Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Are you A Feminist?

Do you consider yourself a feminist? In order to be fully inclusive, I wish to point out that males or females are welcome to answer this question. I think I would be more likely to call myself a humanist and let that include feminism, but I have flashes of feminism, just like I have flashes of heat, at unexpected moments. The question that is being asked by women who burned their bras and marched in the streets, is why are today's young women taking us backwards? What are the Paris Hilton's, Angelina Jolie's and Megan Fox's doing to womens' image of equality, when clearly they represent women as sex objects? The argument sex is power seems old now. The people who study these things claim that beauty is power. Beautiful people have greater access to the things they want. Beautiful people who demonstrate above average intelligence are perceived to be extremely intelligent because it is such as shock to witness beauty and intelligence combined in the same person. Unattractive women who promote feminism have been derogatorily labeled dykes, and it often seems that women are our own worst enemy as groups making different choices feel attacked and derided by each other. Eventually, many women began to avoid the label feminist as meaning something too extreme and anti-social, perhaps anti-male.

I began to think about this topic today as I added the name Nellie McClung to a list I was making of people whom I admire. Why did I chose Nellie? She would probably be horrified by many things that women are and do in our world today, but she was an active force in the beginnings of equal rights for women and argued that what is of concern for women and children is of concern for society as a whole. She contributed significantly to the movement which brought women in Canada a right to vote and later to be declared "persons" as defined in the British North America Act. This all took place in the second decade of the twentieth century, the lifetime of my own great grandmothers. I am among the third generation of women in my family to benefit from Nellie's work, and that really is very recent, yet it is also so easy to take it all for granted. Just imagine, I say to my husband periodically, our great grandmothers were born into a world that did not consider them legally to be persons but to be property of the males in their family. Property. I am so outraged by that since it is so very obvious to me that I am indeed a person. Any reader caught up in the revived interest in Jane Austin novels will have noticed the dilemma faced by women of her time. No inheritance could come to them; their fathers' heir would be the brother, male cousin or next surviving male family member. This Male was morally responsible to look after his sisters, and even a man's widow had to be financially dependent on the male heir who might be her son, step son, nephew or brother-in-law. It made marriage incredibly important for women as their means of survival, particularly those of the middle class, who would have no training or education suitable to work and were more excepted by their peers as extremely poor gentlewomen than as independent working women. Middle class men could be lawyers, doctors, ministers and businessmen. Women could not do these things and could only work as governesses if they were so desperate as to need the income. Clever and brave women might have written novels but were likely to use male pseudonyms or self publish. The career most open to them was as wife and mother. Marriages would often be made for practical rather than romantic reasons. The fairytale situation of a Jane Austin novel was to marry for love but be rather fortunate to find love with a wealthy man. Sure, I'll marry Mr. Darcy!

Before I ramble on too much about Jane Austin novels, I should get back to my original point, which was that it is fairly recently in the history of human beings that women could have any sort of independence or equality with men. The argument of today's feminists is that we are not there yet. Where we are and what we are doing about it is an enormous topic, one for whole books not random blogging. I am intrigued with women as a sociological topic. I have many questions and would like to hear the opinions of other women. I think it is important for young women to be educated in history (or herstory as it has sometimes been called) that tells about the world of women. They should be reminded how recent their legal equality is. Feminism is a part of humanism, and women must include and work with men to make the world a better place for everyone. I want my son to champion the rights of all, women and men, as he makes his way in the world. I want women to respect each other and allow for the different choices we all make to represent who we are as females and as human beings. That doesn't mean I have to think a woman who choses to be a stripper or a celebutante whose sex tape "accidentally" gets onto the internet is making the right or the best choices, but it does mean that I think she should be allowed to make them as a woman with the same rights to make stupid mistakes as men have. I will defend a woman's right to be promiscuous and not be called a slut while a promiscuous male is a stud, even if I think that being promiscuous might be a bad idea for anybody.

I care about all living things. Animals, children, women, men, political prisoners, our planet, anybody who is not receiving fair and equal treatment or who is being tortured and killed. Feminism by name is not an ism I identify with since it is part of the whole that concerns me, but I will get all fired up in the presence of a male/female double standard. Just watch me.

Write to me.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
What does feminism mean to you?
Do you think men and women have equality in all areas of life?
How would you feel/what would you do if you found out you were wrong about that?
What do you want for the girls who are growing up to be women now?
do you think I have maligned Angie by including her with Paris? check out a great site by writervixen for some fabulous insight on the complex Ms Jolie.

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