Friday, 26 September 2014

So you think you're a Feminist huh?

I am a woman.  I am in my mid-thirties.  I'm married.  I'm a mother.  I'm a Christian. 
I'm also a Feminist.  
Or am i? 
A month ago my answer would have been a resounding 'Yes!' Of course I'm a Feminist.  I believe in equality don't i? I believe that I'm just as good and able and capable as a man don't i? I believe I shouldn't be oppressed just because I'm a woman; that I should have equal rights, be it pay or opportunity or whatever. 
Don't I? 
Curious by nature and believing absolutely that knowledge is power (and having a daughter who is now old enough to ask very searching questions) I've taken some time lately to really explore this issue like I've never bothered to before.  I've read, I've discussed and I've asked questions. In fact, I've started to question everything.  The result has been unexpected and shocking. Not since the night I became a Christian have I experienced such a seismic shift in my own perspective and world view. 
The key, over-riding conclusion I have come to is this: 
I'm not actually a Feminist.  I'm not even close. In fact, I have betrayed my sex and myself on many, many occasions. How could this have happened? When did I not adhere to my own set of principles? When did I not live out the things I believe in? Why can I not stand up and call myself a Feminist?  
Here's a few reasons why: 
When I've gossiped about other women and privately labelled them as being 'slutty,' because of the length of their skirt or the amount of make-up they wear. 
When, as a younger woman, I felt flattered to be whistled at by a gang of workmen...and slightly disappointed when they ignored me.
When I secretly resented another woman for being thinner and more beautiful than myself...or when I felt superior because I was the one who was considered more attractive.  
When I told my boss I was pregnant in an apologetic tone. 
When I scheduled my ante-natal appointments after work in an attempt to be thought better of by my boss and work colleagues (Ultimately, I wasn't.) 
When I jokingly told my husband to stop acting like a 'girl' when a spider fell on him in the shower. 
When I've allowed a car mechanic/ gas fitter/ washing machine repair man/ etc, to talk over my head to address my husband (who is clueless about such things by the way) rather than speaking directly to me. 
When I've labelled a woman as foolish for marrying a man who is a known cheat...she should know better, after all.  
When men have stared freely at my breasts and I've been too embarrassed to reproach them. 
When I've apologised for being 'just a mum' and have denigrated my position in my family because my work isn't paid work.  
When I've subconsciously judged other women for how they look.
When I've consciously judged other women for how they look.
When I have consistently reduced myself to being just a face and a body and have pointlessly chased a standard of exterior feminine perfection, largely defined and found desirous by men. 
When I've mutely submitted to being groped.
When I've sat idly by for thirty-five years and not done one single thing of any substance or real meaning to further the Feminist cause, whilst at the same time blithely enjoying the benefits available to me thanks to the hard work and toil of thousands of Sisters who came down this road ahead of me. 
For all these reasons, and perhaps many more, I struggle to call myself a Feminist and keep a straight face. 
Some of these examples are indicative of larger flaws in my character, and trust me: God and I are working on it.  But these examples show more than my fallibility as a woman and a human being; they show how ill-equipped I am and society still is to embrace true equality as a concept, never mind as a reality.  Sadly, I'm still very much enslaved to this patriarchal society that we all inhabit. The blindfold may have been removed, but the shackles still remain very much in place.  I feel anything but free. 
So I'm not a Feminist. 
Not yet.
But I'm bloody well going to be.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The long and short of it - why we shouldn't get het up over height

An article in The Times this morning really piqued my interest:
"The best husbands come in small packages."
According to a study of 3000 couples in The U.S, men who are short ( under 5ft 7in) do more housework and are less likely to get divorced.  The thing that interested me most about this was the figure which suggested short men are less likely to get married in the first place. Is this because women are just not as attracted to short guys, and if so, why the hell not?!
You may have detected a trace of anger here, and there's a reason for it: My husband is exactly the same height as me, a modest 5ft 4ins, and he could probably tell you far better than I how prejudiced people are towards his lack of height.  That said though, I probably have more of a bee in my bonnet about it (at least today I do anyway) than he does.  Being a laid-back kind of guy, he would probably just shrug his shoulders and say "it is what it is" but dig deeper and he can reveal a past where this was the chief factor that he was picked on for at school, and one of the reasons he found it hard to approach women during his teenage years and early twenties.  It was his assumption, and he was probably right in some cases, that women just weren't going to be interested because he's too short.

So macho

I knew a woman who had a propensity for choosing huge macho men, who were into body building and had a penchant for status dogs, like Rottweilers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers (the bigger and scarier the dog the better.) They all seemed to drive those enormous truck like 4x4 vehicles with manly names like 'Warrior' or 'Gladiator' ("you've seen how big my car is, just imagine how big the rest of me is!) and would brag about how they could lift her really easily with just one arm. This lady was herself quite tall, and I think for her, his immense size served to diminish her own somewhat, because isn't that how we're taught things ought to be in our Western culture? By the way, the last of these guys she was in a relationship with was also having a relationship with his pregnant girlfriend at the same time; clearly he wasn't what you'd describe as a keeper but I suppose it's possible that his uber-macho image and attitudes to women were completely unconnected.  Mmm...

Height is a Feminist issue

 I think there is a very real connection between the reasons women prefer tall men and the patriarchal
 society we live in; men are supposed to be bigger than women, in every sense and this is just played out in physical terms.  Women who are above average height will I'm sure be able to testify to having had the uncomfortable experience of being taller than everyone else in the room, and certain guys really don't like that. Our society makes it clear (still) that a man most definitely doesn't look up to a woman. This not only does a huge disservice to women, for it casts us in a subservient role right from the off, but it's obviously deeply unfair to those guys out there who fail to live up to ( sorry bad choice of words) this male ideal.  You either rail pointlessly against this height based prejudice; over-emphasising your maleness: Familiar with Little Man Syndrome anyone? Or: You withdraw from the arena all together and accept the derision.

No laughing matter

Lack of height, particularly in a man, is still something which it is totally acceptable to mock mercilessly.  I'm not just thinking of idiots who you might encounter in the pub on a Saturday night; I'm thinking of recent examples in British television; in particular prime-time family show Strictly Come Dancing. My husband and I were rendered incandescent with rage every time Tess Daley referred to Professional dancer Vincent Simone as 'pint sized' or a 'pocket dynamo.' She refrained from saying 'ah, cute,' whilst ruffling his hair and calling him a munchkin, but only just.  The cynic in me wants to think that perhaps Tess herself has memories from a time when she was mocked for her tall stature, and found that as soon as she put heels on she was taller than every guy in the room, and this was just a projection of her own insecurities, but I don't know the lady so it's probably unfair to speculate. What struck me though was that at no point did anyone, not even Vincent himself, allude to the fact that comments like this are actually demeaning and down-right offensive. Perhaps Vincent, like most below average height guys is simply used to it, or else too fatigued by the preoccupation to bother saying anything. Either way, we certainly do have a collective hang-up about height, and short guys really feel the brunt of it.

Walking tall

My husband's height has nothing to do with how good a husband he is; his patience, self-lessness, kindness and good humour are far more important factors.  His height to me is an irrelevance; other people, usually taller males, find it far more worthy of note. I think this is because his lack of height somehow boosts theirs.  By pointing it out, they are implicitly claiming superiority over him, but while they certainly can (and do) look down on him in a literal sense, this is just an illusion.  My husband is faithful, hard-working, devoted to his family, and a brilliantly attentive and caring father. He has proven himself time and time again to be more of a man than any other man I've known.  Do I feel protected and secure when I'm with him? Absolutely. But that has nothing to do with his inside leg measurement. I don't need a tall man to make me feel any more of a woman, and ladies...nor do you.  In fact, I would highly recommend a shorter guy. They take up far less room, you can kiss them without straining your neck and you don't even need to adjust the car seat every time you get in the car.
Job's a good'un.