Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Am I a Proper Feminist?

With a capital "F"?

I was brought up among strong women, particularly my grandmother (who wouldn't call herself a feminist, but tells me that the most important thing a for a woman to be is independant). I started to have an interest in equality when I began to realise how much of her independance my mother had given up when she got married - and how hard it was for her to regain that independance - and more so as I left school. It was about then that I started to read "feminist" literature - I picked up an ageing secondhand copy of Germaine Greer's The Female Enuch, and then started on Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women. It might be old, but a lot of what it says still holds true - particularly the need for respect between men and women. I don't think that women a superior; the sexes are equal, although nature has a great deal to do with the differences between the sexes, nurture is important too. I'm probably a bad feminist because I think that no matter what, girls will prefer dolls and faces, while boys will prefer trucks and building blocks (but then again I firmly believe the best present for any girl is lego).

My interest in Feminism was furthered when I spent half a year living and working in a Muslim country - admittedly quite a liberal one - but my experience as a woman, and the limitations the culture put on me, made me more critical of both that culture, and my own. One of the things I noticed was that because I'm a western woman, it was automaticaly assumed that I was "sluttish" - impure, whatever you want to call it - and treated with less respect in many ways by both men and women. I've also noticed that the younger men watch porn - which is western - and it's the younger men who are the least respectful; the older men would prefer it if I shut up and looked demure in a hejab, but at least they didn't hurl abuse at me on the streets. I'm concerned about the effects that porn has on young men, but also on young women. It's demeaning - it "picks" on women - and gives both sexes the wrong idea. Young men, who don't know any better, assume all women are secretly "gagging for it" and inclined to have sex with any man at the drop of a hat. Young women, on the other hand, learn that sex is demeaning, yet that they should be ready and willing all the time, because men want sex all the time - and that they should be writhing and moaning in orgasm more or less continually. It doesn't paint a pretty picture, and it's not doing either men or women any good, especially as there isn't always alternative information (especially in non-western cultures).

I'd say my idea of feminism comes back to men and women being equal. I'm particularly interested in education - I always remember my grandmother telling "an educated woman has educated children" - and the effects it has on health, poverty and the like - I do believe that poverty is a feminist issue. Women shouldn't be demeaned - but that there is nothing demeaning in choosing to become a housewife - and women and men should be equal in everything. There's nothing demeaning in choosing not to havesex before marriage, but there is nothing demeaning in choosing to have sex before marriage either. It's about choice, and having access to all the choices - including the choice to abort an unwanted pregnancy, the choice to use contraceptives, the choice to sleep with whoever you want, and the choice to access as much education and employment as you want.

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