My thoughts on feminism

One of my closest friends explained to me that her Tinder picture is of her, holding a book on feminism.  She told me that it acts as a very strong filter which really sorts the wheat from the chafe in terms of who contacts her.  When asked if she is a feminist, her reply is simply,  “aren’t you?”.

This got me thinking a huge amount about my own thoughts on feminism, and her frankness reminded me that I am, in fact a feminist myself.  Although, if I’m honest, it’s not something I’ve felt comfortable sharing in the past (which in itself, seems utterly ridiculous to me now).  The way society portrays feminists, often made me feel that I didn’t actually understand feminism.

I wear make up, I always wear a bra, I love pretty things, but that isn’t the image society would have us conjure up in our minds is it?  Think more braless, make up less, drabbly dressed, earth mother type and you’re probably closer to what we have all been conditioned to think of, even those of us who are feminists.

It’s often easy to think that feminists want to be treated like men, but this is very far from the truth.  Feminists want the same opportunities as men, they don’t want to be passed over for promotion because of being a woman, or just having got married and therefore probably start a family, being a mother.  Men simply are not judged in this way, and neither should women be.

I once heard a conversation between two  business men in a restaurant when I was away with work and one man was recounting a story about a snooty women who “must’ve been a feminist” because she huffed at him when he held the door for her.  Would I  take offence if a man held a door for me? hell no! But that’s just being a decent human being isn’t it?  I hold doors if people are behind me, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are male, female, disabled, old whatever… Having good manners is having good manners.  It has nothing to do with feminism or being a feminist.

Maybe the woman in story was in a bad mood, or maybe she was just plain rude, but I’m pretty certain it was nothing to do with being a feminist. This story really did outline how misunderstood the term “feminism” is

I bet you’ve known more strong women in your life than you have weak ones, and yet we are often referred to as the weaker sex and as a result, we are denied equality.  Let’s face it, women are far more represented now than ever in history, we are not longer drowned or burned at the stake to prove we are, or are not witches, but women on the whole, do still seem to be objectified in a way that men aren’t.  Sadly, some of the resulting behaviour from this objectification is deemed as acceptable, because it is a man, being “red blooded”.

So, what do I want as a feminist?  I want all the same opportunities that my male counterparts have and that is all really, aka good manners and respect.
I’d also like men to be able to say they are feminists too, proudly and without ridicule, because that means they are fair and supportive human beings, and they see no reason for us to not have the same opportunities as them.

Men who are feminists understand that women are different to men, but we are to be treated as a person not a lesser being.

True feminist men understand that a women can be strong and adaptable and still love being looked after and have moments of weakness.  They don’t judge, or patronise us for this.

I have had the pleasure of working with men who are feminists, one of whom was a fierce promotor of my career. When I was faced with men who would patronise or attempt to intimidate me, he would step in and remind them they were being disrespectful and if they thought I would cajoled by them, they would be sorely disappointed.  I used to think he was rescuing me, but I now know that he was supporting me to stand up to these men who thought it was funny to tell me to make the tea.  He was training me, to not take their crap, because they saw me as an easy target.  Frankly, he made me a very brave women at work. Because he is a feminist.

Sadly there are still men in the workplace who do not champion or even respect women. They say they do, but the proof is in the pudding  I’ve had backs turned on me by men when I haven’t agreed with them (seriously, how ridiculous is that?).  I’ve been yelled at in an open plan office because I wanted to discuss why training 80 people in two hours without affecting service wasn’t realistic.

I could go on… But I won’t.

I actually feel these type of acts are just plain rude, however, when male colleagues get more respect in similar conversations we are in the realms of some serious issues that these men have with women specifically. Interesting to note that the men who behaved like this to me, do so to other women, so it’s not just me.

I’ve worked in places where it’s fine for men to be honest and say what they think, but when I or other women do, we’re called harsh, insensitive, inflexible and difficult.  How is that equal? We’re expected to just agree and be soft about things.

These types of men make everyone feel uncomfortable and sadly there are still many around.

Society has changed a huge amount since I was born.  I think for the better.  There are a lot more women in the work place, in senior roles, but also, divorce is easier than it used to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that divorce should be a quick exit to what should be a lifelong commitment, but having been trapped in two marriages in my lifetime with very destructive and very non-feminist men (the first was adamant that we would have at least four children and there would be no discussion about it, the second, frankly just a bully who knocked me back every time I grew) , it is the right thing for some women (and some men too, I’m not suggesting that men are the only problems here).  In the past, couples had to stay in miserable, life eroding marriages and some of  the children who were a product of this were damaged and so the problems were perpetuated.

My son has grown up seeing me work, seeing me progress, seeing me grow and learn to be happy.  At nearly 18, he cleans the house to help us out, he does his own washing and thinks nothing of doing this.  He has a female boss who he really looks up to.  I truly believe that this is because of my choices to not be disrespected anymore. I believe I have raised him as a feminist, without even really thinking about it, and this makes me proud.

My partner Mark, has taught me the most about feminism, probably without even knowing it.  In fact, scratch that, he’s taught me about what it is to be truly respected.  I think that the key to gaining any equality, be it in gender, race, religion, disability, isn’t legislation, in fact it saddens me that legislation of this type is still needed.

Good manners and respecting each other is all we need to do.

 

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