Feminism? Where?

5 May

I have classed myself as a feminist since my teens.  My parents never suggested there was anything I could not do because of my gender.  My parents and teachers were the influential adults in my development, (along with my first idol, Madonna).  All in all, I received positive role models for independence, success and strength.

As the mother of a daughter, I now feel a sad and slightly sickening sense of despair.  Feminism seems to have regressed in the last 20 years.  Yes, we have a lot more legislation against gender discrimination, but the media’s portrayal of women now is worse than ever.  Not just tabloids and their aggressive pursuit of bikini shots of every prospective talent show finalist/Coronation St actress/WAG; but glossy magazines too.  Magazines made by women, for women, make women feel like shit and tell them they aren’t good enough on a monthly basis for £3.50 a pop.  And we BUY THIS SHIT.   Actually I don’t buy it.  I stopped buying magazines a few a years ago because they weren’t really telling me anything new and I wasn’t in the market for £200 cardigans.

The scrutiny of women (Too Fat! Too Thin! What An Awful Frock! Wrinkles! Crone!) is relentless and female ‘celebrities’ are not exactly lining up to shine the beacon of Feminism. Women who could do so much, do nothing.  I’m not saying that all females in the public eye have a responsibility to promote feminism, its just that I have no idea why the wouldn’t want to.  To step out of the vapid and sexualised mould would be marketing genius, because its so fucking rare.

Rianna disgusts me. Shame on her. Literally.

The bare bones of the problem of stagnant feminism is that women don’t feel in a position to encourage each other.  Instead, we are constantly pitted against each other.  Who is thinner?  Has better hair, better clothes? Looks younger?  There can be no cohesive group that pushes for change as we are so fucking busy comparing ourselves to the next broad. Motherhood is no different.  Whose child sleeps longer? Walks sooner?  Behaves better? It is all ammunition in a polite war of passive aggressive one-upmanship. It helps nobody.  How can we expect to be role models for our children when we act like children ourselves?

I want my daughter to believe she can achieve things in life by hard work and a motivation to succeed, rather than looking good in a bikini or marrying a rich man.  What is this, the fucking 50s?  When did girls’ aims and ambitions become so low rent?  So truly pathetic? When I was a teenager, marrying a footballer and living a life of luxury wasn’t something we ever considered for our futures.  In the last 20 years the media has manipulated young girls into thinking that WAGdom is The Good Life,  That is Success.  When you think about it, it is success by their own gutter standards.  To become a WAG you need to be pretty (ish), skinny and wear bikinis on hot beaches. Tick those boxes and you’re a winner, baby. The fact that your footballer husband probably cheats on you with prostitutes or WAG wannabes is just the price you pay.  That male behaviour is fine. How?

MTV videos still look like footage from a brothel.  Long lens paparazzi will invade anyone’s privacy for hard cash. Even the future Queen on England’s nipples are fair game. Women with drug and alcohol problems are splashed across magazines and tabloids like a real life soap opera, the dark circles and smudged make up a stark warning: Look How Ugly You Could Become.

With the curent obsession with looks, raising a daughter is a daunting business.  Most of all, I want her to be happy.  Obviously I don’t want her to be happy in a crack den somewhere, but I want her to make her own choices and take her own path.  I hope we can give her the confidence and educatiom to be able to strive forward on her own.  I know however, that I can not protect her from the world, the media, the music industry, the Internet or peer pressure.  All we can do is instil in her the knowledge that she is valid, important and that a whole world of options are available to her.

Feminism is not about women wanting or demanding it all.  It’s about women being able to have what they want regardless of the fact they have tits. Being judged on skills, experience and ability.  Women are people. Humans. Just like men! Whodathunkit?

I know I am quick to judge when I read about forced marriages, child brides and lack of education for girls in other countries, and we should of course strive for a better deal for females all over the world.  But, on thinking about it a bit more I concluded that these cultural practices are just that, cultural practices that haven’t evolved with the changing tides of equality.  Whereas we in the West, in the UK at least, seem to have actively regressed in recent years.  Women are getting a worse deal, are more sexualised than ever, judged on appearance first and foremost, constantly begging for validation by conforming to what a woman should be like. And the thing that drives me mental is that WE ARE SITTING DOWN AND FUCKING TAKING IT.

Say what you want about the Spice Girls but they at least brought their own form of feminism into the media.  They hammered it home.  Girl Power! Yay!  They didn’t really say what the power was, or how to use it, but it was a start.  Yes they wore ridiculous shoes and tiny skirts, but why the heck not?  The least feminist thing I can think of is saying ‘You can’t wear that, and call yourself a feminist’.  Utter twattery.   Surely feeling comfortable in your skin is a good thing and if you want to wear make up or high heels, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, because Feminism tells you so.

Where do I stand?  I wear some make up most days, but I am happy to leave the house without it.  I wear jeans every single day. Why do these things matter?  Why does a Feminist in make up and a dress lack credibility?  It’s competition again.  ‘I’m clearly more feminist that you! I’m not painting my face or wearing impractical clothes just because I’m a woman!’ is one of the reasons women can’t unite. They are competing against each other so vehemently that they can not join together.  All we see is the differences as we have been conditioned to evaluate, discriminate and place ourselves in the hierarchy of the women around us.  Its completely fucked up. Another example of Divide and Don’t Conquer.   We don’t need to all be the same, look the same and want the same lives, but we should all have the same goal.   To be equal.

Eradicating sexism is not about creating a homogeneous race. There are gender differences and there always will be. Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. But these strength and weaknesses should not determine what is allowed, what is expected of us.  We should be free to break the mould if we are capable of doing so, and if we so wish.

I’m trying to start my daughter on the right track.  I want her to wear a dress if she wants,  to wear trousers if she wants.  To not feel like she has to act a certain way.  To not accept discrimination or sexism.  I don’t want her to miss out on opportunities because of her gender, to benefit less than males in the same circumstances.  I want her to have equal pay.  Mostly, I want her to want to have all these things. To demand them.

I’m lucky.  I have a group of supportive and caring friends, many of whom have daughters.  So, if all else fails maybe we can train them to become our own little feminist army.  There’ll be no uniform though.  They can wear whatever the hell they want.

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2 Responses to “Feminism? Where?”

  1. Ania May 6, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Spot on. Whenever I meet a woman who proudly pronounces that “she’s not a feminist” I want to scream “Why not? You really should be!”

  2. stewartfi May 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Too right, and in the words of Caitlin Moran, if you’ve got a c*nt, you’re a feminist!

    Really inspiring blogs – wish I’d written them! Love reading them 🙂

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