By way of an introduction…..
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking about what I believe, what I care about, where I stand on certain issues. Some of this I’ve touched on here before, some of it I haven’t. As always, I feel a bit anxious about posting some of it. These aren’t going to be peer reviewed journal papers, brimming over with quotes, notes and a bibliography. If that’s what you’re here for, then move along. I wasn’t all that good at writing those when I was at university and I’m most definitely out of practise now. Where appropriate I will link to articles which have informed my thinking or offer more information, with the usual health warning that some of the articles may be triggering. As ever, all I offer is my opinion
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.
Women earn 10% of the world’s income but work two thirds of the world’s working hours.
70% of those living in poverty are women.
45 million girls are currently denied an education
There are twice as many illiterate women over the age of 15 than men.
In Scotland , the country I live in, I would need the permission of two doctors to get an abortion. In Northern Ireland , the country of my birth, abortion remains illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk. It’s illegal even if the woman has been been the victim of rape or incest. It’s been suggested that dozens of women make the trip to England for a termination each week, with the procedure costing around £2000.
An attempt by Nadine Dorries (I know……) to see that abstinence is actively promoted to girls aged 13-16 (Note – not boys. Note – abstinence is already covered in sex education at English schools as far as I can tell) will get a second reading in January. This from a woman who has already tried twice to get the upper limit for an abortion reduced to 21 weeks (in 2006) and 20 weeks (in 2008).
As you might have gathered from the above I am a feminist. I always have been. I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t. If you want to categorise me, I am (so I’m told) a Post-Modern Feminist. For me it’s about choice. I want all women everywhere to have a choice. To stay at home. To go to work. To have children. To not have children. To marry. To not marry. To have control over their own bodies, their own reproductive rights. To not be forced into anything by economic or social factors or simply because they have breasts, a uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, a vagina. To enjoy equal pay for equal labour. To have equal access to education.
By way of a disclaimer, or perhaps to deal with the usual rebuttals that get tossed around when a woman discusses feminism, I should probably make a few points clear. I don’t hate men. I want men to have these choices too. I don’t see feminism as a ‘them vs us’ thing – we win, so men have to lose. I don’t have ‘daddy issues’. I haven’t burned my bra (actually neither did they, but that’s beside the point). The varying amount of hair I may have on my body at any one time has got less to do with politics and more to do with unadulterated laziness. I don’t have a boyfriend, but I could get one if I chose. I’m not a lesbian (though I do love the ladies) and I am not currently ‘on the rag’. If all that’s clear, I shall press on…..
What has prompted me to write about this is not only a smouldering sense of anger and injustice about stories such as this, this (this one is a bit older, but there’s some evidence to suggest the problem is getting worse, not better) and this, but also a desire, for the first time in a long time, to do something. I would be the first to admit I can be a little jaded. I worked in commercial radio newsrooms for 6 years and while it wasn’t Newsnight standard investigative journalism, it was frequently the more unpleasant side of life. As a result I can sit and watch the unfolding of tragedies relatively unmoved and sometimes a bit bewildered by the outpouring of emotion going on around me. I don’t mean I’ve become a heartless automaton (I have cried at episodes of The Simpsons, for pete’s sake) but I have become increasingly blasé. However these stories, and the countless more like them that are sadly out there, have really stirred something in me and I think I know why. Again, as I have mentioned here before, I am involved in Girlguiding, and I am increasingly aware of the responsibility I have towards what I call ‘my girls’. How can I, as a Guide leader, working with girls and young women, begin to prepare them for a world in which this still happens? I want then to feel empowered, to know their own self worth, to know they have control over their own bodies and what they chose to do with them, to believe that anything is possible and the sky is the limit. I know this is not my job alone, that their parents, their schools, their peers, their own curiosity about the world will also help them along. Also, I don’t want to impose my views on them, put myself in conflict with parents or terrify them for that matter. The world, for all that is wrong with it, is still a wonderful and amazing place. I’m not suggesting I will have the girls chanting from Simone De Beauvoir every week (I haven’t read her for a start) and I’m not the first person to think about this, because there are programme resources already available which address these very issues. Actually it’s heartening how seriously both Girlguiding UK and WAGGGS take these issues – a number of the figures at the beginning of this piece come from an education pack prepared for World Thinking Day 2011 and a new programme based on the Millennium Development Goals has just been published. I suppose this is my praxis, my bid to think global but act local.
So, lots still to think about, lots still on my mind. I’d be interested to hear what people’s reaction to all this is too. In the meantime, I must acknowledge my debt to the The F Word. It’s a great website and reading the various articles, interviews and blog posts on there over the last couple of days has really helped me clarify some of my thinking. Click it now, thank me later.