Thursday, 24 June 2010

oh dear, I think I'm going to use the 'F' word...

I've been thinking about the 'F' word... no, no... not that 'F' word, the other one that seems to have, over time, become almost the equivalent in offensiveness in polite society - yes, 'Feminist'.... 
Gosh, but it seems like only yesterday when I recall discovering that if I wrote the word 'people' or 'human' instead of 'man' I:
1/ clarified whether I was talking about one bloke or the human species
2/ did not subconsciously affirm that the default position for humans - the norm, as it were - was basically male [and thus affirmed subconsciously that female was 'abnormal']
3/ included the entire human species.

It was a 'light-bulb' moment in my young adulthood and, in many ways, it was not particularly rocket science.  And it was about 25 years ago - which can technically be defined as a generation ago.
All these years later, I find it slightly unreal and even downright bizarre that inclusive language is actually an issue - even in these here halls of the academy.  It astonishes me that the majority of young women - this generation of women - who are wandering through the hallowed arches of New College are quite happy to describe themselves as 'men' in their written and spoken words ... and who utter the immortal line 'I'm not a feminist... but...'. When this phrase is brought out, I find myself sighing inside a wee bit.  And then I offer up the question:
'if you're doing the same job as a chap, would you expect to be paid the same money?'  
The answer is, invariably, 'of course!'  
And then I go on to note that, at its most basic, feminism is really about women having the same opportunities that men are given: it's about being given a 'fair go'.  It is not about having to hate blokes, wear dungarees, have no sense of humour, but it can be about that if you want it to be as well!  It's about having the same freedom of choice that chaps, because of the way we have constructed our society, seem to have.
It's also about recognising that the manner in which we operate as a society can be equally oppressive to blokes as well: the list of rules concerning what it is to be a 'real' man is as much of a yoke as the rules concerning what a 'real' woman must be.  And place gender identity constructs within a consumerist societal context and humans - yup women and men - become products, objectified, dehumanised. 

Yup, I know I'm not bringing anything particularly new to the discussion, but I think this is more an expression of my ongoing puzzlement about why women are still not yet all on equal pay; why the majority of politicians are still chaps; why questions concerning what women are wearing are deemed acceptable to ask in cases of rape when this is never asked in a case of an assault of a man: 'really, don't you think you were just asking to be beaten over the head with a hammer because you were walking down the road dressed in shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt and flip-flops?' C'mon, it never gets asked, does it...!??
And of course, my ongoing puzzlement with regard to ordination/ church ministry and leadership with the attitude amongst some folk that in order to be like Jesus, you've got to pee like Jesus... 

Ah well... all this sparked off, in part, by looking at a postcard I have from the 80's which I've copied and slightly paraphrased below:

Because... women's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we're the first to get fired and if we expect to be paid the same as a man doing the same job we are called unreasonable and blamed for a downturn in the economy and making tea, baking scones, arranging flowers and perhaps teaching Sunday School is apparently the only form of 'acceptable' ministry and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it's our fault and if we get beaten we must have provoked it and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we're nymphos and if we don't we're frigid and if we love women it's because we can't get a "real" man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we're neurotic and/or pushy and if we expect childcare we're selfish and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and "unfeminine" and if we don't we're typical weak females and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man and if we don't we're unnatural and because we aren't deemed responsible enough to decide if, when and how we give birth but men can walk on the moon...
I'm a feminist.
[with a sense of humour, but without dungarees...!]


Ruth said...

Go tell it, sister!

And let us pause for a moment and think of our dear departed sister, Marcella, who taught me to be an articulate feminist.

Nik said...

Marcella was indeed a legend, Ruth...