as much, as women) sit on a knife edge.

    Those rights could, if we stop caring, fall away in far less time than it took to instate them in the first place. Gender equality is still young. Women everywhere in the UK only got the vote in 1928 – not even a hundred years ago ‒ and other laws are younger still. And it’s hardly necessary for me to say that just because laws change, mindset is a whole other ballgame.

    To name but a few instances from a potential pool of millions, in Ireland, it’s still illegal for women to get abortions. In America, they’re still debating whether access to contraception makes women more promiscuous. They’re still asking whether legalised abortion is OK. They’re still debating the key, seminal issues at the heart of women controlling their own sexuality, of having the right to decide what they do with their own damn bodies. They’re still contemplating voting in someone who would limit women’s rights over all these issues.

    Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton in makeup-less *shock*

    In this country, the media still print bare breasts on page three of the most-read national newspaper. Hillary Clinton choosing to go without makeup is still news. Most rape cases go unreported and unpunished. Many women do still feel threatened walking in the street. Magazines airbrush, focus on sex, looks, products and advertising more than anything else. Far too many women are still abused in their own homes, get paid less than men, feel like they are valued only for how sexy they are, how slim they are, how glossy; and only see themselves in relation to the men in their lives.

    Women are still, if the media is anything to go by, encouraged to value their looks and reproductive functions over their intellect; even the bloody UN can’t make a video about women going into science without making some highly-questionable, lipstick-and-high-heel-driven, patronising fluff complete with amazed ‘proper’ male scientist going all gaga at the fact that women Can Do Science (read: faff about with test tubes). In China, women are still being forced into having abortions; in countless other countries, they are conversely being forced in childbirth, underage marriage; deprived of education – constrained not just by poverty, or social constraints, but purely and only because of their sex.

    • But, hey, on the surface of it, no, man or woman in the pub, none of this directly affects me.

    I could choose not to take any notice of it, relegate feminism in Britain to a historical footnote, and make use of the legal victories that have been won for me in decades gone past, and stop, as one acquaintance once put it, ‘stamping my foot’ and ‘getting all indignant’ about certain ‘feminist’ issues because it ‘feels good’ and ‘I can’.

    Yes, despite wobbles where my conviction sometimes slips, I am lucky enough to have grown up knowing that basically, I don’t have to be abused in my relationships, pressured into sex, have sex without protection, get paid less than men, feel bad for speaking my mind, or feel subordinate in any way unless I actively choose to. I don’t have to wear high heels, sleep with a man to feel good about myself; I don’t have to look like a model – or like anyone, in fact.

    Actually, I could say, I am one of few around the world who can take privileged comfort in the fact that I can breeze merrily through life, unconstrained, perhaps limited by my own lack of energy, tendency to procrastinate, laziness or lack of focus – anything, in fact ‒ but not, NOT by my gender.

    But knowing just how much other women have been at that receiving end of gender inequality (e.g. not being able to get a conviction for rape, or feeling trapped in an abusive relationship, feeling intimidated in the street on or the Tube, or any other kind of deprivation, discrimination or entrapment, great or small), forces me to appreciate what I have, and understand just how precious it is.

    • For example, yesterday I watched the Mike Leigh film, Vera Drake, for the first time.
    Vera Drake

    Vera Drake, starring Imelda Staunton

    Watching the story ‒ fictionalised though it is ‒ that depicts the life, arrest and conviction of a caring, compassionate, ordinary, community-minded yet ultimately criminal backstreet abortionist in 1950s England, renewed my feminist viewpoint and reminded me why I care.

    Watching how women were repeatedly blamed, and criminalised, for their own sexuality; lampooned socially and legally for the sheer temerity of having sex before marriage, getting pregnant or wanting to control their own fertility; at how not so long ago, women who were raped were seen as having brought it on themselves and utterly responsible for any consequences, reminded me why I see the world in this ‘feminist’ way in the first place.

    Mike Leigh may have made a deeply touching film that tries very hard to avoid judgement on either side – but that doesn’t mean that my own judgement was left in any kind of doubt. The notable absence in the film of any of the fathers of the would-be babies, was striking. But worse was the uncomfortable feeling that so much of the moral and legal condemnation visible in the film is still on the political agenda of most countries in the world today – and, therefore, how easy it could be for that condemnation to return to society.

    • How close I could be to losing all the rights I (and people like me) could so easily take for granted.

    Beyond giving a slightly sexist joke a casual raised eyebrow or giving a steely look to an idiotic joker on the street, I’ve never had to personally test out my feminist convictions. I’ve never had reason to ask for legal aid in a battle fought solely due to my gender or sex, been in a relationship where I’ve felt threatened, or seriously been discriminated socially or professionally for the sole reason that I’m a woman.

    But it’s only by educating myself about the cases where women – both around in the world and in the UK ‒ haven’t had it so good, and the instances in which the law or society has failed them; by understanding the ways in which society, the media, and the law might work against the values that I hold so dear, (including, on what might sound like a more frivolous level, magazines that encourage women to value themselves largely on what they look like and what they consume that month, TV shows and news stories that show women as silly or of value only for their looks or relationships with men, rather than their intellect; political debates that re-hash the meaning of women’s sexuality and sexual rights over and over) that I can truly appreciate the vulnerability of my own fortune.

    • That ‘feminist’ issues don’t seem to hold much real, pressing role in my life is in itself paradoxical – it’s because they’re there that I can ignore them. But it’s at my peril that I forget they exist at all. Feeling in my position shouldn’t be a privilege – it should be a right, for all women, everywhere.

    And until it is, and until there’s no risk of that right ever being taken away, I’ll continue to see the world from a stridently ‘feminist’ viewpoint.

    It’s a slightly longer answer than your mates down the pub might have been expecting, perhaps – but surely one worth saying, nonetheless?

    Ps. I realise this is a sensitive and hugely complex topic. This post is already far too long but I welcome any discussion or debate in the comments if you feel I’ve glossed over something or perhaps need to think about something more. As many wiser than me have said before, just because I write about something doesn’t mean that’s the end of my thoughts on the topic – often it’s actually the beginning. Any abuse will be deleted though, cheers!

    My top feminist blogs and sites (including the fabulous AWOT, obviously!)

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, and see her other witterings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com


  7. Reflections from Aunt Irma

    June 22, 2012 by Jenni

    Image from IT Crowd / Channel 4.

    Every time that particularly joyful week in my menstrual cycle rolls around again, I am always found clutching my spasming sides and reaching for the painkillers moaning “I hate being a girl, ugghhhhhhhhh!”, before retreating underneath my duvet trying to curl myself into the smallest possible space. I hate it when my boobs hurt so much that I can’t walk around unbra’d without holding them still. I hate it when boys just don’t understand why whatever silly thing they said/did is making me grumpy and shouty. I hate it when my hormones get the better of me and try to make me cry at sad films, resulting in a battle of wills between me and my tear ducts because I refuse to let it be known that I am secretly soppy. I hate it when I am contorting myself into some awful yoga position trying to reach that spot on the back of my thigh with a razor, again.

    Well, I decided from my duvety-cocoon-of-pain, sod that! I am determined to remind myself of some of the reasons that being a girl isn’t all that bad, if only so it stops me thinking of how much my uterus is rebelling against me today.

    Firstly, boobs. We have em, and we can play with them at any time of our choosing. I like to jiggle mine at my friends, and sometimes they even join in. I love having jubblies, I personally think they are a wonderful accessory in all situations. They’re an excellent shelf for catching tit-bits of food (see what I did there) that would otherwise go to waste, and some lucky ladies can even use their cleavages to store all manner of objects when their arms get tired. They make big necklaces sit just right and hold up strapless tops. Plus their receptacles come in a rainbow of shapes and colours and materials to suit any style. We can push them up, squash them down or squeeze them together and they’re just lovely.

    Another thing that’s great about being a girl is when you feel beautiful because everything is working together today. Now, most of the time you will find me dressing in an array of humorous T-shirts, jeans (bootcut, never skinny fit) and a big snuggly hoodie because I dress for comfort and not for style, and wouldn’t really know style if it slapped me in the face. Every so often though I like to dress up and make an effort, wear a dress and makeup and stuff. It’s lovely being girly for once-high heels and swishy hair and everything feeling wonderful because I know I look great today. And I also know that tomorrow I don’t have to bother, which probably helps too.

    And oh the conversations! The things you talk about with your closest girlfriends would make Casanova blush. Nothing is taboo-from how much your pants are trying to crawl into your bumcrack today to just exactly what you would do to that guy/girl, and where. Girlfriends instantly understand that the correct response to “Men are sh*ts” is agreement, icecream and wine. They’re the ones who rearrange your clothes for you so no-one can see your bra, who lend you magic pants when you’re having a “fat day” and who make sure you haven’t got your skirt tucked into your tights when you leave the bogs.

    Yes, girls tend to be bitchier than boys, but then again they’re also the ones who stick by you through anything, they help you up when everything falls apart and they steer you away from creepy men in bars who are trying to chat you up. In short, they’re the best. I guess you couldn’t be an AWOT without first being a WOT.

    And I know that this time next week when Aunt Irma has retreated back to her cave that I will think of a million more reasons why being a girl is fabulous and better reasons at that. But for now, I shall clutch at these 3 like a beacon of hope, and proceed to curl up in my bed and eat my body weight in chocolate.

    In the end, being a girl is pretty darn awesome. Just not this week.

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. In fact, she claims her socks are more awesome than mine (see Twitter bio), but she hasn’t seen my Bakewell Tart socks, so I can only assume she is wrong. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here and you can find her on Twitter right here