Sunday 2 March 2014

I am a strident feminist!, pt II

Ever since sticking my head down the rabbit hole that is feminism a few months back, the subject has taken over a reasonable portion of my life. It’s a deep, deep hole, and I may be about to fall down it.
So far my feminist education is painfully lacking. Late last year I dipped my toe in the water with Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, which is sharp and hilarious and in places very hard-hitting, but which only really scratches the surface of the subject.

“You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.” 

More recently I braced myself for some (slightly) more serious reading, moving on to Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. I’m only about halfway through, but I’m pleasantly surprised. Greer’s writing is eminently readable; acerbic and witty, and although she frequently comes across as very, very angry, frankly she has every right to be.

The book is slightly outdated - it's over 40 years old! - and in places has a tendency to veer into metaphysical waffle (to be fair, perhaps reading it while half-asleep on the tube wasn’t the best idea). She also occasionally comes across as a bit of a quack – for instance, famously suggesting women taste their own menstrual blood.

“If you think you are emancipated then you might consider tasting your menstrual blood - if it makes you sick, you've a long way to go, baby.”

Nevertheless, in general Greer makes a brilliant case for how women have become ‘castrated’ – sexless, flabby and more or less useless as anything other than a man’s plaything and servant, rather like a eunuch.

Her argument is complicated, and I don’t profess to understand it fully. I’m not entirely convinced she does either.

No doubt feminist scholarship has come a long way since the book was written, as has female emancipation. But feminists are long way from being able to turn their swords to ploughshares, even in the UK where I imagine most people would claim to believe in gender equality.

Here’s the thing, and I suspect this is part of the reason why women and men are still not on equal footing. Until late last year I considered myself a feminist – do you think women should be equal to men? Yes? Congratulations, you are a feminist – but I never really thought beyond that. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be necessary to think beyond that, but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the problem cannot be fixed by people simply standing around and believing men and women should be equal. The roots of inequality go much, much too deep.

I’m going to need to read quite a bit more before I can suggest how to begin ripping those roots out, but as a starting point Caitlin Moran suggests standing on a chair and proclaiming loudly: “I am a strident feminist!”

As you probably know, I’m not much for standing on items of furniture and making loud proclamations. But here it is in blog form:

I am a strident feminist!

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