A political post? Didn't I say at some point I'd avoid these? Yes I probably did, but it's my blog so I can do what I want. So there. Feel free to skip if it's not your thing but I promise you it will not be as angry as you think. Well, not very angry anyway.
I felt compelled to make some sort of statement about feminism for a few reasons; 1. I am a feminist (as I define it, more on that later) 2. I am tired of having to explain what kind of feminist I am on blogs/news/forums for and against or that are even ambivalent about so called feminism. And thirdly, the ban on face veils was enacted today in France, a travesty that feminists everywhere should be up in arms about, and yet the reaction online, that I've seen, has been muted. So I thought now would be a good time to talk about what I think feminism is and isn't, what it means to me, how it's affected my reading and writing and why I can't believe we're still in a time when a supposedly free and equal society are not only tolerating but supporting women being prejudiced against.
What is feminism to me? Just this: that men, women and everyone in between should have equal opportunities and that none should be prejudiced against, or privileged over the other, because of their gender. The end. Simple, right, and not too controversial?
We in the West are massively privileged and are by and large equal (yes, yes, I know it's not perfect, but in the big picture we are better off than, say, Saudi women when it comes to equality). And when you consider the disgraceful and horrifying situations in other parts of the world it becomes even clearer that, while there may be details to work out, the overall progress has been remarkable. It often feels to me that so-called feminists are using feminism as a way to argue over the slightest things and that they generally take it all far too seriously. Look to other countries to see how bad things really are for women (and men) elsewhere and it starts to make our complaints about women being objectified in the media seem very petty in comparison. Case and point, the circumcision of young girls, and the practise of breast ironing. I get frustrated about women and men being objectified in advertising, for example, but it's good to keep a bit of perspective about it all. While we should all stand against rudeness and sexism, there are bigger battles to be fought in the world.
One big battle I think feminism should be arguing against is the veil ban in France, that went live today and has already resulted in women being "detained" for not complying and protesting. The reason I am against it is nothing to do with religious or even human rights per se. Instead I object to it because it is women being told what they may or may not wear by government. Surely this was one of the most basic things that initial feminism was against and fought to remove, so that women would be free to dress as they wish, regardless of whether others approve or not? They've tried to cover it up in the guise of security but I think we can all see through that. I mean, I object to women flashing their bits at me with skirts that are so short their arse hangs out the back. But would I ever want it banned by law? Hell no - if a woman freely chooses to go out like that, regardless of whether I understand or agree with it, she should be permitted to do that. My feelings about the veil are very similar. I don't understand why women choose to wear it but I support their right to dress as they wish. And then there's the frankly ridiculous discussion about choice and the veil; plenty of Muslim women (arguably the vast majority) freely choose to wear the veil. They are not forced, and to suggest they've been brain washed or controlled into doing it is at best misguided, and at worst insulting. They know their own minds, let's not presume to know them better than they do. Our choices are almost always influenced by the culture we're in - that doesn't mean it's not a free choice. (As an aside I came across this, a very apt and tongue in cheek commentary on the ban on "veils". I'm with the beekeepers.)
So why does this all annoy me so much? Because feminism has had a hugely positive effect on me and my life and it saddens me to see the state that contemporary feminism is in. It genuinely upsets me that "feminism" has become a dirty word. I was brought up to know that if I wanted something I had to work for it, and to not be put off because I was a girl and to not expect any favours because I was a girl either (don't even get me started on positive discrimination). My toys were a mixture of "boys" and "girls" toys, entirely based on whatever I was into at the time. From My Little Pony, to Meccano, from Lego to Barbie, my toys had no real pattern to them. I loved video games and still do. I love violent action films and also like cheesy romantic comedies. And feminism as it was done in my family home (thank you mother) had a lot to do with this acceptance of apparent contradictions. It also affected my taste in books and to this day one of my favourite authors is Sheri Tepper, because of her intricate story telling and how she worked feminism into her stories. Whether you agree with her point of view or not (I don't always) I admire the fact she works the issue into stories, and in doing so showed me that a story doesn't just have to be a story. It can have a point to it, or even better just ask a few questions about the world we live in and then leave you to think about it. This is what I hope to do with my stories, so that something will stay with the reader afterwards. Turns out it's really difficult (who knew!) but I still think it's worth the effort.
So this is me - take it or leave it. With understanding, humour and rational discussion I truly believe we don't all have to be so divided. But I don't hold out much hope for the mainstream feminist movement. Hopefully the next incarnation will be better.