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It saddens me that many women don’t appreciate, what other women and a few men, have helped  to win for them. At university, a couple of weeks ago, two women moaned about the fact that there were no gentlemen anymore. A man in our group said quite bluntly, words to the effect that, you wanted equality, and I agree with that. He also said, “so why should I give up my seat or open doors for you?” I hear this kind of thing all too freqently. I was also lost in terms of what to answer and by the time I had really considered what to say, the moment was over.

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On the one hand, I was cross that women still moan about this and yet, do they really want the rest of what comes with this? Be a lady, don’t speak out of turn, don’t answer back, submit to the men in your family etc etc. On the other hand, can’t everyone give up their seat, open doors and the like? Many of us do that every day. A pregnant woman on a train, an old man on a bus, a woman struggling to get out of the doors with a double buggie, a man with an armful of boxes struggling to hold a fire door open. Why should it be only men? Why don’t we call it common decency and politeness? That way, its not just a male thing, it is a considerate and caring thing to do.

However, the women concerned want more than this, they want their chair pulled out for them at a restaurant, what is that about? I get annoyed because I think, “you want your cake …………….”

The man, I think, knowing him a little, truly thinks he holds equality as something that should be, but doesn’t notice the bag of resentment that he carries round with him. This resentment comes out in caustic comments quite frequently, to some of the women in the class. Where this resentment comes from is not my place to comment, though I might have a few ideas. As such, he feels angry that they want their cake and to eat it too.

I for one, would not swap having ‘gentlemanly’ or ‘chilvalrous’ behaviour, for the freedom that has been hard one, that I now enjoy. I enjoy this largely on the back of others, whose sweat and blood paid the price for my freedom. I never forget that. I also never forget that there is a long way to go.

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This kind of thing goes on every day, I hear women moaning about this and that and yet, I think, well “get off your backside and do something about it.” Laws are in place now that other women fought for, so use them. Other women seem to completely belittle these hard won efforts.

I have heard women actually say, “Oh we’re not as intelligent as men are we?” or “I can’t do that, that’s a man’s job.” Hello! You have a choice. Yes it means you might have to mow the lawn or paint the living room walls or have a go at wall papering, so what? You might learn something and if you don’t, you just might have a laugh! Get your friends round and do it together. 

I don’t know how many times I have said to women in various situations, “its a partnership.” Equality in relationship should be a partnership, and in my mind, that means that the strengths in one, can make up for the weak points in the other and visa versa. Don’t expect that just because a man, is a man, that he is good at DIY. You might be better at it, have a go. If both of you are rubbish at it, you will have to pay someone to do those things. Its not rocket science!

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I feel quite strongly, that many women take for granted the freedom we have and maybe that is because they haven’t fought for it. When you fight for something, you never forget it. Every small win is a plus, a piece of hope towards the bigger goal. I am worried, because I see on the streets, we are losing ground. What our Grannies and Mothers fought for is being eroded. Who will be the ones to pay with these new welfare reforms? Single mums, trying to work and keep afloat with their children. Where are the women? A small amount of women fight for literally millions of others.  They fight while others bask in their winnings and at the same time ridicule it. Every woman should be a feminist unless she truly believes that she is second rate, less than every man, including the drunk on the street corner. Every woman should be a feminist if she wants to go to school and get an education. Every woman should be a feminist, if she wants a career.

Every woman should be a feminist if she wants the right to rent or buy property. Every woman should be a feminist if she wants to inherit property in her own name. Every woman should be a feminist if she wants to have children and go to work. This and much, much more, other women fought for us to gain. Don’t lose this freedom for your children and grandchildren. PLease. Its certainly not worth giving all this up for chilvalry! The time for women to stick together is now. That’s how men do it, the men’s club! Most people have heard that expression. That’s where they deal with the truly “important” things in life. Women need to stop fighting each other and battle together.

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Has anyone else noticed that catcalling on the streets is on the increase again? Has anyone else noticed that, with the increase of some men from foreign countries, that sexism is on the increase, some men won’t even talk to you as a woman. Has anyone else noticed, the man only talking to the man in car show sales  rooms or when buying a house or furniture. The “little” woman sits there, not worrying her pretty little head about the men’s talk. What twoddle is this?

The other day, we took our grandchildren and our children to a castle to watch some combat and archery. I love archery and was pleased to see two women in the contest. What I was not pleased about was the obvious put down. Let me explain:

There were, I think, four men, two women and one little boy. There is a man calling the scores, we will call him Fred.  A man wins the first round with nineteen. Fred praises him and gives him a title like, Sir or sargeant and bids him take a bow and calls the audience to clap and cheer. Fred comes to the next man who has scored 17, ( remember that number). Fred again, calls the man by a title and bids him take a bow and calls the audience to clap and cheer. When Fred reaches the little boy, he laughs and says he has scored 675, he too, gets a title, a bow and the audience clapping and cheering. The next person is a woman. She has scored 16. Fred  bids her to take a bow and moves to the next woman.  This woman has scored 17. Fred laughs and shouts to the audience at large, “and she managed to get them all over the line!” There is no bow and no cheering, just a sexist quip that some of the audience laugh at. Fred moves swiftly to the next man who has scored seventeen and reverts to giving him a title, bids him bow and bids the audience to clap and cheer. The  last man also scores 17 and Fred goes through the same respectful routine that he has done with all, and only all, the men.

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Now the above case is a perfect example of the low grade sexism that women put up with day in and day out. It’s said with humour and everyone laughs. It is hard for the women archers, at that point at least, when they are essentially performing, to do anything about it. However, they need to do something about it later but probably won’t. Folks, nothing is going to change if we don’t change it. Each and everyone of us. I remember, I was always on the case of one very sexist member of staff  at my last place of work.  I became a standing joke. He would say, “Oh here we go again, I can’t say anything can I.” How many of us have heard that one. When it is done in humour, it is harder to take up and as the woman, you feel like your always making a fuss, “about nothing.” Men will also use sexism to their advantage, very quickly, if a woman says something negative, about men being less than, they quick, as a flash, come back at you about it. There in is the difference.

I believe that a lot of the issues are a result of self worth. All women have gone through centuries of put downs, belittling and verbal onslaughts. Many women have suffered full blown physical and sexual abuse. This, folks, has not changed, every day, women around the world, including here, in England, still go through this.

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Many centuries ago, there was an Arthurian tale where Arthur is given an ultimatum by a black Knight, Arthur has to return a year later with the answer to a question or lose his life. The question was, “what is it, in all the world, that women most desire.” Arthur agreed to this. The story depicts Arthur going round asking women what they really want. The women came up with many different things and in the end, he had a huge book detailing what women want. Arthur was not convinced that any of the answers were the right answer. After a year, Arthur makes his way back to the black knight.  

There is an old hag, called Dame Ragnell, that Arthur meets on his way back to see the black knight. She is ugly and eats like an animal and she stinks. When she meets Arthur she  tells him that she knows the answer to the question. She tries to make a bargain with him. She says she will give him the answer if he agrees to her marrying Gawain. Arthur is horrified and goes back to find Gawain. After discussing this with Gawain and obtaining his agreement, Arthur goes back to the woman with the agreement and obtains the answer. He then rides on to the black knight.

The answer: What women desire most in all the world, is sovereignty over themselves and their own lives.

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This story is centuries old and yet, for the purpose of this blog, it states something very important. I don’t presume to be a mythologist or to be able to peel back the deep layers of this story and interpret the nuances and symbolism of it. However, I would add, that a lot of men have interpreted for centuries countless myths from their own perspectives, not thinking twice about writing women out of the story/history. I am also aware that people do complain when feminists use old myths, as weapons for their cause. However, despite this, I am using this. Little has changed, women want their independence and the ability to make choices about their lives and how they live them. The Patriarchy has spent centuries trying to hide women away, tormenting and abusing them and literally making them so unimportant that they had no part in religion or in business or in anything. Even their very lives, were excluded from the great exploits of men and written out of history.

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So, having gone all round the houses, let women be as one voice, standing together, holding together, for this is an insidious war that goes on and on and it is nowhere near won. We have our own heroines and our own stories. Let us tell them round the fire and may we know that our lives are worthy of the telling and  pass these tales on to our children and grandchildren.

So next time you see a woman bus driver, give her a smile, she’s another woman breaking ground, the same for the train driver woman, taxi woman, biochemist woman, microbiologist woman, doctor woman, solicitor woman, the pilot woman, the woman at the helm of a boat. These and so many more are a result of women who fought for us and those who keep fighting. May we be forever strong.

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