First world feminism, first world problems

We got it good, but it don't mean we should stop asking for equality!
Sure we got it good, but it doesn’t mean we should stop asking for equality!

Recently, the famous Somalian women’s rights activist, feminist, author and speaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been in the media for saying that western feminism is “Trivial BS”.*

Although, after reading the article and identifying what SHE said (in quotes) and what the AUTHOR said (not in quotes), it turned out she didn’t really say that at all, it still made me think…

Is western (i.e “my”) feminism trivial BS?

Well, I thought, to be honest, you can say almost ANY issue in the west is trivial BS compared to what goes on elsewhere. I’ll be the first to say that some of our worries and concerns are total trivial BS, we are after all, the “worried well” and we are so, so flipping lucky.

I mean, come on, #firstworldproblems.

  • Worried about too much sugar? In some countries they don’t even have food!
  • Worried about what school your kid goes to? In some places the one school they have is a 5 hour’s walk away and costs half the family’s monthly income.
  • Worried about your health? In some countries life expectancy is only around 40 years old.
  • Worried about your career? Speaking in world terms, you are damn lucky to even have a job.
  • Worried about where and how to birth? In many places in the world a woman has a 1/100 chance of dying during pregnancy and birth (that’s 100 per 100,000), compared to a scant 4 births per 100,000 (sorry I cannot do the maths) here in Spain.
  • Worry about some half-naked ladies on a man’s shirt? In some places women cannot leave the house without a male escort and are basically bought and sold by their families to other older men. In some countries women’s’ genitals are mutilated. In some countries women can’t vote, or own property, or divorce, or have the right to see their children if they do…

Really, thinking about it puts our daily worries in to sharp focus, and makes our “struggles” sounds like trivial BS.

So why, why do we still need to worry about feminism?

I thought about it and I came up with a few reasons that it resonates with me personally.

1) The gender pay gap. Why in our society do men earn more than women for the same job and same hours?
2) The sex and porn industry. Women being taken advantage of here, big time. Not nice.
3) Pregnancy and labour. There is a long way to go here. I have lost count of the women I know personally that have been treated with disrespect during this moment in their lives. 90% episiotomy rate here in Spain. This has to stop.

That is just my tiny list, at this point in my life. If I were younger I might be concerned about sexist banter, or date rape, or online trolling. If I were older it might be the fact that no women over 45 is shown presenting the news, that we “disappear” after a certain age.

Are these issues trivial BS? Compared to FGM and total submission to men, yes. But one doesn’t cancel out the other. We can still be incensed at FGM and also believe that women and men should receive equal pay.

So, in answer to my own question, yes western feminism is trivial BS compared to the rest of the world’s problems! And thank god for that, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here contemplating it, I wouldn’t have my own laptop, or free time, or the luxury to think and write and educate myself. Ironically, that’s all down to feminism past (thanks!).

But then, equality will always be worth contemplating and striving for, however BS-y it seems, however privileged we get, it will always be worth thinking about bringing us all up to the same privilege rather than leaving some down there, with less pay, or crappy vaginal scars or negative body images.

Lastly, I’m absolutely all for improving quality of life for women and girls (and men and boys, as it happens) around the world. And I also believe that charity starts at home.

 

 

* I had a little look around the articles that were published online and it was funny ‘cos a) they were all EXACTLY the same copy b) She didn’t actually say that western feminism itself is BS, she was actually criticising the uproar about the scientist who wore the shirt with the half-naked women on it.

If there are poeple wondering what on earth #shirtgate was all about, i.e why did those hysterical feminists go crazy about a shirt and make a man (a really clever man) apologise, think about this: gollywogs were on jam-jars when I was a kid…now they are not. Why? because they are a racial stereotype that we didn’t need. People (black people and white people) didnt like it. Perhaps if they were still around now, and a scientist came on air with a shirt full of gollywogs, perhaps a viral internet petition would have started and perhaps he would have apologised. So yes, as Ms. Ali says, uproar around a shirt can be seen as trivial BS, and on the other hand another stereotype publicly stood up to. #justsaying

PS Thanks t katrinaelsi for providing her wonderful photo entitled “Women at Work” for free on the Creative Commons.

 

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First world feminism, first world problems

Frumpification and all that jazz

I recently read this article, entitled Why I won’t dress like a mum, on the Guardian website by Molly Gunn.

The writer disclaims herself at the beginning, by saying she doesn’t want to be a traitor to fellow mums, and admitting it’s hard enough being a mum without having yet more pressure of looking tip-top while doing it. She goes on to suggest ditching the mummy “frumpification” of cosy knits, Ugg boots and “mum” coat for bright Millionhands jumpers and Nike Air Max. She also goes on to cuss babyish change bags and says she just uses her Marc Jacobs hobo.

Ugg boots? Over 200 euros. Marc Jacobs Hobo? 400 euros. Millionhands jumpers? 80 euros. Exactly which mums are you talking about?

I would buy “boring” darker coloured tops and jumpers because, guess what, I can wear them 2-3 times (stains allowing) with different combos and look like I’m mixing things up. I can’t do that with a loud print from whatevs shops you go to, I could wear that once a week max. Maybe that saves me money, maybe that saves me thinking too much. And to be painfully honest, I haven’t bought a new jumper since 2005 (I’m all 2nd hand, baby!).

I use whatever bag I have lying around as a change bag, usually a cloth shopping bag. If I had a fancy printed changebag, I would use that and I wouldn’t give a crap if it was deemed babyish, I would be with a baby in tow for christ’s sake!

I find it a bit distasteful to be talking about things like this when so many people are in financial dire straits. But maybe that’s my problem, maybe I have a chip on my shoulder.

I find it a bit distasteful to heap on the pressure to mums, read: new mums, when there is so much else (dare I say more important stuff?) to think about than whether I wear my Ugg boots or swap them (too frumpy!!) for some Nike Airs.

I’m all for not letting your appearance “go” after having kid. But we all coast for a while, until the time is right. I do get slightly sad when I see my friends get a “mum cut” (or myself!) but I also swell with pride that she (for the moment) has put her sanity and her kids first by eliminating something that can take up precious time.

I’m also proud of her when she goes and gets that haircut finally, and sports a new outfit after she admits that, 6 months after birth, it’s  perhaps time to ditch the maternity jeans.

I wish I could see so much more solidarity amongst women, especially on their post partum journey.

And in the unlikely event that Molly Gunn does read this, I think you look f-ing fab in every outfit you chose. And though you didn’t mean it as a tip, I think the idea of getting a waterproof jacket with a hood (‘cos you can’t push a pram holding an umbrella) is genius and I wish I had thought of that one!

 

Aside

glass of wine

I was planning on going out tonight, so pleased that my social life had started to kick in again. Nothing fancy, some old colleagues at as friends house, some wine, some nibbles.

But this week was a killer. Today was a killer. Illness, fighting, swearing, chaos, sapped me. Knowing tomorrow will be more of the same, I cancelled. The thought of doing tomorrow what I did today on even less as sleep and a possible hangover is something I cannot contemplate.

Off for a  wine and a as sneaky fag in the kitchen.

glass of wine

Beheading vs breast feeding: what would u choose?

I was asked the other night at a party why women are not “incensed, enraged, knocking over desks and rioting” at the fact that beheading images are acceptable on Facebook and images of breast-feeding banned.

Good question, I replied. I am a feminist (in my opinion, anyone who believes in equal rights is, yes, that means you and you and you…) it does enrage me, sadden me, surprise and depress me.

Why are we passive to these things?

As I write, my eyes are closing, stinging from a full days work, 3 kids and a merry-go-round of childhood illnesses that might stop around March. I’m tired, almost too tired to write and definitely too tired to fight.

Is that what it is? Will we look back and say we were just too damn tired to do anything about it?

On that note, heading to bed.

Beheading vs breast feeding: what would u choose?

Equality rules, but who does the recycling?

I’m all for being green. I’m a conscious shopper, I reuse, share commodities, recycle, use cloth nappies. I’ve watched and re-watched The Story of Stuff

I also know that there is a dark side of wanting to ‘be green’. A guilt driven side that is actually just masking yet more marketing: anything ‘green’ or ‘ecological’ has more power to get people to buy things. Think about it: ecological/organic cereal bars are still wrapped in layers of plastic, boxes of soya milk are still in diabolical tetra pack, many organic products are still imported from the other side of the world…how ‘green’ is that?

Another thought I had is this: are green issues been specifically targeted at women? Now we wash nappies, separate rubbish, and while away the hours thinking of how to eat more organic food. I know I do, but perhaps that’s just because I have been the ‘home-maker’, rather than the fact I am a woman.

But, overall, does being green chip into women’s time more than men’s?

Who puts out the recycling? Who washes the cloth nappies if you use them? Who decides on the level of ‘green’ in your home?

Equality rules, but who does the recycling?

On the joys of cleaning

I just finished cleaning my flat, and it feels good. I love the feeling of positive energy it brings with the windows thrown wide to dry the floors. I love walking around with bare feet and not getting bits stuck all over them, I love going to the toilet and not staring at streaks of toothpaste and puddles of grime and smelling toilet smells while I’m sitting on it.

For me there are 2 types of cleaning: the first is everyday picking up, more like clearing. Me and G (DH) usually do this last thing after all the kids are in bed. Together we clear up all the odds and end that have built up over the day, we empty snack bags and the buggy, sort the kitchen out, brush under the dining table, the couch pillows get plumped. I love sitting on the couch after that, usually I’m showered too by then so I feel like the day is “done” and I can just kick back for a bit in the quiet, tidy space.

It’s also the time we wrap up the day and think about the following day. We get food out of the freezer for tomorrow’s meals and have a little sense check of what is coming up, we talk about the ins and outs of our day. If it is Sunday night we get the calendar down and look at the week ahead and organise how to deal with any appointments or obligations, we make a weekly meal plan and a shopping list. I usually make another list of things I want to get done during the week, and if there is a really big task or lots of paperwork to be done we divide up the jobs we need to do on a list each and make a date as to when they will be done by.

We have learned by trial and error that these things cannot be talked about and done properly with kids around, we need relative quiet to organise our minds and our household stuff. In non-stop times, when we have too many social commitments, when we get the kids to bed too late or I need early nights because of broken sleep exhaustion or illness and we don’t have “an evening”, we try to communicate through kids’ chat and interruption, but it’s not the same.

I really appreciate this little routine that we have, it helps us to function well as a family and as a couple. Things are not perfect between me and G, but this is one of the things (one big thing) I appreciate and value about our relationship: the routines, the rhythms of family life, the pleasant sense of one foot in front of the other, of being together on the same page, our family values of home, food, activities, all coming together.

The other type of cleaning, the ‘heavy’ cleaning, gets done theoretically once a week: hoovering, mopping and getting the bathroom (used to be changing the sheets too, but learned through trial and error that usually just after changing sheets someone would wet the bed, so now I just wait for that). This type of cleaning breaks you out in a sweat and you need a shower after. It involves picking up all sorts of stuff before hand so as to get to the floor and bathroom. I tend to go around the house with an empty washing basket, plop all the stuff that shouldn’t be where I find it into the basket, and then walk around with the basket putting it all away. Sometimes I forget the putting away part for the moment, and an annoying basket of random crap sits around until the next time I need it for clean clothes.

Other stuff, like cleaning the walls, kitchen windows, fridge, or doing deep decluttering, happens a few times a year, and these moments usually mark rhythms in our family life, too. They happen before Christmas, before births (there have been three in the past few years!), before big life changes (going back to work/school) or over the summer when G is often here alone and he goes to work on the deep layers of mess (I know, what a gem).

Most people I know here have a cleaner, it’s normal here in Spain, though it wasn’t where I grew up in the UK. When I have some extra cash I think I will pay someone to do my heavy cleaning once a week, at least while the kids are young. I feel like it will be buying back 2 hours of family time, time I could be out with them at the park or library.

Sometimes I have wished for a maid to just come and tidy up at the end of the day when you are just exhausted. I’ve fantasised about those rich people who don’t lift a finger. But maybe it wouldn’t be the same. Maybe I wouldn’t have the same sense of family rhythm and connectedness to my partner. Maybe less satisfaction of hard work done well, a sense born of getting to work on the flat, finishing the task, showering and sitting here boring you lot about it! Haha.

 

Note: just doing a bit of blog “cleaning” here and had to LOL at the idea of what I wrote above being true to me in the now. Now I work, the idea of all this organisation is LAUGHABLE: Lists! Decluttering!! Nightly shower!!! I think I went back to full time work mere days after this was written, so looking back it’s quite ironic that this was probably the last time my flat was actually clean. Ha!

On the joys of cleaning

On beauty

Being pretty. It’s what we all grew up knowing was good, right and necessary. My mum was a “right on” alternative parent, yet still, I have in my head one of best best compliments to me was beautiful. She also laid on clever pretty thick 😉

I grew up in the 90s, era of Pamela Anderson, the supermodel, and rise of pole dancing as an acceptable methods of putting yourself through collage. Really. 90s was pretty sick for women, and I don’t mean sick in a good way. Anyway…I digress, I wanted to write about beauty, about being pretty.

Nower days, many of us right-on parents are aware of not placing too high a value on looks. Everyone is equal right, looks don’t matter, prettiest isn’t best. I agree with this and try my best not to focus on clothes and looks too much with my kids, accept them as they are. I also try to complain as little as possible about myself and my looks, hair or body. I do wear makeup and do my hair and love clothes though, but I consider it part of cultural play to enjoy appearance to a degree, like dressing up, which I loved as a kid.

However much we do this, its only a matter of time before the world drops its bomb to our girls though: a cruel massage that to be acceptable you need to be pretty. They will go through it until they a old and mature enough to not give a shit.

Girlchild is pretty. Really above average beautiful actually, with her Greek/English/Colombian roots. I don’t think about it much, except sometimes when I stare at her sweet face and fall in love….but that’s more because I’m her mum than her objective beauty. But it has been pointed out.

Wow, she is really, really beautiful, eh.

Que guapa.

Dont cry, beautiful girls don’t cry, you will look ugly. That’s what they say.

(i.e Shut up and be pretty, its what you do best)

And fine, cool, so she’s pretty. Big deal. But check this out, this new parental worry. I’m worried that she might be too beautiful. Because although everyone wants to be good looking, being over good looking is actually a curse. (I’m not saying this through direct experience before I get pegged as some kind of narcissist!)

Exceptional beauty brings problems, I’ve seen it. It brings envy, a unwanted attention, it can warp a personality, blot out other qualities.

So what’s that about?

Girls: be pretty, sweet and good, and, for gods sake, don’t be ugly. Fit in, be pleasing on the eye, tow the line, but don’t stand out, don’t be too fabulous and be above yourself, because we will cut you down, envy you, bring you down a peg or two, show you who is boss.

It’s all part of the same parcel in this patriarchal value system.

So, girlchild: be brave in your beauty and your feminine power. If the world finds you pleasing to look at, use it wisely, enjoy it, don’t be afraid. Of course, don’t abuse it, it doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone else, and I trust you to know that, because you are that wise. Shine on my strong girl, don’t let them cut you down for it, be fabulous like you are. Be bold, be worldly, be sturdy. You are beautiful but not just because they say you are, because you have a beautiful spirit.

Oh Lordy. To be a woman.

On beauty