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The F word and the B word....

Yes this is a blog about Feminism and about Babies. I'm treading dangerous ground here I realise. I'm not talking theory, I'm talking about day to day in practice ways in which I've felt, frankly disappointed, let down and even hurt by my gender recently  And that, whether it seems to be or not is actually linked to feminist issues.

Putting aside for a moment that I watched a student ridicule another for being a feminist in the second week of term. She stood up for herself and I didn't intervene because I thought it was important for her to do that, and she did so admirably. The following week, with the same group I stood up and said 'I'm a feminist  (I did have context I didn't just barge into the classroom and shout it, though it may have gotten their attention) And the student who'd make the negative comments the week before got involved in a discussion and I feel things progressed. Now this is all well and good, I happen to work in an environment where such philosophical or sociological discussions are par for the course, if we didn't discuss them I'd not be doing my job. But what of the real world? the day to day? how do we have discussions there?

The answer is really we're doing it without thinking about it, our outlook.

Feminism or 'sisterhood' which is frankly a nauseating term, doesn't mean being nice to all women any more than it means being horrible to all men. Accusations are frequently thrown that it's 'un-feminist'  to criticise other women or even, God forbid to bitch about them. Bitching about another woman doesn't make you not feminist, it makes you human. Criticising a woman's looks doesn't make you not a feminist if you're equally critical of men's looks. If you've never looked at another woman or man and said 'What the hell is that hair doing?' or 'Oh no that is not a good look.' well congratulations you're a better woman (or man) than I. The truth is if I'm watching 'Mock the Week' (other panel shows are available) and saying 'Christ Sarah Millican what's that hair doing tonight' I'm probably also saying 'Hugh Dennis what is that shirt about?' I'm not disrespecting women by bitching about another woman's hair, and I'm just as bitchy about men as women. If I sat there and said 'I hope Hugh Dennis is getting paid more than Sarah Millican for this on account of her bad hair and the fact she's a woman' THEN we stray into the realms of 'not feminist.'

What isn't feminist is judging other women's choices by patriarchal standards. Or actually scrap that; judging them at all. The point of feminism is choice and equality, if we can't grant that to each other what hope do we have of fighting against these from society (and the patriarchal system as a whole).

Last week some particularly patronising and downright upsetting comments came my way in relation to the idiotic comments of one Jeremy Hunt. The argument about him and abortion aside I was informed in relation to this 'You'd be a fantastic mother'. Well nobody ever asked if I wanted to be a Mother! In the context of the argument this angered and upset me more, but actually the larger principle of it stayed with me and led me to write this blog.

There is an assumption among a certain contingent of women that simply because marriage and children drives them, that there is something wrong with those women it does not. Those who tut and say 'you'll change your mind' well maybe I will, maybe I won't either way it's fine for me. So why isn't it for these women? I'm not judging those who do want children and marriage, when friends of mine get married or have children I'm incredibly happy for them.

It seems absurd to me that the most toxic things a woman can say to another woman are either 'I'm not bothered about finding a partner' or much, much worse 'I don't want children'. If the reverse happened-if someone looked horrified or say 'But why?!' as someone announced their intention to marry or to reproduce it would be a social taboo, so why is the reverse acceptable? And why is it such an alien concept that this isn't what every woman wants? And why should it be a problem if she does?

I'm made to feel less of a woman because my drive isn't coupling and procreation, that somehow I'm letting the side down. Let me say I'm not anti-relationship, I have just never been one who actively pursues them. I'm happy on my own, I'm happy 'dating' as the Americans say, and I'm sure I'd be happy to settle down long term if the right person and the right time came along. But what I am not is spending copious amounts of energy pursuing that, simply because it doesn't interest me. If it interests you by all means go ahead, I'm happy if you're happy, I'm not judging those who do-I'm just asking not to be judged.
Instead what I get for being one who doesn't actively pursue these things is this portrait of a 'sad career woman'. When did I wake up in the 1980s? I half expect Gene Hunt to stride in at any moment and tell me to 'Man up Bolly Knickers' The notion that one day I'll 'wake up and realise what I've missed' that somehow the path of pursuing men and having children is somehow a more valid one.

These attitudes, judging other women's choices are part of the problem of Feminism today, if we can't express tolerance and acceptance of other women's choices then how can we hope to get together and fight the bigger picture.

I've quoted Caitlin Moran's views on Feminism before here and I still think she's one of the best contemporary 'everywoman' voices on the subject. So I leave you with:

“Batman doesn’t want a baby in order to feel he’s ‘done everything’. He’s just saved Gotham again! If this means that Batman must be a feminist role model above, say, Nicola Horlick, then so be it.” ― Caitlin MoranHow to Be  A Woman 



Comments

  1. Excellent post, way more articulate than I could be.

    I've identified as child-free for the past few years now. I'd never really needed to before. As a lesbian, it's not like having children was an obvious thing to me, but when I hit my late 20s, and new legislation came in regarding lesbians and IVF, I suddenly found people were excitedly telling me I could have children now. For starters, as if that hadn't been possible - apprently they were unaware of other uses for turkey basters(!). But also the assumption that I wanted children.

    It had never been something I'd put much thought into, but it did get me thinking. As a child, I longed to be an adult. I often hung around with the dinner ladies at lunch times, partly because they had more intersting conversatiosn than my peers, and partly because they didn't pick on me. Most children were pretty horrible. If I had a child, I wouldn't them to be picked on like I was, or, even worse, be one of the mean kids - for me, that was the majority of them.

    And they're noisy. As a dyspraxic, I have issues with sound sensitivity. I can't deal with prolonged loud noise - like a baby crying. It makes me feel physically sick.

    I don't think babies, or children are 'cute', with the rare exception. It's apprently a heinous crime to say so, but newborns especially do nothing for me. Apparently they're meant to make me feel broody, but after about 5 minutes I usually find myself wondering where to purchase a DIY hysterectomy kit instead... Give me a hamster or a puppy or a kitten any day!

    Then there's the over population issue. This world has neough people on it, enough unwanted kids. I disagree with creating a new life, particularly when done artificially.

    And go ahead, call me selfish. But I like my life the way it is. I like being able to do things spontaneously without worrying about childcare. Being able to go away suddenly, and to places without worrying there's things to keep the little'uns entertained. And I can't afford to learn to drive, let alone run a car - how on earth would I afford a child?!!

    I'm watching my sister in law and her - what I can only describe as - pro-breeder mentality. She's the anti-feminist. All she wants is a rich husband, to stay at home and have babies. She has 2, she wants at least 5, and doesn't want to stop until she has a girl... OK, her husband has a decent job, but they have no money as they're in so much debt. But they boast to us about how wonderful and complete their life is. (as a side note, they don't even read to their kids, and just let them be babysat by the TV all day, which is just abhorrent to me!)

    Apparently, this makes me a bad feminist. Call me a feminist misogynist if you like, you wouldn't be the first.

    One woman who started working with me earlier this year on learning that I didn't want children said "maybe you'll change your mind when you meet the right person", which is completely disrespectful to my partner of ten years!

    And now I think I shall adopt Batman as my feminist icon, which is a good a choice as any!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your comment-I think you're being more articulate than I was there!

    I wouldn't call you a feminist misogynist at all, I'd say you're perfectly exercising what Feminism stands for-free choice.

    Don't get me started on 'when you meet the right person' rubbish. As you say the decision is about so much more than that-finances, personal circumstances and lest we not forget, actually liking children/wanting them also helps! I understand about babies too, I've found I love my friend's kids, but simply because they belong to people I know and care about. Show me a random person's baby and I'm largely indifferent. But holding a friend's child doesn't make me suddenly want my own!

    Also, I metaphorically high five your turkey baster comment.

    And Batman had awesome fashion sense, I say go for it ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've started a Proper Job in a call centre, god help me, and the lovely, kind people I'm training with do keep saying things like "maybe you'll change your mind" and "when you meet the right person."

    I don't want kids. That's not to say I'll never want kids, but they're somewhere faaaaar down on the theoretical wishlist below nail art pens and a split tongue, and WELL below a motorbike and my own damn life.

    And I am a feminist. You know, just by being an open feminist and also Totally Cool, you're doing good work in the world.
    WHICH REMINDS ME: Kate Beaton's Straw Feminists are the best thing since ever.
    http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=341

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you totally hit the proverbial nail on the head there-what about having our own lives before giving that up because however you dress it up you do give up the life you have before for a child.

      And also a motorbike is frankly a better investment than a child ;p

      Thanks for your comments!

      Delete

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