Friday, 13 March 2009

(Feminist) points on the board

Feels like it's been a bit of a heavy week here, what with all the writing and commenting about rape, abortion, pay equity, and so many of the fights we have yet to win. It's been a full on week for me personally too; away from home for two long work days without getting to see an awake Wriggly, fending off a cold, worrying about what my employer will think of the existence of this blog, and coping with a rather big (but exciting) workload. I'm feeling a bit weighed down, as if I'm made of anvils and elephants.

So I'd like to take a post, and a thread, to talk about the points feminism already has on the board.

What have we already won, even partly?
Which advance women have made makes you smile whenever you have occasion to take advantage of it?
What can we do that our grandmothers, even our mothers, couldn't?

Thanks in advance for helping me see the glass as half-full this weekend :-)


A Nonny Moose said...

I like that education is a right, not a privilige, nor something just the "pass the time" before I get married.

I also like that I'm not expected to get married (different from culture to family I guess), but I've never had the pressure.

Emma said...

My mother was born in 1928, so it's particularly easy in my family to see change that's happened in the last seventy years or so.

When she was at high school, one day all the girls were taken out into the netball courts, and told that if they wanted to be secretaries, they should step to the left, and if they wanted to be teachers, they should step to the right. That decided their program of study for the next four years. At that age I was asserting that I wanted to be either a vet or a diplomat, and nobody ever suggested that either career was unsuitable because of my gender.

I didn't have to fight to go to uni - the only barriers were financial.

Should I suffer abuse like my mother did, I'd be able to get help, both legally as she did, and socially as she didn't - nobody would tell me I should stay with a violent spouse.

When I speak, people listen, and nobody ever tells me I should be quiet because I'm a woman.

Anonymous said...

I love that I have never once felt the need to apologise for being a girl.

stargazer said...

i like some of the gains in health - free cervical cancer tests & breast screening; independent midwives & the focus on women making their own decisions around childbirth (mine was "any & all drugs possible, as soon as possible, please!); not being put in an institution because you're going through menopause. yeah, stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

I lived in a country (Japan) where women have had good rights under the law for longer than women in most western countries (post-WW2), but where certain "practical" things make it really hard to consider having a career and a family. Things in this area here are by no means perfect in NZ but I appreciate:

- paid parental leave
- 20 hours free
- sick leave provisions that allow time off to care for children
- a culture that is generally understanding that mums and dads sometimes need time off to take your kids to camp/sports etc
- some understanding (though this does vary) that taking a few years off shouldn't be held against you

In Japan I met a woman who had to give up her job (and her career) because once her son turned four she couldn't find anywhere that would look after him past 7pm (when he was younger it hadn't been a problem). No option of flexible hours, part-time, getting home at a reasonable hour... This is as much to do with labour practices as feminist issues and I like how in NZ there is some attempt to address both together.


M-H said...

I was born in 1951, so, like Emma, it's easy to see things that have changed in my lifetime. My parents were unable to conceive, so my sister and I were adopted, but I remember my aunt saying to me when I got married in the mid-seventies "You'll live from month to month now". She had six live births, but several more pregnancies (including still-born twins). Her husband was an alcoholic who died before all the children were raised.

I didn't live from month to month, of course, because I had more savvy - we were Catholics so it didn't occur to her that I would use contraception. But it's stuck in my brain as a summary of the horror story of her marriage - each month waiting for the bleeding, hoping she wasn't pregnant again.

Emma said...

M-H: you might enjoy David Lodge's novella The British Museum is Falling Down. He refers to that fear as 'playing Vatican roulette'.

Giovanni said...

He refers to that fear as 'playing Vatican roulette'.


Paradoxical cat said...

Changes in my lifetime -

When I had my first baby the father was not allowed to be present at the birth unless you were married to him;
Women were not permitted in public bars;
It was forbidden for female teachers to have bare legs or wear trousers;
you were either a 'miss' or a 'mrs'.

In a way these changes are minor triumphs compared to some of the legal and financial rights women have gained, but they're ones that make me smile to think of it :-)

Lucy said...

My life hasn't actually been affected by any really overt sexism, per se. But I'm still awed that my foremothers earned me the right to vote; to have a serious education in my field; to be taken seriously in my field; to control when and how I have children; to manage my own financial affairs; and that they did so successfully enough that I never seriously had to consider that I wouldn't have those privileges. I don't know if there's enough gratitude in the world for those things, but I know I'm grateful. Because if I'd been born into the world of a century ago, or even fifty years ago, it would have driven me *nuts*.

reddeath26 said...

I dislike the private property one. Not because of females owning private property but I question how far private property rights should go. Males and females being able to have private property at its current level is in my view oppression not liberation.

M-H said...

I thought that Vatican Roulette was what used to be known as 'the rhythm method' (avoiding sex on the 10th to 14th days of the cycle). I love Lodge - have just recently read Deaf Sentence - but I haven't read that one.

Anonymous said...

As a 23-year-old woman there are so many things I'm thankful for - things I can only do because of the bravery and tenacity of feminists before me.

But I'd like to share something my dad said to me.

He said to me that many people just don't realise what a positive impact feminism has had on fathers.

My dad said that he felt accepted as father showing love to his daughters and being a huge part of his daughters' lives because of feminism.

He said that the emphasis on women being "allowed" to work encouraged men to take a more active role as fathers. He felt that he was free to be a "real" dad. He said he desperately wanted to stay at home with us but his parents and my mother's parents frowned on that. But the 'movement' encouraged women and men to share parenting roles.

He said he felt stuck in a role of being distant to his daughters because of gender stereotypes and roles. And he felt devastated by that. It wasn't until he heard women speaking out that he had the courage to articulate how he felt and be the father he has always wanted to be.

He's an amazing dad and whenever I tell him this he says "Because I'm a feminist too, just like you, your mum and your sister".

Sorry, bit cheesy but to me that's a big one for me. I'm so thankful that feminists encouraged men to feel they too played a vital role in parenting and that they were allowed to be stay-at-home dads too.

Giovanni said...

He said to me that many people just don't realise what a positive impact feminism has had on fathers.

That's a great point, to which I'd add not just fathers, men in general.

Julie said...

Thanks everyone, this is a great thread!

I love the fact that I can work, in an occupation that used to be all men in cloth caps with British accents, for decent money and generally treated with respect, not the assumption that they've sent the tea lady instead of a real unionist.

I love that the pilot on my plane home on Friday was a woman. (And we landed early, so I got home in time to put Wriggly to bed.)

I love that my partner and I have been able to swap breadwinner-homemaker roles with little overt judgement from the outside world.

I love that my mother is not an invisible person now that she is a widow.

Julie said...

@reddeath26 - what bugs you about the private property thing?

@anon who wrote about her dad - yay! My dad was considered pretty odd for taking an interest in kids too, but I think the fact that mum encouraged it meant that he wasn't put off by the disapproval of others.

Giovanni said...

Did you really ask what somebody has against private property? That makes me want to cry! Oh, to recapture the leftist orthodoxy of youth...

Julie said...

G, I'd just like to know what annoys reddeath26, without assuming that what annoys me also annoys them.

Anonymous said...

>Did you really ask what somebody has against private property? That makes me want to cry! Oh, to recapture the leftist orthodoxy of youth...

I was at a friend's place earlier this evening and "Location Location" was on, it was one of those moments where I wondered how the fvck my life had brought me to a place where people watched TV programmes about the buying and selling of property.

Julie said...

Quite, Anon. If I have overhear one more conversation about price houses I will scream. Nice that women are only barred from purchase by price though, innit?

Lita said...

I love that!

Brenda said...

What's the licence on that image? May I use/adapt it?

reddeath26 said...

My problem with it lies quite a bit with the private ownership culture. It often leads to class inequalities, forced assimilation and ethnocide. I absolutely do not believe that the concept of private ownership is part of the human condition.