I’ve got stonewash grey tight jeans, white Adidas high tops, a navy hoodie. Straightened long dark hair (flipped over to the side), minimum makeup (saving my face for tonight). A handbag over the crook of my arm, iPhone clutched in hand.
I stop to take a selfie. Cue pout.
I went running this morning, did some planks. I’m going to the library to study (digital advertising). I’m going out dancing tonight.
I could be anywhere between 14-40, living in New York, Paris or Sydney. It’s so iodine, so middle of the road, so zeitgeist.
Yet the whole thing makes me feel so normal. I feel so in-line with my generation, so strangely connected to what I’m “supposed” to be doing. It’s unreal.
I’m usually covered in children, toddlers, stains and shouting. This week we had nits and intestinal worms (not the first time for either). Broken stuff, shouting. Running from A to B to drop and pick up children, guitar lessons and after school clubs. Food smells and grubby floors. Chaos, total imperfection.
Selfies and straight hair and my i-Phone and looking hot make me feel in control for the first time in a long time. Belonging to the external world, having value in the external world through objects and the image they project of me. Objectification total.
Of course, the world that gets played into is manipulated, highly consumer and very external. Does nothing for my soul. But habits and routines that ground us in their repetitive simplicity – in the feeling that we are all doing it – they reassure you.
It reassures me to have clean, nice smelling clothes, to have material things that are unbroken, that are mine. I feel I belong to myself.
In this world, where does parenthood lie? Where do chaos and bad smells and mess and parasites and sleepless nights and never going out lie?
It lies at the other end of the value spectrum. It has no value in this external world, it is worthless, just an impediment to the real stuff, the stuff we want and are taught to want.
And so we feel trapped and impeded and held back by our kids, they become another thing to manage, to get done so we can get on with living, and run the risk of making them feel worthless and annoying.
Objectification of the self, objectification of life. Sweet illusion of control. We cling onto it sometimes, like a raft before going under into the (inevitable) undercurrent of chaos again.
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.
Whiter than I expected. Wonder if she’s naturally that pale. Brave. If that were me I definitely would have gotten a few sun-beds in before the shoot. I shouldn’t think that, I should be happy with my pale skin.
Wonder if she did the shot completely naked. Wonder if she came in in a bathrobe. Is she alone or is there an entourage? Did they see her naked? Did she worry about bikini wax before shoot. Duh! Of course she did, she probably has it waxed daily.
I wonder how “it” is waxed…
I really need to get a bikini wax. Even though it is winter and I’m not going anywhere near a bikini for at least 6 months. But I should be ‘presentable’ at all times. It bothers me that I don’t find my body in it’s natural state presentable. But, ugh, who wants hair. It makes me feel disgusting. I want to be smooth like Kim. At all times.
Shiny, her body is very shiny. Obviously baby oil. They must have sprayed her lots of times. Bet that felt horrible. Did they spray her all over, or just the back?
I wonder if she was cold. I bet she was cold. I would have been freeeeeezing.
This woman loves her bum. Good for her, I think I love her bum. I always wanted my bum to be bigger, and rounder, a bit like that. She’s had kids. I’ve had kids. I wish I could look a bit more like that.
I wonder how the world will see this. Is this important? Is it anti-feminist? Should I have a “view” on it? Wow, all my thoughts so far have been really superficial, shallow, vain and have lead back to my own insecurities about how I look and present myself… Should I be offended? Am I superficial? Am I a bad feminist?
Is this why constant bombarding of sexualised images of women is detrimental to our society’s mental health and view of women as a whole: it constantly reduces women to bodies, pieces of flesh, objects to be judged, eyed up, envied, lusted after, commented on, compared to…
How does this affect us as women? How does it affect men?
I’m curious to see other photos of her, but really I can’t be bothered.
…ok, so 8 is not very much. It’s really like who cares. And I don’t. BUT, I know I will, and each time I see a new little grey (white actually) hair growing it reminds me that one day (one day soon) I will have to make that decision to dye or not to dye.
You see, I’m a natural brunette, and very happy with my hair colour. When I was younger I used the occasional 6 week tint to give it a deeper glow, some shine, but havent done that in like 6 years. It’s dark, rich, glossy, brown hair. I like it as it is.
So now when I see these little grey peepers coming through, I’m thinking do I dye (i.e. change my habit of not dying so I don’t look grey) or do I just get more salt in my pepper and go with it.
Arguments against dying: I probably still look as nice with or without grey hairs, it’s costly, takes time I don’t have (or would rather be doing other things), I hate the grey roots look, and I can’t be bothered.
Arguments for: I don’t want grey hair, I want to keep what I always had, I don’t like the way grey hair looks (on me).
Also creeping in here is a resentment that I feel like this, that I have to make this decision and based on that I will be perceived (by myself and others) in one way or another. If you dye it no one notices or even thinks about it, if you don’t you are making the statement that you are cool with grey, or you can’t be arsed or you are happy with yourself just as you are (right on!).
If I was to go a bit deeper with that I would say it’s like one more example that being a women is so often about taming your natural self (body hair, fat, grey hair) to be ok, to feel ok, to be less visible, to not be noticed, commented on, scrutinised. It’s like “oh fuck it, I don’t want my leg hair/belly fat/grey hairs to make me stand out or to be seen, I will just shave it/cover it/dye it” (submit to the system) again and again…
So, looks over morals and money. Can’t be arsed (and feel against it in principle, to be honest) vs want to look my best self (youngest self, acceptable self…?)
Ach, the annoying thing is, I’m so gonna dye it.
PS thanks Fanny P for unknowingly prompting me to get round to writing this one 😉
Wrote a post this week and used the term “mum cut”, and I didn’t mean in in a nice way. Mum jeans, mum cut, frumpy, mumsy, yummy mummy, MILF…we need to reclaim this terminology, which is either derogatory or sexual. Where are the powerful words?
Being a mother,a woman with child, can be powerful, strong, dignified, and unashamed.
Reclaiming vocabulary is an important part of this!
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?
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?