Tag Archives: sexism

Why feminism matters and Christianity gets my vote for ‘Best Religion’.

The Suffragettes 100 years on. click on link for Guardian article March 2013

Little girls in China having their feet broken when their bones are still soft and malleable. Female circumcision continuing in 28 countries in Africa, parts of the Middle East and even within immigrant communities in Europe, North America and Australasia. Denying girls even basic literacy education. What do these things have in common? Is it religion? Culture or tradition?

In China men like small feet. FGM ensures pre-marital virginity and denying girls education ensures they are obedient wives. The common factor here is not religion, culture or even the women. It is what men want. And particularly what men want in their wives.

This is why women all over the world continue to enforce these tortures – and let us not kid ourselves, denying intelligent, creative and active minds an education is no less a torture than physical violence –  upon their daughters. Despite evidence of the clear health and economic consequences these practices cause and which organisations such as UNICEF regularly lay before the governments and religious leaders of country after country which allows, even encourages, these practices to continue. Because that is what women who are not allowed to provide for themselves have to do: they have to get married.

Yet, despite it now being generally accepted that the only way to tackle global problems is to educate women and to get them working, girls continue to be denied basic primary education and continue to be prepared for marriage and child-bearing alone.

“An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10% to 20%. An extra year of secondary school adds 15% to 25%. Girls who stay in school for seven or more years typically marry four years later and have two fewer children than girls who drop out. Fewer dependents per worker allows for greater economic growth. And the World Food Programme has found that when girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families. They buy books, medicine, bed nets. For men, that figure is more like 30% to 40%. “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world,” Larry Summers wrote when he was chief economist at the World Bank.” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2046045,00.html#ixzz2P2KElfY5

There is currently huge debate in ‘Christian’ societies about gay marriage. As a result the validity and values of Christianity itself is being called into question by many non-religious groups and individuals. And this is a shame. Because it is masking the one most important message of a man called Jesus – be he god or otherwise: the equality and value of every individual member of humanity.

Too many people in Christian-based societies forget that their laws and customs have been innately influenced by the teaching – although not always the practices – of this message. When slavery was opposed it was opposed on the basis of all creeds being human, first petitioned against by the Quakers in 1783. When the conditions in prisons were reformed it was instigated by a Christian woman, Elizabeth Fry. And when women were eventually given the vote for the first time it was because the Christian values of those societies eventually prevailed.

Other religions have given us much: Islamic scientists gave us many of the principles our modern learning is based upon, the Chinese have given us some of the greatest inventions from paper to the waterwheel, instrumental in the great Industrial Revolution and the Jewish tradition has given us some of the greatest minds and performers in history. But it was a book about a seemingly insignificant carpenter that has given mankind its most important lesson – love one another. And although many other religions and political systems may claim that in their own way they too advocate and encourage this, it seems to me that only Christianity has produced whole societies which actually legislate for it.

When we are outraged by images and reports of how animals are treated in other countries, we are made all the more aware of how people are also treated in these places: when human life is cheap, when children are enslaved and women are mutilated, stoned to death for adultery or arrested for having lunch in public with a man she is not married to, one can begin to grasp the mentality of people torturing animals to perform for entertainment and skinning dogs alive for the fashion industry.

Christianity is not perfect: it has committed many outrageous and immoral acts of war, torture and prejudice. Some could produce much evidence to show it still does. But women in Christian societies no longer have to put their daughters through physical or emotional torture to prepare them for marriage. Women in Christian societies have access to the same education as men. Women in Christian societies have the vote. Whether they wish to take advantage of this or not is up the them. There are many disadvantaged girls in this country. There is still not the equal pay the 1971 Act promised. But at least it is not legalised sexism. And, most importantly, it is not considered acceptable, let alone necessary.

This was first published on March 29th  2013

“My daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/india-gang-rape-victims-father-1521289

In respect with Badri’s wishes he has asked us not to picture her. Releasing a photo of her is for another day. Indian law prohibits naming a rape victim unless she authorises it or, if she is dead, her family agrees to it.

At the moment it is enough for the devastated family to sanction the release to the world of their precious daughter’s name”

One can only imagine the courage and pain it has taken for this father to allow the release of his daughter’s name to the world. But it is act which re-humanises her. It personalises her. She is now a real person, an individual again. Through knowing her name we can imagine her being born, her toddling around and her growing up. We can imagine she had her own ideas and her own personal tastes. Her death now affects us all even more.

It is ironic then, that her father, whilst paying tribute to her male friend’s attempt to save her, adds:

“Badri said Jyoti’s friend Awindra was not her boyfriend – just a very brave friend who tried to save her.  He said: ‘There was no question of her marrying because we belong to different castes.’ “

It is ironic and sad. Because he does not realise that what he is doing is classifying another human being. He is labelling a person. And immediately dehumanising that person. Because that is what labels and categorising people does.

Jokes about women being different to men are often hilarious and celebrate femininity: they identify the differences between the men and women without condemning or reducing. But just as often they do reduce women. Language such as ‘slut’ and ‘slag’ suggest lesser human beings, whilst ‘stud’ and even ‘bachelor’ suggest some kind of superiority. Pornography demeans men and women but it is usually the woman that is dehumanised the most. Christian churches still include the giving away of the bride from one man to another as part of the marriage ceremony.

And women are still fighting for the right to a basic education in too many parts of the world, invariably based on some religious or cultural attitude which frequently claims that girls are too precious to have to work, that their place is in the home. Which is a great idea and appeals to me as much as the next woman who has to keep down a job, run a home and still be the perfect parent. But of course once women are literate it’s difficult to confine their reading to cookery books and flower arranging tips: they wander off into books which contain dangerous ideas such as personal freedom and self-fulfilment. Armed with information they begin to question traditions, customs and religious texts which use gender to define and confine. And they object to being labelled, to having their role defined and confined by their gender. They demand equality. Not same -ity but respect for their differences instead of derision.

Until we stop labelling and classifying people according to their gender, their ‘class’ – even with simple job titles: the police, teachers, traffic wardens, builders – we will continue to dehumanise people. And men will continue to send their mothers, their sisters and their daughters out into a world in which those women are seen as mere objects.

Spelling

My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
spelling,
how to make spells.

I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.

A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
there is no either/or.
However.

I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.

Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.

A word after a word
after a word is power.

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.

This is a metaphor.

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.

Margaret Atwood

This entry was posted on January 6 2013

 

New Year Random Ruminations on Men and Women

Irony is funny. I spend much of my time enjoying life’s little ironies. Hypocrisy isn’t. I spend even more of my time trying to avoid it, failing and then being guilty of it. But I pride myself in recognising it and at least I try.

The problem with irony/hypocrisy is that there is a very fine line between them: and that line is often drawn by your point of view.

I am a feminist. This is frequently interpreted as a woman who does not like men because she wants to be one. I don’t want to be one but I still don’t ‘like’ them. They can do things I can’t, like leave a job in the middle simply because the hand on a clock ticks into a certain position. They can walk into a pub on their own, order a beer and no-one will expect ‘a date’ to turn up. They always have somewhere ‘to go’ – soon, and when they get married this often coincides with housework needing to be done. They find it easier to get better paid jobs and don’t need to pack tampons, their pill or bags of make-up, make-up remover, stilettos (just in case) or a hairdryer even on camping weekends. But, and here’s the fine line thing: I ‘like’ women even less.

Women get on my tits. Most of them are obsessed with men – either getting one or keeping  the one they’ve got – or wishing they had a different one. Or wishing the one they have was different. Women also obsess about women who don’t have one and don’t believe women who say they don’t want one. But they do exist.

In the past women were judged by their husbands. A woman’s social class and everything she owned, did or even said was dictated by who she was married to. Today society seems to be more open to the concept that women are independent units. But whilst society may have adopted a more flexible viewpoint, many women still seem to see themselves as some reflection of their ‘man’. Women married to rich, successful men see themselves as successful and attractive, despite the fact that just because a wealthy man may seem to have more choice, it does not necessarily follow he has any more taste. Most of the married women I know still see marriage as a superior state of being, regardless of the state of said marriage.

And so the question then begs itself: as a feminist is it simply ironic or am I being a hypocrite when I have to admit that most of the people I admire and actually like are men?

This entry was first posted on January 2 2013