Thursday, 2 September 2010

Thoroughly Modern Feminist

Labelling myself a feminist had never occurred to me until today. A derogatory term often applied only to the female sex, I envisioned a strong group of women, possibly moustached, with a no-nonsense approach. Despite my sympathy for the feminist movement and its aims, I had certainly never considered myself one of them. A middle-of-the-road kind of gal, neither girlie or tomboy, I preferred to keep my overt opinions to myself or blast them at a few close compatriots. The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer however has opened my eyes. Perhaps I am a feminist after all?

In order to be a feminist I assumed you either had to be staunchly opposed to men or behave like one of the boys. More masculine than feminine, neither act ever appealed. In the second wave of feminism, fortunately this is not the case. Our battle lies not with Adam, but with Eve and the culture we live in. An era where females are more likely to be pitted against each other and themselves. Men will always be blamed for the oppression of the fairer sex, but what about women? Alongside men, we also work in professions which exploit and undermine the female species. Fashion, health and beauty glossies celebrate this very fact. Taught how to please from a young age, we continue this trend rather than teach self-empowerment. Exposing your body is deemed the ultimate feminine power. In this at least, women's hands are not so clean. Described as the weaker sex, have we been prepared to do men's bidding for far too long? Isn't it time we broke out of this mold and accepted a more cohesive model of femininity?

Like the suffragettes before us, deeds speak louder than words. Our current actions are letting these early activists down. How can we re-educate men if we fail to re-educate ourselves? Men and women will never be equal – we have different roles and values in life, but we can accept this, agree to learn from each other, and create a more equal environment. I've chosen not to be a part of this conventional struggle for dominance. Marriage and children to me represent oppression. Growing up I witnessed my mother's daily grind to balance motherhood, work, wifely duties, and the accompanying guilt. Time poor with no time spared for herself, her work was never done. A glass of wine after a long day and she'd be collapsed in the armchair sound asleep. A product of the 80s, this was just how things were, but it wasn't a role I wished to emulate. My mother epitomised the working woman who supposedly had it all, but did she? I learnt that the world of work was favourable for women, but you can't have your cake and eat it. As a result, I chose independence over joining the formidable ranks of wives and mothers. This doesn't make me a despicable woman of questionable character, but a woman forced to be honest with herself.

Modern feminism is not about coming out of the kitchen. Stay in the kitchen if that's what you prefer. Nor is it about sisterhood, solidarity, or tearing yourself in two trying to have-it-all. It's about recognising the whole woman - inside and out. Be true to who you are and what you want to be.